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Sunday 30 September 2018

Reviews: Empire, Boston Manor, Mia Klose, Lords Of The Lost (Reviews By Alex)

Empire: Glue (Self Released)

One trend I have been pleased to see envelop rock in 2018, is the tendency to mesh post-hardcore, with shades of progressive or complex metal, and even dashes of funk. Pioneered by acts in the vein of Circa Survive and The Fall Of Troy, the genre has become popularized by the likes of Dance Gavin Dance and Protest The Hero. Even though some bands in this trend have succeeded in cutting out their own sphere of influence more effectively than others, I can safely say that Empire has captured some of the best aspects of the genre on their debut. Glue is insanely technical and precise, yet still proves incredibly anthemic and memorable, making its fairly concise length hit hard!

A sliding guitar opens Colour Of Shame as if leading to something huge. Sure enough, we get the first taste of this bands enthusiastically melodic principle, with a potent riff, building to a toweringly dramatic middle section which then throws us into the striking chorus, which demonstrates Joe Greens excellent singing ability. Glue brings some of that funky, attitude-laden strut, but not content with staying the same for long, it dices into a stint of reminiscent balladry in the middle and then into another colossal finish. On yet another note Miss Fortune changes from euphoric to withheld in mood, giving the opportunity for some epic instrumental dueling in the process. Again using unpredictability to its advantage, Rewrite shrouds the listener in layers of darkness, while Time Ain't No Healer feels narrative in its many fascinating musical transformations, and Teeth/Tether closes the album out on exactly the kind of gargantuan nature I expected. To use a cliché frequently used to describe the medium of film rather than albums, this debut left me on the edge of my seat, constantly awaiting the next twist or turn.

From start to finish, everything feels unique and different. And yes, while you can pick out the musical movement Empire are a part of, it’s is one that they have committed their heart and soul to, already allowing them to stand alongside some of the best acts within the same scene. That’s before I even begin to remark on the musical proficiency, which at times leads you to believe you are listening to synthesizers, rather than guitars and bass, such is the seamlessness of the playing and the strong discipline towards harmony. Combined with the luscious vocal tones and lavish hooks, just one listen to this album will leave its presence and charm lodged in your memory, stuck as if by Glue. 9/10

Boston Manor: Welcome To The Neighbourhood (Pure Noise Records)

Boston Manor broke onto the alternative rock scene in 2016, with their debut, Be Nothing: a collection of fast-paced and emotionally charged power pop. While it garnered decent reviews, it was difficult to see how the follow up would be anything other than more of the same. Surprisingly, however, the Blackpool quartet have devised a work which commits to a darker sound, while being lyrically mature. Amongst wailing guitars, Flower In Your Dustbin opens the stern themes of the album, subverting traditionally positive clichés in lines like ‘’I threw up blood in the fountain of youth, I don’t have a place and I don’t have a home, I take my meds, I live through my phone’. Halo combines synths and reverb on the instrumentation, creating a surreal atmosphere to compliment the equally dour theme of addiction.

From there, England’s Dreaming opens with the passage of ‘’Bury Me’’ before plunging us into a tortured anthem, deluged in political strife. Tunnel Vision again uses the repeated motif, of contrasting subtle ambiance with noise and sonic chaos, while Bad Machine and Hate You both excellently use tension, distortion and addictive melodious to stress the paranoia and manipulation which comes with abusive relationships, be that with a person or something artificial. The Day That I Ruined Your Life closes the album, starting as a quiet acoustic number, before an unexpected wave of noise swallows the discreteness, and then pattering out in the final few seconds. 

Although lines like ‘’I told you things would be okay, Why’d you have to make me lie’’ remain vague as to whose perspective they are sung from and who or what they are directed to them, the first-person nature of much of the storytelling on this album ties the thirteen songs together in an almost conceptual way, as do the subtle reprisals and interludes, laced carefully into the music. While there is certainly a large criticism I can make, in that some of the hooks appear a little too underwritten and repetitive, Welcome To The Neighbourhood undoubtedly shows potential, provoking a keen interest in how these ideas are furthered on future albums. 7/10

Mia Klose: Stronger (Self Released)

Stronger has the attitude of hard rock with the melody and allure of traditional pop. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all though. For the most part, the combination works perfectly. The opening song, Not The One, dons an empowered personality, the guitars proving determined and driving, a lot like Klose’s lyricism. Living In A Fantasy has all the upbeat nature of a glam rock, if again the wordplay and poppy tone didn't have a certain amount of irony to them, mocking lavish glorifications yet ruining nobody's fun, a feat also achieved by the swaggering Gimmie Gimmie, and the charmingly heavy and attitude ridden Living For Love

One caveat I will warn against when deciding to listen to Stronger is that you may need to stock up on sugary sweets to give yourself a bit of the sweet tooth that is required to listen to this album start to finish. Save for the harder moments where the instrumentation is lent a little more sternness, almost everything here is incredibly polished - a feature which stands out extra prominently on ballads, Winning This Game and One More Night, which may slip a little further into mainstream territory than some might prefer. Again, Mia Klose shows promise here, yet it is the gruff, vivacious and frenetic moments, in which she shows her potential. 6/10

Lord Of The Lost: Thornstar (Napalm Records)

Fusing elements of Goth, industrial, and progressive metal into their sound, and realizing six albums since 2010, you can at the very least bow to Lord Of The Lost for being ambitious. In tribute to the weird and strange personas, they adopt onstage, they have cited influences from Rammstein to Marilyn Manson to Lady GaGa. Thornstar continues the tradition by being a concept album, chronicling the history and doom of an ancient civilization known as the Pangaeians. A feat which deserves admiration yet one which has a mixed outcome musically.

"On this Rock, I will build my Church!" cries Chris ‘The Lord’ Harms setting up the spiritual themes of the concept, before slow, thudding guitar lines and dominant synths. These may seem an odd addition considering the primitive or medieval themes. Nevertheless, the opener provides the dramatic textures required in an album that’s ambitious in scope. Black Halo also achieves this, proving one of the best songs on the album, the swelling and changeable nature of the song making it one of the best moments. Morgana and Haythor are another two songs which listened to in isolation take the listener on a journey which is emotional while fulfilling a narrative.

Is that not exactly the problem with so many albums this aspiring in nature, however? In a musical ailment I have begun to refer to as Astonishing syndrome – owing its name to the dream theatre album, and not the complimentary adjective – while this album is by no means bad, it is certainly overblown and lacking the excitement or variety to keep me hooked. Of course, we can and should respect the effort, but there arises a problem when an album places its commitment to theatricalism high above diversity. 

Growling guitars and authoritative vocals, combined with forceful synths and drumming is not a sound which warrants distaste at all, yet it is one which grows obnoxious and monotonous. Where songs like Lorely, Cut Me Out or In Darkness and In Light, attempt to adopt a somber tone, they feel ponderous and spoiled by the refusal to diverge from the same instrumentals or types of playing. I would have loved to see Lord Of The Lost develop the genuinely good idea they bring to Thornstar – and they do exist – by bringing in diverse sounds, and playing up the symphonic, classical and traditional influences, which while present at points, are never really given any chance to impress. 4/10

Reviews: Grave Digger, Terror, Shining, Dream Patrol (Reviews By Rich)

Grave Digger: The Living Dead (Napalm Records)

With a career spanning nearly 40 years German metal legends Grave Digger show no sign of slowing down or taking it easy with the release of their nineteenth album The Living Dead. Having played it safe on the last few releases it appears that Grave Digger have given themselves a bit of a kick up the backside and whilst on the whole The Living Dead does stick to the tried and tested heavy metal formula which has worked for the band for so many years there are a few stylistic curveballs and variation throughout the album.

You have your straightforward heavy metal anthems such as Fear Of The Living Dead, The Power Of Metal and the fantastic Blade Of The Immortal but you also have some fast aggressive numbers such as When Death Passes By and What War Left Behind. The real surprises of the album are left until the end with the techno-esque keyboards in Insane Pain and the collaboration with Austrian polka metal band Russkaja on Zombie Dance. The Living Dead is the strongest album the album have done in the past decade with the band sounding re-energised and freshly inspired. It’s not the greatest Grave Digger album still falling way short of classic albums by the band such as Tunes Of War and Excalibur but it is a very solid and enjoyable heavy metal release. 7/10

Terror: Total Retaliation (Nuclear Blast)

LA hardcore veterans Terror are back with their seventh album Total Retaliation which is 13 songs of crushing US hardcore with plenty of venom and aggression. The songs range from fast and furious ragers such as Mental Demolition, Behind The Bars and the title track to more bruising mid paced numbers such as Spirit Of Sacrifice and In Spite Of These Times.

The only song which stands out for its difference comes at the halfway point of the album titled Post Armageddon Interlude which is a pure hip hop song and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album. Total Retaliation is a rock solid hardcore album which delivers what it sets out to do and smash your head in. It follows the template of most hardcore albums so whilst not wholly original it will be enjoyable for all the hardcore fans out there. Solid but fairly unremarkable. 7/10

Shining: Animal (Spinefarm Records)

Shining are back with new album Animal with this being the eighth album from the Norwegian avant-garde metallers. Shining are no strangers to reinventing their sound from their jazz origins to their jump to avant-garde jazz metal and with Animal it is another reinvention for the band with a far cleaner, far more accessible and far poppier sound and with no saxophone throughout. This is by no means a bad thing as this is a sound that really works for the band and results in their strongest and most cohesive album since Blackjazz. There’s a definite 80’s feel throughout the album especially with the use of retro sounding synths and the songs in the majority have a very positive feel to them. 

The vocals from Jørgen Munkeby are far cleaner and melodic with his screams left to a bare minimum. Highlights for me included the groovy swagger of My Church, the soaring and anthemic Fight Song and the dark synthwave of Hole In The Sky which also features Norwegian pop singer Linnea Dale providing guest vocals. Shining have produced a very feel good party album with Animal which has the band sounding invigorated. It’s a bold departure from their previous sound but it works fantastically and time will tell whether this is the new sound of Shining or whether things will change again with the next album. 8/10

Dream Patrol: Phantoms Of The Past (Mighty Music)

Phantoms Of The Past is the debut album from Dream Patrol who are a hard rock outfit formed by Ronnie König of Slovakian power metal band Signum Regis and featuring members from across Europe and the USA. The music performed on Phantoms Of The Past is classic hard rock harking back to the 70’s and 80’s. There is a great energy throughout this album with big catchy hooks and impressive vocals from frontman Eli Prinsen. The songs range from anthemic 80’s style hard rockers such as the opening title track, Stand Up And Fight and Piece Of Paradise to more bluesy numbers such as The Shortest Straw and softer songs which veer into ballad territory such as Lost Child and Time Is A Healer.

We are also treated to a some cover songs such as Rod Stewart’s Is That The Thanks I Get and Tattooed Millionaire From Panama which is a mashup of Bruce Dickinson and Van Halen. Phantoms Of The Past works best when the songs are more uptempo rockers. There are a few too many slower tempo songs for my liking which in my opinion drags down the pace of the album but that aside this is a fantastic hard rock album with fine catchy songs which are likely to stay in your head for hours afterwards. 8/10

Saturday 29 September 2018

Reviews: Gama Bomb. New Haunts, Horrendous, Irreversible Mechanism (Reviews By Paul S)

Gama Bomb: Speed Between The Lines (AFM)

This is Gama Bomb's 7th album, coming 3 years after their last, Untouchable Glory. So, what have Joe, Philly, Paul, Domo and John got for us this time. Well, if you know Gama Bomb, there isn’t that much that that will surprise you, just a few tweaks to Gama Bomb’s signature sound. So, ridiculously tight, fast riffs. Screaming, technical, but very melodious solos. Thundering, beautifully rapid drumming. Great vocals with funny, imaginative lyrics. The band hasn’t messed with a template that works well, but has modified it a little to avoid getting stale. The changes are small, nothing as crass as getting progressive. 

The track Alt-Reich has a section in the middle that has a slower, slightly more nuanced riffing style. The song Motorgeist has a chorus that is channelling Motorhead, and feels a little more rock and roll. Gama Bomb have always been a band that is open to humour, and this album is no exception. Bring Out The Monster is a great track, a neck-breaking headbanger of a song, which has funny lyrics and a great conversation between the monster and Philly. Obviously theres a track about 80’s action movies, in the song Kurt Russell, I’d love to see Kurt ‘Drinking Cider, Smoking Hash’, as described in the lyrics. Musically the band are absolutely spot on as well, these guys might enjoy a laugh, but are also great musicians. The solo on the song R.I.P.U. is stunning, really impressive. 

I have always found Gama Bomb to be a band that gets how exiting thrash metal should be. This is one genre that should never be boring. The speed of the riffing, the humour, the great choruses, all combine to make Gama Bomb one of the most exciting bands in metal. I love their energy, it’s something that not many thrash bands can pull of. It’s apt that the cover of this album features a running man (possibly a reference to the film). As I’ve been listening to this album, I’ve tried to come up with an analogy of how Gama Bomb’s music makes me feel, and it involves running. When I was a kid, I remember getting an incredible feeling of excitement and invigoration from running. 

Not just running, but running as fast as I could. Running so fast that if I tried to run any faster I would go head over heals and collapse in a heap on the ground. That is how Gama Bomb’s music makes feel, like I’m 7 and getting a huge thrill from being able to move myself at such speeds. I realise that this might not make any sense to the rest of you, but that is how it effects me. It makes me feel as excited as I was before life beat the joy and love of life out of me, before I became an adult, and had to stop having fun. Do your inner child a favour, and let them Speed Between The Lines. 8/10

New Haunts: Worlds Left Behind (Self Released)

I have to be honest, this album has given me problems. Not because I didn’t like it, because I do. It’s given me problems because I spend so much time listening to heavy metal, this is quite a long way out of my comfort zone. There are no guitars, distorted or otherwise, no blast-beats, no harsh vocals, or all the other stuff that I usually write about. This is not any form of metal, but it has a feel that I think could be associated with the feelings that some heavy metal gives you. New Haunts is Alice Sheridan, doing both music and vocals. What we get is minimalist electronica, with a little of an industrial feel to it, and maybe a little Gothic as well. Over this minimalist sound is Sheridan’s voice, which is breathtaking. In many ways, due to the minimalist nature of the music, this album lives or dies on the quality of the voice, so it’s just as well she sounds so good.

The feel of the album is dark and sombre; this is not pop music. Left Me Cold is slow, dark and moody, the vocal feels like they are searching for answers. The song Hymns, features a church organ, added to the electronica, giving the track a melancholic feel, in places Sheridan’s voice sounds a little like Kate Bush. The track Waves has a darker, electronic sound to it, there is also a slight distortion on the vocals, giving the track a stygian, dissonant feel to it, more of a darkwave aura. Same Medicine could be an Lana Del Ray track, in a universe where she is more bothered by making great music, than being successful.

I have really enjoyed Worlds Left Behind. Alice Sheridan is clearly a hugely talented musician. For a first album, this is really impressive. Dark, and sombre, but at the same time cathartic and achingly beautiful. It’s an album that proves how important it is to get out of your comfort zones occasionally. 8/10

Horrendous: Idol (Season Of Mist)
Horrendous are a 4 piece death metal band from the US. The band have been going since 2009, and Idol is their 5th album. The death metal on offer here has a definite progressive feel to it. The riffing style is about halfway between old school death metal and technical death metal. There's a complexity to the riffs, but the band never lose sight of the brutality that great death metal needs. The production on this album is really good. 

This isn’t an over the top production, that a lot of death metal bands go for, no exaggerated pro-tools extremity. The sound is fairly natural, there is separation between the instruments. So you can tell what each member of the band is doing, so I can tell that the Bass work on this album is really good. I’ve reviewed so many death metal albums where you couldn’t pick out the bass from the other guitars, due to it sounding like a detuned mess. 

The natural production on the album allows the songs to shine, and shine they do. The track Golgothan Tongues, has some really brutal riffing, but also has some really great lead work and fantastic harmonies. The band do a good line in mixing hard death metal with more progressive, thoughtful passages. Devotion (Blood For Ink) is a case in point; the first half is brutal death metal, but in the second half of the song has a softer section, with clean guitars and vocals. The track Devine Anhedonia starts slowly with progressive build up to a properly brutal section, before bringing the intensity back down again.

Idol is a very accomplished album from a band who clearly know who they are and what they are trying to accomplish. This is a very mature album, made by accomplished musicians. It is brutal, but also nuanced, ferocious but also intelligent. Very impressive piece of death metal. 8 / 10

Irreversible Mechanism: Immersion (Blood Music)

Some death metal is low fi and simple, just about brutality. Some death metal is technical and progressive. And then there's Irreversible Mechanism, who fly straight through technical and out the other side. Immersion is a staggeringly technical piece of death metal. The album is packed full of the sort of thing you associate with technical death metal; amazing solos, insanely complex riffs, inhumanly fast drumming, but this album also contains some beautifully progressive elements. The album constantly juxtaposes heavy passages with much more ethereal, softer, often electronic parts. The instrumental track Simulacra, is a dark electronic piece with an fairly ambient feel to it. There are also parts of this album that feel more like tech/djent/math metal. There are places where this sounds a little like Animals As Leaders, or Chimp Spanner.

The death metal parts of this album are deeply complex, dense and brutal, perfectly contrasting the softer elements. Some of these juxtapositions happen within songs. Footprints In The Sand, starts with clean, slightly echoey guitar parts, played in a relaxed, musing fashion, before heavier parts come crashing in. The track comes to a close with another softer section which seems to be influenced by Philip Glass. These are very accomplished musicians, that is without question.

This constant changing of moods could have been distracting, or annoying, but it is handled so well. Instead of an incoherent mess, we get a beautifully shifting, mutating, constantly changing album that is breathtakingly complex, but at the same time is an eminently listenable album. The album is brought to a close by the track Awakening. A track that mixes the softer, ultra tech/djent sound with the more brutal death metal style. The song feels huge and expansive, and is a fantastic way to end the album.

Immersion is a brilliantly constructed, hugely complex album. Some death metal fans might find it too complex, and will find the constant shifting and changing of styles problematic. However, if you have an open mind to what death metal can be, and you appreciate complexity and amazing musicianship, you should definitely check this out, you won’t be disappointed. 8/10

Reviews: Salvation Jayne, Nine Miles Down, Prognosis, Saarkoth

Salvation Jayne: S/T (Self Released)

Salvation Jayne are a four piece alt-rock band from Kent who take as much from blues as they do from grunge. This EP is the six track affair with five fully plugged in rock outs and one stripped back version. The song that appears twice is the thumping Juno on the electric version it's driven by Dan Lucas' disco bass but on the stripped back version that comes at the end, it's got more of a trip hop sound similar to Portishead with a reverbed guitar and vocal on top of airy electronic drum beat. You've probably seen the opening salvo of this record on YouTube the thumping Cortez, the records first single the filthy top tapping beat showcases the rhythm section of Dan with Tor Charlesworth locking in for some fist pumping grooves, Holly Kinnear's Black Keys' styled riffage is excellent as the electronics undercut the song.

Letting Chess Smith use her versatile vocals that have an air of Lady Gaga especially on the aforementioned Juno. It's an EP with a some pretty dark lyrical content that fits well with the bands Alt-rock sound, listen to the gritty Black Heart and you'll hear what I'm on about, there's a sense of danger here and almost predatory Chess sneering on top of the fuzzed up instrumentals. There's a lot going on here different styles merge meaning that Salvation Jayne keep you guessing throwing pop into Tongue Tied but bringing in some powerful emotions on moody The Art Of Falling. A cracking little EP from a band who you'll need to watch out for, they have a glittering career ahead of them. 8/10  

Nine Miles Down: Fractures (Self Release)

A prog metal band based in South Wales/South West comprised of Andy Makin (vocals/guitar) who have tread the boards with Psycho Motel (Adrian Smith's grunge rock project) and Uriah Heep's Phil Lanzon, along for the ride is guitarist Eddie Marsh who is a guitar tech for Maiden as well as guitarist for one of my favourite UK prog/power metal bands Intense and drummer Tom Williams of Black Light Machine. This is their debut album and it's bloody brilliant balancing the heavier end of progressive metal with Fates Warning a particular a influence with a more alternative sound of Tool (Icarus). The songs are heavy duty, thick riffs meet with melodic solos on Long Way Down which is buoyed by orchestral touches and gives you the best example of Makin's excellent vocals, which made Psycho Motel one of the best Maiden solo projects.

There's a neat duality between the emotive cleans and harsh vocals that puts this record in a similar style to James LaBrie's solo records, although final track My Last Fire is a song worthy of Dream Theater with its moodiness, the stirring stings and darker tone. The record opens with Mockingbird a song released in 2017 that really sets the tone for the record with its thick grooves, a heavy bassline that explodes into a superior solo as the synths sit below everything, then in a reversal Where We Belong is a groove-driven number with shades of metalcore. This is a brilliant debut record from Nine Miles Down just the kind of progressive metal I like and I'll recommend this record to everyone I see. 8/10

Prognosis: Definition (Self Released)

Progressive metal by definition is there to defy what seems normal, Prognosis have not really defied much throughout their debut record but they have put their own spin on these tracks adding some unique touches to every song. The four piece from Manchester have mainly focused on extreme groove metal that's similar to Gojira or Mastodon with triple vocals that brings cleans and harsh together across their their 9 songs, like the Atlanta foursome there is a mix of heaviness and melody especially with the thick Downfall and the explosive High Road which has some massive breakdowns.

However with The Sycophant they add more classic metal influences filling the album with the kind of guitar solos and thrashy runs of Trivium while Waste has some djent mixed with Anselmo-like aggression in the vocals. Danny Daemon (bass & vocals), Phil Weller (guitar & vocals), Christian Hickson (guitar & vocals) and Dan Webster (drums) make up Prognosis and together they have created some modern aggressive prog metal that will appease fans of the bands mentioned earlier. 7/10

Saarkoth: Jera (MSH Music Group)

Debut album from Staffordshire black metal band Saarkoth has more than just a hint of Winterfylleth, in fact the band themselves acknowledge this drawing lyrical inspiration from nature and the pagan rituals of the old world. They, like their biggest influence balance gentle atmospheric acoustic textures such as the instrumental A Wound In The World with blistering black metal assaults like the explosive Beyond The Horizon and the more progressive Awake In Eternal Sleep which has the frenetic arpeggiated riffs, one minute but then more melodic percussive breaks the next, it's the best song on the record by a stretch having a broader stroke than some of the others. When they're playing at full power there's very little chance of a rest-bite just blastbeats galore and croaked vocals. They bring atmosphere to the songs with Dreams Of Emerald having the stirring violin at it's end. The production is a little rough but Jera is good slab of pagan black metal. 7/10

Friday 28 September 2018

The Spotlight: Interview With Andy From The Crawling By Paul H

The Crawling

MoM: You come across as a right miserable bunch. I’ve been to Lisburn many times and I think I’d be miserable too if that was where I came from. Are there any cities in Northern Ireland where so much concrete has been used?

Andy: Ach, i grew up in Lisburn so I’ll probably always have a bit of a soft (concrete) spot for it; I’ve  a lot of fond memories of prowling the streets as a teenager under the influence of cheap cider! That said, no, probably not too many cities with less concrete.

MoM: I’ve drunk in the Tuesday Bell which is a Wetherspoons pub in Lisburn. God, that was depressing. Where do you guys hang out?

Andy: Wouldn’t entertain Wetherspoons at the best of times … as for Lisburn? … not a chance. We tend to hit Belfast for a night out, as that’s where most of the metal happens. Every Saturday The Distortion Project runs RocKD, which features at least 3 local bands, and often touring acts. It’s held in a great venue, and always gets a good crowd. Aside from that we play as many free weekends as we get, and we always make a weekend of it where we can; so that’s our fav place to hang out - gigs!

MoM: Okay, enough of the Lisburn discussion. Let’s get some background about The Crawling. You’ve been together since 2014. How did the band form?

Andy: All down to Stuart on that one. I’ve known Stu since i was 15 years old, and we’ve always kept in touch on and off over the years. He messaged me out of the blue and basically asked did I fancy playing a bit of guitar and jamming out a few death metal covers with some mates. I figured it would be cool as I hadn’t played in band for 3 years. We had a few jams and it was sounding pretty good, I then decided to write a couple of tunes and see how that went. It started to sound strong, with great potential, so i figured ‘fuck it’ - let’s do this. We altered the line up a bit and it started from there. It’s been a great ride so far.

MoM: I can hear everything from My Dying Bride to Behemoth in your music. Who are your main influences?

Andy: My Dying Bride are my favourite band, and my first experience of “doom” metal as I recognise it. They totally changed my life and set me on a path of discovery into bands in that genre. My biggest influences are Peaceville bands; MDB, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Katatonia and 90’s death metal bands like Entombed, Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel. That said I listen to a fair bit of black metal too, Forgotten Tomb, Marduk, Satyricon, Behemoth, Tribulation, Dark Throne. I guess it all filters through into the stuff I write.

MoM: Anything you grew up listening to that you really wouldn’t want us to reveal? Which one of you has a Beyonce album?

Andy: I don’t think so actually. My early listening was pretty respectable - Status Quo, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden etc. No Beyonce fans that I know of anyway! ha, ha!

MoM: I must admit I wasn’t over enthused about Anatomy Of Loss when I reviewed it last year but on further listens it is a solid debut. What was the response like to it?

Andy: That’s cool. I guess it’s not exactly a party album that instantly grabs everyone; but I appreciate you coming back to it. The response to Anatomy Of Loss overall was very good, i was quite taken aback if I’m honest - it certainly got our name out there and gave us a solid foundation for getting more shows. The media seemed into it, which was much appreciated and very helpful. The most important thing is that it worked well live. We have been using predominantly AOL material on stage, and people seem to dig it, plus the album and merch still sells well at shows. Totally thrilled reflecting back on that album actually.

MoM: The new album, Wolves And The Hideous White is a natural progression and is an impressive second release. Congratulations on a fine piece of work. You’ve turned it out quite quickly after the debut. Why was this?

Andy: Thank you - pleased you enjoyed it, that’s our first media feedback so far! Yeah, it was a quick enough turn around, and whilst mostly organic, there was part of me that was very focused on getting another album out. The debut was about 14 months old, we had done a reasonable amount of shows, fests and trips outside Northern Ireland, plus we released 5 videos to go with it. It’s not lost on me that the music industry moves very quickly, and while we were doing great things with the debut, I felt we needed to capitalise on its success and get some more music out there. We had the tracks written, so I got to work and finalised the album. In this day in age, as an underground band, you have to keep releasing content, either by touring like fuck, or through new music, videos etc. We don’t really have the option to tour as much as we’d like, so we opted for more music.

MoM: Your vocals seem more guttural than on Anatomy. I’d say that there is more focus on the death growl, whilst still enunciating to the extent that the lyrics can be understood. Is that fair?

Andy: When it came to sorting the vocals for the album I knew it had to be an evolution from the debut. It can be very hard to differentiate a death metal vocal, melody isn’t really an option, so i looked hard into what I could change. I worked hard on word choice, elocution, and structure to maximise the impact of the lyrics. Focusing on all of that perhaps accentuated the guttural, and yes - i’m a big fan of enunciating as much as possible, again, not as easy as said in death metal style. I listen to loads of bands that have a pure guttural that’s practically incomprehensible, Tomb Of The Mutilated is one of my fav DM albums, but i really dig bands that get the words out.

MoM: Tell us about the recording process for Wolves in comparison to Anatomy. What did you learn from the first recording which you were able to change this time around?

Andy: It was easier that’s for sure, but still had it’s challenges. We record everything ourselves in my portable/home studio, which always presents problems as concentration levels can falter and it’s easy to get caught up in small details that ultimately don’t matter; i suffered from that during Anatomy on more than one occasion. When it came to recording Wolves i made a point of making big decisions quite early on, and preventing myself from fucking about later. For one, i didn’t re-amp the bass this time. We used the dark glass pedal, and that was it. I didn’t even take a DI (which was perhaps a bit mental), but it made me really listen to what i doing and think about what we were trying to achieve, rather than recording a heap of stuff and building something from there. I applied that to the whole process, and ended up using less guitar tracks than usual as well. It streamlined the experience, made it more enjoyable and i got to the final destination more quickly.

MoM: The artwork is interesting. What can you tell us about it?

Andy: The art came out GREAT! It was created by Travis Smith, he’s done album artwork for a ton of Peaceville bands and more, and I’ve always enthused over his work. It was a goal of mine to have him do one of my albums, and now he’s done two! It’s such a cool thing to have! It’s so easy working with Travis. I sent him an email, explaining we wanted him to do the art again for the next album, gave him a synopsis of what it was about, along with a few demo tracks so he could get a feel for it.
It works so well, the ‘couple’ on front thinking they hold the key to each others happiness, the tongues like daggers, the keys of previous attempts scattered beneath in a pool of blood; time and energy down the drain. The man is a genius. It looks great on the disc, and even better on a shirt!

MoM: I’ve read the press release for album. An evolution of misery into disgust. Elaborate on this a bit for us.

Andy: The debut was written pretty much about sorrow and loss, concentrated on the misery held within people; the inability to move on, despite many efforts. All the songs are sad tales of lost hope. By the time Wolves came into play I noticed a lot of people (after time) cannot be around those that spend their lives dwelling in misery, and whilst initially empathetic and compassionate; it wears off, and often becomes an entirely different emotion. It’s not deliberate, or vindicate, but simply an evolution.

MoM: Do you hold out any hope for humanity?

Andy: I think the world is in a process of re-setting itself. I don’t think it’ll explode, or everyone will die, but I think changes are coming. I touched on the topic on the track ‘Still No Sun.’

MoM: The scene in Northern Ireland seems to be improving. The Oracle were great at Bloodstock this year. How would you assess the scene now?

Andy: The scene over is really good, Oracle are a particular highlight - and yes, they played a stormer at Bloodstock. Overall I think it’s really strong. I mean, we get a weekly showcase via The Distortion Project of at least 3 NI metal bands on a Saturday, plus whatever is going on elsewhere. Not to mention we are getting more and more touring bands playing Northern Ireland, and on occasion have a NI band as main support. Good time for metal over here.

MoM: Apart from the great expanse of water between you and the rest of the UK, which presents a huge challenge, what other difficulties do you face in getting your music out and heard?

Andy: Ultimately, there are a lot more bands out there, that now have a voice when they previously didn’t, and it’s heavily linked to the improvements in technology and communication. I mean, there have always been bands in garages that no one ever heard, because they weren’t able to organise a gig, or even complete a line up. Other bands weren’t able to afford studio, or tape/cd duplication. That’s been steadily changing. It began 10 years ago with the introduction of CD-RW in computers, that was a real game changer for underground bands as anyone with a recording could put a release out.
 Nowadays you don’t even need to have a drummer, bassist or second guitar, as backing tracks have become widely accepted, which wasn’t really the case, or an option, when i first started. You don’t need to worry about pressing records or CD’s - you can stream on the major platforms without it. All these factors allow more bands to put their music out there. More competition just makes it harder to get heard, get shows, get noticed. Bands are being forced to be more creative and find ways to get out there. It’s not easy, but i don’t think it ever was.

MoM: You played at Bloodstock but also at several festivals across Europe. Did you get to go swimming at Metal Days?

Andy: Bloodstock was awesome, and yeah we’ve got to play some cracking fests over the last year or so. We’re heading off to Germany to play Full Metal Mensa Nov 17, alongside Napalm Death which should be a cracker. I had kinda planned to go swimming, or least paddle, but I’ll be honest - the water was fucking freezing. So no, I didn’t. My bad.

MoM: How was Bloodstock in 2016? Tell us a bit about the day and your experiences of the festival. Have you been back since?

Andy: It was a phenomenal experience. The fest itself is always great, playing the big stage was fantastic, all that kinda thing - but ultimately, it showed me the inside workings of being in a professional band. I got to see the top bands at work, how they operated, and how to use such exposure to help the band move forwards. I guess it made me appreciate the music ‘industry’ a lot more, and encouraged me to work harder, and not squander the amazing opportunity given to us.
I go to Bloodstock every year. I first went in 2007, and it improves so much every time I go back. It’s a great festival, and i’ve made a lot of friends as a result of it.

MoM: The New album is out in November. What are your plans for its promotion and for your world domination?

Andy: We’re working closely with Enso management for this one. We’ve constructed a very strict timeline for getting stuff out in an organised fashion, backed up with strong content and support from online mags/radios/blogs that have worked with the band before. We’re still an underground band, so we’ve limited finances to work with, but we have weekly ‘making of vlogs’ on our YouTube channel released every Friday up until the release, we just had a radio premiere of the upcoming single last night via Metal Messiah Radio, another mag will be streaming the single, and a music video for “Wolves and the Hideous White” will follow. We plan to release another video or two around the release date. We have a big release show planned for Belfast - 15th November in The EMPIRE with Conjuring Fate, Neahmni and Disconnect; it should be excellent! We’re planning more shows in Cork, Dublin, and heading over to the UK in 2019 to support the album, plus a whole new line of rather fancy merch to go with it.

Now for the random ones.

MoM: Game of Thrones? Are you fans?

Andy: Me? No. Stuart and Gary - very much so.

MoM: Which is the best Star Wars movie?

Andy: Empire. (Correct Answer -Ed)

MoM: Who would win in a fight between a bear and the singer of Trucker Diablo?

Andy: Tom. He’d talk his way out of it.

MoM: Which is the better Airport? Aldergrove or George Best?

Andy: George Best - closer.

MoM: Duncan Goodhew or Adrian Moorhouse?

Andy: Duncan. Always liked him

MoM: Batman or Superman?

Andy: Batman. Superman can’t be real

MoM: Do you carry a water bottle?

Andy: Yes. Environmental reasons.

MoM: Cheetah or leopard?

Andy: Cheetah - they’re faster right? (Correct - Wildlife Ed)

MoM: I’ve got a glut of crops on my allotment. Which is the more versatile? Courgette or Cucumber?

Andy: Cucumber - not fussed on courgette.

MoM: Are Tayto crisps as good as the advertising states?

Andy: Nah. I’m a ‘Space Raiders” fan.

MoM: Chips, baked potato, roast, new, mashed or boiled. You can have only one option with your dinner. Which one?

Andy: Chips. Grew up being force fed shitty boiled potatoes (sorry mum!), so can’t have them at all now.

MoM: What was the last album you bought – either CD or vinyl?

Andy: Marduk - Viktoria. Belter of an album

MoM: Thank you so much for putting up with this shit. I wish you the very best with the album and check our page for the review. Hit us up if you are in South Wales or Bristol anytime.  Cheers. Paul

Andy: Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me, review the album and help spread the word - we really appreciate it. We’re playing Eradication Fest in Wales May 2019 - but my geography is shit, so not sure how South it is. If you’re about we’ll get you a beer!
Thanks again, Andy

Reviews: Revocation, Leah, Helion Prime, Hank Erix (Reviews By Paul H & Stief)

Revocation: The Outer Ones (Seasons Of Mist) [Paul H]

It’s always pleasing to get to grips with a meaty, heavy bastard and the latest album from the four-piece extreme metal outfit out of Boston, Massachusetts is exactly that. Building impressively on 2016’s Great Is Our Sin, the technicality remains as detailed and intense as before with the polyrhythmic interplay between David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo superb. Davidson’s angry snarl remains full of vitriolic hate but once more you can hear the words as he spits them out. Whilst Great Is Our Sin was largely based on historic themes, Davidson has now moved away from that, and based the title track on H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror in his self-created universe. Opening track Of Unworldly Origin throws pleasing melody and harmonies which doesn’t often appear in the world of extremis but retains an abrasive heaviness that could still crush you with ease.

Fathomless Catacombs is a lesson in perfect melodic death metal, and with a clean production none of the intricate guitar work is lost. But it’s not all about the guitar work, and drummer Ash Pearson’s performance suggests he must have eight arms at times, such is the dexterity and power he displays. His opening salvo on the title track for example, is incredible. With Brett Bamberger comfortably in situ since 2012, the devil’s bass lines are assured, and he links with Pearson to anchor the album with military precision. With time changes aplenty, progressive passages and textures adding to the complexity of the band’s sound, The Outer Ones is an organic progression for a band who have continued to develop and experiment since that debut release Empire Of The Obscene in 2008. This release propels the band forward and with the unit now totally in synch, there is not a reason in the world why Revocation cannot make massive strides with this stunning release. If you happen to catch them on their brief visit to the UK in December, then you are in for a treat that Santa won’t get anywhere near. 9/10

Leah: The Quest (Inner Wound Recordings) [Stief]

With a backing group consisting of members of Nightwish, Blind Guardian, Delain and Orphaned Land, with production by Oliver Philipps, who produced for Delain and Serenity, along with mixing by Jacob Hansen, who has worked with bands such as Volbeat, Amaranthe and Evergrey, it’s obvious that Leah’s pulling out all the stops for her third full album. Before I even start on a lineup that can only be described as a symphonic metal fan’s wet dream, I should focus on the lady herself. Leah’s vocals have retained that wonderful, borderline-ethereal sound from 3 years ago and she shows a wide range from start to finish. This shows especially well when listening to songs such as Labyrinth and the beautiful album closer, The Water Is Wide, an almost otherworldly piece that lifts you with Enya-like serenity.

The mixture of instruments from around the world add to this otherworldly feeling, with Nightwish’s Troy Donockley playing the pipes and flutes alongside Orphaned Land’s Chen Balbus on the Saz and Oud. I could write all I want about what each member brings to the album as a whole, but personally, I feel this is definitely an album people have to experience themselves. Leah is definitely making a strong steady path to the top of the symphonic metal food chain, and if she keeps it going like this, there won’t be any stopping her. 9/10

Helion Prime: Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster (AFM Records) [Stief]

Opening with Failed Hypothesis, a hauntingly beautiful techno/new wave feeling song laced with a wonderful piano track which builds up into a bombastic organ piece replete with heavy guitars, Helion Prime then rip into A King Is Born, which boasts some pretty decent breakdowns throughout. The band seem to play around with their tempos from song to song. There are the slower, heavy songs, such as the aforementioned A King Is Born, along with most of Atlas Obscura and Spectrum. Then you get the fast paced Dragonforce-esque songs, which fire a salvo of guitars and drums directly into your ears. Both styles equally as good and neither lacking in regards to the attention given by the band.

Top marks go to the band for the album closer, which gives a mixture of all the styles, and clocks in at an impressive 17 minutes and 16 seconds! Having replaced vocalist Kayla Dixon, who herself replaced the debut album’s Heather Smith, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who had listened to their debut that Sozos Michael’s voice differs from the previous members. Sozos seems born for this role, his voice fitting perfectly with the frenetic sounds the rest of the band pump out. Other newcomers include guitarist Chad Anderson and drummer Alex Bosson. Great power metal from start to finish, with a little bit of extra heaviness sprinkled throughout. 8/10

Hank Erix: Nothing But Trouble (Livewire/Cargo Records UK) [Stief]

Having reviewed Hank Erix's band Houston just under a year ago, I was looking forward to another slice of delicious AOR pie, and boy I wasn’t disappointed. Right from the outset, Erix's first foray into solo work is a tunnel straight to the 80’s; the guitars, the synth, the emotional vocals. Erix's vocals are perfect for AOR, never pushing beyond his limits, and hitting all the emotional marks. QFT’s Linnea Vikström lends her voice to Affair Of The Heart, and works great with Erix's. Although overall, the whole band sound great, major props have to go to Michael Palace for his guitar work, with excellent riffage and solos, and also to Micke Jansson’s keyboard and synth work, giving the whole album that brilliantly cheesy AOR feel, which in places sounds like it wouldn’t sound out of place in an 80’s film soundtrack. I have to give a special shoutout to my standout lyrics of the album, taken from Electricity: "Her hair is soft and it's curly/It makes me think of sunlight and the beach." Just great AOR cheese from start to finish. 9/10

Thursday 27 September 2018

Reviews: Joe Bonamassa, Andrew Stockdale, MaYan, Electric Citizen

Joe Bonamassa: Redemption (J&R Adventures/Mascot)

Redemption is probably Joe Bonamassa's masterpiece, I mean it really is. He's finally managed to incorporate all the sounds he's played with throughout his now lengthy career. With the drum fill from Zep's Rock N Roll kicking off Evil Mama hard rock is expected but blues licks and brass parps is what you get from this strutting opening number, then it's time for some boogie on the frothy King Bee Shakedown and like that the tide changes again with Molly O bringing the Celtic influenced heavy rock of Ballad Of John Henry as Deep In The Blues Again brings to mind his lesser know second and third records which married blues and early 2000's.

So far four songs in an it's a run through of Joey Bones career and it doesn't stop there, he's gets atmospheric for Self-Inflicted Wounds has him bearing his soul in the vein of Gary Moore continuing the theme of redemption that is at the core of this record and comes back on Just Cos You Can Don't Mean You Should. As the man himself puts it “I’m going through some other stuff in my life I didn’t expect to be going through.

It’s a rising, it’s contrition, it’s acceptance, it’s everything. It’s painful, but knowing that there’s a rising coming,”you can hear that as on what his 13th album overall, and his third with no covers he is really upping his game in what he wants to sound like and what he wants to present to others. Pick Up The Pieces has a soulful New Orleans slide ala Tom Waits, he strips things back to their bare minimum for Stronger Now In Broken Places using the talents of drummer Anton Fig, bassist Michael Rhodes, and keyboardist Reese Wynans.

Added to this there are horn players Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra, some extra vocalists such as harmony vocalist Gary Pinto and background singers Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae, Juanita Tippins. As an extra for this record super-producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley introduced two additional guitar players, Kenny Greenberg and Doug Lancio who give the record it's more expressive tone. With guests including country singer Jamey Johnson on Ghost Of Macon Jones and Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie providing soundscapes on Stronger Now In Broken Places.

Kevin Shirley has said that there are at least two tracks missing from this album as they filled with recording right up to the last second, you can hear that it's a man who has been in the limelight for some time having a sort of creative catharsis and it's produced the best record of his career. I was losing faith a couple of albums ago but it's lucky (album) number 13 for Mr Bonamassa. Buy it! 9/10

Andrew Stockdale: Slipstream (Middle Man)

The second solo album from Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale is not a Wolfmother album, his first was written while his main band was on hiatus so it was always going to have songs written for the his day job. This second album comes while Wolfmother are still showing concern so it means that Stockdale can experiment a bit more with the sounds that influence him away from the colossal slabs of heavy rock, there's proto-metal on Of The Dark, hazy Beatles psychedelia (Sunshine), Mott/Bowie glam stomping (Lazy & Remember) and folky pieces like Dreamy Afternoon.

It's the sort of songs that wouldn't sit on Wolfmother records too comfortably but show the incredible versatility of Stockdale. That's not to say he hasn't got rock on here as the title track is a pretty heavy prog rocker with some bluesy slide guitar that has the classic Stockdale finesse. Vocally unique as always and able to turn his hand to anything Slipstream is a rocking affair that sits as a side to his main band. 7/10

MaYan: Dhyana (Nuclear Blast)

The third album from Epica mastermind Mark Jansen and Ex-After Forever Jack Driessen once again is a cinematic, death metal record which puts various vocals styles, death metal and orchestrals together for a seriously epic music. This album goes one step further than previous efforts by recruiting a full live orchestra for this third album, they have managed to secure the participation of The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (who recently appeared on the latest Dimmu album), who do add another dimension to the cinematic metal of MaYan. it's almost operatic in tone the full orchestra bringing depth to the multiple vocal lines that has four sets of harsh vocals two female voices and one male clean vocal, see the title track for the purest form of opera on the record, but it's quickly back to thundering symphonic death metal on Rebirth From Despair.

They have also brought yet more musicians into the band with the addition of the grunts of George Oosthoek, the intense playing of Merel Bechtold (Delain) and Frank Schiphorst is relentless aided by the 6 -String bass playing of Roel Käller, while Adam Denlinger handles all the clean male vocals in the place of Henning Basse who is now a part of Firewind. The female vocals are Laura Macri (soprano) and Marcela Bovio (clean) letting Jansen, drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and keyboardist Jack Driessen. It's a lot to take in (as usual) so take a breath and put aside an afternoon to fully experience this record, if you've always thought the Dutch metal scene was a little rinse-and-repeat MaYan turns everything up to it's maximum pomp. 8/10

Electric Citizen: Helltown (Riding Easy Records)

The third album from Cincinnati rockers Electric Citizen is somewhat of an ode to the past. Named after the part of Cincy they hail from it got it's name from the rowdy bars of the 1800's now though it's called Northside and is much more sanitary. This idea can also be used to describe Electric Citizen's new record on their previous effort they experimented a little adding cleaver riffs and more drawn out passages but found they didn't enjoy every aspect of this so Helltown is then reverting back to the form of their debut with gritty Sabbath-styled fuzz riffage and short 3 minute rockers driven by Ross Dolan's mean guitar licks (Ripper) and dramatic almost ghostly vocals of Laura Dolan, see Heart Attack. The album also welcomed back original bassist Nick Vogelpohl who forms a sturdy rhythm section with Nate Wagner for the groovier offerings like the atmospheric Father Time. Nine tracks of dirty Sabbath worship is what you get from Electric Citizen there's not a lot else I can say, if you worship the riff then go on down to Helltown. 7/10

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

Winterfylleth, Meus, Wolcensmen, The Canal Bar, Nottingham

Following the release of one of 2018’s best albums, The Hallowing Of Heirdom, Mancunian atmospheric black metallers Winterfylleth decided to take the acoustic album out on the road. Selecting a few choice venues which suited the neo-folk style of the album, the band took in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and London before heading to Belgium and Holland. The Dublin date fell to the weather, proving once again that the glamour of a touring band is non-existent. Travelling to Ireland and back by ferry when you have gigs book-ending the trip is challenging at any time.

Heading to Nottingham for the Sunday night gig on the tour, on first impressions the Canal Bar seemed to be an ideal venue. The function room about the main pub which stocks about a billion ales from all over the world was decked out with low lighting, many tealight candles and a couple of magnificent candle sticks which added to the ambiance and slow burning atmosphere. A seated gig, with a capacity of around 100, this was about as intimate an evening as you could get. Disappointingly, as the evening progressed, the behaviour of a few members of the audience soured what was a magical event; their constant chatter during key elements of the three sets was both infuriating and disrespectful to their fellow fans. Seeing these arseholes giving Winterfylleth a standing ovation was mighty irritating, given that they had talked loudly through most of the set.

Last year guitarist Dan Capp released a long-time piece of work, the debut album by his neofolk side project Wolcensmen (8). Songs From The Fyregen, described as epic heathen English folk, was amongst my top albums of the year. With Capp having provided most of the work on the album, he called upon his brothers in Winterfylleth to help live and the band and additional touring musicians were happy to oblige. A 30-minute set allowed Capp to showcase tracks from the album such as The Bekens Are Aliht, Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path and The Fyre-Bough to an enchanted audience. Humble and unassuming, Capp led the band superbly through this acoustic set and whilst it was challenging to see the stage due to the layout of the room, the music was perfect. Transported away to a different time and place, it was easy to close one’s eyes and just relax. Maybe a bit too easy!

Next up was Meus (7), an English instrumental black metal folk band which consists of Tom Snelgrove and supporting musician. Meus played relaxing acoustic numbers which really encouraged you to sit back, close the eyes and allow the music to drift over and around. Despite the idiot quota rapidly increasing, the 40 minutes were enjoyable and perfectly in keeping with the atmosphere of the event. A solid choice of support.

The Hallowing Of Heirdom offered reprieve from the usual onslaught of black metal that Winterfylleth produce so well. Intimate and warm, melancholic and gentle, this is an album that you can get lost in for hours. The challenge was to deliver this perfect piece of music in the live setting. Well, I can assure you that this challenge was accepted and successfully met. The five members of the Winterfylleth (10), Dan Capp, Chris Naughton, Nick Wallwork, Simon Lucas and Mark Deeks joined by the beautiful strings of Ele Leckie on Cello and Bianca Blezard on violin produced one of the most fabulous evenings of music I’ve ever attended. Opening with The Shepherd, most of the audience was spellbound from the opening chords. Naughton, Capp and Deeks harmonised singing was fantastic, whilst there was rarely a note out of tune, some challenge in an acoustic show.

Chris Naughton’s explanations of the meanings behind songs such as Acerbot and Elder Mother were enlightening, whilst the enchantment of The Nymph and Latch To A Grave performed flawlessly. Mark Deeks’ sympathetic synths added layered warmth with Simon Lucas’ simple and delicate percussion complimenting the three guitars of Capp, Naughton and Wallwork. It wasn’t just The Hallowing Of Heirdom though, with the beautiful and delicate Children Of The Stones from The Mercian Sphere and The World Ahead from The Divination Of Antiquity fitting into the set with ease.

Moving position for the last couple of songs also afforded a better view of the band on the small stage and allowed me to experience the title track without the constant chatter from those at the bar. It was worth the move as the band concluded this special evening with the hairs on my neck standing up. Atmospheric, haunting, inspirational and exceptional. This was an evening to remember and for most of those present, one that will live long in the memory.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Reviews: Ann Wilson, Hawkwind, Nashville Pussy, Tantara (Reviews By Paul)

Ann Wilson: Immortal (BMG)

For someone who once professed to hate cover albums Immortal is a radical turnaround. Of course, the voice of Heart, Ann Wilson, has already released a covers album in 2007, Hope & Glory, with tracks focusing on war the plight of refugees. With Immortal she focuses on more obscure covers of musicians who are no longer with us, with at least one eye on the world as it exists around us today. With Warren Haynes and Ben Mink amongst the musicians on board, this is a beautifully crafted album which allows one of rock’s most powerful and recognisable voices to once again reach out.

With Heart on indefinite hiatus following their well-publicised bust up in 2016, it’s certainly good to hear that the 68-year-old remains on good form. Immortal tackles those fewer lesser known tracks, making this release even more essential. The smoky paced, Parisian themed cover of Tom Petty’s Luna is haunting. I Am The Highway, originally performed by Audioslave and Wilson’s acknowledgement of Chris Cornell produces a lump in the throat. Probably the most well-known tracks here are the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane, and the Gerry Rafferty track Baker Street, both of which are delivered with Wilson’s typical panache. With a heart breaking Back To Black (Amy Winehouse) and the album opener George Michael’s A Different Corner, it’s clear that Wilson has carefully chosen these songs not only honour those no longer with us but also because of their resonance on the world around us.

As Wilson stated in Classic Rock recently, “I tried to choose songs from artists who cried out about the world”. With Bowie’s I’m Afraid Of Americans, Cream’s Politician also included, and a performance from Wilson that is fabulous, this is an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 9/10

Hawkwind: Road To Utopia (Cherry Red Records)

Forever associated with space rock and sacking Lemmy, there is so much more to Hawkwind. Half a century and counting, their 30 studio albums have assembled a back catalogue of magical music, along with some right dross. It’s inevitable. A chance meeting between Dave Brock and songwriter and conductor Mike Batt in the queue at the US embassy for a visa has led to this unlikely collaboration on album 31, and it’s a bit of a marmite release. Reworked versions of some of Hawkwind’s classic songs, with big brass and string quartets has left some of Dave Brock’s guitar hidden in the mix. Opener Quark Strangeness And Charm may lack Bob Calvert’s original vocal but there’s something quite appealing to the brass section that dominates. The Watcher, from 1972’s Doremi Fasol Latido, written and sung by Lemmy on his first Hawkwind album, has a guest appearance from old Slow Hand Eric Clapton whose laid-back blues style combined with Dave Brock’s harmonica gives the song a complete overhaul, but you still feel the heart of the song.

Brock takes lead vocals on We Took The Wrong Turn Years Ago, from 1971’s In Search Of Space, and it’s a joy to hear the Hawkwind main man singing again; something he will do more of on the forthcoming tour with Mr Dibs having recently departed the band. Another departure since Road To Utopia was recorded of course is bassist Haz Wheaton, who has taken up position in Electric Wizard. The acoustic approach to Psychic Power lacks the gravitas of the 1978 original and Calvert’s vocal genius but it’s still a decent version, even with the school brass band feel. Batt’s influence is recognisable throughout, and at times I’m not convinced that the songs are enhanced by his approach.
The drawn-out string section on The Age Of The Micro Man along with an overblown saxophone adds an additional two minutes to the original with little benefit and the less said about the album cover the better from a band who once captivated me with their artwork (Sonic Attack, Chronicles Of The Black Sword etc.) I love Hawkwind and have tickets to two of their forthcoming dates. This isn’t a bad release, and at times it soars high. It just could have been better. 7/10

Nashville Pussy: Pleased To Eat You (EarMusic)

Strap yourselves in for the latest instalment from the psycho billy hard rock of Nashville Pussy, all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. Over 20 years since their formation, the band, whose line up is currently Blaine Cartwright, Ruyter Suys, Bonnie Buitrago and Ben Thomas. The good time hard rocking no shit given band have established a cult following over the years and seventh long player Pleased To Eat You is another slice of their groove ridden pie. Possibly not one to play for the mother, tracks such as Testify, with it’s chunky Hammond sound, the snarling One Bad Mother and the closing Motörhead like thunder of Tired Of Pretending That I Give A Shit (aren’t we all?) all demonstrate that there is plenty of life in the Pussy yet. 7/10

Tantara: Sum Of Forces (Indie Recordings)

Sometimes a good old bit of Bay Area thrash works wonders. Tantara fit that bill perfectly. Album number two, following 2012’s Based On Evil is unashamedly Bay Area all the way, with early Metallica, Exodus, Heathen and Vio-lence all influences evident on first listening. The chugging bass of Emil Sigstad Moen links sweetly with Stian Sannerud’s frantic drumming whilst there is no shortage of heavy riffage from lead guitarist Per Semb and Fredrik Bjerko. In fact, there is little to dislike about this 35-minute release providing you can deal with the rather high-pitched screeching of Bjerko’s somewhat disconcerting vocal delivery.

If you can tolerate it, then the Norwegian thrashers deliver some meaty high paced tracks, all of which are eclipsed by the instrumental final track White Noise, which at over ten minutes long allows the band to let rip, paying homage to Metallica in fine style, although it does drag a little by the eight-minute mark. Minor quibble aside, it may not be original, but sometimes you need something a little less challenging without letting standards slip. Sum Of Forces does exactly what is required. 7/10

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

Vodun, Made Of Teeth, Kong Lives, Le Pub, Newport

The community run space known as Le Pub is a cracking venue. A large bar area, with the pub serving a range of different beers, stacks of alternatives for the non-drinker and even the option for tea and coffee, a vegan and vegetarian menu that is all delivered in biodegradable packaging, decent background music and an alternative feel, it’s a place where all can feel comfortable in their own skin. All prejudices left at the door thank you very much. Swing first right through the front door and you enter the live venue, which is a decent size which would accommodate 150 people at a push but comfortably hold up to about 100. Dog-leg to the left and you see the stage, low and small but certainly on a par with that of Fuel Rock Bar in Cardiff.

A fabulous evening’s entertainment was marred only by the fact that so few people were present. I counted 25 punters at the end of Vodun’s set, which is a travesty for a band who are just astonishing live. It’s a huge round of applause for Jamie of Pity My Brain Productions for having the guts to stick this event on; I only wish you had been rewarded with a better turnout.

For those who did venture out, this was glorious. First up was the stoner/doom and post metal four-piece Kong Lives (8) whose thunderous set got the evening off to a crushingly heavy start. The Newport band, who’ve been together since 2016 crashed through a storming 30-minute set of tracks from their first release, Kong Saves. Dai, Dibble, Luke and Kane certainly hit the right spot with their intense stoner drive proving captivating viewing. Kong Saves is available on Bandcamp and tracks such as the paint stripping Dimitri and the sludgy groove of McMaggot are well worth checking out.

Next up was the punk rock driven MC5 rawness of Made Of Teeth (7), a three-piece who certainly weren’t going to let the paltry audience affect their performance. Formed by former Taint member Chris West and Steve Jones (The Witches Drum, Oblong), who also perform in Spider Kitten, and joined by bassist Tom Cole (also of local band Lacertilla), Made Of Teeth produced an infernal racket which was to everyone’s liking, with plenty of heads nodding as the band blasted their way through tracks from their eponymous debut release. With West and Cole sharing vocal duties there was plenty of action to watch and with West earning bonus points for an excellent Celtic Frost shirt, Made of Teeth are another local band well worth a listen.

Of course, the main reason we were at Le Pub was to witness the sheer live experience of Vodun (9), the London based three-piece who’s recently released second album Ascend was being promoted. The band, Ogoun, The Marassa and Oya, were scintillating when they supported Church Of The Cosmic Skull in Bristol in 2016 and once again they proved to be absolutely astonishing. With Oya channelling the spirit with her powerful vocals, percussion and sheer presence, Ogun battling with her kit as if in combat with the devil himself and The Marassa laying down unspeakable riffage, Vodun delivered a 50-minute set crammed full of tunes from the new release and Possession, their debut album.

There is something deeply spiritual about this band and their performance, and the minutes flew by as the crowd was enchanted by their swirling, mysterious music. By the end of the set the audience, who had participated in some enthusiastic percussion were as exhausted as the band. Taking time to talk to all as we left the venue, Vodun and their two supports deserve to have a much bigger audience next time they hit South Wales.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Reviews: Ultha, Iamthemorning, Snakes In Paradise, Junkyard Drive, Into Eternity (Reviews By Paul H)

Ultha: The Inextricable Wandering (Century Media)

Black metal huh? A massively wide-ranging genre which encourages the elitists amongst the metal community to exercise their ‘superior’ knowledge of Bathory, Behemoth and Belphegor whilst mere mortals merely dabble. There are so many black metal outfits around these days that it’s nigh on impossible to keep tabs on them all if you also want to listen to any other genre. Hailing from Koln in Germany, Ultha’s melancholic yet ear splitting dark art peaks interest from the opening bars of The Avarist (Eyes Of A Tragedy). Although reminiscent of the atmospheric power of Wiegedood, Fen, Wode and Wolves In The Throne Room, Ultha instead insist they are focused towards the thicker end off grunge (Alice In Chains), noise rock (Helmet) and the gothic style of The Sisters Of Mercy and this certainly plays out.

Whatever they insist, the Germans third full length is a superb collaboration. Consisting of only six songs, it manages to clock in at over 65 minutes in length. With Knives To The Throat continues in the frenzied technical blur of the opening track before There Is No Love, High Up In The Gallows changes direction completely. Opening with haunting bird calls, this is six and a half minutes of electronic tone, individual notes held for the duration whilst an eerie symphonic concerto reminiscent of the music from the opera in The Phantom Menace plays out.

Cyanide Lips opens with ugly down tuned guitars, the beat of a lonely drum merely a precursor to the hell that follows, the track building incrementally on a single guitar riff before exploding into chaos. Use of repetition has long been a favoured tactic for the black metal musician and Ralph Schmidt and colleagues employ it to great effect throughout this descent into melancholia. We Only Speak In Darkness is mesmeric, the slow beat, darkened lyrics and echoing tone transport the listener into The Fields Of Nephilim territory before the quite magnificent 18 minute I’m Afraid To Follow You There, with its opening coldness enveloping the listener and draws you in. Whilst Ultha start this album in a true black metal style, there are many more elements in this complex machine. The Inextricable Wandering is an album that demands attention, commitment and repeated plays. The rewards for committing to this endeavour are massive with one of the most richly crafted releases of 2018. 9/10

Iamthemorning: Ocean Sounds (Kscope)

Russian duo Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina, known as Iamthemorning, have already released three albums, with their last two Belighted and Lighthouse highly-praised. Ocean Sounds is a new intimate studio film shot and named after a remote recording studio on Giske, a Norwegian Island. As well as the film, there is an accompanying CD with a setlist from the three albums along with an unplugged recording of Blue Sea, from their forthcoming fourth album (only on the Blu-Ray release unfortunately). With Lighthouse winning the 2016 Progressive Music Award for Album of the Year and Semkina also winning female vocalist of the Year in Prog Magazine in the same year, the band has clearly laid strong foundations on which to build.

Ocean Sounds is certainly a delicate and delicious release. Semkina’s vocals are a delight, crystal clear, ranging from ethereal to full out rock chick, whilst the beautiful compositions of Kolyadin and the additional musicians provides an almost spiritual experience. Unlike many of their peers, the tracks are not unduly long, with only three of the 12 tracks lasting over four minutes. Ocean Sounds is at times totally captivating. There is the dramatic Scotland with its spiralling string section. Or the thought provoking Os Lunatum with its wild solo piano accompaniment joined towards the end by additional strings and drums.  Although there is no doubt that chamber prog rock is not a taste shared by all, Ocean Sounds is an album that is well worth a listen, even if just for a change from the norm. 8/10

Snakes In Paradise: Step Into The Light (Frontiers Records)

Another Frontiers band to cross our paths, Snakes In Paradise are from Stockholm, Sweden. Step Into The Light is the band’s fourth album, but their first since 2002’s Dangerous Love.  Having released their debut album way back in 1994, you kind of wonder why it’s taken until now to get album number four out. Heavy on the 1980s melodic rock style, rich synthesisers merging with dual guitar work, smooth bluesy vocals and soaring harmonies as 12 tracks of pulsating melodic rock cascade over you. With a huge nod to the late 80s Whitesnake present throughout, it’s nothing new but AOR is always a bit of fun when done well. Will You Remember Me is super ghastly, but like a rabid earworm the bastard is also hauntingly catchy, much like an STD. Think Asia’s most stomach-turning tunes and this is roughly where we are.

There are elements of Europe, Eclipse and the like all over this album. A couple of ballads, such as After The Fire Is Gone, ensure the full AOR album blueprint is followed. “From a distance, I can see those broken lips, that used to be full”, Wow! Things ensures that at least one anthem is on board, and yes, the lyrics are spectacular here too: “remember the summer nights, when we were making love”. It’s so bad it’s great. Liza encapsulates everything about AOR in under four minutes. Catchy high-pitched harmonies in the chorus, awful lyrics, (“let me be the one to take you through the night”), thumping rhythm section and jumping keyboards all combine to hideous effect. If you love your AOR you’ll no doubt be familiar with Snakes In Paradise and so you should be. Melodic rock at its worst and its best. 7/10

Junkyard Drive: Black Coffee (Mighty Music)

Apparently, if you are into straight forward honest rock and roll, Denmark’s Junkyard Drive are the answer to your prayers. I assume that’s if you ignore the thousands of other bands who deliver the same type of generic rock today. Black Coffee is the follow up to the band’s 2017 debut Sin & Tonic (aha. See what they did there?) and it is a reasonable piece of work. Southern swagger mixed with melodic hard rock, there is a touch of Guns n’ Roses and Aerosmith about them. Sweet Little Dreamer offers some neat guitar work, and you can’t fault the smokey roar of vocalist Kris. The problem I have with Junkyard Drive, is that they offer absolutely nothing new.

So, in a similar vein to Those Damn Crows, Ginn Annie and the myriad of other bands who churn this stuff out, they are enthusiastic, powerful and create decent music; it’s just so bloody generic. I have no doubt that in the burgeoning world which is the new wave of classic rock Junkyard Drive will go down a storm. Black Coffee is perfectly listenable, and the band are tight. Good luck to them. However, I like my coffee hot and this just leaves me cold. 6/10

Into Eternity: The Sirens (M-Theory Audio)

A sweeping orchestral introduction momentarily disorientated the listener before the battery of blast beats and power metal scales crashes in. A brief pause allows you to catch your breath before The Sirens really opens out into a rather schizophrenic cacophony which combines progressive rock with death and black metal in a somewhat uncomfortable merger. It’s fast, to the point of Dragonforce pace, and just about controlled in the same way that a race horse may push the limits. Into Psychosis follows, in much the same vein, although we do get the first vocals from Amanda Kieran, who provides clean vocals alongside the growls and screams of guitarist Tim Roth and bassist Troy Bleich.

It’s frenetic stuff, with frequent time changes and movement of styles. At times it feels more a showcase of how fast the band can play. Which isn’t particularly exciting. Add in elements of classical to the mix, as well as acoustic moments, such as the opening to Sandstorm which is quickly consumed by a viciously heavy riff and it all appears a little uncoordinated. The Canadian outfit has been together since 1997 and have released several albums, experiencing several line-up changes since their formation. Whilst the band are technically superb, The Sirens feels as if the very soul of the band has been sucked out and replaced by ludicrously complex and unnecessarily overblown lengthy pieces. It’s all rather unsatisfactory. 5/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: MAN

Man & Glas, The Globe Cardiff

So when a band is on their 50th anniversary tour it would be remiss of us not to attend, when that band is from Wales and something of a legendary act round these parts then it would be positively criminal. Playing just three dates in Wales I went down to the show in The Glob and as the room filled with a mature fan base, sprinkled with the odd younger psych fan like myself, there were stories of the band Padget Rooms Penarth gigs. their early tours and multiple member changes.

First up though decked out in the best shirts of the night was Blackwood trio Glas (8) opening with Blackwood Boogie this three piece then proceeded to get the crowd going with classic R&B that brings in country, rock n roll and blues for a very loud noise, Dai John on vocals and bass, works it playing some groovy finger-style rhythms that could have been coming from a stand up bass rather than the electric, he's got the tick-tock drums of Sam Andrews behind him adding the shuffle to every track. On lead guitar James Oliver peels off lick after bluesy lick bobbing his head like Wilco Johnson as he plays surf slides and staccato jagged riffs. A rollicking opening band who were forced into an encore by the crowd taking full advantage of The Globe's drinks offers, a neat country number later and they managed to leave the stage.       

So with the crowd now filling the room the Welsh psychedelic rockers Man (8) took to the stage with longest serving member Martin Ace (bass/vocals) leading from the middle of the stage. He's flanked by Josh Ace on guitars/vocals/keys, James Beck on guitar either side of him, Malcolm Morley on keys and acoustic guitar (who was member of Man between 1974 & 1976) with over 423 releases, on 75 labels they had a lot songs to choose from so to take a risk on two new unreleased songs called Manor Farm and The Holy Flame Of Freedom but they mixed it with classics like Romain which had James Beck playing some mean slide. Long psych jams turned to short blues driven rockers in an instance Martin is a warm, mild mannered frontman cracking jokes with his Welsh humour striking a chord with the audience. Backed by the young(er) band the performance was infused with energy as Martin and Josh traded vocals replicating the sound of the early material well. With a new album on the way there seems to be no signs of slowing down so here's to another 10 years of Man!

Monday 24 September 2018

Reviews: The Bleeding, Allegiance, Deathhammer, Leatherjacks (Reviews By Paul S & Rich)

The Bleeding: Rites Of Absolution (UKEM) [Paul S]

The Bleeding are a four piece based in London, they have been going since 2010 and have released one EP in 2013, this is their first album. The band play a combination of death metal and thrash. The feel of the material is fairly old school in both areas rather than the more modern sound of the other bands playing this combination of genres (Revocation and Reprisal).

After a short intro, the album blasts off with the thundering Consumed Existence, which sounds like great old school death metal, reminds me of Asphyx’s track Deathhamer. Second track Dreams Of Hatred has a bit more of a thrash feel to it, tight fast riffs, crashing drums, just great thrash. The album carries on like this, always surfing that knife-edge between thrash and death metal, so some songs move from one sound to the other in a way that is really effective.

Crook And Flail is a slower, heavier, more powerful track that just crushes the listener. Rights Of Absolution feels a little like early Slayer, do I need to say more about it than that? The album is brought to an end with a cracking cover of Death’s Open Casket which is fantastic. If I was going to criticise this album, it would be that it isn’t long enough, but that isn’t really a criticism, I wanted more! Really great album, full of energy and creativity. Highly recommended. 8/10

Allegiance: Beyond The Black Wave (Self Released) [Paul S]

Allegiance are a black metal band from Toulouse, France. They have had as many as 5 members, according to the bumf that I got with the album, but by the time of writing this they may be down to 3 or as few as 2 (the bumf is a little confused). Although there is a much bigger problem with the press release than a little confusion about how many members this band has. The PR refers to the band as being ‘Emperial’ black metal, the band has tied their whole sound to the Norwegian black metal band Emperor. Those are big shoes to fill, and they haven’t done a very good job. This album is a massive rip off of Emperor. This isn’t an homage, it’s simple copying.

First song The Fall Of The Black Heroes is Ye Entranceemperium, pretty much note for note (yes including that really distinctive riff). And it’s like that all the way through, it’s all made up of bits and pieces of Emperor’s career. The song I Wrath I Death has the spoken word bit from The Loss And Curse Of Reverence in it. Sorceress Queen is I Am The Black Wizards. You’ll find one track that is Beyond The Pantheon, up to about halfway through when the strings from In The Wordless Chamber come in and really confuse things.

There's bits of Curse You All Men, An Eulogy Of Icarus, there's even an outro to one song that is Opus A Satana. Ok I’ll admit it, these guys have got some balls to rip off one of the biggest and best black metal bands of all time, and to tell people they are doing it (Emperial Black Metal) takes even more bare faced cheek. But I can’t see the point of this album. The few bits that aren’t nicked are lack lustre and lacking in imagination. The only good thing about this album is that it has reminded me of what a great band Emperor were. Just listen to the originals, they are so much better! 6/10

Deathhammer: Chained To Hell (Hells Headbangers) [Paul S]

Deathhammer are a duo from Oslo, they have been going since 2005 and this is their 4th album. The 2 piece play black trash / early eighties style thrash. The album kicks off with the track Rabid Maniac Force, a song that kicks you in the bollocks, nicks your wallet, and spends the money in it on cheap speed. Just total blasting fast thrash, in an early Sodom, Slayer or Kill ‘Em All era Metallica mould. Fast simple riffs, screamed vocals that do that slightly weird early eighties thing where the last word of each line is sung in FALSETTO. I think Tom Araya used to do this on Slayers first 2 albums. Pretty much all the album is in this style. More modern bands to compare this to would be Toxic Holocaust, Necromantheon or Nifelheim. 

There is a small amount of progression on this album with the song Into The Burning Pentagram, which is a little slower and has some more complex riffs and a bit more of a structure (most of the other songs don’t really have a structure, insanely fast all the way through, isn’t a structure). The album doesn’t have many solos, but in the few places they are used, you can see why they don’t do many solos as they are crap! But that just fits into the early eighties/ black thrash style. The album cover is also very eighties; it’s awful. Looks like a still from a Commodore 64 game, absolutely, goppingly awful, but again that's very eighties thrash; remember Artillery’s Terror Squad, or Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metal covers? This isn’t in any way groundbreaking. It isn’t big or clever, but my god it’s a lot of fun. If you want to be reminded why thrash was so exiting when it first appeared, buy this album! 7/10

Leatherjacks: Leatherjacks (Self Released) [Rich]

Leatherjacks is a self titled EP by the Brazilian hard rock band which works as a preview for the upcoming album Songs For The Strangest Ones which is due to be released later this year. This EP is the first release under the bands new line up with the previous album The Lost Arks Of Rock And Roll all written and performed by Mauro Cordeiro. The EP is made up of four songs one of which (I Hate To Fall In Love) has previously been released as a digital single. The EP is pretty bog standard hard rock with a few influences from old school heavy metal and AOR. The playing throughout is pretty good but the vocals are very weak and quite strained. This is a pretty average release with no songs being particularly memorable and the poor vocals standing out particularly. 5/10

Reviews: Stoned Jesus, Be The Wolf, Groundbreaker, Enterfire (Reviews By Rich & Paul H)

Stoned Jesus: Pilgrims (Napalm Records) [Paul H]

Formed in Kiev, 2009, Stoned Jesus play a blisteringly heavy style of stoner and doom rock which is guaranteed to trip you out. The band’s doom-soaked occult sound incorporates a range of styles which include the likes of Mastodon, Tool, Neurosis as well as the riff heaviness of Sabbath and Zeppelin. Most of the tracks on this 50-minute album are lengthy animals, winding and meandering through several musical territories whilst always bringing the heavy.

It starts with the pulsating Excited, all bristling energy and spunky groove. Then you have the Mastodon feel of the trippy Hands Resist Him which contrasts with the thundering journey on the nine minutes plus Water Me, with its soaring space rock style. Stoned Jesus won’t meet the requirements of all, as some of their direction takes a more indirect path. With several albums already under their belt, Pilgrims is a solid addition to a catalogue of high-quality music. 8/10

Be The Wolf: Empress (Scarlett Records) [Rich]

Empress is the third album by Italian hard rockers Be The Wolf which is due out on Scarlet Records. Be The Wolf play melodic hard rock with a number of different influences from classic rock to modern hard rock to traditional heavy metal resulting in a variety in the songs from the heavy metal driven Burn Me Out to the hair metal swagger of You’re My Demon Tonight and the groovy hard rocking of Trigger Discipline. The only song which sticks out like a sore thumb is the pop and electronic inspired Action which is a truly dreadful song. Empress is a solid hard rocking album played with love and passion which whilst not groundbreaking by any means is an album I would recommend to hard rock fans. 7/10

Groundbreaker: Groundbreaker (Frontiers Records) [Rich]

Groundbreaker is the self titled debut album of the new project featuring FM singer Steve Overland where he is collaborating with Robert Sall of Swedish melodic rockers Work Of Art. With these two collaborating the style of this album is as you guessed is melodic hard rock. This is very saccharine coated melodic hard rock with soaring melodies and hook laden songs. It’s a decent album for those that love this style but it’s very much by the numbers with very little variation throughout the album and so the songs do seem to all blur into one.

There are one or two which stand out a bit more such as the ultra saccharine Eighteen Til I Die. All the staples of the genre are in place here - super sweet vocals, melodic lead guitar playing and retro sounding synths but there’s very little to differentiate between the countless other melodic hard rock bands out there. If you are a big fan of the genre you will love this. Groundbreaker is out now on Frontiers Records. 6/10 

Enterfire: Slave Of Time (Self Released) [Paul H]

London based Enterfire’s debut album, Slave Of Time is an average affair. Melodic thrash in the vein of Bullet For My Valentine and Trivium, the songs are well constructed and performed. Driven by vocalist/lead guitarist Niki B, a Greek born musician, the opening salvo work well, with the title track a driving thrash tune. Open Sky follows and it’s from here on in that interest in the album starts to wane. Throw away tracks which last seconds in the memory. Weapon Of Broken Dreams starts like a BFMV track but morphs into a Maiden-style romp before fading. Unfortunately, most of the 29 minutes here are rather mundane and the album fades from the memory shortly after it finishes. 5/10

Sunday 23 September 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Necrot, Shallow Graves, They Live We Sleep, Void Titan

Necrot, Shallow Graves, They Live We Sleep, Void Titan, Fuel Rock Club

So this was a pretty mixed group of styles from those folks from Eradication Festival. The original opening band was supposed to be Pupil Slicer however they were not able to make the show so it was Bristol doom crew Void Titan (7) who opened the evening with some lumbering heavy doom with lyrics inspired by the Warhammer universe, playing about 4 songs one of which was the first half of a 20 minute track!

The young band were very accomplished musicians and there music was heavy as all hell. It was a low turnout unfortunately (wet Wednesday's in Cardiff a week before freshers can be like that) but for those in attendance we were already getting our ears abused by the heaviest band on the bill. Void Titan will be supporting Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard in Bristol at the end of the month and there they will fit right in to the sonic discord.

Next to up to bat were South Wales act They Live We Sleep (7) who played an aggressive, frenzied style of hardcore, crust, grind which had the crowd getting involved due to the frontman getting in the thick of it while the band riffed like fuck on the stage. Bringing to mind Converge, Nails and All Pigs Must Die they were uncompromising with their live style the only issue for me was their excessive use of feedback which really affected my tinnitus so I retreated outside (getting old) but outside of that they really took the crowd by the scruff of the neck after the deliberately slow start.

Bringing the biggest crowd of the night was Shallow Graves (6) who are a Cardiff based hardcore outfit, hardcore is a genre I've never really warmed too but as the performance area of Fuel filled up I did start to question whether I'm wrong. Shallow Graves play your typical style of breakdown heavy hardcore with breakdowns moving into breakdowns causing pits to open. A great band (especially the drumming) but I'll never be a fan of the style.

Finally the band I was there to see, Californian trio Necrot (8) they're marketed as death metal crossed with punk but I'd say there was less punk and more proto-thrash, covered in studs and bullet belts Luca Indrio, Sonny Reinhardt and Chad Gailey have been touring the UK demolishing stages. With a reasonably small but dedicated crowd still there the pits started again this time old school thrash pits. It's the sort of early thrash Venom invented and Slayer perfected with songs about death and horror such as Blood Offerings, The Blade and Rather Be Dead, Chad Gailey beat seven shades out of his kit as Sonny Reinhardt plays vicious riffs. Their set flew by in a frenzy Luca barking down the mic while keeping up with the blasting drumming. I'd expect better from the South Wales metal scene (still a long way to go) but for anyone that missed this show, you missed a variety of South Wales/South West's most interestign acts along with some good old American death metal.         

Saturday 22 September 2018

A View From Another Country: MetalDays 2018 (Review By Rich)

Metaldays Festival 2018

Metaldays is truly an experience and an experience that I recommend all heavy metal maniacs to experience in their lifetime. The first thing that has to be mentioned is the setting which is the beautiful town of Tolmin in the Soca valley in Slovenia. It’s difficult to describe how stunning the scenery is but the town is surrounded by mountains some of which are snow peaked. The festival site itself contains fields, forestry and also has the Soca river running through it which you can swim in (but beware the water is cold!).

 The festival runs for five days Monday to Friday across three stages so there are an astounding amount of bands to see. The Newcomers stage runs for seven days with some bonus bands on the preceding Saturday and Sunday. The bands don’t start until later in the day giving you plenty of time to explore the town, get supplies from the nearby supermarket, swim in the river or simply relax in the sun.

My party arrived at the festival on the Sunday afternoon and after grabbing our wristbands plus some supplies from the supermarket we had the daunting task of setting up camp during a thunderstorm. It was hard not be in awe at the lightning striking the surrounding mountains but at the same time you did not want to be outside in it especially when the rain came falling down. With the campsite all set up and a few drinks down our necks it was time to explore the festival site, get some food and sample a few drinks from the various bars dotted around the festival site.

 The site itself is fairly expansive and due to a lack of signage it was very easy to get lost as I did when the night plunged the site into darkness, I only managed to catch one band on the Newcomers stage and that was Dutch symphonic death metallers Bleeding Gods who despite playing on the smallest stage at the festival brought enormous stage presence and an enormous crowd. I only managed to catch the last two songs of their set so cannot provide a score for their performance. With the festival starting good and proper the following day an early night was had ready for the next five days of metal…

Monday 23rd July

After the rainy Sunday evening the sun came out for Monday morning and thankfully stayed for the remainder of the festival. Following a refreshing morning swim and some food it was time to grab a beverage and head over to the Ian Fraser Lemmy Kilminster stage to watch some bands. Starting the day off for me was the magnificent VUUR (8). I am a massive fan of Anneke Van Giersbergen and the only times I have seen her perform live have been alongside Devin Townsend so it was a joy for me to see her perform her own material live. The majority of the set was taken from VUUR’s sole album In This Moment We Are Free - Cities with songs such as Time - Rotterdam and Days Go By - London sounding magnificent. We were also treated to a brilliant cover of Strange Machines by The Gathering. Throughout the whole set Anneke sounded phenomenal and the band played fantastically.

Next up were Jinjer (8) who are a band I have reviewed an album previously and didn’t impress me very much. Live though it is a different matter as Jinjer put in an incredible performance with their fusion of metalcore, death metal and progressive metal. Highlights from their set included Words Of Wisdom, I Speak Astronomy and Pisces. Frontwoman Tatiana Schmailyuk absolutely commands the stage with her incredibly versatile vocals. Her range is absolutely incredible.

It was time for one of my most anticipated sets of the week by one of my favourite bands the mighty Leprous (8). I have had the pleasure of seeing Leprous perform live multiple times and they never disappoint being one of the finest live acts I have seen. This was no exception with a set covering their last three albums including Bonneville, Stuck, From The Flame, The Price, The Flood and Foe. Frontman Einar Solberg sounded as mesmerising as always and the whole band put in a exceptionally tight performance despite seeming to be suffering in the strong Slovenian sun. There are more songs I would have liked to have heard but the band unfortunately only had a short time on stage.

The next band I managed to see was Carpathian Forest (4) playing on the Bosko Bursac stage. I was very much anticipating this set having never seen Carpathian Forest perform live but wish I hadn’t bothered as the band were clearly drunk as shit especially frontman Nattefrost who could barely get a coherent word out. The band were appallingly sloppy and were just frankly an embarrassment and a huge disappointment. I headed back over to the main stage to catch the majority of Eluveitie (8) who I should have watched from the start as they were magnificent. It had been a while since I had last seen Eluveitie live and the first time since their dramatic lineup change. It has to be said that getting Fabienne Emi as the new singer is a brilliant move as her voice is absolutely incredible. The band performed a great set including songs such as Thousandfold, Quoth The Raven, The Call Of The Mountains before closing with fan favourite Inis Mona.

Headlining the first night were the mighty Behemoth (9) who brought their full show to Metaldays complete with pyrotechnics and theatricality. We were treated to a fantastic set which delved into the Behemoth back catalogue with opener Ov Fire And The Void setting the scene. Plenty of fire and smoke engulfed the stage as the crowd fervently responded to Behemoth classics such as Demigod, Conquer All, Alas Lord Is Upon Me, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Decade Of Therion, Slaves Shall Serve, Chant For Eschaton 2000 and O Father O Satan O Sun. We were treated to two special songs as well the first being a brand new one entitled Wolves Of Siberia which shows great promise for the new album plus a cover of The Cure’s A Forest where the band were joined on stage by Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth. Behemoth showed themselves to be worthy headliners and brought the first night of the festival to a very satisfying close.

Tuesday 24th July

The second full day of the festival involved a lot more running in between stages. Due to the cancellation by Lords Of Black the first band of the day I managed to see was Italian doom merchants Caronte (7) whose huge crushing sound threatened to level the second stage. I had not previously heard any Caronte but was suitably impressed by their performance.

Another band who I am not very familiar with was Pallbearer (8) who played an absolute beauty of a set of emotionally charged doom metal had me absolutely mesmerised and rooted to the spot for its entire duration.

It was over to the main stage for the next band Battle Beast (9) who seriously brought the party to Metaldays. Battle Beast inject a big wedge of pop music into their power metal sound and the audience reacted very positively partying away to tunes such as Straight Through The Heart, Bringer Of Pain, Bastard Sons Of Odin, Black Ninja and Touch In The Night. The band have tremendous energy on stage running around but none more so than frontwoman Noora Louhimo who runs and jumps around the stage yet still manages to sing flawlessly with her powerhouse vocals sounding absolutely incredible.

Back over to the second stage for something more on the violent side of things and suitably delivered by Rotten Sound (8) who played a blistering set of HM-2 charged grind with savage riffs, devastating blastbeats and plenty of groove which is what separates Rotten Sound from the majority of grindcore acts and in my opinion makes them better. It was my first time seeing Rotten Sound live and they definitely did not disappoint.

After a swift walk back to the main stage I managed to catch the last half of Coroner (8) who gave Metaldays a much needed thrashing. Thrash was one genre fairly lacking on the Metaldays lineup so it was nice to see one of the few thrash bands on the bill put in a suitably savage performance and full of classics from their back catalogue such as Masked Jackal, Grin, Reborn Through Hate and Die By My Hand.

I remained at the main stage to catch Ensiferum (8) who managed to absolutely pack out the field with their epic brand of folk metal. There was a definite party atmosphere throughout their hour set ably helped by the fact that most people had been drinking for several hours. It was very much a greatest hits set with songs such as For Those About To Fight For Metal, Twilight Tavern, Token Of Time, Lai Lai Hei and Iron going down an absolute storm with the crowd.

It was finally time for the nights headliners and possibly my most anticipated set of the entire festival. A band I had been listening to for around 15 years and had never had the chance to see live - the German heavy metal legends Accept (10). They played an absolutely flawless set which was definitely worth the 15 year wait with a perfect sound, note perfect performance and a setlist containing all the classics new and old. It’s testament to Accept that their latter day material is just as strong as their classic 80’s material and the set was a nice balance between the two with modern day classics such as Die By The Sword, Pandemic, Stalingrad and Teutonic Terror sitting comfortably alongside Restless And Wild, Princess Of The Dawn, Metal Heart, Balls To The Wall and I’m A Rebel. The entire set was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.

It was back over to the second stage for the final set of the day which was a fiery performance from Watain (8). With all the flames the second stage looked like an inferno which was very suitable for the savagery of Watain’s set with songs off their fantastic new album Trident Wolf Eclipse sitting alongside older numbers such as Devil’s Blood, Malfeitor and Waters Of Ain.

Wednesday 25th July

Day three of Metaldays and although tiredness was starting to set in there was no rest for the wicked. First band of the day was 1000mods (8) who although playing early in the day absolutely commanded the main stage with their groovy stoner rock tunes. Not a band I am very familiar with but one I would 100% watch on stage again in the future.

The next band I watched was over on the second stage and that was old school death metallers Gruesome (7) who played a solid yet fairly unremarkable set of Death inspired death metal. The set was a mix of new songs such as Inhumane and A Waste Of Life played alongside older ones like Dimensions Of Horror and Savage Land. The band brought their set to a close with an awesome cover of Death’s Pull The Plug. A good set but just missing the wow factor.

Next up on the second stage were Swiss black metallers Schammasch (7) who were suitably impressive but their brand of avant-garde metal was difficult to get into and more suited a dark and gloomy stage indoors rather than an outdoor stage in the forest in glorious sunshine.

It was over to the main stage for one of the most crazy and unusual acts of the weekend and that was French genre defying project Igorrr (9). Igorrr incorporate an insane amount of different genres into their sound mixing extreme metal, dubstep, breakcore, classical and French baroque amongst other things. The majority of the instrumentation was pre-recorded and mixed and triggered by Igorrr himself who was backed up on stage by a live drummer and two live vocalists - Laurent Lunoir who handles the extreme vocals and the jaw droppingly awesome Laure Le Prunenec who handles the classical vocals. With all the different genres on display and smashed together in psychotic style Igorrr are a massive head fuck of a band but the on stage performance was simply sublime and truly memorable.

Next up on the main stage were Soulfly (7) who performed their groove thrash attack to a huge crowd. Kicking things off with the ferocious Frontlines the band ploughed through staples from their back catalogue such as Prophecy, Blood Fire War Hate, Rise Of The Fallen and Back To The Primitive. New song The Summoning sat well with the audience and showed promise for the new album.

Headlining the main stage this evening were Canadian death metal masters Kataklysm (9). Kataklysm are a band who have never gained a massive following in the UK usually playing small clubs whenever they tour but over in mainland Europe it is a whole different story as Kataklysm had one of the largest and most enthusiastic audiences of the entire festival. It was fantastic to see Kataklysm command such a large crowd and play easily the finest set I’ve ever seen them play.

 The band had huge circle pits, walls of death and crowd surfers galore to accompany crushing death metal anthems such as Like Angels Weeping (The Dark), As I Slither, Push The Venom, In Shadows & Dust and Crippled & Broken, Songs off new album Meditations such as Guillotine and Narcissist also went down a storm with the fervent metal hungry crowd. Kataklysm played easily one of the best sets of the entire festival and proved they are more than worthy to fill a headlining slot.

It was back over to the second stage for the final band of the day Austrian blackened death metal horde Belphegor (6) who brought the day to a bit of a disappointing end. The band had the longest intro tape which tested the patience of a lot of the crowd and when the band hit the stage the band sounded flat and lifeless. Too much was played off latest album Totenritual which whilst a good album fans were hoping for more from the back catalogue. Things did pick up when older songs such as Hell’s Ambassador - Belphegor, Stigma Diabolicum and Lucifer Incestus but the band seemed to be uninterested and just going through the motions.

Thursday 26th July

I had started feeling unwell from the Thursday onwards so unfortunately didn’t get to the stages as early as I would have liked. I managed to get to the second stage to catch the end of the set by death metal pioneers Master but didn’t see enough to justify scoring the band. I remained at the second stage to catch another of the festival highlights which was New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry (9). This band has been making big waves of late due to their young age plus their unique incorporation of the Te Reo Māori language into their music. The hype though seems more than justified as the band put on an absolutely jaw dropping performance. The music is a mix of groove and thrash metal and whilst fairly simplistic it is devastatingly effective and it is impossible to resist the urge to bang your head along. The Te Reo Māori language mixed with aggressive metal riffs is such a winning combination and it really pumps and psyches you up. Alien Weaponry left the stage leaving an audience hungry for more.

I stuck around at the second stage to catch a band who have been on the line up of many festivals I have attended but have always clashed with someone else so this time it was time to give Wiegedood (8) a chance. Black metal is a difficult genre to get right at festivals due to so much of it being based on atmosphere but despite performing in a sunny forested area Wiegedood managed to perform a brilliant set and also maintain the atmosphere of a black metal show. Highlight for me was the fantastic title track of their latest album De Doden Hebben Het Goed III.

It was time for some good old classic rock ably provided by the fantastic Black Star Riders (8) who performed an energetic and particularly loud set. The band played a nice mix of songs from their three albums including All Hell Breaks Loose, Heavy Fire, Soldierstown and Bound For Glory. Of course having a certain Scott Gorman in your ranks you get the obligatory Thin Lizzy covers with Jailbreak and The Boys Are Back In Town going down a storm with the festival crowd.

The main stage arena was filling up nicely in anticipation of the nights headliners which meant that Hatebreed (7) played to a very sizeable audience. Hatebreed are one of those bands I find fairly monotonous on their albums but live are absolutely brilliant. It could be I was getting tired or the fact I wasn’t feeling 100% but I didn’t enjoy Hatebreed as much as I have previously. Another factor could be this was the longest set I have seen them play and an hour of fairly repetitive hardcore may have tested by patience. The band played a great set taking songs from their entire back catalogue including As Diehard As They Come, Live For This, Last Breath, Tear It Down, I Will Be Heard and Destroy Everything. It was a good set but I think I was feeling too burnt out to appreciate it plus I was saving my energy for the headliners…

Headlining the main stage and the main headliner of the whole festival were the legendary Judas Priest (10). The arena was absolutely jam packed for the metal gods and the excitement in the air was electric as Black Sabbath’s War Pigs came blasting out of the speakers. What followed was a fantastic set with a bit of something for everyone - a nice mix of new material, Judas Priest set staples plus a few more obscure ones for the hardcore Priest fans. The band kicked off with the title track from stunning new album Firepower and followed it with an all you can eat platter of heavy metal deliciousness including Grinder, Sinner, Lightning Strike, Bloodstone, Saints In Hell, Turbo Lover, Freewheel Burning, Hell Bent For Leather before the main set was brought to a close with the crushing ferocity of Painkiller.

 The band returned for an encore of material off the classic British Steel album with Metal Gods, Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight prompting a huge singalong from the audience. The band performed brilliantly with Richie Faulkner performing fretboard pyrotechnics whilst Andy Sneap did a more than admirable job standing in for Glen Tipton. The metal god himself Rob Halford despite being 67 years old sounded absolutely incredible with his voice sounding like a man less than half his age. Judas Priest showed exactly why they are legends bringing the main stage to a close in epic fashion. The only drawback is I enjoyed it so much that it seemed over way too quickly.

Friday 27th July

Unfortunately I felt even more unwell on the Friday morning and it didn’t improve throughout the day so I didn’t end up seeing a single band instead wallowing in misery and self pity in the campsite. There wasn’t loads I really wanted to see on the final day but I did miss sets by the likes of Demonical, Goatwhore, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Primordial, Municipal Waste and Cannibal Corpse.

Overall despite a disappointingly ill end to the festival I fully enjoyed my Metaldays experience and highly recommend it to anyone. It’s like having a holiday and attending a festival in one. I for one will definitely be returning in 2019 in improved health and enjoying the full experience.