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Friday 30 November 2018

Reviews: Ashes Of Ares, Shattered Skies, P.O.D, Reece (Reviews By Matt & Paul H)

Ashes Of Ares: Well Of Souls (Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt]

I wasn't keen on the first Ashes Of Ares, if I'm honest I wanted Matt Barlow's first project outside of Iced Earth to sound more like Iced Earth especially with former IE guitarist Freddie Vidales and Nevermore drummer Van Williams joining him. The album was alright but it was a little flat in places staying in cruise for the majority of the record. Not here though according to Barlow, he and Vidales (Van Williams left in 2017 but still contributes drums to this record) wanted to make much heavier, progressive more 'metal' record and I'd say they've done so, also from a personal perspective they've also released an album that is much closer to the Iced Earth sound and as fan boy that makes me happy.

For me Barlow is 'the' definitive voice of Iced Earth and here you can understand why I'd think that, opening with Consuming The Mana and The Alien he's got his gritty mid accompanied by his high screams in the background paired with a rhythm heavy thrash sounding style from the Burnt Offerings years, the heaviness is ramped up again by Unworthy which has a modern metal sound to it as Van Williams plays his ass off behind the kit letting up only for the huge chorus that has every octave in Barlow's range. It slides into Soul Searcher which is ballad full of soul and that has that IE darkness to it as well.

It's a major step up from the first album the first 'proper' metal album Barlow has been apart of for a while, the melodies powerfully soar, the thrashy/classic metal riffs are tough headbangers with Sun Dragon, In The Darkness some of the biggest along with the doomy and theatrical Spirit Of Man and there's even pretty decent cover of Chris Cornell's Bond theme You Know My Name which gets more vocal gymnastics than the original. Barlow and Vidales are back and I won't mention 'the other' band again but this is a natural progression for their sound building on history and the foundation of the debut, Well Of Souls is one heck of metal album for fans of progressive power/thrash metal. 8/10

Shattered Skies: Muted Noir (Self Released) [Matt]

Ah here's a name we've been following the career of for a long time now, in fact since we saw them upstairs in The Gryphon a few years ago. Since then some line up changes have meant the Irish group aren't the same band we saw but the key components of Ian Rockett (guitar/keyboards/synths) and Ross McMahon (drummer/synths/mixing) are still present and correct guiding this new version of the band through it's ascension. Muted Neon is their second full length and it carries on from Auxilium//Vol I the EP released last year. Musically Shattered Skies have always been diverse skillfully blending chunky djent-like heaviness with ethereal ambience along with a bit of pop, classic rock and hazy shade of prog too, it's modern and at time utterly brilliant the compositions being musically dense but never inaccessible.

The Disaffected builds and builds as almost an extended intro the layers adding and adding before it explodes into palm-muted riffs starting the "journey through tough times and into the light on the other side" as vocalist Gerry Brown describes it. The album is influenced by their hardships the band have had to face professionally and personally but it's catharsis of that and there is a light the emboldens tracks like the chunky You Will Know My Name which has synths to die for and a riff that bends the mind, add to that the underlying message in the lyrics and the genuinely impressive vocals of Brown, this track alone is worth picking this record up as it's modern prog perfection. Just two songs again and Shattered Skies remind me why I dragged an old friend to go and see this band in the upstairs of a dingy rock pub in Bristol, it's their flagrant disregard for what they should be doing.

They are progressive at its truest sense, experimental with soundscapes, such as the Shut In which has huge riffs but also some repeating synths for a real mixed palette of sounds, a trick reused throughout the album but not overused at any time. This is a record that demands repeated listens each time you'll discover soemthing else that gets you excited, it's been a brilliant year for bands that at one time would be lumped into the 'djent' sound, 2018 seems to be the year it's matured into a truly formidable force, with acts like Shattered Skies taking the reigns. 9/10 

P.O.D: Circles (Mascot Records) [Paul H]

By Jeebus, the Christian nu-metallers return with their tenth release, Circles, which frontman Sonny Sandoval has stated “is this the new beginning for P.O.D., or is it the beautiful end?” Ah, very cryptic. I remember listening to these guys when they released Satellite back in 2001. It was reasonable nu-metal at the time. I don’t think I’ve listened to one of their albums since. I slavishly listened to all of Circles. More fool me. The rap-influenced metal is ghastly. The Christian lyrics make me want to hurl bricks through glass plate windows. It may have an audience in the USA but, and I am sure I’m the wrong audience, if these guys were playing in my garden, I’d close the curtains. 2/10

Reece: Resilient Heart (Mighty Music) [Paul H]

David Reece once sang with Accept on Eat The Heat way back in the late 1980s. There. Soak that up. The former Bonfire singer has now released his second solo album supported by four Danish musicians, Marco Angioni, Martin Jesper Andersen, Frederick Buhert and Siguard J Jensen. Reece has a voice that veers from Axl Rose to Lou Gramm. Unfortunately, a lot of the tracks here suit neither voice. Unfortunately, a lot of the songs on this melodic hard rock release don’t suit a hard rock album. Forest Through The Trees is a particularly dreadful ballad and even when the jams start to unpack, such as on A Perfect Apocalypse, there’s little to distinguish them from the perfectly average. With a real 1980s sound to most of this album, there has to be better to spend your hard-earned cash on. 4/10

Funny Business: Andrew O'Neill (Review By Stief)

Andrew O Neill & James Dunn, Clwb Ifor Bach

After a brief intro by Andrew O’Neill, in which he acknowledged the Musipedia’s own Paul Scoble having a comedy event across the road (and apologising), it was time for local lad James Dunn (8), who was hand-picked by Andrew for the support slot and although the initial nerves were obvious, he gradually relaxed. A mixture of anecdotes about his work as a teacher, and sharing the anxiety of having a single table to yourself in Nandos, his material plays it safe. That being said, there’s definite talent there, and although he tended to punctuate every other word with the odd ‘fuck’ or ‘fuckin’, I put that more down to nerves than anything.

Now, not a lot of comedy sets start with a man wearing ram horns chanting an Orphic hymn to Hermes complete with frankincense from a censer, but Andrew O’Neill (10) isn’t any regular comedian. Having been in comedy for over a decade now, he’s definitely cut from a different cloth. An interesting look at the use of magic, Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick fun hour (spelt with a k so you know he’s serious) was a wild ride. As already mentioned, a good chunk of the show was dedicated to the study and use of magick in the modern world, something Andrew is more than willing to admit he believes in, with him telling tales of using drugs to enhance his experiences as well as various rituals invoking gods such as Mercury and Hermes.

Right from the start, there were sentences interspersed with what seemed to be random outbursts, punchlines without a joke, until finally coming to fruition halfway through the set. The classic Andrew O’Neill brand musical tangents were in full swing too, as well as more fleshed out songs, including comedic covers of songs such as Don’t Fear The Reaper, which by his own admission were Andrew’s least favourite form of comedy and only performed to entertain his cat, Ghost. Ending with an almost stream-of-consciousness talk backed by soft guitar in the vein of Demetri Martin, Andrew informed us we had all invoked Mercury through the show, and he ‘will fuck our shit up’ we politely told the God of eloquence and Communication to kindly fuck off, banishing him. A brilliant night with a pair of very funny men.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Reviews: Steven Wilson, Muse, Stephen Pearcy, Valafar (Reviews By Paul H & Alex)

Steven Wilson: Home Invasion (Eagle Rock) [Alex]

Paraphrasing Steven Wilson himself, live films are pointless in the sense that they will never truly capture the essence of a concert experience, yet wonderful in that they can help people in the world without the privilege of being able to go to a concert, get as close as possible. To be fair, if you had to select one 2018 tour to be captured in a visual medium, To the Bone would be an excellent choice. The album of the same name was my personal favourite of 2017, and the Cardiff show remains one of the best concerts I have ever been to! The location has particular significance here as well, with the name referring not only to a song in the setlist, but to the venue in which so many of Wilson's influences played, and stands as a sort of Mecca for English based musicians to this day. The so-called ‘king of prog’ has reserved this recording for some of the most successful and ambitious shows of his long and winding career.

Comprising mostly of songs from To The Bone and Hand. Cannot. Erase, as well as later-era work by Porcupine Tree, the set certainly feels like one by an artist suddenly getting used to selling out theatres. There are plenty of choice cuts from the new album, the wonderfully melodic duet of Pariah, the personal political ballad of Refuge and the joyously introspective Nowhere Now proving stand out moments. There are also a few fan favorites, with The Sound Of Muzak, Lazarus and Sleep Together, taking precedence. Not to say there is any integrity compromised. The output of recent years has tended toward being rich and beautiful, rather than weird or genre-defying. The choice of songs here simply stays true to Wilson’s current musical identity. (After all, he already showcased his experimental side in the equally fantastic, Get All You Deserve). Incidentally, while there is surprisingly little material from earlier flirtations with accessibility – That is, with the great exception of Even Less, performed ‘Billy Brag Style’ – the entire discography is so dispersed with great songs, that there can be no bad choices when it comes to choosing a setlist. Performances by every single one of the musicians behind our frontman are packed with energy – they are precise yet also wildly improvisational.

If you bought the video recording of the show, you would have witnessed the enchanting visuals, accompanying the songs. Obviously, you are not going to capture every detail – another reason why you should really go to one of the shows if you can - yet the editors do a brilliant job on integrating the visuals within the context of a film. From the scarily dystopian graphics which accompany People Who Eat Darkness, to the synthetic dancers ominously growing in size on Song Of I, to the incredibly moving short film accompanying The Raven That Refused To Sing, rarely if ever do they feel jarring or reductionist. Even the euphoric Permanating is given an epic display of colour to co suit the vibrant tone, as Bollywood dancers join Steven Wilson and co. in a display which made up part of this show only.

Overall, Home Invasion is a spectacular capturing of an excellent live performance. While the majesty of the being at the show can't possibly be channeled, this is one of the best live recordings I have seen in quite a while 9/10

Valafar: Wolfenkind (Transcending Records) [Paul H]

The opening bars of Ulfeonar, crushingly huge riffs and a majestic entrance offer a clear indication of what is likely to follow in the next 35 minutes. The massive Brotherhood Of The Wolf, dripping with groove and colossal hooks crashes in next, a pulverising beast of a tune, all flailing arms and smashing fists as it smashes around the room. Path Of The Warrior maintains and increases the tempo, more thunderous riffage and colossally heavy passages rain down. This continues until the final drops of Born Of The Nine which leaves you wondering where the last half an hour has gone.

The Bradford quintet are focused, intense and driven with this sophomore release which captures the atmosphere of their heroic appearance at Bloodstock this year. The band channel the very soul of bands like Obituary, Entombed and Amon Amarth and generate a delicious slab of heavy death metal. Never forsaking brutality for speed, this is monstrous in every aspect. The ideal support for the annual Memoriam show at The Asylum next month, Valafar's star is rightly in the ascendency. An essential slab of metal which demands your attention. 9/10

Muse: Simulation Theory (Warner Bros Records)

Once, Muse seemed one of the most multifaceted and intricate acts to breach the mainstream. A combination of space rock, sweeping instrumentals, and glorious choruses, seemingly did the impossible, uniting prog with the mainstream. Origin Of Symmetry and Absolution, as well as Black Holes And Revelations, remain genre-defining albums. Even the 2nd Law and Drones, still show the gleams of extraordinarily innovative musicians. Yet the singles for Simulation Theory left me less and less impressed, and upon release, I was saddened to find a collection of songs constituting a pitiful attempt at an 80’s throwback, while laying to rest the ingenuity and creativity that normally defines Matt Bellamy and co. I have seen extremely polarizing opinions, some praising and others lamenting the new direction - believe me when I say I derive no satisfaction in my ardent distaste.

In all fairness, Algorithm and The Dark Side, do utilize some interesting and involved synth work, which despite not reaching expectations Muse have set for themselves in the past, prove decent openers. All sense of optimism is soon destroyed. Propaganda proves an irritatingly failed idea, a looped distortion of ‘Propa-propa-propa-propaganda’ constituting the hook, and doing nothing to satiate the incredibly fake-nostalgia of the uninspired verses. Break It to my attempts to emulate the oriental, walk-like-an-Egyptian vibes popular during the 80s’, simultaneously refusing to distinguish itself from the countless Trap, R&B, and EDM songs trying exactly the same thing. Meanwhile, Something Human taunts us with an incredibly bland tone, which could have easily been featured on the Imagine Dragons album released that same day. If that comparison feels lazy, overused and forced, you may appreciate how I feel. 

Where the outcomes of the three-year period spent writing and recording this album aren't aurally insulting, they are uninspired or poorly executed. Thought Contagion begins on a spooky bassline, unfortunately becoming the entire basis for a dull and meandering chant, in which Dominic Howard seriously undermines skill behind a drum kit. Dig Down is strictly restricted by an obnoxious and repetitive synth line which hides its self-plagiarism in the main sight, sounding barely distinguishable from the early hit, Madness. Later on, Get Up And Fight proves a slice of typical, generic. radio rock which while nothing to be offended by, continues the trend of risking alienating vast swathes of fans. Perhaps the most irritating moments for me as a writer though is Pressure, another throwback devoid of depth, the subject matter here is apparently Bellamy's annoyance with being critiqued, pushed and influenced by fans and critics alike. For those like me, who respect experimentation and grew to love Muse for their changeability, the sentiment is clear: we will only try and push them, away from bloated and laziness, when we know they are capable of so much better! 3/10

Stephen Pearcy: View To A Thrill (Frontiers Records)

Way back in the 1980s Ratt were a big noise. They had several hits which included the awful Round & Round, which still gets airtime today for some reason. Vocalist Stephen Pearcy’s saccharine-soaked vocals were distinctive and as the decade of decadence exploded, so did his profile. I must be fair, the last time I listened to Ratt was purely by accident; not the ‘go to music’ I favour. Pearcy has by all accounts, established himself as an author, CEO of Top Fuel World Entertainment amongst other accolades. Pearcy has, however, also been dogged with a legacy which probably hasn’t done him any favours and as recently as last month he was seen staggering around the stage with Ratt, stumbling and incoherent which he later blamed on mixing alcohol with painkillers. Hmm? View To A Thrill is his fifth solo album (as far as I can work out) and follows on from 2017’s Smash. Joined by Erik Ferentinos on lead guitar, vocals and keys, Mott Thorn on bass, vocals and keys and drummer Scot Coogan.

View To A Thrill sounds just like Ratt in their heyday. Three-minute songs, lyrically bereft of anything other than the continued lifestyle which appears to form the staple subject matter of such bands, the highlight of a mundanely paced album is Not Killin’ Me, purely for the neat slide guitar by none other than Bobby Krieger (The Doors). Otherwise, this album will only appeal to those who can remember what it felt like in spandex, with backcombed hair and can still swagger in a way that only the US musicians appeared to do. It may be slightly disingenuous for me to have expected anything other than trashy sleaze, the genre I really struggle with and in that respect, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s certainly trashy, throwaway and routine. 5/10

Wednesday 28 November 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Idlewar

Idlewar, Scarsun & Excursia, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

With Welsh Ragga-Punks playing a huge show in The Tramshed across town, I headed over to Cardiff's only rock club for a little bit of Southern California heavy blues. With Mrs H in tow (Mr H was in Bath for more Hawkwind) we stepped into the club that was gripped by rugby fever until after the supposed door time. Once that had finished though it did meant the band were late setting up and the doors to the performance area were swung wide open to Fuel which did mean that anyone in the club could come in to watch the show, which is a double edged sword as it meant Idlewar got a big crowd, however it also meant that those of us who paid for tickets were left a little miffed. With T-shirts and CD's purchased we watched the band soundcheck and then it was finally time for the first support about 45 minutes after the supposed door time.

The first local band on the bill were Excursia (7) a Caerphilly based modern metal band who are both ridiculously young and ridiculously talented, they seem to have started out as a covers band but it was their own material that hit home here. The music on display by these youngsters was groove-heavy heavy metal in the style of Lamb Of God, Trivium et al. A'Dan and Sam provide the thick riffs and solos as Lewis McGuire barks down the mic with Callum and Matt holding down the boiler room. The band have already secured a set at Byline Festival in August as well as gigs supporting Evyltyde, Democratus and Mentallica and this gigging shows as the band were playing at a level betraying their years. If they're this good now, how good will they be in years to come? We will have to wait and see!

Next up were the returning Scarsun (6) a band we last saw imploding on stage supporting The Answer in the Globe, since then they have changed their membership almost wholesale and this was their first show with the new line up. Unfortunately they could have had a better one as despite the tight shirted Cwmbranites pitting themselves into oblivion and two fights involving a stag-do the band played their alt-metal to a mostly disinterested audience with your writer particularly vexed by the lack of vocals, it's not that Letha Curtis wasn't singing it's that they weren't audible, at all which means I can't really give them a review properly as even with earplugs I struggled to pick them up at all, though I could hear her perfectly when she was singing. They got applause when their set concluded but it wasn't the magnificent comeback it could have been, a shame but I guess it will have to be next time now.

Now it was time for the main event all the way from Orange County, Southern California the big, bearded, heavy blues rock of Idlewar (8) was what many of us had actually come for and as soon as James Blake started beating out the thick grooves on his 8 (!) string bass it was time for him, Rick Graham (guitar) and Pete Pagonis (drums) to lock in for some of the most danceable, boogie this side of the three man boogie machine ZZ Top, in fact if you squint Idlewar could pass as the Little Ol Band From Texas in their younger days albeit with some more distorted stoner influenced riffs. With James' bass the major rhythm factor he plays both the low-grooves in a powerful duo with Pete who bangs away with power and poise but also adds depth to the guitar riffs as a rhythm guitar playing especially when Rick gets to peel off slinky solo, which does happen a lot.

This was the final show on a pretty long tour of the UK in support of their third album Fractured which was where the majority of their set was drawn from and due to the now inebriated audience and the final show excitement made for a party atmosphere of the evening that meant a lot of hard work for the photographers down the front, Cardiff on a rugby day is a challenge for natives at the best of times but the band took it in their stride, humbly thanking the crowd for coming down and even wishing an audience member happy birthday but with tracks like Stone In My Heel they brought the groove to Fuel on a Saturday evening. Mrs H was getting her groove back and the band were rocking it with style carving tight furrows bigger than the San Andreas Fault (I know that's not in Orange County Geographers). A perfect band for celebratory Saturday next time they come back to the UK I urge you to check out Idlewar.         

Tuesday 27 November 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Phil Campbell (Review By Paul H)

Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, The Globe, Cardiff

Back to The Globe for the return of one of South Wales’ favourite sons. If ever there was a poll about the greatest Welshmen, Philip Anthony Campbell should surely be close to the top. Never mind the relic that is wheeled out at Rugby internationals to sing songs about wife beating, this man spent 30 years in Motörhead for fucks sake, writing some of the greatest rock n roll songs and working with Lemmy! Now neatly packaged up with his three sons Tyla, Dane and Todd and with the addition of the fantastic Neil Starr, this is a band whose trajectory is going skyward.

Before the Bastard Sons went through their paces, a sold out, and I mean sold out Globe tolerated the hard working Leader Of Down (7). The band who were formed by the late Wurzel released their debut album Cascade Into Chaos courted controversy with the inclusion of some Fast Eddie Clarke songs on the album. For more detail about this see my review from 6th October. Anyway, the band arrived after the Quo had blasted out Down Down and proceeded to deliver an entertaining if routine set full of tracks from their album but with a couple of interesting covers thrown in. Vocalist Matt Baker was hyperactive, charging around the stage with copious enthusiasm although his constant urging of “C’mon Cardiff” was wearing quite quickly. You have to earn the applause. Unsurprisingly given that Fastway drummer Steve Clarke is behind the kit, one of the covers was Say What You Will, an early track from the band that Fast Eddie and Pete Way put together in the early 1980s. Despite some horrendous bass sound for Tim Atkinson during the mid-part of the set, the band slowly warmed the crowd up and by the time they hit Hawkwind’s Master Of The Universe it was fair to say that Leader Of Down had earned a few new fans.

However, there was no doubting the main event and as Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons (9) made their way on stage, The Globe needed a deep breath to squeeze in the hordes of Motörheadbangers and metalheads who had filled the venue to bursting. For the next 90 minutes the band blasted through a set list which was perfectly balanced between songs from their debut EP and the fabulous Age Of Absurdity and a good spread of old Motörhead classics. What impresses me about this band is how easily their material sits alongside the older Motörhead songs with Big Mouth, Freak Show, Welcome To Hell and Ring Leader all getting appreciative nods from the massed ranks. Unsurprisingly the biggest cheers were reserved for the old school tunes, with Born To Raise Hell, Going To Brazil, Ace Of Spades and R.A.M.O.N.E.S  and a thunderous The Game all superb. Phil Campbell, as I’ve written many times before, is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock and his casual approach always makes his sublime work look effortless. Supported by son Todd, no slouch himself, whilst Tyla mouthed every word and thundered the bass lines in a way rarely seen since Lemmy’s death. Starr is a compelling frontman, never stealing the limelight but doing what he needed to do; in solid fashion.

As time moved on, it was nearly encore time. With the middle fingers raised in the band’s trusty manner, Silver Machine slipped in nicely as the place went nuts. Bomber was immense, Just Cos You’ve Got The Power was a welcome addition before Rock N’ Roll brought a magnificent evening to a thrilling close. As the sweat dripped off the ceiling and walls, the smiles from all around said it all. With half their tour still to go and a support slot for Slash next year’s tour, this is a band that should be able to take the rock world by the throat. Don't bet against it. Sheer quality.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Nashville Pussy (Review By Paul H)

Nashville Pussy, The Globe, Cardiff

Described as the “American Motörhead, the powerhouse of inappropriate innuendo and downright filth that is Nashville Pussy (7) rolled into Cardiff on a freezing cold evening, ironically the night before a sell-out crowd assembled to catch Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons in the same venue. Having kicked the shit out of various venues around the world for the past 20+ years Pussy really don’t worry about impressing anyone. They just do what they do. No support band, and a 9pm start. Really? Us Brits are outraged at such low value for money you know! A small but enthusiastic crowd raucously greeted Blaine Cartwright, Ruyter Suys, Bonnie Buitrago and Ben Thomas onto the stage and Pussy proceeded to race through a slab of tunes which ranged from We Want A War from the latest album Pleased To Eat You to Fried Chicken And Coffee from 1998’s debut release Let Them Eat Pussy.

Watching Nashville Pussy is a surreal experience. Cartwright stumbles around the stage at times, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels, his ample paunch adding to as much comedic value as his fabulous skullet hairstyle, whilst his swigging of Fosters from his cowboy hat was just bizarre. No one should drink Fosters. But the man can shout a tune okay and he’s no slouch on the old six stringer either although it’s his wife, the fantastic Ruyter Suys who took most of the lead guitar credit with some massive solos and anarchic playing style. In fact, anarchic is probably one of the better descriptions for this band who clearly don’t give a flying fuck about what anyone else thinks. With a smattering of crusty old punks, metal heads and the mandatory high percentage of Motörhead fans all lapping up the carnage, the band barrelled through song after song with only limited crowd interaction. A double drum solo was not called for but being the youngest in the band indicated that Ben Thomas would shoulder a bit more of the work.

With their average tune clocking in at about three minutes in length, Pussy crammed in about a billion songs during their 70 minutes, demonstrating that their fusion of psychobilly, Southern Rock and punk is worthy of attention. Okay, the band’s style is repetitive and many of the songs sound pretty similar, but it was good fun and entertaining to watch. When the last band you have seen is Slayer in front of 11,000 screaming Spaniards then it was always likely that this would have a challenge to live up to but when the band finished with an extended version of Ted Nugent’s Wang Dang, Sweet Poontang you knew you’d been to a gig.

Monday 26 November 2018

Reviews: All That Remains, Warkings, Daemonia Nymphe, Collateral

All That Remains: Victim Of The New Disease (Eleven Seven Records)

Victim Of The New Disease is the 9th album from American metalcore band All That Remains, it's the final album to feature founding guitarist Oli Herbert who tragically died before the release of this album. So this serves as his epitaph with the intense riffage starting off the abrasive Fuck Love, you can here why the band are held in such high regard, he locks in with Mike Martin for the heaviest grooves since their 2010 For We Are Many the bottom end of Aaron Patrick and Jason Costa shaking the foundations. Everything's Wrong brings the melody with fluid dual leads breaking into a more arena ready noise as Phil Labonte shows his cleaner tones, as clean guitar solo comes on as the natural progression of the track before the aggression returns for Blood I Spill which blends the heaviness and melody together in a metalcore menagerie.

Filled with hooky choruses, arena bothering riffs and an undoubted brutality that doesn't sacrifice their more darkly pop -infected sounds like Alone In The Darkness, there's a temptation to talk about the guitar playing on this album due to Herbert's passing but I won't dwell on it too much, only saying this is the sort of playing you want in metalcore skillfully balancing breakdown infused riffs and techinical solos. As the album winds up there's a ballad called Just Tell Me Something which features Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria) dueting with Labonte for a track where the emotion has a new edge to it due to the outside factors. Victim Of The New Disease is another strong album in the All That Remains catalogue and serves as the perfect tribute to Oli Herbert while looking to the bands future. 8/10

Warkings: Reborn (Napalm Records)

These are the sons of Odin, chosen by the King Of The Gods himself, Warkings are an international act (that many seem to be Greek) who go by the monikers of The Tribune (voice), The Crusader (guitar), The Viking (bass) and The Spartan (drums) and play the biggest, baddest and boldest heavy metal with songs about Hephaistos, Sparta and Gladiator's so it's mainly war, war and more war, with the classic metal sounds of Helloween and of course Manowar. The identities of the members is closely guarded secret but you can hear a lot of similarities in the vocals with everyone's favourite Austrian symphonic metal band (strokes chin). Despite the press for this album being a fantasy writers wet dream the album itself has some pretty decent metal on it, tracks such as the powerful Battle Cry have tough metal riffs and fist pumping vocals, while Sparta has additional grunts and Hephaistos is a mini-epic. It doesn't do anything super special this album and the image is a more arresting than the music but if you want big, balshy heavy metal you could do worse. 7/10      

Daemonia Nymphe: Psychostasia (Prikosnovénie)

This is the re-released version of Daemonia Nymphe's 2013 album, it adds three new tracks to that album but is pretty much a similar release that consists of dark Greek folk music that has Ancient Greek lyrics and traditional Greek instruments some of which are 1,000's of years old (though the ones used here are reproductions, so don't worry historians). The band consists of Spyros and Evi who double on vocals and instruments, Evi hauntingly floating over the layered acoustic instruments as Spyros chants below it in Greek with both playing the beautiful sounding stringed instruments. If you want fat riffs you aren't going to find that here but there is a darkness to these songs that even more upbeat numbers like the jaunty Deos Erotas can't erase, it perseveres on the imperious Thracian Gaia while Nature's Metamorphosis builds from a single drop of water into some vocal gymnastics from Evi and builds into a frenzy. I will admit Psychostasia is an album left of field to what we normally review but it's very good this, a primal, natural sounding album with certain sounds that you won't find anywhere else. 7/10

Collateral: 4 Shots (Roulette Records)

The immediate comparison I made as soon as pressed play on the debut EP from Ramsgate rockers Collateral was that of New Jersey stadium fillers Bon Jovi. The hard rock riffs are underpinned by the acoustic layers like it's the glory days of the Sunset Strip, huge choruses give way to soaring guitar solos with Angelo leading as a coffitured six stringing frontman with husky tone, he's backed by six stringer Todd, bassist Jack and Ben, things get smooth on Midnight Queen which is is a Stetson wearing, country rocker that slithers with the laid back cool but technicality of Kip Winger. On 4 Shots it's like the 80's never died, they have the look and the sound with two hard rockers and two mountain scaling ballads. There's a magic to Collateral's music that recaptures the days when rock music ruled the airwaves, lets hope the full length continues on this path as there could be new contenders to the NWOCR throne. 7/10    

Sunday 25 November 2018

A View Of From The Back Of The Room: Thomas Rhett (Review By Nick)

Thomas Rhett, Devin Dawson, Danielle Bradbery, Hammersmith Apollo.

Danielle Bradbery

Following winning The Voice America back in 2013, the first country act to do so, Bradbery has slowly risen to be a staple in the country scene. Hailing from Texas her accent is hard to miss, combined with her shy nature immediately wins over the crowd as she walks onto the stage for a six song stripped down acoustic set to open the night. Having listened to Bradbery's recent album I Don't Believe We've Met in preparation for the gig I was impressed by her voice first and foremost: strong, powerful and clear... I was looking forward to seeing her live, and damn she did not disappoint! As described above her voice was utterly flawless but with a hidden raspiness live that just completed the package for me. Starting with two songs from her latest offering Can't Stay Mad and What Are We Doing were welcomed by the crowd as most stood mesmerised by her voice that was coming with such ease from such a small figure of lady.

Both slower ballad like songs that had a feeling of honesty about them, very wholesome, and when fan favourite, more upbeat Heart Of Dixie was added to the mix it allowed the crowd to enjoy Bradbery's voice and feel a little looser in themselves as many started to dance. Finishing with a threesome of Hello Summer, Sway and Worth It the now half full Apollo was sent into hysterics when the man of the moment Thomas Rhett briefly joined Bradbery on stage for his cameo in Hello Summer. I'm not ashamed to admit the Bradbery's voice stole my heart that night, there are very few female vocalists I have come across that have such honest, clean and powerful vocals delivered with minimal effort, the closest I can think of would be the great Amanda Somerville... and she's really not far off that! The only quibble would be the stripped back nature of her set, but with tine constraints and the stage being filled with Rhett's paraphernalia it was understandable. Definitely one act I'd see again with zero hesitation 9/10.

Devin Dawson

Coming somewhat as a surprise to most Dawson managed to steal the main support spot above the more known and experienced Bradbury, but it wasn't long before the reasoning was made clear as the Georgia man strutted on stage guitar in hand with band in tow and broke out into the hard hitting country rock song War Paint followed by the equally rocky and funk filled Dip, both from his new and debut album Dark Horse both of which got the now pretty much full Apollo moving their feet. Unfortunately both opening songs were plagued by the fact that it was nearly impossible to hear his vocals above the band, despite Dawson gesturing to the techs on multiple occasions. Only when things slowed down were his vocals revealed and this was for my personal favourite song Symptoms

A song that every person on the planet can relate to, its so bluesy and sexy it almost oozes from Dawson's mouth complimented by his brilliant band especially lead guitarist who was able to make his guitar weep some beautiful slow notes. I was really impressed here, none on stage let themselves down. The main issue I had with Dawson's new album is the way it seemed to jump around from Rock, to Blues, to Country and then to beautiful ballads … the album and he seemed to lack identity when listening, and in all honesty, its what I felt watching him live too. Individually the songs are great, he certainly struggled a little more with the pacier more rocky songs while for the slower songs such as Symptoms, Dark Horse and fan favourite All On Me his voice was brilliant and he nailed every note and the feeling/message behind each song. I could not fault the effort and passion that Dawson had and delivered across the 45 minute set where he offered up the majority of his debut album. 

However I couldn't help that feel there was a little naivety in his performance and set pacing and as I mentioned before in his album... a lack of identity. For me Dawson has all the potential in the world and should channel that into what he appears to do best; proper honest country. But when you have a young man wearing what appeared to be a Candlemass t-shirt delivering such an eclectic mix of genres, I do wonder if that will ever change. Nonetheless, Dawson is certainly someone to keep an eye on and clearly is blessed with talent. I would be keen to see him again in a few years to see the direction he has taken. The most important thing is, the crowd seemed more than satisfied as he left the stage to great applause. 7/10

Thomas Rhett

After a thirty plus minute wait following the set from Devin Dawson, finally Thomas Rhett donned the stage with 100% energy running around the stage from start to finish for his only European date on his Life Changes Tour. Initially supporting a yellow leather jacket which I assumed was a nod to the great Freddie Mercury while in his homeland, Rhett slammed into action with a triple whammy of Leave Right Now, T-Shirt and Renegades... all of which sent the Apollo into a dancing and jumping frenzy each ending in high pitched screams which I hadn't experienced at a gig in a long time and completely caught me of guard initially. Rhett is one of those guys which all other guys should really detest, he's got everything; the looks, a majestic beard, the voice, the girl, the family, the money and can turn his hand to most instruments as he demonstrated throughout his set ... yet, you can't help but respect and like him, as he showed tonight and as he always has showed, he's just a normal, kind guy from Georgia who is unbelievably humble and thankful for where he is and how quickly he has set the country music scene alight over the past 5 years. 

Playing bigger and bigger sold out venues every time her plays London the next stop for Rhett is probably Wembley Arena, which is almost a shame as in this venue on this night he was simply sublime, a showman of the highest calibre. As the show moved on things slowed down a little with Country Gold before moving onto more poppy songs from his new album Craving You and Life Changes, prior to which he offered up the story behind the song relating to his recent adoption of a child due to perceived infertility then four months later being gifted a child of their own through natural conception. Slightly teary the crowd serenaded Rhett with the final verse and chorus as he composed himself. Next a few slower songs and more honest country songs from Rhett's back catalogue; Remember You Young, Beer With Jesus and the anthem Marry Me, during all of which Rhett was joined by the crowd on top of their voices. Another double dose of rocky songs was next with It Goes Like This and my particular favourite Unforgettable, where Rhett again exhibited no lack of energy or drive in his performance as he flew around the stage interacting with band and crowd alike.

Leaving the stage to rapturous applause screams and shouts soon the band and the star of the show returned to deliver a encore of the beautiful ballad that is Die A Happy Man during which Rhett spotted a couple getting engaged in the crowd, as a result he proceeded to pull them up on stage and give them a personal rendition of the final verse and chorus as they slow danced on stage. “This is was music is about” he proclaimed.... and he's not wrong you know! Finally the hour and forty five minute set came to a close all too soon with another anthem Crash And Burn which ended with aplomb, with no messing around, Leaving the crowd pleading for more but over the moon with what they had just witnessed. Musically Rhett's band were on cracking form, extremely tight despite the varied forms of country offered and transitioning into the more poppy songs from his newer album, none of this seemed to be an issue for the band. The great pacing and set order was also a great help. 

In all honesty I went into this gig knowing that I would enjoy it, despite not being a massive fan of Rhett's new more poppy album, he has so much to offer in his back catalogue, while his voice and character alone are enough to make you smile. But I left the Apollo with a beaming smile across my face and skip in my set still humming his tunes, as I felt I was part of something special. People of all ages gathered to celebrate country music and it was delivered by a complete humble professional with two solid supports. Quite frankly I cant wait to see him again... 10/10

Saturday 24 November 2018

Review: Beth Hart, Dan Patlansky, Cattle Decapitation, Greenleaf, Rifflord (Review By Paul H)

Beth Hart: Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Provogue Records)

A capacity audience hold their breath as a lone figure walks between them. Her usual gutsy, powerhouse voice for once fragile as a glass crystal. As Long As I Have A Song finishes. The crowd erupts and the smoky husky drawl of the singer from Los Angeles welcomes everyone like it’s a show in her front room. For the next two hours and 22 songs, Beth Hart delivers a compelling show that captivates. Hart’s voice has often been described as a ‘powerhouse’ and this release, captures during Hart’s show at the RAH on 4th May 2018 is exactly that. From the raucous to the calm reflection, Hart can do it all.

She reflects on her early career, struggling with undiagnosed bi-polar and mania in the 1990s, throws in numerous off the cuff remarks about her excitement at playing at the RAH (which sounds so genuine) and regularly refers to her bond with her family (her mother, deceased sister and husband get repeated mentions throughout) reflected in Trouble and Mama, This One’s For You. Supported by a crack band which includes the rhythm section of Bob Marinelli and Bill Ransom (bass and drums respectively) there is tonnes of blues, a large serving of soul and even some jazz going down during the evening. Bookended by As Long As I Have A Song and the intimacy and emotions of Caught Out In The Rain, this is Beth Hart at her most impressive. 8/10

Cattle Decapitation: Medium Rarities (Metal Blade Records)

The San Diego grindcore masters have always been a bit too much for me but this 23-track release is certainly one for the purists with a collection of pre-Human Jerky unreleased demos which includes vocalist Travis Ryan on guitar duty, obscure tracks and the previously unreleased bonus track Rotting Children For Remote Viewing that never happened from 2002’s To Serve Man. The band pull no punches on this release, as visceral and crushing in these tracks as they are on their other albums and whilst it is probably for extreme fans only, if you like your metal as brutal as it comes then Medium Rarities is likely to be an essential purchase. 7/10

Greenleaf: Hear The Rivers (Napalm Records)

Created as a side project in 1999, the current line-up of Greenleaf doesn’t bear much resemblance to the days when three members of the band were also ¾ of the band Dozer. Today only guitarist Tommi Holappa remains but the band continue to churn out their stoner 70s hard rock at an impressive rate. Hear The Rivers is the band’s seventh full release and the first to feature vocalist Arvid Hallagard, who replaced Arvid Jonsson. It’s a fine combination of Floyd psychedelia with the heavy riff and rumble of Birmingham legends Black Sabbath. There’s the inevitable fuzzy guitar sound on tracks such as Good Ol’ Goat and the expansive almost jazz exploration of In The Caverns Below. Closing the album with an eight-minute track, The Rivers Lullaby starts off with an Aerosmith riff before taking the listener on a journey of psychedelic delight, Hallagard’s voice working superbly with the rumbling bass of Hans Frohlich and Sebastian Olsson’s rolling drums. Dark and brooding, curious and entrancing, Hear The Rivers works on many levels. It’s raw and focused on the 1970s but it’s a fine listen. 7/10

Rifflord: 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation (STB Records)

Oozing Sabbath riffs and even stealing them in places and subtly burying them in the middle of their tracks, there is no doubt that Rifflord worship at the altar of the Sabs and Sleep, alongside the raging power of High On Fire. This album contains so many riffs that it’s amazing there are any left for anyone else to use. The crushing power of Holy Roller, the rampage of Dead Flower Child and the slow burning The Riffman Cometh (with a nod to the mighty Clutch, stolen riffs from Sabbath’s Hand Of Doom and even a quote featuring the riff lord himself Tony Iommi). The band who hail from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas blast and bludgeon their way through 13 tracks and 41 minutes of heavy riffage and double bass kicking. It’s music designed to help you drive fast and drink beer. Worship at the doom drenched altar of the Rifflord now. 8/10

Dan Patlansky: Live 2018 (Self Released)

Recorded live at the Rockwood Theatre in Pretoria earlier this year and released to coincide with a UK tour, this is a rather feeble release which is likely to appeal to fans only. Four tracks which don’t sit comfortably with each other, rather disjointed in listing but a clear demonstration of the flair that this South African Blues guitarist possesses. With nine albums under his belt this is just a taster of his music and maybe the gateway to his catalogue of quality music. 6/10

Friday 23 November 2018

Reviews: Nita Strauss, Devil's Playground, Doom Side Of The Moon, Devastator

Nita Strauss: Controlled Chaos (Sumerian Records)

I've mentioned before about my struggles with instrumental music but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for shred guitar stemming back to my love of Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine etc. SO when the chance to review the debut album from Shred Queen Nita Strauss arrived I jumped at it. Nita is probably best known as the woman that replaced Orianthi in Alice Cooper's band but she's played with some big hitters as well as being one of the founders of All-Female Iron Maiden tribute Iron Maidens. Controlled Chaos is just that, it's a record that focuses on songwriting over just showing technique from the Maiden-esque epic Our Most Desperate Hour she moves between catchy riffs and lightspeed solos that would scare Dragonforce.

Nita clearly has music running through veins, she is a descendent of Johann Strauss (composer of Blue Danube) fact fans so it's pretty clear to see hear why she uses a lot of classical arpeggios in her playing, but she uses this to flavour her heady broth of a modern metal approach as witnessed by the groove heavy Mariana Trench (the theme song to the recent NXT War Games PPV). This is apparently the record Nita has always wanted to make and like the great shred records there's moments of tenderness behind all the fireworks with Here With You being song so soppy you can imagine David Coverdale crooning over the top, heck even the cover of The Show Must Go On that features violin is brilliant. There's some top quality shred available here but no wasted notes it's all as it needs to be. If you've only seen Strauss playing Poison for the umpteenth time then maybe it's worth picking up this record to see what she can really do! 8/10

Devil's Playground: The Collector (Self Released)

Devil's Playground formed in 2015 and swiftly won the Coventry Metal 2 The Masses in 2017 establishing themselves as one of the most sought after bands on the UK circuit after their Bloodstock performances supporting UK metal crew GraVil (R.I.P). Having played the length and breath of the country their debut album isn't going to be an amateur affair but I was quite taken aback about just how professional and mature the band sound on The Collector. The musical style presented here is groove metal with thrash overtures and the unique dual vocal style, split between the hardcore-like barks of Matt and the Leanne's powerful melodic cleans.

If you remember the band Deadlock then you'll have an idea of what this sounds like the riffs are heavy, downtuned and move between speedy thrash and stomping groove breakdowns as the songs are enhanced by samples, electronics in a way that makes them sound a lot like Lacuna Coil jamming with Five Finger Death Punch. This debut album is super slick, produced well and the songs don't really stick to one particular style as Leanne explains they are all solitary pieces making this a "playground" of songs "Each has its own meaning from the masks that people wear to the overbearing power of the media to demons and the boogeyman!" so there's a theme but it means they can experiment with what can sometimes be a very repetitive genre. Live I'd think Devil's Playground are pretty incendiary and they've managed to retain some of this fire on record, if brutality and melody are your bag then get ready to play! 7/10

Doom Side Of The Moon: Encore EP (Self Released)

The Doom Side Of The Moon album encompassed two of my passions stoner/doom metal and Pink Floyd so naturally I loved it, however it leave one to wonder what other Floyd songs would sound like with doom rock makeover as the album solely focussed on Dark Side Of The Moon. Luckily the band felt the same and so we have Encore an EP that starts off with one of the heaviest Floyd tunes Have A Cigar which is given Sabbath-like chops along with parping sax cutting through it, it also has a bigger ballsier sound than the full length with guitarists Kyle Shutt (The Sword) and two of his three The Sword compatriots plus assorted folks, really moving away from the copy paper sound of the full length adding more doom flourishes but not detracting like Blue Floyd (who can be brilliant or abysmal depending on your view).

They segue Have A Cigar nicely into Pigs (Three Different Ones) from Floyds darkest record Animals, with that “Hey you White House” line still sending shivers, delivered by the almost loudhailer style vocal delivery. It’s a brilliant version that’s fleshed out with down-tuned heavy riffs, the middle instrumental section to has some trademark psych thrown in to really upset you. Then we get to Wish You Were Here, not the stripped back tender acoustic moment the original is no this is a massive, propulsive, power-chord slinging version with orchestral backing and two magnificent solos from both guitar and sax. I’m a huge Floyd head so I’m going to love this EP but for non Floyd fans it gives a new depth to the project showing it’s more than a one hit wonder! 8/10

Devastator: S/T Demo (Self Released)

Derbyshire black/thrash band Devastator take a distinctly Germanic approach to their music with the Teutonic titans of Sodom, Destruction and Kreator looming large as the intro moves into the aptly named Merciless Onslaught a shit-kicker of an opener the blistering riffs of Richard Bateman and Christopher Whitehurst accompanied by the frenetic drum blasts of Jack Scarlett. It's also the first time you really notice the production which is very DIY (it is a demo of course) but weirdly it works making the four songs hear sound like they were recorded to a tape in about 1988, the drums are tinny, the guitars faded, the bass nonexistent but luckily you can hear Thomas Collings vocals snarling over the blitzkrieg riffage similar to those of Cronos on Black Metal. Like I said Teutonic influences are abound on Serenity In Suffering which has slick leads and even a slow acoustic intro to show that they're no one trick pony. There's a lot of promise on this demo with nods to the first wave of black metal and German thrash Devastator have a lot to give, a bloody decent demo from this Derbyshire metal horde. 7/10

Thursday 22 November 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Power Quest (Review By Stief)

Power Quest, Hobos Bridgend

After a quick meal in the Kings Head, we headed into Bridgend's premier gig locale, Hobos. I caught a little of support act Chris Bay, but not enough to make a genuine review of it. A short while later, we filed into the main stage area to see Power Quest (8).

Right from the outset of Rising Anew, vocalist Ashley Edison shows he’s a force to be reckoned with, and it continues right throughout the show, his voice never faltering, and hitting every note, high or low. He (subjectively) has one of the best voices in power metal to date. Backed up by band founder Steve Williams, showing he’s more than a dab hand on keyboards and drummer Rich Smith, newcomers George “The Kid” Karafotis and Bradley Edison, showed excellent skill on guitar and bass respectively.

Another brilliant guitarist also graced the Hobos stage this night, and was arguably the centre of attention for a majority of the band’s set. Welsh lad Glyn Williams, was given a hero’s welcome by the crowd, with chants of ‘Power Quest’ morphing into ‘Power Glyn’ several times throughout the night. Ashley was more than happy to let Glyn bathe in the spotlight, especially after pointing out how much Glyn hates it. It’s clear the band are a close unit and it shows in the music. From the uplifting (or as one crowd member said ‘cheesy’) heights of No More Heroes to the brilliant Far Away, there was barely a drop, apart from some microphone problems midway through their set, which were swiftly solved by a quick swap.

A great set by a great band, the night was slightly marred at the end. All I can say is thank god overzealous security was there to usher the happy metalheads out in order to make way for what seemed to be a dance night being held in the very same place. I’d like to add that this is nothing against the venue itself, as the staff there seemed very friendly, but the way security treated the crowd was less than savoury. However, we still left with a smile on our faces. Cheesy? Of course it is, it’s power metal, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Reviews: Lucifer's Child, Chrome Division, Planet Of Zeus, Crevassian

Lucifer's Child: The Order (Agonia Records)

At last the return of the blood-soaked black metal band Lucifer's Child, the bastard offspring of two of Greece's biggest bands. Lucifer's Child was formed by Rotting Christ guitarist George Emmanuel and Nightfall bassist Stathis Ridis and in an unholy marriage of occult iconography and blistering metal riffs they have yet again been unleashed on the wider world. The band have already created on record that is full of ritualistic lyrics of the Wiccan's summoning in 2015, so now in 2018 the dark arts reappear for their second album The Order. Once again it's a record full of fist pumping head banging black metal, Viva Morte welcoming death with frenetic riffing and Marios Dupont (Karma Violens) roaring like a hellion of the underworld as Nick Vell rounds out the devastation with huge blastbeats.

The pace changes on the bouncy title track which commences headbanging as the chorus invites Satan, before the machine gun drumming returns for Fall Of The Rebel Angels. It's not all fire an brimstone though as the 7 minute plus Through Fire We Burn has creeping intro that could have been on Seasons Of The Abyss before acoustic guitars meld into a scream and yest more thundering riffs cascading into more layers of acoustics and some chanting background vocals an awesome mid-album set piece that sets you up for more of a battering as the black metal blasting resumes for El-Drago Un. Greek black metal is something of protected genre, they do it so well so The Order was always going to live up to and even surpass its predecessor, the songs here are more varied with gothic (Haraya), doom (Siste Farvel) and classic metal as well. Become part of the order and pledge your soul to the lightbringer. 9/10     

Chrome Division: One Last Ride (Nuclear Blast)

Chrome Division, the side project of Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath, has always released records sporadically when it’s leader isn’t weaving his black metal majesty. A much more straightforward, down-to-earth band Chrome Division’s biggest influences has always been the outlaw biker metal of Motorhead, their first two albums were aggressive, sex and booze filled chunks of leather clad riffiage however after original frontman Eddie Guz left in 2009, I felt they did slip a little with Shady Blue behind the mic, mainly because their ballsy, blues metal was getting a little tired and I wasn’t to keen on Blue’s vocals. There has been four years since Infernal Rock Machine and in that time a new Dimmu album has appeared so it was about time to get the engines on the Division running again, however as the title hints at this will be the last time those pistons will pump as the decision has been made to put the band to rest after this record.

It’s not been a short run though, 2018 is the 15th anniversary of the band and they have gone full circle recruiting Eddie Guz as the singer for this last ride out. The Chrome Division records are all about spontaneity, they’re essentially jams that stick and are quickly recorded, when Blue left, Guz was brought in and immediately started writing lyrics for his record, all of which are based on the theme of the band being brought to a close. It’s a celebration the only way Chrome Division can do it with pumping guitar riffs that bring back the booze, broads and beelzebub that are the key factors in their doomsday rock n roll! I can’t really pick out one song on this record as to be honest there’s not much separating the heavy riffs, rough vocals and sing along chorus approach with only Walk Away In Shame featuring pop singer Misssela adding a bit of differentiation.

15 years on and Chrome Division are still a big party, yeah it’s mostly simplistic, slightly misogynistic and not reinventing any genres borrowing liberally from Lemmy and co but jump on that hog for the last time because it’s been a hell of a ride! 8/10

Planet Of Zeus: Live In Athens (ihavedrum Records)

Athenian stoner rockers Planet Of Zeus have pretty huge following in their own country, based upon their oppressive tour schedule. On the back of their most recent album Loyal To The Pack they have also established themselves in the UK too having a co-headline tour with Lionize recently. The band is made up of Serafeim “Syke” Giannakopoulos (drums), Babis “Bizen” Papanikolaou (vocals, guitar), Stelios “Yog” Provis (guitar) and Giannis “JV” Vrazos (bass)and no matter how good their records are they will never truly capture the bands impressive live show. So this album hopefully should Live In Athens was culled from two performances in their home town it’s presented here warts an’ all production; no tweaks, no studio trick nothing but the band in their natural environment in front of a baying crowd of mad Athenians, the band’s wolfpack if you will.

It’s an 18 song live set (including a drum solo!) that opens with the storming Macho Libre, then runs through bouncy The Great Dandolous (complete with those Athenian whoas), the speedy A Girl Named Greed, the hazy Something’s Wrong, the filthy Little Deceiver and fan favourite Leftover. You need to take a breath when the songs finish and then you realise why a POZ live show is so revered, it’s also why they sweat so damn much and if you have seen them live you’ll know this. With Giannis and Serafeim taking charge in the back room (Loyal To The Pack), Babis both riffs and sings with wide eyed intensity as Stelios plays those effortless leads that have garnered comparisons to Clutch, Mastodon and QOTSA. If you’ve not heard POZ before and don’t know where to start then pick up Live In Athens, it’s the band at their most natural and vital. 8/10

Crevassian: S/T (Self Released)

I find instrumental bands hard work, not being able to play an instrument I can’t really comment on tone or notation etc so there’s never a lot to go on, I do like to have vocals so stories can be told so when Croydon four piece Crevassian’s debut EP turned up in my inbox I approached it with a hint of scepticism, trying to put my own prejudice behind me and accept it. I’m glad I did so, as Crevassian have a very complex but natural sound it’s almost elemental reflecting the harsh landscapes on the album cover, James Humphries (rhythm guitar), Nick Povey (drums), Luke Fabian (bass) and Cody Gaffney (lead guitar) are tight knit unit utilising their talents to employ as many different sounds as possible but basing it all around the djent chug and post-metal atmospherics. At times it’s ethereal and breezy at others a torrid maelstrom of oppressive riffs (Tempest) but it keeps the attention over the course of four songs. There’s a spark here and one that would be dampened by a singer, this kind of music is all about the ‘feel’ and as the EP comes to an end it’s the feel that brings you back. 7/10

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Reviews: Sacral Rage, Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy, SuidAkrA, Carbon Black (Paul S & Sean)

Sacral Rage: Beyond Celestial Echoes (Cruz Del Sur) [Paul S]

Greek four piece Sacral Rage play, according to their Facebook page, Hi-Tech Metal Lunacy. Which is a great label to attach to yourselves. So, what is Hi-Tech Metal Lunacy? Well, to my ears Hi-Tech Metal Lunacy is uptempo power metal that comes close to thrash; riding the line that separates fast power metal from thrash. There is one other factor to add to this, which is apparent to the listener as soon as the first track begins; very stylised vocals. Dimitris K (all the members of the band have sur-initials rather than surnames) has 2 different styles of singing; really high Falsetto, and a slightly lower register voice with a bit of a rasp to it. Or, to put it another way, He sounds just like King Diamond of Mercyful Fate fame. To be honest, it’s a pretty good impression as well, the falsetto isn’t quite as clear and pure as King’s, but he comes close. At times the higher part of his voice is a little like Roger Taylor of Queen as well.

After a short intro the first track Eternal Solstice kicks the album off to a great start, it’s a mid-paced power metal song with a strong melody. Vaguely Decoded is a faster, thrashier track with a great solo. This album has many great solo’s, the standard of musical skill on this album is very high. Suspended Privileges is another fast track, it skips along at quite a pace and feels aggressive. Samsara has a more measured pace to most of the song, it also boasts a great chorus and a has an ending that is close to being a blast beat. Necropia has a neoclassical feel to a lot of the riffing, and has a nice rolling, syncopated beat. The album is brought to a close by the near fifteen minute epic The Glass. The song has a mid-paced thrash feel to it with a soft, almost ambient section in the middle, and is a really great way to end the album. Beyond Celestial Echoes is a great album, I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. Musically, if you like power metal and thrash it should be right up your street, however, I do think that it will be the vocals that could cause people problems. Personally I like them, but I feel that they could be an acquired taste, and might give some listeners a problem. 8/10

SuidAkrA: Cimbric Yarns (AFM Records) [Paul S]

This is SuidAkrA’s 12th album, the band who class themselves as Celtic Metal, have been going since 1994. Over the years the melodic death metal that they originally played has morphed into a fairly aggressive, extreme form of folk metal (the aforementioned Celtic Metal). On Cimbic Yarns however the band have ditched the metal altogether and produced an album of fairly big, cinematic Folk. The album kicks off with an intro called Echtra, which has a clear folk sound but with dynamics that could have come from a film soundtrack, probably a western (a big sweeping John Ford Western). The first track proper is a mid paced folk track with female vocals called Serpentine Origins. It’s is tuneful and melodic, and the layered vocals give it a bit of a choral feel. Ode To Arma is more of a ballad, the song has a flute melody going through most of the song. A Day And Forever is another gentle piece of folk with flute and violin.

The track At Nine Light Night has the addition of big strings, vocal harmonies and an organ. These additional instruments make it one of the biggest tracks on the album, and this brings back that soundtrack feel that a lot of this album has. Birth And Despair is a sad, soft, melancholy song. It has a slightly different feel to the rest of the album, probably the albums most subtle track. The use of flute on this track works really well, tonally it fits the sadder tone of the song. Assault On Urlar is a slow but powerful track, the use of strings and huge layered drums give the song this feel. Again this has a soundtrack feel to it, I can’t help picturing vast plains and ,mountains when I listened to it.

Caoine Cruac brings the album to an end in a soft and gentle way, that feels quite satisfying. I’ve enjoyed listening to this album, if nothing else it’s nice to hear something that isn’t just about brutality and extremity. In some ways this reminds me of Skyclad’s all acoustic album Oui Avant-Garde A Chance. I’m not sure if SuidAkrA fans will like this as it is quite a departure from their usual sound, but I think it is a great piece of work. It also means that metalheads have another album that they can listen to when they are hungover! 7/10

Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy: Smutnice (Redblack Productions) [Sean]

Before I sold my soul for rock and roll, my first musical love was classical (the collective term, not the sub genre) and more importantly, traditional folk music. Fast forward some 20 plus years, it still stuns me how malleable music can be, one genre achieving dynamic synergy with the other. This is most certainly the case with Czech troupe, Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (try saying that fast), who twist the doom laden electric with ye olde acoustic. Drawing from their own Moravian folklore for inspiration, these two time award winning minstrels return once more with Smutnice, eight new chapters of fantastical wonder and harrowing woe. Now that all is said and done, it’s time for the tale to begin anew. Are you sitting comfortably? The One Who Forged begins our tale, hammer dulcimer and violin establishing the melody before the rest of the band erupt to life.

The approach here is a simple one yet effective, as SSoGE regale us with tales from their motherland. Occasional traces of their doom/death past surface, akin to Paradise Lost though intermingled with Czech folk. Which Of Is Us More quickens the pace, a medium tempo blast driving the song onwards and undoubtedly the heaviest song on the album. Masculine roars married to feminine voices, it is the perfect amalgamation of SSoGE’s style. My Beloved and Quiet Tune are absolutely exceptional, forlorn in their nature but with an air of power and hope. The remainder of the tracks are solid enough, though I feel SSoGE are a stronger folk band than one that straddles between both lanes.
There were occasions where the actual metallic parts felt a touch underwhelming, flat against the gorgeous melodies on display.

So, we reach our journeys end, another musical saga complete for Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy. Eight compositions proudly celebrating Czech folklore and culture, delivered with as much grandeur that the folk metal genre can offer, though Smutnice is not without its shortcomings. The mystique is mildly subverted by overbearing kick drums, drowning some of the subtleties that would elevate a good record into a great record. That’s the thing with folk metal, where the aim is to deftly balance the two contrasting elements in the hopes of achieving artistic majesty. SSoGE largely succeed in doing so, though the riffs are somewhat uninspired and are reduced to just bulking out the folky flavours. Musings aside, this still is a fun outing and another solid entry into SSoGE collection of tales. Embodying might, magic, myth and legend, Smutnice is a fascinating journey into a world beyond. 7/10

Carbon Black: End Of This (Self Reelased) [Paul S]

Carbon Black Hail from Sydney, Australia, End Of This is their first album coming 4 years after an EP. There's no easy way to say this, so I think I’ll just come out with it - Carbon Black are a Nu Metal band. Yes, I thought that unmitigated crap was all over as well. But for some unknown reason this band want to reanimate to corpse of the worst genre ever to blacken the name Metal. We all celebrated Nu Metal’s death, danced around the grave, pissed on the headstone, but this bunch of talentless yahoo’s want to bring it back!

All the stuff you hated about Nu Metal is here in spades. Most of the rhythm guitar parts, in particular on nearly all the verse sections are just 1 chord chugged to a rhythm. This album has very few actual riffs, and when they are there, they are just 2 or 3 chords, and are very simple. The vocals aren’t very good either, Jon Hurley has an ok voice, but he sings in such an over the top way it sounds like an affectation. He also seems to try to sing in a way that is a little grungy as well, he probably thinks he sounds like Chris Cornell, but that fails as well.

It just feel like he is trying to hard. On the second to last song on the album, he attempts to rap. I have no problem with rap, but not in this Nu Metal style, it just sounds like a middle class white person trying to rap, which is just painful. The same song has a guitar solo that is clearly trying to copy the sort of thing that Tom Morello did with Rage Against The Machine, and fails spectacularly, in fact most of the guitar work on this album is pretty dire. The album is full of half arsed Pantera-isms that sound like a copy of a copy of a copy of Pantera. Almost like someone described Dimebag’s guitar style in a text message, and the guitarist has tried to copy that description.

Everything that was unspeakably dreadful about Nu Metal is on this album, deeply over-simplistic music, with horrible vocals. This unmitigated tripe might have had some success 20 years ago when Nu Metal was big, but this probably wouldn’t have been taken seriously even back then. I’m seriously thinking of seeking therapy to help me recover from having to listen to it (maybe a Nu Metal survivors group). I’d like to make a personal plea to this band - Please stop, It’s not big, it’s not clever and no one is impressed by it. 3/10

Reviews: Antimatter, Psycroptic, Thorium, Cadacus (Reviews By Paul H)

Antimatter: Black Market Enlightenment (Self Released)

2015’s The Judas Table was a beautiful album. It’s been three years of patient waiting but finally Mick Moss returns with the seventh album and it is just as stunning as the previous six. There are few crashing riffs with Antimatter, but that doesn’t detract one bit. Acoustic guitars, ethereal piano and harrowing melancholic subject matter hauntingly echo but there is still enough steel to add backbone. Wish I Was Here exploding into a crescendo of intensity before a flute takes up the lead. And it works perfectly. Compelling and moving in equal measure, Antimatter’s music requires time and investment with tracks variable in both style and delivery. This Is Not Utopia and Between The Atoms have a harder edge than poignant songs such as What Do You Want Me To Do? It’s clever, complicated and worth every second of the 55 minutes of progressive rock. 8/10

Psycroptic: As The Kingdom Drowns (Prosthetic Records)

Another full-bore technical death metal album which melts your face within seconds of hitting play. Hobbat’s Psycroptic return for their seventh album, an offering which is as ferocious as their previous six. I’m resisting the urge to compare in any way with their countrymen Parkway Drive but think of the Carlsberg advert and you should get my drift. There is a definite antipodean feel to this release.

Opening with immense speed with We Were The Keepers, the technicality immediately grasps your lapels before the brutal growling of vocalist Jason Peppiatt slides in to take out the legs. The pulverisation of your senses is maintained during Frozen Gaze and the groove laden Directive, which neatly slows pace midpoint to allow Joe Harvey’s repeated tremolo picking and the double kicking of Dave Haley to wrestle to the front. The guitar work envelops like a mist, swirling around but tantalisingly never quite allowing the opportunity to get a real handful. Deadlands changes pace multiple times, covering the whole gambit of thrash styles as well as an almost Metalcore style before deciding that thrashing riffage is the better option. 

 The title track is a beast, a crushing doom filled opening segues into more patterns and abrupt time changes which maintains the interest, leaving the listener hanging on the edge of the seat. This is the soundtrack to a nasty old school wooden roller coaster ride, jerking your head from side to side, slamming your body against the ‘G’ Forces and generally administering a harsh beating. By the time you crawl to the penultimate track Momentum Of The Void, muscles should be flaccid, the chest heaving and the whole body should be shaking; your energy at a minimum. This is an aural workout you can’t purchase in a sweat filled gymnasium … but if such a thing existed, then I’d place money on Psycroptic being part of the soundtrack. 8/10

Thorium: Thorium (Rock N Growl)

Not to be confused by the Danish death metal band, Thorium are a new band formed out of the ashes of Belgian outfit Ostrogoth. The band play a mediocre style of power metal which is totally marred by the dreadful vocals of David Marcelis whose voice grated on me from the opening notes of Ostrogoth through to the final ghastly 15 minutes of Four By Number, Four By Fate. Yes, 15 minutes on one track which drifts from banal acoustics to ordinary heavy metal. You owe me 47 minutes of my life which I wasted listening to one of the worst albums I’ve heard this year. This is bland, awful stuff and whilst the music is perfectly competent, listening to yet another band who think that sounding like Iron Maiden is brilliant is more like having a tooth pulled. Having to struggle through the wailings of a singer who really needs to find another role in life require more anaesthetic than I had to hand. 2/10

Cadacus: Virtual Salvation (Self Released)

A hard rocking outfit from Swansea, Cadacus is a five-piece who play an old school style traditional heavy metal with more than a nod to the stoner scene. Virtual Salvation is their debut release. Vocalist Tom Gapper is the weak link here, his vocals struggle to hit the higher notes that the music demands whilst his tuning is often out of kilter with the rest of the band. It’s a shame because there is definitely potential hidden in this release with Rhyddid Ar Y Gorwel (Freedom On The Horizon) with its retro Maiden feel a pleasing find. However, I struggled to get past the likes of The Triggerman due to the vocals which detract from the competent playing. Virtual Salvation also possesses one of the most abysmal album covers I’ve ever seen. I’m afraid this was a real struggle. 4/10

Tuesday 20 November 2018

The Spotlight: Interview With Joe Hoare & Chris Turner From Orange Goblin By Paul H

Orange Goblin Interview

Prior to their explosive gig at Cardiff’s Great Hall on 3rd November we were lucky enough to have time to chat with Joe Hoare and Chris Turner, Guitarist and Drummer respectively from the mighty Orange Goblin. A 37-minute interview on the pavement outside the venue was filled with laughter, some serious points and several interruptions from fans wanting autographs and the band’s own sound man complaining that “everywhere is fucking shut man. I can’t get anything to eat”. It was that kind of fun which makes doing this rubbish so enjoyable. Here’s what went down.

The band had been on tour for a couple of weeks with Corrosion of Conformity, Fireball Ministry and Black Moth and pleasingly confirmed that it had gone well. “It’s gone quick” said Joe, “it always does, with these tiny little tours you just about start finding your feet about now (the penultimate gig)”, although he adds “it’s the same with a six-week tour, you start finding your legs about week five”. Chris added “the first week you are excited by it, you hit your stride in the second week , and then you hit the middle bit where you are like, fucking hell, what I am doing here, and then you get to two weeks left and you are happy because you are going home”. Joe adds “and then you are sad because it’s the last day!”

The final show of the band’s tour was at the Forum in Kentish Town the following night, a great venue and obviously it’s the band’s home town show. Joe acknowledged the challenges. “It’s hard, London, because we’ve all lived in London and the guest list is just ridiculous”. “Yeah, people who say they were in school with you or had a pint with you five years ago suddenly appear” says Chris.

We took the band back to their last gig at The Globe, at which point we were interrupted by a punter trying to find their way in and then moved on to the band back in their early days as Our Haunted Kingdom and their 7” split single with Electric Wizard. How had things changed since then? Chris started. “when you start as a band it’s a group of guys who get together and play some music in some dingy rehearsal rooms and at that stage you go, wouldn’t it be great if we played a gig and then all of a sudden you are at the bottom of a 15 band bill, and then you actually record and make some little demo and then you go and play a different town …” Joe adds “It’s so different now, back then you really had to promote yourself whereas today you can just press a button. You used to go to gigs and hand out flyers and actually, I kind of miss that”.

“Bands these days rely on social media” Chris says, “it’s a useful tool but it makes bands really lazy, you know, we’ve posted a thing on bandcamp, we’ve got 1000 followers on Instagram … We used to hang outside shows, handing out flyers and send tapes and write to people all round the world”. “It was exciting at the time” says Joe, acknowledging that whilst the band aren’t bothered about being labelled a stoner rock band at the time it was a scene that was emerging. He tells a tale of Ben (Ward, singer of OG) and him going to get homemade Sabbath Vol 4 t-shirts printed, taking the vinyl to the print shop, because you couldn’t buy a Sabbath t-shirt anywhere! How times change. Chris points out that these days “with a shitty laptop you can make reasonable quality music in your bedroom”. “It’s great that people are making music, but there are also some people who shouldn’t be making music. But back then, to have a record was something else”.

What about the best and worst times? We hear about sleeping in vans in Norwich in December. “We had nowhere to stay” Chris explained, “and in the car park at the venue was an old abandoned caravan, with no windows and it was snowing, so we literally slept in this caravan”. “At the time, it was the worst, but then it wasn’t, we got pissed, and we had a great time!” So, the worst was often also the best. On the same tour Chris tells us how the band would park at a service station and take it in turns to go and sit inside to get warm before getting moved on. The guys reminisced about their first proper bus tour with Cathedral; “seven weeks with 18 people on a double decker bus … we are so lucky now, there are seven of us, band and crew on the bus, but with 18 of us on top of each other for seven weeks it was crazy”. There were other great memories. “when you are just starting out going to other countries was brilliant”.

A few years ago, the band were on the verge of calling it a day although as Chris corrected me, “we are always on the verge of calling it a day! Basically, 2013, we got the opportunity to go full time. We had a year’s worth of shows booked and a lot of interest. We did 165 shows in that year. Australia, all round Europe, a lot of shows which meant you were away from home, and whilst we made as much money as we would have if we’d been in work, we realised that we just couldn’t keep doing that”. Joe added that if it had been ten or 20 years earlier then maybe but with the band all married with kids and the usual stuff that goes with that it wasn’t an option. Chris reckons it probably happened too late which is probably a blessing for those marital relationships. Joe is realistic. “These days if you want to make any money being in a band you must be on tour, you don’t make it from record sales. There are bands that do it, such as Clutch … “. Chris adds “they know the system. You write a good record, and you tour it for a year and a half, whilst you write a new record and then you do it all over again. They basically spent ten years working hard and built up a following”. At this point the comparison I’d brought in was Electric Six, the Detroit based rock band who are forever on tour. Bands like Six, Blackberry Smoke and Clutch work damned hard to achieve their success. Chris notes that with day jobs, it’s unusual for the band to play more than two days in a row. We may fly out to Austria, do two shows and then back”. “It’s how our weekends are” adds Joe. Being able to do this allows the band some flexibility and as Chris notes whilst there is still decent offers coming in, then the band can pick and choose to a certain extent. “It’s still fun; we agreed that when we stopped enjoying it then we’d stop. It’s still having fun hanging out with your best mates”. When your first US tour comprised 34 shows in 35 days and the day off was a 26-hour drive between venues, you really understand that this isn’t the glamourous life style that is sometimes portrayed.

We then moved on to discuss grass roots music and the impact of developments on small venues. Joe and Chris are obviously staunch supporters of the local scenes with Chris referring to the impact of the planning implications of the flats surrounding the flats at The Fleece in Bristol. We explained about the protests and marches that resulting in the saving of Womanby Street last year. Chris is adamant that the legislation is and should be designed to protect such venues and the response from Bristol City Council to protect The Fleece in the end. Of course, as Joe pointed out, if people don’t use or attend small venues, this creates bigger challenges as well. As Chris points out, “it’s a lazy generation. It’s easy to get hold of music, everybody’s in a band. Living in Brighton and there are two old classic venues; both closing. It’s fine with your 800 capacity venues but where do all the small bands start?”

About closing down, it was well known that the band and Ben in particular were huge supporters and advocates when Team Rock suddenly closed a couple of years ago. I wanted to know a bit more about the band’s involvement in this. Chris explained “it was Ben and Sandi (his soon to be wife), it was a week before Christmas, the office was closed down, they were told to leave, there was no pay and Ben and Sandi got together and said “these are the people that supported us when we very first started and to be left in that position was, bollocks basically”, so they got together and started the Just Giving thing out”. “They worked their bollocks off” says Joe, “we were really proud of Ben, you know, we did the gig, but it was Ben who sorted it all”. As Chris said, the Team Rock staff all received a pay packet before Christmas as a result and as the guys noted, due to the publicity from across the globe there was interest and as a result Louder remains in place today.

This led me on to the sad story about St Vitus bassist Mark Adams who has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and I wanted to ensure that we gave some column inches to publicising this. Joe starts off. “Mark’s the sweetest guy, one of the original members of St Vitus, quiet and gentle and lovely and it’s just so sad”. Chris continues “especially in the US, if you don’t have the right health care then to get treated is so expensive over there so the campaign is just to help him and his family out and to get him the treatment that he needs”. If you can support this in any way, then the way to donate is via https://uk.gofundme.com/mark-adams-parkinson039s-disease

As Chris acknowledged, a lot of those heroes when we were kids are now old blokes.

We moved on to The Wolf Bites Back, one of the best albums of 2018 and I wanted to know how the whole album came together. Chris starts, “we have a weird system of recording, Joe will have a bunch of riffs, I’ll have a bunch of riffs, Martyn (Millard, bassist) will have stuff, Ben will have vocal ideas but we are really lazy when it comes to writing songs, so we decided, after the last record, are we actually going to do one and we decided to book a studio, for six months down the line and then three weeks before the date there’s a blind panic. It’s literally all this time and it ends up like the Young Ones going to the exam knowing you haven’t done any revision”.

So, what happens with Goblin is that they finally get their shit together and it works out. In the case of The Wolf Bites Back, the result is one of the band’s finest albums. Chris uses the example of Clutch again, trialling songs on the road and therefore becoming familiar with songs before entering the studio to records them. As he says, Goblin are the opposite of that! Joe adds that the band were reluctant to use many overdubs in the studio this time and “wanted it to be alive”. A brief discussion about their relationship with Candlelight/Spinefarm records is probably best glossed over, although Chris acknowledges that they did pick Goblin up at a time when they were forgotten about.

Moving swiftly on to the forthcoming show, Joe and Chris promised some old stuff, some new songs and then elaborated about an incident where Ben was told off for throwing a can of beer into the crowd. It turned out he offered a fan a beer from the stage and security went a little over the top. Chris noted that the biggest problem the band face is having a large back catalogue and having not toured the new record, that they can’t please everyone all the time. They band have played The Big Black from start to finish at Desertfest a few years ago but there are no plans for ‘an evening with Orange Goblin’ yet. Given the storming show the band put in a couple of hours later, that’s a crushing disappointment although I doubt if I could have kept up with the pace of the band for longer than their hour or so set, such was the intensity.

As we neared the end of the interview it was time for a few quick-fire questions. Had the band ever read a review which didn’t refer to Ben Ward as a mountainous frontman. A unanimous “no” from Chris and Joe which allowed Joe to elaborate on a review from Sweden when the band were referred to as ‘the muppets’, with the giant upfront and the midget on the guitar. Best and worst UK Venues? The guys were diplomatic about this and despite some shocking venues they focused more on the positives which were somewhere to sit, go to the toilet and if there was a shower then it was amazing. The US venue which was both worst and best was surprisingly CBCG’s in New York. Best Joe explained, because of the history but also worst because of the absence of a door on the toilet right at the entrance to the loading in area! Chris also touched on the challenges in Glasgow where each venue appeared to be up about 18 flights of steps.

Next up was Star Wars and the best film, with Chris plumping for A New Hope because of his recollections of queuing as a young lad to see it, and then queuing to see it again straight after whilst Joe went for the classic answer of The Empire Strikes Back. A long discussion about both films ensued, something that will no doubt happen whoever we interview.

Megadeth or Metallica produced an emphatic Metallica, with Chris nailing his colours to the mast by stating that Dave Mustaine is essentially “a dick”. Cabbage or Cauliflower was more of a challenge; but both picked the more versatile cauliflower which I would agree with. “Buffalo cauliflower is the new thing”. Real Ale won over lager without a problem although Chris wants to list cream ale as better than both. Denim and leather produced a split with a discussion over whether you could wear both, the answer clearly being yes whilst both guys were unsurprisingly vinyl fans over CD. Chris reminded us that it needs to be analogue with pre-1980 vinyl only worth seeking out the original.

As we then chatted away for a few more minutes the final questions revealed that if there was any rock star that Joe and Chris could meet it would both be deceased drummers, Joe picking Keith Moon whilst Chris added John Bonham. we realised that we’d been nattering for over 35 minutes and confirming in our final question that Ben snores the most, we wrapped up one of the most enjoyable and easy interviews we’d ever done. Massive thanks to Chris and Joe, two genuinely great and lovely guys and no slouches when it comes to musicianship as they proved later in the evening.

Reviews: Unleashed, Unearth, Hank Von Hell, Dunbarrow (Paul S, Lee, Matt N)

Unleashed: Hunt For White Christ (Napalm Records) [Paul S]

Unleashed will have been going for 30 years next year, and they have had a stable lineup since 1995. There aren’t that many bands that can claim that level of stability, but has that led to them producing good material, or after so long have they got lazy and comfortable? Well, Johnny Hedland and co have not got comfortable, far from it. The stability has lead them to produce some cracking old school death metal, clearly knowing each other so well has allowed them to work very effectively.  The album kicks off with an absolute blast of a track with Lead Us To War, tight fast riffs pounding drums, viscous vocals and one hell of a guitar solo. The song has so much energy and inertia, it’s almost a perfect old school track. You Will Fall, has a heavier feel with denser riffs and with more blast beats. This has a very effective verse section as well, it feels like a very well rounded song. All the lead work on this album is very good, technical and intricate, but always in tune with the song, and always adding and improving the track.

The solo on Stand Your Ground is particularly good. There is a impressive level of musicianship on this album, clearly being together for so long has led the band to work in an instinctive way with each other. They are making old school death metal because that is what they want to do, not because they aren’t good enough to play technical death metal. There are some parts that are a little reminiscent to some technical death metal, the track The City Of Jorsala Will Fall has a few riffs that could have been on a Nile album. But whenever you think they might go that way completely, a cracking old school riff will crash in and we’re back to a more simple battering. The album is brought to an end by one of the best tracks on it. Open To All The World is a blast of a track, the verse is just pure speed riffing, maybe a little thrashy in style. The really fast riffs are separated by more staccato rhythmic riffs, which just seem to make the fast riffs they separate seem faster! Hunt For White Christ is a great album, Unleashed can add this to their already impressive back catalogue of great albums. One of the best death metal albums released this year. 8/10

Unearth: Extinctions (Century Media) [Lee]

Unearth have gone through a number of band member changes since their formation in 1998 and each subsequent replacement help shape the tone and pace of the records that they’re featured in. Having been in their current line-up since 2015, Extinctions takes metalcore, chucks in a good dollop of hardcore in the first track, Incinerate. It offers slow, methodical and at times brutal punishment that Code Orange could be proud of. Dust then offers listeners the chance to see just how technically proficient the guitaring of Buz McGrath and Ken Susi is. Nick Pierce’s pace and control behind the kit along with Trevor Phipps’ fantastically gravelly voice tying in with the guitarists and conveying some what seems apparent pent up aggression has been channelled to what can only be described as a fantastic album.

Survivalist is a crowd pleaser from the start, the chugging guitaring coupled with the double bass drum is sure to open that pit up, the pace of the song teases and pays homage to traditional Metalcore, with so much progression in this sub-genre, it’s refreshing to see that Unearth like to keep to the fundamentals here. Cultivation Of Infection again offers hardcore and metalcore elements, but I can’t help but feel that this track could have been better utilised as the opener. The Hunt Begins is a clever song, there are number of breakdowns in the form of melodic offerings here which remind me of Parkway Drive, in fact, there’s quite a bit about this song which reminds of them and why they are as successful as they are today.

The more I progress through the album, it’s clear that they just want to take heads and keep the pit going non-stop, tracks such as Hard Lined Downfall, King Of The Arctic and Sidewinder ensure the ferocity of the band doesn’t ease, these are just hard hitting songs from a crushing seasoned band that will be on the warpath with Darkest Hour on the “Death To All False Metalcore” tour next year. The album ends with the latest single, One With The Sun which just offers a fitting summary of Extinctions. Very well produced, solid material and bad tracks here, solid effort. 8/10

Hank Von Hell: Egomania (Headbangr) [Matt H]

Yeah I don’t want to write this review… everything I can say is completely redundant if you’ve heard this album. Why? Because nothing I can write could truly encapsulate the beauty of this album. It is glorious. Fun and cheesy whilst also kicking a heck of a lot of ass. I think it’s the attitude of this band, they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously and that’s infectious for this music. I want to play this stuff at every school disco ever until the end of time! But I suppose I should do my best to ignore my immediate attraction to this sound and actually do a bit of a dissection. As is common to the glam rock genre, the rhythm section doesn’t have a huge amount to do in terms of complexity. But they do get to go pretty fast in songs like Pretty Decent Exposure so that’s cool!

The guitars hit the spot for me, the riffs are used powerfully, I’m a big fan of riffs being used as leitmotifs in songs and that’s what happens here. Damn what a great album. Ok ok I’m trying not to run away with my emotions here. The lyrics are great; they flow nicely into one another. If I had to make a criticism of the vocal lines I would argue that I don’t feel they explore a wide range, preferring to stick in a mid-range. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great, I can just hear some huge screeching vocals that Hank is capable of (and did plenty of in Turbonegro - Ed). 9/10

Dunbarrow: Dunbarrow II (RidingEasy Records) [Paul S]

Dunbarrow hail from Haugesund is Norway. As you might have guessed from the name, this is their second album. On Dunbarrow’s facebook page they sight their influences as being 1968 - 1973, and to these ears, that is pretty accurate. The style of music played by these 5 Norwegians could be seen as being doom, but played in a more hard rock style. First song On Your Tail has a riffing style that is reminiscent of early Pentagram, but with much less distortion. The vocals have a bit of a Tommy Liebling feel to them as well. The song has a very strong melody and a great chorus, and a cracking up tempo ending, making it an extremely strong piece of rock music. Please Let Me Be is another great track, slower, but with real drive and power. There is a certain similarity with early Black Sabbath in the riffing, but with a guitar sound that is closer to Black Sabbath’s Dio albums.

The second half of the song has an instrumental break that uses some jazz influences, giving it a bit of a prog rock feel. Weary Lady sound a little like an early Bowie track. Partly this is due to the Espen Andersens vocals, whose phrasing feels a little influenced by Bowie’s early pre Low work. The album does boast some harder material as well. The Wolf has a very purposeful, driving feel to it, it’s more of a strait rock track, and has a great solo! The Demon Within, has a mid-paced feel to it, with softer passages and some very nice bluesy guitar work. Final track On This Night, is a measured, slower track, which, despite the softer feel, is menacing and ominous, with a powerful ending. This is a great album, really well crafted songs, great riffs and some of the best vocals I’ve heard in quite a long time. This albums strength is in the subtlety and nuanced way the album has been put together. The lower level of distortion on the guitars stops the band hiding badly written songs behind a wall of distortion. The songs work, and you can hear this very clearly. Fantastic album, highly recommended. 8/10