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Friday 29 March 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Swansea Heat #2 Interview With The Ginger Lizards By Paul Hutchings

Interview with The Ginger Lizards – Heat #2, M2TM, The Bunkhouse, Swansea 20th March 2024

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

We have Paul Daniels on drums, Adam Robinson on bass/backing vocals, Sam Bevan on backing guitar, Martin Thomas on Lead guitar, and Martin Daniels on vocals.

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

Were from around Swansea, the band started as a three-piece in 2021 with the two Martins and Paul, later joined by Sam and then later joined by Adam.

3. Describe your music in five words.

Old School British Heavy Metal

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to get out there and perform for new audiences, we also have some awesome bands in our heat that I can’t wait to see. We have played with The Rusty Nutz before and they put on a great show, can’t wait to see it again. We were supposed to be playing with Apathy Avenue before but the show got cancelled last minuet so it will be great to meet them, and Bleed the Fifth, from what I have heard I'm going to love their set.

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

We haven't played M2TM before. Don't be gentle. 

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

The festival always clashed with another event over that weekend which is a shame because I have wanted to go for years, luckily though that festival has gone a bit shit in recent years, so this year I'm coming to Bloodstock and If we can win our way there that'll be even better... so long as were not on when someone I want to see is playing, otherwise Martin might have to pick up bassist duty again.

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

Were currently working on a new album, and its mainly going to be gigs maybe we will even get Friday/Saturday back-to-back shows so we can call it a tour.

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

A well-rehearsed set performed by a bunch of lads having fun. We have been described as “very active” on stage and there will always be someone up to something.

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

It’s going to be a great night and we're really looking forward to performing with these bands. It’s going to be a tough competition, and we will deal with results when they arrive, if we go through great, if not we will come back and have another go next year. For now, the goal is to show up on the 30th and have fun.

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!


Thursday 28 March 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Swansea Heat #2 Interview With Bleed The Fifth By Paul Hutchings

Interview with Bleed The Fifth – Heat #2, M2TM, The Bunkhouse, Swansea 30th March 2024

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

Hello! We have Jordan, Morgan, Lewis and Tom in Bleed the Fifth. Jordan is the vocalist, Morgan plays bass and does backing vocals, Lewis plays rhythm, and Tom is on the drums.

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

We’re all from South Wales, but different parts. We’ve been together for a little over 3 years, but the first year and half was writing. The page was officially created in April 2022!

3. Describe your music in five words.

Metal for the new age.

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

Some of our friends’ bands have been a part of the M2TM competition and have had a blast doing so! So, we thought we’d apply and be a part of the community!

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

We haven’t and we’re extremely looking forward to playing.

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

We have attended Bloodstock which is also what prompted us to apply. The atmosphere is outstanding, and again, the community behind the festival is just outstanding.

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

We have a new single/video out on March 29th and plans for a new E.P being released at the tail end of the year. We have a few gigs lined up in England – including No Hate Festival in September in aid of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

Something very special, with a lot of energy, metal, and beer.

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

We hope to get our music out there to a bigger audience and make a bit of a wave in the competition. Winning would also be very nice!

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!




Reviews: Dinosaur Jr, Lilian Axe, Van Der Graaf, Esben Willems (Reviews By Rich Piva)

Dinosaur Jr. - The Black Session: Live In Paris 1993 (Cherry Red Records)

Dinosaur Jr. is one of my favourite bands of all time and J Mascis is the most underrated guitar player ever, so you know going in to reviewing this amazing live set that us fanatics have on bootleg already that I am going to fawn over the new Cherry Red Records release of The Black Session – Live In Paris 1993. This was recorded shortly after Where You Been (their breakout record) dropped. Lou and Murph already left the band, but even with all of those changes Dino Jr. is in tip top form, ploughing though all of their best pre–Been tracks with a couple from the new record thrown in as well.

Quest sludges though as the opener that leads to their always amazing cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, which is one of the best cover songs of all time. The band rips it up on Your Living All Over Me’s The Lung with J’s amazing guitar work and the all-time classic Freak Scene is delivered in its finest form. Get Me is one of the new tracks (I learned something writing this, I had no idea it was the first single from the record) and is one of the slower burns from the untouchable record and it sounds great in this set. 

Another new one at the time, Drawerings is also included in the setlist which is an interesting addition considering the what are the best-known songs from that album, but of course it is nonetheless a perfect inclusion and works with the vibe of the show. The last three tracks include two classics from Bug, Keep The Glove and Budge, and closes with Thumb from my favourite Dino Jr. Record, Green Mind.

If you like Dino Jr., then The Black Session is a must listen. If you are a crazy fan like me your probably have heard this as a bootleg but listen again and again in all of its Cherry Red re-release glory. Killer stuff for an all-time band. 9/10

Lillian Axe - The Box Volume Two: The Quickening (Cherry Red Records)

Lillian Axe has been a round for five decades, which is crazy to type, but also why the band is able to release not one, but two box sets of their material. I first got into the band back in 1992 which the release of my favourite and their classic album, Poetic Justice. 1992 was not the best year for bands that were unfairly or not labelled or bunched in with hair bands (see: Kick, Saigon) so Poetic Justice was a suitable name for this very overlooked record and ultimately career. 

The band’s core base of fans stayed loyal however, allowing the band to continue till this day, releasing a total of ten albums and multiple live records and compilations. This review covers boxset number two, The Quickening, from the amazing Cherry Red Records, which is the second half of the band’s career, from 2010’s Deep Red Shadows and includes the two full lengths released up until 2012 as well as a boatload of rarities, demos, and live material that fans of the band will go nuts for.
These later period records have a heavy almost grungy edge to them, I particularly enjoy the 2021 album XI The Days Before Tomorrow with the track Death Comes Tomorrow being one of my all-time favourites from the band. I also really dig the two-disc acoustic set and the live bonus tracks show how great of a live band Lillian Axe is. The demos disc, like most material similar, is really for mega fans only, but it is a very cool look into how some of the band’s best songs came to be.
Cherry Red Records is a reissue/box set juggernaut and the Lillian Axe boxes are just another amazing example of how great they are in their niche. The Lillian Axe Material is great too and this would serve as a nice way to dig into the band’s second half. Some of it is for big fans only, but overall, this is a great few into an extremely underrated band. 8/10

Van Der Graaf - Vital – Van Der Graaf Live Remastered (Esoteric Records)

Cherry Red Records just keeps giving us gifts, now providing us with re-presses and remasters of two records from one of the most important prog bands of all time, Van Der Graaf Generator (or without the Generator, depending on the time period). 

We are going to cover the live release, Vital, first, which is a double CD set of a mix of two shows from the band recorded in January of 1978. The band had gone though some changes at this point, including personal and dropping the generator, but this recording is the band at their heaviest and most emotional. Vital was their goodbye to the 70s and really to this version of the band as they broke up soon after, and you can feel the shedding of something emulating from every note on this album.

Ship Of Fools is just done super heavy (relative to VDG material) and the title track to the next remaster coming, Still Life, has the strings up front and the expressive vocals leading the ten-minute classic. Overall, you get ten prog classics, my favourite being the medley of A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and The Sleepwalkers which is 14 minutes of prog perfection and Urban-Killer-Urban with its driving bass and groovy version of progressive rock.

Reading Geddy Lee’s book, he mentions Van Der Graaf multiple times as one of his favourites and a band that was super influential to him as a musician and to Rush. You can hear why on this live remaster, which Cherry red has done total justice too and should help to open the band up to a whole new crowd. But if not, the prog freaks will really dig this too. 8/10

Esben Willems - Glowing Darkness (Majestic Mountain Records)

Esben Willems is the drummer for universally loved stoner doom band Monolord as well as showing up on other cool projects, like the Slayer doom covers band, Slower. Willems branches out on his own on his debut record, brought to us by the mighty Majestic Mountain Records, Glowing Darkness, which is quite a different album than what you would expect out of Monolord but is a refreshing and fun listen of sparce, up tempo stoner rock that fans of his will really enjoy.

Willems stretched himself on Glowing Darkness, playing all the instruments no matter how comfortable he felt from a skills standpoint. This is where my sparse comment came from; it is so endearing that he took this project on all by himself, given all of the musicians he could have tapped to help. Cabaret Street has a pop/kraut rock feel to it and bounces along nicely until the fuzzy guitar joins in. These songs are all short and catchy, with minimal complexities, which is the point, a perfect example being the track Dear Demon

The 23-minute run time and the one-man band DIY feel reminds me of a stoner rock Bob Pollard type deal, not it quality but in approach and feel. I really like the quirky Embrace The Fall and the equally quirky title track. There is a fuzzy indie rock feel to Space Bob and a Moe Tucker Velvet Underground feel (drummer synergy) to Fortune Teller. The heaviest most rocking track is the closer, Across The Everything, will quench the thirst of fans looking for something more along the lines of what they usually expect from something Willems is involved with.

Esben Willems stepping out of his comfort zone on Glowing Darkness is fun and endearing, but if you are expecting Monolord type stuff then you will be going into this with the wrong mindset. This is a fun short stoner indie trip where Esben does what he wants on his terms with really enjoyable and interesting results. 7/10

Wednesday 27 March 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Cardiff Heat #4 Interview With Rites To Ruin By Paul Hutchings

Interview with Rites To Ruin – Heat #4, M2TM, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 23rd March 2024

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

Krissie - Vocals, Matt - Guitar, Lee - Guitar, Tom - Drums and Paul - Bass

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

We span the M4 corridor with members from Wales and England, so our home bases are Cardiff and Bristol. We’ve been together for five years but two of those were relatively inactive due to a pesky thing called Covid.

3. Describe your music in five words.

Traditional balls-out melodic heavy metal

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

We’d love to play Bloodstock but also, we want to network with other bands, get to know more of our peers and hopefully get to play more gigs with more bands of a similar ilk to ourselves. It gives us an opportunity that we usually don’t have as a band, networking in a short space of time and enjoying what others are doing - usually it’s just the one or two bands that you are on the bill with that night or for that tour.

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

We’ve always found the M2tM initiative to be a great time. The bands are really supportive of each other which makes it a great night for everyone. And as above, networking, meeting other bands on the scene to build up that relationship with and the organisers are a genuinely lovely group of people.

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

Krissie and Matt are regulars at BOA. What’s not to love about the festival - everything is within walking distance (without the prospect of miles of mud before you get anywhere), it’s small enough to be intimate and with a strong chance of bumping into some of your favourite musos, but also feels like you’re at something much bigger. Plus, we get to hang out with some of our favourite people enjoying the music we love.

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

The debut album is still underway, but we are finally at a stage to get into the studio and start recording. So, we are excited for that. Plus, we have a few more gigs up our sleeve. We’re trying to book what we can around the day jobs, and Tom (drummer) and his wife, Nat, are expecting baby number two in the very near future, so it’s all go!

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

See answer to question 3 :D

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

A darn good time with like-minded bands and to enjoy live music.

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!

Everything is in our link tree https://www.linktr.ee/RitestoRuin

Reviews: Karkara, Leaves Eyes, Hammer King, Datcha Mandala (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Karkara - All Is Dust (EXAG Records) [Rich Piva]

French trio Karkara is back with their third full length, All Is Dust, which continues to bring heavy, fuzzy psych/garage rock goodness to their fanbase, which should start to grow with how good this record is. The band has a Middle Eastern vibe going on too combined with some Krautrock influences that somehow meld well with their heavy psych/stoner side. These guys have delivered some super unique stuff in the past, and All Is Dust may be even cooler then their previous two records.

Monoliths is a great opener that is nine minutes of the stoner/psych meets Krautrock with a touch of Middle Easter vibes as mentioned above. I love the psych guitar work on this track, especially towards the end. We seamlessly flow into The Chase, which reminds me of Hawkwind at their most up-tempo. Bring that distortion pedal down hard good sir! The vocals are deep and sounds like there are being sung out of a tunnel or well, but it somehow works. The Chase absolutely rips, even the slower build at the end. 

We slow it down a bit with On Edge, that brings more of the Middle East influence with the opening riff and is more psych than it is any of the other descriptions I have thrown around with this record, with the solo being exhibit A for my description. More of that Hawkwind worship shines through on Moonshiner, which has the polar opposite vocals from the tunnel low of The Chase to a high pitched vocal to start, until the pace picks up, more straight ahead singing takes over the song and the psych guitar work takes over you. The addition of the synth brings this tune up a couple notches as well. 

Anthropia goes from mid-tempo stoner to Kraut/psych ripper right before your eyes and just slays for seven straight minutes. The pièce de resistance (French band, see what I did there?) is the title track that just needs to be experienced over the nine-minutes of excellence. I love the new Karkara record. The guitar work along with the Hawkwind meets Can in Marrakesh is just an amazing combination. Some may be put off at the song lengths given there are six tracks over 47 minutes, but every second on All Is Dust is worth your time. 9/10

Leaves Eyes - Myths Of Fate (AFM Records) [Matt Bladen]

One of the first bands to be classed as 'symphonic metal' the dual vocalled, German act celebrate their 20th year with new album Myths Of Fate. Alexander Krull sits in the producers chair again and brings the bombast that the band are known for. Myths Of Fate injects that bombast from the beginning of Forged By Fire with folksy flutes on Realm Of Dark Waves, swashbuckling epics are about as Krull's growls are joined by the soaring cleans from Elina Siirala on tracks such as Hammer Of The Gods, as the metallic riffage is joined by Jonah Weingarten's cinematic soundtracks. 

All together it makes it for a massive sounding album where all the best bits of Leaves Eyes wrapped up in their sonic storytelling. Lea-Sophie Fischer (Eluveitie) adds fiddle on Goddess Of The Night and Thomas Roth’s on mediaeval Nyckelharpa to widen the their mythology, from the anthemic In Eternity, the Viking chug of Sons Of Triglav and the propulsive Sail With The Dead which ends the record with some proper symphonic metal from the early days. Leaves Eyes continue to do what they do well with Myths Of Fate. 7/10

Hammer King - König Und Kaiser (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Germany's primary proponents of cudgels and regalia, Hammer King come back with the next chapter in their story surrounding there namesake. Still led by Titan Fox on guitar/vocals, he is the creative force behind the band and has been since 2015 and this new record König Und Kaiser (King And Emperor), followed Kingdemonium from 2022. 

What the bloody hell the storyline is about I have no idea, something about kings obviously but now with a time travel element as the addition of Emperor allows them to collaborate with Warkings singer Tribune, a band who they will tour with this year. Musically we get more power/heavy/thrash metal with Fox leading the riffs alongside guitarist Gino Wilde, bassist Günt von Schratenau and drummer Dolph Aidan Macallan. 

Things get going with the opening double shot of Hailed By The Hammer and The Devil Will I Do as the title track gets heavier, Fox's vocals boisterous and powerful on Future King. Charles Greywolf and Jacob Hansen make it sound like canon fire, or maybe hammer strikes on an anvil. Hammers, Kings, Heavy, Metal, it's all here, play loud. 8/10

Datcha Mandala - Koda (DM Prod/Take It Easy/Discos Macarras) [Rich Piva]

In 2022 French band Datcha Mandala release one of the worst things to hit my ears with their EP The Last Drop. It was pretty much unlistenable straight ahead crap rock but dropped all kind of words to make me think this was going to something I would dig. 

A couple of quotes from my original review:
“According to their press release, this EP was supposed to be a tribute to 70s rock, but I feel like they really missed the mark. If that is what they were going for it is way too overproduced and slick for that kind of call back to arguably the greatest era in music.”


I guess my feedback here is to be careful what you reference in your press, because when you mention words like “blues”,” psychedelic” and “Robert Plant” you are setting up certain expectations that are very difficult to live up to.

Well, the trio is back with a new full length called Koda, and I am already annoyed and have not even listened to it once. However, I am allegedly a journalist, so I am going to give this a fair shot, but my expectations are extremely low.

The opener, She Said, is already on a much better path, but these guys need to stop with the 70s and Zeppelin comparisons because it is not even close. This is good straight ahead rock with a tiny bit of fuzz and a little crunch. The song is better than the entire last EP by leaps and bounds with a cool riff and great drumming. The title track has a cool riff too and is a very radio friendly hard rock song with a stadium sized chorus, even if the lyrics are a bit cheese. I hear more Muse than I do anything psych or stoner. 

The Wanderer is straying off the path, because this mid-tempo clunker is killing the vibe I was getting from the first two tracks. Om Namah Shivaya is a fun one; love the riff and the melody as well as the couple of tempo changes. This is the best song I have heard from these guys. But just like that we are back to mediocre rock with Wild Fire, that sounds like they are trying, but not succeeding, to sound like The Black Angels and Love Myself that sounds like it was built in a lab for straight ahead boring rock. 

I didn’t need the big burp opening Thousand Pieces where the band seems to have just finished listening to a Jack White record, just way less good, while It’s Not Only Rock N Roll (And We Don’t Like It) has too clever of a title for such an average song. Koda definitely did not need eleven songs, but here we are, with the want to be blues of Julietta and the closer, Homeland, just muddles along with the band attempting to sound like Alice In Chains and failing miserably.

Meh. Not great. I tried, but this is more of the same stuff that to me is just uninteresting songs from a band who has no idea what they want to be. They are all over the place, except for the places they claim that they sound like. Datcha Mandala has not been for me and Koda just confirms that sentiment. 4/10

Reviews: Lords Of Black, Cruzh, Lipz, Holler (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Lords Of Black – Mechanics Of Predacity (Frontiers Music Srl)

Lords Of Black, or as I know them Ronnie Romero’s day job, once again bring some great power/prog metal with their sixth studio album. Again a showcase for the writing and production abilities of guitarists Tony Hernando, we get another 10 tracks here that stand out as some of the most complex the band have written. A World That’s Departed for example is a three part 11 minute prog epic that is the penultimate song. 

Henando’s playing is full of Blackmore-like deftness and precision, bassist Dani Criado thumps away at the ever changing rhythms while drummer Jo Nunez showcases the power that keeps him a part of Firewind. If you’re a long time reader of this publication you’ll know how keen I am on Romero’s vocals so you can safely assume I like his performance here. 

On I Want The Darkness To Stop where there’s lots of variation, over the acoustics and orchestrations, he’s got the goods, while on the Muse-like Can We Be Heroes Again he uses more of the mid, the same can be said on the Rainbow-esque Crown Of Thorns. The record is built around a concept of how all humans engage in a cycle of predation, using fear, greed, power, but there will always be those that fight back. These ideas are captured well through the explorative music of Lords Of Black.

It's their darkest and most mature album yet, Mechanics Of Predacity keeps these Lords ruling for a while yet. 8/10

Cruzh - The Jungle Revolution (Frontiers Music Srl)

Sweden has a wealth of melodic rock bands and rock bands in general, so they will keep churning them out until the cows come home. Happily none of them are ever sub par as Swedish music quality is second to none. Formed by former members of TrashQueen they had a gestation period where the mysteriously revealed themselves releasing their debut EP in 2013, signing with Frontiers in 2015. 

In 2024 they give us The Jungle Revolution an album that draws from Def Leppard's huge choruses, Winger's technical dexterity and the sort of hard rock that straddled the late 80's and early 90's. From the poppy FL89, the FM baiting At The Radio Station, the rocking Split Personality, to the piano driven opening of SkullCruzher or the country vibes of Sold Your Soul and ballad From Above.

The Jungle Revolution is the band doing their best work as performers and songwriters, collaboration is key Alex Waghorn's vocals and keys utilized brilliantly as guitarist Johan Öberg joins the band to make a twin axe attack with Anton Joensson. It means that there's more depth on these song, the riffs more melodic and on the rockers heavier while the pop flourishes are rammed by hooks. The Jungle Revolution is another slick album from the fertile Swedish scene. 7/10

Lipz - Changing The Melody (Frontiers Music Srl)

Changing The Melody is a glam rock album from a brother combo and not a solo record from the Anvil frontman as I thought it was. Lipz are Alexander (vocals, guitar) and Koffe (drums) Klintberg, Conny Svärd (guitar) and Chris Young (bass) and they are a band that have been around from 2011. 

Changing The Melody is their first album on Frontiers and as is normal with the label, it’s slickly produced radio-friendly rock music with some glam rock touches of Kiss, Cinderella (Freak), Poison et al. Imagine big hair and fitting into the GTA Vice City soundtrack and you’ll be cruising down the right freeway, with the top open of course. 

With the “woah” chorus on the title track, the bouncy Stop Talking About, the strutting I’m Alive along with obligatory ballads, I Would Die For You stealing from Alone by Heart. Lipz debut on Frontiers with the sort of album you’d be expecting, modern glam rock with big choruses. 6/10

Holler - Reborn (Scarlet Records)

After leaving prog metal band Eldritch in 2022, the band he co-founded 31 years ago, Terence Holler went solo and slipped on some comfy loafers and a smoking jacket. Inspired by his upbringing listening to the FM radio AOR staples such as Journey, Toto, Bon Jovi etc, he has tried to recreate those soundscapes here with his debut solo album Reborn. 

Holler's voice throughout is pitch perfect, soulful and gritty to sing songs of love, the main lyrical feature here, as the backing band play saccharine AOR music that has a lot of synths as you'd expect but also some modern pulsating electronics and some killer guitar soloing on Music Is The One

The problem is I'll always associate his voice with Eldritch and to hear him singing some very radio friendly fodder is a but weird. There are also hundreds of bands doing this style so maybe things will develop a bit more on later releases. 6/10

Tuesday 26 March 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Cardiff Heat #4 Interview With Painted As Monsters By Paul Hutchings

Interview with Painted As Monsters, Heat #4 M2TM Questions for Musipedia Of Metal

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

Hey, we’re Painted as Monsters and we have Rhys on guitar & vocals, Matt on drums & Chris on bass.

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

We’re from South Wales & Hereford and have been a band for nearly 4 years but gigging together for just over 2 years.

3. Describe your music in five words.

Heavy. Melodic. Little bit prog?

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

Whilst we might not be bringing our own “Metal” to the masses, we pack a punch and think we can put on a good show for the metalheads!

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

This is our 3rd time taking part and we’ve had good experiences so far, so we’re always happy to take part in the competition. It’s always a good vibe and we’re always hoping to pick up some fans in whatever shows we’re a part of!

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

Chris was in Cranial Separation when they played the Jaeger stage, and they certainly knew how to throw a party at Bloodstock! From his experience, some of the best things about the weekend are the sense of community, a diverse range of acts that don’t often tour the UK. Also, the fact that the campsites and main stage are close to each other so you’re not walking around for ages is a big plus!

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

Hopefully we’ll have a few more releases out this year to pad out our back catalogue! There will be a bit of a transition period as we look at working on some new songs. There’s also something insanely cool that we can’t wait to announce but I don’t think we’re allowed just yet. Eyes peeled in April, peeps!

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

Some heavy riffs, double bass pedals a plenty and a nice bit of a fuzz bass. Maybe a new tune, but don’t hold us to that!

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

We don’t really expect anything, as such, but we hope to make an impression on the night and go from there!

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!

We’re the most active on the above socials, but you can check us out on all our socials and music streaming services via our Linktree which is https://linktr.ee/paintedasmonsters. You can even grab cheaper last-minute tickets for the heat if you visit that link!

Reviews: Deception, Devastatiön, Civerous, Altar Of Betelgeuze (Reviews By Mark Young, Paul Hutchings, James Jackson & Rich Piva)

Deception - Daenacteh (Mighty Music) [Mark Young]

And now, moving on from total brutality to Norwegian melodic death metal. Daenacteh is the 4th album from Deception and at its heart is the tale of a brutalitarian state and a young girl tying to care for her family during a time of national emergency.

And it starts as it means to go on, as Sulphur Clouds comes in announcing a heady mix of the technical and the melodic. It has one of those ascending movements that really hits. Synths sit front and centre with riffs, all while Einar Hassenlberg Petersen lays down a beat pattern that keeps it moving forward, implying speed even when the BPMs reduce. It’s a belting start that runs into King Of Salvation, keeping the motifs established in place whilst amping up the speed. 

Early on, you get the sense that their appreciation of arrangements is to keep everything balanced; synths fill the sound when the guitar backs off and vice-versa. When they come together on here, it’s a fantastic combination especially building in the middle eastern theme and it just rips. No fat at all on these two and it’s the sort of high-tempo melodic metal that I love. Iblis’ Mistress slows down (only a little) to lay the groundwork for a frenetic closing sequence, the melodic touches continuing through without losing sight of the need for riffs. Its powerful stuff and cements the sterling work of Sindre Wathne Johnsen for the orchestration on display here.

Assailants, with its bending note intro and choir like backing changes things again, leading into a stormer that blasts forward, each of the band playing here for the song picking up the load when required by the arrangement. And again, it doesn’t forget to be heavy which is why we are all here. Monophobic motors with a superb technical attack and it becoming difficult to find new ways to describe how well I am enjoying this. Synths can be unfairly maligned in extreme music, but here it is serving a purpose to really give the song some extra heft. Bonus points for the widdly solo break because these songs have been crying out for some of that!! 

Dhariyan deploys a similar bending note line to Assailants, but they soon move beyond that, bringing in more of that middle east vibe in much the same way that Led Zepplin did with Kashmir. To some that might sound like a stretch but give it a listen you will get me straight away. As before, everything is pitched so well; the backing guitar lines that come and go, the orchestral flourishes and then a solo, which they manage to make fit so that none sounds out of place. There are definite nods to classic Sci-fi soundtracks, not direct homage if you will, but fans of that genre will hear them and appreciate them like I did.

Be Headed On Your Way and Daughters Of The Desert close us out, the former going for straight ahead technical brutality, mixing it up in a way that would cause serious injury in the pit. The relatively short length is welcome as it makes room for the latter’s 10-minute runtime. And the solo break is mental. Speaking of the latter, its build is centred around evoking images of the desert whilst taking the listener on a journey to a far-off land at times of great trouble. This is some song, opting for those sweeping musical moments to keep you engaged and it is a sign of total confidence to end on a song of this length, to put it all into one place. It bloody works too, bringing those chordal movements from earlier and building them with the synths, fantastic end to a storming album. Mustn't forget the solo, they drop that near the end and it is blinding (Hats off to of Sindre Wathne Johnsen and Hans Jakob Bjørheim here).

One of the great things here is Sindre Wathne Johnsen, the vocals range from the deep and guttural to the ether shattering shriek, pitched to suit the music around him. There is a command of the melodic here that is really strong without affecting how heavy they are. They have approached these songs in a way to make them the best that they can. It shines through each one as each share a common DNA with the others before and after without being a rehash of the same idea. Attacks vary, and speeds change. It sounds so vibrant and it deserves your love. 9/10

Devastatiön – Rise Of The Dead (Empire Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Using one of the most common names in heavy metal doesn’t seem to have stopped Belgian black thrashers Devastation from producing another visceral slab of ferocity. Rise Of The Dead is 41 minutes of explosive thrash with that dirty blackened edge that has seen bands like Midnight, Devastator and Hellripper carve a true niche in the metal scene over the past decade. Drawing deep from those early days of Venom and Slayer, it’s a style that appeals to many, with powerful drums, gnarly riffs and strangulated vocals all combining in a fireball of chaos.

It's been a whilst since the band released anything of note, their 2023 single Wild Hunt the teaser for Rise Of The Dead. Before that you must look back to 2017 for the Drink With The Devil EP and before that, 2015 for the sophomore Pussy Juice Blues. I’m not familiar with the former works, something that I may well address soon, but Rise Of The Dead is everything you want in this style of metal. It’s fast, aggressive, well played, and comes with a hideously dark edge. The album rarely pauses for breath, driving riffs propelling it forward at breakneck speed.

Its frantic aural assault is a little one dimensional, with the songs merging into each other somewhat, but that isn’t a problem, for this is intended to be one savage blow to the back of the skull. Plenty of black in this release, with Black Abyss setting out the band’s stall early. A blistering onslaught that is maintained for the duration. If anything, the album gets faster, with the explosive Black Winter Night and Cathedral Of Lost Souls particularly fiery, although the latter does have a nice thrash chug mid-section.

Basically, this is an album that will split heads, ensure swirling mosh pits, and ensure any neighbours who hear it will not speak to you again. It’s almost a cure against the mundane. A savage battery that is unrelenting, this is a fine addition to the swelling discography of the blackened thrash scene. 8/10

Civerous - Maze Envy (20 Buck Spin) [James Jackson]

Two minutes of Horror Movie score straight from the vaults of Black & White classics open this Death/Doom album from LA’s Civerous, the accompanying artwork and logo design all point in the Death Metal direction and given recent releases I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, I’m a little hesitant.
Shrouded In Crystals opens in true doom fashion, chords ring out over crashing cymbals and a sense of the oncoming aural onslaught is felt working the lead guitar work, the song builds, then builds again before that tempo drops. 

It’s the contrast between the two genres that emphasises the ferocity of one and the funereal nature of the other. An instrumental track, Endless Symmetry leads into Labyrinth Charm, which makes its stand firmly within the death metal genre, no room for the slower rhythmic beats until the final restrains of the song. Levitation Tomb follows a similar template to that of Shrouded In Crystals, that melodic arrangement to begin with before building the tempo, where this differs is that there’s a piano like lead that tethers that ferocity. The final two tracks, Maze Envy and Geryon respectively, further showcase this blend of brutality and sombre melody’s.
Whilst I have my issues with some aspects of this album, the No Clean Vocals approach and the rather “fuzzy” sound production adding to my own personal preferences, it genuinely wasn’t too painful an experience. 5/10

Altar Of Betelgeuze - Echoes (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Altar Of Betelgeuze are a trio from Finland that play heavy doom with growl from the depths of Hell vocals. Echoes is their fourth release and continues in their somewhat sparse death doom styles with varying results. I say varying because the vocals are a real struggle for me. Musically the band is tight, but many with struggle with the death growls.

Take the song A Reflection for example. Musically this is some strong doom, and when there is some semblance of clean singing (relatively speaking) I can really dig what these guys are dishing out. I am really struggling with the death vocals though, to the point I really don’t want to listen, and I am usually OK with the growls from the underneath. Salvation is another track that chugs along nicely musically and the clean vocal parts here make this the best song on the record.

The first three tracks however are a real struggle. The band doesn’t do anything musically so special that I can overlook how much the vocals bug me, but give me a full album of songs like Salvation, that goes a sludgy kind of way, and I would be in all day. The title track, however, really did me in. Ten minutes of death doom that never seemed to go anywhere or end. Musically the closer, Fading Light, is good stuff, but you know where I am going with the ”but”.

Maybe I should check first on clean versus not so clean vocals before I pick my albums to review, because maybe I am missing something of the genus of Altar Of Betelgeuze and their new one Echoes, but for me, I can only deal with it for so long before I need to hear something to get my ears out of the depths of Hell. 5/10

Reviews: The Black Crowes, Avralize, Hashtronaut, Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol (Reviews By Rich Piva, Zak Skane, Paul Scoble & Joe Guatieri)

The Black Crowes - Happiness Bastards (Silver Arrow Records) [Rich Piva]

There is a half dozen or so bands where I went through a serious obsession phase. The Black Crowes are one of them. At one point I had hundreds of Black Crowes live shows that I was tape trading and was at the point where, for example, I could tell you the dates and venues where the band covered Torn And Frayed, for example. I was super active on the message boards and 80% of what I was listening to was Crowes related. 

After By Your Side, which rules, I became less obsessed, and liked the new material less and less, but I have always remained a huge fan and they still remain one of my favourite bands of all time. So obviously the announcement of a new album is going to get me excited, and Happiness Bastards, their first record of new material in 15 years, does not disappoint. Yeah, I know this is a new lineup, and I also know this is not 1997, but Happiness Bastards is the Crowes best release since By Your Side, by far.

Happiness Bastards to me is a combination of Shake Your Money Maker and By Your Side stylistically, which I am all in for. There is not a weak track in the bunch, Chris’s voice sounds amazing and Rich is as steady as ever with his guitar work. The production fits these guys perfectly, which they have always been able to nail, with the new recording being no exception. Bedside Manners, with its slide and keys and Exile swagger is so great, and there could not have been a better track to kick off a new record after all this time. I always loved the Crowes stuff with the female background vocals, and Happiness Bastards brings it. Especially with Wanting And Waiting, which sounds like a combo of Jealous Again and Kickin’ My Heart Around

Rich has a bit of fuzz going on with Rats And Clowns which has a filthy NYC vibe to it. Cross Your Fingers has a funky blue thing going on, reminding me of the great Horsehead. Country singer Lainey Wison provides guest vocals on the gospel inspired Wilted Rose that also highlights how great of a vocalist Chris really is, and dig that solo from Rich too. The second half of HB is just as good as the first, with the keys driven, also funky Dirty Cold Sun with Chris doing his best Mick on Miss You imitation perfectly while the Mellow Down Easy vibes shine on the very bluesy Bleed Us Dry

Flesh Wound is a super fun and upbeat track with a very cool piano driven middle interlude that I have zero comparisons for in their past discography. More fun and funky closes us out with Follow The Moon that could have been a By Your Side outtake, and the acoustic, Byrds-like Kindred Friend, which could be Chris singing to his brother.

As a huge Crowes fan, I am not sure I could have asked for anything more than what we got with Happiness Bastards. It is everything a fan could want from a band after 15 years away. The songs are all great, the record sounds amazing, the band is super tight, and Chris and Rich are doing what they do best. Let’s not get crazy and say this is better than the big four Crowes record but I could get behind a solid fifth for a band I have loved since their inception. 9/10

Avralize – Freaks (Arising Empire) [Zak Skane]

The opening track Lotus introduces the album with some 90’s sounding arpeggiators before we are greeted with some nifty Animals As Leaders influenced technical riffage, before we sonically get blasted when the track bombs down to half time groovy chugs that consist with sharp harmonics performed with industrial precision. 

Following this the modern metal choruses that capture some Linkin Park elements such as their electronic layers along with harsh vocal style hooks. In relation to the vocals I’m getting early Northlane vibes with them staying harsh but laced passion and serenity. The following track Higher ebbs and flows from being skull crushingly heavy to effectively catchy with it’s Meshuggah and Thall styled bendy riffage to then transcending to Don Broco mixed with Issues inspired funky pop with some slick sounding bass runs, up beat synths and vocal melodies. 

Bright contains some classic nu metal elements with it’s twinkling xylophone melodies and bouncy grooves mixed with some low tuned guitar riffage to bring in the modern edge. To continue the Nu Metal momentum, Stab By Stab brings in some 90’s inspired electronic breakbeat drum grooves that reminisce from Slipknots classic track Eyeless which is followed by jerky effected guitar samples before slapped in the face with some harmonic laced riffs, dirty breakdowns and some venom spitting lyrics. 

To open up the second half of this album Canvas return us back to their poppy influences that sound more groovier and poppy than before where you have to guess which sounds more catchy, the pre-choruses or the actual choruses? The vocals go full melodic singing in the verses and the choruses along with layers synths and even saxophones, which also get their little solo in this track. 

Overdose also continues the mainstream rock vibes with verses sung over warm padded pianos, and electronic percussive samples. The track also features some brief appearances of acoustic guitars and soulful guitar solos before we are plunged back into hell with a bawl rumbling breakdowns. To close this album Freaks takes back into familiar territory with it’s meat and potatoes low modern metal riffs, mosh worthy breakdowns with glimpses of Sleep Token styled synths melodies that occur halfway through the track.

Through this 8 track debut, Avralize have clearly made it known that they can run with the greats, from its bruising heavy hits like Lotus and Stab By Stab to the pop inspired songs like Higher, and Canvas they have really set the bar on what this band can achieve for future releases. For fans of old school Northlane, In Hearts Wake, Bring Me The Horizon and Don Broco. 9/10

Hashtronaut – No Return (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Paul Scoble]

An area of Slow and Heavy that has been kicking out some really great stuff over the last few years is Stoner Doom / Rock. The scene was started by Black Sabbath when they recorded Sweet Leaf, a Doom song about cannabis. It took another twenty years for the rest of the world to catch up, as the Stoner Scene didn’t really start until the early nineties with bands like Sleep, Kyuss, Bongzilla and Fu Manchu and on these shores bands like Acrimony. 

The stoner scene has always attracted people with a relaxed attitude towards life and band names can sometimes be humorous, one such band is Hashtronaut. The band based in Denver Colorado, have been putting out material since 2021, when their first single was released. Since then the band have released another single in 2022, and the Ep Tidal Waves Of Ashen Skies the same year, No Return is the band’s first album. The band is made up of Danial Smith on Bass and Vocals, Michael Honiotes on Drums and Kellen McInerney on Guitars, Robb Park on Stunt Guitar. When the album was recorded all drums were performed by Eric Garcia.

The album kicks off with the appropriately titled song Rip Wizard which opens with Refer Madness type samples before a huge riff that has a tempo that is relaxed but purposeful thunders in. The song is a great piece of Stoner rock with really good Clean Vocals, it’s simple but very effective and also boasts a very good melody lead at the end. Next up comes the track Cough It Up a heavier track than the one that preceded it. The song is slow and very heavy, with Harsh Vocals and quite an aggressive feel. The song also has some Refer Madness Samples and a great Wah Wah infused solo. Cough It Up does speed up at the end, keeping the riff the same and changing the tempo.

Carcinogen is another super heavy song, it’s also slow with a tempo that, despite its slow pace, feels completely unstoppable and relentless, a bit like a runaway Bulldozer. The song has clean Vocals and reminds me a little of Electric Wizard. The song has a minimal, dark and brooding interlude before the super heavy returns to slowly batter the audience. After two super heavy tracks, Dead Cloud is a return to the softer Stoner Rock sound we met at the beginning of the album. The song opens with a soft acoustic intro that reminded me of the intro to Sleeping In The Fire by WASP, before a big mid-paced stoner riff comes in and the song drives off in a purposeful, yet relaxed feel, the clean Vocals are great and the main song I found reminiscent of Acrimony.

Next comes the second shortest track on the album Hex, coming in at a brief minute and a half. The track is big and heavy and has a real Grunge feel to it, particularly in the Vocals which in places reminded me of Alice In Chains. The wonderfully titled Lung Ruiner mixes super heavy sludgy material with minimalist dark and brooding material. The juxtaposition works brilliantly and the track ends up feeling disturbing and fretful.

Dweller is dark and very Bass heavy, again we get a very relentless feel to the music with a really great Vocals performance. The song builds in intensity as it approaches the end.

Marsquake is another super heavy track, it’s mid-paced and purposeful, but is also so heavy, it’s like watching planets waltz of a herd of elephants dance the Watusi. The album comes to an end with the very appropriately titled Blast Off. Blast Off is a thirty second blast of Thrash Metal. I don’t know why an album of Sludge and stoner rock has a thirty second thrash song at the end, but it’s a great piece of thrash, so I’m here for it, great track!

No Return is a great piece of Stoner Rock / Sludge. The album has several different styles, but they all sound like the same band, there a continuity of feel that makes everything work together. I also think this is doubly impressive as this is the bands debut album, and it sounds like an album made by a much more experienced band. When I first listened to this album I thought the band had outgrown their Jokey Stoner name, managing to outgrow a joke name usually takes a lot longer than one album. Great album, highly recommended. 8/10

Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol - Big Dumb Riffs (Permanent Teeth) [Joe Guatieri]

Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol are a self-proclaimed Doom Wop trio hailing from Austin, Texas. They have been very prominent in their output having released a few EPs and studio albums since their formation in 2017.

Diving into Big Dumb Riffs one of the first things that caught my ear was track two, 1-800-EAT-SHIT. The song is as ridiculous as the title describes with a vocalist that sounds like John Garcia doing a Fred Durst impression whilst desperately needing a shit. Combining that with a big fuzzed out guitar riff and the all important farty bass sound.

Track four, Peanut Butter Snack Sticks is by far the heaviest song here. It has the most overdriven and distorted instrumentation possible but does the opposite of what you would expect from it. The overdubbed guitars are funny to me, sounding like a poor excuse for a vocal hook, less Beach Boys catchiness, more Maroon 5 forcefulness. Maybe the most defining track of the album’s title, Big Dumb Riffs indeed.

The final and my favourite track on the album is In A Jar. The longest song here sounds to me as if Tool were approaching a Shoegaze number but Manyard didn’t care about the lyrics, only having soft croon, barely being heard. An enjoyable and well performed song with a wink and a nod to the victorious end to an album cliché. It would be an exciting prospect if Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol did more songs on their next album like this, longer with more room to play and experiment with.

Overall, Big Dumb Riffs is just a fun album to put you in a good mood. If it’s made you laugh then that’s the job done and I can respect it because of that. It knowingly takes stereotypes in Rock and Metal music and puts them all in a mixing pot, just to see what will happen. It’s here for a good time, not a long one. 6/10

Friday 22 March 2024

Reviews: Artificial Language, Scavenger, Thornbridge, Ashen Reach (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Artificial Language - Distant Glow EP (Self Released)

Prog, specifically modern prog, is probably one of the most popular genres around at the moment. Specifically the bands born out of djent, just look at the kind of crowds Tesseract, Haken and Leprous get and you’ll see that there seems to be a cross genre appeal that never quite happened with the classic prog sounds. A lot of it is due to the often impassioned vocals and massive choruses, grooves/breakdowns taken from metalcore and a technical expertise that never overshadows the song itself. 

Californians Artificial Language follow where the bands mentioned above lead, with this third release Distant Glow. It’s five track EP but there’s more musical variation here than a playlist on shuffle, just don’t expect any of the music to be simplistic. Melodic, evocative and inventive but not simple. From the palm muted stop start opening of Two Faced Star, it’s pretty obvious that Artificial Language are virtuosos, as thick riffs are put against fluid arpeggios, contrasting but colluding to establish what is to come. 

It’s sort of Haken but fronted by Tool’s Maynard, Shay Lewis’s vocals having the insistent power as prog’s favourite vintner, but there’s no throbbing, repeating thrum on this record, it’s bright and breezy melodic prog, the lead guitars of Charlie Robbins having the harmonic flow of Plini or Unprocessed joined by the keys of Jonathon Simpson as the two ‘lead’ instruments for tracks such as Stranded. 

There’s a conceptual element to this EP, which has touches of Dune, but it’s not too heavy that the songs don’t stand by themselves, House Of Hoarded Sands displaying the chops of Victor Corral’s rhythm playing and Josh Riojas’ jazz basslines as the offbeat drumming from Jeron Schapansky combines it all together on the most ‘prog’ song on the record. 

With their last release being 2019, there’s been a significant gap between then and now, it seems that Artificial Language have used the time to write their most accomplished music yet, fine tuning it into the excellent noises of Distant Glow. 8/10

Scavenger - Beyond The Bells (No Remorse Records)

Another band who started in the 80's but were reborn recently. Belgian band Scavenger were a staple of the underground scene, playing NWOBHM, speed metal and proto thrash before splitting. In 2018 they reformed with a new line up taking to the stages again, with COVID came the calls for new material and a single in 2020 served as the precursor for Beyond The Bells.

Recorded with the current version of the band but fully endorsed by the original members Scavenger pick right up where they left off unleashing speed metal that fans of Priest, Exciter and Warlock will love. Bleeding into their rambunctious old school speed approach is some keen eared hard rock that longs to come out of the radio, so there's a balance to things that has Tim and Kevin, shredding up a storm when the gas pedal is stepped on but able to get choppy and loose when Vincent's bass and Gabriel's drums keep the rhythms bouncing with rock n roll.

Many bands of this style fall down with the vocals but Tine Lucifera's voice is versatile enough to do both styles, similar in many ways to Doro Pesch. From Black Witchery to Crystal Light, the return of Scavenger should be savoured, included too are the two songs on the Backsider single on the CD version so it makes Beyond The Bells worth the wait for speed metal fans. 7/10

Thornbridge - Daydream Illusion (Massacre Records)

Thornbridge take a more magical turn on their third album Daydream Illusion, reducing the heaviness, adding some cleaner vocals and more melodies. The founders Jörg "Mo" Naneder (vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, piano, keyboards) and Patrick "Pat" Rogalski (lead/rhythm guitars) again write all the songs and play their fair share of the instruments adding Nils Kreul on drums in the studio to create power metal that is very deep in the Teutonic vein. It's their first concept album and tells the tale of a boy trying to save his dream world from the horrors of a Victorian era asylum.

So the storyline is Suckerpunch meets Avantasia, while the music is very similar to Orden Ogan, whose Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann mixes/masters the record, to sound very cinematic on tracks such as the galloping I Am The Storm. It's prime German power metal that any fans of Orden Ogan, Blind Guardian (Island Of My Memories) and Gamma Ray will definitely enjoy, big chorus choirs, frantic drumming and twin axe harmonies that come on every song, as the story is told. They even flex their song writing talents with a ballad for the first time, positioning themselves towards the future with a broader appeal than just heavy power metal, Thornbridge may have found their sound going forward. 8/10

Ashen Reach - The Fear (Self Released)

Liverpool heavies Ashen Reach follow up their 2020 debut Homecoming with a new EP entitled The Fear. Comprised of Kyle Martyn Stanley (vocals), Paddy Cummins (guitar/vocals), Jess Stanley (drums) and Joe O'Sullivan (guitar), the foursome play modern metal with catchy choruses which has seen them taking the stage at events such as Planet Rockstock and beyond. 

Their music is hard hitting, merging rock accessibility, atmospherics and crushing guitar riffs like Alter Bridge (musically) and Disturbed (vocally) in their primes but the EP is about change and the modern metal/djent/metalcore influences are that change. D1v1de getting the grooves going against electronic twitches, as Neophobia letting the metalcore really take hold with a breakdown towards the end. What the Planet Rock crowd will think of this I'm not sure but there's still a lot of melody here just the metal is heavier. 

If this EP points towards where Ashen Reach will be going on future releases then there's lots in store. 7/10

Thursday 21 March 2024

A View From The Back Of The Room: Judas Priest (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Judas Priest, Saxon & Uriah Heep, 3Arena, Dublin, 15.03.24

Travelling to another country for a gig may seem like a very expensive idea in this day and age but with four of my best buddies and three days of Guinness and craic on offer how could we refuse? The first night in Dublin (on St Patrick's Day weekend no less), was the realm of the extreme with Cattle Decap et al but Friday night, well Friday night has always been about the classics and this was a line up Tommy Vance would have approved of.

Three of the UK's longest serving rock/metal exports in one place, playing venues across the UK and Ireland, to packed out rooms. Nostalgia is a big thing in the music world, just listen to any Planet Rock supported band but the trio of bands here are all in the best form of their careers, each having recently released brilliant new music, the headliners especially gaining a #2 in the UK album chart, higher than anything they achieved in the 80's heyday.

First though it was the oldest band on the bill, Uriah Heep (8) have been doing this for more than 50 years and the current incarnation of the band with Phil Lanzon on keys and Bernie Shaw on vocals since 1984, Russell Gilbrook on drums since 2007, Dave Rimmer on bass since 2013 and guitarist Mick Box being there from the beginning, all click together well, providing organ heavy hard rock, with progressive/folk flourishes.

Compared to Deep Purple for a large part of their career they have forged their own path and are making some of their best albums this long into their existence. Playing tracks from their newest album, packed into 35 minutes, a run time bemoaned by Shaw, they of course leaned more on the classics such as Gypsy, Free N Easy and Easy Livin' at the end. Class acts through and through, let's hope a headline tour isn't too far away as the world needs more Heep.

Fires lit, engines running and were were ready to go on with the show and we were brought through Hell, Fire And Damnation with another UK metal stalwart The Mighty Saxon (9), their first tour with Flying V wielding Diamond Head founder Brian Tatler on guitar as a full time member, Saxon never give a bad show, their new songs such as There's Something In Roswell or Madam Guillotine where Biff Byford can bring theatricality to his always perfect vocal performance.

I'm glad Sacrifice has become a staple of the set but the Dublin hordes were there in force for the older material such as Motorcycle Man, And The Bands Played On and weirdly Crusader, which won the fan vote between three songs but being up in the seats and hearing the crowd reaction I'd say there was some staging going on as the cheer was louder for the other two choices.

After that though we got Strong Arm Of The Law, then the closing quartet of 747, Wheels Of Steel, Princess Of The Night and Denim And Leather to close out another, well oiled, immaculately performed Saxon set. There are thousands of young bands that should watch Saxon perform as they'll see what playing a metal gig is all about.

Fever pitch now as the stage was set for the headliners, shows we should have seen a few years ago but unfortunately they got caught up in the Ozzy debacle, however now with a stunning new album called Invincible Shield, released just a week ago it was the Metal Gods themselves Judas Priest (10) that would finish off this heavy metal odyssey to the Emerald Isle. War Pigs from Sabbath, boomed through the P.A and the crowd sang along, The Invincible Shield banner dropped as the intro to Panic Attack was played the band all huddled together on the drum riser steps, the song kicking off properly and it was all systems go for the best metal band in the UK.

The new songs fit perfectly into the set, Panic Attack setting the pace for the show, showing that even after so many years they can still play faster than a lot of bands. It was the ebb and flow that kept the show moving though, the harder songs usually proceeded by slower easier songs, keeping Rob Halford's vocals strong throughout. Squeezed in between Panic Attack and Sword Of Damocles from the Redeemer Of Souls album made its live debut were one from Screaming For Vengeance in the anthemic You've Got Another Thing Coming and two from British Steel in Breaking The Law and Rapid Fire. One of the few deep cuts that were brought back into the set including You Don't Have To Old To Be Wise and Sinner.

Halford was on fire, vocally stunning and how he can still do those huge falsetto screams are anyone's guess. He prowls the stage, slipping out to change costumes/outfits to fit the song. Visually the focus is on Richie Faulkner, he flexes around the stage throwing shapes while peeling off those leads and solos that are so memorable. The man never stops moving, employing yoga techniques as he mugs to the crowd, playing a riff with his teeth at one point just for the hell of it. The trio of Love Bites, Saints In Hell and Crown Of Horns was inspired adding some mid set atmosphere and drama, as Halford prowled Andy Sneap and Ian Hill keeping the rhythms coming on the big sing along of Turbo Lover and Invincible Shield which though new still managed to illicit crowd interaction.

Towards the end of the main set Andy got a chance to fire off some leads on the evergreen cover of Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) while Scott Travis continued to show what an absolute beast he is behind the kit on every single song but in particular the main closer Painkiller, which is really his showcase. Breath taken, minds blown and we await the inevitable encore and it comes to the sounds of The Hellion announcing Electric Eye. To this day my favourite Priest tune, the final moments of that drowned out by the grunt of a Harley and we're Hell Bent For Leather before the closing statement of Living After Midnight is the fitting climax to the whole show.

With the legend "The Priest Will Return" it seems they are making up for lost time and being in contract limbo for a while. Until then though seeing three of the best veteran bands on the circuit in one place is a treat that must be treated as special. The Metal Masters Tour was exactly that, 3 masters of heavy metal flexing their muscles in front of near sell out crowds. No talk of retirement or slowing down, metal will never really die, so long as these bands still carry the flame!

Reviews: Mastiff, Sylvaine, Glitter Wizard, Brodequin (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings, Rich Piva & Mark Young)

Mastiff – Deprecipice (MNRK Heavy) [Matt Bladen]

One of the most disgustingly visceral bands on the scene today, Mastiff return with music so aggressive, so introspective, so nihilistic that it stands on the edge of an endless void and dares you to jump. Named Deprecipice as it tackles the depression and trauma felt by songwriters Jim Hodge (vocals) and James Andrew Lee (guitar), feeling as if they were teetering on the last piece of solid ground, they took these emotions, totally at odds with the post pandemic hope, and recorded in just a week to keep it as raw and honest as possible, mastered by Brad Boatwright, it bleeds with venom and introspection, making it the most vicious sounding record yet. 

It changes tact from the death metal influences on the last album by heading down the path of hardcore, miserable, abrasive and with riffs that punch you hard in the face as Jim unleashes vocals that are not of this earth. The major difference on this album are the breakdowns, which on Everything Is Ending take the sandpaper-like guitar tone and make it fuzzier and fuzzier until it’s a such a distorted mess you can’t tell if your speakers are broken. 

It’s a trick repeated on a couple of tracks but there’s also blasts of ferocious blackened punk on Void, sludgy atmospheres on Cut-Throat (which features Ethan Lee McCarthy of Primitive Man) and the aggressive blasts of metallic beatdowns on Void and Serrated which features Harry Nott of Burner. These tracks come at you like you’ve said something controversial online, there’s very few chances to rest before the next furnace full of fiery riffs are at your feet, be it the Skin Stripper, Worship (Hanneman-esque solo from Rob Scott of Yersin) or the closing crush of Thorn Trauma

Primordial power from Hull On Earth, Mastiff straddle the Deprecipice and cross to the other side with their best album yet. 9/10

Sylvaine – Eg Er Framand (Season Of Mist) [Paul Hutchings]

Four albums in and there is still pure astonishment at the music that Kathrine Shepard under the guise of Sylvaine. 2022’s Nova drew gasps of delight and excitement across the globe, whilst riding high in the annual end of year top ten lists. This may not be a full album, but the six songs that comprise Eg Er Framand are likely to propel another release by the the ‘petite pixie of the Norwegian black gaze scene’ to the top of those end of year polls once more.

If you are familiar with her music, then this EP will merely continue the love affair. Another deep dive into Norwegian folklore through her unending creativity. It’s an emotional journey that has no end, as she utilises numerous instruments to support her enchanting vocals that are often accompanied by stunning harmonies.

Each song provides different character, context, and atmosphere. A melancholic feeling drifts across the songs, which reflect her roots, the myths through a weaving voyage of ethereal magic. Over 30-minutes the spell is cast. The drifting Livets Dans that is the central pillar of the EP is breathtaking.

If you can pin down why this classically trained composer with the abstract and unorthodox approach appeals to such a vast swath of the metal community, one might be hard pressed to answer. This EP contains no crushing riffs, bears only passing resemblance to Nova, with little if any black gaze, yet from the moment one presses play, the intoxication begins. 

Perhaps it’s the intensity of the compositions, the sheer beauty of their form, or the sonic soundscapes that are created. Or maybe, it appeals to the sensitive side of all of us, a return to the earth and our base instincts.

Whatever, it’s an EP that works on every level. The desire to catch this talent live once more is high. Until that happens, immerse yourself in Eg Er Framand. It’s an experience that needs to happen. 9/10|

Glitter Wizard - Hunting Gatherers (Beneath The Desert Floor/Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

The fact that Ripple Music is repressing out of print and/or forgotten gems of the stoner/doom/proto variety could not make me happier. The best label in rock curating a series of albums that need to be reseen because of their forgotten or under-realized genus is a perfect project for Todd, who has proven he has the ear for this stuff. Volume two of the series is the long out of print second album from Glitter Wizard originally release in 2012, Hunting Gatherers.

If you are not familiar with the San Francisco, California band, they are a mashup of multiple genres, like if Blue Oyster Cult and Jethro Tull members got together and formed a glam band the worshiped Slade, Bowe, and the Devil and that also sounded like the more punk leaning Murder City Devils material. Did you get all that? Basically, they don’t fall into any one category, which is what makes the band, and this album so special. This release is the original album plus and absolute ripper of a bonus track, Fire.

Kicking off with Worship The Devil, you get some serious 70s proto-occult vibes with a really cool use of keys that has a great upbeat tempo until we get those Tull vibes, but only if Ian Anderson was a priest from the Church of Satan. Glorious. For a more modern comparison, musically think Blood Ceremony. Blood Of The Serpent is some nice proto doom (riffs and that solo) and I just love the organ work.

Motor Rider picks up the base and is where some of the band’s punk/garage leanings shine though. Space is my favourite track on Hunting Gatherers. Eight minutes of heady proto psych with some sweet riffs and a crunch to it. Did I mention the flute solo? I alluded to the bonus track Fire before, and whoa is this one killer. I have no idea why it was not on the original release but it is just a great addition as a fast three-minute blast of satanic wizardry.

Ragdoll (Deux) keeps up the tempo and is more of the punk leaning work, reminding me of Rocket From The Crypt as we now get some horns too. I say this as the song slows a bit and feeds your head a killer psych guitar solo. I love Wizard Wagon in all of its glam meets proto glory while Sunlit Wolves is a creepy acoustic track that is pretty much pure evil to the point that it makes Danzig wish he could pull this off when he throws one of these in his records. Listen to it and tell me there is not a QOTSA vibe going on too. Big Sur is just a gigantic way to close the record; an eight-plus minute proto heavy psych trip that if the riffs and Sabbath worship (with keys) don’t get you the acid will.

There is so much going on in the 40 or so minutes of Hunting Gatherers, but it is never too much and always somehow stays in complete control, even with all of those elements that are jam packed into the nine killer tracks. Glitter Wizard should get way more love, and isn’t that just the point of the Beneath The Desert Floor Series; to get these records back out there for the masses to enjoy. Glitter Wizard is the perfect band for this and the little bit I know about what comes next in the series and going to be just as killer. Get this. 9/10

Brodequin - Harbinger of Woe (Season Of Mist) [Mark Young]

In the accompanying press notes for Brodequin, they have returned to reclaim their throne as the most brutal band in all of death metal. In terms of achieving that mission, I would suggest that they have certainly delivered a brutal album, in which it feels as though it is designed to put the listener through a war of attrition. 

This is their 4th album, their first with a new drummer and new label and considering they (brothers Jamie and Mike Bailey) have been in the game since 1998 there is a 1st release energy to it as each song does exactly what you expect. Its ten songs start brutally and end brutally. There is no middle ground, no variance between them so much so that it is difficult to hear where one song ends, and another begins.

In terms of the review, it is a difficult one to complete. On one hand, I could be dismissive, especially as it is effectively a one note affair. I could make a ton of snarky remarks about this and send it on its way. Or I could dig deeper and see what I can find that makes this worth your time. 

In the first instance, let me say this: If you dug their music before this, then there is nothing here that will put you off. Going back to the quote above regarding the reclamation of their throne, well I would say they have done a sterling effort in achieving it. Here, melodic touches and subtle moments are for the birds. This is about smashing down walls and crushing skulls, bludgeoning all before them.

From the rapid-fire blitzkrieg of Diabolical Edict, the low register vocals of Jamie Bailey (bass) stay exactly there, effecting the rumble of cannon fire whilst Mike Bailey and Brennan Shackleford just batter guitar and drums, with some of the foot work on display from Brennan being top class. This is the case right through, Theresiana puts it foot down (on the throat) and doesn’t stop, BPM’s staying in the upper registers as it whips through. 

Of Pillars And Trees comes at you at a similar pace, resting only slightly to allow them to regroup and forge ahead. This goes back to my earlier comments about attack, this is it. Full speed ahead, no prisoners, no quarter. If I would have heard this at 15, it would have been life changing in the same way hearing Morbid Angel, Deicide, Napalm Death and other holders of mental BPMs did. Now, older but not wiser I can appreciate it for the feats of human endurance it takes to play like this, but with the amount of genre-stretching death metal that is being released this feels like it is a little bit one-note. 

Again, opinions are everything (or nothing, depending on if you agree with it) and there will be those who absolutely love this because it ticks all their boxes. And as I said before, it totally does in respect of being achieving the brutality they want. It’s just doesn’t do enough for me. 7/10

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Reviews: Achelous, Star Gate, Skags, Medusa's Wrath (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Achelous - Tower Of High Sorcery (No Remorse Records)

Greek high fantasy metal heroes Achelous returns with their third album Tower Of High Sorcery. Following on from Macedon and The Icewind Chronicles, Tower Of High Sorcery brings yet more epic heavy metal that is inspired by the Dragonlance series of books. As it gets going with Dragon Wings you'll be instantly pumping your fist in the air, the female choirs adding to the string laden atmosphere created by the synths.

It's heavy metal that is inspired by acts such as Blind Guardian, Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and any band that matches pace with power. Istar (Blood Red Sea) has a full vocal choir and mid-paced stomp with a cinematic Middle Eastern middle/solo section. It's a change of pace that highlights the compositional skills of Achelous, while other bands just double down on the classic metal gallops of track such as The Oath, Tower Of High Sorcery brings a wide palate to draw from, lilting acoustics that open the doomy title track give way to cavernous riffs and growls, cello opens Fortress Of Sorrow another anthemic number that has more delicious guitar solos.

It's all a bit too good really, I'm struggling to find anything wrong with this record. With some impassioned vocals that are highlighted on Into The Shadows as Chris Kappas duets with Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin. A rhythm section comprise dog band founder/bassist Chris Achelous and drummer Giannis Roussis that can move at high speed and take a more deliberate sedate pace too. Guitars from Haris Dinos and George Mavrommatis that are melodic but also crank out some muscular riffs, it's all very good indeed.

Add to that the layers of acoustics, synths, orchestrations (George Mavrommatis again), the excellent use of Anastasia Megalokonomou's vocals (Pagan Fire) and Achelous are all around the exact kind of band I love to listen to. Check out Tower Of High Sorcery if you're a fan of classic epic metal as you won't be disappointed. 9/10

Star Gate - Escaping The Illusion (Steel Gallery Records)

Sixth album from Thessaloniki melodic metal band Star Gate and all I can say is where have they been!? Merging bands such as Kamelot, Serenity and Symphony X it's an album that combines soaring melodies, anthemic songwriting and neoclassical/virtuoso performances. Formed by bassist Kostas Domenikiotis, he writes all the songs and co writes most of the lyrics alongside Helen Roumpi and new singer Manos Fatsis. 

So the conceptual storyline that runs through this record is the creation of their gifted founder and cornerstone, his skill shown off on the three bass solos that are included as extras. To stop him from descending into full Joey DeMaio mode though he also has a top quality band around him, Stergios Kourou providing the drums as a special guest, the percussive foil for Kostas' bass power. They establish a gallop on Hiding All The Tears that sets you up for what's to come, the keys of Sakis Bandis, swelling, crashing and bringing orchestration too (that violin at the beginning has to be keys). 

The influences are as I've mentioned above the more melodic metal bands, but ones that also bring prog to their sound, The Deepest Sea bringing the keyboard/guitar duels of Stratovarius, Anthimos Manti's guitar playing sufficiently widdly on the rockers while Lonely Queen has some hard rock choruses while the AOR of Life Is An Illusion brings some synthy Saga elements. Fatsis' voice is brilliant, I'm not sure if he's close to any of their other singers as I've only just discovered them with this record but I love his balance of Jeff Scott Soto, Russell Allen and Apollo Papathanasio. Delivering emotion on The Enemy Inside like Allen in his prime. 

Thessaloniki is one of my favourite cities and I'm gutted I've never heard of Star Gate before this, so I'm going back to check out the rest of their work on the basis of this sixth album on this impressive concept album. 8/10

Skags - Year 2200 (Self Released)

I can guarantee you love a lot about the Year 2200 in 2024. It's classic prog where the experiments are much more pronounced. From Athens Greece Skags' previous album Digital Cage Of A Cursed Generation got a good review from myself, even their attached PR says so! The debut record framed Skags as a pioneering alt prog rock band, unafraid of taking the path less travelled. 

So where do they go on their second? Well it's more of the same, experimental, bold musical journeys through a nightmarish conceptual album set in the future where "humanity grapples with extinction and embarks on interplanetary odysseys for survival" each chapter unfolds as a new part of the narrative concocted by drummer Christos (lyrics) and bassist/vocalist Sotirios (music), it's a psychedelic journey through space searching for new hope. 

That feeling of longing carried by the beautiful, ethereal vocal of Spyretta. There's a lot here that reminds me of a band such as Mostly Autumn, Magenta and the numerous Karnataka offshoots. Floydian explorations from Christina (keys) and Harris (guitar) are major parts of this intergalactic adventure. The first few tracks come from the classic prog template but on People On Mars they bring in Greek rapper Axer to spit some bars in their native language while Beacon comes back to the euphoric sounds, longing sounds of Coldplay while Epilogue slow burns with some introspection taken from an album like The Wall. 

Progressive music that adds additional elements to broaden the appeal. 8/10

Medusa’s Wrath – Pavor Exitium Mors (Self Released)

Formed in 2019 and with an EP released last year Athenian heavy metal band Medusa’s Wrath bring their debut album Pavor Exitium Mors just two years later. With a few changes in membership they are now: Petros Kalivas and Dimitris Dozis on guitar, Kristina Paftinou on bass, Theodoros Dimitriadis on drums and Giorgos Chrisanthidis on vocals and their music is tough USA styled heavy metal for fans of Virgin Steele, Manilla Road, Jag Panzer and they who shall not be named (IE). 

More down-tuned than European bands and with gruffer vocals too tracks such as A Day Of Peace chug along until the seismic solos that close it. They owe a few debts to NWOBHM too with some Priest influences on Shade Of The Night and Maiden on Annabelle where there’s some great bass galloping. Roughly translated the album title means Fear Destruction Death, so the darker sound reflects this title but they aren’t void of melodies, twin guitars used throughout. 

It’s simple stuff but if you’re a classic metal fan then Medusa’s Wrath will bring a lot of enjoyment. 7/10

Reviews: Aborted, Savage Oath, Bodyfarm, The Wizards (Reviews By Charlie Rogers, Matt Bladen, GC & Rich Piva)

Aborted - Vault Of Horrors (Nuclear Blast) [Charlie Rogers]

Belgium’s best known unborn baby botherers are back with their 12th album Vault Of Horrors - a 10 track, 41minute romp packed to the brim with blastbeats, viscera, and more guest vocalists than you can shake a severed head at. Clearly imbibing some of the modern deathcore landscape, I feel like their tour with Lorna Shore and Ingested back in the tail end of 2022 has left a permanent mark on their sound. 

Utilising less of the grindy, frantic riffs that arguably built the Aborted brand, and instead incorporating more chuggs, rhythmic focused riffs, and desolate sub drops. This is most notable in the track Brotherhood Of Sleep which features vocalist Johnny Ciardullo of Carcosa, and wouldn’t be out of place on any modern deathcore record. In fact, the whole record flirts with either side of the death metal and deathcore line, regularly crossing over to feature sections from both camps.

It’s always an interesting choice to see a band bring in guests for the recording, as the translation to the live setting can take some considerable co-ordination if the guest adds something that the band can’t provide themselves. When it’s a guitar solo, the resident shredmaster needs to learn what the guest contributed - not an impossible task. However, when it’s a vocalist, you’ve got a real challenge as the nature of mouth noises are so unique it’s the selling point to many bands in the first place. It’s one of the reasons Aborted’s Sven has provided his enviable throat talents to so many great projects over the years - he’s an absolute beast with a huge range and an instantly recognisable tonality. 

Vault Of Horrors has a guest vocalist on every single song, each chosen to add a unique texture to the tracks that no doubt the band thought would compliment Sven’s mighty roars. Some of them work really well in this regard, such as Oliver Rae Aleron of Archspire on the track The Shape Of Hate - his lightning fast barks punctuate the riffs and fit together perfectly, the track itself being fairly close to what Archspire sound like. Also Jason Evans of Ingested on Insect Politics - a track that’s criminally too short and definitely one of my favourites from the album. I’m not sold on some of the other guests’ styles however, and feel like they either distract from the track due to personal dislike of their tone, or not seeing the benefit that they bring to the track in the first place.

It’s a punchy record, with some serious groove moments coming from hooks that pull you right from the spine. I’d like to have heard more of the bass shine through, especially given it’s the last record with their exceptional bassist Stefano Franceschini (who’s left the band to focus on his PhD work). It’s also notable in Aborted’s back catalogue as one of the few albums to not feature any samples. Drummer Ken Bedene’s lightning fast playing is a staple that isn’t missing however, while guitarists Ian Jekelis and Daníel Konráðsson lay razor sharp melodic content down under Sven’s iconic roars. 

Is this a sign that Aborted are leaning away from pure death metal forever, or are just playing with what’s popular in the zeitgeist? Not being a fan of deathcore, I’m hoping it’s the latter, but as a long term fan of the band I’m still here and enjoying what they’ve served up. 8/10

Savage Oath - Divine Battle (Postmortem Apocalypse) [Matt Bladen]

The singer of Sumerlands and Pagan Altar (Brendan Radigan), the guitarist of Visigoth (Leeland Campana) and the bassist of Sentry/Manilla Road (Phil Ross) are all a part of this new epic metal project Savage Path. Ryan Mower adds session drums, as Carlos Llanas is the other guitar player who bring their skill to Divine Battle, an album 5 years in the making. 

It's packed with Battle Hymns that are tributes to those they have lost on this journey. There have been so many bands recently adopting this ‘epic metal’ sound but Visigoth and Sumerlands both did it brilliantly, as such it’s no wonder that Savage Oath is so good, add to that a member of the originators Manilla Road and the talent alone is enough to tell you how good this is going to be.

It's seven tracks of stunning epic metal, the vocal prowess of Brendan Radigan is incredible, he hits colossal highs on tracks such as Wing Of Vengeance and on Blood For The King, there’s more variation to his delivery but he always stays in that high register, similar to Eric Adams as the influence of Manowar, Manilla Road, Virgin Steele are all very important, the choirs from Paris Thibault on Blood For The King and Divine Battle bringing that cinematics. 

Phil Ross’ bass is used as the root of these songs, clean thumps that keeps the pace moving through tracks that all have pretty long run times. Smoke At Dawn is an interlude where Ross’ command of electronics and atmospherics comes into play. He doubles down on the riffs with Carlos Llanas, as classic metal, speed metal, doom metal all are thrown into this melting pot, Ryan Mower’s drumming furious and deft in equal measure. 

Madness Of The Crowd gets Side B going with more some Savatage theatricality and plenty of speed, Llanas and Ross setting up for some more blistering solos from Leeland Campana. Divine Battle took five years but I want a sequel right this minute. Fantastic epic metal! 9/10

Bodyfarm - Malicious Ecstasy (Edged Circle Productions) [GC]

Just reading the press release for this latest release by Dutch death metal band Bodyfarm, they say it’s a brand new ‘’full length’’ release, which isn’t really the case, as it consists of 4 new tracks with 5 live tracks tagged on for good measure? One of my least favourite things are live releases as they just seem like a bit of a lazy way to get a ‘’new’’ release into the world? But it is what it is, I guess?

It does all start out very promising with Retaliate, which is a glorious throw back to old school death metal, that’s got the cutting and precise guitars and immense drum work and the vocals wrap around everything and compliment the music perfectly and there are also some lovely guitar solos included but there is never really a drop in the pace and it’s a thrilling way to start, Pervitin carries the same style and sound and rages forwards, but on this song there is a slight change in pace and styles but it doesn’t affect the force of anything and it may actually help a little, there is definitely a more melodic feel to this song but it loses none of the directness it needs to make it presence felt. 

Onwards Doomsday of course doesn’t stray too far from what we have already heard and because what we have heard so far has been of such a high quality you don’t really mind that much and this is another high quality sounding death metal destroyer and the midway point where they introduce some real groove into the song is brilliantly effective and so simple you cant help but be impressed, Gates Of Malignancy is the last actual track on this release before the live section kicks in and they dial down the tempo to the slowest it has been so far for the beginning of the song and it is another melodic feeling song but with hints of doom added for dramatic effect and while I don’t dislike it, I do feel that it really stunts the momentum of the first 3 tracks and as this is the last song seems like an odd way to end, but like I said its not a bad song, just an odd choice!?

Now I suppose I have to get onto the live section of the release and see where this leaves us, an in all honesty the songs included are equally as good as the new songs and all sound razor sharp live, first track is Dreadlord and for my money this sounds like the best one here all the other songs Unbroken, Charlatan Messiah & The Dark Age show the same amount of decent song writing and live proficiency and all make for a decent listen but unfortunately The Swamp is a bit of a letdown as it just sounds like a bit of a mess, so overall the live stuff is good and all well done barring one track but I am still not sure that they should be tagged on the end and then qualify what is basically an EP release as a full length!!?

Based on what I heard from the first 4 tracks Malicious Ecstasy was a great listen, and I would have been very happy if this had 5 more actual new songs on it and my score would probably have been higher if there was but, there wasn’t so, it isn’t! There is no doubting the standard of musicianship and song writing was strong, and I enjoyed it all a lot and look forward to listening to Bodyfarm more in the future. 7/10

The Wizards - The Exit Garden (High Roller Records) [Rich Piva]

Spanish band The Wizards are a kick ass straight up metal band who walk the walk and talk the talk. Thinks 70s/early 80s metal love, Maiden, Priest, and the other NWOBHM bands are all over their new record, The Exit Garden, and I am certainly here for it. There are elements of psych on The Exit Garden too, reminding me a bit of Trouble during the Rick Rubin years. Reminding me I said, nothing touches those two albums, but you hear some of it across the eight tracks on this excellent effort.

The title track just rips your face off. It is heavy, catchy, and packed full of killer guitar work, and just enough of Trouble’s self-titled debut sprinkled in. Early Priest vibes shine through on Full Moon In Scorpio, but subtract the Metal God’s vocals for the unique and powerful stylings of Ian Mason, who can really belt it out. The guitar work is nothing to sneeze at either. Thrash riffs rule on Oniros and check out that galloping bass line. Heavy early Metallica worship musically but with a unique twist The Wizards bring to the ritual. 

The band rips it up on trad/classic metal tracks like Holy Mountain Mind and Equinox Of Fire with the axe work particularly standing out on these tracks. Questions starts mellow with just a guitar and voice until the track kicks in and the guitar work gets you going down the path of a nice proto style metal ripper. Crawling Nights slows it down but never loses any of its metal shine, especially when the ace picks up and you get some nice Maiden worship, while Dawn Of Another Life closes us out with a piano driven metal ballad which is an interest change of pace to close the record out.

The Wizards brand of metal will be very easily consumed by the Priest/Maiden/NWOBHM crowd, and add that tiny bit of heavy psych (it is small but it is there) and this should cross over to the stoner rock fans as well. I love the vocals and the guitar work is top notch. Regardless of who I think will like this, The Exit Garden rocks, so throw up your horns and get ready to rock out. 7/10

Tuesday 19 March 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Cardiff Heat #3 Interview With Digital Resistance By Paul Hutchings

Interview with Digital Resistance – Heat 3, M2TM, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 23rd March 2024

Thanks for taking the time to respond to our questions.

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

Ana Kee: vocals

Psy: guitar

Si: drums

Wolf: bass, backing vocals

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

The band is based in Cardiff and started about 6 years ago, but its present line up has played together since 2022.

3. Describe your music in five words.

Fire, Groove, Searing, Revolutionary, Eclectic

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

Metal to the Masses is a great opportunity for bands to meet other bands and share the music with a like-minded audience. It’s also held at a great venue (Fuel), it was a great experience last year, and we are hoping for more of the same.

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

It was an adrenaline rush last year! We loved sharing our sounds to the crowd, the atmosphere was great and friendly amongst all the bands.

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

Ana Kee: Yes, but too long ago for me to remember.

Si: I haven’t but it looks awesome.

Psy: Never had the pleasure although it is held close to where I grew up.

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

More writing and recording! We have another 5 tracks in the works for our second album release.

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

AK: Energy!

Si: Heavy grooves

Psy: Excitement! Screaming guitars, drums and vox.

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

Si: We’re quite different so not expecting much. Just to enjoy the event and contribute to a great night.

Psy: Yeah, no expectations really, just a great chance to play to a real metal crowd and to share our art with you all.

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!

Streaming links to our EP: https://earache.lnk.to/DigitalPanopticon
All social media links: https://linktr.ee/digitalresistance