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Sunday, 20 July 2014

World Of Metal 13: Empty Yard Experiment, Nothgard, Gross Reality

Empty Yard Experiment: Kallisti (Self Released)

Dubai is not the usual place you would think of when you think of progressive/alternative rock but much like Orphaned Land, Empty Yard Experiment bring the spirit of bands like Pink Floyd, Tool and King Crimson from the heart of Middle East. The music is emotive and haunting much like their name suggest. The album is split between full songs with segues in the middle to help create the atmosphere that this type of music needs. Sunyata starts things with piano and strings building into the heavy guitar opening of Greenflash which kicks into double kick drums and some heavy filled guitars and ominous bass-lines that are the staple of Tool as is the rhythmic middle section that erupts into the heavy final part. With two guitarists a bassist, drummer and a keyboardist the band have a big sound meaning that their songs are heavy, powerful and atmospheric. The keys of Gorgin Asadi come into play on segue Red with its electronic synths that lead into the instrumental The Blue Eyes Of The Dog which has a real Pink Floyd vibe to it with sterling guitar work from Mehdi Gr and Bojan Preradovic who also provides the vocals on the tracks that call for them, he has a Maynard-like grunge howl which he uses to great effect on Entropy which features a driving bassline from Kaveh Kashani and some great percussive flourishes from Josh Saldanha as well as Untitled which is a progressive acoustic track with some Middle Eastern influences throughout. You can't really pick out a best track on this album as it more about the whole album than individual tracks much liek the work of Anathema. A good album but a sound that has been done, still if you want an eclectic, musical adventure from a band that are not following the trend set out by their geographical location then you can do much worse than seek out Empty Yard Experiment. 7/10

Nothgard: Age Of Pandora (Trollzorn Records)

Nothgard are melodic death metal band from Germany Age Of Pandora is their second album and it puts them in the great position of being able to expand their sound to encompass more sounds, with three guitarists and some massive orchestral pieces the band have a huge sound and as the Hans Zimmer-like intro Of Light And Shadow starts off creating a mood that build with it's cinematic feel its then that the full pelt metal kicks in with all four guitars kicking in to the super speed Bodomesque riffage. Skaal, bassist Vik S and guitarist Daniel K provide the rhythms. With K merging seamlessly with front man Dorn R Crey on the leads of which there are many with dual guitar attacks and face melting solos throughout all anchored by the lightning fast blast beats of D. Ziegler who rives things along at a rapid pace. The band are very Bodom-like with death vocals coming from Crey who sounds a lot like Alexi Lahio and with the melodic death metal they play the similarities are hard to miss especially on the slower songs like Black Witch Venture which ahs a more clean delivery but is prime Are You Dead Yet. It's not only Bodom though there are elements of the Gothenburg scene too but for the most part it is Bodom that overrides everything and yet that is no bad thing as the band do what they do very well. This is powerful, technical melodic death metal with a lot of symphonic elements to flesh out their sound. the lyrics are great focussing on true life topics that work well over the excellent musical backing. Yes if you like COB then you will lap up this album, there is enough similarities to bring you in but also enough differences to make Nothgard unique. So on their second album these Germans have created a great album with songs like the awesome final three songs Wings Of DawnMossback Children and the finale No One Holds The Crown they are ready to take on the world!! 7/10 

Gross Reality: Overthrow (Self Released)

America is the heartland of thrash metal and in the early nineties Gross Reality were one of the hundreds of Thrash bands that made their way across the country inciting circle pits and then dissolved however with the thrash renaissance in around 2009-10 Gross Reality came back to thrash again and thrash hard and heavy they do. With a sound that harks back to early Slayer, Kreator and Exodus they have lighting riffs, hollered vocals from Daniel Powell who assumes the Arya position of Bassist and Singer. The songs come thick and fast with speedy riffs from the two guitarists Roland Arthur and Jason Wheeler who also have the explosive soloing of King and Hanneman. Yes the band are treading over old ground but they do it well with some metal thrashing mad tunes like opener Worthless Humans, Generation 36 and the final title track Overthrow that are the longer more complex songs on the record that show that the band can expand their sound and write longer more technical songs. The band are no strangers to short sharp shocks either mind with I'm AbsentHaunting The Waters, the very Slayer sounding Human Resign all exploding from the speakers and kicking you in the teeth in under 3 minutes each. No it ain't big and it ain't clever but it is honest a band taking a second shot with some super speed riffs that will get the pits ferocious and will bring a smile to even the most hardcore Slayer fan. 7/10

Friday, 18 July 2014

Reviews: Judas Priest, Ted Nugent, Grave Digger, Demonic Resurrection (Bumper Review By Paul)

Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls (Epic/Colombia)

So a couple of years after the Epitaph finale, here is the return of the Metal Gods with their latest release, Redeemer Of Souls. Priest is of course comprised of living legends, led by one of metal’s true greats in the shape of the mighty Rob Halford. Their style has always been straight forward balls out heavy metal. They make no bones about it. This is what they do and if you don’t like it then you can fuck off.
I’ve always thought Priest were massively underrated in the UK until very recently; certainly for many years they appeared much more appreciated in the States for a long time. With Redeemer Of Souls, the Priest return to the quality of their reunion album, Angel Of Retribution, which was unbelievably released nine years ago? This of course is the first release to feature new guitarist Richie Faulkner and he has clearly given the band a new lease of life. Opener Dragonaut kicks off with a killer riff before crashing into its stride like a charging bull elephant. “Welcome to my word of steel” snarls Halford. Solos snake all over the place, Halford’s voice sounds excellent with his trademark operatic levels and harmonies on the chorus whilst the dual guitars of Faulkner and Glenn Tipton duel away in their customary style. Similar to old school Iron Maiden, the twin axe attack has long been the Priest trademark. Solid stuff with enough hooks to be memorable. The tempo continues with the title track which comes next; similar format, verse followed by chorus with driving bass and drums courtesy of Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis and the double guitar work of Faulkner and Tipton complementing Halford’s superb delivery. 

This is a 13 track album and as with many Priest albums, there is a little bit of filler included. Bloody hell, these guys are mainly in their late 60s so the fact that they are still delivering the goods (sorry!) is most impressive. Halls Of Valhalla isn't my favourite track on the album but the thing with Priest is that they are just masters of the metal riff. This track races along with aplomb and Halford proves that he can still hit the high notes. Solos are dripping through this album, with Faulkner and Tipton delivering killer efforts. Sword Of Damocles follows with thundering drumming but a slight variation in tempo, certainly more Maiden in delivery and a demonstration of their similar style. A sing-a-long chorus with a slower pace, Halford’s delivery is very similar to Mr Dickinson’s. No bad thing in my book. The second half of the album is, to my mind, a selection of traditional Judas Priest heavy metal. Down In Flames has the British Steel era feel about it, whilst Hell And Back would have slotted nicely into the Nostradamus opus released a few years ago. Meanwhile there is a very definite 80s feel to Cold Blooded with Halford providing his unique vocal style to strong effect whilst once again the dual fretwork is solid. Metaliser opens with the classic Halford scream and is a real headbanger of a track, galloping along, hooks reminiscent of the classic tunes from the Painkiller album. It sits nicely alongside Nightcrawler and Jawbreaker. The final tracks maintain a high standard, with Cross Fire the pick before the Beginning Of The End, a softer, introspective song closes the album. It isn’t going to set the world on fire but it is a rather tasty slab of metal from one of the old school masters. A new Priest album is always a welcome sound. Now let’s have a headline set at BOA 2015. That would be sweet. 7/10

Ted Nugent – Shut Up And Jam (Frontiers)

The motor city madman with the political views that would make Nigel Farage blush delivers his 14th album Shut Up And Jam to the unsuspecting rock world and it’s a bit of a stormer. I've had to set aside all of my views about Uncle Ted’s politics to review this piece of work so please don’t for one minute think I agree with any of his agenda. However, having grown up on a diet of the Detroit motor mouth thanks to Brett Perry exposing me to The Amboy Dukes, I have to admit that I've always had a soft spot for his musical ability. For me he is one of THE greatest guitarists to ever come out of the States. His earlier solo stuff like Free For AllWeekend WarriorsCatch Scratch Fever and Intensities In Ten Cities are all dripping with sublime guitar work and some top quality tunes (and like most rock in the 70s it was also dripping with misogynistic lyrics before you say it). His signature Gibson Byrdland provided solos that ripped you in half and who can forget the lengthy holding of the note at the start of Great White Buffalo? So what about his latest release? Well, Shut Up And Jam opens with the rock n’ roll driven title track, with the Nuge’s trademark vocals instantly recognisable and the licks flying around like a swarm of vicious mosquitoes. Nugent has combined with long time collaborators bassist Greg Smith and drummer Mick Brown along with the welcome return of the legendary Derek St Holmes on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Fear Itself is a storming composition, with a blinding riff and catchy chorus. Although these lyrics are never going to win an award for depth, the Nuge writes to suit his style. A catchy hook on the chorus beefs the track up even more. Mr St Holmes takes lead vocal duty on Everything Matters, a bluesy number which has some really delicate guitar playing. St Holmes was of course, a staple part of the Nugent band for many years and supplied the vocals on a number of Nugent’s more popular tracks. He was also the basis upon which the writers developed the name David St Hubbins in Spinal Tap. 

She’s Gone features a guest vocal from Sammy Hagar whose voice fits the track superbly, with some ridiculous vocal interplay and another blistering track. This is followed by a mellower track, Never Stop Believing which kicks off with driving riffs, heartfelt soloing and then some of the Nuge’s most honest lyrics. A lovely song which focuses very much on Uncle Ted’s love of life, including homage to Martin Luther King. The album also has a bluesy version at the end which is quite stunning. Normal service is quickly resumed with I Still Believe, all about Nuge’s love of America and his patriotism is unwavering. As for the track, it clips along, tambourines and all whilst the Nuge’s guitar work crawls all over it like ants on jam. The next track is just brilliant. “Something smells good” says Uncle Ted before launching into I Love My BBQ. If you are a vegetarian tune out now! This is a tribute to the outdoor art of grilling. “Tofu just might kill you, a tossed salad makes you weak, I like to kill ‘em and grill ‘em, protein’s what we seek”. Hilarious stuff and it gets better. “Well the animals, they got rights, next to the mashed potato”. Throttledown does exactly what you’d expect from the title, a balls out instrumental which allows the entire band to showcase how tight they are. Whilst the focus is always on Nugent, his backing band really kick out the jams on this track. I don’t know how they recorded this album but I wouldn't be surprised if it was very much delivered in a few hits and in a group sound. Do-Rags and A.45 is a pulsing tune, with huge helpings of Dog Eat Dog from yesteryear. Ted’s usual vocal delivery with some excellent screaming vibrates through this one before the band launch into Screaming Eagles, another high paced track which races along. Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead has been kicking around in Ted’s repertoire for several years but is a fitting penultimate track with riffs and hooks galore. It is good stuff. I appreciate that Ted Nugent is a Marmite character. I don’t agree with his political views although I think he gets a worse press because of his giant gob. Ignoring that, this is an album which has some quite brilliant music and guitar playing of the highest quality. This is a return to form of one of rock’s most colourful characters. 9/10

Grave Digger – Return Of The Reaper (Napalm Records)

German power metal outfit Grave Digger have been around in various forms since 1980. Part of the early German metal movement, they have experienced many different line-ups and have an extensive back catalogue. Their debut album, Heavy Metal Breakdown is regarded as a bit of a metal classic. Return of the Reaper is their 14th album. I have to admit that, whilst I knew who they were, I would not have been familiar with much of their work. Opening with Return Of The Reaper, an intro track, the band then get the temperature boiling extremely quickly with Hell Funeral which has powerful drumming and some scorching riffs. However, if you are unfamiliar with this band the vocal style is either going to tick your box or get right on your nerves. I have to admit I found Chris Boltendahl’s delivery pretty poor. The guy just can’t sing. Power Play magazine recently referred to it as ‘unique’. That is being generous. Unfortunately the vocals took much of the focus away from the rest of the band’s playing. War God is another blistering paced track, huge riffs and almost blast beat drumming . Alex Ritt, the current guitarist is some player, cranking out solos at will, whilst the rhythm section of Jens Becker (bass) and drummer Stefan Arnold combine incredibly tightly. The musicianship is power metal at its best and this is a country that churns out power metal bands by the bucket load. The lyrics are exactly what you’d expect from this type of band; cue anthemic chanting and choruses, along with some abysmal rhyming. Using four lines which rhyme Agony, Mortality, Brutality and Tragedy is quite special. Tattooed Rider has borrowed the intro to Turbo Lover by Judas Priest, swirling keys washing over the driving guitars and stomping drive. This track really highlights the ‘uniqueness’ of Boltendahl’s voice, which is really gruff and tuneless. However, this band has clearly got a massive fan base so it must appeal to many.

Resurrection Day opens in familiar fashion, riffs galore with Ritt soloing furiously as the band gallop along. However, any band that uses the words ‘nasty smell’ in their lyrics loses points with me; “Shadows from a wasted land, Human rights facing end, wind carries a nasty smell, Evils breed ride straight out of hell”. Okay. Season Of The Witch is a stomper of a track, slower and bound to induce mass clap-a-longs. The lyrics are once again total gibberish, and given some of the shit that I listen to that is saying something; However, if you take this out of the equation then this is a quite brilliant metal track. Sing-a-long choruses, solos dripping out of every pore and a lovely change in tempo in the middle which has some of the worst singing I've ever heard. It would be brilliant in the sun at BOA with a beer in hand and 10,000 tone deaf metal heads singing along! The lyrics get even more ridiculous in Road Rage Killer, which as you will expect is a 100mph blaster. My favourite lyrics since Hail And Kill include the lines “On the road to Babylon, far away from Avalon, Walls can’t stop me, I’m on the prowl, Brought a couple to death, intoxicated by crystal meth”. Whooaa! What the actual fuck?? Despite all my sniggering at the classic metal lyrics I actually really enjoyed this album. It has all the Germanic influences you’d expect, with Helloween and Accept particularly evident. Grave Desecrator has early Udo all over it whilst Satan’s Host is Accept circa 1985. I won’t comment on the lyrical magic here apart from to tease you with another classic line, “Pray for mercy, I am your whip, Obey my prayer, suck my dick”. The obligatory power ballad Nothing To Believe which closes the end of the album allows Hans Peter Katzenburg to show his skills on the keyboard but despite that it is truly toe-curlingly awful. Grave Digger has obviously established a mark in the metal world and are deeply revered in some sections. This album isn’t dreadful by a long way and if you can accept the dreadful lyrics and vocal style then it may well float your boat. Mine is still aground. 6/10

Demonic Resurrection – The Demon King (Candlelight Records)

No messing about with Mumbai’s finest exponents of blackened death metal. A blood curdling roar of “the king is dead” opens their fourth album with The Assassination. This is blast beat heaven from the off with the frenetic pace that we’ve come to expect. Virendra Kaith’s technical drumming is quite breath taking throughout the entire album. The pace slows ever so slightly to allow some of the keyboard elements that have become essential to the metal genre; think Dimmu Borgir as just one example. Second track Facing The Faceless continues the relentless pace with Sahil ‘Demonstealer’ Makhija’s death growls ripping combining with the Trivium type harmonies. Indeed, it is the clean vocals that I really like in this band as they are of top quality. It has been four years since The Return To Darkness, an album that had synth heavy intros. No such luck this time, with each track hitting the ground at 110mph. New guitarist Nishith Hegde has a massive job in filling the strings of former guitarist Daniel Rego, who had a hand in the compositions on this release. The Promise Of Never is a more complex track, layered and with several opportunities for the clean vocals to shine through; Hegdge (from another band Albatross) delivering some tidy soloing whilst the synths of Mephisto finally get the opportunity to add some depth. Title track The Demon King is perhaps the most groove-laden of the tracks, opening with a heavy riff and spoken word before the blast beats kick in. The track still moves at a huge pace and is sure to open up the pits wherever it is played. Operatic synths swoop in and out of the track whilst Demonstealer’s vocals are pure evil. The rhythm section, completed by newest band member Ashwin Shriya power along as the track takes a deep breath, slowing to allow time for recovery as Hegde’s solo takes over and builds the momentum once more. Shattered Equilibrium could be the album’s masterpiece. Haunting keyboards provide an ethereal atmosphere which cascade over the carnage of the black metal assault underneath. This track remains true to the Demonic Resurrection death metal roots but demonstrates that the band, now in their 14th year have also progressed with real evolution in their writing. Although the blast beats can be a little trying at times, you have to admire the pure power and ability of this band and there is some beautiful elements of delicate technical playing evident in penultimate track Even Gods Do Fall. After witnessing their first UK show at BOA two years ago, it’s a shame that they aren't playing there again this year as they slay live. They are supporting Onslaught on their UK tour so if you get the chance check them out. Indian death metal is alive and kicking you in the knackers. A storming follow-up to The Return To Darkness and worthy of every minute you dedicate to listening to it. 8/10

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Reviews: (Hed)Pe, The Trews, Kaine

(Hed) P.E. - Evolution (Pavement Entertainment)

Ever since their debut EP Church Of Realities way back in 1995 Huntington Beach's own rock veterans (Hed) Planet Earth (or Planetary Evolution if you prefer) have been steadily pumping out their somewhat standard blend of rap, punk rock and metal with the odd peppering of funk and reggae influences occasionally thrown in for good measure. If you're a fan then you probably know what to expect from each release. But given the title of this their ninth studio long player you could be forgiven for expecting a change to their usual formula. So is that what we get here? Not exactly. While the first half of the album (especially the opening double of No Turning Back and Lost In Babylon is full of your typical (Hed) fare things take a sharp turn for the more mellow on the second half, especially from the interlude/segue track nine The Higher Crown and into the final three tracks Nowhere2Go, Let It Burn and Hold On where I guess the Evolution begins. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with a more mellow sound and indeed the band are certainly no strangers to this (see The Meadow (Special Like You) from probably their best known album Broke) but their previous forays into this area had, for me anyway, better songs. Frankly I find those last three songs to be a big let-down and almost do the rest of the album an injustice if those are what sticks in your head after listening to the whole thing. The final track Hold On in particular sounds to me like a studio out-take for some reason. That said there is definitely some good on this album - apart from the aforementioned opening two songs the lead single One More Body is a good choice to promote the album featuring Jared's semi-ragga style vocals (not quite Benji Webbe standard but I digress!) coupled with a strong chorus and the fourth track No Tomorrow is more or less standard (Hed) formula to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if this was chosen as the second single somewhere down the line. Lyrically also Jared appears to have dropped the many references to the Truth Movement that were so prevalent on the previous two albums, which I personally feel is to the benefit of his social commentary. Overall I found this to be kind of a patchy record that starts fairly strong but for me drops off badly towards it's end. Given that the early press releases trumpeted this albums alleged heaviness (some of which is on display admittedly, albeit the overall pace of the album as a whole is far, far slower than the sometimes frantic pace of it's predecessors which for a band who identify themselves as a punk rock band feels almost like the anti-thesis of that particular ideal when compared to their previous output but I digress again) I would personally consider this album to be more of a disappointing sideways step than a true Evolution. 5/10

The Trews: S/T (Self-Released/Fan Funded)

Canadians The Trews are one of my favourite bands and quite frankly the band I am at my most hipster with. Not many people in the UK know about them and I'm fine with that. I think they are great equally rock but with big chart aims, they write songs that sit in the same league as The Foo Fighters the draw from a classic rock legacy but add a modern twist with intelligent lyricism, humour and also realism to their songs. This last part was at its most evident on their sparse, melancholic previous release Hope And Ruin which was an album full of regret but also as the title suggests hope, the band seemed to shake themselves off a little on their EP ....Thank You And I'm Sorry which waxed lyrical about The Power Of Positive Drinking and made sure the band found their smile again (one for wrestling fans there). Anyway what about their fan funded self titled fifth album? Well firstly a self titled album is usually sign of a reinvention or a rejuvenation of a band and this is true of The Trews they sound a lot like they did on their first two albums, cranking out radio rock with fire in their belly and passion in their hearts! Ride In The Wake has a cracking riff to kick things off it also has a huge sing along rock chord chorus that is made to fill stadiums. Its a great song to start the album as it sets the tone especially with John Angus MacDonald's killer lead guitar which accompanies his Colin's huge voice perfectly. Age Of Miracles is a pop song that features one of The Trews' hallmarks which is lots of acoustics and some Celtic flavour before the love lorn ballad of Permanent Love slows things down so Sean Dalton can show off his drumming acumen. Yes this is the sound of a band revitalised and as the R.E.M sounding The Sentimentalist, the country influenced style 65 Roses on which Colin MacDonald shows off his soul, the reverberated electronic pulse of What's Fair Is Fair a theme that continues on Where There's Love which has a lot of Foo Fighters to it with the electric and acoustic guitars merging and Jack Syperek's driving bass as well as The Beatles-like Living The Dream which ends with a string quartet in true Fab Four style before ending with the clarion call of Under The Sun. The Trews is the culmination of the band's career so far; the stadium-size hard rock of their early years through the more modern influences of their latter period all rolled together with their love of acoustic instrumentation, see In The Morning (the bands first ever duet, featuring singer songwriter Serena Ryder). All these musical elements are added to the intelligent and at times emotional lyricism, the melodic and excellent song writing as well as a shed load of integrity, honesty and passion to create an album that pushes itself up to the top of the bands discography. If you are curious about The Trews start with this album, then work your way through their back catalogue, I guarantee you will find something! 9/10

Kaine: The Waystone (Self Released)

The NWOBHM is possibly the biggest movement in metal music as it had the ethos of punk but with better musicianship, bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and yes even Def Leppard have gone on to bigger and better things but the movement carries on however there are few British bands flying the flag for leather trousers and white sneakers metal. Most of the bands hail from the Scandinavian countries as well as Canada but Kaine are British based noise merchants that look to bring the twin guitar attack back to our shores. As the first riff of Iron Lady kicks off it immediately transports you back to 80's and the reign of the real Iron Lady with it's dual guitars from Anthony Murch (Lead), Rage Sadler (Rhythm) who also provides the vocals pitched somewhere between Dickinson's mid range and the shouted delivery of Dave Mustaine; especially on The New Wave. They have smashing drum fills and rhythms from Chris MacKinnon and big bold bass licks (and even a bass solo!) from bass man extraordinaire Dan Mailer who comes from the 'Arry Harris school of bass playing hard, fast and like a lead player. Sadler and Murch's guitars are great rich with riffs and solos to get your fist pumping and heads banging. Kaine have been around since 2009 and The Waystone is their second album and as such it is a very professional affair with lots of great performances, very good songs; especially Solidarity which is a slow burning track with lots of light and shade, the progressive epic This Soul Exchange which takes it's cues from Metallica as well as Entropy (Unrelenting Chaos) an instrumental is always a key feature of any great album (see Powerslave/ Ride The Lightning for reference). Yes Kaine are on a crusade to bring back the sound of the NWOBHM which they do on The Waystone but they are not a one trick pony, the manage to merge thrash and traditional British metal and on the 9 tracks of this album they convince you that it's not just the Scandinavians that can do retro trad metal we Brits do a fine job of it too!! 8/10

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Reviews: Septicflesh, Divine Chaos, Fire Red Empress

Septicflesh: Titan (Seasons Of Mist)

Greek symphonic death metal legends Septicflesh (formerly Septic Flesh) have once again released another heavyweight symphonic metal album full of their traditional orchestral metal flair. The blast beats of Fotis Benardo kick off things in true to form style with the guitars of Christos Antoniou and Sotiris Anunnaki V driving things with their death/black metal aggressive speed riffing that brings to mind Dimmu Borgir and when the vocals of bassist Seth Siro Anton start to growl like a demon you get more of a sense that the band are very Dimmu-like. What sets them apart from a lot of the bands of their ilk, is that much like their Norwegian counterparts they have managed to incorporate orchestrations seamlessly over the top of their death metal assault. This album is relentless with the blast beats coming thick and fast the guitars just shredding like hell and the mix of guttural vocals and haunting clean vocals work well on Burn which slows in the middle for a huge guitar solo bolstered by strings. Like I said with many other bands this oppressive rampaging black metal could get a little tiring but with the perfectly executed orchestrations and symphonic elements it means that much like tour mates Fleshgod Apocalypse, Septicflesh hold your attention with the string ensembles, choirs and general cinematic feel of each track, despite doing this for longer than the italian whippersanppers! This much like countrymen Rotting Christ is the heavy side of Greek metal, it is anti-religion, anti-politics and generally angry and violently music that is bolstered by its symphonic elements. This is an album to be played on a stereo very loudly, or indeed in a live arena, the soundtrack to a (probably Sci-Fi) film yet to be made and with the industrial crush of Dogma, or the doom-like Prometheus (which is as jarring as the film of the same name) Great stuff from Septicflesh, a band for whom all this is all par for the course actually. 8/10 

Divine Chaos: A New Dawn In The Age Of War (Evil EyE records)

Now some death/thrash metal from deepest, darkest...Berkshire, yes with swirling maelstrom riffs, battery drumming and some screamed death vocals, Divine Chaos explode onto the scene with an album full of technically proficient, neck snapping, hair whipping death metal with a lot of old school thrash metal of Testament, Exodus and Death thrown in for good measure which mix together to create another entry into the modern wave of melodic death metal. With songs about war, politics and violence this is the standard death/thrash fodder lyrically, but all delivered with a snarling venom from Benny who is backed by the guitars of Gilmour and Chris O'Toole who are awesome with riff after riff, solo after solo trying to melt your face off with their six string assault. This is all while Tom Baker (no not that one) and James Stewart (no not that one) have the rhythm section to destroy buildings with, see Shadow Of God which is fuelled by hatred and blast beats. this album is relentless with furious labs of melodic death hitting you at every turn until Ignorance Everlasting sets out with a clean melodic lead intro before getting heavier and the main riff kicks in with more pit inciting metal. This is a hell of a record full of the kind of metal Testament, Dark Angel and Kreator play with punishing riffs, snarling vocals and some great songs that are brutal, heavy, fast and most of all technically perfect. The proficiency is through the roof with all the band members showing their chops on the final track Perpetual War Politics which is fast and furious before breaking down into an acoustic middle section that continues until the final moments all very Bloodshot Dawn indeed! A great debut from this British metal band who should rip apart a venue near you soon!! 8/10      

Fire Red Empress: Paint Me The Devil (Self Release)

Ooh this is a bit tasty!! The initial words I said as the riff for Left Unspoken kicked in with a vengeance bringing some big American stoner riffs, a heaving slab of Southern rock, some modern melody and a pinch of British punk. Imagine the Royal Republic & Black Stone Cherry playing with the Black Spiders and you wouldn't be far off. There are dual muscular guitars from Carl and Paul Gethin, the driving bass of Ben Picken, the drums of Luke Middleton keep you fist pumping and Nik Taylor-Stoakes' (formerly of Vallenbrosa) great ragged vocals. For a band that have not been around long they have a serious amount of talent, big ballsy rock riffs permeate the three tracks and gives you an instant kick of excitement with their hard rocking riffs. On these three tracks Fire Red Empress give you everything with Left Unspoken and the title track doing the best in the rockier stakes, full of big guitar riffs that Mastodon and indeed the Black Spiders bring to the table. Before Behind The Veil going all Soundgarden with its long slow grinding guitar and almost psychedelic trippy vibe with its huge throbbing guitars. A nice taster for (hopefully!) their debut album, more please gentlemen!! 8/10

A View From A Field: British Summer Time Festival Hyde Park (Review By Paul)

Black Sabbath Time – Hyde Park

Following their storming shows at the tail end of 2013 the announcement that Sabbath, the godfathers of metal would be concluding their world tour as part of the British Summer Time event at Hyde Park sounded pretty tasty. When the supporting bill was also released at the same time, it made a very tempting menu indeed and so on a dull overcast morning in South Wales that Matt and I set off on the First Great Western chuffer to London Paddington where we would later rendezvous with some of our metal brothers.
Arriving in London to be greeted by blue skies and scorching temperatures, the decision to wear shorts and t-shirts combined with lashing of sun cream and the obligatory cold cider to keep the inner temperature regulated proved to be a smashing one and we headed for Hyde Park to join the masses waiting for the gates to open. Having found shade for a very welcome 40 minutes under one of the massive oaks near the North entrance, we met up with Ben and Sharon before heading into the arena. As one would expect, food and drink were London prices (well, we were in London!) and the merchandise was the usual £25 for a t-shirt. We grabbed a cooling brew and, joined by James and Russell, headed for a suitable vantage point to catch the opening band on the main stage. *Here we must add our apologies to Buffalo Summer – we did want to catch you but it was too bloody hot to head indoors; we will catch you at Hard Rock Hell – honest!)

Soulfly

First up on the main stage – Soulfly. Primed to get proceedings off to a heavy start, Max Cavalera and his troops shattered the early afternoon tranquillity with a blistering set of classic Soulfly and Sepultura tracks in their short but brutal set. Despite having a nine album back catalogue, Max and the boys chose well and ensured that their brief was fulfilled in full. Opening with Prophecy, the band cantered along with early afternoon pits opening up at the front of the stage. Max Cavalera is never going to win awards for the most complex lyricist or for hugely structured intricate time changes but he knows what he is good at and boy does he do it well. Straight forward riffs combined with their South American heritage, machine gun drumming and guttural lyrics. Straight into Back To The Primitive which had me bouncing around with glee, and then Tribe from Soulfly which maintained the momentum. Although the sound was slightly disrupted by the afternoon breeze (most welcome in 26° heat) Cavalera and long serving guitarist Marco Rizzo continued to deliver a crushing guitar sound, with Rizzo shouldering the lead duties and combining with Tony Campos on bass on several occasions when Max decided to concentrate purely on vocals. Making up the quartet, Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son on drums; demonstrating once more the huge musical gene that runs through La Familia Cavalera. Unsurprisingly given the heritage, a large slab of Sepultura was served up, with Arise, Dead Embryonic Cells and then a huge Roots Bloody Roots with a guest appearance from Igor Cavalera, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt. This produced the expected reaction with more pits opening up and a surprising number of old school Sepultura fans singing along to every word. Closing their short set with JumpdaFuckUp/ Eye For An Eye, Soulfly did exactly what was required. Short but oh so sweet and everyone who made the effort were rewarding by an excellent opening set. 8/10

Motorhead

With the crowd suitably warmed up from the Soulfly set, it was the legendary Motorhead who were next up on the main stage. The audience visibly swelled for the return to the UK stage of Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey. Much has been documented about Lemmy’s health problems over the past year, with a number of below par performances followed by their European tour cancellation. It was clear from reading the media reports that Lemmy had been pretty unwell; no-one has a defibrillator fitted lightly. So I’m sure that alongside the massive number of ‘Head fans, there were a number of curious on-lookers who were interested to see how well the great man’s recovery had been. Well, I am pleased to say that reports of the man’s demise have been massively exaggerated. A huge roar greeted Motorhead as they took to the stage. “We are Motorhead … and we play rock n’ roll” roared Lemmy as they blasted out of the traps with Damage Case. Phil Campbell, now a 30 year veteran for the band sported his fine Welsh flag guitar, peeling out the riffs and soloing like it was his last gig. Seriously, this guy is one of the finest guitar players in the business, criminally underrated in my opinion. With such a huge amount of great songs it must be a real bitch to select eight or nine songs to fill 45 minutes but as is usual, they mixed it up with old classics and a newie. Stay Clean was followed by a welcome Over The Top from Bomber before the outstanding Lost Woman Blues from Aftershock demonstrated the bluesy side of the band.  Plenty of banter from Lemmy and Phil during the set including their disgust at the lack of initial roaring from the crowd which soon changed. Phil in particular getting in the expected jib at the English football team as they introduced Going To Brazil. Killed By Death followed, with a quite unexpected and unusual guest appearance by Whitfield Craine from Ugly Kid Joe on vocals, (Yeah, I had to look him up too) [Would have been better had they played Born To Raise Hell with him but nevermind. Matt]. Inevitably the real big hitters concluded the set, Ace Of Spades inducing mass sing-a-longs before Mikey Dee hammered the opening to Overkill, possibly the best closing track of all time. At the end of the set the band looked deservedly pleased that their UK return had passed off in great style. All around people were beaming with pleasure and the awesomeness of a quite breath taking set. Power, pace, quality and just superb rock n’ roll. This was good as I've ever seen Motorhead which goes back to the early 1980s. There is still life in the Motorhead beast. 10/10

Following a wander around the site including quite a trek for the toilets (bleeding miles away … don’t they realise some of us are getting on a bit and don't have the bladder of a camel?) and a pleasant distraction in the form of some fine ladies dancing to the steel drums which had been providing a lovely local flavour and a real diversion from the pounding metal) it was time for band number three.

Faith No More

I maybe in the minority here but Faith No More have never done anything for me. Despite owning most of their catalogue, I rarely play them, get bored stiff at the constant playing of Epic on the classic rock channels and to be honest, find them quite overrated. However, I appreciate that they have carved out a niche in the metal world. We were stood way back at the end of the arena and have a very limited view and so as they kicked off with a trio of tracks that featured on From Out Of Nowhere I was still nonplussed. Zombie Eaters, From Out Of Nowhere and then, I admit, a crushing Epic were served up to the huge crowd that contained massive numbers of fans who knew every word. Caffeine from Angel Dust continued the momentum and there is no doubt that this band are extremely good musically. Dressed with their ministerial collars and an ‘altar’ set with huge numbers of lilies scattering the stage, vocalist Mike Patton bantered with the crowd, especially after they had dropped Commodores cover Easy into the set which provoked a mass sing-a-long. They also aired a new track, Leaders Of Men which went down well before a huge gap, when I thought they had finished, before climaxing with Motherfucker and We Care A Lot. By that time we had made our way to the Barclaycard Theatre to worship at the church of Hell. I read reviews of the band the day after the event, where critics provided them with gushing plaudits I do wonder if it is just me. If so, that’s just the way it is. 6/10

Hell

Having been bathed in glorious sunlight all day, we stepped into the unnatural setting of the Barclaycard Theatre, designed part pub part Arabian tent with red velvet swashes   roof. It was so hot in there that it was indeed like stepping into the bowels of hell. Ah, yes, Hell. From North Derbyshire no less, as vocalist and all round thespian Dave Bowers reminded us at the end of the set. The tent was full to bursting as the strains of Gehennae Incendiis led neatly into the vicious soloing which opens Age Of Nefarious. Crammed onto a tiny stage, Hell burst forth likes a boil on Satan’s backside, delivering their fresh yet NWOBHM tinged sound. Front of house, full of theatre and animation, Dave Bowers is unlike any other frontman. Full of expression and drama, he patrols the stage, cajoling the audience and providing his unique delivery. Either side of the stage, Kevin Bowers and Andy Sneap provide the riffage whilst the ungodly looking rhythm section of Tim Bowler’s drums and the sinister Tony Speakman’s bass hold things together like superglue. Welcome To Hell followed with a pit opening up despite the heat. It was clear that the band had attracted a number of curious onlookers, some of whom left quite early whilst others were obviously entranced by the power of the band’s delivery. Blasphemy And The Master witnessed Dave Bower’s self-flagellation, a key part of the theatrics that Hell have established as part of their live reputation. Sadly no room for Darkhangel and the stilt walking Pan but the second track from Curse and Chapter, Something Wicked This Way Comes demonstrated how well the tracks from the new album have slotted into the set. Faith Will Fail was followed by final track Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us from debut album Human Remains, and included a right royal cock-up as Bowers fluffed the lyrics and humorously demanded a re-start.  For those who love this band, they can do no wrong. The strength of their music combined with the theatrics and thought that has been put into their stage show make them a must see every time. They would have been immense on the main stage though. 9/10

Soundgarden

Emerging back into the sunlight Soundgarden had already launched into their set with Let Me Drown. What struck us as we headed for a cooling beer before moving closer to the stage was how many people were content to ignore the Seattle legends. We headed closer and took up a reasonable vantage point as the band completed My Wave and Fell On Black Days. Although we were distracted and I took advantage to catch up with an old friend and his son during their set, if I said that Mailman was the next track the Soundgarden fans amongst you would have twigged that this was Superunknown in its entirety. Yep, the 20th anniversary of the album. The title track saw Mike McCready from Pearl Jam join them on stage before Head Down and the crowd favourite Black Hole Sun was delivered with aplomb. I like Soundgarden; a lot. I’d never seen them live before but again, I was not over enthused watching them. Maybe the sun had worn me down, but I think I’d prefer to see them in an indoor venue. Having said that, these guys did nothing wrong and Chris Cornell has one of the most brilliant voices in rock. He delivered every note superbly. Alongside him Kim Thayil is one heavy mutha, dropping riffs for fun. Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd are no slouches either, maintaining a crushingly heavy rhythm throughout. Spoonman was excellent and the band looked like they were really having some fun. Cornell is an excellent frontman and the crowd appeared engaged. They finishing with 4th July and Like Suicide, completing the entire 14 track album bang on time. It just appeared a little static and uninteresting. Maybe some bands I just like better on record. 7/10

Black Sabbath

And so, bang on 20:45, the sirens rang out over Hyde Park as Ozzy’s voice screamed “Let me hear you” before his evil chuckle and the opening strains of War Pigs blasted out over the Royal Park. No surprises in this set, which was very similar to that witnessed on their last UK dates in 2013. A blistering Into The Void, full of Tony Iommi’s sinister riffs was followed by a stunning version of Snowblind, Ozzy running around the stage urging the crowd throughout. Stage left, Geezer Butler plays that bass like a lead guitar, throwing down riffs and powering the band along. His playing allows Iommi to solo like a demon, which he does, wry smiles on his face. The band have clearly gelled on the 13 tour, smiles between them happen frequently and they really look like they are having a great time. Age Of Reason precedes the real old school with an ominous Black Sabbath heralding the first droplets of rain from the darkening sky. Behind The Wall Of Sleep led into NIB, complete with Butler bass solo intro. Stunning stuff and so incredibly heavy. These are indeed the true masters of metal. A large helping of Paranoid to follow with Fairies Wear Boots followed by Rat Salad with Tommy Clufetos’ powerful drum solo. A pounding Iron Man is followed by God Is Dead from 13, complete with my wife’s favourite lyrics “Out of the gloom I climb out from my tomb into impending doom”. Huge visual effects accompanied the entire show; images during War Pigs particularly poignant and the song remaining as relevant today as when it was written 44 years ago. This was a visual feast as well as the ultimate demonstration of 90 minutes of metal. Closing the main set with the crushing Children Of The Grave, it was left to Ozzy to urge us to be heard one last time, as Iommi teased with the opening chords of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath before launching into Paranoid which of course was the cue for the entire park to go batshit crazy, which it duly did. A huge firework display signalled the end of the show. If the Sabs don’t ever tour again, and let’s face it what is important now is Iommi’s health, then this was a fitting climax. If they do, then I will be making sure I’m there again. Absolutely brilliant. 10/10

Monday, 30 June 2014

Reviews: Jack White, Mostly Autumn, Royal Southern Brotherhood

Jack White: Lazaretto (Third Man Records)

So the Detroit musical madman returns with a second album of rootsy music harking back to his musical and geographical heritage. The first White solo album was an excuse for him to spread his wings and indulge in his love of rock, blues, folk and beyond it was different to his other works to be admired on it's own merit but retaining enough of his style to be beyond doubt it was his work. The first thing you notice about the record as Three Women (originally by Blind Willie McTell) kicks in is that it does seem more upbeat than it's predecessor with the Hammond (courtesy of former Mars Volta man Ikey Owens) driven funk of the first song gets you moving in your seat, before the gonzoid garage rock of the title track harks back to his first band, the pace changes again with Lillie Mae Rische's fiddle and country vocals bringing a southern longing to the album something that is revisited on Entitlement on which you can just hear the tumbleweed and smell the moonshine. As usual the White provides the vocals and most of the guitars with a huge cast of musicians helping him, the most notable of which is the returning Ruby Amanfu who appeared on the first album who is at her soulful best on Just One Drink. The fuzzy Highball Stepper is an instrumental that shows of Whites prowess and in the process brings to mind The Black Keys with it's explosive, fuzz fuelled guitars. Yes this isn't The White Stripes, the riffs from that band are not present, but what is present is a man who clearly is drawing from his inspirations in the Blues, Country and Folk, to create an album that is a myriad of styles and filled with the oddball, off-kilter delivery and lyricism and best of all he seems to be enjoying himself, a quality that is evident throughout the record. Old school, retro call it what you will this music never dies. Well done Mr White another cracker! 8/10

Mostly Autumn: Dressed In Voices (Mostly Autumn Records)

Mostly Autumn are now deep into their second phase with guitarist Bryan Josh and Keyboardist Iain Jennings now the only founding members (although Jennings has been in and out of the band) but they are still releasing high quality records with an ever revolving line up of musicians, (the latest change is the departure of drummer Gavin Griffiths who leaves to focus on Panic Room) Since Olivia Josh nee Sparnenn joined and vocals the band have become heavier with every record and yet again they get heavier with Dressed In Voices. Bryan Josh describes this album as a concept album about a murder that is made to live the life of the person he has killed, their past, present and future. So this is not a smiley record by any means and as Jennings' keys kick off the first track you can hear the ominous tones that foreshadow the rest of the album with the massive guitar parts driving the songs and Olivia's voice perfect for the light and shade when merged with her husbands, a rocky opener then before Jennings gets to bring you to your knees with his plaintive keys on Not Yours To Take which also has some heavyweight guitars from Bryan Joshj and Liam Davidson (also now left replaced by former guitarist Chris Johnson) as well as the pace driven by Andy Smith's bass. It is also a chance for Josh to show off his rich vocals that are part whispered part bellowed and merge perfectly with the sweet vocals of his wife. Running is probably the most Mostly Autumn song on the album with an emotional delivery and a soaring Gilmour like solo from Josh who has never shied away from his Pink Floyd influences, these get more prevalent after See You welcomes you to the dark middle section and Home has some seriously evil synth and when combined with Josh's almost menacing but yet emotive vocals it is all reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall, as does The Library. The chills run down your spine on First Day At School on which is just vocals and piano for the most part until the final part moves into an explosive instrumental final section with Jennings, Josh and new drummer Alex Cromarthy driving the song into Jeff Wayne territory and the rock comes back with a vengeance on Down By The River which shows Josh in full Blackmore mode. despite the heaviness of this record the bands folk roots come through on Skin On Skin and The House On The Hill which features the whistle and bouzouki of Troy Donockley. Equally melancholic, uplifting, ominous and joyous Dressed In Voices is a modern day morality play that questions the nature of guilt while providing an amazing musical backing which ends with the MA classic ballad Box Of Tears which features former member Anne-Marie Helder on flute and vocals. A band that have always pushed themselves sonically have now created an album that sets them in great stead for the future, a heavy concept yes but it has made for a fantastic album. 9/10

Royal Southern Brotherhood: Heartsoulblood (Ruf Records)

Onto the second album and as Tiny Robinson said the train kept-a-rollin'. When a band is made of a Neville Brother and an Allman Brother you expect the best and this is what you get, classic blues, rock, soul, funk, country and jazz filling 12 tracks and leading to a hell of a ride fro blues fans, as they say on World Blues it runs through their veins and with the staccato riff and the slide guitar melody, you can agree but they don't limit themselves to one style, the ode to this music Rock And Roll sounds like the Eagles (Joe Walsh era) with a R&B backbeat. The band is based around the trio of Mike Zito's guitars, Devon Allmans' guitars and Cyrill Neville's percussion with Yonrico Scott's drums and Charlie Wooton's bass, filling in the gaps. Because of the dual percussion the albums have a definite element of funk drawing inspiration from Neville's own band see the smooth as silk Groove On and also features Neville's smoky vocal delivery and the almost tribal drums, the funky carries on with Here It Is and moves into Callous which sounds like a blues based version of Come Together by the Beatles with Wooton driving everything brilliantly. Zito's and Allman's guitars are awesome they compliment each other brilliantly and while Zito rocks, Allman has the blues touch of his uncle. Call it blues, call it blues rock call it whatever you want this second shot of rich, soulful, rootsy southern blues rock. A great second album from this so called supergroup, now a tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band calls...Please!!?? 8/10   

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Another Point Of View: Vintage Trouble (Review By Paul)

Vintage Trouble – Bristol Bierkeller

Vintage Trouble are addictive. That first taste leaves you craving for more and every additional hit provides an immediate sense of satisfaction that quickly disappears and intensifies the craving again. My first taste was in the unlikely setting of the tent at Sonisphere in 2011 and then at a very sweaty Glee Club in 2012. Having been unable to see them in the Glee Club last year, it was inevitable that a trip across the bridge was in the schedule to maintain the addiction when VT announced their latest tour. If you haven't heard of this band, then let me enlighten you. Formed in LA in 2010, VT are Ty Taylor on vocals, Nalle Colt on guitar, Richard Danielson on drums and Rick Barrio Dill on bass. They play a combination of soulful bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a down and dirty delivery. Possibly the sharpest dressed band in the world, it is in the live arena where Ty and the boys really deliver the goods. The Bierkeller has been around for a long time, and it’s about time it moved with the times and invested in some bloody air-conditioning. Sweltering conditions inside, combined with a capacity sell-out crowd made for a slightly uncomfortable evening although getting a little moist is very much a ritual for the Troublemakers (as VT’s fans are fondly referred to). Kicking off with Jezzebella, the room was immediately in full swing with much jiving and dirty dancing as Ty demonstrated why he is one of the best frontmen in the business. His voice is stunning, soulful and enchanting and his energy is infectious. As the band played through a selection of tracks from their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, their influences oozed through. From Ike and Tina to the Rolling Stones, this band capture them all in a perfect blend and spin it together with their own unique style and delivery. Ty is the perfect front of house, cajoling and spinning, encouraging numerous sing-a-longs and much air palming from the adoring crowd.

A couple of news songs were also delivered, including the excellent Low Down Dirty Dog. An acoustic session in the middle of the show was welcomed by all and allowed the pace to drop without losing any momentum. Not All Right By Me was performed to perfection. As the tempo built back up with the rocky Blues Hand Me Down, there was a real opportunity for the band’s high level of musicianship to come to the fore, with the guitar work of Colt spectacular. This band have been on a constant touring cycle ever since their formation and it really shows with extended and improvised versions of virtually every song. They are incredibly tight, clearly benefitting from playing support slots to a wide range of bands including the Rolling Stones as well as numerous headline shows. Nobody Told Me highlighted the softer side of the band before they played one of their most popular tunes, the infectious Nancy Lee which again featured extended improvisation and mass audience participation. It’s difficult to describe what it is about VT that is so addictive. Maybe it’s the humility in their delivery, maybe it’s the pure energy and infectious grooves of their songs or maybe it is a combination and the fact that you can't feel anything other than incredibly happy whilst watching them. As they closed their set, jumping off stage and heading straight through the crowd to sign items in the ‘Goods and collectables’ section, all around the ‘Keller were satisfied and sticky Troublemakers who will no doubt be back to see VT as soon as they can. A brilliant night once more. 10/10