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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Reviews: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Unisonic, Halcyon Way

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (Reprise Records)

Tom Petty has always been the last bastion of the American dream, his songs no matter how forlorn, have always encompassed and strived for that American Dream imagined at Ellis Island. Petty and his working class countrified rock has always had a glint of hope in all his songs however the man maybe losing his can-do spirit it on his thirteenth album. The rocking American Dream Plan B is an opening number with an agenda, it's a clarion call to the disenfranchised to strike back at the greed that has no become the norm in the upper echelon of society, ruining his American Dream with their "Political Scheme". Musically the album harks back to his first two albums with The Heartbreakers who also support him on this album. The triple guitars of Petty, Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston is at the heart of the songs especially Red River which is old school country Petty in a song about love and loss, along with Benmont Tench brings the keys, synths and organs adding Ron Blair's bass and Steve Ferrone's drums also providing the rhythm section see Fault Lines. This album is the sound of a man re-evaluating his lot in life on Full Grown Boy and Sins Of My Life you can hear this in full effect. This album is a lot rockier than many of Petty's releases you hear the influences of Mudcrutch as well as the burgeoning blues sound that started on previous release Mojo, the seedy smoke of Power Drunk is where the blues comes out to play as Petty once again rallies against those in charge, Burnt Out Town is another bluesy track with some killer harmonica blasts. All You Can Carry is the song where you hear Petty trying to escape his Dream rather than running down it. Still U Get Me High is another love song that reinvigorates the expectation again, this album is by no means a sad one, but it is angry and in places introspective with this last man standing finally starting to wean in his youthful resolve, he has managed to turn this resolve towards the big government corruption and indeed his own mortality on Forgotten Man. Yes Hypnotic Eye (named for the Eye Of Providence on the one dollar bill) is possibly Petty's best album in years, it is the sound of our favourite american hero rallying against the establishment, while drawing on the sound of his youth. An excellent album! 9/10

Unisonic: Light Of Dawn (earMusic)

Unisonic released their debut album in 2012 and despite the talent involved the album disappointed slightly, although it was good it could have been so much more. Unisonic marked the first collaboration of Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen since The Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 but in spite of the history between them the first album was more AOR/Hard Rock orientated than anything they produced in Helloween, much of this was down to bassist/producer/writer Dennis Ward who put his seal all over it, don't get me wrong yes it was a good album and many of us accepted that if this was what they were going to play then so be it, however with the small glimpses of the past we knew the power (metal) was still there. The first album may have been slightly disappointing but as the orchestral intro Venite 2.0 moves into Your Time Has Come it's like the last 30 years hasn't happened as we are back in prime Helloween territory with the galloping bassline from Ward, some rampaging drums from Kosta Zafiriou, the best guitar playing Hansen has been involved in since the glory days, the twin guitar attack he has with Mandy Meyer harks back to one he had with Mr Weikath all those years ago. On top of this top quality power metal assault are the stratosphere bothering vocals of Kiske who is top form throughout with his majestic vocals. Fans of Helloween will be grinning from ear to ear on this opening track it is a blast from the past, a rampaging power metal masterpiece. Just as you get your breath back the bass lead intro of Exceptional which brings you back into the AOR territory with the love paean on top of a bouncy hard rock backing and a middle section that just calls for audience participation, the thrashier For The Kingdom brings back the kick drums, the harder edge and the sublime solos along with a whole hunk of keys from G√ľnter Werno. Yes on just the first three tracks you can tell this album is going to be awesome, from the scorching solo on Not Gonna Take Anymore, to the hard rock of Night Of The Long Knives, the 80's riff-fest of Find Shelter which has a few nods to the progressive, before the pace finally slows on the double ballad whammy of Blood and When The Deed Is Done before things pick up again on the metallic Throne Of The Dawn and continue this way through until the amazing album ending You And I which has tinges of Bon Jovi and a mountaintop guitar solo. This album is simply stunning!! It may just be the best power metal album of the year, in fact I have no doubt!! 10/10

Halcyon Way: Conquer (Nightmare Records)

Atlanta based progressive metallers Halcyon Way are now on their third album and it continues their particular brand of intensely technical modern metal. The title track starts the album on a strong point with the percussive beat starting things off before the guitars come in with their thrash modern riffage but also the mainstream hooks of Disturbed but also a lot of Shadow Gallery with their technical delivery. The guitars rip out riff after riff with gallops, breakdowns and some thrash passages see Conceived In Torment which also shows off the explosive drumming of Ernie Topran. One of the bands key selling points is the voice of Steve Braun who can hit the big highs when required but also has a hell of a rasp and with the growling backing vocals in the heavier parts like Hatred Is My Cause. Stylistic the band change over and over on every song but maintain their own style of delivery throughout with the Maidenesque rhythms of Militant and on Home they have the sound like Architects as it has an almost metalcore style as well as the bouncy pop-like The Poisoned Apple which has tinges of emo. Now I've said the vocals is the key selling points but it could also drive people away as it can be an acquired taste. This is a good album yes but when you have bands like Haken, Aeon Zen, Above Symmetry and Borealis flying the flag for modern progressive metal you find your self wondering where Halcyon way fit into the picture as they don't seem to have anything that makes them stand out. Yes they are modern and progressive but with legends like Symphony X and Dream Theater all still doing the rounds then it means Halcyon Way are a little lost in a genre. They are not intensely progressive but they do have some catchy hooks and some heavy riffs. I think this album is a little bit of try before you buy, but for me they just seem a little adrift and samey sonically. 6/10    

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Review: King 810 (Review By Neil)

King 810: Memoirs Of A Murderer (Roadrunner)

The town of Flint in the US state of Michigan is not a pretty place. Consistently named as the most violent city in America the town's population of 100,000+ are policed by a force with fewer than 200 officers. Consequently crime runs rampant and the streets are lined with abandoned homes. From this background of serious social decay come King 810 and just like the city whose area code appends their name their first long player Memoirs Of A Murderer is not for the faint of heart. Presented as three “chapters” (structured as the id, ego and super-ego; each one bookmarked by vocalist David Gunn's spoken word Anatomy monologues that began on their taster Proem EP) this is an album featuring more depth and variety then you might expect if you've ever heard the band's music before. Their 2012 debut EP Midwest Monsters showcased seven tracks (one of which - Murder Murder Murder - has been re-recorded for this set) of aggressive hardcore beatdown-esque drumming by Andrew Workman overlaid with guitarist Andrew Beale's sparse staccato riffs and Gunns ultra-aggressive rap vocal delivery, all ably underpinned by bassist Eugene Gill's low frequency grooves. There is obviously more of the same here for the most part with the first three tracks Killem All, Best Nite Of My Life and the aforementioned Murder Murder Murder sticking rigidly to the bands previous formula of hardcore/nu-metal collision. Track 4 however (Take It) suddenly sees the band veer off into unexpected territory with it being an acoustic number. It's not the only track of it's kind either – Eyes, Devil Don't Cry and the album closer State Of Nature all variously feature acoustic guitars, a piano/keyboard, a string quartet and clean vocals. Almost certainly not what you would expect if you have heard King's music before. Additionally the powerful and thought provoking Write About Us clearly owes more than a small debt of gratitude to Queen's seminal We Will Rock You.
Having said that it is front man David Gunn's performance both vocally and lyrically that really marks this album out in my opinion. His vocal delivery on Treading And Trodden and Boogeymen in particular sound like the tormented confessions of a truly haunted soul. Gunn's delivery won't be to everyone's taste of course and many may find his voices grating especially given that they are front and centre in the mix but to this writer his growls, screams, wails and audible inhalations really add to the dark, brooding atmosphere conjured up on this album. Lyrically too Gunn turns up (or should that be down?) the darkness, recounting frank and forthright tales of murder, haunted thoughts and dead friends, foes and loved ones. The lyrics of the aforementioned Write About Us end with a list of some of Gunn's friends growing up and the fate they met. Many are either incarcerated or are no longer with us. It's sobering stuff, especially given that Gunn himself is just 28 years old. Memoirs Of A Murderer is an album that – more than any non-concept one I've heard recently – demands to be listened to as a single piece of work, despite the fact that there's no overarching story. Given the musical distance between some of the songs on this album it's to the bands credit that it sounds and feels like a cohesive whole. It's also an album that certainly won't be for everyone (some will no doubt find the often simplistic groove-based nature of King's heavier beatdown influenced numbers boring and others may be turned off by the grim lyrical content), but if you are a fan of any kind of *core or nu-metal band then I would recommend that you at least give King 810 a listen (Fat Around The Heart is an excellent place to start), and be thankful that you don't live where they do (10/10).

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

World Of Metal 15: The Filth Hounds, Iron Void, Craving

Sticking to Europe and especially Britain for this one with two unsigned British acts and one German act too. Lets get too it!!!

The Filth Hounds: Release The Hounds (Self Released)

Straight out of the North East of England come The Filth Hounds and they play dirty, rock n roll mixed with some top notch melodic metal. The band have been around since 2011 and they are similar in style to Attica Rage as they are filled with big heavy rock n roll riffs and from the Motorhead styled opening track Nowhere To Go they start things off in style as this song breaks down in to a final section that is very NWOBHM with Diamond Head being a particular influence on the track. There is also elements of punk on Good Love Calling and sleaze rock too with the dirty Too Damn Good having the same kind of sound as those 80's gutter snipes from LA, I Can't Hide has a slightly modern alt-metal tinge to it but it's the NWOBHM vibe that proceeds everything with the sounds of Raven, Jaguar and even Angel Witch so prevalent in the bands riffs, solos and Bryan McGill's vocals. The rest of the band are great too with the rhythm section of John Allom's bass and Damien Donelly's drums giving the songs their thumping bottom end, on top of which McGill and Nigel Pickett riff like hell. They also show their softer side on So Blue which shows of McGill's voice excellently with it's slowed, melodic, bluesy vibe that evokes early 90's hard rockers Little Angels and Thunder. You can tell that this band are one that do everything themselves, the production is rough and ready, but it suits the album perfectly as it gives them an early 80's authenticity. This is a thumping debut from The Filth Hounds who live up to their name with 7 tracks of filthy, rock an roll with a nod to the 80's metal scene as well where punk and metal mixed together so well. Hooked On Love is another NWOBHM influence track and the thirteen minute final track The Trilogy is worthy of any Maiden album with it's light and shade dynamics, big guitar hooks, drama filled lyrics and slow burning delivery. This is a hell of an album that is not a revival record its a band playing new music that harks back to their influences rather than copying them. Well done chaps!!! 8/10         

Iron Void: Iron Void (Barbarian Wrath)

Doom, something we Brits excel at, could it be the weather? I don't know but we revel in being miserable from Cathedral to Paradise Lost the usually plucky British have always been very happy to play brooding, slow, down tuned riffs with lyrics about death and misery. This three piece from Wakefield are pure doom to the ground, big crushing riffage from Steve Wilson on guitars, who does his best Iommi throughout, and Jon "Sealey" Seale who is the big, bad, bass driving the heavyweight gloominess along with Damien Park's crashing percussion. This is authentic, old school doom with the slow creeping riffs that Messrs Iommi, Dorrian and indeed Albert Witchfinder and their not-so-merry band of men peddle. From the creeping doom of Black Sabbath style Those Who Went Before to the rampaging Own Worst Enemy which is prime Orange Goblin, we then go through Candlemass and Revered Bizarre especially on The Burden Of Regret which features Seale's howling vocals on top form over it's fuzzy riff. This is an album full of serious British doom metal harking back to the late 60's early 70's with the songs and indeed the production all evoking the true doom of that era. If you like Goblin, Cathedral and indeed Sabbath this album will be for you rich with riff after riff of prime British doom. A cool album from these young doomsters, get the album quick as it is limited to 666 copies. Great stuff indeed!! 8/10

Craving: Craving (Apostasy Records)

Craving are a true world of metal in one band!! The 10 songs on this album are in their native German as well as Russian and English, because of that this album is never samey, each song has it's own style and delivery but as well the band fill their musical passages with furious blast beats from Maik Schaffstädter who drums relentlessly on this album bringing a wall of noise to proceedings. Released in 2012, the band have a black/folk metal style that is mixed with the Gothenburg melo-death. so imagine Moonsorrow mixed with Children Of Bodom, In Flames and little pinch of Amon Amarth thrown in. The guitars ring with folk tendencies, see the intro to Lug Und Litanel and also it's synth outro that has a real Celtic edge but they also riff mightily Thorsten Flecken and Ivan Chertov wielding their axes with aggression on every riff and solo, ah yes solo's there too many to mention, the fret wankery is rampant and that mixed with the rasps and roars of Chertov and guest vocalists Helge Stang and Sole Genua who battle it out on the final track. As for the rest of the album opening track Lord Of The Flames is straight out of an Amon Amarth album with it's almost Viking Metal feel and super speed drumming before the guttural roars come in and this folk metal continues on By The Blowing Wind which could be Turisas quite easily. The Nameless is solo's galore. Yes the band have a massive folk influence on their music that infects every song separating them from the normal melo-death sound. The production of this debut is also good and it stands the band in good stead for their future releases. A strong debut album from this German metal monster!! 8/10

Another View From A Field: Bloodstock (Review By Nick)

Bloodstock 2014

Once again our annual pilgrimage to Derbyshire was under way, after some finite planning and organisation everything seemed to fall into place. Tents were erected, flags were raised, false tents were taken down while gazebos stood tall. Following our simply magnificent Sunday roast (on Thursday) cooked for twelve on a mere four stoves… four people! We were ready for some musical delight, so to the Sophie tent we went just in time for Incinery.

Incinery

These thrashers hit you with fast, hard riffs and do not compromise at any point during the set. Full of shredding solos and neck snapping breakdowns Incinery impressed me for a first viewing. Front man James Rawlings has an odd yet satisfying growl come screech that settles nicely into the sound the rest of the band lay out. Despite all these positives; looking back I do feel that everything was a little samey throughout. Nonetheless, a good start to Bloodstock for me 8/10.

Monument

Time for some true British heavy metal as Monument hit the stage. Having seen these guys a few times before I have discovered the success of their set lies heavily on the mood/performance of vocalist Peter Ellis. Tonight, he was on form. Monument rattled through a forty minute set in what felt like ten. Deep booming bass lines, dual guitar melodies and a powerful voice tat would make the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Sean Peck shake in their boots. All I can say about these guys is they bring back the old school, make it a little more modern and inspire you to the point that you realise some of the music you own, just isn’t really metal 9/10.

Jaldaboath

Replacing Phil Campbell at short notice (Which for me was good news) was Jaldaboath. A unknown entity to me, so I decided to hang around and see what all the fuss was about. Entering the stage to a fanfare of trumpets and dressed in medieval attire the gents from Jaldaboath kicked in with great little grove and bass laden riff that made your head bounce nicely. With a little thrash riff thrown in for good measure I between things weren’t looking or sounding too bad, until the vocalist entered the stage and everything seemed to stop as he proceeded to talk/rap every lyric with virtually not instrumental backing. This perplexed me as it killed any momentum the band had and felt very disjointed. Hoping this was just the one song I hung around a little more but also, this appeared to be the trend for Jaldaboath, and not one I was getting on with. So I headed back to camp for some booze and biscuits thining…. Bring back Phil! (4/10)

Day two and an early start as it was time for Paul and myself to engage full fan boy mode for Bloodshot dawn. A lovely breakfast of bacon, bacon and more bacon warmed our bellies as we wandered over to the main stage.

Bloodshot Dawn

Making sure we were fairly close to the stage we waited for what for me has been one of the breakthrough band in the British metal seen over the past few years. Having seen thee guys live many times at both festivals and venues as small as your thumb I was eager to see how they managed the main stage of such a prestigious festival. As Josh and the band entered the stage they treated us to a plethora of tracks from their EP, first album and even a track from their much anticipated new album. Filled with their signature technical thrash riffs that I love them for, the pace changes were timed perfectly as were the melodic riffs that jump from high to low making you damage your imaginary guitar frets. New drummer Janne Jaloma beat away at his set getting every bit of edge he could from them while Josh’s vocals seemed to once again be better than ever as he growled and screamed with great purpose. The sound the band produce was and is flawless! Each instrument added something to the performance and stood out without masking another and the lads, although humble they commanded the crowd well. Calling for pits that the crowd delivered. Not much to look at I grant you, but that doesn’t matter as your head will be down playing air guitar and bouncing 90% of the time. Definitely worth their slot on the main stage and surely worth a return with a higher placement in the future? Simply brilliant.10/10
Entombed A.D

Not knowing much about Entombed A.D but hearing a lot about how they came to be I stood around to give them a chance. Filled with heavy grungey thrash like riffs and angry vocals I can see how they appeal to some people. For me I found it hard to decipher when one song ended and another began which is never really a good characteristic in music. When they introduced us to some more modern tracks it had a bit more pace and life to it but still not enough for me, Entombed did what they do and I cant really fault their skills. Very static on stage but they still seemed to be enjoying the experience of the main stage. However, when you see a person wearing their shirt walking away from their set, that kind of says it all. 5/10.

After this there was nothing much else that pulled me in on the band lists, so I returned to the camp site with fellow Musipedians Paul and Stief to invest in some more booze and a pot noodle or two… mmm tasty! 

Throughout the first day and a half many times we had spoken about how Triptykon always demand rain for their set and how on the previous occasion Triptykon and Tom G Warrior were at Bloodstock it proceeded to rain the proverbial cats and dogs mid set. With the weather so far being wonderfully warm and sunny… this couldn't happen again, could it?

Triptykon

Entering the stage to a doom filled gloomy backing track Tom G and the rest of Triptykon proceeded to play a five-track set of the slowest darkest music that you ever could hear live. But my god it worked well! Only having one opportunity to see them once before in a small venue I already knew I would enjoy this set, however outdoors Triptykon are a completely different game all together. The sound the produce echoes and resonated around the festival site as thousands of people slowly drop and raise their heads in unison, in a weird kind of worship trance. Despite his reputation Tom G was smiling between each ten plus minute track, clearly loving every minute on stage. Then came the scary part; once again the band demanded rain on this sunny day before their final offering of The Prolonging where halfway through the clouds overcast Catton Hall and proceeded to open with a down poor of rain! It f**king happened again! Still, no one budged as they Triptykon finished their set to rapturous applause and chanting. A band I will definitely be seeing again in the future but next time… indoors. For now I'm calling the warrior, the wizard. 9/10

Now away I ran to the Sophie ten to get away from the still pouring rain but mainly from in my opinion one of the worst bands ever gifted to music… Hatebreed *shudders*

Winterfylleth

Again another British band I have seen on a few occasions that have done nothing but impress me each time. A black metal band that base their music on the ancestry and folk law of Britain they represent black metal with a twist. Fast passed technical riffage with a melodic base allow Christopher Naughtons almost haggid voice to regale us with stories and myth from our history. A band that uses pace changes to its fullest in order to hold your attention and highlight a new mood within the song. Winterfylleth tell stories with their music and damn do they do it well! Brief sound problems aside this was a fine performance from the lads, although not their best they certainly id themselves no harm and certainly gained more fans in the Musipedia 8/10.

Now that the angry music Nazi’s had vacated the main stage, back to the main stage we headed as the rain had seemed to ceased, and Dimmu Borgir were awaiting, or rather we awaited them… for 20 minutes.

Dimmu Borgir

Coming onto the stage twenty minutes late the band still insisted on using their intro music that lasted a further five minutes. It soon became evident why as they clearly needed more time to fix whatever issues they had as when the first track kicked in all that could be heard was the drums and vocals. This persisted on into the second track where myself, Paul and Matt decided to head to the Sophie tent. We’d seen Dimmu many times before and we know what they’re about… unlucky guys!

Skyclad

Jigging and swinging in circles before we even entered the tent we got the tone of Skyclad as soon as we were close enough to hear them. Folk metal! Filled with great melodic solos, light thrash riffs and plenty of fiddles Skyclad are the epitome of a happy metal band. Jigg pits opening up left right and centre in a packed tent surrounded by bopping heads the crowd joined in happily with the sing along chorus’s and sing and reply sections. A good laugh and as well as some cracking music delivered with great skill and aplomb, alas there was no cow bell! 9/10

Avoiding Down with as wide a birth as I cold possibly give them without leaving the festival I decided to check out Rotting Christ. Never seeing them live I had heard a few of their songs before and liked what I have heard. This however turned out to be the best decision of the weekend!

Rotting Christ

Smoke filled the Sophie tent along with a dim orange glow of light as the figures of Rotting Christ entered the stage. Opening with some Greek chanting the band had us hooked form the off. Displaying a set dominated by tracks from their new album Rotting Christ proceeded to suck us all into their set which was a far cry from their advertised genre of death metal. Instead what we were given was a deep dark thrash sound that forces your head down and opens your ears. Every song was different but contained stunning breakdowns of slow thrash riffage with equally as dark solos. The atmosphere in the tent was eerie as the crowd just stood listened and lost themselves in what the band had to offer. The rough gravely death vocals were gently and purposely hidden behind the instruments, to add to the haunting presence of Rotting Christ. At times the band showed dual guitar skill and performance that even Accept would be proud of, as their hair flew around in circles it was clear to see that the band themselves were just as hooked as we were. As the set came to an end with more Greek chanting the crowd duly joined in giving everything they had left. There was a short but understandable silence after the last note faded, as the crowd took in every last second. Then came the uncontrollable applause and chants that carried on long after Rotting Christ left the stage. From the music and atmosphere to the simplicity of the bands stage presence and movement I, and from what I could see everyone else were left almost dumbfounded. Haunting, majestic and beautiful… purely outstanding 11/10. (I'll let this score pass..once-Matt)

After this we spent a few hours drinking and reminiscing the day (particularly Rotting Christ) and planning the next day of metal that was ahead of us. Following a night of some sleep no thanks to the camp site next to us blaring out Powerslave on repeat for hours on end throughout we all awoke to more bacon… and headed straight to the main stage for Evil Scarecrow

Evil Scarecrow.

Despite having seeing Scarecrow many many times I was still as excited as a child to see them. Arriving early we made it as close to the stage as we could, formed two lines and did our pre Scarecrow stretches (No… really, we did). Entering the stage in glorious fashion on a wood horse Scarecrow powered through their set with the humble passion and dedication they always do. Engaging the crowd at every turn as they cracked out songs such as Blacken The Everything, Robototron and the mighty Crabulon! Ten thousand plus claws, robots and crying whimpers spread across the Bloodstock field, it looked stunning. Even the on stage security were loving it! These guys will never get boring, and with e new album on the horizon, what song will they possibly drop??! Notwithstanding Scarecrows passion and performance, the thing I love most about them is their true humbleness. These guys honestly cannot understand why everyone likes them so much and really do think we’re all crazy, and I like that 10/10.

A quick mention here to Babylon Fire, I was torn for a while on whether to see these guys as they clashed with Scarecrow. I have seen these guys twice and they have impressed me greatly on both occasions. With this being lead singer Mark D’s last show with the band it made it an even harder decision. But, call me fickle, Scarecrows allure was too much. Now I don’t know how many turned up to Babylon’s set but I hope it was a good send of for Mark, and if you ever do get the chance to catch these guys live, take it… you wont regret it!

So, back to the camp to recover and consume more booze and pasta until the much hyped (by Paul) Orphaned Land.

Orphaned Land

As earlier mentioned, Paul had done all he can to convince myself and the others of this bands quality. So, there was a lot riding on this set for Paul… no pressure Orphaned land! However, to be fair to Paul he was not wrong! Orphaned Land represents a somewhat peaceful quality in metal. Deep thrash riffs at times supported nicely by a few brief cutting solos. The main attraction here though is the voice of vocalist Kobi Farhi, wow what a voice! Smooth, gentle and flawless for the melodic sections and the Israeli chanting, but also able to pull out a deep howling growl when called upon. These guys are deceptively heavy and know how to put on a good show. Two things I learnt from these guys are; peace sells (sorry) and never underestimate the power of clapping! Will without doubt be catching these guys again 9/10.

A quick walk over to the Sophie tent where we thought we would give Conquest of Steel a listen, but nope… not for me. Very cheesy with way too much effort put into visuals that I can only assume is meant to distract us from the poor vocals. When a full sized steel sword was draw and waved about for no apparent reason I was out.
Another quick break in the campsite to refresh and down some ibuprofen for my aching back then back to the main stage for the beginning of Lacuna Coil.

Lacuna Coil

There is not really too much I can say here that you haven’t already heard about this Italian outfit. When you book Lacuna Coil you know exactly what you are going to get. A good band that works hard to entertain the crowd and will always mix their setlist up a bit to keep us on our toes. As always the main focus is on Christina, be that through the bands choice or the crowds its always going to be that way. Every time I see this band Im always surprised by the quality of Christina's voice. I don’t know why as every time its flawless. But for some reason convince myself otherwise before every gig… again she did not let me down. I didn't hang around for the entire set as Orphaned Land were playing on the Acoustic stage ad that I did nit want to miss after the earlier showing. Lacuna Coil did what they did and they do it with style and the decorum they always represent. I’ll always have time for this band 8/10.

Orphaned Land (Acoustic)
Managing to find a sneaky front row side view of the stage we were ideally placed for this set. Granted it’s a little awkward when the band are a yard away from you and proceed to make eye contact but hey ho… its worth it. Also, great respect to Paul for not getting his fan boy on and managing to summon the strength to not ask for a photo. The camera was out my friends, but he pulled through and put back in his bag for safekeeping. Orphaned Land took the stage once more and played through a set similar to the one we had heard earlier, only this time the intimacy made it just that little bit better. Kobi’s voice impressed me once more, as did the sincerity of the band. It was easy to see that the guys loved not only their music but believed in the message it was sending and the power of their music. More clapping was on the menu as the nearing one hundred strong crowd sang and clapped along on awe. I'm really starting to love this band 10/10.

After this Matt, Paul, Stief and myself took a wander round the record tents and purchased some music and goodies then headed back to the camp-site to ready ourselves for the mighty Carcass!

Now before I get into the performance I'm going to have small rant (sorry matt). During this set unfortunately someone fell ill and the band had to be stopped mid song. The power was cut and the person was tended too, and rightfully so. Front man Jeff Walker was civil trying not to make light of the situation while keeping the crowd happy. As the situation was resolved the band cracked on with their set when a message was delivered to Jeff that their set would have to be cut short and again, rightfully so Jeff flat-out refused. This did become a recurring theme between every song, as it was clear that this annoyed the band. My argument is when you have a band like Carcass, one of the kings of British metal the very substance that Bloodstock is supposedly based upon you treat them with the respect that they deserve and you forget about the five minutes that was lost… its five minutes! If you do need to save time, take it off the Emperors set. This is a band back for year to make a quick buck or two and then will bugger off back to whence they came from. Their ideals are clearly completely different and in my view, not in the keeping of Bloodsock or the metal community. Priorities need to be made clearer, festivals should not have to grant headliners up in cotton wool or grant there every whim at the expense of a better and more cultured band… anyway. Rant over.

Carcass

Heads down and air guitars out for an hour is the order of the day when you are taking in Carcass live. Despite their age and plethora of albums they have to choose from this band never get boring live and never give less than 100%. After such a long career and a short hiatus these guys still love what they do and aim to leave their fans smiling (the basis of Jeff’s earlier outburst). A set that included a range of songs from Surgical Steel as well as Symphonies of Sickness and Choice Cuts, a set for all the ages really. The characteristic hard heavy thrash with brutal bass lines that are resilient and unforgiving in delivery continued for the entirety. The screeching sinister voice of Jeff is one that requires little effort but gives so much to the sound of Carcass. The basis to which both their music and live performances relies so much on this threatening voice. All issues and outbursts aside Carcass put on a great set and proved to me and many others once again why they are one of the titans of not just British heavy metal but metal across the world 10/10
The evening came and our day of music had pretty much come to an end. With Emperor unsurprisingly not impressing and Hell Yeah delivering some good music that could hardly be heard over the front man's constant swearing. So, we did a little more shopping instead before heading back to the campsite for some booze and this time… a tasty slightly overpriced burger.

A morning spent at the camp site storing our energy for the quality on offer in the afternoon. First band of the day for us was ReVamp… I shall hand you over to Stief.


ReVamp (Review By Stief)

Despite the rain, ReVamp come on to a sizeable crowd and a warm reception. They immediately burst into The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown : On The Sideline followed directly by The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown: The Limbic System, both of which gives the crowd a taste of Floor Jansen's vast vocal range, changing flawlessly from clean vocals to brutal growling during On The Sideline and showing off her soaring operatic skills during The Limbic System. Microphone problems essentially turn Head Up High into an impromptu instrumental performance, giving the audience a chance to focus on the rest of the band, who give a solid performance throughout. Despite these problems, Floor manages to continually engage with the audience, who seem to be perfectly happy to headbang, vocals or no vocals. Whatever problems there were are cleared up for the title track of their latest album Wild Card, which is followed by classic song Here's My Hell. They then break into the third part of the Anatomy trio of songs, Neurasthenia, with guitarist Arjan Rijnen filling in for Devin Townsend's vocals quite nicely. ReVamp then end with a one-two hit of In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain and Wolf And Dog. With a roar and a chant of ReVamp from the crowd, it wouldn't be surprising to see Revamp further up the bill of Bloodstock in a few years. 9/10


Back to the tents again after a further peruse of the record tents then Paul and I set off with devious plan to catch Obituary. However, as we walked past the Sophie tent a beautiful sound of a Dickinson-eque voice caressed our ears and drew us in where we were presented with Stormzone.
Stormzone

After much deliberation and refusal to believe what we were hearing, we were astounded to find that British power metal actually lives! Old school power metal at its best is what this band produce. High-octane vocals with quick paced ascending descending riffs and plenty of cheesy lyrics to go around. All the band moved around the stage with vigour and purpose as they were clearly in their element as the shovelled this beautiful music down our ears. Air guitars we at the ready and as Matt snuck in beside us we threw away our cares and lost ourselves in this music. Apparently supporting Saxon at the end of the year, I CANNOT wait to catch these guys again 9/10.


Saxon

So this was it one of the moments I had been waiting for, the popping of my Saxon cherry. Having grown up listening to Saxon I am ashamed to say that I have never had the chance to see them live and wow… what have I been missing! Entering the stage to a sea of applause Biff and the band wasted no time in ploughing through a set of great hits with the large majority of the crowd singing along to every syllable. Motorcycle, Hero, 747, Princess and Wheels Of Steel to name but a few echoed across the ears of thousands. Biff’s voice sounding as good live as it does on the albums that I have come to love. Each member playing with a smile of their face, there was a mutual love and respect that could easily be felt. A surprise appearance from MegaDave himself could have ruined it all… but no not even this man's ego could take anything away from the mighty Saxon. For me these guys should have been headlining and I doubt many people would have complained if the had. Stonking! 10/10.


Amon Amarth

Another contender for future headliners and probably should have been this year took the stage and quite frankly destroyed it. This review will be brief as all you need to know is there was smoke there were pyro’s galore, there were serpents and there was a giant hammer. Couple all this with a set list of Amon Amarth’s greatest hits delivered with astounding energy and flawless presentation what you get is a crowd that is not quite sure what just hit them… but f**king loved whatever it was! 10/10.

Megadeath (aka MegaDave)

A band that I have seen twice before and has, on both occasions, let me down greatly. I had planned to skip this and catch Satan for a bit of a change up. But, MegaDave himself appeared to have played the ego card again and ensured no one else was playing while they were on stage… poor sport. So, I stood and I watched as a string of hits were deployed to the die-hard fans delight and in all honesty, to my approval also. Now, for me Dave’s voice is simply poor and I will never ever be swayed of this, but this time unlike previous occasions there seemed to be life in the band as well as Dave himself. There was effort, which I had never seen from them before live. It gave the songs more life and I began to see what Paul and Matt had been trying to convince me of. Nothing special production wise but I stood happily bobbing my head and strumming my mystical guitar as the set flew by. Fair play MegaDave… you win this round 8/10.


So the sad moment arrived as Bloodstock came to an end. A great year again considering I thought this to be the weakest line up for the festival in a number of years when considering the entire weekend. The music ranged to the jaw droopingly good to the shockingly bad, but at the end of it all there was booze, there were friends and most importantly… there was metal! 10/10.


On a final note, 10/10 to Admiral insurance and NCH Autos of Tamworth who managed to break into my car without a scratch when I locked my keys in the boot outstanding service… oops! Finally, a shout out to the person who found and returned Matt’s camera when he lost it during Megadeth; With or without the ass pic, you would never have got such community at other festivals such as Download or Sonisphere and that is a fact, also the reason that Bloodstock is without doubt the best music festival to currently grace the shores of Britain.










Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Reviews: Accept, Dragonforce, Peter Pan Speedrock

Accept: Stampede (Nuclear Blast)

Stampede is a good name for an Accept album as it encompasses what Accept do; they rush in riffs flying at speed as the drums and bass rumble the ground and Mark Tornillo screams over the top and as the final chord of the title track finishes you feel like you've been trampled by rampaging buffalo. Accept have always been one of the stalwarts of metal and they know exactly what they are doing when it comes to albums, the band have also seen a resurgence since their reformation with Tornillo they are still the band that made Fast As A Shark all those years ago but they are old wiser and louder! Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank's riffs are razor sharp driving the Teutonic Metal assault with six string fury and Stefan Schwartzmann and Peter Baltes anchor everything with the heavy percussive back beat. Everything is topped off with Mark Tornillo's great vocals who is near enough to follow Udo but also has his own definitive style. Despite the speedy album title the album grinds to a halt early on with the sickly ballad Dark Side Of My Heart and the frankly turgid Fall Of The Empire that just drags along. Things pick up again with Trail Of Tears but again descend into ballad territory on Wanna Be Free. 200 Years and Bloodbath Mastermind up the speed again. The bluesy From The Ashes We Rise is very good and very dark with lots of killer soloing, however for the most part this is an album of two halves part of it has the big German metal anthems with the super speed riffage, some songs are big fist pumping rockers but a lot of the album is filler with The Curse being a big offender as it sounds like it could be on a Journey album. As the contemporary and hero worshipping second track Accept are a Dying Breed unfortunately this albums shows signs of them slowing down, the beast is still there but in parts of this record it may be napping. 6/10

Dragonforce: Maximum Overload (EarMusic)

Dragonforce MKII return with their second album with Marc Hudson handling the vocal duties (since the album has been released long term drummer Dave Mackintosh has also left). As the last album showed Dragonforce have streamlined their approach gone are the 8-9 minute songs of their original albums, having been replaced by shorter, frankly more tuneful songs. However the key Dragonforce sound is there from the 240bpm (the fastest they have ever done) opening track The Game you know you are deep in Dragonforce territory, the lyrics are as usual nonsense based heavily in fantasy, tragedy and indeed love. The song is lighting fast, heavy, due to the backing vocals of Trivium's Matt Heafy, but also melodic with the dual guitar attack and the keys of Vadim keeping things lighter. Again Sam Totman and Herman Li do things to the guitar many can only dream of, Mackintosh drums up a storm (replacement Gee Anzalone will have a lot to live up too), Vadim again plays the keys like a demon and adds the prerequisite video game noises, Fred Leclercq brings a considered almost progressive bassline and Marc Hudson's vocals are even better on this record he has truly found his voice! As far as the songs go Three Hammers is a look back at their first album, Symphony Of The Night sounds a bit like Savatage with it's classical keys and guitars, The Sun Is Dead is a true progressive rock song written entirely by Leclercq it gives a new edge to Dragonforce's sound before we crash back into old school territory with Defenders and Extraction Zone. The final track on the main album is a supercharged version of Ring Of Fire (yes the Johnny Cash song) and it is very good indeed. The special edition features six extra tracks first is Power & Glory which unfortunately (fortunately?) is not a Saxon cover but is still good, You're Not Alone is a mega ballad, Chemical Interference has the classic Dragonforce guitar break and Fight To be Free is an early faster version of Starfire. The bonus tracks are well worth having indeed. Dragonforce have come back with a bang on Maximum Overload it is the perfect mix of old and new with the band going from strength to strength!! 9/10      

Peter Pan Speedrock: Buckle Up And Shove It! (Blitzcore Records)

Dutch band Peter Pan Speedrock are a band that are just distilled aggression, sweaty, shouty, four chord aggression! This is punk n roll at it's finest but with a lot of hard rock tendencies think Motorhead playing Sex Pistol's covers (Yes I'm aware it actually happened). Buckle Up And Shove It! is the bands eighth(!) album but frankly I've never heard of them but they are right up my street, gritty punk guitar riffs, aggressive throat shredding vocals, searing finger bleeding solos and a huge helping of aggression. See Tunnelvision as an example of the band's sound, coming straight from Motorhead's Overkill era with battering drums, rumbling bass and distorted guitars as does Heart Full of Soul. The album rarely slows down as the Dutch band bring song after song of sleazy Punk N Roll that just makes you want to drink, fuck and fight (not necessarily in that order). As with all bands of this ilk they are probably bloody brilliant live as they are a heavy hitting power trio, but they are no slouches on this record either as they have released 12 killer tracks of balls to the wall punk rock from the surf rock of Whatever Man, the percussive Note To Self which climaxes in a guitar freak out, the almost countrified Wide Eyed & Thirsty. The band can also do a mean cover adding a bit of grunt to The Dammed's New Rose (as if the original wasn't sleazy enough). This is great album and if you like bands such as Viking Skull, Supersuckers, Nashville Pussy and of course Motorhead you will love this album. Get your leathers on, grab a beer, buckle up and shove it!! 8/10 


Sunday, 17 August 2014

The View From A Field: Bloodstock 2014 (Live Review By Paul)

Bloodstock 2014- Catton Hall, Derby

Thursday   
        
At the ungodly hour of 7:00am the crew departed for the hallowed turf of Catton Hall for our annual weekend of pure heavy metal and good times. Our earlier planning had paid off as all parties arrived at the rendezvous site, Strensham Services on the M5 by 8:45am, gripped with excitement and anticipation. An hour and a half later we were queuing with the other early birds at the main gates, cider already open under the blazing sun. This team knows how to get pitched early and by 1:00pm we were all set up. Seven beautiful tents in a circle with our gazebo centre stage, providing some welcome respite from the beating of the sun’s rays. A couple of trips to the cars allowed us to bring about a gazillion cans of cider and at least three pigs worth of bacon to the pitch. All set up and ready to party! Oh, except for Nick who managed to lock his keys in the boot of his car. All credit to Admiral Insurance who sent a Saxon loving recovery man to break in and retrieve them. Last year it was Burton A&E, this year Admiral Insurance who wins our legends award. 
Last year we jokingly referred to having a Sunday roast at BOA. Don’t chuckle, dear reader, this happened. Lamb chops from Matt, veg from Brett, potatoes from Paul and Nick’s gravy meant that at 5:30pm we were sat, resplendent in our new Musipedia polo shirts, tucking into a full fucking roast dinner. Awesome stuff. Of course, as anyone knows, a roast needs a decent wine to accompany it. We didn't have that but we had Brett’s 15 litres of rose which was just the job. Unfortunately, Brett decided to pour a substantial amount down his front (and into the mouth) which resulted in first casualty of the day at 7:00pm. Yes, Brett hit the deck like a giant redwood. Nurse Nick checked Brett’s pulse, put him in the recovery position and then said “right, let’s get some thrash”.  Later that evening Brett was apparently observed crawling on hands and knees towards his tent before passing out again on the floor. This man is a legend.

Into the arena for our first visit; past the Showsec Nazis on the gates (who were one of the low points in the otherwise excellent organisation) and there was the rather enticing Sophie Lancaster tent. Caught in its gravitational pull we entered just as UK thrash band Incinery kicked off proceedings in fine style. Incinery (7/10) play old school thrash which went down well with the good sized crowd. A few early pits opened up in response to the all action delivery and the band received a very positive reaction from the crowd. Straight forward metal is the middle name of Monument (8/10). Their Maidenesque delivery proved very popular as the numbers in the tent swelled and heads all around started to bang. Frontman Pete Ellis is the real star of this band, doing his best Bruce Dickenson impressions throughout, engaging with the crowd and possessing an air raid siren of a voice. The band recovered well from some early sound problems to provide a solid set of pure old school type heavy metal. We gave pythonesque outfit Jaldaboath ten minutes but they were just a little bit too boring and with the beer still calling we headed back to the tent for a few more tins before bedtime.

Friday

Waking up to decent weather on Friday morning, the crew had high hopes for the day. This was mainly because of the main stage openers Bloodshot Dawn (8/10), who we have championed for a long time. We’ve seen BD many times over the past few years and it was genuinely intriguing to see how Josh and the boys brought their technical death metal to the main stage. Boy did they kill it. A brutal 40 minute set with a number of tracks from their self-titled debut as well as the airing of a new song which was excellent. Former drummer Doug Anderson joined the band on stage for a well-deserved round of applause and lead vocals on Illusion Aesthetic. A big performance from a band that stood up to the plate and stomped all over it. I’m already looking forward to their November tour. Unfortunately, despite putting in the effort, Entombed AD (6/10) were pretty dull and uninspiring. Their latest album Back to the Front is a decent long player with some good hooks and riffs. Live, the guys appeared a little jaded and were unable to maintain my attention for the whole set.

One of the joys of BOA is the fact that the arena is a mere five minutes from the camp site and so I gave Primordial (Primordial were good but not really sunshine material, they would be better indoors- Matt) and Flotsam and Jetsam the swerve and headed back for a round of bacon sandwiches and a few cans. However, we were back into the arena in good time for the arrival of New Yorkers Prong. Led by veteran Tommy Victor, Prong (8/10) delivered a storming set, with a nice mix of old classics and a couple of tracks from the excellent Ruining Lives release. Prong has a real raw energy about them with bassist Jason Christopher supporting Victor in coercing the crowd to get moving. A true power trio, the sound was immensely heavy. Closer and all time Prong classic Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck had the entire place moving. The atmosphere then took a darker turn with the arrival of Thomas Gabriel Warrior and Triptykon (8/10). As the clouds gathered, Triptkyon delivered 45 minutes of melancholic doom and dark metal. A mere five songs in their set, they provided some of the darkest moments of the weekend. Opener Black Snow set the tone, along with Altar of Deceit from the excellent Melana Chasmata before things got a bit quicker with Hellhammer track Messiah. As the rain started to fall, Mr Warrior noted with some satisfaction that this was the second time he had summoned the rain to BOA. His name was subsequently banned from our tents for the rest of the weekend.
A quick charge to the Sophie Tent as the heavens opened meant that Winterfyllyth (7/10) obtained a few more admirers than they might have expected. A brutal set of UK black metal was provided by possibly the most unlikely looking metal band of the weekend. Honestly, this lot look like a bunch of dentists but the sound that they create is far and above anything that the dental school can generate with a phantom head. This was my first time watching Winterfyllyth and they totally deserved the reception they received. I'm looking forward to catching them again with Behemoth later this year.  Meanwhile the younger members of our party braved the elements to catch Jamie Jasta’s Hatebreed (8/10) tear it up on the Dio stage. During the weekend there was much debate about the musical ability of these “angry white men” but the feedback was that Hatebreed delivered in much the same way they did two years ago. It may not be your bag but they deliver what you want if you like them.
 A 30 minute wait due to “technical bollocks” meant that most of us only caught the opening chords of Allegiance by Dimmu Borgir before heading off to the tent. However, what I did see suggested that the band remain a decent live act, despite the absence of guitar sound in the opening few minutes. Silenoz and Galder might as well have not been on the stage in parts. However, another band gained much appreciation and respect as a result. This was Skyclad (8/10) who have been around for many years, leading the folk metal genre with their combination of thrash with huge doses of electric violin. Lead guitarist Steve Ramsey and bassist Graeme ‘Bean’ English would also be on duty later in the weekend with final night Sophie tent headliners Satan; however, along with the bounciest violin player in metal in Georgina Biddle and brilliant vocalist Kevin Ridley, they helped deliver an extremely energetic show which commanded a healthy audience. After the deluge that Tom Warrior and co conjured up earlier in the afternoon, Skyclad was just what the doctor ordered and there were smiles and jig pits all over the tent.
A quick jog back to the main arena for a rendezvous with the crew and then it was time for the Friday night headliners. As Down entered stage right, Phil Anselmo began his tedious utterings. I love this band but his vocal delivery and constant aggression and profanities for no apparent reason (do you use swear words as a substitute for intelligent speak?) make watching them incredibly difficult and it was a no-brainer to head back to the Sophie tent for Greek metal legends Rotting Christ. These were a band I’d never seen before but with a Greek in our midst it was not only polite but also a bloody brilliant decision. Rotting Christ (10/10) were THE band of the day by a mile. Not so much the death metal I’d expected but awesome thrash in the vein of top quality Slayer and with a stage presence to match. Atmospheric lighting helped to create a real dark environment as Sakis Tolis and his band punched a hole in the end of the day. Those of us who made the move to the tent wore huge smiles as we were absorbed into the set which was full of blasting riffs from Tolis, guitarist George Emmanuel, bassist Vaggelis Karzis and drummer Themis Tolis. An excellent evening to conclude a brilliant day of metal. And things were only going to get better on day 2.

Saturday

Emerging on Saturday morning to a cloudy but dry day, our crew were ready to go from early on. Fuelled by bacon, scrambled eggs and cider we made our way to the main stage for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend; the elevation of the mighty Evil Scarecrow (10/10) to the main arena. Last year the Scarecrow blew the roof off the tent and was rewarded with the opening slot on the Dio stage. And what a set it was. Incredibly we had five Scarecrow virgins in the party, along with the rest of us gnarly veterans who had provided a full briefing in all things Scarecrow before we left the tents. Scarecrow hit the stage at pace and led by Dr Hell proceeded to spend 40 minutes laying waste to the main arena with their comedic black metal. Now, they are funny as hell but don’t forget that they are also exceptionally talented musicians with some great songs. Of course, the usual ridiculous sight of 10,000 (estimated) people scuttling left and right across the field to Crabulon, the robotic movements during Robototron and the homemade ‘grass poppers’ all added to the fun. The disbelief in the band’s faces was a delight as they attracted a huge crowd. Airing a new track for the first time in a good while, Space Dementia, complete with new improved robot was excellent and whets the appetite for the new album. Pledge your money folks. We need these guys on a headline set before too long.
Time for a quick wipe down with a couple of drinks after all that excitement which meant that Shining didn't get a look in. Back in plenty of time for one of the sets I was most looking forward to, Israeli outfit Orphaned Land. Now, I was in the rare position of being the only one who had seen this band out of our entire crew and having built up how great they were, I was willing them on with every sinew in my body. Not that I should have worried as Orphaned Land (10/10) delivered a beautifully paced set. Opening with All is One from their last album, they provided their Eastern tinged metal in stunning fashion with tracks from their last three albums. I openly admit to having a few tears in my eyes as Kobi referred to the conflict in Gaza and their relationship with the excellent Palestinian outfit Khalas when introducing Brother. A mix of tunes from Mabool and the excellent The Never Ending Way of OrWarrior kept the metal quota high and as I watched Alex dancing along to an Israeli couple at the front I had a smile I could barely contain. The verdict from the crew was universally positive and we are already plotting how to get to London next year to watch them support Blind Guardian. In the meantime I'm trying to work on a day at head office to catch OL playing Mabool in full in London later this year. Great stuff indeed.
Having seen Crowbar earlier in the year I headed for the Sophie tent to watch Conquest of Steel’s (3/10) final show. Thank fuck for that. They were dreadful and I lasted a whole two songs before I headed back to watch Kirk Windstein’s bearded brothers. Crowbar (8/10), on the other hand, are bloody heavy live. You know what you get with Crowbar – huge crashing riffs and the feeling of being hit by a juggernaut. A huge Walk with Knowledge Wisely from their latest release Symmetry in Black was followed by a number of Crowbar classics including a blinding Planets Collide to conclude the set.  It was time for something a bit easier on the eye after Crowbar with the lovely Christina Scabbia and Lacuna Coil. Now the Italians are always good value and this was no different with a selection of tracks from Dark Halo interspersed with classics such as Heaven’s A Lie. The only problem I have is that Andrea Ferro, endearing as he is, just can’t reach the vocal performance of Scabbia and as a result his vocals on occasion actually detract from the overall song. Still, they are always relatively decent and this time was not different (7/10). I skipped the end of Lacuna Coil’s set to ensure a prime spot for the Orphaned Land (9/10) acoustic set of the J√§germeister stage. This was pretty special and the band cut it big time with a mixed set included some acoustic versions of the day’s earlier set and some very early stuff from the 1990s and a perfect version of Let The Truce Be Known from All is One. Watching the band from a yard or so was quite breath taking and a very special moment. 
Having given Children of Bodom the widest of berths and obtained some welcome refreshments from the tent, we headed back in for one of the most brutal sets of the day. Carcass (9/10) arrived and basically blew the shit out of the main arena for an hour. Frontman Jeff Walker’s delivery is drier than sandpaper but their music just makes you bleed. A brutal force ten gale of death metal was delivered perfectly with a range of classic tracks and a smattering of newish stuff from 2013’s Surgical Steel. This was a real master class in old school death metal and Carcass received a huge reaction. We then moved to the evening’s headliners. Was it to be black metal legends Emperor or Vinnie Paul’s HellYeah? We headed to the tent but dear god, what the actual fuck? Lead singer Chad Gray, also the main man in Mudvayne got up my nostrils in about four minutes with his nu-metal approach. After two songs I could take no more and headed back to the main stage to see Ihshan and his crew blasting the crap out. Impressive light show but so boring. Oh dear; controversial? Yep, I don’t like Emperor and as the rain started to fall again I went shopping. Yes, metal shopping. At least I got some new CDsJ.

Sunday

After a night on the lash, Sunday morning broke to a different kind of lashing; quite astonishing amounts of rain on the tents. Emerging later than usual, it didn't stop the morning bacon fest or the opening of a few tinnies before we braved the conditions for the main arena again. First up for me were Dutch outfit Revamp. A good sized crowd were already inside as Floor Jansen and Revamp (7/10) battled through some atrocious sound problems. A decent enough set with Stief in particular staring at the stage with his jaw open. However there was a clash imminent so I scurried off to the New Blood Stage to catch Cardiff band Akb’al. I’d seen Akb’al at the final of the Metal to the Masses in Cardiff to earn their slot at BOA and had been very impressed with them. I was not disappointed in the tent as Akb’al (9/10) played a stunning three track set which was both heavy and progressive and generated an excellent response from the small crowd. Michael Young-Temple on bass, djembe, didgeridoo and growling was the band’s focal point whilst guitarist and singer Thoby Davis held his own with a beautiful clear voice and some excellent guitar playing. Fellow guitarist Rob Miles provided some rhythm but mainly lead guitar whilst drummer Mik combined with Young-Temple to lay down the groove. Our only disappointment was our inability to queue on the correct side of the stage to grab hold of a freebie or two. Anyway, Akb’al was refreshing and quite stunning.
As the disappointing news that Graveyard’s delayed arrival meant that their set had been moved to later in the day and that they would clash with Amon Amarth filtered through, Biohazard crashed onto the stage which prompted me to head to the tents once more for liquid refreshments. As we returned for Obituary, our heads were turned by the sound of quality power metal and we discovered an absolute gem. Yes, Stormzone from Northern Ireland had just launched into their set in the Sophie tent. Unsurprisingly, mere minutes after Nick, Stief and I entered the tent, Matt and Kona also arrived. That boy can sniff power metal out at a thousand paces. Anyway, Stormzone (8/10) were great, playing a set of straight forward but excellent melodic power metal in the Iron Maiden and Saxon mould; lots of choreographed moves which at one point had us convinced they must be German!  They played a range of tracks including tunes from their latest release, the excellent Three Kings and earlier release Death Dealer. Stormzone will be supporting Saxon and Hell and will also be at Hard Rock Hell so I shall look forward to at least another two encounters with John ‘Harv’ Harbinson and band.  Unfortunately that did mean we missed the brutality of Obituary apart from the last strains of Slowly We Rot. A shame.
It was time to head down to the front for an hour of classic British heavy metal in the form of Yorkshire’s finest tea drinkers, the mighty Saxon (9/10). Now, this is a band that in a lot of minds has enough about them to headline and it was clear from the opening bars of Sacrifice that Biff and co harboured similar feelings. A quite awesome set, full of classic tracks including my all-time favourite And The Bands Played On as well as the obligatory Wheels Of Steel sing a-long before the ace of all aces was pulled and no less than Megadave himself, Dave Mustaine joined Saxon on stage for a ripping version of Denim And Leather. As Brett and I collapsed into our usual Saxon inspired emotional state, we were able to wipe the debris from Nick, Stief and Kona whose Saxon cherries had popped for the very first time. Mine went too … 32 years ago!
A quick wipe down and it was back into the throng as the strains of Father Of The Wolf heralded the arrival of those Scandinavian Vikings Amon Amarth (10/10). I've seen these guys several times but bloody hell; this was the headline show that never was. Huge dragon heads, pyro galore and an hour of blistering melodic death metal. Deceiver Of The Gods, Cry Of The Blackbird, As Loke Falls, Guardians Of Asgaard; get in and bang your head. Johan Hegg and crew were determined to deliver a set to remember and they achieved that with ease. Finishing with the ultimate one-two, Twilight Of The Thunder Gods and Pursuit Of Vikings, Amon Amarth demonstrated why they will headline BOA within the next two years. Stunningly brilliant and totally cool.  A quick sprint to the Sophie tent caught a short bit of Graveyard but it would be harsh to provide a review on two songs. Suffice to say Ant was enjoying the mellowing effect.

We moved to the final band on the RJD stage, disappointed that apparently Sophie tent headliners and NWOBHM stalwarts Satan had been pushed back to a 10:45pm start to ensure that everyone could watch Megadeth. Wow! Thanks Dave! As it happens, Megadave played a blinder and it was worth staying to watch the full show (unless you are Stief of course). Opening with Hanger 18 and seguing nicely into Wake Up Dead this was Megadeth (9/10) at their finest. A full light show and visual effects kept the attention focused, whilst A Tout Le Monde, She Wolf and Skin O’ my Teeth kept the audience fully involved.  Long time bassist Dave Ellefson laid down the foundations with Shawn Drover’s powerful drumming, allowing Mustaine and Chris Broderick to deliver some fine riffs and solos. Having shown his softer side when getting a young fan up on the stage, Mustaine closed the main set with Symphony Of Destruction and the ever brilliant Peace Sells. An interesting choice of encore, with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat before Holy Wars wrapped up a stunning weekend on the main stage. A final dose of metal in the form of Satan (8/10) in the Sophie tent completed the musical entertainment for another year. Big thanks to all the crew that made this year yet another brilliant weekend. I'm already in the queue for next year but please BOA, dangle the carrot of a headliner before too long. We need incentives. Cheers!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Reviews: Alestorm, Upon A Burning Body, The Blues Pills

Alestorm: Sunset On The Golden Age (Napalm)

Garrrr!!! Ahoy mateys!! Yes get your eye patches out and get the rum flowing people the fun loving Pirate Metal merchants from Scotland are back with their fourth album of alcohol fuelled, metal shanties. Main man Chris Bowes has had a break after the last album forming the mighty (and totally bonkers) Gloryhammer, with this creative release from sea faring silliness, it means that the band can now plunder more Pirate themed material meaning that their fourth album has a hull full of metal madness, with the usual songs about wenches, mead and of course rum! Throw in the occasional squid fight and I'm sure you are aware of what Sunset On The Golden Age is going to sound like. As the first chord or Walk The Plank kicks in the keys swell and the band kicks into quite a heavy riff to start the album, the song is unsurprisingly about walking the plank but what strikes me is that the song has a real thrash feel and an explosive solo from Dani Evans that comes from out of nowhere. The second thing I noticed was how multi layered the keys are this could be because the band now have two(!) keyboardists, Bowes himself and Elliot 'Windrider' Vernon both of who add massive texture to the sound, more than just the normal accordion sounds. Drink is a folky track that still has a heavyweight riff and a huge gang chorus and the folk continues on the acoustic opening of Magnetic North which is a sea shanty with metallic backing. The rhythm section needs a mention too with Gareth Murdock and Peter Alcorn doing a great job anchoring the songs in the briny deep. Yes this is a another good album but one that has much more mature structure musically even if the lyrics are still juvenile (although this is part of the point).The album has some more fleshed out sounds to it as well from the surf rock of Surf Squid Warfare to the cover of Hangover originally by Taio Cruz and Flo Rida and weirdly it works as a pirate metal anthem. The also album features two longer tracks with the 7 minute plus 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena) starting off with an 8-bit opening before the mini epic sets sail with its story of Pirates versus the British Navy! The second epic is the closing title track which at 11 minutes is hell of a song about the golden age of piracy (1680-1720). So all in all this is another great pirate metal album to drink and plunder too, but it doesn't stop there the special edition features an acoustic greatest hits set called Rumplundered and this too more than just a novelty. So hoist the mizzenmasts, fly the Jolly Roger high, pour yourself a pint of rum and get the pirate party started!! 9/10 (I apologise if I got carried away with the puns!)

Upon A Burning Body: The World Is My Enemy Now (Sumerian Records)

"I'm Not Sorry For The Way That I Am!" screams Danny Leal on Red Razor Wrists the first track on the Texans third album. You want to believe him as Upon A Burning Body have gained a lot of attention for their antics away from music, the most recent of which was the staged disappearance of the frontman which ended in disaster and a annoyed a lot of people the band's fans included. What they should do is let the music do the talking and with the mix of electronics and heavy groove metal with death vocals. The band are lumped into the deathcore genre and you can hear some Suicide Silence as well as some Whitechapel in their groove based beat down filled heavy metal, the djent palm muted riffs are there with Ruben Alvarez and Sal Dominguez providing a maelstrom of riffs on every track coupled with Ramon "Lord Cocos" Villareal's furious blast beating behind the kit and Leal's growled vocals. The songs are good and the music is big and heavy like most modern metal/core music few solo's but lots of huge breakdowns to get the pits moving and the heads banging. As much as this album will probably appeal to metal fans under the age of 20 to me the band sound a lot like Slipknot with the electronics, breakdowns and lightning fast riffage and percussion there doesn't seem to be much in the way of progression or free thought, every song on here could have come off Iowa. This coupled with their blatant attention whoring puts me off the band however based on the music alone they have a released an album that does everything they have ever done but nothing more, it is a solid effort from a band that make it easy for people to dislike them. 6/10

The Blues Pills: The Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)

Their 2013 Devil Man EP blasted the Swedish retro styled rockers The Blues Pills into the public consciousness. It was a four track EP that showed The Blues Pills psychedelic blues rock to the world the band were likened to Big Brother & The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane as well as more modern fair like Saint Jude. Their debut album only features two songs from the previous EP, that song is the evil sounding Devil Man and the swampy sounds of The River (now titled River). This means that we get 8 new tracks of retro flavoured Blues rock. The bands sound has fleshed out a bit on the LP as they have incorporated the bass driven blues rocking of Rival Sons, especially on the opening thrust of High Class Woman which could have come straight off Head Down. Second track Ain't No Change could be a Vintage Trouble number while Jupiter has an echo-filled, psychedelic middle section. The album is filled with retro rock riffs that come straight out of the Age of Aquarius with the pulsating percussion of Cory Berry and thumping hum of bassist Zach Anderson (the two Americans of the group) driving the songs especially on Black Smoke which features a huge guitar freak out by French guitarist Dorian Sorriaux at the end of the track on which he does his best Hendrix impression. The band is completed by Swedish singer Elin Larsson who has a majestic voice part Joplin, part Franklin able to sing smoky soul songs like Astralplane and No Hope Left In Me but also the big rockers like the aforementioned Devil Man and the proggy reworking of Chubby Checker's Gypsy. The record ends with the dynamic Little Sun which has a sprawling delivery and climaxes the albums excellently. This is a strong record for a band that are part of the ever burgeoning retro fuelled rock revival, The Blues Pills have delivered a great debut album that is bolstered by Don Ahlsterberg's analogue production. If you like your rock flavoured with blues and lashings of 60's psychedelia then The Blues Pills is the album for you!! 8/10