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Thursday, 28 July 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Airbourne

Airbourne & Leogun, Y Plas Cardiff

The Australian hard rock maelstrom that is Airbourne having been doing the rounds on the festival circuit culminating with Ramblin Man Fair which took place on the same weekend as Steelhouse Festival and looks like it will continue to be with both festivals taking place on the same weekend next year. Anyway back to the show and it was one of just two dates in the UK the band played post Ramblin Man, the first night was in Edinburgh and the second was right here in the fair city of Cardiff. Personally I was very impressed that Airbourne added Cardiff to their limited tour schedule so I was heartened to see that the Cardiff rock fraternity was out in force for the Aussie nutters.

This was to be my sixth viewing of Airbourne and even though they do sound like AC/DC, they have enough songs to keep you head banging, your fist in the air and you singing along all night. Due to a club night the support came on around 8pm after the 7:30 and went straight into their set. The band were London town's Leogun (6) who are a blues/soul three piece that do have a some great songs but their slow paced bluesy numbers were lost on the hard core fans in attendance that seemed more interested in getting drunk waiting for the headliners, Leogun in their own show would be better appreciated I think but on a Wednesday night in Cardiff the crowd, decked out almost exclusively with AC/DC and Airbourne T-Shirts (with the noted exception of one Chris De Burgh shirts), wanted beer fuelled hard rock.

As the theme from Terminator 2 played over the PA, it was time for the four piece to storm the stage and as the percussive piece ended the show kicked off with Ready To Rock guitarist Justin Rhodes and bassist Justin Street rocking in synchronicity as Ryan O'Keefe kept the beat hard and heavy then Joel O'Keefe made his shirtless entrance slinging his guitar like a weapon. From the chant of Ready To Rock it was back to the debut for Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast and due to this tour being a post festival bit of fun, the band set the tone by making it a greatest hits affair, not that anyone was complaining. I'm assuming that this will not be the case in their Autumn tour supporting their soon to be released album. Back to the show and it was two of their dirtiest numbers back to back with Chewin The Fat and Diamond In The Rough following each other allowing Joel to solo his heart out while gurning for Australia. The interaction was as you'd expect the same as if you'd walked into a bar in Warrnambool, Joel started by smashing cans of beer on his head, then proceeded to sit on a roadies shoulders for a solo section then moving into throwing out yet more cans to a more inebriated audience.

Black Dog Barking gave way to Girls In Black and Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women then one solitary new song the album title track Breakin' Outta Hell filled the gap as an hour neared we got the final two songs of the main set, No Way But The Hard Way twinned with Stand Up For Rock N Rolls which got the heads banging hard as it rumbled along. I was surprised how quickly the time went to be honest, a band like Airbourne (8) can make the time just melt away especially with a set full of anthems. Resuming the fun with an encore of Live it Up and the evergreen Running Wild in just over an hour it was all done and dusted the crowd were going nuts and the band were smiling from ear-to-ear. It's nice to sometimes see a jukebox set from a band inside a venue rather than in a field and it pays dividends as it keeps the band in peoples minds, expect the Autumn tour to sell very well, due to the evidence of the packed Y Plas there is a healthy appetite for their style of no-frills rock n roll, shame they are playing nowhere near us then...

Reviews: Revocation, Blizzen, Dream The Electric Sleep

Revocation: Great Is Our Sin (Metal Blade)

There's a part in the second Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray (Venkman) is explaining why Viggo is so angry, he blames it on Carpathian Kitten Loss, then tries to paint the kitten into the painting. Now this scene gives the perfect excuse why Revocation play music ripped from the bowels of hell, they too must be experiencing Carpathian Kitten Loss. The Boston technical death metal four piece play music that is a guitar fan's wet dream, full of complex polyrhythms, dual guitar interplay, face-melting leads, battering ram kick drumming and wide range of guttural screams that above all still gives an audible lyrical recognition. Not that you couldn't guess the lyrical content it's horror, war, death, pestilence, politics and religion the standard cheery subjects built upon some tasty musicianship with the guitar/bass interplay absolutely astounding as David Davidson (guitar), Dan Gargiulo (guitar) and Brett Bamberger (bass) weave in and out of each others riffs, meshing together perfectly for the tenacious thrash, galloping classic metal and even the occasional hard rock power chord that makes up this album.

With so much going on from the string instruments and the violent vocals of Davidson you'd often forget about the drumming however Ash Pearson remains vital to the sound throughout his drumming more than a match for his predecessor, founding member Phil Dubois-Coyne. Great Is Our Sin is another intense listening experience from the Boston natives with Davidson's guitar solos greatly impressive so much so that you can't see the join when the shredmaster general Marty Friedman joins in on The Exaltation, from the opening shredfest of Arbiters Of The Apocalypse, through first single Communion right until the closing moments of Cleaving Giants Of Ice (which drives into the 100 mph cover of Slayer's Altar Of Sacrifice) this record is a non-stop technical metal masterclass, whatever the cause of this aggression is Great Is Our Sin is the cat's pajamas (Pun intended). 8/10

Blizzen: Genesis Reversed (High Roller Records)

Another High Roller Records release and once again it's traditional metal of the highest quality, Germans Blizzen are a twin axe toting, drum blasting, bass galloping classic metal and their debut full length is a proto-thrash, speed metal triumph. The four men are all killer musicians and the opening track Trumpets Of The Gods and follow up Masters Of Lightning are really show you what the band are about with Teutonic speed on the latter and a chunky NWOBHM sound on the former. Yes the lyrics are generic but they are played with pure passion and this is reflected by the strength of the songs, similar to bands such as Enforcer and Cauldron there is the strong scent of denim and leather but the rampant retroism on this record is a very much welcome from the squealing solos, to the piercing vocals the old school sound is done with class. Genesis Reversed is a strong debut for a band that have only been around for two years and it shows real promise. 7/10     

Dream The Electric Sleep: Beneath The Dark Wide Sky (Mutiny Records)

I think I probably owe DTES an apology, back in 2011 I reviewed their debut and it made my top 10 of that year, however when they released their previous record Heretics I ruefully overlooked it on the blog, so to make amends I picked up that record and this their newest release and I'm glad I did as it's got all of the hallmarks that drew to to the band to begin with but with a more mature sound. DTES are a hard band to categorise but the core of their sound is in the classic prog of experimental bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Genesis (pre -Duke) as well as the more modern soundscapes of Radiohead and 90's shoe-gazers Catherine Wheel with touches of the heartfelt emotion of U2 and even The Foo Fighters.

This indie-prog/post rock three-piece is made up of Matt Page on vocals/guitar, Joey Waters on drums and Chris Tackett on bass and the sounds that the trio make are impressive by anyone's estimation but as the melodic beauty of Drift starts the record it's quite clear that the three men are immeasurably talented, Drift builds in layers having the kind of sound that Coldplay bring, as it builds it explodes into Let The Light Flood In which conjures the more modern power rock sound of bands such as Coheed & Cambria and more definitively 3.

Like I've said with a melting pot of influences DTES albums are always a real treat to listen to and they stand up to the modern genre leaders such as Steven Wilson, portraying the same kind of hurt, love, passion and longing he can, most notably the passionate and percussive Flight which is built on Water's and Tackett's rhythmic genius, while We Who Blackout The Sun merges Floydian guitar playing with the instant encompassing sound favoured Anathema. I think I've been an idiot for missing Heretics however I'm extremely glad I haven't missed Beneath The Dark Wide Sky as it reaffirms my love for this band, it's brilliant piece of work from a band that should be much more recognised and respected than they are, hopefully this will help. 9/10

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A View From The Mountain: Steelhouse Festival 2016 (Review By Paul)

Steelhouse Festival, Hafod y Dafal Farm, Aberbeeg 23-24 July 2016

The Welsh Classic Rock Festival is now in its sixth year and continues to improve. Building on such previous stellar acts as Europe, Magnum, Michael Schenker, Saxon and UFO, Steelhouse combines the cream of long established bands with up and coming exciting fresh outfits. This is the event where we first saw a youthful The Temperance Movement, the power of Northern Ireland’s Trucker Diablo and a resurgent The Treatment amongst many others.

A change to the layout of the site this year meant a slightly longer walk from the car park (probably a whole two minutes!) and the camping relocated to another field due to the arrival of a large number of solar panels on the previous camping area. The rest of the layout remained as before and the road to the site continues to take no prisoners. The large stage dominates the small arena with a limited number of decent catering wagons including crepes, pizza, pulled pork and burgers all doing a roaring trade. In the large bar area the Tudor Brewery competed with Trooper ale and the usual Tuborg lager alongside a couple of bars doing cocktails and spirits . As a real ale fan, the Tudor Brewery always get my full patronage with their Mountain Rock ale brewed especially for the festival and the pomegranate and sherbet Blitz kicking hard at 5.0% 

Day 1

So what about the music. Well, as the sun blazed through the cloud to create a blisteringly warm afternoon, Wigan’s Bigfoot (9) kicked off proceedings with an addictive display of ballsy gritty hard rock which got a very solid response from the early crowd. Frontman Antony Ellis refused to let their status as openers have even the slightest impact on him or his band mates as they put in a really great performance. In fact, they played like they were the headliners. Songs from their debut EP Stone Soldiers were cheered loudly by the band’s hard core contingent and the double guitar of Sam Millar and Mick McCullogh provided Steelhouse with a hard and heavy opening set.

London’s Dirty Thrills (7) arrived on stage with all the swagger and confidence of a band from the smoke. They also had a slightly less engaged approach, and although they warmed up as their set progressed with their bluesy rock their slightly aloof attitude was in stark contrast to the enthusiasm of the previous band.
The sun was blazing down on the field by now, factor 30 and a good hat very much the order of the day. Unsurprisingly the beer was also going down a treat and Stratford Upon Avon’s AOR maestros Vega (7) made sure that everyone continued to have a good time. They do little for me but as AOR outfits go, Vega sit in the higher levels. Their saccharine coated melodic rock does what it does, and approving nods from around the field complimented the die hard fans who really gave it their all. Vocalist Nick Workman is an engaging front man, whilst the Martin twins on keys and bass caused the odd double take. New tracks from their recent fourth release Who We Are were mixed with older tunes in a forty minute set.
Great things are expected from Tax The Heat (8), one of the UK’s hardest working bands at the moment. They are getting a lot of promotion from Planet Rock and their debut album Fed To The Lions  is receiving decent reviews (especially this humble blog - Ed). The Bristol based outfit started slowly but soon increased the temperature higher in the arena with their hard yet melodic rock. The band’s dapper image was severely tested by the high temperatures but although jackets were removed the smart shirts remained. Another well received set with a fair proportion of the audience impressively familiar with the band’s material. I hadn't seen them since they opened the second stage at Download in 2014 and they have improved immeasurably with a confident delivery. Set closer Highway Home aptly demonstrated why Tax The Heat could be much higher up the bill in a couple of years. 

Finally, a non-British band. It was starting to look like a Brexit convention! No, I jest but it is rare these days to have such home grown talent in front on you. Thankfully Steelhouse have a good strike rate on talent from the UK, and the classic rock field is very healthy at home these days. Still, a bit of continental influence is never a bad thing and The Von Hertzen Brothers (8) are a class act. Kicking off with New Day Rising, the title track from their latest album, the band were supercharged from the start and delivered an hour of absolute quality. Brothers Mikko, Kie and Jonne are the focal point of the band with their interaction just fabulous. The solid pounding of Mikko Kaakkurninemi and Juha Kuoppala’s layered synths add to the overall sound of a band who have already been around for nearly two decades. The Finns really know how to put on a show and with five albums worth of material are now in the fantastic position of being able to vary their set although unsurprisingly the majority came from the more recent and less prog tinged releases. A few new fans gained no doubt.
Now I was surprised that Blues Pills (8) were higher on the bill than VHB but they demonstrated their quality with a splendid set which held the attention from start to finish. The Blues tinged psychedelia which is the band’s main sound fitted perfectly in the sun drenched hillside. Opening with their debut album’s opening track, High Class Woman, the stunning voice of the beautiful Elin Larsson, complete with tasseled cat suit and high energy tambourine continues to astound. Of course, the band are made up of three other magnificent musicians with Dorian Sorriaux transfixed in his own world as he continues to play some of the best guitar I've ever seen. The debut release formed the bulk of the set, but we also got the treat of a couple from the soon to be released Lady In Gold. The band were also bulked out with a second guitarist who played a fine rhythm which allowed Damian to unleash his trademark riffs. Highlights also included the slower paced Black Smoke which quickly makes the transition to a wild gallop and the raucous Devil Man which closed a brilliant set. Well worth making the trip to Bristol in November to catch them with Kadavar.

Few bands sit as comfortably at Steelhouse as those from Northern Ireland. Twice Trucker Diablo have really impressed but the band that are guaranteed to make you smile, clap and sing is The Answer (9) who were making their third appearance on the mountain. Now I've seen these guys a lot and they never disappoint. This year the band were celebrating the tenth anniversary of their debut Rise which they played in full. Clearly massively popular with the very healthy crowd, the band started at speed and didn't let up throughout their hour and quarter set. Frontman Cormack Neeson was in fine form, evangelical and charismatic, encouraging audience participation at every opportunity. He may be greying at the temples but he still retains the Robert Plant hair and swagger. He can also sing quite magnificently with Preaching a huge highlight. The band closed their impressive set which had focused mainly on the past with Spectacular and two new songs, Thief Of Light and Solas, the title track of their new album which will be released in October.

It was going to be tough to follow that set but if there is a band better equipped to headline a UK classic rock event than Thunder (10) then I'd love to see them. Full of the confidence that their many years rocking across the globe has given them, Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, Harry James, Ben Matthews and Chris Childs were in imperious form. Backed by a fine light show Thunder tore through a set packed with their classics which had the crowd eating out of their hand from the opening bars of Wonder Days. Thunder’s stock in the UK has risen greatly over the last couple of years and they fully deserved the headline status. Bowes is quite the front man, combining a rock star’s swagger with a humility often absent (comparisons with the approach of the Dead Daisies John Corabi spring to mind). The band’s music is strong enough to throw Back Street Symphony into the middle of the set. A stunning Love Walked In complete with excellent Welsh singing closed their set and with the crowd baying for more, Thunder duly obliged and rounded a fantastic first day off with everyone’s favourite Dirty Love.

Day 2

Day 2 saw a return to more typical British weather conditions although for those of us who had been to Download this year this was more of a light drizzle. Arriving in time for the openers Last Great Dreamers (6), a British band who operated in the 1990s before splitting and then reforming in 2014, we grabbed a beer and watched from the beer tent. To be fair, the Sunday morning slot in drizzle after a day on the lash in glorious sunshine has got to be a bit shit. Last Great Dreamers didn't float my boat but gave it a good go and the relatively sparse crowd gave their dirty rock ‘n’ roll a decent enough reception. A much more enthusiastic reception awaited Steelhouse regulars Hand Of Dimes (7) whose brand of soulful melodic rock was a welcome lunchtime sound. The Welsh roots stretch far with this lot, the older members of the audience possibly might have remembered Kooga from the 1980s which was where frontman. Nev MacDonald and keyboardist Neil Garland first cut their teeth. Nev still leads from the front and the band played a range of songs from their self-titled release.
As the rain struggled to make up its mind whether to totally empty down or stop, the all round pretty boy of lightweight pop rock James Toseland and his outfit arrived on stage. Having seen Toseland (7) at The Globe earlier this year, I was familiar with the band and they do what they do well. Pretty generic rock in the Alter Bridge/Shinedown ball park. James is a good solid frontman who engaged well with the crowd. Playing a range of tracks from their earlier release as well as newie Cradle The Rage they delivered a decent 40 minutes which made me forget the rain. A slightly shambolic ending as they overran meant they didn't get the finale they deserved but overall a solid performance from a band who have already obtained support slots with the likes of Deep Purple.
Three piece rock outfits are quite rare these days but RavenEye (9) have more balls about them then many quintets. Led by the charming and totally crazy Oli Brown whose manic running around whilst shredding like Hendrix on heat is an absolute joy, the band kicked hard from the start and provided an absolute treat for those unfamiliar with their energy and quality. Tracks from their EP Breakin’ Out mixed with a couple of newies from the soon to be released debut Nova. Bassist Aaron Spiers makes sure that all four legs of the outfield part of the band are working hard as he ventured out onto the walkway although it was Brown as ever who stole the show. Whether he is talking shit into the microphone, jumping off Kev Hickman’s drum kit or being carried across the stage on Spiers shoulders, Brown is simply mesmerising. He's like a metal Russell Brand with more flexible fingers (I'd say their finger work is on a par but used for entirely different reasons - Smut Ed) As the band closed their set, with Brown bemoaning the fact that their van broke down leaving them devoid of merchandise, the best news of the day broke with the news that the band will be back in South Wales later in the year.
By now we were a little weary and Mrs H, whose festival days were thought to be long behind her was flagging somewhat. Although the rain had eased, standing in a field for two days is quite knackering work. Up next were the Dead Daisies, a supergroup of sorts from the USA. And yes, you knew the Americans had arrived as soon as they hit the stage. The charm and humble status of Oli Brown was replaced by a brash arrogance of a band that, let's face it, are a bunch of also-rans. With the sound hitting a new level, Dead Daisies (5) took to the stage to a huge reception, the vast quantity of air play that Planet Rock have been providing them obviously working. For the uninitiated, the band was formed in 2012 via Australia and California and have had a number of members in various line ups. The problem for me, and I appear to be in a very small minority judging by the online reaction, is that Dead Daisies are just a competent collection of session musicians who managed to litter an hour’s set with six cover versions (Free’s All Right Now being the most recognisable and average) interspersed with some really average rock songs from their two full length releases. Lock And Load is about as close to a rock painting by numbers as it gets, whilst the new tracks such as Make Some Noise contained as much subtlety as the early works of Kiss.
What was even more infuriating as the crowd lapped it up was the sheer arrogance of the band. John Corabi strolls around like a Steven Tyler who’d had to eat his way out of a pie shop, whilst Marco Mendoza morphed in Derek Smalls early on. The fact that this guy played in a Thin Lizzy line up is a disgrace to Phil Lynott’s memory although if I remember correctly he was just as much of a strutting cock when he played in the Lizzy line up at St David’s Hall in 2012. Newest recruit Doug Aldrich, a journeyman guitarist who spent time with Whitesnake and Dio looked relatively constrained by the limited opportunity to cut loose. Meanwhile David Lowry stood in relative anonymity with his rhythm guitar work stage left. The fun didn't stop with covers though and a Brian Tichy drum solo was just the icing on the ego. By the time cover number five arrived (Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival for those interested enough) my patience had just about run out. A final cover of the Beatles Helter Skelter saw the band obtain a raucous response. I just don't get it. Maybe the Steelhouse crowd wants unoriginal covers more than fresh new music. It certainly helps when you are on your eight pint to have something to sing along to. Who knows?

Flashback to Download 2016 and after several hours in the pissing rain The Wildhearts put a smile back on my face in the tent with an hour of Ginger’s inimitable throw away rock. With a billing far higher than warranted, and even I would admit that Dead Daisies should have been higher, another of Ginger’s projects, Hey! Hello! (6) careered onto the stage for the tea time slot. With the band having hemorrhaged female vocalists, Ginger had recruited a new singer whose name I was unable to catch. Unfortunately she couldn't sing and her interplay between songs suggested that she was incredibly nervous (or a little bit thick). Opening with Swimwear the band, completed by The Rev, Toshi and drummer Ai got into their stride quickly. Unfortunately their generic brand combined with the vocal quality of a cat with it’s paws in the mangle didn't enhance the experience. By the end of their set we were ready to leave and get home in the light due to a concern about the strength of a back tyre that needed some TLC. Trooping out in advance of Terrorvision is always a good feeling and we forwent The Darkness in order to get home.

Editors Note: The Darkness by all accounts raised the roof as the headliners. Their set was full of the tongue-in-cheek bravado and more importantly massive self-penned sing-alongs, basically everything The Dead Daises seemed to lack. They showed that they were well worthy of being the headliners of this festival and reinforced that the UK is indeed the home of rock music and that you don't need to have a history with famous bands to be popular, you need great songs, the right attitude and a shit load of good-humoured British fun.

So, a record crowd, some stunning weather and enough good bands to support the appetite of the rock palette. Steelhouse once again came up trumps with the goods, with a friendly and family vibe throughout the site. Next year Mrs H is insisting on camping – it is seriously that good.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Reviews: Honky, Svartanatt, Fake Idols

Honky: Corduroy (Housecore Records)

A bearded Texas three-piece playing booty shaking boogie music? Yeah yeah I know there aren't many bands that can successfully try and compete with Dusty, Frank and The Reverend Willy G but Honky are out to at least bask in the reflected glory by playing the same kind of swaggering Texan blues rock as The Top with the Southern Trendkill of Pantera thrown in to make sure your hips are shaking and your teeth get kicked in. Honky are no amateurs either they've been doing this stuff since 1996 and Corduroy is the bands 7th record, at this late stage they aren't going to change their formula, the band call themselves Superboogie and that is what they do, moving away from the heaviness that infected their previous records, the general mood is more upbeat and laid back, think Texan BBQ with a side order of sunshine, beer and a mountain of reefer.

Honky is made up of guitarist Bobby 'Ed' Landgraf (Down, Gahdzilla Motor Company), Michael ‘Night Train’ Brueggen (Blackula) on drums and band mastermind/bassist/vocalist J.D Pinkus (Butthole Surfers), his Texan drawl and blue collar hollar are a key part of Honky's traditional sound, but behind the waves of big riffage, squealing leads and Redneck bravado, the band do a stock-in-trade for intelligent often funny lyrics with theme of this record to have a damn good time, hell they even chuck in Pat Travers' Snortin' Whiskey as the album draws to a close. At the top of the record though is the fuzzy title track, the parping brass runs through Outta Season, then as we go through the Southern rock builds until I Don't Care brings things back to country after the cover, with oddness returning on an all vocals version of Zeppelin's Moby Dick named Mopey Dick.  Corduroy is Honk doing what they do, they will never change and more power to them, this is good shit. 8/10

Svartanatt: Svartanatt (The Sign Records)

Right you know the drill Swedish, retro, 60's and 70's loving rock with funky riffs, lots of organs, no complications, no B.S just honest good old fashioned hard rock. Svartanatt have swirling psych, an analogue sound, righteous drum fills, groove bass breaks, big stabs of organs, clean flowing guitars and howling vocals and that's just on Times Are Changing, a bit of 60's balladry creeps in on Thunderbirds Whispering Winds, there's a Deep Purple break in Nightman and it's all just been done before and again, there's nothing to make this stand out from the retro rock pack. For completists it's worth listening to but there are so many bands making this style of music fresh and exciting unfortunately Svartanatt aren't. 4/10   

Fake Idols: Witness (Scarlet Records)

Witness is the second full length from Italian melodic heavy rockers Fake Idols and their first for Scarlet records. The press release makes it known that the band is made up of ex-members of such bands like Raintime, Slowmotion Apocalypse and Jar Of Bones, which means precisely Sweet F.A to me as I have no idea who any of these bands are. Still that does mean I can be objective in this review as I have no past glories to compare it too. Luckily the album is chock full of modern hard rock songs that full of muscular hook and heavy riffs, it has distinctly modern flavour of bands like Papa Roach, Skillett and even Shinedown. For an Italian band they seem to have good contacts as Motorhead's Phil Campbell adds guitar to the albums fastest track on the record Mad Fall and they are not adversed to cover either as on this record they tackle The Chemical Brother's Go which works surprisingly well in a hard rock style. Fake Idols are a good band and write some great songs, if you didn't know you'd think they were from the US such is their radio bothering songcraft. If you like your rock with a touch of heaviness and heap of melody then Witness is well worth exploring. 7/10

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Reviews: Temperance, Palace Of The King, (Hed) P.E

Temperance: Earth Embraces Us All (Scarlet Records)

Italian symphonic metal troupe Temperance are a pretty prolific band by modern standards, Earth Embraces Us All is their third record in as many years and by rights they should have made at least one mis-step by now, thankfully there is no sign of one on this record, in fact it builds upon the the two previous records and makes for a more mature, progressive listen with the songs a lot more complicated and featuring more musically intensive compositions than before. Much of this is due to the impressive keyboard/guitar dynamic that sets pulses racing from the first song A Thousand Places on a trajectory similar to Amaranthe with the keys pumping out pulsating dance vibes as the crunching metal riffs drive the songs hook.

What's interesting about this opening song is the vocal interplay between frontwoman Chiara Tricarico who has a powerful classically trained vocal but can adapt it to numerous styles as guitarist Marco Pastorino's gruffer pipes are the counterpoint much like fellow Italians Lacuna Coil. At The Edge Of Space and Unspoken Words keep the pace high, as Unspoken Words adds a folk element and the electronics cut through again on Empty Lines that has some excellent 8-bit sounding keys a cracking dual vocal chorus and Tricarico at her poppiest.

With the impressiveness of the vocals it can be easy to overlook the musicianship but gold stars all round to bassist Luca Negro and drummer Giulio Capone who not only blasts away with his expressive drumming but also provides the keys and finally as well as his vocals guitarist Marco adds rocking riffs and searing solos. Earth Embraces Us All has a modern sound and like I said it expands on the bands previous records by giving a more exploratory sound than before, see a song like Haze which is one of the most interesting songs on the record effortlessly blending the throbbing electronica with galloping metal. It's a great album that puts Temperance three out of three in terms of quality as this record is yet again filled with excellent, premium quality symphonic metal. 8/10     

Palace Of The King: Valles Marineris (Listenable Records)

I gave Palace Of The King's last record White Bird/Burn The Sky a hefty 9/10 based on the quality of the bluesy retro psych rock that was featured on the record. The Aussie six piece tip their hat to the past masters while also fitting squarely in with the modern revivalists. The rumbling organs give way to guitar riffs on Let The Blood Run Free with two guitarists the band are a heavier prospect than many of their contemporaries. The opening salvo turns into a slinky bass driven middle section which has some blue-eyed soul to it this carries through to the funky Beyond The Valley on which Tim Henwood shows his vocals chops and the dual guitars of Leigh Maden and Matt Harrison build in conjunction with Sean Johnston's keys to a crescendo of power.

Palace Of The King have a spirit of Zeppelin flowing through them but drawing heavily from the Houses Of The Holy era when they experimented with more textures, witnessed on electric piano thumping soul Black Cloud which also has some gospel vocals over the top of a shaking percussion from Travis Dragani. Valles Marineris (Named after Latin name for Mars' Mariner Valley fact fans) eases off a little on the bluesy hard rock of it's predecessor instead adding different flavours to the band's sound with funk, soul, psych and more blues adding to the record's appeal.

They can still bring a heavy rock riff on We Are The Vampires which shows off Andrew Gilpin's bass playing to it's maximum as does the strutting, mind bending Sick As A Dog. On the heavy psych of Empire Of The Sun the band bring more big riffs as Henwood wails with his unique shamanic vocal phrasing. Yes you can say they sound like Zeppelin in places but they also have hints of Stevie Wonder and The Doors as well as having nods to contemporaries such as Scorpion Child and fellow Antipodeans Wolfmother. Is this record as good as it's predecessor? Yes of course it is, not as immediate or direct but it does open itself up after a few listens to be another stunning record! 9/10

(Hed) P.E: Forever! [Review By Paul]

I’ll be totally honest with this one. I’ve never got (Hed) P.E. Their fusion of gangsta rap and punk (G-punk) has never moved me in the slightest and their latest release, album number 11 Forever! is no different. There are moments: Opener Live is a cacophony of styles whilst the aggression of Pay Me combines Korn and Hatebreed with massive grinding riffs from new guitar man Gregzilla (that’s Greg Harrison to you and me) pique the interest.

The various vocal styles of main man and only original member Paulo Sergio "Jared" Gomes range from rapping to death growls and it probably adds to the difficulty in liking this. I just don’t like rapping. Closer is just an angry wall of noise, a mixture of Skindred and Limp Bizkit and Hurt does exactly that … to my aural senses.  This contains the full range of Gomes’ delivery and I can imagine if you like this then it will get you very excited.

Maybe I’m not best placed to review this as I found it difficult to get through the whole album more than twice. I fully appreciate how (Hed) P.E. may well be revered in certain circles and the music certainly mixes up genres, with prime examples being One Of A Kind which sits fully in the reggae box before it aggressively explodes into life and the reggae lifeblood that pulses through Shadowridge and Together. (Hed) P.E are clearly a Marmite band and if you like this type of Marmite then I’m pretty sure it will appeal. Unfortunately it does little for me. 6/10

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Reviews: Heart, Cold Truth, Dust Bolt (Reviews By Paul)

Heart: Beautiful Broken (Universal)

Four years since their last release, 2012’s Fanatic, Heart roar back into the rock world’s gaze with Beautiful Broken, a collection of new tracks and a few reworked older tunes. It’s a pretty fine release too, with some harder edged songs balancing the calmer power ballads which you’d expect from the Wilson sisters. Opener Beautiful Broken originally featured on deluxe editions of Fanatic, and is beefed up with the addition of Metallica’s James Hetfield on co-vocals. It’s a strange combination, a heavy rocker with Hetfield’s distinctive gruff vocals working surprisingly well with Anne Wilson’s powerful mezzo soprano. Some neat guitar work gives it a heavier edge than one would expect. The band’s cover of Ne-Yo’s Two is quite something; a beautifully paced ballad which opens with Anne Wilson and Chris Joyner’s delicate piano before the rest of the band join in as the track builds. It’s a pretty saccharine coated track with some delicious harmonies from Nancy Wilson. Sweet Darlin’ first featured on 1980’s Bebe Le Strange and the comparison with that version is very interesting with the addition of strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra providing a much deeper, fuller and different version.

Its been no secret that Heart love their Zeppelin; their records are laced with Zeppelin covers and anyone who saw the band reduce Robert Plant to tears at the Kennedy Centre Led Zeppelin tribute in 2012 will have been blown away. I Jump, the second track to feature strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra has a huge Kashmir riff and hook. With Anne’s vocals stunning and the band cutting it tight with the strings, I Jump is probably one of the outstanding tracks on the album. Interestingly it contains no guitar work from Nancy, Craig Bartock taking the fretwork riffage. Another reworked track follows, Johnny Moon, from 1983’s Passionworks. This is pretty faithful to the original version, enhanced with some fine tap steel guitar from Dan Rothchild and subtle keyboard work with Nancy enhancing the complexity with marxophone. By this stage in the album, you are once again realising what a superb voice Anne Wilson still has. Her performance throughout the release is just amazing.

However much attention the Wilson sisters draw, they have always had pretty solid musicians alongside them and Heaven, another hugely Zeppelin influenced track is the perfect illustration. Nancy adds bowed acoustic guitar whilst Dan Rothchild adds bass, moog bass, upright bass and acoustic guitar. Craig Bartock’s subtle guitar work is Page-esque whilst Ben Smith’s drum sound is perfect for this multi-layered track. City’s Burning ups the tempo, a faster paced tune with some delicious string work from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra and some neat guitar work from Wilson and Bartock. Down On Me is the most straightforward track on the album, a fine meandering five-minute tune which builds in a classic rock style. Penultimate song One Word is about as classic a Heart track as you can get, with Nancy taking the lead with some aplomb, Anne adding beautiful harmonies to a smouldering gentle track. Language Of Love closes the album, another gentle ballad with more strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra adding acres of depth and feel. Having seen the band perform a superb set just a few weeks ago, it’s pleasing to review what might be the easy listening album of the year. It’s just magic (man) 9/10

Cold Truth: Grindstone (Blue Rose)

Grindstone is the third release from power blues rock quartet Cold Truth who come at ‘ya straight from Nashville. Grindstone is no-nonsense high quality music deeply soaked in the blues with a hard edge. Yes, it may only be their third album in over 12 years but it’s damn fine stuff. Thane Shearon (vocals, guitar), Kurt Menck (guitars), Abe White (bass) and Matt Green (drums) have produced just an hour of foot stompin’ guitar driven hog roast themed tunes which make you demand sunshine, beer and good times. It’s not ground breaking and I doubt that Cold Truth will get worldwide domination following this but if you want straight honest rocking driving music then feed this bad boy into the CD player, put on your shades and hit the pedal. Oozing quality with a fuzzy guitar sound to die for, tracks such as Where The Music Takes Me, Leave Your Leather On, opener Livin' Hard and Hands On The Wheel leave you with a smile on your face and the foot tapping. If you like your rock fuelled by the blues then check these guys out. 8/10

Dust Bolt: Mass Confusion (Napalm)

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be familiar with Dust Bolt, a thrash outfit hailing from Bavaria. Mass Confusion is their third full release, following on from 2014’s Awake The Riot. The band have been around for ten years and unsurprisingly throw down the metal in an unrelenting surge of power and chaos. A fusion of influences, with everything from the chug of Anthrax through to the power of Kreator and the chaos of Nuclear Assault, Mass Confusion is a riot, a full frontal assault. The title track gallops at 110mph with some neat breakdowns to get the neck muscles moving. I’m not a huge fan of Lenny B’s vocals which are a little too shouty for my tastes, but having played this release several times over the past few days there is enough to keep me interested. The slower paced thrash always did more for me than the balls out runaway train approach and tracks such as Turn To Grey and the Slayer influenced Blind To Art push a few buttons with some solid riffage from Lenny B and Flo D. It’s old school thrash, formulaic and follows the required blueprint but it works nicely. 7/10

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Reviews: Tides Of Sulfur, Oceans Of Time, Steven Tyler

Tides Of Sulfur: Extinction Curse (Black Bow Records)

Finally after a long time and a lot of build up the South Wales merchants of heavy have released their debut album, the suitably doom-laden titled Extinction Curse is everything TOS have been working towards over these last few years of relentless touring and the occasional EP/Split albums. The three piece band of Chris Bull (shouting/bowel shaking) Anthony O'Shea (riffs/shouting) and Tom Lee (concussion) have made name on the local and UK scene with aggressive, ear bleedingly heavy metal that straddles the death and sludge sound, with some massive riffs, throat shredding vocals and drumming that can rearrange your teeth.

The record opens on a familiar note as the slow, creeping intro to Eternal Bleeding starts the record, many followers will know this song from the band's demo EP and it loses none of it's power, despite gaining a clarity from the production which in fact makes it hurt you more. This is what TOS try to do with their music, they bludgeon you into submission with the impressive hefty bottom end leading the charge as O'Shea plays some great lead guitar over the top as the song speeds up in the final part. After the opening gambit of sludge doom the second song ...Of Suffering And Grief starts with a slow spoken word intro and kicks into an ear splitting dose of blastbeat filled death. A theme that continues on Woe To You O Destroyer with yet more death metal battering.

Tides Of Sulfur are definitely one band from the underground and as such their sound can be categorised as against the grain, not that they care as they worship at the pagan altar of heavyweights such as Crowbar, Iron Monkey and Neurosis especially on the progressive doom meets hardcore punk of MaltheistExtinction Curse serves as one of the records most impressive songs, the longest song on the record is a multi-faceted piece with a slow burning melodic haze punctuated by sludge slabs in the first section before ramping up to some heavier-than-thou doom for the rest of the song, it's a guaranteed live staple and one that insists you band your head until it falls off.

This is Tides Of Sulfur's statement of intent and it's one that grabs you by the throat and shakes you until your bones are dust, well done gents this is a lesson in making an apocalyptic impact. 9/10      

Oceans Of Time: Trust (Melodic Revolution Records)

Norway is usually known for it's black metal scene, but it does have a niche in progressive power metal too with Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus being the biggest two names in the genre. Pagan's Mind vocalist Nils K Rue turns up on this record along with 'The Voice' Jorn Lande on the four part final suite sparring with the more than able voice of Oceans Of Time Ken Lyngfoss, who holds his own and impresses elsewhere.

This is melodic, dramatic progressive power metal with touches of Pagan's Mind, Kamelot and Serenity throughout the album, Nicholay and Geir's rhythm section is propulsive and technically proficient as you'd expect meaning that guitarist Lassse and keyboardist Nickolas can duel and play off each other on tracks like the fists in the air Save You which owes a debt to folk metal which is offset by the heavier sounds on Pray For The Dying which is drummer Nicholay's showcase as you get more of Ken's raspy but powerful vocals (which have a bit of Jorn about them) as well as a keyboard solo too.

Trust is the band's second record and it sees them continue their evolution into a more impressive metallic beast, none of the songs are particularly long but Oceans Of Time's songs contain more riffs, changes of pace and musical dexterity in their 5 minute tracks than many bands can do with 10 minutes plus. There's heavy riffs on the Purple-esque title track which also has some very welcome female guest vocals, Show Me The Way has huge gang chorus and a symphonic sound, 1865 builds on the fuzzy keys of Nickolas for a Wild West themed story that has a Maiden gallop but bridges it with layers of AOR sounding keys.

This record is one of those rare ones that get better and better as they progress, Black Death sounds a lot like Pagan's Mind or Symphony X with the off-kilter rhythms and the fusion of keys and guitar, Nemesis ramps up the heaviness and the climactic final suite Grapes Of Baccus really ends the record on a high note with the four vocalists, (the fourth being the harsh tones of Ole Myrholt) all interplaying brilliantly to interpret the narrative of the piece that switches between so many genre's sometimes you are unsure whether they are the same band.

With a fluid mix of prog, power and melodic metal it's the nuances of this record that are to it's benefit, I'd never heard of Oceans Of Time before but they have impressed me so much with this record that I will be keeping a keen eye on them from now on. 8/10

Steven Tyler: We're All Somebody From Somewhere (Dot Music)

Fuck off Steven Tyler, just fuck all the way off. I'm sorry for the language folks but I love Aerosmith, they've been a favourite of mine since I was young, I rate albums such as Toys In The AtticRocks as the blueprint for blues rock albums, then with their late 80's releases starting with Done With Mirrors through Done With MirrorsPermanent Vacation Pump and climaxing with Get A Grip they became one of the biggest bands on the planet receiving notoriety and global stardom without really giving up their influences.

However I've become weary with all of the in-fighting and general malcontent that seems to be affecting the band, much of this has come from frontman Tyler's extra curricular activities as a judge on American Idol, his numerous media appearances and the continuing friction between him and the rest of the band most of which has stemmed from the creation of this solo record. OK many band members make a solo record away from the mother-ship but most aren't this contentious, abandoning the hard rock sound he is associated with.

We're All Somebody From Somewhere is a country album of sickly love songs, down-home shuffling and if it was Garth Brookes then it would be a serviceable if formulaic country album. I like a lot of country music but this is not good only a few of the songs on this record suit Tyler's voice the, peace and love spreading title track is one and it should have opened the record rather than the tepid My Own Worst Enemy, although on it's down side it does have some terrible lyrics.

The record is let sewn by there being too many ballads on this record, yes I realise that Aerosmith are more known for their ballads these days but most of the songs are just ineffectual and a bit dull, the worst of the bunch is the sickly and naff Red, White And You, the unnecessary reinterpretation of Janie's Got Her Gun and cover of Janis Joplin's Piece Of My Heart to round off a 15 song album. This is nothing more than a vanity project for Tyler and really if you want him at his best go back to his day job, he's so much better there, get back to the band and finish it on high while you are all still defying the odds. 4/10