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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Reviews: Dynamite, The Lurking Fear, Black Messiah (Review By Rich)

Dynamite: Big Bang (Nuclear Blast)

Swedish hard rockers Dynamite are back with their third album Big Bang and it's safe to say that if you are a fan of AC/DC there's plenty you are going to love here. If you are looking for originality however there is nothing for you here. Dynamite are clear fanboys of AC/DC as they very much emulate their sound on Big Bang with inspiration coming clearly from the Bon Scott era of the band. If you know your AC/DC you know exactly what you're getting and that is short, sharp and simple hard rock tunes which are damn catchy. 

It's impossible not to tap your foot to tunes such as March On (To The Beat Of Your Drum), Turn Up The Heat, Big Bang and All Bark No Bite. It is impressive how Dynamite and other AC/DC-alike bands such as Airbourne can take a formula set down over 40 years ago and still get original songs out of it but it's the complete and utter lack of originality which sets this album back. Overall though this is a great and fun hard rock album which is bound to bring a smile to your face. 7/10

The Lurking Fear: Out Of The Voiceless Grave (Century Media)

The Lurking Fear are a death metal supergroup featuring a veritable feast of members from Swedish extreme metal royalty. The band features Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) on vocals, Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem) and Jonas Stålhammar (The Crown) on guitars, Andreas Axelsson (Edge Of Sanity & Tormented) on bass and Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates & The Haunted) on drums. Out Of The Voiceless Grave is their debut album and as to be expected with a line up this good it is a killer album. It is very much a throwback to the early days of death metal with some nice influences from thrash metal, crust punk and d-beat mixed in. 

11 songs of savage ferocity with the throat shredding vocals of Tomas Lindberg, a bludgeoning display of drumming and some truly nasty riffs with highlights including The Starving Gods Of Old, Upon Black Winds and The Cold Jaws Of Death. With Out Of The Voiceless Grave, The Lurking Fear haven't released anything special but it is five incredible musicians paying homage to the music they love and putting out an album of disgusting old school death metal. One or two songs miss the mark a bit but overall if you like your death metal dirty and horrible then you can't go wrong with this album. 8/10

Black Messiah: Walls Of Vanaheim (SMP/Trollzorn Records)

Walls Of Vanaheim is the seventh album by German band Black Messiah and it's a concept album based around The Aesir/Vanir War in Norse mythology. This was the first time I had heard Black Messiah and unfortunately it wasn't the best of first impressions. Black Messiah play an epic sounding mix of melodic black metal, folk metal and symphonic metal which on paper sounds amazing and something right up my street. Unfortunately the reality is that this album is exceedingly boring. The majority of the songs sound virtually identical, are similarly paced and contain very little that sticks in your mind after listening.

The album is also way too long lasting 72 minutes in total and half the tracks on the album are spoken word interludes to progress the story. These interludes are simply tedious and on the whole cringe inducing. Onto the positives now the playing on the album is impressive with the lead guitars and violin playing being of particular highlight. There are one or two songs which stand out from the rest such as Satisfaction And Revenge which incorporates some nice clean vocals and The Walls Of Vanaheim with it's more speedy and ferocious approach. This was a very disappointing album as the premise sounded good but was let down by subpar songwriting and irritating interludes. When it's good though it shows amazing promise. 5/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Pineapple Thief (Live Review By Paul)

The Pineapple Thief & Godsticks, Bristol Bierkeller

On a day when it appeared that the motorway gods had conspired to cause abject misery to the network around South Wales and the Bristol area, a little light was shed with super performances by two of the U. K’s most progressive rock bands.

I’m ashamed to say that I was only very peripherally aware of Cardiff outfit Godsticks (8), despite them having released several albums and almost ten years of existence. Their dark and muscular progressive rock is now most definitely on my radar and their excellent new release Faced With Rage is already a favourite this year. The band curtailed their set slightly due to the traffic issues but managed to show their quality with three new songs from Faced With Rage as well as some older favourites including the riff heavy skull pummelling of Exit Stage Right from 2015’s Emergence. The last night of the tour allowed the band to perform in a relaxed mode but they were also sharp as a razor, clearly brimming with confidence. Singer and guitarist Darran Charles impressed with his clear voice, sweet fret work and typical Cardiffian humour, whilst Gavin Bushell’s lead work was simply outstanding.

With Charles swapping frontman duties for lead guitar, it was time for Somerset’s Bruce Soord and The Pineapple Thief (9). With the drum stool occupied by Porcupine Tree (amongst many other) drummer Gavin Harrison, there was no concern about the quality of the underlying beat, and this was anchored fabulously by long-standing bassist Jon Sykes. Steve Kitch’s unassuming synths and keyboards (not to mention two iMacs!) added depth and texture. Unsurprisingly the set list focused heavily on material from last year’s excellent Your Wilderness record, with every track being played. A smattering of tracks from the band’s extensive back catalogue ensured that old school fans were well catered for, but in all honesty, such is the quality with this outfit and Soord’s song-writing that it doesn’t really matter what they played.

At times, the band rocked out with the best of them, whilst the softer tracks such as In Exile and The Final Thing On My Mind just highlighted what great musicians the band are. Soord is an engaging frontman, quiet, unassuming but with a lovely dry wit. Content to let Charles take lead duties for most of the evening, at times he just had to let rip with the odd blistering solo. This was an evening to sit back and let the music do the talking, the quality and strength of the compositions enveloping the audience in a relatively full venue. Over 20 years in the business, The Pineapple Thief and Soord remain one of those great hidden treasures. Will they ever gain wider recognition? Highly unlikely but in some respects, that’s a plus for those of us who love music in smaller venues. A superb evening from two stunningly excellent bands.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Reviews: Wayward Sons, Prophets Of Rage, Witherfall

Wayward Sons: Ghosts Of Yet To Come (Frontiers Records)

Toby Jepson should be a name recognized by any British rock fan, the founder/frontman of Little Angels, he has also served time in Gun, Fastway and as a solo artist, before more recently turning his hands to producing records by The Virginmarys, Saxon and The Answer. I say should be but you will find that he isn't that's because he, like many UK rockers in the early 90's were overlooked in favour of their American counterparts. Well Toby has returned to redress the balance with Wayward Sons it's been a while since Jepson has played in rock band of his own creation but like previous acts Jepson's bands have always had the feel of a group of outcasts, on the Little Angels breakthrough single Kickin Up Dust they even use the line wayward sons to connect with the disenfranchised teens in Thatcher's Britain. This take no shit approach is once again rampant on Ghosts Of Yet To Come, there's a tenacity to the record, it bristles with attitude and rallies against the state of the nation on Small Talk (again name checking Mrs T as the rooyt of much of this

Apparently this was the first record Jepson wrote and recorded in the studio live with his band and it feels like it, these songs are written for performance. The band in question are Nic Wastell (bass, Chrome Molly) Phil Martini (drums, Spear Of Destiny, ex Quireboys, ex Tokyo Dragons), Sam Wood (guitar from Treason Kings) and Dave Kemp (keys, ex Little Angels touring band and long time sideman to Toby) they all bring their individual quirks to the record, Sam Wood is a heck of a discovery, the guys an axe wizard who slots in well with the old hands peeling of slick licks that weave in and out of Kemp's keys as Wastell and Martini lay down a 70's groove with a modern gloss.

The record has 10 tracks no ballads and whole load of rocking Alive is written like this is the last roll of the dice, Until The End and Give It Away are Jepson doing what he does best the way he used to, Ghost is a slab of proto-metal, Killing Time the hefty singalong, as is Crush and bluesy Something's Wrong ends the record with a cool nod to the classics. Wayward Sons is a band for the people, Jepson and indeed British rockers generally always seemed a man out of place during the big rock revival of 88 - 94, while G'N'R and Tesla were achieving legendary status acts like Little Angels, Thunder etc were doing things with the plucky determination of the Brits, it's only in the last 10 years that their contribution has been recognised and as Thunder see their star shining brighter than ever maybe it's time we re-evaluate Toby Jepson, forget ghosts, the best is yet to come! 8/10

Prophets Of Rage: S/T (Fantasy Records)

Just when you thought politically charged rap rock was dead three quarters of Rage Against The Machine return with Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The band were formed in the melee of the 2016 Presidential election as a collaboration between activist musicians against the political madness of the time. This is their debut record and it's pretty much RATM without Zach De La Rocha, unfortunately this is where it falls down. Yes there are filthy riff on Radical Eyes Unfuck The World and Hail To The Chief with Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford bringing those funky molotov wielding grooves and Tom Morello fills the songs with his distinctive funk meets video game guitar playing.

It's the mic work that really differs though as Chuck D and B-Real may be politically savvy and know how to spit a rhyme but they just don't seem to have the unmitigated anger shown by De la Rocha on classic RATM on Sleep Now In The FireProphets Of Rage has the feel of a 'star' protest, millionaires trying to be 'down with the kids' where as the original RATM and to the same extent Public Enemy were from the streets with genuine beef, this record is a group of musicians with money to burn taking a political argument that is already out of date. They would have been much better getting these songs released maybe one a week during the election campaign where they would have been more anthemic.

Still musically it's what you would want for those protests against tyranny that seem to be getting more and more necessary, there is no Killing In The Name but there is the pro-weed anthem Legalize Me, the impressive Latin flavoured funk of Take Me Higher along with the Rage-alikes I've mentioned earlier. From a music perspective there is nothing wrong with Prophets Of Rage (unless you hate rap-rock) but it's message just feels a little late in the day. 7/10   

Witherfall: Nocturnes & Requiems (Century Media)

One look at the Facebook page of Witherfall tells you what to expect before a note is even played. They state their influences are King Diamond, Nevermore, Pink Floyd, Savatage and you can really hear all of these bands on this record. The American act was born out of the ashes of White Wizzard with that band's former guitarist Jake Dreyer (also Iced Earth and ex-Kobra & The Lotus) and vocalist Joseph Michael coming together in 2013 with drummer Adam Sagan. This record is a tribute Sagan who tragically died in December 2016 during the final production stages and it's one that I think encapsulates the vision they were trying to achieve. Nocturnes & Requiems is a record that has furious technical thrash on Portrait but takes this and adds ambient Floydian textures, a heavy use of acoustic and classical guitars and wraps it all up in a progressive metal package.

Nevermore and King Diamond are the two main comparisons, heading back to the aforementioned Portrait it's right out of the Melissa era with it's ominous hooks and Michael's wailing vocals (repeated on The Great Awakening. The record gets faster on What We Are Dying For before it turns into heavy doom that Leif Edling would be proud, however they throw another curveball with some fleet fingered classical guitars in the middle section. Dreyer plays up a storm here moving between shredding and folk acoustics on the 9 minute  Sacrifice, which is one of two 9 minute tracks on this record full of pretty long songs, Sacrifice is also notable as it goes full Floyd in the middle as Anthony Crawford's bass leads the record ala One Of These Days.

Sagan's drumming is immense on every track he's got the extreme metal blastbeats that lay a tough base layer for Dreyer's guitar heroics and Michael's wide range. It's a shame if this is the only record from Witherfall as it's excellent, I'm a huge Nevermore fan and this is the closest thing I've heard in ages, more proof that White Wizzard has been the breeding ground for some of the best traditional metal bands around. 8/10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Reviews: H.E.A.T, Darkfall, Shrapnel, Stud (Reviews By Paul)

H.E.A.T: Into The Great Unknown (earMusic)

In the world of AOR the Swedes are prominent. Hard rock with a massive melodic undercurrent, band's such as veterans Europe and current faves Eclipse pull in decent crowds. H.E.A.T sit very much in the upper echelons of the genre, and album number 5 demonstrates exactly why. Slick, polished and full of the harmonies which only those with dazzling white teeth can reach. Erick Gronwall delivers the sugar coated vocals the music demands, whilst the rest of the band, including returning guitarist David Dalone combine to deliver a perfect record.

The heavy rock of opening track Bastard Of Society is balanced by the synth dominated Redefined and the high pitched Time On Our Side. It's the harmonies that give H.E.A.T the edge and nowhere is this better illustrated that on Best Of The Broken, its clap along chorus guaranteed to get their fans fist pumping. The obligatory ballad is as ghastly as you'd expect for a band of this genre, where cheesy love songs are a speciality. Underneath the layers of fromage sit some very talented musicians and whilst it's not my bag, when AOR is done properly it remains impressive. 8/10

Shrapnel: Raised On Decay (Candlelight/Spinefarm)

If you want some decent thrash then look no further than Norwich's fine quintet Shrapnel. It's been three years since the guys delivered the slicingly dangerous The Virus Conspiracies but they hardly pause for breath on their sophomore release. Disgustingly groove laden riffage at maximum speed, snarling angry vocals and bone crushing drums. Yeah, this is the mutts. The Overkill stomp of The Boundaries Set, the all out in your face blast of opener Hollow Earth and the measured title track all contain subtle nuances that really get the foot tapping and the neck muscles twitching. Jae Hadley's vocals fit the traditional approach superbly whilst the screaming lead guitar of Nathan Sadd, ably supported by rhythm fret partner Chris Martin do most of the damage. These guys are slowly growing in stature. If you haven't heard them and like your thrash with a UK tint then get your aural devices around Raised On Decay. It's well worth it. 8/10

Darkfall: At The End Of Times (Black Sunset)

Austrian melodic death thrashers Darkfall has been kicking around for over 20 years. At The End Of Times is their first release for four years. It's hard, heavy with blast beats and riffage aplenty. The hooks are strong and the assault unwavering. Unfortunately it's destroyed by Thomas Spiwak's guttural howling vocals which add absolutely nothing to the maelstrom the band are trying to create.

Whilst lots of death metal contain very shouty vocalists, Spiwak's aggressive throat burning leaves little to engage the listener. It's a shame as tracks such as The Breed Of Death whilst nothing special are decent enough extreme metal which would get the pits moving. Ultimately it's repetitive and pales against some of the meatier beasts in the same field. 5/10

Stud: Circle Of Lies (Cranksonic)

Not to be confused with the seventies Irish outfit of the same name, Stud is a Finnish hard rock outfit who first formed in 1986 before going their separate ways in 1989. The band reformed in 2012 and Circle Of Lies is their third full record. It's variable stuff, with Ari Toivanen's high pitched vocals sitting comfortably alongside the powerful drumming of Stenda Kukkonen. Guitarist Mika Kansikas puts on a virtuoso display, with some superb work on the title track just for starters. The band are fast paced, well drilled and plough through the ten tracks.

Layered guitar work gives the impression of at least one more guitar throughout. It's not all decent stuff, with a steep dip when you reach Searching For Freedom, a slow paced horror, and No Hero which is particularly dull. It's full of cliches that belong back in the 1980s, although this is quite enjoyable at times. More Than A Woman brings the most misogynistic Scorpions' work to mind, and Real Man, well, it's just the blueprint to my life. "Women and wine, you're top of my mind", absolutely, and with a chorus of "it's gonna be showtime, showtime, all night", what lady could resist the ode of the Real Man. (Although all night does mean lights out at 11 right?).

Music is definitely in the ear of the listener and Stud won't be to the taste of all. It's not an album I'll be playing on a regular basis but despite its relative averageness I wouldn't throw it in the trash. 6/10

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Reviews Black Country Communion, Sparzanza, Metalite, Haema

Black Country Communion: BCCIV (Mascot Records)

Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, Derek Sherinian (and Kevin Shirley) are back, the bridges have been rebuilt, the handshakes accepted and now everyone is back to being friends these men return to what brought them to the dance. I don't need to explain who these guys are you should know, but with what is probably the biggest gap between albums for any of the members this record has been highly anticipated for anyone that loves a supergroup. Now I'm a fan of any project Joey Bones is involved in but I do have a particular affinity to Black Country Communion, it's a real supergroup and there previous three albums have all been must-hear records. Yes the debut was more immediate and their third outing did show signs of strain but with the musicianship and experience these men have, the records are never going to be crap. Has the wait been worth it?

Well some may say that the first time round BCC squeezed the Zep/Purple influences for all they're worth, BCC are shamelessly retro but exciting and their ingeniously titled fourth album reminds you of that initial impact of their debut but with the folk and prog influences that crept in on albums 2 and 3. The record starts with the count in, Boham's torte snare and then the grooving riff as 'The Voice Of Rock' proves his mettle as both a vocalist and bassist giving the track it's walking bassline, On The Crow he even plays a bass solo in the songs elongated solo section. Contrive is the ideal start giving you instant gratification from the band with fat Zeppelin rocking, it's followed up by Over My Head which brings in lighter textures with Sherinian's organs bubbling away and Hughes reaching his higher register. Things take a turn into Free, The Faces and Zep 3 on Last Song For My Resting Place which is Bonamassa's first lead vocal of the record and it's real Isle Of Avalon stuff as the mandolin wind giving way to Bonamassa's incendiary soloing on a song that could have easily been kept for a Bonamassa solo record but suits the BCC ethos much better.

Since the band came about in 2010 Kevin Shirley has been twiddling the knobs and acting as the de-facto fifth member his production technique is brilliant, he really brings out the perfect sound for a band. Take the psychedelic swirling of The Cove as an example, the music is exemplary as it should be but he clarity of the production really makes it sparkle. At 70-odd minutes it might be hard going for some but you do get to hear four (five) experienced musicians at the height of their powers, BCCIV is a clarion call from BCC, the clouds that brought an end to the band have cleared and they are all once again on the same page playing the music they do so well. 9/10

Sparzanza: Announcing The End (Despotz Records)

Sweden's Sparzanza are one of those bands that I've seen posters of in various venues and ads in various magazines but I've never heard anything by them. I'd always assumed they were an AOR band but upon playing their eighth album I realise how dead wrong I was. Looking a previous reviewer have dubbed them "The Swedish Tremonti" and I'd say that comparison holds up, Sparzanza play a heavy style of melodic metal that has chunky riffs and big sing along choruses, I'd even say there was a lot of Evergrey in there too (To The One) albeit without the progressive nature although the epic Whatever Come is close. Vocally Fredrik sounds similar to Papa Het with booming croon which he sometimes shifts into a scarred bark, which lends a bit of LOG groove to The Dark Appeal.

Announcing The End 
is somewhat of a provocative title with the songs aimed at being an incitement to the apocalypse, there's no let up, it's about as far away from AOR as possible, the riffs are distorted and chug away from the self titled opener, there is very little time to compose yourself before the next song beats down on your ear drums. The only time the band ease off on the riffs is when they add melodic flourishes like the piano on Truth Is A Lie or on the gigantic fist-in-the-air choruses. Sparzanza have really impressed me on this record, they are nothing like I thought they were, I really enjoyed their muscular modern melodic metal, looks like I have two tasks now, find their earlier albums and see them live where I'm sure these albums get heavier again. 8/10

Metalite: Heroes In Time (Inner Wound Records)

Sweden seem to produce a new band every 40 seconds and they are always so widely varied it's hard to keep up. Metalite are Swedish  and like fellow Swedes Amaranthe they have a very bouncy style of power metal that is built on EDM beats. Heroes In Time is the band's debut record and it's a collaboration between singer Emma Bensing and guitarist Edwin Premberg who along with their superior band do an admirable job of nailing the sound Amaranthe have done so successfully. It makes you think though how many of these types of band does one country and indeed a record buying public need? Yes there is no argument about Metalite's talent but they do sound exactly like Amaranthe with some Dynazty and Nightwish thrown into the pot. There's very little else I can say about this record, if you like Amaranthe then you'll love Metalite, as the advertising Meerkat says "Simples". 7/10

Haema: Insurrection (Sliptrick Records)

There must be something in the water in Northamptonshire, punishing groove metal seems to flow out of there like lava, it's invariably red hot and slow moving, bludgeoning you with every low end chord. Gutworm used to and Krysthla do this better than most, so when you see that Northampton troupe Haema's debut EP is produced/recorded by Krysthla/Gutworm's Neil Hudson it's safe to assume that it's going to have the razor sharp sound of their own records. Musically Haema continue with the hefty groove metal of their peers with the dark electronics of Fear Factory. Insurrection has five tracks or precision brutality featuring down-tuned riffs, buzzing electronics and bouncing nu-metal bottom end, it kicks into gear with Eden which has the clean/harsh vocals with waves of synths over big groovy riffs and breakdown in the middle section, sounding similar, as most of this record does, to Burning Red era Machine Head fused with the rap rock of Rage Against The Machine, listen to Free Man and tell me otherwise. Haema are a band out of time, their music would have seen them on top of the world in the year 2000, but with this nu-metal sound coming around it might be time for Haema to lead the revival. 7/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

Reviews: Satyricon, Anubis Gate, Dead Cross, Night (Reviews By Paul)

Satyricon: Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Napalm Records)

It’s been four years since Satyricon, the eighth album from the Norwegian duo of Satyr and Frost. The band hasn’t been idle in the meantime, releasing Night At The Opera and Frost of course, drumming with 1349. To label Satyricon as Black Metal is probably a challenge these days but whilst they certainly have taken a different path from the evil of Dark Medieval Times and Nemesis DiviniaDeep Calleth Upon Deep still has its roots deep in the black metal earth. Satyricon was loaded with more accessible tracks such as Nekrohaven. Deep Calleth Upon Deep doesn’t have that initial spontaneity about it, with much of the album slower paced and brooding. Frost’s drumming retains the inevitable fills and blast beats and Satyr’s vocals remain harsh and gravel soaked. It’s only on about the fifth listen that I really got to grips with it.

The sharp edge of the guitar, the subtle undertones of the keyboards all combine with a staccato construction, change of pace and smouldering intensity. After the opener The Midnight Serpent, Blood Cracks Open The Ground grabs the attention with some neat hooks and a slightly chaotic sound. The atmospheric title track rattle along with some enhanced female wailing adding to the sinister sound. My biggest complaint with the album is that it often blends into one. So each track is very similar to the previous one. That isn’t a problem if the tracks are all immense but they just aren’t here. The Ghosts Of Rome has a different feel to the rest of the tracks, almost indie in its feel, but the female backing vocals repeat exactly what was heard on the title track. Good but could have been better. 7/10

Anubis Gate: Covered In Black (Nightmare Records)

Danish outfit Anubis Gate have been delivering progressive metal since their debut release Purification back in 2004. Covered In Black is their seventh release and their first since 2014’s Horizons. The band comprises Kim Olsen (guitar/Keys), Henrik Fevre (bass/vocals), Michael Bodin (guitar) and Morten Gade Sorensen (drums). The band specialise in soaring, sweeping melodies similar to Fates Warning with intricate time changes and variations in depth and power. Opener Psychotopia is a classic example, building to an operatic crescendo before closing and merging into

The New Dehli Assassination which has an Eastern flavour. There are some crushing guitar riffs hidden in tracks such as The Combat. Anubis Gate vary their style throughout the album, with Fevre’s clean vocals prominent. It might be a little overblown in parts but there is no doubting the quality of the band and the similarities to bands like Dream Theater do become more apparent as the album progresses. In fact, by the time you reach A Journey To Nowhere this is even more obvious. The trilogy of Black, Blacker and Blackest are impressive as is the nine-minute Operation Cairo which is another track with Eastern flavours and climbing walls of sound. Covered In Black is a strong album which will won’t appeal to all. However, if you like your music with an intricacy that not all bands can follow, Anubis Gate will certainly appeal. 7/10

Dead Cross: Self Titled (Ipecac Records)

Take Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Mike Patton (Faith No More) , Mike Crain (Retox) and Justin Pearson (The Locust Head, Retox) and you get Dead Cross, who distribute 27 minutes of high intensity hardcore punk and metal which pulls no punches. There’s hooks, and even a bit of melody on occasion but mainly it’s just a hefty blow to the bollocks. I’m not a huge fan of hardcore punk and this does little for me with its snarling aggression and Patton’s screaming vocals.

Of course, Patton wasn’t the original vocalist but stepped in when Gabe Serbian left. Patton subsequently recorded his own vocals to the existing tracks which included amending the lyrics. Highlights here? The gothic tinge of Bela Lugosi’s Dead and the car crash of Church Of The Motherfuckers. Some will love this. I don’t. 6/10

Night: Raft Of The World (The Sign Records)

The opening 4 minutes and 45 seconds of track one of Swedish rock outfit Night’s album Raft Of The World was enough. Fire Across The Sky was a reasonably decent hard rock track until Oskar Andersson opened his mouth. I couldn’t reach for the off button in time for track 2, Surrender to start but by then I was waving the white flag to make it end. As Mrs H said, “it was nice when it stopped”. The remaining seven tracks may be great. I’m not taking the risk. 2/10

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Angel Vivaldi (Interview By Matt)

Guitarists Andy James and Angel Vivaldi head out on a tour together around the country. They stop at Clwb Ifor Bach on 21st September 2017. We spoke to Angel Vivaldi about the tour and other things.

MoM: Hi guys Matt here from the Musipedia Of Metal. We’re heading to your gig at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, which is the first date on the tour. What can expect from the show?

Angel: I think fans are really going to enjoy this tour and leave very inspired. I’m going to be performing brand new material off of (New album) Synapse for the first time, so that will definitely be something very special. Andy and I will also be doing a song together which I’m sure many fans are looking forward to.

MoM: Have you guys ever played together in the past? Are we going to see any clashing of egos?

Angel: We recently had a few opportunities to play and jam out together. Our newest music video collaboration is a good example of our energies and how well we compliment each other. Andy and I are good friends and respect each other, so I highly doubt there will be any of that. We both just do our thing and help to support one another in our efforts.

MoM: You are both known as ‘shredders’ what do you think of that tag?

Angel: I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't subscribe to the stigma attached with that label. Many associate it with a particular lack of emotion, but what people don't understand is that shredding (when done in moderation), can provide much more emotion. The reason why is because a guitarist had to dedicate years of hard work and discipline in order to paint with "teal," or "crimson." Those colors just don't come from standard guitar players. We can go beyond.

Both of you guys are incredible players, you’ve both toured a lot as solo instrumental artists with some band experience. Which do you prefer solo or playing within a band?

Angel: I certainly prefer being a solo artist. I am very strong in my vision for my art and also how I handle the business aspect of said art. I do, however, very much enjoy collaborating with other like minds and also learning from them. My time with 40 below summer and Vext both proved very beneficial for my development as an artist and sound businessman.

Angel you have numerous philanthropy projects as a parallel to your music career as well as staunchly supportive of the LGBT+ community. Is there anything you are working toward now or anything else you wish to do or achieve outside of musical sphere?

Angel: I’m always working on different causes behind the scenes as it’s less about my ego/people knowing and much more about helping people. I’m currently working to develop a Youtube segment which is focused more on environmental awareness and different things people and musicians can start doing to shape their lifestyles for the betterment of our world. The music industry has a very large responsibility to our environment with so many artists constantly touring, polluting our planet and consuming much more than is needed. Hoping to launch once this album cycle becomes less time consuming.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cats In Space (Review By Paul and Matt)

Cats In Space, Hand Of Dimes & Kaato, The Globe Cardiff

Paul's view:

It's rare that a support band attracts me more than the headliners but when Hand Of Dimes, the blues soaked hard rock South Walians were announced as main support for Cats in Space, it was a given that I'd be there.

First up were the tour support to the Cats for their entire U.K. Tour, Australian outfit Kaato (8) whose impressive track record includes having Mitch Malloy in their ranks for their debut release. The band were crammed onto the stage, with no room to let rip but that didn't stop them delivering 30 minutes of sleazy rock. Their sound merges Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and countrymen Airbourne in a dirty low hipped swagger. Frontman Kurt Lowry captivating with his showmanship, and what a voice.

Clean, strong and absolutely breathtaking, hitting notes at times that he shouldn't have been allowed to get anywhere near. Alongside Lowry, bassist Mika Nuutinen, former Inglorious guitarist Jack Edwards, guitarist Hunter Lovan and drummer Mitch Pike all put in excellent shifts in the cramped conditions with Pike probably further forward than usual allowing his animalistic drumming a fair showcase. It was Lowry's stunning voice that captured most of the attention. The penultimate song was a freestyle cover of Larry Williams' 1957 hit Bony Maronie allowed all of the band to demonstrate their chops and really engaged the audience. A great reception for a very enjoyable and talented band.

If there was one highlight at the rain sodden Steelhouse Festival this year then it was Hand Of Dimes (9). Their quite brilliant Friday night set was the main reason we toughed it out over the weekend with their magnificent slot with Bernie Marsden simply fantastic. The band stepped in for King King on the Sunday and put in another great shift. The band are tighter than a Scotsman at the bar and even though they only had 30 minutes their set was worth the admission fee on its own. The rhythm section of Mark Maybry and David Stephenson set the pace, Neil Garland added some soothing keyboards and sweet harmonica whilst Colin Edwards lead guitar was soulful and measured in all the right places. 

Of course, the focal point of the band as always was Ynysybwl's favourite son, Nev MacDonald, whose performance every time is just astonishing. Why this man isn't playing to capacity stadiums every night is a mystery to me. His vocals are amongst the best in the British hard rock field, gravelled when needed but usually much smoother. He has no trouble with the higher notes, as was seen on the beautiful Jacob's Ladder, and he rocked with ease on the harder edged Guilty and Bad Reputation. With a partisan crowd shouting good natured abuse at every opportunity, this was a fun set but so professional. The 30 minutes disappeared quickly with the fabulous Sail On bringing the house down. A Welsh institution, Hand Of Dimes should be seen at every opportunity. I can't wait for the next time. *Special thanks to Mark Maybry for the guest list invite as well. Many thanks!*

Matt's View:

Paul and Mrs H had to leave after Hand Of Dimes due to dog related issues so it was left to me to review the headliners. With Hand Of Dimes getting a raucous ovation from the partisan crowd, the headliners had a big task ahead of them but with the theme from The Sweeney blaring out of the PA the band took to the stage decked out like a proper rock band with lounge coats, crazy hats and lots of denim and leather. They sauntered on stage with beaming smiles and kicked things off with Too Many Gods the title track of their first album, what hits you as Cats In Space (9) start a set is just how perfect their sound is, slickly mixed to really compliment the band's colossal melodic rock stylings. Steevi Brown's percussive power is instantly impactful he drives the band along from the rear of stage bashing the skins with aplomb, he's a focal point for sure but then the entire band are focal points all totally set in their roles on stage, their collective live experience paying dividends, in enthralling the sadly thinned crowd.

As they moved between Too Many Gods and their latest record Scarecrow it's the quality of the songs that sits on par with the quality of the performance, these cats have claws (sorry) they are a much heavier prospect live than on record the dual guitar harmonies of Greg Hart and Dean Howard remind you off the classic Lizzy harmonies each man sharing solos and lead breaks, like Gorham and Robertson as Jeff Brown slings his Rickenbacker bass with an assured confidence swaggering from amp to front of stage as he finger plucks his grooves. The musical palette of the band differs they bring a lump of Foreigner, a dash of Lizzy, the soaring harmonies of Queen, with the glam rock stomp of The Sweet. The live backing vocals too were also greatly appreciated for those of us that do always feel a little shortchanged by backing tapes.

The Cats kept a fine pace with full of propulsive rockers such as Timebomb, tonight dedicated to guitarist Dean who recently recovered from a heart attack, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and Jupiter Calling. These upbeat songs were punctuated by a few huge ballads (Mr Heartache & Scars), the poppy Last Man Standing, the progressive Scarecrow, they are much more than the standard AOR act they can be perceived to be. As I said earlier in the blog the band were on top form, you wouldn't guess this was the first stop of the tour they were polished to near perfection with Andy Stewart's racks of keys not overpowering but complimenting as another lead instrument in every song behind the mic and rounding out the band is Paul Mazi whose vocals are exemplary shifting between Paul Stanley and David Lee Roth while prowling the stage like a strutting tomcat.

There aren't many gigs where every band lives up to your expectations, there are precious few that exceed them but this was one of those times, a young band who show promise, old hands with experience and a headliner who have everything you could want from a live (indoor so no pyro) rock show. Having only caught the end of Cats In Space when they supported Thunder in Cardiff earlier this year seeing their headline performance was an eye opener, my only disappointment was how many left after Hand Of Dimes and didn't stay to see the Cats that got the cream. (Enough with the cat puns I know). 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Reviews: Banditos, Persona, Wicked Stone

Banditos: Visionland (Bloodshot Records)

I really liked Banditos debut and fresh off seeing them live (in a KFC) I picked up their sophomore album Visionland named after the defunct $60 million theme park that was built in the late ‘90s near some of the band members’ childhood homes in Bessemer, Alabama. Apparently the park was shut down after only five years and it stands as a metaphor for the overlying optimism for life this album represents. Visionland also sees the band bring more psychedelic vibes to their already established Southern Country jams. Fine Fine Day starts the record with a New York glam riff driven (thanks to bassist Jeffery Daniel Vines) ode to vodka as the hazy middle section spirals wildly Jeffery David Salter woozily playing some slide while Stephen Alan Pierce II bashes his banjo. Everything stays groovy for Strange Heart the first outing for the soul drenched vocals of Mary Beth Richardson atop the psychedelic meanderings that creep and crawl.

The kaleidoscope of colours continues on the title track which brings sweeping guitars from both Salter and Timothy Steven Corey Parsons as Randy Taylor Wilde drives it with a shuffle. Banditos self titled record owed a debt to Neil Young, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan but this on brings Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and the Grateful Dead; Thick N Thin especially is a Jerry Garcia surf-rocker. With three vocalists to choose from each has their own identity Parsons takes the country rockers, Pierce a folkier Dylan twang and as I've said Richardson has an old soul with Etta James coming through on the shimmering broken heart ballad Healin' Slow, placing this in the middle of the record as the end of 'Side 1' is a stroke of genius, it allows for Lonely Boy to wash over you with it's laid back approach as Fun All Night has swagger to it and exhibits Mary Beth's mastery of the kazoo (yes folks the Kazoo).

I like Banditos, I liked their country rock first album and I like their psychedelic second album, there's an honesty here that is the sound of friends creating the music they want from their collective heart and soul. You can't really argue with that the optimism that at the heart of this record, let the music bring you in to Banditos Visionland. 9/10

Persona: Metamorphosis (Self Released)

Persona's debut album was highly rated by us here at MoM Towers, it was a very powerful debut with a mixture of progressive, power and extreme metal elements along with touches of the Middle Eastern themes of Orphaned Land or Myrath. So on their second full length Metamorphosis you'd think it would be more of the same but this second album sees the band ramp up the symphonic and death influences aiming more at the Epica sound than the previously mentioned Middle Eastern themes. Take a song like Hellgrind it's a furiously frantic with explosive drumming from Youssef Aouadi leading the charge as the death metal scythe through the rhythms of Aouadi, bassist Nesrine Mahbouli and rhythm guitarist Yosri Ouada. Frontwoman Jelena Dobrić gives a schizophrenic vocal performance with her soaring cleans and guttural roars throughout the track.

In fact she pulls this trick off numerous times during the album and every time it makes you really appreciate her vocal prowess, she's not the only member of the band that impresses though keyboardist Walid Bessadok moves the band out of your typical melo-death sound into a more progressive sound with the huge Gothic organ sound on In Memoriam really giving the track legs and it even features a piano solo for that proper baroque Jim Steinman playing Opeth sound. The Tunisian band have not improved on their debut but have maintained a high quality by evolving their musical output with some songs still meeting the 'female fronted metal' criteria with the final two piece of The Seeress Of Triumph and Epilogue: Final Deliverance but this record is so much more than that it has the rampaging death metal I've talked about but there are also the powerful Katatonia-esque The Omen Of Downfall, the electronic Netherlight and shred happy Esurience Guilefulness Omnipotence which showcases the guitar prowess of Melik Melek Khelifa. I have a bit of a soft spot for Persona and their latest album is heavier and more aggressive than their debut which can only be a good thing. 9/10

Wicked Stone: Ain't No Rest (Self Released)

There's a little theory I like to call the 'Planet Rock Effect', this is the theory that no matter how generic a band is if they given airplay extensively on Planet Rock, the UK's only 'rock' station on digital radio then the act will be hailed as the 'next-big-thing' and will play all of the Planet Rock sponsored festivals thereby getting a bigger audience and more airplay and a fandom that will inspire the next generation to do something similar until modern rock becomes bland. Now I know in my King Creature review I said they needed radio play but that's because they are a bit different a bit heavier than a lot of the music played on Planet Rock so unfortunately this is really the only way to establish yourself as a name act. Wicked Stone are the ideal example of the 'Planet Rock Effect' obviously talented musicians and by all accounts a crafted live show, their album is mediocre at best, the title track is also their first single and it has been given lots of airplay on the station, yes it exposes them to wider audience but a wider audience of people who already like this sort of music no matter what.

Unfortuantely for Wicked Stone their distorted rock riffs, numerous lead breaks and heavily cliched lyrics on tracks such as Another RoundGet In Get OutSlide really drag the record down into the doldrums. Nearly every song is about women or drinking or driving, not that there is anything wrong with those things but it's been done by bands a thousand times before bands that do it so much better. Wicked Stone are sort of like Nickelback-lite without the ballads achingly formulaic and not very interesting, there will be those that disagree and they are entitled to their opinion but these are also the people that think playing Opeth's lightest song on rock radio station is a guilty pleasure. 5/10

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Reviews: Cannabis Corpse, Cripper, From North, Pulvis Et Umbra (Reviews By Paul)

Cannabis Corpse: Left Hand Pass (Season Of Mist)

There is only one marijuana themed death metal outfit and here they are with album number 4. The four-piece from Richmond, Virginia follow up 2014’s From Wisdom To Baked with another powerful ode to the weed. It’s skull crushingly heavy whilst retaining the humour that we’ve come to expect. In Dank Purity and Final Exhalation hammer hard and as expected from Landphil of Municipal Waste, the Cannibal Corpse parody continues unabated. Closing track, The Fiends That Comes To Steal The Weed Of The Deceased makes worth listening to the album for that title alone. 7/10

From North: Self Titled (DownFall Records)

I must admit that opening track Volund The Smith, on the self-titled debut by Swedish folk metallers From North took me totally by surprise. A massive, raging beast of a track, it took the best part of the song for me to acclimatise to the aggressive but quite impressive sound these guys make. He Who Hates follows and once again it worked superbly. Haken Johnsson’s gruff vocals work fantastically well, but it’s the crunching guitar work that makes this record more enjoyable than many of the rather dire folk metal outfits about today. Yes, there is still the hurdy gurdy wail in the background but this is more Amon Amarth than Eluveitie. It’s not all fantastic with Ship’s Tale a little weak and several tracks slightly repetitive but overall this album is a heartfelt passionate and impressive release. A drunken evening with a roaring fire calls for those From North. Light the beacons. 7/10

Cripper: Follow Me: Kill! (Metal Blade)

I was unaware of Cripper who hail from Hannover, Germany. Follow Me: Kill! Is the band’s fourth record, and follows 2014’s Hyena. The band has a powerful sound, huge chunks of thrash and melodic death metal combine with haunting gothic elements to produce a stunning release. Lead singer Britta Görtz, who also sings for Critical Mess, has a snarl comparable with Arch Enemy’s past and present vocalists, although she favours the Angela Gossow sound with a growl so deep it could curdle milk. It’s not all from the gut though and she varies death growling with clean vocals on the mammoth Running High, the penultimate track on this impressive release. For an album that clocks in at just shy of an hour this fairly raced by and the cutting guitar work of Christian Brohenhorst and Jonathan Stenger add steel. It’s high octane fury from start to finish, and you can take your pick of tracks. Opener Pressure is particularly malevolent but there isn’t a poor track here. If you like your riffs huge and hard, then Cripper will certainly be a band worth checking out. 8/10

Pulvis Et Umbra: Atmosfear (Self Released)

Multi-instrumentalist Damy Mojitodka’s project Pulvis Et Umbra has been in existence for over 15 years although this is only the third record Pulvis Et Umbra (Italian for Dust & Shadow) has released. It’s an interesting mix of influences, ranging from ferocious death metal to calmer, Opeth-like passages and some virtuoso guitar work. There is a lot going on in every track, with roaring gravel gargling shouty vocals, huge chugging riffs and blast beats pounding away. The tracks are short with the album coming in at just under 35 minutes but there is no cessation in the barrage during that time. The haunting Divinity Or Icon and the title track probably stand out most. There is a nagging problem for me with all multi-instrumentalists and that is that it often feels like everything has been thrown into the mix just because it can This is often the case on Atmosfear, with a palette that is just too demanding. 6/10