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Monday, 30 March 2015

Reviews: Ranger, Sacred Blood, Automaton

Ranger: Where Evil Dwells (Spinefarm)

Go back to a time when Slayer weren't the travelling soap opera they are now, back to when they were in their infancy when King, Lombardo, Hanneman and Arya all played like their lives depended on it, with lightning speed, guttural aggression and songs about war, death and Satan. This is the blueprint for Finland's Ranger who have released a fair few EP's but they have now they have debut under their belt and it is deep in Show No Mercy/Hell Awaits territory with a huge dollop of Mercyful Fate lumped in for good measure see Dimi's shrieking vocals. Ranger call themselves skull splitting speed metal and that is probably the most accurate description you could wish for as this album grabs you by the throat from the first chord and doesn't let go until it suffocates you with it's Gatling gun drumming and face melting guitars. Lyrically it's 1983 all over again with horror, the occult and war (nuclear or otherwise) all featured, these Finns play the retro card to it's fullest with bullet belt and hightops galore. The one thing I will say is that despite how good the music is (and it is) some may be put off by the vocals as they are deep in early Araya mixed with King Diamond vein, however if you love the blood curdling shrieks and the frankly terrifying metallic onslaught then Ranger will get you banging your head like a mad person and possibly pitting in your own room, by yourself. Ranger have produced an album of breakneck metal anthems and I'm convinced that their live show may actually kill you! 8/10

Sacred Blood: Argonautica (Pitch Black)

Sacred Blood are essentially the Greek version of Manowar, Rhaapsody and Blind Guardian all rolled into one. They play epic/symphonic metal and all three of their albums are concept pieces based around heroic Greek legend, their debut was Leonidas' last stand at Thermopylae, their follow up focussed on the Lion of Macedon Alexander and this third instalment as the title would suggest focusses on Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. As the drama ramps up during the intro with traditional Greek instruments mixing with orchestral flourishes. Before it moves into the album itself which is full of chest beating (shirtless of course), metallic anthems with thumping drums, huge guitars and some thunderous vocals that would shake the Pillars Of Heracles (Greek spelling). Hail The Heroes is the epitome of this with it's Warriors Of The World style chug and symphonic backing, the musical backing of this album is expansive and epic in all senses of the word, even more astounding is that there are only three members of the band with George Karahalios providing the battering ram in the engine room, Polydeykis handles the guitars keys and atmosphere sculpting the the tale as the album progresses and forming the basis for Epeios Focaeus powerhouse vocals. The album is let down a little by the production as everything is a little muddy but that is immaterial really as the mix of folk instruments see O'er The Tomb, symphonic swells on Legacy Of The Lyre, crunchy metal riffs on To Lands No Man Hath Seen and Enchantress Of The East (which is very Iced Earth sounding); along with the soaring solos, furious drumming and Karahalios' great Euro power metal vocals all means that Sacred Blood have an album of quality tunes, whether you understand the concept (personally Ancient History is one of my favourite subjects) is immaterial as these songs stand so well by themselves that you don't have to know anything about it to enjoy this record of excellently performed symphonic power metal. Épainos ston Día!! 8/10

Automaton: A Bold New Horizon (Self Released)

Steampunk (Sci-Fi mixed with Victoriana) is a subject that the masters of traditional metal Iron Maiden have yet to touch on in their album covers or indeed stylistic change on every tour cycles. We haven't seen a Steampunk Eddie so it is perfect time for Cincinnati Ohio's Automaton to take up the baton, fusing Steampunk imagery and lyrics with the galloping twin guitar attack of The Irons. The band however are more than just a stylistc act they have created a Steampunk comic and indeed an entire universe based in a place called Ionia. This album draws from their fictional universe telling the tale (as far as I can tell) of a newspaper reporter that uncovers the governments dirty secret and then becomes a crusader for free speech. The scene is set by the small skits in between the upbeat, pacey metal tracks like Hot Off The Press and the swaggering Aether Flame. The band all play very well and have a classic trad metal sound entrenched as the rhythm section of Isaac Grimwood on bass and Mechanic James O'Brian on drums bring the flurry of kick drums and galloping rhythms to tracks like the Stand And Be Counted which could have come off a Manowar album and gives Grimwood a bass solo (Mr DiMaio would be so proud) Captain Luther Meade and Markus Wolverhampton's guitar work is also good mixing a dual guitar attack with elements of thrash and even some modern touches see Convalescence and Rise Of The Ruined Nation. The strong musical backing is fronted by the great vocals of Duncan Batchworth III who moves between Eric Adams, Bruce Dickinson and even Rob Halford with his booming mid's and his occasional ceiling lifting highs. This is a good album, some will get a bit annoyed at the skits as they do break the flow a bit but to get the whole 'concept' they are needed, happily the music is good enough to keep your attention and get your head nodding along. Steam Powered Power Metal indeed!! 8/10





Saturday, 28 March 2015

A View From The Back Of The Room: WhiskeyDick

WhiskeyDick, Howl, The Jonestown Flood, The Moon Club, Cardiff

Once again in to The Moon club for a night of quality music, this venue is one of my faves as it mixes good beer, with a cosy atmosphere and most importantly for a nerd like me excellent sound quality! Tonight was all about the headliners, having been acquainted with these Southern Gents when they supported Peter Pan Speedrock, myself and my Redneck loving compatriot Rhod were very excited indeed that we were going to get a headline show from the Texas twosome, in support of their EU compilation album (review coming soon) which gives you 15 of their best and most popular tracks (with one exclusion I will explain later) on one album.

So we set off bedecked in our fanboy WD shirts, grabbed a (strong) drink and made our way upstairs. Before the evening kicked off we got to shoot the shit with the band and they are great guys; humble and friendly they took on board our wittering and we shared jokes and stories as well as a bit of Wayne's World-esque hero worship from Rhod. The conversation would be continued through the night but we were first interrupted by the racket coming from the cavern where the bands play. So without much arm twisting we (us and the band) made our way to watch the first band.

The Jonestown Flood

The racket was coming from Welsh garage/blues trio The Jonestown Flood who set about playing their no-frills swampy blues to a filling venue, they immediately got heads nodding with their Southern style stomp as Rhys and Niall plough a heavy rhythm furrow throughout and even gave us a jazz odyssey while Joe Kelly switched to another guitar after his broke after the first song; this was probably due to his penchant for jiving like mad to every song as if he was being shocked, still with all three instruments present and correct the band worked through their set well with real confidence and energy. A nice grungy opening band with a bluesy/garage groove to kick off the boozy proceedings! 8/10

Howl

Second up were Howl and things took a more experimental turn as they are not as immediate as TJF relying more on hard rock jams and sonic freakouts than the more structured songs that had come before. Again three piece, Howl are deep in stoner territory playing the kind of music to smoke weed too with their massive wall of noise ringing out around the venue as Tom Rees beat the hell out of his kit and Marcell Davies (a man who has watched Lemmy a bit too much) rumbled our collective under-carriages leaving Grant Jones to attack his guitar and bark the lyrics as the sonic assault continued. After the set was over all were agreed we got a real battering but in a good way, Howl are a band that won't be happy until you go home deaf, which I like a lot. 8/10

WhiskeyDick

As the drums were cleared away, the stools were set up, the acoustics were unzipped and tuned, the two hulking Southern dudes from WhiskeyDick, played a little and then without fanfare immediately launched into their two man acoustical jam, chicken pickin' and ass kickin' from the outset. The band have managed to acquire quite a collection of songs from their 7 albums and they play a set made up of their best, sonically they are like an acoustic version of Pantera or BLS fronted by legendary outlaw David Allen Coe (or indeed the Rebel Meets Rebel project that features Pantera and DAC). The songs are layered with some great lead playing from Rev. Johnson who plays an acoustic better than a lot of guitarists play an electric, he is expressive when he solos on the Fallen Heroes their tribute to Dimbag which expertly shifts into Zakk Wylde's masterpiece In This River and got the crowd chanting along and he plays at a mean pace on the countrified, juggernaut of 18 Wheels Of Hell. The good Reverend is aided and abetted by his Hillbilly cohort Fritz who plays like Pappa Het (so many downstrokes) and sings like Mr Coe his rich bass vocals rumbling the soul as he tells tales of whiskey drinking, weed smoking, hell raising and woman chasing or all of the above on the excellently titled Train Robbing, Gun Toting, Dope Smoking, Guitar Picking, Mother Fucking, Good Time Band a song written in 1865(!) apparently. This is where WhiskeyDick come into their element they are an honest, down home band that are just fun, they seem to have a blast on stage and this energy is infectious the crowd were loving every note shouting every foul mouthed word Yeehaw! and drinking for their lives on Black Tooth Grin and the awesome Drunk As Hell. As the end of the set drew near there was a shout, then a noise and then we were into the finale of the hilarious Wookiee Pussy. Then it was over, cheers greeted the Fort Worth natives and we all made our way out to converse and drink a little more, we were all leaving elated having just seen an amazing set of hell raising, mud stomping, acoustic Hillbilly metal from a band that are now fully entrenched as one of my favourite live acts. Yeehaw motherfucker indeed!! 10/10                 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reviews: Motor Sister, My Wooden Pillow, Kamasupazundown

Motor Sister: Ride (Metal Blade)

Motor Sister is band formed by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian as a 50th birthday present to himself. The idea was to ask members of one of his favourite bands Mother Superior to come and jam some of their songs with him. The only member that did was guitarist/vocalist Jim Wilson who previously collaborated with Ian and his wife Pearl, on her debut solo album. Pearl also appears on this album to adding to Wilson's blues soaked vocal while Armoured Saint/Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera and Exodus/Testament drummer John Tempesta handle the rhythm section. So is this more than just a vanity project for Mr Ian? Well yes and no he has managed to recruit a great band to help Wilson re-record his own songs and with Ian's chugging rhythm guitar playing the songs are a lot more muscular than the originals, see A Hole which sounds like Anthrax with it's thrash riffage, obviously the inclusion of Wilson on the project moves this up from a covers album as you can't technically cover your own songs and it's not really a reinterpretation as the songs stick rather rigidly to the originals (albeit a little heavier) so the point of this album is a little lost, one can only decipher that Ian made this for his own gratification and also to highlight the work of one America's underground bands. Still the songs burst with energy with Wilson's husky vocals giving pathos to every song see the soulful blues of Fool Around and his solos tearing the roof off (This Song Reminds Me Of You), Pearl provides some old school female accompaniment with her great voice, which I'd personally like to hear more of, the rhythm section is tight, muscular and buoyed by their collective experience and their camaraderie after years of touring history together. So a good but a little throwaway to be honest as it really doesn't serve much of  purpose artistically but it is fun album for fans of Scott Ian, Mother Superior or indeed fans of bluesy hard rock. 7/10        

My Wooden Pillow: Uncomfortable (Self Released)

Manchester's My Wooden Pillow are a four piece death/groove metal band that draw from a huge amount of other influences to create their sound. Uncomfortable is their newest EP and it is full of breakneck riffs, snarling vocals and lashings of attitude. The Line is a thrashy, almost Arch Enemy style track which shows off the evil growls of frontwoman Michelle, who also gives a fine clean vocal performance on Call For War a political clarion call backed by some groove metal styled backing from Hassan (guitar), Patrick (bass) and Chris (drums) all of whom play with style and class, Call For War is one of the highlights of this four track EP as it reveals the bands heavy and also melodic style. Decapitalist harks to death metal with it's blast beats and relentless guitar work. All in all MWP have sculpted a great little slice of metallic fury with four tracks of quality metal music. 7/10 

Kamasupazundown: Blueprint (Self Released)

A two man QOTSA? This seems to be what this Welsh band are aiming for with their brand of scuzzy, fuzzy desert rock. Blueprint is the band's second album their first being One Minute Silence and it continues in the vein of their debut by fusing odd riffs from Mark Pitts with the unusual drum patterns Steven Rowlands. The band are deep rooted in the Kyuss, QOTSA vibe of music especially with Pitts' Homme-esque vocal drawl, he heightens this comparison with the smae kind of harmonic backing vocals Homme uses on the Queens... records. The first two tracks Stereotypical and Self Committed Crime are pure Rated-R with Who Am I adding a funky vibe and the title track has a great stop start riff and is driven like all the tracks by Rowland's superb drumming. Things get weird on Envy In His Eyes before Wrath Of Beauty goes a bit disco with some Nile Rodgers like guitar playing and Strange Tides is a fantastic song with a hazy vibe throughout evoking the sun and lazy days. Kamasupazundown not only have the most complicated band name in the world but they also have got a great second album in the bag that is top quality Desert rock and as the brass fuelled Last Goodbye ends your head doesn't stop nodding along with the great sounds contained here within. A great album from talented, yet relatively unknown band from Wales, hopefully this album will redress the balance. 8/10

Reviews: Thunder (Monster Review By Nick)

Thunder: Wonder Days (EMI)

After a 7 year wait and numerous sporadic reunions the fans of the mighty Thunder finally get what we have been waiting for; the tenth studio album from the rockers from London.

On hearing the first single and title track of the new album I was initially left a little apprehensive as to how the new album will turn out. Wonder Days, although a grower isn't exactly what was expecting for a first single. Despite containing the usual patented Thunder ascending descending riffs and sudden simple, yet impactful rock breakdowns, it just seemed to lack the usual bounce and edgy fun the Thunder singles have come to represent. Moving onto the next track from the album The Thing I Want and the spring in Thunder's step returns, filled with bouncy bass and lead riffs the lyrical edge also makes a come back. Thunder have always had the power to find the line between smut and fun… The Thing I Want epitomises this. The Rain and Black Water slow the pace of the album down but with a bit of style. The Rain is a soft and delicate ballad, which brings Danny Bowes vocals to the forefront (this is never a bad thing). Allowing Danny to show that he can still reach either end of the musical scale with little effort, The Rain combines these talents with a delightful backing and a song that is a beautiful metaphor for hope and strength. Black Water maintains the slower pace of the album, however this time with a more recognised Thunder rock brand. Luke Morley treats us to a few brief but unyielding solos that just bring a smile to your face.

The Prophet is the next offering and personal favourite as it combines everything I love about Thunder from the past, with a slightly modern twist. A powerful springy bass line runs straight through the heart of this track, intertwined with riffs that change pace to perfect timing. The Prophet is classic Thunder but a little more technical than they've been before… and it works. Chasing Shadows offers more of the same we found in The Prophet. It hooks you instantly with a great opening riff, again supported by a powerful swing like bass line form Morley. Bowes vocals once more show that they've not slipped an octave over the years in this track. Chasing Shadows really gets you hoping around the kitchen with your air guitar (this may or may not have actually happened). The London lads slow down the pace again with the second ballad on the album, Broken. A simple track that is basically a Thunder acoustic song that holds your attention due to its graceful nature. There is nothing complex here, just Bowes vocals supported minimally by a stripped down band until the song build to its heartfelt crescendo end... this really is a charming ballad. Wonder Years final tracks leave the album and its listeners in no two minds about what Thunder are all about. When The Music Played, Serpentine and I Love The Weekend are all choked full of crashing symbols high paced springy riffs and vivacious bass. These tracks are what Thunder are, and have been all about throughout their existence. Honest, unapologetic edgy rock that is just plain fun. It’s easy to hear, especially during I Love The Weekend, the fun that the guys are having.

Thunder have returned with an album that will more than keep the cult fans happy and jumping around the room while at the same time grabbing the interest of new listeners that have either never heard of the band before or have always jumped on the “Thunder aren't unique” band wagon. Be it on purpose or by sheer accident, the London gents have added a little more depth to their music in Wonder Days while standing firm in what they believe in… and I thank them for that! Despite all this the album does seem to miss a little oomph and volume in its production. Tracks such as The Prophet and I Love The Weekend seem to be held back in the production, when I know if set free they could be so much more. I have a sneaky suspicion that tracks like these will be presented in their full glory live, and I look forward to it as I can only imagine how good they will sound when let of the reigns. However, its is a damn shame that they have been almost gagged on the album through what can only be slightly lapse production. This aside, Thunder is back ladies and gentleman… and they show no sign of stopping! 8/10

Reviews: Enslaved, Melechesh, Dead Shed Jokers

Enslaved: In Times (Nuclear Blast)

Norway has always been a breeding ground for the most extreme forms of metal and one of their shining lights are Enslaved who have managed to release 12 albums of extreme but accessible music. Never a band to stick to one ideal they dramatically changed their sound on 2001's Monumension moving away from the straight up Viking black metal and incorporating a much more expansive and progressive sound to blend with the heaviness and extremity. This sonic experimentation reached it's nadir with 2012's RIITIIR which was a master class in progressive black metal, many believed this would be Enslaved's masterpiece and wondered what they could do next, well In Times is the bands 13th album and yet again they have crafted a record that once again takes the bar set by it's predecessor and throws it to the moon. The album is made up of just six tracks all of which are over 8 minutes in length and in that time they move, shift and change time and style so many times you lose count and if you let your concentration slip you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to another band. Thurisaz Dreaming is a violent statement of intent with Ivar Bjørnson and Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal's guitar work driving with ferocity as Cato Bekkevold's drums play at inhuman speed while Grutle Kjellson screams like a demonic presence for the first part of the song then in an instant the song slows down becomes more melodic and the keys and clean vocal of Herbrand Larsen take over from the aggression, which then returns for the dramatic end of the song. So from the initial track you are blown away by the musicianship and scope of these songs, each one is crafted to perfection, Building With Fire starts with the clean vocals, with Kjellson's screams coming in on the chorus, this song has very Amon-like feel with the cleaner sections sounding like Opeth. This album rarely dips in quality at all with the 10 minute title track an obvious highlight I can safely say that not a single track on this album is a duff one, the are aggressive, progressive and most importantly played with intensity, passion and technical excellence, roll on their tour with Grand Magus!! 9/10

Melechesh: Enki (Nuclear Blast)

Melechesh are a black metal band that draw heavily on their Middle Eastern heritage incorporating sitars, saz, bindir and bouzoukis into their sound. "It's been done" I hear you cry well yes it has but Melechesh are one of the originators of the genre having been around since 1993, Enki is their fifth album and their fourth since their relocation to The Netherlands leaving their native Jerusalem. The band is the brainchild of Ashmedi who contributes the lead guitar, vocals and keys to the proceedings on songs fuelled by blasbeats and lightning fast riffs, think Behemoth and you wouldn't be far off, vocally Ashmedi sounds a lot like Nergal having more of a death metal voice than many of his peers, with his snarl mixed with the odd roar and even clean passage hear and there. Tempest Temper Enil Enraged opens proceedings brilliantly with its supersonic drumming and sharp changes of pace during the six minute runtime, Lost Tribes moves into early Mastodon territory with some groove thrown into the blackened pot, happily unlike a lot of extreme metal there is a lot of melody on this album much of this comes from Ashmedi's audible and understandable vocals, as well as the slightly progressive nature of the songs (most are more than six minutes) and the folk instruments used throughout but not relied upon too much meaning they blend into the bands sound rather than overpower it, they are at their most effective on the title track Enki- Divine Nature Awoken which moves from the depths of Israel to the pits of hell in one song and also on The Palm The Eye And Lapis Lazuli which is the most accessible track on the record. If you love your extreme metal with an oriental folk edge then Melechesh will be right up your street, heavy as hell but with enough variation for everyone. 8/10   

Dead Shed Jokers: S/T (Pity My Brain)

A trip to the strange side now with Welsh weirdos Dead Shed Jokers who seamlessly blend classic rock riffs, modern garage riffs and the occasional nod to jazz all wrapped up in a stoner haze. This is heads down stare at the floor trippy riff rock that acquires influences as quickly as it discards them making for an interesting and unique listen. Dafydd's Song is a jazz inflected slice of psych with some funky guitar licks giving them a sound akin to London weirdsters The Earls Of Mars. After the ending guitar freakout the band move straight into 60's California groove of Delay The Morning that is part Hendrix, part Wolfmother especially in the vocals, A Cautionary Tale works brings in a heap of Zappa and some Diablo Swing Orchestra. Dead Shed Jokers are an odd but refreshing mix of new and old with songs that are varied in style but all wrapped together in a psychedelic, groove laden rock vibe performed brilliantly by a band with a tonnes of bravado and talent, having seen them in the live arena several times these tracks are going to be very well received in the dirty clubs of the UK, it will certainly get heads nodding and minds puzzling. Pick up the album, see them live and experience the Jokers in full flight. 8/10  

A View From The Back Of The Room: Muse

Muse, Newport Centre

With the numerous gigs and albums that we here at the MoM review it is sometimes hard to muster excitement and anticipation, especially if the gig seems miles off. Luckily Muse did much to to redress this balance, having announced the tour only the week before, this year's Download headliners simultaneously announced their new single Psycho, their new album Clones and this tour of smaller venues. I was one of the lucky few to get a ticket to the Newport show (as was Mr Perry, but that is another story entirely) so with my credit card and I.D (this was a paperless event meaning all entry was linked to the card you paid on, take that touts) we queued outside the venue for the off. I must admit I love the Newport Centre, yes the fact that while queuing you are face to face with the Speedo clad masses frolicking in the pool is still hilarious, but the hall itself is spacious, always looks much bigger than it is allowing for good views on the floor and in the seats, the place where we chose, in order to enjoy the show without loosing enough sweat to fill the pool next door. As we took our seats the lights went down the dubstep blew up and the support band took to the stage.

Marmozets

Bursting forth like a bottle rocket filled with nitroglycerine the Bingley mob immediately made a statement with Move, Shake, Hide which saw frontwoman Becca MacIntyre grooving like a woman possessed the drums and guitar of her brothers Josh (drums) and Sam (guitar) merging brilliantly with the Jack and Will Bottomley on guitar and bass respectively to create a fractious, aggressive, melodic and frankly mad sound that is sort of Paramore meets At The Drive In melding punk, hardcore and swaggering rock with off-kilter rhythms and crazy guitar wig-outs. The band are all very visual jumping and rocking out to tracks like Weird & Wonderful, Captivate You and the harsh, visceral punk of Born Young And Free. However it is Becca that is the most captivating and watch-able member of the band, she never stands still pulling shapes galore letting the music take over her every move and her voice is fantastic from the strength in her clean singing (very Haley Williams) and the power of her growls. A perfect opener for a band like Muse, dirty, grungy and naturally gifted, very good indeed. 8/10

Muse

So the stage was stripped back with a solitary amp & head, drum riser, keyboad/iMac and topped by a lighting rig. Simplistic but a true understatement to what was about to happen, so lights down intro on and the three men arrived on stage Dominic Howard behind the kit, Chris Wolstenholme stage left with his light up bass, that resembled a lightsaber in the dark and then the mad Martian himself Matt Bellamy stage right his guitar strapped tight and then they launched into new track Psycho which is a stomping glam rock riff, reminiscent of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, that kicks things off in rocking style before Wolstenholme led Futurism with lead bass and cool demeanour allowing Bellamy make his guitar squeal while he wails with his unique voice. There was no messing between the songs, Bellamy is quiet and reserved without the music but turns into a rock god when they let the music do the talking as they slam into Bliss which released the Hullaballoons for the first time since 2011 (Mr and M The only real talking came in the shape of Bellamy reminiscing about the first time he came to the Newport Centre to watch Korn and Limp Bizkit, but after that burst of chat it was music time again with Interlude bubbling up into Hysteria which got the first mass jump-along, which was amazing to watch as the band thrashed out one of their biggest hits, no time to rest either as the startling light show continued through every song giving a massive visual accompaniment to the virtuosistic musicianship and frenetic performance of the band. No time to rest as Plug In Baby was next with it's guitar hero intro really showing Bellamy's talent as a guitarist, however Wolstenholme and Howard are no slouches either providing the band's sledgehammer rhythms.

I was actually surprised how heavy Muse are live and had a dorky grin on face when they ran through Assassin from my favourite album Black Holes & Revelations and then more mass jumping to Stockholm Syndrome on this hit filled set that just didn't seem to slow at all. The punky Agitated being the final track as a trio as Morgan Nicholls crept on stage behind the samples and keys for the uplifting Starlight (a song that has a special place in my heart) the BH&R tracks continued with the industrial-tinged, funky as hell Supermassive Blackhole with the funk continuing on the politically rallying part Floydian, part Orwellian Uprising which was strung out for the band to rock out at the end. A brief restbite as Chris took up the harmonica for their rendition of Ennio Morricone's Man With The Harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West and yes you guessed it this led into set ender and mother of all Sci-Fi Western epics with Knights Of Cydonia a song that still rocks like a bastard! Having been aurally and visually assaulted for the past hour and a bit we took a collective breath and then back on stage for Unnatural Selection the finest track Queen never wrote which got everyone singing along (as did most of the set), the irony of Time Is Running Out was not lost on your writer and again made everyone scream at the top of their lungs. So what was left? A few goodbyes and then the last song, bravely they chose new song Reapers which was an inspired choice as this song is excellent with a hard rock riffage and a fleet fingered solo to round it off means that I have a lot of expectation for Clones when it's eventually released. As for a live showing Muse were stunning and if they play this set at Download they will show every person in that field that they can be as heavy as any metal band out there, a massive set, from a behemoth of a band in a gorgeously intimate setting. 10/10          

 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Another Point Of View: HRH United (Review By Paul, Alex & Chris)

Hard Rock Hell United, Hafan Y Môr , Pwllheli

As the rain lashed down on the North Wales coastline, the first party of the Musipedia crew arrived at the holiday camp which would be the base for a weekend of metal and partying. The second platoon arrived shortly afterwards with the final division joining later that evening.

For the uninitiated, Hafan Y Môr is a holiday complex which sprawls over a large acreage and comprises a mix of chalets and static caravans of varying sizes. We were allocated two very comfortable chalets at the South of the complex, which suited our needs very well.

This year, the gods of metal had chosen to cross the streams. Hammerfest, now in its seventh incarnation, contained the majority of the heavier stuff, such as Winterfylleth and Raging Speedhorn. The acts for this section of the weekend were confined to the Bonga Wonga Beach Club, located at the rear of the onsite pub, The Mash And Barrel. Meanwhile, the much larger Cove venue played host to the plethora of AOR acts who were booked for HRH AOR; FM, H.E.A.T and impressively Night Ranger amongst the cohort. The smallest stage, the Boardwalk saw the smaller doom, sleaze and thrash acts. During the weekend we had substantial debate about the reasons for merging the Hammerfest and AOR events; we don’t know the reasons for definite but speculated that sales for a rather weak Hammerfest line up (in comparison with recent years) had forced the organisers to pool their resources. Obviously the pay cheque for bands such as Night Ranger would have been reasonably high.

Thursday

As usual, we got onto the serious job of drinking as soon as we arrived and by the time we headed to the Boardwalk the crew were already very relaxed and ready to party. Pig Iron (7) were not the first band to hit the stage but were afforded the honour of our initial view. Very good they were too, with a sound akin to The Answer and Trucker Diablo, solid Southern hard rock with a UK twist. Vocalist Johnny Ogle commanded the front of the stage with the confidence of a man who had done this many times before, playing a mean harmonica too whilst the stomp was provided by guitarist Dan Edwards. A range of tracks from old and new got the early evening crowd in good spirits and their rock crossed over the genres and raised a smile all around. A quick dash to Bonga Wonga was well worth it as neoclassical pirate metallers Redrum seen by some of the crew supporting Alestorm recently kicked up a right good storm. Redrum (8) have a pretty damn fine approach, party metal with a smile. The crowd, by now all suitably lubricated, responded fully with some mighty jigging and head banging. The Nottingham outfit blasted through 45 minutes of great fun, with vocalist Dave Everitt and guitarist Sam Wood (with bouzouki at one point) the main focal points. (Possible bonus point for a cover of Taking The Hobbits To Isengard - Ed) Good stuff.

Unfortunately, the evening ended on a bit of a musical downer as British NWOBHM outfit Blitzkrieg (4) served up a quite horrible set which really proved the adage that sometimes you really should let sleeping dogs lie. Blitzkrieg were just rubbish I'm afraid, with original (and Satan) vocalist Brian Ross particularly uninspiring. Suffice to say our party voted with our feet and retired to a game of beer pong with our last group of weary travellers.

Friday

The victors at beer pong emerged blinking into the midday light (well the true victor was still out for the count most of the day - Ed) with some quite filthy hangovers on Friday morning. The combination of Coors light, Guinness and gin rightly showing no remorse (how anyone drinks Coors is beyond me). The positive on day 2 was that there was little to attract us until 4pm when Winterfylleth were on. After some restorative brunch, the crew saddled up and headed to Bonga Wonga to see the best UK black metal outfit around at the moment, Winterfylleth (8). With a complex and technical approach to their compositions, a decent sound is essential for Winterfylleth. However, this was anything but crystal and the band batted valiantly against some of the worst sound quality possible. The frustration of this was evident on the faces of the band, However, Winterfylleth rarely deliver band shows and in the past three viewings I have had with them they have been excellent. Blasting through tracks from all four albums including A Careworn Heart and Whisper Of The Elements from last year’s awesome The Divinity Of Antiquity, Winterfylleth’s set demonstrated how much the band have developed their song writing. A sterling performance in the face of adversity. Disappointingly, the same cannot be said of Italians Elvenking (5) whose image and music was conflicted and confusing. Cross The Defiled with A7X and then mix in a bit of folk metal with a splash of Turisas and you get Elvenking. It could have been brilliant. It wasn't. At many gigs and festivals you get to a stage where you begin to wonder if any band is really going to do anything for you. It was beginning to feel a bit like that … and then Xentrix (9) arrived on stage. The Preston outfit delivered the most perfect hour of UK thrash metal and basically blew the bollocks off all of those assembled in the room. Hammering through a range of old classics and a couple of newbies from their forthcoming album including the brutal There Will Be Consequences, the band absolutely nailed it and to say that their new album is now eagerly anticipated at MoM Towers would be an understatement.

Heading back to Bonga Wonga after refreshments, we’d hoped to catch the last few songs from Angel Witch but surprisingly the bands were running well ahead of the scheduled listing and we missed them. So, it was time for the first headliners of the weekend, US outfit Kamelot (6). Several of the crew are big Kamelot fans and were excited as we headed into the arena. However, an atrocious sound combined with some over indulgence from front man Tommy Karevik, a tedious drum solo, a keyboard solo and yes, the dreaded and most feared bass solo from Sean Tibbets contrived to make this headline show something of an anti-climax.

Saturday

Saturday dawned bright and cold. Hangovers were slightly fewer in number and the early risers headed to the Boardwalk to catch Phase Reverse from Greece. The Athenians had apparently travelled to Pwllheli just for this gig and were rewarded with an enthusiastic reaction from the hardy but reasonably healthy (in numbers anyway) crowd. There is something massively endearing about the enthusiasm of bands who have made such an effort and Phase Reverse (8), and particularly their vocalist Takis, could not stop grinning at the enthusiastic welcome. The audience were rewarded with forty minutes of solid heavy metal, an infusion of Black Label Society, Down and more traditional Southern Metal with even the odd dash of Pantera for good measure. Some excellent beardage too. Unfortunately one of the bands we were hoping to see, Steak, had transport problems and so we headed back to Bonga Wonga to see Skalmold, unbelievably at Ant’s recommendation. As usual, the fucker wasn't wrong and the Icelandic six piece pulled off one of the weekend’s more memorable performances. Skalmold (8) use three guitarists and keyboards but also have any of the five ‘outfield’ players singing, often all at once. The Icelandic feel is evident in their music, with huge similarities at times with their compatriots Solstafir. Singing in Icelandic also helps of course and provides the mysticism that often comes when you can’t understand a word! Heavy as hell at times, subtle and light at others, Skalmold had everyone smiling and banging along.

A quick break for refreshments and then a return to see Devilment. Devilment (7) have been around for a couple of years but gained more media attention when diminutive Cradle of Filth main man Dani Filth helped out on vocals and subsequently joined the band for live dates. Musically the band are excellent. Tight and heavy, some superior riffage spliced with Gothic style keyboards from Lauren Francis. However, Filth’s vocals are something of an acquired taste and I just don’t like them. His high pitched falsetto combined with his black metal growl just remind me of a budget King Diamond. However, Devilment got a decent reception and as I said, musically were pretty impressive. Having steered clear of the throng kicking it off with Raging Speedhorn (I just don’t get this band) it was time to party with everyone’s favourite biker band, Orange fucking Goblin (9). Having heckled man mountain Ben Ward (from a distance!) as we headed to the arena, all bar one of our party assembled for forty five minutes of absolute quality (He was presumably deep in his other engagement - Ed). Once again the sound in Bonga Wonga was dreadful but there is no such thing as a bad Orange Goblin show. Blasting through a well-paced set which included classics such as Saruman's Wish alongside newish tracks from their excellent Back From The Abyss, Ward once again demonstrated why he is one of the best British frontmen around, exhorting more effort from the packed crowd whilst grinning manically. Ably supported by Joe Hoare on guitar, Martyn Millard on bass and drummer Chris Turner, the band brought an excellent set to a close with Red Tide Rising. Having seen the band twice in four months, I can’t wait to see them again in the slightly larger surroundings at BOA. Brilliant stuff.

As Marche Funebre rang out across Bonga Wonga, the sparse crowd welcomed the mighty doom legends Candlemass (9) to the stage. No messing about, straight into Mirror Mirror and those crushing Sabbathesque riffs were immediately raining down. Whilst this was by no means the classic Candlemass line-up, with Leif Edling absent due to illness, the guys on stage were well worthy of the Candlemass banner. Stand in bassist Jörgen Sandström was excellent whilst vocalist Mats Leven filled the shoes of those before him with ease. Highlights included Bewitched, Black Dwarf, and a stunning At The Gallows End before the inevitable finale of Solitude which had the hairs standing on the back of the neck. A lifetime’s ambition completed. Candlemass were worthy of their headline status and amongst the highlights of the week.

Disappointingly there was an excruciating clash for the final dose of metal. Over at the Boardwalk the always fabulous Evil Scarecrow were scuttling left and right whilst the majority of the crew held their ground for an hour of Hell (8) (all apart from Paul who had enough of humanity and headed for an earlier night – well he is very old). As usual, Dave Bower and his cohorts delivered a storming set, adding in some old favourites and some rarely played tracks to their recent set supporting Saxon around the UK. Opening with the Age Of Nefarious and closing with Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us the band were unable to put on the full show that we’d been treated to at BOA a couple of years ago but did throw in some flashpots and the obligatory thrashing to cast the Devil out. Plague And Fyre, Land Of The Living Dead and End Ov Days were amongst the highlights. Although a couple of the gang managed to catch the last couple of songs from the mighty Scarecrow in a packed to the rafters Boardwalk, not enough was observed to produce a fair review.

So another weekend, another festival for the MoM crew. Highlights? Well, some of the UK’s finest thrash in Xentrix, some joy from Greece and unexpected fun from Skalmold. Sleeping in a fully fitted chalet with hot water, heating and cooking facilities was absolutely brilliant and pisses all over the camping experience. And then there was the company. Absolutely first class, despite the vomit and alcohol induced man hugs. The negatives? Well, the line up wasn't as strong as previous years. The sound in Bonga Wonga was atrocious and remained so through virtually every band’s set. The AOR stage was rammed on the one and only time we ventured into the Cove; maybe that's where all the money had been spent?