Find us on Facebook!
To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Satyricon (Review By Paul)

Satyricon, O2 Institute 2, Birmingham

Another town, another place. Yep, two days after the late finish at Bristol for Venom Inc and Suffocation I found myself in the Second City on a Sunday night for some Norwegian Black Metal. With the venue changed from the O2 Academy, finding the Institute was slightly more of a challenge as many of the roads were closed off due to the St Patrick’s Day Parade (yeah, I thought it was 17th March as well!). With people everywhere and a large police presence, we parked up and headed for the venue slightly confused.

This became greater when we saw a huge queue of clearly non-metal fans in the main snaking down the street from the entrance. A check with the bouncer confirmed we had to join the end of the queue, so thankful that it wasn’t raining, we took in the glorious sight of heavily corpse painted metal heads standing next to young guys and girls who were off to see the Misch. Who he? Well, having confirmed with the young lads next to us in the queue that they weren’t off to see Satyricon, we found out that Tom Misch is a 21-year-old singer, songwriter and DJ. Useless factoid of the day but he could certainly fill out the main venue. Another reason to be grateful for not going with the mainstream.

Having got into the venue with plenty of time, opening act Suicidal Angels (6) kicked off the proceedings in the smaller venue with a healthy crowd already filling the room. After a promising start, the Greek thrashers repetitive metal by number routine began to wear a little thin. Lots of air punching and cajoling the crowd was all well and good, but at times you just want the band to shut the fuck up and destroy me with the quality of their music.

Despite having listened to them a good bit before the gig, their generic Kreator-lite thrash did little, not helped by a bass which was way too high in the mix, resulting in a distorted sound with little guitar cutting through the muddy sound. By the time that lead singer Nick Melissourgos had completed the obligatory demands for the most “violent circle pit Birmingham has ever seen”, a wall of death and to bang ‘til death, it had worn just a little thin. Concentrate on the music guys, you might earn a few more fans that way.

21:05 and the atmosphere turned black. The room was now rammed as Satyricon (9) hit the stage. With Satyr’s legendary microphone stand centre stage and Frost’s enormous kit sinister and imposing in the corner, the band kicked off hard with Midnight Serpent, Our World, It Rumbles Tonight and an absolute blistering Black Crow On A Tombstone. With the temperature immediately elevated by about five degrees, and long-time live members Steinar ‘Azark’ Gundersen (guitar), the imposing Anders ‘Neddo’ Odden on bass and Anders Hunstad adding the operatic undertones, Satyricon hit the accelerator and didn’t stop until the final strains of K.I.N.G. over 90 minutes later. Satyricon live take no prisoners, and with a responsive and engaged crowd urging them on, it was a set of sheer intensity.

Little movement on the stage, save for the wind milling of the guitarists, but Satyr still manages to command the attention, his tight leather jacket adding to the rock star cool which he exudes without arrogance. His striking presence as he commanded the centre stage was impressive whilst Frost, hidden behind his kit hammered away in his usual incredible style. An impressive set list contained four tracks from last year’s Deep Calleth Upon Deep album, whilst The Wolfpack, a roaring Now, Diabolical preceded Walk The Path Of Sorrow from Dark Medieval Times and two from Nemesis Divina, including set closer Mother North. The inevitable battering encore concluded with K.I.N.G. and the end of a stunning evening. Satyricon may not play the UK that often, but god, when they do, they are immense.

Reviews: Passcode, The Choppy Bumpy Peaches, Eagle Twin (Reviews By Stief)

Passcode: Locus (Universal Music LLC [Japan])

I'll get it out of the way; this is Kpop dressing up as metal. There are some obvious parallels to be made between Passcode and certain other Japanese Idol metal bands *cough*Babymetal*cough* there are also some rather jarring differences. I'll get the good out of the way; one member, Yuna Imada, provides some excellent and brutal screaming throughout each song, and it's a welcome breather from the overproduced and often (sometimes too often) autotuned vocals, and on first listen, you would be forgiven if you forget this is a four piece.

Musically, this is more than a rollercoaster ride. It's as if the rollercoaster was left unattended and you're launched full force through the entire fairground, taking a detour through the synth circus, a small loop through breakdown alley before crashing squarely into the arcade. I feel if they focused on one style, it'd work so much better. If you like Babymetal, it might be worth a shot, but this is messy, even for me. 6/10

The Choppy Bumpy Peaches: Sgt. Konfuzius & the Flowers of Venus (Self Released)

This is squarely a personal lesson in not judging a book by its cover. As soon as I saw the band name paired with that title, I thought "it's gonna be one of -those- bands" but what followed was a wonderfully surprising and very well put together slice of Neo-psychadelic space rock. Straight from the outset, Julia Lam's airy vocals and space-age synth work paired with the guitars of Julien Strasser, Julien Hübsch and Nick Dalscheid, wonderful bass work by Nina Bodry and varied drumming from Luca Bartringer all culminate in a beautifully, and often chilled first full release from this Luxembourg Sextet.

Two highlights of the album are Spacetravel, an aurally-kaleidoscopic song reminiscent of The Eagles' Journey Of The Sorcerer in places. Into Light is a slow, short, quiet song, perfectly placed to chill you out for Juaska which slowly builds on itself as the song progresses. While I don't often enjoy 'softer' rock, this is a wonderful album that sends you on a journey out of the stratosphere and sailing through the cosmos. Even if hard rock or psychedelic stuff isn't your jam, I'd certainly suggest you give this a listen. 9/10

Eagle Twin: The Thundering Heard (Southern Lord Recordings)

Straight from the outset, the only way to describe this band is sludgy as fuck; a voicebox made of sand after gargling gravel; as if molasses became sentient. Chunky percussion and even chunkier riffs, the blues inspiration is mixed thoroughly with the doom metal vocals of Gentry Densley, ending with a delicious stew of some of the heaviest southern rock I've heard in a while. Whereas opening track Quanah Un Rama has the definite blues feel, the second track Elk Wolfv Hymn showcases the doom side of Eagle Twin, the droning bass and gloomy riffs bringing to mind bands such as Saint Vitus and Pentagram. At 4 songs, the EP feels like it's over too soon, but with no song falling under 7 minutes long, it's a great journey through some South American folklore. If you like your doom with a good dose of blues, or you like your blues a bit more chunky, then Eagle Twin is definitely a band to have in your collection. 8/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Jamie Lawson (Review By Nick)

Jamie Lawson - Trinity Centre, Bristol

Following a very quick 24 hour hop up and down the country to see Norwegian black metal genius's Satyricon in Glasgow, I hastily returned and skipped across to Bristol with Matt to make an equally large trip through the musical spectrum; this time for the acoustic and lyrical calmness of Jamie Lawson.

Having admired Jamie Lawson since his rise to fame following “that song” that we all know and love, I've delved into his back catalogue and his past and loved every bit that I've discovered. I had the opportunity to see him two years ago, alas, a friends wedding stood in the way... I wasn't expecting that! (Sorry... had to!) So this time I was determined to catch him, the fact that it was to be in the surroundings of the Bristol Trinity centre; a converted church, made it all the more enticing.

Arriving a little late due to the dreaded M4 traffic we had missed the first support act, but were in time to see the second support in the shape of Tommy Ashby, who also turned out to be Jamie's lead guitarist on the day too! Ashby slowly walked onto stage and picked up his guitar, clearly very nervous he broke into his first song, his voice soft and tuneful with gentle strumming of his guitar initially impressed me and seemed to keep the crowed hooked too. However, despite the quality of Ashbys voice and the deep lyrical meaning too his songs, I found my attention wandering somewhat a few songs in. All of the songs in his set seemed very similar, this combined with the minimal crowd interaction in between due to his obvious nerves made it hard to really invest in this set. Tommy Ashby has a tender and unique voice that you don't come across everyday but currently this wasn't enough to hold my attention. I hope too see a bit from Ashby in the future, as his voice a true gem. Perhaps though after he has gained a bit more on stage experience and a stronger back catalogue 6/10.

A short break between acts and fifteen minutes later quickly onto stage with no messing around came the reason everyone was there, Jamie Lawson. Playing to what appeared to be a now near sold out venue Jamie and his band wasted no time and kicked of the set with current single from his new album Happy Accidents, Miracle Of Love. With a slow acoustic start and a more uplifting chorus and finale to this track, it immediately displayed all that Lawson has to offer, if he were to continue in this fashion we were in for a great night full of emotion and possibly some bopping too! Moving straight on we were treated to the more bouncy track Don't Say You Do If  You Don't and fan favourite Cold In Ohio which was delivered perfectly by the Lawson and backed up strongly by the on looking crowd.

Lawson's voice has always been a little different to most, where at time it appears to come so easily you could be forgiven if you thought he was simply talking. Smooth, graceful and rammed full of emotion, Lawson's voice is one of the most relaxing you will find in modern music. After a quick introduction it was good to see that Lawson had not let his rise to fame go to his head, still humble and shy to a degree he joked his way through retuning his guitar to the warm laughter of the crowd, this was to be an ongoing theme throughout the night. Next were songs old, not quite so old and new. New track Falling In Love was swiftly followed by A Touch Of Your Hand from Lawson's first album Pull Of The Moon from way back in 2003, then another anthem The Only Conclusion.

This pattern continued throughout the set, dipping in and out of all of his albums, some not all the fans recognised and some were met and sung in perfect harmony. A particular stand out for me was He's Reading Helena; very much an album track from the new album, but for me epitomises everything that is great about Jamie Lawson. Slow acoustic track, with deep reflective lyrics, presented with the graceful voice of Lawson, this one really impressed me. As the set drew to a close we were treated to a trio of the upbeat tracks from the album including Time On My Hands, to which Lawson joked was about masturbation... it's not folks, the guy is funny too! Before leaving the stage it was time for the song that made all of tonight possible I guess, a quick word by Lawson recognising what this song has done to for his life and then he proceeded to flawlessly deliver I Wasn't Expecting That.

The love for this song not just from the crowd but the man himself was evident as the whole room serenaded each other throughout. After a short gap the inevitable encore was delivered consisting of Love Finds A Way, the soon to be single Ahead Of Myself  and A Little Mercy. This is probably my only grumble about the entire night, A Little Mercy was a very odd choice of song to finish on in my opinion. Although a classic Lawson type song it is very new, slow and short; not a track the crowd could really get into to finish the night, it was almost a little anti-climactic... a shame really.

Nonetheless this was nowhere near enough to spoil the night as the sheer joy displayed of Lawson's face throughout was enough to make you realize how happy he is to be up on stage. As the man himself said before leaving “It still blows his mind”. The constant beaming smile throughout the set really makes you feel part of something, add this together with a truly brilliant voice and songs written with emotion and substance, performed in the tranquil venue of the Trinity … it made for a brilliant night of music 9/10.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Reviews: Judas Priest, Solstice, Imperial Age, Straight Terror (Review By Paul)

Judas Priest: Firepower (Columbia Records)

Album no 18 from the metal gods and it continues with the same level of quality which the Priest delivered in spades on 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls. Whilst Glen Tipton’s recent retirement from touring has inevitably cast a shadow over the longevity of the band, Firepower certainly provides a shot across the bow of the doubters who may feel that it is time to call an end to one of the most important metal bands of all time. Clocking in at 58 minutes in length, it’s not a quick listen, and as you’d expect, there are a few tracks which don’t immediately grab you by the balls. However, Firepower has enough in the locker to get even the most elitist metal fan interested. With all songs written by Rob Halford, Richie Faulkner and Tipton, the quality is solid throughout and with the return of Tom Allom in the producer’s chair for the first time since 1988’s Ram It Down, and co-producer Andy Sneap also on board, the sound is slick and huge. 

The opening trio, Firepower, Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies set the tempo and the bar high. Tracks such as Necromancer and Flame Thrower follow the traditional Judas Priest style heavy metal template, with Halford in immense form, his vocals as fresh today as they were when British Steel blew our minds way back in 1980. Tipton and Faulkner provide slicing lacerating guitar work whilst I defy anyone to find a more rock-hard rhythm section than Ian Hill and Scott Travis. With a few changes in tempo, such as the melodic Rising From The Ruins, which conjures images of a heavier Magnum, there is sufficient variation to maintain the interest throughout. Firepower impresses in a way that only Judas Priest can do. It’s British Heavy Metal at its finest. Sit back, crack open a glass of something cold and enjoy the Metal Gods doing what they do best. Pure heavy metal. 8/10

Solstice: White Horse Hill (Self Released)

I like this. I like it a lot. It’s been some time since I last heard anything from the Yorkshire doom outfit but bloody hell, this is strong. Under the continued leadership of Richard Walker, whose guitar work alongside Andrew Whittaker on White Horse Hill is sublime, Solstice has delivered an absolute cracker. It’s been 20 years since the band’s last full-length release, New Dark Age in 1998. The title track, at 8:51 not even the longest song on the release, is a galloping journey, with the soaring vocals of Paul Kearns and the ferocious drumming of Rich Budby supplementing dual guitar work at a speed rarely associated with doom bands, at times it’s almost Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden in the delivery. It’s impossible to listen to this without becoming extremely interested very quickly. Earlier tracks such as Beheld, A Man Of Straw prompt comparisons with German Funeral masters Ahab. The astonishingly intricate and evocative Under Waves Lie Our Dead at just shy of 13 minutes is an absolute masterpiece. Nothing about this album disappointed. Hear it soon. 9/10 

Imperial Age: The Legacy Of Atlantis (Adulruna)

If you caught Swedish symphonic legends Therion on their recent visit to the UK, you may well have also seen Imperial Age, who were the main support. The band are sufficiently well regarded to be signed to Adulruna records, owned by Therion main man Christofer Johnsson. The Legacy Of Atlantis is the band’s third full length release, and the Russian outfit, formed in 2010 in Moscow certainly follow the blueprint for the genre with a huge sounding album. Now here’s the problem. I think much of symphonic metal is utter guff, a horrible cut n’ shut mixture of genres. Blast beat drumming, huge swathes of keys, batteries of riffs and shrieking operatic vocals which focus more on hitting the right notes than putting together fluid songs.

The Legacy Of Atlantis is an impressively constructed album, featuring the vocal talent of Jane Odintsova, Anna Kiara and Aleksandr Osipor. Lots of high pitched soprano and a beefy baritone merge time and time again as he album progresses. It soars and swoops, massively operatic and dramatic but god is it boring by the time you’ve listened to it twice. Life Eternal sounds like a school play climax whilst Love Eternal is just astonishingly overblown. I’ve listened to the album several times and whilst I can see why fans of symphonic metal would love this, it does little for me. 5/10

Straight Terror- Between The Lies (Self Released)

Straight Terror is a thrash metal band from Stantiago, Chile and was formed in 2012. The band members were previously in several South American metal bands, like Agresia, Extrema, Blast, Remains and Sadism. Straight Terror have supported Kreator and more in the past. And it shows. This is routine thrash with completely disjointed compositions and a singer who wants to be Mille Petrozza but is way off beam. I love thrash, but this is awful stuff I’m afraid; if I wanted to listen to Kreator then I’d listen to the real thing. A pale imitation. 2/10

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Reviews: Turbowolf, Rivers Of Nihl, Palace Of The King, Old Man Wizard

Turbowolf: The Free Life (So Recordings)

The Free Life the third full length from Bristol musical alchemists Turbowolf has the heady mix of genres sometimes one or two in the same song, the steel drum smashing No No No takes flight with synths about halfway through then again at the end letting the expressive vocals Chris Georgiadis do the work before they add a bit of snotty punk with Capital X which has Lianna Lee Davies fuzzy bass and Andy Ghosh's distorted guitars melting your mind as the percussive precision of Blake Davis is key to the noise on this track and also the reverbed to all hell disco-rock of Cheap Magic.

Turbowolf don't really don't do long songs but their 3-4 four minute blasts of intergalactic space punk rock is enough to get you going nuts in the isles, when they do elongate a song such as the title track they really bring a progressive touch to it, throwing the kitchen sink at it. The Free Life features some great guest vocalists as well, the funky synth driven Very Bad has Vodun's Chantal Brown adding her soul voice all over it, the previously mentioned Capital X features Idles Joe Talbot while Cheap Magic has Sebastian Grainger of Death From Above and stomping stoner rocker Domino has Michael Kerr of The Royal Blood in fine form.

As with all Turbowolf records it's the variation of styles that makes them stand out above the rest of the British rock pack, they aren't afraid to take risks with their music from the alt acoustics of Half Secret to the fuzz rock and phase shifting of The Last Three Clues and all that's in between. Always unique and always brilliant The Free Life is another top notch record from Turbowolf. 8/10

Rivers Of Nihil: Where Owls Know Our Name (Metal Blade Records)

Not sure why the owls know their name and in one particular place but Rivers Of Nihil return with their third album, this one thematically deals with the Fall (Autumn for us Brits) with the previous albums being Summer and Spring respectively. As is only right with the changing of a season they have again reinvented themselves adding to their brutal death metal assault with electronica, jazz, alternative and folk making this record their most accomplished yet. Now rounded out with by guitarist Jon Topore and drummer Jared Klein the record starts as it means to go on as The Silent Life not only has the bludgeoning visceral death metal of before but is bolstered by an electronic undercurrent, clean guitar middle eight and lots and lots of schizophrenic sax playing.

It's the beginning of yet another journey following the protagonist of their last two albums continuing the story but also adding an awful lot more emotional material that sees the collective band members dealing with, as Adam Biggs (bass/vocals) puts it, "loss, getting older, and reaching a point where death becomes a much more present part of your life." The sax comes up again on the Subtle Change (Forest Of Transition) which has an epic jazz break in it's middle as the sax parps are anchored by the battering double kicks while Terrestria: III is a electronic driven industrial break that leads into the the second part of the album which continues in the vein of the of the first half filled with complex progressive music right but as the finale of Capricorn/Agoratopia rears its head the record has opened itself as one of the most interesting death metal records of the year so far. 8/10

Palace Of The King: Get Right With Your Maker (Golden Robot Records)

I've reviewed both of Aussie rockers Palace Of The King's previous albums and their third album maintains the theme of records full of swaggering, psychedelic, revivalist hard rock that moves between Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and of course AC/DC with massive bluesy riffs, soulful vocals and big organs that bubble away on opener and first single I Am The Storm which brings in a bit of The Doors with the blues rocking. There's touches of The Black Crowes as they shake their money makers on the percussive A Dog With A Bone, they go a bit solo wild on Said The Spider To The Bird and take a Floydian flight of fancy on Back On My Feet Again (which has a very Zep III secret song at the end).

It's this collaboration of styles and the straight ahead rockers like The Serpent that are all evidence that this record has been honed over the course of more than 100 live shows a year. Recorded in stages it's almost as if the songs on this record have been written specifically for playing live, they've got guts and balls bringing the best parts of classic rock music and the post Millennial revival for a wholly authentic hard rock experience. As I've said I've reviewed all of Palace Of The King's albums and they are consistently solid hard rock records and because of that I hope they start getting the recognition they deserve. 8/10

Old Man Wizard: Blame It All On Sorcery (Self Released)

While Ghost go through their current stage of reinvention as yet another Papa takes over as the front person, fans must be waiting with baited breath for their new album. Luckily for them then there is Old Man Wizard to satisfy their list for occult 70's rock, this Californian trio have the same influence base as the Swedes fed on a diet of Blue Oyster Cult, Queen (Last Ride Of The Ancients), Rainbow, Jethro Tull and even The Moody Blues (Somehow). They are uncannily similar to both Ghost (The Blind Prince, Cosmo) and Opeth on both folk driven Never Leaves and ultra heavy Innocent Hands.

The three piece have got the occult retroism down Francis Roberts vocals are much like Tobias Forge's and occult lyrical content and the riff driven rocking gets you headbanging in your chair as Roberts supplies the dancing guitars while Andre Beller and Kris Calabio lock in as the rhythm section. It's nothing that different from the Swedes and if you don't like Ghost then you'll not think much of Old Man Wizard but if you feel that your life is missing more folky, spectral, retro rocking then you'll have to listen to Old Man Wizard until the church is back in session, Blame It All On Sorcery as this is bewitching rock music at its best. 8/10

Monday, 12 March 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Blood Stained Earth Tour (Live Review By Paul)

Blood Stained Earth Tour 2018, Fiddlers Bristol

This event was originally planned for the Bristol Bierkeller but was hastily rescheduled to Fiddlers on the other side of the river due to the horrendous decision to redevelop the Bierkeller site and remove with it one of the most well regarded and used music venues in Bristol. Fiddlers isn’t a patch on the Bierkeller. Water dripping through the ceiling, several beers not available and a sound system that took forever to settle but well done to all involved for actually managing to secure a venue to ensure this event actually took place.

Earlier in the day the event Facebook page had received some criticism when the set times were published, due to the late start and the short sets. However, arriving way after the advertised kick off due to the horrendous Bristol traffic, it was something of a surprise to see fans queuing to enter the venue and an even greater surprise to hear nothing blasting out of the amps. In fact, the main room where the bands played wasn’t even open. Around 8:30 pm the doors finally opened, and a reasonable crowd spilled into the room to watch one of the most farcical sights seen for a long time. Opening act Survive (0) are a death thrash outfit from Japan.

As the band tuned up and checked the sound on stage, it was clear that drummer Shintarou was missing. In his place, another drummer, who definitely wasn’t Japanese, appeared to be struggling with the time keeping and the other three members of the band were in deep conversation with him. As time ticked by, the crowd began to get a little restless and eventually the lead singer Nemo screamed “Are you ready Bristol?” A false start was followed by another and within three minutes that was it, as the band picked up their equipment and walked off stage. A less than auspicious start and a bemused audience were left scratching their heads.

Canadian symphonic thrashers Aeternam (6) did at least get to play some music. More time to tune up suggested that there was more than one issue with the backlines. By now the event was way behind time but Aeternam played a solid, if curtailed set. Having been around since 2007, the band are an established and confident outfit, although it’s unclear if their ethnic symphonic metal was everyone’s cup of tea. Vocalist and guitarist Acraf Loudiy was urgently cajoling the audience from the start, but the crowd was in no mood to be bullied and it was only towards the end of the set that the reaction became more favourable. This was a shame as the band’s latest album, Ruins of Empires is excellent.

Whatever the problems with the sound, all the gremlins were soon eradicated when Brazilian thrash trio Nervosa (8) hit the stage. The all-female outfit went for it from the start, their visceral attack inciting the first of many pits during the evening. The diminutive Fernanda Lira snarled and roared her way through the mighty set, her vocal delivery a more intense Angela Gossow in style. Beside her the powerhouse drumming of Luana Dametto was astonishing whilst guitarist Prika Amaral shredded with freedom. The room was heating up nicely now and the pent-up frustrations of earlier in the evening faded with Nervosa’s high energy assault. This was powerful stuff and tracks from their latest album Agony, such as Intolerance Means War merged perfectly with older tracks such as the killer Into The Mosh Pit. A deserved ovation.

It wasn’t that long ago that New York Death Metal Legends Suffocation (9) almost caused the Bierkeller to collapse with a stellar show. Now with Ricky Myers leading from the front on vocals, the band knew they were on borrowed time so kept it straight to the point. A sharp, punchy and effortlessly brutal set sent the pit into raptures, with the floor so slippery that at times there were more fallers than at Beecher’s Brook. The dual guitars of Terrence Hobbs and Charles Errigo lacerated as tracks including Effigy Of The Forgotten, Clarity Through Deprivation and a storming Catatonia ripped through the venue. Once more, it was the battery of Eric Morotti’s drumming that caught the eye and the ear as he absolutely pounded the hell out of his kit. Myers interactions with the crowd consisted of a repeated urge to “kill each other” along with a genuine appreciation of the efforts of the now shirtless mass in front of him. Brutal stuff but totally addictive.

It was past the witching hour when Venom Inc (9) finally hit the stage to a disappointedly sparse crowd. However, those that had been able or chosen to remain were treated to a blistering hour of old school Venom classics interspersed with some rip-roaring tunes from the fine Ave release. Tony 'Demolition Man' Dolan was in fine form, roaring his vocals with gusto whilst pummelling his bass like it had done him wrong. Alongside Dolan, Mantas sliced and shredded with a malevolence of sinister chaos. With Abaddon on paternity leave, stand in drummer Jeramie Kling was tasked with bringing the noise and he did it with ease, his pounding style fitting effortlessly.

Metal We Bleed and set opener Ave Satanas were greeted like old friends but amidst the scorching set it was the old school rarities such as Live Like An Angel Die Like A Devil, Die Hard and the ferociously welcomed Lady Lust that raised the loudest roars. This is a band who are not content to rely on past glories but are respectful of the Venom heritage. Dolan is an imposing frontman, maniacal eyes scanning the crowd whilst all the while demonstrating the respect that the Venom Legions demand whilst Mantas plays with a confidence that was understandably absent in those halcyon days. The only disappointment came when the set ended, but to be fair, 1:15 am is probably sufficient for most. Venom Inc play at BOA this summer. Whether the intensity of this opening night can be captured in the field at Catton Hall is questionable but I’m willing to give it a try. Immense stuff.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Reviews: Turbonegro, Neverdawn, Wicked Wizzard, Shakma, On Thorns I Lay (Reviews By Paul)

Turbonegro: Rock N Roll Machine (Mercury Records)

Album number 10 from the Norwegian punk rockers and it’s a fine release. A melding of numerous influences, from Monster Magnet to The Who, this gets the foot tapping from the start. The aggro of Skinhead Rock n’ Roll, the anthemic Hot For Nietzsche and the comedic John Carpenter Power Ballad all fit superbly. The tinkling keyboards of Haakon-Marius Pettersen, who makes his Turbo debut on this release fit neatly whilst the quickfire speed of the tracks disguises the quality of the rest of the band. I’m by no-way a keen fan of this band but I really enjoyed this release, the first since 2012’s Sexual Harassment. Well worth a listen. 8/10

Neverdawn: Just Business (Self Released)

Basing their sound very much on the classic Megadeth/Metallica/Maiden style, Just Business is a decent enough slab of tunes albeit with little to get extra enthused about. For a debut album it certainly has promise, with the old school sound hitting a couple of decent pitches throughout the 47 minutes. The Country rock of Drifter contrasts with the Megadeth feel of opener Blinded. My main problem is the limitations of Tristan Woodruff’s vocals which work around 50% of the time but at other parts become more of a challenge to listen to. Compact, neat and confident, this is a promising debut which transports the listener to an older, more leather sweating time.  6/10

Wicked Wizzard: Self Titled (Self Released)

Coming at you from Mungia in the Basque Country, Wicked Wizzard are a stoner rock trio who punch hard and play loud. The challenge with all genres but especially with the stoner sound is to make it sound a bit different whilst still retaining that fuzzy, hard rock edge which defines who the band is. Wicked Wizzard’s debut release manages that to a certain extent and is a 40+ minute journey through swampy territory, interspersed with some storming guitar work from Unal Minguez. Sin City drives hard, Swamp takes a more measured, drifting approach whilst The Wizzard is a seven-minute meander that encapsulates all the best of the band. An enjoyable release which is worth pinning the lug holes back for. 7/10

Shakma: House Of Possession (Self Released)

No prizes for guessing that Shakma’s main influence is Slayer circa 1985. This really is old school thrash with a production quality that echoes those halcyon days when Kerry King had hair and Tom Araya didn’t need Just For Men. Hailing from Haugesund, Norway, Shakma nail their colours to the mast with 40 minutes of heads down dandruff shaking. It really is homage stuff, with nothing original but to be fair, Shakma do old school thrash as competently as any of the challengers around these days. Clipped passages, rampaging drumming and sinister evil vocal delivery are all here in the thrash by numbers release. If you want to transport yourself back to 1985 and Hell Awaits, then grab a copy of House Of Possession and take the trip. 6/10

On Thorns I Lay: Aegean Sorrow (Alone Records)

One of the joys of writing for the Musipedia is the exposure to bands you may otherwise never have heard of. This isn’t always a positive experience; for example, having to review anything by The Dead Daises invariably involves lots of alcohol and some element of self-harm to the eardrums as well as a feeling of violation for several days afterwards. However, discovering the Greek/Romanian death/doom/gothic outfit who have been in existence for over 20 years is a much better feeling as their 8th full length release is simply stunning.

The crushingly slow title track, at just under 9 minutes in length is an impressive statement, huge in style and sound with the menacing death growl of Stefanos Kintzoglou contrasting with the delicate piano ending on Aegean Sorrow and the string sections which gently permeate Erevos. With an intense, sombre atmosphere flooding their sound, this is an intense release which deserves a wider audience. From the skull crushing riffs on Olethros Part I to the gentle piano piece Skotos with its Opeth-like haunting subtleties which concludes the album, On Thorns I Lay may be the discovery of the year, albeit 20 years too late! 9/10

Reviews: Outshine, Twitching Tongues, Deathwhite, A Cunning Man (Reviews By Stief)

Outshine: 1313 (Gain)

Outshine founder and guitarist Jimmy Norberg hasn't had the best luck in the last few years; Theft from their tour bus while supporting Paradise Lost, legal threats from Swedish Tax authorities and ex-family problems would all make anyone quite angry, and that anger is prevalent throughout the new album from this Swedish quartet. A wonderful mix of hard rock, gothic music and melodic, the album is a melting pot of styles. She Will Love Me When I'm Dead begins with low tones reminiscent of Type-O Negative, showcasing the vocal talents of Tony Jelencovich; be it singing dirge-like songs like the aforementioned She Will Love Me or screaming at the top of his lungs in songs like Liar and They Know Who You Are, Mr Jelencovich has quite the range. The musical talents of the other members are very noticeable too; Band founder Jimmy Norberg's guitarwork is excellent, and the combined talents of Niklas Ingvarsson and Alexander Lungdren provide a great rhythm throughout. Pretty decent stuff! 7/10

Twitching Tongues: Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred (Metal Blade Records)

A mixed bag from LA, which isn't bad in any way. A charged album throughout, the mixture of clean and harsh vocals works well, with the album building from a heavy but relatively slower atmosphere in AWOL (State Of The Union) to pure anger in songs like The Sound Of Pain. There doesn't seem to be a note out of place, Colin Young, supported by brother Taylor, both provide excellent vocal work, with both clean and growling vocals at play all the way through the album. There's plenty of opportunity to bang your head, with some awesome breakdowns in places, particularly in the aforementioned The Sound Of Pain. The band show a softer side in ballad Long Gone, where Colin Young's vocals really come into play. Newcomers F.Sean Martin, Alec Faber and Cayle Sain feel like they were always part of the band, Martin's guitars interweaving with Faber's bass and Cayle's drumming. A great bit of hardcore music, definitely worth a listen 7/10

Deathwhite: For a Black Tomorrow (Season Of Mist)

The first full-length album from this rather mysterious band from the States. With only two listed members; AM on drums, and LM providing both vocals and guitar. This album took a couple of listens, as the mix of clean, melodic vocals paired with the heavy drumming and riffing doesn't seem to sound right on the first listen. On the second, however, it seems to make a bit more sense, the melancholic vocals of LM weaving through the heavier music quite well. There are a couple of guest spots on the album, with Joe Bonaddio and Shane Mayer providing solos for Death And The Master and For A Black Tomorrow respectively. It's decent metal, with some great breakdowns, and a good chunk of emotion thrown into every song. 7/10

A Cunning Man: To Heal A Broken Body EP (Self Released)

I reviewed Ged Cartwright's first album Practical Application Of Theurgy just over a year ago, and this is a great return from the man from Scotland. It still retains that Coheed & Cambria feeling, which works perfectly with Cartwright's vocals, which have improved over the last year. This may be due to the addition of guitarist Theo Le Derf, whose fretwork both adds to the music and allows Cartwright to focus on the rest of the instrumentation. Gemma McCabe returns to add some spoken word into the song, as well as providing backing vocals. Meghan Bradford adds some jazziness with her alto and soprano Saxophone. Soundwise, the EP is extremely versatile, which is impressive when you consider there are only 3 songs in total. From melodic metal style riffage to beautiful almost ambient synthwork, none of it feels forced, and is a great testament to Ged and Theo's compositional skills. It's an odd mix if you're not into experimental stuff, but a good listen nonetheless. Looking forward to a full album one day from these guys! 8/10

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Reviews: Blaze Bayley, Conjurer, HYVMINE, Mildlife

Blaze Bayley: The Redemption Of William Black (Blaze Bayley Records)

The third record in the Infinite Entanglement trilogy and the continuing tale of William Black, The Redemption Of William Black is the latest record from wild eyed wailer Blaze Bayley and his backing band who are essentially Absolva. Like the first two records in this series, it's full of fantastical science fiction that sees narration come from Chris Jericho and numerous voice overs adding to the story giving the album a theatrical element including Cardiff's own Rob Toogood (Fuel Rock Club) who once again reprises his role from the last two albums (the villain of the piece) and he's part of the spoken word contingent that drive the concept along.

The opening part of this record has whiff of the old school as the band plow through NWOBHM styled tracks that follow (Prayers Of Light), the tonal shifts are notable where as the previous record had a darker mood this one moves between sombre and triumphant with the sprawling progressive tunes such as Eagle Spirit really giving Chris Appleton (guitar), Martin McNee (drums) and Karl Schramm (bass) enough time to spread their wings a little, that's not to say that they don't show their talents elsewhere on Redeemer they McNee thrusts the track forward with his kickdrums while Appleton layers his guitars for the twin lead sound favoured by Bayley's most high profile previous employer. There's a good myriad of sounds on this record wrapped up in a classic metal package, although Life Goes On bears an uncanny resemblance to The Show Must Go On by Queen.

Bayley himself is still a favourite vocalist of mine, when he's singing his own stuff there are few that can touch him for power and depth in his vocal prowess. The mix of fanciful sci-fi and contemporary lyrics make the album (and the storyline itself) a lot cleverer than a standard heavy metal album can be. Musically the inclusion of acoustics (Human Eyes), layered prog portions and Bayley's theatrical delivery once again  make the William Black saga some of the strongest material Bayley has been associated with, a fitting end to the story, it will be interesting to see where Blaze goes after The Redemption Of William Black closes this narrative. In the meantime keep an eye out for tour dates where you'll be able to see these and other songs from the trilogy live (along with classics). 8/10

Conjurer: Mire (Holy Roar Records)

Let’s jump back a bit shall we? I first saw Conjurer playing Fuel Rock Club in the middle of the day at the inaugural Red Sun festival in 2015, since then Rich has both interviewed the band and witnessed them at Ritual festival last year and the other music media has caught up on what we saw ages ago, they have been championed by Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, BBC R1, The Independent and the Midlands band have rapidly become the most talked-about young metal band from the UK. So to say their debut album was anticipated would be something of an understatement but as I pressed play on Mire the opening salvo of skull fracturing, nihilistic heaviness, dual extreme vocals and a scope to their song writing that bands 10 times more experienced wouldn’t be able to pull off, showed that all the attention is warranted and then some.

Their sound and by an extent Mire is an amalgam of the ferocity of early Mastodon, the fret mangling groove of Gojira (bowels of hell bass playing by Conor Marshall), the progressive depth of Opeth and the Britishness of Winterfylleth, a track such as Thankless for instance has 7 minute runtime in which all hell can break loose as Jan Krause can unleash the dogs of war, attacking with all their might one minute but the next you may get a quieter passage replete with noodling clean guitars and then an amalgamation of the both in a sludgy, doomy, noisey post metal menagerie. Mire is the future of extreme music built upon its past but with the fearlessness of youth, Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale mangle their guitars, scream, shout, roar and occasionally sing across 7 shape shifting tracks, Retch being the shortest but heaviest and Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash building and building into a proggy groove so deep you could bungee jump into it.

They have honed the bleak, dark soundscapes on this record through numerous years of touring and the music is more precise and deadly than tea with the Russians, if you have a heart it’ll rip it straight out of your chest and won’t give you a receipt, however you’ll be grateful and ask to go again. Multiple listens enhance this record and it has to be heard in its entirety to really leave a lasting impression, the future of sonic extremity is in good hands with Conjurer. Much like Gandalf do not take them for just being capable of a few cheap tricks, this is real magic worthy of a legendary (Electric) wizard. 10/10

Hyvmine: Earthquake (Seek & Strike)

Hyvmine is the full band project of virtuoso guitarist Al Joseph, he wanted to explore progressive metal in a band setting rather than as solo artist and while there is prog here, the overriding style though is that of American post-grunge metal with Alter Bridge/Creed fusing with the djenty prog style of Tesseract and the more modern Symphony X in use of keyboards and thrash-like riffs. Opening with Shift you get the initial Alter Bridge style that moves into a very synth heavy finale, however Mirror Master really sounds like post Paradise Lost Symphony X courting the American radio with the emotive vocal style but backed by the expert precision playing.

Earthquake really ramps up the palm muted riffs on the chugging along nicely but never takes things to the overly complex levels of Meshuggah etc, it's enough to get your head nodding or indeed start a big stompy pit but the music is still approachable. I must say for all the musical ability on this record Joseph's voice is excellent, soulful but with a requisite amount of grit, on ballads such as the emotive title track he really shows off his vocal and guitar prowess. Yes you read that right there are of course ballads, they need to give Myles/Scott and Mark a run for their money in the seniment stakes. Earthquake is a very satisfying modern metal record that has enough Californian FM radio emphasis and prog metal grunt for anyone. 8/10

Mildlife: Phase (Research Records)

James Donald, Adam Halliwell, Kevin McDowell and Tom Shanahan makeup Melbourne group Mildlife, their musical style is mish-mash of jazz, psych and disco that has been honed by their wild improvisational live shows, nothing particularly Australian at all. The bands entire ethos is too push musical boundaries and much like the British cerebral prog bands such as King Crimson, The Alan Parsons Project and even Steely Dan before them, their expert use of analogue synths which shimmer on The Magnificent Moon as the funk bass line kicks in to give a groove that's irrepressible.

is the band's debut and it's got 6 psychedelic, space rock jams. The funk gets jacked up for Zwango Zop which has a touch of Barrett Pink Floyd  behind the Funkadelic riffs. Unashamedly retro Mildlife take you back to those heady days of musical flights of fancy where anything was permitted, their use of primitive musical instrumentation including flutes, Moogs, percussion and of course bass, drums and guitar while they use vocals sparingly, this is more of a stylistic thing than a necessity as the vocals are pretty good. If you were one of those doing calculus during the Summer Of Love then Mildlife will be a the answer to all your proggy prayers. 9/10

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Reviews: The Crown, Templeton Pek, Svartanatt, Greystone Canyon (Reviews By Paul)

The Crown: Cobra Speed Venom (Metal Blade)

Well, this was just brutal from start to finish. Tracks like Necrohammer, Rise In Blood, the thunderous Iron Crown and the blisteringly aggressive title track combined the hardest, foulest stuff that Devildriver can muster with some absolutely cruel death metal to deliver an hour of rib breaking extreme metal. With an interesting and some might say, challenging history behind them, the band’s current line-up stands at Johan Lindstrand on vocals, Magnus Olsfelt on bass, Marko Tervonen and Robin Sörqvist on guitar and drummer Henrik Axelsson. 

Having been around for 27 years in various guises, it’s fair to say that the band don’t need to prove themselves but even so, there is something of a challenge to their peers within this release. The technical display on the instrumental Where My Grave Shall Stand contrasts with the head crushingly heavy raging on many of the other tracks. The Swedes return to Metal Blade Records is supported by a high intensity and motivation. Extreme speed and aggression mixed with classic heavy metal and rock n' roll; what’s not to like? 8/10

Templeton Pek: Watching The World Come Undone (Drakkar Records)

Founded in Birmingham in 2005, Templeton Pek have toured with a range of the big guns in their punk/hardcore pool. These include Bad Religion, Sum 41 and Zebrahead. Against this impressive resume the band has released several albums and EPs. No Association in 2009, established their haunting sound, which suggests hardcore luminaries like Ignite and Rise Against, with their music always featuring a political note. The band released the EP Slow Down For Nothing (2012), albums Scratches And Scars, Signs (2013) and New Horizons (2015). The smouldering rage which rails against the injustices in the world is admirable and with the current world wide political climate ever more complicated, I can’t argue with the whole theme of the album which focuses on the craziness of the Brexit situation. 

Indeed, Neil Mitchell, vocalist and guitarist with the band is clear “Brexit was permanently on our minds when we were writing this album. From the perspective of a touring musician it’s difficult enough as it is just to exist. The potential financial and logistical restrictions that we are about to face are worrying, never mind the other consequences for the whole country.” So, an album crammed full of protest and political statement and about as close to a concept album as you could get. Melodic hardcore is one of my least favourite genres, and I struggle massively to find anything enjoyable in it. 
However, Templeton Pek’s themes for the album did at least pique my interest in the subject matter. Like most of the genre, it appears to be repetitive but Watching The World Come Undone is a mature release which allows full expression. If you like this type of music, I reckon this might be in your albums of the year. 7/10

Svartanatt: Starry Eagle Eye (The Sign Records)

Swedes Svartanatt deliver classic rock in the vein of countrymen Graveyard an numerous other retro outfits who seem to be flooding the scene these days. But it’s not all 1970s classic rock sound with a complete mixture of sounds and influences although it really is full on retro in opener The Children Of Revival. The smoky vocals of Janu Lehtinen immediately catch the attention. There’s a rock ‘n’ roll stomp on Wrong Side Of Town, and a blend of psychedelia and progressive rock with the dense organ sound of Martin Borgh on Duffer. A couple of ballads change the pace with the powerful Wolf Blues particularly impressive. Starry Eagle Eye is an honest, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable release. 7/10
Greystone Canyon: While The Wheels Still Turn (Rockshots Records)

Australian outfit Greystone Canyon’s name was inspired by the freedom of wide open landscapes, something Australia and America very much have in common. So says vocalist /guitarist Darren Cherry. Recorded in Goatsound Studios in Melbourne, Australia, and then mixed in Canada by Grammy nominated producer Glen Robinson, who had engineered, mixed and produced legendary acts like Annihilator, Queensryche and Voivod. According to the band’s press release they are influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth and King Diamond. 

I find that strange as there is little of any of those artists in Greystone Canyon’s sound. It’s not a bad album, with some decent hard rock tracks but having given it a couple of spins there is little that lingers long in the memory. River Of Fire being the only one due to its smouldering guitar work. Solid harmonies dominate throughout the release and the musicianship is solid. It just doesn’t captivate in a way that would allow it to sit at the feet of the luminaries mentioned above. 6/10

Reviews: Testament Reissues (Review By Paul)

Testament Reissues

Back in November Nuclear Blast announced they were going to reissue five classic Albums by the California thrash behemoths. The three studio albums, Demonic, The Gathering and First Strike Still Deadly, along with Live At The Fillmore and Live In Eindhoven. Live albums are always touched up, so I thought, with the arrival of Chuck Billy and Co in the UK next month, that it might be worth getting stuck back into these releases.

First up is Demonic and what a beast of an album this is. Huge riffs, malevolent growling from Chuck Billy and the drumming of the monster Gene Hoglan all add up to produce an album that started the move to an even heavier almost death metal sound for the band. Opening with the skull crushing Demonic Refusal, it is relentless until the final bars of Nostrovia. Demonic was the seventh album for the band and came amid a period of lineup changes and a struggle with their sound as grunge took the middle ground. Previous album Low had meet with a mixed response but Demonic grabbed the bull by the bollocks and boy does it hit hard. Jun-Jun, the bludgeoning John Doe, the thrash fusion of New Eyes Of Old and Ten Thousand Thrones all punch in the throat. An underrated release that always pleases. 8/10

Two years later and with more changes to the lineup, the band moved to a faster thrashier sound which really upped the game another level. Is there a better, more frenetic opening to an album that the blistering D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)? I doubt it. 1999’s The Gathering has long been one of my favourite Testament albums and holy mother of Mary does it deliver. Steve DiGiorgio and Dave Lombardo provided a formidable rhythm section, anchoring a blistering album which contained visceral riffage from Eric Peterson and James Murphy and an expansion of Chuck Billy’s vocal delivery with a wider range and diversity than on previous albums. The Gathering set the blueprint for future Testament albums and contains some massive tracks. I’ve always loved the prophetic imagery associated with 3 Days Of Darkness, a brooding stomping beast, whilst the frenzied Legions Of The Dead and the sheer power of Riding The Snake provide a demonstration of just how vital Testament were and still are to the metal scene. 9/10

Completing this trio is the compilation of reworked tracks from The Legacy and The New Order, First Strike Still Deadly is a strange affair with original vocalist Steve Souza adding the vocals on Alone In The Dark and the B-side Of Trial By Fire, Reign Of Terror. What was of most importance here was the return of Alex Skolnick as well as the last recordings with DiGiorgio until Brotherhood Of The Snake in 2016. With several compilations already on the market it was hard to understand the need to refine classic tracks. However, stick Trial By Fire, Over The Wall or Burnt Offerings on the headphones and crank the volume up and it’s impossible not to bang that head. 7/10

The Testament back story is a tale of ever changing personalities, infighting and health scares but this is a band who since 2008’s Formation Of Damnation have been a must see band if in town. Roll on 29th March and the arrival of Testament to Bristol.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Electric Six (Live Review By Paul)

Electric Six: The Globe, Cardiff

This was a rescheduled gig from December 2017. Detroit’s finest back in Cardiff for their annual masterclass in rock, pop, alt, punk and smooth disco tunes. Yet again it proved to be a fabulous evening. Having missed the opening act we made it in with plenty of time for the Alt-punk of Japanese three piece Mutant Monster (8). These ladies have been around for several years and their fierce yet catchy high tempo 30 minutes was superbly received by a Globe audience who partied like it was a Saturday night. The band comprise Be on guitar and vocals, Meana on bass and vocals and drummer Chad who adds harmonies to the choruses. It was inspired stuff, with punky riffs and thunderous bass lines. Unlikely to be in the UK on a regular basis, it is definitely worth catching these ladies if you get the chance.

We’ve eulogised at length about Electric Six (10) in the past. I’ve seen them many times and they never disappoint. This show stepped it up another level. The last date of a 29 date European tour, you could feel that the band were going to go for broke and they really did. A setlist crammed fuller than a panic buyer’s bag in Lidl, Dick Valentine and the gang kicked off the evening with Rock ‘n’ Roll Evacuation and proceeded to slay. Classics from their 13 albums were interspersed with several new tracks from their wonderful How Dare You release (which is well worth getting hold of). The usual sing-a-long tracks, Gay Bar and Danger! High Voltage! Prompted far too many camera phones in the air but aside from that the crowd contented themselves with hard pogoing, the odd intense mosh, such as when Valentine dived into the audience, and abuse of Red Stripe.

As usual the band were musically incredible, with the guitar work of Johnny Na$hinal and Da Ve integral. Drummer Two Handed Bob maintained the beat whilst the steady bass lines of Rob Lower and keys of Tait Nucleus ensured momentum. Despite ending the main set with the classic combination of Synthesiser and I Buy The Drugs, it wasn’t over and a feverish Dance Commander led into the highlight of the evening as the band swapped places with each other to deliver a cover of  American Alt-rock band The Dean Ween group Show Stopper (from their album released in January this year). Two Handed Bob took care of vocals whilst Valentine led the way with a flawless effort on the drums. Magic stuff. As The Globe emptied into the cold damp night, you could only reflect on why so few Mondays are like this. Selfishly, I really hope that come December, Electric Six are back in the UK for another round of Improper Dancing.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Reviews: Andrew W.K, Sebastien, Poem, We Sell The Dead

Andrew W.K: You're Not Alone (Red/Sony Music)

"When it's time to party, we will always party hard!" It was with these words in 2001 that Andrew Wilkes-Krier established himself as the boss of all things party, since then the albums have come, the wall of sound heaviness of I Get Wet has dissipated but W.K. is still seen as the bastion of all things party, in the nine years since his last album 55 Cadillac he has established a political party, appeared in numerous films, written numerous articles and books and has become a self help guru basing his approach on partying is life and life is partying.

It was only a matter of time before the huge sound of his debut returned with more life-affirming positivity blowing you away with music that moves from stadium rock, through punk to pop on this 16 track album which starts with an epic orchestral introduction and has numerous spoken word pieces that has Andrew giving his outlook on life and advising the listener that . The album is probably the most positive you will hear this year, it's a direct attack on negativity and using your own demons and self doubt as a fuel to be the best you can be. Music Is Worth Living For is a massive stadium anthem that will get you throwing your hands to the sky in celebration of music as way of both healing and defiance, with only one track gone you've got to catch your breath before the edgy punk of Ever Again explodes into a massive chorus of self confidence.

A pretty strong start but the record doesn't have the immediacy that I Get Wet had, much like Andrew's follow up records The Wolf and Close Calls With Brick Walls it's not really supposed to. This record is much more musical than anything he's done. It all sounds very big with multi-instrumentalist/producer notching every instrument up to maximum to make sure there is an encompassing noise. (Tip play it through speakers). There are moments greatness of course; the piano pounding Ramones-alike I Don't Know Anything, the obstinate The Party Never Dies and the anthemic The Devil's On Your Side, power ballad that is Total Freedom and the final title track are all winners and the record is well spaced as the spoken word pieces split the album into a few distinct parts. There is enough on here to be added to his raucous live shows and it's a welcome return from one of the most inspiring figures in rock music. 8/10

Sebastien: Act Of Creation (Escape Music)

Czech melodic power metal band Sebastien are back with their third album, their follow up to the 2015 record Dark Chambers Of Deja Vu a record that was 5 years in the making. This has taken less time to produce but still has the cinematic scope of the previous Sebastien albums, if I'd make a comparison Sebastien sound a lot like Kamelot musically with theatrical symphonics throughout but never taking away from the riffy power metal heart. Vocalist George Rain sounds a like (Original Kamelot vocalist) Khan so that could be another reason for the comparison, he performs like thespian approaching every song no matter how heavy or dramatic with the same adaptive soulful vocal

Continuing the performance style of this record and the similarities to Kamelot the record features an ensemble cast of guests on vocals as Marián "Mayo" Petranin (Signum Regis) and Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars) both lend their pipes with Apollo appearing on the albums best track Die In Me. Along with them are two Czech ladies adding the female harmonies which are important to the symphonic style of music. Act Of Creation seems to be based upon some religious lyrics and quite a bit of romance an unrequited love rearing it's head as well.

The one issue with the album is that at 14 tracks it is a little long and you do find your attention wandering a little in the middle before you are focussed again for the storming end, still it's a solid melodic power metal filled with good performances all round. 7/10

Poem: Unique (ViciSolum Productions)

Greek/Swedish band Poem I'd consider to be one of the biggest progressive bands to come from Greece and along with Need and Tardive Dyskinesia they are carving out a niche for themselves as a band with interesting, intelligent, emotional progressive music that focuses on songwriting over musical posturing. Unique is their third album and it brings to life their special blend of prog, alternative and grunge metal that has touches of Deftones, Tesseract and Tool, the songs bring the loud/quiet dynamics of grunge, but with the technicality of the modern era of progressive metal. False Morality the first of seven songs on this record set the theme as Takis (bass) and Stavros (drums) lay down a tasty groove for Laurence (the lone Swede) and George to ramp up the distortion with offbeat riffs.

Four Cornered God does the same with the tribal beat of Tool and George beautifully flaunts his incredible vocals, I'd consider him to be one of the best vocalists in European prog metal able to give a touching rawness and fervent aggression check Discipline for both. Unique is an album that lives up to it's billing, there's a lot hear that may be recognisable to anyone familiar with modern prog metal but they inject their own style into these well worn troupes. More absorbing progressive music from Greece, what a hotbed for this style the country is at the moment. 9/10

We Sell The Dead: Heaven Doesn't Want You And Hell Is Full (earMusic)

Apparently We Sell The Dead were formed upon the question “What if Jack the Ripper had played in a band? A heavy metal band?” it's an interesting concept for sure and it sets We Sell The Dead up as a steampunk influenced horror drenched melodic doom metal band formed by Niclas Engelin (In Flames, Engel), Drömriket’s Jonas Slättung, Gas Lipstick (former HIM) and the voice of Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), it's a record based around Victorian themes that tries to point out injustice, but expands the narrative into the extreme, playing with themes of ghosts, death or religion, it's a theatrical multimedia experience apparently but as we only have the debut record to go on rather than anything else, all conclusions have to be taken from there.

Heaven Doesn't Want You And Hell Is Full brings the thundering doom from the outset as Apollo's soulful vocals doing what they do best in Spiritual Beggars which is the major comparison I can make to this band especially with some of the fat juicy riffs that Niclas and Jonas peel off. They do change a little though as Imagine is a percussive chugging track, whereas Turn It Over has some melodic rock influences creeping in, built around Gas' expressive drumming. There's not much I can mark this album down on, all the performances are tight but it does get a little uninteresting as it progresses with Trust's funeral doom dragging on for a little to long. Nothing special but nothing terrible either. 7/10

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Reviews: The Bad Flowers, Feed The Rhino, Black Wizard, Vojd (Reviews By Paul)

The Bad Flowers: Starting Gun (Self Released)

Formed in 2014 in the Black Country, the debut album from The Bad Flowers will hit all the right notes for fans of Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons and even The Cult. Soaked in a hard rock heavy blues style, the band make hell of a noise for a trio. Tom Leighton whose Ian Astbury style vocals catch the ear early, also plays a mean fuzzy guitar with some heavy riffs. The raw power of the band has been honed by extensive touring which allow bassist Dale Tonks and drummer Karl Selickis to thunder and pummel throughout. Leighton has a swagger which is really appealing, confident to the point of arrogant is good at times on tracks such as Be Your Man and opener Thunder Child. There isn’t a bad tune on this debut and on occasion it is scintillatingly good. With several tours under their belt, The Bad Flowers will undoubtedly go from strength to strength, in no small part to their radio friendly delivery. Well worth checking out. 7/10

Feed The Rhino: The Silence (Century Media Records)

Metalcore has never excited me. Kent’s Feed The Rhino have been around since 2008 and The Silence is their fourth release. I’m unfamiliar with their previous work so have based my opinion solely on this album. To be fair, it’s a lot more melodic in places than I expected with a sound akin to the Deftones in places. It’s still got that snarly shouty vocal style that grates with me in places but when Lee Tobin hits the smoother clean vocals, such as on 68 then it isn’t bad. However, when it does get shouty then it really does become hard work. All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy case in point. I’m sure the yoof will love this and pack out the halls with their ferocious pits. It’s listenable, but I wouldn’t part with any cash for it. 6/10

Black Wizard: Livin’ Oblivion (Listenable Records)

Vancouver metal merchants Black Wizard may have some stoner elements to them, but this album contains some fine heads down heavy metal of the highest order. Feast And Famine may be one of the most intense, rampaging and ferocious tracks I’ve heard for years and the crushing acceleration that blasts you through the windscreen on Portraits is a joy to listen to. James Wolfe slows the pace right down, a megalodon of a track, crushing riffs and thunderously ominous drums whilst the psychedelia of Cascadia sets you up nicely for a trip. Adam Grant’s vocals are honest and grizzly, with his and Danny Stokes dual guitar work providing some neat interplay, such as the Maiden-like Poisoned Again. Black Wizard hit the UK for some dates in March; a random selection that includes Glasgow, Falmouth, Coventry and London. If you are stuck for an evening you could do far worse than stick your noses in on these guys. It’s decent stuff. 7/10

VOJD: The Outer Ocean (Playground Music Scandinavia)

Unsurprisingly VOJD hail from Stockholm. Their sound is traditional heavy metal with a psychedelic twist. The Outer Ocean is their debut release and it combines some classic old school sounds with a fresh new approach. Vocalist Joseph Tholl has a voice which has shades of Demon’s Dave Hill at his peak which is no bad thing. There’s a definite stoner sound to a number of their songs, such as the opener Break Out and Delusions In The Sky, both which get the foot tapping quickly. Secular Wire slows the pace slightly although the vibe which surges through this album quickly ups the tempo once more. There’s a right fuzzy blues sound which also throbs through the heart of this impressive album, and some very neat guitar work, such as Vindicated Blues and the trippy Dream Machine, complete with some soaring harmonica. Overall a rather stellar release. 8/10

Reviews: Stone Broken, Marco Mendoza, Chris Bay, Spartan Warrior (Reviews By Paul)

Stone Broken: Ain’t Always Easy (Spinefarm)

To say that Walsall four-piece outfit Stone Broken’s rise has been meteoric would possibly be the understatement of the year. Relentless touring since their debut release in 2016, a huge promotional push with intense publicity from Planet Rock has catapulted a mediocre melodic rock band to a level which is, in my mind, quite undeserving. However, regardless of my views about their media support, Ain’t Always Easy is a solid if unremarkable release which follow the formula which has served so many bands in this genre well.

Think Black Stone Cherry, Nickelback, Theory Of A Deadman, Alter Bridge and Shinedown and you are in the right ball park. Tracks such as Home, I Believe and the Creed-lite Doesn’t Matter are all fine if you want your rock safe and comfortable. I have no doubt that the band, who are debuting on Spinefarm, are nice people and clearly hard working. Their website refers to this as “one of the most assured British rock albums of recent times”. If that’s the case, then I despair of the competition. It’s benign stuff. 5/10

Marco Mendoza: Viva La Rock (Mighty Music)

So, the pouting, real life Derek Smalls bassist of the godawful Dead Daisies has decided that he should inflict even more of his greatness on us mere mortals with his latest solo release Viva La Rock. Eight years since Casa Mendoza, apparently this is an album full of classic rock anthems. Oh really. Guest appearances from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Richard Fortus and White Lion’s Mike Tramp on a weak and unwarranted cover of Thin Lizzy’s Chinatown do nothing to ease the pain. A version of Ted Nugent’s Hey Baby stinks like monkey vomit.

Pompous, overblown compositions set in the misogynistic dark days of yesteryear are totally marred by shite lyrics and Mendoza’s constant screeching and arrogant Dave Lee Roth like delivery. If you think this is quality hard rock, then you have my endless pity. I’d rather have piles than listen to this arse sore again. 2/10

Chris Bay: Chasing The Sun (Steamhammer)

So, the guitarist and vocalist of power metal heroes Freedom Call has decided to deliver his first solo album. Completely and unashamedly separate from his main gig, Bay has clearly stated that this album is influenced by classic pop and rock from the 1990s and by god it is. To be honest, it sounds like an album full of failed Eurovision entries, such is the depth of cheese contained within it. Radio Starlight, Hollywood Dancer and the quite unbelievable Light My Fire are all quite astonishing.

I’m no aficionado of German pop music but if this is representative then I may be in favour of Brexit. But seriously, it’s such a curve ball in its content and style that underneath the horrible sounds that emerged from my speakers, I think I found a sneaking admiration that he was able to churn out such a horrible fuckworm with a straight face. If only the Gregory's would book him for BOA this year. How magical that would be. It needs to be heard … and then burnt. 2/10

Spartan Warrior: Hell To Pay (Pure Steel Records)

Sunderland was never really noted for its contribution to the NWOBHM movement but between 1980 and 1985 Spartan Warrior proudly flew the flag for the Mackems. Fast forward over 30 years and we find the band releasing album number four and their first since 2010’s Behind Closed Eyes. Whilst I can certainly appreciate the passion and enthusiasm that the band retain, like many of their contemporaries who have made comebacks over recent years, it might have been better if Spartan Warrior had left it the hell alone.

If only Hell To Pay had been called Behind Closed Doors and remained there, we’d probably all be better off. It’s lumbering heavy metal by numbers, limited vocals which struggle badly at times, and desperately poor compositions which fail to ignite any interest. By the time I’d got to the Iron Maiden Blaze Era Court Of Clowns I’d completely lost interest. 10/10 for effort but this is just dull. 4/10

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Reviews: Fu Manchu, Sinister X, Windhand/Satan Satyr's, Salem (Reviews By Paul)

Fu Manchu: Clone Of The Universe (At The Dojo Records)

Despite being in existence for over 30 years in some shape of form, and over 22 as Fu Manchu, I’ve never really paid much attention to the Southern Californian stoner outfit. Clone Of The Universe is their 12th studio album, and it does what you would expect. Opening three tracks, Intelligent Worship, (I’ve Been) Hexed and Don’t Panic race by, the stoner groove of Scott Hill and Bob Balch underpinned by Brad Davies’ thunderous bass and the jazz style drumming of Scott Reeder. Slower Than Light takes things down a notch before hitting hard whilst Nowhere Left To Hide has the sludgier Crowbar sound, with huge riffs and cavernous drum sound. At only 36 minutes this isn’t a long release but it’s the 18-minute epic Il Mostro Atomico that really provides the treat on an album that will no doubt please old and new fans alike. 7/10

Sinister X: The Requiem (Sinister Industries)

In existence for less than a year, Sinister X come at you from Virginia Beach, Virginia with their debut seven track EP which is a solid if routine affair. A hard rock edge combined with radio friendly tracks runs throughout the EP and if you like your metal in the traditional American style, big on drum sound and with some massive riffs, then you’ll dig this. A couple of the tracks are rather tepid, such as Takedown with its old school Saliva/Soil/Drowning Pool feel, but there are a couple of snappier hard hitters here which make it worth a listen with Stranded In Hell probably the pick of the bunch. 6/10

Windhand/Satan’s Satyrs: Split EP (Relapse Records)

Richmond’s doom merchants Windhand have released a couple of split EPs in previous years alongside their three full length albums. This split allows the band to deliver two songs of thunderous doom, the six-minute Old Evil and the ponderous, haunting and psychedelic flavoured 14 minute Three Sisters. It’s powerful stuff, if a little too slow and heavy at times although I suppose that’s the point of doom isn’t it. Three Sisters is bursting full of mammoth riffs, crushingly heaviness alternating with lighter parts which are at opposites.

Light your black candles and gather at the altar. Their County cousin’s Satan’s Satyrs provide the other half of the EP. Three tracks, all under four minutes and with a much punkier feel to their stoner doom approach, the Satyr’s fuzzy guitars provide contrast to the heaviness of Windhand with the rockabilly Ain’t That You, Baby played at a frenetic pace in comparison. Five tracks, all decent and all in all a decent thump in the face. 6/10

Salem: Attrition (Dissonance Records)

Salem is a heavy metal band hailing from Hull. Formed in 1979 following the split of the new wave of British heavy metal band Ethel The Frog, this is apparently the third release since their reformation in 2010. Like many of those bands who flirted with prominence back in the early 1980s, the rose-tinted glasses cloud how good they were way back then. This release contains some decent guitar work courtesy of lead guitarist Paul Macnamara but it doesn’t half plod along. Back & White is slower than a tractor on a ‘B’ Road, and to be honest, it sounds dated.

I’m The One is just creepy, Simon Saxby’s vocals a taste I’m glad I can’t acquire, and to be honest, if you can get past the first three tracks you deserve a medal. I must admit that it took some gumption on my part, but I failed second time around. Some things may be best left in the past. Salem are one on those things. 4/10

Friday, 2 March 2018

Reviews: Visions Of Atlantis, Rumahoy, Reach, Infiltration (Reviews By Rich)

Visions Of Atlantis: The Deep & The Dark (Napalm Records)

Despite this being their sixth album, Austria’s Visions Of Atlantis always seem to be forgotten or overlooked within the symphonic metal genre. With the release of The Deep & The Dark they should hopefully finally get the attention they rightly deserve. Visions Of Atlantis have always had a more power metal influenced sound than many of their contemporaries and this sound is still prevalent throughout The Deep & The Dark. The clean vocals are provided by both Siegfried Samer and Clementine Delauney and both vocalists very much compliment each other.

 With two singers the songs are all very vocal driven though the guitar work throughout is very solid. The symphonic element of their sound is very prevalent and very nicely done being sweeping and epic or quiet and subtle when required. There’s a nice mix of songs throughout as well from straightforward pop leaning songs, speedy power metal numbers and a couple of ballads. Visions Of Atlantis haven’t crafted an essential album but it’s one that fans of symphonic metal will enjoy and if you haven’t heard Visions Of Atlantis this album is the perfect place to start. 7/10

Rumahoy: The Triumph Of Piracy (Napalm Records)

The big gimmick in metal which a lot of bands are cottoning onto at the moment seems to be pirate metal. We are awash with a colossal amount of bands from genre leaders Alestorm to Red Rum, Lagerstein, Swashbuckle and countless others. The latest band to join these ranks is Rumahoy from North Carolina in the US with the release of their debut album The Triumph Of Piracy on Napalm Records. If you’ve heard any of the other bands who play this style then you know exactly what you are in for. Sea shanty melodies with heavy metal riffage, songs about quests, treasure and rum and plenty of Yaarrrs and Ahoys. Despite the cynic in me wanting to hate this album I couldn’t help but quite enjoy it as it is so much damn fun. 

Rumahoy are definitely up to 11 on the silliness scale with songs such as Forest Party, The Haitian Slam and the snigger inducing Netflix And Yarrr all guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Rumahoy maybe just go a bit overboard (pun) with the silliness and make it look like they are trying a bit too hard especially when you have stage names such as Captain Yarrface, Bootsman Walktheplank, Swashbuckling Pete and Cabin Boy Treasurequest. Despite my misgivings and cynicism this is a fun and enjoyable album which will go down well with an inebriated audience wanting to party but surely this pirate metal gimmick has to run out of steam sooner or later. Plus we all know Running Wild did the whole pirate metal things long before anyone and better than anyone else. 6/10

Reach: The Great Divine (Sun Hill Production)

There’s an awful lot of really good melodic hard rock coming out of Sweden one of these days and one of these bands is Reach who are back with second album The Great Divine. Having got noticed with their cover of Avicii a couple of years ago and their debut album Reach Out To Rock it appears that Reach have brought out the big guns for their follow up record. Produced by Jona Tee of H.E.A.T., The Great Divine is ten tracks of hard rocking goodness. The band draw on a cornucopia of influences and have managed to find a sound that sounds equally classic and contemporary. 

The songs are all varied throughout from energetic opener Into Tomorrow to the melodic Off The Edge, the pop rock leaning Running On Empty to songs which go a little bit darker such as Nightmare and album closer River Deep. This is an album chock full of strong hooks and irresistible melodies and it is a shining example of how to do melodic hard rock in the 21st century. I have a feeling this is a band that we are going to be talking about for years to come. 8/10

Infiltration: Nuclear Strike Warning (Wormholedeath)

Here’s another little straggler from 2017 the debut EP from Russian death metallers Infiltration entitled Nuclear Strike Warning. This EP may only be very short with a duration of 15 minutes but it’s sure as hell sweet. The band are obviously very influenced by old school death metal and it is evident with the material on this EP. There’s a killer old school groove through bringing to mind death metal legends such as Bolt Thrower and Benediction. The riffs are just flat out crushing and give an insatiable need to bang your head whilst the vocals are ultra guttural and disgusting. This is a very strong debut EP and one I am guaranteed to be giving several spins over the next few weeks. Infiltration are death metal band to definitely keep an eye on. 8/10

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Reviews: Dukes Of The Orient, Revertigo, Deathbell, The Dystopian Project

Dukes Of The Orient: S/T (Frontiers Records)

Firstly can I just say that the band name is very clever if you know the membership of this band. Made up of American Erik Norlander (Lana Lane) and Englishman John Payne (Asia, GPS) the band is essentially John Payne's Asia under a new name. Payne formed his own version of Asia after Geoff Downes went on to reform the original line up of the band with the the recently and sadly deceased John Wetton on vocals and bass, it was the respect for Wetton and to avoid confusion with Downes version that resulted in the name change.

Payne's version of the group saw him on vocals and bass, Norlander on keys, Guthrie Govan on guitar and Jay Schellen on drums, both of whom featured in Payne's other band GPS, who still have one of my favourite Prog/AOR albums ever and both of whom contribute to this album as well along with guest guitarists Jeff Kollman, Moni Scaria and Bruce Bouillet (all three having replaced Govan in Payne's Asia) with Molly Rodgers providing strings.

So with GPS's album being a favourite of mine, Dukes Of Orient could either be brilliant or terrible, happily the former is the overwhelming feeling, it's a record full of shimmering West-Coast AOR but with 70's progressive changes driven by the beautiful soundscapes of Norlander and Payne's emotion inducing vocals, Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All for you non Latin speakers) is Payne giving it everything he's got on a piece that could be a hymn such is the phrasing and composition of the song, elsewhere Time Waits For No Man has the pulsing pop styling of Asia and Strange Days is dripping with prog.

When I played the album I was really impressed with the production and then after reading the notes around the album I saw that it had been recorded on analogue equipment and produced to audiophile standards, this brings a natural clarity to the record making sound as if pro tools never happened, add to this a cover designed by Rodney Matthews, Dukes Of The Orient is a retro feast for anyone that picked up the 1992 record Aqua (the first Asia album with Payne) or of course those that had been on the AOR/Prog train since they first heard Heat Of The Moment. With a plethora of homemade synths, the bass and vocals of Payne at the forefront and a record that balances both Englishness and Americanisms with deft hand and virtuoso performances. 9/10     

Revertigo: S/T (Frontiers Records)

The second review of a Frontiers collab and this time it's 30 year friends Mats Levén (Candlemass) and Anders Wikström (Treat), together they've written a record that has some modern rock influences and lots of chunky melodic rock that of course sounds like Treat but also Eclipse, Pretty Maids and some of the more recent Avantasia music. Everything is so bold on this record with orchestrations, walls of guitars and Leven's gritty vocals at their peak. Sailing Stones gallops like prime Stallion, Symphony Of Fallen brings a electronic pulse, these two men play all the instruments other than the drums of Thomas Broman and they have made sure this collaboration is an artist expression of their two personalities, it's sometimes political, romantic and cinematic but it doesn't let you get too settled in to a certain style before changing the formula. A fist pumping rock record 30 years in the making and these two Swede's have struck melodic rock dynamite, it's not a reinvention of the wheel just a couple of friends doing what they do best. 7/10

Deathbell: With The Beyond (Self Released)

Are you ready for 37 minutes of France based doom metal? Good job Deathbell have released their debut album then. Like Welsh act Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard they are a slow, sludgy, ominous sounding metal band with the lowest rumbling fuzz drenched riffs possible, a track like They Still Wander has a repeating hypnotic riff as the trio of Bastien Commelongue (guitars/keys), Valentin Troï (bass) and Robin Draye (drums) beat out the aural abuse that will make you bang your head, slowly and deliberately. Due to the title track that opens the record you'd think that it was an instrumental record but the ethereal, mesmeric vocals of Lauren Gaynor (vocals & keys) creep in on Emerald Eyes Shine and remain there for the rest of the album adding a ghostly component to the record. With The Beyond is a pretty confident first shot from Deathbell occult fuzz that bludgeons you with noise and that's always a good thing. 7/10

The Dystopian Project: Paradigm (Self Released)

One that got away from last year The Dystopian Project are a Dublin based rock band with a lot of scope, this EP is far beyond what a lot of bands are producing at the moment, the multi-tracked cinematic quality of this music is very good indeed, it's progressive, ambitious and has wonderful vocals harmonies between the three singers Hytham Martin (vocals/guitar), Ivan O'Sullivan (vocals/bass) and Tess Olivia (vocals-who left after the record being replaced by Vonna Nolan and now Steph Butler). The beautiful layering of the vocals and substantial musical palette make this band stand out, they really add that extra sense of magic to the already haunting soundscapes, that are fortified by guest keyboards from Ewen Ferguson and the sound design of Raych V. Corcoran.

There's a measured approach to these songs nothing gets too over the top as is sometimes the case with prog, but with the simplicity comes the mastery, Paradigm envelopes you in deceptively complicated music.  There's crunch from Hytham and Phil Dolan (guitar) and heavy groove from Ivan and Darrin Bell (drums) which anchor the more ambient textures of the record even when Dolan is shredding away like on The Cranberries sounding Death Leaves An Echo it's to fit in with the narrative  of the song not to detract from it. At just four songs long you may think that this is a short EP with two tracks clocking in at over 7 minutes and the final song a full suite piece at over 19 minutes which ebbs and flows revealing beautiful musical journey it's difficult to call The Dystopian Project anything other than epic in every sense of the word.

Why I missed this record I don't know, it's astounding how good it is considering it's the band's sophomore release, for a band called The Dystopian Project I see a nothing to fear in their future, this what they can do now, imagine what they will do then. 9/10

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Reviews: Pop Evil, Kris Barras, Animal Drive, Bob Katsionis

Pop Evil: Pop Evil (eOne)

Pop Evil's third album Onyx was the record that launched this Michigan, blending the grungy earnest of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam with the flashier touches of Motley Crue and the glam rock bands, Pop Evil have adapted their sound in the years following the Onyx cycle, Up brought more variety and with fifth album they have dealt with line up changes before hand which has led to this self titled release. Now a self titled album is usually a sign of a band trying a rebirth and Pop Evil kick it off with two big heavy hitters Walking Lions has a crunchy riff and a big radio chorus but Colours Bleed brings some rapid rap metal vocals, never afraid to use a sample as they do Ex Machina.

I'm struggling a little at this point as there seems to be a lot of Nu-Metal influences coming in especially on Art Of War which is trying to RATM and I don't think it's a style I enjoy Pop Evil branching into, on Onyx and UP their previous albums they were a band that courted the mainstream but didn't sacrifice their rock roots, here they seem to be trying to focus their sound on the Imagine Dragons and X Ambassadors crowd. Do I like Pop Evil? Not really but then maybe I'm not supposed to, the only song I thought were pretty good was God's Dam the rest of it though I can take it or leave it. 6/10       

Kris Barras: Divine & Dirty (Provogue)

Devonshire bluesman Kris Barras has had a rather different path to music than others, inspired by his father, Gary Moore and Jimi Hendrix he performed on stages from a young age but as he grew more disillusioned with the music industry he indulged more in his other skill Mixed Martial Arts (14-3 record folks), having competed all over the world the lure of the blues was too much and now Barras is once again slinging a guitar. Divine & Dirty is his second record and his first for world class blues rock label Provogue part of the Mascot Label Group and home to Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Walter Trout, Eric Gale and more, with such good company around him his second record is a case of put up or shut up and this axe slinging cage warrior doesn't pull punches.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a rollicking creole good time, Lovers or Losers is a stomper with with a piano pounding and dirty slide and it collects the main styles that come through on this record which is a mix of classic blues rock, Southern rock and Planet Rock listener seducing hard rock (Blood On Your Hands), a song such as She's More Than Enough blends all three into a Dixie-fried piece with a big sing-along chorus, while Hail Mary could have easily come from  a Black Stone Cherry record. The record races with only the torch song of Hold On For Tomorrow slowing the stride along with final track Watching Over Me which has Gary Moore's influence writ large.

It also here that it's probably worth mentioning Barras' excellent hard rock vocal, a talent only matched by his six stringing prowess. In the future Divine & Dirty will be seen as the touchpoint for Kris Barras' career, a slick blues record firmly in the new school. Kris is on tour in late March and early April so get down to your nearest show to see him before he's moving on to bigger venues soon. 8/10

Animal Drive: Bite! (Frontiers Records)

Fresh out of Zagreb Animal Drive are the second Croatian band to be featured in these pages in as many months. Calling themselves a progressive rock band I'd say they are more heavy rock much like Jorn or early Rainbow. Formed by singer/multi instrumentalist Dino Jelusic, who was chosen as a featured vocalist of Trans Siberian Orchestra by the late Paul O'Neil, his rough and ready vocal has a touch of Dio and quite a lot of the Norwegian singer they call The Duke (Jorn Lande).

With the metallic muscle of Skid Row and the hard rock strut of Whitesnake Bite! sinks its teeth into you like Great White shark, you can struggle and exclaim that you've heard it all before, but as the album goes through the motions you can't help but nod your head and pump your fist, it's not world changing but it is catchy rock with a bit of pomp. The only issue I have with the record is that it like numerous bands that draw heavily on the more AOR style of hard rock, it has a few too many ballads and mid-paced rockers but when they unleash some fury Bite! sinks its teeth into you with tough dirty riffs and big chorus hooks. 7/10

Bob Katsionis: Prognosis & Synopsis (Symmetric Records)

A solo album in the literal sense the fifth album by Firewind/Outloud & Serious Black multi-instrumentalist, producer, video director and composer Bob Katsionis. The record is a retrospective look at where he has been (synopsis) and where he is going with his music (prognosis), pitched somewhere between Vangelis (obviously), Jean Michel Jarre, John Pertucci, Jens Johanasson and Keith Emerson this is cinematic instrumental music with virtuoso keys and guitars you get solos galore from both on Aegean Sunset and Tomorrow Starts Today, a bit of dark electronica on Dark Matter and some acoustic laced metal on Secret Of The Nomads.

There's fat riffs on Asymmetric Parallels  however The Messenger and futuristic Prognosis are both very Vangelis and pulsating power metal on Cold Embrace. Bob is an immensely talented individual and on this fifth album he draws upon his wealth of experience in his own bands and collaborating with others to bring this album to life as something more than an instrumental solo compilation, you almost forget that it's instrumental as the songs are well crafted and bleed well into each other resulting in the excellent Synopsis to round the album in true Keith Emerson style. 7/10

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Temperance Movement (Live Review By Paul)

The Temperance Movement Bristol 02 Academy

Hot on the heels of their superb third album, one of the UK’s finest bands arrived in Bristol as part of their A Deeper Cut UK tour. Having played a selection of small venues in November of 2017 where they road tested the new material, now was the time to deliver the goods in larger arenas.

These tours often have excellent support acts and those who got in early were rewarded with a storming set from Orlando six-piece Thomas Wynn And The Believers (8). Their soul drenched Southern rock and blues sound captured the attention from the start. Lead singer and guitarist Thomas Wynn not only had a fantastic dry delivery between songs but could also sing and play his guitar with aplomb. Ably assisted by the stunning vocals of sister Olivia and the eclectic collection who made up The Believers, the band whizzed through a 40-minute set which included a beautiful rendition of Springsteen’s Atlas Road from the album Nebraska, in the middle of their own compositions including tracks from their most recent release Wade Waist Deep, which is well worth checking out. The country sound was enhanced by the intertwined synchronicity of the vocals whilst the rocker edge was also in evidence with Thomas Wynn’s guitar work impressive.

Having seen The Temperance Movement (10) several times before, the only surprise was just how remarkable this band continue to be in the live setting. Phil Campbell’s inability to stand still makes him one of rock’s most engaging front men, as he hopped, danced, jumped and boogied all night long. Paul Weller haircut, appalling rose covered shirt and cropped trousers aside, Campbell captivates the audience from start to finish with his astonishing soulful smoky vocal delivery, whether on older favourites such as Be Lucky and the raucous set closer Midnight Black or the new tracks such as the powerful title track or the stomp of Built-In Forgetter. But The Temperance Movement are much more than just Phil Campbell and the rest of the band demonstrated this throughout the show. Paul Sayer and Matt White took turns to shine with their beautiful guitar work, intricate patterns and time signatures crossing superbly. Behind them new drummer Simon Lea proved that you don’t have to act link Animal from The Muppets, his economical style detracting not one iota from the power and solidity necessary to provide not only a platform but the essential rhythm. Alongside Lea, the reliable Nick Fyffe, whose subtle bass lines and perfect harmonies ensured that everything kept on track.

A 17-track set was perfectly paced, with the high tempo of tracks such as Caught In The Middle, the gospel style Love And Devotion (joined by Thomas and Olivia Wynn) and Be Lucky matched by some calmer tunes like the brilliant The Way It Was And The Way It Is Now and Higher Than The Sun. A Deeper Cut has penetrated the Top 10 on the UK album charts and it may well be the one to catapult the band to the next level. The audience, already familiar with material that had only been available for a week, lapped everything up, although the old favourites such as Know For Sure and Ain’t No Telling probably edged the response chart. Closing the main set with the beautiful title track from the album, complete with Campbell on acoustic guitar, it was inevitable that an encore would follow and what a duo; Backwater Zoo allowed Campbell to demonstrate his skills on the keyboards before a blistering Midnight Black brought the evening to a feverish conclusion. The hard work of the past six years appears to be paying off for a band that ooze quality. A must-see whenever they tour, and with one of the albums of the year already in the bag, The Temperance Movement are just fabulous.