Review and Photos

ALBUM REVIEW: Big Truck rolls over all in its path as Trucker Diablo go to war on 'Fighting For Everything' 
THE Big Truck has just got an upgrade, superchargers fitted and the engine tuned to within an inch of its life. Trucker Diablo are rolling inexorably forward with new album 'Fighting For Everything' set to wipe the floor and leave a trail of fans slack jawed in amazement.
But first a Public Service Announcement: Should you play this album in your car you are more than likely to incur a speeding fine. When you have it playing your right foot will have a tendency to go further to the floor...The traffic cops may understand, but don't rely on it.
If said cops were to listen to 'Fighting For Everything' they would bow down and acclaim Trucker Diablo.
It is an album born from adversity, birthed in troubled times for the members of the band personally, and because of the travails of the music industry.
But those travails see a band emerging with a single finger thrust in the air, and defiant 'fuck you' to all that dare stand in their way. While all previous releases by Trucker Diablo have been excellent, this is their magnum opus - a masterpiece of heavy melodic rock.
Kicking the audience's ass from the start with 'Born Trucker' these are 11 songs many an international superstar band would kill to have in their repertoire.
Ten of those songs will have your fist pumping, but when you are standing proud, singing along Trucker being Trucker hit you with a sucker punch. After being so pumped up the closer 'When The Waters Rise' smacks you in the face. Emotionally charged, wonderfully arranged, if you don't feel the tears well up you don't have a heart.
The entire album  - boosted by Frankie McClay's production polish - is a masterclass in how to deliver a varied, but coherent set of tunes, rooted in a conjoined passion for rock 'n' fucking roll.
There is a fire within this album, and that fire has forged an album that works. Yes, works. Whether it is the resolute stance of  'We Will Conquer All' or 'Fighting For Everything' or the impassioned 'Over The Wall' it works as a complete set of tunes.
And, it has enough variety to please all Trucker fans - in fact all fans of hard rock. 'Let's Just Ride'. Don't fucking tell Joe Elliott or Jon Bon Jovi about this song. This captures all that was great about those wonderful days when rock ruled supreme.
And, 'Detroit Steel' is reminiscent of when Kiss had balls. If Simmons and Stanley hear this they may actually decide to record new material. And if they do they won't come close.
Is this description sounds like over-blown hyperbole so be it. Given it's a Northern Ireland band, readers could be forgiven if we were listening to this with more than a taint of bias. However, that is definitely not the case.
When a band bares their soul on the songs they commit to master tapes that are this personal it is something to be marvelled upon. When Tom sings "The scars will keep hurting/But my love will never change" on Drown In The Fire' you can sense the battles the band have been though to release this album.
And, many listeners will spot 'Voodoo II' and wonder have Trucker Diablo disappeared up their own arses á la 'Tallica's unforgiven. Then the track grabs you by the back of the neck, kicks your arse, and throws you to the ground. This is Voodoo fitted with nitrous oxide, a 16 cylinder beast, a truck that will roll over anything in its path.
This is as complete as an album that can be released. Tom, Simon, Jim and Terry have exceeded all expectations. If this is the recorded new material we feel our bowels loosening a little in expectation of the live delivery.
Review by Jonathan Traynor


ALBUM REVIEW: Ensiferum go all the way on Two Paths - a madly beautiful album

WITH 'One Man Army' Ensiferum set the bar high for folk metal, with an almost live feel. The subsequent extensive touring showcased a band at the proverbial top of their game.

But unlike many bands the Helsinki act were already planning their next release well ahead of time, with these tracks on new release 'Two Paths' demoed seven years ago - yes seven years. Talk about foresight...


Having these tracks in formative structure at the turn of the decade could have made them stale, but in the seven years hence they have been beaten into glorious shape. In short 'Two Paths' is as close to the ultimate 'folk metal' album as you'll get.

All the elements from Ensiferum are there, with the added bonus of touring accordionist Netta Skog, formerly of Turisas, now a full-time member of the band, adding another vocal texture.

From the opening orchestral and choral intro 'Two Paths' gives you the expected grunt on 'For Those About To Fight For Metal', with flurries of guitar and growls plus huge choir like melodies.

While this is about as 'typical' as you would expect in the genre it veers close to cliché in places - but is saved by the arrangement.

However, the rest of the album is anything but clichéd. The reason for this could be attributed to the length of the writing of the tracks, or the organic, analog recording and producer Anssi Kippo's insistence on getting the right instrument's tones from the off.

Anssi has a really great recording method, in that he wants to find the best possible sound and tone for drums, bass, guitars, vocals etcetera at the start, so that as you finish the individual tracks it's close to what you want the final sound of the album to be. That way, you don't have to ponder over what you can do in the mixing." -  Hinnka

The result are tracks that sound massive - whether it is full-on such as 'Way Of The Warrior' or 'King of Storms' or the quieter tracks, such as Netta's vocals on 'Unettomann Aikaan', all sound as if they were created as if to address a gathering deep in a primeval forest.

Title track 'Two Paths' opens with an almost rock-like riff from the 80s before upping the ante in a song delivered with clean vocals with a wistful edge and no shite tools to mask the feeling.


That Markus, Petri, Sami and Netta all contribute different singing textures makes every element of the album as varied and challenging as possible.

'Feast of the Valkyries' sees Netta opening the vocals and delivering a masterclass on digital accordion before the chorus as if delivered by Finnish warriors storming the land of the Russ.

Lyrically throughout, as always, there is more than what may appear on the heroic sounding surface.


"For me, it's really important that all lyrics have deeper, more serious and sometimes very personal meaning, while also fitting Ensiferum's heroic theme. It's a nice challenge to write lyrics this way, but it's also really rewarding to hear fans' interpretations of our music. There is no right or wrong in this matter." - Hiinnka

On 'Don't You Say' and 'God is Dead' the band challenge the listener even further by offering two versions, with Hinnka offering Ensiferum fans the chance to pick their favourite version.

'Don't You Say' opens with a drum line that nods to Priest before becoming a piece of groove infected folk, while 'I Will Never Kneel' is defiantly superb.

It would be easy to rant further about how good 'Two Paths' sounds. It is gritty, catchy and orchestral in equal parts.

Amidst the might and grandeur Ensiferum display a lightness of touch - in even the heavier elements - that demonstrates that this is no longer another folk metal act. Not only will they stake their claim to be among one of the originators, they are a force of nature to bow in admiration before. Madly beautiful...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

 Two Paths is released on Metal Blade Records on 15th September



ALBUM REVIEW: Cradle of Filth bring glorious gothic terror to bear on Cryptoriana

IF 'Hammer of Witches' proved that Cradle of Filth had regained their edgy artistic mojo then new release 'Cryptorian' shifts them up to another level entirely.

This is the marriage of previous musical excesses and a true sense of gothic terror - not in the mainstream sense of 'goths' but reaching into the dark labyrinthine murk of Victorian streets, where danger and sensuality stand side-by-side.

'Cryptoriana' is a tapestry of lust and evil delivered with all that you would expect from Dani and co.

Apart from the short, sharp shock of opener 'Exquisite Torments Await' (and they do) each of the other tracks are allowed the time to breathe musically and in their narrative.

As with almost all Cradle of Filth albums the narrative is a crucial component. Indeed, the sub-title of 'Cryptoriana' is 'The Seductiveness of Decay' a stunning track that cements the narrative of a Victorian England where the supernatural sat aside the industrial murk and poverty; where the rich indulged a quest of what lay beyond while maintaining a very British reserve to hide their sinfulness.
“The album, both lyrically and artistically, is infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that, Cryptoriana implies the Victorians’ infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the fervently ghoulish." - Dani Filth

The tapestry woven is such that to capture the sense (and sensibility) of the tales requires a musical landscape as intense and evocative as the lyrics. And it is lush with moods and suggestive passages.

Shaw and Ashok almost war each other in trade-offs and solos that are mainly delivered with speed and intensity, but are also tempered with shifts of pace and tempo. With Škaroupka and Firth tied together with a rhythmic umbilical chord that sense of doom infused throughout sits as a warning to lesser mortals.

However, it is the enchantress Lyndsay Schoolcraft that adds the flourishes that set the tone so well - her keyboard work sets scenes, add unexpected elements, and as always delivers vocally. Perhaps this is one of her finer demonstrations of her pipes recorded to date.
“The general vibe in the band is exceedingly positive as we gear up for the album’s release. We have an amazing album and video under our collective belts, a new manager who has religiously prepared an upcoming world tour for everyone to look forward to and the band are still white hot and collectively firing on all cylinders, much like a ballistic missile fired upon Horsell Common, in the last years of the 19th century when human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space!” - Dani Flilth

To be clear, all eight tracks deserve repeated listens to fully enjoy the rich rewards and tones within. However, the concluding track 'Death and the Maiden' is one of the finest, textured tracks Cradle of Filth have released. If not for it all other tracks on Cryptorania would have vied for that title.

Sure, for many Dani and his crew have been the butt of ill-informed jibes with the many line-up changes, but on Hammer of the Witches they proved themselves to be a band that has evolved without losing sight of their core principles. Cryptorania takes them to the next level - we can't wait to see them in Belfast's Limelight on 30th October. Get listening to this album and get prepared!

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Cryptorania is released on Nuclear Blast on 22nd September 

REVIEW: Hysteria 30 years on gets a re-issue. Is it worth it the outlay for the re-masters?

IT'S hard not to be cynical when a plethora of re-issues emerge to mark a significant anniversary with multiple formats. But then again those albums mark moments in our youth when music marked coming of age.

With 30 years gone since Def Leppard released 'Hysteria' the band have marked it by offering a clatter of formats all re-mastered.

Truth be told we have ruminated on this for some time. The feeling about this is much the same we have about Metallica issuing a re-mastered series of Master of Puppets.

Both Leppard and Metallica's iconic gigs in the 1980s at Belfast's Ulster Hall were something special - hence our hesitancy in approaching Hysteria. On that tour Leppard played Northern Ireland three times. Two consecutive nights in the Ulster Hall, with Tesla and an in-the-round show at the King's Hall.

Seared into memory of thousands those shows and songs like 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Love Bites' and 'Armageddon It' - not to mention 'Animal'.

The story of 'Hysteria' is a remarkable one in and of itself. The aborted sessions with Jim Steinman, the car accident that saw Rick Allen lose his left arm and drafting in Mutt Lange along with the tortuous time he took to mix every track and including a year's break.

With 'Pyromania' previously bothering the UK and US charts 'Hysteria' was eagerly awaited by cynical critics and slightly nervous fans.

But almost instantly all instinctively knew it was a special release. From their NWOBHM roots they now achieved the rock alchemists dream of songs that kept existing fans happy and attracted new mainstream fans.

Three decades on and we have Joe Elliott on the BBC Breakfast News, massive over-conflated features in magazines and whole hills of hyperbole.

With 30 million copies sold of 'Hysteria' worldwide sold do we really need another one on our musical collection?

As said we have ruminated about this question for some time, so let's get down to what's on offer.

There's a five CD, two DVD deluxe edition with four books - including a Ross Halfin photo book - and a tour poster. There's also a three CD edition, a single CD, a double vinyl album, and a double album of picture discs - all re-mastered.

All in sumptuous packaging...

Having consulted a range of friends either our original LPs have been lost or are worse for wear. True we may have the CD but this selection of formats does represent something for collectors, especially the coloured vinyl.

It may be time to do the Lotto to afford the full package of this and Master of Puppets...But if you have the cash it will be an investment...until the 40th anniversary re-issue.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

LIVE REVIEW: Inflammatory, nostalgic and still relevant - Stiff Little Fingers blast the past with superb supporting cast

WHEN the term 'heyday' is thrown around willy nilly, usually by those who choose not to stay up-to-date with a groups current status. But fans know that strong bands are always in their heyday; and when it comes to Stiff Little Fingers today they are more relevant than ever.

When SLF and a mighty clatter of supporting acts blasted a balmy night at Custom House Square, Belfast (Saturday, 26th August) the mix of nostalgia and inflammatory music proved that the counter-culture labelled punk still packs a punch.

Young and old packed a sold out square, and those lucky to have apartments over-looking the stage, rocked, sang and partied.

True - the bands have noticeably aged, but the music still sounds fresh.

Opening where local snarlsters The Outcasts, who delivered wit with a wry grin as they pounded out 'classics' with verve. There were few who could claim they were 'Just Another Teenage Rebel' but that mattered not.

Closing with 'The Cops Are Comin' and 'You're A Disease' this was a set that had the entire place singing, and smiling.

Relaxed, but still packing a punch, Ruts DC rallied the counter-culture refugees showcasing tracks that have been stuck in the collective consciousness. Yes, 'Music Must Destroy' and it did on Saturday night.

The evocative 'In A Rut' and singalong 'Babylon's Burning' may have been the best known, but Ruts DC had no fillers in their set.

The Stranglers have also a catalogue of songs that are guaranteed to be greeted by people greedy for the melody, and they didn't disappoint.

Sure, 'Always The Sun' and 'Golden Brown' were the tracks best known, along with 'Nice 'n' Sleazy', but the likes of 'Bear Cage'  and 'Relentless were beasts live.

If the line-up of The Outcasts, Ruts DC and The Stranglers were to play Belfast it would be enough to attract a healthy crowd. To have them opening for Stiff Little Fingers was an added bonus for what is a special occasion in its own right.

40 years ago a legend was born, a legend that has resonated for decades, spoken to the hearts of people, rallied against injustice, and fought for what is right both in music and in words.

Still proving the doubters wrong at every turn Stiff Little Fingers electrify every time they take to the stage, but this homecoming gig exceeded all.

As the strains of 'Go For It' had the venue humming and yelling before a fast and furious 'Wasted Life' struck Belfast like a hurricane.

Jake was in fine form between tracks, but he could have remained mute between each song and it would have been no less impressive. There is such a wealth of material that the range of emotions are taken for a roller coaster.

Tackling the issue of depression on 'My Dark Places', the futility of violence on 'Johnny Was' and stifling domesticity on 'Safe As Houses', the messages have not been weakened by the familiarity of the songs.

The angst of youth as expressed by' At The Edge' and 'Gotta Getaway' may be messages penned yonks ago, but for every teenager still feeling that way there were thousands of middle-aged people in Custom House Square who still reflect on that period and reflect on their lives right now.

And, to a certain extent that was displayed on 'When We Were Young', a cry to keep pushing, never stop striving for our dreams, and never mind those who doubt us.

This wasn't just a Belfast audience - the momentousness of a 40th Anniversary show in the birthplace of SLF drew fans from across the UK, all dedicated to raise their rigid digits aloft.

To hear songs like 'Breakout' and 'Straw Dogs' on stage was a treat for all, but every SLF knows that the trio of 'Nobody's Hero', Tin Soldiers' and 'Suspect Device' close the main set at such a pace that the break for the encore is needed for a few minutes by band and audience.

Exhausted, but delighted...And, then the closing songs. 'Johnny Was', Gotta Getaway', and the national anthem of the disaffected populace of Northern Ireland, 'Alternative Ulster'.

While mainstream media largely looks on punk, hard rock and metal with a patronising wee pat on the head, indulgence before turned to auto-tuned shite and praising people playing their lap tops the cadre who gathered at Custom House Square still scream their disaffection to the skies.

Yes, punk is still relevant. A little older and a lot more cynical, but the ethos still holds true. 

Stiff Little Fingers may be 40, but they still speak for many, and their songs are as relevant as ever; and may be more relevant than ever in this post-reality life. SLF is the antidote to complacency, the antibiotic for the bacteria of bastards in power.

Fuck the 'Fake News' narrative and join the legions of the angry - and "Question everything you're told".

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Spectacle and power from Muse and Biffy Clyro at Vital 2017

IT'S been an annual fixture for several years - the 'rock' night of Vital. With so many other burgeoning festival style events around Belfast in the summer months Vital still has an even feel, especially at the Boucher Playing Fields venue.

However, in contrast to many other festivals on the mainland there appears to be many who attend because it is an event, rather than a music festival. To give one example, where we were ensconced three young men in their late teens or early 20s chatted throughout every single band, their gaze never once upon the stage...

And, to a certain extent there is a Radio One Roadshow element about the first two bands. Fanglcub and Nothing But Thievesare competent 'alt' rock acts.

Apart from a devoted few hundred down the front who were familiar with the songs. While the Southend 'Thieves brought the first mass singalong of the evening with their closer 'Amsterdam'.

However, the night belonged to the headline acts, both of whom showed that you can be 'alternative' and still have true rock running through your veins.

Biffy Clyro have proved themselves loyal to Belfast, trying to include the city as much as possible on tours, schedules and logistics allowing - perhaps it is the early reception they received, or perhaps it is just a natural affinity between the Scots and us lot over here.

What is sure is that Simon, James and Ben lay all on the line every time they mount a stage in the city. True they may have had much bigger stages and audiences (headlining Download), but they approach each show with the same vim and vigour.

There is a compulsive energy about everything the band undertakes, as was evident from the moment 'Wolves of Winter' opening chords it was obvious that most were reciprocating that energy.

What sometimes is beguiling about Biffy Clyro is that beneath the seemingly radio friendly tunes there are arrangements that strike an almost prog element and lyrics that touch a nerve.

'Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies', 'Bubbles' and 'Mountain' have that rare mix of pomp and poignancy that is an elixir for the soul.

The easy banter of Simon - remarking about the strange site of blue skies in Belfast and saying it felt like he was in Westeros maintained the flow of the show, with 'Biblical' and 'Animal Style' the real stand-outs.

Arriving slightly late on stage Muse delivered both musical prowess and a light show that dazzled. Songs dripping with fx they still have something of power in everything they do.

Yes, the lights, the codology of Matt's Sparx-style glasses, and the samples may showcase the extravagance of the band's vision - spaced out rock that is perhaps where Hawkwind would be had they been formed in the 90s.

Like Biffy the fact that Matt, Chris and Dominic have been together since their inception adds a confidence that translates on to the stage; a confidence that delivers the right amount of magisterial arrogance; a confidence that they will engage the crowd.

As darkness fell the SFX opener merged into 'Dig Down', that ended with the intro of 'Psycho's 'Drill Sergeant' sample.

For all the stage show lights, pyro, ticker tape, confetti, massive white beach balls and trickery it was the core of the familiar songs that kept the majority in rapt attention.

And, there was a sense of mischief in parts - was that a few chords of AC/DC dropped in at the conclusion of one track?

With a glint in his eye Matt announced that he'd used and discovered he was 53% Irish - and said that this was no wonder as his mother was born in Belfast - sure most already knew his roots are somewhere about here, but it still drew a cheer.

'Assassin' was an awesome rendition, and 'Hysteria' was sublime, but it was the cohesion of the set that struck the right note. For all the flamboyance this had the feel of an intimate show rather than a massive festival machine.

Vital 2017's rock night will be remembered by many for the powerful sets of Muse and Biffy, but the reality is that for all the might on show the undercard needs strengthening for future years - and with it being on a 'school night' it can never compete with the weekend 'dance' night in terms of attendance.

However, that being said next year's rock night at Vital will have a lot to live up to after Biffy Clyro  and Muse's sets.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh



Decades after its inception, punk still has the power to shock, inspire and be thought provoking; Saturday night's gig in Voodoo certainly proved that. French-born, South African-raised The SoapGirls swung into Belfast as part of their UK and Irish tour and put on the type of show rarely seen in punk: as equally arresting visually as they are sonically, with serious attitude and proper, feminist sass. How often does one get to say that after a punk gig?

Setting the pace was first local support act, the eye catchingly-named A.R.S.E, for whom punk will always be set in the Seventies and the likes of Bad Manners and Stiff Little Fingers will always be kings. Not that there's anything wrong with that; their bolshy brand of oi punk is infectiously catchy and actually rather fun, with front man Petesy Burns in fine form, at one point jokingly admonishing the crowd for some rather unenthusiastic applause: “at our age, if we do four songs in a row we deserve more than that!” he quips. Their half hour set fairly rips along, including some original tracks ('In Your Face', 'Religious Wars') and covers (The Jam's 'Down In the Tube Station at Midnight' and Dead Boys' 'Sonic Reducer'). Clearly more a labour of love than vast money spinner, A.R.S.E are nonetheless a dynamic and entertaining band who take to the job of warming up the crowd with glee, and do it well.

Second support Madhouse are in equally fine fettle: with a hefty dollop of rockabilly thrown into the mix, they are boisterously engaging right from the word 'go' – there's even a mammoth double bass up there on the tiny stage. With buzzsaw riffs aplenty and a lively Stray Cats vibe, their set is gloriously over the top. Singer Billy Riot begins the show dressed as gangster on a yacht circa 1984 and ends it in trousers and shoes only (even the sunglasses come off) but keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek the whole time, cheekily introducing songs such as 'Bend Over, I'll Drive' (“this is a song about getting sucked off in a car”) and final number 'Too Drunk To Fuck' (which needs little introduction, to be fair) with a glint in his eye. By the time that final track rolls around they have thoroughly entertained the crowd and surely gained a good many new fans.

All of which means that by the time the diminutive Soapgirls take to the stage, the room is full of wide smiles and a buzz of anticipation. Arriving in their usual handmade tiny costumes, the most kick-ass red vinyl thigh high boots, and granny masks (as they've heard Belfast is the capital of 'granny porn'), they chat for a minute in character before launching into 'Society's Rejects', the song that encapsulates them perfectly. Theirs is a sort of Riot Grrrl, riffy go-go punk sound, all angelic voices with a heavy dose of snarl and attitude - but when vocalist/bassist Millie cranks it up she unleashes a scream that would comfortably fit onto any metal album.

Their seventy minute set runs the gamut of emotions, from 'fuck you' number 'Rather Be Dead', to the slinky 'Original Sin' and even the melancholy, heavy 'Bury Me', a song about losing a loved one to cancer. In between, the girls' banter and total ease onstage warm the room and create a real bond with the audience, who respond with loud applause and passionate singalongs. Highlights include proper Riot Grrrl punk rock tune 'Sam's On Crack', vitriolic final number 'Bad Bitch', during which they invite all the 'bad bitches' in the audience onstage, and a towering, rage fuelled 'Drag You Down to Hell', with its ska punk-infused chorus. A long and effusive 'thank you' from the two of them follows 'Bad Bitch', and the show is over. Afterwards, they then hang around for several minutes, seemingly keen to thank every single audience member. Brilliant show, smashing young women.

Quite literally 'sisters doing it for themselves', their own way, on their own terms – and fuck the haters – The SoapGirls prove yet again that punk is NOT dead, and that women can kick as much ass, and be as fearless and individual as any male musician you care to compare them to. Long may it continue, too.


Review by Melanie Brehaut

Photos by Darren Mcveigh



When punk hit the music scene in the Seventies like a grenade, it differed from rock and metal in that it encouraged women to join a band, go to gigs and otherwise participate as equals. That led to the formation of bands such as The Slits and X-Ray Specs (fronted by the inimitable Poly Styrene), which then filtered into goth (Siouxie Sioux and the Banshees), rock (Hole) and even the darker side of pop (The Pretenders), with metal lagging behind but finally starting to catch up. The 'Riot Grrrl' underground feminist punk movement of the Nineties added another layer, with women becoming even more free to express themselves however they damn well pleased.

Punk in the 21st century, although almost unrecognisable from its humble beginnings, is still the best platform for talented female musicians to continue this freedom of expression. Take the subject of today's review, The Soap Girls. French-born but raised in South Africa, the sisters - Ca(Millie), vocals and guitar, and Noe(MIE, vocals and bass - derive their name from their childhood activities of selling soap and performing on the street. Somewhere along the line they became fell under the spell of punk rock, and decided to kick their performance up several notches. The resulting sound is what they like to call 'revolt rock', described as “a kick in the face followed by a kiss”. They dress provocatively (“society tells you to cover up and be decent, so in true Soap Girls fashion we weren't gonna do that”), sing about politics and ex boyfriends with equal vitriol, and, with debut album Society's Rejects, have created an album that will simultaneously kick your ass and blow you away. Read on...

The simple punk backbone of the titular opening track barely indicates what's to come: catchy and mouthy, it's the Riot Grrrl sound updated, yet would sit comfortably on the soundtrack of any classic bitch movie (Heathers, etc). The brash and bolshy 'Jonny Rotten' is next, and proves that these women can actually sing, fluctuating between a sound reminiscent of Australian duo The Veronicas during the verses and Courtney Love's Hole in the chorus.

Not content with drawing together influences such as the aforementioned Hole, Joan Jett and Gwen Stefani (a 'seriously fucked off and seeking revenge' Stefani, that is), there's also a plethora of other musical nods here, too. Several songs contain a slinky, basstastic Seventies groove (such as 'Step Outside'), while elsewhere there's the pure radio rock of 'Bury Me'; a perky Fifties bounce ('Party In Hell'); reggae and ska (ballad of sorts 'You Hate Losing' and 'Drag You Down', respectively); and even metal: check out the screams and wall of sound in 'Break You', whose “You fucking asshole!” intro immediately pegs it as a furious break up song. They also cleverly combine sweet, saccharine sounding vocals with dark lyrics and punk fury ('Party In Hell' and 'Rather B Dead', another break up tune whose snarling riff and angelic Voice of the Beehive harmonies (remember them?) clash magnificently with the awesome “fuck you” flavour of the lyrics). There's even a hefty dollop of grunge rock in album highlight 'Original Sin', which sounds like a defiant Joan Jett singing over an Audioslave track: all distorted, heavy and sexy at the same time.

Far from being 'just' a punk band, The Soap Girls prove on their debut that there are hidden depths – and certainly a wealth of talent – beneath their simple Riot Grrrl premise. Fantastically varied, hugely enjoyable and brilliantly catchy, Society's Rejects is an album firmly standing in the present, but with roots delving into the past and an eye on the future. Consider the torch well and truly passed on.


Review by Melanie Brehaut

Party In Hell UK tour 
The SoapGirls’ will be touring the UK throughout  the summer under the name Party in Hell Tour, in support of the album. The Party In Hell Tour will see the band bring their unique brand of ‘Revolt Rock’ to venues across the UK, including The Camden Rocks Festival on June 3rd and The Rebellion Festival in August.
The SoapGirls are on a highway to hell and they want you to join them to Party In Hell.
The SoapGirls Party In Hell UK dates 
The 22nd Hard Rock Cafe Live Room Glasgow 
Fri 23rd Wildfire Festival 
Sat 24th Gourock Bar
Wed 28th The Thunderbolt Bristol
Fri 30th The Doghouse Nottingham
Sat 1st  Only Anarchists Are Pretty Grimsby Yardbirds
Thu 6th Lower George Inn
Fri 7th  Festival Vic Bikers Club Coalville
Sat 8th  Dares Bar   Birmingham
Sun 9th  Sixfields Rock festival Rock and Bike 
Fri14th  Rock And Bike 
Sat 15th  New Cross Inn London
Fri  21st Surya , King Cross London
Sun 23th The Kingbilly Rock Bar Northampton 
Thur 27th Arches  Coventry 
Fri 28th Rigger  Stoke On Trent
Sat 29th Giffard Arms Wolverhampton  
Tues 1st  Fulford Arms  York 
Thur 3rd  Rebellion Festival 
Fri 4th Rebellion Festival / After show 
Sat 5th The Venue  Selby 
The SoapGirls Ireland dates 
Fri 11th  Fibbers  Ireland 
Sun 13th  Stags head  Dundalk 
Thur 17th Hagans Bar & Bar Bella  Dungannon 
Sat 19th Bogans Bar  Omagh 
Tickets available from

ALBUM REVIEW: Goatwhore gore the aural tracts on album number 7 - Vengeful Ascension

GOATWHORE some five or six years ago seemed to be stuck in a rut, they're blackened metal somewhat re-treading their own sound a little too much. However, on 2014's 'Constricting The Rage of the Merciless' there was more than a hint they were shaking themselves up.
Now, with 'Vengeful Ascension' the NOLA men have matured their sound, taken a risk and produced a finely balanced album full of musical and lyrical layers.
Whether it was the decision to record reel-to-reel, use a different producer, or just a band sensing it was time to shake things up a bit matters not because Goatwhore have unleashed their finest to date.
More nuanced, matching their instinct to riff in a BM style, but with subtle notes - like a fine well rounded red wine, Vengeful Ascension is a triumph.
Even the tribal tom tom runs that open the album on 'Forsaken' are the drumbeat announcing the arrival of a band wanting and needing to demonstrate that they are an extreme metal force to be reckoned with.
The atonality of the playing is counter-balanced with further incorporation of more classic metal progressions and melodies is further enhanced throughout as exemplified on 'Under the Flesh and Into The Soul' opening riffs and pacey passages.
Pace is an issue in terms of album's arrangement many bands struggle with, but Goatwhore pull it off magnificently halfway through with the slow menace of 'Where The Sun Is Silent' - true atmospheric metal...
Sammy Duet's workouts are impressive throughout, often displaying more deft touches, while L.Ben Falgoust's vocals have refreshing variety.
It is also an album that touches on many themes, from the Luciferean metaphor on the title track for the struggles to achieve success through to the imminent human self-destruction on 'Mankind Will Have No Mercy'.

'Chaos Arcane' rage and pace is sheer delight, apparently based on an HP Lovecraft story, reeks of all humanity's deep fears and Duet pummels along with Simmons and Harvey propelling the track along at breakneck speed, punctuating a slowed down section with finely balanced fills an runs.

This standout track showcases the evolution of Goatwhore - their ability to blend black metal, thrash, elements of death and tradition metal is now more clearly to be seen. Don't, however, think of this as some sort of crossover.

Instead regard this as a band recording an album not afraid to show off their influences without any slavish doffs of the cap, but producing their own vision.

And, it is a darkly wondrous vision.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Vengeful Ascension is out now on Metal Blade

LIVE REVIEW: Alter Bridge deliver elegant power in Belfast

ALTER Bridge's stock has never been so high, with their last release 'The Last Hero' solidifying an already high estimation. Yet, the live arena seems, on the evidence of the show in Belfast's Ulster Hall on June 21st this is where they excel.

But on the longest day of the year it felt like an eternity, rather than 30 minutes, listening to the openers Red Sun Rising.

There is nothing wrong with their music, it has melody and AOR hooks aplenty, but doesn't seem to fit well in a sweaty venue. At times it is almost insipid and seems almost aimed at American soft rock radio stations.

The evidence was clear by the amount of people populating the bar and smoking areas at the end of their set. Having said that the couple of dozens who did remain at the front were seeming to enjoy the set and the apparent congeniality of the band.

There was nothing insipid or middle of the road about Alter Bridge's arrival on stage - full of intent, striding tall but never appearing arrogant and musically kicking out the proverbial jams.

Shit - three of these guys were in Creed! How did they get so good? No need to wonder, because after the rampant opener 'Come To Life' the iconic hall's walls were reverberating with roars of approbation.

With 'Writing on the Wall' from last year's release the acclaim from the audience was a wave of energy reverberating from each corner and the packed front.

Feeding off that the band seemingly wanted to push the whole affair up to another lever. Kennedy was beaming, Tremonti was throwing all the shapes and the entire unit was gelled tight.

In lesser hands the lead work of Tremonti could seem extravagant to the extreme, but every lick and run is measured to match the tone and sentiment of the track, especially on 'Blackbird' and 'Open Your Eyes'.

Kennedy is commanding and the between song banter doesn't seem forced, even if like every major touring band it is largely the same spiel each night.

What is notable is that the relatively unsung heroes of Marshall and Phillips are such a mighty force. It is they that maintain the momentum throughout the muscle behind the melodies, the power for the axe trickery.

By the time the regular set ended with 'Metalingus' the audience were exhausted and ecstatic after witnessing a band that delivered a set worthy of arenas.

The trio of tracks for the encore was measured to maul avid fans with delight. 'Fortress' from the album of the same name, 'Show Me A Leader' from 'The Last Hero' and 'Rise' from 'Blackbird' encapsulated what this set was about - a band that know how to balance the new and old, treat the fans to what they want and more.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
THE Limelight has had quite a few gigs in the last few weeks and so far all of them great, and Clutch took that high level up several notches on Wednesday, June 14th.
First to grace the stage was Duelists with their brand of hard rock that touched on metal at times. They played with intensity that few bands have.
All played extremely well and had everyone in a good mood. This was a good start to the night. The only problem was that at times vocals were a bit weak. Whether this was as a result of the air, atmosphere or other factors didn’t detract from a good set. The whole band where impressive and played well.
Soon after the mighty Clutch came onto the stage and set Belfast alight.
They had one hell of a set - few bands can rival them.
One of the best performances seen in a long time.
They started off with ‘Crucial Velocity’ which was incredible and a great way to start the set off.
They then went onto play crowd favorites like ‘Firebirds’ and ‘Sucker for the Witch’.
The whole night was one to be remembered. The whole band was tight and they continued with the same fire they had coming onto the stage until the end. A great feat for any band!
They finished off with ‘X-ray Vision’ which was the best song of the night and signaled the end of the night topping off what was a great evening by all accounts.
Every time Clutch play here they sell out the Llimelight and you can see why, the show live is incredible and not like any other.
You can't get much better than this. There is no better way to spend a late Wednesday night with some great music from the mighty Clutch.
Review by Zakk Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Arcade Fire Takes Belsonic To Another Level

Arcade Fire kicked Belsonic 2017 off with a bang on Tuesday 13th of June in the new venue Ormeau Park. Fans have been waiting for 15 years for the band to come to Belfast but I think everyone would agree it was worth the wait!

Special guests The Kooks got things started playing a mix of old and new tracks. Their most popular songs got the biggest reception with the crowd singing and dancing along to Oola, She moves in her own way, Naïve and Bad Habit. A highlight for me was a solo rendition to See me now on the piano.

I saw Arcade Fire three years ago in Dublin but Tuesday night’s show was in another league. With a new album on its way in July they opened the show with its title track and new single Everything Now. Along with a few other new tracks the set included all the old festival favourites from their back catalogue. Tracks from the 2013 album Reflektor were crowd favourites including Afterlife and Here comes the night time.

Never ones to shy away from the political, Arcade Fire played their anti-Trump track I Give You Power. Win Butler doesn’t say much during their performances but he couldn’t resist commenting on this track, introducing it by claiming he was too "Harsh on Bush" in the past. This was met with rapturous applause and laughs from the crowd and added to the great atmosphere in Ormeau Park.

The set list was eclectic, just like the band’s music. Reflektor was like a mini-rave while Sprawl II showcased Regine Chassagne’s amazing voice. As expected the crowd went wild for The Suburbs, No Cars Go, We Used to Wait and of course Rebellion (lies). There are too many other highlights to mention, each track seeming to better the previous one. The nine-piece band was on top form with instruments ranging from guitars and synthesisers to fiddles and saxophones; I even heard a cowbell at one point! They are well known for their impressive set designs and lighting and they didn’t disappoint in Belfast. They played for two hours but left the crowd wanting more. On leaving the stage they promised they wouldn’t wait as long as 15 years to come and I really hope they keep that promise as I would go back and see them again tonight.

Ahmed Al Sarraf

LIVE REVIEW: Wednesday 13's all too brief excellence with the SLUTS

COME festival season bands want to fill up as many dates as they can around their shows. Already this week Airbourne and Devilskin played Belfast ahead of their Download slots, and next week Clutch and The Devin Townsend Project will follow their slots with shows.

With that in mind Wednesday 13 appeared on stage at Limelight2 the day before (9th June) appearing on the Dogtooth Stage at Download. And, despite the excellence on display it was very much tailored in length for a festival slot not a headline show. All too brief...

Belfast's own schlock horror act So Long Until The Séance (SLUTS) were on stage not long after doors, fresh from opening for Wednesday 13 the night before in Dublin.

That show and their run in the Metal2TheMasses showdowns has honed an already fine act into a solid, improving band. Unlike the fate of many a support across the world they were afforded excellent sound separation, and managed to perform in the cramped space in front of W13's shrouded drum kit.

Songs such as 'Bride of Frankenstein' and 'Burn the Witch' are already becoming favourites with elements of the Belfast audience. While there are superficial similarities with Wednesday 13 (make-up, and themes) they have their own take on the genre -although a few more Belfast references might darken the tone... Mike was in great form at the front, and despite sounding a little strained halfway through he recovered well and finished, like the whole band on a high.

Wednesday 13's reputation is firmly established. Joseph Poole has many guises and more side-projects and previous incarnations than most people could manage in three lives. He also has as many costume changes than Cher in the show.

But that does not diminish the quality he delivers - it is appropriate window dressing for the lyrical themes, a little like a Hammer Horror film writ large via metal.

Make, no mistake, while many reference works like 'I Walked With A Zombie' and Morgue Than Words' this was a metal show. Such almost pop punk were discarded.

Instead this was a more muscular outing with guitars buzzing, drums and bass pounding.

Despite the confines of the Limelight2 stage the band use it well, with risers put to good effect to project themselves out there. While such an obvious use works in a festival setting in a more confined environment it serves to make the show, and the band member, larger than life.

This tour for Wednesday 13 is on the back of the release a few short days ago of 'Condolences', the title track of which was one of the highlights of the show, Wednesday appearing, bible in hand, like a zombie preacher, top hat and dark glasses as he intoned "Sorry for your loss".

The macabre lyrics, pleas to "Kill Me" were matched by every iteration of the main man's stage attire. From butcher's smock to a face on the back of the head, through to devil's horns it proved that sometimes the effort more than adds to the music.

Amongst the many highlights 'Keep Watching The Skies' and 'Scream Baby Scream' stood out.

When they disappeared off stage briefly shortly after 9:10 there was an expectation that they would appear for a number of other encore tracks....

With single fingers in the air for 'I Love to say Fuck' there was a clear sense of disappointment amongst many. It was clear that was that. While Wednesday 13 did not, in any way, disappoint and was 'value-for-money' one or two added tracks would have sated a fan base that has waited for more than a decade for his return.

That aside - he is, with his band, providers of schlock horror excellence. 

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
The Dillinger Escape Plan erupt in Belfast
IT may have been the beginning of their last tour but on June 8th Belfast’s Limelight erupted with the sounds of The Dillinger Escape Plan. They did not disappoint.
However, the first person on the stage was Trenchurian…
Which while good for what it was, did not fit the bill - a DJ!
It didn't suit the music for the night and was a clear disappointment.
But this was the only poor part of the night seeing as nearly everyone was sitting there bopping about, chatting and not engaged with the DJ set. Dillinger Escape Plan do have a tendency to be contrary.
The night then proceeded to explode into action as Dillinger Escape Plan came onto the stage and immediately got to work. And, they managed to keep the same intensity throughout the night. It was complex and aggressive just what you need on a Thursday night
The room opened and a pit ensued, as expected, the crowd where all in full flow by the end of the first song.
The energy of Dillinger couldn't have been any more powerful. Puciato has said that this is the “thematic conclusion of our band”, but throughout the audience at the front was baying for more.
They where hopping on top of the amps jumping about the stage and stage diving the whole show yet they never a missed beat throughout.
Quiet an achievement for those witnessing the complexity of their music first hand. It was some show they put on. I'm not sure how the Limelight survived.
Overall, it was a great night with Weinman and Antreassin’s guitar inter-plays mesmerizing those not moshing.
Dillinger Escape plan played a phenomenal set and made the night one never to forget. There are very few bands like them and even less who come close to even being as energetic as them let alone as talented as them. Sadly this is their last tour for the meantime.
However, what a way to say goodbye!
‘Dissociation’ may be the last of their recorded legacy, but one suspects that the core of the band may return in some shape or form. Given the mixed musical styles – many melded throughout the evening – the members have much more to offer.
Review by Zakk Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Airbourne and Devilskin rip it up in full-on party mode

YOU pretty much know what to expect when Airbourne play - a raucous beer-fuelled party with riffs a plenty and massive choruses and fists pumping the air throughout the venue. It's their schtick, but even the hardened touring band can be challenged.

Openers Devilskin travelled all the way from Hamilton, New Zealand for this Limelight1 show on Wednesday, 7th June. There was no sign of jet lag when they took to the stage - and a palpable buzz of excitement.

We all know the score for support bands, with the majority of the audience awaiting the headliners supping the adjacent bar. Definitely not the case for Devilskin.

Combining a hard rocking edge with meticulous metal this was a rock Haka - in your face, a challenge delivered with passion and panache. Jennie may be the focus, her voice and confidence, hitting like a lemon wrapped around a brick.

However, it is the entire band that fizzlers with energy, a unit that draws attention. Tony (Nail) has a guitar growls with menace, while the father/son rhythm section of Paul and Nic lay down a monstrous powerhouse demonstration of metal.

They promise to return soon - they will be afforded a warm welcome.

For Devilskin this was a warm-up for Download, as it was for Airbourne. An opportunity to play in Belfast (and Dublin) to knock the set into shape. Not that Airbourne need much of their set and playing shaping up. They are now almost veterans.

Having been faithful to Belfast since their earliest tours in Europe the four-piece are familiar to the audience. Also, having been here so many times the songs - even the newer ones such as the title track of 'Breakin' Outta Hell', 'Rivalry' and album closer 'It's All for Rock n Roll'.

Of course Joel is a bundle of energy as always, on and off-stage tomfoolery with walkabouts, idiocy with cans etc etc. All very entertaining whether you have seen it before or not. Airbourne understand that live it is a stage show as well as guitar laden rifftastic fun.

All would be for nowt if the music wasn't strong enough. Crowd pleasers such as 'Too Much...', 'No Way But The Hard Way', 'Cheap Wine' and 'Girls In Black' raise the roof, but the encore packs a solid one-two punch in the shape of 'Live It Up' and 'Runnin' Wild'.

A tight, compact set is slightly shorter than some previous shows by the Aussie rockers with a total of 12 songs aired, this was clearly the set they anticipate forming the largest part of their Download show. 

It was also the Belfast début of Harri Harrison, after David Rhoads left the band to work in the family business. Harrison looks comfortable on rhythm guitar and moves forward to the mics with Justin in synchronicity for the choruses.

This was, as always an accomplished performance from Airbourne, pleasing the beer-fuelled audience, but it was also a night to experience the latest Antipodean challenge. Did Devilskin blow Airbourne off the stage? Not quite, but damn close.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

ALBUM REVIEW: Alestorm ask do you drink and have you been fucked by a hammer on No Grave But The Sea

ALESTORM have been seen as a joke for many a year by the po-faced intelligentsia who hold their noses at the term Pirate Metal - but on their new album 'No Grave But The Sea' the pirates deliver their answer - "Fuck You All" on the foul tongued track 'Fuck Your With An Anchor

This is the crew at their best irreverent best, songs about drinking, enjoying life on the high seas with nary a care for the landlubbers and scurvy dogs who have missed the fact that we are allowed to have fun.

'Of course, you're not going to get anything revolutionary here -  Alestorm are not about to release a prog-themes album with 20-minute songs or take a turn to death metal. 
However, while the lyrical themes are familiar, there is a slight evolution from 'Sunset Of A Golden Age'. Some tracks, such as the self-titled 'Alestorm' opening with a tough riff and Bowes pushing his already gruff voice even further.

What makes Alestorm 'great' is not the ribaldry and drunkenness - that's a given -rather the music behind each track. They have taken the 'symphonic folk metal' trope and given it is swift kick up the arse.

Sure, on 'Fucked With An Anchor' it's straightforward crowd pleasing stuff, but on every other song here on 'No Grave But The Sea' there is an understanding of what they need to do in terms of composition and arrangement: evident on the likes of 'Bar In Imbiss' and 'Man The Pumps'.

In many ways this album is also a step forward from some of the elements of 'Sunset': of course we have tracks that audiences will learn to love live, such as the first single 'Mexico', but with the likes of ;Man The Pumps' the narrative has a subtle link to a shanty tune that could have been from the 17th Century.

This Alestorm at their best, playing comedy with a straight face, the melodrama meshing into daft tunes, but never stupid.

But to return to the questions raised over the pirate metal tag -perhaps 'No Grave But The Sea answers those issues - throughout the sense is that they are self-aware of te tags and sneering; on 'Treasure Island' the romp and the words are even more of a fuck you than 'Fuck You With  An Anchor' - it's returning any sneers with a curled lipped grin, a guitar solo and rampant keyboards.

Declare your allegiance with the good ship Alestorm, grab that bottle of rum and learn all the words from 'No Grave But The Sea' and pillage in the quest for wenches and beer.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Enter Shikari &Crossfaith Live review from Limelight 1 Belfast.


For many, heavy metal equals vocalist, guitar, bass and drums. No more. No less. It's a stubborn mentality that restricts them from enjoying a plethora of modern acts, two of which hit Belfast's Limelight 1 this evening. 

When Crossfaith take to the stage, they open their set with a hard 4/4 electronic kick that wouldn't be out of place in any trance club. And, the crowd kick off instantly. There's dancing, there's bouncing and there's headbanging. Within moments, Kenta asks for a circle pit, and he doesn't have to ask twice. He asks, he gets. 

Too many support acts are greeted with polite head bobbing and a spattering of fans on the barrier. This is not that kind of gig. This is lit. Seriously, this show is fuckin' LIT!!!

Crossfaith rattle on with a set that can only be described as metalcore with a massive dose of trance synths, techno acid lines and the unmistakable wub-wub-wub sounds of dubstep. 

Terufumi occasionally steps away from drum machines and synths to add a second layer of vocals, while occasionally swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. Bass player, Hiroki is also armed with a bottle of Jameson. This is clearly a band that love their drink (further evidenced by their song "Jagerbomb").

At one stage, the band disappear off stage with only the vocalist and "DJ" returning, and break into... a remix of Human Resource's Dominator, a rave track from 1991. There couldn't be more than a hand full of people in this room familiar with the original, but it gets the crowd moving none the less. But not as much as the following track, a faithful cover of The Prodigy's Omen, a song that gets the "everyone get get down and bounce up again when the song kicks in" treatment. 

A few more tracks wrap up the set, during which we get two walls of death in the pit. And finally Crossfaith leave the stage, leaving a Limelight crowd soaked in sweat. I don't doubt for a minute that they'll be back at some stage as a headline act. They've earned it. 

Enter Shikari have promoted this gig as a "warm up show" for their Slam Dunk festival headline slots, and for some that's disappointing. We know in advance that we're getting a stripped down show. No quadraphonic sound, no screens, no elaborate light show. The flip side is, few are likely to witness Enter Shikari in a venue the size of the Limelight now. They've successfully sold out arenas in the mainland UK and are tipped to be a future headliner at Download festival. So a smaller intimate show is welcome. And, for many, the music is the main attraction anyway. 

As the stage techs start shifting kit, the crowd are clearly hyped for the main act. The well known lyrics "and still we will be here, standing like statues" is chanted by the crowd. Many fans hold their hands in the air, using their fingers to form the band's iconic triangular logo. 

The lights drop and an almighty rumble of bass is unleashed from the speakers. And to celebrate ten years of Take To The Skies, Enter Shikari burst into that album. From the self titled Enter Shikari, the anthemic Mothership, through Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour and into Labyrinth...

Despite the anniversary of the afore mentioned album, Enter Shikari seem self aware enough to realise that playing the album "in its entirety", as per tradition, is not the best route. Not all albums are strong enough to sustain a full live outing (I'm looking at you Fear Factory). And so it's at this stage that we deviate from Take To The Skies. 

A hat-trick of Last Garrison, Sorry You're Not A Winner and Juggernaut has this old codger (relatively speaking) pushing to the front of the crowd to get down with the kids (though my knees are paying the price this morning). 

Another crowd favourite, Anaesthetist, keeps the pit busy, not that it's relented since the start of the show. A mish-mash of dancing, push-pitting and the odd two-stepper keeps the atmosphere buzzing. 

As Rou asks the crowd "Is everyone enjoying the nostalgia?" we return to Take To The Skies with Return To Energiser, a track that has the whole room singing in unison at the top of their lungs, followed by Jonny Sniper. 

If you know Enter Shikari, you'll have known that we weren't getting through the night without mention of the recent atrocity at Manchester Arena. "If they, whoever they are, want to start a war with live music, they will always lose". Rou delivers a touching speech. Some of the crowd listen attentively while others break into a "Man-chest-er!!!" chant. A cover of Oasis's Half The World Away is played, followed by their own Adieu, during which the crowd all hunker down. More than a few tears are wiped from cheeks. 

Exit left, and the lights drop. The chants begin, but we don't have to wait long for the inevitable encore. 

As Enter Shikari return to the stage, they break into Redshift, a song that I personally find a bit too devoid of their trademark sound, but OK Time For Plan B makes up for it. They finish with The Appeal And The Mindshift, an absolute rager that you just can't not dance to. 

Gig ends… 

I confess I'd a sneaky peak at Dublin's setlist before the gig, and on paper it looked a bit flat. While there's a lot of love for Take To The Skies, I always felt that it was their second album, Common Dreads, where they really nailed their groundbreaking sound. However, despite skipping a bunch of my favourite tracks, Enter Shikari delivered in spades. Crossfaith were the perfect support act. And the crowd added almost as much to the show as the bands did. A fantastic night of modern metal left me drenched in sweat with a massive smile on my face. 9/10

Now can someone book these guys for a full Belfast gig? Stage show et al. I'd suggest Ulster Hall. Thanks. 

Review by Wayne Donaldson

Photos by Darren Mcveigh

Selene The Ravages of Time Album Review.
For a Symphonic Metal band to work properly it needs several key elements – a vocalist with a controlled voice that moves seamlessly through it’s range, guitarists (or in this case one) with the ability to play melodic hooks allied with heavy power riffs and impressive soloing, a rhythm section powerful enough to back everything up and a few bits of studio wizardry to add orchestration and various other bits and bobs to create the atmosphere normally associated with this style of music.
If that’s your thing then look no further than Northern Irelands’ very own Selene and their new album “The Ravages of Time”. With lead vocalist Shonagh Lyons you get the operatic soprano voice (think Tarja, ex Nightwish) which is perfect for this genre. Guitarist , keyboardist, main song writer and producer of studio add-ons John Connor is a musician of outstanding ability and the powerhouse rhythm section of Thomas Alford (bass) and Michael Bugajski (drums) add the depth to the overall sound. There’s also a ‘surprise’ guest, but more of that later.
Connor had stated that this album would be more ambitious than their debut “The Forgotten” and more of a return to their power metal roots and that is evident right from opening track ‘New Era’, a thumping power metal song, fast paced with a heavy riff throughout and a solo that alternates between out and out shredding to controlled menace.
‘The Great Heart’ continues in the same vein with a dramatic and haunting start before a more traditional hard rock riff takes over mid way through which is just to give us a breather before Connors rampant guitar work kicks in again. Lyons’ vocals work perfectly alongside the choir effect.
Third song ‘Ashes’ has another Heavy Rock style riff to start before it morphs into a song with tempo and mood changes throughout which really has that power metal feel to it. This was the first single released from the album on you tube and should give you a good idea what to expect from the rest of the album.
‘Calm Before the Storm’ has a steady riff to start with, Lyons angelic voice shining over a bass line before the whole band fully kick in. Lyrically it’s quite dark in nature, which is a theme on a number of the songs It has a great riff with subtle keyboards and a nicely controlled solo.
Now for the “surprise” guest. Not much of a surprise at the time of writing as ‘Burning Bridges’ featuring Maverick chanter David Balfour has been released as their second single. A fast paced power metal number where Connor wrings the neck of his fret board. The duet between Lyons and Balfour is very well done with Lyons singing in a slightly lower register and Balfour giving it his full attention. The harmonies are superb on this and it quickly becomes a highlight of the album.
Next up is ‘If Tomorrow Never came’. A heavy rocker of a tune with a nice rhythm section it gives Lyons a chance to showcase her range and control, especially at the higher end of the register which is very impressive.
Track seven is ‘Our Regrets’. Using a vocoder (had to ask the band about that) at the start and at various sections during the song Lyons’ voice is given a rough menace to it which only serves to enhance the darker nature of the lyrics. The bass and drums drive the song along before Connor unleashes another frenzied solo, bending the strings to breaking point.
‘Kingdom’ is fast paced from start to finish. It’s a power metal song that doesn’t let up at any time with Lyons’ vocals, the use of a haunting choir in the background and what sounds like a Harpsichord over the main guitar line giving the song the full Symphonic Metal treatment.
Next song ‘Wonderland’ is a straight forward rocker to start with a light keyboard and dreamy vocal which then eases back on the tempo without ever feeling out of place with the rest of the album. Once again Connor excels on his solo.
This leads nicely into the ballad ‘This Life’. Featuring just piano, orchestration and Lyons’ breathtaking vocal delivery it’s a very haunting song. With a softer and more emotional delivery you can actually hear Lyons controlling her breathing and with the choir effect at the end it’s very reminiscent of something Nightwish would do.
So far all the songs on the album are between 3.1/2 and 5 minutes but final song ‘The End Of Time, weighs in at nearly 11 minutes and is a full blown Symphonic Metal masterpiece in which the band get to flex their collective creative muscles. With haunting vocals at times it drifts seamlessly between tempos. It is a complicated and beautifully composed piece of music wonderfully delivered. It’s almost a metal opera in its own right and a brilliant way to finish the album.
There’s no doubt Selene are a growing force both in the studio and in their live performances which, if you’ve seen them are becoming more confident in terms of stage craft. Their composition of songs is intelligent and at times mesmerising and draws the listener into the stories they are trying to tell. If they could break into the European market where this genre is more popular there’s no knowing how far they could go.
Move over Nightwish, you may have some competition.
Reviewed by Andy Gillen

LIVE REVIEW: Zlatanera showcase new video in a stormy four band battering in Belfast

HAND sanitizer. Yes, hand sanitizer, what every self-respecting festival bound metaller needs to keep their paws clean after a visit to the stench filled toilets where even the demons from the ninth circle of hell hold their noses lest the waft knock them out.

On the other hand we have the Zlatanera's tune 'Idle Hand Satanizer'. What better piece of merch for the Belfast five-piece to have is their own little bottle of Idle Hand Satanizer to keep your paws nice and spruce.

It was an event to launch the Zlat boys new video 'Bad Case of the Devil' - a premier for the lucky present before it goes on to general release later on this week, and despite the many other gigs on Saturday (May 20th) there was a healthy crowd for this Distortion Project in Limelight2.

Also, before Satan entered the house there was the matter of his demonic undercard...all with their own reasons to celebrate.

Openers Erosion have recently released their début ep, a strong prog influenced outing with a nice edge (review to follow). The last outing in LL2 was not their highwater mark, but on Saturday this was a more assured performance. There was a meatiness that was dissipated on their previous outing.

Indeed, it was clear this was one of their best shows to date with Mark's voice coming through clear. The only thing to nitpick about is that with Mark behind the kit the three at the front need to be a little more mobile.

Blackened death metal crew Shrouded are on the crest of a wave after securing a slot at Bloodstock by winning the Northern Ireland Metal2TheMasses final. With that accolade and preparations underway to storm the New Blood stage they could have been forgiven if they'd eased back a little.

Not a bit, this was a confident, assured face melting performance. The onstage dynamics aurally and visually were stunning and their 30-minute slot seemed to fly by in seconds as they delivered heaviness and melody in equal parts.

Baleful Creed are about to unleash their latest album 'Seismic Shifter' on an unsuspecting world, a slab of groove and NOLA to move tectonic plates. They managed to translate the recorded heft to the Limelight stage with ease.

Their growth as an act over the past year is evident with every chord and every solo. An extra dab of stagecraft and they will be an even more potent force, but for now they shine like polished steel.

The premier of 'Bad Case of the Devil' brought laughs and 'spot the extras' games. For those not there you are in for a treat when it is released.

But Zlatanera were first and foremost a live act that has develop to cover all aspects of the business - recording, playing, merch all delivered with a glint in the eye.

At their core is a wall of honed music that could slice the horns off a goat. The poise on stage is no pose, but panache and power in equal measure.

Sure it would be easy to wax lyrical about the riffs, the powerful vocals, the impressive performance of relatively new drummer Aran, or Andy's voice, but this is a band were the sum of the parts comes together to massively exceed what could be expected.

We've all become familiar with the 'Uppa Satans' trio of tracks, but what Zlatanera have is a collection of metal that is a molten mass that insinuates itself into your ears, your black heart and your soul.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
ALBUM REVIEW: Inglorious avoid the dreaded second album with a stormer on II 
INGLORIOUS were formed a mere three years ago, in 2014, when Nathan James having had a spell as singer for The Trans-Siberian orchestra and Uli Jon Roth decided to look for like minded musicians to play old school Hard Rock from the era of early Whitesnake, Deep Purple to name a couple and produce music that paid homage to that era.
This brought about the critically acclaimed debut album in 2016 and a little over a year later, after increased popularity and festival spots such as Ramblin’ Man Fair, they are about to release the follow up “Inglorious II” on May 12th, but has the dreaded second album syndrome effected them? 
With the band recording in an old fashioned way of being in the same room together with as James puts it “with no click tracks, auto tune or overdubs” just feeding off each other and with the vibe created the answer is a resounding no. 
In fact “II” if anything is more polished, better written and showing the confidence of a band happy in their own skins and what they are trying to do. 
The subdued opening to first track ‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’ is a bit of a con for the listener as it explodes into a riff laden fast tempo rocker with strong vocals, bass and drums that features the first of many nice solos by Andreas Eriksson. The slow fade out to the song is just a tease into the unashamed, in your face ‘Taking The Blame’. Another fast paced song full of classic riffs, dynamic vocals, rhythm section with another great solo. 
James’ love of all things Coverdale comes to the fore on ‘Tell me Why’. The influences, especially in the vocals, are evident but rather than be an imitation it’s more an acclamation to that era, bringing it back to life yet they manage to put their own stamp and sound on it. 
‘Read All About It’ has a real groove to it with a big bass and drum sound from Parkinson and Beaver. It drips with energy and has that ‘live’ feel to it that the band wanted to create with a great overlaid lead and rhythm guitar section driving it on. 
The slower paced, bluesy ‘Change is Coming’ eases the listener in before becoming a heavier sounding power ballad with simple but effective back up vocals. A nice alternating guitar line lifts it above your normal ballad. 
‘Making Me Pay’ is another slower tempo song and again is reminiscent of the early Moody/Marsden era Whitesnake and could easily have been on any of their earlier albums. James also gives his vocal chords a bit of DC flexing near the end....good song. 
In stark contrast ‘Hell or High Water’ has a darker start to it before James shows off his diversity with a dramatic vocal delivery. This is the heaviest track on the album that could fit in sound somewhere between Deep Purple and Iron Maiden in terms of the riffs and subtle tempo changes. It probably leans more towards Purple but there is definitely a bit of Maiden in there, especially in the bridge between the verses and chorus, at least to these old ears! 
‘No Good For You’ starts with a staccato style riff and is another faced paced song but with an underlying melody throughout and more superb guitar runs. 
Next up is ‘I Got a Feeling’ which is another bluesy track with a lot of groove and swagger to it with James’ soulful vocals and Eriksson’s solo being the highlights of the song. 
‘Black Magic’ follows the same formula as before, slow intro combination of drum, bass, guitar and a bit of piano turns it into a song of varying change ups. It’s a real throw back to the 70’s style rock song, fade out included. 
Penultimate song ‘Faraway’ slows things down: a ballad with a nice acoustic beginning and a lighter delivery from James to start which is full of emotion, before building into a full on electric old school classic rock song with the vocals becoming grittier and almost Dio-esque in nature. 
The album finishes with ‘High Class Woman” and closes the album as it began with a rip snorter of a tune that focuses on the bands main selling points, James’ souring vocals, including a few Coverdale screams, and the riff attack of Eriksson with Wil Taylors rhythm guitar lending its weight to produce a song that will have you reaching for the replay button (or stylus if you’re on vinyl) 
Overall this is an outstanding follow up album and shows that the acclaim the band receives is well deserved. While this release harkens back to the roots many of us enjoy it is still very much an album of 2017, and will stand the test of time. Let’s hope they continue to produce music of this quality in the studio and on stage for many years to come. 
Review by Andy Gillen
LIVE REVIEW: Second Sem-Final of Metal2TheMasses amps the quality to 11 
THE standard of the bands in both semi-finals were a tribute to the quality and diverse nature of Northern Ireland's metal acts, and Friday's (May 5th) second and last semi-final was no different in a (cue the cliché) hotly contested evening of top notch sounds.
Like the meme going round this was Revenge of the Fifth as Belfast's Voodoo reverberated with riffs.
As always the running order was drawn at random, leaving Oracle to open proceedings with a ferocious, aggressive groove metal attack. Jason manically moved around the stage when not clutching the mic as if his life depended on it.
The inter-play between the guitars was balanced, allowing sufficient breath for the rhythms to come to the fore. While they were good in the heats they elevated their performance to great in a set that showcased why many are excited ahead of their forthcoming début album.
Although shorn of their normal corpse paint there was no sense that Neamhni were going to lessen their performance levels. As soon as the intro tape ended they unleashed a mighty melodic blackened maelstrom of metal. At times the sound was a little patchy and muddy, but they soldiered on through.
And that sense of overcoming anything thrown at them was clear as Alessandro towered over and dominated the ranks of headbangers down the front. They are a band on the rise, without pretensions or poses - just laying down death for all in their path.
They may bill themselves as sludge/doom but that underestimates the dynamic of Elder Druid. They have the sensibility not to be monochromatic in the pace of their set, with fluidity not so much a functional thing but an essential part of what they do within songs and the arrangement of the tracks themselves.
As they reach out to shows outside Northern Ireland they are reaching a maturity in their music and stagecraft with some mighty playing.
Muscular music is what Beyond the Beneath do, so muscular that Badger broke the bass was a technical glitch that threw the band off their stride, and compared to their magnificent show in the heats they seemed a little off their pace.
However, what was clear is that Beyond the Beneath have heft and heaviness that is apparent through all of their songs. They tread the treacherous borderlands between heavy rock and metal with sure-footed ease, creating songs that will develop into full-flown erosion of the senses.
Bakken's thrash metal leanings are proudly displayed in all their recorded and live material, harkening back to the days when the 'Big Four' dominated the pages and airwaves. With Celtic twists to the sound they complete the mélange of their sounds with ease.
The new(ish) line-up gives the Voodoo some of the best tracks they have in their allotted 30 minutes, with a few dashes of power metal thrown in by Simon et al to complete an evening of metal excellence.
As the quantity of beer imbibed and anxious bands and fans awaiting the result Mr Loveday once again resorted to his trusted abacus and solar powered calculator.
Going through to the final on Friday May 12th are: Neamhni, Oracle and Elder Druid.
And it's at this point the local Judges hang-up their lawgivers as Chief Judge and dispenser of final justice Mr Simon Hall will adjudicate. Given he will be also running a raffle for a weekend camping at Bloodstock it's the perfect opportunity to go see top notch metal! The winning band will be accorded the honour of a slot on the New Blood Stage
Review by Jonathan Traynor

LIVE REVIEW: Massive party night at the Diamond with Gasoline Outlaws and Massive Wagons

PACKED Diamond Rock Club? Check. Enough trade over the bar to bring a glint of joy to brewery owners' eyes? Check. Band t-shirts worn loud and proud? Check. Two bands pumping out no fucking about hard ass rock 'n' roll? Check.

All systems were go on Saturday (April 22nd) at the Diamond Rock club for the return of Massive Wagons, with local heroes Gasoline Outlaws set to pour fuel on to the fire of rock in our hearts.

Indeed the Outlaws were making their own return to the live circuit, with new tracks and obvious serious rehearsal time to sound so tight.

Their first album gives them a wealth of different tones in the songs to explore: opening with the rabble rousing declaration of 'Nothing On Me' there is clearly a sense of a band ready to raise their personal bar higher; to attain the next level of success.

New songs 'Hard Times' and 'Breathe Again' fit flawlessly into their set, earning an equally warm reception alongside established fan favourites such as 'Shrouded Wolves', 'Heart and Soul' and, of 
course their anthemic trademark 'Outlaws'

No Rules, No Laws, No Regrets from the Diamond audience.

Massive Wagons have been a whirlwind of energy on stage and off, capitalising on the success of their most recent released album 'Welcome To The World'.

While they have a deepening back catalogue, it is those tracks that stand-out the most. That's not to demean any of their solid other songs - rather a reflection of songs that since their release just over 12 months ago have become ingrained in the collective fan consciousness.

Baz is always gives the appearance of a demented ringmaster, energy spilling from the stage to infect the audience with the likes of the outrageously catchy 'Tokyo', the heft of 'Nails' and the wonderful 'Ratio'.

No the "craic" wasn't just good - it was mighty and great.

What sets Massive Wagons apart from many of their ilk is that there is no pretence, no attitude, whether it's mingling with attendees or delivering high octane rock and a healthy banter.
They also have many a trick up their sleeves and know that while those who coughed up the cash to see the band also are there for a good time.

Pulling 'Teenage Kicks' from the locker gives all of a certain age a blast - "Teenage dreams are hard to beat" even if those years are long past.

The closing duo of 'Fight The System' and 'Highway To Hell' showcase the marriage and connection of why we got into rock music - to revel in the so-called classics and to see bands at their peak.

An honourable mention must also go to 'Back To The Stack' - this single is out now: a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt of the Quo, with all proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Not only a great thought, but a track that sits well in the set.

What Gasoline Outlaws and Massive Wagons do on stage is more than just provide entertainment: they give the audience a life affirming sense that despite personal woes, work, the global crises rock will never die.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Lizzie Torbitt

Wheatus : A flashback to our youth Last night     I had the opportunity to re-live my youth as Wheatus played the Limelight in Belfast. Wheatus, a pop rock band most well known for their hit Teenage Dirt Bag entertained a packed out Limelight with a mix of new songs and old favourites. They hit the big time around the same time as Sum 41 and Weezer and follow a similar style. The crowd were eager to see Wheatus but most were pleasantly surprised by the support act- Michael; an electronic and experimental music group. In fact they are quite the discovery and one to watch for the future. Composed of three members including Mathew Milligan (the guitarist from Wheatus) they perfectly showcased their talents, even while using an ipad as their mix table. Wheatus took the stage to rapturous applause and didn’t disappoint the crowd. Entertaining and amusing, stage presence is not lacking with this group. They played a good variety of new and older songs but the solos by Brendan B Brown were a highlight for me. They brought a relaxed atmosphere to the limelight and didn’t appear to be playing to set playlist. They encouraged the crowd to shout out their requests (of course Teenage Dirtbag was requested more than once!) but fans were eager to hear songs from all seven of their albums including Holiday, Sunshine and Lullaby. It was obvious that a large percentage of the crowd came for one song- Teenage Dirtbag. The great thing about Wheatus is they didn’t shy away from playing their most famous song; they embraced it. The crowd finally got what they had been waiting for at the end of the set and Wheatus didn’t disappoint. They had the crowd jumping and singing along and I am sure I wasn’t the only one picturing the famous music video for the track! They even performed a remixed version during their encore before saying goodnight with a final solo from Brown. If you haven't seen Wheatus live I would recommend it. I was pleasantly surprised by their depth and back catalogue- they are much more than Teenage Dirtbags! Ahmed Al Sarraf

As anyone either in a band or putting on a gig will tell you, it's never fucking easy. Between unforeseen circumstances leading to Rabid Bitch Of The North having to pull out, an incident with the drummer from Horrenda being hospitalised in Dublin (get well soon!) and Cursed Sun having arguably the worst luck ever, any promoter wouldn't be blamed for pulling their hair out.
Onwards we march. The dubious honor of opening what remains a stacked bill falls on Indominus, a relatively new death metal band risen from the ashes of Forchristsake. Much tighter and better delivered than their previous outfit, Indominus fill the room with thick, fat slamming death metal that often goes from a Skinless-esque stomp to breakneck blast beats at the drop of a hat.
New track "Antagonist" has some very tasteful clean work thrown in and overall they put on a good show, however they lost significant momentum between songs by taking a bit too long to set up and some uncomfortable stage patter. Enjoyable nonetheless.
Speaking of dubious honors, Scimitar stepped up to replace the Rabid lads and were up next. When you've seen a band play a number of the same songs over the years it's always great to see them evolve.
It's obvious that Scimitar have taken care to elevate their older material to the standard they now play at, be it from new drum lines, extra lead work and a commanding addition of more backing vocals. They play classics and some cuts from the forthcoming album, however as always the pinnacle of the set is the absolutely crushing Innocent X. Scimitar proved once again that they are the premier thrash metal band in Northern Ireland, period.
Quick smoke break and a top up on the old double rum and coke, we go back into the breach for Jenova. You could try to pigeon hole them into any number of subgenres or niches but it's a waste of time as they play what I can only describe as modern extreme metal with cues taken from the likes of At The Gates, Conan and absolutely everywhere in between.
The crowd laps it up and are practically eating from their hands when it's exclaimed that they play "SATANIC FUCKING DEATH METAL" and they eventually close with a blink and you'll miss it cover of a certain grind classic.
Definitely ones to watch out for, and I have it on good authority we'll be seeing them in Belfast again before the year is out.
Disposable made the trip over from Edinburgh and deliver a masterclass in balls out, riff heavy thrash. This weekend marked the first shows for new blood Oliver Wardell on guitar who plays as though he's been with the guys for years. Opener "Scar My Eyes" is a solid 4 minutes of mid paced fury and "Misery" delivers the goods with a vibe not fair off early material from The Haunted both in intensity and vocal delivery.
If you like your thrash heavy, deliberate and energetic then look no further because they deliver all of the above in spades.
Legion Of Wolves take to the stage with a hooded guitar player and vocalist clad in leather armor with a barbed wire wrapped pulpit so needless to say, shit's about to get real. They deliver an absolutely relentless set of heavy old school death metal with nods to Entombed and Bolt Thrower but sounds of Exodus and the like as well. It's a full bore aural assault that never lets up from start to finish and chatter from the crowd after their set would indicate that they'll be welcomed back to Belfast with open arms.
From blackened thrash to modern thrash, the only way to end the night is some straight up party thrash! First things first, Psykosis are here for a good time. Sporting the most energetic guitar player in existence they absolute rip through their set with reckless abandon, much to the pleasure of the now thoroughly inebriated Voodoo crowd.
As always, guitarist Tony Corcoran is like watching a ball of nervous energy and is almost infectious in his obvious enjoyment while the band play a fun but undeniably sharp set, showcasing just why promoters from all over the UK are keen to book them.
And there we have it. With last minute lineup changes this could have been a disaster but all in all was an absolute showcase in extreme music. Much respect to Jonny Gray for both putting on such an ambitious show and for making sure that the night ran without a hitch, let alone playing a set with Scimitar. It's not often you can expect 2 more bands and still get more than your money's worth which really speaks for the calibre of the booking. Here's to Necrofest 3!
Review by Steve Martin
Pictures By Darren McVeigh

ALBUM REVIEW: Dead Daisies capture the energy on Live and Louder

THE problem reviewing live albums when you are “of a certain age” is the temptation to draw comparisons with the classics like UFO’s Strangers In The Night, MSG’s Live at Budokan and Iron Maiden's Live After Death.
A live album has to capture the energy of the crowd and transport you there to see the musicians sweat, smell the pyro and get the buzz you only get at live gigs. When you’ve been lucky enough to see the band playing on the tour during which the album was recorded you have a fair idea what to expect.With the Dead Daisies you have charismatic front man John Corabi, you know, the guy who sang on Motley Crue’s ‘best’ album, steady and original member David Lowry on rhythm guitar, the powerhouse duo of Marco Mendoza (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums) and Dee Snyder’s mate Doug Aldrich on lead guitar, a player who just seems to get better and better, so you know that it’s going to rock and most of all.... be fun! Something that seems to have been replaced by the mundane reality of social media.And 'Live and Louder' is a fun album.
‘Long Way To Go’ kicks off proceedings with a bang. Its AC/DC style riff and thunderous playing of Tichy and Mendoza gives the show a high energy start. Corabi is already in fine fettle on the mic and Aldrich’s fills and solo already drag you in to vibe.
Moving straight into ‘Mexico’, a mid tempo rocker that keeps the energy high with Corabi quickly getting the crowd involved. Clearly the band are a well oiled machine and Aldrich produces the first of many blistering solo’s.
Recorded in various European venues ‘Make Some Noise’ from Vienna really does. Starting with a bit of Shredding from Aldrich and Tichy pounding the skins as if his life depended on it the crowd are fully engaged. It has a great riff throughout and produces that fun and enjoyment mentioned earlier.
‘Song and a Prayer’ is a solid, steady rocker with a great mix of riffs, hooks, Aldrich fills with Mendoza and Tichy as solid as ever. Mix in Corabi’s vocals and quickly becomes a crowd favourite.Dead Daises like to throw in a cover or two of songs that influenced them when they were growing up and the brilliant version of Creedance Clearwater Revivals ‘Fortunate Son’ is the first one they play. Corabi is on top form on vocals.
‘We All Fall Down’ follows and has all the hallmarks of a classic rock song. Good solid riff, rhythm section complimented by the rhythm guitar, obligatory subtle key change and Aldrich knocking another one out of the park!
So far all the songs are from their second and third albums, “Revolución” and “Make Some Noise” but their first self titled album gets a run out with ‘Lock ‘n ‘ Load’. It’s a slower tempo song with Aldrich taking over the role originally played by Slash which he does with aplomb. A much more melodic sound to this song that breaks the set up nicely.
That slower tempo continues with the start of ‘Something I Said’ with Corabi in his element with the background vocals complimenting perfectly. However it soon turns into a bit more of a rocker mid way through it though with a sublime solo from Aldrich.‘The Last Time I Saw The Sun’ is a song about being on the road and has a great slide guitar intro from Aldrich before a full on up tempo rocker takes over. Tichy and Mendoza are tighter than an err, tight thing and there’s bit of cowbell (there’s no such thing as too much cowbell!) There’s no doubt Aldrich is enjoying playing in this band.
The Who’s ‘Join Together’ is next to get the cover treatment. With a voice box used to good effect to open and Corabi doing a great job on Daltry’s vocals which at their Belfast gig was a personal favourite of the Rock Radio N.I. legend that is Davy Warren! This is the song where Corabi whips the crowd up with Tichy keeping the beat going and Aldrich deploying the voice box again. You really get a feel for the atmosphere on this one.
‘With You and I’ follows with Corabi telling the now totally enthralled audience to pay special attention to the lyrics as there’s so much shit going on all over the world. There’s a great groove to this song with the band really laying it down.
Band introductions are next with wee snippets of AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith and Judas Priest thrown in to keep the crowd fully involved!
‘Mainline’ is jokingly introduced as a ballad as it’s far from it and is the fastest and heaviest song in the set. With its slightly punky feel to it, it is pure raw energy from start to finish with a tip of the hat to Mendoza for a great bass line.
Three more cover songs follow starting with the Beatles song ‘Helter Skelter’ (originally on their Face I Love ep). Having been covered by bands like Motley Crue, Gillan, Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses this is probably one of the better versions, especially live!
This is followed up with an up tempo, hard hitting version of the Grand Funk Railroad song ‘American Band’ and the Dead Daisies do indeed “come to your town to help you party it down”
Amazingly we are at the final song and after a bit of banter with the crowd they unleash the full on riff attack that is ‘Midnight Moses’, originally by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.  Driven by Mendoza and Tichy, a nice rhythm guitar line from Lowry and Corabi still singing at full throttle Aldrich lets rip again on the lead and it’s a great ending to the album.
If you saw them on their recent tour this will take you right back to that night as it’s total in your face Rock’n’Roll that few bands in this genre are capable of. If you missed them you NEED this album, actually you need it even if you were there!
Review by Andy Gillen



It has become quite the done thing for musicians to branch out into side projects, supergroups and entire new bands in order for them to flex all of their musical muscles. Take for example the likes of Corey Taylor, Max Cavalera, and even (just a few days ago) Five Finger Death Punch's frontman Ivan Moody; all have spread their wings into new projects, much to their fans' delight.

Today's subject for review includes not one, but two rockers who have come together to form a new band. Ryan Hamilton was a solo musician originally, releasing an album (Hell of a Day) in 2015 on Pledge, before he met up with Bowling for Soup's Jaret Reddick and they formed People on Vacation. If that wasn't enough, he was also hand picked by the legendary Ginger Wildheart to support him on his tour in 2016. Evidently they got along rather well, as Ginger and his guitar feature heavily on Ryan's latest venture, a band called Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors – specifically, their debut album The Devil's In the Detail. Wildheart is famous for several different projects and bands; this is yet another feather in his crowded cap.

The band's info states that they are based in “Texas and the UK” but from literally the first note of opening track 'Smarter' it is obvious that their music is pure Americana; it's rather Tom Petty-ish in it's execution but with an intriguing dollop of pop-punk. It's a toe tapping little number with a surprising bluesy time change at the end which is an unexpected delight.

Listening to the album is like taking a trip back in a time machine: you have your Seventies grooves (the cool, swaggering Bad Company-esque 'Anywhere'; the upbeat and jangly 'Drugs and Fashion'); the simplicity of the Eighties (the radio-friendly 'We Never Should of Left L.A', and the 'John Cougar Mellancamp sings the Partridge Family' of album closer 'It Ain't Easy'); as well as classic Noughties pop punk (the toe-tapping 'The Gulf of Mexico', an ode to drinking to forget) right up to modern times, especially the heartfelt and soaring ballad 'Heavy Heart'. There's also a few tasty surprises sprinkled in, such as the country-flavoured simple ditty 'Back In Time', the inclusion of Scottish singer Chrissy Barnacle on 'Don't Say I Told You So', and the secret track at the end of the album which is a meaty burst of pure punk rock – more of this please, Mr Hamilton!

The Devil's In the Detail takes the listener back to a simpler time musically; a time when lyrics were important and variety was the spice of life. It's less 'get ready on a Saturday night' type music than it is a soundtrack for 'chilling out on a Sunday' or 'going for a long drive': the harmonies are sweet, the guitar work even sweeter, and it has just enough rock and roll snarl to save it from becoming too saccharine. Of all the collaborations, side groups and various musical configurations of late, this one can definitely be chalked up to a successful one.


Review by Melanie Brehaut

Overoth/Strangle Wire/By Any Means – Belfast, Voodoo - 15 April 2017

Northern Ireland’s arcane licensing laws mean that the city virtually closes down over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, with only a few hardy souls venturing forth to track down the limited amount of entertainment available.  One such individual was the brave Jonni D, who manager to find one of a very small handful of gigs which went ahead:

With the Easter licensing laws in full effect, tonight’s show in Voodoo is something of a race against time: like a heavy metal fairy tale, each of the four bands must be on and off stage before the clock strikes midnight (or well before that as it turns out).  Although it’s not ideal for the bands performing, the sense of haste certainly adds to the energy of the proceedings, with considerably short waiting times between acts.  If nothing else, tonight’s line-up is a veritable Smorgasbord of musical intensity, with the punk and extreme metal styles both well represented.

First up are Lawfucker, looking every part the students of The Exploited and Discharge.  Launching off with rattling bass and invading feedback, they are subject to a rather small audience due to the remarkably early door times.  However, the band’s high octane blend of crusty punk and early hardcore gets an increasingly vociferous reaction.  With song titles such as ‘Punk Hipster Destroy’ getting an amused response, as well favourable outcries elicited by the politically charged inter-song banter, Lawfucker make quite an impression.  It’s an adrenalizing start, and even though there is an overall homogeny to the band’s songs, they just about make up for it with their cartoonish charm.

Next up are By Any Means, with their formidable style of metallic tinged hardcore, in the vein of Madball and Agnostic Front.  In a venue as small as this, these songs sound positively gargantuan, with the impassioned performance from each member only adding to the brutalizing energy of the set.  New song ‘Sociopath’ goes down a storm; pummelling yet catchy, it exemplifies the strength of By Any Mean’s rhythm section and is as explosive as the rest of the band’s material.  The refrain of “I can’t stand what you do” sounds destined for much larger rooms than Voodoo offers, inciting a rabid response from the crowd.  Closing with early cut ‘Using Both Hands’, their set is a further reminder of why they are arguably the most consistent band of the Belfast hardcore scene, both in quality of song writing and the intensity of their live show.

Undoubtedly, tonight belongs to Strangle Wire.  The local band delivers a staggeringly heavy performance with impeccable showmanship, the like of which is unrivalled on this billing.  From the massive grooves and serpentine lead lines of ‘Pitch Black’ to the crushing drag of ‘Den Of Iniquity’, Strangle Wire exude a palpable force.  They garner the biggest crowd of the evening, deservedly so, and are saluted by a sea of thrashing heads and moving bodies, with the power and bounce of their brand of death metal enrapturing the packed room.

The floor has considerably lessened in numbers as headliner Overoth take the stage, but this doesn’t prevent the band from delivering a blistering assault with their blend of black, death and doom metal.  Upping the theatricality of tonight’s show, the band emerge to the smell of burning incense and spewing fog, utilizing makeup and a more elaborate stage dressing which sets the tone for what’s to come.  Far more devastating in the live setting when compared to their recorded output, Overoth quickly have the crowd fully engaged with their savage charm.  Although hampered by the dreaded encroaching curfew, the band successfully round off a rather ramshackle evening, albeit one that commendably reflects the diversity of some of the most exciting bands Belfast has to offer.

PHOTO CREDIT:  All photos © Darren McVeigh/

ALBUM REVIEW: Axel Rudi Pell pulls out another collection for Ballads V including three new tracks

GERMAN virtuoso guitarist Axel Rudi Pell has been plying his trade for over 30 years now. Originally in German metal outfit Steeler in 1989 he decided to go solo, producing no less than 23 studio albums in the process, including several compilations.
Fans of ARP will know his albums follow a standard formula. Fast paced rockers where he can show off his shredding ability, sweeping epic tracks, the odd cover version and ballads, and it’s the ballads that have proven popular amongst fans.
To that extent he released the first compilation Ballads in 1993.
In 1997 Pell hired ex (and now current) Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioelli who has one of the best voices in rock and the band have gone from strength to strength.
2017 sees the release of “Ballads V” on April 21st. Again these albums follow a standard formula, previously released tracks mixed with some new ones. Ballads V, weighing in at a whopping 73 minutes has three brand new songs and seven songs available on other albums (listed below) including a previously unreleased live version of one of them.
The album opens with the three new tunes starting with first single ‘Love’s Holding On’, featuring Bonnie Tyler on guest vocals. It’s a duet with Johnny Gioeli, and it works really well. Tyler not being quite as raspy as in her youth and Gioelli blending nicely without overshadowing her. As usual Pell’s subtle guitar playing and tone shines brightly. As duets go it’s a pretty good song and start to the album.
Second song is a cover version of Ed Sheehan’s ‘I See Fire’. Yes, you read that correctly....Ed bloody Sheeran! Probably best known by fans of the film The Hobbit the band replaces the acoustic guitar with a nice piano part and add a sublime solo to the end. Gioelli’s passionate delivery and the always reliable rhythm section of Volker Krawczak on bass and Bobby Rondinelli on drums give the song the ARP treatment and really adds to the song.
The third new song is ‘On The Edge of Time’ which quite frankly is a classic already. A slow tempo start with a slightly Eastern feel to it builds into a searing ballad with Gioelli sounding as good as he ever has. Pell has been compared at times to Ritchie Blackmore and the solo on this has Blackmore’s stamp all over it, melodic and mesmerising in equal measures.
The next five songs are all from previous albums and are ‘Hey Hey My My’, ‘Lived Our Lives Before’, ‘When Truth Hurts’,  ‘Forever Free’ and ‘ Lost in Love’.
‘Hey Hey, My My’ is a great new take of the Neil Young’s original and this version was apparently inspired by TV show Sons of Anarchy.
‘Lived our Lives Before’ is a powerful ballad with the whole band on top form, melodic with a sweet guitar tone from Pell, great hooks and Gioelli again showing his prowess as a singer.
‘’When Truth Hurts’ opens with Gioelli’s vocals layered over a nice piano intro. A slow tempo song with some majestic, melodic playing by Pell: a song about a love lost conveyed perfectly by the vocal and guitar arrangements.
Track seven ‘Forever Free’ continues in the same vein but with a grittier guitar sound and haunting keyboards in the background. A slightly heavier sound almost takes it out of the ballad category, but not quite. Great solo on it too.
‘Lost in Love’ is up next. Another slow haunting opening focusing on Gioelli, it seems to be about being in love but the line “But the truth really lies” suggests a darker, one-sided affair with an element of pain to it. A beautifully written and performed song.
The final two tracks also feature on other albums but the penultimate track ‘The Line’ is a previously unreleased live version recorded at ARP’s co-headlining Rock Of Ages festival in 2016. It’s a great live version of the original 17 year old song with a heavier guitar sound and sublime solo from Pell.
Last track ‘Mistreated’ is a cover of the Deep Purple classic featuring Doogie White (Michael Schenker’s Temple of Doom) on lead vocals and erstwhile Rainbow keyboardist Toney Carey. There’s been many versions of this song but few will match this as Pell’s Blackmore comparison is never more evident than it is on here, he totally nails it!
There is a bit more emphasis on the new tunes as fans of ARP will already know the other ones but if you are relatively new to the band then ‘Ballads V’ is a good a place as any to start as its one of the best of the series and guaranteed to have you delving into his back catalogue.
Review by Andy Gillen

Former Heaven’s Basement vocalist is back with his new and interestingly named band The Cult Classics. Featuring sister Laurie on guitar, Tom McCarthy (guitars), Chris Guyant(bass) and Kev Hickman(drums, formerly of Raveneye). Promising a 90’s sounding album with influences such as Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland and Queen it sounded an interesting project and with festival appearances at Download and Ramblin’ Man Fair among others their live performances thus far seem to have backed up that promise. But could the album “The Man With Stars on His Knees” live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding YES!! The thunderous (if very short) opener ‘Show me What You’re Made Of’ hits you straight between the ears with its bass and drum into and heavy guitar riff. The first single off the album ‘All The Things You’ve Said and Done” follows. It’s autobiographical and at times an angry song but it’s got a great melodic fast tempo to it. A bit Alterbridge in sound with a catchy chorus, nice guitar solo it’s a great first release and well worth a hit on youtube. Third track ‘Dancin’ Down Below’ again has a great melodic tempo to it with big hooks and effective guitar fills accompanying Buchanans’ powerful vocal you are already drawn right into this album. ‘The Devil That Needs You’ is a slightly catchier number considering its subject being about addiction. There is a solid heavy riff throughout whilst staying true to the melody and the middle to end section really gives you the feel of anguish and pain. Bit of a strange ending to it but it doesn’t detract from the overall tune. At this point you get to take a breather with the mellow ‘Journey Out’. It has an overall more subdued sound both on vocal and guitar which is complemented by the tight rhythm section. A conflicting louder and deeper chorus is perfect as is the extended outro of atmospheric vocals over the guitar line. Title track “The Man With Stars on His Knees” is next and is another mellow song giving Buchanan a chance to showcase the more soulful side of his vocal range, at least to start with as it dramatically builds into a driving, melodic riff laden song with a huge chorus and commanding vocal. It chills out again with a great Queen style harmonic guitar play off. Seriously well crafted song. Track 7 ‘A God Is No Friend’ is another atmospheric tune with strong and passionate vocals. It’s a song about keeping an open mind about life, yourself and the path you eventually follow. ‘Left Me For Dead’ with its slightly Hendrix guitar opening is a mid to fast paced song in tempo with a very strong guitar and rhythm section. Again theres a bit of an Alterbridge feel to it but other ears may pick up something different. This was track 8 and so far there is no filler at all. To emphasise that point penultimate track ‘Mind of a Mute’ is a mean and dirty tune about self destruction and judgement. A Stoner rock vibe to it fits the lyrical content perfectly and in terms of heavy it’s the heaviest song on the album. The album finishes with what the bands PR guys described as “the incredibly elegant ‘Morals’. A showpiece song, stacked harmonies that closes the album in the best possible way” Hard to disagree with that so if you can’t say it any better..... “The Man With Stars on His Knees” is a provocative album that deserves careful consideration. There’s a lot going on and one listen just doesn’t do it justice even if it does grab you from track one.Buchanan himself said “the album is about struggle brought on by surrounding yourself with the wrong people at the wrong time” Think they pretty much nailed it..

FOR some time Thunder have been the go to band for AOR music, with a back catalogue that stirs many a heart of those that recall their halcyon days of the band ass chart masters. And, they are still churning out albums chock full of songs with their trademark sound.
Before Thunder took the stage on Friday (March 31st) there was the small matter of local heroes Trucker Diablo. However, whoever in their wisdom thought it was a good idea to open the doors as late as 8pm and then have the Big Truck start at 8:15 seems to have missed a trick.
That meant that Trucker were playing their first few tracks to a Mandella Hall that was at best half full as the queue for the sold-out show was snaking well beyond the length of the QUB Students' Union.
Undaunted Trucker Diablo ripped through an all-too brief slot. Raucous and melodic with more hooks than a fisherman on crack songs such as 'Party Like It's The End of the World' and 'Drive' for those already familiar were quick to join in.
'Drink Beer, Destroy' may have been a little too fast paced for the older audience members, but it was greeted by the Trucker fans as the anthem to excess that it is.
Concluding with 'Rebel' the Big truck is rolling well; and with a new album and UK festival dates it is clear that this rock 'n' roll 'Juggernaut' is going to crush all in its path.
The last time Thunder played in Belfast they were openers in the cavernous SSE Arena, and were denied the full PA and light show. Still that night they nearly stole all the plaudits.
With new album 'Rip It Up' receiving plaudits the band took the bold step of opening with two tracks from it, namely 'No One Gets Out Alive' and 'The Enemy Inside'.
With it being the last night of this leg of the tour to support 'Rip It Up' Danny Bowes make a point of encouraging ever louder responses from the crowd, through spoken words and gestures.
While this worked well for the first half of the show, it did become a little predictable and tiresome after a while to a crowd that was devoted to the band anyway. It was not needed in Belfast. The welcome was warm enough.
That aside there is no doubting the quality of the band's performance and the strength of the set.
Of course, the biggest roars were for the likes of 'Backstreet Symphony', Love Walked In' and closer 'Dirty Love', but that is not the whole story. The band have real presence in the live setting.
Danny's voice is as strong as ever, resonant and with a sweet tone like the finest of honey. Luke Morley's work on the guitar was as strong as ever. His solo slot had enough chops, runs and style that many a shredder would envy.
What, however, is clear that this is a band, not a collection of individuals. They have been together long enough to be comfortable on stage and the moves are not so much choreographed but instinctive awareness of what needs to be done to entertain.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
FOR more than 30 years Armored Saint have carved a sometimes lonely path as one of those acts that were in the thrash vanguardthat swept all in its path in the mid-80s, a style of music that combined with the pure metal thrust with the pulse of a punk-like attitude.
And, in 2017 as they undertake a mini-tour backing their live release 'Carpe Noctrum' the energy and drive of the band is undiminished, showing sheer joy at being on the stage.
Before they took to the stage Northern Ireland's Sinocence battered the growing audience with 40-plus minutes with a set that displayed considerable weight and balance from the moment 'Long Way Down' opened the evening.
Noticeable was the heavy nature of the songs, some of the older tracks given slight tweaks live and benefiting from a rhythm section in the shape of Ben and Jim that had more heft than many so-called headline acts can manage - something John Bush mentioned later.
Moro and Anto were in top form as they weaved their way through guitar lines that were punchy and almost telepathic in the delivery. 'A Coda To Self Slaughter' and 'Ascension Code' were among the highlights with the speedy and mighty 'Metalbox' melting all in its path.
Armored Saint declare at the end of their set that we will get a 'Left Hook From Right Field' but it was the one two combination of 'Win Hands Down' and 'March of the Saint' that set the tone for their 90-minute set.
John Bush a bundle of smiles, cajoling all to join in with every chorus, wiping sweat from his head as Joey prowled pounding out basslines as if his life depended on it.
Plundering songs from the start of their career to their latest release this was a precise pounding from a happy band to a happy audience. Whether it was 'An Exercise in Debauchery' or 'Can U Deliver' the energy was contagious.
Jeff and Phil manoeuvre axes and stage presence with a deft touch of a battering ram with a silk tip to the tonnage thrusting from the stage.
Their work on 'Aftermath' and 'In An Instant' was remarkable, which given the circumstances was pure mastery. Those circumstances were explained by Bush when he revealed that the Dublin and Belfast shows would not have happened without Sinocence lending Armored Saint their backline; dedicating a song to them and saying the Saint was "a mess" and Belfast must back the Sinners.
That statement of them being a mess was part of the self-deprecating humour the band displayed, with a knowing wink.
'Last Train Home' induced a mass-singalong that was matched by 'Reign In Fire' before Bush declared that under normal circumstances they wouldn't be going back to their changing area for the crowd to chant as there was only dirty clothes in the curtained area. Nevertheless the crowd chanted...
The final blows of 'Left Hook From The Right Field' concluded their second visit to Belfast...a visit that we can but hope will be repeated soon...
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

NAPALM DEATH W/WARPATH IRELAND, WAR IRON & BLACK SKIES BURN Although Sunday night's gig in the Limelight was ostensibly simply part of grindcore legends Napalm Death's 'Apex Predator – Easy Meat' tour, it may as well have been subtitled “Pummel Your Fucking Face Off”, such was the ferocity of the four bands on the bill. First up, English grindcore stalwarts Black Skies Burn took to the task of warming up the growing crowd with glee, firing out their short, sharp and furiously profane songs like a big, dirty flame thrower. Describing themselves as “deathcore disco”, they certainly tick all of the required boxes, with riffs that could saw through walls, bass that sets the furniture trembling and all but indecipherable lyrics. That their set contains a song called 'Ashes to Ashes, Turd to Turd', about “shitting on dead people”, tells you all you need to know about the band... By the time local doom/sludge metallers War Iron take to the stage the room is filling up nicely. Front man Baggy is imposing in both stature and voice, with a clawing vocal style that is laden with menace. Accurately (and wittily) describing themselves as “the heavy in a grind sandwich”, they tackle their ponderous and wrecking ball-heavy tunes with aplomb, much to the delight of the crowd. Unlike the previous act, their songs ebb, flow and meander in absolutely no rush at all, resulting in a set that consists of three or four songs at most – not that anyone seems to mind in the slightest. Warpath Ireland are next, again showing just how varied the acts are on tonight's bill: this time, it's a wee bit of “brutal” death metal to really clear out your eardrums. With both and high and low pitched shredding vocals over relentlessly paced death metal, they're as heavy as a sledgehammer and about as subtle, too – intricacies be damned! The crowd respond in appropriately raucous fashion, with headbanging aplenty and even a small moshpit. Their set flies by seemingly in a minute; always a sign of a talented and entertaining band. At approximately ten minutes to ten, Napalm Death manage to surprise everyone – including the sound guy, no doubt – by appearing onstage early (unheard of at a rock gig!). After beginning in relatively calm fashion with their intro track and the title track vocal from their latest album, they then launch headlong into a rambunctious and blizzard-like set with 'Evolved As One'. Latest album Apex Predator – Easy Meat gets a hefty airing tonight, with no less than seven tracks woven throughout their ninety minute long set, along with favourites such as 'The Code Is Red...Long Live the Code', 'Scum' and of course, the ubiquitous and record breaking 'You Suffer', after which vocalist Mark 'Barney' Greenaway smirks “keep up!”. Greenaway himself is in fine fettle, covering every inch of the stage in his usual “toddler throwing a tantrum” style, complete with stamping feet and flailing head. The crowd, who expect absolutely no less from their legendary front man, respond rapturously and in kind – truly, it's hard to tell who is having more fun. Bassist Shane Embury is mysteriously absent, however, with Greenaway referring to a monumental cock-up and announcing his temporary replacement in the form of long time friend Jasper. The band barely pause to take a breath during their entire set, much to the crowd's delight: a Napalm Death set is nothing if not value for money. Each song is met with delirious applause; each is like a hammer blow to the head. They wrap up with a trio of covers: 'Face Down In the Dirt', originally by the Offenders; Hirax's 'Hate, Fear and Power'; and a punchy version of the Dead Kennedy's 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off', now more relevant than ever in today's political climate. Another new track, 'Adversarial/Copulating Snakes' brings the night's proceedings to a close, leaving both band and audience spent, sweaty and satisfied; truly, you'll never see a group of people so pleased to have had their faces pummelled and ears permanently damaged. Review by Melanie Brehaut Photography by Darren McVeigh

AFTER a painfully early start to the day doing the rounds in media, we finally managed to escape the clutches of press engagements to catchJizzy Pearl celebrating 25 years of ‘Wasted in America’ with his current UK line-up as the belated first band of the day.
Specially put together for Jizzy’s current UK engagements, the band although only two gigs in, sounded tight as ever. The set was jam packed full of fan favourites with the band playing a combination of hits from ‘Wasted in America’ including ‘Yucca Man’ ‘Happy Hour’ and ‘Evil Twin’ alongside Blackout anthems such as ‘…Dope’ and a quick-fire rendition of ‘Blackout in the red room’. Jizzy commanded the audience throughout and it was regarded by many as one of the must-see sets of the weekend.
Next up, Bang Tango. Although cancelling their other prior UK engagements outside of the festival, they still graced the stage at HRH and thus made this appearance even more of a rare treat. The instant the band hit the stage they were reminiscent of Faster Pussycat in their earlier days with a gritty snot-punk attitude and sleaze oozing from their every pore. Playing to a more passive audience than Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, their sleaze rock hooks and hedonistic agenda was sadly lost on those beyond the first few rows.
Feel-good rockers Autograph turned things up a notch, as they do best. (Although, no radios in sight this time!) Whilst they are best known for this upbeat anthem, this seemed to be enough to seduce the curiosity of the crowd and draw people in to get to know more. Overall an entertaining and fun set from the band but unfortunately, we had to dash off mid-set for a date with Miss Lita Ford. (That’s not something you get to say often!)
Dashing back up to the arena post-Lita, we managed to catch the remainder of FM’s set. A masterclass in melodic rock and the true definition of AOR. Consummate professionals throughout, FM provide a glossy, high-quality performance and hit the audience with arena-sized anthems such as ‘Let Love Be The Leader’ and ‘That Girl’ – all of which wouldn’t be out of place in the best and cheesiest of 80’s action movies, which is of course no bad thing.
The day finally closed with the lady in red that we’ve all been waiting for, Lita Ford. Although initial sound problems affected the beginning of the set, there was no stopping her. 

With an incredibly strong band backing her, Lita is a tour de force of a headliner not to be messed with. She speaks honestly and openly to theaudience throughout, just as she as she does in her autobiography, and envelops us with her warm and welcoming aura.

Although an icon, Lita isn’t afraid to have fun on stage, notably demonstrated by her selection of Ozzy ‘Howie’ Osbourne from the audience to mime along with her on hit duet ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ – definitely an uplifting twist on the song! Throwing The Runaways ‘Cherry Bomb’ into the set as well as Sex Pistols cover ‘Black Leather’ kept it fresh and interesting throughout. Ending the night on 80’s classic ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ the crowd retired from day two of the festival with their thirst for rock and roll severely quenched.
Review by Lynn Carberry 
Photography Darren Mcveigh
Having mastered all things media related such as interviews and the like bright and early, we were ready to hit the stages and devour as many bands as possible on the last day of Hard Rock Hell AOR 2017.
The day’s viewing commenced at the mainstage with yet another Aussie band on the bill (And you thought you had a long trip to the festival?)The Radio Sun. A high energy set from the band with beautiful harmonies and infectiously catchy choruses that we were left singing all day. With their nice-guys-of-rock sound and guitar sequels reminiscent of all the W’s (WingerWarrantWhite Lion) they have an easy-listening quality that pairs well with their set time.
Venturing to the second stage, which ideally we would have loved to have done more of throughout the weekend, we caught the formidableHell’s Addiction. You can hear the influences of bands old and new, such as Motley Crue and Santa Cruz pouring through the speakers as they play.
With a high-octane set their guitar solos will punch you in the face and leave you with a busted lip – exactly just the wakeup call you need mid-afternoon. These guys embody sleaze through and through and would be a welcome addition to HRH Sleaze in September. (Hint, hint.)
Stone Trigger was also a highlight of the day. Having just bagged themselves a tour wide support slot with LA Guns, this was a band not to be missed. As they took to the stage, with The Terminator theme playing, we’re unsure as to what exactly we’re about to witness. As the band kick in, the room slowly trickles full with their glam rock sound acting as a beacon to guide people in from the outside bars. The Dublin boys delivered a strong set with highlights including ‘Rattle Your Bones’ and ‘Black Venom’ but the piece de resistance of their set has to the Backstreet Boys cover of ‘Larger Than Life.’
Sordid Lies take pageantry and showmanship to whole new level. You may have seen their lead singer, Valen Vain (aptly named) around the site looking akin to a glam rock magpie and single headedly taking the title of ‘Best Accessories of the Weekend’. The band celebrate all things ostentatious and if you stand too close you may well have the singer power-thrust his crotch in your face. But don’t let the feather boa’s fool you, this band are one to watch with their sleazy riffs and high vocals. Definitely one to catch if coming to a venue near you!
Leaving just before the end of Sordid Lies, we hurried back over to the main stage to seal a spot in nice and close to catch newly reformed LA Guns. And we were not disappointed. Although notable sound issues with Phil Lewis’ vocals at the beginning of the set (they were barely audible) the band absolutely crushed their hour long set of firm fan favourites.
With hits such as ‘Sex Action’ and ‘Electric Gypsy’ the crowd were with them every minute of the way. The twin guitar solo on ‘Over The Edge’ cemented the fact that they are back and better than ever, and the loudest audience en mass singalong of the weekend has to go to ‘Ballad of Jayne’.
Going into Michael Monroe, you have to wonder if the performance of LA Guns can be topped or even followed? But like the seasoned pro that he is, Michael Monroe always delivers. With hits such as ‘Down with the Ship’ from his most recent album to Hanoi Rocks favourites such as ‘Malibu Beach Nightmare’ and the classic ‘Dead, Jail or Rock and Roll’ Monroe delivered a diverse and pleasing set.
Aside from set choice, Monroe’s stage antics alone were enough to keep the crowd entertained, including multiple hat changes, leaping barriers, crowd surfing and walking precariously along bannisters – all whilst still performing. All in a day’s work...
Slaughter closed the show and indeed the festival, and having not played the UK since 1992 there was a fair amount of buzz around their performance. Self-titled ‘Party Ambassador’ (see my interview with him) Mark Slaughter certainly lived up to the title, bringing his own brand of feel-good rock and roll to the festival. Ending the set with their hit ‘Up All Night’ (pre-encore) this seems like an apt song and a fitting close to close the festival as after a whole weekend of being up all night, we think it’s fair to say that many HRHers will be sleeping all day tomorrow after a weekend full to the brim of bands.
Review by Lynn Carberry
Photography Darren Mcveigh
THE Black Star Riders have emerged on the other side - the side of living in the shadow of Thin Lizzy: perhaps last year's festival tour did it.
But when BSR landed in Belfast it was more than a homecoming gig for Ricky Warwick, it was when the Riders emerged as a real force in their own right a band whose tunes were known to most of the crowd in a packed Limelight1 on Sunday night (5th March) in the city.
Before the main attraction two familiar acts had the Ormeau Avenue not just warmed up, but ready, to coin a phrase, to rock.
The power trio of The Amorettes have been faithful in keeping Northern Ireland on their tour itineraries with dates in the Diamond Rock Club, with Europe in the Ulster Hall and supporting Danko Jones.
The result was that with every track the crowd was familiar with the riffs and choruses, so when it came to the crowd pleasing 'Hot and Heavy' concluding the set the majority present responded to the call and joined in with every request to shout out the chorus.
For sometime Gun have threatened to really breakthrough beyond the hit cover of 'Word Up'. But when they came on to the Limelight stage they were welcomed with a warmth and genuine affection.
In turn the Scottish five piece delivered a concise set with songs such as 'Better Days' and 'Hold Your Head Up'. However, 'She Knows' from their forthcoming autumn album stood out as a teaser of what looks to be a promising 2018. The inclusion of the Beastie Boys 'Fight For Your Right (to party)' was on the other hand not best advised.
With a growing sense of anticipation in the audience Black Star Riders arrival on stage. As the sirens sounded a loud roar of approval greeted the title track of  'Heavy Fire'. For their new material to be greeted so warmly was a tribute to the progress BSR have made.
The mid-paced majesty of 'Cold War Love' was just one example of how Warwick and Johnson have crafted the newer songs to a standard, a higher standard, than many can - or wish to - achieve.
Only one Thin Lizzy song was included in the set ('The Boys Are Back In Town') which says a lot about how the band has developed in their own individual right.
Their three albums gives them a range of songs that have become familiar. 'The Killer Instinct' and 'Hey Judas' sees the majority join in the choruses with gusto, while the introduction to 'Soldierstown' was greeted with a truly emotional response.
The band's interaction with the audience produced a genuine warmth, and even the obviously well rehearsed speech from Warwick about how vinyl and CDs represent a legacy to pass on to our children didn't sound clichéd.
'Testify or Say Goodbye' and 'Bound For Glory' were high points and, yes, this was Black Star Riders 'Finest Hour' to date.
This is a band that developed amidst a public glare, with some controversy lingering in their early days. Now, with their third album achieving significant sales (and even BBC Radio2 airplay, much to Warwick's self-deprecating amusement) Black Star Riders are on the verge of being in the hard rock Premier League.
One feels that the idea of support slots on arena tours with the likes of ageing acts are now a thing of the past. Once BSR complete this tour and the summer festival appearances Black Star Riders will exceed and surpass what they themselves might have expected.
And, no-one should be 'Blindsided' by the success they are due.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Vicar Street treated to four-band mayhem with Kreator earning adoration and plaudits

A CRUSHING combination of metal styles came knocking the door of Dublin's Vicar Street on the first day of March, 2017 in a procession of precision and glorious petulance towards the ingrates who never appreciate the sheer visceral vivaciousness and vitality metal can provide.

Kreator were the band most were there to offer their sweat-drenched, beer-fuelled adoration towards, but this handsomely filled tour package offered diverse styles and an unrelenting assault upon the unwary.

For example, openers Aborted, are do not deal in subtlety. Their slot was packed tight with their gore-death metal intensity. From Sven's vocal gymnastics through to the full-on Mendel and Ian guitar lines many unfamiliar with the band could have missed the melody flying in occasionally as the attack levelled on Vicar Street never let up.

It can be difficult to pick an Aborted song as a favourite on a particular night but on their return to Dublin in just over a year and a couple of days it was 'Termination Redux' and 'Cadaverous Banquet' that sounded fresh and feral.

Sticking Soilwork on this bill could have been as awkward as having the gore of Aborted on a line-up with Journey, as the Swedes have a definite propensity towards the melodic side of metal. But that misses the point. They are a 'metal' act, and that's all that needs to be said.
True, Speed is the only original member since the band first emerged from Helsingbord in the 1990s, but they are still a formidable tight unit as apart from Marcus and Bastian (a mere pup in the band with a year in SW under his touring belt) the rest have been recording and touring with the band for years, and keyboardist Sven being ever-present for the past 16 years.

"What!" you may exclain, "keyboards!" - yes keyboards. For the uninitiated keyboards do exist in metal, and do work when Soilwork execute some thrilling moments of molten song craft.

'Rise Above The Sentiment', 'Bastard Chain' were both well delivered and well received, but 'Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter' was the clear favourite on this Dublin evening.

Kicking off with two tracks from a release barely six weeks old was a bold move for Sepultura (two more were aired from 'Machine Messiah on the night) but 'I Am The Enemy' and 'Phantom Self' sounded bombastic live and the devotion to the world/groove metal outfit was rapturous - a Brazilian flag held aloft just yards away from the swirling mosh pit.
Paulo and Andreas anchor everything in this set - working the rhythm tightly with Eloy on drums and Andreas taking the time to weave intricate lead work.

Derrick is his usual commanding self as a stage presence. At times some of the vocals were a little strained, but that is but a minor quibble given the rigours of this tour. Compared to some of the reent times we have seen the Seps this appeared a more confident performance - perhaps 'Machine Messiah' has given them the impetus to be their very best again.

Certainly 'Resistant Parasites' was one of the best tracks on the night. However, the crowd wanted and got 'Inner Self', 'Refuse/Resist' and 'Roots' with the attendant singalongs, pits and crowd surfing.

For a wet Wednesday the 'Gods of Violence' that are Kreator were in remarkable good humour and good form. Let's make no mistake about it - they were about to mount a challenge to any pre-conception that metal is formulaic in its higher echelons.

And, while the music had more muscle than Arnie in his heyday, it was a visually lush lighting and stage set: six screens with projected - almost cinematic - imagery at appropriate times, strobes, sweeps smoke plumes, Mille's own smoke gun and ticker tape thrown high towards the audience.
But all the visual effects in the world count to naught if there is any paucity in the music, and by the good Lord Beelzebub Kreator are a wrecking ball of thrash excellence. Tighter than a constipated shark in hot water, smoother than an M1A1 US tank rolling over a Mini, and heavier than anti-matter in a Black Hole.

Mille and Sami played with fluidity, whilst Christian and Jurgen nailed every beat. 'Gods of Violence' title track and songs from that release ('Satan Is Real' and a jaw-dropping 'Fallen Brother') felt as if they had been forever in the Kreator live oeuvre.

'Fallen Brother' was a passionate tribute to the pantheon of Gods who have slipped away from our sight and reside in memories and as inspirations. Many noticed that Dublin's rock son, Phil Lynott was among those projected onto the screens with Lemmy, Bowie, Leonard Cohen et al.

The stagecraft of the band was a lesson many could take on board and whilst some the in-between chat was well rehearsed the tribute to Irish audiences seemed genuine.

For Kreator, with tracks like 'People Of The Lie', 'Total Death' and 'Enemy of God' it could be that they could rack up, play and everyone would be satisfied. No. They are an outfit that does not accept the average, rejects any thoughts of phoning it in, and instead lay on a Teutonic musical terror attack that is an entirely tactile - as tactile as the massive pit Mille instigated.

Sated and exhausted the crowd slipped into the night. While all the bands thanked 'Dublin' the cars, mini-buses, coaches were taking fans back to Belfast, Dundalk, Sligo, Donegal and many other towns, cities and villages, because Kreator can draw a crowd from all parts of the island.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photographs by Darren McVeigh  

LIVE REVIEW: Whatever the rock question is The Answer always sate the queries with awe-inspiring performances

HARD rock is alive and well in Northern Ireland, but y'all know that already. But just how much quality rock is emerging from this small land is sometimes so familiar to us that we all forget just how good we have it.

Maverick and The Answer are two bands that have captured the very essence of heavy rock, and while one is emerging as a force to be reckoned with the other are seasoned survivors getting the international plaudits they deserve with the awesome 'Solas' album.

Come Saturday there was no doubt that this would be a special show.

Many a band would be daunted opening for The Answer, but Maverick have toured Europe, played festival sets and are bound for their first US show in the near future.

With new sticksman Jonny making his début it is clear that Maverick are not missing a beat, well rehearsed and as energetic as ever. Taking their cues from 80s rock, but with their own edge as they warm up the crowd. Not that they need to worry about the audience - they've earned a loyal fanbase.

David Balfour is the consummate performer, every moment away from the mic spent engaging with every band member, catching audience members' eyes and keeping the show moving along.

When The Answer strode on to the Limelight1 stage the atmosphere was electric. Sure, they are own, but the band have weathered many a storm and emerged strong and resilient.

The tour last year with The Dead Daisies has honed the band to what was already a sharp cutting edge.

In their own words, this was 'Spectacular' as they have power and subtlety in equal measure. 'Solas' as an album has more depth than some of what went before, which manages to translate in the live environment.

With Cormac a bouncing, whirling dervish older material seems to have been given a new lease of life, and 'Never Too Late', 'New Horizon' and 'Demon Eyes' emerged from the speakers with deadly intent and urging ever more ecstatic responses.

But the newer tracks, importantly sit well amidst what the crowd anticipate as part of the set. All seem at home and have a resonance.

What is remarkable is how well Cormac, Paul, Micky and James gel together on these new songs - an indescribable bond that was always there is now an intangible thread that links each movement of each song.

The tracks of 'Solas' are liberally sprinkled throughout -  'Untrue Colour' sounding poignant and powerful, while 'Being Begotten' is jaw-dropping - that is until 'Battle Cry'.

To be honest - you could simply say The Answer were on stage as sufficient for most to know that it was a great show, but on this night they exceeded their own high standards.

A rock night, a night of celebration 'New Horizons' for Maverick and boundaries that are being pushed yet further by The Answer.

Review by Jonathan Traynor (Additional reporting on Maverick by Zakk Traynor)
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
ALL the heaviness arrived in Limelight2 on Saturday for the third heat of the Northern Ireland Metal2TheMasses showdown with four bands that had the growl and the graft to match the needs of winning a slot at the prestigious Bloodstock festival.
For those that have never been to the weekend of madness the tone is very much of the flavour of feisty metal, with nary a chance for others to shine, which made the 25th February round very tasty.
It is a real shame in each heat that any bands are eliminated, but the votes of the judges and the crowd vote have in 2017 left each round teetering on a knife edge. And, with a good turn-out this was no different.
Opening the set were thrashers Bakken who were making a return to the stage after a time in hiatus. Their brand of early era Megadeth and' Tallica thrash was well executed and the band sounded tighter than ever.
The flourishes of Celtic melodies add that little bit more to what could be otherwise predictable - Bakken set the bar high from the off.
Lock Horns took to the stage as if fired up from the openers set - full of passion and power, with a distinct progressive edge. Compared to other acts with a prog tendency there was no static musicians on stage; movement throughout.
But the vigour of the band was also matched with by the intensity of the song arrangements and melodic breaks.
With three guitarists on stage Victim Royal came out all guns firing with real grunt to the massive guitar attack. With a sound echoing more modern metal at times the vocals were lost amidst the aural assault. While there is nothing wrong with clean vocals perhaps a little but more growling could compensate.
What they do provide is a real challenge for themselves with so many layers on stage, but they rose to that challenger.
The twin vocals of Dream Awake gives a dynamic reminiscent of the likes or Speedhorn, but with more of an echo of hardcore in their sound. Contrasting roars and melodic vocals doesn't take away from the musical tapestry.
With a few rough edges knocked off Dream Awake could carve a distinctive path for themselves.
Alas there can only two qualifiers from each heat.
Bakken and Lock Horns progress to the next round.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Terrific return from Trivium in Belfast barnstormer showcase

THE fact that so many of the crowd in Belfast's Limelight1 on Sunday (12th February) grew their metal stripes at the same time as Trivium were breaking through as a band were earning plaudits and packed venues.

The first time the band played in Belfast it resulted in a crush barrier collapsing under the weight of crowd enthusiasm, and the band have been loyal to the city ever since - and in return the fans deliver rapturous response upon each visit.

Shvpes provided an energetic opening act on the bill, however, apart from the few at the front familiar with their work their first few songs they received a polite response from the gathering crowd.

The post-hardcore sound was maybe a little too out there for many, but their energy won over many as the set progressed. Mismatched they may have been with the bill, but the Birmingham five-piece deserve Kudos for not wavering.

By the same measure Sikth didn't waver despite being a man down with Pin absent for personal reasons, leaving Dan Weller to fill in. Not that this affected the response from an audience who are devoted to the English prog/math masters.

Mikee Goodman and Joe Rosser are like manic puppet masters pulling at the strings of the crowd as soon as they opened the set with 'Philistine Philosophies' and 'Part of the Friction'.

To be fair to Sikth they have evolved many miles since they were labelled, perhaps unfairly, as part of the djent movement in the early era of the 2000s. They include as many melodic elements, which comes to the fore just enough not to make them predictable. Nor are they complacent.

There is adulation for the band and they return it with humour and self-deprecation, including Mikee's spoken word intro to 'When Will The Forest Speak...?'

That so many of the audience know the words to each line is a tribute to the passion Sikth invoke. And, with the hint of a return to Belfast it seems they'll receive a warm welcome.

To say that the reception Trivium receives is warm is an under-statement as the Limelight roars out every line of the 'Run To The Hills' intro. From the opener of 'Rain' the adulation crackled like static, with pits and crowd surfing mere symbols to the feeling of almost all present.

They tear into 'Forsake Not The Dream' before Matt Heafy speaks to the audience and throughout he recalls the bands first visit to Belfast.

Paolo Gregoletto, like Heafy encourages ever more intense circle pits and as audience members surf above the rest sing every word of 'Down From The Sky'.

With an impressive assuredness they weave newer and older material together as Heafy and Corey Beaulieu trade licks and runs and manage a sublime version of 'Entrance of the Conflagration' among many of the higlights.

'Dying In Your Arms' may be steeped with the soul of In Flames, but Trivium's melodic take is their own crafting and excellence drawing more of the audience to risk life and limb in pits and surfing.

There is not a foot put wrong, nor a beat missed as they rolled the Limelight in their hands like malleable putty, a putty willingly taken and moulded through tracks such as 'Dusk Dismantled' and 'Throes of Perdition'.

'Silence In The Snow' maybe more recent, but is greeted like an old friend, and that is perhaps why Trivium have enjoyed continuous success. Their sound has evolved, they have experimented and some would say they have made mistakes, but each time they take any lessons and influences and carve their own path.

Sure, they have been through a few drummers over the past decade, but never compromised on wanting a dynamic drum sound and Alex Bent fits the bill behind the kit.

This was only the second night of the European tour but the band exude a tight, professional approach, but without the contrivances many acts fall prey to. All present know it will be pretty much the same set for those dates, but that doesn't mean it is metronomic.

Heafy and Beaulieu have sufficient looseness in their playing that is balanced with the execution of some stunning guitar work, while Gregoletto wields his bass like an instrument designed to torture the lower registers in the most exquisite of manners.

'Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation' snaps and snarls as if a fresh song, while the closing duo of 'Pull Harder On The Strings of Your Martyr' and 'In Waves' leave the crowd sated for now - but begging for a speedy return to these shores.

Trivium take their status and success to date seriously - that is why their performance, and its reception, is at a premier league level. Band and fans joined together elevated to another level on a Sunday night - smiles and aching necks.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

LIVE REVIEW: Heat One of Metal2TheMasses kicks off the battle for a Bloodstock slot

YOU know when Metal2TheMasses is underway when 'real' adults appear in Limelight2. Not, that everyone who normally attends isn't above the statutory admittance age - it's just that these are responsible adults. Also known as parents of band members.

Seeing these responsible adults gives one a sense of assurance that their offspring's efforts to learn a new guitar line, drum fill of bass run, not to mention shipping them to rehearsals has been worth the effort to see their sprogs enter into the fray for a cherished spot at Bloodstock.

In an evening of varied styles all four bands in this first heat played half hour sets that were entertaining and engaging in front of a relatively healthy turn-out.

With the bands chosen order as usual not pre-determined it was up to Erosion that were up first. These experienced musicians delivered their usual well performed selection of tracks, with Martin particularly impressive. However, at times Mark's vocals were a bit strained.

The excellence of their alt take on metal was, however, on the evening, a little bit at odds with some of the arrangement of the set, and announcing a track as 'hardcore' was perhaps a mistake. That said their use of intro samples and the overall aural wall bodes well.

Travelling up from Co. Armagh Periapt struggled with tuning during the set, but once they got going their brand of groove with tech touches worked well. Relatively static on stage was understandable given the enormity of the prize at stake.

Which, of course is a slot on the Bloodstock line-up with all that entails - to be on a line-up with Megadeth, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, Hatebreed, Testament, Decapitated etc. Given Periapt's hard rock groove they may need to toughen up their sound a little to fight for a slot in the future. That said there is obvious potential.

Beyond the Beneath were playing their first show and their first time they'd lined up as a three-piece. From the off the passion and the ability was clear, as was their use of the stage to its full extent.
The punk edged metal was mixed with groove and a grasp of tight musical arrangements. Colum's lead runs were tight and not overblown, while Davy's bass work and vocals were only matched by the silly in between tracks banter. There are still a few rough edges to be knocked off, but given this was their début that was a minor issue.

Rosco's Riot came on with a wall-of noise, intense and over-flowing with groove. Tim towered over the audience; full-on playing. At times the sound was cluttered, drowning out Tim's vocals, but the riffing was only matched by a peerless union of James and Craig's tightly woven rhythms.
It was clear that Rosco's Riot had brought the most support, guaranteeing they would get a substantial vote from the audience. However, you cannot gather that level of support without a good set and a substantial set of songs.

As always with Metal2TheMassses voting weight was 50% from the audience and 50% from the collective judging panel.

Qualifying for the semi-finals are: Rosco's Riot and Beyond The Beneath.
It was  a mosthtastric night when Black Peaks arrived in Belfast as part of a triple header in Belfast's Limelight.
An impressive under card of Making Monsters  and Employed to Serve certainly set the scene, collectively, all of the artists on the night delivered killer rifts, dark/grunge rock lyrics and head banging/ blistering vocal talent.
Making Monster's were the first to the stage and within minutes this Derry/Londonderry four piece had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. 
Front woman Emma's voice can only be referred to as hHuge' and Emma demonstrated suitable sass/remarkable stage presence that merit the comparisons with Panamore's Hayley Williams.
This four piece has incredible genuine chemistry and showcased amazing original tracks from their debut EP 'Bad blood'.  'Bros", which Emma describes as a personal affirmation regarding female empowerment inspired by the women in her life.
They are quickly amassing an impressive online following/ critical acclaim from the likes of BBC radio 1's Phil Taggart and Kerrang's Alex Baker. These guys are one to watch, although I do believe they have more of a commercial sound that slightly went against he grain/ tone of the evening. 
Next up was Employed To Serve definitely smashed it, rolling hits from their debut album "Greyer than You Remember", a cracking cover of Memphis Will Be Laid To Rest, as well as debuting tracks from their second album which is currently in development with Holy Roar Records.
This six piece's sound has been described as post-hardcore” which best describes their angular, twisted take on familiar hardcore trope matched by grind influences. It' safe to see how this group have progressed from a simple two piece with the sole intention to see what happens, Employed To Serve have continued to tour extensively across the UK/ Europe in their own right and as supporting artists from their London base since their first EP release in 2015. 
When headliners Black Peaks took to the stage, there was an immediate shift in the atmosphere, the energy and progressive rock sound whipped their fans into a head banging/moshing frency.
Blazing through a collection of rock tracks including Glass Built Castles, Set in Stone, Drones from their most recent Album Sautes. Black Peaks provide an amazing masterclass in stage craft/ outstanding musicianship that demonstrates their continued progression from their initial/self released EP Closer To the Sun under the then band title Shine to there previously mentioned current Sony Music Release Statues.
Their rise to the top of the Progressive Rock scene has been stratospheric, helped in part by the success of the track "Glass Built Castles" was added to the Guitar  Hero Live's GHTV service in February 2016 and on the evidence of tonight's show that rise will continue.
Review by,Emmette dillon
ALBUM REVIEW: All turning great on The Grinding Wheel for Overkill's 18th outing
IT seems that the idea of thrash has gotten way far away from what it was when it was birthed into the unholy decade of the 80s. That's no bad thing, as everything can and must evolve. But one band have never truly deviated from the thrash origins -Overkill.

And, on 'The Grinding Wheel' the band have taken the original template, smashed it into a smelting pot of sheer thrash glory - you got your NWOBHM, classic metal, speed and punk influences rolled into 10 neck achingly good tracks.

Bracketed by 7:30 opener 'Mean Green Killing Machine' and the almost eight minute closer and title track this is chock full of songs that leave you smiling, and if driving while playing it you do run the risk of exceeding the speed limit.

Not that it adheres to anything other than Overkill, the mixture of fast, slow, well thought out time changes and arrangements.

There are some wonderfully exquisite guitar sections from Dave Linsk's lead work, such as at the close of 'Shine On' and on the intro to 'The Long Road' (spot the doff of the cap to Maiden here).

However, what allows this to be a truly exceptional piece of work is the furious rhythm pieces slotted in. DD Verni's bass, Derek Tailer's rhythm guitar and Ron Lipnicki's drumming.

Indeed it is Lipnicki's work that holds many of the tracks together, as well  as adding flourishes and fills that are almost lyrical.

But, of course it's Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth who provides the gel that holds their belief system together as a 'blue-collar' thrash band.
He explains many of the concepts behind the thoughts going into the album.

"One of the principles - if not characteristics - of the band is that it's been grinding through for long, long periods of time," said Ellsworth. " Decades to this point. And, not necessarily with huge gains with regards to popularity, but for sure with huge gains in as much as we can earn a living while doing the kind of music that we want.

"And, so the idea of grinding it out over the decades became a device for writing the album, whether it would be riffs or lyrics".

He may now be a self-confessed mature human at 57-years-old but his enthusiasm oozes from every word, whether they are metaphorical or casting a witty, cynical eye on this dystopian reality.

Whether it is the war cry to band as one people with common vision in metal or philosophy on the phenomenal 'Our Finest Hour', or the rigours and enjoyment of earning a living as a band on 'The Wheel' he still turns a phrase to delight.

However, one piece stands out amongst many great moments - the sensational 'Let's All Go To Hades'. "When all you want to do is fucking scream, when all the world has gone insane"

It's his reaction to the Bataclan massacre and Lemmy's death - it's a fuck it all, we're not going to back down, there are still those willing to play and journey across this troubled continent. Having fun this is a tongue-in-cheek' chunk of defiance - as DD says "It got a little bit of fun in it".

That's not to say he ignores the US' political landscape such as on 'Red White and Blue'.

Abstract or literal he nails it every time.

It's hard to think that Overkill first rose to prominence in '85 with the Megaforce release of 'Feel the Fire' and still sound so fresh, so angered, yet gathering humour and a tight sound.

Produced by Overkill themselves the mix by Andy Sneap makes it all 'pop' in just the right way.

From 'Ironbound' to 'White Devil Armory' this evolution, if you like, of the second incarnation of Overkill's success. It almost feels as if they have reached out and touched something magical and unleashed an album that has an alchemist's touch, an elixir composed of Maiden, Sabbath, Priest, thrash, old school punk and musical excellence to produce the rare element of great metal

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Grinding Wheel is released via Nuclear Blast on 10th February, 2017

The contrast in audience sizes was immediate upon going into Limelight1. Rival Sons had the place packed and pulsating. There was even more present than when Meshuggah had the venue rammed the previous Tuesday.

There was an almost religious devotion to the crowd's response by the time the first few songs had been hammered out, something the band seemed knocked out by, especially at the end of 'Torture' when the audience kept on with the refrain long after the band were about to end the song. 

Jay Buchanan seemed almost overwhelmed by the response, as the rest of the band had grins almost as wide as the stage.

Fresh from a night supporting Sabbath this felt as much like an impromptu jam as it did a headlining show. The band took on the challenge of the set as if it was just another night in Long Beach, but one doubts if they have ever had such a warm response in California.

While the momentum had been building throughout the set, by the time 'Belle Star' was aired there was a palpable sense of occasion building, which continued throughout, and by the time they closed with 'Hollow Bones pt2' and 'Keep on Swinging' they had accomplished what they had set out to do: warn up the full set for their headlining shows across Europe and have a good time while at it.

On such an evening of musical contrasts it is hard to draw any real conclusions. All five bands have tremendous sets of songs, albeit across a range of genres, and all have talented musicians.

The main difference, of course, is that Rival Sons have label backing and PR support that draws airplay and sales. However, there is one nagging thought. If the fans of metal who can ram venues for the likes of Meshuggah remain largely absent for the likes of the DP shows. Rightly many will not be able to travel, and are maybe only fans of some types, but if even a few per cent more would part with a fiver, then the opportunity to grow would be afforded to bands, along with those in attendance having something to do on a Saturday other than watch TV and play old songs again. Okay, that is something of a controversial thing to note after such a good evening of rock and metal, but...ponder on that and wonder "what if..." should you ever want to step out of a weekend evening and have some fun without expectations.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Mesuggah and The Haunted are the heroes of dark metal delight in Belfast
NEVER mind djaent or melodic death or whatever - when Meshuggah and The Haunted played Belfast it was simply about the metal - and what a night off metal it was for aficionados: power, precision and dark entertainment.

This was an exemplary showcase of Swedish metal might presented by The Distortion Project that packed out the Limelight and left those emerging into the January night (Tuesday 17th) with a sense of having borne witness to something special.

The Haunted were making a long overdue return to Belfast and vocalist Marco Aro was immediately urging the gradually filling venue to come forward.

Despite a restricted stage space they were clearly enjoying the opportunity on stage with Ola Englund's lead work impressive to the foil of Jonas Björler (bass) and Patrick Jensen's rhythm guitar, while Adrian Erlandsson was impressive behind the kit, despite the occasional teasing from Marco.

'The Guilt Trip' and 'Bury Your Dead' were highlights of a tight set, but it was 'Hate Song' that drew the most acclaim at the end of the set. The Haunted have presence and a perception that they are there both to entertain and enjoy themselves while on stage.

Preparations for Meshuggah's début Belfast show held much promise for the show, and within moments of the band appearing it was clear that this was a special presentation with a, literally at times, startling light show.

As part of the tour backing 'Violent Sleep of Reason' this was a set that you would expect from such extreme musicians as Meshuggah - little banter, band members shadows for large segments outside the first few rows and a level of technicality few can match or dare to try.

Jens Kidman was almost a dark shade of intensity as they kicked into high gear from the off with 'Clockworks' and an unwritten assurance that this was to be a special night of metal terror.

Meshuggah can never be accused of being accessible, but for those in 'the know' the familiarity of the tracks was only matched by the expected excellence of Frederick Thorendal, Tomas Haake, Mårten Hagström and Dick Lövgren. 

To describe the set as tight is an under-estimate of what was laid out before the audience. 'Perpetual Black Second' or 'Nosrtum' could be picked out among any of the tracks.

The sweeping beams of lights from the bottom of the stage, the occasional spotlighted band member, the backdrop and Tomas' impressive kit were an invitation to an immersive experience, where the extremities of human existence were thrust forward to contemplate, while screaming in adulation.

The closing duo of 'Dancers To A Discordant System' and 'Bleed' rounded off an evening that showed that metal, no matter what other term you wish to affix to it, has a power that reaches the inner, elemental core of meaning and also leave you delighted and exhausted.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photographs by Darren McVeigh of MetalplanetBelfast
This review first appeared on

LIVE REVIEW: Sabaton, Accept and Twilight Force rock Dublin to the core

THERE are somethings that are reliable - atomic clocks, quasars, the seasons, the moons rise and fall, and Sabaton playing in Ireland - north and south - on a regular basis. Joachim and crew are always afforded an exceptional response, but when they played the Academy in Dublin they brought some mates along for the party!

Yep, the Swedish monster arrived in the Irish capital with Accept and Twilight Force, two bands that could earn headline status in their own right.

Playing with vigour and power Twilight Force were quick to get the Dublin crowd to their feet. Interacting with the gathering crowd from the off  'Heroes...' had the audience rising with fists in their air.

However, when Accept mounted the stage it was to rapturous a reception, The Teutonic maestros have been revered on this island for longer than they probably realise.

The opening duo of Stampede and Stalingrad amped up the atmosphere and throughout every song and every note and every exhortation from Mark Tornillo and every gesture from Wolf Hoffman the audience responded.

Whether it was classics such as the tumultuous version of 'Fast As A Shark' or more recent material from 'Blind Rage' Accept were greeted as conquering heroes. The synchronised guitar movements from Wolf and Uwe might be clichéd to the intelligentsia but to the adoring fans it was yet further fulfilment of Accept's stature.

The conclusion - 'Ball To The Wall' - is an inducement to singalong every note and every chant. Accept - come back soon!

As to Sabaton? Well, they do what they do so well. They are the maestros of metallic mayhem. opener 'Ghost Division' was followed by a raft of songs, and the lurking tank...

Sabaton do not glorify war, but they honour soldiers and their heroics throughout the ages. 'Carulous Rex' and 'Night Witches' were among the stand-outs, but the closing tracks elevated the show and the audience's response.

'To Hell And Back'...well no-one does the grandiosity and humour that Sabaton deliver is something special.

Serious in their intent and self-deprecating at the same time the Swedish metal machine may add and take away from their line-up (new members on show for this tour) but they, like Accept, have a presence and power that few can equal.

Pictures and review by Darren McVeigh 

Addition editing by Jonathan Traynor
WHEN there are two shows across two venues at closely similar times it is inevitable that one will suffer in terms of attendance, but that doesn't mean that any performance suffered.
To put this in in some sort of context in Belfast't Limelight2 The Distortion Project presented the Cross Eyed Mary EP launch with Safire and Rosco's Riot in support. A couple of yards away in Limelight1 Last In Linewere concluding their autumn tour with Toseland backing them.
The Limelight2 gig first act were on at 6:30, with doors in Limelight1 opening at 7pm, and Toseland on shortly afterwards.
Trying to catch all the songs from all the acts was therefore impossible (apart from Last In Line, of course) but getting a flavour of the performances, a sense of the reception they would receive was important.
With Katy's buzzing and the queue forming at Limelight1 Rosco's Riot took to the stage to a sparsely populated venue. However, that didn't slow them down as they eeked out a muscular 30 minute set, filled with groove and taut rhythms.
As Safire took to the stage Toseland were making their return to a Northern Ireland stage to a deservedly warm welcome.
Their brand of radio-friendly hard rock has a ready audience from the off as they took to the stage with 'Living in the Moment'. Being paired with the classic metal of Last In Line may have seemed strange to the average under 40 gig goer of 2016. However, when Dio was playing Antrim Forum and Metallica played there and Belfast, it was virtually the same audiences that went to those gigs and the likes of Def Leppard. Genre boundaries? There shouldn't be any as long as the music is good.
Harkening back to the 80s in Limelight2 Safire provide a modern take on that era with poise and passion. Led by Saffron's strong vocal delivery, as per their previous show the week before opening for Raveneye the band have the songs and style to enable them to go much further. Catching half the set was enough to confirm they will continue to rise.
With Last In Line about to come on stage there was a chance to catch a few tunes from Cross Eyed Mary as they officially launched their EP 'Nil By Mouth'.
Although many of the tracks had been heard at the band's recent appearance at Hard Rock Hell X but what is impressive now is that 'Mary have most recently been able to balance their three guitar attack through solid arrangements and delivery.
The previous appearance of Last In Line in Belfast was very much as a band celebrating the first three Dio albums. Even then the sense was that this wasn't just some re-tread of classic songs to get a crowd singing.
Since then a lot has changed. When they sat down to record the album 'Heavy Crown' in 2015 Jimmy Bain was very much at the heart of the songwriting. With Bain's passing in January there may have been a question mark over LiL's future, but the band were determined to press on to honour the bassist's legacy.
Re-grouped and with other touring commitments out of the way Last In Line have been on the road for several weeks, and as well as playing like consummate professionals have made sure Bain's music still is aired for live audiences.
It was fitting that the third song of Saturday's set was 'Devil In Me' from 'Heavy Crown'. Sure 'Stand Up And Shout' and Straight Through The Heart' had the crowd well warmed up, but there was a sincerity about this track that rang true.
Bringing in Phil Soussan on bass duties is a more than qualified replacement with his experience and prowess, and after the run of shows he fits in well as does Erik Norlander on keys.
But the star in Belfast is the homecoming man, Vivian Campbell. To say he is idolised by the majority there is an under-statement. True Andrew Freeman is at the front, leading with an impressive set of pipes, but it is Campbell that draws the most cheers - closely followed by Vinny Appice.
The show was a rampage through songs that drew all back into their formative years, or for those two young calling forth a time they wished to have been born in time for.
'Don't Talk To Strangers', Holy Diver, 'Last In Line', 'Rainbow In The Dark' - all so familiar the audience could have carried the band along...and they did. A welcome and adulation.
'Starmaker' 'Revolution' and, of course, 'We Rock' closed the evening all too early.
Last In Line have continued the legacy of those first three Dio albums, but it is not a tribute show, nor is it just some side project on down time between other bands. This is a band with heritage and a future.
We can just think of the past, but we can't live in the past - nor should we. Campbell and co show that just because they wrote and played on some of the most iconic tracks in metal history and now look set to continue as if the intervening years were but a blink.
Rush back please.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photos courtesy of Darren McVeigh, MetalplanetBelfast



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