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
SOAPGIRLS, VOODOO BELFAST
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
ALBUM REVIEW -THE SOAPGIRLS – SOCIETY'S REJECTS
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
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
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
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.
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
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
RYAN HAMILTON AND THE TRAITORS FEAT. GINGER WILDHEART – THE DEVIL'S IN THE DETAIL
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/MetalPlanetbelfast.com
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..
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
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
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