Live Reviews and Album Reviews

ALIEN ANT FARM W/SOIL & LOCAL H

 

No matter how well-versed one is on the subject of heavy rock/metal, there’s always going to be bands that slip through the cracks; ones that you vaguely know have quite a respectable back catalogue of albums, but you may only know one or two songs from them. Thursday night’s gig in Limelight 1 comprised of not one, but two such bands: Alien Ant Farm and SOiL. The fact that the gig was upgraded from LL2 to LL1 is testimony to the fact that both bands have large and enthusiastic fan bases, but there was also a definite sense of curiosity amongst many of the patrons who knew the ‘big’ songs and were willing to check out each band’s entire set to see if there was more to them.

Chicago duo Local H opened proceedings with their reverb-heavy, grungy guitar rock, and soon had the crowd warmed up admirably; all were impressed in equal parts with both the quality of their music and the fact that it came from just two people. With their easy banter and catchy tunes, it’s clear to see why their social media ‘likes’ are rising at a terrific pace.

Such is the reaction from the crowd when SOiL hit the stage that you could be led to think that they were the headliners, or at the very least that this was a co-headlining tour. After an intro which features snippets of Rob Zombie, Sam Kinison’s ‘Wild Thing’ and their own smash hit ‘Halo’, they stride onstage and immediately fire into opening track ‘Break Me Down’. It soon becomes apparent that they are as potent and passionate as ever, despite this being their twenty-first year together – at times it’s a close call as to who is most excited for them to be there: the crowd or the band themselves!.

“How the f**k you doin’ tonight…it’s been such a long time!” enthuses frontman Ryan McCombs, who remains wreathed in smiles throughout the band’s entire set. With a voice like Jack Daniels and honey, he is also funny and engaging, chatting amiably to the crowd about such subjects as the hair caught in his mouth (It’s from his head, don’t go there), the fact that the previous band’s setlist is still taped to the stage which keeps confusing the hell out of him (lol), and how grateful he is for everyone coming out to see them play.

In between the banter, they play an absolute blinder of a set at full pelt and full volume, with tracks such as ‘The Hate Song’, ‘Pride’ and their rocktastic cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ getting an airing; the latter performs the task of warming the crowd up so well that every band should do it.

The crowd respond with unadulterated joy, roaring along to the lyrics, hanging on McComb’s every word and headbanging with abandon. Their enthusiasm is rewarded in spades when McCombs exits the stage and performs their biggest hit ‘Halo’ from WITHIN the audience, handing his microphone to several delirious fans and turning the song into the ultimate in audience participation. Crazy, exuberant and unforgettable - particularly for the lucky throng the surrounded him – SoiL prove tonight that they are a cut above the rest, and more than just ‘that’ song.

As prompt as Big Ben (they even use an alarm clock intro), Alien Ant Farm take to the stage at their allotted time with a steely glint in their eyes, seemingly determined to prove that they, too, are more than just a ‘one song’ band. Right from their opening track ‘Bad Morning’ it seems that they are: all thunderous, thrashy, wailing rock, it’s also unexpectedly dark, and far from the pop punk scamps they appear as in the ‘Smooth Criminal’ video.

Vocalist Dryden Mitchell is also a dab hand at a bit of audience banter: “What’s up Northern Ireland?!” he greets the crowd, before they play ‘Movies’, which prompts a huge singalong, not to mention a bit of internal organ rearrangement from the lowest-tuned bass guitar you’ve ever heard.

He genuinely seems to enjoy chatting to the crowd and has them eating out of his hand right from the start as he thanks everyone for making the choice to come and see them tonight, talks a bit about the history of the band and certain songs and asks if everyone is having a good time, all in his trademark rambling, slightly husky voice.

One of the loudest cheers of the night comes when he dedicates ‘Attitude’ to the crowd, his mother, and the sadly departed Chester Bennington. With its snarling, whirling riff and inclusive lyrics (“you are all welcome here”), it’s a powerful moment that the more, ahem, inebriated amongst the crowd may have missed; luckily there’s a scrum of hardcore fans in front of the stage that hear every word and respond with emotion and gratitude.

For the curious among the audience, there’s a gratifying range of influences woven through the band’s music, from the obvious (pop punk) to the interesting (reggae, blues) to the downright startling (the bassline in ‘Glow’ is pure Steely Dan ‘Reelin’ in the Years’). They also, surprisingly to some, seem to be channelling the Deftones throughout; in fact, ‘Deftones do pop punk’ would be a pretty apt, if rather simplistic, description of them, should you ever require one.

‘Wish’ wraps up the main part of their set with a staccato beat and low, low bass that you can feel in your throat. After a few minutes they reappear, launching their encore with ‘Sticks and Stones’ and finally, of course, their boisterous cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, which practically has the crowd swinging from the ceiling and busting out their highest pitched “woo!”s; it’s truly a joy to behold.

As the crowd file out into the cold Belfast night, it’s clear that each band has gained new fans based on all of their music, as well as sating the appetites of their long-time fans who already knew how brilliant they were. Having one song that towers over the rest of your back catalogue can be burdensome; tonight (and undoubtedly for the rest of the tour) both SOiL and Alien Ant Farm surmounted the challenge admirably.

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

THERION W/IMPERIAL AGE, NULL POSITIV & MIDNIGHT ETERNAL

 

It’s testament to not only the hardiness, but also the sense of adventure of Belfast’s metal community that a healthy crowd of them braved a truly awful winter’s night to check out a veritable plethora of international, symphonic metal-style bands on Saturday in the Limelight. It’s also gratifying to see four bands which have never been to Belfast, proving that the scene here is thriving.

Because of the tightness of the schedule, New Jersey’s Midnight Eternal begin their set as the room is still filling up. After a dramatic intro they hit the ground running with an immediate brisk pace, which frontwoman Raine Hilai’s soaring, powerful vocals matched perfectly. With a higher pitch than is usually found in symphonic metal, and a black-clad, glamorous look, Hilai soon had the crowd hooked. Musically, they were a tightly cohesive unit, with some terrific group harmonies, tasty guitar licks and enough double kicks to vibrate glasses off tables. And although her voice starts to grate a tiny bit after a while, theirs is a lively and entertaining set (particularly the final song, which sounds oddly like ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’, complete with backing track synths. This is never a bad thing).

Equally as visually striking, but for entirely different reasons is band number two, Null Positiv from Germany. Even before frontwoman Elli Berlin steps onstage, the other band members are an arresting prospect, with their black metal-style face paint and wild hair. Then Berlin arrives, and jaws drop in equal parts astonishment and delight. Of Amazonian proportions, and with breathtaking charisma, she also possesses one of the finest, most versatile voices this reviewer has ever heard. From black metal screams, to death metal growls, to a clean singing voice that’s rather reminiscent of Lacuna Coil’s Christina Scabbia, she is a powerful, mesmerising presence that enchants and beguiles the audience. The band’s sound is further proof that metal is evolving and becoming less rigid genre-wise, as they gleefully combine black, death, industrial and even nu metal. If there is any justice in the world, this band will be huge.

Next up it’s Russia’s Imperial Age, whose six traditionally-garbed members appear at times to be struggling for space on the tiny stage. After a folk-ish metal style intro, they begin belting out some seriously impressive vocals; and well it should be, considering there are three obviously classically trained vocalists up there, in the form of Alexander ‘Aor’ Osimov, Jane ‘Corn’ Odintsova and Anna ‘Kiara’ Moiseeva. When they sing together it’s divine; when it’s just the two women, it’s almost celestial. Musically closest to the pagan metal genre – there’s shades of Arkona and Eluveitie in there - it’s all very epic and dramatic, as though there should be a fight to the death playing out, or some sort of olde worlde ship onstage with them, or the like. A rousing set.

If you always thought symphonic metal should always have synthesisers, you need to check out headliners Therion. Starting off as a death metal band about a hundred years ago, under the steady hand of frontman Christofer Johnsson they eventually evolved to an ever more symphonic metal band, to the point where they have just released their ‘rock opera’ The Beloved Antichrist, which features a hornswoggling three hour running time and almost thirty vocalists. There are moments when you can hear synths – on a backing track, presumably because there’s simply no room to put one onstage – but even without, this is proper symphonic metal with all the frills (literally; check out frontman Thomas Vikstrӧm’s shirt). Honing their sound over the years, Therion have perfectly captured that tricky combination of beauty and brawn that good symphonic metal simply must master.

The audience responds with lusty enthusiasm, headbanging to the heavy and pausing, entranced, during the light; the twin vocals from singers Lori Lewis and Chiara Malvestiti, both ethereal and potent, manage to do the almost impossible and (briefly) silence the rowdy crowd.

Their hour and forty-five minute long set spans their career – well, the symphonic part, anyway. Songs from The Beloved Antichrist are received with alacrity and joy, a reaction made all the more impressive when you consider the album was only released the day before the gig. In fact, the crowd’s enthusiasm never wavers throughout, right through to their traditional set closer ‘To Mega Therion’ from back when it all started.

Suitably melodramatic, theatrical, with moments of immensely satisfying heaviness that sets heads nodding everywhere interspersed with touches of delicate beauty, and with just the tiniest hint of (entirely expected) cheese, Therion really bought the goods tonight for their fans. With the sleet, rain and freezing temperatures outside, Belfast’s hardiest enjoyed a gloriously varied night of metal. And really, who’d want to be doing anything else on a night like that?

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

Photos by Darren Mcveigh @Metalplanet72

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: When Anvil Pounded the Pavements of Belfast

A cold Tuesday night feeling like it was the dead of winter should have ensured the streets of Belfast had only a few stragglers knocking about the place. Not so for the Limelight 2 where the legendary Anvil and the mighty Stormzone were playing.

Even with the early 7pm start and Stromzone on at 7.10pm the place was getting packed out. By the time Anvil took to the stage it was metal on metal with the body count as the place was packed to the rafters.

Stormzone (Harv, Steve, Graham, Gordy and Jr) took to the stage and blew away any cold February blues anyone had firing off on all guns appropriately enough with ‘Where we belong’. And they certainly did belong on that stage. Next was their anthemic ‘Three Kings’ which let the band highlight once more their enthusiasm and metal energy onstage. Then came ‘The Pass Loning’, ‘You're not the same’ and ‘Death Dealer’. Each song delivered with passion and verve with each member of the band animatedly joining in. The love of their art was plain to see and this spilled over into the audience. The set came to a close with ‘The Legend carries on’, a very fitting song for the band as they had just received the delivery of their latest album ‘Lucifer’s Factory’ which quite a few people picked up at their merch stand. Each song was a perfect delivery of the band’s heavy rock/metal style of thrumming, chugging riffage tied together by Harv’s fearless vocals into one beautiful stage show.

Then a roar went up as Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, Robb Reiner and Chris Robertson strolled like mighty conquering heroes through the parting mass onto the stage. Though Lips was feeling very under the weather, he showed his true metal grit as he launched into ‘March of the Crabs’ to a joyous reverberation of the crowd. Everyone knew something special was happening in front of their eyes. Anvil were playing Belfast!

Then on into ‘666’, ‘Ooh Baby’ and the pavement pounding ‘Badass Rock 'n' Roll’. They owned the stage, Lips had a smile that travelled from ear to ear, Chris was rocking the bass and Robb was smashing those drums. The passion and enthusiasm for their music was clear to see, and the crowd were just as passionate. The adoration and noise from those in attendance would rival any epic victory party.

Throwing themselves into each and every song with unbridled energy they continued to push the crowd into an ecstasy of fervent joy with ‘Doing What I Want’, which should be the theme song for their tenacious dedication to their art. On it went with ‘Winged Assassins’ with an amazingly crowd pleasing intro from Chris Robertson doing a wonderfully animated Bass solo, with ‘Free as the Wind’ and ‘On Fire’ keeping the pace going.

From their hugely popular documentary ‘Anvil: The story of Anvil’ came the raucous ‘This Is Thirteen’, before heading into Kaiju territory with ‘Mothra’ which incorporated the signature move from Anvil, Lips’ guitar and dildo Solo. Truly a wondrous disturbing sight to behold! And the crowd absolutely loved it.

Each and every time there was a pause, a resounding chant of ‘Anvil. Anvil. Anvil.’ lifted up from the floor like a prayer to the metal gods that there were more songs coming. And Anvil didn’t disappoint. Lips was a fantastic front man chatting and joking in-between with the crowd, which was lapped up with unadulterated reverence. The crowd, without a doubt, appreciated the band’s presence in Belfast and the way Lips, Robb and Chris were giving it maximum metal.

Up next was ‘Bitch in the Box’, a fantastic metal homily on our modern day frustrations with sat-navs, before turning to the high seas with ‘Daggers and Rum’. Each and every song just brought more and more smiles, roars of appreciation and headbanging from the dedicated multitude that crammed in to see Anvil.

The energy never abated, and with no signs of slacking Anvil continued their onslaught to rock the hell out of the Limelight with ‘Swing Thing’ and an amazing drum solo from Robb Reiner. ‘Ego’ kept the unstoppable metal flowing and then ‘Die For a Lie’ before finishing the main set with their signature tune of ‘Metal on Metal’. The only disappointment for everyone there was Anvil left the stage as the gig was now over. But wait!! To the chants once more of ‘Anvil. Anvil. Anvil.’ on they came with one more song. And what a fantastic way to finish their visit to Belfast. Covering Steppanwolf they utterly rocked ‘Born to be Wild’.

Overall, the whole gig was a very special event, and everyone there knew it. Stromzone kicked it out of the park as ever with their set bringing their usual infectious energy to the proceedings and truly warming up the crowd. Anvil put on a spectacular show that transcended the evening, age wise, music wise and fan wise. From those who have been long time aficionados to those just dropping in to see who these guys were, all were one in admiration by even the first few songs. Many bands would kill for the adulation Anvil got in the Limelight and the place vibrated with the noise of the crowd. The whole atmosphere screamed ‘Metal is Life’ and everything else can melt into insignificance. It was very apt that this titanic show in Belfast was ‘A night to remember’ for all the right reasons.

Simply put, you need to see Anvil. End of story.

Anvil’s album ‘Pounding the Pavement’ is out now and after you buy that take Lips’ advice and buy the best off before plunging yourself wholeheartedly into the rest of the back catalogue.

Stormzone’s album ‘Lucifer’s Factory’ is now available.

Review by : Ivor Whitten @Happymetalgeek

Photos by : Darren Mcveigh  @Metalplanet72

 

LIVE REVIEW: Symphonic extravaganza lands in Limelight headed by Therion 
 
COSTUMES. You wouldn't expect a live music review to start with costumes. It's not a fuckn' fashion blog! But, the point in referring to four bands' costumes is attention to detail.
 
When the four acts, headed by Therion, hit the stage on Saturday February 10th, that act of putting on a costume, warpaint or whatever gives the audience a focus, and gets the band into the mindset of providing entertainment.
 
 
And, this tour package poured out as much entertainment as the beer taps were providing...
 
Manhattan's Midnight Eternal set the tone for the evening with a searing set kicking off with Raine Hilai's commanding presence and showcasing all her experience on stage in various formats.
 
Featuring songs from their début release the likes of ''When Love and Faith Collide' and 'The Lantern' had the crowd wowed by the playing of guitarist Richard Fischer. Closer 'Signs of Fire' was delightful and stunning in equal parts.
 
Terrifying and wonderful at the same time Elli Berlin led the sonic shock of Germany's Null Positiv. Edgier and more metallic than some in the line-up there was a distinct sense of a band out to prove a point.
 
 
Singing mainly in their native tongue it was Martin's guitar counterpoints to Elli's presence that made it such an impressive selection of songs with 'Trauma' and 'Koma' stand-outs.
 
With just two bands into the set it was clear that this was already a special evening for those that made it along to the Limelight on a damp Saturday evening.
 
Russia's Imperial Age's progression to a full-blown operatic symphonic saw them take on a complete metal opera in the shape of 'The Legacy of Atlantis'
 
Adorned in appropriate 'imperial' costumes Alexander, flanked by Jane and Anna were flawless in their delivery - they may have played Death Guard', but their set was a live and breathing beast.
 
 
Immersive and expansive the confidence and delivery Imperial Age set the bar very high...but then again it was Therion who were to follow.
 
With the three and a half hour 'Beloved Antichrist' under their belts and earning rave reviews, could they deliver the balance and poise to merge their recorded ambitions and fans' favourites?
 
Of course they could - this is Therion after all!
 
As soon as the strains of 'Theme of Antichrist' echoed out Christofer was the master ringleader in a masterful performance, punctuated with thrills and dexterity.
 
'Bring Her Home', 'My Voyage Carries On' and 'Temple of New Jerusalem' were among the tracks from 'Beloved Antichrist' but what was really impressive was that new and old songs formed a coherent set.
 
 
Closing duo of songs 'The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah' and 'To Mega Therion' left the Limelight crowd breathless and grinning.
 
From New York, Berlin, Moscow and Stockholm these international visitors to Belfast were afforded a deserved welcome - and in return they all delivered something special.
 
Review by Jonathan Traynor
 
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
 
 

Raveneye, Skam and Mosmo Strange. Three rock bands walk into a bar ….

On a rather cold Friday night the Belfast Empire played host to a full on rock performance of epic proportions. As the crowd milled in anticipating a good show, little did they know that the night was going to be filled with a fantastic show that would blow their minds.

Setting the scene was local band Mosmo Strange, a four piece band of Gavin Scott, Nolan Donnelly, Eamonn Doherty and Conor Bradley. Kicking in with ‘L'Etrange’, Clipper and ‘Fumar Mata’, they grabbed people’s attention straight away with an eclectic alt rock energy. These guys were not the usual looking rock outfit many would expect and their tight set, banter and stage presence really hit the tone. Hitting the crowd next with ‘Vince the Pince’ and finishing off with ‘She’s away’, they have an almost indifferent rock like attitude, playing for their own enjoyment, and if others want to listen, then that’s all good. They had an enjoyable Zappa jazz rock feel about them with a touch of musical experimentation about their set list. A great set to warm up the Empire Hall.

Next up were Skam, a three piece band from Leicester of Steve Hill, Matt Gilmore, and Neal Hill, and it was six years since they were last in Belfast. There were a few hardened fans in the hall and were beyond excited Skam were back. One attendee specifically there for Skam was one Cormac Neeson, lead singer of The Answer. So this promised to be an interesting affair.

Well, it wasn’t interesting. It was a hard rocking, mind blowing experience. Coming on stage, they suddenly owned it. Firing off the Rolls Royce engines of their spitfire hard rocking set they took to the skies with ‘Between the Eyes’, ‘Iron Cross’ and ‘No Lies’. With pounding drums, rumbling bass lines, melodic hard rocking guitar riffs and superb vocals, they completely kicked ass from the first notes. ‘Fading before the Sun’, ‘Holy City’, and ‘Take it or Leave it’ entrenched their outstanding style of hard rocking with the Belfast crowd, before delivering their coup de gras with ‘’Massacre’. Each one had their own distinguishable personality with Steve on lead vocals and guitar connecting beautifully with the audience, Matt on bass strutting around like a turkey cock having a whale of a time and Neal energetically smashing the hell out of the drums. As a singular rock unit they were supremely tight. They had a real banter and connection with the throng. While most of the people there were awaiting Raveneye, there was a palpable disappointment Skam’s set was over. Definitely a band to catch if the opportunity ever arises. Hopefully it won’t be another six years before they are back again.

Then, almost unnoticed three unassuming likely lads nonchalantly took to the stage. For a few moments checked the equipment, and then proceeded to utterly blow the place apart with a foot stomping, uproarious gungy blues rock that had everyone’s undivided attention. Clouting everyone round the head the night’s tour de force smashed in with ‘Hate’, ‘Come with Me’, and ‘Inside’, Raveneye just defy expectations every time they perform as they keep upping their game just when you think they did an outstanding job the last time. Crowd favourite ‘Hey Hey Yeah’ with Oli and Aaron’s shoulder riding antics did not fail to make the hairs rise and heads bang. The crowd loved how both stalked through hall faultlessly pumping out the tuneage all the while. Next was ‘You’re a Lie’, ‘Supernova’, ‘Madeline’ and ‘Oh my Love’ continuing the amazing onslaught of superb rock that was perfectly delivered. The interaction of Oli, Aaron and Andy showed a natural self confidence that was humble and joyful was the rock cup that spilled over into the crowd. Oli is a remarkable front man with an incredible skill as he both playfully toyed with his guitar and the audience. ‘Out of the Rain’ and ‘Breaking Out’ kept the audience on a high as they just continued the pounding beats,

graceful bluesy rocked out riffs and thrumming bass before taking it down a notch to deliver ‘Eternity’, a beautifully conveyed acoustic performance. Then, with pure and well deserved confidence, Oli just came out straight that at this time the band goes off stage only to come back on for an encore, so sod that, they would just do the extra three songs now. This led into ‘Hero’, ‘Turn the lights down’ and then to completely shake the foundations of the Empire they ended on ‘You get it’.

Overall, all the bands delivered more than was anyone could have expected. Mosmo Strange were a great warm up and Skam were utterly superb rockers. Raveneye, the absolute stars of the night, came, saw and conquered the hell out the Belfast Empire. All the bands had an undiluted self-effacing and unpretentious attitude, even though they all had the talent to get away with being overbearingly up their own holes. They took the time with the audience on and off the stage which made the night a very special night for everyone who stayed to the end. They got a chance to meet a number of bands that will be hitting the world recognition level in the not too distant future.

If you have an opportunity to see any of these three bands, do yourself a massive favour and do it. You will be blown away.

Review by Ivor Whitten @happymetalgeek

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Thaurorod deliver power metal masterclass on Coast of Gold 
 
FINNISH power metal maestros Thaurorod may have slipped below many a metal fans radar to date, but with the release of 'Coast of Gold' they will no longer be just another European band.
 
This album is a stunning exposition of what can be achieved by a band with the confidence to explore their musical ability.
 
From the almost 80's sounding keyboard intro on opener 'The Commonwealth Lives' the listener is aurally assaulted by rampaging riffs, battered by double bass runs, seared with solos on guitar and keys and swept away with muscular melodies.
 
The hyperbole is justified. Sure they are on the 'same page' as Dragonforce et al, but they take the template and add their own nitro that could launch the 'genre' that bit further.
 
And, the song that could do this is 'Cannibal Island'. From the sweet child's voice and the mid-paced opening it develops into an almost impossibly catchy tune Andi Kravljaca vocal gymnastics sounding impassioned and filled with glory and gore as he recounts the horror.
 
Throughout 'Coast Of Gold' the combination of Emil Pohjalainen, Lass Nyman's guitars and Harri Koskela's keyboards provide a deft weft and weaving, never over-powering the song.
 
The nods to their influences are clear - the opening piano of '24601' nods to Jovi's 'Runaway' before developing gradually into a show-stopping tune, texture emerging into a full throttle battle.
 
And, that combination from almost 'Battle Metal' and 'Power Metal' will have the hair splitters arguing for weeks, but the reality is this is simply a great heavy metal album. It's the sort of album you could play your "non-metal" friend and have them hooked after the first listen.
 
It is, however, not all pedal to the metal, with on the penultimate track, the delicate 'Halla' gives a counterpoint, a sense of the Finnish landscape and the sound of seaborne adventures.
 
While the lyrical content does have a mariner's tale twists, it is not a forced concept, it is incidental to the enjoyment of Thaurorod on this album.
 
Blasting through the closer 'Illuminati' in all its intensity and power as it ends the first thought is to play the entire album again. No better recommendation can there be.
 
Review by Jonathan Traynor
 
'Coast of Gold' is released on Drakkar Entertainment on February 16th
 
 
 

DIZZY REED – ROCK ‘N’ ROLL AIN’T EASY

 

Dizzy Reed is best known as one of the members of Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘part two’, so to speak: joining the band after it’s seismic shift in 1990, he is actually the second-longest standing member, after Axl Rose. In actuality, he is far more than that, having worked on several projects with a plethora of musicians, including recently rejoined GnR legends Duff McKagan and Slash, the Dead Daisies, and his own band, the pithily named Hookers and Blow. Evidently, he is a man who likes to stay busy, as he will release his debut solo album Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Easy, on February 16th through Golden Robot Records.

The album pins its colours to the mast with its opening track, lead single ‘This Don’t Look Like Vegas’ and it becomes immediately apparent that Reed’s musical taste, broadly, is ‘Sunset Strip hard rock’ crossed with ‘good ol’ honky-tonk blues’ – a mighty combination, indeed. Toe-tappingly catchy with a driving hard rock beat and bluesy piano, it certainly blows the cobwebs away, as well as being an excellent gauge for what’s to come.

What follows is an uplifting and brilliant lesson in how the blues segued into rock ‘n’ roll all those years ago, and how they can still come together to make proper, classic rock. There’s a real Eighties vibe to some of the tracks, such as ‘Understanding’; urgently fierce album highlight ‘Crestfallen’; and the rollicking ‘Reparations’. There’s also shades of Nineties indie and grunge – take a listen to ‘Mystery in Exile’, ‘I Celebrate’ and the mature sounding, heartfelt ‘Fragile Water’.

There’s also, of course, the odd Guns ‘n’ Roses snippet, such as the sexy, bluesy ‘Dirty Bomb’ and the “beware of the evil woman”-themed ‘Understanding’. Not that the whole album takes its inspiration from the past, though: ‘Cheers 2 R Oblivion’, with its pleasingly throaty vocals and rather Hothouse Flowers vibe has a great modern rock sound (and very modern, text-speak title…), and the title track, which closes the album, would comfortably fit on any rock album old or new.

While Reed certainly hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, he’s taken his influences and wealth of experience and created a well-crafted, highly entertaining hard rock album. Perfect for bellowing along to in your car with the window rolled down, as well as being a fascinating peek into the mind of a musician who’s been on the frontline of American hard rock for decades. If you’re a rocker of any age, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Easy is definitely worth the purchase.

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

BATTLESOUL – SUNWARD AND STARWARD

 

‘Battlesoul’. What does that band name conjure up for you? Straight up, Sabaton-esque battle metal? Folky, Viking-y metal, Amon Amarth style? Lord of the Rings? Angry, shouty men in kilts? None of the above? All? In fact, any of those answers is at least partly correct. For Battlesoul are that most modern of heavy metal bands: genre-straddlers, who delight in taking bits of this and that, like metal magpies, and creating something that’s actually rather fascinating.

Formed in 2007 in London, Canada by ex-Heaven Ablaze guitarist Mike Grund and ex-Whitechapel drummer Nich Ireland (who also drums for Viking metallers SIG:AR:TYR, fact fans), they then took on vocalist Jon Doyle, bassist Bill Elliot and guitarist (and brother of Nich) Thomas Ireland. Their lineup complete, they released a self-titled EP in 2008, followed by full lengths Lay Down Thy Burdens in 2010 and Tir na nOg in 2013. Their latest effort, Sunward and Starward, is due for release on February 23rd on CDN Records.

Eagle eyed history buffs will note the Irish title of their 2013 album: Tir na nOg, or ‘land of the young’, is an Irish legend from many years ago. It’s a good indicator of what Battlesoul are about, too, as their lyrics heavily feature celtic myths and legends, particularly those that sprang from battles, warriors, travelling to distant lands and possibly not returning, and so on. What makes them stand out is their disregard for staying within subgenre boundaries; on previous releases and this latest album, they gleefully throw death metal, blackened death metal, thrash, battle metal, folk metal and celtic metal into their personal melting pot. The result really must be heard to be understood/believed.

The album opens with ‘All I Understand’, which hits the ground running at a blistering pace and with some surprisingly clean singing. The occasional twin guitar harmonies lend the track a power metal feel, while the switched up falsetto vocals and echoing vocals in the chorus kind of feel a bit proggy. See? They also throw a celtic-sounding wind instrument into the mix, because why not?

And so the album goes on, loosely following a pattern: bold, riff-heavy intro, death metal style vocals (but also sometimes black metal style, sometimes thrash, and sometimes clean – at times Doyle sounds like three singers at once), often with some gorgeous operatic style singing from classical vocalist Alina Gavrilenko. Each track is breathtakingly fast-paced, with widdling guitars aplenty and the sort of double-bass drumming that leaves one exhausted just listening to it.

In fact, almost every song starts with a rowdy sonic blast, all bolshy drums and thrashy, impudent riffs. The only ones that show a bit more decorum are the final two numbers: ‘So It Goes’, which draws the listener in with a melancholy string intro then slams into a thudding beat and positive riff-fest of straight up thrashy death metal. Then there’s final track ‘Break the Day’, with its quietly majestic folky intro, breakneck pace, blazing guitar solo and, finally, a sort of ‘rides off into the sunset’ thrashy/folky outro. It’s all a bit bewildering but well and truly keeps the listener engaged and entertained.

Throughout, there are some noticeable highlights: the mystical, ‘warrior’ vibe of ‘Arrival’; the particularly impressive drumming in ‘The Watcher’; the use of unusual instruments such as a piccolo-type wind instrument and a stringed instrument of some kind that almost sounds like a flute (listen to the thrashy ‘Totem’ for an example of this); the pendulously heavy, galloping ‘The Loss of Sons’. Amongst those, there are further few which stand tallest: the epic (in every sense of the word) title track, with moments of light and shade cunningly pieced together and a creepy, almost shudder-

inducing ‘internal monologue’ outro, and the aforementioned closing track ‘Break the Day’, which deviates from their ‘million miles an hour’ philosophy for just a few moments.

Far from being ‘just’ a battle metal band, with Skyward and Starward Battlesoul have demonstrated yet again that they are master boundary pushers, musically speaking. By cleverly combining several metal subgenres – folk, power, thrash, death, celtic - they are well on their way to creating an entirely new one for themselves. ‘Battlesoul metal’? Well, you just never know. You read it here first…

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

DONUM DEI – CONTRIBUTE TO CHAOS

 

You know that thing where you see someone just starting out a hobby or new pursuit, don’t hear from them about it for a while, then discover that they’ve gotten astonishingly, jawdroppingly good at it in your absence, and you’re just like…wow? Well, that’s what listening to Donum Dei’s debut full length album is like. As in utterly, properly wow.

The band formed while still in school in 2011, which must have made trying to get gigs to play at a challenge. They released their debut EP Justice Fails in 2015, which garnered them generally favourable reviews, and continued to play their socks off at every gig they could find, honing their craft and working towards creating their own, unique sound.

All that hard worked has paid off in spades, as you will hear from the moment the album begins. ‘False Hope’ initially beguiles with an almost folky intro, before front man/guitarist Thomas Marshall’s vocals kick in like a vast, ferocious hurricane. It becomes instantly obvious that Contribute to Chaos is a huge step forward in the band’s evolution; they have found their sound, their USP. And although they are clearly inspired by classic metal genres such as thrash, NWOAHM and even industrial, theirs is a thoroughly modern metal.

Each song is outstanding; each brings its own power and fury to the table and showcases the band brilliantly. There literally isn’t a duff number present, or a lull, or a moment where your attention will wander. And the riffs! Check out the strident and insistent groove in ‘Dead on Arrival’; the slinky, thrashy title track; the skin-crawling, ominous lead single ‘Murder and Mayhem’; and the simply written yet devastatingly effective riff in ‘Terrorize’.

There are some surprises thrown in here, too: the addition of Ketos singer Pete Crenshaw on ‘Torture (Makes Them Speak) creates an interesting light/dark texture within the song, as well as giving it a front as big as a Mack truck; ‘Courage From Within’, with its hint of hardcore, is the sort of motivational song which kicks you in the arse and punches you in the face; and album closer ‘Justice Fails’ from their debut EP has been given a smartening up and one hell of a steroid injection, resulting in a song with heft to spare and a perfect example of DD’s now trademark stomp.

Choosing a highlight amongst such a superb collection of songs is tough, but ‘A Wolf Among Us’ just edges the competition out, with its instant rage, crushing riff and violently furious lyrics. The glorious and unexpectedly soaring outro is a big plus, too.

From unashamed Metallica fanboys to a modern metal band in their own right, the journey that Donum Dei have taken, both publicly and in their own rehearsal space, is nothing short of stunning. Their songwriting skills have come along in leaps and bounds; their musicality, the same. Each band member has clearly grown, too, resulting in a band full of fire and brimming with talent. Don’t look away – you don’t want to miss this.

 

Contribute to Chaos will be launched in the Belfast Empire on Thursday, March 1st, with support from Death of a Salesman, Ketos and Dream Awake. See the band’s Facebook page for details.

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

FRANK CARTER AND THE RATTLESNAKES – MANDELA HALL, SUNDAY 28TH JAN

 

Punk singers: hard, wiry, lairy blokes who hiss and spit about how effed up the world is and would headbutt you as soon as look at you, right? Think the Sex Pistols, Poly Styrene, and every studded jacket-clad punk you ever saw at a gig. But what if there was a new kind of punk rocker: one who opens up about how tough life is; who is still full of fury at the state of the world circa 2018 but can also fill a show with light-hearted banter and self-deprecating humour? Enter one Frank Carter.

Beginning his musical career in one of Britain’s great punk acts, Gallows, Carter left to pursue a more classic rock-oriented sound with Pure Love. When that sadly fell through, he returned to his punk roots, starting up Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes so quietly that he took everyone by surprise when he announced it on Twitter. Album Blossom followed rapidly; a blazing, rage-filled, instant punk classic, it was gleefully seized upon by both fans and critics. Then followed something of a surprising turn: second album Modern Ruin, which toned down the anger and instead spoke of Carter’s somewhat more settled life with his wife and young daughter.

If you were worried that he had lost his edge and become ‘soft’, however, a FC&TR gig will put that thought to bed rather smartly, as a crowded Mandela Hall was to discover on Sunday night. First, though, opening act Chinese Newspaper had the rather unenviable task of warming up the still-filling room. They describe themselves as “fuzz pop”, which turns out to mean perky, sunny indie rock with a dash of pop-punk thrown in – indeed, their youthfulness and baseball caps gives that away before they play a note. With thick Irish accents, well crafted songs and some welcome moments of heaviness preventing them from being saccharine, they may play to a half full room, but those present seem to enjoy them very much.

Next up was the unusually named DMOB HAPPY who stride onstage clad in (matching) blazers and, following a blare of distortion, further warm the crowd up with their Nineties-influenced sound and melodic vocals. They’re sort of “Oasis meets the Beatles” schtick – the singer even looks like John Lennon, and if he doesn’t worship him a tiny bit it would be very surprising – combined with the fuzziness and trippy vibe of The Doors goes down well.

Speaking of distortion…half an hour later, the house lights drop and a wildly distorted bass guitar intro rings out, causing the crowd to roar with anticipation – a sound that only gets louder as the man of the hour himself saunters onstage. With a delighted grin and a bellow of “Belfaaaaaaaaaast!” he immediately switches to his manic, high-energy stage persona. Opening single ‘Primary Explosive’ quickly segues into the sexy, shouty ‘Fangs’, prompting the first delirious singalong of the night. Without a moment’s pause they fire straight into their first single ‘Juggernaut’, during which Carter leaps into the crowd and shows off his latest party trick: standing on the crowd’s hands, in a headstand, still singing. Impressive!

A brief moment of calm follows, during which he apologises for having to postpone their two Irish dates due to illness. The band then launch into the first track from Modern Ruin, ‘Vampires’, which proves to be a bit more of a hip-swinger than a headbanger, as do the next two tracks, ‘Wild Flowers’ and slinky recent single ‘Spray Paint Love’. It has to be said though, at no point does the explosive energy in the room dip in the slightest; in fact, during ‘Wildflowers’ there is a distinct shift upwards as Carter informs the crowd that women put up with a lot of shit in their lives and that only they were allowed to crowd surf during said song.

Throughout, Carter is bolshy, charismatic - and, it has to be said, terrifically funny: clambering into the crowd because “I wanna dance”, stopping ‘Jackals’ to inform the crowd that they all have to sing ‘happy birthday’ to someone named Charlotte (which they obligingly do), and at one stage taking someone’s phone off them and calling their mother because they cheekily asked him, clearly not expecting him to! It’s as brilliant as it is unexpected.

There are some serious moments too: his emotional discourse on why he wrote ‘Loss’, followed by a stripped back version with him silhouetted against a blue light and a cloud of dry ice; and dedicating the furious ‘Paradise’ to those who had lost their lives at gigs such as the Bataclan in France, which earns him a heartfelt, sombre round of applause.

A four-song encore begins with ‘Devil Inside Me’, during which the pit opens up spontaneously. Carter then announces that nobody else should crowd surf as he is worried about the young girls at the barrier – and also, he quips, because he “saw someone’s butt crack, which ruined my night”! ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Lullabye’ then follow, and then it’s time for their now-traditional closing track ‘I Hate You’, which prompts another huge singalong with the crowd, much to everyone’s delight.

That’s Frank Carter in 2018: no hair dye, fancy Gucci suits or gimmicks: just him, his band, and a new sense of calm, despite the rage. Funny in ways you would never expect if you had only seen him in Gallows or listened to Blossom, clearly loving getting older despite the gripes about his hearing and his back and so on, and, well, simply a punk rocker, he proves in spades that he is still carrying the punk flag high and proud.

 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

Does Kill the Unicorn dream of an electric Prism?

 

What do you get when you cross metalcore with 8-bit gaming and jazz? Kill the Unicorn, a Swizz band formed in 2014. And an interesting concept it is too.

 

Their latest album ‘Prism’, released in late 2017, is a really…. interesting listen. It’s as if Thy Art is Murder had a lovechild with Frank Zappa and immediately started playing the Legend of Zelda on a Gameboy.

 

The album immediately gives you that vibe with ‘Motoko Kusanagi’, a very familiar name to anyone who knows of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, with nostalgia inducing 8-bit tones before bludgeoning you with fast and frenzied riffs. Throughout there is that undertone of 8-Bit magic as its sound rises to the top to be replicated by the guitars. All the while Pipo’s visceral guttural vocals roll along like a platform protagonist that just beat the shit out of Bowser. It’s a very well put together weird piece of metalcore that you will want to listen to over and over.

 

‘Dreams in 56k’ is one of the most nostalgia inducing intermissions (only 23 seconds long) you will hear. If you grew up in the 90’s and had a modem then this will both melt your heart and make you cringe with horror. No incoming or outgoing calls when that baby was running.

 

Next up is ‘Ode to Spot’ is a wondrous mad mix of metalcore with pure Zappa/Primus weirdness that perfectly complements the subject of the song, Spot the Cat. Yes, all you will think of is Data’s cat. And his own ‘Ode to Spot’. Again they neatly entwine references to contemporary nerd culture in a natural fun way. And yes Pipo was counting Tribbles in there too.

 

On into ‘Wormhole To Gliese 556c’ is one for science geeks as Kill the Unicorn seem to make an oblique reference to Gliese 581, a recently discovered, possibly, habitable planet. As Pipo rumbles out his vocals as the band lay down a fantastically heavy track, it just drags you along into space. Again there is a little musical twist plopped right into the song. Always expect the unexpected.

 

As ‘F.U.C.K.U.P.’ blasts in with pure heavy metalcore, you will be trashing your head until they get to the chorus when you will stop and go ‘WTF’, which is just the Hors d'oeuvre for the weirdness main course. Which involves a submarine at one point.

 

Just for a bit of left curve balling, ‘Me And My Velociraptor’ is an amazing tour de force instrumental, which has such a Chilli Pepper feel at the start you almost think Anthony Kiedis is about to drop a bit of ‘Under the Bridge’ for a laugh. It then leads off into melodically epic driving riffs and thunderous drums and cymbals. Being Kill the Unicorn, they just couldn’t leave it alone with beautifully crafted slow spots and reprises throughout. A fantastic track.

 

Kicking you in the face. Again. Is ‘Conquistador’. A heavy thrashing track full of serious metal tonnage mixing in some catchy melodies all while pounding along like an army on the march. Fantastic.

 

Then comes ‘Catacombs’, a short but perfectly formed piece of rage filled vocals full of power, an unstoppable force until it hits a jazz speed bump, and then goes wonderfully weird from there.

 

On into a rousing thumping track in German ‘Ausgefuchst’ or ‘Crafty’ that just grabs your body and tosses you about in its own hard melodic way. It may put you in mind of Metalocalypse's Dethklok.

 

The penultimate tune is ‘Rendesvouz with Cleopatra’ a fast thrashy metal track that will still keep a headbanging metalcore fan happy with solid moshing breakdowns.

 

Lastly comes ‘Pitch Black VR’ which immediately conjures up the film that brought us the mighty Vin Diesel and the track has a chaotic and frentic dread heaving throughout reflecting the atmosphere of the movie.

 

Kill the Unicorn are Full Metal Alchemists who pound out a wonderfully dissonant cacophony of techno metalcore, 8-Bit insanity, and Zappa jazz. They just revel in trolling metallers by defying tradition and creating an existential heavy metal crisis. All the tracks have a schizophrenic force driving forward with an undeniable energy. The songs themselves delve into the dark dystopian side of humanity’s dependence on technology, the album has an overall hard cyberpunk ‘Blade Runner’ feel.

 

As Pipo says “Live fast, die digital”. Especially pertinent as technology and social media is so dominant.

 

Kill The Unicorn’s ‘Prism’ is out now

Website - www.killtheunicorn.com

 

Kill the Unicorn are

Pipo Thalmann - Vocals Marc Sommerhalder - Bass Matteo Leuthold - Drums Ziggy Lebon - Guitars Raphael Zumstein – Guitars

Metalcore / Progressive / Hardcore / call it what you want.

 

 

SOIL – SCREAM: THE ESSENTIALS

‘Best Of’ albums, eh? If you’re a proper fan, you must buy it; if not, meh. There is, however, a third category: the one where you’re not that much of a huge fan of said artist/band, but you hear all their songs together and think “actually they’re really quite good, aren’t they?”. Step forward the subject of today’s review: SOiL. 
The rockers formed way back in 1997 in Chicago, originally from members of two different death metal bands. Vocalist Ryan McCombs soon joined and they began recording, releasing a few EP’s which did very little to get them noticed. It was only when single ‘Halo’ was doing the rounds that record labels began to sit up and take notice, which led to them being signed to J Records for their first album Scars in 2001. After 2004’s Redefine, McCombs left; ostensibly to spend more time with his family, he then announced a year later that he was joining Drowning Pool. His role in SOiL was then taken by singer AJ Cavalier, who stayed with them for three albums before he, too, announced his departure from the band, along with drummer Tom Schofield. McCombs then returned to tour with the band as they celebrated the tenth anniversary of Scars in 2011 (are you keeping up?) before deciding to make the guest role permanent. A live DVD/CD combo (2012) and a Kickstarter-funded album later (2013’s Whole), the band released Scream: The Essentials at the end of 2017 on Pavement/AFM Records. Comprised of original tracks featuring both vocalists, as well as some alternative and acoustic versions and surprising covers, the album runs in essentially in chronological order, from their 1998 EP El Chupacabra to the Whole album. Ready? Let’s step into SOiL’s discography and see what we find…
The album opens with one of those rather startling covers, in the form of ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ from the film The Blues Brothers. Bassist Tim King reveals the thinking behind the decision, stating “we felt it was a perfect song to the album…it tied in our Chicago roots and the twentieth anniversary of the band perfectly”. The resulting track is a brilliant, although very much ‘rocked up’ version of the classic and is maybe a trifle self-indulgent but also undeniably good fun. 
“Fun” is a word that pops up again and again while listening to this album. SOiL may not be big, clever or pretty, but my goodness can they write a great, catchy, ‘party hard’ tune or two. Even as far back as the late Nineties (tracks two, three and four) they had already honed that instantly recognisable sound: the chugging NWOAHM riffs, the hard rock machismo, the nu metal twang and McCombs’ signature gravelly vocal style. Each song has a driving, pummelling beat; each makes you want to jump around, dance like a loon and headbang frantically, up to and including their magnificent cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’. Their live shows must be utterly uproarious. 
A few numbers stand slightly above the rest: ‘Halo’, of course, aka “the one everyone knows”. A simple yet awesomely effective track, with its heavy bass and fist-pumping beat, it still sets any rock club across the world on fire when the DJ hits ‘play’. There’s also the slower-paced but no less rocking ‘Unreal’, with it’s rather silverchair-ish vibe; the slinky, nu metal ‘Breakin’ Me Down’; the ‘System of a Down x Stone Sour’ combo of ‘Pride’ and Redefine’; and the swaggering ‘Hate Song’, all defiant, ‘fuck you’ lyrics and slight Buckcherry vibe (no, really). 
The only time there is a bit of a lag, it has to be said, is during the tracks where Cavalier replaced McCombs. The former is certainly a formidable vocalist, but the band as a whole seems to have lost a bit of its mojo when the latter departed, resulting in some rather desultory releases and even an unfortunate foray into country music territory with the insipid ‘The Lesser Man’. 
That’s all forgiven when ‘My Time’ kicks in: McCombs is back, and so is the band’s cocksureness and more cohesive sound. Slinky, sexy and macho, with a late Motley feel, it marks their return to form in spades. This is also remarkably evident during the live version of ‘Halo’ included from their 2012 DVD/CD: the band are audibly rejoicing, and the crowd absolutely loves it.
The alternative versions are also a bit self-indulgent, but no doubt fascinating for fans: an acoustic version of ‘Can You Heal Me’ which loses little of its power without electric guitars, but rather gains something of an Alice In Chains ‘Rooster’ vibe; the inclusion of the late Wayne Static on ‘Give It Up’ lends the song a spiky, slightly unhinged air; and a minimally altered version of ‘Like It Is’ offers really very little in the way of change. Then there’s the final track, Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’, included as an homage to the late Chris Cornell. Musically lower-pitched than Cornell and co but vocally higher-pitched, and cannily picking up on the sense of urgency in the original, it’s a great choice for a cover, and a touching reason to cover it to boot.
So, there you have it: SOiL, far from being one of those bands that you don’t think you know too much about until you actually listen to them, in fact have quite an impressive discography, as can be heard on Scream: The Essentials. Almost every song is catchy, heavy, and highly enjoyable, almost all would fit comfortably into any party or rock night setlist, and no track outstays its welcome, with most around a trim three minutes or less. It is, in short, a wealth of hidden gems that the most casual fan has probably missed out on up until now. If that’s you, then giving this album a listen to is highly recommended; it will almost undoubtedly surprise you.
SOiL sre currently touring the UK and Ireland (including playing the Limelight in Belfast on Thursday February 15th) with Alien Ant Farm. See their Facebook page for dates. 

Review by Melanie Brehaut

 

 

 

Thuum release Through Smoke, Comes Fire' this February

Thuum smack 2018 out of the park with their heavy, no holds barred and bruising self-released EP ‘Through Smoke, comes fire’.

If you like Down, Corrosion of Conformity or Mastadon then this is right up your street. If it’s not your thing, there are still melodic heavy thrumming bass and guitar riffs that will have you headbanging with pleasure.

Thuum have a compelling grungy, sludge sound that has its own stoner like groove. This is aptly highlighted with their first track, fittingly titled ‘Intro’. This is an instrumental of epic stoner proportions that keeps you listening and swaying along. It slides in with a wonderfully dark Orf-esque soft throated tribalistic chant that slowly transcends into rolling black coated riff laden guitar, rumbling bass and thundering drums that keep a murky beat rumbling onwards to the end.

Next is ‘Worthless’ that gallops along in a hazy groove. The singer, suitably named Bear, adds a rough primordial vocal sound that compliment the animistic feel of the track as it rolls up sinister mountains and down disconsolate valleys. In the faded background there is a tinge of Black Sabbath at play. Its melodic rhythmic swaying back and forth with heavy riffage makes this a truly fantastic composition

Next up is ‘Hafgufa’, a track that will roughly grab your neck and throw you around like a rag doll. A tunefully catchy conflagration, it is perfectly jagged with a fuzzy edge. Bear goes from rage filled guttural screams to emotionally charged clear blaring vocals that fit beautifully with the whole track.

Lastly is the title track ‘Through smoke, comes fire’ is a solid piece of thematic sludge that just crushes your ears with grooved out metal, a sharp fuzz, clashing drums, and stomping riffs. A colossal piece, it again finds Bear’s symbiotic vocals flowing from the barbarian guttural vocals to a hard clear voice challenging all and sundry to battle.

You will realise, after listening to this beautifully crafted hefty beast, why Thuum were on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock 2017 and are building a reputation amongst metal lovers. Slick, tight, professional, hard, heavy, and uncompromising they have produced an EP that would take down a Mammoth at a 100 paces. ‘Through Smoke, Comes Fire’ crushes it totally.

‘Through Smoke, Comes Fire’ is released worldwide on 19th February 2018, with a UK launch on 10th February in Bournemouth at The Anvil

Thuum tour dates:

3 Feb PORTSMOUTH, Icebreaker Festival

10 Feb BOURNEMOUTH, The Anvil (EP Launch)

22 April LEICESTER, Firebug (Guest Headline / Bloodstock M2TM)

12 May BOURNEMOUTH, The Anvil (w/ Monolord)

Thuum is: Vocals / Guitars - Bear Drums - Joe Gilbey

Guitar - Andy Nevitt

Bass Guitar - Luke Prince

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thuumuk Bandcamp: https://thuum.bandcamp.com/ Listen to 'Worthless' (official stream): http://thuum.bandcamp.com/track/worthless

 

Review by : Ivor Whitten

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Accuser deliver unrelenting thrash on The Mastery 
 
WAY back in the mists of time (late 80s and early 90s to be sort of precise), German thrashers Accuser captivated on the growing crossover between Bay Area and Teutonic thrash.
 
After two stunning releases in the form of 'Who Dominates Who' and 'Repent' - which still gets the odd spin here once in a while' but there were stumbles along the way as they tried to really nail down their own style.
 
And, with the release of 'The Mastery' they have not only nailed it down, they have hammered it into the ground with a jackhammer.
 
This is unrelenting thrash excellence. No frills, no fuss - just some of the best thrash. There is no rest here, from the riff laden opener 'Mission Missile' through to closer 'The Mastery'.
 
What strikes most, however, is that since the 2016 release 'The Forlorn Divide' the band seems to have refined their craft even more. Yes, you still get Frank Thomas snarling social commentary, but it is the way he works and combines with Dennis Rybakowski's as a two-pronged attack more than previously witnessed.
 
There is balance between the two and Rybakowski delivers some stunning lead work. Behold the stomp on 'The Real World'. Amidst the pounding are moments that can be picked out and revelled in - and hints of heavy melodies.
 
The difference between good thrash and average thrash is often the rhythm section - and in Frank Kimpel (bass) and Olli Frechner (drums) they lay a foundation with such excellence that this is not just good but great.
 
So many drummers and bassists in bands develop either a metronomic approach or try to fill each section with fills and runs, and forget the song. On 'My Skin' the haunting opening turns into a beast of a track -rolling along like a juggernaut over your flayed face. Bile and invective both lyrically and musically.
 
Their ability to not just comply to standard rules is apparent on the opening of 'Mourning' and the precise pacing of all four members in their delivery.
 
Producer Martin Buchwalter has grabbed the essence of the Accuser approach, wringing every last minutiae of energy from their performances.
 
The title track is nearly seven minutes of excellence. With the time allowed for each element to grow on the song it encapsulates what this album is about: great thrash, technical dexterity, groove elements and a straight right to your chin.
 
Review by Jonathan Traynor
 
Accuser - The Mastery is out on Metal Blade Records on 26th January.
 
 

Steel Panther and Wayward Sons boomerang into Belfast’s Limelight

A cold January night was no match for the pulling power of Steel Panther and Wayward Sons, who rocked up to the Limelight, Belfast.

The Limelight was packed in anticipation for a very special evening of some of the greatest heavy metal filled adolescent toilet humour this side of the Lagan.

First on the stage was Toby Jepson’s Wayward Sons and, boy, did they do themselves proud. Nailing every song with vigour and rock and roll panache. Kicking it all off, they soared into ‘Alive’, ‘Ghost’, and ‘Don't Wanna Go’. The energy of the band radiated right across the Limelight. These guys knew how to rock out. Toby’s vocals belting out the songs like a Little Angel of the A-Rock-alypse. There was clearly a lot of fans in the audience as it was hard to miss the thrumming massed singing alongside Toby’s own vocals. ‘Killing Time’, ‘Crush’ and ‘Small Talk’ continued the fantastic rocking set. Toby was a rocker par excellence all the while Nic Wastell, the bassist, was giving Toby a run for his rocking out money with an exuberance that defied description. Nic swung, jabbed, and lunged that bass like a halbard cutting through the lines. It was very clear Toby, Nic, Phil, and Sam were enjoying themselves immensely and the crowd just lapped it all up and the band responded in kind. ‘Be Still’, ‘Something Wrong’, and ‘Until the End’ finished off an incredible set. The group’s energy and joyous interaction with the throng of rockers just made for a perfect performance.

Then came the main course of the night, Steel Panther. There really is no genuine way to describe how utterly entertaining, tight, fun and full on 80’s hair metal cheese these guys are. They are full on ‘Innuendos? F*** ‘em’, cut straight through suggestive similes and deliver blunt force sexually filled lyrics. Every song is definitely not safe for work and cock-full to the rim of pure mischievous profanity.

They kicked off their set with ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’, ‘Goin’ in the Backdoor’, and the raucous ‘Aisan Hooker’. Every single song had the whole heaving mass of metalheads going mental for more. The crowd enthusiastically singing along with Michael, lapping up the cheeky, profane lyrics feeling like they were school kids finding a porn mag for the first time.

‘Tomorrow Night’, ‘Wasted too Much Time’, and ‘Poontang Boomerang’ maintained the joyous irreverent exploration of just how dirty everyone’s minds were. It was bluntly shown how wonderfully freeing the performance was when some of the ladies kindly assented to Michel and Satchel’s request to see titties. They also seemed very impressed with what Belfast had to offer.

Satchel was then given the stage to put on a solo performance that will be passed down from generation to generation. As he executed his ballsy dance of licks and riffs, the crowd egged him on, which made him encourage the fans even more. He swung between riff cover to riff cover like Iron Man and Sweet Child of Mine and on it went. It was a long solo that left the crowd satisfied but slightly disappointed when it was over.

On the went the tirade of exuberant and cheerfully delivered profanity imbued lyrics with ‘That’s when you came in’, ‘Weenie Ride’, and ‘17 Girls’.

Finishing off the nights entertainment, Steel Panther delivered their classics of ‘Gloryhole’, ‘Death to all but Metal’, and ‘Community Property’. The crowd just kept singing, pumping the air and rocking out like they just didn’t care. It was a release of sexual tension (or even just end of a bloody long working week tension) that just hit the G-Spot. Everyone crushed up as close as they could to the presence of Steel Panther could not stop grinning from ear to ear.

Interspersed in between the songs was one of the best comedic acts that you are ever going to see. Utter trolling, ribbing, and jest filled toilet humour that would perfectly fill an 18+ comedy movie, was executed with perfect comic timing. These guys, especially Michael and Satchel, were as tight as a gnat’s chuff and worked the crowd to perfection.

Honestly, the whole performance was a jubilant celebration of irreverent, smutty and direct sexual references, unshackled by the chains of insinuation, ambiguity and inference. Steel Panther are the heavy metal equivalent of burning bras. Which, to be honest, they would probably wholeheartedly endorse.

If you get the opportunity, you grab it tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm and go. It truly is a night to remember.

 

Review by Ivor Whitten

Photography Darren Mcveigh-Metalplanetbelfast.

 

 

Joe Satriani – What Happens Next

By: Samantha Lamb (@samlamb4)

 

 

What Happens Next is the 16th solo release for the guitar maestro, Joe Satriani, and was released on 12th January 2018 on Sony / Legacy Recordings.

 

What Happens Next features a power tri of legendary status; Satriani on guitar, Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion) on bass and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on drums. This is the first reunion of Smith and Satriani since Chickenfoot. Satriani has joined forces with Mike Fraser to produce, engineer and mix What Happens Next. Fraser has been a frequent collaborator over the past 20 years and is well known for recording and mixing every AC/DC album since the 1990’s The Razors Edge.

 

For two decades Satriani has travelled the world, playing to sold out crowds as both a headliner and as a founder of the all star G3 guitar extravaganza. His studio and live recordings have sold more than 10 million copies as well as having 15 Grammy nominations between them.

 

To say that Satriani is a master of his craft seems like a really big understatement as he reinvents what is capable of being played on a electric guitar time and time again and this album is no exception.

 

Energy is the opening track of the album and it packs a huge punch of energy, exploding out of the speakers like a bullet from a gun. There is a whole load of fuzz, screaming riffs that pierce through the massive sound that Smith and Hughes deliver combining with intricate guitar work that demands your attention.

 

The next track Catbot if filled with funky sounds which sounds like a conversation from a demented robot. It has a rhythm that pulls you in complete with searing riffs and a deep bass line. This is another high energy track that leaves you slightly breathless that all of that majesty on guitar is packed into 3 minutes 38 seconds.

 

Thunder High on The Mountain starts with a staccato drum beat, under which you hear the rumblings of the dark clouds which are constructed by the guitar and bass. The bass line is so deep it could be thunder and then the light comes with a change in tempo allowing the clouds to break and you hear the breath of sun from the beautifully constructed riff that shimmers and gleams. The storm builds, with powerful clashes that rip through before the final chord and you feel you can let out the breath you have been holding in for the duration of the encounter.

 

Cherry Blossoms, is also the first single from the album, and feels like you are surrounded by the beauty and purity of these stunning trees. The purity shines through from Satriani’s tone and the stacarto playing brings to mind the blossoms fluttering towards the earth with a babbling waterfall in the distance. The effects then bring about a scream and shriek before settling back into the sweetness of the initial hook. Righteous has a real anthemic feel to it and you can imagine it being a real hit when played live. It has intensity and brooding passion at its heart combining effortlessly with a kind of 70’s rock vibe.

 

Smooth Soul is exactly what it says on the tin. Meltingly gorgeous with a sumptuous tone that speaks to your soul. The interplay with drums and bass also help to set the mood, which is full of optimism and light.

 

Its then time to crank the volume back up to 11 for Headrush. Swooping riffs, resonant bass line and powerful drumming combine to make this a track that is all about rock. The melody rolls around, enveloping you and demanding that you tap your toes and nod your head. The changes in tempo allow Satriani to deliver a transcendental riff, before we are back into the melee. Swagger and bravado combine with elegant instrumentation to deliver one of the tracks of the album for me.

 

Looper is filled with a groove that makes your toes dance along. Satriani makes his guitar sound like it is having a conversation with the rest of the band that intensifies the way these things can and then settles back into a playful rhythm. What Happens Next reminded me initially of a theme tune to a 70’s cop show and it has that kind of vibe, funky and fluid. The bass line is packed with groove and the drumming builds on this also. Leading into the climax all 3 instruments build in intensity until we are back with the guitar tones alone except for the shimmer of a cymbal.

 

Super and certainly funky Super Funky Badass uses a staccato style as it moves up and down the scale, adding flourishes along the way. The embellishments growl and sneer, soaring and screaming, adding depth and interest. Skewed riffs merge with flamboyant playing and all the while the beat is kept in perfect time by Hughes and Smith.

 

Invisible starts like a band trying to bring things to close before streaming into another great tune, with the dramatic false pauses before erupting to another crescendo. Satriani’s guitar reaches ever further upwards, sky bound and no knowing where it will end. The riff gets pulled back by some of the deepest bass and throbbing drums, before starting on its upward trajectory again.

 

Forever and Ever could be a homage to Hendrix but with a Satriani spin on it. There is a beautiful picking rythum that runs beneath and is occasionally picked up and developed by Satriani before oozing into another mesmeric riff. How on earth Satriani manages to convey so much emotion with his guitar I am not sure but he delivers here, saturated with melancholy and longing this is a track that will stay with you long after the final chord has faded away.

Satriani certainly seems to not be content to rest of his laurels and play the same old things over and over. This album shows more ways to bring something different from the guitar and yet make it feel as though it has always been so, it is both comforting and surprising. There are tracks that are intense and brooding and also lighter tracks that allow you to drift away. The musicianship of Hughes and Smith certainly adds to the mix, rounding off the edges. Satriani certainly deserves his title of guitar hero

 

Review by Samantha Lamb

 

 

Motionless in White blow through Mandela Hall Belfast

It was a perfectly cold wet and windy night when Motionless in White and Ice Nine Kills stormed the stage at the Mandela Hall, Belfast. Right on the eve of heavy snow. Fate? Perhaps.

The Mandela Hall was packed, heaving with a young enthusiastic crowd of committed fans delighted to be at the first gig to kick off the tour in Europe.

Ice Nine Kills, a symphonic metalcore band from Boston, Massachusetts took the stage to the packed hall to the delight of those gathered there. There were quite a faithful followers of Ice Nine Kills and this American band’s horror inspired songs called them to worship. As worship it felt, with a euphoric atmosphere the band ploughed through ‘Communion of the Cursed’ ‘Bloodbath and Beyond’, ‘Nature of the Beast’, and ‘The Plot Thickens’. During ‘Bloodbath and Beyond’ the fans were more than delighted that the lead vocalist, Spencer Charnas (the only original founding member) came of the stage and mingled with the front of the undulating mass of fans. On the assault went with ‘Connect the Cuts’, ‘Hell in the Hallways’ inspired by Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’, ‘Enjoy your slay’ another King inspired song based on ‘The Shining’ and they finished their set with ‘Me, Myself and Hyde’.

Charnas’s vocals were on point with growling rage symbiotically linked with smooth pop punk singing. His animated use of the stage was a perfect counterpoint to the rest of the band, as they enchanted the growing crowded mass that lapped up each song

Then came the headliners, Motionless in White. Gothic pop punk metalcore extraordinaire. As the lights dipped the crowd roared in anticipation. And then on came the band to a tumultuous ecstatic reverberation of an animated crowd. This was the reason why everyone was here. As they rumbled through ‘Rats’ ‘Reincarnate’ and ‘Necessary Evil’ the committed and steadfast fans joyously sang along, following Chris "Motionless" Cerulli ‘s vocals. The thumping beat of the drums accompanied by thunderous pounding of the cymbals, the techno industrial backing, the thrumming bass and the heavy melodic guitars mixed with Chris’s vocals had many headbanging along. Each song a perfect pop song length that made sure you were wanting for more as each one finished. These were tightly produced and professionally delivered numbers.

If Tim Burton had been asked to combine Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson to create a new one it would be Motionless in White. Interspersed among the songs two gothic zombiesque queens came on stage to the glee of the crowd, creating an apt Alice Cooper like feel to the show. It felt several times the band were about to burst into ‘This is Halloween’. Which would have fitted perfectly into the set.

Chris’s rage infested heavy guttural growls slotted perfectly alongside his punk pop vocals as they continued to pump out perfectly ‘Soft’, ‘Loud’, ‘Abigail’ and ‘570’.

Stopping every so often to chat to the crowd, in these chats he took the opportunity to thank the crowd for putting up such a fight to get them there, as the original tour did not include Belfast. The fans spoke and Motionless in White listened.

Chris fuelled the crowd to fever pitch as he led the crowd to spell out “Fuck Trump” that led into ‘America’, another one of their heavy but catchy tunes that had everyone there singing along in a frenzy of enthusiastic fervour. It was punctuated by the two ghoulish girls firing appropriately looking supersoakersinto the crowd, who lapped it up.

Then came a very good cover of System of a Down’s ‘Chopsuey’ before heading back to ‘Dead as Fuck’, ‘Not My Type’ and ‘Immaculate’. They rounded of the evening with ‘Voices’, ‘Devils Night’ and ‘Eternally Yours’.

It was clear from the very start that Motionless in White were something special. Their diehard fans were enraptured by the performance, so much so many a band would be jealous of such dedication. They sang practically every song as a choir with Chris at the lead keeping them in time. Fans sporadically moshed as if in a tribal trance-like dance that would appease the gods.

The room delighted in grisly musical intent, loving every dark moment of the show. If you weren’t in the metalcore camp to begin with, by the end of the night you would be a convert. Motionless in White expertly combined the pop punk core of Metalcore with a techno industrial feel that just on point. They put on a fantastic show that had everyone exhausted and satisfied by the time they were leaving. If you get the chance to go see Motionless in White, even if you are not a diehard Metalcore fan, go. This is a show you really don’t want to miss.

 

Review by Ivor Whitten

 

 

Operation Mindcrime packs the Belfast Empire

When a metal icon comes to town you know the place is going to be packed. And so it was at the Belfast Empire where Geoff Tate brought his Operation Mindcrime to the expectant mass of fans. He was very ably supported by local rockers Conjuring Fate and his daughter’s band Till Death Do Us Part.

The Belfast Empire’s hall was already heaving when the excellent metallers , Conjuring Fate, hit the stage and the really hit the ground running to a very appreciative audience. Blasting off with ‘Darkest Days’ ‘Marching Dead’ they were heavy, fun and furious in their set. Working the crowd up into a heavy metal headbanging mood they powered into two powerhouse songs with ‘Dr Frankenstein’ and ‘House on Haunted Hill’. They finished off their set to a stoked crowd with ‘Trust No One’. They ripped the stage up with their heavy melodic riffs all while they played with the audience who lapped it up. So much so , Phil Horner strode through the audience in the hall and stood in front of the stage playing his heart out with a playful smirk on his face. What a performance and a superb start to the proceedings.

Till Death Do Us Part, with Geoff’s daughter, Emily Tate, on vocals took the stage next. Their style of music would be the contrast of the night as they brought a dark alternative rock to the Empire. This would be a light rock with a tinge of Depeche Mode yet Emily’s expressive and emotional vocals fit perfectly with the style of the songs. They kicked of with ‘Burn’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Cannonball’ and in between Emily would interact with the crowd with some warm banter. It really made the packed but intimate gig feel even more like you were among friends. They continued with ‘Runaway’, ‘Blue Boy’, ‘Ink’ and ‘Salt Water’, rounding it all off with ‘Romance’. The band was tight, professional and warmly received as the dark and sombre lyrics flowed along easily with a good energy and stage presence. They certainly have a signature sound with heavy distorted guitars, a djent like bass tone, synth layering, samplers, soundscapes, powerful drums and soft symphonic vocals.

Then came the highlight of the evening. Geoff tate with his Operation: Mindcrime project. And you could see immediately that almost everyone there were dedicated and diehard fans of Mr Tate and Queensrÿche. The roar from the hall would have shaken the roof. Geoff looked totally at ease knowing that he was among firm fans, friends and family. This was the 30th anniversary of the album Operation: Mindcrime and that was what Geoff and his band delivered to a packed audience that knew every word off that album. The joy was palpable and Geoff could have just stood there waving his arms and the songs would have still been sung, word for accurate word. Kicking off with "I Remember Now", "Anarchy—X" and "Revolution Calling" the mass of air guitar and air drums along with a plethora of fist pumps made it feel like you had been transported back to the heyday of the late 80’s and the joy of the crowd and the band on stage fed a euphoric energy that pervaded the whole set.

The elation of the crowd only increased with “Operation: Mindcrime", "Speak", "Spreading the Disease" and "The Mission". Geoff and his band bantered and toyed with the crowd as many surged forward to take photos and try to catch a quick handshake as outstretched arms followed him as he moved round the stage. Then came "Suite Sister Mary", "The Needle Lies", "Electric Requiem" and "Breaking the Silence". Each and every song was joyously received and the band looked like they were enjoying the gig as much as the fans. As Geoff belted out "I Don't Believe in Love" the whole room really got caught up singing the whole song along with him. Then came "Waiting for 22" and 14."My Empty Room" before the set finished to "Eyes of a Stranger".

They came back on for an encore with “Silent lucidity” that was delivered with such raw emotional power there were a few fans who could be seen to be visibly welling up. Then Geoff and his band pumped out “Empire” with once more the fans almost drowning him out with their enthusiasm before he finished the whole show with “Jet Set Woman”

This was the second date on his European tour and the first of his UK leg. And if you have the opportunity to go, then take it with both hands. Geoff Tate delivered, without doubt, an

emotionally charged, powerful and entertainingly tight rock act that will leave you exhausted and fulfilled by the end of the show.

 

NEWS: Jasta and Venom Inc added to Bloodstock line-up
BLOODSTOCK has welcomed in the New Year with new acts and the festival has revealed that there are less than 50 of the highly prized VIP tickets remaining.

Standard tickets, as well as the very popular Deposit Scheme and the last few camper van pitches are all currently available in the ticket store.  So, those band announcements...

JASTA & FRIENDS are set for a Ronnie James Dio main stage slot on Sunday!  As a great friend of BLOODSTOCK, we’re thrilled to welcome Jamey Jasta, frontman of Hatebreed, Kingdom of Sorrow and Icepick, back to the festival with his solo band, JASTA.


However, this is not just JASTA, this is JASTA & FRIENDS, so expect some special guests to jump on stage for various songs, just for the BOA faithful at BLOODSTOCK 2018! Guests will be revealed in due course, but the mighty Kirk Windstein (Crowbar, Down, Kingdom of Sorrow) will be one of them!

Jamey said: “I’m beyond excited and honoured to have my first UK show with JASTA be at the mighty Bloodstock Festival! So many legends have graced the Bloodstock stages, we will channel their energy and give the fans a killer set with some special surprise guests!” Check out JASTA’s recent video for ‘The Same Flame’ here - https://youtu.be/P7PnbooaTOE.

VENOM INC also join Saturday’s main stage bill!  With new album, ‘Avé’ released via Nuclear Blast last year, the seminal British metal icons will be bringing both classic tracks and new to BLOODSTOCK next August.  Check out the lyric video for ‘Avé Satanas’, taken from that album here - https://youtu.be/Xt_yGt0ET0U and get ready to welcome The Demolition Man, Mantas and Abaddon to Catton Park!

Our Saturday night Sophie Lancaster stage headliner will be ORPHANED LAND!  The ground-breaking band’s new album, ‘Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs’ is set for release later this month via Century Media and features guest appearances from Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch, Tomas Lindberg from At The Gates and Steve Hackett.  Check out the epic album teaser here - https://youtu.be/GNm20DFCO7Y.

Also joining the bill are the hotly tipped Danish prog metal outfit VOLA, who join the Sophie stage bill on Saturday.  The band are hard at work on their new studio album, set for release through Mascot Records this year.  Get a taster of their sound via the video for ‘Stray The Skies’ taken from 2016’s debut album, ‘InMazes’ - https://youtu.be/EipdyUZfrG0.

If you haven’t grabbed your ticket yet and are a bit stretched post-Christmas, BLOODSTOCK’s payment plan helps ease the ‘lump sum’ shock of paying for your ticket by breaking it into five smaller, more manageable amounts.  Sign up in the ticket store any time before 28th Feb for an initial deposit of £36.00.  Thereafter, four additional instalments of £29.00 will debit your bank account on 3rd April, 1st May, 1st June and 2nd July respectively.  Find out full details and sign up over at https://bloodstock.seetickets. com. 

If you already know you can only attend for one day, sign up for a day ticket reminder email as day tickets will not go on sale until next summer.  Register your day ticket interest here - https://www.seetickets.com/reg ister/bloodstock.

With Friday night headliners, JUDAS PRIEST, Saturday headliners, GOJIRA and Sunday’s bil toppers, NIGHTWISH already announced, as well as EMPEROR, DEVILDRIVER, WATAIN, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, WEDNESDAY 13, FOZZY, COMBICHRIST, BLOODBATH, MR BIG, KAMELOT, DORO, ORDEN OGAN, SEPTICFLESH and MEMORIAM so far, 2018 is shaping up to be another stellar year for BLOODSTOCK.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 9th-12th August 2018.  Get additional information over at www.bloodstock.uk.com.

ALBUM REVIEW: Sumptuous, elegant, edgy eloquence from majestic Magnum on album #20
BY now you would expect veterans like Magnum to be calling in their albums, dialled straight in, with all the formula expected. Not for the Brummie rockers. Nope, this is a band that have a distinctive sound, but always stretch themselves.

And, on their 20th album, Lost On The Road To Eternity' they once again push what is expected of them to produce an album that is lush, filled with textures and touches that demand repeated listens to appreciate the depth within,

Opener 'Peaches and Cream' may have an innocuous title, but there is more than enough mid-tempo menace to intrigue and demand attention.


The theme is repeated throughout, and the tracks are allowed the time to breathe with the time and arrangements. Only the opener is less than five minutes (only by a second).

The eight-minute 'Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret' is sumptuously wonderful, and deceptively edgy. Don't let the ease of the opening deceive you.

Title track 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' features a guest appearance from Tobias Sammet of Edguy/Avantasia fame. Given Bob Catley has contributed on Sammet's releases this may seem just as a favour returned, but it this is so much more. The atmosphere is added to with the Wolf Kerschek Orchestra adding that bit extra.

While Tony Clarikin and Catley remain the core of Magnum the addition of Lee Morris (taking over from Harry James (Thunder) and Rick Benton filling the shoes of Mark Stanaway, plus the 16-years serving bassist Al Barrow has given Magnum some deft touches.

It could be argued that the additions give the band overall a new breath, a new eagerness to stretch themselves creatively. Certainly some of the new rhythms and touches of other musical cultures beam through.


The growth of the band over the past 20 years has been exceptional. While some still demand the hits on the live circuit it is remiss of any Magnum fan to overlook recent releases, and especially this album.

Sure, 'Without Love' will stand out in any live set, the likes of the extraordinary closer, 'King of the World' and 'Ya Wanna Be Someone' deserve to be heard on stage. Indeed the latter becomes better with each listen.

With a tour already lines up to support 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' this is an album that every Magnum fan needs to grab hold of as soon as it is released.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Lost On The Road To Eternity is released in a variety of formats on January 19th on Steamhammer/SPV

Magnum play Belfast's Limelight on 1st March, 2018 

ALBUM REVIEW: The Vikings are coming as Leaves' Eyes unleash Sign of the Dragonhead
THE Longships are coming in 2018 as ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’ looms over the horizon...

Leave’s Eyes, a fantastic symphonic metal band, return to storm these shores with their seventh album, an uncompromising, combative, epic album and they are ready to loot and pillage your ears without compromise.

Leave’s Eyes have created historically inspired musical masterpiece that chronicles the Vikings like a keen-edged Ulfberht sword perfectly wielded to deliver a flurry of high powered tracks that leave you in awe.

The title track, ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’, hails a furious warning of the coming of the Viking raiders and starts the chills of anticipation with a choral assault. A rousing track that just hits the right buttons, painting an image of fast moving ships sailing with deadly purpose. And nothing can stop them. 

The second track ‘Across The Sea’ is a fantastic marathon that will have you pulling out your dusty copy of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It is a hauntingly inspiring track that is flawlessly executed to affect even the most battle hardened warrior.  It’s shanty like beginnings only adds to this heroic headbanging berserker epic.

Continuing the search for treasures comes ‘Like a Mountain’ that evokes, through Elina Siirala’s hauntingly operatic vocals, a tragic Niflheim lament. And, there should be no surprise that it is a tragic Icelandic love saga. It is a beautifully ethereal bass-heavy track full of emotion pulling you through cold and stunningly harsh landscapes painted by the symbiosis of Lina’s elfish tones and Alexander Krull’s Jotonheimr guttural vocals. This along with the swaying metal and delicate folkish interludes just work so well.


Again the warrior rage takes hold with ‘Jomsborg’, recalling the legendary Viking fortress in the Baltic Sea area and the Jomsvikings. Another track that gives you the warrior chills that no matter what the odds all will stand as battle brothers to the end. It conjures once more the common theme of sweeping vistas in a cold tundra or seascape filled with warriors of legend and renown. It is just gorgeously epic in scope and the heavy resounding rhythmic battering your ears will get is an absolute pleasure.

‘Völva’ keeps up the magnificence, once more summoning a grand vision combining metal, opera, choral orchestra, and traditional instruments into a perfect storm that will roll right over you without missing a beat.
 Blasting in is ‘Riders On The Wind’, an almost southern dixie-like shanty inspired performance that is a catchy metal track. This is a fantastic upbeat smile-inducing stadium anthem. If you don’t want to sing along you will have to really put the work in to resist. Utterly elegant in every way.

 

Next is ‘Fairer Than The Sun’, a beautiful lament imbued ballad done in only the way Leave’s Eyes can do. Even if you’re not a fan of slow ballads, this will still be a pleasure to sit back and listen to intently. Elina’s vocals are beyond compare throughout the album hitting the absolutely right emotional notes. 

And, just when you thought you could relax, ‘Shadows In The Night’ gives your complacency a damn good kicking. Another excellent and solidly performed symphonic piece of metal that maintains the flow and theme of the album.

The pure Viking instrumental shanty ‘Rulers Of Wind And Waves’ uses traditional music and instruments backed by a beautifully choreographed orchestral  and choral support to blow your mind. 

This is honestly a perfect little interval that only adds to the overall beauty of this album.

Kicking it back up into gear is ‘Fires In The North’, another excellent delivery of symphonic Viking metal that can be enjoyed and loved by a much wider audience than just symphonic metallers. 

The close comes with ‘Waves Of Euphoria’, the longest track on the album coming in at just over 8 minutes. This is almost too perfect as the whole track, musically, feels like a highlight summary of all the previous tracks. Slow, haunting, fast, heavy, ethereal, dreamlike and headbanging. This one has it all as it arches through from start to finish, perfectly balanced. This is the Rainbow bridge of the album as images of Heimdallr awaiting you to see that you are worthy to pass to Valhalla will just run through your mind.

This is an end credits track par excellence...

The whole album is a beautifully crafted and perfectly balanced piece of Viking artistry that refuses to let you think about anything else other than heroic Vikings, joined in battle for glory, fighting for their place at Odin’s table in Valhalla. 

What is most striking is the confident and independent vocals of Elina as she takes absolute and unquestionable possession of each song, which lends an individual note to her interaction with Alex‘s growls.

The album is filled with complex yet catchy tangible tunes. The instrumentation is perfectly balanced and unconventional with medieval nyckelharpas, fiddles, uilleann pipes and whistles blending seamlessly with the driven heavy metal entourage. It all whisks you away to a fabled world of the harsh cold North.

This album is where Heavy Metal and Celtic Folk music craft an acoustic Viking party of epic proportions. 

Now, where is the nearest Longship?

Review by Ivor Whitten

‘Sign of the Dragonhead’ is released on 12th January 2018

When a Working Class Man storms the Limelight

Two acts and one whole massive show of soul, blues and Rock and Roll stormed in the Limelight in the forms of Lachlan Doley and the rock legend that is Jimmy Barnes.

Lachlan was up first and he is a true live soulful blues singing wonder to behold. Watching him as he plays the Hammond organ as he impossibly genuflects out of it soul and blues music of epic proportions. It is a true pleasure to behold. He seems to be a hyperactive Duracell bunny crossed with Kurt Cobain and it is utterly infectious. As he powered into his set, the crowd were presented with a remarkable visual and auditory indulgence of emotionally exuberant soulful blues. Along with his captivating growl driven vocals, Lachlan pumped and pummelled the blues out of his Hammond like a modern day Jerry Lee Lewis. His seat seemed to be more of a prop than a practical necessity. What a performance to start the night.

Then came the legend that is Jimmy Barnes. There is really no over estimation, no high expectations nor high standards that could ever come close to cowing what this man delivers with his band. You could never be disappointed at the performance this rock behemoth gives.

The crowd could see that with every song Jimmy sang, he was putting his heart and soul into it conveying raw power, passion and humanity in its most stripped down form. This man bared himself to the packed crowd, and they lapped it up, giving back as good as he gave. This was a whole new level of audience participation on an almost spiritual level.

Kicking off with ‘Love and Hate’, ‘I’d die to be with you’, ‘Ride the Night Away’, and ‘Love is Enough’, Jimmy lovingly but forcefully put his stamp on what was to come. Each song beautifully rendered with his gravelled throaty vocals that had a resonating cadence making the hairs on your neck stand up. This was to let you know you were in the presence of a very special performer and you will pay attention.

‘Red Hot’, ‘Still on Your Side, ‘Lay Down Your Guns’, ‘Boys Cry Out for War’, and ‘Too Much’ continued the skilfully crafted songs, Jimmy was giving everyone there a concert par excellence. ‘Little Darling’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Flame Trees’, and ‘Driving Wheels’ continued the onslaught of poignantly laid down vocals, blues and rock riffs, and soulful requiems to a hard and tough life.

Swooping from ballads to love songs to toe tapping, knee bending pure old rock and roll, Jimmy kept the adoring crowd on a crest of elation, as they swayed or bounced about like happy rockers.

Jimmy did not let up at all as he continued to power on through ‘No Second Prize’, ‘Seven Days’, the magnificent ‘Khe Sanh’ and of course, the anthem ‘Working Class Man’. The audience really could not get enough of this performance. The joy of being there mixed with the realisation the evening was coming to a close.

And with every superb performance there must always be an encore. Jimmy and his band did not disappoint. Back onto the stage they executed a beautiful rendition of ‘Stone Cold’ leading into a magnificent cover of AC/DC ‘s ‘High Voltage’, which electrified the audience once more. He finished with ‘Goodbye’. As they left the stage to anothr rapturous applause they all sprinted back on to stage where Jimmy informed the crowd that he forgot a song. And it was almost perfect that the very last song of the night was ‘Good Times’.

This gig highlighted something very important that everyone should know, seeing Jimmy Barnes is an essential bucket list entry. If you get even a sniff of an opportunity to go, then drop everything and go!

 

Review-By Ivor Whitten.

Diamond Head and Stormzone hit the Voodoo with heavy metal thunder and lightning.

On a cold Friday night in Belfast in the intimate venue of Voodoo, two sets of rock legends strode onto stage and gave everyone a night to remember. Local heavy rock impresarios, Stormzone, and the heavy metal godfathers that are Diamond Head.

Stormzone filled the stage with their full on hard and heavy rock with a perfectly placed first song, ‘Where we belong’. And that said it all. A tour de force of pure enthusiastic energy they stormed on through ‘Another rainy night’, the anthemic ‘Three Kings’ and on into ‘The Pass loning’. Each song was a perfect delivery of the band’s heavy style of thrumming, chugging riffage tied together by Harv’s fearless vocals. All the while the floor bounced to the wrathful beat of the drums, delivered expertly by Jonathan Millar of Maverick. The set continued with ‘You’re not the same’ and into ‘Deathdealer’. The set came to a close with probably the most perfect song for the night with ‘The legend carries on’. It certainly does. Even with a heavy cold and a sore throat, Harv delivered on the vocals.

Then stepped on stage the mighty Diamond Head. From the very get go it was plain to see something was wrong. Ras, the compelling lead singer, was in difficulties. While Harv had the dreaded lurgy, Ras had full on flu and his throat was in a bad way. Diamond Head could have easily cancelled the gig or even after the first song Ras could have rightfully called it quits. But no, he kept going through the whole set, much to the delight and utter respect of the crowd. Many a modern pop band should take note.

With complete disregard to his throat, Ras, along with Brian Tatler and the band blasted off with ‘Play it loud’ before going on into ‘Borrowed Time’, ‘Bones’ and the fast and furious ‘Lightning to the nations’. Voodoo did not know what hit it. Brain exhibited his absolute mastery of his guitar, delivering heavy metal as it should be. It was powerful raw energy that flowed out from the stage. Nobody could stand still, these were hefty melody laden tunes that were emotionally and physically rousing. The crowd was pumped and Ras expertly deployed ‘interactive audience mode’ encouraging the now passionately reactive crowd to sing along. Really he didn’t need to, as everyone was singing along anyway. But his connecting with the metalers there did not go unnoticed and that placed him in high esteem from everyone there.

On into ‘The Prince’, Heat of the night’ and the hypnotic ‘Sucking my love’. ‘Shoot out the lights’, ‘Sweet and innocent’ and ‘Diamonds’ continued the masterwork of this legendary band. It was a thing of beauty to behold, seeing this band deliver metal in its purest, rawest form. ‘Its electric’ and ‘Helpless’ continued the heavy metal headbanging heaven that the night had turned into. And of course, Diamond Head finished off the set with the iconic ‘Am I evil?’. That could well have been it, but Ras

valiantly pushed on through the encore song ‘Streets of Gold’, much to the delight of everyone.

All in all, it was a fantastic night of heavy metal and rock as it should be, experienced up close and personal. Literally inches away from the bands. It emphasised that in the right place at the right time with the right bands, you will have almost a spiritual experience of euphoric proportions. This gig was one of those times.

Smells like Elvana in the Limelight

As the snow flies, on a cold and snowy Belfast night, a great little band was playing in the Limelight. Or to put it more bluntly, Elvana, the Elvis fronted Nirvana act had come to town.

Now, this is a thing that should not be. It sounds so wrong. But if you ever see them then you know it was a stroke of absolute genius. And boy does it work.

The band is such an amalgam of twisted weirdness weaving together an absolute plethora of tightly knitted musicality no one can leave their presence without having their mind blown away. And on this particular night, this king fronted band held court in the Limelight and brought pure joy to everyone there.

The vocalist looks like a Kurt Cobain haired Nicholas Cage from Honeymoon in Vegas with the vocabulary of Samuel L Jackson. The rest of the group look like they have just walked of the set of the video for ‘Lump’ by the Presidents of the USA.

Onto the stage they strutted like they owned the place. And for those few precious hours, they truly did.

After some perfectly timed joshing with the crowd, they blasted all the cobwebs out of everyone’s head smashing into ‘Aneurism’, ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ before totally screwing with everyone’s perception of reality by expertly combining Breed and Viva Las Vegas. It really was a thing of beauty to behold and the crowd loved it from the moment Elvana stepped onto the Limelight 2 stage.

‘Drain You’, ‘School’, ‘In Bloom’, ‘Sliver’ and ‘Been a Son’ kept the momentum going of one of the greatest shows on earth. Elvana have such a cheeky, glint in the eye, energy that is completely infectious, with everyone there being coaxed and encouraged to singing along. This was a band that knew how to play with the audience. Then came the one everyone had been anticipating, ‘Smells like teen spirit’, which had the whole place jumping and grunging with utter joy and abandonment. And even better for the crowd – this was the first time Elvana had played it live. This was truly lapped up by everyone, being at a very special gig only to be told it had become an exceptional experience as they were there when it was played for the first time.

Then ‘Rape me’ transmogrified into ‘Love me Tender’ as the vocalist came into audience much to their absolute delight. They then flooded the place with a wondrous cacophony of ‘Lithium’ before delivering once more a full audience participation performance of ‘I can’t help (Falling in love with you)/Heart Shaped Box. Grunge Elvis walked in messianic adoration amongst his loyal followers as, whilst still singing, he posed for selfies. He has his social media/viral head screwed on right. Again they stoke up the place in ecstasy once more by indulging the adoring crowd with a fantastic combination of ‘Territorial Pissings’ and ‘Suspicious minds’ and finished off with ‘Come as you are’.

Their encore set was ‘Blew’, ‘On a plain’, ‘All apologies’ and ‘The man who sold the world’

This band do not mess about by standing on stage away from the crowd. This is full on interactive entertainment as they seem to mischievously wink at you that it’s all just a bit of fun and you are all in on the joke.

Without a doubt, seeing Elvana should be on your bucket list.

LIVE REVIEW: HRH XI kicks off with a roar
LESS than 24 hours after Hard Rock Hell held its first ever Awards show, bleary heads were thrust aside as a core following also arrived determined to keep the party atmosphere going - and one man made sure that despite a family illness he was going to rock.

Dee Snider is a real trouper in every sense of the word - few can match his performance. However before he mounted the stage at HRH XI the other Thursday night acts had everyone revved up.

Ryders Creed, Idlewar, Killcode, Black Aces, and Wayward Sons delivered action packed sets - and that's no lazy cliché as each proved that they were determined to pack as much energy into every minute.


After last year's positive reception to the opening ceremony fire dancers took to the stage to bring the curtain up on proceedings. But the real bombast followed as Ryders Creed brought heavy blues in a tight and well-balanced 45 breathless minutes that left many gasping for more.

All the way from Southern California Idlewar are riding high with the release of their album 'Rite' out a matter of weeks before HRH on Off Yer Rocka. The trio were obviously out to prove a point with James booming out every line as determinedly as he hit his bass and Rick laid down licks aplenty.

New York City blues and metal rockers Killcode brought an anthemic rock and roll attitude, striding across the stage as if playing as Madison Square Gardens headliners, smiles and snarls in equal measure. On this display their next album - to be produced again by none other than Joey Z - is eagerly awaited by all at HRH.

Blues rockers Black Aces have choruses guaranteed to get those horns raised and the Knights of the Dark Order held them high for each song, pints aloft. With the crowd pleasing over of 'Rock 'n Roll Damnation' mid-set Black Aces once again prove their path is upwards.

It might have seemed on the surface that when Wayward Sons was announced the tag of 'supergroup' would be glibly given to them. But as soon as the album 'Ghost of Yet To Come' hit the shelves it was clear this was a distinct project. And, the confidence Toby Jepson has in the songs was clear in a set that only played one Little Angels track - 'Young Gods'.

Sam Wood is the perfect foil for Jepson's writing in his interpretation, as are the textures of long-time collaborator of Jepson's Dave Kemp. 'Small Talk', 'Ghost' and 'Backslide' were among many of the highlights.


With the atmosphere almost febrile in anticipation of the Dee Snider's set the packed main stage area was primed, ready and eager. Now that Twisted Sister have been laid to rest, many looked back at his 2016 Bloodstock show to see how the flamboyant front man could top that.

He did and more.

Drawing from TS songs and his release 'We Are The Ones' this was as good a set as anyone could have wished for. Strident, cajoling every audience member along, he may be going through a personally difficult time, but that didn't take one ounce of energy away from his performance.

Sure, 'The Kids Are Back', 'We're Not Going To Take It' and 'I Wanna Rock' had every voice raised, but the cover of Soundgarden's 'Outshined' brought a little poignancy, while Nine Inch Nails' 'Head Like A Hole' was a masterstroke.


The familiarity of his solo album amongst the crowd members was clear from the opener title track from 'We Are The Ones' and the awesome 'Crazy For Nothing'. And, yes every middle finger was raised in the air for 'So What'.

As the strains of 'Highway To Hell' faded away in ringing ears Mr Snider and his band left the audience members, happy, with ragged voices and beaming faces.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Honouring a legend - Vivian Campell picks up Oh Yeah Award
LAST Saturday night saw the annual Oh Yeah Music Centre awards for album of the year held in the Mandela Hall Belfast, but there was a difference this year as they were handing out their Legends award to our very own Vivian Campbell.

The award was handed to Viv by Mike Edgar from the BBC and Oh Yeah Centre who gave a very nice and personal introduction to the man himself. With Stuart Fleming of PRS doing to the honours 

Viv strode on to stage to the backdrop of an ear shattering and emotional Belfast’s crowds adulation.


During a humble and sometimes humorous acceptance speech more befitting the man's upbringing than his superstar status with Def Leppard Viv managed to tick all the boxes in his thank you’s, covering friends, family, especially his Father to former band mates with Ray Haller, Trevor Fleming and Davy Bates getting special mentions for their band Sweet Savage setting out to conquer the world and getting as far as Kilkenny!

He also managed to poke a bit of fun at Metallica for listening to them as it had worked out rather well for them. The late Jimmy Bain was next with a late night drunken phone call to his father getting him an audition for Ronnie James Dio’s new band, the rest of course is history.

To conclude his speech Viv mentioned some of his heroes and influences as a young 15 year old which included Marc Bolan, Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott and to use Viv's words…Gary fuckin' Moore!

But Viv wasn’t just here to give a speech, his band Last In line came with him half way across the world on the promise of a curry and a Jamieson!


From the opening riff of ‘Stand up and Shout’ it was clear they meant business with Andrew Freeman proving to be a more than capable frontman getting the now packed hall involved at the right times by singing the opening verses to ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ and ‘Holy Diver’.

Vinny Appice was his usual animal on the drums with Phil Soussan stepping into Jimmy Bains’ shoes admirably.

The set was a nice mixture of Dio classics from the first two albums as well as  songs such as ‘Devil in Me’ and ‘Martyr’ from the bands “Heavy Crown” album. But it was Viv who stole the show.

Clearly enjoying himself he wrung the neck off his Les Paul with more than a hint of Gary Moore’s influence evident especially in some of his soloing.


The set was delivered with such dynamism that it was hard to believe we had nearly lost this fit and healthy looking Vivian only a few short years ago.

Legend is a difficult label to attach to anyone and there will always be detractors but for a man who has spent over 35 years providing us with some music that will stick with us forever and never forgotten where he comes from he’s one that deserves the tag.

Review by Andy Gillen
Pictures by Liam Kielt

LIVE REVIEW: Cradle of Filth curdle the light in dark tales of death
CRADLE of Filth are riding high on the strength of 'Hammer of the Witches' and their current release 'Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness of Decay' - and there is no weakening in live performances as demonstrated in a stunning darkly delightful show in Belfast on the night before Halloween.

Indeed, it was a show of grit and showmanship, slick but not too overly polished that it lacked soul.

Equally tour support act, Savage Messiah, produced an eye-opening set of thrash that was tight and with enough metal groove to avoid a stilted set - with their iconic 'Hellblazer' the stand-out.


Founder, Dave Silver, delivers a confident vocal and lead performance. Tightly linked with the playing of six-string accomplice, Sam S Junior, this was a tour de force outing, only marred by not enough people making the effort to see this band, currently celebrating their tenth anniversary.

But the neighbouring bar emptied quickly before Cradle of Filth, the crowd almost rabid in expectation.

To hear an audience yelling along to 'Gilded Cunt' is an aural treat that was but an appetiser for what was at times a jaw-dropping set.

What is most striking about the set is how well the material from the last two releases sits so well with the older material. 'Heartbreak and Seance' and 'Achingly Beautiful' demonstrate that this is a band re-vitalised in 2017, and seemingly determined to drive ever forward.

Dani Filth as always is the twisted ringmaster at this black circus. Energetic, with charisma oozing like murk from his pores.

The gothic metal schtick may be over-emphasised at times as a descriptive term but tonight in the Limelight the theme of gothic darkness was equally matched by the metal weight.


Lindsay Schoolcraft's searing, beautiful vocals are the foil for Dani's guttural lows and high-pitched shrieks. However, the twin attack of Richard and Marek provide a soundscape that allows each song the breath it deserves, while Martin (drums) and Daniel (bass) are the beating, diseased heart of the set.

Cradle of Filth have an established fan base, but on what was on display in Belfast there is no complacency, no diminishing of effort.

What light there was on the eve of Halloween was curdled, crushed into a nightmare that nevertheless left those in attendances grinning. For the casual revellers outside it may have seemed a death mask on the faces of those emerging, but it was only a deathly delight for the fans of Filth.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Hurricane Darkness Rips Into The Limelight

On what may become known as Ophelia Eve, a storm of a different kind arrived in Belfast’s Limelight and played like it was their last night on Earth.

The night began with Cork three piece ‘Mindriot’. The room was already full when they kicked things off. The lads even managed to get the punters chanting along. They made the most of their little sliver of stage and warmed the crowd up considerably for the impending storm, even if lead vocalist Tony’s banter between songs was difficult to comprehend; a combination of a heavy bass and an even heavier accent!

After a small break, The Darkness walked on stage after a oddly suitable Scottish themed intro. Lead singer Justin Hawkins looked like a prize fighter in his signature green cape, ready to do battle with the audience.

Opening with the fast paced ‘Open Fire’ it was easy to see who would win this fight. They had already landed a knockout. The opening salvo wasn’t without a few little wrinkles however. From the floor it was hard to hear the vocals. Justin could be seen trying to indicate to the sound desk that he couldn’t hear himself. This did little to dampen the already electric evening in the Ormeau Road venue however as the band quickly followed up with the classic ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’. They had the Limelight on the ropes, their hands swaying in ecstatic submission.

The band’s overt dig at the train network ‘Southern Trains’ marked the removal of the cape, revealing Justin’s trademark green catsuit. Was the green for Ireland perhaps? The sound problems persisted for Justin through the next song ‘Black Shuck’ but at this point it seemed to have been sorted out for the audience.

‘Buccaneers of Hispaniola’, another song off their new album ‘Pinewood Smile’, saw the band demonstrate a new, heavier sound. Drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen legend Roger Taylor, has brought a new flavour to the band. His flamboyant drumming style is pushed to the fore on their latest album and was in full flow during their live set. He is a perfect fit for the band who have admitted that they didn’t quite click with their previous drummer, Emily Dolan Davies.

At this point the party was in full swing with a member of the audience offering Justin her bra during ‘All The Pretty Girls’ which he happily wore on his back and found it’s way into Justin’s crotch for the next song ‘Barbarian’. Whether she decides to wash it or not is anyone’s guess!

In between songs Justin was determined to get the crowd singing along to a mysterious song with ‘Belfast! Belfast!’ as part of the lyrics. It was only later when Justin asked someone to look the song up on Spotify that it was revealed to be a Boney M song. A strange choice but one that Justin seemed to champion.

Proceedings slowed down as Justin sang the first cover of the night ‘I Should Have Known Better’ by Jim Diamond. A very left field choice for cover but it really worked, with the eager Limelight faithful chanting along to the song’s famously catchy chorus. This was quickly followed up by the wonderfully tongue in cheek tune ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry?’ with Justin on an almost inaudible piano.

After confessing to a bum note (no one noticed) during ‘Dancing On A Friday Night’ Justin revealed that his ear had just popped and he could hear everything perfectly; he put the earlier audio issues down to an afternoon Apple crumble followed by a snooze.

The Darkness continued a triumphant night with a string of knockout hits including ‘Happiness’, ‘Every Inch Of You’ and the crowd sing-along favorite so far ‘Solid Gold’. After pulling off an impressive hand-stand and crowd swimming during ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’, they brought the evening to the first encore with ‘Growing On Me’ which could barely be heard over the Limelight crowd who sang as one heaving mass.

After a brief encore, The Darkness closed the night with the incredibly heavy ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’ and, in a surprise to no one, finished with ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, with every member of the audience singing every word.

At the start of the night Justin had challenged the audience to be better than Dublin where they had played the night before. There was no doubt on anyone’s mind, much less the band’s, that Dublin was relegated to second place. To save hurricane Ophelia the trouble, The Darkness tore the roof off the Limelight.

 

Review by Laurence Doherty.

AFTER playing two gigs at the Royal Albert Hall in London earlier in the week it was clear the band was pumped up and that Belfast was in for yet another spectacular Alter Bridge show.
Playing to another nearly sold out crowd they brought with them London formed rock band As Lions playing songs from their début album ‘Selfish Age’ it was evident from the start that this band had energy and a good stage presence of a band that had been performing for a while, playing songs such as ‘White Flags’ and ‘Bury my Dead’ they got the crowd’s attention.
The lights dimmed a shout went out to the crowd take lighters out phones out and raise them then they played ‘World on Fire’ Finishing up with ‘The Great Escape’ and the Ulster Hall was showing appreciation for a young talented band.
After a short break it was yet again time for Alter Bridge to take the Belfast stage.  After teasing the crowd accordingly, the band emerged onto the stage to kick off what would be a memorable show.
The rock legends opened the night with the heavy riff of one of the more immediately recognizable songs from the ‘Fortress’ album Addicted To Pain; a common staple for the band’s live performances.
Next up was ‘Ghosts of Days Gone By’, described by Mark Tremonti as a track that starts out like a feel-good song but then takes you straight to hell, it was a great follow up and shows off the two sides of the Alter Bridge.
After two classics – ‘Come to Life’ and ‘Brand New Start’ – it was clear that even AB fans were blown away by. ‘Cry of Achilles’ rattled the speakers and ears of the crowd and the cheers from the crowd was clearly heard by the band in appreciation for an Alter Bridge classic.
Myles then hand the mic over to Mark to take control on vocals as he unleashed ‘Waters Rising’. He perfectly showcased his ability to play guitar and sing a true talent; hopefully a new album from Tremonti is imminent. 
After a strong finish, it was time for Myles to take it down a notch for a more mellow and personal touch. The singer with guitar in hand, strummed the intro to ‘Wonderful Life’. It was a great reminder to the crowd that Alter Bridge have a vast catalogue of music.
After the conclusion he played a melody of Watch Over which seen him sway from side to side in a deep trance and grabbing the crowd’s attention by the slow melody.
The ‘last’ song of the night was Metalingus. Being one of the first songs of AB it didn’t disappoint sounding as fresh as the day it was released the crowd banging their heads in approval of a true rock classic. Hopefully 2018 will see alter bridge return with another rock spectacular.
Review-by Warren Stewart

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 Ancestry.com 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
 
 

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
 

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

HARD ROCK HELL AOR FRIDAY ROUNDUP
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
HARD ROCK HELL AOR SATURDAY ROUNDUP
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: 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: 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

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