Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

NEWS: Bloodstock add Code Orange, Skeletonwitch, Rotting Christ and Eluveite

FOUR more bands have been added to the Bloodstock 2019 line-up.

Below is the official statement...

Uncompromising hardcore punk squad CODE ORANGE make their BLOODSTOCK debut on Saturday on the Ronnie James Dio main stage. The band's Jami Morgan tells us “We’ve been wanting to play Bloodstock for years and are excited to bring the hurt back to the UK!”  The creative nonconformists recently dropped a surprise EP, ‘The Hurt Will Go On’, following a UK tour with BLOODSTOCK alumni, Trivium. Expect the unexpected, but meanwhile have a listen to ‘The Hunt’, featuring Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, at https://youtu.be/qgs5JzUQpy4 or Grammy-nominated album title track ‘Forever’ at https://youtu.be/dZ9JVxQVQy4.

At Halloween, the appropriately named SKELETONWITCH join the Saturday bill on the main stage. Having released their sixth studio album, ‘Devouring Radiant Light’ back in July, the Ohio-based band have just been on the road opening for System of A Down in the US. Check out ‘Fen of Shadows’ here - https://youtu.be/cZdeKg109ig and if that piques your interest, stream the whole album over at http://smarturl.it/SkeletonwitchDRL.

ROTTING CHRIST headline the Sophie Lancaster stage on opening night, Thursday. Greece’s blackened death metal overlords are working on the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Rituals’ album set for release via Season Of Mist this winter. Mainman Sakis tells us “Metal brothers and sisters! We can proudly announce that we are returning to one of the best, most dedicated festivals around for our precious scene. We look forward to seeing you all with a brand new setlist on Thursday night, headlining the Sophie Lancaster Stage at BLOODSTOCK! Until then...Keep the spirit alive!” In the meantime, check out the previously unreleased ‘I Will Not Serve’ taken from ‘Their Greatest Spells’ best of collection that landed earlier this year - https://youtu.be/ou285ecpuTY

ELUVEITIE also make a return to BLOODSTOCK, stepping into a Sophie stage headline slot on Sunday. Last seen at Catton Park back in 2008, the Swiss folk metallers are currently preparing to share a special 10th anniversary edition of their classic second album ‘Slania’ on 16th November via Nuclear Blast. For a taste of what’s in store next August, listen to more recent track ‘Rebirth’ here; https://youtu.be/d-pSq4MJmy8.

These four bands join the previously announced Friday night headliner, SABATON, Sunday’s bill toppers SCORPIONS, together with CHILDREN OF BODOM, SOILWORK, CRADLE OF FILTH, DEE SNIDER, QUEENSRYCHE, and HYPOCRISY on the Catton Park stages next August. Stay tuned for more bands to be announced soon!

BLOODSTOCK’s Rock Society memberships also go on sale at 9am tomorrow, Wednesday 31st October. The Rock Society is effectively the festival’s ‘Members Club’, offering not only a 10% discount on your weekend ticket (on top of the early bird discount when you purchase the 'Rock Society membership + ticket bundle' option), but all sorts of other cool benefits like priority signing tent access, access to the VIP Serpents Lair bar, special tours of the backstage & production areas seeing ‘behind the scenes’, a Rock Society laminate, a dedicated hangout area in the Rock Society tent on site and plenty more besides. Full details can be found at http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/pages/rock-society. Memberships are limited to just 300 and sell out almost immediately. Priced at £75, these memberships are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis so be ready in the ticket store at 9am on Halloween if you want to join the club!  

For a bit of skele-fun on Halloween, head over to BLOODSTOCK’s Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bloodstock/ for a fangtastic one day only competition to win a Hell-ishly good prize.

Standard weekend tickets are also currently available at ‘early bird’ prices (just £132 for four days of metal fun), so pick up yours at the ticket store - http://bloodstock.seetickets.com - if you want to save a few quid. Camper van passes are also available in limited quantities, but be quick, as limited spaces remain.

For those who want their VIP spot guaranteed, BLOODSTOCK’s first wave of 2019 Serpents Lair VIP tickets are also available, priced at £290. A second wave, including the Deluxe VIP packages (Luxpads, Bellepads, Podpads, etc) and a limited amount of VIP upgrades (for those who’ve already purchased standard weekend tickets) will then become available on 16th December at 9am. For full details click to http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/pages/vip-camping.

You can also subscribe to the BLOODSTOCK e-mailout to get band and news announcements as they happen! Click through to http://eepurl.com/dKZrG-/ to sign up.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 8th-11th August 2019. Get additional information over at www.bloodstock.uk.com.



Friday, October 26, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Cathartic melancholia from The Crawling on Wolves And The Hideous White

SOMETIMES an album comes along that is almost completely flawless -something that transforms what your understanding of what metal is; something that takes the clichéd genre sub-divisions and tips a heap of sonic abuse atop of the conventions.

To say such statements about any band would appear biased - but to say such things about a Northern Ireland metal act given the nature of this site would appear to be the most brown-nosed attitude of a reviewer.

But The Crawling's second album, 'Wolves And The Hideous White' is remarkable in the best sense of the word. Forget the labels 'doom' or 'death', this is pure metal, performed with a sense of bravura and seeping with bathos.

Yes, the sometimes hilarious YouTube series from Andy Clarke on the agonies of putting the recordings together give an insight into what bands go through but in the end The Crawling have put together six tracks that will have listeners contemplating the human condition...and wondering at what we are here in this fucked up 2018.

To be sure many walk these sonic echo chambers, but The Crawling give voice through exploration, yet the pain and agony of humanity is on Wolves and the Hideous White a cathartic journey.

We all feel disconnected in this connected world - but to hear that reflected by this three-piece is a validation that our loneliness and despair that we may feel and by the same token a mirror that allows us to be ourselves.

To make an extremely bold statement (I await the Twitter backlash) The Crawling have taken the torch held aloft by Geezer Butler and doused it in the flickering despair of a post-agreement fucked up Northern Ireland.

Yet the themes explored are universal, such as on the insistent 'Rancid Harmony', which has anyone with the least self-awareness being forced to look within.

What makes this lyrically an outstanding release is that the sonic assault mirrors it to such an extent  that even if one were to ignore the words one would be forced to contemplate your own position in a universe that seems to push us by, ignoring our pleas and prayers. But that is what makes this special.

To hear and feel what we keep hidden in our darkest moments; the times when we stare in the darkness at the ceiling and wonder why we exist, is revelatory. We are not alone in these thought and fears. That  we ae not alone is a service The Crawling provide.

Such deep sentiments about the human condition and the desire - no, more than desire, the need, to feel part of this fucked up human state is to sense we are not alone.

But by the same token the music Andy, Stuart and Gary have loosed upon the world is achingly beautiful. 'Drowned in Shallow Water' is perhaps a song that even after several listens - and a few more - moves one to tears.

True, there are but six songs on Wolves And The Hideous White, but they will rent your heart and help you explore your soul. If 'Anatomy Of Loss' set the landscape this album forces you to walk the path of  broken paving and shattered glass. It is truly 'A Time for Broken Things'.

We want to belong, we want to be part of something - even if we cannot know what that exactly is - and we need to hold each other's spirit's together.

On this album The Crawling have done just that. True, they could have done without the tolling bell intro on 'Still No Sun' but that is just a petty jibe as we try to find some point to make...

To put it bluntly, this is an album you need in your life: Yes, it is musically impeccable (apart from yon bell!), and yes it taps into our deepest fears, but by dong so it is a chance for catharsis from the doomed melodies within. It is a chance to embrace the arrangements, to wallow in the emotions, to celebrate the fact that when metal is this good the dark themes explored are the most life-affirming sounds on this fucked up planet.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Wolves and The Hideous White is available now for per-order
The official launch is on November 15th at Belfast's Empire, with Conjuring Fate, Neamhni and Disconnect providing support and is part of Belfast Music Week


Thursday, October 04, 2018

NEWS: Geoff Tate's Operation Mindcrime set for Belfast return

FORMER Queensryche front man Geoff Tate’s Operation Mindcrime band have announced a return to The Belfast Empire on Wednesday, 20th February 2019. Tickets go on sale tomorrow from all usual Ticketmaster outlets.

Earlier this year, Geoff and his band undertook an extensive tour of the UK including a packed out show at The Empire to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the classic Queensryche album ‘Operation Mindcrime’, with several dates completely sold out. 

After leaving Queensrÿche in 2012, Geoff started a project called ‘Operation: Mindcrime, named for his critically acclaimed concept album, and re-invented himself with his Operation Mindcrime band mates, going on to produce three inter-connected albums, ‘The Key’ in 2015 followed by ‘Resurrection’ in 2016 and the final piece of the puzzle, ‘The New Reality’, being released in 2017.

All three albums are part of a concept album trilogy involving virtual currencies, internet banking and stock trading, which were met with largely positive reviews - as they say capturing the zeitgeist.

Tickets priced £20 + B/F for Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime at The Belfast Empire on Wednesday 20th February 2019 go on sale tomorrow at 9am. Tickets available from The Belfast Empire Bar and all usual Ticketmaster outlets including www.ticketmaster.ie


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: 'Ware the icy lands of Antartarctica for Evil Scarecrow tread the wastelands and conquer

REMEMBER the Martian invasion of 2017? When the so-called lifeless planet unleashed their warriors on an unsuspecting Earth? No neither do we, but Evil Scarecrow have that memory burned deep and they seek vengeance.

And, whilst we have never encountered an ice slug that shoots frozen milk Dr Rabid Hell and his accomplices assure us that one exists...

If ya eejits expected us to be 'serious' when reviewing Evil Scarecrow's fourth album, well that was not ever going to happen. But, 'Chapter IV: Antartarctica for all its twisted humour is a serious piece of wondrous musicality amidst the madness.

Within we find a panopoly of demented parables, warnings of not just the Martian invasion ('Red Riding Hood') but stark warnings..

Let the fear be upon you!

'Ware the deadly vortices of the 'Hurricanado'.

Heed the warnings of haunting by the 'Polterghost' lest ye have spaghetti chucked at you.

And, as for the Turnip King...more later.

The outside world prefer to think of 'metal' as silly. Well Evil Scarecrow have 10 high concept tracks on Chapter IV: Antartarctica that are sillier than a silly thing romping in a field of silliness while channelling Monty Python, Black Metal, Mercyful Fate, thrash, prog and American Dad.

And, that is no bad thing.

However, for all the gigglicious lyrics this is a serious chunk of an album. On all 10 tracks Dr Rabid Hell (vocals, guitars), Brother Dimitri Pain (guitars), Kraven Morrdeth (bass), Princess Luxury (keyboards), and Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist (drums) lay down the proverbial chops - although we are yet to receive our delivery of the delicious pig flesh to accompany our listening pleasure...

It is the understanding that Evil Scarecrow have that amidst the insanity the playing has to be spot on, while keeping a straight face while delivering songs that are, well only Evil Scarecrow can deliver this high concept tales...

Take the aforementioned root vegetable lord... Gus, Zag and The Turnip King' is a cautionary tale of unwitting Satanist trying to summon the evil one and bringing forth the Turnip King instead, wreaking havoc.

And, there is also the 'Cosmic Goth Moth Gong', which you should only experience after six or 10 beers or a mind-altering substance to really understand.

Taking their cues from black metal, thrash, understanding their influences and twisting them...and throwing in a folk track.

Yes, the penultimate track is the plaintive tale - 'The Ballad of Brother Pain' - take note folk metal wannabes because this tear-jerking 'power ballad'. And, we must know why the monk went to Antartarctica, does his mother know where he is and why walk the frozen tracts in open sandals?

However, what is striking is the titular closer Antartarctica - complete with a child's bike horn at the opening, a nod to the video of Hurricanado. This 10-minute epic has it all. A sweep and a vision that takes Opeth and Mastodon and gives them the icicle treatment in a melange that melds mind-bending concepts.

Across all tracks Evil Scarecrow do not put a foot wrong. And, if you fail to grasp this understand that "It is too complex for the human mind..."

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Chapter IV: Antartarctica is released on 28th September on Dead Box. It is available on a variety of formats, including vinyl on Pledge and can also be accessed via an interdimensional portal just outside Coventry.

Evil Scarecrow play Belfast's Voodoo on 1st February, 2019


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NEWS: Bloodstock reveal Sabaton as 2019 Friday night headliner

BLOODSTOCK has reveaed that Swedish metal warriors, SABATON will headline Friday 9th August in what will be their only UK show in 2019!

Check out what they had to say about returning to Catton Park’s hallowed turf to headline the festival this time around - https://youtu.be/a_m5jrhKUZs.

The band have always been a huge hit with BLOODSTOCK’s crowd in years prior, so we’re excited to see them step into a headline slot.  Remember their 2015 set when they brought their tank?!  Watch them blast through ‘Metal Crue’ here - https://youtu.be/nt2pF7Bf944.

Stay tuned for more band announcements soon!

Standard weekend tickets are also currently available at ‘early bird’ prices (just £132 for four days of metal fun), so grab yours now at the ticket store - http://bloodstock.seetickets. com - if you want to save a few quid.  Camper van passes are also available  in limited quantities, but be quick, half the available spaces have sold already!

For those who want their VIP spot guaranteed, BLOODSTOCK’s first wave of 2019 Serpents Lair VIP tickets are also available, priced at £290.  A second wave, including the Deluxe VIP packages (Luxpads, Bellepads, Podpads, etc) and a limited amount of VIP upgrades (for those who’ve already purchased standard weekend tickets) will then become available on 16th December at 9am.  For full details click to http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/ pages/vip-camping.

We trialled the deposit scheme for VIP tickets in 2018, but please note, there will be NO DEPOSIT SCHEME for VIP tickets this year. 

In other excellent news, BLOODSTOCK is very proud to announce that the 2018 event raised a total of £11,872 for TEENAGE CANCER TRUST, via the guest list scheme, on-site donations and the charity stall at Catton Park.  A great result for a very worthy cause so a giant THANK YOU to everyone who donated.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 8th-11th August 2019.  Get additional information over at www.bloodstock.uk.com.

NEWS: The Stranglers set for Belfast date to open Back on the Tracks UK tour

Following their sold out Belfast show last year, UK rock legends The Stranglers will headline the Ulster Hall, Belfast with special guests Dr Feelgood on Thursday 28th February 2019.

With a career spanning four decades, The Stranglers are one of the most continuously successful bands to have emerged from the UK punk rock scene.Their hits include Golden Brown, No More Heroes, Peaches and Always the Sun.

The Stranglers’ Back on the Tracks 19-date UK Tour kicks off in Belfast on 28th February culminating in what is bound to be another rousing finale in Manchester on Saturday 30th March.

During a hectic year of touring the Southern Hemisphere, Europe and the UK, The Stranglers have also been busy writing and rehearsing new material so audiences can expect to experience some of these new cuts, alongside classic favourites and lesser performed numbers drawn from their eloquent and extensive catalogue spanning over forty years.

First formed in 1974, the band's no bullshit attitude was embraced by the punk movement of the late'70s, with their first three albums (Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black And White) being released within an astonishing 13 months of each other, scoring hit singles such as Peaches, No More Heroes and Walk On By. Further success was to follow with Always The Sun, Strange Little Girl and the mercurial Golden Brown, amongst many others, earning the group 24 Top 40 singles and 18 Top 40 albums  

Masters of their own highly original sound, that combines a brilliant melodic touch with dark aggression and effortless cool, The Stranglers are now recognised as one of the most credible and influential bands to have emerged from the punk era.

With record-breaking, sell-out shows and festival appearances in the UK and throughout the world, demand to see and hear the band is at an all-time high, testament surely to their considerable musical talent and enduring quality of their songs.

Tickets, priced £33 (+bking fee) go on sale Friday September 21st at 9am from www.ulsterhall.co.uk, www.ticketmaster.ie, Katy's Bar & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Northern Ireland customers 0844 277 44 55 & Republic of Ireland customers 0818 719 300.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

NEWS: UFO take The Last Orders as Mogg bows out - including Belfast show

PHIL Mogg announced recently that 2019 will be the end of the road for his stint as chief chanter for UFO - and the band has confirmed a Belfast date as part of 'The Last Orders - 50th Anniversary Tour' on 20th March 2019.

Full details are below in the official press release:

UK rock band UFO have announced their ‘Last Orders - 50th Anniversary Tour’ is coming to Belfast’s Limelight 1 on Wednesday 20th March 2019.

Next year marks UFO’s 50th anniversary and the band have announced several shows across the UK and Ireland to celebrate. Tickets on sale NOW from www.limelightbelfast.com, www.ticketmaster.ie and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Northern Ireland customers 0844 277 44 55 & Republic of Ireland customers 0818 719 300.

Phil Mogg has confirmed that next year’s 50th anniversary tour with UFO will be his last as the frontman of the long-running hard rock band. Consequently, it seems almost certain that at that point they will cease to exist. UFO were formed in London in 1968 and Mogg is their only ever-present member, performing on all of the group’s 22 studio albums.

“This decision has been a long time coming, I’ve considered stepping down at the end of UFO’s previous two tours,”Mogg explains. “I don’t want to call this a farewell tour as I hate that word, but next year’s gigs will represent my final tap-dancing appearances with the band.”

“2018 marks UFO’s 50th anniversary, so the timing feels right,” he continues. “There will be a final tour of the UK and we will also play some shows in selected other cities that the band has a strong connection with. But outside of the UK this won’t be a long tour. Being out on the road isn’t always tremendously luxurious and although the playing is as great as it ever was, the stuff that surrounds it becomes very tiresome. I always told myself that when I reached that stage I would step down, and that’s what I’m going to do. This is the right time for me to quit.”

Mogg turned 70 back in April and although his voice remains strong, he admits that age played its part in his conclusion.

“I’m a big reader of obituaries, and my finger always goes down to: ‘I wonder how old they were…’,” he chuckles. “The last few years have been tough, losing Lemmy was awful and I was sad that Jimmy Bain passed on a cruise ship. That distressed me quite a lot.”

While many veteran bands in such a position simply cease playing live and continue to record, UFO will no longer be releasing new music. "A Conspiracy Of Stars" in 2015 and last year’s covers collection ‘The Salentino Cuts’ are set to become a signing-off point, though Mogg insists that however unlikely the prospect might seem – the singer is a lone strand of consistency throughout a 50-year history – he would have no problem with UFO continuing with a replacement.

The band’s current line-up – completed by keyboard player/second guitarist Paul Raymond, guitarist Vinnie Moore, drummer Andy Parker and bassist Rob Le Luca – have of course been informed of Mogg’s decision.

“I’ve told the guys that this is how it is,” he says. “They know it’s my time to go and they know that they can do whatever they want to do without me but I don’t want to play live or make records anymore, though having said that I might go on and do an album of my own. I’ll have to see how I feel about that.”

Of course UFO have either split up, retired or gone on hiatus several times before but Mogg is keen to make the distinction that next year’s dates don’t just mark the end of his touring commitments with UFO – for Phil, there will be no further concerts of any kind.

“For me, this is the end of my stint with UFO,” he clarifies. “This is a line in the sand. I’m suggesting we call the tour ‘Last Orders.

You’ll have gathered that Mogg is not about to slash his wrists anytime soon. Of course he is sad that the finishing line is now within slight but has had sufficient time to live with and process such a massive personal decision.

“Maybe the best word to use is ‘bittersweet’,” he concludes. “But my time has arrived and all that remains is to make sure that we have a good tour.”

Rok band UFO



Friday, August 24, 2018

NEWS: Dead Daisies add November Belfast date 'by popular demand'

THE Dead Daisies have added a November Limelight date "by popular demand" as the revolving line-up supergroup concludes another massive year for the band.

They will play the Ormeau Road venue on November 22nd, in what promises to be a very special night as part of their 'Welcome to Disneyland' tour.

But make sure to get in the queue early - the first 50 people in the line may have the opportunity to witness a 50-minute acoustic 'Disneyland' set before the doors officially open.

For those who can't make that the Dead Daisies will play a two-hour show.

“We’re extremely excited to get back to our friends and fans in Europe and the U.K. to close out an AMAZING year, and our 2018 Burn It Down Tour!

"We’re also excited about finally getting back to Belfast Northern Ireland and Frankfurt Germany to feel that good old fashioned rock and roll enthusiasm once again!!!!

"We can’t thank you all enough for the love and support you’ve given us, so what better way to end the year, than being back again with you playing music!!!! See you in November”, said singer John Corabi.

Guitarist Doug Aldrich added: “Hi guys just wanted to say hi! We are super happy that we are returning to Europe in November! It’s an honour to rock and party with you! We’re going to be wrapping up the tour actually in Frankfurt and that’s gonna be an insane party.

"Also very excited to go to Belfast Northern Ireland on this tour. It’s such an amazing place I can’t wait. See you in the fall ROCKERS!!"



Sunday, August 05, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: U.D.O. captures the beating metal heart on Steelfactory

ON U.D.O.'s new album, 'Steelfactory' you would expect it to carr you along the expected metal journey, but the veteran singer also invites us into something else - not just the passion, but the introspection of being a rock 'n' roll veteran on the closing tack 'The Way'.

Mr Dirkschneider has such a venerable career that another album would have been received with accolades, no matte what. And, while 'Steelfactory' contains no surprises you wouldn't want UDO to deliver a fucking nu-metal album.

What you get is a straightforward, no nonsense, heavy metal album, tempered by the revelatory 'ballad' of 'The Way'.

In many ways this AFM Records/Soulfood Music release captures the essence of what makes a great 'classic' metal album. All bar two of the 15 tracks clock in at around four minutes: the majority have a mid-tempo menace; and, for all the power there is an inherent melody.

The self-styled 'German Metal Tank' has the ability to deliver effortlessly on songs such as 'Rose In The Desert' and the frenetic 'Eraser'.

Of course, these days U.D.O. have a settled line-up: from his son Sven on drums - ably aided by Fitty Wienhold on bass - through to the excellence of Andry Smirnov' guitar work.

On the second song, 'Make The Move', in particular Smirnov's work jousts with UDO's words, playing each note in an almost lyrical fashion.

And, Smirnov's contribution is a key facet that producer Jacob Hansen has developed. Yes, UDO has the sort of voice that was designed for heavy metal, but the entire record's aesthetic stands with.

True, 'Steelfactory' isn't going to re-define the genre, nor will it change the future of metal - but you know what? We don't give a single flying fuck. Just listen to 'In The Heat Of The Night' and revel in its delivery and excellence - even the FX are restrained.

But the subsequent track 'Raise The Game' should have a trademark on it!

However, the core of this album is 'Hungry And Angry'. Sure, non-metal people may scoff, but yes "we are still hungry and angry'. That said, 'One Heart, One Soul' is almost the epitome of what UDO does.

All the tracks are as close to the alchemist's stone that can be achieved in metal.

Maybe it is an age-thing, but 'Steelfactory' seems to us to have that bit of class that dictates it shall be on repeat for a long, long time to come. And, the doubters can fuck away off because UDO is one of that rare breed that just does it and does it fucking well. This really is 'The Way'...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Steelfactory is released on AFM Records and Soulfood Music on August 31st.


Friday, August 03, 2018

LIVE REVIEW: Simply the Best - Iron Maiden leave Belfast slack-jawed in amazement


THERE are stage shows, there are great stage shows, and then there are amazing mélange of songs and stage shows. And then there is Iron Maiden. Surpassing all, not just hyperbole - but an acknowledgement that they are simply the best.

The Maiden machine's descent upon Belfast's SSE on August 2nd was a masterclass on how to do an arena show. Other acts will be scratching their heads on how to even come close, never mind match this show.

The choice of Killswitch Engage as support may have had some people wondering, given their status as metalcore pioneers. However, the age range of Maiden fans is such that they appealed to many.

And, Jesse Leach was well aware that they had to engage the building audience from the off. Sure, the tomfoolery of Adam Dutkiewcz was an interesting aside, but the band used every second of their support slot to pack in songs sure to have horns raised.

Both Leach and Howard Jones songs were deployed, but Jesse's voice has a commanding presence, with opener 'Strength of Mind', 'Hate By Design' and 'My Last Serenade'.

Much more effective when headliners in their own right Leach committed the supporting act faux pas, reminding everyone that they were there to see Iron Maiden - yeah we all knew that!

Concluding with a crowd-pleasing, and affectionate, cover of Dio's Holy Diver a return to Belfast will be most welcomed by most.

For those who have watched the documentary 'Belly of the Beast' the level of detail, consideration and rehearsals that Iron Maiden and their team put into every tour comes as no surprise.

Regimented, disciplined, well-oiled etc etc. For many bands this could result in a stilted performance. Not Maiden. They take professionalism to another level. If they were to stand in front of long-time manager Rod Smallwood for their annual job evaluation they would exceed all expectations.

And, on this 'Legacy Of The Beast' show previous Maiden shows were well exceeded...

Presented as a metal opera in four acts - war, religion, hell and damnation - this was not only well constructed but thought through in its conception and execution.

From the military-garbed crew unveiling the camo netting as the strains of 'Doctor, Doctor' echoed around the SSE through to the final wail of 'Run To The Hills' not a foot or moment was wasted.

In the carefully coordinated moments of Churchill's Speech anticipation within the sold-out venue was perhaps higher than ever before. And, there was a fucking Spitfire. A 90% lifesize replica of a Spitfire from 302 Squadron - a Polish squadron - flew above the stage as 'Aces High' had 90% of the audience bellowing along. A vocal nod to the 100th anniversary of the RAF and noting that young men a third of his age went off to fight Nazism was just and apt.

'Where Eagles Dare' - with Bruce in mountaineering garb - and an outstanding 'Two Minutes to Midnight' had the audience slack-jawed in amazement.

Turning to the Bayley-era 'The Clansman' Dickinson took the time to speak about 'Freedom'  and in response the SSE joined in during the track.

'The Trooper' concluded the 'War' section with Bruce duelling with a 12 foot Eddie; the track only diminished by Bruce waving a Legacy of the Beast flag instead of the Union Flag the rest of the tour will see. It's a song about the Crimean War, based on a poem, not a political statement. Fuck sake Northern Ireland is disappearing up its own arsehole when this happens.

A sign that Maiden know how to play their audience was the tracks 'Revelations' and 'For The Greater Good of God'. As the backdrop changed to a cathedral like illumination (with saints replaced by the various incarnations of Eddie in the stained glass) these were tracks for aficionados not those for the hits. Thankfully most there were aficionados.

'The Wicker Man' and 'Sign Of The Cross' - with Bruce in demented monk mode - kept it all moving along.

Steve Harris grinning like it was his first show machine-gunning the audience with his bass, the entire band were not only 'on form' but were revelling in what they were doing.

Murray and Smith trading licks and riffs, while Gers was rivalling Bruce in the Energizer Bunny stakes and hamming up at every opportunity.

As if a theatrical performance all hit their 'marks' while anchoring all was an exuberant performance from the grinning Nicko. Every time the stage cameras captured him his smile was radiant. One bass drum, no drum triggers, a plethora of toms, his work rate might seem as you watch relaxed but the man exudes class.

Now many bands have pyros. Flames and all that. Bruce had his own fucking flamethrower. Threatening band mates a vast Icarus' wings fell to ashes.

To give an insight to the level of professionalism a photographer revealed that prior to the show beginning a Maiden PR person briefed all the togs where Bruce would leap on the opening number...in order that all in the photo pit could get the best possible shot. Equal that!

Adorned with a plague mask 'Fear of the Dark' saw the Belfast choir chanting and signing on command, while 'Number of the Beast was, well 'Number of the Beast'.

With the main set closing with a hyper-speed 'Iron Maiden' the trio of tracks for the encore had the audience both rapt and using every last ounce of energy. 'The Evil That Men Do' merged seamlessly into 'Hallowed by thy Name'  complete with cell and swaying noose.

As 'Run To The Hills' had yet more fists, horns and strained vocal chords there was no doubt the audience left as 'Always Look On The Bright Side of Life' played they were not only sated, but delighted.

As per each show on this tour Iron Maiden came on at precisely the same time, and departed at the same time. Contrived? No professional. But being professional, and executing the same set night after night does mot mean that the band does not deliver anything other than pure heavy metal excellence. The enthusiasm was evident, not just a set of men doing their jobs.

The only niggle across the entire evening was the massed ranks of phones. Watch the gig - you're tiny screen will never capture the majesty of Maiden.

What next for the Irons? Another album, tour to support that and a farewell greatest hits tour? That'll do nicely.

Review by Jonathan Taynor

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: The Spirit conjure deathly mysticism on Sounds From The Vortex

HAILING from Germany's Saarland, The Spirit, have landed what must seem like a dream - their self-released and very limited edition début 'Sounds From The Vortex' has been snapped up by Nuclear Blast, and will be released on August 10th.

What enticed Nuclear Blast - well simply a damn fine album of melodic death metal. On the first listen it has enough elements to capture the imagination - and on subsequent spins it reveals much, much more.

The pairing of 'The Clouds of Damnation' and 'Cross The Bridge To Eternity' would stand proud on many an iconic black/death metal acts releases.

And, 'The Great Mortality' has an icy insistence that recalls some of their epic Scandinavian predecessors.

Therein lies the key - The Spirit have studied hard their influences. They have not slavishly copied them; rather they have plucked the elements they love and given them a twist.

The one niggle is who the fuck are they? The accompanying blurb has them identified the members only by initials, yet enigmatically says they are young but "by means inexperienced band". Well 'MT's vocals and guitar majesty with 'AK' is well executed, and 'AT' (bass) and 'MS' (Drums) clearly know what they are about, no matter who they are.

While throughout there is tremendous musicianship what stands out is there understanding of what they are about. Instrumental passages aren't mere things to showcase in a "look at us" manner their accomplished playing, but are integral to each songs structure.

Equally when solos are used they match the mood and power of the songs - deployed when necessary but not over-used.

The whole mysticism and icy tales from the lyrics may be a bit samey, but they're hardly going to call for revolution...

Previously The Spirit created a buzz in some fanzines and online 'underground' sites - with the re-release of 'Sounds From The Vortex' they will gain a wider audience and a platform for their next release - maybe by then they'll be able to tell us who the fuck they are!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Sounds From The Vortex is released on Nuclear Blast on August 10th


NEWS: Madball ink in Belfast and Dublin shows in December

NYC hardcore heroes Madball will include Belfast and Dublin show's in their December 'For The Cause' tour.

We reviewed the album in June and we have to say it is up there with some of their finest - dripping invective and railing against a fucked up world (read the review here).

Madball play Dublin's Voodoo Lounge on Monday, December 3rd, and the following night at The Foundry, Belfast.

Support in Belfast comes from By Any Means, Lawfucker and Barrick Buster.

Tickets for the Belfast show are priced £22.50 and are available from wegottickets.com.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Epica discover their inner geek on manga/anime inspired Attack On Titan

OKAY - all you geeks and fans of manga and anime pay attention, because the Japanese release by Epica of 'Attack On Titan' is now available in the UK.

Yep, previously only available in the home of the series, the Dutch symphonic metal crew tribute to the multi-million selling series is out now on Nuclear Blast.

And, it has to be said we approached this with much trepidation. It's not as if we don't like the magna stuff - but c'mon, if anyone had suggested this there would have been much guffaws. That is until you listen to 'Attack On Titan'.

Trying to capture the essence of a series with a worldwide cadre of devoted fans is something that most bands would have baulked at, but Epica have managed the remarkable. This will appeal to fans of the series and fans of symphonic metal.

The headlong rush of 'Crimson, Bow and Arrow' and 'Wings of Freedom' melds into delicacies of Simone on 'If Inside These Walls Was A House'.

While at first 'Dedicate Your Heart' seems a little forced lyrically, it is a justifiable conceit to make sure the sense of what is attempted.

Keyboardist Coen Janssen explained where it all came from: “The 'Attack on Titan' EP is a project very close to my heart.

"More than ever I was involved in arranging and producing and I am very proud of the result! Very cool to see how these Japanese anime-songs turned into Epica songs more and more every step of the way! I’m very excited that our 'Attack on Titan'  will be available outside of Japan"

Now Nuclear Blast and the band have described this as an EP. With eight tracks lasting well over 40 minutes it is at least a mini-album, and longer than many bands attempt.

Attack On Titan' was recorded during the summer of 2017 at Sandlane Recording Facilities by Joost van den Broek. The original songs, which were influenced by the music of Epica, were composed by Revo of Japanese band Linked Horizon.

For the 'EP', the tracks were adapted by Epica and produced by Joost van den Broek.

The choir arrangements and scoring were completed by Janssen who also handled the orchestral arrangements with Joost van den Broek.

While it may smack of a vanity project the four instrumentals (albeit with significant choral elements and spoken pieces) are well worth the price of this release.

But while there will be fans if magna who will devour every second - and salute Eren Yaeger's conflicted journey as they do so.

However, more than that this sits comfortably within Epica's catalogue as a worthy collection. Geeks assemble!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Attack on Titan is available now on Nuclear Blast


ALBUM REVIEW: Mad Max manage to keep it vital on 35

HOLY shitballs - but when Mad Max formed we were a mere 16-years-old - which sort of came home when they named their latest release '35'.

But no-one seems to have told the German rockers that after that length of time they should be kicking back and looking towards more relaxing times...

Instead '35' is a testimony as to why no band - or for that matter individual - should measure their output by some arbitrary measurement of time.

Despite their (band) vintage this release has all the vitality of what hard rock was about in the 1980s and still sounds fresh in 2018  - just take the energy oozing from 'Goodbye To You' with its frenetic opening pace and well-spaced soundscape that will have listeners chanting "She's A Radical" along with the band.

This Steamhammer/SPV release is bursting with tunes that will have heads nodding and the likes of 'Thirty 5' will surely be live favourites with its brooding mid-pace menace and acknowledgement of their road so far.

And, unlike many other bands they have the guts to say upfront about their influences - they might have had some reservations about the overtly Extreme influence on 'Snowdance' but they were right to include it.

Equally - the bonus track 'Paris Is Burning' is a cover of the Dokken song - with the blessing of Don Dokken himself - that is both faithful to the original and has the Mad Max stamp too.

Michael Voss' vocals sound fresh and passionate - especially on 'Rocky Road', their tale of the highs and lows of being a long-enduring band.

But, it is the cohesiveness of the sound created by Voss, Jürgen Breforth (guitar), Axel Kruse (drums) and Thomas “Hutch” Bauer (bass) that makes this such an enjoyable listen.

In the accompanying blurb to this release Breforth explained why they stay so fresh with an album packed with great songs.

“We’ve never produced a new album just because a record company asked us to or because it was supposedly high time to come up with a new recording,” he said.

“For us the all-decisive question before every production is merely: Do we still have enough ideas for an album that we as well as our fans will get excited about? Only if everybody involved agrees on that point will we begin to work.”

Among the stand-outs that must have everybody picking up their instruments is 'D.A.M.N. (Devil's After Me) which has an energy few can equal, with lyrics by Jason Smith and Breforth.

But the most significant track is 'Beat Of The Heart'. Reflecting the band's previous hit 'Night Of Passion' it has all the elements that make a great song - this really is classic rock in the best sense of the phrase.

It would be easy to discount bands like Mad Max in 2018 - but you know what, so long as they keep releasing albums like this they'll remain as important as the heroes they had that made them first pick up their instruments.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

35 is released on Steamhammer/SPV on August 10th


NEWS: Slash releases first single from new album - featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators

IT had to happen - Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are set to release their new album, 'Living The Dream'  on 21st September 2018 via Slash's own label Snakepit Records, in partnership with Roadrunner Records.

The group unleashed 'Driving Rain'- the first single from Living the Dream—today. Listen to “Driving Rain” HERE and watch the trailer HERE and purchase the new song digitally HERE.

SLASH describes the creation of 'Driving Rain' “This is a riff I specifically remember playing with the guys for the first time at a venue in New Hampshire on the World on Firetour,” explains SLASH.

“It’s a cool guitar part we ran through, and from that point forward the rest of the song started to come together in my mind while on the road. We put it all together this year and Myles came up with a great melody for it.”

Myles Kennedy added, “The riff is very reminiscent of vintage Aerosmith.

"It’s got a certain funk to it that’s compelling. Lyrically, it’s a story about somebody who works on the road--it could be a musician, and it could be a traveling salesman. What makes it interesting is this guy has an addict girlfriend or spouse who continues to relapse, and she ends up getting him to come home. She’s miserable and falls back into bad old habits, and that compels him to head back to her to save the day.”

'Living The Dream' is Slash’s fourth solo album, and third with Slash and his bandmates Myles Kennedy (Vocals), Brent Fitz, (Drums), Todd Kerns (Bass & Vocals) and Frank Sidoris (Guitar & Vocals)

The band has launched a physical pre-order for Living The Dream including CD, Heavyweight vinyl and a limited edition Deluxe Premium Set consisting of  2LP Yellow Vinyl within a Premium 'Living The Dream' Vinyl-size 20 page Hardback Book, an exclusive one-sided 7” single of 'Driving Rain' featuring an etching on the B-side with a special set of SLASH plectrums, Standard Physical CD album and  poster.

All formats are available to order along with a limited-edition T-shirt and Hoodie. To view a variety of the LIVING THE DREAM CD/merchandise bundles available now: http://www.slashonline.com.
The band has also unveiled the album cover art and tracklisting for LIVING THE DREAM. The artwork was created by renowned visual artist Ron English. View the cover art and tracklisting below.

Cover art created by artist Ron English.

The tracklisting for Living The Dream is:

1. The Call of the Wild
2. Serve You Right
3. My Antidote
4. Mind Your Manners
5. Lost Inside the Girl
6. Read Between the Lines
7. Slow Grind
8. The One You Loved Is Gone
9. Driving Rain
10. Sugar Cane
11. The Great Pretender
12. Boulevard of Broken Hearts

NEWS: Deep fried Southern Rock Band Hogjaw premieres their new video and much more!

RAMBUNCTIOUS Southern Rockers Hogjaw are proud to lift the lid on new video & single, ‘Way Down Yonder’ – the title track of their latest album, out now via Snakefarm Records.

What’s more, the band will also be re-releasing their 2015 album, ‘Rise To The Mountains’, on Sept 28th 2018, just before they kick-start a headline UK tour.

Hogjaw hail from Arizona and describe themselves as “Four fingers folded into a fist!”: JB Jones (vocals and guitar), Jimmy Rose (lead guitar), Elvis DD (bass) and Kwall (drums). “Hard-hitting southern fried electric rock” is how they define their sound, although their influences are drawn from a deeper well: imagine Free, early Rainbow and Whitesnake, marinaded in Blackfoot and The Allman Brothers, then steeped in moonshine. Solid Southern blues-rock. Oh, and beards!

Hogjaw’s video to support ‘Way Down Yonder’s supernaturally-themed title track and single is filled with the kind of energy and oomph! that only big men with attitude plus an aversion to razors can truly provide. Bluesdoodles captured the heart and soul of the track thus: “‘Way Down Yonder’ has a riff which… is a southern fried gumbo of Rainbow’s ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’. This should mean it is wrong but, even with the spoken word section sounding like Johnny Cash, and then an a capella hand-clap bit, somehow (damn it!) this is still a great song”.

Check out the track and accompanying video below.

“When we wrote the song ‘Way Down Yonder’, it started with this cool, mystical story-line, and JB – who has produced many of our videos – came up with the whole concept based on what he had written. It might have been nice to shoot everything in the swamps of Louisiana, but instead we kept to our home state of Arizona. We were able to go to three outdoor locations that showcased different areas. We like to call it the ‘desert swamps’! Hope everyone out there enjoys these few minutes as much as we enjoyed making them!” - Hogjaw

Produced by the band & Byron Filson, ‘Way Down Yonder’ (the album) features 11 new tracks ranging from the clean, mellow pickin’ of ‘Back Home Today’ through to the heavy swamp groove of ‘Never Surrender’.

Meanwhile, ‘Rise To The Mountains’, their 2015 10-tracker, includes the Southern classic, ‘I Will Remain’…

“This was the last album written at the Hog-Pound House where a lot of musical magic was achieved. Plenty of whiskey was drunk on hot summer nights, with loud music grilling in our ears; the outcome was 10 songs that we felt proud of, and we did not hesitate to support the album by touring and releasing three videos: ‘Where Have You Gone’, ‘The Smoker’ and the epic ‘I Will Remain’. As we break into the middle of 2018, we Hogjaw guys are excited to see this album soar to new heights, with the Snakefarm re-issue blowing some fresh air into it… go get a copy and throw it on!!! Cheers!” - Hogjaw

To support this re-issue plus its ‘Way Down Yonder’ follow-up, Hogjaw will be headlining a UK tour in October, that sadly misses out Belfast.

Monday, July 30, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW:Dee Snider displays power and passion on For The Love Of Metal

WHEN Dee Snider bellows out "I gave you yesterday" on 'Tomorrow's No Concern' it is a declaration that whatever is in the past, whether he is regarded by lame brains as a legacy act, or whatever the sneering voices may say he is as relevant and as prescient as when 'Under The Blade' was released.

The most recent live shows with Dee we witnessed were at the triumphant final UK Twisted Sister show at Bloodstock and an amazing solo show at Hammerfest - and each time, despite the circumstances, the fire in the belly of the man was evident.

And, on 'For The Love Of Metal' that fire has been stoked to inferno-like levels.

It might have been sparked by Jamey Jasta (who produced and wrote much of this) but this is Dee Snider in his purest essence: sheer metal honesty.

From the opening hyper-speed 'Lies Are A Business' through to the title track closer this is an essential purchase and will live on playlists well beyond 2018.

Jasta has coaxed a passion and power from Snider that we all knew existed. Indeed this collaboration takes the bombast and adds more finesse and added doses of heft.

At 63 Dee has never sounded so well. The 'heaviness' of the tracks doesn't diminish the quality of the vocals, the melody, and...fuck it, the sheer singalong of every single fucking chorus.

That so many musicians queued up be involved (Mark Morton of Lamb of God, Howard Jones of KSE, Joel Grind and Nick Bellmore of Toxic Holocaust and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy) should tell  Snider of the regard that he is held in by so many people. Fuck the haters, because this is Dee Fucking Snider.

And, in true metal 80s tradition there had to be a power ballad...he and Alissa duet on Dead Hearts (Love Thy Enemy). While such duets were much beloved by record executives this anti-bullying song feels timeless with some fantastic playing and Alissa's clean vocals and Snider's snarl.

But Snider's voice could have been seen as a template for many of the growlers that have come in his wake - there is an edge here that fits everything that went before and amps it up to another level, without once sacrificing tunefulness.

And, without ever once compromising - 'Running Mazes' and 'Roll Over You' have a metallic viciousness that is fucking spot-on.

But the real magic within 'For The Love Of Metal' is a timeless quality. Sure, you can hear Jasta's influence, you can dig within tracks to see the source influences, and even thrash sounds, but these facts do not take away from the fact that this is a triumphant, defiant 'fuck you'.

There is a self-awareness too - 'Mask' and 'I'm Ready' just nail that and much more. However, the more revelatory statement comes on 'Become The Storm' when Dee declares "No more time to reminisce". This isn't some nostalgia trip, and the sentiment is we can go through shit, we can be at our lowest and then salvation emerges in the shape of being amongst our brothers and sisters in loving heavy fucking metal.

In a similar vein 'The Hardest Way' - with Howard Jones - kicks more ass than a pissed off thoroughbred but we emerge -tested, and with the courage required in "stepping into the blinding light".

Closing off the album with the title track it is Dee's homage to metal - pick off the references and despite it all - this is not cheesy. This is a hymn to why we all love metal, and an ode to the enduring power of this community, the music that binds young and old in sweet abandon.

Mr Snider (and Mr Jasta too) we doff our caps to you, and are ready to headbang with you - as you say "we are all fucking metal".

Whether you buy or stream - just listen to this NOW. 

Review by Jonathan Traynor

For The Love Of Metal is out now on Napalm Records


ALBUM REIEW: Shotgun Rodeo triumphant on By Hook Or By Crook

ANY band that has a track dedicated to the Riffmeister General, Tony Iommi, are always guaranteed to get a listen here  and we're glad we did as Shotgun Rodeo have produced a flawed but still eminently listenable album, 'By Hook Or By Crook'.

The Trondheim-based four-piece not only have that tribute to Sabs legendary axeman, but are consciously aware of their influences throughout.

The title track nods to NWOBHM and the noughties US equivalent, while 'Blaming the Kremlin', with its overt political message, has the riffs to extend beyond those influences.

It is that political messaging that works well, and awareness of issues - such as the double-barrel blast at keyboard warriors and media manipulation by politicians on 'Bastardize The World' as singer Nino's rage oozes invective.

However, there are moments when the bravado edges too close to the FFDP territory. On 'Shooting Slugs' the excellence of the work by Don Shrediablo (What!) veers too close to what the mags label 'contemporary metal'.

That being said, when Don lets rip on other tracks he proves his worth, such as on the outstanding 'I Am The Silver Bullet', which has all the bravura of metal in its finest 80s like iteration.

Grimmo D.B. (bass) and 'Doomfang (drums) - where do these pseudonyms come from? - are clearly talented in maintaining the momentum for Nino and Don to work upon.

Closing track 'Twist of the Knife' perhaps encapsulates the album best. With the usual thrash dystopian lyrics overlaid with a riff-heavy track, use of pinch harmonics, excellent solos with space and separation to allow the song to work-out all the tropes.

Sure, there are others doing similar, but Shotgun Rodeo do it really well, leaving others in their wake.

Now that 'Tony Iommi' track...it could have been easy to fluff this tribute, but this is really, really enjoyable. Guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser their knowledge of Iommi's background and oeuvre, and a wee joke about 'Technical Ecstasy' make it worth a smile. Sure we all know about Tony - but this makes it the sort of in joke metalheads can enjoy.

With 'By Hook Or By Crook' Shotgun Rodeo faced that difficult 'second album syndrome and passed it with flying colours. Sure, there are a few times when there is too much current US metal influences, but overall you could do worse than give this a listen on a Saturday afternoon before heading out to a gig.

Ohh - and we love the cheesy cover art!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

'By Hook Or By Crook' is released by Mighty Music on August 24th.