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Saturday, June 25, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Don't let the silly title put you off - Acid Age's latest release has class in its hyper speed grooves

WHEN you sit down to consider what to call your album, it can be a laborious chore; writer's block can cripple all thoughts, a wrenching agony trying to decide what best encapsulates your sound, your vision and the passion you put into the platter you are about to unleash into the public realm.

Then it must only be 'Like A Combine Harvester In A Field Of Crippled Rabbits' if your band is Acid Age'. No other choice really.

Of course it's full throttle thrash metal with a  healthy dose of punk chaos, but lest you be mistaken, this is not just a blatter through life, beer and mayhem. You can only get away with that one trick pony a single time.

Instead there must be substance within the maelstrom. There must be ability to change up and down when necessary. There must be some real musicianship.

From the pedal to the metal of the title track opener there is much more on display than speed. The intricacies of 'Shotgun In Your Mouth' are there from the opening, but with plenty of deft touches in the manic riffing and solos.

Milk's guitar work is stirring throughout, ranging far and wide along the fretboard to produce a feast of axe fun.

And, it's not a simple case of sweep picks, runs and all the tricks in the armoury. There is a sense of purpose in the arrangements that allows for changes in tempo and even references to classical composers works...Yes, seriously.

Bumble-Bee (bass) and Iran (drums) will neeed to hit the gym when they play this live. And, a metronomic sense of timing when the tunes dip and shift in rythms.

'Hell Is In The South Sea' is a perfect example of this as it changes dramatically from a doomy opening to thrash and then into blues lines. Class!

The entire album's running length is just over 26 minutes, but what Acid Age have done is cram everything they have learned live and on previous recordings to pack pure energy into this recordings.

Having said that Limbs may need a throat transplant after playing some of these tracks live. When they describe themselves as "hyper thrash" you know everyone has to be at the top of their game.

And they set that stall out clearly on 'Manifesto de Hyper Thrash'. Say it as it is and all that.

Once you get past the velocity there is many layers to the Acid Age sound. The riffs on closer 'Try to Hide From Frankenstein's Bride' (which has nice punk touches) are well placed and managed in the context of the song's structure. And, despite occasionally dropping into pure silliness there is wit in the lyrical content.

Overall this is a release that deserves a wide audience for those that like their thrash, well at hyper speed and with subtlety in the volume.

Review by Jonny

Like A Combine Harvester In A Field Of Crippled Rabbits is out now on Witches Brew

NEWS: Jon Anderson back on record on new release with Roine Stolt

Here’s some news for you prog fans…

Anderson / Stolt, the brand new duo of Yes vocalist & singer/songwriter Jon Anderson, and progressive rock veteran Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), have released their brand new collaborative album ‘Invention Of Knowledge’ on InsideOut Music.

Jon Anderson said this about the new record: “.....Music is always the driving force in my life...working with such a wonderful musician as Roine Stolt made the creation of this album very unique, we are very excited with the release of 'Invention of Knowledge'.“

Roine Stolt adds: “It is not aiming at being new Yes music; just new music, modern and classical, rock and ethno, tribal and orchestrated, grooving and floating. Hopefully in the true spirit of “progressive” - leaning forward, surprising and also comforting with familiar run-arounds. We’ve been “inventing” as we go along - Jon is an endless source of new ideas.

“We’ve been bouncing ideas back and forth for months and as a result there are probably dozens of versions of these songs.  It’s been a very interesting and rewarding time and the result is just insanely detailed.”

InsideOut label-head Thomas Waber comments: “I have been talking to Jon for ages about making an album of ‘Yes music’ – as Jon calls it - and Roine seemed like the perfect guy for him to work with. I am really happy that it has finally happened and I am also thrilled with the material they have come up with. I think it will please a lot of fans!”

The idea came to life swiftly, off the back of a performance from Roine’s band Transatlantic, and Jon Anderson on the Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise in 2014, and was initially instigated by InsideOut Music label boss Thomas Waber.  The duo set about crafting new music in the spirit of early epic works such as ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ & ‘Olias Of Sunhillow’ , but giving it a modern twist.

Written and recorded over the course of one and a half years, the tracks have been in a state of constant change as Roine and Jon swapped & refined ideas by sending tracks to each other via the internet.

In March 2015, an ensemble was put together by Roine to realise the music live in the studio. Joining him there was Tom Brislin (who played on the Yes Symphonic tour) and Lalle Larsson on keys, Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt on bass and Felix Lehrmann on drums.

The sessions were also bolstered by appearances from Daniel Gildenlöw, Nad Sylvan, Anja Obermayer, Maria Rerych and Kristina Westas who all provided backing vocals.


ALBUM REVIEW: The Amorettes on blistering form - true White Hot Heat

HARD working three-piece, The Amorettes, have earned their stripes on the road, with solo shows and support slots with the likes of Danko Jones and Europe to name but a few. Most recently they had a Download slot when they had a chance to air some new tunes.

Those tunes have emerged like a slick snake of fun from their release on Off Yer Rocka of the album 'White Hot Heat'. And, what an album it is!

This is a collection of 10 tunes that put you in the mood to party, grab a beer and get set for one mad night out.

Those hard hours on the road have been captured in the studio by Thunder's Luke Morley who rests the best from Hannah, Heather and Gill.

Bursting with energy, riffs, licks and infectious melodies this is an album that shows that the band have evolved into a mean hard rock machine.

'Come 'n' Get It' moves the songs along at a blistering pace after the openers set the mood, especially the party anthem 'Let The Neighbours Call The Cops'.

This has the sound of late 70s, early 80s rock - as if Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett and Lita Ford were thrust into 2016 and given a shed load of good drugs.

But this isn't generic. On first listen there may be a temptation to just nod away, but soon the feet are tapping, and the smile on your face grows wider.

There is no one fixed tempo, no song when you can just put the band into a single frame of reference.

The mood is changed up on 'Pervert Alert' with it's middle finger to lecherous males and misogyny.

What is clear from every song is that 'The Amorettes' pen great tunes, play with a sense of enjoying what they do, and just get their heads down to the hard work.

Morley's production, and Nick Brine's work on engineering and mixing may be an important factor in the sound on this release, but you can't work studio miracles on a rock album if the raw material isn't really good in the first place, and no miracles were required here.

The Amorettes have the sense and sensibility to know that they're not re-inventing rock 'n' roll, but are instead adhering to its essential spirit, distilling that unique drum, bass and guitar formula into a fiery liqueur that will blister your throat with each delicious sip you can take.

Party? Yes, I think we shall with 'White Hot Heat'.

Review by Jonny

Friday, June 24, 2016

NEWS: NWOBHM pioneers Grim Reaper set for a new album.

BACK in the days when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was still young Grim Reaper were among the pack getting the plaudits and play listings on The Friday Rock Show as well as features in Sounds and latterly Kerrang (when it was a metal mag).

Now titled officially Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper the band has signed with new label Dissonance Records, and they are set to release their new album 'Walking In The Shadows' on September 23rd, the band's first release since the 1987 'Rock You To Hell'.

Vocalist/band leader Steve Grimmett shared to fans via a Facebook posting in early January saying:

“2016 has started and that means only 29 days until I start touring again.  This year it’s Europe then North America, South America, plus a new album... bring it on!”

He continued in discussing the new album saying, “I am tremendously proud of the album.  It has taken a long time because it has been fraught with problems, but we have ended up with the best thing I have done in decades.  We’re all looking forward to bring it to the fans and excited to be doing a world tour, starting straight after its release, and carrying on until 2017.”

Surrounding himself with an all new band, Grimmett recently completed a 22-date North American tour.  The tour, including stops in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Austin.  Due to its success, the band recently announced a planned return in the autumn to support the new album after release.

Grim Reaper’s story began in 1979 after successfully fighting off hundreds of bands in a local Battle Of The Bands competition.  This win, combined with an already sizeable following, aroused the interest of Ebony Records.  Signing with the small UK label, Grim Reaper released three albums in rapid succession to international acclaim.  Due to legal turmoil with Ebony, the band disbanded in 1988.

Grimmett would go on to record with Onslaught, Lionsheart, and more recently The Sanity Days debut Evil Beyond Belief.  His renowned vocal range remains one of metal’s most identifiable with loyal fans turning out in numbers to hear him perform.

Since reforming in 2006, Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper has made several European festival appearances including Germany’s Keep It True, England’s British Steel, Belgium’s Heavy Sound, and Sweden’s Muskelrock.  The band will also headline London Camden Underworld on the 23rd September, the show will be the European launch event for the new album.

NEWS: Motionless In White release new track

MOTIONLESS in White - who played in Belfast earlier in the year – have released a new single, entitled ‘570’ and have signed to Roadrunner Records.

The track is out today (24th June) and is streaming on the band’s YouTube Channel (see below).


Motionless In White said: “We are very honoured to finally announce that we have signed with Roadrunner Records. Over the past few months, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know the hard working team that makes up Roadrunner, and felt a connection with their company immediately.

“It has been a dream of MIW for years to someday sign with their label, and we are elated to find that it is a perfect home for the band to continue building our career. We are very excited to start this new chapter and to keep working hard every day with Roadrunner by our side. Thank you to Roadrunner Records for opening your home to us, and thank you to all of the fans that have supported our band tirelessly over the years. Your support and contributions have helped lead to all of these amazing developments taking place for our band. We’re looking forward to many more years of this with all of you.”

Motionless In White is currently working on their fourth studio album and full-length Roadrunner debut, slated for 2017. “570” marks the band’s first new release since 2014’s chart-topping “REINCARNATE,” which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s “Top Rock Albums” chart as well as at #9 on the overall SoundScan/Billboard 200. Motionless In White’s third studio album was highlighted by the blockbuster title track, a top 20 Active Rock radio favourite in the USA accompanied by a striking companion video now boasting close to 10 million views. 

Motionless In White launch “570” with nearly a set of tour dates, kicking off in the USA with this year’s Vans Warped Tour ’16.

Founded in 2005, Motionless In White – whose frontman, Chris Motionless, graces the cover of Alternative Press’ current Vans Warped Tour ’16 special issue – are among the top nominees for the 2016 Journeys Alternative Press Music Awards Fueled By Monster Energy, with nods including “Best Live Band” and “Artist of the Year Presented By Monster Energy.”  

ALBUM REVIEW: Six Feet Under dig into the vaults for Graveyard Classics IV - The Number Of The Priest

A COVERS album. What's the fucking point, you've heard the songs before. Except when its a covers album by Six Feet Under.

Truth be told we never really 'got' the whole Graveyard Classic thing before. It was all well and good and a little entertaining. However, on number four they have nailed it impressively, Barnes practically losing it in an effort to extract each ounce of fun in his death metal delivery of 11 classics.

With the title 'Number of the Priest' it encompasses five Priest and six Maiden tracks, apparently picked by Metal Blade CEO, Brian Slagel.

Whether or not that's the case we couldn't give a flying shit, because this is just excellent. To test whether it was really as good as we thought, we played the version of 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' to one of the editorial team who is an avowed Maiden devotee. Their laughter when Barnes' vocal kicked in was immediately replaced by a bout of headbanging. A ringing endorsement!

Of course, this all comes under the title of novelty, but that doesn't detract from the sheer enjoyment of the extraordinary renditions on display here.

Musically they're pretty faithful to the originals, with subtle twists here and there for purists to listen and smile Ray Suhy's work on guitar and bass has a lightness of touch given how heavy the delivery is, while Josh Hall's drums must have been a challenge given how many different drummers' styles he had to master.

There is no doubt that the aforementioned track 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' is the stand-out track, closely followed by 'Prowler' and 'Night Crawler'.

While some of the tracks on Graveyard Classics sometimes seemed flat, on IV one senses that these were formative tracks in Barnes' metal journey, tracks that were etched into his mind as he began the journey that led to Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under.

Sounding rather ebullient Barnes had to say (excuse the obvious hyperbole):

"Get ready to have your ears violated and your mind blown! 'Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest' just crawled out of the Heavy Metal Cemetery! Having a good time playing music is what it's always been about since day one, and that's what the 'Graveyard Classics' albums are to me... a good fucking time! I hope you all enjoy our twist on these legendary songs!"

Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest was produced by Chris Barnes and Phil Hall. Drums were tracked by Josh Hall at A.O.P. studios, and all other instruments were tracked by Ray Suhy at Cessation Engine Studios. Vocals were recorded by Carson Lehman at The Loft in Seattle, WA. The album was mixed by Jesse Kirkbride at Kirkbride Recordings in Cape Coral, FL and mastered by Alan Douches at West Westside Music.

Review by  Jonny

ALBUM REVIEW: Stampeding thrash - Enrage The Beast second release from Bull-Riff Stampede

THRASH. When it is done well there is no purer adrenaline rush, that feeling that your face has been dragged through s barbed wire fence, yet you are still smiling.

The new Bull-Riff Stampede release, 'Enraging The Beast' has that effect, but with an added smack to the face. Yet, you'll still be smiling after they kick you in the ass all the way into the mosh pit.

From the title track opener, through to closer 'Lone Ember' they rarely put a foot wrong; no let-up, no remorse, just thrash.

That's not to say that it is one dimensional. 'Mindless Heresy' drags in hardcore and raw punk to the riffage, without ever losing its metallic edge, while 'Bite The Nail (Reborn) has a classic metal intro that threatens to have you humming before the accelerator pedal is floored.

Dave and Jay deliver a masterclass in how to play thrash, with their guitars rolling along, combining the more brutal Bay Area sounds and a pinch of Teutonic thrash.

At times Dave's vocals veer towards death/black metal, such as an on '4125' but it enhances rather than detracts from the overall feel of the album, meaning that the listener never gets complacent.

Co-produced by Gabriele Ravaglia and the band it was mixed and mastered at Fear Studio in Italy by Ravaglia, and it is the production that once or twice falters with a few of the drum sounds. That is only a minor niggle as there is little to fault here, certainly not the performance of James as he tortures his kit relentlessly.

Aided and abetted by Rod's bass the rhythm section is remorseless, a platform that enables the band to teeter almost out of control, but with enough composure to beat you into gleeful submission.

This is a real development from 2011's 'Scatter The Ground' both in terms of sound and song writing. You sense that 'System Shocker' would not have had the legs earlier in the band's career, nor would the brilliantly technical opening to 'Lone Ember' been so well balanced in a song that doffs its cap to Gojira and Mastodon but is not a slavish copy of their sound.

And, that is the key to this album. Bull-Riff Stampede have managed to refine their sound, take what could be formulaic, draw in influences, add a distinctive British edge and allow the sound to flow.

'Enraging the Beast' is out on July 13th, we suggest you get a copy and have your face kicked in the best way possible.

Review by Jonny

NEWS: Only seven weekends until Bloodstock and more band announced

THERE’S just 48 days until your wait is over for Bloodstock - the biggest heavy metal party weekender of the year!  Bloodstock HQ is a hive of activity; the sunshine is on pre-order and there are still more bands being confirmed!

And, don’t forget that Northern Ireland acts Rabid Bitch of the North and The Crawling will be on the line-up…

New bands added incluse are rising Century Media metalheads, Heart Of A Coward (https://www.facebook.com/heartofacoward) who have a Sunday slot snagged. Check out the video for ‘Hollow’ from last album ‘Deliverance’ at: https://youtu.be/C-h3c2VnA7A.

Joining Friday’s Sophie Stage bill are German symphonic metal outfit Beyond The Black (https://www.facebook.com/beyondtheblackofficial), Wigan’s own progressive sludgelords Boss Keloid (https://www.facebook.com/bosskeloidband), and self-described ‘epic fantasycore’ group Fury from Worcester (https://www.facebook.com/furyofficial).   

Meanwhile, snagging a Sophie Stage slot on Saturday are heavy psych merchants Vodun (https://www.facebook.com/VODUNBAND) fresh from Stone Free festival last weekend and fast-rising London melodic metallers, The Raven Age (https://www.facebook.com/TheRavenAge).

Bloodstock is very pleased to welcome back TEENAGE CANCER TRUST as their official charity partner once again.  After shattering all previous fundraising records in 2015 with a colossal total in excess of £13.5K, Bloodstock hopes you’ll join them to raise even more cash in 2016 to help TEENAGE CANCER TRUST support young people with cancer all over the UK.

Maybe you waded through D(r)ownload?  Or you’re paddling off to Glastonbury?  First timers and old timers, everyone’s welcome at BLOODSTOCK.  If you’ve a little ‘un under 4 yrs old, they can even join you for free.  No mates to go with or a bit unsure on your first visit?  Make new friends with the “Bloodstock Loners & Newbies” camp, a Facebook group set up by some regulars (https://www.facebook.com/groups/171715506329753/).

Already announced for 2016 are our three headliners, TWISTED SISTER (in their last ever UK show), MASTODON and SLAYER, plus special guests BEHEMOTH, GOJIRA and ANTHRAX.  Also on the bill are FEAR FACTORY, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, SYMPHONY X, SATYRICON, PARADISE LOST, DRAGONFORCE, METAL ALLEGIANCE, STUCK MOJO, ROTTING CHRIST, MISERY LOVES CO, AKERCOCKE, GHOST BATH, VENOM, UNEARTH, DIAMOND HEAD, GOATWHORE, ACID REIGN and many more.  Additional bands are still to be announced.

Weekend tickets with camping, plus various VIP packages, are available now priced from £139 (+ booking fee) at http://Bloodstock.seetickets.com/event/Bloodstock-2016/catton-park/902838.  Learn more about VIP via https://youtu.be/fAzkTVvjnn0 but don’t hang about, as these tickets always sell out in advance!!

BLOODSTOCK will be held at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 11th-14th August 2016.  Keep up to date with the very latest info on BLOODSTOCK’s official sites at www.facebook.com/Bloodstock and www.Bloodstock.uk.com, or via Twitter on @BLOODSTOCKFEST.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NEWS: Frontiers go all metal with new festival

FRONTIERS Records have announced the first edition of the Frontiers Metal Festival, which will be held on Sunday, October 30th at the Live Club in Trezzo Sull’Adda (Milan), Italy.

After the success of the first three editions of the Frontiers Rock Festival, the Italian-based label decided to create a spin-off event to highlight the incredible talent of the heavier bands on the roster. The bill is made up of seven international and Italy based bands, all of whom will please fans of the power and progressive metal genres.

Trick Or Treat will kick off the festival, playing songs from their awesome new record, “Rabbits' Hill Pt. 2,” which will be released on July 8th.

Spanish metallers Lords Of Black, featuring new Rainbow singer Ronnie Romero, will follow with their exciting mixture of classic heavy metal combined with power and prog metal.

From there, DGM, an Italian band, who will release their highly anticipated eighth album, “The Passage” on August 26th, will take the stage and show of their incredible progressive metal stylings.

With no rest for the wicked, Italian symphonic metallers Secret Sphere will take the stage, spearheaded by the fabulous singer Michele Luppi, now keyboardist and background singer in Whitesnake.

The Festival will continue on with a theatrical approach – Prog and Symphonic – from the magnificent German band Vanden Plas. Their live return to Italy is certainly one of the most anticipated events of the day.

The two headliners will be: Labyrinth – a new Frontiers signing, recently finalized – one of the most successful Italian metal bands of all time, which will see the return of singer Roberto Tiranti to the line-up, and fans can look forward to a live rendition of their classic masterpiece “Return to Heaven Denied” from start to finish, in addition to some of the most acclaimed songs from their storied catalogue.

The last slot of the evening could not have been left to anyone else other than Germany's mighty Primal Fear, one of the most successful metal bands around, fresh off the successful, chartbusting album “Unbreakable,” which charted in their home country of Germany, as well as in the United States and many other countries around the world.

Doors will open at 14.00 hrs.
Early bird tickets, available until June 30th, will cost 31.00 EURO (+ presale). Then the price will go up to 35.00 EURO (+ presale) until the day of the Festival.
Tickets purchased on the show day will cost 39.00 EURO.

NEWS: Grab a listen to LLNN's new album before its release on Friday

WE don’t usually recommend that you head off to another site, but ahead of the official release on Friday, LLNN have streamed their debut album, ‘Loss’. The four piece from Copenhagen, conjure up abrasive hardcore influenced rawness in abundance.

The band said: “The making of this album has been a creative joyride of watching a bunch of our favorite VHS 80s sci-fi flicks and afterwards trying to get that mood and “visual” feeling transferred into the sound of heavy and sludgy post-hardcore. 

“We’re huge fans of the work of John Carpenter, Brad Fiedel and Vangelis to name a few.

“Loss is about the loss of innocence and is lyrically meant to describe the transition from a naïve idealist to a solipsist nihilist. We were raised to believe in the good nature of people, an ideal we naively still hold on to for dear life, but growing up and watching the realities of life unfold in front of you, can be a soul sucking experience. It’s about the insurmountable immovable object that is the will of man and how utterly devastating it can be to witness at times.

"We hope that you will enjoy the album and that it will be as cathartic for you to listen to, as it was for us to write it.”

Loss is the follow up to LLNN's 2014 Marks EP, and will appeal to fans of His Hero Is Gone, Neurosis, Coalesce and Amenra.

Loss will be released on June 24 and is available to order HERE via Pelagic Records. 

NEWS: Derange prep for Bloodstock with new single

LONDON based tech-metal quartet Derange are preparing for their Bloodstock appearance by announcing ‘This is the End’, the new single from their acclaimed album ‘The Awakening’.

‘This is the End’ is a hugely melodic slice of tech-metal, balancing the unbridled power and haunting melodies that have firmly established Derange as one of the hottest young bands in the UK tech-metal scene. 

Formed in London in 2012, Derange have been slowly building up to the release of their incredible debut album ‘The Awakening’.

Produced by Russ Russell (Dimmu Borgir, Napalm Death, Sikth, Amorphis, Evileetc…) ‘The Awakening’ is a glorious tech-metal affair, referencing forward thinking bands like Karnivool, TesseracT and Periphery, all topped off by the haunting and powerful vocals of Cat Pereira. Described by Russell; ‘one of the best vocalists I've ever come across’, Pereira is a formidable talent, bringing equal parts aggression and melody to Derange’s complex and powerful music.

With the singles ‘Ego’ and ‘Unleash’ making their mark soon after the band’s inception, Derange would take their time to produce their acclaimed ‘Change’ EP (featuring the single/video ‘Pretty Ones’) and once released it brought the band to a much wider audience.

Since then the band have been hard at work bringing ‘The Awakening’ to fruition, spending long hours under the expert tutelage of Russ Russell, honing their songs into their final form.

‘The Awakening’ is out now!

NEWS: New album from Heart, including Papa Het, and a summer tour too

Headline tour with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Cheap Trick
ROCK and Roll Hall of Fame members Heart return on July 8 with Beautiful Broken, their sixteenth album and their first on Concord Records. HEART has sold over 35 million records, and this anticipated album is their first in four years. Beautiful Broken finds Ann and Nancy Wilson exploring new songs, but taking some of their favorite “cherry picks” from their catalogue and rerecording and rethinking them. The title track and first single features a dynamic guest vocal contribution by Metallica’s James Hetfield with Ann Wilson.

“There is really a seventies feel to this record both in the sound, and the way we got to the emotional core of each song,” says Nancy Wilson. “We picked songs that we always wanted to re-do, plus we’ve added three new tracks. On both new and old, we have the band playing together the way we used to. This is classic Heart.”

The seven tracks that were pulled from the Heart catalogue were tunes both Nancy and Ann wanted another shot at, due many times to how they were initially produced. Songs like “City’s Burning,” “Down on Me,” and “Sweet Darlin’” have always been live favorites of the sisters, and of HEART’s fan base, but they had somewhat languished. “Those songs may have fallen through the cracks, in a way, because of where radio was at the time when they were first released,” Ann Wilson says. “Rediscovering those songs, I found ways they emotionally still speak to me.” Two songs are from Passionworks, two from Private Audition, and two are from Bebe Le Strange.

Beautiful Broken’s title track had been a bonus song off Fanatic, Heart’s last album, but this version is essentially an entirely new song with barnburner vocals—and even some lyrics—added by Metallica’s James Hetfield. “It blows the previous version out of the water,” says Nancy. “James just took the song on, and what he added was perfect with a bite and a rock accent.”

Beautiful Broken was co-produced by Nancy Wilson with Heart’s bassist Dan Rothchild. Rothchild had previously produced Better Than Ezra’s platinum-selling Deluxe, but he also comes from rock royalty: his father was legendary Doors producer Paul Rothchild. Beautiful Broken was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, the same studio the Doors cut their best work. “There were eerie echoes in the hallway,” Nancy says.

Rothchild said his goal was to capture the human feel of Heart live in the studio. “On these classics, some of which had suffered from eighties-era over-editing-production-curse, we stripped the paint off and found the beauty underneath,” he says.

For Ann, the album allowed her to revisit, and re-sing, songs she felt “never reached their full development.” For Nancy, the lyrical heart came alive: “I felt these songs were poetic pieces that were lost in translation with the sounds of the eighties, which was harder and more digital. We wanted to drape them in velvet, and make them shine.”

One example is “City’s Burning,” originally on the 1982 album Private Audition. “The first time we recorded that was in 1981,” says Ann, “and it was in a key that was a bit ‘show-offy,’ and sped-up. On Beautiful Broken, we put the key in the right place, and the song really bore fruit.”
  Nancy Wilson sings one of the new songs, “Two.” The song had a different genesis than many Heart classics, as Wilson first heard it on a demo made for a television show her husband Geoff was working on. She reached out to the song’s writer--R&B sensation Ne-Yo--and asked if he’d consider giving her the song. “I went to work begging for the song,” she says. “Ne-Yo said, ‘sure.’ It ends up he’s a HEART fan. He may still release his own version at some point, but to me the song feels like mine now.”

One of the unique aspects to Beautiful Broken is the string arrangements on four songs done by legendary arranger Paul Buckmaster. Buckmaster’s resume includes work with the Rolling Stones and Elton John (“Levon”). “We were talking about how we wanted ‘Paul Buckmaster-type’ strings at one point,” Nancy said. “So then we decided to call Paul himself.”

Buckmaster’s work on “Sweet Darlin’” is, in particular, a standout, but only because the strings highlight Ann’s powerful vocals. Ann had always wanted another shot at “Sweet Darlin’” so it was an ideal choice for Beautiful Broken. “To me the original sounded somehow incomplete,” Ann says. This version, with Buckmaster’s strings, finishes the song properly, but it also showcases how Ann’s voice has remained strong over the decades.

Ann and Nancy Wilson formed Heart when the idea of two women leading a rock band was still groundbreaking. From the moment 1976’s Dreamboat Annie was released, they became stars. With hits like “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” “Barracuda,” “Alone,” “What About Love,” and “These Dreams,” the band became one of the biggest hit-makers in the seventies and eighties. In 2012, their memoir ‘Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll’ became a New York Times bestseller, and in 2013 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have sold more records than any sister act in the history of popular music, but they’ve done so keeping their vision--that women can both rock and put forth emotional intimacy--central to their sound.

Beautiful Broken follows in that tradition, an album with pure rock power on the title track, but also tender sexual yearning on “Language of Love.” It’s a contrast that has always been the essence of Heart. “We still make records like we always have, and they are always impossibly romantic, because Ann is always an impossibly romantic singer,” Nancy says. “In a world where there is less poetic lyric writing, we’ve always tried to plant a flag for poetry.”

That may seem “broken” in a way, in a world of machine-created pop music, but it is also certainly a beautiful vision. This year Heart will bring that vision to half a million fans during their summer concert tour, and Beautiful Broken extends that relationship with radio-ready songs, and deep album cuts.

Click here to pre-order the album.

The dates for HEART’s headlining summer tour with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick are here:http://www.heart-music.com/tour – no Belfast date L

COMIN' ATCHA: Metal community sues for bankruptcy as more shows announced...includi ng Onslaught, Alient Ant Farm, and much, much more

THIS promises to be one of the best years for hard rock and heavy metal in Northern Ireland in our long, proud history of hosting shows from bands across the globe. It's going to cost us all a fortune in beer tokens alone.

And, given that so many talented bands exist and play on this tiny patch on land this is going to be a fantastic few months...

Latest announcement is Onslaught's show on 6th November in the Limelight, which will see the band celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the release of the seminal album 'The Force'.

Good to see a band keep the faith and return to Belfast once again.

Way back in the mud we saw Alien Ant Farm at Download, and we have to say that we really enjoyed these bonkers pop punks. They play Belfast's Empire on Friday, 21st October, with (Hed)pe, Sumo Cyco, and Kaleido.

Other shows announced include a run of dates in December across Northern Ireland is the return of Ritchie Ramone.

Bands playing here in 2016 also include the following:
  • Danny Vaughn
  • Gama Bomb
  • The Dead Daisies
  • Mastodon
  • Airbourne
  • Diamond Head
  • The Mission
  • Pentagram
  • Buckcherry
  • Attica Rage
  • Saxon
  • Kadavar
  • Dan Reed
  • Ugly Kid Joe
  • Planet of Zeus
  • Beartooth
  • Meshuggah and
  • many, many more.

In fact we can't list them all, nor can we list right now - but we tip our hat to Mark Ashby, who maintains the gig listing at the Facebook group 'NI Rock and Metal Bands' - for those that don't follow all the announcements from promoters, follow this group. It's the one place you can plan your year in music!

ALBUM REVIEW: Welsh rockers Buffalo Summer hit and miss on second release

THERE is a current trend amidst the depths of labels to sign anything with a faint hint of blues rock, and there will come a time when it reaches saturation point - thankfully for Welsh act, Buffalo Summer that point hasn't come.

With a distinct sense of riding the crest of this current blues wave they have released their second album, 'Second Sun' and while it is a bit hit and miss there are thankfully more hits.

In particular the pop rock of 'Make You Mine' and the brooding 'Neverend' stand out as not just solid, but well executed tracks.

Having said that opener 'Money' sounds too derivative compared to the nicely balanced 'Light of the Sun', which has enough breath to allow the influences of the band to be explored and developed.

Andrew Hunt has a warmth to his vocals that suits the tracks, while the balance between guitarist, Johnny Williams, drummer, Gareth Hunt and bassist Darren King is well honed, with some of Williams solos superb.

In common with the opening track 'Into Your Head' hasn't sufficient depth and at times almost teeters into cliché.

However, the closing duo of songs, 'Bird on a Wire' and 'Water to Wine' are more solid. 'Bird...' has a slowed down swagger and insistent riff, while 'Water...' has a real feel of the band's intent.

While this is by no means a perfect release, it has enough strength in the writing and Brett Martin's production gives the sound depth and just enough heat and humidity to give the impression that it was recorded in Louisiana.

Out now on UDR, 'Second Sun' displays potential and these are tracks that will grow when played live.

Review by Jonny

Kvelertak release new video inspired by Bergman

NORWAY’S Kvelertak have released the official music video for “Nattesferd,” the title track from their acclaimed new LP which was released last month. (The video is available to view below.)

The otherworldly clip - produced by Norwegian production company Bacon and directed by Jakob Marky was filmed in Fårö, a Baltic Sea island off the south eastern coast of Sweden where Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman lived / died and made several films, among them Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968), The Passion of Anna (1969), and Scenes from a Marriage (1972).

Marky, a recent winner of the prestigious After Bergman Award which allowed the possibility of filming on Fårö, commented on the video said: "I wanted to make something circular, as the track has it’s never-ending guitars, coming back to haunt you. I very much liked the idea of filming science fiction on the same places that Tarkovsky and Bergman visited. I think both of them were very big fans of the golden triangle too, or so I heard.”

Heading into 2016 NATTESFERD garnered “Most Anticipated” accolades from Rolling StoneStereogum andConsequence of Sound and now only a month since its release Kvelertak’s new LP is already receiving “Best of 2016” praises.   Nattersferd is available now at  www.Kvelertak.com and at all DSPs.

Recorded live in Oslo, Norway’s Amper Tone Studio, Nattesferd is produced by Kvelertak and mixed / engineered by Nick Terry (Lindstrøm, Turbonegro, The Libertines). It is the first of Kvelertak’s albums to be recorded in their home country of Norway. 

LIVE REVIEW: Eroding the boat of metal woe...Distortion Project's Saturday of mighty mayhem

RIGHT now there is football to distract us from the crucial issues of the day such as how will the EU Referendum result affect the price of a pint.

Until such weighty matters are resolved there was little else to do destroy your senses and sensibilities with a Saturday evening of super metal chaos, as hosted by The Distortion Project in the shadowy depths of Limelight2, where from five to nine pm triple metal terror descended.

Two Tales of Woe, Bad Boat and Erosion brought a diverse, yet brilliant sets of excellence, performed with vigour, wit and no shortage of banter - but most of all a superb collection of riffs.

It would be easy for any of the three acts to be complacent in front of what was an audience familiar with their sound, but they all played as if in front of a much larger crowd.

Openers, Erosion use the word 'alt' to describe one element of their sound, yet, with the prog elements to their song arrangements if it is 'alt' it is 'alt prog metal groove', which to be sure is stretching the sub-genres of metal to breaking point.

Whatever they choose to describe them there is no doubt that in a few short months they have grown in stature and confidence. Songs such as 'Gunslinger' and the cover of 'Deth's 'Train of Consequence' have sharp aural focus.

In terms of focus, what was an initial issue in terms of Mark Stewart singing and drumming has dissipated, and Stephen, Gavin and Martin look less uncomfortable.

The only downside was a slighty muddy sound, diluting some of the more subtle sounds from the band. Nevertheless, 'Medicate My Head' and 'Cast My Shadow' were songs to celebrate their development.

The muddy sound continued as Bad Boat took to the stage, but with great gusto and bravura the band bounded into each track with smiles, before battering all present into blissful submission.

They were even daring enough to air a new song - 'Acid Dice'. Since getting back into gig formation Bad Boat have proved how badly they have been missed, and how they deserve more attention.

Tom towers over most in terms of presence and vocal delivery, at ease yet professional, pummelling out tracks like 'The World is Yours' and 'Lonely Doom'.

BB play as a cohesive unit: anchored by Stephen's drumming, Niall, John and Andy bring solid groove, with grace and grandiosity as 'Beyond the Deadline and Uphill Struggle' showcase songs that have been allowed to develop over time.

Dubliner's Two Tales of Woe are no strangers to Belfast, frequently making the journey to bring their own brand of metal sludge to the stage.

Smooth doom, crushing, yet fun, Carl and co, did have their set slightly reduced (closer, City of Doom was dropped) but they still slammed the Limelight into submission.

While the sound was 'less muddy' they managed to bring the tone down, yet maintain a precision that belied their doom roots.

'Visions' and single 'Burning Lands' were excellent as Dan and Justin's guitars interweaved and delighted.

However, on the likes of 'The Oak of Memory' and 'Not Ready to Die' it is Dave (bass) and Kelvin (drums) that keep the momentum as a rhythm section that never errs from its mission.

TTOW provide what can only be described as their own take on what could - but doesn't - descend into cliché. Instead they manage to display a nicely nuanced take on this brand of metal. Please return soon.

In all, these three bands metaphorically shook the hands of each and every person present, got them shaking and provided a brief respite from the mundanities of daily life with delightful metal.

Review by Jonny - Pictures by Jamie Hunter - Reproduction only by explicit written permission only

Monday, June 06, 2016

LIVE REVIEW: Ironheart and Sinocence pound the Diamond with a glorious metal assault

THERE is an art and craft in playing heavy metal. No matter what genre or sub genre it requires discipline and devotion to deliver the art form. It may seem too pretentious to refer to the riff-laden music of metal as an art form, but when it is done right it is worthy of the title of art.

When Sinocence and Ironheart played the Diamond Rock Club on June 4th both bands put on a show that was nothing short of metal art; songs crafted and honed; each lick, riff and drumbeat precise; and, each movement the result of dedicated rehearsal.

Ironheart have developed and continue to develop as a force, their music a clarion call for all those disenchanted with the world around us.

Stevie commands from the front, his visage alternating between grins and pain as he sings about a world where 'Revolution Calls'.

Flanked by Shaun and Davey delivering a range of axe excellence, complementing each other's calculated crescendos. Both are top notch players and have the chops to make sure that the tunes are allowed the natural exuberance to flow through.

Tom and Andrew keep the whole thing flowing as the likes of 'Industrial Slaves' and 'Heroes Of The Lost World' roll forth. Stand-out track for many, especially with its singalong chorus, is 'Fight The Oppressor'. Power metal and classic metal all rolled into on.

Many great things lie ahead for Ironheart.

As is the case for Sinocence. Of course they have a wealth of experience, but the introduction of new sticksman Ben seems to have reinvigorated the band in recent performances, as was the case at the Diamond.

Despite some early issues with the sound, the four piece quickly settled in. By the time 'Long Way Down' erupted they were in full flow. Anto was assured and fluent on the lead breaks, and Jim and Moro gelled in a furious rhythm combination, as Ben added pounding out emphasis on each fill.

Moro gave an at times spine-chilling vocal demonstration, with 'Making Monsters' and 'Metal Box' showcase tunes on the night.

With work underway on Vol 3 of their ep trilogy, it is clear that the Sinners are reaching the next level on their journey. The past year has been bumpy for the band for a variety of reasons, but based on their last three shows they are evolving to new metallic heights.

We can't wait to see the show when they play all three volumes one after another.

Review by Jonny - Pics by Jonny. Reproduction by explicit written permission only.

Footnote - Unfortunately the show was not well attended. As a result of a clash with other shows and the imminent run of festivals across Europe this may be understandable.

LIVE REVIEW: The Answer and Screaming Eagles bring down the rock and soul at Limelight

THERE is no doubt that over the past dozen years or so The Answer have been flying the flag for hard rock across the globe, and it is now 10 years since the band released their début album 'Rise'.

To celebrate the anniversary The Answer are re-issuing the album with re-mastered tracks and bonus material. Ahead of its release the band were in Belfast's Limelight1 on Friday, June 3rd to play the album in its entirety.

Before the County Down rockers, another set of serious Northern Ireland rockers arrived on stage with a boom.

Screaming Eagles are making a name for themselves with their no-nonsense, high octane approach, and with two albums and a number of significant festival appearances and tours.

That refinement is apparent from the first bars of  'Ready for the Fall' as a cacophony of chords rained down on the gathering crowd. The titular 'Screaming Eagles' follows in a flurry of superbly executed call outs and melodies. Rousing stuff.

The only blip was the appearance of cover tracks, which could well have been filled with some of their own work in what was a short support slot.

However, 'Hungry for More' and closer 'Rock 'n' Roll Soul' were excellent examples of what the band are capable of.

The gig had been upgraded from Limelight2, a move justified by the gathering crowd and the number paying at the door. The Answer are always a draw, no matter what they are doing.

Cormac and co were not on a nostalgia trip, despite playing 'Rise' in full. This was about re-affirming the musical roots of The Answer. This was about laying down a marker. This was about rock and fucking roll in all its glories and triumphs.

'Under the Sky' merely wakened the crowd from its between bands reverie, scampering from smoking areas and the bar to reach the front.

There is a precision to what The Answer to such an extent that were you not to be watching you'd think you were listening to one of the best raw live albums. Turn to face the ban and you see the sheer sense of pleasure the band enjoy.

Cormac's voice booms and slides in equal measure as his slight frame threatens to wrap itself around the mic stand and moves across the stage like a rock cobra. Paul wields his guitar through gyrations of movement while his fingers torture notes and tease phrases and riffs.

Mikey seems conjoined with his bass while James' pores ooze sweat as he pounds his kit into submission.

Each track from 'Rise' is not regurgitated, but is taken, shaken and given new light. 'Memphis Water' allows for a bluesy breather, after the metal bluster and battering of 'Into The Gutter'.

'Preachin' delivers its wit with the crowd joining in the incantation to "join the Baptist Church", while 'Keep Believin' is not just a song of hope, but one that 10 years on is something the band and fans really do as we look forward to the next decade, believing.

Of course, while 'Rise' is about loving the roots that The Answer planted when they began, it is the next chapter that's about to unfold. A new album is nearly complete, for release later in the year.

And, to conclude the evening two new tracks where unveiled. 'Thief of Light' and 'Solas' both demonstrated the real promise that the next phase holds for the band.

From the past to the future, The Answer are holding a torch for rock that shines bright.

Review by Jonny. Photos by Darren McVeigh. Reproduction by explicit written permission only.