Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, January 15, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Audrey Horne don't let us down on Pure Heavy

WHEN Audrey Horne declare on 'Audrevolution' that they'll "never let your down" a more cynical person could accuse band of being vainglorious. But said person would be very, very wrong.

'Pure Heavy', the band's third release is a collection of songs that will have you singing along, pumping your fists, roaring and throwing the horns and loving life.

Fuck it, let's lay it down straight and proper: we don't always know what people mean when they say 'classic rock' but this classic rock, chock full of songs, anthems and attitude.

After they released their first album they played Belfast and Dublin to virtually empty venues (even though many more than were actually there claim to have been in attendance). For those who were there for those special shows they treasure seeing a special group of musicians.

And, on 'Pure Heavy' they prove that not only are they the real deal they are so much more.

Fuck it, this is an early contender for the best rock album of 2018...

From start to finish Audrey Horne play like they have invoked all the spirits of all the bands that inspired them when they were youngsters.

'This is War' kicks things off with a punch to the face. "We will never be silent, or divided/This is War" is a declaration of intent, a statement that Audrey Horne are a band that take no shit, have counted all the fucks they give and the sum total is zero.

Oozing with influences they treasure - experienced listeners will doff their caps to Lizzy, Maiden and UFO. For Satan's sake 'California' takes Lizzy's 'Emerald' riff close to its riffology and provides a track that will have you swooning.

There are track on this release that not only recall the halcyon days of proper hard rock but listeners of a 'certain age' will revel in every note, and listeners of a younger vintage will sit back and love all the musicianship.

Twin guitar harmonies, a rhythm section that lives and breathes like a monster - including drum lines that Brian Downey would be proud of - each track stands as individual manificence.

But they are songs here that are whimsical nods to Audrey Horne's listening habits...

'Rose Alley' plays on the words of the Bob Seger/Thin Lizzy 'Rosalie' but it is a song that takes that heritage and rolls with it.

Throughout the album Arve and Thomas interweave their licks, solos and riffs link seamlessly - actually that isn't fair; they sound like they have had a brain transplant to the real glory days...and like some mad rock/metal time travellers they have brought to 2018 a moment of sheer brilliance.

When Torkjell bellows out "Give Your And Give Me Your Soul" on 'Midnight Man' we instinctively surrender willingly.

'Pure Heavy' is Audrey Horne. Just buy it, and fall in love with hard rock once again.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

NEWS: Evil Scarecrow about to head to studio for next release ahead of Lost In Antactica tour

LET's face it anyone with a love for metal who has a sense of humour loves Evil Scarecrow. Given our anticipation for the upcoming Belfast show on February 1st, 2019 in the Voodoo news of progress on their new album is welcome.

While they prep for their shows at HRH Metal on 17th January and HRH Road Trip Ibiza the preparation for their new album comes straight from Scarecrow HQ.

None other than Dr Hell spoke to give an update. These are his words of wisdom...

"We are also really close in completing the writing of our 4th full studio album (as yet untitled),2 he said.

"We'll be back at the amazing Parlour Studios with our long-suffering (yet most excellent and legendary) record producer Russ Russell. Is that his real name? No-one knows. I’ve heard that his middle name is Rustle.

"Along side the album launch which should take place sometime in 2018 we’ll be slowly rolling out a whole new stage show, to compliment our latest musical stories about martians or ghosts or robotic beer or whatever.

"We’re also working on a new video early in 2018 to support our new show and summer festival appearances (soon to be announced).

"So 2018 is going to be big one for us. As long as Russ Rustle Russell does a good job in making us sound amazing and we don’t break of all our equipment or lose our costumes"

ALBUM REVIEW: Electrifying new release from Joe Satriani and co-conspirators on What Happens Next

IT'S fair to say that Joe Satriani is one of the most entertaining and electrifying players in recent history. And, while we may look at the upcoming G3 show with John Petrucci and Uli Jon Roth is not coming to Ireland we have some consolation with the latest Satriani release 'What Happens Next'.

For the axeman to be so consistent and interesting on this his 16th solo album is something to be marvelled at.

This is an instrumental release that captivates and throughout makes the listener revel in. This is an album to crank up - let your neighbourhood hear its excellence. Or better still, just slap on some good headphones and kick back for a truly immersive guitar experience.

Teaming up with bassist extraordinaire Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) this is a collection of 12 tracks that see musicians simply enjoying themselves...for your aural pleasure.

From the pomp of the opener 'Energy' through to the closer 'Forever and Ever' there are no miss steps at any point.

With his collaborators Satch gives us a release that winds, snakes and grooves - an elixir of tone and rhythm that is switches from sweet, sweet sensuality on 'Smooth Soul' to high octane tracks such as 'Thunder High On The Mountain'.

Damn it - you could list all of the tracks, and all of their delicious elements and it still would not do it justice: put simply this is a guitar lovers wet dream.

And, what makes it so special are the arrangements. All too often instrumental albums are just wank-fests, but the arrangements are such that each tracks makes sense. Take 'Looper' as an example. The entirety of the song has such balance in the expression and ease it is when listening to it.

'What Happens Next' is the question posed. And, if Satriani can keep this energy and composition flowing who knows? But in the meantime sit your ass down and love this.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

What Happens Next is out now on Sony/Legacy Recordings 

NEWS: Skindred release single ahead of new album

RAGGA rock legends Skindred are set to release new single “Machine” ahead of their forthcoming UK ‘Start the Machine Tour'.

Machine will be the first single from the bands forthcoming album Titled ‘Big Tings” due out on April 27th on Napalm Records.

The bands single Machine has already been used as both the Intro and outro Theme to ACDC frontman Brian Johnson”s  TV show ‘Cars that Rock’ Worldwide and features Reef frontman Gary Stringer lining up alongside the bands own Benji Webbe on co-vocals and if that is not enough the single also features Motorhead/Bastard Sons guitarist Phil Campbell taking the honours on the guitar solo too.

Meanwhile the band are currently in the studio putting the finishing touches to what will be their Seventh album and could not be more excited.

Skindred Frontman Benji Webbe said: “ We are totally revved up about our new single Machine and are busy getting wheels into motion and gearing up ahead of our UK tour and what is looking like being a turbo charged  bumper year”. "TurboDred charged, big tings ah gworn this year"

LIVE REVIEW: Metal2TheMasses 2018 kicks off with a bang!

Now in its fourth year, the Belfast Metal 2 the Masses competition is the time of year that has Northern Irish metal fans (and bands!) salivating: several weeks of the best of the local scene, competing for the chance to play at the hallowed grounds of Bloodstock Festival in Derby, England.

The first heat did not disappoint, with four highly worthy bands performing for a keenly enthusiastic crowd.

Doom metallers Elder Druid opened up proceedings; sounding rather like a pissed off Black Sabbath, theirs was a furious, jagged brand of doom that got heads nodding (and often banging) in appreciation. Tight as the proverbial drum and with swivel-eyed intensity to spare, they proved to be very popular with the crowd.

Ketos were next, and it became immediately apparent that they were there to prove the “metalcore shouldn’t be at Bloodstock” naysayers wrong. Tough and muscular, and with a hefty dollop of NWOAHM to really beef things up, they played a stunning set which blew the crowd away. A tightly cohesive unit with a consummate professional in front man Pete Crenshaw, they were definitely in there with a solid chance.

Some more doom followed, in the shape of Disconnect. After a slow start they come out swinging like a wrecking ball, seemingly intent on reducing Voodoo to dust. Innovative, atmospheric and crushingly heavy, thanks in no small part to a downtuned-to-fuck bass guitar, they prove their merit in spades, garnering a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd at the end of their set.

Last but not least it was time for Lock Horns to show what they’re made of, which turns out to be equal parts prog and groove metal, as well as just a dash of L’Oreal-worthy flailing hair, They were immensely popular from their opening drum solo to the final scream from front man Alex Da Costa, who is utterly in his element onstage. Like a pile driver set to heavy metal, their sound has heads banging from start to finish.

Four brilliant bands, one difficult decision to make…who to vote through? When Distortion Project head honcho James Loveday steps onstage to announce the results, it becomes clear that this was a very close race, with less than one percent separating first and second place. The result? On 27.6 percent: Lock Horns; and at 26.95 Percent, Ketos.

Well done, folks! Now on to heat two…

The second heat of M2TM will be at Voodoo on Friday, February 9th, featuring Cursed Sun, Death of a Salesman, Oracle and Korvid. Doors at 8pm

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pictures by Liam Kielt

LIVE REVIEW: Operation Mindcrime packs the Belfast Empire as Geoff Tate wows all present

WHEN a metal icon comes to town you know the place is going to be packed. And, so it was at the Belfast Empire where Geoff Tate brought his Operation Mindcrime to the expectant mass of fans.

He was very ably supported by local rockers Conjuring Fate and his daughter’s band Till Death Do Us Part.

The Belfast Empire’s hall was already heaving when the excellent metallers , Conjuring Fate, hit the stage and the really hit the ground running to a very appreciative audience. Blasting off with ‘Darkest Days’ ‘Marching Dead’ they were heavy, fun and furious

Working the crowd up into a heavy metal headbanging mood they powered into two powerhouse songs with ‘Dr Frankenstein’ and ‘House on Haunted Hill’. They finished off their set to a stoked crowd with ‘Trust No One’. They ripped the stage up with their heavy melodic riffs all while they played with the audience who lapped it up.

So much so , Phil Horner strode through the audience in the hall and stood in front of the stage playing his heart out with a playful smirk on his face. What a performance and a superb start to the proceedings.

Till Death Do Us Part, with Geoff’s daughter, Emily Tate, on vocals took the stage next.
Their style of music would be the contrast of the night as they brought a dark alternative rock to the Empire.

This would be a light rock with a tinge of Depeche Mode yet Emily’s expressive and emotional vocals fit perfectly with the style of the songs.

They kicked of with ‘Burn’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Cannonball’ and in between Emily would interact with the crowd with some warm banter.

It really made the packed but intimate gig feel even more like you were among friends. They continued with ‘Runaway’, ‘Blue Boy’, ‘Ink’ and ‘Salt Water’, rounding it all off with ‘Romance’.

The band was tight, professional and warmly received as the dark and sombre lyrics flowed along easily with a good energy and stage presence.  They certainly have a signature sound with heavy distorted guitars, a djent like bass tone, synth layering, samplers, soundscapes, powerful drums and soft symphonic vocals.

Then came the highlight of the evening. Geoff tate with his Operation: Mindcrime project. And you could see immediately that almost everyone there were dedicated and diehard fans of Mr Tate and Queensrÿche. The roar from the hall would have shaken the roof.

Geoff looked totally at ease knowing that he was among firm fans, friends and family. This was the 30th anniversary of the album Operation: Mindcrime and that was what Geoff and his band delivered to a packed audience that knew every word off that album.

The joy was palpable and Geoff could have just stood there waving his arms and the songs would have still been sung, word for accurate word.

Kicking off with "I Remember Now", "Anarchy—X" and "Revolution Calling" the mass of air guitar and air drums along with a plethora of fist pumps made it feel like you had been transported back to the heyday of the late 80’s and the joy of the crowd and the band on stage fed a euphoric energy that pervaded the whole set.

The elation of the crowd only increased with “Operation: Mindcrime", "Speak", "Spreading the Disease" and "The Mission". Geoff and his band bantered and toyed with the crowd as many surged forward to take photos and try to catch a quick handshake as outstretched arms followed him as he moved round the stage.

Then came "Suite Sister Mary", "The Needle Lies", "Electric Requiem" and "Breaking the Silence".

Each and every song was joyously received and the band looked like they were enjoying the gig as much as the fans.

As Geoff belted out "I Don't Believe in Love" the whole room really got caught up singing the whole song along with him. Then came "Waiting for 22" and 14."My Empty Room" before the set finished to "Eyes of a Stranger".

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

This was the second date on his European tour and the first of his UK leg. And if you have the opportunity to go, then take it with both hands.

Geoff Tate delivered, without doubt, an emotionally charged, powerful and entertainingly tight rock act that will leave you exhausted and fulfilled by the end of the show.

Review by Ivor Whitten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

INTERVIEW: Geoff Tate talks about Operation Mindcrime and the importance of family

WHEN Geoff Tate returned to Belfast he sat down with Ivor to chat about why Operation Mindcrime is so important to him.

In an extensive discussion he talked about what Queensryche did, the importance of family and much more.

Listen below:

Interview by Ivor Whiten

Thursday, January 11, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: The Defects muscle it up on Feed The Good Dog

WITH the parlous state of the world at the dawn of 2018 The Defects have lashed out in furious form for their new release 'Feed The Good Dog'.

For years the risk to the world was 'limited' to climate change, but with a buffoon in the Whitehouse, an overtly aggressive Kremlin, tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the reality of 'fake news' The Defects have ramped up the vitriol.

As they say: "Import knowledge, Export Truth"...

From the off there is barely controlled rage as the fury rails in the words and is reflected in the music.

Despite a heavier edge to each track the essence of The Defects is not lost. Choruses and melodies still lurk with ominous catchiness, urging the listener to singalong to compulsively join in.

Of course, those who know and love The Defects will be those who may be accused of conformation bias as they will, undoubtedly, share their world view, but the strength of the emotion on these tracks almost deserve the lyrics to be shared more widely.

But, it is not all invective. The nostalgia dripped 'Gate Crash' harkens back to the days those of a certain age, did indeed crash the 'Blue Lamp Discos' cops used to hold to keep the 'bad uns' off the streets.

And, 'Action Junkie' dub is a penultimate relief from the all-out assault.

For all the rage on display Glenn Kingsmore's song writing is well balanced, and the performances of all members teeter on that edge of chaos and brilliance that few can manage in the modern rock and punk world.

Buck's voice drips glorious hatred against Roy's staccato riffing as Aidy and Glenn lock down rhythms that will both have your head nodding and instinctively have you ready to pogo and mosh.

While you can pick out stand-outs such as 'The Wisdom of Norman'  and '30 Billion Dollar Swindle' what is striking about 'Feed The Good Dog' is the coherence of the album, the feeling that this is a complete package.

Despite the primal feelings all the songs this is also an album that deserves repeated listens: for all the heaviness and fury there are subtle devices here that elevates it well beyond the tired clichés trotted out by so many in the genre.

It is a risky claim, but this is an album you need in your collection.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Feed The Dog is out now on Punkarama Records, and via The Defects web page.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

NEWS: Jasta and Venom Inc added to Bloodstock line-up

BLOODSTOCK has welcomed in the New Year with new acts and the festival has revealed that there are less than 50 of the highly prized VIP tickets remaining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 04, 2018


AS momentum grows towards the 10th Annual Belfast City Blues Festival 2018 a special fundraising show is set to blow off the post-Christmas cobwebs and raise the roof at the Empire, this Saturday, January 6. -  and you can win a pair of tickets to the show.

With proceeds going to support next year’s city wide festival tribute act Tinn Lizzy will take to the stage alongside Crow Black Chicken, Kick The Bucket Blues Band, Rab McCullough, Ronnie Greer and Lee Hedley.

To win tickets - just send your name and address here.

Festival Director Seamus O’Neill said: “This is a special January show, we want to ensure that next year’s festival is the biggest and best yet as we’ll be celebrating our tenth year.

“We’re delighted to have such a line-up mounting the Empire’s stage, and I’m sure everyone will have one superb night with great music and great craic.”

The Belfast City Blues Festival is an annual event held in multiple venues across the city. 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of the festival and Seamus says blues fans can be sure it's going to make a big impression.

He added: "After a decade of festivals we're really excited about putting our 2018 10th Anniversary programme together.

"We're looking forward to working with all our festival partners and artists once again as well as developing new relationships as we see the festival grow bigger and better than ever before."

At the 2018 Belfast City Blues Festival homegrown Northern Ireland acts will be joined by national and international bands and musicians exploring the rich heritage of the blues across the country and further afield.

Tinn Lizzy are one of the leading tribute acts to the legendary Dublin rockers. All the way from Clonmel are Crow Black Chicken whose blend of folk, blues and rock have earned themselves rave reviews from the likes of Classic Rock.

Omagh’s Kick The Bucket Blues Band is a four-piece renowned for their fiercely intense live shows, while McCullough, Greer and Hedley need no introduction as they’re legends on the local scene.

Tickets for the fundraising show are on sale now, priced £12 (+ booking fee) from The Empire and all Ticketmaster outlets.  For more information log onto Facebook.com/ officialbelfastcitybluesfestival

Friday, December 29, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: The Vikings are coming as Leaves' Eyes unleash Sign of the Dragonhead

THE Longships are coming in 2018 as ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’ looms over the horizon...

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

Leave’s Eyes have created historically inspired musical masterpiece that chronicles the Vikings like a keen-edged Ulfberht sword perfectly wielded to deliver a flurry of high powered tracks that leave you in awe.
The title track, ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’, hails a furious warning of the coming of the Viking raiders and starts the chills of anticipation with a choral assault. A rousing track that just hits the right buttons, painting an image of fast moving ships sailing with deadly purpose. And nothing can stop them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an end credits track par excellence...

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

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

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

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

Now, where is the nearest Longship?

Review by Ivor Whitten

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Jimmy Barnes - When a Working Class Man storms the Limelight

TWO acts and one whole massive show of soul, blues and rock 'n' roll stormed in the Limelight in the forms of Lachlan Doley and the rock legend that is Jimmy Barnes.

Lachlan was up first and he is a true live soulful blues singing wonder to behold.

Watching him as he plays the Hammond organ as he impossibly genuflects out of it soul and blues music of epic proportions.

It is a true pleasure to behold.

He seems to be a hyperactive Duracell bunny crossed with Kurt Cobain and it is utterly infectious. As he powered into his set, the crowd were presented with a remarkable visual and auditory indulgence of emotionally exuberant soulful blues.

Along with his captivating growl driven vocals, Lachlan pumped and pummelled the blues out of his Hammond like a modern day Jerry Lee Lewis.  His seat seemed to be more of a prop than a practical necessity. What a performance to start the night.

Then came the living legend that is Jimmy Barnes. There is really no over estimation, no high expectations nor high standards that could ever come close to cowing what this man delivers with his band.

You could never be disappointed at the performance this rock behemoth gives.

The crowd could see that with every song Jimmy sang, he was putting his heart and soul into it conveying raw power, passion and humanity in its most stripped down form.

This man bared himself to the packed crowd, and they lapped it up, giving back as good as he gave.

This was a whole new level of audience participation on an almost spiritual level.

Kicking off with ‘Love and Hate’, ‘I’d Die To Be With You’, ‘Ride the Night Away’, and ‘Love is Enough’, Jimmy lovingly but forcefully put his stamp on what was to come.

Each song beautifully rendered with his gravelled throaty vocals that had a resonating cadence making the hairs on your neck stand up.

You know you were in the presence of a very special performer and you will pay attention.

‘Red Hot’, ‘Still on Your Side, ‘Lay Down Your Guns’, ‘Boys Cry Out for War’, and ‘Too Much’ continued the skilfully crafted songs, Jimmy was giving everyone there a concert par excellence.

‘Little Darling’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Flame Trees’, and ‘Driving Wheels’ continued the onslaught of poignantly laid down vocals, blues and rock riffs, and soulful requiems to a hard and tough life.

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

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

And, with every superb performance there must always be an encore...

Jimmy and his band did not disappoint.

Back onto the stage they executed a beautiful rendition of ‘Stone Cold’ leading into a magnificent cover of AC/DC ‘s ‘High Voltage’, which electrified the audience once more. He finished with ‘Goodbye’.

As they left the stage to another rapturous applause they all sprinted back on to stage where Jimmy informed the crowd that he forgot a song. And, it was almost perfect that the very last song of the night was ‘Good Times’.

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

Review by Ivor Whitten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

ALBUM REVIEW: Sumptuous, elegant, edgy eloquence from majestic Magnum on album #20

BY now you would expect veterans like Magnum to be calling in their albums, dialled straight in, with all the formula expected. Not for the Brummie rockers. Nope, this is a band that have a distinctive sound, but always stretch themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Jonathan Traynor

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

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

INTERVIEW: Jimmy Barnes closes off 2017 by chatting to Ivor...

HE is a man of legendary status in Australia, a proper working class hero - dedicated to his music and many causes.

So, when Jimmy Barnes turned up for a Belfast show, we sent along our own legend, Ivor Whitten to catch up.

Here's the audio - listen well!

LIVE REVIEW: The Undertones stir up some teenage kicks in the Limelight

WHEN two local bands play the Limelight and they pack the place out, you know something special is going down. Brand New Friend and The Undertones were a fantastic match, with a youthful Brand New Friend supporting the well experienced The Undertones.

Brand New Friend, a quirky upbeat outfit from Castlerock, is Taylor and Lauren Johnson, Aaron Milligan and Luke Harris.

Their set for the night set alight the stage and the audience with their energy. Starting off with “Why Are You So Tired?”, “Seatbelts For Aeroplanes” and “I Was An Astronaut” the tone was well and truly set. They just did not stop smiling and the experience was rather joyous along with their  infectious Indie-pop verve. The whole band just could not stop enjoying being on stage and the audience felt that joy too. Their drummer, Luke was so energetic he burst his snare drum.

And, for doing so got to borrow The Undertones snare for the rest of the set. The joyous rush continued with “Milk Chews”, “Mediocre At Best” and the ironically fast paced “Slow”. They drew their set to a close with “Hate It When You Have To Go”, “Girl” and “I Love You, Goodbye”.

They were tight, animated and an absolute delight. They had everyone, including the grumpy old codgers there to relive their youth through The Undertones, bopping along to what can only be described as an elixir of summer. Especially welcome on a cold winter’s night

Then came The Undertones. If you have never heard of The Undertones then you have a false memory.

The Undertones formed in 1974 drawing influence from punk rock and new wave with elements of rock, glam rock, post-punk and even Motown. And even though they were a band of the Troubles period in Northern Ireland, their music focussed more on the experiences of angsty teenagers, enduring heartbreak and being jealous of their cousins.

The Limelight was packed to the gills as the band took to the stage with perfectly timed banter with the audience before Paul McLoone’s golden voice crooned out “Family Entertainment”. Much to the delight of everyone.

The band may be 43 years old, but their energetic posturing, bouncy tunes and boyish charm made them all seem still in their teens.

And, because each song is crafted to the traditional pop tune length of about 3 to 4 minutes in their over an hour long set they banged out well over 30 songs.

Plus, each one was adored by the crowd, which seemed to go in age from 18 to 80. This band not only ‘crossed the barricades’, they crossed the generations with absolute ease. The showmanship of Paul and the rest of the band was outstanding.

The set included “Jump Boys”, “I Gotta Getta”, Tearproof”, “Oh Please” and those classics that you may have forgotten, or not forgotten – just forgot they were done by The Undertones. These included “Jimmy Jimmy”, “It's Going to Happen”, “Girls That Don't Talk”, “Here Comes the Summer”, “I Know a Girl” and “When Saturday Comes”.

Then, of course, there are THOSE two songs. You know, the ones that encapsulate all that is The Undertones.

Yup, the set would not have been anywhere near complete without “My Perfect Cousin” and the John Peel special “Teenage Kicks”. And “Teenage Kicks” being so good, they sang it twice.

To say the crowd loved every single moment is an understatement. Not one single person stayed still as they all sang along enthusiastically to each well-rehearsed tune. It is a night for many to remember, night to shine a light on The Undertones as a band you have to see before you die.

Review by Ivor Whtten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

EP REVIEW: English death metal five piece Infected Dead pulverize and demolish on their outstanding debut EP 'Archaic Malevolence'.

BORN in 2014 Infected Dead have been making serious waves since their inception. Spanning six tracks this EP showcases what Infected Dead have in the tank from the first note to the last. Strap yourself in, you're about to be thrown about like a rag doll.

The opening track 'Book of Dead Names' is an utterly creepy instrumental track consisting of an eerie music box tune and distorted and demonic voices. It is absolutely spinechilling. What a way to set the mood for what's to come.

The second track 'Archaic Malevolence' is a tour de force of grinding technical riffing and tight drumwork. The basslines are sharp and clear, the guitars are crisp and unashamedly brutal and the drums fire on all cylinders. The vocals jump between guttural snarls to tortured screams with vicious energy and the guitar solos would put some death metal veterans to shame.

Next 'Resurrectionist' jumps right down your throat with sheer ferocity and doesn't let up at all. Planet destroying drums, sweep picked leads, technical and melodic rhythms and and truly sickening vocals shake you to your very core.

It's wonderfully composed, balancing unrelenting heaviness and melody perfectly. The key words here are "brutal" and "razor sharp". This track will choke you into submission.

The fourth track 'Invocation of Unspeakable Gods' is absolutely devastating. It's the musical equivalent of being thrown into a cement mixer filled with nails, battery acid and meth addicted raccoons.

You're not gonna come out the same way you went in...

The riffs are crushing and catchy as hell, the double kick drumming adds to the earth flattening noise, the bass is punishing and the vocals are up there with the all time death metal greats.

Track five 'Forced Existence' throws you into a barrage of quick technical riffs and supersonic blastbeat drumming. The output is relentless, there's no slowing down and the intensity doesn't waver in the slightest. It's disgustingly heavy, enough to splatter you into paste, and that solo will melt through you like molten lead. The vocals are absolutely inhuman.

The sixth and final track 'Samsara' is a testament to technical excellence in its most chaotic form with unbelievable riffs, slamming bass and hyperspeed drumming. The vocals are hurled out with such energy it's positively terrifying. It's breakneck from start to finish, packed with fantastic lead work

It's a song that'll have you swinging your head and most likely the neighbours cat around as a weapon. A seriously strong end to an amazing EP.

Keep your eyes on Infected Dead. 'Archaic Malevolence' sounds like Aborted and Black Dhalia Murder conceived a twisted hellspawn under a blood red moon and is a true indicator of just how good modern death metal can be. We're expecting great things in the future from this brutal band.

Review by Phil Noonan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Tatts giving' it all in vintage live recording 'Tatts - Live In Burnswick 82

WITH the polished, snazzed up rock acts of the 21st Century busy preening themselves for photoshoots and recording their latest video for YouTube Rose Tattoo are a reminder that hard rockin' music challenged sanitisation and the norm.

As the Aussie rock act prepare for their 2018 album release and tour the release of 'Tatts - Live in Burnswick 1982' is a stark reminder of the power and the glory that pure rock 'n' fucking roll has. No frills, no fucking about, music to sear your soul and raise every instinct to primal and lift your values to another plain.

They rose to prominence at the same time as AC/DC, and like the incarnations of DC there was an edge to Rose Tattoo - blue collar bastards ready to fight.

Sure Angry Anderson went on to star in 'Mad Max: Thunderdome' and even feckin' Neighbour, but when he cries out "There's a law for the rich, a law for the poor, and I'm just a working man" on the fighting defiance of 'Assault and Battery' your hackles rise and you want to get in the ring with the Tatts.

This is raw, unadulterated rock - no pretentious shit. Expletives, honesty and life experiences.

Raised in the mean slums around Sydney Rose Tattoo have always been the real deal - just take in the narrative of the 'Butcher and Fast Eddie'...and then realise that this really is a true, well documented gang story.

If you expect your smooth, over-produced 'Rolling Stone Mobile' live production and added over-dubs this is not go you. This is raw. This is a band pouring every ounce of energy. This is what live albums should sound like.

And, there is glory in it; the glory of dirty, unadulterated and unabashed blues-based rock. Every new band trying to hook into the wave of blues rock popularity needs to listen to 'Live In Brunswick'. The Tatts were doing it better decades ago.

Every song reverberates with passion and the imperfection that the best live shows capture. Yep - 'Rock 'n' Roll Is King'.

Slide guitars, rollicking  riffs, snarls and cynicism are packed within. Fuck your safe rock - even listening to this evokes a sense of danger.

Rose Tattoo are the 'Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw' band and this reminded us all that yes we are 'Scarred For Life'.

Right you Aussie rockin' bastards, we know you've been through a lot since this was recorded in 1982 - but we want your arses back on tour in the UK and back on a Belfast stage.

Simply put - they don't "take shit from anyone" and while reminiscing about their past glory we for one look forward to the Aussie bastards kicking the shit out of the doubters in the new year.

Mon The Tatts!

Review by Jonathan Traynor