Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NEWS: Cannibal Corpse announce Belfast return

WITH a shedload of gigs coming up in the next few weeks stretching the wallets you'll need to be save the beer tokens and count the pennies for 2018. And, for one gig in March in particular.

Yes, all you happy clappy fans of extreme metal have been thrown into a state of deathly excitement today,

Cannibal Corpse will be bringing their terror back to Belfast for the first time in eight years.

The show is on 22nd March, 2018 at Limelight2. Structural engineers are currently at work to see whether the venue can withstand the aural assault.

The Distortion Project show will be part of a three date Irish tour as part of their support for forthcoming album 'Red Before Black', set for release early on November 3rd.

It will be the Floridian's 14th release in their 30-year career and they have teased fans with a video of the track 'Code of the Slashers'

Tickets, priced £23, go on sale on this coming Friday from all usual outlets.


Monday, September 18, 2017

NEWS: Annihilator set to release 16th studio album, For The Demented' in November

SOMETIMES a news piece lands in the inbox and you know one member of the team will be as excited as a puppy chasing his tail. Well when the press release below landed we knew we had to post it for a certain photographer...

Here's the release:

Since 1989, Canada’s ANNIHILATOR have not stopped putting out records and touring the world.  Despite the ever-changing climate of the Metal World (and releasing a series of “different” Metal records with various lineups along the way), Jeff Waters and company have consistently delivered strong albums since the band’s debut “Alice In Hell”.

Then there was 1990’s best-selling “Never, Neverland”,  1995’s “King of The Kill”, “Schizo Deluxe” in 2005 and many other critically-acclaimed releases up until 2015’s “Suicide Society.” The ‘under-the-radar’ influence of this band, and writer/guitarist/vocalist Jeff Waters, has been felt throughout the entire realm of the metal world by a ton of well-known musicians and bands; that influence even stretching into the hard rock and instrumentalist genre.

ANNIHILATOR’s main man Jeff Waters, in his usual humble manner, offers this in response:

“ANNIHILATOR’s music has been influenced by a good hundred of my favorite bands and musicians; you can hear their contributions to what I have been doing all throughout ANNIHILATOR’s catalogue. It’s a bonus and an honor when bands and musicians I love mention that I had something to do with their playing or songs!”
 Which all leads to the fact that ANNIHILATOR’S 16th studio release, “For The Demented”, is certainly their most complete and definitive statement yet.

“It was time to analyze what a lot of fans over the years have kept telling me,” says Waters. “It was time to sit down and figure out “why” ANNIHILATOR’s early “thrash-meets-melodic” caught the ears of so many AND to try to sweep the “fan” part of my writing/playing/singing out the door and welcome back the mostly-original Waters writing that was to be the first four ANNIHILATOR albums.”

Waters didn’t venture back alone, while looking back through ANNIHILATOR’S history.  “I was well aware that trying to re-capture the past usually fails, or at least won’t come close. So I decided to bring in fresh ears, both musically and physically with Rich Hinks, my bassist for the last few years.  And doing most all of the records by myself, including writing and playing most all on my own, as well as mixing, mastering, engineering, etc…, well it can become routine and can often hinder you from being objective and more creative.
Pic by Darren McVeigh

Rich came in and co-wrote the music with me, as well as co-produced the beginning stages of the record. His background of classic thrash metal meets a newer “math” metal style was the perfect combination for me to simply ask, “What do you think of this?” He would most-often reply with “not the ANNIHILATOR style I like”, so we would keep going until we both felt that core ANNIHILATOR riffing and writing style presented itself.

“Bottom line, “For The Demented” captures some feel from ANNIHILATOR’s 1985-87 demos mixed with the first 4 ANNIHILATOR records. Back to the thrash meets melody but with some pure Waters guitar riffing, up-graded lead guitar shredding and vocals back to the demo-days meets the “King of The Kill” record.

Lyrically, I placed a theme on the record: the human mind and all of its glory, complexity, diversity, weaknesses and insanity! Pretty much the craziness of the music is matched by the lyrics.”

“I think Metal Fans are going to hear much of what they have been waiting for from ANNIHILATOR.”

FOR THE DEMENTED will be released via Neverland Music/Silver Lining Music on November 3rd, 2017 and will be available in a Limited Edition Digipack with Lenticular cover, a jewel-case CD, a 12” 180gms coloured vinyl in gatefold and digital download.

Track listings
Twisted Lobotomy
One to Kill
For the Demented
Pieces of You
The Demon You Know
Phantom Asylum
Altering the Alter
The Way
Not All There

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Catch up witb riff heavy death from Revocation on 'Great Is Our Sin'

Boston aggro thrashers Revocation blow minds and melt faces with their latest whiplash inducing masterpiece Great is Our Sin’.

The first track, ‘Arbiters of the Apocalypse’ starts the album off strong. Like the Mountain from Game of Thrones strong. The tech death flecked thrash riffs and jackhammer double kick drumming are tighter than that lad who never puts his hand in his pocket at the pub. The bass thunders along in the background throwing a ton weight into the mix and the vocals are sublime, jumping effortlessly between aggressive death snarls and an old school almost melodic thrash style. The solos are, as usual, furious, melodic and so damn cool! A fantastic opener!

‘Theater of Horror’ starts off with a fade in of powerful drumming before the guitars, bass and vocals burst your eardrums with technical malice. There is so much death metal influence present, it’s wondrous and heavier than that girl who’s eyeing you up like you’re a Sunday roast. The leadwork of vocalist Dave Davidson is something to behold. Melodic, technical and never a dull moment throughout, you’ll be air guitaring your heart out.

The albums third track, ‘Monolithic Ignorance’ can be described with one word: angry. It’s fast, it’s supreme in its technical composition and it’s gonna give you one hell of a sore neck! The thrashy drumbeat, frantic fretwork and thoroughly enraged vocal attack will mess you up. The solo will have you scooping your face off the floor with a mop, don’t bother trying to reattach it, it’s gone.

‘Crumbling Imperium’ instantly assaults you with technical prowess and pure power. The thing that astounds me most about Revocation is their ability to hit melody, technicality and heaviness with an amazing progressive edge to their sound, and this track has it by the barrel. The vocals are incredible, loads of emotion seeps through the outward anger. The drumming is so good, dancing from the extreme to groovy and the bass work is so fluid. The leadwork is insane, rivalling the all time greats like Jeff Waters, Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine.

The fifth track ‘Communion’ is just pure straight up thrash, with an extra helping of apoplectic rage and a large side order of technical proficiency. These guys know how to play, throwing out delicious riffs, supersonic drumming and crushing basslines like it’s metalhead Christmas. Davidson’s vocals are on point yet again, and the leadwork is truly delightful.

‘The Exaltation’, the albums instrumental, is up next with great riffing and stellar drumming. The bass is heavy and pulverising and the leadwork will leave you red-faced and panting, hoping no one has noticed you’ve made a mess of your pants. The song then breaks into one of the best tech riffs heard in quite some time. It’s an absolute joy to listen to and the razor sharp drums are the prefect accompaniment. Another top shelf solo flies out of nowhere, you know, because the first one didn’t ruin you enough. Some find instrumentals boring, listen to this and find out how wrong you are.

Seventh track ‘Profanum Vulgus’ is so packed with death metal it explodes from the get go, covering you in riffy viscera. The drumming will destroy you, the bass will suffocate you, and the vocals will make you want to punch your irritating coworker square in the face! It’s so so angry, like your wife when you forget her birthday. Solos fly out like bullets from an MG.42 and your head will bang, trust me. A favourite of this album.

‘Copernican Heresy’ doesn’t give you time to catch your breath after the last track, it just grabs you by the balls and kicks you in the teeth. The speed and aggression is beyond its critical limit, it’s incredible. The riffage astounding and the drumming intense! The solo is absolutely beautiful in the most brutal sense of the word. The vocals will make you angry at, well, pretty much everything.

‘Only the Spineless Survive’ is not only a great song title but a great song as well. It’s progressive and melodic in places, brutal in others and it just works. There’s a sense of unease, the spoken word vocals add a great sense of atmosphere before the death metal brutality reignites and chaotic leadwork dissolves your brain to grey goop.

‘Cleaving Giants of Ice’ is wonderfully melodic. Showcasing the bands ability to write beautiful heavy music. The vocal work is fantastic, going from heavy and aggressive to eerily sang passages which are complimented by flawless, emotive guitar riffs and groove packed drumming. The guitar leads perfectly match the feeling of the song.

How do you make a Slayer song heavier than Slayer? Ask Revocation. The final track, a cover of ‘Altar of Sacrifice’ just takes the original and intensifies it with perfect production and an intense vocal attack. The wildly chaotic leads are note perfect and the riffs and drums are spot on as new life is breathed into a thrash classic. A truly brilliant end to an unreal album!

Fans of thrash and technical death metal do yourselves a favour and pick up this absolute gem. It’s packed full of yummy riffy heavy goodness. I guarantee you’ll have it on heavy rotation for months!

Review by Phil Noonan.

Friday, September 15, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Big Truck rolls over all in its path as Trucker Diablo go to war on 'Fighting For Everything'

THE Big Truck has just got an upgrade, superchargers fitted and the engine tuned to within an inch of its life. Trucker Diablo are rolling inexorably forward with new album 'Fighting For Everything' set to wipe the floor and leave a trail of fans slack jawed in amazement.

But first a Public Service Announcement: Should you play this album in your car you are more than likely to incur a speeding fine. When you have it playing your right foot will have a tendency to go further to the floor...The traffic cops may understand, but don't rely on it.

If said cops were to listen to 'Fighting For Everything' they would bow down and acclaim Trucker Diablo.

It is an album born from adversity, birthed in troubled times for the members of the band personally, and because of the travails of the music industry.

But those travails see a band emerging with a single finger thrust in the air, and defiant 'fuck you' to all that dare stand in their way. While all previous releases by Trucker Diablo have been excellent, this is their magnum opus - a masterpiece of heavy melodic rock.

Kicking the audience's ass from the start with 'Born Trucker' these are 11 songs many an international superstar band would kill to have in their repertoire.

Ten of those songs will have your fist pumping, but when you are standing proud, singing along Trucker being Trucker hit you with a sucker punch. After being so pumped up the closer 'When The Waters Rise' smacks you in the face. Emotionally charged, wonderfully arranged, if you don't feel the tears well up you don't have a heart.

The entire album  - boosted by Frankie McClay's production polish - is a masterclass in how to deliver a varied, but coherent set of tunes, rooted in a conjoined passion for rock 'n' fucking roll.

There is a fire within this album, and that fire has forged an album that works. Yes, works. Whether it is the resolute stance of  'We Will Conquer All' or 'Fighting For Everything' or the impassioned 'Over The Wall' it works as a complete set of tunes.

And, it has enough variety to please all Trucker fans - in fact all fans of hard rock. 'Let's Just Ride'. Don't fucking tell Joe Elliott or Jon Bon Jovi about this song. This captures all that was great about those wonderful days when rock ruled supreme.

And, 'Detroit Steel' is reminiscent of when Kiss had balls. If Simmons and Stanley hear this they may actually decide to record new material. And if they do they won't come close.

Is this description sounds like over-blown hyperbole so be it. Given it's a Northern Ireland band, readers could be forgiven if we were listening to this with more than a taint of bias. However, that is definitely not the case.

When a band bares their soul on the songs they commit to master tapes that are this personal it is something to be marvelled upon. When Tom sings "The scars will keep hurting/But my love will never change" on Drown In The Fire' you can sense the battles the band have been though to release this album.

And, many listeners will spot 'Voodoo II' and wonder have Trucker Diablo disappeared up their own arses á la 'Tallica's unforgiven. Then the track grabs you by the back of the neck, kicks your arse, and throws you to the ground. This is Voodoo fitted with nitrous oxide, a 16 cylinder beast, a truck that will roll over anything in its path.

This is as complete as an album that can be released. Tom, Simon, Jim and Terry have exceeded all expectations. If this is the recorded new material we feel our bowels loosening a little in expectation of the live delivery.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Fighting For Everything will be officially launched on October 14th at QUB's Bar Sub, with Gasoline Outlaws opening the show.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Cradle of Filth bring glorious gothic terror to bear on Cryptoriana

IF 'Hammer of Witches' proved that Cradle of Filth had regained their edgy artistic mojo then new release 'Cryptorian' shifts them up to another level entirely.

This is the marriage of previous musical excesses and a true sense of gothic terror - not in the mainstream sense of 'goths' but reaching into the dark labyrinthine murk of Victorian streets, where danger and sensuality stand side-by-side.

'Cryptoriana' is a tapestry of lust and evil delivered with all that you would expect from Dani and co.

Apart from the short, sharp shock of opener 'Exquisite Torments Await' (and they do) each of the other tracks are allowed the time to breathe musically and in their narrative.

As with almost all Cradle of Filth albums the narrative is a crucial component. Indeed, the sub-title of 'Cryptoriana' is 'The Seductiveness of Decay' a stunning track that cements the narrative of a Victorian England where the supernatural sat aside the industrial murk and poverty; where the rich indulged a quest of what lay beyond while maintaining a very British reserve to hide their sinfulness.

“The album, both lyrically and artistically, is infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that, Cryptoriana implies the Victorians’ infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the fervently ghoulish." - Dani Filth

The tapestry woven is such that to capture the sense (and sensibility) of the tales requires a musical landscape as intense and evocative as the lyrics. And it is lush with moods and suggestive passages.

Shaw and Ashok almost war each other in trade-offs and solos that are mainly delivered with speed and intensity, but are also tempered with shifts of pace and tempo. With Škaroupka and Firth tied together with a rhythmic umbilical chord that sense of doom infused throughout sits as a warning to lesser mortals.

However, it is the enchantress Lyndsay Schoolcraft that adds the flourishes that set the tone so well - her keyboard work sets scenes, add unexpected elements, and as always delivers vocally. Perhaps this is one of her finer demonstrations of her pipes recorded to date.

“The general vibe in the band is exceedingly positive as we gear up for the album’s release. We have an amazing album and video under our collective belts, a new manager who has religiously prepared an upcoming world tour for everyone to look forward to and the band are still white hot and collectively firing on all cylinders, much like a ballistic missile fired upon Horsell Common, in the last years of the 19th century when human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space!” - Dani Flilth

To be clear, all eight tracks deserve repeated listens to fully enjoy the rich rewards and tones within. However, the concluding track 'Death and the Maiden' is one of the finest, textured tracks Cradle of Filth have released. If not for it all other tracks on Cryptorania would have vied for that title.

Sure, for many Dani and his crew have been the butt of ill-informed jibes with the many line-up changes, but on Hammer of the Witches they proved themselves to be a band that has evolved without losing sight of their core principles. Cryptorania takes them to the next level - we can't wait to see them in Belfast's Limelight on 30th October. Get listening to this album and get prepared!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Cryptorania is released on Nuclear Blast on 22nd September 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NEWS: Last Great Dreamers launch pledge campaign for fourth album

THE subject of funding work through the likes of Pledgemusic is always a controversial one, but the reality for many bands it is the only way they can afford to get into the studio and record new music in the hope of not only releasing an album, but of securing distribution deals and tour slots.

Many enjoyed Last Great Dreamers when they appeared with The Quireboys in the Diamond Rock Club, and they are the latest to go down that road.

Following on from their album 'Transmissions from Oblivion' last year the band have launched a Pledgemusic campaign to crowd fund their as yet untitled fourth album.

Should you want to buy into the pledge you can find more here: www.pledgemusic.com/lastgreatdreamers

NEWS: Got a spare $50,000? Gene Simmons can help you get rid of it

AFTER his failed attempt to copyright the 'metal horns' and his inability to licence the air we breathe, it seems Gene Simmons is struggling to bank a few million more.

Hence the Kiss ego-supreme and money making machine is set to release 'The Vault', which claims to be the "biggest box set of all time" - and includes the offer to personally deliver it to your house for a mere $50,000.

Convulsed by laughter we are unable to write a serious article about this, so here instead is the full press release [capitalisation is not ours, but it seemed appropriate to leave it in!]:


Limited-Edition VAULT is The Largest Boxset of All Time with 150 Never-Before-Released Tracks, Collectibles and a Personal Item From The Demon’s Own Archives and Will Be Hand Delivered by Simmons Himself to Fans Around the World

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. (September 12, 2017) – Celebrating 50 years in rock (1966-2016) Gene Simmons, multi-hyphenate entrepreneur, co-founder and front man of KISS, America’s number one gold record award-winning group of all time in all categories (RIAA), and one of the most recognized performers in the world, today announced the unprecedented release of GENE SIMMONS: THE VAULT EXPERIENCE in partnership with Rhino Entertainment.

GENE SIMMONS: THE VAULT EXPERIENCE commemorates and celebrates Simmons’ notorious five-decade journey as a rock icon, offering fans around the world a limited-edition collectible ‘VAULT’ with contents that offer a unique look into The Demon’s colorful life, including never-before-released songs, photos, stories and collectible items. Additionally, every VAULT will be personally delivered to each fan by Simmons himself.

GENE SIMMONS: THE VAULT EXPERIENCE begins with an initial SKYPE call from Simmons to the fan, followed by the personal delivery of a numbered, limited-edition, 17” x 25” 38-pound VAULT, during Simmons’ VAULT World Tour set to take place January 2018 through December 2018.

Priced at $2,000 - each unique VAULT includes:

150 never-before-released tracks written and performed by Simmons, and featuring notable rock and roll artists, including members of KISS past and present

Packaged in a massive 12” x 12” x 6” leather-bound commemorative book containing dozens of never-before-seen images of Simmons throughout his 50-year career
These unreleased tracks are exclusive to THE VAULT and will not be available in other physical or digital configurations

Limited-edition collectibles including a Gene Simmons non-makeup action figure and an “In Gene We Trust” oversized medallion

A one-of-a-kind, hand-selected original piece of memorabilia from Gene’s personal collection
During the one-on-one meet and greets with the delivery of the VAULTs, Simmons will travel around the world, to a designated location to take photos and video with the fan and a guest, and sign autographs.  In addition to the private meeting, fans will receive a VAULT Pre-Pack* and join a small group of other fans for “Songs and Stories” from The VAULT and a Q&A with Simmons.

Within a month of purchase, fans will also receive via mail a VAULT Pre-Pack featuring a USB including the first track “Are You Ready,” a signed golden ticket, exclusive t-shirt, and a laminate. Ordering by December 5  will ensure delivery of the VAULT Pre-Pack by December 23, just in time for holiday gift giving.

 “Any artist can release a boxed set, and never really thank the fans for their support,” said Simmons.  “I want to celebrate my 50th anniversary in rock WITH the fans, and I have had a blast putting something really special together for them.  GENE SIMMONS: THE VAULT EXPERIENCE gives fans something truly unique that they can keep forever, and it gives me a chance to personally thank them for all of their support over the years.”

“What Gene and Rhino have put together with THE VAULT EXPERIENCE is truly unprecedented. We have taken the idea of a boxed set to a completely different level,” says Mark Pinkus, President of Rhino Entertainment. “As a card-carrying member of the KISS Army from a young age, I’m honored to be working with Gene on such an exciting and innovative project. His fans are going to be absolutely blown away by THE VAULT EXPERIENCE. “

For the ultimate fan, two additional VAULT Experiences are available:

The Executive Producers Experience - $25,000
Kicking off in New York on September 15, the Executive Producer’s Experience will be available in cities around the world until November 2017, and is the quintessential experience for the devoted fan, plus a guest. The Executive Producer’s experience includes an initial SKYPE call with Simmons; a one-hour private studio preview with Simmons, offering the opportunity to listen to tracks before they are released; a distinguished Executive Producer credit on every VAULT; a photo, video and autograph opportunity with Gene; one of the first 500 limited-edition numbered VAULTs; and a VAULT Pre-Pack*

The Home Experience** - $50,000
Launching December 2017 in the U.S. and in cities around the world, the Home Experience includes a personal delivery of THE VAULT to the fan’s home by Simmons himself; one of the first 300 limited-edition numbered VAULTs; two hours with Simmons at the fan’s home (or location of their choice) for a special event with up to 25 friends and family; photos, videos and autographs; an intimate “Songs & Stories” playback session and Q&A with Gene; and a VAULT Pre-Pack* for all guests in attendance.

For a complete schedule of all three VAULT EXPERIENCES
please visit www.GeneSimmonsVault.com  or call 1-833-GSVault

*VAULT Pre-Pack includes signed golden ticket, exclusive t-shirt, USB with “Are You Ready” and a laminate. It will be shipped three to four weeks after purchase

** Some scheduling and travel restrictions may apply

ALBUM REVIEW: Wayward Sons bring the boom on Ghosts of Yet To Come

WE have always had a large amount of admiration for Toby Jepson - his work with Gun, Little Angels and solo recording, not to mention his production credits. When news filtered through that he had assembled a new band thoughts turned to whether he could remain at the top of his game with Wayward Sons.

But when you have rockers of the calibre of Sam Wood, Nic Wastell, Dave Kemp and Phil Martini you have the collective experience of not only Jepson's bands, but a resumé that includes Spear of Destiny, Treason Kings and Chrome Molly brought to bear.

Thus their début album 'Ghosts of Yet To Come' is a true hard rocking release that recalls the 90s, with more than a smidgeon of a tip of the hat to classic acts from the 70s and 80s.

Throughout the riffs and melodies are to the fore, especially on the immense track 'Ghost' and the mid-pace rollick of 'I Don't Want to Go'.

What makes it an enjoyable album is that they are not as clichéd as many of their contemporaries; sure they are treading a similar path, and they nod to their predecessors for example the likes of 'Give It Away' has echoes of The Fountains of Wayne 'Stacy's Mom'.

The album is a trip through memories, but brought right up to date. Jepson is as always giving every ounce into his performance, but with Wood to as a foil the solidity of the songs is clear. And Toby's social stance is present on the likes of 'Small Talk' - a refreshing diversion from others more bland rock lyrics: "I was born into Thatcher's Disaster" is a memorable line.

Many will have the benefit of having samples of the album through the band's decision to release a series of their tracks (four in total) on YouTube, but they should merely be an encouragement to buy this album.

The urgent melodies of 'Crush' are just a flavour of what the rest of the tracks offer (see video below).

For fans of true hard rock this is an essential buy. Unfortunately they won't be with Inglorious in Belfast, unlike other parts of the tour, but hopefully they will land in Northern Ireland soon to give us all a treat with their melodic boom.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Belphegor offer up the best of death and black on the awesome Totenritual

FOLLOWING their 2014 album Conjuring the Dead Austrian blackened death metal trio Belphegor are back with Totenritual, a satanic slice of demonic roars, blistering riffs and blastbeats that will certainly send your friendly neighbourhood Christians running for cover.

'Totenritual' consists of nine pummelling tracks to bring about the apocalypse. The first  track,'Baphomet' delivers from the get go. Devastating riffs and inhuman double kicks drumming smack you in the face from the first note. The vocals are formidable, jumping effortlessly between guttural death metal roars and black metal shrieks. Blastbeats and hefty riffs are the order of the day on this track, a great opener and a small taste of the horrors to come.

'The Devils Son' starts off with an ominous message, “you are tainted, the devil is in your flesh!” followed by a hair raising scream and breakneck blasts. Evil shredding and some tasty leads ensue as the colossal bellows of Helmuth Lehner cut through the Satanic noises of hell.

The outro is beautiful  (yes I just described a Belphegor song as beautiful!), acoustic guitars fade out the song and into 'Swinefever – Regent of Pigs' which contains an audioclip of the Exorcist III. The riffs and drumbeats are extremely heavy - heavy like Thor’s hammer heavy. Punishing and brutal the song thunders along at breakneck speed. The drumming is insane and the vocals are absolutely crushing. The leadwork fits the song perfectly with chaotic fretwork and the howls and roars make the atmosphere more dense than that simple cousin everyone of us seems to have.

Fourth track, 'Apophis – Black Dragon' has one of the greatest black/death riffs to be heard in a long while. The blastbeats, the chainsaw like guitars and vocals that can only be described as like a demonic possession victim reminds me so much of the aggressive sound of the Swedish black metal scene.

Bands like Marduk and Dark Funeral especially come to mind. It’s dark, it’s ominous and it’s absolutely dripping with evil. A favourite track hands down.

The next track, 'Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration' begins with what can only be described as what a mental hospital would sound like, followed by vicious blasts and a chugging, grinding riff giving way to supersonic axework and the hammers of hell trying to break through Earth’s surface.

It’s so immensely heavy and brutal, and those throat ripping roars just add to the weight. The leadwork is superb, a perfect balance of melody and chaos.

Following up 'Totenkul'” is 'Totenbeschwörer', a creepy midpaced instrumental that really gets under your skin, a great little piece of evil music to contemplate where you might be heading when you die.

'Spell of Reflection' doesn’t take any time at all stabbing your ears with a skull crushing death metal riff and midpaced pounding drums to match. The vocals are just so evil, it’s like listening to Linda Blair on one of her bad days and it’s glorious.

Shredding and double kicks batter your ear canals until they bleed. You’re gonna need a neck brace after this one.

Track eight, 'Embracing a Star' lures you into a false sense of security with a chilling free bars of acoustic guitar work before military precision drumming kicks in and chanted verses like the sinister black mass you were too afraid to attend. The track picks up into blastbeats, blastbeats and even more blastbeats.

Tremolo picked black metal grinding cuts through the song, and the devilish spewing of blasphemy would make even the most badass of badasses tremble. Waves of dissonance and ill will surround this track. Absolutely brilliant.

The ninth and final track is 'Totenritual' itself, and what an end to this terrifyingly wondrous album...

It’s just pure blackened nastiness at its absolute best. Horrifically heavy and so fast it would leave a formula one driver thinking “wtf?”, Totenritual is demonic, aggressive and embodies the best aspects of the genre.

If you like your black metal with a little more weight or your death metal with a little more Satan get this album. You will not be disappointed.

Review by Phil Noonan

Totenritual is available from Nuclear Blast - Belphegor play Belfast with Destroyer 666 and others at The Limelight on October 12th...

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter and the Test Tube Babies on form with That Shallot

EVER since Peter and the Test Tube Babies released their song 'The Queen Gives Good Blow Jobs' we knew they were something special. Although bundled along with the likes of Splodgenessabounds' they were more straightforward and felt more 'punk'.

Their irreverent lyrics were offset with tight precise writing - favouring the short, sharp tight arrangements.

Over the years they have not mellowed despite growing older. If anything they sound more bitter - and that's not a bad thing in context.

With the imminent release of new album 'That Shallot' and the beginnings of a mini-punk revival Peter and the Test Tube Babies have an opportunity to reach out to those that missed the late 70s/early 80s days.

Bywaters voice still resounds with anger and vitriol and Del Strangefish buzz sawing guitar lines are delivered as if his hands are afire with passion.

The 14 tracks on 'That Shallot' are punched out in a torrent, with the longest clocking in at an 'epic' 3:55 (closer 'Pissedenstein'  - a rant on alcohol).

Not that they are all one-dimensional. The horns and sulty singing on 'Tramp Killer' sounds like the sort of opener for a really twisted Bond film. The faux country styling of the hilarious 'Silicone Beer Gut' makes it, in much the same way as Nuclear Assault's 'Long Haired Asshole'.

Railing against relationships on 'Wrong' 'Honesty' and 'When Girlfriends Attack' have an edge that could easily be misunderstood, but let's face it there is humour by the bucket load.

There is also real anger, barely tempered with wit, that will resonate such as 'None of Your Fucking Business' and 'What Next'. For all of the early absurdity Peter and the Test Tube Babies have never shied away from the anger. Whether he was really refused entry to the US for criticising Trump or had visa irregularities matter not - it is really 'None of Your Fucking Business'.

And taking a swipe at the pop punk staples of TV video shows 'Crap Californian Punk Band' they remind the bands earning fortunes that the UK punks carved the path they are cashing in by re-treading it.

Never mind the individual elements taken as a whole 'That Shallot' reminds us all that the early wave of punk bands are still as vibrant and entertaining as ever, and age will never dull the snarl or anger.

In an era of conservatism, the Conservative Party, Brexit, gambling websites, Trump, families with 2.2 children and a Golden Retriever, North Korea et al this serves as a reminder that in the extremities of music there are awkward truths around the world that need to be told. And, if you can do that with a smile, all the better.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

That Shallot is released on Arising Empire on 15th September

ALBUM REVIEW: Ensiferum go all the way on Two Paths - a madly beautiful album

WITH 'One Man Army' Ensiferum set the bar high for folk metal, with an almost live feel. The subsequent extensive touring showcased a band at the proverbial top of their game.

But unlike many bands the Helsinki act were already planning their next release well ahead of time, with these tracks on new release 'Two Paths' demoed seven years ago - yes seven years. Talk about foresight...

Having these tracks in formative structure at the turn of the decade could have made them stale, but in the seven years hence they have been beaten into glorious shape. In short 'Two Paths' is as close to the ultimate 'folk metal' album as you'll get.

All the elements from Ensiferum are there, with the added bonus of touring accordionist Netta Skog, formerly of Turisas, now a full-time member of the band, adding another vocal texture.

From the opening orchestral and choral intro 'Two Paths' gives you the expected grunt on 'For Those About To Fight For Metal', with flurries of guitar and growls plus huge choir like melodies.

While this is about as 'typical' as you would expect in the genre it veers close to cliché in places - but is saved by the arrangement.

However, the rest of the album is anything but clichéd. The reason for this could be attributed to the length of the writing of the tracks, or the organic, analog recording and producer Anssi Kippo's insistence on getting the right instrument's tones from the off.

Anssi has a really great recording method, in that he wants to find the best possible sound and tone for drums, bass, guitars, vocals etcetera at the start, so that as you finish the individual tracks it's close to what you want the final sound of the album to be. That way, you don't have to ponder over what you can do in the mixing." -  Hinnka

The result are tracks that sound massive - whether it is full-on such as 'Way Of The Warrior' or 'King of Storms' or the quieter tracks, such as Netta's vocals on 'Unettomann Aikaan', all sound as if they were created as if to address a gathering deep in a primeval forest.

Title track 'Two Paths' opens with an almost rock-like riff from the 80s before upping the ante in a song delivered with clean vocals with a wistful edge and no shite tools to mask the feeling.

That Markus, Petri, Sami and Netta all contribute different singing textures makes every element of the album as varied and challenging as possible.

'Feast of the Valkyries' sees Netta opening the vocals and delivering a masterclass on digital accordion before the chorus as if delivered by Finnish warriors storming the land of the Russ.

Lyrically throughout, as always, there is more than what may appear on the heroic sounding surface.

"For me, it's really important that all lyrics have deeper, more serious and sometimes very personal meaning, while also fitting Ensiferum's heroic theme. It's a nice challenge to write lyrics this way, but it's also really rewarding to hear fans' interpretations of our music. There is no right or wrong in this matter." - Hiinnka

On 'Don't You Say' and 'God is Dead' the band challenge the listener even further by offering two versions, with Hinnka offering Ensiferum fans the chance to pick their favourite version.

'Don't You Say' opens with a drum line that nods to Priest before becoming a piece of groove infected folk, while 'I Will Never Kneel' is defiantly superb.

It would be easy to rant further about how good 'Two Paths' sounds. It is gritty, catchy and orchestral in equal parts.

Amidst the might and grandeur Ensiferum display a lightness of touch - in even the heavier elements - that demonstrates that this is no longer another folk metal act. Not only will they stake their claim to be among one of the originators, they are a force of nature to bow in admiration before. Madly beautiful...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

 Two Paths is released on Metal Blade Records on 15th September

Monday, September 04, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Godsmack's Sully Erna takes us down an enjoyable middie of the road journey on Hometown Life

GODSMACK have sold millions of album, but what some fans have missed is the solo work of singer and guitarist Sully Erna.

The talented front man is about to release his latest solo effort 'Hometown Life' (September 29th) and it is a massive departure from the sound of Godsmack. Indeed, on first listen it is a middle of the road release so beloved of American bands trying to gain wider airplay.

That initial listen almost makes Nickleback seem edgy, but then when you delve deeper this is varied and raw.

Narrative driven, this is a lyrically poignant release. There are tales within that do more than merely tug on the heart strings. 'Different Kind of Tears' tells the story of teenage pain told from a parent's perspective. [Check out the video on which parents who have lost children from opiod abuse appear.]

The title track 'Hometown Life' almost gives you the belief that this is going to be a Godsmack Lite release, but the variety of chosen styles from Sully could easily throw the listener. The aforementioned 'Different Kind of Tears' echoes New Country and 'Turn It Up' is practically a Motown song from the golden era of Detroit. He even clicks his fecking fingers...

But despite the varied styles what is striking about 'Hometown Life' is how appropriate the music is to the lyrics.

All written by Sully on piano and acoustic guitar each track sets the mood. The closing duo of 'Father of Time' and 'Falling To Black' are achingly excellent.

This is not a hard rock album. This is not a selection of tracks to rev you up. But, it is an album to carefully consider, to listen to and absorb. In many ways it is reminiscent of the off-beat Gillan Glover release 'Accidentally on Purpose' with less jazz...

After listening to a lot of extreme metal and incendiary punk of late 'Hometown Life' was a reflective chance to ease back. Give it a chance, but importantly give it several listens and let it all sink in.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Hometown Life is released on September 16th on BMG

Saturday, September 02, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Dyscarnate produce a must listen album on 'With All Their Might'

Following their acclaimed 2012 album And So it Came to Pass, UK death metal destroyers Dyscarnate are back after five long years with another top quality slab of extreme, ear destroying music.

‘With All Their Might’ is a tour de force of potent, punishing metal to overload the senses.

The first track, ‘Of Mice and Mountains’ is a great album opener with heavy riffs and double kicks aplenty… The vocals are strong and aggressive and the bass gives a dynamic and bottom heavy level that intensifies the guitars perfectly. Just under the two minute mark begins an absolute pit opener of a riff. This is crushing death metal track, the riffs are ridiculously heavy and the drumming is tight and powerful.

‘This is Fire’ has a very strong Gojira/Meshuggah vibe to the intro; the guitars carve out a groovy tech influenced path of destruction that the rigorous drumming compliments perfectly. This is definitely a song to bang your head to. It’s heavy, really heavy but at the same time it’s so catchy. The songwriting is strong and the aggressive dual vocals of guitarist Tom Whitty and bassist Al Lewellyn are once again completely on point.

From the opening few bars of ‘Iron Strengthens Iron’ all I can think is “oh, those drums”! Starting off nice and they soon descend into pounding machine gun like double bass, proving once again that Matt Unsworth is a machine behind the kit. The riffs are strong, a prime example of great, grove influenced modern death metal.

As ‘Traitors in the Palace’ begins I can feel a chill go up my spine. It is so dark and eerie, and suffocating in its atmosphere. The screams that pierce through the grinding, evil riffs are what make this track stand out. The drumming is relentless, driving forward the oppressive and sinister wall of sound. This is, for me, how great, midpaced death metal should sound. It should give you that uneasy shiver, it should feel ominous and Traitors delivers that by the truckload. It is probably the best track on the album.

The only way to describe how the fifth track, ‘To End All Flesh Before Me’, made me feel is to say that it kicked in with such technical malice it grabbed me by the throat and shook me pretty hard, every uttered syllable is dripping with venom and the pure aggression is so evident deceased relations of mine would take notice. Tight, intense riffage and a drumbeat that would make a panzer tank look like a Mini Cooper fuels the fire of this monstrous track, littering the aural landscape with ash and debris. The brutality is utterly devastating.

Brutality is also the order of the day on ‘Backbreaker’. Nothing fancy here, just straight up ferocity as the title suggests. The energy is amazing; it is perfectly controlled chaos from three guys who know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to all things heavy. I think I’m gonna need a chiropractor by the end of this one.

‘All the Devils are Here’ starts off with the kind of triplet based tremolo picking I grew up loving. Heavy blasts and absolute carnage ensues, showcasing the influences of the old school death metal greats such as Bolt Thrower, with a welcome 21st century facelift. The riffs are razor sharp and the drumming is absolutely ferocious. Again the vocals display a tone of rage that never lets up.

The final track, ‘Nothing Seems Right’, is the longest on the record. Clocking in at just over seven minutes it is a dense and brooding soundscape of slower tempos and domineering atmosphere that entraps you in a fog of dissonant riffing, thunderous bass and steel bending drums. As the song progresses the guitars and drums intensify. This is truly a great ending to a stellar album.

‘With All Their Might’ is an album for those who love modern, aggressive death metal that pays homage to their old school forefathers. It is an extremely enjoyable listen. Even with the distinct lack of guitar leads, which is one of the things I personally look forward to on a record. the riffs, drums, basslines, vocal melodies and superb songwriting counteract their absence and keep me thoroughly entertained throughout the duration of the recording. An absolute must listen for fans of brutal, honest and well structured metal.
Review by Phil Noonan

Friday, September 01, 2017

NEWS: Europe unveil the Title Track of Walk The Earth today

Europe have released the title track of there forthcoming album -  and we know that there are a few readers out there who have that guilty pleaseure of loving Europe and may even be ordering the album already, which has a release date of October 20th.

You can listen to the song below, but first the obligatory PR blurb...

If Europe’s 2015 album War Of Kings was the album that made the rock world realise what a formidable act Europe had become then Walk The Earth is the album that is set to establish the band as one of the most exciting contemporary rock acts of current times.

The new album Walk The Earth will feature original artwork by famed Los Angeles artist Mike Sportes of Filth Mart.

“We were in the studio a few days into recording and Dave (Cobb, Producer) comes in wearing this very cool T-Shirt with one of Mike's designs on it. Immediately we knew we had to check Mike's other work and have him come up with an exclusive design for us based on the vibe of the album. We are very proud to have his amazing artwork as the Walk The Earth album cover!' - Joey Tempest on the appointment of Mike Sportes to do the cover.

Walk The Earth tracklisting:

1. Walk The Earth
2. The Siege
3. Kingdom United
4. Pictures
5. Election Day
6. Wolves
7. GTO
8. Haze
9. Whenever You’re Ready
10. Turn To Dust

From the anthemic sound of the opening track “Walk The Earth” – to the heavy vibe that is “Haze”, from the instant melody of “Election Day” to the lyrical content of “Kingdom United”, “Walk The Earth” is the album that should see Europe rightly acclaimed as a band at the height of their powers. The wonderful melodies and depth of Joey Tempest’s vocals along with a powerhouse rhythm section and the guitar playing of John Norum, one of the great underrated guitarists. Norum’s guitar playing shines across the record. This is an album that is big in its scope and sound. Much like previous album “War Of Kings”, “Walk The Earth” is an album that has instant appeal but is also an album that needs to be lived with, in order to uncover it’s depth. The album was recorded at famed Abbey Road Studios in London with Grammy winning producer Dave Cobb (Rival Sons, Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton).

Late 2016 saw Europe perform a series of “The Final Countdown Anniversary Shows” across Europe – culminating in a show at The Roundhouse in London. The show has been immortalised in a July 2017 DVD release The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Show - Live at the Roundhouse.
Preceding the landmark event, fans were also treated to a live performance of Europe’s last album, 2015’s War of Kings, a release which re-established Europe as one of the top rock bands in the world.

Since forming in 1979 Europe have sold over 25 million albums, toured across the world and become one of the greats of modern rock music. The bands all conquering The Final Countdown album has alone sold over 15 million copies worldwide and the single of the same name was No 1 in 25 countries.

Walk The Earth World Tour dates announced, more to follow:

Fri 17th Nov 2017                    Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham UK*
Sat 18th Nov                             Manchester Arena, Manchester UK*
Mon 20th Nov                          Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff UK*
Wed 22nd Nov                          The SSE Hydro, Glasgow UK*
Thurs 23rd Nov                        The o2 Arena, London UK*
Mon 27th Nov                          Stadhalle D, Vienna, Austria (with Alice Cooper)
Wed 29th Nov                          Alcatraz, Milan, Italy
Fri 1st Dec                               Ice Stadium, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Tue 5th Dec                             Idun Teatern, Umea, Sweden
Wed 6th Dec                            Annexet, Stockholm, Sweden
Thu 7th Dec                             Lisebergshallen, Gothenburg, Sweden
(*with Deep Purple)

For tickets see http://europetheband.com

Walk The Earth is released through Hell & Back Recordings (Silver Lining Music) on 20th October 2017.

NEWS: HRH rolls out Rock’s Red Carpet for the First HRH Awards

Having loudly and proudly recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, HRH still refuses to rest on its laurels and continues to expand and evolve. One major leap forward is the introduction of the HRH Awards, the first of which will be held at the main arena, camp HRH, Pwllheli, Wednesday 8th  November 2017.

The HRH Awards follow the classic HRH model in that the awards and event are community-led and custom-built by the fans, reflecting the tastes and appreciation of the HRH Loyal, the Dark Circle and community. HRH as a whole, and all its branches, will be honouring the artists, the industry figures and people who matter in this business.

HRH Mag and Hard Rock Hell Radio will also be actively involved. The event is sponsored by Marshall, Eden, Natal, JHS, Vintage, HRH Mag, and Hard Rock Hell Radio.

“Awards are a big part of the industry,” says HRH’s CEO Jonni Davis, “So we felt it was time that the HRH community made its own voice heard, showing appreciation for the music they love and the people who make it. It’s going to be a Hard Rock Hell of an evening!”

Award categories will be voted by fans, along with a couple of industry-voted awards. Categories include HRH Legend, HRH Axeman, HRH Rising Stars etc. More categories will be added and voted on.

The event itself will be a lavish, red carpet affair, presented with the flair and attention to detail that Europe’s leading residential festival provider applies to all events. Here, think of sit-down tables, presentation rich in glitz and pizazz, a roomful of fans, industry, artists, agents, and media, all dressed to impress. There will also be a select few live performances at the event.

The Awards will be a ground-breaking innovation for HRH. Tickets are very, very limited in numbers: only 500 will be able to attend, so please book early. Red Carpet Passes can be booked on www.hardrockhell.com or by ringing Sam on 0207 193 1307. Priced at 40 GBP, this includes 1 night’s accommodation. 

EP REVIEW: More than just leftovers for Epica on The Solace System

WHEN band releases an EP shortly after their album has hit the racks there is sometimes a whiff of releasing cast-offs from that album. But occasionally there is a justification, such as Metallica's decision to release 'Beyond Magnetic' set of four strong tracks.

Equally the decision of Epica to release 'The Solace System' in the wake of 'The Holographic Principle' has some justification. The six tracks were largely left off that 2016 release as they had reached the appointed 76 minutes on the album and weren't keen on doing a double album.

What this EP does is capture the energy that must have been sparking off the band on the sessions recording 'Holographic'.

All the elements the fans of the Dutch syomphonic metal crew are there as expected. As always the soaring, operatic vocals of Simone is there with the metal grit underneath. (in the blurb accompanying the release guitarist Mark is credited with guitars and "growls"!)

There might of the metal is tempered with the flourishes and interpretations of Coen's keyboards and sythns, as demonstrated on the title track and 'Wheel of Destiny'.

Across all six tracks there are the elements that saw 'The Holographic Principle' achieve chart success across Europe.

The one surprise is the inclusion of the power ballad 'Immortal Melancholy' - the first time the band has done a ballad that is guitar driven rather than piano based. Does it work? For us not quite, but we can imagine fans will lap it up as Simone's tortured voice conveys oodles of emotion.

If you were to take this as a standalone EP it would be strong enough to earn its own kudos, but take it as a companion piece to 'The Holographic Principle' and it is more coherent and justified.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Solace System is out now on Nuclear Blast

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

REVIEW: Hysteria 30 years on gets a re-issue. Is it worth it the outlay for the re-masters?

IT'S hard not to be cynical when a plethora of re-issues emerge to mark a significant anniversary with multiple formats. But then again those albums mark moments in our youth when music marked coming of age.

With 30 years gone since Def Leppard released 'Hysteria' the band have marked it by offering a clatter of formats all re-mastered.

Truth be told we have ruminated on this for some time. The feeling about this is much the same we have about Metallica issuing a re-mastered series of Master of Puppets.

Both Leppard and Metallica's iconic gigs in the 1980s at Belfast's Ulster Hall were something special - hence our hesitancy in approaching Hysteria. On that tour Leppard played Northern Ireland three times. Two consecutive nights in the Ulster Hall, with Tesla and an in-the-round show at the King's Hall.

Seared into memory of thousands those shows and songs like 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Love Bites' and 'Armageddon It' - not to mention 'Animal'.

The story of 'Hysteria' is a remarkable one in and of itself. The aborted sessions with Jim Steinman, the car accident that saw Rick Allen lose his left arm and drafting in Mutt Lange along with the tortuous time he took to mix every track and including a year's break.

With 'Pyromania' previously bothering the UK and US charts 'Hysteria' was eagerly awaited by cynical critics and slightly nervous fans.

But almost instantly all instinctively knew it was a special release. From their NWOBHM roots they now achieved the rock alchemists dream of songs that kept existing fans happy and attracted new mainstream fans.

Three decades on and we have Joe Elliott on the BBC Breakfast News, massive over-conflated features in magazines and whole hills of hyperbole.

With 30 million copies sold of 'Hysteria' worldwide sold do we really need another one on our musical collection?

As said we have ruminated about this question for some time, so let's get down to what's on offer.

There's a five CD, two DVD deluxe edition with four books - including a Ross Halfin photo book - and a tour poster. There's also a three CD edition, a single CD, a double vinyl album, and a double album of picture discs - all re-mastered.

All in sumptuous packaging...

Having consulted a range of friends either our original LPs have been lost or are worse for wear. True we may have the CD but this selection of formats does represent something for collectors, especially the coloured vinyl.

It may be time to do the Lotto to afford the full package of this and Master of Puppets...But if you have the cash it will be an investment...until the 40th anniversary re-issue.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

All formats are available now on Bludgeon Riffola/UMC/Mercury

ALBUM REVIEW: Portrait set the metal afire on fourth album Burn The World

FOR their fourth full-length album Portrait have pulled out all the stops on a set of tracks that reflect just how heavy metal can be delivered when done right.

'Burn The World' pummels you with only brief respite in a lesson for many who doubt that metal has a tendency to disappear up its own arse at times.

This is a release that showcases how to keep everything in balance. From the sharp blasts of 'The Sower's Cross' and 'To Die For' it also explores lengthier structures.

'Martyrs' opens with a riff reminiscent of Maiden or Helloween, but rapidly develops into a song that has the Portrait stamp. Like closer 'Pure of Heart' it has enough space to allow development of the song; its musical and lyrical themes given space to develop.

Christian and Robin trade licks and at times it is almost like they have tapped into the soul of Lizzy, UFO and early Maiden in an evolutionary step forward. Twin melody lines traded off against each other, solos that meld seamlessly...

True there are times when some of Per's vocals stray into King Diamond territory, but for fuck sake don't many modern vocalists. What is perhaps more relevant is the variety in his singing.

The use of a more contemporary structure for the title track is impressive, which is something that is perhaps revealing about 'Burn The World'.

The band have always promised much and been deservedly recognised for their progress since the series of releases that eventually saw them signed to Metal Blade in 2011, but this seems like the realisation of everything they have been working towards.

The lyrical lashing of the forces threatening the world, the tight structuring of each song (with the exception of the unnecessary instrumental 'Further She Rode') means 'Burn The World' is an album that shows Portrait are ready for the next step.

Oh, and having Set Teitan (Watain) and Hell's Kevin Bower making guest appearances is an added bonus!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Burn The World is available now on Metal Blade

ALBUM REVIEW: Scimitar produce a curate's egg on début release Where Darkness Dwells

AS a young thrash band it can be a hard path to carve in a crowded marketplace, but so far Scimitar have earned their stripes and come out strong. However, on their début release 'Where Darkness Dwells' they have may missed an opportunity.

Don't get us wrong - there are (leaving aside the brief intro 'Sands of Sorrow) six very strong original tracks that reflect their ethos and talent.

But, an unnecessary cover of 'Ace of Spades' and a live version of the titular 'Scimitar' means that what could have been a more complete album. Two more originals could have avoided the album fading out on a whimper compared to the blast of the rest of the 'Where Darkness Dwells'

But, enough of the negative. There are some outstanding tracks on it. 'Behead The Beast' is as much a stormer on here as it is on stage.

Keeping true to their mélange of US, Teutonic and good old UK and Irish thrash there is pace and power on 'Behead The Beast', as there is on 'Unholy Forger'.

At times the mix doesn't come out strong, but it is a minor niggle, with the likes of 'Cursed City' and 'Back to War' rollicking along at a good tempo.

As an experienced live act Scimitar have managed to capture the energy of their performances, and as always their musicianship is exemplary. Jonny tears up the rule-book with his passionate singing, while John riffs as if his life depends on it, added to solos that are not only impressive, but match the sentiment of each track.

The rhythm section of Chriz and Ryan are probably one of the best on the scene, not only keeping songs rolling along, but using their instruments to punctuate and lift the sensibility of the album.

The cover of 'Ace of Spades' is unnecessary and would have best been reserved for live outings...

Closer, a liver version of 'Scimitar' from the Thrashersaurus show in Norwich is well executed, but whether it adds to a début album is open to debate.

What the band have achieved on 'Where Darkness Dwells' is some excellent tracks, let down by not adding more material.

That said, this bodes well for Scimitar's progress up the thrash ranks.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Where Darkness Dwells is out now on CD and as a digital download.

NEWS: Pat McManus to headline Belfast City Blues fundraiser at Belfast's Empire

WITH the success of the Belfast City Blues Festival 2017 still ringing in fans’ ears next year’s thrust begins next month with a star-studded fundraiser headlined by six-string slinging Pat McManus.

The fundraising show is at Belfast’s Empire on September 16, with proceeds going to support next year’s city wide festival.

The full line-up sees Blackwood deliver their ‘Taste of Rory’ tribute to the late, great Rory Gallagher, the usual stunning set from The Willie Byrne Band and the always mesmerizing guitar histrionics of The Pat McManus Band.

Festival Director Seamus O’Neill said: “This is a special show, not just because of these three great acts, but because this is about making sure the Belfast Blues Festival in 2018 will be bigger and better than ever.

“Anyone who saw Pat, Willie and Blackwood at this year’s festival knows they deliver songs that will knock you over!”

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.cleardot.gif

Tickets for the fundraising show are on sale now, priced £12.50 (+ booking fee) from all Ticketmaster outlets.

Monday, August 28, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Inflammatory, nostalgic and still relevant - Stiff Little Fingers blast the past with superb supporting cast

WHEN the term 'heyday' is thrown around willy nilly, usually by those who choose not to stay up-to-date with a groups current status. But fans know that strong bands are always in their heyday; and when it comes to Stiff Little Fingers today they are more relevant than ever.

When SLF and a mighty clatter of supporting acts blasted a balmy night at Custom House Square, Belfast (Saturday, 26th August) the mix of nostalgia and inflammatory music proved that the counter-culture labelled punk still packs a punch.

Young and old packed a sold out square, and those lucky to have apartments over-looking the stage, rocked, sang and partied.

True - the bands have noticeably aged, but the music still sounds fresh.

Opening where local snarlsters The Outcasts, who delivered wit with a wry grin as they pounded out 'classics' with verve. There were few who could claim they were 'Just Another Teenage Rebel' but that mattered not.

Closing with 'The Cops Are Comin' and 'You're A Disease' this was a set that had the entire place singing, and smiling.

Relaxed, but still packing a punch, Ruts DC rallied the counter-culture refugees showcasing tracks that have been stuck in the collective consciousness. Yes, 'Music Must Destroy' and it did on Saturday night.

The evocative 'In A Rut' and singalong 'Babylon's Burning' may have been the best known, but Ruts DC had no fillers in their set.

The Stranglers have also a catalogue of songs that are guaranteed to be greeted by people greedy for the melody, and they didn't disappoint.

Sure, 'Always The Sun' and 'Golden Brown' were the tracks best known, along with 'Nice 'n' Sleazy', but the likes of 'Bear Cage'  and 'Relentless were beasts live.

If the line-up of The Outcasts, Ruts DC and The Stranglers were to play Belfast it would be enough to attract a healthy crowd. To have them opening for Stiff Little Fingers was an added bonus for what is a special occasion in its own right.

40 years ago a legend was born, a legend that has resonated for decades, spoken to the hearts of people, rallied against injustice, and fought for what is right both in music and in words.

Still proving the doubters wrong at every turn Stiff Little Fingers electrify every time they take to the stage, but this homecoming gig exceeded all.

As the strains of 'Go For It' had the venue humming and yelling before a fast and furious 'Wasted Life' struck Belfast like a hurricane.

Jake was in fine form between tracks, but he could have remained mute between each song and it would have been no less impressive. There is such a wealth of material that the range of emotions are taken for a roller coaster.

Tackling the issue of depression on 'My Dark Places', the futility of violence on 'Johnny Was' and stifling domesticity on 'Safe As Houses', the messages have not been weakened by the familiarity of the songs.

The angst of youth as expressed by' At The Edge' and 'Gotta Getaway' may be messages penned yonks ago, but for every teenager still feeling that way there were thousands of middle-aged people in Custom House Square who still reflect on that period and reflect on their lives right now.

And, to a certain extent that was displayed on 'When We Were Young', a cry to keep pushing, never stop striving for our dreams, and never mind those who doubt us.

This wasn't just a Belfast audience - the momentousness of a 40th Anniversary show in the birthplace of SLF drew fans from across the UK, all dedicated to raise their rigid digits aloft.

To hear songs like 'Breakout' and 'Straw Dogs' on stage was a treat for all, but every SLF knows that the trio of 'Nobody's Hero', Tin Soldiers' and 'Suspect Device' close the main set at such a pace that the break for the encore is needed for a few minutes by band and audience.

Exhausted, but delighted...And, then the closing songs. 'Johnny Was', Gotta Getaway', and the national anthem of the disaffected populace of Northern Ireland, 'Alternative Ulster'.

While mainstream media largely looks on punk, hard rock and metal with a patronising wee pat on the head, indulgence before turned to auto-tuned shite and praising people playing their lap tops the cadre who gathered at Custom House Square still scream their disaffection to the skies.

Yes, punk is still relevant. A little older and a lot more cynical, but the ethos still holds true.

Stiff Little Fingers may be 40, but they still speak for many, and their songs are as relevant as ever; and may be more relevant than ever in this post-reality life. SLF is the antidote to complacency, the antibiotic for the bacteria of bastards in power.

Fuck the 'Fake News' narrative and join the legions of the angry - and "Question everything you're told".

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh