Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NEWS: Supergroup Sons of Apollo to make Irish début

METAL supergrouop, Sons of Apollo are to play their début Irish show at Limelight 1, Belfast on Tuesday, July 3rd.
The stellar line-up features members of Dream Theater, Mr. Big, Guns ‘N Roses and Journey.

Reuniting Mick Portnoy and Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater the band recruited guitatist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thai of Guns ‘n’ Roses, bass sensation Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, Dave Lee Roth), and singing superstar Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey).

Their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, is out now on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music.
Psychotic Symphony was produced by the dynamic production duo of Portnoy and Sherinian, also affectionately known as “The Del Fuvio Brothers,” the nickname given to them over 20 years ago during their time together in Dream Theater.

Sons of Apollo formed very organically, its seeds planted with a predecessor group, as Portnoy explained: “Derek and I reunited shortly after I left Dream Theater in 2010 and we put together an all-instrumental touring band with Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine.

“That was my first time working with Derek since the ‘90s when he was in Dream Theater, and it was just great to be working with him again.

“Ever since that tour, which was really just a one-off live thing, he has been nudging me to start a real, original, full-time band. The timing just had never been right, because I had too many other things on my plate. Long story short, the time was finally right to take the bait and put together a band.”

“Mike and I work at a relentless pace in the studio,” continues Sherinian. “The music is modern, but we have an old-school soul. What is unique about SONS OF APOLLO is that we have true rock n’ roll swagger along with the virtuosity-- a lethal combination!”

But what to call the next great supergroup? “Derek was mainly the one behind the name,” says Portnoy. “I have a list that I keep on my phone of about a hundred different band names, which I constantly have to refer to every time I have a new band every year (laughs). So I pulled up the list and Apollo was one of the names on the list. It was a word that both of us really liked. We started fiddling with different variations of the word.

“One of the original band names we were working with was Apollo Creed, the character from the Rocky movies, but after lots of different discussions on different variations, Derek suggested SONS OF APOLLO and it seemed to stick. Apollo is the god of music, so with that in mind it seemed like a fitting name.”

With Portnoy, Sherinian and Sheehan having previously toured together in the aforementioned line-up that came to be known as PSMS, playing instrumental versions of various songs drawn from each member’s history, Sons of Apollo was the next logical step. They kept that fire burning and stoked it higher by bringing in a different guitarist, adding a vocalist, and creating all original material. The nine songs comprising Psychotic Symphony incorporate the progressive style and individual technical prowess Portnoy and Sherinian shared together in Dream Theater, combined with the swagger and groove of Van Halen, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

“I have known Mike and Derek for a long time, so when they came to me with Sons of Apollo, I jumped on this straight away,” says Thomas Waber, Label Manager/A&R International of InsideOutMusic. “However, the album they ended up recording exceeded my already high expectations by a long mile! We couldn’t be happier about it!”

“This is a real band,” Portnoy declares. “This is going to pick up for me and Billy where The Winery Dogs left off, in terms of this being the next logical full-time thing for us. I’m not saying The Winery Dogs have broken up, because we haven’t, we’re just on a break. SONS OF APOLLO is absolutely going to be a full-time band and we plan on touring all over the world throughout 2018 and, honestly, it is the priority for all five of us.”

Sherinian agrees, “We will go on a worldwide crusade in 2018 to bring SONS OF APOLLO to as many people as possible. Apollo was the God of Music, and we are his mighty offspring!”

SONS OF APOLLO play Limelight 1, Belfast as part of their world tour and will be their first ever show in Ireland. Ticket’s priced £20+B/F go on sale this Thursday at 9am from www.Ticketmaster.ie and all usual outlets including DV8, Beflast and Katy’s Bar.

NEWS: Hendrix of the Harmonica Will Wilide launches Wizard video

WHILE the concept of harmonica tracks piquing some people's curiosity when we reviewed the forthcoming album from Will Wilde 'Bring It On Home' (review is here) you can get a chance to listen to his cover of Sabbath's 'The Wizard' below.

Of course, The Wizard was a well practised song by the time Sabbath released it, its origins coming from their time as the jazz/blues under the moniker Earth.

Here's what Will said about it: “I wanted to pay tribute to the mighty Black Sabbath with this cover. The Wizard is arguably the heaviest rock song of all time to feature harmonica as a lead instrument.  It sums up the ethos behind my new album."

Here's Will's video for Wizard - see what you think:

NEWS: No Hot Ashes to be joined by rocker royalty FM for album launch show in April

BELFAST'S No Hot Ashes will launch their long-awaited début album in Limelight2 on Friday, April 6th.

And, they are set to be joined by rock royalty FM, who will be playing an acoustic set.

No Hot Ashes self-titled album on Frontiers Music Srl is available on March 23rd - just months ahead of playing Download.
No Hot Ashes album cover

You can listen to the track 'Boulder' from the album - an emotional tribute to singer Eamon Nancarrow - below.

Originally formed in 1983, No Hot Ashes were influenced by UFO, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Journey, Foreigner, Thin Lizzy and other Classic Rock/AOR acts of that era. They released their first single, ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, in 1986 and supported bands such as Mama’s Boys, Magnum, Girlschool and Steve Marriott’s Packet of Three.

The group signed a record deal with GWR Records in early 1988, joining Motorhead, Girlschool and Hawkwind on that label’s roster.

They also relocated to London in order to be closer to the company and made an album before the end of that year. However, delays then occurred in getting it released and by the end of 1990 the band had called it a day and the record was shelved.

That should have been it, but in September 2013 NHA reformed for a one-off tribute gig which subsequently snowballed.
Northern Ireland rock band No Hot Ashes

Performing what can be described as Classic Melodic Rock with a contemporary twist, they have been delighting new fans in the years since with their hook-laden guitar and keyboard driven songs, supporting Aerosmith, Foreigner, UFO and Scorpions along the way and touring the UK with FM and Romeo’s Daughter.

They have also performed at major festivals such as Hard Rock Hell AOR, Download, London Calling, Ramblin’ Man, Steelhouse, Rockingham and the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, going down a storm each time.

NHA are currently preparing to hit the road in support of what is now a very eagerly anticipated debut album, with shows already planned for late spring and summer 2018. They will appear of Download's Dogtooth stage. Download takes place at Donington Park from 8-10th June. Apparently there are some other emerging bands playing such as Guns n Roses...
No Hot Ashes and FM poster

Unfortunately for the group, the pleasure of releasing the album is also tinged with great sadness as founding member, bass player and close friend Paul Boyd tragically lost a brave battle with cancer in 2017. Paul appears on the album and the band are respectfully dedicating its release to his memory.

Vocalist Eamon Nancarrow said: "35 years ago we started a journey as band members and friends. We've had some incredible highs and some devastating lows. We lost Paul Boyd to cancer in January last year. He played and sang on this album. I cannot tell you how proud I am of it and him. The songs are massive, the production immense.

"The world needs this album because there is always room in life for quality. Listen and enjoy.”

1 Come Alive
2 Good To Look Back
3 Satisfied
4 Boulders
5 I’m Back
6 Glow
7 Over Again
8 Jonny Redhead
9 Souls
10 Running Red Lights
Produced by Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp

Monday, February 19, 2018

INTERVIEW: Filippa of Thundermother discusses the new line-up ahead of album launch on Friday

ON Friday, February 23rd Thundermother release their third album, with an all-new line-up (review here) on Despotz Records.

Ahead of the release we caught up with founder and guitarist Filippa Nassil to hear how the band have returned resurgent and ready to rock Europe - and maybe even some UK dates that could include our wee corner of he world.

Listen to the chat below...

NEWS: Myles Kennedy releases lyric video fr Devil On the Wall

WE know you lot have a soft spot for Alter Bridge and as anticipation continues to build for Myles Kennedy’s debut solo album, Year Of The Tiger, another lyric video is released worldwide.

The video for the 3rd track, “Devil On The Wall,” can be seen below.

The album will be released worldwide on March 9th by Napalm Records. Fans that pre-order (http://smarturl.it/MK- YearOfTheTiger) the download of Year Of The Tiger through a digital retailer will receive an instant download of the song as well as the first single “Year Of The Tiger” and recently released “Haunted By Design.”

The album is also currently available for pre-order in various bundle configurations at: http://smarturl.it/ YearOfTheTiger-NPR and www.MylesKennedy.com.

Year Of The Tiger, is Myles' first venture as a solo artist by embracing musical elements and influences he hasn’t explored until this point in his career.

Kennedy himself plays banjo, lap steel, bass, and mandolin in addition to guitar throughout the album. The emotional journey and personal story of Myles is captured in a bluesy-americana album with a twist of country and rock, swirling and flowing around this incredible soulful voice the world has come to know.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

LIVE REVIEW: Party at Piratefest with Alestorm and compadres of chaos

GUYS wearing balaclavas, a bloke playing a flute and copious alcohol consumed in Belfast - no it's not some throwback to the Troubles. It's Alestorm back in town for another Piratefest at the Mandella Hall.

As always it's a show packed with much silliness, excellent playing and more innuendos and banter than should be allowed on any given Thursday; all combined with copious amounts of folk/pirate metal musicianship.

Kicking off the madness were Rumahoy - all wearing balaclavas and as cocksure as any band when they opened with the duo of 'Ahoy!' and 'Quest for Heritage'.

At times the between songs banter from the North Carolina four-piece was a little forced, but they definitely won in best song title stakes with 'Netflix and Yar'. The title track of their album 'The Triumph of Piracy' was the highlight of their brief set.

All the way from California to drink Buckfast came the Dread Crew of Oddwood...oh and they played some music too. One audience member gave a pretty good summation of them as "The Pogues do Pirate Metal".

They seemed to be genuinely having fun in a smooth set - and we don't think it was just the Bucky. And, with a song like 'Raise Your Pints' it was an appropriate choice.

At one point the audience was challenged if we'd ever moshed to a mandolin and accordion prior to that night - well the answer may be yes, but we let that slide as the wonderful 'Expedition on a Heavy Submarine' roared across the packed masses.

That being said the tracks that really caught the mood were 'Sulfur' and 'Heavy Mahogany'.

When the Alestorm stage set was unveiled of course there was a massive rubber duck dominating it...well it is Alestorm.

As the strains of 'Blazing Saddles' faded the band launched into a high tempo version of 'Keelhauled' and the first of the massed singalongs of the evening.

There was not a tune that had its chorus belted out by the audience. 'Magnetic North' and 'Mexico' already had throats hoarse...maybe that was why so many were swallowing copious amounts of beer.

Bowes as always was the ringmaster supreme - explanations and expletives, directing a wall of death, and grinning with piratical pride at the response from the audience. And quaffing drink throughout

To pick a stand out song would be unfair as the familiarity of 'Hangover', 'Drink', 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' and 'Nancy The Tavern Wench' are etched in fans DNA by now.

However, '1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)' and 'Bar und Imbiss' saw perfect renditions.

Were we 'Fucked With An Anchor' Damn straight we were!

Alestorm don't need pirate costumes to showcase their pirate metal credentials. Nor do they attempt to prove anything.

They get on stage, do their schtick with style and leave everyone grinning at the end of the night. Can't ask any more than that.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Wayne Donaldson

ALBUM REVIEW: A Little Bitter produce an album of tenderness and anger on the wonderful Arrows

GIVEN the lengthy gestation period for A Little Bitter's new album, 'Arrows', it is fair to say that this has been eagerly awaited by fans of the three-piece.

Has the wait been worth it? It has been worth every fucking second since 'New Dawn Evolution' was unleashed.

'Arrows' shows a band more mature, comfortable in what they produce, sure-footed in every note written and every lyric penned.

For example, if there is justice in the world, 'A Long Way Down' would be making the playlists of every rock radio station in the world, with its carefully crafted arrangement.

But, that's not to say that this album is without metallic muscle. Title track lulls listeners in with discordant harmonics before the band's inner DC is channelled and the bass line propels it into a full-scale classic roc assault with Jonathan Armstrong's spilling invective before a glorious ALB chorus.

This all makes this a difficult album to categorise. There are elements of hard rock, a touch of alt, a smattering of metal and balladic moments. And, that really is its strength, not stopping to consider fashion, trends or the bullshit around the music industry, just writing and playing from the heart, as on 'Caught In A Sorrow' sheer heartfelt beauty.

'Faith' is sure to be live-stalwart. The cynical words of other tracks are given over to hopes of better days, forgiveness and devotion. If Feeder ever hear this song they'll quit.

A Little Bitter have always exemplified musicianship, but on 'Arrows' they have taken it to the next level; balancing their playing, with clear separation. No instrument over-shadows another. Seamus Donnelly's bass lines roll along, adding the depth needed, while Darren Pilkington's drums have the right take between sensible playing and adding flourishes. Armstrong's playing is probably the best he has ever laid down on his six-string.

The tenderly tragic tale told in 'Weekend Girl' probably has the most poignant opening lines: "She gets dressed in a vodka haze, killing time just to waste her days til the weekend comes."

From the moment the opening harmonics leading up to verses that paint a downfall and tragedy, an onomatopoeic, restrained solo the pain is painted for those lost. Tears in the eyes stuff.

The child counting in 'Diamonds' bass propelled intro is the suitable jarring note after that, and its mighty meandering path of an instrumental that nod to heroes of the band. A suitable break from the emotional intensity that drips off the rest of the album, and a worthy tribute to the Diamond Rock Club.

This is a nearly flawless set of nine songs. The only flaw is that it leaves the listener wanting more and more.

Closer, 'Ghost' has such depth, a perfect counterpoint to the opening rage of 'Feathers', displaying a band that knows how to arrange their songs in set to allow anyone to wallow in its glory.

Arrows has set the benchmark high for 2018 and what's more it has the quality to endure for many a year - or at least until the next A Little Bitter album...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Arrows will be launched at the Diamond Rock Club on February 24th, along with Stormzone's album launch

Saturday, February 17, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Stranglewire belch beautifully twisted madness on The Dark Triad

SOMETHING wicked this way comes - the Ray Bradbury book proclaimed: and in the end of days, when the world descends to its dystopian demise we need dark poetry to describe the wickedness within.

And, Stranglewire deliver the stanzas of agony, whilst grabbing you around the throat, kicking you in the nether regions and weave their worms into your cerebral cortex.

'The Dark Triad' is a descent into terror accompanied by a soundtrack that will instil fear into all but the stoutest hearts.

Birthed from the bastard offspring of several of Northern Ireland's denizens of the dark underworld Stranglewire first hinted of their ascent with the EP, Narcissim.

It is the tracks of that EP that form the opening of this trilogy of concepts - Psychopathy and Machiavellianism being the other two part of the triad.

Taking the surrounding lyrics descent into the bleeding ears is a musical structure that is compelling as it corrupts. Closer 'Den of Iniquity' eats into your ears with its mid-paced menace and is one of the finest examples of how death metal can be both meaningful and filled with restrained ferocity.

Labelling themselves s I to V the five piece what is apparent is the musical majesty delivered with a deathly chill.

But to label Stranglewire as 'death metal' is too simplistic. The Dark Triad contains a diverse expression of heavy intent. There is velocity, grind and all round expressions of what can be achieved when extreme music is pushed to the very boundaries of expressiveness.

This is an immersive listen. This is an uncomfortable listen. And, it is that uncomfortable feeling that makes these six tracks so remarkable.

If 'Psychopathic Blue' and 'Through The Black Lens' don't have you worrisome and feeling wondering about your own mortality as your ears bleed and dark ichor drips from your eyes then you haven't been paying attention.

Chris Fielding's production gives a clarity to The Dark Triad, without ever threatening to lessen the murkiness of the band's sound.

Stranglewire have produced an album that will propel them through the underground to greater audience reach.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Dark Triad is released on Grindscene Records on March 23rd.

LIVE REVIEW: Alient Ant Farm and SOiL prove they are more than one hit wonders

NO matter how well-versed one is on the subject of heavy rock/metal, there’s always going to be bands that slip through the cracks; ones that you vaguely know have quite a respectable back catalogue of albums, but you may only know one or two songs from them.

Thursday night’s gig in Limelight 1 comprised of not one, but two such bands: Alien Ant Farm and SOiL. The fact that the gig was upgraded from LL2 to LL1 is testimony to the fact that both bands have large and enthusiastic fan bases, but there was also a definite sense of curiosity amongst many of the patrons who knew the ‘big’ songs and were willing to check out each band’s entire set to see if there was more to them.

Chicago duo Local H opened proceedings with their reverb-heavy, grungy guitar rock, and soon had the crowd warmed up admirably; all were impressed in equal parts with both the quality of their music and the fact that it came from just two people.

With their easy banter and catchy tunes, it’s clear to see why their social media ‘likes’ are rising at a terrific pace.

Such is the reaction from the crowd when SOiL hit the stage that you could be led to think that they were the headliners, or at the very least that this was a co-headlining tour.

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

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

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

The crowd respond with unadulterated joy, roaring along to the lyrics, hanging on McComb’s every word and headbanging with abandon.

Their enthusiasm is rewarded in spades when McCombs exits the stage and performs their biggest hit ‘Halo’ from WITHIN the audience, handing his microphone to several delirious fans and turning the song into the ultimate in audience participation. Crazy, exuberant and unforgettable - particularly for the lucky throng the surrounded him – SoiL prove tonight that they are a cut above the rest, and more than just ‘that’ song.

As prompt as Big Ben (they even use an alarm clock intro), Alien Ant Farm take to the stage at their allotted time with a steely glint in their eyes, seemingly determined to prove that they, too, are more than just a ‘one song’ band.

Right from their opening track ‘Bad Morning’ it seems that they are: all thunderous, thrashy, wailing rock, it’s also unexpectedly dark, and far from the pop punk scamps they appear as in the ‘Smooth Criminal’ video.

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

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

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

For the curious among the audience, there’s a gratifying range of influences woven through the band’s music, from the obvious (pop punk) to the interesting (reggae, blues) to the downright startling (the bassline in ‘Glow’ is pure Steely Dan ‘Reelin’ in the Years’).

They also, surprisingly to some, seem to be channelling the Deftones throughout; in fact, ‘Deftones do pop punk’ would be a pretty apt, if rather simplistic, description of them, should you ever require one.

‘Wish’ wraps up the main part of their set with a staccato beat and low, low bass that you can feel in your throat.

After a few minutes they reappear, launching their encore with ‘Sticks and Stones’ and finally, of course, their boisterous cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, which practically has the crowd swinging from the ceiling and busting out their highest pitched “woo!”s; it’s  truly a joy to behold.

As the crowd file out into the cold Belfast night, it’s clear that each band has gained new fans based on all of their music, as well as sating the appetites of their long-time fans who already knew how brilliant they were.

Having one song that towers over the rest of your back catalogue can be burdensome; tonight (and undoubtedly for the rest of the tour) both SOiL and Alien Ant Farm surmounted the challenge admirably.

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Friday, February 16, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Schenker Fest more than just reliving the past on Resurrection

MANY years ago a few mad fuckers saw MSG play in Belfast's Ulster Hall, Baal et al over-indulged and rocked like only teenagers can, fuelled by booze, hormones and a love of damn fine rock and roll.

When Michael Schenker Fest launched last year's album, DVD and Blu-Ray it was a lovely trip down memory lane, but what next for the German maestro of the Flying V?

It would have been easy for Mr Schenker to tour the shit out of past glories, accompanied by his compadres of yesteryear. And, to be honest most of us would have been happy with that.

But, all hail Schenker, Barden, Bonnet, McCauley, White and the band because they have pulled out all the stops and produced an album in the shape of 'Resurrection' that adds a new definition to the word sublime.

It is 52 minutes to wallow in, love and on just the first play you may want to resist, but like the teenager that first saw Michael you are singing along and dreaming that you have that iconic Flying V in your hands.

'Heart and Soul' kicks off frenetically, Steve Mann riffing along as Schenker plays like only he can - some of the licks will leave your jaw drooping on the floor. A certain Kirk Hammett also puts in a guest spot...

But what is most important about this album is while it is so multi-dimensional and songs are its core. Yes Michael's guitar work is head and shoulder above most - but each track has a narrative.

And, a certain Mr Blackmore could listen to 'Warrior' and learn a few lessons...

And, when the organ gives way to the full-on blast of 'Take Me To The Church' it is as close t orgasmic as those of a certain can achieve outside the bedroom without Viagra.

Originally Schenker had certain plans about who would sing each song but with the evolution of recording it became clear that the layered approach worked on 'Warrior' and ''Last Supper'.

And, 'Night Moves' is the perfect sequel to Bonnet's 'Night Games'..

By all the rock gods 'The Girl With Stars In Her Eyes; is an MSG song pure and simple.

Schenker fans will flock to this release - but they shouldn't be alone. Anyone, and we mean anyone who appreciates hard rock and guitar playing par excellence will greedily add this to their collection.

The playing on 'Everest' and 'Salvation' will have all comers salivating. At times sounding languid, at times flourishes flow with an ease that Zakk Whylde himself will bow down in awe such is the expressiveness of Schenker's playing.

There are so many facets to 'Resurrection' that the 50-odd minutes fly by.

It is such a complete set of  song-driven hard rock by experienced players that this release will endure.

It is such a well balanced album that it may eclipse the so-called classics when aired live. Just go and listen and revel in it.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Resurrection is out on Nuclear Blast on March 2nd

EP REVIEW: Oracle growl through the grooves on Tales Of Pythia

WITH a snarl and a scowl Oracle cast their jaundiced groove on a world that is fucked up, almost beyond repair as they kick off their recording career with the splendidly dark 'Tales Of Pythia'.

Following on from their impressive performance in Heat Two of Northern Ireland's Metal2TheMasses this EP is a statement of intent a collection of five dark tracks.

What is clear from the offset that they have absorbed their influences like a metallic sponge, digested them and spat them out with a Belfast anger and bile that makes even the most casual listener sit up and take notice.

While 'No God Waits For You' broods with barely repressed anger, 'The High Priestess' riffs and roll grab you by the neck and delivers several quick knees to your abdomen.

Many rely on their muscular music and the sense, content and meaning can be lost, but on this début release Oracle have substance in all the tracks.

Delving into personal experience, reaching into ancient Grecian history of the Oracle (geddit!) of Delphi, the titular Pythia, this is a construct to shine a stark light on 21st Century society.

For those not up on their Delphinic stories ancients went to the Oracle to get mystic visions from a probably imprisoned woman, who was hallucinating from the sulphur and other noxious chemicals in a volcanically active area.

She was, also, essentially unware of what the fuck was going on outside her prison.

And, Oracle use this as a metaphor for the modern age - glued to our screens, looking down for the next thing we can but, watch, or slag off.

'Burn The Nameless' and 'Prisons' encapsulate this. Indeed, 'Prisons' comes across as a deeply personal track with the backdrop of a dystopian era we are about to enter.

But, what is most striking about this collection of five tracks is that Oracle have honed their skill on stage; translated that rage on to an EP; and, should they keep this standard they are surely going to emerge as the latest NI contenders.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

INTERVIEW: Rumahoy's Captain Yarface speaks out..

WE have met, drank with and interviewed many artists since this site first launched in 2006.

The vast majority keep their stage persona for the moment the interview begins or they hit the stage.

Not Captain Yarface of Rumahoy. No, even when we met at the pre-appointed time before the interview he was clad in a balaclava with the piratical accented voice in his greeting.

Busting for a piss this immense pirate spared us the minutes the peak behind the mask...okay, he didn't. He just did what Captain Yarface does....

Thursday, February 15, 2018

NEWS: Mr Big's Eric Martin teams up with David Cotterill for Belfast acoustic date

THE voice of Mr Big, Eric Martin is playing Belfast with David Cotterill this coming October with an acoustic show of Mr Big hits and Eric's solo material.

As part of the UK tour the Belfast Empire date is confirmed as October 26th.

The dates follow on from Mr Big's recent tour and after their much heralded appearance at leading metal festival, Bloodstock.

Tickets are on sale now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Harmonica hard rock covers from Will Wilde on 'Bring It On Home'

WHEN a PR company sends you an album of hard rock with a harmonica the featured instrument for  moment you wonder if rock n roll has finally jumped the shark...or are you tripping from something someone gave you at a festival last year.

But being obligated to at least give it a chance one reads the press release about harmonica maestro Will Wilde and discover it is an album of cover versions...the 'Dubious Hat' is donned; a stiff drink is poured and a deep breath taken.

Well, for a Northern Ireland-based site it's always a good sign when our late adopted son, Rory Gallagher's track 'Bad Penny' opens the proceedings. Faithful cover with the bluesy tones of Rory's playing given a unique subtle twist.

'Bring It On Home: A Tribute to British and Irish Blues and Rock' is, however, a strange beast. The covers of the tracks are given that expressive harmonica touch, even if some are penalty kicks, such as Sabbath's 'The Wizard'.

Others are given an extra dimension, in particular Deep Purple's 'Lazy' that is given a real bluesy touch.

Equally John Mayall's 'I'm Your Witchdoctor' oozes with passion.

But there is an issue here. Wilde is such a tremendous harmonica player that we were left begging to hear original tracks - hard rockin' harmonica groove.

That being said it is an enjoyable listen - you can check out the bonus track and video of Wilde's 'Parisienne Walkways' and hear his soulful playing.

That he has ambitions is clear by taking on Tull's 'Locomotive Breath' where the song is given an extra dimension, that would have been a perfect cover with some more aggressiveness in the vocal delivery.

The unique tunings of his harmonica mean he can reach tones and notes that match guitar lines.

As such he stand-out song is 'Bring It On Home' a great interpretation of 'Sonny Boy Williamson/Led Zeppelin that is leant an urgency by Wilde's playing.

This is a great covers album but it would have been a much better collection with some of this talented man's own songs.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Bring It On Home is released on March 9th

ALBUM REVIEW: Falling Red deliver sleaze smorgasbord on Lost Souls

ONE wonders what the residents of Cumbria must make of Falling Red - they're not what you would expect from that rugged landscapes - instead it is a glammed up party machine that packs musical punch as all can attest to who have seen their live show.

On new release 'Lost Souls' they not only capture that but they belt it out of the park, into orbit.

Looking like escapees from Sunset Blvd taking refuge in England they may seem like just another sleaze band, but they are much, much more than that..

This is a diverse collection of tracks. From the pureblood sleaze, through ballads to real metallic punch.

And, there is meaning in their tracks, such as the socially aware 'Digital Disguise' and the plaintive balladic ode 'My Town, My City'.

The band says they are "post-sleaze" but sticking on the monicker 'post' does them a disservice. Instead they should be just labelled "damn-good Hard Rock!"

There is depth on this album - 'Alive' is a track many of the current rock stadium bands would be proud of.

Throughout Andrew Roze compelling vocals merge with his and Shane Kirk guitar work, melding melodies and muscle in the work-outs.

On the hard-edged - in all senses - 'Dead' Dave Sanders (drums) and Mikey Lawless (bass) propel the track on with an insistent rhythm as the gang shout-out from all snarls from the speakers to emphasise the message of the song. "We are the lost, the chosen few. The Time is now, it's waiting for you".

'Ememies' is the one-track that sounds like it was birthed in Hollywood, with its snaking guitar, anger at an individual and glorious chorus.

Looking back through many of the so-called sleaze bands in the 80s, they produced albums with real diversity, punk, metal, ballads, personal 'stuff' and Americana influences. Which is what this Cumbrian four-piece have given us here.

Falling Red have delivered a smorgasbord of sleaze on Lost Souls: they shouldn't be ashamed of the sleaze label, but take it on board, and deliver the damn fine hard rock 'n' fucking roll.

This is an album of 13 great songs that any fan of rock will greedy devour, singalong to and at the end of the 45 minutes emerge with jaw wide grin.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Lost Souls is released on March 16th

LIVE REVIEW: When Anvil Pounded the Pavements of Belfast

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

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

Stormzone (Harv, Steve, Graham, Dave and Jr)  took to the stage and blew away any cold February blues anyone had firing off on all guns appropriately enough with ‘Where We Belong’.

And, they certainly did belong on that stage. Next was their anthemic ‘Three Kings’ which let the band highlight once more their enthusiasm and metal energy onstage. Then came ‘The Pass Loning’, ‘You're not the same’ and ‘Death Dealer’. Each song delivered with passion and verve with each member of the band animatedly joining in.

The love of their art was plain to see and this spilled over into the audience. The set came to a close with ‘The Legend carries on’, a very fitting song for the band as they had just received the delivery of their latest album ‘Lucifer’s Factory’ which quite a few people picked up at their merch stand.

Each song was a perfect delivery of the band’s heavy rock/metal style of thrumming, chugging riffage tied together by Harv’s fearless vocals into one beautiful stage show.

Then a roar went up as Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, Robb Reiner and Chris Robertson strolled like mighty conquering heroes through the parting mass onto the stage.

Though Lips was feeling very under the weather, he showed his true metal grit as he launched into ‘March of the Crabs’ to a joyous reverberation of the crowd. Everyone knew something special was happening in front of their eyes. Anvil were playing Belfast!

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

The adoration and noise from those in attendance would rival any epic victory party.

Throwing themselves into each and every song with unbridled energy they continued to push the crowd into an ecstasy of fervent joy with ‘Doing What I Want’, which should be the theme song for their tenacious dedication to their art.

On it went with ‘Winged Assassins’ with an amazingly crowd pleasing intro from Chris Robertson doing a wonderfully animated Bass solo, with ‘Free as the Wind’ and ‘On Fire’ keeping the pace going.

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

Each and every time there was a pause, a resounding chant of ‘Anvil. Anvil. Anvil.’ lifted up from the floor like a prayer to the metal gods that there were more songs coming.

Anvil didn’t disappoint. Lips was a fantastic front man chatting and joking in-between with the crowd, which was lapped up with unadulterated reverence.  The crowd, without a doubt, appreciated the band’s presence in Belfast and the way Lips, Robb and Chris were giving it maximum metal.

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

The energy never abated, and with no signs of slacking Anvil continued their onslaught to rock the hell out of the Limelight with ‘Swing Thing’ and an amazing drum solo from Robb Reiner. ‘Ego’ kept the unstoppable metal flowing and then ‘Die For a Lie’ before finishing the main set with their signature tune of ‘Metal on Metal’.

The only disappointment for everyone there was Anvil left the stage as the gig was now over. But wait!! To the chants once more of ‘Anvil. Anvil. Anvil.’ on they came with one more song. And what a fantastic way to finish their visit to Belfast...covering Steppanwolf they utterly rocked ‘Born to be Wild’.

Overall, the whole gig was a very special event, and everyone there knew it.

Stromzone kicked it out of the park as ever with their set bringing their usual infectious energy to the proceedings and truly warming up the crowd.

Anvil put on a spectacular show that transcended the evening, age wise, music wise and fan wise. From those who have been long time aficionados to those just dropping in to see who these guys were, all were one in admiration by even the first few songs.

Many bands would kill for the adulation Anvil got in the Limelight and the place vibrated with the noise of the crowd. The whole atmosphere screamed ‘Metal is Life’ and everything else can melt into insignificance.

It was very apt that this titanic show in Belfast was ‘A night to remember’ for all the right reasons.
Simply put, you need to see Anvil. End of story.

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

Review by Ivor Whitten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh