Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, December 31, 2009

First you play Carrick....

Carrick Castle...Status Quo appear there and then they Rossi and Parfitt get OBEs in the New Year's Honours list. A coincidence?

That was the metal year that was...2009

THE triumphant seizure of the Christmas Number One by Rage Against the Machine was, for many, a fine way to round up what we here on this blog predicted would be a vintage year for metal. For once, in several years the sub-Butlins talent show that is the X-Factor did not have a vacuous so-called singer, claim their predicted 15 minutes of fame while everyone talked about Cowell and not the phone-in friends failure to have a serious success later on.

But that clouds the fact that X-Factor will be back next year with another range of numpties with no talent. However, we do hope that the campaign to get a Cannibal Corpse track to number one next Chrimbo...

So, with 2009 ending with a small victory for the loud, unapologetically guitar orientated, beer swilling masses (yeah, there are more of us than they suspect mwuhahah!) what was notable in the hard rock, heavy metal world over the last 12 months here in Norn Iron? What was the best album? What was the best gig?

As philosophers of many a bar note opinions are like arseholes...everyone has one so whatever we commend or condemn there will be those that disagree, those that laugh out loud with incredulity and those that murmur and agree. Please feel free to slag off this review of the year, disgree with the selections and point out glaring errors - just make sure to post the comments!

2009, also ended with a triumphant homecoming gig for the fine gentlemen of The Answer, storming the Ulster Hall, just as they had laid waste to the Mandella Hall a bare six months earlier. Fantastic gigs apart (and a tour with AC/DC to boot!) it saw Everyday Demons hit the shops, an album with more darkness than predecessor Rise, and deservedly picking up plaudits and sales. The question for The Answer is the timing of the next platter. Just as Rise tracks have reduced in favour of '...Demons' songs, how long before the band need the fresh flourish of new tracks to keep themselves and the audiences interested? However it comes out one can be sure that the 12 months have been one that has consolidated the band in all our hearts and provided real hope for every other act here. The gigs and Everyday Demons are our first honourable mention for the year about to pass into history.

Now, for a wee swing away from that...extreme metal. While metal and hard rock has clawed its way back to the mainstream's attention (Iron Maiden's victory at The Brits) extreme metal has had a year worthy of note. While 2008 ended with Slipknot bothering the charts (and ending 2009 with the release of the brilliant Sulfur video) the year's outstanding extreme metal album was Slayer's 'World Painted Blood';  a true return to form, building on Christ Illusion to deliver a dystopian, defiant diatribe to a cacophony of ire and satire.

Honourable mention to Lamb of God for Wrath and a reportedly brutal Mandalla Hall gig. Also, one of the favourite platters of the year was Devildriver's Pray for Villains. The doubters that Dez would always struggle to shed the albatross of Coal Chamber off his back are the cantankerous minority who refuse to revel in the sheer metallic magnificence of Pray for Villains.

And, when it comes to putting extreme metal (and other forms) to the fore the work of James and the Distortion Project this year (and for the past decade!) must be mentioned. Everyone who has spent a Saturday afternoon losing hearing and destroying a liver at the Limer knows how much recognition the Distortion Project deserves for keeping the metal flame burning bright, notwithstanding the many other achievements such as bringing the likes of Amon Amarth to town.

On the subject of the Limer, the Spring and Airbrake and Katy Dalys were honoured as the best live venue in Northern Ireland. A worthy honour, especially from those of us who have enjoyed far too many nights in one of the three. Congratulations to CDC for not only this, but for the bravery at booking so many hard rock and metal acts into the venue.

And hard rock has been a theme for 2009. In the 80s Def Leppard, Whitesnake, UFO, Tesla et al were regarded as metal, together with DC and many others that today's genre splitters would disparage such titling.

But young and old alike took to hard rock with gusto at many of the gigs of 2009, whether it wasWhitesnake, Lepps and Tesla in Dublin, the Download headliner sets, AC/DC wet in Punchestown or the Tesla/UFO two night blast at the Spring and Airbrake.

UFO was certainly a stand-out night, with aged band and audience members managing to rock Ormeau Avenue to the core...yeah I hear Tesla the night before was even better, but hey can't get to as many gigs as we wish what with advancing years :)

UFO's The Visitor was a stand-out release of the year combining British blues with good old fashioned hard rock. Unfortunately it won't get the airplay or sales that it richly deserves.

And nor will many of the wonderful albums that emerged in 2009. For CDs are on their way out, as decreed by a record indstry that now sees the ease of plugging empty headed pop downloads over the effort of supporting a band to musical maturity. Not for the first time we have heard bands bemoaning the fact that gigs are populated by a minority who have either downloaded just one track or heard a song on a cover-mount sampler...and then talk through the rest of the set. While we can do the grumpy old men whine about this can we also humbly and with consideration ask those who natter while the band are playing to shut the fuck up. Other paying customers might want to actually listen to the whole set. We writers are generally peacable people, but others are not and we are led to believe that a smack in the mouth really can hurt...whether it does or not some pissed off fan of music battering teeth into a bleeding pulp will generally shut yer mouth.

And a smack in the mouth is a risk we may have to take in mentioning two non-metallic gigs that are worthy of real note. First Biffy Clyro roasting St George's Market. Yes they are darlings of some indie media and have yet to darken the pages of Terrorizer or Metal Hammer, but the Scottish threesome are no shoe-gazing freaks. From widdly wankers they have grown to have a stage presence echoed by a live sound akin to a sledgehammer being weilded with melody and angst...and if you don't get that over-stretched metaphor only being at a Biffy gig can explain it.

Also non-metallic was SLF at The Ulster Hall in March. Stiff Little Fingers may be casually labelled as punk (and they were, musically, in the late 70s and early 80s) but their sound is as much about loud hard rock than some teeny pop ten-minute sensation from the USA. When one magazine said Green Day were SLF 2.0 the writer missed the point. Without SLF, Jake Burns beloveed Clash (and their ilk here in Northern Ireland) the sound of Green Day and others would be empty, and the sociological rants of Billy Joe will never ever be as insightful as Jake. The Ulster Hall gig in March was a celebration, capped by Jake dedicating 'Guitar and Drum' to that cunt Cowell for destroying music.

And that is about where we came in, with Cowell as a pseudo hate figure for a mainstream and radio programming thought police who trot out metal once in a while to poke fun at, or nod with post-modernist wisdom at Anvil's film.

What they will never get is that Anvil's tragi-comedy documentary is not a Spinal Tap 'rockumentary' but rather a summation of the spirit that pervades all really great music, not just metal, rock or punk. Rather it is the sheer love that the band members bring and the audiences lap up.

By all accounts the career of an 80s bassist from a disbanded supergroup and latterly a noughties supergroup should be one now marked by caberet slots and bitter interviews with magazines. Not such Mr Duff McKagan who brought his 'Loaded' crew back to Belfast earlier in the year. On the back of the magnificent 'Sick' album Duff McKagan proved that it is that perverse attititude exemplified by Anvil as much as Guns 'n' Roses that sums up everything we love. Love the music - nothing else matters...

There ends the sermon....

But afore ye go to Hogmany hijinx a few honourable mentions...
Mastodon for delivering Crack the Skye - haven't got a clue what the lyrics are a metaphor for, but it was one of the best releases of the year
The return of prog - Bigelf to be the acceptable face of the resurgence, and Dream Theatre getting more of the acceptance and adulation they deserve in 2009, complex chord structures and time signatures back in style!
Alice in Chains - a super album, and here's hoping they can mantain the momentum next year
Heaven and Hell - not as good as we hoped the album would be, but still head and shoulders above others: now we can all just hope that little Ronnie recovers from his stomach cancer to deliver more magnificence
Steel Panther - cringeworthy porn lyrics and a real homage to big hair absurdity combined with actual musicianship
Back to reality with Dan Reed soulful brilliance in Ahoghill of all places
On that note kudos to Derwin and the Diamond Rock Club for keeping the metal dream alive beyond the Belfast boundary
And speaking of porn...Rammstein's video for Pussy just ain't for the kiddies. No really, it's not!
But most of all the honourable mention must go to each and every single reader of this site. Writing about anything can be a long boring stare into a computer screen, self delusion that your views count. That so many have taken the time to email, phone, comment, text, reply etc means that people care not about what we write, but about the music.

Yeah, fuck you Cowell, we won't do what you tell us! We're still here, metal lives on and my black atheist heart is ready and stoked with hard rockin' fire for 2010. Happy New Year to y'all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rage Against The Machine's Morello praises chart race

Morello backs download battle against x-Factor....


Is it worth 79p (cheaper on some sites) to piss off Simon Cowell...value for money methinks :)

Is it a stupid thing...yeah, it's probably that too, but how will the radio stations cope :)

MSG gig cancelled

Just had confirmation that Saturday's Michael Schenker Group Belfast appearance has been cancelled. Quote from the promoters below:

"Due to unforeseen circumstances this weekend’s Michael Schenker Group performance in the Ulster Hall has been cancelled. Refunds can be attained from point of purchase."


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shine like gold

GATHER together 1,4000 of your closest friends and you know a good time is to be had - and last night the Ulster Hall rocked with a homecoming festive gig from County Down's finest, The Answer.

The band had been looking forward to gracing the veneerable Ulster Hall stage, and made no secret of how much a privilege it was to mount the steps in front of fans who were prepared to simply bask in the an unadultered and pure hard rock that Cormac and co deliver.

Opening proceedings were the Black Spiders, who took the stage brim filled with attitude. To play at the bottom of the bill would daunt many a band faced with a hall yet to fill up. Triple guitar attack to the fore the Black Spiders took up the challenge with the furious set, all hair and intricate metal ablaze.

Derry classic rock crew took time to warm-up - perhaps daunted by the venue. By halfway through they eased into the groove and by the time they played Take Me Away off their new EP the band settled and broad grins shone as they left the stage.

But when it comes to The Answer hard touring for many years has honed their performance to such an extent that they have achieved a standard that many aspire to, but few achieve: that is to be both tight as the proverbial duck's ass but have a genuine feel for when it is necessary to loosen up both songs and performance.

When the band last played in Belfast, at the Mandella Hall, there was no lessening of intensity, but the toil of touring was apparent at a couple of points. On this December night there was a genuine feel that the band were relieved to be drawing the year to and end; and quite frankly ready for whatever challenges 2010 may hold.

When the band emerged for the encore Cormac stood above the drum riser, arms aloft. It was partly a salute to the crowd, but also what was sure to be a personal note of satisfaction - a vindication of what the band has achieved and no doubt a sense of achievement to be on stage at the Ulster Hall.

The setlist is almost an irrelevancy now when The Answer play Belfast. Most of Everyday Demons was aired. What a year ago might have been unfamiliar songs are now greeted as old favourites. On and On, Cry Out, Evil Man and Dead of the Night prompted mass singalongs.

Slower numbers, What Made You Change Your Mind and new single Comfort Zone were delivered with aplomb. Paul's solo was not only technically wonderful, but was evidently fun for him to play, with more than a nod to guitar idols he grew up with. James and Mickey nailed down the rhythm - and even Cormac's banter about the Belfast Giants trying to sign James didn't jar,  but was a joke shared not delivered.

The 'Belfast Blues-Off' could have been a clich├ęd chant, but amongst friends it had a sense of shared fun.

The Answer have worked hard. The Answer have proved their worth on album and on stage. The Answer have more hard work ahead to cement the success.

Every CD sold; every ticket bought and every grin from the band proves that Northern Ireland's top hard rockers are ready to move up to the next level.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Congrats and gig notes

Congratulations to Paul and Jason who won a pair of tickets each for Monday's The Answer gig. Commiserations to those not fortunate enough to win - there are a few tickets left for the Ulster Hall show, so make sure not to miss the homecoming concert!

On other gig news (HED) P.E. are playing the Spring and Airbrake on Friday, 12th March, and for a wee bit of Celtic punk mentalism Dropkick Murphy's are at St George's Market on Tuesday, 20th April.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Apologies, but I just had to post this

'A friend told me to buy Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In The Name" after December 13th in protest against the X-Factor always getting the Christmas No. 1.

'I said: "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me".'
Still...if RATM did make No 1 it would really be a laugh listening to the radio clones trying to explain it!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ulster Hall homecoming just The Answer before Chrimbo

Unless you've been living in a bunker, or hardened yer ears against news on the hard rock front, you cannot help but notice the slow, steady and certain rise of The Answer.

While wannabes wail and the X-Factor waste of oxygen acts pout awaiting vacuous fame The Answer have been working towards greatness the old-fashioned and certain way - writing great songs and playing them in front of real audiences.

After a year that has seen them perform on a global scale backing AC/DC and selling out their own headline shows The Answer are ready to storm the Ulster Hall on 14th December. As front man Cormac Neeson explains the band can't wait for this special homecoming.

"We are now counting the days until we headline the Ulster Hall.

"Having watched many great bands, local and otherwise, play there and grace that stage over the last 15 years it will be an honour to finally get the chance to do so ourselves, it will be a very special night and the best way to end a momentous year for us."

The Ticketmaster allocation has already sold out with balcony tickets also gone. There are a few left at the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall box offices (and there may be a few left on the door).

If you want to score one of two pairs of tickets in an exclusive BelfastMetalHeadsReuntied competition click here.

Dan back in Ahoghill

DAN REED for one night only (Friday 11th December) returns to the returns to The Diamond Rock Club to perform a solo and acoustic show.

Dan last played The Diamond in May for two nights, Thursday 21st May and Friday 22nd.

The Thursday night was a complete sell out and the Friday night was a very hastily arranged gig (less than 24 hours) following the sudden cancellation of his show in Dublin.  On this trip, there will definitely be only one gig, anywhere in Ireland.

Ticket details will follow.

The Diamond Rock Club is in the village of Ahoghill, just 4 miles from Ballymena and 9 miles from Antrim.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tenuous link to Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams epic stories under the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy stories featured the loudest band in the history of the universe Disaster Area...a band so big on a galatic scale that their guitarist had to spend a year dead for tax reasons.

But they had a problem with their drummer...

Which is a very roundabout way to say that one of Norn Iron's finest, Residual Effect is looking for a new man/woman to slot in behind the kit and lay down heavy as hell beats, double bass mania and battering any skins living or dead that falls within the range of his sticks.

Auditions will be getting underway soon, so if you want to try out for Residual be ready for some heavy, technically challenging hitting. Send your details via the band's myspace site, or email us and we'll pass on the details.

Win tickets to The Answer

Want to score tickets for The Answer's pre-Christmas homecoming date on 14th December at The Ulster Hall?

Yep, thanks to the good people of CDC Leisure we have two sets of two tickets up for grabs in an exclusive online competition right here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited.

Already the Ticketmaster allocation is sold out, but while there are some still on sale at the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall box offices and some may be available at the door.

Later this week we'll have a few words from the band themselves, but in the meantime to enter the competition answer this simple question...name The Answer's debut album.

Send your entries here.

Competition closes at midnight on 10th December, winners will be notified by return email. Usual rules apply....which are if you're not in ya can't win!

Jamming at the Odyssey Arena...with Pearl Jam

Hot on the heels of the announcement of Deep Purple playing Custom House Square, which was hot on the heels of Metallica announcing two dates at the Odyssey, which was hot on the heels of Machine Head announcing a Market date in Belfast comes the news that Pearl Jam are to play the Odyssey on 23rd June...

2010 gonna be a busy year :)

Deepest June date for Purple

June 28th...Deep Purple, Belfast's Custom House Square....happy days!

Tickets are 38 notes, more details to follow as soon as we get them!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Metallica - again!

As Wayne has just commented Metallica's 11th May date standing tickets are all but sold out so....they've added a 2nd date on 12th May at the Odyssey!

A double dose of Metallica! Hell Yeah!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sweet week of rock

Right, you've maxed out booking yer Metallica tickets and still counting the shakels after buying the Machine Head entry passes...so what to do in the meantime...

Well Thursday night sees Sweet Savage play an 'intimate' show at Auntie Annie's with Exit and Red Returned for three of your finest pounds

On Friday hard blues rockers the Quireboys touch down in the Spring & Airbrake...fun, fun, fun being the order of the day!

Saturday evening...you could do worse than heading along to the Limer for Fleshgod Apocalypse, Hades Lab, Less Help and Sadisture.

Sunday, for the geetar widdlers Joe Bonomassa will be showing up the teeny shredders at the Waterfront Hall.

Take a breath then you got The Answer on the 14th and MSG on the 19th!