Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thrash? It hasn't gone away you know...

WHILE they were moaning and whinging a mile away about some over-hyped R&B singer – now known for baring all in a field rather than her banal music – being an hour-and-half late, an unseasonably hot Spring and Airbrake was toasting a Thrash-tacular Thursday night as Fallen Fate, Gama Bomb and Onslaught laid it down like the fallow years of the 90s had never existed.

The morning news this Firiday, paying more attention to Rhianna’s breasts than is healthy, was filled with teeny terrors and chaperone's complaining about a 90 minute delay – they’ve obviously never experienced the real marathon delays of Guns ‘n’ Roses! In contrast the stage times at the Spring and Airbrake were spot on, nailed as tight as the riffs.

Fallen Fate, hailed by Onslaught’s Sy Keeler as the “future”, laid down a tasty set of tight riffage and some nice solos in a slew of tracks from the album ‘The Virus Has Spread’. Origin of Sin and Descendancy stood out.

For Gama Bomb it would have been easy to kick back and enjoy the homecoming banter of band coming back to its roots. Not so. Aside from the ‘raking’ about and the ease of relating to the crowd, Gama Bomb kept the 80s firmly in their sights, with humour and verve.

Three Witches, OCP and Bullet Belt showed the ability of Gama Bomb to keep it tight and sharp as well as explore their heritage. Philly’s range, allied to tight lead and rhythm work from Joe and Domo was under-pinned by Paul and Joe keeping it tight and focussed. There are those – thankfully few – who see the jokey sci-fi, horror and film themes of Gama Bomb and forget that this is one excellent metal band, who deliver one excellent show live.

Onslaught are top blokes. Full stop, end of story. Having had the opportunity to interview, Andy, Nige and Sy before the show it was not just an 'impression', but the sheer simple fact that they’ve been round the block, round the streets, earned their stripes and grown up as men in a field were too many boys try to tread. Men know that you get respect when you give respect: simple respect for the fans (and a forty-something interviewer/reviewer too) does not come easily for many bands; those bands should learn from Onslaught.

With the air of seasoned headliners and festival favourites Onslaught know how to build the anticipation before ripping into a set spanning almost the entirety of their 28 year career. Metal Forces, to coin a phrase, were ready to join the thrash as Belfast raised the horns in adulation.

‘The Sound of Violence’, ‘Planting the Seeds of Hate’, ‘Killing Peace’...there’s no point in trooping out the songs, if you’re fans you know them, and if you were there you’re still remembering them. Sy’s “let’s see  how loud” chat with the crowd was a wee bit of fun that could tire with repetition, but in the context of the night it worked; too many bands use this tactic making it seem a little clichéd at times. Given the vocal desterity the man maintained throughout, from sinister growls to the high end, it is a minor offence.

Having asked Andy earlier about technology and music he talked comfortably about how the band was stretching themselves. And, dominating his axe Andy was easily showing how the solos are getting ever more fluid, while Nige’s counter-foil and musical ripostes were pushing the sound tighter and tighter to what Thrash should be – controlled fury, great sound and the ancient art of headbanging in much evidence in response..

The encore was led-off by what Sy claiming that their cover of Motorhead classic was at the behest of the label, which, whether it was the case or not, was delivered with alacrity; taking the well-worn track and raising the bar yet higher.

Onslaught kicked round the block in the 80s and came back stronger after their temporary break; a break that Nige said earlier had him saying “never again”. Belfast was glad he, and his compadrés , came back. There is a purity about bands like Onslaught – given the second crack of the whip they have taken it from the hands of poseur ringmaster and the thrash lion now roars mightier than ever. If there is justice and not just us Onslaught will be in the vanguard.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thrash-tacular Onslaught on yer senses...

AT the time of writing it is Thursday (just about!) - a day that augurs the weekend, yet is not quite full on relaxation and chilled out just yet...a day when anticipation conjurs an allure for those precious work-free hours that many enjoy and are called 'Friday to Sunday' in our diaries.

But screw all that waiting! Tonight (still Thursday - concentrate people!) will be a Thrash-tacular Thursday when Onslaught descend upon Ormeau Avenue to rip apart the Spring and Airbrake.

Backed by the speedy rabscallions of Gama Bomb and Fallen Fate, Onslaught will be making (and I think this is correct, but at my age you never know!) their fourth visit to Belfast.

The Bristolian metal crew have persisted through line-up changes and a hiatius to emerge stronger in the 21st Century, and their latest release Sounds of Violence manages the difficult trick of being both nostalgic and fresh at the same time.

The message is, of course, get yer hairy arses down to the Spring and Airbrake! Stage times:
  • Fallen Fate: 8.45pm - 9.15pm
  • Gama Bomb: 9.35pm - 10.25pm
  • Onslaught. 10.45pm - Midnight
If you see me there, say hello...oh wait, you may not recognise me, but that's okay because after a pint or three I won't recognise me either, after all it'll be thrash time!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Need Therapy. Ulster Hall provides The Answer

WHEN it comes to hard rock and metal Norn Iron kicks the competition where it hurts. So why not celebrate two of our top bands on November 4th.

The Answer and Therapy? are playing the venerable Ulster Hall on that date. Whoopee to all who have not been able to grab tickets for their smaller venuue tour!

More details when I 'ave 'em!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grumpy old metaller speaks out...

SCREW the mainstream, it's so bland and formulaic that it doesn't know when it is disappearing up its own back passage...

Why this outburst? For once it is not prompted by alcohol (although that is helping!). Some days ago I clocked an episode of Grumpy Old Men in the graveyard of TV that are Sky Channels repeating shows you missed because they were crap first time around. On it the various - and at times vacuous - referenced the music and style of the 80s.

It was either that or watch the utter tripe of the X-Factor (and as per previous posts I recommend SLF's Guitar and Drum, once dedicated, alliteratively, by Jake Burns to "that c**t Cowell), something worthy on BBC or Scuzz and KerrangTV playing pop punk inane posturing...

And it was an alien decade that I stumbled upon. The "grumpy" types referred first to the many style abberations (of which I do confess to many, not least the white leather trousers....) and then to the music of then 80s.

For them the memories were of Kagagogoo, the Birdie Song, Human League, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballix.

All of these dire discourses on crimes against synthesisers and music made me angry (hence this article!).

For me, and many others who love hard rock, heavy metal and, heaven forfend prog rock, the 80s were a nirvana of pure unadulterated joy.

This was a decade when you could hear Ozzy, Maiden, Motorhead. Marrillion and many others on prime time Thursday night TV, a decade when Judas Priest were on kids' shows and Friday night's The Tube.

This was a decade which started with punk's wonderful snarl (of which Norn Iron's many bands were at the forefront) merged, almost seamlessly into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal - a specious genre which spawned the likes of Metallica.

Maiden, Saxon and Leppard led the way amongst many other unheralded acts like White Spirit, Tank and many others who had their moment in the limelight with a session on Tommy Vance's Fridat Night Rock Show.

This was a decade that saw MSG sell-out the Ulster Hall twice, a decade that saw Metallica and Anthrax cause almost terminal damage to the venerable venue before WASP and Slayer ripped it up. This was a decade when Magnum sold out QUB's SU speakeasy (and yes Kyle, Michael and I may have briefly kidnapped Bob Catley for coffee in the History Common Room...during which I am sure he "borrowed" phrases for the Wings of Heaven album) and the Ulster Hall 14 months later.

This was a decade when metal and hard rock was dominant - a sell-out gig by Whitesnake almost caused a riot in Bedford Street after a rumour of more tickets, but Baal, Sylvia and I were safely inside by then...

This was a decade that saw the release of Master of Puppets, Number of the Beast, Among the Living, Misplaced Childhood, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells, Ace of Spades, Holy Diver, Thunder and Lightning, Slide it In, and even Pyromania (these were the days before Lepps discovered cheesiness stinkier than 10-year-old Gorgonzola).

And what do the numpties and non-entities quote to us? Howard F**kin' Marks and Ricke F**kin' Astley!  What do the advertisers and marketeers toss as ready made 80s references? Oh I can't be arsed referencing their crap. But they should remember that Iron Maiden's Transylvania was once on a Lucozade ad...real energy, not faux power.

In this rant, I should as a responsible (well mostly!) former full-time journo (before I sold my soul to PR) point out that the local hard rock and metal talent is better than ever (congrats to Trucker Diablo on their recent Rotosound endorsement) with literally dozens of acts that could grace global stages, compared to the average Driveshaft, the sadly unsigned Winter's Reign and Norn Iron's own NWOBHM standard bearers, Sweet Savage. (who I must note are still pumping out awesome songs!)

So, what is the purpose of this typed rant (other than personal reminiscences). Simply put, hard rock and heavy metal - even the multi platinum selling acts - exists today, as in the 80s, in the 'underground'. And even there there are graduations of 'being underground'.

Iron Maiden and Metallica can sell out the Odyssey Arena, yet the radio rants about Snooze Patrol. Many, many other rock and metal acts like The Answer sell-out the Ulster Hall, the Mandella Hall and other Belfast venues. The Distortion Projects brings international acts to the Ormeau Road, Ma Nelsons is emerging as a trusty metal venue and Ahoghill's Diamond Rock Club is burgeoning.

This rant (brought to you by 'beer') has two-purposes: an opportunity to show off my age as an advantage over the kiddie metallers, and secondly as a rallying call to the young generations and the sedentary older rockers. I may have illnesses, responsibilities and other sh*t meaning I venture to gigs less frequently than I wish.

What's your excuse?

PS: Congrats to Ball and Sylvia on becoming hard rocking grandparents, and Steve on becoming a da...now bring that child up listening to Satan's sounds :)   \m/

PPS: if you love yer rock and metal make a commitment to see at least one local act each quarter and put aside a couple of quid to buy their CD. \m/

PPS: We even liked Meatloaf then, who one asked his girlfriend for some back door action...she told him she would do anything for love, but she'll not do that. \m/

PPPS...apologies for the excessive parentheses, but sobriety disappeared over the horizon about two hours ago

PPPS - I'm stopping now as I could - and I mean it - rant all night...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Alien infestations and deadly horses - that'll be 2012 Distortion Porject style...

HANG on to your bits, never mind the blizzards, because 2012 is kicking off with an alien infestation from GWAR and A Pale Horse Called Death...

The Distortion Project is still assailing the unwilling and willing alike as we approach Friday's 2011 equinox, yet Mr James Loveday has cunningly released the metal world's plans for world domination in 2012. The plan to take over the United Nations by Steve Harris and James Hetfield will be announced later, but for now January's first stage hits Belfast.

First, unleashed upon the denizens of Norn Iron will be alien invaders GWAR, with raucous accomplices Viking Skull and Sister on Monday January 16th at the Spring and Airbrake

Barely five days later A Pale Horse Called Death (two members of Type O Neg are amongst these cheery chaps) on January 21st (support to be confirmed) at the same Ormeau Avenue venue.

And if you don't think they're suitable harbingers for the apocalypse just read this description:

"...sounds like Alice in Chains mysteriously sneaking up behind Type O Negative with a butcher knife while being filmed for a future episode of "Law & Order."

GWAR tix £20 and A Pale Horse Called Death tix £20!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fishy tour dates - can't wait

OKAY, it's nt exactlt metal, but Fish is part of the heritage of hard rock and a truly great lyricist...and now there's a second date in Norn Iron for his Fishheads Acoustic Tour.

In addition to 10th December at the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill the large scaly one will be popping up at the Spring and Airbrake on 15th December...

Two chances to see Fish in the space of five days! Excellent!

Tickets £17.50 Ahoghill (bus may be available) and £15.50 at the Spring and Airbrake...

"Riffs to shoplift to...

THAT headline caught your attention! Wish I could claim it, but it comes in the blurb announcing that La Faro will have the Belfast launch of their Easy Meat CD at The Limelight on October 13th.

Easy Meat is already receiving rave reviews for its eclectic metal and hardcore concept, loosely based on life in Belfast.

Uniquely the price of admission to the gig is simple - own a copy of the CD, available from October 3rd and get in free upon presenting it at the Ormeau Avenue venues hallowed portal (that means door for those less literate!).

I haven't had the pleasure of hearing the album as yet - but it is receiving positive reviews from the likes of Classic Rock and Terroriser; no mean feat! So La Faro if you want a review from a blog that counts (or at least likes to think it does) drop us a note

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Loaded return

EARLY notice of this one passed me by...but Duff McKagan is bringing Loaded back to Belfast for another aural assault of truly inspiring hard rock, bluesy punk.

Loaded will make their third appearance in Belfast on Wednesday, 2nd November in the Spring & Airbrake.

Tickets clock in at £20, but rest assured that Duff and his compadres in Loaded always deliver.

Sure this man is such a legend, and loaded in the monetary sense, that he need never tour or record again, but for that very reason his ongoing commitment to Loaded on the road just further emphasises his hard rock credentials - and few can measure against them in this corporate world of slick managment and soulless re-dubbed and pro-tooled sounds.

That he survived Guns 'n' Roses almost intact (minus a pancreas) and still went on to record two Velvet Revolver albums, and launch Loaded, while at the same time maintaining a role as financial columnist for Playboy and now for even more prestigious outlets tells you something about his energy levels.

And his energy levels peak onstage...and even more revealing is that despite all, he remains genuinely a nice guy.

So, come November 2nd...see ya at the front!

Dimmu Borgir set for Belfast!

NORWEGIAN black metal mentalists are débuting in Belfast on November 28th at the Spring & Airbrake.

I've always had a wee soft spot for their take on what can become a clichéd black metal scene. And to take it a step further Shagrath and his accomplices want fans to vote on which of their past albums will form the first part of their set. Head over to their Bakebook page to vote... The second part of the set will be more in the style of Dimmu classics...Tasty!

Tickets, priced at £17 are on sale now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

'Eavy fuggin' Norn Iron metal...and then some

INTERROGATE have proved to be one of the ambitious bands in the healthy panoply of Northern Ireland heavy music acts, delivering consistently rowdy but tight live sets, and surprisingly excellent recorded output.

It should then come as no surprise then that the new five track EP, Silence the Fallen, delivers a hard-hitting slab of metal.

But from the ferocity of opener Let Me Breathe, through to title track and EP closer Silence the Fallen, Inetrrogate demostrate that being a common or garden riff machine has never been enough when committing their tracks to the studio tape machine.

Like the 2009 release, 'Scarred for Life melody lurks within the monster riffs, like a cold assassin who gets you to sing along before plunging the knife while you are still humming along.

Affliction is an excellent example of how Interrogate can lure the unexpecting into their music.

Darren Brown's take on vocals has developed through gigging, and seems more tuned into the vibe, despite maintaining bass duties, ably supported by Stephen Brown's vocal and drum contributions, while Mark Johnston's guitar tones and skills grow with each release and each new set of touring commitments.

Stand out track is Silence the Fallen itself. Intransigence, defiance and pride stand out lyrically amongst the at times bile filled, but eloquent in their own way, words on the rest of the EP. To add a chorister-style voice - credited to Sabie Campbell - adds to the track rather than jarring. Once upon a time, long ago Interrogate could have been compared to a mix of Cancer Bats and Screamo-style Killswitch. No longer: they can stand proud as their own heavy fuggin' Norn Iron metal beast with an identity of their own and a sound that is growing and developing all the time.

Interrogate are back on the roads of Norn Iron after a short tour sojourn State-side (and a recent birth). When they do return shortly to the gigging circuitthere is likely to be little silence, but many fallen metal warriors may awaken

Saturday, September 03, 2011

NI Rock Music Awards

HAPPY birthday to Ma Nelson's and well done for the launch of the NI Rock Music Awards yesterday (Friday).

Check back here over coming days to find out how to nominate from the immense well of rock, metal and punk talent here in this here wee land.

While the primped, preening ponces come along to the MTV Video Music Awards we'll be celebrating just how much talent in this here wee land kicks righteous arse!

Who will you nominate?

Born to live forever more...

BORN to live forever more, and in their minds they have conquered ever shore, but Manowar probably rightly can claim to be the band that gave birth to battle metal.

Tiny of stature but mighty of  muscle and volume, Manowar are what parodies can be made of, but ultimately there is a glory in their complete disdain for fashion, critics and anything remotely relating to a 'scene'.

Now, more than 20 years since Manowar débuted in Belfast the raucous crew of loin-clothed reprobates are to once again playing at the Mandella Hall to close their Battle Hymns 2011 tour - a tour which will see them playing the entire Battle Hymn album...almost 30 years since it first destroyed decks of doom the world over.

Okay, to clear things up first, it's a wee bit dear to bring yer plastic axes and swords to the Mandella Hall on November 10th - tickets are £45.75 a pop, including booking fee - but then again it is Manowar...

When they last played here the pocket battleships of metal proclaimed amazement at how many people in Belfast drank so much, smoked so much and lived 'impure lives'...but then again it was the 80s and we drank more than even the practiced boozers of today (though it has to be said we're paying for it now!).

At a meet and greet prior to that gig the late, lamented 'Ring' - who Baal, Krono etc will remember - asked Ross and Joey what the feck was the 'false metal' they were always wittering along about. Joey said he would give the answer at the show.

At the start of the encore Joey addressed the crowd...he said he had been "rapping with some brothers" who had asked hin what false metal was. He told a packed audience it was "any band that didn't have the balls to play Belfast!" to rapturous - and at times ironic - applause. For younger readers this was at a time when the so-called Troubles saw death and mayhem in Norn Iron, and when metal (and punk!) was a unifying cross-community force. Such a statement from a US band was seen as a "good thing" even though the likes of Motorhead were regular visitors. That it has taken Manowar so long to come back could easily be sneered at, but at least they've come back...

I declare now that Manowar are above the petty tittle tattle of the hoi poloi - Manowar bring the Metal Daze, leave you Shell Shocked with ther Battle Hymns, have the Dark Avenger at their side with the Death Tone - come join us in Fighting the World; Blow Your Speakers; and, bask in the Black Wind, the Fire and the steel that is heavy metal.

November 10th - Mandella Hall - come see why Manowar Hail and Kill!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Byzantium boogie

JUST listened to a couple of tracks from the new Glyder album courtesy of the Rock Radio NI submissions, and Bat Kinane's crew are back on form with what I have heard of Backroads to Byzantium.

'Long Gone' and 'Down and Out' are welters of classic Irish hard rock,  not lost in some diddley dee nonsense, but building on solid foundations of previous work, decent melodies, tasty and soulful guitar and excellent writing. Mmmm, me likes!

Grrrrrr! Grindscene just made me growly angry!

GRRRR! Before I let lose my anger, this is about death metal, so classic rock fans might want to step aside for a moment!

Right - Grindscene, you've really made my boil and rage for the past week or so. You see, for the past wee while I've sort of fallen out of love with death metal and its associated genres: too many men with a need for cough medicine, too much intensty with little intelligence behind it.

Then Pete at Grindscene sends me two CDs to review...local heroes Zombified, and Neuroma from Liverpool - and how they made me growl. Yep, two refreshing slabs of molten, technical death metal with guile and poise behind the wall of noise, just when I was thinking about buying the new Journey CD...

Neuroma's Extremophile release deserves to descend upon the unwashed masses like any avenging spirit from hell, with an evil smile of intent.

But as you are cowering beneath the howls and growls, take a moment to look beyond the wit in the song titles: can you take seriously songs like 'Semi-skinned Milf'; or 'Chicken Poodle Soup'? You should.

For those that paid attention to a certain story a couple years back about a faked chav kidnapping then the CD opener 'Gash in the Attic' will tell you all you need to know about sharp observations from Neuroma. (And if that doesn't convince you 'Chicken Poodle Soup's' power will do it!)

Zombified release their six-track 'Backroom Eugenics' tomorrow night (Thursday) at Auntie Annies on Dublin Road. Pin yer ears back if you are going because this is a towering release.

Recent support slots have tightened Zombified's sound; the guitars of Jamie McClenaghan and Adrien Crozet are in horror harmony, while you couldn't slide a Rizla paper between the drums of Gary Beattie and Wilbo Slice's bass. As to Pete Clarke's vocals...scary, as in scary good.

The songs come in short, sharp bursts of brutality; not one clocking above three minute 40 seconds.

Not for the faint-hearted, an album that closes with the fury of 'Murder Serpent', and opens with the mature sound of  'An Introduction to the Human Disgrace' sandwiches much in between, not least the deathly good of 'The Forgotten Art of Strangulation'.

Yep, Zombified are realising their potential, much to the thanks of neck collar manufacturers, as many a death metal fan may be suffering from headbanging induced whiplash.

So, all-in-all Nueroma and Zombified have restored faith in what had become a jaded death metal scene. Now to get all that anger out of the system with their new platters, and maybe dig up some old Behemoth, Morbid Angel and Satyricon \m/ Just when I'd renewed my subscription to AOR magazine.!

And don't forget that Zombified launch party at Auntie Annies!