Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dimmu Borgir competition winners

CONGRATULATIONS to Coleen and Stephen who each won a pair of tickets to "An Evening With Dimmu Borgir" at the Spring and Airbrake on November 28th, courtesy of those kind folks at CDC Leisure.

Thanks to everyone who entered: as always surprised how many devoted lovers of diverse heavy music there are out there...but there's no excuse for the rest of ya to shell out to see the dark evening with Dimmu!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So who are Dimmu Borgir

AFTER posting a little about Dimmu Borgir's upcoming show, and the ticket competition, some of the less dark hearted readers contacted me to learn a little about Borgir.

One could have wittered on endlessly on where Borgir fit into the labyrinthine panoply of black metal, how their symphonic metal has grown in complexity and dexterity, but instead it is easier to copy the blurb about the band...

While you read this, just a reminder that the competition for tickets is still running for their November 28th Spring and Airbrake show. All you need to do to one of two sets of double tickets is answer this question: Name the Borgir concept album about a bishop's apprentice who ends up coming to the dark side? Email your answer here (clue read the blurb if you're not sure).

For those of more hard rock rather than black metal leanings check out the side project Chrome Division...

And here's the blurb:

Founded in 1993 by Shagrath, Silenoz, and Tjodalv and named after unusually shaped lava fields and rock formations east of Lake Mývatn in Iceland, Norway’s DIMMU BORGIR made their debut into the underground metal scene via unofficial rehearsal cassette tapes in 1993. Inspired by incarnations of black metal from the ‘80s and ‘90s and inspired by the works of classical composers such as Wagner and Dvořák, the band’s music was resplendent in its raw & melodic vocals, somber guitar work, destructive drums, and haunting keyboard melodies. Less than a year later, the band recorded their full-length debut, For All Tid, to wild acclaim. While the band’s reputation gained momentum throughout Scandinavia and the rest of the tape-trading underground world, DIMMU BORGIR focused their energies on recording what would become one of the most essential albums in black metal history, Stormblåst. While sung completely in Norwegian, it catapulted them out of Europe and into international waters. Displaying a marked escalation in their time signatures, DIMMU BORGIR made significant headway in developing a classically influenced sound that would become their intrinsic, defining blueprint.

Following Stormblåst, DIMMU BORGIR recorded their first material featuring English lyrics for the 1996 mini-CD entitled Devil’s Path, which later got them signed to the independent record label Nuclear Blast. Their third full-length album (now considered an all-time classic), Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, was recorded with living legend Peter Tägtgren at the helm in Abyss Studios. After its release, it marked the band’s significant international breakthrough with over 150,000 copies sold and chart entries all over the world. This breakthrough year also included performances at some of the most esteemed European summer gatherings such as Holland’s Dynamo, Germany’s With Full Force and Wacken Open Air festivals, among others.
After their world tour for Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, DIMMU BORGIR went straight back into the Abyss Studios and recorded the Godless Savage Garden mini-CD, which earned them their first Spellemannprisen award nomination (the Norwegian equivalent to the American Grammy award). Fans around the world curiously waited to see what direction the next full-length, Spiritual Black Dimensions, would take. Once again recorded at Abyss Studios with Peter Tägtgren, the album stormed into music stores around the world in 1999 and single-handedly transformed the market for black metal. Those who ever doubted DIMMU BORGIR’s allegiance to extreme music were forced to face reality when the album proved to be their most complex and severe offering.

Sun Tzu said:
“He who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease;
he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary.”

After Tjodalv resigned from the drum throne in the early stages of their 1999 tour, DIMMU ‘s line-up shifted. The sextet entered Sweden’s Fredman Studio in the fall of 2000 with Fredrik Nordström to record eleven tracks of audible malevolence and exceptional atmospherics which was baptized Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. Released in 2001, Puritanical expanded DIMMU’s audience even more, earning them their first Spellemanprisen award and setting the stage for 2003’s mammoth Death Cult Armageddon, which debuted at #7 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, #10 on the Top Independent Albums chart, and at #170 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. Death Cult Armageddon – which earned the band another Spellemanprisen award in 2003 – went on to sell over 130,000 records in North America alone. Parts of the orchestral versions of the songs “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse” and “Eradication Instincts Defined” were selected for use in the movie trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy. Later, parts from the same tracks could also be heard in the trailer for the movie Stardust starring Robert De Niro. In 2004, DIMMU landed a coveted spot on Ozzfest’s Main Stage with Slayer, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath in addition to later being showcased in the MTV reality series “Battle For Ozzfest.”

After re-recording Stormblåst in 2005 with Peter Tägtgren and session drummer Hellhammer, the latter stayed on to record 2007’s In Sorte Diaboli, DIMMU’s first concept album about a bishop’s apprentice searching his true self who – instead of finding the meaning of life through the religion – abandons his religious life in favor of darkness and its endless realm. Recorded with Fredrik Nordström and Patrik J. Sten at Sweden’s (in)famous Studio Fredman, In Sorte Diaboli debuted at #1 on the Norwegian album chart and clinched DIMMU BORGIR their first #1 album and their first Gold Record in Norway. The album sold over 75,000 copies in the U.S. and debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart and at #43 on the Top 200 Albums chart. Yet again, the band took home another Spellemannprisen award, this time in the video category. DIMMU hit the road hard in support of In Sorte and performed at Nuclear Blast’s 20th Anniversary Party in Stuttgart, at Germany’s Rock Am Ring & Rock Im Park festivals, filmed their headlining Wacken Open Air performance, toured Europe with Amon Amarth, toured North America with Devildriver, Behemoth & Keep Of Kalessin, and even appeared at the New England Hardcore & Metal Festival. In 2008, DIMMU’s three-disc The Invaluable Darkness DVD (which included 2007’s live footage at Wacken) entered Norway’s Music DVD chart at #1 and debuted at #5 in the U.S. on the Top Music Videos chart while the band was on tour in North America with Danzig on the “Blackest Of The Black” tour. They also appeared on the television show “The Daily Habit” on Fuel TV – the American extreme sports lifestyle network with over 50 million worldwide viewers. In 2009, DIMMU played Nova Rock – Austria’s largest music festival, Terminal Press debuted the fantasy horror comic book “DIMMU BORGIR: Dark Fortress” at ComiCon in San Diego, and “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse” was selected for inclusion in the action-adventure video game soundtrack, Brütal Legend.

Sun Tzu said: “Therefore, when I have won a victory, I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.”

In June of this year, DIMMU BORGIR proudly announced that over 101 musicians contributed their talents to the making of the new album, including Norwegian composer and Berklee College of Music summa cum laude alumnus Gaute Storaas, the 51 members of KORK (the Norwegian Radio Orchestra) and the 38-member Schola Cantorum Choir. Eleven months in the making, the band broke their three-word title tradition for the second time since 1996 to name their ninth studio album ABRAHADABRA, which roughly translates into “I will create as I speak.” The word first entered the human lexicon in 1904 via Chapter III of Liber AL vel Legis (commonly referred to as The Book of the Law) written by English occultist and mystic Aleister Crowley during his time in Cairo, Egypt.

Set in the post-apocalyptic landscapes of German artist / painter / graphic designer Joachim Luetke, the album cover’s face with tentacles harkens back to H.P. Lovecraft’s nameless elder gods and “personifies dominion of powers far beyond mankind,” according to the artist. “These nameless gods witnessed the birth of our universe and they’ll watch it implode. To them, the age of mankind is but a blink of an eye.”
A return to the famed raw ferocity of 1997′s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, ABRAHADABRA is, according to North America’s Decibel Magazine, “Norway’s answer to The Omen.” Metallian Magazine from France predicts: “It will become a milestone of the genre. It is impossible not to be amazed.” Inferno Magazine decrees: “Majestic, evil, and pompous, ABRAHADABRA is everything that makes DIMMU BORGIR the elite of the pack.”
An inundation of power, a showcase of incessant skill, and above all, an intelligent manifesto of a highly intact creative force, ABRAHADABRA demonstrates every reason why Norway’s DIMMU BORGIR is – and unquestionably remains – the most prominent symphonic black metal act in the world.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Born to live forevermore...

THERE can be no doubting that when the sneering, shoe gazing numpties who scorn heavy metal conjure up a clichéd image, that of Manowar must spring to their minds; partially clad, long hair, indulgent soloing and lyrical nonsense about fighting and mythical battles.

But those self-same numpties would have had their skulls shaken by the volume when Manowar played the Mandeall Hall last week, and their brains fried by a level of musicianship few can attain. What is more, despite the sheer aural assault, the clear mix would have left them gaping in awe.

Sure even the most staunch metal fan can have reservations about Manowar, seeing as they disappeared into the Teutonic wilderness with much ranting about Norse legends. But on this tour Manowar are back to what they do best - delivering metal with a hammer blow.

Appropriately the anniversary of their début album saw almost the entirety of that platter delivered with aplomb. The first run through of the titula Manowar seemed a little strained in places, perhaps a band wearied on the last night of their tour. But thereafter they hit their stride, with Fast Taker, Shell Shock and Dark Avenger showing that Manowar are not one dimensional.

Sure the solos were a bit over the top (an eight string bass with a whammy bar!) and Eric Adams kept nipping off the stage (for oxygen, water, beer or to entertain a Scandanavian wench?) but overall it is hard to fault the overall performance.

Cocksure they may be, but Manowar don't deal with the fluff and flattery; the nasty whiff of misogyny may pervade some of Joey De Maio's gestures to female fans, but Manowar were unrepentant in their singular quest to play heavy metal "loud as it can be".

After the Battle Hymn outing the set veered throughout their later outings, with Hail and Kill notable. It was on the Fighting the World tour that Joey and company last played Belfast.

After awarding a metal ambassador from....Donaghadee, Manowar ended with a full on blitz and Black Wind, Fire and Steel ending in a cacopohny of feedback and blasts as De Maio ripped strings off his bass and Adams proving his pipes would blast Bieber off his feet and into a coma.

Manowar are to some an anachronism, but a loud and proud anachronism. It is worth, for a moment putting them in their place in metal history. When they kicked off their lengthy career they were unapologetic opponents of a hair metal scene that had mediocrity amidst a few shining stars. They were seen as retrograde classic metallers as thrash injected speed and fury into the music. But they have never faltered from their belief that they are the best at what they do, and few can argue with that. They have out lived many of their contemporaries, and one hopes that they keep their promise to return, this time hopefully with a more stirring number of tickets shifted.

Born to live forevermore? Just ask one new devotee I stumbled across as his jaw gaped...damn right Manowar are!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Belfast Rocks...well we know it does!

BEFORE the balls that was the MTV EMA mime-fest Belfast Music Week laid on a Friday evening event in the Ulster Hall entitled Belfast Rocks.

Well readers of this page sort of knew that anyway...But it is also worth pointing out that Belfast does indeed rock to the sound and fury of hard rock and heavy metal every week. However, that would be just crass to mention that. Ooops just did!

And, credit where credit is due, Belfast City Council put their money behind the Belfast Music Week, and not just the MTV shenanigans. And for Belfast Rocks night they brought together a line up that showed the diverse offerings that Norn Iron can offer.

Opening were La Faro with ther rumbunctious punk sounding metal, warming up for the main attractions.

Therapy?'s set was greeted with enthusiasm, more than matched by the verve, dark humour and spiky authoritian domination of the stage by the County Antrim trio. If Therapy? sometimes deliver a soundscape for the apocalypse then only in this country will we be laughing all the way to annihilation.

As the show was being recorded for the BBC Mr Andy Cairns decided not to use sweary words on stage...better to get the audience to shout out the sweary words.
The Answer gave a tight set, airing equally what are by now old standards with new material from Revivial: even going so far as to play Piece by Piece from the bonus disc, but as it was on various cover mounts they get a by-ball in that one.

So what did we learn from the Belfast Rocks night? La Faro are a prospect for the future once they hone their sound and identity; Therapy? are still the nasty thorn in the side of smiley types with laughs amid the darkness; and The Answer are the standard bearers for a wave of Norn Iron hard rockers...well that's satisfying enough!

Now Belfast City Council, congrats for your work on Belfast Music Week, and let's see a lot more rock and metal next year!

Dimmu Borgir ticket competition

THIS one is for those with the blackest of hearts....yep your chance, thanks to the good folks at CDC Leisure to win tickets to see the kings of symphonic black metal Dimmu Borgir at the Spring and Airbrake on November 28th.

"An evening with Dimmu Borgir" will see Borgir play their classic album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant in its entirity after a fan vote, followed by a selection from their back catalogue.

All you need to do to one of two sets of double tickets is answer this question: Name the Borgir concept album about a bishop's apprentice who ends up coming to the dark side? Email your answer here and sit back and wait.

Competition closes on midnight the 20th November.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Is it just me...

STIFF Little Fingers received the Northern Ireland Music Awards (NIMA) ‘Legends’ award at the biggest event yet on Wednesday 2nd November, and proceeded to show the young whippersnappers just how a proper band delivers a live performance.

Later that same evening I had the privilege, together with my son, to see another legend in the shape of ex-Guns ‘n’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan deliver another solid, stonking set at the Spring and Airbrake with his current touring outfit Loaded. These two legends are worthy of the status in a world where hyperbole is the norm and every numptie who can play two or three chords is given a wow factor.

Attending the Northern Ireland Music Awards was a mixed blessing – the chance to see SLF again being uppermost. But while one must accord congratulations to AU, Oh Yeah and Belfast City Council for organising the event, I was left feeling very much confused for what the mainstream passes off for music. Is it just me? Am I getting too old? But all bar And So I Watched You From Afar left me cold, and for large parts bored.

General Fiasco are an obvious favourite amongst the many teenagers and twentysomethings in the crowd, but even my son was bored by what was a performance that seemed to me to lack depth. Wearing ties and looking like they had just come out of a prep school party.

As for Cashier No. 9...well it was difficult to tell whether they were Byrds wannabes, or some sort of take on reviving the eclecticism of the 60s and 80s. Dogged by technical problems (errr guys even if everything goes down sing something! Or rehearse properly with your gear!) they left in a huff after two songs.

Returning after some much needed refreshment we came across what seemed to be a distorted guitar riff...only to find it was a sample – The Japanese Popstars where on stage. Ohh dear me, Satan must be reserving a very special place in hell for people who ‘perform’ with a couple of samplers and their Apple Mac laptops open. Sure they can mix other people’s music and add yet more samples of other people’s music and other people’s music (getting the theme here) what’s the point. Go programme computer games soundtracks or play Call of Duty, but don’t pass it off as a performance. If you can’t write music...
Is it just me? Am I getting too old?

Salvation was at hand however. Having no real live experience of And So I Watch You From Afar it was a delight to have an edgy, over the top instrumental wall of guitars, bass and drums: the bastard child of alt rock and Mastodon, there was something electric on stage. And for a change it was no faux angst. Tony announced he was leaving ASIWYFA before diving into the crowd. Due adulation, ecstatic scenes among the appreciative and the thrown down guitar... One cannot tell what the future is for ASIWYFA and Tony, but well worth tracking it down.

Radio Ulster’s Rigsy and Emma Fitzpatrick of Citybeat did an admirable job as hosting the event, but special mention must go to Stuart Bailie for organising it, and for Belfast City Council for being so open to Northern Ireland music for being among the backers (can’t figure out the Invest Northern Ireland link, but hey perhaps local bands should be applying for a special rock grant!).

BBC Northern Ireland’s Mike Edgar gave a glowing accolade to SLF, complete with a video charting their history (and some fashion mistakes). But what can you really say. Off stage they could be a group of middle aged men gathered round for a natter and wee bit of craic. But onstage there is a fire and an intensity that few can match even when they are only there for a 20-minute blast through.

Suspect Device, Strummerville, Wasted Life - all delivered like the fury of the late 70s and early 80s was still burning in Jake Burns heart. And with a new – long-awaited album follow-up to Guitar and Drum promised one can only see the Stiffs go from strength to strength.

This is beginning to read like a GCSE attempt at a review rather than a serious journalistic analysis, but what the hell:

With the final chords of Alternative Ulster echoing it was a quick dash to the Spring and Airbrake, thanks to the kind folks at CDC Leisure, to catch the last half of Duff McKagan’s Loaded. Laconic, every bit the Californian superstar punk, heavy rock icon, Duff’s set was almost like he was the resident act for the venue. Chatting to the front row as if with old friends.

But make no mistake about it; this is not a man on nostalgia trip. Yes the Gunner’s It’s So Easy was punched out to the crowd’s delight, while Attitude summed up a lot about the man. The acoustic version of Wasted Heart, however, showed that this is a man and a band prepared to see what comes next rather than resting on past glories.

So, why in the world did it take so long for SLF to be accorded Legends status? Why was the Spring and Airbrake not rammed to the rafters for Duff? And why was local hard rock and metal talent not received accolades and awards in the Ulster Hall? Trucker Diablo, Last Known Addiction, Million Dollar Reload, Worldsend etc etc etc may have small flaws each, but those flaws are tiny, minuscule compared to the flawed fashionable ones.

I posit two reasons: first, fashions fickle fingers swaying from the arms of the playlists of BBC, (un)Cool FM and Citybeat and the pages of AU. The second one is related, but all the more serious: airplay.

The rock and metal scene exists despite being blacklisted from the radio stations and print media. With the right airplay on mainstream stations I have no doubt that hard rock venues and album sales would enjoy a resurgence. Mime-along acts enjoy their allotted scandal rag half hour of fame and sell-out the Odyssey for their pre-pubescent fantasist girls and their mums, but the conversion of the 12,000+ that went to Iron Maiden and Metallica in the Odyssey from weekend rockers to regular attendees for local acts is but an airplay step away. One can but dream that next year’s Northern Ireland Music Awards will offer due recognition to hard rock and metal acts, and SLF get another Legends award, to paraphrase a certain cosmetic advertisement: Because They’re Worth It!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Can I audition to be an asshole please?

OH Satan must be delighted. We, the people of Norn Iron, have sucked on his nether regions and are now hosting an event so divorced from reality that we carry headlines about people "auditioning" to be in the audience!
Yes, you read that right, if you or your brain dead, semi-literate, and certainly not self-aware friends wanted to be in the audience for the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday then those who were not Belfast City councillors (oh how ridiculous is that? Belfast City Council invests in music so old aged has-been political non-entities get free tickets) had to audition to get one of the "extra" 120 tickets.

No doubt it was a carefully planned PR coup (when I'm not writing I work on an in-house PR team...so shoot me!) to have several hundred people who do ot care that the "audience member" criteria was to behave as a dick for the media in a desparate (well no-one offered a kidney or their first born child, so not that desparate then!) bid to be close to the 'stars' or be on TV.

First thing to get clear: fuck off you brain dead numpties! Just fuck the way off! That you would even audition to be in the audience is stupid enough! To be photographed and quoted in the news admitting to the world that you have no sense of proportion...just what were you thinking.

Can you imagine auditions for hard rock and metal gigs:
Q1 - Can you drink beer?
Q2 - Do you own at least two tour t-shirts
Q3 - Have you ever, under the influence of Jagermeister or Jack Daniels sang out of tune
Q4 - Do you understand that Justin Beiber's life should be forfeit in any civilised society?

Yes - big news in Belfast! Justin Beiber is to play at the MTV EMA event in the Odyssey Arena! Grab yer shotguns friends, we get to hunt a 17-year-old that is as manly as a Bangkok ladyboy. Ohhh, he's had several squilion losertube views, so he must be the NEXT BIG THING! No talent? Check! Pretty boy cheekbones? Check! Soccer mum and teeny audience demographic market secured? Check!

NI Music Week is actually a great initiative Belfast City Council has undertaken. Even if hard rock and metal is sidelined as usual, at least it is promoting Norn Iron acts. MTV EMA might get one set of foreign journos to hear something that doesn't have a drum machine or choreographed miming...well I am a dreamer!

Let me, as All Hallow's Eve fades into All Saint's Day (stolen from ancient Celtcic traditions by the church because ancient Celts were rocking out and having too much fun!) explain what is coming up in this week and coming weeks.

On Tuesday the NI Music Awards will see Stiff Little Fingers be accorded the title 'Legends', a title all punk, rock and metal fans should already know they have already attained. On the same night, the nice guy of Guns 'n' Roses, Duff McKagan, will bring his Loaded back to the Spring and Airbrake.

On Friday The Answer, Therapy?, and La Faro will be at the Ulster Hall, rocking it to its foundations.

If you want to chill out a little on Sunday Stormzone are having a listening party at the Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghil for their latest SPV releae Zero to Rage.

On Monday 7th Turisas and the Devon Townsend Project will be destroying the Ormeau Road.

Then on the 10th Manowar will be fighting then world once more, bringing the Black Wind, Fire and Steel to the Mandella Hall.

And that's not to metion Dimmu Borgir, Cynic, Black Stone Cherry and Fish.

Not that the "Bureaucratic Capitalist Whore Cowards", to quote Bill Hicks, would ever consider something as risky as having an actual proper live rockin' act on stage; Therapy? got away with it, but then Metallica played "So What" (and I shouldn't have to tell you about those lyrics!) and frightened the advertisers.

So with TV approved "audiences" and global entertainment "reporters" coming from across the globe thank you for reading my rants; get to gigs when you can; buy the CDs, back local talent and never, ever, stop rockin'!