Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Scott Ian talks - spoken word tour

OF the so-called Big Four of thrash, Anthrax have always been under-rated, but at their recent Limelight show they showed a power, prowess and passion with an intensity and joy few can match.

After the travails and turmoil of previous years this line-up seems to have nailed the Anthrax sound.

Which is why it will be so intriguing to hear first hand from no less than Scott 'NOT' Ian. The outspoken guitarist and band spokesman and leader is undertaking a spoken word tour, with a date at the Limelight 2 pencilled in for June 6th next year: D-Day no less!

More details of Scott's Speaking Word tour when we get it!

Unexpected Giant release

IT is a privileged position to be able to receive and listen to albums forwarded to us and review those that we deem worthy. Unlike the magazines we haven't the staff to review all of the titles sent through, but occassionally one drops into the inbox and we go - "hold on this is pretty good, but who the fuck are they?"

Hence when we read the blurb about Giant X we hadn't a bloody clue who they were or what to expect for their début release on Steamhammer/SPV. But ignorance aside this platter of Teutonic hard rock is damn good - not ground breaking, just damn good.

Clean production, riffs a plenty and a varied pace and nice take on classic NWOBHM and twin guitar attacks.

Going by the highly original title 'I' Giant X have a wee classic rock vibe that will put a smile on the those who need a wee lift on the dark nights of winter. We're sorry, but if the track 'The Count' doesn't have you grooving your aural senses need a re-boot.

However, the radio-friendly vibe of the 'The Count' is only one side of Giant X. This is the vehicle of Rolf Kasperak and Peter J. Jordan, who is probably best known for his role in Running Wild.
The 12 track album displays a versatility with hooks that get right deep into your brain and meaty choruses.

“Our material consists of consciously multi-layered numbers, more in the tradition of Kiss, Queen, Billy Talent, Thin Lizzy and Van Halen, in other words: rock music in the tradition of the seventies, eighties and nineties – our shared musical roots. The main thing for us was that people would be able hear the lightness and spontaneity of our collaboration,” Jordan explains.
Compared to Running Wild (we did some quick revision to make sure we were right about the derivation) Giant X have a wider range of source material to draw upon. At times there is a hint of blues riffing to offset the power metal rock range with 'Badland Blues' hinting at having listened to a wee bit of Cinderalla in the past. Set along with that is the likes of the mid-paced groove of 'Friendly Fire' and the balladic 'Nameless Heroes'.
And, we make no apologies but 'Let's Dance' makes us crack open a beer, pour the bourbon and party.
Giant X display a range of talent, while at the same time are able to plunge deep into a range of influences without being slaves to the past. Fashionable - probably not. The scenesters and metal snobs will hate it. But for the rest of us, get down, and get rocking to Giant X.
Giant X release 'I' on Steamhammer/SPV on January 18th 2013 in Germany and the rest of us have to wait until January 21st

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Belfast Telegraph - you can piss away off!

FIRST of all thanks to all who read this blog - this is the 1,001st post and from our inbox loads of you still read the ramblings contained within.

Now down to business - that's the rock 'n' roll business. Before starting I want to say the Belfast Telegraph can piss away off.

Yes - the biggest circulation daily newsaper in Northern Ireland can just fuck off and die, with their attitude to hard rock and heavy metal. It rehards it as something barely worthy of a few paragraphs when they deem it worthwhile to allow reviewers like Andrew Johnston to pen a few token lines.

And their true nature is revealed in their 'business' section today (20th November) when in a feature about how the music industry can be a source of income blah blah blah fucking blah...

Did they mention ANY Northern Irish hard rock acts? No. Did they mention ANY Northern Irish heavy metal acts? No.

So let us take stock here for a moment. Northern Ireland has, and is, producing some of the finest hard rock and heavy metal acts, supported by venues like the Diamond Rock Bar, and promoters like James at the Distortion Project, and SO

While we doff our hats to the work of Stuart Bailie at the Oh Yeah Centre we have to wonder just exactly WHAT THE FUCK hard rock and heavy metal have to do to be recognised as a valid and potent part of the Northern Ireland music scene?

We have had SLF and Therapy! blazing a trail. We have had Sweet Savage influencing generations of NWOBHM followers, not least Metallica.

We have the likes of The Answer playing to hundreds of thousands across the globe, but regarded as a light feature piece for the mainstream media.

We have Million$Reload and Stormzone with record deals, and Trucker Diablo proving that a party doesn't mean banality.

We have Worldsend touring the UK; we have Sinocence blazing a metal trail, we have the hardcore sounds of By Any Means; and we have the smart, intelligence in musical and lyrical terms of A Little Bitter.

And that's not to mention the likes of Baleful Creed, Double Wide etc etc. The Belfast Telegraph did feature Bakken, but one wonders if that was a result of the back story rather than the music...wait a minute it definitely was the back story.

Instead of featuring this wealth of talent we have a feature piece name checking shoe gazing numpties with dodgy fringes and checked shirts. (Believe us, after attending the NI 2011 Music Awards we could use more colourful language about the so-called talent!)

So what other 'entertainment' stories did the Belfast Telegraph cover today? Well Page 3 had the illusionist David Mead pulling some 'outstanding' feat of levitation, or as we prefer to call it self-publicity (and we dislike the land of woo as much as Mr Mead...)

Then on Page 6 we have a picture and story about 'I'm a Celebrity just shoot me; sorry that I'm a talentless knob stuck in the jungle.

On Page 15 we have a jolly wee story about the Orange Order doing self-deprecating Christmas cards.

There's a wee mention on Page 18 that Snooze Patrol are doing a charity gig this Yuletide (hands up the hundreds of you out there who have played, organised or attended a charity gig...yep there's hundreds of y'all who do that without needing Gary Shitebody and his band promotion disguised as charity...)

Then comes the 'Life' Feature section where there is more about 'I'm a wannbe talent trying to be a celebrity in some Australian carefully controlled TV exploitation show -  this time with the veneer of 'concern' at bullying.

So, apart from a few paragraphs grudgingly inserted occassionally the largest circulation daily paper in Northern Ireland has all but said we don't want those smelly, long-haired hard rock and metal types.

The easiest thing would be to turn our back on the mainstream media, and say 'screw you' we'll just get on.

But the money men read this type of coverage. Of the 54,000 to 60,000 circulation of the Belfast Telegraph there are few who actually 'read' the snippets on music, but every publicity chance and every piece of coverage counts.

Why should the darlings of the scenesters and the fawning BBC types get more share of the column inches?

Do they 'sell out' shows more than the hard rock, metal and punk acts? If they do, it is a marginal call at best, and with the mainstream media behind them to such an extent they should be at arena level by now.

So, Belfast Telegraph you can fuck away off and alienate the thousands of rock and metal fans.

And to all of you who have been to a rock or metal gig recently, have (legally) downloaded and paid for a track from a local rock and metal artist; you are the proof of what a music community is, and that community is one that still exists, still flourishes despite the sneers and sideways glances.

Hold yer heads up high, raise a glass and raise the horns!

Thank you to all the promoters, all the bands, all the fans and all within the community we have shared a handshake or a pint with. And until they recognise us, the Belfast Telegraph and its like can fuck away off!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reflections on Vaughn, 'Thrax and SLF

IN every reviewers life there comes a time to put aside the notepad and the carefully hewn phrase from the bedrock of lingual sources and just enjoy the fecking gig.

Amongst the amateur crowd there is a temptation to assume that the wide world of the 'tinterweb gives them carte blanche to type their views, without ever realising that a little used 19th century law 'technically' means they must have permission to review. In the modern era the '+1' is that tacit permission, or a specific referral by the record label or publicist.

That is why it is important to distinguish - and we always do - between reviews and reflections.

So these are reflections on three recent gigs - Danny Vaughn at the Diamond, Anthrax in Limelight (1) and SLF at the Ulster Hall.

The précis of the reflections? Well all three performances can be summed up in two wordsw: "FUCKING AWESOME!"

Classic adult-orinetated rock, thrash metal and Belfast punk - all FUCKING AWESOME in their own sweet indistinguishable way.

All three acts had several things in common - a considerable back catalogue to draw upon; more recent and in some cases brand new tracks; and a professional, yet engaging ability to connect with their audience.

Danny Vaughn's acoustic solo set was an example of what intimate gigs should be, up close and personal, able to chat with individual members of the audience and draw from right back to Waysted days to up to date Tyketoo songs.

Anthrax went right back to Deathrider and up to date with new tracks, of which Fight 'Em Til You Can't Fight No More is outstanding.

SLF drew from Inflammable Material through to two new tracks Trail of Tears and My Dark Time. And hats off and considerable kudos to Jake Burns. It taskes a real man to share his pain live and onstage.

The son of Belfast 14 stood in front of a packed Ulster Hall to say that the new album had been delayed because he had been suffering from depression, but it work was now well underway - My Dark Time explained it more in song.

So, we applaud and bow down to Jake for his honesty and candour and we hope he knows all our thoughts are with him: and equally if any of you out there are feeling similarly, please speak to someone, call a helpline, just get help and surround yourself with people who care.

There - reflections not a review. Danny Vaughn, who could be a journeyman but who has the voice to amaze and stun; Anthrax, possibly more fierce and more fun than ever; and SLF, sons of Ulster with the flame of youth burning brighter than when they were young.

We'd like to leave you with this thought, taken from an SLF t-shirt "Assume Nothing: Question Everything!"

And, remember, if you feel stressed or depressed, get help because you are valuable to you and all those that care about you!

AOR, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal....FUCKING AWESOME and more honest and challenging than any numptie on wank-factor...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Journey and Whitesnake confirm Odyssey date

JOURNEY and Whitesnake have confirmed an appearance at the Odyssey on May 16th. As yet  no word as to whether Thunder will be joining them, as they are also on the bill for the mainland UK dates....

Press release in full below:

Together for the first time in Belfast
Journey and Whitesnake
Odyssey Arena, Belfast - Thursday 16th May
Tickets on-sale: Wednesday 14th November at 9am.
Journey and Whitesnake are set to appear onstage together for the first time ever in May 2013.
Journey, one of the most popular American rock bands of all time, are responsible for creating some of the best-known songs in modern music. Over the years they have gained multiple accolades - including 19 Top 40 singles, 25 Gold and Platinum albums and single 'Don't Stop Believin'' holding the #1 digital catalogue song in history. In 2011 they drew nearly a million fans to their 2011 Eclipse World Tour which included a sold-out UK leg and ranked in the Top 15 Tours of the year. In the same year the band were awarded the prestigious "Legend Of Live Award" at the Billboard Touring Awards in honour of the band's significant and lasting contributions to live music and the touring business, and in acknowledgement of their commitment to the fans and the art of performing live. Journey will be joining the tour with their line-up of Neal Schon (guitars, backing vocals), Jonathan Cain (keyboards, backing vocals), Ross Valory (bass, backing vocals), Deen Castronovo (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Arnel Pineda (lead vocals).
Journey's Neal Schon said of the tour: "Looking forward to getting back to the UK and playing our best for you all. You guys are the very best, cheers and see you soon. We will be rocking!"
Co-headlining the 2013 tour are the legendary Whitesnake who carry a rightful & righteous reputation as one of the world's leading rock'n'roll bands. Founded and formed by Deep Purple singer David Coverdale, the band have earned multi-platinum albums and multiple top 10 hits worldwide, including 2 number 1 singles with 'Here I Go Again' and 'Is This Love' as well as the unforgettable hammer of 'Still Of The Night'. Bombast, bravado, talent and passion have helped establish Whitesnake as the perennial platinum favourite they have become and they're back with a vengeance in 2013, with plans to release a live DVD ahead of the tour as well as a double album."Unfinished business..." as Coverdale says slyly. "We all wanted the last tour to continue as we got closer to the end...After a year in the studio we're ready to rock on stage again...We're coming back for more..."
Harnessing Coverdale's blues and soul roots & fuelled by incendiary guitarists Doug Aldrich & Reb Beach you have all the elements needed to shape the 'Snake's hard rock identity.
Tickets are on sale Wednesday 14th November at 9am.
In person: From 100 Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide
By Telephone (24 Hour): ROI - 0818 719 300, Northern Ireland - 0844 277 44 55
Buy Online: www.ticketmaster.ie
Odyssey Arena Box Office
Tel: 028 9073 9074
Tickets priced from £44 including booking fee
For more see:

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Inflammable Material

"It won't change cos it's always been the same
People hating, people fighting, they say it's so,
Do you believe that? Perhaps you do but it's only up to you
." *

GONNA get a wee bit controversial here, but those shy and retiring, influential and awesome punks in Stiff Little Fingers have once again proved the just because you get older doesn't mean you slip on the slippers and slide off to ranting at the TV screen; yep SLF are taking a stand.

They are using their November 16th Ulster Hall gig to throw their weight behind the Integrated Education Fund, after bassist Ali McMordie learned that his old north Belfast primary school had achieved integrated status.

They will use the gig to highlight the Integrated Education Fund and make a financial contribution.

As Paul Caskey, IEF Campaign Director, said: "They are a band that always brought young people together in our community and it is wonderful that they are helping to continue that by supporting integrated schools. SLF helped inspire people to look beyond sectarianism and the establishment here – to encourage us to realise we hold more in common than what might divide us."

Whether you agree with integrated education or not, you got to take your hat off to a band that is more than self-obsessed image whores.

* Stands to Reason - SLF

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Henry Cluney beneft gig

REGULAR readers will know that we have a particular soft spot for Stiff Little Fingers, one of the most influential, yet least acknowledged bands ever to come from Northern Ireland. Thus we were saddened to learn that original member Henry Cluney has been taken ill with a brain tumour.

To help with Henry's medical costs a benefit gig is taking place in Belfast's Black Box on the 1st December.

Appearing on the bill will be The Defects, The Outcasts, Protex, The Sabre Jets, Shock Treatment 21, Brian Young (Rudi), Jim Reilly, The Androids and a Henry Cluney Tribute band.

Tickets are £10 and you can make a £5 donation if you are unable to attend. Full details here: http://www.blackboxbelfast.com/event.aspx?e=2024.

As it says in the blurb:
"This is more than a fundraiser this is a celebration of all that is great about the Northern Ireland music scene past and present."

Welcome to a creed of pain as 'III' hits our most baleful fears

LET’S face it, heavy music isn’t always designed for reflect happy thoughts. In our world of distorted guitars, heavy bass and damned drums lyrically our music is a mélange of flavours of hatred and hopelessness, torment and terror.
Yet we often emerge invigorated from the fire of metallic passion able to look life anew; a cynic’s heart is the heart of the true optimism, optimism that one day the world and its people will not be messed up forever.

To those outside the circle, well as Baleful Creed put it at one point in this EP: “You people don’t have a clue”
This is Baleful Creed’s third adventure into the magical mystical world of EPs. And they have cunningly entitled it ‘III’ in case we get confused where to put it in our alphabetised, ordered by release date collections

And this is a worthy addition to your collection of local excellence.
Double F.S. kicks with a slow-burn, down and dirty opening before the tempo stabilises into a rolling riff; the chorus kicking a melodic shock to the taste of filthy rhythm before the solo caresses the bottom feeders to rise to another level

Track two Autumn Leaves has a dark, dreamy quality, with a persistent riff underpinning the nightmare theme, the resonant lyric of a shallow grave adding to the haunting bluesy groove.

Next up we have a down-tuned Sabbath circa Masters of Reality butting heads with Down with agony and a snarl in Thorazine. It has a sweet chorus of hope after the riff has nailed your ass to the floor of despair.
For a song named after the controversial schizophrenia drug the dreamy mid-section sits just about right, before that riff and snarl come back with a vengeance and hope resurfaces.  Angst never felt so good

And here is a lot of the BC secret: for all the influences and nods to the past they have carved their own furrow; the music isn’t always what is expected, and the lyrics have an intelligent undertow.
This is evident on Illuminati with its brief atonal counterpoint in the opening serving to keep you off balance before the ferocity of the lyric smashes complacency and the bridge gets you prepped for the next onslaught of brutal lines. The hope in here is the hope of the cathartic feeling when a fist smashed into an enemy’s face that makes everything feel better:

Concluding with six minutes of heavy groove on Misanthrope, there is clean, sweet singing and a blues sensibility – misanthropy is a hatred of the human race in general;  but if BC hate us all so much why are they sharing these great tunes. Four odd minutes into the groove the tempo arches upwards for dual solos that are measured as well as shredding: a fitting coda for this chapter of BC’s development.
And it is development, there are subtle touches and arrangements that at first seem straightforward, but have hidden treasures. ‘III’ is a waypoint for Baleful Creed, a significant milestone for the band and yet further proof that for all the misery and misanthropy you can produce something truly enjoyable.



Coma time again

BACK in April of this year an alcohol-induced coma was complemented by an awesome display of how to rock the shit right out of Ormeau Avenue - yep Orange Goblin and alcohol messed us big time and we enjoyed the hell out of it.

While our collective livers may tremble at this post, the rest of our functioning body parts are screaming hell yeah - Orange Goblin are coming back to Belfast!

Screw you if you haven't fallen for the satanic groove of Orange Goblin - they're the boogie with a kick in the balls, they're the subtle wrecking crew that leaves you wrecked and screaming for more; and on 27th January waste shall be laid, riffs shall be riffed and necks will ache.

The Goblin deserve to be screwing with the heads of the totalitarian state we live in, but until then there's no justice, there's just us...ready to sing along to A Eulogy for the Damned (they're most recent release).

Orange Goblin shows are always a party with purpose; a gig that gives more; and a majestic mess (hey Paddy, did we really get that messed up last time....).

Ink the date in yer metal calendar - 27th January, 2013, Limelight2: 16 notes well spent to join the company of Orange Goblin; liver transplants you pay for yourself.

[Seriously - Orange Goblin actually write pretty challenging songs, with lyrics that has our editors musing about the meaning of life....and that's when they're all not shit-faced and stoned]

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bad, bad boys in big boat of noise

FOR those of you, faithful readers under the age of 16 you may not remember two vital things. Firstly, them there MP3 files weren't always how you listened to music, and secondly, Norn Iron rock and metal music has always had a healthy disrespect of conventions and 'scenes'.

Now, pop pickers you can recapture these two quaint old traditions: veteran noiseniks and doomsters writ large Bad Boat have re-released the Lonely Doom 12" Ep on delicious transparent purple 180gm vinyl.

Ahhh, the nostalgia - 12" EPs, a format that you could luxuriate in, and with Bad Boat, a format to scare the neighbours cats, terrify Tyrannosaurs and make smiley happy people weep with fear.

Bad Boat kicked around the lot quite a lot in the early noughties, and through shufflings of personnel managed to maintain a sound like having your ears dragged through the most delicious sludge you've ever heard.

This is not happy, clappy doom like some of the lesser spotted English proponents push out on sample CDs on the front of magazines. This is doom and sludge like Cathedral missed a down-tuning trick, as if Iommi's moustache grabbed the Gibson SG and dragged a minor chord from Satan's arse. This is Bad in the best of senses.

Title track harkens back to the earliest of Sabbath's riff-tastic nastiness. Lonely Doom is for those nights when you're sitting looking up at the stars wondering when this misery will shift. It's cathartic, and its feckin' heavy.

Second track, Mechanical World is a cover of the proto-metal hippies Spirit track, and maybe doesn't hold up as well as the self-penned material; but that is perhaps because the other tracks have a visceral deathliness to them.

Now kiddies, before enjoying the rest of the EP you'll have to do something that you'll never had to do before with yer CDs. You'll have to be careful, because even if it says 180gms this EP just gets heavier.

Grab your jaw before it hits the deck, because Lucky to Be Breathing is eight minutes plus where Tom Clarke's vocal intro supplants a subtle guitar development which builds behind a slow pound of bass and drums. We vaguely remember hearing this live circa 2008/09 but that damned wah scrambled our senses to oblivion. This is a track that builds like an avalanche, slowly advancing down the hillside of your aural senses, before you are swept up in its wake, thankful not to be buried, and grateful not to die. Cathedral? Nah, this is Clutch on better drugs. Although there is no way to prove this there are parts of Clutch's latest release 'Strange Cousins from the West' that nod towards the Bad Boat vibe here.

Rounding things off is an Uphill Struggle. No, you numpties, that's the song title not the effort required. Here's psychadaelia mixed with doom, sludge and a shed load of introspective heaviness. Sway like a spide who's taken mushrooms for the first time shithead because this rolls along barely under control, weighed down with the sheer weight of metal. Then it gets fast and nasty. We love it.

This is an EP that recalls a band weighty in talent, and a band that deserved more acclaim. There are only 250 hand numbered copies of this 12" EP available now on Freak Flag records. Buy one now, or regret it forever. You don't even need a record player, hold it near a speaker and the slowed down terror within will have those cones vibrating.

PS: we hear a whisper that BB may be rehearsing ahead of a re-emergence. Where do we sign for tickets?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aeon's death metal teaser...

ON 20th January Swedish Satanic Death metal madballs Aeon land at Belfast's Voodoo, with support  Dyscarnate, Ageless Oblivion, Warpath and one still to be confirmed. AGELESS OBLIVION, WARPATH + 1 TBC

Not for the faint-hearted or God-botherers!

This week Aeon revealed the opening track from their forthcoming new full-length, Aeons Black! Entitled "Still They Pray,"

You can check out an exclusive track premiere via Metal Hammer Germany  here: http://www.metal-hammer.de/video-audio/premieren/article330691.ece

Coming out in November through with Metal Blade Records, the 15-track Aeons Black was recorded at Empire Studio in Östersund, Sweden, engineered, mixed and mastered by Ronnie Björnström (Garageland Studios) and features cover art by Kristian "Necrolord" Wåhlin (Bathory, At The Gates, Dissection, Emperor et al).

Doors are 8pm and entry is a paltry £12...


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mon the Biffy, Mon the Goblin etc etc etc

BIFFY Clyro, Orange Goblin, Enslaved, Aeon, Grand Magus coming up – 2013 is shaping up just fine…

2012 has yet to draw to a close and already a torrent of gig announcements have been made or are about to be made for the New Year

You can check out the welter of gigs still left to drain your pockets in 2012 through the rockradioni gig list, the Distortion Project pages or the Limelight listings, but make sure you don’t sell that kidney too quickly on ebay because 2013 has already seen some great shows prepped and ready.

Enslaved, Grand Magus, Aeon and Man Must Die have been unveiled already by the Distortion Project.

And, now MCD have announced Biffy Clyro are to play the Odyssey Arena date on March 29th, with tickets on sale this coming Friday.

And, Orange Goblin, in announcing a spring tour, said “Irish dates to be added” on their Facebook post last night…
Hang on to your hats, wigs and bum fluff because more exciting news will emerge as autumn moves towards winter...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ambitious and awesome - No Gods, No Masters

IF you set out your stall to release a trilogy of EPs under the one named package you are either very arrogant, or supremely self-confident that your songs and song-writing can stand up to scrutiny. Or, could it be that the trilogy concept suits the music output you have ready to unleash.

Thankfully for the Sinocence team this first part of No Gods, No Masters stands up to scrutiny and unleashes five intense songs, riff heavy, metal as the proverbial fuck without descending into clichés; and where melodies sung or played help paint a musical lanscape few would dare to tread.

The palette that Sinocence draw their brushstrokes from is no where clearer than the opener Coda to Self Slaughter, almost seven minutes of time changes and slightly unsettling lyrics - surely a sign that metal, at its best is both a catharsis and a chance to air the distrubing side of human nature.

West of Eden follows suit - this is not easy listening, but its listening that is essential in the pantheon of metal - or to put it another way, it stands head and shoulders above - as does almost all NI output - the twaddle and mediocrity emerging from the UK and US.

This is no unsubstantiated claim - check out the soloing in Occam's Razor, and the song contruction. Complex, yet appropriate; and with the lyrical theme that nails down the only basic fact in life - the truth is complex, but it is the truth. The refrain: "If God is love, love is war, I can't love you any more..." is haunting when it kicks in around seven minutes into the eight minutes of metal perfection.

Let's make no bones about - before the cookie monster invaded metal (and which we also have regard for here!) there was evidence in abundance that vocals did not need to be indistinguishable grunts. Sinocence do not need to indulge in vocal high jinks - clean and down to the point - no fucking around. Long Way down is an example where the tapestry of guitars, rhythm section and chorus punch you in the face.

The 7:37 conclusion - Cruelty In Silence, references previous Sinonce outings, with its pacey mid-sections and low down guitar growls amidst the melody of pain and anguish. A worthy listen!

Sinocence have been through personal tragedy and personal challenges. There is no silence hidden in this track. This is standing up, with the worthy messsage that there are things to fight for, and that it is worth saying what needs to be said, no matter whether there is an audience or not: there will be for this, but nevertheless the important truths need to be spoken.

It is hellish amibitious to release a five-track ep that has a running time as long as many artists mini or full length albums, clocking in at around 32 minutes.

It is also a tempting tease towards vols 2 and 3. We here at metal mansions are drooling in anticipation: Sinocence claim there will be "No Limitations" moving forward...now that is a bold claim, but it is one that should have metal fans ready and primed for the next releases once they have the time and energy to digest Vol 1.

Ambitious so far? Yes. In a word: awesome! ToSinocence, we doff our caps!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

You will comply or get a bunch of sixes

COMPLY or Die are a band that has honing their sound of late, getting that crucial mixture of hardcore, punk and metal just right.

And with the release of double single Sixes and Three Suns the mixing bowl has churned out two might tracks.

Like Cancer Bats on speed, attitude flailing with angry purpose, both tracks deliver a firm smack in the face.

Sixes persistent riffery and and tortured delivery hides a subtlety in the arrangement, as it plunges towards a breathless climax.

The same formula batters you senseless on Three Suns, with an anguished cry of 'where can I go' punctuated with straightforwaard, no nonsense pummelling, before a breakdown gives listener and band a brief bass led breather as a tortured all too brief solo leads its way to a solid wall of riffs.

All at Sixes? We think not for Comply or Die! Shining bright in the light of those Three Suns

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Went to a party and a gig broke out….

THE last time Dragonforce played the Mandella Hall, they were shambolic: the ZP era about to end and the tensions meant that Turisas stole the show. Could the Marc Hudson era resurrect their fortunes, or would the Scottish pirate metallers, Alestorm steal the show…

First up were The Defiled. Post-glam, metal, thrash, groove, industrial metal, it was difficult to put a finger on what they were, but as far as the line-up on the 27th September was concerned they were ill-matched with the following acts. Genuine no doubt, but perhaps better seen on a different billing. Potential, yes, but the bar called; after all we had to prepare for Alestorm…

Comedy? Yes. Musicianship? Yes. Stagecraft? Yes. Fun? Most definitely so!

Alestorm, on the surface, are a joke. A bunch of Scots, with one token Northern Ireland member, singing hyper speed sea shanties, two keytars and not exactly verging on the safe side of sobriety.

But the joke on record elevates itself to the very finest vaudevillian levels. The crowd are in on the joke. This is a band who are poised on the precipice of disaster, pulling the crowd with them perilously close to the rocks.

Captain Morgan didn’t have this much fun before he endorsed rum. But above all Alestorm showed that they can balance a set. After ripping through the opening few songs the speed was cranked further with Buckfast Power Smash. And then the crowd was taken to Nancy’s Tavern for some, errr, comfort. Whores and Mead were definitely available…ironic given the number of under-18s. Still, pirates did start young in the 17th century.

Keelhauled, Captain Morgan’s Revenge, and take a bow Alestorm; because as a far as support slots go this was as good as it gets.

Were Dragonforce to disappoint? Much mutterings in the smoking area and bar before about whether they could top Alestorm.

A thinking rocker, would have taken the time to consider the similarities between the bands. Ridiculous posturing, marginally insane lyrics and superb musicianship.

This time Dragonforce hit the stage with a point to prove. No beer bottles littering the place; no stumbling and fumbling. They brought the force.

Hudson has relaxed comfortably into the role, roving the stage, engaging with the crowd and delivering a vocal performance par excellence: although some of the higher notes on Heart of a Dragon were beyond his range.

Sam Tottman was contained, using his riffing and harmony solos to counterpoint Herman Li’s exuberant shredding.
Predictably they did the 'who is better than who' routine...

Opening with Holding On, they shifted Hero of Our Time impressively, before second track of their most recent album Power Within, the subtle song Seasons.

Mini-pits were breaking out all over the middle of the hall, before they dug deep into the back catalogue for Heart of the Dragon. Through the Fire and the Flame was reborn with Hudson’s delivery, while Cry Thunder was an immense closer.

With encore Valley of the Damned Dragonforce laid any doubts redundant and proved, perhaps to themselves most of all, that they are a potent force.

Hudson took the time to say that Belfast was special to his memories as the support slot with Maiden at the Odyssey had been his first ‘proper’ set with the band. Here’s hoping they’ll be back soon.

Overall, gigs can have their own dynamic, when the package is mixed right. The Defiled seem good enough in their own right, but the party roared into top gear with Alestorm, before Dragonforce laid waste. Bowling for Soup once opined that rock is funny when it tries to be serious. Alestorm and Dragonforce proved that the show, the party, the beer and the damn good music means that heavy metal has alternatives to the earnest bands, with prominent power, laughs and a good time.

Footnote: as this was an over-14s gig admission to the bar was for those with wrist bands only. Which meant that the under18s had no access to refreshments. If they did not have a parent or family friend with them there was no way that they could access water. QUB SU needs to closely examine the implications of this. Given the energy some of the young people expended the was a risk of dehydration for some of the young people. Hopefully QUB SU can resolve this, as many of the young people will be future students and gig goers at the Mandella and the SU should protect their future and the young people’s health.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aleforce party hard...

WELL when it comes to heavy metal parties, the line-up this Thursday is hard to beat – some might even say it’s an Ultra Beatdown to release the Power Within but that would be a horrible play on the album titles of Dragonforce, destined to end up with us all in the Valley of the Damned, undergoing an Inhuman Rampage brought on by a Sonic Firestorm…. Ooops did it again!

Right – down to business: Thursday night, Mandella Hall – Dragonforce and Alestorm. Hard drinking power metallers and hard drinking Scottish pirate metallers. There is of course other bands on the bill (we’re looking forward to The Defiled, but we’re not really sure why) but let’s face it, we’ll be going along to see how shit-faced one needs to be to (a) really enjoy the sets and (b) the bands can be and still perform.

The last time Dragonforce played the Mandella Hall it would be fair to say that it was a bit of a shabby set, cliché ridden and blown off by Turisas.

But, when they played at the Odyssey, supporting Iron Maiden, there was more potency, with new singer Marc Hudson seemingly injecting new vigour into the set.

This show is the second date of their UK and Ireland tour, part of a world tour that takes in 40 countries. The assessment will be whether they can maintain the head of steam, and will the teaser as openers for Maiden live up to an appetising full-set main course. With second single from The Power Within out now, a healthy dose of that album is expected: and the chance to see how Hudson has adapted the old favourites to his own vocal style.

Oh and the usual diet of widdly guitar solos please…

As for Alestorm…well behind the fácade of silly lyrics, onstage antics and copious amounts of rum there is some nice, tight musicianship. Listen closely to Alestorm’s output and the arrangements and delivery are surprisingly good. Whether sobriety will be close enough for us to appreciate it…well who can tell.

And believe it or not there be some of ye olde party tickets are stll for sale on the door on Thursday should you not have laid your scurvy ravaged, rum-addled bodily parts on your pass to the party...

See ya all there – and remember, party hard, be good and be careful and remember to plan your Friday morning hangover cure project…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New riff on old clichés - foo reflections

SO the Fo Fighters came to town - we drank beer, we got soaked and we sang-a-long to Everlong...so fucking what?

Well, there's a lot more than that...

First off - too loud? How many eejits can be crammed into one radio phone-in whining and whingeing about a rock concert being too loud? Officialy the Foo Fighters reached 104db at one point before reining it in....boy the residents who moaned would have really hated it if Manowar were playing with their full rig.

But first and foremost the Tennents Vital show with the Foo Fighters was a great, beer soaked, rain-drenched experience [More of that later].

And Trucker Diablo were opening the show - how fucking good could it get? Unfortunately otherwise faultless organisation of the day was marred by having Trucker kick off at 3:40, just 10 minutes after the gates opened; leaving the thousands (and I mean thousands) standing around, shuffling. Apparently an issue about checking IDs led to the confusion...still what we did see (three songs) were excellent as usual from the Diablo crew, with Drink Beer, Destroy, Big Truck and new song When the Rain Comes; which of course had been coming down in torrents with accompanying thunder

The pre-Foo line-up was not to my taste, nor anyone else's in my company, still the over-priced beer was flowing and the craic was good.

Speaking of beer (which we occassionally do) the whole concept of Tennents Vital is an interesting one. It is huge a brand opportunity for Tennents, not to mention the many pints sold at £4 a pop: captive audience and all that the queues for a pint were extraordinary. Partnered with MCD this type of gig involves all sorts of arrangements that require a law degree, a business masters degree and a wealth of experience.

With 32,000 there the ticket revenue would have been more than £1.2m, but put that beside the cost of bringing the Foo Fighters (and those other bands...) you probably have the guts of £750,000 down the pan including stage set-up and sound system. Then staff costs, legal costs (you need lawyers for contracts and to get your entertainment licence through the council's committee system), the costs of the hire of the playing fields and restoration of the pitches afterwards, added into a marketing budget and it is plain that the margin when selling those tickets is tight.

Which means that MCD and Tennents are taking a risk booking Vital. Should a calculation and estimate go wrong, then there are serious losses on the cards, which can be mitigated to a certain extent, but still it is a risk that has already seen one promoter badly stung (albeit through booking a very strange line-up) and the cancellation of Sonisphere in England. Large and small, we should all take the time to all gig promoters for taking the risk everytime they book a band.

So, just over a week on, one must doff a cap to MCD and Tennents - hefty ticket prices and dear beer aside - nevertheless they offered us the chance to see an international grammy award winning rock legend in the person of Mr Grohl.

In a lengthy set Mr Grohl covered all that would be expected, with a smattering of tracks from the new album through to the greatest hit selection. For those who watched the Foos Reading slot on BBC3 you'll know that much of the stage routine and banter is pre-planned and scheduled - that's not being predictable, that's why practice makes perfect delivery. Hard rock can be a cliché at times but the Foo Fighters brought a new riff to the old formula.

It is then a challenge for the front man to hold the crowd, something which Mr Grohl manages to do rather well.

But, here comes the confusion: the choice of the Pink Floyd cover, which they played a snatch of (if you don't know what it was then you need more rock education! It's from The Wall and is a key moment in Pink's life).

The track is at the point when the rock 'n' roll dream lies in tatters and Pink's persona takes a turn towards messianic megalomania. "Pink isn't well/he stayed back at the hotel/they sent us along as a surrogate band/tofind out where you fans really stand"

What message is that sending out. Is it simply that Dave likes the riff. Is he ripping a line to the fading memory of Nirvana, or is it an ironic take on where superstardom has taken the Foo journey to.

If Dave would care to comment, we'd be most grateful.

In the meantime - thanks to Tennents, MCD, Trucker Diablo and all the Foo Fighters. Next time make sure it's even louder - we rockers like to share!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Big Truck keeps on rollin'

FOO Fighters? Yeah, they rock and Dave Grohl has the whitest teeth in the history of rock, and they're playing in Belfast at Tennents Vital: and they should be honoured - indeed I am assured they are - to be sharing the stage with Trucker Diablo!

Of course, we are a little biased, but seriously, between the Foo Fighters and Trucker Diablo it's really the only excuse to be in or near the Boucher Road in Belfast on Tuesday coming. [We have patrols out on that day and any hard rock fans found in a DIY shop or car showroom will receive a severe reprimand!]

Tennents Vital in previous yeasrs has had little to catch the eye of hard rock and metal fans - The Darkness at Botanic was the closest one we can recall in our alcohol addled state - but the combination of the Foo Fighters (and yes Mr Grohl is metal - we say so because of the Probot album!) and Trucker Diablo is simply irresistable.

There will be no other opportunity to see Trucke open the proceedings before wandering around sneering at the scenesters and the bad fringes while supping a pint or two or three or four before joining in to all those rocktastic and poptastic songs like Monkey Wrench and Learning to Fly.

For Trucker it is another step along the Big Truck's inexorable march to global domination - on Saturday they play Stendhal Festival in Limavady after an English tour in July, numerous club dates and after Vital another tour (when I have full details I'll update).

As for the Foos? Only date in Ireland, this year, or next year and in all likelihood none the following year until their gig at the Diamond rock Bar is confirmed... Enough said.

See y'all on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sepultura competition

Congratulations to Alex who has won a pair of tickets to see this lot of Brazilian metal maestros

And hear new Triggerman material off this tasty wee platter:

Remember that tickets are still available for tomorrow night's (Sunday 12th August)  Limelight gig from these two metal titans - where the River Foyle meets the Amazon!

So thanks for everyone who entered lucky winner and unlucky entrants will have been sent their emails by now.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quick! Sepultura Ticket competition!

RIGHT you lot! Very quick Sepultura ticket competition. The kind folks at CDC/Shine have offered up a pair of tickets to see the awesome pairing of Brazil's finest and Derry/Londonerry's most rauscous, Triggerman when they rip a new roof on the Limelight this coming Sunday (August 12th)

On Sunday Sepultura are in the closing stages of the world tour to back 2011 release Kairos, while Triggerman offer their latest preacher metal offering, Hail to the River Gods [Review here] to further unwitting souls.

Sepultura have been described as many things, and there has certainly been much speculation about whether 'classic' Sepultura or the Derrick Green era is the 'better' version.

All any fan of metal should really care about is the fact that they rock like bastards and are more metal than yer ma!

Kairos is an album thhat cements the Green-era, defining the band's vision, and kicks you in the nuts painfully, even when you think you know it is coming.

This is also the first tour with 20-year-old Eloy Casagrande behind the drums - and from tour reports he kicks like a mule on steroids, providing the back beat to the barely kept in check chaos unfolding in front of his drum riser.

Okay - you want us to cut to the chase...how can you win a pair of tickets?

Simply tell us what is the title of Sepultura's latest album (clue: read the feckin' paragraphs above!). Email your answer here by midday on Saturday.

And if you haven't got an email by 5pm on Saturday, pack up yer mosh boots and head along to the Limelight on Sunday.

Doors open at 8pm and there are some tickets left on the door - and if you're not there we're sending Derrick and Bap to find ya!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Saintly sinners on the Million dollar march

NORTHERN Ireland hard rock and heavy metal is riding high on the crest of the proverbial wave at the present, with bands slotted in for top support slots at Tenents Vital and at last count three finalists in the Total Biker FM talent contests, soon to be joined by at least another act.

And on Thursday one of the leading acts takes to the stage at Belfast's Empire on Thursday, 9th August, (for the Belfast launch of their album, A Sinner's Saint. [Review here.] [SEE BOTTOM FOR GIG LINE-UP UPDATE!]

A Million$Reload have been working their way steadily and surely to become real contenders, chock full of attitude and with just the right blend of Northern Ireland snarl and melod.

We caught up with  vocalist Phil Conlane as they prepared for their headline slot in this SO:NI backed event as he reflected on what seems the inexorable march of the Northern Ireland rock scene.

"I don't know what the reason is," he said, "but long may it continue. There are so many great bands from Northern Ireland it's only a matter of time before we take over the world!"

And for Million$Reload it's been a year with many highlights, not least the release of A Sinner's Saint, and good reviews in the national media (Metal Hammer accorded them a credible 'seven').

Amongst those highlights for Phil: "Finally getting the album out because it took so long to get a good deal done with the label, and it was a highlight to play Dowload."

With that in mind the band are in high spirits going into Thursday's launch.

"We're looking forward to the Belfast gug," said Phil. "The SO:NI gigs are always good and it's been a while since we've played in Belfast. And we're all looking forward to playing the new songs [from A Sinner's Saint] to the city's audience.

And, after that, Phil says the band's plans can be encompassed in three words: "Touring, Touring, Touring!"

Joining Million$Reload on stage will be the début set from Matt Fitzsimon fronted Rival Saints. Sweet Taste's new line-up complete the warm up before Million$Reload and in the midnight slot are Fermanagh's Filthy Angels: A night of Sins, Saints, Angels and damn fine hard rock. Doors are 8:30pm and pay yer dues of a measly £5 to gain entry!

A Sinner's Saint from Million$Reload is out now on Frontiers, and it's available in all good record stores - here's evidence of a few still available on HMV if you want to stock up in advance!

[And don't forget people to vote for Northern Ireland acts By Any Means and Warcrux in the latest Total Biker FM talent contests with Double Wide, Sinocence and Swanee River already through to the finals!]


Rival Saints will not now be appearing and their slot will be taken by The Screaming Eagles

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Lucky 13 for massively impressive Magnum

LET'S face it, we've always had a soft spot for Magnum: great guys, great music and something uniquely of these island in terms of their sound.

But as they now have the title - like it or not - as elder statesment of British melodic rock, can they still deliver. In 2011 Visitation hinted that they could still pound out to the template of earnest vocals from Bob Catley, backed by the guitar tapestries of Tony Clarkin and the sweep and swoop of Mark Stanaway's keyboard. So well received was it that Visitation charted in the UK album charts at 55 and topped the UK rock chart.

New release On The 13th Day hits the racks in September and fans are in for a treat.

Our assocation with Magnum goes back to their performance in QUB's Speakeasy during the On A Storyteller's Night tour, backed by Dublin's Winter's Reign. Bob Catley - total all round top bloke - took the time to come across and spend time with fans in the QUB History Department's Common Room.

When they returned a year later on the Vigilante tour to Belfast's Ulster Hall they still proved to be all round nice guys as well as dynamic and bombastic perforners.

That was in the late 80s. This is 2012. With the new release can they maintain the momentum of Visitation, and capture that sound that enthralled Belfast audiences and was a constant presence on Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show?

The answer is a loud hell yeah!

From opener All the Dreamers to closer From Within this is a tour de force of how progressive melodic rock should be delivered.

Catley's vocal performance has matured and has also added a dark menace as on the track Dance of the Black Tattoo to complement his usual soaring consistency.

Clarkin's guitar work is measured and rolling and swaying on Shadow Town, with Stanway tight and light,  the duo adding a lush landscape as the song develops towards a lovely chorus with a message.

Title track - On the 13th Day - is Magnum at their best: riffs integral to the song structure, not dominating; solo journeys tight as hell; and, Catley raising his game as the pre-chorus suddenly develops into sincere lyrical rhetoric for the state of this world faced with austerity and misery for millions.

Magnum prove they are not only relevant, but keep the promise that hard rock has a place in the heads and hearts of a sizeable chunk of the population. This album carries itself, not with the swagger of rockers content just to churn out what they made their name from: no, Magnum play here as if they were young début artists who demand your attention and that demand is easily answered.

And as an extra wee lift for long time fans the cover is by long time associate Rodney Matthews.

On The 13th Day is released on Steamhammer/SPV on September 24th

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ballsy Bakken burst forth with power début

REGULAR readers know we here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited have no time for labels. Yeah, sometimes you need to add a wee classification, but if it's good metal, hard rock or punk then that's all needs to be said.

Bakken could, potentially have several labels attached to them, but they deserve more than to be labelled as thrash/classic metal/NWOBHM/power metal crossovers. The sum of the parts is more - much more
Having burst forth from seemingly nowhere they have produced a life-affirming album, Death Of A Hero, which is to be released in September. Hold on to your hats people, because Bakken have produced a spectacular début platter.

For a band who have had their fair share of turmoil and tragedy is remarkable that they have emerged with fists pumping, guitars roaring and a pounding defiance that whaever fate has thrown their way they can emerge stronger.

Album opener Darkest Day is eight minutes plus of snarl, riffs, rumbling with a Maiden-esque rhythm and a contemporary structure. Niall McGrotty's drums and Brian O'Kane's bass the power-house upon which the song is built.

With Simon Pickett's vocals dripping with attitude the flesh of the track is on Pickett's and Mark-Anthony McGinnis's twin guitar attack the template is set for the rest of the album.

Up next Mystic Mogul and Cursed are now available from the band to listen to for free. Mogul has more than a slice of NWOBHM at its heart, with Pickett's vocals taking a slightly higher tone, emphasising the roots of the song. Cursed [sampler below] has more of a contemporary feel; steady paced and chopped chords breaking up the riffs; married with a chant of the title makes a perfect setting for the middle eighths and breakdowns.

However, debts any twin guitar act have to their predecessors must be paid: self-proclaimed Lizzy fan Pickett pays that debt in full in Sasquatch, with a Celtic feelign series of harmony guitars layering together nicely.

The album closer Voyage of Aodh is perhaps where the depth of the band can be found. After a heavy opening, subtleties of structure, slower sections and emotive lyrics build up over almost eight minutes; there is a feeling in the complexities of prog metal, a dash of black metal and a cap nicely doffed to the likes of In Flames, pace varies, tempos change before a headlong rush of melodic guitar lines, underpinned with impressive drum lines and rampant bass.

In pulling together this album - other tracks are the equally impressive Back to the Future, Get Back to Your Feet, and Fortress of Evil - Bakken have laid down a marker of future intent. All in all a welcome addition to the local output that surprises with its depth and delights with its structures in this ballsy début release

Monday, July 30, 2012

I've got a band, got some tunes...what next?

IT's a difficult time out there, economically, with austerity the word of the political day. And, with an ever-growing number of bands cutting tracks, what can you do to make sure your hellraising, hard rockin', ass-kickin' outfit of rock 'n' rollin', headbanging, axe-wielding mean mothers stand out from the crowd.

On more than one occassion Belfastmetalheadsreunited have been asked for some PR or marketing advice. Some know, as principal writer for the site I cut my teeth with six plus years full-time journalism, before 15 years in PR; some even know I have been part of an award-winning PR team.

But, sometimes advice given to a band for free, isn't always valued the way paid advice. Nevertheless, I cringe at some the basic errors that bands make as they try to make sure their work receives the right audience at the right time. Of course a large part of that is if you manage to get signed by a major label and they help out with the hard business of distribution.

So, below are some hints and tips to help out as undergo the metal odyssey of a crowded media marketplace, all the more complicated by that 'tinterweb beast.

Put it bluntly, following these tips won't get you a major deal and a million-selling, but they might help you.

One sheet

Right, if you don't known what a one sheet is, now is the time to learn. You will not get anywhere quickly without a one-sheet. As the name says it is information about your band that can fit on to one sheet of paper, even if it is in electronic version.

At the top the basic details: list who you are, what the album is called, catalogue number, etc and possibly where you are from. Nice to put a picture of yer ugly mugs beside it, or the cover of your latest album or ep release.

Then simply describe yourselves in three or four concise paragraphs, and details of the release. Put web links and contact information at the bottom. Using a text box list the band members (and what they play), the track list of your release and any relevant discography.


You want the groupies to know who you are don't ya? Okay, that suonds very 1980s and your missus might kill ya if you're caught, so be careful out there; still it is important for the hordes of autograph hunters out there to recognise you.

If you can't afford a professional photoshoot then get hold of a decent SLR and have someone who knows how to use at least the autofocus. And remember of you're a death metal band don't go all smiley. Equally, no matter what genre of punk, hard rock or metal you are in, do not, under any circumstances scowl. It makes you look like a neandrathral with a headache.

Wear your stage clothes for the pics! Sounds simple, but that's how people recognise you (and if you don't have clothes that you regard as stage clothes then....get some now and set them aside as your live gear).

Pick a good backdrop for the shoot. In Northern Ireland there are dozens if great locations if you don't have access to a studio. Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Csstle, Giant's Ring, Loch Erne, Loch Neagh, bridges across rivers (Foyle Bridge?), industrial sites...take your pick for the pic.


Everyone thinks of themselves as a great writer. You're not. Lyrics, yes, blurb no. Even after writing every day since I left the hallowed institution of advanced drinking, called university, I learn something new about writing every time my little fingers grace a keyboard. Get a mate to look over what you do, have band colleagues check it out, and use all the writer's tools: metaphors, alliteration, etc etc but no adverbs!

Hype kills. Every music journalist despises bands who claim they are the best thrash/rock/death/black/industrial/old school act to pick up an axe. You are not. Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Amon Amarth, The Answer, Behemoth are all rightly at the top of their genre. Do NOT under any circumstances claim to be the best ever/the definitive/greatest exponent. You're at the start of your journey to stardom - you're not superstars yet!

It helps if you can reference acts that you are similar to. If you look at the reviews section of many of the major magazines, quite often they'll tail the review with a simple line: For fans of...


They're all scum, right? Wrong. Unlike the tabloid press, most music journalists are generally interested in the music. And if they work on Metal Hammer or Terroriser they're not likely to be into Kylie Minogue. That also means they are very discerning. While blogs tend to be more effusive or more vicious, again most are fans first, bloggers or magazine reviewers next. First off, if you get a bad review, get over it, suck it up and use it to motivate yourself for your next show.

Next, develop relationships with music journos - no not that type of relationship! Make sure you know they're Twitter names, like them on Facebook, find out they're email address to send tracks to, or even if you have a hard copy of your latest release ask if you can get their address to send it to them, they appreciate it. Don't get downhearted if they don't review it, but a polite request for feedback can produce wonders. Remember - polite.

While the main music magazine writers get paid, most blog sites get a pittance, or nothing at all for their efforts bar the music to review or a +1 into a gig.

Social Media

This is the area where so many bands screw up  - thankfully very few in Northern Ireland make the mistakes other bands to. The community nature of much of the music here means that there is a mutual support.

Do NOT beg for people to check you out, listen to this, listen to that. If you have content to share, just say it. Think, what sounds better: "Check out or fantastic new music video!" Or: "We've just released new video - what do you think of it?"

The latter line invites people to watch it and give you feedback. And then you can re-tweet that or give it a like on Facebook.

Find out who is following you and liking you. Follow them back, apprecite it and send them a thank you.

Other bands are in the same position, roughly, as yourselves. Follow them, like their content and make sure you mention when they are gigging - that usually means they'll return the favour.

People follow/like other people who share good content - therefore make sure you are regarded as a good source for other 'stuff' and it pays off.

Do NOT ever, ever post/tweet anything involving nudity, anythingm sexist, rascist, sectarian or otherwise stupid. It will cost you, it could lead to being unfollowed, and people mouthing off about you. Such posts are not big, and they're not clever.

And do NOT pester anyone. It sounds desperate.

It's business

Yeah - it's called show business, and while you're delivering the show, the business side can slide. Set aside some time to make sure that you are taking care of business. Simple things help you a lot. Does your band have a bank account? It helps organise your finances - and means you can out aside the money for buying merch, for example, or petrol money for going to play gigs. It really is simple. If travelling to a gig costs £20 in petrol, withdraw that, and deposit the fee you receive (if any) together with merch or CD sales.

Yes, I know you want to practice every spare moment, but a fortnightly band meeting to agree the finances really helps everything stay on an even keel. Agree who and when you're posting items on social media, which journalists you're contacting and sending stuff to.

Management? Do you need it? Can you afford it, or are you better doing it yourself? And, should you decide that you need management, some basic rules. Never pay an up front fee; check out their track record; ask for references from other bands; get everything in writing; and, make sure you have someone professional, or experienced to check over any contract before you sign it.

Equally, be very, very careful should a label approach you. Membership of the Musians Union is a valuable investment. You can benefit enormously.

Equally, think carefully before you agree to any marketing or distribution deals.

And, finally...

Your music should stand up large enough for you to gain some form of acknowledgement, the rest is common sense.

Be polite, be courteous ["Thanks for that review", "Hey, thanks for following us.Here's a link to our latest single", "Cheers man, that was nice of you"].

And then, rock as hard as you can, to quote Metallica, "bang that head that doesn't bang" and enjoy yourselves! You know your music is good, you know that you are always learning, and when you tip that first post-gig beer back you will know that not only have you delivered a 'cracking' set, but that all that time on Twittter, Facebook, contacting journos and sharing other bands' material will mean that you are amongst friends

If you have other tips you want to share with other bands, or friends, post them in the comment box, or if you want to contact me directly, my email addy is here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Forged in fire, tempered by tragedy

"GOOD music is something to fall back on in tough times." The words of Bakken's Simon Pickett, when we caught up with the lead singer and guitarist of Northern Ireland outfit Bakken as they prepare to launch their début album 'Death of a a Hero' in just over a month's time.

And Bakken are a band that knows how much it means to have music pull you through. Simon contracted a serious illness and another band member lost a close relative in tragic circumstances. But as a result of this Bakken have pulled through, are a tighter unit and make what statements they need through their music.

Simon spoke to us about the process of recording the album enabled them to move on, grow and develop - reflecting as many readers of this blog know, metal isn't always about darkness.

"It's fair to say that some of the band has had a horrible last few years," he said. "But as I'm sure most metal fans do, I always feel that good music is something to fall back on in tough times.

"When we started the band I was still quite sick and was obviously quite depressed, but I found that airing some of the negative emotions and frustrations I felt through music was a really cathartic process and helped me through it.

And that catharis has produced an inner strength; "For me, heavy metal (or at least the bands I like) always have a positive vibe or an element of strength and hope in the music and this was the same for me when I was writing the songs.

"I like to think that this really stands out in our music too and that other people listening to it can find the positive messages in there and be inspired themselves.."

That musical inspiration can be something apparent as musicians step on to the stage, when a mixture of nerves, angst and excitement bubble into the best of sets. Getting ready for the studio is a different matter.

Simon explained that Bakken were prepared for the challenge: "We actually had the songs very well mapped out as demos and practiced them hard before we gigged them, so that made things a lot easier in the studio.

"Having said that, the pro level studio experience was new adventure for all of us and it took us a bit longer than originally planned to record the whole album, mostly due to the complex nature of some of the songs."

They also had - like many taking to a professional studio for the first time - the challenge of making sure that the live vibe was not lost in the studio.

"Capturing the live feel was quite difficult but was important for us," said Simon. "Specifically we wanted to avoid using a constant unchangeable click track beat wherever possible as this can make some sections sound dull and monotonous.

"We also stayed true to the equipment we use live and tried to resist the temptation of layering the instruments too much. Most of the time there are only two rhythm guitars playing which retains the percusive raw edge to the sound; the vocals also have a raw live feel about them too."

So what can the listener expect from Bakken? The one-sheet explains that they are a mix of classic metal, NWOBHM and thrash. It's a heady mix on Death of a Hero [Review to come later] with early Bruce era-Maiden, Diamond Head, and Thin Lizzy caught up in structures and styles fans of the likes of In Flames, and the better Trivium songs will recognise. They are all clear influences, but they are not slavishly followed.

"The influences are quite obvious to those versed in classic metal," explained Simon. "As the main song writer my main influences come from my love of 70s and 80s rock and metal, Thin Lizzy, Queen, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween, etc.            

"Niall is a hard hitting drummer who is a fan of very heavy contemporary bands and is very skilled at fast “double kick” drums, something we used a lot in the album; also Mark-Anthony (the second guitarist) is also a huge thrash metal fan (as I am too), so combined with these harder influences I like to think we have created a fairly unique sound that doesn't compromise on either melody or heaviness."

But it's not just metal that Simon draws his influences from - he has a musical reference point in common with the late Cliff Burton.

"In terms of finding unique inspiration, I often listen to classical music (composers like Mozart and Bach) [Burton was a skilled classical musician who cited Bach frequently] which has definitely opened up my mind to incorporating innovative approaches to composition.

"For instance, a lot of the time, the two guitars and the bass are playing different things, which when added together give a full, more complex sound. You mentioned contemporary influences like Trivium; some people often comment that we sound a bit like them, although I wouldn't say this would be a result of a direct influence but more probably from a shared set of classic metal influences. That's not to say there aren't any modern bands that influence our style; personally I am a huge fan of melodic death metal bands like Children Of Bodom and In Flames, these influences often creep in to our music too, so its a real mixing pot I think."

Death of a Hero is the soundtrack of a band that has emerged from dark times, who have feen forged in fires of misfortune, but used tragedy to temper their attitude into an honest reflection of how metal can birth hope, and, as epitomised by the words of Simon brings hope and strength.

Review to come later... 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thrash it to death...after a bit of flaying of course

WE suspect that the good people of Somerset have been boosting the strength of the scrumpy and cider - how else could one possibly explain the sheer ferocity of Flayed Disciple, whose latest release - Death Hammer - landed with a suitable thud on the metal mansion doormat courtesy, of the good people at Grindscene Records.

Flayed Disciple are not the sort of cuddly band to introduce your ma to, even if she still hankers aftedr being a milf rock chick.

These natives of Taunton have released mixture of thrash and death metal that pins yer ears back at the audacity of some of the arrangements. As regular readers know I care not the names many sub-genres of metal are labelled with; if its good, then it needs no label and Death Hammer is a damn good album. Not for the faint-hearted, but good nevertheless.

Riffage from the golden era of thrash in the 80s is forced via guitars weeping in pain into a contemporary feel, with Tim Whyte's vocals at times threatening to become so guttural that passing whales can be thrown off course at the ulstra low frequencies.

Lyrically they are not afraid to tackle themes familar to those of us with one juaundiced eye on the news, the vile Westboro baptists - the church that threatened to protest at Dio's funeral - merit themselves the Flayed Disciple treatment on 'The Westboro Massacre'.

As the album builds the guitars of Thurston Howe and Jon Whitfield grow into a mixture of tight groove and at times searing, soaring heights. To be fair, it is probably the second or third listen before you can 'get' the complexities of this pairing. The clever, but not overdone, use of a few samples - vocal mainly - serves to accentuate their work.

By the time you get to 'Interceptor' you can fully appreciate the rhythm work - it is no mean task for any rhythm section to hold down the precarious balance between thrash and the more modern death interpretations of timings. Paul Williams (bass) and Phil Tolfree (drums) seem to freely interchange who exactly is taking the lead to ensure that tracks such as 'Exodus' and 'Bleaching in the Sun' maintain a dyamism.

The album stands out - to these ears anyway - largely with closing trio, which have titles not for sensitive Bon Jovi fans. 'Torsofucked', 'Ejaculate While Killing' and 'Pig' are blistering. All three are noteworthy with different takes on the Flayed Disciple template, but it is album closer 'Pig' that lays down eight plus minutes of sheer, unadulterated dark joy: how the hell anyone is meant to stay in the pit for that long is another question in and of itself, given the pace and dexterity of this aggression.

Death Hammer is the first time we at the metal mansion have come across Flayed Disciple - and hears to the next time. Once again Grindscene have caught the right band at the right time, with the right extreme edge in the metal spectrum.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A million sins and dollar saints

JOHN Cougar Mellancamp once said that rock music had begun to bore him, because it was the same three or four chords just changed around a bit. Mr Mellancamp's boredom could be cured quite easily here in Northern Ireland where whiskey-soaked and beer drenched good times show the true path of hard rock.

And, he could do worse than check out the sinners, the saints and the party underway as Million$Reload unleash their new album shortly.

But, what is more this is a band that is aware of just what it is, just what it does and understands that clichés are all part of the magic of rock - after all a chliché by its very definition comes into common use because of the fact that it has rather tautalogically become a truism.

Rather than try to ignore the path of goodf honest hard rockin' Million$Reload's latest offering's penultimate track - Pretty People - acknowledges that in the bar rooms and the clubs rock - and its bastard spawn are cluttering up the world with the very worst chat up lines...and from that clutter A Sinner's Saint emerges head a shoulders above the many pretenders.

It's an album that is best enjoyed either speeding down the motorway with the top down, or in a packed house, beer flowing and a crowd of raucous mates. Live Million$Reload deliver and to a large extend A Sinner's Saint captures that energy.

Opening with the statement of intent Fight the System it is followed by a brace of tracks - Bullets In The Sky and Blow Me Away - that have more hooks than a shark fisherman; singalong, raise your fist songs.

But anthems and catchy choruses are not the only things that Million$Reload can deliver. Boy bands and R&B artists will be sucking the barrels of 9mms at the thought that bands from Northern Ireland can produce tracks like Broken. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel on Broken Million$Reload just make it run smoother than melting cream off any body part you choose. And what is more Broken is life-affirming...

Amidst the party rockin' there is a lyrical depth, with Broken, Pretty People and album closer It Ain't Over all showing that just because some people think hard rock is dumb ass music doesn't mean it is.

Singer, Phil Conlon delivers the lines with aplomb and a cock suredness that only frontmen intent on getting their lungs a solid workout really can. And he is sure about what A Sinner's Saint stands for.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is escapism…you can forget about your everyday troubles and woes, rock out, sing and scream along, have a beer and a smoke!” he said “It’s nothing new, this kind of balls-out rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s been buried away these last few years because too many people in the industry wrote it off as old fashioned and out of touch, but people are beginning to realise what proper rock ‘n’ roll really is!”

With the twin guitar attack of Andy Mackle and Brian Mallon backed by the ryhthm section of Kie Murray (bass) and Sean McKernan (drums) behind Phil it is easy to believe that it is time for the industry to take off the blinkers and get behind Million$ Reload - they are in the vanguard of a music scene in Northern Ireland that, if the world is a just and proper place, should be given the chance to explode worldwide.

A Sinner's Saint? Lead me to the path of righteous rock oh Sinning Saint...

Across Europe A Sinner's Saint is available on Frontiers Records from 29th June and in North America from July 3rd.