Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feel it in your heart, your head, your soul; and may you embrace the metal

FROM the outside there is something faintly ridiculous about heavy metal – bunch of long haired types, cramming into a sweaty venue, fuelled by drink and rage at our dystopian society, shaking their heads as if trying to kill all remaining brain cells and slamming into each other with a ferocity verging on synchronised self-harm.

From the inside there is a pure, honest glory; the glory of release; halfway between catharsis and sheer abandon; dervishes driven by power chords; minds set ablaze by lyricism and borderline lycanthropy. Inside the Ulster Hall on May 28th the glory, the power and the unbridled joy that is heavy metal landed like a tow ton hammer determined to smash the venerable old building’s foundations into submission.

Machine Head – better known as Machine Fucking Head to those in the know – are ironing out any kinks in their set after the Eighth Plaque tour of the US and the festival circuit across Europe. As declared from the stage Machine Head have a special affinity with the island of Ireland and Belfast in particular.

That they keep coming back is a tribute to promoters and the band’s sheer bloody mindedness.

Kicking off the show were Dublin hopefuls Dead Label, who warmed up the slowly filling hall with their full on approach. Definitely a band with prospects, they however, were at times one dimensional, and the precussion while precise relied too much on crash and ride cymbals rather than using these as punctuation. This experience will help hone their skills, but we have to ask why a Dublin band was given this slot when so many Northern Ireland bands that gig constantly, produce solid releases and, we would contend, are more experienced are not given these opening slots?

Evile were the filling in the sandwich between openers and the main attraction. With Evile you know what you get. Straight forward (well as far as thrash can be straightforward technically speaking!) thrash that lays it down as if grunge and hair metal never happened.

In a quick, frenetic blast through old and new releases Evile brought a simmering Ulster Hall close to boiling point, with new song ‘Cult’ being notable together with ‘…Pit’ in provoking the first half serious moshing.

They may not be everyone’s cup of thrash tea – and some damn them unfairly for apparently not being born when thrash was at its height – but Evile have developed a skill level and dexterity that trounces the naysayers. And announcing a headline slot at The Limelight on October 20th was one sure way to endear themselves to the crowd even if a good percentage of their fans won’t be old enough to get in let alone take a refreshing sherbert.

But when it comes to a band that crosses generational boundaries its Machine Head; not because they’ve been around for almost 20 years and not because they deliver crushing riffs, hummable solos and choruses right out of the 80s metal playbook. No, it is because they touch at the sheer unadulterated delight of metal; the delight that sees strangers roar in each others’ faces, not in anger, but in primal howls of pleasure.

New(ish) album Unto the Locust was given most airplay, but after all that’s only fair. And they were equally fair to diehard fans with older songs and an impressive stage show.

Full-on crowd participation was the order of the night, and there was little need for the call to arms from the stage, although the banter about trying to be louder than Dublin is a little old for even Machine Head.

Flynn commended Belfast for its intensity, but this is a reciprocal arrangement. The more intense the performance, the more intense of the crowd response, which feeds off the band’s intensity and so on, creating a virtuous heavy metal feedback loop.

With faultless performances of Sonata and Be Still and Know pushing already boiling temperatures that bit higher by the time Imperium was pounding out febrile fans down the front were rabidly calling out the songs.

Literacy is a hurdle that many bands fall over as they attempt to construct songs and the lyric. Clichés too often abound. But Machine Head – and Rob Flynn in particular know that the two are wed. As he outlined onstage Locust is an allegory for a certain type of doomed relationship, but Darkness Within is on another level.

It is an ode to the power of heavy metal. In what felt like a genuinely heartfelt tribute to Belfast, Flynn recalled the band’s 94 support tour with Slayer, saying that Belfast was the second date on a tour that saw four young Californians first trip outside the States, to be greeted by armed police and soldiers and fans with an intense love of heavy metal. He spoke of how metal touches at the hearts, reaches its dark fist into your soul to bring light and how background mainstream and dance ‘music’ can never, ever match the peerless ferocity of metal.

Encores saw Halo delivered with its usual guitar-laden aplomb and then ‘Freedom Rang with a shotgun blast’ as Davidian ended the night.

There will always be naysayers who readily knock any band, but they are a tiny minority when it comes to Machine Head. They’ve earned every ounce of their success; they deserve every plaudit. Once they were asked live whether they were thrash metal, black metal etc etc. Rob Flynn and Phil Demmell looked blankly at the camera and said: “We’re just a heavy metal band!” All hail that sentiment.

Monday, May 28, 2012


LET’S face it, with all this unseasonal sunshine and the thermometer sitting at stupid hot degrees centigrade, we rock and metal fans are left to glower at the showers of summer frocks and pink-skinned spides stalking Northern Ireland’s streets.

Well, you know what? They can piss away off because the only fashion sense you need is a black t-shirt and jeans of cammos. And if it really is too warm, get the scissors out. Instant cropped top tour shirt and trim those trous to shorts.

Because when you step inside the hallowed halls of metal, the temperature already is at boiling point and the bands just crank it that wee bit further, because when it comes down to it metal is stoked from the fieriest pits of hell.

Tonight, things get even hotter that any of Danté’s imagined circles of hell when Machine Fucking Head descend on to unsuspecting mortals in their pre-Download attempt to rip the Ulster Hall a new arsehole.

Hard to imagine it, but Rob Flynn and his merry band of metal monsters have been crushing like the proverbial two ton hammer for almost 20 years, but over the last three albums they have become a real force – like the plague of locusts that

And the allegory of locusts now stands as not only the band’s new(ish) album title track, but also like the fans who are becoming more ready to devour any output from the band.

And as far as Roby Flynn goes, playing metal, for as long as he has done now, ripping it up for fans is the only course he knows. He told one interviews:

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15 years old. I’ve been on tour since I was 18. I don’t really know anything else, so I’ve never had a Plan B — this kind of had to work.

“I think when you try and tackle something with that much tenacity you make it work. A lot of people told me how I should get a Plan B, but I don’t want a Plan B, this is what I want to do.”

If you want to see why Mr Flynn and his Machine Head compatriots do not need a Plan B then get down tonight to the Ulster Hall to see Machine Fucking Head, with retro-thrashers Evile and and Dead Label…

And  if that isn’t enough, think on fellow madmen and madwomen of the metal flock. Post-Download we have the mighty Lamb of God to come…Heavy Feckin’ Belfast indeed!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Machine Fuckin' Head...no excuses now

RIGHT arseholes,  no excuses now. The two winners of the Machine Head ticket competition have been drawn. If you haven't received your email by now then deepest regrets, but you've no excuses left, get your fingers out of your rear end and buy your own tickets for the May 28th, Ulster Hall show.

Why? Well Machine Head are one of the most important bands leading the charge to make sure metal is remembered amidst a world of mediocrity; where the mainstream has waved goodbye to credibility; they're a band who have been through more ups and downs than a roller coaster in an earthquake zone, and have emerged stronger, harder and tighter than a shark's sphincter.

When they hit Belfast it will be a warm-up for an hour-long second headline slot at Download: acclaim from the metal world that Machine Head are climbing yet further towards the upper echelons, and are near the very top.

They are touring the new album 'Unto the Locust', an album which shows a band confident in ability and songwriting. From the ascent back that began with 'Ashes...' to the battle cry of 'Blackened' Machine Head are now in a place where they can release black paeons to the power of music in the 'Darkness Within' to threat of the title track - right through a worthy addition to the Machine Head catalogue.

More later on Machine Fucking Head, but right now remember to head along to your usual outlet or Ticketmaster and make sure you're there!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

If Iggy had been a woman and from Dublin...

IF Iggy Pop has been a woman and from Dublin then there is a certain chance he would have been a Panther Queen...

Yep Vengeance and the Panther Queen, with the release of the début ep have encapsulated the insanity of prime time Iggy before he started selling car insurance.

And let's face it when the title of the ep is "We Who Feel Our Lobes of Penitence Groped By Things With Petrol Claws" you know that sanity has been left lonely on the doorstep while the party rages on indoors.

As regular readers will know this blog does not believe in classifying the multitude of genres that print mags inpose on music. Where they would start in classifying Vengeance and the Panther Queen is another matter. The PR blurb describes them as "Irish Punk-Mental-Party Rock Metallists" which is sort of right, but not close to the chaotic joy; joy with a snarl and attitude dripping off every screamed note and soaring solo.

We confidently predict that 70% of the readers of this column will not give Vengeance and the Panther Queen a second listen. Their loss. Another 15% will give it a firm Whiskey Foxtrot Tango before walking off wondering what the world is coming to. The remaining 15% will get the brews in, and have their ears assaulted in the Panther Queen's weird world.

This four-tracker is a cocked single finger to convention, a spit in the face of the Cowel culture of manufactured shit.

It kicks off with 'This Is Not A Dignified Way to Make A Living' which stomps: background choral vocals a strange but fitting counterpoint to Tara McCormack's banshee shrieks. Layered beneath it all are metal grooves that develop like lost power chords in the maelstrom, with solos appearing both with the simplicity of punk riffing and also metal shredding from Mik Pyro and Darrock, who appears to have lost either a surname or a given name...

Benjamin Loose on bass and Andres Antunes on drums seem the only anchors as this ship of mania tumbles around the strange seas of whatever psychiatric, but wonderful delusion, weaves its way away from the shores of convention.

'My Ebola' is that fuck you towards the scenesters and their blind following of what is right according to the media darlings and the pretentios pseuds. This is punk as it was meant to be, with speed and riffs as an added bonus. And the short solo that ends this...well it could fit on many a metal geetarists 'best of; list.

With no time to waste, Tara beckons us to the worst house party for pacifists as she declares her intention on 'Party Fight'. In a world faced with austerity for the poor and working classes while rich bankers swan around in their Bentleys this Party Fight is where the balance may be redressed. Politicians? We vote, they don't care, we then party.

Concluding with a cover of a Million Dead Cops 'I Hate Work' this is a more straightforward track, and while equally enjoyable doesn't quite have the edge of Vengeance and the Panther Queen own tracks.

On one level this ep is so far off the avant garde scale that it makes Metallica and Lou Reed's Lulu shite seem acceptable pop rock. On another it has the punk edge that challenges, spits and pogos as if there was a sea of mods to dance upon.

Yeah, so quite a few won't get the Vengeance and the Panther Queen vibe, but if Iggy Pop ever gives up appearing on ads for car insurance then he can book himself to support Vengeance and rediscover why the Stooges captured a generation of misfits. Vengeance and the Panther Queen have their Petrol Claws embedded in our flesh and that pain feels soooo good.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Win tickets to Machine F**ckin' Head!

WE'RE too generous, we know it, and the good folks at Shine/CDC are way too generous. We have two pair of tickets up for grabs to see the awesome, the wonderful, the heavy as a ten-ton hammer Machine Fucking Head in Belfast.

Let's face it Machine Head have practically defined heavy metal in the 21st Century with lead breaks to die for, guitar harmonies to sear your face, intelligent and challenging lyrics and most of all they love Belfast. Why else would they keep coming back.

Machine Head, with Evile play the venerable Ulster Hall on May 28th. If you haven't got your tickets yet, then why not?

If you have already got your tickets then enter this competition and help a friend discover Machine Head's heavy glory. Better still buy your tickets right now, and enter this competition to share in the heaviness with a couple of friends.

So what do you have to do to win one of these heavy as fuck tickets?

The question: name Machine Head's latest album. Email us here with your answer and full name.

Winning answer will be drawn on 19th May.

Spare a thought for Paramore...

OKAY let's get this straight from the off. We're not Paramore fans and we're unlikely to ever to be converted: there are some boundaries we refuse to cross, and we have crossed many in the past.

However, we must concede it is a bit of coup for Belsonic to secure the emo-popstars with the outrageous Hayley Williams and her fanbase of screaming girls, and androgynous males.

Paramore appear at Belsonic on August 19th, the night after Thin Lizzy, The Answer, FM and Sweet Savage.

Now much as we have a distaste for Paramore, here's a wee thought. Paramore are basically a guitar orientated band. Their fans, who may have seen them at their King's Hall headliner, are now a couple of years older, and hopefully wiser. They'll no doubt want to re-visit the band that now have a total of three albums under their belt.

However, we hope that with emerging maturity, and a sense that true music (i.e. the music we write our shite about!) is more than a scenester thing. We sincerely wish, down to the bottom of our satan-embroidered socks (he did that as a wee favour) that Paramore fans will seriously consider the world of hard rock, 'eavy fuggin' metal and punk. Better still they might even support a local band or three.

So, Paramore fans - enjoy August 19th. The tickets go on sale on May 18th. Now may we humbly suggest that you all calm down, sit in a darkened room and listen to Trucker Diablo, The Answer, SLF, Stormzone, Sinocence, Honey for Christ, Baleful Creed, Double Wide, Sweet Savage and find out how local bands rock out.

Enjoy it; we'll be rockin' on the 18th August to The Answer, FM, Sweet Savage and Lizzy and we'll have to pass on Paramore - collective metal hangovers shall be our excuse!

Tyketto Dig in Deep and produce a gem

THE first time I came across the fine pipes of Mr Danny Vaughn was when he was lending his talents to the wonderfully shambolic Mr Pete Way's side project Waysted. Waysted were supporting Status Quo at a now closed Belfast Leisure Centre. In front of a packed audience Mr Vaughn won a lot of admirers, not least with performances of Heaven Tonight and How The West Won.

Since the 1986 release of Save Your Prayers with Waysted the versatile vocalist has appeared on 15 albums, the latest of which 'Dig In Deep' is currently on release, and yet again it proves that Danny appears happiest in a band setting.

Dig In Deep offers no real surprises in terms of what you'd expect from Tyketto, AOR with panache, but with a subtle understanding of the components that make up a truly great hard rock album.

Faithless, as an opener sets the tone for what is to come, a dynamic track punctuated with guitars set at the right level of riffage and solos; while Danny displays a range that many an upcoming singer would envy.

And there is a maturity about Dig In Deep, that suggests, lyrically, a reflective tone, exemplified by 'The Fight Left In Me' and the title track, which unfortuately for a great track, dips in the chorus's play-out despite a fantastic pre-chorus build-up

Minor quibbles, however, can be identified: 'Battle Lines' sounds a little predictable and a touch schamltzy. But that is to nit-pick.

'Here's Hoping It Hurts' is a tour de force fuck you to relationship killers and 'This Is How We Say Goodbye' is an album closer that comes from the hearty; a folksy coda. The narrative of love could also be read in the lyric "...family is what matters most of all" as an emphasis of how a band setting - and Tyketto in particular - is where the members, and the trio of original members Brooke St James, Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Clayton especially, can be at ease to produce damn fine tunes.

One can only hope that is not how Tyketto wants to say goodbye.

There is too much talent in this band, and too much talent in the pipes of Mr Vaughn for Tyketto to have this as a swansong. Dig in Deep is currently on release worldwide - fans of hard rock, only two words...Buy It!