Pick Your Rock and Metal

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.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blasting from the past comes one Ms Ford

ON Monday (18th June) Lita Ford came blasting back from her past with a snarling defiant single finger to the doubters, to the people who may have hurt her, and to the ones who have dismissed this once Runaway.

For younger readers Lita Ford was amongst the first real all-female rock group, The Runaways, with a punk snarl, overt sexuality and a penchant for being ripped by management: hell they even made a movie of their journey from top to bottom.

While her partners in Runaways crime went on to different careers, including one Ms Joan Jett, Lita Ford took what she learned and paved her own metal furrow with tunes like Kiss Me Deadly and a duet with Ozzy ("If I Close My Eyes Forever").

After a spell in semi reclusion, Lita Ford is back; punk sensibilities and rock tonality all mixed in with her sense of what makes a good tune, what riff mixes best, and most of all a defiance that swats away any doubts that this once teenage sex symbol can still cut it.

Then new release, Like a Runaway, is full to the brim of tracks that stay embedded in the soul, like Asylum, Relentless and Love 2 Hate U.

But while this is a statement of intent, an album where Ford allows full expression to inner and outer demons, her personal issues are dealt with sensitivity and with clarity, especially on the title track and Mother.

Her determination not to become a footnote in rock history is laid out on Relentless - and with lyricist Michael Dan Ehmig, she has captured about herself and the intent of recording this collection.

"There have been days in my life when I ran away, when I was unhappy and had to get out of my previous life," Lita confesses. "It's like walking through fire and being able to come through the other side unscathed.

She continues: "I wanted to write an album which gives people couragle, inspires them and gives them new power, in other words the power of music."

The power of music and fans was emphasised when Rob Flynn of Machine Head introduced Darkness Within recently in Belfast, and although coming from different points of view, it's that power that can heal and raise hope.

"...I want this music to help people to get through tough times, while remembering their happy times as well," said Lita. "It's happened to me plenty of times: fans come up to me and tell me how my songs have helped them in difficult situations, in a way its almost like a soundtrack to their lives"

This is a life-affirming album, with perhaps the only downer being the Nikki Sixx penned track, A Song to Slit Your Wrist By; which has at its heart a great tune, but is the only track which lacks the space to let the passion flow easily.

There are some who would write off the likes of Ms Ford as older rockers for older rockers, which misses the point. Good hard rock keeps on giving and Ms Ford has gave us a platter of par excellence hard rock and roll, with a metal twist and a punk punch.

Living Like a Runaway is now out in SPV/Steamhammer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Preach the rock, pull the trigger

THE first time we at Belfastmetalheadsreunited had the privelege to witness Triggerman we dipped our heads in the time-honoured sense and nodded our bonces in time to their beer-soaked, whiskey-drenched fervour. We had witnessed the dawn of Preacher Metal.

Since then the Derry outfit has grown stronger and tighter with each outing.

Now we have in 2012 their latest platter of delight on our decks and once again the Riff Holds Sway. Hail to the River Gods is an evolution where gradual change has merged the nighty back catalogue of Triggerman's releases into a coherent set of new raucous riff-tastic sounds.

This is a band ready to stomp on the stoner vibe, bash the clichés of biker rock with size ten boots and where singer/guitarist Bap once more is in the pulpit and his dark sermons take us on journeys of mysticism, wakes and geography lessons...

Geography lessons? Right kiddies, if you're asked about precipitation in geography class, or if older listeners want to show off, one wondrous lyric explains rain and the cycle of water life. The title track explains: "The mount feeds the river, the river feeds the sea, the sea feeds the sky..." A nice summary of why if feckin' empties out the heavens here; surrounded by seas and oceans, ringed by mountains and wet. And this is why you must never (at pain of a good kicking) never confuse what Triggerman do as 'Stoner Rock'.

Stoner rock emerged out of the dry desert, with weed and contemplation, with a glazed look and a gently nodding head. Triggerman rip that head off and shit riffs down its neck. The ...River Gods are from the Oak Leaf County and the shillelagh carved from oak is weilded at mediocrity as surely as the guitar and bass of Triggerman are knitted hand in glove withy a stomping drumbeat.

Sure, on 'Wake The Dead' a cap is doffed to Queens of the Stone Age as the sing opens, but then pretty boy Josh Homme has his face seared off by an ode to the tradition of toasting the departed with a good ol' binge.

Opener 'Rage of the Goddess' taps into the power of the 'weemen' in ancient Irish history, but this no shrinking violet goddess, nah, this is a goddess with sharp teeth and nails honed to a point if you mess with her.

By the time you've captured the rage and riff of '...Goddess', 'Rise of the Woodsmen' and '...River Gods' your thirst will have risen and you will only be able to slake it with 'Thon Strange Brew'. A glorius tone poem to the restorative powers of what fundamentalist preachers call 'The Devil's Buttermilk' but we just know as booze.

'Thon Strange Bews' might leave youn hungover and headachey the next day, but as your hands shake you know it was worth every gulped paracetemol and fry up because you had one helluva night, and even though you're not sure how you got home, it was never a beer too many.

'Flower of Life' rips along at a steady, pummelling pace before the album closes with a peak at the place we can only see with satellites, 'The Blind Side of the Moon'. Here Bap opens with a faux American twang, the tempter gently offering us all that we need, all that we want and all the power...sounds like a politician. But as the power rips apart the soft promises the lyric is a rejection of the fake, the frauds and a welcome to freedom.

And it is the freedom of expression that is the hallmark of '...River Gods'.

Pop along to their web site, order yourself a copy and check out the next time you can see Triggerman live. You won't regret either buying the album or seeing the riffs slay in reality. You'll hear Preacher Metal, where the sermon is on theme of the water of life, sometimes known as whiskey, and where you'll just need a beer chaser or eight to make sure you've got 'Thon Strange Brew' of booze and rock.

Friday, June 08, 2012

When did Norn Iron become a metal mecca?

YOU just got to wonder when Norn Iron became a rock and metal mecca - was it something that someone said; did Rob Flynn's praise go on to some secret booking agent's hotline; did Lemmy say "Belfast? Nice town"; did someone notice that UFO keep coming back again and again; or is it just the fact that we produce so many shit hot bands that acts want to check us out.

Of course the cynical amongst you may argue that bands will look for a few extra quid either side of festival dates or UK tours, but to hell with you! We should just glory in the fact that so many bands are coming here.

Announced this week is a visit by Sepultura on August 12th just after their Bloodstock appearance. And don't forget this Tuesday, Lamb of God will be recovering from a soggy Download in the dry and sweaty environs of the Mandella Hall.

Unfortunately owing to circumstances beyond my control I can't be at Download but daughter is helping make up the Belfast metal numbers.

But if Lamb of God is a wee bit on the heavy side for ya, then Tuesday also sees Stormzone at the Limelight with a personage who goes by the name of Sebastian Bach, you may have heard of him in some wee act called Skid Row...

Ahh the summer, where blossoms bloom, where cold glasses of wine [Editor's Note: surely not wine? Beer or nothing!] sit awaiting imbibing and where Iced Earth will, somewhat ironically raise the temperature in August.

Oh I ncould witter on for years about this stuff, but with several albums and singles to review, is it enough to mention that Anthrax are playing hetre, so are Dragonforce, Alestorm, Y&T, Bowling for Soup and there are dozens of local gigs coming up too! Check out RockRadioni's gig guide for a pretty comprehensive listing!