Pick Your Rock and Metal

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…