Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Storm front set to hit Helfast

WITH less than two days to go before the Helfast mini-festival opens its doors for an afternoon and evening of noise, we caught up with Stevie Moore, guitarist with headliners Stormzone – a band with rightly justified high sights for the future.
For Stormzone it has been a year of touring as they prepare for the imminent release of the new album Three Kings.

And with a recent support slot with Saxon safely tucked under their belts, Helfast festival at Belfast’s Limelight2 looks set to the opening chapter for another book of successes.
After their apparent unjust treatment at the hands of a certain American singer, Saxon proved a much more enjoyable and professional slot for Stormzone.

“It really was ‘a dream come true’ for us,” said Moore. “We have toured with a lot of bands over the years and this pairing with Saxon, being at the forefront of the NWOBHM, was just the absolute perfect match for us.

“The audience was geared up for the kind of music and performance we deliver, and the whole thing couldn't have gone better for us.”
And for the band it was a cert that they were looking forward to being on the bill with the English metal legends.

“We're all big fans of the band so it's hard not to feel a little starstruck when you're hanging out with Biff, swapping tales from the road!”

And their treatment...”Saxon and their crew were extremely professional and courteous throughout the tour, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a few beers with them after the shows. “

With these support slots safely notched up to experience Moore reflected on the positive road experiences they have had hitting the festival stages across Europe, which has bonded them ever tighter together as a band and as friends.

 Stormzone is definitely five brothers united in a common goal, and we also have our team around us that give just as much as we do,” he said. “If you see some of the backstage footage of us available on YouTube etc, there are no separate dressing rooms and back-biting, it's a bunch of guys who are genuinely excited to be doing what we do and it shows!”

Moore continued: “The tours and festivals we've done have been a cross between work and a holiday, from my own personal point of view.

“There's a job to be done but everyone is pulling in the same direction, so there's always time for cutting loose and having some fun. I try to keep Facebook and twitter up to the date with the more light-hearted side of things, as people may have noticed from the pictures of our recent trip to the Metal Assault festival in Wurzburg...”

On the road the last Stormzone album, Zero to Rage (review here) has been nestling down nicely with previous releases as Moore explained.

“There are a few of the songs that have become "standards" in our set and will probably always be that way. Now that we have a bigger pool of material to choose from, you can't play as many songs from each album as you'd like to, so we like to make sure the fan favourites are in there with a little surprise every now and then.

 “It's quite a feeling to look out and see fans from Spain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, all over Europe, singing every word to songs like Fear Hotel and Where We Belong,” said the axeman.

 “And when you find out that some of the fans have literally driven across Europe to come to a festival to see Stormzone, it's hard to express to them what it means to you that they would do that. You find yourself scrabbling for things to give them - picks and drumsticks don't quite cut it in those scenarios!”

With Helfast knocking on the doors, and appearances at Dundalk’s NSX Festival and Hillsborough’s Sunflowerfest, the band are gearing up for the release of Three Kings.

“We've just finished recording and mixing the album, which will be available in July on Metal Nation Records,” said Moore.

“We are beyond delighted at how it has turned out. It'll show another step up for the band in terms of song-writing, sounds and overall production.

“I can't wait to have people hear it, I'm so proud of what we have achieved with this album, and going by the reaction to a sneak preview played on the radio last weekend, I know the fans will be as pleased as we are.”

No matter the weather there’s a major Storm Front moving in, and from what Moore explained – you have a choice, stand in the Stormzone and relish the metal – or get out of the way.
Helfast takes place on June 1st at Belfast’s Limelight2. Joining Stormzone on the stage will be Altus, Warcruxand Triggerman. Helfast is a joint promotion between The Distortion Project, Paradise City and Blink Management. Tickets, priced £10 will be available on the door.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sinning the metal way with The Distortion Project

SO, it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in Belfast, unaccustomed highs on the thermometer, uncultured types stripping off around City Hall...what does the self-respecting metal fan do in these circumstances?
Well, as it is a Saturday afternoon, heading to the Limelight2 for a wee blast of Sinocence flavoured fun at The Distortion Project was the prime option this weekend (25th May).

Yes, returning to the stage after a short hiatus the boys were back with another blast of their technical terror.

A last minute bill change aside, it was an afternoon in four acts with varying degrees of theatricallity.
Opening were September Cross, who delivered a well-measured and entertaining take on old school metal, with NWOBHM influences to the fore. They proved that it is possible to pay homage to the masters that are Maiden and Diamond Head without slavish copying.

Tight and fluid, September Cross have pretty much it all, but could use a few wee refinements in terms of stagecraft – you are allowed to move around the stage and engage everyone.
Definite promise from the Cross here!
Stagecraft is never a problem for By Any Means – furious hardcore delivered with an in-your-face power, bouncing about the audience, pounding the stage, challenging the crowd to like them or get out – By Any Means demand your respect; whether you like their hardcore hell, they deserve your respect. Give it.

Red Six delivered, by contrast, a little too much stagecraft: however, the musical landscape was crowded in the right way: much aplomb musically and with a little more development they could be the antidote to mediocrity that they promise. Not afraid to mix brutality with harmony they are one to watch.
There is something compelling about Sinocence’s brand of metal. While you can hear the influence of the likes of Megadeth, Sinocence have learned what Mustaine has forgotten  - that is that the song comes first not the widdly guitar bits! And they are not afraid to deliver harmony and space for tunes to develop.

Although the band claimed to be a bit ring rusty there is nothing that a casual punter could spot – seasoned observers could pick at some looseness around newer songs, but with that looseness came a bit of groove.
As tight as any band may wish to be, live is where the vibe and the groove of songs can grow – Sinocence are growing and with them there is the promise of much more to come.

Live the guitar work transcends the sometimes hard work of listening to twin guitar attacks, and the shade and subtlety many lack comes shining through – a winner of a 45-minute set, and here’s hoping the band keep that looseness rather than tightening live performances too much.
So – surprise, surprise – our darkened hearts chilled by this four-band behemoth of a line-up come 9pm and the sun was still shining...what next for Belfast’s metal fans?

NB - this was the exact time when Sinocence's new video for 'Long Way Down' was débuted nationally - here it is for you to have a gawk at!

Nailed to the Belsonic Mast

NINE Inch Nails are the latest act to be added to the Belsonic line-up with an appearance from Trent Raznor and crew on Wednesday 21st August.

Support comes from local technical noisenicks And So I Watch You from Afar.

And, with the Bullet for My Valentine/Bring Me The Horizon are Gojira, the heavy as hell French Enviro-metallers on Bank Holiday Monday, August 26th.

With Lamb of God on in August this could be a neck snapping month...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No sin as Sinocence return to slay Limelight again

THIS Saturday Sinocence are back to lay waste to the Limelight2 once again as the Distortion Project lays on a five-band show on May 25th (this coming Saturday).

Still out there plugging their awesome No Gods, No Masters Vol 1 EP Sinocence are backed by Dead Label, By Any Means, Red Six and September Cross.

As always with Saturday afternoon's at the Distortion Project doors at Limelight2 are at 4pm and the event runs until 9pm.

Tickets are a measly £5 and there is a selection of drinks promotions (we stopped reading when we saw Jager at £2...)

A perfect warm-up to June 2nd's Helfast with Stormzone, Triggerman et al...(Competition for that wonderment is here)

Win VIP tickets to see Stormzone at Helfast

YOU know you're all winners here, but for some lucky readers we're offering you a chance to be a special part of Belfast's Helfast Saturday of metal madness.

Yes, on June 2nd the mighty Stormzone, the river gods, Triggerman, far-out Nasa Assassin, the crushing Warcrux and the débutantes Altus will be laying waste to Limelight 2.

And in case you haven't yet pocketed your tickets The Distortion Project, with Blink Management and Paradise City have two (yes that's TWO!!!!) VIP tickets into Helfast on Saturday 1st June up for grabs, to witness the Stormzone, Triggerman,  NASA Assassin, Warcruz and Altus (doors 2pm).

The prize, for you and a friend, also includes entry to the venue to watch the Stormzone soundcheck and a visit to the Stormzone dressing room to take part in the pre show Toast. To win, simply answer the following question:

What is the title of the first Stormzone album?

To enter, simply e-mail The Distortion Project with the answer. You have until 1pm on Friday 31st May to enter, and the winner will be chosen at random, and announced on Friday evening.

Winners will be notified via e-mail. Please note that entries will ONLY be accepted via e-mail. Private message answer will not be accepted. Good luck!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Big truck rumbles on with songs from Songs of Iron album launch

NORTHERN Ireland has a proud history in terms of rock music: from the 60s years of Them and Van Morrison, through to the punk revolution of the 70s, the NWOBHM success of Sweet Savage, and more triumphs of Therapy?, Ash, and The Answer .

The current crop is not shabby either, with Stormzone, Million$Reload amongst the vanguard.
But for all the growing national and international success of our rock bands, there still is a moment when home grown talent brings their newly released work back to their spiritual roots.
Whether that band achieves acclaim beyond Northern Ireland’s shores or not, that is the moment when local fans know there is no justice, there’s just us...
Such was the case on Saturday night (May 18th) when the Big Truck that is Trucker Diablo came back to the Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill to launch their new album, Songs of Iron.

And, what a way to do it!

With a half hour acoustic set and then playing Sons of Iron to an eager audience.
During their acoustic set Trucker even unveiled two excellent songs that didn’t make it on to Songs of Iron – which is testament in itself to the strength of the new album’s 15 tracks.
After a brief respite for the band to set up and the crowd to enjoy refreshments Trucker unleashed the Iron – from surefire hits like Drive and The Rebel, through to the US FM friendly Highway Radio there was no foot put wrong, and the fist-pumping Year of the Truck is a stomping rallying cry to fans new and old.
Trucker are as at home on the huge festival stages, and equally the friendly intimacy of the Diamond lends itself to the party atmosphere generated by straightforward, honest, hard rock mayhem.
All four men, Tom, Simon, Glenn and Terry are accomplished musicians in their own right, but equally as a unit they gel on stage and keep it heads down rock and roll.
While fans already know Trucker have bucketloads of talent, that 2013 will bring new fans from festival stages and wider tours.
This is the Year of the Truck, when the Big Truck will rumble through the gears with Songs of Iron pounding out to win over those who have not yet received the blessings that the Year of the Truck offers...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is this Journey end?

THERE are a ladies of a certain age, who remember the chart hits of the 80s, and who in the words of Bowling for Soup always wanted to be “dancing on the hood of Whitesnake’s car”.

Said ladies were much in evidence in the seated area of the Odyssey Arena last night, whether beguiled by Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing played on the children’s programme Glee, or simply trying to remember what it was like before they settled into the boredom of domestic hell.

This made it all the more the pity that more of them were not present when Thunder opened proceedings... Despite not having the full sound system, and at times a dodgy mix, Thunder reminded those who made the early start time just what blues-based hard rock should really sound like.

Those who made it in revelled in older tracks like Back Street Symphony and Low Life in High Places, and Danny Bowes, Luke Morley and co have been round the block long enough to carry (relatively) newer tracks off with aplomb.

And, it was a nice touch to catch out the crowd at the end of Low Life in High Places, by delaying the final word for just long enough to tease all.

With the cavernous Odyssey Arena, filling up nicely for Whitesnake promoters MCD deserve a commendable mention for daring to bring this line-up to Belfast just days after – despite the obvious appeal for those ladies of a certain age only there for Journey.

And it was those ladies who were mightily impressed by the trim shape of Doug Aldrich, while envious axe slingers could only nod appreciatively at his playing.

One of the great secrets of Dave Coverdale has been his ability to surround himself with musicians who complement and enhance the canon of Whitesnake songs with musical ability and stage moves.

Pushing 62 Mr Coversdale still cuts a healthy presence on the stage, his banter and trademark introductions (“Here’s A Song for Ya!) not so much clichés but a reminder that this is band not yet in its halcyon, fading days.

Those not familiar with Whitesnake of old might have suspected the guitar solos and Tommy Aldridge’s (impressive) drum solo were a chance for Mr Coverdale to catch his breath, but it has always been Coverdale’s aim to give just exposure to what the more cynical might say is his backing band, but in reality are his onstage compatriots.

Drawing on songs from 80s classics through to an impressive rendition of their latest release’s title track Forevermore Whitesnake presented a cohesive force onstage, and making the empty spaces of the ice rink’s towering roof seem a little less foreboding.

Doug Aldrich’s solo was nicely rounded off when joined by Reb Beach to trade licks and shapes – and Mr Beach coming out with a harmonica was ‘interesting’ but a sure nod to the blues’ roots of the band.

When the ladies overcame their admiration for Mr Aldrich’s body shape and swooning ever so slightly at the thought of a 61-year-old singer still in great shape they were waiting for the ‘hits’; which Whitesnake duly delivered in the form of Fool for Your Loving and Here I Go Again.

But it was a nod to those who remember 1982 that the set concluded with Still of the Night. As always the band left the strains of ‘We Wish You Well’ as images of departed band colleagues were played on the backdrop – Mel Galley, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord.

And when it comes to backdrops, where Whitesnake combined simplicity, branding and capturing on stage images on a larger scale, Journey’s backdrop veered between existentialism through to just plain weird.

A low screen along where any rock act should just have a row of Marshall speakers was at times made almost invisible by track spots through to a backdrop of squares that at times were nauseating just to watch. No doubt this was planned by someone as a statement, but it would have perhaps been better utilised by the likes of Tool or for a field filled with people on acid trips.

It smacked of ‘trying too hard’.

There is little doubt that Arnel Pineda is a fine front man, his vocals capturing many nuances of Steve Perry in the ‘so-called’ classic line-up, (despite occasional mic problems) but herein lies the problem. It is all too close.

Whereas each iteration of the Whitesnake line-up as enhanced and altered the dynamic, Pineda  was seemingly brought in to help Neal Schon, Ross Valory, and keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain re-capture from their breakthrough area.

There is a whiff of sanitised rock about Journey, lost in the stadia they can perform in, but perhaps better captured in smaller settings.

And, for many of the crowd they voted with their feet as the crowd noticeably thinned out during their set.

Of course, ‘classic’ FM radio tracks were aired- saving Don’t Stop Believing until the end -but at times it felt like a run through of the Greatest Hits album, which frankly sounds better on the car studio. Only real stand-out track was Wheel in the Sky, which was ruined by an overly complicated ending.

While enjoyable enough Journey have not managed to capture the sheer joy of helping the audience throw away cares in the exuberance of the night.

Unless they are able to produce some new, sellable material that crowds can warm to, they will fall far short of the balance Thunder and Whitesnake achieve and many similar acts manage without straining the patience of fans new and old alike.

Glee may have done a disservice to Journey, but it may be a fatal blow for the band as their star wanes when others of a similar vintage keep on playing.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Jazz metal - who would have thunk it!

WE'RE always open to new ideas here - well if it's rock, metal or punk, we'll give it a blast. But Jazz Metal?

Our chums at Indie Recordings have re-signed Norwegian act Shining, who have been given the tag of being jazz metal.

As regular readers know we're not into sub-genre definitions, but we had to check this out and it turns out theyre rather good!

With new album 'One One One' the band have just released a rather tasty wee video ahead of the release in June.

The video features the song I Won't Forget'.

“We are extremely happy and excited to finally be able to show you our new video!"said Shining’s front man, Jørgen Munkeby.

The song “I Won’t Forget” is my absolute favorite of all the tracks we’ve ever made, and to be able to top this track off with such a beautiful, crisp and clean science fiction video is a dream come true”,

Director Kyrre Larsen, from the Blæst production company, comments: “Since I first heard Blackjazz, I've somehow associated the sound of Shining's music with science-­fiction. I tried to create a sense of this in the video for "Fisheye” in 2012. "I Won't Forget" builds on that video, but I wanted to take things one step further -­ and also avoid the style of imagery usually associated with heavier music.

We're sold! Turns out we like Jazz Metal!

Here's the video:

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Why wear 'coloured' jeans and why oddness in metal and rock is cool...

WARNING - RANT AHEAD: And Devin Townsend & Steve Earle...

THERE is an alarming trend amongst male folk in Northern Ireland - that is wearing coloured jeans and chinos...

We're sorry - that's just wrong! You know the type of trouser we're talking about, that awful orange jean, or green tinged chino, often accompanied by some 'stylish' sweater. If you find yourself tempted to buy, or worse still wear such items be prepared to hand in your memberhip card for the male gender.

No, we're not being discriminatory, we couldn't care less if you are black, white, gay, straight, bi-sexual, or any orientation or cultural background; if you come with the male 'equipment' downstairs and wear these abominations you are more interested in fashion than any male should be...

Let us be clear the only colours acceptable in jeans are blue denim or black; the only colour chinos should have are that proper chino colour: better still have a few extra pockets around the thighs in the off-chance you'll be mistaken for a roadie. Combat trousers of any colour are also acceptable.

When you slough off the suit of subjucation or peel off the work clothes you now know that 'coloured' jeans are verbotten if you are a member of the male species. We can, however, suggest a recovery programme of selected CDs, gigs like Devin Townsend, Lordi, Saxon, Black Sabbath and even one Mr Steve Earle...group counselling is also available on request.

As to the ladies - you are all beautiful and can wear whatever you want at gigs...

But why rant about the absurdity of followers of 'fashion' - also known as lining the pockets of the corporate bitches of the high street?

Well we are acutely aware that being a little bit odd, or off-the-wall is a good thing in metal and rock - even in country rock. When Devin Towsend plays the Stiff Kitten this coming Sunday you will see an example of an extreme guitar widdler, with a vision that at times is as much about being bonkers as being a genius, a line he treads closely, just on the side of genius.

As to Lordi on Saturday...no more needs to be said, but we know when they shrug off the stage costumes they pull on a pair of jeans.

But let us also look at the case of Steve Earle, whose Copperhead Road album still stands the test of time as a country/southern rock classic. When Mr Earle takes to the stage at the Limelight on June 2nd you know he won't be wearing coloured jeans.

And, most of all when Saxon come on stage at the Mandella Hall this coming Friday not one of the gig goers will not know the words to their classic fan tribute - Denim and Leather...

We know that most metal and rock performers, and a fair amount of the fans are odd to say the least,  but odd is much cooler than following the fashionistas any day of the year!