Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, August 30, 2013

Onslaught VI's aural onslaught of thrash

THIS is thrash metal. And this is only thrash metal. If you do not like thrash metal this is not for you, and frankly this is your problem.

This is an onslaught on your aural senses delivered by thrash heroes Onslaught, who on this album prove that you don't need to teach an old dog new tracks when they do what they do so well. No faux posing, no 'epic' songs through a false need to 'prove' oneself.

On this album - entitled VI - Onslaught are an elemental force. Onslaught have not changed with this album; they have instead gotten better.

They have taken the thrash template and sharpened it to a stake through mediocrity. Sy Keeler remains a front man who delivers as if his life depended upon it; Nige Rockett and Andy Rosser-Davies guitar retains the tone you'd expect from Onslaught's guitar attack, but seem infused by a spirit of Onslaught's past and a vision of a future as thrash geniuses.

From opener Chaos is King to closer Enemy of My Enemy this is unrelenting. And it has as Nige Rockett a series of contemporary themes in the lyrical diatribes.

“Children Of The Sand” is Onslaught’s biggest experiment to date without question," he explains "Lyrically it reflects the fragile situation in the Middle East, which is inherently caused by religion and the indoctrination it breeds.

"The music paints a very dark, eastern sounding backdrop for the lyrics and we’ve actually incorporated a 'real string section' and 'female vocals’ to enhance the whole theme!”

It is one of the album's stand-out tracks, sitting comfortably beside the straightforward heads-down Dead Man Walking and the immense 66'fucking'6 and Cruci-Fiction.

Amidst all the lyrical themes Onslaught paint a dystopian vision of a world falling apart; and the pound from Jeff Williams bass and new sticksman Mic Hourihan drive it forward.

In many ways this does harken back to the first incarnation of Onslaught which began in the heady days of the 80s, but in other ways it refreshes the sound, refine it and enhance the brutality of 2011's Sounds of Violence.

Even the cover art by Par Oloffson reinforces the vibe.

Overall Onlaught have delivered. On VI they have delivered a thrash masterpiece, earned the hard way through years of experience and a willingness to keep believing in their art; and it is an art of destructive, titanic thrash metal.

VI is released on AFM Records in the UK on September 23rd.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hectic few days ahead

WHEN it comes to gigs it is fair to say that it is a busy busy time in Belfast. In recent weeks we have had Slayer, Lamb of God, Nine Inch Nails, Bullet for My Valentine, and Gojira to mention just a few...

This week is turning out no different. After Alkaline Trio's headliner at Limelight1 we have Stevie Vai at the Nerve Centre in Derry/Londonderry giving a guitar clinic and on Thursday night he will be bringing his show to the Mandella Hall.

The same night Shizznigh promotions have a stellar gig at Limelight2 with By Conquest or Consent, Death of a Salesman, By Any Means, Nasa Assassin and Sentient (who showed a lot of promise in their début gig opening for Gama Bomb).

Friday will see Maverick, Cross-Eyed Mary, Roco's Riot and the Unprotected at Comrades Rock Club.

Saturday there is a sell-out session with chat and music from Danny and Ben from Thunder at the Black Box, while RockD will be hosting Astralnaut, Midnight Transmission and Rabid Bitch of the North in the usual Distortion Project Limelight2 slot.

With a host of shows coming after that including Motley CrewUK playing with local stellar riffers Screaming Eagles; Bakken at Limelight2, Kip Winger at the Diamond, The Answer, Dark Star Riders and more, let no-one complain that there are not enough rock and metal to keep y'all entertained.

Terrific trio with a dark side

ALKALINE Trio are one of the few 'pop punk' bands that have a certain resonance with the metal community; if not for the music but certainly for the lyrics. Matt Skiba even had an inverted cross shining silvery bright against his black clothing.

When they came to Belfast on Tuesday night (August 27th) the almost capacity crowd at Limelight1 the audience was a cross-section of music fans; old school punks, pop punk fans, indie kids, metalheads and those who just wanted a chance to see Alkaline.

Opening up for the Illinois headliners were Belfast band Empty Lungs, who provided a chirpy pop punk intro, with edges of Belfast steel, as the hall gradually filled up.

As with all good bands, Alkaline Trio know how to build up a certain sense of drama - right down to the guitar tech borrowing a lighter from the front row of the audience to ignite six red tea light candles atop the amps.

Opening up with Private Eye was an obvious crowd pleasing choice, but it was to be the only 'obvious' hit that the band were to play; Stupid Kid and Mercy Me were left out in a sure sign this was a fans only set.

Despite the early stage time (as a result of other events in the complex) Skiba, Andriano and Grant were obviously not here for a run through, and having earlier delivered an acoustic set in the city centre record store Head Records they were not blunted in any way.

Skiba had an air of aloofness for the first few songs allowing Grant to open up the banter with the audience. Whether it was waiting for the crowd to warm up or an attempt to assess the interaction that aloof manner soon dissipated and by the time I'm Only Here To Disappoint was played he was crossing himself - inverted of course.

Sadie G and Warbrain were among the many highlights; with Skiba introducing Warbrain by saying the band used to claim they were from Toronto when touring Europe during the Bush presidential tenure.

The obligatory downing of a pint of Guinness was removed slightly from the cliché as Skiba and Andriano bantered about why the bassist had a pint and Skiba had not; the guitar tech then scurrying hurriedly for a fresh pint of the black stuff before the band ploughed on through the rest of the set.

Closers This Could Be Love and Radio, were an appropriate way to end this pop punk extravaganza. For a band that have in the past been judged radio friendly, they have carved out their own way to transmit their dark tales of love and death.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another monster week of gigs...

IT'S Bank Holiday Monday, the day when we are - if you believe the mainstream media and its advertising support - meant to be in the garden or scouring the shelves of the DIY emporium.  Are we? Like hell we are!

Tonight (August 26th) we're making a beeline for Belsonic to see the festival come to its conclusion when Bullet for My Valentine and Bring Me The Horizon play with opening act, the mighty, earth-shatteringly heavy Gojira.

Taking a pause for all of 24 hours we'll then be hitting Alkaline Trio, those Illionois dark punk masters of catchy tunes with sinister overtones. The Matt Skiba lead act are one of those creative bands that don't come along too often; for every chart bothering song there is a melancholic tale of murder, betrayal, lust and wasted love. There are still a few tickets left for this Limelight1 show - and don't forget their afternoon acoustic set at Head Records.

Then there's guitar maestro Stevie Vai on Thursday in the Mandella Hall and Altus and Astralnaut...more information when we get a chance and see what way the land lies after tonight and tomorrow....

See y'all there

[PS don't forget our Soundgarden competition]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Win tickets to see Soundgarden rock Dublin

ARE we generous or what! Belfastmetalheadsreunited and Rockradioni are delighted to join with our good friends at MCD in a competition to win two pair tickets to see Soundgarden in Dublin on September 16th.

The legendary Seattle rockers have already 21 million album sales under their belt, with last year's critically acclaimed King Album due out soon in a re-packaged format with bonus live tracks at the start of September.

Perhaps the most 'metal' of the Seattle grunge scene, Soundgarden have stayed in the forefront by their adaptability and perseverance, topped by their headlining slot at Download 2011.

While many of their peers have disappeared up their own backsides while snorting about credibility Soundgarden have maintained their inventiveness both on stage and on record. Despite a hiatus to collect themselves creatively King Animal showed that Soundgarden left behind the grunge stereotypes a long time ago.

For your chance to win one of the pair of tickets simply answer this question:

Which kitchen utensil in included in a famous Soundgarden song?

Once you've pondered that, send your answer here.

The competition closes on September 5th. Please note transport to and from the gig is not included.

Usual terms and conditions apply - the main one being if you're not in you can't win!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vitriol in a velvet glove from Ajenda's debut release

AJENDA have produced something remarkable in their album release of Unrecognizable - a perfect album for US FM radio that will also appeal to rock fans.

Sweet harmonies, acoustic tenderness and well placed riffing and measured solos produce an effect that entrances and endears - all underlined by lyrical themes that deliver vitriol in a velvet glove.

The lush soundscapes will not endear them to metal fans, but rockers will be all over this platter, while commercial deejays should be foundering deciding which track to playlist first.

You can stuff your Snore Patrol and Kings of Lame - this is how commercial rock should sound: delicate, poingnant and well produced, but with tales of melanchoy.

Jen's vocals are a mysterious melange of latter day Lita Ford, Pink, Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett, and while the range the songs expose her to may be limiting at times, this is a perfect example of how to play to your strengths.

Solid work from Peter on drums and Janny on bass enables Gav's guitar work to roam as it pleases, from the temptations on Dirty Rock 'n' Roll through to instrumental closer Olympus Monz.

The chug of Tattoo raises the bar, while Jen's blues soul cries agony at what screwed up relationships can do.

No less impressive in the emotional stakes are Heaven's Tears and Fragile's duet of misery. While the lyrical content may be downbeat there is a strange compunction to find the journey cathartic, and thus uplifting.

While the production is clean and the performances smooth and elegant, at times it could do with a little more 'oomph' in terms of more volume and raucous touches - tracks Paranoia and Hatred and Greed are sound contributions, but could allow the band in toto to let loose a little.

However, overall this is an album that can and should garner the attention of the 'right people', it is an album that combines the husky and the smooth, the pain and the passion, and the heartfelt and the heartbreaking. Northern Ireland is once again leading the way compared to the less gifted parts of the globe.

Translating Unrecognizable into the live setting is now the challenge.

Airbourne flying high with return visit to Belfast

AUSSIE rockers Airbourne are returning to Belfast for a Monday, October 21st date in the Limelight1 as part of their world tour backing the impressive Black Dog Rising album release.

This will be the third visit to Belfast with the diminutive five-piece, who pack a big blue collar Australian rock punch - something they are keen to build upon within the Black Dog Rising Sonsgs, especially after their performances at Download and at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony.
Indeed, the band believe that after 'the difficult secong album' they have achieved much of what they wanted in terms of the sound.

Front man Joel McKeefe explained where they were when it came down to record the new album: "We might have rushed a few things here and there, because we had two world tours back top back up agains each other - and we recorded the music in the middle of all that. We even had some shows between recording. This time we spaced it out!"

Tickets, priced £20 (excl fee) go on sale this Friday, August 23rd, from all usual outlets; support is from Black Spiders.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gama radiation bombs through Belfast's Empire

LIKE returning prophets the mighty Gama Bomb exploded into action in Belfast leaving all in their wake irradiated by their power and presence atop a mighty four-band line up on Saturday (August 17th).

Backing their album The Terror tapes on a brief Irish, Gama Bomb were back to prove that thrash metal was alive and well, and still speeding through humour and riffs, seeming at times re-born as the mixed their usual frenetic pace with more measured swipes of assault.

And, openers Sentient proved they had a measure of their own power on their first live show, with a varied range of melodic death, growls and harmonies demonstrating massive potential.

At times they showed the need refinement, but the standard of playing was always high. What they could do with is an element of learning in terms of stagecraft, something all bands at this stage need to develop.

Such concerns were not ones that afflict Zombified. They are a band who are comfortable in their genre, with heavy death sounds, tones that grind and the tradition of circle headbanging. Newer and older songs alike were played with aplomb, despite a minor technical problem during the set. The track Human Cull stood out amongst a positive set.

As to the mystery that is Mental Deficiency...masked men, rubber-limbed front man, easy banter, infectious riffs and melodies; all were present and correct.

Seeming to be a joke band on the surface it is easy to miss the point: Mental Deficiency have a superb sense of timing and have notably improved both arrangements and song structures since we last saw them. The overt sexism is there to provoke a response and they duly received a positive response, from all genders that were present...

But Gama Bomb are at different level, no doubt through experience, touring and an ongoing recording career.

The drama of a Gama Bomb performance is often missed, their sense of irony in their songs can be overlooked, and their humour can sometimes shade the talent on stage and on record.

Over-simplified comparisons with the first wave of speed and thrash metal belie the stage in their development. Gama Bomb's woes over the past 12 months are put aside on stage. Philly's charisma as a front man, with Joe as a vocal/banter foil are obvious. Poking fun at themselves and the genre in general (Philly wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt a case in point) any airs and graces that some bands assume are thrust aside in a compact, powerful performance.

Drawing songs from this year's The Terror Tapes (available on AFM Records now) Backwards Bible and single Terrorscope stood out amid a blur of tracks drawing back catalogue favourites such as Zombie Brew and OCP together in a musical mosaic coloured with tracks such as Smoke The Blow with William Defoe.

There is a poise about Gama Bomb in 2013, which sees them on the cusp of yet greater strides: looking back is now not an option on the strength of this performance and without sacrificing their basic sound it now honed into a fine cutting instrument surely ready to cut a swathe through the metal scene.

Look out for a Gama Bomb special show coming soon on RockRadioNI - featuring interviews and insight into what makes the band tick.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sounding the bells for Belsonic's metal conclusion

BELFAST'S Belsonic festival is under way this week, and will roll on to its conclusion when Bullet for My Valentine, Bring Me The Horizon and Gojira take the Custom House Square on Monday, 26th August.

And while attention has been focussed for many rock fans on Nine Inch Nails Belsonic appearance on 21st August (this coming Wednesday), the Bank Holiday triple bill is one worth making the time for amongst rock and metal fans.

Some regular readers of this blog have certain set views of Bullet for My Valentine, while nearly one and all are massive fans of the French eco-metallers Gojira.

Before jumping to any conclusions it is worth taking the time to consider what Bullet for My Valentine has achieved, and set aside any pre-conceived notions about the Welsh for four-piece; a particular form of metal snobbery can come into play with any band not 'cool' enough, as can be witnessed on some national and international forums.

What cannot be denied is the success of Bullet for My Valentine in terms of sales, crowds and coverage, without essentially changing their contemporary metal sound.

Four albums under their wings the Bridgend band has become such a headlining act that they play arena dates on both sides of the Atlantic as headliners; not so long ago they were appearing at the Limelight complex (which again shows what a springboard that venue can be!).

The latest album from BFMV. Temper, Temper is already achieving chart success across the globe - without any airplay on mainstream.

While Bring Me the Horizon will bring its own set of fans Gojira will attract those who wish to push their metal tastes that little bit further. Touring across European festivals the French metallers have been gaining new fans and even seen a dedicated troupe of fellow countrymen journey far and wide at attend festival dates such as Bloodstock.

Backing their quite awesome 2012 Roadrunner release - L'Enfant Sauvage - fans can expect a set list which will include tracks such as The Heaviest Matter in the Universe, Explosia and maybe even Toxic Garbage Island and Wisdom Comes - we just can't wait!

Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Answer court controversy


NORTHERN Ireland's hard rocking sons The Answer, have released a new single, and with it a furore has started about the explicit content of their new single, Spectacular.

The promotional video has already been banned by Youtube because of its explicit content. In scenes at a house party there is nudity, sexual activity, drinking and smoking; a combination sure to cause many a strait-laced politician to choke on their cereal.

However, while there may be criticism from the so-called moral guardians it should not detract from the fact that it is a great song, that looks back at all our younger years and aspirations we may still have.

And, given the content of Rammstein's promo video for Pussy, by comparison this isn't that bad: but in Northern Ireland terms - and Spectacular was filmed in and around Belfast - it will be regarded by certain church men and politicians to be beyond the pale.

What is certain is that it will help raise the profile of the new album - New Horizon, which is out on Napalm Records on 30th September (pre-order link here)

If you are over 18 and not easily offended then you can watch the controversial video here.

An edited version is also available...watch it below

Slaying all in their path - Slayer return to Belfast triumphant

SLAYER have proven year after year that they have some of the most devoted fans in the world and after what has been a tough year for the band, it could have been forgiven to see them head towards the end of the World Domination European leg subdued as they played in Belfast on 13th August .

But just days after a headlining slot at Bloodstock and eight weeks after being in Belfast's Limelight1 for their first show of this double fix of old school thrash King and Araya were standing atop a tide of goodwill, riding each wave of support, each chanted lyric, each pit and each raised pint as if debutantes at a coming out ball.

Whereas in June we noted that at times they were a little restrained there was no holding back as the Slaytonic Wehrmacht rose time after time to acclaim the band that sees fashion trends and generally spits in their face - albeit after one flirtation in the 90s that all including themselves hated.

From the opening bars of World Painted Blood to the encores this was a run through of pure unadulterated thrash metal - judging by each smile thrown between band members to the cheesy grins amongst the audience this was a Slayer performance perhaps unequaled since their 80s heyday.

King, who last time out remained fixedly staring at his left hand, was now engaging with the audience with stares and pantomime villain looks at all the right moments.

Tom Araya seemed congenial and positively pleased to be doing the job he does best - growling lyrics of the utmost offence to 'normal' society and pounding his bass as if he hated its wooden look.

Noting in an almost offhand way that it was the second time in 2013 Slayer played Belfast - but not leaving out those who had seen the Californian speed metal monsters previously - he asked were there any "repeat offenders" in the audience, leading to raucous acclaim.

In their usual varied set each base was touched from Hell Awaits through to Hate Worldwide; from Mandatory Suicide to Angel of Death; and a quite simply awe inspiring Dead Skin Mask.

And, it was Dead Skin Mask that best summed up the night. A song delivered with menace when Slayer are average (which is still better than most bands best), tonight ...Mask was played with an intensity that would drive serial killers to a life of monastic reflection. There was power, barely under control, as it flayed the faces of the adoring audience: there was menace in each note, and it was where Holt and Bostapath rose again to the challenges the cynical few may have had. But most of all it encapsulated Slayer at its best.

Whether we ever see Slayer ever release another set of new material now remains moot - they have already achieved the hallowed heights few can ever wish for in the metallic pantheon of greats; and it was simply great to see them back doing what they do best - Slaying all in their path.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Throwing the horns in honour of our local promoters

IT'S a thankless task, with the attendant financial risks and promotional effort needed, but promoters are the unsung heroes, bringing to us a selection of fine raucous gigs this 2013.

While we can all wish for one more tour, one more gig, one more concert, one more show from a favourite band we must take the time to raise the horns and a glass of liquid refreshment for Northern Ireland's promoters and venues.

Just last night we witnessed Lamb of God (review here) in The Limelight, and tonight we have Slayer's second visit of the year less than five days after Vivian Campbell brought Last in Line to Belfast.

And that's just some of the shows that Shine and the Limelight have brought our way.

Of course we also have to raise a glass or six to the smaller promoters and venues, Mr Loveday at The Distortion Project for keeping Saturday afternoons choc full of metal and bringing the likes of Wintersun and Satyricon for us.

And, of course a wee toast for Derwin and everyone at the Diamond Rock Club for putting Ahoghill on the rock 'n' roll map!

Finally, the big boys at MCD also deserve a mention for Black Sabbath...along with Whitesnake, Thunder and Journey et al.

So, next time you're in a queue on Ormeau Avenue or the Odyssey, travelling on the beer bus to North Antrim or deciding what to quaff ahead of a show, spare a thought for all the promoters and venues and thank them for bringing the best possible rock and metal to our shores.

[Of course we've missed out a few due to space restrictions, but you can always post your favourite venues and promoters in the comments below!]

Slamming it down with Lamb of God in Belfast

THERE are three abiding images from Lamb of God's Belfast show in the Limelight1 in Belfast on August 12th that reflect the intensity of the show.

Randy Blythe stalking the stage like a caged beast ready to unleash his intellectual bile; a crowd surfer being ushered to the side by staff with a massive smile on his face; and, a beautiful girl in checked shirt heading for the bar with a snarl on her face as she sang along.

This was not the first ever visit to Belfast by Lamb of God, but it was the first visit by TesseracT. While they are a band with a certain cult following it was a mismatch in terms of the headliners, and this progressive, delicate style.

Drawing from debut album One and the more recent Altered States the sound separation and vocals suffered a little in the mix, leading to a muddiness in parts of the venue for TesseracT's textured sounds.

While the same issues affected Blythe's vocals in parts of the hall, for the most part the sound was spot on as riffs rained down on a quite devoted collection of rabid fans down the front.

For a pleasant man off stage Blythe is a menacing presence when performing, pacing back and forward behind co-conspirators in noise in Mark Morton, Willie Adler and John Campbell, while Chris Adler pounded the grooves into submission.

And when it comes to singing, Blythe's threatening stance, with foot atop the monitor, bent over, and torturing microphone and audience alike is an engaging spectacle for all the messages he delivers that challenge the conventional.

By the time Desolation shredded the opening, it was a straight run through with latest album Resolution given a fair airing: It is a reflection of the adulation fans hold for the Richmond five piece that newer tracks kike Ghost Walking and The Undertow receive the same greeting as standards such as Walk With Me in Hell and Now You've Got Something To Die For.

Blythe's plea to look after each other in the pit, as well as his reflections at being back in Ireland after "some legal difficulties" prompted his name being chanted, between the singing of Lamb of God.

Tight, and nailed down, the four-song encore opened with an introduction (The Passing) which many bands would have reserved for the opening sequence; but the finale of Redneck and Black Label saw the band's already high energy levels rise and rise again feeding off the crowd, leaving vocals redundant as hundreds shorted out a "motherf***ing invitation". Black Label even saw Blythe briefly take over guitar riffing duties in what he claimed to be a first for the band.

Lamb of God are a band that have emerged, quite literally, through the ranks; merging thrash, groove, punk and a metal attitude into a mixer before topping with lyrical excellence.

Coming so soon after Bloodstock and a Dublin date Lamb of God retained a barrage of noise and shredding in a set that was exactly the right amount of time for the audience to revel in, mosh, crowd surf and for others to just stand back and revel in the performance.

With a January UK tour just announced, Belfast can attest that this is a band ready to affirm its rise to yet further in the metal pantheon of emerging greats.

Friday, August 09, 2013

TesseracT the cult proggers backing Lamb of God

AS if seeing the mighty Lamb of God in Belfast days after following their Bloodstock headlining appearance wasn't enough for you, cult progressive metallers TesseracT will be providing the support.

For those of you not familair with TesseracT we suggest you head over to your local record emporium, your iTunes store or Spotify account and check them out.

Just two albums into their career TesseracT have snagged the 2012 Progressive Music 'New Blood' Award for their album 'One', and have been a Metal Hammer Golden Gods nominee.

Their latest album, Altered States was released in May of this year, and is a 50 minutes plus challenging piece, both for the five-piece as musicians and for the listener; however the listener will be rewarded for persistence.

For a relatively new band TesseracT have already toured extensively throughout Europe, North America and Australia - a sure sign that on Monday night they'll bring a honed set before Lamb of God arrive to destroy!

Regular readers will know the high esteem we hold Lamb of God in (see here for some of our reasons), and it is set to be an another intense metal night on Ormeau Avenue.

Some tickets are still available for this Limelight1 show - see you down there!

This is not a tribute...This is the Last In Line

THERE are always a few dissenting voices when any band tries to do something, anything. Hence when Vivian Campbell announced that he was bringing back the original members of Dio back, there were people who doubted the validity of this exercise.

Campbell was quick to deal with those doubters addressing his and Jimmy Bain's authorship of the songs, and that was before he was diagnosed with Hodgins Lymphoma, and before the planned tour was curtailed to four-dates.

As always Campbell was strident in his defence of the decision to tour with Jimmy Bain, Vinne Appice, Claude Schnell and singer Andy Freeman. Last night (Thursday, 8th August) the decision of Campbell, Bain et al was justified as they turned in an superb set.

Campbell, of course, began his career with Sweet Savage, immortalised when Metallica covered Killing Time. Thus it was appropriate that Savage opened up for Last In Line, albeit with only Raymie Haller from the original line-up in place.

Determined to place their mark on the proceedings Sweet Savage ploughed straight in to their set, pushing many songs faster than previous. It was title track of the last album, Regenerator, before things settled down; however, by the time they played Killing Time it was back to a frenetic stampede.

Special mention must go to Simon McBride, who appearing for the first time with Sweet Savage, and normally best known for his blues licks, played a stormer set of solos and tight riffage.

With the questions still to be asked about Last In Line, their set opened suitably dramatically, and by the time Freeman settled into his role it was clear that this was more than re-capping old history.

An immaculate sound, with clear separation between Bain's bass and Campbell's guitar lent life and power to the songs; Appice nailed it to the proverbial 'T' and Schnell seemed a very happy camper, relaxed and adding flourishes when needed, but not over-burdening the metallic soundscape.

Running through all the standards off the first two Dio albums, plus the title track Sacred Heart from the the third LP, it was inevitable that this would be a crowd pleasing set; what was not inevitable was the panache that all five members carried the songs forward.

Campbell was noticeably happy at just laying down the familiar tracks and re-visiting the solos, with dexterity and faithfulness - no surprise being the author of them. What it did show is that he retains a fondness and enthusiasm for being a six-string leader, despite his dalliances with the softer side of rock - indeed one punter commented that "he's wasted in Def Leppard".

Freeman's role in the band was always going to be the one subject to question - how would he cope with standards like Holy Diver, Don't Talk to Strangers, Last in Linee etc.

Campbell, Appice and Bain have always been adamant that the former Lynch Mob front man was not a Ronnie copyist, and that he was not there as a sound-alike.

He did not try to imitate Dio's stage moves, nor did he try to sound exactly like Mr Dio; but with the phrasing and intonations of the songs so set it in stone it would be impossible not to repeat those lyrics like Ronnie. At times it was uncanny in how alike he sounded. Having said that he retained his own personality throughout and laid down a professional and likeable performance.

All-in-all this set, this performance and this attitude did Campbell and his cohorts proud; it laid down a marker for years to come. With Campbell wedded to his trademark Les Paul  and with a classic metal sound this does beg one question: is there life beyond re-visiting the Dio years. From the evidence on display in Belfast, could there be new recordings from this five-piece?

With all members having their own projects and band commitments such a question remains moot, but with songwriting talent and outstanding musicianship it must be something worth all the members seriously considering.

Until then it is sufficient to say that this was not a tribute, this was an outstanding replaying of memories, an opportunity to see four of the originals from the '80s pound it down with a frontman showing he was more than just a session singer.

This was a truly enjoyable night, and one can but hope that this was not be the last time the Last In Line grace stages.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Coming full circle with Last in Line and Sweet Savage

TOMORROW (8th August) a piece of heavy metal history will be played out on the stage of Limelight1 when Last in Line, with local guitar hero Vivian Campbell, perform the first two albums that were recorded with Dio.

Support comes from Sweet Savage, the band that kick started Vivian Campbell's career when he was hired by Dio, and recorded a song-  Killing Time - that was not only an influence for Metallica, but also led to the Bay Area maestros cover it as a 'b' side an include it on their Garage Inc album.

As always sometimes prophets go unacknowledged in their own land, which is too often the case.

Tomorrow's gig then is a homecoming of significance for Last In Line, as well as re-connecting with the roots for Vivian Campbell as he told us in an recent interview:

"It would have been great if Sweet Savaage had made it big...while it would have been great it was just the wrong place at the wrong time." [You can read the full interview here.]

Despite undergoing another of his chemotherapy sessions (the most recent on August 5th) for Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a trans-American and transatlantic journey this is just the beginning for Last In Line - which features all the original members of Dio, with vocal duties being handled by Andy Freeman.

After the four dates on this mini-tour further dates may come down the line - depending on commitments of all the band's members.

However, with Thursday's set seeing them play all of Holy Diver and most of Last In Line, what is sure is that this will be one helluva night, as well as a night when young and old in the audience can re-connect with metal history.

Some tickets are still available from Katy's Bar.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Win a pair of tickets to see Cooper...

BELFASTMETALHEADSREUNITED and our colleagues at Rockradioni are offering you a special treat - the chance a pair of tickets to see the renowned Alice Cooper tribute Gallus Cooper at Belfast's Empire on Saturday, 10th August.

With special guests in the shape of Ozzy tribute act, Talk of the Devil, it is set to be a trip down nostalgia's dark corridors.

To be in with a chance to snag yourself a pair of tickets just answer this simple question: What is the Alice Cooper track celebrating the end of the school term?

Once you've pondered that send your answer (and your name!) here.

The draw will take place on Thursday, 8th August and winners notified on Friday, 9th August.

Usual rules apply: If you're not in you can't win!

Battlecross go to war

FROM the depths of motor city Detroit Battlecross hit the headlines when they unleashed their debut Pursuit of Honour in 2011, but how to follow it up....well throw everything you have into the mix, make everything louder than everything else and turf the kitchen sink in for good measure.

New album War of Will is a technical, brutal assault on the senses, with hidden depths lying in the aural attack. Drums that verge on a criminal attack, guitars that both riff and add flourishes when least expected and bass lines that synch with the entire metal mesh, this is an album that both terrifies the uninitiated and delights connoisseurs of full on metal.

Taking elements of thrash, Floridian death metal and classic metal touches this is not the 'difficult' second album, this is the second album that could well define Battlecross as real contenders.

Death-style vocals such as those delivered Kyle 'Gumby' Gunther can be a little hard to take at times, but once accustomed to them it is easy to fall back into the hooks and overall menace Battlecross deliver.

The first three tracks, Force Fed Lies, Flesh and Bone, and Never Coming Back are an unrelenting opening salvo, before My Vaccine tempers the attack with shades of subtlety breaking througjh.

That is not to say you won't find subtle touches throughout. Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala deliver a set of guitar histrionics that at times are genre defining.

By the time the heavy groove of Beast comes slumbering out of the darkness it is a relief tempered by the sheer weight of the track.

War of Will does, however, have a lyrical thematic that will never earn them poet laureate status if you struggle through the intense vocals there are themes that are not just simplistic but challenge.

Battlecross are not the complete article - they still have some development to do - but War of Will is a considerable step forward. This is an album with a work ethic at its heart; and that work ethic sees the band throw everything into the mix, and when churned round your senses a couple of times that melting pot rewards you.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war and Battlecross will be on the metal front line.

War of Will is available now on Metal Blade Records

Alkaline's caustic and the trio are bringing a double treat to Belfast

IN the nineties and the noughties most pop punk bands sang about boy meets girl, elope to set up home before they break up...

Alkaline Trio, on the other hand, sang about boy meets girl, set up a Satanic Coven, mourn the death of innocence and generally behave contrary to what US pop punk bands seemed to believe.

And, not only are the Illinois maestros playing a date in Limelight1 on 27th August, they are also storing up a surprise treat for fans - a free acoustic set....

Yes, on the afternoon of 27th August Alkaline Trio will be at Head Records playing an all ages, free in gig at the Belfast store - and it is strictly first come, first served up for a treat.

With their new album, My Shame Is True, just released it is quite a coup for the Limelight to score the date on the Alkaline Trio tour and a real coup for the band to agree to the acoustic set at Head Records...Frankly even though we're generally all metalheads here we can't wait for both events!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lamb of God winner announced

THE winner of the Belfastmetalheadsreunited/Rockradioni Lamb of God competition has been drawn and it is Steven - who has an emailed his congratulations and we expect to see him there on August 12th.

The answer to the question was Burn the Priest, which of course everyone got right!

Lamb of God will be appearing fresh after their Bloodstock headlining slot and, as mentioned previously on this blog Lamb of God may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they are significant and relevant metal band.

They are already taking metal to the higher reaches of the Billboard charts in the US without sacrificing their honour and integrity...and their brutality.

Some tickets are still available - so if you didn't win the competition, shell out the pounds and see ya there for some awesome brutality!