Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Horizon spanning 10-track epic from The Answer

THE gospel according to The Answer is simple - good times rock 'n' roll and with New Horizon the County Down foursome have hit the rock 'n' roll equivalent of a home run, a hat trick in a cup final, or a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Four albums into their 13-year career and it would be easy for a band to coast...not so The Answer.

New management, new label and a new attitude have brought New Horizon storming into the forefront of 2013 releases; a hard rockin' blast of traditional blues and groove with a twist and balls proudly out.

It is a cliché when a reviewer says that a band's release marks a statement of intent, but take a moment to listen to album opener and title track New Horizon...
The late Storm Thorgerson designed
the cover for New Horizon 

This is a song that shows a new dynamic to the band: sharper and focussed attitude but still with the trademark sound of The Answer. To put it another way, if New Horizon had been released in the rock heydays of the mid-80s LA record execs would be waving cheque books and masturbating at the thought of signing them...new label Napalm Records should be lying back enjoying collective orgasms at having them on their roster.

Throughout the album the sound feels newer, tighter, and for the first time since the debut release of Rise the live feel has been captured; producer Toby Jepson has managed to grab the four members of The Answer by their collective necks and wrung out of them what could be a defining moment in their career.

When we caught up with Cormac Neeson for an interview on September 3rd he told us how he felt about the release:

"I think it's out most focussed hard-hitting record so far and hopefully our audience will get it and get what we have to say."

Any fan of The Answer's previous work or any fan of straightforward hard rock will get what the band have to say.

Photo by Carrie Davenport
When the album opens it comes as a little bit of a surprise - in the best possible way - the freshness of Paul Mahon's riffing and the rhythm section of Micky Waters and James Heatley have achieved that knife edge balance between looseness and being tight as a shark's arse.

Waters bass is a revelation. At the right pitch and with a perfect tone it provides pure drive to complement and enhance the rock solid Heatley throughout the album.

Mahon also appears to have taken stock of his always apparent talent and let loose with every shred of his range. From the funk/blues of Leave With Nothing through to fuzzed out solos and concise playing he is the foil to the passion of Neeson's passion, weaving patterns through riffs, off-beat tones and drawing meat from his six-strings.

Of the lead-up to the recording Mahon explains that the cumulative touring and playing to mega-audiences with AC/DC has led to the expansive but tight 10-track New Horizon.

"After all that time on the road, our songwriting’s so much tighter, all the fat has been stripped away and we’re much more direct. songs that we had in that vein seemed to go down with their
audiences, and we took all of that on board," he said.

Of course one could be forgiven for falling for the hype of a publicist's press release amidst the welter of information; but this is an album where the most effusive praise will still fall short of what this album deserves.

Even the down-beat track Call Yourself A Friend is uplifting when its meat kicks in. And the obvious anger of Somebody Else - with its pulsing high tempo vibe - provides a life-affirming song for every disaffected rocker on the planet.

Lead single Spectacular, with its message to be what you can be truly captures the dreams of youth, and how you can always live up to what you want, is a balls-out track that most rock acts would kill for. Listening to the lyrics makes the controversial video - banned by Youtube, but available at the end of this review - make sense.

Tracks like Baby Love Me - co-written with Cosmo Jarvis - keep the blues roots to the fore, through to the album closer, Scream A Louder Love showcase a band at the top of the game.

Neeson explained his approach to lyrics that are multi-layered and at the same time universal truths.

"I wanted to present my message like a Northern Irish guy should, with no frills and totally in your face,” he said.

No frills and totally in your face is what The Answer have always been, and on New Horizon they have captured the elusive elixir of pure hard rock, distilled into 10-track excellence.

New Horizon is released on 30th September on Napalm Records.

The Answer open their UK tour in Belfast's Limelight1 on October 11th! We'll see you there!

The unedited version of the Spectacular video is available to view here.

The 'clean' version is below:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Killing the Devildriver way

THERE are times when you play a new record and your reaction is 'meh, it's all right, maybe I'll give it another spin'. Then you play it again. Then you get to like it. Third time you love it. Fourth time you are pummelled into a blissful state of metallic glory.

Such is the case with Devildriver's latest release, the quite awesome Winter Kills.

At first it is a chaotic cacophony that upon more listenes coalesces in a couple of spins to coherent metal anarchy. After the full-on charge of opener Oath of the Abyss, Ruthless grooves like a bastard; swinging with the menace of a heavyweight boxer on amphetamines and so the pace continues.

For an optimistic kind of guy Dez Fafara and his merry band of metal compadres have released an album that is full of fire and menace.

And it is a huge step up from last release 'Beast'. As Fafara himself explains:

"The title of the album is all about rebirth," he says about Winter Kills. "I love to see things grown from seed. I love to see the dying off and the rebirth - that's why [after Coal Chamber] I had no problems starting a second band."

And to a certain extent this album does represent a re-birth with touring bassist Chris Towning now full time. His influence appears to be in an understated desire to make sure the rythm section - complete with drummer John Boecklin - keeps things nailed down; for all the flourishes and dexterity their job is to keep the groove grooving.

Desperate Times is evidence of Devil Driver's acquisition of yet more carefully constructed arrangements, and the influence of Towning and Boecklin is clear

Winter Kills has trademark DD opening with an insistent riff paving the way for the full-on assault.

The Appetite is as in your face as it gets, but with a set of harmony solos lending an edge to proceedings, digital dexterity delivering for Devildriver fans. This is where axe slingers Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer really let loose, and woe betide the doubters because here is more proof that subtlety and talent lie behind the full-on assault.

Fafara explains some of the ethos that went behind all of Devildriver's work and this album in particular.

“I come from a construction-worker background,” he said.. “I want bluecollar dudes to listen to my songs and be able to say, ‘Man, that’s exactly how I feel about today, my boss and the idiot I had to yell at.’

"Metal is a very empowering thing, the same way God is an empowering thing. For kids on the outside who don’t want to wear the polo shirt to school, they have their mystic in whatever singer they choose for their favorite band. And words can be that for you. I want to stress that I’ve never wanted to be all about the negative.”

And despite the aural attack on this release, and the at times lyrical rage, this is a positive album. Not only is there a senses of freshness, there is also a positive outlook; at times this is plain uplifting.

The sense of renewed daring is perhaps truly evident on the album closer, a cover of Awolnation's Sail. Devildriver have taken an electro-pop track and turned it into a trance like hymn to disaffection.

“I’ve always been a lyrics guy, and when I heard that song, I totally got it,” Fafara says. “[The metaphor of] sailing is totally about touring. I was on Ritalin for 12 years when I was a kid for my ADD, so I totally understand that line. I just fell in love with that song. I called the band and told them to call it up on the computer. They said, ‘You know what? Let’s attack this.’”

Despite Devildriver appearing to the ignorant as nothing more than Fafara's vehicle there is a cohesive force to the outfit.

With new label Napalm Records behind them this is perhaps Devildriver's own rebirth - stronger, and ready to test themselves; with the result that it is a rewarding listen.  The last word therefore has to go to Fafara:

“I think people know they’re not going to get the same Devildriver record every time. We’re not going to follow the pack: That’s why our honesty keeps shining through.”

Well said sir, well said!

Winter Kills is out now on Napalm Rercords

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bringing the 80s Brimstone to 2013

IT was the decade that style forgot; a decade of floppy fringes, stupid baggy trousers, Boy George immitators and balaclavas were de rigeur for various terrorists alphabet soup named organisations. Amidst these fashion abominations rock 'n' roll rose, defiant: cocking its collection nose at these weaklings.

Despite the hard rock and metal's own fashion abominations (Poison, Motley Crue amongst others spring to mind) the music and the attitude was an antidote to the miserable gets into 'New Romance' and the perfect antibiotic to the destruction of industry by Thatcher and her ilk.

In 2013 we no longer have the Cold War politics of Reagan and Thatcher, but we do have the 'terrorist threat'. We don't have Thatcher, but we do have Tories in de facto control and selling off the country's assets like the Royal Mail.

Agree or disagree with the politics it feels that the time is ripe for the hard rockers and metalheads to rise again; cut-off denims, high tops and bullet belts are long overdue a return as fashion items and there is a need of a musical landcape on the scene that encompasses thrash, glam and all the glitterati attitude that bands in the 80s adopted.

Amidst the local rising stars Maverick seem to have been caught in a time warp, as if transported from the era of Cinderella, Faster Pussycat and Guns 'n' Roses to 2013. And that is no bad thing.

Their five-track ep released earlier this year (we're catching up on a backlog of reviews) Maverick make a statement of intent; a statement that this is our way, this is the 80s way, hop on the rollercoaster or piss off.

This is music that makes you want to cruise in the car, volume cranked and the wild abandon that comes with knowing a beer and a gig is a few short minutes away from you.

This is music that transports you to an era when this type of rock was pure escapism. And we need that now just as we did in the 80s.

That's not to say that this ep is flawless. While self-titled opener Maverick and closing track Easy Come Easy Go are tremendous songs, at times the production and mix seem a bit off. The cymbals are very priominent at the expense of the bottom end at times. Singer Davey Balfour has a unique voice, but needs to move to having his own identity, because the echoes of Tom Keifer are a little too noticeable.

Lyrics are a little too misogynistic at times - one of the more distasteful side of 80s rock that we should have moved on from.

Set those issues aside and put simply these are five tracks that are fun. Songs you can enjoy rocking out to.

With the statement of intent of 'Maverick' first to assault your aural senses with lead solos and the defiant cry "Stop us if you Dare" it is a quick rampage through the sleaze of 'Cat Got Your Tongue", the challenge to Satan on 'Helfire & Brimstone' before 'Top Heavy' punishes and 'Easy Come, Easy Go' rounds things up with a more considered attitude.

Already Maverick have carved out a place on Northern Ireland's live circuit, delighting fans who remember the 80s and those discovering the music of the era for the first time.

This is a collection of five songs that are a foundation to build upon for live shows and what we sincerely hope will be more releases.

Yep - as they say: "Fists in the air!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Win tickets to see Avenged Sevenfold!

THEY have had controversy and tragedy, but Avenged Sevenfold are now one of the top grossing acts in rock and metal and those generous folks at MCD are offering two of you lucky readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to see A7X play the O2 in Dublin on December 3rd.

Yes, Belfastmetalheadsreunited and rockradioni have got these two pair of tickets in our grubby mits and we know you want to see M Shadows and crew hit the stage backing their latest album Hail The King, backed by emerging contemporary metal band Five Finger Death Punch.

Charting at #1 in the US, UK, Ireland, Finland, Brazil and Canada, amongst other territories with Hail the King there can now be no doubt that A7X have reached the headty heights of rock superstardom.

Even a slagging off by Rob Flynn on social media of a couple of tracks from Hail The King has failed to stop their progress. Shadows played it cool, answered the jibes and spoke about his friendship with Flynn, defusing what could have been a story to plague them.

The rise of Avenged really dates from their second album, Waking the Fallen, when nibbling the charts and a successful slot on the Vans Warped Tour drew big label attention. Warner Bros won out and with City of Evil it seemed the world was opening up for the band - a consistent line-up, a move from the cul-de-sac of metalcore, and a worldwide tour.

However, that was all put to nothing with the tragic death of Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan. The band, shocked and hurt simultaneously completed the album Nightmare with Mike Portnoy, late of Dream Theatre behind the kit.

It was an album that was a mixed bag to be honest, despite stand-out songs like Afterlife. It consolidated success, and enabled the band to take stock.

Now with Arin Ilejay firmly established as drummer Hail to the King has a classic hard rock and metal vibe to it; no growling, no messing about. The influences of Sabbath, Metallica et al are clear for all to hear, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all Maiden's sound evolved from acts like Purple and Metallica's début owed a lot to Maiden, etc etc.

So - with that potted history drawn from experience, our own record collection and web sources (hey we're not proud!) y'all want to know how to win the tickets....

Simply answer this question:

Name the dynamic guitar duo from Avenged Sevenfold?

Send your answer here before October 7th.

Please note this competition is for tickets only - transport to the O2 is NOT included.

Usual rules apply: if you're not in you can't win; employees and contributors to Belfastmetalheadsreunited and rockradioni cannot enter; everyone else can as long as they are over 18 and...they are fans of A7X! We want real fans to win.

The tribe of rockers and metallers always trumps the scenesters

THERE is a camaraderie about rock and metal fans that is beyond compare - and for the past several days that has been demonstrated time and time again...but the scenesters and their chequed designer shirts will never know how to give and receive respect. (More of that later.)

First let us rewind back a week or so. 'Twas a Saturday evening and all was well in the world. A healthy gathering of like-minded souls congregated in the vicinity of Ormeau Avenue, many graduating to the hallowed Distortion Project residency in Limelight1.

Once inside there was a four-band treat, at which many nodded in agreement at the mutual enjoyment.

This was a celebration of the launch of Gacy's Threads split 7" with Swiss monsters Colossus Fall.

Opening up was the rhinoceros like charge of Tusks. In your face, in your ears, in your way if you wanted a casual early evening pint, because this was an unrelenting, groove assassination on your senses. Outside Limelight1 casual drinkers and scenesters winced. Where there was calm once there was now mayhem; and it felt good. Tom was manic in this his second singing slot of the weekend, and more than aware of how 'under the weather' he was and how 'angry' he was at everything and everyone while he was on stage, despite being a model of congeniality off-stage.

As more and more people in checked shirts and coloured jeans gathered (hand in your mancard people!) for the early show with Jimmy Eat World in Limelight1 Lantern Gale came on two doors away. Self-proclaimed 'post-hardcore, melodic hardcore they quickly into the groove and the obligatory singer, Paul on the dance floor.

Post-hardcore and melodic post-hardcore has always been a slightly mystifying to us here at Belfastmetalheads. Apart from 36 Crazyfists and local act Escape Fails there has been a lack of coherence to 'post-hardocre' acts. Lantern for a Gale kicked up a noise but only held together with some of the melodic sections. Of note was the title-track of their ep Cut Throat Blues, which had more than an echo of the Cancer Bats but cleared the decks with a frenetic energy and an edge that left more than a few nodding their heads in appreciation.

As more and more pints were consumed - naturally - we broke our Fivewilldie cherry. First time seeing these guys from Cork and wow! Sludge, metal, doom, prog all mixed together in a wonderful brew of noise.

This is where the camaraderie of rock and metal was in clear evidence. This was a band unknown to more than half those present, but each person appreciated their effort in making the journey and their effort on stage. And what an effort it was.

With more groove than a 12" long player, more noise than a flag protest and more focused energy than a thousand Duracell Bunny Fivewilldie are a potent force. The homage to Sabbath was done perfectly with a modern take on the riffmeister's sound.

But, let's face it we were there to celebrate Gacys Threads split launch with Swiss Noisenicks Colossus Fall.

How come we can celebrate such a furious assault? There has been some recent research that listening to loud, aggressive music makes you happy. Well, f**k me pink, we already knew that!

And when Gacys Threads came on stage they made us happy. Furious, aggressive hardcore metal played with an intensity that was frankly scary at times - but scary in a good way.

Life Struck, Titans and the tracks from the split Plague Wielder and Salvation struck the assembled like a smash in the face by a knuckle-duster wielding thug.

Aaron Vance prowled the stage like a caged animal until let loose off the stage, rampaging and tearing loose. On this night in particular Gacys Threads were at a peak, rhythm rolling, guitars furious and an attitude that bound all in attendance together.

Contrast that with the crowd at Jimmy Eat World. Wandering two doors up from being pummeled by Gacys Threads and smiling faces we were immediately taken aback by the numpties there as it was an 'event' to be seen at rather than a gig to enjoy.

Would you rather actually watch performers and enjoy the effort they put in, or would you rather talk amongst yourselves?

For the vast, vast majority of rock and metal fans you pay your fee and enjoy the show. You do not talk, chat, compare styles, take selfies, watch the gig through your phone and keep on talking, and talking and talking....

While the Belfastmetalheads crew were divided over whether Jimmy Eat World were great or insipid it was difficult to make up one's mind when the people next to you are talking, or complaining about getting bumped into (it's a rock gig for Odin's sake not an opera!).

After the sheer exuberant joy of The Distortion Project Gacys Threads show (and the three superb acts with them) it left a slightly sour taste in the mouth.

Fast forward a few days. A double header - The Distortion Project were hosting four bands and Rockradioni were promoting a Motley Crue tribute band.

Unfortunately we missed the debut of '84 at Stiff Kitten, but there were smiles all round when Bakken brought the thrash - and grins were in evidence. Darkest Days and Sasquatch were awesome. This is a band that deserves more exposure!

As to exposure we saw a Scottish invasion in the form of Mair. Now we like a band that shows enthusiasm, and we like a band that enjoys being on stage, and we really like a crowd of people of people gathered together for the music, not to chitter and chatter.

Mair provided a refreshing take on groove metal, with Del's broad Glaswegian accent transmogrifying into a deep bellow, verging between Tom Araya and Howard Jones. Miranda's bass playing was outstanding, but her off-stage antics, running around the crowd while playing, egging on the audience kept the momentum flying during the set. The easy, between song banter, showed a cohesive unit leading the line. Scotland are lucky to have these crowd of glorious nutters. If Scotland gets independence will we need to show our passports to see them...

What can one say about Sinocence? They are players par excellence, with a fine sense of subtle songwriting. Noise and finesse, excellent playing and sheer talent. No Gods, No Masters Vol1 is an obvious platform to build upon as they march onwards.

Again this shows what a rock audience is about. Appreciating the band, acknowledging the effort and being genuinely entertained by the likes of Sinocence - and if you want to chat go outside and have a smoke or take in the fresh air.

Having been so thoroughly entertained smiling groups of people wandered amiably from the Stiff Kitten to The Empire. Genially chatting before hooking up with friends old and new before Screaming Eagles ripped apart the Botanic Avenue venue. Quite literally - in the same way that Gacys Threads and Sinocence rise to new heights - the Eagles lay it down. Three bands, three very different genres within the spectrum of rock and metal and three performances that earned admiration.

The Eagles seem to be growing with each performance, as if the spirit of DC, Cream and Free has inhabited all four band members.

And this returns to our main theme: when two or more are gathered together at the altar or metal, the tribe honours the music and upon completion of the music the congregation - whether in clusters of friends or at the bar contemplation and critiquing the tribe has a camaraderie no other genre has.

That particular evening concluded with Motley Crew UK, headed by the irrepressible Ash. While more entered into the spirit (get drunk and party!) there were others - Anto for example - who did not find it as appealing - yet no-one fell out over it, no-one took the hump.

No matter which genre of hard rock and metal there seems to be a genuine camaraderie, a general feeling that we are one tribe.

Yes, there are always a few numpties out there, who spoil it more for themselves than the people around them, and there bands that part ways due to 'musical differences' but in general it seems that the tribe holds together better than any other group of people. As Eamonn Nancrow says: "protestant, catholic, black, white,   or Bangorian" rock 'n' roll transcends boundaries.

And a big hand to all the promoters and publicists, from Stephen Currie and Savour Your Scene through to MCD, from Derwin and the Diamond Rock Club crew, from James and the beloved Distortion Project to Shine and the Limelight, from all at the Voodoo through to Rockradoni - all deserve a hearty slap on the back for enabling bands to play for the benefit of the tribe.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Motley comp winner and a mad Saturday of rock and metal

CONGRATULATIONS to Darren who was the first drawn for the Belfastmetalheadsreunited/Rockradioni competition for a pair of tickets to see Screaming Eagles and Motley Crew UK at The Empire tomorrow night (September 14t)

Thanks to all who entered and some tickets are still available on the door.

What a mad, bad and great Saturday it looks like being. Kicking off at the Stiff Kitten with The Distortion Project presenting a four-band line up. For a small fee you can see '84, Bakken, Mair and Sinocence.

With that appetiser it is a short stagger to the Empire for the Eagles and some remininsence of the 80s glory of the Crue.

All in all a night that come Sunday will require us all to KickStart Our Hearts to recover...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Ouch! This hurts so good

THERE are times when metal hurts so good it is really enjoyable - such is the case for the Gacey's Threads split 7" with Swiss noisenicks Colossus Fall. This is hardcore metal as it was meant to be, screams, tortured guitars and a feeling you need one more listen to get it.

Stable fixtures of the local scene, Gacey's Threads this sees the Threads wear their torn hearts, bleeding on their ripped sleeves, pounding with agonised promise of a pummelling lest you relax at any time.

These two tracks - Plague Wielder and Salvation - translate on this release as a terror-inflicted torrent of noise, underpinned by a coherent creativity that is captured in the creature-like caterwauling of a crippled animal in a trap that you dare not approach lest you lose a limb.

Johnny and Currie drive the tunes forth, freeing Aaron and Blane to roam like rabid hardcore representatives of the radicalised populace.

Don't take a breather, because should you do Colossus Fall are on the flip side to lay down a wall of volume, with a slightly different take on the hardcore ethic.

Forget your picture postcard image of Alps, Lederhosen and yodeling, because these sound like five very angry young men, aggrieved by the dystopian world crowding on the borders of Switzerland...

Their two tracks equal Gacy's Threads passion and with another listen tend towards a slightly more proggy take on hardcore.

Overall this ambitious collaboration is a brave step for Savour Your Scene and their collaborators. Available as a (very) limited edition 7" yellow vinyl and streamed tracks this is one of those examples when DIY doesn't mean some twat on TV talking house re-decorating. Instead it means taking your soul and laying it bare for all to see and challenging anyone to tread towards the darkness you reveal.

The Belfast launch of this Split 7" takes place today (September 7th) at Limelight2.
You can purchase the 7" at the launch or visit Savour Your Scene records online.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Suondgarden winners and another ticket competition to see Motley Crew UK

THE winners of tickets to see Soundgarden play Dublin's O2 have been drawn. Congratulations to Leah and Ryan.

If you haven't received an email you weren't lucky this time in this Belfastmetalheadsreunited, Rockradioni competition.

And thanks to MCD for supplying tickets to see this fantastic band on September 16th. If you didn't win then you can still head over to buy tickets here.

And don't say we're not good to you lot out there - we've another competition for you this week and more to come.

This week you can win tickets to see Motley Crew UK with the tremendous Screaming Eagles at Belfast's Empire on September 14th.

Just tell us the name of Motley Crue's second album.

Email your entries here before September 12th. Usual terms and conditions apply - the main one being if you're not in you can't win!!

And look out for another competition coming soon!

The Lords of awesomeness have decreeed there be a thread of metal glory from Gacy's.

RIGHT you lot - pin back yer lugholes, strap in your wibbly bits and get ready for some awesomeness, for the lords of heaviness are unleashing their hardcore power...

When you have recovered from tonight's Voodoo bash with Asatralnaut, Altus, Bad Boat and Crazy Fuzz you will need some rest and recuperation.

For on Saturday afternoon there shall be a rumble of extreme noise eminating along Ormeau Avenue,

It's source? Limelight2. The reason? The launch of the Gacy Threads split 7". A collaboration with Swiss act Collossus Fall the four-tracker is available as a limited edition yellow vinyl with a download code.

Joining Gacy's Threads in this celebratory event of noise are Five Will Die, Lantern Gale and Tusks.

Presenting this is The Distortion Project. The event kicks off at 5pm. Door tax is extremely good value at £5. And with Jimmy Eat World playing an early show we will have two of the staff team deployed along Ormeau Avenue to generally enjoy the evening in the guise of reviewing it...

Review of the Split 7 to follow.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

New Horizon dawns for The Answer

THE Answer have long been local stalwarts, favourites at home and getting more and more recognition across the world with big name support slots - now they are ready for the next stage of their career.

With a new label - Napalm Records - and latest release New Horizon set for release at the end of September we caught up with front man Cormac Neeson in the congenial surroundings of a Belfast hostelry before he headed off on a UK and US promotional tour.

Despite the changes the band are upbeat about the next step in The Answer's success story.

"The vibe is very positive right now, we're starting to get good reviews of the album," said Cormac. "We think it's our best one so far, but I'm sure every band says that about every record but I genuinely mean that.

"I think it's our most focussed hard-hitting record so far and hopefully our audience will get it and get what we have to say."

But to get here has not been an easy journey so far The Answer. There have been a difficult few years and with a change of label and severing some ties the band has had to look closely at the next phase of their career.

"At the end of the Revival cycle - our  last record - we had to make some tough decisions with our backroom staff and it was probably the first time in our careers that it didn't flow naturally," said Cormac.

"We had to alter the band's course and we parted ways with a few people we were close to, and for a brief moment you almost felt like a businessman making business decisions rather than a musician writing good songs and playing gigs. And that's not a nice feeling and we have to make sure this band thing works out because it [business 'stuff'] doesn't suit me!"

The result is the new album and he explained where they are now.

"We got over it and we channeled all of it into our new record and we think it is a better album for that. I suppose it's what any decent artist should do is use that as the fuel for their work."

One aspect of the character of the band that always shines through is The Answer's roots and their acknowledgement of their forebears in Northern Ireland.

"We're proud to be part of that tradition, with punk, metal, rock, blues, rhythm and blues and all that deserve a tip of the hat," said Cormac. "But we take that all on board and while we don't shy away from our roots we try to twist it into something new.

"And we make no bones about where we come from and what we've been listening to over the last 20 years."

And given that the band are born, bred and buttered in Northern Ireland, Cormac feels that he can reflect that.

"I feel that my Northern Ireland identity can make a band unique in the global market," he said. And as regards lyrics...

"For me by all means go ahead and singing about whatever aspect of Northern Ireland culture, society or whatever you want to sing about, it's part of what I throw into the pot. I'm not maybe as in your face as Stiff Little Fingers or bands like that but I don't try to sit on the fence."

When it came down to sitting down and writing the album the band took one bold step they have never done before.

"On this record, alongside the shake up of personnel we tried to shake up the writing process and the way we did things in the studio just to see where it led and if it hadn't worked out we could have gone back to what we have done for the past decade," he said.

"So for example this time we've co-written a few tracks with our producer Toby Jepson and co-written another track with a friend of ours called Cosmo Jarvis."

"The decision to co-write was a massive one for us because we're four strong minded people who are used to writing together and get into a rythm together and not pandering to anyone but the band.

"So to have a guy come in and say why don't you try this you're initially 'I wouldn't write a song like that in a million years' but then you give it a go and it's not far off the mark at all and once we put our stamp on it and as a result of that it's a much fresher album. There's a few songs on it that really hit the mark that would have taken us longer to achieve."

With the Limelight1 October 11th date on the cards as part of a wider tour thoughts are turning to the set.

"The main challenge is what to slot in from the new record and what older songs to put in for a balanced set.

"We've been rehearsing for the tour and every day we try a different set. We've that many songs we want to play every song but obviously we can't do that. It's like a jigsaw getting all the pieces together."

In promoting the tour and first single 'Spectacular' the band have become immersed in controversy with a video that was banned from Youtube because of its sexually explicit nature and scenes of smoking and drinking.

"Jesus, don't let my mother see it!" was Cormac's first comment, but he is pretty relaxed about the whole shebang.

"I see it as a true reflection of life. Just  because the political correctness says you can't show smoking and drinking on television doesn't mean it doesn't go on. The video is about going to a party and having a good time and listening to some rock 'n' roll music. I mean its not any wilder than most parties I used to find myself in - maybe I don't go to enough of those any more. It's just a reflection about young people having a good time and nothing more and nothing less."

Nothing less than hard driving hard rockin' music is what The Answer deliver, and with this new focus and the channeling of energies the album - review coming soon - and tour promises to take the band to the next level.

New Horizons is released on September 30th on Napalm Records, with the tour kicking off in Limelight1 on October 11th - tickets available from all usual outlets.

The full audio of the interview will be broadcast soon on www.rockradioni.co.uk

Monday, September 02, 2013

While the boss is busy it's Vai time

By Zakk - Death Metal Correspondent

WITH the owner/Editor was bust reviewing the Steve Vai concert at the Mandella Hall (see his review for Metal Rules here) I was busy scribbling my thoughts down in the strange place in my brain normally reserved for deathly metal sounds.

The first thing to note is that established blogs and zines, like this one and Metal-Rules.com are too often not treated with the respect they deserve; after all a few paragraphs in a print magazine may, or may not be read, but on this blog and on zines like Metal-Rules they are almost certainly to be read and the links spread about on social media.

Such was the frustration on getting the passes that were ordered, but thanks to Mr Vai's people all was well in the end.

And what a show Vai put on - two and a half hours of sheer hard rocking guitar playing.

While I bow to the owner and editor of the sites prose, I shall put it more bluntly. As a sometime twiddler of the six-string the bag of tricks pulled out by Steve Vai was almost unparalleled. Never mind the widdlers on Youtube, this was the real deal.

Suffice to say that Vai is a great guitar god, but watching someone w**k over their guitar for any length of time can be boring; hence Vai made it a real rock show - lights, costume changes and a talented band behind his every move.

One thing that can be  certain: every guitar player there will be vowing to get practicing, to try and emulate even 10% of what Steve can achieve.

So, head off to http://www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2013/08/31/steve-vai-mandella-hall-belfast/ and read what the boss has to say and I'll try and figure out just how fast I can sweep pick a solo...

Astral Bitch transmitting from the Limelight....

WHEN it comes to Saturday evenings it is always a pleasant sojourn along to Ormeau Avenue to see what offerings James Loveday is presenting with The Distortion Project's weekly offering.

Perfectly timed to enjoy some early evening quaffing and riffage we made the long journey to the Limelight2 (well 30 minute journey...) as our owner/editor and death/black metal correspondent to sample the liquid and aural wares on offer for a paltry £5 door tax.

And it was a pleasantly heavy as the gates of hell evening, with a trio of bands playing as if they were Odyssey Arena headliners.

With an all-day, all ages gig underway at the T13 skate park it took a while for the audience to build to respectable levels, but many missed openers Midnight Transmission lay down a heavy, punk edged take on the hard rock genre. Plenty of stagecraft, nice moves and good songs to boot. At times the vocals were a bit lot in the mix, but otherwise a sound opener.

Rabid Bitch of the North kicked off their set with Your Misery. They then ploughed their way through seven tracks with Joe's beard and Rickenbacker bass leading the charge.  With God Of Punishment and Help I'm Trapped in 1999 stand-out tracks: both of which saw Gerry laying down riffs and tight solos.

This was a real improvement on previous RBOTN sets we've seen. Whatever they're taking and whatever they are doing keep at it!

Technical issues saw a truncated Astralnaut set, but their heavy stoner, southern flavoured space groove saw the airing of three new songs, one of which has as yet not title.

The other new songs Ego Eccentric and Mac Fire blended with existing tracks such as Emerald Lord of Pleasure; the bottom end groove tighter than a shark's arse and free-flowing riffs weaving their way around the room like lizards of doom cruising for a victim...

So, The Distortion Project scores another gig for the team; three bands impress and improve their chops...what better way to spend a Saturday evening? Answers on a postcard....