Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dead Daisies - a supergroup for those needing an extra fix of classic rock

THE term supergroup is one which can carry a lot baggage - but with Dead Daisies an unlikely combination of ex-members of INXS, current members of Guns 'n' Roses and session men playing with the likes of The Rolling Stones there may be a magic formula at work.

And for those planning to check out Black Star Riders when they play in Belfast's Limelight1 on December 15th all present are in for a special treat when the Dead Daisies hit the stage.

Featuring an array of musical delights their current album has all the great tunes you'd expect from a group of artists who have had their souls firmly locked into the great AOR tunes of the 70s and 80s, but with their hearts and heads bringing the sound bang up to date.

Formed around front man John Stevens (ex-INXS) and David Lowry a rolling line-up of luminaries such as previous members Marco Medoza they have settled on a line-up that sees them surging into the higher echelons of music performance with their self-titled album.

Slash lends some soulful work on lead single, Lock and Load, but having such a guest on that great track should not detract from the rest of the album.

Self-confessed fans of Bad Company and Foreigner, their twist on the classic sound is nothing new; but when treading this road, the only way to make your songs stand out is to don a new pair of cowboy boots and walk with purpose and intent down that road.

From the deep soulful songs like Yesterday, and the excellent opening track, It's Gonna Take Time this is a release that oozes rock and blues. That's not to say they don't know how to rock out - Bible Row being the perfect example of a song that Van Halen or even Queen would have been delighted to have in their repertoire because of its musical pace and nice set of lyrics. The chorus is a killer hook that has you humming along to it from the first listen.

Yes, there is nothing earth-shattering when you hear another act playing 70s and 80s rock, but who cares when it is this good!

The momentary panic of seeing a track with the title Can't Fight This Feeling and expecting an REO Speedwagon cover sneaks off as you sit back and listen to this ode to love.

Dead Daisies pedigree is clear, with Stevens at the helm and David Lowry anchoring down while Richard Fortus (Guns 'n' Roses) flows free; the whole thing hangs around a rhythm section of Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones touring bassist) and Charley Drayton in drums (ex-Cold Chisel and The Cult).

Having Dizzy Reed (G 'n' R keyboardist) adds flourishes that are subtle but important to add to the rich sound.

With the prospect of Dead Daisies supporting Black Star Riders this release is an excellent introduction to the band; an excellent set of tunes; and a set of songs that can transport you away from the dreary autumn nights to the Californian sun.

Dead Daisies album will be release shortly and make sure you're down early to the Limelight1 on December 15th.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Motorhead cancel tour

LEMMY has just issued the following statement through a press agency:

"I have to sadly let you know that Motörhead has had to postpone the forthcoming European tour until early next year, 2014.
"We have made the decision because I am not quite ready to hit the road yet, and am working my way back to full fitness and rude health. Don't worry - I'm not about to start promoting veganism and alcohol-free beverages, but it is fair to say that I personally have been reconfiguring areas of my life to make sure I can come back fit and strong.
"It disappointed me tremendously to have to say I wasn't quite ready to hit the road yet, but not nearly as much as it would've disappointed me to go out, play some average shows and watch my health give way long before the tour was over! When people come to see a Motörhead tour, they expect a Motörhead show, and that is exactly what you will get as soon as I am fit and ready to rumble.
"Your patience and understanding is appreciated...and know that I'm getting stronger and stronger every day, so watch out next spring Europe and we will see you then.
"Thank you all,

Youth gone mild? Not when Ugly Kid Joe and Skid Row on stage!

THE entire hard rock genre is one that can be held up to ridicule at the best of times - a pastiche of big guitar sounds, overblown lyrics, undertones of a misogynistic attitude and, the case of many on the touring or festival circuit, men in their 40s and older playing for the retirement fund.

However, those on the outside will never see that both old and young still get their kicks to hard rock bands that know how to hit the stage, and hit it hard.

In a Distortion Project stormer of a triple-hitting gig on Tuesday, October 29th, Aussie rockers Dead City Ruins, and the US of A's Ugly Kid Joe and Skid Row proved that with an audience ranging in age from 18 to 60 they could still hit the highs of yesterday with aplomb, energy and without a hint of youth now gone mild. Yes, the Youth (loosely applied to a packed Limelight1) still goes wild.

As we caught up with Whit Crane for a pre-show interview (details later on this blog and rockradioni) he implored us to check out Melbourne hard rockers, Dead City Ruins.

This five-piece were already on stage into their second song as a thin-crowd began to grow; however  as good bands know, no matter whether playing to 50 or 5,000 you still adopt the same attitude.

Twin Les Paul guitars locked in just right, hard and tight rhythm section, and a vocalist in Jake Wiffen who knows the right balance between banter and getting down to business. A bright future for Dead City Ruins if they can shake the 'another-band from Oz' monicker and earn the just respect for their brand of Stones-infused, take on 80s and 90s hard rock. Laid back and lethal!

Ugly Kid Joe have been on something of a resurgence over the past couple of years; with festival dates, a mature ep in Stairway to Hell; and on the face of it just a band having a real fun time playing their music.

Funked up, fucked up and at times flayingly heavy, Ugly Kid Joe edged it on the night. From VIP through to Everything About You this was a band on top form.

It takes a special type of set of performers to appear both loose and tight; tunes were played with precision and with a relaxed feel amidst the intensity of the music.

While many were just there for standards like Neighbour, Cats in the Cradle and Everything About You, the tracks from Stairway to Hell were exceptional. I'm Alright was a tight fist of riffs and chorus, while the dystopian No One Survives was pure rock writing and performance at its best.

And, with the set lengths curtailed due to a later event at the venue the 'pretend we've been off stage and are on our way back' mock encore routine had comedy value just seeing the band frozen in time for seconds. Pure comedy for the males, but eye candy for the ladies was a drummer only wearing his underpants - style statement, garment choice, or just coping with onstage heat, it just seemed weird...

However, It is clear that with a possible new album due out in 2014 Ugly Kid Joe are still a potent force, still balancing between genre boundaries and still delivering their all on stage.

Skid Row have always been a beloved band in Belfast, despite issues that there may have been with a previous vocalist. Those issues are not even a point in consideration for this - and on this evidence - more potent version of the b and.

As expected the greatest hits were brought out, with all the usual gusto, but the variety in the set's composition at times did tend to lean towards earlier glories.

Having said that, each was given a rapturous round of appreciation, sing-alongs and welcome; with Johnny Solinger noting that it was possibly the first time they had someone crowd surfing to I Remember You.

With United World Rebellion (Chapter One) on release, it was Kings of Demolition which stood out, as taking the basic rock template, flavouring it with punk(ish) lyrics and a metal musical twist.

The inclusion of a cover of The Ramones track, Psycotherapy, with Rachel Bolan on vocal duties was a nice bracketing of the set, with the same band's Blitzkreig Bop Skid Row's intro track.

From there it was a clear race to the end. Skid Row, like Ugly Kid Joe, know how to leave the audience heading home happy. There is no great ingredient X for this: as all great bands know you round up the set with your most popular tracks.

It was the final consummation of the marriage between fans and band as they wrapped up an intense evening of hard rock bountifulness with Monkey Business, Slave To The Grind and Youth Gone Wild.

Unfortunately being an early show - with the venue needing to be cleared for some dance and DJ shit for the less well-endowed in musical taste - the scenesters and glad-handers moved in. At the same time there were a hundreds of fans emerging from Limelight1, happy, smiling and hoping for an early return from these bands.

Hard rock isn't dead, it has not gotten 'mild' and at times young and old still go a little wild. With Dead City Ruins, Skid Row and, probably with the best set of the night, Ugly Kid Joe there is a soundtrack to be cherished and a new legion of fans is growing around the people who support true music.

You can read my interview with Whit Crane of UKJ later this week, and an audio will also appear on www.rockradoni.co.uk shortly.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ugly but good...

COME Tuesday (29th October) there is a classic feel to the Limelight on Ormeau Avenue when The Distortion Project presents Dead City Ruins, Skid Row and Ugly Kid Joe bring the 90s back to rockin' life - but not one of these bands is looking to the past.

For Skid Row they have their World Rebellion release out to plug, and for Ugly Kid Joe it is a chance to prove to Belfast fans - once again - that they are more than a two-hit wonder.

Rock fans who actually listen to bands know that Whitfield Crane and his merry band of fellow rockers from Isla Vista, California have been banging out solid tunes, despite a hiatus that lasted almost 12 years from 1997 to 2009.

Emerging stronger, with 'Everything About You' and 'Cat's In The Cradle' gateways to ensure that interested outsiders could come into the fold, it was really in 2012 that they emerged triumphant on to the Download stage in 2012.

This success was used to leap forward with the release 'Stairway to Hell' a nine-track release that showcased the range the band (in addition to Crane it is made up of Klaus Eichstadt, Dave Forman, Cordell Crockett and Shannon Larkin) is capable of delivering, from delicate acoustic renditions such as 'Would You Like to Be There' through to the outstanding No One Survives'.

As they embark on this tour and through to new heights one cannot help feel hopeful that their mixed up brand of hard rock, metal and funk will grab more fans, more backing and the critical acclaim they deserve.

See you at Limelight1 on Tuesday!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parisian hardcore comes to Northern Ireland....

GIVEN that we've had some superb hardcore performances and releases in Northern Ireland of late, within a few weeks the local scene will get to see where France is in the hardcore stakes as Black Bomb A come to play Belfast.

We've seen stellar gigs from Gacy's Threads, By Any Means, and début artists Defyed so the ability to compare them with the Parisian hardcore artists on November 28th at the Voodoo.

Support will be from Nasa Assassin and By Conquest or Consent.

Black Bomb A, from the Parisian suburbs of Viroflay (is that a hardcore name or what!), have been knocking about since the mid-90s and have recorded five albums since first consigning their attack to a recording studio in 1999 with the ep Straight in the Vein.

Touring on the back of last year's Enemies of the State album the accompanying blurb to the announcement says that they sound like the "sharpened melodic edges of Faith No More meets Slayer".

With a Hellfast appearance (video below) and a UK and Ireland tour in November, Black Bomb A are Poun (vocals), Shauny D (vocals), Snake (guitar), Jacou (bass) and Hervé Coquerel (drums).


Hellfast 2012, Clisson, France:

Fear, from Enemies of the State:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No delusions at SAHG's grandeur with album number four

WHEN SAHG played in front of a thin crowd in Belfast earlier in 2013 there was no doubt about their pedigree as performers, and now with their fourth album, Delusions of Grandeur they have reinforced their credentials as an increasingly impressive act.

While not an immediately accessible album, it is, however, one with impressive depth in song structure, delivery and intensity; all the tricks in the classic metal bag are teased out to construct an album worthy of the title 'classic'.

From opener Slip Off The Edge of The Universe to the epic closer Sleeper's Gate to The Galaxy there is a sense of the monumental about this release.

However, part of the secret lies in the two-and-a-half minute instrumental, Odium Delerium. Here, the riffs and guitar work are a seamless blend of the best of 70s heavy music á la Sabbath and Zep, and more modern work like that of Mastodon. It's not just because this is what the band claim in the release blurb; it is evident to any listener that this is a Norwegian act that is both knowledgeable about the past, but able to put their own spin on it.

While Sleeper's Gate may have echoes of Opeth and Zep III, it also twists this into a spaced out conclusion to the album's concept.

Concept album? Don't run away in fear! Each song stands on its own merits. The stomp of Firechild, the full on Blizzardzone or Then Wakens the Beast could fit into a set list and not seem out of place.

The concept is one best explained by front man Olav Iversen:

“We came up with the story about a person, whose delusions of grandeur escalate to the level where they consume him completely,” he said.

“From becoming increasingly psychopathic and dominant, he loses touch with everyone around him, and isolates into his own imaginary, psychotic world, where he becomes the almighty ruler of the universe.

"As he stands on the highest peak of his domain and beholds all that he has conquered, he suddenly slips off the edge and floats away, weightless. Helpless and stripped of all power, he drifts further into the open space, until he disappears into the darkness.

"It’s an album about how desire for power and property can distort and destroy who we are.”

Got that? Yes, it might seem to have a little bit of Floyd's Wall about the rise and decline, without the pretentiousness of fans regard for that. Instead, one must take this to reflect what it must be like to be in the creative furnace of Bergen and watch lesser bands rise to the front pages of magazines with mediocre albums and overblown egos. Very few last the course.

SAHG on the other hand are based on solid musicianship, a background of its member's experience in playing everything to classic hard rock to death/black metal. That experience has been used to produce a musical journey in Delusions of Grandeur that is as complete a space opera as any sci-fi film produced since Alien.

From within the realm of science fiction one can explore themes and metaphors that in straight forward lyrics would appear clumsy. Politicians and demagogues, as well as musos would do well to pay heed to he essential message: rise to the top and often there is nothing there of worth.

But set aside everything else, and what SAHG have delivered is an impressive, classic album. The twin guitars of Olav and Thomas Tofthagen are a dexterous melange of wondrousness, while Tony Vetaas and
Thomas Lønnheim nail the complexity down with a precision that does not intrude, but instead complements the vision of each song and the album overall.

What really makes Delusions of Grandeur stand apart from the herd of schtick produced by the wannabes is that even after a few listens you know this is an album you will come back to a month down the line, a year down the line, or five years down the line and it will still feel as fresh and as impressive.

SAHG release Delusions of Grandeur on October 28th on Indie Recordings.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Magnificent Monster Magnet march forward on The Last Patrol

FROM the opener 'I Live Behind The Clouds' to closer 'Stay Tuned' Monster Magnet have delivered a comprehensive and tremendous symphony of stoner, spaced rock on their tenth album, Last Patrol.

Dave Wyndorf has orchestrated a collection of tracks that pull together all the elements that make Monster Magnet such a significant band - genre splitting, genre defining. They are band that on this album pull together the best of early 70s hippie rock and electronic space rock with hard rockin' metal.

But what makes this remarkable is where Wyndorf and his merry band take homage to a fine art: title track Last Patrol is a nine-minute plus epic, where the influence of Hawkwind is clear as the guitars intertwine in a heavy dream-like landscape: this is like the 'Wind if they were on crystal meth.

Followed by the delicate introduction and dreamy lyrics of  Donovan's Three Kingfishers therein lies the secret of the contrasts that makes this album so special.

Wyndorf himself sums up the backdrop to recording:

"The songs are a kind of Space-Noir, tales of cosmic revenge, peaking libidos, alienation and epic strangeness," he said. "It's a weird trip through the back alleys of a dark, retro-future, which by no coincidence very much resembles my own life!

"The lyrics aren't fantasy really, rather a recounting of my musings on, observations of and general emotional reaction to my life and environment during a one-week writing period in February 2013.

"But I tend to use the vernacular and imagery of science fiction and surrealism to experss myself and that's where these lyrics get trippy."

While it is not in any way a departure from the Monster Magnet template it is nevertheless an accomplished and highly enjoyable album. From the delicious stomp of Hallelujah to the seven-minute glory of End Of Time there is enough to ensure that those that purchase this album will quickly be allocating songs to a variety of playlists in their iTunes, and each will stand-out on those playlists.

Part of the secret of the album is where Wyndorf utilises lyrical intricacies on The Duke (of Supernature, as if Nietzche's uber-mensch turned into a misogynistic maniac, yet remained endearing. This is where you can imagine where you will be, but you never quite reach because Monster Magnet have claimed that territory as their own.

For a band that has had its trials and tribulations throughout the year, not least Wyndorf's personal issues, this is a celebration of what stoner and space rock should be. This is probably the most coherent collection of Monster Magnet tracks since Powertrip. Bob Pontella and Chris Kosnick weave intricate patterns, while Phil Ciavano nails down the guitar lines to provide Garrett Sweeney the space to let the lead work standout.

This is an album that will be best listened to over an excellent set of headphones or through a sound system blaring. The Last Patrol marches like a guerrilla army through your senses; invest the time and you will find sufficient power and delicacy to match the lyrical conundrums.

All in all this is Monster Magnet as they should be; a soundtrack to the outer edges of imagination while a mescal worm buries its way into your frontal lobe - simply joyous.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Everything in the air as the Spiders and Airbourne tear apart Limelight...in a good way

THERE is nothing new in rock 'n' roll; but there are ways to inject an extra dose of attitude. Airbourne and Black Spiders brought a wagon load of that attitude to Belfast on Monday (October 21st) and a raucous crowd responded with roars of approval.

Black Spiders, like the headliners, are no strangers to these shores. However, they seem to have grown in stature of late with new album This Strange Land adding yet more full-on texture as their triple guitar attack more and more utlisises the differences achievable; while the rhythm section was nailed down tight.

Drummer 'Tiger' Atkinson played like Mr Motivator on speed, haranguing both his kit and the crowd.

The 'in-your-face' thrust of Black Spiders - best witnessed in the "f**k Black Spiders" chanting and Stick it to the Man - can sometimes to be too much, but Belfast embraced this, brought Black Spiders into the bosom of hard rock excess.

Drink is a feature of many a hard rock and heavy metal performance. The rights and wrongs of prominent pushing of booze from promoters, venues and the band on stage can be debated to the nth degree: but when Airbourne are in town the advertising blurb urging us all to "drink responsibly" is mis-translated into a call to drink as much as possible and the only responsibility is not to spill your drink.

The Pied Piper of excess is Joel O'Keefe, Explorer guitar strung around his slim, small body as he rants through party rock 'n' roll; riffs tumbling from his cohorts and a constant motion across the stage that threatens physicists assertion that there is no such a thing as perpetual motion.

Just a few years back Airbourne were exploding in welter of promotion behind Running Wild; now songs like Too Much, Too Young Too Fast and Diamond in the Rough provoke reactions that mean they are confirmed hard rock classics.

And that reaction was as rowdy as it gets: mosh pits, crowd surfing - it could have been a metal gig for all intents and purposes.

This was truly a crowd standing up for rock 'n' roll.

As usual Joel took a wander off stage and pranced across the top of the bar, his scrawny frame a blur before returning to be the mad Australian master of ceremonies.

Ryan O'Keefe, David Rhoads, and Justin Street scanned the crowd and scampered across the stage a wonderful wunderlust infecting them and all in the packed venue - with tracks from latest release Black Dog Barking as welcome as earlier material.

There are, of course, those who criticise Airbourne and their ilk of re-treading pub rock. They miss the point. Every time Airbourne hit the stage they add layer upon layer on their upwards ascent to domination: energy and frenzy mean that the comparisons are trite and unsustainable. The quartet create their own definitions. And, as Joel noted from the stage the crowd were ready to party and drink even if it was a Monday night.

In terms of a Monday night in the pit, sweaty, a long way down the path to drunk, and roaring along to anthems - Airbourne are the perfect soundtrack to excess - excess with a smile on its face.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

All the D's at RockD for a Hardcore, punked up dance around party

SATURDAY night (October 19th) at The Distortion Project was a hardcore, punked up, metal assault from three bands that were determined that you either get with the game plan or get the hell out of dodge.

Drawing a healthy early evening crowd of misfits and malcontents to Limelight2 the normal rock and metal crew stood aside for a change to see what mayhem the night could bring once the hardcore kids took to the stage... sometimes not a promising prospect, but as always Mr Loveday's project had nicely balanced out the night's throwdown.

Opening the line-up, for their first ever gig, were Defyed; and judging by friends and fans gathered there is a healthy future for the band. A constant stream of invective from Wayne - who picked out Edwin Poots (Northern Ireland's Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety)- for an attack and generally painted a bleak landscape.

Tight at the backline with Kieran and Steve anchoring the sound for the band, Gav and Trev laid down an incessant barrage of riffs. Where the band need to consider developing is a variation in the guitars - if you have two guitars there's no need to forever try to follow each other. Wayne, on the other hand needs to move more; get with the programme, develop stage presence to complement the rich growling vocals; and, dominate proceedings.

Having said all that, this was an impressive début; there is definite promise burbling away here once you strip away the aural overload.

The Steady Decline got off to a weird start, with one of the guitarists taking both mic stand, backing mic and himself down on to the 'dance floor'. Totally removing himself from the monitor speakers may seem like some sort of hardcore 'statement' but all it does is provide a disconnect with the rest of the band. [And what is it with hardcore bands that various members feel the need to get off the stage meaning half those present can't see them?]

The first 15 minutes also saw a disconnect between the rhythm section, with the bassist at times glancing at the drummer, who at times seemed more intent on double bass flourishes than coming in on one exactly.

The second half of the set saw this tighten up, and once it did the fluidity - from which the band's potential is clear - came through. This is band that has the chops, but need to spend more time in the rehearsal room; hone the skills as if each practice is a live set; analyse where there can be improvement, and it will come.

Then - ahh the halcyon days of punk! When Belfast was buzzing with the spirit of defiance; when Rufrex, Outcasts and SLF, to name but a few, cast a cynical eye upon the tired deficiencies of a society ripping itself apart.

There is no doubt that Divisions draw heavily on the punk of yesteryear, but also bring it bang up to date. At the age of this wizened reviewer there is a vague memory of all the earlier acts keeping melody lurking somewhere in the mix., but Divisions have brought the west Coast US influences together with some of the English punk bands that emerged in the early 80s.

Incorporating some hardcore and metal into the melting pot produced a varied and vicious vacuum of noise, somehow sucking listeners into the maelstrom.

By rounding up the set with increasing ferocity it shows that almost two years of preparation has paid off for Divisions; and with fans already knowing much of what was being played there is a healthy promise of more gigging for Divisions: all in all a fine way to round up what was - and you rarely will hear this - an enjoyable evening of hardcore...

Only niggle of the night was the draft beer all but ran out; buy the one one barman on duty managed to keep his cool juggling a multiplicity of demands upon his time. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Groovin' with pub rock as Airbourne and Black Spiders prepare to descend on Belfast

SAY want you want, but it seems that there are bands that go out of their way to play in Belfast, when others leave it all to whether their booking agent can be arsed touting the acts beyond the North Channel.

Airbourne seem to fall within the former category. It may just be the booking agent, or it may be the band like playing here, but Airbourne have been faithful visitors to these shores since the release of Running Wild.

Now with the Black Dog Barking tour the Aussie quartet are bringing their bawdy pub rock mayhem back to Limelight1 this coming Monday. Remember that this is a band that has sold out Limelight2, Spring and Airbrake and the Mandella Hall. Seems they are pretty popular in this town...

Conforming to the stereotype for Australian rock 'n' rollers they are relatively short, include two brothers, lay down an infectious series of songs and just seem intent on enjoying life (think DC, Rose Tattoo).

But they are not slavish followers of a tried and tested route. They are meatier than the Angry Anderson fronted crew and have a faster - almost Motorhead-like - pace than DC. One thing they do have is a front man in Joel O'Keefe that loves bouncing off the stage and climbing all over PA systems - he is allegedly thinking of releasing a mountaineering DVD...

From humble origins in the Warrnambool in the Australian state of Victoria they have albums that have charted across the world and a devoted fanbase.

Mix in the groove of Black Spiders - no strangers to these shores either with previous support slots for Airbourne and The Answer - and you have a pretty special Monday night on Ormeau Avenue.

Some tickets £20+booking fee are still available, but be quick!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Venrez provide perfect counterpoint to hard rock clichés with American Illusion

VENREZ are an odd, but likeble bunch on record. They have produced an album in American Illusion that is both challenging and accessible, and eight of its 10 tracks are straightforward rock with a lyrical social consceince.

But on two of the tracks they wander off the well-worn hard rock mode, but in no less an enjoyable way.

There is a rawness about the entire feel of the album, with opener a perfect example. Singer Ven said of it:

"'Unforeseen'  is my favorite track on 'American Illusion'. It's brutally heavy and demanding to play right.

"It's 'At The Drive In' meets 'Alice in Chains' and really reflects the experiences we've had touring the world together."

Ven's comparison to these bands stand up, but throughout the rest of the album it teeters between the classic hard rock edge and alternative, stoner rockers such as QOTSA.

For example, Free Will has moments of sheer rock splendour amidst a groove that would not be alien to desert rock. But the previous track has a stomp and vigour reminescent of the glory days of 80s hard rock.

Ven's vocal delivery is under-stated, and almost laconic at times, echoes of Layne Stayley merging with his own take on how difficut issues should be delivered. Unlike many of Venrez's contemporaries there are not tales of excess and misogny.

As the title of the album - American Illusion - suggests lyrically they tackle a society with more problematic issues than it can cope with; and no army of therapists, counsellors, pchychiatrists or psychologists can help during this century.

That combination between hard rock musical attitude and lyrics to challenge listeners means that this album falls into that elusive category - a 'grower'. On the first couple of spins there is more than a little to engage, but by the time you have listened to the likes of Silver and Gold and Vultures you 'get it' and can settle back to enjoy.

The weird bit comes in the last two tracks - the Beat Goes On and Temptress of the Moon. Beat Goes On has dated synth and distorted vocals which would have not been out of place in an early 90s experimental rock act. However, the repetitive, almost hypnotic delivery makes it strangely likeable.

Throughout the album - anchored by the rhytm section of Mike and Ed - the twin guitars of Alex and Jason are to the fore, with riffs aplenty prominent in the mix.

But, on the album closer - the lengthy Temptress of the Moon - they are given free reign to explore delicate textures. At times it is as if Dave Gilmuor, Snowy White and Syd Barret got together with some prog rockers and did some acid. And that is a good thing.

Apart from the slight departure of the last two songs Venrez have produced a solid, enjoyable album - one worthy of a listen before their Belfast date. Guitarist Alex Kane is no doubt about where the band are:

Now with this new album, "American Illusion", we have our best material to date and the band has never been tighter. I think everyone who comes to see us again will say it was worth the wait. Those seeing us for the first time will not be disappointed either."

American Illusion is available now. You can catch them supporting Buckcherry and Hardcore Superstars in the Limelight on November 27th. Tickets available from usual outlets.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Win tickets to see Queens of the Stone Age at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

YOU lucky, lucky punters! We here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited and www.rockradioni.co.uk are joining forces with MCD to offer two lucky readers a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Queens Of The Stone Age on November 18th at Belfast's Odyssey Arena.

Yes, Josh Homme and his merry band of stoner/alternative metal will be joining forces with local alternative rockers Little Matador for a night of groove and desert rock.

Queens Of The Stone Age emerged as one of the top bands of the noughties, seamlessly merging their stoner origins with breakthrough album Songs For The Death in 2002 balancing the alternative with a hard rock attitude.

Now with ...Like Clockwork they have their first album to debut at Number 1 in the US charts.

To win tickets to see Queens Of The Stone Age all you need to do is answer this simple answer:

Which Foo Fighters member played on Songs For The Death?

Send your answer here before 1st November.

Usual competition rules apply and remember if you're not in you can't win.

Forchristsake fight back

ON October 6th a post on this site provoked a storm of comments, which flew back and forth  about the Christian metal band ForChristSake.

Despite messaging me on Facebook thanks when the post was first put up on October 6th the comments on this site and on Metal Ireland provoked the band's spokesman to ask me a few nights ago to take the post down or retract the post.

Having been involved in journalism since 1989 the only time I retracted a statement was when as a young naive reporter I was challenged by British Nuclear Fuels. My editor then told me never to do it again. And I haven't.

However, in the interests of fairness I have agreed to carry a statement from the band. Read it before you read my comments...

"Statement from ForChristSake (FCS)
"This is a statement to clarify a few points following the recent comments about us on both Metal Ireland and Belfast Metal Heads Reunited.
"At no point during the interview were the words discrimination or Christianity used by our bassist
,these were words used by the interviewer concerned who was taking poetic licence in his title and we can understand why people misinterpreted this.
"The band did not say that they were discriminated against but we did say that we felt locked out in the local metal scene just because of the close knit metal community, and at no point was this inferred that this had anything to do with our faith/beliefs.
"ForChristSake and their families are disappointed and saddened by the barrage of abuse and intolerance of people who felt the need to ridicule us and our beliefs especially considering our unique situation in Northern Ireland of which the metal scene has always professed that its always about the music...
"We are just a local band trying to do the best we can and trying to get our message across to people who will listen.
"We are all entitled to our faith and we feel we do not deserve this kind of abuse in a public forum considering we would never make similar comments about other people who don't share our beliefs.
"Regardless of the comments that have been made we are not deterred in continuing with our band and are grateful for the private and public support from both Christian and Non Christian heavy metal fans.
"God Bless

This is the entire statement - unedited. While I can be a hard nosed journalist, and hard nosed in my current job I take offence at some parts of this statement relating to my professionalism.

I do not normally do this, nor do I usually write in first person - that is not how I was taught in journalism; from covering council meetings, court sittings, and car crashes, the reporter is no the story. When you're standing at the scene of a sectarian murder or talking to a grieving wife or husband you are not the story. Regular readers will know that very few of the stories, reviews and reports are written in the first person. The story is about the band, the music or the gig.

However, I feel it right in giving ForChristSake the space to have their statement carried entirely I wish to clarify a few things.

Firstly, I have given ForChristSake plenty of space on this blog, and the article on 6th October was the third piece carried to date.

Next - despite my own evidence-based atheism I have not held back from reporting on any band because of their beliefs. 

Furthermore writing a headline is not "poetic licence" - it is editing or sub-editing. It also used a rhetorical device to force the reader to think about the concept of a Christian metal band, and the issues they might face. Note the headline's actual phrase is a question and has a question mark. It does not state they are discriminated against; it poses a question to allow readers to make up their own minds.

Nor have I ever challenged them about their faith. I allowed them the space to say what they wished, as in previous articles.

While they received a lot of negative comments they also received support, some very vocal support; I was also accused of "hype" and of "blowing it out of  proportion". I have shoulders broad enough to take it.

If a band wants coverage they are going to have to take criticism on the chin; the internet is like a shark tank once genuine commentators, keyboard warriors and trolls go to work. Just read some of the abuse Metallica have taken in forums about St Anger and there latest film release.

Finally - I will not hesitate to continue to promote my blog on Facebook, Twitter or where ever - that's not "hype" that's using social media to share the content to allow fans to read what is being said. I have interviewed band after band, and individuals in the rock/metal scene who are stellar performers. This is the first time I have been asked to retract a statement.

Nor have ForChristSake ever objected to me promoting articles about them on social media previously...

This is my last comment on this.

Owner, Editor, Chief Reporter
October 16th, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Physicists now know what The Answer is...rock 'n' feckin' roll on a New Horizon

THE great sci-fi humourist Douglas Adams once postulated that the answer to life, the universe and everything could not exist in the same universe as the question...and as physicists across the globe struggle to find the answer to everything, we in Belfast know there is only one answer on the horizon and it is a New Horizon of rock 'n' roll.

The Answer are loud and proud; they are energised with their fourth album New Horizon storming to one good review after another; and on Friday, 11th October they kicked off a tour that is sure to lift them to yet loftier heights.

Opening for the County Down rockers were Cage The Gods. Drawn from across the British Isles they are a perfect fit as openers. Strong, blues influenced rock, delivered with panache plus the added bonus according to some of the ladies in the crowd of having an ample supply of eye candy on display.

With a few refinements to arrangements and stage craft Cage the Gods could be the real deal in a short period of time. It'll be worth seeing how their debut release works out when they release the ep 'Favourite Sin' in November.

But when it comes to great tunes, stagecraft and an overall fantastic live show The Answer have perfected their art.

After a difficult period in the band's history The Answer have emerged, strident and defiant with new management, new label and a new album worthy of anything other pretenders to their throne have released in the past decade.

And it was with the type of  fuck you attitude that makes everyone grin manically when they emerged on to the Limelight's stage with the title track of the album delivered with a malicious smile: they know how good it is, and it seems as if the crowd do too: for an album not long released there was an immediate mass singalong.

Cormac is perhaps in someways a throwback to when frontmen were expected to be jesters, leading the crowd in a merry dance in the best sense of the words; but to say he is a throwback misses the complements he deserves. He is not harkening back to yesteryear. He has almost helped re-invent the position of the lead singer; taking the best of the past with the best of the present.

And what a set of pipes he has - displayed to their best on the single Spectacular (which was performed with an air of almost soothing yearning for lost youth and youth still to be re-discovered), Concrete and standards like Preacher.that all encapsulate what is great about The Answer

That blend of old and new was balanced well. Long time fans know that The Answer can deliver; but the shot in the arm Toby Jepson seems to have given them on the new album has perhaps, taken them to the proverbial 'next level.

Mickey's bass in particular is allowed to flow freely, for once higher in prominence, allowing Paul's guitar work to develop yet more as he nods to heroes of the blues and rock with flourish after flourish; all the time when the ever grinning Mr Heatley behind the kit has a smile that threatens to split his face.

The Answer always seem to enjoy themselves on stage. No-one but their closest confidantes ever know what troubles and travails they have behind the scenes. But as they exited from the stage at the Limelight this first date of their European tour sees the band determined; focussed on one thing - rocking for all their worth. And they genuinely seemed to be enjoying this show as much as the crowd.

With hard rock enjoying something of a resurgence the ability of bands to stand out from the pack is ever more difficult. On the strength of this performance and the astounding new album the horizon has never seemed so bright a destination to chase for The Answer.

We know that the rest of the audiences on this tour are in for a treat -a superb performance from a superb band. Yes, we may be biased as they are from our neck of the woods, but even the most skeptical of observers cannot fail but be impressed by The Answer.

New Horizon is currently available on Napalm Records and you can catch The Answer right now as they tour the UK and Europe.

Saturday night's all right for thrashing

THRASH metal has been going for a long, long time - as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal made it across the pond to the good ole US of A it merged with West Coast punk and neo-classical structures to produce a new form of metal: led by the so-called Big Four.

With Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth came a host of others like Exodus, Testament, Nuclear Assault, all exhibiting their own take on the thrash 'genre'.

Fast forward to 2013 and Saturday night (October 12th) at The Distortion Project. A collection of young bucks who were not a twinkle in their parents eyes when thrash was being born in 'Frisco and like minded-US cities. What can these young 'uns offer?

First up in the two act bill were Eviserator. Competent and with occasional flourishes of excellence their reliance on the early thrash days were evident. However, given the reception of the dozen or so on the 'dance' floor they are convincing the fans that need to be convinced.

As to musicianship there is no doubt that they can play, with Toner's lead work especially noteworthy. However, as to arrangements they need to take a step back from the thrash formula. We suggest someone hides their 'Tallica, Exodus and other thrash albums for a month or two, or at least until they write their next set of tracks.

Is this harsh? No. They are obviously lovers of the genre and are well capable of using this foundation to build into a competent - even good - outfit. Just dump the Slayer cover: it didn't work; there is enough in your own repertoire to show. If you want to do a cover do something off-the-wall, not re-treading the path so many have waled before.

Acid Age were meant to be launching their new album, Enter the Zomborg at The Distortion Project, but its unveiling has been put back a couple of weeks - but that didn't stop them unleashing their own unique brand of "hyper-thrash".

Jude is a charismatic frontman and an excellent shredder, with Jake's impressive bass playing anchored by Jason's furious drum work. The songs that kicked off the set were that bastard children of Gama Bomb and Stormtroopers of Death; fast, witty and humorous.

With John Roche of Gama Bomb guesting on the forthcoming album (together with Tony Portaro from New Jersey's Whiplash) the influences are right there on the stage for all to witness; although as Gama Bomb are doing less songs about zombies Acid Age appear to have picked up the torch of the undead, especially with the pleasing 'Zombie Sabbath'.

The so-called hyper thrash owes a lot to the punk legacy here in Northern Ireland, as well as the likes of Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies, but incorporating enough excellence in delivery to showcase their talents.

But, it would be wrong to dismiss Acid Age as a one-trick pony; their nod to the NWOBHM shows that they understand the legacy that birthed thrash, with two or three tracks' structure nicely rounded amidst the mayhem.

All in all both Eviserator and Acid Age prove that thrash's day is not yet done; standard bearers such as Gama Bomb and Onslaught are keeping the flag hoisted and it is rather reassuring for this ageing thrash fan to see new blood coming through.

Enter the Zomborg will be released later this month on Punkerama Records.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

War ironing as tectonic plates shift in prophetic alchemy

IN his secluded chambers of the Supreme Metal Council near the Vatnajóull Glacier, Iceland, Geezer Butler has been muttering about many issues of concern: the production on the last Sabbath album, the misuse of the 'horns, and lately wondering if tectonic plate movement was his fault.

For tectonic plate movement is now being directly blamed by seismologists across the globe on Northern Irish band War Iron's lates ep release 'Of Prophecy and Alchemy'.

Butler has said to confidential sources that when he laid down the bass intro to NIB he had no idea the very earth would eventually be shaken by his inheritance.

Now, as 2013 draws towards in its autumn months whole continents are reverberating; plasma lakes are threatening to spew their fiery contents across land masses and entire species of whales have been left spasmodically washing up on beaches - all as a result of War Iron's double bass ultra-low frequency assault.

Title track of the new ep uses those two basses to bring slowed down, sludged out, deep vein throbbing; all resonating at a frequency that frankly would be intolerable to the inner ear if there was not some sort of structure, some sort of song, lurking within.

However, there is a brief flurry of something slightly faster than continental drift with their cover of The Naut's S.U.U.L. Coming from War Iron's formative years, when Marty and Baggy played with The Naut, this is marginally faster and flies by in the blink of a sloth's eye at less than four minutes...

Rounding off the three-track e.p is Angelgrinder, recorded live at Limelight2 in December last year. The song - and yes there is one there - shows that War Iron can produce that attack on your aural senses, and your sense of balance, within the confines of a live venue.

And, 'tis a wonder of any part of Ormeau Avenue is standing after these reverberations coursed through the foundations...

And here is the secret of good sludge: structure. Down-tune, play slowly is all well and good; but without a good structure of band and song it is just a low-end drone. War Iron's use of two basses (no namby pamby guitar widdling ) weilded by Ross and Dave, and the approach of changes in tempo - albeit small changes - that offers a unique take on heavy music.

From the birth of Sabbath in the late 60s there have been many descents down the musical scale, and many attempts to emulate some of the doom of Masters of Reality. The promise of War Iron is that one can chose to be a pretender or one can chose to be true sludge. On the evidence of this ep War Iron have chosen to be 'true sludge'.

Despite Geezer's reservations about planet wide destruction we know that the Supreme Metal Council shall engrave War Iron's Of Prophecy and Alchemy ep upon the sacred scrolls.

Of Prophecy and Alchemy's three tracks are available to listen to or download from wariron.bandcamp.com

A limited CD digi-pack version also available with a run of 100 only hand numbered with lyrics. (a nd yes you will need that lyric sheet!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sharpened teeth bite down for Red Fang's latest release

FROM Portland, Oregon the bastard child of an unholy foursome consisting of the Deftones, Queens of the Stone Age, Clutch and Mastodon emerged kicking and screaming into the world demanding beer and distorted guitars -and thus Red Fang were born.

This creature has now stumbled into the light of its third-album, Whales and Leeches, a furious melange of stoner, progressive, hard rockin' metal. If using those phrases together confuse you, then we suggest you just stick to the Red Fang Beer Game...

Whales and Leeches is an accomplished compendium of tunes, from the furious driving pace of No Hope, to the slowed down sludge of Failure.

Everywhere you can hear a band straining at the leash, creative juices oozing from album opener Doen to closer, the mightily impressive Every Little Twist.

Too often bands like Red Fang get categorised in the most clichéd manner, and not just with the terms randomly flung about above. But dig a little beneath the tracks and there is much more going on; veering from incessant nagging riffs such as on Voices of the Dead, to stoner anthems such as Blood Like Cream and on to the slowed down complexity of Dawn Rising (star track from our point of view).

The involvement of Mike Scheidt (Yob) and Pall Jenkins (The Black Heart Procession) has certainly helped this record, but the production and mix lend the extra touch.

At times the tracks have a hypnotic roll, with Bryan Giles, Aaron Beam, David Sullivan and John Sherman welded together in a fierce determination to nail your arse to the floor.

Low bottom end with the weaving guitar and, at times, chanted vocals produce an album of ferocity and subtlety.

With Whales and Leeches Red Fang have introduced upon an unsuspecting world one of the definitive hard driving, stoner, heavy records of perhaps the decade so far. Bold claim? Listen to them and judge for yourself.

Whales and Leeches is released in the UK on October 21st

Have In Solitude finally realised their potential?

SWEDEN'S In Solitude have been in and around the scene for a while; one of those bands who have been bobbing along, occassionaly being tracked on the radar. Now with their latest album, Sister, it seems they have finally found a sound that they can claim as their own.

On their last release, The World. The Flesh. The Devil. their sound was at times derivative and despite their increasingly good live shows they were over-shadowed by supporting Grand Magus and Amon Amarth on their last outing to these shores.

However, Sister seems to be the moment in their career where the Scandanavians have managed to ascribe to themselves their own voice, their own identity and their own niche.

Produced by Martin 'Konie' Ehrencrona Sister has a more edgy, raw  sound, unlike the polish of their second release. The Mercyful Fate and NWOBHM references are still there, but no longer dominate.

On Pallid Hands that 'voice' is clear. A Maiden, proto-thrash stomp with vocalist Pelle Ahman finding a pace of delivery that suits his unique intonations.

While their two previous releases had an almost faux-dark presence, this time they have managed to produce a more atmospheric, claustrophobic album.

The intro to Lavender is a perfect example of how the band's sound has matured, allowing aural space before the lead riffing and Ahman to step forward; Ahman in particular seeming to push himself further than on previous releases.

As always he has been enigmatic in his statements about the album. Here's what he said about Sister:

"It's time to release our third album, and things have never felt this clear and pervasive before. This is a feeling that has permeated our whole lives during the latest year of writing and recording this album, as well as digesting and dealing with its consequences."

"And it has been wonderful, overwhelming and utterly devastating. Which, in the world of In Solitude, are very positive things, and exactly what was required."

He continued: "It is a very special album for us, and I am very thankful and proud of my brothers (including our great friend, and producer, Martin Konie Ehrencrona), for this is truly the most visceral music we've ever made, and we can't wait for you to experience it too."
You come without. And all falls within. There is a light in the world. There is a stone to the head."
No, we weren't at first sure what this means, but immerse yourself in this album and you (sort of) get what he's driving at.

Collaborations on Sister including Jarboe of Swans (on track Horses in the Ground) and Pelle Forsberg of Watain (on Inmost Negredo) have helped the band move on.

In particular Inmost Negredo is a track that sets this album apart from many dealing in the same territory. Described in the blurb as "near trance-like" there is a resonance of doom and an ambeince that makes for a really dark 8-minute closer; elements of soft rock, jazz licks and sludge merging in a nice opening before the night envelops in  repetitive rhytmic hammering.

Inmost Negredo could be the track that defines In Solitudes future: it sets a tonality that nods to predecessors yet has its own firm identity.

Sister is the album where In Solitude have come of age; it is an album that, despite all its dark themes is an enjoyable, cathartic listen.

Sister is out now on Metal Blade.

Congratulations to our Avenged Sevenfold ticket compettion winners

THE entries have been counted, the adjudicator has inspected them and the draw was made last night (October 7th) for the Belfastmetalheadserunited, rockradioni and MCD Avenged Sevenfold competition.

Congratulations to John and Finlay, who will each receive a pair of tickets to see the A7X team play with Las Vegas's finest, Five Finger Death Punch, and Device.

The trio are hitting the O2 in Dublin on 3rd December and we'll y'all down there.

Thanks to everyone who entered (if you haven't received an email by now you haven't won), and thanks to MCD for promoting the gig and providing the tickets for the winners.

Look forward to reading more about this gig and just why it is an important date for hard rock and metal on this island.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Big Truck rages through Ahoghill

THE Diamond Rock Bar in Ahoghill is said to have a family feel to it, despite it being a rock venue that blazes out massive tunes from bands far and wide - and when Trucker Diablo kicked off their Trucktober tour lead singer/guitarist Tom Harte even had his mother present.

This tour is another important step for Trucker - with the first run of Songs of Iron CDs sold out (vinyl still available) and Classic Rock débuting the video for Maybe You're The One on Tuesday (8th October) they will once again see the Big Truck rolling on to more success.

The first date of the tour had Glaswegian rockers Attica Rage kicking off proceedings. Despite a tentative start the band grew more comfortable with the mid-tempo numbers allowing the melody to survive amidst the metallic assault.

Singer and guitarist Johnny Parr and lead guitarist Steve Bell are comfortable leading the line with support from Colin Wilson on bass and vocals and Richie Rage pounding out behind the kit.

Tracks from album 88mph were played with aplomb: coming at the end of the tour backing that release this came as no surprise.

Overall their set was rewarding and entertaining, but ending with two cover versions (Overkill and Paranoid) was probably an error as it detracted from their own songs.

By then the Diamond family was set-up for Trucker...

There can be no doubt that Trucker have melded together as a stronger more potent force since their first release (The Devil's Rhythm).

More recent album from Songs of Iron have been receiving very positive reviews and it was a declaration of confidence in that album that the majority of tracks on this date came from that release.

Taking the stage with a roar of Year of the Truck the band were quickly into the groove; the bottom end of monstrous sound not over-bearing songs' structures or the huge melodies in their choruses that are infectious in the best way.

Singles Drive and Rebel were given an outing, with Rebel and Red Light On driving the set along at a massive pace.

However, Trucker are not a one-dimensional beast. Tom and Simon keep the guitars and vocals ripping when needed, but equally sensitive tracks like Baby You're The One and the 'best song Skynyrd have written in years' Highway Radio are carried with a light, deft touch.

But Trucker are a unit - Glenn's bass and Terry's drums lend a weight and solidness to the entire ensemble, like a rumbling eighteen wheeler of rock.

Bulldozer and the aforementioned Year of the Rock are both an articulated lorry of riffs and huge basslines.

While Songs of Iron was to the fore - Shame on You and Rock Hallelujah particularly notable in the set - Devil's Rhythm was not forgotten.

Drink Beer, Destroy was the party anthem it always has been, but played at breakneck pace, while Voodoo and Juggernaut assaulted everyone in the room with their incessant rock attack.

Trucker Diablo are now setting forward on their Trucktober tour full of energy and when they hit their English dates and an appearance in France their can be no doubt audiences are in for a hard rockin' treat.

Tom, Simon, Glenn and Terry have always been a tight unit, but they have been incrementally growing on record and now their live sets have reached the next level.

The Big Truck is now knocking down all in their path. Jump on board or get flattened in its path.

Are For Christ's Sake being discriminated against in metal because they are Christians?

FOR Christ's Sake are a band that are signed to a label, have a global distribution deal and yet they feel that they are frozen out sometimes in Northern Ireland: is it because they are Christians?

Musically For Christ's Sake are on the heavy side of extreme metal: they plough a path that is a contradiction in many ways, but in other ways their message matches perfectly with their personal belief.

To lay our cards on the table here, the owner and editor of this site, as well as two out of the other three contributors/correspondents are either atheists or anti-theists. However, rock, punk and metal in Northern Ireland has always turned a willing blind eye to cross-community differences, so why should that same indifference not be turned to a band who do not share our views?

There should be no intolerant attitudes in rock; apart from when discrimination, homophobia and racism rear their ugly heads. These values must be rejected out-of-hand.

But, For Christ's Sake feel they are at the receiving end of a type of prejudice because their profoundly held beliefs - especially as they prepare for the global release of their latest album, Apocalyptic Visions of Divine Terror.

"We are looking forward to our plans to promote this heavyweight release locally and internationally," said bassist Mark John Payne, speaking exclusively to Belfastmetalheadreunited and rockradioni.

"But we realise that to fulfill all our hope for the release that means we hope to be playing outside Northern Ireland as we get a much better reaction. No disrespect to anyone but the local scene is basically friends looking after friends - a clique if you will."

While given the diversity of the local scene as covered in these pages it is not a feeling that we share, but there is no doubt that it is something that Mark and the rest of For Christ's Sake feel, but which they pledge not to hold them back.

"We're not bitter about this, but we feel the metal scene goes through the same cycle of bands.

"And considering we are a signed band with a worldwide distribution deal in place, we feel we should get more of a look in."

Mark is adamant about the determination the band have for album which will hit the racks before the end of the year.

"The situation will not deter us one iota," he said. "We are bringing a beast of an album which will silence our critics!"

Be that as it may, whether it is the beast that For Christ's Sake promise - and on previous evidence it should be - there is no doubt that all acts, no matter the belief system they carve to, or lack of belief, should be given a chance to prove themselves.

Given the theme of the forthcoming album is loosely based upon the Book of Revelations we thought we'd end on this quotation from that self same book: chapter 14, verse three:

"And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No-one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."

Who among us will learn the 'songs' that For Christ's Sake bring on their Apocalyptic Visions of Divine Terror? Or will there be those that show their prejudice?

For Christ's Sake play at Hellowe'en Havoc at Belfast's Voodoo on November 1st.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

From whence came the force of Tyr with Valkyrja

ADD a dash of Viking metal, sprinkle a smattering of Euro-power metal, mix in a dab of battle metal and finally knead through with a portion of folk metal and you'll have something close to Tyr's new release of Valkyrja; but not close enough to really get this release from the Faroe Island's finest rock exports.

The Faroe Islands archipelago has a tiny population or around 50,000 souls; a sovereignty of Denmark whose people are descended from Scandanavian and Scots and Norsemen who had settled around the Irish Sea. Thus our Irish, Northern Irish and Scots readers are partly to blame...

Tyr stand firmly as a reminder of the Viking heritage of the Faroe Islands; despite a history dominated by Christianity from the first Irish monks that landed there through to more recent settlements of Plymouth Brethern and the arrival in the 70s of Charismatic churches.

And it is from the Scandanavian and Norse myths that Tyr return to in each release; and this time it is the dichotomous relationship the warriors of old have with women that comes under the spotlight.

Valkyrja is an album tied together with the loose theme of how women affect men, but that's not to say that Tyr have 'pussied' out.

Trademark intense riffing merged with rampant solos and a nod towards folk rhythms in choruses this release is a high water mark for the band. Unlike many of their compatriots delving into the Norse mythos the vocals are clean and at times haunting.

From opener - and single release - Blood of Heroes through to closer Valkyrja this is a coherent and compact 11-track album held together not just by its lyrical theme, but with a musical thematic pulse.

While the first three tracks follow an almost traditional battle/folk metal thrust, Lay of Our Love's haunting balledic duet opens the doors for lyrics sang in Faroese, virtual tone poems and rampant declarations of Tyr's talent.

Founder member Henri Joensen stepped away from his axe (not that type of axe - we mean his six-string axe) and his mic to explain some of what inspired this epic tale of the warrior who leaves his 'earthly' woman to impress the Valkyrie in order that he may gain entry to the halls of Valhalla and the home of Freyja, goddess of love, sex, fertility, blood and war.

Behind the Norse theme is the age old struggles of men to impress women.

Joensen said: "The woman that the warrior leaves may represent the earthly women. Freyja, The Lady of the Slain, may represent the perfection of 'women' and the Valkyrie is the link between the two; taking men from earthly to godly women."

While careful listening (well to the majority of bits that are in English!) can reveal this tale, each track also stands alone on its merits - Another Fallen Brother and Mare of My Night being perfect examples.

Despite their humble origins in a community ravaged by economic woes due to the collapse of the fishing industry, Tyr have emerged as a band that musically straddles many stereotypes and many niche sounds that often shackle bands. Despite the Viking lyrical theme there is much here that will enthrall fans of NWBHM and folk metal, but more importantly for fans of all types of hard rock and metal.

And the clue as to why you will like this album lies in the bonus tracks on some editions of the release. The covers of Maiden's Where Eagles Dare and Pantera's Cemetary Gates. Both are relatively faithful to the original, but add flourishes to the vocals and guitar solos. This is not about re-inventing metal, but is really about adding Tyr's twist on the formula: a twist our editorial team endorse fully!

Official Video for Tyr's single Blood of Heroes from Valkyrja