Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, June 30, 2014

Slayer's force of nature blows dark winds through Belfast's Limelight

SLAYER! Yes, fucking Slayer. They are one of the most controversial, most single-minded and most extreme of the so-called Big Four of thrash. And, when it comes to live performances there are few that can compete with them when they're on form.

When the fearsome four-piece landed for the first of a two-date stand at Belfast's Limelight1 on Sunday (June 29th) their sheer intensity blew a dark metal wind across the venue.

After last year's two dates in June and August at the Limelight1 could the audience become a little jaded by seeing Slayer again? Nope, because Slayer are uncompromising when they hit the stage.

Tom Arya was grinning almost as soon as each song ended; banter kept to a minimum but obviously enjoying each moment and interaction with the crowd, alike cohort Gary Holt.

The opening trio of Hell Awaits, The Antichrist and Necrophiliac set the tone for the night. Yes, it was a veritable 'greatest hits' set as they prepare for their first album release with Nuclear Blast, but when songs are this great and even greater live, Slayer can be forgiven.

Mandatory Suicide, Chemical Warfare and Jesus Saves were proportionally terrifying, while Kerry King prowled stage left like a predatory presence, atonal soloing and at times almost hypnotising the audience with fierce riffing.

Bostaph has served almost 10 years in three stints in the band and despite the Lombardo controversy naysayers have been silenced by the quality of Bostaph live sets, adding minimal personal flourishes to drum lines that are iconic. Done in a less subtle manner critics would swoop, and done slavishly he would not have stayed the course.

The intro to Seasons of the Abyss brought the crowd to a peak, before Araya spoke the chorus calling the audience to witness Dead Skin Mask. How can a mid-paced song, still sound so menacing in a packed room? There is no answer other than to say all four members cast an evil alchemy of metal joy.

Raining Blood, South of Heaven and, of course, Angel of Death rounded proceedings up on a night when Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph managed to re-ignite the flames of extreme metal.

Despite slippery floors in the pit area causing more falls than usual, those partaking found if to be a joyous experience in the main, complemented  by sensible management of the crowd activity from the security staff: many other venues could learn from such a well-managed venue for metal performances.

And, Slayer produced a memorable performance in Limelight1, with horns and fists raised high by many and towards the back of the room much knowing nods of appreciation.

What it did prove is that while Slayer have had their fair share of knockbacks they still can rise to the very highest heights of metallic live shows. Now, all we have to do is wait for the new album, and we'll see you next year. Same place, same time? We'll be there.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rock(d) keeps rockin' with metal heat: Rabid Bitch of the North, Stormzone and Baleful Creed

SATURDAY afternoon metal is always a joy, and the weekly offerings from James Loveday's Distortion Project always offer high quality far.

With a (very) brief summer break coming up top treats from Rabid Bitch of the North, Stormzone and Baleful Creed created beautiful noise on Saturday (28th June).

With late June sunshine bathing Ormeau Avenue, punters sheltered in the dark. dim and delightful Limelight2.

A series of factors and public transport meant your reviewing crew missed Cavehill completely, and saw the last half of Midnight Transmission, who we though that their mix between indie and hard rock left them out-of-place on the bill; but their set could work on another night with complementary acts and a little more focus.

Rabid Bitch of the North are gearing themselves up for Bloodstock and are getting tighter and more geared up for their set. They cohesion within the band is clear and evident for all to see.

Opening with Your Misery and including tracks from their cassette Defending the Castle plus older tracks like 1999 and they are producing classic heavy metal with their own unique touches.

More on RBOTN on a post later on.

Stormzone show their experience and vigour everytime they step on stage. Led by troubadour Harv, they are a super example of how to deliver a set that is well rehearsed, with still looking and sounding fresh.

From the rhythm anchored by Davey Bates with Graeme's bass nailing it, through to the duelling of Moore and Shields it is a complete visual and aural experience.

One can even forgive the clichéd synchronised axe backward and forward routines - because after all a cliché is a truism, and Stormzone play with a true sense of purpose.

Featured tracks included Three Kings, The Pass Loanen and Night of the Storm. As this was a warm-up for their Sonisphere set next Saturday (3pm for those going) it showed that whether as headliner or support act they can play as if their lives depend on it.

Heading the bill were Baleful Creed, with their slowed down low down groove, and Sabbathy musical muse moving their tunes are a band that can play with verve and with a unique technical groove. Illuminati and Autumn Leaves stood out, songs that grow in stature with every live outing.

Heavy metal, in all its shapes and varieties, stands proud (and loud, of course) with The Distortion Project, the men and women who attend, and through the tireless rehearsals, practice and performances of all the bands who grace the RockD stage.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sweden, Faroe Isles and Finland to arrive in Belfast 7/12 as Sabaton, Korpiklaani and Tyr

THIS is just a wee reminder, for those who have been asleep and constantly ask me about gigs, about an event on 7th December, with the arrival of musicians from the Faroe Isles, Finland and Sweden.

Although it sounds like the sort of World Cup qualifying group Northern Ireland could be drawn in, this is a trio of bands that could be even more entertaining than a kick about at Windsor Park. [Home ground for Northern Ireland's international team.]

They are
  • Sabaton;
  • Korpiklaani; and,
  • Tyr.

They are from Sweden, Finland and the Faroe Isles, and they rock...

No seriously, they do. Sabaton are an armed juggernaut with cautionary tales of war and conflict. told with aplomb. You can read my review of their most recent release, Heroes, here.

 Korpiklaani are a more mysterious beast, merging folk with metal, after being first a folk band...And, a lot of their songs are about boozing: songs like 'Beer, Beer' and 'Vodka'.

They should fit in here in Belfast just fine.

Tyr, as Faroese, present a series of Norse legends, and general allegorical tales linked to myths of days gone by.
Their latest release Valkyrja is a super dose of muscular tales. You can read our review here.
Tickets are on sale now - all the usual outlets.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

INTERVIEW: Darkest Era evolve through transition and unleash Severance upon us. Guitarist Ade Mulgrew explains

THERE is something rather intriguing about Darkest Era. From the mists and ancient bogs of County Fermanagh they have emerged as a potent and heady cocktail of melodic death metal, NWOBHM and Celtic flavouring.

With new album Severance on the shelves, and a new record deal, the band have been through a transition that has seen them emerge more focussed and ready to hit the road on a UK tour.

We caught up with guitarist Ade Mulgrew who first of all explained more about the transitions.
“We have a new rhythm section now with Cameron on drums and Daniel on bass,” he said. “Things began to change for us I guess when we started to go out on proper tours. It’s a totally different ball game compared to just being a recording band and playing gigs here and there.

“Before our first UK tour with Alestorm we’d only done one off gigs, festival fly ins, and at most maybe two gigs in a row. There were a few factors involved but essentially David and Lisa felt that touring was not for them, whereas for the rest of us it was one of the greatest experiences we’d had since starting the band.
Ade went on: “Aside from that we’ve signed a new record deal with Cruz Del Sur, who we’re very excited to be working with for our new album.”

It is a release that sees the band evolving, something Ade agrees with

“We’re older and wiser for sure,” he said. “We have a much stronger idea of what we want to do musically and so there is more of our own identity coming through.

“As I mentioned after experiencing tours we’re more focussed and driven than ever, and having rebuilt the band somewhat we feel very happy with where we are right now.

“We’ve been through the belly of the beast so to speak.”
As to the sound of the new album?

“Although it’s not a huge departure in style from our first album, I do think it’s an evolution,” Ade said. “We were never interested in remaining static and we’ve opened our sound out on this album.
“It is darker, more aggressive and the songs are a lot more focussed and to the point.

“Time will be the judge I guess but I feel at this point it will be a transitional album – a further step towards making the kind of record that each of us has been wanting to make since we starting making music.”

The last time Belfastmetaheadsreunited and RockRadioNI caught up with Darkest Era they were supporting Wintersun in Belfast, and Darkest Era were crackling with energy.

“With every single show you are constantly refining your stage performance, always trying to get better,” Ade explained. “The bands that we looked up to when we started playing music (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy) were all renowned for a killer live show and it’s something we’ve always aspired to.
“We never wanted to be a band who stood on stage staring at their feet. That’s not what heavy metal is about, for us.

And, the string of UK dates is an opportunity for the band to touch base with emergent followers.

“They are all cities that we’ve played before so we’re starting to see the beginnings of a fanbase right across the country which is very encouraging,” he said “I can honestly sasy we’re excited about all the shows, we have very fond memories of our previous shows in these places and plenty of friends to catch up and drink a beer with!”

And, with a possible Belfast date coming soon, we can’t wait to see Darkest Era once again pound the boards.
Interview by Jonny
Severance is out now on Cruz Del Sur Records.
You cn watch the video for Beyond the Grey Veil here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns0rYSEDAnI


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer of metal well underway - welcome back Slayer

SO you'll all have been along this coming Saturday to see Stormzone, Baleful Creed et al at The Distortion Project at Limelight2, before heading up to see guitar maestro Pat McManus in The Empire.

Come Sunday you might want to wallow in the hangover...but you would be a fool to do that; especially when Slayer are in town to give you a Sunday evening hair of the hard rock dog in Limelight1.

We hear whispers there are still tickets left for the Sunday show, but make sure you get 'em early to avoid disappointment. And, seriously, who would want to miss Slayer? No fan of metal should pass this up.

After all the Slayer Monday night show is sold out, as is the Anthrax Tuesday night show (and Ritchie Sambora nearly sold out the same night), you might as well go to Slayer on Sunday...hold on, let me re-phrase that - you MUST go to Slayer on Sunday night.

The two Belfast dates and the Dublin date are the only non-festival shows in the British Isles, so attending should be compulsory for self-respecting metalhead.

"What!", I hear you cry, "are Slayer not over-the-hill and only half the originals". Shut your mouth you ignoramus! Slayer are re-invigorated after last year's tragic death of Jeff and the dispute with Lombardo.

A new record deal with Nuclear Blast and a teaser track free to download from their site; Slayer are moving forward into the next chapter of their brutal musical storytelling...and arguably you could say that Slayer and Anthrax are the only two bands of the Big Four still relevant against the backdrop of mediocrity....

See y'all on Sunday - let the Slaytonic Whermacht assemble!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Make a musical stand against racism - Friday at the Limelight

RACISM has bedevilled recent weeks with its ugly head raised and manifested in sickening attacks against those who have come to Northern Ireland to work and live. It's time to say "no more" and this Friday (June 20th) at The Limelight you can make a stand.

The Limelight is hosting a 'Rock Against Racism' event, with all proceeds going to the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities.

Headlining are 'And So I Watch You From Afar' and The Answer will be performing an acoustic set. Also on the bill are Mojo Fury, General Fiasco (also with an acoustic set), Kasper Rosa and Empty Lungs, with more to be announced.

Tickets are £10 (+booking fee) and all proceeds will go to NICEM.

The promoters state: "This gig will help raise funds for what is a great charity that helps those fromethnic minorites living in Northern Ireland.

"This is a non religious, non partisan event designed to offer support and as a show of solidarity with those from other cultures living across the country."

Racism is sickening, racism is a display of ignorance and intolerance, racism has never had a place in rock, metal or punk - racism is something we all, can make a stand against it and show the idiots, the bigots and the evil perpetrators that music is a weapon we can wield against you.

Apocalyptic anthems aired as Avatar's showmanship rolls into Belfast

THERE comes a time when the end of days is predicted, when pestilence, war and hunger rampage through a ravaged world. Such days are yet to have their revelation not rapture; but until the harbingers of the apocalypse are in hand in the shape of Avatar.

On Thursday, 12th June the carnival of chaos in the shape of the Swedish circus metal act rolled through Belfast's Oh Yeah Centre, in an all-ages gig promoted by The Distortion Project.

But before the revelatory rhymes of Avatar, auguries from the bowels of dead goats predicted much cod horror in the shape of Little Miss Stakes. Luminescent paint, masks and fake flames brought forth their Northern Ireland take on the dark punk metal of Misfits and Wednesday 13.

Awful sound plagued their set, and at times vocals and melodies were lost in the mix. However, the band could also do more with their songs to bring a sharper sound to bear. And, if you're playing up the character of the masked madman fronting a cod-horror outfit, stay in character when introducing songs or trying to build a relationship with the audience.

That said, what does scream out from Little Miss Stakes is the potential to develop further with the right guiding hand. The basis of a band is being built, and stronger foundations now need to be created, with the likes of 'Dr Frankenstein' solid ground to work with.

Solid ground slipped away from the anticipating audience, as Sinocence roared on to stage with the anthemic 'Long Way Down'. Shortly to celebrate 13 years as a band, that experience and drive was evident as it shocked and awed some of the younger members of the crowd.

And, it was halfway through the second song, 'Occam's Razor' that the sound settled down and those in attendance realised that they were bearing witness of heavy metal in its purest form.

Despite the cramped stage and heat, Sinocence kept on delivering, causing spontaneous headbanging, horns being raised and joyous clapping.

'Metal Box' and 'Monster...' drew welcome applause and Sinocence not only warmed up the room for the headliners, but also won new fans amongst the teenagers.

Avatar do not need to work on their craft; their unique sound melds the molten intensity of metal and the circus stylings, with the skill of an alchemist working in  a booth at a funfare where only the wary dare tread.

From opener 'Torn Apart' to 'Queen of Blades' it was a high energy, high tempo set; their recent tour of America has brought the vision of the band to heady heights.

Eckerstrom's is the ringmaster for the rapture, a make-up clad master of the three-ringed circus - he at point lapping up the acclaim for his singing, while the second ring has simply outstanding guitars of Jarlsby and Ohstrom; all rounded up by Sandelin (bass) and the compelling character of Alfredsson (drums) lurking like angry rhythmic beats.

Eckerstrom's vocal range from clean to growling is a feature, the make-up and his massive mouth (no seriously, he could swallow a cow whole with that gub!) painted with a smile that hints of joy and doom.

Title track of their most recent release, 'Hail The Apocalypse' brought those at the Oh Yeah Centre close to fever pitch in an already hot and sweaty room.

Closely followed by the threat of 'What I Don't Know' the shape of the evening was clearly being laid down as their latest release allowed Jarlsby and Ohstrom to weave intricate patterns in an aural landscape that hinted at a wasteland, but brought light into a world of dark.

The banter in between songs of Eckertrom was as well rehearsed as any mad leader of the masses into damnation. From the bonding of metalheads together as a global family to an equality statement about those little people who want to regard other humans as sub-human through to references to Belfast his schtick is clichéd but with a knowing nod to the audience.

'Vulture's Fly' was a highlight of the set, while 'Let It Burn' was, to coin another cliché, incendiary. Rounding off the main part of the show with 'Tsar Bomba's' breakneck pace, the encore of 'Smells Like A Freakshow' and 'Queen of Blades'; brought the curtain down on the show, with an invitation to meet the band at the merch stall.

Avatar are not to everyone's taste, particularly with Eckerstrom's take on Rob Zombie meets Alice Cooper style, but it is a fair bet that after Avatar round off their festival dates they will be ready to gain more momentum and build further on theira growing fanbase.

Hallowed cries from within the carnival are not those of souls lost in the abyss, but the screams of delight. Had more people attended the event, then it is sure that the screams would grow ever louder; and should Avatar once again return to these shores they will attract a bigger adulatory crowd.

Review by JonnyPictures courtesy of Metalplanet.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dee, Isiah and Solomon - the brothers who are Radkey prep for June 25th Oh Yeah show

RIGHT - you're all ready for the Avatar show tonight (June 12th) at the Oh Yeah Centre? Good, then while you're there you might just want to consider another date at the Cathedral Quarter venue, punk brothers in arms, Radkey.

Claiming influences as diverse as the Misfits, The Who, Ramones and Death have been bubbling around for a couple of years, and with their Devil Fruit ep out now, they're taking the brave step of a brief UK and European jaunt...hey, don't sneer, it worked for Green Day.

The sound of Radkey follows what you would expect from a punk act from St Joseph, Missouri...if you know what we mean...

Also, they are sufficiently self deprecating in their own way. Check out their website and click the band profile. After three lengthy paragraphs about their interests and hobbies the final line reads: "They also like music too."

With a good vocal hooks from Dee one US reviewer helped dispel any myths about them..."They're much more than scabby Ramones fans"

Yes, indeed they are. Tickets for this +14 show are £11 and on sale now.

Post-rock? That'll be Slint in Limelight2

WE'RE not fairly sure what exactly 'post-rock' is, but one of the leading exponents of 'post-rock' are US band, Slint. And, they're playing in Belfast's Limelight2 on August 18th...

Publicity types label them as "seminal" and "influential", yet the fact remains that they produce good rock music - we can even forgive them for the sin of having influenced Mogwai and hordes of shoe gazers with floppy fringes.

To put Slint in their historical context mainstream music in the 80s was largely crap: hair metal saved MTV in its formative years, but great acts such as Crue were mercilessly lampooned by the media in the US, and to an extent here in the UK.

Thrash was spreading its wings as the 'Big Four' attracted a disaffected youth; and with the drug dreams of listening to Lou Reed, the prog elements of thrash, and the more avant garde elements of punk the American 'underground bubbled across that vast continent. With ranges of volume and tempo at all ends of them spectrum Slint can be a challenging act to latch on to.

Of their two full-length albums released before they disbanded in 1992, Spiderland was perhaps the one that garnered most attention.

With a few festival dates and demand from a generation not constrained by being 'one genre' listeners, Spiderland is being re-released on Touch & Go Records later this month in expanded format and with a DVD documentary about the band.

And rock, post-rock, metal or punk -  you gotta tour to promote your product.

Hence Slint play Limelight2 on August 18th. Tickets, priced at £18.50 (+ booking fee) are on sale fro Katy's and all the usual outlets. Floppy fringes not required.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Flaconer muscle up their folk metal blast with a battle metal edge

FALCONER -  they've always been a weird beast of a folk metal band, lurking somewhere on the edge of our consciousness, sometimes great, sometimes average: but with their latest release (out today!) Black Moon Rising can they convince us of consistency?

Vocalist Mathias Blad always sounds like he should have been a medieval minstrel who could be performing for earls and knights, but right from the off there is a feeling that his measured tones are being put to good use.

The wonderfully OTT power metal thrust of Locust Swarm just works. It shouldn't, but it does by sheer pig-headed insistence on doing it as Falconer want to do it.

For those not familiar with the Flaconer backstory, the Swedish guys have been knocking around since 1999, and after a brief hiatius in 2002 they have been churning out albums ranging from prog themed, heavy power metal and folk metal with entirely Swedish lyrics.

We've always seen them as a band to dip into rather that stack he shelves with their CDs, or clogging up the hard drive, with the possible exception of Grime vs Gradeur in 2005, an album that alienated many of their fans with its harder take on the Falconer sound.

Black Moon Rising manages to merge the elements that we love and what we hope will have fans gagging for the five-piece to return to the live circuit.

The folk-ish melodies are there in the vocals of Blad and the guitar attack of Weinerhall and Hedlund, while Lundhart (bass) and Larsson (drums) propel the pace to insane power metal/euro metal levels.

The title track 'Black Moon Rising' is the exemplar, with its romp through dark themes, made all the more pertinent by the slowed, harmonic ending of the previous power track 'Halls and Chambers'

However, right after that the folk intro of  'Scoundrel and Squire' gives way to a mid-paced tale, which merges the metal with visions of knights and "false chivalry".

Despite the fury of 'Wasteland' and the stomp of 'In Ruins' the theme of past days are present throughout, with the album closer 'The Priory' and Dawning of a Sombre Age' keeping the balance just about right.

We cam to review this album with a fair amount of skepticism after 2011's Swedish folk Armod. Black Moon Rising is more guitar focused than previous releases and seems to have captured an essence of what the bastard son of folk metal and battle metal would sound like as it screamed from the unholy womb.

Andy LaRocque's production has brought the edge to the sound that suits Falconer, without letting them drift too far from their vision and history.

Could this be a new dawn for Flaconer?  We hope so, because as daft and ludicrous it is to write the words 'folk metal' or 'battle metal', the musical experience is so much more than a genre, or mix of genres; its just simply good music.

Review by Jonny
Black Moon Rising is out today (June 10th) on Metal Blade Records

Monday, June 09, 2014

"Simple, great song writing" - Tom Harte checks out Tesla's Simplicity release

Guest reviewer Tom Harte (Trucker Diablo) casts a critical eye over Tesla’s Simplicity, with a track-by-track analysis

Somehow Tesla has escaped my auditory tractor beam over the years, which is surprising because they definitely cruise down an avenue that I frequent. In light of that I’m not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing... anyway, onto the review.

The album kicks off with ‘MP3’ a mid-paced rocker that grooves along nicely, which flies the flag for the transition of technology in the music industry and driving forward the message of getting back to basics.
‘Ricochet’ celebrates the rock and roll lifestyle and rocks from start to finish. Tesla effortless spew out guitar harmonies and vocal melodies that can’t be ignored. ‘So Divine’ slows the pace a bit and kicks everything back into gear with a stadium sing-a-long chorus: love the guitars in this tune.

Jeff Keith’s raspy vocals could lend themselves to any ballad or hard rocker and in ‘Cross my Heart’ they shift into southern rock mode. This is my favourite on the album.
In ‘Honestly’ my previous vocal views are reinforced, as this ballad is the perfect song for a rainy night in when you’re looking out the window pondering life and your next move. Jeff’s vocals remind me of Raine Maida from Canadian rockers “Our Lady Peace” and I’d be interested to see if Raine was a fan.
‘Flipside’ and ‘Other Than Me’ continue the strength of the album onto the second half.
This is simple, great song writing by a great band, and if that’s what they were going for then they hit the nail on the head.
‘Break of Dawn’ kicks in with choppy riffs that is a definite head nodder…
I have to say ”Simplicity” has a great mix of acoustic tunes and hard rockers and you don’t feel yourself getting bored or clicking next, they seem to have a penchant for huge choruses, as a musician that’s something I strive for and they do it with ease.
There’s enough emotion and soul in the songs that make you fall in love with the songs even more. ‘Life is a River’ is another acoustic rocker with a hint of southern rock.
‘Sympathy’ pumps along, leading into a killer chorus, while ‘Time Bomb’ is explosive as the title and has a bit of a stoner riff to it and again another great chorus. The album closes with the melancholic ‘Til That Day’, which is perfect closer to a great album.
The album ends with a demo of ‘Burnout To Fade’: always great to hear the demo versions compared to the album-finished tracks
”Simplicity” is one of albums that won’t totally blow your mind but could easily fit into rotation for a roadtrip or a day lazing around the house. I will be certainly be checking out their back catalogue.

Tesla know their craft so well and seem to have earned their place in millions of hearts, and rightly so. Only one thing for it now... Repeat!
Review by Tom Harte
Sub-editing by Jonny

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Decent slab of melodic rock from Night Ranger

Review by Baal
'High Road', is the new album from long time melodic rock stalwarts Night Ranger. Now, it has to be said that we do have a bit of a 'soft spot' for this band. It goes back to the days of multiple air guitars with a few mates during the closing finale of 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me', yep, we were into 'em before THAT song! ....
We all know that Night Ranger have some bone fide classics in their repetoire, especially on the first two albums, but to dwell on these would do a diservice to this album and indeed their more recent output in general. 
The band's last two albums 'Hole In The Sun' and 'Somewhere In California' both sat perhaps at opposing ends of the 'Ranger spectrum, one being perhaps more experimental in approach, the other more akin to the melodic glory days when the band where arguably at their peak.
This album could be described as a compromise between both approaches, possibly leaning a bit further to the melodic side of the fence very slightly. Their last album "Somewhere In California" was released three years ago and to most longtime fans represented something of a return to form.
The opening cut and title track kicks off the new album with a ray of Californian sunshine that instantly transports the listener to mid 80's San Francisco, bearing all the hallmarks of classic Night Ranger, tight vocal harmonies, super melodic guitars all over it and the chorus has a hook of Carl Froch proportions. All in all a great way to start an album.
The punchy "Knock Knock Never Stop" and following track "Rollin' On" has the band rocking as hard as ever, with a heavier edge and a bit of a groove thrown in for good measure.

The first song that could be described as a ballad comes along in the form of "Don't Live Here Anymore" .  The familiar tones of singer/drummer Kelly Keagy lull you into a false sense of calm and thoughtful serenity, as just when you're settling for a ballad, the songs explodes into life with some Purple-esque Hammond organ and a tremendous guitar dual with Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra flexing their respective muscles, a real gem of a track.
The superb guitar work by Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra is again a real feature on the anthemic 'I'm Coming Home' which is a melodic masterpiece of a track, the sort of track that very few, if any, does better than this band.
In fact the guitar solos on this album are nigh on perfect, powerful, melodic, always in the right place and they never get to the point of detracting from the song itself....without doubt Gillis and Hoekstra' s performances are for our ears one of the real highlights of the album.

With what could be described as the real ballad on the album "Only For You Only" the band shows how a great melodic rock ballad should be done. Featuring a great melody and chorus, without becoming too sickly sweet and contains enough restrained power to keep the song on the edge. It must be said, that the opening piano chords take you right back to THAT song, you know the one, we don't need to name it. Jack Blades takes this one, and makes it his own.
On the subject of vocal duties, the tracks are split fairly evenly between Blades & Keagy in terms of vocal duties, both doing an equally great job. 'St. Baratholomews' , again a rocker, has a touch of Aerosmith (on a good day) about it, yet at the same time is unmistakably Night Ranger, melodic rock with a bit of a twist, something indeed Night Ranger have always perhaps been known for.
The album's closing two tracks don't quite live up to the quality of the rest of the album. The mainly acoustic 'Brothers' strums along nicely until almost turning into a 'Hey Jude' style sing a long towards the end. It's an okay track but not particularly memeorable or spectacular. The album closes with the instrumental 'LA No Name' which features great acoustic wizardry from Gillis & Hoekstra but to our ears is a strange, if mildly enjoyable track to close the album with. But these really are minor points.
To sum it all up, the band have released yet another very strong (if not classic) melodic rock album. However, a very strong album from these guys is perhaps much better than quite a few others and if you're after a more than decent slab of thoughtful melodic rock then you really can't go wrong with this album.

This is metal; this is Belfast, this was Donum Dei, September Cross, Astralnaut and Conjuring Fate

OKAY, let's get this straight, heavy metal comes in many flavours, many forms and many variations in quality: but put four bands such as Donum Dei, September Cross, Astranaut and Conjuring Fate on stage and you end up with the glorious mayhem that only pure metal can bring to an audience.

On Saturday (June 7th), gathered for The Distortion Project's majestic RockD presentation, the skies cleared as James Loveday welcomed growing numbers to the altar of metal in the Limelight2 to toast the launch Conjuring Fate's 'House on Haunted Hill' ep.

And, with the whiff of joy pulsing through the audience, Donum Dei ripped into their set, proving they have previously untapped resources of talent and songwriting in what was perhaps one of the tightest sets they have produced.
Donum Dei - a celebratory
collision of metal and youth

From the animated Dean Kane (bass) running around like an Energizer bunny on Red Bull and speed, to a masterful lesson in harmony guitar playing from Thomas Marshall (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Stuart McLoughlin (lead guitar) while Alastair Marshall (drums) weaved majestic patterns and threw in shrewd blastbeats to complement the intense set.

McLoughlin proved himself as a six-string master, while Marshall was commanding, taking the point as the Donum Dei patrol seared all in the room. Despite being relatively youthful, Donum Dei played what was probably the best opening set in the Limelight2 for some time. If Carlsberg did opening sets...

Eamon Killen leads
the Cross charge 

With Eamon Killen now taking over vocal duties September Cross have a new dynamic; from earlier NWOBHM influences, they now have a contemporary edge to their sound as Alex Mihail and Ricki Hewitt wove spellbinding patterns.

Again harmony guitars were to the fore, and no bad thing when played with such precision, while Jago (bass) and Boyce (drums) nailed down the rhythm.

The time spent rehearsing and playing more regularly has paid off for the Cross, as they more and more hone their sound and add an identity to their work.

As for Astralnaut...they are a beast on stage, a ten-limbed stalking doom groove from the depths of Armagh; their sound would waken the ancient kings and Cú Chullainn from their graves to once more stalk the hills and valleys with intent.

With the tracks from their recent ep, Thieves, Beggars and Swine merging seamlessly with earlier material they are maturing ever more on stage, and like all bands on display they were enjoying their slot.
Mallon's spiritual singing:
 the Astralnaut's groove

Mallon's vocals deep in resonance, while Gaz and Pearse proved that dynamics are key when playing their unique style of southern groove - and as such JonJoe and Todd proved that when it comes to laying it down, do it right and all will bow before the Astralnaut aural aura of maginifence.

Main attraction of the night was Conjuring Fate, making a long awaited return to the boards.

New members, Gibson (guitar), Legear (bass) and Walczak (drums) have boosted the depth of the sound, while Daly has managed to stretch his voice yet further, and Horner worked magic with Gibson.

Phil Horner - Fate conjuring
metal majesty 
You could easily say that this was a great performance from Conjuring Fate, but it was so much more than that. This was not a night of parochial chest beating, this was a world class set. Put it against the dross so many PR and label based acts are polluting the airwaves and TV 'metal' channels and Fate stand proud.

Tommy in the midst of a
rapturous crowd chants the
Conjuring Fate odes of metal
Focussing on some classic material and tracks from the new ep they produced a slick, but emotionally grounded performance, as grins on audience and band grew wider and heads once more banged, and horns were aloft as Stormzone's Steve Moore joined the band on stage for more axe delight.

Keep this type of gig going and Fate will reach further into the consciousness of wider listeners.

Never mind your genre splitting, never mind your typecasting of bands, never mind any metal snobbery, never mind the style police, June 7th was a triumphant invasion of metal. Nothing less than metal from four fantastic acts who ripped into their performances with gusto.

It was also good to see so many turn out for the evening's delights, from members of other bands through to fans both young and old.

Heavy metal - as TenaciousD said: "You cannot kill the metal", but no tongue in cheek codology is necessary when the pure heart of metal beats so strong in the hearts of Donum Dei, September Cross, Astalnaut and Conjuring Fate.

Review by Jonny
Additional contributions by Zakk
Photos courtesy of Paul Wharton.

Words and photos are exclusive copyright and retain intellectual property. The named bands and non-profit sites are free to use any or all of the above with attribution. All other uses are available with the written permission of the site owner and with appropriate recompense

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Richie Sambora - living legend?

OK, it's guilty secret time...we here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited have a small hankering for Bon Jovi when they were still 'good'.

Having seen the band (not just the 'man') at Donington Monster of Rock in '87 - in a bill including Metallica, Anthrax and WASP - and then again in Belfast's Kings Hall on the New Jersey tour, it was clear that the driving force behind a lot of the music, both live and on albums, was Richie Sambora.

Sambora has over the past number of years been recording critically acclaimed albums. And, now after 25 years the axe slinger is returning to Belfast for the first time for a date in the Ulster Hall on July 1st.

Given that one of our colleagues on RockradioNI, is a bit of a Sambora fanatic - and that's an under-statement - it would not have been fair to hog an interview with the man all to ourselves.

So (with only a slight hint of reluctance) we, through the good graces of MCD, organized an interview with Sambora for RRNI.

The interview took place last night (3rd June) and Sambora graciously gave half an hour of his time, to RRNI, only one of a select few interviews given for the Belfast and Dublin dates.

It will be broadcast in full this coming Friday (6th June). Just link here on Friday to hear the interview on NI Rocks Friday Rock Show.

Later this week, we'll be reviewing Sambora's latest album release and when a full transcript of the interview is available, we'll publish it so you can read it at your leisure.

Tickets for Sambora's Ulster Hall show are still available from all usual outlets

Monday, June 02, 2014

Hybrid theory success as Killer Be Killed defy definition

SUPERGROUPS and side projects...they can be hit or miss at the best of times, but when you combine hard-hitting, talented metal musos familiar with the side project concept and demanding the highest standards of themselves it's a sure-fire hit.

Killer Be Killed - Greg Puciato, Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders, and Dave Elitch. The combined pedigree of these four in the metal pantheon is well documented and well known. But pedigree is one thing, when you put all the parts in a mongrel, hybrid, amalgam surely it can't work?

But it does. And as to what it sounds like- here's what they say:

“This is a very special project. It’s a one of a kind thing, with a lot of potential,” said Cavalera. “The album is a mix of heavy, fast and melodic songs.” 

“It’s a bit of Sabbath-y doom, a bit of thrash, a bit of hardcore and punk,” Puciato said. 
What they don't mention is that there are also many progressive elements lurking in the soundscape, no doubt partly as a result of Sanders' influence.
As a statement, Cavelera's defiant growl on the title track (and band name) "We are what we are" sums up to a large extent what this band is - an attempt to distill four different musicians in  a heavy project that differs from the participants usual turf, but is instead a mélange of metal, with the edge of punk.
Vocal duties are shared between Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and many more) and Sanders (Mastodon) while Elitch (Mars Volta) produces impressive rhythms and fills: his talent exposed behind a trio well used to having creative eclectic drum lines.
What it all combines to make is one hell of an aggressive, charged album. While it doesn't veer too much from the extreme metal template, it is the flourishes and melodic lines that stand out, along with Sanders and Elitch's pattern weaving.
Opener 'Wings of Feather and Wax' and 'Curb Crusher' manage to achieve that delicate balance of melody and brutality. Definitely top notch songs but as with all the Killer Be Killed tracks they defy easy categorization beyond agreeing with Pucuiato's statement above.
For example the techno start to 'Save The Robots' melds into a mid-paced (comparatively speaking) intro and first verse, which then pushes furiously into a mid-section and then slows down to a crushing riff behind spoken lyrics.
The variety in each song could be seen by the less well attuned as throwing everything in, including the metal kitchen sink, but that is to miss the point. Each member has their own take on this mad metal world we love: blending them together with the skill of gardener growing new varieties of roses is no easy task.
The mathcore, death, exteme, prog, hardcore and punk elements could overwhelm the sound, but the production of Josh Milbur (whose credits include Gojira, Lamb of God and...Steve Earle) has a definite separation that allows the elements to come through clearly.
It is also a politically charged album in terms of lyrics. 'I.E.D.' and 'Snakes of Jehova' are perfect examples of casting a cynical eye on a dystopian world. 'I.E.D.' is perhaps one of the stand-out tracks, with a definite mission to deliver muscle with finely judged bridges and breakdowns as Cavalera rages.
But in singling that track out, it is perhaps fair to say that listeners will highlight their own choice: 'Dust into Darkness' and 'Fire to your Flag' could equally have been our choices, as could 'Facedown' or any of the tracks.

Puciato and Sanders vocals complement the mix, which could have so easily been dominated by Cavalera's distinctive growl against the backdrop of such an in-your-face album.
Killer Be Killed should not work - but it does in a way many so-called crossover acts would kill for. Each listen of this album has you discovering new elements and facets to the sound and structure of tracks - and surely that is the sign of an album worth the effort from those who conceived this hybrid.
Killer Be Killed is out on Nuclear Blast
Review by Jonny

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Pure metal - just metal as Zombified, Rabid Bitch of the North and Scimitar tear into a Friday night...

"FRIDAY night's here; what's the scene; nothing to do you know what I mean..."

For those who do not recognise that these are the opening lines of Stiff Little Fingers song 'Here We Are Nowhere from their album Inflammable Material, released in the dark days of Northern Ireland's Troubles in the late 70s.

Then, Belfast's City Centre was surrounded by barriers that closed at 11pm, few bars were open, and apart from seeing punk bands and hanging out with ageing hippies there was little to do.

Now, in 2014, we have night clubs, more bars than you can possibly drink at, and all the beautiful people flitting around like moths to the false sun of pretentiousness.

But, there are still places where two fingers are thrust into the face of such conformity, in the same way SLF's Rigid Digits were in the face of the backward looking paramilitaries.

However, we now have punk and metal as the underground are keeping real, live music alive, and in a place where the disaffected and disillusioned can gather in unity.

Such unity was in clear evidence on Friday (30th May) at Belfast's Voodoo when a variety of metal was served on a platter of neck snapping delight.

Unfortunately circumstances conspired in a way that we missed out on openers Shrouded, but that still left us with three bands to savour.

Rabid Bitch of the North are enjoying something of a growth at the minute, with their cassette release of Defending Two Castles and their recently announced slot at Bloodstock.

Opening powerfully with 'My Misery' their sound has evolved to stand on the perch which merges the classic metal through to a more contemporary metal sound.

For a three-piece they do manage to produce a monstrous sound; with 'Green Eyes' , 'Defending Two Castles', and 'Us Against Them' stand out tracks.

However, at times the banter was lost on the audience and once or twice the performance was a little bit ragged. But overall Rabid Bitch of the North are ready - all guns blazing - for the next stage of the career, which Bloodstock just might kick start.

Scimitar are at a different stage of their career, growing up on stage, evolving their thrash sound. Where on occasions in the past Scimitar have been a little bit formulaic in their all-out thrash approach. However, it was a revelatory performance from the band; merging first generation thrash with some of the later thrash acts.

Straightforward, no nonsense, at times glorious, guitar sounds merging right into an overall attack that is tempered with a sense of humour (passing plastic scimitars to the crowd) and mock sword fights with audience members all worked to make a memorable performance. Scimitar's potential is getting more and more obvious.

Zombified have always been a potent force, delivering death metal with an edge and insight into the depths of humanity with an evil glint in the eye.

Pete Clarke has always provided the type of deep, deep growl of intent and the sound is always an all-out death assault. Sweet soloing from Jamie and Adrien and Chris and Gary's rhythm section marrying pace and precision. 'Outbreak', Murder' and 'Awakening' all outstanding.

Even Gary's destruction of the drum kit barely hampered the performance for the audience; even if the band were momentarily thrown off their stride.

It is a sign of a coherent unit that banter was quickly restored, and the musicianship peaked by the time 'Human Cull' came along.

Given the mediocrity surrounding a lot of death metal Zombified epitomise what can be achieved, an assault with subtleties in its diverse pace diving down to doom and rising to full-speed. Broken drums? No problem! Laying waste with an aural awesomeness? That comes naturally with the undead sound that Zombified produce.

Written by Jonny
Additional 'evidence' by Zakk