Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, July 31, 2014

INTERVIEWS: Bloodstock! We're comin' to get ya! Stormzone and Rabid Bitch of the North preview their festival appearance

BLOODSTOCK - the festival all discerning metalheads yearn to attend and play. And, this year it will face an invasion from our shores as Stormzone and Rabid Bitch of the North mount raiding parties, armed with anthems of destruction and odes to oblivion.

We caught up with the bands whilst they donned the war masks in preparation and polished axes in advance.

Harv (Stormzone) and Joe (RBOTN) talked exclusively to us about their plans for the metallic assault on Derbyshire...oh, and how exciting a year it has been for both bands.

"Being invited to play Sonisphere 2014 was a massive honour for Stormzone, a real boost to our confidence and an indication that the work we have been putting into the band's development has been worth it," said Harv

"The Sonisphere festival is truly massive! We arrived the day of our performance and we were staggered with the vastness of the arena and how many people there were attending. We stood, the five of us, in the middle of it all back to back and surveyed everything around us, swamped at that moment by the sheer numbers there, but knowing that later that day we would actually be playing this iconic event. Sonisphere at Knebworth, where Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple had graced the stage in the past and Iron Maiden and Metallica were about to let loose, and we were part of it!

Harv continued: "But, it was no time to be caught in the moment like rabbits in headlights and we shook ourselves and made our way to the Jagermeister stage and played our hearts out to those who took the time to come to our part of the festival. It was a brilliant moment that disappeared all too fast, but memories of it will last forever! I think we achieved our objective, we played with smiles on our faces, and the audience watched with smiles on theirs, so for us, along with their fantastic reaction to our set, it was mission accomplished!"

John 'Harv' Harbinson

With that under their collective belts, Stormzone are preparing for the next stage of their summer rampage.

"Although we were undoubtedly blown away by the prestige involved in playing Sonisphere, to us Bloodstock has the capacity to be a much more important festival for us, we are playing a bigger stage at a better time with less going on around the festival to distract people away from coming to check us out.

"Bloodstock is also a festival more dedicated solely to various styles of heavy metal, we definitely suit an event like Bloodstock and having a longer set to play this time we are truly ready to take full advantage of being part of this massive festival. It also gives us the chance to catch up with our friends in Saxon, who are on just after us, and with whom we are embarking on an extensive UK tour later on this year."

Game faces on, then! Harv declared that they are ready to kick up a storm and they are right in the zone to rock!

"We have never been better prepared, we have rehearsed relentlessly, played an excellent warm-up show at the Diamond Rock Club last weekend and the reviews of Sonisphere have been excellent and urging people to check us out at Bloodstock, so everything is in our favour and we're looking forward to once again representing Northern Ireland in another important major event!"

Joe from Rabid Bitch of the North is equally excited about Bloodstock, and also reflected on what has been a tremendous year for the band

"It's been a fuckin' fantastic year for us, to put it nicely," he said. "I think we can honestly say our year of madness started when we were approached by James Loveday, after a sweaty packed out gig at The Limelight in Belfast (late summer 2013). He said he wanted to help us make the next step basically, and we didn't know what to think at first.

"We're the type of band that's suspect of any positivity or helpfulness, as it's always been RBOTN getting on with our own agenda, not giving a shit what anyone else thought. Rabid Bitch have been live gigging (at first as a four piece) since 2007, so James had known us for a while and I guess he'd seen us progress to this tight, focused three piece ensemble we are today.

"Whatever his reasons ( we thought he was mad to want join up with us) we said 'yes' to his offer of help.

"From there we were offered to play the Ulster Hall as part of Belfast's Music Week. The gigs we'd been playing up until then were varied, anything from a 10 person pub/club, to a packed out punk venue, to a reasonable large metal audience in the likes of Dublin, so it was a bit of a leap to be playing such a large, established venue. That was really day one of the new face of Rabid Bitch for me. It was like a milestone we'd passed. All the hours and years in a garage or practice space, and all the thankless, unpaid gigs made sense again.

Joe McDonnell from RBOTN showing
off the Defending Two Castles release

"That's actually the first venue we saw and met Motorhead, so it meant allot to be standing on the same stage.
From there the year got even better as the band hooked up with Dublin label Sarlacc Productions to release a cassette ep.

"We chose two new tracks (Defending Two Castles/Sisyphus) and another (Us Against Them) that we love, and feel is our anthem. The cassette release with Sarlacc again had a snowball affect, turning a lot of heads across Europe our way, and a lot of sales of tapes. We posted as far as Japan!"

Add to that, ahead of Bloodstock Greek label Alone Records has signed RBOTN up for a vinyl and CD release...But as far as Bloodstock goes the band had to remain tight-lipped for quite some time

"We were approached by Bloodstock earlier in the year, and sat on the information for months before we could tell anyone. From the Ulster Hall last year to a massive English metal festival. "Holy shit" was probably my reaction when I was told. About two months ago Alone Records then got in touch, again unexpected, and made a great offer for an Anthology, and a vinyl with all new material.

"Basically we've never been busier, or more satisfied that we feel we're maybe making a mark. All three of us are intent on absolutely killing at Bloodstock, and keeping the momentum going".

Being selected for Bloodstock was, naturally a great opportunity, and Joe's reaction was probably the same as any band selected.

"As I said before "Holy Shit!" and maybe a double take of the email!" he said as he reflected on the year.

"You know what though, it was a surprise, but so many positive things were, and are still happening around us, I guess something mental was expected to top it all.

"I don't expect this to be the best we can do though this year! Still allot of time left in 2014. Maybe two releases from us and exciting support slots. If more offers come we'll step up to the challenge. As Twisted Sister say 'Stay Hungry'."
Two bands, one mission, to play metal.

Bloodstock attendees can expect huge riffs, classic metal and unfeasibly high vocals at times from these two front men. But most of all, they will get a taste of Northern Ireland's metal scene. Horns raised for Stormzone and Rabid Bitch of the North.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: The evolving Sonic Syndicate now moulding a new style

SONIC Syndicate have been knocking around the metal world for 10 years now, and their sound has evolved and changed from melodic death metal, through metalcore, and via melodic singles and synths.

Let's face it, most of the reviewers on this site despise most metalcore (except KSE, naturally), so when the self-titled Sonic Syndicate album landed into our reviews folder, we approached it warily, expecting it to bark out its metalcore growl...

Instead what we found is a band that has taken all the parts of their career, moulding them into something that has a dash of metalcore, a smattering of melodic metal and a pinch of good old fashioned classic metal.

Yes, the metalcore song structures are there on the likes of Black Hole Halo and So Addicted, but there are many more layers on each track, as there are throughout the album.

Nathan James Biggs, singer with the band since 2009, manages the bridge between metalcore and melodic metal with ease, allowing founder member Robin Sjunnesson the freedom to ease more and more from what is, pretty much a furious release.

"We decided to go with this one as a “Self-Titled” release," he explained."Mainly because as an album we have put everything we’ve got into it. All of our experience as musicians, the evolution of the music, the sound from all eras of the band, and also the road we have taken as people. This is us, this is Sonic Syndicate in all its beauty and destruction. It shows our strength, our love for melody, our scars, our energy...."

"We could not be more proud of this album, and we thank our fans for the support, it's because of them that we’re here. This album is for you.“

And, despite our trepidation it is an enjoyable album, where you can find hidden treats such as in the melodies of Long Road Home, and the mélange of Before You Finally Break, which features Soilwork singer Speed sharing vocals with Biggs.

"I'm honored to call Speed a friend. I've been a big Soilwork fan for years," he said. Those guys were a massive hand in crafting that trademark Swedish sound so it made perfect sense to ask Speed when we knew we wanted to do a song with guest vocals.

"My idea was also to have a real battle between our vocals. I hate it when you have these "featuring" songs and the guest just pops up for a chorus and then does backing vocals for a while in the verse or something. This is a real fight between us for the mic and I'm sure people are gonna appreciate that.”

It is fight that works at almost primal level - and there is a certain primal push from bassist Karin Axelsson and drummer John 'Runken' Bengtsson that is a constant throughout, with time changes perfectly matched to the now signature sound of Sonic Syndicate.

Signature sound? Is there a signature sound for just 'another metalcore band'? On this evidence there is. Sonic Syndicate have put together an album that could, just could signal not only their evolution, but also that of many other bands trying to plough an increasingly narrow furrow.

This seems to be a band that has come back refreshed from their two-year hiatus with the result being a fresh sound and an attitude to match. A well-balanced album that bodes well for the Sonic Syndicate's future.

Sonic Syndicate self-titled release is out now on  Nuclear Blast
Review by Jonny

INTERVIEW: Wovenwar's Josh Gilbert and the band put the past to bed and All Rise to hit the boards

FROM the ashes of As I Lay Dying has risen a strong, almost Phoenix-like potent force in the shape of Wovenwar.

As most readers will know singer Tim Lambesis is currently in prison, after being convicted of plotting to kill his wife. For many bands this would be enough to sicken them of the business, especially for a band with a self-confessed strong Christian ethos.

But, Nick Hipa, Phil Sgrosso, Jordan Mancino, and Josh Gilbert dusted themselves down, recruited their friend Shane Blay and got in with their music and in the process recorded a quite stunning slab of melodic metal, in the shape of their self-titled release.

We caught up with Josh, during Wovenwar's current tour, and first we wanted to know just exactly difference it was having Shane Blay on singing duties.

“With Shane as a vocalist, we were able to expand our boundaries in ways we most likely wouldn't have been able to in our previous band,” said Gilbert. “He just has this massive soulful voice and that addition enabled us to experiment with dynamics on a level we hadn't before.”

Certainly on tracks like the début single All Rise and Tempest there seems to be more of a solid sound and vibe. To produce the album Wovenwar turned to familiar face behind the production console in the shape of Bill Stevenson.

“Although Bill came in after we had written all the songs on the record, his contributions were invaluable,” explained Gilbert. “He sees the songs as more than a collection of riffs.

He would rather question structure and flow than the intricacy of a guitar solo or drum fill. The final product is a result of that process.”

With songs filled with lyrics referring to such a wide range of topics on the release, it may be tempting to try and analyse them to find if there are any references to Lambesis' conviction, but whether it be The Mason or Ruined Ends it seems a futile exercise that would diminish the songs in themselves, and one senses the former members of As I Lay Dying seem still to be coming to terms with the whole thing.

“I think his mindset had been in limbo for awhile, so it wasn't necessarily a big surprise to those of us close to him,” said Gilbert. “The news of his arrest of course shocked us all.

Wovenwar - photo credit: Ty Watkins
We had just gotten home from an amazing tour in Asia and to know what he was up to behind the scenes as we played those incredible shows was pretty bizarre.
With a plethora of strong songs on the 15-track album, and a European tour coming soon, what can fans expect when Wovenwar hit the stage.

“We're currently out with Black Label Society and Kyng here in the States.” said the bassist.

We're super excited to be back on European soil in a few weeks. I think the fans can expect for our performances to be as heartfelt as they ever were.

We've worked our asses off to be able to perform these new songs live at the best of our ability, and hopefully that comes across in the show.”

With Metal Blade behind the Wovenwar release it seems that they can begin to build an individual fanbase. And Gilbert is keen to thank the label and explain what Wovenwar plan for the future.

“Metal Blade has been there since the beginning, and has been super supportive over the past year.” he said. “Knowing they were behind us, the writing and recording process was very stress-free. For the immediate future, our game plan is to tour, tour, and tour some more.

"We're so thankful to have the chance to be back out doing what we love, and we wanna play everywhere!”

Having interviewed Josh, there seems to be a sense that Wovenwar, with a frankly superb album release of contemporary metal, have given up the time of battening down the hatches and emerged ready to launch a career that may surprise many.
Single release - All Rise

Interview by Jonny

Sunday, July 27, 2014

GIG REVIEW: Thunder in Ahoghill - Stormzone and Donum Dei roar in County Antrim

WHEN technical difficulties strike, a band has two choices - suck it up and get on, or let it stop the show. Stormzone and Donum Dei both had technical gremlins strike, but they chose the former optiob and rose above and smashed the gremlins into the ground and delivered a feast of  metal.

That feast comprised Stormzone, playing a request set ahead of their Bloodstock Open Air appearance, while Donum Dei were making their Diamond Rock Club début.

For such a relatively youthful band they have evolved quickly, with a contemporary metal crushing sound, all delivered with a passion many more seasoned veterans would do well to emulate.

Thomas Marshall and Stuart McLoughlin were locked in tight in both riffs and heavy harmony guitar sections, and Stuart lashed through solos, wringing notes from the neck of his Les Paul with venom and precision.

Part of that precision within Donum Dei is the drums of Alastair Marshall, who maintains the tempo whether a full on assault with double bass runs, or beating the toms into submission. Buried... and Restless were impressive, but Restless had a couple of issues. The bass intro was lost and the harmony sections were off kilter.

Having said that they quickly recovered, and by the time Justice Fails flayed the audience Donum Dei proved themselves as worthy stand-ins for Maverick (whose guitarist Ryan has suffered an injury, forcing the band into an eight-week hiatus). But that didn't stop the Maverick team racking up at the Diamond to show their support for Donum Dei.

A deserved mention in dispatches must also go to  DD's bassist Dean Kane. While Thomas is the fulcrum as frontman, Dean is his manic side-kick, contorting both body and bass in a whirl of movement, loving every second on stage.

Make no mistake, Donum Dei are ambitious, confident but not cocky, precise, and that rarest of beasts - a really heavy band that can bring along both the rock fans and the metal heads in true appreciation.

Appreciation is something that Stormzone will never be lacking in the Diamond Rock Club. To call them local heroes is something of an understatement to those who travel far and wide to see the Stormzone lightning strike.

Just a few short weeks after attracting an impressive several hundred to their tent show as part of Sonisphere, Stormzone were on stage enjoying a trawl through back catalogue material and songs off their most recent release, Three Kings.

Setting something of a Diamond Rock Club record with more than 20 original tracks delivered in a two-hour set, Stormzone were both relaxed and rampant with twin guitars of Moore and Shields shredding the venue, while Harv was the jester cajoling all to enjoy and participate.

Moore and Shields make it their mission to just let their six-stings do the talking for them. Both are extremely accomplished, and at times astonishingly good, players: trading licks, runs and riffs to the Stormzone sound.

A trio of songs that have become 'Zone classics, kicked off the set as Final Journey, Spectre and Secret Gateway rolled like a clap of thunder to the sweltering audience. The two hours were concluded with another trio of Hail the Brave, Death Dealer and the Legend Carries On.

In between was a smorgasbord of classic metal. From the Celtic metal stomp of the Pass Loning, the balladic Beware in Time, the harmonies of Tugging at Heartstrings and Crying In The Rain, and the full on metal of Three Kings and Night of the Storm this was a set showcasing the range and talent of the band.

Having become the band that more and more people from across Europe are eagerly eating up all their shows, those who go along to see them at Bloodstock Open Air are in for a classy metallic assault.

And, Harv confessed that they may be changing their planned setlist after seeing the response to Bang Your Head, a track that hasn't been played live in two years.

That Graham has bass problems with his rig, did not fluster the band, carrying on while he made the running repairs, is a testament to a band sure of what they are doing and confident that they can deliver, and will deliver no matter what.

In a few short minutes Graham was back, locked in with drummer Davy 'Basher' Bates, who put in a A+ performance. From the complicated rolls and rhythms of the likes of Cuchulain through the steady showcasing of Never Trust, and standing atop his drum stool urging the audience - who really needed no urging - to clap along, wave their arms and show the horns Davy was on the money throughout.

Basher is the anchor that stops the flamboyant talent of the front four from flying away from their exuberance and their talent.

And right in front Harv deploys his voice as an instrument of intent, from high notes threatening glass to smash within a one-mile radius, to deep lines that have the throaty terror of classic metal.

There are those who could accuse Stormzone of playing music that is a throwback to the eighties, but that is to miss the point. The members have absorbed the metal they grew up with, placed a huge Stormzone stamp on it, and brought a touch of 21st Century class.

This isn't retro rock, this a storm front of  sheer metal enjoyment: where what could have become clichés in lesser hands have become a 21st Century live phenomenon, marrying the metal of our youth to the 2014 mindset. Yes, for all who may have stood at gigs, po-faced and reserved, Stormzone leaves each and everyone smiling.

Fans at Bloodstock are in for a treat when the weather brings a Storm(zone) through the Derby countryside, raising hell, raising fists and raising the semi-conscious to partake in another brew.

There is no magic formula to rock and metal, but there are secret ingredients that can raise it above the mundane...

Every member of Donum Dei and Stormzone has not only the talent, but the fact that they can rely and trust each other, they are a band of brothers, who make their individual skills part of team, part of a collective dedicated to metal. They are from Northern Ireland, they are metal, and we like it - what more can be said?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Hey you! Listen up to the gospel of rock 'n' roll delivered by The Quireboys on Black Eyed Sons

Delivering the rockin' gospel, The Quireboys turn in
triple feast on Black Eyed Sons release

FOR a moment picture a scene: it's a ballroom in a hotel; midnight is imminent. Languishing around tables couples get together or break up. The round tables are filled with half empty glasses of booze.

The men have loosened their bow ties and the women have kicked off their high heels.

At the front a wild-eyed gypsy singer is delivering odes to heartbreak and lullabies of love. The people in the ballroom begin to move to the front, some signing along, some entranced by the sounds of blues and songs of beauty. And, then as midnight strikes the audience gets a second breath, the energy surge from the Black Eye Sons kicks into high rock 'n' roll.

This, readers, is the scene that could encapsulate the mood evoked by The Quireboys on their Black Eyed Sons album. From What Do You Want From Me and Julieanne, through to the hard rockin' statement that is the album opener Troublemaker (Black Eyed Sons).

This an album for ballrooms, balmy summer nights by the sea, an album when played live will have sweat dripping down the walls and cheers raised loud.

Spike's voice has, as always, produced an evocative, lightly gravelled tone: angst, heartache and joy all delivered from a larynx and vocal chords that were bestowed on him by some strange quirk of rock 'n' roll fate.

Guy Griffin captures the mood of each track, whether it is an acoustic romp, pained solos, well timed riffs, mirrored by Paul Guerin's literal ownership of tone and tempo, with added flourish and flair that is both to the fore and at time appropriately restrained in the mix to allow each song to evolve. No doubt producer Chris Tsangarides had a hand in this balance.

But the band also have an ace card now in the shape of Northern Ireland's own Keith Weir, who adds the luscious keyboard background to tracks, but also can unleash full on honky tonk blues such as the rolls on You Never Can Tell.

Thirty years on and the band are still fresh in sound; never mind the road wearied looks.

“I’ve always felt like I’m 30-years-old,” said Spike. “So this is our time. And I’d just like to raise a toast to the next 30 years.”

Never one to shy away from a gargle, Spike can also do something special such as the delicate closing tracks Mothers Ruin and Monte Cassino (Lady Lane). Simply stunning ballads, careful song structures working to capture the lyrics Spike delivers with aplomb.

"Well I left my heart in a letter, at the tree where we first kissed Lady Lane I hope you'll never read" 

Thirty years? A landmark sure, but more importantly this is not some retro lame ass shtick: this is a band right up to date; it's just the world hasn't caught up with The Quireboys quiet revolution.

Is this a worthy release to follow the awesome Beautiful Curse album?  Yes.

For those who want the whole deal the top line release is packaged alongside a CD of The Quireboys’ main stage acoustic set at 2013’s Sweden Rock festival – in front of 40,000 fans – and a live 7 CAM shot DVD featuring the London leg of last year’s Beautiful Curse tour.

That live CD alone is worth spending that bit extra as a congenial band deliver to a congenial audience acoustic renditions of the likes of There She Goes Again, Devil of a Man, Sweet Mary Anne and 7 o'clock.

Review by Jonny
Black Eyed Sons is out now on Off Yer Rocka Recordings
The Quireboys play Belfast's Limelight2 on November 21st, with guests the Vargas Blues Band. Tickets are £16 and available from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Killin' y'all with musical power to vanquish all - Ikillya's Vae Victus

FOR those of you who were there, NYC's Ikillya delivered a storming set at Belfast's Limelight2 as they undertook the touring cycle for their second full release, Vae Victis. And, it is fair to say that we have been a little bit tardy in getting round to reviewing this stunning album.

Having it plugged firmly onto the iPod's playlist, having other members of the team describe it as "perfect for the gym", and "fuck yea! I Like!" it has become that rare beast, a release that captures you first time, and keeps on giving.

Ikillya are not, by any stretch of the imagination a one-trick pony, and while the normally reliable Encyclopaedia Metallum describes them as thrash, groove metal, and metal core (we searched the album for metalcore but it wasn't there!) this is a band that have many more styles and genres beneath their assault.

By way of osmosis they have adsorbed their metallic surroundings, their New York home and produced a release that by one turn includes avant garde with shouted, rants over atonal saxophone and industrial metal á la Fear Factory (closer Last Breath) and full on impassioned metal (Jekyll Better Hyde).

Jason Lekberg, for a man so congenial offstage, sounds like one angry puppy on this release -  but then again Douglas Adams said that in New York a sunny disposition could be an aggravating factor in an assault from bystanders....

But, with that passion and anger comes beauty. One can chose anger as negative force, or one can turn it into a force for justice.

And, it is that fist pumping, shout that comes on strong throughout the album, not least on title track and opener Vae Victis (woe to the vanquished one), which serves as a cry out that Ikillya will be victorious...or figurativelt die trying.

Stand-out track Jekyll Better Hyde is a complex little ditty, smashing a mailed fist on the two-sided coin that is human nature, while calling out that victory over the dark side can be achieved by humanity's light.

Bear Your Name on the other hand seems like the sort of personal song that is too personal to analyse, but rather has sufficient force for listeners to empathise with, and sympathise with, the sentiments and the genuine angst that can fuel redemption

And redemption is something of a theme throughout, the redemptive power of music, and the redemptive power of slaughtering sacred cows and exorcising personal demons.

For those that see some metal as vacuous, this is the perfect antidote - an album that follows on from the promising début Recon, and an heraldic trumpet to the future. Guitar riffs, bass rolling structures and sensitive power from drums.

Lekberg has promised to return for a third time to Belfast in 2015 with a new album firmly tucked under the band's arms, ready to once again to musically kill all in their path and tease with structures and lyrical odes to both victors and vanquished. We can't wait.

Review by Jonny

Sunday, July 20, 2014

GIG REVIEW: SONI Rocks The Empire as Million$Reload and Maverick rip through storming sets

TO paraphrase Elton - Saturday night's all right for rocking. And, the SONI four act bill at the Empire on Saturday night (19th July) saw hard rocking of the finest type as Villanova Junction, Midnight Transmission, Maverick and Million$Reload roared through a hot and sweaty sets on Belfast's Botanic Avenue.

It was also a night that saw fans travel from far and wide to see local heroes, new and old...

Those who made it for the start time were in for a surprising treat in the shape of Bangor power trio Villanova Junction. With raw down and dirty blues rocking with a smidgeon of country and folk the band were a revelation.

While Josh (bass) and Corey (drums) kept the rhythm steady Joel roamed over the fretboard of his Strat as if possessed by the late, great Johnny Winters, coaxing every note and flourish from the six-string. What is more he has a voice with just the right amount of gravel and melody. Villanova Junction are one to watch out for in the future.

Midnight Transmission came on stage at first seeming ill-at-ease, and it quickly transpired that Mark on vocals was having trouble with the monitors, although hands in pocket is not perhaps the best way to enthuse the growing audience.

It wasn't until the final three songs that the sound and band seemed to have relaxed into the set, with Mark's vocals coming more alive and with more than a little Chris Cornell to his range his power eventually shone through.

Midnight Transmission have a power and potential that is oh, so close, but needs to be refined; not least through the onstage image that sees the impressive playing at times at odds with the demeanour and looks. A little more time to sort that out and their grunge/alt rock could come good.

As to coming good, there is no doubt that Maverick are on the cusp of great things. With their new album on the verge of release, nuances such as music videos and scheduling mattered not a bit as the ten-legged hard rocking, metallic Maverick declared as statement of intent right from the get go with their eponymous introduction as a full-tilt, unashamed contract with the audience that "We are Maverick".

It is clear from the band's on and off-stage conduct that they enjoy each other's company. They have the easy banter between themselves and the moves that would shame many of the pretenders to the LA hard rock crown.

Dave is the ring leader of the gang, inspired; with the right amount of 'daft' but never inane interplay with the crowd to let everyone know that this is hard rock, not fucking brain science.

But that is not to say that there is not 'smarts' behind Maverick. Arrangements are tight, song structures are solid and the sound is a wall of rock joy.

Ryan played superb lead solos and when Richie took to the front his impassioned playing was a complement to the sound. Ric and Mike kept it all solid as they ran through a set of songs that are already crowd favourites before the album is released...

Cat Got Your Tongue, Electric, Got it Bad - all known and loved and seemingly everyone is salivating at the forthcoming release.

It is fair to say that Million$Reload have had recent trials and tribulations to go through, but there is a such a thing as attitude and despite what may have happened Phil and his fellow troubadours proved that they have endurance, great tracks and a smooth sound that can ease woes and raise voices in a heartbeat.

After the fury of Maverick it was a bold move to open with the mid-paced Waiting on Hollywood, and even bolder move to début new tracks, when it could have been easier to roll out past glories.

Now handling guitar as well as vocals Phil now seems more rooted and comfortable rather than trying to be the manic musical leader. It is a role that suits his easy style.

As always BAM was laying out searing solos, while Kie and Finn were relaxed together despite pounding through every song.

New tracks Truth Could Kill You, Penny for Your Dirty Mind and Under Your Skin amongst them had an immediacy and feeling of freshness that marked them out as sure fire hits given the right airing and breaks.

But that is not to say that Million$Reload are throwing away past glories. Bullets in the Sky and Goodnight New York were stunning as always, with Bullets in particular apt at this time of global tension and a powerful ode to sheer rock glory.

However, Phil announced, in particular to RockradioNI DJ, Nikki Jackson that the anthemic Tattoos and Dirty Girls was having its last ever airing. We hope not and hope that it can still be dusted down and giving a play for fans who have been there for the last eight years.

What is apparent is that Million$Reload are not quitting, their getting stronger, and after the first song had that swagger and justifiable confidence that will surely see them rise another tier.

Overall SONI laid on four hours of hard rocking, heavy tunes that only made us feel sorry for those who could not be there.

Review by Jonny 

Friday, July 18, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Tearing down the walls of Empires -By Conquest of Consent roar defiantly on début album

THERE are times in any reviewers life when words fail them -  thankfully it has never afflicted any of our review team yet, but we were damn close when sitting down to review Belfast's By Conquest Or Consent début release Empires.

To put it more plainly we were at one turn awestruck by the power, and at another mystified by where they were coming from musically and lyrically.

Having seen By Conquest Or Consent a few times live, we know what a force they can be, not least opening for Anthax on July 1st.

But Empires lulls you in slowly before bashing your brains in as if you'd been struck by the heaviest baseball bat in existence. All the while having your feet tickled. Yes, behind the ferocity there are subtleties that delight.

It is, however, an album that is clear in its intent - to take the best parts of modern and extreme metal, meld them with older versions of the genre and produce something unique.

Imagine Five Finger Death Punch meeting Death, Pantera and Kataklysm and deciding to jam together...that's as close as you'll come to even getting a hint of what Empires is all about. It is a unique interpretation of contemporary metal.

Opening with the obligatory delicate Intro and the mostly instrumental Self Exclusion the ideas and vision of the band are quickly into place in the ferocious Zodiac - a song about, we think, the notorious Zodiac Killer on the west coast of America.

Here the personal demons and terrifying pattern of a world disconnected from its humanism sets the tone for Pete as a narrator for those whose demons are never quiet, and a voice screaming out against the unjust and futile nature of the world.

Behind all that is the clear intent to thrust a middle finger up at the hidden hands of power and utter a defiant 'fuck you!'.

It wouldn't work against a monochromatic musical backdrop, but the clear muscle in By Conquest Or Consent is right there, driven by the varied but intensely exciting drumming of Andrew. Throughout he shows that the kit is as much an instrument as any other, using it to not only lay down a tempo, but top set a template for the rest of the band to build upon.

The only minor criticism is that a few times Dom's bass is lost in the mix, such as the otherwise excellent We Came to Bring the Fight.

Stand-out track on the album, The Truth Won't Set You Free has an intensity, with Jay and Michael weaving patterns of heavy riffing and melody, while Jay and Pete interplay on the chorus between clean vocals and guttural growls. Solos help make the sonic assault complete.

After contemplating the messages of 'The Truth...'  you're hit with heads down speed metal as Max Ammo blisters earlobes and smashes faces with mailed fists -  sure to be a cue in future live shows to 'hit the pit'.

Segueing from the impressive Last Emperor the album closes with delicate guitar work over riffs that tear the unwary limb from limb is album closer Revelations. More than six minutes of sheer metal delight, all the members producing stellar performances and riffs and guitar lines that, to coin a cliché literally flay

But it is all over too soon. Leaving aside 'Intro' and 'Self Exclusion' it is a seven-track album. Yes, they are on average lengthy tracks (Three is the only brief song, but it packs a lot into its three-minutes). After a few spins, and being stunned by 'The Truth...' and 'Revelations' - listen to the guitar work round five minutes into the track - we simply wanted to hear more.

With an album this good it leaves the listener on their knees begging for more.

Empires is a superb album, well worth investing in, and well worth spending some quality metal time with...

Empires is now availably directly from By Conquest Or Consent via Facebook or via their Bandcamp page.
Review by Jonny.
Stream the album below and then invest

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

EP Review: Triggerman booze and preacher metal pound out on Origins, Lost Travellers & Rock 'n Roll Heaven

TRIGGERMAN. For those who are in the know the name conjures up a hellish, groove laden, preacher metal, with more swing than a hundred playgrounds.

After the simply wonderful Hail to the River Gods album in 2012 it was with some trepidation that news of an EP release perhaps would be a placeholder, a rehash, a holding statement from the band.

But fear not, Origins, Lost Travellers & Rock 'n' Roll Heaven is a three-track slab of pure excellence. It is Triggerman roaring, it is Triggerman snarling and it is Triggerman preaching tales of the finest kind.

Sounding like Clutch on steroids, and Hawkwind if they stopped the drugs and drank whiskey. It is three tracks that you can hum along to the riffs and bang your  heads, and down a pint with a Jack Daniels chaser.

Origins of Man kicks the fun off with a cosmic tale of where our species comes from. Bap sounds like an evangelist but mocking the story of Genesis, Darwin's evolution the sound builds to the conclusion that we were placed here by "an alien race".

Rory (drums) and Dixie (bass) keep the swing going throughout each track, while Bap and Niall roll out the riffs, with a style that is both grungy and sharp.

On The Lazarushian the groove hits a high point, with hints of the aforementioned Hawkwind amidst a dirty, biker style.

Anyone who has seen Triggerman live should know their statement of intent that is Valhalla. Humourous, heavy, and simply rolling with riffs and Bap's declaration of what lies ahead in the afterlife - a jam session with the greats, whiskey, rock 'n' roll, and plenty of wine, from a guy who can change water into alcoholic grape juice.

However, what a few listens reveal is that there is a real sense of a band who are careful with the noise, harnessing a style all of their own, and a our-piece that knows where they can arrange each change of tone and temperament.

Few bands could match the ability of Triggerman in allowing space in their arrangements; the light and shade makes the heaviness all the more enjoyable.

It is not often we commend readers to purchase a release - you can pick on the strength of  the words - but this is a release that you should shell out the £3 to get this simply wonderful EP.

Triggerman are the real deal, Triggerman are metal that is infectious, and Triggerman are Derry's finest act.

All hail the riff!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

GIG REVIEW: Elemental forces flay Belfast when the thrash invasion of Donum Dei, Artillery and Onslaught

THRASH is dead, long live thrash! When the NWOBHM met punk and classic rock in a dark alleyway the bastard child of this unholy threesome was born, kicking and screaming and was dubbed thrash metal.

Ebbing and flowing throughout decades, thrash has always been there since, and Belfast was battered by the Thrash Invasion of Onslaught and Artillery in a joyous cacophony of thrash in Limelighgt2 on Monday (July 14th).

Thomas growls for
audience thrashing
With Hatriot dropping out of the line-up earlier in the year local pretenders Donum Dei picked up the mantle, and threw it into the face of the audience.

Each and every time Donum Dei have demonstrated improvements and composure that belies their age.

Thomas is growing as a commanding front man, his vocal range developing and his guitar work melding with Stuart's lead work, as more and more harmony playing and riffs brought old and young down to the front as the venue filled.

Despite their nervousness beforehand and a small stage to work with Donum Dei impressed, in particular with the anthemic Justice Fails just one of the highlights. Dean and Alistair anchored the whole sound, which makes the sound all the more forceful.
Donum Dei live at the Limelight

Artillery have been knocking around for years across different line-ups (interview with Michael Stutzer ahead of the tour can be found here), but they have emerged from the shadows to take their place in the pantheon of thrash.

With latest album Legions earning plaudits tracks played live have an urgency and a potency with Michael Bastholm Dahl looking relaxed as he bellowed out the album opener Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh) and the title track.
Michael strikes a thrash pose

However, this was a showcase of Artillery's arsenal of tracks. Michael and Morten have a telepathic understanding across their guitar work, while Madsen and Thorslund seem to be having a great time, in particular on By Inheritance and Terror Squad.

Never past it to thrash
What cannot be doubted is that Artillery have earned the right to have more recognition and more widespread listenership, and their début performance in Belfast was an extravaganza of musical force.

Onslaught have brought their own type of thrash force to Belfast from the 80s, and always try (and often manage) to ink the city into their schedules.

This show was part of the VI tour cycle, and it was a tour de force of thrash metal -  in fact a masterclass in playing any type of  metal on a stage.
Six-stinger plus
photographer = this!

Sy might have protested at being tired beforehand as he got back into the touring rhythm, but he indulged every request for an autograph or picture with fans, young and old, and fronting the Onslaught attack there was no sign of weariness as he launched into Killing Peace and Chaos is King.

This show was thrash brought to relevance, brought with the dichotomy of ferocity and friendliness. Nice guys each and every one of them, the band is a clenched fist smashing the audience into submission, followed by a smile and a bit of banter.

Nige and Leigh traded licks, while Jeff played a blinder on bass and Mic kept the whole thing from flying into musical orbit. Destroyer of Worlds, yep Onslaught manage to do Born for War.
that, as if they were really
Have hair, have guitar - time to thrash!

From VI the track 66 Fucking 6 has all the makings of a favourite for years to come, as was evidenced through the audience reaction to the chorus - band and fans bonded as 'chaos legions'.

The experience and musicianship of Onslaught has never been in doubt, and with a balanced back catalogue they are the most under rated of British metal bands. Screw what the magazines or TV channels might tell you is 'cool' or 'hip' because they by-pass what all present on Monday witnessed a band at its peak, Metal Forces that truly bring the musical Power from Hell.
Sy sights thrashing
audience through the gloom
Onslaught - Belfast salutes you!

What the audience saw were three bands with metal in their hearts and a love of playing burning throughout their bodies: Young pretenders Donum Dei proving that potential can be realised; Artillery delivering on past promise with sheer power; and, Onslaught simply awesome as one of the true inheritors of the thrash crown. Time to make way on the Iron Throne for the Bristolians.

Review by Jonny
Photos courtesy of MetalPlanet
Interview with Nige will be published later this week
Thanks to James Loveday's Distortion Project and all those backing these bands!

Monday, July 14, 2014

GIG REVIEW: Where to find one's soul: Soulfly and Lody Kong, Belfast

THE soul is a fragile thing; and even though most of the assembled reviewers on this site are mostly atheists, and have no time for a deux ex machina, there can be few who love hard rock, punk and metal that doubt the balm for the deepest part of ourselves that a damn good extreme gig can provide.

Such was the case when Soulfly, backed by Lody Kong, played Belfast's Limelight2 on the 10th July, 2014 as part of the Soulfly Savages tour cycle.

And, in terms of extreme metal there are very little who can match the peerless record of Max Cavalera from the time when Sepultura burst upon an unsuspected metal world through to his various side projects and the Soulfly track record to date.

It is also worth noting, for those who do not know, that metal is a family business for the Cavalera. Nephew Igor is among the four-piece that is Lody Kong, a fearsome merging of metal, hardcore and crusty noise.

Earning their gigging stripes, they are producing a damn fine noise as they look forward to securing a recording and distribution deal.

On the strength of tracks like Pig in a Pen, Chillin' Killin', Monkeys and Smashed such a deal will see Lody Kong begin a rise through their mediocre peers by sheer nerve and solid arrangements to back musical talent.

But as a young band their profile as laid out, for example, on Facebook and other sites needs to show the same maturity and professionalism that they put out on stage.

For Soulfly there is an undoubted professionalism that comes from experience and a confidence in the material and stagecraft. To many they still associate the Soulfly name with Max, but make no mistake about it, Soulfly are a band, first and foremost; not a 'project' to be picked up and put down according to whim.

From the opening strains of Blood, Fire, War Hate, face melting material piles upon more ferocity. Marc Rizzo's lead work is as much a feature as Max's guttural growls.

Max's son Zylon's drumming, merging seamlessly with Tony Campos' bass, is a foundation as solid as slab of concrete for the songs.

Particularly worth recording is that songs from the 'Savages' release, such as Bloodshed, sit comfortably with better known crowd pleasers.

Max is as dominant front man as many in the business; the clichés calling for pits et cetera are part and parcel of most metal lead protagonist's repertoire, but Cavalera's engaging persona enables him to carry off Jumpdafuckup and general good natured banter that belies the challenging nature of many of Soulfly's lyrics.

Rizzo's teasingly concluding encore performance, with Campos and Zylon, see riffs from classic metal songs interweaved with soloing; a hyperspeed version of the Trooper engendered headbanging throughout most of the crowd.

Of course, the likes of Roots... delight denizens of the Limelight's depths, but this is not Soulfly living off a legacy; this is not Soulfly as another occupant of the middle ranking in the metal pantheon; this is a band, and this is a band that continues to deliver a full-blooded, fiery, war dance of hatred aimed at those who deny the potency of extreme music.

And, as all good metal is a balm for the soul, so the various members of the audience emerge into the Belfast evening. There are smiles all round, as disco goers look askance at the Soulfly tribe's beaming faces.

We doubt their music will provide as potent a salve for the mind and body that Soulfly can, and do, provide.

Review by Jonny 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Dry your eyes and get along to Soulfly tomorrow night - Competition winner has been drawn

Dry your eyes if you didn't win one of the pair of tickets to Soulfly tomorrow night (Thursday 10th July) we've drawn the winner, so the rest of you metalheads, it's time to get finger out of arse and buy your tickets to welcome Max and his metal band of mayhem back to Belfast!.

The winner of this Belfastmetalheadsreunited/Rockradioni competition - brought to you by the good folks of Limelight/Shine - is Gareth. Open your email Gareth and smile.

Now the rest of you! I expect to see you gracing the Limelight2 tomorrow night!

The mghty Mastodon set to maul Belfast in November

MAD, loud and cerebral Mastodon are set to maul Belfast with a Limelight1 date in November.

Progressive metal, hardcore nioseniks and all round eight-legged metallic madness, Mastodon have been scurrying round the globe making friends and changing the musical landscape.

Now Mastodon are set to return to Belfast on November 20th to showcase their stunning new album, Once More Round The Sun.

Tickets are on sale on Friday, £25+booking fee.

More on Mastodon soon - including a look back on their career to date, and what we can expect from the US stars.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

INTERVIEW: A full battery of Artillery coming to Belfast, we caught up with the Dansh thrashers Michael Stützer ahead of Monday night

COMING our way on Monday (14th June) is a thrash feast when Onslaught, Artillery and local up and coming stars Donum Dei land with a thud at Limelight2.

Coming so soon after Soulfy, Anthrax and Slayer the Summer of Metal is well underway.

Onslaught will deliver their usual full-on thrash attack, and for those who haven’t heard Artillery all we can say is that you are in for a treat.

The Danish outfit has been through line-up changes and breaks since their genesis in the 80s, but with their latest album – Legions they have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Packed with treats, and unafraid to deploy melody as well as crushing riffs the album has highlight after highlight: from the Arabic drums of opener Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh); through the title track; the full-speed Wardrum Hearbeat; the Euro-thrash of Doctor Evil; the slowed down part acoustic of Enslaved to the Nether; and, closer Ethos of Wrath it is a masterclass in how to deliver clean thrash without sacrificing pace and heaviness.

In anticipation of the Belfast date we caught up with guitarist Michael Stützer, who revealed that there are some people he wants to catch up with in Belfast

“Yeah,” he said “we’re really looking forward to come over for the first time and to say hello from our friends from Gama Bomb!”

The tour itself was one meant to be happening earlier in the year.

“As some of you readers might know the first part of the tour in Germany etc was moved to March as Hatriot was forced to pull out because of Steve was rejoining Exodus,” said Michael.

Given the strength of the album and the growth of the band’s sound we wanted to know what made a difference on this release.

“We really have a strong line-up now with five dedicated guys and we all have a great time really diggin´playing together and i think the fans can hear that!”

And the new songs in a live setting?

“Really great,” said Michael. “The fans really like the new songs like Chill My Bones and Legions. We will play three or four of the new songs on this tour!

 With thrash undergoing a resurgence (as mentioned Slayer and Anthrax have just been to Belfast, Michaell explained why it continues to be successful.

“Because it’s very honest and loyal to its fans and the best bands have some great and catchy tunes,” he said. “More and more young bands are keeping the style going on as well!”

Reflecting on the current line-up after the revolving door of yesteryear Michael promised a dedicated team ready to hit the Limelight2 stage.

“First of all we really like to be together and play and, as I said five dedicated musicians who love to do things together both on the road and in the studio!”

“Cheers” Michael Stützer!

If Artillery had been touring and come to Belfast maybe five or six years ago there would have been a lukewarm response and maybe a band re-treading riffs. But now, in 2014 Artillery are a potent force, with an album they can be proud of, and by all accounts so far, delivering stunning live performances.

Artillery’s album Legions is out now on Metal Blade Records

Artillery play with Onslaught and Donum Dei on 14th June at Limelight2: Some tickets are still available

Interview by Jonny

Monday, July 07, 2014

Win tickets to Soulfy in Belfast this week

OKAY people, you'll have seen our previous post about the Summer of Metal and Soufly's gig in Limelight2...well those generous people at Shine and Limelight are giving you the chance to win a pair of tickets to see Max and his metal groove carnival.

Most of you will already purchased these coveted tickets - won't you? If not, why not! The Supreme Metal Council, meeting at a secret location somewhere on the Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland may have to consider your place on the Metal Roster, Supreme Metal Council's list of true metal acolytes engraved in medieval calligraphy on gleaming pages of steel.

But, the members of the council are sympathetic towards the plight of those returning befuddled, battered and broken from the battlefields of Sonisphere...

Thus, thanks to the generosity of the good people on Ormeau Road, you, those who have kept the Norn Irish flag flying in the UK; for those who have tried to go to every metal show, but paday is far, far away; for those who wish to be there for another landmark gig; and, for those who just ain't got the cash have a chance to be there.

To win one of these coveted pair of tickets answer this really, really, really difficult question:
Name Max Cavelera's drummer brother?

Email your answers here before 00.01, Wednesday 9th July

Usual terms and conditions apply....most important being, if you're not in you can't feckin' win!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Summer of metal rolls on - gear up for Soulfly....and much more

RIGHT, buckle on your bullet belts, pick out an appropriate t-shirt and get set for the next stage of the Summer of Metal.

On Thursday Max Cavalera - the man with more side projects than hours in the day - lands with his merry band of metal mayhem men in Belfast's Limelight2 for a Thursday night of grooves, fury and rhythms from across the globe.

There can be no doubt that Cavelara has produced more extreme metal, from his Sepultura days, right up to this years Killer Be Killed and the recent release of Soulfy's Savages.

Backed by his son Zylon on drums, and Marc Rizzo (lead guitar) and Tony Campos (bass) Soufly's music encompassed a range of visions, a range of topics, and a clear rage against the dystopian 21st Century earth. All of which makes this return to Belfast something special.

See you on Thursday (July 10th).

And, then we have a Public Holiday on Monday and Tuesday (14th and 15th July), which of course means more metal...

Monday sees Onslaught, Artillery and Donum Dei blast a path to Limelight2. If y'all are still standing Inquisition, Malthusian and Zion are in the Voodoo.

And...well the rest of the year is packed, with everything from Tim 'Ripper' Owens, Eric Martin, Prong, Amon Amarth, Mordred & Furyon, Carcass, Dragonforce, Orange Goblin & St Vitus, Y&T, New  Found Glory, Saxon...

Shine, the Limelight1, Limelight2, Voodoo, The Distortion Project, Diamond Rock Club are offering you a smorgasbord, a horn of plenty, a cornucopia of hard rock and heavy metal.

And, that's without even mentioning the plethora of local bands who will be at RockD on a Saturday, at the Voodoo, The Diamond Rock Club et al.

Anyone who complains about not enough shows, or nothing to do, should just take a moment of their precious and check out the local listings...you'll shit yourself when you see all that's on offer.

See y'all at Soulfly.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Weaving wonders with sci-fi extreme technical death metal from Allegaeon

WOW! If you want your guitars weaving wondrous technical patterns and intricacies within and throughout songs you could do worse than check out a chunk of Allegaeon's 'Elements of the Infinite'.

This, the band's second album, showcases an act determined to throw everything into the melting pot, but with the skill of a masterchef, dicing and slicing all the ingredients into a heady cocktail of virtuosity and extreme songs.

Out now on Metal Blade Elements of the Infinite should propel this Colorado five-piece to the fore, given the airplay garnered and tours undertaken behind their previous releases Fragments of Form and Function and Formshifter.

Since then they have added two new members, and we can honestly say that given the sparse exposure we have had to Allegaeon that this is head and shoulders above anything we have heard from them before, or indeed the pretenders to the twin guitar technical throne.

Micheal Stancel and Greg Burgess's guitar work is simply enthralling - classical training brought down on the unwary.

In Douglas Adams' book series the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' drinking a 'Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster' is described as being hit in the head by a lemon...that is wrapped around a gold brick. And that's as close as you'll get to a description of the elegant fury of Allegaeon.

Ezra Haynes throaty growls tell tales of the future such as Gravimetric Time Dilation, The Dyson Sphere and Biomech II: high concept science fiction with a basis in some current cosmological theorems.

Brandon Park (drums) and Corey Archuleta (bass) race to keep up with the dynamic riffing and furious melodic soloing.

But the extreme metal core is never lost: 1.618 an exemplar for many a band seeking to emulate the best of the genre. However, to put a genre title on Allegaeon's Elements of the infinite is a futile exercise. You end up with something along the lines of 'extreme, science fiction, technical, death, speed, deathcore, mathcore metal'. Or as we prefer after multiple listens: "damn fine extreme metal".

For those who have not come across Allegaeon before, think of Rings of Saturn only heavier and with vocals...

The reinvigoration of Allegaeon is something the band are clear about: "I can honestly say that Allegaeon is revamped," said Haynes. "With the addition on Brandon Park and Michael Stancel we have created the most aggressive album in Allegaeon history.

"It's faster, darker and carries more depth than anything we've done before. This is the most excited I've been about releasing an album. I really do think the listeners will be pleased and we are eager to get out there on the road and present it to the world."

If you want to sample some of the fury we suggest heading to iTunes and downloading 1.618 and the 12-minute epic album close Genocide for Praise: Vals for the Virtuvian Man
You'll soon click on that button on iTunes that says 'complete the album'. Better still buy the physical album, and marvel....

 "Elements of the Infinite" is out now on Metal Blade Records
Review by Jonny

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Caught in a Mosh - Anthrax lay down the thrash law in Belfastnece

HYPERBOLE? This time you can believe the hype as Anthrax laid down the thrash law in Belfast's Limelight1 on Tuesday, July 1st with a full-on lesson for any aspiring thrash bands out there.

This was a magna carta for thrash, this was a metal masterclass, this was Anthrax showing why they are under-rated in the metal pantheon of greats, and why they stand head and shoulders above any pretenders.

Many packed Limelight1 on the promise of the full Among The Living album, and remind themselves of the glory days in the 80s. But Scott, Joey, Frank et al showed that this was thrash brought right up to date in 2014.

This was mosh-tastic...

Yes, this was a show where we ended up making words up...

After seeing Slayer's show two days previous in the same venue it was a hard to envision a better show in 2014, let alone a better one within 48 hours, but somehow a tight, cohesive cacophony of chaotic wondrous entertainment; which was entertainment of the highest order.

It would be an injustice to pick a single moment in the show. There was nostalgia - Among the Living, Caught in a Mosh, Indians - and there was contemporary excellence - Fight 'Em Til You Can't - and there were covers- Antisocial.

From Charlie at the back shifting patterns of pounding double bass power and fantastic fills and Frank's intense rhythmic runs were the star turns in and of themselves, but also served to allow Scott and Jonathan (Donais: formerly of Shadows Fall) to roam musically and to add the touches necessary to keep the thrash at its full potential.

Since Joey returned to the band there has seemed to be a sound foundation built to bolster the band, and his twin fronting with Scott are powerful focal points for the audience.

Belladonna's performance is excellent, vocally and with onstage banter work that serves to heighten the adulation of the crowd.

Mosh pits? Check. Crowd surfing? Check. Mass sing-alongs? Check. Anthrax ripping apart the Limelight? Check.

I am the Law bellows Belladonna above that riff and on July 1st Anthrax were the law. Judge, Jury and Executioner to mediocrity in music.

Special mention to By Conquest or Consent, for a tremendous opening set, surely earning themselves many new fans judging by reactions. Plugging their album Empires the five-piece managed the limited floor space available and blasted through a well-paced powerful set.

Review by Jonny, Baal and Zakk
Photographs courtesy of WM: 2014

Day Two of Richie Sambora's tour of the island of Ireland: Review

Review by Darren Seaton

In the Dublin review from yesterday I wrote “tonight was brilliant, not perfect, not flawless” and if you’re looking a summary of tonight in Belfast, that pretty much does it!
Taking the stage at 8.30 with a pretty similar set list to the previous night, again opening with A Song For You and by the time we reached Lay Your Hands On Me the crowd were sparked into massive sing a long mode!
Tonight probably wasn’t as tight as Dublin, but as I said in the previous review rock n roll is supposed to be flowing and entertaining, not sterile and over produced!
While the set was broadly the same, there were more extended solos and jamming on some songs, there were also occasions where the set list basically went out the window, none more so than when the opening bars of Seven Years Gone started and Richie called a halt, had a quick word with the band then spoke to the crowd about what the song meant to him, and that he’d also had another song come into his head that day that related well, there was then a brief gap while they tried to work out if the band knew it etc, then in typical Sambora humour he asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, queue hundreds of voices all shouting at once before a laughing Sambora announces “you know what I’m just gonna play the shit I wanna hear” before taking on a cover version of Kite by U2.
Sambora’s banter with the crowd was very entertaining, his cheekily toned “And you thought I was just a guitar player” was hilarious, writing it down just doesn’t do it justice!
At times tonight Richie reminds me of Gary Moore, improvising here and there, extending where the emotion takes him and getting lost in his own music before leading the band back into wherever they were originally.
His partner in crime, Orianthi, riffs, solos on command, sings her heart out and shows what an amazing talent she is, maybe at some point we’ll get a solo show from her too, now that would be something!

The main set ends with I’ll Be There For You, cue massive sing a long, wonderfully bluesy emotional extended solos, and as the band leaves the stage, some idiot in the Ulster Hall turns the lights on and people on the balcony start leaving…..ah hello, have you been to a rock show before?

As the lights dim again and the band return to the stage, Richie brings out the five local support artists to join him on stage for a cover of Lean On Me, each getting their turn to sing.
Encores continue with Wanted Dead or Alive, again showing the fluidity of a Sambora show, as the song closes it transforms into a cover of Midnight Rider by The Allman Brothers Band. At this point based on Dublin’s set list I’m guessing Living on a Prayer is coming next, so was Orianthi apparently as she came out on stage with an acoustic guitar, only for the band to start jamming the reggae beats that take us into Get Up Stand Up and eventually the Jovi classic, These Days, so off she goes for a quick guitar switch.
Set List? Who needs a set list when you can call the songs as you feel! The band leave the stage once more, and while the lights stay off, again people get up to leave…..the band return and again
Sambora is issuing instructions to the rest of the band, Prayer starts acoustic, Orianthi on lead vocals, my friend from England who flew over for the show informs me she wasn’t singing it on the shows at the start of the tour on the mainland, Richie sings alternate verses with her and as we reach the mid solo section, a quick change of guitar and we suddenly have the full rocked up version of Prayer blasting out across the venue, a complete change to the version heard the night previously!
And so 2hrs 15mins since it began, it was over, Richie promising he would return and expressing his gratitude for the love shown by the crowd tonight, something he then went on to twitter only minutes later to reiterate!

It's been 21 years since Richie had graced the stage in Belfast, last time was the Kings Hall on the Keep The Faith tour, but tonight he seemed extremely happy to be back, and the Belfast crowd responded in kind.
I look forward to seeing where this journey continues, new album to come hopefully a new tour. Its always great to see someone loving what they’re doing and these past two nights have been a joy to watch someone great at their craft have the space to explore it with their own band! Long may that continue I say!
All photos Courtesy, and copyright of Paul Verner

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Day one of Sambora's Island of Ireland tour in Dublin: Review

Review by Darren Seaton 

ALTHOUGH it’s a little under 2 hours down the road, Dublin can, at times, feel like a completely different world to Belfast, and nothing showed that more than the venue and staff at The Olympia Theatre, one of the calmest, most easy going entrances to a concert I’ve ever experienced, as opposed to the “Behind the yellow line” and “right drink up get out” brigade of a lot of Northern venues, lessons to be learned there folks!

And so to the nights events, as with the German run of shows, two local singer songwriters were chosen by Richie to open the show, they were limited to two songs each possibly because the show seemed to be running since Richie was apparently due onstage at 8.30pm and it was now past that when the second act finished.

Earlier in the day as your reviewer left Belfast around 4pm, Richie was apparently just leaving London due to an airline mix up, so one could have been apprehensive that his enforced late arrival into the city may have on the set a downbeat mode for the night…..thankfully not the case!

Just after 9pm, to the strains of Leon Russell’s Song for You, Richie makes his entrance sans guitar and demonstrates why many say he has the best singing voice in that there band from New Jersey he is or currently isn’t in!

I had wondered what type of crowd we would have tonight, would it be Jovi fans who didn’t really know Richie had solo stuff out, or a nice mix of those but also Richie fans who would know pretty much all the man’s back catalogue!

It was definitely the latter. Opening single from Aftermath of the Lowdown, Every Road Leads Home To You, was extremely well received and quickly followed by Nowadays from the same album.

If you’ve seen any festival coverage at the weekend, you’ll know Richie joined Dolly Parton onstage in London and Glastonbury, for her version of the Jovi classic, Lay Your Hands On Me, thankfully tonight the original lyrics were reinstated, and Richie’s slower grooving version wowed the crowd, although I think their singing back of the chorus possibly also wowed Richie!

Any concerns on whether the crowd would respond well to the non Jovi stuff were immediately laid to rest when the opening bars of Stranger In This Town filled the hall, the crowd singing every word, as Richie and indeed Orianthi let loose on some killer bluesy solo’s.

In our recent interview with Richie he said that one thing lacking in Jovi was creative freedom, to just play what he felt, there was no lack of freedom tonight, elongated solos, guitar duelling with Orianthi, impromptu sing alongs, who needs wide open fields where you’re a mile from the stage when you can be this close you can almost smell it?

Continuing the solo run, Burn That Candle Down, Weathering The Storm (written with Bernie Taupin) Sugar Daddy, Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing all retain the same impressive band crowd repartee.

The emotional, and possibly the best track from Aftermath, Seven Years Gone, sees Richie open his heart a little about the situations that caused him to write it, and the crowd continue singing every word.

One thing noticeable from my vantage point in the Circle, is this isn’t the polished almost sterile production of the big Jovi arena shows, this is a band recently put together - albeit featuring long time Sambora/Bon Jovi contributor producer Luke Ebbin - who like jamming, who can extend and change songs when called for by Sambora, from the gesturing to Orianthi that says your turn play some guitar, even back to the keyboard player frantically flicking his cheat book on how one of Richie’s solo songs go…..its all part of a rock n roll show!

Orianthi for her part shines when asked and returns to “rhythm” guitar when not required, her chops are impressive, her vocals even more so, and when they play one of her tracks, You Don’t Know, with Richie pretty much taking a back seat, you can just see how talented this lady is and why she’s been playing with Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, Steve Vai, Michael Jackson, never mind her own solo career!

She and Sambora play a fine version of Storybook Love by Wille Deville/Mark Knopfler and to be honest it was almost as if they wrote it together, anyone can sing a cover version, but its when you take it and make it your own that's when things shine.

This gives way to Jovi classic and biggest sing along of the night, I’ll Be There For You, Sambora unleashes some of that wonderful emotional soloing in an extended outro of the song and the who oh ohs from the audience continue for another two tes even after the song has finished!

In act, on previous nights Richie has used songs like Stick To Your Guns as an intro to Wanted Dead or Alive, tonight he takes the guitar off, grabs some water and lets the crowd continue singing, before putting the six string back on and taking us through an amazing version of the Jovi national anthem!

And so the main set ended, hardly a Jovi song in the first hour, then a run of classis, where do you go from here?

You bring out more! Asking the contestants for the opening slot to come out and join him and the band for Living On a Prayer, sung amazingly by Orianthi; she owns that song vocally!

Rounding off the evening with an impromptu version of Get Up Stand Up, before continuing the reggae theme into the start of These Days.

The night finishes on a high as we hit curfew, clocking in around 2 hours and the crowd still woh oh oh-ing as the band leave the stage.

I’d waited 16 years since my last Sambora solo show, tonight was brilliant, not perfect, not flawless, but what rock n roll should be, flowing and entertaining. Now for round number two in Belfast!