Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Accept awe with Blind Rage release and toast their progenitors

THERE was a time when heavy metal was just heavy metal. There were no genres, sub-genres, scenes or trends. Occasionally a title might be used to group a diverse group of bands who emerged at the same time - such as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal - but all were simply heavy metal.

Accept are a band of that generation, and a number of the review team here recall them blowing Dokken off the stage in the 80s in Belfast's Ulster Hall.

However, Accept acknowledge on Blind Rage that themselves and their progenitors are a 'Dying Breed'. On this, the second track Accept name check almost all of the bands from previous generations, many of whose members are now in their fifties, sixties or older.

But like those bands have raised a middle finger to the split nature of much of the 'scene' promoted by the mainstream magazines. This is Accept, and Accept do what they do best - powerful, muscular metal.

And, you can even see where many bands follow in their wake, especially the so-called power metal bands. Such bands would do well to listen to 'Dark Side Of My Heart' and learn from the masters.

This album, like its predecessors 'Stalingrad' and 'Blood of Nations', shows why Accept are not prone to the clichéd and hackneyed band many other Euro-metal bands are, or have become. From the aforementioned 'Dark Side...' to the full on album opener 'Stampede' they demonstrate proficiency and understanding of their craft.

The ever-present Wolf Hoffman (he's been the lead guitarist since 1976) melds perfectly with Herman Frank in providing scintillating solos and melodic runs, such as on Blind Rage's last track 'Final Journey', which is simply a delight for guitar aficionados.

Setting aside Accept from many of their contemporaries is a rhythm section featuring Peter Baltes (who like Hoffman was there in 1976, with only a brief hiatus) bass and Stefan Schwarzmann drumming that keep the whole sound grounded in the Accept sound.

Lyrically this is as well crafted as any Accept album. While there are a few cringe-inducing moments ('200 years') mostly it deals with topics as diverse as the massacre of native Americans ('Trail of Tears') and human trafficking, drug dealing and capitalist so-called standards ('Wanna Be Free'). Even 'Dying Breed' has a seriousness within the metal community.

Mark Tornillo, therefore, has plenty of themes to work through, and does so with some skill, especially given the range of tempos on the album.

And, that range of tempos is part of the strength of 'Blind Rage'. From the full-tilt of 'Bloodbath Mastermind' to the mid-pace of 'Wanna Be Free' and 'From The Ashes We Arise'. 'Modern' metal bands would do well to learn this lesson.

Amongst the stand-out tracks is 'The Curse', which like much of the album melds muscle and melody. From its under-stated opening it progresses to a simple tale of how difficult it is to be good and morale in the 21st Century.

While some may see 'Blind Rage' as Accept re-treading past glories, they miss the point. Accept have developed incrementally with each release, honing what they do, but never straying from what they know and understand as heavy metal. We hail them.
Review by Jonny
Blind Rage is out now on Nuclear Blast

NEWS: Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour '74 released in 8-disc deluxe package

RORY Gallagher is a legend, a man who could make his guitar weep with the blues, rock out with dirty sounds from his battered strat, and revive the American folk legacy with peerless acoustic.

And, Rory had a strong affinity with Belfast, almost his adopted home.

In December 1973 Rory defied the ongoing troubles, and just five days after three people were killed in a bomb explosion and with the Sunningdale Peace Agreement floundering Gallagher played Belfast to kick off an Irish tour that has rightly been dubbed legendary.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the tour an expanded deluxe edition is being released on October 20th.

While some highlights never released, Sony Music/Legacy Recordings edition contains all three shows in an eight disc, 10" box set, including 43 unreleased tracks, remastered audio, photos, liner notes, a feature length documentary and much more.

Reflecting on his reasons in continually playing at the heart of Northern Ireland while it was an almost a ghost town each night Rory said:  “I see no reason for not playing Belfast. Kids still live here.” And, he did with Gerry McAvoy (bass), Rod De’ath (drums) and Lou Martin (keys).

Acclaimed filmmaker Tony Palmer was drafted in to document the tour. More than aware of the socio-political situation in the North of the country at the time and Rory’s refusal to be drawn on either side of the argument, Palmer knew "this [was] a very interesting proposition".

"Rory was at pains to point out he wasn’t active in any sense politically" Palmer recounts, but felt very strongly that he should be allowed to play both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"I don’t want to make a movie with any political content but it will be self evident," said Gallagher.

 Both the Dublin and Cork shows also feature heavily on the subsequent documentary but it was Rory’s dignified but defiant impartial stance in Belfast that helped make this recording such a watershed moment for Rory’s legions of devoted fans.

The performances, for those that were there, and those who saw the snatches of the documentary - or subsequent Belfast dates - were peerless. No studio tricks, no over-the-top fx, and no overdubs.

Gerry McAvoy recalled Rory and the band's affinity with Belfast:

“Rory loved Belfast.  Just loved it.  Anytime we hit the stage after 1971 you were aware that, apart from the odd cabaret turn at the Abercorn [site of a 1972 bomb blast killing two and injuring 130], none of the bigger bands would come back to play Belfast, it was starved of music.

"Obviously after The Miami Showband tragedy it just got worse. We’re professionals. We play as well as we could wherever we played but it was a special situation in Belfast, something you could never acquire or attain at any other gig.”

Gavin Martin from Blues Magazine said: “Rory Gallagher brought hope and musical inspiration to his war-torn spiritual hometown of Belfast.

“It was within the walls of the venue on ‘bomb alley’ that the tender-hearted, soft-spoken, dogged determination and captivating presence of Ireland’s guitar warrior poet and people’s hero found
its fullest flowering. While Ulster teetered towards the brink, Rory’s rock hit with righteous affirmation.”
For Ray Hollingworth of Melody Maker the unifying power of Gallaghrer was emotionally charged.

“I've never seen anything quite so wonderful, so stirring, so uplifting, so joyous as when Gallagher and the band walked on stage.

"The whole place erupted, they all stood and they cheered and they yelled, and screamed, and they put their arms up, and they embraced. Then as one unit they put their arms into the air and gave peace signs.

"Without being silly, or overemotional, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. It all meant something, it meant more than just rock n' roll, it was something bigger, something more valid than just that.”

The full - and we mean full - tracklist is below:

Disc 1 & 2
Cork (5th of January 1974)
  1. Messin’ With The Kid*
  2. Cradle Rock
  3. I Wonder Who
  4. Tattoo’d Lady
  5. Walk On Hot Coals
  6. Laundromat*
  7. A Million Miles Away
  8. Hands Off*
  9. Too Much Alcohol
  10. As The Crow Flies
  11. Pistol Slapper Blues*
  12. Unmilitary Two-Step*
  13. Bankers Blues*
  14. Going To My Hometown*
  15. Who’s That Coming
  16. In Your Town*

Disc 3 & 4
Dublin (2nd of January 1974)
  1. Cradle Rock*
  2. Tattoo’d Lady*
  3. Hands Off*
  4. Walk On Hot Coals*
  5. Laundromat*
  6. Too Much Alcohol*
  7. A Million Miles Away*
  8. As The Crow Flies*
  9. Pistol Slapper Blues*
  10. Bankers Blues*
  11. Unmilitary Two-Step*
  12. Going To My Hometown*
  13. In Your Town*
  14. Bullfrog Blues*

Disc 5 & 6
Belfast (29th of December 1973)
  1. Messin’ With The Kid*
  2. Cradle Rock*
  3. I Wonder Who*
  4. Tattoo’d Lady*
  5. Walk On Hot Coals*
  6. Hands Off*
  7. A Million Miles Away*
  8. Laundromat*
  9. As The Crow Flies*
  10. Pistol Slapper Blues*
  11. Unmilitary Two-Step*
  12. Bankers Blues*
  13. Going To My Hometown*
  14. Who’s That Coming*
  15. In Your Town*
  16. Bullfrog Blues*

Disc 7
City Hall in Session (3rd of January 1974)
  1. Maritime (The Edgar Lustgarden Cut)
  2. I Want You  / Raunchy Medley*
  3. Treat Her Right
  4. I Wonder Who*
  5. Too Much Alcohol*
  6. Just A Little Bit
  7. I Can’t Be Satisfied*
  8. Acoustic Medley*
  9. Back On My Stompin' Ground (After Hours)
  10. Stompin’ Ground (Alt version)

 Disc 8 (DVD)
The Tony Palmer directed documentary Irish Tour ’74
(courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment)
 * Previously unreleased
 Irish Tour ’74 Expanded Deluxe Edition is available to pre-order now at  http://smarturl.it/RoryGallagher


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NEWS: Cavaleras' extra busy (again) and Steak release video for new song

MAX Cavalera is a busy bunny - it seems he can't keep still...

Last month Soulfly were in Belfast as part of a tour cycle (review here) shortly after releasing
the awesome Killer Be Killed, with assorted collaborators. (Review here.)

And now the countdown to the release of the new Cavalera Conspiracy album is underway, with Iggor Cavalera revealing the track listing for the album and the artwork.

Pandemonium is set for release on Napalm Records on November 3rd.
The track listing for Pandemonium is:

1. Babylonian Pandemonium
2. Banzai Kamakazi
3. Scum
4. I, Barbarian
5. Cramunhao
6. Apex Predator
7. Insurrection
8. Not Losing the Edge
9. Father of Hate
10. The Crucible
11. Deus Ex Machina
12. Porra

If you want a wee preview the first track from Pandemonium is available for streaming now.  Check out “Bonzai Kamakazi” here: http://metalhammer.teamrock.com/news/2014-08-18/premiere-cavalera-conspiracy-bonzai-kamakazi

For More Info Visit: www.cavaleraconspiracy.com/

Steak sneak preview

With English stoner/desert rock act Steak added to the John Garcia they have released a preview of their forthcoming Napalm release, 'Slab City'. 

The album is out on 1st September. But while you wait you can watch the brand new music video for their track 'Rising' here.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Comply or Die bow out with stormer album in the shape of Northless

AND, lo it was foretold that all good things must come to an end...and Comply or Die have drawn a neat line from their birth to their demise with this, their third album, 'Northless'.

But, if you are going to allow your band to die, do it with style; a style resonating with hardcore, punk and prog metal in a furious assault on the senses of the unwitting listener.

From opener 'Meridian' it is clear that while the raw energy of the band is still evident there is a more mature approach. By the time that you reach 'Argonaut' it is clear that recent developments towards progressive noise have not past them by.

While the snappy 'Cultus' is on familiar territory, with two and a half minutes of riff-laden fury.

However, the seven and a half minute 'Iron Mountain' displays sensitive arrangements amidst the range of sludge, technical, death metal and atonal sections of this track; a track that unfurls its depths after a number of listens.

And, in many ways while most tracks on 'Northless' are likeable on first listen, once you hit them up two of three times they reveal elements of pure hard rock joy, joy and fury.

While the band called it quits after recording this, there is almost a prophecy within the lyrical theme, casting a sceptical on a dystopian world, and despairing over the foibles and frailties of fallible humanity.

From the full speed 'Architecture of War' there is a sense that all is not well out there - and halfway through the track there is a riff many a band would envy.

While 'Agon' has a hardcore feel it has metallic weight behind it, muscle bound noise, providing a contrast to the groove-laden 'Bishop', which has a real sense of experimentation. Closer 'Dagon' is a sub-two minute romp, with great guitar work and tight bass and drums.

So, that all said, is this a fitting coda for Comply or Die? On one level, yes. On another 'Northless', after a couple of spins just makes one think that we want to hear more.

What Matt, Michael, Ian have achieved is an album that is challenging, at times radical, and wrapped up Comply or Die's all too brief career of raiding the noise cupboard to provide us with delights.

Goodbye Comply or Die...

Review by Jonny
Northless, as well as Comply or Die back catalogue releases can be bought at www.complyordie.bandcamp.com

NEWS: Lepps and American Football...

DEF Leppard are to get fans rocked for the first of this year's NFL International Series game on Sunday, September 28th, when the Oakland Raiders play the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium.

Given most of out contributors like the Lepps (for the editor it's a nostalgia thing) and American Football it's a perfect(ish) mix.

The 100 million album sales band are up for the pre-game show.

Joe Elliot said: “Having most recently visited Wembley in May to watch Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final, I know what the atmosphere in the ground is like for ‘our’ football so I’m really looking forward to performing there before the NFL game and of course soaking up the excitement of the actual match. I can’t wait!”

Should you fancy seeing the spectacle a limited number of tickets returned by the participating teams will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday September 4 via www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

Otherwise The Raiders-Dolphins game, which kicks off6:00 p.m. will be aired live in the UK on Channel 4 and Sky Sports and in the US on CBS.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Overkill strike hard on #17 with fully armed White Devil Armory

IT seems that Overkill have been around forever, given that their roots first dug into the earth in 1980 as The Lubricunts in 1980. But 34 years later can they still remain relevant as the thrash movement evolves and moves on?

On White Devil Armory, the band's 17th release, it could be argued that they haven't really moved beyond the East Coast Thrash template, but that would be to ignore the maturation of the individuals.

That's not to say they've settled down to a life of sounding like a thrash version of Foreigner. The fury is still there - take the track 'PIG' for example - it has just become more focussed.

At the heart of the band are Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth (vocals) and D.D. Verni  (bass and backing vox). Both original members, and both seem to be determined to keep the Overkill template; even if at times Ellsworth is beginning to sound a little Teutonic in places.

That's not to say that the rest of the band are not committed to the 'Kill. Lead axeman Dave Linsk, after all has been there for 15 years, rhythm man Derek Tailer for 12 years and drummer Ron Lipnicki for nine years.

Indeed this is one of the most stable line-ups of the band, and sounds a more coherent release than 2012's 'The Electric Age'. On 'Bitter Pill', for example they easily transform a chug-a-long riff to a breakdown that echoes Masters of Reality/Vol 4 era Sabbath before a tasty Linsk solo rounds the track off.

There are times when they do fall back on the thrash by numbers template, but these are few and far between. Even when they do such as on 'Down to the Bone', there is an honesty about the delivery that means one can forgive these elder statesmen that indulgence.

There are enough highlights throughout the album to keep even the critical voices still, such as when Verni's bass introduces the potent 'Freedom Rings' in all it's almost seven minutes of thrash glory; a track when even the chanted backing vocals do not grate but match the sense.

'King of the Rat Bastards' is another stand-out track, building with menace to a hellish vision of society torn apart.

The closer 'In The Name' perhaps sums up Overkill in 2014. Ellsworth straining to achieve maximum effect, intertwined guitar lines from Linsk and Tailer, while the clear production picks out Verni's bass lines and Lipnicki fires fills out. The breakdowns and the targets of the lyrics merge from pure fury to slowed down punctuation.

Yes, Overkill are still relevant in 2014. Yes, Overkill deserve their place in the  pantheon of thrash greats. Don't overlook Overkill. Join and get the head down.

White Devil Armory is available now on Nuclear Blast
Review by Jonny


Friday, August 22, 2014

NEWS: Symphony X, Inter Arma, Nonpoint

News Round-up
By Nico Solheim-Davidson
Symphony X’s Mike LePond to release debut solo album
Renowned bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X) is set to release his debut solo album Mike
LePond’s Silent Assassins, which is the same name of his solo project. The album will be

release through ADA/UDA on 29th September, this year.
Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins will feature a host of special guests such as guitarist Metal
Mike (Halford, Testament), lead guitarist and drum producer Michael Romeo (Symphony X),
vocalist Alan Tecchio ( Hades, Watchtower), and, of course, Mike LePond on bass and rhythm

Inter Arma announce plans to release single track EP

American genre destroying
metal outfit Inter Arma have recently announced their plans to
release a new EP, titled The Cavern. The EP will consist of a single track that will last for 40
minutes. Originally written during the summer of 2009, but reworked and perfected over the last
few years, The Cavern was recorded last year during breaks from the relentless touring the band
did with the likes of Baroness, Russian Circles, Ulcerate and numerous others. The recording
was captured with producer Mikey Allred at Dark Art Studios in Madison, TN.

The Cavern will be available worldwide as of 13th October, later this year, except for North
America where it will be release on 14th October. The Cavern will be release through Relapse
Records. Preorders
of the physical copy can be made here while preorders
for the digital copy
can be made here.

Nonpoint release behind the scene clips of The Return
Nonpoint are set to release their eighth studio album, The Return, via Metal Blade Records, on
29th September this year. In anticipation of the new album, the band are releasing a series of
behind the scenes clips of the recording process of the album. The first video can be viewed at
this location. Further episodes will be posted in the coming weeks.

Fans can stream the new single, Breaking Skin, and preorder
at The Return here. Elias explains:
"t's about addiction, whether it be food, drugs, sex, lying, or
anything, that tends to turn into an itch. You can't stop scratching it so you break skin. Then,
you're bleeding. You need to get help at that point and deal with it."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

NEWS: SLF hit lucky 13 in Rock Album charts

THEY are influential, they are radical, and they are among the best in the world at what they do. They are from Belfast, and they are Stiff Little Fingers.

Their stunning album, 'No Going Back' was funded via a very successful Pledge Music campaign.  Now with worldwide distribution through Mondo Recordings/INgrooves the band have hit the UK rock album chart at Number 13.

Our review (here) discusses the background of the SLF release, but we feel that the most powerful message is hope. From the challenges to the economic and political elites, and to religious abuse and crass media scaremongering Jake Burns lashes lyrics against the norm and offers an alternative future..

But the real message of hope comes in the track, 'My Dark Places'. Jake has spoken of how he has suffered from severe depression - a courageous move in front of thousands fans.

The words of the song are worth it, such as "Well, I got there in the end, With the help of many friends, Some who helped by simply just believing."

Burns opens his heart on this song. Anyone who has - or is - suffering from depression should take the message of hope from 'My Dark Places'

"And the days look brighter now
Yet I know someday, somehow
I could end up back there in an instant
Some days I really feel like laughing
Some days I realize I must stay on my guard."

Listen to the album, listen to the messages, buy it.

We have colleagues and friends - reviewers from other sites (Carolyn from Planet Mosh) - all have taken hope, all have gained yet more respect for Stiff Little Fingers, a band who have always provided Inflammable Material.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NEWS: Liv Kristen goes solo, Alestorm storm the charts

By Nico Solheim-Davidson
Liv Kristine reveals details for new solo album

ICONIC vocalist of Leaves’ Eyes, the lovely Liv Kristine, has revealed the details for her next solo
album, which is the follow-up to her 2012 solo album Libertine.

Her new album, titled Vervain, will be released on 27th October in the UK via Napalm Records and promises lots of great melodies, haunting song structures and of course Liv’s worldclass voice.

Vervain promises to be a spectacular piece of musical art: “A rock masterpiece with an incomparable sound, multifaceted and in every song in another shape between light and darkness.”

Autumn 2014 is going to see Liv on a tour, a first for her outside Leaves Eyes

Her tour band will be Kari Ruslåtten and Anneke van Giersbergen. The Sirens In Concert 2014 takes place in midOctober and December 2014.

Pirate metallers Alestorm enter the charts

Scotland’s pirate metal staaarrrs, arr, they be Alestorm and they be touring the seven seas in support
of their new album: Sunset On The Golden Age.

The album, which was released through Napalm Records, has entered the charts at number seven in the
USA Heatseeker listing, at number 26 in Germany at number 68 in the UK, number 49 in Austria and so on, and so on, showing how much these bunch appeals has grown.

Alestorm are also hitting the road in the UK in October this year. Catch them with Red Rum, Lagerstein and Rainbowdragoneyes across the countries including Belfast on 17th October. They also play Dublin, Cork and plethora of Scottish, English and European dates...with only Wales seemingly left out...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Amon Amarth & Darkest Era - From The Viking Pit

MIGHTY Odin may have gazed with his one eye upon Belfast's Limelight1 on August 12th when the echoes of the heroic warriors spirits from Valhalla resounded like Loki's steed hooves flying across the roof of the world and Thor splitting the leaden skies with storms of metal.

The Celtic metal warriors who are Darkest Era opened up for the mighty Viking horde that are Amon Amarth - both with whirlwinds of riffs and unapologetic heavy metal.

And, what is there to apologise for when songs are so mighty, so deeply steeped in ancient oral traditions with allegorical undertows ripping the unwary from their comfort zone.

The last time I saw Darkest Era was when they opened for Wintersun and they left quite an impression then. Now, they are even coming through stronger, cohesive and cracking skulls with their pure take on the classic rock/metal of Maiden and Lizzy with melodic death metal twists.

Krum leads from the front, powering through releases new and old.  'An Ancient Fire Burns', 'The Morrigan' and 'Sorrow's Boundless Realm' all stamping all over the gathering crowd with tunefulness and rolling thunder from Cameron Ashlund-Glass' drums and Daniel O'Toole's bass.

Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Weighall lay down a superb set of inter-twined solos and rhythm parts - more evidence of why Darkest Era deserve to adorn many, many more metal fans collections.

With a relatively quick turnaround the stage was transformed to an homage to Amon Amarth's mythical landscape - replete with jagged 'rocks' and rune filled mini-monoliths.

From the opener 'Father of the Wolf' to closer 'Pursuit of Vikings' the Swedish five-piece proved that they are amongst the most exciting live bands.

It only takes a moment to suspend disbelief, plunge into the pit and soak up their tumultuous songs.

This was my first experience of being pummelled by Amarth - and I'd gladly succumb again.

It's not just that they put on a phenomenal live performance; it's not just because Johan Hegg is an engaging frontman; nor is it because they are tremendous musicians; rather it is because the sum of the parts comes together in one ominously glorious moment in time.

As a unit Amon Amarth are solid, tight and well-rounded, each playing their part. Mikkonen and Soderberg are linked by an ethereal bond as they use their six-string weapons to soar through solos, rip through rhythmic melodies and tear down any remaining inhibitions in the Limelight1

'Deceiver of Gods' and 'Cry of the Blackbirds' are majestic as Anderson (drums) and Lundstrom (bass) leaden the night as 'Guardians of Asgard' delivers as if Mjölnir had been wielded to split landscapes of Northern Ireland.

'Blood Eagle' saw the venue bathed - literally and metaphorically - in the life force of Vikings, while 'Embrace of the Endless Ocean' brought the narrative of the ocean bondsman and sailor to life.

By the time the encore of 'Twilight of The Thunder God' and 'Pursuit of Vikings' ended the crowd had responded to every exhortation of Hegg...and the very All-Father himself raised a toast to Amon Amarth and Belfast.
Review by Zakk
Sub-editing and additional reporting by Jonny
Photos courtesy of Darren @ Metalplanet
All rights and copyright of contributors reserved - reproduction of text and/or photographs by permission only

Sunday, August 10, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Rockin' the Diamond with Ajenda and Lo Mejor

THE Diamond Rock Club has seen quite a few things in recent weeks, from a confirmed engagement through to a wedding reception on Saturday (9th August).

The wedding reception to the tunes of Ajenda and Lo Mejor was appropriate as the happy couple, Cathy and Graham first dated at an Ajenda gig...in the Diamond

Last night the newlyweds were serenaded with a bucket full of great tunes. Opening were relatively new act, Lo Mejor...even if the members have been around a while. Steve on vocals, Niall on guitar, and the two Andy's forming the rhythm section (Andy McKeown, bass, and Andy Logan on drums).

For those that aren't aware of the backstory the four piece contains members of Swanee River, Hungers Mother and Sub 60.

Steve - in between blasting out tunes new and old - urged all present to visit their Facebook profile...apologising for not having a website as yet. What they do have is an urgent sound, real soul in their performance and groove a plenty in a mix of classic r&b and hard rock.

In a tribute to the late Johnny Winters they played Winters' version of Jumping Jack Flash, with Niall showing how much he is capable of, as he did throughout the set. Steve's vocals have a rich, velvety resonance that he can step up to a throaty roar when required and the two Andy's were very tight in each and every song.

What is certain is that Lo Mejor have bucket loads of potential, and road testing material before recording is a sure fire way for them to hone their sound.

Ajenda have honed their sound yet further since the release of 'Unrecognisable'. However, last night a few technical issues threw them off their game for a while.

But that is not to criticise the performance - even the best band can be thrown off momentarily when gear goes awry.

What Ajenda have is a cohesive sound, with killer rock songs that should be dominating the FM and AM stations in USA. It's almost perfect for that driving experience along stretches of freeway.

From 'Unrecognisable' we were treated to the likes of 'Tattoo ', 'Dirty Rock 'n' Roll' and 'Hatred and Greed'. amongst a range of sounds.

While Jenny is undoubtedly the focus, with her stage presence and a soulful voice that could coax the hardest heart to melt, Ajenda have real musical muscle behind her.

Gav is a technical marvel with his six-string, coaxing a range of sounds from the axes he wields with deft precision.

Peter (drums) and Janny (bass) have an almost telepathic link as they anchor the sound. 

While Ajenda ply their craft in the general classic rock/AOR mode there is no doubt that they underpin it all with a real awareness of their forebears and how to add unique flourishes to the sound.

Glitches aside Jenny, Gav, Peter and Janny laid down a tremendous show in the Diamond. That so many had taken the time to travel on a night when other gigs/entertainment was going on is a tribute to the draw they can be (plus those there to toast Cathy and Graham's marriage too).

This was the last Diamond Rock Club show for a couple of weeks as  Derwin, Paul, Tony et al take a well deserved break from keeping one of the best 'secret' venues ticking over with rock.

And, what a send-off it was them!

Review by Jonny

Friday, August 08, 2014

Where to find our review of Prong and Sinocence....

RIGHT chaps and chapettes, those that were fortunate to head along to see Prong and Sinocence may have noticed we were there reviewing. So where's the review?

We, and our good friends at MetalPlanet, were on assignment from Devils Gate Media to pen and few words and capture some images.

You can read the review here and see some of the pictures from the night. To give you a taste of the evening here's a couple of snaps from MetalPlanet:

Anto startled by cameraman

Only Davy's not headbanging
Jim in full swing...literally

Moro doing his best not to swallow the mic

EP REVIEW: 12-legged crustacean crushes as Warcrab revel in the Ashes of Carnage

HAILING from the deep, deep south of England (Plymouth) Warcrab are a crusty crustacean of death and sludge, emerging from the depths with a mission to swamp all with a tidal wave of noise.

Two years after their last release Warcrab have just put out there their latest slab in the shape of the five-track mini-album, 'Ashes of Carnage'.

For a beast with two guitarists (Paul 'Budgie Garbett and Leigh Jones) backing lead axeman Geoff Holmes and singer Kane Nelson they present a serious assault of death and sludge.

From the opening track, 'In This Iron Tomb' the band declare their intent to lay waste to your eardrums. Stand-out track, 'Scourge' sees the atonal wailing of guitars and dense patterns supplemented by a stand-up section from bassist Dave 'Guppy' Simmonds and Rich Parker on drums.

The variations of time signatures and fills throughout this release shows just how important it is not to be entrenched within a sub-genre. 'Entombed in Flames' increases the speed to produce a sound not unlike Whitechapel, but without the annoying Americanisms. It borders on the  more technical aspects of death metal.

Kane Nelson's vocals are pure hatred throughout - the man seems pissed at the world he inhabits.

Title track 'Ashes of Carnage' is a pounding piece, which sees all six members head pellmell towards the nuttier side of death/sludge with the lead guitar lines saving the song from disappearing up its own arse.

'Lay To Waste' was the only track we didn't rate as highly as the rest. At times it sounds a littler derivative of many ploughing the same furrow; however, we suspect that it is more suited to the live environment.

Overall Warcrab have produced a solid release into a crowded marketplace, one which could do with some refinement in arrangements and production/mixing to bring their sound to the fore.

A solid 7/10

Review by Jonny

Vocals - Kane Nelson
Guitar - Paul “Budgie” Garbett
Guitar - Leigh Jones
Lead Guitar - Geoff Holmes
Bass - Dave “Guppy” Simmonds
Drums - Rich Parker

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

NEWS: Prong, Slomatics, Ajenda in another busy week

AS hundreds prepare to venture from these isles to Bloodstock there is plenty still to be getting on with...

Before the mini-exodus tonight sees Sinocence support Prong at Limelight2 as part of Prong's Ruining Lives tour. And, Sinocence are promising a new song from the forthcoming No Gods, No Masters Vol2.
Sinocence getting down to work...

Could really be a night when you 'Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck'

Thursday sees SO:NI present Smoking Tongue plus support at the King's Head, while Friday brings another SO:NI gig as Crossfire Hurricane lead a four-band slot.

But Saturday is when it gets really busy....

Starting at three pm HMV and Limelight will host Flaws at the Donegall Place store's second floor. Flaws consist of members of the now defunct In Case of Fire, so you know what to expect.

Jenny from Ajenda
If you can catch your breath, doors open at 5pm at Limelight2 when James Loveday's Distortion Project's RockD presents a heavy, heavy evening.

Glaswegians Headless Cross top a bill which includes Slomatics, Wild Rocket and Tusks...earth trembling stuff.

As the riffs from Headless Cross shake your inner ear, it might be an opportune time to hop in the car and make the journey to Ahoghill for something to soothe battered ears.

The Diamond Rock Club will host Ajenda and Lomejor.

Got all that? Good. That's a nice wee warm-up for Amon Amarth and the mighty Darkest Era on the 12th August!

MAVERICK - Paint By Numbers video

Just watch this -  yep it's Maverick unleashing first single from their début album Quid Pro Quo

Monday, August 04, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Super and fantastic night with Eric Martin and Phil & Bam (M$R) in County Antrim

WHEN it comes to acoustic rock 'n' roll there are often audible groans from those who believe rock should be played via a specialist six-string, plugged into an over-sized amplifier, and with a PA loud enough to cause fractures in the earth's crust.

That's their loss. Even hardened metalheads like this site's review team and our colleagues and friends from Planet Mosh know the real power of a good acoustic show

Eric Martin, of Mr Big, was the latest artist to walk onto the hallowed stage at The Diamond Rock Club. Following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Danny Vaughn, Toby Jepson, The Quireboys and Dan Reed a goodly crowd made its way to north Antrim on Sunday (August 3rd).

Opening proceedings were Phil and Bam from Million $ Reload. Seeing the pair on stools, strumming easily at their acoustics was a strange sight for those of us more familiar with the full speed rock they normally front.

But, acoustic rock 'n' roll can be a powerful force. Choosing to air new songs for a long awaited new platter, 'Waiting For Holywood', 'Under Your Skin', and 'Penny For Your Dirty Mind' all sounded familiar, despite the review team only hearing them once before.

They are destined to be firm favourites when released and in future live outings. The banter between the pair was genuinely amusing, when with much teasing Phil played the "tuning song". As Bam adjusted the tuning on his acoustic the "tuning song" was delivered by Phil in the shape of 'Bullets In The Sky' with the Diamond Rock Club choir accompanying the track.

Eric Martin was an obvious draw, with his background in Mr Big  providing tracks for many of those present teenage years (yes, it is that age group that makes up much, but not all the Diamond clientele at this show).

Asides from the obviously strong track list Eric laid down, his easy on stage chat had laughter and amusement throughout the venue. But even Eric had to admit it was the first time his appearance saw a marriage proposal when Stefan made his engagement to Susan official on bended knee. Eric did comment that breaking off to shake his hand may be the first row of the marriage, or was Stefan's proposal actually to Eric....

Musically the strength of the material, and the aplomb of his presence made an ecstatic crowd rise to every song, clap along and sing every chorus.

Of particular note were 'Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy - the Electric Drill Song', 'Superfantastic' and 'Promise Her The Moon'.

What is clear is that whether it is a stage only persona, or the full-on Eric Martin live he is a performer in every sense of the word, from tales of the road with Mr Big and Paul Gilbert, through to inviting Phil (M$R) to join him for a sing and mock admonishing him for his "potty mouth".

Acoustic rock 'n' roll delivered with charm, wit, talent and verve - sure what else would be better on a Sunday night?
Review by Jonny

Next Saturday the Diamond Rock hosts local rock act Ajenda

Sunday, August 03, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: War, doom and thrash - Limelight caught in headlights by Wardomized, Owlcrusher and Scimitar

SATURDAY evening at Limelight2. RockD in the Limelight2. Beautiful noise in the Limelight2. All the ingredients for another fantastic metal presentation from James Loveday's Distortion Project as Wardomized, Owlcrusher and Scimitar took the stage.

Scimitar took over headlining duties as a result of illness forcing Bakken to withdraw. While they were missed by all, it was nevertheless a diverse, and highly entertaining triple dose of different forms of metal on Saturday (August 2nd)

Opening up the noise attack were Wardomized, a four-piece with a fearsome thrash, punk and hardcore mix to their sound. What them young 'uns call 'crossover'

Wardomized...and a squid atop
With Luke (drums) and Josh (bass) the rhythm section was nailed on solid, but for the first few songs the guitar tone was very thin, with Eddie struggling with what seemed to be problems with his monitor and amp settings. It was only when 'Degenerate' came along did the pace pick up.

Eddie singing....
The more punky sound towards the end of the set complimented the overall effect of Wardomized, with singer Steve switching to guitar and Eddie taking over lead vocal duties. While enjoyable enough they need to refine their take on crossover thrash and perhaps think about a second guitarist to add another layer on the furious riffing.

Steve delivering ground
shaking bass
Fast, furious riffing is not something Owlcrusher have ever indulged in. Nope, it's more a case of slooooowww it right down, get the bottom end dropped through the floor and deliver a set that had many hidden layers within the doom, sludge wall of noise.

Damien produced deceptively straight drumming with in particular clever use of the cymbals as the only 'bright noise' against the wall of deathly racket.

Andrew - shouldn't have
been pissed off
Andrew's straight forward guitar gave way on occasion to intricacies amidst the sludge, while Steve's bass rumbled with ground shaking effect.

Comprising a couple of songs in their half hour set Andrew seemed pissed off as he left the stage, throwing his guitar down and declaring, "that was shit". Perhaps an overly critical slant to take in a set that clearly kept the doom fans in the venue happy.

Taking the stage on their second headliner for The Distortion Project's RockD Scimitar have obviously benefited from the experience of supporting Arnocorps the previous week

Launching into the set with the eponymous 'Scimitar' John's guitar work scythed, well like a scimitar made of Damascus Steel and honed to a deadly edge.

With one ep already behind them and work underway for their second release the pure thrash of the band is clear. Ryan (drums) and Chriz (bass) have grown as a powerhouse duo, driving the sound ever onward, notably on closer 'Beaten To Death' and 'We All Shall Burn'.
Ryan enjoying the thrash

Jonny's vocals are now complimented with better stagecraft and presence behind the mic.

It is always hard for bands to adapt their own take on thrash - do you  go down the more punky route, opt for the straightforward 'classic' thrash of the 80s, or do you develop a take that incorporate all that, as well as more contemporary thrash sound that has evolved throughout the first decade of this century.

Scything from John
Scimitar have worked hard on developing their own sound, especially notable on 'Innocent X' and 'Act of War' - the latter the title track on their first ep getting better as the band wrestle out tiny shifts from the original to make it a more lethal track.

Overall a band growing every time they take the stage, heading a show that many more could honestly enjoy. What better way to relax on a Saturday that get smashed to thrash and drink with doom.
Review by Jonny
Photographs courtesy of Metalplanet
Alcohol courtesy of Limelight

Saturday, August 02, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: The Bluefields bring a blast of southern charm and rock 'n' roll to County Antrim

NO nonsense - it's a phrase many band rips out of their lexicon, preferring to over-elaborate, pontificate and pose. But, when The Bluefields hit the stage at The Diamond Rock Club on Friday (August 1st), they performed no-nonsense, heads down, damn fine set of southern rock 'n' roll.

From a no fanfare start to a "no we're not going to go into the other room for 15 seconds " encore The Bluefields showed their pedigree as four experienced, relaxed and powerful performers.

Dan Baird playing the ace card and the joker at the same time; Warner E. Hodges searing the room with heartfelt solos; Brad Pemberton, metronomic and powerful drumming; and, Joe Blanton the ball of energy frontman - this was an almost complete set of southern rock 'n'  roll.

If the Van Zandt brothers and the collective members of Molly Hatchet had been in the room they would have had to doff their Stetsons.

Playing a main set full of songs from the three The Bluefields albums to date, tracks from the latest release Under High Cotton, perhaps sounded the best, not least the title track.

Dan Baird was acting the clown with his in between songs banter; and while some of it may be rehearsed (don't start him about Tom Cruise...) it is delivered with an easy charm and the aid of his "magic" top hat.

What is clear from the playing and from the way the band interact they are just plain enjoying playing damn fine rock 'n' roll.

Shamefully for those too pre-occupied with some shit or another The Diamond was less than rammed. However, that didn't bother The Bluefields.

From the likes of 'Shake 'Em on Down' through 'Nobody Loves You' and the aforementioned 'Under High Cotton' each song was played with verve.

Hodges playing a range of guitars (including a twin neck) atop a bewildering array of pedals dragged emotion and soul from the strings, while Blanton was a sweating swirl of singing, with his battered Telecaster slung low. And, it is sometimes forgotten given his many other bands that Dan Baird is one helluva good bassist.

Hard work on stage is only equalled by an exhausting tour schedule, which saw them play Bolton the night before this show, and head straight to Sheffield the next night...

Encores brought forth the likes of 'Jesus Left Chicago' and 'Down Payment Blues' played with added flourish, before a surprise closer of a seriously fast and furious 'Tie Your Mother Down'.

The Bluefields may not be a familiar name to many, but the members' names should ring bells and should have gotten more people off their asses to visit The Diamond Rock Club floor. We think that if The Bluefields return there will be double the amount claiming to be there, than actually were there.

Friday, August 01, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW - OBSCENITY WARNING - How Alestorm mark the Sunset of the Golden Age - avast ye landlubbers!

FUCK Alestorm! They can fuck off right now. I fucking hate Alestorm for what they have done to me. The sun was barely over the fucking yardarm and their tales of piratical whimsy had me raising a bottle of rum to my lips with a beer chaser...

So I sit down now, hungover - yes thank you fucking very fucking much Alestorm for reducing this reviewer to a trembling wreck.

Sunset of the Golden Age you say? Sunset of my liver is more like it, if you persist in these tales of alcoholic folk/power/pirate metal. Yes, this reviewer sat in all good faith down to review the new release of Alestorm's latest release on Napalm Records, Sunset of the Golden Age; preparing to analyse the development of the band musically and lyrically.

By the time I reached track two, and the lead-single 'Drink' I was drinking and there was no chance of going near the keyboard, let alone seeing the screen.

Yes, thank fucking you, very fucking much...

Stop now, pause for a second. Regular readers know we very rarely write in the first person as quite often a consensus is worked between one or two of the other contributors. I feared that they should only be exposed to this release in a safe environment, lest they go the same way as I.

Next. Your disbelief. You need to suspend that disbelief, put on an eyepatch and say 'Arrr' a lot. For Alestorm are an antidote to the straight faced, clenched arse reviewers and musical/metal snobs. In this era, in this world that is falling around itself, with power mongers, potentates of multi-trillion dollar empires that strangle the world as the rich get richer and the rest are lied to.

So, with a trusted person there to  watch out for any attempt by your liver to escape the onslaught of booze, don your headphones, suspend your disbelief, and prepare for your face to be adorned by a
huge shit-eating grin...

Sunset of the Golden Age is a superb album - "True Scottish Pirate Metal" as the band proclaim.

From the opener 'Walk the Plank' through to the closing, epic track, 'Sunset of the Golden Age' there are songs to quaff to, songs to sing along to, and a song about one of the most disastrous battles ever fought by the Royal Navy...

'Drink' has already been aired as a single and played at festival dates across Europe, with much approval from crowds, given both it's subject matter and an irresistible chorus.

You get a sense of the mystique Alestorm create, with the likes of  'Surf Squid Warfare' and 'Mead from Hell' counterpointed with the tale of doom and greed in the shape of 'Magnetic North' and '1741 The Battle of Cartagena'.

The latter commemorates the one of the most infamous episodes in the history of the Royal Navy, when a fleet sailed to Cartagena de Indias during the War of Jenkins Ear. An ambitious assault was planned against heavily defended Spanish colonies and trade routes, that resulted in around 10,000 British dead, 7,500 wounded and sick, six ships sunk, 17 ships of the line heavily damaged and 31 smaller vessels sunk.

Despite the 8-bit keyboard intro, it is a relatively accurate account.

Accurate also is the song 'Hangover', which according to people who know these type of things is a re-working of some pop/R&B song, with lyrics that seem to sum up the general attitude..."don't ever grow up".

Throughout the album the precise and measured drumming of Peter Alcorn features with bassist Gareth Murdock and Dani Evans on guitar providing a backdrop to Elliot Vernon's keyboards and Christopher Bowes over-stretch vocals and keytar noodling.

While Bowes adopts the usual faux pirate tone there is no-nonsense approach to his performance. For the full effect it has to be played with a straight face.

Album closer is one of the most ambitious song Alestorm have attempted to date. Almost 11 and a half minutes long it is a complex play on musical styles and suitably tempered as a closer.

Are Alestorm, as they claim, 'Bacon Powered True Pirate Metal'? Yes. Can the unwary listener be caught up in the chaos and end up with bottle in hand? Yes.

Will the Belfastmetalheadsrenited review crew be turning up when Piratefest lands in Belfast on October 17th with a raiding party at the Mandela Hall? Yes.

And, now to the real reason why I fucking hate Alestorm. They are fun, silly, musically talented and have a twist to the power/folk metal genre, and I always feel that I have to justify liking them when confronted by musos and the hyper-critical...

But no more! Just board Alestorm's vessel and enjoy!

Sunset of the Golden Age is out now on Napalm Records
Review by Jonny