Pick Your Rock and Metal

Sunday, September 28, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Strange times for Assaut on T13 as six takes on metal from six bands kicks off at six....

FRIDAY, September 26th saw an ambitious metal project take on the urban sports and craft venue, T13. The real shame was that too few turned out, and that the venue proved to be not 'metal-friendly'.

Mr Legge - heroic efforts
on stage and bringing
Assault on T13 despite
the barriers
The reasons why there were so few in attendance owed a little to the other gigs that evening, a little to the lack of promo from the venue, and a little to apathy. How many of the 250 who were at the Limelight2 for Dragonforce could have made it along? How many under 18s who want desperately to see metal live could have made it along?

How much more effort could have been made to promote this event by T13 as something unique and different? This could have kicked off T13 as a venue for rock and metal gigs.

However, it wasn't despite the best efforts of Mr Legge to get the whole things running well. And, aurally Assault on T13 was a success as six bands took to the stage to lay down sets as if they were playing an arena show in front of thousands.

Wayne expresss eloquently
his views on politics
Opening up proceedings was the new line-up of Altus. After months of re-shuffling, the new shape of Altus retains much of the old sound and power, but will need time to bed in before its full live potential can be realised. Nevertheless, Altus still pack a big punch!

Hardcore/extreme metal Defyed roared throughout their set. Wayne telling tales political wasters, hope in the face of adversity and frustration at the state of the planet and Northern Ireland in particular.

'Spit the Lies' was  stand-out track, while Wayne's off-stage stomp warmed many to the band who were unfamiliar with the Defyed challenge to the norm. Ever more willing to take on audiences whenever they can: the band headed off to play another gig that night in the Warzone Centre.

Making the journey from Dublin were Theories Divide, who managed to misplace a bass player along the way....

Theories Divide with an invisible
Undaunted, Garreth, Leigh and Garrett laughed at the adversity, tipped a beer back and romped through a set that featured traditional metal, tight wee dynamic guitar sections and some contemporary roars.

The consensus amongst the hardened hacks and cynics was that we need to get Theories Divide back up here, and with new song 'Reborn' the songwriting care was clear to all.

Andy enjoys a quiet
moment with Satan
But, despite all the glee of all present, Satan was in the house...well the trumpets sounded as Lucifer's battalions of loudness Zlatanera looked out into the warehouse where parts Titanic were constructed, and the sounds of heavy, grooving metal resounded, and occasional chants of Hail Satan were heard.

'Holy Man' Crook' is already known to many, and Andy's devilish grin greeted the applause, as Keith's drums and Anto's bass rolled across while Willie and Andy wove spells that the Dark Lord would have approved of

Readying for the release of their latest ep on Hallowe'en night, Scimitar have been putting their backs to the grinstone in the studio, and releasing themselves on to stage seemed to give them a liberated liveliness.

Ryan expresses exuberance at
having the new ep almost done
Jonny's vocals have steadily improved, while John asked all the right questions of his six-string as Chriz and Ryan maintained all the right rolling thunder.

With 'Act of War' already entrenching the band's base sound the 'Plague In The Vatican' ep should be the next push for the band.

Beard life support system
a.k.a. Joe
Headliners, Rabid Bitch Of The North, are riding on the crest of a wave in 2014. Traditional, up-to-date, unflinching and hairy and loud.

With his wingmen Gerry and Chris, Joe leads with a flourishing determination. Even when the audience - from the oldest to the youngest - are behind every below, every high-pitched scream, every solo, and every roll along the kit, they still shout out 'Us Against Them' as if the forces allied against metal need to be beaten down.

'Defending Two Castles' cassette release has propelled RBOTN to new heights, and the range of gigs and a Bloodstock slot have made the difference. A hairy band of heaviness that is sallying forth from the north.

Review by Jonny (with additional notes from Zakk)
All photography from MetalPlanetBelfast
No reproduction or use of any image or text without explicit written permission

Hello from Dublin

Is Satan watching?

Look to the skies for the Plague in the Vatican

Got guitar - gonna play!

Friday, September 26, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Getting the Horn(e) with Pure Heavy from Audrey Horne

BOOM! From slow burning small town players Audrey Horne exploded into the consciousness of the rock cognoscenti with the 2012 release of Youngblood, a hard rock album that refined hard rock, defined its future and gradually snowballed to more and more success.

Now, in 2014, the Norwegians have pumped up their chests, slung the axes around their necks, sat behind the kit, raised the microphone to their lips and produced a beast of a rock album; mature, balanced and packed with tunes that would have a deaf baboon dancing...

'Pure Heavy' stands alongside the best rock albums of the decade so far; punching it out pound for pound with better known artists and exceeding many of the 'name' acts.

From the off, with 'Wolf In My Heart', this is a clear statement that Audrey Horne have taken every lesson from the two years touring 'Youngblood' on board, but also allowed themselves to soak up the experience.

While not having the 'raw' live session sound of 'Youngblood' the members have not over-produced the album, and instead allowed the songs to breathe.

Album closer 'Boy Wonder' could have easily been diluted by heavy handed production and mixing, but instead maintains a sense of urgency.

All the usual doffs of the cap to their predecessors; the bands that the members all loved as they earned their musical stripes. This is evident on 'Into the Wild' which is a clear homage to Motley Crue, and on 'Takes From The Crypt' vocalist Toschie says they'll be painting it up with "bright colours like Mr Sixx back in '86".

Throughout Ice Dale and Thomas Tofthagen's guitars weave and wander with delicious precision and a relaxed feel. From the urgent riffing of the opening of 'Holy Roller' to the delicacy of lead track 'Out Of The City' and the brief 90 second balladic interlude of 'Diamond'.

The tapestries they lay down on 'Pure Heavy' are jaw dropping - with the breakdown solos from the aforementioned 'Holy Roller' capturing the tone and style of Schenker era UFO before blistering playing á la Thin Lizzy on steroids.

And if 'Out Of The City' owes a lot to Lizzy, so what. It is a fucking excellent take on the narrative style of Lynott and co.

Kjetil Greve's drumming and Espen Lien's bass are solid throughout, pacey when needed and filled with delicate flourishes as required - everything a rock rhythm section should be, and too few manage.

'Tales From The Crypt' matches the dark lyricism of 'Youngblood' with a stomp and attitude that casts a knowing eye back to the Sunset Strip, when all the popular young dudes were lonely despite all their glory.

'Into The Wild's Crue inflected opening quickly merges to a distinctive Audrey Horne, with a melancholic glory, while the mid-paced 'Gravity' touches on the more cynical aspirations of the big haired rockers of yesteryear with an allegorical twist about staying centred: "Until we hit the ground"

The solo even has a touch of classic era Whitesnake/Brian Robertson-Lizzy to it, while Toschie's harmonies put the Audrey Horne stamp clearly on it all

We've struggled to find a bad track on 'Pure Heavy'. There aren't any.  Fast and furious 'High and Dry' is perhaps closest to Youngblood's 'feel' with a romping tempo, fantastical lyrics and breakdowns with sweeps off the headstock before harmony soloing.

'Waiting For The Night' is the song almost every band in the late 80s wished they had written...

Overall 'Pure Heavy' (the title is an in-joke amongst the Bergen metal and rock community) is the perfect follow-up to Youngblood, consolidating the gains Audrey Horne have made, building upon them, stretching the song-writing, adding ingredient 'x' of sheer talent while paying their dues to what has gone before. Besides if you can get Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth to be in your video you know you are doing something right...

There is no such thing as a perfect rock album, no real 10 out of 10 albums, but 'Pure Heavy' comes as close as possible. Damn we want to see Audrey Horne play this live in Belfast. Make it so Mr Promoter and tour managers.

Review by Jonny
Pure Heavy is out on Napalm Records on 29th September - just fucking buy it!

 Out of The City promo video:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NEWS: Europe and Black Star Riders to play Belfast in March

Belfast 2015
IT'S billed as the 'Live and Loud' tour, it contains the band once acclaimed as being louder than Motorhead and now we can confirm that Europe and Black Star Riders are to play Belfast on March 3rd, 2015.

The show will take place in the venerable Ulster Hall and tickets go on sale on Thursday, October 2nd at 9am. And it is a tour that is exciting all involved.

Joey Tempest of Europe said: "This is going to be amazing - to be playing with Black Star Riders is going to make this the tour of the spring -  just can't wait t get back on the road!"

Scott Gorham, BSR, said: "When the idea of touring with Europe was presented we jumped at the chance. This is going to be a great tour and I can't think of a better way to kick off the new album's touring schedule."


Tickets go on sale this Thursday 02 October at 9am

Sunday, September 21, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Conjuring dragons with fateful force in Belfast - energised Conjuring Fate and powerful Dragonforce

THERE are those who write off Power Metal. They do so at their peril. For all the sneers, all the wee digs, power metal keeps going, and power metal masters Dragonforce are not the 'Dragonfarce' the metal snobs dub them: they are an outfit that keeps on going, and keeps on selling shows and albums.

The elaborate showmanship and extremes of virtuosity are showboating indeed, but part of metal can also be the show. On Saturday (September 20th) in a Shine/Limelight promotion it was clear that Dragonforce and Conjuring Fate were determined to lay down a show packed with poise and showing the right measure of exuberance.

Conjuring Fate have risen up with each of their recent shows, and now sharing a stage with Dragonforce they came out with a purpose, to show that they are worthy of being on the same bill.

The preponderance of Fate t-shirts showed the extent of the growth of the fanbase; and judging by the reaction of others in a packed Limelight2 they have gained many new fans.

Tommy was assured running point for the band; vocals coming through clear, bantering between songs and headbanging in all the right places.

Interchanging solos from Karl and Phil rolled the sound across the stage - with Phil so enthused he want for a walkabout through the crowd, his flying V almost literally cutting a path.

The half hour set flew by, 'House On Haunted Hill', 'Backwoods Witch' and 'Apocalypse' standing out.

The band are on  a roll at the minute, and on Saturday as Boggy (drums) and Steve (bass) kept the set steady the glorious metal madness Conjuring Fate lay down a challenge to the headliners with Tommy even deliberately pulling a 'Force trick by pointing out the trade off solos from Phil and Karl.

Dragonforce billed this tour as 'This Time It's Personal' and Marc Hudson declared they wanted to be as close to the audience as possible, but in such an intimate setting as the Limelight2 the very stage can be a hindrance for a band used to running around and usually packing props and risers.

They managed; and tracks from Maximum Overload were familiar to many in attendance as was the codology in the band's show between Herman and Sam. Totman in particular seems a trimmer, more content player than in the past, while Frédéric must have cramp of the face given the grin glued to his gub.

Vadim - despite seemingly have some problems in his sound when on 'keytar'  (finger straying to his ear monitor several times) - is often the unsung hero in the band; his textures are as important as his finger flaying keyboard runs.

As usual the stage set-up saw the drums to the right , but this time a new face was behind the kit as Gee Anzalone harnessed himself in for the high tempo rhythms  - especially for the furious 'The Game'.

Crowd sing-alongs and spontaneous headbanging and mini-pits broke out as favourites such as 'Fury Of The Storm' and 'Cry Thunder' were welcomed as old friends, but 'Seasons' -  the first song Freddy wrote for the band -  stood out as something unique in the set. The harmonising guitars matched by vocal dexterity across the band makes this track a singular, enjoyable performance.

The encore brought what was a novelty track on the album to life as the crowd rose at one to 'The Ring of Fire' . The earth's tilt moved slightly as Johnny Cash spun in his grave to match the speed of the cover. All we lacked were scarves to twirl above our heads á la football fans.

Closer, 'Through The Fire and Flames' has all the usual trade offs between Herman and Sam, but what shone was how much Hudson is now a fixture, placing his own stamp at the front. This, his third appearance on a Belfast stage, showed he is the right person for the right band at the right time.

But, the measurement has to be made. The assurance, musicianship, the happy-go-lucky appearance, the rehearsed solo match-ups - do they deserve the adulation of the many there; or is this power metal by numbers.

It's a hard equation to solve. At the heart of it is the suspicion some have that it is all too rehearsed. But those same people must surely realise that every band in every genre and sub-culture rehearse or fail in the live arena.

The reality is that despite the cheesiness and despite the practiced moves Dragonforce are a hugely enjoyable band to watch; that cheesiness - and infuriatingly catchy songs and song structures -  mean that unlike some other po-faced metal acts there is no need for a suspension of disbelief. There's just the need to enjoy the show.

A super night in a sweaty swathe of metal that saw Conjuring Fate caress the crowd into near ecstasy and Dragonforce help us all Cry Thunder in a climax of metallic mental madness. As to the haters - fuck off.

Review (and hyperbole) by Jonny
Pictures by MetalPlanet Belfast

LIVE REVIEW: Febrile fury as Coldwar and Carcass create chaos in cacophony of bile in Belfast's Limelight

EXTREME music in all its forms is challenging to the performers and the audience alike - musically and lyrically the subjects are not for the faint-hearted, but the flip side of this can induce a manic devotion; and with that an intensity that sees both sides in the live experience amply rewarded.

Thus, when a packed Limelight1 in Belfast's Ormeau Avenue came to The Distortion Project's presentation of Coldwar and Carcass there could be no doubt that only the performance could seek to match the febrile crowd on Friday (September 19th).

Carcass were making their appearance on these isles for the first time in two decades; but before the vileness could be unleashed in a musical maelstrom, Dublin's agri-metal act Coldwar carved a path through a world where anger and hate are focussed against oppressive forces including church and state.

While a few were familiar with Coldwar following their show at Monsters of Rot and their recent release of the furious 'Pantheist' it was a night when they gained new fans.

As Paul and Dave (guitars) and Andy and Marty (bass and drums respectively) built the atmosphere, Trevor stalked on to the stage to deliver polemics and power, hymns of hardcore and a meld of punk and extreme metal. Equally as the set ended Trevor stalked away, his compatriots wrapping up proceedings with a stylish outro.

With the venue packing out nicely, beer taps running at maximum an amalgam of awe was palpable as the strains of 1985 rang out, as the surge of roars rolled acclaim for the four-piece well into a tour that has seen them trek the length and breadth of Europe on festival line-ups and headline slots.

When Carcass last appeared in Northern Ireland it was a significant year for this small country. After years of bloodshed and tension the Provisional IRA and six weeks later Loyalist paramilitaries announced ceasefires.

Metal crowds had been on the wane - and worse those purveyors of mediocrity and morose music Snow Patrol was formed by remnants of Satan's stale cum by people claiming to be Northern Irish while studying at the University of Dundee.

But, the much foretold demise of metal spat back into the face of adversity and despite wrangles with labels 'Heartwork' was emerging filled with venom and discontent.

The 2014 version of Carcass comes on stage balanced and brutal; and strangely happy with their lot as Jeff Walker alternates between ferocious growls and beaming behind his bass. The front man seems to be at ease and both he and Bill Steer - as the two originals who emerged from Liverpool many years ago - are wielding the putrefied remains of the mainstream around the heads of the crowd its decaying corpse a weapon of extremity.

With Daniel Wilding (drums) and Ben Ash (guitars) now permanent fixtures for some time Carcass created an awesome meld of older material and Surgical Steel songs.

Beneath the veneer of vomit inducing titles such as 'Genital Grinder' and 'Reek of Putrefaction' is a heartfelt challenge to the norm, to the status quo, to suits and faceless bastards who try to control our tastes.

What makes the show - and the devotion of fans - is remarkable given that there were those not born in '94 or barely out of short trousers joined in acclaim with those who were there (even if memories are hazy).

From 'Buried Dreams'  to 'Ruptured/Heartwork' this was a tour de force of fury, delivered with a sneer and a smile. But, while the classic Carcass tracks stood out, the material from Surgical Steel shone.

With the 'Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' and the mystifying 'Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard' * Carcass claimed the souls of those there, mauling with a 'Captive Bolt Pistol' and delivering them on the 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System'.

But despite the power and precision of the live show the question has to be asked: Are Carcass still pertinent to metal in 2014?

With a back catalogue showcasing youthful exuberance and turbulent times of their lives, and with an album filled with depth and measured depravity on their Friday Belfast showed that not only are they still relevant, but they are at the very leading edge of development in extreme music; not re-treading what went before, but tossing back a greying mane and spitting back against any who stand in their way.

'Keep on Rotting In The Free World' -  fuck yes!