Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Van Canto – A cappella Metal, where did that come from!

A NUMBER of week's back we reviewed the latest release from a cappella metal band Van Canto, Dawn of the Brave. Despite our reservations about the very concept of a Cappella metal we have kept on coming back to the album, with its intense soundscape produced from just vocal chords and drums.

But how exactly did anyone come up with metal without guitars, and how did evolve? We caught up with Stefan Schmidt from Van Canto for some explanations.

Firstly we wanted to rewind back to the beginnings and find out where the idea came from.

After the split of my former band I wanted to do something vocal oriented,” explained Stefan. “I asked some friends, we tried some things in the studio and it turned out to become the world’s first metal a cappella band.

“Actually it wasn’t planned to be a capella in the beginning. It also could have been something like a “metal opera” with several lead singers and regular instruments. But the more voices we recorded, the more we noticed that we do not need the instruments.

But with a varied range of pitches in the vocals the band must also face up to the varied range, something which comes almost naturally given the members.
“The range of vocals is an important thing, it wouldn’t make sense for Inga to sing the bass parts!” said Stefan. “Apart from the range, especially Ike, Ross and me, who do the instrument imitations, really became one with the instrument we are singing.

“We all can play guitar, so for example I sing solos in a way I would play them on a guitar, although I Can sing faster than I can play!”

It is also something of a challenge to replicate the different and varied parts of a traditional metal band, with the sounds of rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and even keyboards, which must influence how the band write.

“Especially Ike’s bass parts are very close to the sound of a regular bass guitar, including slides and patterns that would be played exactly the same on a real bass,” said Stefan. “In the end the complete sound is what matters, but it is a good help to have some orientation on how a “regular” band would arrange a song.

One feature of Van Canto is the range of collaborations and guest appearances.

“There are many collaborations and everyone has a different story,” he said. “We got to know Hansi from Blind Guardian because we recorded drums in their studio. Chris and Grave Digger are at the same record label so it was easy to get in contact.

Stefan continued: “Tarja Turunen contacted us when she got to know we where about to play at the same festival. Sabaton invited us to their festival and asked us to do a cover version of Primo Victoria. And so on, we are excited what will come next!

As if this wasn't enough Van Canto have collaborated with 200 fans in the recording process

"Our fans like vocals, they like singing and so it was a logical thing to have them participate in our recording as well,” said Stefan “We had 200 fans shouting choirs with us, it was a very special experience and really pushed our motivation throughout the recording process.”
 So what next for Van Canto?
“There is no masterplan for future albums or covers or anything. Right now we are touring with Dawn of the Brave and are very happy with the cover versions we can include in our live set.” concluded Stefan.

One things for sure, the unique sound of a cappella metal seems set to continue to intrigue, and gain more and more followers for Van Canto.
[Read our review of Dawn Of The Brave here]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Served loud, and served with intent, - Stiff Little Fingers' tour de force release No Going Back

IN the darkest days of Northern Ireland's Troubles the many attempts by movements such as the Peace People to bring it to an end to the fighting proved futile, but punk rock became a unifying force amongst young people.

And, one band in particular articulated the frustration and anger at a land dominated by bigoted politicians and murderous paramilitaries of all shades - Stiff Little Fingers, with their overtly political lyrics and inflammable music.

But 33 years later, are Stiff Little Fingers still relevant? Is the lyrical anger and musical fury still present?  Yes, and much, much more.

No Going Back, their first new release in more than six years, is an honest punk rampage, delivered with panache that touches raw nerves, deals with the current world economic crises and is a rallying cry for young and old.

While the first movement of punk was quickly hijacked by the fashionistas, the voice of political punk such as SLF has never really been silenced, despite the best attempts to keep it quiet by the mainstream twaddle on TV sets across the world. When we interviewed Jake and Ali before the band's triumphant returned to Belfast they spoke about how punk was more about attitude than a specific packaging. And attitude is delivered here in spades.

Nor have SLF ever been one chord wonders so prevalent in some of the more inane 'punk' acts. As in previous releases the music is rock music.

And, this album is also something very personal. In SLF's previous appearance in the Ulster Hall Jake Burns spoke openly on stage about suffering from depression. The totemic track on No Going Back - My Dark Places Burns tells the story of that time of pain in his life. It is furious musical tour de force, which deals sensitively with the issue of depression. It is a triumph and it is something that anyone who has, or is, suffering from depression can relate to, and hopefully draw strength from.

That song also relates back to the final concluding track 'When We Were Young'. As young men SLF were often told to literally 'wise up' and not bother with a musical career. They defied that, and despite line-up changes since then the ignorance of musical media towards them means that SLF are still proving themselves to doubters. The reprise of one line of 'At The Edge' is a nice coda for the album and a rigid digit pointed at those who ever wished ill on the band.

However, these personal messages are only one fraction of the strength of this album. Contemporary themes are throughout, with the politicians firmly in the sights, as are bankers on 'Full Steam Backwards' and 'I Just Care About Me'.

No Going Back also reflects the mounting musical maturity of SLF. 'Guilty As Sin' is delivered as a traditional Irish tune, its haunting subtlety making the lyrical theme - institutional child abuse at the hands of the church - a more potent thrust at the hearts of those who scoured the innocence from the young in their care.

Jake Burns personal love of Thin Lizzy is reflected on 'Trail of Tears' a song which harkens to the time of the Troubles but looks towards the future.

Production of the album by the band, with engineering and mix at the hands of Jason Donaghy, keeps the spikiness of SLF's sound but also allows breath for Ali's bass to roam, McCallum's rhythm guitar to maintain momentum and Grantley's drums to anchor but not overbear.

While the music still keeps the Stiff Little Fingers sound alive it serves the lyrics well, such as on 'One Man Island', which deals with newspapers and network TV's penchant to find targets to provoke a nation's ire, often without facts. It is a reflection of the band's often used challenge to young and old: "assume nothing, question everything'.

There is no doubt that this is a fantastic album, but as Jake sings at one point of his worry about being a lone voice in the crowd, are such overt challenges against the tides of corruption, greed and feeding the masses a diet of mediocrity a mere tilting at windmills?

The penultimate track 'Since Yesterday Was Here' answers that by assuring protestors and those that refuse to accept the dogma of the norm that their voices are still to be heard and will always be joined by those that are willing to - in the title of another SLF song - to 'Stand Up And Shout'.

This is an album that, perhaps more than others, placed more pressure on Stiff Little Fingers. Jake has reflected on this when he said that the Pledge campaign meant fans were paying for music the band had still to deliver. That pressure has merged with a sheer force of will to produce a masterclass in what punk should be, and what good rock music must be.

Alternative Ulster may be the unofficial national anthem for Northern Ireland;  No Going Back should be the rallying call for all who refuse to toe the line peddled by bankers, politicians, media and those prepared to accept a beige, vanilla, mediocre life. Put it on the national curriculum and see what resonance the music and words will have on the young, and the old, who refuse to accept the so-called 'music' of today.

In short - buy this album. Stiff Little Fingers. As relevant now as they were 33 years ago.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Power metal pounding from Sonata Arctica on Pariah's Child

THE metal snobs sometimes dismiss European power metal, but they do so without realising the sheer majesty in the unrestrained, unconstrained joy - and right now there are few better examples on the scene than the Nuclear Blast release from Sonata Arctica.

Out now, Pariah's Child, is a product of the Finnish band, and it is a product that will earn a place in people's hearts, if they give it a chance.

It is also a dichotomy. On the same album there is the relentless attack of willing silliness, such as on the track 'Running Lights' and the magisterial track 'What Did You Do In The War, Dad'.

Self-produced by the whole band the album shows Sonata Arctica at their best, and the mix by bassist Pasi Kauppinen allows all the band's talent an appropriate share of the sound.

Tony Kakko's vocals are particularly strong, without being over-bearing, such as on opener 'The Wolves Die Young' and the tremendously catchy 'Half A Marathon Man'.

However, there is one horrible track on this release - 'X-Marks The Spot', replete with Jim Steinman like half singing, half rants. Without these it would have been a half-decent song, but fails badly compared to the rest of Pariah's Child.

But, when Sonata Arctica settle down to what they do best - Euro-power metal they produce some great tracks. The nine-minute plus of album closer 'Larger Than Life' showcases what they are capable of. Elias Viljanen guitars weave around Henrik Klingenberg's keyboards, allowing Pasi's bass and Tommy Portimo's drums to roam freely through a range of rhythm textures.

Taken as a whole Pariah's Child marks a return to the power metal roots of the band; putting behind them what was slightly lost on the last two albums. This return to form is something that the band reflects in the artwork.

Tony Kakko outlined this when talking about the concept behind the cover art.

“As always it's pretty hard coming up with a name for the new baby.," he said. "I tried to approach it from many angles; how this is our 8th album and how easy it would be to abuse that fact. All the symbolism of figure eight, eternity and so on.

"But that just did not feel right as it's been done so many times. Then I started to think how we'd in ways abandoned our "totem animal", the wolf and all what comes with the territory. As the music on the album is bowing more towards the "old" Sonata, meaning more power metal style elements and wolves in many of the songs in one form or another, it was clear we need a wolf on the cover. An abandoned wolf. A pariah. Or Pariah's child, actually. The new generation to bring the old logo back.”

Perhaps this development of a 'concept' is lost in some of the lyrical themes, but when you take the likes of the song 'Cloud Factory' on face value as a sci-fi song played in a totally straight-faced manner.

Pariah's Child is an exemplar of both what power metal can be, and a realisation of Sonata Arctica as a band. It is also an album that you can stick in the car and race through in joyous abandon, or sit back at home soaking up the exuberance. Either way, metal snobs may even one day put aside their pretensions and just enjoy Sonata Arctica's eight release.

Low down and dirty rock 'n' roll from Jackson Firebird

Review by Baal

The small country town of Mildura in Northern Victoria, home to Jackson Firebird. The two piece guitar and drums outfit from said small town, consisting of Brendan Harvey & Dale Hudak unleash their debut album "Cock Rockin' ".

A look at the album artwork, the first listen to the storming title track which opens the album, there's a fairly rapid realisation of what these guys are about.....that is no nonsense, straight ahead, dirty rock 'n' roll.
A common theme running through the album is one of fairly simplistic lyrics, basic rock riffs, all wrapped up in, for the most part short, punchy tunes that more often than not, hit the mark.
The title track itself contains more "motherf**kers" than you can shake a big stick at. It bursts out of the speakers before coming down to earth midway through, the pace slowing to a more pedestrian beat, before winding up for a big finish. A great opener which sets the tone for the entire album.
"'Rock Solid' is a real gem of a track, showing off some Skynyrd style chops and played with a real swagger which is infectious. Unfortunately the same can't be said of 'Quan Dang' which contains rap style shouted vocals which are really to our ears just don't work.
'Red Light', 'Little Missy' and 'Can Roll' show off the obvious early Led Zep influences which of course is never a bad thing and restore "normal service" to the ears after all that rappin'. 
'Going Out West' opens with some moody slide guitar before exploding into life and evolving into a fight between ZZ Top & George Thorogood....all in all a great slice of rock.
The highlight on the album comes in the form of closing track 'Red Haired Honey' which is a heavy, bluesey, stomping beast of a tune, a real joy to the ears.
Indeed a real feature of this album is Brendan Harvey's guitar playing.....it's just downright dirty, absolutely rockin'!  It only leads the listener to wonder just how good this band could sound if they were bolstered by a bass guitar? A question for another time perhaps but a valid one nonetheless. This band are good and this album is made for a live setting. 
Without doubt it could be argued that this album is too simplistic, both in terms of lyrics and the repetitive nature of most of the tracks. But simplicity is the point here. If you like rock music played with a swaggering, uncomplicated, ballsy and in your face attitude then this album does just what the title track says....."This motherf**ker aint stopping tonight!"
Ps.....the video below for the title track has to be seen to be believed!
ADULT ADVISORY NOTICE - This video should only be viewed by adults and pre-pubescent youths who will unnecessarily giggle...

Symphonies of the Night, Shakespeare and female power - Liv of Leaves Eyes tells all

FOR many younger fans of rock and metal, the experience of watching the music rock channels on the TV meant they may have thought that metal with a front woman was a strange and weird place where only the semi-laughable Amy Lee was present.

Yet had they expanded their horizons beyond what the trend magazines told them to listen to they would have discovered a wealth of strong female singers, role models and trailblazers in a gothic melodrama that piled layers of metal with lyrical excellence and a mood and atmosphere that appealed to male and female alike.
Among the first to set the metal world alight with this ‘new’ breed of confident front women was Theatre of Tragedy, with Liv Kristine singing poignant and powerful tunes.
When Liv parted ways with Theatre of Tragedy in 2003 her and husband Alexander Krull and Thorsten Bauer formed the ever-present core of Leaves Eyes, a band which has been gradually gnawing its way towards ever greater success and ever more fans. We caught up with Liv to hear about how the latest album Symphonies of the Night emerged, her Shakespearian influences and how the core of the band continues to grow and evolve in this extensive and wide reaching interview.

But first we wanted to know the genesis that drove Symphonies of the Night.
“It is truly a very powerful album with an incredibly great, heavy sound as well as fine, amazing details to discover for the lovers of gothic and folk-inspired metal,” said Liv. “ Alex, my husband, singer and producer is a true mastermind.
“This has certainly also brought us a big step forward sound-wise. The sound is the best we've ever had, which is due to Alex hard work and many, many sleepless nights in the studio.”

The band was also able to capitalise on recording on ‘home turf’.
“We are really lucky to have our own Mastersound studio, which makes such a progress possible. Going more into details when it comes to our last album, I would like to mention that most of the songs have a very clear structure next to the fact that we have improved and perfected the guitar sound, for example through changing the amplifier settings. It is more direct and punching.”

 Liv also told us about how she thinks the band has a more established sound, on Symphonies. (Jason's review is here.)

“This album also requires more of Alex' growls, moreover, we don't have that many guest vocalists (except from my sister, Carmen, from Midnattsol) this time,” she said. “I love the contrasting elements in music, especially in the vocals' set-up.”

As a singer in a metal band there is sometimes a tendency for female front women to try and fit the lyrical codology of medieval and mythical themes, but as we noted when we reviewed Symphonies of the Night, there is a definite celebration of female strength and equality.
“The lyrical themes on "Symphonies of the Night" turned out to involve female heroes from history books and sagas,” she told Belfastmetalheads. “This wasn't really planned, however, after having written the lyrics for the demo tracks for "Ophelia" and "Saint Cecelia" I realized this is the path to follow.”

For Liv this is an extension of her interests:  “I have always been inspired by women and female characters in history and literature, especially when it comes to witches, female warriors and women who suffered because of male power and religiously based views that lead to historical tragedies, murderer and mistreatment.
And for the Leaves Eyes singer some of her inspiration comes directly from Stratford-Upon-Avon. “One of the "ladies" who has inspired me artistically since I was a teen-ager studying Anglistics is Ophelia. She one of the main characters in "Hamlet". Shakespeare Hamlet. She is Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love.

“Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.”
We wonder how many other bands across the US and UK have been as literate…very few, but there is then a challenge to take such a magisterial sound that supports and empathises with these powerful lyrics.

“Personally I would say that in a live situation the most important thing is that the sound is clear, defined, punching and warm in its character,” said Liv. “The orchestral parts and choirs are not in the foreground of our live sound, and it shouldn't be when there is no actual orchestra or choir on stage.
“If we would have an orchestra live on stage, our settings for the live sound would change, logically.”

The core of the band is, as ever a vital and vibrant team that has kept the band growing and developing. We wanted to know just why this has been central to Leaves Eyes continuing success.

“Alex, Tosso and myself are a real dream-composing-team,” she told Belfastmetalheads. “For every Leaves' Eyes production we've just "started somewhere", going with the creative flow.
“Our teamwork is based on honesty and trust. This is of such a vital importance in a band. Moreover, all my musicians are first-class and highly talented artists, eager to develop and maximize our skills.

“To be honest, we've let any influence into our music as we felt like it; no external pressure, no "musts". I've always been quite immune towards external pressure. I listen to my artistic heart and focus on my own skills.”
Finally, having been bowled over by Symphonies of the Night it is clear that female singers and players are more and more a vital part of the metal scene. While in the past the flag-bearers were the likes of Girlschool and Doro, Liv is clear that this is a natural growth and she also name-checks some bands that readers could do well to check out.

“Luckily things started changing already in the late nineties,” said Liv. “I know that Doro has worked extremely hard to get where she is today, and she is still going strong! Personally, Doro is one of the finest and loveliest persons and artists I have ever met - we all owe her great respect and thanks.

“I still think back on all this and feel that it's kind of fantastic what happened back then when I was still a teen-ager and a huge metal fan, as I grew up with Ozzy/Black Sabbath. I have been composing and singing for as long as I can remember, but neither studied music nor music theory.

”I was co-founder of the world's first gothic metal band with female voices "Theatre of Tragedy" in the early 90s and the "beauty and the beast" concept in metal.
“The founders of this genre with female vocals in doom metal/gothic metal were Kari Rueslåtten (3rd and the Mortal), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and myself back in the early 90s.

“We just wanted to be creative and innovative, being dedicated to doom and what was from then on called "gothic metal". Our first real concert war in Germany in December in the mid nineties, in front of 800 people, supporting Atrocity! You bet I have gathered a lot of experience since then!
“Experience and living for details and contrasts in music has made me become the artist I am today, steadily evolving and aiming at new goals.

Liv concluded the interview with an assessment of her path so far:

“In 2003, after Theatre of Tragedy split with me for a new female singer, I founded Leaves' Eyes with my husband and producer, Alexander Krull.
“Creativity and love towards music is the force behind my artistic work, as well as thankfulness towards my audience and fans all over the world.

“The adventure will go on for many years, I can promise you that! All of this is my life! There is only one thing being more important to me than music and my own artistic development: my family.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

No Hot Ashes rise Phoenix like to restore Rosetta's dreams

MANY, many years ago in the shady recesses of south-east Belfast a rock club attracted insane rockers and metallers to catch the groove of a resurgent 'scene'. For those who made the pilgrimage to the Rosetta No Hot Ashes were one of the bands who captured the vibe.

Now, in 2014, with a rock scene that is once again building momentum No Hot Ashes have risen Phoenix-like, ready once again to prove that rock 'n' roll is alive and well.

We caught up with front man Eamon Nancarrow, ahead of the Belfast date with Foreigner  and FM in April 1st at Belfast's Waterfront Hall...and hear about tour plans, festival dates and so much more...listen at the link below

Eamon - No Hot Ashes

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Football, punk and Belfast - Jake Burns and Ali McMordie tell all

WHEN Stiff Little Fingers returned to Belfast to promote their latest release, No Going Back, we caught up with Jake Burns (Mr McMordie joined in halfway through).

The interview covered everything from football (Jake is a Newcastle Utd fan), Belfast, what is punk and where SLF are today. Listen below.

Jake and Ali of Stiff Little Fingers

You can also read our review of the SLF Belfast date here.

Win tickets to see Amon Amarth in Belfast this August

THEY'RE the Viking monsters whose nine albums of melodic death metal that have seen them grow from Swedish contenders to giants in the metal community...and now thanks to our good friends at The Limelight you can win a pair of tickets to witness Amon Amarth play Belfast on August 12th.

Yes - those generous folks at The Limelight have provided Belfastmetalheadsreunited and RockRadioNI with the prize for this competition.

Now, if you've not see Amon Amarth live then you are missing a real metallic treat. On album they are an awesome double guitar attack, but live they are a raiding unit intent on plunder and pillage.

Check out our review of their most recent Metal Blade release here to get a flavour of how highly we rate this band.

Now, we expect most of you to have already purchased your tickets, but if you've not got them in your greasy mitts yet, here's how to win a pair of these gateways to Valhalla's earthly battalions descent on the Limelight:

Answer this (incredibly) simple question: What is the title of Amon Amarth's most recent album?

Email your answers here, before April 12th.

Usual rules apply, the principal one being...if you're not in you can't win!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What have Madonna, Sophie Ellis-Baxter, Mel C and Prong got in common? Monte Pittman!

HE'S the most heard and most seen rock guitarist you've probably never heard of. He's appeared to global audiences, played at Slane, been on a Super Bowl half time show, recorded with a galaxy of Hollywood 'A' listers and now he's released a stunner of an album on Metal Blade Records.

He is Monte Pittman, and following giving guitar lessons to Guy Ritchie he ended up playing with Madonna, on albums and in stadia across the world.

But on The Power of Three it seems that the inner guitar god and full steam rockin' metal head has been let loose again, with Kane Ritchotte (drums) and Max Whipple (bass) complementing the Pittman fierce riffing, solos and strangely engaging melodic vocals.

It is apparent from the off that the time with the mainstream-media proclaimed 'Queen of Pop' and American Idol winner Adam Lambert has not dulled Pittman's metal tendencies.

Album opener on The Power of Three and lead single, A Dark Horse, has every thing fans could want from melodic metal.

Stand-out track Blood, Hunger, Thirst has all the elements of hard rock and metal wrapped in a tasty package that will have new fans begging for more and existing adherents joining in on the closing chant of "Strength in the Power of Three".

The mid-paced On My Mind is the ideal metal radio song, infectious without sacrificing its rock roots.

There is little to fault on this album - although at times there is a same-iness about the sound, despite the legendary Flemming Rasmussen being the knob-twiddler.

Of course, the contra argument is that the consistency lends a coherence to the album. Up until the album closer, All Is Fair In Love And War, the argument could go either way.

But the closer is a 13-minute plus epic that doffs the riff cap to Metallica, lends its solo sensibilities to the likes of a mellow Steve Vai and has a structure not a million-miles away from Prong on acid.

Strip away all the associations with pop, put away the great song writing and metal from the rest of the album and this is a track to wallow in. The structure is intriguing, almost as if Syd Barrett and Roger Waters had been caught listening to Metallica and Tool...

Some of the guitar passages are superb, but this isn't a wank-fest of widdly, widdly showing off. The playing displays a sense that the six-string attack is part of the greater whole that is the song, with Testament's Alex Skolnick adding to the solos and ex-Cannibal Corpse Chris Barnes lending some vocal menace.

If you don't think you have the stamina for a 13-minute epic (and why would you now!) the second single off The Power of Three,  Before The Mourning Son is a goods starting place for Pittman newbies.

Across this album there is exemplary playing on show, and well-structured songwriting that is worthy of much greater exposure.

But wrap it all together and the question is was Brian Slagel right to sign Monte Pittman to Metal Blade, given all the pop trappings of Pittman's past? Is this just a guitarist using his CV to get a deal?

Of course Slagel was right to sign a man who can turn in an album filled with metallic power and great songwriting. And, you can rip up Pittman's CV and concentrate on a guitarist who has written such a stunning five star album.

This is both classic metal and contemporary playing wrapped up in a ball of rock joy!

The Power of Three is out now on Metal Blade records.

PS - if you don't watch Madonna, the Super Bowl or other pop thingys yet wonder where you have seen Pittman before - he was one of those paying bass when Hetfield, Hammet and co jammed at Live Earth.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grinding, Bitter sweet joy with 7 Weeks, A Little Bitter and Organ Grinders

SATURDAY, March 15th - Limelight2, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast: timeline 5pm to 9pm. Schedule: punk, rock, alt and metal. All served with panache, passion and pride, and a pity that more were not there to revel in it all.

The Organ Grinders, A Little Bitter, and all the way from France, 7 Weeks, provided the entertainment at The Distortion Project's RockD.

And, apart from a sparse audience, this was a triple serving of joy, precision and musicianship.

Kicking off with a high energy version of The Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop the Organ Grinders proceeded with an old school punk energy. The Clash were featured heavily in the set, with covers of Complete Control, Should I Stay or Should I Go, White Man in the Palais and English Civil War among those on parade.

Apart from a slightly mangled version of Inflammable Material the highlights of the set were an Outcasts cover and their own composition, Mr Sheen. Playing more of their original material could see The Organ Grinders push their punk rock groove to further heights.

Saturday was the long overdue return of A Little Bitter to Belfast. Replete with song tweaks and slight re-arrangements this was a six-song tour de force: Genghis, Constantly Raining, Dark Tide, Further I Crawl are on record great songs; live they live and grow.

Song writing subtleties, sheer live excellence, and searing musicianship from Jonny, Seamus and Darren are the key to A Little Bitter and they are much under-rated given their excellent take on hard rock, metal and well-crafted music.

To be honest there were few in the audience who would be familiar with 7 Weeks, apart from some online listens and Youtube views most there didn't know what to expect. But what a set!

Power, progressive metal, alt metal and stoner moods wrapped it all up in a glorious set - which featured an impressive display of musicians exchanging instruments, and delivering an intense set.

Ostensibly, Julien Bernard is the bassist and lead vocalist, but for two songs he took over lead and rhythm guitar parts, while keyboardist Manu Costa took over bass roles, while still delivering programmed sounds and samples. Equally, Nicolas Airgot switched roles in the performance.

Only drummer Jeremy Cantin-Gaucher didn't switch instruments...

What 7 Weeks proved once again is that music transcends national borders and borders within genres that can restrict bands: there were songs to headbang to, and there was moods to brood with.

Despite the short duration of this set - and Irish tour - one would hope that 7 Weeks will return again.

The only dampener on the evening was the lack of audience: with Overkill playing in Dublin, several other events and the whole St Patrick's Day rigmarole may have had some role in this, but for £6 measly quid we would have hoped that more would have made the effort.

For those that did it was a superb evening of punk, hard rock and metal entertainment.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stiff Little Fingers and The Defects - proof that punk is still relevant and fine rock performances exist

THERE is something vital, visceral and filled with a love of life that sits askance with the perceived image of punk rock. But those at Belfast's Ulster Hall on Friday (March 14th) saw Stiff Little Fingers and The Defects explode preconceptions and delighted a crowd ranging from teenagers to fifty-somethings.

Unlike the more modern purveyors of so-called pop punk SLF and The Defects understand the brutal roots that gave birth to punk in the UK and in particular in Belfast - that a song must consist of both tight music and lyrics that are more than about some daft guy and dewy eyed girl; songs must speak to the lives of the band and the experiences of the audience.

The rejuvenation of The Defects has matured with a sense of real energy; and, just over four years since they took to the stage once again this is a band as relevant now as in the past.

Charisma is something you either have or you haven't - and Buck Defect and co have it in bucketloads, with that fine 'laid-back but deadly serious' only Northern Ireland bands can truly encapsulate - although having their set introduced by bagpipes...well it was unique.

From Revelator to Brutality this was a tight set - all of which was being filmed for a forthcoming DVD on the band.

Hill Street and Head On Collision were stand-outs in the set; and such is the growing popularity of The Defects that young people who were barely out of nappies when the PSNI were formed joined in the chant of "SS RUC" during Brutality.

The Defects have a long future ahead, and one which we can all hope will continue to deliver fine albums and fine shows.

With the strains of Go For It provoking synchronised clapping and chanting, Stiff Little Fingers quite literally hit the stage running with a high tempo version of Straw Dogs.

But for those hoping to see just a greatest hits set there was much more to this performance: with new album No Going Back about to hit the racks thanks to a wildly successful Pledge Music campaign this was a heartfelt set of well played songs, amusing chat and fine music.

While Suspect Device, Silver Lining, Wasted Life, Just Fade Away and Roots, Radicals all played to an audience familiar with every word it was as lively a set as if SLF were closing a tour.

Many of the tracks were worthy of SLF's recent t-shirt legend "Putting the 'fast' in Belfast" but that would suggest they were one-dimensional. The cover of The Specials "Doesn't Make It All Right" has long since been an SLF standard; its anti-rascist, anti-violence and tolerant sentiments still resonating in 2014 and finding a home in the hearts of fans young and old.

But with the new album coming out in a matter of weeks it was also an opportunity to showcase new tracks. While we are all awaiting its release some tracks are now familiar with live audiences.

However, it is Jake Burns explanations of the back stories of the songs that are revelatory: from his own battles with depression through to chatting with Phil Lynott about getting bands back together there is always an edge to the entertainment SLF provides.

We also had another song led by Ian McCallum which is set for the new platter.

From there it was a mad rush to the end of the set: mad in the sense of speed and intensity.

Codology with Ali McMordie's mic being only used for one song (Barbed Wire Love) and Strummerville dedicated, as usual to the late, great Joe Strummer this was a heads-down performance par excellence.

Fly The Flag, Tin Soldiers and Suspect Device wrapped the main proportion of the set, before a double encore - Johnny Was quickly followed up by a full-tilt At The Edge and then the National Anthem of Northern Ireland, Alternative Ulster.

That SLF can still pack the venerable Bedford Street venue some 37 years after they first kicked out their jams is remarkable in itself; but this is not some tribute to the past.

From young people enjoying their first taste of the Fingers, through to those who were there 'back in the day'; from the metalheads through to those with mohawks; from those there for a unique Belfast event through to die-hard fans, this was rock and this was punk at its finest.

The late Rory Gallagher once described how rock music had grown from the pubs to the concert halls where he said he liked to think "it still had a wee bit of anarchy".

In these health and safety days the anarchy now is not in stage invasions (even mosh pits were being frowned upon on Friday) nor in the mad sway of an over-sold venue: it is instead an anarchy of the mind, where bands like The Defects and Stiff Little Fingers give those attending the free rein to think, enjoy and open minds. That surely is what punk really is - a movement of music and the mind.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Saxon unleash St. George's Day live blast that will have fists pumping

Review by Baal

Coming hot on the heels of the excellent "Unplugged & Strung Up" release is this new live offering from the mighty Saxon, "St George's Day, Live In Manchester",  recorded, on last years very successful Sacrifice tour. It would be fair to say the band have gone through something of a resurgence with a run of increasingly impressive albums.

It's a sign of the quality of the new material and the bands confidence in those songs, that the set featured on this album sees six tracks from the "Sacrifice" album included.

In times when many of the "elder statesmen" of rock & metal are content to tread the "greatest hits" route, it's both refreshing and commendable to see a band with a back catalogue as rich as Saxon, recording new and more importantly quality albums.

Make no mistake, Saxon haven't reinvented the wheel, but there's a vitality and vibrancy in these new songs, especially in the live format on this album, that shines through and gives the listener that warm 80's glow, that this is Saxon and all is well.
Of the new tracks featured, a blistering opener of "Sacrifice" sets the tone, with Biff leading the charge, from the front, as it should be. Arguably the pick of the new tracks featured is "Guardians Of The Tomb", reminiscent of "Powerslave" era Maiden.
"Made In Belfast" is a storming track in the studio and really comes into it's own in the live environment.
It is a pleasant surprise to see the inclusion of a number of tracks which, whilst not being what most Saxon fans would describe as classics, are, none the less a welcome addition on this album, namely "Rock & Roll Gypsy", "Conquistador" and "Ride Like The Wind"; the latter really benefiting from a live outing as opposed to the perhaps "over produced" studio version from the "Destiny" album some years ago.
A special mention must also be made of "Broken Heroes", performed here on St George's Day and dedicated by Biff to "the fallen".....just a great version of a truly great track.
Song after song, this is the sound of  a band on top of their game with the tunes to keep them there for the foreseeable future (we hope).
The album closes with six 100% metal classics, we all know & love them, including fan favourites "747 (Strangers In The Night)" and "Denim & Leather".
How many bands would kill to have just one of these songs in their arsenal? Saxon have them in abundance. 
By  the time we get to a show stopping version of "Princess Of The Night"  you'll find yourself in the front row, fists in the air......just the reaction a live metal album should illicit.
We here have been fortunate enough to have caught the band on recent tours - and with excellent backing from hometown heroes Stormzone.
If you didn't catch Saxon last time out, you could do the next best thing and get a hold of this live album.  Saxon live are as good a metal band as you'll find and this album serves as a worthy testament to that fact. 

As the man himself says....."Play It Loud"....you won't be disappointed

Sludge fest, thrash-tastic Saturday with Gama Bomb, War Iron, Owlcrusher, Defyed and much more

SATURDAY night's all right for rocking, never mind what Elton John may say about fighting. And Saturday March 8th was a day filled to the brim with rock and metal

While Darren and Dawn Shields-Pettitt were doing a fantastic job with all the bands at Blazefest once again raising money for the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children there were rumours of earth tremors in Ormeau Avenue.

At Limelight2 The Distortion Project's evening show the sludge and doom was causing earth tremors. at such a peak that the Royal Geological Society were monitoring reports that the tectonic plates underneath all of Ireland were reverberating.

While the vagaries of public transport meant we missed Maw, by all accounts the two-piece were superb.

Owlcrusher's down-tuned doom sludge threatened to liquefy internal organs not already fried by alcohol. Songs merged into each other in a hypnotic drone that was strangely entrancing.

A dazed audience then faced the prospect of Okus, with a technical take on powerful doom and elements of modern metal. Their set was varied and ultimately a powerful statement of potential.

Reports that the earth's tilt and magnetic field were changing emerged by the time War Iron's Black Fleet had powered through the foundations of the venue and the audience's soul.

War Iron are a band that don't believe in fucking about with those nancy boy six strings, and instead have two bass guitars to keep the bottom end booming with evil intent.

Procession of the Equinox and Of Prophecy and Alchemy rounded off the set, producing a strange glow amongst the audience. For such a doom-laden, bottom ended set, what it did produce were a lot of happy punters including the Belfastmetalheads Black and Death Metal editorial assistant (Zakk) who gave the show a knowing nod of approval.

As if that was not enough for a weekend of gigs (see the review of Friday night's Jizzy Pearl's Love/Hate here and review of Sinocence and Blazefest on our colleague Mark Ashby's pages) it was then a measured move on to the Voodoo where proceedings stepped up into full throttle.

A full-on take on thrash and hard, humourous metal lay in wait.

Acid Age opened proceedings with a set that merged technical prowess with short, sharp blasts of old school thrash. The band have undoubtedly set themselves along a path that pays homage to the founders of the movement and incorporates the more modern thrash scene.

Scimitar appeared to have as band that as grown up a lot since their early shows. Again there was much technical prowess on display and also song arrangements that took the thrash/metal template a little further making each element of their set distinctive.

The inclusion of Defyed, on the face of it, seemed a little out of place, as they are more recognised from appearances on hardcore line-ups.

However, mixing the elements of metal and hardcore clearly works: at times it appears as if Soulfly and Hatebreed have been bred into their songs. Wayne is ever more confident and Steve is possessed by demons of metal wielding his bass as if it was a trophy from a human hunt.

An international audience (with Scottish, Irish and Filipino members...) awaited Gama Bomb's appearance. Tales of zombies, robotic cops and William Defoe were all to the fore - as one would only expect.

If you like thrash and want a band that straddles early 80s thrash and contemporary rock influences but clearly with their own 'take' and identity then you will find it all with Gama Bomb.

A well-balanced set, with a mixture of classic Bomb songs with recent tracks from The Terror Tapes  clearly were both crowd-pleasing and relevant to where they are in 2014.

With the band writing a new album it is clear that Gama Bomb deserve to be much more widely heard - one listen to the live thrust of 'We Started The Fire' should, in a just universe, convince all to bow before the Gama Bomb attack. At the Voodoo the adulation of the audience clearly showed that when you 'get it' you get hit hard with the Gama Bomb bug.

Heads spinning we then headed to meet up with some of the audience from Blazefest before a welcome taxi collected us.

To round up the evening we found ourselves with a taxi driver from Iceland who pointed out that there was never any problems with rock and metal fares compared to 'the rest', that Icelandic radio played rock and metal all the time, the island being the youngest country in geological terms and there are so many 'quakes that they pass unnoticed was an appropriate conclusion to an evening that started with such earth shattering power.

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Going Back for Stiff Little Fingers

OKAY fellow rockers - we hope you are all sitting comfortably, and relaxed as we tell you a tale, a tale of a rock band, a punk band, a political force and global influencers all rolled into one.

Now, let us begin, back in the 70s a group of people gathered in north Belfast, when the Troubles were burning streets and leaving a trail of broken people and thousands of graves. Playing rock with covers of Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and Deep Purple, these musicians went by the name of Highway Star...so far so good, another covers band set to entertain.

Then punk exploded, and in particular one band left a profound mark on the singer, one Mr Jake Burns. The band was called The Clash, and the world changed.

Jake and colleagues re-named themselves Stiff Little Fingers and unleashed a fury on the world in the shape of an incendiary album, Inflammable Material. It was an album that ranted against the violence and terror that back then blighted Northern Ireland.

Songs like Suspect Device, Wasted Life, and the real rock and metal national anthem of Northern Ireland - Alternative Ulster spoke to a disaffected youth who did not fit into the tribal life of the country.

The album also broke records when it became the first independently released album to smash its way into the Top 20, and was a favourite of the late John Peel.

Each album since has displayed the same lyrical awareness and the musical sensibility that made them a crossover band - cited by everyone from Duff McKagan, Rancid, Green Day etc etc. They have managed a global reach that few bands can boast.

After a roller coaster career and personal travails Stiff Little Fingers have toured extensively, but there was no sign of a new release. At SLFs most recent gig at the Ulster Hall Jake spoke openly on stage about his issues with depression and how that had hit the recording. The support of the crowd and the roar of support for this courageous statement was moving for all present.

Now, after years of writing, and a pledge campaign that is already 300% over its target, the new album - No Going Back -  is set for a release in April. Before then SLF will be once again playing the Ulster Hall this coming Friday (March 14th)

This is a story - a tale - that has not ended; there is more to tell; more music and more passion. Whatever has happened in the past this is the beginning for SLF - there's No Going Back and frankly we can't wait for the privilege of hearing SLF live again and hearing the new album.

North Belfast is once again rocking the music world.

Annihilator - Feast re-issue...the reasons why...

Annihilator are one of the great bands to come out of Canada with a literal shed load of great thrash and metal songs. Recently the re-released last year's Feast (review here) stuffed with extras.

We recently caught up with the main man from Annihilator, Jeff Waters, about Feast selling out and wanting to make sure that fans got a special package, and about the history of the band, collaborations and other Canadian 'greats' from Voi Vod to Bryan Adams...

Below is the link to the interview which is an unedited audio from a pretty dodgy line across the Atlantic, but nevertheless there's plenty of interesting issues raised in it. Enjoy

Jeff Watters From Annihilator Interview

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Maurading Jizzy Pearl's Love/Hate storm Ahoghiill

ON the face of it the Jizzy Pearl's last outing under the Love/Hate monicker had the ingredients of a disaster, as he prepares for starting out with his stint with Quiet Riot - but that is without reckoning on the sheer force of Pearl's personality.

And, with Maverick opening for what singer Davey Balfour referred to as one of his favourite bands of all time it was an energetic night of sheer rockin' power.

Fresh from recording their début album - quite literally out of the studio only days - Maverick were suffering from fatigue from all corners. That didn't stop the band from delivering as they always do with dedication to their art.

Some older songs had been given a brush and clean-up after the studio and the new tweaks breathed fresh life into tunes such as Shackled and Cat Got Your Tongue. That didn't stop them giving an outing the old standard Top Heavy.

Despite the stresses and strains on their collective bodies Maverick managed to maintain an engaging stage presence, with easy movement and stage 'tricks' such as bassist and guitarist playing each others licks on the downstroke every bar of one track.

Picture courtesy of
Paul Wharton
Clear evidence then that the hot blood of each 80s and 90s band still pulses through Maverick's veins - expect much more from them in coming months.

The hot blood of heavy rockin' roll is something that courses through each vein of Jizzy Pearl's body. This was a performance of pure charisma from Pearl.

Kicking off with the full throttle Hanging You Out To Dry from the recently released mini-album Crucified, the entire band were intent on simply rocking hell out of the County Antrim venue.

From Tranquiliser to Wasted in America it was a romp through Love/Hate's hits, while Pearl proved that he was as engaging a front man as he is a tremendous singer. From admitting struggling with how to pronounce Ahoghill through to a shout out for the 'Belfast Beer Bus' the banter and craic was strong.

Back into the set was Don't Fuck With Me, which Pearl admitted it had been brought back as a result of numerous fan requests.

Wrapping things off with an encore including a frenetic cover of Ace of Spades and Blackout In The Red Room Pearl can be confident that whatever the wrangles and tussles with former band mates he has kicked off a March tour with verve and definitive versions of songs he put his stamp on in the 90s.

With Pearl off to sign autographs and have his picture taken with fans it seemed appropriate that amongst the songs playing over the house PA was Quiet Riot's anthem 'Bang Yer Head' as it is from here that he will close this chapter on Love/Hate and bring his unique talent to bear on yet more people.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fill yer weekend with rock and metal

PLEASE place your liver in the overhead locker, a neck brace is provided underneath in case of passengers need to abandon headbanging. In the event of alcohol decompression please grab the glass and place it to your lips because this is one helluva weekend to board the rock and metal flight to chaos - you're all spoilt for choice!

Departures on Friday night will be to the Stiff Kitten and the Diamond Rock Club. Arrival at the Stiff Kitten is scheduled for 8pm where your courier in the shape of Mr James Loveday will ensure you are safe and calm before Donum Dei, By Conquest or Consent, Little Miss Stakes and Hammerfest bound Sinocence will blow any travel cobwebs off your denim and leather...

Others will arrive in Ahoghill Rock City where arrival at the Diamond Rock Club will see travellers face-to-face with Maverick and Jizzy Pearl's Love/Hate.

Should seasoned travellers wish to return for more on Saturday then buckle your belts, remove sharp objects and assume the brace position.

There are three - yes three - destinations of choice.

Simultaneously flights will be arriving at 5pm at The Empire and Limelight2.

At 5pm on Ormeau Avenue there is the Owlcrusher, Okus and War Iron...foundations shall shake and tectonic plates will shift; hopefully after a safe landing for all.

Meanwhile on Botanic arrival at gate Empire is all in a good cause. BlazefestIV is in aid of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, which sees the likes of Altus, Baleful Creed, Worldsend and Stormzone pack the joint.

However, for those with a penchant for tales of zombies and robotic cops Gama Bomb will be at the Voodoo, with early arrivals set to experience the likes of Acid Age, Scimitar and Defyed open the duty free....

Now, if that isn't enough for you of a weekend then may we kindly suggest that you take Beige Airlines to Vanilla Central and watch some shit on TV...

Where to start - six bands. one taking a hiatus, one with a new singer, another with a new release - and all rockin' hard

AS we head into another weekend of hard rockin' and heavy metal we took the time here to look back on last week in a review of our thoughts, notes and consider the real diversity of talent in this small land.

On Monday February 24th at Belfast's Voodoo we racked up, unfortunately missing out the fantastic By Any Means, who were opening proceedings.

However, we were in time to see the much improved Sentient. While Thomas's guitar was always a star of this band, in 2014 they are now a coherent, more balanced act, with the songs to match the range of excellent abilities on show from all quarters of the group.

With two high concept science fiction songs in their set - including the excellent Rocket Scientist - they also showcased the excellent Backhand with its powerful thrust.

However, while covering Pantera may seem to be a good crowd pleasing move it might be a better idea to hear more of their own original material, or give the Sentient treatment to a song no-one would expect.

Baleful Creed's sound has always had a real vibe and groove to it, with the likes of Double FS, Illuminati and Autumn Leaves giving an edge over many bands that attempt southern groove metal and Sabbathy riffs.

They are also insanely self-critical, and sometimes should worry less about getting it 100% right and make it 100% enjoyable.

Altus were showcasing their new line-up with singer, Matt Corden now in place. They are also planning to release their début album at Blazefest this coming Saturday (March 8th).

From what was on evidence on February 24th they will provide an enjoyable heavy set. But they are clearly a band in transition. From the early releases and ep Altus are now taking the next step.

Beast, Brand New Skies and Nail in the Coffin sit a little differently from newer offerings: it will take time to adapt these for Matt, as will he need time to carve his identity with the songs.

What is clear is that Altus are moving forward - and that is never a bad thing. What is a 'bad thing' is the on stage banter between band members and friends in the audience. While they may get away with it in front of a small crowd this is an indulgence they have to put aside and put the music to the fore.

With Monday at the Voodoo out of the way we took a brief break before it was on to the Stiff Kitten for RockD's presentation of Rabid Bitch of the North, Zlantanera and Cutter. Once again the vagaries of traffic and travel meant we missed out the opener, but we were assured by reliable sources it had been an enjoyable set.

Zlantanera are a sort of Norn Iron metal super group with various members of Interrogate, Residual Effect and Stand Up Guy and others making up the ranks.

What they all are combined are a powerful force, deeply groove driven, with solos and rhythm to complement a direct approach that should have heads-a-nodding and oozes potential. Hugely enjoyable!

Rabid Bitch of the North have transformed themselves over the past two years from likeable scene regulars to a potent force. While the three-track cassette that was due to be launched wasn't available on the night RBOTN still pounded a set of NWOBHM style tunes, masses of riffage aplenty.

Defending Two Castles really is a song to be adored, and overall Rabid have managed a neat trick in convincing all us older metalheads that we're still in the early 80s....

Missing out on the last couple of Rabid Bitch of the North songs for a quick dash to Comber Rec for another gig proved to be worth it, mainly to see the last (for the time being) Trucker Diablo gig; the fact of which only emerged on Monday.

Opening for Trucker were Baleful Creed, who despite having Fin a little 'under the weather' produced as always an enjoyable set; no matter what John might have said afterwards any flaws in the set went unnoticed to the majority of the crowd, many of which wore proudly their Baleful Creed shirts.

What was billed as Simon's last show with Trucker was a searing endorsement of why TD is one of the most widely listened to acts Northern Ireland has produced in recent years.

Explosive, fierce, catchy - throw any adjectives you like at their music they aren't enough to capture the sheer force of Trucker Diablo on this type of live form.

While - of course - family must come first and hence the hiatus, it is with regret that it may be a very long time before this good a set of hard rock is played. On this form there is not a band from these shores or further afield who would dare compete with Trucker.

From favourites such as Drink Beer, Destroy and Drive through to the pounding joy of Year of the Truck this was hard rock as it was meant to be: edging on a metallic assault, but with choruses that are catchy, solos that fit just right and riffs that you can hum along to.

A packed Comber Rec, rose in adulation: it was rightly deserved.

So, scanning over these three gigs there is no doubt of the diverse talent in Northern Ireland, of which this was only a sample. Sentient, Baleful Creed, Altus, Zlantanera, Rabid Bitch of the North and Trucker Diablo are all fine acts, all of which you should take delight in. 

Jizzy's back rockin the Love/Hate way before heading off to pastures new

TO describe Jizzy Pearl's career as varied in terms of the acts he's been involved with is an understatement - but he is wrapping off the Love/Hate phase of his career with a mini-album and UK tour, which includes the Diamond Rock Club this coming Friday (March 7th).

The mini-album, Crucified, which for legal reasons is released under the title, Jizzy Pearl's Love/Hate, is a mixture of the elements that made Pearl's Love/Hate career so successful, if often under-rated.

This summer Pearl will be taking over the vocal duties for Quiet Riot, but this is a suitable statement of what can be achieved by the man in terms of singing and song-writing.

Friday night's date at the Diamond will be the second date on the tour, which will see him through to a March 22nd date at Hard Rock Hell.

While many will harken after the days of Blackout in the Red Room and Wasted in America, they would be foolish to overlook Crucified.

From the off-set this incorporates the 80s snarl of Love/Hate with Hanging You Out To Dry, which in Pearl's own words is: "A song about the infamous Hollywood Sign stunt from the viewpoint of the Crucifee himself.

"The vibe is simple, I tried to get back to the start, a bunch of young kids banging out loud musical joy in a little room and the singer in the middle, one microphone, testifying to the World.”

It is a kick-ass, punkish slam that really is about "loud musical joy" before Sunny Day takes a different turn, with Pearls current partner. This has a really LA strip feel to it, an ode to love told with a shout of passion and subtle interludes to the full-on noise.

From good 'dates' to bad ones You're Making Me Nervous is all about when fantasy romance's go wrong, apparently told in the first person from experience. Clocking in at under three minutes, this is a sure fire favourite for those who revelled in the Love/Hate 90s style.

But the largely acoustic I Don't Want Your Baby - if given the proper time is a grower of an ironic ballad.

"“This is a twist on the traditional Power Ballad where the guy not only doesn’t get the girl, he doesn’t want the girl!" said Pearl. For all that this is still a strong song with tasty lead guitar lines and swirling organ sounds that would have been sure of MTV rotation had it been released in 1987.

Penultimate track Love Is All is perhaps one of the weakest tracks on the mini-album: while it is not a bad track per se, it nevertheless sits askance in this collection with its hippy-ish feel.

But it is the last song Too Late on Crucified that is the stand-out on the mini-album. Slow, swaggering, with a lead line wending its way around the vocals in the verses and building to a chorus, which sees Pearl use his experience to lend it the right amount of emphasis without spilling over the top.

Overall Crucified is an appropriate coda to Pearl's Love/Hate track record. Friday night is set to be a show not to be missed, even if only to lay to rest the Pearl incarnation of this iconic band for many who kept the hard rock flame alive in the dark days of grunge and synth filled 90s.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Rock 'n' rollin; heavy fuggin' metal from Chrome Division

THIS is not a side project of Shagrath, this is not death metallers blowing off steam - this is Chrome Division laying waste to preconceptions as they unleash hard partying, heaving slabs of rock and metal on their latest release, Infernal Rock Eternal.

As the band readily admit this is the bastard son of Motorhead, Black Label Society, AC/DC, and the harder US west coast 80s rockers.

For those of you not familiar with Chrome Division, they are made up of an assorted crew of Norwegian reprobates. Shagrath on rhythm guitar is better known to UK audiences as lead anarchic for symphonic death metal act Dimmu Borgir.

The other members are: Shady Blue (from Susperia) on vovals; Kjell Aage Karlsen (from Gromth) on lead guitar; Age Troite (from Shot At Dawn) on bass; and, Tony White (from Old Man's Child).

This is the third album from Chrome Division and by far the most rounded of the releases yet, with more depth to the playing, arrangements and lyrics.

Whereas the début Doomsday Rock 'n' Roll seemed a bit of fun and the second release Booze, Broads and Beelzebub was a little 'sameish', then Infernal Rock Eternal is a smack in your rockin' face.

There maybe an instrumental to open and the BLS flavoured Endless Nights as the second track from there in this is a tremendously fun album, which sees the band in toto amalgamate what seems to be their formative rock and metal influences in a complete package.

While (She's) Hot Tonight and Mistress of Madness conform to the rock 'n' roll stereotypes thereafter there are is a diversity in the tracks from the touching Lady of Perpetual Sorrow through to the 12-bar homage on No Bet For Free's warning about the dangers and evils of Vegas.

The down south Cajun flavour of On The Run Again's opening transmogrifies into a track Cinderella would have killed for when they were at their peak in '87.

Depth in songwriting is revealed on You're Dead Now, a five-minute ode to the recently deceased.

Closing with the punk/hardcore romp of Ol this is a rounded album from a collective that have found their sound developing; a collective that remembers that Chrome Division are a lot of fun, but you really can only enjoy the musical fun when there is a real intent to the music.

Infernal Rock Eternal will unfortunately be overlooked by many in the UK, but they are missing a real rock 'n' roll heavy metal treat - this is already set to be an overlooked contender for album of the year....

Infernal Rock Eternal is out now on Nuclear Blast. We suggest that you buy/pay for a download of it, give it three listens and succumb to its delights.

(PS - the cover art is pretty tasty and may be the basis for many tattooists freehand work in the future!)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Feminist lore, historical struggles and damn fine music

By Jason Burke

LEAVES' EYE are in a competition, whether they like it or not, for supremacy in the symphonic, female fronted metal - and the German-Norwegian are currently dominating the genre through intelligent use of lore, feminist themes and a diverse set of tales set against a lush musical landscape.

The 2013 release Symphonies of the Night - available on Napalm Records - has built up their 2009 release,  Njord, and the masterpieces such as Ragnarok, Irish Rain and My Destiny from that that release.

References to Shakespearean tragic characters such as Ophelia and the bathos of Hamlet, the lyrics also touch on the oft-repeated myths around Joan of Arc on the track Maid of Lorraine and the battles that ensued in her time: "May 1431, Between the walls that imprison me I seek divine guidance."

Leaves Eyes are a captivating band with thought provoking lyrics and musical scores and playing to complement historical myth and legend and "Symphonies of the night" is an intense and gripping plethora of incredible songs and a thoroughly enjoyable listen for both the casual listener and hardcore fans.

Liv Kristine's vocals stay dynamic, and initial echoes of Nightwish and Within Temptation are quickly dispelled and with Alexander Krull's singing giving it a metal edge to fit in with the playing of Thorsten (bass), van der Meer (guitar) and Born (drums) which weaves tapestries around the mythic but literate styles.

Opener "Hell to the Heavens” is a powerful introduction with intense and incredible vocals from both Kristine and Krull sounding as if they are preparing for war. Fading Earth gives the feeling of the descent of a woman’s mind to the dark thoughts and speaks of hoping for another waiting on the other side, a deep and thoughtful song with a rocking guitar solo.

Songs that would jump out to listeners of the album are Hymme to The Lone Sands with well-structued riffs and gives a certified head banging mosh pit feel friendly feel to the song. The album contains an almost perfect mix of slower, more vocal songs like Angel of the Ghost with an almost pagan speech halfway through and yet another guitar solo to make the eardrums feel pleasured!

Ophelia which is the final song of the album is not only a song of lyrical mastery but an insight into the vocal prowess and skill of Kristine alongside Krull's skilled werewolf growls enough to scare virgins and consummate music to match.

Leaves Eyes are an amazingly talented band with a list of collaborators as long as any fan’s arm, and have only improved through the years. This release shows true feeling and individuality in their genre.

Additional editing by Jonny