Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Hard rock with an edge from Norway's Spitfire on Fuel to Burn release

WHAT is it with Norway? As well as its reputation for producing Black Metal par excellence they produce consistently great hard rock bands.

Further evidence of this comes from Spitfire who have just released their latest album 'Fuel to Burn', an unpretentious platter of heads down rock and riffage.

This is unadulterated rockin' as smooth as silk bed sheets and as spiky as a cactus back massage. From the opener title track, through to closer 'Down' this is an enjoyable package: put your brain in neutral and wallow in this with beer in hand.

At times some of the lyrics are cringeworthy, and it is appropriate to say there is nothing 'new' on this release, but what Spitfire have done is to pull all the classic hard rock elements together and let loose eight tracks of sheer rock joy.

'Damned if You Do' has an 80's mid-tempo vibe, 'Nightmare' has a roll and delicious elements.

Beffen, Iggy, Bob and Nicky have captured the elusive element that enjoins 1970's rock with the sleaze and lust of LA in the 80s. 'Gimme Some' could sit comfortably in either decade, but is resoundingly a 21st Century slab of rock, with tasty guitar elements.

However, the outstanding track is 'I'. Real passion has been injected into this. It broods as it opens, reveals an inner heart and develops into a stormer, with a groove that will see grunge bands hang their heads in shame that they never achieved this level of angst driven anger.

While closer 'Down' can sit comfortably in any hard rock afficianado's playlist the contrast is the ever-so-slightly contrived 'Dogfight', which may work as a live track, but spills forth too many clichés.

Taken in the round Spitfire have, like the aeroplane they are named after, produced a good, if flawed release. The Spitfire didn't win the Battle of Britain (Hawker Hurricanes shot down more German planes than the Supermarine Spitfire) but like their namesake these Norwegian rockers deliver what is expected if classic hard rock...and more.

Review by Jonny

Monday, March 30, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: The Power of Rock and Metal multiplied by eight raises thousands at Blazefest

"OKAY, I just want to announce that last night's Blazefest raised a staggering £3145.21 for the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. Thank you to all the bands and everyone who came and made it such a special night.
Those are the words of Darren Shields-Pettitt, who along with wife Dawn, once again brought the power of the rock and metal community together to support the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

And, for Blazefest V on March 21st there were assembled together eight bands, ready to rock the shit out of Belfast's Empire Music Hall.

At the unfeasibly early hour of 5:15 Selene took to the stage to open proceedings - and this seemed a completely different band to the one that struggled at Heat One of Bloodstock Metal2TheMasses.

Shonagh looked confident, easy banter between songs, and using her vocal prowess to its maximum, devastating effect as John flowed freely across his axe, ably flanked by Thomas and Cameron.

With the gathering crowd still reeling from the symphonic metal rock took centre stage as The Irontown Diehards brought down their well-dressed rock mayhem

Dressed like refugees from a 1980s ska gig, there was no way they would be playing ska - instead a tight set of blasting hard rock blistered all those present.

Phil's vocals were only matched by Andrew's fret work. This was a set with attitude in abundance.

The rock solid Mark and Gordy kept it nailed down and tight...a superb performance by the four-piece.

Thrash was in the air next as the young men making up Donum Dei brought the 80s genre firmly into the 21st Century, stomping and snarling - literally.

Thomas grows more confident on stage with each gig and his mind meld with Stuart's lead work, riffing and melody lines grows ever tighter. Hyperactive Dean on bass adds yet more flourishes to the sound, with Alastair rocking his set.

'Gravelands' was one of the highlights, and a nice touch they bring to their set is allowing Alastair a short drum solo to allow the tuning of the six-strings.

We'd already had one female fronted act with Selene, but the Empire was about to face an onslaught from Dublin's Xerosun. Producing vocal lines that ranged from growls, roars and sweet melodies Martyna scared the sweet shit out of some of the more tender-hearted present. The rest just basked in the brilliance.

As a package this is a well-balanced band, with Fiachra and Jeff's guitar work giving the right amount of breath to each track to avoid the pitfall of sameness. And, that variety worked throughout the set with Damien and Marcin working hard to create a solid platform throughout.

And, thence the spirit of the NWOBHM entered the room, with the style and flair that only Tommy Daly and his cohort of chaos that is Conjuring Fate can deliver. Not for them the re-treads of the past, instead a vision of dark places in the soul where metal lives.

On top form 'Mirror' and 'Backwood Witch' came alive with the strange alchemy that has a gothic narrative delivered to a welcoming, beaming audience.

As usual Phil had a walk around the crowd and the dualing between him and Karl was as high a quality as always - only equalled by their melody work.

Conjuring Fate always give the impression of loving every minute of their time on stage, with even Steve and Bodgan wearing smiles.

The bar had been set consistently high with each set, but with the gauntlet laid down the Screaming Eagles...well they screamed on to the Empire's stage with a high octane blaze...

Currently working on their second album the Sc'reagles came on to the stage full of hard rockin' piss and vinegar; Chris pounding out the words, bellowing out the likes of 'Fight The Fire' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Soul' as if his life depended on it.

Adrian picked his way through solo after solo with the clear intent to rock the foundations already shaken by Ryan (bass) and Kyle (drums).

The standard of this live show bodes well for the next release

With their ep, 'No Gods, No Masters Vol2' out Sinocence have fire in their bellies and are hungry for fresh meat when they stride on. And, as the chorus of 'Long Way Down' is chanted back at them it is clear that their recent run of live shows has them in vicious form.

Moro almost crouches like a metal beast over the mic, his guitar rolling out the rhythms as Anto shreds in an almost maniacal fashion.

'Ascension Code' from the new release shines as do all the tracks, new and old. As if this was not enough the band brought Chris from Sc'reagles on to pound out a metalized version of Pearl Jam's 'Evenflow'.

If you closed your eyes, Chris has every intonation of Vedder's voice that it was almost like the PJ frontman was there - except for the fact that Sinocence had given the track added metal, with Jim's bass rolling across the track and Davy's drums adding extra flourishes.

Headliners Maverick were greeted like conquering heroes, still riding on a high from the ongoing support the 'Quid Pro Quo' release has been given in many quarters.

That they have been working hard on stage across Northern Ireland tells, as the ten-legged beast's show unfolds to the delight of the crowd ready to end the party on a high.

'Paint By Numbers', 'In Our Blood' and the infectious 'Got It Bad' are already familiar to all, and David cajoles and caresses the crowd to join in the raucous rock 'n roll circus.

Ryan, Ric, Richie and Mike are clearly enjoying the night as David gets the band moving and the crowd bouncing.

And, with the likes of 'Top Heavy' from their début ep to top it all off it was a fine way to wrap up the evening.

Rock and metal had proved that it is more than just a bunch of long-hairs (there were a few balding pates on evidence) but that it is generous too.

The victory of the evening lay not in the performances above, but in the £3,000 raised for the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

No Gods No Masters
Review by Jonny
Pictures by Darren McVeigh (MetalplanetBelfast)


Saturday, March 28, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: The Quireboys excel on St Cecilia and the Gypsy Soul

SPIKE and his merry band of troubadours churn out excellence so consistently that when they release a new album it seems a given that it will be another stellar platter. And, that's the case with the latest offering from The Quireboys 'St Cecilia and the Gypsy Soul'.

It would be possible to just leave it there - The Quireboys unleash a great album, full stop, end of review.

But, hell that would be a disservice to this lush offering of heartfelt odes to the human condition. Whatever was in the water in Swedish town Klippan when the band got down to recording it should be distilled and shared globally.

Just listen to the yearning, the heartache and broken words of 'The Promise' strings, acoustic solo runs and a nagging repetitive riff that tugs and tears at the soul.

And, in contrast the title track, 'St Cecilia' has that wild air of people living on the edges of society, where it is dangerous to be, but safer than the world where suits and billionaire banker bask in their ill-gotten gains.

'Can't Hide It Anymore' is the song that will have every American middle-of-the-road rocker gets down on their knees, knowing they'll never be able to match in terms of balance and perfection. Spike even gives a slight twang of mid-Atlantic accent at times to add to the atmosphere.

However, that wasn't the plan when Spike, Paul, Guy and Keith headed to Scandanavia...

“The plan was always to record some new acoustic songs and rework some originals,” said Spike. “But the plan changed. There was something about that place – the vibe got better and better and we just went with the flow.”

Aptly there is a track on the album called 'The Best Are Not Forgotten' because this release comes as a four-CD package, including 'Halfpenny Dancer' – finally available again – and two discs covering the previously unreleased 2010 Halfpenny Dancer live show featuring fiddles, pedal steel, mandolin, banjo and more.

“This side of the band needs to heard,” said Spike. “And we’ll be taking the new music out on the road with our most intimate tour yet.”

That road  trip concludes in The Diamond Rock Club (tonight, 28th March) and if you missed out on the show then make sure to grab this album.

Back to where we started - The Quireboys, steeped in excellence, releasing excellence.

St Cecilia and the Gypsy Soul is released on March 30th on Off Yer Rocka
Review by Jonny

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Therapy? go back in time to catch up on Disquiet with melodies and menace

NORTHERN Ireland's Therapy? were once described by Kerrang! (when it still was a metal mag) as the UK's potential version of Metallica. With 'Troublegum' bothering charts across the globe the potential was certainly there.

But Therapy? were happier being the awkward kids and released a selection of densely packed albums to shove a middle finger up at the fashionistas and scenesters. Well, they are from Northern Ireland...

Now, 21 years after 'Troublegum' Therapy? have released their 14th studio album with a re-imagining of the characters from 'Troublegum' older, wiser, and three times as cynical.

This could have been seen as a desperate attempt to re-capture the success of that album  - something that Andy Cairns denies - but instead infuses itself with tracks that are darkly glorious; a melange of melodies and menace.

Out this week on Amazing Record Co. this is simply put a fantastic release. Yes, 'Crooked Timber' and 'A Brief Crack of Light' were great albums, but this time they have stretched themselves to produce an album that is accessibly dark, living up to its title 'Disquiet'.

Take the likes of 'Fall Behind' and 'Idiot Cousin' - twisted tales that glory in the shadows of human existence yet have more hooks than an illegal tuna fisherman.

“We wanted to write something a bit more anthemic again,” said Andy. “In May last year we did a 20th anniversary tour for the ‘Troublegum’ album, and it was completely sold out, and it was great hearing those songs sung back at us, and seeing what they meant to people.

"Clearly it would be idiocy for us to attempt to recreate ‘Troublegum’, because that was a different era, and a different band line-up, but the starting point for this album for me was thinking ‘What would the protagonist of Troublegum be doing twenty years on?

Our last two albums were more experimental and diverse, and we already knew that he wanted to go back to more ‘song’-based stuff this time around, so that conceptual idea dovetailed perfectly with what we planned in terms of the musical direction.”

And, we present as evidence the opening riff of 'Helpless Still Lost' and subsequent chorus - this is Therapy? at their malevolent best.

Tom Dalgety's production keeps the darker tones of more recent releases, but allows the tracks to breathe their putrid vapours on 11 tracks of what is correctly put in the PR blurb as "in-your-face, bruisingly melodic punk/metal".

Nowhere is this more evident than on the outstanding 'Torment Sorrow Misery Strife'. Andy with Michael McKeegan (bass) and Neil Cooper (drums) have distilled a dark brew, a heady concoction that no band who were not from Northern Ireland could ever have produced.

That is best summed up on concluding track 'Deathstimate', a slowed down track that eschews self-pity in favour of the melancholic Irish trait to hone in on mortality. It is a triumphant close to the album as Andy contemplates 'the end' of everything a life may have held.

'Disquiet' could have been  a re-treading of 'Troublegum' but instead it sees a band reflective but raucous; menacing and malevolent; and,confrontational in examining the human condition.

Review by Jonny

ALBUM REVIEW: Glaswegian rockers The Toi turn musical water into delicious rock win

THREE piece Glaswegian hard rockers The Toi have finally released an album they had intended to unleash two years ago - and its been worth the wait.

For those that haven't heard of them, the band is a three piece hailing from Glasgow featuring Paul Healy (vocals/guitar), Andy Carr(bass/guitar/vocals) and Stevie McLay(drums/vocals) who take their name from an old Glasgow word for gang.

Having established a good live reputation in their native city 'Water into Wine' is their first album release. Originally meant to be released in 2013 several setbacks have seen its delay until now but it was worth the wait.

'Water into Wine' is a rock/pop album that will have cross appeal and is melodic and menacing at the same time. With Dan Hawkins (The Darkness) at the helm you should expect nothing less; with catchy hooks and big choruses throughout. With a nod to Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen among others you get the picture.

Songs such as opener 'Get it on' , 'Come Alive' and 'Staring at the Sun' showcase the hook and chorus element while 'Cold in the Night' has a straight up Jovi chorus.

'Till the Morning Comes', 'The One' and 'I Think about You' (with a great riff and bass line) are pure hard rock and spit and snarl with a few melodies thrown in for good measure.

'Water into Wine' shows the bands ability to write hard hitting lyrics as it's about a Catholic Priest they knew (and doesn't pull many punches). It also has a bit of a Mama's Boys vibe to it which is all the better.

With 'Down by the River' the Toi go all Springsteen on us but with a bit more balls and add in a bit of a Tommy & Gina story-line making this seven minute closer an epic which must be a live favourite.

Overall a very decent debut album with excellent guitar work throughout and as said before should appeal to a wide audience.

The Toi may well be the best thing to come out of Glasgow since Billy Connolly. Watch out for them.

Review by Andy Gillen.

First bands confirmed for Monsters Of Rot V

IT'S been one of Ireland's best kept metal secrets -  a one-day fest of extreme metal held in the farthest corner of Northern Ireland - Monsters of Rot.

Now in its fifth incarnation the first eight bands to appear this year installment have been confirmed.

The annual celebration of all that is best about the extreme metal scene on the island of Ireland – and beyond – takes place in Letterbreen, County Fermanagh, on Saturday August 1.

The first eight bands announced for the main PlanetMosh Stage are:
  • Dublin grindcore merchants Abaddon Incarnate (https://www.facebook.com/abaddonincarnate),
  • UK black metallers Aklash (https://www.facebook.com/aklashmusic),
  • Belfast metal crew, and Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses semi-finalists, Altus (https://www.facebook.com/AltusBelfast),
  • Lisnaskea alt-metallers Attack The Day(https://www.facebook.com/pages/Attack-The-Day/164901066967572),
  • Limavady hardcord protagonists Axecatcher (https://www.facebook.com/Axecatcher),
  • Dublin death metal gurus Guttrench (https://www.facebook.com/GuttrenchBDM),
  • Dublin punks Job Seekers (https://www.facebook.com/jobseekers.eire), and
  • Drogheda crusties Okus (https://www.facebook.com/Okusband).
More bands will be announced over the coming weeks, as will details of the event’s second stage.
Tickets for the event will cost £15/€18, including camping, and will be available soon from the events official website, www.monstersofrot.com.

A special return bus service will also operate from Belfast to Letterbreen, via Portadown.  Again, details will be announced in the near future.

In the meantime, you can keep abreast of developments via the Monsters Of Rot V Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/663751490413618/.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

NEWS: Six band Saturday with Sinocence; Vikings and metal; Bloodstock pre-party and FM lyric video


IT'S a six-band Saturday this weekend. Sinocence have the Belfast launch of their ep No God, No Masters Vol 2 (review here) at Limelight2 with colleagues in rock Gasoline Outlaws, Donum Dei, Maverick and Conjuring Fate.

Doors are at four pm with the action running through until 9pm.

Hardy rock fans will then (if they have not already) made their way to the Diamond Rock Club to see The Quireboys conclude their unplugged tour.

That's a damn busy Saturday of rock!


THE History Channel have just this week premiered Season Three of the most metal of programmes 'Vikings'.

With recruiting underway for extras in Dublin shortly (long hair and beards useful of course) there is a distinct metal connection with the programme.

Warduna's main man Einar 'Kvitrafn' Selvik has co-written the score and makes an acting appearance on the show.

For those who have not caught up with Warduna as yet, let's just say that after the release of 'Gap Var Ginnunga' they won the Golden God as Best Underground Metal Band in 2014...

HEADING to Bloodstock? It just might be worth your while being there on Thursday...

The Sophie Lancaster Stage will host a warm-up that will set the tone for a weekend of partying...

The bonkers Arnocorps will headline with their metal interpretations of one Mr Arnie Schwarzenegger oeuvre of action packed films.

The PR blurb has the band declaring: We're so pumped to be bringing our action adventure, audio assault to the ballsiest of all metal festivals."

Opening the fest will be Reign of Fury, followed by Metaprism and Welsh death metallers Desecration.

And, if you really aren't sure that the party is getting underway then pirate metal act Red Rum will be bringing their rum-infused rabble rousing set to Bloodstock. They were magnificent at HRH United on the Hammerfest stage. Check out 'Make Port, Drink Port' on https://youtube.be/qHjPp7EK2nU.


CONSTANT readers will remember Andy Gillen's review of FM's new album 'Heroes and Villains'

The AOR band has now released a lyric video for 'Life Is A Highway'. Along with 'Digging Up The Dirt' - the first video/single from the it is available now as an Instant Gratification track on iTunes with album pre-orders at http://radi.al/FMHandViTunes.

FM axeman Jim Kirkpatrick said: "Life Is A Highway is one of the band's favourite songs from 'Heroes and Villains'.
"Steve Overland brought the original idea to rehearsal and then the rest of the band all chipped in to created this melodic rocker".
'Heroes and Villains' is the band's first release on Frontiers Srl and you can watch Life Is A Highway below...


ALBUM REVIEW: Roth rises to reinvent classic Scorpions

ULI Jon Roth is something of a guitar afficianado for guitar afficianados. Back in the formative years of Scorpions Uli Jon Roth created textures before the Scorps gave way to the hair metal of the mid-80s (not that was necessarily a bad thing).

With the Scorpions set to play Ramblin' Man Fair in July interest in the band is high, and those Scorpions fans who remember the glory days of 'Tokyo Tapes' will also recall the four albums - 'Fly To The Rainbow', ' In Trance', 'Virgin Killer' and 'Taken By Force'.

Now Roth has went back to those albums with 'Scorpions Revisited'.

And that term 'Revisited' is important. These aren't just covers of the originals. Roth has de-constructed the songs with Nathan James (vocals), Jamie Little (drums), Ule W. Ritgen (bass), Niklas Turmann (guitar, vocals), Corvin Bahn (keyboards, vocals) and David Klosinski (guitar).

Disc One is recorded live in Hanover this is a set of songs that real Scorpions fans should know well. Opening with 'Sails of Charon' and closing with 'Fly To The Rainbow' this a selection presented on a double CD set.

There are some fantastic interpretations on here. For example 'In Trance' has the sense of the original, but enough of a re-interpretation to make fans check out both this and the original.

'Polar Nights' is really enjoyable, while on Disc 2 'We'll Burn the Sky', 'Life's Like A River' and the 11-minute 'Fly To The River' preceded by the improvised 'Rainbow Prelude' makes it a delight.

"The material for this double CD was recorded last year in the same hall in Hanover that we used for the Scorpions rehearsals 1973-1978,” said Roth.

“Together with an amazing bunch of very talented young musicians, I revisited my personal favourites from the early Scorpions period, some of which were written in that same hall.

"It was an emotional few days and I am very pleased with the results in more ways than one. The idea was to stay truthful to the original spirit of the music, while also putting a new slant on it whenever it felt like the right thing to do.

"I feel we really succeeded in this and I’m very excited about this project. It was a intense journey into the past and I think we really managed to bring the songs back to life with a vengeance."

This is said to be the first re-engagement of Roth with his past and further announcements are expected later this year.

What it does prove is that Scorpions have always more than 'Winds of Change' or ''Rock You Like a Hurricane'.

Uli Jon Roth - Scorpions Revisited is out now on UDR
Review by Jonny

LIVE REVIEW: Kicking up a 'Hale' of a storm with Lzzy

IN less than a year Halestorm have leaped from a supporting slot in Belfast's Voodoo to headlining the larger venue of Limelight1 on the city's Ormeau Avenue.

A combination of smart PR and a damn fine set of songs - especially from new album 'Into the Wild Life' - have helped place them in the upper echelons of bands proving their worth on the stage.

But before the venue could bow at Lzzy Hale's performance support act Wilson kicked people's ass into a party mood.

They came on stage with an attitude - as if they were headlining the Odyssey Arena; full on big sound and full on rockin' out.

Hard rock teetering on the edge of old school metal, frontman Chad Nicefield bellows out a set that promises yet more to come from Wilson.

Truth be told they were the perfect act to warm up the crowd for Halestorm; a band that inspires the increasingly packed venue to loft smiles and raise pint glasses.

Lzzy Hale has always been the focus for the mainstream media -  as if there has never been a female fronted band in rock history. To focus on Lzzy ignores the fact that this is a band, not a celebrity vehicle.

True Lzzy and her brother Arejay (drums) are the only original members, but Joe Hottinger (lead guitar) and Josh Smith (bass) complement each other on stage.

This was an accomplished performance, but without the feel of an overly rehearsed set. February 28th was only the second date on the European 'Into The Wildlife Tour' and it had a freshness to the set, despite the lengthy US tour.

With a mixed set list Lzzy commanded the stage, with Joe very much her wingman. Whether it was 'It's Not You', 'Familiar', the awesome 'Apocalyptic' or 'You Call Me A Bitch...' each was approached with a confident swagger.

It is important to say that this was not an arrogance on stage. Swagger comes from an assuredness in what can be done, understanding limitations and emphasising strengths.

While one can appreciate the accomplished drum solo - and its role in a set to allow a break for the front line, it does break the pace, before 'Mayhem' brings the venue to life again.

As the punters emerged into the fresh Belfast air what was sure is that Halestorm have the promise of longevity on the hard rock scene. They have the assuredness and the songs to keep audiences hooked for years to come.

Or, to put it another way, Halestorm will be welcomed back to Belfast whenever they next roll round to another European tour.

Review by Jonny
Photos by Darren McVeigh - MetalPlanetBelfast


Monday, March 23, 2015

NEWS: Ash added to Slane line-up; Dienamic's new album; The Answer chart and Blue Pills release live album


THE Foo Fighters Slane line-up for the 30th May show has now been completed with County Down pop punk act Ash and Cavan rockers The Strypes.
Also playing with the Grohl and crew are the Kaiser Chiefs and Hozier...
Tickets are €79.50 plus booking fee.


THEY may not have any UK shows penciled in at the minute, but take some time to check out Norwegian metal act Dienamic's recorded output to date.
And then prepare to check out their upcoming release 'Afterlife', which sees axeman Stein-Odin Johannessen and vocalist Gustav H Lindquist pushing their previous boundaries.

Set for release on Italian label Worm Hole Death the touring line-up will see Sebastian Jacobssen and Kenneth Iversen Muotkajaervi take up drum and bass roles.

LOCAL heroes, The Answer, have enjoyed chart success with latest release 'Raise a Little Hell'.

The album charted at #44 in the UK album chart, was number one in the Rock Chart and number six in the Indie chart.
Live review and interview coming soon, Read our review of 'Raise A Little Hell' here.

SCHEDULED for a Belfast appearance on April 27th, Blue Pills have released a limited edition live album.
It's a cracker release recorded at the Freak Valley Festival, but with the relatively uninspired title 'Blue Pills Live'.
The Belfast show is at Limelight2 with support from Raveneye. Tickets are £16 from all usual outlets.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

INTERVIEW: Evil Scarecrow snagged by our colleague Mark Ashby ahead of Belfast date

AMONGST all good journos and reporters there is a collegiate spirit. We help each other out, even if we write, review etc for different sites or magazines.

Thus, while were reviewing the Hammerfest stage at last weekend's HRH United our friend in metal, Mark Ashby of Planet Mosh fame nabbed a few words with Evil Scarecrow ahead of their April 12th Belfast date in the Voodoo.

Massive thanks to Mark for doing this - suppose we have to buy him a pint now!

In the meantime I expect y'all to be practising the Crabulon

Sunday, March 08, 2015

EP REVIEW: Dynamic Sinocence deliver majesty and power on No Gods, No Masters Vol 2

WE'RE going to go out on a limb here...the five tracks on Sinocence's latest release are the best set of songs they've ever laid down.

Yes, Sinocence have written some outstanding material in the past, but 'No Gods, No Masters Vol 2' is a peerless collection of modern metal; measured, majestic and mayhem all combined with the shading and subtlety that enables all band members to showcase their abilities.

Less of an ep, more a mini-album it plunges the listener into a series of masterpieces that show a band that is mature, without losing the sense of creative adventure that keeps music fresh.

There are no stand-out tracks to single out - they're all stand-out tracks.

From opener 'Ascension Code' to closer 'Covert Messiah' it is 28 minutes of lush metal landscapes, dense lyrical adventures that sees Moro, Anto, Jim and Davy excel.

'Valorous' sees strings deployed and 'Slavery By Consent' and 'Covert Messiah' balance pace with power.

Moros's voice holds the listener, while Anto delivers controlled fury on lead breaks, with Jim and Davy's rhythm section laying a solid foundation while playing with a flourish.

What makes it an ep that deserves repeated listening is the separation in the production, with each instrument given the space at the right time; indeed the job that Frankie McClay does is reminiscent of the early 80s work of Martin Birch on the likes of Maiden and Marillion.

'In Kymatica' is the sort of song that could have been lost with poor production and mixing; while the closing minute delicacies 'Covert Messiah' could have sounded wrong without the dexterous playing and the sensitive fingers at the desk.

We'll leave you to explore the lyrics yourselves as throughout the sense is clear, even if the interpretation isn't always - plenty to mull over on each song.

What must be said about this release is that it is a platform for Sinocence to push to the next level on stage. The back catalogue may be over shadowed by some of these songs, but it will enable a set list that has no downside.

Volume Two - perfect score all round, and sets the proverbial bar very high for Volume Three.

Sinocence launch the ep in Dublin on March 14th, and in Belfast on March 28th with four  bands lined up for support (Conjuring Fate, Maverick, Donum Dei and Gasoline Outlaws) all for a measly five of your pounds.

Review by Jonny

Monday, March 02, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Midnight Ghost Train revel in southern roots

SOUTERN Rock is a broad genre of music that takes in the bad trip inspired grooves of Down to the more laid back, good time vibes of bands like Clutch. The discerning fan of heavy music will normally find something they like in the wide range of styles involved in this genre and this is where The Midnight Ghost Train comes in.

For those not in the know The Midnight Ghost Train are a hard rocking trio consisting of Steve Moss on vocals and guitar, Brandon Burghart on drums and Mike Boyne on bass and Cold Was The Ground is their third album and their first release for Napalm Records.

The band take their name from a lyric in the Hank Williams song 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' and while the music is as far from country as you can get, lyrically they do seem to take a little inspiration from the Outlaw Country greats such as the much missed Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings with their tales of woe and standing up to those who look down on you.

For the most of this eleven track album they play at full tilt. Guitar, Bass and drums locked into one immense groove. The production is sparse and really suits the music, anything too polished would take away some of the grit from the songs.  Musically the band have hints of Clutch to them at times and that can never be a bad thing. 

The thing that sets The Midnight Ghost Train apart from their peers are the gruff bellowed vocals of Steve Moss.  His vocals are quite abrasive compared to the music they play and may put some people off at first however stick with the album and they end up suiting the feel of the music.
As already touched upon this album has a powerful groove to it and you get the impression that the songs from this album will be fantastic in a live setting but while the music has a good time feel to it, the lyrics are dark and at times quite depressing. 'Arvonia' has Steve Moss bellowing "fetch me my 12 gauge, I'm a gonna shoot that man" followed up by the threat of "I ain't going to kill you, I'm just gonna make you pay".
'The Little Sparrow' is the standout track on the album.  The vocals are spoken and quite poetic and the music in the background is sparse and haunting.  Lyrics such as "how can music be so free and still take all that you have.  I thought you were my saviour once but now I see you were my death" paint Steve Moss as a tortured soul, completely taken over by his music.

From start to finish 'Cold Was The Ground' is a fantastic album without a weak track on it. It is not the most immediate album out there and may require it to be listened to a number of times before you realise just how good an album it is.  Fans of no frills southern style rock/metal should find a lot to enjoy and admire about this great wee album and if there is any justice in the world The Midnight Ghost Train should find themselves moving onto bigger and better things.

Review by Gavin O'Connor