Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

COMIN ATCHA: WASP confirm Belfast date in September

THEY have been loyal to Belfast and main man Blackie Lawless is bringing WASP  back to the city once again on September 17th in Limelight1.

Six years after their last studio album the band have signed to Napalm Records for the release of new album 'Golgotha'

Spawned in Los Angeles in 1982, and gaining notoriety with shock rock tactics amidst the glam scene they were quickly propelled to fame and infamy - especially after the release of the single 'Animal (F**k Like a Beast).

Although Lawless has largely disowned some of that period in his life (Animal is no longer played live) the anthemic 'I Wanna Be Somebody' and 'L.O.V.E. Machine' seemingly haven't aged from the Capitol Records eponymous release in '83/84.

After a series of releases that saw them take a less cock rock approach such as Headless Children, their fifth studio release 'Crimson Idol' cemented their reputation among fans and previously skeptical critics.

Maintaining a steady tour schedule after the 2009 release of 'Babylon' that culminated in the 30 Years of Thunder dates Lawless is full of praise for new label Napalm.

He said: "We're looking forward to years of great success together starting with the release of...Golgotha".

The Austrian label see the signing of WASP as quite a coup.

"With their impressive career and ability to create musical masterpieces WASP have always been one of the most influential metal bands out there since the beginning of their career," said Thomas Caser, Vice President of Napalm Records. "We are thrilled about the upcoming album 'Golgotha', which will be release this summer."

And, of course, that means we should all have a chance to wrap our lugs around the release before WASP brings its metal sting to Belfast on September 17th.

Tickets, priced £25 + booking fee, are on sale via Ticketmaster.

Monday, April 27, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Storming set of hard rockin' blues as Raveneye, Tric and Red Eye tear up the Limelight

WHEN Blue Pills pulled their Belfast date, it left Milton Keynes rockers RavenEye at a bit of a loose end; which meant they booked a gig in Limelight2 with James of the Distortion Project. Add in Red Eye and Tric then you have a night of excellence hard rock on Saturday 25th April.

The last time we saw Red Eye Garth's vocals were not on top form, and the band performance suffered. But on Saturday night they tore it up.

Bringing their agit-rock politically charged songs they grabbed the opportunity to return to the Limelight stage.  Colum was as smooth as ever on guitar and Steve and Badger were locked in as a rhythm section, but it was Garth who rose on the night. Passion was evident in each note of the performance. On Saturday Red Eye rose to show the potential. With a little more polish the potential can be realised.

Improving from critiques is one aspect of growth of a band: another is how to handle problems when they afflict a performance.

When Dale broke a string midway through a track he improvised to the end, then hurriedly left the stage with the instruction to the rest of the band to "jam".

For the minutes required to get the string replaced the remaining members on stage laid down impressive blues rock vibes, with Tyrell tearing up soulful solos and engaging riffs.

While the band were not able to play their full set, they nevertheless managed to impress. There is a real panache to the band these days - the only problem seems to be their not Australian...given the style and grit in their tunes labels that have signed the likes of Airbourne and Jet would have had their A&R men hunting Tric had they grown up in a Sydney suburb...

RavenEye also demonstrated how to play blues edged heavy rock - and they brought an energy and verve to the stage that deserved a larger audience.

While new to most they are all experienced musicians. Oli Brown is a formidable guitarist with 10+ years experience and four solo albums under his belt, Kev Hickman is an experienced drummer and Arron Spiers (bass) has his own solo albums as well as written orchestral scores.

All that is irrelevant when RavenEye hit the stage. There is a palpable sense of 'an event' when they rip into 'Get It Started'.

At first the sense of there being a void between Oli and Aaron with them being so separated on either side of the stage, but by the time the closing chords of 'Come With Me' it was clear that they used the void as a performance space.

Interaction between all three members is as infectious as the music, with Oli an example to physicists as to why perpetual motion may yet be achieved.

From ripping up solos on 'Hey Yeah' through to standing atop the bass drum and riffing, through to facing off to Aaron's bass playing excellence.

Throughout the set the trio exuded the type of enthusiasm and sense of occasion. By the time they concluded with 'Breaking Out' and 'You Got It' it was clear that RavenEye are one of the best English hard rock acts to grace a Northern Ireland stage.

That is if we can keep Oli on stage...

The main sense among those leaving was that they would welcome RavenEye back to Northern Ireland in a hearbeat.

Review and photographs by Jonny


Sunday, April 26, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: UFO just get better and better as they return once again to Belfast

UFO were amongst a very select few of bands, who, during the 'Troubles' that afflicted Northern Ireland, played in the city despite the world crumbling down around many of the citizens.

While the mainstream media focusses on the punk reaction to the Troubles, hard rock and metal acts were consistent visitors during those dark days. Phil Mogg and his band mates first played in Belfast in 1979, and have been consistent visitors ever since.

On April 22nd in Limelight1 they were once again on  a Belfast stage proving to all in attendance that age isn't slowing them down.

Before UFO once again strode Northern Ireland's boards they brought with them St Petersburg rockers Reds'cool. And what a treat they turned out to be!

The vast, vast majority of the audience had never heard of Reds'cool before apart from a few Youtibe visits to check them out.

Things didn't start too auspiciously, howeer, with Slava's vocals lost in the mix for the first two songs, but from there it was apparent that Reds'cool are a special live act.

They have the onstage chops, songs that soar with hard rockin' excellence, great stage presence and an easy charm that had the men laughing and the ladies admiring the music and the 'eye candy'.

While Reds'cool proved that the young breed can cut it, UFO are masters of the hard rock scene.

It seems ridiculous that they first formed in 1969 (Phil Mogg and Andy Parker have been there ever since); it seems ridiculous that Mogg will be 70 next year, but set that all aside and this is a five-piece that simply plays with an easy aplomb.

Many bands of their ilk are content to trot out the 'hits' collect their cheque and move on. Not so UFO.

Opening with 'We Belong to the Night' from 'Conspiracy of Stars' and then hitting us with 'Fight Night' in a one-two combination as if to prove they can still write great tracks.

Mogg has been visibly less mobile over the past two tours, but there is nothing halting or faltering about his voice. He can still hit it on classics like 'Lights Out' and 'Only You Can Rock Me' plus he is velvet smooth on 'Love To Love'.

While there may be a few who still harken back to Schenker days for most Vinnie Moore is now entrenched as the UFO guitarist. His guitar tone is sweet, yet powerful when needed; his playing goes from under-stated to outrageously good; and, he manages to perfectly blend the classic sounds with a contemporary feel.

His solo slot was jaw-droppingly good - well paced, perfectly executed and aurally fun to partake in.

Of course the UFO sound is that classic twin-guitar sound, and Paul Raymond riffs along in an almost casual way when he steps away from the keyboards.

Mogg was enjoying himself on stage, his banter (slightly, ahem, slurry banter) was funny, and not the banter of the wannabes who repeat the same schtick night after night. Clearly enjoying the interaction with the audience in between increasingly excellent songs this is one pensioner who shows no signs of slowing down.

'Rock Bottom'? It looks like it will be a long time before UFO hit rock bottom: as they did in 1979 they had Belfast rocking in sheer delight.

Review by Jonny
Photographs by Darren McVeigh of MetalplanetBelfast

ALBUM REVIEW: Crom Dubh go all out on Heimweh

LONDONER'S playing Celtic-tinged black metal...whatever next? Yep, four-piece Crom Dubh have gotten their d├ębut platter on the racks, and you'd swear in parts that the band have emerged from the ancient bogs of Ireland.

And, dear constant reader, if you remember our recent review of the excellent Cave of Swimmers release you will know we have a pretentiousness alarm...and when we read the PR blurb accompanying Crom Dubh's 'Heimweh' release you'll understand that it was blaring at full blast...

Here's a sample: ."...music channels the folk songs of the old world through the eschatological* prism of second-wave black metal and post rock.

"All Crom Dubh lyrics are written and sung by Beonetleah in Old English, Old Norse, and Latin. They are translated into Modern English for the benefit of the modern reader on the album sleeve."
Now, when you read something like that it is hard not to snigger. But that would be unfair - we believe that it is important to give as many releases as we can a good solid listen before judging.

And, to our delight, despite the impenetrable lyrics, there is a lot of good music going on here. 'Sedition' in particular - all eight minutes, 42 seconds of it - stands out. Incessant riffing, an atmospheric feeling that channels the spirit of Thin Lizzy if Darkthrone were covering Lizzy riffs...That sounds weird, but it works.

But, that Celtic sound, and describing themselves as "post-rock" [whatever the fuck post-rock is...] gets in the way. 'Kings II' is a great track, but it is hard to get away from thinking 'Primordial' at times.

When they step away from that template, for example on the title track and 'Sailing to Byzantium' their identity is more distinct.

Having listened more thoroughly to this release several times, we just can't make our minds up. The music is enjoyable, the concept seems sincerely developed, but until we stand in front of them at a live show we'll just say that there are some great tracks on the release, but our pretentiousness alarms are still blaring. For example here's a chunk more of the PR blurb:

"Crom Dubh's debut full-length, 'Heimweh' ('Homesickness'), continues the narrative of the 2010 EP 'Deifr', in which the gathering and dissolution of a great river operated as a metaphor for the rise and fall of nations and civilizations.
"'Heimweh' follows a similar narrative, albeit with a focus on the life of the lone indivi1dual within this tumult, following a traditional cradle-to-grave progression throughout the course of the album that runs parallel to Hesiod's five ages of man. The album handles themes of loss, rootlessness, nostalgia, exile, and death, thinking on the journey ahead and the way home.

"The band explain the main theme of the album:

‘Home-coming’ is one of the most prominent themes in the Western canon, implicit in the Classical and Judaeo-Christian traditions; whether it be the search for a promised land, the promise of an eternal afterlife, Odysseus’s journey to Ithaca, or Oedipus’s ill-starred return to Thebes.

'This governing idea is common to all those who inherited and shaped this tradition (e.g. Virgil, Augustine, Boethius, Dante, Chaucer, Milton) in recorded history, but is probably a deep-time signature that is as old as humans, and part of our survival mechanisms as a species; part of the same instinct that sent us island hopping in the pacific in prehistory, that now drives us to find a new home on a red planet.

'Both horrified and entranced by our inevitable return to dust, our compulsion is to understand the return home in terms of master narratives, misleading though these may be. This impulse is true of individuals, societies, and - since we have begun to understand ourselves on a cosmic scale - our species.

‘Heimweh’ (‘Homesickness’) confronts and embraces this contradictory formula, in a cradle-to-grave narrative following the eternal recurrence of birth, life, death, and rebirth.
"Crom Dubh (pronounced Crom Doo or Crom Doobh) is an Irish harvest god, whose name translates into English as ‘the dark and crooked one’. Crom Dubh is a forgotten god, whose fragmentary identity lingers only as a palimpsest of millennia-old traditions buried by later accretions. Crom Dubh is a potent metaphor for the ancient world swept to the far corners of our everyday experience; a world of awesome and terrible power that most would rather keep hidden from thought and sight."

You know what though....when you read that it is not that daft compared to some prog bands....yep, Heimweh gets a qualified thumbs up from us.

Review by Jonny
 * http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eschatology

EP REVIEW: KLOGR out to Make A Stand on new release

This review first appeared on our partner site www.devilsgatemedia.com
WHERE the hell have this band been hiding? Okay, they may be from a mix of Italy and USA but c'mon, this is the digital age… somebody, somewhere should have been grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and shouting in my ear "Sit down now, and listen to this band!" 

I missed last years Prong tour, where I would have found them all that sooner as support, but at least I now have my sweaty mitts and grateful ears fully focused on this.

This is why I love the job I have. You listen to a lot of music, and bands tend to meld together, and genres overlap to the point you feel you have heard this brand new band before, but sometimes, very rarely, you get blown away.

A smile spreads across your face that you cannot wipe away no matter what you do. Today that is KLOGR. This is the most exciting new band I have heard this year and" Make a Stand" is a brutal slab of metal genius, wrapped up in 3 storming new songs and 10 blistering live tracks.

 Like me, when you find something you like to this extent you will probably dive right in, grab Google by the keyboard and twist every piece of information you can find until you have had your fill. The more I read the more I liked these guys. According to Facebook the band name( Pronounced Kay - log - are) is The law of Weber-Fechner: S = K_log_R. I will not even try and explain that one, as I am still trying to get my head round the whole concept.
They have released two full-length albums, the last being" Black Snow", which is a concept album around an environmental issue. This is something very close to my own heart, and so these guys just took a massive step up in my book.

Now, you could read the above and think, ‘Oh, here we go, some soppy tree-hugging music here, mandolins, flutes and acoustic guitars’, but you could not be further from the truth. This is a beast of a release.
The three studio tracks start with the song " Breaking Down", a machine-gun drum intro that leads to a track which goes across the genres. Serious shredding, in your face vocals, with a killer chorus. This one does not let up or get out of your head. This leads into "Make Your Stand", and take your pick from influences here.
It starts with a chugging Saliva/Megadeth riff that bites, slashes, and burns the eardrums. The vocals veer up and down, and at the high points they reminded me of a little known band of the past, Killer Dwarfs. Again, the guitar is outstanding, and you can see where the comparisons to Mark Tremonti come from.

This band seem to cover all the metal decades as well. We have old school metal, with nu-metal guitars, and all entwined in solid rhythm and a pumping backbeat, which leads us to the final EP track in "Breathing Heart", the best of the bunch, in my opinion, and that is some going.
A slow start with the vocals taking main stage before THAT guitar picks up with some slow, 80's ballad riffage for all of 10 seconds before bursting out and making sounds I do not think I have witnessed before.

After the EP finishes I switch everything off and sit back in wonder at what I have just heard. We have a massive band in the making here. All the ingredients are there, and the only thing I could expect to be a downfall would be not managing to pull it of live but I am just about to find out if that is the case.

The live tracks begin with "Draw Closer" and Rusty letting loose with some profanities so that's another tick in the box. The sound was a bit flaky on this track, but as the tracks progress that is put to right, and "Zero Tolerance" takes that chugging guitar to another level, think Therapy?, early Green Day, Alterbridge or perfect Circle.
This young band slot right in, and the guitar solo on this track is tremendous. I am kicking myself I missed them live and hope it will not be long before they are back.

Although they only have two full-length albums, they have already had another live release, which is very unusual from a band this young, but this obviously shows the maturity and belief they have in themselves and the support they have from the record label.
For me, this is another indication that this band are going to be something special.

As the live tracks pass me by, I realise there are no weak tracks, nothing for me to pick away at.
In fact as the songs progress they get better and stronger. I cannot even pick out highlights due to the quality on show. The vocals are pitch perfect, the guitars spot on and the drums unrelenting. The production is astounding and the band sound as tight as my trousers in the ‘80s!

I am going to be telling everyone to check this band out - simple as that. If you are reading this, get onto their Facebook page, as they have plenty of songs on there to sample.
If you are disappointed, your head is disconnected from your body, you have no ears, or you are a One Direction fan. Now I will leave you as I have two albums to buy….hello Amazon.

Review by Ritchie Birnie

LIVE REVIEW: Skinned lead the charge at extreme metal Warzone Centre bash

AS a form of music the extreme ends of metal - and death metal in particular has the power to frighten the pets and mystify the uninitiated. But aficionados in Belfast at the April 18th Warzone Centre bash saw Yank rockers Skinned roar, ably supported by The Crawling, Wardomized and Zombified.

With a single recently out on Grindscene Records The Crawling are a welcome breath of fetid death as they pour out slowed down death, with groove brought in only when needed - the rest of the time the three-piece grind down listeners with intent to injure the aural tracts of all in attendance.

Warzdomized, on the other hand fall to pieces halfway through their set. Normally they manage to retain some semblance of structure on their blackened thrash, but this time they were two songs in and arrangements and playing fell apart.

Perhaps they were thrown off kilter by the over-enthusiastic crowd response that saw many of the younger participants join the band on stage.

By contrast Zombified are always on their death metal game. From the moment the unearthly voice of Pete Clarke shatters the Belfast air you know Zombified are here to slay.

Cruelly robbed recently of a semi-final slot in a Metal To The Masses heat they are undeterred as the dual guitar attack left many stunned by the ferocity, especially with Jamie and Adrien on top form.

For the majority Skinned were an unknown quantity - but within minutes the band had acolytes across most at the Warzone.

The four-piece (Travis, Erik, Dale and Jonathan) play with a poise that makes their metallic attack all that more deadly.

There is a real sense that as well as immaculate playing the arrangements within each track help enhance the experience.

It was a perfect conclusion to an evening that saw three bands blast apart any preconceptions about the ability of death metal to entertain and engage, and another band fail to realise their potential.

Review by Jonny
Photographs by Darren McVeigh - MetalplanetBelfast

Monday, April 20, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Remarkable release 'Reflection' from Cave of Swimmers

AS a reviewer you have the privilege of receiving a wide selection of albums across a variety of rock/punk/hardcore/metal genres. But there are times when you are downloading/streaming a album and reading the PR blurb causes the inner reviewer 'Pretentiousness Alarm' to sound.

That alarm can be so loud that it either has you laughing aloud, or has you not really give the album a proper listen.

Thus was the case with Cave of Swimmers. However, knowing and respecting the PR who put it in our online inbox we thought about it and gave it another spin...then another spin...and more and more spins.

Since we first gave it a listen barely a day hasn't went by since we have had at least one song off Cave of Swimmers self-released 'Reflection'.

The pretentiousness alarm quit blaring after the second listen, even though song lengths on some tracks are daunting - 'The Skull' clocks in at almost 11 minutes.

If we enjoyed Cave of Swimmers so much, what had set off the alarm? Well when you read the words: "...blend of progressive rock, latin fusion, and even some operatic flair thrown in for good measure" it can leave you a little on edge.
Those words do not even begin to describe the audaciousness of Cave of Swimmers. The riffing and arrangements are jaw-dropping. That just two people can come up with such a varied aural attack is remarkable.

GE Perez (vocals, guitar, synth) and Toro (drums, percussion, backing vocals) on this, their sophomore release produced an album that takes the diverse influences, wrapped them in a delightful musical journey that is simply a joy to behold.

The aforementioned 'The Skull' is definitively epic, while 'Still Running' powers through its 6:45 with poise and the sort of chorus that you know reminds you of 'something else' but 'something good' before a breakdown of latin drumming and a mounting bass line that has you on tenterhooks waiting for the guitar solo.

The PR blurb gives some background to the band's history. It reads: "Originally from Venezuela, GE and Toro have been jamming together in various projects since their teens.

"After making the leap to America, it was a Moog pedal synthesizer that finally drew everything together. Since their first show at the iconic Churchill’s Pub in Miami, they have toured throughout the Eastern region of the US, enjoyed opening slots for national headliners, and developed a very devoted and passionate fan base."

What that doesn't hint at is the sheer quality on this release. Sure, a lot of people won't bother to give it a proper listen, but those that do are going to be hooked.

The title track has a glorious riff, (and occasional nods to Genesis and early Marillion) while 'The Prince of The Power Of The Air' (turn that pretentiousness alarm off now!) has enough variety in its almost 10 full minutes to have listeners going back time and time again to see what bits they might have missed.

The only criticism is that there are only four  - albeit lengthy - songs on the release. At least one more track, please!

Review by Jonny

www.facebook.com/caveofswimmers - album released on 4th May.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Poodles delve into the depths with Devil In The Details

SWEDISH melodic hard rockers The Poodles return with their newest studio release (their sixth in nine years), 'Devil in the Details' and with them about to head out on a European tour with local heroes Maverick it was time to give it a good listen. 

The album starts with two strong hard rock tracks, 'Before i Die' and 'House of Cards'. The former is a Europesque sounding tune with Jakob Samuel sounding slightly like Joey Tempest in parts,with some great guitar sounds and a big chorus.
The latter has a more heavy, sleazy sound with a great hook to it, punchy guitar riffs and melodic verses. It also has probably the best solo on the album by Henrik Bergqvist.

The first single from the album, 'The Greatest', is next up and as a change of pace is a radio friendly pop/rock mid tempo ballad with an infectious beat, strong keyboard and chorus elements and slightly deeper vocals.

'Crack in the Wall' follows with its Euro Symphonic rock vibe including driving beat, repeated riff and chorus throughout and a Spanish guitar bridge into a very tasty, if short,solo. Another strong song on the album.

'(What the Hell) Baby' is next up. "What the hell" sort of sums this up as it's more of a boy band dance song with a bit of techno thrown in for good measure. Depending on musical taste this will be a love it or hate it song but could be used at a tilt at more mainstream chart popularity (and might do very well!)

Thankfully 'Everything' returns things to normality. A melodic mid tempo power ballad/rocker with a huge chorus and obligatory key change. A strong song which will undoubtably be a live favourite.

The strange 'Stop' is next on the agenda. A pop song trying to be a rock song or vice versa? There may have been a Queen influence in certain elements of this song which didn't quite save it. Personal taste required for this one again.

'Need to Believe' has a strong Led Zeppelin influenced riff and back beat (think of a watered down Kashmir), and it is an excellent mid tempo hard rock song and one of the strongest on the album so far.

'Alive' is a typical Euro rocker starting with quite a heavy riff and it has all the elements you would expect with a big chorus sung over another nice piece of work by Bergqvist.

'Life Without You' is the heaviest track on the album and is driven along nicely by the rhythm section of Christian Lindqvist (drums) and Johan Flodqvist (bass). A very good solid hard rock song.

Penultimate song 'Creator and Breaker' could be the soundtrack of a James Bond movie and is an up tempo number with excellent guitar work,bass line and a simple but effective backing vocal which works really well. Possibly the strongest track on the album as it ticks all the boxes for this type of song.

Final track 'Borderline' starts with faded in drums which again has strong verses and chorus. A decent end to the album.

Depending on musical taste this album may hit the spot or miss it completely in parts. It's certainly worth a listen and as the title suggests the Devil, is indeed, in the details.
Review by Andy Gillen

Yes -that's Maverick on tour with The Poodles