Pick Your Rock and Metal

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: WASP wow the Limelight in pure showbusiness style

NEVER mind the overblown stage clothes, never mind the doubts over vocals, never mind the vaudevillian vacuous nature of everything - that all comes to nothing because 17th September WASP were back in Belfast and on top form; c'mon it's motherfucking WASP, it's gonna be fun!

Their loyalty to play all parts of the UK and Ireland is without doubt and the 33 years on the road mean the expectation of a packed audience is always delivered.

However, that cannot be said about The Treatment. Competent and with the tunes that should please instead it was marred by the constant cajoling for the crowd to applaud and shout. And, what's with the fashionista hair styles?

There may only be two members of the original line-up but the musical soul of the band is intact. Tunes such as 'The Doctor' 'Bloodsucker' and 'I Bleed Rock 'n' Roll' are catchy, riff packed hard rock. They have an undoubted stage presence, but by just throttling down a bit it could have been more enjoyable.

When they next play Belfast it is sure that they will have gained more fans, but on 17th September they seemed to forget that many were getting the beers in preparation for WASP.

Blackie first brought the LA madness to Belfast in the mid-1980s, and has consistently returned with various incarnations. A sold-out Limelight1 roared approval when the band came on stage; echoes of past glories washed away into a deliver of where WASP are in 2015.

The energy of songs such as 'Inside The Electric Circus' and 'L.O.V.E. Machine' are contagious as the audience sang almost every word and shouted themselves hoarse on every chorus.

Four songs in a storming version of The Who's 'The Real Me' took the energy levels up another proverbial notch.

With the new album 'Golgotha' about to be released lead single 'Last Runaway' received a solid response and the large screens flanking the stage showcased creativity in terms of a stage show.

But one obvious drawback was the breaks the band took, such as for 'The Titanic Overture', which brook up the intensity of the set and caused mounting queues at the bar...

With the title track of the new album played Blackie's overt Christianity is once again on display - while the days of 'Animal' and exploding cod pieces are well in the past no-one seems to mind this change.

Certainly by the time of the encore the audience was hanging on every note of Doug Blair's playing and every gesture of Blackie. His propensity to turn his back on the crowd at times was perplexing, as was his movement away from the mic during 'Wild Child's chorus; but all that came to nowt as the audience roared to both 'Wild Child' and 'I Wanna Be Somebody'.

When WASP come to town it is a reminder that great songs, great stage show and great audience response makes a helluva metal show. It was not perfect, but it was a super night.

Review by Jonny
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
No reproduction of text or photos without permission

ALBUM REVIEW: Annihilator slay on Suicide Society

THERE is no doubting Jeff Waters ability as a guitarist - he's amongst the top in the thrash genre ad the wider metal scene; all of which makes it a crying shame that his band, Annihilator have never attained the heights of success they deserve.

However, there is a hard core set of fans who remain devoted to the Canadian crew. And, they, as well as many more we hope, are set to be slayed by the latest release 'Suicide Society'.

Fans of classic thrash will suffer from neck ache when they play this album. Second track 'My Revenge' has echoes of 'Tallica's Whiplash: relentless riffing but also with a measured mid-section that slows down to offer an explanatory lyric and tight soloing.

And while the comparisons to thrash and later metal are obvious (at times Waters - back on lead vocal duties - sounds remarkably like Mustaine) it should be noted that this is the Canuck band's 15th studio album. They were there in the late 1980s and early 1990s when metal was allegedly being killed by dance, trance and grunge. It couldn't be killed.

That's not to say that Annihilator are just a one trick thrash pony. 'Snap' take the grunge template, does away with the over-blown angst and self reflection and turns it into a track about anger and rage about to be unleashed with melodic parts that will have even the most reluctant fan singing along.

Mike Harshaw has been in the band for four years, and he has real impact on this release. Waters always chooses the style of drumming he wants during pre-production as he has said in interviews with this site and others; using software to match styles to songs; but that means Harshaw has a challenge to interpret this. on 'Creeepin' Again' this is pulled off in remarkable fashion.

That track also showcases the real strength of this album. If you think of the likes of 'Escape' from 'Tallica's Ride the Lightning this album takes the thrash template, adds melodic choruses and then brings the whole sound kicking and screaming from the 1980s into 2015.

Album closer 'Every Minute' is the neo-classic thrash power ballad, with that subtle opening that is there to soften you up before the brutality is brought upon the listener.

On the surface it would be easy to take 'Suicide Society' as just 'another' release trying to regain the heady times when the burgeoning scene was taking metal and the mainstream in a drunken haze of aggression and angry teens; but the release is more than that...

This is a balanced exposition of metal performances and song writing; exemplary playing aside it is a cohesive release that should have heads nodding across the world.

Review by Jonny
Suicide Society is on UDR Music and is now available in all formats   
Annihilator are today (September) embarking on a European tour with Aussie thrashers Harlot. They play Dublin tomorrow (October 1st) before a lengthy haul across the continent - make sure you catch this tour!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

COMIN' ATCHA: Clashes, gigs and more: Beholder, Ricky Warwick, Bullet for My Valentine, Paradise Lost and much more

THERE are those that bemoan the fact that many tours bypass Northern Ireland; for example the Hardcore Superstar/Michael Monroe UK and Europe tour announced yesterday. However, with such a feast of acts already penciling in Belfast dates there are rich delights for rock and metal fans.

And we say that with total confidence after The Distortion Project confirmed Overkill's Belfast date on April 9th.

But ahead of that we have a week ahead packed with much fun and frolics for fans. Look no further than Thursday when the mighty Beholder roll into town. Their Limelight2 show will see Simon and co rock the foundations in Ormeau Avenue after Sinocence and By Any Means shake your fillings loose.
On the same night Heart of a Coward are playing the Voodoo with support from By Conquest of Consent.

If you want to mellow out and relive a guilty pleasure, on Friday Wheatus' show has been upgraded from Limelight2 to Limelight1. They'll be playing all that album in full; you know the one about Iron Maiden tickets (although we refute the idea that it is only teenage dirtbags who have the issues referred to in the song).

Saturday, it's always a good bet you'll wend your way up to the Diamond Rock Club a fair amount of Saturdays in a year: this coming Saturday Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson will be returning for more rock, supported by the Acoustic Outlaws (that is the Gasoline Outlaws without amps).

Sunday sees Rich Robinson - ex of the Black Crowes - play The Empire Music Hall with a selection of solo tunes and BC standards.

Mondays are crap, right? Wrong! This coming Monday is the second of the big gig clashes of the autumn. In the red corner, weighing in at an impressive mighty dose of doom we have Paradise Lost and Lucifer in Limelight1. In the blue corner, weighing in with contemporary metal fandom we have Bullet for My Valentine in the Ulster Hall.

Who will win out? Well we hope it is a draw with equally packed venues. Tickets are still available for both shows, but if you're under 18 the Bullet show is your only option. [BTW - if you caught the Editor's show on Belfast Underground TV on Saturday past you'll know that Lucifer are going to blow your ears off...]

Now is that enough to wrap up September?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NEWS: Making Monsters score Fightstar support slot

LONDONDERRY noiseniks Making Monsters have landed a nine-date UK tour support slot with Fightstar.

The four-piece are warming up with seven shows in Ireland and Northern Ireland. These include a show in QUB Bar Sub on 9th October and two shows in one day in Derry on then 10th October.

One is a Trash all ages slot and then concluding with a show in Sandinos.

Cork, Dublin, Omagh and Portrush make up the rest of the headlining tour before they head off to hook up with Fightstar on the 17th October.

Fightstar are returning to the stage for the first time since they took a break in 2010 and will be releasing their new album 'Behind the Devil's Back' the day before the tour kicks off.

Making Monsters said they were "extremely pleased" to snag the tour:

"It's our first time back in the mainland since November last year," the band said in a statement. "We can't wait; we have plenty of new material to début!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Def Leppard set to release a new album ahead of tour - and it's called...Def Leppard!

MANY, many years ago the Ulster Hall in Belfast resounded with one of the most remarkable gigs as Def Leppard kicked off their Pyromania tour just as 'Photograph' was storming the charts. They even ranked it as one of the top 10 gigs of all time.

Now, many, many years later Def Leppard are coming back as part of a tour backing their eleventh studio album, called simply 'Def Leppard'. Yeah, they must have been up all night thinking of that one...

The band play the SSE Arena, Belfast on 7th December as part of a tour package that includes Whitesnake and Black Star Riders.

The new Lepps release is officially released on 27th November, but as has become fashionable of late the UK CD fanpack is being released as part of a Classic Rock magazine 'special' with all the bells
and whistles on 30th October.

The last time out Def Leppard's average 'Songs From The Sparkle Lounge' the promise from the band is "instant hooks" from the lead-off single 'Let's Go' to tracks such as the promised "anthemic" 'Sea of Love" and acoustic 'Battle of My Own'.

This is a 14 track release that wasn't intended to be an album as Joe Elliot explained.

"We got together to see what we had with maybe putting out a three track EP in mind," said Elliot. "All of a sudden we had 12 songs on the go, and two more would come just a few weeks later.

"It's the first album we've ever made with deal in place and no one looking over our shoulders so the freedom was immense and I think you can hear it in the songs."

The elusive deal came thanks to earMUSIC, part of EdelGmbH.

The aforementioned fanpack is a 116-page mag, a bonus track, art and interviews as well as a key ring and 'stuff'. The price tag? £15.99. To tempt fans to pre-order there is a window sticker and a chance to win tickets to be on the four-night Def Leppard cruise from Miami. Even us cynics are tempted by that!

While we ponder listening to classic rock vibes in the sunshine, sipping cold beer here's the tracklisting for Def Leppard.

1. Let's Go
2. Dangerous
3. Man Enough
4. We Belong

5. Invincible
6. Sea Of Love
7. Energized
8. All Time High
9. Battle Of My Own
10. Broke 'N' Brokenhearted
11. Forever Young
12. Last Dance
13. Wings Of An Angel
14. Blind Faith

ALBUM REVIEW: Suddenly it all makes sense on Ghetika's A Monster In Mourning

EXTREME metal and concept albums - a dichotomy surely; yet Ghetika manage to pull it off in a weird, yet beautiful album which explores the outer realms of acceptability.

Here in the 21st Century it is rare that one finds a self-released album of such intensity and passion than that released by Ghetika - an English band that have produced a revelatory piece of metal.

This release came out of left-field and it has been out on release for a number of weeks - weeks that we took to assess what it is all about.
The musicianship is outstanding with 'One Night:Seven Sins' and the previously released - and now re-recorded 'Stack the Pyres' among the tracks that stand out.

Producer Owen Davies has captured an esoteric extreme metal sound, when mush of what is going on could easily have been lost.
But the reality of a concept album is that it must have an inner core as well as the deeper meanings. That inner core is where the music compliments the theme that it is almost onomatopoeic in places, something which is evident on the title track 'A Monster In Mourning' as vocalist Anthony Knight explained:

"'A Monster In Mourning' is the title of one of the album tracks and we felt that this song summed up the whole concept of the story. One of the main characters has a fairly monstrous reputation, yet within the lyrics and the story you get to see why he's become the way he is and even get to see things from his point of view; see that he's filled with remorse and tormented by his conscience. So naming the album after this track, and with reference to this character in particular, just made sense."

"As we'd agreed that this would be a concept album following a story from start to finish, we had to work quite differently to how we usually would; for a start I had to come up with some 'working track titles' to give a feel for each stage/chapter of the story - this helped Scott and Topher in writing riffs that would suit the feel of each track."

That 'feel' is something that gels the album together, whether it be the tale of a massacre at a masquerade ball (The Massquerade) or the high concept of the back story behind a monster. A definite grower and a definite high standard release from Ghetika

Review by Jonny

COMIN' ATCHA: Gunzo, WASP, The Amorettes and Danko Jones

THIS week sees a veritable plethora of rock and metal storming into Belfast with four acts that prove that the city is still one of the preferred destinations for proper music, not the U2 and boy band nonsense that clogs up the mainstream media.

First up tomorrow (Wednesday) at Voodoo is Gunzo. Who you ask? Well none other than Tracii Guns of LA Guns and Rudi Sarzo, who as aficionados will know has played bass with such rock luminaries as Ozzy, Dio and Whitesnake.

Support for the four-piece Gunzo playing in Belfast’s comes from Stone Trigger and Cross Eyed Mary.

Once you’ve got your fill of hits such as Ballad of Jayne, Rainbow in the Dark, Sex Action and many more catch a breath, because on Thursday Mr Blackie Lawless rolls into town once again with metal warriors WASP.

This Limelight1 show promises to be one of the highlights of the year as the band prepares to release their new album Golgotha in two weeks time.

Lead single ‘Scream’ from that album had its début NI play on the Belfast Metal slot on Belfast Underground TV last week and if you missed it we can tell you that you are in for a treat.

Take a few hours to recover on Friday, because you’ll need it on Saturday. You’ll have some time to compose yourself between noon and 2pm as the Belfast Metal show is back on Belfast Underground TV with local, national and international artists to bring metal to the children and the unwashed...

Come Saturday evening the Limelight throws open its doors to a duo of acts on the one bill well worth watching. Making their third visit to NI in a year are The Amorettes. If you caught them previously you’ll know it’s worth getting down early for this three-piece.

Once you’ve been suitably warmed up then Canuck guitar legend Danko Jones will hit the stage with a show guaranteed to be chock full of riffs, hooks and humour.

That’s the next few days sorted out then!

Monday, September 14, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: It might be called Abysmal but The Black Dahlia Murder are anything but

THEY are amongst the most revered of extreme metal acts, and they have delivered consistently since they formed and in 2013 The Black Dahlia Murder released the outstanding 'Everblack', an album of fierce intent and outstanding ferocity. Now, in 2015 can they top that?

Sit down, source your inner metal demon and listen to 'Abysmal' - one of the most ferocious, yet balanced extreme metal albums in a long, long time. Raw, angry and perfect to rip up lifetimes of pretentious shit you have had to put up with.

The title track alone will induce neck ache as you impulsively bang your head and cause jaw ache as you try to comprehend what The Black Dahlia Murder have achieved here.

"Once the record started to come together we knew it was going to be something special," said vocalist Trevor Strnad.

"It's more urgent, it has more dynamics, it's a more emotive record, and it has a more raw, angry sound to it. It's still million mile-per-hour death metal, but when you invest so much thought and emotion into what you're creating you end up with a record that does stand out, and we can hold our heads up high and say yeah, this is our best work."
This really is 100% melodic death metal, ferocity married with a sense of what can be achieved through arrangements and balanced guitar and rhythm work. But that is not to say that the band has remained shackled by past glories.

"I still love Everblack and everything we achieved when touring it, and in fact going into that record we faced a massive challenge in following up Ritual (2011), which had also been huge for us," said Strnad.  "Having two records in a row connect with fans in such a way was amazing, but definitely piled on the pressure going into this new one, because we don't want to let them down, and we don't want to let ourselves down. But we learned a lot in making those two records, and we brought that into Abysmal.

"We know we can take people's heads off playing super fast, but that doesn't always give listeners something to really chew on. We've learned to focus on creating some drama, interesting dynamics, and most importantly really investing time in thinking about how different parts of songs will make you feel." 

We have to confess when we read the PR blurb and quotations like those above our initial response was that cynical Northern Ireland "Aye, dead on!" In this case we were wrong, because this is an album that has sheer brutality in every aspect of its songs.

The likes of 'The Fog' and 'Threat Level Number Three' show case the type of metal that needs - yes needs - a wider listenership.

Drummer Alan Cassidy, who joined the band in 2013 combines with Max Lavelle (bass) to give it a live vibe that some had doubted the band could ever achieve again.

Brian (Eschbach, guitar) performs at a level that TBDM have always promised and taken that to the next level in combination with Ryan Knight's six string heroics. The level of riffing is at times extraordinary. Check out the opening of 'Asylum' and pick your jaw off the floor.

What makes Knight's work all the more impressive is that for every shred there is subtlety that harkens back to the NWOBHM.

Just as Everblack tested the boundaries of blasphemy this time out lyrically they challenge perceptions of an afterlife - and the current age - by exploring hell on literal and metaphorical terms. In this sanatised society which other genre would tackle the topic of the issues facing a rapist/molester -  chemically castrated - talking to his inner demons as he tries to assimilate back into the real world. This is uncomfortable listening, but it is a societal issue that the 'talking heads' chatter about while the tabloids pontificate about.

Hell is not a one-dimensional Biblical story here - hell is a complicated personal journey and a phantasmagorical fantasy landscape. 'Vlad, Son Of The Dragon' touches on the Stoker tale of Dracula, while recalling the brutal history of Vlad The Impaler.

But, amidst this controversial back drop there is a defiance, a fuck you attitude, a stand that says we are who we are. Closer 'That Cannot Die Which Eternally Is Dead' is a single finger salute to the doubters: it's a declaration that this band are going to keep on delivering and keep on the metal path.

What impresses more is the very sound - no sampling, no over dubs, no post-production pissing about. This is metal as it should be - people playing metal and playing it with an intensity that deserves listening to.

At this stage in the game, with typically modest aspirations, Strnad is more interested in maintaining their longevity than shifting records, and if the band never gets any bigger than they are right now he will "die happy a hundred times over". However, this does not mean there is anything even vaguely resembling an end in sight. "We're still young at heart and I feel like the evolution of the band still has a long way to go. I don't see a ceiling on what we can do, and there will be no end. It's just going to be a constant ongoing fight to make better music and be a better band, and it's always going to be time to kick ass."

If this is what The Black Dahlia Murder can achieve in 2015 we cannot wait until the next 10 years of this band.
Review by Jonny
The Black Dahlia Murder release Abysmal on Metal Blade Records on 18th September

ALBUM REVIEW: Harlott huff and puff but get there in the end on Proliferation

THRASH has been undergoing something of a revival of late, with both the old guard and newer band releasing material and touring. But has it all got a bit stale?

Unless you are an unremitting devotee of all thrash there seems to be a lot of ‘same-ness’ about a lot of releases; and on first listen to Aussie thrashers Harlott’s latest release, ‘Proliferation’, it came across as a bit ‘so what?’

But as with all albums there is a general need to give them a few spins to get hold of what the totality of the sound is.

From the off this is a straightforward, heads down thrash release, which has a wee bit of huffing and puffing before getting some tunes that make you listen that bit closer such as ‘Restless’. All of which makes the slightly predictable ‘The Fading Light’ that bit more disappointing.

There is nothing per se wrong with the song, but the attempt to mix Slayer, Exodus and time changes makes it sound like a thrash mélange.

In contrast ‘Lord of War’ has more identity –heads down riffs, severe pace and no fuss, despite the typical lyrical thrash theme about the end of the world.

Where some bands pull this off, too often it is a well worn path; but then again while there are moments to smile at few can equal the humour of Gama Bomb in thrash.

Overall it would have been easy to brush this Metal Blade release, but it works on two levels: it is an album for both classic and new thrash fans; and given the ‘proliferation’ of genres and sub-genres this is an ‘honest’ metal release.

The twin guitar attack of Hudson (vocalist) and Butler works well, especially on ‘Hellbent’ and ‘Legion’, but it is Richards (bass) and Joyce (drums) who really drive this release. Set aside the speed and the time changes they play with a sense of purpose. ‘Hellbent’ showcases that you can play fast and furious and still have rhythmic intensity.

Leaving aside some of the more mundane elements Harlott have produced an enjoyable thrash release, deserving more than a passing listen.

Review by Jonny

Harlott release Proliferation on Metal Blade 18th September and join Annihilator on their European tour

Expanding the horizons - Belfast Metal show on Belfast Underground TV/Radio

WE'RE always up for new things - as some of you may know our head hitter (a.k.a editor) Jonny contributes to other sites (including RockradioNI and Devils Gate Media) as well as writing other 'stuff'

As if he hasn't enough to do, he's now signed up to Belfast Underground TV/Radio to present a regular two-hour slot playing rock and metal to the unwashed around the world.

Broadcast from a specially built studio within Belfast Underground Records (which has an impressive array of metal vinyl so far!) there are cameras dotted around the studio so you have the dubious pleasure of seeing our editor act the proverbial eejit (which will come as no surprise to most of you!).

On Saturday last there was a 15-minute for the launch; coming after a soft jazz deejay we're not sure what listeners made of WASP, Sinocence and The Black Dhalia Murder...

This coming Saturday there will be a two-hour Belfast Metal set, starting at noon. Tune in and be prepared for an eclectic mix of local, national and international rock and metal madness.

Local bands who specifically want to have tracks aired can hit Jonny up on with PMs to his Facebook page, or DMs on his Twitter feed.

There are further plans in development, and he assures us his commitment to this site, RockradioNI, Devils Gate Media remain undiminished even if his colleagues who contribute to this site have warned him that the 28-hour day and eight day week exist in his mind not in reality...

After all this week sees Gunzo, WASP, and Danko Jones with support from The Amorettes too...

Friday, September 11, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Frank Iero greets his adoroing Belfast fans...our reviewer may be one of those fans too!

 WHEN former My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero announced a UK headline tour last year with his latest project Frnkiero andthe Cellabration there was a collective squeal of excitement from his UK fans, and a whimper of disappointment from those on this side of the Irish Sea.

Happily, on the back of his appearance at Reading and Leeds Festivals this year he set that wrong to right by setting aside time to visit Belfast and Dublin. With the first Belfast date selling out in minutes, a second date was inevitable, with Iero graciously giving up his day off to accommodate.

And so, September 1st, 2015 forever known as 'Frank Iero Day' to his adoring fans in Belfast – dawned bright and, rather astonishingly, dry, as said fans gathered in Castlecourt shopping centre to watch as Iero and two of his band played a hastily arranged acoustic set in Head Records, with some queueing since the centre opened at 9am 

Joining the queue we soon found ourselves in the novel position of talking to some Scottish fans who had travelled over for all three gigs it's usually the other way around for Belfast music fans, right?!

At (sort of) 3 o'clock the shutters finally went up and the 150 or so people lucky enough to get a ticket squeezed into the tiny shop, to be met with an unforgettable if slightly incongruous sight: the man himself squished into the display window of Head, eventually standing so more people could see him.

It seemed to come as quite a surprise to him that the place was so packed, judging by the widened eyes and "holy shit!" that fell from his lips when he turned around. Playing a jaunty cover of The Ramones 'Rockaway Beach' to warm up really piqued the fans' excitement they got a round of applause for simply tuning their instruments!

Finally turning to address the crowd, Iero greets everyone, confesses that the guitars are rented (!) and tells us that there's no microphones ("so don't talk haha"), before dedicating first song 'She's the Prettiest Girl At the Party, and She Can Prove It With a Solid Right Hook' to loved ones. The song itself sounds unexpectedly tender and yearning in acoustic form, with Iero singing in a higher key to match the softer style.

He plays standing side on with his eyes closed in a manner that long time fans have come to recognise. It's the only time he seems in any was bashful, however; when speaking to the audience he is warm, kind and even playful. This is a far more relaxed Frank Iero than in the dying days of MCR.

'Tragician' is next, which has a rather folky, troubadour vibe to it in this format it's almost like watching a really talented busker at times. Before the last song he asks if everyone is going to the gig tonight, and expresses his sorrow to a girl at the front who missed out on a ticket. But wait! Another girl further back has a spare ticket, so they arrange to meet up to pass it on. It's a lovely moment which has Iero beaming with approval.

He wraps up with clear crowd favourite 'Joyriding', with its intriguing mix of jaunty music and deeply personal lyrics. The mainly young girls in the crowd partly overcome their shyness to participate in a rather timid singalong, which is rather sweet. And then it's all over bar the queueing (again), this time for an autograph. Iero is gracious and friendly, staying until every last fan has received a hello and a coveted signature, even though time is creeping rapidly towards his gig at Bar Sub. A true gentleman.

Seven pm, and essentially the same crowd as earlier is out the front of Bar Sub in Queen's student union. Most were here last night, several will travel to Dublin for the last show of this Irish tour.

By the time local noisemakers Axis Of hit the stage at 7.45pm, the bijou room is pretty damn full and almost unbearably hot. Such is the fervour of the audience that they welcome the band with teen-screamy appreciation and palpable excitement.

They play a half hour set of perky, upbeat rock, with guitarist Niall and bassist Ewen trading lead vocal duties and harmonising breezily. It's infectious and toe-tapping stuff, with jaunty guitar solos and multiple hand-clappy segments. Ewen in particular holds the crowd in the palm of hand effortlessly, with some witty crowd interaction.

Set highlight is the singalong monster 'All My Bones', a real stomper of a number with 'crowd pleaser' written all over it. They have a quirky vibe to them, reminiscent of Biffy Clyro or Twin Atlantic, and like those bands they sing in their local accent, which is refreshing and instantly likeable.

With the crowd nicely warmed up there's an impatient 45 minute wait until 9pm, when the house lights suddenly dim and a thrilled scream goes up. The Cellabration appear onstage, followed by Iero. He steps up to the mike, utters the words "hello friends" - and the place explodes as they launch into 'All I Want Is Nothing', to which the crowd sings along ecstatically.

The entire set is crammed with bounce, verve and energy; this is the exuberant Frank from the early days of MCR and even Pencey Prep. Apart from his ingrained habit of singing with his eyes closed, he is warm and enthusiastic, addressing the crowd often and delighting them all by saying how glad he is to finally be in Belfast.

Roaring through tracks from the band's debut album '.stomachaches.', he dedicates 'Joyriding' to the fans and whips out Leathermouth's 'Sunsets Are For Muggings', as well as a rambunctious cover of The Ramones 'Rockaway Beach' (definitely not acoustic this time!), and the band's first ever song they wrote (an instrumental) to commemorate them hitting their first anniversary a few days prior.

This is Frank Iero at his punk rock best: screaming, flailing about the stage melded to his guitar, uttering searingly personal lyrics with fire and passion. The audience simply lap it up, singing along with almost evangelical devotion and leaping around like they're on pogo sticks. The bulk of them know every last word and nuance of the often awkward yet effortlessly catchy songs. Iero acknowledges their support, urging everyone to "stay real" and looking genuinely chuffed at the response he's getting.

Highlights? Too many to mention, but the rough and tumble of 'Weighted' gets the crowd really bouncing, whilst heartfelt final number 'Stage 4 Fear Of Trying', featuring Iero standing onstage with just his guitar, had several girls weeping quietly at the maudlin beauty of it. Sigh...

And so 'Frank Iero Day' ended in Belfast, leaving behind a trail of streaked eyeliner and sweaty, contented fans in its wake. Based on the ecstatic response to this visit, it's not unreasonable to hope that Mr Iero comes back soon in the form of whichever project that this prolific and talented musician chooses. That truly would be cause for 'Cellabration'...

Review by Melanie Brehaut

All I Want Is Nothing

This Song Is a Curse

Blood Infections


Old Intro

Sunsets Are For Muggings (Leathermouth song)

Rockaway Beach (Ramones cover)

She's the Prettiest Girl At the Party, and She Can Prove It With a Solid Right Hook

Smoke Rings



New Intro/Guilttripping



Where Do We Belong? Anywhere But Here

Stage 4 Fear of Trying

INTERVIEW: Frank Iero sits down to recap on his post-MCR

FORMER My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero's latest project FrnkIero andthe Cellabration has proven highly popular with both old fans and new. His decision to bring the band to Belfast was met with jubilance amongst those fans, who have been waiting a long time to see him back on Northern Irish soil.

Melanie Brehaut sat down with Iero just prior to his sold out gig in Bar Sub to chat about our fair city, endings and beginnings, and his constant need to create music.

Welcome to Belfast!
Thank you!

I believe this is your first time here since 2007?
Wow! Really???

2007 was The Black Parade, in November.
Alright. I know we it probably wasn't Belfast we played a festival but I think it was in Dublin. That was the last Irish shows that I remember doing. And that was probably...2011 maybe, something like that. Jeez. It's been too long!

Uh huh! Have you had a chance to look around at all?
Last night's show was amazing. We had a little bit of time to look around today: a friend of mine from Axis Of, his father is an artist an he has a a gallery opening across the street which was beautiful, so I got to see that. And I walked around town a little bit. It's weird; originally we were to do Reading and Leeds and then our day off was supposed to be here, yesterday, and we were supposed to see all the sights and then play tonight and tomorrow (in Dublin). But the show sold out so quickly, it was like "add another, add another".

So much for days off!
Yeah! (laughs).

Does it make a difference when you travel with a smaller entourage? Do you get more spare time?
(Laughs) Um, I think it's about the same. We like to keep it kinda, y'know, just family (laughs) which is nice! Eddie likes to have a bit more help (gestures to musicians sitting behind us), but...(laughs).

What was the thinking behind just coming over for Irish dates this time?
The idea behind that was, basically we had wanted to do it on our headline run (last year). But the start date of the tour was I think, like, two days after my son's birthday. So in order to add that it's like you have to add at least a week, basically, with set up and travel time. And we were on tour before that and then we were supposed to have, like, ten days off. It whittled down to five, and then to do that (add Irish dates) it would have just meant we had nothing. So I was like, "well, we just can't do it". And so when we got asked to do Reading and Leeds it was just perfect it was like, now we can finally do the Irish shows.

Let's talk about 'stomachaches' for just a minute. There's some quite personal lyrics on the album. Did you ever think you'd be singing them to people, or was it more of a private, cathartic thing?
(Laughs) Never! Oh man. Yeah, no, never. That was never the intent; the intent was just to write these songs for myself it was very selfish. I wanted to document the time that I was writing them and just hold onto it forever, kinda thing, and maybe show my friends or kids somewhere down the line. But then before I knew it, my friend asked me to play it for him, or asked what I had been up to and I played it for him, and then he convinced me to play it for other people...and now it's crazy. I mean some of those lines...oh man, y'know? (laughs). And it's weird to have those sung back to you, when they were written in the most private of times. It's nice, though, it really is. It was nerve-racking right before the release, and every night it's still a bit nerve-racking. But I think it's going to be a strange process to do another record because now I know people are going to hear it. So I wonder what that's going to be like if I'm going to edit.

A different frame of mind?
Yeah, y'know? My world's a lot different now too, so regardless, I think it's going to be a different process and outcome. But I don't know what the editing process is going to be like. I hope I don't ruin it (laughs).

So is writing a necessary thing for you? Sort of a compulsion?
Yeah. I create because I need to create, as opposed to thinking about what, down the line, the aftermath's going to be. I hardly ever do that. I probably should start thinking less shortsightedly, but I just need to keep making things. A couple of years ago I thought "my creative side and my real life side are two different things". And I found out that they were so intertwined that it wasn't even funny. In order to be the person I want to be happy, keeping that keel, that level I need to be creatively satisfied.

If I could ask you briefly about your former band (My Chemical Romance)?


What was your overriding emotion whenever you split? Did it tend more towards relief or sadness?
I think the immediate feeling is sadness, you get that mourning period right? And then you start to realise that "Oh no! This is for the best because it HAS to be". And you look back and realise that it is a relief. So you go back and forth, I think. But it's like everything: it's hard to see chapters come to an end until you realise that it's so that other windows can open, or just that it needs to be done.

Did you start creating music straight away, or was there a bit of down time for you?
No, it was so seamless. I think even while My Chem were still together we were doing Deathspells stuff (another project of Iero's). It just keeps going and going and going.

Is it strange to go back to the start again? Smaller venues, smaller crowds?
No, no!

Is that more your comfort zone?
Yeah, I think...I've done so many projects, even simultaneously, that it's a continuation of what I do. So that just feels natural. I think it felt unnatural to be in bigger venues. That's the only time I felt like I didn't belong.

Is there anything you miss about being in MCR?
No. It would be different if it wasn't such a large chunk of your life. We did so much, y'know? Things that I never even knew that I wanted to do! So I feel...complete on it. I don't miss anything.

So what was the first music that you heard that you really connected with; that there was that 'click' in your head?
Jeez, um...I've been around music for so long my dad played, my grandfather played it was just always there. So I feel like there was different connections, there was stuff I really liked. But I didn't find that kinship until I heard punk rock. That really opened the door where it was like "oh! I can do this too!" kinda thing. Before it was always I loved the blues, I love old rock n roll like Sixties soul and stuff like that, but that didn't feel tangible to me. It was stuff that my dad played, and stuff that I really enjoyed, but he was...it's weird. He was a musician and my grandfather was a musician, and they went out and and gigged and played with all these different people. But I always wanted to just be in bands. I didn't see myself jumping from project to project or just showing up and being like "we're just going to play the standards tonight". That never felt like the life for me. But when I heard kids playing music for kids, and playing in VFW halls and things like that, that blew my mind I was like "now I get it! I can do this, and I can do this with my friends, and I can do it on my terms".

Last question: do you have any plans for your musical future, or are you more of a 'wing it' kinda guy?
(Laughs) I feel like if I had plans I would be disappointed when they didn't come true, to what I see in my head. I have ideas: I have a lot of songs in my head I'd like to get them out; I feel very crowded right now and I'm having a hard time concentrating on one single thing! But I know that I need to go home in order to finish it. I can start many things, and I can say 'yes' to many things while I'm on the road, but I cant see them through until I'm actually home. So there's ideas, but I don't know if there's plans.

Alright, well thank you!
Oh it was my pleasure, thank you!


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Thundermother remind us all that rock'n'roll is meant to be fun on Road Fever

REMEMBER the days when you went to a hard rock show and had fun? Not just the beer-fuelled variety, but full-on, jaws wide open in a smile, nodding head type fun.

No pretensions, no bull shit - just riffs, hooks, melodies to singalong to, solos and fists punching the air. Thundermother deliver that type of fun on their second release 'Road Fever'.

This five-piece rock sisterhood serve up all the ingredients that make hard rock such a fun genre, all the while acknowledging their predecessors. This release draws on the halcyon days of AC/DC, Motorhead as Claire Cunningham delivers a vocal that has Joan Jett and Lita Ford forced to re-assess their place in the female vocalist pantheon.

The fact that they are all ladies in this band is beside the point, as is best epitomised on the album opener 'It's Just A Tease' on which lead guitarist Filippa Nässil lets rip throughout. But the line that sums up the attitude of Thundermother is on the track. It says: "just because I'm wearing a skirt doesn't mean I want more than a flirt".

Yes, the band know that the majority of their audience is male, and appreciate that the less-evolved of the gender will ogle rather than listen. Those that listen, really listen will be well-rewarded by this unity of purpose; as the album closer 'Rock 'n' Roll Sisterhood' epitomises.

This is a release chock full of hard rockin' tracks that will simply leave you grinning from ear-to-ear.

Giorgia Carteria's rhythm guitar rolls along in a riff tornado of tempos such as on the ode to tattooing 'Thunder Machine'.

Anchoring the entire album are Linda Ström (bass) and Tilda Stenqvist (drums), as on display on the mid-paced 'Vagabond'.

Throughout 'Road Fever' Thundermother lay down the rock gospel with style and substance that would shame many of their contemporaries.

'FFWF', 'Deal With The Devil', 'Roadkill' etcetera, etcetera, the tunes keep coming and the grin keeps getting wider with every listen.

This is a party recorded for your listening delight -  an album that will have you cracking open a beer and singing along - no matter what your gender.

Review by Jonny

Monday, September 07, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Pop punk swerve mars Backyard Babies sound return on ‘Four By Four’

THEY’VE had a break for just five years, and now Backyard Babies are back with the proverbial curate’s egg of a release on ‘Four By Four’ on Gain Music good in parts and mystifying in others.

Releasing any album after a lengthy break is always a risk, especially with a fan base that looks back to previous songs. And, the Backyard Babies have six albums worth of material to live up to.

Not that those albums were consistently good, but the Swedish four-piece had enough of a back catalogue of excellent hard rock tunes to have a fist pumping crowd gather when they played.

On Four By Four they strive to rekindle those fires and mostly achieve that, but the curious duo of songs, ‘Piracy’ and ‘Never Finish Anything’ sound like out-takes from some middle-America pop punk wannabes.

Thankfully the rest of the album is more palatable for those who like their hard rock on the raucous side. Opener, a lead single ‘Th1rt3en or Nothing’ kicks things into high gear, followed by the not-so-modest ‘I’m On My To Save Your Rock ‘n’Roll’.

The promise of a return to the halcyon says of Peder Carlsson, Johan Blomquist, Dregen and Nicke Borg seems fulfilled, until the saccharine schamltz of ‘Bloody Tears’ serves as a warning before the pop punk flavoured duo mentioned above.

Where that incorporation of pop punk elements does work is on ‘Wasted Years’ which has the hooks of the better bands of that justly maligned genre.

But album closer is the validation for all that has gone before. ‘Walls’ has the slowed down swagger of Duff McKagan’s Loaded at its best; driven along by a bass line, and a well balanced arrangement and a storming mid-section.

The band certainly sound confident about this release

"We really feel that our time out will end up being a win-win situation for both the band and our fans," said Nicke Borg. "The break has developed us individually as songwriters and musicians, and we’ve come up with what we feel is our strongest material to date.
"For the first time, we’ve had the chance to look back on our catalogue and get a firm grip on why our audience and ourselves, for that matter loves Backyard Babies so fucking much! So it's been a mixture of personal development and finding our way back to the band’s essence, its energies..."

Reading quotations like this on the PR blurb that accompanies releases always gives one time to pause and reflect on a release. Despite the reservations there is sufficient weight on display to suggest that Backyard Babies can further develop. The closing riffs on ‘Walls’ suggest they can find their way back to the armies wanting to save rock 'n' roll.

Review by Jonny