Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, October 30, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Turn it up with Skindred on Volume

WALES - land of leeks, rugby, dragons and... Skindred.

Yeah, they Welsh may still be licking their wounds after nearly beating Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals, but at least the nation can raise a glass and get down to the new Skindred album release 'Volume'.

And, what a release it is. Sure 'Babylon' and 'Union Black' wre great albums, but this time aroudn Benji and the boys have reached a higher ground. The PR blurb says that we should "turn it up to 12" (as if 11 wasn't enough...) and in this case there is some justification.

Opener 'Under Attack' has the trademark Skindred light and shade, but the title track has a rollicking, rolling monstrous riff and a chorus embedded so deep as to have you humming along on your first listen.

The band have never been as prolific as could have been hoped - formed in 1998 Volume is the Skindred's sixth studio album - but this has been worth the wait.

While the US wannabes all claim to be crossover they trail way behind in how many genres Skindred draw together in a melting pot to produce a molten morass of metal. 'Hit the Ground' for example opens with a ska/reggae feel, which Benji keeps throughout as the music mashes up off-beat rhythms and muted guitar melding into riiffage of the most pleasant type.

Why does this melange of music culture work? Obviously the band are drawing on what they listen to when not invoking the 'Newport Helicopter'; but equally there is enough metal muscle to make sure that fans of dance and electronica aren't going to touch them with the proverbial bargepole when Benji gets the pit into full flow.

Thus, apart from a few non-metal fans drawn by curiosity to see how dub step and metal mix the core Skindred audience are of the denim and leather brigade, or at least that's what we used to wear.

And, that is a shame, because on tracks such as 'The Healing' there are dance and dub-step elements sitting comfortably with the guitar, melody aplenty and again that wonderful sense of rhythm that Skindred deploy.

Equally lyrically Skindred are in touch with a vibe that resonates across all those who sit on the edge of societal norms, with 'No Justice' a prime example on this release.

And, it is on this relesase that Skindred have stretched their roots, added meat and veg to the sound, deployed the variety of influences that make up their DNA. 'Stand Up' perhaps sums this up best as it takes a mid-tempo twist to the sound with a contemporary metallic feel that simmers behind Benji's invective.

Newport stand up and be proud of Skindred!

Review by Jonny

ALBUM REVIEW: Def Leppard release Def Leppard...but is it any good?

SHEFFIELD'S finest return with their 11th studio album simply entitled Def Leppard. When asked about this the band said it was named that as it just sounds like Def Leppard and they didn't want to put too much weight on a title track and put all the weight on the band.

An interesting concept but does it actually SOUND like Def Leppard?

Well, yes, yes it does but with a few interesting twists on the norm.

Opening with the two tracks pre-released on youtube, 'Let's Go' and 'Dangerous' we instantly have that classic Lepp sound. Let's Go has a "Pour Some Sugar On Me" riff and is typically pop rock with the now traditional layered harmony vocals. The chorus is a bit annoying at first but does grow on you and there's a nice Brian May influenced solo.

'Dangerous' is an up tempo melodic rocker with a "Pyromania" era sound and a slightly punky riff to it. It also has a sweet, if too short, solo.

'Man Enough' is where the band changes direction. Opening with a funky bass line it struts along nicely and has a bluesy guitar riff. The song is very much Queen in its composition with "Another one bites the Dust" being the obvious comparison, hand claps and finger clicks included. A great song.

'We Belong' is a classic Def Leppard ballad that few do better. It features all members of the band sharing lead vocal duties and as Joe said, "The lines everyone sings are poignant to parts of their lives" A smooth love song featuring a nice clean solo which should get decent radio rotation.

'Invincible' is a typically British sounding mid tempo rock song. It has a great bass line to it complimented nicely by the drums, which on this album, seem to have a more traditional sound. The chorus has Joe sounding a bit like David Bowie in his early years.

The jazzy, up-tempo 'Sea of Love' is next. A lower range vocal suits the song and Joe perfectly on this. The song, apparently was due to be on Phil's Delta Deep album and you can see why by the bluesy feel and solo which has a bit of a Skynryd riff in it.

'Energised' will probably be seen as the weakest track on the album as its a bit techno sounding. It does have a catchy sing-a-long chorus to it so its not all bad.

Gears get crunched for 'All Time High', another up-tempo hard rocking tune with more of the usual stacked vocal harmonies. This song could almost be described as glam rock and is very enjoyable.

As quickly as the Lepps pushed up through the gears they slow back down again with the heavily Led Zeppelin influenced 'Battle of my Own'. An acoustic blues song featuring huskier vocals from Joe again and a killer electric solo ending.

'Broke 'N' Brokenhearted' is a catchy, guitar driven song with another punchy riff which has an almost punk vibe to it. One bound to get the foot tapping.

'Forever Young' starts with a disjointed guitar sound and is fast-paced with a good dual guitar sound to it. Def Leppard at full on rock speed is always a joy and this is no exception.

A second acoustic ballad is up next in the form of 'Last Dance' A classic Def Leppard love song in the same vein as "2 Steps" etc. Harmony vocals are to the fore on this one. Bound to get a slot in the live show.

'Wings of an Angel' may sound like it's another ballad but it is far from it! With huge riffs and great solo's in it this is a flat out rocker which should keep most fans happy although there is a strange vocal between the verse and chorus that doesn't quite feel right, but that's a minor gripe.

The final song on the album is The Beatles inspired 'Blind Faith'. Described by Viv as a psychodelic rock song its similar in style to 'Lucy' or 'Strawberry Fields' it has a nice clean guitar solo between verses and finishes with a full on hard rock riff. A completely different sound for the band and a song that should definitely grow on people.

So, Def Leppard 2015?

Released from record company demands and constrictions the boys have produced an album that is as impressive as it's diverse and it should appeal to a broad spectrum. Yes, the influences are obvious but you're supposed to listen to 'Man Enough' and go: "Hey! that sounds like Queen."

I may be only one set of ears but if you want old skool Lepps it's all there. If you are interested in hearing them venture into different musical genres then that's there too. This may be the freest album they have ever written and well worth the effort of a listen......Welcome to the Show!!

Review by Andy Gillen

Def Leppard appear at Belfast's SSE Arena on December 7th, with Whitesnake and Black Star Riders

Friday, October 23, 2015

INTERVIEW: Catching up with Thundermother...

ONE if the most hard rockin' bands out there on the planet right now are ThunderMother, a five piece machine, featuring three Swedish ladiies, an Italian and an Irish singer.

Right now they're out doing the promo for their fantastic 'Road Fever' album and caught up with lead guitarist and founder Filippa to quiz her on material, the recording process and much more.

Listen and enjoy:

ALBUM REVIEW: Ludicrous brilliance from Gloryhammer on Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards

STUPENDOUS musicianship, stupidly brilliant lyric and concepts that focus on the alternative histories of Bonnie Scotland...must be Gloryhammer's newest release.

Is Christoper Bowes under the pay of the Scottish tourist board to create a mythos to rival Northern Ireland's success as the setting of Game of Thrones?

Last time out the medieval struggles on 'Tales from the Kingdom of Fife' scoured the distant parts of the Pictish state after the 'Unicorn Invasion of Dundee'

But fast forward to the 13th generation of the McFifes and we find ourselves in the alternative timeline of 'Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards'.

After his defeat in the Battle of Dunfermline the evil sorcerer Zargothrax has been in frozen slumber -  a slumber that the Chaos Wizards are determined to destroy and bring back the scourge of mankind.

Stop sniggering at the back and pay attention! For all the madness on the lyrical front this is a superb example of power metal. And, given the mad nature of many a symphonic or power metal's lyrics why shouldn't Bowes et al take it to the next level.

On Voice-Modulated Star Nucleus Thomas Winkler manages to keep a straight face while singing about the Astral Hammer, the Quest Lords of Inverness, and the 'Heroes (of Dundee)'

The best form of drama, whether it be based on pathos, bathos, satire or comedy needs the performers to stand straight and allow the audience to enter that state of suspension of disbelief.

Immersing yourself in the Chaos Wizards universe can also cause oneself to question whether Gloryhammer are taking the piss or paying genuine homage to epic metal anthems. When we interviewed Bowes on the release of '...Kingdom of Fife' he insisted it was the latter, and rhymed off with affection band names, albums and individual songs. Thus, we not only suspended belief, but also granted Bowes the benefit of the doubt...

Let's be clear though, the Alestorm front man gives full rein to his own performance on keyboards and effects...sorry the credits say he is on Positronic Oscillator Command.

The rest may be playing out Bowes Scottish sci fi wank fest, but they are more than bit part players. They really play and play well.

Ben Turk's drums - sorry Percussive Phi-Quason Battery - hold the entire sound together, preventing it spinning into a Super Massive Black Hole of over-expressiveness. On 'The Hollywood Hootsman' (yes, that really is a song title) he varies between solid rhythm and just the right amount of fills, and the title track has some serious pounding going on.

Paul Templing's riffage on guitar (Dark Matter String Manipulation Interface) is equally impressive on '...Hootsman' with a measured solo. Indeed throughout the album it is that ability to measure the guitar input that is a tribute to Templing's performance and the song arrangements.

Lest we forget, James Cartwright's bass (Trans-Dimensional Subsonic Cluster) is a constant anchor, bridging Turk's drums and Bowes and Templing's exuberance. 'Victorious Eagle Warfare' and 'Heroes (of Dundee)' are two examples of that (astral) bridge.

The whole album is again based on the struggle between McFife and Zargothrax, this time across a galactic tapestry during which sacrifices may have to be made to ensure victory...but we're not going to make the mistake of plot spoilers. You'll have to stick with it to find out the outcome.

But there is one song that will nag your core, will insinuate itself into your very melodic temples like shrapnel from an Astral Hammer's strike may pierce your heart... 'Universe on Fire' is a throwback to the 80s roots of power metal. It is catchier than an STI at a Mars Brothel.

Damn you Gloryhammer, we can't get the chorus out of our minds!

And, this is the real secret of Gloryhammer. For all the nuttiness, the weird styles and the lyrical ludicrous nature of the band the tunes are tremendous; songs that soar; and music that laughs at the po-faced 'serious' metal acts.

For some Gloryhammer will be a guilty pleasure; for the rest of us it is proof that we don't need a note from teacher to have FUN.

Review by Jonny 

PS - this really is an over-the-top video in everyway...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Stryper rise with Fallen

STRYPER are back with their 11th album 'Fallen' and sounding heavier than ever. Lyrically they have always relied strongly on their Christian beliefs and this album is no different.

Does it divide opinion? Yes, but here's the thing. All songs are stories, whether based on fact, history or the writers' own imagination. You don't have to believe to enjoy and if you've heard the new WASP album then you will know of the powerful religious imagery throughout. Good enough for Blackie? Then 'Fallen' at least deserves a listen. You won't regret it!


The Gospel according to Stryper: Chapter 11...

11:1 Yahweh.

'Yahweh' has a choral opening before blasting an all out power metal assault on the ears. Three minutes into the song the tempo increases again, Fox and Sweet exchange lead breaks before slowing down with a Sabbathesque riff. Soaring vocals with Sweet hitting the high notes seemingly without much effort and huge harmonies complete the song. Named after the ancient God of Israel and Judah and depicting the crucifixion of Christ this is an epic start to the album.

11:2 Fallen.

With a heavy riff and Sweet in top screaming form 'Fallen' backs up the opener brilliantly. Great guitar work and vocals are the mainstay of this tune. It's got a bit of a nasty edge to it as it's about Lucifer being expelled from Heaven before becoming that nice chap Satan.

11:3 Pride.

'Pride' is a down tuned monster of a song and possibly the best on the album. Sweet has a gutteral sound in the chorus which adds great effect to it. Another song about Christianity but a total headbanger with more excellent guitar work.

11:4 Big Screen Lies

'Big Screen Lies' is a pretty vehement attack on the film industry and their depiction of, yes, you guessed it, Christians in movies. Another catchy riff runs through this with some almost tribal drumming in places. There is definitely a lot more aggression on this album both lyrically and musically. Another top tune.

11:5 Heaven.

'Heaven' chugs along with a slow backbeat and matching heavy riff with a more traditional Stryper sound thrown in for good measure.

11:6 Love You Like I Do

Opening with a more uptempo riff 'Love you Like I Do" is a pure rocker with great harmonies and chorus. This song would've had serious rotation back in the days when MTV played music. Catchy as all hell. Yet another strong tune. (with a strange ending!)

11:7 All Over Again.

Next up Stryper out Bon Jovi Bon Jovi with a ballad that just stays on the good side of not being nauseating. Superb harmonies and plenty of 'ooh's' in the chorus are followed by a clean solo that makes this song a potential radio hit.

11:8 After Forever.

A Black Sabbath cover is next up. Yep, Black Sabbath! Taken from the 1971 album Master of Reality this was Geezer Butlers "Christian" song and its a very good updated version with a 'faith' melting (sic) solo.

11:9 'Till I Get What I Need

This is a fast tempo number and seemingly a personal statement on Sweet's life. Great guitar work again with a great solo. Nice bit of shredding from Fox.

11:10 Let There be Light.

Possibly soon to be known as the Creationists anthem 'Let There be Light' is ripped, in part, straight out of Genesis. More fast, powerful riffs elevate this song to one of the highlights on the album.

11:11 The Calling.

'The Calling' carries on in the same vein. More powerful riffs and top notch vocals with another catchy chorus. Yet more shredding in the solo should see this song being firmly inserted into the live show. Plenty of squeals too to keep the air guitarists happy!

11:12 King of Kings.

'King of Kings' bookends the album nicely touching on the same subject matter as 'Yahweh'

And they kept the best to last as this is a monster of power riffs and harmony vocals with Sweet giving it loads and ending with a high pitched scream.

Theological Analysis: Overall this is an excellent album musically and any true metalhead should be giving it a listen.

Lyrically? That's down to individual taste and viewpoint but certainly shouldn't put anyone off giving it a go. It was, supposedly,  the Greatest Story Ever Told after all.

COMIN' ATCHA: Four feardome, mad, loud days of rock and metal

RIGHT rockers, ready yourselves because over the next four days your lugholes are gonna get a battering, your necks will be snapped and when Monday 26th October rolls around you'll be heading into work for a rest.

Starting tonight (Thursday, October 22nd) legendary - and yes he really is a rock legend - Glenn Hughes is at Limelight 1. The man who lent bass lines and vocals to Deep Purple, Sabs and a host of super groups will be on a Belfast stage with axe man Doug Aldrich and on the sticks is Pontus Snibb.

Then on Friday it's another feast, when NWOBHM legends Raven appear at Limelight2, with support from local noisenicks Rabid Bitch of the North. Then you have a choice of heading to see tribute act 101% Pantera with support from Donum Dei and Cursed Sun in Voodoo or stay in the Limelight complex for country rocker Steve Earle.

Saturday (October 24th) sees Screaming Eagles, Gasoline Outlaws and Baleful Creed in Limelight2. After that it is a quick race round to the Voodoo for cross over madness with English Dogs, By Any Means and Acid Age.

And all of that was just to get your pulse racing before the utter destruction of every ounce of your being when Deathcrusher 2015 decimates Limelight1. Yep, five acts that will mash your very soul.

Carcass, Napalm Death, Obituary, VoiVod and Herod...five acts to round up four days of rock and metal that proves, once and for all that there is a scene that is not for scenesters, hipsters or floppy fringed wannabes; it's a scene where rockers and metalheads rejoice in glorious insanity...well as Suicidal Tendencies said "Pledge Your Allegiance".

Monday, October 19, 2015

INTERVIEW: Harlott talk Aussie Rules, Airbourne and ambitions

AUSTRALIAN thrashers Harlott were in Dublin recently as part of the Annihilator tour package.

We caught up with the band and asked all the (not very) tough questions...Enjoy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

INTERVIEW: Catching up with Skalmold...

WITH news that Skalmold are about to head back into the studio, and having hit the festival stages in Scandanavia we thought now was as good time to reprise an earlier interview with Þráinn.

And, after seeing them in Belfast and at Hammerfest the obvious first question was:
How do you keep that intensity up night after night?

Þráinn: It´s not difficult to tell you the truth. Even when I´m dead tired I always find it easy to lock in with the other guys onstage and everything else is forgotten. When you start playing onstage the world changes, everything changes. It´s the best feeling in the world, playing your own music to people with your best friends ... I enjoy it a lot, love it ...

Despite singing entirely in Icelandic, have you ever thought about handing out translations to English speaking audiences?

Þráinn: No. hahahaha ... we have translations available online and in the booklets with our cd´s ... it would be cool though ... to hand out a brochure to every guest at a concert ... yeah ... I´ll work on that! ;)

Icelandic and Norse mythology are, of course, key to the band. Has the revival of these myths been powered by the many bands

Þráinn: We grew up with these wonderful stories. By bringing them to life again with new music is something we are proud of and it´s important to bring the stories back to life for the people of today. If you dont teach the younger ones and remind the older of the magnificent sagas ... they will be forgotten, you know what I mean? You can't blame young people for not knowing about something if you never teach them about it ... "oh, the kids today ... they know nothing ..." - well then fucking teach them instead of whining!

What do you think festivals can do for a band’s exposure, when there are so many other acts to see?

Þráinn: When you go to a festival, you, as a fan of music want to see something you´ve never seen before. A lot of people still talk to me about Wacken 2011, our first Metal festival show. They had no idea about Skálmöld but have seen us every tour since ... so playing festivals is important for exposure.

With the autumn/winter festivals already underway and planning for 2016 festival have you any festival survival tips?
Þráinn: Drink water ... a lot of water AND be sensible in whatever you decide to do. You are your own guardian, if you behave like an asshole, people will treat you as such. Be proud of your self and your family be it your parents or family in Metal, stay true!!!

UPDATED COMIN' ATCHA: Slipknot Belfast announcement & Exodus show - mad February mayhem!

The multi-platinum, Grammy-Award-winning, masked beast that is SLIPKNOT will play The SSE Arena, Belfast on 15th February.
After their triumphant return headlining this year's Download Festival at Donington Park, the metal icons return to these shores with their visually arresting, chaotic and spectacular shows.
SLIPKNOT frontman Corey Taylor comments: "Any time we get the chance to come over to the UK, it's awesome. Hopefully the fans have as much fun as we do.  We'll be putting together a great set for them, and as we fill out the bill with bands, we hope the excitement gets even bigger."
Tickets on-sale THIS Friday at 9am:

UPDATED NEWS: Exodus playing Limelight2 on 29th February...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

COMPETITION: Win tickets to see The Prodigy and Public Enemy in Belfast

FOR goodness sake we are generous to you lot here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited and RockRadioNI. Really, really generous! We've teamed up with those superb people at MCD to offer you the chance to win two pairs of tickets to see The Prodigy.

And, if that wasn't enough The Prodigy are backed by Public Enemy for their December 1st date at the SSE Arena.

Yep - two pairs of tickets for a band that straddles so many genres but are bracketed by lazy journalists as Electronic Dance Music. Ha, ha, ha! The Prodigy are more than a bunch of samples and turntable twiddling.

Anyone expecting an EDM sell-out for album number six obviously doesn’t understand The Prodigy’s oppositional ideology. The Day is My Enemy finds the band pushing at the edges of expectation with the unbridled fervor of a bunch of teenage car thieves hot wiring the fastest motor they can find.
 "The Prodigy right, we’re proud of our roots and we cannot be lumped in with the f**kin’ formula dance music by numbers crew," Liam Holett said. "They’re the f**kin’ jokers that stop this music getting taken seriously. Skits on Saturday night live takin’ the piss? That’s where it’s ended up…  That’s not what electronic music is about.

"The lazy DJ’s, they have to be exposed. I’ve gone out of my way on this album to not have any of those things that people attach to dance music now… there’s no f**king typical snare builds or that bollocks."

"I’m coming out firing on this record."
Now if you want to win one of the pair of tickets we've set you a question...yes a real question!

To win a pair of tickets answer this question: Name Keith Flint's motorcycle team?

Send you answers here before midnight on 24th October. Good luck! Usual terms and conditions apply -  i.e. if you are not in you can't win and buy a pair of tickets anyway, so if you win you can be a hero to your mates!



LIVE REVIEW: Annihilating Dublin with Canuck's, Aussies and Yanks - Annihilator, Harlott and Archer

WHEN there are songs that range from the Dublin crowd singing 'Hairy Dick' to a master class in guitar from Jeff Waters of Annihilator you know it was a special night.

As part of the European tour from this trio the gig in The Button Factory could have been seen by the bands - like the previous night in Bristol - could have been seen a warm-up for the extended run of dates across the continent; but that didn't mean each band wasn't giving their all.

From Santa Cruz Archer provided competent contemporary thrash that was engaging and relatively fresh but it fell on relatively deaf ears as the venue filled up. Sure, they were good, but perhaps needed more time on stage to engage the audience.

In contrast Harlott brought a sense of humour, and more importantly a sense of humour, as their opening was plagued by technical problems. Rather than be daunted by this the band used banter and chat with the audience and band mates to ease through the problems.

Despite having to drop a song from their set their take on thrash, with classic bay area elements mixed with Teutonic thrash á la Kreator Harlott ripped through their set with real purpose.

Andy Hudson may lead the line as vocalist and lead shredder, but it is clear this is a unit. Ryan Butler (guitar), Tom Richards (bass and backing vox) and Tim Joyce (drums) Harlott are clearly a band revelling in this opportunity to rise from 'Down Under' to storm Europe.

While many reviews may focus on the humour - and yes everyone did chant 'Hairy Dick' - this is a band with a real tight set of songs and the chops to deliver them: 'Heretic' in particular stood out. Definitely a band to watch out for the next time they come this way.

For guitar aficionados Jeff Waters has always been amongst the elite, despite flying ('V') under the radar from the mainstream media. He plays with a precision and, as importantly, with a sense of fun in every riff and every solo - not to mention the wit inherent in songs and between tracks.

In Dublin Annihilator were a force of nature; a thrash 'phantasmagoria' of new tracks and older favourites. And, it is to their credit that while fan choices such as 'Never, Neverland' were in evidence the band aired tracks from their latest release.

The title track from 'Suicide Society', the crushing 'Snap and Creepin' Again' were greeted with the same ardour as the likes of 'Brain Dance' and set closer 'Alison Hell'.

Waters, as always plays with ferocity and fun in equal measure, but the band are not a supporting cast to the man's six-string genius. They are a thrash quartet determined to deliver. Ryan Hinks (bass) and Mike Harshaw (drums) combine with Aaron Homma (guitar) to provide an intense backdrop.

Certainly with Waters returning to lead vocals the focus is on him throughout, but this is a band that are tight, coherent and corroding all doubts that they are still relevant in 2015. They are more than relevant, they are playing with a ferocity and freshness that deserves more attention.
Review by Jonny
Photos from Darren McVeigh