Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: All turning great on The Grinding Wheel for Overkill's 18th outing

IT seems that the idea of thrash has gotten way far away from what it was when it was birthed into the unholy decade of the 80s. That's no bad thing, as everything can and must evolve. But one band have never truly deviated from the thrash origins - Overkill.

And, on 'The Grinding Wheel' the band have taken the original template, smashed it into a smelting pot of sheer thrash glory - you got your NWOBHM, classic metal, speed and punk influences rolled into 10 neck achingly good tracks.

Bracketed by 7:30 opener 'Mean Green Killing Machine' and the almost eight minute closer and title track this is chock full of songs that leave you smiling, and if driving while playing it you do run the risk of exceeding the speed limit.

Not that it adheres to anything other than Overkill, the mixture of fast, slow, well thought out time changes and arrangements.

There are some wonderfully exquisite guitar sections from Dave Linsk's lead work, such as at the close of 'Shine On' and on the intro to 'The Long Road' (spot the doff of the cap to Maiden here).

However, what allows this to be a truly exceptional piece of work is the furious rhythm pieces slotted in. DD Verni's bass, Derek Tailer's rhythm guitar and Ron Lipnicki's drumming.

Indeed it is Lipnicki's work that holds many of the tracks together, as well  as adding flourishes and fills that are almost lyrical.

But, of course it's Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth who provides the gel that holds their belief system together as a 'blue-collar' thrash band.

He explains many of the concepts behind the thoughts going into the album.

"One of the principles - if not characteristics - of the band is that it's been grinding through for long, long periods of time," said Ellsworth. " Decades to this point. And, not necessarily with huge gains with regards to popularity, but for sure with huge gains in as much as we can earn a living while doing the kind of music that we want.

"And, so the idea of grinding it out over the decades became a device for writing the album, whether it would be riffs or lyrics".

He may now be a self-confessed mature human at 57-years-old but his enthusiasm oozes from every word, whether they are metaphorical or casting a witty, cynical eye on this dystopian reality.

Whether it is the war cry to band as one people with common vision in metal or philosophy on the phenomenal 'Our Finest Hour', or the rigours and enjoyment of earning a living as a band on 'The Wheel' he still turns a phrase to delight.

However, one piece stands out amongst many great moments - the sensational 'Let's All Go To Hades'. "When all you want to do is fucking scream, when all the world has gone insane"

It's his reaction to the Bataclan massacre and Lemmy's death - it's a fuck it all, we're not going to back down, there are still those willing to play and journey across this troubled continent. Having fun this is a tongue-in-cheek' chunk of defiance - as DD says "It got a little bit of fun in it".

That's not to say he ignores the US' political landscape such as on 'Red White and Blue'.

Abstract or literal he nails it every time.

It's hard to think that Overkill first rose to prominence in '85 with the Megaforce release of 'Feel the Fire' and still sound so fresh, so angered, yet gathering humour and a tight sound.

Produced by Overkill themselves the mix by Andy Sneap makes it all 'pop' in just the right way.

From 'Ironbound' to 'White Devil Armory' this evolution, if you like, of the second incarnation of Overkill's success. It almost feels as if they have reached out and touched something magical and unleashed an album that has an alchemist's touch, an elixir composed of Maiden, Sabbath, Priest, thrash, old school punk and musical excellence to produce the rare element of great metal

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Grinding Wheel is released via Nuclear Blast on 10th February, 2017

VIDEO: The Amorettes kick off a game of White Russian Roulette

THE Amorettes are coming back to Northern Ireland once more on March 5th as part of the support package for Black Star Riders, along with Gun.

The Limelight1 show will be their latest trip here, after previous dates with Europe, Danko Jones and a solo show.

Last year the three-piece released 'White Hot Heat' to much acclaim (read our review here).

As we all emerge at the end of the longest month (well it felt like it!) The Amorettes are treating us to a video for their track 'White Russian Roulette'.


VIDEO: Opeth release stunning video for Era from the Sorceress release

WHILE the announcement of Opeth's forthcoming Belfast date in November had fans displaying justifiable excitement (Opeth. Belfast! Plus Enslaved!) many scrambling to break into their piggy banks, counting pennies and auctioning off spare kidneys they may have missed out on something.

At the same time as the tour dates were announced including Belfast and Dublin Opeth released their official video for Era.

Directed by Markus Hofko, it's well worth checking out...

ICYMI: Devin Towsend Project set for return to Belfast

CANUCK musician, songwriter and producer Devin Townsend will make a welcome return to Belfast for a Limelight date on Tuesday, June 13th.

The Devin Townsend Project has been wowing audiences for years, from the early days when he emerged with some like minded Vancouver musicians to stun the world with the Strapping Young Lad releases.

With the project and plus other many outings, his dry humour, and occasional weird 'alien' partner Ziltoid, Devin has been a breath of fresh air to an often predictable landscape.

The Devin Townsend Project is currently on tour across Europe to support the release last year of the seventh DTP album, 'Transendence'.

Tickets - priced £22.50 (+bking fee) go on sale later this week.

Monday, January 30, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Short sharp shock on Brian Blessed Are The Sick from Black Skies Burn and UK Hate Grind

AFTER much consideration we have decided it is Scott Ian's fault. Yep, the jury has delivered it's verdict and Mr Ian has been indicted along with co-conspirators Dan Lilker, Charlie Benante and Billy Milano.

The charges for which they have been found guilty is writing unfeasibly short songs, such as 'Diamonds and Rust (Extended Version) clocking in at two seconds, and the 'longest' song on 'Stormtroopers of Death' clocking in at an epic...two minutes and 32 seconds (it was 'Freddy Kreuger')

With this ethos firmly embedded and taken forth by early Carcass and Napalm Death we arrive at a place where extremities can be measured at times by the brevity of the tunes.

Thus in 2017 we sit to ponder the new split from Black Skies Burn and UK Hate Grind...and there are 20 tracks packed in, the longest being an almost prog length of two minutes and 22 seconds.

Yes, 'Brian Blessed Are The Sick' showcases two talented acts who firmly believe in the short, sharp shock effect and they are both, very, very good at it, if at first the album flies by.

But take a moment - and it only takes a moment - and you'll find depth amidst the fury.

For those who scan the gig listings, you'll have noticed that Black Skies Burn will support Napalm Death in Belfast on March 19th, along with Warpath and War Iron - should be a quiet night...

The four-piece hails from Oxfordshire, England and from opener 'Death By Association' Simon Manion's vocals rip through your aural tract amidst the wall of extremity produced by Chris Mark's guitar, Will Michlyk's roaring bass and Steve Butler's manic drumming.

Humour and social commentary sit side by side on this mix of death and grind, with the likes of 'Censorshit' and '10% of Fuck All'' showcasing the band's intensity. Sure, you can hear echoes of Dying Fetus, Wormrot and Brutal Truth, but Black Skies Burn have carved their own path on this Grindscene release.

And, make no mistake this is not a one-dimensional release, there is sufficient variety to entertain through their mixing of pace and hints of melodic runs.

The other act on the split UK Hate Grind also lay down the fast and furious tracks, as the Bristolian two-piece also batters their way through dark, dystopian and violent thematics. Their use of samples is perhaps more prevalent, but it adds to the atmospherics.

Occasionally clean guitar appears amidst the crust and grind onslaught.

True  - you can't help but giggle at some of the song titles: 'The Bloated Mass of Satan', 'Fisted By The Hand That Feeds' 'Creature Cumfarts' and 'Gastric Throat Gag' are on the surface nice plays on words, but throw that all together and there is real sense of metaphorical pokes at a society dominated by the creed of hyper-normalisation (watch the Adam Curtis documentary with the title).

The work rate of the band (and BSB) is clear throughout and it is the timing of the tracks as they appear that gives it a feeling of purpose throughout, rather than a headlong dash to the end.

With 20 tracks to feast upon - no matter their length - this is a smorgasbord of death, grind, crust and extremity. For a laugh play it to your mate's Bon Jovi loving wife.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Brian Blessed Are The Sick is available to pre-order here, at a very reasonable price point!

NEWS: Opeth and Enslaved set for Belfast in November

LEGENDARY Swedish prog metallers Opeth are set to play Belfast on November 17th, with Enslaved in tow.

Mikael Åkerfeldt's crew's autumn tour lands in the Limelight1. Tickets, priced £29.50 (+bking fee) go on sale this Friday, Februiary3rd at 10AM.

The show is part of the band's support for their album 'Sorceress', their first for Nuclear Blast under the Moderbolaget Records imprint - an album that you can enjoy on many levels, even just playing spot the influences...

Åkerfeldt said it was “a fine little record. My favorite in our discography right now. Of course, that's how it should be, right? It's both fresh and old, both progressive and rehashed. Heavy and calm. Just the way we like it."

ALBUM REVIEW: Bloodbound go large on their War Of Dragons

THE new album from Bloodbound sees them go in combat in the ‘War Of Dragons’ a rock conflict that turns out to be an extremely strong album and with some powerful power metal.

The album starts of with ‘Battle in the Sky’, which is fast and powerful with some great vocals that really suit the song. This song is fast and hard-hitting and a great way to intro you to the album with it's superb symphonic nature.

Next up is 'Tears of a Dragonheart’, which takes it a bit slower but is one of the better tracks on the album. It’s nearly as if the song has no intention of stopping for anybody. 

The album then steam rolls into the title track ‘War of Dragons’  - a much darker solo than the ones previously and a kickass rhythm, with some very good vocals.

On ‘Silver Wings’ the album takes a shift and uses some great folk metal influences such as the use of a flute to expand their sound and add another great layer to the album which shows some great songwriting ability. This is one of, if not the best, songs on the album.

‘Stand and Fight’ is a good power metal anthem with some great segments put together to make a very good track. During the solo the tempo takes a quick shift and the song speeds up taking the song and adding another perspective to a song which is excellent.

‘King of Swords’ is like a tale of two stories, light and the dark. Going between the two makes the song very interesting, it takes a few listens but quickly it takes hold a very good song.

The album slows down with ‘Fallen Heroes’, which gives a good change to the album allowing a break from the previous much faster songs. Some very good vocals here.

The final song is ‘Dragons are Forever’ a great way to finish a great album. Gives the feel of winning a great battle - just what you need.

A great mix of some super vocals, talented guitar and bass playing and drumming! A very good listen and a very melodic album complete with good writing making it a great album to have for any metal fan. Definitely one to look out for!

By Zakk Traynor

The album is out on on AFM on February 24th

Sunday, January 29, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Stormzone and Triggerman roar with power in Ahoghill's DRC

THERE are some nights when it is all about the rock, all about the metal, and all about the fun. Such was Saturday (January 28th) night when Stormzone and Triggerman brought the groove, the metal and an absolute sense of fun.

Truth be told, if you haven't seen these two bands before then either make sure you do soon, or hang up your rock spurs and spend Saturday evenings watching some dumb ass reality show...

As usual Derwin, Paul and Tony had the Diamond Rock Club prepped and ready for visitors from near and far - there are people who travel from England and Dublin for these shows and for 'Storm - Trigger' we had visitors from Enger-land...

But all the prep in the world, the welcome for visitors or the amount of beer quaffed matters not if the bands come up short.

No fear of that with Triggerman and Stormzone are concerned...

Triggerman have more groove than a dozen vinyl albums stacked on another dozen...and then some...

From the off, the groove was infectious, but was notable was the way that newer songs, such as the opener 'The Drift' sat so well with established tracks such as 'I Got The Lurgy' and 'Worms'.

The sheer immensity of the riffs  - which of course held sway - at times overwhelmed Bap's vocals, but amidst the intensity the band know how to keep the roll and the sway of each song going.

From 'Atomic Rock Number 79' the track 'Big John' has the most impressive narrative - but that's the real secret to Triggerman: within each heavy riff laden song there is character and tales. Whether it is 'Rage of the Goddess' or 'Hail to the River Gods' the storytelling matches the might.

While Bap might proclaim his ailments as a result of the fact that he has 'The Lurgy' if this the rock lurgy all in attendance will gladly get this rock infection.

With the audience taking a breather it seemed a short time before exuberance bounded on to the stage in the shape of the 10-legged bounce of Stormzone.

Proclaiming that the stage is 'Where We Belong' Harv and his metal accomplices where on fire from the off - and when they closed there was no doubt that 'The Legend Carries On'.

With each note calling us to remember just exactly why we got into metal, why the sounds and notes resonate deep down, this was, as we should expect from Stormzone, a celebration of what can save our pitiful souls from despair.

Graham and Steve kept all the moves going, with Harv as the ringmaster, while Junior was not to be left out - stage right and right on the money whether it was 'Three Kings' or 'Death Dealer'.

New man behind the kit, Gordy, had perhaps the biggest and most infectious grin in all of County Antrim - clearly enjoying every second and ripping up each fill and run across the toms. When it came to 'The Pass Loning' his sticks were on fire.

All the fun was to be had from the theatrics on the like of 'Fear Hotel' (is the exit stage right, or audience right?) and the synchronised guitar movements were a joy for all.

There is no real reason or rationale behind why Triggerman and Stormzone aren't much, much more regarded and listened to, but by the powers of all that is great and good they should be - and must be.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photos by Lizzie Torbitt

LIVE REVIEW: Black Peaks batter Limelight with outtanding set

It was  a mosthtastric night when Black Peaks arrived in Belfast as part of a triple header in Belfast's Limelight on Saturday, January 28th.

An impressive under card of Making Monsters  and Employed to Serve certainly set the scene, collectively, all of the artists on the night delivered killer rifts, dark/grunge rock lyrics and head banging/ blistering vocal talent.

Making Monster's were the first to the stage and within minutes this Derry/Londonderry four piece had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands.

Front woman Emma's voice can only be referred to as hHuge' and Emma demonstrated suitable sass/remarkable stage presence that merit the comparisons with Panamore's Hayley Williams.
This four piece has incredible genuine chemistry and showcased amazing original tracks from their debut EP 'Bad blood'.  'Bros', which Emma describes as a personal affirmation regarding female empowerment inspired by the women in her life.

They are quickly amassing an impressive online following/ critical acclaim from the likes of BBC radio 1's Phil Taggart and Kerrang's Alex Baker. These guys are one to watch, although I do believe they have more of a commercial sound that slightly went against he grain/ tone of the evening.

Next up was Employed To Serve definitely smashed it, rolling hits from their debut album "Greyer than You Remember", a cracking cover of Memphis Will Be Laid To Rest, as well as debuting tracks from their second album, which is currently in development with Holy Roar Records.

This six piece's sound has been described as post-hardcore” which best describes their angular, twisted take on familiar hardcore trope matched by grind influences. It' safe to see how this group have progressed from a simple two piece with the sole intention to see what happens, Employed To Serve have continued to tour extensively across the UK/ Europe in their own right and as supporting artists from their London base since their first EP release in 2015.

When headliners Black Peaks took to the stage, there was an immediate shift in the atmosphere, the energy and progressive rock sound whipped their fans into a head banging/moshing frency.
Blazing through a collection of rock tracks including Glass Built Castles, Set in Stone, Drones from their most recent Album Sautes.

Black Peaks provide an amazing masterclass in stage craft combined with outstanding musicianship that demonstrates their continued progression from their initial/self released EP Closer To the Sun under the then band title Shine to there previously mentioned crrent Sony Music Release Statues.

Their rise to the top of the Progressive Rock scene has been stratospheric, helped in part by the success of the track "Glass Built Castles" was added to the Guitar  Hero Live's GHTV service in February 2016 and on the evidence of tonight's show that rise will continue.

Review by Emmet Dillon
Photographs by Darren McVeigh

Saturday, January 28, 2017

NEWS: Ramblin Man Fair adds extra date and more bands

THE massively enjoyable and relaxed Ramblin Man Fair, in Maidstone, Kent, has added an extra date to their weekend of celebration of all shades of rock, and yet more bands.

As well as the Saturday and Sunday, July 29th and 30th the weekend of fun will now kick off on the Friday.

Headliners on the 28th will be Saxon, with Last In Line and the Graham Bonnet Band with further guest acts to be announced.

Biff of Saxon had this to say about making a return to Ramblin Man:

“After a great time at the first Ramblin’ Man Fair we are very happy to be asked back to headline the inaugural Friday night this year. With all the hits and more coming your way … get out your denim and leather, it's going to be special”

Already announced are ZZ Top and Extreme as headliners on the Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Here's a list of the bands announced so far...

Friday 28th July

Main Stage Saxon (Headliner)
Last in Line
Graham Bonnet Band
*Plus Guest Act to be Announced*

Saturday 29th / Sunday 30th July

Main Stage ZZ Top (UK Festival exclusive)
Extreme (UK Festival exclusive)
Dokken (UK Exclusive)
Blues Pills
Monster Truck
British Lion
Jared James Nichols
Colour Of Noise

Prog in the Park Stage Kansas (Headliner)
I Am The Morning
The Gift

Blues Stage Joanne Shaw Taylor (Headliner)
The Quireboys (Blues set)
Big Boy Bloater

Outlaw Country Stage The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band (Headliner)
Dan Baird & Homemade Sin
Whiskey Dick
Jessica Lynn

Grooverider Stage Rival Sons (Headliner)
Vintage Caravan
The Picture Books
Dirty Thrills

Editor and owner of this site, Jonathan Traynor, had this to say about Ramblin Man: "We have had a team out at Ramblin Man for the past two years, and it is one of the most relaxed, chilled out celebrations of rock and blues out there. A wide variety of styles and types of bands -  you'll see old favourites, discover new acts and toast them all with a fine selection of beer!

Weekend tickets cost £150 (subject to booking fee)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Diamond virgins assemble - time to pop your Diamond Rockl Club cherry and come along to Ahoghill...

RIGHT you lot! Pay attention! Sit up straight and get your notebooks out. This site is called BELFASTmetalheadsreunited, but we're not parachoial, not restricted to the 'Big Smoke'.

We venture forth beyond the limits, locally, nationally and internationally. However, something troubling has been brought to our attention...there are some of you reading this who have never been to the Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill. Shame on you!

Yes, we know it is troubling to venture outside the safe zone of Belfast, or wherever you regard as your home turf, but should you decide to venture forth you can be safely escorted from your urban idyll via a 'beer bus', which will also return you from the wilds. No passport is required.

Should you do so, there is a feast of rock and metal on offer. For example, this weekend Stormzone and Triggerman will play the Diamond Rock Club, and amongst the acts in coming weeks and months you can catch Blaze Bayley, The Quireboys and many more.

For those yet to experience the Diamond vibe, let's just say that you missed Trucker Diablo and Hell's Addiction oversee a sensational Christmas party, and The Diamond All-Stars (Cormac, Seamy, Pat, Davey, Keith) entertain all with a set of all our favourites.

Below is a selection of some images from those shows...and now Diamond virgins, it's time to to pop your cherry, board the beer bus and come along!
(Pictures by Lizzie Torbitt)

NEWS: Clutch set date for Belfast return

IF you haven't heard it yet, Clutch will play a headline Belfast show at The Limelight 1 on Wednesday 14th June, 2017.

Formed in 1991, the Maryland-based band's ability to absorb different musical styles and fabricate them into a distinct Clutch sound continues to be their forté.

“A Quick Death In Texas,” overstocked with signature “Clutch heavy” Tim Sult riffs and lonesome guitar licks, and the funk undercurrent of “Your Love Is Incarceration,” colour 'Psychic Warfare' with articulate musicality and comfortable familiarity.

It's the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch.

Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive performances of that last album, setting an even higher benchmark as their now-definitive album to date.

The eleventh Clutch studio album 'Psychic Warfare' goes straight for the throat with “X- Ray Visions” and never lets go. Working again with acclaimed producer Machine, this time in Texas, the concise arrangements that made Earth Rocker so assertive is the same harness for the combustible musical energy on Psychic Warfare. Harder, faster... let the rhythm hit 'em.

The overall intensity of Psychic Warfare would be self-consuming without the pressure valve of a canny rhythm section. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines have an intuitive sense of dynamics that gives weight and contrast to the forcefulness of the vocals, steering Clutch into the straightaway out of tight, exhilarating corners.

“I listened closely to the rhythm of Neil’s vocals this time around.” Gaster explains. “The rhythms he sings, are very syncopated. It was my goal to articulate these rhythms on the drums while keeping the pulse of the music strong.”

Psychic Warfare is cinematic, a soundtrack to the plot of singer Neil Fallon's imagination. The narrative of “The Affidavit” sets the scene for an album of gunslingers, energy weapons, paranoid neurosis, and the occasional three-legged mule. It's an episodic lyrical landscape populated by abstract characterization, nuance, and clever peculiarity.

“I spent a lot of time doting over the lyrics,” Fallon says. “It was fun because I have a great luxury that I'm a professional  liar — that's what a storyteller is. Or at least that’s what I try to be. It's the one socially acceptable way to completely deceive people, and that's what they want. If you sing it with enough conviction, people won't question it. I just love that escapism, the fantasy aspect of it. And fantasy doesn’t necessarily equate to dragons and wizards. It can be seedy hotel rooms and sketchy hitchhikers.”

Gaster says the band knowing Earth Rocker was such a high water mark put them in a position of needing to follow up with an exceptional album. “Looking back on the process, one thing that sticks out in my mind is the amount of rehearsal the band put in. We started each pre-production day by writing out a new album sequence and then playing that sequence straight thru as if it were a set list. I think this allowed us to get inside the songs in a way we had not done before. When it came time to record drum tracks, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to play each song.”

In the past, Clutch consciously made each album conspicuously different from the last one. “We had a sadistic fear of repeating ourselves,” Fallon admits. “But over the last few years, we've realized our strengths and what it is that people like about us. Why deny it? Clutch is Clutch, embrace what you are.”

Tickets, priced at £20(+booking fee) go on sale Wednesday Feb 01st 2017 @ 10am from www.limelightbelfast.com,www.ticketmaster.ie, Katy's Bar & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Maturity achieved by Black Star Riders on release number three, Heavy Fire

THE third album for newish acts is when the heady air of being in a new band has faded and its time to see whether you've gotten over the 'difficult' second album. But what about if you are an experienced group of musos, with a lengthy track record. What does LP #3 mean then?

With a festival tour under the banner of Thin Lizzy last year album number three couldn't have come soon enough for Black Star Riders as an entity in its own right, and 'Heavy Fire' is the release them from the shadows of Lizzy, The Almighty et al.

There is still a vague hint of Lizzy's legacy in places here, but this - as great as 'All Hell Breaks Loose' and 'The Killer Instinct were - is when any tags, any wondering at the band's longevity can be cast aside and Black Star Riders mount their steeds and the hoof beats thunder.

In songwriting terms this a complete set of 10-songs that are true and walk through your speakers with a confidence, and a sure swagger that establishes itself from the off with the title track 'Heavy Fire', which with its slowed down mid-section takes a listen or two before it clicks.

'When The Night Comes In' is perhaps the track with the most similarity to Lizzy, but the rest of the album is BSR through and through. Any shackles that may have held them back in other people's perception are thorn off and this is a band that kicks you firmly in the aural tract.

Scott Gorham adds the licks and Damon Johnson and Ricky Warwick serious amount of riffage. One senses that after Warwick and Johnson toured with a couple of acoustics and Warwick played on hi Fighting Hearts tour there were a collection of songs to bring to the collective BSR stable for completion. Something Warwick seems to confirm in the blurb accompanying the album.

“I had the album title almost a year before we started recording,” he aid, “and it refers to the fact that there’s so much going on in the world right now, and we’re bombarded constantly with information and technology designed to make our lives better and easier, but yet we don’t really have a clue where we’re going as a species. It’s kinda asking about how we deal with all that, how we negotiate our own paths in these sometimes dark and dangerous times.”

However they arrived at the songs they surge from your speakers. There are huge choruses, interesting arrangements and a wee surprise in the shape of the wonderfully balanced, laid back 'Cold War Love'.

Warwick's gift of the gab in weaving tales is on display, whether they are deceptive tracks about romance and lust ('Dancing With The Wrong Girl'), disgust at the lack of gun control in the USA ('Who Rides The Tiger') or warning relatives about their path ('Ticket To Rise) the storytelling matches each musical arrangement.

What makes this the band's strongest outing is the breathing space within each track. When  producer Nick Raskulinecz sat the band down in the studio in Franklin, Tennessee his ear and the band's collective experiene melded, with Robbie Crane and Jimmy DeGrasso making sure that the rhythm section doesn't allow itself to run away no matter how fasrt-paced the tracks.

When the album closes with the up-tempo 'Letting Go Of Me' such is the strength of the 10-tracks that clicking 'repeat' comes naturally.

Black Star Riders have produced a superb album, but as Johnson says it will be the fans who will decide if it matches their previous outings.#

“I think it’s the most solid piece of work that we’ve done,” he said. “Do we have songs on this album better than 'Blindsided', better than 'The Killer Instinct', better than 'Finest Hour'? I think so, but beyond that I think that our audience is going to recognise this as a complete work from top to bottom. We’ve grown as songwriters, we’ve grown as musicians, and I think you can hear that in the record we’ve made.”

That growth is apparent, mature measured and ready to take on the rock world. And, with an increasing collection of Black Star Rider's songs perhaps live there won't be such a reliance on Thin Lizzy tracks...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Heavy Fire is out Nuclear Blast on February 7th

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: A day of triumphs for many reasons - Cursed Sun, Rival Sons, Neamhni, Drakonis and Scimitar

SUCCESS and triumph comes in many shapes and forms in hard rock and metal - be it the size of the crowd, releasing recorded material, or simply mounting the stage.

In an evening of contrasts the, at times, inevitable clash of bands was once again at the fore as the Cursed Sun official launch of 'The Amygdala' EP in Limelight2 was almost in direct opposition to Rival Sons first appearance on Saturday, January 21st.

Thus, two different sets of audiences assembled, with only limited commonality, but with a similar alienation from the mainstream of what passes for popular music and culture: proponents of that would gather in the same venues later when the rockers and metalheads dissipated into the Belfast night.

Whether any of those who packed out Limelight1 for Rival Sons would have under other circumstances have been to The Distortion Project show is debatable - maybe another five or six.

As it was a healthy number for early Saturday evening were there when the double black metal introductory acts for the night were on stage.

Neamhni's stuttering start a few months back has solidified and tightened with the work of Martin and Gilliland much more in synch. Rosso is a commanding presence, if at times needing to develop some more stagecraft than just headbanging.

With just a few loose ends to knock off Neamhni's bleak visions are becoming more and more solidified.

Alike in genre only, Drakonis come replete, like Neamhni, in corpse paint. They also adorn the LL2 stage with various mic stands of demonic imagery. But that doesn't detract from these Lisburn blackened metallers.

With their EP 'As They Rot' as a firm foundation there is a solid set of songs that have been allowed to evolve in the live environment with Cass as commanding as ever centre stage. McMichael and Hewitt have a telepathic understanding of when to hit off each other's lead work and with new releases being planned their growth is assured.

Thrash metal to the fore, blades held high (not literally this time!) Scimitar bang out a range of songs that are familiar but also delving back to their earlier material. Jonny's glint in the eye delivery has the thrash tropes down to a 't' in the same way that Chris and Ryan have the rhythm section nailed down.

Allowing Jonny free reign for ever more explosive solo runs the structures of each Scimitar track remains solid, with just enough fluidity to avoid rigidity.

Cursed Sun have always taken the traditional metal, thrash and contemporary edges of metal and melded them into a full-on assault that live combines with the charisma of Mr Cassidy to bring already excellent music to a vibrant pulsation of all that is good about metal.

But, with the Sun clashing with the start of Rival Sons the shuffling between venues began - take in the first couple of Cursed Sun, nip into Limelight11 for a few Rival Sons, then back to LL2 to catch another couple of Cursed Sun.

As was expected the metal might of Cursed Sun was in full flow, with seemingly renewed depth and confidence from the release of the impressive 'The Amygdala'. Whether the release has given them renewed vigour, or just that there is a real coherence to the sound is a moot point; from a sampling of their show further attention will come their way.

The contrast in audience sizes was immediate upon going into Limelight1. Rival Sons had the place packed and pulsating. There was even more present than when Meshuggah had the venue rammed the previous Tuesday.

There was an almost religious devotion to the crowd's response by the time the first few songs had been hammered out, something the band seemed knocked out by, especially at the end of 'Torture' when the audience kept on with the refrain long after the band were about to end the song.

Jay Buchanan seemed almost overwhelmed by the response, as the rest of the band had grins almost as wide as the stage.

Fresh from a night supporting Sabbath this felt as much like an impromptu jam as it did a headlining show. The band took on the challenge of the set as if it was just another night in Long Beach, but one doubts if they have ever had such a warm response in California.

While the momentum had been building throughout the set, by the time 'Belle Star' was aired there was a palpable sense of occasion building, which continued throughout, and by the time they closed with 'Hollow Bones pt2' and 'Keep on Swinging' they had accomplished what they had set out to do: warn up the full set for their headlining shows across Europe and have a good time while at it.

On such an evening of musical contrasts it is hard to draw any real conclusions. All five bands have tremendous sets of songs, albeit across a range of genres, and all have talented musicians.

The main difference, of course, is that Rival Sons have label backing and PR support that draws airplay and sales. However, there is one nagging thought. If the fans of metal who can ram venues for the likes of Meshuggah remain largely absent for the likes of the DP shows. Rightly many will not be able to travel, and are maybe only fans of some types, but if even a few per cent more would part with a fiver, then the opportunity to grow would be afforded to bands, along with those in attendance having something to do on a Saturday other than watch TV and play old songs again. Okay, that is something of a controversial thing to note after such a good evening of rock and metal, but...ponder on that and wonder "what if..." should you ever want to step out of a weekend evening and have some fun without expectations.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh