Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, February 27, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Whatever the rock question is The Answer always sate the queries with awe-inspiring performances

HARD rock is alive and well in Northern Ireland, but y'all know that already. But just how much quality rock is emerging from this small land is sometimes so familiar to us that we all forget just how good we have it.

Maverick and The Answer are two bands that have captured the very essence of heavy rock, and while one is emerging as a force to be reckoned with the other are seasoned survivors getting the international plaudits they deserve with the awesome 'Solas' album.

Come Saturday there was no doubt that this would be a special show.

Many a band would be daunted opening for The Answer, but Maverick have toured Europe, played festival sets and are bound for their first US show in the near future.

With new sticksman Jonny making his d├ębut it is clear that Maverick are not missing a beat, well rehearsed and as energetic as ever. Taking their cues from 80s rock, but with their own edge as they warm up the crowd. Not that they need to worry about the audience - they've earned a loyal fanbase.

David Balfour is the consummate performer, every moment away from the mic spent engaging with every band member, catching audience members' eyes and keeping the show moving along.

When The Answer strode on to the Limelight1 stage the atmosphere was electric. Sure, they are own, but the band have weathered many a storm and emerged strong and resilient.

The tour last year with The Dead Daisies has honed the band to what was already a sharp cutting edge.

In their own words, this was 'Spectacular' as they have power and subtlety in equal measure. 'Solas' as an album has more depth than some of what went before, which manages to translate in the live environment.

With Cormac a bouncing, whirling dervish older material seems to have been given a new lease of life, and 'Never Too Late', 'New Horizon' and 'Demon Eyes' emerged from the speakers with deadly intent and urging ever more ecstatic responses.

But the newer tracks, importantly sit well amidst what the crowd anticipate as part of the set. All seem at home and have a resonance.

What is remarkable is how well Cormac, Paul, Micky and James gel together on these new songs - an indescribable bond that was always there is now an intangible thread that links each movement of each song.

The tracks of 'Solas' are liberally sprinkled throughout -  'Untrue Colour' sounding poignant and powerful, while 'Being Begotten' is jaw-dropping - that is until 'Battle Cry'.

To be honest - you could simply say The Answer were on stage as sufficient for most to know that it was a great show, but on this night they exceeded their own high standards.

A rock night, a night of celebration 'New Horizons' for Maverick and boundaries that are being pushed yet further by The Answer.

Review by Jonathan Traynor (Additional reporting on Maverick by Zakk Traynor)
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Heat three heaviness in Metal2TheMasses madness

ALL the heaviness arrived in Limelight2 on Saturday for the third heat of the Northern Ireland Metal2TheMasses showdown with four bands that had the growl and the graft to match the needs of winning a slot at the prestigious Bloodstock festival.

For those that have never been to the weekend of madness the tone is very much of the flavour of feisty metal, with nary a chance for others to shine, which made the 25th February round very tasty.

It is a real shame in each heat that any bands are eliminated, but the votes of the judges and the crowd vote have in 2017 left each round teetering on a knife edge. And, with a good turn-out this was no different.

Opening the set were thrashers Bakken who were making a return to the stage after a time in hiatus. Their brand of early era Megadeth and' Tallica thrash was well executed and the band sounded tighter than ever.

The flourishes of Celtic melodies add that little bit more to what could be otherwise predictable - Bakken set the bar high from the off.

Lock Horns took to the stage as if fired up from the openers set - full of passion and power, with a distinct progressive edge. Compared to other acts with a prog tendency there was no static musicians on stage; movement throughout.

But the vigour of the band was also matched with by the intensity of the song arrangements and melodic breaks.

With three guitarists on stage Victim Royal came out all guns firing with real grunt to the massive guitar attack. With a sound echoing more modern metal at times the vocals were lost amidst the aural assault. While there is nothing wrong with clean vocals perhaps a little but more growling could compensate.

What they do provide is a real challenge for themselves with so many layers on stage, but they rose to that challenger.

The twin vocals of Dream Awake gives a dynamic reminiscent of the likes or Speedhorn, but with more of an echo of hardcore in their sound. Contrasting roars and melodic vocals doesn't take away from the musical tapestry.

With a few rough edges knocked off Dream Awake could carve a distinctive path for themselves.

Alas there can only two qualifiers from each heat.

Bakken and Lock Horns progress to the next round.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Friday, February 24, 2017

NEWS: Metal Church add Belfast date

METAL originals, formative thrashers Metal Church will play Belfast on June 22nd in Limelight2.

With Kurdt Vanderhoof and Mike Howe partnership have 11 albums to their name, with the latest unleashed on the unwary just last year.

Tickets, priced £20, go on sale from all usual outlets next Wednesday, March 1st from all usual outlets or direct from The Distortion Project.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NEWS: Alter Bridge set for summer Belfast date on The Last Hero tour

ALTER Bridge are set to play Belfast's Ulster Hall on June 21st as part of their tour backing their phenomenal album 'The Last Hero'.

Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti and crew will be hitting the city with their fifth album (Ivor's review is here).

Tickets, priced at £29.50 (+bking fee) go on sale tomorrow (24th February)

NEWS: The Dillinger Escape Plan set for Belfast and Dublin shows

NEW Jersey mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan will play Belfast's Limelight on June 8th, with a date in the Academy, Dublin the following night.

They are on a tour backing last year's 'Disassociation' release, with Ben Weinman saying it will be the last album and tour for The Dillinger Escape Plan, with the band probably calling it a day after festival dates.

The band were recently involved in a road traffic accident in Poland, resulting in injuries and some tour dates being cancelled but the Belfast show in June was today (23/02/17) confirmed.

Tickets for the Limelight2 show, priced at £20, go on sale tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2017

NEWS: Foo Fighters star to release country album...

WELL, everyone’s going country… First we learn that Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin is heading down the county road and now the Foo Fighters Chis Shiflett is preparing to release one too.

‘West Coast Town’ will be released on 14th April on SideOneDummy Records.

Here’s the blurb:
Although he's known worldwide as the Foo Fighters’ lead guitarist, Chris’ solo country work has also made him a hit in the Alt Country scene, where his signature vocals and killer guitar work serve up a heady brew of raw barroom honky tonk, hi-octane rockabilly, and here-and-now Americana.

Chris interviewed Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb for his weekly podcast at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A (shortly after Cobb moved his recording operations into the iconic room). There, amidst vintage gear and the ghosts of country music's finest, Cobb and Shiflett formed a genuine friendship. “When I left the studio," Chris remembers,  "I thought, I have to make a record with that dude. I was already a big fan of the records Cobb produces, and his setup was just so amazing.”

West Coast Town is a product of that creative partnership. Working with Dave Cobb and Grammy Award-winning engineer/mixer Matt Ross-Spang, Chris recorded his latest album at RCA Studio A over a three-week period, during the Summer of 2016. With every song captured in just two or three takes, this album often sounds more like the work of a live band than a studio creation.

Joining Chris Shiflett (on electric guitar) and Dave Cobb (on acoustic guitar and percussion) are an A-List collection of studio musicians, including Robby Turner (Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton) on pedal steel, Chris Powell (Brent Cobb, Jamey Johnson) on drums and percussion, Adam Gardner (Southern Family) on bass and Michael Webb (Southern Family) on keyboards.

Rolling Stone premiered West Coast Town's title track this week and have been impressed by previews of the album. They acknowledge what working with Dave Cobb in his legendary studio has added to the mix “...Working in such a historic setting with one of the genre's most forward-leaning producers clearly rubbed off on Shiflett, as West Coast Town authentically straddles the line between vintage country cool and the boundary-blurring spirit of modern Americana.”

West Coast Town is Chris’ third solo album: an autobiographical, ten track release that finds him pulling triple-duty as singer, songwriter and bandleader. It follows 2010’s Chris Shiflett and The Dead Peasants and 2013’s classic collection of honky-tonk covers, All Hat and No Cattle.

Chris Shiflett comments “Getting out of town and working in Nashville with Cobb was the best thing I could have done and was one of my favourite recording experiences of my life. I spent a few months woodshedding my songs and got them as far as I could take them but Dave took them even further, and his crew of musicians were a joy to work with. I can’t wait to take these tunes out on the road and play them live.”


1. Sticks & Stones (Chris Shiflett)
2. West Coast Town (Chris Shiflett)
3. Goodnight Little Rock (Chris Shiflett)
4. Room 102 (Chris Shiflett, Brian Whelan)
5. The Girl’s Already Gone (Chris Shiflett)
6. Blow Out The Candles (Chris Shiflett, Brian Whelan)
7. I’m Still Drunk (Chris Shiflett)
8. Cherry (Chris Shiflett)
9. Tonight’s Not Over (Chris Shiflett, Brian Whelan)
10. Still Better Days (Chris Shiflett, Brian Whelan)

LIVE REVIEW: Setting the Diamond afire - Blaze Bayley rocks Ahoghill

TO many the time Blaze Bayley spent in Iron Maiden came at a most inopportune moment in rock music: the labels weren't backing metal bands to the extent they used to, and the tides of fortune had yet to see the return of heavier music's heyday.

However, they were still albums treasured in many people's collections, as well as the Wolfsbane releases. When Blaze Bayley left Maiden he shook off any disappointment, gathered himself and began a solo career that has not only earned plaudits, but see him battle back from personal tragedy and an indifferent mainstream metal media.

The fans, however, are ever loyal to a man who epitomises the no nonsense approach.

Before Mr Bayley took to the Diamond Rock Club stage local sc-fi/fantasy-tinged metal crew Terminus more than warmed up the heaving venue with a 45-minute no nonsense set. From the opener 'Reaper's Spiral' it was clear that they were intent on winning over new fans.

Indeed many Diamond newbies could be overheard muttering approval at the style of metal Terminus were pushing out. All of which is helped by the fact that the band are tight and deliver their set with precision and an obvious excess of energy.

James Beattie commands the front, his singing throughout spot on, as Paul and Gavin wove guitar lines to match the lyrics. 'Fortress Titan' was a highlight and the well earned response to closer 'Centaurean' raised the bar.

With all points near the stage packed, Blaze Bayley received what is easily understood as a rapturous response. Not only were there many fans there it was notable that many local musos were out in force.

Opening with 'Endure and Survive' from the forthcoming album of the same name the men backing Blaze seemed to be enjoying the experience as much as the audience.

Indeed the band has a feel of a real unit - compact, flourishing and a force to be reckoned with. Naturally the temperature soared when after 'A Thousand Years' they launched into 'Futurereal', and from then on it was a helter skelter ride that took the Diamond through songs were familiar to all; plus a bonus.

The first live outing for 'Escape Velocity' was as well received as any of the tracks, but most-of-all it was the way the set list was balanced throughout, with the back catalogue of his own material melding with Maiden songs.

Bracketing 'Lord of the Flies' with 'Speed of Light' and 'Stare at the Sun' gave all a chance to see how he has grown as a songwriter and performer, without losing that sense of where he came from.

Closing with the Wolfsbane track 'Manhunt' and 'Man On the Edge' had the crowd ecstatic, however, the show was only 95% of the success. The remaining five per cent came from the man's attitude on stage, his willingness to engage in banter, warmth oozing from his every pore.

Sure, the Diamond Rock Club may be a seeming million miles from Maiden, but that does not make it any less of a valid place to see a man who should be a rock icon held in high esteem. Whether with his own material or Blaze's venerable past he achieved a par excellence show in Ahoghill and gave the club a sense of belonging to a metal history that is no longer of the past, but sits in the present.

Blaze Bayley - a survivor, a singer and a superb live performer.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh


LIVE REVIEW: Close call between four acts in Heat two of Metal2TheMasses

THE court was in session - judges ready to preside, the public gallery ready with their voting slips and Ormeau Avenue's Limelight2 was about to rumble with the sound of competition to win through to the semi-finals of Metal2TheMasses and a shot at securing a slot at Bloodstock 2017.

Lining up were four bands who had the grit and determination to earn their slot in this event, laid on by The Distortion Project.

First into the ring were Neamhni - down a man, but ready for the fray. The blackened death metal crew mounted the stage with attitude and barely restrained anger.

Behind the corpse paint smouldered a band that have obviously been putting in the hours as they prepped for their 'Vermin' EP launch in March.

Noticeably this was a better balanced set in terms of the pacing of the songs across their allotted time. Even short of a guitarist they managed to lay down a set filled with aural dynamics.

The room bled into doom as sludge filled So Much For The Sun slayed the sunlight and added fuzz and to the darkened venue. The three-piece played a set filled with resounding celebration of the darker side.

With two varying vocal styles and an impressive set of fx from the guitar all tracks held the interest, however at times the energy levels dropped a little. That did not diminish from what was an impressive set of songs.

Once more doom-infested the room when Elder Druid drew forth sounds from the other side, with much of the second set from the recently released 'Magicka' ep.

The two guitars were particularly well linked on the riffs with solos placed well in each song. The five piece have presence on the stage and provide a black treat with no trickery.

What is noticeable is that Elder Druid's recent run of dates has placed them well for their upcoming English dates next month.

Without a drummer Disconnect have nevertheless programmed it not to sound too robotic. But that also puts them under pressure to keep their playing tight.

Verging from extreme to industrial sounds the two-piece are visually engaging as well as precise with almost every note.

While getting the right drummer can be a challenge for any band perhaps it is time to hunt for a sticks man that may allow the excellent playing to a little more fluidity to the otherwise solid performance.

After the dust settled this was in the words of organiser, James Loveday, it was a close call between the four acts.

Neamhni and Elder Druid were voted through to the semi-finals

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photographs by Darren McVeigh