Pick Your Rock and Metal

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

NEWS: SLF to be joined by The Damned, Buzzcocks and The Defects at Custom House Square date

THE support bill for Stiff Little Fingers' Custom House Square show has been announced today (Wednesday, January 31st).

SLF will be joined by The Damned, Buzzcocks, The Defects and a DJ set from Terri Hooley.

Given the sell-out of last year's show, tickets are sure to fly out the door for the August 25th show, and many from far and wide will be making their plans right now for 'Putting the fast in Belfast 2'

Last year saw locals, national and international visitors travel to Belfast, and the same is surely set for this line-up.

The Stiffs are a big enough draw by themselves but the addition of these three bands will prove even more enticing. Plus, with The Defects new album (review here) garnering plaudits there will be even more Northern Ireland interest.

Tickets, priced £27.50 plus booking fee, are available from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets on Friday, February 2nd.

NEWS: Hate, Martyrium, Sisters of Suffocation and more added to Heavy Scotland line-up

HEAVY SCOTLAND will return with a bang in 2018 with a new date, extending the festival to three days from Friday 31 August to Sunday 02 September, returning to Edinburgh's Corn Exchange.

Announced today and all exclusively playing in Scotland 2018 are: Hate, Martyrium, Sisters of Suffocation, Whorion and OST+FRONT.

These names add to an already thrilling lineup including Carcas, Gama Bomb and more.

Line-up currently:

Purchase tickets from: http://www.heavyscotland.com/

Under-18 tickets are available now and student Weekend tickets at just £50.

The news follows a highly impressive first year from Heavy Scotland, placing Edinburgh on the international metal map. Headliners Behemoth and Arch Enemy topped a stellar bill, which also included the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Destruction, Finntroll, Havok and more. Garnering local and international acclaim,

Heavy Scotland is fast becoming Scotland's national heavy metal festival, and is the largest of its kind in the country's capital of Edinburgh. Borne from a love of all things loud and with a passion for the local scene, Heavy Scotland is an event deserving of the attention so far received. Stay tuned for more information as it comes.


NEWS: Final 100 tickets remain for Breaking Bands Festival IV

WITH just under 16 weeks to go, Breaking Bands Festival is on the edge of a fourth successive sell out event thanks to the support of the music fans as the team announces there are now just 100 weekend tickets available.

Time is running out to catch the likes of Red Rum, Estrella, Chris Slade (AC/DC) and many more.

For 2018 the festival team have added an extra night, with more than 35 acts performing, two stages, themed nights, trader stalls, comedians, Rocktail Bar, Treasure hunt, Guitar & Drum school….plus much more.. This really is a value for money package, family friendly Rock Experience that you wont find anywhere else!

Not only that but fans are rushing to purchase tickets early as the festival is tempting people with their annual 'Ultimate BBFest Experience' prize worth over £500.

Those who purchase a weekend ticket by 14th February,  are in the prize draw taking place the next day live on Facebook exactly 100 days before the festival begins.

The prize includes a fully furnished glamping tent for the festival weekend for the winner and up to 3 guests. This includes weekend tickets for the guests too. A big festival goodie bag of merch and merch from each of the prize winners guests' favourite bands of the festival. Also, Breaking Bands drinks sponsors Cloven Hoof Rum and Brothers Cider will be throwing in some alcohol goody bags to boot!

Check out the website for all the latest information and grab your tickets via www.breakingbandsfestival.com/tickets

ALBUM REVIEW: Thundermother shake the earth on album number three

IT has been all change on the Thundermother front as three quarters of the band were replaced, with only Filippa Nassil remaining. Has that diminished in any way from the band? Not at fucking at all.

If there was any doubt about the new re-purposed rockers this self-titled third album kicks that into touch.

The 13 track are straightforward no nonsense rock - all instant classics. Recording them in  a remarkable 10-day period live gives it an organic urgency, such as on the frenetic 'Racing on Main Street'.

There are no weak tracks here, from the moody opener 'Revival' to closer 'Won't Back Down'. Indeed that seems to be the musical and lyrical message - Thundermother are back to stay.

It's not however all finger in the air rocking out. 'Fire In the Rain' is a brooding ballad that builds to a chorus that is sublime.

Guernica Mancini does have similarities to her predecessor, but there is no imitation here, putting her own stamp on TM. The extremely catchy 'Hanging At My Door' is a perfect example of this, merged with a meaty riff.

New drummer Emlee Johannson and bassist Sara Pettersson have a relaxed but purposeful groove throughout, highlighted on 'The Original Sin'. Throughout drum sound in particular is impeccable.

There appears to be an under-current on 'Thundermother', about proving themselves, about re-birth and the usual "fuck you" attitude.

Sure, some tracks do pay homage to their influences (the bell and opening of 'We Fight For Rock N Roll' sounds like a sequel to DC's Rock N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution) but the  four-piece are much more than another hard rock band playing out clichés.

Instead they put their own stamp on hard rock. Take a pinch of Aussie rock, add 70s sounds, a dash of European classic rock and this Stockholm band have nailed it.

Even after repeated listens it still sounds fresh and vibrant.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

LIVE REVIEW: Frank Carter pummels Belfast again

PUNK singers: hard, wiry, lairy blokes who hiss and spit about how effed up the world is and would headbutt you as soon as look at you, right? Think the Sex Pistols, Poly Styrene, and every studded jacket-clad punk you ever saw at a gig.

But what if there was a new kind of punk rocker: one who opens up about how tough life is; who is still full of fury at the state of the world circa 2018 but can also fill a show with light-hearted banter and self-deprecating humour? Enter one Frank Carter.

Beginning his musical career in one of Britain’s great punk acts, Gallows, Carter left to pursue a more classic rock-oriented sound with Pure Love. When that sadly fell through, he returned to his punk roots, starting up Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes so quietly that he took everyone by surprise when he announced it on Twitter.

Album Blossom followed rapidly; a blazing, rage-filled, instant punk classic, it was gleefully seized upon by both fans and critics. Then followed something of a surprising turn: second album Modern Ruin, which toned down the anger and instead spoke of Carter’s somewhat more settled life with his wife and young daughter.

If you were worried that he had lost his edge and become ‘soft’, however, a FC&TR gig will put that thought to bed rather smartly, as a crowded Mandela Hall was to discover on Sunday night.

First, though, opening act Chinese Newspaper had the rather unenviable task of warming up the still-filling room. They describe themselves as “fuzz pop”, which turns out to mean perky, sunny indie rock with a dash of pop-punk thrown in – indeed, their youthfulness and baseball caps gives that away before they play a note.

With thick Irish accents, well crafted songs and some welcome moments of heaviness preventing them from being saccharine, they may play to a half full room, but those present seem to enjoy them very much.

Next up was the unusually named DMOB HAPPY who stride onstage clad in (matching) blazers and, following a blare of distortion, further warm the crowd up with their Nineties-influenced sound and melodic vocals. They’re sort of “Oasis meets the Beatles” schtick – the singer even looks like John Lennon, and if he doesn’t worship him a tiny bit it would be very surprising – combined with the fuzziness and trippy vibe of The Doors goes down well.

Speaking of distortion…half an hour later, the house lights drop and a wildly distorted bass guitar intro rings out, causing the crowd to roar with anticipation – a sound that only gets louder as the man of the hour himself saunters onstage. With a delighted grin and a bellow of “Belfaaaaaaaaaast!” he immediately switches to his manic, high-energy stage persona.
Opening single ‘Primary Explosive’ quickly segues into the sexy, shouty ‘Fangs’, prompting the first delirious singalong of the night. Without a moment’s pause they fire straight into their first single ‘Juggernaut’, during which Carter leaps into the crowd and shows off his latest party trick: standing on the crowd’s hands, in a headstand, still singing. Impressive!

A brief moment of calm follows, during which he apologises for having to postpone their two Irish dates due to illness. The band then launch into the first track from Modern Ruin, ‘Vampires’, which proves to be a bit more of a hip-swinger than a headbanger, as do the next two tracks, ‘Wild Flowers’ and slinky recent single ‘Spray Paint Love’. It has to be said though, at no point does the explosive energy in the room dip in the slightest; in fact, during ‘Wildflowers’ there is a distinct shift upwards as Carter informs the crowd that women put up with a lot of shit in their lives and that only they were allowed to crowd surf during said song.

Throughout, Carter is bolshy, charismatic - and, it has to be said, terrifically funny: clambering into the crowd because “I wanna dance”, stopping ‘Jackals’ to inform the crowd that they all have to sing ‘happy birthday’ to someone named Charlotte (which they obligingly do), and at one stage taking someone’s phone off them and calling their mother because they cheekily asked him, clearly not expecting him to! It’s as brilliant as it is unexpected.

There are some serious moments too: his emotional discourse on why he wrote ‘Loss’, followed by a stripped back version with him silhouetted against a blue light and a cloud of dry ice; and dedicating the furious ‘Paradise’ to those who had lost their lives at gigs such as the Bataclan in France, which earns him a heartfelt, sombre round of applause.

A four-song encore begins with ‘Devil Inside Me’, during which the pit opens up spontaneously. Carter then announces that nobody else should crowd surf as he is worried about the young girls at the barrier – and also, he quips, because he “saw someone’s butt crack, which ruined my night”! ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Lullabye’ then follow, and then it’s time for their now-traditional closing track ‘I Hate You’, which prompts another huge singalong with the crowd, much to everyone’s delight.

That’s Frank Carter in 2018: no hair dye, fancy Gucci suits or gimmicks: just him, his band, and a new sense of calm, despite the rage. Funny in ways you would never expect if you had only seen him in Gallows or listened to Blossom, clearly loving getting older despite the gripes about his hearing and his back and so on, and, well, simply a punk rocker, he proves in spades that he is still carrying the punk flag high and proud.

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

LIVE REVIEW: Bloodshot Dawn drop jaws as Northern DeathFest sees extreme (metal) comaradarie

GIVEN the extreme nature of the music aired at Northern DeathFest outsiders would be surprised at the smiles and camaraderie emanating from both the stage and throughout the audience. It was as if the sense of belonging amongst metal fans had become a tangible entity to an aural assault backdrop.

While the headliners were odds on to impress the seven bands performed to such an extent there was no low points, no mid-set slacking, no tailing off. Instead of which there was playing to such a high standard that by the time the final chords of the evening played it was a delirious exhaustion for all.

Openers Rupturation set the metal ball rolling at the ungodly hour of 14:30. Any cobwebs lurking in the rafters or muddy heads were shaken, battered and delighted.

Given the history behind the three-piece their set was an astounding, wonderful definition of rising, death metal nailed on.

Fresh from their success in Heat One of Northern Ireland's Metal2TheMasses Lock Horns mounted the stage with intent. Their take on progressive metal has nothing to do with standing around looking at fretboards. This is high energy in human form, with static practically electrifying the stage.

But, amidst the frenzy the playing had a panache and precision that was beautifully beguiling.

Like Lock Horns Stranglewire have an album out soon, but any future gazing was shattered as they produced death metal from unearthly dimensions. Their psychologically twisted music came dripping with hatred for the human race.

Dig behind the assault and there is something disturbing about the delivery from Stranglewire. Disturbing in a good way...

The Crawling have emerged in recent months as something of the darlings of the doom/death/misery metal scene, and deservedly so. The menace they have developed through playing far and wide invokes a sense of despair in their music - much to the delight of the audiences.

That oxymoron sums up The Crawling. Their miserable anthems are joyous to the sceptical, cynical bastard that lurks in us all, but on their playing at DeathFest was welcome.

Tighter than a shark's arse and as terrifying as facing a shark's maw Overoth know what they do and on Saturday they did it as well as ever. Knowing that they had a later afternoon set, knowing that many pints had been sunk by the audience like a death metal blunderbuss they spattered Limelight2 with shots carefully aimed to dismember.

Riffs and soloing aplenty as always, but to keep the crowd engaged was impressive. But then again they live up to what their fierce reputation as always.

With an hour's break for gear change Reprisal faced a difficult challenge but frontman Tom wasn't about to let any bugger come back complacent. A single finger to any faders these Buckinghamshire thrash bastards were here to let Belfast know they are a band here to stay.

The fine line between thrash and death was tred well and they are a band that will surely be welcomed back to the city.

As for Bloodshot Dawn...the last time they played Belfast the audience jaws dropped. This time jaws hit the floor. They were very good last time They were beyond great on January 28th.

There is an elixir that they have concocted deep in some dungeon in Portsmouth that melds ferocity and mind-altering metal melodies.

Numbers from Reanimation (Phil's review s here) were balanced with a healthy smattering of older material, but what was consistent was the interplay and balance between Josh and Morgan intricacy and the heaviness of the band in toto.

Northern Deathfest proved a couple of things -beyond the audience draw of extreme metal. Firstly the talent across the UK is astounding. And, Northern Ireland 'heavier' bands ae growing and developing at a pace that could barely be credited five years ago.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh
Additional reporting by Zakk Traynor

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Can Therion's three and a half hour metal opera Beloved Antichrist work

REVIEWERS have an easy job. Labels and PR companies send albums, you give it a couple of listens and pen a few (ill) informed words and job's done. And then arriving in your inbox is a three and a half metal opera.

First thought was that will be 210 minutes of our lives that we'll never get back, but then...

When the band is Therion one is sort of compelled to give it a second listen - well when then dog reacted to some of the high registers in the vocals we ended up with a third listen and the time seemed worth it.

'Beloved Antichirst; has a sweep and ambition that boggles the mind, but our initial cynicism was put aside considering Christofer Johnson's track record. But, if you are expecting Therion's early death metal move along.

This is an ambitious - almost incompressible upon first listen. It seems like Wagner, Mozart had stumbled upon an electric guitar, a synth and refused to let go of those opera stars that hit all the notes.

Indeed, it really did take us three listens to 'get it'.. And, as we were listening over a digital platform once we changed the settings to eliminate all breaks between songs that it flowed.

An adaptation of a book (apparently Vladimir Soloviov's ' A Short Tale of the Antichrist) Johnson has re-worked the concept into a three disc expansive production.

To pick a track from it would be unfair as it would diminish the experience, but 'Temple of New Jerusalem comes close amidst the 4 tracks here.

While Johnson has always hankered after doing something as ambitious as this perhaps it was when he was recovered from painful surgery for two spinal disc herniations in his neck that this ambitious project came closer to realisation.

With multiple soloists, some 'weird' sections and taking symphonic metal to its extreme extrapolation this is an album that demands you make the time to listen to it. This is no 'pick the hit' album.

For some it is prog/opera/symphonic taken to its most obtuse extreme. But, what it really is.. it is much different. It harkens back to a time when, without social media and a plethora of 'reality' TV shows and vacuous TV.

A time when music fans would sit back and actually listen to an album.

And, for that we salute Johnson and all of Therion.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Therion play Belfast's Limeight2 on February 10th with support from Imperial Age
Beloved Antichrist is released on February 2nd

Monday, January 29, 2018

NEWS: Thirty Seconds to Mars announce May Belfast date

MULTI-million selling act Thirty Seconds to Mars have announced a return to Belfast with an SSE Arena show on May 29th.

Jared Leto is taking a break from his acting career to return to the road with his brother Shannon Leto and Tomo Milicevic backing their forthcoming album.

The innovative act have accumulated awards by the armful, as well as challenging conventions such as their 'Day In the Life of America' featuring 90 crews across all 50 states of the US.

Tickets go on sale this Friday, priced £49 including booking fee.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

NEWS: Steel Panther added to already burgeoning Ramblin Fair line-up

AT 11pm UK time last night Ramblin Man Fair confirmed that Steel Panther have been added to the line-up as Saturday night special guests.

The LA schlock/shock rockers will bring their OTT show to Maidstone, with all the innuendo and reminiscing that you expect.

Already provoking some debate amongst fans they, however, certainly bring a party feel.

When the recently played Belfast our trusted reviewer Ivor was on hand. Read what he thought here.

The festival is held in the beautiful Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent.

Ramblin’ Man Fair will take place on Saturday 30th June and Sunday 1st July 2018.
Announced acts to date are:

Main Stage
The Cult (Headliner)
Halestorm (Special Guest)

Steel Panther (Special Guest)
Blackberry Smoke
Sons Of Apollo

Country Stage
Steve Earle & The Dukes (Headliner)
(UK Exclusive Set ‘Copperhead Road plus Hits!’)
Me & That Man

Blues Stage
Gov’t Mule (Headliner)
Chas & Dave
Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind
Kris Barras.

Prog In the Park Stage
(Playing Material From The “Clutching At Straws” Album)
Mostly Autumn
Von Hertzen Brothers

Friday, January 26, 2018

EP REVIEW: Twilight's Embrace delicate, dense doom on Penance

DOOM and delicacy are in the metal world the equivalent of an oxymoron. They shouldn't sit together, let alone be consigned to any recording. But as all who really appreciate music the progenitors of doom were aware of the need for light amidst the unrelenting darkness.

Nottingham act Twilight's Embrace seem to be instinctively aware that this was something their influencers took on board. And, on the EP 'Penance' there is just enough light to expose the shadows.

The three original songs here have a depth of arrangement and melodic melancholy that are blackly enchanting.

Wearing their influences proudly on their sleeves 'Curtain Call' may have echoes of Primordial, but Twilight's Embrace have enough smarts to give moments of space for the song to breathe, time to reflection.

The same goes for the title track when around three minutes in self-reflection gives listener and band time to really think before an insistent riff propels the tune along.

While many will point to the influences and similarities 'Penance' has enough about itself to showcase a band that swallowed those up, digested them and regurgitated them with a unique stamp.

Opener 'Dying Earth' has more understanding of dynamics than more well known bands, while the closing of 'Penance' has just the right amount of pace.

Deciding to choose Paradise Lost's 'It's Too Late' as a final track for this EP is, however, questionable. True, to an extent they have resurrected the song, but this could have been an opportunity to hear more Twilight's Embrace original material. Perhaps one that could have been reserved for live outings.

Having said that the sensibility on display throughout 'Penance' is that of a band that are fans, and a band that wants to explore what they can do.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Penance is released on February 23rd

ALBUM REVIEW: Harms Way bring power to bear on Posthuman

WHEN the press blurb for the new Harms Way album opens by describing them as "metallic hardcore" the uninitiated may go "is that not metalcore?" Those unwashed people can now leave the building, or just check out what Harms Way are all about.

Violent intent, social commentary and a sound that crushes all before it.

And, on new release 'Posthuman' they take all preconceptions anyone may have, stamp on them and eviscerate the doubters.

Where 'Rust' when released in 2015 augured great things 2018 sees Harms Way release a masterpiece of pounding anger.

In this fucked up world we need bands like Harms Way to throw a light on to the rapidly changing world. It's not about throwing a middle finger to an uncaring world. It is about challenging perceptions with intelligence and muscle.

Take 'Unreality'. with its refrain of "This is madness" and the line "Through the looking glass to see myself". Delivered with equal parts of anger and frustration this is a band as self-aware of themselves as they are observers on a planet that sees 'reality shows' as the pinnacle of 21st Century achievement.

Throughout 'Posthuman' there is a sense of frustration and wry eyed observation. Amplified by Bo Lueders and Nick Gauthier's playing the sonic tapestry allows James Pligge the room to express himself, such as when his vitriol spills forth on over-population on the vicious 'Human Carrying Capacity'.

Equally the near Shamanic 'This Gift' helps show a band that knows that despite the dark insights they bring, there is a need to challenge all.

Across all 10 tracks there are musical and lyrical insights ('Becoming A Machine' has a take on technology worth reflecting upon) but it is on the closer 'Dead Space' that shows Harms Way are more than just relevant.

At a time when social media is a fucked up place, when anger and likes sit side by side 'Dead Space', this exploration of negativity is the perfect antidote to the mouthpieces and commentariat.

Maybe it is being exposed to the worst excesses of the US media, or its political system in the Trump era that has produced such an album as 'Posthuman' - even if it is a view reinforced by us weird liberals in the UK - but the harsh light Harms Way brings means that if you ever feared you were a victim of confirmation bias there's a boot coming your way to offer a reality check.

We may all have doubts, but Harms Way are going to expand those fears and make you face up to them.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Posthuman is released on Metal Blade on February 9th

NEWS: Rabid Bitch of the North to unleash vinyl edition of scorching release Nothing But A Bitter Taste

"Well here it is! We promised vinyl and we have delivered!" So say Rabid Bitch of the North

THE new Rabid Bitch album 'Nothing But A Bitter Taste' will be arriving on 140 gram Green Vinyl via Hostile Media in 2018! But snoozing will mean losing as the closing date for orders is February 28th, 2018.

To make things even more special RBOTN  have made up 50 awesome pre-order packs that include some more exclusives for you!

This is a pre-order for a limited edition hand numbered Green Vinyl edition of the RBOTN album "Nothing But A Bitter Taste" (2017 Hostile Media).

These are the first edition prints. This pack will include a Free "Demon Mind" exclusive shirt design + Free album download code + Free RBOTN logo pin badge + Free band signed artwork poster + Free artwork beer mat + Free mini bottle of Cloven Hoof Rum.

Download codes and link will be emailed on payment. Shirt size to be requested with your order.

Your Pre-order vinyl pack will be shipped well before release date in June. As soon as Hostile Media recieves the vinyl you will recieve yours.

Orders will not be shipped any earlier than June.

Official release date is 6th of July 2018 (due to pressing plant demands)

These are sure to sell out fast so don't hesitate to order now and get the exclusive vinyl colour and free merch!! PM the band with any queries.

These packages are £25. Order here.

And, to read what we think of 'Nothing But A Bitter Taste' here's the review when it was released.

ALBUM REVIEW: Visigoth vapourise all as they pledge the Conqueror's Oath

PO-FACED, overly analytical metal fans look away now. Those with a sense of humour, who enjoy heavy metal for heavy metal's sake keep reading, because Visigoth have returned to claim their rightful place in the panoply of 21st Century great metal acts.

As with the 2015 release, 'The Revenant King' the Salt Lake City five-piece have stayed true to their vision of straight-forward, heads down metal on 'Conqueror's Oath'...with only one minor deviation.

From the off you know what you get as 'Steel and Silver' riffs kick straight out of the blocks, sprinting around your head against fantastical lyrical themes.

And, those lyrical themes cause those who take their metal a little to serious be put off. They can either fuck off or like the rest of us get our air guitar out and run around the room like a toddler pumped full of E numbers.

'Outlive Them All' is, for example, a supercharged, full throttle, adrenaline four-and-a-half minutes of sheer delight. Rampaging, roaring music that will give you neck ache.

The sense of 'epic' that pervades most of 'Conqueror's Oath' gives it all a sense of purpose. Hell, it is almost as if Visigoth have listened to all of the Friday Rock Show recording between 1980 and 1985. Oozing through their pores is a sense of the delight of NWOBHM with liberal dashes of Manowar and lyrics akin to Blue Oyster Cult.

And, there is nothing wrong with that.

The title track and 'Warrior Queen' are glorious. Sweeping in scope, taut in intent they are the sort of songs that will be as sublime live as they are on the album.

However, there is a deviation... 'Salt City'. As if they have sucked the last remaining souls of Kiss, took all of Ace Frehley's licks and re-located them to Utah. Just a great deviation from the fantasy.

Visigoth are a band that have been 'bubbling under' for many in the UK and Europe, but if you love your straight-forward heavy metal Conqueror's Oath needs to be added to your collection.

It's an album that will have you in parts grinning like a maniac at one moment and tight-jawed hair flailing the next.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Conqueror's Oath is out on Metal Blade on 9th February

Visigoth Conqueror's Oath artwork

NEWS: Vaaver to vacate the Destruction drum stool

SAD news from German thrash titans DESTRUCTION: After joining the band back in 2010, drummer Vaaver announces that he will be parting ways with the group in March after eight years. His departure from the band is due to family reasons.

Vaaver said: "It is never easy to make hard decisions. It is time for me to part ways with DESTRUCTION - the band that has hosted me for nearly a decade; my brothers, my best buddies. Above all, these guys are great musicians that I have enjoyed countless performances with.
"Eight years with DESTRUCTION means more than words can describe.
Pic by Bianca Berger

"We shared the stage more than 500 times, travelled to the moon and back at least twice! It is time to drift my career towards more calm waters which surround my family. At the same time, DESTRUCTION needs to explore new exciting and challenging stages of their career. I would like to thank Schmier and Mike for giving me the opportunity to be a part of DESTRUCTION. I tried my best to enhance the band's sound and groove with my skills.

"I could see the fans' reactions around the world that came to the gigs and the signing sessions with tears in their eyes…just happy to see the band they had listened to since the beginning of the 80's. It has been a truly unforgettable experience! I wish you guys all the best. I know you will find the right replacement with the skills and dedication that you deserve for your incredible band. I am not quitting my profession either.

"It is just a change in life that we all sometimes go through and have to adjust to new circumstances. Hope we meet again one day or night on your rough DESTRUCTION seas! Thank you Schmier and Mike…!"

To be clear, all shows will still be going ahead with Vaaver playing with DESTRUCTION until March. Randy Black, who already replaced him on his baby-break, will step in for the shows after March, until the band has decided who will be Vaaver's worthy successor.

Schmier added: "There is not much more to add in this moment of sorrow. We all know it really sucks to separate with people you cherish for reasons beyond control. So ‘family first’ is something we all have to accept.

"Vaaver was not just the best drummer we ever had and I don't wanna diminish the dignity of any of our old drummers here, but he also was a killer dude and a great friend. So yes, this really hurts…of course he will stay a part of our clan and the big DESTRUCTION family! Cheers for all those fantastic years, our paths will definitely cross again and all the best for your future, Vaavski!"

DESTRUCTION released ‘Thrash Anthems II’, the follow-up to 2007's ‘Thrash Anthems’, in November 2017. The record includes re-recorded classics of the band's extensive back catalogue.

NEWS: Dimmu Borgir to break the deathly silence

OVER seven years, deathlike silence has filled the halls of the world‘s biggest black metal forge, Dimmu Borgir, whilst powers have been gathering to resurrect the band right in time for their 25th anniversary.

Now they finally mark their return with a vicious work of art that can be defined as timeless in the truest sense of the word: Eonian.

The song writing core of Dimmu Borgir furthermore consists of charismatic vocalist Shagrath, as well as the string wizards Silenoz and Galder, but other familiar faces also emerge from the darkness; drummer Daray and keyboarder Gerlioz are still part of the team, and Gaute Storaas helped with the choral arrangements for the majestic voices of the Schola Cantrum Choir.

The cover artwork was designed in fascinating detail by Zbigniew M. Bielak (Ghost, Behemoth, Mayhem).

This tenth full-length record will see the light of spring on 4th May and it will contain 10 new tracks, produced by the band itself and engineered by Jens Bogren. Emerging from the dark minds of the three songwriters, Eonian follows a philosophical concept, dealing with the illusion of time:

“Time, when not approaching it from the construct we're used to can't be defined and thus it is illusory”, explains axemaster Silenoz. “There's only an 'eternal now', which the album title is already hinting at. When we travel between the worlds seen and unseen, the perception of time ceases to exist, it has no function. Our energy is our torch and our compass when we make rifts and pierce through the veil - when we go beyond.”

Vocalist Shagrath adds: “Eonian represents the illusion of time, everything that is and always has been. For us, it also marks the 25th anniversary of Dimmu Borgir and the album itself is a tribute to our own history and the Norwegian black metal history.”

On February 23rd, Dimmu Borgir will unveil their first single 'Interdimensional Summit' which will be released as a 7'' vinyl EP, providing a first taste of the upcoming album.

The EP contains the new track 'Interdimensional Summit' as well as 'Puritania (Live In Oslo)' and will be available in red & clear, and gold vinyl colors.

You can pre-order the release HERE:

NEWS: The Polka Dot invasion is coming back as SLF announce 2018 Custom House Square show

LESS than a year ago Belfast's Custom House Square witnesses a special event as an army of punks, rockers and general mentalists descended on the area - many bedecked in polka dot shirts (don't ask!) for one of the most exciting events of 2016.

It seems that Stiff Little Fingers enjoyed it so much that they are going to do it again...

Come August 25th SLF will once again pack out Custom House Square, and as with last year no doubt draw people from across the UK and further afield. Fuck sake the Northern Ireland Tourist Board should be sponsoring this event!

Of course the Stiffs will be announcing some special guests that will only increase the draw to this event, but (and, yes we are biased!) SLF always put on a show that still has an edge beyond most acts on the planet.

The adoration for Jake, Ali, Steve and Ian is enormous, and as the 40th Anniversary Tour proved they have the live chops, the attitude that they can - and do - conquer all.

Ticket info and support line-up to be announced shortly.

ALBUM REVIEW: More than a Best of - Soil Scream The Essentials

‘BEST Of’ albums, eh? If you’re a proper fan, you must buy it; if not, meh.

There is, however, a third category: the one where you’re not that much of a huge fan of said artist/band, but you hear all their songs together and think “actually they’re really quite good, aren’t they?”. Step forward the subject of today’s review: SOiL.

The rockers formed way back in 1997 in Chicago, originally from members of two different death metal bands. Vocalist Ryan McCombs soon joined and they began recording, releasing a few EP’s which did very little to get them noticed.

It was only when single ‘Halo’ was doing the rounds that record labels began to sit up and take notice, which led to them being signed to J Records for their first album Scars in 2001.

After 2004’s Redefine, McCombs left; ostensibly to spend more time with his family, he then announced a year later that he was joining Drowning Pool. His role in SOiL was then taken by singer AJ Cavalier, who stayed with them for three albums before he, too, announced his departure from the band, along with drummer Tom Schofield. McCombs then returned to tour with the band as they celebrated the tenth anniversary of Scars in 2011 (are you keeping up?) before deciding to make the guest role permanent.

A live DVD/CD combo (2012) and a Kickstarter-funded album later (2013’s Whole), the band released Scream: The Essentials at the end of 2017 on Pavement/AFM Records. Comprised of original tracks featuring both vocalists, as well as some alternative and acoustic versions and surprising covers, the album runs in essentially in chronological order, from their 1998 EP El Chupacabra to the Whole album. Ready? Let’s step into SOiL’s discography and see what we find…

The album opens with one of those rather startling covers, in the form of ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ from the film The Blues Brothers. Bassist Tim King reveals the thinking behind the decision, stating “we felt it was a perfect song to the album…it tied in our Chicago roots and the twentieth anniversary of the band perfectly”.

The resulting track is a brilliant, although very much ‘rocked up’ version of the classic and is maybe a trifle self-indulgent but also undeniably good fun.
“Fun” is a word that pops up again and again while listening to this album.

SOiL may not be big, clever or pretty, but my goodness can they write a great, catchy, ‘party hard’ tune or two. Even as far back as the late Nineties (tracks two, three and four) they had already honed that instantly recognisable sound: the chugging NWOAHM riffs, the hard rock machismo, the nu metal twang and McCombs’ signature gravelly vocal style. Each song has a driving, pummelling beat; each makes you want to jump around, dance like a loon and headbang frantically, up to and including their magnificent cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’. Their live shows must be utterly uproarious.

A few numbers stand slightly above the rest: ‘Halo’, of course, aka “the one everyone knows”. A simple yet awesomely effective track, with its heavy bass and fist-pumping beat, it still sets any rock club across the world on fire when the DJ hits ‘play’.

There’s also the slower-paced but no less rocking ‘Unreal’, with it’s rather Silverchair-ish vibe; the slinky, nu metal ‘Breakin’ Me Down’; the ‘System of a Down x Stone Sour’ combo of ‘Pride’ and Redefine’; and the swaggering ‘Hate Song’, all defiant, ‘fuck you’ lyrics and slight Buckcherry vibe (no, really).

The only time there is a bit of a lag, it has to be said, is during the tracks where Cavalier replaced McCombs. The former is certainly a formidable vocalist, but the band as a whole seems to have lost a bit of its mojo when the latter departed, resulting in some rather desultory releases and even an unfortunate foray into country music territory with the insipid ‘The Lesser Man’.

That’s all forgiven when ‘My Time’ kicks in: McCombs is back, and so is the band’s cocksureness and more cohesive sound.
Slinky, sexy and macho, with a late Motley feel, it marks their return to form in spades. This is also remarkably evident during the live version of ‘Halo’ included from their 2012 DVD/CD: the band are audibly rejoicing, and the crowd absolutely loves it.

The alternative versions are also a bit self-indulgent, but no doubt fascinating for fans: an acoustic version of ‘Can You Heal Me’ which loses little of its power without electric guitars, but rather gains something of an Alice In Chains ‘Rooster’ vibe; the inclusion of the late Wayne Static on ‘Give It Up’ lends the song a spiky, slightly unhinged air; and a minimally altered version of ‘Like It Is’ offers really very little in the way of change.

Then there’s the final track, Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’, included as an homage to the late Chris Cornell. Musically lower-pitched than Cornell and co but vocally higher-pitched, and cannily picking up on the sense of urgency in the original, it’s a great choice for a cover, and a touching reason to cover it to boot.

So, there you have it: SOiL, far from being one of those bands that you don’t think you know too much about until you actually listen to them, in fact have quite an impressive discography, as can be heard on Scream: The Essentials.

Almost every song is catchy, heavy, and highly enjoyable, almost all would fit comfortably into any party or rock night setlist, and no track outstays its welcome, with most around a trim three minutes or less. It is, in short, a wealth of hidden gems that the most casual fan has probably missed out on up until now. If that’s you, then giving this album a listen to is highly recommended; it will almost undoubtedly surprise you.

SOiL sre currently touring the UK and Ireland (including playing the Limelight in Belfast on Thursday February 15th) with Alien Ant Farm.

Review by Melanie Brehaut

NEWS: The Cult announced as first headliners in an already packed Ramblin Man Fair line-up

FOLLOWING on from the critically acclaimed and commercially successful third year in 2017, Ramblin’ Man Fair returns in 2018! This year the festival will move from its traditional end of July slot to the 30th June and 1st July 2018 and hae announced

Ramblin’ Man Fair is pleased to announce the next wave of bands for the event in 2018. These include The Cult (Main Stage Headliner, UK Exclusive), Gun (Main Stage), Chas & Dave (Blues Stage), Me & That Man - Neargal (Country Stage), Goldray and Voyager (Both Prog In The Park Stage) with many more acts to be announced…

The Cult (Main Stage, Headliner / UK Exclusive Set) – Ramblin’ Man Fair are delighted to announce the first headline act for 2018 – British rock legends The Cult. Formed in 1983 (although becoming The Cult in 1984), the band have gone to sell over 10 million albums worldwide. The distinctive vocals of Ian Astbury and guitar playing of Billy Duffy inspired a generation of young rock fans and the bands influence and legacy can’t be underestimated – from playing seven sold out nights at Wembley Arena to taking little known band Guns N Roses out on their first USA tour. Ian Astbury was also the visionary behind “A Gathering Of the Tribes” festival in the USA, which he launched in 1990 with Bill Graham – often seen as the precursor to Lollapalooza, the spirit of AGOTT is very much in keeping with the diverse lineup of Ramblin’ Man Fair itself.

The Cult released classic albums such as “Love”, “Electric” and “Sonic Temple”, and delivered songs such as “Wildflower”, “Love Removal Machine”, “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Fire Woman”. After splitting in the mid 90s the band reformed in the late 90s and released latest studio album “Hidden Cities” in 2016. Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 will be a UK exclusive performance in 2018 for these British treasures.

GUN (Main Stage) – Drawing influence from the classic rock bands before them Scottish band Gun became one of the UK’s premier rock acts in the 1990s. The bands 1989 debut album, “Taking the World”, led to a host of singles and guest slots with luminaries such as The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden. Following the debut, a plethora of critically acclaimed albums, charted singles and awards, line-up changes eventually led to the bands untimely demise in the late 90s. The band returned in 2008 and have re-established themselves at the top of their game – their 2017 album “Favourite Pleasures” charted in the UK at 2016.  With hits such as “Better Days” and their global hit cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” will be a fantastic addition to the main stage of Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018.

Chas & Dave (Blues Stage) – Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 are delighted to welcome the living legends that are Chas & Dave. Formed in 1975 the cockney duo invented and perfected the musical genre of rockney. Eight top 40 singles, nine charting albums and countless live shows have followed. The band released their latest studio album, their first in 18 years, in 2013. With hit singles such as “Gertcha”, “Rabbit” and “Ain’t No Pleasing You” The Blues Stage will be a riotous place to be at Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018.

The festival will take place in the beautiful Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent – the garden of England.
Ramblin’ Man Fair will take place on Saturday 30th June and Sunday 1st July 2018.
Announced acts to date are:

Main Stage
The Cult (Headliner)
Halestorm (Special Guest)
Blackberry Smoke
Sons Of Apollo
Country Stage
Steve Earle & The Dukes (Headliner)
(UK Exclusive Set ‘Copperhead Road plus Hits!’)
Me & That Man

Blues Stage
Gov’t Mule (Headliner)
Chas & Dave
Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind
Kris Barras.

Prog In the Park Stage
(Playing Material From The “Clutching At Straws” Album)
Mostly Autumn
Von Hertzen Brothers

NEWS: HRH Prog announces Hawkwind and Pendragon among 27 acts set for November

HAWKWIND and Pendragon will be among those heading up this year's HRH Prog (15th-18th November, 2018).

“We’re proud to deliver what’s got to be the biggest, best, residential prog festival on Planet Earth,” says HRH’s Progster-in-Chief Jonni Davis, “There will be 27 bands in total, including acts that shaped prog and much more.”

Hawkwind will be a headline act. First formed in 1969, the band has gone through more incarnations and evolution than Doctor Who and Charles Darwin combined, with founder Dave Brock remaining a constant presence throughout. Famed for their psychedelic, spacey sound (and of course landmark tracks like Silver Machine), Hawkwind will bring solid prog to the party.

Pendragon hail from 1978 and played a major part in the progressive rock revival of the 80s (along with bands like Marillion, with whom they often performed, both on tours and at the Marquee). If you’re a lover of great neo-prog, be sure to catch their set.

The Strawbs have long been a favourite flavour among the HRH Faithful. HRH Prog VII will give fans a great chance to see this excellent band.

Martin Turner, meanwhile, was a founder member of Wishbone Ash and will be performing under the banner of Martin Turner Ex Wishbone Ash, performing classic Wishbone Ash music and more. Again: a set not to be missed.

There’s also a great chance to see The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Fire became one of the Sixties’ greatest one-hit wonders whilst Arthur’s fiery antics onstage made for spectacular shows, notoriety (and reportedly got him kicked off Jimi Hendrix’s tour!). He has, however, influenced countless musicians and performers (like Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Kiss, and Alice Cooper) thanks to due to his madcap look, persona and flamboyant performance, not to mention his operatic vocal style, which influenced prog and heavy metal. See this prog pioneer, live and first-hand, at HRH Prog VII.

Also announced are: Panic Room, Gandalf’s Fist, The Attack (Featuring Davy O’List), Tír na nÓg, Goldray, Jump, The Amber Herd, I Am The Manic Whale, The Winter Machine, Final Conflict, and Gryflet.

HRH will also be announcing another wave of bands to fill up the second arena, taking it to an impressive 27 acts over the festival’s long weekend.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Does Kill the Unicorn dream of an electric Prism?

WHAT do you get when you cross metalcore with 8-bit gaming and jazz? Kill the Unicorn, an avant garde Swizz band formed in 2014. And, an interesting concept it is too.

Their latest album ‘Prism’, released in late 2017, is a really…. interesting listen. It’s as if Thy Art is Murder had a lovechild with Frank Zappa and immediately started playing the Legend of Zelda on a Gameboy.

The album immediately gives you that vibe with ‘Motoko Kusanagi’, a very familiar name to anyone who knows of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, with nostalgia inducing 8-bit tones before bludgeoning you with fast and frenzied riffs.

Throughout there is that undertone of 8-Bit magic as its sound rises to the top to be replicated by the guitars. All the while Pipo’s visceral guttural vocals roll along like a platform protagonist that just beat the shit out of Bowser. It’s a very well put together weird piece of metalcore that you will want to listen to over and over.

‘Dreams in 56k’ is one of the most nostalgia inducing intermissions (only 23 seconds long) you will hear. If you grew up in the 90’s and had a modem then this will both melt your heart and make you cringe with horror. No incoming or outgoing calls when that baby was running.

Next up is ‘Ode to Spot’ is a wondrous mad mix of metalcore with pure Zappa/Primus weirdness that perfectly complements the subject of the song, Spot the Cat. Yes, all you will think of is Data’s cat. And his own ‘Ode to Spot’.  Again they neatly entwine references to contemporary nerd culture in a natural fun way. And yes Pipo was counting Tribbles in there too.

On into ‘Wormhole To Gliese 556c’ is one for science geeks as Kill the Unicorn seem to make an oblique reference to Gliese 581, a recently discovered, possibly, habitable planet. As Pipo rumbles out his vocals as the band lay down a fantastically heavy track, it just drags you along into space. Again there is a little musical twist plopped right into the song. Always expect the unexpected.

As ‘F.U.C.K.U.P.’ blasts in with pure heavy metalcore, you will be trashing your head until they get to the chorus when you will stop and go ‘WTF’, which is just the Hors d'oeuvre for the weirdness main course. Which involves a submarine at one point.

Just for a bit of left curve balling, ‘Me And My Velociraptor’ is an amazing tour de force instrumental, which has such a Chilli Pepper feel at the start you almost think Anthony Kiedis is about to drop a bit of ‘Under the Bridge’ for a laugh. It then leads off into melodically epic driving riffs and thunderous drums and cymbals. Being Kill the Unicorn, they just couldn’t leave it alone with beautifully crafted slow spots and reprises throughout. A fantastic track.

Kicking you in the face. Again. Is ‘Conquistador’. A heavy thrashing track full of serious metal tonnage mixing in some catchy melodies all while pounding along like an army on the march. Fantastic.

Then comes ‘Catacombs’, a short but perfectly formed piece of rage filled vocals full of power, an unstoppable force until it hits a jazz speed bump, and then goes wonderfully weird from there.

On into a rousing thumping track in German ‘Ausgefuchst’ or ‘Crafty’ that just grabs your body and tosses you about in its own hard melodic way. It may put you in mind of Metalocalypse's Dethklok.

The penultimate tune is ‘Rendesvouz with Cleopatra’ a fast thrashy metal track that will still keep a headbanging metalcore fan happy with solid moshing breakdowns.
Lastly comes ‘Pitch Black VR’ which immediately conjures up the film that brought us the mighty Vin Diesel and the track has a chaotic and frentic dread heaving throughout reflecting the atmosphere of the movie.

Kill the Unicorn are Full Metal Alchemists who pound out a wonderfully dissonant cacophony of techno metalcore, 8-Bit insanity, and Zappa jazz. They just revel in trolling metallers by defying tradition and creating an existential heavy metal crisis. All the tracks have a schizophrenic force driving forward with an undeniable energy. The songs themselves delve into the dark dystopian side of humanity’s dependence on technology, the album has an overall hard cyberpunk ‘Blade Runner’ feel.

As Pipo says “Live fast, die digital”. Especially pertinent as technology and social media is so dominant.

Review by Ivor Whitten

Kill The Unicorn’s ‘Prism’ is out now

Kill the Unicorn are
Pipo Thalmann - Vocals
Marc Sommerhalder - Bass
Matteo Leuthold - Drums
Ziggy Lebon - Guitars
Raphael Zumstein – Guitars

Metalcore / Progressive / Hardcore / call it what you want...