Pick Your Rock and Metal

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Behind the veil - In Flames stupendous on I, Mask

THE evolution of modern music has been weird - vocal warbling on pop songs, dance DJs pretending to mix as tracks from their computer, and some metal bands stuck in a rut. But when it comes to In Flames they have evolved, without betraying their past. Now they have gone one step further.

New release 'I, Mask' is complex, yet straight forward; layered, yet easy to 'get'; and, introspective and outward-looking.

Their last release, in 2016, 'Battles' (reviewed here) was a soul-searching examination of so much, and while magnificent some thought they had strayed a little too far from their roots. They were wrong, but hey ho, we fast forward to 2019 and I, Mask...

This is a statement release. It is an album that challenges and has heft and beauty in equal measure. For every riff battering you into submission, then entrances with melody and clean vocals.

The opener 'Voices' sets the tone for the release, yet is just the tease of the greatness within.

And, the title track rages and tears from the off as Anders Fridén roars before adding the melody chorus. Whatever has been the instigation of I, Mask in toto, new writing processes or a change in attitude it matters not: this is a band reclaiming melodic metal for itself.

The playing is exquisite in places - each riff and solo measured. Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin taking the sections of each song and deploying their guitars in a way that compliments the overall song.

'I Am Above' broods and threatens and realises personal strength and fragility in its lyrics. While 'Battles' felt like an exposition of personal issues I, Mask deals with much more.

As well as dealing with the personal it is a call to avoid falling down the social media rabbit hole, avoid isolation - and the wondrous 'Follow Me' is a choker when you listen to it properly.

Equally the strident '(This Is Our) House' is a call to arms to save the planet, propelled by anger and a battle cry to unite to save Earth. While it has it's climate change theme it is could also contain a lyric that sums up In Flames own trajectory: "We Won't Back Down".

Indeed that is something that In Flames encapsulate; in their 30-year career they have stood on their own terms as fads come and go, while examining what they do, how they do it and adapting to what they want.

While 'Burn' roars off the blocks and 'Deep Inside' eases in with almost middle-Eastern tones, they showcase a band that is prepared to risk their considerable reputation by doing what they want. And, that surely is the key to any band's integrity - and success be true unto thyself.

Closer 'Stay With Me' almost has the feel of power balladery without becoming a cliché: tenderness and self-abasement and hope - exquisite.

I, Mask is a defining moment for this generation. Man of the acts professing to be 'modern metal' need to sit down listen to this, and learn.

In Flames' reputation was already intact, but now with I, Mask they can genuinely stand peerless.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

I, Mask is available now on Nuclear Blast

ALBUM REVIEW: Declaration from Overkill on Wings of War

WHEN you suddenly realise you are getting old...that's when Overkill's new album makes you realise that they have been going 30+ years and this is number 19 from the New Jersey thrashers...

What have we been doing with our lives when Overkill have been battling more than most: line-up changes, Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth's nose cancer and latterly pneumonia, added to his occasional controversial comments about the Democrats.

They have shown remarkable resilience, however, it is the quality of their albums that has always kept them held in high esteem. Their last release 'The Grinding Wheel' (reviewed here) was a statement of class, but #19 'Wings of War' raises the bar.

The 10 tracks show balance, precision, allied with humour and a knowing nod to their musical (and on one track literal) roots.

It may clock in at just over 50 minutes but there is not one second wasted. From 'Last Man Standing's militaristic opening beats to the closing notes of 'Hole In My Soul' this is a thrash masterclass. True, they are not re-inventing the genre or doing anything really challenging, but by all the Metal Gods they don't need to when these tracks are so good.

Bobby and bassist DD Verni may be the 'originals' but Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer combined guitar grunt have elevated every recent released, and the addition of Jason Bittner (ex of Shadows Fall and Flotsam and Jetsam) has given this album a new dynamic vibe.

For fuck sake, if you can keep still 'Bat Shit Crazy' you are dead from the neck up: add in the changes in tempo and guitar work on this it is madness to deny how good it is.

Now, as some of you know Overkill take pride in having influences that include punk. And, they take pride in their New Jersey home. Thus, step back, mosh and laugh to 'Welcome To The Garden State' - savagery and hilarity in one neat 4:42 package.

Mid-paced tracks such as 'Distortion' have the broody feel of the first and second generation thrash, without diluting Overkill's own take on it; while 'Where Few Dare To Walk' drips with menace.

Wings Of War can be summed up in many ways, but best to check out 'Believe In The Fight' and 'Hole In My Soul'. Both songs encapsulate a fuck you attitude; a single finger in the air and a relentless commitment to give everything.

And, given that the album was recorded across three studios it is a cohesive and...well brilliant.

Wings of War is declaration that no matter the age, when an album is this good it is best to set the volume to max and shake the neighbourhood.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Overkill's Wings of War is out now on Nuclear Blast

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

NEWS: Aborted head up seven new announcements for Bloodstock 2019

LIKE clockwork Bloodstock every couple of weeks announce another slew of acts for this year's metal extravaganza, topped by Aborted.

Full details below, as well as the full list of Big Green coach pick-ups. (We know many from Norn Iron will just be using the Birkenhead one, with the assemblage at the Brass Buckle on the return)

Here, is the official Bloodstock press release...

Lucky for some, BLOODSTOCK springs into March with news of seven more bands joining this summer’s best metal weekender and a massive thirteen more coach pick-up locations, making it easier than ever to get you, your mates, and all your camping gear to BLOODSTOCK for a very fine metallic time this August.

Belgian death metal kings ABORTED stride onto the Ronnie James Dio main stage on Sunday.  The band tell us, “BLOODSTOCK!  It’s been a while!  We couldn’t be more thrilled to lay waste to thee in the most offensive of manners this coming summer. Prepare my friends, the blastbeat is coming!”  Their current album ‘TerrorVision’ is blazing holes in our speakers over at BOA HQ.  See what we mean via the video for ‘Deep Red’, a track taken from that record here - https://youtu.be/ak4oeZwBfJs.

Cali death metallers, SKELETAL REMAINS join Saturday’s fray on the Sophie Lancaster stage. The band released their third album ‘Devouring Mortality’ last April via Dark Descent/Century Media, and returned to the road for extensive touring, which now includes a run of US dates with Hatebreed and Mexican headline shows this spring. Watch the video for that album’s earthquake-inspired first single ‘Seismic Abyss’, at https://youtu.be/jss2oSGJ604.

Aussie rockers THE LAZYS crash into a Sunday spot on the Sophie stage.  If you love a bit of AC/DC-style classic rock n’ roll, these boys are definitely worth a watch and are sure to bring the party!  The band’s current album, ‘Tropical Hazards’ came out last year, so crack a cold one and check out the video for their infectious tune ‘Nothing But Trouble’ - https://youtu.be/K7ngGOlna0A. 

3 HEADED SNAKE join the Sophie stage bill on Saturday.  The LA-based classic metal band was put together by current Ministry guitarist Sin Quirin and features the soaring vocals of Johnny Ray.  See their video for ‘Wisdom Screams’ at https://youtu.be/VsHERp-0LTg and if you like what you hear, go pick up the five piece’s eponymous 3-track debut EP from iTunes or Bandcamp.

BOSS KELOID land a Sunday slot on the Sophie stage.  With current album, ‘Melted On The Inch’ being released last year on Holy Roar Records to vast critical acclaim (Prog Magazine called it “an extraordinary piece of work”), we’re excited to welcome the prog metallers back to Catton Park.  Witness their musical mastery via the video for ‘Chronosiam’ here; https://youtu.be/PbajHpfW3cs.

German crossover thrash squad DUST BOLT snag themselves a Saturday slot on the Sophie stage. Their brand new album, ‘Trapped In Chaos’ was released last month via Napalm Records.  Check out the video for album opener, ‘The Fourth Strike’ - https://youtu.be/aKryFh-upx8 and warm up those necks for their thrashtastic set in August!

RED METHOD romp into a Saturday slot on the Sophie stage.  The band, comprising former members of Meta-Stasis and The Defiled, are set to release their debut album, ‘For The Sick’ sometime this year.  Investigate their sound by watching the video for ‘Split’ over on their YouTube channel - https://youtu.be/kb_hacCAId0.

Making your travel plans yet and usually come by coach?  We asked you to let the good folks at Big Green Coach know if you wanted a new pick-up point in your town and if there was enough interest, they'd look into it.  They had such great response, they've added an extra 13 pick-up points for their BOA coaches!  Travel direct from your town and get dropped off inside the BLOODSTOCK gates, bringing your camping gear and supplies with you!  Say hello to a total of 34 locations, with prices for a return ticket starting at just £32.  The full list now runs as follows; ABERDEEN, BIRKENHEAD, BIRMINGHAM, BRADFORD, BOURNEMOUTH, BRISTOL, CAMBRIDGE, CARDIFF, CARLISLE, CHESTER, DUNDEE, EDINBURGH, EXETER, GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER, LANCASTER, LEEDS, LIVERPOOL, LONDON (Victoria Coach Station), MANCHESTER, MIDDLESBROUGH, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, NEWPORT, NORWICH, OXFORD, PERTH, PLYMOUTH, PRESTON, SHEFFIELD, SOUTHAMPTON, SUNDERLAND, SWANSEA, TAUNTON and WORCESTER.   Head over to www.biggreencoach.co.uk/events/bloodstock-festival-tickets-coach-travel to book your seat or your coach + ticket bundle!   Big Green Coach's services were hugely popular last year and many routes sold out in advance of the event, so please book early to guarantee your spot!  If you're coming by train instead and need a shuttle ride from Lichfield City rail station to the festival site, Big Green Coach do those too, so click to their site to secure your place for just £10 (it's more expensive on the day) and get ahead of the rush!

The final allocation of VIP tickets, plus Podpads, Luxpads, Bellepads and Octopads are now on sale, plus a limited number of VIP upgrades (for those who’ve already purchased a standard ticket).  For full details click to http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/pages/vip-camping. Standard weekend tickets are also in the ticket store, priced £145 (+ fees), snap yours up at http://bloodstock.seetickets.com.

Friday night’s headliner SABATON, Saturday’s top dogs PARKWAY DRIVE and Sunday’s bill toppers SCORPIONS, join ANTHRAX, DIMMU BORGIR, CHILDREN OF BODOM, CODE ORANGE, POWERWOLF, SOILWORK, CRADLE OF FILTH, THY ART IS MURDER, TESSERACT, METAL CHURCH, SOULFLY, DEATH ANGEL, DEE SNIDER, QUEENSRYCHE, ELUVEITIE, SWALLOW THE SUN, EVIL SCARECROW, ROSS THE BOSS, GRAND MAGUS, ROTTING CHRIST, INCITE and HYPOCRISY on the Catton Park stages this August.  With more than 80 bands to go, stay tuned for even more artists to be announced soon!

Subscribe to the BLOODSTOCK e-mailout to get band and news announcements as they happen!  Click through to http://eepurl.com/dKZrG-/ to sign up.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 8th-11th August 2019.  Get additional information over at www.bloodstock.uk.com.

Monday, March 04, 2019

NEWS: Sure as summer rolls around SLF will be back at Custom House Square

IT'S practically a tradition now, Stiff Little Fingers playing Custom House Square, Belfast in August. And, once again SLF will be gracing their home town on August 24th. One can practically set the a weekend in the calendar of all SLF fans for this show.

Once again they have packed out the supporting bill with stellar acts. As well as the Terri Hooley DJ there will be The Toy Dolls, Therapy? and New Model Army.
Stiff Little Fingers August 2019 Belfast tour poster

Given the amount of people who flock to this from all arts and parts of the UK - and much further afield fucking Tourism NI should be backing this - the range of accents alone is testimony to the drawing power of SLF, as well as the NI devotees.

With new material being worked on by Jake and the band no matter whether it is aired in August the show is surely set to repeat last year's sell-out, just as many dates on their current UK tour already are.

Tickets, priced £27 (+booking fee) go on sale on Friday, March 8th at 10am from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets.