Tuesday, November 18, 2014

INTERVIEW: Skálmöld chat about the price of a pint in Iceland... and their tour so far.

WHEN Skálmöld finished their soundcheck ahead of their Friday, November 14th gig (review here) we grabbed the Icelandic Viking metal men for a chat about the serious stuff, slaves, DNA and the price of a pint.

Click below to hear what they had to say!


Interview by Jonny

INTERVIEW: Audrey Horne's Arve reveals the secret to becoming an overnight success....

WHEN Audrey Horne played Belfast as part of the Youngblood tour it is fair to say that the crowd was sparse - yet such was the strength of the performance that word of mouth has been such that nearly 10 times the actual crowd are now claiming to be present.

We, have the photographic evidence showing that several members of the Belfastmetalheadsreunited/RockRadioni team were present - and if we weren't fans before then we simply left awed by the band.

The fact that it is now 2014 and Audrey Horne are back round Europe backing their 'Pure Heavy' release belies the fact that they have been around since 2002....

Recently we caught up with Arve Isdal (a.k.a. Ice Dale) to hear a little bit about Audrey Horne's onward march as 2015 comes ever closer.

As ever, with all but a few bands, it was the year's of hard work that led to 'overnight success' when 'Youngblood' hit home in charts, live and in the hearts of fans of honest hard rock.

"It was a bit of a breakthrough for us," said Arve. "We had been putting a lot of work to getting to that stage, but when we began to tour to back it we were pleased at the response.

"We got offered more tours and tour slots and began to see more people turning out to see us."

To a large extent the twin duelling guitars of Arve and Thomas and Toschie's larger than life stage presence brought that classic melodic hard rock sound, so it's no surprise when Arve name-checks some of his influences as "Kiss, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Sabbath" and influences such as "Dave Gilmour and Richie Blackmore".

But that two-guitar sound owes a lot of classic Lizzy and UFO - something which Arve concedes, as we explored with him the difference between 'Youngblood' and 'Pure Heavy'.

"When we went into the studio to record it [Youngblood] we had it written, but wanted a rawer, more live sound," he said. "And, that meant we were recorded it relatively quickly and when it came out it had that edge we were after.

"With Pure Heavy we went back to the studio we had the songs written too, but we wanted to add the textures and layers that so many of our favourite artists and bands have developed over the years."

And, in our review on its release we acknowledged the silky rocking quality of 'Pure Heavy' makes it an essential purchase for hard rock fans.

Before we bade farewell to Arve, we wanted to explore that Belfast gig. Everyone there was levelled by Audrey Horne's commitment, energy and passion in front or around 50 people.

"That's kind of you to say that," said Arve. "We always give our all on stage, but when there is a smaller crowd we feel that we have to give that bit extra to sort of say thanks to those people who made the effort to come out to see us."

And, while they certainly did that, we are pretty much certain that wherever you catch Audrey Horne, if you can, on the current European jaunt or future tours it is a live experience that takes the recorded output and gives it a rocket fuelled boost to Pure Heavy rock nirvana...

AudInterview by Jonny

Monday, November 17, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Languid, luscioius, love-bitten delights with re-release of This Is Rock N Roll II from The Quireboys

"DON'T go changing my favourite songs" croons Spike on 'C'mon' from the 2001 releaser of 'This Is Rock N Roll' and that is exactly what The Quireboys have avoided in their 30 year career.

Even with the release earlier in the year of 'Black Eyed Sons' this was going to be a stormer of year for the gypsy troubadours,  but the re-release of 'This Is Rock N Roll II' caps it all off.

The album was first released in 13 years ago when Spike and Guy Griffin got back into the writing saddle.

No doubt tracks will be featured when The Quireboys play Belfast's Limelight1 on Friday, November 21st (some tickets still available) as will the four bonus tracks - reworked versions of 'Hey You', 'Misled', '7 O'Clock' and 'There She Goes Again'.

But what 'This Is Rock N Roll II' shows is a band re-energised from the turbulence of the 80s, kicking into the dust the attempt in the 90s to kill off hard rock.

 Originally recorded at EMG studios, North Hollywood, the result was 13 tracks of pure gypsy infused Rock n Roll, something that many territories didn't see and something that was regarded as gold dust to get a hold of.

With the current run of fortune the band is currently experiencing worldwide, it has become quite clear that the rest of the rock world as well as the diehards want to get a hold of copy.

Out now digitally and physically on Off Yer Rocka Recordings on what we have here is a lanquid, luscious soundscape with love-bitten, and love-smitten tracks, as smooth as a fine bourbon, and as rough as the late night cigarette on the throat.

From the delta infused blues of 'Taken For A Ride' to the angst-ridden regret of 'Enough For One Lifetime'; to the agonisingly wonderful 'Searching' and the regret-filled ballad of 'To Be', this album is the foundation that The Quireboys have built all their recent success upon.

It is the expression of a band that understands how to play, what to play and never pretend to be something that it is not.

This is hard rock, this is blues rock, this is gypsy rock, but most of all This Is Rock N Roll...

Review by Jonny

Sunday, November 16, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: International roll call as Skalmold, Arkona and Eluveitie bring folk, pagan and Viking metal to Belfast

METAL makes the United Nations look like an occasional meeting of children - across the world, in nearly every country has got their own take on heavy metal and what it should sound like.

From the first proto-metal or Cream and Iron Butterfly, the first true metal of Sabbath spread like a virus, infecting every corner of the world, with power chords. As metal evolved hundreds of genres and sub-genres emerged as each new set of adherents added their own take on metal.

And, on Friday (November 14th) in Belfast's Mandela Hall an international line-up of Skálmöld (Iceland), Arkona (Russia), and Eluvietie (Switzerland) brought their own interpretations with a mystical mélange of metal mythos meaty enough and delicate enough in equal measures.

Skálmöld opened proceedings with a muscular take on Viking metal, but with their national identity seared throughout every note of their set. Vocal delivery is in Icelandic, and arrangements of some tracks reflects song patterns from the epic poems of the Viking era.

All six members of the band lend vocal parts to the tracks and as Árás leads into the epic track 'Gleipnir' Baldur, Gunnar Þráinn and Snæbjörn lead the line with Jón Gei on keyboards and oboe with Snæbjörn's drums lending texture as they move from song to song with aplomb and energy that belies their status as openers.

With a subtle blend of classic thrash, Viking metal, death metal and Icelandic traditional arrangements tracks from Napalm Records release 'Með vaettum' - including 'Með fuglum' and 'Að hausti' - were merged with older songs.

As the last echoes of 'Kvaðning' faded he applause was richly deserved. While Skálmöld have taken the Viking metal template it and added layers, the sound is rich and deep, and some original arrangements make it stand head and shoulders above many plying their trade in a similar furrow.

They earned new friends and new fans on Friday and a return to these shores would be welcomed from these Reykjavík raiders.

Coming on stage in traditional Russian pagan dress Arkona brought through take on metal with the stunning vocals of Masha 'Scream' growling in a way that many a man would envy.

Title track of the new album 'Yav' opened the set in a full-on tirade of metal with aggressive intent, despite the presence of Valdimir playing a range of wind and ethnic instruments. Rather than detracting from the sound it enhanced the overall textures, lending a breadth and depth to the sound.

Man mountains Sergei (guitar) and Ruslan (bass) rumbled throughout with Sergei roaming around the stage like Rasputin with a sore head and wielding his flying V with real metallic intent.

Andrey's drums were pounding out almost tribal beats and by the time they played 'Zakliatie' they had hit their stride. Masha's manages to contrast death metal growls with melody.

With some thought towards the ongoing Ukrainian war the Slavic triumphalism was worrying, but a little research proved that this was more about looking back - and Masha has recently said she has no interest in politics. Given the title 'Slav'sja, Rus'!' was the one that caused some concern it is reassuring that Arkona are about metal and painting aural pictures of a pagan past in eastern Europe rather than getting involved in today's wars.

Given this is a tour that sees Eluveitie back the 'Origins' album it was no surprise that many of the that release was featured. But, bloody hell, when you see Eluveitie live there are shed load of them on stage....

Really it takes until 'Nil' before you realise the stage is packed, with even the hurdy gurdy getting crowded as Anna extracted a series of deceptively complex sounds. But as they moved into 'Carry The Torch Chrigel's multi-talent was on show as he moved from hard edged vocals through to tin whistles, mandolin and several other instruments.

Ivo and Rafael provide both muscle and subtle guitar lines while Merlin and Kay somehow manage to keep the whole multiple of sounds and textures from running away into folk oblivion. They are the unrecognised but crucial ingredients to Eluvietie's success. No matter the tin whistles, bagpipes, fiddles and other instruments deployed to give the band it' folk metal status, it is these four who keep the sound 'true'.

Stand out tracks in the main set are 'Inception', 'Vianna' and, od course, 'Havoc' which all emphasise the maturity of the band as a unit - confident in delivery, composed on stage and as smooth in sound as a Swiss chocolatier pouring out a delicious confection. Indeed, this Swiss band's stature in their homeland and across Europe is such that Honda are now sponsoring them...

The encore was delivered with an atmospheric prologue before 'Helvetios' had the crowd rise in acclaim throughout the venue.

The tag folk metal is deceptive, as Eluvietie are at heart a metal act with added extras. The same applies to the pagan metal of Arkona and the Icelandic Viking metal ofSkálmöld.

No matter the prefix, it is still metal, and in Belfast's Mandela Hall the metal was pure and, yes, it was heavy.

Review by Jonny
Pictures by Metalplanet Belfast (more below!)
 
 
 
 
 
Reproduction by written permission only
 
 

 















Thursday, November 13, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: 40 and going strong Y&T keep on rockin' hard

THEY say that longevity is the key to success, but in the cold, hard world of the music business too often the business men and bean counters want to see instant results.

But, despite once being the 80s flavour of the day for the MTV generation Y&T have proved that hard rock can have endurance, and with that endurance comes success, as they celebrate, on the road, 40 years of the band's catchy rock and hard riffing, on Wednesday in Belfast date (November 12th)

Before the cake could be cut - yes there was a cake from local fans who had travelled to many of the UK shows - hot prospects Maverick showed that the spirit of 1980s rock and metal is still alive and kicking.
With just over two weeks until they release their début album, 'Quid Pro Quo', the Maverick men played their biggest venue to date and played with a gusto many a band envies.

Given that lead singer David Balfour has often attested the band's love of Y&T's output it would have been easy for them to be over-whelmed by the occasion, but despite the nerves they ripped into the set like over-sized aand over-excited puppies giving and getting love from the quickly filling Limelight1.

Playing a selection of older songs and a smattering from the forthcoming album it is clear that two plus years of gigging has earned them a loyal local fanbase who know most of the lyrics.

'Snakeskin Sinner's' strut kicked off the set from a band that are not only well rehearsed, but clearly enjoying the time on stage. 'Paint By Numbers' is the band's lead video off the album, and was greeted with passion, as was the catchy 'Got It Bad'. Rounding the set off with the older track 'Top Heavy' this was a performance that earned Maverick many new friends and fans.

Limelight1 was almost sold-out and there was a roar of approval from the audience as the ageing rockers in Y&T came on stage to show that hard rock isn't just a young man's game.

Let's face it the Oakland rockers have nothing to prove any more. Yet, 40 years since they first took to the road Dave Meniketti and co are still out there playing with real vigour; energetic, tight and passionate.

In a set that spanned the years there were rarely aired tracks, fan favourites and hits. By the time they reached the fifth song - the anthemic 'Mean Streak' - there was no doubt that the seasoned rockers had energy to spare.

Meniketti's voice and playing have not deteriorated at all, rather have matured and is used wisely. His playing has a silky smooth pace and power; his solos delivered with a loose precision.

'LA Rocks' and 'Dirty Girl' were the early stand-outs, but by the time 'Midnight in Tokyo' and 'Cold Day In Hell' bridged the opening half of the main set it was recognisable song after recognisable song.

John Nyman's playing perfectly synched with Meniketti and Brad Lang's bass, while Mike Vanderhule couldn't stop grinning behind his kit.

Singalongs were the order of the day from many gathered, as 'Rescue Me', 'Summertime Girls' and a monstrous rendition of 'I Believe In You' ended the main set.

Despite the vast quantities of beer imbibed by many in the audience [Editor's Note: Reviewer was among those contributing to the venue's profits] the crowd were gagging for more when the encore ripped through the place.

Closing with 'Forever' the force that is Y&T is clearly demonstrated. The fact that this is from 1982 and Meniketti doesn't fit into the spandex he wore when débuting the song at Reading in that year (you can find it on Youtudew) matters not a bit.

Four decades have worn well for the band. They are an invigorating band to watch. A well delivered and a well received show that showcased the new and the old.

Review by Jonny
Pictures by MetalPlanet Belfast
Reproduction by written consent only
 















 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

LIVE REVIEW(S): 21 bands in 16 days - who says there's no rock and metal out there?

THERE'S something of a feeling amongst a certain vocal minority who sometimes claim there's nothing to do in Northern Ireland if you're a hard rock or metal fan - you know the type, the one's who flock to Sabbath, Slayer, Maiden, Metallica or any of the 'big name' bands.

Yet, over two weeks we and our colleagues saw 21 bands - and had we the chance we would have been able to add several more; and there were many more acts playing across Northern Ireland.

Acts we caught were from around the world and around the corner: Los Angeles, Stockholm, London, Melbourne, Dundalk - plus all the Northern Ireland acts.

We saw packed venues and venues with 20 paying punters. What was common throughout the shows was an energy bleeding off the stage from the biggest bands to the smallest.

Rather than try to review each and every show we are going to review the 16 days of hard rock and metal that blitzed across this small country of barely 1.8m people on the extreme north western edge of Europe.

Here's the list of the bands we're going to attempt to summarise through words and pictures.
  • St Vitus
  • Orange Goblin
  • Scimitar
  • Zombified
  • Gama Bomb
  • Katabolosis
  • Scimitar
  • Cursed Sun
  • Conjuring Fate
  • NASA Assassin
  • Dead Addiction
  • Altus
  • Black Sherriff
  • Maverick
  • Ajenda
  • Electric Mary
  • Donum Dei
  • Conjuring Fate
  • Rabid Bitch of the North
  • Between Horizons
  • Thundermother
 Quite a list...quite a set of bands...

Opening the festivities on Halloween night was the double header of St Vitus and Orange Goblin. The usual parade of people decked out in ridiculous outfits was on display....and outside Limelight2 were the stupid people who spent a fortune on fancy dress outfits to try and outdo their normal sad lives.

And, St Vitus could have come as relics from a bygone era with Dave Chandler sporting a headscarf atop his long locks.  But there was no doubting that while they were celebrating 35 years as a band the music sounded fresh and vital; a mix of doom, sludge and even punk anthems.

Chandler was vocal introducing songs and delivering repartee, while Wino Weinrich concentrated on roaring through the set. Billed as playing 'Born Too Late' in its entirety that is too narrow a description of the show.

First of all - liquid refreshment seemed to have been imbibed in titanic quantities by all the band. It did not affect the performance of the band at all. Mark Adams' bass and Henry Vasquez's drums were a pure metal rod linking the overall sound.

Chandler played outstandingly throughout and Wino's voice has more than held out...although he may have been a little surprised to find that the bottle of Jack Daniels he passed round the crowd returned empty. Perhaps he should have been warned we like a gargle too.

'White Stallions' 'The War Starter' and 'Born Too Late' itself were stand-out tracks that served to remind us all how influential St Vitus has been on the sludge and doom evolution.

Familiar to all Belfast's idiosyncrasies regards drinking and raucousness Orange Goblin are greeted like old comrades at arms. Their heavy stoner groove metal is an accomplished force of elemental metal, led by the man colossus that is Ben Ward.

New songs from 'Back From The Abyss' sit comfortably with back catalogue numbers as testament that Joe Hoare, Martyn Millard and Chris Turner with Ward flay the venue.

New tracks 'Sabbath Hex', and 'The Devil's Whip' were highlights along with 'Into The Arms of Morpheus' and 'Quincy The Pigboy'.

Ward's easy banter with the crowd, the immense riffs and the overall primal sound of Orange Goblin are the perfect balance to the banality afflicting the music scene.

With ears echoing to the might that was 'Red Tide Rising' we meandered our way to Queen's University Student Union's Sub Bar. We missed out on the first two acts (gig planners....) but were there as Scimitar took to the stage to launch their ep 'Plague In The Vatican'.

Replete with appropriate/inappropriate costumes they were energised and on Halloween fire as they played to a barely quarter full venue. The attendance no doubt affected by the earlier gig and the Headbanger's Ball event in a neighbouring venue.

Zombified were next up -  delivering their usual terrifying onslaught of death metal and circle headbanging. Pure fucking excellence.

As for Gama Bomb - well it does what it says on the tin - a bomb of speed/thrash and humour.
Philly is his usual self as the manic parade leader, while Domo and John shred away to their hearts content.

A new song -  whatever next...this seemed to be a show to shake off the cobwebs as GB head towards pre-production of their new release.

Barely a pause for breath and we assembled at Limelight2 the next day (Saturday 1st November) to celebrate the release of Cursed Sun's launch of their ep  'The Fall and Rise' but first up who should we find on stage by Scimitar again...Same as before the 'Plague In The Vatican' ep was featured heavily, with the title track once again sounding immense.

Katabolisis brought their brand of death metal/deathcore from Portadown to the stage and thankfully were able to push aside any concerns there were over the 'core' in that description with a muscular set with some nice lead guitar work

Cursed Sun left no-one in any doubt of their intent with a full-on metal performance as Jonesy laid a furious full-on assault, barking and scream anthems of discontent, while Jonny kept the lead work solid.

This was a nailed on set that showed Cursed Sun are at the top of their game tapping into the extreme metal vibe.

We then paused for a while. By pause we mean that we boarded the train for a journey to Ballymena and a short taxi ride to Ahoghill Rock City and the Diamon Rock Club, for the venue's Halloween bash (well the ancient festival of Samhain was across 31/10 and 01/11).

Dubious costumes aside Conjuring Fate were in grand form, as Tommy railed us all with tales of 'Backwoods Witch' and that 'House on the Haunted Hill'.

NASA Assassin need no such fancy attire to fit into the Halloween setting. Their soundtrack to the apocalypse brings its own menace and mirth to proceedings as The Watcher weaves tales of dark times, crime waves and super colliders. Original, witty and wonderful.

With a lift back to sanity from Mark and Adele, it was time for the Belfastmetalheadsreunited review and photo crew to take a break.

A very short break as we were back at the coalface on Thursday 6th November to witness the Planet Mosh promoted Belfast leg of Black Sherriff/Maverick mini-tour.

Openers Dead Addiction performed a tasty wee treat of a set, especially given the fact that this was their first ever live performance.

Great guitar work, great vocals and a tight rhythm section...sure you could ask no more.

Belfast noisenicks Altus have re-shuffled their line-up over recent months. What that has done to these loud metal monsters is they have more depth to their sound, no longer seeming to be just one tone at times. Instead they now sound much more dynamic, with more sense of purpose coming from the stage.

Black Sherriff are three parts German and one part Northern  Ireland... In a set that divided opinion they featured tracks from their 'Night Terrors' album, delivering the show with aplomb and buckets of energy.

'Give it All', 'Kill The Wolves' and 'AC/DC Sunday' were among the stand-out tracks.

Maverick are currently building momentum ahead of the launch of 'Quid Pro Quo' and between wide grins, powerful vocals and a tight, tight show that proved - if it ever needed to be proved - that this 10-legged monster is getting ready to dominate.

'Paint By Numbers' is already a classic....

Next night we journeyed once again to the Diamond Rock Club, where Ajenda were opening for Aussie rockers Electric Mary.

With Jenny's blues imbued voice and Gav's silky slick guitar work they once again proved themselves one of the most under-rated rock bands playing at the minute. Again 'Hatred and Greed' was a stand-out.

Electric Mary travelled all the way from Melbourne to kick off their UK tour. They had a few rehearsals at the Ahoghill venue to knock the kinks out. Sounding every ounce the hard rockers featured were songs from the recently released 'The Last Great Hope' ep, with 'Sweet Mary C' set to become a future live favourite for many years to come.

Following the journey back, and a mis-adventure with a denim jacket (yes, it is possible to put one on upside down) it was time to re-group for another blast from The Distortion Project.

The promised gig was beset by problems, leading James Loveday to declare it the "most cursed in Europe". Headliners Weapon UK had to withdraw after the drummer broke his hand. Then Midnight Transmission had to pull-out with the singer suffering from throat problems.

And, new headliners Rabid Bitch Of The North had equipment problems meaning they had no sound check...

But, as the cliché goes, the show must go on....

 Donum Dei ripped into their set, and it was immediately apparent that the short break from gigging has energised the band. Thomas continues to grow as a frontman, and his interchanges with lead axe man Stuart McLoughlin are becoming smoother with each show, while additional flourishes from Stuart show his emerging further as a shredder. How Dean Kane maintains the rhythm with Alastair Marshall on drums is an as yet unsolved mystery as Dean roams the set, slings his bass into all sorts of contortions and headbangs at the slightest provocation. 'Gravelands', No Escape' and 'Justice Fails' were stand-out songs.

For the second time on this metal odyssey we were entertained by the compelling metal excellence of Conjuring Fate. They are a band that has become ever more engaging live.

Tommy's range seems to have grown over recent months, while Phil and Karl's interplay and trade off solos work in all the ways needed. Steve and Bogy are ever more powerful keeping the sound nailed to the floor. Once again 'Backwoods Witch', 'Apocalypse' and 'House On The Haunted Hill' kept everyone enraptured.

 Rabid Bitch Of The North have developed over the past 18 months, with the Bloodstock slot amongst the triumphs. Despite the pre-gig problems Joe and crew ripped into their ferocious brand of metal. Joe's voice hit highs that threatened to smash windows miles away.

The trio sound as if they are double that number - as Chris and Gerry with Joe grind you into submission. While we have a few reservations about the pink guitar (nothing wrong with pink, but maybe it's not metal enough. We'll lend a can of emulsion paint...)

'Defending Two Castles' and 'Us Against Them' - anthems of disintegration in a dystopian world.

While some headed off to other gigs we needed a wee break before rounding off the metal 16 day odyssey.

Sunday evening at the Pavilion saw us gathered with other acolytes at the altar of ThunderMother.

Before we enjoyed the Swedish/Irish rocker we were brought into the bosom of Between Horizons from Dundalk. Lauren, Steve, Shane and James were an unknown quantity to all gathered, but were a treat to the ears.

Mixing hard rock, alt grooves and metal intonations they are a band who should get more dates in Northern Ireland.

But with these 21 shows it could arguably said that the best was last. Thundermother.

Quite simply a par excellence performance of hard rock. These five ladies deliver a knock-out punch on stage, from opener 'Man With Blues' to closer 'You Make My Day' this was hard rock as it's meant to be.

Clare Cunningham, the Irish singer with this troupe of troubadours, is a chanter with real power delivering power and passion, but still with enough melody to engage and lend subtlety to the rock attack.

It was lead guitarist Filippa Nassil's passion for AC/DC that led to the creation of Thundermother, and with her Gibson SG and powerful licks that Filippa pays homage to her heroes and adds her own distinctive style to the solos.

Tilda Stenqvist on drums and Linda Strom on bass are as solid a hard rock rhythm section that you'll come across, while the Italian - now adopted by the band as a fellow Swede - Giorgia Carteri keeps a handle on all the proceedings with solidity in her rhythm playing.

It would be unjust to try and pick a highlight track. Whether it be 'Rock 'n' Roll Disaster; 'Thunderous' or 'Dangerous Kind' they were all played with true flair.

Using every inch of the stage, striking the right poses as opposed to posing, engaging with the crowd, this was hard rock as it should be.

When the acclaim from the small audience died down it is to the credit of each and every band member that they took the time to chat with, have their photograph taken with and sign everything that was asked.

Put simply - Thundermother rocked, and should they find their way back to Northern Ireland the place will be packed.

So emerging into the dark after 16 solid days of rock and metal there were some reflections.

At this stage it is fair to say that we move from reviewing to a diatribe.

Bands like St Vitus, Electric Mary, and Thundermother travelled a long way to play Belfast, as part of UK tours.


While credit must be given to the promoters - James Loveday, Derwin McFarland, Mark Ashby, Carolyn McGimpsey and Ciaran Campbell for taking the risk, one must reflect on the fact that live music acts can deliver and there are shows out there, it will only stay alive if punters get out there and back the music.

Review by Jonny
Pictures by Metalplanet Belfast
All material copyrighted
Reproduction by written consent only

Below is a visual reflection of just some of the shows from Metalplanet Belfast...