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Monday, August 24, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Where black metal and folk collide as Myrkur unveil surprises on 'M'

RELAPSE Records are one of those labels that never cease to amaze, and how they always pick a winner is anyone’s guess. Last year they surprised us all with the signing of Danish one-woman project Myrkur, a black metal project that emerged from the shadows with a self-titled EP, shrouded in a veil mystery.

Who is it they said? It wouldn’t be long before the veil would fall and Myrkur was exposed as New York based artist Amalie Bruun of indie-pop duo Ex-Cops and Danish modeling fame. Well, you can imagine what happened, the pitchforks and torches came out. But on the other side, you found more people intrigued… what can Amalie Bruun offer?

Looking back at the EP it was an ok release at best; production being a major issue, but it left promise and was endorsed by genre icons such as Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver who would later produce the debut Myrkur full length and bring her sound to the fore. Just under a year on we’re now looking at that release, entitled simply as M.

The multi-intrumentalist has finally revealed her vision with M, with the help of Kristoffer Rygg, (or should we say Garm)… and Mayhem’s Teloch who filled in on bass/guitar and Nidingr drummer Øyvind Myrvoll. The album was recorded at a series of studios in and around Oslo and partly in the famous mausoleum of Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland.

The result is an elegant mix of black metal and Nordic folk music. An album littered with disparate contrasts, from old school black metal to shoegaze, post-rock to atmospheric vocal harmonies and choirs, but it’s structured so well and its nuances make it so fluent with absolutely no discord or jarring. ‘Onde Børn’ being a classic example.

What is most impressive about this album is the journey. It can be natural instinct to revolt against black metal… the sounds… and that’s where most of us fail. Let it take you, let it overwhelm you and then, and only then, does one begin to understand.

With this album it’s much easier to fall into the album, it’s not black metal, as in the traditional sense; you travel through various soundscapes and all these disparate contrasts make a truly mesmerising experience. There’s a fire here, a fire that blazes and settles, blazes and settles.

This album won’t appease the traditional spikes and corpse paint black metal fans, or the traditional folk fans. It’s not like that. What’s here is something much more ethereal. What Amalie Bruun has created here is something truly special and Myrkur will no doubt be one of the most talked about artists for some time to come.
Review by Andrew Pennington

ALBUM REVIEW: Lynch Mob stand proud on the latest release from a rebel with a Cause...

GEORGE Lynch must be the busiest man in rock at the minute. Less than a year after the last Lynch Mob album, Sun Red Sun, and following on the back of the excellent collaboration with Michael Sweet comes 'The Rebel'.
The quick turnaround may suggest quantity rather than quality but that's not an accusation that can be levelled at this album. Back in Tandem with singer Oni Logan and with old mate Jeff Pilson on bass and Brian Tichy on the skins (is there any album he doesn't drum on?), this promised much. Chris 'The Wizard' Collier handling the production only served to enforce that and boy does it deliver.
As per the press release, Logan expands his lyrical scope beyond matters of the heart and mind to include his views on social and economic injustice on songs like 'Dirty Money', 'Kingdom of Slaves' and 'Sanctuary'

'Sanctuary' in particular is a fine example of this. A commentary on Modern day USA's shift from its original principles on which the country was built on to a more right wing agenda. No longer a refuge from pursuit, persecution or other danger. More a case of just what has gone wrong?

The album opens in good fashion with the groove laden 'Automatic Fix'. A mid tempo rocker about the love of music and how it can move you and is followed by 'Between the truth and Lies', a song about catching a cheating lover and not being bothered as the truth, is indeed, found in the lies.

Next up is the spiritual 'Testify'. A song which has a  strong Southern Rock Groove with a touch of Gospel thrown in.  Standout song so far with a slow, heavy beat to it and great vocals. Amen Oni!!
Next up is the aforementioned Sanctuary before the mood is lightened by the next two tracks, 'Pine Tree Avenue' and 'Jelly Roll'.
'Pine Tree' sees Logan reminiscing about his youth whereas Jelly Roll (according to the Urban dictionary) is about, err, sex!
Both songs are good fun before the mood gets serious again with 'Dirty Money'
This is a swipe at rich bankers and how they can gamble with people's money yet get protected by the system.

'Hollow Queen' darkens the mood with its slightly psychodelic stoner rock riff to open with and then develops into a haunting song inspired by Logans vocal delivery.
'The Ledge' is next. A ballad of sorts but with more dark subject matter than usual. A study of self sacrifice, it's very well written.
The album finishes with two more songs with serious intent in 'Kingdom of Slaves' and 'War'
Kingdom is another social commentary on modern day America and War is fairly self-explanatory.

What stands out on this album is Logan's growing songwriting ability and as usual Lynch's outstanding guitar work. Melodic at worst, damn well mesmeric at best, the riffs and overall composition are excellent.
For guitar solo freaks check out 'Automatic Fix' with its extended solo as well as 'Testify', 'Sanctuary', 'Pine tree Avenue' and 'Kingdom of Slaves'. No such thing as a bad George Lynch lead break but these, based on personal preference, these stand out.
Overall an excellent hard rock album that deserves your attention.

Review by Andy Gillen

BLOODSTOCK: By Any Means, Overoth, Dead Label and many more at one of the best fests

BLOODSTOCK'S joy, beer and searing heat (yes, the sun shone for all four days of a UK festival!) still resonates in the memory.

It was not our intention at any stage to work at this festival - we were there to relax. But somewhere along the way some of our colleagues managed to con us into interviewing a few bands and giving an overview of the fest.

Before getting down to the interviews it's fair to say that with more than 100 bands playing some of the most extreme forms of metal it was still one of the friendliest festivals we have ever attended.

Headliners apart the music was intense across all four days, and Northern Ireland and Irish did themselves proud.

Just days away you'll have the chance to see Dead Label support Gojira in Limelight1. They put in a great set on the Sophie Lancaster Stage before talking to us about forthcoming plans.

Representing Northern Ireland By Any Means and Overoth ripped apart the New Blood Stage. Overoth gave a death metal masterclass, while BAM brought their own unique brand of hardcore mayhem (even attracting Ben Ward from Orange Goblin down for half their set).

By Any Means interview

To sum up Bloostock is almost impossible. More than 100 bands across four stages - from the Ronnie James Stage, through the Sophie Lancaster Stage, the Unsigned Stage and the Jagermeister Stage (basically a bar with a stage attached) there were more bands to see than even the most determined fan could catch up with.

Overoth interview

Of the many bands who appeared there were several stand-out sets. Armored Saint, Belphegor, Sabaton, the uncommunicative Black Label Society, Onslaught were among those that shone.

Dead Label Society interview

What was unanimous amongst those at their first Bloodstock was that they will be back each and every year - no matter that the headliners weren't the stars they could have been the vibe, the totality of the musical experience and the madness in Camp Midgard....[See below]

Foul Body Autopsy Interview
[Parental notice - sweary bits within!]

Footnote - Camp Midgard was were we pitched our tents (with your editor experiencing some issues on that task) and it was the scene of the madness only metalheads can generate....bin jousting, metal wrestling, a parade with a Slayer flag and a 'Christ on a Stick' and a bon homie few can match...

Words by Jonny

Sunday, August 23, 2015

WINNERS! Winners for Megadeth, Lamb of God, CoB and Sylosis drawn

A HUGE, huge thank you to those who entered our competition to win tickets to see Megadeth, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and Sylosis in Dublin on November 9th.

The Belfastmetalheadsreunited/RockradioNI competition was thanks due to our friends at MCD, and you entered in your droves!

Literally there were hundreds of entries, and it took an exhaustive process over several cups of coffee to open each one, check that they had the really, really difficult question (yes, it was the Golden Gods!) correct.

Then numbers were allocated at random and the proverbial random number generator did its work.

After all that the winners of a pair of tickets each are: Adele and Terry!

Given the line up we would have loved to give you all tickets! Instead you'll just have to shell out to see this sterling metal line-up.

And don't forget that LoG drummer, Adler, is playing both for his own band and for Megadeth...now that's dedication!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Kataklysm crush humanity's delusions on Of Ghosts and Gods

WITH 13 years of existence under their belts Kataklysm continue to cast a jaundiced eye on humanity's sad delusions, with their 12th album, 'of Ghosts and Gods'.

Their track record is indisputable - with nary a bad release and always maintaining musical and lyrical integrity.

That integrity means the Canuck four-piece can be relied upon to deliver extreme metal at its finest, defying conventions and producing, on this release, an outstanding 10 tracks that sneer and snarl.

Maurizio Iacono's vocals come across as bile-filled as he rails and rants at the state of the populace of this planet. But it would all come to naught if the musical tapestry was vacuous. Instead JF Degenais's guitar crunches in a succession of riffs that roll like thunder and trundle along like an unstoppable tsunami - tracks like 'Shattered' and 'Carrying Crosses' have serious intent from the axeman.

The drums of Oli Beaudoin and bass of Stephane Barbe are a revelatory rhythm rock, perhaps the best on record that Kataklysm have produced to date.

The interchange between Oli, Stephane and JF on album closer 'The World Is A Dying Insect' is well thought out and delivered, enabling Maurizio to deliver lines such as "paradise for parasites" with justifiable cause.

Religion, cults, believers and ministers all come under lyrical assault; perhaps the mantle once held by punk as the sceptical voice amidst conservative conformity has now been taken by extreme metal and hardcore. Certainly, on the evidence here Kataklysm have the musical muscle and lyrical intelligence to be one of then finest voices of the disenfranchised.

Of Ghosts and Gods is out now on Nuclear Blast
Review by Jonny

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Battlecross defy genre conventions to deliver contemporary metal excellence as they 'Rise to Power'

GENRES  - they're designed to pigeonhole bands, shuffle them into easily defined cubbyholes, where fans can sit down in some sort of comfortable haze, with no real need to think about what the act's intent was when sitting down to write and record music.

And, over the many years of reviewing and interviewing hard rock and metal acts they almost universally don't recognize the category they are allocated by lazy journos and internet trolls.

Sure, they might acknowledge influences, tip a nod to such and such form of metal, but they seem non-plussed when some writer puts them within a genre with nary a thought to what that actually means.

It also leads to the most awful form of metal snobbery, where narrow-minded dweebs leap to label bands 'sell-outs' should they dare deviate from their allocated metal cupboard.

That is why it is so refreshing to come across an act that crosses genres, admits their influences and says to hell with pre-conceptions.

Such is the case with Battlecross as they smash down any labels that may have been appended to their sound following 2013's 'War of Will'.

This month's release of 'Rise to Power' sees them record an album that they wanted to hear, not to a template someone else might expect them to record.

"Going into this record we had more freedom in the sense that we were able to say well, people like what we write, so let's just write what we like," said bassist Don Slater. "We never really want to do the same thing twice.

"We want to play the riffs that we want to hear, and we just want to keep building on our experience and raising the bar," adds guitarist Tony Asta. "No one is handing us anything. We've always been about putting the work in, and we couldn't be prouder of what we've achieved with Rise To Power."

Have they pulled that off? Yes, in  bucketloads. Yes, their thrash roots are clear, there are death metal influences, there is even a brief flirtation in the lead work with jazz/funk. In other words they seem to have said "fuck convention, let's have some fun".

It works on many levels: musically there is a variety of approaches to songs, solos, structure and arrangements; lyrically there is a sense of realism, a sense that the words mean more than just posing and posturing, something

And, that's something Kyle "Gumby" Gunther is clear about - the personal element in writing words to accompany the aggression on display.

"I firmly believe you can overcome any obstacles you want to, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy," he said. "I wrote the song 'Absence' about my son, because he's four years old and I've been away on tour for literally half of his life, and when he won't talk to me on the phone it's worse than any of the crappy things I've been called in my life, but this is the life I chose.

He also takes on those who pose as victims and attempt to manipulate others on 'Not Your Slave', and on "Despised" he faces his "fuck ups" head on, acknowledging that mistakes have been made but refusing to let them destroy him, and it matters to him that he speaks from a place of truth.

 "You have to be accountable for what you say, and now people are listening to what I say, so I have a social obligation to say something that's worthwhile.

"If I didn't believe 100% in what I put out there or if I felt that maybe I was full of shit then I'd be the first to say that you shouldn't buy our album, you shouldn't buy our shirts or come to our shows."

But, this release shows that Battlecross have harnessed hard won experiences, turned them into positive musical expressions - 'Not Your Slave' and 'Spoiled' are brimful of boulder sized bombast, with no sense of pretentiousness.

Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala turn in some tightly focused lead and rhythm work between them - layering sounds in an all-out assault, such as on the breakneck 'The Climb' which is more 'death' than thrash, all aided by new sticksman Alex Bent.

Producer Jason Suecof (The Black Dahlia Murderer, Job For A Cowboy) seems to have pushed the band to perform at the highest level - he even adds a solo of his own to 'The Path'.

Throughout this release is evidence that Battlecross have stepped up to the next level in their progression - the power and passion on display is compelling and creative.

But what of the genre? Throughout this review it's hard not to ascribe a tune as having death elements, or thrash elements - even the band themselves are happy with the title 'blue collar thrash'.

However, take the release as a whole and there's not one single term to describe it. Suffice to say then we shall leave it to be described as damn fine modern metal.

Rise to Power is out now on Metal Blade Records
Review by Jonny

COMIN' ATCHA! !5 years, 21 bands The Distortion Project rolls out the Ormeau Avenue Red Carpet for birthday celebrations

THE Distortion Project is about to celebrate its 15th Birthday -  and Mr Loveday is making sure they do it in style with a 21-band line-up on the 17th October.

Dubbed 'From Hell To The Unknown' the celebration will see the entire Limelight Entertainment Complex taken over by metal - bands will be playing in Limelight1, Limelight2 and Katy's from noon until late.

Headline acts are Xentrix, Acid Reign and Shrapnel.

A further 18 acts are to be announced...yes, you read that right -  a total of 21 acts in one day.

And it's all for the measly sum of £20! Tickets are on sale this coming Friday from all the usual outlets, and once the full line-up is confirmed local metalheads will sit down with a full itinerary and try to work out which stage to visit and when.

We were happy with Mr Loveday's announcements of WASP, Paradise Lost, Jex Thoth, Raven, Enforcer, the DeathCrusher Tour, Fear Factory, Sabaton etc and he still manages to pull this one out of the bag.

A feast full of metal...it's going to need one big birthday cake!

Monday, August 17, 2015

INTERVIEW: Goodbye Million$Reload hello Blackwater Conspiracy

OUR colleagues on our sister site www.rockradioni.co.uk took the time to mark the demise of Million$Reload and their re-birth as Blackwater Conspiracy...Nigel and Nik got down to some serious interrogation with singer and guitarist Phil Conalane...read on and learn!

As a fan of Million Dollar Reload for many years, I was delighted to get the opportunity to talk to singer Phil Conalane in The Empire, Belfast on 15th August just a few hours before he went on stage to play the last gig as Million Dollar Reload and first as Blackwater Conspiracy. So the interview is effectively the last with Million Dollar Reload and first with Blackwater Conspiracy.

Million Dollar Reload released two successful studio albums and a live album, toured across Europe and the USA and played Download on three occasions. They had been signed to Classic Rock’s Powerage record label and later to Frontiers Records at various times. Last year they started to move in a new direction and those plans came to fruition on 15th August when the band announced their new name mid-set and released a new four track EP as Blackwater Conspiracy.
Three tracks from that EP can be heard on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 21st August at 9pm along with the interview with Phil. That Show is available now from the On Demand Player – http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show.html - the show uploaded on 17th August. The interview has been transcribed and published below.

Blackwater Conspiracy are Phil Conalane on vocals / guitar, Brian “BAM” Mallon on lead guitar, Kie McMurray on bass, Fionn O’Haigan on drums and Kevin Brennan on piano/keyboard.

NI ROCKS – Hi Phil, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. We’ve talked about recording an interview for some time and it’s ironic that we get around to doing it tonight. You’re going on stage in a few hours for the last time as Million Dollar Reload and by the time this show is uploaded you’ll have revealed a new name and new EP. Are there mixed emotions there or is it all about moving forward?
PHIL – Absolutely about moving forward. There are no regrets; it couldn’t have come quick enough for us. We’re ready for this, we’re happy that it’s over and we’re ready to move on. We should have done it a while ago but circumstances prevented us from doing that, contractual stuff, blah blah blah, but that’s all done now and we’re ready to move. Can’t wait.

NI ROCKS – The new band name. Tell us what it is and why you picked it?
PHIL – Blackwater Conspiracy. We specifically went for that name because we all live pretty much on the River Blackwater in Tyrone and the other two guys from Co Derry / Londonderry, the Blackwater stretches that far as well. We just wanted something that was a little bit more authentic and the Conspiracy thing is just the best match for us..
NI ROCKS – And it sounds very rock n roll!
PHIL – Well it sounds rock n roll, but unfortunately it means something else in America, but we’re not too concerned about that for the moment. So it’s Blackwater Conspiracy.
NI ROCKS – Have you the new website and social media sites ready to go?
PHIL – It’s all ready to go and as soon as the show is over it’ll all be uploaded and ready to go. http://blackwaterconspiracy.com/
NI ROCKS – Is the old Million Dollar Reload page transforming or is it being left behind?
PHIL – The Facebook page will be left for a little while. The dot com page will be left until it expires organically. All the new pages are ready to go.

NI ROCKS – Tonight you’re also launching a new EP. Are those some of the tracks that you recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales earlier this year? It’s a studio with a lot of history. What was it like recording there compared to here in N Ireland?
PHIL – The reason we went to Rockfield is because a friend of ours works in Rockfield from time to time. He’d been following us and when we played in London the last time we had a conversation in The Crow Bar about three o’clock in the morning he suggested that we should go somewhere else rather than Northern Ireland. There’s nothing wrong with the studios in Northern Ireland whatsoever, but the only problem with them is that there are no studios in the North that you can actually set up as a full band and record in a live situation. There are studios in the UK where you can do that and Rockfield, obviously of course you can. He got us into Rockfield and we thought we’ll take a chance and go over and do it. We went over and recorded a lot of songs and we’ve selected a few to put out on an EP just for starters.
NI ROCKS – How many are on the EP?
PHIL – There are four songs on the EP.
NI ROCKS – We’re going to play three during the show then. We’ll play one now. Which one would you like to play first?
PHIL – “Penny For Your Dirty Mind”
NI ROCKS – It’s been around for a wee while. Tell us about it.
PHIL – It’s been around for a while, but we recorded it in demo fashion at home. When we got to Rockfield we re-arranged it and
NI ROCKS – I think most people who knew the band knew that the announcement of the end of Million Dollar Reload wouldn’t be the end of the band, although there were a few distressed fans on Facebook etc. There have been a couple of interviews with yourself or Brian and it is clear the change reflects a new musical direction and the desire to make a fresh start. How easy a decision was that?
PHIL – Really easy. Decision is nearly the wrong word. It was kind of organic the way it happened. There was no pre-meditated “oh, let’s go this way”; it’s just the way the songs were going. As you know we lost a guitar player a while ago and we had tried to go in this direction, but it wasn’t really his bag as such, so when circumstances prevailed that he was gone from the band it was really, really easy to jump into what we wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, Million Dollar Reload for the past seven or eight years is exactly what we wanted to do. There are no regrets about anything at all. Every song was recorded the way we wanted and written the way we wanted. It’s just that we’ve moved on. It’s as simple as that. There’s no scientific reason behind it.

NI ROCKS – Which brings me on nicely to my next question. As you know one of my favourite Million Dollar Reload tracks has been “President Joe” which never appeared on an album. Was that track an early indication of the path the band was taking?
PHIL – Absolutely. You could say “President Joe” was the first indication of the direction that we should have went a while ago and it’s probably the first track that I wrote that was an indication of where we were going to go. It was a laid back more bluesy song.
NI ROCKS – As you know I love it. I’ve videoed it being played twice but never published the videos as we agreed I wouldn’t.
PHIL – Yeah, it has evolved a little bit more actually with the piano in it. The song was recorded for the “A Sinner’s Saint” album but it didn’t make the album because I just wasn’t happy with it at that point. It was missing something and now it’s ready. It’ll be on the album whenever we decide to put it out.

NI ROCKS – We’ve been joined by Nik who tells me she has seen you one more time that I have, thou I’m not convinced.
NIK – I have. He’ll have seen you 50 times tonight and I’ll have seen you 51 times.
PHIL – What!! You’ve seen us 50 times! Holy shit! Where was the first time you saw us?
NIK – I told him the first time he was going to see you - “you’re gonna like these guys”. I saw you here in The Empire.
PHIL – I thought the first time I saw you was in The Nerve Centre when we had an American band over (The Black Mollys in October 2008) and your hair was a lot longer at that time.
NIK – No he was with me in The Nerve Centre, I was on my own the first time.
(NI ROCKS - For the record my first time seeing Million Dollar Reload was on 27th Oct 2007 when they supported Kiss tribute Hotter Than Hell in The Empire – the show in The Nerve Centre was my second time.)
PHIL – You’re playing Blackberry Smoke! (on the sound system in The Empire).
NIK – Yes, I know you like them.
PHIL – Keep an eye out for what’s happening with them.

NI ROCKS – Yes, tonight is my fiftieth and last time seeing you. A nice number to end on! There are more tracks recorded at Rockfield presumably ready for a new album. When are we going to see that and what form is it going to take?
PHIL – There was an album’s worth recorded at Rockfield. It’s going to take a little while for the Blackwater Conspiracy thing to get a bit of momentum. There’s no point putting it out straight away if people don’t know who we are. It’s kinda like starting from scratch again, but in a different way. Insofar as we’re not kids anymore, we know how the business works; we know what we need to do to get to a point where we’re ready to put it out.
NIK – You’re saying it’s more mature music then? (laughs)
PHIL – (Laughs) No, it’s not more mature at all. It’s just what it is. Age appropriate! (All laugh).

NI ROCKS – Million Dollar Reload of course had a history of successful tours and performances including America and Download on three occasions. I’m sure that you have a lot of the contacts from then so when are we likely to see the band out on the road?
PHIL – Well, we’re actually in the middle of sorting a new tour out at the minute, so if it all works out we’ll be on a UK and European tour in November and December. If not, we’ll definitely be on tour later on in the year. It’s going to take a little while for everybody to say this is Blackwater Conspiracy blah, blah, blah. We’re under no pressure this time. Every other time we were doing things we were committed to a label where we were committed to do certain things or an agent where we committed to certain things. We’ve still the same manager, we’re going to keep that guy. But everything is a lot more chilled, so we don’t feel any pressure to do anything. We’re just going to do it and whatever happens will happen.

NI ROCKS – We’ll play another track from the new EP now. Again, I’ll let you pick one and tell us about it.
PHIL – This is a song called “Roll The Dice”. It’s basically a tune that was a real sticker from the start because we wanted to write a song that says alright we’re going to take a chance here, if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t; but this is what we’re doing. “Roll The Dice” is taking that chance.
NI ROCKS – Acknowledging that a lot of the Million Dollar Reload tracks didn’t  sit well with the newer material and new sound, do you think there will ever be the temptation to play some of the others live, or is that it, after tonight they’re gone.
PHIL – If you’ve noticed because you’ve been to a few of the shows over the past year we have been slowly wheeling out a lot of the Million Dollar songs and introducing newer songs that are slated for Blackwater Conspiracy. There are one or two tunes that we will retain because I want to retain them. We’ve reworked them slightly with Kev on piano and keyboards. There are one or two tunes that will be a stable part of the set. I don’t think it’ll take much of a guess to say which one that would definitely be because it has been our biggest song ever. It’s helped us along the way and we’re just going to keep it, because we want to. It’s as simple as that. Everybody in the bad agreed that we wanted to keep that song, so we’re going to keep it.

NI ROCKS – Have you been writing more tracks since returning from Rockfield and has the writing process changed at all with the addition of Kevin on keyboards?
PHIL – The writing process has changed insofar as, if I’m writing a particular tune, I’m writing it with in mind that there’s a piano,  keyboard, humming organ or whatever to be integrated into the sound. It leaves a lot more variety, as far as I’d be concerned. There have been certain songs, for instance off “A Sinner’s Saint” there was “Broken” and off “Anthems of a Degeneration” there was “Travel” and there was piano on both of those tunes, but to incorporate it live was always difficult. Now it won’t be difficult. So songs of that genre will be easier. I’m not saying we’re going to write a lot of ballads, because we’re not, but the keyboard gives us a lot more flexibility. And the sound has changed. It’s not just as in-your-face heavy anymore, that’s just not what we’re about anymore. That’s just the way it is.

NI ROCKS – Looking forward, where would you hope to be with the new band and what would you have hoped to have achieved by this time next year?
PHIL – As far as looking forward and achievements as such, there are no real targets to set. We’re just going to do what we do and see where it goes and then at that point if something happens we can maybe capitalise on it. At the moment we’re just kinda finding our feet with the new sound and the new songs. We’re going to play the gigs we’ve done in the past; if we get a few tours and festivals here and there that’s great, but there is no real plan as such.

NI ROCKS – Rock music fans can be an opinionated and critical bunch and social media is what it is. How much attention do you pay to what you read on-line?
PHIL – We see everything that is written on-line and any band that says they don’t read it are lying. Whether you take personal offence to it is another thing. For us there can be times you say “that guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about” but at the end of the day if anybody who writes anything or says anything has an opinion and it’s invalidated, it’s up to them. As long as we’re comfortable with what we’re doing it’s fine. Anybody can say what they want. If you’re thick skinned it’s fine, if you’re thin skinned and take everything to heart you’re going nowhere. The thing about it is, and every band will tell you, they only ever remember the bad reviews or someone saying something bad about them and they never remember the good things. I could tell you now all the bad reviews and I can’t remember the good reviews.
NI ROCKS – I’m sure there weren’t that many bad ones.
PHIL – Oh there was. There were a few.

NI ROCKS – Finally, what music are you listening to yourself these days and is there anything out there that influences your own writing?
PHIL – What I’m listening too and what influences me are completely different. I can’t really speak for Brian. It’s usually me and Brian get together to knock out a new tune or whatever, and Kie maybe from time to time. I can’t really speak for what Brian listens too, but at the minute I’m listening to the same stuff I’ve always listened to – AC/DC, Aerosmith, Black Crowes etc. That will never change. As far as influencing the songs goes; there’s nothing really that influences me as such, apart from one dude. He sat me down one night in Germany and said “Phil, love what you’re doing, think your music is great, but it’s got a small niche market and there’s only a certain amount of people will listen to it. If you want to expand a little, I advise you to do this”. That was Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke. It’s quite obvious that our sound is a little Blackberry Smoke-ish, but it would be unfair to say that we’re completely influenced by those guys, because we’re not.
NI ROCKS – It’s not as country. Blackberry Smoke’s last album was particularly country rock sounding.
PHIL – Yeah, they’re deliberately country rock ‘n’ roll. We’re certainly not. We’re still rock and will always be rock. It’s just a little more laid back and chilled out. We’ve done the whole full-on, in-your-face AC/DC style thing, and with me being on guitar now it’s just not practical or feasible for me to do that anymore. It’s just the way it is.

NI ROCKS – That’s us done with the questions. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Good luck tonight and with the new band. We’ll finish off with another new track. Which one shall we play?
PHIL – This song is called “Hanging Tree” and it’s probably one of the first songs that I’ve written lyrically that has a social message in it as such. Everybody has known somebody within their family or whatever who suffers from maybe not the best self-esteem, a little bit of depression and stuff. I’ve had that in my family and my life as well. “Hanging Tree” is about facing your problems head on and trying your best to deal with them without doing anything that would ruin your own life and your family’s lives.


ALBUM REVIEW: Horrific future shock from Factory on Genexus but with hope somewhere within the musical mythos

SCIENTISTS at Harvard University have taken the first step towards a cyborg future after successfully injecting an electrical mesh around the brain of a mouse, enabling commands to be sent and received. 1

Before you switch off thinking you've accidentally stumbled upon a tech blog, fear not, because it is more than relevant when sitting down with the new Fear Factory release 'Genexus'.

Cyborgs are a theme that Fear Factory have been obsessed with for some time, and with the Harvard research combined with news that scientists have created a robotic system that evolves one has to wonder what the 'Terminator' future is for our children and grandchildren.

The band are not the most optimistic about that future...not so much as a dystopian future; something far more bleak with contradictions, robotic/human identity crisis all against a backdrop that makes Skynet's plans to destroy mankind seem a cheery little story.

However, on the first couple of spins it seemed a little 'samey' in places, as if the band had dialed in some of the songs. That was until on further spins it dawned that it was so much that the tracks were dialed in, but that the band have re-captured some of what could be said is a classic FF sound.

Opener 'Autonomous Combat System' sets the not-so-cheery tone with a full-on classic merging of Cazares' guitar and Bell's at times pained vocals, with choppy drum and bass lines. The template doesn't change much throughout, and that is not such a bad thing as with it there is a sense of a band emboldened within familiar territory.

'Protomech' and 'Regenerate' stand out amidst the bleakness, but the closing duo of tracks  - 'Battle for Utopia' and 'Expiration Date' tie up musical and lyrical themes.

'...Utopia' sets the climactic scene, with a pell mell assault on the senses, laying a path for the melancholy closer.

Yes, Fear Factory, revel in the sci-fi terror environment, but many miss the allegory within much of the content: that is the struggle for identity in out technologically obsessed present. 'Expiration Date' hits that point in a harrowing, slowed down poem to what death means, and a spoken word close that contains the haunting metaphor that our memories, upon death, will disappear "like tears in the rain".

And, with that closing dirge of despair lies the missing links that so many overlook when it comes to Fear Factory. Yes, the sound never varies too much, but it is a musical expression of intelligence that reaches back through the history of extreme metal and looks forward to the evolution of 'industrial metal' and the evolution of a human existence caught up in the technological seeking of solutions where no problems exist. 42 anyone?

1 - Source BBC Focus Magazine - August 2015

Genexus is out now on Nuclear Blast
Fear Factory play Belfast's Limelight1 on December 11th - be there!
Review by Jonny

Friday, July 31, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Screaming Eagles roar to next level on Stand Up And Be Counted

THERE’S nothing new in this world - or so the saying goes. And, there are those that would argue that in the field of hard rock there is nothing new.

To some extent they might be right – it’s guitars, drums and singing; but in every other aspect the saying is wrong, as Screaming Eagles prove on their sophomore release ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’.

How you write and play hard rock determines whether you have added your own creative weight, and whether you have the ability and songs that make the listener stop in their tracks and get ready to raise their fists in salute to you. Screaming Eagles have achieved this.

With talent in abundance, as proved on their début release, this time they have upped their game, with superb playing, better song composition and a mature approach to their craft.

Album closer ’27 Club’ and ‘Breaking All The Rules’ are just two examples of how Screaming Eagles are spreading their rock wings and getting ready to ride the air to further success.

They are also not afraid to acknowledge their influences - the album title, and track of the same name are a direct nod to AC/DC (it's the first line of 'For Those About to Rock), and throughout there are references to classic hard rock bands.

But this is no slavish rehash of the same old riffs and hooks: no this is bringing hard rock bang up to date; fresh sounding, raucous and proud. No better example of this is the lead single 'Save Me' with its creative arrangement, slick solo and a hook that will snag you into its delightful refrain.

Lyrically the album also showcases grit and angst, as well as insight that rarely finds its way on to recording - add in Chris Fry's vocals makes for a killer album. This time Fry has elevated his work to a higher plain.

The same could be said for Adrian McAleenan's guitar work. McAleenan has always been acknowledged as one of the top rock guitarists in the land. On 'Stand Up And Be Counted' he has developed his tone and added more diversity to his sound, with the title track showcasing those in the perfect context.

Underpinning it all is the rhythm section. It rocks and rolls, holding the whole album together like gaffa tape. Ryan Lilly (bass) and Kyle Cruikshank (drums) have added a new groove such as on 'Bow Down To The Blues' and the eponymous 'Screaming Eagles'.

That track is worthy of note - it's not about the band, but rather the US Army's 101st Airborne Division, whose nickname is the Screaming Eagles. What could have been a cheesy track ends up as a chest-thumping anthem.

Track by track there is an abundance of what fans of rock want - and need. But taken as a whole this a huge step up in writing and performance; add the production and mastering by Russ Cullen and you have a winner.

Stand Up And Be Counted is available digitally now from the usual online stores and the bands site.

Review by Jonny



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Ramblin' Man Fair - Day 2 - damp but not defeated

IF the first day of Ramblin' Man Fair concluded with a warm evening following a sun-soaked Mote Park then those ill-prepared awoke to find Kent under a blanket of cloud and rainfall ranging from drizzle to complete downpours.

But, undaunted the crowd gathered, the mud underfoot and the water falling from the sky failing to dampen the enthusiasm.

Getting the blues
with Blues Pills
Opening a festival day under such conditions is no easy task, but when the name of the band is Blues Pills then it is a fair bet that grim faces quickly turned to smiles as punters shuffled, and in some cases ran to the front.

A cynical man may say that the red-blooded males were there to 'admire' Elin Larsson, but that would only be a small few amidst the majority captivated by the band's performance.

Dorrian Sorriaux's guitar work has a pure sense of feel for the era of music the band's sound harkens back to.  By the time second song 'Ain't No Change' rolled across Mote Park Sorriaux and Larsson's musical partnership left many in awe; and by the time closer 'Black Smoke' came around most were in agreement that Blues Pills should have been higher up the bill.

Have guitar will play
Unknown to many Sólstafir were appearing in the UK for the first time, and the Icelandic band won new fans with their down-to-earth brand of atmospheric rock.

The set was all-to-brief in terms of songs played, but there was a sense of mischief from opener 'Dagmál' and the 2014 single 'Ótta' drew more people to the front.

With a banjo played for a while (and then breaking!) Sólstafir concluded with 'Goddess of the Ages' and even the rain seemed a little warmer.

Spike soaks up
the adulation
Despite the weather the party really got going when The Quireboys brought their own unique brand of rock 'n' roll to the festival - and Spike knows how to throw a party. If you were to try and mould the perfect rock 'n' roll singer, who has swagger and style then you only need to think of Spike.

Backed by guitarists Guy and Paul the good times came song after song, as 'There She Goes Again' and 'This Is Rock 'n' Roll' kept the party vibe rolling along.

The closing trio of 'Hey You', Sweet Mary Ann' and '7 O'Clock' transformed the soggy Mote Park into everybody's favourite rock venue as Keith grinned from behind his keyboard as the ivories added the bar room boogie across Mote Park.

It's raining and who cares!
The Temperance Movement have been working hard to earn the plaudits for their straight forward no bullshit take on heavy rock, and more praise will be on its way if they keep up the standards they achieved at Ramblin' Man.

Glaswegian singer Phil Campbell's blues rock jester role in between songs was engaging and all of the band swung as guitarists Luke and Paul traded licks and smiles from opener '3 Bullets' through 'Smouldering' and 'Battle Lines' to set closer 'Take It Back'.

Former Jamiroquai bassist Nick Fyffe and drummer Damon Wilson gave each song a sense of groove to match the rock bite.

A succinct, smoothly delivered set of smouldering hard rock.

Many were wondering why comedian Vic Reeves had been wandering around the VIP area in the early afternoon, and it became clear when he appeared on stage to introduce Californian rockers Rival Sons. Reeves would have made the perfect MC for all the bands, but he gave only a few words for the Long Beach band.
Facial hair - Rival Sons

The hype that has surrounded the band drew a significant crowd away from the shelter of the beer tents and by the time the second song, 'Electric Man' rolled across the rain drenched field that hype seemed justified as Jay Buchanan serenaded the soaked and Scott Holliday seared through his guitar work.

However, as the set wound on some of the arrangements seemed laboured in places; what works on an album could do with some trimming before airing at a festival. By the time 'Pressure and Time' came along the intensity of the support was waning a little.

It is a shame that some songs did feel overlong as Rival Sons have superb chops. Having said that the closer 'Open My Eyes' redeemed what could have felt a little too much complexity.

The man!

Exactly why Seasick Steve appears on so many rock stages with his downtrodden hobo blues is only apparent when you see the man lay it down with so much passion, a twinkle in his eye and some playing that could leave shredders weeping.

Humble, funny and smiling between songs Seasick Steve's opener 'Thunderbird' had pure passion in the guitar work. And yes throughout the set we saw him play 'The Three String Trance Wonder' and hubcap guitars - unique and beautiful.

Drummer Dan Magnusson exchanged so many grins it was infectious for all gathered. 'Walkin' Man' at Ramblin' Man - synchronicity embodied.
Hobo rockin'

'Summertime Boy' 'Barracuda '68' and a mean sounding ode to life 'Keep on Keepin' On' had the Oakland, Ca. man drawing the crowd ever nearer into his life story. Concluding with 'Back in the Doghouse' Seasick Steve was the highlight of the day for many. And, it stopped raining just before Seasick Steve came on stage...

The same could not be said of Gregg Allman. Headliner status perhaps granted given his legendary work, but that felt so long ago, especially with reports of him being physically sick at previous shows.

A set that had covers of Blind Willie McTaggart, Muddy Waters and T-Bone songs kept the hardcore of Allman fans seemed happy, but from early on many were drifting away from the Classic Rock stage to the Prog and Blues stages via the beer tents.

It's not that Allman was not playing well - he was - it just seemed that the tunes adored by many from his own band and The Allman Brothers Band felt a little flat.

Surrounded by a fine set of musos 'Done Somebody Wrong' 'Soulshine', 'Melissa' and closer 'Whipping Post' were all delivered well but the magic dust was absent.

Not that bothered many that were gathered - whether sticking it out with Allman or revelling in the prog rock of Marillion it was a second great day for Ramblin' Man Fair.

Review by Jonny
Main Article pix by Darren McVeigh of MetalplanetBelfast
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Ramblin' Man Fair - a feast of Rock on Day One

THERE’S something about a damn good rock festival; when the sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the bands are smoking and the crowd has melded itself in that bounteous zone between relaxed, drunk and ready to rock.

No Hot Ashes say
hello to Kent
And then the stars align and something magical happens. And, thus, Maidstone in Kent hosted a special event that encapsulated the totality of the atmosphere that makes rock music special.

Kicking off Ramblin’ Man Fair Northern Ireland’s No Hot Ashes delivered something of a blast from the past - but they could be forgiven for that as the band only recently reformed after almost a three decade hiatus.

A smile to open the day
With material from their early days still sounding fresh songs like ‘Diane’ and ‘Summer Rain’ had a crowd unfamiliar with the band nodding their heads.

Singer Eamonn Nancarrrow was as engaging as always, but as he related the story of his family’s struggle with his mother’s stroke as the introduction to new release ‘Boulders’ the crowd warmed to not just the emotional tale, but the passion with which the band delivered.

In contrast Toseland took three songs before the band had the crowd slightly

Eye candy for ladies
and a singer too...
 warmed up. For a band with such a pedigree, and such a reach amidst the audience they were flat – not in musical terms – but in terms of how they were received. Billed as a renaissance of classic rock amid commentators the main man has assembled a crowd of musos who can deliver his vision of hard rock.

Unfortunately for him and his band that vision too often either fell flat or didn’t engaged with the variety of stage acts and the usual festival attraction distractions.

It took until the last two songs before the biker got the crowd going, with several dozen ladies registering their delight at his looks as well as his singing.

FM - all smiles
When it comes to timing FM managed to peak when the surge of 80s rock had faded, not that this ever stopped them. Energetic from the off they played with a clear sense of pleasure.

True, many in the audience harkened for the earlier hits but the material from 'Heroes and Villains' was received well by the burgeoning crowd streaming through the gates at Mote Park. And, most important for those stage front the band were clearly enjoying their slot in the summer sun/

Eric  - BOC - 'Nuff said!
That Blue Oyster Cult were once regarded as dangerous by mainstream America seems remarkable against today’s backdrop of black metal et al but when Eric Bloom and his accomplices took to the stage it was the moment that Ramblin’ Man Fair went from being a good festival to a great festival.

Hits be damned, this was a free flowing expression of hard rock. Sure they played ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’ to keep those who are not complete BOC aficionados happy, but on the rest of the set they playfully gave songs the breath and space to ’Cities on Flame’ with extended solo and guitar trade-offs, and, of course the delightfully playful introduction to ‘Godzilla’.
Guitar attack BOC style

Ramblin’ Man kicked into high gear with Blue Oyster Cult, and the levels of adulation were set to rise yet further on the Classic Rock Stage…  

British to the core Saxon play what is dismissed by the ignorant as classic metal, when Saxon are a metal band that do what they do damn well.

Road Warrior
From the moment ‘Motorcycle Man’ revved like the sound of full bore bike exhausts Biff held the crowd in his hands and they roared into his willing grip.

Sure there is never going to be too many surprises with Saxon, but then again that’s not what the faithful want. Newer songs take time to bed in, and the road warriors know how to work a festival crowd.

My Name is Biff.
And I rock
‘Wheels of Steel’, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Denim and Leather’ were all sang with gusto by the packed rows at the front as a grinning Byford revelled in the adulation yet still remained suitably humble.

Perhaps the recent health problems suffered by Nigel has kept the band even more grounded, and all welcomed his return behind the kit; and as the set ended all the other band members turned and bowed to him…a welcome touch as British metal handed over to American Prog Metal. 

Pensive Petrucci
The masters of musical dexterity, Dream Theatre, took to the stage to give a master class set. Petrucci’s precision playing had guitarists reaching for their tab books.

The likes of ‘Panic Attack’, ‘As I Am, and an outstanding rendition of ‘Behind The Veil’ had fans roaring in ecstatic praise, bordering on worship.

Happy Pereucci
But, it has to be said that Dream Theatre don’t play short, snappy songs. Their intricate arrangements, time changes and lengthy segments of sophisticated song writing may have been greeted with adulation by the faithful but it was noticeable that dozens drifted off from the main stage in search of beer, food and the tunes on the Prog and Outlaw Country Stages.

For those that remained Dream Theatre delivered a set of almost impeccable standards.

Some might take the Scorpions as a bit of cheesy act – but that is too ignore a pedigree that spans several decades, has adopted with changing rock trends, and most of all still seem to be enjoying themselves in union with the crowd.


 Klaus Meine is as engaging as ever,  but the man with the biggest smile was Rudi Schencker as the band tore through a set that ranged back to the epic days of ‘Tokyo Tapes’ days to relatively new material.

For the dedicated ‘Speedy’s Coming’ and ‘Steam Rock Fever’ were rolled out as old standards; for those just here for that song everyone whistled to ‘Winds of Change’; and, for those who (vaguely) remember the ‘80s it was a storming rendition of ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ that brought day one of Ramblin’ Man Fair to a close.

Brothers in rock
Sunshine had baked the field on Day One, and as weary, bleary festival goers joined the many queues to find their way back to accommodation few realised what Day Two had in store, but for now they were more than content.

Review by Jonny
Main pictures by Darren McVeigh - MetalplanetBelfast

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