Monday, March 02, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Midnight Ghost Train revel in southern roots

SOUTERN Rock is a broad genre of music that takes in the bad trip inspired grooves of Down to the more laid back, good time vibes of bands like Clutch. The discerning fan of heavy music will normally find something they like in the wide range of styles involved in this genre and this is where The Midnight Ghost Train comes in.

For those not in the know The Midnight Ghost Train are a hard rocking trio consisting of Steve Moss on vocals and guitar, Brandon Burghart on drums and Mike Boyne on bass and Cold Was The Ground is their third album and their first release for Napalm Records.

The band take their name from a lyric in the Hank Williams song 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' and while the music is as far from country as you can get, lyrically they do seem to take a little inspiration from the Outlaw Country greats such as the much missed Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings with their tales of woe and standing up to those who look down on you.

For the most of this eleven track album they play at full tilt. Guitar, Bass and drums locked into one immense groove. The production is sparse and really suits the music, anything too polished would take away some of the grit from the songs.  Musically the band have hints of Clutch to them at times and that can never be a bad thing. 

The thing that sets The Midnight Ghost Train apart from their peers are the gruff bellowed vocals of Steve Moss.  His vocals are quite abrasive compared to the music they play and may put some people off at first however stick with the album and they end up suiting the feel of the music.
As already touched upon this album has a powerful groove to it and you get the impression that the songs from this album will be fantastic in a live setting but while the music has a good time feel to it, the lyrics are dark and at times quite depressing. 'Arvonia' has Steve Moss bellowing "fetch me my 12 gauge, I'm a gonna shoot that man" followed up by the threat of "I ain't going to kill you, I'm just gonna make you pay".
'The Little Sparrow' is the standout track on the album.  The vocals are spoken and quite poetic and the music in the background is sparse and haunting.  Lyrics such as "how can music be so free and still take all that you have.  I thought you were my saviour once but now I see you were my death" paint Steve Moss as a tortured soul, completely taken over by his music.

From start to finish 'Cold Was The Ground' is a fantastic album without a weak track on it. It is not the most immediate album out there and may require it to be listened to a number of times before you realise just how good an album it is.  Fans of no frills southern style rock/metal should find a lot to enjoy and admire about this great wee album and if there is any justice in the world The Midnight Ghost Train should find themselves moving onto bigger and better things.

Review by Gavin O'Connor 

ALBUM REVIEW: Muscular melodic Trucker Diablo show their quality on Rise Above The Noise

LAST year Jake Burns of SLF told us that recording an album on Pledge Music was a challenge because when a band enters a studio people have already committed their cash before hearing or knowing what the album would sound like, or whether their audience would 'get it'.

Thus, when Trucker Diablo. decided to end their temporary hiatus it must have taken balls the sizes of water melons to commit fans to purchase 'Rise Above The Noise' before a singe track had been laid down in pre-production in the Rock Shed.

But, fans faith has been rewarded by an album that would put many a major league artists to shame: indeed if labels are not clamouring for Trucker's signatures on contracts they are idiots.

From opener 'Fight Life' through to closer 'Don't Cry' this is masterclass in muscular, melodic hard rock: all the elements that make art form such a cathartic and joyous experience.

With the likes of 'Girl in a Photograph' eeking out the hard rock groove - with stunning solo to boot -  and the anthemic 'Party Like They Started The End Of The World' there is not a dud track.

Amidst all the songs with the trademark Trucker bottom end they are comfortable stretching their sound. The southern rock infused 'Take Me To the River' will have many of the so-called southern boogie bands going back to the drawing board.

Taking the hard rock template to its most impressive format - the power ballad -  Trucker deliver something extraordinary in the shape of 'Murder Ballad'. Hard rock acts across the globe will shake their heads in disbelief as they find they have had their asses handed to them on the proverbial plate by Northern Ireland's Trucker Diablo.

It is clear that the band has emerged from its hiatus invigorated, energised and effervescent. Damn it, hard rock is never better than this.

But, by the same token this is not a one-dimensional release of hard rock. Instead Tom (Harte) and his compadrés have delivered a rounded album, full of hard rock standards, tight appropriate solos and riffs that roll and rock the way they should - just listen to the closing few minutes of 'Sun Deprives The Day'. And as for 'We Stand Strong'....live this will be a killer!

What could have been a train wreck after the impressive 'Songs of Iron' instead shows Trucker Diablo triumph. When the Quireboys Keith Weir tickles the ivories it is but another part of the Trucker package that pulls no punches, aided by Frankie McClay's production.

If you have not managed to get this album then make tracks to get it...that's not a suggestion, that's an order!

Rise Above The Noise is out now! The 'official' album release party is on March 7th at the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill Rock City...

Review by Jonny

ALBUM REVIEW: Enslaved push yet more extreme music boundaries on In Times

EXTREME metal is just noise with growls. Right? No, it is about something that can be transcendental, where the depths and insistent talent throw curve balls at the listeners aural tracts, unbalancing perceptions and blowing apart preconceived notions.

Such is the case with Enslaved. This Friday (March 6th) sees the release on Nuclear Blast of 'In Times' - a pure slab of heaviness and subtleties; progressive extreme metal at its best.

It is not, however, easy listening to kick back to, despite the many nuanced instrumental sections. There is not a song amongst the six on here that is less than eight minutes long, and the title track is 10-minutes plus.

But each journey on this road on 'In Times' is well worth the effort.

Tale 'Nauthir Bleeding'. From an almost gentle tender opening, through clean singing, to black metal style guttural screams, on to carefully chosen changes in tempo.

'One Thousand Years of Rain' rolls in like an arctic storm, squalls of furious intent, rolling thunder from Cato Bekkevold's drums while Grutle Kjellson's bass propels the pace along for Arve 'Ice Dale' Ivar Bjørnson and Herbrand Larse to paint textures: one minute moving from choral chanting to a slick, brief acoustic interlude before thrashing your ass off.

Enslaved have taken their own template from their decades of existence, honed on last release 'RiitiiR' and taken it to the proverbial next level.

Each song has hidden complexities that only repeated listens unveil; such as the deft solo passage over the insistent riffing that lasts for two minutes plus on the title track.

There is not a bad passage of music on this release, let alone a bad track.

In short, on 'In Times' Enslaved have produced a supreme example of what extreme metal can do for the listener.

'In Times' is released on Nuclear Blast on March 6th 2015.

Review by Jonny

ALBUM REVIEW: It’s not the Final Countdown as Europe excel on War of Kings


POP pickers and disco bunnies all recognise Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ but few would realise that on March 6th the Swedish rockers will release their 10th album, ‘War of Kings’ and if they fail to pick up a copy they are missing a slab of hard rock excellence.
As always the focus is on Joey Tempest and John Norum throughout, but to see this as some sort of star vehicle would be to miss the fact that Europe are very much a unit, tried, tested and true in their pursuit of excellence.
Jon Levén (bass) Mic Machaeli (keyboards) and Ian Haugland (drums) are all integral to the sound; and on ‘War of Kings’ there is a sense of purpose.
Building on their previous album ‘Bag of Bones’ Europe have not distilled their influences, instead they have gone back to what they love.
Tempest said:
“War Of Kings is the album we always wanted to make, ever since we were kids listening to bands like Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath.”

Of course this begs the question about the previous nine releases, but we’ll skip over that...

Kicking off with the title track, a brooding mid-paced track, this is perhaps one of the most rounded album from the band. Stand-out tracks such as ‘The Second Day’, ‘California 405’ and ‘Angels (with Broken Hearts)’ swirl with delightful turns of musical phrase.

Yes, you can hear the Purple influence (California 405 could have been written with Ian Gillan in mind), but that does not detract from the fact that this is a triumphant hard rocking album.

Key to that could be that this is a line-up that has been largely together since the early 80s – bar the break from 1992 to 2003.

‘7 Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sounds from the title as if it is another clichéd romp through how rock is great, but Michaeli and Norum produce a layered sound and backdrop to the song, and lyrically it just says that they’re still rocking...

Tempest declared that they have “done it our way” since the re-union, and that is something no-one could deny, and he’s not going to be shy about his pride in Europe.

“Looking forward to tons of touring in 2015,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to be modest and humble about this band. It doesn’t get much better than this.

War of Kings is released on UDR on March 6th.

Europe play Belfast's Ulster Hall on March 3rd, with co-headliners Black Star Riders and The Amorettes as support. It is their first visit to Belfast in 25 years.

Review by Jonny

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

INTERVIEW: Keep of Kalessin's Obsidian C speaks about artwork, Eurovision and production

Recently, Jamie from our partner website Devils Gate Media caught up with Obsidian C, now the front man of KEEP OF KALESSIN. Before discussing the new album, ‘Epistermology’, there was something else on Jamie’s mind…


Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. If you don’t mind, can I ask about you being the first Metal band to enter the Eurovision Song Contest? What ever made you consider entering?
"The boss for Eurovision here in Norway at the time, Per Sundnes, told the media that he would even consider black metal bands. This was just at the time when I had written ‘The Dragontower’, and I knew that this was a very catchy song so I decided to send it in and see the response. They liked it and offered us to enter the contest and why shouldn’t we do that when we’re offered the opportunity?"

Metal appears to be Norway’s biggest musical export. Do you think Norway was more open to a metal band representing them at the contest?
"Yes, I think Norway is one of the few countries where that is even possible."

How much did it raise the profile of the band, nationally and internationally?
"Nationally it raised the profile a lot. Internationally, not so much."

Bringing things back up to date… It’s been five years since the last album, with an EP release in between, and you’re back now as a three-piece. How do you feel, musically, about the position of the band now?
"The band is stronger than ever! I think that the new album is our best to date, and the reviews coming in from all over the world seems to agree with me. It is without any doubt that we have a very strong album out now!"

You produced all the previous releases. Was it a natural choice to take over the vocal role?
"After we split with Thebon, I had to really think if this was something I wanted, because it would mean a lot of work and a lot more resting on my shoulders than it already was. But I thought that since I produced all previous singers, I should be able to produce myself and push my own limits as well. It took some time and was a lot of work, but now I’m really glad I decided to finally step up and take the place as the front man for this band. We are getting good feedback on this on our live shows as well!"

Has the change in vocalist opened up more creative possibilities, regarding the writing process?
"Well, I don’t have to explain anything to a singer anymore! I can just do it myself. So the band is more streamlined, and the working process is moving faster than ever. So I don’t think it will be 5 years until the next album!"

Good! Talking of the writing process, there must a fair amount that doesn’t quite fit, especially when creating 7… 8… 9 minute tracks. How much material gets cut out the final tracks?
"We cut out a lot… but not so much parts of a song, as entire songs. We wrote 19 songs before recording this album and there are only 7 full songs on the album, so we have a lot of material that doesn’t fit on an album like this. Some of it will probably be released some time, but many songs will probably also just fade into oblivion."

There was an ongoing theme running through the ‘Armada’ and ‘Kolossus’ albums. Was this a result of material being written and not used?
"No, ‘Kolossus’ was written entirely on it’s own. We had some leftovers from ‘Armada’, but that material has still not seen the light of day."

Will ‘Epistermology’ mark the start of a new theme, that we could see continue in to another album?
"I think that the band has moved on to a more mature path and I think we will continue in that way on a couple of albums, but not necessarily keep the same theme."

The album has received superb reviews, with many saying you have an ability to surprise the listener album after album. What do you think will stand out from this new album? What, if anything, will surprise those listening to it for the first time?
"Hopefully, they will be surprised by the quality in the songwriting. I personally don’t think the speed or the clean vocals or any details like that is our best parts, but I really think the atmosphere and the songwriting is what separates Keep Of Kalessin from the rest."

The cover artwork is amazing. What’s the story behind the competition? Why open it up to the fan base?
"We decided to make an app for Facebook to hold a cover contest where designers could upload their artwork and our community could vote on what designs they liked the most.

The response was massive and we were overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the designs submitted!

The band then chose one winner from the top 3 designs voted by the fans. And this decision was fairly easy, since I felt that the only one that really captured what the album was about was Jean Michel, so I immediately knew that he would win as long as he made it to the top 3. And luckily for us, he did."

Do you think that creative industries should have that mutual respect for each other, and be openly more supportive of each other?
"I think everyone should have more mutual respect for each other and be more supportive. I think the metal community should be more supportive and not bash down every band that is trying to make it on this planet. Use your energy on supporting what you like instead of hating on what you don’t like!"


You said, after the release of ‘Kolossus’, that you were not big enough to headline in States. Five years on, has that now changed? Any plans to return to the States on a headline tour?
"Not really. I don’t think we’re even close to be able to headline the US so it doesn’t look like much is happening there in a while."


We’re looking forward to seeing you perform at Incineration Fest in London, in May. We think it’s an epic line up. Are you looking forward to being apart of it and being in London?
"Yeah, this is one of the shows we’re really looking forward to this year! See you there!"

Any final words for the fans and our readers?
"Thanks for the support! Check out our new album and see you at Incineration Fest!"

Incineration Festival takes place on 9th May  at the Electric Ballroom, Camden London.
 
Interview by Jamie from Devils Gate Media

Devils Gate Media is a partner site to Belfastmetalheadsreunited. It is a growing vibrant site, which we are proud to be a partner of, and have our reviews and interviews appear on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NEWS: Big Truck rolling into town; Metal2TheMasses; Nightrage; Bloodstock; diary clashes; and, so much more

 
THE Big Truck is back on the road...Yep, in case you haven't been keeping up-to-date with all things in the Trucker Diablo world, their Pledge Music campaign was successful, the album has been polished off, and now the sound of that powerful engine is ready to roar again.
 
Rabid fans are already clearing all obstacles on the road to Ahoghill for the launch of the album 'Rise Above The Noise' on March 7th at the Diamond Rock Club...
 
Support comes from the Gasoline Outlaws, who have been kicking up a storm in double quick time with barely a couple of gigs under their belts and songs chock full of riffs big sing-a-long choruses 
 
For the dedicated (your faithful editor included) warm up for the Big Truck will be down in Limelight2 from five bells, when Heat Two of Metal To The Masses takes place. The competition, in case you didn't know, has, for the winner, a slot at the massive, prestigious Bloodstock Festival in August.
 
The first heat saw Sorrowfall and Altus qualify for the semi-finals: and the four-band shoot-out on March 7th will see Zombified, Donum Dei, Rule of Six and Cavehill.
 
The two winners will be selected by votes, with 50% of them from the audience and 50% from the judges. And, judging by last week's turn-out you can be sure that every vote counts.
 
Careful planning means you can see both gigs. You can (a) drive to Ahoghill after Metal To The Masses or (b) get the 9:20 train to Ballymena and taxi to Ahoghill and enjoy a pint. Who is it to say which is the best option...
 
 
###
 
Bloodstock's already jam-packed line-up has been boosted by an announcement today of five more acts to what is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated festivals of the year.

And, given that Lawnmower Deth, Oaf, Ethereal, Saille and the Dirty Sanchez lads, Pritchard Vs Dainton.

Add this to the already announced line-up...including Trivium, Sabaton, Within Temptation, Opeth, Rob Zombie, Black Label Society, Godflesh, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Orange Goblin, 1349, Ensiferum, Nuclear Assault, Onslaught and many, many more.


###

For those of you who enjoy some dirty, old-fashioned, gypsy-tinged rock 'n' roll, don't forget that the Quireboys are making a return visit to the Diamond, Ahoghill.


With a superb Belfast show in 2014 they also plied their acoustic set earlier to great acclaim.

Well, with a new album due out in March - 'St Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul' - the good time, rock 'n' roll experience of Quireboys unplugged is coming to Ahoghill Rock City on March 28th.

If you've never experienced Quireboys live then this is one for your diary. Choice cuts, classics in a new light and some surprises as always from Spike and co.

And, here's a wee thing to note...St Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul comes as a four-cd pack with 'Halfpenny Dancer' and two live CDs from the tour of the same name...

###

Greek/Swedish metallers Nightrage are back on the metal scene with new release 'The Puritan'. It's been four years since they released 'Insidious' and they have a new label (Despotz Records) and a new singer in the shape of Ronnie Nyman (formerly of Always War).

The break and new shape sees the band re-take their melodic death metal roots and move to what they claim will be a "pure metal kick in the balls"

They've even managed to recruit Gus G to add solos to the song 'When Gold Turns To Rust...

It is fair to say that Nightrage could turn their potential into further international success with this release. And, here's a wee sample of what you can expect...




###

Decisions, decisions....March is packed with gigs (Europe/BSR, The Answer, Blazefest etc etc) but Easter weekend is already looking to be a corker...but, there will be decisions to take.

Saturday April 4th sees Joe Lynn Turner (he of Rainbow fame) play the Voodoo. Around the same time Danny Vaughn and Dan Reed are joining forces in the Diamond to bring their Snake Oil to Ahoghill...

It'll be a new sound from these two distinctive performers, who collectively have years of experience and two mighty sets of vocal chords.

And, the same night sees, Death Of A Salesman, By Conquest Or Consent, Scimitar and Figurehead play the Bar With No Name.

Ach, by the power of Lemmy it's going to be a difficult choice for rockers and metallers, but a choice must be made, and let no-one argue that there's a shortage of shows here in Norn Iron....

What can be sure is that we'll up early the next morning to make the odyssey, the journey of a lifetime to the Siege of Limerick.

After all it's only right that we support Rabid Bitch of the North, Maverick, By Any Means, Altus, War Iron and Astralnaut as they mount an invasion across the border.

And, what's more, even though you have to pay to travel the Siege of Limerick is free entry!

Let the mayhem commence!












###

Now, with all that ahead let's take a recap on what's taking place in March...

On March 3rd, as mentioned earlier Europe, Black Star Riders and The Amorettes play the Ulster Hall, and the next day Chris Jericho brings Fozzy to Limelight2, with support from The Dirty Youth.

With no chance of a break The Hornets play QUB Bar Sub on the 5th with The Answer in Limelight2 the next day. That Friday also sees Hibagon/TBVS/Molarbear/Berzerker Blood are at the Warzone Centre.

As mentioned before Saturday, March 7th sees Metal2TheMasses in Limelight2 and Trucker Diablo in the Diamond....Oh and Weed Priest, Astralnaut, Nomadic Rituals and Wardomized are in the Voodoo.

Royal Blood are playing a sold-out show in the Ulster Hall on Sunday March 8th.

NWOBHM legends Angel Witch play Limelight2 with the supporting cast including Darkest Era, Rabid Bitch of the North and Stereo Nasty.

If you haven't got a ticket for the sold-out Papa Roach then there is an alternative. Yes, the annual Blazefest takes place as once again Darren and Dawn Shields-Petit host Blazefest 5 in the Empire Music Hall with Screaming Eagles, Maverick, Sinocence, Conjuring Fate and The Irontown Diehards. All proceeds go to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

On March 28th Sinocence launch 'No Gods. No Masters Volume II' in Limelight2 with Conjuring Fate, Donum Dei and Gasoline Outlaws...and then a quick trip up to Ahoghill for the Quireboys...

And on Sunday, March 29th Coltsblood, Ninkharsag, War Iron, and Nomadic Rituals play the Voodoo, Belfast.

Nah, there's no gigs in Norn Iron!


 





 
 
 



Monday, February 23, 2015

INTERVIEW: Buy merch or die...Waylander chat ahead of Hammerfest VII appearance

THEY were amongst the first to merge folk and metal, to bring together traditional sounds with the might of metal as far back as the early 90s - they are Waylander.

And, as they prepare for their appearance at Hammerfest VII in a couple of short weeks we caught up with ArdChieftain O'Hagan to check out what is happening in the Waylander camp in 2015....what shape are the band in?

"We have a stable line up, which always helps, but having 6 people in the band with work and family commitments means that getting everyone together at the same time in the same place, is difficult," said O'Hagan.

As the history of the band goes, it is fair to say that Waylander were trailblazers in the journey towards folk metal in the 21st Century.
 
!In recent years, with the various anniversaries that have came up, has meant that i've thought about this more than usual," he said. "Of course we were trailblazers[your word not mine], the evidence is there for all to see.

"We wrote 'Born to the Fight' as far back as 1993, so we were one of the handful of bands playing folk influenced Metal back then. Our debut album, 'Reawakening Pride Once Lost' has been cited as an influence by many bands."

O'Hagan went on: "As for being trailblazers these days, well, no, we're not. I can't see how we could be unless we completely reinvent our sound and produce music which has never been done before. Pretty impossible in this day and age, don't you think?"

But the band are not sitting on their laurels...
 
"We are working on new material which should be recorded some time this year," he said. "As for releasing a new album, who knows when, but it will happen. We will hopefully arrange some shows later on in the year but nothing confirmed just yet."

With the Hammerfest appearance imminent we wanted to know how important are festivals for bands like Waylander.
 
"Festivals are always important for a band to play, especially for bands like ourselves who don't tour extensively," said O'Hagan. "There is the unique opportunity to play to a larger than normal audience and more chance of making new fans.
 
"Hammerfest has been good to us and we are really looking forward to playing the main stage for the 2nd time."
 
But before we bid Waylander good luck at Hammerfest we wanted to hear what tips they could offer festival newbies...
 
"It's important to buy at least one item of whatever Waylander are selling in the Merch shop, that ensures that a member of the band won't murder you. Not being dead is definitely a plus when trying to enjoy a Festival.
 
"The only other piece of advice i can offer is to never sober up, thus eliminating the prospects of the dreaded hangover. "
 
Sound advice we think, and please drink irresponsibly...
 
Interview by Jonny

Sunday, February 22, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Star Riders beginning to establish their own identity on The Killer Instinct

THE Black Star Riders are to many an enigma. Emerging from the ashes of Thin Lizzy's dying embers, their last album 'All Hell Breaks Loose' there was a definite whiff of compromise between the Lizzy template and Ricky Warwick's powerful influence.

Certainly some hardcore Lizzy devotees (including our contributor Baal) found the whole thing distasteful, but it was, if nothing else, a bridge between the past and the present.

The latest album, 'The Killer Instinct' sees Black Star Riders move on from that 'bridging' period; and while Scott Gorham's guitar work still harkens back to Lizzy, Warwick can now be see to be influencing the way forward.

Album opener and title track 'The Killer Instinct' has a Lizzy cover version feel, only salvaged by the lyrics, but 'Bullet Blues' sees the band adopt a contemporary hard rock sound.

Certainly  evident is that Warwick and Damon Johnson are taking on the bulk of song writing chores.

A defining moment on the album is the fourth track, 'Soldierstown', which sees Warwick's personal observations of Belfast married with a Celtic vibe that simply portrays a vision of despair.

But, there are flaws on this release. 'Charlie I Gotta Go' at times seems lazy, only redeemed by the pre-chorus and the solos.

However, following that is the six-minute 'Blindsided'. Balladic, with bathos and pathos in equal measure. One word - beautiful.

The flawed but enjoyable 'Through the Motions' opens with a riff that seems to be going...well through the motions, but the tune develops and grows, especially at the concluding bridges.

And, in terms of bridges, 'Turn in Your Arms' muscular riffs and solos showcase the transition between an ex-Lizzy sound and hard rock as it sounds in the 21st Century.

Closer is a seven minute plus semi-epic in the shape of 'You Little Liar', which to be honest seems to be a song that will only evolve in the live environment.

Stepping back to take an objective approach - as opposed to the subjective fan of Lizzy and The Almighty - what Black Star Riders have accomplished is a significant step towards their own identity.

With the evident growing writing influence of Warwick and Johnson one can only hope that with this and subsequent releases they will have less need to cover Lizzy on stage and can be recognised for their achievement rather than rely on legacy.

The Killer Instinct is available now on Nuclear Blast.

Review by Jonny

NEWS: Norn Iron's Terminus take on Europe...Europe doesn't stand a chance

BACK in the dim and distant past 'eavy metaaal was not a complicated patchwork of genres and sub-genres. It was simply 'eavy fuggin' metal, played loud and proud.

Harkening back to those days are Northern Ireland's Terminus, who are preparing for a European assault.

This five piece takes
their lead from Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Savage Grace, Slough Feg and Exciter - ey exist solely to play real Heavy Metal without pose or fuss in a scene where its presence has been sorely missed.

The band has been plugging away in the background with sporadically popping up to play gigs with the likes of Grand Magus, Argus, Darkest Era, Atlantean Kodex and Ravensire.

Releasing a well received demo in 2012 and then a split 7" on the German label Underground Power Records the band are gearing up for the release of their yet untitled debut album and to celebrate this they will also play a spate of dates across Europe in the coming year.

Confirmed so far the band will be unleashing their power upon the following .

  • 5th March Up The Hammers Festival, Athens, Greece (with Manilla Road, Battleroar, Sacred Steel)
  • 10th April 2015 Gypsy Rose, Dublin supporting Argus (US), Mael Mordha (Ire), Void Moon (Swe)
  • 11th April 2015 Limelight 2, Belfast supporting Void Moon ( Swe) + 2 TBC
  • 9-11th July 2015 Metal Magic Festival, Denmark (with Candlemass, Girlschool, Sigh, Gospel of the Horns)
  • 3rd October 205 No Compromise Festival, Belgium (with Portrait, Toledo Steel + Tbc)


More dates to be confirmed!

To fill the gap until the release of the album on Stormspell Records (CD) and Horror Records (Vinyl and MC) the band have unleashed a new track "Fortress Titan"
 

Terminus are James Beattie - Vocals David McCallum - Bass Paul Duffy - Guitar Gavin Coulter - Guitar David Gillespie - Drums




 

 

 

 
 
 

ALBUM REVIEW: FM lay bare the Art of AOR on Heroes and Villains

REGARDED by many as the UK's answer to Bon Jovi in the eighties, FM will release their fourth studio album since their return from hiatus in 2008, 'Heroes and Villains', on April 17th, but are they still relevant and interesting?
 
Turns out they are.
 
These fine exponents of melodic rock music have produced quite possibly their best album since 'Aphrodisiac' in '92. The classic sound is there but a little rockier and up tempo than last years 'Rockville I & II'.
 
Steve Overland is simply one of the best rock singers these shores have produced and Jim Kirkpatrick's guitar oozes class with some big bluesy licks with no shortage of funk.
 
The rhythm section of Merv Goldsworthy (bass) and Pete Jupp (drums) is solid and keeps the whole groove going along nicely. Add Jem Davis with his Moog synth and Mellotron and Hammond organs and you get a slightly retro feel.
 
The album was self produced and a damn fine job they made of it too!
Starting with the Def Leppardesque 'Digging up the Dirt' the band set the tone with a not so subtle dig at the tabloid presss.
 
'You're The Best Thing About M'" is a mid tempo rocker that is a throw back to earlier albums and as catchy as hell, again with an underlying Def Leppard riff and background vocals.
 
'Life is a Highway' is another melodic rocker with a catchy tune, great chorus and nice lead break from Jim and is reportedly one of the band's favourites on the album.
 
'Fire and Rain' has a haunting funky start before turning into one of the heavier, bluesy riff inspired tracks with more than a hint of Paul Rodgers and Bad Company.
 
Of course no FM album can call itself that without the good old power ballad and 'Incredible' fits the bill nicely with acoustic guitar and the inclusion of a string quartet.
 
The pace lifts again with 'Call on Me' ,originally recorded during the Metropolis album sessions, and revamped for this album with a huge chorus and a great hooky solo.
 
Next up is a song featured on last years 'Futurama EP', 'Cold Hearted' . A bluesier and funkier number which is already a live favourite.
 
'Shape I'm In' and 'Big Brother' follow. The former, another song with a bluesy riff about lost love, the latter about, to use the bands words, "the ever increasing Orwellian world we live in"
 
Track 10 is the Rolling Stones inspired 'Somedays I Only Wanna Rock and Roll' which has a nice bit of Sax at the end.
 
The penultimate track 'I Want You' is another old school melodic blues FM number which includes the obligatory hand claps in the chorus....yeah!
 
And now we come to the final track 'Walking With The Angels'... A stripped down acoustic number about finally finding your true love that has haunting vocals,subtle keyboards and the string quartet again. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs you will heart in 2015.
 
Sun Tzu proclaimed  "There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard"
 
Think the old Chinese master of warfare might've nicked that from FM.
 
If you love your AOR then Heroes and Villians should be on your shopping list.
 
Review by Andy Gillen

ALBUM REVIEW: Smash Into Pieces have modern radio-friendly rock on Apocalypse DJ

WHEN it comes to a wealth of diverse music, the Scandinavian countries have the lion's share, and the latest evidence comes for Smash into Pieces as they let rip with radio-friendly rock on their second album 'Apocalypse DJ'.

Follwing on from their 2013 debut album 'Unbreakable' and consists of eleven tracks of what could be described as modern rock with a slight alternative feel to a number of tracks.

Made up vocalist Chris Adam Hedman Sorbye, guitarists Benjamin Jannebo and Per Berquist, bassist Viktor Vidlund and drummer Isak Snow, Smash to Pieces have a curious back-story...
 
In 2009 the band reached the semi finals of the Swedens got Talent compitition but dropped out of it when they signed a record deal which then went sour on them after releasing one single. They remained unsigned for a few years before signing with Gain/Sony Music and released their debut album in April 2013.
 
The production on this 2015 release is top quality. The guitars have a nice crisp feel to them and all the instruments are to the fore which adds to a nice full sound.
 
The vocals of Chris Adam Hedman Sorbye for the most part deserve praise.  He has a good deep voice which really suits the music and he is more than capable of carrying a tune, the only problem is when he tries a sort of growled vocal on a number of tracks which doesn't really work such as on the track 'Burn'.

Whilst the guitars have a nice crisp sound unfortunately the riffs for the most part are generic radio rock and quite a few of the tracks have a pronounced industrial and 'nu-metal' feel which at times dates the album, again the track 'Burn' is the main culprit with the main riff all to reminiscent of the more radio friendly tracks from Fear Factory around the time of 'Digimortal'.

The band certainly know how to write catchy, melodic songs. So far they have released two singles from this album, 'Disaster Highway' and 'Checkmate' but almost any of the tracks on this album could be released as a single such is the amount of hooks and sing along chorus they appear to have at their disposal.
 
You could easily imagine any of these tracks playing in the background of some American teen drama or at a sporting event. 

The two tracks which stand out for praise are the semi ballad 'Color Of Your Eyes' and 'My Cocaine'. 

'Color Of Your Eyes' starts off with a nice keyboard and clean picked guitar lines which continues through the first verse before the whole band join in for the chorus and a standout performance from Chris Adam Hedman Sorbye.

'My Cocaine' is duet with Elize Ryd of Amaranthe and has each vocalist singing a verse before joining together for the chorus.  Both voices combine well together but it is the presence of Elize Ryd that really makes this track top quality.   Her vocals start off being quite dreamy and ends up with her belting out quite a few high notes as the music gathers momentum.

'Apocalypse DJ' is an album slick, well produced radio rock which seems to be aimed squarely at the American market. 
 
Most of the band members admit to their love of bands such as Nickleback and Alter Bridge and listening to this album their influence on the musicians is obvious.

If inoffensive, radio friendly modern rock mixed with industrial and Nu Metal is your cup of tea then this will be the album for you. If not stay away.

'Apocalypse DJ' is released on 16th March on Gain
 
Review by Gavin O'Connor

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

INTERVIEW: Jake Rogers of Visigoth tells us about the influences of the band and the background of The Revenant King

SALT Lake City's metal overlords Visigoth have just released their latest platter of metal with 'The Revenant King' hitting hard and joyfully on to decks of 'true metal' fans; full of swagger and style.

When we reviewed it in January we were taken by the ambition of the band, but with it just out on Metal Blade Records a few short weeks we caught up with Visigoth vocalist Jake Rogers, and wanted to know what his feelings were running up to this release.

"I was a combination of excited and nervous, as anybody would be when about to release new music to the public," said Rogers. "Once some time has passed and the dust settles a bit, all will be normal again."

One of the issues that struck us when reviewing 'The Revenant King' was the lyrical landscape, and Rogers was more than happy to expand on his inspirations.


"The lyrics I write are primarily fantasy storytelling," he said. "I take a lot of inspiration from books, tabletop games, computer/video games, and movies. I grew up reading and gaming a lot, and those influences stuck with me.

"I like lyrics that tell a story or connect with a great pre-existinng story, so I try to do that myself. I'm not a very skilled lyracist, but it is important to me to at least get across the feeling of heroic fantasy tales to the best of my abilities."

For the listener the influences on show by Visigoth are clear, but be wary of asking Jake about those influences - because he may not stop! But then again it is always a delight when a band knows exactly where are coming from...

"We have a lot of different influences that drove us to start Visigoth. The classics are big for us of course, like Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, Dio, Rainbow, and Riot," said Jake.

"We are also inspired by NOWBHM such as Saxon, Iron Maiden, Pagan Altar, Demon, Grim Reaper, Elixir, early Saracen. Epic heavy/doom metal is really important to me, including bands such as Atlantean Kodex, Solstice, Doomsword, Argus, and Old Season.

"Traditional heavy metal naturally has a strong impact on our sound, citing bands such as Grand Magus, Metal Inquisitor, Skullview, and Vicious Rumors. Hellenic heavy metal like Battleroar and Holy Martyr, German heavy/speed metal like Accept, Grave Digger, and Brainfever; and some USPM such as Twisted Tower Dire, Jag Panzer, and Pharoah are all a part of the equation as well. Plus some doses of good ol' rock'n'roll like Thin Lizzy, Ashbury, or Uriah Heep.

"What is important to us is finding ways to meet in the middle of all of these influences. It's still something we're trying to figure out.

With those influences it is natural that the arrangements on 'The Revenant King' harken back to those days.

"Being a traditional heavy metal band, we are naturally going to have those sounds because a majority of our influences are from that period in time and the twin guitar sound is absolutely integral to the genre," said Jake.

"We did not, however, arrange the songs in order to be 'retro' or 'throwback' at all - we are simply a heavy metal band, and as such, we have those influences. Traditional heavy metal is a timeless sound that speaks for itself. We aren't bringing anything back, because metal was never dead in the first place.

"We are just one of many bands who pay homage to their roots because they respect the traditions of heavy metal music, regardless of what time period they are playing it in."

And now the band are taking The Revenant King on tour...

"We have a west coast USA tour coming up in April. Europe is on the docket but I cannot confirm anything as of yet besides that we will be playing the mighty Up the Hammers festival in March of 2016, which we are incredibly excited about," he said.

Because we, on this side of the pond are not familiar with their home city, so we looked up Salt Lake City on Wikipedia (we call it research....). There is a lot about the Salt Lake City music scene but no mention of Visigoth. Was Jake annoyed by this oversight?

"Not annoyed at all - I didn't even know that the Salt Lake City Wikipedia page mentioned bands at all until you brought it up," he said.

"The bands on the list are hardcore bands, not metal bands, which brings me to my next point - people who are looking for metal are not looking for it on Wikipedia!"

Hey, we were only trying to find out more, but Jake is right, you don't need a Wikipedia page to find your metal...you're reading it here.

Interview by Jonny

INTERVIEW: No Hot Ashes' Eamon talks Ramblin' Man Fair and album release

WHEN No Hot Ashes got back together for a one-off in Belfast about 18 months ago there was a palpable sense of excitement to hear the melodies and rock from the 80s glory days - a sense that those who remembered those heady days could re-connect again with the vitality of that era.

Since then NHA have emerged stronger and with definite plans to plunder that desire to reinvigorate the sound that dominated yesteryear. But that's not to say that this is another act re-treading past glories - No Hot Ashes are gearing up for a 2015 full of promise and ready for all comers.

Recently announced as a main stage act for Ramblin' Man Fair festival the band could not be more delighted than when we caught up with singer Eamon Nancarrow as he effused over who they will be sharing the plaudits with.

"To be honest the line-up is superb," Eamonn said. "I mean the Scorps fer feck sake!!! Then there's Saxon and BOC. We will have completed a British tour with FM in May so it will be great to team up with them again.

"To be honest this festival really appeals to me. It's like a mixture of the old Donnington and Glastonbury. It will also be our first festival show with Dave Irvine back in the band and for many reasons this is a massive deal for us all. It's great to have him back and Niall Diver is staying on so we now have twin lead guitars and are a six piece."
 
And the setting appeals to not just the band.
 
"Kent is beautiful county and close enough to London so I'm looking forward to meeting up with some of my old Soho drinking buddies. There are a few nutters flying into Gatwick from Northern Ireland. So what's not love about this festival." Nutters from Northern Ireland...surely that's obligatory!
 
"The only thing I'm disappointed in is that we asked for our back stage rider to include vegetable roll, Tayto onion rings and a bottle of Maine attaboy but the organisers said we should send our request again in English."
 
To be fair only residents of Northern Ireland will get that reference...and perhaps a few members of the Quireboys...
 
As to who Eamon will be looking forward to seeing at Rambin' Man fair...
 
"I will checking out the Scorpions for sure. I love Saxon and won't miss them. It will be great to see Toseland we were on the same bill at last year's Download but I didn't get to see them as we had just come off stage," he said.
 
"Niall Diver  loves Dream Theatre so he will be in his element when they hit the stage. I will be else where when they are on as I find them to be, how shall I put this? Emmmmm good!!!
 
"I would love to have seen Marillion but they are playing the next day and we will be travelling to another gig which I can't talk about just yet! Oh hark at me the rock star lol!!! No seriously it's another festival where the line up hasn't been finalised but you'll be the first to hear. [We can guess that a house made of Steel may figure in that!]
 
It is fair to say that last year (2014) saw No Hot Ashes emerge, once again as serious contenders
 
"What a year!" said Eamon.  "We supported Foreigner in Belfast and Dublin. Then there was Hard Rock Hell AOR in Wales with UFO headlining.
 
"We played Download and Hard Rock Calling with Areosmith. Massive memories. But the best thing that happened was standing in front of the Prog Rock stage at HRH AOR when the Enid's singer announced to all that what was missing in modern music was 'fluff.' I kid you not. We all looked at each other and pissed ourselves laughing!!
 
"On a serious note playing to 5000 people in a packed Pepsi Max tent at Hard Rock Calling with the crowd rocking would be hard to ever beat. However, getting Dave back in the band fit and well tops that."
 
For many that would be enough to pack up the memories, and revel on the achievements. Not No Hot Ashes...
 
"We are recording in March with the album being released in May," said Eamon. "A launch party/gig is booked for 29 May at the Music Hall Empire [Belfast]."
 
And, if that wasn't enough the band are on the road with FM and Romeo's Daughter in May...
 
"We also have a few other things up our sleeves and as you know our drummer Steve Strange makes things happen so watch this space," Eamon concluded.
 
There are those that claim that hard rock and metal is dead. They're wrong, and the spirit and desire of No Hot Ashes proves that the spirit of loud guitars, melody and damn fine songs will never die.

Monday, February 16, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Raising a Little Hell with The Answer

FOR some time The Answer have been bubbling under the mainstream media's radar - loved by many, adored by many more they have attracted a cult status many a hard rock act envies;and they have always provided full-on hard rockin' blues both live and on recorded offerings.

We checked our iTunes account when checking out their latest release 'Raise A Little Hell' to find we have six and a half hours of tunes from one of the UK's premier hard rock acts.

A bold statement to say The Answer is amongst the hard rock luminaries in the UK? Not bold enough. For years they have developed, grown and matured in the full glare of an indifferent media and the full adoration of their fan base.

Last time out their 'New Horizons' release was given a contemporary kick up the ass by Toby Jepson's production, but how could they match that after re-signing to Napalm Records?

To put it simply they have embraced the lessons learned from that release, taken them on board and wrapped it in their rock and blues roots for 'Raising A Little Hell' to produce a balanced, mature and balls out rocking release.

From the defiant opener 'Long Live The Renegades' through to the poignant 'Strange Kinda Nothing' this is an album that showcases not just the band's abilities, but their honesty; and their sense of what transforms a good track to a great track.

Cormac's voices oozes soothing charm and heartache; while Paul seems to have relished the chance to yet again explore hard rock and blues (the acoustic work on the aforementioned 'Strange Kinda Nothing' is under-stated excellence).

'Cigarettes and Regrets' is amongst the many stand-out tracks  - a track that on its own makes it worth the purchase of the album as the quartet meld together in a manner that many wish to achieve.

But, the lessons of 'New Horizons' more contemporary feel have not been lost to the band despite this 'return to roots' approach. 'I Am What I Am' is a strident rocker of a tune, with Mickey and James nailed down together behind Paul's insistent riffing.

But to get a real sense of The Answer's development check out 'Whiplash' - a revelatory track, full of passion, nicely judged in tempo and riffs. A real gem.

But while 'Whiplash' extols the rockier elements of The Answer 'Gone Too Long' has the heart melting sense of the blues wrapped up in rock, while 'Red' is just blues rock at its best and 'I Am Cured' harkens back to the sound of 'Rise' in its arrangements and playing; and that isn't a step backwards, just an acknowledgement of where the band have come from.

Closer and title track 'Raise A Little Hell' broods and stalks the listener with a mixture of heaviness and melody in a mid-tempo killer of a track.

How The Answer have passed under the radar of the biggest radio stations, the biggest magazines and world domination is a mystery. On the evidence of 'Raise A Little Hell' the major music outlets should be clamouring to hang on their every word, every riff, every drum beat, every bass line and every song.

But, to those that have followed their career to date this is an affirmation of the adoration the County Down rockers deserve - and when it comes to their UK tour in March they can be assured that they'll find the devotees down the front in full voice.
 
Raise A Little Hell is released on Napalm Records on 9th March
The Answer play Belfast's Limelight on 6th March

Review by Jonny









NEWS: Ramblin Man Fair sees No Hot Ashes join Dream Theatre, Scorpions and Saxon - plus many more

NORTHERN Irish hard rockers No Hot Ashes have a date in Kent as they take to the stage at the inaugural Ramblin' Man Fair music fest amidst an eclectic and stellar line-up.


The festival is in the picturesque Mote Park, Maidstone, on 25th and 26th July and Eamonn and the NHA crew will join the likes of Scorpions and Dream Theatre.


As well as a cornucopia of music, there is also promised to be gourmet food (i.e. not a festival greasy burger), a beer festival and a spoken word stage.


On the line-up are Saxon - who will be rounding up a marathon tour.


"We're very excited to be playing our only festival show in the UK this year," said frontman Biff Byford. It will be the last show of the 35th Anniversary Tour so make sure you bring your denim and leather!"


Included on the line-up are Blue Oyster Cult, FM. Gregg Allman, Camel, Marillion, Hayseed Dixie, Shooter Jennings, Pendragon and Ian Anderson performing a 'best of Jethro Tull' set


More details at www.ramblinmanfair.com and on Twitter @ramblinmanfair.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Finnish folksters Ensiferum flay on One Man Army

FOLK metal....it seems like a contradiction in terms, yet it has grown to be a force, with bands exploring traditional instruments backed by a metal core...and amongst the vanguard were Finnish act Ensiferum.

For more than 30 years they have been ploughing the folk metal furrow, and now have reached the apogee of their career with the release of 'One Man Army' -  a release that knits together the sound, the passion and the implicit irony that all good folk metal bands understand.

From the name - which translates as Sword Bearer - to the style that evokes an heroic epoch Ensiferum have battled the trends and scensters.

That they bore the monicker 'Viking metal' for so many years is to miss the intricacies within the Ensiferum sound.

With a solid year of touring in 2013 the band knuckled down in 2014 to produce 'One Man Army'.

"The composing process was slow as always," said Hinkka of the One Man Army birthing process. "We twist and turn every note, chord and part upside down so that we can be sure that the result is the best possible.

"We cut down the actual amount of tracks on the record and really arranged the instruments more wisely. The recording process was equally long and hard," he continued, "but rewarding and full of incredible moments. Instruments were actually played and left as they were instead of creating tracks from hundreds of different takes, moving them to the grid and modifying things.

"Of course computers were used but overall we made everything as analog as possible. Listeners can experience a better sound and natural groove, something that we think most metal albums lack these days.

"Overall, the album sounds much more like a band playing live rather than 'midi-metal.' I think we've learned from previous sessions what we like," he continues, "and on this album I think we finally  reached the level songwriting and sound wise that we have been reaching for on our previous albums. We are extremely proud of each second of this album."

Proud he may be, but 'One Man Army' is a flawed release. Are Hinkka's positive words justified?

Certainly most of the album has a feel of a band that has hit its own  zone, a band that has self confidence. 'Warrior without a War', 'Two of Spades' and the title track are not only great folk metal songs, they are great metal songs.

On these Hinkka, Lindroos, Toivonen, Parvianen and Silvennoinen meld as a unit, despite the falseness of a studio environment, producing a vibrant, live feel.

But some tracks - such as 'Descendants, Defiance, Domination' - have a slightly jaded feel, as if the folk formula has lost its way on the metal plateau.

Overall, what Ensiferum have achieved here is to develop their sound; they've produced an album that has encapsulated the intent, although why they have chosen to include 'Rawhide' amongst the bonus tracks remain a mystery to all,,,,

They flay, but need to take their fury from the stage to the record.

Review by Jonny
 
Ensiferum play the Bloodstock festival in August

NEWS: Reinventing Scorps, when free album isn't free, Satyr on the opera, and Coal Chamber album

NEWS: Roth goes back to Scorpions roots

ULI Jon Roth, mystic, guitar guru, and former member of the Scorpions has taken songs from four Scorpions albums and not just re-recorded them, but reinvented them for a double CD release on UDR on March 9th.

 
"The material for this double CD was recorded last year in the same hall in Hanover that we used for the Scorpions rehearsals 1973-1978,” explained Roth.
 
“Together with an amazing bunch of very talented young musicians, I revisited my personal favourites from the early Scorpions period, some of which were written in that same hall. It was an emotional few days and I am very pleased with the results in more ways than one.
 
"The idea was to stay truthful to the original spirit of the music, while also putting a new slant on it whenever it felt like the right thing to do. I feel we really succeeded in this and I’m very excited about this project. It was a intense journey into the past and I think we really managed to bring the songs back to life with a vengeance."

NEWS: Free album...not for NI
 
BRIT 'Alt-Rockers' Never A Hero are giving away free copies of their new album to everyone attending their UK tour. But it's a UK tour that leaves out us here in Northern Ireland - which is still part of the UK...
 
If you want to get a hold of it without travelling to England or Wales you'll have to wait to March 30th to hear 'UnEvolution'.
NEWS: Satryicon go operatic

 
Norwegian Black Metal legends SATYRICON have signed a worldwide deal with Austrian metal label Napalm Records for release of their upcoming DVD 'Live At The Opera!'
 Mastermind Satyr about the story behind 'Live At The Opera'.

“The whole thing started with us doing one song, “To The Mountains” a year and a half before the actual show," said Satyr.

"We performed at a closed event in the main hall of the opera with the Royal Norwegian Opera Chorus. It was very inspirational. I then said to the conductor that I would love to do a whole show like this. He loved the idea, I was serious about it, and he was serious about it."


 
 
NEWS: Dez and Coal Chamber back with new album
 
Reactivated Los Angeles, California’s Coal Chamber have confirmed a May 19th North America release date for their new album 'Rivals'. This is the band’s first new album in over thirteen years.
 
With producer Mark Lewis at the helm, Rivals makes it seem as if the band never took a break at all. They picked up right where they left off and have delivered what some may consider their best work to date. The artwork (pictured above) and track listing for Rivals have now been revealed.


Frontman Dez Fafara - familiar to us all as singer of Devil Driver, said:
“This record was over 13 years in the Making and I promise this record won't disappoint and will be worth the wait! 
 
"Rivals is solid through and through, there's maturity and growth in the music while still maintaining the true Coal Chamber sound and delivering track after track of killer tunes! We had a great time working together on this record and I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!”
 
Here's the tracklist:
  1. I.O.U. Nothing
  2. Bad Blood Between Us
  3. Light in the Shadows
  4. Suffer in Silence
  5. The Bridges You Burn
  6. Orion
  7. Another Nail in the Coffin
  8. Rivals
  9. Wait
  10. Dumpster Dive
  11. Over My Head
  12. Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets)
  13. Empty Handed
  14. Worst Enemy