Thursday, October 30, 2014

EP Review: Growing up in public for Scimitar as they release Plague In The Vatican ep

MOST Northern Ireland bands end up growing up in the public eye; and for those that do the Limelight2, Pavilion, Voodoo, Diamond venue circuit it can be a tough thing to do; all too often the naysayers and the cynics can dampen the enthusiasm.

For Scimitar this enthusiasm has never dampened. From their first iteration and the release of 'Act of War' they have approached every outing with on stage professionalism; watched and learned from those they supported, thereby enabling them to develop both as a band and as individual musicians.

Fittingly they will be releasing their latest ep on Samhain/Halloween. It's called 'Plague In The Vatican'; and the top bloke at this mini-statelet this week called for Halloween to be renamed Holyween and for people to dress as saints not demons...
 

First the Church hijacks the ancient festival of Samhain, renames it All Hallows Eve, and now they want to dilute the moment we all mark the madness that is the period of feasting until our bloated bodies collapse in post Christmas overload.

It therefore seems only righteous that Scimitar to lash out against the tyranny of religiosity. After all they play thrash metal and it is the appropriate way to go as thrashers.

The three track ep kicks off full-tilt with 'We All Shall Burn' which after a thunderclap has an epic pace before a breakdown/middle eighth levens the wholesale attack. A doff of the cap towards their progenitors in the middle period of thrash, and some Germanic thrash thrown in for good measure. Nice solo too.

As to 'Black Death' it deceivingly opens as a mid-paced thrasher, before launching in to full tilt thrash. Jonny's vocals rise to the challenge while John keeps tightly locked in to Chriz's bass and Ryan's drums before he lets his six-string express itself fully.

Indeed it is the rhythmic sensibility that keeps Scimitar from wandering, like too many who try to follow the thrash rule book. When you know what you are doing it becomes a homage to all that walked that way in the past.

'Innocent X' opens with another obligatory thunderclap and after some finger picking manages to discover some monks doing their Gregorian chanting thing before getting down to business.

Clocking in at almost five minutes it is perhaps the bands tour de force track so far. Sites firmly aimed at the hypocrisy and crimes of church the defiant challenge "Are You Guilty" is social commentary.

Okay it's not exactly poet laureate, but it is heartfelt, passionate and merges totally with the musical themes.

Thrash, after all may have artists who delight in silliness lyrically, but equally there are more and more such bands who take on social commentary and deliver knock-out blows. The gates of the Vatican won't be stormed as a result of this - and it may be 'preaching to the converted' - but there is nothing wrong in turning your musical weapons against injustice.

What Scimitar have delivered here is a massive step up from 'Act of War'. The experience they have gained is on show with better arrangements, a more considered approach, and staying true to their true love - thrash fucking metal.

Review by Jonny
 
Scimitar launch 'Plague In The Vatican' on October 31st
They will be supporting  Gama Bomb, together with other acts
You can also hear them the following day at Limelight2 on November 1st as they back up Cursed Sun's ep launch


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

REVIEW: Link to our review of 7.5 Tonnes of Beard/Hornets/Zlatanera

WE went along to an aural detonation last week with Zlatanera, Hornets and 7.5 Tonnes of Beard...


And, we penned a few lines for our good friends at Chordblossom, and shared the MetalPlanet Belfast pix too.


Link is here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AlLBUM REVIEW: Chest thumping power and passion as the Maverick monster pounds all into submission on Quid Pro Quo

FUCK the system! Fuck the music business, and fuck the people that say hard rock and metal is dead. There is a vital, pounding pulse coming out of Northern Ireland, a 10-legged monster of rock and metal that is about to crush all in its path. It's Maverick, and it is coming your way.
With a proven live track record, always giving their all, the question is can that energy translate on to recorded output. Can that beautiful rock and metal alchemy Maverick delivers on stage be captured in the studio.

Of course it can! Aided by a superb production and mix from Neal Calderwood this is high octane hard rock.



As the scene setter 'Event Horizon' merges into 'Snakeskin Sinner' the intent is clear. Powerful riffing, shouted backing vocals and David Balfour sneering at the archetypal poseur.
 
Ryan Sebastian Balfour's solo, and Ric Cardwell's rhythm work meld together adding a powerful dynamic to the sound; laying out all the tricks of double guitar interplay that area apparent throughout.

Already familiar thanks to the video release 'Paint By Numbers' is a fist in the face of hipsters, scenesters, fashionistas and the two-legged lemmings of the world. Perhaps the biggest blow to the bake is in the songs construction; its a juggernaut of big sounds, fist pumping delight.

'Got It Bad' is where listener has to make up their mind, and where some may shy away from Maverick. It is a great song, and had it been released in the mid-80s it would have been on constant rotation on AM radio in the US.

The listener has to decide at this point to commit to the ethos of Maverick. Leave aside their hard work, their outstanding live presence, do we need another band who sonically re-treads the sound of Ratt, Crue, MTV-era Whitesnake, Love/Hate, Y&T etc?


Is this repeat, rewind, repeat living in the past? Some will write Maverick off in this manner. Their mistake. The band glory in their influences, wearing their love for that 'big' sound that Bob Rock brought to Motley Crue and Black album Metallica. Calderwood has captured that and the five strong Maverick men pump their chests out, wear their influences on their sleeve and get on with having a good time with great songs.

Damn it, but 'Got It Bad' is as catchy as Ebola in Sierra Leone; a super performance in all ways.

But the heart of the matter of homage is dealt with on 'In Our Blood' as David declares he would "put all my CDs on and have a concert in my room'; and that when the music is playing "I feel alive".

This is the song that captures all the dreams of every rock and metal fan -  air guitar, singing along, pulling all the poses. Maverick are now living that dream. They are on the cusp of something great.

After that declaration the track 'One More Day (Quid Pro Quo)' deals with more serious matters
in a narration of the real personal toll the conflict in Northern Ireland takes. Musically and lyrically this is an empathetic song, which chooses to talk about murder in the name of a cause the killers don't understand from the point of view of the victim.

This song is the fulcrum, the point in the album when it is clear that this is a band with more depth than just 80's re-treads; it is the song where Maverick prove that they can construct songs that pull together talents of David and Ryan Sebastian Balfour, Rick Cardwell, Riche Diver (bass) and Mike Ross's drums into a cohesive, solid manner.

From that point they return to the theme of love and lust, with the joyously daft cock strut of 'Electric'. Already a live favourite, early Tesla comes to mind with a distinctive Northern Ireland tongue in cheek smirk.

Similarly 'Rock 'n' Roll Lady' tackles love yearnings. Kicking off with Ross's drum line, before the guitars build into a riff that wannabes in the late 80s and early 90s would kill for and backing vocals that are right out of the pages of the gold-plated hard rock playbook.

In the 1980s such music wasn't divided into genres, and was all considered to be metal in the'loosest sense. The solos on 'Rock 'n' Roll Lady' harken to an earlier era of UFO and Thin Lizzy, and to many will sound metal against the hard rockin' back drop.

'Shackled' on the other hand is a straight up merging of metal/rock. The strut of other songs replaced with a more considered approach as David rails against injustice and the guitar has an almost onomatopoeic echo of the anguish of the wrongly convicted. This is much musical narrative as it is a lyrical narrative.

Therein lies the success of this release. Whether it be the lusting or the longing; whether it is ranting or the wrongdoing of paramilitaries; or whether it is jut heads down hard rockin' Maverick know that telling the tale within each song is about composition and depth. Sure, you can just listen on a superficial level (which unfortunately some will), but take on board all elements of each song as a whole and you will find all the parts are pulling in the same direction.

The verse of 'Last Addiction' has a touch of SLF/Rudi/Outcasts about it, before the pre-chorus and chorus bring it back to the hard rock theme, with a stand-out backing vocal and melody section.


Strutting out of the speakers like Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx on steroids 'Side By Side' is about brotherhood, loyalty and a fist hoisted in the air to watching each other's back in the most desperate situations. Anthemic at times, and all wrapped up in an arrangement suited to the subject matter.

Album closer 'Took The Night' is perhaps the most derivative of the tracks, with Y&T's influence and a smidgeon of Reo Speedwagon lurking about the song. It would be easy to write it off on that basis, but ultimately this is Maverick putting a middle finger to the naysayers, the doubters and the devious bastards. It is about declaring their love of that era.

It is a simply five-minutes plus of angst, without an emo sentiment - seemingly a very personal translation: Regret and remorse are echoed by a sympathetic arrangement where the sound and vibe of the 80s is a comfort in difficult times..

In many ways, as 'One More Day' is the fulcrum, 'Took The Night' is the definition of Maverick right now. They have taken the hard rock genre and added a clear dose of 2014 technical expertise, tight playing and feelings. Yes, feelings.

Each song on the album appears to be derived from experiences both personal and in a wider context; emotions and observations that help it rise above much that is out there.

In the final analysis it is a great début from Maverick. It is chest thumping, raucous, powerful, pounding, melodic and oozing passion. This is an album that will make people sit up and notice. If there is justice in the music world there will be a clamour from across the globe to share this awesome album.  Full marks for this release.

Review by Jonny
Pictures courtesy of MetalPlanet Belfast
Reproduction of any words or images by written consent only

Quid Pro Quo is released on November 27th on Massacre Records
Pre-orders are available from Nuclear Blast and Amazon's sites
[Search 'Maverick Quid Pro Quo' to find the listing]

PLAY IT FUCKING LOUD!

The album launch is in Belfast's Empire Music Hall on November 27th, with Maverick headlining and support from Conjuring Fate.












Tuesday, October 21, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Avast ye landlubbers Alestorm be bringing piratical fun to Belfast

ALESTORM, pirate metal, booze fuelled madness, laughter, inappropriate jokes and this time in Belfast with a support cast of equally swashbuckling characters in the city's Mandella Hall (17th October).

Billed as Piratefest this was the 34th show of the tour, and all the acts are honed like the sharpened Damascus Steel blade of a scimitar.

Opening up the proceedings is Rainbowdragoneyes. Now, we all appreciate a little bit of an unusual take on metal, and hopes were high when the synth opened with a Star Wars flavour....

Rainbowdragoneyes is Eric W Brown, a one-man act who sings death metal vocals and headbangs to beats and beeps composed on an 8-bit Gameboy; and then with a sly grin moves on to tracks composed on an XBox360.

There is no doubt that a lot of thought has gone into the compositions and arrangements, so much so that a goodly proportion of the rapidly filling venue were enjoying Brown's antics - especially when members of Lagerstein joined him on stage (the less about the Majestic Beast's tiger onesie the better). Was it a fun way to open the proceedings? Yes. Does Mr Brown's act have longevity? We doubt it.

No such thing could be said for Red Rum. Their take on pirate metal is full-on, no messing about. Shanties, folk, death metal, all welded together in a set of ferocious intensity. Ferocious pirates...well they also are said to have been pretty humorous too.s

Frontman Dave Everitt is an enormous presence, both in stature and voice. It was a set that utilised all the band members various talent, from lead guitarist, Sam Wood's bouzouki, bassist Steve Ryall's mandolin through to the relatively hidden guitarist Bekkie Brimby's occasional turn on the flute.

Lagerstein once more invade the stage, and with song titles like 'Make Port, Drink Port' (pirate reference, which we're sure you figured) it is clear that these Nottinghamshire bunch of reprobates won over almost each and every member of the crowd. A return to Belfast would be most welcome! [Editor's Note: Is Nottinghamshire not landlocked?]

The seven-piece ensemble that is Lagerstein, described by Alestorm's Dani described as a "bar on stage", was in Belfast basically to drink and put on a show while they were at it.

Hailing from Brisbane, this was like all the criminals who we shipped to Australia had come back and were determined to imbibe all the alcohol in the British Isles. Amidst the silliness, drinking competitions and beer bongs they have some terrific tunes of the piratical type.

Having encountered the recumbent form of bassist The Immobilizer previously bemoaning the strange couches in the dressing room it was clear that these weren't your common garden Aussie drinkers. We're pretty sure that as well as being the probable descendants of criminals they have been politely asked to leave the Land Down Under after drinking it dry.

At times hilarious, and at times musically stunning, Cap'n Gregaaarr led his band of (very)  merry men in a set that showcased The Majestic Beast's lead guitar, Neil Rummy Jackers rhythm runs, while Jacob (The Fiercest Pirate in all the Carribean) keyboards melded seamlessly with Mother Junkst's keytar and violin segments.

That The Immobilizer and Ol' Mate Dazzel's drums were able to stay in time was something of a miracle.

'Beer Bong Party' (with Rainbowdragoneyes aiding the bong quaffing along the way), and 'Drink Til We Die' were all great tunes, topped only by their cover of absurdist comedy/music troupe, Lonely Island's 'I'm On A Boat' with Alestorm's Gaz taking on the bass to allow The Immobilizer to, errrr, serenade us with the expletive packed lyrics.

Should Lagerstein once again depart from Brisbane for Belfast brewers across the land shall be in ecstasy at seeing profits soar.

It is something of a cliché that familiarity can breed contempt. Given that members of Alestorm hail from Norn Iron, and that they regularly dock their vessel in these parts for a show, it could be that these bunch of reprobates could be a little too familiar to the audience...nah, not a fucking chance!

Their ease in this city is evident as Christopher Bowes and bandmates happily stroll through the crowd beforehand, hang out at the merch stand and pose for photos - no over-priced meet and greets from Alestorm.

That Alestorm are still going, and still going strong is a tribute to two things: their strong instinct for great tunes, and the suspension of disbelief required by those in attendance.

Pirate outfits were much in evidence in the crowd, as well as t-shirts from previous tours. The belief was suspended, beers and rum had been downed and as the optics were attached to the drum kit it is fair to say that the audience was pumped and primed by the time opener 'Walk The Plank' rocked the Mandela Hall to its core.

Bowes plays the crowd like a conductor of the maddest symphony orchestra in history, while Dani provides the musical core alongside the flourishes of Bowes and Elliot on keys.

Old songs sit comfortably along with tracks from 'Sunset Of A Golden Age', in a set that is balanced and well plotted, despite the madness on stage and a crowd raised to fever (rum?) pitch.

'Drink' is a rallying call for all the bar flys who by now had deserted the bar to toast the pirates atop the stage. Although 'Magnetic North' was not originally planned to be in the set (see interview with Dani later) fans demand for its inclusion proved to be inspired as it sits perfectly before the stealing of Viking booty in 'Back Through Time' merges into the downbeat, melancholy tribute to bars in ports across the world that is 'Nancy The Tavern Wench'; a track that produced much arm-in -arm swaying and hugs from those assembled.

'Keelhauled' had every lyric shouted back at the band, as did 'Wooden Leg' with its dedication to Heather Mills....enough said.

However, it is wrong just to pigeon hole Alestorm. Their sound has developed, no less than on the opening encore track '1741 (The Battle of Cartagena). This is a mature track on the album, and live its epic feel and lyrical subject matter make it rise above what many chose to say about Alestorm. Simply awesome.

But, drinking is the order of the day. The cover of 'Hangover' produces The Immobilzer and Red Rum's Sam Woods on stage, as if the crowd were not sure of the lyrics...we needed no help!

With 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' including a wall of death that saw bouncers fleeing and Cap'n Gregaaarr diving into the proceedings, the evening concluded with what else but 'Rum'.

At the time of writing the Piratefest still has a few dates to run, but in Belfast it was something of an epiphany. Hometown heroes Gaz and Peter are clearly held in great affection by the crowd, and Gaz excels himself with an energy that was exhausting to watch.

Alestorm's pirate schtick may on the surface seem whimsical and have too much tomfoolery for po-faced metal snobs and sneering mainstream media types, but they miss the point.

On record they are a great sing-along act, live they are swashbuckling bundle of musicianship and madness.

Clearly all the bands on the Piratefest get on well - even if relationships are well lubricated.

Clearly Alestorm are on top of their game.

Clearly Piratefest wrapped the audience up in the mythos of piracy.

Clearly this was what everyone wanted.

Familiarity breeding contempt. Not a fucking chance in Belfast.

Review by Jonny
Pix by MetalPlanet Belfast
Reproduction of words or pix by prior written permission, or ye be walkin' the plank!
 
 

















 


 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

EP REVIEW: One man destruction machine Foul Body Autopsy débuts on Grindscene with two track smashing ball of an ep

WHEN you note that one-man metal act Foul Body Autopsy has opened for the likes of Cancerous Womb, Flayed Disciple, Cannibal Corpse, Aborted, Basement Torture Killings and Decapitated you can figure out that this isn't a one-man band with a banjo and a bass drum busking in seaside towns.

No, Tom Reynolds is armed with a guitar, iPod and evil intent. Today, (Wednesday 15th October) it was announced that Foul Body Autopsy have signed to Grindscene Records and are releasing a two-track ep, 'So Close To Dehumanization' on November 4th.

Suffice to say that it is a joy-filled exhortation of sickened extreme metal, crunching and grinding through nine minutes of blackened death, speed metal, black metal, with the two songs deceptively subtly arranged.

'Born in a Manmade Hell' has all requisite guttural vocals, before some nice heavy melodies kick in and the pitch and register raises up the song beyond the mundane


Grindscene Records label manager Pete Clarke said on the signing: “We are thrilled to welcome Foul Body Autopsy onto our roster. Foul Body Autopsy formed in 2010 and has been carving its name into the UK for 4 years now. This one-man army will be releasing a new 2 track EP entitled ‘So Close To Dehumanization’ unto the world on November 4th 2014.”

Over the space of four years Tom has released a full-length album and is now working with Equivalence Music Management & Grindscene Records planning for a full metal tirade in the UK.
  
With pure shred techniques, blistering speed and no lack of humour within his show this is a unique show that should not be missed.

Tom comments on the signing: “I’m very proud to be on Grindscene Records; in fact it was the only UK label I wanted to be on.”

The impressive artwork was completed by Coki Greenway (Bloodshot Dawn, Aborted, Legion Of The Damned, Suicide Silence, Opeth).

Monday, October 13, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Locked and loaded with riffs - Triggerman reach metal nirvana with riffage

THE lords of the riff smiled on the Limelight2 on Friday(10th October) as Triggerman brought the riffage tumbling down the Glenshane Pass, along the M2 and straight into the smiling faces of the devoted, afflicted with the rock lurgy.

If you need that introduction translated then you need to get some Triggerman in your life. For the uninitiated, the local lords of the riff are the afficiandos who gather regularly at the altar provided by James Loveday's Distortion Project. Riffage is the provision of regularly intoned, overdriven guitar.  The Glenshane Pass - the highest road in Northern Ireland, which leads from Derry/Londonderry to the M2 and the Big Smoke that is Belfast.

And, the lurgy...well it's a general term for any non-specific illness that can be contracted from exposure: it also is a non-specific affliction that can result in headbanging, raising pint glasses, throwing the 'horns' and yelling along to lyrics known to all.

The gig was another chance to air the recently released ep 'Origins, Lost Travellers and Rock 'n' Roll Heaven' and the last before the quartet take a short break to re-group and lay down some more licks.

Before Triggerman came Red Eye who gave all a tasty sample of tracks from their 'Day of Reckoning' ep.   Steve Ireland's bass and James Gillepsie's drums were a focal point allowing Colum Gallagher to weave wonders on riffs and solos that drew inspiration from traditional metal, NWOBHM and a slice of southern boogie.

At times Garth Matthews vocals came across a little flat, perhaps because of the vagaries of a work schedule that saw him have to rush off straight afterwards.

With no fuss, no waffle, no trite Triggerman brought the riff down. Four members united in a dirty, stoner groove with Bap delivering his sermons of metal.

'Origins of Man' and 'Valhalla' were faithfully sang along to, as were 'The Riff Holds Sway' and 'Hail to the River Gods'.

The fact that so many present know and adore each song is not just a tribute to the songs but the delivery - Bap's preacher metal lyrics are sang with the passion of a Baptist Minister on acid, while his guitar and Niall's six-string roll and groove throughout the set. Anchored by Rory and Dixie the entire sound is one of a joyous punch landed on the smiling bake of the audience.

It's the type of 'Lurgy' we all want to catch, to be imbued with, to be captured by, to enjoy: it's the force of rock and the raucousness of metal abandon.

Triggerman are a joyous celebration of all that is good and all that is great about the live experience.

We all love the albums, the recording dexterity and the shiver down the spine of listening to a new song: but that experience in a live environment is electric, tingling nerves reacting to every stroke of a six-string, every snap of the snare, every roll from the bass and every impassioned vocal.

All hail the riff!

Review by Jonny
Pictures courtesy of Metalplanet Belfast
All text and images are copyright protected
Reproduction in any form by written permission only
 




 
 
 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Metal stars align as Darkest Era, Terminus and Stereo Nasty bring the noise to town

THERE are moments when the stars align and something delivers a true delight - when the Metal Gods smile upon a line-up and deliver surprise after surprise, left hooks, upper cuts and every punch landed with a precision that leaves the audience ready for more.

When Darkest Era announced their headline tour around UK and Ireland in support of their album 'Severance'  it was also certain that they would bring a stunning performance to the stage, as anyone who saw their support slot with Amon Amarth will testify.

What could not be predicted was that James Loveday's Distortion Project would bring together support acts that revel in the tag 'metal'.

Let's not split hairs about it - when metal is delivered like this then it is glorious.

Stereo Nasty were up from Dublin...and remarkably for only their second appearance as a band they laid it down as only true adherents of metal can.

Their experience in previous bands tells as they lay down licks that harken back to the glory days when Accept and their ilk were almost mainstream troubling the charts.

Adrian's guitar lays down a powerhouse of sound, while Fran and Rud nail down the rolling thunder that enables Mick to express his King Diamond/Udo inner self.

Revelatory in their straightforward power and precision -with a nice flavour of Grand Magus - stand out track was 'Black Widow'. We're not sure what was going on with the spiked shoulders of the cut-offs but the music was fine.

Terminus (NI) proved to have a stage presence that suits their blend of NWOBHM, Mercyful Fate and a liberal dash of Hell.

Tight as a shark's arse Gavin and Paul alternate licks and solos, while David (bass) and the other David on drums kept it nailed down tight - even if Mr McCallum revealed his metal chops outside his War Iron and Fuckhammer duties, pulling poses to accompany his playing.

James has enormous stage presence, and while he cajoled the audience throughout to join in familiar songs there was also threat of a new release....

Concluding with last year's split release 'Centaurean' it is obvious that the audience and band are feeding off each other and many down the front know each and every word.

Terminus have the opportunity now to extend their reach, as their appeal is apparent to all.

Darkest Era have nothing to prove any more.  From the early days when they went by the name of Nemesis they screamed potential.

With growth and evolution the band have taken all the lessons of tours and time in the studio to consolidate their sound and approach.

With new album 'Severance' receiving critical acclaim the balanced set showcases new tracks and by  now familiar songs from 'The Last Caress of Light'.

'Sorrows Boundless Realm' was among the stand-out track with Krum flexing his vocal chords, as he did throughout the set. Ade Mulgrew produced peerless solos throughout, and when Sarah Wieghell joined in the harmony sections the Celtic influences were such that it was if ancient myths were alive, mists of Fermanagh's loughs could almost be smelt above the sweat and beer.

Daniel O'Toole's bass was an undercurrent of power, while Cameron Ahslund-Glass drumming veered from metronomic to runs filling all parts of the kit as required.

Indeed without Daniel and Cameron's powerful rhythms the ability of Ade, Sarah and Krum to entice the audience into their world of tales and wonderment. The nods to Thin Lizzy and Maiden are apparent, but the aroma of melodic death metal provides the powerful stomp to the overall sound.

Concluding with the duo of tracks 'The Last Caress of Light' and 'The Morrigan' the audience were enraptured, singing along, pumping fists and throwing horns Darkest Era are beginning to achieve the success they certainly deserve.

Review by Jonny
Photographs by MetalplanetBelfast
All text and images are copyright protected.
Reproduction by written permission only