Monday, 21 November 2011

E.P. Review: Cynic - Carbon-Based Anatomy

Review by Glen Lester

Cynic have proven to be a hard band to fit within a single genre, ever since their debut album 'Focus' in 1993. After the release of 'Focus', Cynic became a major cult band and created a landmark sound within Progressive Metal - utilizing technical musicianship with Death Metal vocals and a strong Jazz influence, akin to their musical peers - Atheist. 

Fast forward almost 20 years and having only released one other album which marked the bands return in 2008 with 'Traced in Air', Cynic this time show signs that there won't be another long absence and are here to stay. 

So how do you follow up two critically acclaimed masterpieces?  

Carbon-Based Anatomy is the bands latest offering which comes in the form of a 6-track E.P. Why the band have chosen to do an E.P. over an album seems to have been to keep up the bands nature of quality over quantity, and not wanting fans to wait so long between albums. 

The E.P showcases a newer sound for the band, that moves away more from their Metal sound, as there are no growls here like the older material from 'Focus'. Instead, we are treated to the hauntingly atmospheric clean vocals from lead singer and guitarist Paul Masvidal. The direction seems to be one of progression rather than reliving past glory's and this release features a more progressive rock vibe, conjuring moods akin to such bands as Porcupine Tree. 

Highlights of this E.P. include the sublime musicianship on show, that any fan of Cynic from past or present will be impressed with; and coupled with the newer elements of the bands sound which showcase world music and ambient atmospherics, all make this release a unique and beautiful listening experience. The production on this E.P. is also noteworthy and is best to listen to on headphones to emmerse yourself in the atmosphere that's layered from every direction. 

It's rumoured that Cynic will have a full album released next year, but in the meantime this will be more than enough the wet the appetite of fans! 

Score: 8/10

Friday, 21 October 2011

Review (Unsigned): Otis Reaper

Otis Reaper

Jay Murchison (Vocals)
Ben Price (Guitar)
Madison Clifton (Bass)
Cres Murchison (Drums)

Jackson, US


You'll like this if you like:

Current Release:
Self-titled EP is now available on their Facebook via Heavy Voltage Records.

It is clear that many bands (particularly on the underground circuit) are yearning for the musical days of yore. Where attitude and enthusiasm mattered more than polished production, where fans flocked to underground live shows in someone’s awful, sweat and rat infested basement to go mad to the latest disgusting sounds. Those days are largely behind us now, but some bands are dedicated to bring that old school sound right back at us!

Otis Reaper is such a band, and despite songs that largely sound very similar to one another, their attitude is unmistakable. The guttural vocals of Jay Murchison are evocative of the old school black metal era, which collide with the sludgy, doom-tinged guitars and bass ala Kylesa. The resultant sound is an unusual and intriguing collision of the old school black metal and the modern sludge movement. Despite my earlier comments about over production, the mix does sound quiet and the drums a tad muddy. Despite this, Otis Reaper have concocted an interesting sound which is definitely worth a listen (or two).

Rating: 3/5


Review (Unsigned): Killed The Fixtion

Killed The Fixtion

Nelson Ceron (Vocals)
Kevin Izquierdo (Guitars)
Robert Asencio (Bass)
Abbad Ibn Townsend (Drums)

New Jersey, US

Heavy Metal/Hardcore

You'll like this if you like:

Current Release:
Their latest single 'Pulse' is now available to download on their Facebook

Their latest single ‘Pulse’ is now available to download on their Facebook
One of the great draws of heavy metal is, of course, the unique and uncompromising music. But metal is also a band of brothers who all share a common interest: METAL!! As a result of this, metallers find a combined sense of identity and a way of escaping any negative aspects of their own lives. So you feel you’re not alone, that you have millions of companions who have your back. This is very much true for New Jersey brothers-in-arms Killed The Fixtion. Stating that members were involved with gangs in their youths, Killed The Fixition’s mission is bring a sense of fun and positivity into our otherwise dull and sometimes depressing lives.

Such honesty is refreshing, and their music does exactly what their mission statement suggests. It is clear that, whilst their music is by no mean ground-breaking, these guys are having a blast with the music they’re creating. Release an aggressive three song demo in 2010, KTF (impressively) went on to support modern thrash metal titans Evile. The demo itself is an impressive collection of feel-good, hard-hitting and uncompromising thrash-laden tunes. Their latest single ‘Pulse’ has a sludge feel about it. The vocals are reminiscent of a ‘Black Album’-era James Hetfield; with the bass heavy elements make your brain shake in your skull. Yes, the sound is stuff we’ve heard before and won’t be breaking new ground, but should that matter? Each member loves what they do, and they’re having a fucking good time.

Rating: 3/5

Website: (Where you can listen to their excellent new single ‘Pulse’)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Review (Unsigned): Sacrilegious Throne

Sacrilegious Throne

Awrath (Vocals)
Horkos (Guitar and Bass)
Drums recorded by John Watt (October File)

East Anglia, UK

Symphonic Black Metal

You'll like this if you like:
Dimmu Borgir

Current Release:
'Acts of Apostasy' is out NOW!

Black metal was a genre mainly confined to our Scandinavian counterparts; they seemed the only race capable of producing the cold and unrelenting sound that would make even Lucifer quake in his boots. However, bands like Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir have spawned an unholy bastard in the shape of the UK’s very own blackened tyrants Sacrilegious Throne. If you want to know what the apocalypse feels like, then you’re in luck because that’s exactly what their debut release ‘Acts of Apostasy’ feels like.

It is the sheer grandiose and over-the-top production that first strikes the ear. The unrelenting and abusive wall of noise conjures a disturbing and uncomfortable atmosphere, the likes of which Dimmu Borgir and co can only dream of. ‘Spreading the Swam’ and ‘Creating Eternal Darkness’ are the strongest songs on the album, spawn both fear and cruelty from within. Possibly the most refreshing aspect of this band is that they have not relied on corpsepaint and the devil to sell they sound as a black metal outfit. It is the music that does all the talking, rather than the aesthetics. It is what the sound summons in the imagination that is the most disturbing characteristic of this band. One can only imagine what devilish styling’s these guys would showcase in a live setting. This band needs to be heard to be believed.

Rating: 5/5


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Review (Unsigned): Cast Iron Crow

Cast Iron Crow

Jake Navarra
Sam Gouveia
Ryan Long
Joseph Evans


Grunge/Psychedelic Rock

You'll like this if you like:
Alice in Chains

Current Release:
'First Edition' will be available on on the 8th November

Grunge was a sound largely restricted to the 90’s (with a few obvious exceptions) and many would argue that the genre died when Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain decided to re-decorate his walls in 1994. Despite many a metal head declaring grunge the ‘metal killer’ of the 90’s, it would be foolish to assume that none of these bands have an influence on the generation of alternative musicians of today.

Cast Iron Crow hail from the sunny shores of California, an unlikely place for the depressing, downbeat stylings of grunge you might think? Err, well no is the short answer. With a nostalgic sound akin to the face melting rifts of a ‘Facelift’ era Alice in Chains, Cast Iron Crow also bring grunge bang up to date. Vocalist Jake Navarra has a style reminiscent of the late, great Layne Staley whilst still having a great range which makes CIC’s sound unique and intriguing. The strongest song by far is the excellent ‘Mindlapse’, which despite being fundamentally grunge has a psychedelic edge which is a delight to the ears. The fantastically rift-laden tone of ‘Beyond the Brain’ has a slightly Black Sabbath-esc edge to it, giving an unusual, but unique sound into the picture. ‘Brother’ and ‘People of Clay’ are examples of a  band who, despite their youth and lack of experience, are competent song writers who obviously have a love and passion for their music. Listening to Cast Iron Crow transports you back to a time where grunge and alternative music dominated the airwaves and where experimentation was encouraged (not frowned upon). This is an impressively professional, talented and unique band that i for one can’t wait to hear more of in the future!

Rating: 4/5


Check out the video for their first single ‘Mindlapse’:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Album Review: Pain of Salvation - Road Salt 2

Pain of Salvation are a band that have been very influential to Progressive Rock & Metal musicians, whilst also at the same time have been widely overlooked to audiences from either genre.

Pain of Salvation are a band that like to take chances on their audience stylistically, although most of the band's albums stay away from long songs which is a typical trademark for Progressive Rock. Pain of Salvation have always been acknowledged as a Progressive Metal band and yet on this dual-part album 'Road Salt', the band have gone down a more accessible Classic Rock route.

The main difference between 'Road Salt 1' & 'Road Salt 2' is that, 'Road Salt 2' has a slightly darker sound that also shows some reflections from earlier albums, which to fans having disliked 'Part 1' for the change in style, will warm to 'Part 2' more.

Pain of Salvation have always been a band to strongly focus on a lyrical direction and the words and the message of the band are as important as the music. 'Road Salt 2' is no exception and here vocalist Daniel Gildenlow has dubbed the 'Road Salt' albums a pseudo-concept, that aren't portraying a typical story but are instead loosely based around the notion of making tough decisions. 'Road Salt Part 1' is about asking the questions and 'Road Salt Part 2' is attempting to answer those questions.

Daniel Gildenlow is the true star of Pain of Salvation and he could well be one of the most emotive vocalists around in rock and metal today. Gildenlow always challenges you with meaningful ideas on 'Road Salt' and each song conveys a great depth of emotion and soulfulness. The only downside to this album or the Road Salt duality is that there seems to be some of the progressive magic missing from past albums.

You can catch Pain of Salvation on tour with Opeth this November!

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Album Review: Mastodon - The Hunter

From Mastodon's early albums of raw sludge riffs to the musical shift on their last album 'Crack the Skye'; which included progressive rock and psychedelic tendencies, the question on many people lips were where could Mastodon go next?

'The Hunter' is Mastodon's fifth album and after success of being one of metal's finest acts of late; especially playing high up on the bill for such festivals as Sonisphere, Mastodon have been noted as of the best live metal acts around have created a fairly large and loyal fan base. 

It's arguable that 'The Hunter' could be the most anticipated release of the year for many metal fans. After Mastodon's last album 'Crack the Skye' divided fans that were perhaps more used to their sludge riffs on early records, it was hard to deny that 'Crack the Skye' was a bold move and made Mastodon not just an ordinary metal band, but a band that could constantly shift your perception of who they are. 'Crack the Skye', however different it may have been from previous releases, still had key elements that were instantly recognisable as a "Mastodon sound". 

'The Hunter' however, couldn't be further from 'Crack the Skye' or any other album that Mastodon have released, and have yet created another shift and turn within their sound. You wouldn't be too wrong to assume that 'The Hunter' is like a balance between their early sound and their last album 'Crack the Skye', except you would be missing something. 

It's apparent that with 'The Hunter', there's a few songs that would be hard to classify as a typical Mastodon song or sound. Song's such as 'The Octopus has no Friends', 'Stargasm' or 'Dry Bone Valley' sound completely out of kilter for what the band have been known for. Songs such as the recent single 'Curl of the Burl' or 'Blasteroid', are a more accessible sound from the band, but is in no means a typical accessibility. Some fans may find this hard to swallow at first but on repeated listens, the catchy hooks, riffs and melodies will be hard to turn away from. 

The real star of this album musically has to go to Bran Dailor, whose drumming is phenomenal and really drives and accentuates the songs in a musical way that hasn't been heard from a band like this in a long time. Bran Dailor paid homage on the last album 'Crack the Skye' to his sister who had committed suicide and it seems as if the emotional journey hasn't stopped with 'The Hunter'. This time the new album is dedicated to Brent Hinds brother who unexpectedly died from a heart attack whilst hunting. 

The musical styles on 'The Hunter' constantly shift and challenge your awareness of what you thought a genre could be, pushed beyond it's limits. The band combine certain sounds that I doubt have ever been atomically combined on any album before. There's a whole sound world here to be discovered and you may have to pinch yourself to what you are hearing at times. 

'The Hunter' could well be Mastodon's best album to date and I guess only time will tell. Mastodon show us that they are one of the most forward thinking bands in recent years and certainly aren't holding back, but are pushing forward with every release. I'm sure this album will be one of the most talked about albums of the year and I will be surprised if it doesn't reach most people's favourite album of the year lists. 

Mastodon's 'The Hunter' has to be heard to be believed! 

'The Hunter' is out now!

Rating: 10/10

Album Review: Textures - Dualism

It's been over 3 years since Dutch progressive-metal band Textures released their last album 'Silhouettes'. Since then the band have changed two members; their keyboard player now Uri Dijk and most notably their singer who is now Daniel de Jongh, taking over from the amazing Eric Kalsbeek. It was a tough act to follow Kalsbeek who was such a versatile vocalist, who could easily change in one breath from intense vocals to clean vocal melodies bursting with emotion. Fans have waited in anticipation for 'Dualism' and the big question seems to be, does the new singer still meet the standards of the band? 

In one word: Yes. Daniel de Jongh does make a noticeable difference in Dualism and it's as if the rest of the band have shaped their sound around him. As you'd expect from Textures, there are very heavy and complex parts and it's something which Jongh deals with perfectly for growls but in a more death metal vocal style. It's on the clean vocal parts however that he really shines more and the album seems to be geared towards using the most of those sounds. All in all the vocal performance is as important and impressive as anything else on the album. 

In Textures previous releases you might have been familiar with longer songs but on 'Dualism', the focus seems to be more on creating well-crafted, concise songs, where the vocal performance can take more of the space at the top. That doesn't mean that there aren't great instrumental parts, but this time they are often driven alongside the vocal performance or given their own song, such as 'Foreclosure'. 

This has to be Textures most concise and melodically crafted album to date. You still get all of the tasty progressive and groove orientated riffs that you are used to, but this time instrumental parts don't over stay their welcome and you can happily listen to this album as a whole on many occasions, making it a very addictive record.  

If people haven't heard Textures before, this is probably the best place to start and I would suggest a listen to many progressive or metal fans, as the band can easily go under your radar due to a lack of exposure compared to other bands in the genre. Textures are a band that prove that they are more than just another Meshuggah wanna-be band and just so happen are producing some of the best progressive and metal music you could possibly hear in one package. 

What makes Textures unique is that they accomplish what most bands rarely can and that's the ability to create the perfect balance of 'heavy' and 'melodic'.

'Dualism' is out now!

Score: 9/10

Monday, 19 September 2011

Album Review: Opeth - Heritage

“We are rebelling against Metal” - Mikael Akerfeldt
Opeth formed in 1990 purely as an extreme death metal band but in more recent years have created a unique name for themselves, infusing the likes of extreme metal with progressive rock and folk influences. This has made Opeth a widely talked about and critically acclaimed band and you would be credible to mention them in both extreme metal and progressive rock circles.  

'Blackwater Park' (2001) is considered the bands magnum opus and perfectly blends the extreme metal and progressive sounds with a stark intensity and atmosphere, which the band has been known for. Since 2001, Opeth have leaned more towards a progressive sound, which is most evident on albums such as 'Ghost Reveries' (2005) and their previous album 'Watershed' (2008). Whether Opeth have been a metal band or a progressive band has been debatable for a while now, yet for the most part they get a wider coverage from the metal side of the music industry, including support from popular metal magazines such as Terrorizer. 

‘Heritage’ the band’s tenth release and latest album is the start of a controversial new venture and sound for the band, in which they have opted to do a pure progressive rock album. To start with, the most obvious comparison to previous albums is that there are no metal growls on this album. Part of Opeth’s distinctive trademark sound was always utilising the dynamic shift between metal growls and clean vocals, but here along with the extreme metal side of their sound are all stripped away. The heaviest this album gets is more towards the definition of rock music, akin to such bands as Deep Purple or The Scorpions, which is most notable on songs such as ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ and ‘Slither’. 

The rest of the album is nothing other than pure progressive rock bliss, which most metal fans will find hard to swallow, but most songs still keep that distinctive darker edge that Opeth fans will be most familiar with. Not only is ‘Heritage’ distinctive in dropping the bands extreme metal side, it also introduces a very strong Jazz influence. This is most evident within the musicianship, being the focal point of this album but also in such highlights as the jazz-flute instrumentation on the track ‘Famine’.  This album may have opted for progressive rock over metal but it still has a brutal intensity, except not in loudness but in the opposite dynamic, in which there are sections where you could almost hear a pin drop in the arrangements.

Most metal bands today that take influences from the genre of progressive rock might take it from bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson or Rush but with this album Mikael Akerfeldt takes influences from more obscure progressive rock bands, which have mostly been forgotten or in some cases unknown. It is here on ‘Heritage’ that Opeth show you these lost and forgotten sounds and deliver something very fresh and original to your ears.

The way Opeth recorded this album is also distinctive from previous albums, as for this album the band rejected modern recording techniques and instead opted to record everything in a live manner. This album therefore really captures the magic of a band playing live together in a room and is very refreshing compared to other modern bands, which utilise a more 'overdubbed’ sound.  In this way ‘Heritage’ has a retro but classic production which perfectly fits the progressive rock style and although rough around the edges due to the live technique, it’s imperfections make the album sound more human.

To summarize, Opeth have created the beginnings of a new sound for themselves that some fans will love and absorb for days but that others will immediately hate. Some bands may create left turns in their sound for the sake of doing so or to be controversial but for Opeth it feels as if they are meant to be here at this point in time. To Opeth it appears that on the most part it is a sigh of relief to them that they can finally leave their metal roots behind.

Whether you are new to Opeth or have listened to them before, this album will take at least 3-4 listens before it fully settles with you. This isn’t an album to be taken at face value and regarding the sound and lyrics as a complete picture, is a very personal album to dig deep within. It’s such a shame that many people having listened to this album already have instantly dismissed it, that possibly due to the many distractions of the modern world, attention spans might not be enough for some people to fully appreciate this album.

‘Heritage’ could well be Opeth’s most important release to date but it could also mean instant suicide to their hardcore metal fans.  

Opeth prove that they are one of the bravest bands around.

'Heritage' is out now!

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Unsigned Review: The Black Lights

The Black Lights

James McCulloch - Vocals
Steven Nicol - Guitar/Vocals
Tony Riccio - Bass
Stuart Penketh - Drums
Cameron Arndt - Guitar


Rock and Roll

You'll like this if you like:
Guns 'n' Roses

Current Release:
Rock Awesome (2011)

There are certain genre's of music which make you want to swing a shirt over you head and flail your limbs around like a loon. Bands like KISS and Guns 'n' Roses imposed on their audience a sense of fun and debauchery. This is exactly what Scottish rockers The Black Lights do. Each track on their debut release, 'Rock Awesome', is full of the attitude that made rock and roll all those years ago; feel good, unrestricted exuberance. 

It has to be said that The Black Lights aren't venturing into new territory with their release, rock and roll is a genre which has had its boundaries pushed as far as possible. However, TBL's do not have any intention on pushing rock and roll into a new era. Their music is about rocking out, having fun and trying to get this message and attitude out to as many people as humanly possible. 'Sweet Salvation' is a perfect example of this, putting the listener in a feel good mood. 'Rock Awesome' is a great debut, and is best listened to live. So check these guys out when you can!

Rating: 3.5/5

'Rock Awesome' is available via the bands website (see below).


Unsigned Review: The Furious Horde

The Furious Horde

Ruptured Souls - Vocals/Guitars
Awake - Bass
Josiah- Keyboards
Mortiroth - Guitars
Lazarus - Drums

Essex, England

Symphonic Black Metal

You'll like this if you like:
Dimmu Borgir
Cradle of Filth

Current Release:
Instigation EP (2011)

It is difficult to imagine a black metal band hailing from the rather chavvy shores of Essex. After all a major aspect of black metal is the inspiration it draws from the harsh, yet beautiful landscapes which surround its artists. So it is even more impressive that The Furious Horde have captured the harsh and raw spirit of black metal, despite being surrounded by chavs and concrete.

The most impressive aspect of The Furious Horde's sound is that they've managed to capture the most important ingredient of black metal; the harsh production. Their sound draws upon such influences as Mayhem and Darkthrone's early works, reminding us of an era where the emphasis was more focused on the mood and ambience of a record rather than making it sound polished. The keyboards add depth to each track, and in some places producing a rather demented and creepy atmosphere. There is definitely Dimmu Borgir influence, particularly on the track 'Crimson Ice', but the rawer edge gives way to a rather intriguing sound. Ruptured Souls' vocals wouldn't sound out of place on a Mayhem or Cradle of Filth record, and it is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the Furious Horde sound. None is this more obvious than on the delirious 'Come Hither', which has a Dani Filth-esque edge which creates a very sinister tone. The Furious Horde have taken a dated sound and turned it into something intriguingly eerie.

Rating: 5/5

The Furious Horde won Metal 2 The Masses 2011 and will be performing at Metal Camp 2012!

'Like' them on their Facebook page:

Monday, 12 September 2011

Album Review: Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events

"After a few dramatic turns, Dream Theater still come out on top".

It’s almost a year to the day that co-founder, band spokesman, and legendary drummer Mike Portnoy was fired from prog-metallers Dream Theater. In that time, the remaining members of Dream Theater have auditioned 7 drummers, have been on the summer festival circuit and have written and recorded a new album, just released, titled ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’.

Many fans were in doubt after Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, as he was often considered the heart and soul of the band. Portnoy had certainly left an impressive legacy behind that would be hard for the remaining members of Dream Theater to walk away from. The politics of firing Portnoy and the reasons why were badly handled by the band and had almost left a bitter taste to their fans.

After doubts of where the band may go post-Portnoy, the announcement of new drummer Mike Mangini gave a sigh of relief to fans, that perhaps the post-Portnoy Dream Theater, although different, would be something to look forward to.

After giving ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ a first listen, it was an immediate and overwhelming surprise that Dream Theater had crafted and captured something very spectacular on this album, especially after the mild disappointment of recent albums. The opener ‘On The Backs Of Angels’, which was released as a single at the end of June this year, is typical Dream Theater fare, often residing in the comfort of their sound that fans are most familiar with. However, it is from ‘Build Me Up, Break Me Down’, where the album really changes  gear and offers one of the heaviest songs to come out of this band since the ‘Train of Thought’ album.

The next song ‘Lost Not Forgotten’ showcases the first of Jordan Rudess’ beautiful piano arrangements at the start of this song. The track then goes into some very technical musicianship, of which the band have been widely recognised for. To those that had thought Dream Theater had rested on their laurels more recently or had passed the baton to newer, more technical bands, think again with this album. 

‘This is the Life’ is one of the more melodically driven highlights of this album, that makes singer James Labrie shine on this song particularly. ‘Bridges in the Sky’ again follows a more heavier formula, but shows at best here that this band can be heavy but also melodically catchy. ‘Outcry‘ continues this heavy theme whilst also being the main highlight on the album for technical showmanship. 

‘Far From Heaven’, is the perfect post-climactic song and at most just features Jordan’s Piano arrangement and Labrie’s very breathy, open and personal vocals. ‘Breaking All Illusions’ is again another of the melodically driven highlights of the album, whilst ‘Beneath The Surface’ is a wonderful closer to this album, which with its lush arrangements and short time is unlike the longer songs that you would expect a typical Dream Theater album to close on.

To summarize, ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ deserves to be up there with Images & Words and Metropolis Part 2 as some of this bands best work. The band seems to be at their most focused here than they have been for a long time, and the unnecessary or over-crammed ideas have gone. Mike Mangini offers some new and fresh technical flourishes to the band and he fits in almost perfectly as Portnoy’s successor. The band almost leave you wanting more with this album, even at close to 80mins and for a prog band especially of Dream Theater’s nature, this is rare. There is not a weak song on this album and is an utter musical pleasure to listen to from start to finish. 

This album is the perfect balance of well crafted songs, strong melodic hooks, beautiful arrangements, heavy riffs and pushing the envelope once again in musical showmanship.

For those that thought Dream Theater was just an excessive progressive metal band with over the top technicality, above all else with this release you will find it hard not to be singing these songs in your head for days.  

'A Dramatic Turn of Events' is out now!

Rating: 9.5/10

Monday, 29 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 3

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August 2011


After abusing way too much Hobgoblin the night before, it is up to the hugely influential (and slightly deranged) Hell. They add an element of theatrics to the weekend and are gloriously over the top, which is the perfect tonic for the final day of Bloodstock.

Then comes a chill in the air as 1349 take to the stage amidst a cloud of eerie smoke. With drummer Frost absent and a shaky sound, their set doesn’t get off to a great start. The vocals are pitched too low, and the only sounds come from the drums and guitars. It takes a couple of songs for 1349 to get going, but when they do they put on a thunderous performance and end up being one of the stronger bands of the weekend.

Next up is Irish black metallers Primordial who don’t seem to be having the best luck. First of all their drum sound is mixed far too loud and then vocalist Alan Averill frustratingly losing his voice early on in their set. But such is the dedication to their fans, Primordial continue without any vocals and instead enlist the help of the crowd to fill in. Primordial, despite all their problems, have pulled off a set which shows the spirit of metal and relentless dedication these guys have to their band. Needless to say they received possibly the biggest cheer of the weekend.

Napalm Death are one of those bands that every metal head must see at least once in their life. The fact that a grindcore band is playing to 12,000 people on the main stage of a festival is a testament to their popularity. Despite being yet another band who suffer from sound gremlins, once these issues are solved they pummel Bloodstock into submission. Front man Barney Greenway is as entertaining as ever, running around the stage like a loon whilst seemingly swatting invisible flies with his arms. Napalm Death provide the crowd with the opportunity to completely lose it.

After the storming performance by Exodus, it is clear that At The Gates have a tough act to follow. The last time they appeared at Bloodstock in 2008 was an outright triumph, so ATG have a lot to prove. However, we need not worry as they put on one of the best shows of the weekend. The crowd which has amassed since the previous act is akin to that of a headliner, and there seem to be more circle pits during their set than at the entire weekend put together!

After the pummelling ATG gave us, we head over to the Sophie stage for the Eurovision metal that is Amaranthe. An odd choice for Bloodstock, particularly on the more extreme Sophie stage and they seem to be placed rather high up the bill. With an already saturation female-fronted metal genre, Amaranthe do not seem to fit in. Their blend of pop and gothic tinged metal feels out of place, which coupled with the fact they have three singers (that’s right, three) makes for a rather chaotic set. The vocals are mixed far too loud, and do the bad kind of damage to our ears.

Morbid Angel are a band who are not afraid to divide opinion these days and rightly so. Their latest effort was either a triumph or a failure (for VDOM it was the latter), but despite this they are a greatly respected band who crush and destroy wherever they go. Today’s co-headliner slot at Bloodstock is no exception, and it is clear from the beginning of their first note that the crowd are completely lost in the brutality. Their ‘classics’ are met with reverent appreciation, whilst outings from their new album including ‘Existo Vulgare’ fall flat with the vast majority of the crowd, despite the tracks sounding better live than on record. Even during the anthem-like ‘I Am Morbid’ the crowd reaction doesn’t seem much better, and it isn’t until they launch into their back catalogue that the crowd picks up. This performance reminds up why Morbid Angel continue to be such a formidable force.

Motorhead are a metal institution, and have been around since the dawn of time. Their longevity and spirit is down to, in no small part, to the wisdom and spirit of Lemmy Kilmister. He is, and always will be, the embodiment of heavy metal. Having survived for most of his adult life on JD and Cokes, you can always count on Lemmy for a good time. However, of late, Motorhead seem to have slowed down and lost some of their spark. Their rather flat performance at Sonisphere could be attributed to the very recent death of former guitarist 'Michael 'Wurzel' Burston. It could be this which explains their lack of presence on stage tonight. From opener ‘Iron Fist’ they seem to be on autopilot; they just don’t seem like Motorhead. This coupled with Lemmy retreating offstage for several minutes before returning with no explanation makes for a rather flat end to what has been an amazing weekend. Let’s hope they return to form, and soon!  

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 2

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August


Many have questioned why Skeletonwitch are so low down the bill, and the hungover crowd that has amassed at 11am is a testament to their underground popularity. Despite the grey, murky clouds hovering threateningly overhead, Skeletonwitch help the crowd forget the shitty weather.

Despite pulling a sizeable crowd, Grave Digger get off to a shaky start with dull guitars, causing a small number of fans to head over to the beer tent. However, after a rather uninteresting start Grave Digger pick up the pace and get the crowd chanting and singing along.

There is a hint of anticipation in the air as the crowds gather for Tarot’s first ever UK show (but hopefully not their last). The high of playing to a new crowd seems to invigorate Tarot’s members, in particular front man Marco Hietala and keyboard nutter Tommi Salmela. Despite a small lull in the middle of their set, Tarot received an incredibly positive reaction. And when asked if Tarot should return to the UK, the answer is a resounding “YES”!

Finntroll are one of, if not the, most requested band on the Bloodstock forums. So it is obvious from hoards of fans bundling into the main stage that everyone is here to have a good time. As soon as Finntroll take to the stage, the crowd erupts into a frenzy of moshing, crowd surfing and general beer-induced debauchery. From opener ‘Solsagan’ Finntroll prove that they are a force to be reckoned with and the sheer volume of merry crowd surfers seem to overpower security. This is what metal is all about.

After the mania of Finntroll, it is time for some blackened prog courtesy of Ihsahn. With a set list comprising of all his solo material and none of the expected Emperor covers, it is clear that Ihsahn has left those days behind him. Each song is ambient, dark and melancholic, yet with that progressive edge that always makes his music such an intriguing listen.

The first of two disappointments take to the stage, and whilst Wintersun are making a rare UK appearance, they do not live up to the crowd’s expectations and fall short of the mark.  Apart from a few hardcore fans, Therion are the second disappointment of the day. The band seems to think they’re in a rehearsal room, rather than performing at a festival. There is little or no crowd interaction, and which translates to a lack of live presence.

Rhapsody of Fire on the other hand knocks all other bands completely out of the park (or should i say field). Blasting onto the stage with more energy than a raging Dragon, and prove that power metal doesn't have to be cheesy, fast and emotionless. So it’s time to grab your wizard’s hat, round up a few of your closest Hobbits and head into battle. Beginning with an epic introduction courtesy on none other than Christopher Lee himself the band literally grab you by the balls and make you sit up and listen. Incredibly this is their first UK performance, and judging by the reaction from the crowd it won’t be their last.

Then comes the almighty Immortal. A band that has been a major request on the forums for what seemed like an eternity, and every year fans were left disappointed. That all changed in 2010 when it was announced that finally these black metal titans would be heading to our shores for the first time in a decade. It is clear from the amount of Abbath-style corpse paint attempts that Immortal are a much anticipated act. As darkness falls, they take to the stage amidst a backdrop of dry ice. Front man Abbath cuts an impressive figure, even if it is difficult to make out him or the rest of the band due to the stage being obscured by dry ice. However after opening with ‘All Shall Fall’ and ‘Sons of the Northern Darkness’ Immortal do become repetitive and just about pick themselves up for the blistering ‘Tyrants’. But this is just nit-picking at what is a triumphant return, and a definite victory of people power. Bloodstock once again proving it is by the fans, for the fans.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 1

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August 2011

After spending the best part of an hour chasing our tent half way round Midgard, thanks to gale force winds, we are finally ready to experience the aural assault that is Xerath. It is difficult to see why, after the major success of their second album ‘II’, that Xerath are on the small Sophie stage let alone being relegated to a Thursday night slot. ‘II’ was a triumph and a turning point for the band; it made the metal public sit up and take notice of a promising band refusing to be ‘lumped’ into the much lauded ‘Djent’ genre. A fifteen minute delay, caused by yet more technical issues this time with the drum mics, make the air seem a little tense. However, with a packed tent, a baying crowd and a fist full of metal, Xerath roar into life. The pounding rifts, booming bass and soaring classical elements send just one message to the Bloodstock organisers – “MAIN STAGE NEXT YEAR”!

Day 1 – Friday

Dubbing themselves ‘middle finger metal’ The Defiled seem to be, on paper at least, an enjoyable act to open the festivities. However, apart from a few hardcore fans (sorry to say, mainly screeching girls) they do nothing to excite the majority of the early risers. An explanation for this flat performance is offered when keyboardist The AvD announces he’s had numerous White Russians and ‘then it goes illegal’.

So it is up to Wolf to inject some much needed energy and party atmosphere to the proceedings, which they do and then some. Despite having numerous sound issues (a grievance which would hinder many performances this weekend), they are clearly having a good time which translates to the crowd.

Bloodstock are a festival of ‘firsts’, and none more so than Poisonblack’s first ever UK performance. Hailing from the mighty Finland, and unfairly compared to HIM, they receive an incredibly positive reaction despite being near unknowns on these shores. When they finally leave the stage after a blistering set, the majority are fans are asking the same question – “When’s the UK tour?”

Over in the Sophie stage there is an ungodly noise being provided by Glaswegian Grindcore nutters Cerebral Bore. Their set turns out to be the surprise of the weekend, the brutal and unforgiving sound goes down a treat and the Sophie tent is packed to bursting point. Stopping towards the end of their set to throw muffins into the crowd to 80’s dance music isn’t something you’d expect, but Cerebral Bore prove they are full of surprises.

After the frenzy of Cerebral Bore, we move to the dark and solemn place that is Tom G Warriors latest venture; Triptykon. The man is such a legend within metal that he seems to summon the cloud and rain. With only four songs on their set list, two of which are the amazing Celtic Frost covers (Procreation and Circle of the Tyrants), Triptykon engage the audience with their brooding, and prog infused melancholy.

If Triptykon left you in a trance, then it is up to the ‘Rush of thrash’ Coroner to rouse you. With their groove laden guitars and their obvious enjoyment, Coroner manage to get even the hardcore metallers dancing along with thrashers Kreator.

Seeing The Devin Townsend Project is an experience i urge everyone to have at least once. Every show is a feast of madness, metal and nerds, with a bit of Ziltoid thrown in. After the debacle of last year’s appearance, where he was forced to do only a 20 minute set due to half of their equipment not turning up, it was time for Devin Townsend to show Bloodstock what he is made of. And boy does he do it! Devin is a true showman, who’s only home seems to be up on stage. Gurning his way through his latest opus ‘Deconstruction’ to the ‘never before played’ Vampira, The Devin Townsend Project are a force to be reckoned with. If you haven’t got your tickets for his November shows, then what are you waiting for?!

With The Devin Townsend Project being a hard act to follow, W.A.S.P seem to really step up a gear and turn out to be the most successful headliner of the weekend. They play a tight, enjoyable set which demolishes the crowd and is a fitting end to an intense first day at Bloodstock 2011. 

Buy your tickets for Bloodstock 2012 and get roll back prices!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Unsigned Review: Dirty White Trash

Dirty White Trash

Sin - Vocals
Lyxx – Guitar
Thrusty – Bass
Crash – Drums


Sleaze Rock

You’ll like this if you like:
Motley Crue
Steel Panther

Current Release:
‘Life in the Redlight’ (2011)

Yearning for good old fashioned balls-out metal? Then look no further than Dirty White Trash, whose brand of sleaze rock hails back to the days of Motley Crue (minus the daft make-up and women’s clothing). Every track on this album harks back to those good old 80’s, where rock and metal was about getting laid and having a good time.

Dirty White Trash formed in 2007 whose sole aim was to convince us that 80’s rock n roll wasn’t dead. Fast solo’s, kick-ass drums, leather and making sure the volume went up to 11; Dirty White Trash embody the sound and spirit of 80’s rock and metal. Opener ‘Breakin’ Down The Walls’ is a fast-paced rock n roll anthem to get your head banging and moshing around like a loon, whist ‘Get Dirty’ is, as its name suggests, an altogether more dirty, sleazy affair. ‘Hollywood Honey’ is reminiscent of Motley Crue-style glam rock, whilst still retaining an air of individuality. The bass on ‘Queen of Sleaze’ is toe-tappingly delightful, and closing anthem ‘Freaks N’ Weirdos’ is the perfect way to end a very impressive debut. However, the sleazy goodness of Dirty White Trash should definitely been seen live. So look out for these guys when they come to a town near you! Just lock up your Mum’s and sister’s first!

Rating: 4/5


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Album Review: Ulver - 'War of the Roses'

Ulver - 'War of the Roses'

The general populace have a common misconception of metal; loud, aggressive and noisy. Within the metal genre is a plethora of genre's, each one vastly different from the other and often containing some real gems of experimental music. Ulver are just such band, and have often flown in face of their 'black metal' tag. They are the epitome of experimental, and refuse to be restricted by a genre's boundaries.
Ulver are on of those bands who are capable of constantly reinventing themselves without losing their musical identity. They are also capable of making music which communicates with its listeners on a far higher, philosophical level. This is particularly the case with 'War of the Roses', which is a lovingly crafted and touching concept album and is their most impressive musical invention to date.
This is the first record with Manchester born Daniel O'Sullivan, who has worked with the likes of Sunn O))), Miasma and Aethenor to name but a few. His creative input is obvious, with piano heavy melodies and the simple ambient atmospheres better equated with Sunn O))). The theme of this album is hard to pin down, but it seems to be about heritage particularly the intertwining relationship between English and Norwegian .
Opener 'February MMX' is almost poppy in its nature, with prog rock undertones which would surprise many of Ulver's 'black metal' fans. This shift in focus is clearly the result of the new partnership between O'Sullivan and vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.
'Norwegian Gothic' however is a direct contrast, and is ambient and stunningly beautiful. Kristoffer Rygg's deep melancholic vocals means the album takes on an altogether more dreary tone.
'Providence' is the album's crowning glory, with glorious piano melodies and haunting female vocals. This inclusion of female vocals in undoubtedly going to divide fans, but those who dismiss it are missing something. If you know Ulver, you'll know that the reason fans love them is their tendency to surprise us.
Moving through the sombre ballad-like 'September IV', to the grandiose and empowering 'England' and through to the unique 'Island'. The closing track, 'Stone Angels...' is utterly indescribable. Devoid of lyrics, the song is narrated by Daniel speaking words of writer Keith Waldrop. This song has so many layers, that it does take a few listens before you really appreciate it.
This is an album of utter complexity, yet juxtaposed by its blatant simplicity. It shows that when a band is not constricted by a genre, there is utterly no stopping them.

Rating: 10/10