I watched an interesting movie the other evening with my wife. “The Devil’s Candy” is the new film from writer / director Sean Byrne (“The Loved Ones”).
The film opens in the dark of night where Ray Smilie (Pruitt Vince Taylor – “Homefront”, “Identity”) resorts to blasting out loud heavy guitar riffs in the family home in order to keep from hearing sinister-sounding voices.
Next we’re introduced to the Hellman family – that’s mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby – “Swimfan”, “UnReal”), dad Jesse (Ethan Embry – “Cheap Thrills”, “Eagle Eye”) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco – “Maps To The Stars”, “Copper”) – the latter two clearly being definite heavy metal fans. In fact the whole film is soundtracked by various metal artists, including Metallica, Slayer, Cavalera Conspiracy and Sunn O))).
The trio move into a new house, which they are able to afford due to its knock-down price, and which just happens to be the former Smilie family home. At this point my wife was convinced that she knew exactly how events would play out.
Before you know it artist Jesse, settled into his new home studio, finds his piece on butterflies – a commission from a bank taken on reluctantly in order to help pay the bills – suddenly and inexplicably takes on a much darker tone, seemingly without his conscious involvement, as he begins to hear whispered voices and see terrible visions. Meanwhile serial killer Ray – still hearing voices of his own – starts to hang around the house and stalk Zooey…
When we got to the end of the movie my wife commented that things had developed much more subtly and in different ways than she’d expected. There were some excellent performances, particularly from Embry, and some inspired visuals – the juxtaposition between Jesse painting and Ray killing was very effective, for example – which combined to make a very impressive film. The solid soundtrack certainly added to the overall result too.
Perhaps a little short at less than an hour and a half, and perhaps Jesse’s interactions with the art dealer and his somewhat demonic-looking assistant could have been expanded on a bit? Nonetheless Byrne’s script and the actors’ performances mean that the characters come across as more rounded than is often the case, again strengthening the final product. I do like a good horror movie, occult themes and heavy metal and “The Devil’s Candy” contains all three. Recommended viewing!…
Legendary British heavy metal band Black Sabbath have been with us since 1968. Formed in Birmingham by guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward, the blues rock band was originally known as Earth. At the end of that year Iommi left briefly to join Jethro Tull, before returning to Earth early in 1969.
The band changed their name to Black Sabbath, apparently inspired by the Mario Bava film of the same name, and took a new musical direction. A recording contract followed and their eponymous debut album was one of the first albums to be released by the famous Vertigo record label.
Iommi has been an ever-present member since then, and indeed the original foursome lasted until 1977 when Osborne quit, only to return the following year for the “Never Say Die!” album. However in 1979 he was shown the door.
Numerous musicians have graced the ranks of the band since then, with perhaps the most notable being vocalist Ronnie James Dio (1979-1982, 1991-1992 and 2006-2010 – when the band traded under the moniker Heaven & Hell playing only Dio-era material (although they used the Black Sabbath name for the three new songs recorded for the 2007 “The Dio Years” compilation album). The other recording vocalists have been Ian Gillan (1982-1984), Glenn Hughes (1985-1986) and Tony Martin (1987-1991 and 1993-1997).
Osbourne himself served as vocalist from 1969-1977, 1978-1979, 1997-2006 and from 2011 to date, Butler has provided bass guitar from 1969-1985, 1990-1994 and 1997 to date, whilst Ward’s tenures were from 1969-1980, 1982-1985, 1994-1997, 1998, 2006 and 2011-2012.
The original foursome reunited in late 2011 after Heaven & Hell had ended as a result of Dio’s death from cancer in 2010. Unfortunately, for reasons that the four don’t seem to be able to agree on even the cause of, Ward pulled out of the reunion in early 2012 and was replaced on tour by drummer Tommy Clufetos who’d worked with Osbourne on his 2010 solo album “Scream”. Keyboardist / rhythm guitarist Adam Wakeman, who also appeared on “Scream” also appeared on tour.
When Iommi, Butler and Osbourne entered the studio in the summer of 2012, however, they enlisted the services of former Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk as a session player.
The resulting record, titled “13” surfaced in 2013, and was the band’s nineteenth studio record and the first full album of new Black Sabbath material since 1995’s “Forbidden”.
A big hit, “13” was planned to be followed up by a new album in 2015. However, it has since transpired that the three founding members could not agree on doing so with Iommi laying the blame on Butler, stating that he had “…so many riffs. I wrote a whole load of stuff for another album and we met up in L.A. but the others… well, Geezer didn’t particularly want to do another album…”, whilst Osbourne for his part said “…I’m 67 in December, it would take three or four years to write and record an album,and so we decided just to do a farewell tour…” Given that “13” was recorded in the space of six months this latter claim seems a little suspect. Nonetheless, the band are nowworking their way through their final “The End” world tour.
For those of us who wanted to hear more after the excellent “13” album there is good news. Whilst the deluxe version of “13” boasted twelve tracks (as opposed to the regular edition’s eight), it turns out that the band actually recorded sixteen. And so it is that the remaining four tracks have been released as an EP, also called “The End”, with the addition of four live tracks.
So, how does it hold up and is it a fitting end to the band’s long career? Well opener “Season Of The Dead” is seven-plus minutes of excellence. Iommi’s riffing is peerless, Osbourne’s multi-tracked vocals are spot on and Butler and Wilk provide a solid and thunderous rhythm section. There are some tasty martial rhythms in the guitar and drum parts too. Why this didn’t make it onto “13” is a complete mystery!
“Cry All Night” is just under seven minutes of doom metal at its finest and “Take Me Home” features a nice acoustic guitar solo from Iommi on top of another of his trademark riffs.
Meanwhile “Isolated Man” is blessed with an incredibly catchy riff that dominates the final minute of the track, following another great Iommi solo. I could have happily listened to that riff for another minute or two at the end to be honest!
Of the four live tracks, the near-ten-minute “God Is Dead?” is sonically poor – bootleg quality really – and sadly highlights the deficiencies in Osbourne’s live vocal abilities these days.
“Under The Sun” sounds better, as do the final two tracks, though Osbourne still struggles. Only one of these four songs, “God Is Dead?”, made it onto the band’s 2013 live album “Live… Gathered In Their Masses” so it’s nice to have versions of two more “13” tracks performed live, but realistically it’s only going to be the four studio songs that receive repeat plays here in the shadows.
So, half of it holds up to “13” – even betters some of it – and that same half is a fitting end to the Black Sabbath story. It’s just a shame about the second half. Shame the three of them couldn’t have agreed to record a proper final studio release, as I expect that would have been a far better epitaph to this great band…
“The End” tracklist:
1. Season Of The Dead / 2. Cry All Night / 3. Take Me Home / 4. Isolated Man / 5. God Is Dead? / 6. Under The Sun / 7. End Of The Beginning / 8. Age Of Reason
1 – 4 recorded during “13” sessions (2012/13) / 5, 7 & 8 originally from “13” (2013) / 6 originally from “Vol. 4” (1972)
Discovered a new band today. Hailing from New Zealand, Devilskin are a heavy metal band formed in 2010.
The group consists of vocalist Jennie Skulander, guitarist Nail, bassist Paul Martin and drummer Nic Martin (son of Paul).
Debut album “We Rise” was released in July 2014 in their homeland but has only recently been unleashed on the rest of the world, with the UK release being November 2015, preceded by single “Little Pills”.
Things kick off with the strangely titled “Elvis Presley Circle Pit” which seems to have nothing to do with either the king of rock n’ roll or circle pits, but it is a chugging metal tune with solid guitars and drums topped off with Jennie’s remarkable voice. At times reminiscent of Lzzy Hale she has a powerful voice that can soar and be beautifully clear and then suddenly be growling like the a death metal vocalist.
At other times, such as on the lovely ballad “Fade” the vocals are totally appropriate for the style and supported by some decent harmony backing vocals.
Nail’s guitar playing is excellent throughout, with some great riffs and some flashy and memorable solos dotted about too.
“Never See The Light” begins with the rhythm section of Paul and the very impressive Nic laying down a solid groove – with Nic’s introductory drum fill hinting at Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine”.
Personal highlights on the record are the headbanging “Little Pills”, the anthemic “Start A Revolution”, the furious “Until You Bleed”, “Violation” and the superb “Dirt”.
The band have a fairly unique aesthetic, with Jennie having very much a Fifties style rock ‘n’ roll meets burlesque kind of image and both Nail and Paul sporting distinctive beards giving them the appearance of brothers.
Most importantly, however, they are a very good band. The songs are consistently good across the album and each member really pulls their weight and shines. “We Rise” is a very impressive debut album and I believe that Devilskin are a band that should go far…
“We Rise” tracklist:
1. Elvis Presley Circle Pit / 2. Little Pills / 3. Vessel / 4. Start A Revolution / 5. Never See The Light / 6. Until You Bleed / 7. Fade / 8. Surrender / 9. Burning Tree / 10. The Horror / 11. Violation / 12. Covet / 13. Cherophobia (The Failure In Me) / 14. Dirt
Last night we watched a great independent movie from New Zealand. Written and directed by newcomer Jason Lei Howden, the film is a horror comedy called “Deathgasm”.
Brodie (Milo Cawthorne – “Blood Punch”, “Power Rangers R.P.M.”) is a heavy metal obsessed teenager who has to go and live with his Uncle, Aunt, and cousin when his widowed mother is put into a mental institution.
Uncle Albert (Colin Moy – “Emperor”, “Orphans & Kingdoms”) and Aunt Mary (Jodie Rimmer – “Everything We Loved”, “Apron Strings”) are fundamentalist Christians and don’t take to well to Brodie’s life style, seeing him as a Satanist. To make matters worse, his cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith – “The Brokenwood Mysteries”) torments Brodie at every available opportunity, especially at school.
Brodie does make a couple of friends at school in role-playing geeks Dion (Sam Berkley – “Jake”, “Go Girls”) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell – “3 Mile Limit”), who are also regular targets for David and his buddies.
Visiting the local record shop to browse through the metal LPs, Brodie meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake – “Hot Rob”), bonding over the albums they like – and their mutual disdain for false metal in the form of Poison!
Before long the pair have formed a band in Brodie’s Uncle’s garage with Dion and Giles, and come up with the delightful moniker of Deathgasm.
Zakk takes Brodie sneaking into a seemingly derelict house – which turns out to be the home of reclusive metal star Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure – “Perfect Creature”, “The Hobbit”), leader of Haxansword, a cult band whose album is very rare and valuable.
When a mysterious suited man turns up Rikki gives them his copy of the record and they flee, only to discover when they get home that there is a different record inside the sleeve. They also discover an old handwritten manuscript inscribed in Latin within the album sleeve.
Later Deathgasm don corpse paint and head off into the woods to shoot a video for their song “Intestinal Bungy Jump”, which is one of many really funny scenes in the movie.
Afterwards it becomes clear that David’s girlfriend Medina (Kimberley Crossman – “Shortland Street”, “#TheAssignment”) is taken with Brodie and they spend some time getting to know each other.
Brodie translates the Latin and realises that the music is a Black Hymn written with the aim of giving whoever plays it ultimate power and fortune. When he is later beaten up by David he persuades the band to play it – little realising that the music will also summon a demon named Aeloth The Blind One and turn the townsfolk into demonic zombies.
It’s up to Brodie and his friends, together with Medina, to defeat the demon and the zombies before it’s too late!…
I absolutely loved this movie, from the opening credits onwards. There is loads of gore, tons of humour and just as much great heavy metal music on offer. Perfect for the teenage metalhead still stuck inside me somewhere. Some of the visual gags are inspired, such as when “Hail Satan” is written in napalm on the garden lawn, but misspelt as “Hail Satin”. Brilliant!
I could go on and on about this film, but at the end of the day you’d be much better off watching it than reading what I think! A superbly funny and gory film, and a future cult classic, methinks…
Hailing originally from Yorkshire, the British heavy metal band Saxon were the first band I ever saw live in concert, way back in 1982 on their “Eagle Has Landed” tour.
Although the group endured some lean years during the late 80s and early 90s in the UK and had to deal with legal issues over ownership of the band name with former members, they remained popular in Europe, particularly in Germany.
Since the release of “The Inner Sanctum” in 2007 the band have seen their profile and success steadily rising once more here in the UK. Indeed their last studio album, 2013’s “Sacrifice”, gained a higher chart position here than any of their albums since 1988.
Now, in October 2015, comes studio album number twenty-one, the appropriately titled “Battering Ram”.
Things kick off with the title track with some of the great in-your-face heavy metal riffing that these guys have perfected over the years before the majestic voice of Biff Byford comes in.
With production work by Hell guitarist Andy Sneap (as with “Sacrifice”) the sound here is razor-sharp and heavy. Sneap is adept at providing perfect state of the art heavy metal production.
“The Devil’s Footprint” – another superb hand-banging number – begins with some narration provided, I believe, by Sneap’s bandmate David Bower describing a folklore tale of devilish goings-on a snowy night in the year 1855.
The tempo drops slightly for the chugging Alice In Wonderland themed “Queen Of Hearts” before picking back up for “Destroyer” and the self-explanatory driving song “Hard And Fast”.
Throughout the album Byford’s vocals are stronger than you would expect for a man of approaching 65 years of age! Both Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt provide incisive guitar riffs and excellent solos, whilst bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler both provide rock solid foundations. It’s especially good to hear Glockler in such good form given that he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm late last year.
Other top tracks include “Stand Your Ground”, the monolithic “To The End” and the eerily atmospheric World War I epic “Kingdom Of The Cross” (featuring a poem read by Bower). To be fair, I don’t think that the record wouldn’t have suffered if the final (bonus) track of “Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)” hadn’t made the cut, but that’s a minor quibble.
The limited deluxe edition of the album comes with a second disc entitled “Saxon Over Sweden 2011” containing the band’s appearance at that year’s Sweden Rock festival.
As was the case with Motörhead’s recent “Bad Magic” album (being what you’d expect from that band) this record is pretty much what you would expect with Saxon – and that’s no bad thing.
For fans of the band, or just good old-fashioned traditional heavy metal, you can’t go wrong with “Battering Ram”. A natural follow-on from “Sacrifice” this album has everything that is good about Saxon in the 21st century. It’s good to have them back.
“Battering Ram” tracklist:
1. Battering Ram / 2. The Devil’s Footprint / 3. Queen Of Hearts / 4. Destroyer / 5. Hard And Fast / 6. Eye Of The Storm / 7. Stand Your Ground / 8. Top Of The World / 9. To The End / 10. Kingdom Of The Cross / 11. Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)
During 1982, in California, four men – singer / rhythm guitarist Blackie Lawless, guitarist Randy Piper, bassist Rik Fox and drummer Tony Richards – formed a heavy metal band named W.A.S.P.
By the time that the group had signed a deal with Capitol Records and were ready to record their self-titled debut album Fox had departed, Lawless had switched to bass and guitarist Chris Holmes had joined.
The album “W.A.S.P.” was released in 1984 but did not feature their infamous debut single “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”, as the label were concerned that it would have a negative effect on sales. The single was released in Europe, and would only be included on the album when it was reissued in 1998. Oh, and if you thought the song title was bad, just check out the tasteful sleeve for the live version from 1988!
By now the band had a reputation for shocking live shows which often featured semi-naked models tied to torture racks and the throwing of raw meat into the audience.
An appearance in 1984 movie “The Dungeonmaster” followed, before Richards was replaced on the drum stool by Steve Riley for second album “The Last Command” in 1985.
Following the tour to promote “The Last Command” Piper departed and Lawless reverted to rhythm guitar, with bass duties being taken up by new man Johnny Rod in time for 1986 album “Inside The Electric Circus”.
When fourth album “The Headless Children” saw the light of day in 1989 drummer Riley had had a number of successors and it was Frankie Banali who featured on the record alongside Lawless, Holmes and Rod. By now, the lyrical themes that Lawless was writing about had moved on from the explicitly sexual and he was addressing social issues and politics.
Holmes left the band in the summer of 1989 (following his marriage to Lita Ford) and at that point Lawless effectively disbanded the group and began work on what was to be his first solo album. By the time that the resulting record, “The Crimson Idol”, was finished Lawless had decided to release it under the W.A.S.P. banner.
A concept album, 1992’s “The Crimson Idol” told the story of the rise and decline of a character named Jonathan Steel, a rock star (naturally enough), and featured Lawless and Banali along with guitarist Bob Kulick and additional contributions from drummer Stet Howland.
“Still Not Black Enough”, released in 1995, was also originally intended as a Lawless solo album, again featuring himself, Banali and Kulick (plus Howland on a couple of tracks). Again, it became a W.A.S.P. release.
By 1997 Holmes had returned and he, Lawless, Howland and bassist Mike Duda were the latest incarnation of W.A.S.P. If that year’s album, charmingly titled “Kill Fuck Die”, was an attempt at a glorious comeback, the results were mixed. On the record itself it was a return to sex and death lyrically but with an industrial twist to their sound which didn’t really work. On the accompanying tour the stage show apparently included simulations of sex with nuns and chopping up animals.
“Helldorado” (1999) and “Unholy Terror” (2001) followed before Holmes once more left the band. “Dying For The World” (2002) saw the introduction of new guitarist Darrell Roberts and Banali on drums once more.
The record was, according to Lawless, inspired by letters received from veterans of the Gulf War. He stated that “our motivation for this record was prefaced by letters sent to us from the tank divisions during the Gulf War, where the troops would actually go into battle blaring ‘Fuck Like A Beast’ and ‘Wild Child.’ After the events on 9/11, we felt we would give them a fresh batch; in essence, we’ve literally made an album to go kill people by”. Hmmm.
The concept album “The Neon God” came out in 2004 in two parts, and told the story of “the tragedy and consequences of one boy’s search for acceptance and purpose in his existence” and “of an abused and orphaned boy who finds that he has the ability to read and manipulate people. By utilizing his gifts, he is able to build a following whose devotion and allegiance create a loyalty so intense that he is poised to become a dark Messiah for the 21st century”. A little more cerebral than “Dying For The World” then!
Part one “The Rise” was issued in April and part two “The Demise” followed in Spetember. Both featured Lawless, Duda and Roberts with a mixture of drum parts from both Howland and Banali.
All change once more for 2007’s “Dominator” with just Lawless and Duda remaining and being joined by guitarist Doug Blair and drummer Mike Dupke.
Lawless, Duda, Blair and Dupke remained together for biblically themed “Babylon” (2009) and this year’s brand new album “Golgotha” – although Dupke did leave the band not long before the new record was released.
Blackie Lawless was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist family and was active in church until his teens, when he rebelled and became interested in the occult. This clearly had an impact on his band’s earlier work and imagery, and his familiarity with the Bible can be found in the apocalyptic and religious themes in some of the material too.
However, in recent years Lawless has said that he has returned to Christianity. For this reason he will no longer perform the song “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”, though “On Your Knees” still gets a regular airing and that’s doesn’t strike me as exactly innocent. Still, each to their own.
Still, let’s look at “Golgotha”. Lyrically, “Last Runaway”, “Fallen Under”, “Eyes Of My Maker”, “Hero Of The World” and “Golgotha” all have a Christian slant to them, with the latter being the most overt. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all Christian metal band Stryper did OK, and is a continuation of themes explored on the band’s past couple of albums too. However, when held up against the group’s earlier classic work? Not so sure.
Opener “Scream”, which sounds like classic W.A.S.P. mixed with some guitar chords from The Cult circa the late 80s, is a great track to open with. Uptempo, catchy, instantly recognisable as W.A.S.P. and featuring a great guitar solo too.
“Last Runaway” and “Shotgun” keep up the good work, the latter having a little of The Who vibe. Big ballad “Miss You”, meanwhile is reminiscent of the band’s ballads of old, but just nowhere near as good – and it’s nearly eight minutes long!
Things pick up again with “Fallen Under” but don’t really get back on track until the excellent “Slaves Of The New Order”. The next two tracks float on by without too much to write home about and then we’re into the final epic “Golgotha” (the third seven minute plus track of the album’s nine cuts). Despite the constant name-checking of Jesus getting a bit repetitive the song still manages to capture Lawless and his band sounding suitably grandiose and the track makes for a fitting finale to this album.
A mixed bag then, better overall than most W.A.S.P. albums since the low point of “Kill Fuck Die”, but still not up there with the classic 1984-1992 period. That said, Lawless may not have the visual shape that he used to but his voice seems, on this evidence, to still be in pretty good shape and musically his band are in fine form.
Not a brilliant heavy metal record then, but a decent one and one worth giving a spin…
1. Scream / 2. Last Runaway / 3. Shotgun / 4. Miss You / 5. Fallen Under / 6. Slaves Of The New World Order / 7. Eyes Of My Maker / 8. Hero Of The World / 9. Golgotha
I thought today I would give the new Trivium album, titled “Silence In The Snow” a spin.
Formed at High School in Florida back in 1999, the band’s line-up for their first album release featured singer / guitarist Matt Heafy, drummer Travis Smith and bassist Brent Young.
Additional guitar was supplied by Corey Beaulieu for the recording of the outfit’s debut album “Ember To Inferno” in 2003, and he joined the band full-time shortly afterwards .
Young was replaced on bass by Paolo Gregoletto in 2004, prior to recording of “Ascendancy” and a slot on the bill at the following year’s Download Festival saw the band start to attract serious attention.
The Metallica-like album “The Crusade” came out in 2006 and was the band’s first top thirty album in the US, and reached number seven here in the UK. Fanbase opinion was split by that album as it was the first Trivium album to feature clean vocals and no harsh vocals at all, a marked change from the previous releases. On top of this common consensus seems to be that Heafy sounds a little too like Metallica’s James Hetfield for comfort. Nonetheless, the band’s success and popularity were definitely on the up.
2008’s “Shogun” was musically along the same lines as “The Crusade” but featured the return of Heafy’s harsh vocal style. Undoubtedly their strongest album to that point, number one son and I witnessed the band perform live in Bristol on the subsequent world tour, by which time the drum stool had been taken over by Nick Augusto.
The new line-up (Heafy, Beaulieu, Gregoletto & Augusto) were responsible for the next two studio albums, “In Waves” (2011) and “Vengeance Falls” (2013). On these records the group tried to move slightly away from the complex songwriting and musicianship found on “The Crusade” and “Shogun” and popularity-wise the band continued on an upwards trend.
Augusto left the band mid-way through 2014 and has since been replaced by current drummer Mat Madiro who appears on the new album. Just a few days after Augusto’s departure the band had to cancel tour dates when Heafy’s voice gave out requiring a period of rest and recuperation.
With Heafy having taken some vocal coaching in the meantime, and the promise of clean vocals alone again, what does the band’s seventh album sound like? Will it take the band further forward? Will it be divisive just as “The Crusade” was?
Well, lead single “Silence In The Snow” shows Heafy’s new and improved vocal range on top of some superbly heavy riffing. Along with the two other singles released – “Blind Leading The Blind” and “Until The World Goes Cold” – the band seem to be in similar sonic territory to the likes of Alter Bridge now rather than Metallica.
Whether this is a good thing or not will depend on the taste on the listener. For myself, it’s almost like listening to a different band in a way. And perhaps that’s the key. This isn’t really comparable to the band’s previous work, especially the earlier stuff, as this record is far more melodically based than before.
Standout cuts on the album, to my ears, are “Pull Me From The Void”, “Silence In The Snow”, “The Ghost That’s Haunting You” and “The Thing That’s Killing Me”.
Will this be Trivium’s commercial breakthrough to the really big time as Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album was for them? Maybe. Who can tell in this day and age what will sell and what won’t? The record is certainly more accessible and immediate than the group’s previous albums and, taken as a piece of work on its own merits, really is a very good heavy metal album…
“Silence In The Snow” tracklist:
Snøfall / 2. Silence In The Snow / 3. Blind Leading The Blind / 4. Dead And Gone / 5. The Ghost That’s Haunting You” / 6. Pull Me From The Void” / 7. Until The World Goes Cold” / 8. Rise Above The Tides / 9. The Thing That’s Killing Me / 10. Beneath The Sun / 11. Breathe In The Flames / 12. Cease All Your Fire / 13. The Darkness Of My Mind
Wednesday 23 September – my first all-metal gig of this year. Billed as a co-headlining tour between Norwegian progressive black / Viking metal band Enslaved and Swedish heavy metal band Grand Magus, I caught the tour’s first show at the Marble Factory in Bristol.
Although the ticket (I say ticket, but it was one of those horrible e-tickets, not like a traditional proper ticket where you get the stub ripped off on the door!…) said doors at 6:30pm and show start at 7:00pm, when I arrived I heard the people in front of me being told that the doors wouldn’t be opening until 7:00pm. As it was spitting with rain I made myself comfortable back in my car and watched the queue start to form along the pavement past the next door tyre fitters.
Shortly before 7:00pm security staff appeared at the gates, and around ten minutes later started to let people through. Now a problem with e-tickets is that they are supposed to be scanned but many folks, like myself, were told that the qr code was too big to be scanned, meaning that we had to be manually ticked off a list! The upshot of all these delays was that opening band Heaven Asunder (who weren’t even listed on the bill) had started their set – probably in front of a mere handful of people!
A Bristol-based metalcore band, Heaven Asunder certainly had a few fans in attendance, making plenty of noise in support of the band. I must confess that their particular brand of metal, metalcore, isn’t really my thing but they were clearly musically tight and enjoying what they do. Guitarist Lewis Blake did look slightly like he’d dropped in from another band but I was impressed with his fretwork, even if not moved by the band’s material as a whole.
After a short break for an equipment change it was time for Grand Magus to hit the stage. I had seen this bunch previously, third on the bill when I went to see Behemoth last December.
At that time I commented that the lack of a second guitar player left a hole in their sound when vocalist / guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson played a guitar solo, and that is still the case.
The group, completed by bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig “Ludde” Witt, are a great band to have on a mixed genre metal bill as their material features an accessible traditional metal sound – not unlike Manowar – with lots of anthemic sing-along qualities. They perform their Viking tales with conviction and with good humour too, and interact well with the audience.
In truth, though, I found that their set tended to drag a little towards the latter stages as a result of what I felt was a lack of variety in terms of tempo and style. Still, that never hurt bands such as Motörhead, and the band went down very well with the crowd (which had filled out to a few hundred I would guess), so it was probably just me!
Setlist: (probable – I didn’t have anything to make notes on!)
1. I, The Jury / 2. Sword Of The Ocean / 3. Kingslayer / 4. On Hooves Of Gold / 5. Steel Versus Steel / 6. Iron Will / 7. Valhalla Rising / 8. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 9. Drum Solo / 10. Wolf’s Return / 11. Hammer Of The North
1 and 11 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 and 7 originally from “The Hunt” (2012) / 3 and 10 originally from “Wolf’s Return” (2005) / 4 and 5 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014) / 6 and 8 originally from “Iron Will” (2008)
Another gear change was followed by a roar from the assembled crowd as Enslaved entered the stage, blasting headlong into the opening track from this year’s excellent “In Times” album, “Thurisaz Dreaming”.
Bizarrely, the band – led by frontman Grutle Kjellson – were only lit from behind for the whole eight minute number (and quite often throughout the set) leaving the audience looking at silhouettes of the band and lots of red lighting. Whilst this may be, perhaps, atmospheric it is somewhat frustrating to go to “see” a band play live only to spend much of the time only being able to see them in silhouette – that said, maybe the effect was better further forward in the room?…
Musically the band were excellent. Cato Bekkevold, the drummer, had some equipment problems with his kick drums which disrupted the flow for the band a little, but I imagine there are always likely to be teething problems on the first show of a tour.
Bassist / lead vocalist Kjellson was an engaging frontman and capable of some ferocious extreme metal vocals, which were offset superbly by keyboardist Herbrand Larsen’s clean vocals. Incidentally, on the small Marble Factory stage Larsen’s keyboard riser was so high that he towered over the rest of the band (including Bekkvold and his mammoth drum kit) and looked to have his head rather near the ceiling!
Guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal were intense and concentrated on producing a wall of sound from their instruments, and it’s here that I think the biggest problem with the band’s show lay (lighting issues aside). On record, particularly with the band’s more recent output, it is quite easy to distinguish between guitar parts and focus on individual elements of the band’s sound should you want to. In the live arena, however, although the bass, drums and keyboards are all crystal clear, the two guitarists disappeared into a kind of audio fog with even guitar solos getting lost in it.
That’s a shame, as on record Enslaved are brilliant. Following the aforementioned Behemoth concert, this was my second “extreme” metal gig and whilst I most certainly enjoyed it I would have to say that in terms of both visuals and musical performance the Polish black metal band produced the better show. That said, I’m glad I went to this show as, even with my reservations, it was definitely worth the price of admission…
Setlist : (again probable – for the same reason as above)
1. Thurisaz Dreaming / 2. Fusion Of Sense And Earth / 3. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn / 4. Building With Fire / 5. Ruun / 6. Ethica Odini / 7. Convoys To Nothingness / 8. Allfǫðr Oðinn / 9. Isa
1 and 4 from “In Times” (2015) / 2 and 5 originally from “Ruun” (2006) / 3 originally from “RIITIIR” (2012) / 6 originally from “Axioma Ethica Odini” (2010) / 7 originally from “Monumension” (2001) / 8 originally from “Hordanes Land” (1993) / 9 originally from “Isa” (2004)
Sometime around 2010 American singer / author / actress Carla Harvey and singer / actress Heidi Shepherd – both of whom had worked for the Playboy Channel on TV – got together and formed heavy metal band Butcher Babies.
The instrumentation in the band is provided by guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner. The band’s name is a reference to the Plasmatics single “Butcher Baby”, which is also found on that band’s 1980 record “New Hope For The Wretched”.
Heavily influenced by the music and look of Plasmatics singer Wendy O. Williams, the band have a very theatrical live show, and musically bands such as Slipknot, Slayer, Iron Maiden and Cannibal Corpse have been mentioned as influences in the past.
Debut album “Goliath” was released in 2013 and, whilst not setting the world alight in terms of either performance or songwriting, achieved reasonable success despite the band – or Carla and Heidi at least – receiving a good deal of criticism (particularly online) from people branding them as sluts and / or as fakes.
This is likely due in no small part to the pair’s appearance during the band’s early shows where they only wore electrical tape across the nipples (in tribute to the aforementioned Williams) but that aspect has long since disappeared to be replaced by more conservative attire (whilst still making the most of their feminine charms). Accused of using their sexuality to get ahead in the music world then, but is this approach really much different to that taken by any number of today’s pop princesses? Anyway, I digress…
Two years on comes studio album number two “Take It Like A Man”. Kicking off with lead single “Monsters Ball”. Through screams and roars the song kicks like a mule, but also shows that the two ladies can really sing as the track develops.
“Igniter”, meanwhile, simply threatens to take your head off. It’s fast, it’s brutal and it’s great! “Never Go Back”, “The Butcher”, “Marquee” and “For The Fight” are all heavy as hell and highlights of the album. It’s worth mentioned too that the guitar, bass and drums throughout this album are executed superbly.
They dial the tempo and aggression back a little for “Thrown Away” which is a kind of power ballad, and the re-recording of “Blonde Girls All Look The Same” – originally released as a single back in 2011 – rounds off the album in fast and furious fashion.
Although this isn’t an especially diverse record stylistically, it is one of consistently high quality, hits hard and makes for an excellent listen from start to finish. If you enjoy he work of the likes of In This Moment and Slipknot then this album is well worth checking out…
“Take It Like A Man” tracklist:
1. Monsters Ball / 2. Igniter / 3. The Cleansing / 4. The Butcher / 5. Gravemaker / 6. Thrown Away / 7. Never Go Back / 8. Marquee / 9. Blood Soaked Hero / 10. Dead Man Walking / 11. For The Fight / 12. Blonde Girls All Look The Same
British heavy metal band Motörhead, (more specifically vocalist / bassist Lemmy Kilmister) have not been able to enjoy the fortieth anniversary of the band as they / he might have liked due to health issues forcing some concert cancellations and the unfortunate moment at this year’s Glastonbury festival when Lemmy had a mental block leading him to sing “Ace Of Spades” whilst the band played “Overkill”.
As is often the case with bands that had an initial run of success, as Motörhead did with a five album run from 1977-1982, there are always those who consider the line-up from that era – in this case Lemmy, guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor – to be the definite one.
However, in 2015 we find the band comprising of its longest serving line-up of Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell (who joined in 1984) and drummer Mikkey Dee (who joined in 1992).
These three have been together as a three-piece for thirteen studio albums since 1996’s “Overnight Sensation”. Prior to that, second guitarist Michael “Würzel” Burston, had been in the band from 1984 until 1995 and Pete Gill and Taylor (for a second time) had taken stints on the drum stool.
Despite the aforementioned bad luck, very much on the plus side this year is the arrival of the band’s twenty-second studio album “Bad Magic”.
Sounding nothing like a band of their vintage, Motörhead come flying straight out of the traps with “Victory Or Die”.
Lemmy sounds great. Granted he’s never been what you might call a great singer, but he has a distinctive rasp and it’s perfect for this band’s output. I suspect, given his age and recent health scares, that producer Cameron Webb has enhanced Lemmy’s voice in the studio, but that’s really nothing to quibble about. And his bass rumbles as menacingly as ever too!
Campbell’s riffs are great and he pulls some superb melodic and memorable solos out of the bag throughout this record, and Dee shows off his chops, particularly on the introduction to “Shoot Out All Of Your Lights” and the closing cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy For The Devil”.
Basically, anyone who’s heard an album by this band should know pretty much what to expect. Motörhead have their own distinctive style and sound and this record is more of the same. That’s not to say that they’re going through the motions, because to these ears that’s not the case. It’s just that this isn’t a band given to too much experimentation or deviation of sound.
This album is, however, another in a line of strong records over the past decade since 2004’s “Inferno”. My favourite tracks are currently “Thunder & Lightning”, “Shoot Out All Of Your Lights”, “The Devil” and “Tell Me Who To Kill”.
To borrow from Lemmy – this is Motörhead, and they play rock and roll…
“Bad Magic” tracklist:
1. Victory Or Die / 2. Thunder & Lightning / 3. Fire Storm Hotel / 4. Shoot Out All Of Your Lights / 5. The Devil / 6. Electricity / 7. Evil Eye / 8. Teach Them How To Bleed / 9. Till The End / 10. Tell Me Who To Kill / 11. Choking On Your Screams / 12. When The Sky Comes Looking For You / 13. Sympathy For The Devil