Archive for Music

ReVerbed – Lies You Can Believe [2011]

Posted in Alternative, CD with tags , , , , , , on 2nd October 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: ReVerbed
Album: Lies You Can Believe
Release year: 2011
Genre: Alternative Rock

ReVerbed are a Doncaster-based alt. rock band, who despite being young have already played in venues around the UK, including in London, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and so forth. “Lies You Can Believe” was released earlier this year.

”What Went Wrong” begins with an interesting piano medley which finds itself eventually replaced by an energetic, slightly-punk orientated riff. The vocals are an odd combination of gruff and soft pop-punk stylings that don’t agree with one another. The female vocals harmonise the leads vocals slightly but not enough to stop the lead vocals ruining the track. The riffs are well composed and the drums are soulfully played. The short acoustic section would have been more enjoyable without the vocals.

”Obsession” starts with a strange riff, which weirdly sounds similar to a small extent, like a part of “Enter Sandman”. The female vocals do the lead vocal work on this track, fortunately for the listener’s ears. The track feels lifeless and lacking of any sort of passion – Listening to it is kind of like being forced at gunpoint to listen to Justin Bieber. The third song of the album, “Run”, injects a bit of life back into the album though not much as the male vocals are doing most of the work. The guitar riffs are well enough composed, though it still feels like they need something adding to them like an extra dose of adrenaline. In all honesty, the drums are the most entertaining aspect of this song.

”You” has a typical bland sort of grunge sound, which would no doubt cause even the most active of people to slowly drift off to sleep. The vocals seem to drown out the guitars. The good sections of the song would have to be when there is no vocal work, as the music can actually be heard properly. “Scream” has a better start, bringing some kind of passion to the music, keeping it from being a tiring, droning sound. The female vocals are once again the lead, thankfully, though they don’t quite gel with the backing vocals on this track. The only major issue is the drums in one section of the track, as they don’t work well aside the guitar section in one part.

The sixth song “Not Alone” has the generic pop-punk sound that a lot of young bands seem to establish. The track as a whole lacks musical and emotional maturity, as well as substance, sounding more akin to something that a twelve year old would write. There really isn’t a redeeming thing about this song. It’s one of those tracks that would have been better off not being written – or recorded. “Shadow” is the halfway point of the album and is another part of the album with the overly generic pop-punk sound, which is heard loud and clearly in the vocals, to the point where it sounds like the band are trying to be the next Blink 182. The guitar riffs sound half-composed and the drums don’t really add anything interesting to the song either.

”Through The Rain” is an improvement to the previous tracks, though only by so much. Some of the riffs have real bite to them though some of the other riffs seem to be the leftovers of an MCR album. The lack of male vocals is a bonus for the song as well. Following after, beginning with a few samples, is “No Hero”. The riff that follows the intro is a fairly mediocre sounding composition and the vocal section is in need of major tweaking. The drum work sounds familiar to some of the drum work in the other parts of the album – Disappointing to say the least.

Nearing the end is “Burn”, bringing a tiny Bryan Adams sound at the beginning – To as whether this is an intentional part of the composition remains to be seen. The female vocals add life to the song while the male vocals ruin it, kind of like the way police ruin parties. The chorus drains a lot of the energy out of the music, which is unfortunately as this one could have been a party anthem, despite the lyrical content.

”Don’t Look Back” sounds more like a mature composition and the male vocals actually work with the music – For once. Shockingly, it’s the female vocals that don’t do this song any justice. The guitar work is well written and played, as are the drums. “Beautiful Lie” has a semi-mature sound to it mixed with a hint of punk, which the male vocals, again, work with well the music. “Tomorrow” is the final track on the album and is a poor choice to finish the album with. Nothing seems to blend well with anything else, the vocals sound out of key and dissonant and the song just seems to be the kind of song that you’d “accidentally” delete on your media player device.

”Lies You Can Believe” is definitely not a masterpiece, if anything, it’s more akin to a disasterpiece. The vocals are one of the biggest negative factors as neither vocalist seems to harmonise with the other – They could invest in vocal lessons or find a new vocalist – and the music sounds too similar to each track combined with the generic sound of pop-punk, which may or may not have been intentional in the composition. The sound quality of the album is excellent, however. The album doesn’t really say much about ReVerb’s talent as a band who have played all over the UK. Perhaps they should take more time writing songs and perfecting their craft than playing shows.

1.5/5

Nico Davidson

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Ellerker – Ellerker [2011]

Posted in 'Core, CD with tags , , , , , on 19th September 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Ellerker
Album: Ellerker
Release year: 2011
Genre: Melodic Post-Hardcore


Ellerker, having formed in 2006, have done well for themselves in the British hardcore underground, receiving various sponsorships and creating a live act that they are renowned for. After a two hiatus [2008-2010], the Yorkshire quintet came back bigger and better, with 2011 seeing the release of their self-titled EP.

”An Anchor Holds Me Under” begins with a great melodic intro which has a hook that catches the ear of the listener the first time round, though the clean vocals sound somewhat generic, leaving something to be desired. The drums fit perfectly with the music though and the sound quality is superb. There are some hardcore elements that can be heard throughout the track, despite the mostly melodic and soft riffs. Already the EP is off to a better-than-average start.

“Find Your Own Way Home” has a heavier sound than the previous song whilst still keeping the clean, melodic sound. The vocals still leave a lot to be desired, staying clean as opposed to the use of hardcore screams that fans of the genre would be accustomed to. The drums are tight throughout the song. The use of gang vocals throughout parts of the song adds an interesting touch to the song as well. The third track “She Loves Machines” has a more vocal-dominated introduction, a welcome change for those who aren’t so keen on melodic intros. The guitars seem to be quite bland compared to the rest of the EP, with the vocals being the most impressive part of the track.

”Carmy” brings back the melodic intro, a welcome change to the average sounding guitars of the previous track. The vocals still leave room for improvement though the guitar sections are near enough perfect, with some obvious hints of hardcore influences in their composition. The EP finishes with “Blinded By The Rear View Mirror”. The song packs a lot more energy than the rest of the EP put together and the riffs are very pleasing to the ear, though the massive use of cymbals does get tiring after a while.

Ellerker’s self-titled EP is certainly interesting one and certainly one that will shock fans of post-hardcore. The only major issues with the EP is the bland and not-so-exciting sound of the third track and the vocals. However, the sound quality of the EP is superb and shows that Ellerker take the production of their releases seriously. The Yorkshire quintet have shown a lot of potential and talent with this EP, so no doubt there will be great things from these guys in the near future.

3/5

Nico Davidson

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review]

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 21st August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Bands: Wasp, Therion, Motorhead and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

It’s August again – and time for the Metal Militia to mobilise, monster-like, and materialise in the munificent meadows of Catton Hall, Derby for another magnificent Bloodstock Festival.

Bloodstock is a festival ‘by the fans, for the fans’ and the organisers genuinely cater for this by running active online forums and IRC chatrooms (in which they participate), taking into account the festival-goers’ suggestions each year to improve the event. Having attended four previous Bloodstocks (2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010), Bloodstock 2011 was, by 12 parsecs, the best Bloodstock I have attended.

Disclaimer – I attended this festival as a fan and a punter rather than as official press. I was not able to see every band due to conflicting stage times, hangovers and basic human needs such as food, water and ale.  Additionally, while this review does cover bands in the black / death / grindcore genres, due to my personal preferences in music, I saw many more power / melodic metal acts, so the review will tend toward these bands.

Overall organisation

Having queued in the past for – literally – hours to enter, I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and organisation of the door staff. Arriving approximately half an hour after the gates opened, we were through the entrance and pitching our tents within 15 minutes.

The layout of Bloodstock was well thought-out, with the camping areas clustered around the main arena and festively named ‘Valhalla’, ‘Asgard’, ‘Midgard’ and ‘Hel’. ‘Hel’ was the quiet camp and provided a positive environment for families and others who did not wish to be disturbed by revellers late into the night.  A small fairground was set far enough back that the noise from the rides did not disturb the enjoyment of bands on the Ronnie James Dio (main) stage and a market brimming with music stalls and alternative clothing and jewellery offered a variety of products that can be difficult to find out in the mundane real world.

The only negative aspect of the layout is that, for the past two festivals, the New Blood stage is at the side, beyond the Ronnie James Dio stage and near the Bloodstock Arms bar. In 2008, the stage was placed between the arena entrance and the main stage, which meant that many bands drew in a crowd due to simply overhearing something they were interested in listening to. Its current placement meant that crowd members had to make a conscious effort to go and check out unsigned talent and this meant that some acts which could have had bigger crowds simply didn’t.

Four stages offered a variety of acts, with the Jaegermeister stage and Ronnie James Dio stage alternating showtimes, which meant that, without moving from a vantage point just behind and to the right of the sound desk, patrons could enjoy eight hours of almost interrupted music – without even venturing to the Sophie Lancaster tent (second stage) or the New Blood stage (which housed unsigned acts).  In general, as well, acts on Sophie and New Blood stages were of a different genre to the Ronnie James Dio stage, which meant that there was always something of interest to watch, catering for the wide variety of tastes that rockers have cultivated.

Security at the arena entrance was tight as they searched bags / pockets for weapons and alcohol (got to protect the beer sales in the arena!). Showsec staff, mostly, were pleasant, friendly and joked with the crowd as they filtered through. The proximity of the campsite and the efficiency of the Showsec staff meant that it was easy to move quickly between the camping areas and the main arenas. The festival cloakroom also provided a secure place to store bags, phones, coats and purchases from the market stalls – my husband and I purchased a weekend ticket at £16 and found the service invaluable for keeping our goods protected while he went to play in the circle pits for…pretty much the entire weekend.

Toilets, while offensive to the olfactory sense, were generally clean and well-stocked, especially in comparison to Download, Sonisphere and previous years.  Showers were available in the Midgard camp for £3.00, though a ‘no time limit’ policy meant that queues were longer than the M1. (I did not partake. I don’t have to smell myself.)

Jaegermeister stage

The Jaegermeister stage provided an acoustic venue and offered the opportunity to see bands in a different light and in what felt like an intimate environment.

Alternative Carpark – Mark (vocals) started the gig with a good crowd rapport, offering good-natured abuse to festival-goers as they walked past the stage following Coroner’s set. His clear baritone voice and easy nature drew in an audience, who appreciated friendly banter and the band’s distinctive, eclectic style. The mixture of metal and blues with a funk-style slapping bass got the audience grooving and created a feel-good atmosphere.

Rannoch – Unfortunately, I was not able to see this band ‘plugged in’ but their acoustic set showed their strength as musicians, with interplay and harmonies between the guitars and bass. The vocals oscillated between an accomplished death metal growl and occasional, contrasting clean vocals. The band seemed at ease on stage and the addition of an Irish drum (and drummer) borrowed from Middle Age-inspired death metal band ‘Haerken’ added a folk element that gave the music a unique dimension.

Obsessive Compulsive – Energetic and driving, Obsessive Compulsive’s set comprised dark, anthemic tunes complimented by Kelli’s powerful, gravelly, alto vocals. A confident frontwoman, she genuinely appreciated the audience’s enthusiastic response and expressed her gratitude to the festival for their work with unsigned musicians. As the bass pulsated, driving riffs and intricate guitar work got the crowd’s heads banging

Guardians of Andromeda – This band is one of my favourite finds of the weekend. An easy nature and sense of humour go a long way in a cosy environment like the Jaegermeister stage – and frontman Mikael has both in spades, along with a tenor voice that is reminiscent of Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian fame. Confident guitar work and haunting melodies with a tribal undertone further sustain the fantasy-world feeling of being transported to realm of mystery, honour and valour.  Layers of vocals gave a more orchestral feeling to the acoustic set. Joined by Sarah, of Zocolo fame for the last songs, intertwining tenor and alto vocals wrote a story which was supported by inter-band interactions reminiscent of powerful, classic musical theatre duets. Guardians of Andromeda’s music is a gourmet recipe, drawing ingredients from the whole world of music, rather than simply metal and the final product is nothing short of extraordinary.

New Blood Stage

The New Blood stage showcased some of the best unsigned metal acts that the UK – and Europe – have to offer. Venues across the nation and in Norway hosted ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ heats and the winners of these competitions were handpicked by Bloodstock organisers and the founder, Simon Hall.

Entro-P – Jake’s dark, driving bass pushes Entro-P’s songs forward and several tempo changes into Meshuggah-like non-standard time signatures are ably managed by Sean, giving Entro-P’s music a sensation that takes them out of the realm of normal run-of-the-mill death metal bands. Expert tremolo picking by the guitarists, along with several complex articulations combined to create a bed of nails upon which the growling vocals can rest. All elements merged to create a gritty, doom-laden sound that is heavy as a two-tonne weight in a black hole.

Training Icarus – Vacillating between dark, heavy songs and lighter, happier tracks, Training Icarus showed a breadth and depth to their repertoire and musical talent. Frontwoman Leigh displayed a strong passion throughout the entire set. Enchanting mezzo/alto/belter vocals rested comfortably on top of Maidenesque guitars and metronone-like, driving drums. Infectious, anthemic choruses became brainworms that refused to leave. (I found myself humming ‘Nightmares’ days after the performance.)  Orchestral accompaniments provided atmosphere between the songs. The backing track also sat low enough in the mix to add a subconscious feeling of fullness while sampled harmonised vocals emphasised key phrases and gave Leigh the opportunity to provide soaring descant ad-libs over repeated choruses. In a day when metal bands often never find their way out of minor keys, the bouncy, quick-tempo, major-key tracks provided a welcome contrast that left a happy, lively feeling.

Brezno – ‘Innovative, exciting and stunning’ are the three best adjectives to describe this band. Hailing from Slovenia, the seven-piece band’s half hour set on the New Blood stage took the crowd by surprise and by storm. Keyboards, violins, wind instruments and four vocalists, ably led by Sara wove a tribal blanket of sound that was comfortably worn by everyone in the New Blood tent. A traditional Irish folk feeling haunts Brezno’s music and the lilting melodies call forth images of warriors fighting for honour, justice and truth.

Soulsphere – Despite their vocalist being unable to attend, atmospheric doom metallers Soulsphere pulled off an energetic performance with ably ad-libbed lyrics provided by stand-in Gary from the band Fallen Few. Brutal, heart-pounding riffs overdriven by a thumping bassline and jackhammer-like drums offered a suitably aggressive base for Gary’s throaty growls. Soulsphere’s brand of in-your-face metal is like a left hook to the jugular – swift, brutal and leaves you gasping for breath.

Sacred Illusion – If Iron Maiden ever decide to retire and create a reality TV programme where the younger generation audition to replace them, these guys are it. The frontman – Bruce – beyond being the namesake of one of the best voices in metal, shares with Dickinson a stunning tenor voice with an operatic tone found in the very best power metal bands. A driving rhythm section created a strong foundation, which face-melting lead work uses as a launch pad into the heavens with spiralling riffs and anthemic melodies. Tighter than many signed bands, if Sacred Illusion carry on delivering blistering performances as they did on Sunday, they will skyrocket to the top of the metal mountain in no time.

Twilight’s Embrace – Dark doom metal with some floating melodies over the top comprised Twilight’s Embrace’s set. Frontman Dee effortlessly switches between clean vocals and a powerful, death metal-inspired growl. Clean guitar behind chugging power chords creates an ethereal sensation and lonely distorted lead creates echoes of emptiness reminiscent of some Opeth tracks.

Sophie Lancaster Stage

A new addition last year, the Sophie stage this year was much more effectively used to showcase a range of bands, giving crowdgoers an alternative to the music on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

Evil Scarecrow – Parody black metal is a risky style of music. Black metal in itself is quite obscure and oftentimes black metal fans can be somewhat elitist about the genre, rejecting what could be seen as an attempt at poking fun. However, Evil Scarecrow have persevered through being ignored by metal record labels and have, grass roots style, cultivated a massive fan base who packed out the Sophie tent (capacity approximately 3,000) on Sunday. Post-gig Facebook updates have also hinted that the band members themselves handle all merchandise sales – they are the very definition of a DIY metal band. Tight as a watch spring, the five-headed, ten-legged monster appeared overwhelmed and humbled by the response of the crowd, including several crowd members who came decked out in full robot regalia for the band’s signature tune ‘Robototron’. Tracks with interweaving melodies such as ‘Blacken the Everything’ and challenging changes between time signatures such as ‘Vampyre Trousers’ affirmed that the best way to parody any sort of music is to be accomplished musicians who write good music – then add in satirical lyrics and a ‘bloody’ good stage show! Doctor Hell’s sung introduction to the most metal cover of all – ‘The Final Countdown’ –  in a clean, strong baritone voice also proved what black / death / thrash metal fans have known for years: to be a good growler, you must first be a good vocalist! True fans of metal, the band members could be seen throughout the festival not just on the Sunday but throughout the weekend – and despite the overwhelming response to their music they were still humble, down to earth and genuinely thankful to the crowd.

Powerquest – With soaring, screaming guitar riffs that flew fast as lighting from the fingers of Andy Midgley and Gav Owen, melodic and atmospheric keys from Steve Williams and some frenetically fast drumming from Rich Smith, melodic metallers Powerquest unleashed a tsunami of sound that reverberated throughout the Sophie tent. Elevated over the top of this frenzied orchestration were supreme vocals from Chitral Somapala that cut through the music like a hot knife through butter. Reminiscent of Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) and ZP Theart (ex-Dragonforce), Chitral’s operatic tenor voice and passionate performance provided the icing on the cake (an extremely powerful cake) of a musically accomplished band.

Amaranthe – An unusual blend of three vocals – a male growler, a clean tenor and a mezzo / belter female – Amaranthe has a very unique sound. With thundering bass and melodic guitars providing a scaffolding for these three to climb to the stars, the mixture of vocals was novel. I was disappointed to say that the sound during this set was of less quality than previous performances (at one point the left speaker stack cut out completely) so at times it was difficult to differentiate between Elize (female vocals) and Jake’s (clean male) vocals. Animated interactions between the vocalists onstage made the band fun to watch as well as listen to – a strong performance from all involved.

Ronnie James Dio Stage

Named after the fallen legend, the RJD stage was the main stage in the arena, housing the very best of metal talent from all over the world.

Wolf – Classic metallers Wolf, hailing from Sweden, put in a solid performance that was full of fun and life. Niklas and Simon’s lead and backing vocals intertwined like ivy and the guitars and bass provided a thrumming support that was like a magnetic draw to headbang. The band draws clear influences from 70s and 80s metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest which could be heard in their galloping riffs and seen in their enthusiastic stage show.

Forbidden – Circle pits erupted almost instantly during Forbidden’s set as Matt Camacho’s gritty bass thundered. Craig Locicero and Steve Smyth provided sweeping, face-melting accompaniment on the guitars with brutal, in-your-face riffs. Forbidden is a band grounded firmly in American early 90s thrash –reminiscent of very early Metallica – and these guys have stuck to this overall feeling in their music. Russ Anderson’s vocals – almost a scream, almost a shout and almost sung – add to the aggressive and brutal tone, building a 45 minute wall of anger that swept over the cloud like a thunderstorm.

Triptykon – Arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Celtic Frost, Triptykon’s heavy, doom-laden sound slowed down the pace of the day and provided a welcome rest from the circle pits and frenzied pace from earlier. Tom Gabriel Warrior’s part whispered, part growled, part sung vocals created a sense of intimacy in an open field designed for 10,000 people – not an easy task! Slow, heavy guitars painted a backdrop of darkness for the anger-fuelled lyrics and created a sense of trepidation in the crowd. Solos drifted over the top like a murder of crows, hanging heavy in the air.

Coroner – With a slow, melodic, acoustic introduction, Coroner misled audience members unfamiliar with their work to believe that their set would be a laid back one – this was definitely not the case! Self described as ‘technical thrash metal’, Ron Broder (bass) and Tommy Vetterli (guitars) illustrated this expertly, alternately juxtaposing intricate melodies and layering complex, galloping riffs that ploughed forward like a steam train. Marky Edelmann’s drums drove the music forward while never drawing emphasis from the melody at hand. Ron’s vocals were strong, a gravelly tone – almost a scream – and they rested comfortably on top of the guitars.

Wasp – Enthusiastic crowd interactions from front man Blackie Lawless created a feeling of togetherness in the crowd. The band seemed genuinely pleased to play the festival and they involved the crowd by running competitions and even pulling a fan from the crowd to sing ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. Catchy songs and natural showmanship left the audience calling for more. Their choice of a ballad encore was unusual but finished off the day quite nicely, in a peaceful and happy ambience.

Tarot – Marco Hietala, of Nightwish fame, fronts this classic style metal band that were widely requested on the Bloodstock forums. Marco’s voice is incredibly unique – a gravelly baritone that often spirals into a higher, distorted tenor. Contrasted with Tommi Salmela’s classic rock style falsetto, the two men’s voices criss-crossed into a tapestry of pure energy. Zachary Hietala’s melodic guitar and Janne Tolsa’s keys similarly supported each other, alternating lead that floated above Marco’s metronome-like bass. Despite tripping over Tommi and one point and falling down backward onto the stage, Marco’s playing was solid and his frontmanship is second to none with humorous stories between songs and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd. The members are all clearly at ease and comfortable with each other, laughing their way through the set and genuinely enjoying each other’s company onstage, interacting effortlessly and occasionally poking fun at each other in a light-hearted way. Tarot appeared to really enjoy playing Bloodstock and the overwhelming sensation of happiness swept over the crowd, who eagerly chanted for them to return.

Finntroll – Black folk metallers Finntroll are repeatedly one of the most requested bands on the Bloodstock forum. With two keyboardists and three guitarists (‘Trollhorn’ doubles), intricately intertwining melodies rolled forth at the speed of light, evoking images of Middle Earth or of days long gone by. Catchy melodies flowed easily over heavy guitars and several pits erupted at once when they played their signature tune ‘Trollhammaren’ with several crowd members dancing Irish jig-style. Windmilling instrumentalists added to the spectacle and Vreth’s growling vocals fit easily into the mix, loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to distract from the melodies cascading from the keys and guitars. While it would have been nice to see the band in full regalia (fake troll ears and all), they put in an exciting and energetic show.

Ihsahn – Black / progressive metal, Ihsahn (from Emperor stock) provided – at times – screaming, blistering riffs that exploded off the stage, with aggressive, growling vocals and melodic keyboards. The machine gun-like staccato of the drums carried the melody forward in these tracks. Contrasting, slower songs carried a sense of trepidation, supported by the rasping black metal inspired vocals.

Wintersun – Hotly anticipated by fans who feared that the band would pull out of the festival, as they have in the past, Finnish folk metallers Wintersun did not disappoint. Switching between lightning-fast, syncopated, tremolo-picked, euphoric riffs that burst from the stage and slower, sweeter melodies that evoked a sense of peace and sorrow, Wintersun truly showed their range as musicians. Enthusiastic frontmanship accompanied a tight set. Jari Mäenpää’s vocals provided a rougher contrast to the smoothness of the music; his clear enunciation meant that his lyrics could be easily understood. Solid double kick drumming from Kai Hahto added to the frenetic feeling of the faster songs, while providing articulation and accompaniment to the slower tunes. The melody lines are infectious and memorable, providing a testimonial to the fans that their pleas for Wintersun’s appearance have not been in vain.

Therion – If Wagner had Marshalls, he would have written this. Combining the very best elements from classic opera and heavy metal, Therion is the most innovative band I saw throughout the weekend. Each song told a story, ably pantomimed and staged by four talented vocalists. Samples added to the orchestral, operatic feeling of the music, in addition to a melodic flute solo. The set started off slowly with ballads, and the band’s new mezzo soprano vocalist (Linnéa Vikström – Thomas Vikström’s daughter) was introduced. Lori Lewis’ coloratura soprano easily soared over the top of the other three vocalists, providing descants that spiralled into the stratosphere in a clear, piercing tone that would make Sarah Brightman jealous. As the band moved to heavier songs, the instrumentalists struck traditional metal poses, headbanging and interacting with each other, which juxtaposed effectively with the vocalists’ theatrical performances. The pent-up energy of the crowd exploded. The best way to describe this performance would be as a Gothic rainbow of energy and sound – eclectic, powerful and amazing.

Rhapsody of Fire – Possibly the most technically accomplished guitarist in the metal scene (if not the world), Luca Turilli’s fingers of flame did not disappoint the thronging crowd. With such an accomplished musician in a band, it can happen that other musicians become overshadowed – however, this was distinctly not the case! Patrice Guers’ jackhammer-like bass seemed glued with industrial strength adhesive to Alex Holzwarth’s drums, over which the guitars could leapfrog. Fabio Lione’s vocals were strong and clear, like golden laser beam shooting over the crowd. Christopher Lee’s voice provided a suitably epic introduction. The inclusion of the Italian language ballad ‘Lamento Erocio’, while a strange choice, was a fantastic performance, delivered with sentiment and intensity that brought a tear to the eye. Finishing strong with the frenetic, harmonised ‘Emerald Sword’, Rhapsody of Fire’s performance lifted the mood in the audience to euphoric levels and left them begging for more.

Hammerfall – With a slightly odd set list that left out a number of old classics (‘Renegade’ for one), Hammerfall, nevertheless, gave an enthusiastic performance with a number of songs that got the audience singing along, including the Quiet Riot cover ‘Bang Your Head’. Joacim Cans’ voice was on top form and his easy nature with the audience created a lively, fun atmosphere of celebration. Changing between slower, heavier songs (‘Last Man Standing) and technical, intricate songs that sped faster than a speeding bullet, Hammerfall clearly demonstrated their range as musicians. As they ended with the anthemic ‘Let the Hammer Fall’, the 45 minute set seemed far too short.

Motorhead – A statement released after Bloodstock explained that the three-piece hard rock band had been suffering from a virus which explains why their performance was not up to the standard expected by their fans. Firebreathing girls added some spectacle and guitarist Phil Campbell did his best to take over frontman duties, offering an extended guitar solo. Drummer Mikkey Dee had to leave the stage at one point but returned to perform a phenomenal drum solo from his perch high above the stage. Disappointingly, the band finished 20 minutes early after a somewhat lacklustre performance – while this was explained in retrospect on the Bloodstock forums, it would have been preferable to have that explanation on the night because, after the quality of music heard all weekend, the disappointing act of the final headliner left the festival on a bit of a down note. If there had been an official explanation before or just after Motorhead’s performance, the crowd would have been grateful to the band for making the effort to come on and play, despite less than ideal circumstances, rather than disappointed and annoyed.

Overall, Bloodstock this year was the best Bloodstock I have attended in terms of organisation, variety of bands and atmosphere. Well done to the organisers and roll on BOA 2012!

Melissa Adams

Powerwolf – Blood Of The Saints [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 16th August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Powerwolf
Album: Blood Of The Saints
Release year: 2011
Genre: Power Metal/Werewolf Metal 


Powerwolf, well known for their grim sounding music, are back with their latest album “Blood Of the Saints”. The band’s keyboardist Falk described the album as “100% Powerwolf” and stated it will take off from where “Bible Of The Beast” finished. The new album [Blood Of The Saints] was recorded in five different studios and a church and brings back the use of classical elements that were also found on the previous album.

”Angus Dei” [Latin for the Lamb of God] is the introductory track of the album. The choir and church bells create a very grim, dark and eerie sound and atmosphere. The narrated voiceover adds emphasis to the haunting sound, as do the organs that soon follow. The track ends somewhat terrifyingly when the voiceover grimly says “Blood Of The Saints”. “Sanctified With Dynamite” starts brilliantly with the combination of vocals, guitars, organs and drums. Shortly after, the track is soon more guitar and drums orientated, speeding up the pace of the song. The vocals mix a strong operatic sound with a raw, almost-thrash metal sound which is interesting – Though in some sections, the vocals are purely operatic. The organs add the dark sound to the music which Powerwolf are so famous. The drums mix well with the changing sounds in the song as well.

The grizzly titled “We Drink Your Blood” begins with an interesting keyboard medley that is soon enough replaced by a heavy, face-melting guitar section – Fortunate for those who may not like keyboard medleys. The vocals are still raw sounding with that touch of operatic sound, though much lower on this song – Which isn’t a bad thing. The chorus well composed, adding a grim touch to the lyrics. The organ sections help bring a touch of Victorian-styled horror to the song and the drums are precise to the beat. The choir style vocals help the song sound extra Gothic.

“Murder At Midnight” seems like a name for a cheesy 1950s horror movie but the track is far from cheesy. Beginning with a slow, atmospheric guitar riff, the vocals creep in softly, painting the musical canvas with brilliant lyrics. After the first vocal section, the song picks up the pace and becomes heavier as well. Musically, the song seems a tad cheery for what a Powerwolf track though the vocals assure the listener that it is still Powerwolf that they’re listening to. The organs add a gloomy touch to the song when they’re played. Some of the riffs are pretty melodic, adding a brilliant sound to the song. The guitar solo virtually completes the song. The use of a wolf’s howl after the solo is a great effect for the song. The next track, “All We Need Is Blood”, begins with strong, low-sounding operatic vocals, choirs and organs. The guitars and drums, fortunately, follow straight after bringing an assault of metal of with them. Lyrics that are heard in the song such as “All we need is blood” makes the song sound like a vampire metal anthem, though any fan of Powerwolf will know there’s another story within the lyrics. “All We Need Is Blood” is certainly one of the best songs on the album, both lyrically and musically, as it changes sounds several times, making it a worthy power metal anthem!

”Dead Boys Don’t Cry” has a haunting introduction made up of primarily organs and vocals with a slight use of guitars. When the guitars begin to dominate the track, the temp increases massively. The vocals are more raw and aggressive than they have been. Even the music seems to have more bite to it. “Son Of A Wolf” brings back the use of melodic riffs with a raw edge. The vocals and organs add a very grim atmosphere and sound to the song. The guitars and drums are well played and the guitar solo is amazing. “Night Of The Werewolves” starts with a soft, palm-muted intro which is slightly drowned out by the organs and vocals. The power metal sound comes belting out of the speakers straight after however, favouring aggression and speed over melody it seems. The vocals mix their raw sound with an operatic sound once more. The riffs sound violent and bloodthirsty and the drums despite being precise, have a hint of barbaric aggressiveness to them. The vocal melodies in the chorus are hypnotic and catchy. The raw sounding narration, spoken in Latin, adds a very unique sound to the song.

”The Phantom Of Funeral” begins with choirs and organs, giving it a very dramatic feel. The vocals are, again, raw and angsty. The guitars don’t have much punch to them on this track in some sections. The vocal are extremely impressive throughout this track and the drums are masterfully played. “Die, Die, Crucified” begins with a very catchy riff which stays in the listener’s head for hours on end. The vocals are back to sounding more operatic. The use of melodic riffs make their return to this track as well for the chorus. The vocals are very majestic sounding, which is strange for Powerwolf but works awesomely at the same time.

The album finishes with “Ira Sancti (When The Saints Go Wild)”. The intro organ section sounds eerily similar to the keyboard riffs of “Nymphetamine” by Cradle Of Filth. The vocals blend well with the organ section before the guitars and drums kick in. The organ and vocals carry on doing their part even when the chaos of guitars and drums break in. The track is mostly dominated by organs and vocals, though the other instruments do appear in various sections. “Ira Sancti (When The Saints Go Wild)” brings a very mystical end to the album.

”Blood Of The Saints” is an interesting album from the Teutonic-Romanian metallers that are “Powerwolf”. They have outdone themselves with the mixture of metal, choirs and classical elements. While some tracks are fairly mellow, the others have plenty of bite, so there’s plenty for everyone on this album – even if you’re not a fan of Powerwolf’s unique form of power metal, this album is worth every penny and would make a great addition to your album collection.

4.5/5

Nico Davidson

The Obscene – The Torment Of Sinners [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 30th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: The Obscene
Album: The Torment Of Sinners EP
Release year: 2011
Genre: Old School Death Metal

The United Kingdom underground metal scene is home to many great extreme (death & black) metal bands such as Hecate Enthroned and Venom. However, they’re not the only bands that have they’re home in the British underground. The Obscene, who keep death metal old school, are another band on the rise in the underground and their recent EP “The Torment Of Sinners” is just another step to the top for them.

”The Storm To Come”, aptly named, is the introduction to the EP. The use of sound effects throughout it, until the guitars and drum appear, leaves the listener on the edge of their seats – In a similar fashion to an extremely terrifying horror film. The guitars and drums are certainly old school in their composition. “The Storm To Come” finishes with what sounds to be the mutilated scream of a woman being stabbed, which introduces the second track “Embrace Oblivion”. The terrifying and violent concoction of vocals, guitars and drums greets the listener brutally at the beginning. The guitars are raw and just bursting with energy and the drum work is precise to the beat, brutal and intelligent.

”Grim Discovery” is composed of a voiceover which is a man speaking of bashing in a woman’s head – Can’t get any more violent than that unless you add in some raw, untamed death metal riffage which is exactly what The Obscene do, adding to the aggression and shock-value of the track. Beginning in a similar fashion to “Embrace Oblivion” is the slow yet heavy track entitled “Beyond The Hold Of God”. Some of the guitar sections seem to be choppy and lacking consistency though the listener can certainly feel the anger of the music – Which is a great thing for the hardcore fans of death metal. The drums are most impressive, more impressive the beast-like vocals.

”Skiprat Jane” begins with a voiceover of a female asking to borrow a body. The guitar riff that follows is just savage whilst the drums are on the verge of being Wall of China falling on a skull heavy! The vocals are pretty much bloodthirsty and hateful. Incorrectly named, “The Final Silence” comes shredding next – Bringing blissful death metal styled loudness with it. The scream, before the growls, sounds a tad like the ones found on a Venom record. The riffs are ingenious, mixing well with the hard-bitten drums, which sound to be doing a lot of the work in some sections. The vocals have a more beasty and demonic sound as well.

The last five tracks of the EP are bonus tracks, which can be found on the “Destroying the Heavens” EP from when the band went under a different name. The first of these bonus tracks is “P. S. A. S”. The guitars and drums certainly sound raw and unrefined, a good trait indeed. The vocals, on the other hand, sound more akin to black metal as opposed to death metal. The softer and clean section is certainly not what the listener would expect to find on this track – Fortunately it doesn’t last long before the track turns heavy again. “Destroying The Heavens” begins slow and clean, disappointingly. Though the blood-curdling scream signals for a change in weight and tempo for the track. The riffs and drums are barbaric and the vocals sound feral.

“The Man, The Martyr” brings the anger and savagery straight from the beginning. The music seems more fiery and rage-fuelled and the vocals are frenzied, much like a berserker. “Circle Of Despair” is different sounding as it seems to be more classic rock orientated, rather than death metal – though the vocals do keep a certain death metal dynamic to the track. The EP finishes with “And The Rivers Ran Black”, a track whose intro sounds slightly Gorgoroth inspired. The vocals are still raw and feral, whilst the music is savage, barbaric and bloodthirsty – A true death metal combination. You really couldn’t ask for a better track to finish the EP with.

”The Torment Of Sinners” might sound like a line out of the bible but the EP is far from biblical. The riffs and drum work would have Satan himself leaving a brown streak in his boxers and the vocals would give any demon a run for their money. Production wise, the songs are raw and aggressive – Perfect for the old school style of The Obscene. Despite the clean and slow guitar sections, “The Torment Of Sinners” is an interesting and entertaining EP, that’s not just for Hallowe’en, a jewel in Britain’s underground metal scene.

4/5

Nico Davidson

Drygva – The Son Of The Mighty Rod [2010]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 29th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Drygva
Album: The Son Of The Mighty Rod
Release year: 2010
Genre: Folk Metal/Pagan Metal/Slavic Metal

Drygva, a two-piece folk metal band from Belarus whom are extremely proud of their ancestral roots and heritage, bring something new to folk metal, a genre that seems to focus on Vikings and drinking. Their debut album, “The Son Of The Mighty Rod”, has been described as being able to take the listener back to age-old times of the pre-Christian Slavic peoples.

“The Prophesy” is the first track of the album, though it is more of a prelude than an actual track, being composed of the sound of horses, wind, acoustic guitars and other folk instrumentation, alongside narration in the band’s native tongue. “Path of Volkhves” calmly follows next with a flute medley introduction. The track turns savage with the introduction of the vocals. The guitars and drums are beefy and violent, whilst the lyrics, growled in Drygva’s native tongue, add a very folk element to the song. The flute and and string medleys add a harmonious yet dramatic atmosphere. The song, unexpectedly, finishes serenely.

The third song, “Mother of Enhydris” begins with a slow, melodic and wild intro, which sounds more tame when the flutes come in. Everything in the song seems to blend perfectly well from the masterfully composed flute sections to the savage yet intelligent guitar and drum work. The vocals sound raw and feral, adding to the mastery of the track. The tribal-like instrumental break half way through the track is different but brilliant and it works oddly well with the guitars before they fully take over the track again. “Son Of Mighty Rod” starts with a strange sounding guitar-flute intro. Some of the guitar sections lack consistency and don’t work too well with the other instruments in parts. The vocals are still impressive, as are the flutes. “Son Of Mighty Rod” is, at best, an average track with room for improvement in terms of the guitars.

The first interlude-styled track of the album is next in the form of “The Watchword”. The track features more narration in the band’s native tongue as well as tribal drum work and some guitar work, though the flute medleys pretty much are the best thing about “The Watchword”. “Under The Banner Of Perun” blasts its way next with a beastly drum section and face-melting guitar riffs. The folk instrumentation adds a very mythic sound to the song, keeping the grand and majestic sound of the album flowing. The carnal vocals keep the track brutal sounding as well. If there was one song that perfectly defines the sound of “Drygva”, then “Under The Banner Of Perun” is certainly is that song!

Nearing towards the end of the album is “Sigh Of War”. The flute medley that begins it is very serene and soothing whilst the guitar riff that follows is feral and ferocious. The drum work is acute, heavy and barbaric and the vocals are aggressive. Some of the flute medleys sound similar to the ones found earlier in the album, which is disappointing. The guitar solo is a genius addition to the track. The second and final interlude of the album comes next. “Thunderstorm” seems wrongly named at first due to the calm music that echoes throughout it, mixed with the whispered narration. However, a strong and powerful guitar riff follows, mixed with drums, folk instruments and the roaring sound of thunder.

”If You Shall Die In Battle” begins with the sound of men screaming in battle and the roaring sound of a melodic riff. The drum are thunderous and savage, whilst the flute sections are intelligently played. The song seems to get more fast-paced and violent as it goes on. The vocals are still strong, feral and bloodthirsty. The sound samples of men fighting in armed combat mix in well with the theme of the song, though it does give it a slight Viking Metal feel. The album finishes with “Festal Song”, a more folk orientated song sounding a little bit like the old song “Greensleeves”. The mighty sound of metal does make itself heard on this track – Fortunately enough for those who can’t stand folk music on its own. The vocals don’t seem as impressive on this track however and some of the riffs seem choppy.

As a debut album, “The Son Of The Mighty Rod” is not extremely impressive but it is better than average. Their blend of folk music and metal is certainly unique sounding and the use of lyrics in their native tongue gives the album a very folkish feel. There are some sections that need working upon and the of interludes throughout the album did take away from its musical impact but Drygva do certainly show a great deal of talent and hopefully they will be releasing more albums in the near future.

3.5/5

Nico Davidson

Broken Mirrors – Strong Enough [2010]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , on 27th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Broken Mirrors
Album: Strong Enough
Release year: 2010
Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Thrash Metal

Broken Mirrors, whom formed back in 2007, are apart of the unsung French metal scene. Combining melodic death metal with thrash metal, the band have been on a roll since forming, despite line-up changes. 2010 saw the release of their EP “Strong Enough”, which features two original tracks that are due to appear on their next full-length album and two punk covers.

The first track of the EP is the title track “Strong Enough”. The intro is completely synth orientated until the sound of eerie, melodic guitars with soft drums, which isn’t the kind of intro that is expected – Already ruining the atmosphere and EP. The track, luckily, does become heavier though staying slow-paced with the synth section reappearing which sounds like something heard on a Zelda game. The tempo does increase a fair bit later in the track though the song does keep switching between synth medleys and guitar riffs, which takes some getting used to. The vocals sound to be leaning more towards a black metal or metalcore effect as opposed to a death metal style. The guitar solo is mediocre though does show potential for the track to improve though the synth solo that follows doesn’t give the track much justice. Already, the EP is off to a, at most, mediocre start.

”Holding The Trigger” is melodic and average paced to begin with though brilliantly composed and beasty. The vocals have more bite to them and the synth sections do well to bring a different sound to the song. The drums are beefy and heavy. “Holding The Trigger” feels and sounds so much more aggressive, the way a thrash/death metal track should be. The voice overs in the middle with the sci-fi sounding synth add a very unique sound to the EP as well. The listener can certainly hear the death metal and thrash influences and elements on this track. The guitar solo is melodic and gentle yet like a raging lion at the same time. “Holding The Trigger” is certainly an improvement.

The last two songs on the EP are the previously mentioned punk covers. The first of these covers is “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, originally performed by The Offspring. It contains an old-skool punk feel to it yet bringing in a modern, beck-breaking metal sound, brilliantly mixing old and new together. The vocals are raw and full of angst, pretty much dominating the track. Broken Mirrors have certainly made this one sound like one of their own songs. The second cover and last song on the EP is “Anarchy In The UK” – A song originally performed by the infamous punk pioneers known as Sex Pistols. The synth parts don’t seem to fit in well with the other instruments. The vocals have a very punk touch to them, which would make the occasional listener to metal mistake this song for a punk version of the cover. The guitars have a lot of bite to them, whilst the drums just seem typically punk.

Despite the mediocre beginning and some dodgy synth riffs, “Strong Enough” is a decent release and a good example of what can be expected of the French metal scene. Broken Mirrors do show quite a bit of potential to be well-known on the international metal scene, they just need to work on the synth sections mainly.

3.5/5

Nico Davidson

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