Archive for May, 2015

Ugly Noises in Glasgow – Flotsam & Jetsam interview

Posted in Interview with tags , , , on 31st May 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Flotsam & Jetsam - Live at Stereo, Glasgow, UK 20/05/2015

On May 20th, 2015, a crew of die-hard, Scottish thrashers headed out to stereo to do something many thought they would never do on home soil: witness a live performance by Arizonan metal lifers Flotsam And Jetsam. I was barely in school the last time they played up here, and casting a glance around the motley assemblage in attendance, it seems a pretty safe bet that the same applies to most of them. Needless to say, there’s a fair old buzz in the air.

Currently touring Europe in continuing support of 2012’s Ugly Noise album – their 11th over four decades – they have already taken on Greece and are now getting ready to tear Glasgow a new one, on the third date of three UK shows. Vocalist and founding member Eric ‘AK’ Knutson spills forth about how the road has been treating them and the future of F&J. With two countries under their belt, what’s the story so far?

Eric: I’m just out here, pushing away at it. So far it’s really good, y’know, we did four shows in Greece – the people are crazy. It’s constant, the minute the intro tape starts, the stage diving started, and they didn’t stop until we were out of the building. So, the Greek people are crazy, but promoters suck, and venues suck… They ripped us off some money, same old story. England’s been really great so far. Of course we haven’t played here in 30 years. Bloodstock was the last time we played, but before that, it was 1987 or something when we played.

In truth, F&J really seem to be putting in the effort to get around and see people in places they haven’t been for a while. What spurred them to put that into high gear?

Eric: I had a completely different line-up as the band, and it really wasn’t going anywhere. We were out here kind of getting a free vacation, but we weren’t really pushing the band, you know, we were just out here messing around. So, I decided to get some the original members back together and actually make a serious stab at it, bringing the band back to the public.

Right enough, when you’re talking about recorded input, when they did Ugly Noise it was with the exact same line-up which recorded Cuatro, Drift and High, re-united. Comparing the slightly ‘prog’ leanings of both Drift and Ugly Noise, one has to wonder if that was a conscious attempt to recapture that sound.

Eric: Not necessarily that, the sound of those records, but at least the writing style of that line-up. Mike Gilbert, you know, I’ve always loved his song-writing. This new record we’re working on right now is going to be really crazy, because we’ve got a bunch of different song writers on it.

Eric AK Knutson

It’s no big surprise that F&J are writing and planning a new long player while out on the road; they’ve followed a consistent release regimen throughout their entire career, unleashing a new album every few years. What they would like to do in the future may just, however, raise a few eyebrows, and get some juices flowing.

Eric: We’re going to try one every year from now on. We’re going to try to. It is hard work, but studio work is what we love doing more than anything, second to touring, and it doesn’t bother us to put one, two albums out a year, if we could.

As Eric mentions, there is quite a variety of contributors for this next platter, including bassist Michael Spencer, previously with F&J just before the creating the classic No Place For Disgrace.

Eric: It has an influence on the writing. He’s written some songs for the new record, we took some songs that he wrote for ‘No Place…’, that didn’t make it to the record, and we’re revamping those and putting them on the new record, so, yeah, it definitely has different influence, a little more old-school influence for us to have Michael Spencer back.

Going in the other direction, they’ve drafted the drum skills of Shadows Fall’s Jason Pittman, the replace other founding member, Kelly Smith, due to family priorities in his life.

Eric: It’s definitely making our songs a little more energetic. We have places where Kelly would have done, y’know, a single kick type of background, he’s doing four times that on the kick drum, so it’s definitely given us a lot more energy.

And as for the title for this monsterpiece?

Eric: We’re battling with that really hard right now. There are some songs which sound like they should have been on No Place, there’s some songs that sound like they should have been on Drift, there’s some songs that sound like they should have been on Ugly Noise. When you put all those together, we’re really battling as to what to call it, what direction the title should go.

Unlike Dreams Of Death, which had a pretty solid reason for the album title.

Eric: Yes, and every song on that record is basically part of one big story. That one was really easy to name. I’ve always written about stuff that’s ‘death and gore in your sleep’, types of stuff. When I was younger I had a lot of nightmares, for who knows what reasons, now they’re coming back up in lyrics. Which is a good thing I think.

From a band which has been on the go for over thirty years, it is really quite refreshing to see such enthusiasm and motivation; increased touring schedules and multiple, rapid-fire releases on the cards seem more likely for those at the beginning of their career, with the fire of youth behind them.

However, time served is quite the commodity these days, and the passion of fans, both old and new, for classic listening material, seems something that F&J are aware of, and could be the very fuel in the machine which keeps it powering along.

Eric: The way I look at it, we have three different eras of Flotsam. The first three records, the next three after that, and then the last few that we’ve done, are different eras of music I think, and this next record’s going to have all of that on it. I think it’s going to please every phase of Flotsam fan that there is. Yeah, we might end up just self-titling it, I’m not sure…

Interview by Paul Macmillan.

Mefitic – Woes of Mortal Devotion

Posted in CD, Metal with tags on 31st May 2015 by izaforestspirit

Woes of Mortal Devotion
Released 15th June 2015
Death Metal
Released via Nuclear War Now! Productions

‘Woes of Mortal Devotion’ is the debut album from the Italian death metal band Mefitic. The band was formed back in 2004 and has released a few demos along with one limited edition EP. Oddly enough I recently visited the band’s home town of Bergamo – a beautiful place and probably not the first location that comes to mind when you hear the term “death metal”. So before I start sounding like a holiday advert for Bergamo, here’s what I thought of Mefitic’s album:

After a rather slow intro, ‘Grievous Subsidence‘ blasts its way through the speakers with a wall of brutal riffs, powerful drums and the standard guttural growling typically associated with the genre. What’s not so typical is the ponderous “buzzing”sound that the guitar makes towards the end, prolonging the song rather unnecessarily. The speed of the music  varies from fast to mid-paced, making it more akin to the blackened death metal style of bands like Archgoat and mid-career Behemoth than old school death metal.

Noxious Epiclesis‘ is a good example of the faster, blackened death metal variety while other tracks such as ‘The Tomb of Amaleq‘ remind me of established brutal death metal bands like Nile. Then there’s ‘Pain‘ which features some very brief, thrash metal style guitar riffs half way through the track. Yet that part is so short it’s easy to miss.

Overall, the main problem that I have with this album is that a lot of the songs sound similar. In many cases you can barely tell where one song ends and a new one begins. As far as death metal or blackened death metal goes it’s nothing ground-breaking, I’ve heard better but I’ve also heard a lot worse.


Iza Raittila

Lancer – Second Storm

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 25th May 2015 by mickbirchy

Second Storm
Power/Speed metal

Release Date: 10 April 2015
Via Despotz Records

LANCER bring us something enjoyable and exciting with this new record ”Second Storm”.  Following in the footsteps of other Swedish giants such as Hammerfall and Sabaton, Lancer have made something that I have found to be captivating and fun.  With the same imagination that made the original metal sounds great, “Second Storm” is full of great riffs and fantastic melodies with influence taken from Iron Maiden and Helloween.  So before I go into any great detail let this be the underlying statement of this review. I love this record.

The album opens up  nicely with tunes like “Running From The Tyrant”, “Masters and Crowns”,  which are really catchy and fun tunes and outline what I love about this album.  It’s just fun. The riffs are fun, solos are fun and the tone is fun. It’s that old school sound that I’m partial to and I’m sure many other metal fans are too. The guitar work is great, with solos that make you want to air guitar the night away and riffs that make you want to headbang. I have a feeling that the band just wanted to make something that would fit in those early days of metal, with lyrics about tyrants, revolt and rebellion. Needless to say that it should keep old-school metal fans satisfied.

The next tune I feel is worth highlighting is “Aton”, a monster of a tune with a solid based riff and one killer solo. I think this maybe my favourite song on the record, with its twists and turns from being heavy and well balanced, to being wild and energised in the solo and, suddenly, moving to this smooth and mellow part like a ballad.  To say the least, it goes all over the place, but I feel this tune shows of the ability of the band. It just mixes all their best elements into one big tune. It really is amazing.

Another good point worth mentioning is the production quality. It’s pretty damn good, I mean it’s well balanced and fun to listen to.  I mean they could have made this guitar centric, which it sort of is, but it keeps everything together in one package.  The vocals are well defined and the bass lines are beautiful, all this framed by the great drum work.  Loving this sound so much.

In summary, I absolutely love this album. It feels like the sort of music I grew up with. If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, or, you know, heavy metal – get this album, you will not be sorry.


Mick Birchall

Arch Enemy w/ support – Porto, Portugal

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , , on 24th May 2015 by Pieni

Drone, Unearth, Arch Enemy
Hard Club, Porto (PT)
22nd May 2015
Promoted by Prime Artists

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Last time Arch Enemy played in Portugal, Angela Gossow and Nick Cordle were still in the band. So more than a concert by a great band promoting their latest album, this was also a welcome party to the amazing Alissa White-Gluz and the legendary Jeff Loomis. Oh, and double birthday party, since it was the b-day of Daniel Erlandsson and someone in their crew who I didn’t get the name of (sorry!).

 photo _DSC0089_zpsb9uzq3ud.jpgGerman post-thrashers Drone were the first ones on stage, bringing to life the expression “warm-up act”. The venue was far from full yet, but the response they got from the crowd made it sound like the almost sold out gig it later turned out to be. Singer/guitarist Mutz asked for a big mosh pit in “Welcome to the Pit”, as if to illustrate its title. Even being one of the early songs, when usually people are still “getting in the mood”, the crowd circled viciously.

During the following song (“Format C”, I think), both Mutz’s mic and guitar went mute. But the rest of the band didn’t hesitate in continuing, as well as the crowd, who started screaming loud heys to compensate the la ck of vocals. Bassist Fabian and guitarist Marcelo couldn’t stop smiling, and neither could I, happy to see how a technical problem was so easily turned around. But I guess metalheads know how to show their support when a band is delivering a great show. “Theopractical”, from their 2007 debut “Head-On Collision”, closed their half-hour set with a golden key. (5/5)

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 photo _DSC0353 copy_zpscdwtfovg.jpgA big part of the crowd had high expectations regarding Unearth and those expectations were totally met. And the Massachusetts metalcore band also seemed very pleased with the Portuguese – I couldn’t see Trevor Phipps’ face when he said how amazing both Porto and Lisbon (in the previous night) were, as the lights were extremely dim (alternated with blinding strobes) during their show, but one could sense the honesty in his words.

Officially promoting their latest “Watchers of Rule”, they didn’t focus entirely on it, performing a quite diverse setlist. But whether it was an oldie or a new song, they all fueled the crowd’s fire. In the last song, “The Great Dividers”, Trevor himself crowdsurfed over the thrilled audience. (5/5)

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Despite all the craziness shown during both supporting acts, there was still a lot more in store for the headliners – the security guys had their hands even fuller now. I know the opinions divided when “War Eternal” came out, not just regarding the change in vocals but also the non-change in songwriting, but I doubt anyone can point a finger when it comes to live shows. At least this one in Porto was flawless. Well, okay, Alissa could have picked up the band’s flag in front of the audience during “We Will Rise”, in a victorious pose, mimicking the video, but let’s not be picky.

 photo _DSC0588 copy_zpsgzy2bika.jpgOf course Alissa isn’t Angela. Why should she be? She has a totally defined identity that actually suits Arch Enemy – it would be senseless to lose that and become a shallow rip-off of her predecessor. Listening to old songs such “Ravenous” with this new energy was surprisingly refreshing. Angela had a dominant posture and a powerful growl, and Alissa has a vibrant attitude and a vocal pitch somewhat higher – it’s not better or worse, just different. And it works damn well live.

She also made us scream along the choruses all the time, and incited to mosh circles, and, of course, asked to sing “happy birthday” to Daniel. And this time, it wasn’t just Michael Amott who shone in “Snow Bound”Jeff Loomis delighted all the guitar-freaks in the house. And always in those uniforms of theirs, despite the sauna-heat felt in the venue.

“Fields of Desolation” finished the set, but the show was only over after the trendy selfie, with the band holding a Portugal flag that a fan offered them. Sweet! (5/5)

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Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Exorcism – World In Sin

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , on 24th May 2015 by izaforestspirit

World in Sin
Released 1st June 2015
Heavy Metal
Released via Dream Records

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‘World In Sin’ is the new EP from the Swiss heavy metal artist Csaba Zvekan a.k.a. Exorcism.The CD version of this will be a limited edition with only 666 copies available exclusively from the band’s website. Although the band is primarily a solo project of Zvekan’s, this EP and Exorcism’s debut album ‘I am God’ were recorded with the aid of various Total Master Sound studio musicians including Joe Stump and Lucio Manca (Dominici). His work has been compared to the likes of Black Sabbath and Dio.

First up is the is the title track and it seems that the Dio comparisons were spot on because Dio was first thing that came to my mind when I heard the vocals. Zvekan’s singing style is very similar but the music is faster and more aggressive. Certain tracks such as Virtual Freedom contain a tinge of thrash metal in the guitar riffs and remind me a little of early works of Megadeth. Then there is Sahara, which starts off with some slow groovy, doom metal bass guitar riffs and gradually speeds up with some catchy guitar solos towards the end.

The final track, Black Star – a ballad which is by far the most complex song on here featuring Zvekan’s powerful, story-telling vocals along with some skillful guitar work. It basically wraps up the EP in an effective way.

Overall I think that fans of Dio and Black Sabbath will enjoy this EP. Though clearly influenced by these two bands, Exorcism doesn’t just copy their style but adds a modern twist to the heavy metal genre.


Iza Raittila

Chapters – The Imperial Skies

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 24th May 2015 by mickbirchy

“The Imperial Skies”
Progressive Metal

Released on 14th October 2013
Self Released

The Imperial Skies is brought to us by an awesome young British band called Chapters. Formed by Joe Nally and Angus Neyra of Hang The Bastard, I was already expecting top quality, as they are one of my favourite British bands that are going.  Yet, this is a far departure from the sound of HTB.  This is more of a tech/prog metal sound mixed with elements of hardcore.  It’s one of the more unique listening experiences I’ve had.

Straight from the get go, the album shows of the skill and sheer talent of the band.  The guitar skill is excellent with mind blowing licks, skill riffs and fun melodies.  The bass line are thick and compliment the songs melodies and harmonies beautifully.  The harsh tones are great, providing intensity and energy into the record.  The production of the record is awesome and mixed well. Not one element feels like it’s taking precedence over the others and it comes together really well.  Musically this album is all over the place, you can hear influence from all corners of the metal and rock globe.  In that sense this is a musicians band, as the more you understand about music the more enjoyable this album becomes. Not to say you can’t enjoy it if you’re not a musician, but it definitely helps.

As I’ve said, the album ranges but keeps within the theme of tech/prog metal. However, the hardcore elements of this record are fantastic; being a long time fan of the genre, I identified with these elements. They just have a real bite to them. It keeps you interested as a listener whilst the the more tech/prog elements take you on a journey through the songs.  I usually look for riffs on heavy albums but there aren’t any to speak of here. Yet, there are some cool riffy moments that certainly captured my imagination.

Songs I’ll recommend to you from this record are the title track “The Imperial Skies” (this one has a load of transitions and feels like the track that takes the most risks and shows off the band’s style) and “The Siren” (which is a fantastic tune with a load a heavy nail biting moments).

Overall, yeah, this is a solid record, you guys need to listen to it.  Really fun, heavy, interesting band.


Mick Birchall

Melechesh & Keep Of Kalessin w/ support – Porto, Portugal

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , on 23rd May 2015 by Pieni

Embryo, Tribulation, Keep Of Kalessin, Melechesh
Hard Club, Porto (PT)
16th May 2015
Promoted by SWR Inc.

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Even if a co-headlining tour of Melechesh and Keep Of Kalessin sounded pretty good – and it was, oh how it was! – it’s probably a stretch to say the venue was half-full. It wasn’t lack of promotion or even lack of fans, as both bands have a somewhat solid fan-base around here. There’s just been a fair share of gigs, and Summer festivals are around the corner, and Portugal’s economic situation is far from great – people must make tough choices.

 photo _DSC0048 copy_zpsewygqo4h.jpgThey brought along two support acts, the first on stage being Italian Embryo. They add some synths to their death metal, but I’m not sure if “melodic death metal” is the most accurate to describe their sound. Whatever the label, they did good – even if the aforementioned small crowd was even smaller at the early hour they played at. On the other hand, the few people there gave a great response to Embryo’s performance, making them feel welcome, which always help with a band’s confidence.
They have recently (February) released their third and self-titled album, five years after the previous “No God Slave”. Apart from the title-track of the latter, the setlist was, understandably, comprised of songs from “Embryo”. (4/5)

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 photo _DSC0421 copy_zpsevyssxt7.jpgNow Tribulation, that was the undoubtful surprise of the night! I had heard of them recently – they’re featured in last month’s Sweden Rock Magazine – but it didn’t compel me to listen to their music; their image screamed black metal and I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the genre. Kids, never judge a book by its cover nor a band by its looks. Yes, their sound is rooted in black metal, but they add so many metal & rock elements to it, and play it live with such passion that they will enthrall even those who aren’t big on black metal (like me).
Like Embryo, Tribulation were promoting their latest third album, “The Children Of The Night”, which seems to be getting a quite good acclaim. I still didn’t listen to it, but I can totally vouch for the excellence of their shows. (5/5)

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 photo _DSC0648_zpsotiwuyi7.jpgIt had been a while since Keep Of Kalessin last visited our country (also with Melechesh, funny thing). In those four years, mastermind Obsidian Claw took the role of lead singer, and even though I liked Thebon, this 3-piece line-up suits the band. Plus, with Wizziac doing the many backing vocals that once were done by Obsidian, he’s forced to headbang less and you can finally get clean shots of the face behind that immensely long hair… Seriously, Obsidian has a great voice and having to play guitar at the same time didn’t jeopardize his wielding stage presence. In fact, it strengthen it – during the instrumental parts, he and Wizziac move around, trade places, occasionally play together, and then as if they’re battling each other… Yeah, this works better for Keep Of Kalessin.
And if there’s been mixed feelings among the fans regarding their latest “Epistemology” album, mainly complaining about how their “epic extreme metal” is not so extreme after all, the truth is that it’s a killer when played live.
I believe it was during “The Divine Land” that Obsidian’s guitar broke a string, leaving up to the other two members to finish the song on their own. As the problem wasn’t solved yet (Obsidian explained something about different tunes, which was kind of senseless to me and everyone else who doesn’t play guitar), Vyl got to entertain us with a drum solo. When the guitar was ready, Keep Of Kalessin finished their set with “Ascendant”. (5/5)

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 photo _DSC0984_zps5znqmdrw.jpgAnd then came Melechesh, living up to the “fire” part of their name. Ashmedi was happy to be back in Porto, and since they’d be heading to Lisbon only at 8 am the next day, he was planning on partying all night, inviting the fans to join him. One thing he wasn’t so happy about, in fact he stated several times how much he hated it, was having to tune his guitar all the time. Funny guy.
At that other gig I’ve already told you about, with Keep Of Kalessin, back in 2011, I remember guitarist Moloch getting on stage with a black kerchief around his head and keeping it for a handful of songs until the heat forced him to remove it. This time, both his “Nomadic Soul” replacement and bassist Scorpios got on stage with that desert garment, but didn’t keep it past the first song “The Pendulum Speaks”. Shame, but totally understandable.
Between the songs of the recent “Enki” and classics such as “Genies, Sorcerers and Mesopotamian Nights”, “Triangular Tattvic Fire” and “Ghouls of Nineveh” – a song to which Ashmedi referred with a bit of sadness, as Nineveh was an ancient Mesopotamian city destroyed in a civil war – it was clear that Melechesh was the most awaited band of the night. And that’s why we were sad ourselves when their gig was over, after just one hour. Apart from that, it was perfect. (5/5)

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Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino