Archive for January, 2020

Battering Ram – Battering Ram

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 26th January 2020 by mickbirchy

Battering Ram
Battering Ram
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Released: 24 January 2020
 Self Released

It’s always fun when a band immediately catches your attention. The Swedish rockers, Battering Ram have been building some momentum since 2017 and now are ready to strike with their debut self-titled album. The band consists of Johan Hallström on vocals, Jonas Edmark on guitar, Tony Trust on drums and Jocke Ståhl on bass. I have been really enjoying listening to this album, it gives me vibes of early 90’s hard rock or early 2000’s riff-rock. I think their sound is heavy enough to get the purist-headbangers listening but broad sounding enough that they could reach a much larger audience of casual rock listeners.

The tight delivery and commanding energy hits hard with well crafted and memorable riffs. Jonas on vocals gives a great performance and sings with passion as the instruments really support him. The electrifying guitar solos and the great rhythm work are a simple joy to listen to. They’re not reinventing the wheel, a lot of what their doing is pretty standard fare for hard rock. Yet, their music just gets you pumped in the right way with booming bass and drums, well-performed melodies and well-executed harmonies. The best thing about their music is its simplicity. Standard song-writing structures, a focus on big hooks and keeping the whole record feeling well-paced. It kept my attention all the way through and never had any real down moments.

There isn’t much more to really say about this record. It’s good and I think that Battering Ram would make a great addition to any gig or festival lineup. These are songs that will get a crowd moving and singing. Songs like “Chase The Fire”, “Stronger Forever” and “Scared For My Life” are definite hits in my eyes. Their focus on tight musicianship and a bold sound suit them well. They are able to craft some big sounds with great writing. They have a great sense of groove and rhythm that makes then very enjoyable to listen to. It’s the kind of band you see on a Friday night with a beer in hand and headbang all the way through their set. Great album and I look forward to more from them.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Apocalyptica – Cell-0

Posted in CD, Instrumental, Metal, Rock with tags , , on 22nd January 2020 by izaforestspirit

Apocalytica
Cell-0
Released 10th January 2020
Neoclassical Metal/Symphonic Heavy Metal/Instrumental
Released via Silver Lining Music
Apocalyptica - Cell-0

Apocalyptica don’t need much of an introduction. There are very few bands who have achieved what these guys have – bridging the gap between classical music and heavy metal with their unique mixture of the two styles. I’ve been following their career from the very start, the humble beginnings when the quartet played cello covers of Metallica classics. There has been some line-up changes, a few collaborations with guest rock and metal vocalists… But the real surprise came in 2015 when an American singer called Franky Perez joined the ranks for the album ‘Shadowmaker’. In many ways the ‘Shadowmaker’, however good it might be, seems like the odd one out in Apocalyptica’s discography – like an experiment that worked though it may never be repeated. With the exception of a handful of successful collaborations with guest singers, the band’s best work is predominantly instrumental. This brings me to their latest effort- ‘Cell-0’, an instrumental album with the old line-up sans Franky Perez.

And we’re off to a good start with Ashes of The Modern World, delivering everything that I was hoping hear from the Finnish quartet. It’s a beautiful song with lots of variety in terms of style and pace. It starts off slow with a sombre sounding melody, then picks up the pace half way through the track. As soon as the drums kick in the music takes on a more aggressive, “heavy metal” sound, with the cellos crushing through at full speed. Then they mellow things down again towards the end. I also really liked Fire & Ice. True to its title, it comprises two contrasting styles: the melodic part with mostly cellos and a keyboard at the forefront and the more aggressive part with faster paced cello and drums. So the latter was the fire I guess… Then it’s back to the “icy” sombre cello work at the end. The title track also deserves a mention being the longest and the most complex song on the album. Again, there are lots of changes in pace, mixing the melodic classical cello sounds with a touch of metal. The chorus is easily one of my favorite parts of the whole album.

I’m not going to discuss all the songs in detail but generally speaking I am pleased that Apocalyptica chose to go back to basics with this album. They are sticking to what they do best. No need for singers or guest appearances. It encompasses all the aspects that make this band special. There is not a single track on here that I do not like. Some, such as the title track require a bit of patience to fully appreciate.

Overall, I really like this album. Unlike ‘Shadowmaker’, which took me a few listens to get into, ‘Cell-0’ immediately drew me in and kept me interested throughout. It’s the best album Apocalyptica has made in years.

9/10

Iza Raittila

 

Marko Hietala – Pyre of the Black Heart

Posted in Alternative, CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 19th January 2020 by mickbirchy

Marko Hietala

Pyre of the Black Heart

Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock

Released: 24th January 2020

via Nuclear Blast Records

I have never claimed to be the biggest fan of Nightwish. However, I have always appreciated the vocal talents of Marko Hietala. He’s a spectacular singer and musician. So, imagine my surprise to find out that he’s releasing his debut solo album this year. Pyre of the Black Heart is a pretty mixed bag of material. I guess he wanted to throw a bunch of different styles at the wall to see what stuck. The album is a mix of prog-rock, heavy metal and some clear folk inspiration here and there. It feels quite personal and hits pretty hard.

Right from the opening track “Stones” Marko shows everything that he’s trying to do on the album. You can really feel that forceful presence that has made him such a fantastic performer over the years. The tone of his vocals is damn-near perfect and really hit you in the gut. Songs like “The Voice of My Father” and “I Dream” grab your attention and the emotion just took hold of me when I was listening. The production is simply outstanding with every part of the arrangement shining. The bombastic bass and drums, with the heavy electric guitar, is really gut-busting and coupled with Marko’s pure intense vocal performance really made this a larger than life album. Even the quieter, acoustic sections hit hard due to the purity and richness of the production.

His use of poetic license suits this music well. The weary and emotional language used kept me engaged throughout. It’s almost like dark-twisted lullabies in the quieter sections. The heavier moments it feels like dark prog-rock epics of the past. The passion and conviction that this album presents certainly delivers, with Marko giving his all with his commanding and forceful voice. It gives the words a great sense of urgency and left me speechless at times.

I think if you like rock or metal music of any sort you’ll like something here. It’s progressive rock without the fluff, folk-rock without going overboard, heavy metal with more complexity and almost has a stoner rock vibe to the riff. I think the only thing that most people wouldn’t like about the album is that it moves a little slow. There aren’t many songs with a lot of vibrant energy, the one exception being “Runner of the Railways” which definitely rocks. It’s definitely an album that takes some time to digest. I mean, it’s not a power metal or thrash metal record. So, if you’re looking for something with a lot of fast-paced, in your face metal, then this isn’t for you. However, I think there’s enough energy and heaviness that most rock and metal fans will be impressed.

Overall, a solid album from a man that has earned his place in the annals of heavy metal history. If you’re in the mood for something powerful and captivating, then this might be right up your ally.

8/10

Mick Birchall

New Nightwish album coming this spring

Posted in Metal, Misc., News, Studio Report with tags , , , on 17th January 2020 by izaforestspirit

It’s been five years since their last studio album ‘ Endless Forms Most Beautiful’. Now the the world renowned Finnish symphonic power metal band Nightwish have announced that their new opus will be called ‘Hvman. :II: Natvre.’

Here’s the cover art and track-listing:

Nightwish - Hvman. :II: Natvre.

Disc 1
1. Music
2. Noise
3. Shoemaker
4. Harvest
5. Pan
6. How’s the Heart?
7. Procession
8. Tribal
9. Endlessness

Disc 2
1. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Vista
2. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – The Blue
3. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – The Green
4. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Moors
5. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Aurorae
6. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Quiet as the Snow
7. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Anthropocene (incl. “Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal”)
8. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World – Ad Astra

‘Hvman. :II: Natvre.’  will be out worldwide on 10th April 2020 via Nuclear Blast Records.

For more information go to:
http://nightwish.com/en
https://www.facebook.com/nightwish

My Dying Bride return with ‘The Ghost of Orion’

Posted in Metal, Misc., Studio Report with tags , , on 7th January 2020 by izaforestspirit

Good news for My Dying Bride fans. It’s been five years since the British doom metal group’s last studio effort ‘Feel The Misery’. Now the wait will finally be over soon. The band have recently announced that their long-awaited new album will be called ‘The Ghost of Orion’. This is will be My Dying Bride’s first studio release with Nuclear Blast Records.

Here is an official statement from the band:

A new album for a new era of MY DYING BRIDE with fresh faces and a more accessible style compared to some of their past, highly technical releases. ‘The Ghost of Orion’ features compositions not only of epic proportions but of intimate quality too, from death metal vocals to the pained cries of a vocalist in longing, the L.P. will raise and fall like the beautiful landscape of Yorkshire in which it was recorded. With layer upon layer of guitars both heavy and harmonic, Andrew Craighan has created a rich soundscape that is beautifully epic, enhanced with violins and keys from Shaun MacGowan along with the ominous murmur of cello from acclaimed cellist Jo Quail. And speaking of guest artists, the wondrous voice of Lindy-Fay Hella (WARDRUNA) adds an ethereal beauty to the album. Adding his particular style of drumming this time round is Jeff Singer whose percussion exploits have elevated the bands’ rhythm section to another level aided by the effortlessly stylish Lena Abe on bass guitar. Aaron Stainthorpe delivers a compelling and often disturbing performance with his own particular style of vocals offering sincere eulogies along with the visceral carnage of a soul in pain, with poetic lyrics of a quality not often seen in this genre. This collection of songs is the bands most brilliant yet, honing 30 years of experience into the well crafted offering that is ‘The Ghost of Orion’.”

You can check out the cover art below:

My Dying Bride - The Ghost of Orion

‘The Ghost of Orion’ will be out worldwide on 6th March 2020. There will also be a music video for the first single ‘Our Broken Shore’ coming later this week.

For more details visit:
http://www.mydyingbride.net/
https://www.facebook.com/MyDyingBrideOfficial/

 

 

Mick’s Gig Highlights of 2019

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Gig, Live, Metal, Misc., Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , on 5th January 2020 by mickbirchy

2019 was a great year for going to gigs and an even better one for seeing band I never thought I would have the opportunity to see. Great discoveries and fun bands that I wouldn’t have had the chance to see if I didn’t take a risk and just get to the shows. So I thought to round off the year and to relive some memories. This is not a complete list of everything I went to see, just some really great highlights.

February

Godsmack w/ Like A Storm @ The Ritz, Manchester

Starting of 2019 was a real dream come true. I finally got to see a metal band that I have long admired. It had been over 14 years since the last time, Godsmack had actually toured in the UK. So with the release of their latest album, When Legends Rise they finally made the time to get out to the UK. I got my ticket and got to this show. Yeah, it blew me away. Opening the show was another band that I had always wanted to see, Like A Storm. So overall, this looked like it was going to a gig that was handcrafted for me.  Both bands freaking nailed their set! As for me, finally getting to see Godsmack live in concert, was such a treat. Getting to hear some of my favourite songs like, “Voodoo”, “I Stand Alone”, “Awake”, “Cryin’ Like A Bitch” was great and it’s so nice to report that Godsmack is an incredible live band. I had heard mixed things for so long about their live sets but on the night, the band, the crowd and the atmosphere was truly excellent.

March

Skarlett Riot w/ Sister Shotgun and Fahran @ The Flapper Birmingham

What a birthday treat. Getting to see one of my favourite bands with some excellent support acts to boot. It was my first time checking out Sister Shotgun and I have to say that I was really impressed, their mix of glam rock and heavy metal reached me and I ended up picking up their albums after the show. Fahran is always a treat when they play live and by this point, in the night the crowd was building up a little so there was a little bit of an atmosphere. Then you Skarlett Riot… Well, there’s a reason they’re one of my favourite bands. They really bring their A-game to every show. They’re one of those bands that love being on stage and entertaining the fans. With every song, the crowd was singing along with the band and at times the crowd was louder. They continue to be one of my favourite bands and with the announcement that they will be getting around making some new music, you know I’ll be front and centre whenever they return to the stage.

 

 

May

Mutant Monster w/ The Innocent Bystanders and The Papashangos @ Jimmy’s, Manchester

This is the result of deciding to go to a gig at the last minute. I heard about this gig on a Monday, bought the ticket on a Wednesday, went to the show on Friday and wrote and uploaded the review on Saturday. This was a crazy experience. Before going to the show I didn’t know any of the bands playing and yet, when I got to the show, I felt right at home in the crowd. The drinks were flowing, the music was loud and the atmosphere felt just right. The opening bands were enough to get the energy flowing in the venue, with the rough sounds of The Innocent Bystanders was a great welcome for punk fans. The Papashangos injected the venue with a lot of life and energy. Then you have Mutant Monster, oh what to say about them? They were excellent. The Japanese punk-rock trio lifted the spirits of the Manchester crowd and got them moving and shouting. They were truly something else, playing right through an hour and forty-five minute set with little to no breaks or even slowing down. I was impressed by the mere stamina of them. Trust me, you’ll want to see all three of these bands if you get the chance.

 

June

Muse w/ Tom Morello and Pale Waves @ Etihad Stadium, Manchester

So this was the centre-piece of the year. Also the most expensive show of the year, with a £75 price tag. Let me say this right now, it was definitely worth it. This wasn’t just a concert, it was a spectacle. Opening up the show was Manchester-based rockers, Pale Waves. Who were decent though I feel their set was dampened by the rain. That being one of the pitfalls of playing an open-top stadium. However, the night dried up and Rage Against The Machine legend Tom Morello took the stage by storm. His guitar skill is something to be envied. Also, he brought a charity group on stage to sing the anthem “Killing In The Name”. Then you have, Muse, another band that I have always wanted to see, so finally getting to see this show was an amazing experience. They are just such an enigmatic act to watch. Their stage show in itself was amazing with a giant catwalk going to the middle of the crowd, backing musicians and a giant cyborg mutant creature. The set was a great mix of new and old material with the main part of the set dedicated to the latest album Simulation Theory. It was one night that I will never forget.

 

November

Anneke Van Giersbergen @ Effenaar, Eindhoven

I bought the tickets for this show as soon as it was announced and I made an entire holiday around this concert. For the longest of time Anneke Van Giersbergen has been one of my favourite singers, songwriters and performers. So, flying to the Netherlands for her 25th Anniversary show was a pleasure. Getting to see the great city of Eindhoven was a really nice part of my holiday and then there’s this show. The show was broken down into four parts. The classical part, where Anneke performed with a string orchestra and Within Temptation singer Sharon den Adel came on to play “Somewhere”. That honestly brought a tear to my eye. Then the rock part with Agua de Annique and playing some of her songs from her solo career and The Gathering. Next was the acoustic segment with Danny Cavanagh from Anathema, a beautiful moment of the set. Then ending on the metal set with Vuur. The variety of the show and Anneke’s genuine and soulful performance made this a night for the ages.

 

December

Tantric w/ Scarcasm and Attic Theory @ Fac251, Manchester

Finally, the show that I had waited for pretty much all my life. My all-time favourite band finally toured the UK and I got to see them play! The openers Scarcasm and Attic Theory rocked the night and set the crowd up well. However, actually seeing Tantric was such an experience. I still can’t believe this happened. Getting to hear the classic hits like “Breakdown” and “Mourning” and mixed with a great set that represented their whole career, for me this was the ultimate experience. The only sad thing is that there wasn’t much of a crowd to speak of. Maybe playing on a Sunday at the start of December in Manchester wasn’t the best time to get people out to a venue. So that was kinda bad, but I didn’t care and I don’t think the band did either. They were just happy to be playing to new people in a different country and I was happy for them. This was their first time in the UK and hopefully not their last!

Mick Birchall