Author Archive

Gorilla Riot – Peach

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , , , , on 14th February 2020 by mickbirchy

Gorilla Riot

Peach

Southern Rock, Groove Rock

Released 31st January 2020

via Off Yer Rocka Recordings

I have been following this band for a while now. If you are from Manchester then you should know who these guys are. Gorilla Riot are the premier southern rock band of the northwest. They have been tearing up the underground rock scene in the UK for a while playing some of the biggest festivals and headlining venues around the country. I have been interested in their music for a while and was intrigued to get this album. Peach is the first full-length album from the band. I have to say I am pretty pleased with the outcome and if you have never heard of these guys before, then this is the time to get into their music.

The album is filled with all sorts of riff-rock goodness including tight grooves and a real old-school feel. They have the groovy rhythms of the ’70s infused with the style, flair and production of modern hard rock. If you’re into the likes of Sturgill Simpson or Steve Earle then this is something right up your alley. There’s that real down ‘n’ dirty hard rock with burning passion and soul.  The production just feels massive with a lot of depth to the music. You can really feel the impact of the three guitars in the band with sharp and concise riffs, blistering solos and co-ordinated harmonies. The bass adds this massive bottom to the songs and the drum work packs a punch as it forms the framework of each song.

Saying all of that, I could definitely understand how this kind of music is not everyone’s cup of tea. The twangy blues rhythm is really slow-paced and when listening to the album all the way through. It never really feels like it picks up with every song hitting the same groove, or at least it feels like it. It could have done with an acoustic country-style ballad or a high octane super-charged track. Just something to break up the album and give it some more flavour. It’s not that any of the songs are bad, I just think it needed some other style of rock to give the band some more character and to show they can be more versatile.

I quite liked this album. I think it does more than enough to entertain. It’s not going to be to everyone’s liking and that’s fine. I think the band knows their audience and they’re not out to please everybody. They’ll keep right on trucking and I think that’s fair. They’re a really fun band to watch live and their music pretty much speaks for itself. It’s a solid album and definitely worth a listen.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Sepultura – Quadra

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 3rd February 2020 by mickbirchy

Sepultura

Quadra

Thrash Metal, Groove Metal

Released: 7th February 2020

via Nuclear Blast Records

The Brazillian purveyors of heavy-ass thrash metal return to the limelight in 2020. I’ve been excited for this album for quite some time now. I have always appreciated Sepultura. They are by far my favourite thrash metal band. Their unique blend of groovy riffs and sharp, hard-hitting rhythms make them a true powerhouse of a band. The way they inject their music with interesting ideas and concepts always makes them an enjoyable act to listen to. They are now back with their fifteenth record, Quadra, their follow up to 2017’s Machine Messiah. I have to say that this album is quite good.

Once again, this album was produced in Sweden with Jens Bogren at the helm. As with the previous record, there’s some really great production here. Especially considering the concept of the album. The album itself is based on numerology, the number four and its significance as depicted on Quadrivium (the four subjects, or arts namely arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). So, as you could probably tell this is quite a heavy-handed record. The album is broken into different pieces and each part is a representation of the different teachings of Quadrivium. Making this an album that you can listen to one so many different levels. It’s an album that I have been playing all week and I am still hearing it in new ways.

I love the way this album grooves. The bass and rhythm work is outstanding with lots of great moments throughout the album that just caught me and I was engrossed for a while just listening to certain parts of the record. From the clever acoustic moments to the slower ballads type moments and, of course, the all-out brutal heavy moments. Sepultura just knows how to keep a listener’s interest for hours on end.  Also, you have to appreciate the amazing guitar work of Andreas Kisser. He is simply incredible on the album bringing the energy where needed but also giving moments of the atmosphere. All of that is backing the powerful performance of Derrick Green, who really brings it on this record and sounds like he’s having fun with the record.

An absolute powerhouse of an album. A well-thought-out concept, excellent performances and great production… It all adds up to something powerful that can keep hardcore fans and casual listeners interested for a while. I genuinely enjoyed this album and I know it’s early but this is one of the best records of the year so far.

10/10

Mick Birchall

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

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

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

Powerwolf live at Poppodium 013, Tilburg, Netherlands

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 6th December 2019 by mickbirchy

Artist: Powerwolf

Support Act: Gloryhammer

Venue: Poppodium 013, Tilburg, Netherlands

10 November 2019

It’s weird that I had never done a gig in the Netherlands until now. I have always wanted to go there for a metal gig as it seems that the metal scene is far more vibrant and fertile there than it is here in the UK. Well, I got my chance as I was going to the Netherlands on holiday and it just so happens that while I was over there, Powerwolf were playing Tilburg. So I got my ticket and got myself to the venue. It was a weird feeling in the queue, in the UK Powerwolf don’t play venues that are even half of this size. I had a feeling that this was going to be a very special night. The crowd was packed, the drinks were flowing and the atmosphere was abuzz with excitement.

Opening up the proceedings was the commanding and ever-entertaining sci-fi, fantasy metallers Gloryhammer. This is my fifth time watching them live and they never fail to impress. I love their music and their on-stage antics. They are just the best mixture of power, intensity, comedy and power all in one great package. They came on stage to a ravenous ovation from the crowd and they went straight into a set of power metal goodness. Their set was filled with a decent mix of their new and old material giving newcomers a good taste of what the band is all about and gives the fans exactly what they were looking form. I have to admit that I love that they come on stage to Tom Jones’ “Delilah”. The crowd sang it so loud and it was a good way to warm up the crowd before getting on stage. The live production was excellent from where I was standing, the instrumentation was excellent with Thomas Winkler’s vocals shining. Their stage antics are goofy and fun, it’s all to get the crowd involved and it worked. The audience was having a right old time with them and Gloryhammer more than did their job in getting people ready for the main event.

After a brief intermission, it was time for the mighty Powerwolf to take the stage. A massive banner cloaked the stage as the tension built to the start of the show. Once that banner came down it was time for the show to begin. And what a show it was. Pyro and heavy metal have always been a great combination. The stage was ablaze with fire for the songs “Fire and Forgive” & “Amen and Attack” and the crowd was ravenous for the music. Screaming the lyrics back to the band and just screaming in general. The music was so well performed by the band and the stage presentation was simply breathtaking. As the show progressed and the band hit their stride more and more, the crowd just got louder. The setlist comprised mostly of the newer material from the album Sacrament of Sin and it was so nice to hear these songs effortlessly blend into the rest of their material. Giving the whole set a real timeless feel and also a really nice flow to the evening. If there is one thing that is for certain, it that Falk Maria Schlegel & Attila Dorn are two of the best showmen in the industry. Their charisma and stage presence was second to none. They engaged the crowd at every opportunity and took the audience for a ride, all the way through the night.

A chorus of cheers echoed through the venue as Powerwolf was welcomed back on stage one more time for the encore. They were just as energetic at the end of the night as they were at the start. They close out the show with “Sanctified With Dynamite”, “Coleus Sanctus” & “Werewolves of Armenia”. A loud and rawkus way to end the energetic night. This was simply fantastic. An excellent night all around. The support act was awesome and a fantastic headliner to boot. I have to say not a bad night for my first gig in the Netherlands. 

Mick Birchall

 

The SoapGirls – Elephant in the Room

Posted in CD, Pop Punk, Punk Rock with tags , , , , on 22nd September 2019 by mickbirchy

The SoapGirls

Elephant in the Room

Punk Rock, Grunge

Released: 12 July 2019

Self Released

If you’re not acquainted with The SoapGirls, then you’re in luck because neither am I. This is my first real taste of what they are about.  The Debray sisters, Noemie and Camille, have been around for a little while now, bringing their own brand of punk rock to the masses. From what I hear and what I’ve seen, they are an interesting and divisive band that deliver hard rocking tunes. Since their first album back in 2015, they have been pretty consistent release-wise and have garnered a decent fan-base. I say they’re divisive because, when I see conversations about them online, it almost always ends up in squabbling between the quality of their music. From what I can tell, the people that like them, really like them and visa versa.  So, where do I stand? Well since this is my first real exposure to them let’s take a listen and see what the crack is with these punk rock gals.

Pretty much from the get-go Elephant in the Room is a pretty entertaining listen. Not too aggressive or edgy and nothing overly produced. It falls somewhere in the middle of that. The production is clear enough and the music is well written. The melodies just flow so well and the harmonies are well integrated. This is nothing particularly fancy about the instrumentation, it’s all quite serviceable. The guitars are nicely toned with that typical hard rock tone and the drums are tightly locked into a decent rhythm on pretty much all of the tracks. The vocal performances are nice too. Again nothing overtly edgy or aggressive. In fact, they carry a tune really well. There are quite a few songs that really get stuck in your head as the choruses are quite catchy and leave a little bit of an ear-worm. 

However, my biggest problem with the album is the length. Whilst there is nothing bad per se on the album, there really isn’t enough of an incentive to keep listening to 19 songs straight. It’s not like this is a prog-rock opera with massive changes to the tunes. It’s just well played and well-performed punk rock. Yet, a punk rock album should get in and get out as quick as possible and this just drags on for a long time. Even though there is nothing explicitly wrong with the quality of any of the songs, there is just too much here for one sitting. 

This was fine. Though not something I feel I need to return to any time soon. The SoapGirls just aren’t necessarily my thing. I would have preferred it if their music was more intricate, unpredictable or if there was more an over-the-top personality to their character as a band. However, as is, this is just okay. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but not enough to keep me invested in their music or justify the sheer length of this album.

6/10

Mick Birchall