Author Archive

Orange Goblin – Rough & Ready, Live & Loud… 25 Years of British Rock and Heavy Metal

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 10th May 2020 by mickbirchy

Orange Goblin
Rough & Ready, Live & Loud
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Stoner Rock
Released: 1st May 2020
via Orange Goblin Music / Rise Above Records

It’s hard to put into words how much I love the band Orange Goblin and how much their music reached me. Let me take you back to 2012 and the release of their album A Eulogy For The Damned. This was an album that immediately captured my consciousness and reached me on a level that I don’t think many metal bands have done. It wasn’t an overly complex record from a musical standpoint.  It adhered to a standard, verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure with riffs to carry the general tune of the song and they used some brilliant guitar work to give their music some extra life. After listening to that album I was immediately fascinated with them, their riffs always caught me, hook line and sinker and I hunted down their previous albums to see if they gave the same feeling. Very luckily, they did. In particular Thieving from the House of God, which still to this day is one of my all-time favourite metal albums.

Once I had discovered their music I made it a mission to see them live in concert. I got my chance time and time again as Orange Goblin are touring machines, I’ve managed to watch them live at least 12 times now. Now, how do I describe their live shows? They’re one of the most charismatic and fun bands to watch live. They just have this imposing presence to their shows, it’s something you can really feel as an audience member, no matter how many times I see them perform I still get chills when they get certain parts of their sets. There are some staple tunes that the band will just play and the crowd goes nuts, like “Saruman’s Wish” and “Some You Win, Some You Lose”, when they hit those songs you can feel the crowd twist and shift and come to life. It’s such an awesome feeling. They do such a good job of making a set-list that will keep their fans happy. I mean all bands have to release new material and I think deciding what old songs to keep and what new songs to add is an art form unto itself. They always seem to get that balance of rocking the old school tunes and promoting the new material. So, it’s great to hear a set-list unfold itself over the course of a night.

Now they have been rocking for 25 solid years, Orange Goblin wanted to do something for the fans to celebrate this milestone in their career. However, with the UK being in lock-down due to the world health crisis at the time of writing this review, it wasn’t like they could just hit the road at their leisure. So, the next best thing was to give their fans a live album. Rough & Ready, Live & Loud is a collection of live recordings from their gigs. The songs were taken from their sets at Sylak Open Air Festival 2016, KOKO in London 2016 and at the Fuzz Club in Athens in 2019. It’s a well-rounded album with lots of great songs to rock out to. It also gives some love to some of their, let’s say underrated, classics like “Time Traveling Blues” and “Made of Rats”. So in that sense, it’s not a greatest hits album per se, more of a collection to give the listener the feeling of hearing the band live and enjoying the show. Which is cool and a good way to put their stamp on 25 years as a band. Also, included with the album on Bandcamp is a digital booklet filled with fan-submitted memories of the band. Which made this feel like an all-inclusive experience with their fans. In addition to this the Bandcamp edition of the album features the extra track of “Your World Will Hate This” from the album Coup de Grace. Which is a pretty damn good cap on the album. I mean it’s a short tune but it has that fierce energy and packs that little extra punch.

Although I can’t pretend that I have been a fan since the start (you know since I was only three years old when they started, so the only music I liked was the intro to Thomas the Tank Engine). I feel like they were definitely a cornerstone in developing my taste in heavy metal and hard rock. Still to this day I gravitate to music with heavy riffs and fuzzy solos more than any other styling. Their live shows have always been something to look forward to for me because I know they’re going to give it their all and they enjoy every moment of being on stage. This was a nice treat as a fan of the band and something that I’ve enjoyed listening to. So… here’s to 25 years of Orange Goblin and hopefully another 25 years of hard rock and heavy metal.

10/10

Mick Birchall

Get the album for yourself here – https://orangegoblinofficial.bandcamp.com

Bloodyard – Orchard of Corpses

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 26th April 2020 by mickbirchy

Bloodyard

Orchard of Corpses

Heavy Metal, Groove Metal, Death Metal

Released: 1st May 2020

Self Released

Bloodyard is one of those bands that have always been on my radar but I have not really given much attention to. Not for any malicious reason, mind you, I just find it hard to keep up with all of the music I want to listen to and inevitably some bands fall through the cracks. So, it was nice that I could spend some time giving their music a thorough listen and where better to start than their latest album Orchard of Corpses. A twisted and heavy album that incorporates a thick tone, an in-your-face presence and tight musicianship to make a fun listening experience that I bet would sound good live. Bloodyard have a really decent album here, that I think a lot of metal fans should get behind. You can clearly hear their influences in the music and how they use those influences to manufacture their own sound.

As much as I like their music, I do have to comment on the production. Whilst, not the worst I have ever heard, it is noticeable. If there is one thing that I would say is standing out is the sound of the drums. They completely lack impact, with the other instruments overshadowing them. In fact, the production as a whole feels a little washed out and flat. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the tone or the way it was recorded. I just feel the assembly of the mix was a little off. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something holding the full impact of these songs back and it’s in the production. I think all of the musicianship itself is great though. Not a bad performance here, with solid guitar work and well-performed rhythm and bass. The vocals sound great, very commanding and direct. All in all the production is a mixed bag.

However, I do like the songs themselves and I think they would work in a live setting. I could really see myself headbanging the night away with how these songs play out. Lots of tight rhythm with not much breathing room, so the album just goes from song to song in a very fluid way which makes the album a great listen-through and makes it re-playable. The band gets in, does their thing and gets out. So, yeah I think the songs themselves are pretty damn good.

This is a decent record. Sure, it has some rough edges, but those are things that can be worked out. I like the tunes and the pure intensity of the record. The music is fine and though not the typical band that I usually listen to, I still found this album to be an enjoyable experience. I would like to hear this band live as I think that is a better context for these songs and where the band would be more in their element. It’s a good listen and I’m sure the underground metal scene here in the UK will love it. If you like like you home-brew heavy metal then this is the band for you.

6/10

Mick Birchall

Bullets and Octane – Riot, Riot Rock N Roll

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 4th April 2020 by mickbirchy

Bullets and Octane

Riot, Riot Rock N Roll

Hard Rock, Sleaze Rock

Released 24th April 2020

via Bad MoFo Records / Cargo Records UK

It’s always cool when you get a chance to review a band you’ve been listening to casually for years. It’s a weird feeling because all I want to do is enjoy the record. Yet, I’ll have to put my reviewer cap on for this one, as much as I just want to listen to it and have fun. Bullets and Octane are one of those bands I got into as a teenager and that I gravitated to instantly. I have also seen them in concert and I have to say they are one of the wildest and fun bands out there today. So how is the new album Riot, Riot Rock N Roll?  It’s pretty darn good. It’s a lot of the same from this band. Fast-paced and aggressive tone but it has that fun party rock n roll tone that will keep you coming back for more.

The whole album has that really powerhouse feeling to it. With every instrument sounding larger than life. It feels like you’re in their jam session room and they’re coming up with the songs off the top of their heads. IT has that wild and rowdy feeling to it. The intense tone coupled with the tight musicianship is infectious and, like their other albums, extremely re-playable. As soon as you’re done with this record, you’ll put it on again and again. Or you’ll take my advice and look up their previous records and play it all. The production is good, I mean it’s not the finest production in the world, yet it suits this style of music. Everything is turned up and each piece of each song is presented in a way to get you headbanging.

There’s a good variety of rock n roll tunes here. From fast and furious punk-rock-like to the more groovy riff-based tracks. All coated in a sleaze rock style that gives the music a dirty and gritty edge. The riffs are fun, the grooves are slick, the guitar solos are over-the-top and the choruses are infectious and easy to sing along to. Perfect for a concert, lots of moments left open for crowds to sing along and other moments to allow mosh pits to develop. You can tell that Bullets and Octane know their audience as nothing really new is here. It has the same feeling as their last couple of records but who needs to reinvent the wheel still turns so well.

They’re back and it feels so good to be getting some new music from the veteran rockers. It feels like they’ve hit their stride as a band and they know how to make this style of music. They have just made it look so easy when they keep making music this consistent and this fun. This is a solid reminder of why I have been a fan of their music for so long. The grit, the intensity and the engaging fun of their music should be enough to keep any fan of rock music coming back for more.

10/10

Mick Birchall

Gorilla Riot – Peach

Posted in Review, Uncategorized 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 Uncategorized 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 Uncategorized 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 Uncategorized 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, Misc. 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 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 Review 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

Interview with Liv Sin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 28th August 2019 by mickbirchy

Ahead of the release of their new album Burning Sermons on the 6th September, Mick spoke to Liv Jagrell of Swedish heavy metal band Liv Sin. They discussed the production and songwriting of this record in comparison to their previous 2017 album, Follow Me, as well working with some of metal’s heavy hitters. Also, read Liv’s thoughts on women in metal, her biggest piece of advice for new bands and how she has overcome her biggest setback.

 What do you think is the biggest difference between the new album Burning Sermons and your previous album Follow Me?

I think that the biggest difference is in the sound of the album because we’ve brought in electronics and synth sounds. There are more keyboard and orchestral arrangements. This was not present on the first record. Maybe a song or two, but for the first album, it was more just a straight forward heavy metal sound.  However, on this record, we wanted a little bit more of a diverse sound, as a result, we took out some of the guitar-riffing and added in the more electronic sound. So we chose to work with a producer who could help us achieve this. 

I wanted to get on to the production a little bit here. I’ve read that you worked with Emil Nödtveidt  (Deathstars guitarist). What was it like to work with him and what do you feel he added to the album that you really appreciated?

Obviously all of the keyboards, electronics and orchestral arrangements which none of us could have done. He was just a pleasure to work with, it felt like there was no real effort to communicate my ideas with him and he was able to give us the best product possible. I would love to work with him again. I mean, he definitely put his stamp on the music. You can here that Deathstars sound on some of the songs. I feel that he took the songs to another level by adding things that we would not have thought of. 

Another note I have read was that you brought in Björn Strid (singer of Soilwork and The Nightflight Orchestra) for the song “Hope Begins To Fail”. What was it like bringing him into the studio and working with him?

Also, pretty amazing! Björn is an excellent singer, also I am a big fan of Soilwork, I have loved that band since they started. I also like The Nightflight Orchestra too, not 100% my type of music but it shows how versatile he is as a singer. I think that his voice worked really well in the song. We also got him to do the video shoot with us and he is such a funny guy we just had so much fun on set for that music video. Also, I would love to work with him again as well. 

That’s fantastic, I loved hearing that on the album as well. Just moving on to the lyrical aspect of the album. What is your favourite song from a lyrical standpoint on this album and what do you feel is the main message of your lyrics?

Quite hard to say as all of the lyrics are very personal to me. As when I write lyrics, it’s kind of like therapy for me as I try to process my own internal thoughts. However, I always like the idea that these songs can help someone else as well. So, on some the songs, I wrote more from more of my experience or things that I wish would happen. Then, on the other hand, I want to write songs that I think might encourage people. Like the song “At The Gates of The Abyss”, which is a song where I’m trying to inspire people to not give up, at least not today, this is not the day where we all fall. Also, in the song “War Antidote” there’s a line in the chorus ‘Hail To The Freaks’ and I feel this is embracing people who might feel that they don’t belong and try to give them encouragement to continue. That is the main thing I want to get across. That, it’s okay to be different and we can continue together.

That was pretty inspiring. I personally have been loving the album, I just think it’s a more whole and complete album than the first one.

Thank you, yes. Also, we had way more time with this record. I think we worked through the songs much more than on the first album. I think as well, we’ve found a sound that we really like and want to continue with.

Yeah, it feels like a record with more time gone into it. Not that I didn’t like the first album but I thought it was interesting to hear the evolution of your sound. There seemed to be far less fast-paced and intense metal tracks and more of a general grandiose metal sound. What is your process for working the lyrics into the music? Does the idea for the song come first or do the themes of the lyrics come first and then you try an match it?

It depends…. Mostly though, we come up with the melodies and rhythm first then try to piece the words and meaning into that melody. Sometimes, it just does fit and you can become really frustrated and then that leads to “Grahhhhgh, damn it, fuck it!” because you really want that particular rhythm and melody but you also want to say a specific line you can’t find anything to match. I have spent many evenings just staring and working on one sentence and getting nowhere. At that point, I just go “fuck it, it’ll wait until tomorrow”

So with the release of this new record, it’s a given that your new setlist will be mostly new material. Are there any songs from Follow Me that you plan to keep on the setlist?

I think the two that we kinda have to keep are “Let Me Out” and “Killing Ourselves To Live” because they are the main songs from Follow Me. Also, because they are great songs and they work well with the audience. We are also keeping “Hypocrite” as for us, it’s an awesome live song. Also, we’re planning on keeping “Emporer of Chaos” as it fits in very well with the newer songs, because it’s more of a political song and because audiences really like it.

From the last time we spoke, you said that your favourite song on Follow Me was “The Fall”. Any chance that could make it on to the setlist?

It could… But since we have “Chapter of The Witch”, it might be too much as it’s another intense fast-paced song and I don’t want too many of those working their way on to the setlist. So right now we’ve taken away “The Fall” to put in “Chapter of The Witch”. I mean you learn when you tour and “The Fall” has a tendency to be a little too fast, it’s not a really groovy track so we didn’t get the response that we hoped it would have got. I mean I really like the song, but it’s a really hard song to play live. 

Excellent, I mean I really like that song too, so if there’s a chance to hear it live again, I’m always there. Just moving away from songwriting now. What are your thoughts on the progression of women in the metal world, as they are becoming more and more prevalent in a metal context?

It’s interesting that this is even a question but understand why. I hope that it will develop further than it is, it’s definitely better for sure, certainly more so than when I first started in music. You’re seeing many more bands of just women or band with women in them. I hope it will develop further and I hope one day you won’t even have to call attention to it. You know, so we’re at a point where the term “female-fronted” for example is no longer something that is needed.

Yeah, it is kinda silly when you think about it, as long as the music is good, who cares who is playing it. Another question, I think is very interesting. From your experience across your whole career, what is the one piece of advice you give to a new up-and-coming band starting in the industry today?

Since the music business has changed so much since I started, it hard to say. As things that used to be true, aren’t anymore. One thing I will say is you can’t lie to new bands about how much work you have to put into it. Nothing is going to happen for free and if you are not committed, dedicated and not truly ready to sacrifice things, this is not the industry you want to be in. Because you have to sacrifice financial security, friends, families and whatever in order to make it work.  You know, you have to take tours before birthdays, festival slots before weddings. If you’re not prepared to do that, you will be disappointed and you will feel like a failure because you won’t make it very far. I know that sound really harsh because you want to encourage people but it’s also the truth and if you’re not ready there will always be someone who will stand over you. At the same time, I have always been that kind of person to stand on my own and do what my heart tells me otherwise I wouldn’t be here. 

However, if you’re willing to make that kind of sacrifice then it is worth it in the end because music is such a necessary thing, we need it in the world as a world without music would be a hard one to live in.

I couldn’t agree more music is so important, it’s the main thing I use to ignore that fact the world is dying and going to crap. So, just end on and this my favourite question I ask. What is the hardest thing, professionally or personally, you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

Hmm, that’s a hard question, give me a minute. So, actually, this is it. I’m afraid of flying and aeroplanes in general. Whenever I sit in a plane, which you do a lot on tour, I ask myself “Why am I doing this?” but I’m still doing it anyway. I think that if I didn’t have this passion for music, I would never face that fear as much as I do. I would probably not go on a plane at all. Yet, today I’m facing that fear all of the time. I always wonder to myself, why isn’t flying becoming easier, because I’m doing it so much. Yes, you have fear but having such a strong feeling inside of you to face that fear is important and once you have that, yes it might not become easier but doing the thing enjoy becomes more rewarding.

Interview and words by Mick Birchall

Liv Sin – Burning Sermons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 26th August 2019 by mickbirchy

Liv Sin
Burning Sermons
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Released: 6th September 2019
via Despotz Records

A few years ago I reviewed the debut album from Liv Sin, Follow Me. The Swedish quintet has made big strides in the metal world since then. Armed with Liv Jagrell on vocals and channelling their love of heavy metal, the band are making their return with the new album, Burning Sermons. Everything that made the previous record great is here too. From their gut-busting musicianship to the powerful and emotional lyrical content, this album rips hard and has that old-school heavy metal flavour that will captivate an older audience and entrance a newer crowd. I have to say that I am a bit of a fan and this album has everything that I look for in a metal record. Also, like the last album, Liv Sin has invited some special guests to help this album rock all that little bit harder.  On the upcoming single, “Hope Begins to Fade”, Liv duets with Björn Strid, singer of Soilwork and The Nightflight Orchestra.​

Purely from a production point of view, this album sounds so good. The guitars are heavy and the drums hit with intensity. Everything is mixed with such a glorious tone and it makes Liv’s vocals stand out so much as she delivers the lyrics with such conviction. One song where this is so noticeable is “Death Gives Life Meaning”. The aggressive, forceful tone really drives the point home while the frantic energy of the instrumentation performs beautifully and is mixed so well. The production was done by Deathstars guitarist Emil Nödtveidt who has really created an amazing atmosphere here for Liv Sin, with bombastic tones that just scream, “listen to this!”

The lyrical content is well presented here, with themes of personal struggles and hardship. Liv Sin really put their best foot forward in this department, with poetic imagery and well-chosen lines. The lyrics themselves are quite interesting when thinking about them. The way she chooses to communicate her feelings and how it blends into the music is really great. I really like the song “At The Gates of The Abyss” for this reason, the way all of the elements of the band mix with the lyrics, creating a powerful and interesting song.

This is a really great record! I liked the first album but really enjoyed this one. It’s new metal music with a very old school mentality. Liv Sin is very quickly becoming one of my favourite metal bands. This album just felt more like a complete package, the new sound with the keyboards and synth work mixed in with the guitars and Liv’s forceful and powerful delivery. It all sounds so brilliant and I have to say I love this new direction the band is taking. Definitely, one to check out and one I need to see live sooner rather than later.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Phil Lanzon – 48 Seconds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 17th August 2019 by mickbirchy

 

Phil Lanzon
48 Seconds
Prog Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock
Released 2nd August 2019
via Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records

If you’re familiar with your classic rock and music history then I shouldn’t really need to tell you who Phil Lanzon is… But if you’re not acquainted with your old school prog rock, he is the man who you will usually find rocking the keyboard in Uriah Heep. They are one of those bands that encapsulates a lot of people’s image of the 70’s – 80 prog-rock scene. Phil has also brought his talents to other projects such as Grand Prix and The Sweet. He has had a legacy in music that, starting in 1986, carries on today. In recent years Mr Lanzon has been striking out as a solo musician starting with his 2017 record If You Think I’m Crazy! and on to this album, his latest release, 48 Seconds. This album is a pretty fun listen, with all songs written by Lanzon and produced by the excellent Simon Hanhart. It also features some exceptional talent that elevates this to excellence.

The album has a big band feel with multiple layered sections of music and a lot of different instrumentation. Ranging from very synth and keys focused songs to music bigger rock n roll productions. Every song has this big-sounding chorus that hits hard and feels uplifting when listening to it. It definitely feels like an album with an older school method of production. The way the album is mixed is excellent with each musical idea perfectly complementing the other. From the brass section to the violins to the excellent vocal performances, it all feels oh so glorious. Listen to the song “Rock n Roll Children” for an example of how great this album can sound. The production is just excellent, making this very easy on the ear and I think anyone can listen to music like this. Just so rich with sounds and beautiful, carefully crafted melodies. 

One of the major influences for this album is Lanzon’s love of film scores and soundtracks. That definitely translates as every song sounds like it comes from some forgotten 80’s flick that is only really remembered for its soundtrack (you know the ones). Every song is filled with such powerful emotion and it can be very easy to get caught up in it all. With each song just building to an eventual climax that is really satisfying by the end. I will say I prefer the songs that go with the more orchestral vibe than the straight-up hard rock songs. Though I do like some of those tunes too, for example, check out the songs  “Look At The Time” which feels like an 80’s era Uriah Heep tune or “In The Rain” which has more of a John Parr feel to it. What I’m trying to say is, this album is very eclectic in its sound and works for a variety of listeners.

Simply put, this is an excellent album made by a musician who clearly still loves making music. I love the way Phil Lanzon has written this album. Full of sharp singer-songwriter notes whilst scaling it up to be this massive production. From the quiet subtle slower tracks to the more lively and intricate songs this album is filled with emotions and brilliant musicianship. 

10/10

Mick Birchall

Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics – Dirty, Sleazy, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 6th July 2019 by mickbirchy

Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics
Dirty, Sleazy Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sleaze Rock, Hard Rock
Released: 26th July 2019
via Cargo Records

OK, I was not expecting what I actually heard on this album. Then again, I really didn’t fully understand what I was getting this one. I mean, what would you expect from a band called Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics? The band comes from Ontario, Canada and have spent quite a lot of time here in the UK. Everything that I’ve heard about them so far is relatively positive, with a great hype building behind them, consistent gigs and good feedback. It really feels like a band that has taken their time and grown on their own accord rather than forcing a quick fix to success. After taking a listen to this album, I have definitely thought about it and the first impressions were mixed to positive. However, now I have had some time to let this one settle, let’s talk about this one.

The album sounds decent from the get-go, great rock tone with well-produced instrumentation all the way through. The balance of the instrumentation is great with all of the instruments coming through clear. Then you get the vocals and, well I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, if you like this style of singing then that’s awesome but if you’re like me, then it’s truly going to grate on you quite quickly. He’s not out of tune but the vocals are incredibly coarse and it doesn’t really fit in with the slick instrumentation. For me, it ruins the sound of the songs. Now, this is just me, I realise that there are people that like the way the rough vocals contracts with the slick and well-executed music. 

Most of the lyrics are about your typical rock ‘n’ roll topics such as sex, drugs, drinking and working-class life. Which is fine, I mean I don’t expect much from sleaze rock, in terms of lyrical content. Usually, sleaze rock mainly focuses on light-hearted, easy to grasp subjects that audiences can immediately identify. However, when one of your songs literally starts with a woman moaning in orgasm, I think you’re going to have a good sense of what album you’re getting into.

Overall, this is not a bad album. I can’t say I personally like the vocals but I can certainly understand the appeal. The rock is great and there are some damn catchy and fun tunes to listen to. If you’re looking for a band that delivers rough and dirty sounding rock music, then Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics are something to behold.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 28th June 2019 by mickbirchy

Moonlight Haze
De Rerum Natura
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released 21st June 2019
via Scarlet Records

It really is funny, if you follow the scene enough you start to see familiar names here there and everywhere. To the point that it will lead you to more music. This is very much my relationship with the Symphonic and Power metal scene in Europe. It’s a scene where everyone knows everyone, or at least it feels that way. Which is what lead me to Moonlight Haze.  I’ve been a fan of the singer Chiara Tricarico for a while, I first heard her singing in the band Temperance. I just find her vocals really enjoyable and pleasant to listen to and I’m a fan of pretty much any project she lends her name to, so when I heard she was starting a new band with Giulio Capone and includes members (and ex-members) of Temperance, Elvenking, Sound Storm, Teodasia and Overtures. You could probably have won a bet, that I would have taken the time to listen to it at some point. 

From my first listen I immediately gravitated to their music. Tonnes of energy, great production with charm and passion, De Rerum Natura makes a great first impression for fans of power metal who like that little more grandiose tone to the sound. The album wastes no time with engaging and commanding rhythm and tight sounding production that keeps you listening, track after track. The band sounds awesome, with great sounding instrumentation which is mixed really well. The guitars and drums, in particular, hit hard and the bass keeps the rhythm nice and tight and the keyboards set a really nice atmosphere that elevates the music to another level. As great power metal usually does. 

As for the vocal performance from Chiara, well, it’s excellent. As usual, she displays such excellent technique and it makes the lyrics just shine with personality. With this excellent vocal performance, it really brings the entire thing together really nicely. I love the mix of style on the record to with powerful and heavy rhythms and slick, well-executed guitar solos, all packaged in a great power metal experience. I quite like some of the more jazzy and groovy parts between the main parts of the songs, that little bit of intricacy really adds to the enjoyment of listening to this album.

I love the way the overall sound feels to listen to. It has this excellent energy and it’s entertaining from start to finish with lots of replay value. I will admit that I have been playing this album a lot since it’s release and plan one listening to it a whole lot more. If you like your power metal blended well with other musical styling, that also packs that little extra punch, then definitely give De Rerum Natura a listen.

4/5

Mick Birchall

King Zebra – King Zebra EP

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 6th May 2019 by mickbirchy

King Zebra

King Zebra EP

Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Released: 22 March 2019

Self Released

Right from the first notes of this EP, I knew I was going to like this one. I mean, this is the sound I grew up on, pure hard rock with lots of energy and pep. Swiss hard rockers, King Zebra have been tearing up the European rock scene as of late. Opening for awesome bands like The Dead Daisies, The New Roses and Crystal Ball just to name a few. Armed with their new lead vocalist Eric St Michaels (formally of the band China) and this new self-titled EP, they are setting out to conquer. The EP can really be divided into two pieces, firstly the three songs they released last year and the two new songs they’ve released for this EP. Putting it all together makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

The one thing I will say about this EP is that it has a lot of energy. I mean, it’s the kind of music that makes you want to get up and move. The guitar work is fast and loose and the rhythm sections are tight. The grooves are excellent and the riffs really land a hit every time they come in. The band just feel like a forceful presence at all times. Eric St Michaels is a great vocalist and he sounds amazing here. He’s mixed in really well to the tunes. His vocal performance is really impressive, with a powerful voice and a tonne of charisma he’s able to keep you invested in the songs and adds that extra punch to the hooks. The production is great and easy for any listener to get into and enjoy.

There really isn’t anything to say beyond this. I mean, if you like your 80’s glam rock then this will definitely fill a hole for new material to listen to. It’s an entertaining listen, to say the least. With songs about the general rock topics and production that’s clean enough to get a general audience but edgy enough that rock fan won’t turn it off either. I like the EP, it’s not my favourite release of the year, as good as it sounds and as fun as it is to listen to, it’s just an okay release. Not bad but not something that I have to listen to again and again. It will be one of those EP’s where if it’s on I’ll keep listening but not one I will go out of my way to listen to.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Uncle Paul – Dot Rotten

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 14th April 2019 by mickbirchy

Uncle Paul
Dot Rotten
Noise Rock, Stoner Rock, Psychedelic
Released 14th January 2019
via Introclusor Records

You guys know me by now. I’m usually the first in line for the weird and experimental side of rock n roll. After all, today’s experimental music is tomorrow’s mainstream. So, why not listen to everything that you can? Which leads me to this EP. Dot Rotton is the newest release from the weird and wonderful Uncle Paul and let’s just say it’s an interesting listening experience, to say the least. Sounding like a weird hybrid of Butthole Surfers, Deerhoof and Lightning Bolt, this band have really captured my imagination. Though this isn’t the best example of the genre, the North-West UK rockers certainly work as a weird noise rock psychedelia band, that incorporate elements of garage rock and stoner rock into their style. Referring to themselves as “refined musical dyslexia” is a good call, because this is what this is, a random assortment of musical ideas thrown into a melting pot and left to simmer.

Though it would take you longer to listen to “In A Gadda Da Vida” than it would this entire EP. I think there is some merit to the EP. In the sense, that you shouldn’t try to investigate it or look into it too deep. It’s more just a musical experience with a hodge-podge of ideas, riffs and distortion just blasting full force at the listener. With vocal effect layered over the sound and weird noise coming from every which way. It’s an EP to lose yourself in and not worry too much about its motivations or connotations. It’s just music for music’s sake and, you know what? That’s actually quite refreshing from time to time. The production is all over the place with nothing really meshing or coming together. Very much like the noise rock movement of the early 90’s this band just make what they feel like and run with the ideas they have.

Let me put this straight, this is not of the average consumer of music. There are no hooks or ear-worms to be found here. Yet, there is some creating bass work, some great riff ideas and guitar licks littered throughout the EP. Which makes it enjoyable enough. Also, considering that a couple of the songs don’t even reach two minutes long and the longest track here is four minutes, the music just passes by so quick that you don’t even realise that you’ve just heard something really fun and ridiculous.

By no means is this a great example of modern rock music. Yet, it serves as an interesting example of the noise rock sound and how it can still be relevant today. Then again, noise rock usually exists outside the normal boundaries of music anyway. If you like that  90’s Gen-Xer sound or watched a lot of Bevis and Butthead then I would recommend this in a strange way. It’s not a masterpiece, nor is it trying to be. It’s designed to be off-putting and weird and to be honest, that’s what I liked about it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Cellar Darling – The Spell

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 24th March 2019 by mickbirchy

Cellar Darling

The Spell

Progressive Metal , Folk-Metal, Symphonic

Released: 22nd March 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

After being really impressed with their 2017 debut album, This Is The Sound, Cellar Darling have returned with their new record, The Spell. After that debut, I was hoping for another record and I was hoping that they would attempt something a little different. Well, they must have heard my wishes because their second record is a very different beast from the first album. The Spell is a much heavier and more progressive album than This Is The Sound. It feels like a lot more care and attention to detail was put into this album. I mean they improve on their sound in every way conceivable here. There is also an audiobook of the album, which offers more context for all of the songs and where the lead vocalist Anna Murphy adds another layer to this album’s meaning.

This album is just a tonne of fun from the first few notes. Immediately hitting you with those sharp tones and sweet melodies that were present on the last release. The production on this album real super slick and everything feels really tight with all of the instrumentation standing out and playing its part. When it all comes in together, it just sounds so grandiose. This sound can only be described as progressive rock with enchanted whimsy thrown in. The beautiful compositions with excellent sound mixing give the album an other-worldly vibe to, what would be, just another progressive folk-metal album. Then you have the immense vocals of Anna Murphy. She just has an amazing presence on this album, it really is a star-making performance. It baffles me how she isn’t usually brought up in the discussion of the best female rock-vocalists by the fan community. She has so much range both, in vocal technique and in, emotional presentation.

There is a really nice variety of musical styles presented here. From eerie and atmospheric to heavy and “in-your-face”. The Spell will captivate and entrance listeners. I immediately wanted to put it on again and again as this album rewards repeated listens as there is a lot you can miss on your first play-through. There are just so many subtle little things in the music that you only catch on repeated listens. I would say the songs that are really worth your time on this album are “Burn” with its excellent riffs and exciting chorus, “Love” & “Love Pt II” also “Death” & Death Pt II” both of these two-part songs make for excellent companion pieces and really show the strength of Cellar Darling’s songwriting abilities. Also, my personal favourite on the record is the haunting ballad “Sleep” which reminds me of those old progressive tunes where the music sounds like random instrumentation but it really perfectly calculated musicianship.

Yep, I would definitely say this is worth your time. I really didn’t know how they were going to follow up that first album but I truly wasn’t expecting this. The Spell is one of those perfect records to accompany your imagination. It’s enjoyable and enriched with wonderful lyrical content. This one gets a big thumbs up from me.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Stelios Gatziolis – Sphere of Resonance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Stelios Gatziolis

Sphere of Resonance

Instrumental, Progressive Rock

Released: 30th September 2018

Self Released

 

 

What do I say about this one? It’s weird, I mean I grew up listening to a menagerie of different rock and metal styles. One of the records I loved was Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani. From there on in I always made time to instrumental records done well. So, here I am listening to the new EP by Stelios Gatziolis and I’m not getting into it. I don’t know there really feels like there is something missing from this and I can’t put my finger on it at all. The new EP, Sphere of Resonance dropped last year and it’s done well for the solo guitarist. As well as that, this EP features ex-Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who put his seal of approval on Stelios’ playing by featuring on the tune “Doomgazer”. Not a bad endorsement at all.

The four-track EP is relatively impressive from a technical level. The intricate guitar skill of Stelios is really impressive. The way he weaves in and out of melodies is awesome, it really is a captivating listening experience. The backing band creates a nice backdrop for the guitar to truly shine. The heavy booming bass perfectly syncs up with the well-executed drum work. The keyboard and synths add a really nice atmosphere to the tunes. The guitar playing is slick and you soon pick up on his playing style. As each song has a slightly different variant on this style. The songs all play on the rule of tension and release. Each song builds up the tension and then has a massive payoff of guitar goodness. The song featuring Derek Sherinian, “Doomgazer” probably uses this technique the best.

Unfortunately for all of its positives I still can not get into it. For the most part, it just feels soulless. It just feels like a passion project that was meant for the artist himself and no one else. In fact, it feels like a demo to a much bigger project yet to be released. Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a project is on the way but I hope it is. You know, to justify this EP’s existence. The songs, whilst impressive on a technical level, are meandering and trite. I’m fine with ‘progressive’ music but this feels like a jam session that was recorded and released.

It’s decent enough and I stand by both parts of my review. From a technical view, it’s really good. Yet, at an entertainment level, it’s a little toothless for me.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Сандарния – К оружию!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 23rd February 2019 by mickbirchy

Сандарния (Sandarnia)
К оружию! (To Arms!)
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 9th December 2018
Self Released


This has been a really interesting album to get into. Mainly because it’s the first album I’ve ever reviewed that is not in English. So, before we start, I just want to say that I don’t speak Russian so somethings will be lost on me. Yet, I still think this is a solid record. I think it’s important to discover as much of the world as possible and music bridges that gap much easier. When I first took a listen to the new album from Sandarnia I was immediately drawn into their passion, presence and their overall tone. This band is the brainchild of Russian musician Alexander Kuznetsov and it contains some incredible performances by a variety of awesome musicians.

To Arms! is an awesome record and it feels massive. The production is so bold on every song. It just flows so well from one track to the next, with heavy guitar, a bold bass tone and terrific drum work. If there’s one thing that this project has, it’s a great sense of tone. Every tune is dramatic and it sounds big. It’s like a heavy metal orchestra. One thing I do like about this record is the variety in vocal performances. Different tunes have different singers and each one brings something brilliant to the table. One performance that I did enjoy was Daria Mikolaevskaya’s on the song “Та, что встретит с тобой смерть”. I found this song to be impressive, with its sweeping melodies and excellent musicianship.

Now, there does lie the potential to alienate a wider audience by not making it in English. I will say that and that can put some people off. Yet, I think it’s something they overcome quite well. The music is largely accessible and if you’re into this sort of this already then, then I would highly recommend giving them a chance. Also, the production, whilst impressive, can be lacking at times, with the guitars and bass sometimes mixed over the top of the vocals and that can be a little distracting at times.

Overall, I would say that this was a rather impressive listening experience. The songs are epic and the band just have the charisma of megastars. If you like your power metal bands then, Sandarnia is well worth your time. To Arms! Is an amazing epic of a record that ends on a couple of excellent covers with “Warcraft 2 Theme – Tides of Darkness” and the “Game of Thrones Theme”. If you want some good power metal in your life that you may have never considered before, this is the band for you.

4/5

Mick Birchall