Author Archive

Ministry – Moral Hygiene

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 1st October 2021 by Mickelrath

Ministry
Moral Hygiene
Industrial, Nu-Metal
Released: 1st October 2021
via Nuclear Blast

Ok, this album is pretty intense. They have never been the sort to hide away from their views and thoughts on the world. On this album they really go for the jugular and hit home. Their unique blend of eletronica and metal is present and their industrial sound is very stylish and works well here. Ministry is one of those bands that I could never truly get into fully. They make music that is slightly out there music and it can be quite difficult to get into at times. I guess I just have to be in the mood for it. However, this new record Moral Hygiene is an interesting listening experience… in 2021. It really does feel that the band should’ve released this in Donald Trump’s presidency. As some of the lyrics are questionable.

As always with Al Jourgensen and his merry band of industrial insanity, the music is pretty heavy. Both in lyrical theme and in production. The production itself reminds me of all of the good things in the industrial genre. Heavy toned chords, electronica and heavy percussion that hits hard. The music is really abrasive and confronts you directly. It’s a Ministry album, to say the least. I really like how the album flows together from one song to another. Like the intro “Alert Level” goes straight into “Good Trouble”, which makes the album more bingeable, and allows the listener to go through repeat listens without too much stop, start. You can tell that Ministry has a clear influence in EDM as they integrate EDM into heavy metal quite well and pretty seamlessly. 

Lyrically, you can tell that the band wanted to put this album out during the Trump administration as quite a few lyrics seem to be directed to him and the support for the republican. It ultimately still works. Though it’s still jarring in 2021 after Trump is no longer in power. The same can be said for the previous album AmeriKKKant. It’s not bad but it makes the album pretty dated. Unlike other political rock albums they don’t really make much of an effort to make the songs timeless. An example of political albums that stood the test of time would be The Clash’s London Calling

Overall, not a bad album. Again, I’m not much of a fan of Ministry but this was a bit more listenable than a lot of their work that I’ve been exposed to. It’s a good album and for Ministry fans, it’s more to add to the back catalogue. 

6/10

Mick Birchall

Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Posted in Featured, Review with tags , , , , , , , on 7th September 2021 by Mickelrath

Iron Maiden

Senjutsu

Heavy Metal

Released: 3rd September 2021

via Parlophone

Like a lot of metalheads worldwide, my music taste was heavily shaped by Iron Maiden and the influence they’ve had on the metal world since. I feel safe in saying the majority of British metal bands were influenced by the iconic titans. Yet, like any other massive cultural media phenomena, the internet discourse seems to be rife with opinions about their output in recent years. I’ve met fans of the band that haven’t listened to them since Somewhere In Time, some stopped coming back to the band from Brave New World and others, like myself, have always stuck by the band and all their releases all the way to this latest release. Senjutsu is the seventeenth feature length album from Iron Maiden and, like all their releases of recent years, appears to have split the fanbase down the middle. Some proclaim this is a disappointing follow to 2015’s The Book Of Souls, some saying this is their best work in years and some dismissing the fact that they actually have put out a new album as they stopped coming back to Iron Maiden some time ago. So, what do I think?

I found Senjutsu to be a pretty pleasant listening experience. There’s that special quality to it that only Iron Maiden can seem to bring to an album. The lyrical themes that run through the course of the entire album. Music that complements the subject matter they’re singing about and guitar solos that still blow my mind in how they find complexity in simplicity. Obviously, the album is really well produced, at this point they have been through the album making process so much that you really can’t point to any glaring flaws. Also they brought Kevin Shirley back to produce, who has been working with them since Brave New World in 2000. So, obviously the album sounds amazing. Also, Steve Harris is behind all of the songs from a writing standpoint, and if anyone should know what Iron Maiden should sound like, Harris is really the guy. So for all things technical, this is, for lack of a better term, an Iron Maiden album. Yet, this album feels like such a different world from The Book of Souls, not bad, different.

To be honest, on first listening, not a lot feels that different. It feels like the grandiose music that they have been famous for so long. Yet, I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm going for the entire 80 or so minutes of the run time. Sure, there are a couple of standout songs. My personal favourites being “Days of Future Past”, “ Lost in a Lost World” and “Stratego”. However, I don’t think it comes together as an album that well. All of the songs run the same themes, concepts, and ideas, the songs are well written, but when put all together in an album the songs don’t feel like they naturally fall into place. That can really be blamed on the opening track, which is the title track “Senjutsu”. It’s a meandering plodding song that wears off it’s welcome pretty quick. Where I feel a song with a little bit more energy like the aforementioned “Stratego” would have worked better to hype you up for the rest of the album. And it keeps going like that for a little while. The whole album has some pacing issues and to listen to the album for the full run time, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself dropping off it a little.

Still, I feel the song quality is there. Put some of the harder hitters into a live set mixed with some of the other Maiden standards and I think they’ll work pretty darn well. The powerful command of “The Writing on the Wall” would sound a lot better following something like “Wasted Years” and I think that’s ultimately the way I’m choosing to look at this album. More songs that they can interweave into their set lists rather than an individual listening experience unto itself. Iron Maiden has been in my life since I was a little kid and listening to them will always transport me back to being a little kid excited to discover their music. I will probably always get excited to hear new music from them because they always deliver that one special new song into my life that no other band will ever bring and for that, I will always love them. As for Senjutsu… Well, I can’t say it’s my favourite, nor can I fully dismiss it. It shows that even seventeen albums in, music is always a work in progress and no one has the formula fully nailed. Not even a band as immortal as Iron Maiden.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Age of Rage – Wind Of The Wasteland

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Featured with tags , , , on 16th August 2021 by Mickelrath

Age of Rage

Wind Of The Wasteland Part I & II

Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Released: 29th March/ 30th June 2021

Self-Released

It’s been a weird year. I have been dipping my toes into the metal world but I’ve not fully been paying attention. So no wonder this album sneaked below my radar. I’m quite happy I got a chance to check this band out. Age of Rage has been around for some time now. Putting out a few releases every year since 2014 which is when the band really got going. I can definitely see how they’ve garnered a fan base of the years. The core line up is Nikita Piskov on bass, Anton Gruzinsky on vocals, Sergey Bunakov on drums and Ivan Nikolaenko on guitar. 

This year they put out their two-part mega album Wind of the Wasteland and I am super impressed. For self-released music, they don’t skimp on the production quality. This album sounds so impressive with bold and impactful choices that make every instrument sound crystal clear. The heavy metal elements roar to life with each and every track with Anton’s vocals sounding as clean as a whistle. I love the sheer force and passion that the band performs these songs with is stunning. It left me with my jaw on the floor. I mean I don’t speak Russian, so I’m relying on a lot of third party resources to translate it, yet I kept finding myself consistently invested in themes and ideas that were being presented. The albums are interesting listening experiences for sure. 

Both albums are fantastic companion pieces with the songs from part one flowing perfectly into part two. I loved the way the two albums connected. It feels like one continuous arc of themes, poetry and concepts. The music has a sharp and crisp tone. Nothing sounds muddy or distorted. It’s beautifully clear. Every note and every beat is felt and it’s effective. Not a second is wasted on the album at all. Overall. Wow, just simply wow. These albums took my breath away. It’s entertaining in all the right ways. I’ve not wanted to put this album down since the first listen.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Bridear – Bloody Bride

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , on 21st June 2021 by Mickelrath

Bridear

Bloody Bride

Heavy Metal

Released: 7th May 2021

via Avex Trax

Hello Bridear! This album is a real treat to listen to. Every song is steller and sounds so damn good. First up though… Who is Bridear? Formed in Fukuoka, Japan in 2012, they are one of Japan’s premier heavy metal bands and now they are setting their sights on the global stage. After releasing the album in Japan on April 14th, they released it internationally on May 7th which is when I got a chance to listen to it. I was immediately blown away by this record. I’ve had a somewhat fascination with music from Japan for a long time. As part of the generation that was hit by the anime boom of the late 90’s, Japanese culture is always something I’ve loved and I, in particular, love the music that comes out of Japan. Bridear definitely feels more like a band that would feel at home in the European Power Metal scene. I got serious vibes of Dragonforce and Sonata Arctica while listening to this album.

The production is crystal clear on this record with every part of the production glistening. You truly feel the impact. The sound of the drums alone is so hard hitting, you really feel the impact of each drum kick and hit. The guitars glisten in the production and the riffs are so well performed. The music is instantly likeable and definitely accessible. If you’re into this sort of thing already then, then I would highly recommend giving them a chance. With sweeping melodies and excellent musicianship Bridear brings their A game to this record. Songs like “Daybreak” and the title track “Bloody Bride” are captivating with catchy hooks and insanely fun riffs that get stuck in your head. Then you have the vocal performance which is so stellar and sits right on top of the already impressive music. It’s power metal done right.

I have honestly been blown away by the presentation of this record. The women of Bridear are talented and clearly have a passion for their music. The sound is clean and clear. My favourite track from the album so far is “Ashes” with its slow build and then the song hits you with a straight up metal tune. It feels like a page ripped from the Iron Maiden guide to songwriting. This album just feels like the complete package. For me, this is one to check out this year and one I need to see live sooner rather than later…. When covid goes away and allows for live shows again!

9/10

Mick Birchall

Daybreaker – Sanctuary

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 19th May 2021 by Mickelrath

Daybreaker
Sanctuary
Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 21 May 2021
Self-Released

You guys know me at this point. I love some groovy riffs infused with the heaviest of metal tracks. Hoo boy, do I have an awesome recommendation for you today. I’ve been aware of Daybreaker for some time, I’ve even seen them live a couple of times. They’re one of those bands that I always wanna checkout if they’re in town. Meaty riff-tastic metal music that is packed with energy.  The North-West metallers are set to release the new EP, Sanctuary. A powerful and commanding release that keeps you hooked from start to finish. They took what has worked in the past and amplified it all the way to 11. 

The EP opens on bright sunny intro “Enter Salvation” that quickly turns into disaster with an explosion and sirens to set the apocalyptic mood for the brutality to follow. This then cranks into “The Redeemer”. There’s something very ‘mid-2000’s’ metalcore sounding about this track. The booming bass and tight drum work lock into place and keep the pace as the guitars churn out the riffs and the vocal performance goes into full gear. The EP literally goes from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds and it doesn’t come down for the duration. Following that up are the tracks “Decent” and “In Death”. Two meaty tracks with plenty of groove to them as well keeping the EP feeling fresh and dynamic, rather than just balls to the wall brutality. 

Following that up is, for me, the stand out track to the EP “Path of Righteous”. The blast of drums to open the track get you ready for the following beat down. The track goes through a few different and distinct parts that make it a worthy listening experience. The high energy, the brutal breakdown and an atmospheric guitar outro. Man, this song really hit me. Finally rounding out the EP is “MOAB” and “Used God Salesman”. “MOAB” has a strong riff and keeps a tight groove throughout. Then “Used God Salesman” caps off the EP on a high note. It’s just a balls to the wall metal track that makes you wanna get up and mosh around.

Yeah, I rather enjoyed that EP. A fierce listening experience that I want to come back to time and time again. It might not be to everyone’s liking, I mean if you’re not into groove metal, metalcore or its subsidiaries then, this won’t be for you. I wish there was more to it. However, as far as criticisms go, they’re not bad problems to have. An excellent outing for the band and I look forward to hearing these songs live in concert. 

9/10

Mick Birchall 

Skarlett Riot – Invicta

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , on 6th May 2021 by Mickelrath

Skarlett Riot

Invicta

Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Metalcore

Released 7 May 2021

Via Despotz Records

It’s a special feeling when you see one of your favourite bands rise up and release an album this good. Yes, this will probably be somewhat of a biased review as I really do like this band and I can confidently say that I’m almost proud of Skarlett Riot for making this album. Invicta is their third album and it’s been quite the journey listening to them grow and develop into the band they are today. They have always had a way with lyrical themes intertwined with heavy dark tones with a good measure of catchy melodies and this record is no exception with songs that will no doubt be taking centre stage of their setlists when the world goes back to normal and gigs are once again attendable. It could have been really easy for the band to not do anything during the lockdown, however they were laser-focussed on this new project and, armed with this new album, they’ll be ready to take over the hard rock scene.

The album opens with “Breaking the Habit” and it sets the tone for what to expect throughout. Dark and heavy melodies with impactful hard-hitting lyrics. It goes full-force and doesn’t really slow down except for the magnificent crescendo that is the ballad “Into Pieces”, which for my money, is really the centre piece of the album. A soft acoustic intro that builds into a solid hard rock ballad that really caught me off guard but I really enjoy listening to it. While listening to this, I found myself relating to a lot of the lyrics on here. Skarlett Riot work their magic with the lyrics. I especially like the dark lyrics in “Black Cloud” which perfectly sums up how depression and anxiety feels, it really hit me hard and the vocal performance really sells it to you with a lot of conviction and passion. 

The production absolutely packs that extra punch. The big difference on this record is the addition of guttural vocal work, which has never really been in Skarlett Riot’s previous work. Thanks to new bassist, Tim Chambers. He really works off of Chloe’s vocal work and complements it with big bassy sounding guttural vocals that really gives this album so much more of an edge. The guitar riffs are excellent and create a solid framework for the songs. Then you have the drums which feel so punchy on this release. The drum-fills are well worked and they add so much depth to the overall sound.

Okay, this was an outright advertisement for the album rather than a review. Yeah, it goes without saying that I recommend this album. It’s more Skarlett Riot with more of a punch and the new addition of the vocal work is so welcome in the band’s sound. Just an excellent listen and one already in my top ten albums for 2021

10/10

Mick Birchall

Indus Valley Kings – Indus Valley Kings

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , on 28th April 2021 by Mickelrath

Indus Valley Kings
Indus Valley Kings
Stoner Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Released: 22 January 2021
Self-Released

This was a neat little surprise of a record. I love looking up weird and interesting stoner rock music. It’s a sub-culture that I really adore ever since I discovered Kyuss and Orange Goblin. So I always take the opportunity to listen to new bands in the genre. So let me introduce you to Indus Valley Kings. They advertise themselves as “heavy, down-tuned music” and that is something that I kind of agree with. The band consists of Billy Fridrich on guitar & vocals, Dan Lofaro on drums and Jonathan Lesley Habers on bass and vocals. It’s definitely heavy but it has a laid back attitude like a band in a jam session. Sure, jamming out for a whole album might be off-putting to some. However, if you’re willing to chill out, it’s a fun ride of a record. 

The first thing you’ll notice about this album is… The bass! My god the bass is oozing and powerful. It encompasses all elements of the record and creates the framework for all of the songs and keeps the energy chugging throughout. It’s just so in your face that I couldn’t help but point it out. I listened to this on several pairs of headphones and it was just the most powerful part of the album. There’s something very primal and hard-hitting about the tunes. I love the vocal performance on this record, especially the hook to the song “Scapegoat”, it packs such a punch with Billy’s forceful voice kicking ass. Then you have the guitar solos. They are so good. Carrying on from the heavy and down-tuned music, the solos have that vibe at heart. 

It might be a little hard to listen to for people not used to this sort of music. The production isn’t amazing. I do understand the tone they were going for but I don’t think the execution was necessarily the best as the production feels a little stodgy and the bass swallows up all of the other instruments. There are times where the drums aren’t audible because the bass is too in your face. I like bass but there is such a thing as too much. 

It’s still a very enjoyable album as it is. I have the songs playing in my shuffle playlist for the last few weeks in the mix with the likes of Black Sabbath, Brant Bjork, Planet of Zeus and Black Moth and I feel like it fits in quite nicely with that sort of sound. It’s a free-flowing jam session condensed into their best moments for an album. Well worth the listen if you like your bass-heavy stoner rock.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Fortress Under Siege – Atlantis

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , on 15th March 2021 by Mickelrath

Fortress Under Siege
Atlantis

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal
Released: 9th October 2020
via  ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records

Well, it seems my love affair with the metal scene in Greece continues with the discovery of this band, Fortress Under Siege. From the first moments of this record, I was hooked. Their presentation is clean and their music packs a big punch. I had to take a deeper dive to get a better idea of the evolution of this band. The band have released two previous albums and their new album Atlantis is probably my favourite upon listening to them all. It’s big and bold with a lot to offer. The album was produced and mixed by Fotis Benardo (Septicflesh, Rotting Christ, Innerwish). Mastered by George Nerantzis (Pain Of Salvation, Abbath, Dark Funeral, Gus G). It was recorded at Devasoundz Studios in Athens Greece. The biggest hurdle to overcome was replacing lead vocalist, Mike Livas with Tasos Lazaris, however, I feel he stepped to the plate perfectly here. 

The album is big and bold. Loud guitar and intricate keyboard works give this album power and depth with the bass and drums giving each song structure. Then the vocal performance just hits so hard and whenever it comes in. The bombastic production is just great and the sound of the band is that of excellent riffs and wonderful musical progressions. I like the way the album flows together, it almost has a serial or concept nature and every song flows into the next seamlessly. Every song has this big-sounding chorus that gets stuck in your head and feels uplifting when listening to it. It all feels rich with beautiful and carefully crafted melodies. Not a second of time is wasted on the record. Right from the opening track “Love Enforcer”  I was presented with amazing use of lyrical imagery and a great sense of presence and tone. 

Overall, I would say that this was a rather impressive listening experience. The songs are superb and the band just have the charisma of megastars. If you like your power metal bands then, Fortress Under Siege is well worth your time and Atlantis is an amazing epic of a record. The album touches on themes of ancient Hellenic mythology and Trojan royalty. They even give social commentary on helicopter parenting and bullying. The lyrics are multilayered but also you can get a lot just from the surface level too. If you want some good power metal in your life that you may have never considered before, this is the band for you.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Onus Baal – Onus Baal

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 3rd February 2021 by Mickelrath

Onus Baal
Onus Baal
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 15th April 2020
Self Released

So, let’s go back to 2020, I know it was a year from hell. However, there was a lot of great music released and I think it’s important to give credit to the bands that managed to put out something in the turbulent shitshow that was 2020. Rolling across the desks of Valkyrian Music is the Spanish power metal outfit Onus Baal. Started in 2018 out of Huelva. They have ground their way through the Spanish metal scene to deliver their debut, self-titled album. The band consists of Tomás Díaz (vocals/rhythm guitar), Javier Fraile (lead guitar), Fermín Cansino (drums) and Gabriel García (bass). Their style of music feels very much on the cusp of NWOBHM and the more traditional European power metal. The two styles blend quite nicely together. Giving them a polished and clear sound that packs that punch.

The production delivers a pleasant listening experience. Nothing feels muddy, each piece of the instrumentation works in harmony with each other. It hits that mark of great balance. Meaning, when the guitar solos kick in, or when the band hits those epic chorus lines, you get the full power of the band blasting at you. Which is what you want from music like this. You want that sense of attack and scale in the music. I just wanted to get up and headbang throughout. There wasn’t a point of the album where I wanted to skip or turn away to something else. Which speaks to how well the album is constructed. In fact, the only thing that was rather annoying was the mandatory Spotify adverts getting in the way. I think the true stand out moments of the album where the songs “Vientos de Ayre” (Winds of Ayre). Where the vocal performance is at it’s strongest on the record. Also, I really liked the song “Cárcel de Cristal” which has a really nice heavy tone that by far exemplified the strengths of Onus Baal.

A really strong record that has clearly been influenced by the likes of Dio, Judas Priest, Sonata Arctica and Hammerfall. It’s a wonderful soup of ideas and as a first album, it’s a great first impression to the metal community. I didn’t even let the fact that the album is in Spanish throw me off. Also, as someone who doesn’t speak the language, I still feel that it’s worth listening to. You can hear the drive, the passion and the enthusiasm for making music in these guys and that’s what I like about them. I stellar record that I think I’ll be revisiting again.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Immortal Guardian – Psychosomatic

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 24th January 2021 by Mickelrath

Immortal Guardian
Psychosomatic
Power Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 21st February
Via M-Theory

Oh man, I needed something like this right about now. This is the long awaiting second album from the epic power metallers, Immortal Guardian. I was genuinely blown away from the very first moments of this album. It’s certainly a really positive way to kick off my 2021. The band started the recording in early 2020 and would continue to update and add to it over the year, eventually scrapping the original theme and creating something completely new. This album truly is a product of 2020. At least that blasted year gave us something as powerful and as entertaining as this record. Psychosomatic has this real infectious energy to it and you can truly feel the passion, time and effort that went into this. Let me say this right now, I really appreciate this band and everything they put into this record. 

From a production standpoint, it sounds awesome. The music has this real polished tone to it. Everything feels clean and stands out. With each piece of instrumentation shining on its own but also it comes together to become something much bigger and bolder. The glistening guitar work is complemented by the twinkling keyboard and it’s all made bold by the strong bass and drum combination which gives the music that booming presence. Then you have the vocal performance which is so stellar and site right on top of the already impressive music. It’s power metal done right. If you want a powerful listening experience that grabs you and keeps you hooked in then I don’t think you can go far wrong here. It reminds me of Tobias Sammet albums, epic but also consistently engaging. 

Like I said earlier the band threw away the original concept they had planned for this record and started again. Well, you can tell that this was written in a worldwide pandemic. Not only do you have the song “Lockdown”, which is literally about the global lockdown but other lyrical moments of this record give you a real gut punch. Songs like “Read Between The Lines”, “Self Isolation” and “Phobia” have a surreal quality to them that really capture that feeling of dread, despair and the harsh reality we found ourselves in. At the same time, they manage to balance that out with themes of hope and optimism with “Find a Reason” and “New Day Rising”. 

This is an enigmatic and engaging album that really kept my attention. Immortal Guardian definitely has my attention. I even looked up their previous album Age of Revolution and I will admit that they are legitimately impressive. They craft songs that get stuck in your head and make you want to get up and move. This was quite a nice surprise to start 2021 with.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Dio – The Studio Collection 1996 – 2004

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on 12th November 2020 by Mickelrath

Dio
Angry Machines / Magica / Killing The Dragon / Master of the Moon
Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Heavy Metal
Originally Release Year: 1996/2000/2002/2004
Release Date:  February 21, 2020 via BMG and Niji Entertainment Group Inc

If there is one band that I can safely say shaped how I hear music to this day I would definitely say Ronnie James Dio and his hard rock/heavy metal collective. Dio are up there as one of the many bands I would sit and listen to for hours on end. I remember my Dad playing me songs like Holy Diver, Rock ‘n’ Roll Children and many others which captivated my attention and informed my music taste. Ronnie James Dio, is an icon to the world of heavy metal. His distinct vocals and descriptive poetry are just the stuff of dreams for the genre. His heavy metal stories are still looked fondly upon today for any and all musicians. Simply put, if you listen, play or even pay the slightest attention to the genre then Dio is a famous and influential name. I remember sitting at my Dad’s computer desk listening to song after song from him and unknowingly learning how his influence is seen everywhere in the genre then and still to this day. 

As much as I would love to spend all day looking over the entire career of Ronnie, and maybe one day I will. Here, I will only be discussing 4 albums. The last four albums of the band Dio. 1996’s Angry Machines, 2000’s Magica, 2002’s Killing The Dragon and 2004’s Master of the Moon. Now, in 2020 we have been given remasters of these four albums and I have to say they sound really good. I mean, get yourself an up-to-date sound system and enjoy heavy metal in its purest form. Those last two albums are both albums that I got on their original release and listened to with my Dad but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ll get to those.  Just as an opening statement about these remasters before we get properly started. They’re pretty good. If you like classic heavy metal done well and sounding nice and crisp, I would highly recommend picking up the new remasters.

Firstly, let’s cover the 1996 album Angry Machines. This would be the last studio album with the original drummer Vinnie Appice. It would also serve as the last studio album appearance from guitarist Tracy Grijalva. The main remaster of the original songs is really good. You get this fresh crisp sound to the songs and it sounds a lot better. The bass booms and the drumwork sounds commanding. The overall tone of the album feels bigger and some of my favourite tunes from the record like “Hunter of the Heart” and “Big Sister” sound so good in a whole new way. The opening song “Institutional Man” is a cold mechanical song that leads into the heart of the album’s themes really nicely. Themes of the de-humanisation of mankind and the really oppressive overtone. It’s one of the heavier albums from Dio. A mix of doom and stoner rock that thud along. The riffs coming through loud and powerful with the commanding vocals of Dio captivate and enthrall. This would probably be the album that most general hard rock fans might miss in the Dio repertoire and is certainly not the album that I would say best represents his finest work. However, I feel like as part of the 90’s metal scene it was a good fit. Metal being in that period of crossover between old school and new school. That battle rages on this record as you can hear glimpses of Dio’s old-school ways mixed with a smattering of different metal styling. It feels very much like a band that was throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of Ronnie, this might be one to skip. 

5/10

Moving forward a few years let’s cover Ronnie’s record from 2000, Magica. This album marked the return of guitarist Craig Goldy, who also had performed on Dio‘s 1987 album Dream Evil and in the 2004’s Master of the Moon. Magica also features Jimmy Bain on bass and Simon Wright on drums. Ronnie produced this album and originally planned for it to be the first as part of a trilogy of concept albums and was planning to release them after touring with Heaven and Hell. Sadly, Dio passed away on May 16, 2010 and the only song released from this potential project was titled “Electra”, which is included on this remastered edition. This album feels like a Dio album of old with themes and stories of mysticism, swords and sorcery, tales of otherworldly places and pure fantasy. This is Dio’s bread and butter. The album contains a much brighter and more hopeful sounding band than Angry Machines with lighter guitar and tighter production. It feels so much more consistent and, for lack of a better term, like a Dio album. The guitar solos that Goldy provides are hard-hitting and powerful and coupled with the strong rhythm section played by Bain and Wright and you get music that has more of a beating heart. The opening selection of tunes really set a great tone and get you captivated in this concept album and get you invested in the story that Ronnie is trying to convey. The album just allows you to become lost in its aura, making the story moments intriguing and the pure rock ‘n’ roll moments a real treat. I could personally do without the small interludes breaking up the album, I suppose it’s to flesh out the concept but they don’t add much to the overall listening experience. It feels like it’s more there to pad out the run time. Which isn’t really necessary as the album is pretty lengthy as is. It’s weird listening to “Electra” today. A hint as to what was to come from this icon before his demise. Although the audio quality is not great from a musical perspective, Dio’s vocals are sublime and I feel robbed from the potential project that never was. I would love to hear what Magica II and III would have been. However, Magica itself was a pleasant listen and one worth revisiting to this day.

8/10

Jumping right along now to 2002 and what was my personal introduction to the master himself. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourite albums from Dio, Killing The Dragon. I was a 10 year old kid when this was initially released and I can remember spending time at my dad’s computer playing video games and listening to this record. This album introduced guitarist Doug Aldrich (of Whitesnake fame) to the band. Goldy co-wrote some of the songs before leaving the band and you can hear his fingerprints in places here. This would be their final album with bassist Jimmy Bain. I love this album so much. Like everything about it. This album was such a huge part of my heavy metal christening. It led me to so many bands and informed so much of my personal music taste that I couldn’t really put it into words. Hearing this remaster is quite nice, the songs are just as powerful today as they were back in the day. Aldrich’s solos are very different from previous guitarists. Much more flash and flair to them, more effect pedals were used and they feel much more freeform. It’s like Aldrich was improvising on the day of recording. Though, if you listen carefully, each part is so well constructed and he uses the songs to just build and build. Songs like “Better in the Dark” and “Along Comes a Spider” just evoke that classic Dio sound that old fans, no doub, would love. Dio, sounds so lively here. His vocals are as excellent as ever and you are reminded of why he is the legend he is. The titular “dragon” of the album title refers to modern technology. Dio has expressed his concerns with it possibly threatening society in the future and felt like we needed to rebel against it. I think that in 2020 and the world now revolving around smart technology and peoples reliance on it, this album is more prevalent than ever. The album has some dark themes amongst the bright hopeful rock n roll. Songs like “Throw Away The Children”, “Guilty” and the title track “Killing The Dragon” have very foreboding lyrics. Yet, the heavily charged rock music keeps the pace of the album going and at no point does it linger. Dio gets in, makes his points and gets out. Leaving you with heavy moral questions and entertaining you at the same time. There’s just so much to ponder and enjoy with this album and it’s why I love it so much!

10/10

Finally on this review-rollercoaster, our last section will take us to 2004 and the final ever Dio album, Master of the Moon. If Ronnie has to leave his name-saken band with any sort of legacy, Master of the Moon is not a bad one to leave it on. For this album we see the return of Craig Goldy on guitars, Simon Wright on the drums and long time collaborator Scott Warren  on the keyboard. On bass guitar for this record Dio had Jeff Pilson, from Dokken. A commanding line up and one that delivered a damn fine album. Though, for me personally I don’t enjoy it as much as Killing The Dragon, objectively this is a good record. Deep themes interlaced with well constructed hard rock music with well performed instrumentals and Dio singing his heart out. The production is well put together with every piece of instrumentation doing their work and it all comes together really nicely. Yet, ultimately there feels like there’s something missing. There’s no standout songs, the album just blends together. If we’re comparing all of the remasters in this review, this lacks the aggression of Angry Machines, the imagination of Magica and the passion and persistent drive of Killing The Dragon. It mostly serves its purpose of more Dio music. It’s decently written and competently performed however it lacks that real power that would capture your attention. It’s not even hitting that nostalgia vibe as it doesn’t really capture the 80’s Dio sound that made him famous. It’s not bad by any means however, revisiting this albumin this remaster it just hits the middle of the road. Which is not what you want from the larger than life metal icon. 

6/10

This remaster adventure has been really fun and made me really think about what I look for in a Dio record which makes me think about my taste in heavy metal in general. The man was a legend, no doubt. His star will never fade and my love for his music will never die. He had one of the most complete and commanding careers in the genre. He worked with so many musicians and was a complete product of his era, which informed the genres of rock and heavy metal to a great extent. For me, he was an eye opener. Someone I truly looked up to and it pains me to this day that I never got the opportunity to see him in concert. A true master of his craft and a respective icon for generations to come.

Mick Birchall

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

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

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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 Mickelrath

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