Author Archive

Evil Scarecrow w/ Supports – Manchester, UK

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal, Rock on 31st January 2017 by mickbirchy

Evil Scarecrow, Dog Tired, The Empty Page
The Ruby Lounge, Manchester (UK)
27th January 2017

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God, it’s been awhile since I’ve had this much fun.  I’ve woken up with a sore neck and a ringing in my ear.  Yup, it must have been a good one! Evil Scarecrow are one of those bands that just pull in great crowds, regardless of where they are. However, the Manchester audience were on fire.  The Ruby Lounge was packed to the brim with mad hatter metal heads ready for a great show.  

img_0796The Empty Page

img_0808The rock n roll trio hit the stage with booming bass and a grungy, garage band style sound.  For the most part they were really enjoyable with an “all guns blazing” attitude they certainly caught my attention. The guitar roared into life as the drum work framed everything out really nicely. The band were really at their best when they were unruly and wild. They had this old style college rock sound that suited me very well and I really enjoyed.  Although the singer did hit some bum notes here and there.  Not enough to make the set weak or anything, but very noticeable with the quieter moments of the set. The simplicity of their songs was their biggest strength.  Nothing overly complicated just all-out rock and roll. I really liked it, Definitely worth checking out.

img_0890Dog Tired

The Scottish metallers were up next and boy did I enjoy them.  There’s something to be said for a band that near-deafens you, yet the first thing you do after the set is over is head to the merchandise stand and buy their music. Right from the start the energy and intensity emanating from them was so infectious you couldn’t help but love them. The riffs were consistent, the bass filled out the sound wonderfully, the drums were like gunshots. Just leave it to front-man, Chris Thomson to completely sell the performance, he was immediately captivating and interesting to watch. The band came across as so humble to the Manchester crowd, the glee in their faces when the crowd was screaming on through the performance and asking for more. Dog Tired, looked like they were having a blast which just made the performance so much more enjoyable. I was completely blown away and as I sit here writing this review, their album “It Came From The Sea” is on full blast. Genuinely, one to check out.img_0902

img_0975Evil Scarecrow

img_0971Now, one to the reason everyone came out on a dismal Manchester Friday night. The modern masters of performance metal. In support of the new single “Hurricanado”, the band comes on to The Scorpions classic “Rock You Like A Hurricane (nado)”, pretty sure that’s how it goes…  The Nottingham five piece launch into a mind-meltingly good set with their theatrics integrated to make for, yet another, great set. I think the blend of heavy metal, sci-fi and horror tropes mix really nicely.  Like any popular act they have the familiar staples to chew threw and they did so with expertise and obviously the crowd went into a frenzy for them.  The sold-out crowd created an amazing atmosphere and the participation was wonderful.  The sound was well balanced with every member sounding brilliant.  Truly, nothing compares to an Evil Scarecrow set. The connection they have with their fans is excellent.  Every time you see them you’re guaranteed a great stage show and a great set full of dancing, laughing and fun. One super fun night.

Text by Mick Birchall
Photos by Laura Piggford

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As Lions – Selfish Age

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 15th January 2017 by mickbirchy

Artist: As Lions

Album: Selfish Age

Genre: Rock

Released: 20 January 2017

via Eleven Seven Music

 

I’ll admit I was a fan of the past project of Austin Dickinson, Rise To Remain.  I thought they were a fun group. Austin always came across as a competent and energetic front man. Every time I saw him live he did everything keep the show moving at a good pace and kept the crowd involved. I’ll admit I’ve not taken that much notice of his new band As Lions. So, when I saw the new album was up for a review, I thought that it might be worth checking out. I’ve heard bad things here and there but I’m going to listen to this album with fresh ears and relay some thought.

Selfish Age, for the most part is a pretty average album. I wouldn’t say bad, as they’re not doing anything wrong. There are nice melodies. The singing is clear and in tune, and there are flashes of inspiration here and there. Yet, there isn’t a point that I became invested in the album or what they’re singing about. Save for a few tunes that did stick with me a little. I just feel that this album could be much better.  The guitars feel watered down a touch and all the songs have this really processed feel to them. It feels like a pop-rock album that wants to be treated like a heavy metal album and it doesn’t work like that. All the songs just meld together into one melody at times. Seriously, on certain play-throughs they do just mash up together.

I’ve been bad mouthing this album a little too much. There are good songs on the record. In fact, there are moments that I really enjoyed myself. Austin Dickinson’s vocals are absolutely brilliant. He brings so much emotion and finesse to the album. He oozes with charisma and brings a lot of energy. I like some of the tunes and some of the choruses are rather ear-wormy. It does come together at times. Although, it does come off as a little bland for my taste.

I liked it and I’m sure that they’ll have their fans. Though lyrics are powerful and deep with a strong focus on the problems of the current day. The production is a little flat and it feels washed out. It could have been so much more than what it is. If it was more full force rock, with more of a crunch to the guitar tone, it could have really work. Yet, as is it’s just an okay album. Not amazing but not terrible either. Just meh.

3/ 5

Mick Birchall

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 25th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Metallica

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct

Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal

Released: 18 November 2016

via Blackened Records

So, it’s been 8 long years of buildup and hype. For many metal fans though, some trepidation. As Metallica don’t have a sparkling reputation for album releases. In my opinion, they haven’t made a solid album since “The Black Album”. I mean they’ve had the odd decent tune here and there. They just haven’t made a solid full album. So this album, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was met with a lot of ears. How is it?…. It’s good. I’m not going to say great but it’s good. I think the whole thing is really damn good and definitely their best work in a long time. I guess it was too much to expect them to release a full on thrash album. Then again I don’t think they needed to.

The album sounds great. The production is sharp and they sound tight. Particularly on the title track ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’ and on ‘Atlas, Rise’. The riffs are nice and they actually sound somewhat like Metallica. Weird, I know. Through both discs they’re pretty damn consistent. With a well composed and well arranged sound. It feels like someone took the time to put it together. I like the experimentation with other types of metal too. Ok, they’re not going crazy with this album, they’re playing it pretty safe, still it’s nice to hear.

Saying that though. I do feel that this album plods along at points. Never enough to get boring but it does feel a little long winded. This is way more apparent on disc two. Which feels like Metallica are overstaying their welcome. There are some nice riffs though, like the opening to ‘Confusion’ and I quite like the last song ‘Spit Out The Bone’ it was a good way to cap off the album. So hey not all bad there.

So, yeah Metallica are back. I’m not going to say this is a return to form. However, it is a solid album, and that’s all I really wanted from them. Just something that I can play and have a little fun with. Hardwired… works quite nicely. It’s got some brilliant songs, excellent guitar solos and it sounds like Metallica actually wanted to make this album. Which makes this a good album in my books.

3/5

Mick Birchall

Civil War – The Last Full Measure

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 10th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Civil War
The Last Full Measure
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 04 November 2016
via Napalm Records

My God, this has been a great year for power metal. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to Civil War, they’re a band that I’ve seen live and I think they’re a lot of fun. Mixing the traditional power metal formula with other musical ideas to make a new tone. So  when I heard there was a new album on the way I was quite interesting. I’ve like their previous work so hopefully the new record The Last Full Measure works.

Well I like this one. It’s definitely their sound. That heavy handed power metal with a noticeable twang that brands their signature. The grooves and riffs are fun and build to their respective choruses. These are usually pretty grandiose. The sheer presence that these guys have it great. Everything is full force, the songs don’t such worm their way in as the band beat the melodies in. Songs like A Tale That Should Never Be Told and Tombstone are brilliant tracks. They definitely hook in listeners for a fun ride. I can imagine getting pretty hyped during these songs at a concert.  

Although I have praised this album it has a few shortcomings. I will admit as much as I like some of the songs, this album was such a chore to get through. The album plateaus in intensity and there a lot of moments where I should be getting amped. Yet, I never get true satisfaction as the song has lost the luster. Gangs Of New York has this problem. I want to just love it but I get bored quite easily.

This isn’t the best album. With the slew of great power metal this year. This album just gets lost in the shuffle and in my opinion doesn’t do enough to dig itself out. There are some great songs but the album as a whole is just OK. I’d recommend it if you’re interested. If you’re looking for something massive an album experience that sticks with you. Then maybe look somewhere else. It’s OK.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Hammerfall – Built To Last

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 5th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Hammerfall
Built To Last
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released 4th November 2016
via Napalm Records

Hammerfall return once again with their brand of power metal. Their tenth album Built to Last is a pretty fun romp and is another fantastic piece to their legacy. Their musicianship and chemistry shines through. They really prove why Hammerfall are Built to Last.

The album opens with the old school style tune, Bring It. A fun way to open proceedings. Quickly followed up with the anthemic Hammer High. A song that I feel should become their new anthem. Built To Last really has a immense feel to it. With big choruses and well excited music. The guitar solos are beautiful and the when the music swells for a big chorus it’s a wonderful sound. The production has this flair of old school metal, like Judas Priest or Grim Reaper. The riffs are so defined and the rhythm is so tight when it all comes in together. It makes for one hell of a listening experience. The vocals of Joacim Cans ring beautifully as the intense metal bubbles below. The infectious sound worms it’s way into your ear and definitely keeps you hooked. The soulful ballads are particularly good. As they usually are in power metal. The creativity and imagination paint epic mental pictures in your mind. You don’t want that feeling to end.

You’d think after 10 albums and two decades of writing they might be short of ideas. Well in my opinion, there are very few original ideas anymore. Yet, if a band can get.me to hear something in a new way then it’s much appreciated. Hammerfall deliver the music with 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. In all honesty I don’t have that much more to say so I’m going to end it there. Otherwise I’d just be covering ground I’d already done. It’s an excellent album and I recommend it.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Acid Reign announce UK tour!

Posted in News with tags , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

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Coming off the back of their now already legendary headlining set on the Sophie Lancaster Stage at this year’s Bloodstock festival, it is with great pleasure that rebooted UK thrash legends Acid Reign announce their first headline UK tour for 26 years!

Dubbed the “April Fools Tour”, Acid Reign, led by enigmatic frontman Howard ‘H’ Smith, will be playing six dates across the UK in March/April 2017 bringing old/young friends Shrapnel with them as special guests.

 In their own words:

“We didn’t have any intention of touring next year just writing a new album but when this came up it was too good to turn down. Since Bloodstock we have had so much interest it made total sense to do this and we are all really pleased we can get back out on the road. See you there”

31/03/2017   SOUND CONTROL MANCHESTER

01/04/2017   LORDS OF THE LAND GLASGOW (*no Shrapnel)

02/04/2017 THE CLUNY NEWCASTLE

07/04/2017   TALKING HEADS SOUTHAMPTON

08/04/2017   UNDERWORLD LONDON

09/04/2017   EXCHANGE BRISTOL

Tickets on sale Friday October 14th @ 11am!

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/the-underworld/1034363

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/the-cluny/1034563

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/exchange/1034536

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/talking-heads/1034639

Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

Sonata Arctica
The Ninth Hour
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 7th October 2016
via Nuclear Blast

The last time I talked about Sonata Arctica on this site I gave them a relatively positive review. I enjoyed “Pariah’s Child”, it was a fun record with a lot of good tunes. It got me into the band and I’ve considered myself a fan ever since. So I snapped up the opportunity to take a listen to the new record, “The Ninth Hour”.

Straight from the first song, “Closer To An Animal”, I knew I was listening to a bolder product with more focus and solid songwriting.  Every element of the album is alive and energized. The synth is just uplifting and makes for a nice atmosphere with its diversity. The songwriting is beautiful and is filled with emotion and passion. From slow and somber songs to the heavy and faced paced straight up metal songs. They just make an impression on every song.

The lyrical content is pretty simple when you think about it. The message of the album is life a good life, be kind to people and stop killing the planet. It sounds simplistic and something you’d sing to your kids. Yet, just because you learned it when you were young it does make these morals false. Sometimes you need simple things just said to you and Sonata Arctica really sell it. Tony Kakko’s voice sounds absolutely amazing on this album. He always seems to manage to match his voice to the emotion of the song and it sounds so sweet every time.

This is an excellent album. In my opinion, Sonata Arctica are the undisputed kings of power metal. If I were to recommend songs from the album, firstly “Life”. This is a belting track with a genuinely inspiring and cheerful chorus that sounds glorious. The other song I’d recommend is “We Are What We Are”, which sound sorrowful and passionate.  It’s a beautiful album that really live up to their reputation as one of the best. I love it

4/5

Mick Birchall