Author Archive

Soul Desire – Ignite

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 1st August 2018 by Mickelrath

Soul Desire
Ignite
Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
Released 13 July 2018
Self Released



I was quite interested to listen to Soul Desire. Formed this year, and already armed with an exciting and well-executed EP. I can’t say I knew much about their previous band, One Last Run, so I’m not really going to touch that. However, Ignite is the first taste that we’ve got from Becky Jade (Vocals), Rob Leach (Guitar) & Chris Smith (Bass) in this new project and I am thoroughly impressed. The sound is good, the melodies are catchy, the lyrics are well written all leading to a great debut for them.

The album opens with their lead-in single, “Rapture” and it automatically sets the tone for the EP, which is rocking hard and clearly enjoying it. I like the sound of the guitars and the bass which chug away and the riff is a great one to open with. It really feels like that sound that I have been listening to for a long time, with bands like Papa Roach, Skarlett Riot and Firewind. So points there and the same can be said across the EP. It has that really clear and defined tone that just punches you right in the gut. Also, the songs “Dark Light” and “Ignite” were brilliant headbangers as well. From the production standpoint, this album is great to listen to and catches the ear just right.

My only problem with the EP is that it reminds me too much of other bands out there. In all honesty, there’s not much in this genre anymore that you can make original without co-opting other musical influences. Whilst the lead vocalist, Becky Jade, certainly brings her own charm, energy and personality to the music, the overall sound is something I’ve heard a lot of. Not so much a problem with the band it’s more the genre itself. However, they do suffer from it. I would have liked some other musical ideas or just something to put meat on the bare bones. Maybe some backing tracks, electronics or other instrumentation, but that’s just me spitballing.

I will admit it’s a fine EP. It has some very strong production and beautiful lyrics. I particularly liked the ballad “Falling Apart”, it broke up the EP and showed that they’re not just a one trick pony. I would definitely like to hear more from them as they’re very talented musicians. I also would really be interested in hearing them in a live setting. Ultimately I’m giving this EP a thumbs up. If you’re into you alternative hard rock then I would recommend giving them a listen.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘Till The End

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 18th July 2018 by Mickelrath

DevilDriver

Outlaws ‘Till The End, Vol 1.

Groove Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Released: 6th July 2018

via Napalm Records



This album is an amazing concept and something I kind of want more of. Judging by the title, we might just get it. DevilDriver, have created an album full of metal covers of classic outlaw country songs. Outlaws ‘Till The End Vol. 1. I’m a huge fan of country and metal music, so this works perfectly for me. Also, this doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-grab. There does seem to be a real effort and passion put into the album. It’s clear from listening to it that DevilDriver has a lot of respect and love for the artists that they’re covering. All of the songs pack a punch straight to the gut and give new life to these songs for a new generation, who may have never encountered them otherwise.

Covering artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and The Eagles. They manage to capture the soul of the original songs whilst, at the same time, putting their own mark on the tunes. Giving every song that signature DevilDriver edge that sounds really brutal. Production-wise, the album sounds great. With chugging guitars, well-executed drum work and Dez Fafara screaming his heart out. Producer, Steve Evetts, did a great job putting this project together. Every instrument sounds brilliant and Fafara roars over the top of it all, creating an energetic and fierce sound. Joining DevilDriver on the project is an all-star cast of metal artists: Wednesday 13, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and Mark Morton, Lee Ving from FEAR, Glenn Danzig, Brock Lindow of 36 Crazyfists, Testament’s Chuck Billy, and John 5. Who all add that little bit of flavour to an already delicious sound. As well as the metal star power, there’s a cool appearance from country heavyweight, Hank Williams III. Who performs his song “Country Heroes” with DevilDriver.

The songs are already tried, tested and beloved outlaw country songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, “Outlaw Man” by The Eagles and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam. So as far as the songwriting is concerned, it’s great. It really is the way DevilDriver have re-imagined these songs and made something truly original out of them. Almost turning them into their own songs. The way they take the familiar elements and put their own spin on things is mesmerising and is still enjoyable on the other side.

No doubt this album might be little divisive to some. Fans who might have just wanted more original content from the band may be annoyed by a cover album. Also, country fans may not like the idea of these metal versions, “destroying the original sound”. Yet, I really like the idea here. More importantly, I like the execution and delivery. DevilDriver has made a fun, compelling record that I think people will really enjoy. The existence of the covers doesn’t ruin the originals but continues their legacy by getting new listeners on board. Be that with songs they’ve never heard, in the case of metal fans. Or a genre they’ve never considered, in the case of country fans. Since the title is “Volume 1”  all I can say is when is “Volume 2” coming?

4.5/5

Mick Birchall

Urne – The Mountain of Gold

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30th June 2018 by Mickelrath

Urne

The Mountain of Gold

Groove metal, stoner metal

Released: 27 July 2018

Self-Released

Image may contain: night and outdoor

It always sucks when a band with so much potential, doesn’t go the distance. Hang The Bastard are a prime example of this. An excellent groove metal band that always brought the extra something to their live performances and it really sucked when they split in 2016. Well hopefully, this will go some way to easing that loss for the fans. As a new band formed by two former members of, Hang The Bastard emerges. Bassist, Joe Nally and guitarist, Angus Neyra have come together once again to make something new and special within the same vein of music, with their new group, Urne. Armed with their new drummer, Rich Wiltshire they’re ready to unleash their new EP – The Mountain of Gold. I’ve had the chance to listen to it prior to its release and I have simply loved what I’m hearing.

The album kicks off with this atmospheric build up to the debut single “Dust Atlas”, which then kicks into a powerful bombastic riff. Already establishing a commanding presence, they manage a great balance between heavy and melodic as Joe’s vocals come in. The music’s production sounds simply phenomenal, with the guitar roaring away, the bass pulsating and the drums sound as sharp as a tack. The riffs are groovy as hell and the whole EP packs one big punch. The bands also add that groove flavour to the riffs to keep the songs fluent and easy to listen to. In all honesty, I like the simplicity of the sound. It’s definitely bare bones metal but it’s really effective.

The only thing that I am not a fan of is the vocal effect that comes in from time to time. It’s I find the echo distraction and makes the production cluttered. However, I think that’s just my personal bias, toward vocal effects. On the other hand, I did like Joe’s screamed vocals. Although it sounds like he is straining himself at times, there’s real emotion to connect with when it comes in. I can’t think of much else that I didn’t like here. Urne really presents a great EP, it has a dynamic sound that keeps you entertained from start to finish.

It’s really good to hear new and fresh music from musicians that have already proven themselves in the arena. The Mountain of Gold is a well made first step into this new venture for the groove metal trio and I’m excited for what comes next.

4/5

Mick Birchall

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Sick N’ Beautiful + Supports @ Manchester Aatma

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , , , on 4th June 2018 by Mickelrath

Sick N’ Beautiful w/ Bad Pollyanna & Novacrow

Venue: Manchester Aatma Date: 02 June 2018

This was an interesting show, to say the least. First of all, I struggled to find the venue. I like to think that I know Manchester pretty well but I had to lap the building a few times to even find it. So that wasn’t the best start. Also since this was one of the last dates of the tour and this date was a last minute addition to the tour, there wasn’t much of a crowd in the venue. Still the bands really brought the energy and intensity, resulting in a fun time regardless. I have recently reviewed the new album from Sick N’ Beautiful and I really liked it. It had so much personality to it, so naturally, I had to check out what a show from them would be like. Also for an added bonus the support came from Liverpool’s mad rockers, Novacrow. Also, one of my favourite bands, Bad Pollyanna. With all that in play I knew I was going to have a good time.

Novacrow


Straight from the get-go these guys brought so much fire. They just went absolutely crazy on the stage. The guitars roared and the bass pulsated as they brought their tunes to life. Unfortunately their drummer was absent but nothing that a cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito and a drum machine couldn’t fix and to be fair it was mixed pretty well into the set. They wouldn’t stand still for one moment and I liked that. Lead vocalist, Kitty was a mad woman, roaming around the venue and screaming with such passion. They were a lot of fun and I was really into it. Every moment they were playing the audience were captivated by their antics. I haven’t seen them in a long time and I have to say they haven’t missed a step for a single moment.

They’re just as fun and enjoyable as ever and they’re clearly having a good time when they play. The only real problem I had with the set is that the balance was out at times. There would just be moments where the distortion was just a little too much and you couldn’t hear the actual music more just noise. However they made up for that with their personalities. They were beaming with big grins as they played great tunes like “Fight The Horde” and ending the set on the ever popular “Fat Frog”. Where the band went into full on crazy mode. Definitely an enjoyable opener and it made me realise that I need to see them more often. They put on a great live I hope more and more people catch on to them.

Bad Pollyanna


I’ve already kinda gave this away but yeah Bad Pollyanna are one of my favourite bands. I could go to see them again and again and never really get bored. They have the really nice balance of rock and electronica. Once again they didn’t disappoint. They blasted full force on the stage and I think a lot of the audience knew who they were as well which added to the show immensely. I loved the set list, each song followed into the next, it all felt like it really flowed well. Songs like “Pull the Trigger” and “Bionic Heart” got the people moving and I was really enjoying myself. The electronic sections really add layers to their live set. It was mixed really well with the live instruments and the vocal performance was sublime. Frontwoman, Olivia Hyde and bassist Nikki Kontinen had some really great moments of vocal harmony as well. The whole set just felt so fluid. “Define Me” was really well received as well, as one of their biggest hits. They just injected so much charisma and energy into their set. Their performance was engrossing. Maybe a little more restrained that Novacrow’s set, but still really fun to watch. It was really hard to take your eyes off of them.

There wasn’t too much in the way of negatives in this set. To be perfectly honest I was enjoying myself too much to really notice. The mark a really good set in my opinion. The only thing I wish is that there was some new material for them to play. As much as I love the two albums they have I wish there was some new music just to spice up the set list a little more. To be fair though that’s not a bad criticism to give, I want more music.  Bad Pollyanna continue to be one of my favourite bands to watch live. Everything they do while on stage is really enjoyable and their songs are very entertaining.

Sick N’ Beautiful


Okay…This was actually really good. Very much worth the wait to see. Sick N’ Beautiful really know how to put on one hell of a show, even the smallest and cramped of spaces. Seriously talk about making the most of the space given to you. They really brought their set list to life in the best of ways. Their music was excellent as they played some of my favourite tunes from the album. Their performance was out of this world with strobe lighting and a very interesting presentation. The sound was pretty damn good as well. The songs were well played.

Unfortunately the crowd had thinned out even more than before so there wasn’t quite as much energy as there was for the openers. I would love to see them play to a much bigger and more energetic crowd because I think a show like that would be quality. They clearly put a lot of time into their stage personas. I really loved them for the short time they were on stage. The setlist was great I really liked “Megalomaniacal” and “All Wanna Go To Heaven”. They just performed really well. I loved that they put their all into the set, I can really respect that. They clearly have a passion for performing and it shone through here. I wish there was more of an atmosphere to the show, but beggars can’t be choosers and I had a great time listening to them.

Mick Birchall

Sick N Beautiful – Element of Sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 31st May 2018 by Mickelrath

Sick N Beautiful

Element Of Sex

Shock Rock, Nu Metal, Electronic Metal

Released: 29 June 2018

via Rosary Lane Records

Sick N Beautiful are a shock rock band that took me by surprise. Their new album Element of Sex is absolutely superb. Mixing elements of rock, metal, pop and electronica and combining it with sci-fi themes. In my book this makes it a real winner. They have so much personality and they really use this album to express themselves. For people who may not be well versed in this style of music, it’s meant to be loud, heavy on the distortion and has character driven lyrics. So if you enjoy Lordi or Rob Zombie, you’ll more than likely get into this. I have listened to the album a few times now and I have to say I’m really enjoying the sound. It’s weird enough to be abstractly enjoyable but conventional enough to garner a wide audience. I think it’s a good place for them to sit.

Their music is this great fusion of rock and electronica with a gothic edge. It puts me in mind of German industrial music with its distorted guitars and well put together arrangements. The production is sharp and the unique sounds of the band truly engross you. Their sheer charisma is matched by an intense energy that persists throughout the record. The riffs come thick and fast, they really sound great. With the electronica influences the songs sound other worldly and give the guitars and bass a slightly weirder tone. It’s almost an orchestral vibe, intercut with nu-metal undertones. I have to give a lot of credit to the vocal performance of Herma. She sings the songs with such passion and conviction; every moment of her performance on the album is absolutely captivating.

Their lyrics are fun as well invoking scenes of sex, violence, space and ritual. All cleverly tied together with the use of imagination. They manage to use their lyrics to create scenes in your mind where they can tell their story. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the lyric writing and use their imaginations to tell stories and that’s what I like here. There’s never a feeling of being talked down to. You go for the ride with them and I can appreciate musical escapism.

Overall, I have really loved listening to Sick N Beautiful. They’re a strange band but very likeable. Their music is enjoyable and with their use of genre hopping and mixing it really feels like something fresh and new. Even though there’s nothing really different the way they piece it all together feels new and it’s a bit of fresh air in a genre that hasn’t progressed in a while. They make music they clearly enjoy and their not going to let anyone tear them down or make them feel ashamed. It’s a fun album and in my opinion definitely one to pick up.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Turbowolf – The Free Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20th February 2018 by Mickelrath

Artist: Turbowolf

Album: The Free Life

Genre, Psychedelic, Punk, Electronic

Released: 09 March 2018

via So Recordings

The Bristol based psychedelic punk rockers, Turbowolf, are back with their third album, The Free Life. They’re definitely one of those bands that are so different and distinct that you either love the sound or hate it. I personally, love what they produce. I like bands that really challenge their listeners and do something different and Turbowolf have that spark, something that their fans can connect with which leaves casual fans with intrigue (and I’m sure some confusion). I loved their 2011 self-titled debut so much. It was a burst of creativity and really delivered a full package of excitement, not bad for a first outing. Their 2015 album, Two Hands, left me a little disappointed, maybe it was just the victim of over-hype, but it just wasn’t as good. Some great songs individually but the album wasn’t as well put together for my liking. However, early demos and singles from this album sounded interesting enough for me to want to get the whole album and a proper spin.

The album sparks with energy straight off of the bat, with the infectious No, No, No. The synth, guitars and bass all meld together to create this delicious soup of electronic noise. Exactly how you want a record to open, with a punch of punk right in the senses. Across the board Turbowolf seem to have more of a toned sound on this album. Guitarist Andy Ghosh and bassist Lianna Lee Davies bring the heavy riffs that feel heavier. When they kick into full punk mode you feel this rush of psychedelic electronic sounds. The riffs are tight and the basslines are highly enjoyable. Every second of this album hits hard and fast with all of the verbose and intricate sounds that Turbowolf have become known for. Chris Georgiadis’s vocals fit well. He delivers the lyrics in such a way that you have to pay attention to what he’s saying. Then when the vocal harmonies come in, it leaves an impact. On a sound design level The Free Life impresses and on writing level it’s excellent. Turbowolf do everything in their power to bend the very concept of music to their whims.

Also, with this album comes a slew of featured musicians to collaborate on this project. Joe Talbot of fellow Bristol band Idles, lends his vocal talents to Capital X. Sebastian Grainger of Death From Above adds his musical mind to the track Cheap Magic. Mike Kerr of Royal Blood trades lines with Chris in the mind melter of a tune Domino. Finally, Chantal Brown of acclaimed psyche-metallers Vodun adds her flair to the song Very Bad. Usually I would say having this many featured guests cheapens a record. However every single one adds something unique to their respective song and makes the album all the more varied and diverse. One thing is for sure, you will not be bored with this album in a hurry. There is so much to appreciate and the talent on display is immense.

Now like I said Turbowolf are a very distinct band, so this will not be to everyone’s taste. If you’re not into this type of music then this album will do very little to change that mindset. They have definitely chosen their direction. Whereby they push the medium further with every release. I mean they do have some crossover appeal and casual audiences will probably take to the singles, as they do get radio play. However, the albums go full on weird mode and it can be a little much for the average listener. They’ve always had that effect though, so nothing new there. I’m very much into the sound on display here. There’s a creativity and splendor to the album that makes it sound so interesting. From its most intense punk moments to the mind-bending distortion and synths that gives them their signature sound. You will not mistake Turbowolf for anyone else, they hit the mark perfectly here.

5/5

Mick Birchall

MAKS – 3ft No Diving

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 2nd February 2018 by Mickelrath

MAKS

3ft No Diving

Rock, Southern Rock, Adult Alternative

Released: 23 June 2017

Self Released

This is definitely an interesting release to listen to. MAKS is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter with a very distinct sound. It’s a big old mixture of rock, new wave, country and adult alternative. His new album 3ft No Diving is certainly something very unique, I guarantee you haven’t heard anything like this. It’s an album that really stretches the length of what you’d call “rock music”. The type of album you get here is an interesting musical soup of different instrumental styles and genres which when combined make for something really interesting to listen to. All of the songs are written by him, barring the two covers which I’ll mention later, so there’s some real personal ideas here which I feel are executed well. OK, this album is not going to be to everyone’s taste, I’ll tell you now but there’s some fantastic songwriting here.

The album opens with the foreboding tone of “Portal”. However this is quickly moved into the first song on the album “Lay Down Low” and automatically you learn what type of album you’re getting. A nice fusion of electronic new wave and folky southern rock and it actually works quite well. Obviously he’s not the first to make this odd pairing but he definitely has his own vision of how it should work. The guitar being very prominent and most of the other instruments falling into the background somewhere. MAKS voice is really good, a very soothing tone for the melodies and every so often he has that blues scratchiness to his voice which is great. In particularly for his cover of “Stones in my Passway” a blues classic by Robert Johnson. The other cover “Waiting for the Man” by Lou Reed is nicely performed as well, although I’m not the biggest Lou Reed fan, I can appreciate this. It’s very clear from the sound on the album that this was a passion project and the passion definitely shines through.

However, the production is not all there, at least not for me. Everything is quite tinny and there sounds like there’s a lot of audio filters. Hey, if this is your thing then fine but for me, I like a little bass and more of a bottom to the production. The acoustic guitar sounds lovely, however everything else is quite muted and feels synthesised to a degree and that gets annoying after a while. If the drums had a little more impact to them and the bass filled the bottom of the sound, then this maybe a little easier to listen to. Other than that, I have very little problems, the songwriting is great and I love how the melodies flow, it sounds well put together on a writing level, also the riffs are well executed.  

For me I like it. I didn’t love it, but I look forward to hearing him create more music. He obviously has an ear for lyrics, melody, harmony and rhythm and with that comes something that truly sticks with you. Again, the production may not be to everyone’s taste but I think with a little bit more of a punch and a thicker tone this could be something I could say I love.  Definitely worth checking out anyway. Hope you listen and enjoy.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Thundermother – Thundermother

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 2nd February 2018 by Mickelrath

Thundermother
“Thundermother”
Hard Rock
Released: 23rd February 2018
via Despotz Records

In the spring of 2017, Thundermother saw some drastic changes. Four members left, three new ones arrived (Vocals: Guernica Mancini, Drums: Emlee Johansson & Bass: Sara Pettersson). Yet, guitarist and founder, Filippa Nässil stood as the only original member left. I admire that she’s standing by her vision of the band and the members she’s brought in play the parts well. Overall, the line-up feels stronger.

I really like the sound that Thundermother put on here. A sort of throwback rock n roll with more of a modern feel. Yet for my liking there’s nothing here to spice up the usual formula. There’s nothing new and so there’s ultimately nothing keeping me invested in the music and it turns into white noise. I want to reiterate I like the music, but because there is so little in the way of something different being performed all it does is make me want to go back a listen to old records. This sound has been done and the classic rock records are still classic, we don’t need more bands performing this sound anymore. It’s not even like Airbourne or Steel Panther, where they have so much intensity and passion, you can’t help but get into it. Here it feels so stagnant and lifeless.

As you can tell, I’m kinda torn on this album. In one way I really like it. They try to invoke a lot of the classic staples and they are all competent musicians producing a sound they clearly love. Yet I can’t get over just how formulaic the music is. If this were a few years ago, I probably would’ve eaten this up. It’s just after years of going to gigs and hearing endless copycats who just play this sort of music with nothing fresh added to it. Well, it all gets really boring, and my mind is craving for something else to be added to the formula. Anything that will keep my interest.

So before this becomes a whipping party, let’s talk about the good stuff. As I feel there is a lot to like. For one, it’s all performed well and the production is great. Everything being clear and concise. The vocals standing out on top of the production and you really feel every drum beat. There’s a sharpness to the tone and every little thing is done well. The riffs are also well done, with a constant groove and the bass is played well creating a nice bottom end to the guitar. So the tone is thick and the album does move at a nice pace. The vocals of, Guernica Mancini are simply immaculate. She has a really nice voice and it works with this style of music. All the pieces fit rather nicely. Overall the sound is nice and the songs are very likeable. If you’re into your classic rock and have no desire to move on past the 70’s in terms of musical direction then yeah this band is great for you.

I just wish there was more to this. No, I don’t demand that every rock album has to be experimental or a massive prog-rock concept album. However, I would like to think musicians want to push the boundaries rather than being so confined to one sound. I think that’s my biggest problem here. The complete unwillingness to really try to craft something not before heard. There’s no issue with being influenced by the classic rock bands of yesteryear, I just want to see artists try to make something fresh to my ears. It can be as simple as adding non-traditional instrumentation to create sounds never before present in the genre. Or you could go all out and start genre mixing have a bit of fun mixing and matching and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Hell, I’ll always give credit to those who at least attempt something out of the ordinary.  I just think that Thundermother play it far to safe here.

Like I said, if this is your thing and you like your throwback bands, the Thundermother do a fabulous job. It might not be for me necessarily be for me, then again I’m not the target audience. I do think they could be so much more if they tried to move past the standard rock n roll formula. As is though, it’s fine. The music is nice and the melodies are ones that get caught in your head and you find yourself singing. The shake up in the group dynamic, I think, was good for them and I admire the persistence of Filippa for not just letting the brand of Thundermother just die off. If you like classic rock with no surprises and left uncompromised then I say buy it and enjoy. It’s not bad music, it’s just nothing I haven’t heard before.

3/5

Mick Birchall

Cats In Space – Scarecrow

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 28th October 2017 by Mickelrath

Cats In Space

Scarecrow

Power-pop, Glam Rock

Released: 25 August 2017

via Cats In Space / Cargo Records

In my continued search for something different in the rock/metal world. I happened upon a band called Cats In Space. I thought this had to be something new different and interesting. To my disappointment they weren’t some existential prog-rock act with themes of feline creatures in the vastness of space. Instead it’s another rock act trying to evoke that feeling of the late 70’s/early 80’s glam rock. To which they do a really good job. Their music is bright , happy and definitely has that sense of musical presence that gets that style of old school rock down almost perfectly. Once I got past my confusion of what they were, I really found myself getting into their music. Having grown up on this genre, it definitely struck a chord with me. It has the same feel as Whitesnake, well not really but it’s something I can get behind 100%.

The album has a weird tone on the production, like a really heavy digital processing, this works on some songs but can kind of sounds like shit at other times. Especially when it’s just the synths on their own. Every song has a really strong hook, with pretty simplistic lyrics so it’s easy to sing along to. They implore this masterfully, I have to say I was bopping along quite merrily to almost every track. Even though the production is a little weird, I love the songwriting, the way the songs flow should bring a smile to any hard rock fan, with swelling versus that just build to big choruses. Yeah, it’s formulaic but you can’t argue that it works. They just get the best out of their sound by making everything sound huge. The guitar tone is wonderful and the bass and drums lock in together really well. The vocals performance is damn near flawless, soaring on top of the production and hitting every note beautifully.

I have to say I was a little taken back by this album. It reminded me of listening to old school records with my Dad and it has those big overblown choruses to match. The production can be a little clumsy with the way it sounds at times, but that’s a very minor point. The songs are fantastic. It’s cheesy and a little bit silly but I think that’s the point. To be an over-the-top power pop/glam rock band with massive catchy choruses that are easy to sing along to. I actually liked this album in the end. Not enough to give it a perfect rating but you know with the amount of depressing shite that out there. I needed something like this.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Epica – The Solace System

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 4th September 2017 by Mickelrath

Epica
The Solace System
Symphonic Metal, Progressive Metal
Released 1st September 2017
via Nuclear Blast Records

Epica have been on a roll as of late. Last year they came out with one of their most commercially accessible, biggest sounding and most fun album to date. They have followed this up with another little taste of this sound. The Solace System is the new EP that continues the big bombastic sound that they created on The Quantum Enigma and The Holographic Principle. When Epica are truly behind something they put their damnedest into making it sound its best.

They manage to effortlessly weave together beautifully poetic lyrics with brutally harsh and excellently composed and layered musical production. The production is simply phenomenal and every track really hits home. The tight chemistry of the band really shines through on the production, creating some really memorable tunes that feel more complex and interesting. The duel vocal stylings that they are known for sound great once again impress me as they seamlessly dart between the two. Although the EP sounds great, it does come across as a little formulaic.  The more I think about it, the more it feels like they’re treading the same water again. At times it just feels a little too… Expected of them. They really haven’t thrown much into this EP to give it it’s own identity. Maybe if they experimented with a few new ideas but there’s nothing here which isn’t territory they have covered before.

In all honesty, I keep flipping back and forth on this album. As much as it feels passe and ineffective, I’m still enjoying the work. It sounds really pretty. Simone’s vocal work is gorgeous, it sounds really clear and is filled with emotion. That is something that she can always do, she jsut throws herself into her lyrics. The music is tight and well written so I can’t complain. However, I wish they would have tried something a little different rather than give us the scraps of what probably didn’t make the cut on The Quantum Enigma or The Holographic Principle. As most of the songs sound like they could have been ripped straight off of one of them. None of the songs are bad by any stretch of the imagination and maybe these songs are different in theme. So yeah giving their own EP makes sense on that front but they could have used this as a platform to try something new.

I’m trying so hard not to make it sound like I don’t like this EP, I do. I really do. There’s some fantastic tunes and well written songs here. However, I’m one of these people that like artists to at least try something different on every release. Yet, after 15 years maybe they just know their market and know how to make the most out of their audience. As for my final thoughts on this EP… It’s good and let’s face it, if you’re an Epica fan… you’ve already bought it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Blaze Bayley Interview

Posted in Festival, Interview with tags , , , on 4th August 2017 by Mickelrath

Mick had a little chat with Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden, Wolfsbane) before his show at SOS Festival. Here’s the interview:

Mick: The new album Endure and Survive – Infinite Entanglement Part II has dropped this year. How has it been releasing the second part to this massive concept?

 

Blaze: Oh it’s been fantastic. The whole tour of Endure and Survive has gone so much better than we could have hoped for really. All of the new songs [from the new Endure and Survive album] that we have put into the set have gone down really well and people have said this album is the best album I have ever done, in my entire career. So, it’s gone really well and as for something that is such a big concept, I think people are just ready for these kind of albums. It’s a narrative that carries over three albums, the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy. The first part being Infinite Entanglement, the second being this new album and we’re currently working on the songs for the third album right now.  Those songs will be recorded in October/November time. It’s going really well.

 

Mick: I’ve been listening to the new album and I have been enjoying it. The one song that stood out to me was “Remember”. I think it stood out because it a bit more slowed down and had a lot of folk-y instrumentation. Could you tell a bit more about that song and what it means in context? As I have developed my own meaning and I wanted your thoughts on it.

 

Blaze: Well, in the scheme of the album, the whole theme is of a man has to decide whether he is human or not as his consciousness has been loaded into a machine body. So what he has left is the memory of being human. He has the consciousness, he thinks of himself as human but in fact he has a machine body. This song “Remember”, goes back to a time where there was happiness, a rare thing in the life of this central character, and that’s what they are remembering when someone says ‘You have to let go and sometimes you have to just live in the moment, you have to remember that this life is just a series of moments’. That’s why it’s called “Remember”, the character has had some great moments you had these things happen to them. They have to remember how it felt in that moment and then perhaps they can get that feeling back of being in this moment.

 

Mick: I think that’s why it stuck out to me. I took it out of context of the album and applied it to myself. I have been through some hard times in my life and I just remember being happy in myself. I just like how you can take a part of a grander story, such as a concept album, and it makes sense on it’s own. When it comes to songwriting is that something you have to take into account. Not just the album will work as a concept, but making every song make sense in themselves?

 

Blaze: I realise it’s quite a big thing that we set ourselves and it’s always a challenge. What we said was, if you know nothing about the story and don’t know it’s part of a trilogy of albums, you still have to listen to every song on their own. Without knowing the story and what should happen, is a similar thing that happened to you. A song will catch you and you’ll want to figure out what that song means in relation to the other songs of the story. I had to be a good album that you could listen to on it’s own and didn’t know it was connected to the others, but if you became more into it and got more interested in the lyrics then perhaps you would start to find the rest of the story. This journey that this person goes on.

 

Mick: So, in saying that are there any tips you could give a band or artist who maybe wants to make an album(s) like this one?

 

Blaze: I think in recent times, what I would say to any bands starting off or before making their first big records, is that the world has changed so much since I started. You can’t be in the mindset of, I play my guitar really well, that’s enough, it’s not. What you’ve got to do is get confident with recording yourself well. Get used to doing it yourself, the technology exists now where you can make your own album quality demos. So you have to do that. It’s your duty now. If you want freedom, true freedom as an artist, it can’t be just singing and playing well. You have to master recording that instrument, no matter what it is. The technology exists and it’s nowhere near as expensive as it was a few years ago. I didn’t exist when I started, we used cassette tapes but even so we tried to get good demos together. You can’t get bound up in the demo, I think what you have to is jam through the idea and live with that idea. Then put it away, walk away from it and come back to it. Everybody I’ve met who’s learnt to record themselves did so because they were pissed off by an engineer who didn’t have a clue how to make an electric guitar sound like an electric guitar. They’ve said how come I, with one guitar, and one microphone can make it sound right. But the guy in the £25 an hour studio makes it sound like it’s in a colander in a shed. It doesn’t make sense. Everyone I’ve met who’s now in production, did so because they had to because no one could make their instruments sound right.

 

Mick: Do you see an advantage of being independent rather than being on a big record label?

 

Blaze: As an artist I’m completely independent, I don’t have a big label, I am the label. The reason I can do what I do is because people pre-order my albums without knowing what it’s going to be like. They send the money for it, I’m then able to make the album and then send it to them. So far that’s worked. I have this incredible support from hugely loyal fans that enables me to make the music that I want to make and tour in the place I want to tour. So I can come here and play this great festival, SOS, where it’s all independent and original bands. Then I can play smaller venues across Europe, I can do bigger festivals. The luxury of it is that I don’t go back to anywhere I don’t like. So anywhere they don’t care about the sound, anywhere that doesn’t treat fans with respect, I don’t go back.

 

Mick: You’ve have a career that has spanned a long, long time now. What is the one piece of work that you are particularly proud of. Be it a gig or a song or an album. What sticks in your head about your career?

 

Blaze: Well, I think having a song that went into the top 10, around the world. When I was in Iron Maiden, Madonna was at the top of the charts. The X Factor, knocked Madonna off the top of the charts in some countries. “Man on the Edge” was a song I wrote with Janick Gears in Iron Maiden. That song went to the top 10 in many countries around the world and actually hit number 1 in some countries as well. That was such a huge achievement for someone who comes from a working class family and had a dream. I used to work in a hotel, working nights, cleaning the hotel, cleaning the toilets such and such. I’ve had all manner of jobs and the reason I do what I do is because I love to sing and now 30 odd years after I started, I’m independent doing my own thing.

 

Mick: How do you feel like you’ve evolved as an artist over the years, if at all?

Blaze: I think I really found my voice in Iron Maiden. You know, in Wolfsbane, I loved doing that and we’re still together and we have a reunion coming up in December. But my voice back then didn’t really have the range that I would later develop. I had the enthusiasm and the emotion but I didn’t have the range nor the soul. In Iron Maiden, when recorded the  The X Factor and Virtual XI being in that studio I really found that other part of my voice. After Maiden that’s when I started using my voice in a new way so I think as I got to my acoustic album Russian Holiday that’s when I really felt like I had a really good control of my voice. As I came to these most recent album I felt like now I have the tools, now I can have a lyric and I can say what tone, what breadth, what texture do I need to create so that the emotion shines through to the listener. My ultimate goal is, if English is not your first language you still know what the song is about.

 

Mick: My final question is one I always love ending on. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

 

Blaze: That’s a really good question and I don’t know what the answer is really. However, I suffer with nerves and people are very disappointed when they ask, ‘What kind of rituals do you have backstage’ and I know they’re expecting me to be jumping and getting hyped. You know swigging Jack Daniels and doing lines of coke. It’s the complete opposite for me, I get nervous about going out on stage and I have to put myself into a place of complete calm. When you come into the Blaze Bayley dressing room, it’s most boring place you have ever seen at any gig. You’d probably think to yourself ‘How are they going to bring the roof down, when they’re this boring’. Just no excitement in the dressing, because all of that get’s in the way of the thought process that brings lyric to the place where my voice will connect with it. To bring this fresh feeling and emotion to the lyric.

It’s a thing that I’ve learned over the years. There have been times where I got over excited. Then I’ve forgotten the word to the song. The worst thing that ever happened was when we supported Helloween, and I went on and thought ‘god the band sounds shit’, then I realised that I was singing the words and melody to a totally different song. That’s what happens when I get over excited. So the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome is nerves really and the way I cope with it is to remain calm and keep focused on those first few songs.

 

Mick: Fantastic, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

http://www.blazebayley.net/

https://www.facebook.com/officialblazebayley

SOS Festival, Day 3 Review

Posted in Festival, Live, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 30th July 2017 by Mickelrath

SOS Festival, Longfield Suite, Prestwich, UK

16th July 2017

Resin, Faith In Glory, Eternal Breath, The Deep, Harriet!, Dorja, Chris Appleton, Fire Red Empress, Fahran, Triaxis & Power Quest.

Day three of a festival is always going to be a slower one. Everyone is worn out and it’s usually the day where the crowd winds down a little. Yeah, the same is true here. Even I was trying to take it a little easier. What wasn’t going easier, was the bands. Once again every band really brought it to the stage. Even if I might not have enjoyed every moment, I can still respect the effort that they put into it. I was once again in and out of the press room so I may miss some bands here and there. Yet, I think the Sunday was still a pretty strong day.

The day kicked off with a hard rock band, Resin. Wow, the feedback. From the get go the set was bogged down with technical issues. The sound was muddy and there was feedback so piercing I think everyone was feeling it. The production was muddy and I felt like the sound was really over cluttered. Even as the production issues were resolved, I just couldn’t get over the songs. It was just bland tunes and over kill on the instrumentation. There was just too much going on in the songs. So nothing felt right. There are too many string instruments into the band and it felt like a calamity. It certainly wasn’t best way to start the day. There maybe a fan-base for this but I’m not in it.

After that disheartening start of the day, salvation came in the form of Faith In Glory. I really loved this set. Their presentation was excellent. Big riffs and a big booming vocal performance from lead vocalist, Jack Collins. It was really impressive. They were a very dynamic band with lots of grooves and lots of tones to keep the audience captivated. All of them were very energetic in their delivery, they looked so enthusiastic when up on the stage. Big smiles on their faces throughout the whole set. They were clearly enjoying themselves and the audience was right their with them. Adding in a cover of Black Stone Cherry’s “Blame It On The Boom Boom” was enough to sell me on them. Let me tell you, anyone that can convincingly cover Black Stone Cherry (one of my favourite bands) then I know they’re doing something right. Keep on rocking lads, that was awesome.

The next act I managed to catch only a little bit of were, Belgium power metal band, Eternal Breath. Like I said I only caught a bit of them but they was spectacular. There was just a great sense of command and power to them. The guitars chugged away and the vocal performance soared over the production. The whole thing reminded me of the real old school metal acts of yesteryear. They paid their respects to the late Philippe Beauprez, from Wizz Wizzard, which got a big ovation from the crowd. Everything about their set was technically perfect. The band was tight, the music was cranked up loud and there was a lot of enthusiasm to go around in the venue. I really liked them. The same can be said for the next band The Deep. It was, once again, a classic type of sound. This was one really fun set. I was standing there with them and  I enjoyed every moment .They brought awesome old style grooves to the table. It was sharp and crisp and the solos blew me away. It was just that real pumping classic rock sound that I grew up with. It got me up and moving. It was loose and fun and and they didn’t look like they taking themselves too seriously. They just worked well. Again not too much to say about them, I just had a really good time.

I think I’ll cover the acoustic stage now as I didn’t really get around to watching much of it. First of all acoustic artist, Harriet!. She was absolutely fabulous. Almost a country style of music, she had a beautiful and soulful voice that was excellent to listen. It was simple and elegant. She threw in a cover of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” which actually sounds great acoustic. She had this incredible sound that was so pure and emotional to listen to. This is someone you should check out immediately. The talent parade continued with, Dorja. These girls can really play. I mean really play. The technique on display was impressive. The stripped back set sounded really nice and I would be really interested in hearing them in a cranked up set. The vocal harmonies were absolutely beautiful and the instrumentation was superb. The guitar solos were really nice to listen to and in this more relaxed set the girls just really put on a spectacular show. This was a really nice discovery for me, five really talented musicians playing some really great music.

The last band I want to talk about from the acoustic stage is Chris Appleton. A day removed from playing the headline set with Blaze Bayley, Chris was back at SOS Festival bringing his songs to the acoustic stage with his brother Luke Appleton. The chemistry was excellent and the songs flowed from the stage. Being the final act on this stage for the weekend they really brought it and showed off exactly what they were all about. They had a great chemistry with the audience that made their set feel electric. It was a superb way to end the day, and the weekend on this stage.

Next on the main stage was my MVP’s of the whole weekend, Fire Red Empress. All I can Say is freaking WOW. They just blew me away. I’ve not seen these guys in a while so getting the chance to hear them live again was freaking excellent. Armed with new lead vocalist, Jennifer Diehl they’re a totally different beast now. The bass boom, the guitars roared and the vocal performance was simply incredible! The new songs sounded wonderful and it has just made me really hyped for a new album from them. The band had this vibrant energy to them that looked great and the room filled with enthusiasm for them. The sound was big and impressive and I’m just stoked to hear and see more from them.

The fun didn’t stop because after that we had Nottingham rockers, Fahran. A few years ago I discovered these guys in a small bar in Manchester and every time I see them or hear anything from them they just get better with time. They were full of life and really brought a great show to SOS Festival. Their song have these huge choruses and these really hard hitting riffs. They used this show to debut some new material. The new songs were “Pyre” and “Some Kind of Family”. Which were bursting with riffs and melodies that sound great. I am really excited for new music from them.  They had an instant connection to the crowd. Their classic sound is instantly recognisable and likeable which I think is the secret to their success as a band. They’re just a younger version of the classic rock band we all grew up with. They play with passion and great technique. Genuinely an awesome band.

Unfortunately I missed a lot of Triaxis’s set. It’s a shame too, as Triaxis are on their way out and this maybe the last time I get to see them live. From what I saw they were really good. Like I said I can’t comment on much but I did see that the crowd was really into it.  A well put together band with a really tight sound. Just really nice metal music. The vocal performance was really good and the vocals just floated on top of the production. The metal was fast pace and had a lot of energy to it. Just absolutely intoxicating. As I said I didn’t catch much of the set but I enjoyed what I saw. 

Finishing off the weekend where power metal champions, Power Quest. Everything just sounded so glorious. Every element of the band worked really well and the production came through loud and clear. From the synth and keys to the powerful guitars the booming rhythm it all just hit home. Songs that lept out for me were songs like “For Evermore”, “Better Days” and of course the self-titled songs “Power Quest”. They beamed with confidence and you can tell that the crowd were really into the performance. Vocalist, Ashley Edison really showed off some amazing ability that completely blew me out of my socks. They were a really enjoyable end to an incredible weekend.

Words: Mick Birchall

Photos: Rich Price and Holly Price (Rich Price – Photographer & Music Journalist)

 

SOS Festival, Day 2 Review

Posted in Festival, Live, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 29th July 2017 by Mickelrath

SOS Festival, Longfield Suite, Prestwich, UK

15th July 2017

Crowsaw, Core of Nation, Vice, Damaj, Sister Rose, Luke Appleton, Primitai, Die No More, Gemma Fox, Pythia, Bad Pollyanna & Blaze Bayley

Day two kicked off a little earlier and a killer line up lay ahead. I was excited for a few of the names and in terms of quality this had to be the strongest day. Saturday was a really busy day because I was in and out of the press room, doing interviews and getting into the main hall for the bands. There were too many highlights to count  for me and I discovered some great bands that I took home some of their music. There’s plenty to talk about so let’s get on with the day two review.

First things first on main stage was, Crowsaw. They were pretty decent three piece heavy metal act and played an all around entertaining set. The music had some excellent blues riffs that carried the set beautifully. The impressive part for me were the three part harmonies. All three members sung together so well and it fitted into the music so nicely. It just added something to their set. The riffs were good and meaty, they had a real groove to them and the bass locked in the drums to create a nice rhythm. I did like them but I don’t really have a lot to say they were a good band with some solid tunes. For me, Core of Nation were one of the biggest surprises of the weekend for me. They were simply stunning. Their sound was bold and atmospheric. Their songs were a doom style sound with thick riffs and a well produced tone. Every moment was packed with great songs and the outstanding musicianship. Core of Nation sparked with precision music, great riffs, well done solos and frontman, Rolf Berg’s vocals were simply breathtaking. Everything was nicely mixed and sounded great. I definitely came away from this set completely in love with their sound.

Local lads, Vice were up next on the stage. Their set was pure fire with lots of energy and tonnes of passion thrown into it. The guitar tone was crisp and the solos were coming through fast and thick. The production was clear cut and it really hit hard. Every member really brought the passion to the stage with them and the band making for a fun set that everyone was getting into. Being the hometown lads they certainly got the punters in the door and the room felt like it had that vibrant energy to it. The new album tracks went down a storm. They filled the stage and boasted an impressive stage presence. They felt so impressive and I hope they have a good future ahead. They are an excellent live and with the tunes to back it up. After a short break and turn around, we had Damaj take the stage and for the first time this weekend I was a little disappointed. OK, they’re not bad per say, but it was a little bland. The music was simply ok. From a technical standpoint they were really good. Great guitars, great flow, amazing vocals. However talent is not the same thing as quality and I just don’t think the songs were there. I’ll say this for them they had passion and were really into their songs. Yet, I just could not get into them. It all felt very generic. There wasn’t much of a bite to their sound and it left me a little cold. I’m sure there is a market for them, however, I could not get into this.

Meanwhile, on the acoustic stage. Instead of Regulus, who were unable to make it. We had Iced Earth’s, Luke Appleton performing an acoustic set. His set was beautifully put together. Luke’s vocals were really nice and he sounded great. He was very humble and his personality shone through. It made me enjoy his music even more. The sound was almost country with all the emotion in his vocals. His vocals are amazing and has a lot of power to his voice. The guitar was very simplistic but effective all of the same. A powerful set for something that was put on in such short notice. After that we were treated to the glam rock stylings of Sister Rose. I have to say the thing that caught my eye straight away was their merchandise. Bright and colourful and I think they were the only band of the weekend with something other than just t-shirts and CD’s. How was their set though? In a word… Solid. They had this fantastic glam rock sound that filled the room. The songs flowed really nicely into each other with that sleaze rock style that they make. Every tunes had this real grittiness to it, every twang of the guitar and every pulsating beat of the bass had a lot of drama in there. They definitely had a classic rock meets sleazy punk thing going on. Every second they were on stage the they just sold themselves. Somehow though, it just didn’t work for me. I don’t know, maybe because the market for this type of music has been completely oversaturated over the years and if you’re going to make this style of music you have to do something to really stand out. Unfortunately, nothing did. They were just another band. They were kind of unique for this weekend, but as for the genre in general, they’re not exactly pushing boundaries. Like I said, really good set and strong performance but I’ve just heard this type of music way too much.

 

I was slightly blown away by the technical stylings of Primitai. Every moment of their set was filled with impressive, riffs, licks, solos and powerhouse choruses. The sheer energy and intensity from them was simply brilliant. Primitai weave in and out of metal stylings like it was nothing. It was really impressive how they went from style to style like it was nothing. Every part of this performance was excellent. From the technical ability on display to their enjoyment that was blatantly apparent through their set. Again they were another one of these bands were I didn’t take notes and enjoyed the music and yeah this is great. It was amazing to watch these just show off what they can do. Songs like “Black Rider” and “Power Surge” just flowed so well out of the speakers and I loved it. Primitai were really enjoyable, just a brilliant band that have really great on stage chemistry and presence. One to check out for sure. Nothing got my blood pumping more than the heavy metal stylings of Die No More. There was so much to the set and the sound. Every song just crackled and popped with excitement and had a real power to it. They had a command of the stage and the music was tight with sharp guitar tones and a crashing beat. It was aggressive yet clean. It’s really sad that is the last show from them as I would be interested to see them again and I would recommended them. If you can, definitely check them out. They were very different from what expected and I don’t think they were explained to me quite right. They were far more heavy than I expected, which was a good thing. With a booming set of drums and well executed guitars. I really did enjoy this one. Not much to say here. Just a really fun band.

 

Over on the acoustic stage Collibus frontwoman, Gemma Fox. She played a bunch of covers from “Feels Like Making Love” by Bad Company to “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. As you can tell there quite the range of songs in the set. Gemma is known for having an amazing voice. I have heard her before with her band and I have always been blown away by her voice. Once again there was no difference here. She is absolutely stunning. Also a stripped back performance was really nice. Just and acoustic guitar and her voice and it sounded beautiful. It was simple yet effective. It was such a passionate and pure set set from Gemma. Just a nice small set from her and that was all that was needed. Up next, was a superb treat. Pythia, was incredibly impressive. It was something a little different. Having a symphonic metal band in the middle of all of the thrash, glam and NWOBHM was so refreshing for my ears. The sound was big and bold, and frontwoman, Sophie Dorman’s voice was absolutely pitch perfect. The crowd was 100% behind them and they belted out tune after tune. Songs like “Betray My Heart” were real crowd pleasers. Every element of the band just clicked and the synth and keys created this atmosphere that the metal was overlaid onto. They are a very technically gifted band and they had bundles of chemistry that you could just see click on stage. They also debuted a new song “Ancient Soul” which sounded really nice and made me excited for a new album. Pythia worked so well on this stage a I really want to see them again.


Finally on the acoustic stage today was one of my absolute favourite bands, Bad Pollyanna. I’ve heard them a few time but always in a full band. In this more stripped down acoustic performance they really stepped up to the plate. I am very familiar with there songs but usually in this loud confident style. Here these songs almost took on new meanings. This more exposed subtle sound really fitted them. Vocalist, Olivia Hyde’s voice was incredible. Such power and emotion behind her voice. The sheer passion was clear and it was matched by the harmonising vocals of Nikki Kontinen. The acoustic guitar sounded really nice and it all came together so beautifully. I loved the way they transformed their songs like “Awake Now” and “Define Me” into these deep and powerful ballads by stripping the production back. It really worked and it just made think, damn I want more Bad Pollyanna music.

 

Finishing off the day was a legend of the industry. Blaze Bayley, was so captivating. It’s clear that he’s been doing this for so long. The calm control he had on the crowd was amazing. Just the way he held himself on that stage was awesome. His voice was excellent. His band played a blinder too with Chris Appleton manning the guitar duty. He belted out riffs and solos like it was nothing. The thick tones and imposing presence,  it all felt so huge. Then you have Karl Schramm on bass and Martin McNee on drums. The two locked in together and created some amazing grooves and rhythms that got the place jamming and moving along. It was so awesome to see the connection that Blaze has to his fans and he was clearly enjoying himself as he did what he does best.

Overall it was an incredible set that blew me away. The music was great, the atmosphere was awesome and the band were relaxed and looked like they were enjoying themselves. It was a great way to end a Saturday at a festival. Bravo.

Words: Mick Birchall

Photos: Laura Piggford (LorathNahhr Photography)

SOS Festival, Day 1 Review

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , , on 28th July 2017 by Mickelrath

SOS Festival, Longfield Suite, Prestwich, UK

14th July 2017

I Saw The World Burn, Amethyst, Prognosis, Prometheum, Go Primitive, A Jokers Rage & Kill II This

 

SOS Festival celebrated 10 years this year and did so in style. The line up was killer and I was immediately interested in coming. The headliners looked great, and the under-card was immaculate. This was my first year attending this festival but I have always heard good things about it. I was definitely excited to check things out. The weekend was broken down between two stages: the main stage, where all the bands played at full blast and the acoustic stage, where things went slower. So there was a nice mix over the weekend. Not just in style but also in genre, with a wide range of rock and metal to please any fan. I had a busy weekend, running around between the two stages and also conducting interviews on top of that. I will say that I had a lot of fun. I mean, I’m completely knackered, but I loved every moment.

Friday night, was a pretty damn heavy one. With all the bands meeting the intensity and power of headliners, Kill II This. I didn’t know what to expect from any of the bands playing on the day. Yet, I remained optimistic for what was to come. Opening it up proceedings was UK metallers I Saw The World Burn. Wow, I was completely blown away! They were loud and impressive. They had complete control of the stage. In particularly the front-woman, Katie Cairns who had a real stage presence. Her voice was really powerful and roared above the music. The riffs were large and the early crowd of SOS Festival were really into it. The music was quite consistent. With the vocals being even more impressive with every song. They weren’t the most dynamic of band with every song hitting the same notes all of the time. Yet, it worked somehow. Like Hatebreed or Darkest Hour they had the intensity and energy to make this kind of set work.

Following that performance was the always enjoyable Amethyst. The thrash metal band exploded with big riffs and big solos resulting in big ass tunes. Their sound is classic thrash with sharp tones and a tight production. They brought the fire with this set. They had an almost instant connection with the crowd. As they played, the people kept funnelling in and the atmosphere just got better from there. The guitars screeched and the bass was thundering down on the Manchester crowd. Everything just felt massive. The songs were really well written and I think that really came across to the audience. Although thrash metal isn’t 100% my thing, they definitely impressed and they worked well for a Friday evening.

In quick succession, we had Manchester based progressive metal band, Prognosis. They were as interesting as they were talented. The technical skill was actually mesmerising. With sweeping guitar solos and complex riffs they sounded great. The songs were filled with broken riff patterns and winding melodies. It made for an interesting listening experience. They had a groove to them and the bass was laid on thick. Definitely an interesting sound. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I got into it more and more as the set went on. There was a lot of passion to the music but their stage presence might need some work. Even though they had the tunes, they didn’t really feel like they were owning the stage. I would like to see some more energy and intensity from their sets. They need to really take command and show their personalities more. Their music is good, I recommend it, if you’re into heavy, doom style prog music.

The acoustic stage boasted some impressive acts as well. First of all we had Prometheum. They had a simply lovely sound. Simple music and beautiful vocals they were captivating in every moment with both of their 15 minute sets. I also got the opportunity to watch a bit of Go Primitive, they were fun and hit some incredible vocal harmonies. They had some real personality to them and I enjoyed their sets as well. Overall the acoustic stage was strong on the day and it was only going to get better as the weekend went on.

 

Next in store was my biggest shock of the weekend. A Joker’s Rage, won me over in a heartbeat. Their music was really enjoyable matched by the band’s personality. There was an energetic vibe throughout the venue. The production was tight and the band just completely dominated the stage. I loved songs like “Bounce” and “Temptress”, and yes I was definitely having a dance and a boogie to them. It always says something when I immediately buy a band’s music as soon as the set has finished. Yet, I enjoyed them way too much not to. The riffs were good, the solos were well executed and ending the set strong with a tribute the late Chris Cornell. They played a cover of “Cochise” by Audioslave, which got my nostalgia senses tingling. Just like me, the crowd went nuts for it. Ending the day of were headliners, Kill II This. This was my first experience of them and I have to say they were interesting. Although, I don’t feel like I could get fully into them. After the set from A Joker’s Rage this was a bit more of a tamer set.

 That’s not to say they weren’t entertaining, they really were, but it was just a totally different set. They had a very urban style production to they songs, the music was very ominous and primal with an intense groove to the bass and drums. The guitar was roaring and vocalist was belting out his words. It was a blunt and hard hitting set and a great way to cap off a brilliant first day of a festival.

 

Words: Mick Birchall

Photos: Laura Piggford (LorathNahhr Photography)

 

Edguy – Monuments (A 25 Year Tribute to Edguy)

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , , , on 9th July 2017 by Mickelrath
Edguy
Monuments
Power Metal, Hard Rock, Progressive
Released: 14 July 2017
via Nuclear Blast

It’s been 25 years of Edguy. Yes, this band has been going as long as I’ve been alive on this earth. So, I thought that I would pay homage to one of the greatest metal bands that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. What better way to do that than going through the newest release from them. Monuments is a carefully and passionately selected collection of the band’s greatest hits from the last 25 years. Not only that, but the release has five brand new songs from the band. Along with one previously unreleased recording. Mounting up to a staggering 28 track album that will be more than enough to indulge even the biggest fan of the band.

I first discovered Edguy back in 2008 with the album Tinnitus Sanctus. I bought it after reading about them in a Magazine calling this album “the strongest of their career yet”. At this time, the metal press was buzzing around them. I listened to the album and something stirred inside of me. I instantly wanted to hear more from them. So in very quick succession I looked their history in music. I was completely blown away and I think this was the start of my obsession with power metal. As listening to them got me into fellow contemporaries: Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica and Hammerfall. I know I was a little behind but believe I’m caught up now with them all. Yet, there was something different about Edguy and it was all in frontman, Tobias Sammet’s vocals. He sang with such power and conviction still to this day his voice gives me goosebumps. If anyone ever asks me what a metal or rock vocalist should sound like I just turn and point to Tobias. Everyone has their own favourites that they immediately associate with the genre. He’s mine.

Yet, I don’t want to do a disservice to the band that back him up. Edguy has some incredible talent in there. Unlike a lot of bands that go this long; Edguy have had a pretty consistent line up having the same lineup from 1998 onwards. Giving them a fantastic consistency. This is reflected across all their albums. Jens Ludwig and Dirk Saur have been their from the very beginning on guitars. Always producing fantastic riffs and melodies that compliment the tone of whatever album. They were going in to. Be it the more power metal centric albums or the winding twisting more progressive sound. No matter how flamboyant or heavy the song. Ludwig and Saur really deliver in getting music stuck in your head. As for the rhythm section Tobias Exxel on bass and Felix Bohnke on drums has always given Eduy that weight and power to their tunes. There’s just such a commanding presence to their music. When Edguy plays, you listen.

Monuments, includes 5 brand new songs from the band. You’d think that they may get lost amongst all of the classic songs. They sort of do, I don’t necessarily see that as a band thing. I just see it as these songs just feel as good as their iconic work. Which can only be a good thing. All five of the songs are big triumphant anthems and their played with just as much conviction as the big hits. With massive sounding production and the tight musicianship that we’ve come to expect from Edguy by now. Is it any wonder that they sound this good! They fit so nicely on this package of their hits. They feels like songs that have always been here. I guess that’s the real strength of Edguy. Making songs that fit so well into the collective consciousness, making tunes that just sound right.

As for the unreleased song “Reborn In The Waste”. Recorded back in 1995, as part of the Savage Poetry recordings. Savage Poetry being one of their demo albums in the early 90’s. I can understand why it wasn’t included. I don’t think it’s wholly representative of the band’s skill or style. In all honesty I think it’s a pretty lackluster tune. It’s got a nice hook to it and I think if they remade the song today it might be better but I don’t know. I guess I like it just for the fact it’s another piece of Edguy nostalgia more than anything else.

In all honesty. This has been a fun one to look at. Just looking back through Edguy’s back catalogue and remembering the great tunes from yesteryear. They are certainly a band that has stood the test of time with 10 albums under their belts and some of the most enthusiastic fans I’ve ever met. Going through this greatest hits compilation has really made me appreciate how good this band really is. From the heavy hard rock tunes, to their soaring ballads they make some of the finest metal music around. They may not be on the same level as the all time greats of the genre, but they always hold a special place in my music library. I will always think back to the time I first heard them roar into gear with “Ministry of Saints”. If you have never given them a chance do yourself a favour grab Monuments and get acquainted with one of the best metal bands in the world. At least according to this reviewer. Yeah, this might read as a bit of a fluff piece or it could read as a little self-indulgent. I really don’t care. I just wanted to look back on one of my favourites to celebrate 25 years of this band.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Cellar Darling – This Is The Sound

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 25th June 2017 by Mickelrath

 

Cellar Darling

This Is The Sound

Folk rock, Folk metal

Released: 30 June 2017

via Nuclear Blast Records

OK, to address the elephant in the room. I was, and still am, not a fan of Eluveitie. Never got into their music like people said I should. So, I really don’t know much of the politics or behind the scenes of why Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henz decided to leave the band. Yet, that is the situation we’re in and now from those three, we now have, Cellar Darling. Their debut album is a pretty fun listen. I have to admit the sharp tones and the catchy melodies were enough to whet my appetite. Yet, when I listened more and more I found that this album has a lot to offer both in music and in the lyrics.

First off, to reiterate, This Is The Sound, sounds wonderful. The production is full of big guitars and, massive bass lines that get the blood pumping. All of the folk instrumentation sound great too. Weaving in and out so seamlessly. Everything on the album is designed to make the band seem a big a possible. So as you can imagine it’s quite an impactful album with every clash of the drums and every blast of the guitars feel larger than life.  Genuinely a good feeling to my ears when you hear a band like that. You can hear this from the first track  ‘Avalanche’. Anna Murphy’s vocals hit hard too. Her voice is powerful, but it’s not all power there are some dynamics here. The way her vocals alone manipulate the emotion, tension and intensity of the songs is a testament to her charisma as a front woman.

This album oozes with great riffs, beautiful atmosphere and infectious melodies. Yet, none of it feels overdone. It just flows very nicely and the band have great chemistry, everything just feels like it blends together really nicely. The harshness of the rock instruments provide the songs with a lot of weight. While the folk element complements the heavy sounds and really gives the music another layer. Again it never feels like it’s too much, it always has that nice balance so every element works off the other rather one. As a whole I’ve really like this album, it’s a nice pleasant listen.  I wouldn’t say it’s the most amazing thing in the world but it’s definitely been worth a listen or two.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Siena Root – A Dream of Lasting Peace

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 22nd May 2017 by Mickelrath

Siena Root

A Dream of Lasting Peace

Rock, Folk, Psychedelic

Released 26th May 2017

via Hänsel & Gretel, MIG-Music

 

This has been a listen for me. Lately I’ve been really into my mellow music, instead of in your face heavy metal. When I first played the album I was immediately interested in the sound that was coming from the speakers. The sheer imagination these guys bring to the table is outstanding. The music is this psychedelic folk sound that’s really hard out of your head.  Their tone is just unlike anything I’ve really listened to in recent memory. The sweeping guitar tones, the excellent production and the fantastic songwriting. It all sounds so glorious. A Dream of Lasting Peace is a just a excellent listen from start to finish.

The production of this album is really damn good. The instrumentation is exquisite, with every member really making an impression on you. Samuel Björö’s vocals are just so emotional and they soar above the production and really resonates with you. He is just one of those front men that can really paint a picture with his word and draw you into the world he creates. All the while the band plays an amazing score to accompany the great lyrics. The way the music swells around the lyric is a magical experience, particularly on tracks like “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay” & “Empty Streets”. I was simply entranced the whole time. It’s just excellent from start to finish. I really can’t stop listening to it.

This feels like a band that just know how to create a great musical experience, This being their sixth studio album, the band have just gelled at this point. Everything about their sound is so natural and almost comes off as effortless. It’s such a nice album just to play and have a good time to. Just let the music entrance you into a state of euphoria. It’s seriously a great trip.  I’m so happy to have found this band. This one album is definitely worth your time.

5/5
Mick Birchall

Perfect Blue Sky – The Eye of Tilos

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 6th May 2017 by Mickelrath

 

Perfect Blue Sky

The Eye of Tilos

Soft Rock, Psychedelic Rock

Released: 19th May 2017

via Scarecrow Music Group (SE) Right Recordings (UK)

Perfect Blue Sky, is the highly anticipated collaboration between one of the founding members of the Swedish metal act Netherbird Pontus, Pna Andersson and Australian solo rock vocalist, Jane Kitto. Together they formed the band in 2014 based out of Stockholm, Sweden. I have to say going into this album, The Eye of Tilos, I knew little to nothing about them. With that, I had absolutely no expectations when first playing this. On first listen I had no idea what I was in for.  Just vague non-descriptors from a PR statement. With a clear mind I listened on and found that this is one of the most pleasant sounding albums I’ve listened to in a while.

I was hit with tight songwriting and smooth production.  The music was this 70’s style soft rock, you know the kind of stuff that we don’t usually cover here on Valkyrian Music. This really beautiful soft acoustic soft rock, with light elements of psychedelic indie rock music. The sounds are so fluent and cerebral.  It has this way of getting lodged in your brain. It’s not catchy as such, there are no real ear worms here. More just beautiful tones that sink into your memory without you even realising it.  There’s some creative riffs and superbly simplistic, but effective, writing ideas. The harmonies really grab your attention in a way that you wouldn’t think.  All of the songs are designed so that you pay attention to them as a whole, instead of nitpicking the individual aspects. It’s the same joy I feel from listening to stoner metal or outlaw country music.  Just music that switches off my overthinking capacity and switches on my pure enjoyment.

I don’t want you to think that this production is small scale or under planned.  There’s a lot of work that goes into making music that sounds like this.  To achieve this the duo have recruited a pretty nice backing band that really bring all of the elements of this album together. Names like, Frank Bessard (Joe Satriani, Stanley Clarke) and Dave Getz (Big Brother Holding Co.) on Drums. Danny Oakhill on Keyboards (Queen Tribute, Turk Tresize).  Jerry Donahue on Guitar (Fairport Convention, Hellecasters). All of them bring their energy to the album, yet like I’ve said the production never lets any one member really over shine the others.  There is is this really nice balance to it all. So the listener never feels overwhelmed by any one part of the production.

Genuinely, I have loved this album. It’s a beautiful sounding record with a lot to offer in its production and in its songwriting. With songs of passion, abstract concepts and social commentary. The Eye of Tilos is such a nice sounding album.  It mixes old school hippie jams with classic rock and adds some modern style production to really keep it in today’s market. I am really liking this band.  Hopefully this won’t be the last I hear from them. Also, it makes for awesome driving music.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Quinphonic Festival 4 – Birmingham, UK

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 22nd April 2017 by Mickelrath

Quinphonic Festival
Bands: Temperance, Serpentyne, Metaprim, Dead of Night, Fourth Circle
Venue: The Roadhouse, Birmingham, UK
Date: 16-APR-2017

 

Another year, another pilgrimage to Birmingham for Quinphonic Festival. I wasn’t able to attend the third edition of the festival in the October of last year. Yet, I was more than ready for the fourth one. This one had a stacked line-up with too. Including Italian hard-hitters, Temperance. The UK debut of, Fourth Circle. Along with three of the best live bands that the UK have to offer in Dead of Night, Serpentyne and Metaprism. A spectacular day of music lay ahead and I was pumped for the day to come. Quinphoinc Festival is all about quality over quantity. Five band all given a headline sets worth of time to show off what they can do. This allows the bands to breathe on stage and the crowd can experience what they’re actually like.

Before I talk about the actual day itself. Let me take you back to the night before, at the Barge and Barrel is Tipton for the Pre-Festival showcase night. A night that I won’t soon be forgetting. It was a great night of music featuring three fantastic UK up-and-comers. Darkest Obsidian, A Clockwork Opera and The Loved and Lost. All three bands were on top form and delivered a great performance. That really showed off their styles well. As a night it really came together with a great crowd. I really enjoyed all three acts, from the pageantry of A Clockwork Opera. To the soaring choruses of Darkest Obsidian with the finesse and energy of The Loved and Lost. It was a great night had by all and I hope to see more from all these bands sooner rather than later.
Now on to the festival itself. I got to the venue early to soak in the atmosphere. It was going to be a great day. All the bands have their own respective niche so there should have been something for every type of fan. As for myself I was looking forward to hearing something new. The only band I was really aware before going to the venue was, Temperance. So no matter the result of the day. I was going to hear something different and new for certain. Now, onto the review!

Fourth Circle

What a firecracker of an opener. This was exactly what was needed to start the day. The French band, Fourth Circle were debuting in the UK and let me say, what a way to make and entrance. The band were energetic and and fun. Their presence was in your face and and bold. Their live production great with every element of the band working outstandingly well. I have to say I was taken completely off guard by their performance. With pomp and pageantry, their music sounded huge with bombast. The music was filled with excellent hooks sinking into your head and this made their songs easy to remember. The band’s on stage chemistry really made these songs larger than life. They seemed to be having a lot of fun up there and this made it easier to enjoy their set. I only had a couple of problems with their set. Firstly, their set felt a little repetitive and it got a little tedious at times. Although those hooks constantly drew me back in. The only other thing that let their set down a bit was that the crowd started to thin out throughout the set, which ruined the atmosphere a little bit. Overall I had a fantastic time watching them. I would say their UK debut was successful and I for would welcome them back anytime!

Dead of Night

Next up was British newcomers Dead of Night. This was a really good set. Even if the songs were a little bland in composition, they more than made up for it in their theatrical stage presentation. Their sound was nice and I enjoyed some of the songs. Their stage presence was exciting and their chemistry was excellent. Really giving a complete package of a show. The vocals were clear and frontwoman, Briony Featon was an exciting presence on the stage. With light up black angel wings she truly gave the band that little bit of an edge. Their music had a decent atmosphere to it and the songs felt well put together. Their music had this really slick vibe to it. More of an old school rock ’n’ roll format to the songs rather than your typical symphonic metal or power metal sound. The centrepiece of the set for me was a gorgeous ballad that invited imagination and let the band really breathe. In all honesty they really won the crowd over. I did feel that their songs were just bland on a compositional level and that let them down a bit for me. However, I will concede that they were incredibly likeable and they presented themselves really well. I thought they were pretty good and I hope they evolve and grow in the future.

Metaprism

Now for the best band of the day and no, I do not make that statement lightly. Metaprism burst on to the stage with life and excitement. They were probably the “heaviest” band of the day and I feel they were the band with the best set. Their songs were high energy and filled with awesome riffs and well executed solos. Their presence had a sense of command to them. When they were performing, the audience were definitely paying attention. Their set was really an intense atmosphere upon the venue and the contrasting duel vocals of the band really gave them that little bit of an edge. It’s like they took the European standards of this style of music and added the British elements to it to make this sound. They came across a really likable people, they were very genuine and humble on the stage as they tried to get the crowd involved more and more into the set. Their set built up and got slowly better and I was completely enthralled with their set and I immediately rushed to the merch table right after their set was over. Which I guess was a good sign. Yes, this was definitely my favourite band of the day. Everything about them was excellent, from their songs to their personalities. They were an exciting and dynamic band, and I can say for certain that I became a fan.

Serpentyne

British folk-rockers Serpentyne took to the stage with finesse and and grace. This had to be one the most interesting sets of the day. On a pure technical level they were incredible but I really couldn’t get into it. Maybe it just wasn’t my sort of music but there was just certain aspects to their performance that turned me off. However, I did like parts and ideas used in the set. The musicianship was excellent and every instrument was played to an expert level. I also really enjoyed the dancer that was in the crowd it added to the enticement of the band. The music had these really good rock n roll elements mixed with the fantastical folk music to make something truly inventive. All of the songs were character piece with stories of vikings, medieval society and fantasy characters which were rich and engrossing. This really peaked my interest. However after the energetic, high pace set from Metaprism, this set felt a little deflating. Also I felt the vocals were a bit overdone. The singing could have been toned down a little. The set ended on a over of the Game of Thrones theme tune which was really well done for what it was. I like this band but I didn’t love it. They are all incredible musicians and the performance was well done, it just may have not been my type of music.

Temperance

Now for the main event of the evening and the only band that I came to this show with any familiarity. Temperance, are one of those band that just use everything at their disposal to entertain a crowd. Their songs are catchy and their energy are infectious. Other than some tech issues with the microphone they set went down without a hitch. The band blasted through their set with great songs. Coming hot off their third album “The Earth Embraces Us All” the set was a great mixture of all three albums. The crowd was really into it as was I. I mean I put down my notepad and just watched the show. The live production was really good, although the drums were a little loud at times. Also the backing tracks they were using didn’t come through the best at times. Frontwoman, Chiara Tricarico was an engaging presence on stage as was guitarist, Marco Pastorino. You really couldn’t keep your eyes off of them. Also with the sheer technical ability of them they made an impressive show as the final band of the day. They really were the cherry on top of an excellent day.

Words by Mick Birchall
Photos by David Sarah

Interview with Janne Wirman (Children of Bodom)

Posted in Gig, Interview, Live with tags , , , , , on 19th March 2017 by Mickelrath

Before their set in Manchester, our writer, Mick Birchall sits with Janne Wirman from Children of Bodom to talk about 20 years of the band and how they kept up in the music industry. Also, touring and the music scene in general.

This year marks 20 years of Children of Bodom. How does it feel to be able to say that you have actually been going that long?

Yes, it’s crazy it really is.  We weren’t really expecting that when we started. Back then we were just kids and we played heavy metal metal. Yeah it’s great it really is. Just the though that we’ve made it this far.

You guys have played all around the world.  Would you say there a difference in audience, depending on where you go?

You be surprised on how little the differences are really. Metal heads are metal heads no matter where you go.  If there are differences then they’d be small things. Such as in Japan, the crowd will probably go completely silent between the songs, it feels a little awkward. However, it is a show of respect. So it’s things like that but when the music is on, it’s on!

Going for 20 years now and with 9 albums.  How do you feel you keep your music sounding new without wearing out the same sound, but also without compromising the core of the band?

That’s becoming a challenge after releasing so many albums and we definitely don’t want to be stuck to a formula or get stuck the mindset of “this worked well, let’s just do that again”. As a band you have to keep creating something new and you have to take a risk with something eventually. I mean there’s only so many bands that can release the same album over and over.

Over the years what is the one song you wish you had written as a band?

I would say Redneck by Lamb of God.

What would be the best band that you have opened for and what’s the best band that’s opened for you?

I’d say the best we’ve opened for is Slayer. We did a couple tour with them and it was just great.  Their level of production and how well the opening bands were treated it was just amazing.

On the other hand we’ve had the pleasure of having so many killer band open the show for us. We had this band recently play with us.  Havok they were really great, we’ve heard them play and every audience they’ve played for people have just loved them.  Also we have Oni with us on this tour. They’re really cool, with a xylophone player. If you’re into the weird stuff then Oni is for you.

What’s your impression of the more gimmicky bands out there.  The ones who will dress up and get into character for a show?

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. Just don’t paste it over your image, if your band sound sounds fine without gimmicks then don’t paste it over the top of it.  Only do it if it’s natural to the kind of music that you’re trying to create. Also, if you’re going to do it, make it your own thing.  Don’t take another band idea and slap it over your band, try to be original with a concept.

So to end on. What was the hardest thing you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

We’ve had some obstacles in band. Obviously letting Roope (Latvala) go was a tough decision. We were struggling without him for sometime. When you’ve been in the industry for this long you’ve had up and and downs. At the end of the day, everyone in the band has to believe in the same thing, then between all of you you get through rough times. As long as you have you bandmates there’s very little that they’ll let you do wrong.

 

Interview and words by Mick Birchall