Author Archive

Paul’s Top Ten Live Performances of 2018

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13th January 2019 by Paul Macmillan

As these end of year lists tend to go, a lot of those based on releases are quite similar. So, to side-step that, this one is going to be quite the personal account of various live experiences. Some may have been shared with tens of thousands. Others with barely one hundred. The one conjoining feature of each and every one is that they are embossed upon my own memory as something far beyond the average. So, without further ado,  and in no strict order, here’s my top ten list of live performances from 2018.

1 – Virus at Smashed Fest, Perth, SCO

While this was an amazing show to be part of, for many reasons, one of the things which will stay vibrant and real in the memory is the performance of headliners Virus. Headed by self-proclaimed “geriatric thrasher” Coke Finlay, this was the first of a big set of shows celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Force Recon album. At around an hour and a half, it was a pretty demanding gig, but they laid down the riffs and showed the young uns how it’s done!

2 – Arroganz at The Viper Room, Vienna, AT

While on a run to Vienna, we decided to take a chance on a local show. I had no idea who any of the bands were before buying tickets, but a quick advance scan of online videos quickly showed it was a full black metal event. While every band churned out a quality performance, it was Arroganz who really clinched it. Bringing their own sludgy death-groove riffs to a hard-hitting BM tradition, to sent me home with a big grin and a big handful of merch.

3 – Krysthla at Hordes Of Belial, Dundee, SCO

This Northamptonshire based tech-death outfit have got to be among the top five of British extreme metal bands at present. The never fail to blitz the audience at every show, from toilet gigs to big fests. Their first time at Hordes Of Belial saw them take on main support on stage one, and I have to say, they just blasted the place in half, leaving the Dundee crowd completely and utterly shell-shocked. The level of intensity delivered was simply unhinged.

4 – Power Trip at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

Somehow, I hadn’t properly heard Power Trip before this show. A friend camping with us let me listen to a snippet or two, but the sound didn’t really let me know what I was in for. From start to finish their mid-afternoon onslaught was irresistible, and saw me inexorably drawn into the pit for a band with which I was previously unfamiliar. I didn’t remember having “my shit” with me when they kicked off, but I had sure as hell lost it by the time they were done.

5 – Vuur at The O2 ABC, Glasgow, SCO

Having been a fan of vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen’s previous band, The Gathering, for many years, I’d put my expectations on hold for this one. I was surprised to see the evening’s activities were to take place in a small-ish, cosy room of the (sadly now destroyed) venue. This only elevated the special charm of what turned out to be a beautifully intimate show, featuring emotional favourites, acoustic renditions, and sparkling new numbers.

6 – Annihilator at QMU, Glasgow SCO

It’s always great to see Testament, but I think I speak for everyone who was in attendance at this event, when I say Annihilator were truly the kings of the kill. Tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s bum, they smashed out hit after hit, Jeff Waters commanding the crowd with a maniacal grin. There was no huge stage spectacle. No special occasion. No tricks and traps. Just a phenomenal performance, at a great gig, from a band who nailed every aspect of being them.

7 – Watain at Wacken Open Air, DE

Have you seen Watain live? I’d only ever seen videos before. Witnessing their 2018 show live (twice, actually) was really something else. So much atmosphere. And so much fire! It’s no wonder they are gathering a mass fan-base with increasing pace, as being there could make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. Something empowering. Something dark. Looking close, one could even see rituals being muttered between lyrics. If the heat didn’t melt your eyeballs first.

8 – Suicidal Tendencies at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

The odds were stacked against this legendary band making BOA, from the sound of things, mainly in the form of  various ‘transport issues’. When they finally arrived, their set shifted from the RJD stage to the smaller Sophie tent, they rolled straight into high-energy mode. Seemingly powered up by the trials of the day, they went on to make their show all about the audience, getting a kid involved in the drumming, and one wheelchair bound crowdsurfer pushed up and down the stage by Mike Muir. Simply lovely and legendary.

9 – Heilung at Wacken Open Air, DE

“Ethereal” is probably the one and only single word which could begin to describe this experience. Taking to the medieval themed Wackinger outdoor stage, in the middle of the night, Heilung swamped the intoxicated masses. I didn’t manage to catch them on their subsequent tour, but it’s really hard to imagine indoor venues matching the character of this performance being cast out into the dark of Germany’s witching hour. It was simply one of those moments in time which I don’t believe it will be entirely possible to replicate. You were either there or you weren’t. I would love to watch them again, but I suspect I would be chasing the elusive “first hit”.

10 – Slayer at SSE Hydro, Glasgow, SCO

Well, at the start of this article, I did say these events were in no particular order, but you know what they say about rules. The live metal crown of this year absolutely has to go to original thrash titans, Slayer. Aside from hosting one of the best under-cards for a long time, the atmosphere when the headliners took to the stage – seemingly for the last time in Scotland – was insane. This was not only down to them playing at their best. Credit is also due to the production crew, because they transformed that venue into another world. One last time, we were taken into Slayer territory, deeper than we had ever dared before. It was one Hell of a farewell.

2018 – It was a real live one…

Arroganz. Photo Paul Macmillan/Slow Dragon Music

Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead – Coma

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 12th November 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead
Coma
Released  16th November 2018
Hard Rock
Released via Combat Records

Featuring former Fear Factory bassist, Christian Olde-Wolbers, Coma is the latest recorded work from Californian rock band, Sunflower Dead. If you’re expecting chuntering, mechanical metal, however, sit back and prepare for a surprise. This is nothing like the aforementioned metal giants of the 1990s.

Drawing in equal parts on nu-metal and 80s classics, SD have melded together a surefire concoction, utterly guaranteed for rotation on mainstream alternative channels. Big chunks of Korn, Dope, and Disturbed have been cherry picked to form a large part of the body of sound, but are equally matched by volumes of Skid Row, and Zakk Wylde (especially in some of the lead work shredding). Everything is further fleshed out with something else of the band’s own creation, plus a spritz of something akin to Pist. On. jamming with Sevendust.

Nothing groundbreaking, then, yet it still has character worth giving a chance. It wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see this band taking the reigns of the soundtrack for a sequel to Queen Of The Damned. Looking over their back catalogue, Coma is certainly a big step up from previous releases, but continues in the same style. Existing SD fans should get a real kick out of it. Personally, I’ve moved away from such things for the most part, as years have gone by. I wouldn’t shy away from it, but I’d be more likely to plump for yet another spin of Demanufacture. Maybe I’m just old…

3/5

Paul Macmillan

Bad Wolves – Disobey

Posted in Metal, Rock with tags , on 3rd October 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Bad Wolves

Disobey

Released 11th May 2018

Melodic metal/hard rock

Released via Eleven Seven

It’s been some time since I listened to a full album of music of this ilk. Falling somewhere between the ballparks of nu and 00s melodic metal, the tone really pulls me back to when I was a young un. To be honest, I didn’t even realise people were still putting out releases quite so earnestly in this style. It’s no big surprise when you find out that Bad Wolves feature among their ranks former members of Snot and In This Moment. The result is neither as urban or as soft as that might lead you to believe, however; possibly under the influence of other contributors’ previous employ in the likes of Devildriver and Divine Heresy.

The full and final effort is most assuredly accessible, mainstream heavy metal, but so much time has traveled by since that sound was originally formed, that it’s somewhat ‘retro’. If you dug into the easier metal bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’ll no doubt have some familiarity with Sevendust, and, unavoidably, Killswitch Engage. Throughout Disobey, whether in emotional melody or grunting angst, these are the kind of artists who are brought to mind. It’s not as technical as the former, or as strictly structured as the latter. They would maybe have been more at home during the heyday of such trends, rather than stepping into a scene which has exploded into diversity, and away from the swansong of traditional progression paths via big labels. Perhaps the protracted release and promotion schedule (the first single came out November 2017), is aimed at finding a new way to get around this.

This is an easy listen, and a well executed album, but I do wonder if modern metal fans will be as inclined towards it as they might have been a generation ago. (Yes, it has been that long!) Their huge single in Cranberries cover track, Zombie, will no doubt keep them remembered for years to come. Could it have been bigger with different timing, though?In my own opinion, the album kicks the a*** off bands like Nightwish or Ghost, as music with a significant amount of clean singing, but I would have likely been more instantly gripped by it 15 – 20 years ago. It’s a hard call as to how far this could go with metal Joe public, now. In total, we can be a fairly unpredictable bunch.

3.5/ 5

Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer – Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008

Posted in Gig, Live, Rock with tags , , , on 9th September 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer

Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008 (double live CD & DVD)

Hard rock/Blues

Released 31st March 2017 via M.I.G.

 

Blue Cheer might ring a bell, but I’d be lying if I said I thought they were a household name. This is certainly the first time I’ve actively sat down and listened to them, or rather, watched, as is the case here. Not for the first time, I wish I’d paid more attention. This is some badass old-school riffing, with an incredible level of energy for doomy blues/metal, especially doomy blues/metal churned out by three fairly haggard looking old dudes.

The video itself is a little odd. The footage is great; nice angles, every member gets some screen time, and the quality is nice. It’s more a case of the setting. It’s a little like a cross between a music college theatre and The Old Grey Whistle Test stage. From the start, you can spot bar maids carrying crates (not trays) of empty glasses, and punters making their way to and from the toilet. It is nice, up close, and personal, but there’s something about it which seems at odds with the massive sound coming from the stage.

And it is massive! This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though. If my German is correct, the announcer tells us at the start that they once claimed the title of ‘loudest band in the world’. Sharing that part of rock and roll which saw the likes of Cream, Sabbath, and Motorhead at their most basically visceral, this is absolutely a band who were part of the melange which gave birth to what we now know as heavy metal. There are all the best characteristics of what made that movement in the beginning. Suzzed out, aggressive blues. Post-Vietnam punk energy. UK power trio riffs. It’s all there.

Sadly, founder and frontman, Dickie Peterson, is no longer with us, otherwise this band may still be giving the young ones a run for their money. If you, like me, hadn’t given Blue Cheer a proper day in court, and you want to dig deeper into the (pre-) history of stoner doom, give this a spin. It’s a great performance, featuring some surprisingly recognisable musical moments which may or may not have been pinched by a number of our heroes down the line. I’m looking at you, Clutch and Alice In Chains.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8: Final line-up

Posted in Festival, Live, Metal, Misc., News with tags , on 18th July 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Organisers of Scottish hard rock and extreme metal showcase, Hordes Of Belial, have announced the full line-up for their 8th yearly edition of the event. Sub-titled “The Burning H8”, it again fills two stages with veterans and newcomers from across the underground spectrum. Travelling from classic thrash with Virus to brand new filthy doom with Dolour, the HOB battle train stops off at some of the best, secret beauty spots of death, trad, black, crossover, and just straight up metal along the way.

13 bands in all will take to the two stages this September 30th, two less than the 15 which have featured in recent years. The quality is convincing, though, especially when looking back at the event’s history. HOB is one of the places where Scottish bands such as Dog Tired, Ramage Inc, and Party Cannon started rubbing shoulders with bigger names, and where the likes of De Profundis and Diesel King based their first forays north of the border. There may be bigger shows, but few are as focused on diving into the depths to retrieve the treasures which grace the Hordes Of Belial stages each and every year. Even if you hadn’t heard of any of the bands, you can still be sure there are some priceless gems within.

 

Event Details:

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8

Beat Generator Live, 70 N. Lindsay St., Dundee

Saturday September 30th 2017

Doors: 15:25

Ages 14+

Virus, Dog Tired, Damaj, Overoth, Rabid Bitch Of The North, Drekavac, Perpetua, Catalysis, Drive By Killer, Somaesthesia, Multistorey Lover, Dolour, Volcano X

Advance tickets now £10 from www.wegottickets.com

Solitary – The Diseased Heart Of Society

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 18th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Solitary
“The Diseased Heart Of Society”
Thrash metal
Released March 03rd 2017
via UKEM

If you pretty much live for the full Baskin Robbins, 31 flavours of thrash, Solitary’s latest release is an absolute must for your collection! No messing about with too much unnecessary cross-over into other genres, The Diseased Heart Of Society just gets straight to the point. It’s doubtful this would be a surprise to those aware of the band’s 2014 live opus I Promise To Thrash Forever. While this might put certain restraints on musical endeavours, Solitary pull it off with such flair you wouldn’t ever care.

This could be down to them being an expert hand at cherry-picking the essence of some utterly classic albums, without simply replicating them. There are definitely some shades of Master Of Puppets, as well as the hugely underrated …And Justice For All. I think I pick up a hint of The New Order era Testament (in fact I Promise… features an excellent cover of Into The Pit), as well as incredible lead-work nods to Rust in Peace and/or Countdown To Extinction. While these are artists who play in the same park, if not by the same rules, Solitary have created their own hybrid game. I think they might have pinched all the newer equipment, too.

Sharp, crisp guitars, thundering drums, driven bass make the production on this release a bit of a gold standard for me, and highly enjoyable to listen to for that aspect alone. This musical backdrop makes the perfect nest to carry what is possibly my personal favourite element of TDHOS; the vocals. Now, there is certainly an undeniably English accent, but the delivery fully puts me in mind of German band Rage’s frontman Peavy Wagner! That might not work for everyone, but right here, that is God status!

As much as I would normally lean towards it, I’m not sure if diversification would help in this case, or end up being a bit of a downer. The thrash energy is high, the solos are on fire, and the hooks are plentiful. One thing I do know is this is a solid keeper, and a prime example of the UK metal, and thrash, scene.

Paul Macmillan

4.5/5

Maxdmyz – Alchemical Metal (EP)

Posted in Alternative, CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 17th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Maxdmyz
“Alchemical Metal” (EP)
Released April 17th 2017
Electronic/metal
Released via Renegade Records

This swift EP from London’s Maxdmyz is an odd, and mildly confusing one. Hell, I don’t even know for sure how we’re supposed to pronounce their name! Yet it’s the audio which keeps chucking out curveballs.

Swamped in the soundscape of 1990s rock and metal, collective tastes are somewhat obvious. The electronic edge of Obsolete era Fear Factory taken to its club friendly extreme, and the odd power-pop metal of Faith No More’s The Real Thing; the classics of that era are the big player’s in the canon of influences on display. One could also put some credence behind picking out the occasional nod to Alice In Chains, One Minute Silence, Rage Against The Machine, or even early nu-metal such as Hed(pe) or System Of Down.

There is plenty play on more current trends, though, albeit far more subtle in application. It does take a bit to push the overarching style to one side to filter them out, and then another shove to allow your head the space to blend everything back into one again. It’s no wonder they opted for the title of Alchemical Metal, as this pulls on predecessors from all throughout the metal and rock kingdom. From flecks of melo-death to stoned-out sludge, old-school to futuristic, the sonic melange is openly bizarre.

Not for the first time in reviews, I have to say, this should, in theory, have ended up a bit of a mess of mismatched tropes and idioms, but has managed to come together as one solid sound. Hopefully, the prevalence of this type of free-roaming artistic success story is a sign of things to come. Slightly disjointed at times, if you really look for it, but delivered with passion and talent, accessible, yet powerful and genuinely musical.

Paul Macmillan

3.5/5