Author Archive

Carnifex – Die Without Hope

Posted in 'Core, CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 27th February 2014 by vmteam

Carnifex
Die Without Hope
Released 7th March
Deathcore/Death Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

Carnifex - Die Without Hope - Artwork

As a person with minimal interest in Deathcore or any similar sub-genre, I thought it would be a dreary task to review an album that I didn’t think would be any different from the rest. Many might say that I jumped to conclusions way too quickly, they would all be correct.

Carnifex are one of the few bands of 2013/14 that have evolved in a truly infinite way. Having being criticised for being a Suicide Silence copycat in their early years, they have since matured and developed into something unique and unrelenting. I am quite simply astounded.

Upon first hitting the play button I was greeted with an ominous and haunting intro sample (which is always welcome) and Scott Lewis’ voice which comes bellowing through the speakers with the title of the opening track Salvation Is Dead. This is a fantastic choice for opening an album, quite simply because this particular song demonstrates and boasts Carnifex’s true inspiration and growth as songwriters. The main guitars have almost streamlined and simplified but give a clearer indication of what they are about and what direction they want to go in, however, the songs as a whole have been filled to the brim with surprises and breath-taking guitar solos which I would never have anticipated in a Carnifex album.

My personal favourite is Dark Days. This track really shines in terms of growth and citing their inspirations on their sleeves, is just truly incredible and I have not even started on the new production yet.

Signing to Nuclear Blast is the best move they have made. Their production has improved tenfold. The drums are twice as thunderous but still crisp, the new clarity in the guitars and bass is so much more gratifying than on previous productions and the vocals are just simply incredible. This album is a MUST for 2014.

Carnifex are here!

5/5

Paul Maddison

Carnifex online:

http://facebook.com/CarnifexMetal
http://twitter.com/carnifex
http://youtube.com/officialcarnifex
http://instagram.com/carnifex

Advertisements

Interview with Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson and Jón Geir Jóhannsson [Skálmöld]

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd October 2013 by vmteam

Shuffling over to the other side of the greenroom, Jon tiptoed in amidst laptops, assorted wires and beer cans to sit next to Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson (pronounced ‘throw-an’), lead guitarist for Skálmöld, and drummer/vocalist Jón Geir Jóhannsson. The majority of Skálmöld are vocalists themselves, and their sound is an atmospheric blend of death metal with traditional Icelandic melodies and time signatures, featuring epic lyrical sagas about the Norse gods and historical wars. For fans of Tyr, Skálmöld is a perfect opener, and throughout the tour this relatively unheard of band has impressed the European masses.

Jon: Have you been to England before? I swear I’ve seen you once before here.

Þráinn: Yes! We played here once before in 2011 on the… Heidenfest tour I think it was. In the HMV Forum. Absolutely awesome- probably one of my favourite shows ever.

Jon: How do you find fans in England, are we crazy?

Jón: Oh yes, they were crazy then!

Þráinn: At that concert they were absolutely amazing, yeah- and the Forum has a lot of history as well. All of the bands play there, so personally we were really excited to get to play there as well. Before the show we got together and just said ‘let’s do this just for us’. Our intro started, and the whole place erupted – we were like ‘What?’ Nobody knew who we were. The crowd was amazing. Probably one of my favourite gigs ever, and I mean that.

Jon: I know a lot of bands say places like Mexico or Japan are awesome, but no one ever says England.

Jón: Well, we’ve never played Mexico or Japan before! We have a fanclub in Mexico, though. But, uh, we can actually tell you that in Italy, Hungary and Romania, the fans are pretty awesome – the bassist from Týr is coming into our interview!

Gunnar: Hi!

Jon: You’ve already said your piece about the new album and now Týr don’t have a singer because of it!

Þráinn: Did you talk about our new album?

Gunnar: Of course we did! You’re so rude!

Þráinn: So as we said, yes in Italy, Hungary and Romania, fans are really crazy – Italy have the greatest fans ever, man. But that particular show back at the Forum was great.

Jon: Now you use Icelandic poetic structure in your songs. Is this hard to stick to or do you prefer to structure your lyrics like that?

Jón: We prefer to use it. Our bass player who writes all the lyrics is a bit of a poetic nerd in a way. In some ways it’s more like mathematical problems, because you have to put certain letters at certain places and have rhymes at certain places, so it’s kinda like a linguistic Rubik cube that you have to solve. So it’s a challenge. And because of those rules, it’s more rhythmical. You say sounds at similar intervals, it’s easier to sing, and for people who don’t speak Icelandic, it’s like listening to an instrument. When we signed to Napalm Records, some people asked ‘are you going to sing in English?’ And we said ‘no way!’ Of course we were going to stick to our native language. In our songs we have an English story which you can follow as you listen to the lyrics.

Jon: Your latest album Börn Loka

Þráinn: Yes, Children of Loki!

Jon: Why did you choose to write about this concept?

Þráinn: Basically we had an idea

Jon: Because he’s cool? [Editor’s note: Loki is not cool – Vidar is though]

Þráinn: Yes but don’t connect this with the Marvel thing! Basically we had three ideas, all the ideas were about two children travelling, and in the end our bass player had the idea of naming them after two of our kids…

Jón: We think the Children of Loki are really cool characters, and they are part of our Icelandic heritage, part of the old Nordic religion – mainly they’re just really cool characters. Especially the three famous ones: Hel, Fenrir and Miðgarðsormur. So, it’s a fictional story but we take parts of the old mythology and sagas and squeeze them in, but with different main characters.

Þráinn: We grew up with this; this is normal stuff when you’re growing up.

Jón: You learn about it in school, in kindergarten. It’s something children are taught as a part of their cultural history – you learn about where you’re from and as part of what your ancestors believed – not, like, ‘you have to believe in Odin’, but as cool stories.

Þráinn: But we didn’t have to make this cool, because ninety percent of everyone back home respects their history and thinks it’s quite cool anyway. We actually have kids wearing our t-shirts with our logos on, singing our songs in kindergartens.

Jon: That’s amazing!

Þráinn: Yeah, but I would have thought that kids in the UK would listen to Iron Maiden songs in kindergarten…

Jon: If only!

Þráinn: I thought you would be singing about Alexander the Great or Invaders or something!

Jon: If only we did! I think that should definitely be on the curriculum. I know you started off as Týr did, using folk music blended in with metal – do you still use that concept now?

Jón: When we started the band, the original idea was to have it a bit more folky than it turned out. In the first rehearsals, Baldur our guitar played flutes and mandolins and stuff, and then it kinda didn’t sound right, so he began to play the electric guitar as well. Today, we’re just playing heavy metal.

Þráinn: We don’t really think that we have to be ‘this type’ of metal, like folk metal. It just happens. For me, we’re just another Iron Maiden cover band!

Jon: I’m really interested in Norse mythology, but I’m really lazy and I don’t read at all. Could you recommend any reading that fans of Nordic metal can pick up to learn more about the history?

Þráinn: You have to read from the Völuspá and the Eddas, the beginning of the universe according to Nordic mythology. And then I think you should go into the old Icelandic sagas and the stories of the settlers. That’s awesome and brutal.

Jón: A bunch of people killing each other all the time.

Þráinn: Everyone who is alive today in the Western world is a pussy compared to the guys who were originally Icelandic settlers.

Jon: One day I promise you I’ll read the Eddas.

Jón: Do it! That’s basically where it all comes from.

Jon: Obviously I was interviewing Týr over there, and I asked them to teach me something in Faroese. Could you teach me something nice in Icelandic? Because Terji taught me some words that I couldn’t really say to anyone.

Þráinn: If you wanted to say something nice, to a beautiful girl or something, then you can say ‘falleg’, which means beautiful. You can also say ‘þú ert falleg’- you are beautiful.

Jon: What’s next for the band? Börn Loka was released last October, so have you started any further work?

Þráinn: We have started to write… It will be the best album ever! Our next task after we finish his tour is to do a couple of gigs with the Icelandic symphonic orchestra- we’re doing both of our albums and three shows that are sold out in a huge auditorium – 1800 seats!

Jón: So that’s going to be a lot of work, and hopefully we’re going to release that as a DVD. Hopefully it will be released just before Christmas; we’re doing the gigs in November.

Þráinn: And then we have theatre work!

Jón: We basically have December, January and February off, and then we’re going to start rehearsing to make our first album into a live theatre production: there’ll be actors and re-enactments on the stage of the stories in between the songs, and hopefully we’ll record an album next summer!

Jon: I love everything you’re doing- so many bands get stuck in a rut of recording an album and then going out on tour, and it seems like you’re really creatively branching out. Thanks – I think that’s everything!

Jón: They better bloody well start teaching Iron Maiden songs in kindergarten!

Skálmöld online:

http://www.skalmold.is
http://facebook.com/skalmold

Interview with Týr

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , on 23rd October 2013 by vmteam

Perhaps one of the greatest folkish/Nordic/younameit line-ups aside from the European spectacle of Heidenfest graced The Garage this past Saturday evening: behemoths Finntroll were joined by Metal Blade’s Týr, who are touring their latest album, and were supported by Iceland’s Skálmöld for an evening of sweltering debauchery and a raucous good time.

A long time fan of Týr himself, Jon caught up with Týr before the gig as the crowds started to swell up Holloway Road.

Absent for most of Týr’s interview was lyrical mastermind and mythology nerd Heri Joensen, who popped in his head for a few questions before ducking out, but Jon sat down with bassist (and comedian) Gunnar Thomsen, lead guitarist Terji Skibenaes, and new recruit drummer Amon Djurhuus.

Jon: Ok, introductory question: tell us something interesting about yourself!

Gunnar: I’m a plumber?

Jon: Everyone knows you’re a plumber!

Gunnar: And a diver!

Terji: Only perverted things come into my mind… I hate driving cars!

Amon: I can actually play the harmonica! 

Jon: Is the harmonica going to be on any Týr records then?

Amon: No way! Never ever! 

Jon: Gunnar, I saw you wearing a Trollfest t-shirt the other day; they’ve covered Toxic by Britney Spears. Aside from the new covers of Iron Maiden and Pantera on Valkyrja, out of any genre, what would you cover?

Gunnar: I would probably cover a Deep Purple song – I would never go so low as to do Britney Spears!

Terji: Pop song? I thought about it the other day! Chicago, It’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry – it will just be me in a one man show.

Jon: You went for a quite a power metal vibe in Valkyrja; Liv Kristine, singer from Leaves’ Eyes, joined you in ballad Lay of Our Love – have you thought about collaborating with any other musicians?

Terji: No, I don’t think we’re going to do that. 

Jon: I know you don’t align yourself with the folk metal scene, but a lot of bands use unconventional instruments- maybe not harmonicas, but accordions, violins…

Gunnar: Yeah, that’s never gonna happen – an orchestra, maybe… that could be something!

Terji: No violins though… 

Jon: I know Valkyrja has just been released, but have you started doing work on the new album?

Terji: Only demos so far.

Gunnar: They sound amazing, absolutely brilliant! 

Jon: Do you have a concept that it might focus on?

Terji: No, we don’t know yet…

Gunnar: We’ll do a cover track by The Bee Gees maybe… we’ll put a nail in our balls and- (quiet, high-pitched wails) 

Jon: That could be your stage performance next tour… Now – you cover modern issues; for example, your anti-racism song Shadow of the Swastika. Do you think any cultural values from Norse mythology are still relevant today?

Gunnar: That’s what Heri does with lyrics – he takes old situations and compares them to new situations because they’re quite similar. So it kinda draws a line between the two.

Jon: Do you like singing about modern issues or would you prefer to stick to singing only about mythology?

Gunnar: If it was up to me, we’d sing songs about cars and planes!

Terji: Sex, drugs and rock and roll! 

Jon: I think Shadow of the Swastika was a good response to the criticism you faced from people under the misconception you were a right-wing band.

Gunnar: Yeah, that whole thing came totally behind our backs. 

Jon: So from the new album, what’s your personal favourite – you know my favourite is Lady of the Slain, which I believe you wrote, Terji!

Terji: Yes I did! Mine is Another Fallen Brother.

Gunnar: It’s difficult to say, Valkyrja is my favourite- maybe because I wrote that! No, it’s difficult to say. I like the whole album.

Terji: Mare of My Night!

Gunnar: Mare of My Night is my favourite, yeah! 

Jon: That was so embarrassing to listen to… just listening to the lyrics…

Terji: Did you blush?

Jon: I did! Listening to it on my own I thought ‘you can’t say that, Heri!

Gunnar: Good! I think that’s where we should go! Getting brutally honest!

Amon: I think Mare of My Night is my favourite, too. I love playing it live- it’s a pretty cool live song. 

Jon: (Mathias from Finntroll is lounging on the sofa in the background behind Terji) What’s your favourite song, Mathias

Mathias: What favourite? No, I do know the songs! I listen to it every day! Uh, probably Mare of My Night, too.

Jon: Are there any songs you recorded but couldn’t use for Valkyrja?

Gunnar: This was what we had. We never actually record more songs than needed.

Jon: So Amon, have you ever been on tour before?

Amon: Yep, I’ve been on tour with Týr two times before – this is my third – and with Heljareyga (Heri Joensen’s side-project) also. It’s going good.

Gunnar: We bully him a bit – we’ve tried to break him in (whip crack sound)

Terji: Gunnar thinks we bully him, but we actually bully Gunnar!

Gunnar: I’m used to it!

Jon: I know a lot of fans were upset Kári (Streymoy, previous drummer) left, but the fans that have met you have said you’re cool, Amon – you’ve got our support! Can you teach us to say something in Faroese?

Terji: Spina. Spin-hora. Sperm whore. 

Jon: Would that help me to pick up a guy at a bar?

Gunnar: That would probably work on me!

Jon: Wow – next question! I’ve been listening to you since I was fifteen – so five years now. And I have to Admit that when I first started listening to you, I hated you!

Terji: Usually people do!

Jon: And now I run the UK fanpage on Facebook- funny how things change. When did you first realise you were getting noticed? I know Valkyrja is having great success in the charts and with critics alike.

Terji: Probably since after By the Light of the Northern Star was released. 

Jon: I know a lot of places in South America are crazy about anything Nordic-themed, do you find you have a good reception there as well?

Terji: Yeah, a lot! (Gunnar says ‘No’) Gunnar’s never on Facebook; he doesn’t know!

(Heri Joensen wanders over from the corner) 

Jon: Do you want to tell us about any lyrics you’re working on?

Heri: Uh, well Terji and I have talked about some stuff, and that’s all that’s happened so far. I don’t think we should mention it yet…

Terji: No, not yet.

Heri: Turn the microphone off!

Terji: Our manager will kill us…

Gunnar: No, it’s about big elephants in Africa, and the situation with the pelican that flies off and mates with the flamingos. It’s very disturbing.

Jon: I think you’re going to have to write that now! (Heri tries to run away; Jon pull him back) Stay here – there’s another one! I know a lot of my friends are starting to form bands and write lyrics about their English heritage. Do you encourage that, and how can people who are interested in that best go about interacting with, or writing about, something personal to them

Heri: I think that in the Faroes at least we have a very direct connection with our heritage, so when I started to write lyrics I didn’t have to dig very deep to find anything, and there was no artificial angle to it. I can imagine if you grew up in England that

Jon: It would be more about learning what you know from history lessons

Heri: Yeah exactly. You have to be into that sort of thing to know anything about it, but still I would encourage anyone to do it. I like it when music sounds like where it comes from and also has mythological subjects related to a band’s heritage, if you’re into that kind of thing. So when everything isn’t so internationalised.

Jon: I must say though I love the new African animal direction you’re taking, and Terji was also telling me about wanting to cover musical theatre…

Heri: I’m now officially out of the band!

Amon: Elephants in Chicago!

Terji: That’s the new album title!

Jon: Recently, fanclubs have grown amazingly for Týr. After your gig in York, I started the UK fanpage from a computer in my hostel. Now I’ve seen the Italian fanclub, the Polish fanclub, and of course the US fanclub getting lots of likes on their pages… What can fans do to help you guys?

Terji: I think talk to the local promoters… When they see more people asking for us, then it will most likely happen

Gunnar: And spread the word!

Terji: And hello to Týr Fans in the UK! Thank you for everything!

Gunnar: Rock on!

Amon: Thanks – come to our show!

Týr online:

http://www.tyr.fo
http://facebook.com/tyrband

 

Turisas w/ support @ 02 Academy Islington, London

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , , , on 21st October 2013 by vmteam

Astrohenge, Revoker and Turisas
02 Academy Islington, London
10th October 2013

After a series of botched attempts to stay all the way throughout a Turisas gig, this would be my third attempt at seeing the Finnish supergroup live in London. Arriving at the O2 Academy Islington late, and wandering up to a sparsely populated floor, I realised I had missed first supporting act Astrohenge. I didn’t particularly want to see either support, to be honest, and actually feel a little bit sorry for groups who need to support a group as highly anticipated as this warpainted northern rabble. The sea of red-and-black faces, plastic Viking helmets and synthetic furs lounging around with beer cups firmly clasped in hand was testament to the fact that everyone was here for one reason, and that any other supporters could get on with it.

Revoker, a band with a frontman whose accent was confusingly Welsh, were up before that, however. They weren’t terrible, either, and had I been less eager to see Turisas I might have fully been able to enjoy them! Aggressive and dangerously charged deathy-thrash is their game, with standard tracks like the brawling Stay Down and the shouty Great Pretender proving enough of a hook to get the crowd fist-pumping, even if no pits were started. For a Welsh band sitting in the shadow of the gargantuan Bullet For My Valentine, their track record is impressive enough: they’ve worked with Skindred and have been previously signed to Roadrunner Records. Well worth a listen in the future- and their ‘just good music’ vibe was certainly an omen of things to come from our headliners…. [3/5]

Turisas– with a fashionably long wait- hit us next, after anguished cries of ‘Battle Metal!?’ echoed around the room for half an hour. Opening the set tonight was a track from their latest album (the oddly named Turisas2013) For Your Own Good. A powerful song in its own right, the sound was impeccable and Turisas’ entrance met with a swelling crowd – however, it was clear that the songs from their latest album aren’t their strongest or most well received in the flesh. Musically, songs from Turisas2013 sound great- solid, catchy, jumpy and more hard-rock than metal- but seeing the band live leaves little doubt that their real power is behind the grittier, harsher songs of previous albums. A Portage to the Unknown followed, bombastic, crushing and ridiculous like the Turisas we know and love, and the place went crazy for the anthemic To Holmgard and Beyond, which induced the most intense jumping I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. But new releases Ten More Miles and Piece by Piece, whilst good songs, lacked the same energy. Picking up the pace from the new album, and a song that I had hoped would be performed live as it truly is a ‘live song’, was Greek Fire, undoubtedly Turisas2013’s most ‘metal’ track, rising and falling in a roaring crescendo and sparking a whirl of flying bodies across the floor. Another odd one, which didn’t get the reception I was hoping for, was No Good Story Ever Stars With Drinking Tea, a fun little drinking jig that translated well on stage; penultimately, ‘We Ride Together’ was a soaring, feel-good tune and was the last of the new tracks to be showcased. However, matched with the epic As Torches Rise and One More, there was no contest as to what was most preferred.

The setlist for the night provided a varied crowd with a range of songs to choose from- old school fans like me and new converts both got a healthy mix- and with Turisas as energetic on stage as ever, Mathias gliding around the stage and throwing punches to the air, the show was of little fault. Telling, however, was that the lulls in the night (if you could call them that when the crowd was still chanting and singing) were from the new album. [4/5]

Jon Geirson

Finntroll w/Support @ The Garage, London

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , , , , on 21st October 2013 by vmteam

Týr, Skálmöld and Finntroll
The Garage, London
6th October 2013

I first started listening to Finntroll when I was 15. My mum took me to a Heidenfest show for my 16th birthday, and I guess you can say that was my slow descent into the underworld of folk metal.

The line-up tonight is one I’ve been excited about for a long time, and one that personally I think fits very nicely together: Skálmöld from Iceland with their melodic, relentless chug you can bounce around to singing in ancient Icelandic poetic metre; Týr showcasing their new venture Valkyrja, an album-worth of fast, genre defying metal; and the legendary Finntroll, revered in folk metal circles from Mexico to Australia. Their new album Blodsvept was released in March this year, and it follows on from the dark-carnival Danny Elfman-cum-black metal Nifelvind. Blodsvept is no less eclectic: surprise kazoos and banjos mix in with brutal guitars and lead troll Vreth’s rich vocals. Always ready for a party when these guys are involved, I prepared myself for mayhem.

From seeing them again on this tour, Skálmöld, who open for us, receives a warm welcome from the audience. Despite only having 30 minutes, the band makes a distinct and explosive impression. Featuring mostly songs from their new album Börn Loka (Children of Loki), Skálmöld  open with the grinding and dark Fenrisúlfur, before keyboard anthem Gleipnir thunders out to a rapturous reception. The much more synthetically folky song, Kvaðning, and the only song from 2011 debut album “Baldur”, ends their stay on stage- and the crowd are left gasping and chanting for more. [4/5]

“Are you ready for Týr?” Skálmöld lead singer Björgvin screams. ‘Ready’ is a brilliant understatement; Týr is arguably my favourite band of the evening, and since seeing them in York, I’ve waited for them to tour again anxiously. The lights dim after a few moments, and their set begins slowly, the red haze overhead throbbing until the clash of the mighty crowd-pleaser Hold the Heathen Hammer High leads to the band striding on stage. The setlist has changed very little over the tour; however, Heathen Hammer and scream-along Valkyrja single Blood of Heroes have remained constant, one after the other whipping up the crowd. I may have nudged lead singer Heri Joensen into performing my favourite track off the new album live, and being the gentleman he is, he doesn’t disappoint- and even manages to make Lady of the Slain better than it is on the album, galloping along with neck-breaking speed, and providing my favourite track that evening- even with the prog-metal magic of Sinklars Vísa. An acquired taste for some, Týr have been consistently good every time I’ve seen them, and with this performance at The Garage they cement themselves as a must-see. [5/5]

After a half-hour wait at the bar, pressed arse-to-chest with strangers like sardines in a net, I break free and run to the front as the Blodsvept starts, the crowd surging forward as the all-too familiar forms of Finntroll– steampunk-clad and pointy-eared- take the stage and bear down over us in glee. After a punchy start, dressed to impress and lapping up the energy, they begin Nifelvind opener Solsagan, evil to the core. The combination of songs from all of Finntroll’s manifestations smash the misconception that Finntroll is just a ‘fun’ gimmick band. They switch alternatively between crunching black metal dug up from the darkest depths of the earth and jumpy dance favourites like En Mäktig Här, famous for steel-pan snyths, and the jig-inducing Under Bergets Rot. Finntroll leave no room to catch a break, and a few songs in the room is stifling, with smiles plastered on drenched faces. Catching sight of flashes of bare chest, Vreth refers to those in the middle fondly as ‘those naked guys’, before calling for an even bigger moshpit. At their last UK gig, Finntroll made sure some oldies were on the list- and they seemed surprised at how much their back catalogue was appreciated. Knowing that we like them, Svartberg makes a comeback with much arm waving and swaying, and Jaktens Tid itself with its added joking is forever a firm favourite, starting snakes of conga lines around the venue.

Lest I die an early death from heat exhaustion, I leave before what I’m sure is Trollhammaren evidently shutting the place down. I consider myself now a Finntroll veteran, but this is a gig I will fondly remember as being one of their best. The crowd was ecstatic for all bands, and funnily enough for an easily-annoyed bastard, the pit was a fun, sweaty, elating experience. [4/5]

If you’re looking for a good time when this assortment of mythological creatures and long-departed warriors trample through the UK, you’d better go and see them. And if you’re staunchly ‘too cool’ for dress-ups, heroics or swords and sorcery, you’re missing out on an awesome time.

Jon Geirson

Ibanez Iron Label RG 7 String RGIR27E

Posted in Featured, Gear Reviews, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 16th October 2013 by vmteam

Specs:

  • 3 piece Maple/Bubinga neck
  • 25.5” scale length
  • Basswood body
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Jumbo Frets
  • EMG 707 Pickups (bridge and neck positions)
  • 3 Way Blade Switch
  • 1 Volume
  • Latching Killswitch
  • EDGE-ZERO II Bridge

The Ibanez RG is probably one of the most recognisable and iconic guitar shapes in the long history of the guitar. Its sharp points and beautiful curves give it elegance with a touch of venom. Through its many iterations, the RG has been the workhorse model of choice for guitar players around the world, from jazz to metal. In the metal world it has secured its standpoint by morphing its uncompromising playability to suit the needs of six string players, seven stringers and 8 string djentelmen alike. The range of options is vast on this particular model, with hardtail versions for players who want absolute stability, and vibrato models for those that want to drop bombs and scream the place down.

The Iron Label series has been a welcome refreshment to the ideas of building the shred machine. The series combines all the features and playability of the existing models, the variety of fixed bridge or double locking vibrato units, string count and gorgeous looks with that one thing we all find hard to swallow when we look for our guitars; affordability. Ibanez threw it all on the line and created an affordable, reliable, uncompromising weapon of maximum shred, and have been reaping the rewards.

This particular model, the RGIR27E, is one of two 7 string examples on show within the body shape. Its main feature is the double locking EDGE-ZERO II Floating vibrato unit. The other version of this is a fixed bridge affair, denoted by the F in the model number (RGIR27FE). Both feature EMG 707 pickups for the ultimate sound of brutality, a 25.5 inch scale neck to handle not only the standard six strings with outstanding stability, but cater for the low B string with ease. It aptly manages to retain the string tension, whilst allowing great articulation of the low notes. If you find that low B isn’t brutal enough for you, slap some heavier strings on and tune down to A or G and unleash a fire breathing monster of death and destruction, and it will even hold a low F with a good amount of accuracy, (and a damn good set up job).

The EDGE-ZERO II is a development of the original Ibanez Edge series of double locking vibrato units, and it certainly lives up to the reputation built by it’s forbearers. Because of the unit being double locking (strings lock at the bridge and at the nut of the neck) the system allows extreme changes in pitch, both up and down and tuning stability is rock solid. As the strings terminate at the locking saddle on the bridge, the transfer of vibrations through the bridge to the body is a direct transfer. This allows the guitar to sustain notes whilst being manipulated by the vibrato, and harmonics can be held for extended periods of time. The fine tuners on the bridge allow for precise tuning when the strings are locked down, and allow quick tuning changes if a string slips out of tune. As if that wasn’t enough, the bridge is a recessed floating affair, so the strings can be pulled sharp and allows for all sorts of musical devilry.

The neck on the RGIR27E is fast, flat and wide for all kinds of shred play. The unfinished Maple feels extremely comfortable and rigid, combined with the Bubinga stripe running through the centre to enhance the rigidity and tone of the neck. The older Ibanez necks were a combination of Maple and featured a couple of Walnut stripes and were a multi-ply neck configuration, that were superbly sturdy, and featured some of the thinnest neck profiles imaginable. This particular neck feels ever so slightly thicker, but still feels amazing to play, both from a lead standpoint and a rhythm perspective. With a 400mm radius, the neck is fairly flat, and that allows for lower string heights, so the super low action is a breeze to play with. Some people find these necks hard to adjust to, because they have had to compromise with other necks, which are rounder, fatter and harder to contend with. Ibanez have given the best of both worlds and taken the neck into another dimension. A Rosewood fret board warms up the sharp attack of the Maple, whilst keeping the clarity of the notes. The absence of fret markers can be off putting at first, but take comfort in the fact that the side markers are visible even under stage lighting, so you shouldn’t get totally lost whilst wandering around slaughtering innocent victims with your brutal shredding.

The audio department is covered with the addition of one of the best, if not the best, active 7 string pickups on the market today, the EMG 707. The 707 has been the pickup that companies have tried to emulate for many years now, and some consider it to be the only 7 string pickup worth talking about. EMG asked their line up of 7 stringers what they were looking for in a pickup and almost all of them reported back saying “We want the 81 in a seven string format”. And thus it came to pass that the 707 was an 81 with a bit more, and gave rise to the demonic soapbar pickup that adorns the guitars of some of the best guitarists who utilise the un-natural 7 string guitar with great destructive power: players such as Jeff Loomis, Rusty Cooley, Dino Cazares, Christian Olde Wolbers and many more besides. Because of the ceramic magnets inside the 707, the notes are crystal clear, and have a remarkable bark and bite under crushing amounts of gain. The 9 volt battery that powers these pickups allows for true power, (there is even an 18 volt mod to soak the power and give even more output from the guitar).

When choosing a body wood, most people overlook Basswood as a cheap, undesirable wood. But as many more companies offer Basswood as a body wood choice nowadays, it is becoming a very popular choice among Pros and bedroom shredders alike. Lighter than mahogany, but just as full sounding, but with more emphasis on the lower end with a well defined mid range, Basswood is an excellent compliment to a maple neck. Add in the EMGs and an EDGE-ZERO II Bridge, and you are ready to decimate your audience with the first note.

Finally, we get to the all important bit of price. For most signed artists, endorsements will either pay for, or discount their instruments. For us mere mortals who can’t even get money off our shopping, this is a dream, one that is very rarely achieved. We scrimp and save just to afford a set of strings most times and purchasing a new guitar only happens when a store has a sale, or someone we know has had enough of their axe and wants their newest toy (or needs to buy toys for the new arrival in the form of a screaming, puking firstborn). Quite easily the best thing about the Iron Label series is the price range. The standard fixed bridge 7 string is offered, without it being a sale or having a big discount, for the miniscule price of £515.00 at Andertons music store in Guilford (online prices/store prices may vary). The EDGE-ZERO II version is priced at the tiny price of £599.00 at Andertons (again prices may vary) which is an amazing price for such quality craftsmanship and for a guitar that will rip audiences in two.

And so to recap, the Ibanez Iron Label RG, in either version, is a great addition to your arsenal, whether it’s your first 7 string or just another weapon to use. The Ibanez Iron Label series has you covered.

Dan Eastwood

Warhorns: Day Two @ The Duchess, York

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 7th October 2012 by vmteam

Skyforger, Wolfchant and more
The Duchess, York
22nd September 2012

Much to my regret, I didn’t make the first day of Warhorns Festival. However, on Saturday I was in York bright and early, determined to make up for lost time. Since the gig wound up starting around half an hour late anyway, I managed to get an excellent barrier vantage point for what turned out to be a unique opening performance, courtesy of two one-man bands that had joined forces and found some session musicians just for the occasion. England’s Aloeswood, the project of Ravenage‘s Danny “Dagstyrr” Downing, had teamed with North Carolina’s Desiderium (whose mastermind Michael Rumple had flown himself in at frightening expense to be here) for a one-off joint show that I felt privileged to witness, since apparently Aloeswood at least never intend to play live again.

Which is a great shame, because their half of the set was stunning. Aloeswood‘s sound is on the more reflective, moody side of the pagan metal style, defined by unhurried rhythms and flowing, lyrical guitars, filled with texture and interleaved melodies. While it’s always difficult to sing someone else’s material, Michael threw himself into the vocal parts with a will and his voice fitted well, leaving Danny free to give all his attention to his guitar – indeed, one highlight of the ensuing performance may well pass into metal myth. When during new track Winter Michael handed Danny a small metal spanner, we were all a bit confused. When Danny promptly applied the spanner to his strings, producing an absolutely amazing eBow-esque lead break that went on for several minutes, our jaws dropped in awe.

And then, after three tracks, Michael threw off his shirt, swapped places with Danny and announced “We’re now a completely different band!” Enter Desiderium, purveyors of an ambient-tinged, atmospheric black metal sound that followed surprisingly smoothly from Aloeswood‘s songs. Sadly it was obvious at once that this material had been less rehearsed (unsurprisingly, given the problem of the North Atlantic being in the way of any prior gatherings) but even so, the songs still came through and the passion that Michael threw into his performance was inspiring to see. I also had the pleasure of briefly meeting him and shaking his hand at the end of the set, and for my pains was gifted a copy of Desiderium‘s first album An Image of Solitude on limited edition cassette(!) Thank you Michael, if you read this, I was genuinely thrilled by that.

The challenge of following this demented double-bill went to Scotland’s Morlich, who are an alarmingly young-looking collective peddling a melodic folk/black metal sound that promises a great deal of potential just waiting to be fulfilled. While they’re a little short on stage presence that’s a skill that tends to come with experience, and their guitarist Corvus possesses a real gift for conveying emotion in his solos. Definitely ones to watch – and a source of more free music, as they were giving away demo CDs for their new album at the end. Thanks lads, can’t wait to hear the final version!

Third up were Shallow Intentions; whose set I got completely caught up in and really enjoyed, as they play an accessible brand of fast, rattling, danceable viking metal – complete with costumes and warpaint – that’s tailor-made for enthusiastic headbanging and horn-throwing. Their technical excellence wasn’t the best, unfortunately, but their charisma and energy carried them across a few minor missteps without too much trouble and they got a warm response from a cheerful crowd. A fine, entertaining performance with no pretensions.

Following this were Ireland’s Celtachor, who were the only band of the day who really didn’t work for me. Part of this was because their already aggressive sound was being mangled by the PA into a nigh-impenetrable wall of noise and I was having trouble actually hearing the songs, but given that, their frontman’s Celtic berserker routine proved more of a hindrance than a help. His glaring and exhortations were so vigorous that he really seemed at times like he hated every single one of us, and the intimidation factor that resulted wasn’t helping my attempts to focus on the music and pick out what was going on. Eventually, half deaf and not much the wiser, I admitted defeat and retreated to the back to catch my breath.

However, next after Celtachor were one of the main reasons I was here in the first place: Ravenage, the band of Warhorns organiser Glyn “The Heralder”. And truly, they did not disappoint me. With a newly energised lineup, having recently replaced their bassist and got keyboardist Windrider back after a lengthy hiatus while he toured with Alestorm, they opened up with all dials set to eleven and never slowed down for a second. Thankfully the PA issues that had afflicted Celtachor seemed to have disappeared, and they blasted unhindered through such anthems as Viking Dream, Northbound Part I, and the inevitable More Beer, and also finally gave us Northbound Part II which we’ve all been waiting for ever since Part I came out. The best thing about the set for me, though, was finally seeing them with Windrider, as he’s been absent at both previous Ravenage shows I’ve seen (no disrespect of course to the legendary Articus, who’s been filling in!); watching him play his heart out, eyes closed and hair flying, was beautiful to see, and it was immediately clear how much his presence adds to their performance. A truly triumphant return to form for one of the best rising bands in English metal.

Indeed, Ravenage effectively headlined the British Isles section of the night, since the top tier of the bill had been reserved for those bands who’d come a good deal further to play. First came Belgium’s Angeli di Pietra – defining themselves as “powerfolk” and with no fewer than seven members including both male and female dedicated vocalists, they won the crowd over in the space of about five seconds flat with their charm and energy. While their chosen genre tag is certainly apt, they never let the power metal side of their sound get over the top and the results were gloriously melodic while still heavy enough to keep the Warhorns crowd entertained. Despite the number of people they were squeezing onto the Duchess’s crowded stage they even managed to move around and make some use of the space, which also impressed me. And I’ve seldom seen a band so visibly overwhelmed by a crowd’s welcome for them – summed up when vocalist Guy was teaching us the words to the singalong for Onwards to Asgard, and after a single round of “Onwards-” “-TO ASGARD!” shook his head in amazement and declared “That was perfect, let’s go!” An equally unanimous and correct response greeted the demand “Whom among you is the one they call Spartacus?”, leading into a track called, of course, “I Am Spartacus”, and occasioning plenty of laughter and cheering in the process. Fun, heartwarming and a welcome breath of fresh air, I’d be delighted to see this band again if they return to our shores.

Equally excellent, though requiring a swift change of mental gears, were Germany’s Wolfchant. I wondered what was up when the entire front section of the stage was cleared of all but a single micstand, but when Wolfchant came crashing on, all became clear. Their thunderous, no-frills, pagan Metal-with-a-capital-M sound is huge and so are they, even the smallest and slightest of the band having a physique that wouldn’t disgrace a pro wrestler. Like Angeli Di Pietra they have two dedicated vocalists, in this case both male; I’d consider that excessive in most bands, but Lokhi and Nortwin are an amazing team, throwing the vocal lines to each other with split-second synchronisation and performing as a seamless double act to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Even a cover of Grave Digger’s Rebellion didn’t slow things down, overclocked until it sounded perfectly in place. Definitely the wildest it got all night, the air dripping with testosterone, fury and pagan pride, the front rows going berserk (including me) and the whole thing culminating in a near riot both onstage and off when what seemed like half the performing presence at Warhorns were invited onstage for a storming performance of Never Too Drunk. If you ever get the chance to see this band live, don’t miss it; the experience is a treat.

Physically demanding as Wolfchant‘s set was, I’d hardly got my breath back by the time Skyforger came on. Foolishly I’d abandoned my barrier spot between bands and discovered I couldn’t get it back, as every Latvian fan present (of whom there were an impressive number) had charged down to the front while I was gone. So I saw Skyforger from three rows back, which was fine. What might have been less fine was the fact that they’ve recently lost their folk instrumentalist, meaning that the Skyforger you get onstage nowadays is doing with guitars everything that used to be done with traditional instruments; but as it worked out, I was delighted to realise that with the folk gloss partially lifted from their powerful, epic sound, lurking underneath is a huge helping of classic eighties metal influences ranging from Slayer to Iron Maiden. They sounded flawless, and you would never have known they hadn’t been playing that way for their whole career. Their stage presentation is inspirational, too – richly dressed in medieval-style costume, frontman Pēteris resplendent in his black and scarlet, they dominated the stage with the confidence and presence of veterans, needing no theatrics to support them.

And apparently, there’s crowds, there’s partisan crowds, and then there’s Skyforger fans. The front rows were lapping it up with an obsessive devotion, and there was even a large Latvian flag making the rounds a row or two back. The acclaim that greeted tracks like the beautiful Migla Migla, Rasa Rasa was deafening, and to hear a crowd singing along in flawless Latvian in an English venue made me proud to call myself a fan of this amazing, borderless music that we call heavy metal. Skyforger and their fans truly exemplified the spirit of the Warhorns Festival, and I can’t praise them enough. A perfect end to a perfect night.

So in closing, I’d just like to extend all thanks and honour to Glyn and Marc who organised this amazing event, and I can’t wait for the next gig under the Warhorns banner.

Kit Rathenar [Destructive Music]