SOS Festival, Day 2 Review

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

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)

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SOS Festival, Day 1 Review

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

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)

 

Ensiferum reveal new album title

Posted in Metal, Misc., News with tags , , on 19th July 2017 by izaforestspirit

The Finnish folk metal band Ensiferum are back and have just announced that their new album will be entitled ‘Two Paths’. The new record will be released worldwide on 15th September via Metal Blade Records.

You can check out the track-listing and the cover-art below:

1. Ajattomasta Unesta
2. For Those About to Fight for Metal
3. Way of the Warrior
4. Two Paths
5. King of Storms
6. Feast with Valkyries
7. Don’t You Say
8. I Will Never Kneel
9. God Is Dead
10. Hail to the Victor
11. Unettomaan Aikaan
12. God Is Dead (Alternative Version)
13. Don’t You Say (Alternative Version)

They are also embark on a European tour starting in August 2017. Here is the schedule for the first part of the tour:

Aug. 17 – Summerbreeze festival – Dinkelsbuehl, Germany
Sept. 26 – Bochum, Germany – Zeche
Sept. 27 – Langen, Germany – Stadthalle
Sept. 28 – Arnhem, Netherlands – Luxor Live
Sept. 29 – Berlin, Germany – SO36
Sept. 30 – Osnabruck, Germany – Hyde Park
Oct. 1 – Paris, France – La Machine

More dates will be announced soon.

In the meantime you can check out the lyric video for the first single here:

 

For more information visit:

https://www.facebook.com/Ensiferum/

http://metalblade.com/ensiferum/

 

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

Alice Cooper reveals new album details

Posted in Misc., News, Rock with tags , , , on 18th July 2017 by izaforestspirit

The legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper has announced that his new album, the first studio release in six years, will be called ‘Paranormal’. It will feature guest performances from U2’s Larry Mullen Jr., ZZ TOP’s Billy Gibbons and Deep Purple’s Roger Glover.

Here is what the singer had to say about it:

“I love that title, ‘Paranormal’, but it’s not really a scary record. There’s a couple of scary songs on it, but [it is] ‘paranormal,’ meaning ‘other than normal.’ This is not a normal Alice record. Bob [Erzin] and I decided, ‘No theme this time. We’re gonna make a record of things that just get us off, songs that we like. And it might go in a lot of different directions, but these are just songs that get us off.”

‘Paranormal’ is expected to hit the shops on 28th July 2017 via earMusic and it will be available in the following formats: 2CD digipack, limited edition box set and digital download.

You can check out the cover art below:

He has also released a lyric video for the title track.

For further information visit:

http://www.alicecooper.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AliceCooper/

 

Ward XVI – The Art of Manipulation

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , on 12th July 2017 by Nico Solheim-Davidson
Ward XVI
The Art Of Manipulation
Avant-Garde Rock
Released 1st July
via Rock’n’Growl
Earlier this month, northern metal outfit – though they describe themselves as “theatrical avant-garde rock” – Ward XVI released their debut album, The Art of Manipulation, which follows the story of a female psychopath locked away in a high security asylum. Having seen this band before, when the news came out that Ward were releasing this album, I immediately knew I had to listen to it.

Starting with the generically named Intro, the track starts the story written within the album, as a rather sinister and villainous psychiatrist is heard talking to his patient, who replies stating that she’s “not insane”. Take My Hand is a light trance inducing track before it changes at the flip of a coin into a pure, chaotic guitar barrage. The title track, The Art of Manipulation, stands out with its ephemeral passages that appear between the faster, hard hitting sections of the song. The vocals come across exquisitely with the ebb and flow of the track.

There are three interludes on the album, each of which serve the purpose of moving the story forward with more dialogue. As the first interlude finishes, The Flight comes bursting in like a hand grenade, as the the guitars merciless blare out their rhythmic, almost hypnotic riffs. The use of keyboards on this track comes as a welcome surprise, adding a new dynamic to it. The vocals are very much good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll as they race along side the keys and guitars. Crystal Ball  has its own little charm as the sounds of accordions blare over the driving guitars and thundering rhythm sections. A reassuring and warm piano melody leads the way in Hold Me, adding an expected emotional feel to not only the song but the album as well.

Blackened Heart is a poignant track, with memorable vocal lines and a contrasting use of guitars, the rhythm section and keys, with one section being quite nu-metalesqe in its composition while Run For Your Lives  jumps in the sound of wailing sirens before a haunting accordion melody is heard. The track being proceeds into barrage of drums flanked by raging guitars and energetic vocals. Adrenochromania is quite a misty and cimmerian track with a lot of mesmerising passages.

Cry of the Siren is an aggressively energetic track as the guitars and keys go toe-to-toe with one another between vocal lines. Toy Box however contrasts greatly, taking a slower pace verging on the edge of a traditional and folkier sound with the accordion commanding the song. Inner Demon diverges onto a different route with a unique sound that really shows the theatrics of the band. The Art of Manipulation closes its curtains with a song named after the band: Ward XVI. It is quite a solemn listening affair, as the vocals call out like a Plutonian requiem while the keys and guitars have become the musical incarnation of a somber midnight sky.

Ward XVI have done something spectacular with The Art Of Manipulation, while their on-stage theatrics don’t translate well into recorded form, their story telling and unique melting pot of different styles and influences speaks for themselves.

3.5/5

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Edguy – Monuments (A 25 Year Tribute to Edguy)

Posted in CD, Editorial/Opinionated, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , on 9th July 2017 by mickbirchy
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