Archive for mickbirchy

Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Posted in Featured, Review with tags , , , , , , , on 7th September 2021 by Mickelrath

Iron Maiden

Senjutsu

Heavy Metal

Released: 3rd September 2021

via Parlophone

Like a lot of metalheads worldwide, my music taste was heavily shaped by Iron Maiden and the influence they’ve had on the metal world since. I feel safe in saying the majority of British metal bands were influenced by the iconic titans. Yet, like any other massive cultural media phenomena, the internet discourse seems to be rife with opinions about their output in recent years. I’ve met fans of the band that haven’t listened to them since Somewhere In Time, some stopped coming back to the band from Brave New World and others, like myself, have always stuck by the band and all their releases all the way to this latest release. Senjutsu is the seventeenth feature length album from Iron Maiden and, like all their releases of recent years, appears to have split the fanbase down the middle. Some proclaim this is a disappointing follow to 2015’s The Book Of Souls, some saying this is their best work in years and some dismissing the fact that they actually have put out a new album as they stopped coming back to Iron Maiden some time ago. So, what do I think?

I found Senjutsu to be a pretty pleasant listening experience. There’s that special quality to it that only Iron Maiden can seem to bring to an album. The lyrical themes that run through the course of the entire album. Music that complements the subject matter they’re singing about and guitar solos that still blow my mind in how they find complexity in simplicity. Obviously, the album is really well produced, at this point they have been through the album making process so much that you really can’t point to any glaring flaws. Also they brought Kevin Shirley back to produce, who has been working with them since Brave New World in 2000. So, obviously the album sounds amazing. Also, Steve Harris is behind all of the songs from a writing standpoint, and if anyone should know what Iron Maiden should sound like, Harris is really the guy. So for all things technical, this is, for lack of a better term, an Iron Maiden album. Yet, this album feels like such a different world from The Book of Souls, not bad, different.

To be honest, on first listening, not a lot feels that different. It feels like the grandiose music that they have been famous for so long. Yet, I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm going for the entire 80 or so minutes of the run time. Sure, there are a couple of standout songs. My personal favourites being “Days of Future Past”, “ Lost in a Lost World” and “Stratego”. However, I don’t think it comes together as an album that well. All of the songs run the same themes, concepts, and ideas, the songs are well written, but when put all together in an album the songs don’t feel like they naturally fall into place. That can really be blamed on the opening track, which is the title track “Senjutsu”. It’s a meandering plodding song that wears off it’s welcome pretty quick. Where I feel a song with a little bit more energy like the aforementioned “Stratego” would have worked better to hype you up for the rest of the album. And it keeps going like that for a little while. The whole album has some pacing issues and to listen to the album for the full run time, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself dropping off it a little.

Still, I feel the song quality is there. Put some of the harder hitters into a live set mixed with some of the other Maiden standards and I think they’ll work pretty darn well. The powerful command of “The Writing on the Wall” would sound a lot better following something like “Wasted Years” and I think that’s ultimately the way I’m choosing to look at this album. More songs that they can interweave into their set lists rather than an individual listening experience unto itself. Iron Maiden has been in my life since I was a little kid and listening to them will always transport me back to being a little kid excited to discover their music. I will probably always get excited to hear new music from them because they always deliver that one special new song into my life that no other band will ever bring and for that, I will always love them. As for Senjutsu… Well, I can’t say it’s my favourite, nor can I fully dismiss it. It shows that even seventeen albums in, music is always a work in progress and no one has the formula fully nailed. Not even a band as immortal as Iron Maiden.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Sick N’ Beautiful + Supports @ Manchester Aatma

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

Sick N’ Beautiful w/ Bad Pollyanna & Novacrow

Venue: Manchester Aatma Date: 02 June 2018

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

Novacrow


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

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

Bad Pollyanna


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

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

Sick N’ Beautiful


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

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

Mick Birchall

Sick N Beautiful – Element of Sex

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

Sick N Beautiful

Element Of Sex

Shock Rock, Nu Metal, Electronic Metal

Released: 29 June 2018

via Rosary Lane Records

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

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

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

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

4/5

Mick Birchall

Epica – The Solace System

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5

Mick Birchall