Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, February 23, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Stormzone on searing form on the luscious Lucifer's Factory

IF you think Stormzone are just an ordinary heavy metal band you are about to be handed your ass on a sling with the release of Lucifer's Factory -powerful, story driven, searing metal with real heart.

And, with lyrical content that delves deep into Northern Ireland's mystical and dark past it elevates the band to heights that is a true evolution for them.

As 'Dark Hedges' opens it is immediately apparent that this an album with added nitro. No longer with the band Gordy's recording sees the drums propels the opener to a frenzied start.

Hold on to your ball sack as this is a ferocious start, all wrapped around the area made famous by Game of Thrones, but delving into the dancing ghost of the dark lady...'ware the tourists on June nights.

That is just a hint of what the band achieve on this release...There are no dud tracks, there are no 'fillers'. The playing from all is impressive, the composition and arrangements are flawless.

While it is easy to see Northern Ireland band's through rose (green?) tinted glasses, and to be overly effusive, had this landed in the inbox knowing nothing about the band it would get still get a great review.

The tragedy of the title track, driven along by some tasty bass work from Graham merges into the tale of the infamous highwayman 'Cushy Glen' that manages that delicate trick of keeping it metallic with just enough of a Celtic twist.

The furious riffing of Steve and Junior is better than the band have ever managed; someone slipped them the secret elixir to give them the patterns to merge the rhythm section blow for blow. And, as for the soloing - tempered in places, off the proverbial scale in other sections, but always perfectly matching the lyrical subject matter. The roving solo for 'Last Night In Hell' is a case in point.

As history buffs the lyrical themes, whilst well known to us, explore the netherworld that helped create the nation we occupy, back in the mists of time.

Bram Stoker may have penned 'Dracula' but there is considerable evidence that his inspiration was from the North West vampire 'Albhartach'. In the recounting of this tale the band move forward as if fleeing the devil, racing before the gates of hell close.

'We Are Strong' is probably the closest to what one would normally expect from Stormzone - and given that would be great in itself it has all the elements as Harv narrates defiance before the chorus primes everyone to join in when this beast is played.

On 'Broken Window' the insistent opening gives way to a mid-paced prowling panther of a song, menace dripping off every note as the County Antrim opening to Satan's lair, the doorway to the Inferno is recounted.

The darkness that Harv explores in the words is more than just the typical metal poses and pretences. For example, fuck your trick and treat twats, firework obsessed, dickhead commercialism - listen to one of the real sources on 'Hallow's Eve' and when October 31st just check the footprints around the hearth.

It is not just, however. the mythos of Ulster that is explored. 'The Last Goodbye' has all its roots - literally' in the shipwreck of the Spanish Armada ship, The Girona (worth a visit to the Ulster Museum with this track on the headphones...).

As for 'In For The Kill'...just listen and marvel. No more need to wax lyrical about this muscular behemoth of metal.

As the final chords of the plaintive closer 'Time To Go' fade (there is a bonus track on the physical version) what is clear is that Stormzone have taken a massive risk. Heavier than before, ample helpings of heft and exploring themes that each could be a concept album in their own right.

The risk paid off.

This is an essential purchase - simple as that.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Lucifer's Factory is launched at the Diamond Rock Club on Saturday, February 24th in a joint show that will also see A Little Bitter launch Arrows




NEWS: Raise Your Hands As Reef Are Added To The Harmony Live 18 Festival Bill

REEF are set to kickstart Harmony Live 18 in Holywood, County Down, on Friday June 1 as part of a three-day packed weekend of music and much more.

The four-piece, most famous for their iconic Place Your Hands will join Boomtown Rats at the award-nominated festival, with further top named acts to be announced.

The three-day event, which is set to pack out the Co Down town, will run from June 1-3 at the Festival Marquee in the Holywood Rugby Club grounds.

Previously known as the Holywood Harmony Festival, Harmony Live 18 will see big-name acts take to the stage at the main marquee as well as supporting events across several venues in the town.

Last year the festival welcomed over 15,000 people into the town and organisers are expecting to top that figure this year having doubled the size of their marquee to accommodate The Boomtown Rats and Reef.

Festival director Mari Jackson said: “Harmony Live 18 is set to be bigger, better and more fun with music that will reverberate across the county.

“We’re delighted that Reef are joining The Boomtown Rats in another great coup for the festival committee and I know everyone who is in the marquee on June 1 will have their hands in the air for this tremendous live band.”

Mari said Harmony Live 18 is more than just a music event “it’s a weekend that welcomes involvement from throughout the community” she explained, adding: “Putting Holywood firmly on the map as an exciting music and tourist destination the Harmony Live 18 supports the local economy, working with service providers, vendors and contractors in the area and improving the footfall into the town and businesses throughout the weekend.

“We’re very proud of the achievements so far.  In 2016 we were nominated and shortlisted for Best Tourism Event at the North Down Business Awards and this year we’ve undergone a complete festival rebrand thanks to local company Andy Rice Creative (ARC).”

Tickets for The Boomtown Rats and Reef at Harmony Live 18 are available from www.wegottickets.com,  Garry’s Barber Shop and Homebird in Holywood.


ALBUM REVIEW: Axel Rudi Pell delivers once again on Knights Call

SAY what you like about Axel Rudi Pell - he is one consistent man. And, with Knights Call album number 17 does what you would expect.

As a technician he masters his instrument, but his ability to capture exquisite playing within songs - yes actual songs - that sets him apart from many so-called shredders.

On Knights Call he picks up from 2016's wonderful 'Game of Sin' with a collection of tracks that have the right shading, the right variety and the right balance to have fans salivating.

From the rousing 'The Wild and The Young', the balls out 'Long Live Rock' and the balladic 'Beyond The Light' this album contains everything you'd expect from Pell.

But, as always the 57-year-old pushes himself a little bit further all the time. 'Tower of Babylon' Pell tips a hat to Rainbow, but interpreted in his own unique way.

Yes, we get all the usual mysticism and folklore added to the stadium rockers, but in the hands of Pell's lyrical playing and Johnny Gioeli's passionate singing it all makes sense.

And, as for Bobby Rondelli's drums - you know he lays it down pure and simple.

What is striking about Knights Call is that it feels a complete album, which in the past hasn't always been the case. At times there were albums released by him that sounded as if maybe one song could have been culled, or the placement of each track tweaked a little.

Instead this is a collection that holds together, never jarring and with touches like Pamela Falcon's work on 'Beyond The Light' that add that extra flourish.

Stand-out tracks abound, however the impassioned 'Slaves On The Run', a cry to free yourself from whatever shackles that tie you down.

There are no shackles on Pell. Knights Call may be the culmination of all his work...leading to the question, how can he top this?

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Knights Call is out on Steamhammer/SPV on March 23rd



Thursday, February 22, 2018

NEWS: Alestorm and Pallbearer amongst latest added to Bloodstock

OH DEAR! Deary, deary me. Alestorm are se to play Bloodstock. A bunch of rum-laden pirate metal nutters playing to a crowd of boozed up metal nutters. What can go wrong? Fuck it, we do hope it goes wrong in the best possible way! (Read the review of their Belfast show here)

Yes, Bloodstock has announced four more bands for August’s best heavy metal weekender!  Tickets are moving fast for 2018 and we expect another advance sell-out, so don’t delay in picking up yours!  There's also only six days left to sign up to the deposit scheme...

We welcome pirate metal’s finest, Alestorm with a big ‘Oh Wow!’ as they join the bill on Saturday’s Ronnie James Dio main stage!

Frontman Chris Bowes said, “Oh wow! It's been 10 years since our debut album, ‘Captain Morgan's Revenge’ came out and somehow, it's also been 10 years since we last played Bloodstock Open Air!

"Let's have a very silly party time, Englandshire.  I promise we won't be shite."

Grab the 10th Anniversary edition of the debut, released just last month and raise your rum to the lyric video of the title track; https://youtu.be/GTyMhv7MCCs.

The much-lauded Pallbearer are set for a Sunday slot on the Sophie Lancaster stage, bringing their monumental, doom-laden, melodic heaviosity to Catton Park!

The Little Rock, Arkansas-based band have been praised by everyone from the New York Times to Loudwire, Decibel and SPIN, and rightly so!  The band’s third album, ‘Heartless’ made many journalists’ Top Albums of 2017 list.  Check out their video for ‘I Saw The End’, taken from that opus here - https://youtu.be/DNl_18Kr56g. 

Nottingham hard rockers Hahran pick up a Friday slot on the Sophie stage.  The band recently released a video for new track, ‘State Of Mind’ taken from their upcoming album, ‘VAPOURS’ - https://youtu.be/KW58TKJGyhw.  The opus is set for release this summer.  Stay tuned on their latest news at www.facebook.com/Fahranmusic.

British rock crew, Doomsday Outlaw land a spot on Sunday’s Sophie stage bill.  The five piece have just announced new album, ‘Hard Times’, which is set to arrive in May via Frontiers.  Check out lead track ‘Spirit That Made Me’ - https://youtu.be/eNMPo5DrsJM and if you like what you hear, you can pre-order the record at radi.al/HardTimes.

Final call for the 2018 Deposit Scheme!  There’s just 6 days left to sign up for BLOODSTOCK’s payment plan, which eases the shock of a ‘lump sum’ payment by breaking your ticket price into five more manageable amounts.

Sign up in the ticket store before the cut-off time of 11.59pm on Wednesday 28th Feb for an initial deposit of just £36.  Thereafter, four additional instalments of £29 will debit your bank account on 3rd April, 1st May, 1st June and 2nd July respectively and your 2018 ticket is secured!  Sign up over at https://bloodstock.seetickets. com. 

Standard weekend tickets are also available, priced at £145 for four days of metal fun, so grab yours now!  If you already know you can only attend for one day, sign up for a day ticket reminder email as day tickets do not go on sale until late June.  Register your day ticket interest here - https://www.seetickets.com/ register/bloodstock.

With Friday night headliners, JUDAS PRIEST, Saturday headliners, GOJIRA and Sunday’s bill toppers, NIGHTWISH already announced, as well as EMPEROR, AT THE GATES, DEVILDRIVER, WATAIN, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, WEDNESDAY 13, JASTA & FRIENDS, FOZZY, COMBICHRIST, BLOODBATH, VENOM INC., MR BIG, ORPHANED LAND, KAMELOT, DORO, ORDEN OGAN, SEPTICFLESH, AMARANTHE, EXHORDER, VOLA and MEMORIAM so far, 2018 is shaping up to be another stellar year for BLOODSTOCK.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 9th-12th August 2018.  Get additional information over at www.bloodstock.uk.com.


LIVE REVIEW: Doom makes happy people when Paradise Lost descend on the denizens of Belfast

IT'S a weird thing, doom, miserable, gloomy metal can make a crowd of long-haired assholes very happy. A team of neuroscientists once trued to figure it out but ended up swallowing a keg of beer and ended up very slowly headbanging and grinning.

And, let's face it Paradise Lost aren't the most musically cheerful fuckers. Still, they make us happy in their gloom. With another visit to Belfast for the Yorkshire crew the Limelight had a nice, friendly buzz to welcome then - the neuroscientists having fled earlier to give each other CAT scans and another keg...

Just to get everyone cheered up...oh wait, first up was Owlcrusher with more sludge and doom than was healthy for a Tuesday evening. The wails and post-sludge wall of noise kept all on tenterhooks as to whether the walls in Ormeau Avenue were about to implode.

Owlcrusher are not easy listening - nor easy to listen to. But that's the point. The sonic attack challenges listeners to delve into their inner dark heart to find out what beats within.

Sweden's Outshine are a band that have had more than their fare share of travails. One glance at their biog and the liner notes on their release make no bones about where they lay the blame.

Having toured with Paradise Lost in the past they are familiar with hitting the stage running, no fuss, no shenanigans. Jimmy Norberg's guitar weaves a path through Type O style vibes, melodic style á la In Flames, and a dash of Tool.

Tony Jelencovich is commanding as a front man while Outshine as a band form a coherent force that win over the audience within a few tracks. A return to Belfast would be most welcome.

Ahh - Paradise Lost. Enduring, fiercely protective of their sound and musical integrity they are always welcome visitors to Belfast and, to their credit, always try to pencil Northern Ireland dates in.

With their most recent album 'Medusa' on Nuclear Blast earning deserved plaudits and a re-mastered 'Host' to be issued in mid-March, and for the first time on vinyl the band are clearly on something of a roll.

And, from the moment the opening chords of 'From The Gallows' rolled out of the speakers it was clear that the adulation for Paradise Lost has not dimmed one bit.

Holmes stalked the stage like a hungry predator, flanked by a pack of eager hyenas, seemingly ready to pounce. It was a consummate demonstration of metal - not so tight as to be rigid, not too loose to be sloppy.
Pic By Paul Barry

Whether it was the title track of 'Medusa' or delving into the back catalogue all songs were executed with aplomb, as Mackintosh and Aedy flayed all in their path.

An inexplicably long wait for the encore left many in the crowd be bemused as the chants faded out in the vacuum of not knowing what the hell was going on. But, was the wait worth it? Of, course it fucking was.

Given their reputation for gloomy, melancholic metal the audience filed out into the February night bedecked in grins and amiable chatter. Go figure, but Paradise Lost fans don't care after an evening such as this.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh with additional shot by Paul Barry as indicated




Photo credit Paul Barry




LIVE REVIEW: Metal 2 The Masses: Heat Three live revie

A DAMP chilly night on Belfast’s Fountain Street was no match for the hot powerful metal that was giving everyone shelter within the confines of Voodoo under the watchful eye of The Distortion Project’s own James Loveday.

Tonight was Heat Three of the clash of metal on metal for Metal2TheMasses, with four bands stepping up on their quest to find a place at Bloodstock 2018.

The first into the fray was Indominus, melodic death metal merchants from the Belfast area.

They had a hard, heavy and thunderous set with thrumming riffage and growling vocals full of menace to let the crowd know who they were.

While there was some movement from the band members, the bassist was a centre point banging off into the crowd every so often with an energy that helped stir up the headbangers there for a good night. They delivered a good set, if only slightly offset by drowned out vocals, but a great effort and well received.

Next up was Acid Age, who interestingly introduced the crowd to the intricacies of thrash fiddling (or
violin for those slightly more cultured).

Eyebrows were raised but this soon changed to delight as this strange combination worked well.

The band were definitely enjoying themselves on stage and on the floor as the singer joined the moshers from time to time. The crowd were really getting into the set and there was even audience participation with a metaller given a mike to sing along – delivering a fair performance himself. They gave a rhythmically diverse performance with some excellent heavy rhythm and blues in the last song.

Thunderwolf, a band from Armagh, came on next and the floor was quite obviously packed now. What was going to happen now? Well, what happened was a very tight band, with fantastic stage presence and interaction with the audience, delivered the best set of the night. By a mile.

No disservice to any of the other bands, but Thunderwolf were fantastic. They rocked the place with melodic heavy riffage, great clear vocals, and songs that got everyone moshing and headbanging like demented demons. They really made even the jaded metallers there stop and take notice. If Iron Maiden did thrash, they would be called Thunderwolf.

With their pumping drums, aggressive melodic bass riffs, screaming and chugging guitars they would fit perfectly performing on screen in the likes of Altered Carbon or Blade Runner. They absolutely nailed it.

And to finish off the night came Wardomized, grindcore from the Belfast/Lisburn area, giving all they got in front of a still animated and enthused crowd of moshers.

They had an aggressive energy that did not stop throughout their set along with yet more audience participation. Heavy growling vocals, pounding drums, heavy bass and melodic guitar swaying between lightning fast and slow produced a cacophony of thrashing kept the moshers happy.

All four bands delivered their own great performances, though there was one clear winner, Thunderwolf. Also joining them in the next heat is Acid Age.

The fourth heat of M2TM will be at Voodoo on Saturday, 3 March featuring PERIAPT
RULE OF SIX, RUSTY TASTE OF SWEETNESS and SKYPILOT.

Review by Ivor Whitten

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NEWS: Supergroup Sons of Apollo to make Irish début

METAL supergrouop, Sons of Apollo are to play their début Irish show at Limelight 1, Belfast on Tuesday, July 3rd.
The stellar line-up features members of Dream Theater, Mr. Big, Guns ‘N Roses and Journey.

Reuniting Mick Portnoy and Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater the band recruited guitatist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thai of Guns ‘n’ Roses, bass sensation Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, Dave Lee Roth), and singing superstar Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey).

Their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, is out now on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music.
Psychotic Symphony was produced by the dynamic production duo of Portnoy and Sherinian, also affectionately known as “The Del Fuvio Brothers,” the nickname given to them over 20 years ago during their time together in Dream Theater.

Sons of Apollo formed very organically, its seeds planted with a predecessor group, as Portnoy explained: “Derek and I reunited shortly after I left Dream Theater in 2010 and we put together an all-instrumental touring band with Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine.

“That was my first time working with Derek since the ‘90s when he was in Dream Theater, and it was just great to be working with him again.

“Ever since that tour, which was really just a one-off live thing, he has been nudging me to start a real, original, full-time band. The timing just had never been right, because I had too many other things on my plate. Long story short, the time was finally right to take the bait and put together a band.”

“Mike and I work at a relentless pace in the studio,” continues Sherinian. “The music is modern, but we have an old-school soul. What is unique about SONS OF APOLLO is that we have true rock n’ roll swagger along with the virtuosity-- a lethal combination!”

But what to call the next great supergroup? “Derek was mainly the one behind the name,” says Portnoy. “I have a list that I keep on my phone of about a hundred different band names, which I constantly have to refer to every time I have a new band every year (laughs). So I pulled up the list and Apollo was one of the names on the list. It was a word that both of us really liked. We started fiddling with different variations of the word.

“One of the original band names we were working with was Apollo Creed, the character from the Rocky movies, but after lots of different discussions on different variations, Derek suggested SONS OF APOLLO and it seemed to stick. Apollo is the god of music, so with that in mind it seemed like a fitting name.”

With Portnoy, Sherinian and Sheehan having previously toured together in the aforementioned line-up that came to be known as PSMS, playing instrumental versions of various songs drawn from each member’s history, Sons of Apollo was the next logical step. They kept that fire burning and stoked it higher by bringing in a different guitarist, adding a vocalist, and creating all original material. The nine songs comprising Psychotic Symphony incorporate the progressive style and individual technical prowess Portnoy and Sherinian shared together in Dream Theater, combined with the swagger and groove of Van Halen, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

“I have known Mike and Derek for a long time, so when they came to me with Sons of Apollo, I jumped on this straight away,” says Thomas Waber, Label Manager/A&R International of InsideOutMusic. “However, the album they ended up recording exceeded my already high expectations by a long mile! We couldn’t be happier about it!”

“This is a real band,” Portnoy declares. “This is going to pick up for me and Billy where The Winery Dogs left off, in terms of this being the next logical full-time thing for us. I’m not saying The Winery Dogs have broken up, because we haven’t, we’re just on a break. SONS OF APOLLO is absolutely going to be a full-time band and we plan on touring all over the world throughout 2018 and, honestly, it is the priority for all five of us.”

Sherinian agrees, “We will go on a worldwide crusade in 2018 to bring SONS OF APOLLO to as many people as possible. Apollo was the God of Music, and we are his mighty offspring!”

SONS OF APOLLO play Limelight 1, Belfast as part of their world tour and will be their first ever show in Ireland. Ticket’s priced £20+B/F go on sale this Thursday at 9am from www.Ticketmaster.ie and all usual outlets including DV8, Beflast and Katy’s Bar.

NEWS: Hendrix of the Harmonica Will Wilide launches Wizard video

WHILE the concept of harmonica tracks piquing some people's curiosity when we reviewed the forthcoming album from Will Wilde 'Bring It On Home' (review is here) you can get a chance to listen to his cover of Sabbath's 'The Wizard' below.

Of course, The Wizard was a well practised song by the time Sabbath released it, its origins coming from their time as the jazz/blues under the moniker Earth.

Here's what Will said about it: “I wanted to pay tribute to the mighty Black Sabbath with this cover. The Wizard is arguably the heaviest rock song of all time to feature harmonica as a lead instrument.  It sums up the ethos behind my new album."

Here's Will's video for Wizard - see what you think:


NEWS: No Hot Ashes to be joined by rocker royalty FM for album launch show in April

BELFAST'S No Hot Ashes will launch their long-awaited début album in Limelight2 on Friday, April 6th.

And, they are set to be joined by rock royalty FM, who will be playing an acoustic set.

No Hot Ashes self-titled album on Frontiers Music Srl is available on March 23rd - just months ahead of playing Download.
No Hot Ashes album cover

You can listen to the track 'Boulder' from the album - an emotional tribute to singer Eamon Nancarrow - below.

Originally formed in 1983, No Hot Ashes were influenced by UFO, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Journey, Foreigner, Thin Lizzy and other Classic Rock/AOR acts of that era. They released their first single, ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, in 1986 and supported bands such as Mama’s Boys, Magnum, Girlschool and Steve Marriott’s Packet of Three.

The group signed a record deal with GWR Records in early 1988, joining Motorhead, Girlschool and Hawkwind on that label’s roster.

They also relocated to London in order to be closer to the company and made an album before the end of that year. However, delays then occurred in getting it released and by the end of 1990 the band had called it a day and the record was shelved.

That should have been it, but in September 2013 NHA reformed for a one-off tribute gig which subsequently snowballed.
Northern Ireland rock band No Hot Ashes

Performing what can be described as Classic Melodic Rock with a contemporary twist, they have been delighting new fans in the years since with their hook-laden guitar and keyboard driven songs, supporting Aerosmith, Foreigner, UFO and Scorpions along the way and touring the UK with FM and Romeo’s Daughter.

They have also performed at major festivals such as Hard Rock Hell AOR, Download, London Calling, Ramblin’ Man, Steelhouse, Rockingham and the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, going down a storm each time.

NHA are currently preparing to hit the road in support of what is now a very eagerly anticipated debut album, with shows already planned for late spring and summer 2018. They will appear of Download's Dogtooth stage. Download takes place at Donington Park from 8-10th June. Apparently there are some other emerging bands playing such as Guns n Roses...
No Hot Ashes and FM poster

Unfortunately for the group, the pleasure of releasing the album is also tinged with great sadness as founding member, bass player and close friend Paul Boyd tragically lost a brave battle with cancer in 2017. Paul appears on the album and the band are respectfully dedicating its release to his memory.

Vocalist Eamon Nancarrow said: "35 years ago we started a journey as band members and friends. We've had some incredible highs and some devastating lows. We lost Paul Boyd to cancer in January last year. He played and sang on this album. I cannot tell you how proud I am of it and him. The songs are massive, the production immense.

"The world needs this album because there is always room in life for quality. Listen and enjoy.”

‘NO HOT ASHES’
Tracklisting:
1 Come Alive
2 Good To Look Back
3 Satisfied
4 Boulders
5 I’m Back
6 Glow
7 Over Again
8 Jonny Redhead
9 Souls
10 Running Red Lights
Produced by Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp
PRE-ORDER LINK
http://radi.al/NoHotAshes


Monday, February 19, 2018

INTERVIEW: Filippa of Thundermother discusses the new line-up ahead of album launch on Friday

ON Friday, February 23rd Thundermother release their third album, with an all-new line-up (review here) on Despotz Records.

Ahead of the release we caught up with founder and guitarist Filippa Nassil to hear how the band have returned resurgent and ready to rock Europe - and maybe even some UK dates that could include our wee corner of he world.

Listen to the chat below...


NEWS: Myles Kennedy releases lyric video fr Devil On the Wall

WE know you lot have a soft spot for Alter Bridge and as anticipation continues to build for Myles Kennedy’s debut solo album, Year Of The Tiger, another lyric video is released worldwide.

The video for the 3rd track, “Devil On The Wall,” can be seen below.

The album will be released worldwide on March 9th by Napalm Records. Fans that pre-order (http://smarturl.it/MK- YearOfTheTiger) the download of Year Of The Tiger through a digital retailer will receive an instant download of the song as well as the first single “Year Of The Tiger” and recently released “Haunted By Design.”

The album is also currently available for pre-order in various bundle configurations at: http://smarturl.it/ YearOfTheTiger-NPR and www.MylesKennedy.com.

Year Of The Tiger, is Myles' first venture as a solo artist by embracing musical elements and influences he hasn’t explored until this point in his career.

Kennedy himself plays banjo, lap steel, bass, and mandolin in addition to guitar throughout the album. The emotional journey and personal story of Myles is captured in a bluesy-americana album with a twist of country and rock, swirling and flowing around this incredible soulful voice the world has come to know.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

LIVE REVIEW: Party at Piratefest with Alestorm and compadres of chaos

GUYS wearing balaclavas, a bloke playing a flute and copious alcohol consumed in Belfast - no it's not some throwback to the Troubles. It's Alestorm back in town for another Piratefest at the Mandella Hall.

As always it's a show packed with much silliness, excellent playing and more innuendos and banter than should be allowed on any given Thursday; all combined with copious amounts of folk/pirate metal musicianship.

Kicking off the madness were Rumahoy - all wearing balaclavas and as cocksure as any band when they opened with the duo of 'Ahoy!' and 'Quest for Heritage'.

At times the between songs banter from the North Carolina four-piece was a little forced, but they definitely won in best song title stakes with 'Netflix and Yar'. The title track of their album 'The Triumph of Piracy' was the highlight of their brief set.

All the way from California to drink Buckfast came the Dread Crew of Oddwood...oh and they played some music too. One audience member gave a pretty good summation of them as "The Pogues do Pirate Metal".

They seemed to be genuinely having fun in a smooth set - and we don't think it was just the Bucky. And, with a song like 'Raise Your Pints' it was an appropriate choice.

At one point the audience was challenged if we'd ever moshed to a mandolin and accordion prior to that night - well the answer may be yes, but we let that slide as the wonderful 'Expedition on a Heavy Submarine' roared across the packed masses.

That being said the tracks that really caught the mood were 'Sulfur' and 'Heavy Mahogany'.

When the Alestorm stage set was unveiled of course there was a massive rubber duck dominating it...well it is Alestorm.

As the strains of 'Blazing Saddles' faded the band launched into a high tempo version of 'Keelhauled' and the first of the massed singalongs of the evening.

There was not a tune that had its chorus belted out by the audience. 'Magnetic North' and 'Mexico' already had throats hoarse...maybe that was why so many were swallowing copious amounts of beer.

Bowes as always was the ringmaster supreme - explanations and expletives, directing a wall of death, and grinning with piratical pride at the response from the audience. And quaffing drink throughout

To pick a stand out song would be unfair as the familiarity of 'Hangover', 'Drink', 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' and 'Nancy The Tavern Wench' are etched in fans DNA by now.

However, '1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)' and 'Bar und Imbiss' saw perfect renditions.

Were we 'Fucked With An Anchor' Damn straight we were!

Alestorm don't need pirate costumes to showcase their pirate metal credentials. Nor do they attempt to prove anything.

They get on stage, do their schtick with style and leave everyone grinning at the end of the night. Can't ask any more than that.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Wayne Donaldson











ALBUM REVIEW: A Little Bitter produce an album of tenderness and anger on the wonderful Arrows

GIVEN the lengthy gestation period for A Little Bitter's new album, 'Arrows', it is fair to say that this has been eagerly awaited by fans of the three-piece.

Has the wait been worth it? It has been worth every fucking second since 'New Dawn Evolution' was unleashed.

'Arrows' shows a band more mature, comfortable in what they produce, sure-footed in every note written and every lyric penned.

For example, if there is justice in the world, 'A Long Way Down' would be making the playlists of every rock radio station in the world, with its carefully crafted arrangement.

But, that's not to say that this album is without metallic muscle. Title track lulls listeners in with discordant harmonics before the band's inner DC is channelled and the bass line propels it into a full-scale classic roc assault with Jonathan Armstrong's spilling invective before a glorious ALB chorus.

This all makes this a difficult album to categorise. There are elements of hard rock, a touch of alt, a smattering of metal and balladic moments. And, that really is its strength, not stopping to consider fashion, trends or the bullshit around the music industry, just writing and playing from the heart, as on 'Caught In A Sorrow' sheer heartfelt beauty.

'Faith' is sure to be live-stalwart. The cynical words of other tracks are given over to hopes of better days, forgiveness and devotion. If Feeder ever hear this song they'll quit.

A Little Bitter have always exemplified musicianship, but on 'Arrows' they have taken it to the next level; balancing their playing, with clear separation. No instrument over-shadows another. Seamus Donnelly's bass lines roll along, adding the depth needed, while Darren Pilkington's drums have the right take between sensible playing and adding flourishes. Armstrong's playing is probably the best he has ever laid down on his six-string.

The tenderly tragic tale told in 'Weekend Girl' probably has the most poignant opening lines: "She gets dressed in a vodka haze, killing time just to waste her days til the weekend comes."

From the moment the opening harmonics leading up to verses that paint a downfall and tragedy, an onomatopoeic, restrained solo the pain is painted for those lost. Tears in the eyes stuff.

The child counting in 'Diamonds' bass propelled intro is the suitable jarring note after that, and its mighty meandering path of an instrumental that nod to heroes of the band. A suitable break from the emotional intensity that drips off the rest of the album, and a worthy tribute to the Diamond Rock Club.

This is a nearly flawless set of nine songs. The only flaw is that it leaves the listener wanting more and more.

Closer, 'Ghost' has such depth, a perfect counterpoint to the opening rage of 'Feathers', displaying a band that knows how to arrange their songs in set to allow anyone to wallow in its glory.

Arrows has set the benchmark high for 2018 and what's more it has the quality to endure for many a year - or at least until the next A Little Bitter album...

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Arrows will be launched at the Diamond Rock Club on February 24th, along with Stormzone's album launch



Saturday, February 17, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Stranglewire belch beautifully twisted madness on The Dark Triad

SOMETHING wicked this way comes - the Ray Bradbury book proclaimed: and in the end of days, when the world descends to its dystopian demise we need dark poetry to describe the wickedness within.

And, Stranglewire deliver the stanzas of agony, whilst grabbing you around the throat, kicking you in the nether regions and weave their worms into your cerebral cortex.

'The Dark Triad' is a descent into terror accompanied by a soundtrack that will instil fear into all but the stoutest hearts.

Birthed from the bastard offspring of several of Northern Ireland's denizens of the dark underworld Stranglewire first hinted of their ascent with the EP, Narcissim.

It is the tracks of that EP that form the opening of this trilogy of concepts - Psychopathy and Machiavellianism being the other two part of the triad.

Taking the surrounding lyrics descent into the bleeding ears is a musical structure that is compelling as it corrupts. Closer 'Den of Iniquity' eats into your ears with its mid-paced menace and is one of the finest examples of how death metal can be both meaningful and filled with restrained ferocity.

Labelling themselves s I to V the five piece what is apparent is the musical majesty delivered with a deathly chill.

But to label Stranglewire as 'death metal' is too simplistic. The Dark Triad contains a diverse expression of heavy intent. There is velocity, grind and all round expressions of what can be achieved when extreme music is pushed to the very boundaries of expressiveness.

This is an immersive listen. This is an uncomfortable listen. And, it is that uncomfortable feeling that makes these six tracks so remarkable.

If 'Psychopathic Blue' and 'Through The Black Lens' don't have you worrisome and feeling wondering about your own mortality as your ears bleed and dark ichor drips from your eyes then you haven't been paying attention.

Chris Fielding's production gives a clarity to The Dark Triad, without ever threatening to lessen the murkiness of the band's sound.

Stranglewire have produced an album that will propel them through the underground to greater audience reach.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Dark Triad is released on Grindscene Records on March 23rd.




LIVE REVIEW: Alient Ant Farm and SOiL prove they are more than one hit wonders

NO matter how well-versed one is on the subject of heavy rock/metal, there’s always going to be bands that slip through the cracks; ones that you vaguely know have quite a respectable back catalogue of albums, but you may only know one or two songs from them.

Thursday night’s gig in Limelight 1 comprised of not one, but two such bands: Alien Ant Farm and SOiL. The fact that the gig was upgraded from LL2 to LL1 is testimony to the fact that both bands have large and enthusiastic fan bases, but there was also a definite sense of curiosity amongst many of the patrons who knew the ‘big’ songs and were willing to check out each band’s entire set to see if there was more to them.

Chicago duo Local H opened proceedings with their reverb-heavy, grungy guitar rock, and soon had the crowd warmed up admirably; all were impressed in equal parts with both the quality of their music and the fact that it came from just two people.

With their easy banter and catchy tunes, it’s clear to see why their social media ‘likes’ are rising at a terrific pace.

Such is the reaction from the crowd when SOiL hit the stage that you could be led to think that they were the headliners, or at the very least that this was a co-headlining tour.

After an intro which features snippets of Rob Zombie, Sam Kinison’s ‘Wild Thing’ and their own smash hit ‘Halo’, they stride onstage and immediately fire into opening track ‘Break Me Down’. It soon becomes apparent that they are as potent and passionate as ever, despite this being their twenty-first year together – at times it’s a close call as to who is most excited for them to be there: the crowd or the band themselves!.

“How the f**k you doin’ tonight…it’s been such a long time!” enthuses frontman Ryan McCombs, who remains wreathed in smiles throughout the band’s entire set. With a voice like Jack Daniels and honey, he is also funny and engaging, chatting amiably to the crowd about such subjects as the hair caught in his mouth (It’s from his head, don’t go there), the fact that the previous band’s setlist is still taped to the stage which keeps confusing the hell out of him (lol), and how grateful he is for everyone coming out to see them play.

In between the banter, they play an absolute blinder of a set at full pelt and full volume, with tracks such as ‘The Hate Song’, ‘Pride’ and their rocktastic cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ getting an airing; the latter performs the task of warming the crowd up so well that every band should do it.

The crowd respond with unadulterated joy, roaring along to the lyrics, hanging on McComb’s every word and headbanging with abandon.

Their enthusiasm is rewarded in spades when McCombs exits the stage and performs their biggest hit ‘Halo’ from WITHIN the audience, handing his microphone to several delirious fans and turning the song into the ultimate in audience participation. Crazy, exuberant and unforgettable - particularly for the lucky throng the surrounded him – SoiL prove tonight that they are a cut above the rest, and more than just ‘that’ song.

As prompt as Big Ben (they even use an alarm clock intro), Alien Ant Farm take to the stage at their allotted time with a steely glint in their eyes, seemingly determined to prove that they, too, are more than just a ‘one song’ band.

Right from their opening track ‘Bad Morning’ it seems that they are: all thunderous, thrashy, wailing rock, it’s also unexpectedly dark, and far from the pop punk scamps they appear as in the ‘Smooth Criminal’ video.

Vocalist Dryden Mitchell is also a dab hand at a bit of audience banter: “What’s up Northern Ireland?!” he greets the crowd, before they play ‘Movies’, which prompts a huge singalong, not to mention a bit of internal organ rearrangement from the lowest-tuned bass guitar you’ve ever heard.

He genuinely seems to enjoy chatting to the crowd and has them eating out of his hand right from the start as he thanks everyone for making the choice to come and see them tonight, talks a bit about the history of the band and certain songs and asks if everyone is having a good time, all in his trademark rambling, slightly husky voice.

One of the loudest cheers of the night comes when he dedicates ‘Attitude’ to the crowd, his mother, and the sadly departed Chester Bennington. With its snarling, whirling riff and inclusive lyrics (“you are all welcome here”), it’s a powerful moment that the more, ahem, inebriated amongst the crowd may have missed; luckily there’s a scrum of hardcore fans in front of the stage that hear every word and respond with emotion and gratitude.

For the curious among the audience, there’s a gratifying range of influences woven through the band’s music, from the obvious (pop punk) to the interesting (reggae, blues) to the downright startling (the bassline in ‘Glow’ is pure Steely Dan ‘Reelin’ in the Years’).

They also, surprisingly to some, seem to be channelling the Deftones throughout; in fact, ‘Deftones do pop punk’ would be a pretty apt, if rather simplistic, description of them, should you ever require one.

‘Wish’ wraps up the main part of their set with a staccato beat and low, low bass that you can feel in your throat.

After a few minutes they reappear, launching their encore with ‘Sticks and Stones’ and finally, of course, their boisterous cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, which practically has the crowd swinging from the ceiling and busting out their highest pitched “woo!”s; it’s  truly a joy to behold.

As the crowd file out into the cold Belfast night, it’s clear that each band has gained new fans based on all of their music, as well as sating the appetites of their long-time fans who already knew how brilliant they were.

Having one song that towers over the rest of your back catalogue can be burdensome; tonight (and undoubtedly for the rest of the tour) both SOiL and Alien Ant Farm surmounted the challenge admirably.

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pictures by Darren McVeigh