Thursday, 31 March 2011

Current Top 20 from this year

In reverse order and subject to change of course but anyway here's my list as it stands. Shaping up to yet another killer year for melodic music.

20. TNT - A Farewell To Arms
19. Fireforce - March On
18. Evergrey - Glorious Collision
17. Jag Panzer - The Scourge Of The Light
16. Serenity - Death & Legacy
15. Symfonia - In Paradisum
14. Bloodbound - Unholy Cross
13. Stratovarius - Elysium
12. M.ILL.ION - Sane And Insanity
11. Bad Habit - Atmosphere
10. Emerald Sun - Regeneration
09. Appearance Of Nothing - All Gods Are Gone
08. Wizard -...Of Wariwulfs And Bluotvarwes
07. Liquid Horizon - The Script of Life
06. Turisas - Stand Up And Fight
05. ColdSpell - Out from the Cold
04. Within Temptation - The Unforgiving
03. Ten - Stormwarning
02. Eden's Curse - Trinity
01. Power Quest - Blood Alliance

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Symphony X / Power Quest Live Report

Oddly enough the main draw for me on this occasion was to witness the kings of English power metal, Power Quest. I have already seen them before but of course not with new singer Chitty and also not without such a stupendous album under their belts. Unfortunately there was a massive queue snaking round the Scala and the late entry time of 7.30 had fearing the worst about missing the start of PQ's set and yes by the time I rushed upstairs and in without getting my customary pint, I saw that PQ were already into their set in front of an already very well packed out Scala.

In fact the attendance was a bit surprising and I think Sym X could have probably filled a venue twice as large to be honest such is their popularity. Anyway I digress, as I want to say a little about the PQ guys and their great performance. The sound was nice and clean with Chitty sounding in perfect form on the mic. I must admit I had some reservations about Chitty in PQ but I was proved totally wrong in every aspect. The guy nailed his vocals in every aspect and even managed some of the highs and then some of the previous singer Alessio.

I am glad I made it in for Crunching the Numbers which is just an awesome song off the new record Blood Alliance. Another World was also a highlight with it's swirling keys and highly addictive melodic mid tempo. However it was the new songs that did it for me although I did miss Rising Anew at the start of the set. I just love the commercial aspects of the power metal that these chaps play. Their fairly brief set which I missed 2 songs of, ended with the supremely catchy 80s sounding melodic anthem Better Days with it's massive catchy hook and dreamy backing vocals. That song was just a great way to end the show. I am not sure if everyone fully got into what PQ were doing as there were probably quite a lot of people there for Sym X only but for me it was the other way round. Can't wait for Purple Turtle, a longer set and no missed songs.

Finally at 9.15 or so Sym X lumbered up on stage and started tearing it straight up like they do. Unfortunately the sound was not so hot from my vantage point next to the soundboard pretty much. I could hear tons of drums and bass, almost no keys and wishy washy guitars, though the vocals pretty loud. This situation lasted a couple of songs but slowly seemed to improve though I think with Sym X being a one guitar band also hinders them a touch. Oh and I don't think I really heard the keys much all night when others instruments were playing.

Anyway what of the band's live performance. These guys are sheer pros at this metal game. Russell Allen is a great marauding front man with a heck of a powerful voice and has the front rows eating out of his hand literally. The rest of the guys are less animated though they smile a lot and have their moments here and there but the band is completely led by Mr. Allen as he is a truly great showman and is the focal point of the band. The songs they played were all their hits plus a couple of new tunes which actually sounded very solid and heavy though it was hard to judge how catchy there were. We were also lucky enough to have a world premier of the song Prometheus which was a very heavy song indeed. I think if you like Sym X in heavy mode, then you'll like this new album a lot. The riffing is far more jagged and heavy sounding, almost grinding shall we say.

Towards the end of the show the crowd was completely won over by the band and were making a hell of a noise with a whole heap of lyric singing much more than I would have imagined actually. It's a surprise how many know the words to the songs word for word. Personally speaking I enjoyed the spectacle of watching them plying their progressive metallic trade to perfection even though the songs do not speak to me on a personal level. I actually quite enjoyed the fact that the band is SO popular and yet pretty underground even in metal circles.

Come encore time the crowd chanted loudly for Odyssey their monumental epic track but I knew there was no chance of that being played cause we'd be there all night but anyway they did come back of course to a rapturous welcome again and played a furious triumvirate of songs with which to end the show and once again getting a huge send off from the crowd.

As I was leaving I saw the ubiquitous London prog metal gig goer and promoter, Chazzy F chatting with Chitty and I said a quick hello and also had a chat as Charlie introduced me, though I'm not sure Chitty actually knew who I was from my web persona on various metal boards but he was very friendly anyway! I gave him and the band lots of compliments which I assured him was not back handed and I wasn't just kissing his rockstar ass hehe! I am mightily impressed with the band these days and all the new members and they have improved no end. Chitty is such an enthusiastic and likeable guy and very friendly to boot. I thanked him for the show and his performance and said good luck and promised to see him in May which I already have my ticket for. He said he would get me and Charlie on the guest list but we've both already bought tickets but he told us to sell them on. I wanted to say a quick hello to Mr. Williams the band leader but alas time was short and he was busy chatting so I left it at that, maybe next time at the Purple Turtle!

Here's the setlist for Symphony X.

  1. (First time played live)
  2. Encore:

Friday, 18 March 2011

Accept and Wolf Live Report

Can't count myself as a fully fledged member of the Accept fan club but since the comeback album was so immense, I had to venture out to this gig in case the earth shook and boy did it shake! This gig clashed with Turisas down the road so there was competition alright as far attendance goes, however the Accept guys are a big enough draw in their own right now and the Garage was pretty solidly full with I'd guess around 500 or so metal hearted warriors.

First up were killer old school heavy metal heroes, Wolf. Been loving these guys since the first album and the new one is not too far away either. Seen them live before and they were pretty cool. These guys love galloping away in Maidensque fashion and then some of course and that they did for the duration of their 45 minute set. They played songs from their latest albums in the main plus a couple of older songs. The sound was clear enough for a support band although the vocals sometimes got lost. I think they went down well with the older Accept crowd and made for a great pairing. As the singer quipped from stage, "We even named our band after the guitarist in Accept!" which raised a few horns of course. I enjoyed Wolf's set a lot and it was fun to nod along to the cool riffs and gallops.

After they left the roadies got the stage ready for Accept and after a fairly long wait of around half an hour the lights went down and it was time for the old German warhorse to lay waste and what wasting! The sound was absolutely huge and yet crystal clear. It sounded 10 times louder than Wolf and much crisper and I thought the Wolf sound was actually good. This sound completely dwarfed that!

They started the set with new songs off of Blood of the Nations and boy did they rock like a beast. The band looks ultra lean and mean these days and in Tornillo they have a front man who I can stomach much more than Udo to be honest. I have mainly been unable to get into Accept as a band due to Udo's unique and nauseating snarls, but this Tornillo character I find much more palatable. Granted he's not a million miles away from Udo in gruffness but his voice just doesn't grate as much as Herr Dirkschneider does.

Anyway the band was in shit hot form all night. Crisp, groove-some riffs, mean and moody headbanging stares from Wolf and taut angular bass thumping from the bass dude. The bass sound was very tight and high in the mix and almost crunchy. There was a great guitar and bass duel in one of the songs, I forget which and it was very cool to witness that. The new songs sounded immense live as if they didn't already on plastic.

Accept had the crowd eating out of their hands basically and whilst some say this isn't really Accept without Udo, I don't really share that view since the real Accept never meant that much to me in the first place. The more familiar songs such as Breaker, Restless and Wild and the immensely catchy Metal Heart near enough blew the roof of the Relentless Garage. The band just sounds like a tight, well oiled machine with not a note out of place. Son of a Bitch with it's stupid lyrics had everyone singing along with venom and was hellishly fun. Princess of the Dawn was the melodic highlight of the set.

At the main set's end the crowd chanted vociferously for an encore of course and they weren't disappointed. Three of the band's biggest anthems and songs which I suppose are synonymous with the Accept live gig were played, ultimately ending with their most well known song which I actually have never really been a fan of hehe. But heck it was miles better live than it is on record. I still wouldn't call myself an Accept fan but I must admit that they really deserve all the praise coming their way with this comeback. Udo fucked up!

  1. Encore:

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lazarus A.D and Bonded By Blood Live Report

First of all Chicken Shish and Chips must be had and then some! Pretty close t Islington Academy there's a nice junk food shop. He does a lovely Shish let me tell you!

Then it was off to the Academy 2 the smaller brother of the main venue. The attendance last night was pretty poor but the place barely holds 200 or so. I'd guess about 60-70 diehards turned up and I was one of 'em of course! Thrash or be damned!

Four bands were on the bill. First up were this heavy as lead groovy swamp monster band called Kill The Machine with a huge bloke on the mic bellowing away. Their riffs were drenched in mud and swaggered and grooved away like there's no tomorrow. They sounded a bit like Crowbar. They were ok for my taste but not that great but solid.

Next up was Abadden. I enjoyed their thrash throwback album from last year. T'was a good'un. They are a young looking energetic bunch and played rip roaring thrash. The sound didn't help them too much unfortunately. Lots of energy and mental head banging and a good response from the 5-6 man moshpit hehe! I didn't get into them that much for some reason. Better luck next time boys.

Next up were Hispanic LA crew Bonded By Blood, my main draw for tonight. They had a new frontman and a new bass player and the band seems improved all round. These guy are so fucking tight it hurts. They rip shred and groove like there's a fire in the house and they need to get out! The sound was crisper though not perfect which meant some of the more intricate and technical aspects of their riffing sometimes got lost in the mix.. These guys were still awesome though and got a good response from all the thrash diehards. This is the second time I've seen them and they just get better so hopefully their next album will be ever better still.

Finally it was time for Lazarus A.D. whose new album is so so for me. I like their previous album a lot but the new one has some modern groove elements which sit less well with me. The sound was ok though still a touch too loud and muddy for such a small venue. When these guys play fast I love it but when they groove and slow down it doesn't quite work for me. Their set was well played and pretty tight overall with a couple of stand out highlights that got some frenzied headbanging going on from most of the crowd. The lead singer and bassist thanked those who bothered to turn up profusely and got loud cheers in response. Lazarus A.D. were solid and got the job done on what is the first night of their European tour so I'm sure they'll get better and tighter as the tour goes on.

A cool underground thrash night with a small attendance but who cares cause you can't beat a dose of solid head banging thrash metal!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Bought 5 gig tickets

Spent £93 on tickets for forthcoming gigs. An average of £18.60 a gig for a ticket delivered to the door. I can't quite figure out in my mind if this is reasonable value for 5 separate gigs or is it a bit too much. Anyway what's done is done.

Here are the gigs

Thursday, 17 March - Accept + Wolf. Accept for the first time. Seen Wolf before.
Tuesday, 22 March - Symphony X + Power Quest. If a band other than Power Quest had supported I wouldn't have gone I must admit.
Friday, 1 April - Paradise Lost playing Draconian Times + Ghost. Seen PL many times. Playing their best album in full makes this an event worth attending.
Saturday, 23 April - Atheist + Exhumed. Finally seeing the tech death freaks from Florida live.
Thursday, 5 May - Power Quest, Neonfly and Primitai. Two lots of PQ action within a month or so. This time of course their own headline.

Oh and tomorrow I am thrashing it up with Lazarus A.D. and the main draw for me, Bonded By Blood. Wreck necks!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Houston LIve Report

AOR gigs are a bit odd. So many damn old people everywhere. Most of the gigs I go to I AM the old one but here I'm probably slightly below the average age of all the gig goers gathered for some good old fashioned AOR wimp rock. The funny thing is all three bands on tonight's bill were much younger by far than most of the crowd!

This gig was billed as a one off Houston gig with support from two up and coming UK AORsters in the shape of Serpentine and Vega. However since then a Houston tour has been confirmed with 3 more giants of the AOR underground for later on in the year which should be fun.

Anyway first of all we had a fun Friday night of melodic rock to get through. The Borderline is a venue I have never been to as of yet, so that's one more venue ticked off of my list. It's a rather cosy place that would be packed with 300 or so people in it and to my surprise it was packed to the rafters more or less. It was quite busy already as I walked in around 7.40 and got gradually busier and fuller as each band played and finally I'd say it was a sell out more or less.

Whilst the AOR scene is pretty minute, I'd say it's not completely dead either judging by the attendance here and the band's made no secret of their pleasure at the turn out and said so on more than one occasion from the stage.

First up was Vega who released one of the best AOR albums from last year in Kiss of Life. The band is made up of the Martin bros and Nick Workman. The sound was a little iffy at first but got a little better. The band sounded in fine form and got a good response out of the crowd and more than a few were singing a long. The songs aired were all pretty good and most of the catchier songs from the debut were aired ending with Kiss of Life which went down best of all.

Next up were Serpentine showcasing their first ever live UK gig it seems alongside their brand new singer Matt Black who took over from Tony Mills of TNT/Shy fame. I must admit their Touch of Heaven album from last year didn't make too many waves with me. It was a pleasant enough AOR record but it was a bit sterile and pedestrian sounding and I'm not a huge fan of Tony Mills' vocals but anyhow he was gone and now they had a new young buck on the mic. As soon as he started singing it was pretty amazing to be honest. This young guy had a huge set of pipes on him that's for sure. Sometimes almost shrill and giving our ears a good going over on the high notes but his tone and style in general were perfect for the band. The new song they played called Philadelphia sounded much crisper and catchier than their older material.

The guys played with big smiles on their faces and I think the audience were very appreciative of the band and they went down very well and much better live than what I remember them sounding like on record. The new album with Matt Black should be something special for AOR fans if this performance is anything to go by.

Finally it was time for Houston. Now I know the Swedes had two members but I was wondering how they were going to round out the band and to my surprise they took to the stage with two girl guitarists yes that's TWO one rhythm and one lead and all members provided backing vocals of course. The sound was the best of the night too. The singer and mainman sounded in fine smooth voice and the band were tight with the melodic guitars and catchy choruses galore. It's hard to pick a best song of the night as all the songs from the debut album are pretty damn catchy to be honest. Some typical slightly awkward Swedish humour from the stage as well and after about a 50 minute set it was all over.

It had been a very fun night of melodic rock goodness proving that this music can still be a draw and it ain't completely dead and buried. On a side note can I say that the most bizarre person was at the show. I couldn't quite believe my eyes to be honest. During the Serpentine set I noticed two girls standing opposite me at the far end, one was a blonde and the other was a brunette. Now I had to take a double take, and screw my eyes carefully cause the brunette stunner was a dead ringer for UK pornstar Lolly Badcock! Very very odd indeed. The blonde girl was also quite familiar to me and I had a feeling she might be in the same game so to speak but what in the hell were doing at an AOR gig??? Anyway I slowly cottoned on to the fact that the blonde one maybe in some way attached to some member of the band in some way and most probably the singer Matt Black. Lo and behold a bit later I saw the blonde girl and Matt smooching away and talking. Lolly and he friend actually walked right past me to get a drink and whilst she's around the same height as me she's as thin as a rake and make no mistake. I was almost gonna pluck up courage and say hello Lolly I've spilt mucho seed over you in my time and can I have a kiss and a picture but it was just too loud and she wouldn't have heard me! Yeah right as if I'd say that! Anyway the whole thing was completely odd and I wonder what she thought of it all. Obviously her friend the blonde one was married to Matt and she's come along for the night. I didn't see he again but she might have been out back blowing one of the guy's from Houston the horny minx!

OK enough about that. I'll probably go and see these guys again in May with Serpentine, Miss Behaviour and a mystery band.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fave albums of 2011 so far

First of all a small post about football. United got beat by Chelsea. The loss was a touch hard to swallow as we played very well for most of the match but we got done in the end by a very dodgy pen. All in all we can't complain that much as we've had plenty of luck so far this season so things even themselves out as the saying goes. Not that Fergie saw it that way - he let the ref have it both barrels and we United fans wouldn't have it any other way!

Anyway on to my fave albums from this year so far. The top 10 as it stands at the moment is listed below that. It's been a great start to the year music wise as per usual.

Abacinate - Genesis
Deviant Syndrome - Inflicted Deviations
Fetal Decay - You Have No Choice
Neuraxis - Asylon
Bad Habit - Atmosphere
ColdSpell - Out from the Cold
M.ILL.ION - Sane And Insanity
Miss Behaviour - Last Woman Standing
Presto Ballet - Invisible Places
Robin Beck - The Great Escape
Ten - Stormwarning
TNT - A Farewell To Arms
Voodoo Circle - Broken Heart Syndrome
Appearance Of Nothing - All Gods Are Gone
Bullet - Highway Pirates
Crowbar - Sever The Wicked Hand
Dalriada - Ígéret
Korpiklaani - Ukon Wacka
Liquid Horizon - The Script of Life
Perihellium - The War Machines
Turisas - Stand Up And Fight
Axenstar - Aftermath
Emerald Sun - Regeneration
Evergrey - Glorious Collision
Hibria - Blind Ride
Power Quest - Blood Alliance
Serenity - Death & Legacy
Skanners - Factory Of Steel
Stratovarius - Elysium
Titans Eve - The Divine Equal
Visions Of Atlantis - Delta
Destruction - The Eternal Battle

10. Stratovarius - Elysium
09. M.ILL.ION - Sane And Insanity
08. Bad Habit - Atmosphere
07. Emerald Sun - Regeneration
06. Appearance Of Nothing - All Gods Are Gone
05. Liquid Horizon - The Script of Life
04. Turisas - Stand Up And Fight
03. ColdSpell - Out from the Cold
02. Ten - Stormwarning
01. Power Quest - Blood Alliance