Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Orphaned Land Live Report

My first time with the Israeli kings of Oriental prog metal and when I saw that the support would be Myrath and Arkan, a ticket had to be purchased pronto. Even if it was for the tiny 250 and it's rammed, Borderline Club. Much to my disappointment Myrath could not make it into the country due to the promoter not being able to get them visas apparently. A big shame as their new album is totally fantastic.

Still we had 3 bands to get through. First up was a band called Artweg who I have not even heard of. They had two vocalists both screaming and barking. The music was heavy groovy modern metal or nu-metal if you like with a few funky riffs thrown in with rumbling bass. Some sections were full on double bass speedy thrash and then the songs settled into chugging grooves. The vocals were rapped or screamed in French. The band was not my cuppa but they weren't completely horrible either.

Next up were Arkan, a band I've somehow managed to ignore up till now. I had known that they were also Oriental death doom but had never given them the time of day or if I had done, the songs had obviously never clicked with me so I was completely unaware their songs going into the gig. The band mixes growls with lilting female vocals all backed by heavy slow riffs and beautiful middle eastern motifs and musical patterns. They didn't have a keyboard player so all those parts were relayed via tape. Now onto the beautiful girl fronting the band. She really was an Arabian princess to be hold. Not the best English but acceptable and what wonderful dancing. The mix was slightly off at times and I could barely hear her charming vocals but eventually it settled down. Like I said I don't know the songs at all so it's hard for me to judge but they were very good and the crowd loved them.

Finally at 9pm Orphaned Land took to the stage one by one to loud cheers and finally front man Kobi Farhi took to the stage in long Arabic under garment and bare of feet! Interesting indeed, I guess you might as well look the part and of course he himself made the Jesus joke pretty early on in the set. Yes he did look like Jesus but he promised us he wasn't the Messiah to much laughter in the pretty packed out crowd.

My knowledge of Orphaned Land songs and material is limited but that wasn't the case at all with the as expected diverse crowd. It seems they have a lot of devoted fans as a hardcore bunch at the front were singing or growling all the lyrics straight back at Kobi. The sound was much tighter and better for Orphaned Land than it was for Arkan. Great clarity and crunch to the mid paced riffing. The catchy parts in the songs when it gets all dancy and mystical were absolutely brilliant. I don't think Kobi has the best clean vocals I've ever heard by far but his slightly odd melodic voice suits the music down to the ground. He has great Messiah-nic hand gestures and pulls some funny Jesus Christ poses but it's all in good fun.

The band is very tight indeed and they all show great enthusiasm even when playing in a tiny but well attended show such as this. The sing along chant sections of the music were choreographed by Kobi so that everyone could happily join in which they did at the top of their lungs. Sapari off Orwarrior was catchy as hell and the song of the night for me. They played till more or less 10.30 with a acoustic section in the encore with just the guitarist and Kobi doing his light melodic vocals. Quite interesting but finally they finished with a sing along outro with the whole crowd chanting back at the Kobi and the band. The band left with huge cheers ringing in their ears and the Kobi and the band thanked us profusely for coming out.

An enjoyable spectacle and a cheap ticket price too making it a very worthwhile night of Oriental metal. It's a shame that Myrath couldn't play as well but I guess that meant and increased set from OL which the crowd loved from start to finish.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Iced Earth Live Report

Well with the new Iced Earth album being so well received with new boy Stu Block at the helm, I wasn't going to miss this opportunity to catch Schaffer and co when they hit town last night. This is my second time seeing Iced Earth. The first was with Barlow back in 2003 when they played a near 3 hour solo gig which was one of those legendary gigs for all who were there. Of course they weren't going to play for 3 hours tonight but I've been looking forward to tonight since I got my ticket a couple of weeks ago.

Support acts were named as Fury UK and White Wizzard, however due to some reason WW did not play as indicated on a notice on the club doors as you walked in. I think there is some trouble in their camp with personnel from what I read on forums here and there. I wouldn't have minded seeing WW as it goes but I'll get over it as I haven't even played their new album yet even though I do like the first one.

As for Fury UK, well they are a decent band. Very tight trio playing trad metal with tons of solos from the lead guitarist/singer. The only problem with them was that their songs weren't nearly memorable enough or catchy enough to get me and most of the crowd too excited to be honest. The lead playing is pretty shit hot though if you fancy watching sparky fret action though. An ok warm up band that needs tunes to back up the playing skill IMO.

Finally after quite a long and painful wait of about 35 minutes( yes I was counting everyone!) Schaffer and co took to the stage and were greeted like returning war heroes from the pretty packed out Islington Academy. It was not quite sold out but I'd guess a good 500 or so turned out seeing as it was a Friday night and a great way to start the weekend for sure with this being the starter for many and Manowar being the main course tomorrow.

Anyway on with the show and let's see what this new boy Stu can deliver live for the Icy ones. Well to say he was perfect would be slightly over the top but he was as close as it's possible to being perfect right from the word go when they launch into the opening track from the new album. Schaffer was pulling more mean faces than you can shake a stick at right in front of me as luck would have it and hammering those triplets out like there's no tomorrow. Stu mixed up his vocals between Barlow and Halford/Ripper screams to perfection. His screams were truly ear bustingly good it has to be said. The only department where Stu cannot match Barlow for me is in the emotional parts of IE songs. He does his best but Barlow just has something in his voice that makes those parts sound more melancholy and Stu doesn't quite have that in him yet though maybe it will come with age.

A lot of the new album was played with songs as such as the glorious Anthem, the manic V and the epic Triumph and Tragedy all sounding might fine and played with utter conviction. It seems Iced Earth are now a band reborn thanks to Stu's arrival. The guy has brought genuine enthusiasm to the band and you can tell they are not just going through the motions this time round. There is fire in their collective bellies and they mean business.

The show continued to it's climax with the encore of Dante's Inferno which was absolutely monstrous it has to be said and created the first moshpit of the night. Finally they broke into their namesake song, Iced Earth and the show was over at the rather early hour of 9.30pm with the curfew set at 10pm with a club night being held at the venue after. They played for nearly 90 minuted which was probably a little longer seeing as White Wizzard didn't play but that's all the better for the fans I suppose. The only thing I can quibble about slightly is the setlist which is of course the usual problem with fickle fans who miss their favourite songs at live shows. Yes and for me there was the lack of Stormrider and Pure Evil was quite a disappointment but I'll get over it.

The band was on shit hot form and perform with the kind of vigour that I didn't quite expect to be honest and it's all pretty much down to the new frontman. All hail the new Stu-iced Earth!

Oh and for those waiting for a report about Manowar tomorrow, alas I won't be going. I would have loved to go but the ticket price of £50 is just too much right now and I had to give it a miss. I would have liked to have seen Joey and co but it's not to be. Maybe next time if there is one.