Saturday, 28 April 2012

Favourite albums of 2012 so far

So a third of the year has flown by and there's been plenty that I have liked so far. I think the thrash genre has given me most to enjoy this year with a lot of fantastic releases. Here is the list in alphabetical order.

3 Inches Of Blood - Long Live Heavy Metal
Accept - Stalingrad
Adrenaline Mob - Omerta
Aggression - Viocracy
Amberian Dawn - Circus Black
Angelus Apatrida - The Call
Axel Rudi Pell - Circle of the Oath
Bludvera - Terrorform
Brute - Sophisticated_Atrocity
Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Damnation Angels - Bringer Of Light
Derelict - Perpetuation
Dragonforce - The Power Within
Dynazty - Sultans Of Sin
Eternal Dream--The Fall Of Salanthine
Exumer - Fire & Damnation
Freedom Call - Land Of The Crimson Dawn
Gaia Epicus - Dark Secrets
Game Over - For Humanity
Gorod - A Perfect Absolution
H.E.A.T - Address The Nation
Hardline - Danger Zone
Hideous Divinity - Obeisance Rising
Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2
Janus - Nox Aeris
Kissin’ Dynamite - Money, Sex & Power
Lacuna Coil - Dark Adrenaline
Lanfear - This Harmonic Consonance
Lyriel - Leverage
Mad Maze - Frames of Alienation
Morian - Ashen Empire
Municipal Waste - The Fatal Feast
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Offending - Age of Perversion
Outloud - More Catastrophe 
Overkill - The Electric Age
Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
Pharaoh - Bury The Light
Poets Of The Fall - Temple Of Thought
Primal Fear - Unbreakable
Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression
Rage - 21
Revel In Flesh - Deathevokation
Shinedown - Amaryllis
Skull Hammer - Destroyers of the Faith
Sonic Station - st
Soulfly - Enslaved
Suicidal Angels - Bloodbath
Sunstorm - Emotional Fire
Teramaze - Anhedonia
Testimony - Transcending Reality
The Veer Union - Divide The Blackened Sky
Thrashist Regime - Fearful Symmetry
Unisonic - st
West Of Hell--Spiral Empire
Words Of Farewell - Immersion
Xandria - Neverworld's End

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Chelski through!

I am in general a passionate hater of the blues but tonight damn it all to hell I was a blue! One of the most incredible rearguard defensive displays of all time held Barcelona at the Nou Camp to a 2-2 all draw with Messi of all people missing a penalty to put 10 man Chelsea 3-1 down and almost certainly out. Staggering odds were laid for Chelsea to go equalize or Barca not to win and all of them went tits up when a break away lump up field left Torres with the keeper to beat which he duly rounded and rolled the ball into an empty net to crush the Catalans in the dying seconds. A totally incredible and unbelievable end to an astonishing match. I think I will go back to wanting Chelsea's opponents to win the final though!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Axel Rudi Pell live at the Underworld

I've been looking forward to this gig for a long long time since I am a huge fan of Axel's singer Johnny Gioeli from his early days in Hardline and his now quite long tenure in the ARP band. The guy has the kind of hard hitting, hard rock voice that few can match in the modern age in my opinion. Before arriving I had it in my mind that the show would be rather averagely attended but how wrong I was! The Underworld was I would say more than 3/4 full though not rammed. Probably close to 500 at a guess which is a very healthy turn out for a Sunday. I guess the melodic hard rock loving crowd have been starved of this kind of band and turned out in impressive numbers to show their appreciation.

I had my usual pre-gig Chicken Shish opposite the venue beforehand and it always goes down a treat and sets me up nicely for the rest of the night so to speak. I entered the venue at 7.30 and saw that Mad Max, the only support of the night, were due on at 8pm sharp so I settled on a decent vantage point stage right, as I'm looking and waited for Mad Max. To be honest I've only heard a few of their songs and have yet to hear any music from their new album Another Night of Passion. The German old timers strode on at 8 sharp and started off on their typical Germanic hard rock without much aplomb. Their basic chugga chugga hard rock riffs were ok but nothing really excited me too much. They were solid and an able warm up for Axel and co no doubt but not knowing the songs well hinders one's enjoyment somewhat. However the new tunes aired were cool enough for me to investigate further. Their guitar sound was rather heavy and perhaps a touch heavier than the head liners even, who of course are a one guitar band. Mad Max were decent but they just don't have the big melodic hooks that ARP has though they were enjoyable like I said.

At around 8.40 or so their set ended and the roadies got the stage ready for ARP. I must say that Mike Terrana's drum kit was one of the most extensive and impressive I have seen on the tiny Underworld stage. It took some assembling but finally the intro music started over the PA around 9.20 or so though I wasn't checking my watch exactly. The band took to the stage to a warm welcome from the rather packed Underworld before Johnny Gioeli finally ran on to the stage like the Tasmanian Devil himself! The guy was like a whirling, air guitaring ball of fired up energy as he got stuck into opener Ghost in the Black which was not a song I immediately recalled to be honest, but it was a cool as hell ripper anyway. The sound was pretty heavy and crisp and Johnny sounded immense and cut through the mix sharp as a pin with a slight echo effect on the mic which was pretty cool. Mr Pell cut an understated figure in comparison to Johnny and had the odd smile but he mainly settled down to play the riffs and solos to perfection. Ferdy and Volker on Keys and bass respectively looked happy especially Ferdy who is a bit of a character to say the least. Terrana on drums was a complete powerhouse. The guy is just a pounding machine on his drums with cymbal slams and snare blasts galore and he looks like he jumped in a swimming pool there's that much sweat pouring off the guy. He really nails the songs to perfection and gives them the heavy backbone that they need.

Having said all that this show and band is all about front man Johnny Gioeli. They guy's performance as a singer and happy go lucky front man was really something to be hold. Constantly smiling and gesticulating and air guitaring when not singing, and when singing pulling out heart stopping powerhouse vocals which are even better live than they are on record. He has quite a different tone when singing live than in the studio with a more acidic bite to his vocals which makes the songs sound much heavier and better still. Strong As A Rock is one of the best and catchiest ARP songs of the Johnny fronted era and was sung back at Johnny very loudly indeed. Before I die from the new album was awesome with it's slightly funky groovy vocal lines. Awesome stuff indeed! The Masquerade Ball was the first epic of the nigh which was turned into a sort of medley with two other songs in between. The chorus of TMB is deadly awesome and was sung loud and proud by the crowd. The end of the song saw a few bars of Whole Lotta Love which was kind of cool and unexpected.

Then we had Terrana's drum solo with him going nuts and sweating like the chief sweater at world sweat championships! I'm not into drum solos but I guess it's not rock'n'roll unless you have one. The title and brilliant track Mystica from the album of the same name was up next with it's brilliant, awe inspiring chorus sung with spine chilling power by both Johnny and the crowd. The end of the was turned into Purple's Mistreated which was again a slight surprise but the crowd seem to love it or at least the Purpleheads did.

Next up was the epic title track of the new album and was again very cool although the song is not really my fave on the new album as I need to listen to it a little more although the repeated chorus does get under your skin after a while. Fool Fool was brilliantly catchy and sung damn well and with a large contingent of the crowd singing along to it's happy chorus. The last song of the set proper was one of the best and most anticipated ARP songs ever, namely Carousel with it's wonderfully catchy chorus and glorious tempo and general brilliance. Johnny's voice on this epic was stupendous I must say. What a sheer brilliant display of melodic hard rock vocals from Yankee boy!

Not one but two encores followed with Tearing Down the Vocals providing us with a great energetic fast paced rocker which was followed by I guess the oldest song of the night with the catchy title track from Nasty Reputation back when Rob Rock was in the band I believe. Very catchy song that I haven't heard in a long time although I do own that particular CD.

They left the stage again but the crowd asked for more and the band returned to hit us one more time with the anthem Rock The Nation with it's super catchy sing along chorus with full crowd participation of course.

My only gripe about the whole evening was that some of the solo spots could have been shortened and the extended medley with covers lessened or dropped to allow a couple more of their own tunes to be played. Other than that this was an awesome gig no doubt and the ARP band is one I highly recommend seeing live as they really play from the heart and in Johnny Gioeli they have a hard rock vocal God to be proud of and for me the best singer there's ever been in the ARP and there's been some great ones with JSS and Rob Rock. Johnny's live vocals are something else, being full of emotion, with power to spare and a great showman to boot, making the ARP live experience one to remember.

Set list and photos:

The Guillotine Suite 
Ghost in the Black 
Strong as a Rock 
Before I Die 
The Masquerade Ball / Casbah / Dreaming Dead 
(incl. snippet of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' by Led Zeppelin)
Drum Solo 
Mystica / Mistreated(Deep Purple cover)
Circle of the Oath 
Fool Fool 
Keyboard Solo 

Tear Down the Walls 
Nasty Reputation 
Encore 2:
Rock the Nation

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Obscura with support at the Camden Underworld

It's been a while coming but I've finally broken my gigging duck in 2012. And a great way to break it at that with a night of pure technical death metal insanity. When I first heard about this 4 band bill I thought damn I will be there like a shot and the ticket price was a bargain as well, at £10 for 4 bands. In the end a decent midweek crowd of roughly 300 or so turned out to witness these tech death magicians go through their paces.

First up were instrumental combo Exivious from Holland. These guys are as smooth as silk with their fluid, easy on the ear technical music. They do work up the odd head of steam but their brand of tech is quite relaxed in the main and allows the music plenty of room to breathe. The fretless bass playing was pretty nice to hear. The sound mix was pretty cool for Exivious. I enjoyed their set but it was obvious that most people were here for the other three acts in the main. A good start anyway for Cynic-lite tech fans.

Gorod got ready and goddamn they started like a freight train with vicious whirling drum and guitar riffs with fat grooves galore. The bass player was a mental nutcase pulling faces like a loon as he played and slapped his bass strings like rubber bands twanging away. The front man is a short haired dude who looks a bit metalcorish but he pulls some mean faces and is quite fun to look at as he gees up the moshers etc. The guitarists are just fucking unreal with snappy, heavy as hell tight grooving. Gorod were fucking immense and I paid them the honour of buying their new CD from the merch stall. Oh yeah and the sound for Gorod was absolutely intense as hell and wrecked my ears good and proper. A monstrous machine of a band.

Next up were uber complex Swedish tech death masters Spawn of Possession. These guys are a little bit more laid back than Gorod were in their on stage demeanour. Their sound was a touch worse than Gorod's and it was quite hard to make it out the bewildering complexity at times as things blurred into a complete note overload. Definitely the most complex band of the night and it was hard to make out the differences between the songs. How in God's name do they remember to play these songs though?? It's a miracle! They were tight as hell but their set wasn't as enjoyable and mental as Gorod's cause the Frenchies were absolutely fucking insane to be honest. Spawn were a tight and lean tech death killing machine but it was not quite their night for me. Lash by Lash from Noctambulant was easily the best and most memorable song.

At this stage we saw that whilst Obscura were getting ready, they were having trouble with one of the guitarist's amps and it had blown and as it turns out a second one had bust too! Finally I was thinking fuck they are going to play with only one guitarist as Christian's guitar didn't work but they somehow managed to find an amp from the Gorod guitarist and finally got that one working. Half an hour later than planned they finally took to the stage, but better late than never I say as they didn't waste a single note. The sound was a sharp as a cutthroat blade as the singer apologised for the delay and they sped through a totally blistering set of manic tech death. The drummer was totally on top of his game with clinical savage blasts but it's the guitarists who shone the most. These guys are just something else to watch. A blur of hair, fingers and wizard level guitar riffs jackhammering away in tight unison. An absolutely awesome sight from my viewpoint. You have to marvel at the skill level of musicians like these although the song writing is not always memorable, they still leave you in awe at their marvellous musicianship.

Obscura went down a storm like Gorod previously and got some pretty hefty pits going. Finally they left the stage at 11.20 or so but the chants for "One More Song!" went up soon and the smiling Germans came back and said their thank yous and the singer said well I'm not gonna introduce this song as you all know it anyway and the epic opening riff from Flesh and the Power it Holds resounded, crisp and clear, over the PA and the youngsters at the from went apeshit and I had a big shit eating grin on my face. I had made my way a little way back and I could hear the spirit of Chuck bounding through the song and their version was awe inspiring and spine-tingling if not even a little emotional. The moshing during the fast sections got pretty intense and the kids enjoyed the hell out of themselves and were bellowing the lyrics to this Chucky masterpiece. Just goes to show how much people loved Chuck's music and how much they still miss him. As the song ended the band got huge cheers and thank yous as the crowd dispersed having witnessed a great night of blistering technical death metal and I dread to think how many riffs were played last night!

Here are the photos.



Spawn of Possession:


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2

I am not a huge Tull fan but I am a fairly big fan of theirs as there's something about their music that is just perfection to me. I was sceptical of this release and expected it to suck pretty much when i heard about it but lo and behold the damn thing is actually quite good! Didn't expect that at all. Ian's voice lacks power and can be a bit cringe worthy here and there but he sounds reasonable on this release. The theme is of course whatever happened to child genius Gerald Bostock from the original TAAB? I am not one for following concepts or lyrics in detail so therefore I approach this purely on a musical standpoint. At least 6 or 7 of the songs are wonderful pieces of music, with very well crafted prog parts. Some of the spoken segues are not real songs so I don't count them.

The good songs are Banker Bets, Banker Wins, Old School Song, Wootton Bassett Town, Shunt And Shuffle, A Change Of Horses, Confessional and Kismet In Suburbia. The best song on the album is A Change of Horses. It's a musical masterpiece with wonderful accordion, flute and heartfelt emotion. Kismet in Suburbia is also a superb progressive track. Old School Song is a very catchy tune and features themes lifted from the original TAAB alongside a new theme and fits so well and eloquently. Wootton Basset Town is a very modern sounding keyboard heavy piece which is rather emotional indeed and a song that is pretty much perfect in my eyes. I like the fact that Ian decided to incorporate some musical lines from the original within the follow up as it creates a nice musical link between the two albums and gives a reminder to how great the original really was.

The flute playing on the album is superb as usual from Ian and is an aspect of the band which is unequalled in any band I've heard. There are quite a lot of progressive parts on this album as well as gentle reflective parts. The guitar can get fairly heavy by Tull standards but is mainly on the same level as keyboards and does not dominate. The mix is clear but could be a bit sharper but I'm being picky. If you are a Tull fan I think you maybe surprised and enjoy some of this. It's better than any studio Tull music since a long time. It's still not as good as the classics but how can we expect that from Ian at this stage. There are still many things to be admired about the album cause there is a lot of sounds and music to absorb. All in all the album is not without fault but nevertheless credit where credit's due to the musical genius Mr Anderson for a very interesting and reasonable and somewhat worthy follow up to the original prog masterpiece. 8/10