Saturday, 15 February 2014

Dream Theater Live at Wembley

My second time seeing the kings of prog metal at Wembley Arena and this time they were much better than the first time as I recall. Last night's show was billed as An Evening With Dream Theater and there was no support so it was a chance for them to flex their muscles and deliver a long and varied set list to please all the progheads out there.

First thing to note is that last night's show was an all seated affair in contrast to their last appearance here. I just don't think any metal show should have seats only. It just doesn't make much sense to me at all, even though I only had a ticket for the seats on one side on not on the floor. If I had been on the floor I would have had a pretty bad view of the stage no doubt. The back parts of the Arena were cordoned off for this gig so it wouldn't have been a full sell out anyway but I would guess the crowd at around 6000-7000 or so. The sides were not packed though and after the intermission I moved position to a less full part of the seating area a bit closer to the side of the stage. The stage had two massive speakers obscuring my view somewhat but I had to make do.

After the initial opening song the sound was completely amazing in the Arena last night. The best I have ever heard in the venue no doubt. All instruments were crisp and super clear and of course the musicianship was stellar all night. The band is on shit hot form and not having Portnoy in the band makes zero difference to the band IMO, although I am in no way a DT freak. I just marvel at their fantastic music skills and their sense of showmanship and the adulation they receive from their legions of fans. Another interesting point regarding the type of people that go to DT shows. This was definitely not a typical metal crowd. Not everyone was wearing black shirts. People of all ages are into DT it seems and all walks of life and I would guess a lot of DT fans are not really into actual other metal bands as such or at least they don't look it. They attract a lot of prog music fans in general so their actual live heaviness maybe a surprise to those people hehe!

The set list last night was dominated by recent albums as well as Awake and Scenes From A Memory. Unfortunately not a single song was played from Images & Words which is a shame considering they had so long on the stage overall. I must admit I was slightly expecting to feel the pace towards the end of the marathon set but it wasn't the case at all. The band had my attention all the way with their brilliant playing and Labrie's decent live vocals. Note I won't say great 'cause I'm not a huge fan of his voice but he was more than adequate live and despite being surrounded by virtuoso music, more than held his own on the mic. Of course when Petrucci held court centre stage, he had the crowd eating out of his hand with his mesmeric lead work. Those long instrumental passages were also fantastically well received indeed with young and old air guitaing and air keyboaring to their heart's content.

The best song of the night was the 20 minute Illumination Theory that ended Act II followed by an an awesome long encore to follow. That was a bloody awesome end to the main set! The band left with the crowd's adulation ringing loud in their ears as they had put on a stellar 2 hour 40 minute performance. I'll never be a huge fan but DT has my respect for sure as a superb live act with every essence of prog metal heightened to the max.

Act I
False Awakening Suite
The Enemy Inside
The Shattered Fortress
On the Backs of Angels
The Looking Glass
Trial of Tears
Enigma Machine
(With drum solo by Mike Mangini)
Along for the Ride
Breaking All Illusions

Act II
The Mirror
Lifting Shadows Off a Dream
Space-Dye Vest
Illumination Theory

Overture 1928
Strange Déjà Vu
The Dance of Eternity
Finally Free
Illumination Theory

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Edenbridge Live Report

My second time seeing the Austrian symphonic metal crew here in a new venue for me, namely Upstairs at the Garage. Basically a smallish room that was pretty full with a little more than 100 or so people inside.

First up we had two support bands to get through. Denmark's Sage's Recital were a strange band indeed and a touch awkward looking on stage. They played a kind of epic neo-classical Yngwie style metal but with no actual memorable parts just a shit ton of soloing. The tall basball capped lead guitarist was widdling away whilst the much shorter blonde singer had awkward moments whilst waiting to sing his lines. Might be an idea to exit the stage whilst the long instrumental passages are taking place otherwise you end up looking like a lemon standing there as yer man did! Not my cuppa at all overall though they are obviously skilled. The warbling high pitched vocals from the young chap were also not my cup of tea. The last song was over 20 minutes long and was a serious chore to wade through waiting for it to finally end. Sorry guys!

Next up were Dutch band Seventh Sin who I've never really heard of. They were ok but it just came across as a Within Temptation wannabe band to me but with less cool tunes. Not bad but I wasn't won over. At least they had a better idea about what constitutes a song than Sage's Recital did. The girl singer had some nice moves and sang in a girly high pitched voice. The band were decent players and maybe I should give them a chance to impress on record. Live they were merely ok for me but nothing special.

At 9.15 or so Edenbridge took their positions and launched straight into the heavy mid paced riffage that would dominate the next hour and a half. They played all their heaviest songs with the crunchiest riffs. The sound in that room was loud as hell but very crisp as well but it was a little bit too loud. I guess it's the old I'm getting too old for that level of volume adage. Anyway Sabine was in good voice indeed and despite difficulty with the subtleties of in between song stage banter in English, she had no problem as her beautiful lilting voice shined very well indeed. I would have liked more of the faster tunes I guess but they played quite long and not far from 11 o'clock it has to be said. Great value for the cheap ticket price indeed. Now that I've seen Edenbridge a couple of times now I must admit I probably wouldn't go again as they are very proficient but not really an exciting live band in my opinion.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Manowar - Kings of Metal 2014 version

Listening now and it sounds pretty good overall. Eric sounds very good for the most part apart from when he really over screams some lines. His tone is still very rich when singing in his normal voice and not screaming. The guitars are pretty standard modern day Manowar but the lead work is much crisper. Most importantly the horrible distorted Joey bass sound from the last studio album is replaced by normal but thick bass tones, though they are very high in the mix of course and make your speakers thud more than a normal metal album would. I normally turn the bass level down when playing metal('cause I like more clarity on the vocals) but even with the bass down on -3(-5 max) on my hifi I can still hear the bass wobble on my player lol!

Heart of Steel is my fave song on the record and I love the new version renamed The Heart of Steel hehe. It's sung brilliantly by Eric of course. There are some subtle orchestral and acoustic changes as well which add a little more depth to this awesome ballad. I also like the punchier and stronger sounding choir vocals in most of the songs. A Warrior's Prayer sees Manowar's collaboration with Brian Blessed as 'Grandfather' and to be honest he is perfect although he does camp it up a touch hehe but Joey chose well. He should work with Mr Blessed again on future Manowar albums where narration is needed.

The Blood of The Kings has new lyrics with Eric hailing Manowarriors from newer domains across the globe. I enjoy this new version especially the chorus which sounds more melodic and epic. Kingdom Come renamed Thy Kingdom Come for this version is another very cool and more melodic approach. By the way they have this trait of adding "Thy" to the songs on this version. Pretentious much Joey? The Crown and The Ring changed to Thy Crown and Thy Ring for this album is one of those songs it's better not to fuck up cause the original is so spine tingling and thankfully they don't. It sounds more epic and triumphant than ever. Kudos to the choirs for sounding awesome. I don't know who Joey chose for that job but they are very good indeed.

Wheels of Fire is placed last on the new version so the track listing order is also changed as it was the opener on the original. I enjoy the new version it's just as helter skelter as the original although the guitars could be a bit thicker on this version. The chorus is great to belt along with no doubt. The lead work is sharper and crystal clear as well.

The album ends with two additional tracks which are different takes on two earlier classics. One is a metal version of Thy Crown and Thy Ring which to be honest is not much different than the original apart from some heavy power chords towards the end of the song. The album ends with a guitar instrumental version of The Heart of Steel with squealing stabs of melancholic and fluid guitar replacing Eric's vocals. It sounds quite nice to be honest and better than the other extra bonus song.

The album comes with a bonus disk of instrumental material which contains versions of every song apart from Warrior's Prayer which is non musical of course. These versions are quite nice to listen to and add a little more value to the album as a whole. Mind you I always enjoy hearing Eric's vocals so these versions I have to be in the mood for, but they are still a welcome addition as they still sound cool.

I think if you are a Manowar fan you'll enjoy this reworked album. It is slightly different than the original and not an exact carbon copy by any means. Some would say you shouldn't touch a classic but I don't agree. If you do a good job, a retouch is not such a bad thing and I think Manowar have made a decent fist of things here. Makes me forget that disappointing last album at least. Hopefully they will be a little more inspired by revisiting this album and make a better job on their next album though I ain't holding my breath.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Enforcer - Live at the Underworld

A mere day's rest and I'm backing gigging at my favourite haunt yet again! This time to catch a three band true and classic metal bill led by Enforcer and ably supported by Skull Fist and Venderbuyst. As it turns out there was a fourth band on the bill as well called Genghis Khan. Unfortunately they played to precisely 6 people as most either hadn't turned up yet or didn't give too much of a toss. However yours truly is duty bound to witness and report on every band on the bill.

Genghis Khan played trad metal with Maiden influence. The singer had an accent and looked either Greek or Italian. His voice was ok but nothing amazing. The band were actually quite cool although they had a very young guitarist who never made the slightest eye contact or show of his guitar licks like a confident young buck guitarist would. Still GK were ok with some nice galloping riffs and an acceptable start for this night of classic metal.

Next up were the Dutch trio of classic rock/metal Vanderbuyst. I've never heard of these guys but they were quite fun. They were the least metallic band of the night, instead focusing on hard rock licks and groove riffs to get the heads bobbing by the slowly filling out crowd as the Vanderbuyst guys were playing to 50-60 now rather than the paltry 6 of the openers. I promise to check these guys out again on record. Live they are\fun indeed. The guitarist is shit hot lead player as well. They went down pretty well with lots of people rocking out to their catchy tunes.

Following swiftly were American trad metallers Skull Fist. In the main they were promoting their new album Chasing The Dream. I like the new album but don't love it. the music is ace of course, only the singer has a very high pitched voice and can tend to sound weak although in the live setting he was pretty cool. Plus he was playing guitar and playing leads as well so a very good effort by him indeed. Their catchy tunes got a huge response with regular shouts of "Skull Fist!" in between songs. A couple of the fast songs got a mini pit starting up as well. Just a fun live set from these yanks with plenty of smiles and catchy riffs galore. Enough to brighten up a boring Monday night anyway!

Finally the roadies got the stage ready for Enforcer and the dry ice machine added a spooky air to the proceedings as the Enforcer guys burst on to the stage and started blasting away like there's no tomorrow. The sound was a touch loud for my taste which resulted in a lack of clarity here and there 'cause the guys play so damn fast. It's like they take the already very fast speed metal Maiden on acid songs and speed them up a touch! The singer/guitarist is very much a great show man to boot and had the crowd eating out of his hand song after song.

The crowd was well filled out now and I would say well past the 200 mark. The pits got a bit more violent and I found a vantage point of the raised part of the Underworld where I had a great view of the band and the crazy crowd. These guys were going down a complete storm though I must admit I enjoyed Skull Fist a little more than them due to the more melodic nature of the songs. Enforcer are a great band who make solid trad metal albums but maybe they need to tone down some of the speed and brutality live and let the songs breath a little more. But who am I to complain as everyone was going apeshit down the front and headbanging like loons everywhere else. Good night of classic metal all in all.