Saturday, 18 October 2014

Houston Live Report

A night of pure AOR/melodic rock bliss lay in store for me as I bought a ticket for this gig. I really enjoyed the recent Relaunch II album of new tracks and covers with the new band members. It sounded better than the original Relaunch to me.

I made my way to the Barfly for the 3rd time in 2 weeks and this tiny venue is turning out to be a cool little room for gigs of this size. It filled out quite nicely by the end of the night with about 150 or so people inside. I was actually expecting less but the AOR aficionados turned out pretty well.

First support band were Big Time from Sweden. Actually it was an all Svensk night hehe so there's not much point mentioning their origin. I came across these big time (if you excuse the pun) hair rockers a few years ago but not heard of them much since. I enjoyed their songs on youtube especially Julia which is very catchy and the song they started their set with. There was a whole heap of hair on that stage indeed! The guitarist had an odd 80s shock of hair which made him look somewhat odd when he had his head down and rocking the guitar as the picture below proves. The front man had a real solid voice though to go with his big 80s perm do. The guys didn't have a long time but I guess they didn't have many songs. They also played a cover of Dio's Stars which was sang very well by the front man. A real enjoyable fun little start. I hope the band progress more and release some music.

Next up were The Spin who are not strictly an AOR band at all. They mix up slightly punky pop rock with some nice clear vocals from the energetic front man. Their tunes are easy on the ear but a little childish for my taste and far too bubble gum poppy and lack a little maturity. But the crowd seemed to enjoy them a lot and there was a lot of dancing going on. I doubt I would listen to them on record but live they made a very passable 30 minutes until the lush AOR of Houston would arrive.

Finally Houston took to the stage with new members in place and sounded pretty cool but there was something just a little subdued about the performance overall. I mean they were all good and played well but the guitar sound was not very clean at times and made the songs sound a little dirtier than they sound on record. I still enjoyed the melodic aor bliss of songs like a 1000 Songs, Runaway and Truth Slips but I was a bit disappointed that no songs were played from the new Relaunch II album as there's some awesome tunes on it like Justice For One, Downtown and Our Love or even one the Lady Gaga cover would have been nice. A cool night of smooth aor from the Swedes overall but could have been a bit better with newer tunes and a more polished sound I guess. I am being a bit picky though and I'm glad I went to the show especially as I think Big Time were my fave band of the night!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Kobra and The Lotus Live Report at the Barfly

If I could split myself in two I would have done as Destruction were playing the Underworld tonight with 3 other cool thrash bands but alas I walked past the Underworld and saw the thrashers going in to tear that place a new one, my own path however led to the back to the Barfly again so quickly after breaking my debut there two days ago.

I quite like this little venue for bands of this size. You can get right up close and there's no struggling to see the band. Whilst the attenance for the Voyager gig was fairly small the Barfly was much fuller for rising Candian metallers, Kobra and The Lotus. I must admit I sort of ignored or couldn't get into KaTL when I heard them in the past but their new album has blown me clean away and I think I've got a huge crush on Kobra and her amazing voice to boot. That gal can sing alright! She's just got a tremendous tone to her voice on record at least anyway and I was hoping to see it reciprocated live as well.

First up we had a couple of support bands to get through. First up a local band I've never come across called The SelfTitled oddly enough. They were a sort of mish mash of modern heavy rock and metal with screaming come singing vocals. I never could really get into them apart frm the very last song as I recall which had sort of punkish, thrashy grindy feel which felt energetic and moshworthy even not that there was any moshing going on. Not a great start but not terrible but the screaming vocals annoyed and the songs just didn't catch my ear. Better luck next time The Self Titled. The front man at least had some decent stage banter if nothing else that raised a smirk or two.

Next up were rising UK trad metallers and Maiden fanciers extraordinaire, Monument. I've known about these guys for a couple of years with their great ep and now super new album. I was really looking forward to these guys and man did they rock up a storm in the Barfly. They are one energetic mob with wonderful twin guitar galloping riffs and solos galore and air raid siren vocalist for a front man. If you enjoy classic Maiden you can't go far wrong with a band like Monument. All their tunes have a sheen and energy that is hard to resist and they play with huge smiles on their faces. Great stuff!

The Barfly was pretty well filled up but still with enough room to mingle and get a decent position near the side of the stage in order to get a decent view of everybody on it and one body in particular! I'm talking about Kobra of course if you needed spelling it out. Ever since the release of their new album High Priestess I've been watching consuming all things Kobra on youtube. That gal has a wonderful voice. I love the way she enunciates the words and her slightly baritone delivery. She puts a lot of feel and emotion into each word and punctuates it with higher notes that show off her vocal prowess.

As she ran on stage, right past me in fact, the band launched straight into High Priestess the title track of the brilliant new album and things were hotting up in no uncertain terms. Kobra's vocals were a little low in the mix for my liking I must admit. At times she was slightly drowned out by drums but on the slower songs she sounded truly great. She's also a great front woman for the band with a lot of smiles for the front rows and beckoning gestures. She's a confident sassy metal front woman make no mistake.

In the end you still need the songs to match the looks and voice and boy did KaTL deliver on that count. I do believe they played the whole of the new album if I'm not mistaken. Plus of course a couple of tunes from their previous cd which I must admit to not hearing as of yet. Although I did check the videos on youtube as I said. Her band is very cool indeed with a powerhouse drummer but most of all awesome melodic metal songs with memorable choruses galore.

Standout moments for me were opener High Priestess, Lost in The Shadows, Hold On, Willow and in fact all the new album basically. Lost in the Shadows is such a brooding darkly melodic umber that sounded particularly superb live. Hold On is perhaps the most melodic song on the new album and I loved that as well. the band played for around 75 minutes in total and they left to much applause. The encore started with my favourite song of the night, namely Heartbeat and ended with the energetic 50 Shades of Evil from their previous album. Thank you to Kobra and her band for a great night of metal and also to Monument for their fantastic Maiden inspired songs.

High Priestess
Battle of Wrath
Hold On
Welcome to My Funeral
Forever One
Lost in the Shadows
I Am, I Am
50 Shades of Evil

Friday, 10 October 2014

Voyager live report at the Camden Barfly

After a long time with no posts and the usual gig free summer months, I break my duck with two gigs in three days at the Camden Barfly no less Firstly Voyager quickly followed by Kobra and the Lotus, two bands whom I am seeing for the very first time which always makes the gig a little more interesting for me. The Camden Barfly is a small venue I have yet to frequent but one I will be getting to know well pretty soon as I have yet another gig lined up here next week as well with the Swedish AOR band Houston.

I digress however so on with the review for the Monday night gig with Voyager with support from UK prog metallers Aeon Zen and a local band called Agent. I love Voyager on record so I was looking forward to this gig as soon as I heard it was happening. Aeon Zen's new album is also real heavy, so a great double whammy of melodic prog metal was in store.

First up were Agent who are a local band I guess but I've never heard of them. They entertained the sparse Barfly crowd with beefy heavy riffs but lacked tunes and despite some decent grooves left me an a handful of early punters a little cold if I'm honest. The overall attendance on this Monday night barely reached a 100 or so in the end which is a bit low, but considering the venue probably only holds 200 or 250 max it wasn't too bad in the end.

Next up were Aeon Zen who are real powerhouse of UK melodic prog. They were much more palatable than Agent in every way shape and form. With a much stronger and beefier sound and a cool melodic singer to boot. The songs sound complex and yet still maintained a melodic edge thanks to the memorable delivery of the front man. Rise up from the new album was my favourite song of the night as far as they were concerned. The crowd was slowly filling out a bit more now and Aeon Zen were a solid warm up act for the Aussie progsters and got a fine response indeed.

Finally it was time for the smiling Aussies to take to the tiny Barfly stage and mesmerize us with their heavy melodic prog metal. Front man was grinning and smiling his way throughout the show as the band switched between super heavy riffs and huge singalong choruses in most of the songs. The keyboards seemed somewhat lost in the sound mix at times as did the vocals which is a shame as they are a major part of the band. Nevertheless they delivered a crunching yet super melodic 70 minute set based on their biggest hits as well as their very fun 80s medley which is perhaps even a highlight of the whole set.

Of course it's the new album which contains huge songs like Hyperventilating, Breaking Down and Morning Light which went down best, well with me anyway. The Aussies are a top notch live act judging by this performance even though it was in front of a tiny but very receptive audience. I hope they come back soon but play to a larger more appreciative crowd hopefully. As for this particular night it was a very enjoyable gig and it was good to finally see a live band again after a few barren months. Next up Kobra and the Lotus report which occurred two days hence from this gig.