Saturday, 25 April 2015

Von Hertzen Brothers at the Boston Dome

Two personal ducks were broken the other night. Firstly attending a gig at the Boston Dome in Tufnell Park and most importantly seeing this band Von Hertzen Brothers for the very first time. In fact I had never even heard of the band until a month or so back. A video song of theirs from the new album caught my attention deeply as did the album. When I saw they were due to play London a ticket was a no brainer really.

Two supports bands were in tow as well and I have heard neither. They were Ulysses and Black Wolf. As I entered the Dome I was met with a rather large hall, about twice as big as the Underworld with a high rise stage and even a drum riser. Interesting I thought as the venue seemed rather big in size for the band but by the end of the night I would say about 250 people turned up which is not too bad but the venue can fill 3 times that I'm pretty sure.

Ulysses were up first. They were like a 70s folk rock band with fuzzy grooves and slow paced melodic vocals from the front man with the big 70s sideburns. They played one song which was rather fun. I'm not sure if it was a cover but it sounded really familiar to me. These guys were quite cool and got the handful of early punters nodding their heads along to their slow burning dreamy grooves. Not really my thing but a very suitable support for VHB.

Main support were Black Wolf. I think I've seen this band's name mentioned here and there but never taken notice. That fat 70s groove thing is not really my thing but these guys were hellishly impressive. They played a much more metallic and groovier style than the more laud back and folky approach of Ulysses. The front man had a clear voice and a rocking stage manner. Their grooves were easy to like and they played with a heavy metallic swagger. Very good main support for VHB.

The roadies got the stage ready and at 9.30 sharp the VHB took to the stage with the 3 brothers at stage front with the non familial members ie the drummer and keyboard player at the back of the stage. Knowing only the songs from the new album meant I was hoping that they would mostly be playing the new songs and thankfully the brothers had every confidence in the new music and played almost all of the new cd. Staring with the menacing opening riff of New Day Rising and then bursting headlong into the pacy You Don't Know My Name, the Finnish brothers were taking absolutely no prisoners.

It seems that VHB has quite a following in the UK prog rock community and I saw a lot of people mouthing lyrics and really enjoying the brothers energetic performance especially the lead singer. The hat wearing bearded brother provided the band's more quirkier moments with his cool facial gestures and madcap guitaring. Black Rain was an awesome ballad from the new album. Sometimes the band's sound gets a little lost in volume though and the subtleties and vocal harmonies get lost in sound which is a shame but I guess you have the cd for that.

The VHB live experience is one of expertly played modern prog rock with heavy riffs and some soaring melodic song writing. Trouble was the best song of the night for me and was played and sung to perfection with it's beautiful melodic chorus ringing loud and clear. The band played a long main set of 13 songs followed by a 3 song encore. I left just before the final song as a long day had finally caught up with me and I was starting to flag. This gig was far different than the usual metal gigs I attend but no less interesting. I hope to hear more of Black Wolf especially and VHB proved they are a modern prog rock band to be reckoned with.


Black Wolf:

Von Hertzen Brothers:

Monday, 20 April 2015

Monument Live at the Barfly

I was a pretty late attendee for this one. I was umming and arhhhing on whether to go or not but I think knowing Outloud was playing persuaded me in the end and Monument were great last time I saw them at the same venue. There were two other bands on the bill which was actually a bit of a pain as it meant the two main bands got much shorter sets.

First was a band called 2 Cards of 25. Very odd name that I'm sure has some meaning or other but I don't quite know what. The band played hard rock with slightly classic rock old school flavours. Not amazing by any stretch but not a complete disaster either. The singer I found to be rather mediocre to say the least. The lead guitarist had some nice chops here and there.

Next up were Agent. A band who I saw supporting someone at this very venue. They took an age to get ready and unfortunately their music didn't fire up much enthusiasm in me either. It's like a sort of droning dark metal with not a lot of melody. A far cry from the two main bands. If you like variety in a gig then yeah it's fine to have a band like this but I for one was happy to see the back of them no offence meant although they weren't happy at all at having to leave a little early as their allotted time had over run.

Next up were the Greek melodic rockers led by American singer Chandler Mogel. These guys have put out a couple of great albums of catchy melodic rock so I was looking forward to their set and they didn't disappoint at all. Chandler is a great front man make no mistake with a voice to match. The band locks into a groove in no time and let the melodies flow nicely. The only disappointment was their desperately short 30 minute set. These guys could have headlined and people would have been happy. They got a great response from the rather packed Barfly.

The stage was quickly made ready for the bombastic trad metallers from the good old East ende of London to swash and buckle their way through a short and razor sharp set of classic Maiden worship on speed. Boy do these guys have fun on stage whilst their playing. Constantly smiling and engaging with their audience. The front man has an sir raid siren of a voice with a snappy set of tunes that keep choruses and high pitched vocals at the fore front whilst the guitarists widdle away like there's no tomorrow leaving the bass player to do his best Steve Harris impression. These guys are a seriously fun band to watch. The packed 150 strong crowd was enjoying their set immensely as the singer announced the final song Rock the Night and it's a cliche to say it but rock the night they fucking well did!

If the first two bands didn't turn up and we got a 90 minute set from Outloud and Monument it would have been a killer night but it was still good and can't complain as the tickets were dirt cheap at £7. I haven't paid that little to go to a gig in an eternity!

2 Cards of 25




Monday, 6 April 2015

UDO live at the Islington Academy

My third and final gig this week featured the legendary UDO and his band with support from Swedes Sister Sin and a band called Garagedays which I've never heard of to be honest. As I walked into the venue Garagedays were already playing and for my taste they didn't sound to good. They played a rough sort of heavy metal like the garage days I guess where you plug in turn to 11 and just rock. It sounds good on paper but the reality was pure boredom. It didn't help that they were playing to about 40 people. The full crowd would go on to reach a respectable 350-400 which is good but the venue was far from sold out. When I saw Night Ranger here and Morbid Angel it was jammed solid especially for Night Ranger when it was almost uncomfortable.

Anyhow I waited for Garagedays to end at the back whilst sipping a beer and looking at my phone. They ended and it was Sister Sin's turn. They were a much better prospect indeed although I didn't get into their 2014 album to be honest but it was OK. The front gal was an energetic chick with an athletic body and knew how to work a crowd with poses and head banging galore. I liked their songs live and they were a pretty perfect warm up act for the main man Udo to be honest. They dedicated one song to Udo himself and it was a very Udo-esque tune called 24-7. Soon their time was up and they left to a pretty good response from the filled out crowd.

The roadies readied the stage and at 8.10pm with a curfew set for 10pm the intro song played through the PA. The stage was covered in a leafy sort of garb from top to bottom with the drum riser center stage. The into song was Beastie Boys' You Gotta Fight and everyone was singing along before the band took their positions and dove headlong into opener Speeder from the new album before the man himself ambled on stage with his familiar gurgle. He sounded good even though he looked every single one of his 63 year and more. How much longer he will go on is any one's guess but he did look very laboured throughout the set and sweatin' buckets on top. These shows were actually billed as Udo's final UK shows but the man himself uttered no such confirmation from the stage and I can only assume that was a presumption on the part of the promoter to get more people in. If it was it didn't really work as the show was far from sold out as I explained earlier.

The band that Udo has gathered around him are all seasoned pros and played with great conviction and the only new member was Udo's son on drums and he fitted in like a glove. Apparently he's been the drum tech for the band for four years already so he knows the ins and outs of it all and it made no noticeable difference to the show. The band was on real rocking form and played with huge smiles on their faces. I enjoyed the new material most as I think Decadent is one of Udo's best albums. The song Pain from the new album is a fave of mine and was played perfectly. I loved Black Widow as well, what a cool catchy tune that one is. Udo played long and hard although it seemed he was reading some lyrics from his big lyric monitor front of stage. You could see his eyes looking down for a few words here and there and at that age I don't have any real problem with that at all.

They played a long time and an almost 2 hour set with a five song encore of classic Accept tunes such as Fast as a Shark, Metal Heart and of course the almighty sing along Balls to the Wall which had everyone singing literally. A classic end to a great night of old school teutonic heavy metal. Accept maybe doing very well since their comeback but there's still life left in Udo and he can mix it with Wolf and co no problems. For how much longer though only Udo himself can tell you. For now his touring schedule is full as I looked at his website so he's not slowing down by any means. Let's hope he's flying the flag of heavy metal for a few years yet!

Blitz of Lightning
King of Mean
Independence Day
Black Widow
Never Cross My Way
The Bullet and the Bomb
Under Your Skin
Tears of a Clown
Secrets in Paradise
Faceless World
Let Me Out
Metal Machine
Metal Eater

Break the Rules
Metal Heart
I'm a Rebel
Fast as a Shark
Balls to the Wall

Friday, 3 April 2015

Majesty Live at the Underworld

A night of true power metal in the good old Underworld is hard to beat and so it proved but this gig nearly didn't happen. As I arrived at the Underworld for the 7pm door time there was a notice saying due to technical difficulties the door time was increased to 7.30pm. OK then I thought. Then I was chatting to a guy I know outside the Underworld and then slowly 7.30 came and went still no sign of us being let in until finally it turns out that the bands missed their ferry over from Belgium and were on a later one and had not even made it to the venue in time to set up the gear and sound check. So it was gone 8.15pm before they let us in which set times would unfortunately have to be cut short as there was an 11 o'clock curfew.

As I walked in Evil Invaders were already playing the first song. I must admit I enjoyed their new album quite a bit. Not anything super amazing of course but if you're after an Iron Maiden on acid trip then Evil Invaders is your first port of call. In the live setting the energy of the band was unquestionable as they roared through their speed fixated, heleter skelter, Maiden metal. The front man's high screams were the same as on the album and the band were really pretty cool. Keep an eye on these guys. The crowd was at it's highest at this point I must say and would have numbered somewhere below a 100 which would slowly thin further by the time Majesty came on. In fact the attendance for this gig was piss poor which is a damn shame. Power metal gigs are not badly attended when Hammerfall or Helloween or other quite big bands come to town. Sabaton draws a 1000 and more and yet these well established true metal warriors can't draw even a 100 on a pleasant and not too cold midweek evening.

Anyhow on to Bloodbound who I had been dying to see for a good while now. They came on with no keyboardist which was a shame so that part of their sound was piped in. They also had two members of Twilight Force standing in for those absent so to call the band Bloodbound without 3 members of the band there was rather weird but I'll forgive'm this time. I was just happy to hear and see them for the first time and I was hoping for some great songs and of course hoping and praying for Nosferatu their best song. The guys played with smiles on their faces but I could tell from singer Patrik's face that he was slightly disappointed to be playing to about 50-60 people although we were very enthusiastic and made up enough noise for double that amount. The band played a mix of tunes from their albums but unfortunately their set was cut to just 40 minutes from the original hour long set billed. The band sounded good and singer Patrik is an engaging front man for sure although his vocals were a little quiet in the mix and he kept pleading with the sound man to turn up his volume more than once which he did do eventually after being told a few times. I definitely wanted to see Bloodbound more than Majesty in this 3 band bill and to get only 40 minutes was a shame but what they played was great and had the diehards at the front fist pumping and headbanging like there's no tomorrow. To my utter relief the last song of the night started and it was the familiar first bars of Nosferatu and I had a big smile on my face. OK so he's not as good as Urban Breed doing this song but Urban's not in the band and Patrik did an amazing job on the song. I sang that song as loud as I could whilst recording it for posterity. A great end to an understandably short set.

This was the quickest I've seen Underworld staff work in getting the stage ready for Majesty. It must have been around 10.15 or so before Majesty took to the stage, all dressed in warrior padded outfits which is a typical look for a true metal band. Unfortunately after Bloodbound the crowd had thinned further. I really don't know where every one went. Maybe they all had trains to catch but it wasn't that late. I mean the turn out was piss poor to begin with ok but when Majesty came on there were about 30 or 40 people at the front with about a further 20-30 standing on the raised section at the back. I think the disappointment on Tarek's face was there for all to see. As he explained in between the songs they had gone to hell trying to get to the gig and to top it all off he had a terrible throat infection which the doctors have warned him not to sing and his voice whilst ok didn't sound it's best admittedly.

However being true metal warriors he and the band didn't let a lack of attendance spoil their night and they turned in a great performance it must be said. Their true metal Manowar worship is more Manowar than Manowar even as song after song they played and sang their hearts to a very small but appreciative crowd. Their best songs were Into the Stadiums which is a huge true metal anthem although very ironic when you play it to 50 people in a club, new song Generation Steel, another massive anthem, Thunder Rider with it's epic sing along and plenty more. I saw the set list and about 6-7 songs were crossed out due to lack of time and they even played past the curfew for the encore. The constant loud chants of "Hail! Hail! To Majesty!" went up often and long and Tarek was geeing us up to shout even louder!

I'm not sure if they'll be back again though but Tarek said they would although he might have just been saying that flippantly who knows. He did say that he hoped next time there would 10 times as many people there but Tarek mate don't hold your breath. Our legions of true metal fans are very fickle and choosy. They just don't turn out to support small bands. It's always Sabaton, Helloween, Hammerfall and Blind Guardian. In fact BG plays in a few weeks and there will be close to a 1000 there. This night was rescued from being a damp squib in the end by the resilience of the true metal warriors on stage. They may be cheesy as hell but when your heart bleeds for metal you play as if it's your last and even when you're sick as a dog that's true fighting spirit. Hail! Hail! To Majesty!