Saturday, 27 June 2015

Tremonti - Cauterize - Review

Being a big fan of all things Alter Bridge and Tremonti meant I was waiting very impatiently for his follow up solo disk to drop and the signs were all good as the lead single was a tasty little morsel indeed. Now that we can listen to the whole thing it's time to do a full review of this disk.

Opener Radical Change tumbles out of the speakers with an aggressive and typical Tremonti solo riff before Mark's vocals kick in to take the song in a more melodic direction. The song is very cool and thrashy indeed with a soaring chorus. A great way to start the album indeed with power and intent. 8.5/10

Flying Monkeys follows next and for the life of me I can't see anything great about it.  It's a slow heavy riffed affair like a heavy Metallica tune. His vocals sound good but the melody doesn't really capture me much. This song reminds me of Soundgarden for some reason. I just can't get into this song at all. 5.5/10

Title track Cauterize sees the pedal to the metal style return and hell yeah we're on that famous Tremonti riff attack whilst his vocals are again much more melodic and better than the previous track. The chorus soon arrives and it's a corker made to be sung along with. It's a super catchy refrain but the riffs are a real machine gun attack on this track. I love the pace change that leads into the chorus which allows the melody to shine bright. A totally amazing track 10/10!

Arm Yourself is another machine gun riffed typical Tremonti song with heavier angst ridden vocals before a nice powerful chorus sweeps the carpet from underneath your feet. The song has a brooding mid section whilst Mark's vocals go full crooner before that monster chorus returns to take us breathlessly to the finish line. 8/10

Dark Trip starts off like a typically acoustic driven Alter Bridge track and I can imagine Myles Kennedy singing this song but Mark himself croons and does a great job vocally himself. The song is dark and brooding as the title would suggest but the melody is so strong and memorable as heavier guitars power the chorus skywards. This dark and brooding power ballad is stirring and emotion soaked, typical of his day job actually. 8.5/10

Another Heart is the lead single and show cases what a Tremonti solo release is all about. A heavy crunching opening riff followed but a melodic vocal line that leads into a chorus to be sung from mountain tops. The melody sends chills before that riff roars out again and crushes all in its path towards the end. One of the best choruses on the album no doubt with some of the best riffs Tremonti has ever written. 9.5/10

Fall Again brings back the darkness and is again a plaintive power ballad that would sit well on any Alter Bridge album. The song soon picks up heaviness with heavy grinding riffs as Mark sings the awesome yet simple chorus and reaches the sky with emotion. A superb track packed with drama and emotion with a perfect solo as well. 9/10

Tie The Noose follows up with a typically snaking jackhammer Tremonti riff the likes of which are all over the album. You could say Tremonti has a certain style which he sticks to religiously but damn if ain't broke don't fix it. The chorus on this bad boy soon makes its first appearance and it's a typically engaging and twisted Tremonti melody that grips the listener and won't let go. The feel of the song is a bit desperate like someone is reaching the end of their tether but the melodies are truly captivating and the song is power packed to the finish whilst the tempo remains at the mid pace. 8.5/10

Sympathy is my favourite song on the whole album. The feel of the song is quite upbeat strangely enough although the lyrics are very sad indeed. The melody is somehow uplifting to me although the chorus is obviously very dark and painful lyrically. His vocal melodies on this songs are absolute perfection. Another song that would have easily been on the last or a future Alter Bridge album. Some would say why make an album that sounds just like your day job but what the hell an amazing song just needs to be heard regardless of the style. An amazing emotion packed tune. 10/10!

Providence starts off acoustically again and Mark croons over the top mournfully but the melody is glorious before guitars enter the fray and add that typical Tremonti flair to the proceedings. Another typical Alter Bridge tune I'm afraid to say and all the better for it. The song builds layers of power and emotion to its conclusion. I can imagine this song being much more fleshed out had it been an AB tune. It seems Mark cuts all unnecessary fat from his solo compositions and makes sure the song remains intact without getting bogged down in over dramatisation. Providence is the longest track on the CD and it's only 5:44 so hardly a slog. I would have probably preferred a heavier track to end with but this mini epic is a monster melodic tune in its own right. 9/10

So there we have the new Tremonti album which is just a magnificent album and great follow up to the debut. I just don't get Flying Monkeys at all and wish it wasn't on the album although it's only one song and it's not that bad, I just don't have any love for it all. The other songs sees Tremonti at his absolute best with powerhouse riffing and vocal melodies that drag the songs soaring to the heavens. he's already done the follow up so I can't imagine what that album's gonna sound like. My guess is it might be even heavier with more power still as he might be holding the powerful songs back a little bit but who knows. We'll see but for now Cauterize is a hell of ride!

Exodus live at the Underworld

Do I ever get tired of coming to this place you ask? Nahhh it's cool you get to see live metal in a nice intimate setting with crystal clear sound. Yes so this time after Evergrey last Saturday, it was time for some bay area Thrash metal to wake me up from my slumber, not that I was sleeping mind!

The Exodus guys were actually finishing off a two day thrash fest all of their own on the Wednesday night having also played the previous night. Obviously they are very popular as the Wednesday gig was pretty close to sold out as the Tuesday night gig must've been as well.

2 Support bands to get through first. First was The Heretic Order who I've seen supporting at the Underworld before. They are like Ghost quite a bit in looks but not sound. They play a sort of brash and heavy ghoulish metal with satanic themes and quite a bit of melody here and there in the guitars. I've seen them twice now and I just can't get into them. They had two girls in white dancing on the stage with them for the first song but they left after that. They should've stayed  for the whole 30 minutes as it would've given me something to look at!

Next up were the oddly mixed band English Dogs who number Gizz Butt in their ranks the guitarist from The More I See and of course he was in Prodigy as well. Any how their mix of raging power/thrash and punk was really quite cool with shredding solos from Gizz all over the shop. I enjoyed their short set without knowing any of their songs. Their riffing somehow reminds me of early Metallica and some power metal bands that like to super fast. The songs had simple catchy refrains which made them quite easy to enjoy. Quite a busy and relentless mosh pit started up for these guys but noting like the mayhem that would follow for Exodus. Managed to get a few cool pics of these guys but that was almost impossible for Exodus!

So at 9.30 the bay area heavyweights finally took to the stage and started immediately ripping out thunderous riff after thunderous riff sans Gary Holt of course who was back in the States with Slayer. Not that it made a difference as they just cut loose with a live performance to be reckoned with. Zetro was in amazing form as well and sounded better live than he does on record. I tend to find his over venomous rasp a little grating on record, but live he has the crowd eating out of his hand. They were promoting current record Blood In Blood Out of course and played a fair whack of that cd. I must admit I didn't really get into it when it came out although I saw the class of that album, but the songs sounded much better live. The title track was a complete riot in particular.

The mosh pit was non stop fucking mental all night and Zetro took great glee in whipping up the fervour even more and even mentioned that this night took him back to the days when the band would play Ruthie's Inn, obviously a joint they must have played a lot back in the day. Exodus were a literal firestorm of riffs and acid drenched vocals all night and the shredding was brain surgery level. You would be hard pressed to find a punter that wasn't sporting a shit eating grin as these guys laid waste to the Underworld with their tightly played and riffed mastery. Exodus has never really been my fave band from the classic thrash era but live they have few equals that's for certain. A mental, sweat drenched, avalanche of face melting thrash metal was delivered by these guys for two days straight. Hard to beat that!

Black 13
Blood In, Blood Out
Children of a Worthless God
(Preceded by 'Raining Blood'/'… more )
Salt the Wound
Pleasures of the Flesh
Body Harvest
Metal Command
A Lesson in Violence
(With Gizz Butt from English Dogs)
Bonded by Blood

War Is My Shepherd
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast

Monday, 22 June 2015

Evergrey Live at the Underworld 20th June

Haven't been to a gig for a couple of weeks so it's time to break that sequence with the visit of the Swedish legends of progressive power metal AKA Evergrey.

I am not quite certain how many times I've seen the band but it's at least once if not twice to add to Saturday nights passing. Evergrey have always been a band that I've looked out for but not as a religious fan or anything. They've always delivered quality music though and it's quite rare to say an Evergrey album disappoints and it was pleasing to say they didn't disappoint live either. We had two support bands to get through first.

First were Awake by Design. The name had me thinking some kind of proggy metalcore but in fact I was totally wrong. They played melodic metal with melodic vocals all the way and no screaming. However all positives began and ended with the lack of growls. The band failed to capture me with anything remotely resembling a catchy tune and their half an hour allotted time couldn't end quick enough for me. Sorry guys, maybe you sound better on record than you do live.

Following on were One Machine, a band led by Steve Smyth ex of Testament and Nevermore. Unfortunately I didn't like their debut album from a couple of years ago. I found it devoid of excitement though there's no doubt My Smyth is a big shredder. Unfortunately once again I found myself totally underwhelmed by their live performance and the songs failed to move me. The sound wasn't great for them either and the singer seemed to be having some vocal problems as he said he was suffering from hay fever the poor bloke. Personally I doubt it would have made any difference had he brought his A game anyway. I was bored waiting for their set to end which it finally did do and allowed the stage hands to get the set ready for the returning Swedes who had incidentally played Graspop the night before.

A bit of come down in attendance indeed from many 1000s to 300 or so diehards on a rainy Saturday night. Still that didn't stop them from playing a fairly lengthy set of 90 minutes of Evergrey's finest cuts. They started with the mighty King of Errors from the latest LP and continued on with a mix of classics and newer anthems whilst many of the crowd sang along. The sound for Evergrey was superb and crystal clear as they had their own sound man I think. The songs I enjoyed most were The Masterplan, Blinded, A touch of Blessing and Recreation Day. These guys are consummate live pros and played a full set to perfection although Tom was a bit rough vocally here and there but I guess it's been a hard couple of days with travelling from the fest and the weather not being very summery either. All in all a cool night of classic Swedish progressive power metal.

Awake by Design

One Machine


The Awakening
King of Errors
Leave It Behind Us
The Fire
Monday Morning Apocalypse
Black Undertow
The Masterplan
Mark of the Triangle
Solitude Within
Wake a Change
A New Dawn
I'm Sorry
(Dilba cover)
Missing You
When the Walls Go Down
Recreation Day
Broken Wings
A Touch of Blessing
The Grand Collapse

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation - Review

So as usual VS is dividing opinion with their new record and I can see why. For me the record splits straight into two. The first half of the record is great but soon gets really slow and steady which is not something I am looking for in my VS music at all. 

First of all the production is much improved but still not as heavy as Mr Defeis would have us believe. The guitars are a bit louder but not punchy at all by today's standards and his vocals are still louder than everything else. The drum machine or usage there of doesn't really bother me. I care less about drums than any part of heavy metal music. I need cool melodies and huge chest beating choruses to get excited over and the album starts off so well until we reach the half way point and things start to get really bogged down.

Opener Lucifer's Hammer is a real solid start with a driving riff and David going at it full bore with his vocal acrobatics which of course annoys many but doesn't bother me. I consider his yelps arrrghhhs woooos part of the VS sound and I sort of look forward to them in fact. Track two Queen of the Dead is pretty catchy as well but a bit slower but I still like the mood and feel a lot.

Black Sun-Black Mass is an old song is side project Exorcist recorded for VS and is a really cool and heavy song and one of my faves on the album. I really enjoy what they did with this one. It's heavy and midpaced with a nagging groove and nice aggressive vocals from David.

Persephone is classic VS to me and has everything I love about VS. Soaring epic melodies and a good bit of power but still a lot of subtleties. I wish to God there were more tracks like this on the album but alas it's the only one.

Devilhead is quite an interesting track and has some cool slow build but it hints at what will bog down the second half of the album. I still like it though which is meandering track with heavier parts mixed with slower moodiness.

Demolition Queen basically reminds me of Whitesnake totally. I can imagine Coverdale singing this track and it going down a storm. The song hints at their glam times with the Age of Consent album but for some reason I really quite like the track.

The Plague and The Fire unfortunately sees the album descend into quite a mournful dirge like state of song writing. It has a painfully slow and boring riff whilst David goes on and on over the top. The son seems to go nowhere not very fast. With such an epic title, you'd think you'd be in for a barnstorming and rousing VS song like you'd find on Invictus but no it just trundles along although the shredding guitar solo is quite cool.

We Disappear is a groove based slightly glammy song again not too far from Whitesnake again although much darker maybe Snake crossed with Sabbath? The riff is simple and midpaced whilst David croons over the top but it's far too bogged down. The end of the song is sort of okay with some nice melodies as David sings " We Disappear" over and over and the lead solo from Pursino is really nice but the song is 7:54 and drags on and on with little excitement.

Glamour is a song I should actually hate but I like it more than the last two dirges that's for sure as it has a little more urgency and the feel of it is a little cooler and not so bogged down. David uses his vocal range from full Coverdale "wanna get in to your panties" croon to screeching banshee from Hades. The riffs are a little more groovy and exciting at least and one of them sounds like Pantera's Cowboys from Hell believe it or not. The chorus sees a time change and David pronounces Glamour like "Glamooor" lol. Better than last two songs but that ain't saying much actually.

Please be fast and good Delirium but nope the second half of the album continues in this slow and bluesy vain with another dirge like ditty and at 7:33 it's quite a chore to listen to indeed. The chorus is sort of OK and sung well but the whole feel of the song is so mundane and boring basically. There's not enough urgency in the songs in the second half and Delirium is a prime example of getting bogged down in slow meandering.

Hymns to Damnation is the original title of the album so I expect this to a fiery tune but still Mr DeFeis refuses to up the ante. Have you forgotten that VS is a metal band? This song start acoustic and sounds actually really nice and melodic before a heavy riff thunders into view and David howls but the chorus is just slow which you'd think a galloping riff would go down so well he just keeps crooning and squealing on and on. Not a bad song but the album is full of slow songs. Isn't it time for something faster and energetic? No I guess.

Fallen Angels is surely gonna end things on an upbeat note you'd think. Afraid not. It's slow and ballad like throughout. Not horrible but we've heard enough of this slow and emotional drenched stuff. We need some mountain moving heavy metal but we ain't getting it here folks.

I cut this band a lot of slack much more than many who laugh at them and I appreciate the ambition but this album is a let down after a rather good start. The best rating I can give is 6.5/10 for the hint of former glories here and there but could even be reduced to 5/10 if you're a harsh critic. If you like VS when they go all moody and not bombastic, then you might like it more but I think those people are far in the minority. Most people love VS for the barbaric aspects of their sound but this album just doesn't deliver what we need for more than half it's length. There are some good songs for sure but I don't think they have another Invictus in them any more although I hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Poets of the Fall Live Report

Having missed out on the first Poets of the Fall gig in the UK in the Underworld a while back I was quick to nab a ticket for this gig in the larger Scala. It's a good job I was quick as the venue quickly filled up and was tightly packed to capacity. I was a bit tired from work and couldn't find a decent spot to view the gig so I decided to venture up to the balcony for this gig which at teh Scala is very high up indeed. It was a bit awkward watching the gig from there and admittedly the vocals just didn't quite travel well acoustically and got lost in the big booming bass sound.

There was one support for the evening. A young American girl by the name of Addision Mills. She played simple songs about emotion or love or whatever. I'm sure she'll be huge or maybe not who knows. But these type of delicate flower emotional girl singers can soon start to build a following. She got a reasonable response but she was a bit shy and cutesie but she has talent no doubt and will have her fans but a very odd support for Poets.

Anyhow the crowd was getting more than a little excited to hear the Finns again and it's more than a little surprising that they have such a fan base here in the UK. The band took to the stage and were cheered to the rafters by the packed crowd and finally lead singer Marco took to the stage as the band started straight off into Choice Millionaire a song from the new album Jealous Gods. In fact the band played quite a few cuts from the new disk although it's perhaps the least rock of all their previous albums though it is still very classy indeed.

The sound from my high up vantage point was a little bass heavy for my taste and I would have liked to hear Marco's super vocals a bit louder and clearer but I had a perfect view of the stage so I couldn't really complain. The band is instrumentally spot on but all attention is directed towards front man Marco in this band. he literally has the crowd eating of his hand the whole night. Directing them to whoop and yell and sing as each song needs.

The band are well known for their emotional ballads and I must admit the crowd sing along sections were very loud indeed and almost everyone seemed to know the lyrics as directed by Marco. My favourite songs were of course the upbeat and catchy ones such as the amazing Diamonds for Tears, Locking up the sun, Lift and newie Daze. carnival of Rust got a huge response from the packed downstairs and the first encore closed with the awesome and anthemic Dreaming Wide Awake. The band played acoustically at times to allow greater crowd participation and Marco to show of his smooth vocals.

Poets of the Fall attracts a very diverse crowd of people that's for sure. A few metal heads of course but a lot of regular people who have cottoned on to the magic that Poets of the Fall can deliver musically. The band left after 90 minutes to rapturous applause and a well appreciative and happy audience on this lovely warm London night. A perfect night in fact to listen to a band such as Poets of the Fall and their melancholic melodic rock hymns.

Choice Millionaire
Locking Up the Sun
Love Will Come to You
Clear Blue Sky
Temple of Thought
Diamonds for Tears
Nothing Stays The Same
Scarborough Fair
(Simon & Garfunkel cover) (Acapella)
Late Goodbye
Jealous Gods
Carnival of Rust
Dreaming Wide Awake
Encore 2:

Friday, 5 June 2015

Helloween - My God-Given Right - A Review

I've listened to the album 3 times now and it's another really solid latter day Helloween record in its own right but it will take a few listens to catch on. On first listen I was a bit dubious but it's growing on me quite a lot now although some songs don't really excite me I will do a quick song by song review.

Heroes - An ok song but it doesn't wow me to be honest. It starts off really quite heavy and well but the chorus is quite predictable. 7/10

Battle's Won - Better! Musically unadventurous but typical Happy Helloween chorus. This actually reminds me of some Freedom Call song. 8.5/10

My God Given Right - Mid tempo song with a nice feel. I dunno about the chorus. It's not amazing me I must admit. I like the verses actually and feel the chorus is a bit average which is really strange for a Helloween song. There are some nice guitar melodies in it though. 7.5/10

Stay Crazy - Starts off like a Maiden epic and then goes headlong into an awesome guitar riff and melody. My fave song so far! The chorus is hugely catchy with counterpoint vocal arrangement with Andi answering his own calls. This is a nearly perfect Happy Helloween song and it also sounds fresh and cool. 9.5/10

Lost in America - Starts off bright and breezy with cool guitar melodies but Andi's thick German accent and goofy lyrics are a bit lame IMO. The chorus however is very catchy however much you try to hate it you can't. It's catchy and memorable. Goofy but happy tune. 8/10

Russian Roule - Ok going for a different and heavy feel this time with this thick grooving tune. The Russian style melody in the guitars is a cool touch. I really like that. The chorus Come out and play! Russian Roule is a bit boring but the ahhhhh sung by Andi is quite cool. The song is ok and will probably have its fans and splitting opinion. 7.5/10

Swing of a Fallen World _ Something un-Helloweeny. Broodng and pretty dark. Wouldn't have been that outta place on The Dark Ride. I am not too moved by the song to be honest. The mid section is better when it speeds up then it broods again till the finish line. 6/10

Like Everybody Else - Slow brooding ballad that heavies up slowly. The chorus is quite cool but it's not wowing me either. Too dark and dreamy. 6.5/10

Creatures in Heaven - Back to faster placed typical Helloween fare after quite a slow build up. The little guitar melodies are awesome here and there. The chorus is catchy and memorable whilst the guitar behind it is very melodic. A pretty damn great track. 9/10

If God Loves Rock n Roll - Nice guitar melodies but of course goofy lyrics from Andi not that I care as when the chorus comes along the urge to bellow is hard to resist. Must be amazing to hear this live and sing a long with a big shit eating grin on your face. 8.5/10

Living on the Edge - A more serious song that pounds along so well and come chorus time goes happy helloweeny with the carry on carry on plea from Andi but the feel of the song is quite heavy and pounding. Some Maidenish guitar scales and runs here and there and a great solo as well. 8.5/10

Claws - No let up in energy and pace again with this pacily riffed affair. The riffing is quite exciting on this track actually and whips up a real storm. Actually the chorus is not that amazing but for some reason it doesn't need to be on this track. Andi's more biting vocal attack hits the spot quite well. The song is about an eagle and his claws! The song reminds me of Primal Fear - I can imagine Ralfie belting this one out. 8.5/10

You, Still of War - The longest track and most serious track on the album is left till last. To be honest after 3 listens now I've yet to fully appreciate the track. It is a slowly building track and it reminds me of a slightly progressive version of the band. It has a slight Kameloty feel even. The chorus soon arrives and Andi goes ahhhhhhh! You, Still of war... Ahhhhhh! You still of nevermore!...It's sort of aggressive and angry but doesn't sound right for Hellloween. The verses actually are slightly happier although the lyrics still paint a picture of anger at the warmongers in this world or some such. The song deserves praise and I think I will appreciate it more pretty soon but the complex nature stops me from loving it immediately. The end solo is awesome though with some melodies which remind me of Maiden's SiT era. 7/10

Bonus CD

I Wish I Were There - The song is typical Helloween speed but the chorus soon arrives and it's a bit odd. The melody doesn't seem immediately catchy. It's a slightly weird track this one. Decent guitars at least but it doesn't do a huge deal for me. 6/10

Wicked Game - One of my fave songs across the whole album. Mid paced opening riff but then a glorious melodic riff soon thunders into view and the guitars sound sweet as hell and the chorus comes and it's bloody awesome. I love the demonic "Wicked Game!!" cries from the ghoul in the background whilst Andi sings "I came into the world to play!". I love this tune. The guitars rip and the vocals and chorus are ace. Should have been on the main album no doubt! 9.5/10

Nightmare - Another cool tune on the bonus disk which has counterpoint vocals again with Andi answering his own calls and even doing that during the chorus. The melody is really pretty strong. A cool and catchy track and could have easily fitted on the main album. Nice little bass solo in the end though the song is musically unadventurous the chorus makes it a catchy humber. The lead solo reminds me of Maiden again. 9/10

More Than a Lifetime - Another typical pounding Helloween rocker. The melody reminds me of another song. I forget which but it's rather familiar. The chorus is a soaring affair and has a decent happy melody. Andi sounds a bit like Ralfie in this song, maybe it's a PF song I'm thinking of. So 3 out of 4 songs on the bornus disk are more than good enough. More Maidenish SiT era guitar acrobatics to end the song. 8/10

So there you have it. Modern day Helloween. I have a slight complaint about the guitar sound if I'm being picky. It's slightly muddy for my taste. I like it sharper and cleaner but everything is balanced pretty well, it's just a personal preference of mine. I think this album is one of those that may need a few plays although some songs will get you from the outset. Overall I rate it at 8.5/10 and possibly a 9/10 with more plays as the songs begin to sink in. So in general Helloween are still pumping out the goods as regular as clockwork and at a good enough level to keep their legions of pumpkinheads happy.