Saturday, 21 November 2015

Megadeth Live at Wembley Arena

It was good to see a revitalised Megadeth again for God knows how many times now since I first saw them back in 95. Seeing My favourite band in live action is something I'll always cherish but I have a feeling this new incarnation of the band with two new members is a new dawn for the band and hopefully a couple of more albums will follow after Dystopia before Dave finally calls it quits.

I had a seat by the side of the stage so a pretty good view of both the crowd and the bands as I took my seat. Wembley Arena was perhaps a bit ambitious for a 4 band bill such as this but in the end the place was more than 3/4 at guess compared to the 12,000 capacity so pretty good.

First up were Reading's Sylosis. I've seen these guys live before in a smaller venue and they put on a solid display of melodic thrash with core vocals. In this bigger arena their sound tended to get wishy washy and the crystal clear crunch was missing. I'm not sure what songs they played but it all sounded very samey and bludgeoning. I guess the kids gathered at the front enjoyed it. The guitarist front man definitely has some wicked chops but when you're barking like a lunatic over the top of your cool music you're gonna lose a fan in me. Their record from this year is actually ok but live it all tends to blend into a mess and it's hard to distinguish between songs.

Next up were Children of Bodom who were allotted the same 30 minutes as Sylosis. Once again I'm not sure exactly what songs they played but at least they were a bit more melodic than Sylosis and got a decent response. Once again though I was just a bit underwhelmed with their set and got a sense of going through the motions from Alexi and the band. He still knows plenty of decent licks though and Bodom were merely ok on the night bit looked a bit disinterested to be honest.

As soon as the Bodom set ended and I mean as soon as it ended a huge chant of " Lamb of God!" went up from the audience down on the floor. I guess they are pretty huge here these days and a large portion of the crowd was mainly here for them rather than Megadeth. The chanting and general anticipation continued as the stage was readied for LoG guys and as the lights went down the kids down below were obviously getting super pumped for their heroes. Now there was a time during Ashes of the Wake when I was somewhat of a LoG fan but that's totally changed from being a mild fan to actually disliking the band's music quite intensely. They've just totally lost me with their boring riffs and Randy's terrible ranting vocals which I never liked in the first even when I was that mild fan. Anyway the kids down below weren't giving a flying fuck about my opinion. They were going totally ape shit to their heroes.

I must say though that the band sounded tight and the riffs were as cool as I remember on the earlier material. A monster circle pit erupted as Randy asked for one followed by a crushing wall of death. The band's sound was a little on the mushy side but at times it sounded pretty sharp. You can tell why the fans love LoG so much with Randy orchestrating the crowd as he runs from side to side. A poignant message from Randy about the massacre the night before in Paris as well which got a deserved huge cheer from all. Lamb of God left to endless cheers and claps like a headliner would and pleas for an encore but none followed. I may not like the band but damn their live show is totally insane to watch when you see the kids feed off the band and lose themselves totally.

Finally it was time for Dave and co to hit the stage after the roadies spent 20 minutes or so getting it ready. The Prince of Darkness intro plays and suddenly the guys burst on to the stage already playing the opening riffs the Hangar 18. The sound was actually quite good from my side of the stage and not too loud. Dave's vocals are usually totally buried live and I know there's a huge issue about downtuning due to him not being able to sing the high notes any more but I really didn't notice a great problem. The band sounds and looks meaner and more energised. Dave himself cuts quite a lean figure and it seems he got in a decent shape for the Dystopia world tour. It seems a bit odd to actually call it that when the album hasn't even been released yet and they only play one song from it. I guess there will be another proper tour for it next year or at least I hope so.

Special mention for Kiko. The guy fits Megadeth like a glove and plays the solos very well indeed. Adler on the drums is solid but I never really ever cared about drumming like some people do. I barely notice the drummer but I guess some people give great importance to how the drums are played but Adler was fine.

The band continued to play a regular Megadeth set list with all the hits that you would expect. Dave gave his usual in between song banter that he normally does and probably pissed a few people off as he normally does. The crowd was far more reserved for Megadeth of course than LoG with smaller pits breaking out here and there but nothing compared to Lamb.

Megadeth didn't play as long as I hoped for maybe around 70 minutes but LoG played quite long and what with a 4 band bill the time for the headliners was a bit shorter than a normal headline. Hence a 3 band bill would've been more suitable in my opinion. The set list was therefore a bit average to say the least with the same old songs being played. Songs that need to leave the set list are She Wolf, In My darkest Hour, Trust, Skin of My Teeth and Dawn Patrol.
Some classics have to stay though 'cause they're just awesome sounding live such as Hangar 18, Wake Up Dead, Tornado of Souls, Peace Sells, Symphony and Holy Wars. No Megadeth set is complete without them. Poison was the Cure sounded very cool as well being a ripping fast tune and played at mach speed by the band.

There was no true encore as the band never left the stage but the last song of the night was actually quite moving and mind blowing as the French national anthem segued into Holy Wars. Just before the start Dave snarls out the word "Freedom!!" before breaking into those famous opening riffs. He didn't say a lot else about the attacks the previous night but that one word just about summed it up as he sang the prophetic lyrics to that famous song and the crowd went apeshit one last time. As the song ended he did say something else about the atrocities in Paris the night before but I didn't quite catch it. As the band did it's familiar hands held high pose and thanked the crowd for coming one last time. One of the better recent Megadeth shows and much much better than the 2013 show in Brixton when the band seemed to be lacking in energy and camaraderie. Hopefully they'll be back for a longer show next time with more songs from Dystopia and less of the same old songs. For now the new incarnation of the band is very much to be reckoned with and hopefully the new album will energize them even more.

Prince of Darkness intro
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
Sweating Bullets
Dawn Patrol
Posion Was The Cure
Tornado of Souls
Fatal Illusion
Skin o' My Teeth
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells
La Marseillaise
Holy Wars
Silent Scorn outro

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Ancient Bards Live at the Underworld

Ancient Bards have precisely zero profile here in the UK so I was even a bit surprised that I saw they were playing a show here recently, but I quite like the band so I decided to attend and see how they fared in the live setting.

I wasn't expecting to a large attendance by any means and my fears proved true as the crowd would barely number a 100 at its peak. Nevertheless the bands were here to entertain the diehards and first up were Italian dark metal crew Nightland whom I've actually never even heard of. They were not a power based band unlike the other two but got a decentish response for their orchestral epic black metal surprisingly enough with quite a few headbangers. They used backing tape to provide the orchestral sections but they made quite an epic sound indeed although I'm the last person to ever be interested in black metal. They did incorporate a bit of melody here and there in the riffs to make things more interesting plus they looked the part dressed in battle gear. I've seen worse black metal bands at the Underworld.

Next up were local band Pythia and their brand of epic female fronted battle metal. I thought I was really going to like the band's last album when i heard the lead single, but alas the opposite happened. I ended up not liking the album very much at all. Mainly due to singer Miss Ovenden's shrill voice which fails to capture the kind of melodies that uplift the music to the heavens. Musically the band are very tight although the guy playing the keytar looks a bit out of place to me. I always like to see the keyboard guy behind a keyboard stack. Unfortunately the band just does not have the songwriting abilities that will lift them above the pack and indeed they can learn a thing or two from the headliners Ancient Bards when it comes to crafting a hummable tune. They got a decent response and they made a grand sound musically but without decent vocal melodies you'll get nowhere very fast with me.

Finally at 9.30 on the dot the Italians strode on stage and got a huge cheer from the tiny crowd. In fact the crowd was very much into the band and made the noise of a bunch twice or three times their number. The band plays with smiles especially the very expressive bassist, and allow their voluptuous chanteuse to steal the limelight. Her vocals unfortunately where a bit drowned out due to the over loud music at the start of the set. A familiar problem at most metal gigs however the sound soon improved to allow us to hear her properly. She is not blessed with an amazing voice, but she is a very confident singer and can carry a sweet melody indeed. Her band mates all treat her like the princess that she is as they cosy up to her individually on stage.

They played songs from all their albums of course with the recent material sounding the most grand and epic. The older songs are more straightforward Rhapsody worship but perhaps more melodic even and got the better response. The band of course played their catchiest tune The Birth Of Evil which got the biggest sing along of the night before they finally left at just before 11 or so. I'm sure the band will play to bigger audiences in mainland Europe but I don't think the band were too disheartened by the poor attendance and those who did turn up were very animated indeed and made the Italians feel the show was much bigger than it was. Hopefully they'll return one day, maybe as part of a bigger power metal bill.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Stratovarius - Live at the Islington Academy

I've seen Stratovarius a couple of times down the years but when an album as good as Eternal is released you've really got to give them the time of day and make an effort to see them again. The fact GloryHammer was the main support also made the decision a certainty and the Aussie troop Divine Ascension didn't discourage me either. The Islington Academy was probably 3/4 full by the end of the night so probably around 500, so not a band attendance but I've seen that place rammed beyond comfort already this year so I was actually happy to see it not so full to allow us some breathing room.

First up were Melbourne's Divine Ascension whose music is pretty good on record as I recall. I had actually forgotten that they had a female singer until she burst out last on to the stage as the other guys were playing the intro to the opening song. Her voice was pretty decent but not totally amazing either. They played well and got a reasonable response but I'm guessing the far majority of the crowd probably didn't know who they were. The music was decent and the band was afforded a nice sound mix. The melodies were flowing nicely from song to song but with the music being slightly progressive it was probably harder for the crowd to connect with the band and show more enthusiasm. Not a bad performance at all and I've seen loads worse as an opening band. I'm sure they won over a few of the early comers though most would've probably been waiting anxiously for the main two bands.

Then it was GloryHammer's turn and boy did the crowd really get into it. We love a good bit of humour in our metal and when Thomas the Front man starts telling us to make swish swish noises as he swings his astral hammer about the place there isn't a punter who isn't doing it! The new album is totally fantastic from start to finish and they played a lot of songs from it. Legend of the Astral Hammer got the biggest sing a long of the night and my personal fave tune Universe on Fire was sung brilliantly by Thomas aka Angus McFife. Of course we should refer to the characters in the band by their stage names, you have to pretend you're actually watching a sci-fi movie to power metal music. To say that GloryHammer went down well would be the understatement of the night. These guy were an absolute riot. They leave everyone grinning like cheshire cats from ear to ear and with our fists held high! Next time I'm going to bring an Astral Hammer of my own! (a plastic one!)

Finally at 9.30 the intro music for Finnish giants of power metal played before they took their positions and Jens played the awesome parping intro to My Eternal Dream before the rest of the band joins in and finally Timo bursts on singing the opening lines to the song. An awesome entrance indeed as the band sounded crisp and clean although a touch loud here and there with distortion of the guitars. Unfortunately the young chap's guitar failed as he was attempting to start his solo in the middle of the song and he walked off to get it fixed but Jens covered his mishap with a keyboard solo instead. Not a good start to have equipment failure on the very first song but shit happens sometime. It didn't actually dampen my enjoyment of the song too much as the melody in the song is really spectacular. The band continued with both recent and older material. The stand outs to me were SOS and new epic The Lost Saga. Black Diamond is a song I am a little tired of hearing but it did sound pretty good I must admit. Unbreakable from the last album Nemesis was another huge highlight. A word about Timo's voice. I think he slightly struggles with the higher registers and feels more comfortable with the lower register notes and he sounds far better anyway. His voice was good but their in the middle of a very long tour so he's probably had better nights who knows. The encore featured three cuts, the ballad Forever which was sung brilliantly by Timo I must admit, the awesome new song Shine in the Dark and the classic Hunting High and Low with the extended crowd sing a long section towards the end before they finished o rapturous applause and the crowd left to an unseasonable warm early November night. As I was leaving the GloryHammer guys were at the exit talking with fans and I shook hands with singer Thomas and congratulated him on a great performance. I actually mentioned that this was the third time I am seeing them and he was surprised and said wow and I said I am a long time fan, but tonight was by far the best I have seen them and hopefully I will see them again shortly. A good end to a very nice night of power metal with the honours totally stolen by the mighty GloryHammer!

GloryHammer Set list:
Rise of the Chaos Wizards
Legend of the Astral Hammer
Hail to Crail
Universe on Fire
Angus McFife
The Hollywood Hootsman
Magic Dragon
Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy
The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee

Stratovarius Set list:
My Eternal Dream
Lost Without a Trace
Bass Solo
Against the Wind
The Lost Saga
Keyboard Solo
Black Diamond
Shine in the Dark
Hunting High and Low

Gama Bomb - Live at the Underworld

I went to a gig last Halloween so I thought I better keep that tradition up with a visit to the Underworld for Northern Irish thrash boys Gama Bomb with support from UK old time thrashers Re-Animator and some band called The Carpenters. Y&T were playing down the road but I've never been into them for some reason but I love me some Gama Bomb and they were of course peddling their new album Untoucheable Glory as well.

First up were The Carpenters. An odd duo who as it turns out were called The Carpenters for a reason. They were actually hand picked by the Gama boys as support. This two chaps play the music of renowned sci-fi and horror composer John Carpenter. The most famous of course being the Halloween theme which they played as the last piece of their set. They also played Escape from New York soundtrack and some other Carpenter pieces. Quite apt for Halloween night really. That's the first time I've seen a non guitar music at the Underworld though.

Next up were old time UK thrashers Re-Animator. I have listened and downloaded their albums from the past but I don't really recall them to be honest. They were part of the early 90s UK thrash scene with Xentrix, Lawnmower Deth etc but I don't think they ever really made any waves and remained a cult band. When they started playing I was immediately impressed by their riffs and musical capabilities in general. These guys got the headbangers generating some hot air with their windmilling hair and the baldies nodding as well. I need to re-try their album as I was very impressed live though the front man's vocals are average to say the least but this is thrash so it doesn't even really matter. A very able and fun support to the headline.

The Underworld had filled out a bit to a couple of hundred at least as Gama Bomb finally took to the stage with the main man in cat make up. You have to make an effort it's Halloween but is cat make up really Halloween material? I'm not so sure about that but the guy is hilarious anyway and had plenty of the crowd eating out of his hand with his quips. Musically speaking the band were razor sharp with a perfect Underworld sound mix thankfully which was not as loud as it usually is down there. For me thrash doesn't need to bludgeon you into submission and thankfully GB is a band that doesn't go for that at all. What they do is to blast you into out space with relentlessly fast slightly happy go lucky thrash which careers from one to the next in a blur of speed and vocals. I just don't know how the front man remembers all those damn lyrics they are spat forth so rapidly.

They played a lot of new songs which were unfamiliar as I haven't heard the album but they sounded great straight away so no problem there. It can be argued that GB is a one dimensional band with most songs built around similar riffs but I don't even see that as a criticism. To me they sound like one of the funnest thrash bands ever and in the live setting they prove this by playing with smiles on their faces and sending the moshers home happy on a mild Halloween evening.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Deathcrusher Live Report

The bill for the Deathcrusher tour was one that would excite pretty much any old school death metal fan worth his or her salt. Having seen the bill advertised a couple of months back, I was pretty quick off the blocks in snapping up a ticket and waited patiently for this four band bill of behemoths to wreck the joint known as the Forum in Kentish Town. As it turns out there was a fifth band as well, namely Herod. So we had Voivod, Napalm Death, Obituary and the mighty Carcass. I personally would've preferred either Bolt Thrower or Cathedral or Morbid Angel instead of Herod or Voivod but that wasn't to be.

Herod opened proceedings with a bludgeonningly heavy and pretty slow death metal sludge. Is this the same Herod that I liked a fair bit way back even. The melodic metalcore Herod has disappeared completely. In its place, a monotonously heavy outfit has taken over, playing crushing, slow death metal with claustrophobic grooves and atmosphere with a front man that looks like Phil Anselmo pretty much. Unfortunately they were not good at all and super boring in my eyes. A few punters head banged though but there were barely 100 people at the front for them. The crowd would swell to well over a 2000 by the end of the night.

The bill proper started with Voivod taking to the stage in double quick time after Herod and getting into their quirky thrashy mayhem. The crowd was suddenly 5-6 and even 7 times what it had been for Herod. Voivod were pretty much going down a storm and they played tight and fast. Unfortunately I have never understood any of the appeal and the live arena was never going to win me over either. The vocalist whom I don't know was rough as arseholes but I guess that's the charm. The drummer was very good from my vantage point on the first row on the balcony. The only member who I have a clue about is Daniel Mongrain the ex guitarist of tech death masters Martyr. The guy plays well although Voivod's quirky speedy riffs got lost in a slighly mushy loud sound and I just couldn't fathom out any cool tunes if there were any not that I know any Voivod tunes in the first place. I was only here for the top 3 in the bill, sorry Voivod!

Napalm Death got ready quick again and the roadies worked like trojans all night getting the stage ready very quickly in between the bands. I haven't seen ND for a good while but having seen them many times I was looking forward to some utter rage from Barney and co. There was a stand in for Mitch on guitars by the name of John Cooke. He played well and supplied the screams that Mitch does. He seemed to fit in seamlessly. Barney was on top form and he looked so lean like he's lost a lot of weight. His stage antics and banter are legendary these days and he has the crowd eating out of his hand. The place was going apeshit during the groove sections and breakdowns on the various ND songs such as Scum and The Silence is Deafening which was absolutely monstrous. The sound was much better for ND than it was for Voivod. Barney's vocals are absolutely murderous live, literally barking rather than growling the vocals. He literally shakes like a rabid dog as he delivers these biting anthems of pure rage. Of course the mid period Napalm that I so love is completely ignored in favour of all the grindcore classics like Suffer The Children and all the short sharp songs which of course ND always play. Barney ended the night by wishing us all a very pleasant evening in his lilting brummies tones. Rather funny considering he'd spent the last 40 minutes wrecking our lugholes with his monstrous roar!

Next up were the Obies whose popularity in death metal sustains hugely it seems. I have totally gone off their rather mediocre comeback efforts but live they always deliver the goods. Main man John Tardy looks like a drunk sea monster swaying from side to side barking and rasping his nonsensical lyrics into the mic whilst his band mates lock on to that infamous Obituary groove. Once again their set list contained a lot of classics and a couple of new cuts. I don't really recognise the classics much as I'm not a huge fan of Slowly We Rot at all but I love for instance the savagery that is Don't Care from world demise. The other Tardy brother was on shit hot form behind his drum kit as well. I'm not sure who the guitarists are these days but the know their job well. Bassist was ex Death man Terry Butler. Big fucker he was too. The Obituary sound mix was perfect pretty much but star of the set if of course John Tardy. The guy is fucking Obituary pure and simple. No one else has vocals as sick as that guy although over the years he's gotten a little more high pitched and clearer sounding and less sick than many probably remember him as being on the Slowly We Rot days. Anyway the Obies were pretty fucking good and got a massive response from the mental moshfest happening down below me.

Finally it was time for the top slot and what the fans had come here for in the main. Carcass were treated with quite a frenzy as they took their positions and Jeff Walker, centre stage delivers one of his typical glass gurgling vocals as they rip into opener Unfit For Human Consumption. The new album maybe pretty good but people are here to hear Heartwork and Necroticism material in the main and soon enough the opening grinding groove to Buried Dreams appears and the place starts to go completely apeshit with the floor becoming a sea of bodies hurling from side to side. I'm too old for that shit and I had a safe and comfortable view from up top where I could concentrate on the music without having to worry about my glasses coming off etc. Incarnated Solvent Abuse followed and once again the floor is levelled with lying bodies. Carcass were going down and playing a storm alright. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills is one of their best new songs and flew by in a flash. Jeff is a witty fucker( or as he calls it an "unfunny cunt!") and had quips galore for punters down the front. These chirpy scousers are always pretty quick with the one liners!

An old song from reek of Puterfaction was played with both Bill and Jeff suppling lead vocals. Soon we were back on familiar territory with Corporeal Jigsore Quandary once again laying waste to what was once the Kentish Town Forum. I was waiting for No Love Lost which is one of my fave Carcass songs ever although I new pretty much new it would be forlorn wait. They don't tend to play the groovy shit too much going more for the savagery. It was pretty good to hear Keep on Rotting in the Free World though with it's jackhammer staccato riffs. The night ends with Heartwork with once last chance for the crowd to work up the frenzy to the maximum as the band cuts loose with total abandon. Special mention to the new drummer. That guy is fast as all hell leaving Bill and the other new guitarist to churn out those classic Carcass riffs. I don't know how it's possible but Carcass is now by a million miles a bigger band than they ever before at the height of their popularity and I doubt they'll go away any time soon when you sell out a 2000 capacity venue with ease.  A fun night of classic bands but Bolt Thrower should've been on this bill damn it!