Friday, 29 January 2016

Threshold Live Report

Another night with the kings of English prog metal Threshold was the order of the day as I made my way to the Islington Academy on an unseasonably warm Sunday night. Threshold are a band that have just the right amount of prog whilst still making very accessible tunes to hum or sing along with. For that reason they draw quite a diverse crowd or oldies and some though not many younger people to their shows.

Two support bands were listed and both I like in doses and that also helped in enticing me to this gig. First up were fellow Brits Damnation Angels. These guys do epic prog/power rather well however I didn't actually know they had replaced PelleK with a new chap. I knew the Norwegian dude had left but not who his replacement was and I was intrigued if he would be better than PelleK whose vocals I find borderline unlistenable at times. Well the new chap was not what I was expecting at all. He basically looked a bit like me with hair! Just a normal looking tubby guy! In the end looks don't matter that much and it's all about his vocals which were actually pretty good and much more listenable than PelleK's for me in any case. The band played their mostly mid paced material and ended with the epic Pride which is a very cool tune. A decent start indeed.

Next up were out and out prog merchants Spheric Universe Experience. Musically they were spot on with a nice sound mix as well. The guitars were progging away until there's no tomorrow allowing the nicely haircutted front man to croon and yell like a banshee over the top. He was a pretty good dancer as well hehe. I don't recognise any of the band's material but I do remember liking their albums and their live chops are commendable too. A very decent main support for the headliners.

Finally at 9pm it was time for Threshold and the ever energetic Damian Wilson to hold court over a roughly half full Islington Academy. Not too bad for a Sunday night and the weather being so warm probably increased the turn out a bit more. The band were completing a European jaunt tonight so there was a slightly celebratory mood in the air as Damian explained. The band has been very sick on the road in Europe and they were all extremely glad to be home finally.

Their performances were all excellent but you could sort of tell that they were really getting ready for a well earned rest after trekking round Europe in the middle of winter. Damian however is a different beast altogether. The man is some kind of superhuman it seems. His energy was boundless and he was all over the Academy stage all night and plenty of time he was actually in the crowd or on the floor and even in the balcony which he somehow managed to climb up to. The guy is basically like the Bruce Dickinson of prog! His energy is limitless.

The Threshold set list is a tried and tested thing these days although I did miss a couple of the more melodic songs but they played very long too at nearly 2 hours all told. I must admit I was really flagging in the second hour of the show. I was still enjoying it but also hoping for the end to come as well if that makes sense. My favourite song of the night was the track Siren Sky. Damian's vocals on that song were absolutely flawless and left me in awe.

Threshold are consummate live professionals with every member perfect on their respective instruments but they all take a back seat to Mr Wilson. The guy runs havoc on stage and in the crowd and yet delivers a flawless vocal performance as well.

Mission Profile
Watchtower on the Moon
The Box
Turned to Dust
Lost in Your Memory
Autumn Red
The Mystery Show
Siren Sky
Pilot in the Sky of Dreams

The Art of Reason

Monday, 18 January 2016

Three Days Grace Live Report

What better way to break your gigging duck for the year than a pretty much sold out show at the Forum on a Friday night. Granted it was cold outside but thankfully it was pleasantly warm inside. Two bands on show tonight, the support being a band called We Are The Ocean and the headline being Canadians Three Days Grace. I knew right off the bat that this was a different gig than I normally would go to. Not so many black shirts were in attendance. Instead plenty of normal regular young people who like rock but not necessarily heavy metal. I knew it would be like that anyway as £DG attracts all sorts of fans judging by the queue. There were a few older rockers but I would guess that the majority of the crowd were of the 16-25 banding. Any how I really enjoyed Human, their album from last year so I thought let me get a ticket and check them out. I got a nice seat at the front row in the balcony and settled down to see what 3DG can deliver live.

First up were WATO as I'll call them 'cause I'm lazy. These guys played modern angsty rock with rather a good singer guitarist front man. Their songs were not as heavy as 3DG but they were OK in parts. The crowd was respectful and quite a lot of people seemed to be enjoying WATO. I don't think I'll check them out on their studio material but they were a suitable warm up for 3DG.

At just gone 9pm, the intro for 3DG started up and I'm sure it's from some old film. It deals with the concept of humans turning into machines etc as does the whole album basically. The band strides on and immediately they sounded a whole lot heavier and better than WATO. They opened with perhaps the catchiest and best tune from Human, namely I am Machine. The chorus was soon being screamed by the whole of the arena and the band's singer had us eating out of his hands as the crowd was almost drowning him out. A great start indeed. More songs immediately followed and although I like previous 3DG albums I am not a fan enough to remember them off by heart. Unlike our young audience down below on the floor who were literally bellowing every single line back at the singer as he was singing them.

The moshpits soon started and they weren't vicious or anything like that, just regular kids having a good time bouncing into one another. This isn't death metal moshing and there does seems to be a slight difference between that and what these youngsters were up to. The band continued in perfect form as every song they sang was blessed with pretty much a huge chorus. These guys just know what makes a song cool and memorable. More songs were played from the new album such as the awesome pairing of Painkiller and Human Race which brought the house down comes chorus time with mass participation.

The band played on till pretty close to 11 before calling it a night. The chants of "Three Days Grace!" were soon repeated till people were blue in the face and they returned for a nice encore of their anthem Riot with the singer giving the crowd the right to do just that and the floor did indeed resemble a riot though a fairly orderly one lol! The 3DG chants soon started again but the show was over now and the band left the stage, sending the masses down below into the chilly night, tired but happy. A good start to the gigging year and something a little different than my normal live experience especially with the younger crowd.

I Am Machine
Just Like You
Chalk Outline
So What
Human Race
(with 'Sober' by Tool snippet)
Drum and Keyboard Interlude
Drum Solo
Fallen Angel
The Good Life
(with 'The Beautiful People'… more )
I Hate Everything About You
Never Too Late
Animal I Have Become

The High Road

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Nordic Union - st - Review

So here we are barely a week or so into January and we have a new Erik Martensson penned album on the racks again ready to be devoured and dissected by fans of all things melodic. The question is does it eclipse Eclipse to use an awkward phrase. Well in my opinion no it doesn't, but it has a bloody good go!

This is basically a new Eclipse album with a different singer with the singer being Pretty Maids man Ronnie Atkins. When I heard about this project of course I was excited enough because of Erik's name alone. Only thing is I've never been a huge Maids fan although their recent material is really strong and pretty great. I always found Ronnie's slightly raspy voice something good but never great. I guess I just prefer a smoother delivery. Anyway I've managed to get through four plays of this record now and I'm sitting in a fair position to judge it.

I will do a quick song by song as usual.

The War Has Begun - A crunchy and pacing opening riff tells you all you need to know. We're listening to a new wicked tune penned by the one and only Erik Martensson! Soon that familiar chorus comes in and it's a hell of a catch and the subject seems to be very serious as well. Ronnie transfers the emotion of the lyrics very well indeed. The song picks up pace as the solo thunders into view and we're almost at power metal speed before that thunderous chorus takes us to a fitting conclusion. A monster start 9.5/10

Hypocrisy - Hell yeah! Now we're talking. As with Armageddonize which had Stand On Your Feet, this album has a monster second track. Hypocrisy absolutely kills from start to finish. All the regular Erik trademarks are check off one after the other. The chorus is monstrous on this track and I can imagine Erik belting this one out. 10/10

Wide Awake - A better and smoother vocal line opens the song from Ronnie this time and soon that familiar Martensson style rears its big fat head and leaves you with a joyous grin. The song tones down the heaviness but piles on a bigger melody in the chorus. 8.5/10

Every Heartbeat - Time to slow it down with an emotional melody and sung pretty brilliantly by Ronnie I must admit. I don't normally tend to like Erik's ballads but this is a pretty decent one. It's not amazing though, it's just a solid and melodic slow burner with a nice melody and a long repeated chorus. 7.5/10

When Death Is Calling - The song lulls you into a false sense of security, as the opening is quite soft, but then in the second verse a monster riff kicks and the riffs pound headlong into the chorus. The song is quite dark as the subject matter dictates but the melody is very cool indeed. Ronnie's voice is much raspier in this track than say the track Wide Awake. The chorus is as usual a repeated one until the end comes. A great track. 8.5/10

21 Guns - Well well, a fucking killer start on this track and Ronnie singing great. The riff behind the main verses has a killer little melody and soon the chorus surfaces and it's a true monster. Love this! This could well be my fave track on the album. The energy is crisp and Ronnie sounds amazing. I'll be learning that chorus in no time trust me! The song is far too short and begs for the repeat button! 10/10!!

Falling - A pounding heavy opening riff in this mid paced juggernaut of a song and again Ronnie using a smoother voice which suits me better. The song has a great build and the chorus is very 80s AORish. The melody is seriously catchy and addictive but it's quite light sounding compared to Eclipse. The melody is out of this world catchy though so who cares. A superb song and probably the most hit worthy song on the album. If the charts had sense they'd push this to number one! 9.5/10

The Other Side - A mid paced song but Ronnie's vocals sound too rough on the first verse before the chorus soon kicks in and reminds you of the typical Erik formula with a repeated line. The melody is OK but it's not the best song in this bunch by a long chalk. It's a standard solid Erik penned tune with actually a killer lead break which raises it a bit. 8/10

Point Of No Return - I can tell this is going to be killer from that opening melodic riff which hints at a heavier and more melodic approach if that's possible. And yes I'm not wrong as that killer riff leaves your head nodding and feet tapping whilst Ronnie sings very good. I love his voice in this track. Why can't he sing like this in every track? The chorus is not so typical Erik either but the melody is as addictive as ever. The guitar solo is superb as well and Ronnie sings the title over the top. A monster track and one of my faves 9.5/10

True Love Awaits You - The song starts moody and acoustic before simpler chords add a little weight but there is no heaviness in this sweet ballad. The chorus is very melodic and catchy but a little too sugary for my taste. A nice song but no my fave style but I still give a good rate as it's performed so well. 8/10

Go - A sweet tempo to end the album with nice melodic riffs and Ronnie using his smooth in the verse before going raspier in the chorus. Speaking of that bad boy it's another typical Erik monster. I'm sure I heard this chorus before hehe! I know people complain that Erik recycles melodies from his own songs and he probably does but you know what who cares. Better to recycle a brilliant melody than a crap one! The song is really catchy, but I was thinking maybe they'd go out with a heavier bang like they do on Eclipse albums but I ain't complaining. It still kills! 9/10

So there we have it the boy genius does it again. The formula remains the same but the addiction stays strong. I was a bit wary of this project. I haven't loved all of Erik's projects completely in recent years. I've always loved Eclipse and felt he saved his best stuff for his own band but this time he's working with a veteran and I think he pulled out all the stops for Ronnie. He couldn't give him half assed songs to sing and he dug deep to make the songs as catchy and cool as possible. If you like Eclipse this is an absolute no brainer. Personally I rate this a little below the day job as it's a little lighter in places and also Ronnie's vocals whilst very good at times are not always perfect to my ears, but that's just personal taste. The album is flawlessly produced and I will have a hell of a lot more fun listening to this especially in the warm summer nights to come. I'll be blasting this bad boy long into the night and hopefully the neighbours will like it too! 8.5/10

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Primal Fear - Rulebreaker - Review

Well I went old school again with this one. I did hear the first single The End Is Near and I must admit I was a little disappointed. It was a fairly average metal pounder with not a whole heap going on musically. The solo saved the song for me but then after that I avoided playing any of the other pre-album promo leaks so that I could listen and judge with a fresh mind. I will do a quicker appraisal than I did for Avantasia as I don't wanna bore every one too much.

Angels Of Mercy - Typical Fear pounder. Much better than I was thinking actually. The chorus suffers from a lack of melody but I love the full on metal attitude. Solid. 8/10

The End Is Near - The Only song I heard before. It's a straight ahead pounder similar to the previous tune. The song has grown on me but is still one of the weakest. Ralf's vocals sound monstrous. The melody is getting better with more plays I'm sure. 7/10

Bullets & Tears - This song was also used as a promo but this is my first listen. This is another tough heavy pounder. So 3 similar tracks in a row but this is the best of the three by far. The chorus is huge and melodic but a little short. It needs more lines! My guess is that this song was written by Magnus. It sounds like his sort of composition. 8.5/10

Rulebreaker - The title track sees a slightly slower mid tempo riff start things off before Ralf starts his awesome heavy vocals. This is like a pure Accept worship song. Udo should do guest vocals on this chorus! The chorus itself is pretty catchy and very anthemic. Killer tune! 9/10

In Metal We Trust - Another song that was available for pre-listening which I successfully avoided. This time the pedal is put to the metal. The song reminds me of a mix between Hammerfall and Dream Evil. The chorus is so easy to sing along with and kicks ass. Of course this will be a riot live. Believe it or not I've yet to see PF live but maybe that will change on this album's touring cycle. I hope so 'cause this fist pumping anthem is brill! 8.5/10

We Walk Without Fear - Woaahh! An 11 minute PF song?? This should be something to be hold and it bloody well is! The beginning is like a dramatic movie score before the guitars come crashing in and we're off into the main body of the song before it slows down again to allow the song to breathe life. The song is so damn epic and melodic with a monster chorus sung amazingly well by Ralf. Damn it. I can't believe this track! Never thought they would go all epic and kicks oceans of ass! 10/10

At War With The World - A mid paced melodic song with typically catchy rocking riffs behind Ralf's heavy vocals. The urge to head bang is strong with this tune before the chorus is really cool and the melody starts to set in your mind. I love this tune. It's simple but it simply rocks! 9.5/10

The Devil In Me - Time to slow it down to a steady groove but still with very melodic and catchy guitar work. The song reminds me of Black Ninja from Battle Beast. The chorus is a tough and mean but not blessed with an amazing melody this time. I still like the power of it and Ralf's vocals are completely over the top in this song. I don't love the song compared to the others but it's still cool. 7.5/10

Constant Heart - Holy crap! What an opening riff! It's guaranteed to wreck necks. This time we're in full Priest mode. The pace is ripping and fast with guitars set to stun and Ralfie doing his best Halford over the the top. Then the simple chorus comes and whilst it should be boring as he just screams the title, I somehow love it! Fucking Amazing! I love everything about this tune as it encapsulates in 5 minutes all the traits about PF that the fans love. Riffs, shreds, screaming vocals and huge melody! 10/10

The Sky Is Burning - The one and only ballad on the album. Something to calm down after the last song is not a bad idea. Ralfie croons until the chorus before the full band join in and the chorus turns out to be an amazing one. I'd guess this was another Magnus penned tune. I don't normally love ballads but this is awesome I'm glad to say. 9/10

Raving Mad - The final track of course sees the band go out with a bang with huge Halfordisms from Ralf. He goes balls out and then the chorus sees us get the urge to scream along with Ralf as the band cuts loose behind. A proper heavy metal song to end with! 8.5/10

So after the initial worry I'm pretty much over the moon with this album. The weakest songs are OK and may get better but there's at least 5 or 6 ball busting heavy metal anthems in there that rate up there with the best ever PF tunes. Ralf is sounding like a man possessed. Can a man ever sound more metal than him?? Wow I'm just glad the 'Fear did not let me down. Overall rate 9/10

Monday, 4 January 2016

Avantasia - Ghostlights - Song by Song Review

1. Mystery of a Blood Red Rose
Not a bad start but there's better to come. A nice rock song anyway with of course a huge nod to Mr Loaf with the piano led pomp style. 7.5/10

2. Let the Storm Descend Upon You
A bit strange to put the album's longest track second. Jorn's parts are awesome. Ronnie Atkins sounds weaker in comparison. The other singer is Robert Mason whom I don't know and he sounds pretty good. The chorus is great in this mid paced tune. Musically the song is a bit unadventurous and even monotonous but vocally it's great and everyone performs amazingly well. Great lead work towards the end. 8/10

3. The Haunting
Featuring Dee Snider and Toby singing lead. The song starts spooky but then the chorus kicks in and has a great melody. The song is slow and slightly creepy sounding as the title would suggest. I love the atmosphere actually and the chorus is really quite moving. I'd probably class this as a ballad which I would normally not like but this is really interesting to listen to. Nice melodic solo as well. Oh and I should say I never knew Mr Snider can sing so melodically. 8.5/10

4. Seduction of Decay
Featuring Mr Tate with a slowish slightly oriental feel to the song. Tate sings very good it must be said. The song has a nice melody but it's just a bit pedestrian. That oriental motif is pretty nice though. The chorus is also a little underwhelming. However the song has really cool verses so I don't miss a huge chorus strangely enough. Both Tobi and Tate sound really good. The song sounds like a slow burning, moody Kamelot song to me. Pretty cool. 8/10

5. Ghostlights
Time for a little power metal! Yes that's what I like - a happier melodic tune with of course Kiske singing amazingly high. Wow his voice sounds so cool on this track. I don't know how he does it. Tobi and Jorn join in on some lines at various times for variety. There are some nice counterpoints between the singers as well which makes it a nice listen. The chorus is really catchy indeed when Toby sings a line in between Kiske. One of the best songs Helloween never wrote! 9.5/10

6. Draconian Love
Something a bit different with a slightly dark Gothic song with vocals by Herbie Langans and Tobi. The song sounds a bit like Sisters of Mercy to me. It has a slowish tempo but the melody is actually great especially come chorus time. I should be skipping this but I actually really like it and I find it strangely uplifting. Different and catchy Gothic melodic metal. 8.5/10

7 Master of the Pendulum
We reach the middle of the album and it's one of my fave songs on the whole thing. This one is full heavy metal! The opening is slow but soon the metal starts to happen and Marco from Nightwish starts to tear it on the mic. The chorus is very Nightwishy as well and it's probably not a coincidence that Marco was given this song to sing. An amazing, pure, melodic heavy metal tune! 10/10

8. Isle of Evermore
A haunting mournful ballad sung by Sharon from Within Temptation and Tobi. It's merely OK in my book. I don't think he utilised Sharon well on this track. She needs bigger melodies to sing IMO. I mean she can do slow and morose but the song is just not  interesting enough to me. The song doesn't have any guitar in it. It's like one of those soundtrack songs you find in a movie like Gladiator or Braveheart. 6.5/10

9. Baybylon Vampyres
Ok now we're talking. That opening riff will spark up the dead! What an awesome energetic and melodic start to a song. Lead vocals by obi and Robert Mason on this tune. Both sing perfectly and the song builds the pace and melody up nicely indeed before we reach a happy go lucky chorus and it's one of the catchiest on the album. The guitars blow me away on this track. It sounds a bit like a super fired up TNT to me with vocals close to Mr Harnell as well. The lead trade offs towards the end are really spectacular as well. Love this awesome tune! 10/10

10. Lucifer
Oddly enough a song called Lucifer is a piano led ballad and not a heavy pounder, well for the first half at least. However the song is melodically pretty amazing. Both Jorn and Tobi turn in wondrous performances on this song especially Jorn. He's superb on this song. The middle of the song suddenly transforms into a rocker with pounding drums and ripping leads. The melodies sung by Jorn at the end are just spine tingling. The shorted song and one of the best IMO. 9/10

11. Unchain the Light
A moodier yet very melodic song sung by Tobi, Ronnie Atkins and Kiske. I especially enjoy the song when Miki kicks in with the high pitched stuff. The chorus is superb and very melodic whilst the verses are far more moody as a juxtaposition. The song is just a great listen thanks to the amazing vocals by all three chaps. 9.5/10

12. A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies
The final track sees the only appearance of old Avantasia favourite Bob Catley on the album and he sounds in fine form even though he's probably by far the oldest singer on the album. The song is more in the vein of the Meat Loaf show tune and has a lot of pomp flavour. However the melodies are truly captivating and Bob and Tobi grab the listener with this anthemic end to the album. A majestic and triumphant way to finish. 9/10

Wake up to the Moon - Bonus track
Well a bonus track is always nice to have especially when it's as good as this. A number of singers with Jorn in the main sounding amazing as well as Miki Kiske in the superbly melodic chorus. The song sounds like a tune from one of Miki's recent AOR styled albums that he does for Frontiers. I'm not sure how the song fits in with the rest of the album story wise if at all but musically it really is a joy to listen to. A superb slice of melodic rock/AOR this bonus track with all the cast getting a line or two to sing. 9.5/10

So there we have it. Obviously I am totally in love with the album. I liked the last album and the ones before to varying degrees but I think Tobi has out done himself this time song writing wise. I'm sure some people will say he's not metal any more but the album has metallic moments but it also has loads of non-metal but the quality is so damn high and the melodies so addictive that I could care less. My overall rate is 9/10 with a 9.5/10 probable given more than my three plays so far. A bona fide certainty for the the 2016 Top 20 list and we're four days in!