Monday, 24 April 2017

Dream Theater Live at the Hammersmith Apollo

Ok I'm done with Dream Theater now. Next time they come around I won't be going. The reason being that I just saw the definitive DT show. It can't get any better than this as far as DT is concerned. I am by no means a huge DT fan in the first place and I nearly didn't go to this at all what with the ginormous ticket price but curiosity for the I&W tour got the better of me and luckily for me I nabbed a ticket for a reasonable amount. I settled in for a night of triumphant progressive metal from the undisputed heavyweight champions of the genre.

The band started an initial hour long set of fan faves from albums other than I&W as a sort of warm up for the main set if you will. The sound was absolutely immense. Crystal clear in all departments. Labrie's vocals were spot on but a little shrill or whiny shall we say but he never had a single real problem as many envisaged he might have considering the length of the set. His somewhat airy fairy voice still sounds a bit odd coming from such an imposing figure! I'll never be his biggest fan but who listens to DT for vocals anyway. Everyone's here to witness one of the most revered prog metal albums ever recorded.

The first set passed by fairly quickly with notable moments being the two Astonishing tracks and the heavy As I Am which had an Enter Sandman snippet in the middle which was pretty cool. After an hour they took a 20 minute intermission before returning for the main event with the fans reaching boiling point in anticipation of hearing these 25 year old songs once again. The familiar strains of Pull Me Under has the crowd in full voice come the chorus with its most recognisable refrain. After that, I don't really recall the whole album much at all to be honest since I haven't heard it in maybe 20 years. I'm here for the vibes, the feelings of class prog metal wizardry and the amazingly slick musicianship and I got all three in spades!

The technical aspects of their playing is simply top notch. After all these years they've probably never sounded tighter or better. Some of the passages that I used to love in I&W come flooding back to me as I hear them played live and it's like a nostalgia trip into early prog metal history for me. Metropolis pt 1 was awesome especially the amazing instrumental parts although they did incorporate a superfluous Mangini drum solo in the middle which we could've done without, but I guess it gave the others a breather if not us.

Petrucci was the typical mad prog metal axeman all night. He has the prog guitar aficionados eating out of his hand all night with those mesmeric riff and solo passages. Keysman Rudess was obviously no slouch either and ran him close in the wizardry stakes. People around me and below sang all the words back at Labrie pretty much all night. The last notes of Learning to Live were treated as if they were the last time that song will ever be played and cheered like the second coming! DT fans are really very passionate that's for sure. though they never instilled that passion in me to be fair, but you couldn't help but admire the band's capabilities in bringing their fans exactly what they want.

The band said their thank yous and goodbyes but of course that wasn't it. There was the little matter of the A Change of Seasons encore which added another 25 minutes to the set time. I actually bought that EP man many moons ago on cassette as I recall. Then later on I bought I&W on cd afterwards funnily enough. The fans got their money's worth for sure with 2 hours 40 min of DT prog metal perfection.

Like I said at the beginning though, I'll be done with DT now. Seen them 3 times and I think that's enough don't you? :-)

Act 1:
The Dark Eternal Night
The Bigger Picture
Hell's Kitchen
The Gift of Music
Our New World
Portrait of Tracy
(Jaco Pastorius cover) (played by John Myung)
As I Am
(bridged with a part of Metallica's Enter Sandman)
Breaking All Illusions

Act 2 (Images and Words):
Happy New Year 1992
Pull Me Under
Another Day
(extended outro with Jordan Rudess' solo)
Take the Time
(extended outro with John Petrucci's guitar solo from the song Glasgow Kiss)
Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
(with a drum solo by Mike Mangini)
Under a Glass Moon
Wait for Sleep
(with extended keyboard intro)
Learning to Live

A Change of Seasons: I The Crimson Sunrise
A Change of Seasons: II Innocence
A Change of Seasons: III Carpe Diem
A Change of Seasons: IV The Darkest of Winters
A Change of Seasons: V Another World
A Change of Seasons: VI The Inevitable Summer
A Change of Seasons: VII The Crimson Sunset

Eclipse Live Report

Third time and still lucky with the almighty Eclipse! This time at the newly refurbished Borderline withe previous two being at the Underworld. To say that I've been looking forward to this gig would be the understatement of the year! The new album as expected, blows the roof off and I already know from previous experience that Erik and the boys are incendiary in the live setting. I arrived a touch late to the venue and missed the initial support act altogether. My ticket said doors 7pm but apparently it was 6 pm. They were called Franklin Zoo from Denmark. Listening to them now I can see they are a hard rock band but lack the melodic angle I need in my music. I always like to catch all the bands in a gig though even if I don't like them but it wasn't to be this time.

As I walked in, the venue was already pretty full and the house lights went down and the familiar strains of the opening cut from One Desire's new album started. Hurt is the amost amazing song you can imagine for an epic AOR lover and What a way to start the night off proper. That song has a melody to absolutely die for. A glorious start and a band sounding shit hot with a huge keyaboard sound and perfect vocals. What a way to greet my entrance! Thank you sirs!

The band continued with most of the songs from their debut album. Highlights were the super catchy Apologise, the pop hit Love Injection and the furious Martensson co-write Buried Alive. The floor was packed and I'd say the Borderline was close to sold out, about 300 maybe. A crowd much bigger than their previous visits to the Underworld. Anyway the crowd was lapping up One Desire's lush sound and enjoying their superbly crafted edgy AOR tunes. They perhaps can't quite match the album's crystal clear sheen but the energy is through the roof and the crowd loves it with a lot of smiles, cheers and horns.

At the early hour of 8.15pm the Eclipse boys burst onto the stage with of course a rampant version of opening cut Vertigo. That opening riff will wake the dead no doubt, as Magnus cuts the air with his thick riffs and Erik does his best impression of whirling dervish, Mexican jumping bean from Stockholm, Sweden that is! The energy picks up a notch from the more lush sounds of One Desire. The crowd is getting pumped and the band follows up Vertigo with the melodic anthem Never Look Back. Everyone is singing that chorus back at Erik whilst he goes through his full repertoire on stage! What an opening one two punch!

Suddenly as the song ends Erik says there's a fire alarm and everyone has to evacuate. Yeah right Erik pull the other one! Everyone is "right Erik mate, you're taking the piss lol"..but alas no.. a stage hand whispers in his ear and we really do have to leave. Everyone is a bit incredulous and looking round for smoke or burning smell but no sign. In all my years attending 100s of gigs I've never ever had to leave a venue for a fire alarm. It turns out it's the building next door with the alarm and as we huddle out we can hear the alarm outside. Good job it wasn't that cold outside. People are milling round outside and talking and plenty still have their beers in their hands. Finally about 20 or so minutes later, a couple of firemen who have been called out give the all clear and we shuffle slowly back in and ready for lift off again!

Well that was bizarre indeed but Erik makes light of it of course and it's better to be safe than sorry. "He won't forget this night in a hurry!" Erik says from the stage as the band quickly take their spots again within a few minutes and we continue as if nothing had happened. The band doesn't miss a beat indeed. Special mention for new drummer Phillip Crusner. That guy nails the beats down to perfection and gives the songs a solid as hell backbone. The set list was basically song after song of pure magic. Wake Me Up ramps up the testosterone with that meaty riff barrage whilst new songs like the awesomely melodic Killing Me and Jaded are just brilliant in the live setting. Erik's voice can be a little rougher live than on record but that suits the material very well and you need to sound a bit meaner when competing with the hammering instrumentals.

Two acoustic songs follow one another with Battlegrounds especially sounding majestic with just Erik on his acoustic guitar and Magnus on the electric lead break. The crowd participation on the wooahh wooah part is just fantastic too. Towards the end of the set we end with nothing but straight A songs like the fantastic heavy and epic newie Black Rain complete with Hangar 18 like solos from Magnus and then the massive hook filled Blood Enemies and finally the roaring Stand on Your Feet which gets everyone er..standing on their feet?? Great anyway! The main set ends with their anthemic and super catchy tune Runaways which they eneterd into the Eurovision song contest.

The roars from the crowd soon pick up and the band enters the fray yet again for an orgasmic two-song encore. The super melodic I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry is a pure sing along and the night finally comes to a close with the massively heavy and catchy anthem Bleed and Scream. An eventful night has finally come to a close as the band thanks us for coming etc and basks in the adulation of this very appreciative crowd. Eclipse are building themselves a nice little fan base here in the UK and with gigs like this you can easily see why. An Eclipse gig is never dull and you're guaranteed a spanking great time with tunes that will penetrate your brain to the encore. Don't miss them if they come your way..I never will!

Never Look Back
The Storm
Wake Me Up
Killing Me
Live Like I'm Dying
Downfall of Eden
O Fortuna
(Carl Orff song) (Classical piece played with live drums)
Black Rain
Blood Enemies
Stand On Your Feet

I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry
Bleed & Scream


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Havok Live Report

Back to the Underworld again after a few days break for a gig of mostly thrash and one death metal band. I've seen Havok before in this very venue and I know you're guaranteed a rollicking great time with these guys. We had three cool support bands to get through first before the main course. First up were American neo-classical thrashers Exmortus whom I've become quite a big fan of the last year or two. These guys shred like a house on fire! I actually missed the first 10 minutes of their allotted 30 minutes due to the massive crowd for the night and me being a bit slow to queue.

I'd actually been looking forward to seeing these guys and they didn't disappoint in the 20 minutes that I did see. The riffs are mind blowingly fast and the solos are basically classical music notes played on guitars at a million miles an hour. It can get slightly boring if you're not a fan I can admit, but to me this was really fun to listen. I wanted to hear the amazing song Slave to the Sword but they never played it or if they did, it was in the 10 minutes I missed. I wish I'd caught their whole set but I was happy to catch a little at least. These guys are masters of the guitar!

Next up were French tech death merchants Gorod. Again I've seen the band on this very stage. They stood out from the others for having more brutal sections and still with plenty of tech chops and grooves. Some of the subtleties of the band is lost in the live arena and they can come off sounding one dimensional a bit but still they were impossibly tight. Plus the bassist is a complete loon. He plays bass like he's making love to his instrument! Slithering, pulling faces, banging away, the whole works, Quite a sight to be hold. Some nice double bass blasting by the drummer too.

Next up were LA thrashers Warbringer. I had actually listened to their latest opus a few days ago and whilst I liked it I wasn't overly bowled over either. However, live, they completely bowled me and the whole God damn place over! They were an absolute riot. Massive grooves followed by pure raging thrash and an insane vocalist. Though he maybe yelling, his vocals are crystal clear and you can still understand a fair bit of it which I always enjoy more if the vocals are less harsh. The thrash rage was strong with these guys and the floor was a sea of bodies and flailing limbs. Great stuff really and I was surprised as I didn't think I was a huge Warbringer fan. So much so that I listened to the new album again today and it sounded so much better having witnessed them live the previous night.

Finally at 10pm dead the Coloradians took their positions and prepared to lay waste. They are a slightly different type of thrash when compared to Warbringer who are much more straightforward and in your face. Not that Havok aren't in your face but their songs are often longer and more intricate with more blistering lead work. The vocals are also more raspy and less understandable, well live at least anyway.

I love the manic, groovy riffs that induce mass headbanging and floor action. Then you get that juxtaposed by relentless battery in the rapid fire sections. Excellent indeed!  I enjoyed their new songs a lot. They have catchier riffs that bounce a long nicely allowing the songs to breathe more. In fact the band has matured very nicely from a crazy type of thrash to a well oiled machine with slick grooves and a mechanised style of riff.

Slowly becoming a thinking man's thrash metal if you will, whilst bands like Warbringer are more meat and potatoes thrash. After just over an hour's worth of set time the Havok lads said their thank you's and left to the roars of the huge crowd. I haven't seen the Underworld this full for a good while that's for sure. It seems thrash is still king in London! Great and enjoyable night overall with guitars shredded to the max by all concerned.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Ross The Boss Live Report

Going to this gig is literally based around me having never seen Manowar live. They played Brixton a few years ago but I refused to pay what they were asking for and gave it a miss.

Now with RTB being an original Manowar guitarist is not really a big deal for me to be honest. All I'm interested in is hearing some Manowar classics live for the first time. This tour was plainly a Manowar based tour with Ross only playing tunes from the albums he appeared on and nothing else. No songs from his great album New Metal Leader etc. just plain classic Manowar tunes!

There was a support band to get through first which was Melbourne's Elm Street. A decentish trad band musically but vocally too aggressive. Live however they were rather good. The rough vocals didn't irk me as much as they did on record. I liked the galloping true metal music and the Maidenesque bass lines a lot. Good warm up act.

Finally at 8.30 on the dot it was time for Ross and his troops to play the dam shit outta some classic 'war! Any boy did they do that. The Thursday night crowd had filled out nicely to probably around 250 or so rabid fans. Obviously plenty of Manowarriors in attendance and even a guy with a plastic hammer! Yes you have to come to these things prepared for battle!

The band had a perfect sound going on with a very solid touring line up of Rhino ex drummer, Mike LePond on bass and Mark Lopes on the mic. I don't know Lopes well but the dude is a perfect fit. he maybe not quite as good as Eric Adams but he'll do alright and is a great front man for the band. These mano classics sounded beastly I tell you. LePond on bass was great although he seemed less into it than the others hehe, or maybe that's just his regular demeanour. Picking out faves is easy. Hail Hail to England which is apparently only being played on our shores and not the rest of Europe on The Discipline of Steel tour as it's titled. Ross the Fucking Boss himself was on fire man. His solos cut through glass shards and his riffs bludgeoned! The Oath was sung by all. Kill With Power was blistering with the crowd offering up and insanely loud "Die! Die!" in the chorus.

Dark Avenger slowed it right down before a rousing end. The main set ended with two absolute monsters with Fighting the World and Metal Daze. Fighting The World especially provoking near mass bedlam down the front with fists and voices raised!

Nutters down the front lapping it all up with a big heavy metal spoon! Two joyous odes to metal to end the main set before an encore of band anthem Battle Hymn and then the beck and call build and attack of Hail And Kill. Magnificent stuff if you ask me. Fists were raised, horns were given, voices were mighty, the metal was true and Ross was the fucking Boss!

Blood of the Kings
Death Tone
The Oath
Blood of My Enemies
Kill With Power
Thor (The Powerhead)
Each Dawn I Die
Gloves of Metal
Sign of the Hammer
Hail to England
Dark Avenger
(Preceded by Bass Solo)
Drum Solo
Fighting the World
Metal Daze

Battle Hymn
Hail and Kill

Ghost Live Report

I think it's safe to say that Ghost are pretty fucking huge these days. The Forum is rammed to the rafters on a Sunday ready to bear witness to delirious melodic odes to the horned one. I guess it's fitting that the gig falls on a Sunday as well hehe.

I had a seat upstairs for this one but I got to the venue rather late and there was barely even a seat left in the house as I walked in and tried to find a spot. Eventually I managed to find a spot with a decent view. There was a support band called Zombi, but it seems Ghost don't really do support bands. Last time at the Palladium there was a weird instrumental band and guess what - Zombi were a weird instrumental band. Yeah whatever quite boring really. Might be ok if you like incidental music to an 80s horror soundtrack. Not my thing.

The start of a Ghost gig is funny. It's like you're about to part in a mass seance/ritual to raise the dead/devil! It really has that weird vibe but then again once the music starts it's all dispelled as the gloom is lifted by somewhat happyish sounding odes. So it's kind of funny how goofy some parts of the show are and how sinister others. Well actually I wouldn't say any part of the show is actually sinister. It's like raising the devil with a smirk on your face and singing hymns like in a normal church!

The band sounds very good. The new Papa is a righteous fellow, with his dramatic gesticulations and grand like projections. Helps that his vocals are super smooth and spot on. Of course I like the tracks from Meliora best which everyone knows by now. The absolute fave being the mesmeric He Is which everybody likes to sing along to. It's so funny to hear grown men and women singing a song in praise of Satan. By the way a Ghost crowd is very diverse. Not everyone there is a hardcore, dyed in the wool metaller that's for sure. Of course this leads to accusations of Ghost having a hipster following but who cares when they can win fans over with actual tunes.

The band is good, though of course faceless, so you can't connect with them as characters but Papa always keeps the crowd entertained with some Swedish Satan banter etc. Musically I felt some of the wonder that I felt from the Palladium performance was missing tonight. the crowd still laps it all up with a devil horned spoon but maybe the novelty and magic of the last time wasn't quite there. Anyway it was still fucking great and no doubt I'll be there again come another tour and album but I wouldn't go again for another Meliora/Popestar based tour.

Miserere Mei, Deus
(Gregorio Allegri song)
Masked Ball
(Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Secular Haze
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Body and Blood
Devil Church
Year Zero
He Is
Mummy Dust
Ghuleh/Zombie Queen

Monstrance Clock