Hero

Next week sees a possible slew of shows, but as it has been recently demonstrated I may end up at one or five. Who knows?

Next Sunday’s Persistence gathering in London is the only one I have an entry ticket for and three train tickets! Don’t ask – but no doubt I’ll tell you at some point later I the week.

Thursday evening sees me hopefully making a trip to Manchester for some UK thrash and death metal supplied by Bloodshot Dawn and Reprisal, but that is dependant upon the stage times being announced and fitting in with trains leaving my home town rather than driving to a larger hub and getting home after the witching hour.

A couple of outside bets are ex Misfits frontman Michael Graves kicking off a pretty extensive British tour. He plays close to home the week after in Stafford, but I’m in London yet again that night. If I fancy seeing him dust off some of his solo stuff and his Misfits era tunes an easy train trip to Chester on Tuesday could be on the cards, and no doubt a cheeky trip to the Deva Tap just along the road.

Tomorrow could have seen a trip to Sheffield to catch German heavy metal band Rage play. It’s a joint headliner tour with Firewind who I have no interest in. I’m guessing it’s a rotating headliner and knowing my luck if I go Rage will close out the show and it’ll be a drive home over the dark and winding Peak District hills with a risk of snow, or I’ll go on train and have to suffer the Greek power metal band. If I sit at home it’s guaranteed Peter Wagner’s band will be the second band on and I could have made it there and back with the help of East Midlands Trains.

I also have the option of a couple of local shows. Friday night the Rigger welcomes All The Best Tapes. A local band with an odd moniker who I’ve only seen once several years ago and never had the opportunity since. They play with a couple of stoner rock bands, so that’ll be an early return home.

Milton Keynes blues / garage / alternative rock band RavenEye grace the Sugarmill stage on Wednesday. They’re not a band I’ve heard much by but I have read a lot of decent reviews from some of their shows. They’ve played pretty extensively over the globe in the last few years and last year supported Aerosmith and KISS in Europe besides playing most of the big Euro festivals and some of the newer events in North America in recent times.

Whether the band break into the big time on the back of the support slots they’ve gained, this could be the last time they play a venue as intimate as the Sugarmill and the other rooms on this fifteen date UK tour before heading off to the European mainland.

As I’m not aware of the band at all, I’ve just seen a lot of glowing reviews from a lot of people, it might be worth a few hours of my time and a handful of British pounds to see someone who could be the next big thing.

Hero is taken from the bands 2016 debut album Nova released by Frontiers Records from Italy, a label I’ve always associated more with the AOR and hair metal genre over the years. It’s also an album I’ll have queued up on Spotify for multiple plays in the next 36 hours.

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Suite Sister Mary

Welcome to the morning after where hindsight is a fantastic thing! Last night I ended up in Manchester for my second show of the year at what could’ve been a third or fourth.

Friday night should’ve seen me seeing Stoke punks and UK-82 stalwarts Discharge play the Rebellion Club. Unfortunately I woke up ill at 1:30am on Friday morning and by the time I got home from work 14 hours later with very little sleep, I was shattered and went for a power nap. When I eventually rose from my slumber I’d missed the train to get me there in decent time.

Yesterday could’ve seen me catch snippets of bands in three different locations. There was an all day event going on with a more DIY punk and hardcore ethic going on and I fancied popping in to catch the 30 minute set by French hardcore band Youth Avoiders. In the end I didn’t see the value in money in seeing 1,800 seconds of a band for a tenner.

Performing at the Ruby Lounge was a Judas Priest tribute (Priest Unleashed) with support from the W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus who I really like. When the stage times were released by the venue they left the stage at the exact same time as Geoff Tate began his rendition of one of my favourite albums in a venue nearly a mile away. In the end I opted for a slightly later train and one that’d get me to Rebellion in time for Till Death Do Us Part.

I was there in plenty of time to see them as the venue or promoter had crowded four bands on to the bill where all other shows I knew about only had a pair of bands, I’m thinking Till Death Do Us Part were late additions and they didn’t want to let down the other two? But they still insisted on opening the doors at 7pm with an 11pm curfew. Inevitably things would run behind.

The dark alt rock band looked the part and front woman Emily had the mainly male crowd captivated, but their sound engineer really messed up and cranked up the volume to 12 as if they were performing in an ginormous arena rather than a small club. The sound was ridiculously distorted and the vocals struggled to make an impact. Definitely a band for me to check out via Spotify at a later date.

Now for the “in hindsight” choices for the night! I had the choice of three Operation: Mindcrime shows within an hours drive (traffic allowing) from home. I plumped in Manchester as it was a Saturday and with the 11pm curfew I knew I had to miss a song or two to make the train but I’d have seen 90% of the show.

Instead of hitting the stage at 9:30 to play an album just shy of an hour by 46 seconds, Tate eventually came out of the dressing room just after 10pm and I know this as the fedora clad frontman brushed past me on the way to the stage. In the end I got about 45 minutes of Operation: Mindcrime the album and the band but had to bolt out of the door pretty much as soon as Suite Sister Mary finished. It’s the centre piece of the album, and my favourite song, so it wasn’t too much if a hardship (well so I’m still telling myself).

If I had known I’d miss almost 50% of his performance I’d have opted for Bilston earlier in the week or Buckley tonight. For someone who spends more than a full day of each week behind a steering wheel and this venue being a pain in the derrière to navigate to through the cities multitude of road works, driving there was never an option for me. As the Youth Avoiders set was dismissed as no value for money the Geoff Tate performance was ultimately even worse value. When a venue or promoter indicates a curfew time, and usually prefaces it with the statement “strict” you’d expect it to be close to that time and people can make arrangements based on the information supplied. I’m sure quite a few others had to cut their evening of entertainment short for similar reasons.

Reflecting on the show itself the sound eventually cleared up and Tate and his band did the material justice. I saw him with his former paymasters perform the album in full a decade ago so it’s not as if tonight was something unique and never done before, which in a bittersweet way didn’t make leaving too much if a hardship. Emily Tate from the previous band (yes, it’s Geoff’s daughter) donned a blonde wig to to reprise Pamela Moore’s iconic persona of Sister Mary. She gave it a good go and yet again suffered from a low vocal mix through the PA, but the power of the original vocal track just wasn’t there.

Taken from one of my favourite live releases that originally surfaced in 1991 in a long box with a CD and a VHS tape, Operation: Livecrime was a superb document of one metal’s finest concept albums. Tate’s vocal delivery 26 years after this release is still pretty decent, but the video below really does bring home just how majestic he was.

The Broken Law

I hate committing myself on here to gigs as they inevitability fall through like the Dawn Ray’d show did on Monday! It was my first day back at work after a week off and a distinct lack of quality sleep on Sunday night, combined with a 3:45am alarm call on Monday meant I was fast asleep at home when I should’ve been otherwise engaged.

Friday, fingers crossed, I should be seeing local leg-ends Discharge tear a massive hole in the Rebellion Club in Manchester. This post could as easily have been written a month ago as one of the first bands I’m seeing in 2018 ended up being the last band I saw in 2017.

It could be the first gig of a Manchester double (or even quadruple) header over the weekend. It’s payday tomorrow so if I commit to buying tickets for Friday and Saturday then there is a higher probability of me making the journeys to the rainy state of Mancunia.

Whenever my next exposure to Discharge’s ferocious noise blasts occurs it will put the number of shows I’ve seen by the band into double figures. It’s nothing to be overly proud of though as it should have happened much sooner. From the nine aural assaults I’ve endured so far, four have been in the Potteries, one each in London, Manchester and the ever so exotic Crewe and the final two in Holland and France. Unfortunately though none of those were first (or even second) time around and have all been since their 2006 reincarnation with the now departed Varukers screamer Rat on “vocals”.

Since their signing to Nuclear Blast Records a few years back and the release of End of Days with JJ replacing Rat, the bands shows seemed much more frequent and a bit more high profile. Their hometown show a month ago could be considered a warm up for the prestigious slot they played just before New Year.

They opened up the show at the Los Angeles Forum for the Glen Danzig fronted Misfits, touted as the original Misfits even though they have Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame occupying the drum stool. It seems quite bizarre that a band who played in front of a 150 or so people for a tenner a short bus ride from their parental homes two days before Christmas then played a sold out venue 5,300 miles away that holds 17,500 people with tickets costing ten times more just over a week later.

Most of today and tomorrow will be spent blasting out some of the finest and most aggressive music to come from the mean streets of Stoke on Trent by an unlikely band that had a huge hand in moulding the extreme metal scene as it is now, more than four decades after their tentative steps. It was most definitely angry music for an angry and frustrated generation and all these years on it still remains the same. Stoke tends to do that to people!

Black Cloth

For a long time the first gig of 2018 for me had been pencilled in as tonight’s gathering at the Pilgrim’s Pit down in Stoke town.

I have only been aware of Krupskaya’s grinding menace and the out of town bands are both new to me. I’m trying to use Bandcamp a lot more lately, especially if I’m buying a physical item. It seems a more ethical option especially to the smaller artists, rather than ordering through a faceless giant like Amazon or Spotify. The platform is also handy to let you listen before buying without wasting money on something you don’t like. I know all streaming sites have a bad reputation in regards their royalties, but until better options are introduced then I can’t see much change any time soon.

This is the last date on the pairs seven date UK tour. Belfast’s Unyielding Love, described by tonight’s promoter as “Irish blackened noise blasts” and Dawn Ray’d – “vegan anarchist black metal” from Liverpool (though I’ve seen one flyer saying they are from Leeds) are both bands I’m not familiar with and wouldn’t usually attend a gig by either if it was out of the local vicinity. But as it’s only £4 to get into a DIY performance space smaller than some peoples living rooms in their houses, I have nothing to lose. Plus it stops me sitting in front of the TV watching my football team take yet another humiliating hammering in from of the Worlds population!

I picked up some older releases for free by both bands from their respective Bandcamp pages and they were actually two of the first things that I put onto the new Mac when it was up and running. Unyielding Love’s 2015 Demo release is probably just as much influenced by the black metal scene as Dawn Ray’d are.

The Liverpool band seem to play their atmospheric black metal without the corpse paint and satanic imagery and try to spread positivity through their performances, whereas the majority of black metal I’m aware of revels in the negativity. It’s going to be an intriguing evening, so I can’t really make any concrete judgements on a handful of recordings that were both bands first tentative steps and three years old now.

Black Cloth is the opening salvo from the Dawn Ray’d EP A Thorn, A Blight released in 2015 via the German label Moment of Collapse Records, and is freely available on their Bandcamp page, where you can also listen to their latest offering The Unlawful Assembly and grab merchandise if you’re that way inclined.

And just for impartiality, go and listen to something from Unyielding Love here. And if you like anything from either band give them some of your hard earned cash if you can.

Possessed By Shredding Demons

shotgub2

My third visit on the European metal trip makes a stop at the continents fourth smallest country Liechtenstein 🇱🇮 (and possibly the hardest one to spell?) .  The 62 square mile Alpine principality is sandwiched in-between Austria and Switzerland.  In the FIFA rankings for European teams they’re also fourth from bottom there, having recently surpassed Malta.

When I looked up the country on the Metal Archives site it only threw up twelve bands from the country and Shotgun from Schaan were the only one to be listed as a thrash metal band.  I managed to find the bands only release to date on Spotify, but you need to look for Shotgun Blast on the streaming site.  I was pleasantly surprised with what I was hearing, retro thrash with a very Slayer and Exodus sound, one of the guitar riffs on Possessed by Shredding Demons could almost be something the late Jeff Hanneman could have written. 

With modern technology I had already contacted vocalist Bruno via Facebook and sent my Euros via PayPal for a physical copy of the CD within 24 hours of deciding to do this 55 band task.  I made the conscious decision to try and buy something from every band I want to include in this list, so this could take a while to complete.

I though this was the first band from Liechtenstein to be included in my iTunes library, even after reading the list of a dozen bands.  For Christmas my wife was more than generous enough to buy me an iMac as I got frustrated with the old and slow PC that I’ve been using for far too long.  This meant that my whole music library had to be switched from one computer to the other.  Thats a task I really despise as it’s so time consuming after I’ve switched machines.  I lose all my playlists and song counts and the transfer messes with a lot of the artwork.  Some of the artwork that iTunes replaces the correct stuff with is often hilarious too.  Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime II album was replaced with Wolf Eyes by Paul Winter, definitely something I’ve never heard of!

Any time I had spare between Christmas Day evening and up to last weekend was spent painstakingly going through how many thousands of artists and albums I have and replacing as much artwork as I could find had gone errant.  Twenty days on, and a week after I thought I’d got it all, I’m still seeing white gaps.

One of the bands I needed artwork for was an album called Griefshire by a gothic metal band called Elis (a substandard Nightwish clone) who I found out a few days ago were from Liechtenstein’s capital city Vaduz.  So Shotgun weren’t the first band I heard from the country, but I can safely say it was the first piece of mail that I received from there, and over the years I’ve received a lot of envelopes from many different countries.

Have a listen to these guys if you’re into the whole retro thrash revival thing.  All their music is readily available on Spotify, YouTube and if you like it get in touch with them via Facebook and put your money where your thrash metal loving mouth is and purchase the disc.  I hope the band get a break in the future as I’d love to get the chance to see the band live sometime so all I need to do now is persuade my wife that a holiday to Switzerland and the surrounding areas is a good idea.

 

Dark Age

vader-the-ultimate-incantation-lp

 

Even though we’re thirteen days into 2018 is it too late to say Happy New Year? If it isn’t then I wish you a “Happy New Year”, if it is then I’m sorry and please don’t take offence!

It’s been another long lay off on the blog since mid December, once again trying to be a responsible adult and that Christmas thing has got in the way.  The run up to Christmas is a busy time at work for me and the days over the festive period are a hassle as I’m the sole driver in a family of nine, so muggins here has to don his chauffeur’s cap for three days.  I was fortunate enough to wrangle the days off work between Boxing Day and New Years Day so the wife and I took off to Chester and Conwy for a well deserved break from the rest of the family and the car.

I’m back in the the groove (rut?) now and those few days away seem so far behind us!  At least I didn’t have to wait too long for my first gig of the year and with that debut show of 2018 being headlined by those rowdy Germans Kreator I couldn’t have wished for a better start to this years time consuming hobby.

Kreator are a band I’ve seen in excess of twenty times now over the last 23 years, six of those shows were in 2017 alone, yes I got a bit obsessed with them last year.  Their Gods of Violence album was my number one pick for the year and slightly nudged Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic to the silver medal.

Originally Polish death metal band Decapitated should have been the main support on Kreator’s current run, but with all of the unpleasantness surrounding them in America last year they were ultimately pulled from the tour.  It’s pleasing to see that the band have seemingly had all charges dropped and are free to go about their own business freely and try to restart their career after last years promising Anticult album surfaced.

The main support slot was handed to fellow Poles in the form of the long standing band Vader from Olsztyn.  Guitarist Piotr Paweł Wiwczarek (Peter) is in his 50’s now and has been fronting the death metal band since 1983 and sharing the stage with an impressive thirty other band members over the 35 years.

From a band I’ve seen over 20 times to one I’ve only seen a handful of times then. Thursday was only my third time, maybe the fourth, time seeing them since 1998. I might have seen them at Hellfest 2016 but I don’t recall them – I had to be reminded that they were there!  My last confirmed sighting was in Manchester at what was the called NQ Live in 2013.  I think I only went along to that show as thrashers Bonded By Blood were also on the bill and when I first saw Vader in Dudley fifteen years earlier I wasn’t over impressed with them.  I also missed them supporting Overkill in Manchester in 2016 as we got caught up in horrendous traffic trying to get to the train station due to a major closure of the M6 motorway which gridlocked the local roads where I reside.  We pretty much got to Sound Control as the Imperial March theme was fading away from the PA.

I have to admit though, after seeing their set on Thursday I was mightily impressed, maybe not impressed enough to purchase a shirt on the night but impressed enough to listen to their back catalogue that I have in my iTunes library when I got home on Friday.  If it was a physical collection of their works I would be blowing the proverbial dust from the CD cases as I rediscover the band. 

As Vader’s jaunt throughout Europe is under the banner World Incantation Tour it only seems fitting that the video presented here is taken from their debut album The Ultimate Incantation that was released back in 1992.  Their celebratory touring cycle began last year when the album turned a quarter of a century old.  I know I missed them in Manchester last year, a show i was in two minds about attending but obviously didn’t, but it’s not a mistake I’ll make again when the Poles return to British shores.

 

 

Here Comes The Tank

Hello WordPress, it’s been a while! I’m currently en route to a hastily arranged trip to Eindhoven to catch some of the bands at this years Eindhoven Metal Meeting, my first time at this particular festival and my first time within the Effenaar venue.

Last weekend was spent battling plummeting temperatures and snow fall trying to getting to a couple of shows. Friday evening was spent in the Rebellion Club in Manchester reliving the early 90’s halcyon days of the UK thrash metal scene. Late additions Xentrix opened up the show just to give their new frontman another workout, only his second show with the band I think. Yorkshire thrashers Re-Animator followed, their first show for some time after their guitarist beat cancer for a second time. Closing the show were Acid Reign and as usual they were superb.

Twenty four hours later I was in Manchester again at the much bigger Academy as I got press ganged into seeing sludge behemoths Mastodon. I’ve caught the band on several occasions over the years, but this was my first experience of a headline show. They were good at what they did. The stage set up gave you something visual to look at, it’s just that I personally found them dull and there was nothing memorable for the casual fan. The songs I know from radio airplay were all absent.

Due to the inclement weather and deteriorating conditions the third show of the weekends trio was cancelled. I was only going to see Scottish thrashers Disposable and they would’ve been the second entry on my European road trip entries. That auspicious accolade now moves from Scotland to Austria and coincidentally the first band I should be seeing in Eindhoven this afternoon.

The winter gathering of the EMM is now in its ninth cycle. Over the years they have put together some stunning line ups and quite often they’ve had multiple tours crisscrossing the continent joining up on the same weekend. When I caught the ThrashFest tour in Berlin 2010 and Hamburg 2011 a more death metal orientated package bolstered the Dutch line up on both occasions.

Highlights for me today are Swiss avant-garde thrashers Coroner, German beer obsessive Tankard – two bands I’ve been listening to for three decades and only seen once previously. Sandwiched between the thrash metal is Swedish death metal band Merciless who I’m intrigued to see. I have a few of their albums from back in the early 90’s, but I’ve not listened to them for a very long time and never seen them live.

Extreme metal pioneers Venom are headlining tonight. I saw them earlier in the year at Bloodstock and they weren’t too impressive. Maybe it was the daylight surroundings, so maybe an indoor setting might be more suitable.

If fatigue doesn’t set in Czech black band Master’s Hammer close the main stage – a weird European festival thing where there are usually bands performing after the main draw. The whole thing goes on until the metal hordes are kicked out into the winter night at 2:30am!

On the second stage prior to Tankard and company I’m hoping there’s room inside for me to squeeze in and see Dutch thrashers Distillator and from Vienna Mortal Strike. 🇦🇹

I have the bands one and only album so far, For the Loud and Aggressive, and it’s a pretty decent 45 minutes of thrash metal. It’s definitely retro thrash, hardly reinventing the wheel, but are many bands doing anything much different in 2017? The album finishes with a cover of Tankard’s Zombie Attack and with the Germans playing later in the day will there be a guest vocal slot if they decide to give it an airing?