Gutter Ballet

Today musically has been an all out heavy metal feast. Some rogue bands from neighbouring genres snuck into the mix at various points as my iTunes really does need a good spring clean.

After another ten minute epic from Iron Maiden had finished a very basic piano interlude kicked in then a drum intro that could’ve graced many radio friendly AOR ballads from the 80’s. As soon as I heard the first notes on the piano I instantly thought to myself I’ve not heard this song in such a long time. Eighteen minutes later I’d gone through my third play of Gutter Ballet.

It’s such a fantastic track, very emotional and heart felt once it really gets going. I’ve had this song in my collection for an age but it rarely gets an outing. With a lot of songs, albums and bands from that era I can pinpoint to some degree how or why I picked up on it. With this song and album of the same name I don’t have much idea. It’s just always been there, loitering around in my collection. It’s also one of those songs I recognise instantly and I’d class it as a favourite song, but it’s also one I neglect for far long too. Maybe I was introduced to it via MTV? I know none of my friends at the time were fans of the band.

For the beginnings of Savatage you have to go back to the end of the 70’s when Criss and Jon Olivia founded a band called Avatar in Florida. Before their debut album Sirens was released in 1983 their name has morphed into Savatage. Gutter Ballet and Streets: A Rock Opera (and coincidentally the only two albums I own on CD by the band) propelled them closer to the major league. Their fourth album Edge of Thorns surfaced in 1993, but six months after its release guitarist Criss died on a road traffic accident caused by a drunk driver.

The band carried on until 2002 and released four more albums. Jon formed Jon Olivia’s Pain and was involved with the Trans Siberian Orchestra until Savatage was reactivated in 2014 and played their only show at Wacken a year later. And that’s been about it. No other live shows or albums even though they’re supposedly a going concern.

For my sins I’ve only probably listened to the aforementioned trio of albums in full in all of my years listening to heavy music. I might have Hall of the Mountain King in my digital library, but that’s not a very good return for a band who’ve released eleven albums. I’ve easily listened to Trans Siberian Orchestra more as they’ve been a constant around Christmas time for a number of years now.

They didn’t play too many shows in the UK, around a dozen, but I’m not sure if I actually saw them live. They played with Judas Priest on their Demolition tour when Ripper Owens replaced Rob Halford. I know I caught the tour at the Academy in Birmingham, but I honestly can’t recall seeing Savatage. I’m guessing the M6 was still a pain to traverse back in 2001!

One thing I do know though is I’ll be listening to much more of their output over the coming weeks now that today’s six minute blast of sheer class has reignited the spark.

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The Real Me

Time for a bit of a nostalgia trip today!

I thoroughly enjoyed last nights death metal shindig, even if there wasn’t much of a crowd in attendance. It seemed odd how I saw some familiar faces for one of the local bands and didn’t see them make an appearance for the rest of the evening, and it’s not the first time I’ve witnessed that in Manchester. Very weird, but as usual though it’s their loss.

This morning I caught the back end of the FA Cup Final highlights on the TV. During the end credits there was a montage of past finals and memorable moments. Very few finals stick in my mind as my team have only ever participated in one during our 155 year history and we lost that one in 2011. The five nil win in the semi final was a much more enjoyable day out.

Another memory is from the 1989 final that I watched on the television. Liverpool versus Everton, a little over a month after the Hillsborough tragedy killed 96 Liverpool fans. The red side of Merseyside won on the day. Nothing there really to get a Stoke fan all excited about, but I’ll always associate one of Ian Rush’s goals with my very first gig as a 15 year old. Nothing too fancy or exquisite about it, just the memory of it hitting the back of the net and knocking a camera to the floor.

Not long after the belated final whistle due to extra time, I was on a bus with two friends and we ate at McDonald (when going there was actually more of an occasion for country bumpkins like us) before we went to the Victoria Hall in Hanley to see W.A.S.P. I’m pretty sure it was the first gig for two thirds of the trio, it definitely was for me.

That was on May 20th 1989, 29 years ago today (or thanks to an app on my phone 10,592 days). Quite a lot has gone on in those intervening years, almost 18 years of those have been as a married man! Left school. Had gainful employment in four jobs, the current one I’ve been at for two decades. A few weddings and a few funerals and a couple of fur babies and nephews and several visits to A&E along the way. Scary stuff when you start to break things down.

I almost went to see the W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus in Nottingham last night. If I’d have paid more attention to the significance of May 19th then I might have made the effort in some kind of bizarre loop connecting together. Maybe for the 30 year anniversary?

Gig wise I’ve seen over 1,170 different artists in more than 230 unique venues and visited much of the British Isles thanks to my addiction to live music. It’s also taken me to shows in fourteen different countries and given me a pretty massive (impressive?) t-shirt collection! I’m not sure how many actual concerts I’ve attended as the SetlistFM database lists a performance as a concert.

If, like last night, four bands played and they’re all in their database it shows it as four concerts, rather than just the one. Sometime when I’m at a real loose end I might work out how many actual concerts I have attended. I know there are many that I was present at that I have no recollection of or those that I do I have no definitive dates.

So in honour of my first show 348 moths ago here’s something by the first headlining band that made my ears ring. Taken from the album that the band were touring at the time, The Headless Children and still a favourite record of mine after all these years, The Real Me is a cover from The Who and was originally released on theirQuadrophenia album that is a little over a month older than I am (released in October 1973). I wonder if I can do another 348 months worth of shows? It’d only take me to 2047 as I approach my 75th birthday. It will be interesting to see what the music scene is like in another 29 years.

Restored To Life

Earlier in the week we invested in a cheap garden bench to try and force ourselves to take a bit more pride in our tiny patch of grass. Rather than deciding to cut it once the dog was buried in foot long green blades, we’re hoping it’ll get us outside a bit more. This morning was my first al fresco breakfast (well cereal and a coffee) on the bench, but at 9:30am still not quite in the sun. At least Ozzie is having fun running around and yapping at random nothingness.

One thing I need to invest in is some kind of outdoor Bluetooth speaker to crank out some tunes early in the morning – mainly to annoy our house music loving neighbours who haven’t long called it quits and retired to their beds. On a day dominated with a media frenzy of a Royal wedding and an FA Cup final, I have zero interest in either, so I’ve had to find my own entertainment for this evening.

Tonight I’m off to see an old school death metal band in the shape of Sabiendas from the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. They’re a new name to me and I unfortunately only showed an interest in the show due to Derbyshire’s Forgotten Remains being added to the bill, coincidentally another band I caught at Thrashersaurus a few weekends prior.

So far I’ve only had time to listen to their Column of Skulls album from 2015 and not had a chance to search out their debut album Restored to Life yet. Listening to this album I’m subconsciously thinking of a band sounding akin to Grave and a less technical version of Morbid Angel as I blast this out in the yard as the sun carry’s on creeping around, tonight should be a bargain night of death metal. And if I had something more substantial to listen to it on rather than the iPhones speakers it would annoy the neighbours without a doubt.

Prior to the German’s shows so far this weekend I’m not sure if they’ve ever graced UK shores previously. A quick look on SetlistFM only shows a handful of shows in Germany and the Netherlands, but I’d put my house on them playing many more shows during their dozen year existence.

With the addition of Forgotten Remains on a bill that has seemingly been fraught with line up changes, hopefully the Manchester death metal fraternity will show up in decent numbers. Eight quid on the door isn’t a lot to ask, considering many of us probably shelled much more than that yesterday for Slayer tickets.

Needless to say I haven’t seen the band live yet, but scouring the web for the tour posters I came across the running order for the Eindhoven Metal Meeting that I attended last December and they were the band on prior to Mortal Strike, the first band we were in the Effenar for, so I only just missed out on seeing them. If only we had one less IPA in the Drinkers Pub beforehand.

Tainted Love

Hello people of the blogosphere. Remember me? Once again it’s been a minute since I was last here. Sometimes you just have to stay in the adult world and forsake other things. Having said that though quite a lot of my spare time, and weekends in particular have been taken up with gigs and all (unfortunately) within the borders of Great Britain.

Prior to my hiatus I had a 480 mile round trip to Glasgow for the Lords of the Land festival which was superb. I passed up a trip to Stuttgart to see Metallica to head to Scotland to catch Demolition Hammer and Dark Angel. What a hard decision that was, but ultimately the correct decision.

A few weeks later saw we covering another 460 miles to catch two Power Trip shows in Birmingham and London. Well worth the effort even if the sets were short. It’s a shame the return trip from London was tainted by a train full of celebratory and drunken Manchester United fans on their way home. And football fans wonder why they’re despised by Joe Public so much.

The following weekend was the deadline for finishing my man cave! A month after it was set (well five weeks) all my vinyl was out of their plastic coffins and more compact discs were on display. It’s been the first time some of the pieces of 12” PVC circles have seen sunlight since they were left the shop! On top of the music side, several hundred t-shirts (mainly black) were sorted, folded and stored in various locations. There are a few things to be done to finish it off, but the difference between this time last year and now is unrecognisable.

That weekend I ended up missing a a few local shows, gutted I missed Havok and Harlott in Birmingham and I was planing (plotting?) a flying trip to the Netherlands to see Flotsam & Jetsam, but I was a responsible adult – nothing to do with dragging my heels over a flight and the cost just spiralling. Honest.

To celebrate the following weekend I had four shows in five days. It could’ve been five in five, but I bailed on Zeke as two successive midweek nights in Manchester were unpalatable. The weekend culminated in another trip in excess of 400 miles to Norwich for Thrashersarus. An intimate shindig headlined by one of the UK’s finest thrash proponents Xentrix.

Oddly enough last week was the filling in an Xentrix sandwich (yes I know the filling is in the middle, but as a metaphor it sounds better!) when on Saturday I had the shorter trip, only a 188 mile round trip, to Keighley in West Yorkshire for Manorfest. Headlines by Evile, with their returning guitar brethren Ol Drake and ably supported by Birmingham old school death metal band Memoriam. A new band on the “scene” with a life time of history behind them.

Before the Iron Maiden machine rolls into my sights in June I think most of my shows between now and then are mainly in Manchester and the surrounding area, maybe a quick trip to Leeds in five weeks for Outbreak, but nowhere near a London venue or much further than 50 miles away. There is a small matter of planning some Slayer farewell shows, but the reality of those don’t kick in until November.

As the bright yellow disc in the sky has made an appearance lately it’s an appropriate time to partake in some pop punk tuneage and cast away the seemingly over long winter gloom.

Coincidentally this pop punk revival on the iPhone has come at a time where my nephew has been showing a liking for the genre. I think most of his interest is peer pressure from his school friends, but I’d like to think I’ve had some subliminal input on his 14 years on this revolving sphere.

He’s at a similar age as I was when I was discovering my musical tastes, but as I’ve said before he’s had it much easier. The wife and I popped over with a card and cash, gone are the days of hunting for Toy Story merch or the latest sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who. He mentioned he’d been looking for a Panic! At the Disco shirt, but locally there was nothing available.

Being the good uncle that I am to the nephew dubbed mini me in my presence, sent a link to the youngling for Panic! shirts from Impericon. A few days later I was informed via Messenger he now had a Panic! clothing. Uncle-ing done right, much to his parents dismay no doubt.

Last week I was flicking through the TV channels in sheer boredom and I came across the top 50 skate punk anthems on Kerrang! TV. A swift message to mini me and it was like we were watching the television in the same room for a few hours. The list was pretty bland, just as I’d expect from that media outlet in 2018. Lots of Green Day, the Offspring, Sum 41, Blink-182 and Bowling For Soup. I can’t recall anything by the likes of NOFX, Pennywise, Strung Out, no female voices or anything from outside of the North American and Canadian borders.

Thanks to Spotify he is now in possession of a 103 song playlist of some of my favourite pop punk anthems from yesteryear, with some classic punk from the Ramones, the Clash and Misfits rubbing shoulders with Bad Religion, Snuff and Samiam. Let’s hope he gives some of it a listen and likes something that he won’t be offered by today’s media.

I thought I’d already featured the likes of the Offspring, Green Day, NOFX and that ilk in this blog already, but apparently not. Now it’s summer be prepared for more happy and bouncy interludes in between the usually stern and serious death metal and thrash outings, and lyrics you can understand.

First up in the mini pop punk revolution is Shades Apart from the Revelation Records stable of the mid 90’s with their version of the Gloria Jones song Tainted Love. The Northern Soul song was released in 1965, but made famous 18 years later by Soft Cell and Marilyn Manson thrust it on a new generation of kids two decades later.

I saw the New Jersey natives Shades Apart several times back in 1997 and I’m pretty sure they played this song. After their Save It and Seeing Things albums released by Revelation in 1995 and 1997 I lost track of the band. According to Wiki they split in 2003 and reformed in 2012 and are still an entity. I’ll delve into their history a bit more at a later date.

Merciless Death

I could really get used to doing a four day week at work! It only seems like three days ago since I started back at work and tomorrow morning there’s no lie in for me on my first non working Saturday in my job for twenty years, as I’ll be in a train to Glasgow for the Lords of the Land festival.

Back in March last year I was impatiently waiting for my chance to snag tickets to see Metallica in Europe. I’ve always wanted to see the band in Germany and grabbing tickets for Stuttgart was looking the best option as it was a Saturday and I could attend the show and only have to take the one day as a holiday.

Sometime later the Lords of the Land date was announced and when I put it in my calendar it clashed with Germany and I thought nothing more about it.

Some lower bands for the bill were announced (Lawnmower Deth, Vallenfyre and Cannabis Corpse) along with Demolition Hammer. It was a case of I’d like to see Demolition Hammer for a second time, but I’m committed to Stuttgart .

Then a “headliner” in the shape of UK / Swedish death metal band Bloodbath, who have bored me several times were added. Metallica was definitely looking like a better option. More Swede’s courtesy of Unleashed piqued my interest, but still only two from six bands were intriguing me.

Ten days before Christmas and this years headliners were announced. Dark Angel were playing. Well that was a game changer and had me trawling the fine print on the Ticketmaster Germany website. How could I turn down seeing Dark Angel for only a second time? Three years since their last UK appearance, 27 years since their last show over here with a roof on and their first Scottish gig in almost three decades.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, the ever efficient Germans offer a refund service and my pair of tickets are no doubt making someone else happy whilst I get to see Gene “The Atomic Clock” Hoglan for the second time in a week.

Stoke punks Discharge and Norwegian black metal band Carpathian Forest have since been added, so it makes it quite a diverse one day festival and now worth making the effort to travel to Scotland.

Last time I saw a Dark Angel at Bloodstock I brought myself a shirt which had been dropped and lost by the time I left the festival. I know I’m supposed to be cutting down on my band attire, but I’ll have to invest in a Dark Angel shirt on Saturday.

Merciless Death was oddly included on the bands first two albums We Have Arrived (1985) and Darkness Descends a year later. This live version is from their 3-Way Thrash video recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in October 1989. Also on the Hammy O stage on that day were D.A.M. and Candlemas who both feature in the 3-Way Thrash release. Nuclear Assault also performed at the same show and their set ended up being released as the Live at the Hammersmith Odeon CD in 1992.

Infants Of Thrash

Happy chocolate egg day to you all!

Rather than heading out to a religious establishment to celebrate this four day weekend for many people, I’m sitting at home reminiscing about a fantastic night of thrash metal last night and pondering next weekends metal tour de force and infusing my body with caffeine.

I’m always a bit sceptical about seeing Testament in recent years, as they seem to mess about a lot beforehand and their set usually sounds awful or is cut short. I’m pretty sure last nights show was shorter than recent nights, but I feared that when there was a 10pm curfew and allegedly doors were due to open at 5:30 and we were still in the pub next door after six and the queue was just about kicking into life, well the life of a sloth. Such a bad venue to get into with the mediocre pat downs administered by the security staff.

I didn’t get to see too much of Vader, but Annihilator were great again with their short set that had to be briefly interrupted while ambulance staff attended to a guy who people say broke a leg in the pit during Vader’s performance.

Tracks from the new Testament album were mixed in with some 80’s thrash metal classics and several songs dragged screaming and kicking from their ever expanding back catalogue. Low is a track I’ve not experienced live for almost 15 years. We only got in the region of 85 minutes and some tracks that seemed to be stalwarts in the set were missing (Rise Up), but why not sacrifice the three solos rather than actual songs? Yes, we know Steve, Alex and Eric can play their instruments, but do we really need the vanity demonstrations?

At least with an early curfew I easily caught my last train home and even had time to grab some food without having to break into a sweat.

Towards the start of the month I anticipated catching twelve shows in a four week period before today. That ended up being a pretty respectable seven in that time frame. A few shows fell through for various reasons and a few had to be shuffled around. This weekend I was originally seeing Testament in Manchester on Friday then back to the city on Saturday for Xentrix.

At one point I was expecting to have made the trip to London for the Reprisal album launch show on Friday and ended up sacrificing seeing Xentrix for Testament 24 hours later. In the end I couldn’t get Saturday off work and I didn’t fancy a train trip back up north and getting home at 2am then being in work by 6 (if I managed to get a sneaky lie in) then heading off to another show. As of yesterday though that won’t be too much of an issue. Yesterday was my last time working on a Saturday before we have a shake up of working hours and my week will now finish on a Friday afternoon.

Besides the kudos of being a part of Reprisal’s album launch I was looking forward to heading to London to catch Greek thrashers Domination. I missed them when they were over here a few years ago and I fear I will miss them yet again on this pretty extensive run. They play Wolverhampton on Wednesday night, but there is a severe lack of information from the venue and promoter about the gig. The Facebook event page states a 2350 finish. If that’s correct that’s me out of contention.

Nottingham’s show next Saturday appears to have been cancelled, but I’m in Scotland that weekend anyway and wouldn’t have made it even if it hadn’t been scrapped. The Wolverhampton show is sandwiched in between shows in Coventry and Leicester, both easy enough to drive to from home, but with work the next morning they are both non starters.

The final option would involve my first trip to Chesterfield for something that isn’t a football match. It’s an 80 minute drive away and on a Friday evening. Even though I’m not working on Saturday, I’m still up early as I will be cracking the whip and trying to get three other people and a dog to Crewe station for a train to Glasgow that leaves at 8am. Can I trust people to wake up early enough and not make us miss our transportation?

The Athenian band have been going for seven years now and formed when their members had an average age of 15. Their debut full length surfaced in 2015 and is another worthy addition to the fantastic thrash metal scene coming out of Hellas in recent years. The country is now very high up on places I’d like to experience a live show. How frenetic the bands I have seen on stage recently seem to be is how I imagine the kids at a show in Athens or Thessaloniki.

Have a listen to the album via their Bandcamp page.

Practice What You Preach

It’s been ten days since my last post and far from being lazy in the intervening week and a half I’ve been busy at the day job and then getting home and walloping the walls of our spare bedroom and trying to organise the chaos.

We’ve been in this house for two decades and in that time we’ve never really done anything with the front “bedrooms”. Over the years they’ve just become our (my) dumping ground. Need something storing out of sight? Stick it in the front bedroom for now. For now turns into aeons.

Last week we had a bit of a spring clean and threw out a load of rubbish that has been loitering around the house for far too long. The room I’m currently tarting up will eventually become my man cave. My better half has put a month long deadline on the process so I’ve had to knuckle down and stop procrastinating. I’m intrigued to see what happens after a month, but not brave enough to find out.

Four days in and there is a clear path through the room and I can see a sorry excuse for a carpet. A new bookcase and three CD storage towers built and just over half the walls disguised in a blue ocean hue. The bank holiday weekend involves a trip to that well known Swedish furniture store for a huge shelving unit which I was hoping to display all my vinyl. On reflection after moving box after box around the room to get to other parts of the room I fear my storage ideas will fall well short capacity wise and I’ll still have records and discs in boxes.

Some of the items upstairs have never been out on display whilst in my possession and I’m really excited to finally be able to sit back on the biggest chair I can get through the door and survey my thirty year collection of music.

The thing I’m not looking forward to is sorting through a ridiculous amount of shirts that I have acquired over the years. I think there’s approximately sixteen black bin bags (well actually red bags, but you’ll probably be able to visualise a black bag better) full of merchandise that needs to be sorted, culled (maybe), folded and stored. Any one want to help?

Before our outing to IKEA on Easter Sunday I’m taking a breather and heading off out for a few beers and some thrash metal. I wanted to pop down to London for the Reprisal album launch gig on Good Friday, but I can’t get Saturday off work so I’m going to have to bide my time until Saturday.

Finally rolling through the UK on a headline tour to promote their Brotherhood of the Snake album are Bay Area thrashers Testament, a band who are no strangers to this blog. They visited the country in 2016 as support to Amon Amarth and nine moths later they were at Bloodstock. The bunch of British dates that kick off in Bristol tonight are their first headlining dates for six years.

Saturday will be my twelfth time seeing Chuck Billy and his cohorts on stage and no doubt a dozen times walking through the exit feeling frustrated after a Testament gig. They’re one of those bands that always seems to suffer from an awful sound. It’s as if they decide to turn all the dials up to a heavy metal eleven and wing it. Everything always sounds distorted, yet I’ve been back multiple times.

At least it’ll get me away from the four walls of multicoloured paint, multiple styles of wall paper and the not to unpleasant smell of fresh paint, only to be replaced with stale beer and sweat. Hopefully less frustrated and my wife is no doubt hoping I come home wearing the shirt I walked out of the door several hours earlier. Now which bag has my Testament shirts in?