Last Before The End

What an odd week this has turned out to be. I ended up missing Helloween completely in London earlier in the week. I had an extremely busy day at work on Tuesday and got home a few hours later than expected and just didn’t have the urge to head down to London on a whim.

For the exact same reason I missed Venom Prison in Manchester on Thursday. Another long day and no desire to stay awake any longer than I had to.

Yesterday I was intending to spend a few hours up in Eleven watching Demon perform the Unexpected Guest in full as they celebrated the one year anniversary of the venue’s opening. I had yet another unfeasibly late finish, but I had plenty of time to grab a power nap before we headed out. I thought I’d check up on Facebook before I dozed and the first post on my feed is the poster saying the show was now sold out! Let’s see if the same fate befalls me later when I might make the short journey to Eleven to catch NWOBHM pioneers Tygers of Pan Tang.

Yesterday should also have been the start of an eight day stint off work. But the recurring theme of staff shortages means I’m working the first three days of the week. The Tygers show is a possible replacement for a gig I really wanted to be at in Holland tonight, but due to leaving it late to buy a seat on a plane and now committing to extra work means I had to miss Italian thrashers Game Over in the intimate Little Devil bar in Tilburg.

When I saw the date announced and the added bonuses of it being free entry and a matinee show got me excited to finally see one of my favourite European thrash metal bands live. I was on the precipice of buying tickets for the Thrash or be Thrashed festival they were announced for last year along with Exumer in Belgium (I think), but that got cancelled.

There is such a rich vein of retro thrash across Europe it’s a crying shame that history is repeating itself yet again and the UK seems to be lagging way behind the European mainland in terms of quality and fanbase for this scene. In the last three days alone I have had three CDs delivered from bands within the Euro zone. Acid Force from the Czech Republic and hailing from Italy National Suicide and the latest offering from Game Over.

So later this evening rather than getting drenched in a combination of sweat and Jupiler and vying to gain a vantage point and enjoying an hour of Azzurri thrash I’ll have to reluctantly make do with blasting out the Claiming Supremacy album again.

I doubt I’ll get chance to see Game Over on British shores anytime soon, unless they get an invite like Bloodrocuted, Distillator or Exarsis in recent years and snag a place on a pretty significant tour. But with the amount of European festivals and the still relatively easy access to the continent, fingers crossed, one day my path will cross with as many of these fantastic bands as possible.

Last Before The End is the third track from their fourth and most recent album officially release last Friday. It’s so much easier now to sample new music before you commit to buying and all four albums are readily available on Spotify. Go and have a listen and see what you think.

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R.I.P. Malcolm Young

I like many other metal heads and rockers will be cranking out some AC/DC over the next few days in tribute to rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcom Young who passed away earlier today aged 64.

The Glaswegian was the driving force behind the band with his much more visible younger brother Angus. Due to ongoing health issues he stepped down from the ‘DC line up in 2014 to get treatment for dementia – the brain disease that took him three years later.

Reading through Twitter and Facebook his band and he were huge influences on many of today’s contemporary bands which has been highlighted by the slew of heartfelt tributes paid throughout the day.

As a youngling I never paid much attention to the band. They were another one of those bands that I knew the history and hits of without owning an album. I was into things of a more heavy nature at the time and it took a while to appreciate the more rock ‘n’ roll and blues tinged artists that were such huge influences on those bands I idolised at the time.

I was fortunate enough to see the band twice. Once surrounded by a plethora of flashing devil horns at Wembley Stadium in 2015 and my debut experience was in 2010 when they brought their own stage to the Download Festival. They played their set on the Friday evening and the carcass of their own set up overshadowed the main stage for the following 48 hours. It overshadowed the other bands over the weekend in an intimidating way and reminding the likes of Deftones, Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch that they were light years behind them as entertainers.

Their Download appearance was the only time I got to see Malcolm on stage as his nephew Stevie Young was filling in for him.

I attempted to get tickets to see them the year before on an earlier leg of the Black Ice tour but we were on holiday in Florida when tickets went on sale. By the time I got around to getting online with the patchy hotel internet and the five hour time difference all the venues had sold out in minutes.

Last year I had tickets for their show at the Olympic Park in London – less than twelve months after playing Wembley. When the departure of Brian Johnson was announced and the rumoured replacement of Axl Rose was confirmed I requested a refund on my tickets as to me that wasn’t what I’d originally signed up for. In hindsight and from what friends I knew who went said, he did the material justice. One of those missed opportunities I’ll have to live with.

If You Want Blood… is taken from 1979’s Highway to Hell, the final album to feature Bon Scott on vocals who was found dead in a car in February of the following year.

I Can

I’ve been a Helloween fan for as long as I can remember, but I let the membership of that club slip from my grasp in the early 90’s around the time that Chameleon and Pink Bubbles Go Ape surfaced. That’s also the stretch of albums where Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and Ingo Schwichtenberg all departed.

I might have given Master of the Rings a listen at some point – the first album with Andi Deris taking the frontman’s spotlight – but it wasn’t on a par with the pair of Keeper albums or Walls of Jericho. Over the course of the next two decades and ten albums I never really gave the “new” line up a chance. I dipped in to the back catalogue every once in a while but nothing grabbed my attention. I have even seen them live four times since 2008 too. Three of those at festivals and the other in London purely due to the fact that Rage were supporting in a rare UK visit.

Actually a Helloween visit to these shores is a rarity in itself. My four live experiences of the band have been part of only seven in the same time period. None of those seven have been outside of London unless it’s been a festival stage that they have graced.

Needless to say, I’ve never been excited about an upcoming album release in the last two decades and hardly been expectant of a tour announcement, but all that changed some months ago and now I’m sitting at home with the winter sun streaming through the window on Armistice Day plotting.

Hansen and Kiske are rejoining the rest of the current line up to participate in a world tour with under the Pumpkins United banner and I really want to go, even more so since the first shows in South America when the setlist hit the internet and it’s a collection on Germanic power metal songs to die for. So many songs I’ve grown up with in the past thirty years and ones I’d never thought I’d see live and especially with Kiske on vocals.

So onto the dilemma. The only British appearance is on Tuesday in London (obviously). I’ve pretty much ran out of holidays at work so if I was to make the spectacle I’d have to head down to the big smoke on the train after work and either be on a train home by 10pm to make it home before 1230am Wednesday, or I can suck it up, see the full set and get the last train 90 minutes later and roll into bed less than two and a half hours before my alarms go off for work. If I went for the first option I’d get a pretty decent set list (longer than some bands I’ve seen lately) and plenty of the early stuff I’m craving to see. Their Stuttgart show last night clocked in at just under three hours long!

There’s a third alternative, but a bit of a long shot if I’m being honest. Next week I’m off work, talk about bad timing, and the band take to the 013 stage in Tilburg on Monday evening. Eight days in advance and the flight prices aren’t overly expensive (especially considering what a train might cost me) and I’m sure I can grab a bed to sleep in relatively cheaply. Watch this space.

In a response to my renewed vigour for the German troupe I’ve put all the back catalogue in my iTunes library and listened to the missing albums with a much more open mind and there’s been some really great hidden gems popping up over the course of the last few weeks. Taken from 1998’s Better Than Raw, I Can is one of those gems. It’s time I go and do something useful for the day before it suddenly turns into Monday, but I’ll still be running the pros and cons in my mind until Tuesday morning easily.

King Parrot

Radio silence post Damnation has been broken! I can’t even say I’ve been too busy in the last few days to post anything I’ve just been way too lazy. 

The winter touring cycle of the UK and Europe is in full effect right now and my calendar is chock a block of gigs I’d really like to get along to and see, but finances and time is not allowing me to commit to everything I’d like to achieve, so at the moment I’m being a bit more selective. 

This weekend I’m staying in the local area for a pair of shows of contrasting styles. First up this evening is a trip to the Sugarmill to see King Parrot take to the stage. 

The last time I saw these demented Australians was a little over twelve months ago when they opened up for Exodus and Obituary. I’m led to believe from friends who have seen the band more than I have that the Melbourne band were a bit restrained, probably at the wishes of the Academy group who owned the venues that the tour steamrollered through last October. Tonight I don’t think they’ll be as subdued and I’m expecting chaos to ensue. 

Originally King Parrot were scheduled to play the same venue on Monday, not that a Friday night or Monday makes that much difference to me when I have to be up and out of the house by 5am the following morning regardless. 

Polish death metal veterans Decapitated were due to play at the Sugarmill in 72 hours time with the Australians, another band from Poland who’s name escapes me and the crushing Venom Prison. I’ve never been a fan of Decapitated, they’ve just never appealed to me and all of their seven album back catalogue has passed me by. I’ve seen them twice – once at Bloodstock (obviously) and again at the tail end of 2014 supporting Behemoth. They’ve played in excess of 100 shows in the UK in the 17 years they’ve been coming over here, so they’re another band I’ve managed to miss more than I’ve seen over the years. I’m more aware of them from their tumultuous off stage misfortunes. In 2007 drummer Vitek died aged only 23 after a bus crash on the Belarus / Russian border. 

In October of this year after their show in Santa Ana, California things took a turn for the worse and all the members of the band were arrested initially for kidnapping after a show a week or so earlier. This allegation has now turned into a sexual assault allegation and the band are being detained in Spokane. Obviously the European tour was cancelled and they’ve been removed from Kreator’s next Euro jaunt in January. 

I’m assuming King Parrot had already had their flights from Down Under booked and paid for so I’m guessing rather than lose out on their money they managed to rearrange shows in the same time slot. Not to be too blasé about the situation in Spokane, I now get a full King Parrot set to look forward to in Stoke and even though Venom Prison aren’t doing a local show on their hastily rescheduled dates I still have an opportunity to see them in Manchester next weekend. 

At work I’ve inherited a newer van than what I’ve been driving for the last few years. It’s nothing special, still a bag of nails, but I’m quite sated with the audio system in the van. I can now Bluetooth my iPhone to the radio and play my own music to my hearts content while at work without having to constantly plug in then remove the phone at each one of my forty stops. Later today I know I’ll be pulling up at calls with the bands latest album Ugly Produce being blasted out at an obscenely loud volume.

Joy Through Death

Yet again my week hasn’t gone anywhere near as expected after the first two days of the week. I’ve ended up being off work ill for two days, which is highly unlike me. At least it’s given me a bit more time to catch up on Damnation bands and hopefully whatever I have is all done and dusted and out if my system before Saturday. 

Today’s listening club has been supplied by the fourth stage closers Grave Pleasures. Not being aware of the band other than the name and that they were from Finland I was expecting some dark corpse painted black metal or something death metal at the very least to be blasting through the earphones. What I experienced when Infatuation Overkill was a million miles from the mark. Death Roll – as it seems to be called – isn’t what I was expecting. I got the sense of a more rockier Sisters of Mercy and not to dissimilar to the Hardcore Superstar if they cranked up their sound.

As they clash with death metal supergroup Bloodbath on the main stage, who I’ve seen gracing the Bloodstock stage back in 2010 when they had Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals for them. They bored me rigid then and now with Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes pulling double duty on the day, I can’t see my attention span for them being any more welcoming. 

Then again the way things are going lately we could be heading back to the Potteries after Agoraphobic Nosebleed maybe even Sodom! I have an irrational sense that work will have messed up my holiday and I’ll be in work between 6am and noon before heading to Leeds. Or some of my group are getting too old for this stuff now and an eleven hour stint of heavy music and relatively decently priced alcohol soon takes its toll. 

Until I started researching I didn’t realise Grave Pleasures were completed by Beastmilk members after their demise. I never saw that Helsinki band either, but I nearly did. 

I was handed a copy of their promo CD A Delicious Sample of Beastmilk on my way out of the Sonisphere festival at Knebworth in 2014 and I listened to it in the car in the way back to the hotel and I was pretty intrigued with it. They were scheduled to play mid afternoon on a smaller stage and they didn’t clash with any one I particularly wanted to see, but they were delayed coming over from Europe. I think they played a set late on after the stage headliner had finished, but by that time we were heading out of the arena in the crush after Metallica had played. 

This odd video clip for Joy Through Death is taken from their third album Motherblood released just over a month ago. If we’re still there at 11pm I know who I’ll be watching. 


The Howl

October the 31st rumbles over the horizon and again regular people seem to embrace the spooky lifestyle for a “holiday” that now seems to be lasting a for a whole week in recent years. 

I used to have a pretty realistic looking skull on the windowsill staring out on to the street some years ago, for those interested it was the skull adorning the top of an unofficial Metallica box set. I believe it led to some disdain from a few neighbours. Roll on those years since and some of those same neighbours now decorate their windows with cobwebs, spiders, skeletons and bats. Oh and skulls! 

Our road doesn’t have too many kids living on it, so we don’t have to endure an endless steam of kids roaming the area for treats (or as my wife likes to put it begging). Having said that though we seem to be the 1313 Mockingbird Lane house that kids are told to steer clear of.  

Sometimes I feel slightly embarrassed at this time of year as it feels like I’m jumping on the spooky bandwagon for a bunch of days, but pick any particular day of the year and I’m undoubtedly clad in black (or green), wearing something adorned with a skull, a demon or some kind of monster. I’m also as likely to watch a horror show or film on Christmas Day or Easter as I am on Hallowe’en. 

Any way, to jump on the bandwagon and “celebrate” something for the day of ghosts, ghouls and pumpkins here’s a short blast of death rock from Samhain. 

For the uninitiated Samhain in the band that pretty much flew under the radar after the Misfits dissolved and frontman Glenn Danzig went mainstream with his eponymous band. Originally a side project for Glenn that turned full time they released three albums between 1984 and 1990, they eventually morphed into what is still actively known as Danzig. 

There was major label interest in Samhain fronted by James Hetfield and Cliff Burton. Samhain were signed to a major label, but the suits only really wanted Danzig as a solo artist, but he insisted in taking Eerie Von along for the ride. He was convinced to use the Danzig moniker to prevent any issues as and when members of the band left and were replaced. 

This video is a homemade video for the track The Howl taken from their 1984 debut album Initium released on Danzig’s independent label Plan 9. Even back then the Michael Golden designed horned skull that has became synonymous with Danzig the band was already in use. 

Ulvinde

Time to catch up on some more of this years Damnation line up for the forthcoming weekend. This time I’ll take a punt on Danish musician Amalie Brunn’s band better known as Myrkur. 

Much like the previous piece of homework in the shape of Nails it’s yet another band where I’ve seen the Blair Witch looking logo on regular intervals and read many good reviews. I’ve also read a lot of poor reviews, so they definitely seem to be one of those marmite kind of bands. 

I saw the name mentioned within the black metal genre which was a bit of an instant reason for me to not bother with it. Recently though I saw someone from a more hardcore background anticipating the release of recent album Mareridt so when I decided to do theses little scraps of homework Myrkur had to be one of the participants. 

Having listened to Mareridt once I think I need to listen to it again to form a coherent opinion of it. The first run through the 40 minutes has left me much more perplexed about the whole thing. 

The opening track is pretty much just vocals reminiscent of something Enya or Clannad might have put their name to. When Måneblôt kicks in with its Dark Throne style primal black metal blasts things get odd. Once the pace slows and something more folky interrupts briefly before more black metal rumblings bring it to a conclusion. 

From my limited knowledge of the black metal and folk metal genres, this album seems to amalgamate most of the styles of music that the Scandinavian countries have been renowned for within the extreme music scene over the last few decades. 

It’s not something I’d have willing purchased on a music buying trip, but thanks to the nominal outlay to Spotify each month its something I can get a handle on risk free. I’ll definitely be giving it another listen, and for comparison reasons I’ll give debut album M from 2015 a listen. But I don’t know if it’s because I actually like it or more from curiosity. 

Myrkur are second on the main stage and clash with Beyond Creation pummelling the fourth stage with their progressive death metal. I’ve seen neither band live so I’ll try to catch some of the Canadian’s set if the atmospherics of Myrkur don’t keep my attention for the whole duration.