Ball of Destruction – Manchester, Star & Garter – 13.12.16

  

In another odd concert line up New York hardcore veterans Madball are over in the UK for a bunch of arena shows opening up for Limp Bizkit and Korn. I like Madball but I’m not keen on arena ticket prices – especially when you’re attending for half an hour of the opening band then heading off home into the Manchester gloom. 

About a month ago Ball of Destruction – a tribute band named after Madball’s debut 7″ released in 1989 – were announced to play the Star and Garter in Manchester the day after the Korn show. Three of Manchester’s current crop of hardcore bands were named as support, so as I was off work for a week and I really like Broken Teeth it was an excuse to head into Lancashire. 

We missed Restrict as we were sampling ales in a few other drinking establishments before hand. The first band I got to see was Guilt Trip who were performing to a near capacity room. Their Slayer infused beat down hardcore was very good, they might have spent a bit too much time trying to get the crowd to move about and step forward, but they are a band I’ll check out again. 

After a brief 15 minute change over I tunnelled my way to the back of the room to catch one of Nuclear Blast’s most recent recruits. I’ve seen these guys a few times before and their big label break is more than deserved and especially now with the calibre of hardcore bands that they can now call label mates. Not as many flailing bodies down the front as I’d expected, but everyone seemed to have fun. Surely the venue was an oversold sell out because Broken Teeth were playing their last home town show of 2016?

Walking into the venue a few hours earlier it was odd seeing a tribute band with so much merch and a blatant rip off of the current Madball designs. We slightly over estimated our return home and didn’t have a car arriving until 11:45pm (and that ended up being thirty minutes late) we decided to check out the cover band and if we didn’t like it there’s a bar downstairs. 

As 10pm approached people were still trying to find a square inch of space to gain a vantage point of tonight’s headliners. For a tribute band looks seem to be a big part of the appeal as much as their sound, and as the three musicians were waiting awkwardly on stage for the frontman to appear they did look remarkably like Hoya and Mitts – so bonus points were awarded there for attention to detail. 

A few of those points though were taken away when their version of Freddie Cricien bounded onto the stage. There was some resemblance there, but those long locks looked out of place. They did get the sound spot on though and Set It Off early in the set did get things bouncing. They introduced themselves as “New York’s newest band” and they took everything in good humour and there seemed to be a lack of a rigid set list and they just belted out whatever they could hear the crowd shouting out. At one point there was even an impromptu rendition of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. Just another bizarre moment in an evening of weirdness tonight. 

Almost an hour later when they left the stage the room was still almost at capacity, and as someone who doesn’t really do tribute bands I have to say those four guys really did get their doppelgängers down to a tee and for of those of us too tight to shell out £50 to see them the night before it was a cheaper alternative. 

Hopefully though the original band will hit these shores for another British tour to celebrate twenty eight years as one of New York’s finest. Just for comparison, the video for Pride (Times Are Changing) is below and is taken from Madball’s second album Demonstrating My Style. 
  

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Pull The Plug

   

If you are going to listen to Floridian band Death at any point in a calendar year then there is no better day than December 13th. 2016 marks 15 years since the band’s architect, Chuck Schuldiner, died at the young age of 34 from pneumonia due to complications from taking treatment for brain cancer. 

With several other bands from the land of Mickey Mouse, Death (or Mantas are they were originally called) are considered a forerunner of that genre of metal, and gave the world that infamous sound created by Scott Burns at Morrisound Studios.  

I’ve see the “tribute” band, Death To All that actually features Death members from various eras of the band on numerous occasions over recent years. I would have loved to have had the ways and means to have attended one of their 1990 shows when they were support to Kreator over here. 

 The only time I got to see them fronted by Chuck was in February 1992 at the now demolished International II in Manchester with Carcass. They played there again three months later as part of the Campaign for Musical Destruction jaunt with Napalm Death and Sweden’s Dismember, a show I couldn’t attend and hence I’ve never seen Dismember live. 

When they started going more progressive rather than the ferocious blast beats and growls that they were renowned for I lost touch with the band, until my tastes were more refined much, much later on. That also was the time when the band “cleaned” up the logo. Compare the one on the album cover above to the one below. The original logo is much more iconic in my eyes. 
  

If you have them, then dig out one of the first three Death albums, failing that one of the last four will suffice or even some Control Denied – which he was working on up until his passing – and play it loud.  

This live version of Pull the Plug was recorded at the iconic Dynamo Open Air Festival in 1998 and surfaced as a live package in 2001. Originally it was released on their second album Leprosy. 

  

 

Everything You’re Not

  

It only seems like a week since I was last off work and here I am again sitting at home but this time I don’t have to contend with building detritus – everything was finally finished on Friday. Most of my waking hours away from work last week usually involved running around here and there for family or tradesmen, so now a deserved seven days off before the Christmas bedlam starts at work. 

I had a few shows lined up over the last fortnight but for whatever reason I didn’t make any, so last Saturday was my first show since the Saturday before my birthday. 

I had so many options for Saturday that it was pretty hard to make a choice. My original plan was a trip to South Wales to catch the Acid Reign Christmas shindig, but family life got in the way of that one. Plus it was just that bit too far to drive there in back on the same evening considering I was up for work at 5am. 

The second option was Manchester for the Burning Manc all dayer headlined by Mesopotamian black metal band Melechesh. That was in doubt until a week or so before the event, so expecting a cancellation I made a decision to stay local and see Discharge. Talking of cancellations that gig was scrapped around 6pm that night due to ill health within the band. 

Determined to attend something the wife and I grabbed a taxi for the short trip up the road to Eleven to see Lords of Black. Not exactly a household name, but a Spanish power metal / heavy metal band with a vocalist with a big reputation. 

  
Frontman Ronnie Romero was seen in the UK earlier in the year fronting Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow for a sold out arena show in Birmingham. He has a great vocal range and it’s very understandable to see why he got the nod from Blackmore, especially when they close the set with the double punch of Neon Knights and Kill the King. I could hear influences of later era Helloween in their sound, so when I found out Roland Grapow, once guitarist of said band, co-produced, mixed and mastered the album it came as no surprise. 

  

  
I don’t know anything about the band and had never heard a song by them, but people I know who saw Rainbow said how impressive he was and he was playing a mile and a half away from my front door, so £15 was a no brainer, and it turned into a good night out and practice for this coming Friday when the beer, wine and spirits will flow once more at the wife’s Christmas works do. 

Apparently this track is from the band’s most recent album II released in March of this year. I’d had a bit too much to drink on the Saturday night and completely forgot to grab a CD, so I’ll have a look around for it when I’m in the soulless multi national chain in town later in the week.  

R.I.P. Micky Fitz

  

Last night I went to bed with a few murmurings of the passing of Micky Fitz – the frontman of Lewisham Oi! band The Business – due to cancer. 

Waking up and checking social media over a mug of coffee this morning there are more obituaries on my time line to Micky than actor Andrew Sachs who played Manuel the Spanish waiter in Faulty Towers. Influential bands in the hardcore and punk scene have all paid tribute to the West Ham fan. Sick Of It All, Cro-Mags, Strife, The Toy Dolls, Madball, Ignite and Slapshot are just a few. 

The Oi! and street punk scene has often been misunderstood as a violent and racist style of music, fair enough there are more bands with those politics in this genre, but The Business weren’t that way inclined, even though they had that shady element in their following. Any perceived violence usually came from the football hooligan angle. One of the most poignant tributes I’ve seen today is from Knuckledust guitarist Wema, thanking him for taking them out on tour. 

I only ever saw the band once and coincidentally Knuckledust were also on the bill at the Astoria on 1997. It was an all day affair “headlined” by Agnostic Front, but due to some of the unsavoury elements in The Business’ fan base they were a surprise and unannounced headliner, the worst kept secret that had been circulation around the venue all day. I could have added to that single total over the years, but a lot of their shows I could  have been going to usually got scrapped late on and those that went ahead were shrouded in rumours of disorder, so the coward that I am steered clear. 

My favourite track by them is one of their many football themed tracks Southgate ’96, there aren’t too many songs about a footballer missing a penalty. That track also brings back memories of my first European adventure with Stampin’ Ground.  
  

Possibly the track most associated with the band is Harry May their first single released in 1981 and later found on their debut album Suburban Rebels, both released by Secret Records. 

The Confident Rat

  

And on the fifth day of thrash metal this blog gives you Ignorance from Corby, Northamptonshire. With their British interpretation of Infectious Grooves – the funky side project of Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir – and Mordred, they offered something a bit different to the UK thrash scene that was fading pretty fast by the time their second album Positively Shocking came out in 1992.  

I know I have the debut CD, The Confident Rat that was released by Metal Blade Records in 1991, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve even head that second release let alone own a copy. Something I will rectify once the current dust bowl settling in the house is eradicated. 

Back in 1993, so not all that long before the band split up, I saw the band for what I think was my one and only time at the Wheatsheaf in Stoke. They were supporting New England (or was it the other way around? I can’t remember!) New England were a pretty decent band on the live circuit too, but had to change name to N.E.U.K., to avoid been labelled as some kind of racist band at the time. 

There was a brief glimmer of hope for a reunion a few years back when the reactivated Mordred were pushing them and a still split up Acid Reign for some reunion shows or possibly an all day one off show that was possibly going to be held in Liverpool. It appears that things in the Ignorance camp were close, or at least being considered, but alas no cigar. The Bay Area band eventually made it over in 2014 and were very impressive when I saw them. 

This is the title track from the debut album, but for all the YouTube scouring that I have done it doesn’t look like an official video was made, or it’s not made the platform. 

Human Zoo

  

Another day brings another delve into the thrash metal vaults from my home shores. Now this is (in my opinion anyway) a proper hidden gem. I’d even hazard a guess that many thrashers post the mid 90’s will be unaware of this band. Some sort of remastered retrospective would be a great addition to my pile of compact discs. 

Zeitgeist were a thrash band – obviously as its a thrash week! – from the Liverpool area. They released three demo tapes between 1988 and 1990. I had the last two, Mindstorm and Blacklist, which I would have discovered through the pages of Metal Forces magazine. And now you know as much as I do. They never released an album and as far as I’m aware, they never morphed into another band to keep up with trends. 

What I could call my demo days – when bands released demonstration tracks on cassette tapes, usually with a black and white xeroxed cover, of if they were really trying to impress a colour cover. I used to have a steady flow of packets dropping through my parents letter box and the majority sourced through Metal Forces. 
  

We had Metal Hammer and Kerrang! (which was bi-weekly rather than weekly) back in the day, but Metal Forces was more for the fans of the thrash scene and fledgling death metal scene. Having said that though Poison, Def Leppard, Mr Big and others often got featured, but it was mainly the heavy end of the spectrum.  There was a fold out poster in every issue, one side had a band on and the other was just a plethora of addresses. I spent so much time scouring the small ads with a biro looking for tape traders, pen pals and things I could spend my meagre paper round money on. I’ll reiterate yet again, it’s so much easier 29 years later on, but that was much more fun and created some suspense and anticipation as to what would arrive, even then there were still the odd unscrupulous band or postal worker so returns weren’t always 100% guaranteed. I was introduced to so many bands via the tape trading network that I still listen to today. 

My drawers full of tapes that have been long lost to a landfill somewhere over time, mainly by my parents hands. A few years back I was at a loose end and trawling through the pages of the online Encyclopaedia Metallum and came across the familiar name of Zeitgeist. Thankfully an almost complete pair of demos have been uploaded to YouTube and SoundCloud and I’ve been able to add them digitally to my collection. 

The author of the thrash metal book that is in its early stages is Ian Glasper who I have known through his old band Stampin’ Ground for almost two decades. He was after suggestions beyond the mainstream bands to hunt down for interviews and I suggested these Liverpudlians to him. Hopefully he can track down a member after so long and get their words into print. 

Human Zoo is the lead off track from their second tape Mindstorm from 1989. The sound quality isn’t as polished as the latest album by Testament for example, but it is nearly three decades old and recorded on a minuscule budget, even quite possibly on a ghetto blaster in their rehearsal space and dubbed by hand late into the evening.