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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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. 


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. 


Rage (The Cost)

At times I feel the path in my near future is mapped well in advance. Take last weekend as an example. Metallica tickets were purchased probably the best part of twelve months ago. This week was booked off work as a holiday at the start of the year, so I’ve had a long time to prepare. I booked, cancelled and rebooked a hotel within the last month and train tickets a few weeks back. Everything from 11:45am on Sunday until 1410 yesterday has been (seemingly) pre determined for a while, even down to the conundrum of what shirts I was going to wear and buy. 

Sometimes I like the spontaneity of what the music world throws up. I’m off for the rest of this week and on the train home I perused Facebook to find shows to go to on the days I didn’t have anything planned. At noon yesterday I was planning on heading to the Star and Garter in Manchester to see The Raven Age. As noted previously in this blog I saw the band in Canada supporting Iron Maiden in the cavernous Air Canada Centre, so seeing them in the intimate surroundings of a ramshackle pub standing in the shadows of Piccadilly train station sounded like fun. 

That possibly changed late yesterday evening after ploughing through half a days worth of tweets. I saw several people mention the Make Them Suffer gig in London last night and how brutal opening band Cursed Earth were. A quick search on Spotify and YouTube piqued my interest for a band I’d never heard of previously. That was followed up with a Facebook search and low and behold the tour hits Manchester tonight. Well I was intending to head to the city today anyway, so why not experience Cursed Earth then head back towards Piccadilly and see The Raven Age? Sounds perfectly feasible to me. 

So what have I learnt from the inter web in the last twelve hours or so about the band? They hail from Perth, Australia. Formed in 2013 and they play ferocious, pummelling hardcore with a huge injection of metal. I’ve seen comparisons in remarks and reviews to Code Orange and Nails (bands I’m not overly familiar with so I can’t really agree or disagree) and Venom Prison, who to me are more death metal orientated than Cursed Earth, but I can see the comparisons. My first thoughts when I listened to War March via YouTube last night was it reminded me of Power Trip.  

Who ever they are comparable to, Jazmine Lunders venomous, rasping vocals are ably supported by the rest of her band with their metallic stomp and copious amounts of break downs, so no doubt the legion of Manchester’s “finest” kick boxing dancers will be in the Rebellion club early tonight. For me that is one of the negatives for this evening, mainly because the venues layout offers little respite for those there to see a band or three and wanting to stand and enjoy an alcoholic beverage without a sized 11 Vans clad foot heading towards an unsuspecting chest or head. 

I’ve made an opinion on fellow Australian headliners Make Them Suffer based on half a song on YouTube, so I’m unlikely to be there for the duration, but I have all day to discover them and the third band on the bill, Novelists from Paris then I can decide which venue the bulk of my time will be spent in. 

Rage (The Cost) is taken from the all too brief release Cycles of Grief, Vol 2: Decay released last month. Six songs clocking in around the fourteen minute mark, so it’s flashed by before you know it. Well worth a listen if you like you metal tinged beatdown hardcore. 

World Gone Mad

It’s been eighteen months since I last saw Life of Agony inside a British venue, not too bad a wait considering it took 23 years between Wolverhampton last year and the previous show I attended by them. They have also released their latest album after a wait of a dozen years.   

A Place Where There’s No More Pain came out on Austrian label Napalm Records back in July. I never got around to pre ordering the album, but I was pretty excited to hear their first collection of new material in so long. I ended up streaming it via Spotify as soon as I woke up on the Friday morning and had listened to most of it whilst getting ready for work and on the nine mile journey there in the car. 

On the first listen I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Maybe I wasn’t giving it the full attention it deserves? Debut album River Runs Red is held in such high esteem by me I could possibly be doing the latest release, and on reflection the trio of albums in between, a disservice by trying to compare them to such a high benchmark.  

I walked into the two shows I attended last year not really knowing their 1995 to 2005 output and only being there for the River Runs Red cuts. After watching the original line up bang out what I wanted to hear, interspersed with tracks from the other albums I dusted off the hidden gems from that missing decade and rekindled my affinity with the Brooklyn band. 

After saying all that it’s more disturbing why I’ve not attempted to listen to A Place… for at least a second time in full since April 28th (if I’m being exact!) until this weekend just gone. The band kicked off their UK tour in Norwich last Friday and I had a peak at Saturday’s Manchester setlist the morning after. There are three tracks from this years album in the set so I though it was time to give it a blast considering the fact that I’m off to see them in Birmingham on Friday. 

On second, third and fourth listen it’s a great album. Still angst ridden, but more focused and not as harsh as their debut. Friday night can’t come quick enough for me now. 

Cosmic Dreams

After last weekends jaunt into deepest, darkest  Essex for a wedding it’s now time to get back into inane rambling mode. I’ve been off work for a week now and I’ve got three days to go. Time to finish of the holiday with a few bands I think?

The blueprints in my head consists of three small and cheap shows in as many days, but we all know how that seems to work just lately. Friday night should be my first gig in Shrewsbury and also my first in a prison! W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus UK are playing a rock night at the HM Prison Shrewsbury. Thankfully it closed to inmates in 2013, so we won’t feel like the new fish in there. Whether the metal heads will be allowed out afterwards is another question. 

Saturday sees another tribute band grace the stage at the local venue Eleven. Metallica kicked off their European tour last Saturday in Copenhagen. They played a pair of shows in Amsterdam at the start of the week and finish it with a brace of Paris gigs. I was hoping to snag tickets for a show or two, the whole reason why I had this week off. Alas I didn’t score entry to any, so instead I’ll save myself £95 alone on entrance fees and see the Metallica tribute act Metal Militia for a fiver.  

Fingers crossed, it all kicks off tonight with Leeds science fiction obsessed death / thrash metal quartet Cryptic Shift who have a free shindig at Grand Central in Manchester. I don’t have to be up for work at stupid o’clock Friday morning, so I can finally check out one of the venues free Thursday night showcases. 

This evening is a bit of a reinvention of the free Thursday night gigs the venue had been putting on for a long time now but the ones I wanted to go to have fallen on work days and seemed to have a post 11pm finish. The band I want to see (and the only one I’ve heard of) hit the stage at 9:30pm if things run like clockwork, so I have a few train options to get myself there and home comfortably.  

Cryptic Shift are another one of those bands I seem to miss on a regular basis since I first encountered them with their cover of Sepultura’s Arise a few years ago. I managed to see them in Manchester twice last year, the last time was with their participation on the Vektor show at the Star and Garter last August. Their technical approach to the genre mixes the trash of Voi-Vod and Vektor together with the technical death metal of Gorguts and latter day Death. Fans are still waiting for a full length release after seven years, but there have been a few singles and an EP. in the interim.  Cosmic Dreams, a new track, surfaced from the other side of the Pennines earlier this year and can be found with the rest of their back catalogue at their Bandcamp page