Death To The Architects Of Heaven

And my weekend has already begun. That’s it. The alarms are of and there’s no work until 5am Monday. This time tomorrow my single day at Hammerfest should be well underway. A few bands will have been viewed and several beers sank and probably making inroads on the Hafan-y-Mor caravan parks stock of Jack Daniels.

This afternoon has been spent clearing more rubbish out of the mother in laws house and discovering Goatwhore, who coincidentally will be hitting the Hammerfest stage in pretty much 24 hours time of me writing this.

The NOLA quartet are a band that have evaded me since their inception back in 1997. I’ve seen the name in advertising bumff, but I’ve never taken time to listen to the band. The name alone just makes me think screeching black metal, even some of the imagery used on their albums turns me away.

I saw someone post in a friend’s Facebook group how good Sepultura were, but the touring package was in the wrong order as Goatwhore were head and shoulders above the main support band Obscura. I though I might as well give them a try and searched for them on Spotify and started listening to the latest release Vengeful Ascension and prepared myself for the ensuing disappointment.

Once again I was proved wrong. Essentially a thrash metal band with death and black metal influences and a huge slice of New Orleans style groove.

Trawling though their releases the cover to 2012’s Blood for the Master looks familiar but I wasn’t sure if I was getting the skull cover mixed up with Beastmilk’s Climax album. I have a sneaky feeling that I even have that album in my iPhone library.

Based on that hunch I had a look to see if I had actually seen the band live. After a bit of investigation I’m pretty surprised I haven’t crossed paths with them in the last half a dozen years or so. They’ve played Manchester three times in Sound Control and MOHO. They were on the same bill as Dying Fetus and a year later with Skeletonwitch. I’m pretty sure I had a ticket for the latter show, but never went.

Their debut Mancunian show was back in 2012 on a show that I’m pretty sure I went to, if I didn’t I’m kicking myself six years later on. Thrashers Havok and Angelus Apatrida were on the Long Live Heavy Metal Tour package completed by 3 Inches of Blood. I know I’ve seen Havok in Manchester at least once, but I don’t think I’ve seen the Spaniards in the city, so I’m guessing I missed that stellar line up.

Goatwhore are one of the two bands playing tomorrow I’ve not experienced live and I’m really looking forward to catching them live based on what I’ve been hearing today. They’ll definitely be getting much more of my attention in the weeks ahead and I foresee several Amazon purchases in the very near future.


Barbara The Witch

So much stuff to listen to and seemingly so little time! Tomorrow is my last day at work before an elongated weekend, which sees me driving about 400 miles for an impressive ten bands or so over two gigs.

First up sees our annual pilgrimage to Cymru for this years Hammerfest. This year marks the festivals tenth anniversary. It’s a shame the line up didn’t offer something a bit more remarkable for its decade of existence. For that reason I’m only going for the Friday bands. Four of which are stopping off on their UK trek, so hardly something exciting or exclusive to make people travel.

Having said that though I’ll get to see at least seven decent bands and all for a measly ten quid. There isn’t a band on Friday’s line up that I would pay to see where a ten pound note would gain me entry to their show. The four band Sepultura tour would set me back £25. Ex Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley is another £15 minimum. Last year when I saw Acid Reign who have just been added to Friday’s proceedings cost me £17. So yes, I’d say £10 is an absolute steal.

The band I want to see most though takes to the second stage around 9pm and is one of two bands playing that I’ve never seen live before. All the way from Norway is highly melodic thrash band Critical Solution, who will take to a British stage for the first time in almost five years, and possibly only their second ever show on this lump of rock.

Needless to say I’ve been brushing up on my horror thrash (a term I saw in an advert for their last album) quite a lot lately. I’m an avid King Diamond fan and amongst their nod to bands like Metallica and Maiden, there’s a definite influence there from the Great Dane.

They both like a concept album and have multiple characters running throughout the album. Christer Slettebø doesn’t have the falsetto range that King has, but that might make the latest album, Barbara the Witch, slightly more accessible to metal heads than hearing the shrill vocal delivery on something like Abigail.

They’re a band I’ve been listening to for quite a few years now, probably just prior to their second album Sleepwalker which was released in 2015, and easily one of the main reasons I’ll be driving for nearly three hours on Friday through the winding and often picturesque country roads of North Wales.

Quicksand Jesus

Last night didn’t see me in Birmingham for Suicidal Angels which would have been my forth show in six days, but missing that forth hurdle still leaves me with plenty to look forward to for the remainder of March.

The two shows I attended over the evenings of Friday and Saturday were both superb. Obituary never fail to impress and they were ably supported by Californian thrashers Exmortus, who were fantastic and it’s nice to see a support act afforded a decent amount of time on stage. They played for close on 50 minutes, but the headliners only did an hour or so, but with death metal that’s all you need!

A long evening in Manchester on Saturday began at 5pm with Maltese death metal band Bound to Prevail, a band I’d never heard of before I saw them and they were very impressive. Brazilian female thrash trio Nervosa were stunning yet again but the icing on the cake was a 60 minute death metal masterclass from Suffocation. Absolutely brutal stuff and they gave Obituary a run for their money 24 hours earlier, and might have just edged it over their southern counterparts. Nobody was following that blistering performance and we left before headliners Venom, Inc set foot on the Rebellion stage.

I have nothing before Friday’s annual pilgrimage to North Wales but I’m partially tempted with yet another jaunt to Manchester to see Skid Row with yet another frontman. I don’t need an excuse to give the bands first two albums a blast whether a show is on the horizon or not. My only issues are the vocalist the price tag.

Ex-Dragonforce vocalist ZP Theart is now filling the shoes recently (well I say recent, almost three years ago now) vacated by Tony Harnell. I wasn’t too impressed with Theart’s vocals in Dragonforce, a bit to high pitched for my liking, but it was also a band I had no great affinity with either.

Watching a few clips on YouTube from the bands recent Belfast show he sounds alright, but my wife who was doing something else in the room asked if I was listening to a tribute band! And that’s where the price comes into play.

I’d essentially be paying north of £25 to see them and I fully get the tribute act comparisons. I begrudgingly shelled out £25 for Saturday’s entertainment. I balked a bit at the price, then I thought it through logically and I was able to see five bands from five different countries. Three I’ve never seen before and the other two only a few times each. For a fiver a band it was good value.

I’ll see how I feel on Wednesday. Cannibal Corpse play Manchester on The same night too so I could pop up at the Ritz. I the meantime here’s Quicksand Jesus from Skid Row’s sophomore release Slave to the Grind.


After nearly three decades of gig going I often wonder why I put myself through the wringer so much, time after time to attend a show. Maybe at my age I need to be more selective in who I see and where? But having said that it’s how I’d imagine being addicted to a drug is. If I don’t get to a show for a prolonged period of time I get grumpier than usual. As long as I’m enjoying it I’m sure I’ll persist with it.

Also after the recent debacles in January, and having to miss shows, it kind of leaves me jaded with the whole thing too. I enjoy the smaller shows more than festivals and arenas, but it seems to be the smaller show that (obviously) suffer more from scheduling problems and technical difficulties. You’re not going to get hundreds into somewhere like The Retro Bar or Peer Hat in Manchester and venues similar to them and they hold less than a hundred or so anyway. Some people have to travel to a different city to see a gig so the more people you can entice to your event the better.

In this day and age of modern technology set times and curfews posted up on social media are a god send as I can arrange travel accordingly. Depending on times I can pick from three different train stations or even drive if need be. When you make arrangements like I did the other week for a show based on a particular band and time which dictated my travel options, a casual “oh well we had to push the times back an hour” aren’t welcome to non locals. I know things can’t be helped, but surely there is a duty to have problems ironed out in plenty of time to let those paying in arrange whatever travel arrangements they need. At least with that one I had the option to save some of my money and head home without incurring extra costs. There have been a few shows where I’ve missed bands as the promoter (I’m assuming) listed bands in the wrong order. Having gone for a particular band only to find out yet again they’re on after a last train has departed.

Having said all that a gig like what I experienced in London last nigh restores most of my faith. Again I was on a tight schedule to get the last train back north, so when people were still not being let into the Underworld just before 7:30pm I was expecting the thing to finish nearer 11pm than the advertised 10:40.

Things ran bang on time and all three bands started on their scheduled dot. The thing that restored some faith in my gig going was the superb and professional way the Swedish masked men went about pummelling the venue. The crowd was pretty sparse, no doubt none of the mainstream printed press have picked up on the band so the metal heads with the sheep herd mentality of only going to things that they are told is good didn’t make an appearance. There was less than 100 in there, but it was by and large an enthusiastic 100 who really wanted to be there to celebrate Dr Living Dead! finally making it on to our island.

I’m still a bit surprised by the turn out considering both opening bands had support slots with pretty decent headliners in the same city within the last fifteen months. Rezet were opening up for Anvil at the tail end of 2016 and Swiss band Comaniac supported Metal Church last summer.

The performances from all three bands were superb and all for under a dozen English pounds. It was well worth making the effort. Yesterday started at 4:30am with a 9 hour stint at work. A brief 90 minutes at home before I ventured out on a five hour round trip culminating in me getting home just before 1am this morning. That was actually earlier than anticipated as the train was 40 minutes early into Stoke. The Swede’s could have easily taken to the stage and played a shortened lacklustre set, but already after four shows this year that is a contender for gig of the year.

Moving on to today, Iron Maiden’s sophomore release Killers celebrates its 37th birthday. I won’t delve into that too much as I wrote about it exactly 365 days ago. It’s one of the albums I’ve I had in my possession for the longest and probably takes the bronze medal out of the entire Maiden back catalogue.

In a weird twist of fate Hi-On Maiden are playing just up the road at Eleven, and as I have no work tomorrow it’d be rude not to attend. A few people I know have said how good they are and I need to see them and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to catch them that hasn’t clashed with anything else.

Happy birthday to Killers and to celebrate here’s a live version of Wrathchild taken from their Live at the Rainbow VHS release. The cover above is from the double sided 7” with the non album track Twilight Zone on the A side.

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.

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.

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.