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.

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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. 

Moth Into Flame

The morning after W.A.S.P. in Manchester sees me have a relatively early wake up call to jump on a train and head to London Town to see Metallica on the opening night of their five date UK tour. 

I’ll be at two of the five dates, but things could change. I was hoping to have seen them at a couple more but at £100 a ticket it was way out of my price range to see many more than the two. I’m in London on Sunday with friends and the following Saturday I’m in Manchester with my wife. I was hoping to have gone north of the wall to see them in Glasgow too, but that (so far) hasn’t materialised! 

I haven’t seen as many of the bands European dates as I’d have hoped for, but I’ve had a few adventures and I have a night in Stuttgart to look forward to next year. My first time seeing the band in what many consider to be their European home of Germany. 

Before the main event it’ll be straight off the train and a dash to central east London (is that a thing?) to join one of the many queues for the day and have a peruse inside the pop up shop. Having experienced the Copenhagen store back in February it’s a great money making scheme for the band. Hopefully I’ll be able to grab something British specific from there as I’m pretty sure the ones on sale in the arenas will be snapped up and several will be on sale on eBay before the final strains of Enter Sandman have died away in the rafters. 

Once I’ve finally dumped my stuff off in the hotel it’s off to Greenwich to visit the O2 Arena for a second time. The only other visit I’ve paid to this soulless hanger was back in 2010 when Bon Jovi took residency there for a staggering twelve nights. 

With the tragic event at the Manchester Arena some months ago and artists finally (but unsuccessfully) trying to do something to combat ticket touts I foresee another long and arduous wait whilst people who’ve bought their tickets at an inflated price on the secondary market for the event get unceremoniously turned away. Once those lucky enough to posses the right ticket with matching photo ID it’ll be time to queue inside the venue for just about anything you’ll need in there, over priced food and drink, toilets and merchandise. 

Let’s hope, because it’s Britain, that the people in front of the queue aren’t like the last ones I encountered at a big show on foreign soil. What’s with the desire to try on every piece of clothing you think you want to buy? Check the little piece of material in the back of the garments you are wearing. If they fit ask for the equal size. If they’re to big or small amend accordingly. The only thing you need to know is the make of the clothing. From my misfortune, if it’s Fruit of the Loom go a size up. 

It’s going to be an expensive weekend with W.A.S.P. the night before and Manchester six days later, but at least I’m only away from my own bed for one evening and even if it’s taking me three hours to travel to the capital my train ticket has been dirt cheap, costing me less than £20 there and back. More money available for merch, not that I’m desperate for anymore. 

I was hoping this years arena run would have seen me break the barrier of seeing the band for the 40th time. I was really hoping I’d have made Paris earlier this year and maybe another two of the five UK shows. If I’d have made the Moscow show that I had tickets for back in 2010 then I’d gave only needed two more, but Eyjafjallajökull erupting in Iceland at the same time scuppered flights, along with the exorbitant price of a Russian visa so close to travelling also didn’t help matters. I’ll break the 40 mark in time, there’s no rush. They’re going nowhere just yet. 

As all the tracks from the latest album had videos made for them here’s another one that has been a main stay of the band’s set list for the fifty odd shows currently played on the Worldwired Tour. 

The Idol

This time last week I was sitting in a caravan on the Lincolnshire coast after feeling unwell for most of the previous day. Unfortunately I can’t equate my weekend illness to alcoholic intake. This weekend has been akin to a sloth so far. Next week that changes gears quite considerably. 

Almost twenty five years to the day (well twenty five years and ten days) I’ll be seeing W.A.S.P. on the Crimson Idol tour again. In total Saturday will be my fourteenth time seeing the Blackie Lawless show on the stage. This year celebrates the The Crimson Idol album that was released a quarter of a century ago, and its being played in full on this tour – just like he did on its fifteenth anniversary. 

It’s been well documented on here that I’m a huge W.A.S.P. fan. They’re one of the first bands that made an impression on the teenage me (and the first band I saw live) and the dedication has stuck with me over the years. I slacked a bit in the late 90’s during their KFD era, but live you’re usually guaranteed a short greatest hits set, apart from “that song”. The Re-idolized tour consists of the ten tracks from the concept album followed up with an encore of anywhere between three and five back catalogue tracks. Done and dusted in a modest (measly?) ninety minutes.  Originally there was murmurings of the full album being played with the inclusion of other songs that should’ve been on the release, a couple of which surfaced on the last album Golgotha, but that hasn’t materialised since the initial announcement. 

There seems to be some kind of furore over the length and quality of the bands recent live output. Checking back on previous tours I attended, my first experience lasted for thirteen songs on the Headless Children run in 1989. Show two for me twenty five years and ten days ago in Wolverhampton was also thirteen. I’ve experienced a few shows with a staggering fifteen track (one of which was a drum solo!) but I’ve also witnessed several with as few as ten songs in total. 

Their headline set at Hard Rock Hell 2009 was one of the reduced sets. I’m pretty sure they came on stage late and chopped five or six numbers from the evening. For a band with a great history during the 80’s and into the 90’s and a proven track record in recent years their tardiness has always seemed to be a faltering factor for them, that along side Mr Duren’s well documented ego. The night after I’ll be seeing one of W.A.S.P.’s contemporaries in London Town who’ll be playing a much bigger venue for a lot longer and will have a visual display to die for, but more on that later. 

Going back to what was allegedly going to be a Blackie solo album here’s The Idol. I thought I’d posted this track previously, but checking back nothing from the band in 1992 has made the blog. The Crimson Idol makes it into my play lists on a very regular basis and is up there as a favourite all these years later. They’ve always written a good power ballad since their debut in 1984 and The Idol is one of several ballads on this album and moved them a bit further away from the shock rocker personas from the previous decade that would resurface before the end of the decade with the return of Chris Holmes. 

Welcome Home

Today marks the 29th anniversary, somewhere in the world, of King Diamond’s third opus “Them” hitting record stores, the first of two conceptual releases about “King’s” mentally ill grandmother. 

“Them” in this case are the voices that a young King hears around the house, and “they” are controlling King and Missy’s mother. It all ends up in death, mayhem and incarceration, then concluded (in a fashion) with the following release Conspiracy. 

Besides the mini post I’d featured a few weeks ago for the 31 songs in 31 days project I can’t comprehend that it’s taken me so long to post a second King Diamond track properly. December 2015 was my last foray in to the psyche of Kim Bendix Petersen, which really shocked me and that was only posted because it was a Christmas influenced piece of music. 

The Great Dane most definitely has a marmite sound. You either love his vocal delivery or hate it. I know a few people who like it for the musicianship, then their  interest dissipates as soon as Mr Petersen let’s rip. I enjoy that kind of vocal delivery and range  and I like the intricate tales that he weaves with his lyrics. It’d be interesting to view if any Hollywood moguls got involved in a reimagining if the two albums.  Failing that I’d like to see a “Them” tour. Over the last few years the band have been playing the seminal Abigail album in full and a concert DVD is in the pipeline, I’d really like to see that trend carried on with the following pair it albums. 

I got a bit confused with what track I was posting when I started tapping away as I initially looked for the Sleepless Nights promotional video, then I realised that was on the following album. My hopes were briefly dashed then I came across a video for Welcome Home, which I had never seen until this afternoon.  You’re never too old to learn something new! 

Nothing Else Matters (S&M)

September 2nd 2000 – a date ingrained on my mind forever and a day, even though an exact time might be a bit hazy seventeen years later. 

A round about this time on (possibly) a bright Saturday afternoon I was a bit of a nervous gibbering wreck waiting to say I do to my better half Angela. I can’t actually remember all the details from the remaining ten hours of that day, some gaps need to be confirmed by my wife, others we have both got different recollections of. If only we had the video memories that we were promised by a member of the extended family. 

Seventeen years on my wife and I are heading home after attending a wedding in Essex. Sitting opposite is my best man from the day and his wife who both put in a lot of work into feeding the handful of guests on the day and generally being our voices of reason. Some people are unfortunately no longer with us, but we have fond memories of most of them. 

The biggest blur of the day was the evening do. I remember some of the music our DJ played that night and I recall heading off to a hotel before the witching hour. Actually meeting and greeting people who were there is a faded memory. All these years on though I can still recall some of the slight disdain from my father in law who seemed disappointed he couldn’t by me an beer on the night as I didn’t drink back then. I think he’d be less disappointed now. 

We had the usual fare of wedding style music played through out the evening but we made sure we had some things a bit more rock orientated interspersed during the night. Extreme’s More Than Words and Angela (obviously) by Mötley Crüe got an airing. A mutual favourite of ours, The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood might have also crowbarred me onto the dance floor for the second time that evening. 

Since then though Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing has brought me out into a cold sweat every time I’ve heard it played on the radio. It’s just the PTSD style flash backs I get of dancing with my mother in law (insert copious mother in jaw jokes here!)

The first dance that we had as a married couple, and possibly had together as a couple, was the power ballad Nothing Else Matters by Metallica from their eponymous 1991 album. Coincidentally enough it was also played at last night celebrations at the behest of the metal head groom, and it was one of the very few times that I have done my impression of someone trying to dance badly in a public setting. Maybe we’ll do it again in another 204 months, unless there is something occurring for our china anniversary (even though I’d much prefer a ticket to Beijing or Shanghai instead.)

So here’s me raising an imaginary glass of train Cava to the love of my life. Besides all the good things that we’ve done together she has had to put up with so many bad moods, tantrums and general issues of  not thinking things through over these last “couple of years” and here’s to many more.  

Angela,

All my love,

Today 

Tomorrow 

and

Forever 

x x x x