Flight Of Icarus

As a pretty barren, but sizzling June ends (only three shows attended) July sees my first trip of the year to the Netherlands to catch Iron Maiden on their Legacy of the Beast tour before it hits UK shores in August. My last outing to the Lowlands was for the Eindhoven Metal Meeting last December, this time its for something visually much more spectacular.

Sunday will bring up my quarter of a century of Maiden shows since I first saw them in 1990 and it will be in a seventh different country. I’m quite intrigued to check out the city of Arnhem, apparently there is some bridge there that was quite famous for something, so I keep getting told. Three of the bands last five Dutch dates have been at the home of Vitesse Arnhem rather than the more populous cities of Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

I quite like seeing shows in football stadiums as, being a Stoke fan, somewhere like the GelreDome is somewhere I wouldn’t visit as an away supporter. Reading about the stadium and all it’s mod cons I’m intrigued to see if the climate control system will be in operation as the temperatures could be hitting a peak of 25°, which is five degrees or so cooler than what we’ve had at home in the last week! My car thermometer showed 30° on Wednesday afternoon!

With this modern age of technology where spoilers are the norm, and Iron Maiden are a band that don’t deviate from their set list, most fans knew what to expect at their particular show since the Tallin debut back in May. There are the usual suspects of course and several curve balls. Some of the other sougs I’ve seen in the past, but some I haven’t had the pleasure to hear live for three or four years, The Wicker Man has been omitted out of the set for seven years. For the Greater Good of God has had an eleven year absence and it’s been 15 year and 17 years respectively since I last saw The Clamsman and Sign of the Cross live.

From an amalgamation of 25 shows over 28 years there is still one song in the set that I have never seen live, which actually surprised me when I realised that fact. Flight of Icarus hadn’t been included on a piece of A4 and taped to the stage since 1986, and then it was only a handful of appearances. The Somewhere on Tour jaunt is the Maiden tour that I would love to have seen live. The song itself hasn’t been performed on a British stage since 1984’s World Slavery Tour, so it’s definitely something special for most fans for a song that is 35 years old.

I can’t say I’m enamoured about a 4:45am alarm call so that I can make it to Liverpool for a 7:15 flight (fingers crossed EasyJet’s first plane out isn’t delayed), but I’m pretty sure the pay off sixteen hours later will be worth it for this ageing and failing body, and I might have seen some bridge before the main event.

Advertisements

Gutter Ballet

Today musically has been an all out heavy metal feast. Some rogue bands from neighbouring genres snuck into the mix at various points as my iTunes really does need a good spring clean.

After another ten minute epic from Iron Maiden had finished a very basic piano interlude kicked in then a drum intro that could’ve graced many radio friendly AOR ballads from the 80’s. As soon as I heard the first notes on the piano I instantly thought to myself I’ve not heard this song in such a long time. Eighteen minutes later I’d gone through my third play of Gutter Ballet.

It’s such a fantastic track, very emotional and heart felt once it really gets going. I’ve had this song in my collection for an age but it rarely gets an outing. With a lot of songs, albums and bands from that era I can pinpoint to some degree how or why I picked up on it. With this song and album of the same name I don’t have much idea. It’s just always been there, loitering around in my collection. It’s also one of those songs I recognise instantly and I’d class it as a favourite song, but it’s also one I neglect for far long too. Maybe I was introduced to it via MTV? I know none of my friends at the time were fans of the band.

For the beginnings of Savatage you have to go back to the end of the 70’s when Criss and Jon Olivia founded a band called Avatar in Florida. Before their debut album Sirens was released in 1983 their name has morphed into Savatage. Gutter Ballet and Streets: A Rock Opera (and coincidentally the only two albums I own on CD by the band) propelled them closer to the major league. Their fourth album Edge of Thorns surfaced in 1993, but six months after its release guitarist Criss died on a road traffic accident caused by a drunk driver.

The band carried on until 2002 and released four more albums. Jon formed Jon Olivia’s Pain and was involved with the Trans Siberian Orchestra until Savatage was reactivated in 2014 and played their only show at Wacken a year later. And that’s been about it. No other live shows or albums even though they’re supposedly a going concern.

For my sins I’ve only probably listened to the aforementioned trio of albums in full in all of my years listening to heavy music. I might have Hall of the Mountain King in my digital library, but that’s not a very good return for a band who’ve released eleven albums. I’ve easily listened to Trans Siberian Orchestra more as they’ve been a constant around Christmas time for a number of years now.

They didn’t play too many shows in the UK, around a dozen, but I’m not sure if I actually saw them live. They played with Judas Priest on their Demolition tour when Ripper Owens replaced Rob Halford. I know I caught the tour at the Academy in Birmingham, but I honestly can’t recall seeing Savatage. I’m guessing the M6 was still a pain to traverse back in 2001!

One thing I do know though is I’ll be listening to much more of their output over the coming weeks now that today’s six minute blast of sheer class has reignited the spark.

The Real Me

Time for a bit of a nostalgia trip today!

I thoroughly enjoyed last nights death metal shindig, even if there wasn’t much of a crowd in attendance. It seemed odd how I saw some familiar faces for one of the local bands and didn’t see them make an appearance for the rest of the evening, and it’s not the first time I’ve witnessed that in Manchester. Very weird, but as usual though it’s their loss.

This morning I caught the back end of the FA Cup Final highlights on the TV. During the end credits there was a montage of past finals and memorable moments. Very few finals stick in my mind as my team have only ever participated in one during our 155 year history and we lost that one in 2011. The five nil win in the semi final was a much more enjoyable day out.

Another memory is from the 1989 final that I watched on the television. Liverpool versus Everton, a little over a month after the Hillsborough tragedy killed 96 Liverpool fans. The red side of Merseyside won on the day. Nothing there really to get a Stoke fan all excited about, but I’ll always associate one of Ian Rush’s goals with my very first gig as a 15 year old. Nothing too fancy or exquisite about it, just the memory of it hitting the back of the net and knocking a camera to the floor.

Not long after the belated final whistle due to extra time, I was on a bus with two friends and we ate at McDonald (when going there was actually more of an occasion for country bumpkins like us) before we went to the Victoria Hall in Hanley to see W.A.S.P. I’m pretty sure it was the first gig for two thirds of the trio, it definitely was for me.

That was on May 20th 1989, 29 years ago today (or thanks to an app on my phone 10,592 days). Quite a lot has gone on in those intervening years, almost 18 years of those have been as a married man! Left school. Had gainful employment in four jobs, the current one I’ve been at for two decades. A few weddings and a few funerals and a couple of fur babies and nephews and several visits to A&E along the way. Scary stuff when you start to break things down.

I almost went to see the W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus in Nottingham last night. If I’d have paid more attention to the significance of May 19th then I might have made the effort in some kind of bizarre loop connecting together. Maybe for the 30 year anniversary?

Gig wise I’ve seen over 1,170 different artists in more than 230 unique venues and visited much of the British Isles thanks to my addiction to live music. It’s also taken me to shows in fourteen different countries and given me a pretty massive (impressive?) t-shirt collection! I’m not sure how many actual concerts I’ve attended as the SetlistFM database lists a performance as a concert.

If, like last night, four bands played and they’re all in their database it shows it as four concerts, rather than just the one. Sometime when I’m at a real loose end I might work out how many actual concerts I have attended. I know there are many that I was present at that I have no recollection of or those that I do I have no definitive dates.

So in honour of my first show 348 moths ago here’s something by the first headlining band that made my ears ring. Taken from the album that the band were touring at the time, The Headless Children and still a favourite record of mine after all these years, The Real Me is a cover from The Who and was originally released on theirQuadrophenia album that is a little over a month older than I am (released in October 1973). I wonder if I can do another 348 months worth of shows? It’d only take me to 2047 as I approach my 75th birthday. It will be interesting to see what the music scene is like in another 29 years.

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.

Wrathchild

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.