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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Enlighten Me

How things have changed since the first outdoor version of the Bloodstock Festival. Due to the limited capacity of 2,500 or so in the Assembly Rooms and with the backing of the über festival Wacken, the British metalheads of the traditional variety had now got their own weekend in the rain. 

I didn’t attended the Friday half day with Sebastian Bach closing the night, I was probably working on the Saturday. I was there on the second day, but in hindsight I don’t know why. Every band playing on the day had played at the four indoor editions, with two playing back in September. Something that the organisers have sadly kept in place. 

The original layout of the site could accommodate ten thousand people, but I’m pretty sure it was nowhere near capacity. The car parking was within spitting distance of the single stage separated by a small plastic fence. I’m not sure if it was due to inclement weather or boredom, but I can recall sitting in my car at one point watching proceedings unfold to my left. Yes, it was that close. 

I’ve already posted about Paradise Lost performing in 2003. We had Evergrey yesterday and I’ve rambled about Children of Bodom previously, so that leaves Edguy, who at one point felt like the festivals own band in residency or fellow Germans Masterplan. 

So Masterplan it is then. They were formed by ex-Helloween members Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch when they were fired in 2001 for daring to want a side project. Apart from the fact that they were on two festival line ups I happened to be at I’ve not seen them since 2005, they haven’t even played the UK since a quartet of dates in 2007, and I own no music by them at all.  

Enlighten Me can be found on 2003’s self titled album. 

A Touch Of Blessing


It’s that time of year again where I’d best get looking at some of the bands that I’ll be seeing at Catton Hall next weekend, but before that here’s something from 2004 in a retrospective look at the festival from day one that I started this time last year. 

The first weekend in September 2004 saw another denim and leather clad gathering of the metal masses at the Assembly Rooms. 

Only four years in there were already repeat bands on the line up, but this year was my first time seeing Children of Bodom. It wasn’t a classic year for my liking as it’s when the event was much more orientated towards the power metal section of the metal fraternity. I’m pretty certain I was siting in the KFC in Derby before Bodom had finished their set waiting to take my passenger home. 

Looking at the poster again after all these years I don’t think any of the bands who played in the Darwin Suite (second stage) really broke through into the mainstream. 

2004 was, I believe, the first time Swedes Evergrey had set foot on British soil. Since then they haven’t been regular visitors here and have played less than twenty shows in the country, and I’m pretty sure most of those shows have been playing second fiddle to a headline act. 

They were formed by mainstay Tom S Englund in Gothenburg in 1995. In their twenty two year career they’ve released ten albums, but I think I only own two if their albums, In Seatch of Truth and Recreation Day, that I more than likely purchased in the run up to Bloodstock. I probably haven’t listened to them much at all since 2004 either. Odd songs may have popped up in shuffle mode over the years but I certainly haven’t played a full album. Listening to snippets of their songs on YouTube today though I think they might be worthy of a chunk of my time to reinvestigate the band. They haven’t been as much power metal, swords and dragons as I (wrongly) remember them. 

This was the first of my two times seeing the band live with the second arriving within ten months when they played at the inaugural outdoor event in 2005 whilst still promoting The Inner Circle album where A Touch of Blessing is taken from. 

Screams In The Night


Due to the fact that besides a pair of Iron Maiden and Shinedown shows next weekend, gigs over the next two and a bit weeks are a bit patchy so rather than bore you to death with numerous Maiden tracks (which I wouldn’t mind) I’ll do some random tracks to keep the posts flowing. 

Having said that then the first track on the iPod after shuffle has been selected is Screams in the Night by American heavy metal band Hellion, identified by front woman Ann Bolyen’s unique love them or hate them vocals. How bizarre that I’ve got two different songs with the same title in three posts. 

This album (along with the Postcards from the Asylum EP) was another one doing the rounds at school in the late 80’s. I had the vinyl for a length of time but I don’t think I have it now. It was a time where I was listening to a lot of the female fronted acts at the time, Warlock, Vixen, Lita Ford, etc. With Hellion though I just couldn’t get into the odd vocal range. On reflection though and with thirty years of hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t get into a bit more considering I listened to an insanely massive amount of King Diamond at the time and later on Fear of God. 

Over the years I’ve revisited the band every once in a while and have grown to appreciate it more. The mention of Fear of God above is kind of prophetic as the late Dawn Crosby and Ann Boleyn have a very similar style and I never knew Ann replaced Dawn briefly in Detente circa 2008 for some European shows. 

Hellion had their issues with management and band members over the years and disappeared for large chunks of time. The newest material surfaced in the shape of the Karma’s a Bitch EP in 2014. 

Checking Setlist.fm I was surprised to see that one of the few listed UK dates happened to be a Shelley’s nightclub back in March of 1988. Shelley’s was a local venue to me which had quite an impressive list of bands through its doors, but a venue I never attended. Lee Aaron, GBH, Little Angels, Vow Wow and Godflesh are some of those who have graced the stage there. The last noted act to hit the venue was The Prodigy in 1991 when this area was quite a big deal in the early days of the rave and acid house explosion, apparently.  It closed down due to the unruly ravers behaviour and excessive drug use. And people say metal fans are trouble! 

I think I’ll revisit the full Hellion back catalogue next time I have some free time, but for now I’ll have to be content with the handful of tracks I have on my phone. 

Hearts On Fire

After an earlier than expected alarm call, apparently there was an erroneous knock to the front door at 7:30am. Followed by a pathetic two hours sitting at the PC attempting to unsuccessfully purchase a trio of Metallica tickets, it’s time to prepare and head of to Pwllheli (or more precisely Chwilog) for Hammerfest. 

It’s a picturesque jaunt once we’ve left the English motorways, along the North Wales coast road and the winding road along the edge of the Snowdonia national park. When we’ve gone in the past and it’s been snowing there is an urge to jump out of the car and strike some black metal poses on the frozen tundra. 

Rather than shell out for the onsite caravan accommodation we decamp just down the road in Porthmadog. Not too far away and better amenities once we are outside. 

Today sees Skyclad, Napalm Death, Destruction and HammerFall gracing the stage within the caravan park’s ballroom. 

I’m not really a fan of the Gothenburg power metal band HammerFall, but in this house it’s was a bit of a standing joke regarding one of my wife’s work colleagues. 

I have a bit of a mental blank when it comes to names. Early on with her employers we were invited to a fancy dress company birthday party. As I couldn’t take in the names most people ever since have been referred to as Neo, Frankenstein and Marsellus. Hammerfall (the man) didn’t inspire a pseudonym at the time, until that one morning in casual dress Friday and there he was, resplendent in a HammerFall (the band) shirt. 

They’re a band I first saw in 2005 at the indoor version of Bloodstock for their second visit to the country, and twice since. They’re competent at what they do, but they just don’t seem to do anything for me and I get bored quickly. 

Hearts on Fire was released in 2002 on their Crimson Thunder album. 

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.  

Halloween

  

October 31st marks the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain which marks the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. 

The Christianised version is what we know as Hallowe’en – a festival for remembering the dead – which precedes All Saints’ Day and finishes with a day commemorating the faithful departed, usually relatives (All Souls’ Day). 

Like many festivals with religious connotations it has been “hijacked” and commercialised into something much more different than it was intended to be. Now people are out on the towns dressed as ghouls, zombies and weirdly Disney characters and paying over the odds to get into clubs with an abundance of spewing smoke machines and cobwebs, just to drink spookily named and coloured cocktails and dance the night away to “scary” songs. Hallowe’en and Mischief Night now feel like they are dragged out over a week or more depending on when the 31st falls. 

We’ve been in the States around this time of year a few times now, and even spent time in the horror attractions at Universal Studios. We’ve seen how big a deal it is over there and over the last decade or so it’s influences on UK shores has grown exponentially. I can’t remember exactly when the supermarkets here had an aisle dedicated to today, but I can remember when it never caused a blip in their store, apart from a much larger pile of pumpkins – the only decorations I can recall seeing as a kid. 

For a dyed in a he wool metal fan it seems all very perplexing that the straight laced people we might work with week in week out all of a sudden joins our clan, and gets an interest in fake blood, horror films, wearing black head to toe and having that three day love affair with reanimated dead bodies. By the Monday after All Hallows’ Eve it’s a case of “can we have our sub culture back now please, you’re embarrassing us”, as people and venues now move onto planning their overpriced Christmas and New Year events. 

So happy Hallowe’en and what better band is there to “celebrate” it with that German band Helloween. You don’t know how hard it’s been to type this out and write Hallowe’en without using three E’s!!