Edge Of A Broken Heart

I have one day left at work and then it’s a three day weekend in the UK. The weather is going to be reasonable and hopefully I’ll get chance to venture out if the house. There’s a jazz and blues festival on locally, no acts I’m familiar with apart from Peter Frampton, and that’s only a solitary track of his I know. But there is a record fare happening on Sunday and weather permitting, as it’s held out doors, I’ll go and have a peruse if the boxes of records and make lots of weird sounds that usually translate into “how much!”

Saturday could bring yet another trip to Manchester to another new venue for me. There are two bands playing that I’m intrigued to see. It’s being held in Factory or FAC251, which I think was the head offices for Factory Records, a label synonymous with Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays.

Opening up the show is West Midlands band Sister Shotgun. I’ve not had chance to see them live and I’ve heard a few of their tracks. I’m interested to see them off the back of a recommendation from a customer of mine. The guitarist of Crewe based band Fallen used to work in a shop I delivered to and we used to have a chat about music and stuff. His band played with them locally and he said how good they were live. They’ve been getting around a lot just lately and have a new guitarist in the fold.

Headlining is Janet Gardner Page, not exactly a household name, but for people, especially guys, of my age and into rock during the same era she was the front woman and guitarist with the big hair in Vixen. They’re a band I first heard on the Friday Rock Show hosted by Timmy Vance on Radio 1. I think it was the Edge if a Broken Heart single that was played late on the Friday night and by Saturday afternoon I had the 7” vinyl in my hands.

They’d been together since the early 70’s surprisingly, but didn’t gain any mainstream recognition until 1988’s eponymous debut and their sophomore release Rev It Up in 1990. I never heard past that second album and I do t think I’ve ever heard Tangerine.

Richard Marx coproduced the debut album and wrote Edge of a Broken Heart. At the same time the band were getting some big opening slots on tours with the likes of Bon Jovi, Scorpions and KISS. Musical differences lead to a split and there have been several reunions over the years.

I remember watching something on VH1 called bands reunited where they attempted to bring bands back together. The idea was to a specific line up in the same room and it was deemed a success if they performed. I saw odd episodes here and there. A Flock of Seagulls and Berlin were successful. Holly Johnson refused to perform with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and at the time Extreme was a failure. Vixen put aside their differences and did play.

In 2012 a classic reunion was on the cards, but guitarist Jan Kuehnemund was diagnosed with cancer and passed away towards the end of 2013. The three remains classic members have carried on as a tribute to her and an album is planned.

Vixen have been playing live sporadically over the last four years, mainly in the States and a few dates in Canada and Europe. They played Hard Rock Hell in 2016, an event I unfortunately didn’t attend. There was a tour in 2006 for some version of the band which apparently stopped off in Crewe. They played the Limelight and it took me a dozen years to find out. It’s closed now and looking rather dilapidated, but it was one of those venues that never seemed to bother with too much promotion and hoped for word of mouth from regular barflies.

1991 saw them supporting Deep Purple over here. The year before saw some of their own dates and a few supporting Scorpions and on the bill for the prestigious Bon Jovi soirée at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

In all my time I’ve never had chance to see Vixen, and to date Saturday will be the closest I have been. Janet plays some stuff from her self named debut solo album from last year with a smattering of Vixen hits thrown in. They’re due to play the Rockingham event in Nottingham in October with some other AOR and hair bands mainly from yesteryear, but for what I’d have to pay to get in and what I’d get from the weekend it’s currently out of reach of my budget. But never say never.

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Smooth Up In Ya

Time to slow things down a bit and subject my ears to something where, as my mum would say, you can understand what they’re saying.

On Tuesday a trip up the road to Eleven is more than likely on the cards to partake in some late 80’s hard rockin’ all the way from Los Angeles. Marq Torien (the only constant member since the bands inception in 1986) brings the BulletBoys to Stoke on Trent.

I’m not the biggest fan of the band by a long shot, but they’re playing less than 2 miles up the road and and I’ve never seen them so it’s an opportunity I can’t really pass up. Some bands I’d considering travelling a decent distance to see, unfortunately some pretty much have to be on my doorstep to tempt me out.

I remember listening to the eponymous album and the follow record Freakshow back in my college days. Even though they rubbed shoulders with the hair bands that frequented the iconic Hollywood venues like the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Whisky A Go Go and the Troubador, the band probably owe more of their sound to Van Halen than Mötley Crüe.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t listen to anything again until I stumbled on their sixth album 10¢ Billionaire some time ago and I know I haven’t listened to any of their three albums released within the last decade. This evening has involved some binge listening of their back catalogue and the solitary track on Spotify that will be featured on their From Out of the Skies album that should be released anytime now via Frontiers Records.

They haven’t frequented these shores too often during their career. Their 2018 dates are the first in ten years, and if you had seen them on their first visit you’d have been waiting almost twenty years to see them second time around. I’m not really sure how popular they were over here. I’m guessing they got swallowed up by most of their more popular contemporaries, and odd songs here and there rose to the top in the rock clubs.

For a ticket price pushing nearly £20 I hope there is a decent crowd in the venue. Considering they’re sharing the stage with Enuff Z’Enuff, another band from the glam metal heyday, it’s pretty decent value for money in my eyes, and especially when you compare it to what I could’ve paid to see Skid Row last week. I’ve read a few negative comments online about poor crowds leading to an inferior performance and a seemingly shortened set. Let’s see what Tuesday brings.

From the self titled debut album, Smooth Up In Ya is one of the bands most well know tracks.

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.

R.I.P. Malcolm Young

I like many other metal heads and rockers will be cranking out some AC/DC over the next few days in tribute to rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcom Young who passed away earlier today aged 64.

The Glaswegian was the driving force behind the band with his much more visible younger brother Angus. Due to ongoing health issues he stepped down from the ‘DC line up in 2014 to get treatment for dementia – the brain disease that took him three years later.

Reading through Twitter and Facebook his band and he were huge influences on many of today’s contemporary bands which has been highlighted by the slew of heartfelt tributes paid throughout the day.

As a youngling I never paid much attention to the band. They were another one of those bands that I knew the history and hits of without owning an album. I was into things of a more heavy nature at the time and it took a while to appreciate the more rock ‘n’ roll and blues tinged artists that were such huge influences on those bands I idolised at the time.

I was fortunate enough to see the band twice. Once surrounded by a plethora of flashing devil horns at Wembley Stadium in 2015 and my debut experience was in 2010 when they brought their own stage to the Download Festival. They played their set on the Friday evening and the carcass of their own set up overshadowed the main stage for the following 48 hours. It overshadowed the other bands over the weekend in an intimidating way and reminding the likes of Deftones, Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch that they were light years behind them as entertainers.

Their Download appearance was the only time I got to see Malcolm on stage as his nephew Stevie Young was filling in for him.

I attempted to get tickets to see them the year before on an earlier leg of the Black Ice tour but we were on holiday in Florida when tickets went on sale. By the time I got around to getting online with the patchy hotel internet and the five hour time difference all the venues had sold out in minutes.

Last year I had tickets for their show at the Olympic Park in London – less than twelve months after playing Wembley. When the departure of Brian Johnson was announced and the rumoured replacement of Axl Rose was confirmed I requested a refund on my tickets as to me that wasn’t what I’d originally signed up for. In hindsight and from what friends I knew who went said, he did the material justice. One of those missed opportunities I’ll have to live with.

If You Want Blood… is taken from 1979’s Highway to Hell, the final album to feature Bon Scott on vocals who was found dead in a car in February of the following year.

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. 


Sheer Heart Attack

I’ve finally finished work for the week, only four days later than expected though. Tomorrow we’re off to the seaside for an elongated weekend and I have the misfortune of attending my first ever Queen convention over in Mablethorpe. 

The wife and I have experienced a few Doctor Who gatherings over the last few years, but I feel this weekend is going to be something completely different. Wall to wall Queen geeks who, in the main, will know their Day at the Races and a Night at the Opera inside out. 

All fans have their diehards and some of that fanbase will be of the über fan variety. Geekiness in all fandoms is on a sliding scale of casual through to obsessive, and without a doubt there will be a massive dose of one up man-ship throughout the duration. Whether it’s from that obscure tour shirt from ’76 someone is adorned in or some piece of useless information offered up as an answer in the inevitable quiz, fans always try to impress, intentionally or subliminally is another question though. 

Every fan of every band claims their fans are the best in the world, it’s hard to disagree with them as that’s the way they perceive their musical world from within their rose tinted bubble. Having said that though I think I’m a fan of bands with some of the most rabid and reverent followers on the planet. 

Metallica and Iron Maiden announce tours and bookings and flights from every corner of the world descend upon every city on the tour. I’ve travelled over Europe to see both bands over the years, I’ve even hopped over to North America to see them both. Bars around the arenas are heaving with black clad metal heads wearing a plethora of tour merch form all over the world and spanning the decades. I used to assume I was the only person in a crowd in Toronto for a show then you overhear dozens of British accents amongst the buzz of the Canadian drawl. 

One of the first forays on to foreign shores for the reluctant wife and I was to Paris to see Iron Maiden at the Bercy. Pretty much a day there in a coach and a day back with nothing but Maiden fans. And what was played through the buses sound system during the trip? An assortment of Maiden tunes from varying live releases and studio albums. Definitely three days of Iron Maiden overkill, but most people wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I have no doubt a Queen fan, or a fanatic of any other artist from all genres is as fanatical, but I do think metal fans have that edge in fanaticism. I’ve never seen a Queen fan carve the bands name into their skin outside a venue. Slayer on the other hand… Metallica’s imminent British tour sold out in minutes of some of the countries biggest sheds and that’s with a ticket price leaving peanuts from a £100 note if such a thing was legal tender. 

Even if it’s not the high priced ticket at the arenas of the world, the fans that traverse the country week after week to catch the up and coming act (or in some cases the fading star of yesterday) are just as, if not more, of a fan. It takes much more effort and will power to drag yourself to the venues in the middle of nowhere to see that band play a half hour set to you, one man and his dog on a snowy January evening then head off home. You just know one day that night with a handful of people will be one of those shows that all in sundry will we talking about when the band breaks into the big time. 

To kick off what might be a Queen themed weekend on this blog (internet permitting – but I’m not hopefully) here’s something from Queen. Quel surprise! 

October 28th marks the forty year anniversary of the bands sixth album News of the World, and from the bite size pieces of information I have seen in relation to this years convention it is based around this album. Confusingly the track Sheer Heart Attack featured on this album rather than the album of the same name released three years earlier. This live version of the track is taken from the live album Queen Rock Montreal (recorded in 1981). Without consulting iTunes I’ve probably played this track more than most of their tracks. 


 

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.