Black Metal Sucks

Last weekend began what seems to be a relentless schedule of shows and outings that doesn’t let up until mid September, but the diary merely takes a short break until October. If you need me for anything important over a weekend between now and Christmas it’s looking highly unlikely I’m available!

Last weekends trip to Arnhem had its highs and lows, but overall the highs won out. For a group of five old men, all but one are in their 60’s, they’re like a fine vintage whiskey and getting better with age. It was fantastic to see songs I’ve never seen live or not for a while. The stage set up is ludicrously superb and as the years roll on the band, or more so the youngster in the group, is veering much more towards full blown pantomime. Obviously in a good way though.

Over the next few months I’ll be attending the Dynamo, Stonehenge, Scream Bloody Gore and Bloodstock festivals. Some of the bands I’ll be viewing include Judas Priest, Exhorder, Broken Hope, Overkill, Act of Defiance, DRI, Gruesome, Doro, Power Trip, Creeper, Exhumed and Iron Maiden for a 26th time. And all of that is a selection of some of the bands I’ll be seeing and all before August is consigned to the history books.

In amongst all of that I also have a weekend away to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Twenty one again. Ahem. As seems to be the norm in recent years, July 21st always seems to have a gig I’d like to go to. 2018 is no exception, but I’m forsaking Shrapnel in Manchester in favour of a night out in Birmingham.

There’s also some football tournament happening at the moment and England are doing pretty well and has the whole country (well the soccer loving portion) in a frenzy as the nation’s team heads towards a possible final appearance. Let’s see what I’ll be writing this time next week.

Tomorrow I’ve got to juggle watching a football game on the goggle box up in Manchester and not get drenched in not so cheap warm lager before I head to Aatma for a seven band evening of thrash and power metal headlined by Massachusetts’ Lich King.

I have to admit I dismissed the band when I first heard them, as my entry point to Lich King was 2011’s Super Retro Thrash release. I now know it’s an instrumental collection of some of their songs represented in an 8-bit style. What I though on my initial listen in unrepeatable here, but needless to say I’ve not returned to it.

Further along the line I dropped on Born of the Bomb and a couple of their extended plays and thoroughly enjoyed their humorous take set to a retro thrash metal sound track. The Omniclasm surfaced last year and that is a superb slab of 80’s inspired thrash worship.

I’m pretty sure I read that this is the band’s third foray into Europe and Manchester will be only their second ever British show. The first was in London tonight. People here in the UK always asked about British shows via the bands social media sites, but were usually met with comments stating that coming to this island isn’t cost effective and they’d be out of pocket before they even got here.

When these dates were unveiled a few months ago there was no British dates on the initial poster. A London show was added and I was all for travelling to the capital to see them then tomorrow’s Manchester show was announced. Ten quid for almost six hours of thrash metal. Seven bands and three of those are from the United States. What a bargain. My only gripe about the show is the fact that we don’t get New Jersey’s Condition Critical, even though Ryan from said band has sung live for them and Mike Dreher is the bass player in both bands, plus they are doing the second half of the tour.

There are no official videos that I can find online, but here’s a lyric video for a track taken from 2008’s Toxic Zombie Onslaught album and re-recorded for the Do-Over EP six years later. It’s well worth viewing just to check out the awe inspiring lyrics and the variations of panda paint on display.

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Merciless Death

I could really get used to doing a four day week at work! It only seems like three days ago since I started back at work and tomorrow morning there’s no lie in for me on my first non working Saturday in my job for twenty years, as I’ll be in a train to Glasgow for the Lords of the Land festival.

Back in March last year I was impatiently waiting for my chance to snag tickets to see Metallica in Europe. I’ve always wanted to see the band in Germany and grabbing tickets for Stuttgart was looking the best option as it was a Saturday and I could attend the show and only have to take the one day as a holiday.

Sometime later the Lords of the Land date was announced and when I put it in my calendar it clashed with Germany and I thought nothing more about it.

Some lower bands for the bill were announced (Lawnmower Deth, Vallenfyre and Cannabis Corpse) along with Demolition Hammer. It was a case of I’d like to see Demolition Hammer for a second time, but I’m committed to Stuttgart .

Then a “headliner” in the shape of UK / Swedish death metal band Bloodbath, who have bored me several times were added. Metallica was definitely looking like a better option. More Swede’s courtesy of Unleashed piqued my interest, but still only two from six bands were intriguing me.

Ten days before Christmas and this years headliners were announced. Dark Angel were playing. Well that was a game changer and had me trawling the fine print on the Ticketmaster Germany website. How could I turn down seeing Dark Angel for only a second time? Three years since their last UK appearance, 27 years since their last show over here with a roof on and their first Scottish gig in almost three decades.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, the ever efficient Germans offer a refund service and my pair of tickets are no doubt making someone else happy whilst I get to see Gene “The Atomic Clock” Hoglan for the second time in a week.

Stoke punks Discharge and Norwegian black metal band Carpathian Forest have since been added, so it makes it quite a diverse one day festival and now worth making the effort to travel to Scotland.

Last time I saw a Dark Angel at Bloodstock I brought myself a shirt which had been dropped and lost by the time I left the festival. I know I’m supposed to be cutting down on my band attire, but I’ll have to invest in a Dark Angel shirt on Saturday.

Merciless Death was oddly included on the bands first two albums We Have Arrived (1985) and Darkness Descends a year later. This live version is from their 3-Way Thrash video recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in October 1989. Also on the Hammy O stage on that day were D.A.M. and Candlemas who both feature in the 3-Way Thrash release. Nuclear Assault also performed at the same show and their set ended up being released as the Live at the Hammersmith Odeon CD in 1992.

Infants Of Thrash

Happy chocolate egg day to you all!

Rather than heading out to a religious establishment to celebrate this four day weekend for many people, I’m sitting at home reminiscing about a fantastic night of thrash metal last night and pondering next weekends metal tour de force and infusing my body with caffeine.

I’m always a bit sceptical about seeing Testament in recent years, as they seem to mess about a lot beforehand and their set usually sounds awful or is cut short. I’m pretty sure last nights show was shorter than recent nights, but I feared that when there was a 10pm curfew and allegedly doors were due to open at 5:30 and we were still in the pub next door after six and the queue was just about kicking into life, well the life of a sloth. Such a bad venue to get into with the mediocre pat downs administered by the security staff.

I didn’t get to see too much of Vader, but Annihilator were great again with their short set that had to be briefly interrupted while ambulance staff attended to a guy who people say broke a leg in the pit during Vader’s performance.

Tracks from the new Testament album were mixed in with some 80’s thrash metal classics and several songs dragged screaming and kicking from their ever expanding back catalogue. Low is a track I’ve not experienced live for almost 15 years. We only got in the region of 85 minutes and some tracks that seemed to be stalwarts in the set were missing (Rise Up), but why not sacrifice the three solos rather than actual songs? Yes, we know Steve, Alex and Eric can play their instruments, but do we really need the vanity demonstrations?

At least with an early curfew I easily caught my last train home and even had time to grab some food without having to break into a sweat.

Towards the start of the month I anticipated catching twelve shows in a four week period before today. That ended up being a pretty respectable seven in that time frame. A few shows fell through for various reasons and a few had to be shuffled around. This weekend I was originally seeing Testament in Manchester on Friday then back to the city on Saturday for Xentrix.

At one point I was expecting to have made the trip to London for the Reprisal album launch show on Friday and ended up sacrificing seeing Xentrix for Testament 24 hours later. In the end I couldn’t get Saturday off work and I didn’t fancy a train trip back up north and getting home at 2am then being in work by 6 (if I managed to get a sneaky lie in) then heading off to another show. As of yesterday though that won’t be too much of an issue. Yesterday was my last time working on a Saturday before we have a shake up of working hours and my week will now finish on a Friday afternoon.

Besides the kudos of being a part of Reprisal’s album launch I was looking forward to heading to London to catch Greek thrashers Domination. I missed them when they were over here a few years ago and I fear I will miss them yet again on this pretty extensive run. They play Wolverhampton on Wednesday night, but there is a severe lack of information from the venue and promoter about the gig. The Facebook event page states a 2350 finish. If that’s correct that’s me out of contention.

Nottingham’s show next Saturday appears to have been cancelled, but I’m in Scotland that weekend anyway and wouldn’t have made it even if it hadn’t been scrapped. The Wolverhampton show is sandwiched in between shows in Coventry and Leicester, both easy enough to drive to from home, but with work the next morning they are both non starters.

The final option would involve my first trip to Chesterfield for something that isn’t a football match. It’s an 80 minute drive away and on a Friday evening. Even though I’m not working on Saturday, I’m still up early as I will be cracking the whip and trying to get three other people and a dog to Crewe station for a train to Glasgow that leaves at 8am. Can I trust people to wake up early enough and not make us miss our transportation?

The Athenian band have been going for seven years now and formed when their members had an average age of 15. Their debut full length surfaced in 2015 and is another worthy addition to the fantastic thrash metal scene coming out of Hellas in recent years. The country is now very high up on places I’d like to experience a live show. How frenetic the bands I have seen on stage recently seem to be is how I imagine the kids at a show in Athens or Thessaloniki.

Have a listen to the album via their Bandcamp page.

Practice What You Preach

It’s been ten days since my last post and far from being lazy in the intervening week and a half I’ve been busy at the day job and then getting home and walloping the walls of our spare bedroom and trying to organise the chaos.

We’ve been in this house for two decades and in that time we’ve never really done anything with the front “bedrooms”. Over the years they’ve just become our (my) dumping ground. Need something storing out of sight? Stick it in the front bedroom for now. For now turns into aeons.

Last week we had a bit of a spring clean and threw out a load of rubbish that has been loitering around the house for far too long. The room I’m currently tarting up will eventually become my man cave. My better half has put a month long deadline on the process so I’ve had to knuckle down and stop procrastinating. I’m intrigued to see what happens after a month, but not brave enough to find out.

Four days in and there is a clear path through the room and I can see a sorry excuse for a carpet. A new bookcase and three CD storage towers built and just over half the walls disguised in a blue ocean hue. The bank holiday weekend involves a trip to that well known Swedish furniture store for a huge shelving unit which I was hoping to display all my vinyl. On reflection after moving box after box around the room to get to other parts of the room I fear my storage ideas will fall well short capacity wise and I’ll still have records and discs in boxes.

Some of the items upstairs have never been out on display whilst in my possession and I’m really excited to finally be able to sit back on the biggest chair I can get through the door and survey my thirty year collection of music.

The thing I’m not looking forward to is sorting through a ridiculous amount of shirts that I have acquired over the years. I think there’s approximately sixteen black bin bags (well actually red bags, but you’ll probably be able to visualise a black bag better) full of merchandise that needs to be sorted, culled (maybe), folded and stored. Any one want to help?

Before our outing to IKEA on Easter Sunday I’m taking a breather and heading off out for a few beers and some thrash metal. I wanted to pop down to London for the Reprisal album launch gig on Good Friday, but I can’t get Saturday off work so I’m going to have to bide my time until Saturday.

Finally rolling through the UK on a headline tour to promote their Brotherhood of the Snake album are Bay Area thrashers Testament, a band who are no strangers to this blog. They visited the country in 2016 as support to Amon Amarth and nine moths later they were at Bloodstock. The bunch of British dates that kick off in Bristol tonight are their first headlining dates for six years.

Saturday will be my twelfth time seeing Chuck Billy and his cohorts on stage and no doubt a dozen times walking through the exit feeling frustrated after a Testament gig. They’re one of those bands that always seems to suffer from an awful sound. It’s as if they decide to turn all the dials up to a heavy metal eleven and wing it. Everything always sounds distorted, yet I’ve been back multiple times.

At least it’ll get me away from the four walls of multicoloured paint, multiple styles of wall paper and the not to unpleasant smell of fresh paint, only to be replaced with stale beer and sweat. Hopefully less frustrated and my wife is no doubt hoping I come home wearing the shirt I walked out of the door several hours earlier. Now which bag has my Testament shirts in?

Phantom Self

It’s Friday and today that means it’s Sepultura day!

I saw the band a bunch of times early last year when they supported Kreator and it’s been easily twelve months since I last listened to their Machine Messiah album. Surprisingly they played quite a bit from the record on their support slot and it wasn’t overly memorable at the time, but I was there for the Germans and the Brazilian tribe was just an added bonus. Now I’m geared up for a Sep’s show I’ll be more embracing of the newer material.

Once again the band are on a UK tour and yet again the “no Max and Igor no Sepultura” brigade are raising their heads from the woodwork like clockwork.

Max walked out on the band in 1996 – more than two decades ago. His brother followed in his footsteps ten years later, so it couldn’t have been all that bad. In a new interview online l saw last week, Max is still bitter about the split and wishes he’d kept the name. I’m still a bit curious how some one who leaves a band can lay claim to the name.

All this rubbish about it still can’t be the band if certain members or founding members are no longer in the band really frustrates me.

Last week heavy metal legends Judas Priest released probably their strongest record since Painkiller surfaced in 1990 to critical acclaim. From the five members who recorded Firepower only bass player Ian Hill is still in the band from the original 1960’s line up. From the line up that released the 1974 debut album Rocka Rolla three of the five are on the latest album. By the time I next see the band in an East Midlands field in August that three will be a pair with the recent announcement of guitarist Glen Tipton stepping down from live duties.

That’s one original member in Judas Priest, the same as Iron Maiden. Slayer, another band who suffer from this garbage, have half their original members the same as Metallica who don’t have the calls to quit based on band members, just plenty of people who don’t recognise anything released post Cliff, or depending on their age Jason.

Grind innovators Napalm Death have a new album on the horizon and like Sepultura it will feature not a single original member, but much like Firepower I’m sure that release (if it’s any good) will be lauded by the press and fans alike and many a blind eye will be turned regarding the line up.

Granted, Sepultura haven’t released an album of the calibre of Arise or Beneath the Remains during the Derrick Green era, but the Cleveland native has done more justice to those classic tracks in his stint with the band since his arrival. Having seeing Max Cavalera on stage several times in the past two decades doing some of his Sepultura history, Derrick does it much better.

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.