Review – Stonehenge Festival, Steenwijk – 28.7.18

They say all good things must come to an end and indeed they do as we start our trek back over to the UK. Actually we’ve already stared and I’m somewhere over the eastern part of the country. Above the clouds and not subjected to the rain that I believe has deluged the island since we’ve been gone (a whole 29 hours!)

What a long day yesterday turned out to be. Everything in the our carefully planned schedule was running smoothly and we were on track to get to the festival easily by 2pm for Skinned. That was until we had a three hour wait to get into our hotel in Zwolle. As nice as the room turned out to be it was more a four roomed guest house! We couldn’t get in until 3pm and ended up arriving on site at 4:30 – still a possible 11 bands to soak up though.

The weather had been really nice right up until the minute we left the hotel to get the train. The heavens opened and the rain fell in biblical proportions. As we took refuge from the downpour we missed yet another train and I ended up missing Skeletonwitch again.

After the hunt for the merchandise had finished with disappointing results it was time to watch some bands.

First up was LG Petrov, who will always be associated with Entombed, with his latest band Firespawn. He’s one of those guys that you know exactly what you’re going to get and it wasn’t any kind of deviation from his Entombed infamy. Spanish death metal band Avulsed followed straight away on the other stage. I was disappointed with this lot, too much piggy squeal vocals. Coincidentally we saw one of their guitarists looking rather lost at Schiphol airport earlier in the day.

Underrated Dutch band Thanatos were as solid as every other time I’ve seen them and they dragged Martin from Asphyx on stage to do what I’m assuming was a Hail of Bullets cover, not really a cover when most of that band are actually up on the stage.

Gruesome were hot on their heels and pummelled Steenwijk with their tribute to Death. Vocalist Matt Harvey from afar looks a lot like Chuck. Even though they play their own songs their sound owes heavily to the distinctive Floridian death metal pioneers and they finish the set with the stunning Pull the Plug.

As quickly as that finished Violent Pacification was straining from the PA on the other stage. The scheduling is relentless. The “arena” (a fenced off car park. See the photo below borrowed from the festival’s Facebook page of the cleared site) is tiny and the stages can be seen from most parts of the area. As soon as one band finishes another starts. A complete nightmare for bootleggers and those who feel the need to be at the barrier for every band. It’s not so great for those people who like most if the bands playing either. DRI were the dark horse on a predominantly death and black metal line up, but they had a healthy crowd and were a highlight of the day for me.

Swedish death metal veterans Grave were as reliable as I’d expect and they seemed much more into compared to the last time I saw them playing to a sparse crowd in Leeds. A quick 45° turn to my left and Martin van Drunen was back on stage with his day job Asphyx. Yesterday was the fourth time I’ve seen them and apart from London in 2015. It’s not as if they were bad in The Dome when I saw them, they were suffering from an appalling sound. Yesterday they were superb and yet again they levelled the place.

The last Dutch band of the day, Pestilence, seemed pretty lacklustre after what I’d just spent 50 minutes watching. I finally got into the groove with them and they became enjoyable with their thrash tinged death metal. Vocalist Patrick Mameli didn’t seem too happy, not sure if that’s his personality or just all the MetalS*cks shenanigans that has been going on lately that has had their American tour cancelled in the last few days? It was good to finally get to see Pestilence live and Out of the Body was a fine tune to effectively end our festival with.

The crowd had notably thinned after Asphyx and to me seemed even smaller by the time Carnifex took to the stage. They’re a band I’ve never taken the time to listen to. Seconds in and nothing persuaded me change my mind. I’m really not into the metalcore thing in recent times with the dual vocal delivery. We gave them the benefit of the doubt for a few songs, but it wasn’t improving for our aged heads and as much as we wanted to see Suffocation a late night Friday coupled with an early start Saturday and an extra three hours of drinking with the festivals barbaric schedule had taken its toll and it was back to Zwolle an hour or so earlier than expected. A shame really as on the previous times I’ve seen them they have never disappointed me.

Next year the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary. It’s evaded me for 23 years, mainly because I drifted away from death metal and didn’t give it enough attention. But I’m sure I’ll be back in Steenwijk much quicker. Is there any other reason to visit Steenwijk?


Forerunner Of The Apocalypse

As its 3:30am on Wednesday morning what better way to spend my time than writing about my upcoming weekend? I got awoken by a call to my wife from my mother in laws carehome just before 3am and as my alarms will be sounding imminently for work it’s that limbo time of snooze for 45 minutes or get up?

Saturday sees me attending Stonehenge Festival in the Netherlands for a full unrelenting day of mainly death metal. I say full, but if our flight out of Manchester isn’t delayed we won’t hit Steenwijk (25 miles north of Zwolle – our overnight base) until 1pm. That will still give us nearly eleven hours of music! A full day totals 27 bands on two stages with zero clashes over a 14 hour period! It’s an absolutely mind blowing schedule, as you can see down at the bottom of this post.

The lay out of the festival is in an enclosed city square close to the cities train station. It’s strange calling it a city, as according to Wikipedia the population ten years ago was less than 19,000. Nine days after Stonehenge I’ll be seeing Iron Maiden play to a sold out arena with more ticket holders that the population of Steenwijk. We have some cities in the UK of a similar size and several considerably smaller, but most of the smaller ones weren’t designated city status until the last 25 years or so.

Anyway I digress. Around 2040 on the second stage I’ll be watching Dutch death/doom legends Asphyx for only the fourth time and a band I’ve not had the privilege see on stage since Hellfest 2016. Amongst the 17 possible bands I can see in my time there they are up there as a highlight and a must see band on the day.

Forerunners of the Apocalypse is taken from their most recent output Incoming Death released in 2016.

Metallica – Manchester Arena – 28.10.17

Sunday afternoon and I’m still recovering from last nights exceptional Metallica show in Manchester last night. There was an air of trepidation prior to yesterday’s gathering, as for me and many others in attendance, this was our first visit to the arena after its prolonged closure due to the horrific bombing back in May. 

I joined the not overly lengthy queue about half an hour before the scheduled door time. The doors ended up being late opening by nearly quarter of an hour, but in comparison to last weekend in London we breezed through the extra security measures and I’d spent my money at the merch stand within thirty minutes of the first customers being allowed through the airport style scanners. 

I was high in the second tier, but after experiencing my first show of the year in Copenhagen from the floor then viewing the fan filmed video afterwards I felt I was missing out on the spectacle. Even back on row K the view was superb and the show looked amazing. There was a proper overview on everything going on rather than a glimpse of what was directly in front of you at any given moment.  

AC/DC started blaring from the PA and the crowd was instantly upbeat. The lights went down and Ecstasy of Gold began to roll. The first three track opening whammy of Hardwired, Atlas, Rise! and crowd pleaser Seek and Destroy mirrored London. Then some of the rotations crept in. Of Wolf and Man and The Day That Never Comes were slotted in before the rigid placement of Now That We’re Dead – with added drum solos from all four band members – and then another new album track. Yesterday I got my first live taste of the oddly paced ManUNkind before it was a return to the back catalogue with For Whom the Bell Tolls then a return to last years opus with Halo on Fire. 

Kirk and Rob are left to their own devices briefly and jam snippets of local acts. Surprisingly for a metal crowd the Oasis portion was well received by most. A short bass intro of Love Will Tear Us Apart preceded the Rob’s homage to departed bassist Cliff Burton with a spine tingling Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth) with Cliff looking down on Rob from up on high. 

A band renowned for their cover versions saw Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy get an airing before a blistering version of Creeping Death. Moth Into Flame with its added drone moths had been the last new track from the Hardwired… album the last few times I’d seen the band, but not tonight. Speaking of the drones, one went seemingly haywire and rather than circling the band few off into the crowd. I think someone got a good souvenir if they managed to keep it tucked up their shirt!       

The now predictable main set closers of Sad But True, One and Master of Puppets followed. Now that the band have got the pyrotechnics back in the stage show I wish they’d reinstate the flames when landmine is uttered in the song. I’ve seen that song so many times with the pyro my brain still expects the boom, I do like the new intro using bits of the bands landmark video to One compared to the over sized laser pointers of recent years though, but I’d still like flames. 

An unfamiliar taped intro to these ears began the encore. Usually it’s been Battery or Blackened (two songs I wouldn’t complain about heading live again), but for the third show in a row we got the song from the new album a lot of fans have been hoping to see and almost demanding its inclusion. The thrashiest track on the album Spit Out the Bone was absolutely stunning live and as it wasn’t played on the first of the pair of London shows, and the one I attended, all the rubbing of lucky rabbits feet and crossing all fingers and toes and any other manner of voodoo used seemed to work for tonight. 

Attending a Metallica show with my Y chromosome friends I go with, the set closing pair of Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman usually garners a different response compared to last night. When the guitar noodling of Mr Hammett begins I have often been seen heading towards the exit to beat the rush. Last night with my wife sitting to my left they developed into a raucous 12 minute sing a long. 

Approaching 40 shows in nearly 30 years I’m still surprised when I get to experience new songs and tonight I got two. From the shows I’ve seen on this run I’ve managed to see all ten of the tracks performed from the Hardwired session. I’ve seen people whine that there are too many new songs on the set list with currently six or seven played each night, but I’d much rather bare witness to something much more recent than songs I’ve seen dozens of times over the years. Sure there are old school songs and deep cuts I’d like to see reinstated to the set, but maybe drop some of the other stalwarts rather than those from the new album that in effect is being promoted. 

Now I’m off to see if anyone is trying to off load a ticket for Birmingham tomorrow and I’m still bitterly disappointed I didn’t make it to Glasgow midweek. 

R.I.P Chris Cornell

As soon as you think the talent taking grim reaper of 2016 has melted away into the mists of history this morning social media and even Radio 2, broke the news of the passing of Chris Cornell over night. Aged only 52, he and his Soundgarden brethren from the City of Goodwill played what would turn out to be their last show in Detroit before he was found dead in his hotel room after he hung himself. 

I’m not a massive fan of the Seattle band. I just think it highlights more important issues. 

My first dabble into the band was via their Hands All Over EP that I picked up from Mike Lloyds Music in their bargain bin. It was a 10″ vinyl and the cover was pretty snazzy fold out affair. When I listened to it though I thought it was awful. 

Roll on a few years and with the 1991 album Badmotorfinger they became a monstrous band for a relatively brief period of time. Rusty Cage always seemed to be on heavy MTV rotation. That position was solidified when Superunknown surfaced three years later. All I own physically by the band are the CD singles of Spoonman and Black Hole Sun. 

Until Audioslave released Cochise from their self titled debut album in 2002 I don’t think I listened to anything new from Cornell. In 2006 he was bestowed the privilege of performing the theme for the James Bond film Casino Royale. I’d say this is what propelled him to the general public’s consciousness rather than anything he did with Soundgarden, Audioslave or prior to both Temple of the Dog. 

The whole grunge scene seems fraught with tortured geniuses. If there was an influential big five from the innovators of grunge the only frontman still alive is Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and now Soundgarden have all lost their frontmen to drugs or suicide. 


Two things that have annoyed me a lot today is some of the attitudes towards his mental state, or mental issues in general. Firstly comments along the lines of “he had everything, how could he be depressed?” To be honest, it’s also a view point I might have had a number of years ago. 

I’m not claiming to be an expert in the field, but it is such a deep rooted affliction that it can be some of the smallest and irrelevant things that can offset someone’s mindset. They might have loads of money, massive record sales, adoring fans or a million dollar mansion. If there’s a darkness there anything could throw them over the edge. It’s probably been well hidden in public but in private things could be completely different. People’s coping mechanisms work in different ways to all situations. What you and I take for granted, i.e. receiving a negative comment, can be a tidal wave of pent up frustration to the next person and a feeling of uselessness. But do they want to draw attention to it? Maybe instead they publicly laugh out loud at it.    

Which leads me on to irritation number two. “Why not speak to someone about it?” I saw one comment about someone who has strong bonds with their family and band mates and could discuss anything. Congratulations to them. Let’s see what really happens when foresight isn’t a relevant option. 

If it’s family at the root of it all then where do you turn? If you segregate yourself from the rest of society and just “get on with it” on an individual basis day to day then you’ll have no one to speak to who you think you can confide in. It especially seems a male trait that you don’t talk about stuff like that. It’s fine saying you could, but if you are feeling that low and negative could you handle the rejection and humiliation that you will ultimately be expecting? 

Coming out and confiding in someone, anyone, is the hardest thing those with a mental illness can do. To some they might see suicide as an easier option to deal with it. They won’t have to bother someone else and unload all their problems onto someone else. If you can’t process the electrical impulses in your brain correctly the pieces others have to pick up are secondary thought to their escape route. 

Yes it’s good to talk, which in itself seems such a blasé statement. I’m pretty certain we all bottle up something, it doesn’t have to be depression, anything you consider to be a problem that no one can help you with. Broaching the subject is not as easy as you’d think. It takes much more determination to bring it to the forefront. It’s not a quick process either. The people you’ve known for years or decades could be struggling for all the time you’ve known them. It doesn’t suddenly hit you like a virus. It sits inside the darkest recess of your brain and festers away long term. 

Be proud of any one who faces their fears and be understanding. Let them talk. If someone will listen and not be judgemental it’s a positive step. 

Paris 13.11.15

8:45 pm Friday 13th November 2015. I was watching German power metal band Helloween perform at the Hard Rock Hell festival in North Wales with another 1,500 – 2,000 like minded people. All having a good time with friends old and new. The day was winding down with a few more bands to follow. A lot of self inflicted sore heads were soon to be nursed ready for more of the same in 15 hours or so.

Meanwhile, 540 miles away at Le Bataclan in Paris, a similar number of people were watching The Eagles Of Death Metal, tragically 84 of those will never get to attend a concert again and the lives of the 1,400 will be changed forever, alongside thousands more family members and friends.

I’m not clever enough or political enough to claim to know the ins and outs, or offer a solution to prevent things like this happening in the future. I do know if the bombs had exploded at the Stade de France football stadium the current number of 129 fatalities would have been a whole lot higher.

The events of two days ago have hit home more than some other terrorist atrocities over recent years mainly because it’s something I like to do – go to concerts. It happened in a country I wasn’t in, it could have been New Zealand or France, I’d still have the same feelings regarding it. It’s not a venue I’ve even been to (even though my wife and I have seen Metallica in the stadium). It’s not even a band I really have any affinity with. It’s people who like me enjoyed going to concerts.

I drive for a living. Every once and a while when news comes on the radio about a crash with fatalities it sometimes makes you stop and think that one day it could be you.

I don’t think I’ll think twice about attending a show at any point in the future – or even seeing one in Paris if I get the chance – as soon as that seed is planted in any number of people then that when terrorists win.

Random Generator!!

An idea I’ve been thinking about for a while so let’s see how it goes….

I currently have 3,339 tracks on my iPhone alone (and a hell of a lot more on my external HD!!). Some songs I’ll play over and over again. Some I may never listen to for what will feel like years to come. 

I’m going to attempt to post a random song every day – or when I remember or have time!! I’m just going to hit shuffle and see what it throws up and see if YouTube is as extensive as my iPhone library.

So push the button Dano!!


A Lifetime With Music. 

That title may be a bit misleading. Maybe you’re expecting a blog from a musician? Maybe a journalist? Some sort of performer? Wrong on all counts, so there’s going to be nothing technical or insightful in the near future. 

I’m just a regular joe – wrong side of 40 who leads a pretty normal life. Music has been a passion for as long as I can remember. Lots of it in the home when I was a kid. Found something that spoke to me in high school sometime in 1987 and saw my first live band in 1989. Ever since I’ve spent way too much money and time on music. 

I’ve tried my hand at writing and promoting in the distant past which lead to me making some good friends who share the same tastes – but in some weird oxymoron – we all like things that the next guy doesn’t. 

My aim with this blog? 

Nothing really life changing or dramatic. Maybe something for me to look back on when my memory is failing? 

Sharing some music and bands that you’ve never heard of before or just simply faded into your memory banks? 

There’s been a splurge of “7 songs in 7 days that mean this, that or the other”

How can you condense 40+ years in 7 songs? 

Sorry for the ramble. I doubt any one got this far anyway!! 

One last thing. A message to my parents. 28 years ago you said “I’d grow out of it” – sorry, I haven’t yet!!