Piece Of Time

Ten months after Within Temptation had left the Assembly Rooms stage we were back standing within the grounds of Catton Hall as the festival ventured outside again.

Again held over two days, but I was only there for the Friday. No doubt it involved a mad dash along the A50 after work to get there in time on that afternoon for the bands. Looking back on the bill Friday was a much stronger line up and I may have used working on Saturday as an excuse not to attend, but that Saturday line up still doesn’t do it for me at all.

German power metal band Edguy headlined on the Friday. The festival seemed to have a thing for Tobias Sammet’s troupe. They played the festival three times in four years and this was the middle of that run. Then it was another four years until they returned.

Evile headlined the new unsigned stage and that was the second time that I’d seen them within a month as they played Bradford Rios with Onslaught and Xentrix, a show that should have been headlined by Testament if I remember correctly.

This year was the first time I got to see heavyweights Metal Church, and I’ve only seen them once since. It was also the only time I’ve had the chance to see Atheist. As far as I’m aware that was the debut British performance for the technical death metal band from Florida, and possibly one of only two shows ever on this island.

Looking back on it a dozen years later it does seem bizarre how Edguy headlined that year when Metal Church and Atheist were below them. It was a rare visit for Kurdt Vanderhoof’s band and especially coming off the recent death of one time vocalist David Wayne along with an appearance steeped in anticipation for Kelly Shaefer’s outfit. Maybe that’s why I don’t curate a festival?

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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.

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?

Slowly We Rot

Gig two of this busy run before Easter sees a trip down the M6 to catch the Floridian death metal godfathers Obituary. This evening will be the eighth time I’ve seen them in four consecutive years.

I almost went to Manchester to catch them again tonight (mainly because I can’t wait to see support act Exmortus again and it’s only 30 miles away) but I thought I’d save myself (and some money) for the hectic weekend ahead. I’ve got a long day at work ahead of me tomorrow before I even think of heading south. I’ll get home somewhere around midnight after the show with ringing ears and I’ll be back in work before 6am on Saturday. At some point on Saturday afternoon I’ll be in Manchester to catch the majority of the eight bands playing the Rebellion Rock Bar, an all day affair featuring Venom Inc, Suffocation and Nervosa and yet another night where I get home after the witching hour.

I was in the same city on Tuesday as Obituary when we were both in Nottingham, but I couldn’t turn down seeing Meet The Mailman on their debut British show, one of only two they played in this tour. With the Tardy brothers being less than half a mile away in the Rescue Rooms it severely detracted from the crowd in attendance for the Waco Jesus gig, well it did for the length of time I was in the venue for.

When the Quebec City thrashers played I’m pretty sure I was one of less than half a dozen people in the room who wasn’t in a band or involved with putting the gig on. But then again there seemed to be a very poor digital media footprint for the show and a massive jack if information from the promoters and venue. I only found out about the gig on Sunday and it took me until after midday on the actual day to find the Facebook event page to get some idea on the show times. I enjoyed the rather intimate gig, more than can be said for Kansas band Bleed The Victim, who seemed to be very frustrated and pretty much packed up their stuff and departed minutes after they finished their short set. Which is a shame as I was pretty impressed with the young band and would have purchased a CD if they’d hung around a little longer.

I’m pretty sure most of tomorrow will involve listening to a lot of the Obituary back catalogue interspersed with a huge chunk of the new Judas Priest album, assuming Firepower appears on Spotify before I leave the house for work at 4:30am.

There have been a few Obituary videos in this blog in the past, not surprising considering how many times I’ve managed to catch them over the last four years, but this track is heading right back to the dawn of the band. Originally the track was featured on the bands 1989 debut album. This live version is from the Live Xecution 2008 DVD.

Bad Luck

What an absolute stinker of a day today has turned out to be! I need to check to see if I’ve inadvertently smashed a mirror, or crossed a black cat somewhere? Maybe I accidentally refused some lucky heather from a gypsy?

Things were fine when I found a record store come cafe on my route at work and I ended up purchasing an Xentrix 12” that I’ve been after for some time for a decent price. It’s when I left work where things went awry.

I was pushing my luck with the fuel in my car on the way to work but with no petrol stations open at 4:45am – even though the local one has a facility to pay at the pump but is “closed” between midnight and 6am – it’s a risk I had to take. Fortunately I got to work 9 miles away. Coming home not so lucky.

I was less than 400m away from the petrol station when my car came to a juddering halt. Luckily I managed to coast it into a lay by and proceeded to walk to get fuel and at the same time the heavens took pity on me and proceeded to dump a load of rain in my location! Four quid for a shiny new plastic jerry can and 20 minutes later I was off and running again.

It didn’t spoil my afternoon too much I managed to get home at a decent time and grab a 90 minute power nap before it was off to the local train station for my Reprisal gig in Manchester. Considering I needed a return ticket I managed to press the wrong button on the automated machine. Instead of a £13.50 return I ended up with a £12.70 single. Great! Now the relatively inexpensive journey has no doubled in price.

At the start of my journey there the venue had been altered, but it was basically upstairs above the original venue, so no biggie with that one. Fifty minutes later I’m Manchester and I’m not too sure where the venue is so I bring up the iPhones maps to check the route and get the unwelcome news that tonight’s show has been pushed back by an hour. My last train home was at 2146. I only really wanted to see two of the four bands and was more than happy to hand over my £13 cash on the door for Cryptic Shift and Reprisal and have half an hour to amble back for my train.

Reprisal – the only bloody band I really wanted so see – are now scheduled to hit the stage at 2145!

I was debating whether to go and see the first two bands or not and even ventured up to the venue and got myself a quick drink to drown my sorrows in, but I suddenly thought “I really can’t be bothered” (putting it politely) and scooted off for the next train.

Less than three hours later and nearly £24 poorer, I’m sitting at home slurping a coffee wondering why do I bother to make the effort to see shows when promoters or venues seem to think that changing times at the drop of a hat is justified. I get that there can be issues, but they all seem so blasé towards their customer base. That’s a pair of shows in five days in Manchester that have been messed up beyond belief time wise. Not everyone lives ten minutes from a venue or is able to potentially drive to a venue. But that’s a rant for another day.

Sitting on the train home thinking about my bad luck today just got this song stuck in my head and is the only reason I’m posting something by FM. Coincidentally though I did buy this nearly thirty years ago as a single, I’m sure the 7″ came in it’s own box with an exclusive patch or a pin.

Today can do one!

Chapel Of Ghouls

I keep scrolling through my calendar on my phone to see what shows I could possibly be attending in the latter half of this week and my eye keeps getting drawn towards the two large red X’s which I use to denote a cancellation. On Wednesday I should have been going to see a version of Floridian death metal stalwarts Morbid Angel.

Due to passport issues the band are unable to travel to Europe and all their shows have been cancelled and hopefully to be rearranged for 2018. I was unsure if I was going as this version of the band are refusing to play anything from the first few albums and are solely concentrating on albums F, G and H!

Longstanding guitarist and only original member Trey Azagthoth is calling the shots and two years ago let vocalist and bass player David Vincent and drummer Tim Yeung go and drafted back into the fold on off bassist and vocalist Steve Tucker. He was the voice of Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic (hence F, G and H).

It could’ve been an interesting evening experiencing album cuts that have rarely been played on British soil, but I just think letting fans miss out on hearing something like Chapel of Ghouls is a kick in the teeth. I’m pretty sure in previous Tucker incarnations of the band tracks from the first four albums were included.

For what ever the reasoning is behind the bizarre setlist choices and currently the two “versions” of the babd in existence, if you want to hear tracks from A, B, C and D then you need to keep your eyes peeled for I Am Morbid which features Vincent and Yeung. Technically a cover act, but I’m sure they can smash out some classic death metal with aplomb. I Am Morbid have been announced for the Dynamo Festival in Holland next July, so I’ll be able to make my own conclusions.

I was reluctant to post another Morbid Angel track, who needs two from the band throughout these 502 posts, then I realised I haven’t put anything by the band in here at all, so time for that to be rectified immediately.

Released back in 1989 via Earache Records in the UK, the bands debut album Altars of Madness spawned Chapel of Ghouls amongst its other nine bludgeoning death metal tracks. It also ticks the necessary boxes for any self respecting release bursting out of the Sunshine State during that era. Recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa (with Tom Morris rather than Scott Burns) and a stunning piece of artwork by Dan Seagrave. Twenty eight years on from Altars album number 9, Kingdoms Disdained, will be in our sweaty palms in a little over a week.