Shapeshifter

  

Yesterday should have been my last day at work for eight days and during the upcoming week I had a plethora of gigs to pick from and an abundance of time. But as what seems to be the norm lately at work due to resignations, holidays, sickness and injury I’m now working three of my eight days. C’est la vie! 

One band I was hoping to catch was yet another from the proud nation of Canada. When the Suicidal Angels tour was announced I was pleased to see at least one UK date on there and Crisix and Mortillery supporting. I was less than pleased to see Mortillery were only doing the last portion of the trek. 

Checking my iPhone calendar it was good to see I’m actually off work for the final seven shows and I’d be able to make one of them. How wrong could I have been? Leipzig in Germany was an option but we already had tickets for the Battle of the Bays tour in Birmingham. The most straight forward trip was Berlin but with that being on Sunday I’d needed Monday off – please see the above regarding holidays, illness and resignations! 

I would have been quite partial to a flying visit to Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Vienna or Zurich, but in an ideal world I needed to have been there and back inside of 24 hours and from an airport close to home – I have five to choose from. Yet again no such luck. Early morning flights leaving at the crack of dawn from airports with a three hour drive were a no go. From the few that went from central England there was no return flight the next day. I looked at different airport combinations or flying to a near by city and jump on a train. Nothing worked in. I think my hand was dealt and I wasn’t off to Europe to catch these Canadians for a second time. 

I got to see the band opening up for Sepultura in Munich back in 2014 – a gig that has been mentioned on numerous occasions throughout this blog. In a nutshell I was mainly there for Flotsam & Jetsam who I’d never seen at that point (I’ve since seen them a further four times). Mortillery were second on after Exarsis and really left a mark. Absolutely stunning stuff in such a short slot. I snagged my tour shirt and in the intervening time I’ve never noticed anyone wearing their shirt inside a UK venue. 

As a shirt hoarder I’m even more frustrated that I won’t be adding their latest shirt to my ever expanding “collection”. I’ll have to keep an eye out for any tour left overs in a few weeks time. 
  

Maybe they’ll reach these shores next time? Failing that their next sojourn into Europe are more accommodating to my often inflexible work schedule. In the meantime here’s nearly six minutes from their latest album Shapeshifter – another gem in the Napalm Records catalogue.  

  

Lullaby

  

I’m on a train home from Manchester after attending the Anvil show where I didn’t even stop to catch a single note from Anvil! German thrashers Rezet with their 40 minute set were more than worthy enough for two hours on a train and the entry fee. 

Tomorrow I’m taking a trip to Liverpool’s Echo Arena with my wife to revel in what could have been a second consecutive evening of Canadian music. We’re off to see Nickelback put on one of the most competent arena shows that you will have the privilege to witness.  By this time tomorrow the curtain will have fallen on my fifth live Nickelback experience and I’m in no doubt that I’ll be on my way home in a happy frame of mind. 

You might have gathered from this blog that has been going for nearly I year now I prefer my music fast and loud – which is a crying shame for those not inducted into the way of Nickelback. It’s amazing how many people dislike the group with a passion – many verging on pure hatred –  but usually they’ve only heard two songs which happen to be their biggest. But delve deeper into some of the album tracks and boy can they knock out some spectacularly heavy stuff. 

They can pretty much write anything from either end of the spectrum. You have some bands who just seem to churn out ballad after power ballad, but have nothing extra to offer. When you could play a teary track like Lullaby, head straight into the short sharp punk blast of Flat On The Floor and seamlessly flow into a cover of Metallica’s Master of Puppets and round it all off with the song everyone loves to hate, Rockstar, where the band don’t even have to sing it as the majority of the fifteen thousand crowd in attendance will inevitably sing it word perfectly, then you know you are doing something right. 

They’re very much aware of the jokes that they are the butt of, but they take it all in their stride and often play upon it during their concerts. What’s the point of getting upset over it when you’ve sold over fifty million albums all around the globe and you can play arenas worldwide? Someone must like your music, otherwise there’s a warehouse somewhere near Vancouver with forty-nine  million compact discs stored inside. 

  

Lullaby is taken from the bands seventh release Here And Now. The album cover features a photograph of the steam clock located in the Gastown area of Vancouver. When we were there a fair few years ago now we must have taken (well I rather than we) dozens of photos of that clock. In the UK this track wasn’t released as a single and the video used on music channels over here was different to this heart wrenching version. This version has only been streamed a measly 61 million times on YouTube. 

Bad For Good

  

Its looking like the main support act for the majority of the Suicidal Angel’s tour are Toronto metallers Skull Fist and the band from the four perfirming on Sunday that I have no knowledge of. 

I’m a bit fussy when it comes to the power metal and speed metal genres – I much prefer heads down and balls out thrash. 

As I’m seeing them in two days I though I’d better give them ago to see if I’ve missed out on a hidden gem. Pressing play on the first track I came across on YouTube  (Bad For Good) I thought the track had been labelled up wrong with its almost Bon Jovi esque drum crashing intro. Musically it straddles the early heavy metal sound, and the NWOBHM era in particular, but almost bleeds into the heavier end of the hair metal scene of the 80’s. The vocals remind me of someone but I just can’t think who, and the cowboy boots nearly shove it into the hair metal arena. 

Viewing a few more videos they definitely  do have a heavier edge to their sound than the first one I viewed. The falsetto vocals are going to drive a wedge between those that like and dislike, but these Canuks certainly can play their instruments. In a time when retro sounds are all the rage a few of these songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a 7″ piece of  black vinyl with a logo from Neat, Heavy Metal Records or Rave-On emblazoned on the cover, but with a much more polished and precise sound.  

Tomorrow I’ll see if I have time to procure their two albums and give them a proper listen. Failing that I will approach their set with mild trepidation and an open mind. If nothing else musically shines through for me it looks like it should be a lot of fun in the Underworld. 

Re-Animation

I’m back!!!

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted here – and things with the blog we’re going so well!! There’s been no real reason for my absence, if anything due to a lack of gigs over the last thirty days I should have been more prolific on here.

I dodged a bullet by not attending the Download Festival earlier in the month. I was only interested in the Sunday for Iron Maiden, I’m gutted I missed them but relieved I didn’t spend six hours getting there – when it’s only an hours drive from home – then trudging through liquified mud for a day.

The following weekend was spent over in France with nine friends attending Hellfest in Clisson. Hands down this was the best festival I’ve ever attended on so many levels. It was three long days, 11am till 2am of wall to wall music over six stages. There was rain, but the actual site coped with the downpours much better than Drownload did the weekend previous. Over three days I caught the majority of sets by 41 bands. My feet weren’t happy though.

 

Due to festivals gigs for the rest of this month are a few and far between. Unless I find something beforehand my next gig is probably another continental visit to Holland for the Dynamo Metal Festival in Eindhoven, sandwiched in between some down time in Amsterdam for my wife’s birthday.

As today is Canada Day and I appear to have an soft spot for the world’s second largest country here’s a video from a Canadian band. Another track by Nickelback or Annihilator were on the short list. Progressive rockers Rush or Canada’s best kept secret The Tragically Hip were also under consideration. In the end I though I’d go for something a bit more noisy.

Taken from the 1987 album Forward To Termination I give you Sacrifice from Toronto. I’ve never seen the band live, and I feel I am unlikely to see them any time soon.  Forming in 1983 they split a decade later. As with so many bands of that era they reformed in 2006. In that time they have only played Europe once as far as I am aware when they were part of Germany’s Keep It True Festival XIV in 2011. Fingers crossed that the Netherlands Deathfest can drag them across the Atlantic (from sea to sea) next March.

Eric’s Had A Bad Day

I’m back!! Had a few days recovering / feeling sorry for myself since we got home from Norwich and London. I went with a sore knee, but with miles and miles of walking over the weekend my leg certainly wasn’t happy with me. As a thank you on my return home my leg became swollen. What I though was just three days of over exertion, it turned out to be an infection, confirmed by the doctors after being cattle prodded to the surgery. Penicillin for me then.

On Sunday I finally got to see Canadian skate punk veterans SNFU in London. Another band I’ve been listening to on and off for a long time, but never had the chance to see live. I vaguely remember pulling out of attending one of their shows more than 20 years ago. I’m almost certain it was due to have been at the Warehouse in Derby, but I have no idea why I never went.
 

They formed in Edmonton way back in 1981. Over the proceeding 35 years they’ve had their troubles and split up on numerous occasions. Vocalist Mr. Chi Pig (or Ken Chinn to his parents) is the only constant in the band and he’s hit rock bottom harder than anyone. He’s suffered from depression and addictions, endured poverty and eventually became homeless. They should really have been as much of a household name as the likes of Green Day and The Offspring. They found a home for a number of years with Epitaph Records shortly before the label hit it big with the release of Smash. Epitaph had hoped SNFU, along with other bands on the roster, would hit the big time, but everything was dwarfed in comparison by Smash and Dookie.

Around 7:30pm yesterday I found out that the band were playing in Manchester to an audience of 150 and were due on stage at 9pm. As I’d seen them a few days before I didn’t risk the hour drive to Manchester to see them for a second time just incase I got turned away by a sold out sign. That might have been very different if I hadn’t been in the basement venue of the Borderline 48 hours earlier.

 

This video is taken from 1995’s seven word album title, as is every release, The One Voted Most Likely To Succeed (a dig at some other punk contemporaries?), twenty-nine and a half minutes of punk bliss and a return to form, and basics, after the previous album.

Iron Maiden – Toronto, Air Canada Centre – 3.4.16

  
The crux of my trip across the Atlantic Ocean to a frozen five days in Ontario was for one reason only and that was to catch Iron Maiden on their worldwide Book of Souls tour. 

Why travel for 3,428 miles one way to see a band who I’ve seen in excess of 20 times and are playing literally on my doorstep in June?  

To begin with, because it’s Iron Maiden. Shows aren’t exclusive to citizens of that city, country or even continent. Heavy metal is a global family. The three of us in attendance were most definitely not the only ones from the UK there, and out of the 14,000 inside the Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening I’d hazard a guess of a sizeable contingent of people there representing multiple pages from an atlas. 

Secondly, it’s indoors. I go to quite a few festivals, but as mentioned before, I’m not overly keen on the giant events like where their only UK date is scheduled for in June at the Download Festival with another 90,000 people in attendance. With my advancing years I prefer the more intimate surroundings with marginally better creature comforts and actually being able to hear the acts regardless of where you are situated, without the wind swirling the sound around and making your vantage point pot luck as to whether you hear all or some of the sound emanating from the stage that could be a quarter of a mile away. 

  

Gig day should have been a full on, wall to wall Maiden fest. It should of kicked off around noon with the Trooper pre party held in the Tilted Kilt bar directly across the road from the hotel, but due to me being ill I didn’t make an appearance there till 4pm, just as it was time to head off on the short walk in the snow to the Air Canada Centre. 

  

One of our travelling party booked us in for the Trooper VIP party at the arena. On arrival we saw a merchandise stall in the concourse and proceeded to snag our Canadian specific event shirts. When we signed in for the VIP we were handed out Trooper branded goodie bags and another shirt of the same design that we’d just paid $50 for. Schoolboy error! We were able to swap them, but if we weren’t I’m sure there would have been takers on eBay. 

  

We were herded through the doors at 5:30 and taken into the bowels of the arena to the Platinum Club for more free Trooper and bar snacks. As to not risk missing the main event I declined everything put out in front if me. Sixty minutes later we headed into the main bowl to check out The Raven Age. 

  
Bounding on stage with all their youthful exuberance the London five piece ploughed through their short set of modern metal with a very eager parent watching on from the mixing desk. To our left was Steve Harris, who’s son George is the guitarist in The Raven Age. They appeared to go down well with the Canadian metal heads in attendance and made some new friends. 

As UFO’s Doctor Doctor rumbles through the PA those in the know are whipped into a frenzy as we know what is imminent. The lights go down, the video intro rolls on the large screens either side of the stage and the road crew unveil the Mayan stage set in the darkness. The almost spoken intro to If Eternity Should Fail sees Bruce Dickinson alone on top of the stage in front of a smoking urn before the band kicks in and the breaks are let off the roller coaster. 

  
Seamlessly new song Speed of Light follows and sounds better live than on album. Delving back into the 80’s, Children of the Dammed gets a slot in the set for the first time in seven years and splits up a run of four new songs from the current album. A song most Maiden diehards want to see live since the albums release is The Red and the Black, which rounds out the first five songs, and goes down really well, even with its long instrumental ending. 

The Trooper, a stalwart of a Maiden live show, sees Bruce resplendent in his red tunic and waving the Union flag high above his head. It is followed by the epic Powerslave before another pair of new songs. As with all Maiden shows there is that element of pantomime and theatrics involved. Whether it’s the afore mentioned Powerslave sung with a Mexican wrestling mask on, Hallowed be Thy Name accompanied with a hang mans noose or the giant axe wielding savage Eddie that struts on stage during The Book of Souls and ends up having his heart ripped out and sacrificed to the Mayan gods. 

  
A trio of classics closes out the main body of the set and the now standard huge Eddie head rises at the back of the stage during Iron Maiden. Not the most technical looking of props that have been seen, but it is easily one of the best looking heads as it looks so much bigger and textured than most seen before. 

  
The encore opens up with Number of the Beast with another huge inflatable appearing on stage in the form of the devil with his arms crossed overseeing proceedings. Possibly the curve balls of the evening are the last two tracks. Blood Brothers hasn’t seen the light of day since 2011’s Final Frontier tour and the set closed with Wasted Years, which has been pretty regular but never closing the set. 

With a career spanning four decades and a limited amount of stage time there are always going to be songs people want to see that have been left out, but it is refreshing not to hear certain songs tour after tour after tour. 

  
No doubt I’ll see them again in Europe later this year and probably at their spiritual home of Donington, but fingers crossed they’ll announce an arena tour of the UK later on as standing in a field with 90,000 people won’t get anywhere near as good as the evening spent with mainly 14,000 Canadians. 

  

Forgotten Arrows

 

It’s a bank holiday Monday here in the UK which means it will inevitably rain and I get a lie in, only problem being is that I’ve been awake since 6am as all the early work alarms weren’t turned of and the opening to Metallica’s Fuel has been on a loop for half an hour. At least I got a couple of hours extra in bed.

Later today in braving storm Katie and I’m taking in a death metal gig of international proportions. First band due on stage are Nero Di Marte from Bologna, Italy, followed by Philadelphians Dysrhythmia. I’ve not heard of either of those bands so a crash course Spotify session is due at some point today.

Psycroptic hailing from Tasmania are main support on this tour and are a band that I should have seen by now. They played Manchester at the tail end of last year with Luxembourg thrashers Scarred, but I never went as the venue had a ridiculously late curfew and I would have missed most of the bands I wanted to see.

That brings me neatly to Quebec’s long running technical death metal band Gorguts. They’ve been knocking around since 1989 and their first album Considered Dead from 1991 was another Roadrunner release that I was sent for review. After they released The Erosion of Sanity album a few years later they were dropped by Roadrunner and went on a half decade hiatus.

This also coincided with the fact that I drifted away from death metal and started listening to more hardcore punk and its many sub genres. Once I had a mode of transport that was reliable I was hooked on the enjoyment and excitement of the live show. More of the hardcore bands I listened to were playing live more often so their shows took my cash and thrash and death metal gigs seemed few and far between. Now it’s more like a complete 360° turn. I still like the hardcore music, but I’m not getting enjoyment from the vast majority of shows due to the bizarre crowd interaction and dancing – in its loosest term.

Anyway, back to Gorguts. After the hiatus two more albums were released, but the band split in 2005 after drummer Steve MacDonald committed suicide.

I actually thought they’d split up way before that anyway so when I came across Colored Sands whilst trawling my newly installed Spotify app I thought it was from the 90’s. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was a new release from 2013. I really liked what I was hearing and eventually went back to explore the earlier albums. Colored Sands is still a death metal album, but compared to their Roadrunner output it is much more progressive and experimental than what got them signed over 20 years ago.

As with the other three bands in this package I’ve never seen Gorguts. They played a pair of shows here in 2012, but the only other UK show I can find according to SetlistFM is way back in 1994 at Derby’s Werehouse. There must have been more here as just playing Derby is odd or it’s an erroneous entry. Either way, I’ll be seeing them just after 9:30 tonight.