Free Speech For The Dumb

Well I’m currently sitting on a plane above the clouds, probably somewhere over the eastern part of England heading to Eindhoven. Not as many metal heads on the flight as anticipated but lots of oddly dressed guys that look like they’re heading on a stag weekend. They must know something that we don’t – Eindhoven was one of the dullest cities I’ve visited for a long time, then again besides Monday morning we didn’t trek about the place much. 

Leaving a dank and grey Manchester (and my little man Ozymandias) behind me, hopefully 400 miles further east the climate will be a bit more welcoming. 

We were delayed slightly leaving so it’s going to be a race against time to get the bus from the airport to the hotel in Eindhoven then onto the train to Tilburg for the show. In an ideal world I’d like to have been there in plenty of time to catch some death metal blast beats dished out by Exhumed. Failing that an hour later sees local lads Discharge ambling onto the main stage.  

Last weekend they played a packed out Stoke show at the Underground. I saw them a few years ago in the same venue and it was pretty sparse to put it politely. Since they inked their deal with Nuclear Blast and seemingly gained some more appreciative fans from their appearances in much of the mainstream music media, it does appear to have reignited their career, along with the introduction of JJ on vocals. End Of Days is easily on of my favourite releases from last year. 

I’m quite surprised the inclusion of two of their tracks on Metallica’s Garage Inc. compilation album some years back – well pushing twenty years now I come to think about it! – didn’t achieve the same goal for them to some degree. Allegedly on a personal level though it did extremely well for them. Guitarist and founding member Bones apparently managed to quit his day job and pay off his mortgage due to it. Every cloud has it’s silver lining. 

I never saw them during their original run with Cal on vocals, and it wasn’t until their reformation with Rat that I broke my duck. Since then I’ve seen them numerous times and in front of varying sized crowds. From a tiny, but partisan, crowd in Crewe via the cavernous Ritz in Manchester and London’s Forum, to decimating the Warzone stage in France as part of Hellfest last year. This evening is going to be somewhere in the middle and I really do hope the Dutch crowd gives these Stoke lads and punk innovators the appreciation that they’ve worked hard for going on nearly four decades now. 

Free Speech For The Dumb was released back in 1982 on the classic Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Clay Records. Twenty eight minutes of glorious noise. 


Well I ended up finishing this and posting it the day after their set. Not the biggest crowd in attendance on the day, but very enthusiastically into what was been served up to them from the stage. Mission accomplished. 

Live Arena 2016.14

Back home and looking forward to making a few decisions on some gig participation this week. 

First up this week should have seen me attending a Repulsion show in Manchester which has now been cancelled. I passed up the chance to see Laibach in London on the same night, now it’s too expensive to train down to the capital. 

   
Wednesday

I could be off to see Udo Dirkschneider in Manchester with Canadian band Anvil. Heir Dirkschneider is performing a two hour set of metal classics by his previous band Accept. 

Failing a trip to Manchester I might slide on down to Stoke town for a few hours of grind, crust and power violence supplied by Wojczech from Germany, local act Krupskaya and Nothing Clean from Leicester. Could be fun for a few quid. 
  
Thursday

Under consideration for tonight, but pretty unlikely I’ll go is Japan’s Shonen Knife, an all girl pop punk trio. I’ve not listened to them for such a long time or indeed ever seen them. A band brought to the public’s attention by Nirvana. 

  

Friday

The weekend begins with a further dilemma. One city, Liverpool. Two choices. 

Option A – an evening of up and coming thrash metal headlined by Desolator in the back room of a pizza shop. 

Option B – sees local punk legends Discharge playing around the corner from the pizza shop. 
  

Saturday

The annual record store day sees the weekend off with a show by one of the two bands that I missed in the previous three days. 

Discharge head down the M6 to play in Birmingham. Originally Deviated Instinct were on the bill, but they recently cancelled. And Anthrax are also supporting, the British punk band Anthrax, not Scott Ian’s thrash metal over lords. 

Or I can head west into Wales to catch up with the retro 80’s metal fest of the Dirkschneider and Anvil tour. 
  

New World Order

Well since Wednesday it’s been a hectic finish to the week. I managed to finish work early enough Wednesday afternoon to get a few hours of shut eye before I caught a train to London to see German band Rage supporting Helloween. Back on a train at 10pm and in my bed shortly before 1am Thursday. To say I was tired Thursday evening is an understatement and I retired to bed early for a well deserved eight hours of sleep.

Friday evening was the short drive to Crewe to make my first visit to The Box for a pair of Stoke punk bands in the shape of  Wasted Life and the mighty Discharge, via a local pub for a few hours of drunken debauchery for some.

Formed in 1977 in what then would have been a very industrial area, Tezz and Bones, the Roberts brothers, along with Rainy and Cal were responsible for reshaping the punk sound, and eventually having a whole sub genre named in their honour – “D-Beat”.

They have a very simplistic approach to the lyrics and music, you’re not going to get and rambling 18 minute epics about zeppelins from these guys. Short ferocious blasts of politically and socially angry, screamed lyrics is what is on the menu here.

Since releasing their debut album Why? on Stoke label Clay Records in 1981 I would have thought they’d have been happy with playing to 2,000 punks in the city’s biggest venue the Victoria Hall, but being so welcomed worldwide must have been so surreal.

In my mind, without the amalgamation of Motörhead and Discharge the heavy music scene might have been so different. The biggest metal band walking the Earth in 2016 paid homage to the Potteries quartet with two tracks on their Garage Inc. release in 1998. They’ve also been covered by the likes of Neurosis, Napalm Death, At The Gates, Soulfly, Anthrax, Ensign, Machine Head and even by Norwegian black metal band Carpathian Forest.

I’m not old enough to have seen them in their heyday, so I had to wait for their first reactivated gig at the Sugarmill in Hanley in 2007, with Varukers main man Rat now shouting down the microphone. I’ve seen them a bunch of times since, even supporting UK death metal titans Bolt Thrower in London in 2012.

The Rat era ended in 2014 when American Jeff “JJ” Janiak replaced Rat. JJ had been living in the city for sometime and was the Wasted Life vocalist and is now also screaming for Broken Bones. I saw what I think was their first show as a five piece, with original drummer Tezz back in the fold but now on guitar. That show in the Underground saw a reinvigorated band and with that new found enthusiasm seems to have lead to a record deal with major German metal label Nuclear Blast.

This video to this track was recorded at that 2014 show and is their first release for the label.

Live Arena 2016.5

A bit of a quiet week to kick off February’s gigs, but this month I have at least one trip over a body of water (maybe two!)

Wednesday – London Forum

A quick trip down to the big smoke for some German metal.  My main reason for agreeing to go to this one nearly six months ago was to see Rage for the first time in six years, which was also their last time here, and the first time indoors for me. I wasn’t too bothered about missing the biggest part of Helloween, but they were impressive at Hard Rock Hell I’m now a bit gutted I’ve got to duck away from the venue for a 10pm train.

 

Friday – Crewe, The Box

My first time seeing local punks Discharge for 2016 and I know it won’t be the last time this year. Now signed to Nuclear Blast Records hopefully they’ll start to get the recognition they deserve.

 


Sunday – Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms

Not 100% sure about this one just yet.  The ex-Sepultura frontman is coming through the UK with Soulfly.  I’m not a big Soulfly fan, but a friend recommended Australian band King Parrot to me and this is their first time here since that recommendation. At least it will be an early finish to get home if I go.

 

Top 10 Gigs of 2015

Now that was hard work trying to narrow down a top ten of shows I attended this year from over 70 shows.  In front of me now I have a list scrawled out of 17 memorable shows for one reason or another and enough scribble on the page to fill a small diary.

 

Some of the shows that I had to cut included debut UK shows form Belgium’s Bloodrocuted and Vektor from the United States. AC/DC rocking the foundations of Wembley Arena.  The mega line up of Carcass, Obituary, Napalm Death and Voivod on the Deathcrusher tour.  Intimate shows by Anthrax in Brighton and Iron Reagan in Manchester. And the merging of my teenage years and some of the newest bands on the Slam Dunk Festival (PVRIS, Beartooth, H2O and Millencolin).  Finally, a honourable mention to Discharge, the inovators of D-Beat, playing a home town show to a packed venue with their new vocalist JJ.

So here it goes…

10 – Bloodstock Festival (Catton Hall 7-9th August)

I was going to steer clear of lumping a festival as one, but there were some superb performances this year.  Finally seeing Dark Angel was a huge plus. Nuclear Assault’s last UK appearance.  Sepultura, Overkill and Re-Animator showing everyone the old bands still have it, and overlooking the technical difficulties, Within Temptation’s headline slot had everything you wanted.

  
9 – Overkill and Sanctuary (Hedon, Zwolle 17th March)

A flying trip to Holland to catch the Killfest tour.  The second time I’d seen Sanctuary, but the first time with a roof.  They were flawless and Overkill were as solid as ever.  An added bonus of the Hedon venue being so good.


8 – Hirax (Manchester, Sound Control 16th March)

I could have picked their debut show at Hammerfest a few days earlier, but after the initial disappointment of seeing what part of the venue they were playing, it was so pleasing viewing a band playing in such a small space with so much enthusiasm.


7 – Xentrix and Acid Reign (Dublin, Voodoo Lounge 16th October)

I could have picked anyone of the three shows I attended on this tour, but by the time they sailed into Dublin they had all hit their stride, especially the returning Acid Reign after a quarter of a century away from the stage, who were as much fun that night as they were in 1990.


6 – Obituary (Camden, Electric Ballroom 1st February)

The reason I didn’t include Deathcrusher on the list is thanks to this headline set from Florida’s finest. I had reservations about it being upgraded to the much bigger Ballroom from the comparatively tiny Underworld. By the start of their set any misgivings were put aside as the place was pretty much full.  They were on top form that night, plus there was the added bonus of seeing German thrashers Dust Bolt on the same night.


5 – Flotsam & Jetsam (Nuneaton, Queens Hall 19th May)

Another disappointing turn out in Nuneaton, but that didn’t deter the legendary Arizona thrashers.  Tonight was a complete master class of thrash metal. Such a tight performance and compared to when I saw them last year the live vocals were much better.


4- Metallica (Gothenburg, Ullevi Stadium 22nd August)

Metallica are my favourite band and can really do no wrong in my book (well maybe LuLu!), but they couldn’t make my top three this year.  This tour didn’t have to may surprises in the set list, but I got to see Frayed Ends of Sanity performed live and I had tickets for the Golden Circle so we managed to get pretty close and ended up with a few off stage souvenirs.


3- Slayer and Anthrax (Brixton, Academy 30th November)

Again, I could have picked either date of the tour that I saw, but with the added size of the stage in Brixton you got more bang for your buck. Two bands who are most definitely getting better with age. Slayer were just Slayer, no banter, no jokes, no roller coasters, no prolonged solos – just pure, unadulterated, evil, thrash metal (and dancing inverted crosses!)  What more could you want?


2- Tankard and Crisix (Barcelona, Razzmatazz II 25th January)

Finally the missing piece for me from the German Teutonic Big Four. If Tankard won’t come to me then I’d better go to them!  After Kreator these Frankfurt beer swilling maniacs are my next favourite band of the four.  Much like Anthrax or Acid Reign, they are often classed as the clowns of the bunch.  That night in January they were on top form.  The track (Empty) Tankard was superb sing-a-long, and seeing Gerre singing from on top of the bar right in front of me is something I won’t forget in a hurry. They were so much fun to watch.


1 – Nightwish (Wembley, Arena 19th December)

So my favourite gig of the year happened to be the last gig I attended.  Nightwish owned the cavernous Wembley Arena that evening.  We were promised the full European stage show and that’s what they delivered.  Metal fans have a weird preoccupation with fire in all forms and we had it all tonight! We also had smoke, ticker tape and giant video screens.  The visuals were well and truly backed up with some stunning songs performed to perfection by Floor Jansen who breathed life into tracks from the departed vocalists before her. Fantastic sound too in a place so enormous, and it only cost £25.  A real bargain. A truly superb evening.