Hero

Next week sees a possible slew of shows, but as it has been recently demonstrated I may end up at one or five. Who knows?

Next Sunday’s Persistence gathering in London is the only one I have an entry ticket for and three train tickets! Don’t ask – but no doubt I’ll tell you at some point later I the week.

Thursday evening sees me hopefully making a trip to Manchester for some UK thrash and death metal supplied by Bloodshot Dawn and Reprisal, but that is dependant upon the stage times being announced and fitting in with trains leaving my home town rather than driving to a larger hub and getting home after the witching hour.

A couple of outside bets are ex Misfits frontman Michael Graves kicking off a pretty extensive British tour. He plays close to home the week after in Stafford, but I’m in London yet again that night. If I fancy seeing him dust off some of his solo stuff and his Misfits era tunes an easy train trip to Chester on Tuesday could be on the cards, and no doubt a cheeky trip to the Deva Tap just along the road.

Tomorrow could have seen a trip to Sheffield to catch German heavy metal band Rage play. It’s a joint headliner tour with Firewind who I have no interest in. I’m guessing it’s a rotating headliner and knowing my luck if I go Rage will close out the show and it’ll be a drive home over the dark and winding Peak District hills with a risk of snow, or I’ll go on train and have to suffer the Greek power metal band. If I sit at home it’s guaranteed Peter Wagner’s band will be the second band on and I could have made it there and back with the help of East Midlands Trains.

I also have the option of a couple of local shows. Friday night the Rigger welcomes All The Best Tapes. A local band with an odd moniker who I’ve only seen once several years ago and never had the opportunity since. They play with a couple of stoner rock bands, so that’ll be an early return home.

Milton Keynes blues / garage / alternative rock band RavenEye grace the Sugarmill stage on Wednesday. They’re not a band I’ve heard much by but I have read a lot of decent reviews from some of their shows. They’ve played pretty extensively over the globe in the last few years and last year supported Aerosmith and KISS in Europe besides playing most of the big Euro festivals and some of the newer events in North America in recent times.

Whether the band break into the big time on the back of the support slots they’ve gained, this could be the last time they play a venue as intimate as the Sugarmill and the other rooms on this fifteen date UK tour before heading off to the European mainland.

As I’m not aware of the band at all, I’ve just seen a lot of glowing reviews from a lot of people, it might be worth a few hours of my time and a handful of British pounds to see someone who could be the next big thing.

Hero is taken from the bands 2016 debut album Nova released by Frontiers Records from Italy, a label I’ve always associated more with the AOR and hair metal genre over the years. It’s also an album I’ll have queued up on Spotify for multiple plays in the next 36 hours.

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The Broken Law

I hate committing myself on here to gigs as they inevitability fall through like the Dawn Ray’d show did on Monday! It was my first day back at work after a week off and a distinct lack of quality sleep on Sunday night, combined with a 3:45am alarm call on Monday meant I was fast asleep at home when I should’ve been otherwise engaged.

Friday, fingers crossed, I should be seeing local leg-ends Discharge tear a massive hole in the Rebellion Club in Manchester. This post could as easily have been written a month ago as one of the first bands I’m seeing in 2018 ended up being the last band I saw in 2017.

It could be the first gig of a Manchester double (or even quadruple) header over the weekend. It’s payday tomorrow so if I commit to buying tickets for Friday and Saturday then there is a higher probability of me making the journeys to the rainy state of Mancunia.

Whenever my next exposure to Discharge’s ferocious noise blasts occurs it will put the number of shows I’ve seen by the band into double figures. It’s nothing to be overly proud of though as it should have happened much sooner. From the nine aural assaults I’ve endured so far, four have been in the Potteries, one each in London, Manchester and the ever so exotic Crewe and the final two in Holland and France. Unfortunately though none of those were first (or even second) time around and have all been since their 2006 reincarnation with the now departed Varukers screamer Rat on “vocals”.

Since their signing to Nuclear Blast Records a few years back and the release of End of Days with JJ replacing Rat, the bands shows seemed much more frequent and a bit more high profile. Their hometown show a month ago could be considered a warm up for the prestigious slot they played just before New Year.

They opened up the show at the Los Angeles Forum for the Glen Danzig fronted Misfits, touted as the original Misfits even though they have Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame occupying the drum stool. It seems quite bizarre that a band who played in front of a 150 or so people for a tenner a short bus ride from their parental homes two days before Christmas then played a sold out venue 5,300 miles away that holds 17,500 people with tickets costing ten times more just over a week later.

Most of today and tomorrow will be spent blasting out some of the finest and most aggressive music to come from the mean streets of Stoke on Trent by an unlikely band that had a huge hand in moulding the extreme metal scene as it is now, more than four decades after their tentative steps. It was most definitely angry music for an angry and frustrated generation and all these years on it still remains the same. Stoke tends to do that to people!

Black Cloth

For a long time the first gig of 2018 for me had been pencilled in as tonight’s gathering at the Pilgrim’s Pit down in Stoke town.

I have only been aware of Krupskaya’s grinding menace and the out of town bands are both new to me. I’m trying to use Bandcamp a lot more lately, especially if I’m buying a physical item. It seems a more ethical option especially to the smaller artists, rather than ordering through a faceless giant like Amazon or Spotify. The platform is also handy to let you listen before buying without wasting money on something you don’t like. I know all streaming sites have a bad reputation in regards their royalties, but until better options are introduced then I can’t see much change any time soon.

This is the last date on the pairs seven date UK tour. Belfast’s Unyielding Love, described by tonight’s promoter as “Irish blackened noise blasts” and Dawn Ray’d – “vegan anarchist black metal” from Liverpool (though I’ve seen one flyer saying they are from Leeds) are both bands I’m not familiar with and wouldn’t usually attend a gig by either if it was out of the local vicinity. But as it’s only £4 to get into a DIY performance space smaller than some peoples living rooms in their houses, I have nothing to lose. Plus it stops me sitting in front of the TV watching my football team take yet another humiliating hammering in from of the Worlds population!

I picked up some older releases for free by both bands from their respective Bandcamp pages and they were actually two of the first things that I put onto the new Mac when it was up and running. Unyielding Love’s 2015 Demo release is probably just as much influenced by the black metal scene as Dawn Ray’d are.

The Liverpool band seem to play their atmospheric black metal without the corpse paint and satanic imagery and try to spread positivity through their performances, whereas the majority of black metal I’m aware of revels in the negativity. It’s going to be an intriguing evening, so I can’t really make any concrete judgements on a handful of recordings that were both bands first tentative steps and three years old now.

Black Cloth is the opening salvo from the Dawn Ray’d EP A Thorn, A Blight released in 2015 via the German label Moment of Collapse Records, and is freely available on their Bandcamp page, where you can also listen to their latest offering The Unlawful Assembly and grab merchandise if you’re that way inclined.

And just for impartiality, go and listen to something from Unyielding Love here. And if you like anything from either band give them some of your hard earned cash if you can.

Show No Mercy

Sometimes I do wonder if I have some kind of dementia setting in as I get older. Today I give you a slice of, in my opinion, possibly the best hardcore band in the UK at this moment in time, Broken Teeth. And the dementia? I could have sworn I’d posted about this band before now, probably back in August, but apparently I hadn’t.

Tonight northern powerhouse Broken Teeth play the Star and Garter in Manchester to celebrate their decade as a band, in this day and age of throw away convenience music it’s no mean feat to reach that landmark. More often now I read about bands calling it a day after a handful of years. Less than thirty minutes ago I read a Facebook statement from a Serbian thrash band who’ve packed it in after 4 years.

With the British bands the more punk and metal orientated scenes seem to have the edge on longevity compared to the hardcore set. There are a couple of glaring exceptions to that rule in the shape of Knuckledust (21 continuous years with the same four members) and fellow Londoners NineBar celebrating two decades this year.

As mentioned yesterday, I’m not too au fait on the more modern hardcore bands, so many more could be in excess of a decade, but going back to an era I knew better, reading through some of the names from a compilation CD like UKHC – A Compilation released by Household Names in 1997 the majority of those bands didn’t over stay their welcome on their initial run. Some split and disappeared completely, others morphed into different bands along the way, and a couple have hit the comeback trail in recent years.

Longevity in the hardcore scene outside of the British Isles, and more specifically North America, doesn’t seem to be as much an issue. From the top of my head Hatebreed, Sick Of It All, Madball, Integrity, Slapshot and many more all formed over twenty years ago and currently going strong. Granted some have taken a hiatus and reformed, but the passion has rekindled at some point.

I’m guessing the fanbase these bands can muster on home turf helps, enabling many of them to garner a reputation and ultimately a greater record deal. This in turn allows these bands to be a bigger draw in foreign territories and makes them the big deal on a tour. When the tour packages like Persistence roll through Europe it’s more often than not headlined by Americans. The top three slots in next years edition are taken by Hatebreed, Madball and Terror. I can’t recall any British band ever being a headlining attraction on a big package.

Not that the four London guys would complain and as much as we take pride in our countries flag bearing band, Knuckledust were the third band on stage out of 21 bands during the Sound of Revolution festival in Eindhoven earlier this month with a slew of North Americans following them.

It’s not just a hardcore thing though. In many genres our island seems incapable of breaking into the higher echelons, especially with the new breed of bands. Even with a seemingly grassroots festival like Bloodstock you have to go back to 2011 for their last British headliner when Motörhead closed proceedings.

Anyway, ramble over and back to the case in hand. I’ve seen Broken Teeth about half a dozen times in the last few years. My last encounter was when they opened the main stage at Bloodstock on the third and final day back in August to a mass of blurry eyed and hungover metallers. Perhaps not the biggest or most enthusiastic crowd they could’ve expected, but I think UK festivals and majority of attendees are light years behind their European counterparts. Tonight is going to be chalk and cheese in contrast to the last time I saw them.

Now with a home on Nuclear Blast Records this track can be found on their label debut album At Peace Amongst Chaos from last year.

Disdain

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m nowhere near as knowledgable about UK hardcore (or even the global hardcore scene) in 2017 as I was in 1997, but I just fell “out of love” with the genre some time ago.

As stated within this blog on several occasions over the past two years I just feel it lacks the camaraderie of two decades ago and all the faces I knew back then have moved on. I’m still in touch with a fair few from that period in my musical life, but not many of those people are still active on stages up and down the country.

Muttering a few words to someone back then led to an introduction to someone else which turned into a welcoming handshake from others who recognised your face and it just snowballed from there. Some of those faces from that forgotten decade, whether they were in bands or just punters like me, are still friends now and scarily I’ve known some longer than I’ve known my wife!

Maybe it’s just me heading rapidly towards 44 years old and still visiting the sweat boxes of yesteryear, but this old man doesn’t really need a random body flying through the air at a rapid rate of knots to enjoy a show. For those reasons though I haven’t been to as many hardcore shows in the last decade or so in comparison to the 24 year old me. For an accepting scene within the extreme music genre the grind and power violence crowds seem much more encompassing.

Most of my newer discoveries have been via recommendations from those in the know or generally just stumbled upon. One of the bands that blew me away in the not so distant past grace the minuscule stage upstairs in Manchester’s Star and Garter tomorrow which happens to be the same venue where I first encountered Guilt Trip.

I first put a tentative step into that unassuming and dilapidated building in the mid 1990’s and I’ve seen a plethora of bands spanning three different decades and the stage at both ends of the room! Three things still amaze me after all these years.

One, it’s still standing! It’s looked like it’s about to crumble into a pile of rubble since my first visit. That and the fact that it’s been earmarked for demolition for years makes it even more surprising.

Two, I’m sill going there. I had a pretty long gap from attending shows there, but in recent years the gig count has shoot up considerably.

Three, I’m still discovering new bands. Almost 44 years roaming this land and more than thirty years of those being immersed in music and I’m surprised I haven’t fallen by the wayside like many of my compatriots and disowned the “metal” scene (just as a term to encompass everything I listen to) or just keeping themselves within their “things were better back then” mindset.

The only other time I’ve had the pleasure to experience Guilt Trip was nearly twelve months when they were one of opening bands for Madball. Their beatdown hardcore and some guitar work that wouldn’t look out of place on a Slayer or Pantera album was simply jaw dropping.

Their most recent EP Unrelenting Force surfaced in November last year and as this 14 minute blast is available for free at their Bandcamp page, I suggest you head on over and grab a copy if you haven’t already. New material is in the pipeline.

This track is taken from that EP and in a way it’s a bit of an oxymoron for me concerning the hardcore scene at present. I still love that metallic chug and the impassioned vocals. It’s always been a movement where you’ve not necessarily had to be the most proficient musician or vocalist. Adequate used to cut it if the passion and desire was there. But on the other hand watching some of the crowd interaction leaves me cold. It doesn’t look like the semi aggressive fun we used to have. It just looks like an aggression overload.

C’est la vie.

Sheer Heart Attack

I’ve finally finished work for the week, only four days later than expected though. Tomorrow we’re off to the seaside for an elongated weekend and I have the misfortune of attending my first ever Queen convention over in Mablethorpe. 

The wife and I have experienced a few Doctor Who gatherings over the last few years, but I feel this weekend is going to be something completely different. Wall to wall Queen geeks who, in the main, will know their Day at the Races and a Night at the Opera inside out. 

All fans have their diehards and some of that fanbase will be of the über fan variety. Geekiness in all fandoms is on a sliding scale of casual through to obsessive, and without a doubt there will be a massive dose of one up man-ship throughout the duration. Whether it’s from that obscure tour shirt from ’76 someone is adorned in or some piece of useless information offered up as an answer in the inevitable quiz, fans always try to impress, intentionally or subliminally is another question though. 

Every fan of every band claims their fans are the best in the world, it’s hard to disagree with them as that’s the way they perceive their musical world from within their rose tinted bubble. Having said that though I think I’m a fan of bands with some of the most rabid and reverent followers on the planet. 

Metallica and Iron Maiden announce tours and bookings and flights from every corner of the world descend upon every city on the tour. I’ve travelled over Europe to see both bands over the years, I’ve even hopped over to North America to see them both. Bars around the arenas are heaving with black clad metal heads wearing a plethora of tour merch form all over the world and spanning the decades. I used to assume I was the only person in a crowd in Toronto for a show then you overhear dozens of British accents amongst the buzz of the Canadian drawl. 

One of the first forays on to foreign shores for the reluctant wife and I was to Paris to see Iron Maiden at the Bercy. Pretty much a day there in a coach and a day back with nothing but Maiden fans. And what was played through the buses sound system during the trip? An assortment of Maiden tunes from varying live releases and studio albums. Definitely three days of Iron Maiden overkill, but most people wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I have no doubt a Queen fan, or a fanatic of any other artist from all genres is as fanatical, but I do think metal fans have that edge in fanaticism. I’ve never seen a Queen fan carve the bands name into their skin outside a venue. Slayer on the other hand… Metallica’s imminent British tour sold out in minutes of some of the countries biggest sheds and that’s with a ticket price leaving peanuts from a £100 note if such a thing was legal tender. 

Even if it’s not the high priced ticket at the arenas of the world, the fans that traverse the country week after week to catch the up and coming act (or in some cases the fading star of yesterday) are just as, if not more, of a fan. It takes much more effort and will power to drag yourself to the venues in the middle of nowhere to see that band play a half hour set to you, one man and his dog on a snowy January evening then head off home. You just know one day that night with a handful of people will be one of those shows that all in sundry will we talking about when the band breaks into the big time. 

To kick off what might be a Queen themed weekend on this blog (internet permitting – but I’m not hopefully) here’s something from Queen. Quel surprise! 

October 28th marks the forty year anniversary of the bands sixth album News of the World, and from the bite size pieces of information I have seen in relation to this years convention it is based around this album. Confusingly the track Sheer Heart Attack featured on this album rather than the album of the same name released three years earlier. This live version of the track is taken from the live album Queen Rock Montreal (recorded in 1981). Without consulting iTunes I’ve probably played this track more than most of their tracks. 


 

Cosmic Dreams

After last weekends jaunt into deepest, darkest  Essex for a wedding it’s now time to get back into inane rambling mode. I’ve been off work for a week now and I’ve got three days to go. Time to finish of the holiday with a few bands I think?

The blueprints in my head consists of three small and cheap shows in as many days, but we all know how that seems to work just lately. Friday night should be my first gig in Shrewsbury and also my first in a prison! W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus UK are playing a rock night at the HM Prison Shrewsbury. Thankfully it closed to inmates in 2013, so we won’t feel like the new fish in there. Whether the metal heads will be allowed out afterwards is another question. 

Saturday sees another tribute band grace the stage at the local venue Eleven. Metallica kicked off their European tour last Saturday in Copenhagen. They played a pair of shows in Amsterdam at the start of the week and finish it with a brace of Paris gigs. I was hoping to snag tickets for a show or two, the whole reason why I had this week off. Alas I didn’t score entry to any, so instead I’ll save myself £95 alone on entrance fees and see the Metallica tribute act Metal Militia for a fiver.  

Fingers crossed, it all kicks off tonight with Leeds science fiction obsessed death / thrash metal quartet Cryptic Shift who have a free shindig at Grand Central in Manchester. I don’t have to be up for work at stupid o’clock Friday morning, so I can finally check out one of the venues free Thursday night showcases. 

This evening is a bit of a reinvention of the free Thursday night gigs the venue had been putting on for a long time now but the ones I wanted to go to have fallen on work days and seemed to have a post 11pm finish. The band I want to see (and the only one I’ve heard of) hit the stage at 9:30pm if things run like clockwork, so I have a few train options to get myself there and home comfortably.  

Cryptic Shift are another one of those bands I seem to miss on a regular basis since I first encountered them with their cover of Sepultura’s Arise a few years ago. I managed to see them in Manchester twice last year, the last time was with their participation on the Vektor show at the Star and Garter last August. Their technical approach to the genre mixes the trash of Voi-Vod and Vektor together with the technical death metal of Gorguts and latter day Death. Fans are still waiting for a full length release after seven years, but there have been a few singles and an EP. in the interim.  Cosmic Dreams, a new track, surfaced from the other side of the Pennines earlier this year and can be found with the rest of their back catalogue at their Bandcamp page