Victims Of A Clown

With a little over twenty six hours before they take to the stage in Manchester I’m still debating on a short trip north to see Ministry.

I’ve been a fan of theirs since the years before Jesus Built My Hotrod propelled them to the mainstream, but it wasn’t all that long after that release when I stated drifting away from them.

I brought Filth Pig, the follow up to Psalm 69, but couldn’t seem to get into it. All the albums after that have passed me by. I made no real effort with any of them until I had a slight revisit of the newer albums around the time of the C-U-LaTour in 2008, which was the first (and currently only) time I’ve seen Al Jourgensen perform indoors and it is up there as one of my biggest gigging low points.

The set list was predominantly made up of songs post Psalm 69 and only four from a seventeen song set list were from their golden era. The whole thing seemed very subdued and from what I recall sounded awful, everything turned up to 12 and sounding overly distorted. It just felt like a band going through the motions, indeed this tour was supposedly their last jaunt to promote their latest at the time The Last Sucker. Roll on a decade, four tours and a trio of albums later in contemplating shelling out to see the Cuban native take to the stage again.

I’ve seen the recent set lists and yet again they are skewed heavily in favour of current release AmeriKKKant and still too much material post 1992, but this time I’ve listened to the newest offering and thoroughly like it’s venomous lyrical tirade and rhythmic electronic power. In places it takes me back to the days of Twitch, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and The Land of Rape and Honey.

I’ll see what kind of mood I am in when I get home from work and see if I can drag myself to a train station and add a new venue to my ever expanding list. That’s all assuming it hasn’t had the sold up sign posted up.

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Slaughterhouse

R.I.P. Brett Hoffmann

This has been the first tribute post for some time, even though we seem to have lost quite a lot of the musicians that I listen to over the last year or so. Ralph Santolla once of Deicide, Obituary and Toxik, Stéphane Guégan (ex Agressor drummer), Mezzrow’s Staffan Karlsson, Nevermore duo Warrel Dane and Tim Calvert, Celtic Frost’s co-creator Martin E. Ain and Pantera’s Vinnie Paul.

It started getting a bit worrying as most of those passing were of a similar age to me, or only a handful of years older than I. It brings your own mortality into a bit of focus compared to the teenage me.

I was on the train to yesterday’s Lich King gig when the news of Brett’s passing started coming through on social media posts. He died due to colon cancer at the age of 51.

The Floridian death metal band originally formed in Buffalo, NY but relocated to the death metal mecca of Florida a year after forming in 1987. Hoffmann was one of the original members, but over the bands three decade career he was in and out of the band on numerous occasions with his latest tenure ending in 2016, a year after their most recent album Dead Man’s Path.

Due to them being on the Roadrunner roster when I was doing a fanzine in the early 90’s their first three albums were sent to me as promos. The next nine albums were a bit hit and miss with me, some I invested in some I still have never listened to.

I got to see the band on a trio of occasions over the years. They played Stoke (well Burslem) with Cancer and Pestilence in 1991, then it was a 21 year wait until they played MOHO in Manchester twice within 5 months. There was one other occasion where I should have seen them but for a reason I can’t recall (possibly illness) they didn’t play their Birmingham Foundry show in 1998 (I think), when they were on tour with Krabathor from the Czech Republic.

Slaughterhouse is taken from the bands eleventh album Invidious Dominion releases in 2010.

Black Metal Sucks

Last weekend began what seems to be a relentless schedule of shows and outings that doesn’t let up until mid September, but the diary merely takes a short break until October. If you need me for anything important over a weekend between now and Christmas it’s looking highly unlikely I’m available!

Last weekends trip to Arnhem had its highs and lows, but overall the highs won out. For a group of five old men, all but one are in their 60’s, they’re like a fine vintage whiskey and getting better with age. It was fantastic to see songs I’ve never seen live or not for a while. The stage set up is ludicrously superb and as the years roll on the band, or more so the youngster in the group, is veering much more towards full blown pantomime. Obviously in a good way though.

Over the next few months I’ll be attending the Dynamo, Stonehenge, Scream Bloody Gore and Bloodstock festivals. Some of the bands I’ll be viewing include Judas Priest, Exhorder, Broken Hope, Overkill, Act of Defiance, DRI, Gruesome, Doro, Power Trip, Creeper, Exhumed and Iron Maiden for a 26th time. And all of that is a selection of some of the bands I’ll be seeing and all before August is consigned to the history books.

In amongst all of that I also have a weekend away to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Twenty one again. Ahem. As seems to be the norm in recent years, July 21st always seems to have a gig I’d like to go to. 2018 is no exception, but I’m forsaking Shrapnel in Manchester in favour of a night out in Birmingham.

There’s also some football tournament happening at the moment and England are doing pretty well and has the whole country (well the soccer loving portion) in a frenzy as the nation’s team heads towards a possible final appearance. Let’s see what I’ll be writing this time next week.

Tomorrow I’ve got to juggle watching a football game on the goggle box up in Manchester and not get drenched in not so cheap warm lager before I head to Aatma for a seven band evening of thrash and power metal headlined by Massachusetts’ Lich King.

I have to admit I dismissed the band when I first heard them, as my entry point to Lich King was 2011’s Super Retro Thrash release. I now know it’s an instrumental collection of some of their songs represented in an 8-bit style. What I though on my initial listen in unrepeatable here, but needless to say I’ve not returned to it.

Further along the line I dropped on Born of the Bomb and a couple of their extended plays and thoroughly enjoyed their humorous take set to a retro thrash metal sound track. The Omniclasm surfaced last year and that is a superb slab of 80’s inspired thrash worship.

I’m pretty sure I read that this is the band’s third foray into Europe and Manchester will be only their second ever British show. The first was in London tonight. People here in the UK always asked about British shows via the bands social media sites, but were usually met with comments stating that coming to this island isn’t cost effective and they’d be out of pocket before they even got here.

When these dates were unveiled a few months ago there was no British dates on the initial poster. A London show was added and I was all for travelling to the capital to see them then tomorrow’s Manchester show was announced. Ten quid for almost six hours of thrash metal. Seven bands and three of those are from the United States. What a bargain. My only gripe about the show is the fact that we don’t get New Jersey’s Condition Critical, even though Ryan from said band has sung live for them and Mike Dreher is the bass player in both bands, plus they are doing the second half of the tour.

There are no official videos that I can find online, but here’s a lyric video for a track taken from 2008’s Toxic Zombie Onslaught album and re-recorded for the Do-Over EP six years later. It’s well worth viewing just to check out the awe inspiring lyrics and the variations of panda paint on display.

Flight Of Icarus

As a pretty barren, but sizzling June ends (only three shows attended) July sees my first trip of the year to the Netherlands to catch Iron Maiden on their Legacy of the Beast tour before it hits UK shores in August. My last outing to the Lowlands was for the Eindhoven Metal Meeting last December, this time its for something visually much more spectacular.

Sunday will bring up my quarter of a century of Maiden shows since I first saw them in 1990 and it will be in a seventh different country. I’m quite intrigued to check out the city of Arnhem, apparently there is some bridge there that was quite famous for something, so I keep getting told. Three of the bands last five Dutch dates have been at the home of Vitesse Arnhem rather than the more populous cities of Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

I quite like seeing shows in football stadiums as, being a Stoke fan, somewhere like the GelreDome is somewhere I wouldn’t visit as an away supporter. Reading about the stadium and all it’s mod cons I’m intrigued to see if the climate control system will be in operation as the temperatures could be hitting a peak of 25°, which is five degrees or so cooler than what we’ve had at home in the last week! My car thermometer showed 30° on Wednesday afternoon!

With this modern age of technology where spoilers are the norm, and Iron Maiden are a band that don’t deviate from their set list, most fans knew what to expect at their particular show since the Tallin debut back in May. There are the usual suspects of course and several curve balls. Some of the other sougs I’ve seen in the past, but some I haven’t had the pleasure to hear live for three or four years, The Wicker Man has been omitted out of the set for seven years. For the Greater Good of God has had an eleven year absence and it’s been 15 year and 17 years respectively since I last saw The Clamsman and Sign of the Cross live.

From an amalgamation of 25 shows over 28 years there is still one song in the set that I have never seen live, which actually surprised me when I realised that fact. Flight of Icarus hadn’t been included on a piece of A4 and taped to the stage since 1986, and then it was only a handful of appearances. The Somewhere on Tour jaunt is the Maiden tour that I would love to have seen live. The song itself hasn’t been performed on a British stage since 1984’s World Slavery Tour, so it’s definitely something special for most fans for a song that is 35 years old.

I can’t say I’m enamoured about a 4:45am alarm call so that I can make it to Liverpool for a 7:15 flight (fingers crossed EasyJet’s first plane out isn’t delayed), but I’m pretty sure the pay off sixteen hours later will be worth it for this ageing and failing body, and I might have seen some bridge before the main event.

Real Thing

After much procrastinating on Sunday morning about my participation at this years Download Festival I eventually made it to a patch of grass underneath the flight path to the Nottingham East Midlands airport.

Even though I was there for a mere six hours I saw the bands I wanted to see, just about, and stumbled upon a band I’ve know by name for a long time but have never seen live or paid any attention to.

• Hatebreed are a slickly oiled machine and never disappoint in the live setting.

• Dead Cross were suitably insane in a good way. I actually think it’s the first time I’ve seen Mike Patton live even though I first head Faith No More nearly 28 years ago!

• Kreator were the consummate professionals and even through they were low on the bill and only had a little over 30 minutes they played like headliners.

• Body Count was another first for me and were as good as I expected them to be and got the metal crowd going by opening up with Slayer’s Raining Blood. It’s a shame their London headline show with Crisix is on a Tuesday night.

• Thrice from Irvine, California was what I expected to be a lull in proceedings and opted for food. I was absolutely captivated by them and now need to check out their back catalogue. This is what festivals are for – discovering new acts.

• Meshuggah were brutal and technically heavy as expected. A band I’ve seen a few times in two decades, but very rarely really listen to.

• Shinedown were the entertainers. The frontman loves the sound of his own voice a little bit too much, but he can get a crowd going. I’ve never seen a crowd as big as that bounce in unison. Some great hits too.

I also had the misfortune to be within earshot for In This Moment and Black Veil Brides for a few minutes each. The less said about them the better.

Moving on I’m hoping for another last minute jaunt to Leeds to finally see Turnstile live. I’ve been listening to them since their debut disc Nonstop Feeling dropped three and a half years ago and in that time I’ve missed them on multiple occasions.

I was double booked when they last played close to me in December 2015. They were on stupidly early when I attended Ghostfest earlier in the same year and I was sat in roadworks on the M62. The only other time I got close to seeing them was when they played Hellfest 2016 and rather than roadworks I was stuck in a slow moving queue of people shuffling to get into the festival.

Hopefully it’ll be fourth time lucky and fingers crossed it won’t have sold out before I finally try and snag a ticket. I’ve got a few other shows I want to get tickets for in a short space of time and Outbreak has had to take a back seat for now.

I haven’t listened to their sophomore album Time & Space, releases earlier this year, as much as I’d like to have done, even though it’s only 25 minutes long. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the more experimental stuff goes over live.

Even though I’ve drifted away from the live hardcore arena over the last few years I’m still really looking to seeing quite a few bands on the Saturday. New Jersey’s Floorpunch are another band I’ve been into for a long time now and never seen live.

Institutionalized 2014

A few weeks go I though any shows further than the Greater Manchester area were on the back burner, pretty much until the Iron Maiden show in July. Last weekend saw me make the trek over the Pennines to Leeds to catch another stunning and rather sweaty Suffocation gig and a week today I could make the same trip for the Outbreak Festival.

Depending on the weather I might be making my first appearance at the Download Festival since 2014. I’d been every year since its inception, but the whole thing started to feel like a drag. I wasn’t intending on going in 2014, but with Quicksand appearing I had to go.

The whole event always seems to be cursed with bad weather. I have never been as wet as I have been at Donington in some years. The deluges of 2010 and 2011 were horrendous. Even my belt was saturated and I couldn’t wait to get home and have a warm shower. I was going to head there a few years ago when Iron Maiden graced the stage, but again it hammered it down and I stayed home in the dry.

The line ups haven’t been great for my tastes either. I know it’s me getting old, and as my slippers state, grumpy. There are also way too many bands over the four stages and way to much traversing between those stages to see bands and ultimately missing large chunks by either getting there too late or having to leave part way though due to clashes. I don’t know why they don’t keep genres together on some of the stages and cut down on some of the mass movement.

On Sunday there are about 40 bands playing and around ten of those I’d pay to see, or have a curiosity to view. Almost half of those bands clash with each other. At one point in the day there are three bands I’d like to see on different stages at the same time!

Back in 2016 I attended Hellfest in France. It’s on a similar scale in relation to punters and artists to Download, but has two more stages and the whole arena area seems smaller. The main stages are side by side and three other stages are all close to each other. Moving around was extremely easy and over the three days I caught around forty acts.

There weren’t too many bands that I am aware of that played less than thirty minute sets, where as some of Downloads opening acts get a measly 25 minute slot. A trio of tomorrows bands that I’m interested in, and these are established bands with long histories, are only getting a paltry half an hour. It’s definitely a festival with its ideology in quantity over quality. Hellfest also starts earlier and ends much later. The days seemed like they would be a massive slog, but time passed quickly for most of the day as you were constantly watching bands rather that hiking backwards and forwards through ankle deep mud to catch snippets of bands.

Even prior to the festival the continental organisers do things better. We had the stage times for weeks beforehand and were constantly looking and comparing and generally getting excited about who we were seeing and bemoaning the odd clashes here and there (Deicide and King Diamond on the last day was my biggest concern.) Download decided to release their times to an app on Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours before those who are camping descended onto the Castle Donington site. This could purely be a money making exercise to force people to part with their cash and purchase the overpriced running time laminates. Hellfest even had the stage times up at the entrance to every stage for all to view.

Having ran down the the festival I’m hoping in 25 hours time I’m there in time to catch either Hatebreed or Dead Cross (Dave Lombardo and Mike Patton might win out on that clash!), Kreator, Body Count then either Shinedown, Myrkur or Messhugah (or parts of) before heading back up the A50 home. There are a few later bands I’d gladly stand and watch, but with a 3:40am alarm call on Monday for work I have to draw the line somewhere.

Body Count is the rap rock, almost a crossover thrash metal band, fronted by actor and rapper Ice T. The band were formed in 1990 and instantly gained notoriety due to their track Cop Killer that was on their debut album.

They’ve played quite a few UK shows over the years, but nothing here since 1997 that didn’t involve a festival. They could’ve had more shows here but several got cancelled due to the backlash of Cop Killer, quite ironic for an actor that had played a NYPD detective in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for 18 years. If I remember correctly, one of those “banned” concerts should have taken place at the Students Union in Keele University, 7 miles up the road for me and one that I probably would have attended.

In 2014 Body Count released their Manslaughter album and it features a modern reworking of Suicidal Tendencies’ Institutionalized. When Mike Muir wrote it back in 1982 I don’t think Xbox was a thing!

Edge Of A Broken Heart

I have one day left at work and then it’s a three day weekend in the UK. The weather is going to be reasonable and hopefully I’ll get chance to venture out if the house. There’s a jazz and blues festival on locally, no acts I’m familiar with apart from Peter Frampton, and that’s only a solitary track of his I know. But there is a record fare happening on Sunday and weather permitting, as it’s held out doors, I’ll go and have a peruse if the boxes of records and make lots of weird sounds that usually translate into “how much!”

Saturday could bring yet another trip to Manchester to another new venue for me. There are two bands playing that I’m intrigued to see. It’s being held in Factory or FAC251, which I think was the head offices for Factory Records, a label synonymous with Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays.

Opening up the show is West Midlands band Sister Shotgun. I’ve not had chance to see them live and I’ve heard a few of their tracks. I’m interested to see them off the back of a recommendation from a customer of mine. The guitarist of Crewe based band Fallen used to work in a shop I delivered to and we used to have a chat about music and stuff. His band played with them locally and he said how good they were live. They’ve been getting around a lot just lately and have a new guitarist in the fold.

Headlining is Janet Gardner Page, not exactly a household name, but for people, especially guys, of my age and into rock during the same era she was the front woman and guitarist with the big hair in Vixen. They’re a band I first heard on the Friday Rock Show hosted by Timmy Vance on Radio 1. I think it was the Edge if a Broken Heart single that was played late on the Friday night and by Saturday afternoon I had the 7” vinyl in my hands.

They’d been together since the early 70’s surprisingly, but didn’t gain any mainstream recognition until 1988’s eponymous debut and their sophomore release Rev It Up in 1990. I never heard past that second album and I do t think I’ve ever heard Tangerine.

Richard Marx coproduced the debut album and wrote Edge of a Broken Heart. At the same time the band were getting some big opening slots on tours with the likes of Bon Jovi, Scorpions and KISS. Musical differences lead to a split and there have been several reunions over the years.

I remember watching something on VH1 called bands reunited where they attempted to bring bands back together. The idea was to a specific line up in the same room and it was deemed a success if they performed. I saw odd episodes here and there. A Flock of Seagulls and Berlin were successful. Holly Johnson refused to perform with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and at the time Extreme was a failure. Vixen put aside their differences and did play.

In 2012 a classic reunion was on the cards, but guitarist Jan Kuehnemund was diagnosed with cancer and passed away towards the end of 2013. The three remains classic members have carried on as a tribute to her and an album is planned.

Vixen have been playing live sporadically over the last four years, mainly in the States and a few dates in Canada and Europe. They played Hard Rock Hell in 2016, an event I unfortunately didn’t attend. There was a tour in 2006 for some version of the band which apparently stopped off in Crewe. They played the Limelight and it took me a dozen years to find out. It’s closed now and looking rather dilapidated, but it was one of those venues that never seemed to bother with too much promotion and hoped for word of mouth from regular barflies.

1991 saw them supporting Deep Purple over here. The year before saw some of their own dates and a few supporting Scorpions and on the bill for the prestigious Bon Jovi soirée at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

In all my time I’ve never had chance to see Vixen, and to date Saturday will be the closest I have been. Janet plays some stuff from her self named debut solo album from last year with a smattering of Vixen hits thrown in. They’re due to play the Rockingham event in Nottingham in October with some other AOR and hair bands mainly from yesteryear, but for what I’d have to pay to get in and what I’d get from the weekend it’s currently out of reach of my budget. But never say never.