I went to go see Slayer, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Obituary live on Monday night in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. First off, let me just say what an excellent bill. Not only do you get Slayer on the final tour, but also the legendary Anthrax, the monstrous Lamb Of God before they take a long hiatus and as if that wasn’t enough, death metal veterans Obituary opening the bill. Its also only been two nights since I also caught Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff. What a week for live music!

All weekend prior, I had been preparing myself for the gig by playing Live The Island Years, Killadephia and Decade Of Aggression over and over again to get in the mood.

Now; I’ve seen Slayer before, both with Dave Lombardo and with my drummer-crush Paul Bostaph. I’ve never seen them however with Exodus’ Gary Holt on guitar. I haven’t caught them since Jeff passed away basically. I saw them in Wolverhampton touring Christ Illusion (with the similarly excellent support card of Mastodon, Trivium and Amon Amarth – how good value for money is that!) and again back at the Irish Ozzfest circa God Hates Us All. As well as Slayer; I have also caught Obituary in my last year of living in Manchester with Prong and Exodus, before I became a fan, they converted me that night and I’ve bought a bunch of the albums since (that great Roadrunner years boxset). Lamb Of God I caught earlier in my time in Manchester, who cheered me right up after a shitty break up when they were touring Resolution.

I have however, never seen Anthrax. Anthrax have been one of my favourite bands for almost the whole time I’ve enjoyed music. I must have watched their Music Of Mass Destruction and Alive 2 DVDs over a hundred times each, and I can’t count on two hands the amount of times over the years they’ve been my number one favourite band. I almost got the chance to see them in Oxford, but they played the week I moved from there to Manchester and I couldn’t go. They were playing in Dublin when I was a teenager but unlike for Slipknot and Metallica, my friends didn’t all want to go and so did not band together to rent a coach for it like for those other bands. This was when I was still to young to drive and when public transport options weren’t as developed. They also played in Manchester on Valentines day around the time I got engaged and that was not an option either (If there is one thing in the world I do actually care about more than music, my excellent wife is it). Finally, finally I get to seem live now though. I’ve also been extra hyped up for them this year, more than usual due to reading both of Scott Ian’s books this summer (also, how is it that Funko have not made a Pop Vinyl toy of Scott Ian? – he has such an iconic image).

I had a very hectic and stressful day at work and I had to literally do a quick change out of my work clothes and into my street clothes in the carpark and pelt over to the arena. Luckily it was easy to find and I got there right on time, walking in just as Obituary started playing ‘Redneck Stomp’ which coincidentally is my favourite Obituary song.

The arena was pretty empty when I arrived and I got a decent spot about 30m from the stage. As Obituary wore on, more people moved to get beer, or found their friends and it was possible to get right up near the front by the end of their set without having to be rude and push anyone or get in anyone’s space. Considering the venue, their genre of music and their place on the bill, Obituary sounded very clear and good live. On their groovier tracks like the famous ‘I Don’t Care’ they came across really well and I’m sure they converted a lot of skeptics. The last time I saw them with Exodus, I didn’t know them and they certainly converted me as I said already. The lead guitar was fun. The show was minimalist, but they were the opener. Overall, I really liked them. I had already been converted, but they went up even further in my estimation tonight.

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It was a great start to the evening. No long boring waits. No crush of people. Good view. I had initially assumed that since it was an arena I would just stay at the back and just listen to them like I did for Guns N Roses at Download, without seeing much… but hey, this was pretty much as good a view as I get at a normal concert.

Next up was the band I was most excited for, East Coast Thrash legends Anthrax. When they arrived my face lit up like a Christmas tree. I felt such a wave of excitement it was like being a teenager again. They had more of a stage show than Obituary, with massive banners and backdrops that had a sort of mixture of the For All Kings with Among The Living Artwork and a For All Kings themed drumkit. Their energy levels were really good for a band of their age. Scott ran around in circles in that way he does, the guitarists switched sides, they were good hosts and interacted with the crowd well.

They got a good sing along going for ‘Be All End All’ and filled their short set with 99% big hits. I felt skeptical of using up valuable time on covers, but to be fair, you just can’t mess with ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Got The Time’ and really in my mind they are just Anthrax songs by this point. Their own hits like ‘I Am The Law’ and ‘Caught In A Mosh’ absolutely blew me away live (I was afraid I would be snobby and want deep cuts and that I would have heard these songs too many times, but when its one of your favourite ever artists for the first time, nope, it is so nice to hear the hits!) and more than any band of the evening, I literally sang every lyric to every single song. Well, except one. I only knew the chorus of ‘Evil Twin’ which was the sole track from the new album. Its a decent album, but not as good as Worship Music or the ’80s albums.

Their choice of songs was clever. Obviously, in a perfect world I would like to have seen a longer set with bangers like ‘One Man Stands,’ ‘Lone Justice’ and ‘Medusa’ in there too, but being realistic about times and the wider public’s expectations, they chose a pretty perfect set. I liked when they stopped the show in ‘Indians’ after that great ‘Wardaaaaaance’ breakdown because people weren’t going off enough, and raised everyone’s energy levels and then dropped it again. I also like when they played bits of ‘Cowboys From Hell’ even if Charlie played the wrong drumbeat.

Joey, for all the complaints on the internet about his voice not holding up, sounded pretty great live. Even better than on the Big Four In Sofia DVD. It was also interesting to see Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall in the band. I quite like Shadows Fall but haven’t seen them live since about 2004 or so. I would have obviously preferred Dan Spitz or Rob Cagiano for nostalgia (it was so cool to see Rob in Volbeat this summer, which is what started off my love afair with that band) but if there’s someone else in Anthrax, it is good to see someone I already like also.IMG_20181105_192424[1].jpg

Maybe I’ve been waiting to see Anthrax for so long I’m not being objective anymore, but I was starry-eyed in love with this concert. If it had have ended there, it would have been enough for me.

Luckily though, it wasn’t over there. Lamb Of God were next, after much AC/DC over the PA. I’ve seen Lamb Of God before, touring an album I like more than their current new album, and playing a full set. Obviously I was going to like the previous concert better. That being said I still really enjoyed it. I mean they are energetic and powerful live, and they dropped all the big hits like ‘Ruin,’ ‘Redneck’ and ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For.’ How can anyone fuck with that? Randy is a monster live, as to be expected and the musicianship was tight, except for once I noticed a drumstick go missing in the middle of a beat and Willie messed up a guitar solo. On a personal non =-subjective level, I really wish they had played anything off my two favourite albums Wrath and Resolution, but that’s just personal preference and everyone around me seemed really into tracks like ‘Engage The Fear Machine’ and ‘512.’ Its also interesting that, like I always said they should, they have finally replaced the traditional but less-catchy closer ‘Black Label’ with the clear and obvious choice, ‘Redneck.’ Speaking of which, ‘Redneck’ was terrific fun tonight, I think that is the most moving and shouting I did all evening. What a tune. Undeniable grooves.

Their sound and stage show was a bit better again than Anthrax. There was a definite upward trend in proportion to billing.

When Lamb Of God had finished leveling the place with ‘Redneck,’ a big black curtain fell down to obscure the stage so you couldn’t see them getting the place ready for Slayer‘s show. I saw a team of staff getting instructed on how to deal with the curtain for when it finally dropped and there seemed to be very detailed instructions.IMG_20181105_201049[1].jpg

After the first track from their newest (and presumably final) album Repentless playing over the speakers, they dropped the curtain which had been having pentagrams projected onto it whilst a wall of fire blazed over the backline, and launched into the title track from the aforementioned Repentless album – someone in the crowd yelled that it was meant to be ‘Unrepentant’ clearly missing the portmanteau with ‘Relentless.’ The crowd around me went wild and sang every word (again I only knew the chorus).

Man, they had a good stage show Slayer put on. Pyro out the ying yang. Giant backdrops that glowed in the dark and changed a few times to highlight different eras, with a final one of which was in tribute to the late guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Visually; the show was intense, in the chorus of arguably my favourite Slayer song, ‘Disciple,’ for example, every time he shouted ‘God hates us all’ a fireball would shoot up. There were different widths and directions and speeds of flames as the evening went on. Sometimes they even crossed streams to form a sort of fiery cross. There was also big metalwork slayer eagle logos, with fire burning behind the Slayer shield logo inside them. It wasn’t Rammstein but it wasn’t Pearl Jam either if you know what I mean.

Sonically; they were the best sounding band of the night, with beautiful sounding toms and kicks, and very clear audible guitar solos. Like Anthrax they made a point of moving around the stage and if you couldn’t see Kerry one song, he’d be there the next. It was really cool for me to see Gary Holt too as I like Exodus even more than I like Slayer. Also; The first two times I saw Slayer, I had been nowhere near the front, but this was the full on experience I needed for the final time I’ll ever get to see them.

Set-list wise, it was pretty much perfection. I mean, 19 songs long, not too much of the slower creepeir side (No ‘Spill The Blood’ for example) and most of the biggest most popular tracks represented, with all the major tunes from their peak Reign In Blood through to Seasons In The Abyss run, augmented with obvious mandatory setlist choices from outside that bracket like ‘Chemical Warfare,’ ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Dittohead’ (My second favourite Slayer song). I think the most surprising two tracks were ‘When The Stillness Comes’ and ‘Black Magic’ (which they didn’t play the other times I saw them).

I also got a real groove on to ‘Jihad’ and wasn’t actually aware of how much I liked that song previously. Maybe there was too much hype and controversy around it at the time, but it never seemed as interesting as the likes of the blistering ‘Flesh Storm’ or ‘Catalyst,’ or even the groovy single ‘Eyes Of The Insane.’ Similarly, I sang every word to ‘Hate Worldwide’ and never really thought of that as being in the upper echelons of their cannon before, but hey, it was damn good live.

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I think the highlight of the show for me though was a tie between ‘Post Mortem’ (3rd favourite Slayer song) and ‘Dead Skin Mask’ (which I always, upon hearing, get a flashback to when I was 12 and me and my friend Rooney went to a CD and Records fair in a local hotel and bought these terrible low quality Slayer bootlegs with florescent artwork, and loudly discussed the track listing to appear worldly to the salesman. I remember particularly going ‘Oh wow, Its got ‘Dead Skin Mask’ on it’ even though at the time I had only heard the song once on my brother’s copy of Decade Of Aggression and I didn’t know what I was talking about but just wanted to seem cool in that sad way all 12 year olds always do).IMG_20181105_222830[1].jpg

Speaking of 12 year olds, there was a really young kid in front of me the whole gig, but when Slayer came on and all the crowd surfing and shoving started going our way instead of just at the other side, his parents forced him to give up his front row spot for safety, and I got to seamlessly walk one step further, from three people back, to now only two people back, for about half of Slayer’s set. Not before he had caught a guitar pick from Lamb Of God though, now that is a good evening for a young kid! In my early gigs I was always miles away from the bands, and I never caught anything a band threw until I was about 28.

I really wanted to buy that tour t-shirt with all the four bands on it that I saw about on other fans, but when I went to the merch table they didn’t have it and the throng of people exiting made it difficult to find an alternative merch table, so I left empty handed…. but I had bought two C.O.C shirts on Saturday so I can live with it. Also, I’ll always have the memory: Close enough to Slayer that should I have tired hard enough I could probably have spit on Kerry’s large over-sized chains, and boy did I have a great time at my first ever Anthrax show. I really can’t wait to catch them on a headline tour some day.

But that’s it for gigs in 2018 unless something comes up. Next things I’ve got lined up are Architects and then Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage in the new year, my second time for each of those bands. Until next time…

I went to go and see Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff Uni Great Hall last night (Saturday 03.11.18), supported by Orange Goblin and Fireball Ministry. A pretty good bill for Stoner Rock fans. I’ve been having a wall-punchingly, burst out in tears, sleeplessly dreadful week at work even though this should be one of the best weeks of my life due to a pregnancy scan earlier in the week, and getting to go see C.O.C seems like the perfect stress release. I’ve been playing Live Volume repeatedly all week in anticipation.

C.O.C have over the years become one of my absolute favourite bands. There’s always certain bands at the start of your musical life, in your teens and such, that get stuck and become a favourite forever by default, but C.O.C, along with Queensryche, Helloween and Manowar have been absolutely defining my musical landscape as an adult. If I picture in my mind’s eye the best albums of all time or albums I want on my wall as decoration Deliverance and Wiseblood and America’s Volume Dealer are always there. One of my favourite photos of me and my wife together has me in a C.O.C shirt. My metal jacket has a C.O.C patch right on the front in one of the three most important spots (the back is Helloween and the other prime spot is Pantera in case you were wondering).

I have seen C.O.C twice before, once this year at Download Festival 2018 (quite a short set) and once before in Manchester Academy on their
Deliverance Revival
shows where Pepper returned to the band (one of the best concerts in recent memory). I remember thinking after Download when they’d only played one new song, that I would really love to see a concert as long as the reunion one, but with more songs from their real grower of a new album, No Cross No Crown.

Always one for a good spoiler, I’ve been looking up the band’s recent setlists online on Setlsit FM and was glad to see they are mixing it up. One night there’ll be more songs from ‘Volume Dealer, One night there’ll be more songs from In The Arms Of God and then one night there’ll be more songs from No Cross No Crown. Exciting stuff. For example, Dublin got ‘It Is That Way’ and Nottingham got ‘The Door’ and Houston Texas got ‘Long Whip Big America.’ Just like Clutch, you never know what you’re going to get.

Speaking of Clutch, they played some Clutch over the PA in between bands. Good taste.

Anyway; I also saw Orange Goblin once before supporting Down in 2012. I remember thinking they were good but hadn’t totally won me over. I never did get around to checking a full album out. Fireball Ministry are new for me.

So now onto the evening itself; I turn up to the gig, que for about 10 minutes and then doors open. There’s only about 15 people in the que. We get in. The merch stand isn’t there like it has been for the past few gigs I’ve been to at this venue. Hmmm, surely they sell merch right? Oh ok, they put it right in the hall with the band. Previously it had its own dedicated area outside. The merch is crazy cheap. I think my Guns N Roses t-shirt from Download cost me about 30 quid. The C.O.C merch was so low priced I got 2 t-shirts for £25. Bloody bargin! I got a No Cross No Crown one and a general C.O.C skull logo one. I wanted a new C.O.C shirt to replace my Deliverance Revival one which had been my favourite shirt for about 3 years but now has the deadly combination of being shrunk in the wash and me haven gotten too fat, so it just looks ridiculous on me. I’ve still got a trio-lineup C.O.C shirt that fits though, wore that to gig tonight actually. (Oh, and I got to wear my jacket, which I am always excited about, and no one even stole any of the patches because they’re a lot better secured after the last incident).

Anyway, while I was getting the merch, a familiar sound was playing in the background. Was that Fireball Ministry? I thought I didn’t know any of their songs?

Oh. Would you look at that. Actually; Black Moth are on the bill and I didn’t even know. I like a bit of Black Moth. I haven’t thought about them in a few years, but I remember liking their debut album  back in 2012. (2012 was the first year I saw Pepper Keenan live actually, in Down, back when C.O.C were still doing the trio line-up without him.)

Black Moth were pretty cracking tonight. They played nice Sabbathy groovey Stoner Metal with clean vocals and a very enthusiastic drummer. The drummer looked like he has having great fun and I really dig that. He also looked very similar to C.O.C’s fill-in drummer John Green (to the point where I had to google if they weren’t the same person). I have nothing but good things to say about them. Their singer seemed really grateful and she kept thanking everyone.

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Black Moth

Next up after a pleasantly short wait, were Fireball Ministry. Man. Their drummer hits hard. He is a big bouncer looking Kirk Weinstein kind of guy and he beats the absolute shite out of his drums! The man hits hard. The singer kept trying to get everyone energy up but the thin crowd didn’t seem to want to move or make much noise. Also, what was up with this tiny crowd. C.O.C got a tiny crowd at Download un-befitting of their status and quality. Was it happening here again tonight?

The Fireball Ministry guy kept telling everyone to be louder but it wasn’t really happening much. By the end of their set though, they won me over with their melodic choruses and they said it was the best night of the tour for em, so maybe the audiences have all been this sleepy.

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Fireball Ministry

Then came Orange Goblin. Or ‘Orange-Fucking-Goblin, baby!’ to give them their preferred title. Their singer burst on to stage like an affable hurricane. He was full of grins and cheeky expressions but an absolute presence on stage, swinging fists and spitting clouds of water and using the mic stand as a pretend guitar and actually getting the crowd riled up this time. He really pumped the energy in the room up 200%.

I remember that the last time I saw this band it was ok, but didn’t make me want to explore further. Not so this time. They were a bloody revelation this time. So powerful, so much energy, such a good vibe off of them. Their friendly but intense singer just absolutely commanded the room, and they have a speed (which he said on stage was influenced by Motorhead) that a lot of Stoner bands are missing. Some Stoner bands worship Sabbath and only Sabbath, but hearing Sabbath through a Motorhead filter was a lot of fun tonight. There was also an amusingly British moment when the singer announced that the next song was ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ and the lead guitarist said ‘Not yet he don’t’ at which point the singer realized he had missed a song. He then made a joke about it when it was time to actually play that song, and got a better laugh out of the crowd than a lot of comedians I’ve seen live. Orange Goblin definitely made a very good impression on me and I think I’ll definitely be getting some of their albums in the future.

 

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Orange Fucking Goblin, Baby

Anyway; that was the warm up. Time for the main event. Yes. It was time for C.O.C. Now; as I’ve said before, C.O.C are one of the most important and favourite bands of my adult life, and the first time I saw them live was a religious experience that few gigs could rival. Them only playing about 4 songs at Download to an unenthusiastic crowd of Babymetal fans was a pretty different gig experience. But hey; its their own gig this time. With people who know the score. Some woman ran up to the barrier and started screeching hysterically in a Beatlemania kind of way, for like the first four whole songs. And hey, it had filled up a lot since Fireball Ministry were on. It almost looked as full as when I saw Saxon or Mastodon here. Thank goodness it was so quiet at the start actually, because I was able at the start to just walk right up and stand immediately at the barrier and wait for this moment. Unlike the screeching woman who had to fight tooth and claw to get a good view. Man. This was a goooood view.

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Up close and personal 

I was right in from of Woody Weatherman (a brilliant showman with all his gesturing and stage moves) with a perfect diagonal view of John the drummer and Mike Dean and Pepper Keenan. I could literally see every hit of every drum and every note of Woody’s guitar, and a pretty excellent view of the bass and vocals. I think this is one of the best views I’ve had at a gig ever. Maybe its because the stage is low to the ground? (Orange Goblin’s singer was able to touch a crowdsurfer from the stage and rustle his hair up). Also maybe it was because all the crowd-surfing happening stage left and me sat at stage right was unmolested all evening. Man I love comfortable gigs. You can keep your 1980s hardcore punk face punching gigs, give me a good view and a good sound any day, especially if it is with no one hitting you in the head.

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C.O.C – Houselights down.

The set-list was pretty great. The hits from Deliverance. Vote With A Bullet from Blind. Wise Blood‘s title track. 3 new songs off of No Cross No Crown (which were absolutely savage live by the way, they sound even better and rawer and heavier live! – ‘The Luddite’ was crushing and ‘Forgive Me’ was even more energetic than the studio version) and hey, 3 songs from my favourite C.O.C record, the immensely underrated America’s Volume Dealer. I guess I chose the right night to see ’em. ‘Diablo BLVD’ was such a top of the lungs sing-along for me, as was ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ – I think the only thing I would change about the first time I saw this band was that there was not enough Volume Dealer. Now I’ve had my fair share. Bloody loved it too!

 

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I feel like they maybe played less than Orange Goblin, but maybe ‘Goblin have shorter songs. Or maybe time flies when you’re having fun. Or maybe they ran out of time. The houselights after-all did come up and they almost didn’t play an encore but then people chanted and they did the last one (‘Clean My Wounds’ – with extra jamming) with the house lights up, after asking if the power would not be cut from the amps. It actually looked really cool with the lights up. I wonder if they did it on purpose actually?

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C.O.C – Houselights up.

Anyway. That was my lot. What a concert. Bonus Black Moth I didn’t expect. Cheap merch prices. A very entertaining Fireball Ministry first timer and a strong new interest in Orange Goblin. And best of all; C.O.C played an utterly fantastic gig and reaffirmed themselves as one of my favourite bands of all time. They are just such a really special band, and its great to have them deliver so well live. I just had a brilliant time.

I won’t have to wait long for another gig. Monday night sees the mightly Slayer rolling into town for the last ever time. I’ll let you know how that turns out too. ‘Til we meet again…

 

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Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood is the third full-length studio album by the diverse Danish band Volbeat. While the band’s debut went by normally, the band had a big hit in their homeland with ‘The Gardner’s Tale’ and really raised their profile.

This third album then had a lot to live up to. Now; I’ve only gotten into Volbeat since this Summer, so I’m putting all that together from interviews and documentaries. But there’s one thing I do know, and that’s what I hear with my own ears. Luckily, they delivered. A beefed up production, more vocal confidence, better lead guitars. This record knocks Volbeat up into a whole new league.

Like the band’s debut album, there is a bit more of a Kyuss influence on some of the guitar lines than there would be on later albums (check out the title track). Like all their albums there is a lot of diversity. ‘So Lonesome I could Cry’ has a clear country influence (its a Hank Williams cover). ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ has a bit of a Metallica vibe to it (well, in a song with the line ”Stereo pumping Metallica tunes, Ride The Lightning oh yeah!” what else could you expect?). ‘Back To Promp’ is less than two minutes long and sounds like a 1950s version of Blink 182’s ‘Dammit.’ There’s also the popular singles “Maybellene I Hofteholder” & “Mary Ann’s Place” which exemplify what the band are all about.

There’s basically a lot of different styles going on and a lot of things to like. Its good a good mixture of  slick hard rock, chunky metal and fun punk vibes, with that tiny little bit of country and early rock n roll flavour that Volbeat seem to always channel.

In terms of quality, its a lot better than the two albums that preceded it. The band really grew as songwriters and performers. The riffs are satisfying, the solos are fun. The vocals are superb too; clean, catchy and memorable. This is a turning point for Michael when he goes from being good to being great. To top it all off the production is just as good as it is on their next album Above Heaven/Beyond Hell.  Basically; if you like Volbeat, don’t be without this. Its definitely ranking among the top half of their discography.

volbeat-live-sold-out The Danish band Volbeat released this 2007 DVD collection based around the time of their second studio album Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil. It is a mixture of documentary feature, live performances from various separate shows and music videos.

As someone who really likes a lot of concert videos and music documentaries, and who has recently gotten into Volbeat I couldn’t resist this.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a brilliant product. It has all the hallmarks of a great product, the packaging is great, the amount of content is great, the band are great. Only problem is the work of the filmmakers and editors. That and the overall choices made.

This is all subjective and a matter of personal taste; but I really prefer when a concert DVD runs through a concert in order rather than jumps between different shows back and forth. I also really hate when it happens within a single song, you hear a live track and see what is basically a music video with footage from different shows. Its just not my thing. This release covers a broad range of indoor and outdoor shows, and mixes it up between them, and then breaks that up with mixed footage tracks. I also feel like a lot of the band’s best material comes from later in their career so this  obviously comes before a lot of that material. It is a good way to cover a lot of ground and displays variety, but it isn’t for me. Luckily the band have other video releases available. With more on the horizon (Lets Boogie Live From Telia Parken looks pretty amazing…I know what I want for Chirstmas!).

With regards to the documentary; I really like the idea of a Volbeat documentary, but the camera work, pacing, and editing are a bit lacking. It feels a bit aimless and jumbled and doesn’t really go anywhere or flow very well. There is information to be had and opinions to be heard but its all a bit slow and informal and lacking excitement. It doesn’t really look good or sound good and there are a lot of better documentaries out there for other bands.

There are also the music videos, but that’s more of a nice extra than a reason to buy a DVD (Side note: I’ve never really understood DVDs of only music videos).

Overall; this DVD comes from a great band and has a lot of content to offer. It isn’t terrible or anything, but it is a bit for-fans-only and I wouldn’t make it your first Volbeat product.


Transgender_Dysphoria_Blues_cover_artI recently read (or listened to, as it was on Audible rather than a physical book) Against Me!’s singer’s autobiography. I hadn’t been a fan previously, didn’t really know the band. I got curious about it as their former drummer Jay Weinberg (who actually turns out wasn’t that big a part of the story) became the new drummer in Slipknot.

That book had everything; class war, betrayal, bereavement, record industry inside information, conflict, relationship drama and a really intelligent and well spoken author delivering an insightful and interesting story of self-discovery and identity. Couldn’t have asked for a better rock biography.

That obviously lead me to try out some of the band’s music, like the raw and political debut album, and the angry anti-music business conceptual third album, the commercial and controversial White Crosses. Then of course; I heard this album.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect album. Its all subjective, every lyric, every note, every drum beat, the production, the running order, the ratio of familiarity to innovation. Its all incredibly subjective and you can nitpick anything. That being said…

This album has such a perfect length, perfect lack of filler, perfect production job that’s big but not over polished, perfect running order and such excellent lyrics. Now I know its all highly political and if you are strongly anti-Trans you are never going to like the album anyway, but let’s just pretend such people won’t be reading some Irish nerd’s music blog and move on.

I may be a bleeding heart liberal; but that isn’t what makes the album good. You could be talking about these issues and write bad songs. You could mishandle the tone and have hamfisted lyrics. You could have a terrible production job that spoils good music. There’s nothing like that here.

The lyrics are so brilliantly honest, biting and insightful. Laura’s lyrics are really top-drawer stuff; up there with the best lyricists out there, like Dave Wyndrof and Neil Fallon. Coupled with vocal delivery that ranges from vulnerable to snarling to explosive, they really take on a life of their own and paint such an evocative picture. I don’t know if it is due to having had already read the book, but you can just picture everything in your mind’s eye.

‘Black Me Out’ for example, when she snarls ‘I just want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers, as if you were a kingmaker. Black me out.’ and ‘As if you were my pimp, as if I was your fucking whore’ the sheer raw emotion in the vocals are just breathtaking and you feel like you are right there in the room with them. During ‘Two Coffins’ the gentle tone of the vocal can almost make me cry. Furthermore in ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ there is a breakdown dynamic to the music where she wails ‘you should have been a mother, you should have been a wife’ which sounds so wounded it is almost touching.

Brilliant lyrics, brilliant vocals. On top of that, as above, it sounds fantastic. It has the perfect mix of rawness and polish, you can really hear the power of the guitar differently depending on how hard the strings are hit. There’s a drum fill in the jaunty shuffling title track and you can hear the toms and cymbals so clearly you can literally picture the exact direction the cymbal is vibrating in.

The musical direction is nice and varied. With folsky twang one minute, indie buzz the next, alternative rock leads after that and punk power following that. ‘Unconditional Love’ even sounds like Warning-era Green Day. There’s something for everyone here. Its the kind of album that literally every track is a must hear song. There isn’t one you could cut, not one you could skip, nothing that needs extending or shortening. It seems pretty much the perfect length.

Overall; this is pretty much as good as a rock album can get. There’s great music, a great sound, there’s honest and depth, and best of all there’s no wasted time or unnecessary fat. If you haven’t heard it, check it out.

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Five Finger Death Punch albums are often fairly similar in terms of quality, musical direction and performance. Most of them feature bouncy groove-metal riffs balanced with melodic modern-metalcore loud/quiet dynamics and easy on the ear radio friendly production jobs. Maybe a ballad or two for variety.

Not all their albums are absolutely identical, and for example their debut is faster and rawer than their fifth album, but there is a general similarity between a lot of them and the basic rule of thumb is that if you like one of them, you’ll probably like them all. They do have a distinct formula if we’re being honest here.

For me, their first two albums and also Got Your Six are the strongest, and up until this point, The Wrong Side Of Heaven’ 2 and American Capitalist are the weaker ones in the catalouge, as there are possibly too many ballads and light tracks on them and not enough fast songs for my own personal tastes, but to be honest that’s all if you are getting nit picky and there’s not too much difference between them unless you sit there and analyse them.

In 2018; two years after it was actually recorded due to some record company shenanigans and legal wranglings and after a gap filling greatest-hits compilation, the band released their seventh full-length studio album, And Justice For None. You can get it in a standard edition, or one with the new songs they added to that aforementioned greatest-hits albums, the catchy single ‘Trouble’ and the cover song ‘Gone Away’ which is a reworking of a The Offspring song (which to be fair they put on the standard edition anyway in the end), as well as two further bonus tracks from the same era, ‘Bad Seed’ and ‘Save Your Breath.’

Now; remember when I said there’s too many ballads and lighter moments on the albums I’d rate as being not their best? Well, this one has two lighter songs that are both covers. It also has the ballad single ‘When The Seasons Change’ preceded by the very good but still ballady ‘I Refuse.’   It even ends on a power ballad with ‘Will The Sun Ever Rise?’ It also has the strange lighter electronic tracks ‘Stuck In My Ways’ & ‘Bloody’ which feel like a play to get on TV advertisements and are a lot lighter and less powerful than my favourite songs by the band.

Hey; I am no ballad-phobic caveman. I love power metal for goodness sake, where you can’t move for ballads. Its just, when there’s one very good ballad on an album, it is a nice piece of variety. When its like two thirds of the whole record it sort of weighs it down and they loose their efficacy. If it had only been say, ‘I Refuse’  for example, that would be fine. If there was only one cover it might’ve been aright. If they only had one song experimenting with electronics, it would have stood out. As it stands, its all a bit too much and it feels like overkill.

There are some groovier, heavier and faster tracks here. ‘Rock Bottom,’ has a rumbling menace to it, ‘It Doesn’t Matter,’ ‘Fire In The Hole’ and ‘Top Of The World’ are the traditional Five Finger Death Punch sound and the opener ‘Fake’ is pretty strong. There’s stuff to like here for sure, don’t let me make you think its a complete departure. I guess the album is a bit overlong though, and a bit unfocused. It also hits the strange ‘make-your-mind-up’ sweet spot between staying too close to the old formula at times and experimenting with new stuff too much, without really committing to either. The problem is that they don’t really suit the new stuff. Again, ‘Bloody’ is an excellent example of what I did not expect from this band. Another song that doesn’t sound like the band is the controversial lead single ‘Sham Pain’ with its lyrics basically complaining about being on tour and sounding ungrateful.

When I first got this album, it really felt like a let down after Got Your Six, and I will admit that it has grown on me a lot more with each repeat listen. If I hadn’t bought it and felt guilty about the money, I might not have listened to it quite so often and allowed it to grow on me. Even with this appreciation-raising slow burn, this is easily my least favourite album from the group. It may be due to the circumstances in which it was written and recorded, burned out and before getting clean and with the record label woes, it may have all impacted upon the quality of the record. Maybe the next one will be great. Or again, maybe its just a natural dip from a band working that hard pumping albums out and touring so often. They dipped a little on the fifth album and rose higher again on the sixth. Maybe it is just a natural fluctuation. Either way, while I am still going to be listening to this album in full over and over again to try and feel like I got my money’s worth, I feel like I won’t ever like it as much as Way Of The Fist or Wrong Side Of Heaven part 1. If you aren’t an obsessive fan, don’t feel bad if you want to skip this one, and if you are a new fan or aren’t a fan yet, I’d advise you leave this one until last, and try something like War Is The Answer first.

 

 

American Headcharge – Tango Umbrella Review:

Posted: September 29, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

americanheadchargetangocd_420.jpgBack in the good old days of Nu Metal, one of the heavier and more credible bands, without the Hip Hop moments, sexually aggressive lyrics and overly simplistic music, was American Headcharge. Influenced by the likes of Ministry and Marilyn Manson, but not very derivative, they carved out a unique path on their two sublime studio albums, The War Of Art and The Feeding. Literally one of my favourite songs by anyone ever is their 2005 banger of a single, ‘Loyalty.’

I have very fond memories of catching them at the Irish Ozzfest in the early ’00s, even though I wasn’t a massive fan at the time and they were more my brother’s thing back then. I saw them again about a decade later when I went to see Soil when I was in Uni. (Memorable as singer Martin Haycock kept holding onto the building’s pipes in a very distracting way that made him look like a heavy metal plumber.)

I was quite impressed with their first single from their reunion, 2013’s ‘Sugars Of Someday’ which while not very heavy was still catchy and memorable. You can imagine then, with nostalgia and hype, how excited I would be for their proper reunion album. 11 years after their last one.

Unfortunately, Tango Umbrella is not exactly a breathtaking life-changing masterpiece, kicking down the doors of Heavy Metal and earning the band the respect and audience that they would deserve based on the quality of their 2001-200 period. Now, I am loathe to mug-off a band that have written one of my all time favourite ever songs, and you can probably notice from most of my reviews I’m reluctant to post a bad review of anyone at all most of the time, definitely coming from the ‘if you can’t say anything nice’ school of thinking. However, this album didn’t live up to my wide-eyed expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t suck. Its not bad. Its just that, like Bay Area Thrash legends Forbiden‘s comeback album Omega Wave; its more of an OK album that shows great potential for what can come next, rather than an absolute barnstormer in and of itself. On first listen it comes across as functional but nothing special. Admittedly, it gets better the more you listen to it and it has grown on me a lot since I first got it, but it still doesn’t sit tall beside the older material. It doesn’t even hold up that much as a great album in and of itself, being a bit repetitive and overlong.

There are some great moments here however, such as the depressing but majestic ballad ‘A King Among Men.’ There’s also several decent tunes, like the opener ‘Let All The World Believe’ and the noteworthy ‘Perfectionist’ and ‘Suffer Elegantly.’

The problem is, it isn’t all very memorable, some of it is good but some of it isn’t quite up to the same standard. Also; on the whole… It isn’t very aggressive, it isn’t very biting and it doesn’t really make you want to move. Their debut had songs like ‘Americunt’ that could strip the paint off your walls. This is all a bit more mid paced and tame. I imagine it was quite a cathartic album for the band, but it isn’t necessarily very fun for the listener. It is by no means bad, but is definitely not their strongest record either and I can’t see it winning over very many new fans.

It is not so much for-fans-only as, if you want to support AHC and keep them going, and get to have a few more songs from them along the way, then don’t avoid it. It feels more like an excuse to keep going rather than a career defining artist statement. I’d advise you buy it, but only so they don’t break up before making the next one which’ll probably be better. If you aren’t a fan yet however, start earlier. You wouldn’t get Holyweird as your first Poison album or Generation Swine as your first Motley Crue album and this is the same kind of thing for the next generation of once popular now maligned metal subgenres.