accept-restless-and-live-blind-rage-over-europeRestless & Live is a concert release from the veteran German Heavy Metal legends Accept. It was released on Nuclear Blast Records in 2017 on several formats; such as a CD set with tracks taken from different concerts across the touring cycle for Blind Rage (their third studio album since being reinvigorated by the joining of new singer Mark Tornillo). It was also released as a Blu Ray of a single entire performance at 2015’s Bang Your Head Festival. If you’ve got a bit more money to splash out you can get a set with the Blu Ray and CD versions, or if you prefer DVDs that’s also an option.

My personal preference for concert movies or albums is that they come from on single concert not a mix of shows, and if available preferably on Blu Ray, so for me this was the version I went for and am most happy with. (which this review will be focusing on).

In terms of specs: The Blu Ray version is in 1080p with PCM Stereo and DTS HD Master 5.1 options, Region:All. There aren’t any bonus features. There’s a booklet with some photos but no linear notes.

So the main reason you are buying this disc is for the concert; which is about an hour and forty-five minutes of blistering classic Heavy Metal. The 18-song tracklisting is pretty heavily focused on the three Tornillo-era albums, with a few of the classic ’80s crowdpleasing tunes added in as well. So if you’ve already got the DVD that came with Blind Rage its still worth checking this out for the different tracklisting and higher production values. (The CD version of Restless & Wild contains 27 songs and more of a mix of material).

The tracklisting is: 1. Stampede 2. Stalingrad 3. London Leatherboys 4. Restless & Wild 5. Dying Breed 6. Final Journey 7. Shadow Soldiers 8. Losers & Winners 9. 200 Years 10. Midnite Mover 11. No Shelter 12. Princess Of The Dawn 14. Pandemic 15. Fast As A Shark 16. Metal Heart 17. Teutonic Terror 18. Balls To The Wall

The performance is tight and professional but still has that ‘live’ feeling and energy, it isn’t all sterile but it isn’t loose and sloppy either, its just right. They all give it gusto and look pretty into it. There’s no complaints on vocals, musicianship or song selection for me. Wolf Hoffman’s guitar solos are as entertaining as you would expect and there’s a fun bass versus guitar trade off section at one point. The camera work, editing, sound and mix are all solid. Nothing jarring or out of place, no sync issues, all instruments audible and in correct balance. The songs sound clear and yet muscular.

Its a pretty simple and honest affair. There’s no gimmicks here; no big show with giant robot crabs on stage or band members catching fire or shooting lazers out of their eyes, and there’s no life changing documentary, no animations weaved into the concert or anything… but if you want to buy an Accept live concert and watch songs like ‘Fast As A Shark’ and ‘Balls To The Wall’ played well by the new line-up and competently captured and prepared for home viewing then it is an absolutely fine product and I highly recommend it to fans of the band, especially to fans of the newer three albums. For me, watching songs like ‘No Shelter,’ ‘Stalingrad’ and ‘Pandemic’ belted out enthusiastically are worth the money.

If you are new to the band, this is a very strong starting place, (if not entirely representative of the overall discography) and if you are a fan already its a worthy addition to your collection.

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The Zombie Horror Picture Show is a live release by the Industrial Metal band Rob Zombie. It was filmed in Texas and released in 2014 on DVD and Blu Ray, his first full concert video release. The Blu Ray version is in 1080p with DTS HD Master 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM stereo options.

Live CDs are great, but Rob Zombie has always been about spectacle, about visual, about putting on a show. It just makes more sense to release it in a visual medium. Here’s a list of things you can find on this concert film: Multiple costume changes (including prosthetic Nosferatu ears and a light-up mouth-guard) …when the band are already decoratively dressed and wearing make up to begin with; Multiple screens (showing a mixture of crowd footage, scenes from the music videos and dedicated footage such as horror imagery, strip tease, psychedelic visualizers and karaoke sing along prompts), light-up guitars, a see-through drum kit (which also has pentagrams projected onto it at one stage), balloons, confetti, fireworks and pyro and steam cannons, lights and lasers, customized mic-stands, fake snow falling, hired dancers in big puppet costumes, a giant prop that says ‘Zombie’ on it, a giant radio prop, a giant skeletal podium prop and even a giant steampunk-robot-chariot that drives around the stage and can move its head around. That’s more than most bands do in a whole career these days.

Its a very visual concert, with a lot to take in. The editing and camera work is all very high-budget stuff, lots of different angles available, movement, concentrating on the right parts of the song. There’s the occasional grainy film filters, or psychedelic looking screen mirrored down the middle or what have you, and during the intro, outro and a small selection of the more quiet parts it’ll cut to footage from the road. Its a very good looking film, well put together, not too stylized but not to plain. Very in keeping with Zombie’s tastes and artwork (Which makes sense seeing as Zombie himself directed it). Perhaps, there’s a few too many titty-shots. … a much higher proportion than normal really. If that’s off-putting to you then this aint the concert for you I fear, as there’s no getting around it here.

The band, featuring drummer Ginger Fish and guitarist John 5 (Hey, remember how cool Marilyn Manson was live when those two were in the band!?) as well as bassist Piggy D are all on top form, no free rides! Rob himself performs well and enthusiastically, really getting into it, dancing, interacting with the audience, going into the crowd etc. His vocals, which have been criticized on previous live releases are very strong here, and not a weak link at all. From everyone involved its a good performance, and the crowd seem into it.

The setlist is great; out of all of ‘Zombie’s live albums this has the most wide-ranging setlist, covering five solo albums and two White Zombie albums. Across its 80 minute length you’ll find all the hits you’d expect like ‘Dragula,’ ‘Living Dead Girl,’ ‘Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy),’ ‘Sick Bubblegum’ etc. There’s material from the then-new album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (including a really storming rendition of ‘Dead City Radio…’). There’s also a brief drum solo and a slightly longer guitar solo where John 5 really gets to shred. There’s the popular Grand Funk cover of ‘We’re An American Band.’ The Educated Horses album is the least drawn-from album but then there was already a live album from that touring cycle so its good not to just repeat the same setlist twice. Everyone’s tastes are different and I’d personally have loved to add in ‘Scum Of The Earth’ and ‘Werewolf Women of the SS’ but otherwise it is a pretty amazing selection.

Sound wise, its is decent. The White Zombie covers sound nice and thick, and the more organic material from his solo catalogue fairs really well. Some of the more industrial sections maybe sound different live than on record but not in any way that spoils them. My only minor gripe is that my favourite ‘Zombie song, the very catchy ‘Ding Dang Dong De Do Gong De Laga Raga’ isn’t just as crunchy and massive live. Its good, but not just as satisfying. I think its just because there’s only one guitar track live and in the studio they can beef it up with more. Minor nitpick at most though.

There isn’t much in the way of extras at all, just a gallery, not even a booklet with linear notes or anything, but to be honest I bought it for the concert in the first place so that’s ok I guess.

Overall, in terms of set,sound, performance, spectacle, visuals and editing this is a very good concert film and I highly recommend it. If you are a fan already it is pretty perfect and as an introduction to the band it serves as a pretty high quality ‘greatest hits’ package with a nice career spanning collection of songs to give you a flavour for different eras.

KiIncarnate2016llswitch Engage are one of the biggest and most beloved of all the bands that came from their scene, and have consistently released top quality material since their inception, staying more or less successful and critically acclaimed throughout, with only a few dips.

After previously estranged frontman Jesse Leach returned with their previous album, 2013, their star has risen arguably even further and they are constantly called things like ‘the best live band in the world’ online and in the press. That album was amazing and the tour for it was great. When Incarnate came out in 2016, it wasn’t met with the same unending praise and I was a bit too skeptical to pick up a copy initially from people I respect telling me it wasn’t up to scratch.

When they came to my city on tour supporting this record I realized how silly I had been. Live, tracks like ‘Strength Of The Mind’ and ‘Hate By Design’ absolutely smashed it and sold me completely on this record. I got myself a copy and still to this day find myself wondering what the heck that negativity was about.

Incarnate is a damn fine album. It starts strong, it has strong singles and the deep cuts are all strong. The production is excellent, the vocals are excellent, the choruses are memorable. Some of the lyrics are amazing. There is a good mix of light and heavy, a good mix of adventurous and straight forward. It is very much the ‘As Daylight Dies’ to Disarm The Descent’s ‘The End Of Heartache’ – the comparisons are many – its not just as instant but still has amazing singles, the opening track takes a while to get going, there’s a flow-breaking slow track halfway through, and its not the big talking point due to a singer change anymore… but its still a damn fine album. Don’t make my mistake and miss out on it if you heard someone else say its not as good. Being almost as good as Disarm The Descent but not quite is still better than almost anything else.

For me; tracks like ‘Until The Day,’ ‘Quiet Distress’ and ‘The Great Deceit’ are amazing and up there with the best material on any Killswitch record. The three singles; the bouncy ‘Strength Of The Mind,’ the typical Killswitch single ‘Cut Me Loose’ and especially the amazingly catchy ‘Hate By Design’ are some of the band’s best singles yet and I couldn’t imagine a Greatest Hits or Live album without them now, and the album works more or less perfectly from start to finish with basically nothing worth skipping.

If you like this band; Incarnate definitely deserves a place in you collection. Its not only a decent album, its more, its a damn good album. If this was your first KSE album and you didn’t have to compare it to all their legendary material, I can’t imagine you finding it anything less than astounding.

kreatorgodsofviolencecdKreator are an amazing band who have made some astounding and important music over the years; from their 1986 Extreme-Metal-influencing classic Pleasure To Kill, to their infectious politically aware genre-defining Thrash albums Extreme Aggression & Coma Of Souls, to their 2001 renaissance Violent Revolution, the German legends have been a positive force for top quality Metal.  In the last 17 years they have only been getting stronger and stronger with albums such as 2009’s frankly breathtaking Hordes Of Chaos arguably even better than either anything they released in their ’80s glory-period or indeed anything younger bands from today are producing.

Back once more, in 2017 on Nuclear Blast, produced by the excellent Jens Borgen (Amon Amarth, Opeth, Soilwork); Frontman Mille Petrozza, drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil and at this point long time guitar and bass associates Sami Yli-Sirniö and Christian Giesler have released the fourteenth official Kreator studio album, and boy oh boy is it a good one.

The album opens strong with the thrashier material such as ‘World War Now,’ ‘Satan Is Real’ and ‘Totalitarian Terror’ competing with other ’80s Thrash bands still at the top of their game such as Exodus and Testament for who can put out the highest quality material the latest into their career. This hard, heavy and fast material gets the blood pumping right from the get go.

Unlike many albums however, it isn’t frontloaded. Rather than diminishing returns, this one just gets better and better as the record goes on, with some of the later songs being the best, just check out the ridiculously catchy ‘Side By Side’ or ‘Hail To The Hordes.’ And continuing on that theme, it just gets better and better the more you listen to it. Its a real grower that rewards repeat listens and scrutiny.

There’s a lot of variety on this disc, from the all-out brutality of the first few songs, to the acoustic moments such as the intro of the Title Track and Lion With Eagle Wings. From the shout-along fist pumping anthemic parts you wouldn’t have found in their ’80s stuff to the crazily good guitar hero soloing with jaw dropping speeds, tapping, tricks and all that flashy stuff that manages to still stay tasteful. There’s neat little touches here and there such as harps, choirs and even bagpipes but there’s still furiously quick double-kicks and buzzsaw guitar lines… There’s also a huge amount of melody.

The last decade saw the band take influence from Melodeath into their thrash mix (and boy can Jens Borgen make that sound good), but there’s guitar lines here that go beyond that, even towards Power Metal or Trad Metal territories at times. Its a fine balance that adds infectious feel-good smiles from the sheer quality of the guitar work without loosing the balls or heaviness. There’s also groovy memorable riffs that could rival the catchiest moments of Coma Of Souls at times to balance that all out and stop it feeling one sided, just try listening to ‘Fallen Brother’ without wanting to headbang or windmill! Lyrically there’s a lot of great moments of variety too such as where they talk about ending homophobia one minute and about flying a Lion With Eagle Wings the next.

All the orchestral arrangements, diversity and balancing of the Thrash legacy with not being repetitive make this a very strong and memorable album, and the quality of the musicianship (especially the riffs and solos!) drive it even further up the scale towards being one of the band’s most impressive releases to date. If you like Kreator, especially their recent work, you really owe it to yourself to give this one a listen.

emperor_of_sand_coverAtlanta Prog Metal legends Mastodon return in 2017 with their seventh proper full-length studio album, Emperor Of Sand. Speaking of returns; frequent collaborator Scott Kelly returns for yet another guest vocal performance and producer Brendan O’Brian returns as well, having last done their fourth album, the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye. Also returning is the concept-album format. Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye had all been story-driven concept albums that also served as a metaphor for the band’s lives and Emperor Of Sand continues that tradition after a break into more traditional territories with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun.

The concept on this record is of a man being handed down a curse/death sentence and wandering the sands of the desert to his ultimate death and or salvation. The band haven’t been shy in interviews of describing the fact that story serves as a metaphor for cancer and especially guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother’s death from brain cancer. There’s even a dedication to her cleverly hidden in the artwork on one of the creature’s shields.

When you get told that information before hand, you immediately analyze the lyrics for clues. Is this about a biopsy? Is this about a scan? Does this represent the prognosis? Is this about the stages of grief? Does this represent the loss of cognitive function associated with illnesses of the brain? Is this line about a donation? Is this one about a family dispute? Does this character represent the doctor? Does this one represent cancer itself? …We do know for sure from the documentary that sand represents time. Sometimes it isn’t even so hidden at all; the album ends with the line ‘Its right in front of me, your malignancy.’ It all gives the album such a layer of depth, not unlike Crack The Skye had with Brann’s family tragedy. It feels a bit distasteful going into it so much, but then again if they didn’t want us to it wouldn’t have been released and promoted in such a way as to make it so possible.

Background aside, the main thing that sticks out about this album is the lead guitar. Now, Mastadon have always been musical virtuosos, innovators and masters of distilling broad and extreme influences into a cohesive singular whole, but still, even when we get used to excellence from the musicians, the guitars here are especially strong. There are some really stand up and take notice leads, some very crack a smile solos and some screw up your face and nod riffs on here.

It really is a guitar-centric record. Even with the story, Brann’s superhero drumming, all the bonus keyboards and studio touches, and the team approach to vocals… man those guitarists sure are on damn fine form here.

In terms of direction; this one seems to be an attempt to merge the Crack The Skye formula into the most mainstream moments of the most recent two albums. The first half of the album is all more sing-along, catchy, easily accessible stuff, and the second half drops down the prog. Tracks like ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Precious Stones’ have radio appeal, then tracks like the magnificent album closer ‘Jaguar God’ are a trippy journey through a dozen speeds, tones and moods with bonkers Robert Fripp-esque guitar noodling meeting metal meeting acoustic meeting big beautiful wailing solos. The middle of ‘Clandestiny’ sounds like it could be on a Yes or Genesis record, something they’ve always talked about but I’ve never heard so litterally before.

With Emperor Of Sand it feels like they’ve taken all the lessons they’ve learned with big vocal melodys, hit appeal and targeting a wider audience, and applied it to the slow-burn, grower, hear something new on every listen nature of Crack The Skye. It doesn’t sound anything like that record, but the second half has the same spirit, ethos or vibe as it did. Its all about the repeat listens, the new discoveries, the changing attitudes. I mean, it doesn’t sound like my favourite album, Leviathan, and that is always an adjustment, but when you get over it, like you do every new release you realize that the band can still be amazing even when they are doing a different style.

On first listen, I wasn’t keen on this album, the next time I wasn’t sure, I felt a bit negatively about this but I was sure one more listen would prove whether there was something good going on here and then from there it built and built for me until I was a bit positive to satisfied and now I’m very impressed. Its got big ideas, its got big ambitions, and its undeniably Mastodon. Some of these songs feel one way, then they hit the halfway mark and morph into something else. There’s all these neat subtle touches in the background (listen in depth to ‘Steam Breather’). There’s such badass little drum parts (hey there, Ancient Kingdom’s midsection!). There’s such sticky vocal parts. From all the singers. They’re working together even better than before, blending better. Its a team approach to vocals and it works really well. Then you get all the different takes on the album. Sit there with the lyric book in an empty room and the album feels one way, listen to it on a sunny walk and its very different again. Listen concentrating on one instrument and it feels like a different record than concentrating on another, or the vocals.

For me; my favourite tracks would have to be ‘Roots Remain,’ especially towards its end which has a Cysquatch feel to it, as well as aforementioned album highlight ‘Jaguar God’ and the most Remission-like track ‘Andromeda’ with its jagged caustic riffs and awesome guest vocals from Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp… but hey, if the weather improves I can see it being the singles ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Sultans Curse.’ Pretty great for an album I initially had a negative impression of, ey?

A grower. An exceeder of expectations. A Mastodon album.

61IBNuh6dgL._SS500I don’t know if I am fully equipped to review this album really, but I have a really strong urge to add my praise to the pile. This feels like an important album. I don’t know if its just because I’ve been brainwashed into liking it by Hill & Beez from the That’s Not Metal Podcast I subscribe to, (Hey, it worked for Marmozetts!) or if its because of the positive reviews I see everywhere, or if it is just genuinely that impressive, but something about this record just really makes me sit up and think, hey, this is a big deal!

Creeper are a British band from the Punk side of things, and this is their major label debut full-length album. Interestingly you can buy it on Cassette should you want. It was released on Roadrunner Records this year (that’s 2017 if you read back on this in the future).

Musically, the album is a bit of an eclectic mish-mash of different styles. Just go look at the band’s Wikipedia page and see all the different genres its listed as; there’s stuff in there from Hardcore, Post-Hardcore, Goth Punk, Pop Punk and more, heck, one song is even described as Country. There’s talk of diverse influences from as far afield as The Cure, Meatloaf and Metallica, then there’s the interesting underlying concept-album story about a paranormal detective who goes missing and the weird viral marketing surrounding that which feels like Trent Rezonor’s Year Zero campaign. The band have stated they want to add flamboyance to Punk. Hey; I like Queen and The Offspring, but I never imagined a mixture of the two before, because that’s what my inexperienced brain conjures up when I hear that mission statement. Maybe I don’t own enough AFI albums?

There’s a lot to consider when you start paying closer attention to Eternity, In Your Arms. Hell; when I put the album on, the thing opens with an intro that would fit seamlessly onto any of Cradle Of Filth’s ’90s albums. Not even kidding. From there, I hear such a wide variety of things. The male singer is some bizzare mix of Glen Danzig, Davey Havock, Roddy Walker, Matt Skiba, Jim Lindberg and god knows who else. The chorus to ‘Black Rain’ sounds like the end of a Coheed & Cambria album, the ‘I’ve Been Cheatin Death For Years’ line and accompanying music from ‘Darling’ is the best Alkaline Trio rip-off I’ve ever heard, ‘Poison Pens’ has backing vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sick Of It All album, but it also has this cool solemn mid-section that feels like Biffy Clyro when they’re being melancholic… or at least that bit on Gallows’ Grey Britain track ‘Graves’ with Biffy Clyro’s singer on it.

I mean; how do you even reviews this thing? ‘Misery’ isn’t the usual Pop-punk ballad, the tone is just differnt. ‘I Chose To Live’ isn’t the typical Horror Punk album closer. ‘Crickets’ sounds like the music on the sad montage in the middle of a film where someone’s marrigage is in trouble, y’know only its on this album instead. I think there’s a violin in there. The chorus of ‘Suzanne’ sounds like a completely different band to its middle eight with that whole ‘set the hostages free’ thing, and that again is so different to the verses, and the almost Hatebreed-esque build-ups where they scream ‘now’ over heavy music.

Then after that, the next song is this summery Alkaline Trio thing that could be in a late ’90s rom-com soundtrack during the verses, but with haunting, emotional and weird vocals elsewhere and an early Emo mid-section. Am I happy to be hiding with the boys? He crys off the very last line of the song like a singer songwriter from the Juno soundtrack. They do that a lot actually, change at the end. ‘Room 401’ starts off as a fun up-tempo skate punk number and ends like the acoustic bits off of Protest The Hero’s Kezia record. These song structures aint exactly basic. The band do a masterful job at taking the songs on unexpected journeys without sounding confused or ill-designed. They do a great job of adding extra instruments without

Hey, ‘Down Below’ sounds like Rancid, through a Jimmy Eat World filter… y’know until that chorus, that is more like Interpol or something. I know from interviews there’s also a My Chemical Romance influence. Oh hey, pianos. This got moody… I mean why even bother describing this? As I’ve said, I’m a bit ill-equipped.

This album might be a little outside my usual area of understanding. I mean; I’ve spent the rest of the month juggling between Edguy, Stratovarius and Blind Guardian. I bought it in a two-for-one deal with the new Kreator album. Maybe I don’t know whats going on exactly since I can’t trace it back through the usual routes like Accept to Rainbow to Deep Purple or whatever, but this album is awesome.

If like me you aren’t Mr. Punk and don’t have all the background knowledge, don’t let that stop you. This album is so good it would be an utter crime to miss out. There’s not one dud song, not one dodgy transition, not one questionable second. I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t like this, no matter what type of music they usually like. Y’know when something is just that good you have to stop and take notice? Its just so diverse, interesting, well constructed, charming. Those stop-start duhn-duhns in ‘Winnona’ make me want to get Creeper’s name in a heart tattoo. I mean, and then it sounds like bloody ‘Aces High’ for a second, then ‘Blood Red Summer’ the next, then ‘Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’ for a further second. And what a lyric, ‘Its breaking me to see you so happy, I just want the worst for you, so selfish and so typical of me’ in like, the flipping happiest sounding song I’ve heard all year.

The album is over in about half an hour or so. You wouldn’t think it though. A creepy-cheesy intro, three affecting ballads and a dizzingly fun and fizzy eight songs that blend all the popular punk subgenres together. Occasionally way too heavy for the radio. Occasionally way too syrupy for the punk-police. Occasionally silly, Occasionally dead serious. A cool background story, interesting and intelligent lyrics. A brain teasing mixture of emotions. Vocal diversity the likes of which you don’t hear very often (Not even taking into account the differing genders of the two main singers). I mean, this album has a bit of everything.

It doesn’t have to be a puzzle either though. If you sit there and dissect it, its got depth for days. But if you want to switch off and put it on, its as instant as instant can be. I’ve rarely heard a band that can make something so immediate and yet so crafted at the same time. In the review I may have over-stated the baffling nature of its pool of influences, don’t let that make you think this isn’t just the catchiest damn thing going though. The complexity does not take away from the end product. Its not hard work. Playing ‘guess what band that section reminds me of’ is very fun but its just one small part of listening to the record. Its just genuinely lovable in and of itself.

My personal favourite track has to be ‘Suzanne’ followed closely by ‘Poison Pens’ and ‘Crickets.’ Followed by them all, because seriously, there’s not a wasted second on this disc! (or Cassette, if you prefer).

If you have any interest in good rock music, or like any of the bands I’ve alleged it sounds like then you really ought to check this out. I mean, to your ears it won’t sound like any of those bands anyway because I’m always getting told that my comparisons are a stretch. But what it will sound like, is a rollercoaster ride, a damn good time, something to think about and a lasting impression.

Get up on this!

I went to go see Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed Live with In Flames at the Manchester Arena on Monday the 16th of January 2017.

This was my first ever gig at the Manchester Arena (formerly known as the M.E.N. Arena), and I almost missed it; because I was sat outside the Apollo instead, for 15 minutes like a twat until I realized something was wrong… where was the crowd?

I got myself all confused because ticketmaster sent my ticket to the wrong address and I needed to go to the box office to pick up a replacement and in the stress-scramble I went to the wrong place. I mean, I don’t normally go see arena bands. Too expensive, hard to even get tickets due to the speed they sell out, and when you get there you’d only see a dot on the horizon anyway…. not like in Club Academy where I could see all of Mariusz Duda’s individual nose hairs, that’s how close to the stage you could get. I can’t actually remember even buying these tickets as I did it on my phone, half asleep one morning. I probably wouldn’t have gone if I was awake enough the day I bought tickets. I want to see bands like Kiss and Maiden but the arena puts me off.

Anyway, after a well timed bus, I made it, didn’t have to hang around too long queuing, and got to my assigned seat in time to see all the bands. The arena was weird. Full of hotdogs and slushies and nachos. More like an American cinema or baseball game than a concert I’m used to. They even had candyfloss salesmen wandering up and down the ailes throughout.

I got sat next to on one side a nice civilized married couple and on the other no-one, and In Flames took to the stage to a still half empty venue, because apparently it takes yonks to actually get everyone inside the giant thing.

The band played reasonably well, a reasonably decent collection of tunes that I’d describe as Shadow’s Fall’s direction with more commercial choruses and a slight euro tinge that is explained by their Swedishness. I think it was probably newer material primarily because I know the band used to be a Melodeath band in the ’90s. This stuff didn’t sound all that melodeath. Not that I’d ever heard a full song by the band ever. I remember there was always one of their videos on Scuzz, but I never sat down and watched it. I surfed between MTV2, Q, Kerrang, Scuzz and P-Rock so if there was a song you weren’t sold on, you could always try another channel. I think it might’ve been off of Come Clarity and had a meteor shower in a city as the story, but I don’t remember properly because I never fully watched it.

The singer tried to illicit some laughs, payed homage to Maiden, Saxon and Sabbath and tried to get the crowd going. There was a pretty seizure-inducing light show, and overall it was an ok opening. They didn’t really have the sound or the stage presence to work a big arena who weren’t there for them, but they seem an ok band and I have nothing bad to say about ’em.

In the gap, a bunch of drunk rowdy yobbos came and parked themselves in from of me, drawing lots of attention to themselves and thinking they were hilarious. Shouting ‘Play Down With The Sickness!’ repeatedly even though it was obviously going to be the closer, shouting out spongebob catch phrases and getting up and down repeatedly for beers. They were distracting, but it was so nice to be sat in assigned seating and not have ’em surfing over my head or barging into me. Some people take the hole rock and roll thing a bit too far. …Its good music, but you don’t have to be a drunk buffoon all your life. I know you don’t have to be a crotchety joyless old man like me either, especially when, like me you’re way to young to be an old man, and concerts are supposed to be fun. But shouting bollox, killing your liver and being a big ape isn’t the only way of having fun.

Anyway; Disturbed took to the stage. Disturbed are a band I’m almost embarrassed to like sometimes. When I was young, and they were new, I was like, the only person I knew who liked them, and they were considered quite dorky and childish. ‘Stupefy’ wasn’t exactly ‘Master Of Puppets’ or ‘Raining Blood’ in terms of cool factor, now was it? Their second album Prayer was amazing, but the press poo-pooed it, and the band fell off my radar. About ten years later I turned around one day and noticed the band were massive, beloved, headlining US arenas and their old stuff was considered classic. ‘Down With The Sickness’ was in everybody’s gym playlist. Huh? What happened there!?

Well, whatever happened… I’m glad my dorky little Nu Metal guilty pleasure got their dues. Recently I’ve gotten back into them and picked up albums I’ve missed along the way and have been enjoying their new one on Spotify. Judging by the crowd reaction, so have a lot of other people.

Disturbed absolutely ruled live. The setlist was great, just about every song I’d ever want (well, maybe Sons Of Plunder, Voices, and Rise but now we’re getting greedy) plenty of energy, a great performance and crazy ass pyro.

Draiman sounded incredible live on his long sustained screams and silly monkey noises. The guitar solos from Dan Donagan were awesome, and the rhythm section were absolutely on it. Almost Djenty at times with their surprisingly intricate for stadium music style. Very rhythmic. It was nice to hear old favourites like ‘Liberate’ and ‘The Game’ and newer pleasures like ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ and ‘Inside The Fire.’ Stuff from their comeback album Immortalized sounded particularly hot, and the crowd ate it up.

The pyro was pretty entertaining, very synchronized and tall and with moving flame streams crossing eachother etc. A nice visual for us chumps up in the seats who can’t see the band’s nose hairs anymore. They were also stood in front of a giant collection of what might have been straight jackets but I was too far away to be certain. They had some kind of backdrop anyway. Whatever it was.

With good songs and fun pyro that would’ve been enough to have a pleasant evening, but Disturbed made it really great with their strong confident performance. They really filled up that big stage in a way In Flames just couldn’t. They looked the right size for that space, and had the theatrical gestures and stagecraft to pull it all off.

When they dropped their cover of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ they had violinists join them onstage and Mike gave a really into-it timpani performance. Like, really into it! It was genuinely captivating. I couldn’t look away, not even at the singing or the strings.

The only bit of it I didn’t like, was that mommy-don’t-hit-me part of Down With The Sickness that I’ve always felt spoils the song a bit. I’m surprised they keep it in live, seems you could skip it easy enough without losing much in terms of quality.

Anyway; After that show, I’m very pro-Disturbed. If they come back any time soon I’ll be there. And I reckon I’ll finally now get around to check out Asylum, the only one of theirs I haven’t tried yet (not that they played anything off it or anything, just because I’m in a pro Disturbed mood now).

After what was already a headline performance from a renergized Disturbed I was glad I’d came. The concert which followed absolutely raised the bar for me though, and really made the ticket price and everything else worth it.

Avenged Sevenfold were magnificent. Such good musicians. Synyster Gates is easy to overlook because of his OTT appearance and silly name, but damn that is one talented guitar hero. Matt Shadows might look like a biker version of Luke Danes with his lumberjack shirt and backwards baseball cap, but that man is an almost unparalleled frontman and natural born star. New drummer Brooks Wackerman is good enough to be in Tool, Mastodon or Dream Theater. Nuff said. The songwriting is so odd and off kilter its almost annoying until you realize how good it is, and damn can they perform live!

As well as the band’s superhero performance itself, they put on a great show, with multiple screens showing cool footage and pre-made videos like a Tool concert or something. They also had one screen cube that could move around and came out floating into the crowd almost, and a giant Astronaut puppet like Maiden’s Eddie almost. Now that’s arena headliner stuff. You can’t just make no effort in a place this size. You’ve got to have all those bells and whistles.

Their setlist tried to balance out the career, with super old stuff like ‘Warmess Of The Soul’ and ‘To End The Rapture’ from their demoy debut to five songs off their newest prog metal masterpiece The Stage. There was surprisngly only one song off fan favourite album City Of Evil (not even uber famous almost signature-tune ‘The Beast And The Harlot’ either) and they couldn’t fit in my favourite song of theirs (‘Critical Acclaim’ off the self titled) but they did have my number two and three favourites; ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Hail To The King.’

Nightmare’s massive ‘Its your fucking nightmare’ section was so amazing with the whole arena singing along.

The show also had me noticing things I hadn’t noticed before, such as the Soundgarden influence on ‘Angels’ which I never would have noticed if they hadn’t had Soundgarden over the speakers so soon before.

When the band ended, on Unholy Confessions from Waking The Fallen, they did something I think Machine Head should steal, which is they finished the song and had all the applause and all, and then said ‘we’re going to leave you with one more riff for the road’ and leaned into the big crushing breakdown bit again, so everyone on the ground floor could mosh around a bit longer. Machine Head concerts would be amazing doing that with Davidian.

Strangely or not, I think the biggest sing along of the whole night was for ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven’ … the 8 minute novelty necrophilia comedy song. Well its not really a comedy song, and its catchy as hell and brilliant, but still… I think it got a better reaction than even hits like ‘Bat Country.’ For a Tim Burton style corpse wedding song. I mean when you think about it, that’s what it is.

You know what sounded massive live? Planets! I can see why they called that tune Planets, becuase it sounds so massive. Especially those cinematic apocalyptic horns DUH DUH DUH DUH. ….. DUH DUH DUH DUH!

Overall; I was hesitant about a show in an Arena, and it was a bit odd compared to what I’m used to, but boy, I can see why Disturbed and Avenged get to play venues this size, they really know how to work the crowds, they really know how to bring the extras and they really know how to play!