Archive for the ‘Metal’ Category

I went to see Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine live tonight on Sunday 4th December, 2016, at Manchester Academy. They were supported by Nu Metal revivalists Cane Hill. Usually for gigs at the Manchester Academy I show up roughly at the time of doors opening and get in almost instantly with minimal queuing, but this time was different. One of the biggest ques I have ever seen there, all the way to the Manchester Museum entrance met me upon arrival; the only longer que I ever saw there was for a Bring Me The Horizon show (which I’d swear I’ve reviewed but can’t find it anywhere… long story short stuff off Sempiternal sounded good, anything older sounded awful due to the mix, and the crowd were unbearable jerks. I was looking forward to ‘Chelsea Smile’ so much but it sounded so flat and lifeless due to the soundjob.) I guess once when I went to see Megadeth there was a lot of queuing too, but that was really because doors opened late more than anything. Interestingly, this time, rather than rip tickets they scanned em with little lazer machines. Scanners. Lazer machines makes it sound more advanced than it was. The only other time I’ve ever seen scanner machines was with Saxon at the Ritz. Is this the future?

Anyway, when I got in tonight, Cane Hill were already on stage. I’ve never checked them out before but I know from the excellent That’s Not Metal Podcast (who sent me a free T shirt today, for which I’m grateful) that they are a modern band who play in the style of late-’90s Nu Metal. I definitely heard a looooot of Korn in their songwriting, vocal style and extra guitar noises (as in not the riffs themselves but the noises, mid verse). A wee bit of early Deftones and a pinch of Coal Chamber was also audible in their general style. It wasn’t a total ’90s flashback though, there was still some hardcore and metalcore sneaking in there too. And the very occasional Slipknot, Pantera or Black Label Society moment. They were decent, they roused the crowd fairly well (got a ‘fuck Trump’ chant going at one point, and it didn’t feel too pandering, which was nice), and I have nothing bad to say about ’em. Don’t think I’m a converted fan or anything but I wouldn’t swear off them for life either. Their bassdrum said ‘smoke weed’ and ‘drop acid’ which I’ve no time for, and once during a more violent song they encouraged the crowd to hit each-other in the face and literally beat each-other up, exact words, which I’ve also no time for, but musically it was an ok opener. I would’ve preferred Trivium though…damn their new album has grown on me, and last time I saw Killswitch it was with Trivum. They go well together.

So, next up, after a random selection of rock and metal tunes over the PA including Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ which elicited a particularly big smile from me, the reason I bought the ticket took to the stage. I’ve saw Killswitch once before, and by god, it was a damn memorable show. It was flaberghastingly good and I have such clear memories of it to this day. My second Killswitch show did not disappoint. There wasn’t as fancy a lightshow or backdrop since they weren’t the headliner, and maybe the set was ten to thirty minutes shorter, but otherwise, it was every bit as jaw dropping, life affirming and all out excellent as I’d hoped.

The crowd, singing things like ‘My Last Serenade’ ‘My Curse,’ my favourite Killswitch song, ‘In Due Time’ or especially ‘The End Of Heartache’ was absolutely overwhelming. You were engulfed in the loudest, most passionate sing backs you could ever imagine. You felt like you were in some fabled Live At Donnington moment like Maiden doing Fear Of The Dark or Slipknot doing Duality or one of those ones you read about as legend. The crowd doing ‘The End Of Heartache’ was deathbed-memorable. Seriously. Holy fuck.

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From Sorrow To Serenity – The Truth Is Absolution!

Anyway; the band. So good live. All the great little details you’ll know from the DVDs, like playing eachother’s guitars, or having all the extra picksqueals and competitive silliness, or amazing extra fills were all there. Adam D is still such an entertaining character and it doesn’t get old. Jesse live is an astoundingly good frontman. Aforementioned podcast called Killswitch the best live band in metal judging by recent years, and its damn hard to disagree after a show like that. When they go heavy-heavy at the end of songs you feel like you are seeing Machine Head or Pantera at their heaviest. When they do melody and harmony you feel like you’re in a classic Maiden or Priest live album and when they do their clean sing-alongs…there is no comparison, Killswitch fucking OWN that! No-one does or ever did that better.

The setlist was pretty decent. All the hits. ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ and ‘Vide Infra’ from the debut. A good four or five tunes from the new album. No messing about. The only thing I’d query is that their was nothing off the self titled album. Not even ‘Never Again’ or ‘Reckoning’ …but hey, you can’t fit it all. Previous shows had ‘A Bid Farewell’ and ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ instead of the new songs, which I personally would’ve preferred, but that’s a familiarity issue, not a quality issue. (Although those two in particular do rank rather damn high in my favourite Killswitch songs).

The show was strong, the performance was immense, the setlist was decent, and the atmosphere was pretty great. Time to go home then, satisfied as I was.

Well, not exactly, because there was still the headliners. Welsh Metalcore band Bullet For My Valentine. The biggest and most successful British Heavy Metal band since Iron Maiden. A band who, for some reason, about a decade ago without hearing any music, I decided I probably wouldn’t like and then completely ignored until their latest album Venom was released, before finally giving them a fair chance after much propaganda from my friend Brad over the years, and being taken aback. They have this reputation as being wimpy or girly or overly commercial or beginner’s stuff, or whatever. They were a cool band to hate. If you were wearing an Exodus t-shirt, then probably someone told you they sucked. …I was told they sucked and never give them a fair chance. When I finally did, I ended up buying all their albums (and their debut EP as well) within weeks. I’ve listened to them near daily ever since. Such a catchy, catchy band. Ironically underrated for someone famous enough to play arenas. Sometimes they are heavy as balls. The title track to ‘Scream Aim Fire’ sounds like Testament at times. Some of the mid album stuff on The Poison is as heavy as Trivium or Killswitch at their heaviest. Some of the song endings are almost Machine Head-esque… yet for some bizarre reason they are warned off to potential Metalhead fans because someone tells us they are wimpy or something. They’re heavier than Megadeth, than Priest. Than Motorhead. Than a lot of really beloved and respected bands. They have a few semi-ballads and a lot of clean singing parts, but hey, so do Priest and Maiden and Megadeth and Anthrax and Manowar and Fear Factory and even early Pantera. Not every band can be Nasum and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Whatever the reason for Bullet being on True-Metal’s blacklsit, its a spurrious and stupid reason, and it is leaving people to miss out on some seriously great music.

Well, let them miss out. Or better yet, let them learn the error of their ways like I did last year. I’ve had a great year listening to ‘wimpy’ Bullet nonstop and loving it. It didn’t stop me liking Napalm Death or Tygers Of Pan Tang or Deep Purple. It didn’t suddenly make me know or care less about Metal’s history, beloved albums, or heavier moments. I’ll just keep jamming ‘Army Of Noise’ or ‘Fever’ or ‘Cries In Vain’ and let a bunch of people in either Tokyo Blade or Morbid Angel t-shirts scowl. Its their loss.

Anyway. This show was a special show. They played their debut album The Poison in its entirety. They had producer Colin Richardson in the audience as a special guest. They seemed to record it as well judging by all the mics pointed out into the crowd. Oh, and Matt took to the mic and stated plainly and not as hyperbole that this was arguably the most significant gig of their career to date.

Visually, it was great. They had big specially made BMFV banners. They had fancy lighting. They had lazers. They were all dressed in matching suits like hollywood stars. It felt like an event. Not just any old gig.

Sonically, it was bad ass. The soundjob was so much heavier and livelier and more energetic/aggressive than on record and it all felt really organic and crushing. The drummer was really pushing himself doing so much extra, having such a big happy face on whilst doing it, and the backing vocals were really brutal. Maybe, I guess, someone could hear them and say its too commercial and too processed on record… but live, oh no no no, this was seriously good. Waaaay heavier than you’d expect. Slick and professional as hell but with that live feel too. Hard to have both. Bullet succeeded.

The crowd lapped it up. Circle pits. Boundless enthusiasm. The sing alongs were even wilder and more memorable than for Killswitch ‘best live band in the world right now’ Engage if you can believe it. The crowd sang like, every single little word from deep tracks’ third verses. It was bonkers. They sang the riffs, the solos. It was like when you see South American Megadeth or Maiden shows on DVDs. Such enthusiasm!

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Your cries are all in vain!

There were a few random sound drop outs and mistakes by the soundman, particularly distracting during the heavy-ass opening of their new single ‘Dont Need You,’ which almost stole its momentum but otherwise this was a flawless show.

With sound, visuals and an atmosphere like that it was truly something to behold. That the band were performing at the top of their game, confident and starlike as hell, playing the fuck out of the heavy bits, brilliantly singing the clean bits and shredding out the solos with fun and panache, it all just came together into this perfect better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts supergig!

It was genuinely one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, and it felt the the culmination of massive fandom for some reason. Hey, I didn’t even know or like this band two years ago, and now they’ve blown me away with literally, unarguably one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that often. I din’t say that for Down or Mosnter Magnet or Megadeth. Not for System Of A Down or Metallica or Amon Amarth. This was a seriously astounding show.

If they do release this on DVD or anything, get yourself a copy. Even if you don’t like the band. Seeing ‘Four Words To Choke Upon’ live, extra raw and heavy would make anyone a fan! For people who like the softer side of Metal, then ‘Ten Years Today’ or ‘The End’ or their signature semi-ballad ‘Tears Dont Fall’ would surely win you over, live, with that sound, performance and fan feedback there’s just something undeniable about them. Biggest British band since Maiden. I can well believe it.

Oh, you know what else was nice. I caught a drum stick! I go to gigs all the time, and I never manage to catch picks or sticks or setlists, but I actually caught one tonight! And not in that nasty fight-for-it selfish way, it literally just landed in my hands! Nice one! A very welcome souvenir, especially since I play the drums myself!

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That was a great concert. If ever you get a change to see Killswitch or Bullet, take it. That is entertainment worth seeing!

 

20160818_193928_7549_939483Metallica albums are so hard to judge. To me, Metallica are so absurdly superhumanly important. They are so larger than life. Each album release is not just an album, but an event. It is a climactic shift for my whole culture. I feel like Metallica releases are as significant to me as major life events like first kisses or first drinks or going to university for the first time. Metallica are as close to a religious leader as I’ll ever experience in my life time. As such, objectively judging them is somewhat impossible.

You are talking to an avid, ardant St. Anger defender here. You are talking to someone who could spend twenty-five minutes talking about ‘The Judas Kiss’ on a first date should you let him. You are talking to someone who feels like a chink in Metallica’s armour is a worry almost able to spoil a whole day over. When Metallica do Metallica well, its otherworldly levels of special and when they disappoint its a talking point for months. I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to judge or review them, then, given that this band wrote Master Of Puppets, which I do honestly and with all the sincerity in my soul, think I might feel about the same way devout religious people probably feel about their holy books. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful, but its important for the context behind the review to convey how truly disproportionately this group affects my sense-of-self, worldview and culture. Ever seen a grown man cry when his sports team loses a game? That same ludicrous thing is what Metallica taps into in me.And I don’t even consider myself that big a fan compared to a lot of people I’ve met. You’ll never see me scoffing at someone and saying I’m a bigger fan, or getting jealous and competitive about another fan. And yet…

When I hear tracks like the first three singles; ‘Hardwired’ ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Atlas, Rise!’ then, considering everything I’ve just written about this band and its cultural and emotional significance to me, I am suddenly filled with a sense of hope, excitement and the feeling that everything is all right with the world. This is the feeling of being a teenager, I can still feel the green sofa on which I first really got into ….And Justice For All, can still see the swings in the park when I roared the chorus of ‘Blackened’ at the top of my lungs out in, to amuse my equally excitable teenage friends. I can remember being younger than that and feeling genuinely frightened by the darker moments on the Black album. Feeling like I might go to hell for listening to it. I can see the movie I was ignoring when choosing to inspect the Black Album closely for the first time on headphones instead of engaging with the family movie night. (What Dreams May Come). I can still feel the rattle of the cheap bus windows the first time I realized Kill ‘Em All wasn’t old fashioned, it was charming. I can smell, see and taste things when I listen to Metallica. I have super clear memories of almost any time someone insulted St Anger when I was in the room. These three singles bring all those memories back faster, harder and clearer than Lulu, Beyond Magnetic or ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo)’ were able to, or indeed any live broadcast since about 2004 could.

Metallica were undoubtedly in a bad place before they dropped ‘Hardwired.’ They had whittled away a boatload of goodwill with LuLu, with the failed 3D movie and with ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo).’ The Metallica who were unstoppable to me seemed to be gone. People were stopping to care. Metallica were becoming a joke. What fans from the ’80s felt around the time of the ’90s eyeliner or ’90s fans felt around the time they watched Lars slamming doors on the documentary, its was starting to feel like the only feeling that could be felt about Metallica. That feeling, or worse still, ambivelance. This is the most important band in the world for the love of all things sacred… being ambivalent towards them feels unnatural. It feels tantamount to defeat. To depression almost. It was with a great sigh of relief then, that ‘Hardwired’ was equal to, if not better than even, the weaker moments on St Anger or Death Magnetic. We can never expect them to follow up the first six albums, that way sheer unbridled madness lies, but if they can keep up with the best half of their latter day albums and not turn into ‘Lords Of Summer – The Band’ then all would be well. As long as they sound like they, y’know, give a shit.

Then comes ‘Moth Into Flame.’ Pow. Same again. Its like Death Magnetic with better production, better vocals, and more concise songwriting. Oh, what’s that? ‘Atlas, Rise’ ? Just as good. Oh thank goodness. Its going to be good, I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones. Its going to be… uh, oh, ok, nevermind.

Yeah, its nice, its nice to try and capture the vibe of C.O.C’s ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing.’ Its nice to capture the vibe of ‘Devil’s Dance’ again. Its nice to have two six track discs each ending with a lengthy closer. Another song about Cthulu is a good idea. You’ve had success with that before. Its nice to do a tribute to the fallen Lemmy condsidering the specific impact he had on Metallica and vice versa. I mean Lemmy outright praises, thanks and accredits Metallica more than once in his autobiography and covered ‘Whiplash’ …Metallica covered numerous Motorhead songs and shared the stage with Lemmy. Sure. Its not going to be just another hollow tribute by any other band, its going to be personal and meaningful, yeah?

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Lemmy & Metallica share the stage

Well; here’s the thing, that Heaven’s Not Overflowing on the silly-title-of-the-month award winner ‘ManUnKind’ moment is fun and awesome, but the song doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the record at all, really sits out like a sore thumb and probably could’ve served better as a B-Side. Just because something is fun doesn’t mean it fits. The awkward, complex drum pattern just reminds me of that section in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary where Lar’s father recommends they ‘delete that’ …is it an attempt to redeem awkward beats or is it another moment someone should’ve saved them from themselves. ‘Murder One’ for all its potential is a forgettable, skippable, unnecessary addition to the album. Was the best way to pay tribute to the man really by writing the most boring song of the album, and just adding in some of Lemmy’s lyrics? Is that what Lemmy would want. Is that what Lemmy’s fans want? Is that what anybody wants? With the accompanying music video I get the Lemmy tribute aspect comes across more, but hey have you ever read Lemmy’s autobiography? I bet that a better tribute would’ve been just to cover a track off of one of those albums like Bastards or We Are Motorhead that he felt didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

When I’m on the subject of niggles… why have a song called ‘Am I Savage’ with no Diamond Head relation, but then have a direct Diamond Head reference in the intro on Confusion? Not just any Diamond Head reference but an ‘Am I Evil’ one specifically. Like. What are you trying to do. Surely, those two things are supposed to go together?! Where they initially together and got separated later in editing? Are they two separate similar shout outs to the same song? ‘Am I Savage?’ ‘Am I Evil?’ or Am I reading too much into this?

I like the two disc closing tracks ‘Spit Out The Bone’ and ‘Halo On Fire,’ …but they’re clearly on the wrong discs! Disc one is much more focused on Thrash. Disc two is much more focused on the Load style. Swap the two disc closers around and you’ve almost got themed discs. Might have flowed better. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ for me is arguably the best song on the album, maybe even of the last four albums. It could do with having a shorter build up time. It could do with sitting closer to ‘Hard Wired.’ It and ‘Hardwired’ are like the focused and expanded evil twins of eachother. They bookend the album. They’d bookmark a disc of the thrashier stuff even more strongly though. A disc each of each direction would be cool and you could pick which disc you were in the mood for.

I wonder what happened to the rest of Metallica’s catalogue though. Metallica were more than just Thrash and Load. I can hear lots of Kill ‘Em All. I can hear lots of Load. I can hear lots and lots of Death Magnetic. What about The Black Album or Ride The Lightening though? Or even poor misunderstood St Anger. Well, upon repeat listens actually I can hear some Black Album on ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Am I Savage’ actually. Initial gut reaction underplays that. You just feel like its Here comes Death Magnetic band trying to play more like Kill ‘Em All… you like that? Ok, well then here’s some Death Magnetic band trying to play Load a bit heavier.  Uh…what?

I have to say. On first listen, tracks like ‘Am I Savage?’ and ‘Confusion’ really missed the mark for me. They bored me. Had me questioning the band’s choices. Was this really on the same album as ‘Moth Into Flame’ ? Repeat listens have revealed more depth. Have highlighted the swinging in-the-pocket grooves. Have allowed me to forget my expectations and just let the album be its own thing. So, maybe ‘Here Comes Revenge’ isn’t just a poor man’s ‘Broken Beaten Scared’ after all, and hey, that vocal during the guitar lead has an almost ‘Outlaw Torn’-esque emotive quality to it. A watered down, middle-aged version of it, but a version of it none the less. Repeat listens are this album’s friend. Its a grower. I bet much of its reputation is already formed, and all of our initial ‘Yay’ or ‘Yuck!’ gut reactions will stick around for decades, but to be honest I hated over half this stuff on first listen and now I like a good three quarters.

This album is a bit of a difficult one to get straight in my head. UK journalist Terry Beezer once said Millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal. When hearing ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I’m happy to report he’s got it wrong but then ‘Murder One’ and ‘Dream No More’ have me knowing in my gut he’s dead right. I mean, stacked up against the worst songs on Metallica’s worst albums, maybe they kind of pass, barely, but against the best moments of those albums, not even close to being close to close. And the mythical quality of the best Metallica albums? Not even visible on the horizon. I mean, would you honestly want to see half of this album live if you knew what else you’d be missing out on. Even if Metallica did a show with no hits and no fan favourites, I’d still want to hear the deep cuts off of everything else prioritized over the deep cuts on this. Or would I? Hmmm. Its like a war inside my head (and not the PTSD war in my head of the ‘Confusion’ video). First impressions say I’d skip this stuff when choosing a live setlist, but repeat listening to the vocals in ‘Now That We’re Dead’ …hmm, I’m not sure anymore. Hmmm.

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Could use more ‘Spit Out The Bone’ …doesn’t even need a pun.

Ok, Ok. Let me think… So yeah. I’ve had some criticisms of this album, especially on the very first listen. That all being said. This is no bad album. Not even close. The band just get judged so much more harshly due to their significance. The intro to ‘Now That We’re All Dead’ ? Amazing fun. Who could possibly not enjoy that? The best riffs in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Confusion’? Yes of course they put a smile on my face, of course I’d want to learn them on guitar. This is Metallica we’re talking about here, James Hetfield knows a thing or two about writing memorable riffs! Increasingly though, they don’t seem to know how to edit themselves, how to cut out the flab, how to be concise. The best thing about this album is that, on those first three singles, it felt like the band had finally worked out how to be concise again, and that’s probably where a lot of disappointment on my part came from, the realization that it was not to be. Should’ve guessed… it was a double album after all. Its hardly a medium known for its focus and discipline.

Then again, the best song on the album is 7-minutes long, so being concise isn’t everything. Just ask …And Justice For All. One things for sure. Metallica dodged a bullet with this album. They were about to slide into the ‘I don’t want to hear anything new ever again’ folder along with the likes of The Rolling Stones, but with the best moments of the record, they’ve dug their nails into staying relelvent. Of course, this isn’t a perfect record. I strongly wish they’d record firier, angrier, more personally invested performances. I wish they’d sound more excited. I wish they’d be livlier and convey more energy. I mean, if Exodus and Testament can still do it, at the same age from the same background, then we know it is physically possible. Have you heard the title track to Blood In Blood Out? It can be done.

Anyway; Despite the one or two filler tracks. Despite the slighly flow-diminishing running order. Despite the surprisngly unfitting tribute to Lemmy. Despite the performance not rocking the hell out. Despite any niggles or nitpicking, this is an album I’ll be listening to in five years time. Its an album that gets less dissapointing with each listen. Its an album that whether its a sane or rational thing to happen or not will inform a disproportionate amount of who I am as a person. I’ll never be objective about this so I won’t even pretend to be.

If history is anything to go by, I’ll have a different oppinion on this in a month, quarter and year from now. I’ll probablly have a different opinion every time you ask me. This review is by no means the last you’ll hear from me on the matter. But overall; I’m glad Metallica made new music and I’m very glad to own an album with ‘Hardwired’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’ on it.

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What a good song!

….

Thought that was the end? Think again. This is a Metallica album. Initial gut reactions are one thing, measured multi-listen reviews are another. Even later revalidations are also required. Having absolutely hammered listening to this now, I’ve more left to say. I’ve listened track by track as they were released, all together as a piece of work, in custom orders of my own choosing, accompanied by videos or all alone as audio only, focused or in the background, and all that has melted together in my mind into one whole where I now have a much better grasp on my feelings.

Overall; I think this is a strong album. In all honesty, perhaps a single disc of all the Thrash stuff and a disc of the Black/Reload stuff six months later would’ve worked better, but overall, there’s nothing poor here. Well, maybe ‘Murder One’ for my personal taste… but that’s about it (and I’m sure there’s people out there who are throwing cheetos at the screen screaming that its their favourite song, so live and let live). Tracks like ‘Confusion,’  ‘Am I Savage’ and especially ‘Halo On Fire’ all have really strong endings and work better on repeat listens and in album context. When you deconstruct them or try and guess what they’re going to do, instead of just letting them exist, sure they don’t live up to the standards of your own imagination, but they do work the way Metallica planned them and you just have to accept that your hypothetical perfect version does not exist. Like my Andy Sneap produced, non-brickwalled version of Death Magnetic, it doesn’t exist but that doesn’t stop ‘That Was Just Your Life,’ ‘Judas Kiss’ or ‘All Nightmare Long’ from being bad-ass.

What also becomes apparent after all the dust has settled is how right my gut was on the positive matters. ‘Hardwired,’ ‘Moth Into Flame,’ ‘Atlas, Rise,’ ‘Now That We’re Dead,’ ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and especially, especially ‘Spit Out The Bone’ are my favourite tracks. They are all exactly what I want from the band, and proof that they can still do amazing things even with all the fame and money and age and expectation and conflicting fanbase demographics. These songs, each and every one, I WOULD love to see live.

On repeat listens; I also really connect to parts of other songs, the end of ‘Halo On Fire’ once the guitar lead comes in is priceless, the harsh vocals later in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ are really exciting, the clever mid section of ‘Confusion’ is good. The guitar solo on ‘Dream No More’ is like the best stuff on Reload and I can see now how the ‘you turn to stone’ section is trying to channel The Black Album’s slower tracks. That main riff in the admittedly-still-out-of-place ‘ManUnKind’ is pretty infectious. I mean, they aren’t as great as the best moments on the best albums, (but then, what is?), however they do still warrant attention and respect. More than that even, genuine warmth.

On the matter of the special edition bonus tracks; firstly, the new version of ‘Lords Of Summer’ is a huge improvement. The production, the performance, the attitude, the arrangement, and especially the guitar solos. It all just works so much better. It feels more vital and less like medicority eating Metallica alive. Its celebratory lyrics even put me in a good mood.

The Maiden and Deep Purple covers we’ve heard before, sure but its nice to have them all the same, and the Ronnie medley in particular is pretty great. Their guitar tone on these songs works really well, almost like a history lesson or through-line. Then there’s a ten-song live set: A Diamond Head cover, songs exclusively from Ride The Lightning and Kill ‘Em All and then ending with a live version of ‘Hardwired’ from another concert, ten live tracks, three covers and an extra Metallica song… overall its a pretty substantial bonus. On the Rasputin Music show; the performances and banter all seem happy and grateful and fun, and it all has a great jovial atmosphere. Its a nice addition. I don’t think I’d buy it on its own or anything, there’s plenty of alternative Metallica live shows (especially on their extensive website) to choose from elsewhere, but it is by no means a let down and is actually really rather good indeed. If this was your first Metallica album and you got this on the end too, it would really rule.

Ok. A bit of a fractured review, but it matches my fractured reaction to the album and the fractured way in which I initially consumed it. To summarize: My initial reaction to it, especially disc 2, was disappointment but it really grows. It is not perfect and could easily loose two or three songs, or each song could easily loose thirty seconds to a minute each. The running order could be slightly different [and for my own future listening I am listening to it in the custom order in the appendix below the review]. ‘ManUnKind’ doesn’t fit no matter how good or bad it is or not. ‘Murder One’ is my least favourite track despite Lemmy being amazing and specifically important to this band, directly.

…All of those niggles aside, and they are just niggles, this is pretty damn good. The songs each have something good about them (Hello daaaaarkness, say good-bye), and the aforementioned half or so of the album that I really like, well, I really really like it now! Those songs each have something to love about them. They are very good indeed, and really keep Metallica alive and relevant and live up to all my expectations.

This band are too gigantic, larger than life, and both culturally and emotionally significant for me to have any sort of detached, logical, impartial idea about the objective quality of the record, but in my guts, when I hear ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I know that everything is right with the world; at least for today (despite what the dystopian lyrics would have you believe). Lords of Summer undenied indeed.

 

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Custom track order:
1. Hardwired. 2. Moth Into Flame. 3. Atlas, Rise. 4. Now That We’re Dead 5. Here Comes Revenge 6. Spit Out The Bone

1. Confusion. 2. Dream No More. 3. ManUnKind. 4. Murder One. 5. Am I Savage. 6. Halo On Fire.

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I went to go see Saxon live tonight at Manchester 02 Ritz (formerly HMV Ritz) on 2/11/16.

This was my second Saxon gig, and indeed the second Saxon gig I’ve attended at this venue. I really like this venue, its farther away from my house than the Apollo or Academy, but has much better sound and feels a bit classier. I remember seeing Queensryche here and it was one of my all time favourite ever gigs.

Last time Saxon were supported by the theatrical and bizarre band, Hell, but this time it was just the sort of appropriate greasy NWOBHM you’d expect. No not Grim Reaper (although that’d be an amazing booking…somebody get Steve on the phone!). Firstly Girlschool took to the stage, leaning heavily on material from the first two albums, plus the critically acclaimed new album, Guilty As Sin, that’s been on the sidebar of Blabbermouth for most of the year. I enjoyed Girlschool a lot. They played their cover of Gun’s ‘Run With The Devil’ (Judas Priest fans would recognize that). The ended with ‘Emergency’ which of course every Motorhead fan would recognize. It was a good gig, a lot of fun, ramshakle energy, smiles all around, jokes about throwing the lead guitarist into the crowd, amusing attempts by the lead guitarist to strum the rhythm guitarist’s guitar. Very entertaining and a great way to warm us up. I’ll check out more Girlschool as a result of this. I was going to anyway during my recent second NWOBHM phase, but spent my money on Tokyo Blade and Bitch’s Sin instead. I’m spotifying them as I write this anyway. Good stuff. They’ve won me over.

Last time I saw Saxon, I took my fiance (who doesn’t listen to Metal) along as a social experiment. Hell’s frontman whipping himself while dressed as the devil on stilts accompanied by spooky lighting and the band playing music that sounded a bit like Cradle Of Filth kind of scared her off so I was solo this time. This allowed me to venture closer to the front, however, for a better view and different atmosphere this time creating a nice distinction between the two times I’ve seen em. The front made you feel more engaged with the actual band, like as if Paul Quinn or Nibbs were looking you personally in the eyes, and it all seemed very perfect until along came some very largered-up people who where bouncing around, elbows everywhere, much to the annoyance of the more music nerd and young kid demographics, but I kept thinking, its a Metal show, not a library, let them have their fun. Now in all honesty; I’d personally rather just geek out on drum porn, but some people need beer and bouncing to enjoy a concert so I shouldn’t be a wet blanket. [I ended up wet due to beer spillages by aforementioned bouncy larger fans, but not necessarily a blanket…]. I dunno, sometimes I wish everyone was as boring and dorky as me, and just wanted to sit tongue hanging out watching the drum parts and guitar solos lustily, but as long as the rowdiness is good-natured and they’re not deliberately targeting people who aren’t into it then I guess I’m not going to be mr. sour about it. Sure Saxon themselves were famously tea-total, but its a loosing game complaining about beers at a rock show. May as well hand back your copy of Back In Black and Paranoid now and head to the new age isle.

Anyway. Girlschool got things revved up. Next was Fastway, y’know, Fastway? …featuring Fast Eddie Clark of Motorhead fame. Technically a NWOBHM band due to timing and marketing although not really in terms of sound. Their singer sounded really like Glen Hughes (and had the same Soul influenced vibe). They were very entertaining. And y’know…. its Fast Eddie Clark. Like, if a town you went on holiday to had a Lemmy or Phil Lynnott or Bon Scott or Dio statue or something like that, you’d go visit it, wouldn’t you? Similarly, just seeing this iconic guy in real life just felt like a special moment. I’m not a super sentimental guy with regards to this stuff. When Dimebag or Dio or Paul Gray died, they didn’t become gravestone tattoos on my body or even facebook user profile pics on my account, I don’t post anywhere near as many RIP posts on this blog as I feel I maybe ought to, but at the same time, when the only living member of the Bomber-Iron Fist line up of Motorhead is in your eyeline, it feels pretty cool I can tell you.

Finally, the main event. The mighty, the magnificent, the one and only Saxon. They battered…um excuse me… the Ritz with their opener, the title track from their excellent newest album, ‘Battering Ram.’ The setlist was really cool. Last time I went to see em, it was a celebration of the classic trilogy (Wheels Of Steel through to Denim And Leather), with songs from the first and fifth album in their too, making it early-days focused. Not content with just repeating the same setlist again, they focused a bit more on modern times tonight. There was plenty off of Battering Ram, as well as some selections from Inner Sanctum, Sacrifice (ok they played that last time too but I’m tryna make a point here) and Killing Ground.

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There were of course all the amazing gems you can’t do without, such as a breathtaking rendition of both ‘Crusader’ and ‘The Eagle Has Landed,’ and all the sing-along classics you’d expect like ‘Dallas 1PM,’ ‘747 Strangers In The Night,’ ‘Wheels Of Steel,’ and double-of course they closed with the eternally fun ‘Princess Of The Night.’ I’ve said before about how the ”take it easy take it slow don’t look back don’t let go” section of ‘Eagle was astonishing live and tonight didn’t disappoint. The drum fills in particular just set if off!

A surprise moment was when they announced that they had meant to tour with Motorhead but it got cancelled when Lemmy passed away (I still remember a few years ago having tickets to Saxon & Motorhead in my 2nd year of uni and it got cancelled when Lemmy got diagnosed with diabetes… poor Lemmy) and then proceeded to invite Fast Eddie up on stage for a cover of ‘The Ace Of Spades.’ Hey, nice surprise, seeing Fast Eddie play Ace Of Spades with my own eyes. And its not even the early ’80s! And I’ve been born! Wow, didn’t expect that. A very welcome bonus to the evening indeed.

There was plenty of smiles to be had throughout the show. For example, Biff declared Solid Ball Of Rock ”one of our MANY comeback-albums” and it really had me grin in a spinal tap way. There was also a technical fault during ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and ‘Never Surrender’ where the speakers went all weird and it slowly got fixed over time, but the band of course, never surrendered. Yes I did just write that. I’m sorry. Moving on…

Highlights for me, as before, where almost all from Nigel Glockler. Yes, I do have a massive drummer’s crush on him. Nigel just plays with such verve, passion and authority and absolutely elevates the whole band. The material from his own era is pounded out like nobody’s business (those kicks on ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’ and ‘Attila The Hun’ … you felt them in your intestines!) and the material from previous drummers is so greatly improved, with extra cymbal chokes, surprise splash cymbals or little ride-cymbal’s-bell patterns and indeed with much better fills. His playing doubles or triples how good the already great band are (I mean its flipping Saxon, its hard to make em better, but Nigel is just that magnetic and incandescent that he manages to do it anyway). He’s also a cool guy, specifically throwing his drumstick to a younger crowd member who was really into it and knew all the words and fills, rather than rowdy drunken yahoos just because they’d been fans longer…. I really reacted to that for some reason.

Another fun highlight was when a crowd member threw their patch-jacket (or kutt or battle-jacket or whatever you call them in your town) on stage and Biff put it on and wore it for a few songs before returning it to the correct person. Pretty cool moment. I mean, if the band who wrote the line ‘Denim and leather brought us all together’ wearing a fan’s denim on stage isn’t cool to you, then maybe you shouldn’t be reading my blog. I write about heavy metal not about antique china patterns or crossword hints.

It was a pretty amazing gig, the sound was brilliant (speaker malfunction not included), the vocals were remarkably good, the drums…well of course they were brilliant… did you not just read me gushing?, the attitude and showmanship of the band was perfection itself. The setlist was the perfect balance of wouldn’t-want-to-miss-it and try-this-on-for-size and although not every pet favourite track can get played at every concert (hey, I’m dying to see ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Everybody Up’ live) it was an absolutely corking gig and set of songs and I loved every minute of it.

That’s twice now Saxon have brought the thunder. If they come my way again you better believe I’ll be up at the front again. If they come to your town you’d be a stark raving idiot to miss them. People who find a way not to enjoy that live show must be very devoted in their pursuit of actively choosing to not have fun, because it seems next to inconceivable from where I’m sitting that the mighty Saxon would be in the same room as you without producing smiles, fist pumping, and a lasting impression. Get tickets now, people!

[Side note: I wasn’t absolutely flat broke this time, and got to walk away as the proud owner of a very nice Saxon Est. 1979 t-shirt with the Eagle logo. I think I’ve found my new favourite shirt. I haven’t found such a perfect to my tastes metal shirt since the C.O.C Deliverance-reunion]

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I went to go see Exodus live at the Manchester Academy-2 on 28/10/16. It was as part of a four part bill, The Battle Of The Bays tour, featuring Florida Death Metal band Obituary (who were actually the headliner but not the band I was most interested in), San Francisco Thrash Metal legends Exodus, New York cross-over thrash turned Groove Metal trio Prong and Australian Grindcore noise makers King Parrot.

I walked in, after having already visiting the merch booth for an Exodus t-shirt, into the first King Parrot track, to join a reasonably revved-up crowd, reacting to the Aussies’ noisy obnoxious music. It was pretty damn entertaining, the singer was like former Jackass celebrity Steve-O in facial expressions and attitude, and kept getting into the crowd, touching people’s face, spitting and throwing liquids at them, screeching in teen girl’s faces, mooning the crowd and generally acting like a 1980s Hardcore Punk front-man, he had that fun obnoxious vibe. The music had blastbeats and grinding guitars, punky moments, and a lot of groove metal sections to balance the two styles out. Not bad at all musically, very good performance wise (from all the band, even though I’ve only bothered to describe the singer) and a very good way to warm up the crowd and start off a fun evening. I’d check em out again. Give em a shot if you like the heavier stuff.

Now, I have a boxset of Prong albums but I hardly ever listen to them. I really love the band when they are playing something that sounds like Fear Factory, Machine Head or Pantera, but I don’t really vibe with their dissonant noisy moments or their hardcore roots the same way. Things that sound like Vulgar era Pantera yes, things that sound like My War era Black Flag, no.

After this concert, I have a lot more interest in Prong. When they played songs I knew, I absolutely loved it. I was singing ‘Another Worldly Device’ at work all the next day. When they played music I didn’t yet know, I was very very impressed. They sound so much heavier and more full live. Maybe it was the production on those albums, or maybe the performances were just that much more firey live, I don’t know, but either way, Prong shot up about 400% in my estimation and I’ll be revisiting them a lot more in the wake of this. Tommy Victor reminds me a lot of Rob Flynn in a lot of good days. He’s a good front man. How in to it he got during closer ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’ really made me warm to him and I’m totally game to try some new Prong albums in the very near future.

Then came my main event, Thrash Metal legends, number 5 of the Big Four, the best of the Bay Area, the mighty Exodus. This is the reason I was at the gig, I got an email saying they were in town and within a few hours I owned a ticket.

Steve Souza was back in the band, but even at that I was still treated to the amazing gift of having them open with my favourite song from Exhibit B’ ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ …a viscous and scathing documentary style comment on the true story of two Californian serial killers who murdered up to 25 actual humans in real life. The vocal performance on the chorus line ‘Killers of Children, Rapists of Women, Sado-sexual Violence’ really conveys how horrific their crimes were (even more so than the lyrics themselves, its the way its spat out that tells the real story). Zetro did not disappoint doing Rob Duke’s material. Nor did he disappoint doing Ballof’s material. Or indeed his own. I love Zetro the best of all of Exodus’ singers over the years, and to hear absolute gems like ‘War Is My Sheppard’ and ‘Blacklist’ live absolutely set me off. In fact, it set the crowd off. I was happy with how well the crowd reacted to Tempo Of The Damned material. That album was such an important moment from the band for my fandom and I was afraid the crowd would be a load of people who only wanted to hear Bonded By Blood songs (of which there was already a heavy percentage). No, good crowd. They know that ‘War Is My Sheppard’ is an indisputable classic now. Smart people. Any concert with ‘Blacklist’ in it is a pretty damn good concert, I’ll tell you that much!

I couldn’t fault the setlist. I wouldn’t remove anything. The only thing I wish is that there was more time. It would’ve been amazing to hear more of my favourite Zetro-era classics ‘Chemi-Kill,’ ‘Brain Dead,’ ‘Fabulous Disaster,’ ‘Corruption,’ ‘Impact Is Imminent’ or indeed newer stuff from the Dukes era like ‘Altered Boy,’ ‘Class Dismissed’ or the Dukes era’s best ever tune ‘Children Of A Worthless God’ but that would’ve been a headline show. How much time would that all take?

How great was it to hear the famous tracks like ‘Bonded By Blood’ or ‘The Toxic Waltz’ though? Oh my goodness did I enjoy that. The crowd began to bang, there was blood upon the stage, metal took its place, bonded by blood. Hearing stuff of the new album like ‘Blood In. Blood Out.’ and ‘Body Harvest’ kept it all vital and not just nostalgia… I mean there’s been no decline in quality over the years. Either of those tracks would still be one of the best songs on Tempo’ or Impact’

I also loved their performance; they were hungry, rabid thrashers, not slow washed-out old men. I’ve heard it said that millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal, and so in that way its good Exodus never got as famous as Metallica, because Exodus are still unrelenting in their delivery. Its as if they’re still in their twenties. I also love their interaction with the crowd, they were very accommodating and interactive and the dialougue about the value of Heavy Metal itself all chimed very well with me. Overall, an amazing, feel-good performance and excellent setlist. I had myself a great time singing along, and I would go see them again tonight if I could. If you ever get the chance, no matter where they are on a bill and how short a slot they’re given, get yourself down to an Exodus show and you’ll be a happy man (or woman) (…but let’s be honest, man. Do I have any female readers? I doubt it.)(Interesting sidenote: Exodus certainly have a pretty high female audience ratio…. way more than I’ve seen in about my last 7 or 8 concerts. More than C.O.C for sure. Not quite Peirce The Veil levels of equality, but for greasy, brutal ’80s Thrash it was more than you’d expect).

At his point my night was complete, only it turns out that Obituary were headlining, as I’ve mentioned, and so I stayed to check them out. I’m not a fan yet, and have only ever heard one song. I’ve been meaning to try them for ages and have picked up their boxset numerous times in HMV but money shortages stopped me ever actually going through with the purchase. I like the other bands in Death Metal’s big four. I’ve liked Cannibal Corpse and Deicide a medium amount for years. I got into Morbid Angel a bit this year. Just Obituary left of the four. (And Death, Immolation, Incantation and many others still to come from the next tiers).

It was a very good performance. The two standout tracks were ‘Slowly We Rot’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ as well as the Celtic Frost cover as a close third. I was taken aback by how dedicated and into the crowd were. I noticed in the last few years how many morrisound album t-shirts have skyrocketed in popularity both in the streets of Manchester and especially at Metal gigs. It seems to be enjoying a renewed popularity, but man, I never expected an Obituary gig to be so packed of such an invested crowd. Shows what I know.

I was very, very impressed. There was no blasting, nothing unmusical. It was all fat, thick, groovy. There was a mix of doomy intros, speedy mid sections, and cool stop/start staccato moments ala Fear Factory, with surprisingly audible and discernible vocals and great lead guitar. Colour me impressed. Obituary are definitely worth me checking out it seems.

Good night.

Primal Fear – Jaws Of Death Review

Posted: October 4, 2016 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

jawsodeathDo you like Judas Priest? What about Accept? Or the heavier Iron Maiden stuff? Ok good. Do you also like Helloween, or indeed Gamma Ray? Well then… I think I’ve got a recommendation for you.

Germany’s Primal Fear, featuring ex-Gamma Ray singer Ralf Scheepers play a very traditional and blistering take on Power Metal. Does all of Blind Guardian’s prog or Freedom Call’s happy vibes make you yearn for something a bit more simplistic and earthy? Do you wish Stratovarius didn’t have so much keyboard? Do you wish Hammerfall were a bit heavier? Then, as this album puts it, welcome to the church of blood…

The usual media line on this band is ‘Its as if Judas Priest’s Painkiller album was a whole band’ and although in the long run its slightly inaccurate, it does set you up for the right ballpark. Imagine a Thrash band covering ‘Bloodstone’ off of Screaming For Vengeance, or Gamma Ray covering a mid-tempo Accept track like ‘Dogs On Leads’ or even at a push imagine one of Kreator’s more melodic moments but with Rob Halford guest-singing.

Mix all that in a blender, add a chunky, crisp ’90s production job, a bird-mascott and a few surprises and you’ve got Jaws Of Death. Its an album of straight-forward Priest-worshipping Power Metal with incredible vocals and lead guitar, but distinctly German. Its Thrashier than the bands you’d jokingly call Flower Metal instead of Power Metal, and less folky or proggy than some Power Metal bands went in the mid-to-late ’90s, yet harder and heavier than the NWOBHM influenced and ballad filled likes of Hammerfall.

There’s a nice bit of diversity too, to break things up a bit. ‘Into The Future’ has that slightly disorientating, pulsing vibe you’d almost expect from Voivod. ‘Under Your Spell’ starts off with a synth line before evolving into a heavy yet slow track you’d expect in the middle of a Tornillo-era modern Accept album, ‘Play To Kill’ on the other hand sounds like it came straight off of Peace Sells But Who’s Buying for the first 40 seconds or so. After all that has you reeling there’s even a Rainbow cover song on there.

So yeah, its kind of hard to even talk about this album without making comparisons to other artist’s work, but you know what…so what? I love this album. I love this album because I like Hammerfall. I love this album because I like Accept. I love this album because I love the Painkiller album and wish there was more of it. I love this as a Gamma Ray fan. …But I also love it on its own merits! Jaws Of Death is a catchy, well written, entertaining heavy metal album that hits all the right sweet-spots, that has the heavy guitars I like, that has the anthemic choruses I want, that has double-kicks more often than not. That has a powerful and technical singer who has a broad range of squeals, shouts, shrieks, and clean singing styles, propped up by those Teutonic gang backing vocals every now and again ….and best of all the album is absolutely slathered in heroic guitar solos.

In terms of the band’s back catalougue; Jaws Of Death (their 1999 sophomore release) is certainly one of the best. Its a lot stronger and more defined than the debut, its more focused and pure than some of the newer stuff and just has that indefinable x-factor about it. If you like Power Metal, Thrash Metal or especially if you like Traditional Metal you’d probably love this band’s whole output, and if you’re going to try out the band for the first time I’d say there’s no better place than here.

Just listen to the vocals on ‘When The Night Comes,’ the chorus of ‘Final Embrace’ or the superb lead guitar on ‘Under Your Spell’ … this is the pure essence of Heavy Metal right here. This is what its all about. This is what Manowar spent their lives banging on about. This is something you should probably add to you collection if you haven’t already.

220px-anthraxforallkingsAfter a brief cinematic-sounding instrumental intro, the East Coast Thrash Metal legends Anthrax’s eleventh full-length studio album kicks into gear with the stompy upper-midpaced ‘You Gotta Believe’ calling to mind the longer tracks on their Persistence Of Time and State Of Euphoria albums; the clicky drum production serves to balance the modern with the classic, the repetitive but not hypnotic song structure harkens back to State Of Euphoria even further, but when the lead guitar kicks in it is apparent that Dan Spitz and his unique and singular style are nowhere to be seen, nor can we hear the warm feel of the excellent Rob Caggiano. New man and former Shadows Fall member Jon Donais has some big shoes to fill.

Joey Bellandona, back for the second studio album since rejoining the band, sounds a little more at home here than on 2011’s Worship Music, which makes sense since the songs weren’t written with someone else in mind first. He still tries a bit more of the Bush-aping choruses which were a weak point on Worship Music since the two very different vocalists had different strengths, but there’s a bit more umph to the verses this time. A bit more of a spitting delivery. A bit more bite. Ironically, on this one he sounds more like he has something to prove, incumbent though he may be.

So far so good. The end of the songs when a few more double kicks let fly and the guitars get a bit busier are always good. The guitar solos are always entertaining. The musicianship is great in general on all the instruments all the way through. The mix is good, and you can really separate the bass drum for the bass guitar or concentrate on whatever you chose, be that a ride cymbal or an individual guitarist’s part.

There’s a few pretty damn enjoyable songs worth pointing out too, such as the speedy politically-charged closer ‘Zero Tolerance’ as well as the aggressive ‘Defend/Avenge’ and the complex and entertaining album highlight ‘Blood Eagle Wings.’

Sounds like a good album to me. The only problem is that it lacks a wow factor. It’s a bit repetitive, a bit unadventurous, a bit ploddy and a bit dull. The song tempos could use a boost. There could be a bit more variety (especially in the vocal department, the choruses sort of blanket over the tracks and make them feel a bit too safe, too samey and too slow). The song lengths could do with a trim. Heck, some of the songs could do with being trimmed altogether… there’s value for money and there’s quality control. ‘Suzerain’ is a perfect example of the whole album, it has a great verse recalling the best parts of the likes of ‘What Doesn’t Die’ or ‘Discharge’ but then the chorus comes in and you just start planning your groceries, looking out the window at the fat guy with the interesting shirt or checking your phone messages. Not even on purpose. Its not like its even bad, its not like you want to lose interest, its just that musically and vocally For All Kings just isn’t special enough to keep your attention. Where’s the choruses like ‘Fueled’? Or ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’? Or ‘Lone Justice’? Where’s the drama of ‘This Is Not An Exit’ or ‘Indians’ ? Where’s the damn excitement?

Its one of those albums where no song is bad and there’s nothing actually even bad or objectionable on there, but overall its just not that great. I like the album, but I don’t love it. Much like the recent Slayer or Megadeth albums, you don’t initially want to compare them to the past, but they just don’t have the same spark and you can’t help but feel that no-matter how objective you would prefer to stay. Its more an album of ‘Ooo, that’s a cool drum part’ rather than ‘Ooo, that’s a cool song.’ Its more, ‘wow, this is slick’ than ‘wow, this is awesome.’ Its good, but its good in the wrong way. It doesn’t grab you. It doesn’t speak to you. I don’t hear too much on here I’d love to hear in concert. I don’t hear too much I want to run out and show my friends. I don’t hear too much to even discuss at all. It one of those classic 6/10 albums that you’ll have in your collection, but never actually love, you might even listen to it more than an actual great one to try and get something more out of it. Overall; It feels like Anthrax are on the right path, but they just haven’t gotten all the way to the desired destination.

I went to go see Tesseract tonight (Friday 5th February, 2016) at Manchester Academy 2, with Nordic Giants and The Contortionist as support. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Tesseract (I’ve previously with Karnivool, Protest The Hero and Animals As Leaders, twice at this same venue and once at Sound Control – another venue also in Manchester) and the second time I’ve seen The Contortionist (seen ‘em with Riverside in Club Academy).

I got there a little late, but that meant the merch table was clear and saved me time after the gig, so it actually worked out alright, I got there as Nordic Giants had just finished their first song. I’ve never seen or heard of them before, so was surrised to see two multi-instrumentalists separated by not one but two projector screens centre stage, dressed up as Eskimos or Native Americans or, presumably, Nordic Giants. They moved rhythmically in time with the music and did big Tommy Lee drum gestures, and had violin bows to use on guitars, and played weird arty movies, with things like Game Of Thrones one minute, then parasites evolving the next, then people’s faces melting into sand and then an animated movie with lots of Pink Floyd and Sonic/Mario videogame references. Pretty interesting. The music was, I don’t know, some kind of Post-Rock, Explosions In The Sky meets Sixty Five Days Of Static type stuff (I’m not well informed on this sort of music… I know some music more than others. I could tell you if they sounded like Tygers Of Pan Tang though… they don’t.)
It was very intriguing and I’d happily see them again, or use their music to score an emotional scene in a sports movie if I ended up in the unlikely position to do so.

Next up comes The Contortionist. Their first song was a badass, Rishloo-esque beautiful prog sparkler. The majority of their set was Djent on the very mathy side, very complex and a bit hard to follow, with some really aggressive parts, but mostly quite beautiful. Their singer is still really cool and their main guitarist still looks about 13 years old, but is like a junior Robert Fripp in talent.

It was a good gig, and saw a very quite violent pit from some very odd, angry looking apes who seemed to think they were at a Throwdown or Hatebreed gig, but whatever. I don’t really love their songs because the math thing is a little too far… and the heavy thing is a bit too abrasive, but I’d happily see them again supporting someone else.

Then came Tesseract. It was the first time I’ve seen them since the new album came out. I’ve said it before, but Altered State, their sophomore, was a true stone cold masterpiece, and arguably the milestone against all other new music will henceforth be judged for me. When Ashe O Harra left I was worried and even though Dan is great I’d rather he stay in Skyharbour and I have the best of both worlds. All other times I saw the band, they were touring Altered State effectively, but this time they had Polaris songs to fit into the set.

Fit ‘em they did. In fact, not only did they fit ‘em, but they were the highlight of the night. “Hexes,” “Survival” and “Dystopia” were three of the best performances I’ve seen out of a band in years. The crowd went flippin wild for “Survival” too, which I didn’t realize was such a big deal because I’m semi out of the loop with other music fans at the minute.
They did play the first four songs off of Altered State too, so I’m damn happy, and this time none crowd surfed over my head during “Resist.”
The sound was very clear, the setlist was nice and balanced from all three albums, the light show was more advanced with colorful lazers and the audience didn’t get up in my business. A very good night for this fan. I didn’t even get into my usual ‘beer, littering, photos and crowdsurfing should be banned’ mood because their weren’t any Slayer fans spoiling for a fight or shirtless English versions of Frat Boys in an out of place party mood. Good stuff.

Oddly; when the band left the stage, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic movie played and most of the audience stayed and sang all the words for good minute or two before admitting defeat at the lack on formal encore. An unusual end to a gig, and surprising how many people knew all the lyrics, but whatever… I’m not the music police. I like music my favourite critics and “opinion-makers” think is awful all the time.
Did I mention the new material was good? Its really good. It worked really well live. I’m very excited to see the band again, when they start dropping even more new stuff into the set, Here’S hoping for ‘Seven Names.’