Archive for the ‘Metal – Live’ Category

I went to go see Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage live in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tonight, (February 1st 2019). It was my second time seeing Parkway, after they decimated Download Festival and were so powerful that they made Guns N’ Roses, even with all their money and with Slash and Duff back in the band, still pale in comparison. It was my third time seeing Killswitch, who I had seen supporting Bullet For My Valentine on Incarnate and Headlining over Trivium on Disarm The Descent.

I wasn’t sure if the gig was going to go ahead though, as it had been snowing prior and I was afraid (given that we live in Britain and they close down all the schools if a snowflake looks at them funny) that it might be called off, but luckily by the time I needed to leave, the roads were clear. (This must sound funny to my Canadian readers, but seriously, google ‘frozen Britain’ and see what the British reaction to snow is like).

Rather than arrive late and hang at the back like I did for Architects a few weeks ago, I new I had to be in the front row. Parkway at Download had whetted my appetite, and I needed more.

So I got there just as doors opened and didn’t have to queue in the post snow chill, but got to walk right to the front without any trouble at all.

The speakers usually play the same few songs at all the gigs I go to. Walk by Pantera, Snap Your Finger Snap Your Neck by Prong, Sad But True by Metallica, Psychosocial by Slipknot.

Not this time. They played some obscure hardcore punk. I couldn’t pin point anything I recognized from my meager 20-30 album Hardcore punk collection. I am not an expert, but I heard something that sounded like or was early Suicidal Tendencies (pre-Thrash) and something that sounded like but probably wasn’t Black Flag.

Not important, but just, different that basically every concert I’ve went to since 2012.

To open the evening where Deathcore lads, Thy Art Is Murder. Their front-man announced he regretted eating fruit around the start, and ended up barfing on stage around the end. He was a weirdly unprofessional burping, farting lads lad who was very charming, like how Orange Goblin‘s singer won me over with his topless enthusiasm a few months ago. Their music was Deathcore, which I am not too familiar with, but I know Metalcore, and I know Death metal, and its basically a mixture of that. There were death growls and blast beats, but there were beat downs and grooves. They were fun enough, and their guitarist has a fun sweeping style of leads/solos that reminded me more of Periphery or Dream Theater (or the Periphery song with John Petrucci from Dream Theater guesting on it). The drummer was very fun to watch, he was very inventive as a blast beater, and did it in more ways than I knew existed, and alternated hands and speeds and cymbals the way Tommy Lee would for a rock beat. They even had a catchy bit in ‘Puppet Master’ where the intro sounded a bit like Lamb Of God‘s ‘Redneck’ gone evil.

I enjoyed them. A much better support band than Beartooth had been last time. I’d be happy to see them again. A heck of a lot more than Asking Alexandria had been at Download. Generally, one of the better modern bands I’ve seen supporting people I like, but whom I didn’t know the support act beforehand.

It takes strength of the mind

Then the room got a bit fuller. After a Thin Lizzy ‘Boys ‘Back In Town intro; metalcore legends Killswitch Engage took to the stage. I have written before about how utterly majestic KSE are live, and how captivating it is when a whole room full of people sing ‘The End Of Heart Ache’, with its big long…

”This distance
This disillusion
I cling to memories
While falling
Sleep brings release
And the hope of a new day
Waking the misery
Of being without you”

…all done in perfect time, in its entirety. As a music fan it is one of the purest joys you can experience. Its crazy how good it makes you feel. And the band are always such fun, with Adam D clowning around like a hyperactive toddler making better masturbation jokes than Blink 182 ever did and brightening up the room with his infectious sense of fun and his big smile.

You knooooooooow me, you knooow me all too well!

I’ve also said before that Jesse is one of the, if not the, greatest live singers in the genre. Almost no-one can sing cleans that well live. He is a master of this type of music. Sam Carter, Ashe O’Harra and Jesse Leech are probably the best clean singers I’ve ever seen with my own two eye. Up there with Maynard incomparable James Keenan.

They played a set-list that was mostly greatest hits (Rose Of Sharyn, My Curse, End Of Heart Ache, All In Due Time, My Last Serenade) with a few early numbers (Fixation On The Darkness, Breathe Life) and it was more compact than any other time I’d seen them but no less potent.

The crowd seemed to really, really love ‘Always’ too, and Jesse doing the very last line while the band were all silent was some Freddie Mercury level skills. They played the two best songs off the new album too, (‘Hate By Design’ and ‘Strength Of The Mind’) which are even better live than on record, with more of a crushing Pantera groove to them.

Darkness will give way to light

Speaking of better live; ‘My Last Serenade’ is so, so good live. Joint with ‘End Of Heartache’ for the most audience participation (and augmented by all the fun guitar squeals and extra shenanigans) it is just excellent live in every way. And of course, they finished on my favourite Killswitch song, the fantastic ‘All In Due Time’ which turned me from a Jesse-reunion skeptic into the kinda guy who goes and sees em three times even though I don’t go to that many gigs.

Building a revolution to heal nations

If it was over then, it would’ve been enough. A solid opener, and mighty Killswitch doing themselves proud with a perfect set-list, excellent performance and decent sound & lighting. That would’ve done me nicely as a gig.

But I wasn’t ready for what happened next.

Now, I’ve banged on and on in this blog numerous times about how good Parkway were at download festival, and if you’ve met me in real life I’ve probably talked about how Ire is a modern classic that deserves to have the reputation sort of The Blackening has. You’ll have noticed the new album Reverence was high in my most played albums and highly ranked in my end of year list for this year just gone.

Well, that’s about to get a whole to more, because I have just seen. The. Best. Show. Of my whole life. No qualifications. No caveats. No exceptions.

I am not been hyperbolic. I am not exagerating. This was the best concert I have ever seen in every way. Visually, muscially, sonically, intangiable x-factor magiaclly. It was absolute bliss.

The set-list leaned heavily on the newest two albums, with just one song from Atlas and Deep Blue each, and two songs from Horizons, but otherwise all newer stuff since the change in direction.

The sound was immense, and the cruch and chug of big riffs like ‘Absolute Power’ or ‘Crushed’ was immense and made you pull that satisfied ”riff face” even harder than usualy. My view was perfect for most of the show, with a spot where I could see every member and even every cymbal on the drum kit. And the band’s performance was so bombastic, confident and commanding that it felt like witnessing something truly extraordinary.

The way Winston would sweep his hands or stomp his feet, or when he got topless and the end and would throw fists, always timed to some musical highlight like a conductor or film director was so entertaining. He is such a fucking golden rock star like we were back in the 1980s again. Having only been born as the ’80s died, its great someone is that for this generation and I don’t just have to read about it in old books.

The crowd were so into it, doing a gigantic circle pit during ‘Idols and Anchors’ and clapping along to the drumbeat in ‘Writings On The Wall’ like it was ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. They sang out not one or two but five or six songs guitar lines like when you see footage of Maiden or Megadeth playing South America. It was a brilliant vibe.

And that’s all without mentioning the fucking sheer spectacle of it all. If you haven’t been paying attention, it might be surprising to learn that Parkway Drive have become one of the most explosive live bands of the modern era. (Or any era).

The evening started with a dubstep or electronic noise while various lights were going off on the empty stage, with crazily loud concussion bombs going off to match the ‘the truth drops like a bomb’ lyrical theme.

Behind use, we could feel heat. Then in unsion we turned and saw that the mixing desk behind the crowd had pyro on it. And then the band, marched through the middle of the crowd, carrying flaming torches like a strange religious ceremony until they got up on stage. Then, wearing matching black outfits like some kind of Apple technology expo, they moved in choreographed and weirdly alien or robotic unison until the music really kicked in after the intro.

Crushed by the fist of god

Attention, attention, welcome to the stage

The first few songs they played in a tasteful white lighting set up. But it just got bigger and bigger.


You never miss your shadow
Till you’re alone, alone in the dark

There were various lights. And then there was smoke. And then there were fire balls. And then there were towers of fire. And then there were rows of fire. And then there were hydrolic platforms going up and down. And then there was a string quartet.

And we all go to heaven in a little row boat

Let’s get this straight, while you’re listening


And then there was an acoustic moment somehow behind the audience again. Then there was mini fire works. Then lights, lasers and fire together. Then well timed concussion bombs, like literally going ‘bang bang bang’ when Winston sang ‘bang bang bang’ in ‘Absolute Power.’ There was a Kiss-esque shower of sparks from the ceiling bouncing off their heads.

We’ve been waiting for the sky to fall!

At one point he came out with a bottle, and a rag in it, and set it on fire for real with a real lighter, and tossed it onto a big floating PWD shield, and there was really well timed explosives that made it look like he blew it up. And they just kept adding in more and more pyro and explosives until it looked like the whole building was on fire, and Winston would sweep his hands and flames would match the directions, such as during ‘Crushed.’

The truth drops like a bomb
Bang, Bang, Bang, drop the hammer of conscience


Between the spark and the ember
You are smoke threading the wind

Messages written within our columns of fire
No life blooms from the ashes of ire

Slayer had more pyro than I expected on their Farewell tour, but this made them look like a bar band with a packet of sparklers. It was almost Rammstein levels. At one point they had everything going off all at once in complete strobe light sensory overload destined to trigger epilepsy and PTSD sufferers in a way I would genuinely advise them not to attend due to. Absolute bloody war. I’m surprised health and safety let them get away with it to be honest.


Burn your heaven, flood your hell

Bombastic doesn’t do it justice. It was so well thought out and planned, cribbing all the best ideas from Motley Crue and Kiss and updating them with touches of Maiden and Rammstein and Tool but somehow feeling like a really cohesive and excellently orchestrated performance piece than a cobbled together greatest hits of concert ideas, the spectacle side of things was off the charts.

And all that being said, if they had have came out in day clothes and played the same set in an empty room with not so much as dry ice or a single light, it would’ve still been the best concert I saw in the last decade purely on the utter majesty and perfection of the performance. Songs like ‘Vice Grip’ are so goddamn triumphant sounding that when you see it live you feel like your team won the world cup. Songs like ‘Wishing Wells’ and ‘Chronos’ are so well constructed that you feel like a tween discovering the love of music for the first time. Songs like ‘Wild Eyes’ and ‘Karma’ are sing along fun that you just don’t have enough of as an adult. And best of all, ‘Bottom Feeder’ and ‘Crushed’ just level the place. When he sang ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and the payoff riff after the build up came in I got the kind of euphoric rush normally exclusive to a wedding day or the birth of a child. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the best part is…not by much!

Speaking of the birth of children. This will probably be my last concert for a while. Ozzy with Judas Priest got cancelled due to Ozzy’s ill health (just like my first ever Ozzfest, Ozzy didn’t play due to a quad bike accident.). My son is going to be born just a few months before Kiss say farewell and Download rolls around again so as much as I love music I’m not traveling for any of that this year, and so far nobody seems to be playing in between now and then.

As a last concert for a while, possibly of the year, I could not have asked for a better one. Hands sown the best concert of my life so far. If you ever get the chance to see Parkway live I advise and border on demand that you go. I hope to high heaven that they release a live DVD from this tour. This is how live music is done!

Until next time…

I went to go see Architects at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night (Friday 18th January 2019) with support from BearTooth.

I had to work so didn’t get there in time for the opening act, Polaris. I’ve never been into Polaris though, so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment (even if that sounds a bit rude). I had heard of BearTooth before, and had checked out a few of their songs on Spotify/Amazon Music over the years due to a podcast I like talking about them a few times, but wasn’t really familiar with them overall.

I decided, due to late arrival and back ache, not to bother getting right up to the front, and stood as close to the back as was possible. No moshing and crowd surfing for me. I had loads of space and wasn’t bustled around too much. It was nice being right up near the front for Slayer and Anthrax, but I wasn’t in the mood to be smashed around tonight and just wan’t to look at and listen to the live band.

BearTooth sounded a lot more raw and natural live than of what I vaugley remember about their recorded output, from what I sort of remember they were a bit wet and overproduced and a bit electronic. Live it was less wet and more natural, but still generic melodic metalcore. I feel they’re a little late for me to really fall in love with them.

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All the metalcore slots in my brain are taken up by the likes of Shadows Fall and Chimaira and Killswitch Engage and don’t really feel like there’s that much more I can get into. When I saw a few more modern melodic metalcore bands at Download Festival, like the forgettable Black Veil Brides and  Asking Alexandria or even the quite good Bury Tomorrow, I felt like I’ve had my fill already. Beartooth similarly offer nothing new, and didn’t win me over enough to go buy any of their albums, but where pleasant enough while they were on.

Their singer was very enthusiastic and called out specific riffs to pay attention to and seemed to be enjoying it. The sound for them wasn’t so good though, and you couldn’t really make out the vocals.

Then after a brief interlude with bands like Limp Bizkit and Rammstein played over the sound system, the main event, Architects took to the stage.

I’d seen them live before, back when I lived in Manchester, on the Lost Forever // Lost Together cycle. I really wanted to see them on the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us cycle too but it was sold out when I got to the counter to buy tickets (should’ve bloody done it online in hindsight!).

I got into Architects when Hollow Crown was their newest album, but I feel like they’ve been getting better over time, and I’d take albums like Daybreaker, All Our Gods’ and even the controversial The Hear And Now over earlier albums like Ruin or Hollow Crown. Lucky for me, the set-list last night was almost entirely off their new album Holy Hell, and the previous two albums Lost’ and Gods’ (as well as one single track off of Daybreaker), which made it quite a different set-list than the last time I saw them, with 12 songs tonight I didn’t see last time (I quite like it when bands do that).

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Last night’s setlist was:

  1. Death Is Not Defeat

  2. Modern Misery

  3. Nihilist

  4. Broken Cross

  5. Holy Hell

  6. Royal Beggars

  7. Gravedigger

  8. Mortal After All

  9. Downfall

  10. Naysayer

  11. These Colours Don’t Run

  12. A Match Made In Heaven

  13. Hereafter

  14. A Wasted Hymn

  15. Memento Mori

  16. Gone With The Wind

  17. Doomsday

I really, really enjoyed ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Downfall’ and ‘Doomsday’ especially, they worked so well live. If you haven’t heard of the band before and you wanted to check them out, they would be good tracks to try out.

Some people online have said the sound wasn’t good, but from where I stood last night, it sounded pretty good to me. A lot better than BearTooth. You could hear everything, each cymbal, all the vocals, every riff was clear (Except in the really heavy parts, like the start of ‘Nay Sayer’).

Sam was very grateful in the stage banter, repeatedly thanking the crowd and pointing out how they used to be in smaller venues and how cool it was to get to play somewhere this big. (He thanked the crowd so much, he ironically called himself a broken record numerous times, so that shows you how much it was!).

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Performance wise, they were top notch. Flawless. Can’t say enough good things about them. Sam’s clean vocals are almost record-perfect live which is impressive as hell and something his peers aren’t half as good at.

The production was really good too. Fire balls. Steam cannons. Confetti Cannons. Confetti from the roof. Lights. Lazers. Video footage of trippy wolves and falling bodies and mountain-scapes. A lot of variety and really well sequenced and well timed. There were lazers coming out above the crowd as well as strobes on stage and interestingly laid out lights and beams on stage. Sometimes all of it was going off at the same time, Very entertaining. It was halfway between the time I saw Tool in Dublin and the time I saw Killswitch in Manchester.

 

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There was also a bit where they had a bit paying tribute to late guitarist Tom Searle, and had a nice speech about how his brother, drummer Dan Searle got the band back together when they were all bereaved. It was really nice, and the had a ‘T // S’ in a heart up on the screen.

It was a very good evening, which is good, because I almost didn’t go. I had a difficult day at work, had a massive headache, had just got new glasses and hadn’t got used to driving in them yet, and a bunch of other lame-o excuses, but the gist of it is I wasn’t in the mood. I was very tempted to just skip it, but I remember how good Architects were last time, and I’d heard they had a really good production this time around, and I really like their newer three albums. Getting in and out of Cardiff was nice and easy too, even though it was a Friday night, the streets were quiet and the roads were pretty empty and it was no hassal with the travel.

Good night. Next up for me concert-wise; is also an evening of Metalcore: Killswtich Engage and Parkway Drive at the venue is February, and that’s going to be madness, if tonight’s production was good, I can’t wait to see the upside down flaming drum-kit like at Download Festival, but at their own show, in a more controlled environment than a festival. Can’t wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black Moth

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

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

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Fireball Ministry

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

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

 

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Orange Fucking Goblin, Baby

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

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Up close and personal 

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

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C.O.C – Houselights down.

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

 

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

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C.O.C – Houselights up.

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

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

418XGuo0CKL._SY445_What makes a good live video? Is it the camera crew? Is it the sound guy? Is it the editor? Does the track-listing have anything to do with it? Is it capturing a significant event in the band’s history? How much do the extras live video screens and pyro count? In the end, is all that matters the performance from the group?

I bring this up, because I have very mixed feelings about British Metalcore band, Bring Me The Horizon’s Live At Wembley Blu Ray.

Lets run down the list shall we? The camera work is superb. I watch a lot of live videos and this one is no disappointment. The sound is really clear, they have faithfully captured what was played on the night (more on that later). The band play a great track listing here, with material from all their studio albums to date, including not only hits but deep cuts and mixing the screeching and blast beats of the early days with the melody and keys of their smash hit Sempiternal album and some of their greatest material from their best two albums in between. The film captures the band headlining London’s historic Wembley Stadium and as singer Olly Sykes points out on stage this was their biggest show to date and a real crowning achievement for the band. It certainly isn’t visually dull and the band put a lot of effort into videos and artwork and steam cannons. There’s a lot of stuff going on to keep up your interest. Basically, if you take all this into account, this is on paper an absolutely brilliant release and an utter must have for fans of the band.

However; and this is a big however. It isn’t a very good concert. I like this band on record. I saw them live and it was very patchy, but I figured it was an off night. I saw old videos from the early days live that were very patchy but I figured that that was the early days and they would’ve got better over time. Well; this is still not very good.

I am not the kind of person to trowel on the negatives, but there are some points that sort of spoil this release for me. The band aren’t very tight. The drums sound sort of separate from the stringed instruments. Olly’s vocals are very different to the record with too much time spent out of breath or pointing the mic at the crowd or whatever. (I’m really hesitant to slag him off too much as he gets such grief online, and I’m not one of those people, but it is an honest reflection of this concert). The balance of instruments on the night sounds really wrong, with the levels of guitars and drums sounding confused and muffled and making the songs muddy and lacking in both heaviness and clarity. (I had this exact concern when I saw them live on this album cycle, so I know it isn’t just a choice at the Blu Ray’s sound mixing stage, and it really is a deal breaker).

Its a bit of a shame really. This is a perfectly recorded, brilliant looking, historic and exciting concert from the band at their zenith, playing a career spanning mixture of material for genuine fans. On that basis alone it is the kind of thing I’d usually hands down recommend. However, it is all spoiled by the actual concert.

My recommendation would be, if you are interested in the band, get a studio album instead. Suicide Season and There Is A Hell’ are utterly essential to fans of the genre, and show you what a vibrant and important band they are. Skip this unless you are a superfan who needs to own everything. In fact if you want a live album from the band, get Live At The Royal Albert Hall instead, since it has an orchestra on it and the proceeds go to a cancer charity.

Intro

Now, you might have read part 1 of this blog and though ‘Jimmy, you’re full of shit!’ but while that may be metaphorically true, biologically I managed to do what I though would be the impossible. My wife joked before I left for the weekend-long festival, ‘Have fun holding it in for three days’ and after the bio-hazard that was the toilet facilities at Festival Zand, I thought she was right, it would be hard to take nature’s call.

Let me be real here for a second. I have a strong stomach. I’ve worked in hospitals for years. I have washed the infected feaces out of a 70 year old woman’s prolapsed vagina and then gone and ate my lunch straight afterward without missing a beat. I have washed cadavers who’ve passed by choking on their own vomit and bile without having to crack a window. I have had more than one person spray bloody diarrhea directly onto my outstretched arms. I’m not a baby when it comes to the grosser side of life.

The toilets in Festival Zand were horrific even to me. They were a hole in the portaloo floor, baking in the hot sun, with a thousand used tampons and 1,000 liters of booze-filled puke percolating for hours to create a stench usually only smelled by the denizens of hell itself. You could almost see the comic book stink lines. Revolting doesn’t cover it.

My scheme for the good Download drop down was, instead of getting up in the camp and queuing forever to climb in on top of 2,000 fresh turds, to instead walk all the way to the arena, which had been cleaned and restocked overnight presumably, and walk to the furthest toilets away from the entrance. Clean and pristine, no queue, no problems. What a success. I’d recommend this tactic to anyone else who isn’t going to be too drunk to care. To be fair though, the actual toilets they used were way more high tech and less gross in general. Quite high quality.

ANY OLD WAY….

Where was I ?

DAY 2, The Bands Part 2

Oh yeah. Parkway-Fucking-Drive! Live! Parkway Drive‘s Ire album is one of my most listened to albums of the last few years. Their new album is almost as good. They have some really memorable classic material before that. I could not wait to hear them live. I had tried to see them live before, and missed out. I was not going to let that happen again.

My excitement was almost fever pitched when they hit the stage. The setlist was fantastic with all of my favourite songs from the two newest albums.They even played the slow atmospheric moody stuff which was pretty spine-tingling with all the dry ice. When they played ‘Writings On The Wall’ they got up on risers and elevated up into the air.

Speaking of elevating into the air, at one stage, they had the drumkit rotate a full 360 degrees so it was fully upside down, like Joey Jordinson or Tommy Lee. They even set the drum riser on fire at one stage. Speaking of fire, so much. More than anyone else I’d saw on the second stage. It was quite the spectacle.

You know the best part though? The performance. They absolutely crushed it. When they sang ‘Crushed by the fist of god!’ you felt it. It was an absolute battering of a performance. So fucking chunky and satisfying. The drums were so hard, the riffs were so powerful, the vocals were so savage. An absolutely blistering set. Even when they were playing the less outwardly heavy and more catchy stadium stuff, it was so uplifting and energizing. I loved every second of it. If you ever get a chance to see this band live, jump at it. There’s a reason the podcast calls them the best live band of our generation. Sure, one part of it is the inflatable palm trees and fiery drum kits, but 99% of it is how phenomenally they play live.

Overly satisfied and having got my money’s worth so hard I could have gone home there and then and felt I’d spent my money wisesly, it was time to run over to the big event.

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Did I know where the fuck I was? I was en-route to the Jungle baby!

As anyone who likes rock music enough to read my stupid blog knows, this concert was a big, big deal. A legacy moment for the festival. They actually got Guns N’ Roses on their Not In This Lifetime Tour. The tour that has more ink on it than an octopus slaughterhouse. The most talked about tour of the past 5 years. Axl, Slash and Duff back together.

I decided there was no chance I’d ever get anywhere near the front, so instead of running straight there I stopped to get food, and right as I was handed my falafal, ‘Its So Easy’ came roaring out of the speakers. I turned, ate as I walked, and got as close as I could.

It wasn’t close. Last night, for the headliner, I could see the singer’s armpit hair. Tonight, for the headliner, I could see some red and white dots. I saw Axl and Slash with my own two eyes, but boy were they tiny.

Ever see the Father Ted segment about these cows being small and those cows being far away? That was what was going through my head. The previous day had reportedly had about 7,000 in attendance. With day tickets and all the 40-year-olds finally getting their chance to see GNR it was well over 10,000. The previous day, the crowd had been split between main and second stage. Tonight they closed the second stage during GNR. (Something that Bury Tomorow joked about during their stage banter).

It. Was. Swamped.

Luckily, they had giant screens, and fireworks and a big show to make you feel like you could see… something. Anything…

Oh well, I decided not to get too worried about it. I mean I listen to live albums, not just watch live DVDs. Music is music. So it was nice to get to hear (and sort of see) my first ever Guns N Roses concert. It was much talked about before hand. Other reviewers said the band were on fire. Everyone said Axl had his voice back, and more importantly actually showed up on time and didn’t piss everyone off with his antics. I was excited. I got a tour t-shirt before they even played a note.

You know how it was? It was ok.

There were some good points. They played ‘Shadow of your love’ and Velvet Revolver‘s ‘Slither’ which made it feel like they were doing something I hadn’t read about a million times already. They played ‘Double Talkin Jive’ which is one of my favourite songs and I didn’t expect them to play it. They played all the hits, with ‘Civil War’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ being done particularly well.

They played a few songs of Chinese Democracy which I was grateful for at first. I love that album, I played it to death when I was losing weight after years of being the fat kid and it holds a special place in my heart. Oh but boy, Slash can not play those songs. Greatest guitar player ever? Hmmmm. I know he may have been trying to but his own stamp on it, or play it how he originally did in the ’90s before the albums million year long wait mutated it into something else, or whatever other excuse, but to be frank…he sucked. It sucked.

You know what else was a bit lame? They played a cover of Pink Floyd‘s ‘Wish You Were Here’ which was completely unnecessary since a) Avenged already did a better version last night on the same stage and b) they played a way too high ratio of covers to begin with. Who the hell wants them to play ‘The Seeker’ anymore?

I know they have some great covers, like ‘Attitude’ especially, which luckily they did play. I know some of their big hits are covers (the tedious to me but much loved ‘Knockin On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Live And Let Die’ which I could really live without but am not so unrealistic as to expect them not to play, just like you don’t expect Anthrax to skip ‘Antisocial’ ) but when you are adding in new covers like ‘Slither’ do you still have to play ‘Black Hole Sun’ ? I mean as a Cornell tribute near the time sure, but when I am going to see stadium rock megastars Guns N’ Roses I don’t want a trippy depressing semi-ballad from a Grunge band trying to be psychedelic.

You can’t complain too much about setlist choice when they play for three and a half hours though. It was sort of Rock and Roll history, sort of, and it was great value for money, sort of and they did put on a good show sort of. Its just, with the anticipation and everything, the hype, it could never live up to expectations.

Guns N’ Roses were pretty decent. It was a good gig. It was not flawless or magical or life changing. Avenged were better. Parkway were better. Hell, even my last solo gigs from Saxon and Machine Head were better. I almost feel guilty about it, like it makes me a bad music fan due to the universal agreement that GNR are amazing. Unfortunately, it is not 1987. Its not 1992. Its 2018, and I don’t feel like I should have to make excuses for not thinking they were the best thing ever.

Admittedly, maybe if you liked the covers more, or if you had a better view, or if you weren’t sleepless and exhausted and in pain from standing for 14 hours and walking something like 15-20,000 steps two days in a row; then maybe you would have liked it more. I bet if I google reviews of the show I’m probably in the minority of not loving. Then again, its not that I thought it sucked or was a waste of time, it just wasn’t as great (except for how Slash played the Chinese Democracy era material)… It just wasn’t the orgasmic cosmic revelation I feel peer pressured into calling it.

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So that was it for day 2.

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NIGHT 2

On my walk back to camp this time, the route I walked the previous time was closed. I got herded down a different route. I walked about 20 minutes further out of the way. I found out what that weird fairground thing was… it was the download village. There were pubs and food trucks and amusements and shops and ATM machines and showers (holy shit!) and I bought a pillow on my way home. It was cheaper than a drink.

I then walked back to my tent through a bak route and found out that there was fresh drinkable running water I hadn’t noticed before and even more toielts. I was impressed by the sheer scale of this whole download situation.

I found my tent again, got in shut my eyes.

And I got a peaceful uninterupted…….AH HA HA NO!

‘AAAAAAALAN’ ‘ALLLLLLLLAN ‘AAAAALAN’

Five hours.

Whatever. Only one day left.

DAY 3 – THE BANDS.

I got up, had breakfast and headed off to my previously discussed ideal toilets. I then sat myself in front of the main stage as per my plan. I hadn’t heard of the first band. When they were setting up, their banner was put up. Inglorious. In a spikey font. Hmmm. What would they sound like. Looked like a Melodeath band from that logo. Would they be like Arch Enemy? They were in the post GNR hangover slot. Would they be any good, or is this where you hide the rejects?

The got up, kicked out some jams, and really, really converted me. Attention fans of classic rock. Attention fans of Glen Hughes. Attention fans of MK3 Deep Purple. You need to check out Inglorious. Do you know what Airbourne do for AC/DC? Inglorious are like that for MK3 Deep Purple.

They dropped a good mixture of fast and slow, bluesy and rocking, soulful and ballsy. They got a lot of people clapping and dancing. They really impressed me. I highly recommend them! Apparently they had a very popular album with the Planet Rock crowd. They got a ‘fuck Gene Simmons’ chant going in response to the rock is dead saga. It was all very entertaining.

 

In sharp, sharp, shaaaarp contrast to that funked out hard rock, came legendary British Gothified Extreme Metal merchants Cradle Of Filth. I was a big fan of them in high school but sort of fell away from them. I was excited to catch up. My best (non wife) friend is a gigantic fan and I wanted to see them almost on his behalf. Luckily, apart from one new tune (which was rather good actually) they played all material from the albums I own. They played literally each of my 3 favourite tracks: ‘Born In A Burial Gown,’ ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ and ‘Dusk & Her Embrace.’ They were very enthusiastic, the sound-guys did a spectacular job with them, and the band looked the part. I never felt the need to go out and get tickets to a COF show on their own, but after this I might reconsider. They really nailed it. Even the vocals which I’ve read are patchy live, were pretty swish.

Then came Hatebreed. They were one of the bands I was most looking forward to all weekend. I saw them live before a few times and they utterly destroyed the place. I hold the band in extremely high esteem. A tween in the crowd turned to me and asked what kind of music they were as he only cared a out Manson and Ozzy, and I hyped the band up to no end.

They came on, there were a lot of crowd surfers. They dropped some of my favourite songs like ‘Proven’ and ‘As Diehard As They Come.’ They played a lot of new material. I did miss hearing some tracks like ‘In Ashes They Shall Reap’ …how can you skip that gem? But overall it was pretty good. I’ve saw the band before and it was better each time, so I guess this is technically the worst I’d ever saw them… and even at that it was still a 9.9/10 performance. This band are undeniable live. Jasta is one of the most enthusiastic and uplifting frontmen ever. They have some of the bounciest and most crushing riffs in the scene. I can’t say enough positive things about them. A band for sing-alongs and then some!

I’d never heard of In This Moment before, but on the second stage, German Thrash legends Kreator were on, so I ran over there and got there in time to catch the full set. They have released albums that were album of the year contenders for every release since way back of Violent Revolution, especially Hordes Of Chaos from 2009. Luckily, they played mostly new material live and they played the title track from Hordes Of Chaos (the best song on it by the way!). They had fire, the had banner and they got the biggest circle pit I saw all weekend (or in my life, but I am not an expert as I avoid them like the plague). They even had an unexpected confetti cannon. The crowd seemed really enthusiastic too. It wasn’t just some nostalgia crowd either all the kids were loving it too. I wish they had been given more time, they could have benefited from having the opportunity to drop some old school material live too (‘People Of The Lie’ would’ve went over really well). Apart from C.O.C (I still can’t get over how few songs they played!!!!) this was the most criminally short set of the weekend. Still, better an utterly perfect short set than no set at all. Man, I really got my money’s worth out of this fourth day already.

Then came the long, long wait for Manson & Ozzy. I had never heard Black Veil Brides or In This Moment, and I have heard and not liked Shinedown. I missed all but the last In This Moment song whilst off at Kreator so just saw the final track ‘Whore’ which the crowd really loved. Then figured out I had been dramatically sunburnt over the morning. I then put on a full length coat to hide my skin but it didn’t really help.

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Black Veil Brides looked like Motley Crue but sounded like a less interesting, less inspired version of Killswitch Engage. A lot of people got their tits out for them. A lot of people sang along. A lot of people seemed to really love them. It wasn’t my cup of tea but like Asking Alexandria you can’t argue with how much the crowd liked them. The singer seems to be some sort of sex icon and judging by the way people almost knocked me over to get closer to him when he ran up the side of the barrier. I’m glad there are bands like this bringing in more fans, but I won’t personally be buying any of their albums off the back of today (unlike Volbeat for example; who since I started writing this, I have streamed at least 60 times).

The set was rather long, and for me it is all time that would be better spent on the likes of Hatebreed or Cradle Of Filth, but Festivals are not made for one person. Then came Shinedown. Their singer looks like Jamie Lanister. They have a lot of confidence. They have no songs I enjoyed. I mean fair play to them, they put a lot of energy and confidence into their very bland lowest common denominator boring radio rock, and they don’t seem cynical or contrived, but their music is not to my taste. I feel like this would have been a good concert to a fan though. I got the distinct vibe that this was a very strong performance.

Then came Marilyn ‘roll the dice’ Manson, who can be both the best and worst live band every and it just depends when you see him. There are videos of him being a jaw dropping larger than life megastar and there are videos of him rolling around the floor missing lines and looking like an intoxicated mess.

I feel like he didn’t put on much of a show compared to previous videos and DVDs. Compared to the other headliners and sub headliners even. He sort of showed up and expected us to be grateful. He climbed around a pulpit and changed costumes a few times but so had other bands that day. He did play a fairly decent greatest hits set and not too many tracks of his new album which is the first one I’ve ever disliked. Oddly though, instead of closing strong with a hit, he petered out boringly with a fairly dull cover of a song off The Lost Boys Soundtrack.

There were some other good moments, like how bouncy ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘Angel With The Scabbed Wings’ were. And after ‘Kill For Me’ he let a fan get up on the stage because she had a banner saying ‘I’d Kill For You’ which seemed human and grateful. The girls in the crowd were acting pretty crazy for him too. One barged past me and just bellowed ‘I’M SORRY BUT I’M IN LOVE WITH HIM’ and one got up on a guy’s shoulders and aggressively played with her breasts at him while making sexually suggestive faces for a surprisingly long time.

Manson’s vocals started off strong and got weaker as the show wore on. It was not a bad show, but it was pretty average. Guns N’ Roses were miles better than this. I have wanted to see Manson for years and years. I remember my non metal class mates in catholic school being disgusted and horrified when I did my French and Irish homework about him and had posters of him dressed in a corset and thong up on the classroom wall. I remember lifting a Marilyn Manson CD to view at age 11 and having two girls from my school tell me ‘Oh my god you’re going to hell.’ I remember buying his autobiography and the cashier saying ‘Why are you buying this, wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley.’ His autobiography is among the top 3 most read books I have ever read. I read it like twice a year every year for about 6 years after buying it and like once every two years since then. My first ever crush on a girl was on a girl who kept wearing Marilyn Manson hoodies all the time. Holywood is unarguably one of the best albums ever. His live album Last Tour On Earth is one of the best live albums ever. I got really jealous one summer when all my friends went to see him with Iron Maiden and I couldn’t go because of work.

Unfortunately, around 2005 onwards, people kept saying how much he sucked live and I stopped craving it so hard. Never the less, he is immensely important to my musical life and I was really glad to have got the chance to see him, even if it wasn’t the best.

One band to go. The one, the only Ozzy Osbourne. On his ‘No More Tours 2’ tour, his first ever appearance at Download outside of Sabbath. Reunited with the terrific Zack Wylde.

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Now; I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say Ozzy sucks. That he is past it. That he is a doddering old fool. I wasn’t expecting much. Certainly it was an event, but like Guns N Roses, it was an event due to age, and age isn’t kind to bands apparently.

Zack was visible on stage for a crazily long time before the show started, but once it did start, there was a little video of historical Ozzy footage, then he came on stage. The set was mostly Blizzard’ & No More Tears material and Sabbath covers, with a few extra ’80s hits like ‘Shot In The Dark’ and ‘Bark At The Moon’ thrown in for good measure and a very, very, very long guitar solo section with sections of Zack-Era songs like ‘Perry Mason’ hidden underneath all the soloing. Zack played the guitar upside down, on his back, with his teeth, all that good showmanship. He got out in the crowd and marched up and down the barriers. There were some issues with his cable but it was very entertaining.

Tommy’s super powerful druming made tracks like ‘Suicide Solution’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ sound so hard and heavy. The lighting and stage show was very well done, the most tasteful of all the headlinerrs. There were lazers. There were lights and video screens and a big set of steps and cross that had visualisations on them. For example they were all psychadelic during ‘Faries Wear Boots.’

You know what else, even if Ozzy isn’t very physical on stage, his voice was way better than I expected. I hear such bad reports about the Sabbath reunion. I wasn’t let down tonight however. Even when an incredibly drunk set of teenage girls suddenly barged in front of me, swigging wine with their backs to the stage talking shit and ignoring the show, but getting their gross booze-stained hair on my arms and drunkenly stumbling back and forth into me, it couldn’t detract too much from the show, such was Ozzy’s power. In hindsight; Why were they here? Who goes to an Ozzy Osbourne show and doesn’t watch Ozzy Osbourne? Who has a conversation at a concert?

Luckily they left after one song. The rest of the evening was perfect. The encore of ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ had such singing along. He closed with ‘Paranoid’ and the biggest firework show of the weekend.

I thought it was fantastic. This show was absolutely worth the money. I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend it. I thought it was better than GNR. I wish I’d bought an Ozzy shirt too but money was an issue by this point.

NIGHT THREE

So that was the weekend. 3 days, dozens of bands, two legends I’ll probably never see again. Two nights with hardly any sleep. A few good falafals. About £40 on cups of tea and bottles of tango orange. A few stealthy poops.

I walked the long walk back to the tent. The crowd were singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and The ‘Wheels On The Bus.’ I climbed into my tent, weary and ready to sleep.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.’

….and that’s when I packed up my tent, walked about 20,00 steps to the car, and drove home for two and a half hours in the middle of the night.Ironically, when I got in bed I still heard someone yell ‘Alan’ but luckily it was just my neighbor’s wife getting his attention. Good night, download. Thanks for the memories.

Intro – The road to download.

I went to Download Festival 2018; this was my first ever over-night music festival. When I was a teenager I went to the Irish Ozzfest (more on that later) and a few summers ago I went to the Dutch one-day event Festival Zand because my wife’s friends were all going and simply ‘why not?’ but for years and years, I’ve been reading about Downloads and Sonispheres and have been lusting after them, with the podcasts I listen to constantly talking about them and making them seem very important to my culture. Over the years I’ve got more and more determined to go to one. I’ve always been too busy with work or school or university, or been too broke to afford it. Most of all though, I was too afraid to go.

This year I felt more confidence to go and finally took the plunge (well, actually I bought the tickets in a moment of madness related to bereavement that I don’t want to go into right now, but I didn’t cancel as I finally had the confidence to go).

The drive there was pleasant. I made a few mix cds of the best Thrash Metal songs, the sun was out, the excitement was in the air. Traffic was good. I got there in about two hours, singing along to Annihilator and Overkill and Kreator all the way. I stopped in a motorway services to fuel up the car for the drive home and it was full of Metalheads. It was a good vibe. It finally hit me I was actually going to download. I mean, when the tickets arrived it was one thing. When I was buying my first ever tent, it was one thing. But seeing a mob of Metalheads en mass far from home really made it click.

After finally arriving at Donnington ‘the spiritual home of rock‘ Park, getting out of the car, and lumping all my supplies about 15,000 steps to the available space left to camp (I arrived on Friday at about 10.00am, rather than Wednesday like some people so there was now limited space), I then had the task of putting up a tent. Not a big deal, I mean, I’ve worked in hospitals, I had to figure out how to set up morphine pumps and blood warmers for atypical transfusions before without killing anyone, how hard could it be to set up a tent, right?

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…Close enough.

After setting up a tent and praying it wouldn’t be stolen or fall over, I made my way up the hill, crossing the race track, got my wrist band and finally stepped foot in ‘the arena’ which is the area where the concerts actually take place (another 5,000-10,000 steps away again.)

There were four stages, and a ridiculous number of bands. There were tonnes of familiar bands to see, or new bands to discover. It was like a religious experience. Almost overwhelming. Some people are casual about music. Some people learn instruments, play in bands, read everything they can about it and buy hundreds and hundreds of records. I am in the latter category as if you can’t tell by me being arrogant enough to write a blog about music as if I have any qualification to write about it beyond sheer, blinding love for it. I don’t know what I’m talking about or have any professional or educational authority on it but I love it and it is my biggest thing in life, more like a religion or culture than a mere hobby.

DAY 1 – The Arena.

Stepping foot in the arena was one of the most magical and exciting moments of my whole life. Better than any graduation, better than any birthday party or first drink or first kiss or so many other milestones. (Not better than meeting my wife or my wedding or things like that though, sorry music, but my wife is more awesome than you – but apart from that, this was pretty high up the damn list of best moments in my life).

There was so much options to choose, it was a bit of option paralysis. I mean, on top of concerts on four stages they had fairground attractions, a cinema, medieval fighting, NXT wrestling, and all sorts. Some kind of lightning tricks. Pubs, clubs, all kinds of food. I didn’t come here for any of that here. I came here to, …excuse me, but I came here to rock. Yes, yes I said it. All my waking day was to be spent on music for that is what I care about, not ferris wheels and knights hitting each other with clubs. (Cool as hell they have all that stuff though, for the option. If you drag someone with you who doesn’t like music as much there is still shitloads for them to do).

I made a plan in advance; rather than get overwhelmed trying to dart off between sets to go from one stage to the next and back and miss things, I was going to make a simple plan. Main stage Friday all day. Second stage all day Saturday, except of course running down the hill when the second stage closes in time to see Guns N Roses take to the main stage. Sunday my plan was Main stage all day, with the exception of running to the second stage to catch Kreator before returning back to the main stage for some bands I don’t like but giving me the option to slowly worm my way up closer to the front over time for the ones I do like after them.

DAY 1 – The Bands.

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So on Friday, after a walk down to the stage that took a fair-old-while, the first band I got to see was some band called Avatar. I didn’t get there to catch the opening act Boston Manor due to how long it look me to figure out how to set up a tent, but I did manage to catch the whole of Avatar’s set. I had never hear a second of their music before, but I had previously heard people who I respect’s opinion saying they were a bit crap so wasn’t expecting much. The took the stage, dressed as some kind of Jester-dandies, looking like a cross between when The Libertines wear those red jackets with Jim from Slipknot‘s second mask, only in face paint. Their music was hard to describe. It wasn’t Power Metal, it wasn’t Nu Metal but it sort of sounded like a more commercial version of Marilyn Manson‘s debut album’s deep cuts like ‘Dope Hat’ and ‘Organ Grinder’ being played by Sabaton while trying to get a song on WWE so toning down the Power. No, I don’t know either.

There were a lot of young kids there who absolutely lapped it up though, so I held no ill will towards them. A bit gimmicky, but when I was a kid I got my fix from that Limp Bizkit mix, so I am just happy there are entry points like this keeping the genre alive. They ended their bewildering but inoffensive set with a track called something along the lines of ‘Freakshow‘ which started with a semi-amusing stage speech the gist of which was “they may tell you that you look like a freakshow” and then something about looking and “they might tell you that you sound like a freakshow” and then something about hearing and lastly “ they might tell you that you smell like a freakshow, but I tell them, STEP CLOSER, YOU’RE MISSING THE BEST PART” which did make me crack a smile. The singer reminded me a bit of Wednesday 13 (of Murderdolls fame, among other things). Yeah, not my cup of tea, but a fine warm up. At a real concert you don’t always like all the support bands beforehand either, but they get you warmed up and its good to experience new things.

The kids in the crowd thinned out and I got to walk right up to the front, next but one from the barrier. Then to the stage came Dragonforce. I am not the world’s largest or most knowledgeable Dragonforce fan. I have their first four albums and I hold them in warm regard. I have never heard them since ZP Theart left the band, live or on record. I don’t know why but I felt like maybe I had all the Dragonforce I needed. They appeared to play a lot of material from the post-ZP albums though, which was actually the best material of the set. Marc Hudson is a cracking singer and has fully won my respect. If, like me, you sort of fell away from the band, maybe reevaluate that!

The band were plagued with technical problems and I feel like maybe they would have played more, but Herman’s guitar kept dropping off and he spent a lot of time off stage. The band fully stopped at one time and awkwardly jammed ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ to stop the crowd getting bored while they tried to iron out the technical problems. Shame. Apparently they were filming this gig. Probably won’t be coming out now. Either way, they were pretty on fire this day and if you ignore the afore mentioned issues it was a damn good show and I would’ve been totally satisfied with it if they were the support band to a concert I’d individually paid for.

 

Next came Marmozets. Marmozets are a terrific band and I was really obsessed with their debut album for a few months there. They released a new album recently but I haven’t got it yet due to holding back on music purchases recently to buy a new drum kit, and then to recover from buying it. I really enjoyed the new material they played but felt a bit of a lemon not singing along. When they played material I knew however, like ‘Particle,’ ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ and especially ‘Captivate You’ I had just, the best time. Their drummer, who I have never seen in real life, is such a fucking rock star. Real Tommy Lee shit. The energy and charisma of the guy was remarkable. I have rarely seen anyone love being on a stage or on a drumkit so much before. It was dripping of him. Absolute raw enthusiasm. He was captivating. I barely looked at the rest of the band. Becca’s voice held up live too which is amazing. She has such a diverse range of growls, screams, screeches and cleans that I would be damn difficult to replicate it live, but boy did she. Overall, an utterly triumphant set from the band. I only wish I’d have known the new material in advance.

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The next band were utterly new to me as well, but I’d heard about them for years and years and was excited to try them out. Volbeat have a reputation as being some bizarre hybrid of The Misfits, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Load-era Metallica. I couldn’t even imagine. For years I’ve been hearing podcast hosts bigging them up, jokingly calling them ‘whoah-l beat’ and generally making them sound like an interesting proposition. Oh, and Rob Caggiano, from Anthrax is in them! Yes, I was gonna check that out, you better believe it.

A late-50s woman behind me had been talking to her friend about how they were her favourite band ever and when I turned round she was about half my height so I asked her if she wanted to swap as it wasn’t fair loving them that much and only seeing my butt instead of the band, so she swapped places and I still had the same view as I could see right over her head. I hope all of you do the same thing some day. Karma or whatever. Just like if you catch a drumstick but don’t like the band, give it to a die-hard.

Anyway, the band seriously impressed me. It was very good fun. I didn’t hear much of the Metallica influence, but they played some gorgeous melodic hard rock with seriously fun catchy choruses and superb guitar solos. They played up to the Cash and Elvis influences talking about them in the stage banter and doing impressions. Some of their songs were irresistible, one track, which is presumably a big hit was introduced as ‘About a shady lady called Lola’ really grabbed me. I think I’m going to buy that when I am back to buying music again. Another song was ‘Burn It To The Ground’ by Nickleback; oh wait, no it wasn’t… but do me a favour and go listen to ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’ and tell me that aint influenced by ‘Burn It To The Ground.’

They got the acoustics out at one stage and they had a lot of ‘wey-oh’ sing alongs gong on. Their singer Michael is very endearing, I don’t know if its the accent or the look or what, but he just has a very lovable vibe like Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray has.

Now there was a downside to my ‘not too much movement between stages’ plan. I fucking love Tesseract and Napalm Death were such a big thing in my teenage years, but my plan would see me miss both. They clashed with Avenged, and we all know who’s going to put on the better show. Napalm Death are always punk in ethos and last time I saw them they just showed up and played like they were your cousin Jeff’s band rehearsing in your living room unannounced. No inflatable skeletons in sight. And Tesseract I’ve seen three times before, while I’d only seen Avenged once. The maths made it seem the best sense to stick to the minimal movement plan. Luckily, Barney Greenway showed up on stage with Volbeat to sing a song with them, and I got a little bit of Napalm Death after all! Nice.

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Next up was BFMV. You can see my review of Bullet For My Valentine‘s last Concert DVD or the time I saw them live to see my thoughts on that band. They were just as good here, although like Marmozets their was a fair bit of new material I didn’t know. When they played the trashier stuff like ‘Waking The Demon’ and ‘Scream Aim Fire’ though, it came across really powerfully live. The band may have a wimpy reputation but you can’t fuck with a live version of ‘Four Words To Choke Upon.’ The amount of crowd surfers the generated was pretty impressive. Marmozets had asked for it. Volbeat had encouraged it, but for Bullet, it was like a magnet to a set of iron filings. I got kicked in the face a lot.

It always surprises me how good Matt Tuck’s voice is live. I always envision him as some Pro Tools processed pretty boy, but the guy is so good live there is not questioning his talent whatsoever. I feel like an idiot for how many years I wrote this band off as kiddy music. They are champions of their scene and deservedly so. I feel like Matt’s new short hair & sunglasses vibe and how much he’s been hitting the gym might be an attempt to become Matt Shadows visually, but that’s just an aside. Musically that was a terrific concert. I heard a few fans comment afterwards that they’d seen the band numerous times and that this was the best one yet. The download website review agrees (although that might be for marketing purposes, so pinch of salt and all that). Apart from maybe not having enough time due to festival time slots, I pretty much agree that it was hard to fault this performance at all. I’d gotten my money’s worth already and the first day wasn’t even over yet.

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The Volbeat fan was gone and I was right up front, one or two from the barrier again, and Friday’s Headliners, Avenged Sevenfold arrived on stage, opening up funnily enough with their recent single ‘The Stage’ and blew the fucking roof off the place, except there was no roof as it was a festival, but I’m running out of hyperbole here so work with me.

Like Bullet, I’d also seen Avenged live at a headliner show in Manchester before. Like Bullet, this was also just as good. Last time I saw Avenged’ however I was up in the rafters in a seat very far from the action. This time I saw close enough to spit on them, if I’d wanted to. Which I don’t. This isn’t the late 70s punk scene. Anyway; I was close. So close I could feel the heat on my face when the pyro went off.

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Boy did Avenged put on a show. As well as all the video-screens and visualisations, there were bombs, fireworks and pyroblasts. There was a giant inflatable king for ‘Hail To The King’ and a giant inflatable astronaut for the new album like they’re Iron bloody Maiden or something. There was sooooo much fire for ‘Sheppard Of Fire.’

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The setlist was much the same as I’d seen the last time with a few omissions for Festival timing (no ‘Planets’ for example) and a few additions from their recent Stage add-on content, like their cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here which they dedicated to all the people they’d been bereaved of, including amongst others their previous drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. They also dedicated their popular ballad ‘So Far Away’ to him and had a whole Rev Video on the screens like Lynyrd Skynyrd do with ‘Travlin Man.’ Sullivan’s death was in a roundabout way what got me into the band. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater replaced him for their album Nightmare, and one of my friends from Uni who also played the drums gave me a copy of Nightmare after we had been discussing Mike Portnoy. Nightmare remains my favourite Avenged album to this day, and it was great to hear tracks from it live tonight like The Title Track, ‘Burried Alive’ and ‘Welcome To The Family.’ You can’t beat hearing 7,000 people scream ‘It’s Your Fucking Nightmare’ in unison! And that bit on ‘Burried Alive’ when it stops sounding like a ballad and starts sounding like Black Album-era Metallica with that chunky-as-fuck riff comes in is spine-tingling live.

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The band played an utter corker of a show and it was a real brilliant end to the evening. If I had just got a day ticket, I’d have been satisfied. Marmozets, Bullet and Avenged are all worthy of me going to see them on their own, so together it was fantastic, and I really enjoyed Dragonforce and was very happy to discover Volbeat. (As I’ve been writing this I’ve been streaming ‘Lola Montez’ on repeat a few times after fondly remembering it in the above section).

 

NIGHT ONE – Would the tent stay up?

I got back to the camp after a confusing walk past a horizon full of more amusement park stuff and music despite that being in the opposite direction of the arena. What the hell was that? Oh well, too tired to worry about it. Time to get some sleep. Finding the correct tent was a bit of a mission in the dark, but I got it done eventually then memorized it for future reference.

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Luckily, the thing was still in situ and looking vaguely habitable, so I climbed in. I opened my sleeping mat, got in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes for some much needed rest.

‘Alan!’

Huh?

‘ALAAAAAAAAN!’

What?!

‘AAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLAN’ ‘Alan,’ ‘ALAN’ ‘Alaaaan.’

It seems the good folks at Yellow campsite had taken to screaming the word ‘Alan’ as loud and often as they could and not to be outdone, dozens of the fine people down the hill responded in kind. One person would scream ‘Alan’ ‘Steve’ or ‘Pickle Rick’ as hard as they could and then you’d hear it echo around the park. It was sort of funny once.

Smash cut to three hours later, not a wink of sleep, and ‘Alan’ is still an ongoing regular sound. Oh well, can’t begrudge these people their fun. CUNTS CUNTS CUNTS. I mean they paid the same as me to have some fun. THE UTTER BASTARDS. And after all, we’re all here to have a good time. MUTHAFUCKERS. And who needs sleep anyway, its rock n roll. I HATE EVERY ONE OF THEM. If Lemmy was here, I’m sure he’d shout ‘alan’ too.

Ok; that one did it. I did in the end get about three hours sleep, and all jokes aside, did accept the alan noise and not too seriously begrudge it. Sort of. I don’t want to be that guy who rains on other people’s parade.

I woke up to piss and found a snail in my tent above my head. I named him Alan.

I went back to sleep for about another twenty minutes and my alarm went off, it was time to get up and get ready for day two.

DAY 2 – The bands.

Remember the guy who got me into Avenged about a decade ago. Guess who came up to me in the que for the breakfast truck? Only him! Nice one. It was great catching up. Didn’t expect this. We had a good conversation about how the festival had obviously blown all the money on Guns N’ Roses and how the rest of Saturday was a bit of a dud compared to Friday and Sunday. I didn’t recognize a single band on the main stage except Blackstone Cherry who aren’t my cup of tea and Monster Truck who’s first EP I have, but nothing else.

My plan was to hang out on the second stage on Saturday, ostensibly to see Parkway Drive who the podcasts I listen to always call the best live band of our generation, and who’s most recent two albums have both been in constant rotation in my listening schedule since release, as was their masterpiece Deep Blue when I first discovered them. I had almost got to see them twice before but missed the first one when an old girlfriend was sick and couldn’t go the the second one because of work.

Opening were a band I hadn’t heard of before called Powerflo. I walked to the near the front after a song or two and hey, those are some familiar faces. Billy from Biohazard was there. Hey, wasn’t that guy in Downset?. Holy shit, that’s Christian from Fear Factory! Some kind of supergroup then. Also their singer was in Cypress Hill. It was like a heavier version of Prophets Of Rage I guess. Their material was very clearly Biohazard influenced which was just what I needed to get me energized in the morning. They did an introduction bit where they teased music from Downset, Fear Factor, Cypress Hill and Biohazard, such as playing about 10 seconds of ‘Replica’ for example. There was frig all people in the crowd as they were presumably resting up from staying up too late shouting ‘alan’ (not bitter!) and hadn’t gotten into the arena yet. Shame, the band were very good and deserved more eyes on them.

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Then came a band I hadn’t heard of before. I asked a guy in the crowd who was next and he enthusiastically announced it was Von Hertzen Brothers and I asked him what type of music it was and he said melodic Swedish Rock. That had me imagining Europe. What it actually was, was more like Riverside. More driving and more cheerful, but they had proggy vibes and it was key-heavy. They had no show to speak of, like Powerflo they were just sat in front of a banner playing songs like it was a club, but they had great music and they were damn charming. They inspired a heck of a lot of clap-alongs. I was very impressed. One more added to my to-look-into list.

The Von Hertzen’ fan left and a lady took his place and really excitedly told everyone who would listen that they would really love the next act, and oh my god there they were look up there! and oh my god there was the lawnmower!

You heard that right. Lawnmower. It was ’80s Comedy Thrash band Lawnmower Deth suspiciously high up the bill on a suspiciously large stage. Not the fourth stage, the second. Not opening, but third from the start. How did they swing this?

…and then they played. Now; if you have any chance of seeing them live I almost don’t want you to read this, so skip down to the next photo to avoid spoilers if you are going to see them any time soon.

Go on skip if you are going to see em.

No? Ok; So they took the stage, playing Hardcore sounding Thrash with a sort of DRI vibe but way more British. They had about five or six back up characters running around the stage dressed as the devil or a sheep or an old lady with dodgy stag-party-esque costumes from a cheap costume shop. They had home made cardboard trains and had them running around the stage like a fancy dress party. They also had a quite professionally built giant smoking killer comedy lawnmower with a shark like mouth that opened and closed. A helper chased the old woman character around the stage with it until ‘she’ (a fifty year old bloke with a full stubbly beard) fell down and actually got run over by it and crawled inside like a magic trick, only done slowly and obviously on purpose for comedic effect. They also tossed dozens of inflatables into the crowd for us to play beach ball with and they lured the sheep character into their ‘Deth Shed’ which was made to look like an (again though, on a Halloween party budget) execution chamber and they pulled it and it sprayed blood all over the sheep and he acted dead. It was very amusing. It was like a very elaborate prom-posal or something. The band were very humble and grateful and got festival organiser Andy Copping on stage to thank him. I really enjoyed the show. Not something I would have ever sought out, but a very nice surprise and combined with the first two surprises of Powerflo and Von Hertzen Brothers, made Saturday not seem such a wash-out after all.

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Now one of my favourite bands, ever, period, is Corrosion Of Conformity. Their reunion gig was utterly superb for me and I had been looking forward all month to catching them. They got up there and I sang every word. They did their intro which was part of Bottom Feeder, then they had new song ‘The Luddite,’ and they did ‘Broken Man’ and they did the hits ‘Albatross’ and an extended version of ‘Clean My Wounds’ and then…nothing.

I know there are limited times, but man, I would have loved more C.O.C. I was screaming my heart out along with them while surrounded by bemused Baby Metal fans who didn’t get the love they were inspiring. There was just so much more they could have played. Big hits, fan favourites, new singles. I’d been chomping at the bit all week to hear ‘Wolf Named Crow’ and ‘ Cast The First Stone’ live. Shame they didn’t get more time. Festival-high banter, strongbow cider reference, and then they were gone. One of my utter favourite bands. Oh well, they announced they’d be playing the UK soon headlining and I can hopefully catch them then for more.

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Bury Tomorrow came next. I don’t know them but the podcasts always spoke highly of them. Their dynamic front man really whipped the crowd into shape and if you knew the material it must have been one hell of a concert. I was pretty spellbound as a newcomer. The crowd surfers where out in full force. The singer gave a good speech about supporting music and keeping it alive in a non-cheesy way. They pretty much destroyed the place and I wish I knew them in advance as it seemed to be a superb show. Another one on the to-look-into list. This download shenanigan is a good way to find new music as well as see lots of bands in one go, even if some of them COUGH, C.O.C, COUGH don’t get enough time.

L7 got a surprisingly high slot next. Does anyone care about L7 in 2018? I know I am too young, but all I know them as are a one hit wonder who once got in trouble for showing their bush on TV. They had a bit of an underdog factor as their drummer had broken her arm and they had a drummer in with only one day’s practice so that was endearing, but I wasn’t much interested nor impressed by them. It was serviceable Bleach-era Nirvana style grunge, only a bit more repetitive and with not much going on musically. Nothing wrong with it, but not for me. It passed the time. Me personally, I would have given that time to C.O.C, but I don’t know or understand all the complexities of festival organisation and there is presumably a good reasons for L7 being that high. Maybe they’re quite big or maybe its a reunion year or something. The crowd wasn’t as into it as they had been for Bury Tomorrow. A bit of a non-event for me. Not in a mean way, just, the first miss of the day.

Asking Alexandria, a less offensive version of Bring Me The Horizon with more ballads and less aggression followed them and all the girls in the crowd went utterly mental. I saw crowd surfers in skirts and dresses with their legs wide open flashing the band. Hey, maybe its because L7 had just been on!? Dated reference. The 15-year olds around me all fought eachother to get closer to the stage. (I was anchored their for Parkway after having enjoyed it so much with C.O.C and didn’t feel as charitable with giving it up as yesterday due to the selfish competitive way they were behaving amongst each other). They got some of the biggest sing-alongs of the weekend so far and seemed to inspire utter devotion in their fan-base. One girl near me was nearly in tears. It wasn’t for me but I thought they put on a very good show and they were a damn sight less dull than L7. I remember their singer tried to hop onto a raised part of the stage and stumbled, then made a joke about feeling foolish. I don’t remember their songs anymore, but to their fans it was seemingly breathtaking so they were entertaining enough.

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Now, I have never checked out Baby Metal. I chalked them up to a Youtube sensation gimmick like Gangham-style for Metal fans and never much thought about them again. I might have listened to half of ‘Gimmie Chocolate’ once and thought yeah, I can see how it would appeal to the weeaboos and sailor moon fans but I’ve got limited time and money and I’ll spend it listening to something else. I also thought it was a bit creepy how they leaned into the schoolgirl thing a bit too hard.

Now they are older and on a new album cycle however, they had some kind of space aged Egyptian mythology theme and were dressed like sort of sci-fi bondage pharaohs. Apparently one of the main singers is mysteriously absent so they replaced here with two back-up dancers. I knew they had some choreography from previous reviews, and I knew they were more popular than I’d expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the utter hysteria that followed. My ears were battered by 19 year old video-game programming students that love hentai going utterly apeshit in every direction from me, bouncing along and screaming every word like I had for C.O.C. only 10 times harder and while doing the dance moves! I really came to respect them. That is impressive. The same thing Anthrax might inspire in a comic book fan when they do ‘I Am The Law,’ the parallels are clear and it was cool to see how they were appealing to this new demographic. These people fucking loved it. I got talking to one guy who’d seen them 10 times. I heard another 60 year old Japanese man who had flown all the way here to England and bought the whole festival ticket just for this one show. Man, I really respect this band now. And as much as I find the choreography distasteful and Britney Spears-esque in principal, there is no denying either what a good show it makes for or how much effort and training it must have required. It isn’t just show up and tease some gullible virgins with our slutty outfits, music be damned, like the cynic in me initially thought. No, it is some very impressive and difficult work, with really talented guitarists and drummers augmenting the spectacle. And hey, I like Powerman 5,000. I can sort of relate to the whole Sci Fi introductions and outros thing. The voice talking about the fox god reminded me of the intro track to Tonight The Stars Revolt. And when I was a kid and PM5K were new, cynics probably said they were gimmiky shite too while they waited for Y&T or UFO.

Now; I would never have dreamed of seeing Baby Metal of my own volition, but the cool thing about Download is you get to sample a whole bunch of different stuff between the bands you wanted, for less money than a ticket to each of the bands you wanted in the first place would be combined, and if there is nothing at all you want to see then you can skip the bands for half an hour and get food or do any one of the dozens of other things they have, like get a tattoo or watch a magician, or drive a motorbike around a ‘wall of death.’

When I was a teenager I would sometimes look at festival line-ups and think they weren’t worth going to because I didn’t like every single band, but now I see there’s a bigger plan afoot.

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Oh well, not such a boring wait for Parkway Drive and Guns N’ Roses after all.

END OF PART ONE.
To be continued in part two. (…as if ‘end of part one’ wasn’t a clue. Now I know how Rush felt after the end of Cygnus)

ghost-ceremony-and-devotion.jpgIt took me a very long time to get into Ghost, I was really late to the party. For me, I couldn’t get over my expectations, I saw pictures of them and expected to hear something extreme like Darkthrone or something. Then I saw them being lauded as the next big thing and expected them to be catchy and industrial-lite like Rammstein or Marilyn Manson, and I heard them get called Doom Metal and expected them to sound, well, anything at all like Doom Metal. Also, for a band so heavily featured in the Metal press, you’d expect them to be generally heavier and more guitar driven.

Instead of hearing Ghost for what they were, with all the classic Prog leanings and Gothic theatrics, I was just hearing all these expectations, and the dissonance between what I got and thought I’d get was off putting. One day I just took a punt on them, and bought Meliora on a whim with no planning. The guy at the counter even tried to talk me out of it and said he didn’t like Ghost and couldn’t get into them and tried to get me to buy Iron Maiden’s newest live album instead. Needless to say, if I’m writing this review I obviously went with Ghost.

Over the past year, I’ve been getting more and more into the band, checking out all the different albums and EPs, hearing their evolution from quite straight-forward, to more diverse, to their newer more commercial direction, Everything they’ve put out so far has been worth hearing.

In 2017 it was time for a live album, and Ceremony & Devotion was released, with recording from the USA that year. At first I thought it was odd that this was audio only and not video, but actually it is quite clever as releasing a live album this damn good just goes to prove that although the band have a very visual nature, they are excellent musicians and songwriters and not just a gimmick band.

The live album features material from all their first three albums and the Popestar EP and kicks off with their skyscraper of a single, ‘Square Hammer.’ There is a nice range of tracks, from the harder stuff like ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ and ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ to the more diverse and interesting material from when they were temporarily Ghost BC, like ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ and ‘Year Zero’ and even the gorgeous Trick Of The Tail era Genesis sounding ballad ‘He Is,’ and the brief instrumental ‘Devil Church’ which sounds like it came right off one of the first two King Crimson albums.

Tobias is a pretty entertaining front man, with unique stage patter (‘do you like drinking blooood?’ ) and the track-listing is great, but the best thing about this album is the sound. The recording quality and mix are brilliant. Talk about crystal clear. Everything sounds amazing. The crowd are enthusiastic and the band are firing on all cylinders, and you can hear every cymbal, every riff, every bass line. You can hear those Camel-sounding lines, you can hear the creepy pervy vocals, which hold up really well live.

This album reminds me a bit of Kiss’ Alive album. It shows off a very visual band’s great live audio, it has serves as a best-of of the band’s first three albums, some of the live versions outshine their studio counterparts and its full of memorable on stage banter. This is a live album you can really get in to. Its a live album you can swear by (right here, right now, before the devil!). If you like the band this is a damn fine addition to your collection. If you are new to Ghost, this is absolutely the first album you should pick up. It is the band at their absolute best and there is nothing skip-able here at all.