Archive for the ‘Metal – Live’ Category

1000x1000Warriors Of The Road: The Saxon Chronicles Part 2 is a Live and Documentary combo release by the legendary British Heavy Metal pioneers Saxon. It features several concerts from 2012-2013 Festivals in the UK and mainland Europe on Disc 2, and a fairly lengthy documentary on Disc 1. There’s also a third disc, which is the entire 45 minute Steelhouse Festival set on CD. Disc 1 also has a few video clips from the Call To ArmsUnplugged & Strung Up era, such as ‘Hammer Of The Gods,’ an acoustic version of ‘Frozen Rainbow’ and more. Some of the videos are a bit silly looking but that’s part of the charm really.

The documentary is fairly interesting, not quite as great as their previous Heavy Metal Thunder documentary, but still entertaining. It is intercut with live footage of the Steelhouse Festival (with their infamous Eagle lighting prop) and features the band members in all sorts of settings covering topics such as about their time on the road and their touring work ethic, about the band members themselves and their influences and history before joining the band, about being in the studio and about The Steelhouse Festival etc. The whole feature is about an hour and thirty-seven minutes so its pretty good value for money. Its a bit loose and not very po faced. The narration is a bit off-putting for me however. It almost sounds like its going to be a parody, but it isn’t, its straight faced, but its got the wrong tone for it to be serious. There are comedic moments in terms of the band’s anecdotes though, such as when Nigel once did such a long drum fill the momentum carried him along and he fell clean off his stool and riser. Its good stuff, but not essential. While the documentary is what the product is sold on the strength of, for me the real joy of the disc is in the live sets.

The tracklistings are as following:

Download Festival 2012:

01. Heavy Metal Thunder
02. Hammer Of The Gods
03. Power And The Glory
04. 20,000 Feet
05. Strong Arm Of The Law
06. Denim And Leather
07. Wheels Of Steel
08. Princess Of The Night
09. And The Bands Played On

Wacken 2012:

01. Heavy Metal Thunder
02. Hammer Of The Gods
03. Power And The Glory
04. 20,000 Ft
05. Never Surrender
06. Dogs Of War
07. Motorcycle Man
08. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
09. Crusader
10. Rock The Nations
11. Drum Solo
12. Battalions Of Steel
13. The Eagle Has Landed
14. Wheels Of Steel
15. To Hell And Back Again
16. Denim And Leather
17. Strong Arm Of The Law
18. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
19. Princess Of The Night

Graspop 2013:

01. Sacrifice
02. Wheels Of Terror
03. Power And The Glory
04. Heavy Metal Thunder
05. Made In Belfast
06. Denim And Leather
07. Motorcycle Man
08. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
09. Stand Up And Fight
10. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
11. Strong Arm Of The Law
12. Wheels Of Steel
13. Crusader
14. Princess Of The Night

Steelhouse Festival 2013:

01. Sacrifice
02. Wheels Of Terror
03. And The Bands Played On
04. Conquistador
05. The Eagle Has Landed
06. Stand Up And Fight
07. 747
08. Crusader
09. Denim & Leather
10. Princess Of The Night

The setlists are maybe a bit too similar to sit and watch them all one after eachother but they are all worth seeing, even if you do it one at a time (I mean when you add it all up there’s over 230 minutes of live footage across these two discs, pace yourself!).  The band are a very consistent live act. Any one of these concerts is good enough on the band’s performance to be a product in and of itself. The overall theme of them is very good, its nice hearing the beefy new material like ‘Stand Up & Fight’ or ‘Made In Belfast’ mixed in with the all time hits like ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Denim & Leather’ or the heavier faster old stuff like ‘20,000 Feet’ and ‘The Power And The Glory.’ In terms of recording and production, they are all fairly strong shows, although none of them are perfect. Visually there’s no complaints, its all very professionally shot and edited and looks fine on Blu Ray in 1080i. In terms of performance the band are energetic and enthused – they have that live feel and some songs are faster than their studio counterparts or whatever. The sound is probably the only thing you might find fault with… Some of the shows have one thing too quiet in the mix, such as the drums, or for example a not-heavy-enough guitar tone, there’s something you can pick out in each one. Some of it is produced quieter than the menu music which is a bit jarring. All that is minor stuff however. The main point is it is clear, well made and capturing a good performance by a great band. A release I really compare this to is Anyplace As Crazy As Anywhere Else by Motorhead… its several different festival sets from a two year period, with roughly similar setlist and standard of quality on each set.

At the end of the day, this release has a lot going for it. A long documentary, a lot of live footage, a few bonus video clips. Its a very good value for money offering. Whether you might like it or whether you should buy it really depends on how much Saxon you want and how much you already have. They’ve already released documentaries, they’ve already released live concerts (from all different eras, before and now even after this one). If you don’t have any Saxon video releases this is a damn good release to pick up. Saxon are such a great band, every bit as good as their peers in the likes of Motorhead and Maiden and Priest, and these sets, for example the Waken 2012 set are worth an Metal fan’s time. If you already have lots of Saxon video releases maybe there isn’t enough to make this one stand out, but for everyone else I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot. Live Saxon is always a good bet.

r-9299096-1481877844-1972-jpegWhen I first heard of Motley Crue I didn’t like them. I was young, Nu Metal was what the Magazines were saying was cool and anything Glam or Hair related was advertised as being terrible, cliched, sexist nonsense for old men who had all grown out of rock music now and were embarrassed to admit they used to like it. That’s what I was told anyway, and though it turns out that this idea was very much a caricature of the real situation I was fool enough to believe it an ignored the band for the next decade or so. Eventually a friend bought me their biography, The Dirt, and I read it since I usually enjoy a good band book and it was rather famous in and of itself as a book so I was tempted to try even if I wasn’t a fan of the band. Upon reading I instantly grew to dislike the band. Cheating, stealing, rude, ungrateful, disrespectful of other’s hard work and property, they didn’t seem like nice people (apparently I forgot about the whole Rock N Roll thing… because everyone else who read the book said ‘Wow, what a badass’ where I thought ‘You are the opposite of an upstanding citizen’). It did make me wonder why anybody liked the band, and that lead me to listen to their music.

…Oh. It all made sense now. Songs like ‘Bastard,’ ‘Red Hot,’ ‘Use It Or Loose It’ and ‘Live Wire’ all tapped into my love of Speed Metal and NWOBHM with their familiar sound… pounding drums, chugging guitars, shouting vocals. What do you mean they toured with Saxon in the early days!? ….That let me in the door and soon I discovered the rest and gladly so. Oh, songs like Don’t Go Away Mad are like an updated version of Kiss… it all makes sense.

Fast forward a few years and its time to review The End, the final concert from the final tour in the storied and legendary band’s career. Available in many formats, CD, Vinyl, DVD and Blu Ray, normal and deluxe editions, there’s many ways to buy this. For me it was standard edition Blu Ray.

Sonically; its very good. The music is clear, big and well-produced. Its got umph. The mix is just right. Visually; its a treat. The picture is excellent, the camera work is on point, the editing is well done (maybe I could loose a few of the slow motion shots but that’s just personal taste) and the actual content of the show is very visually interesting… there’s flames, a specially designed stage with spikes and pentagrams and the band’s name, there’s lazers and even a rollercoaster. The band tower above the crowd on cherrypickers a one point. Its a very big Rock N’ Roll show to match the likes of Kiss, Rammstein and Rob Zombie.

The setlist is quite strong, lots of material from the first four albums, Primal Scream, and a few from the more recent Saints Of Los Angeles. Basically, only material by the full ‘classic line up.’ More or less hit after hit. In terms of less-famous songs they even play my favourite Crue non-single ‘Louder Than Hell’ off of the underrated Theater Of Pain.

So; it looks good, it sounds good and they play good songs. Sounds perfect, right? Well… uh, here’s the thing. The performance is a bit patchy. Maybe even a lot patchy. I mean, Motley Crue are good performers as entertainers… the flame-thrower bass guitar and the crowd interaction and the first pumping excitement raising is all very good in terms of live performance. Its just, the key thing, y’know, playing the songs, where it falls down for me. There’s numerous musical fluffs and mistakes and missed ques. There’s questionable reworkings of classic songs that might’ve made ’em feel updated but miss the mark (‘Shout At The Devil’ I’m lookin at you!) and Vince’s vocals are very sloppy. I have a lot of good will for him and don’t want to slag him off unnecessarily, but man, he is so out of breath, misses so many lines, delivers so many lines in an inappropriate pitch or tone or volume, overall just does not sing these songs either as well as on record or indeed, very well at all.

You could probably forgive a few fluffed transitions and you can get over a few of the questionable moments like Vince doing a happy sexy dance to the word ‘rape’ if you keep in your mind its a concert and not everything would be absolutely perfect, but the singing is such a let down it really is a bit of a deal breaker for me. You can add a few more points if you are a diehard fan I guess, but you can also detract a few if you are a fan of any album between ‘Feelgood and ‘Saints.

I also find the drum solo very… um, well. Drum solos should usually be about showing how well you can play the drums, not just playing along to some dubstep. The rollercoaster was cool and I guess its difficult to play a virtuosic solo when you are upside down, but seriously who comes to Motely Crue wanting to hear dubstep? Maybe I’m nitpicking. Its interesting that they caught on film the one time it goes wrong and Tommy gets stuck in midair like an amusement park malfunction. Its just hard to imagine that it was pitched to the right audience maybe.

I go through two different moods when watching this. First, the cynical mood – ‘Wow, look at those passed-their-prime guys who all hate eachother showing up for the money and not even being on-point musically’ and then the more optimistic ‘Wow, look at those guys up there putting aside their differences to give the fans what they want, and so what if they don’t play perfectly as they put on a big enough spectacle to compensate.’ Sometimes it varies from viewing to viewing, and sometimes it varies from song to song in a single viewing, but I never have settled into deciding which way I feel definitively, and I never did stop viewing.

So that’s the concert. What about the bonus features? Well, there’s a quick four-minute feature about the Flamethrower Bass which is just Nicky talking about his history with pyro and why the one in this concert is the best. Then there’s a similar five-and a-half minute feature on Tommy’s drum rollercoaster and why visuals are important to a live audience. The best feature is a 35 minute interview section with the band where they answer all sorts of questions ans start reflecting on their history and how far they’ve come. None of these features are deal-breakers that you’d buy the disc over if you didn’t want the concert, but are welcome enough for a one-off watch.

Overall; There’s a lot to recommend this concert on – a setlist of mainly hits, a great sound and look, a big rock spectacle, historical significance etc. There’s a few bonus features to add some extra value for money. There’s also a pretty big downside however – the band and especially the singer don’t do as good a job as you’d hope. Whether you can put up with that is up to you. Or like me, maybe you buy it anyway and struggle to figure out if you can put up with it while still watching it a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Sorrow To Serenity – The Truth Is Absolution!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your cries are all in vain!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night.