Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

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)

220px-Marilyn_Manson_-_Heaven_Upside_DownIn 2017 the legendary Marilyn Manson released his tenth studio album (which was going to be called ‘Say-10’ as a sound-alike for ‘Satan’ before he changed it last minute) called Heaven Upside Down. It was produced by Tyler Bates and was their last album before once more losing Jeordie ‘Twiggy Ramirez’ White, even if he didn’t actually play on it.

Now, I don’t normally like to write negative reviews (as you can probably tell if you’ve read any of my other reviews, it pretty much 99% a love fest as I don’t like to denigrate things that take so much effort to make, so focus on the great albums and just don’t review the ). I am also a bit of a Marilyn Manson fanboy, and even though I’m not insane enough not to think that the Triptych (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanic Animals and Holywood) are his best material by a million miles, I am the kind of guy who likes his other albums, even ones that people in my peer group seem to all hate. There’s plenty of good material to be found in his whole discography.

Even I can’t love this album though. Since it came out I’ve been trying to be excited for it. I’ve gave it a really fair chance and tons of repeat listens, but I really can’t get into this at all. (…And this is coming from a guy that doesn’t mind Eat Me, Drink Me).

There are a few good moments here, I’m not saying its utter shit or anything. He’s still got a good voice and there’s a few fun stompers, like the catching ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’ and ‘Je$u$ Cri$i$ ‘ but coming from The All American Antichrist, this is just a bit of a tepid, plain, dull album. For someone who made such remarkable lyrics on Holywood or such diverse incredible music on Antichrist Superstar or put on such a show for Mechanical Albums, its kind of surprising how polite and slightly forgettable this album is. Its all to polite. It isn’t some amazing progressive masterpiece. It isn’t even a fun collection of bangers like the less artistic but very instant Golden Age Of Grotesque. It just feels like background music for rich people.

Sure there’s some sleazy sexy bass lines, or some semi-interesting drum patterns, (‘Saturnalia’ /’Kill4Me’) and there’s some of those anguished vocals (‘Blood Honey’) but its all too little to really get your juices flowing.

If you want to listen to Marilyn Manson there are so many albums I’d recommend before this one. I can’t even recommend it for lapsed fans (Born Villain is the one for that). If you are a massive fan and have to own everything he does then, sure, you can get this one. For most people though, this is a listen to it a few times and shelf it kind of affair. Maybe its the fact that barely anyone you care about appeared on it, maybe its the fact that most of the music was written by the producer. Maybe its just the fact that all his other work is so good it fails in comparison, I don’t know. What I do know.. this one, I’m sad to say, is not for me.

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.

cocCorrosion Of Conformity have had a lot of different line-ups over the years and a few very distinct career phases. Some of the most notable and best of which are the short-lived Blind era of the very early ’90s, where Pepper Keenan and Karl Angel joined the band and wrote a very dark, yet strangely melodic mixture of Sludge Metal and Groove Metal. Then Karl left, Pepper took over somewhat and they released three brilliant mixtures of Stoner, Southern Rock and good old fashion Metal with a bunch of diverse records that had acoustic sections, interludes, ballads and speedy-ragers all mashed into one record. Their final album in that line-up (well, with a new drummer actually, but close enough…) was very Doom Metal focused. Then Pepper left, and the Trio line-up from before even the Blind era reunited but instead of making Hardcore or Crossover Thrash like they did in the ’80s; they released two Doom albums with raw punky influences.

The celebrated and arguably most popular line up (the Pepper-in-charge on from the mid 90s-early ’00s) reunited recently and toured the globe with incredible reunion shows and now the time has finally come for them to put out some new music together. Its probably one of my most anticipated albums in a very long time. What on earth could it possibly sound like?
Well, the first track is a slow instrumental Sludge intro, bringing immediately to mind the Blind era. Next comes the third single, ‘The Luddite’ which is almost indistinguishable from the style on their Doom-focused In The Arms Of God album from 2005, which is interesting to hear with Reed Mullin on drums. It totally works. Speaking of that album, the creepy-ass title track here might remind you of a certain dark semi-acoustic track from there too.

Like their seminal Deliverance album, there are a few instrumental interludes and mood pieces sprinkled throughout. The first two singles, ‘Wolf Named Crow’ and ‘Cast The First Stone’ hark back to the Wiseblood sound, recalling hits like ‘Long Whip/Big America’ or ‘King Of The Rotten’ in a certain specific way that the instruments interact with each other and with the production style (by John Custer, who did Wiseblood too!) leaving the space at the end of sections and sounding very organic and Jammed-out-in-a-rehearsal-room, if you know what I mean. ‘Little Man’ has a very characterful and southern-fried sound, reminiscent of the under-rated 2000 album, America’s Volume Dealer, only without the over-polished production.

So far, so great. Towards the end, there are a also few slower, sludgy, dragged-out pieces that hearken back to both ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Bottom Feeder.’ It just wouldn’t be a C.O.C album without mixing in something slow and dirty sounding towards the end, would it now?

The overall feeling is a mixture of all the Pepper-era albums, with a warm and very earthy production. It doesn’t stand out as an immediate drop-everything, earth-shattering revelation, but it is a very welcome return (although they were never really that gone recently, and I’d still love if they threw ‘Demark Vessey’ or ‘Tarquinious Superbus’ into the setlist nowadays too!) that gets better with repeat listens. If you walk in expecting to be blown away like the first time you heard Deliverance you might be disappointed, but if you go in with realistic expectations you’ll find a very solid and rewarding album. My favourite track on the album is ‘Forgive Me’ which has a sort of Thin Lizzy vibe to its hook, but a very metallic breakdown, and Pepper’s vocals are very exaggerated and full of character like they were on ‘Volume Dealer.

To top it all off, there’s a cover of Queen’s very heavy and Sabbathy debut album deep-cut, ‘Son And Daughter’ and it really, really suits C.O.C’s sound. I remember Iron Monkey covering it in the past and it is a very suitable track for this end of the Rock & Metal spectrum. I know people imagining ‘Radio Gaga’ or ‘I Want To Break Free’ might raise an eyebrow, but Queen’s debut was a lot heavier than you remember. For Stoner, Doom or Sludge bands it is a natural fit.

In summary; without disrespecting the fine work of the trio line-up, its nice to have the four guys from Deliverance through to ‘Volume Dealer back playing together again with their unique chemistry. The album is pretty diverse, with a nice mix of fast and slow, clean and dirty, stoner and doom, sludge and hard rock, atmospheric and immediate. The production job is perfect and there’s a fairly decent proportion of the tracks would make it into any fan’s future dream setlists or best-of playlists. If you don’t immediately do a spit-take and have heart-shaped eyeballs the very first time you hear it though, don’t worry, it grows on you.

 

Disturbed – Live At Red Rocks Review

Posted: December 30, 2017 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Live, Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Live

300x300Disturbed are one of those bands that have been around for over a decade and a half but still feel like young upstarts to a certain generation. Disturbed are one of those bands that are loved by a legion of loyal fans and play massive shows but are still thought of as ‘that band everybody hates’ by a certain generation. Disturbed are one of those bands who have released a slew of very good records across their career but are still thought of as a ‘the debut album is ok as a guilty pleasure but the rest sucks‘ kind of band by a certain generation.

Well, after seeing them live last year putting on an absolutely fantastic show, something clicked inside me. Disturbed might get mocked by critics you respect. Your friends might be embarrassed to own their CDs. But you know what? They are a pretty great band. Draiman may have a distinctive style that is easy to parody, but there is no denying he is a superb frontman. Dan may have skimped out on the guitar solos on the early albums, but there’s no denying once he started using them they were great. The rhythm section are solid as hell. Their songs aren’t overly complicated but they are well sculpted and catchy as hell.

Live At Red Rocks is their 2016 Live album; touring on their reformed and rejuvinated album Immortalized at the height of their popular single ‘The Sound Of Silence’ (a Simon & Garfunkle cover) to a hysteric and loving crowd.

They drop in just about all their most famous songs and cover all their studio albums (the less favourably-received Asylum album has significantly less songs than others admittedly); with hits such as ‘Prayer,’ ‘Stricken,’ ‘Voices,’ ‘Stupify,’ ‘Inside The Fire,’ ‘The Light’ and the ever-present ‘Down With The Sickness’ all making an appearance.

The recording quality, sound mix, set-list and performance are all absolutely top notch. The band mix songs from across their catalogue and make one consistently great show from beginning to end. Every piece of the puzzle works together well and it flows well. Older tracks like the catchy ‘Liberate’ and ‘The Game’ gel seamlessly beside newer tracks like ‘The Animal’ and ‘The Vengeful One.’ There is some onstage banter but not distracting amounts and no time is wasted on unnecessary solos or self indulgence. It is as much a perfect greatest hits package as it is a live album, and if you haven’t got a Disturbed album yet, this would be the best one to get first. One criticism of Disturbed may be that maybe their studio albums suffer a bit of filler. This live album jams in only the best stuff, so is as high energy from start to finish as you always wanted them to be. When fleshed out by such a solid and energetic performance the result is pretty excellent.

If you are one of those people who liked them when they were new but the media and their reputation put you off since, consider getting back into them now. There’s never been a better time. They have a rich catalogue of hits and they returned from hiatus with a newfound fire and passion. This live album showcases them at their best. It really shows why they have remained so popular for so long and justifies their surprisingly high position within the Rock & Metal world.

MI0001487271.jpgIf you haven’t heard of this one I don’t blame you. The Workhorse Movement were really over in the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. If you’ve heard of them but haven’t heard the album, I don’t blame you. It wasn’t promoted or lauded enough as it deserved at the time and without them making any more albums there was no build up or cause for a new generation to get in to them.

If you have heard it, well then you know full well, this is one barking mad, fun and excellent album. How to even describe it? Eclectic, to say the least. It is a bizarre mixture of Clutch and Monster Magnet stoner rock with crazy lyrics, Sepultura on Roots proto-Nu Metal riffs, Faith No More variety (such as having additional brass instruments or latin music or funk or soul at different times). There’s even a sort of psychedelic space rock intro and a bit of that style in the verses of another song. There’s little bits of Rap Metal (well it was the year 2000 after all) but that’s far from the whole story. If that all sounds like a strange mix its because is, but somehow it works.

Its all topped off with a cheeky smile and a sense of humour. Lyrical topics include handshakes ‘Gimmie Some Skin,’ Detroit ‘Motown,’ Black Sabbath ‘Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive’ (“When I die there’s gonna be an electric funeraaaaal”) and all sorts of marijuana talk for better or worse. Lyrically its a bit silly but musically its dead serious (Again, not unlike Clutch or Monster Magnet). The experimentation with outside styles isn’t frivolous, its expertly done.

The important thing to remember is, this isn’t another generic forgettable release from the Nu Metal period. Its eclectic to the point of being progressive, its catchy as hell, its really fun and the songs themselves are really good. It not just wacky and novelty value only or something. These are really good songs. Some of those thick fat satisfying riffs are really enjoyable. Just listen to the appropriately titled ‘Heavy’ for the perfect example.

I’d like to point out highlights, such as ‘Charlie Don’t Surf,’ ‘Beotch’ and ‘Feel Like Bob Marley’ but to be honest no two songs on the album even sound the same. I mean, they fit together, and it flows well, but that diversity thing I mentioned? Yeah, that!

Hey I’m a Nu Metal apologist who can still happily listen to The Union Underground, but this isn’t that. This is like listening to King For A Day Fool For A Life Time at the same time as listening to Power Trip and The Elephant Riders, a collection of Pink Floyd B Sides and flicking through a dozen radio stations and catching fleeting glimpses of a range of music outside of rock, such as funk and soul. Then occasionally something not too dissimilar to the riff from ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ comes in and ties it all together.

If you want to hear something really fun and interesting you could really do a lot worse than Sons Of The Pioneers. Its a one-of-a-kind that’s for sure. As long as you aren’t terrified of everything that doesn’t sound like Burzum or indeed of everything that doesn’t sound like Manowar, I think you’ll really enjoy this underrated gem.