Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black Moth

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

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

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Fireball Ministry

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

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

 

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Orange Fucking Goblin, Baby

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

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Up close and personal 

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

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C.O.C – Houselights down.

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

 

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

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C.O.C – Houselights up.

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

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

Marmozets – Knowing What You Know Now Review

Posted: August 19, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Music Reviews, Review, Rock, Rock Studio
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2ca4c1f91caabcf5008146ab0569c38d.jpgAfter listening to a podcast a few years ago before heading out to buy the new Kreator album, I was reminded of the hosts’ deep approval of The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets, the debut full length album from 2014 by the unique British Rock band, Marmozets.

I’m sure if you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you’ll remember that I was gushingly enthusiastic about it. It was a refreshing and semi-bizarre mixture of ’90s sounding Rock, with Punk and Hardcore influences, sprinkled with jagged math-rock leanings and even boasting the odd moment that you could compare to Mastodon for a few seconds if you closed your eyes. I have fond memories of listening to it on my bachelor party, but that is besides the point.

I was a bit late to the party with Marmozets, but that album is an utter gem. Now in 2018 it is time for a follow up. I caught them at Download Festival and the performance there (especially from the drummer, Josh) was great and that inspired me to stop dawdling and get my hands on the new album. 

There has been a slight stylistic shift since the debut album. The band seem to have filed down some of the more jagged edges, removed those sparse but welcome metallic sections and dialed up the melody massively. Its a much more commercial record. Its a much easier-to-listen-to album. Its much more radio friendly.

Now; stop. Clean up the drink you just spat out. Take a deep breath. Yes; it is less heavy, see it is cleaner and less technical and yes, usually when a band pulls that kind of shift, the words ‘sell’ and ‘out’ are hurled at them by the public and generally, the album is a disappointment.

Not the case here. This is a fabulous album, chocked full to the brim with catchy choruses, memorable hooks and sing-along sections. Its the kind of album you can listen to on repeat over and over again and not get sick of. Over half the album sounds like a lead single. You ever hear the common saying that Appetite For Destruction and Permission To Land sound like a Greatest Hits album? Well so does this…

There are songs on here that once you hear them, just can’t imagine Marmozets ever playing a single concert or releasing any playlist or compilation at any stage in the future without. Opener ‘Play’ for example. The jaunty single ‘Major System Error’ is another. I think my favourite track personally is the immensely catchy ‘Lost In Translation.’ If you haven’t heard the band but wonder after reading this if you should, then try any of those three songs. 

Also, while it is true that it is a lot less quirky, technical and heavy than the debut, there are still flashes of that side of the band. ‘Suffocation’ gets interrupted by awkward noisy sections, ‘Habbits’ has harsh screaming and dark lyrics and ‘Like A Battery’ has a reccuring obnoxious sting that you could just imagine Becca doing strange jerky movements to on stage. Its not exactly an Atomic Kitten record now is it?

Overall; this is a fantastic, catchy and memorable record. It is more commercial than the debut but none-the-worse for it. I hope this expands the band’s audience and gets them some of the pop and indie fans as well as the punk and metal fans. Based on this quality of songwriting they really deserve to be massive. Check em out if you like good, catchy Rock and aren’t too snobby to accept that they toned down the math side of things.

Parkway Drive – Reverence Review

Posted: May 19, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Review
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Parkway-Drive_Reverence_Album-cover_a75524b73dd30fdf8a05e59a507082edFor their sixth studio album, Parkway Drive had a hell of a lot to live up to. After absolutely perfecting their formula with the popular Horizons and Deep Blue albums, and utterly reinventing themselves on the astounding Ire album, the Australians would have a hard time releasing anything that good. What should they do? Return to the old formula? Try and repeat the triumph of Ire?

What they decided to do was a bit different. On Atlas, the great but less-popular follow up to Deep Blue they decided to try and balance their formula with new ideas like choirs, strings and DJ scratching with more variety of fasts and slows. The band weren’t going to limit themselves or stay in their own little box, they already did the perfect version, so its time to try some new ideas.

Reverence, to me, feels to Ire as Atlas did to Deep Blue. Its not a rehash of the past formula but a pushing of the envelope. Its taking that general idea but broadening it. There’s some pretty inventive and new sounds for Parkway on this album, from quiet spoken word bits, no almost Ghost-eque latin sounding chants (‘I Hope You Rot’), and film-score sounding orchestration. And while Atlas all sounded cataclysmic like a disaster movie, Reverence sounds epic and biblical.

Musical direction is one thing, but of course its all for nothing if the quality isn’t there. Fortunately Revereance is not only interesting, but it is also excellent. There are some absoltuely fantastic songs, amazingly catchy choruses and damn enjoyable guitar lines. There’s parts that’ll stick in your head for days (‘I’ve got the whole world swinging from the end of a chain,’ gets me every time). Some of those drum fills and leads are demading of a good air-instrumenting. Some of these songs will utterly crush live!

If you only want Parkway at their absolute heaviest and don’t want any clean singing, or any atypical instrumentation, then maybe chose a different album as your first. If you like the band, especially the shift in direction that started with Ire, then you don’t want to be missing out on Reverance. It is one hell of a record, strong all the way through, creative, interesting and thoroughly entertaining.

Highlights include the single ‘Wishing Wells’ as well as ‘Shadow Boxing’ and the dark ‘The Colour Of Leaving’

Its too early yet to rank it in their discography, but I can tell you right away from first impressions it certainly aint in trouble of being in the bottom half. I got this on release day (for some reason it was signed, which didn’t cost any extra, hooray!) and have absolutely pasted it every since. I can listen to this five times in a row and not be sick of it. It is a truly joyous album. If you are a fan don’t hesitate, get in on this ASAP.

220px-Cover_LiveinSPSepultura have a good few options if you are into live material. There is the Chaos DVD with the Under Siege video on it with the band touring Arise and playing all their Thrash era songs. There is the Under A Pale Grey Sky cd with the last ever gig of the Max Cavelera line-up on it, playing a lot of material off of Roots and Chaos AD. There is the newer Rock In Rio DVD with the Les Tambors Du Bronx percussion group augmenting them. There’s also plenty of live material on bonus tracks and compilations.

Best of all however, is Sepultura Live In Sao Paulo. It was the first video album with the Derick Green line-up, the first time you got to see and not just hear live versions of material from Roots and Chaos AD and its the only place to hear straight up unaltered versions of material off the Derick Green albums. It was released in 2005 when they were touring Roorback, back when they were still a Gold-selling band.

You get to hear an amazing blend (21 songs!) of material all the way from their earliest EPs and albums with early material like ‘Necromancer’ and ‘Troops Of Doom’ beside the mega-hits from the ’90s like ‘Territory’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ mixed in with more modern gems like ‘Choke’ and what has to be one of the band’s best ever songs in ‘Sepulnation.’ (For me, its in the top 5 songs they ever recorded, any era).

Visually, the album is great. Its really well shot and edited, with no fancy distracting weird camera angels or lenses and no too-fast music video style choppy cuts. The stage set up and tasteful circle of lighting around their tribal ‘S’ logo banner looks really great, and the soundjob and mix are perfect. Sometimes the guitars or the vocals can be too quiet in a live recording, or some times the drums have way too much reverb, or sometimes you can’t hear the crowd’s energy; but here everything is perfectly balanced hear and it all sounds thick and chunky.

The band’s performances are excellent and it really shows off what great musicians they are. I never ‘got’ how good a drummer Igor is until I saw this! I didn’t much care for Derrick Green as a frontman before I saw this an it utterly changed my mind.

It looks great, it sounds great, the tracklist is great and the band play great. What more could you possibly want? Oh well, if you still do want more there is an absolute tonne of extras, with music videos, more live songs, a short making of documentary and biography, a bigger documentary about the band from 1998–2005 and other stuff as well (photogalleries etc.)

Overall; this is a damn strong release from a very important band, and there’s so much on it its great value for money. If like me you were skeptical on them without Max in the band, go on youtube and check out live versions of tracks like ‘Chaos AD’ and especially ‘Sepulnation’ off of this and just try not to be converted! If you are new to the band altogether this is a great starting point blending the best parts of all the eras together.

I went to go see the mighty Saxon last Friday in Cardiff; this was my third time catching the NWOBHM legends live and my second ever concert in Wales. (It would have been my fourth time seeing Saxon but I’ve already written before about the time I had tickets and it got cancelled due to Lemmy from Motorhead getting diabetes.)

The trip to the venue was great, now that I know the way it was a lot less stressful to find than the time I went to see Mastodon and this time the city centre was a lot quieter and less full of boozed-up thugs. I got there a bit late and missed all but the last minute of the opening act, Rock Goddess, so just got to hear them chant ‘Heavy metal – rock and roll’ about six times and take a bow. I remembered the really good comfortable spot from the Mastodon concert – behind the sound/lighting desk, so I headed there and remained there for the rest of the show, great sound, great view and no people bustling you around.

I caught the Metallica-inspiring also-NWOBHM legends Diamond Head next. It was kind of strange to see them be their own roadies. Usually you get excited when the band but I saw Brian Tattler for like 15 minutes before the band were ready just setting up the guitar, I can see why roadies get hired and how annoying it must be nowadays when records aren’t selling as much. They were a man down due to a serious hospital operation but they soldiered on regardless, dropping all the best and heaviest songs from Lightening To The Nations and Borrowed Time. They also dropped one new song from their self titled album (‘Bones’). I didn’t know this beforehand; but they have a younger guy on vocals (Rasmus Bom Andersen). He was a very good frontman, jumping in the air, pumping up the crowd, trying to get people enthusiastic and doing a very good job of mimicking the original vocals. I’ve been listening ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ a lot recently so I really enjoyed it live – he did it justice. The crowd were into it, but not so into it. The band were pretty good; not so tight, but that’s obviously due to the man-down situation and totally understandable. Hey, I’m just happy to be seeing songs like ‘Its Electric’ and ‘Lightning To The Nations’ live.

When they dropped ‘Am I Evil?’ though…the whole atmosphere changed. The crowd sang almost every word, the room warmed up, the band looked five-times as confident and all the energy that was sort of missing before came into the room. It felt like a real heroic moment. Previously the crowd seemed to view them as a bit of a ropey pub band based on how they reacted, but for that last song they treated them how they deserved, like stars.

After a wait, the mighty Saxon took the stage, opening up with the intro and title track of the new album. I had been a bit cold on ‘Thunderbolt’ when it was the previw single but when I heard the album and listened to it on repeat it fell in to place for me. Seeing it live made it even better. Its a really strong tune. Biff mentioned we were the first audience to ever see it live, which got a big cheer. They also dropped some other fairly recent material such as ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Battering Ram’ (also so good live!). Its nice to see them not just being a nostalgia act.

There was also all the big classic songs you’d expect such as ‘And The Bands Played On,’ (Side note – I never think about how short that song is!) ‘Strong Arm Of The Law,’ ‘Crusader,’ ‘747 (Strangers In The Night),’ ‘The Power And The Glory’ etc.

They also played a good four-six tracks off the new album overall, such as ‘Sniper’ ‘The Secret Of Flight’ ‘Predator’ and ‘They Played Rock And Roll.’ Nibbs did the backing parts that Amon Amarth’s singer Johan Hegg does on the album, which was quite fun. My favorite moment was hearing ‘Nosferatu’ live.

They mentioned that they had filmed their next music video in the venue the previous night and also that the students were filming the concert (maybe that will be their next concert film or maybe just on youtube later, I’m not sure).

They did two encores. They ended the main set with ‘Princess Of The Night,’ and then they came back and did ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and ‘Wheels Of Steel’ then they went off again and came back once more and did ‘Denim And Leather.’

The band were absolutely phenomenal. I’ve seen Saxon three times so far and this was unquestionably the best. They were absolutely on fire. The power and confidence and audience reaction was really special. The band seemed really taken aback and grateful and Biff kept commenting on what a great crowd it was that night (which I do agree with, I’ve seen a lot of concerts but its rare to get such good applause and sing-alongs and fans demanding you come back again after you’ve already done an encore).

It appears the band are on an upswing; Biff mentioned the new album was their first to enter the UK Top 30 albums chart since the mid-80s and joked that he ‘almost chocked on my cornflakes when I heard that!’ which was very amusing. He was quite amusing all night to be honest. Someone suggested they play ‘Crusader’ early on in the set and he started doing the ‘Who dares battle the Saracen?’ voice from its intro but said ‘Its not time for Crusader, that comes later’ which was pretty funny in context and got a good crowd reaction.

The band were stunning too. As well as Biff’s excellent stage presence and banter, the guitar solos were so good. Doug and Paul were so impressive – they really are absolute guitar heroes. Nibbs is the rowdy guy with all the energy and gets the crowd going. Best of all of course, as if I would say anyone else, (how many times have I banged on and on about my drummer-crush on his skills?) was the incomparable ‘Engine Room’ – Nigel Glockler! I’ve already written at length about how he elevates the songs with the extra cymbal catches and well timed extra double kicks on the old stuff before he was the drummer and his own stuff is badass to begin with. He has a star power and talent level that really lifts Saxon above so many of their NWOBHM peers and shows you why they are not only relevant now when so many of their peers fell by the wayside but arguably better now than even in their classic period.

The whole concert was an absolute triumph, the old stuff, the new stuff, the stage presence and the performances. Scorching solos and powerful fills. I had an absolutely great night. I really recommend you catch Saxon live if you haven’t already and if this turns out to be available now the students have filmed it, check the video out.

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.

220px-Blind_guardian_follow_the_blindFollow The Blind is the second full-length studio album by the legendary German Power Metal band, Blind Guardian. It was released in 1989 and sees the band in a bit of a transition period, much more advanced than their debut but not yet fully developed into the full on Power Metal style they would become famous for on the next half-dozen albums.

It also sees the band leaning more into a Thrash Metal direction than at any point in their career, with notable Bay Area Thrash influences in particular. If you like Exodus, Testament and Forbidden’s debuts, and you also like Power Metal then this album is a delightful middle ground. Its harder and more aggressive than future Blind Guardian records, and has also yet to develop the more progressive tendencies of their later period. What it lacks in scope however, it makes up for in sheer fury. I think this album would be a great introduction to the band and indeed to the subgenre for fans of Thrash who are maybe afraid of Power Metal due to its reputation as being a bit flowery and wimpy compared to other Metal styles.

On the downside however, for Power Metal fans especially, all that Thrash influence leaves less room for catchiness, melodies and variety as compared to their other work. That is not to say it is devoid of those qualities, just that it is a smaller percentage of the music than usual. Listen to ‘Fast To Madness’ for example… a brilliant Metal song, but you wouldn’t generate as big a sing-along as say ‘Time Stands Still at the Iron Hill.’ The title track does experiment with different tempos and balancing heavy and clean styles, but more in a …And Justice For All/The Years Of Decay way than in an Imaginations From The Other Side way. Both fine ways to be sure, just depends what mood you are in and what expectations you had when you bought the album in the first place.

In terms of songwriting quality, I think Blind Guardian’s albums sort of just got better and better up until about Nightfall In Middle Earth, and so I think this album is better than their debut but not yet as good as Tales From The Twilight World, or the classic Somewhere Far Beyond. That is of course not to say its poor, just that it isn’t as good as the really good stuff. In terms of production, its a bit noisy and harsh on the ears, and works better in small chunks than as a whole. Not unlike fellow Power Metal Pioneers Helloween’s Thrashy Walls Of Jericho album in that regard.

Speaking of Helloween, Kai Hansen makes some guest appearances on this album, both on guitar on ‘Hall Of The King’ and on Guitar and Vocals on ‘Valhalla.’ These for me are two of the best songs on the album anyway, and are made even better by Kai’s presence. The other main highlight is the excellent instrumental ‘Beyond The Ice’ which is one of the best songs on the album for me, very pummeling, quite diverse and with astounding guitar work… it really shows off what a force the band are musically with its bouncy toms and double kicks and the excellent range of riffs and solos.

Overall; Follow The Blind is an experimental album that sees the band trying to find their sound. It is arguably the hardest, fastest and heaviest of their records and arguably the least melodic and catchy. It is however a very decent album that no Blind Guardian fan should miss out on (how could you be a fan and deprive yourself of ‘Banished From Sanctuary’ or ‘Valhalla’?) and that would be a good starting point for fans of heavier music trying Blind Guardian out.

*Ps. The Remastered edition has two cover songs and four early demos to add some value for money. None worth upgrading over in and of themselves, but very welcome if you are getting em for free anyway. *