Posts Tagged ‘Dragonforce’

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)

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 40, and I haven’t spent anything new in the last three days… hey, I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe if I keep this going long enough I’ll be able to break free of the habit of spending so frequently. I could use that money for fresh fruit and vegetables! (I’m on a health kick at the moment and that seems like the best use of my money in my current state of mind). I’ve also been experimenting with baking and online grocery shopping with mixed results. I’m planning on being a more successful human being for the next year, more organized and nourished and with more strings to my bow.

Continuing this self-improvement theme, I’ve also decided to cycle for 20-minutes after work every day from when I return to work following my current time-off, all the way up until Christmas. To sure-up this decision, I spent last night making dozens of 20-minute playlists in iTunes for cycling to. (Well, most of them end up being 22 minutes). The main theme of each playlist is pick about 5 songs from about 5 different artists within one subgenre.

So for example: 1 Saxon song, 1 Diamond Head song, 1 Iron Maiden song, 1 Angel Witch Song, 1 Motorhead song…. and then call that playlist “NWOBHM 1.”

In this spirit I have made: 9 Classic Rock Lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 9 NWOBHM/Early Metal lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 8 Glam Metal lists, 6 Power Metal lists, 5 Metalcore lists, 4 Groove Metal lists, 2 NYHC lists, 2 Indie Lists, 2 Nu Metal lists, 1 Stoner Rock list, and 1 Melodeath list.

Oh yeah, and two lists of Thrash bands’ ‘90s hits…like “Symphony Of Destruction,’ ‘Only,’ ‘Enter Sandman’ etc.

I only chose jaunty up-tempo songs; no ballads, no interludes, no intros, no doomy songs, nothing proggy… just stuff that would make me want to continue cycling. Its basically that I always get a shower when I get home from work, but I am always hesitant to do any exercise once I’ve had a shower because it’s a waste of water and therefore money, and so I’ve decided that I could squeeze in a small bit of exercise after each work day so its not too tiring (and get rewarded by hearing 5 or so classic songs) but since I’ll still work up a sweat it would be advisable before my usual post-work shower. Hopefully it makes me squeeze in exercise all the time, rather than doing it properly when I’m in the mood, but more often ending up doing nothing when it can’t be done right… as they say: “Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good.”

Anyway, enough health propaganda, on to the main article:

Since my recent birthday, I’ve been describing how I’ve been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and this has not changed. I’ve been happily reading away at this yesterday too, now up to around number-300. It’s a damn good book and I highly recommend it. Even if there are a few small mistakes (eg. he said that Michael Kiske was the singer on Helloween’s Walls Of Jerhico, but it was really Kai Hansen) and sometimes his sentences lack all grammatical logic or you can tell he forgot to type words here and there, it is still a very entertaining and well put-together product.

I’ve also spent the last few days listening to the following albums:

I decided to put this record on again because I recently read an article online which was about biggest disappointments/flops. Untouchables was in it. I thought to myself…”surely not?” I remembered at the time, everyone loved it. They filmed the successful comeback show with loads of songs from it. People on Metal podcasts I listened to remembered it fondly. I listened to it again last night, and yeah, there’s a wee bit of filler (like EVERY Korn record) but it is in no way a weak album for them, plus lead single and album opener “Here To Stay” is just an absolute smasher! Oh yeah, and I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning and that also suggests it is one of the band’s most popular albums. What about the verse to “Embrace” ? …or the chorus to “Wake Up Hate” ?

Disappointment? Pfft…

This album is a weird one for me; I listen to tracks from it almost daily on shuffle, but I have this weird “I don’t listen to this album enough” feeling all the time because I don’t sit down and listen to it in its entirety often enough. Well, I tried to put that right, and its one of my favourite Motorhead records when you add up all the songs I like (although I just usually don’t listen to them together… something it shares in common with Faith No More’s Angel Dust as a matter of fact). Some people called this one a disappointment, or dislike the production. Not me, I love it. Love it all. So many great tracks. Great atmosphere. Its charming. “(Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down” is especially fun. Heck it all is; no filler!

I listened to this yesterday whilst weightlifting because I have elderly neighbors in my temporary accommodation and I didn’t want them to have to hear Hatebreed, which is what I was really in the mood for at the time, but I’m a considerate neighbor when all is said and done.

I remember I bought this for super-cheap (around a penny I seem to recall, or maybe one pound at an absolute maximum!) just to have something to talk about with a coworker in my last job, who had an Alkaline Trio tattoo. I’m not really keen on it. I always liked their single “Private Eye” but unfortunately its about the only song on this album that is memorable. Its all competent but its just a bit bland and forgettable. Oh well, a Penny for a few conversations and “Private Eye” …not too much of a waste. Its not like I’ll have to quit doing fucked-up shit.

I’ve mentioned before about how I got this in 2010 and never felt like I’d listened to it enough. I still feel that way. Even with a recent attempt at a revival of it by adding it to my phone on work trips and during my Dutch holiday. To its credit, there are some great songs on the record, like the Title Track, “The Alchemist” and “Talisman.” I just somehow never feel like I give it enough attention though. I’ll keep trying, because it is good, its just… demanding.

This was a birthday gift. It’s the modern Helloween line-up trying to do their version of the Keepers’ albums. BOTH Keepers! It’s a double album, each with a 10 minute epic, a few fast thrashers, a ballad each, and a fun off-the wall song.

Its kind of exhausting. I can tell there’s good stuff on it, because I like Deris-era Helloween a lot anyway. But, its just a huge amount to take in at once. Without the mental division of individual albums the way the original Keepers Part 1 & 2 had. You feel overworked listening to it.

Some people are down on sequel albums, especially those late in a career. I like Operation Mindcrime 2 and Thick As A Brick 2 though… so I’ll give this one a chance as well. It just might take a long time to absorb.


I went for a run the other day, and the soundtrack to this sweaty affair was the suitably sweaty Manowar albums I got for my birthday, all together (Not just the one pictured, but Triumph Of Steel and Fighting The World too) on shuffle. These albums are really growing on me. Sure the drum solos in “Achilles” are pace-killers and that spoken word track is too long, but this is a seriously fun band with some seriously great Metal songs to offer. All of their fast songs are almost instant-favourites of mine, catapulted into Best Of playlists already. This is a good boxset and these albums are showing some real promise to join the best of Helloween and Gamma Ray at the top of my Power Metal pile… almost eclipsing Stratovarius already!

Absolute masterpiece. I’ve spent enough time talking about it. I think its one of the best records ever made, by anyone. I just need to listen to it regularly because I don’t want it to slip out of listening. (Once I let “Crack The Skye” go, it didn’t come back the same).

Another birthday gift. Very fun, pleasant, upbeat and happy record. Perfect listening for this sunshine, and for this good-mood inspired by the exercise and healthy-eating zone I’m in. Also nice and brief, lightweight and succinct. Easily digestible, quick and cheerful stuff for instant gratification and no-brains smiles being put on my face.

I’ve tried once more last night, despite feeling like it wasn’t very good and even with new attention, I just don’t really like this album much at all. I really like their debut, don’t get me wrong, its not just thoughtless Poison-bashing here, I just don’t like this Posion album. This one is just a bit empty. There’s nothing in the style I want from them, and there’s no catchy perfect fun in an alternative style to the one I want either. Its just very bland and unexciting. Nothing “grabs” me.

Halfway between the first and the third. Not just as memorable as their debut, or as forgettable as their third album, this has stuff going for it, but isn’t “wow, this album is great!” either. An enjoyable listen, that will eventually be boiled down to just the best few tracks and mostly ignored otherwise. I like “Back On The Rocking Horse,” “Bad To Be Good,” and “Look But You Can’t Touch” as well as the Kiss-esque hit single “Nuthin But A Good Time” of course.

I used to listen to this all the time last year. It got pushed out by new purchases. I still tend to listen to the post-Ralph albums a lot, but the first three of their albums have done a runner from my limited-storage-space phone long ago, which is a shame really, they deserve more attention. I’m pushing them back in now though. How can you argue with “Money” on a sunny day?

I’ve been listening to this constantly since its release, and so this listen here is just another go-round, rather than any attempt to appreciate an under-appreciated hidden gem. I’ve been constantly listening to it all year because its really good! …Even their absolutely shoddy live gig this time last year didn’t stop this being a good record in my eyes.

I enjoyed listening to it out in the sun today whilst chopping down (or rather trimming to acceptable tidiness, its not like I actually felled them with an axe) the trees surrounding my current accommodation, in the glorious sunshine. The title track and “Fall From Grace” are brilliant cheerful songs to hack trees by! (Although maybe I should’ve listened to Rush, now that I think about it… that’d be good, ey? I wonder if the neighbors would’ve got the joke?).

It took a long time to trim those trees. This was the second album I put on, because its not too-heavy for neighbors. I love this album, any excuse to listen to it is fine by me… even if my thumbs are covered in blisters afterwards! Good album. “Sleeping By Myself Tonight” is superb.

Man, I just never listen to this. I’ve owned it at least a decade, and I think I’ve listened to it fewer than twenty times in all that time (shame it wasn’t Somewhere In Time so I could use yet another “time” in that sentence), with about ten of those listens being made in the same month I bought it.

I love the title track (man, title tracks are usually great, aren’t they?) and “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” which I will always love for its Carmaggeddon 2 memories! (It was in that game’s soundtrack beside “The Trooper” and “Man On The Edge.”) Other than those two tracks however, I almost don’t even recognize over half of the record. I wasn’t even all that fond of it when I listened to it yesterday again either. I must try yet again tomorrow! Maybe it’s a grower, and I’ve never put enough time into it?

This album is fantastic. Its taken me years to think that though. A bit of backstory: I bought Cowboys’ and Vulgar’ on the same day on a Dublin holiday when I was about 12 or 13. I loved Vulgar instantly and forever. The high screams and weird production (and infuriating lack of snare drums on “Primal Concrete Sledge”) on Cowboys however, at the time made me think of it as being bad and cheesy and out-dated and un-Pantera, and for about two years afterwards I only liked the title track. (Title Tracks again, see?). Over the years I’ve liked more and more of it, and getting into thrash unlocked more of its charm, getting into Maiden unlocked yet more. Getting into Priest unlocked the final missing piece. Now I love every second of it… it just took me a while. A kid who mostly listens to Powerman 5000 and Limp Bizkit doesn’t have the palate suitable for “Heresy” or “Psycho Holiday” just yet. Well, it was worth the wait!

Another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album. I’m surprised how much I’ve come to really enjoy this record. It’s also “unlocked” the band’s first two albums for me, and I can appreciate them as real music now, instead of just a clown-parade of druggy chancers and womanizers writing 80% filler and getting unnaturally lucky with a few hits, like I used to view them. Moving on…

Yet another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album, like the above. This is my definite album of the summer. It will likely be my album of the year at this rate. Every listen and it gets better, just like Stalingrad did. I’ll be watching the free Blu Ray a lot over the rest of the year too. Good value. I’ve been avoiding new albums recently because I can get boxsets of albums for the same price as individual new albums, and about 5 cheap old albums for the price of one new album, so it just seems wasteful to buy new albums…. This one however was unarguable value for money considering how much enjoyment and use I got out of it!

When I first got the boxset of Dokken’s first five albums (well, four and a live album), I sort of overlooked this one a lot. I’m slowly rectifying that oversight. “Paris Is Burning” and “Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” are excellent jaunty Judas Priest-style Speed Metal tracks (although with a softer production, admittedly).

This still isn’t my favourite Dokken album, or one I’d share with any friends who don’t listen to this sort of thing to convert them, but it’s a nice enough album and worth my time.

This is a classic, everyone loves it. Its not hard to see why. Phil’s voice is excellent here, Pepper and Kirk’s riffs are really memorable and everyone loves a bit of Bower Power, that Bonham-esque groove he can inject songs with really putting the cherry on top.

Good songs (most of a Down setlist most times, ey?), great performances, faultless production… pretty good record. Its not even monotonous, there’s plenty of variety from the brief stunners like “Lifer” and “Hail To The Leaf” and then the acoustic “Jail,” for variety, yet further diversified by the unique genre-of-one in hit single “Stone The Crow” and then topped-off by the big weighty monolith of an album-closer (and live-favourite) “Bury Me In Smoke.”

Its just all good, and there’s a nice mix so you aren’t bored or wore-down. I just need to remind myself to listen to it as often as I listen to Pantera or C.O.C. I’ve been constantly hammering The Purple EP all year, or at least its highlights, so I’ve probably been getting enough Down overall that I didn’t notice the dip in NOLA plays, but Martin Popoff’s book just reminded me to go back to the reason I liked Down in the first place.

I listen to the title track (how many times with the title tracks?) and “Rock N Roll Rebel” all the time, and I have it on Vinyl mounted on my wall, and I listened to the whole record all the time for about a year after I got it… but I’ve noticed a massive decrease in listens recently. I’ve just put it on again (another Popoff inspired move) and noticed that apart from the aforementioned hits, I’ve forgotten most of this record, and there’ actually a lot more good moments on here than I’ve been giving it credit for recently, certainly since last Christmas I’ve not listened to it in full. Well, now I have once more, and it was entertaining. Not the best Ozzy album, but better than the two-tracks-only footnote that I’ve been treating it as! Also the bonus track “One Up The B Side” is great, despite its cheesy joke title.

I bought a set of the first two V.O.D. albums a while back, around the same time I bought the boxset of Life Of Agony albums (I remember mixing the two bands up because of their triple-word names with “of” in the center, their association with ‘90s American Hardcore, and both having tracks with “River” in the title. This “River” song has a guest appearance from Phil Anselmo, Life Of Agony’s didn’t.

I ended up becoming a real fan of the Life Of Agony material… but upon initial listen I wasn’t keen on V.O.D. much at all. Their albums seemed like an exhausting barrage of samey, brash, rough-around-the-edges violence. To be fair, that’s still true, but its more of a compliment than an insult. This album is full of absolutely brilliant tracks. Each one, in isolation, is a blow-away-the-cobwebs breath of fresh air… intense, threatening and very very lively. Their singer reminds me of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter a little… but a less melodic, more screamy version.

Highlights for me are “Jada Bloom,” “Twelve Steps To Nothing” and “Landslide.” I’m warming to this album, its just a bit exhausting all at once… they’re still a band I can only take in small doses.

Another Popoff inspiration. I bought this record around this time last year, wasn’t amazingly sold on it really, and kind of just listened to it in small doses here and there from then on, with decreasing frequency until its now mostly ignored altogether. I stuck it on yesterday and was really impressed, there’s a whole heap of stolen Anthrax, Megadeth and Overkill parts and apart from the slow, grungy tempos and Rob’s unusual voice, this is pretty much a nice Thrash album. “Thrust” and “Black Sunshine” are good. The only problem with the album is that the band seem a bit too relaxed, too calm, holding back a bit. V.O.D are too unhinged and aggressive and abrasive, put this is the opposite end of the spectrum… its very chilled out and softened-down. You can tell the songs are good though, it’d be cool to hear them covered by someone with a bit of energy. Perhaps V.O.D. could cover them and split the difference?

This album is associated with sunshine for me. I was listening to it in the wonderful sunshine in the zoo in Rotterdamn, and I listened to it today whilst going out on a long walk in the countryside while trying to put more of this healthy stuff into action and make the most of this last week away before its back to early 4am work mornings and grey city sludge. The whole album is so bright and clean and uplifting that really sunshine is the only environment in which you could take it seriously… you already need a big smile on your face before it even starts.

What about the record itself? I used to think it was pretty samey, pretty bland, and lacking in the x-factor of its more famous cousin Inhuman Rampage. Listening to it carefully for the first time today, I guess that’s only half true… there’s a little more to things here than I initially credited it with, and while it can wear a little thin all at once its pretty much an honest record with good intentions. Not soon to become a favourite, but worth a few more listens at least.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. I’ve dropped my thoughts on most of the albums I’ve been listening to in the last three days; I’ll leave discussions of Death, Carcass, Cro-Mags and Deicide to another time as I’m pretty sure most people will’ve stopped reading by now anyway.

Oh well, it stopped me from splashing out on Spiderman comic collections, Early ‘80s American Hardcore bands’ debut albums, Musician’s biographies (Five Finger Death Punch’s drummer has a book out!?) and all the live concert DVDs going at the minute (or indeed b-sides and bonus tracks to albums I have but haven’t got all the bonus material from.)

‘Til we meet again…

 FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average Facebook-users’ knowledge of Farmville and Candy Crush. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Farmville. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the album Kings Of Metal, by the US Power Metal band Manowar. It was their 6th studio album and was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. I got it for my birthday, inside a boxset which also contained Fighting The World and Triumph Of Steel. Good gift for someone like me!

I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. I think I’ve bored you all enough talking about Power Metal in its early 80s American guises and its late-80s-and-beyond European guises on this blog already, so if you want to know how I feel about it in more depth look back at reviews and articles on the likes of Savatage, early Queensryche, Helloween, Gamma Ray ,Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Iced Earth.

Its mostly European Melodic Power Metal, and only a bit of the early USPM (by bands who are mostly considered Prog Metal overall or turned Prog soon afterwards), and not exactly a perfect match for Manowar, who straddle the border between just being Traditional Metal like Priest, Maiden and Accept, with being Power Metal (well, all these things can vary on a song by song basis. I mean, there’s lots of Priest that sounds like Power Metal… just like there’s a lot of Djent that sounds like Messugah. Maybe Manowar aren’t Power Metal, maybe they’re just Metal… I don’t know. Also, maybe it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just call them Power Metal for now, so I don’t have to swap all those hyperlinks, ey guys?)

So; What do I actually know about Manowar? I know the band members are muscular, wear loincloths (either all the time or at least at some stage in their career) and promote manliness and strength. I know that they have a Conan The Barbarian type mascot on their album artwork. I know they are cheesy and over-the-top lyrically, and revel in all the sword-and-sorcery aspects of Metal culture. I know they are responsible for a lot of the “true Metal” and “Death To False Metal” sentiment you read about online, although I’m pretty sure they are probably joking about it. I know they have a devoted cult-like audience similar to Rush fans who are really defensive and proud of the band and will support the band no matter what. (Its sort of a “cool” thing, to a certain subsection of Metal-society, to be a Manowar fan, I guess.)

I don’t, as yet, know exactly why that is. I don’t see the same cult-thing going on for Helloween or Blind Guardian or whatever other massive influential Power Metal band with a lot of fans and some releases with a “Metal Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” type reputation. Maybe it exists and I just didn’t notice it, or maybe its something peculiar to just Manowar. (Perhaps because they seem so convinced of it themselves? Perhaps entirely because of their own sloganeering?)

I remember my friend at College about half-a-decade-ago telling me that Manowar were officially recognized as the Loudest Band In The World, and that once their stage-show caused an electrical surge that shut off all power to the Eastern Seaboard. Dunno if its true, but if it is, it’s a neat fact to have if you are a Heavy Metal band.

The album title intrigues me; Kings Of Metal. Manowar get called “Kings Of Metal” a lot in reviews and articles and I’ve always wondered if it was self-appointed [Side note: Didn’t Pantera call themselves “Kings Of Metal” too by the way, or at least something very similar?] or if it was one of those things like Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods” situation where they had a song about robots called “Metal Gods” (not even lyrically about the band or even Heavy Metal itself…just about robots) but people decided to call the band Metal Gods as a term of endearment anyway. Or maybe its just genuinely made up and applied to them like Black Sabbath getting called Godfathers Of Heavy Metal all the time by the press.

Basically, did they write this title because they were being called Kings Of Metal, or did they get called that due to this album title?

….Well that’s the band. What about the album?

Looking now at the album’s artwork, I almost feel like I need to go to the gym. I’ve just finished an hour of weightlifting at the time of writing by the way, but suddenly I almost feel the urge to lift again. Geez, these guys’d give you a complex with album art like that!

Anyway; I was looking into the band when I was making my List of albums that help you to understand Metal. I think there is a sort of lack of consensus about which of their records are good or not. Then there’s this sort of old Manowar vs. Mid-Manowar vs. Everyone hating new Manowar debate which is kind of like Judas Priest’s fan’s reaction to their discography. Some people love the Screaming/Defenders sound but some people only want Sad Wings/Stained Class sounds. Not so many love the Ripper Owens era.

I’ve read dozens and dozens of times that Kings Of Metal is Manowar’s “best,” “most influential,” “highest selling,” “most-beloved” and that sort of thing, album. I’ve also read that those descriptions belong to Hail To England instead, and that Kings Of Metal is part of the decline from their glory days to their career nadir in the late ‘90s. I’ve even read some people call it a sell-out, but some people call Emperor sell-outs for recording a demo and therefor diluting their credibility as a garage-only band… I don’t have much time for people calling albums sell-outs unless its drastic and obvious.

I guess it might be like Kiss’ Destroyer, some people count the classic bit as the first 3 Kiss albums, some the first 6, some more than that. I guess I might like analogies a bit too much.

What else? Well; Its also one of those “end of an era” type records since it was the final album from the “classic line-up” featuring Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss.” After this, the two would be replaced by a drummer called Rhino and a guitarist called Giraffe David Shankle. I have to be honest, right at this moment I don’t know any of those musicians and don’t have any opinion on who is better. I guess I’ll find out.

[Play]

First up, the album opens with “Wheels Of Fire” which is apparently a concert favourite. Its pretty up-tempo and thrashy, and kind of reminds me of Alice-era Annihilator a little bit. It starts off with some samples of a motorbike starting up and driving around, then wham, blistering Thrashy Metal. There’s high pitched screams and low growls, and vocals trading between speakers. Then the chorus comes in and hell-yeah we’re in Power Metal town, gloriously big and bombastic. Power Metal choruses are the definition of Bombastic. Its like a giant tom fill with squealing Queen-reminiscent guitar and a vocal perfect for singing along to.

A guitar solo follows… a pretty excellent guitar solo. Well, I guess Ross The Boss is pretty important then. Oh yes, the chorus comes back…that is a good, good, good chorus. I’m loving this mixture between furious Alice In Hell aggression and over-the-top Land Of The Free grandiosity.

The thing I notice is that singer Eric Adams sounds quite like Kiss’ Paul Stanely at times. I wonder if that is because of where they come from. Also a bit like early Anthrax’s Neil Turban. Then again, he also reminds me of Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow.

Speaking of Iced Earth, I’ve never really noticed this before, but there is a missing link between Judas Priest and Iced Earth. That Missing Link is Manowar. Maybe its Jag Panzer too, but one thing at a time people, I haven’t got all day. Its funny, but I didn’t think their singer was even called Eric Adams until today, I thought he was called Joey DiMiao. When people said or wrote “Joey DiMiao” I always assumed it was the band’s singer, not bassist… oh well, I know now, ey? – I’ve never heard of Eric Adams before… seems odd really given how important Manowar are in Europe. Well, in Metal really. I mean I heard of Geoff Tate and John Arch and Rob Halford for years and years. There’s lots and lots of singers in my mind as definitive traditional singers… strange that Adams is not one of them, especially considering how powerful and talented he is. Its not as if he is dull and un-noteworthy or something.

Next up is the album’s title track, “Kings Of Metal.” It boasts boastful lyrics about Manowar themselves and how they come to town and kill, rather than play like a normal band, and how their audience are definitely not posers. This is a completely different style of music to the previous track. Its more like a very aggressive Kiss song than any Thrash or Power Metal band. It wouldn’t be too out of place on Shout At The Devil actually, in that Kiss-but-heavier spirit.

No denying it, this is catchy. I’m loving it. Its sort of embarrassing in a way, but heck, I do believe “Manowar Kill!” and are going to kick my ass, such is the convincing power of the song due its massive, massive fun-factor.

The solo starts off with a Saved By The Bell ‘50s Rock n Roll vibe, then shreds afterwards.

“Heart Of Steel” follows that big smile-fest, and is once again a different style. Its a ballad. The vocals kind of remind me of Greg Lake on Court Of The Crimson King’s title track and “Epitaph.” Ok, its not a ballad as in love lyrics and soft brush drums. The first two minutes are basically a string section and tasteful piano with manly vocals. Then the band kick in to a very heavy drum beat and ringing big guitars. It’s a powerful power ballad. More Powerful than Helloween or Gamma Ray’s ballads. More powerful than Stratovarius’ ones too. Heavier than Hammerfall’s. Better than all of Dragonforce’s. There’s also a gorgeous yet brief guitar solo that really feels like Slash. This is a genuinely good ballad. One I’d keep on my phone even with space limitations to consider!

“Sting Of The Bumblebee” livens things up next. Its an explosive bass solo (with band backing) based on the classical piece “Flight Of The Bumblebee,” which I seem to recall having to learn about in GCSE music but have since forgotten all about, apart from recognizing that it is frantic and hurried sounding, like a Bumblebee. Its so furious and metallic and intensely performed that you don’t even really think of it as a bass solo anymore… just a neat, brief, instrumental Metal song. I wouldn’t leave this off my phone either. Its just Manowar’s equivalent of “Stratofortress.”

“The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)” opens up like it might be another ballad. Its got choirs and organs and orchestral percussion. It sounds like a Viking ascending into heaven. Eric’s vocals are very strong. This guy seems pretty underrated. Amazing vocal talent. Maybe its just his actual voice causing people to forget to talk about him, because the talent applied to that voice is unquestionable.

This track has no drums or guitars, it feels sort of like it should either be the first or final track on an album, and not so soon after a ballad. Strange move, momentum-wise in my opinion. That said, this is very strong. This is what I think Hammerfall should write instead of the ballads that they do write. Its bigger and grander than just a ballad. I guess its what you would call “epic” before the word got diluted so much recently (although; in Metal, “epic” things usually also have to be at least 10-minutes long for most reviewers to classify them as such. I guess that’s “an epic” as opposed to a song that is epic though).

After all that questionable epicness; “Kingdom Come” starts off with a chugging riff that sounds like it might be quite commercial, but could go either way, either into a quick-paced Metal track like the first one on the album, or into an MTV ready hit like Priest’s “Living After Midnight.” Then it reveals itself. It kind of reminds me, strangely, of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason-era Pink Floyd…but in no way I can articulate. I guess maybe there’s just a touch of “Learning To Fly” to the pace and drum sound? Either way; this isn’t a thrashy blaster of a song. Its like a way-slower “Metal Gods” (Ironically, given my Metal Gods/Kings Of Metal question) drum beat, with a ballad hidden over the top, these shuffly drums transforming it out of a ballad, and an into MTV ‘80s Rock song, but the enthusiastic and ultra powerful vocals making it metallic enough to fit on the record.

“Pleasure Slave” comes next, and is in slightly the same mould as the previous track during the verses, but with heavier guitars and indeed a nice Iommi-style riff in the chorus. Its not speedy thrashy Metal. Its enthusiastic ‘80s Rock…with a nice doomy riff in the chorus. It sort of reminds me of Kiss’ “God Of Thunder” in its slow power.

Aside from the music, the most notable thing about this track is the over the top sexism… I mean it is arguably even more objectifying than what most Hair Metal bands wrote about. There’s a big difference between Poison’s lyric “I got a girl to the left of me and a girl to the right, I know damn well I slept with both last night” and Manowar’s lyric “Woman be my slave, chained onto my bed… your body belongs to me… the greatest gift I could ever give.”

I kind of wonder if they are being ironic, perhaps a touch of Steel Panther here? I mean, I always read the sentence that Manowar’s fans take them with a pinch of salt but the band themselves are serious about it. Or maybe I’m looking at it wrong and its not even sexism, but just about BDSM. Maybe they are just writing about BDSM from a reporting perspective, in the same way that Slayer wrote about Nazis without being Nazis. I’d like to hope they aren’t ridiculous sexists at any rate… in the same way I hope Carpathian Forest aren’t really as Right Wing as they say they are. Hopefully its all just good fun. (Just playing-up to expectations etc.)

“Hail And Kill” follows that, opening promisingly with a powerful ringing guitar chord and some aggressive-yet-melodic dual guitar in the spirit of Painkiller-era-Priest. Yay! The album had slowed down quite a bit…hopefully this is a fast one.

Hmm…nope, it broke down to some nice acoustic arpeggios and more of that Greg Lake-but-louder stuff vocally; and then… Yay, it explodes into lovely 80s Speed Metal sounds!

Oh, nice Maideny guitar bit. Catchy sing-along-gang chant of the song’s title. This is right up my street. Exactly what I’m in the mood for. I love this chorus!

Nice guitar solos, quite flashy. You can really feel the instrument being played, you can visualize the bends really easily. Excellent production now that I think about it. Yes. This song is the bee’s knees.

That long “Yeeeeeeah” scream where all other music cuts out… that is something I always love in music. Also, impressive! “Nice pipes” as they say in our musical world.

Then comes “The Warrior’s Prayer” which in all honesty is kind of ridiculous. Its essentially a spoken word intro, which you hear on lots of Metal tracks in lots of various different styles. Sometimes they appear in the middle of tracks or have music underneath them. Yes’ “Circus Of Heaven” has one with a little kid talking about a circus with no animals etc. It is too long, and it is already in the middle of a song and has music underneath but still a lot of fans find it unbearable. This track doesn’t have much in the way of music, and lasts for an entire FOUR MINUTES. Four minutes of just talking in a slightly silly old-man-telling-a-kid-a-story voice. Not fourty seconds, which is already a bit too far. Four ENTIRE minutes! – I’m not that keen on it, can you tell? We’re talking about the guy who deleted the intro to Exodus’ “Deranged” because it wasn’t worth my time. Oh well, at least they were kind enough to have it as a separate track, so I can skip it from now on. [I’m sure as fuck leaving this one off my phone considering there’s space limitations.]

Finally we end things here with the seven-and-a-half-minute album closer “Blood Of The Kings.” This song is explosive, powerful and excited. The vocals are so over-the-top, the main riff is incredible fun and the verses are like a supercharged “Diamonds & Rust.” This song just sounds absolutely massive. Its real Thor-on-a-mountaintop stuff.

The guitar solo is pretty impressive. Accept/Deep Purple/Yngwie style neo-classical stuff in there, filled out by muscular shred. The song also continuously does the thing I love where the vocals continue when the rest of the song stops.
At the five-minute point they also go into an almost-pisstaking Prog style bit-by-bit ending. (You know, like when they tease ending over and over and over, sometimes note-by-note, slowly decreasing speed and volume in their actual playing rather than with the mixer). Then after doing that for a very long time, the main riff comes back as if the song is going to erupt again…but then that fades out with the mixer. Hmmm. Definitely feels a bit pisstaky. In a good way.

So, there we have it. My first exposure to the field of true Metal, my introduction to the kings of said True Metal, and the righting of my wrong (“if you don’t own this album, you aren’t a Metal fan” etc.) in ignoring the band for this long. I don’t know if its as instant a KCP classic as Land Of The Free or Keeper Of The Seven Keys but it was certainly far from a waste of time. I think it’s a sort of uneven album… three rock songs, two ballads (or there-abouts), three Power/Speed Metal songs, a bass solo, and a really overlong intro/skit/spoken word boredom-fest.

I wonder if it may be better without the spoken word bit (or at least at a severely, severely reduced length), with more space between the two ballads (perhaps the “epic” one as the final track and the “normal power ballad” as the exact middle of the album). Oh yeah…and don’t listen to “Pleasure Slave” when there’s any women in the room. [Fuck it; actually…do listen to it when there’s women in the room, but lie and say the song is called “50 Shades Of Grey” and then they’ll lap that track up!]

Still, even if it is oddly disjointed and has a weird momentum, and lacking that maybe-one-more-fast-song that would make it work, this is a pretty neat album and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a lot in the coming months. The highlights (the three fast songs, the fun-as-hell title track and the Viking funeral) will certainly get a real pounding and make it into my regular-listening for a long time to come.

Ok. That was my first experience with the band and the album.
Any thoughts, opinions, corrections or recommendations guys?