Posts Tagged ‘Live’

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

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

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

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

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From Sorrow To Serenity – The Truth Is Absolution!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your cries are all in vain!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night.

I went to go see Tesseract tonight (Friday 5th February, 2016) at Manchester Academy 2, with Nordic Giants and The Contortionist as support. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Tesseract (I’ve previously with Karnivool, Protest The Hero and Animals As Leaders, twice at this same venue and once at Sound Control – another venue also in Manchester) and the second time I’ve seen The Contortionist (seen ‘em with Riverside in Club Academy).

I got there a little late, but that meant the merch table was clear and saved me time after the gig, so it actually worked out alright, I got there as Nordic Giants had just finished their first song. I’ve never seen or heard of them before, so was surrised to see two multi-instrumentalists separated by not one but two projector screens centre stage, dressed up as Eskimos or Native Americans or, presumably, Nordic Giants. They moved rhythmically in time with the music and did big Tommy Lee drum gestures, and had violin bows to use on guitars, and played weird arty movies, with things like Game Of Thrones one minute, then parasites evolving the next, then people’s faces melting into sand and then an animated movie with lots of Pink Floyd and Sonic/Mario videogame references. Pretty interesting. The music was, I don’t know, some kind of Post-Rock, Explosions In The Sky meets Sixty Five Days Of Static type stuff (I’m not well informed on this sort of music… I know some music more than others. I could tell you if they sounded like Tygers Of Pan Tang though… they don’t.)
It was very intriguing and I’d happily see them again, or use their music to score an emotional scene in a sports movie if I ended up in the unlikely position to do so.

Next up comes The Contortionist. Their first song was a badass, Rishloo-esque beautiful prog sparkler. The majority of their set was Djent on the very mathy side, very complex and a bit hard to follow, with some really aggressive parts, but mostly quite beautiful. Their singer is still really cool and their main guitarist still looks about 13 years old, but is like a junior Robert Fripp in talent.

It was a good gig, and saw a very quite violent pit from some very odd, angry looking apes who seemed to think they were at a Throwdown or Hatebreed gig, but whatever. I don’t really love their songs because the math thing is a little too far… and the heavy thing is a bit too abrasive, but I’d happily see them again supporting someone else.

Then came Tesseract. It was the first time I’ve seen them since the new album came out. I’ve said it before, but Altered State, their sophomore, was a true stone cold masterpiece, and arguably the milestone against all other new music will henceforth be judged for me. When Ashe O Harra left I was worried and even though Dan is great I’d rather he stay in Skyharbour and I have the best of both worlds. All other times I saw the band, they were touring Altered State effectively, but this time they had Polaris songs to fit into the set.

Fit ‘em they did. In fact, not only did they fit ‘em, but they were the highlight of the night. “Hexes,” “Survival” and “Dystopia” were three of the best performances I’ve seen out of a band in years. The crowd went flippin wild for “Survival” too, which I didn’t realize was such a big deal because I’m semi out of the loop with other music fans at the minute.
They did play the first four songs off of Altered State too, so I’m damn happy, and this time none crowd surfed over my head during “Resist.”
The sound was very clear, the setlist was nice and balanced from all three albums, the light show was more advanced with colorful lazers and the audience didn’t get up in my business. A very good night for this fan. I didn’t even get into my usual ‘beer, littering, photos and crowdsurfing should be banned’ mood because their weren’t any Slayer fans spoiling for a fight or shirtless English versions of Frat Boys in an out of place party mood. Good stuff.

Oddly; when the band left the stage, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic movie played and most of the audience stayed and sang all the words for good minute or two before admitting defeat at the lack on formal encore. An unusual end to a gig, and surprising how many people knew all the lyrics, but whatever… I’m not the music police. I like music my favourite critics and “opinion-makers” think is awful all the time.
Did I mention the new material was good? Its really good. It worked really well live. I’m very excited to see the band again, when they start dropping even more new stuff into the set, Here’S hoping for ‘Seven Names.’

I went to go see the  Scottish Indie rock band The Fratellis last night at Manchester Academy 2, on Monday 16th November 2015. It’s the second time I’ve caught the band live, a band I’ve been a fan of for almost a decade now. Some people sometimes seem to think of them as a one hit wonder since ‘Chelsea Dagger’ is so disproportionately more famous than any of their other singles (man, ‘Misteress Mable’ isn’t in adverts for beer or cars every year, is it?) but these hard working, consistent and very talented guys are far from one hit wonders, and each and every one of their albums has had a good chance of being my album of the year for that year.

I went to see them with my girlfriend, they’re one of the bands that we both enjoy, and had a lot better time than the last time I saw them because I didn’t have some weird 11 year old girl making fun of me for not looking happy enough this time, this time I looked very happy. We did have hooligans bouncing around drunkenly, almost squishing my girlfriend (it was one of the more violent shows I’ve been to with a non-Metal band) and causing me to buckle down and get the elbows out entering human shield mode (hey, good job I’m tall and into lifting) every time they played something off of their debut album Costello Music that caused the crowd to get overly active. It was quite a workout stopping and reversing the human tide over and over again, but very satisfying in a certain caveman-mind me-tarzan way.

The support band was The Crookes who were a similar sort of band, and very passionate and talented and seemed very good. There were two or three songs that got me thinking maybe I’ll check out their albums. I’d recommend them if you like this sort of music.

When The Fratellis hit the stage it was joyous, very fun indeed. They did a pretty representative set with a good mixture from all albums, not overlooking anything and giving particular focus to their debut which is reaching nostalgia age and their new album which they’re clearly proud of and into and it really shows. It was nice to see songs like ‘A Heady Tale’ and ‘Until She Saves My Soul’ from the middle two albums (my favourite two, personally) balanced against the obvious choices like ‘Henrietta’ and current single ‘Imposters (Little By Little).’

What I love about this band, and why I can listen to them when most indie bands don’t do much for me, is because they are such true musicians and so clearly love what they do and are grateful for any success. Its cool how much they’re doing it for themselves to… improvised guitar solos recalling Hendrix and Gilmour that have nothing to do with the albums just because it felt fun to play right now, changing up massive much loved songs like ‘Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’ and more recent material like ‘We Need Medicine’ into a country music vein just because it would be fun… and when they play ‘Doginabag’ they played it with a swerve big stoner rock vibe you’d expect from Down or C.O.C, because clearly they’re just so into it. Surprise stand-out moment for me was a track from the new album, called ‘Me And The Devil’ which they just stormed out with this massive power you wouldn’t expect, huuuuuuge drums that sincerely recalled Bonham, with the lighting and the dynamics in volume and the energy in the room it was genuinely one of the best moments I’ve ever witnessed from a live band, and it wasn’t even one of my favourite songs from the new album before this. It was so stupidly good live… I can’t even explain how massive it was. The drummer, Mince Fratellis, hits so hard, so confidently and with such enthusiasm (well, what do you expect from a guy with massive Slayer and Metallica tattoos on each arm) that he really transcends the sort of radio indie thing… the guys a real artist. It’s a shame that the albums don’t convey the sheer umph (if they did though, the ‘normal people’ wouldn’t buy them though) because I’d love to drop some links to demonstrate what I mean… but you know that feeling when you see someone playing at the very edge of their limits and then just throwing in extra fills or cymbals and actually going past their own limits and it just creates a drive and power that is magical and better than precision… the power of hardcore punk without the sloppiness. Oh, its hard to describe… but I was transfixed. The effortlessly cool Jon and Barry are two of the most captivating guys in this genre, and I still barely looked at them all night… a touch of the Garry Powel or Matt Helders effect going on there… all eyes on the dynamo behind the kit! I don’t care what NME magazine might say.

Yes, a very good night, its brilliant when you can come home from seeing hit after hit after hit and still go, “hold on, they didn’t’ even play ‘Creepin Up The Back Stairs’ or ‘Mistress Mable’ or whatever other famous single” and leave completely and utterly satisfied. Deep cuts, new stuff, re-arranged classics,  tons of hits, and after ‘Chelsea Dagger’ had finished they didn’t even leave, but stayed to drop a surprise extra Dion cover… because I guess they’re musicians who like music and it just felt fun to them to do so…

What a band. I wish their audience was less of the hooligans and normals, but then I get squashed at Machine Head and Lamb Of God shows too, so I can’t blame it all on them being indie. Anyway, if you don’t know this band check em out (my favourite songs are ‘This Old Ghost Town’ and ‘My Friend John’ so I’d recommend those as your first entry point) and if you do like them, catch them live because they absolutely smash it!

I went to go see Corrosion Of Conformity (with Pepper Keenan back in the band) live at Manchester Academy 2, tonight on Saturday the 7th of March 2015.
It was a sold out show, although when I arrived the queue was literally one person long, with me being the second person. More people arrived and went into the bar, but still, it was so calm and quiet. This lead to early t-shirt purchasing action with no problem getting a front row spot for the show. Everyone must’ve stayed in the bar or showed up late.

There was one support band, that being British Stoner/Doom artists, Hang The Bastard. They’re a band I’d heard mentioned all the time online and in podcasts but who I’d never heard for myself yet. Their music was fat, groovy stoner with abrasive harsh vocals. As the show went on the bassist added nice nasty Scott Kelly style growls, and the music got a bit of a Kyuss melody vibe at one point to balance out all the Doom. It was a pretty perfect booking to support COC. I wish I’d heard them when I was really really into my first wave Stoner phase, because they play exactly the type of music I like, but as with Orange Goblin supporting Down, or My Sleeping Karma supporting Monster Magnet, I was just there for the headliners and the support was cool for the night, but not enough to make me go out and get into them.

When it was time for COC to take the stage, the speakers played Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” to reinforce the whole Deliverence-Revival theme. It was a nice touch.

COC were on fire, warmly received by the now full room. They blasted out favourites from Wiseblood and Deliverence mainly, with a few surprises, such as ‘Stonebreaker’ and ’13 Angels.’ It was a pretty perfect setlist, although personal preference wise, as with any concert, you’ll miss some of your favourite songs. I could’ve used some ‘Dance Of The Dead,’ ‘The Door,’ ‘Fuel,,’ ‘Zippo,’ ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ or even a cheeky ‘Psychic Vampire’ or ‘Tarqunius Superbus’ from the trio-lineup as a neat extra, but that’s just personal. Objectively, it was amazing. You got big sludgy gems like ‘Broken Man,’ fast headbangers like ‘My Grain,’ the catchy stuff like ‘King Of The Rotten’ and ‘Long Whip/Big America’ and all topped off with the essential concert favourites ‘Albatross,’ ‘Clean My Wounds’ (which was extended and jammed out a bit) and an absolutely off-the-charts good rendition of ‘Vote With A Bullet’ that put the biggest smile of the month on my face.

The band seemed to be having fun, and were powerful and tight but still had that jam-feel without actually being disheveled and unorganized. At one point they forgot the setlist and had to consult the paperwork to figure out why they were so ahead of time, nicely dropping into a stunning rendition of ‘Goodbye Windows’ afterwards.

There were a heck of a lot of crowd-surfers, which usually I dislike, but I was in a sweetspot that they all missed so I watched all night, front row, but completely undisturbed. Nice one! –Some poor tall guy got kicked in the head multiple times by the same selfish crowd surfer on multiple trips. Glad for my lucky spot! That would’ve spoiled my night if it kept happening to me.

I’m feeling a bit deaf now, with some serious ear-ringing (only wore earplugs until COC came onstage) but I have some damn good memories of seeing Woody and Pepper rile up the crowd, Mike Dean full of enthusiasm and talent; and Reed’s superb, eye-catching hard hitting. It was a great concert that I’m very grateful to have seen, I had a great night, and it’ll stay in my memory for a long time. The band were really good. Did I mention that?

I hope they keep going in this line-up and release a new album. If their performance of ‘Paranoid Opiod’ or ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing’ was anything to go by, they are absolutely unstoppable!

(Also, I hope they stick more ‘Volume Dealer material in the setlist (no ‘Diablo BLVD’? Awww…..) but that’s just personal preference again)

Bottom line, COC have got Pepper again, and you should definitely go see them, because time has done nothing to reduce the brilliance. They are on their game big time!

Machine Head - Bloodstone & Diamonds

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

In 2014, Nuclear Blast records released the eight full-length studio album by the now-legendary Bay Area based Heavy Metal band Machine Head, entitled Bloodstone & Diamonds.

It was their first without longtime bassist Adam Duce (a huge part of the band’s sound) and the first with new bassist Jared MacEachern. This line-up shift leaves frontman Robb Flynn as the sole original member. Luckily long-time drummer Dave McClain is still on board as he has been for everything except the debut, and Phil Demmel is still there as he has been for the last three exceptionally good albums, leaving a feeling of consistency and cushioning the blow of such a big loss.

Produced by bandleader Robb Flynn & Juan Urteaga, mixed by Colin Richardson (with additional work from Andy Sneap and Steve Lagudi); sonically, this is an exemplary record. The instruments are crystal clear, the mix is crushing and well balanced, and this only serves to highlight the superb, passionate performances and some of the best vocals in the band’s history. Its a real treat for the ears, as violins swirl warmly around and the gorgeously-recorded drum kit hammers proudly across the spectrum.

When I first got into the band, public opinion had turned on them, every magazine and website claimed they were on the way out, people spoke of them either with contempt or with rose tinted nostalgia and an “only Burn My Eyes was any good” historic revisionism. It nice to see how much the band’s star is on the rise now. Every album keeps getting better. They keep getting the recognition they deserve from critics. Live shows are full of adoring fans. This even ended up being, to date, the band’s highest charting record ever.

It deserves it. This is one stone-cold gem of an album. Almost flawless. There’s no filler, no weak songs, nothing out-of-place. The choruses are memorable. The solos are scorching. The fills are impressive and satisfying. The album is chocked full of riffs that sound like all eras of the band’s history and still move things forward to the future. There’s a bouncy scrappy Hardcore-influenced sound to “Game Over,” a haunting epic feeling to “Sail Into The Black,” a melancholy melodic feel to “Damage Inside” a big dirty sludgy sound to “Beneath The Silt” and more rampant Blackening-esque Thrashy aggression to the likes of “Killers & Kings” and “Eyes Of The Dead.” The titanic 71-minute record is full to the brim with all different sorts of ideas and directions but still feels like one cohesive whole.

The quality of the songwriting tips everything over the edge. Its not just immaculately produced, furiously performed and stylistically satisfying… but its also just plain brilliant in and of itself. It stands up remarkably well to repeat listens. All the little clever structuring decisions, neat flourishes and all the orchestral extras reveal themselves more and more with repeat listens. There’s an immense depth to this one. I’ve seen over half of it live in concert and it absolutely crushed and felt “right” beside stuff from all positions in the band’s discography. It felt incredible even without the lush production and the extra orchestral instruments. These are just brilliant songs, plain and simple.

It must have been difficult to live up to the impossibly high standards the band have been setting themselves for the last twelve-or-so years, but somehow Machine Head managed it, once again. This is an incredible record that will stand up well against any Machine Head record you care to name. Get yourself a copy if you haven’t already!