Tag Archives: Musical ensemble

Lacuna Coil – Delirium

Century Media

By Suzi ‘Elfie’ H

amazon_badgeAlright then Lacuna Coil. Everyone remember when they broke my heart by producing an album of such utter bilge that I literally cried?  It wasn’t as bad as that godawful Linkin Park album, but it was a close run thing.

Basically in my mind, Lacuna Coil haven’t released an album since Dark Adrenaline I refuse to accept any other idea about their discography.  They released Dark Adrenaline and then they went and took a nice long holiday to think about their art.  Then they released Delirium.

As you might imagine, I was *quite* anxious about Delirium.  It took bribery and threats a small about of persuasion from our illustrious Editor to get me to listen to it.  And then of course the question was – is it any good?

Before the waffle, let’s do the technicalities; Delirium  is the seventh  eighth studio album from the Italian maestros of Gothic Metal.  It’s their first self produced album.  Marco Coti Zelato, the bassist took over producer duties.  It’s their first concept album, and is widely touted as being their heaviest album to date.  Due to line up changes, Cristiano ‘Criz’ Mozzati and Cristiano “Pizza” Migliori  don’t feature on the album and don’t appear to have been a part of the album’s inception.  There are 14 tracks, all written along a theme of mental illness, and the running time is 57:20.

First up is House of Shame which opens with a deceptively calm choral overture and then, WHAM!! Andrea Ferro starts growling and then invites you to burn him and oh my god, Lacuna Coil have released a track which is like being punched in the face by an angry werewolf!  Until Cristina does that vocal wafting in thing that she does and all of a sudden the darkness lifts and you’re listening to a track that is almost transcendental in it’s beauty and melodic perfection.  It’s a pretty damn good start, and that’s putting it mildly.

Next up is Broken Things which again is opened by Andrea and look – it is not often that I am gobsmacked, but this track leaves me gobsmacked.  Mostly because when it starts playing, I cannot do anything sensible because the ethereal force of Headbanging takes over and that’s it for the 3:59 run time of glorious, absinthe-flavoured Gothic Metal Loveliness.

From there we segue into the title track Delirium opened by the wonderful Cristina.  There are not enough good things for me to say about this track.  It’s everything I want in a Lacuna Coil album wrapped up with a ribbon and with glittery sprinkles on top.

Moving swiftly on, we hit Blood Tears and Dust which has got a bit more zing to it than previous tracks, but still keeps up the hard and heavy pace that has been set.  At this point, it’s fair to say that Ferro and Scabbia are doing the best harmonic vocal work they have ever done.  Given they’re one of the best duo vocalists out there, that’s saying something.

(Side note- due to the departure of Pizza, the band had to use guest guitarists Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)  features for the guitar solo on Downfall, with Marco Barusso ( Heavy Metal Kids) featuring for the solo on House of Shame and Alessandro La Porta (Forgotten Tears, Arms Like Anchors) featuring for the solo on Claustrophobia)

After Blood, Tears and Dust, we have Downfall with the glorious Myles Kennedy guitar solo.  Which by itself is a thing of beauty.  When you combine it into the general Lacuna Coil sound of the album, it becomes iridescent.

At this point we’re a little under halfway through the album and I’m sure you’re wondering when I’m going to stop with the effusive praise and start criticising the album.  The problem is, I can’t. Certainly not at this point.  5 tracks in, and this is rapidly looking like an Album of The Year.  And that feeling doesn’t dissipate with the eerie and frankly, fucked up, intro to Take Me Home.  It’s creepy, and reminiscent of Lordi and Rob Zombie and then WHAM in come Andrea and Cristina and it’s a new, somewhat twisted, version of Lacuna Coil.

I had to take a break at this point in the review because I keep drifting away listening to the music.  So by the time I looked up again I’d got through You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You (we’ve all had that relationship at some point.  If you haven’t yet, don’t worry, it will come), Ghost In The Mist (a gloriously angry song, complete with thudding drum lines, and Scabbia  providing a melody that just gets you right in the gut).  I came back to myself somewhere around the middle of My Demons and only then because I had to go break up a fight between a teenager and a six year old (us journos have well glamorous lives).

I should probably mention that lyrically this album is incomparable:

And I don’t know what to say
I’m thinking about you
It’s hurting without you
I never learn from my mistakes
I’m thinking about you
I’m choking without you
And I don’t know what to say

And that’s one track (My Demons).  The entire album is full of gorgeous refrains and suckerpunch lyrics.  This is a true masterpiece, and really does deserve the title of Concept Album.

Claustrophobia continues the standard of excellence laid out by the previous 9 tracks.  It also has Alessandro La Porta‘s guitar solo in it, which, I’m not ashamed to say, brought a tear to my eye.  I’m a sucker for a good guitar solo I really am.  From Claustrophobia we swing into Ultima Ratio which is 4 minutes of headbanging glory, and then  Live To Tell  which begins rather creepily with some form of synthed intro keeps up the pace.

With two tracks left of the album you’d almost be expecting Lacuna Coil to drop the pace or at least shift down a gear or two.  Oh no, my friends, that’s not what you get.  Instead you get Breakdown which still contains the swooping melodies that Ms  Scabbia has made a name for herself with, juxtaposed against the angry growling of Andrea Ferro.

The grand finale is Bleed the Pain.  And it’s perfect.  I’m not even exaggerating.  It is SHEER PERFECTION.  When it finishes, ending the album, you’re left with a sense of loss, and the sense that you just witnessed something truly magnificent manifest itself.

This album isn’t a sprint.  This is an album you can listen to on repeat for weeks.  Which is what I did after the first listen through.  At no point is there a track that you want to skip through, or a point where you want to switch off.  This is a MASTERPIECE.  I even tried listening to the Lacuna Coil back catalogue to see if I was just being hyperbolic, but I’m not.  Delirium is not only the best Lacuna Coil album produced so far, it demonstrates a growth and maturity, a serious undertone that has been lacking in their other albums. Furthermore, 8 months into the year, I’ve found my Album of The Year.  It’s this one.

I’ll forgive Lacuna Coil for the almighty clusterfuck that was Broken Crown Halo because their follow up in Delirium is so good.  It not only confirms their place as leaders in the Gothic Metal genre, it cements their place as a truly iconic band.

Verdict: 10/10

Graspop Metal Meeting Day 1 – Friday 17th June 2016

This year for my annual dose of Metal festival awesomeness I headed to that most Metal of countries, Belgium, for a festival called the most metal of names, Graspop.  It was a festival which had come highly recommended from those I knew who had been before, and despite the long day I had getting there, the layout and organisation (and actually clean toilets) of the festival alone suggested that these recommendations were not without foundation.  And that’s without even mentioning the line-up!

Gus G giving it plenty
Gus G giving it plenty

So despite the lack of sleep and high levels of stress from the day before, I was up bright and early on Friday morning to head down to the Main Stages for the festival openers Firewind.  Friday opening slot is one which I doubt a lot of bands look upon favourably, but Firewind rose admirably to the task of waking up a very sleepy and mostly hungover Graspop.  Gus G and co were able to up the energy and deliver a dynamic performance which was clearly able to convert even those who turned up not really caring about them.  It wasn’t just the dynamism which deserves praise, but the musicianship too.  Most Metalheads don’t need convincing about lead guitarist Gus G’s prowess, but the rest of the band were clearly able to hold their own too and in Henning Basse, they have a frontman who can hold the audience’s attention when he has to, but also is humble enough not to upstage his band-mates when they’re showing off. 7/10

Southern Rock from... Canada?!
Southern Rock from… Canada?!

Up next were Canadian Southern Rock outfit Monster Truck. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about them (save for the fact that they’re clearly Southern Rock because they’re called Monster Truck), but they certainly did a good job of winning me over.  They encapsulated everything good about the genre with catchy riffs, big choruses and a powerful rhythm section which lent itself perfectly to a festival setting and they were able to get us involved singing along to the easier parts of their songs.  The only slight trouble with them was that when these choral parts weren’t present, they didn’t offer anything original enough to prevent people’s attentions from wandering.  Still, as a relatively unheard of act, they certainly exceeded my expectations. 7/10

Graspop 2016 Soilwork
Soilwork

Melodic Death Metal veterans Soilwork provided the next instalment and continued on the already high standard which had been set for the start of the day. The six members made full use of the stage and got the first pits of the day started in no time. Somehow Soilwork were another band missing off of my radar before going to Graspop, which is a shame because they’re the sort of band whose songs do all sound very similar if you’re not familiar with them, which probably prevented me from enjoying them as much as I potentially could have done. Soilwork’s nine song set-list did lose novelty quickly, but thankfully the band were more than able to compensate through their terrific sound. They definitely cemented themselves in the “go away, listen to them properly and go see them again” category. 7/10

Graspop 2016 Winery Dogs
Winery Dogs’ Billy Sheehan to Ritchie Kotzen: “See? Told you this thing only had four strings!”

The first band of the day I actually knew well, were sadly the first disappointment.  As a lover of all things arsey and technical, I made sure I got myself a very good spot for The Winery Dogs; but sadly they weren’t really worth the effort. It wasn’t really their fault though, to be fair. The supergroup trio of Ritchie Kotzen, Billy Shehan and Mike Portnoy were as ridiculous with their respective instruments as ever, but the sound configuration killed their set. The vocals of all three members were inexplicably inaudible throughout and even more inexplicable was that no-one managed to fix it in the 40 minutes they were on-stage. This wasn’t helped by the fact that most people were probably only there because they’d heard of the band members and didn’t actually know any of their songs, so the crowd had absolutely no hope of saving the set either. The fact that their songs involve such a high ratio of instrumental parts helped, but still it was a real shame that The Winery Dogs were held back by something so utterly avoidable. 5/10

Graspop 2016 Sixx AM
Sixx AM – Nikki Sixx: “Blimey Mick!  You’ve perked up a bit!”

I decided to watch Sixx:AM from the other side of the central barrier, and I’m glad I did because they weren’t a huge amount better either.  Nikki Sixx, the former Mötley Crüe bassplayer’s side-project-turned-main-project didn’t even have technical problems as an excuse though, which was the troubling thing.  As a live act there isn’t actually an awful lot wrong with Sixx:AM. in fairness.  They’ve got decent experienced musicians and a frontman who clearly knows what he’s doing, plus all the ridiculous wardrobe and make-up that you would expect from someone who found fame in the 80’s and wasn’t in a Thrash band.  The problem is, their songs just aren’t very good.  It’s almost as if a really famous band decided to cover songs from bands who never made it and it shows in a festival setting especially when half the crowd need to be won over and just aren’t.  It really is a shame because again, it really was only the one thing but it massively held them back. 6/10

Graspop 2016 Bad Religion
Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin: “Did anyone else feel that? Is it just me or is it starting to rain?”

Not changing stages meant that I had a prime spot for a band I’ve been wanting to see for years.  Bad Religion were a big factor in choosing Graspop over other festivals, as I never got the chance to see them during my angry students days so I thought I really had better make sure I see them before my equally angry graduate days are done. “We are the least theatrical band here”, announced lead singer Greg Graffin to the crowd.  I was apprehensive at first as to how a punk band would be received at a very Metal-orientated festival; but the fact is Bad Religion really didn’t need to be at a festival catered for them, nor did they need to be theatrical.  They just needed to do what they’ve been doing for over 30 years and play good music very well, and it turns out it really doesn’t matter if you have a lead singer who looks like a middle-class dad filling in in his son’s band.  Bad Religion used their time well and powered through 21 songs in total drawing from all of their rich back catalogue, winning over the people I was worried would react badly to them.  If they can put in that kind of show with a largely indifferent crowd, I’d love to see what a show in front of die-hard fans would be like. 8/10

Heaven Shall Burn
Heaven Shall Burn: “So I says to our lass…”

Heaven Shall Burn were the unfortunate band I had to watch mostly from a distance because food is a necessary requirement for human beings to survive, and because I knew basically nothing about them before the festival.  They seemed to be pretty good at what they did however, being the first band to bring a real stage show to proceedings, which was good to watch if nothing else.  Sadly, they really do not suit long-distance viewing, as their intense style and reliance solely on guttural vocals meant that they very much struggled to get any of the crowd past the main bulk of fans into anything they were doing.  They were probably great if you were one of those who got close, but for me they ended up leaving me fairly cold.  Not only that, but I’d waited ages for my noodles and it turned out they weren’t even the ones I’d actually bloody ordered!  That’s not Heaven Shall Burn‘s fault of course….but I was still annoyed! 6/10

Graspop 2016 Foreigner
Foreigner – We’re 75 y’know!

I know it may come as a shock to some that Foreigner have actually a very good back catalogue, but having done my research into this band beforehand I was actually very much looking forward to the non-obvious parts of the set-list that were to come.  Unfortunately, this is where Foreigner proved to be a disappointment as their seven members did so much faffing about between songs and their lead singer liked the sound of his own voice way too much that they only managed to fit nine songs into an hour-long set.  That’s fine if you’re a Prog band, but not if you’re a Classic Rock band. The songs they played were done well, but I just wish they’d taken a more Bad Religion approach to things and gotten on with it.  It didn’t help that several members were clearly past their best as well, but that was more to be expected from a band who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. I just wish that somebody could have reminded them beforehand that this wasn’t actually their own gig! They even managed to have an encore, despite the fact that they weren’t even close to being the headliners. Bloody Foreigner6/10

Disturbed's David Draiman asks to go to the toilet
Disturbed’s David Draiman asks to go to the toilet

I certainly wish that the slightly longer set-list had been given to Disturbed, because quite frankly they were excellent and the one thing which unfortunately prevented them from being exceptional was the fact that they had to rush through things slightly and miss out a fair few killer songs.  It had been five whole years since I had seen one of my favourite Nu-Metal bands (yes, I like Nu-Metal, deal with it!) and I had forgotten just how many great songs they have and judging by the massive levels of participation from the crowd, I wasn’t the only one in that boat.  I was particularly pleased too, because the only time I had seen Disturbed before they were awful; so I was relieved to see that it was just a bad day at the office and they can deliver the kind of performance their songs deserve.  Although it took a little while to set-up which ate into their precious time, I was so glad they chose to do their version of The Sound of Silence because it was far and away the highlight of the day, sending shivers down my spine all the way through.  Getting Nikki Sixx on to do  Shout At The Devil was a less expected cover, but definitely one I’m glad I was there to witness as well.  Much as I love Disturbed though, I do wish they hadn’t played Down With The Sickness, because is there anyone in the Metal world who isn’t thoroughly sick of that song? 8/10

Megadeth's Megadave - "Mumble mumble"
Megadeth’s Megadave – “Mumble mumble”

My failure to get the Graspop crowd chanting “Megadave! Megadave!” as we were waiting for Megadeth‘s arrival was pretty disappointing, but this was nothing compared with the disappointment that Megadeth themselves actually were.  They blundered into their opener Hangar 18 which should have gotten the crowd going pretty much instantly but it was so badly done that it was actually pretty unrecognisable for much of the intro.  Really the only thing resembling a saving grace for Megadeth was that they played Megadeth songs which people like, but even this was ruined somewhat thanks to them playing four songs from their most recent album Dystopia; which I guess you can’t really blame them for, but in all honesty it isn’t a great album and it was clear that most of the audience didn’t know the songs.  Plus, there was no way the band’s performance was going to make up for this as none of them looked especially bothered by proceedings and Megadave himself was particularly poor, especially with his vocals which were just mumbled incoherently throughout.  It looks as though years of people telling him to keep his mouth shut have taken their toll and he’s become physically incapable of opening it so he can actually sing properly. 5/10

Graspop 2016 Zakk Wylde
Zakk Wylde wonders if he’s left the gas on

After spending all day at the main stages, I finally departed the open air and headed into a tent to see the man with beard, Zakk Wylde. I must say, I was interested to see what kind of set he would put on because I imagine I was one of the few there who actually owns a (totally legal, I might add) copy of his latest solo album, but I do love pretty much everything he’s done and I felt he may revert back to some Black Label Society stuff rather than try to win over a Metal crowd with acoustic songs from two albums no-one’s heard of.  To my delight, he did go for songs from the two Book of Shadows albums, but he made a big mistake in my view of making them much heavier than they sound on record, clearly in an attempt to appease the Graspop faithful.  It worked great for the opening song Sold My Soul, as it’s already fairly heavy to begin with and it gave Zakk an opportunity to show off his utterly ridiculous guitar skills, but it didn’t work for the others because as good as the songs are, they were never written to be heavy.  The songs were played very well, and Zakk was clearly on form, but to someone who knows the recorded versions of the songs well, it just sounded like he was doing a whole set of poorly considered covers. 6/10

Amon Amarth - Nathan has no taste. The Vikings are awesome!
Amon Amarth – Nathan has no taste. The Vikings are awesome!

I managed to catch the last song of Amon Amarth’s set from the other side of the main stage as I rushed over to get as good a spot for Sabbath as was possible, but thankfully it was their song I actually like, so that’s something.  They had a cool stage show set up and they seemed like they would be a really fun band to see, despite the fact that I don’t actually think much of their music.  I can’t exactly give them a rating based on one song viewed from miles away though.  I should also mention that after Sabbath I didn’t stick around for the only post-midnight act on that evening, King Diamond, because quite frankly I have no wish to stand around on a cold evening listening to someone who sounds like a cat being neutered without an anaesthetic.

Graspop 2016 Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath – Glad it’s The End?

Now Black Sabbath have been one of my favourite bands for years and definitely the top one on this line-up for me, but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier that a band is on their final tour.  When I saw them at Download in 2012 it was one of the best live experiences of my life, but they’ve fallen a long way since then and really should have called it a day before now.  They can’t do it anymore!  Or perhaps, more accurately, Ozzy just can’t do it anymore!  The man could barely string two words together and it was so obvious that they had tailored the set to make things easier for him, playing slower songs with larger instrumental sections which would almost certainly never have made it onto a Black Sabbath set otherwise.  Everything was very noticeably slowed down as well (which, for Sabbath is really saying something).  I’m sorry but if you can’t actually play your own songs live then don’t.  The audience somewhat saved the show for them on this occasion making sure they responded as they should to the last Belgian show of Black Sabbath’s career. Thankfully this still made it worth seeing, but for Black Sabbath, The End really cannot come quickly enough. 5/10

Immortal Complete Ninth Album

“This will be our darkest and coldest album in a long time: pure Blashyrkh Metal the way our fans know it, with massive, majestic riffs, grim, frostbitten vocals and tales from our mighty realm. Fast and furious tracks, epic tracks and longer playback time than any of our previous albums.”

Founding Immortal member, lyricist and guitarist Demonaz is now also handling vocals.

“The massive fan support has been very inspiring and we will not let the fans down. This last year, we have completed writing all of the new songs and look forward to recording our most passionate album in a long time. The song-writing process has been awesome and we will soon be ready to start the recording process.”

In a time when true and original Black Metal is appearing to be on it’s last legs, the band have got their blood up:

“After the past year’s incidents it was time to go back to the roots, to what this band is really about musically, and also to take the integrity of the band back to where it belongs. Cold, grim, uncompromising Blashyrkh Metal with a true feeling is what we deliver.”

From 2010 until 2014, Immortal wrote all of the songs for the successor to All Shall Fall, but when ex-member Abbath left the band in 2014, he changed the lyrics, song titles and recorded these songs for his so called “solo album“:

“We had to focus on making a new album nearly from scratch, which is the main reason why things have taken this much time. We are now looking forward to recording the new album and presenting it to all those who have shown their loyalty and support. Immortal have always been a unique and unstoppable force, and that goes for our fans as well. We will never change our music or attitude.”

The album’s title and song titles will be revealed soon…

Aktaion – The Parade of Nature

Bandcamp

Review by Rick Ossian

amazon_badgeThose of you who regularly read my missives will recognize the Scandinavian outfit Aktaion from Halmstad.  You may remember my review of their previous recording, Throne.  If nothing else they’ve at least scaled those lofty heights again.  Aktaion are Jonas Snackmark (vocals), Francis Larsson (guitars), Axel Crone (bass), Jonatan Ney (guitars, vocals) and Oskar Johnsen Rydh (drums).  They can jam or gel or even pull off the occasional Metal/mental cacophony whilst they are jamming.  This is no mean feat, reader.  Read on if you dare!

aktaiongroupshottwo

As the Hope Collapses starts things off in fine form, although the tune is only just shy of three minutes in length, there are some serious busy goings-on involved.  There is first off, a sweet riffy intro with creepiness and a mixture of clean and growl where the vocals are concerned.  It is kind of Blues but super fucking bad-ass heavy at the same time.  I was blown away, and for an opener to do that is considerable.

Candid Flow of the Shrapnel Dust is winner of the work for cool song title award.  I believe at least 10 cool points are in order for title alone.  So, what is the tune itself made of?  There is a heavy opening with some serious riffage to begin with, amidst a  barrage of growls from Mr Snackmark.  The drums sound as if they are off to a Heavy Metal march.  There is a lead guitar break at the six-minute mark, and some blues at around four minutes in, but safe to say this was a full-on seven-minute mindblower!

Seven boasts another heavy-as-hell intro, and there are more growly vocals.  There are also moments of metal madness, if you will.  There are times when the vocalist(s), as well as the rest of the band, sounds as if they may be possessed by some sort of demon! There is a super heavy shift at the four-minute mark, and more Metal/mental anguish at the close.  If you are clinically depressed you may want to take your happy pills before listening…just saying!

The Walrus March is another seven-minute plus behemoth, featuring growls mixed with clean vocals.  The opening sequence is a sort of metal ambience, if that’s even possible.  Listen and hear.  The lyrics are nothing if not pointedly prophetic: “If you should burn/ I should do the same”.  There is a lead guitar bit at about three minutes in, which gives way to a super fucking heavy shift in the proceedings.  This is followed by what I could safely say is the tearing of vocal chords (3:30-4:00), kind of makes me wonder what they look like on the inside!  Another big shift at the five-minute mark gives way to more breakdowns, both instrumental and vocal.  This is some serious Metal/mental anguish here, folks.  Dig in.  This is another seven-minute arse-kicker, and for whatever reason at the close we get a taste of some late night jazzy horns… what the hell?  Not sure, but it’s still kind of cool.

The title track is up next, and features Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy, Armageddon) as a special guest.  This begins life as what sounds like a vinyl haunted house, very creepy, fuzzy, scratchy and cool all at once!  Simultaneous psych, if you will.  There are also elements of Prog and Blues here, people, but don’t be musically shy!  You’ll never get anywhere with that attitude!  At 4:45 we get a nice long shredding solo that takes us to the close.

Stones Into Sand also features a member of Armageddon, Mr. Joey Concepcion.  No doubt he is responsible for some of the heavy riffing going on here.  It is at the intro and at the end, and throughout the main part of the tune.  There are growls aplenty and lots of speedy shredding as well.  The main spots to keep an ear out for here at at the 3 and 4-minute points.

Death Coloured Gold (again featuring Chris Amott) includes a super heavy duty opening with lots of instruments banging around, and even a burst of blasting lead guitar at about 30 seconds in.  More growling and lead guitar parts (2:20 and 3:40), and some neat playing around/jamming at the close.

Gold Coloured Dreams begins life with an introspective guitar piece and some particularly anguished vocals.  These are, again, mainly of the growl variety, but there are some clean parts mixed in.  At the two-minute mark there is a breakdown and a shift at the same time. This is eerie as all fucking hell, and there is a Blues Metal attack of sorts as well.  At 3:20 we return to Riff City (twice, even!), and one can’t help but wonder if this is riffing for the sake of riffing?  Who cares?  We love the wicked riffs, right?  Of course we do!  Another creepy close, like a Metal haunted house, takes us into the next number, but I must ad that though this track was a powerful, solid mover, it did bog down in the doom and gloom side of the street for a bit.  No matter…moving right along, then!

For All Things basically is another super heavy riffer, with a lead guitar bit at about one minute in, and a Metal cacophony from four minutes in to the close (about a minute later).  Good stuff, again a bit growly for my tastes, but it fits.

The Silent Song is another that features fellow Halmstad special guests, this time Chris Amott again and John Anderberg.  It has one of those creepy cool vocal/guitar intros, mainly clean vocals operating here.  At 1:30 things kick in, which I immediately revelled in as I thought they were going to mellow out or slow down or something… whew!  The instrumental breakdown at three minutes in again almost slows things to a crawl.  It’s still Heavy, and still very good, but is a bit mellow and Bluesy at times.  Again, there are elements of Prog at work as well.  At 3:20 there is a Heavy Psych/Blues/Metal cacophony of horror.  The vocals finally cut through the mix at 3:50, and we get a “wow!” moment at the close.  Some excellent work here.

The closer, Silence, has a cool guitar intro, but is mainly just a leftover blurb from the sounds of it.  I would say this – it could be more, if it were fleshed out a bit.  In this state it is more of a structural skeleton of a tune.

One thing keeps coming to mind here, readers.  This is not just a good Metal album.  This is a great Metal album from a great band.  I am looking forward to their next outing!

Verdict: 8/10

Eluveitie Part Ways with Three Members

Swiss Folk Metal institution Eluveitie have announced the departure of Merlin Sutter (drums), Anna Murphy (vocals) and Ivo Henzi (guitar).  The final shows that these members play will be the Fortarock Festival in Nijmegen in The Netherlands.  But the band will play all confirmed future shows with stand-in-musicians (until new members are confirmed).

The band released this official statement when the news broke earlier on this month:

“With a heavy heart we have to announce that Eluveitie will go through another change soon. We have decided to part ways with our longtime drummer Merlin Sutter. In the consequence of this, Merlin’s close personal friends Anna Murphy and Ivo Henzi decided to leave Eluveitie as well. We all developed a lot over the last ten years – not only as a band, but also as individuals. And we partly developed in different directions; different goals, wishes and ideas emerged. Over the last years we all had to deal with interpersonal challenges within the band. Instead of pulling together, our days have rather been shaped by wearing friction and constant clash of interests. And thus we felt that we have become something we shouldn’t have; that we’ve diverged from what Eluveitie was always meant to be – a band, a family, a passionate and deep-rooted group of musicians, where heart’s blood can flow freely! Eluveitie was always meant to be about ‘rock’n’roll‘, passion and also about ‘carrying the torch’ of the Celtic spirit.

Yet over the years we have partly diverged from our roots, which is not good. Each and every single one of us is definitely a passionate musician. But in this group constellation, we seemed to rather cumber, than to inspire each other. The band has suffered from this for a longer time now. So we ended up in this painful situation where the mentioned facts have made it impossible to us to continue like this and we came to the point eventually, where we believe, it’s best to go separate ways.

It was a terribly hard decision to make and it hasn’t been done carelessly, but with tears and a heavy heart. We know that this is tough to handle – for everybody. And we know it sucks badly that things developed this way. Above the fact that this is hard to handle personally and emotionally, we are painfully aware of how much it also must disappoint you, our fans… which makes it even harder. We do not part from each others in hatred though. From our hearts we wish Merlin, Anna & Ivo only the very best for their future ways and also all the best of luck and success for all their further musical projects. For we’re sure their musical journey will go on and it will be great. And maybe our ways will even cross again in future, in a different way.

For us in Eluveitie this now also means a lot to deal with.

We do not want to look at it as yet another line-up change!

For us it means to seclude ourselves for a while, to take the inward turn and to recollect. We will go back to our roots and become again what we once have been.

We will still play the next couple of shows together with Merlin, Anna and Ivo. Their last performance with Eluveitie will be the Fortarock Festival in Nijmegen (NL) on the 5th of June. So you should grab your chance and come to one of these shows!

After that we will not leave you, our fans, hanging. We promise you to play every single show we have confirmed so far! We will perform with temporary stand-in musicians until our new line-up is ready and we promise to do everything to find the best possible session musicians we can! There won’t be ‘replacements’ – Merlin, Anna and Ivo are unique and not replaceable. Yet we will come on stage with a very strong live line-up – this is a promise.”

As yet, there has been no further statement from either the band or the departing members.

Diamond Head – Diamond Head

Diamond Head album

Dissonance Records

Reviewed by: Nathan “New Boy” Lagden

amazon_badgeIt’s been 40 years since Diamond Head formed, and in that time they have enjoyed something of an inconsistent career with line-up changes, hiatuses and bad management stopping them short of the kind of fame and recognition many feel they ought to deserve.  An integral part of the NWOBHM, Diamond Head are perhaps better known for their influences on the first wave of Thrash bands than they are for their own material, especially after their appearance with the Big 4 at Sonisphere in 2011.  Almost a decade after releasing their last album and with a new lead singer Rasmus Bom Andersen, Diamond Head are back with a self-titled release which definitely marks a return to form.

The album’s opener Bones lays down an impressive early marker for what to expect.  Kicking things off with a fast-paced and memorable riff, this really is vintage Diamond Head in the modern era and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.  It’s also the first time we get to hear Andersen‘s vocals and he passes the test with flying colours. Not just because he is clearly a talented vocalist, but because he suits Diamond Head‘s style perfectly.  Bones is a terrific choice of opener to whet the appetite for more of the same to come.

Shout At The Devil is up next, and for those who were concerned, don’t worry they’re not covering Mötley Crüe (“don’t worry”?! You may say that, New Boy, but I couldn’t possibly comment! – Ed).  This is another great example of guitarist and only original member Brian Tatler‘s writing skills at work here with a brilliantly anthemic song which would almost certainly be the album’s main single if Diamond Head were the sort of band who released singles.  As is so often the case with this band, the Thrash elements are very prominent in this song and the chorus is definitely a memorable one.  It almost feels like we’re back in the ’80s already.

A delicious Blues-driven lick from Tatler opens the next song Set My Soul On Fire; and in fact the whole song brings something slightly new to the table, and the album is all the better for it.  Diamond Head are not afraid to keep things simple for the sake of being effective, as this song shows.  The riffs are catchy, the rhythm section consistent and the vocals are great to sing along to.  This does change when we reach the solo however, and Tatler gets the chance to show off a bit for the first time on the album.  Even then however, you still get the feeling that he’s containing himself somewhat to keep in line with the song’s overall feel, which is by no means a bad thing.

See You Rise picks the pace right back up again with a prominent bass-lead intro which almost feels more like a Punk song than a Heavy Metal one before the verse begins and we’re safely back in riff-land.  As well-constructed as this song is, it does take a little while to get going thanks to the more reserved choruses adding an extra layer before building to a more Thrashy guitar part afterwards.  They play around with the song structure in this too with the solo waiting until the end.  It’s a track which shows that Diamond Head can get a little more experimental from time-to-time.

In fact, the next track is a continuation of this theme, albeit in a slightly different way.  All The Reasons You Live begins with an undistorted guitar riff building into an orchestral section, which continues again in the chorus.  This is not the first time Diamond Head have been known to go in a slightly more Proggy direction, and it shows that although this is territory they don’t often inhabit, they do know what they’re doing when they decide to go there.  This time around the experiment works a lot better, with each element of the song’s many layers complimenting each other superbly and another solo which is contained, but to excellent effect.

Up next comes a song with a title I’m pretty sure they stole off a bottle of ale (you don’t get out much, do you, New Boy?  “Wizard Sleeve” is a euphemism – Ed).   Wizard Sleeve gets us back to traditional Diamond Head with another excellent riff and complimenting rhythm section.  The song appears to be going quite well up until the chorus which unfortunately is a little erratic and somewhat spoils the flow of the song in my view.  Heaven knows what they’re going on about with the lyrics too.  Perhaps being slightly odd is expected of a song called Wizard Sleeve, but it does nevertheless mean that the album does what so many do and has a noticeable drop in song quality after the fifth song.

Our Time Is Now gets back to basics again with a very simple opening, an even simpler bass and drum section for the verses and a decent chord-based riff for the bridge and chorus.  This is another time where Andersen‘s voice is brought to the fore and stands up to the test.  You’ve got to be good to pull off the line “kill all the fascists, extinguish their breed” without sounding stupid and he does just about manage it.  Overall though, this song just feels like it’s lacking the drive and energy that its title deserves, which is a shame because this would have been a fear of many going into the album which up to this point proved to be unfounded.

The same cannot be said for Speed though, which definitely does live up to its name.  A fast-paced intro starts it off before the guitars and bass kick in and the tempo is kept up throughout.  Again we see some odd choices in lyrics though as the verse starts off with the line “Woman I’m still dreaming about your sister“.  I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong about a band not taking themselves too seriously, but I’m not convinced they achieved their desired effect here.  It doesn’t spoil what is another excellent vocal performance and overall a very good song though.

Blood On My Hands follows, starting off with another classic Diamond Head riff you feel would not be at all out of place on Lightning To The Nations.  The rest of the song is a little more methodical though and is another one which seems to fail to get going as perhaps it ought to.  It’s at this point that the whole feel of the album starts to get a little tired.  There is nothing wrong with the individual components of the band here as such, it just doesn’t really seem to come together with enough energy to carry it through.

The next song is (rather creatively) called Diamonds and whilst again the song seems to suffer from a lack of real drive, it does at least make up for it to some extent with good guitar work, a well-written chorus and actually decent lyrics for a change.  Diamonds also has another excellent solo which showcases Tatler‘s ability and shows why, despite all the other departures, he is so essential for the band’s continuation.  As long as he is still around, diamonds are indeed forever.

Every album must eventually end with Silence but in this case it’s actually the title of the final track (I’m not sure whether or not that’s what they were going for).  This is the other song on the album which features a far more progressive pattern with a slow building intro culminating in a great orchestral riff which is then repeated again for the bridge.  This a very good song to close the album with because it brings back a lot of what the previous few songs had been missing, but also because it does have that epic feel to it which is always a great way to round things off.  Rasmus Bom Andersen deserves another mention here for his best vocal performance of the album which really does make the song special.

Diamond Head are not exactly giving us something we have not heard before with their eponymous album, nor are they surpassing the classics which got them recognised.  Nevertheless the choice of making this album self-titled is a good one because it really does sum up what they are about – great riffs, stellar vocals and good old-fashioned Heavy Metal.  This album certainly is a worthy addition to their discography and I don’t doubt that the songs will fit in alongside their oldies very nicely on a live set-list.  It isn’t going to convert anyone into a fan, but if this is the first thing somebody heard of them, it may well entice them enough to listen to their back catalogue.

Verdict: 7/10

Bloodthirst – Glorious Sinners

bloodthirstglorioussinnerscover

Pagan Records

Review by Rick Ossian

This is Bloodthirst’s 4th LP for the folks at Pagan Records, and  it is a mini-album of 5 brand new tracks. They are proudly self-pigeonholed as “Hateful Antichristian Thrash”, which should really please all the parental units out there!  Their recording/touring personnel are Rambo on guitars and vocals, Gregor on guitar and vocals, Rybosh on bass and Mnt on drums.  They hail from The Goat City of Poznan in Poland.  They got rolling about 1999 or so, and have been recording and touring ever since.  Normally I don’t go in for this sort of thing, but I made an exception here because I liked what I heard.  True, there are some problems with the vocals; I prefer mainly clean vocals, and can endure some screaming and shouting, but I tend to shy away from the vocals of the ‘Cookie Monster‘ variety.  Most of you regular readers will no doubt know this by now.  I do not apologize for this.  Normally, I embrace change.  That’s what I am doing today.  These guys are actually pretty good.  I am glad that I gave them a listen.

bloodthirstgroupshot

First up is The Viper’s Nest.  This is a riff-fest, for the most part.  There is some really nice pounding at the beginning, then SLAM!  The next thing you know, speed metal is kicking your arse.  Just before the one-minute mark, the vocals come in, and the boys switch riffs in mid-slam.  The vocals may be partially indiscernible, but they are powerful.  Just tough as nails.  At the two-minute mark, there is another shift.  Sort of a guitar-slam, breakdown, if you will.  Then they go back to the main riff.  This is guttural at best, but it still commands a bit of respect.

The Reign of the Antichrist is more speedy, in-your-face instrumentation, plenty of wicked riffs, and the mix is much better than you might expect.  At 1:25, there is a full stop, then a shift to evil, big fat chords.  At 1:55 there is a neat lead guitar solo, plenty of speedy shred.  I’m wondering if maybe they just slowed down a bit…nah!  These boys are hell-bent on the finish line, and they can rest when they get there!

The Masterpiece of Lie is a six-minute monster.  There are some excellent opening riffs, and the main riff is a sweet one.  This is bluesy black metal, if you will.  The production values are good enough to where you can hear everything, which is refreshing because usually thrashy stuff doesn’t really do that.  There are lots of slamming guitars here, and you may as well throw your speedometer in the thrash – this one is about triple-time at its SLOWEST.  This is heavy fucking duty stuff, forceful and powerful, especially at the close.  The shift at four minutes in is noteworthy as well.

No God Shall Stand Before Pope is another riff-fest.  The guitar solo at 1:45 is super speedy shred.  Good stuff.

Sacco di Roma (Sacking of Rome) is another track that features more heavy slamming.  This is a no-holds-barred tune, with plenty of riffing, shifting, slamming, playing, and the vocals may be guttural but at least they are partially discernible.  The boys are, again, hell-bent on finishing, it seems.  But no matter.  There is a nice fadeout loaded with feedback at the end, too!

Verdict: 7/10

Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

fleshgodapockingcd

Nuclear Blast

Review by Tom Mead

amazon_badgeI was initially sceptical about the idea of mixing Death Metal with Classical music, but Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse have made a damn good job of making it work. Now onto their fourth album, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves by successfully blending the drama of their homeland’s opera and baroque music styles with the crushing and complex brutality of Technical Death Metal. They’re on the cusp of crossing over to the Metal mainstream and, thankfully, King is a strong enough album to make this a reality.

A concept album about an ageing ruler trying to maintain order and integrity despite the negative influences of various figures in his court, King is presented like an opera, with four different vocalists delivering a mix of death grunts, clean male vocals, operatic soprano female vocals and spoken word passages against a diverse sonic background. Anyone already familiar with Fleshgod Apocalypse will know that they are not a band to do things by halves. The mix of Symphonic and Death Metal elements works well because neither aspect diminishes nor compromises the other; this album is just as Heavy as it is Orchestral. This is a band that clearly has a larger affinity for and knowledge of baroque, romantic and classical music styles than many so-called “Symphonic Metal” bands. The music on King doesn’t merely consist of sticking a few synth sounds in to back up the guitars; there’s piano, harpsichord and dramatic string flourishes that make it sound like you’re actually in a king’s court in the 18th century!

Highlights in the album’s first half include The Fool and Cold as Perfection. Classical elements are prominent on The Fool with drums and guitars playing catch-up to lightning-fast violins and harpsichord, and is a prime example of how well Fleshgod Apocalypse blend clean and harsh vocals, with Paolo Rossi and Tommaso Riccardi duetting with devastating effect. Lead single Cold as Perfection is perhaps the album’s high point. A mid-paced doom-laden number, with a star turn by guest soprano singer Veronica Bordacchini, its ferocity is not diminished by its slower tempo, and it defiantly shows that the humble piano has a place in Extreme Metal; providing a brooding atmosphere to a highly technical degree, keyboardist Francesco Ferrini plays in a way that might convince other Death Metal bands to recruit a piano player too!

In the second half, we have And the Vulture Beholds, a relentlessly intense track that is also one of the more technical and emotive pieces on the album; top-drawer musicianship from everyone here. The penultimate track Syphilis is where the operatic aspects are most evident; with another great performance from Bordacchini, this track is dramatically and apocalyptically climactic, with every member again on top form.

Some fans will no doubt have reservations about this album though. While King is overall an engaging listen, it is not quite as technical as some of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s earlier work; on most tracks, technicality takes a backseat, as creating the right atmosphere to fit the concept seems to be the priority. There’s also a distinct lack of symphonic elements on some tracks, such as Mitra, which will displease some. Then again, this is counteracted by the two pieces of pure chamber music: Paramour (an interlude at the album’s midpoint) and King (which serves as a coda at the end of the album). While I think these simple pieces maintain the rest of the album’s drama and intensity (there’s no denying they show off the high calibre of Bordacchini and Ferrini’s respective talents), I can imagine some people feeling irked that a Death Metal album would dare to contain tracks featuring no Metal elements whatsoever.

In a year that’s already provided its share of great metal concept albums (such as Avantasia’s Ghostlights and Dream Theater’s The Astonishing), King sits nicely alongside them, even though it might not quite satisfy all fans of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s earlier work.  If technical, brutal Death Metal is your thing, you’ll probably prefer some of the band’s earlier albums.  But if you’ve ever wondered what kind of music Vivaldi or Mozart would make if they had metal in their day, then look no further.  King is an idiosyncratic blend of Classical music and Extreme Metal that should hopefully attract many new fans.  Fleshgod Apocalypse have shown that they have great ambition; wider acclaim and prominence surely awaits them.

Verdict: 8/10

Paul Davy – Better Late

Paul Davy

Bandcamp

Review by Mabh Savage

Welcome to the mellow corner, where we take a wee break from rocking out and listen to something more chilled while we have a cup of tea or something equally rock ‘n’ roll.

Sitting in my inbox is the link to Paul Davy‘s album, Better Late, which refers to the time elapsed between song writing sessions; thirty years in this case. At first glance, I can see this is a folk album in the truest sense of the word: music about and for the people. Davy has allegedly been influenced (upset) by the UK Tory party’s idea of Big Society and how it leaves people behind. As well as folk influences though, there are threads of blues and rock that weave a lively tapestry upon which poignant words are embroidered.

The first track, Karen, is a sad tale of homelessness in the city. This starts the album in a slightly morose manner, but with a surprisingly sing-a-long chorus. The tune and vocal reminds me intensely of Neil Young, circa Harvest Moon. The chord sequence bounces along, belying the despair in the lyric:

A life all battered and bruised.
Condemned, ignored and abused.
Give her the way to make it all go away.

The words hold a combination of observational detachment and a plea for compassion from the listener. A touch of strings only adds to the sense of melancholy.

Woman on the Track is an odd ditty with a refrain that will no doubt have a whole pub singing along (presuming Davy is gigging?). I’m not sure if the woman is just drunk, or if she has simply had enough, but she’s on the track and in danger, of that we are sure. I wasn’t sure if the refrain was clever or simply repetitive at first, but I’ve had it stuck in my head for two days now so well done sir, well done.

The next track gives us our first hit of blues. One Chain Road is a catchy, funky tune, with my only complaint being that it’s a little neat and tidy for a blues tune. I like my blues a little less produced; a little rougher around the edges. Also, this track needs a blues harp solo. Needs it. Lovely slide guitar though.

Tale of our Times harks back to the awful events of Morecambe Bay, 2004. For those that don’t know, 23 people died whilst picking cockles in Morecambe Bay. The workers were all Chinese, were illegally employed and had no clue about local geography including the tides. They were cut off by the tide and subsequently drowned. Davy’s aim isn’t just to relay this sad tale to us though. He points out that the gangs that deal in people trafficking have no compassion towards these human losses. Underlining this point, Davy bitterly sings

There’s plenty more fish in the sea.

The melody to Look Around and Turn Away reminds me of Horslips in their gentler moments, while the instrumentation is closer to some modern American folk music, with just a touch of country. The whole album is produce by Nigel Stonier who is classed as an ‘A-List’ producer, having many of the tracks he has produced played on mainstream radio. More impressively (for me) he has worked with Fairport Convention, one of my all-time favourite folk bands. Davy has bagged a real powerhouse of talent with this producer, and I hope he hangs on to him!

Nigel also helps with the musical input, as does Thea Gilmore, a British folk-rock icon with a distinctive and gorgeous voice.

The album goes all bluesy with When the Train Comes Along, and then we are taken on a trip around London on a Tuesday night. The Sandpiper calls to me of the shore, quiet evenings in Whitby and dusk on a wave swept beach.

Davy is good at painting little snapshots of life. He takes a moment and brings it to life for you, so you can see straight through the eyes of his memory.

My yearning for the blues harp is satisfied by Same Thing Every Year, while the following track, Take me Down that Path follows a melody that speaks to me loudly of my beloved Fairport Convention. Many brownie points are awarded for these two tracks.

You’ll be Fine starts with a gorgeous fiddle riff, followed by a lyric that seems to come from either a leaving lover or a passing relative. This song epitomises the ‘sweet sorrow’ of parting, with the singer reassuring the protagonist that they have no need to worry.

In the finest tradition of folk, the album ends with a lullaby, sung directly to a child; a baby, in this instance. A sweet ending to the album, but not the strongest song on here.

I was impressed by the diverse mix of topics Davy puts his pen to; from topical observation to deeply compassionate and personal ditties. His voice carries the words clearly and true, and the production of the album lets this really shine.

The album is available on bandcamp, and handily each track has the lyric attached so you can peruse Davy’s words about the world in case you miss the detail whilst enjoying the music.

I sincerely hope there isn’t another 30 year wait for another album from Mr Paul Davy. A fine first album, from a songwriter who shows a real potential to make a mark in the modern folk and protest scene. 4 stars from me.

****/5

Wyrd Ways Rock Show CCCXVI

We’re taking a break from Bloodstock this week in order to shine the light on a much smaller festival, held every year in Radcliffe in Manchester.  Organised and curated by the Appleton family, this one is like a cross between the Sophie Lancaster Stage, the New Blood Stage AND the Jagermeister Stage all rolled into one place.  With much cheaper food and drink.

As well as being stuffed to the gunwhales with new stuff, you’ll also be hearing interviews with members of Absolva, Lock Up Laura and Blaze Bayley.  Come on in.  The music’s fine!

If you decide to support the making of the show by becoming a Member, you get the full show at a higher bitrate and therefore better quality as well as access to the Members Only pages of the Wyrd Ways Rock Show website.  For details about how to become a Member as well as the latest in Rock and Metal news and reviews, have a look at the menu bar on the left.

If you are in a band and want your music on The Wyrd Ways Rock Show Presents: Shock Of The New compilation (which will be free to download), email either myself or Suzi with the relevant details.

Here’s the playlist, then…

Avatarium – Girl With The Raven Mask  (iTunes)
Operation: Mindcrime – Burn  (Amazon)
Queensrÿche – Guardian
Covered: Motörhead – Sympathy For The Devil  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Lock-Up Laura Interview
Lock-Up Laura – The Jury’s Out
Spotlight 1: Iron Maiden – Aces High  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Chris Appleton Interview
Absolva – No One Escapes
Record Of The Week 1: Butcher Babies – The Butcher  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Record Of The Week 2: Butcher Babies – Never Go Back  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Record Of The Week 3: Butcher Babies – Blonde Girls All Look The Same  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Shining – The Last Stand  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Harlott – Lord Of War  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Spotlight 2: Iron Maiden – Wildest Dreams  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Whiskey Myers – Guitar Picker  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Lynch Mob – Automatic Fix  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Blaze Bayley Interview (SOS 2015)
Blaze Bayley – Silicon Messiah  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Spotlight 3: Iron Maiden – Speed Of Light  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Kodiac Jack – Scars  (Amazon)
Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Scream  (Amazon) (iTunes)
Last Track: ChuggaBoom – A BBQ In Antarctica   (Amazon)