Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gunning for Belfast

FOR some time the re-emergence of classic rock acts has been building. Sales of the magazine Classic Rock have been growing at an alarming rate for the pop pickers on radio stations; and while rest of the music business is in a panic about piratical downloads the hard rock scene has been proving that live is still best.

Indeed the hard rock resurgence has been led by many acts that have earned their stripes throughout the years. Such has been the journey of Gun.

They reformed a while back with Toby Jepson, of Little Angels, fulfilling vocal duties. But Gun are not about looking to the past.

“We don’t want to be a nostalgia band and certainly feel we have something still to say,” Jepson told Belfasmetalheadsreunited. “Our challenge is to convince the traditional Gun fans that the new music measures up to the old and that the band has a new lease of life that can keep the audience wanting more.”

Certainly Gun provided a twist in the early 90s to a rock scene still reeling from the pundits proclaiming that grunge was ‘new’ and the rest had to step aside. The sensibilities and panache of albums, ‘Gallus’ for example, displayed a dynamic interpretation that merged riffs and solos with uplifting choruses

New mini-album ‘Pop Killer’ has already been going down well with audiences, not least the storming swagger of ‘Let Your Hair Down’ which merges the traditional Gun sound with a contemporary twist.

“We were determined to do something different, and not simply retread old steps, and so when Dante, Joolz and I started writing, our challenge was to think a little outside the box and try to bring all our favourite elements to the music that we all love without it being to obvious,” said Jepson.

“We felt compelled to use current technology and sounds to augment our collective love of traditional rock and I think we have achieved that. I think that once the music sinks in it will become apparent that everything Gun stood for in the past - pop inflected, passionate, emotional rock - is still there in abundance!”

When Gun touch down in Belfast for their 8th November date it will be after a gig in Portugal and several in Spain. It is also the start of a UK tour which provides challenges for the band.

“Obviously, it’s our home territory and we have a lot to prove, mainly to ourselves,” said Jepson. “We are hungry for it again, and despite being away for such a long time we feel the new band rocks harder and is more ready than ever before. It will be great fun playing the new songs.”

And, if the reaction in Spain is anything to go by Belfast fans are in for a treat.

”The band hadn’t been there for 10 years, and obviously not with me, but the reaction was fantastic and most encouraging of all towards the new songs that are on our mini album 'POP KILLER'.”

With so many rock acts re-emerging with stronger than ever material Jepson took a moment to reflect on the rock landscape:

”I think that we are in an unprecedented period of change in the music business; bands we all grew up with are getting older and the ability to choose what you listen to has exploded. The internet has allowed us all to side step the force-feeding of music that used to happen back in the day, and as a result the audience has the power now; deciding who and what to listen to and so all the bands that were written off by a very cynical business can survive playing live and creating and releasing music on their own terms.

”The challenge is to take this music and create something that truly stands up and can crossover into the mainstream and allow not just the traditional rock fan to appreciate it but anyone.

“I hate the labels, never understood the need to pigeon hole music, I’ve always believed that there are only two types of music; GOOD and BAD! I hope Gun can be considered a GOOD band!”

Here at Belfastmetalheadsreunited we’ve always dismissed the idea of musical genre stereotyping…and while Jepson may hope that Gun are a good band, we know they are!

But what can fans expect on the setlist?

”We are hoping to play most of the mini album,” said Jepson. “In Spain we were playing two new songs with another nearly ready. I suspect we will play three, maybe four, of the songs.

”We are playing what we consider the 'best' tracks from all the albums, and not necessarily the hits. We have our favourites and some of the tunes work best live even though they were perhaps not big songs from the records. We are about to retire a couple of the songs as we have new music to play, and that is what we are really about now; playing the future not the past!

”Gun always made great records and had hits despite the change in the scene. The danger is to be too concerned about 'what’s happening'. The fans don’t believe that stuff, they just like what they like!

“We have some great new music that we feel delivers a future for us and we hope the audience can feel our commitment and determination coming from the stage.”


Friday, October 30, 2009

Gun interview almost typed up and no Slayer Irish date...

Just finishing typing up interview with GUN (they're at The Limelight on 8th November). It'll be posted here in next 24 hours. Thanks to Toby Jepson for taking the time to answer the Q's.

Also in the news...no Slayer Irish date? Could it be they are saving that for next year's Big Four Thrash Tour? That is if the egos concerned ever get that together!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crescendo kids Clyro rock the mart

THE cavernous interior of St George’s Market, packed with scene kids, fashionistas, a smattering of metalheads and a dash of rockers is testimony to the journey Biffy Clyro have made in recent years.

From club alt rockers to potential stadium busters the ‘Biffy’ are progressing the old-fashioned way – evolving their sound on albums and then honing it to a keen edge through touring. Not for them the hollow half minute of fame on shit factor or other such tawdry Saturday night numpty tv.

That evolution still awaits Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra. Their proto-metal, mixed with Weezer-style geekiness and the post-grunge Soundgarden guitar sound still needs refining. Having said that, those not distracted by burger stands and bar tabs, gave them a warm enough welcome.

The welcome for the Biffy was that usually only afforded to hometown acts. It is a strange kind of devotion that can bond such a diverse audience .

The set owed much to ‘Puzzle’ – not a surprise given that new platter ‘Only Revolutions’ has yet to hit the racks.

Morose lyrics from Puzzle are translated live into life-affirming anthems. 'Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies' has become in two years a defiant chant against fatalism, while ‘Who’s Got A Match’ becomes a shout in the face of cliché.

New tracks Bubbles and The Captain have yet to settle fully into the set, but they potentially display a new style of dynamism from the band.

Simon Neill’s manic guitar work, crouched over his highly hung Fender and highly strung vocals, is ever more tightly woven into James and Ben’s backing. At times in the past there was a tendency of crowds to fixate on Simon’s antics, but in Belfast the band’s internal workings were displayed as fierce unit. Three vocalists, one rhythm, one purpose.

But, their real skill lies in knowing how to use crescendos. Within each song there are moments when pace fades, only to be quickly picked up again; when orchestration gives way to heavy, blustering guitar.

Equally the impressive stage set was used to build the sense of occasion. What appeared at first as semi-industrial struts echoing Scottish heavy industry glowed as the set progressed with subtlety and intensity in balanced doses.

By the time 'Mountain' closed the set Biffy Clyro had raised the temperature and the pitch of audience devotion. The burger stand and the bar were forgotten fixtures; hands were raised, voices strained and the Scottish minstrels of mayhem closed in a crescendo of musical majesty.

‘Mon the Biffy!

Photos by Carrie Davenport
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A savage night on Thursday

This Thursday the Distortion Project's monthly High Voltage gigs take a savage turn...yes Sweet Savage warm up for their 9th November Motorhead support slot with a Limelight appearance.

Support from Black Freeway, The Suspended Congress, and Mental Deficiency.

Doors 9pm and a palrty five pounds to gain admittance.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ryan and Escape Fails part company

Escape Fails and singer Ryan Adair have parted company. More details soon about future plans for both parties.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2010 Belfast date for Bolt Thrower

Bolt Thrower are set for a Belfast gig at The Limelight on May 3rd 2010...another Distortion Project coup! Ticket prices and full details to follow later

Warrior Soul gig not on

Despite much talk and the valiant efforts of James the Warrior Soul November gig will not be going ahead after the band spiked all its European dates...bummer!

Mad Axeman back to rock

Mad genius, Teutonic master of shredding and melody, bonkers and brilliant: the one, the only Michael Schenker! Yes, as previously noted MSG will be touching down in Belfast again on 19th December (yes Monk I got the date right this time!) for a return to the Ulster Hall with Sweet Savage supporting.

Tickets are 18 notes standing and another two notes for the seats up the apple and pears....now how will I persuade daughter to return my Built To Destroy Tour shirt for the gig!

Wednesday's in February? What to do?

With spring still months away and dank dark days alternating with the promise of ice and snow flurries February can be a strange month...but rest assured the first Wednesday in February is gonna be a loud one.

Bow down to another Distortion Project coup with the announcement that Marduk and Anaal Nathrakh will be playing The Limelight on the 3rd February. Noise destroys, fun be had, etc etc

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Michael Schenker for pre-Xmas gig

Many, many moons ago I saw the Michael Schemker Group rock the Ulster Hall. Now the blonde axeman is set to play the Ulster Hall again on 18th December, with Sweet Savage in support. Tickets at a very reasonable 18 notes...more details later

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alice in Chains for Portstewart?

TODAY'S Daily Mirror (NI Edition) claims that Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alice in Chains are being lined up for a rock gods concert next year. Among the touted venues is Portstewart Strand.

Purple and Skynyrd toured together six years ago, and Alice in Chains first record since the death of Layne Staley has received much critical acclaim.

There have been at least two abortive attempts to bring Purple to NI over the past couple of years. The full story of which may come out in due course, but a DP appearance is long overdue, and has to happen before they become incapable of touring ever again.

Despite all of Ian Gillan's flaws (ask Ritchie Blackmore) his solo work pre and post the magnificent Bernie Tormé years) were the door into hard rock for me in the early 80s, so if this comes to pass it will be suitable to raise a glass to Gillan by the seaside!

No official word yet, but hopefully an announcement will come in due course!

Through the lens

Quick word on one of Belfast's leading rock photographers...click on http://www.carriedavenport.com/ to see some fan-dabby-dosey rock pix...and to see the list of magazines and artists who have used Carrie's work.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ya gotta wonder...

Ironing school shirts tonight for junior members of metalheadsreunited (a.k.a. the children) and a shirt for work tomorrow the hard crashing sound of responibility was almost drowning out the Anthrax album....on Sunday night caring duties were holding me back from Black Stone Cherry; that damnable sound of responsibility once again coursing unwelcome through eardrums that only wanted to listen to BSC pounding out Lonely Train.

When did I sign the form marked 'Responsible Adult'? I don't remember putting my scrawl on the dotted line, but I must have...probably around the time that the doctor said 'Diabetes Type 2....drink will do that!'

And for missing BSC I received some justifiable criticism from Sylv for not so long ago having a pop at those that don't turn out to gigs...

With that consideration in mind it is with some trepidation that I outline some coming gigs...I won't be able to get to them all, but I will manage at least one or two (and Amon Amarth will definitely be one of those!).

First up is Trouble...doom rockers with a Christian/spiritual bent. Presented by James and the Distortion Project, afficianados could do worse than turn up to the Ormeau Road on Thursday night.

On Saturday (17th) the Fool Fighters take on the Spring and Airbrake with their entertaining take on Dave Grohl's act...which unfortunately clashes with the SO:NI night at the Pavillion with Trucker Diablo/Nasa Assassin/Black Freeway/Sister Marko.

Then...things get a wee bit madder. On the 23rd the aforementioned Amon Amarth join with Entombed (Evile are off the set owing to the previously mentioned tragedy) to slay all in their path and pillage in a manner that Belfast hasn't seen since longships last sailed up the Lagan.

The next night things get a wee bit tricky. I am working that Saturday. I will be presenting my respectable self at a party political conference...suited and booted, being professional and schmoozing with politicos. How the hell am I going to get changed from the suit and into party mode while trying to decide between Sorrowfall's return to the Limer and Isis at the Black Box?

And for a bit of fun the following week there's a veritable horde of metal at the Rosie on Hallowe'en night and Hotter than Hell at The Empire (anyone willing to spend the time adding the 'Gene' make-up to me ugly mug?)

Ahh to hell with this...need a serious re-think of career direction...can someone fork out for mortgage payments so I can become full-time metal hack? Anyone?

Til then work beckons with its skeletal hand...

Any other gigs I should mention in the meantime?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Don't stay still!

Quick word on our southern brethren...if you're into classic rock check out Stillroom! While Glyder have been receiving deserved plaudits from the pundits Stillroom have been slowly and surely building up fanbase and experience though gigging and the studio.

James and co dropped their latest EP (Lickin' A Promise) through the postbox here at metal mansion and it's been blasting through the speakers on he hi-fi, PC and car stereo ever since.

From the DC inspired Alright, to the singalong Addicted to Sin, to the uptempo Your Love it's a three track marvel.

Check them out, rock out!

Black Stone Cherry

Black Stone Cherry to review tomorrow...CDs/Demos from Kilraith and For Christ's Sake to review, listening to Stillroom EP...busy but happy! See ya at BSC, can't make it to Opeth on Monday :(

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nice guys do play rock 'n' roll after all

In 1988 Guns 'n' Roses released the album 'Lies'. Half of the album was from the Live: ?!*@ Like A Suicide 1986 EP. The band covered the Rose Tattoo classic Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock 'n' Roll) for the EP. It was a defining moment for the Gunners. It had the edge of Appetite, hard rock sensibilities and a street punk snarl before the bloated excess of '...Illusion' 1&2 came along.

Spaghetti Incident's haphazard list of cover versions showed where the punk attitude of Guns 'n' Roses beat strongest - and Duff McKagan was at the heart of that attitude.

Duff McKagan is, let's face it, one of the most iconic figures in hard rock. While the albatrosses of Gunners and Velvet Revolver would have pulled down lesser men...not to mention the much repeated pancreas incident...Duff has shrugged all this off to prove that he just wants to play music and he wants to play it for people who appreciate it.

And, when Duff and his accomplices in Loaded hit the Spring and Airbrake stage, he proved that for all his straight edge, columnist for leading newspapers and websites career lifestyle, his heart beats with a passion for his beloved musical background.

There is no better city to dedicate a song to Stiff Little Fingers than Belfast; and Duff compared favourably to the trite waffle that many bands spout from the stage: he sounded genuine when saying that just over 12 months ago Belfast "hoisted us on your shoulders" after a long tour.

It's hard to credit that Loaded landed from LA just 48 hours before this Wednesday gig, did a Dublin show and then slammed on to the stage in Belfast with the title track of their latest CD, Sick played with a snarling delight.

Despite a back catalogue of hundreds of classic tunes to fall back on, it was the tracks off Sick that stood out, with their swagger, rock sensibilities and, at times, classic punk/metal crossover sneer.

'No Shame', 'Iou', 'I See Though You' and the superb 'Translucent' were ripped through, delivering a tenuous balance between classic rock and punk, mixed in a heady cocktail with metal.

Yes, it was not perfect. At times ragged, and at time loose, Duff and his willing Loaded accomplices proved that how you perform is not always as important as the attitude on stage.

Of course, 'It's So Easy' was a rousing finale to the evening, but it was equally important for all to note that Loaded is not a side project for a fading star. This is a rock icon who could retire to a comfortable ranch, raking in royalties, eyeing his investments. Instead he is recording vibrant songs and delivering live sets flled with a passion for music.

Yeah, Nice Boys do play rock 'n' fucking roll!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Evile bassist dies

From Total Rock.com
Evile bassist Mike Alexander has passed away, after suddenly being taken ill while the band were on the road in Sweden with Amon Amarth. Evile members Matt Drake, Ol Drake and Ben Carter have released the following statement: "This is so hard to find the words to express fully how we feel. We can't believe or accept what's happened. One minute we're talking to our buddy, Mike, the next minute we can never speak to him again. "There's so many things rushing through our heads that we want to say, do and feel. We half expect him to come round the corner and call us 'dickheads'. We can't get our heads around it. "It upsets us so much that he was away from his family when this happened, although knowing Mike, we're at least glad he was on tour doing what he loves. "We're lost for words. We all miss him so much already. He was such a headstrong, genuinely nice guy who loved music and his family. We've got so many brilliant memories with him. "Our hearts go out to his daughter, family and friends at this tragic, difficult time. "Mike is much loved and is sorely missed. "Rest in peace, brother."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Support Escape Fails in Kerrang!

ESCAPE Fails have been shortlisted as one of only four finalists in the Kerrang! magazine Black XS UK Livesound Competition - a tremendous achievement given that more than 600 bands from across the nation entered the competition.

Escape Fails have long been a favourite here, with their crossover post-hardcore metal groove. Ryan takes up what shortlisting has meant for the band so far.

"We were in London on the 17th and 18th September and had a makeover by a professional stylist for a photo shoot by rock photographer Paul Harries.

"We also visited Gibson Studios where we were able to meet and question Charlie Simpson from Fightstar about his experiences in the music industry."

The Live Final will also be held at Gibson Studios, London on the 16th November where we will be performing in front of an audience of industry experts and Kerrang! ticket winners.
"The grand prize is a record deal with Search & Destroy Records, (home of Fightstar & local boys In Case of Fire,) a feature in Kerrang! Magazine and an Epiphone Guitar."
So, it's up to us to keep the ball rolling by buying (or borrowing) this week's Kerrang!, going to the Kerrang! website, emailing pictures and views and keeping all our fingers crossed for an Escape Fails victory.