Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, December 29, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: The Vikings are coming as Leaves' Eyes unleash Sign of the Dragonhead

THE Longships are coming in 2018 as ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’ looms over the horizon...

Leave’s Eyes, a fantastic symphonic metal band, return to storm these shores with their seventh album, an uncompromising, combative, epic album and they are ready to loot and pillage your ears without compromise.

Leave’s Eyes have created historically inspired musical masterpiece that chronicles the Vikings like a keen-edged Ulfberht sword perfectly wielded to deliver a flurry of high powered tracks that leave you in awe.
The title track, ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’, hails a furious warning of the coming of the Viking raiders and starts the chills of anticipation with a choral assault. A rousing track that just hits the right buttons, painting an image of fast moving ships sailing with deadly purpose. And nothing can stop them.

The second track ‘Across The Sea’ is a fantastic marathon that will have you pulling out your dusty copy of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It is a hauntingly inspiring track that is flawlessly executed to affect even the most battle hardened warrior.  It’s shanty like beginnings only adds to this heroic headbanging berserker epic.

Continuing the search for treasures comes ‘Like a Mountain’ that evokes, through Elina Siirala’s hauntingly operatic vocals, a tragic Niflheim lament. And, there should be no surprise that it is a tragic Icelandic love saga. It is a beautifully ethereal bass-heavy track full of emotion pulling you through cold and stunningly harsh landscapes painted by the symbiosis of Lina’s elfish tones and Alexander Krull’s Jotonheimr guttural vocals. This along with the swaying metal and delicate folkish interludes just work so well.

Again the warrior rage takes hold with ‘Jomsborg’, recalling the legendary Viking fortress in the Baltic Sea area and the Jomsvikings. Another track that gives you the warrior chills that no matter what the odds all will stand as battle brothers to the end. It conjures once more the common theme of sweeping vistas in a cold tundra or seascape filled with warriors of legend and renown. It is just gorgeously epic in scope and the heavy resounding rhythmic battering your ears will get is an absolute pleasure.

‘Völva’ keeps up the magnificence, once more summoning a grand vision combining metal, opera, choral orchestra, and traditional instruments into a perfect storm that will roll right over you without missing a beat.
 Blasting in is ‘Riders On The Wind’, an almost southern dixie-like shanty inspired performance that is a catchy metal track. This is a fantastic upbeat smile-inducing stadium anthem. If you don’t want to sing along you will have to really put the work in to resist. Utterly elegant in every way.

Next is ‘Fairer Than The Sun’, a beautiful lament imbued ballad done in only the way Leave’s Eyes can do. Even if you’re not a fan of slow ballads, this will still be a pleasure to sit back and listen to intently. Elina’s vocals are beyond compare throughout the album hitting the absolutely right emotional notes.

And, just when you thought you could relax, ‘Shadows In The Night’ gives your complacency a damn good kicking. Another excellent and solidly performed symphonic piece of metal that maintains the flow and theme of the album.

The pure Viking instrumental shanty ‘Rulers Of Wind And Waves’ uses traditional music and instruments backed by a beautifully choreographed orchestral  and choral support to blow your mind.

This is honestly a perfect little interval that only adds to the overall beauty of this album.

Kicking it back up into gear is ‘Fires In The North’, another excellent delivery of symphonic Viking metal that can be enjoyed and loved by a much wider audience than just symphonic metallers.

The close comes with ‘Waves Of Euphoria’, the longest track on the album coming in at just over 8 minutes. This is almost too perfect as the whole track, musically, feels like a highlight summary of all the previous tracks. Slow, haunting, fast, heavy, ethereal, dreamlike and headbanging. This one has it all as it arches through from start to finish, perfectly balanced. This is the Rainbow bridge of the album as images of Heimdallr awaiting you to see that you are worthy to pass to Valhalla will just run through your mind.

This is an end credits track par excellence...

The whole album is a beautifully crafted and perfectly balanced piece of Viking artistry that refuses to let you think about anything else other than heroic Vikings, joined in battle for glory, fighting for their place at Odin’s table in Valhalla.

What is most striking is the confident and independent vocals of Elina as she takes absolute and unquestionable possession of each song, which lends an individual note to her interaction with Alex‘s growls.

The album is filled with complex yet catchy tangible tunes. The instrumentation is perfectly balanced and unconventional with medieval nyckelharpas, fiddles, uilleann pipes and whistles blending seamlessly with the driven heavy metal entourage. It all whisks you away to a fabled world of the harsh cold North.

This album is where Heavy Metal and Celtic Folk music craft an acoustic Viking party of epic proportions.

Now, where is the nearest Longship?

Review by Ivor Whitten

‘Sign of the Dragonhead’ is released on 12th January 2018

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Jimmy Barnes - When a Working Class Man storms the Limelight

TWO acts and one whole massive show of soul, blues and rock 'n' roll stormed in the Limelight in the forms of Lachlan Doley and the rock legend that is Jimmy Barnes.

Lachlan was up first and he is a true live soulful blues singing wonder to behold.

Watching him as he plays the Hammond organ as he impossibly genuflects out of it soul and blues music of epic proportions.

It is a true pleasure to behold.

He seems to be a hyperactive Duracell bunny crossed with Kurt Cobain and it is utterly infectious. As he powered into his set, the crowd were presented with a remarkable visual and auditory indulgence of emotionally exuberant soulful blues.

Along with his captivating growl driven vocals, Lachlan pumped and pummelled the blues out of his Hammond like a modern day Jerry Lee Lewis.  His seat seemed to be more of a prop than a practical necessity. What a performance to start the night.

Then came the living legend that is Jimmy Barnes. There is really no over estimation, no high expectations nor high standards that could ever come close to cowing what this man delivers with his band.

You could never be disappointed at the performance this rock behemoth gives.

The crowd could see that with every song Jimmy sang, he was putting his heart and soul into it conveying raw power, passion and humanity in its most stripped down form.

This man bared himself to the packed crowd, and they lapped it up, giving back as good as he gave.

This was a whole new level of audience participation on an almost spiritual level.

Kicking off with ‘Love and Hate’, ‘I’d Die To Be With You’, ‘Ride the Night Away’, and ‘Love is Enough’, Jimmy lovingly but forcefully put his stamp on what was to come.

Each song beautifully rendered with his gravelled throaty vocals that had a resonating cadence making the hairs on your neck stand up.

You know you were in the presence of a very special performer and you will pay attention.

‘Red Hot’, ‘Still on Your Side, ‘Lay Down Your Guns’, ‘Boys Cry Out for War’, and ‘Too Much’ continued the skilfully crafted songs, Jimmy was giving everyone there a concert par excellence.

‘Little Darling’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Flame Trees’, and ‘Driving Wheels’ continued the onslaught of poignantly laid down vocals, blues and rock riffs, and soulful requiems to a hard and tough life.

Swooping from ballads to love songs to toe tapping, knee bending pure old rock and roll, Jimmy kept the adoring crowd on a crest of elation, as they swayed or bounced about like happy rockers.

Jimmy did not let up at all as he continued to power on through ‘No Second Prize’, ‘Seven Days’, the magnificent ‘Khe Sanh’ and of course, the anthem ‘Working Class Man’. The audience really could not get enough of this performance. The joy of being there mixed with the realisation the evening was coming to a close.

And, with every superb performance there must always be an encore...

Jimmy and his band did not disappoint.

Back onto the stage they executed a beautiful rendition of ‘Stone Cold’ leading into a magnificent cover of AC/DC ‘s ‘High Voltage’, which electrified the audience once more. He finished with ‘Goodbye’.

As they left the stage to another rapturous applause they all sprinted back on to stage where Jimmy informed the crowd that he forgot a song. And, it was almost perfect that the very last song of the night was ‘Good Times’.

This gig highlighted something very important that everyone should know, seeing Jimmy Barnes is an essential bucket list entry. If you get even a sniff of an opportunity to go, then drop everything and go!

Review by Ivor Whitten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

ALBUM REVIEW: Sumptuous, elegant, edgy eloquence from majestic Magnum on album #20

BY now you would expect veterans like Magnum to be calling in their albums, dialled straight in, with all the formula expected. Not for the Brummie rockers. Nope, this is a band that have a distinctive sound, but always stretch themselves.

And, on their 20th album, Lost On The Road To Eternity' they once again push what is expected of them to produce an album that is lush, filled with textures and touches that demand repeated listens to appreciate the depth within,

Opener 'Peaches and Cream' may have an innocuous title, but there is more than enough mid-tempo menace to intrigue and demand attention.

The theme is repeated throughout, and the tracks are allowed the time to breathe with the time and arrangements. Only the opener is less than five minutes (only by a second).

The eight-minute 'Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret' is sumptuously wonderful, and deceptively edgy. Don't let the ease of the opening deceive you.

Title track 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' features a guest appearance from Tobias Sammet of Edguy/Avantasia fame. Given Bob Catley has contributed on Sammet's releases this may seem just as a favour returned, but it this is so much more. The atmosphere is added to with the Wolf Kerschek Orchestra adding that bit extra.

While Tony Clarikin and Catley remain the core of Magnum the addition of Lee Morris (taking over from Harry James (Thunder) and Rick Benton filling the shoes of Mark Stanaway, plus the 16-years serving bassist Al Barrow has given Magnum some deft touches.

It could be argued that the additions give the band overall a new breath, a new eagerness to stretch themselves creatively. Certainly some of the new rhythms and touches of other musical cultures beam through.

The growth of the band over the past 20 years has been exceptional. While some still demand the hits on the live circuit it is remiss of any Magnum fan to overlook recent releases, and especially this album.

Sure, 'Without Love' will stand out in any live set, the likes of the extraordinary closer, 'King of the World' and 'Ya Wanna Be Someone' deserve to be heard on stage. Indeed the latter becomes better with each listen.

With a tour already lines up to support 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' this is an album that every Magnum fan needs to grab hold of as soon as it is released.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Lost On The Road To Eternity is released in a variety of formats on January 19th on Steamhammer/SPV

Magnum play Belfast's Limelight on 1st March, 2018 

INTERVIEW: Jimmy Barnes closes off 2017 by chatting to Ivor...

HE is a man of legendary status in Australia, a proper working class hero - dedicated to his music and many causes.

So, when Jimmy Barnes turned up for a Belfast show, we sent along our own legend, Ivor Whitten to catch up.

Here's the audio - listen well!

LIVE REVIEW: The Undertones stir up some teenage kicks in the Limelight

WHEN two local bands play the Limelight and they pack the place out, you know something special is going down. Brand New Friend and The Undertones were a fantastic match, with a youthful Brand New Friend supporting the well experienced The Undertones.

Brand New Friend, a quirky upbeat outfit from Castlerock, is Taylor and Lauren Johnson, Aaron Milligan and Luke Harris.

Their set for the night set alight the stage and the audience with their energy. Starting off with “Why Are You So Tired?”, “Seatbelts For Aeroplanes” and “I Was An Astronaut” the tone was well and truly set. They just did not stop smiling and the experience was rather joyous along with their  infectious Indie-pop verve. The whole band just could not stop enjoying being on stage and the audience felt that joy too. Their drummer, Luke was so energetic he burst his snare drum.

And, for doing so got to borrow The Undertones snare for the rest of the set. The joyous rush continued with “Milk Chews”, “Mediocre At Best” and the ironically fast paced “Slow”. They drew their set to a close with “Hate It When You Have To Go”, “Girl” and “I Love You, Goodbye”.

They were tight, animated and an absolute delight. They had everyone, including the grumpy old codgers there to relive their youth through The Undertones, bopping along to what can only be described as an elixir of summer. Especially welcome on a cold winter’s night

Then came The Undertones. If you have never heard of The Undertones then you have a false memory.

The Undertones formed in 1974 drawing influence from punk rock and new wave with elements of rock, glam rock, post-punk and even Motown. And even though they were a band of the Troubles period in Northern Ireland, their music focussed more on the experiences of angsty teenagers, enduring heartbreak and being jealous of their cousins.

The Limelight was packed to the gills as the band took to the stage with perfectly timed banter with the audience before Paul McLoone’s golden voice crooned out “Family Entertainment”. Much to the delight of everyone.

The band may be 43 years old, but their energetic posturing, bouncy tunes and boyish charm made them all seem still in their teens.

And, because each song is crafted to the traditional pop tune length of about 3 to 4 minutes in their over an hour long set they banged out well over 30 songs.

Plus, each one was adored by the crowd, which seemed to go in age from 18 to 80. This band not only ‘crossed the barricades’, they crossed the generations with absolute ease. The showmanship of Paul and the rest of the band was outstanding.

The set included “Jump Boys”, “I Gotta Getta”, Tearproof”, “Oh Please” and those classics that you may have forgotten, or not forgotten – just forgot they were done by The Undertones. These included “Jimmy Jimmy”, “It's Going to Happen”, “Girls That Don't Talk”, “Here Comes the Summer”, “I Know a Girl” and “When Saturday Comes”.

Then, of course, there are THOSE two songs. You know, the ones that encapsulate all that is The Undertones.

Yup, the set would not have been anywhere near complete without “My Perfect Cousin” and the John Peel special “Teenage Kicks”. And “Teenage Kicks” being so good, they sang it twice.

To say the crowd loved every single moment is an understatement. Not one single person stayed still as they all sang along enthusiastically to each well-rehearsed tune. It is a night for many to remember, night to shine a light on The Undertones as a band you have to see before you die.

Review by Ivor Whtten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

EP REVIEW: English death metal five piece Infected Dead pulverize and demolish on their outstanding debut EP 'Archaic Malevolence'.

BORN in 2014 Infected Dead have been making serious waves since their inception. Spanning six tracks this EP showcases what Infected Dead have in the tank from the first note to the last. Strap yourself in, you're about to be thrown about like a rag doll.

The opening track 'Book of Dead Names' is an utterly creepy instrumental track consisting of an eerie music box tune and distorted and demonic voices. It is absolutely spinechilling. What a way to set the mood for what's to come.

The second track 'Archaic Malevolence' is a tour de force of grinding technical riffing and tight drumwork. The basslines are sharp and clear, the guitars are crisp and unashamedly brutal and the drums fire on all cylinders. The vocals jump between guttural snarls to tortured screams with vicious energy and the guitar solos would put some death metal veterans to shame.

Next 'Resurrectionist' jumps right down your throat with sheer ferocity and doesn't let up at all. Planet destroying drums, sweep picked leads, technical and melodic rhythms and and truly sickening vocals shake you to your very core.

It's wonderfully composed, balancing unrelenting heaviness and melody perfectly. The key words here are "brutal" and "razor sharp". This track will choke you into submission.

The fourth track 'Invocation of Unspeakable Gods' is absolutely devastating. It's the musical equivalent of being thrown into a cement mixer filled with nails, battery acid and meth addicted raccoons.

You're not gonna come out the same way you went in...

The riffs are crushing and catchy as hell, the double kick drumming adds to the earth flattening noise, the bass is punishing and the vocals are up there with the all time death metal greats.

Track five 'Forced Existence' throws you into a barrage of quick technical riffs and supersonic blastbeat drumming. The output is relentless, there's no slowing down and the intensity doesn't waver in the slightest. It's disgustingly heavy, enough to splatter you into paste, and that solo will melt through you like molten lead. The vocals are absolutely inhuman.

The sixth and final track 'Samsara' is a testament to technical excellence in its most chaotic form with unbelievable riffs, slamming bass and hyperspeed drumming. The vocals are hurled out with such energy it's positively terrifying. It's breakneck from start to finish, packed with fantastic lead work

It's a song that'll have you swinging your head and most likely the neighbours cat around as a weapon. A seriously strong end to an amazing EP.

Keep your eyes on Infected Dead. 'Archaic Malevolence' sounds like Aborted and Black Dhalia Murder conceived a twisted hellspawn under a blood red moon and is a true indicator of just how good modern death metal can be. We're expecting great things in the future from this brutal band.

Review by Phil Noonan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Tatts giving' it all in vintage live recording 'Tatts - Live In Burnswick 82

WITH the polished, snazzed up rock acts of the 21st Century busy preening themselves for photoshoots and recording their latest video for YouTube Rose Tattoo are a reminder that hard rockin' music challenged sanitisation and the norm.

As the Aussie rock act prepare for their 2018 album release and tour the release of 'Tatts - Live in Burnswick 1982' is a stark reminder of the power and the glory that pure rock 'n' fucking roll has. No frills, no fucking about, music to sear your soul and raise every instinct to primal and lift your values to another plain.

They rose to prominence at the same time as AC/DC, and like the incarnations of DC there was an edge to Rose Tattoo - blue collar bastards ready to fight.

Sure Angry Anderson went on to star in 'Mad Max: Thunderdome' and even feckin' Neighbour, but when he cries out "There's a law for the rich, a law for the poor, and I'm just a working man" on the fighting defiance of 'Assault and Battery' your hackles rise and you want to get in the ring with the Tatts.

This is raw, unadulterated rock - no pretentious shit. Expletives, honesty and life experiences.

Raised in the mean slums around Sydney Rose Tattoo have always been the real deal - just take in the narrative of the 'Butcher and Fast Eddie'...and then realise that this really is a true, well documented gang story.

If you expect your smooth, over-produced 'Rolling Stone Mobile' live production and added over-dubs this is not go you. This is raw. This is a band pouring every ounce of energy. This is what live albums should sound like.

And, there is glory in it; the glory of dirty, unadulterated and unabashed blues-based rock. Every new band trying to hook into the wave of blues rock popularity needs to listen to 'Live In Brunswick'. The Tatts were doing it better decades ago.

Every song reverberates with passion and the imperfection that the best live shows capture. Yep - 'Rock 'n' Roll Is King'.

Slide guitars, rollicking  riffs, snarls and cynicism are packed within. Fuck your safe rock - even listening to this evokes a sense of danger.

Rose Tattoo are the 'Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw' band and this reminded us all that yes we are 'Scarred For Life'.

Right you Aussie rockin' bastards, we know you've been through a lot since this was recorded in 1982 - but we want your arses back on tour in the UK and back on a Belfast stage.

Simply put - they don't "take shit from anyone" and while reminiscing about their past glory we for one look forward to the Aussie bastards kicking the shit out of the doubters in the new year.

Mon The Tatts!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

LIVE REVIEW: Kobra & The Lotus wow the Voodoo

SUNDAY night's pretty much a 'school night' for many and after a seriously busy weekend Kobra and The Lotus were playing to a sparsely populated Voodoo - not that that dimished anything from their show.

First to take the stage were London based prog support act Brutai. Their set was tight and filled with some great riffs.

Although they failed to get fully over with the crowd they still put on a good show. They got a few cheers and played a decent show but it was clear that the people in attendance were waiting for something truly special on a Sunday evening at Voodoo.

Enter Kobra and the Lotus...

From the first note front woman, Kobra Paige, had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Her soaring vocals making everyone's hair stand on end.

The guitar work from Jasio was phenomenal. Brad's powerful basslines and Marcus' drumming drove forward the set with intense energy.

The interaction between the band and the crowd was fantastic, you could tell everyone was having a ridiculous amount of fun on a Sunday night.

From pounding heavy metal anthems to soulful ballads the whole venue was captivated by these extremely talented and fun loving Canadians.

The set was made even more thoroughly entertaining with the band paying tribute to Iron Maiden,  playing the drum intro to 'Painkiller' by Judas Priest and doing a short rendition of the Led Zeppelin classic 'Immigrant Song'.

All in all an absolutely fantastic and extremely fun gig that was enjoyed by all in attendance. If they return it is pretty much guaranteed that the place will be packed out.

Review by Phil Noonan.
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

INTERVIEW: Brian Tatler chats ahead of Belfast show

WHEN Diamond Head made their welcome return to Belfast for another stunning show in the Voodoo Belfast.

Ivor was on hand to sit the legendary Brian Tatler down for a wee natter...

Listen below:

LIVE REVIEW: Diamond Head and Stormzone hit the Voodoo with heavy metal thunder and lightning

ON a cold Friday night in Belfast in the intimate venue of Voodoo, two sets of rock legends strode onto stage and gave everyone a night to remember. Local heavy rock stalwarts, Stormzone, and the heavy metal godfathers that are Diamond Head.

Stormzone filled the stage with their full on hard and heavy rock with a perfectly placed first song, ‘Where we belong’.

And that said it all…

A tour de force of pure enthusiastic energy they stormed on through ‘Another rainy night’, the anthemic ‘Three Kings’ and on into ‘The Pass Loning’.

Each song was a perfect delivery of the band’s heavy style of thrumming, chugging riffage tied together by Harv’s fearless vocals. All the while the floor bounced to the wrathful beat of the drums,
delivered expertly by Jonathan Millar of Maverick.

The set continued with ‘You’re not the same’ and into ‘Deathdealer’.

It came to a close with probably the most perfect song for the night with ‘The Legend Carries On’. It certainly does. Even with a heavy cold and a sore throat Harv delivered on the vocals.

Then stepped on stage the mighty Diamond Head. From the very get go it was plain to see something was wrong. Ras, the compelling lead singer, was in difficulties.

While Harv had the dreaded lurgy, Ras had full on flu and his throat was in a bad way. Diamond Head could have easily cancelled the gig or even after the first song Ras could have rightfully called it quits.

But no, he kept going through the whole set, much to the delight and utter respect of the crowd. Many a modern pop band should take note.

With complete disregard to his throat, Ras, along with Brian Tatler and the band blasted off with ‘Play It Loud’ before going on into ‘Borrowed Time’, ‘Bones’ and the fast and furious ‘Lightning to the Nations’.

The Voodoo did not know what hit it.

Brain exhibited his absolute mastery of his guitar, delivering heavy metal as it should be. It was powerful raw energy that flowed out from the stage. Nobody could stand still, these were hefty melody laden tunes that were emotionally and physically rousing.

The crowd was pumped and Ras expertly deployed ‘interactive audience mode’ encouraging the now passionately reactive crowd to sing along. Really he didn’t need to, as everyone was singing along anyway. But his connecting with the metallers there did not go unnoticed and that placed him in high esteem from everyone there.

On into ‘The Prince’, Heat of the Night’ and the hypnotic ‘Sucking my love’. ‘Shoot Out The Lights’, ‘Sweet and Innocent’ and ‘Diamonds’ continued the masterwork of this legendary band.

It was a thing of beauty to behold, seeing this band deliver metal in its purest, rawest form.

‘It's Electric’ and ‘Helpless’ continued the heavy metal headbanging heaven that the night had turned into.

And of course, Diamond Head finished off the set with the iconic ‘Am I Evil?’. That could well have been it, but Ras valiantly pushed on through the encore song ‘Streets of Gold’, much to the delight of everyone.

All in all, it was a fantastic night of heavy metal and rock as it should be, experienced up close and personal. Literally inches away from the bands.

It emphasised that in the right place at the right time with the right bands, you will have almost a spiritual experience of euphoric proportions. This gig was one of those times. 

Review by Ivor Whitten
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Monday, December 11, 2017

NEWS: Ramblin Man add new acts including Fish

RAMBLIN Man Fair has today confirmed three new acts for the Maidstone festival including a set by Fish, who will be playing material from 'Clutching At Straws'.

Also added are Mostly Autumn and the Von Hertzen Brothers.

Fish will also be playing songs from his impressive solo recordings.

Mostly Autumn have been described as Genesis meets Pink Floyd with Celtic themes and added rock.

For those who saw Vob Hertzen Brothers at HRH in November all can pay testament to the strength of this band. 'War Is Over' was a tour de force of an album and live they add more textures and strength.

Already confirmed for Ramblin Man are Halestorm, Blackberry Smoke, Steve Earle and Sons of Apollo.

Ramblin Man takes place at Mote Park, Maidstone on 30th June and 1st July. Tickets are on sale now here.