Iron Maiden. Better than The Beatles – Fact!


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In a proud triumph for British Heavy Metal bands, social networking and ballot stuffing campaigns everywhere, Iron Maiden’sIron Maiden’s 1982 metal opus “The Number of the Beast has been announced as the Best British Album of the last 60 years in the results of an HMV poll designed to flog back catalogue albums celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Somewhere, the normally Divinely appointed recipient of these honours, Brit crooner and Emperor of Naff God-Fearing Pop Piffle Cliff Richard is composing a very sharply worded rebuke to somebody who gives a toss (clue: not your humble correspondent).  Face it Cliff, your ancient fan base just can’t figure out how to get online and rig these contests – deal with it, oldsters…

Whilst I would normally treat such things with the disdain that they arguably deserve, it is rather nice to see Iron Maiden’s fans being so active and doing such a bang-up job of getting their band to the top of such a visible list.

Metal Mavens Maiden Maul Malevolent MOR Morons Massively, Mate.

Better yet, let’s all be joined in delight that it wasn’t effing Mumford and Sons or sodding Adele topping this chart – huzzah for long-lasting hairy metallizers!

Delain “We Are The Others” track-by-track…

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Another week, another excuse to foist my dubious musical taste on you.  Or, in this case, a chance for you to hear Delain lead singer and cheery person Charlotte Wessels talk a bit about the band’s new record, “We Are The Others” before it comes out in June.

I reviewed their recent Sheffield gig and was very enamoured of the new stuff – it’s polished, catchy and a real step onward from April Rain“, the band’s sophomore release.

You can watch the first part of this track-by-track over at YouTube…

Aussie Arts Assists Aggro Artists

This is Arts Council funding that I can get behind – Australia Council for the Arts gives $20,000 grant to Death Metallists Ouroboros to fund writing and recording for their next record, including working with a symphony orchestra.

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I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Death Metal – the sonic attack is fine but the subject matter traded in by some bands leaves me absolutely cold and the surfeit of melody in a lot of the bands that I’ve heard hasn’t done a lot to win me over.  That said, it’s nice to see organizations such as the Australia Council for the Arts acknowledging that worthwhile work is being done in non-traditional styles and by bands who are never going to be rivalling Nickelback in record sales – in that sense, a band like this are doing what they do for love and for Art with the proverbial capital ‘A’.

Take the ‘harsh vocals‘ side of the death metal genre – in many ways, that particular aspect of the genre is as alien and impenetrable to lay people as much of contemporary art  is to a casual observer.  The lyrical content, too, is bound to boggle fans of Jessie J or The Wanted – if they don’t just laugh it off nervously, they might well find the extremity and verbosity more akin to some form of pointedly abstract poetry which they can’t understand.

I mean – I don’t see young Master Bieber covering this song by Black Dahlia Murder any time soon…

Fair play to Ouroboros – Let’s hope that their efforts to secure this funding result in them delivering a record which delivers on their ambitions and perhaps even gives the Death Metal sceptics like me a route into a genre which I’ve previously not found that accessible.

October Thrashing Mad

In a move which can only confirm their reputation as the nicest Thrash-inspired UK outfit on the block, Yorkshire’s own Evile have confirmed a UK tour for October 2012, with a Sheffield show scheduled in positively indecent proximity to my birthday.  You might say utter coincidence – I’d like to think otherwise, obviously…

Evile lead guitarist Ol Drake
Ol Drake of Evile – fast fingers flying ferociously, don’t you know?

Nonetheless, what absolute legends.

If you’re unfamiliar with Evile – I can see that you might be – let’s do our best to remedy that by directing you to the video for their delightful track “Thrasher”.  Isn’t that just the most face-meltingly quick and bracing slice of Thrashy Metal goodness that you’ve heard all day?  It’s like the mid-eighties never went away and Metallica never made a duff record.  Ahem…

Like an oddly metallic, quite heavy comfort blanket – Evile!

It’s a weird thing to feel oddly comforted by music which is, on the face of it, quite abrasive and the proverbial middle-finger to provincial notions of safety and familiarity but Thrash/Neo-Thrash/Thrash Revival stuff is still as vital and exciting (and quite absurdly soothing) to me as it was back in the eighties when Slayer had dodgy mullets and the mighty Anthrax (always my favourite of the Big Four) were penning glorious odes to Judge Dredd.

I never quite got into Black Metal – the Cookie Monster vocals have been something of a sticking point for me – so Thrash is probably as musically extreme as I go.  Punky energy and occasionally politicised lyrics with the aural comfort blanket of 900 MPH guitar solos and Metal double-bass drums – what’s not to like?

To convince you further as to Evile’s status as princes amongst men and women, have a gander at guitarist Ol Drake fearlessly mashing up Judas Priest and Lady Gaga on YouTube with a version of “Born This Way”.  I’m sure that Mother Monster would approve…

Everyone’s Favourite Woolly liberals – Slayer!

Of all the places on the internet that I expected to see Slayer turning up on today, the Guardian’s website wasn’t one of them.

Never knowingly confused with Reckless Love – Los Angeles, California’s finest architects of aural hate, Slayer.

They have – shall we say – opposite views on things.  Kerry King doesn’t strike me as the world’s most liberal and progressive fellow and The Guardian isn’t where I would go to find out Metal news (snarky bobbins from people with several-barrelled names and nice jumpers, yes – metal, no).

That said, you can grab an MP3 mixtape from the Grauniad’s website to promote the Slayer-headlined “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival and if you’ve never heard Raining Blood before, go nuts.  There’s also the mind-meltingly heavy likes of Wolves in the Throne Room, Melvins, Sleep and Mogwai to enjoy amidst a healthy selection of what can only be described as yawn-inducing indie cruft.  Still, it’s free…

Delain/Trillium/Halcyon Way at Corporation, Sheffield, 13/05/2012 – gig review

I love going to gigs but I don’t love the rather perverse reaction that I have to them – I can only describe it as being akin to having the kind of nerves you would have if you were actually on stage.  For the couple of hours before I go to see a show, there’s a distinct sense of my stomach doing loop-de-loops, my heart racing and all kinds of reactions which are back-to-front and just plain daft.  It would be great if I could just fold my arms, ignore the band and check my text messages as a few punters seem to enjoy doing, but I’m not of that mindset.

All of which preamble leads me to talk about going to see Delain, Trillium and  Halcyon Way at the Corporation in Sheffield on Sunday night.  A good time, you’ll be pleased to hear, was had by most.

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The Corporation is a small venue but it’s got atmosphere to spare and you get up close and personal with not only the bands but a wide variety of fascinating personalities.

Hence the comment about people and their mobiles – a trio of rock fans standing near me last night, who had presumably paid £13 or £14 to attend the show, did their very best to ignore the bands all night and were sharing regular texts, photos and FaceTweets.  If they’re that keen to have the bands not spoil their night, I’d be happy to go round to their flats and stand in front of them whilst they just play the CD, knock back pints of rubbish lager and occasionally stand on my checkerboard Vans.

The first band on last night were Georgia progressive metallists, Halcyon Way, who had the dubious honour of being odd men out in some respects.  Their sound – punchy, technical, intense and lyrically rather more bleak than the other bands on the bill – didn’t seem to go over brilliantly at first but their reception improved through their half-hour set.  I think that it’s a case of the audience not being familiar with the band rather than the band not being up to much – their Last.FM page lists reference points like Dream  Theatre and Slayer, which is somewhere near to how I’d describe them.  I was getting old school thrash alongside progressive solos and anthemic, fist in the air choruses.

Amanda Somerville, from Trillium. They’re quite ace.

Occupying the unenviable position of being the band before the headliners, Trillium might have been an unknown quantity to some in the crowd but I was more familiar with Amanda Somerville’s metal project as she’s worked with Fluffrick approved bands like  EpicaKamelot and my beloved Avantasia (their tune, “The Story Ain’t Over” is one of my very favourite songs).

I’ve heard some of the Trillium album and it didn’t really win me over too much but the live performance of the songs was a revelation – so much so that I’ll be picking up the record and giving it my full attention, as Somerville’s the kind of vocalist who really should be a massive star.  Simply put, she owns the stage and commands your attention for every second of Trillium’s set – she’s a proper, honest to goodness rock star whose work should be in your collection if you love European flavoured rock and metal, albeit with a distinctive soulful edge which sets her apart from the symphonic bands who think that having a female vocalist is akin to doing fifty percent of the work.

My favourite song from Trillium proper was “Purge” although my favourite song of the set was “Set Afire” from the Kiske/Somerville collaboration – though the band was properly on fire by the time that “Bow to the Ego”, “Path of Least Resistance” and “Coward” rounded out the set with Somerville’s R&B/Soul influences taking flight and ending their show on a roof-obliterating high note.

The only name which does Amanda Somerville justice is ‘Valkyrie’.  I like to think that any passing Vikings who happened upon Trillium’s set on Sunday night would have seen a kindred spirit.

After some more setting-up, gusts of experimental dry ice and the venue filling up a little more with an intriguing varied selection of punters – Hey, bloke who looks like he shops at the (hypothetical) Jeremy Clarkson collection at M&S!  Hi, dude in well-weathered Sisters of Mercy shirt! – Delain‘s intro tape started and the lights took their sweet time about dropping down.

Image of Delain’s Charlotte Wessels via some internet ninja action.

This tour has been all about introducing the band’s third album to fans after a protracted, business-related delay in getting it released and with the internet being the delivery system that is, a great many fans were word-perfect with songs which don’t properly hit streets until early June, a fact acknowledged by Charlotte between songs as she noted that we could hear the new songs first on YouTube or at the gig tonight.

Happily, the new stuff is ace.  You might have heard recent single “Get the Devil Out Of Me” wherever good music is heard:

Delain – Get The Devil Out Of Me

It’s a good indicator of where this third album is going – tighter, focussed lyrics and with tons of symphonic melody, huge metal riffs and Ms Wessels’ distinctive voice somehow meeting brilliantly in the middle and making perfect musical sense.  I hate to use them as an example of a rock/metal band that you could introduce to non-metal fans who think that the genre’s just noise but the fact is that Delain manage to be accessible to both the rock-phobic and the die-hard headbanger alike.

We had a satisfying mix of stuff from the first album – “The Gathering”, one of my favourite Delain tunes, was the last song of the night, so I left the venue smiling – “April Rain” and June’s “We Are The Others”.  I was particularly taken with new, Facebook/social media-inspired “Generation Me” (did the trio of phone-addicted kids in front of me have an ironic twinge at any point during that song, I wonder) and the older “Virtue and Vice”, whose male harsh vocal bridge was gleefully undercut by Charlotte bouncing up and down and grinning like a metal diva exercise instructor at the same time.

It’s the little things, you know.

I loved Delain, let’s be honest – like Trillium, they’re a band who gain so much from the live experience that you owe it to yourself to see them if they come to your town.  I would venture that fans of hyper-glum Black Metal might beg to differ but Delain were one of the best bands that I’ve seen in a long while.  Admittedly, they are totally up my street being Dutch, unapologetically tuneful and ever so slightly nerdy (I’ve been listening to Delain on a loop as I read Markus Heitz’s “The Dwarves” – full disclosure), but don’t let my cheerleading put you off.

Melody, metal and foot-long grins on every one’s face – that’s the Delain experience for you.

Autumn Fires Burning

Greek Power Metal mania courtesy of Firewind

Further to yesterday’s “Support Your Scene!” post, I’m going to have to find myself an equivalent gig by an up-and-coming local/unsigned rock band to go to in September as I’ve just bought a ticket to see Greek Power Metallists Firewind in September, supported by German/Norse ethereal folk metal maestra Leaves Eyes.

Leaves Eyes – get some ‘beauty and the beast’ metal into your life…

I’ll be keeping an eye out for likely bands and report back when an opportunity to Support My Scene shows itself…

 

Support your scene!

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I was reading a fun post over at Electric Eye today which got me to thinking about music scenes and the ways we can support new bands at the earliest stage of their career.

It’s always tempting to go and see bands who are further up the chain – see the poster above, for the Delain/Trillium/Halcyon Way show that I’ll be going to on Sunday night – but what about bands who aren’t at the festival/releasing albums/career musician stage that Delain are at?  In this age of non-existent record sales, established labels being shut down by corporate parents and a worrying sense that rock is being marginalised ever further, shouldn’t we as music fans be taking a leaf from the punk and hardcore scenes are supporting our bands in a direct way?

I apologise if you’re reading this and I’m teaching you to suck eggs – I know that a great many music fans are already all too cognizant that it’s more difficult than ever for bands to build a career and make a living from playing music and are doing their part to directly support the music that they love.  It’s the other guys that I’m talking to.

And I recognize that it’s very easy for me to blog about this stuff and then do nothing myself to try to make a difference.  To which end – I propose a strategy, a plan for moving forward, if you will?

Every time that I go to see a more established band from now on, I’m going to try to balance that reasonably easy option out by going to see unsigned and local bands who really do need the support at this nascent stage.

Manchester Dark Melodic Power Metallists, Gone Til Winter

To which end, meet the first band that I intend to go and see live – Manchester’s Gone Til Winter, who are due to play at the Dove & Rainbow in Sheffield on Friday 11th May with Awaker in support.  I’ve been listening to and enjoying their stuff after seeing them linked on Spotify.   Their website, linked above, has an embedded music player so that you can make up your own mind.

That’s the plan – it will get me out to more gigs and I now have an excuse to plant myself directly in front of bass players and get a sense of what they’re doing in a live situation.  Win-Win!

Assembly Music

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Yay for targeted marketing!   In a perfect storm of nerdery, questionable taste in music (mine) and first week sales promotions, the good people at Amazon had a deal this week which offered both the Alan Silvestri original score for “The Avengers and the rock-focussed “Music From and Inspired By” soundtrack album for the princely sum of £10.00 on the MP3 store.

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Click > Add to Cart > Sold!

The Alan Silvestri score is very solid stuff, if ever so slightly reminiscent of his previous work – you might well find yourself going “Hmm…that sounds very much like the music from Back to the Future, don’t you know?”.  I’m quite fond of Black Widow‘s theme – “Red Ledger”, a percussive action piece called “Assault” and all of the pieces which accompany that thing with the stuff (I don’t wish to spoil the movie for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet, but “Assemble” and “One Way Trip” are adrenaline-racing fare and score some of the most air-punching/nail-biting bits of the film’s climax).

As to whether you would like this album – do you like to wash dishes and pots to Murray Gold‘s “I Am The Doctor” and Hans Zimmer‘s “The End?” (from the recent Sherlock Holmes sequel)?   You do?  Get on this score – it’s right up your alley.

They will rock you and break your face if you don’t like it – Five Finger Death Punch

Now to the more divisive release of the two.  I’ve written a yippy-skippy piece about the “Music From And Inspired By” soundtrack album previously and I have to admit that I’ve lost none of my affection for it now that it’s on my iPod.  Well, let me clarify that – I could have done without Five Finger Death Punch‘s cover version of Faith No More‘s classic “From Out Of Nowhere”, which is clearly a case of a band turning in their take of a song which they loved in their formative years.  I don’t hate Five Finger Death Punch as much it is now apparently the law to do – never heard much by them, to be honest – but equally I’m not sure that the world needs a gruff, heads-down cover of a nuanced, singular song by one of the most underrated bands of the last twenty years.  If you love Ivan, Zoltan and the boys, your mileage may vary.

No, I’m going to keep my ire firmly for dreadful British hipster dreck Kasabian – they appear on the ‘international’ version of the soundtrack with their tune ‘Pistols at Dawn‘ and will be getting resolutely skipped from here forth: I’m not a fan, oddly enough.   In the context of the record – Shinedown, Evanescence, Buckcherry – wouldn’t a band like Halestorm be a lock for inclusion?  I suppose that I’m just grouchy because there’s not even a hint of DragonForce or Pythia on the soundtrack…

It is very much as you would expect, in fact – targeted at a variety of rock fans, with the younger set taken care of via everyone’s favourite Motley Crue tribute band, Black Veil Brides (for all my snarking, their song “Unbroken” is catchy as hell) and the aforementioned FFDP.  Their older brothers and sisters get Papa RoachRise Against (who somehow pull off being punky, poetic, anthemic and grumpy all at the same time – kudos!), Shinedown (really quite liked their song, “I’m Alive”) and Soundgarden to bump in their Ford pick-up trucks.

Bush are still around and sounding not terribly different from their heyday and the smattering of newer artists – Cherri Bomb, PusherJones and Redlight King – don’t amaze particularly but don’t offend either.  Cherri Bomb being the pick of that crop, for me at least.

In short – I quite liked the soundtrack.  It’s a promotional tie-in for a huge juggernaut of a movie but I liked a lot of the stuff on here and would recommend it to folks who want to check out bands they’re not currently into (Shinedown, on this evidence, will be a band I might want to have a longer listen to).  And I’d certainly sub-out Kasabian for Theory of a Deadman (who are on the US release), coolness be damned.

Sure Shot

Adam Yauch (AKA MCA), born 5 August 1964, died 4 May 2012

“I Want To Say a Little Something That’s Long
Overdue
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters And The
Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The
End”

Sure Shot, Beastie Boys, Ill Communication

Rest in peace, Adam Yauch.  Believe me when I say that this post is hard to write.  The very idea that you’ve been taken from us by cancer is bizarre and doesn’t quite compute.

You went from snotty punk to mature musical icon and filmmaker whilst somehow managing to get cooler as you got older.  That’s quite a trick to pull off.  You were part of a band who were inclusive, innovative and celebratory enough to get even a Grinch like me to shake my ass.  The world is poorer for being robbed of your presence and I have lost an artist who (alongside Public Enemy) introduced me to hip-hop.

Go listen to “Ill Communication” today (or the Beasties cuts of your choice) and revel in how this band never stopped being awesome and always had their own identity.