The Simple Things Make You Happy…

Hi folks – normal blog service is now resumed.

It’s a long story involving curtailed holidays, pets and places we won’t be staying in again until Heck freezes over.  Ask me again at some point and I’ll give you the real skinny – it’s probably best to give that particular story some much-needed room to breathe.

No sooner had I arrived back from a nice break in a place that the Internet has yet to arrive than I discovered that Swedish Power Metal loons, Sabaton…

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Plus Swiss Pagan/Folk Metal Ragers, Eluveitie 

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…are playing at Sheffield’s Corporation club on the 11th of November this year.  It’s become quite difficult to type as my fingers are forming involuntary horns.

What with Firewind/Leaves’ Eyes, Nightwish, Epica and now Sabaton/Eluveitie on my gig list for the Autumn, it’s getting difficult to see how my gig-going could get any better for the rest of the year.

Anybody want to persuade Within Temptation and Diabulus In Musica that they really need to tour the UK this year?

A Nightwish to remember…

Gloomy, oh-so-serious masters (and mistress) of neo-gothic grimness, Nightwish, here pictured on their annual ‘Happy Super Metal Fun Day’. Possibly.

After some internet ninja action worthy of note, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs successfully scored Nightwish tickets for us today, which means that we’re going to see them in action in Manchester, at the O2 Apollo on Sunday November 4th.

Permit me to now do the Snoopy Dance around the living room at the very prospect of seeing one of my favourite bands live for the first time.

Happily, we’re in the seated section, which means that I can be authentically curmudgeonly in the company of my fellow old rockers rather than mixing it up down the front with people who still have their own teeth and no back pain to speak of.   I look forward to boring you all with more observations and nerding out over Nightwish nearer to the time (by which point, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs will hopefully be familiar with the songs and able to sing along with Anette Olzon – knowing my wife’s lovely voice, she might even have a shot at some of the Tarja era stuff, too…)

New Tarja live record in August – no octave left behind

Whatever, mate, you’re the one with the sword. Quit looking at me!

Erstwhile former Nightwish vocalist and actual, proper diva Tarja Turunen has announced a new live record for release in August – Blabbermouth has more.

She also promises a new solo record next year – following the recent Harus album of traditional Finnish odds and sods – which will delight fans who love to hear her classically trained voice laying waste to the idea that rock bands don’t require technically proficient vocalists.

Are we now past the whole ‘Anette/Tarja’ debate, Nightwish fans, or is that still a thing?  Can’t we have both and enjoy them equally?

Sonic Syndicate – Roger and out?

Regular perusal of my Last.FM profile pages will reveal to the curious that I am quite fond of Anglo-Swedish Melodic Death Metal outfit Sonic Syndicate.

The gruff and shouty sound of Falkenberg, Sweden – Sonic Syndicate (circa 2004)

Yep, they’re noisy.  Picture, if you will, an invigorating line of absurd, ‘Would Sir like a throat lozenge, perhaps?’ harsh vocals, guitar riffs so speedy that they’re a shoe-in to represent Sweden at this year’s London Olympics, married to unexpected choruses so catchy that they’ve clearly escaped from the likes of A Day To Remember and should be taken home again, forthwith, before they’re missed.

The reason for this post?  Leading guitar light and founding member Roger Sjunneson has confirmed that he’s left the band and is now devoting all of his attention to Swedish Melo-Death maniacs, The Unguided, whom he formed with his vocalist brother Roger in 2010 as a Sonic side-project.

Careful with that fringe, former Sonic Syndicate Axe merchant Richard Sjunneson – you’ll have somebody’s eye out…

Musical differences seem to be the reason for this split – Richard and Roger appear to have felt that the melodic part of their sound was taking over at the behest of their former record company, with distracting poppier material rearing its ugly head on Sonic Syndicate’s 2010 release, “We Rule The Night”, to the extent that a casual listener might mistake the likes of “My Own Life” for a Chad Kroeger solo record.

I know, right?  Scary.

There’s melodic metal and then there’s “Wow, I sure do like that new Saturdays single – it’s feisty!”.  Never the twain, and all that..

The upshot of this is that Sonic Syndicate are still going – and playing their only show of the year by headlining a festival in Hungary on the 22nd of June – and The Unguided are still there if you want stuff that sounds as confused and exhilarating as the best of Sonic Syndicate’s material used to sound.

Everybody wins, right?  Especially bassist Karin Axelsson, who will eventually be teaching her wee tyke how to downtune Mama’s bass

Nightwish announce UK tour

My Musketeer goatee is nearly as impressive as Tuomas’ – fact!

So, Finnish Symphonic Awesomeologists Nightwish have confirmed dates for their 2012 UK tour –

Nov 4th: Manchester Apollo
Nov 5th: Brixton Academy
Nov 6th: Birmingham Academy
Nov 7th: Glasgow Academy

And…I guess that I would be going to the Manchester show, if I can possibly hook that up.  Tickets on general sale from next Friday, apparently.

Motivation for me to use some of my driving skills to get me to big old Manchester or an excuse to go on the train as traffic in the ancestral home of Morrissey is not known to be brilliant?

Time to get saving my pennies…

Epica – Symphonic Christmas

More proof, compadres, that Google is your buddy.

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Epica are only playing Corporation in Sheffield just before Christmassymphonic metal festive season frenzy ahoy!

They released their latest record, “Requiem For The Indifferent”, earlier this spring and I fully intend to get around to listening to it in due course – with the prospect of seeing their live show now acting as a strong motivator for me to dig back into the Epica catalogue and test the structural integrity of my already bowing CD shelves by acquiring their stuff (downloading from iTunes isn’t quite the same, to be honest – there’s not the same romance to browsing a PDF of the liner notes that you get from even a cursory glance at the CD booklet).

Think big riffs, soaring female vocals, gruff male singing and a sound composed of equal parts prog noodling, very melodic metal and even some approachable classical influence chucked in for the music students.  Yes, they’re very much a part of the ‘corset metal’ movement recently decried by the Metal Hammer podcast (somebody play them some Machine Head to distract them – stat!), but that’s my favourite style of rock, so I don’t see a problem with the designation.

Wednesday December 12th can’t get here quickly enough…

 

This Week In Pint-Sized, Rockstar Follies…

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Oh, Axl, must we go down this road again?

The maxim would have it that time heals all wounds but clearly that slice of home-spun wisdom hasn’t reached the lead singer of what currently passes for Guns N Roses, as this week Axl Rose Forced Fans To Remove Slash T-Shirts at their London 02 Arena show.

Not content with starting gigs several hours late, writing his former band mates out of history in lengthy online screeds, storming off stage regularly and generally behaving like the kind of caricature that you could chuckle at if his behaviour wasn’t so pitiable, he’s now telling fans what they can wear when they’ve spent £56.25 to see his current backing band plow dutifully through the back catalogue and the absurdly overblown sonic mulch which was Chinese Democracy“.

Being as charitable and equitable as Rose now seems unable to be, one might argue that the act of wearing a Slash shirt to a gig where the former G’N’R guitarist is now persona-non-grata could be construed as an act of minor, passive aggressive trolling.  But the point would be somewhat hard to sustain – Slash is, whether Axl chooses to acknowledge it not, an integral part of the Guns story and has carried himself with far more dignity than the defacto protector of the G’N’R legacy cares to.

How about that new Slash record, by the way?  Really looking forward to what Slash, Myles and the boys have cooked up this time…

 

Van Halen – “A Different Kind of Truth” album review

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Van Halen’s much-ballyhooed ‘reunion’ album with three-quarters of the classic line-up is proof that you CAN go home again.

I was initially sceptical that giving vintage 1970’s material a buff and polish was a great idea, but the resultant album unequivocally establishes such misgivings are unfounded – this is the best Van Halen record since “OU812” and a joy to listen to. It’s a pleasure to be as wrong as I was about this Van Halen line-up as they’ve only gone and kicked my ass completely.

There’s stuff here – “Blood and Fire”, “Big River”“Chinatown”, “She’s The Woman”, “Stay Frosty” – which stacks up to the best Van Halen material from the late ’70s and early ’80s, both in musical attack and David Lee Roth‘s ‘1,000 aphorisms a minute’ lyrical style.  The wit and sass duke it out with Ed’s crunching riffs, reckless abandon soloing and the pretty damn tight Wolfgang and Alex rhythm section, somehow conspiring to present a record which sounds utterly classic, absolutely contemporary and as though the 1984 line-up were cryogenically flash-frozen and dumped out into the modern-day to rock faces anew.

This record recalls the  Van Halen of “Van Halen II”, Women & Children First and “Mean Streets” with a contemporary, glistening production sheen and every bit of musical moxie intact and somehow enhanced for a modern audience.

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Eddie and Wolfgang – Van Halen & Son, staying frosty and defying the haters. Picture via Esquire.com

Coming back to that latter point, I won’t say that I don’t miss Michael Anthony in the band, but it must be said that Wolfgang more than makes his case to be apart of the new line-up.  The backing vocals are very much up to snuff and the new fellow’s bass playing is tight and unfussy, finding the odd moment to add flair in concert with his uncle’s typically impeccable, thunderous double bass attack.  The rhythm section, always a key element of Van Halen’s sound, is absolutely present and correct and the envy of any of their peers.

Recent events have suggested to the weary Van Halen fan that you should never expect them to keep things on track for too long but it would be a shame to see this line-up go the way of previous iterations, particularly as the middle-aged romantic typing these words would love the entertain the oft-absurd notion that they could drag their asses over to Europe again and let us see this line-up knock one out of the proverbial park (or mid-sized arena).

So, the short version.  Great songs, Eddie’s solos and riffs will melt your face, the rhythm section’s a monster and Dave’s voice is a singular thing of high-pitched, camp, bar room bard beauty.  It’s not the album that I expected – it’s something far, far better.

If you’ve been holding off on picking it up, as I was, buy it with confidence – it’s proof that musical reunions can work out for the best.  Where the band goes from here is anybody’s guess, but I hope that they summon up the mojo to keep going and make more records of this calibre.