Sunday, 7 November 2010

Mashiri presents "Raw Girth"

MASHIRI – Raw Girth

Blessed with the greatest band name in history, St. Albans trio Mashiri burst out of the blocks with their debut release, ‘Raw Girth’.

‘Banter’ is a fun start to Mashiri’s catalogue. Yes it is a pretty blatant rip-off of ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’ (Dan Edwin’s vocal delivery in parts is pretty much exactly the same, if lacking some of Zach De La Rocha’s trademark ferocity) but it is a good song with lyrics that tread the line between being plain silly and just having a humorous side well. The instrumental work is solid if unspectacular with the sludgy lower register adds an enjoyable raw dynamic to the mix.

‘I Never Noticed’ is a different kind of song. Its near six minute duration is entirely composed of simple instrumentation, often carried by the bassline over tranquil acoustic guitar and pleading vocals. It’s a nice song but perhaps a little out of place alongside the more rocking ‘Banter’, meaning that it is hard to tell exactly what Mashiri want to be from this debut release. Despite this however, Mashiri have produced what can certainly be considered a very enjoyable debut. Bring on the next release!


Mashiri are:
Hugo Beardsall – Drums
Joe Clapham – Bass
Dan Edwin – Vocals & Guitar
Mark Goodfellow – Guitar

Monday, 4 October 2010

Dark Tranquillity - London Camden Underworld - Tuesday 28th September 2010

As one of the founders of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene in the early nineties one would expect Dark Tranquillity to be either gone by now (like At The Gates) or producing rafts of substandard material (like In Flames). Instead they are doing neither. Dark Tranquillity are the true kings of melodeath yet have never gained as much recognition as their peers. It is hard to understand why this is the case. Yes, At The Gates produced the masterpiece that is ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ and yes, In Flames pumped out the likes of ‘Whoracle’ and ‘Clayman’, but Dark Tranquillity gave us ‘The Gallery’, a record that trumps its competitors without question. Then, over a decade later, in 2007, they gave us the classic that is ‘Fiction’ whilst In Flames gave us the occasionally embarrassing ‘A Sense of Purpose’ and At The Gates reformed for a brief summer of reunion shows. Yet the band doesn’t seem to have any problems with its lot. They still tour as much as ever and reward their dedicated fanbase with passionate performances night after night. This show at the Underworld is the only UK show of the band’s ‘Where Death Is Most Alive, Part 2’ tour and is therefore heaving with metalheads. As if the band needed any help to put on a spectacular show, they’ve brought Finnish quartet Insomnium with them as support.

Undoubtedly a band to have taken great influence from Dark Tranquillity over the years, but also one with a slightly more progressive edge to their songwriting, Insomnium take to the stage to an already packed venue. Many of the crowd are clearly big fans of the band and so it doesn’t take long for the likes of ‘Where the Last Wave Broke’ to get a singalong going. Their set reaches fever pitch with ‘Weather the Storm’ when the band announce that they are filming the song for an upcoming music video and none other than Dark Tranquillity frontman Mikael Stanne joins the band on stage. Despite the crushing riffs and epic atmosphere Insomnium aren’t quite as good live as they should be. They are good but without ever reaching the triumphant level that the whole set feels as if it is building up towards and they are therefore a little disappointing.

Dark Tranquillity are anything but disappointing. Despite opening their set with the strange choice of ‘At the Point of Ignition’, a song off their newest album that hardly offers the punch in the gut that much of their back catalogue could bring to the table, and having technical problems that result in a five minute pause early on, the band rip through a set featuring most of their classics alongside fan favourites and the best of their new material. What stands out most of all is the quality of the songs; this is a metal band with melodies that worm their way inside your head so that by the last chorus of a Dark Tranquillity song you’ve never heard before you can scream your lungs out alongside the devoted. There are plenty of the devoted in situ tonight, made obvious by the fact that even newer songs such as ‘The Fatalist’ get loud singalongs. The best crowd reactions during the main set come during the towering anthem that is ‘Lost to Apathy’ and old classic ‘Punish My Heaven’, both of which get treated like the hit singles they would undoubtedly have been if metal ruled the mainstream music charts. It would be wrong, however, to get the impression that Dark Tranquillity rely on playing show after show to hardcore fans. This is a band that is brilliant at what it does. Mikael Stanne is an excellent frontman, making each and every audience member feel involved and repeatedly clasping the hands of the swarming front rows. The rest of the band don’t put much of a foot wrong and all seem genuinely pleased to be on stage and not at all frustrated with the lot of still playing small clubs in the UK twenty years into their career. Before closing the encore with a thundering ‘Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)’ Stanne thanks the crowd warmly and promises to return to the UK again next year; hopefully for a proper tour rather than an isolated show in the capital. Although the band promise to stay around to sign autographs and pose for pictures, security puts an end to such a possibility and so the night ends with the conclusion of the set, one that is about as superb as the melodeath legends could have possibly produced. The only real criticism that could be levelled at the band is that they arguably chose the wrong songs to play from their new record (the superb ‘Arkhangelsk’ is noticeably absent) and that one or two genuine classics (‘Therein’ being the obvious example) are also missing. When a band plays as well as this however, and when the atmosphere is as fervent as well, then it doesn’t matter one jot; a fabulous evening of metal.

Insomnium – 6/10
Dark Tranquillity – 10/10

Insomnium setlist
Down with the Sun
Where the Last Wave Broke
Drawn to Black
Weather the Storm (ft. Mikael Stanne)
The Harrowing Years
The Gale
Mortal Share
The Killjoy
Weighed Down With Sorrow

Dark Tranquillity setlist
At the Point of Ignition
The Fatalist
Damage Done
Lost To Apathy
Monochromatic Stains
The Gallery
One Thought
The Wonders at Your Feet
Shadow in Our Blood
Dream Oblivion
Misery’s Crown
Punish My Heaven
Final Resistance
The Sun Fired Blanks
Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Winter Tradition - Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's - Saturday 4th September 2010

Sneaky Pete’s is one of those music venues that, when you first enter, you wonder what possessed anyone to turn it into such a venue in the first place. This isn’t to say it’s a bad little place just that it is very little. People who think that anything less than a 1000 capacity counts as intimate need to see this place; which I struggle to believe can hold many more than 100.

Despite being very small the place is nearer empty than full when opening band Your Neighbour The Liar take to the stage. The quartet get through six or seven decent songs with ‘Circus’ being probably the pick of the bunch. They seem to take strongly to the school of interspersing melodic post-rock guitar picking with occasional bursts of distorted riffage. However the strength of their songwriting as yet means that whenever they choose to burst into heaviness it is not the least bit surprising. Indeed most of the material they showcase is pretty samey; it is especially noticeable that all of the first three songs they play feature the band choosing to sing away from their microphones to create the ‘distant group vocals’ effect used to better advantage in recent times by contemporaries such as The Xcerts. The band’s use of handclapping also comes across as being a little weird; there’s never a reason why a drummer should be sitting behind his kit clapping instead of actually playing. Overall not a bad performance and there is potential in the band that may well be realised in the near future.

From what I know about the band, Glasgow’s Lightguides should probably be headlining this gig. The trio’s beguilingly mathy time signatures echo the likes of This Town Needs Guns and Adebisi Shank while they still retain a certain sing-along element reminiscent of their fellow Glaswegians in Twin Atlantic; for whom they were ‘secret support’ at a huge gig at Glasgow’s ABC a while back. The lack of bass player is far from something holding them back; in fact it frees up room for impressive guitar and, especially, drum work. Aside from the obvious quality of their music Lightguides are great to watch and the fact they have a fan who has come all the way from Essex to see them play speaks volumes. Despite the fact that they seem to accidentally knock over pretty much everything they can whilst on stage (the drummer’s mic in particular doesn’t want to hold up) they still play a blinder of a set. This is a band that should be a lot bigger than they are and, judging by the reaction of the crowd during their set, they are the band with the largest share of fans present; this is made especially noticeable by the fact that the band remain on stage for longer than originally planned with a rendition of ‘Midget Gem’ following chants of “one more song” in the Edinburgh venue.

All this makes the task of recently renamed The Winter Tradition more difficult than it needs to be. Having recently changed their name from The Void, the band are promoting the release of a new single, ‘Firelight’. Despite being a local act the band attracted a meagre audience of around 12 people to an acoustic instore session the day before this gig but thankfully more people have turned up tonight. Whilst their set is packed with punchy choruses aplenty there is little that makes the band stand out in the same way as so many Scottish acts nowadays. Soundwise they are a little like a halfway point between Twin Atlantic and The Twilight Sad. The band don’t get much of a reaction when they first come on stage but by the time ‘Firelight’ and ‘Game of Ghosts’ have rounded off their set everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Lightguides still should have headlined though.

Your Neighbour The Liar – 5/10
Lightguides – 8/10
The Winter Tradition – 6/10

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

People In Planes - London Upstairs @ Highbury Garage - Friday 6th August 2010

People In Planes have had a somewhat topsy-turvy career to say the least. The Welsh rockers started out as Robots In The Sky but after a number of other bands decided to act like pricks and complain that PiP couldn't have this name because it was too similar to their band's name they had to change that to Tetra Splendour. Tetra Splendour signed to EMI sub-label Wishakismo and released debut 'Splendid Animation' which received plenty of attention for having "meandering jazzy nonsense" in it and generally sounding a bit like Radiohead. Nevertheless they were let back into the studio by EMI but then they suddenly got dropped by the label after management changes (it's all going a bit Hundred Reasons now isn't it?). Then the band recorded new material with new keyboard player Ian Russell and decided to change their name again (you'll have to ask them) to People In Planes. They had a music video directed by Joaquin Phoenix and basically moved to the USA for a little while as they were signed to Wind-Up records over there. They last released new material in 2008 with 'Beyond the Horizon'. Now though they're on the comeback trail with plenty of new stuff to play on a short run of UK dates, including this one in the tiny little venue above the Highbury Garage.

Before the pleasure of hearing new PiP material is a set by fellow Welshmen The Undivided. Whilst the band are far from a bad band there is little to set them apart from a great many other indie/alt bands trailing around the scene at the moment. Their set is also spoiled a little by the fact that the vocals are scarcely audible much of the time (partly due to poor sound and partly due to lots of people talking over them). A rather uninspiring half hour support slot. People In Planes however are on great form. Despite their set being composed more of new material than old, they keep the crowd attentive and interested. New material is not a great departure from their 'classics' with the possible acception of 'Fade Away' which sees frontman Gareth Jones adopting a near croon at the piano. The best received songs are, unsurprisingly, the ones from 'Beyond the Horizon' which seems to be the audience's album of choice. 'Pretty Buildings' and 'Vampire' especially are greeted like long lost friends. The band are as tight as ever in the live arena with Pete Roberts guitar dominating proceedings much of the time. The only near disruption to the set comes from a projector screen that is lowered by someone or other at the venue behind the band only to get caught on something on its way down, a journey which it never completes. By the time it is taken back up again the band are returning to the stage for an unscheduled encore of 'Fire' after the crowd refuses to leave without one, always a good sign. It would take more listens to really judge the band's new songs but if they are as good on record as on first live listen then there is really nothing to worry about.

The Undivided - 6/10
People In Planes - 8/10

People In Planes setlist

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Sonisphere Festival 2010 - Knebworth Park - 30th-31st July & 1st August 2010

Sonisphere 2010 arrives and it’s not a moment too soon. The weather is near perfect and Knebworth is ready for a weekend of top class rock, set to be rounded off, of course, by returning metal titans Iron Maiden. Before then however, is an elongated Sonisphere, this year starting as it does on Friday night rather than Saturday morning.

Sonisphere ’10 starts off for me with American retro progsters Bigelf (7/10) whose Sabbath heavy riffs, coexisting alongside keyboard and organ flourishes, make the newly arrived Knebworth crowd immediately feel at home in the Bohemia tent. A nice dose of fun, simple rock n’ roll to start off the weekend. Over on the Saturn stage, 80s rockers Europe (7/10) spend their set with a crowd who are, predominantly speaking, just waiting for them to play that song. This is rather harsh on the Swedes however as their set is full of solid, if not overly spectacular, hard rock anthems. ‘Rock the Night’ even features a special tribute to the recently deceased legend of Ronnie James Dio, with the band performing a few bars of ‘Heaven and Hell’ in the middle of the song. They end, predictably enough, with ‘The Final Countdown’, prompting a general feeling of good will amongst all Sonisphere goers present. Over on the Jagermeister stage industrial metal quartet October File (8/10) blast through a blistering set that is all steel coated riffs and bowel shaking bass underneath deliciously harsh vocals. Sadly they’re only onstage for 25 minutes, but it’s an impressive 25 minutes at that. Over at the Bowtime Bar are Northern Ireland’s finest in the shape of And So I Watch You From Afar (9/10). Energetic as always, and proving that vocals are not at all necessary for exciting music in any way, the quartet are helped by excellent clarity of sound but not by the fact that they have to squeeze into a mere half an hour set which is something of a travesty. Back with the Jagermeister stage, stoner duo Winnebago Deal (7/10) don’t seem to care that nobody watching them can hear the vocals as they set about pummelling their instruments into oblivion. There lack of subtlety would be a little tiring over a longer period of time I’d imagine but, for half an hour, they are more than satisfying. Annoyingly Karma To Burn have been scheduled for exactly the same time as one of my favourite bands, 65daysofstatic (10/10), so I miss out on them but am more than amply rewarded with a fine 65dos set. The band are the only ones at Sonisphere capable of rocking hard (‘Retreat! Retreat!’), raving equally hard (‘Tiger Girl’) and making hairs on the back of necks stand up (the always glorious ‘Radio Protector’). As they are only sub-headlining Bohemia, they depart after a 40 minute set but a perfect 40 minute set at that. Friday ends for me at this juncture and I leave to the strains of Alice Cooper’s set ending on the Saturn stage.

Saturday sees me make my first trip of the weekend to the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Tent, where young, up and coming bands are given a chance to shine. Stand Up Guy (9/10) may not be particularly young but, if anyone who listens to music nowadays has any sense, they’re very much up and coming. Their dense post-metal features a mix of harsh and clean vocals to great sonic effect. The only slight criticism to be made comes from the keyboard, which is apparently superfluous to the mix throughout much of their set; although that may very well be the result of less than satisfactory sound rather than their own fault. A very impressive set by them is followed by blues rockers the Tom Hollister Trio (6/10) on the Jagermeister stage. With songs often dominated by a virtuoso guitarist, they aren’t as far outside the Sonisphere blueprint as one might think but they still provide more of an opportunity to sit in the sun and relax than anything else. Security obviously doesn’t think this is the case as the trio start their set with no more than twelve stewards lined up in front of the stage. They are soon joined by another five stewards to total seventeen. To be fair, the guy in the wheelchair near the front of the stage looked like he could have been about to cause some serious trouble. Cars on Fire (9/10) rip up the Bowtime tent. Many of the medium sized crowd seem to be looking for a softer side of Sonisphere during their set but hopes of that are immediately ruined when frontman Ali Ross jumps from stage to crowd within a minute of the band coming on stage, proceeding to scream out his lyrics in the faces of various crowd members. This is just the first of many Ross trips into the crowd during their half hour set which showcases an exciting band with more than a little of Reuben at their heaviest about them. Being able to end with a double header of ‘Sharks’ and ‘Burn the Suits’ is something few bands without an album even out yet can manage. A great set by the Bristolians; all those people watching Soulfly on the main stages missed out. Anthrax (9/10) were one of the highlights of Sonisphere 2009 with their crowd pleasing set led by vocalist John Bush. It became clear soon afterward however that Bush, although only having just returned to the band after a lengthy absence, was not interested in a long term return to the ‘thrax. Thus Joey Belladonna has returned after an even lengthier absence to front the band once more. Any doubters are silenced by another assured set, even if it once again dominated by the hits. Any band that can call on ‘Caught in a Mosh’ to open things up has an immediate advantage and that, along with the likes of ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Indians’, are rapturously received by the thrash hungry crowd. The band also play an excerpt of ‘Heaven and Hell’ during their set as a dedication to Dio, with Belladonna having been a close friend of the great man. Closing with ‘I am the Law’ and a promise from Scott Ian to deliver a new album (at last) in the near future. Anthrax are once again a highlight of Sonisphere Knebworth. Fear Factory (10/10) are better than they have ever been these days. With the legal wrangling over the band’s name seemingly finally at an end and with a now apparently settled line-up featuring, most importantly, vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazeres, the industrial metal quartet are in the form of their lives. From the moment their set starts with the brilliant title track from their newest album, ‘Mechanize’, the band are on a roll and even a temporary shutdown of the guitar and bass rigs doesn’t detract from a top quality set. The band wheel out their greatest moments alongside highlights of the new record and receive rapt attention from a crowd that is a mix between those who are big fans of the band and those who have only heard about them. Although seeing them here on the Saturn stage isn’t quite the same as seeing them in the confines of the surprisingly small venues they still play when touring in the UK this is still the set of the weekend thus far. Ending with a fist pumping rendition of ‘Replica’, the band leave the stage with Bell telling the crowd, in his best Terminator voice, “We will be back”. Let’s hope it’s quite soon. Due to some ridiculous scheduling, Katatonia (8/10) are halfway through their set by the time I get to the Bohemia tent in order to see them. Who thought it was a good idea to put two of the most metal bands of the weekend on at the same time as each other? Still it’s good to catch the second half of their set including excellent renditions of ‘Forsaker’ and ‘Leaders’. It’s equally good to see this band being given a festival slot here in the UK as all too often the riches of the Scandinavian metal scene, despite being so close, are totally ignored by festival organisers. The second half of Rinoa (8/10)’s set is impressive as well. Their epic post-hardcore sound may look totally at odds with the five band members on stage but it sounds brilliant. They are a band with great things ahead of them. Audrey Horne (8/10) aren’t what you’d really expect of a Norwegian band as they are more good time hard rock than darkest metal. An enjoyable set by the band is well received by a sizeable Jagermeister fuelled crowd. Apocalyptica (5/10) are really boring live. Why they are higher on the bill than Anthrax and Fear Factory is a source of utter puzzlement for me. Surely we’re all over that ‘cello metal’ thing nowadays anyway! They aren’t bad, just dull. Saturday ends with just a part of their set for me as I’m off to see Biffy for the evening’s entertainment instead of staying at Knebworth for Rammstein!

Sunday begins with Ian Kenny telling Knebworth that Karnivool (9/10) are “your motherfucking breakfast man!” as they open the main stages for the day with their rumbling alt-prog-metal. It’s an impressive set that will surely win the band new additions to their growing legion of UK fans. It shows off both the organised chaos they can provide (‘Set Fire to the Hive’), the melodic anthems (‘All I Know’) and the slow-building epics (‘New Day’). Although opening Apollo will no doubt have been good for the band it is a shame that they weren’t able to have a longer set elsewhere as, for all their Aussie brilliance, half an hour isn’t really enough for them to show their absolute best. I still maintain that they are one of the best bands in the world at the moment, no matter what certain Damnation Festival organisers may think! Sadly having to get to Knebworth early for the ‘Vool means I have to sit through the less exciting part of Sunday’s bill. Slam Cartel (5/10) are dull and unimaginative. Sacred Betrayal (2/10) are bad enough to fall into the category of bands that should stop doing shows in case they lose the day jobs that surely must suit them far better. American indie rockers Firebug (5/10) are somewhat plodding and also have the disadvantage of a frontwoman who tells the audience “As you may have heard it’s been very hard in our country recently”. No shit, I thought the USA’s incredibly reliable OTT capitalist system was exempt from the financial crisis. “I know it’s bad over here as well but in America it’s really bad”. Yeah, I hear it’s practically the third world out there these days. Political banter is inadvisable onstage if you do not know what you are talking about. Allies (6/10) are a bit like a more relaxed Pearl Jam and start off their set well but one could be forgiven for thinking that nearly all their songs are musically exactly the same. Last year Sonisphere had Abba tribute Bjorn Again. This year it’s The Fab Beatles (3/10) whom, you may have guessed, are a Beatles tribute. Sadly they aren’t a good Beatles tribute. The accents change every time they open their mouths and they don’t even seem to be especially adept at playing the songs right; this is really quite important if you are going to have a tribute band. Not good, maybe this strangle slot can be abandoned for next year? Unless they can persuade Rolf Harris to play of course. Rise to Remain (7/10) attract a very large crowd in Bohemia for their set. Led by Austin Dickinson (yes, the son of that Dickinson) their brand of metalcore is equally heavy and melodic and, although it would be easy to cynically claim their quick rise in profile is down to the Dickinson connection, they really are a darn site better than most of the bands that clog up the genre. The end of their set is missed by some who instead head off to Apollo to see Skindred (8/10) play to by far the largest crowd they have played to yet in their career. The Welsh ragga-metal quartet arrive on stage resplendent in shiny silver suits and with frontman Benji Webbe waving a gigantic Union Jack. Whilst they are an excellent live act, and surprisingly good on such a huge stage, the problem with Skindred is the same as always. The songs, whilst fun, simply are not good enough to realistically claim the band are as amazing as some often say they are. It’s still a great set though and ‘Nobody’ is becoming the ultimate Sonisphere anthem. After the Ordeal (6/10) seem to be one of a number of unspectacular metalcore acts populating the Red Bull tent. Their set is alright, and better than plenty of other similar bands, but the vocalist is clearly struggling to hit the high notes (by his own admission) and there is little to suggest that they are anything particularly special. Slayer (9/10) are Slayer. Therefore seeing them is pretty thrashing awesome. Although Tom Araya is unusually static, as a result of his recent neck problems, their set is full of the high speed, high octane metal that made them famous and none of the dodgy slush they produced in their dodgy period. Drummer Dave Lombardo is a joy to watch whilst the duo of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King shred away like there is no tomorrow in front of their huge wall of amps. The only problem is that the band only have 45 minutes to play. This if Slayer FFS! They should be playing for at least an hour and anything less is something of a travesty at a supposed metal festival. Perhaps it was fate that gave Slayer such a short set however as it enables me to amble across to the Bowtime tent and witness Kvelertak (10/10). These Norwegians don’t really need to be classified, they are Kvelertak and that is all you need to know. If you are desperate to gain an impression of their sound then think hardcore with black metal vocals and occasional bouts of jazz drumming. The band spend their set careering around the stage at 200mph yet rarely bump into one another and never miss the opportunity to scream the lyrics (refreshingly in their native language) in the direction of the audience. They make Slayer sound like Snow Patrol and they are, without a doubt, the best band of the weekend. You NEED to hear and see this band. After them Alice in Chains (8/10) sound, understandably, a little uninteresting. Perhaps it is the fact that last year they were on a smaller stage and had a much smaller crowd but their Sonisphere 2010 just isn’t as good as their one of the previous year. The energy levels are certainly lower and there isn’t the same special atmosphere. Therefore, after the opening 20 minutes of their set I head across to the Red Bull tent to catch a set by Welwyn hardcore ‘legends’ Heights (7/10). They play to a fairly small crowd but put their all into it. Whilst I still think their debut EP is the best debut release I’ve heard by a band for many, many years I also think their live show needs to become a little more exciting. The nerves are a little obvious and, for what is practically a homecoming show, there is a slightly worrying seeming desire to get through the set as quickly as possible and get off as stage as quickly as possible. Vocalist Thom Debaere spends most of the set running backwards and forwards along the stage and, while the performance levels are admirable, there isn’t much energy apparent on stage. They will be a great live act in years to come I’m sure but they aren’t quite there yet. Converge (8/10) are much more like the finished article. Their frenetic technical hardcore isn’t everything live I hoped that it would be but it is still enough to make your neck feel like it’s about to fall off after a time. Perhaps the best thing about their set is the sudden rush to crowd surf that they provoke, contributing to the petrified faces of the stewards at the front of the stage. Much of the crowd are also petrified as many are only at the front to wait for Bohemia headliners Funeral for a Friend. Nobody told them they’d have to see one of the most panic attack inducing bands on the planet first! Over on the Jagermeister stage Irish hard rockers Sweet Savage (3/10) arrive to the general indifference of a medium sized crowd. They are at least as old as Maiden but with not as much songwriting talent. Their opener nearly sends me to sleep despite being less than four minutes long. To be honest, if a band has reached their age without getting further than an early evening slot on the smallest outdoor stage at a festival then perhaps it is time to give up. They really aren’t that good, after all. Fightstar (6/10) clearly want to be Muse, judging by the overdramatic tape that goes over the PA before they come on. When they finally do arrive on stage it seems that they forgot to sound check properly as Charlie Simpson’s vocals aren’t exactly clear in the mix. Although I’ve heard the band are good live they are a bit underwhelming in the flesh. The Xcerts (9/10) are never underwhelming. They are not only three guys who are clearly playing the music they love but they are infectiously unassuming, making it extremely difficult not to like them. They need not have worried about their reception in the Bowtime tent. Mass singalongs during ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’ and ‘Home Versus Home’ prove they have plenty of fans present and frontman Murray Macleod even gets a high five from a guy in a Slayer tee in the front row, to his visible delight. Hopefully new album ‘Scatterbrain’ in October will earn them the chance to play in front of bigger crowds on bigger stages at festivals. Not too big though, because it’s great to turn up three minutes before they come on and walk straight to the front of the stage. The Xcerts aren’t destined to produce great things; they’re producing great things already. Slaves to Gravity (7/10) are finally on the verge of releasing a new album and headline the Jagermeister stage for the day. Although a good band listening to them still makes one think about how good they could be but aren’t, quite. Bohemia headliners Funeral for a Friend (8/10) are playing their final show with guitarist Darran Smith (see a couple of weeks back on my blog for a review of their last headlining show with him). Thus a crowd pleasing set is called for and delivered with ‘Roses for the dead’, ‘Juneau’ and ‘Into Oblivion (Reunion)’ following one another in close pursuit. I leave halfway through their set though in order to grab a good place for Maiden. This enables a short portion of Iggy and the Stooges (7/10)’s set to be visible. The guy has still got something, what it is however is still unclear after all these years. The crowd down the front seem to be having a pretty good time as does Iggy himself. Many have been waiting all weekend for Iron Maiden (10/10) to play their only UK show of 2010. With new album ‘The Final Frontier’ to promote the band choose to play a set that mainly focuses on material from the last decade with choice cuts from ‘Brave New World’ being particularly impressive. Although some in the crowd may not be familiar with such material they are fools if they don’t appreciate the majesty of the six musicians on stage. Drummer Nicko McBrain is still one of the best in the game and the duelling guitars of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers are solotastic while Steve Harris’ bass still gallops along and holds the whole thing together. Bruce has still got a pretty good voice as well, now one thinks about it! In short Maiden are as good live today as ever, despite their ever advancing years. They are a band that fully deserves the legendary status they have been given and the lack of classics doesn’t detract from the top quality of their set. If anything it just makes the encore of ‘The Number of the Beast’, ‘Hallowed be thy Name’ and ‘Running Free’ all the more impressive and enjoyable. Maiden are a pleasure to behold and there aren’t many better bands to headline a festival. Hopefully Bruce wasn’t joking when he said they may have to come and play Sonisphere again sometime! A brilliant end to a brilliant weekend at Knebworth.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

We Made God - New Songs - Please Listen

We Made God are an Icelandic post-rock band. Their new album is in the pipeline, coming soon. Here's a sneak preview. They're a great band so please support them in any way if you can, whether it's by buying their records or just listening to their new stuff. Enjoy.
Electronic press kitsQuantcast

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Funeral For A Friend - London Shepherds Bush Empire - Friday 23rd July 2010

Funeral For A Friend are one of those bands that remain eternally misunderstood by so many people. Lumped in by many with the unimaginative 'emo' scene alongside the likes of My Chemical Romance but really one of the standouts of the post-hardcore scene that gripped the UK in the early 21st century. Their early EPs and debut album 'Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation' provide some of the best the genre has to offer, combining aggressive vocals and riffs with an ear for tuneful melody and the ability to write awesomely catchy songs. Now, seven years after the release of said debut record, the band play two special shows with the album being played in its entirety. This is to celebrate the contribution of guitarist Darran Smith to the band. These are his last headlining shows with the band before permanently departing after Sonisphere Festival next weekend. For fans these shows (the other of which was held at Cardiff University) provide not only an opportunity to bid farewell to a member of the band but also an opportunity (especially for those who weren't around the first time) to hear a great album in full.

Before FFAF take to the stage there is the pleasure of a support slot by The Automatic who, since replacing annoying shouty keyboard guy with Paul Mullen (yes, the guy from YCI:M), have actually become a pretty decent band. Sadly I only see half of their set after having a horrific journey to the venue to contend with but what I do see (including the monster choruses of 'Steve McQueen') persuades me that it's time to forgive them for their first record and give them another chance. Sadly The Blackout are extra special guests for this show. How they manage to be as shit as they actually are is beyond me but I guess they must be trying extra hard. I especially like how they have two vocalists to double the annoyance factor. They appear to be trying to be a post-hardcore band but their riffs are so watered down that they sound more like farts that are trying to be casually disguised and the vocals are abysmal. They manage to be a little catchy...but in an annoying Justin Bieber way not a good Take That way. Appropriately they come from Merthyr Tydfil which, I can honestly testify, is one of the biggest shitholes in the UK (even by the admission of people who live there). After their immensely crap set (which is well received by the Kerrang! devotees in the audience) it's finally time for the reason everyone is here.

Funeral For A Friend take to the stage at 9.30pm on the dot and kick straight into 'Rookie of the Year' (no prizes for guessing that), immediately prompting the start of a huge pit in the middle of the crowd. It's humbling to be at a gig where almost everyone sings along to almost every word of every song from an album and as the likes of 'Juneau' and 'Escape Artists Never Die' see the show progress the voices get progressively hoarser without ever dying out. Smith is reluctant to take any more of the spotlight than usual (i.e. not very much) but in between song chants of "Darren, Darren, Darren" and a barrage of horns in his direction prove how well appreciated he is by the band's fanbase. A particular highlight arrives in the form of the gentle 'Your Revolution Is A Joke' which sees just singer Matt Davies-Kreye and guitarist Kris Coombes-Roberts remain on stage. It's a spine-tingling moment for a song that most never expected to see live. By the time the band leave the stage with 'Novella' they have the crowd in the palm of their hand. Kicking off the non CD&DIC material with 'Into Oblivion (Reunion)' the band proceed to play their way through several highlights of their back catalogue from the finger tapping riffage of 'Roses For The Dead' through the rare b-side 'You Want Romance?' and golden oldie 'The Art of American Football' (which is spoilt by the fact that the band are joined by The Blackout's Sean Smith for the song). Sadly things run out of steam a little towards the end. 'Wrench' noticeably isn't known by a sizeable amount of the crowd (even less than the obscure b-side where I am). The intensity of the first set is never matched and, wonderful song though it is, 'History' isn't really the greatest of set closers. Still, the sight of the show ending with friends, crew and family onstage pushing Darran Smith to the centre of the stage to receive the blessing of the crowd is special and the first half of the show definitely was as well. Overall a top quality evening's entertainment and the best FFAF show I've been to yet.

The Automatic - 7/10
The Blackout - 0/10
Funeral For A Friend - 9/10

Funeral For A Friend Setlist
Rookie Of The Year
Bullet Theory
Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings
Escape Artists Never Die
Moments Forever Faded
She Drove Me To Daytime Television
Red Is The New Black
Your Revolution Is A Joke
Waking Up

Into Oblivion (Reunion)
The Art Of American Football
Roses For The Dead
You Want Romance?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

2000 Trees Festival - Cheltenham Upcote Farm - Friday 16th & Saturday 17th July 2010

I’m under no illusion of the fact that many of you reading this blog won’t have the first idea about 2000 Trees Festival. Where it is? What it is? Who are those bands on the line-up? That sort of thing. Well firstly, 2000 Trees is located on the wonderful Upcote Farm in Cheltenham and is a music festival catering to around 2,500 people each year. Those bands on the line-up are a varying concoction of rock, folk, indie, instrumental goodness, etc, etc and many of them are absolutely awesome. Right, now let’s crack on with the music reviewing.

Having spent ages queuing and longer putting the tent up than first anticipated (let’s be honest Matt, it was never gonna fit in between those other two tents), the first band I have the undoubted pleasure of witnessing at 2000 Trees 2010 is Tubelord (7/10). Being a band I have already seen and enjoyed numerous times my expectations are high but, for whatever reason, their spiky math rock doesn’t seem to light up in the same way as it usually does. It’s still pretty good stuff though and the crowd gets going into its first moshpit of the weekend during the always fun ‘Night of the Pencils’. Coming up next on the main stage are Northern Ireland’s finest in the shape of instrumental post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar (9/10). This is a band that has just come off a support tour with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures...and I bet they rocked much harder every single night. The pure energy on stage during an ASIWYFA performance is always extraordinary and they’re on top form here. They’re also seriously loud...and that’s a seriously good thing. The Xcerts (8/10) are a band that is definitely going places. Having a bunch of seriously catchy tunes is well and good but the ability to meld them with proper rock bits and wonderfully delicate quite moments is what will make them a much bigger band in years to come. Although this set lacks the superb ‘Aberdeen 1987’ (“it’s too slow for a festival” frontman Murray Macleod says), the songs on display win over any doubters in the crowd with new single ‘Slackerpop’ especially standing out. Their set does seem a bit short however. If you haven’t seen Pulled Apart By Horses (10/10) live yet then you need to get to it. This band is enjoyable on record but live they’re a totally different prospect. Don’t expect bouts of melodic clean singing, Tom Hudson’s just gonna scream at you all the way through and don’t expect James Brown to complete a back flip either; to be fair, he makes a very worthy attempt considering he’s supposed to be playing guitar at the same time. Marking the most riotous crowd participation of the weekend, PABH’s set is the highlight of Friday’s action. Future Of The Left (9/10) run them close however despite numerous technical difficulties. The keyboard totally dies on Falco and co, whilst the frontman himself breaks the strings on two guitars. Good news includes the seamless transition that has seen Steven Hodson (of Oceansize and Kong) pick up the bass player position vacated by Kelson Mathias. Whether it is to be permanent or not remains to be seen but he certainly fits in perfectly, readily committing to the onstage banter that FOTL are known for. More good news comes in the shape of new songs, which are really good, especially closer ‘Dry Hate’. After the rocking action earlier in the day Errors (6/10) are a little bit of a buzz kill. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, they just sound out of place after FOTL on the bill. Their post-electro is enjoyable but a little dull in the live festival setting unless you’re really into it. Goldheart Assembly (7/10) in the Leaf Lounge are also pretty enjoyable and their 60s pop is far more refreshing than their bassists’ flowery shirt. An excellent cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Clap Hands’ is the highlight of their set. Frank Turner (9/10) headlining a festival doesn’t sound right...but it feels right. 2000 Trees is his self-confessed favourite festival and, after dropping out last year, he seems delighted to be back for a set that includes all the hits alongside b-sides like the superb ‘Nashville Tennessee’. The crowd scream along to what seems like every word and a special highlight for one Kyle Gill is provided when Frank gets him up onstage to play harmonica on ‘Dan’s Song’ to celebrate his birthday. Frank has turned into a great performer and yet he still retains the bond with his fans that made him so special in the first place. An encore of ‘The Outdoor Type’ and ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ sees him sign off his first festival headline slot in fine style. The only reason why Frank’s set isn’t perfect is the simple fact that his songs, great as they sound with 2,000 people singing along, aren’t made for such a large audience but for pub crowds and total intimacy. It’s hard to begrudge Frank his success though; if any folk punk troubadour deserves’s him!

After a long morning (why did I have to wake up at 7.30am?), which includes a top quality nature walk (7/10), Saturday’s action is kicked off by alternative metal quartet Left Side Brain (7/10), who make sure the crowd are awake with their bruising off-kilter Therapy?-esque riffs. Noticeably however they seem a little uncomfortable on such a large stage in front of a larger crowd. Furthermore the vocals occasionally get lost in the mix but they still have some great songs and get the rock off to a good start for the day. Following them are the indie popsters Skeletons And The Empty Pockets (6/10) who are very energetic, especially the frontman who’s a great showman, but they just aren’t really my thing. Still, they’re not a bad band by any stretch. Neither are Flashguns (6/10), who would be a damn site better if they weren’t such cocky bastards considering their material. Their frontman ruins their last song, which is by far the best they play, by playing his guitar solo whilst strutting around like Matt Bellamy at his most “oh look at me I’m in a stadium band now and am going out with someone more famous than me”. Most of their songs are quite generic but they are a band with promise. I expect the NME will catch onto them soon and ensure they turn out quite badly after all. Three Trapped Tigers (8/10) take a while to get on stage after a light hits Matt Calvert in the head just before they are scheduled to go on. This is one hell of a band when it comes down to it. The drumming especially from Adam Betts is right out of the top draw. Their set provides plenty of complex electronic enfused post-rock for the crowd to get their paws into, no doubt especially appealing to 65dos fans. Meanwhile over at the Greenhouse The Oxygen Thief (8/10) is busy getting his crowd to ROCK (\m/) with his acoustic lullabies. A highlight is provided with a cover of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ which he somehow manages to turn into an acoustic metal sing-along. Epic, I just wish I’d seen the whole set (Matt Calvert’s fault). Unfortunately I see the end of Sonic Boom Six (3/10). They’re a bizarre blend of reggae and ska punk which, whilst imaginative at least, makes them sound like Sonic Boom Shit to me. I and Matt have been waiting for Twin Atlantic (10/10) to hit the stage all weekend. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and they don’t disappoint. Their songs may not be perfect but they are so often so catchy and the time signatures are joyous as well. Despite sound that’s far from top-notch and the fact that frontman Sam McTrusty makes a few mistakes while guitarist Barry McKenna breaks a couple of strings; they are an infectious band when they take the stage. Sam interacts well with the crowd as well, especially a cuddly turtle called Lucinda and Dave? the guy in the chicken suit who joins the band onstage for a final run through ‘Audience & Audio’. Whilst drummer Craig and bassist Ross leave the stage relatively quietly, the two guitarists set about getting some feedback out of their guitars whilst Sam chucks his Tele into the crowd; this causes much difficulty for tour manager Andy – who has to get it back. After a break from the action, it’s time for 65daysofstatic (10/10), who arrive 20 minutes behind schedule and therefore play just a brief 40 minute set. The crush that follows the opening scream of “THIS NEGATIVE ENERGY MAKES ME STRONGER. WE WILL NOT RETREAT, THIS BAND IS UNSTOPPABLE!” is far bigger than I, for one, was expecting but it’s awesome. Their more recent material doesn’t dim the energy at all with the danceable electronica of ‘Crash Tactics’ and ‘WEAK4’ seeing flailing bodies down the front. ‘Radio Protector’ maintains its status as probably the most epic song of all time and after a mammoth effort for such a short amount of time, the band leave the crowd chanting for more; thus shocking several Bombay Bicycle Club fans who arrive soon after. Directly after 65dos are Vessels (9/10) in the Leaf Lounge. Something of a halfway house between ASIWYFA’s near punk like energy and Three Trapped Tigers’ more measured approach, the band show their ear for epic melody alongside that for cultivating massive moshable riffs. They also deserve credit for managing to fit all their equipment on the tiny stage! Acoustic trio Orphans And Vandals (5/10) kick off their set with a song that seems to be mostly about tearing someone a new asshole. Then they progress, subject matter wise, to talking about a cottage by the sea with their mother. It’s not bad I suppose, it’s just really fucking weird lyrically. The Subways (5/10) are probably awesome if you love their music and are down the front. For anyone else though they just sound like what they are, a band that shouldn’t be headlining a festival, even one this size, because all their songs are pretty much exactly the same. Only closing song ‘Rock And Roll Queen’ is truly memorable to the casual bystander. Thankfully Leaf Lounge headliners Kill It Kid (7/10) are more interesting. Their singer’s voice is perfectly bluesy and looks totally out of place coming out of his mouth. Their indie folk stylings aren’t unique but are quite lovely.

So, overall, 2000 Trees provided a weekend full of great bands. It has a great atmosphere and it costs only £50. Basically, you should go next year...yes, you!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Circa Survive - Camden Underworld - Wednesday 14th July 2010

The Underworld is a sweaty place at the best of times. This is probably down to a combination of it being a very small space underground in which around 500 people (I still fail to understand how this place can supposedly fit that many people in) get their rocks off accompanied by one of the least effective air conditioning units known to man. Tonight sees the Underworld attempt to reach new levels of sweatiness however. This is partly because Circa Survive's fanbase is one of the most dedicated on the circuit and partly because the tube is horrendously warm as well at the moment, meaning that everyone is already sweating by the time they arrive.

Halos take to the stage a little after 8pm to the general indifference of the majority of the Anthony Green hungry crowd. They immediately get down to playing an impressive opening set however. The quintet have a little of both tonight's headliners and the more visceral moment of Sunny Day Real Estate about them as they plough through indie songs that burst into jarring heaviness at extremely satisfying moments. There's more than a little post-rock about them too as they progress through the twists and turns of their songs. Certainly a band to watch out for in the future, especially considering they haven't even recorded their debut full-length yet.

The reaction to Circa Survive taking to the stage is much less muted than for their support act. The band are greeted like the major league rock stars they could very well turn into in the future. Launching straight into new album track "Get Out" there is a surge forward towards the stage which Green immediately owns. Despite having a voice is marmitey to the extent that you will either love it or loathe it there is no doubting that he is a brilliant frontman. Whether crazy dancing around the tiny stage as if in the middle of a bizarre trip or manically high fiving the front row Green is hard to take your eyes off during the duration of a Circa Survive show. The set progresses with the biggest reactions coming for older material (especially "Act Appalled" which is only played after repeated requests by audience members). There is a sizeable chunk of new material but it doesn't dominate the set (a shame for me as new album 'Blue Sky Noise' is by far their finest work to date). New songs are still given the same riotous singalong treatment as the older tracks however, causing Green to tell the audience "Yeah, we have a new record out in a couple of weeks...but I guess you lot already downloaded it for free". The shame in the lack of new material may be restricted to those, such as me, who are less favourably disposed towards the band's older material. For the minor problems with Circa Survive's set arise not from any performance issued but from the quality of material on air. Songs like "The Great Golden Baby" may be popular with the die-hards but are simply not as good as more recent efforts. This is emphasised by the fact that the band chooses to conclude their set with a superb "Imaginary Enemy", a song from the new record. The five members leave the stage looking like they've had a great time and the audience leaves with smiles on their faces and the knowledge that the band will return to London to play an even larger show at the Scala in September. Whatever gripes I may have about some of their older material there's no question that Circa put on a good live show and this was a fine evening of American experimental rock.

Halos - 7/10
Circa Survive - 8/10

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The National - London Camden Roundhouse - Saturday 10th July 2010

The iTunes festival is something of a mixed blessing to music in the UK. On the one hand it provides free gigs to go to (if you're lucky enough to win tickets, or have them offered to you on It also does a great job of promoting bands that have yet to fully penetrate the mainstream music consciousness of the country. On the other hand however it is exclusively based in London, somewhat lending credence to the idea that UK bands have to be in London to get any attention. Furthermore the fact that tickets can be won through competition does lead to the potential of gigs being filled with people who are just pleased to have won tickets to a gig and may not really care who they're going to see.

This isn't a review of the concept of the iTunes festival however. It's a review of one band that it is fantastic to see being given the recognition of being on the lineup. Brooklyn's The National were of little concern to anyone other than the indie/art rock underground before new album 'High Violet' was catapulted to 3rd place in the US Top 200 and 5th in the UK Top 100. The success was overdue and came as a result of the slow-burning weaving of predecessors 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' into the ears of music lovers worldwide. Whilst those two albums were excellent there is no doubting that 'High Violet' trumps them both, being both a masterpiece of atmosphere and of dextrous songwriting. It's also a rather addictive record; having had it just over a week it has yet to leave my stereo. Indeed the new album has provided pretty much the first listen I've had to the band for over a year but that's the beauty of many of their songs. They are so fresh that even if you don't hear them for years they come pouring back into your consciousness as soon as they grace your ears again.

Before The National take to the stage however there is support from indie folk collective Stornoway. Their songs are pleasant listening but perhaps a little repetitive on first listening. Very much a pop band disguising their capacity for writing pure tunes with folk instrumentation, they seem to please much of the crowd gathered inside the Roundhouse early enough to see them, getting a few to dance to their cheerful ditties. Entertaining but only a warm-up for the main act. The National are preceded by an extremely informative (sarcasm alert) iTunes presentation presenting the audience with footage of many of the acts to have played the festival back in 2008 or 2009. What exactly we have done to deserve having footage of Mika and The Saturdays is unclear. This brief pain is soon forgotten when The National stride onstage however. Augmented into an 8 piece lineup for live shows the band kick off with the fine double header of "Start A War" and "Mistaken For Strangers". It certainly takes the band less time to warm up than it does the crowd. The intensity is notched up by the time the first big crowd reaction comes along, for recent single "Bloodbuzz Ohio". Frontman Matt Berninger spits out the words in his distinctive baritone whilst Bryce Dessner switches effortlessly between guitar, bass and piano. As the show wears on more and more of the crowd become aware that they're witnessing something very special, even those who clearly know very little or none at all of The National's material. Soon Berninger decides that the stage isn't quite big enough for him and so he proceeds to wander through the crowd (dilligent cameraman doing very well to follow him all the way). By the time the band emerge again after a brief break for the encore they've performed pretty much perfect renditions of many of their finest songs. They are the sort of band that it really takes seeing in the flesh to fully appreciate. Songs like "Runaway" and closer "Terrible Love" come to life even more thrillingly on stage than on record. Berninger fails to resist the temptation to wander through the crowd a second time during "Mr. November" and the crowd themselves fail to resist The National's near perfection. An truly incredible band.

Stornoway - 6/10
The National - 10/10

The National setlist
Start A War
Mistaken For Strangers
Anyone's Ghost
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
Afraid Of Everyone
Little Faith
Conversation 16
Apartment Story
Geese Of Beverley Road
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
Fake Empire
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
Mr. November
Terrible Love

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sucioperro - Kilburn The Good Ship - Thursday 17th June 2010

Sucioperro are a band that should be playing at least 500+ venues by now. In fact, that they are not is a travesty showing the true lack of interest most of the public has in the British music scene and seems to prove, sadly, that major label marketing is the only way to really get anywhere if you are an upcoming British act. For those who haven't heard them, Sucioperro are easily comparable (perhaps somewhat unfairly) to their mates Biffy Clyro (who have, with major label backing, abseiled to the arena level). Led by JP 'Dragon' Reid, Sucio deftly combine complex time signatures with sing along choruses all sung in Reid's noticeably Scottish accent. Somewhat heavier than Biffy, often verging into metal territory, and featuring guitar work that is undeniably impressive, Sucio are first and foremost a band that writes songs...and damn good ones. With Fergus 'Goose' Munro and Stewart 'Spider' Chown providing the sort of ballast that someone should've thought of equipping the Titanic with, Sucio are a dense sounding band that write anthems that should be filtering their way into the nation's living rooms. Instead they have to make do with the cosy confines of Kilburn's The Good Ship. A venue that holds around 225 people, at a push I'd imagine - that is if the punters actually want to be able to see the band and not just drink a pint at the bar, this is what truly counts as 'intimate' territory.

The first band backing Sucioperro up tonight are Buick McKane. A Northampton based 3/4 piece (I could only see 3 of them but then I was half watching the France v Mexico game and couldn't see the whole stage), they are similar in sound to the likes of The Xcerts with wholesome anthems that also pack a firm punch. A promising band for sure. Kill Goliath are a little less impressive. Whilst the musical dynamics are fairly interesting, they tend to become a little samey and the vocals aren't particularly endearing. I Am Austin meanwhile are absolutely awe inspiring. Partly because drummer David Mitchell (dressed in a colourful vest, swimming shorts and a hat) batters the fuck out of his kit like a man possessed and partly because they are, thanks to Adam Hughes' beguiling bass parts, undeniably funky. Yet I mean funky in a way that sounds like the world ending in a massive swell of screaming and feedback. To describe than as a mere 'drum n bass' duo would be sacrelige, they are so much more. Go and see them if you get a chance.

As you may have gathered from my praise of them in the first paragraph, i also think that you should also go and see Sucioperro. This is the first chance I've had to see them live (it's their fault, 4 years of choosing bad dates for London gigs) and it's well worth the wait. Sucio are three blokes who clearly love playing their music, Dragon with an especially wide grin throughout their hour long set. They are extremely tight live, and they are a visual act too, watching them is entertaining despite them having nothing in the way of projections to back up their performance. Having opened up with the classic 'Grace And Out Of Me' and run through a set including "possibly the final ever peformances" of 'Random Acts Of Intimacy' and 'Found You Makin' the band don't hold anything back even as their set draws to a close. Indeed, if anything, they work themselves into even more of a sweat as they close with a rousing rendition of 'The Final Confessions Of Mabel Stark'. This all comes via the loveliness of 'The Lonesome Tree' and some kind Jager sharing from Dragon during 'I Have Reached My Life'. At the conclusion of the gig the signs of a great live act are all there (especially fans who have sung along to every word and are now hoarse and sweaty). As they come off the stage, still resplendent in their matching black Pain Agency uniforms, they look like they've had a great time and (even if they are putting this on and secretly hate rock music) everyone in the crowd certainly has.

P.S. Stewart and Fergus seem like great guys off the stage as well, will have to catch the Dragon next time!

Buick McKane - 7/10
Kill Goliath - 6/10
I Am Austin - 8/10
Sucioperro - 10/10

Sucioperro setlist

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Feeder - "Call Out" Video Premiere

Okay, it's not exactly Feeder's greatest moment but I'm not gonna turn down the opportunity to premiere the new video on my blog am I? (no).

So here it is, "Call Out" by Feeder. Holly Walsh said it sounded like a song to please people who were shit at Guitar Hero in the beginners' level.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Haunted - Hatfield Attic - Tuesday 1st June 2010

The Haunted are on tour with Slayer at the moment. However, being the hard working metal musicians that they are this doesn't stop them from playing headline shows on the nights off they are getting from Slayer duty on their jaunt around the UK. Tonight sees the band play at the Attic in Hatfield, a small bar that's part of the Hertfordshire University complex. The venue only holds around 250 people at the best of times but only somewhere in the region of 40-50 bother to turn up for this gig. This highlights a few things. Firstly that there is a distinct lack of a metal scene in Hertfordshire, as illustrated by the fact that there is no support act. Secondly, people don't seem to know where Hatfield is; I find it hard to believe that there are this few dedicated Haunted fans in London prepared to make the half hour train journey to get to this show. Thirdly, The Haunted are professionals. It would be so easy for them to turn up, see the minute crowd and think "fuck it, let's just take it easy and get some rehearsal time for the Slayer shows in London". This is precisely the opposite of what happens. From the moment the Swedish thrashters burst onto the stage they rip into one burst of barely contained musical fury after the next. Peter Dolving screams as if his life depends on it and the Bjorler brothers rip away at their guitars. This is one tight live act and also one with a good sense of humour. Dolving welcomes the audience to "the Hatfield metal lounge" (referencing the fact that the venue looks more like an up-market cocktail joint than a metal club) and comments good naturedly on the size of the crowd, getting rather amused when me and two others are the only ones to respond to "How many of you guys are actually from Hatfield?" with an answer in the affirmative! Indeed Dolving can't half talk! This is a good thing though, his observations on UK bars having carpets are particularly interesting. The relaxed atmosphere of the show allows for the crowd to get up close to the band, even enabling someone as crap at photography as me to take a few decent snaps. The likes of "99" and "No Compromise" get heads banging although there is nothing close to a moshpit simply because there aren't enough people! Having ripped through around two thirds of the set Dolving takes advantage of a break to ask "Anyone here know how to play any Haunted songs?" This sees one lucky guy strap on Patrik Jensen's guitar whilst Harley Anderson (of London metallers Internal Conflict) replaces Dolving on vocals for a run through of "Hollow Ground". The band then proceed to romp their way through a few more songs before ending with a climatic "Bury Your Dead", complete with us fans allowed up on to the stage. I may not be the biggest of Haunted fans but I know a top live show when I see one and this, despite the disadvantages, is right out of the top draw. They're top guys as well!

The Haunted - 9/10

The Haunted setlist:
Moronic Colossus
The Drowning
The Premonition
The Flood
The Medication
All Against All
Prevation Of Faith Inc.
Shadow World
Guilt Trip
No Compromise
Hollow Ground
Iron Mask
Dark Intentions
Bury Your Dead

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sunny Day Real Estate - Kentish Town Forum - Monday 31st May 2010

It's hard to believe this show is finally taking place. When Sunny Day Real Estate reformed last year it seemed to much to hope that they would finally play in the UK, having split up on the eve of their first European tour in 2001. Then, having announced this show for the 22nd April, it was put back as a result of the Icelandic volcano fiasco. It was almost as if there was someone up there trying to stop SDRE ever getting on to UK shores.

Everyone in the forum for the show is visibly tense. How can a show that has been waited for this long live up to to the expectation? I suppose it helps if you can get arena botherers Biffy Clyro to casually stroll in as an acoustic support act. Having long proclaimed SDRE as one of their favourite ever bands it's clear that even being present at this gig is a treat for Simon, James and Ben. They only stay on stage for half an hour, playing a casual set of all their recent hits such as 'The Captain', 'Many of Horror' and 'Mountains' alongside old classics in the form of 'Breathe Her' and 'Scary Mary'. The fact that they are playing acoustically is something of a godsend as a no holds barred all electric Biffy set, even only a half an hour one, would have stolen a fair amount of SDRE's thunder. Tonight however they are restrained enough to provide just a short warm up with enough time to show their appreciation for the headliners.

When Sunny Day Real Estate finally do get on stage the tension in the room disappears. This is a band that sounds like they've only been around a few years, not one that has reformed to try and relive its early nineties heyday. Jeremy Enigk is occasionally drowned out by the rest of the band but it doesn't matter as the crowd is on hand to scream along vociferously to every word of 'In Circles' and 'Seven'. The set is mostly culled from the band's first two records with only 'Gutars And Video Games' and 'The Ocean' being called on to represent the latter albums. This is one of those rare gigs when each and every song is a highlight of the show. 'Sometimes' makes a heart wrenching closer and after it, all of a sudden, it's all over. Barely an hour after arrival, the band exit. The crowd chants for them to return for a good five minutes but it's all in vain. Perhaps they don't want to give the crowd too much of a good thing but it's undeniably disappointing that after all the time the UK has waited for a SDRE show they only grace the Forum with their presence for an hour. Whilst they are on stage, they are perfect. It's just a shame it was all over so quickly.

Biffy Clyro - 8/10
Sunny Day Real Estate - 9/10

Biffy Clyro setlist (all acoustic)
Saturday Superhouse
Little Soldiers
God & Satan
The Captain
Breathe Her
Many of Horror
Scary Mary

Sunny Day Real Estate setlist
In Circles
Theo B
Guitars And Video Games
Song About An Angel
The Ocean

Sunday, 23 May 2010

An Evening With Anathema - Islington Academy - Friday 21st May 2010

Few bands have ever made as big a gear switch as Anathema did after second album 'The Silent Enigma'. To go from predominantly death/doom metal to prog-esque alternative rock was something of a left turn at the traffic lights, not least for their fans. At least the band's records have always had one thing in commmon however...they've all been really depressing. Well, the new one isn't. It may have taken seven years but it appears that during that time Anathema have cheered the funk up. Most of the people inside the Islington Academy to see this special 'Evening With' show seem to be aware of that already. Indeed, when frontman Vincent Cavanagh asks the crowd "How many of you have pirated our new album? Honestly we don't mind" around half of those present put their hand up. Assuming that plenty of people were too embarassed to own up means that the majority have already heard 'We're Here Because We're Here', for that is the title of the new record. It's pretty good...but that's for another day.

Certainly Anathema don't let a set featuring copious amounts of new material bog them down. The first four songs from 1999's superb 'Judgement' album follow new song 'Thin Air' and pass by in a flash with Vincent's spot-on vocals being all the more impressive considering his monitors aren't working and he can't hear what's going on. Considering that Anathema are beset by an array of technical problems tonight the performance is truly remarkable. Bassist Jamie Cavanagh's amp doesn't seem to be working until halfway through the first song and Danny Cavanagh's (yes they're three brothers) guitar rig shuts down totally after 'Everything', leaving him to play an impromptu acoustic 'Are You There?' to the delight of the crowd. The singalong this provides leads the grinning guitarist to thank the crowd for "One of (his) best ever moments on stage". When things do get going again 'One Last Goodbye' isn't a bad way to thank a crowd for its perseverance. Probably the most timelessly beautiful song Anathema have ever, or will ever, write, it's as touching live as in its original form on record.

One thing Anathema do manage live to some great effect is pace the set extremely well. They know just when it's time to break out another raft of new songs or a heavy track to remind everyone they're not totally given over to atmospheric balladry. The likes of 'Empty', 'Judgement' and 'Panic' provide the heavy highlights whilst the occasional addition of Lee Douglas' tender female vocals gives a nice contrast to Vincent's powerful tones. Indeed Lee's lead vocal song 'A Natural Disaster' is one of the best moments of the show. As it's an evening with show the band are on stage for nearly 2 hours before departing to the superb 'Flying', only to return with epic new album closer 'Universal' and a "really, really old song" in 'Sleepless' before 'Shroud of False' and 'Fragile Dreams' close the evening. The band may not have been able to hear much or even rely on their equipment working but they were still excellent all the way through. In fact the only real gripe is that Les Smith's keyboards aren't always as prominent as they should be. A top notch show...and actually far better than I expected it to be.

Anathema - 10/10

Anathema setlist
Thin Air
Forgotten Hopes
Destiny Is Dead
Dreaming Light
Are You There? (Danny solo - acoustic)
One Last Goodbye
Inner Silence
Lost Control
Angels Walk Among Us
A Simple Mistake
A Natural Disaster
Temporary Peace
Shroud Of False
Fragile Dreams

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Birds Of Tokyo - Camden Barfly - Monday 17th May 2010

Birds of Tokyo are one of the many brilliant bands currently streaming out of Australia. This is a scene including such bands as The Butterfly Effect, Cog, Sleep Parade, Dead Letter Circus and, of course, Karnivool. The 'Vool have already begun to make waves in Europe, partly because they write awesomely experimental yet catchy song, and partly because of their ridiculously good live performances. Thus it is not surprising to learn that Birds of Tokyo are best known in the UK at the moment for their singer, for it is Ian Kenny of Karnivool 'fame' that leads the band with his soaring vocals through their wide array of poppy alt-rock tunes. It is unfair to describe the band as a side-project for Kenny, even though that may well be the case, as they have been far more prolific than Karnivool...already gearing up for their third album in a six year lifespan whereas it took the 'Vool 12 years to get two out. Indeed Birds aren't universally popular with 'Vool fans but then they do sound, pretty much, nothing alike. Birds are all about the soaring choruses and are more grunge than they are prog. Thus much of the crowd packed into the Barfly for the band's first UK headline show could be said to be more curious 'Vool lovers than long-term fans.

When I say 'packed' I do mean that the Barfly is sold out for this show (and the following night's repeat performance) but I also mean that is only 'packed' once Birds are about to come onstage. Catalunan quartet Mujeres come onstage to a grand total of...9 people (including yours truly). Their brand of lo-fi garage with a slight folk element is eminently danceable yet also repetitive. Each of their songs sounds pretty much exactly the same but they're still fairly enjoyable and get involved in some football banter, which must be a good thing. Second support act Little Fish are better, although frontwoman Julia Sophie talks a bit too much. Their songs are pure garage rock and whilst some of them are pretty good, some of them are pretty average as well. They're a lot better than Hole though, whom they've recently been supporting. They also don't seem to have thought getting off the stage after their set through very well. The keyboard/synth set up is particularly clumsily taken off, thanks only to the acquiescence of crowd members getting out of the way.

Birds of Tokyo finally reach the stage around 10pm and are worth the wait. The set features a mix of new material, including stomping new single 'The Saddest Thing I Know', alongside choice cuts from their first two records, highlights of which include 'Wayside' and 'Broken Bones'. Kenny is an engaging, if slightly bizarre, frontman as ever and the band's live sound is fleshed out by the addition of a keyboard player to back up Adam Spark's understated guitar. Kenny meanwhile dons an acoustic guitar for superb renditions of 'Head In My Hands' and 'Train Wrecks'. The band seem genuinely pleased with the reaction they get from the crowd and look especially delighted whenever a singalong starts up. The band have also managed to get the best out of the Barfly's sound system it appears, at least from directly in front of the stage where I stand, with Kenny's vocals as clear as the guitar solos and Anthonny Jackson's thudding basslines never threatening to swallow up the rest of the sound. The only gripe worth giving much airtime too is that the set is quite short. The band are only onstage for 70 minutes or so and a couple more songs from the back catalogue would have done quite nicely to round off the evening. Very enjoyable show though all the same.

Mujeres - 5/10
Little Fish - 7/10
Birds of Tokyo - 9/10

Birds of Tokyo setlist
The Saddest Thing I Know
Armour For Liars
Wild Eyed Boy
Off Kilter
White Witch
Wild At Heart
Head In My Hands
Train Wrecks
Broken Bones

(pics coming soon)

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Deftones - Euston ULU - Wednesday 12th May 2010

It's been a tough time for Deftones in the last couple of years. Bassist Chi Cheng was placed in a coma after a terrible car accident in November 2008 and the band, having decided to carry on recording the album 'Eros' with ex-Quicksand man Sergio Vega, struggled to get a new record fully together. 'Diamond Eyes' was released on 3rd May 2008. It is not a replacement for 'Eros', which has been shelved for the meantime but is, for certain, the best Deftones record since 'White Pony' arrived back at the beginning of the decade. Whilst the two albums between 'White Pony' and 'Diamond Eyes' contained some truly awesome songs they were both struck with inconsistency and a lack of flow. For Deftones to return in 2010, despite the tragedy they have suffered, and release a record as wonderfully cohesive as 'Diamond Eyes' then is something of an achievement.

One thing I believe has not been affected at any stage is Deftones ability to play truly spell-binding live shows. This show at the ULU is no exception. Being one of the smaller venues that Deftones have played in recent years, this special show for MTV Presents has something of a special atmosphere to it. The majority of the people crammed inside the university venue appear to be long-term fans of the band and all seem delighted when the band emerge on stage at around quarter past 8 to the mega riffage of 'Rocket Skates', the "guns! razors! knives!" chorus of which provides the first scream along of the evening. It takes the band a little while to hit full stride but by the time the tones of 'Knife Party' and 'Passenger', incidentally my two favourite Deftones songs, have been wheeled out it's hard not to feel as if you're witnessing a band who are kings of the live arena. Singer Chino Moreno is on fine vocal form, mixing screams with raps and high notes expertly, and Sergio Vega is an active figure onstage. The fact that songs from 'Diamond Eyes' are all highlights tells you all you need to know about the new record. That they can stand out just a couple of weeks after release amongst the likes of 'Birthmark' and 'Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)' is testament to the strength of these new anthems. Of the heavier lot 'CMND/CNTRL' is an obvious choice to wax lyrical about with Chino having the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout while Steph Carpenter's monstrous riffs blare out in the background. The one problem with this gig indeed is that the sound at the ULU is really nothing to write home about. It's all actually...dare I say it, rather quiet. Not that this stops the band putting their all in with Abe Cunningham's drums being as powerhouse as on record and Chino getting up close and personal with the crowd when he so chooses. Any show that ends with an encore of 'Root' and '7 Words' can hardly be spoilt by minor sound gripes from audiophiles like me anyway! A great evening and a pleasure to finally see Deftones live at last. Bring on the next time!

Deftones - 9/10

Deftones setlist
Rocket Skates
Diamond Eyes
Knife Party
You've Seen The Butcher
When Girls Telephone Boys
Beauty School
Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)
Around The Fur
My Own Summer (Shove It)
Back To School (Mini Maggit)
Change (In The House Of Flies)
7 Words

* I am sure they played 'Prince' but the only setlist I can find on the web doesn't include it. Whether I imagined it or not is up for debate.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Biffy Clyro - Hammersmith Apollo - Thursday 6th May 2010

It's been ages since I last saw Biffy live. Ok, I'm lying, it was only October. I mean, what are they playing at? This is their first UK tour in over six months, utterly ridiculous. Perhaps they should record a DVD at some point so that people like me can watch that in the gap between tours. Oh wait, it appears that they are, judging by the amount of cameramen present at tonight's Hammersmith Apollo gig. This is the first time Biffy have played the legendary venue, perhaps best known nowadays for the BBC's 'Live At The Apollo' which is, you guessed it, filmed at the venue (the clue's in the title). Anyway Biffy are pretty famous nowadays (I know, how times have changed) and therefore can fill venues of this size with consumate ease. Tonight's clientele are undoubtedly far more 'scene' than the people who used to go and see them. Furthermore they even get celebs at shows now...tonight we have all of Watford hardcore act Gallows, plugged so much by NME and Kerrang! that it's reached the point where it's hard to see how they have any punk credential left at all,, Nick Knowles. Yeah, you know, the guy who presents DIY SOS. He's a real celebrity, honest.

Moving on to matters of real importance and vigour, the first support act onstage tonight at the Apollo is Sheffield avant-garde noisecore quintet Rolo Tomassi. They're kind of hard to describe. If you haven't heard them then you should imagine what it would sound like if your house blew up...right now. Then you should add to that image the sounds of smashing crockery, screaming infants and, plus synthesizers. This is a band that's certainly not lacking in originality. However they don't go down well with everyone at the Apollo tonight, possibly because they are, to say the least, an acquired taste. An awesome acquired taste at that. One thing you may not guess upon hearing them for the first time is that the screams and growls that populate much of their vocal output are provided by the sensible looking, petite Eva Spence. Whilst her growls are easily audible, when she slips into angelic clean vocals, they are regrettably lost in the mix. A very nice half an hour set from the band.

Following Rolo Tomassi are Scottish indie shoegazers The Twilight Sad. The barely say a word to the crowd during their set, with singer James Graham being completely wrapped up in the music to the extent that he spends a significant part of the set screaming the words not into the microphone but from the edge of the stage, with eyes closed, directly to the audience. Their sound owes a lot to the likes of Arab Strap and Aereogramme and Graham's unmistakably Scottish voice shines through above Alan McFarlane's fizzing guitar. Although they may well be a little understated for many of the people here tonight, this is a fine performance from a great band that you should all check out.

By the time Biffy Clyro come onstage the crowd is ready for them. Joined onstage by Oceansize guitarist Mike Vennart really helps them flesh out their live sound, with Neil still playing the lead parts but with Vennart making the songs sound as real onstage as on record. As per usual, 'That Golden Rule' kicks things off in some style. It drops like a bomb with bodies flying within seconds. The band barely take time for breathers in this ninety minute set dominated by cuts from 'Only Revolutions', highlights including the visceral 'Shock Shock' and the anthemic 'Whorses'. Simon pummels his guitar into submission like there's no tomorrow while Ben batters his drum kit into oblivion and James grooves away all over the place. Mike, meanwhile, dances around and yells out the words with a passionate zeal that makes him popular with the crowd, even though they haven't a clue who he is (their loss). Indeed, my attempt to get a "Mike Vennart's a legend" chant going fails horribly. Whilst the newer songs are impressive, the oldies are still the best. 'Bodies In Flight' is the behemoth live I have always dreamt it to be (I have been waiting SO long to hear this, my favourite Biffy song live, that it's a relief to finally hear it. If only they'd played it twice) and 'There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake' twists and turns as perfectly as ever. A double whammy of 'Convex, Concave' and 'The Captain' ends the night in fine style. Bring on the arena tour in November/December!

Rolo Tomassi - 8/10
The Twilight Sad - 8/10
Biffy Clyro - 9/10

Biffy Clyro setlist
That Golden Rule
Living Is A Problem
Glitter & Trauma
Shock Shock
Who's Got A Match?
God & Satan
Bodies In Flight
Born On A Horse
Saturday Superhouse
A Whole Child Ago
There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake
Many Of Horror
Cloud Of Stink
Convex, Concave
The Captain

Monday, 3 May 2010

Freeze The Atlantic - Camden Barfly - Thursday 29th April 2010

It's difficult to sum up my feelings upon the approach of this gig. You see, there was this band called Reuben whom I, and many others, loved a great deal. A band that was as honest and as dedicated to their fans as one could wish a band to be...and they wrote some pretty kick-ass songs as well. In 2008 Reuben split up, leaving a gaping hole in the British music scene for their followers. It seems pretty unlikely that they'll ever return, especially with singer/guitarist Jamie Lenman pursuing a reasonably successful illustration career at the present. This is obviously sad but perhaps it's time to get over it...for Freeze The Atlantic's sake.

Fast forward to 29th April 2010. Freeze The Atlantic are about to play their first ever gig. This is a band featuring not only two ex-members of Reuben in bassist Jon Pearce and drummer Guy Davis but also members of Hundred Reasons (Andy Gilmour, who plays bass in HR but guitar here) and Archie & The Instincts (Tom Stevens, guitarist). It's something of an early 21st century southern counties supergroup. For many of the people packed into the Barfly tonight however, this is all about Jon and Guy's involvement. There are people here looking for FtA to fill the Reuben sized gap mentioned earlier.

Before the 200 strong crowd find out whether FtA are going to be awesome or a damp squib however there are two totally mental support acts to enjoy. Hold Your Horse Is are a bit like the live music equivalent of a bottle of coke exploding in an expensive Porsche, thus ruining the leather upholstery. Basically, they're really kinda awesome in a crazy sort of way (assuming you don't own a Porsche). Musically they sound a fair amount like Mclusky. You should go and see them if they're playing near you and buy one of their ultra horsey t-shirts as well.

Cars On Fire are more visceral than HYHI. Frontman Ali Ross is in the crow within thirty seconds of the first song kicking off, stirring up the first pit of the evening (spoiler alert). This is a band that sounds like Reuben, the Bristolians provide some almighty riffage with some mega screams from Ross and yet still with anthemic choruses on the likes of 'Burn The Suits' and 'Sharks'. The sound isn't perfect and there's some refining to be done before they can truly match some of their heroes but this is a band that will be pretty awesome for sure by the time they get their first full album out; mini-album 'Dig Your Own Grave' is out now, they'll give it to you for a fiver if you ask nicely!

When Freeze The Atlantic finally enter the stage the tension is noticeable. Not that they appear to have noticed. This is an incredibly tight performance from a band playing their first gig and they don't let the fact that the crowd is hearing most of these songs for the first time hold them back in any way at all. Singer Daniel Flay is the only one who appears at all nervous but he still gives a fine performance, crowd surfing not once but twice, and it's great to see Jon and Guy back on stage again (admittedly Guy can't actually be seen but then again, he's supposed to be sitting down I suppose). It's important to note that they actually sound very little like Reuben at all. This isn't a bad thing at all, they're a very good band with some great songs, although I suspect some in the crowd may well be a little disappointed. The songs already released through their MySpace are obvious highlights merely because they're known, 'Feather In A Hurricane' being a particular favourite along with closer 'All These Things You Hold On To', which sees the crowd join in on the "woah-oh-oh-oh-oh" part toward the end. The band leave with a promise to return in September...bring it on. They may not be Reuben but they'll definitely do.

Hold Your Horse Is - 7/10
Cars On Fire - 7/10
Freeze The Atlantic - 8/10