Heaven’s Basement - Slade Rooms, 22.08.13
Five years since forming and several line up changes later, it’s fair to say Heaven’s Basement have somewhat exploded onto the music scene since the release of their debut album Filthy Empire. Sandwiched between appearances at some of the biggest festivals across Europe is a headline UK tour. A sold out Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton brings them their highest pre-show ticket sales, and it’s easy to see why this quartet are making a mark. Striding ontage brimming with confidence and passion for their art, they have the crowd in of the palm of their hands from the opening chords of Welcome Home. The setlist is relentless and commands the attention of the audience from the pounding beats of I Am Electric to an acoustic Price We Pay with the energy levels never once dipping. The crowd are only too happy to mirror their enthusiasm, bouncing around and singing along at the top of their voices, particularly in the brilliant Nothing Left To Lose. Vocalist Aaron Buchanan is one of the most charismatic frontmen around, bounding around the stage and even taking part in a little crowd surfing. As the final part of the Heaven’s Basement puzzle, they appear a solid unit with a bright future.
Fire Fire and Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch send the crowd into a frenzy and by the time the foursome walk off stage, the chant of we want more is being yelled by everybody in the room. Returning to blast Executioners Day, a tired, thrilled, and extremely sweaty audience make their way out knowing they’ve just seen one of the leading names in the future of rock.
Hellfest 2013 - Day Three
Hellfest 2013 - Day Two
Day two got off to a little bit of a murky start with the all too familiar dull clouds and rain that we are used to at a British festival, but nevertheless we trooped on and made our way to the arena for another day of great bands!
First up for us today were Krokus on Main Stage 1. They got things off to a loud start, full of energy and very entertaining, getting the crowd involved as much as possible and not letting the rubbish weather effect their performance, or the crowds enjoyment. We then took a wander over the The Valley to see Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, a name we had heard but the music we hadn’t. What a pleasant surprise they were, sounding like early Black Sabbath meets the spacey psychedelic 13th Floor Elevators, definitely a band to check out!
Back over on the Main Stage, 3 Doors Down delivered a set that reflected the weather, a little bit miserable. They were too downbeat and needed some more energy in their set. Most of the crowd seemed to enjoy it, but sadly for us they were lacking. Now Witchcraft on the other hand, absolutely incredible. Again, another band we had been hearing a lot about, and they gave us a brilliant set. Their bluesy hooks and high energy set reminded us a little of Graveyard and they were a lot of fun, another to invest in we reckon.
From the fun to the pretty crazy with Down. Always a great show, but today was extra fun. The French crowd were insane and the circle pits huge, they injected some much needed life into the day. Phil Anselmo is a crazy frontman, taking any opportunity to punch himself in the head with his mic, leaving himself bleeding by the end of the set, that’s dedication. Accept followed and although completely different, just as much fun. The chants of Balls to the Wall echoed through the field, and the atmosphere, despite the weather had definitely picked up.
Time to get old school with some Paparoach, who sadly left us feeling like they were trying that little bit too hard to be something they weren’t. Frontman Jacoby Shaddix showed great confidence, maybe a little too much, but just shouted himself through their set. Last Resort however did get the crowd going for the last few minutes. A band who never has to prove how cool they are is ZZ Top. They ooze talent, effortlessly cool and they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. A set full of big tunes and some bonus dancing from Billy Gibbons. Bullet For My Valentine had the job of keeping us going before the mighty KISS took to the stage, and they did a pretty decent job. They were high in energy, and just played and played, no fuss. They may not be one of our favourite bands, but they know how to play.
Finally, the hottest band in the world were ready to hit Hellfest. KISS burst onto the stage to Psycho Circus and played a set full of killer hits and left the crowd in awe. Explosions, fire, lights, everything you expect them to be, completely over the top but utterly brilliant with it. They may be getting older, and they may not have the moves they used to, but they always deliver a fantastic show, that is no question. Paul Stanleys voice sounds a little strained as they come to the end of their tour , but he still finds the energy to fly over the crowd whilst performing Love Gun, pretty epic. And after the complete bravado of KISS, we have the gritty riffs of Korn to close the night. With Head now back in the band, it feels like a return to form for Korn. They deliver a fantastic well mixed set, with lots of old and new songs for the fans, they perform with precision and are almost perfect. Without a doubt one of the highlight sets of the weekend.
Hellfest 2013 - Day one
For festival season this year, we took ourselves off to Hellfest in Clisson, France. We fancied a bit of a change from the dull weather of England, only to be greeted with more rain there, can’t have it all! Anyway, what a great weekend we had, tons of brilliant bands and lots of new ones discovered! Here is our report from the first day…
Kicking off a festival on the mainstage is no easy task, but Kissin’ Dynamite aren’t fazed at all. They grasp their opportunity and deliver an energetic half an hour to get everyone pumped for the weekend ahead. Following them on the mainstage 2 are SSS, a very different group from their predecessors signalling the heavier of the two stages; they even get the first pits of the festival going. Black Spiders are up next and have the crowd following their every command. Opening with the brilliant KISS Tried To Kill Me (who are of course headlining the Saturday), they’re a great band to get the crowd going, even encouraging the middle finger salute as early as a Friday lunchtime, what more could you want!
Back to mainstage 2 and Vektor take to the stage for a very screechy set with no stand out tracks. Nevertheless, their fans are out in force and they receive a good reception. Bouncing out next are Swedish quartet Hardcore Superstar straight into the snappy drum rhythm of opener Moonshine. Frontman Jocke Berg has great stage presence and is bounding round the stage with the energy of a 5 year old! His charisma creates a great connection with the crowd and their set is perfect festival material with plenty of audience participation required. Pioneers Saxon blast through a set of classics which are always received well at festivals and a welcome addition to any line up.
On with another great festival band and it’s Europes turn. Despite the fact that the majority of people will be turning up for the massive Final Countdown (which went down a treat of course), they are thoroughly enjoyable to watch and Joey Tempest vocals are still on top form. The heavy rhythms of Testament boom around the field to a huge showing and the thrash pioneers blitz through a frantic set, lapped up by their audience. A switch in the line up presents Twisted Sister earlier than expected and they absolutely steal the day. Declaring in their earlier press conference that they are the best around and they challenge every band playing over the weekend to top them, they stick to their word and deliver a fantastic set full of energy, passion and precision. They are without doubt one of the bands of the weekend and are always an absolute pleasure to watch. The huge We’re Not Gonna Take It encourages 3 encores of the chorus, one started by the crowd which echoes round the field before frontman Dee Snider counts the band back in, long live Twisted Sister! The Who's My Generation signals the beginning of Whitesnake's set, and whilst the big hits such as Still Of The Night and Here I Go Again please the crowd, the newer tracks fall flat and there are a few too many solo’s to keep the crowds full attention. David Coverdale's voice is sadly not what it used to be as he croaks through the higher notes, when he decides to attempt them! Helloween on the other hand are sounding great, complete with giant inflatable pumpkins, and their enthusiasm is matched by their audience.
On to tonight’s main act and Def Leppard sneak onstage, kicking off with Good Morning Freedom. The first part of their headlining set is a mixture of classic hits, including Let’s Get Rocked, before a video interval which sadly got lost in translation with the French crowd. Celebrating their iconic album Hysteria, the video features clips of the making of the album but confused the audiences and appeared disjointed. Onto the album itself and it’s a wonderful hour or so of brilliant tracks. No doubt the band are showing their age and the wear and tear on Joe Elliott's voice is evident, but their passion and love for their music still remains which is what makes them so enjoyable to watch.
Another moment of confusion hits their set as ACDC's You Shook Me All Night Long blares out of the speakers as the band leave the stage, usually a sign that the show is over, however, midway through the second verse, Elliott reappears onstage questioning whether the crowd seriously thought they’d leave with no encore on their first visit to France in 17 years. Everyone hurries back down for a sing along to Rock Of Ages and Photograph top off a fantastic first day; a day that blends the old with the new and shows that some of the old bands have still got it, and the newer guys are giving rock a bright future.
The Rolling Stones - Hyde Park, 06.07.13
Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
The resurrection of Alice In Chains back in 2009 wa a momentous occasion for their fans.They were always a band who mixed the filth of grunge with the broodiness of metal, creating a dark unique sound. Their last album, their first with singer William DuVall was received greatly, and now they are back with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The album the fans have been waiting for.
Kicking off with Hollow, we have that familiar plodding riff and vocal harmonies we are used to from Alice In Chains. It is heavy but beautifully melodic. Pretty Done again has that familiar sound of the early days, same with Voices, Chunky riffs and classic sounding. Lab Monkey is a great track, it is thick with bass and has that touch of Jerry Cantrell talkbox in the solo, again bringing back elements of who the band were, but showing what they have now evolved into. The title track is particularly great too, a thoughtful piece about religion and politics, aggressive with a new flavour about it.
It is obvious that the band have welcomed experimentation with this album. It shows they have grown musically and matured well as a band, comfortable enough to try new things which pays off, It is distinctive, risky but flows perfectly. A welcome return for an iconic band.
Todd Kerns - Borrowing Trouble
Over the past couple of years, the rise of Pledge Music has given us many great albums. More and more artists are turning on to this idea of getting the fans involved to help fund their records, thus creating their own little record labels. This makes the bond between artists and fans a special one, and nothing conveys this more than the new record from Todd Kerns. He went down the Pledge Music route, probably due to the influence of his good pal Ginger Wildheart, and decided to make a new solo album. The response was brilliant, Kerns reached 100% of his target in less than 24 hours and Borrowing Trouble was born, an acoustic album, something a little different to what you may expect.
Nothing Personal, the records opener, is a really catchy one to start with, but it’s juxtaposed with a dark tale of life’s choices and the outcomes you are faced with. It has a great piece of electric slide guitar in there which gives the track a gritty edge, much like its lyrical nature and the repeated line “Ain’t nothing personal, it’s just business” can be such a harsh statement, it really resonates with you. The Devil in Me is one of my personal highlights. There is something about the melody and the use of the electric sitar that along with Todd’s vocals has this really haunting feel about it. It would make a great big, full bodied, ferocious rock song, but stripped down like this it makes just as much impact. The same can be said for This Changes Everything. The song has so much packed into it and a lot going on, it is really not your standard acoustic track, but it is by no means too much. So many layers, with a collaboration of voices and harmonies and the use of different instruments, it makes for a very interesting listen.
Some of the best songs on Borrowing Trouble are the ones that are simply just Todd and his guitar. Tracks like The Maker and Its Always Been You showcase his voice perfectly, and they are so intimate and intricate that they feel personal to listen to, like he is singing directly to you, which can be a very hard thing to achieve, but it is done with such ease. So Scandalous is sweet and bouncy, performed just with a ukulele, and Hideous is a real interesting one, it has this big stomper of a beat running through it, and the guitars give me a kind of Sneaker Pimps vibe. You Can Always Go Home is particularly beautiful. Simple and delicate with such a strong sense of emotion in the lyrics, it’s a perfect closing track. It’s really difficult not to go into detail about each song to be honest, the album is so much more than just another acoustic album, each song has a different flavour about it, but put together they fit so well.
Borrowing Trouble is one of those records where every song is your favourite, there is nothing to criticise about it, and it’s pretty perfect to be honest. The themes that run throughout, preoccupations and worrying about things that may not even happen, and overcoming these feelings, realising that there is more to life than worrying is what makes it feel all the more personal to those listening. It’s stripped back, bare bones, guitar and voice and the storytelling in the lyrics is vivid, as you listen you can see each story playing out in your head. It is a special record for so many reasons; I sincerely hope there is more where this came from.
30 Seconds to Mars - LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS
30 Seconds to Mars have alway been a band associated with ‘epic’ music. Epic in the sense of grandeur, atmospheric, spacey compositions, big big songs. Since they released A Beautiful Lie back in 2005 they have been propelled into the mainstream, and their last release This Is War in 2009 only catapulted them even more. Now they are back with LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS, much awaited, but does it live up to its predecessors?
The grand opening of Birth introduces the album, leading you into Conquistador which is one of the strongest tracks here. A big drum beat and a strong riff, it seems to resemble previous work well and gives optimism for what is to come. Up In The Air, the first single is also a decent track, with some very strong points, although a little repetitive.
The band seem to have taken a more experimental route on this record, choosing a more electronic sound. Sadly, it hasn’t really done much in the way of creating an exciting album, and it does end up becoming somewhat predictable. There is a lot of instrumental, which is never a bad thing, but when it all begins to sound so similar, and is pretty much used to fill the album up, its not as effective. There is a huge use of strings and synth used as lead melody rather than a guitar, which is a cool idea and at first sounds good, but again, it is totally overused.
The songs themselves are good songs, Bright Lights, City of Angels etc, but they don’t seem to change. The level and the tone of the album stays the same throughout, it doesn’t move anywhere. Gone are the days of the more metal edge of their self titled debut, which i would personally love to hear more of in their recent stuff, instead it is replaced with overproduced ‘sounds’ to put it basically. There is however, towards the end a good track in the form of Do or Die which is very typical 30STM. Quick paced, big melodies and harmonies, the it uses the electronics effectively, leaving a brilliant sounding song. Sadly though, a handful of decent songs is not enough to save the record.
LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS had the potential to be a great album had the band combined the many elements and styles they have previously offered to create a unique sound. Instead it just sounds uninspired and its a real shame.
The Skints - Newcastle Academy, 23.05.13
HIM - Tears on Tape
It’s hard to believe that HIM have been bringing us their ‘love metal’ sound for almost twenty years now. It seems like a lifetime since we last heard from them despite their last album only being released in 2010, but after a few delays and a change of record label, they are back with Tears on Tape, is it a return to form?
The first single, All Lips Go Blue is a furious mix of noisy guitar and tender vocals, a really great track to kick off the album. The same goes for Love Without Tears, melodic with romantic lyrics, proving the the same formula for gloomy, dark, gothic rock that the band have perfected over the years still works. Some tracks bring the metal element of the band to the forefront a little more, such as I Will Be The End of You, which has a great riff. The title track, Tears on Tape, is a little more on the poppy side, with some nice keyboard sounds and a big sing along chorus. The closing of the album with W.L.S.T.D and Kiss The Void form quite a finale. Dark and haunting synths with an epic scream from Ville Valo, again highlighting the heavier side of the band.
Tears on Tape gives HIM fans exactly what they want. Themes of heartbreak, obsession, the darker side of love, more of what they do best. If you are a HIM fan you will love it, if not, then this record doesn’t give you anything new to win you over, it is however still a very impressive album.