Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rys's List Of NWOBHM Obscurities That You Need To Know About




I want to start out by saying I am in no way shape or form an expert in the musical sub genre lovingly named New Wave of British Heavy Metal (a term dreamed up by former Sounds editor Alan Lewis). It's just my favorite era in metal music.

For my definition, the NWOBHM time period is very loose – I'd give it from 1979 – 1987.  Unlike some other people, I don't consider non British Bands to be part of the movement, even though the spirit is there, might as well call it New Wave of heavy metal without the nationalist qualifier. 

Even the casual fan has heard of the bigger names, of course Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon to name a few.  My aim today is to shed some light on the bands that are lumped into the “also ran” category.  Due to bad timing, lack of promotion or a myriad of other factors, these bands never got the attention they so rightly deserved. 

This will be a recurring segment – so if you don't see your favorite band (or YOUR Band) listed – check back soon!  This is all just in my personal opinion, and I welcome any one to add their own choices in the “comments” section.  Remember one person's idea of “obscure” or “unsung” is another person's “commonplace”. 


1.      Elixir (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elixir-The-Ultimate-NWOBHM-band/339389072505)

I have to start off the list with the London based band Elixir.  I'm embarrassed to admit I was unfamiliar with their music until they played in New Jersey in the summer of 2006.  From the first note of the song “Star of Beshaan”- I was hooked!!!  I am very proud to have been a part of the band's foray into social media – starting with MySpace, then of course the ubiquitous Facebook and Reverbnation.  Elixir's music has often been referred to as “Maiden-esque” because of the dual guitar leads and galloping bass lines.  But there is so much more to them!!  Definite influences of Thin Lizzy and UFO as with so many other bands of the time.  Paul Taylor's vocals do evoke Biff Byford of Saxon at times, but he definitely has his own voice and style.  The band's first full length LP “The Son of Odin” wasn't released until 1986, thereby barely catching onto the tail end of the already passe movement and being overshadowed by the hair metal and thrash bands that were gaining popularity at the time.  Elixir broke up a few years ago, and original members Taylor and guitarist Phil Denton have gone on to form a new band called Midnight Messiah – who still preform Elixir classics during their set.

2.      Pagan Altar (http://www.paganaltar.com/)

From the Brockley district of South London Terry Jones and his son Alan Jones formed the doomy/Sabbathy/folksy (yep) theatrical Pagan Altar.  Known for taking promo photos in Nunheard cemetery – like I said in a previous article – Terry was the real deal and the name “Pagan Altar” was not a nonsensical moniker for the band.  In their early years they came onstage in cloaks, with coffins, skulls, candles, the whole bit.  It's  a shame that no footage exists from that time that I could find.  According to the bio on the band's website, the band rarely played outside of  South East London, which may be one of the reasons historians don't cite them as being one of the pivotal bands from that era.  Fortunately, due to the power of the internet, a demo tape that had been bootlegged “to death” was soon in the band's own hands – and they were able to give it a proper release. The band had achieved cult status in underground metal circles, and in the last few years played at prestigious festivals around the world, including Dubai.  In 2013, Terry finally was able to bring the band to the US to do a one off gig at the Maryland Death fest – where I will say time and again that they owned the day – if not the whole festival.

Alas recently the painting of Terry that was stored in the attic was destroyed, time caught up to Dorian Gray, and the music world is still grieving his loss.  At this point in time it is unlikely the band will continue without him.

3.      The Handsome Beasts (http://www.thehandsomebeasts.co.uk/)

Perhaps more known for their infamous “Beastiality” album cover, where singer Garry Dalloway gets down and dirty (literally) with a pig in a sty – Birmingham's Beasts had some great music.  More on the bluesy end of the spectrum – that “fat bastard” had an amazingly soulful voice.  It's sad that the album cover may have turned people off to the band.  Their whole catalog is excellent, including the “04” album, which aside from boasting another cover that's sure to make it onto “worst covers ever” lists around the internet, contained re-released versions of songs originally on Beastiality.

Sadly, vocalist Dalloway passed away in 2006 just as the band were gaining steam again.  They've had a series of vocalists including Rocky Shades from Wrathchild UK, and continue to tour and write new music to this day.

4.      Fist (http://www.fistrocks.com/)

The North East of England was a hotbed for bands in that era.  Unfortunately because of the distance to the capital a lot of them didn't get the credit they deserve. The band were actually a bit ahead of the curve.  Then called Axe, they recorded their first single, “SS Giro” in 1978.  Fighting against the popularity of punk rock the band regrouped, renamed themselves “FIST” and released one of the first singles on the NEAT label, “Name Rank and Serial Number”.  On the strength of the single, the band were signed to major label MCA.  Due to “hassles” with the label, the band were dropped and returned to NEAT records.

The band have recently become active again, gaining great reviews for their live shows around Europe.  Another band I would chew my right arm off to see in the States!

5.      Spartan Warrior (https://www.facebook.com/spartanwarriorofficial)

Also from the North East of England, Spartan Warrior are another brand I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know too much about until recently.  Their guitarist Neil Wilkinson contacted me on Facebook a few years ago about getting the band on British Steel Festival.  After checking out their music, I was one of their biggest champions, but sadly that festival series is no more. SW's 1983 full length debut, “Steel n' Chains” still stands up to this day as a classic metal recording.  Great hooks, exceptional playing and top notch vocals from David Wilkinson.  The band is still currently very active playing gigs around the UK and some of the bigger European festivals. 

- Rys

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Gentlemen Bastards - Bastard's Brew




The Gentleman Bastards! How cool of a band name is that? Pretty f'n rad is what I say.  So is the rip roaring, grooved out stoner rock these boys from Alabama pack. Actually the band has members from the US, Canada and Iceland believe it or not. Talk about bastardization of culture, those flags are waved proudly.

Riding hot off the heels of their self titled debut, which put them on the underground stoner map, Bastard's Brew creeps up on you like shots of Crown Royal to an unsuspecting born again Christian. It's all smiles through and through, with a sense of comfort no matter what block of the stoner scene you reside in. Clocking in at 8 songs, 35 minutes, with 2 added instrumental takes on songs 1 and 3, Bastards Brew is quick and dirty, splashing you with an onslaught of groovy guitar jams and hypnotically enticing vocals. Those infectious vocal cries bring the jazzy bass, head bobbing drum lines, and groovy guitar fuzz full circle to create an intoxicating substance to abuse.

Each song flows heftily into the next and leaves no room for backfill. The album plays through rather quickly and demands a repeat listen, as truly unique and awe inspiring music does. If you happened to hear their self titled debut and liked what you heard, or if you are new to the Gentleman Bastards, then fear not, Bastard's Brew holds the door wide open and will have you buzzing in no time. Check it out over at bandcamp for a listen.

-The Huntsman


Friday, May 29, 2015

Cancer Bats - "Beelzebub"




If you've read any of my record reviews, maybe you noticed that I make a lot of film references.  Whenever I hear a fantastic song, I start imagining cinematic visuals to accompany it.  And, likewise, when I see a great movie, I can't help thinking about the perfect musical accompaniment that might've made it even better.  It’s how my brain is wired.

The song “Beelzebub” by Cancer Bats recently filled a void in my life that I didn't even know my life had.  In fact, it’s so demolishingly dark, loud, angry, and cathartic that I think it's a candidate to score one of the most fantasized-about yet presently non-existent movie moments in our culture. 

Despite never having been onscreen, this is a scene that's been detailed in comics and novels, filibustered by Patton Oswalt, and discussed with desperate anticipation by millions of sci-fi movie buffs (mostly male) for decades.  And we'll continue to create indescribably impossible expectations for it, no matter how many other media forms poke around its edges, because none of those counts till we actually see it in a movie.

What generationally momentous though wholly hypothetical film scene am I talking about? 

Boba Fett, severely injured but alive, wrenching himself free of the Sarlacc Pit, pissed off and looking for payback. 

Like many fans, I knew my life would be incomplete in a small but significant way until a film containing this scene was brought into existence.  However, I didn’t realize that my private fanboy world was also missing the perfect song to play behind it, until I heard “Beelzebub.”

I recently read a book that put quantifiable numbers to what we of the Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino generation already qualitatively understood without the need for research to confirm it:  Star Wars permeates the hell out of modern culture.  And one of the most reviled events in all of Star Wars (and, therefore, all of cinema) was Boba Fett getting bumped off in the ignominious way that he did.  It was hollow and unsatisfying when I was a kid, and the years since haven't made it any easier to accept.

Fortunately, it’s a death that was never confirmed.  Yes, you can pronounce someone dead without a body, you can even hold their funeral, but there will always be that lingering question... especially if the departed spends the next thirty years becoming one of the most popular characters in the most beloved space-fantasy saga of all time.

I read about Cancer Bats in Magnet Magazine, dog-earing the page and eventually sitting down with headphones to immerse myself in their latest record, Searching for Zero.  When I’m listening to a new band for the first time, I tend to put their stuff on while I’m doing something else, just to see if it’s remarkable enough to capture my attention in a positive way.  By the end of the four-minute opening track, I couldn’t focus on my work.  And by the time I heard the line, “I’ll always be… the jerk that you need,” my brain was reconfiguring my taste parameters to accommodate this meaningful new addition.

This is a band cut from the Every Time I Die cloth, laying down a ripping blend of high-octane rock, throat-scouring hardcore and half-speed stoner metal.  A few days after acquiring the album, while listening to its fourth song, I had my epiphany.

Let me quickly set the stage:

You're the baddest bounty hunter in the universe.  You’ve finally brought in your prize mark, and are enjoying Jabba the Hutt's hospitality while basking in the satisfaction of a job well done—which, for you, equates to standing around looking menacing while everyone else cavorts (because you don't get to be the baddest bounty hunter out there by letting your guard down).

Next thing you know, lightsabers are humming, blasters are firing, wookies are roaring, and, one lucky shot later, jet packs and grappling guns suddenly feel like the most pointless gadgets you could possibly have armed yourself with, because what you really need is a two-foot syringe of imperial-strength, midi-chlorian-enhanced ipecac.

You with me?

Now, music is (of course) subjective, as is every Star Wars fan’s right to assemble his own mental reel of Fett dragging his splintered armor and battered body out the entrance-only mouth of a killed-to-shit-from-the-inside Sarlacc. 

That said, I think we can all agree that it needs to happen.  And what I didn’t realize until recently was that what my soul wanted, as much as it wanted the grievous wrong of Boba Fett’s apparent death put right, was a killer heavy rock song blasting along as the soundtrack to this cinematic correcting of universal events.  I’m talking about a song so perfectly articulated in its power and energy as to forever be linked to the scene, the way “Misirlou” will forever remain inextricable from Pulp Fiction’s opening salvo.

With that in mind, indulge me and hit play on Cancer Bats’ “Beelzebub.”  As you listen, let your internal celluloid start to unspool.  Together, we’ll visualize Boba Fett channeling every escape artist, fixer and jury-rigger from Mr. Miracle to MacGuyver as he fights, squirms, and detonates his way out of the most heinous flesh-trap in the system, wrenching himself back from a bottomless well of slow-boiling stomach juices, cracking past thousands of concentric, downward-angled teeth, and negotiation of a few tons of generator-choking Tatooine sand in the process.  If “Beelzebub” doesn’t seem like the right music for this moment, turn the volume up and start over.  And if you can’t almost feel the acidic stab of ten thousand years of remorseless, alien digestion on your skin when Bats singer Liam Cormier roars, “I'm just as scared of this too, as terrified as you,” maybe you don’t care as much about Boba Fett as we both thought.

The revelation of Boba Fett being alive would be a deeply personal thing for many of us.  And so, if I’m being honest, I’ve got to admit that it’s way too ego-centric to suggest that, just because it works for me, there’s no better piece of music than "Beelzebub" to score the hypothetical scene in which this pseudo-resurrection comes to pass.  I accept that.

If a few people are exposed to Cancer Bats and their killer new album through my highlighting one of their songs this way, I'm happy.   This is a great band who, via a simmering mini-epic of mortal fear and struggle against the darkness, has confirmed for me that a lot more punk-tinged metal bands should slow it down once a while, because they absolutely crush when they do. 

And if, for some of you, “Beelzebub” happens to evoke an Industrial Light & Magic-perfect vision of a Mandalorian-gauntleted hand reaching back from the mouth of nigh inescapable doom, all the better.

- MeteorJadd


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Teepee Creeper – Ashes Of The Northwest



I like it when a band just comes out of nowhere and knocks it out of the park.  That would be Teepee Creeper on this here album.  They've been a secret indulgence of those of us in the Northwest but with this release I think a LOT of other people are going to discover how good this band is.  If there is any justice in the world.

You like your rock heavy, sludgy, a little doomy here and there, with traces of Sabbathian majesty?  Kind of spacey and stonery, too?  Just put a check mark next to all of those boxes and push play on this beauty of an album, and spend the next 30 minutes in bliss.  There's nothing complicated, nothing you have to think about too much with this band, and that is completely all right.  Sometimes you just need to groove to some heavy shit.  Welcome to your soundtrack.

“Far Far Away” opens things up with some crushing heaviness and lyrics about joining the aliens who visit our planet and going, well, far, far away.  “Galactic Oblivion” comes along, kind of sneaks up on you, and then the riff just hits you in the chest like a sledgehammer.  Title track “Ashes of the Northwest” alternates between being just somewhat heavy and being so heavy that you can't breathe.  And those are just the first 3 tracks.

The rest of the album continues in the same pattern, kind of like 50 shades of heavy.  It's all going to fill that spot inside of you that craves the heavy, that spot that needs some sludgy goodness to make you feel alive.  If you need to, you know, imbibe, and then need something to bob your head along to, this will fill that need too, in spades.  I listen to some albums and wonder why this has to be so long.  This one is not long enough.

Go to Bandcamp and search these guys out.  Buy it on digital, buy it on CD, but get your hands on this now.  If they come through your town, make a point to go see them.  These are the kind of bands that we need to support, so they are able to stick around and make more music like this.  More music like this would do the world a lot of good, and maybe, just maybe, we can drive all the pop stars off the planet and just live in a world where dudes like these are the stars.

- ODIN





Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Therapy? - Troublegum




I got hooked on these Northern Irish pain merchants when their album 'Nurse' hit the streets in 1992. A strange feat indeed since I, at the time, had barely ventured into the realm of heavy, noisey and industrial-tinged punk at all. Come to think of it, I never have since either really. However, 'Nurse' brought something else to the fray that appealed to me and I have been a fan of the band ever since. If that album got me into the band, the 1994 follow-up, 'Troublegum' totally blew me away and became an important staple in the soundtrack of my college years.

What struck me the most of 'Troublegum' is the much heavier approach than on it's predecessor. The punk and industrial parts are there, but have taken a considerable step back which suits the lyrics much better. Always writing and singing about troubled and disturbed minds, that aspect opened up fully here and hit home with me immediately. I mean already in the first track, 'Knives' they sing: '...I'm gonna get drunk come round and fuck you up, I'm gonna get drunk come round and fuck you up and you can't help my life but you can hide the knives'. Hmmm, doesn't get more intense and screwed up than that. Well, continue to listen and you'll hear more tales from the dark side.

To this day, there are two songs I return to first whenever I play 'Troublegum'. The moment 'Unbeliever' burst to life was monumental. The guitar alone is a bulldozer of the mind burrowing into my head to release the demons. And once Andy starts to sing the chains are broken and the lunacy begins: '...Don't belong in this world or the next one, wasting every day to my own end. Feeling awkward, feeling clumsy, hating everything I've ever done before. Then you leave me like the others, leave me too much time on my own, on my own, on my own, on my own'. As if this isn't enough the maniacal 'Trigger Inside' follows right after, and it's even crazier. Therapy? drives up the tempo considerably where the fantastic rhythm work from McKeegan and Ewing are laying waste to everything around them. This allows Cairns absolute freedom to unleash the insanity whichever way he wants to on the guitar and lyrically: '...my head, it won't switch off when I'm alone. I got a trigger inside, I got a trigger inside, I got a trigger inside, I get the feeling I've been cheated. I got a trigger inside...'. Beautiful, that's all I can say people...beautiful!

Other very, very goods songs are 'Hellybelly', 'Stop It, You're Killing Me', 'Die Laughing' and an amazing rendition of Joy Division's 'Isolation'. They all follow perfectly with this album's theme of portraying the wretched souls in society, after all their website greeting is 'We Are Therapy? Helping The Afflicted Since 1990. They are also bringing forth acts of shallowness in the name of want and greed. Although released in 1994 these themes are more poignant than ever nowadays. Timelessness, indeed for better or worse.

The nucleus of Cairns and McKeegan are still keeping Therapy? going after Fyfe Ewing left in 1996, some time after 'Infernal Love', the follow-up to 'Troublegum', had been released. The success sales-wise of this particular album has never been matched, but the band has never given up. And they are still making great twisted music. Check them out, you hear!

- Swedebeast

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SERIAL HAWK To Release Their Long-Awaited Debut, Searching For Light, via Bleeding Light Records September 18th; Summer U.S. Tour Dates Announced


Seattle, Washington's crushingly heavy three-piece doom act SERIAL HAWK just signed to Bleeding Light Records and will release their debut full-length, Searching For Light, September 18th. The band's penchant for punishing, building riffs and reputation for bringing live audiences to their knees with a wall of sound has been encapsulated in this long-awaited album, which will be available on vinyl, CD, and digital download. Keep an eye out for more details in the coming months, but in the meantime, be sure to catch the band playing the songs live on their summer U.S. tour.

 Watch the official Searching For Light teaser via The Obelisk now at THIS LOCATION.

Searching For Light Track Listing:

1. Desolate
2. Lying In Wait (Listen HERE.)
3. Of Decay
4. Searching For Light


Serial Hawk Spring 2015 Tour


May 22 – Eugene, OR – The Wandering Goat
May 23 – Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge
May 24 – Redwood City, CA – Bobby D’s
May 25 – San Luis Obispo, CA – Sweet Springs Saloon
May 26 – Glendale, CA – The Complex
May 27 – San Diego, CA – The Hideout
May 28 – Phoenix, AZ – Rogue Bar
May 29 – Santa Fe, NM – The Cave
May 30 – Oklahoma City, OK – The Observatory
May 31 – Bryant, AR – M. F. Metal Music
June 01 – Birmingham, AL – Syndicate Lounge
June 02 – Atlanta, GA – 529
June 03 – Raleigh, NC – Slims Downtown
June 04 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
June 05 – Boston, MA – Cambridge Elks
June 06 – New Haven, CT – Three Sheets
June 07 – Pittsburgh, PA – Smiling Moose
June 08 – Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
June 09 – Omaha, NE – The Hideout
June 10 – Laramie, WY – Buckhorn Bar
June 11 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Music Garage
June 12 – Boise, ID – The Crazy Horse
June 13 – Portland, OR – The Know
June 14 – Seattle, WA – Black Lodge
 
For a taste of Serial Hawk's live experience, watch their 2014 in-studio KEXP performance HERE.

SERIAL HAWK IS:
Will Bassin - Guitar, Vocals
Adam Holbrook - Bass
Sean Bulkley - Drums


LINKS:
facebook.com/serialhawk
twitter.com/serialhawk
bleedinglightrecords.bigcartel.com
bleedinglightrecords.bandcamp.com

Greyhaze Records Reissues Trio of Brazilian Black Metal Classics

Greyhaze Records is proud to announce that three classic reissues from the Brazilian Black Metal Underground are now available for purchase. Included are MYSTIFIER's
Goetia (CD & 2xLP), VULCANO's Bloody Vengeance (CD/DVD), and IMPURITY's Into the Ritual Chamber (CD).

The audio for each of the albums has been carefully restored and dynamically remastered. Each release has been repackaged in a way that honors the original artwork.  All three titles can be purchased HERE

Visit the Greyhaze Records Bandcamp page for complete album streams of all three reissues.
 
 
 
 
   

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bonehunter Set Release Date For Hells Headbangers Debut


Much like they've done with Armour and Evilnight, once again, Hells Headbangers unleashes an underground gem from darkest Finland, ready to take up the heavy metal fight: Bonehunter and their debut album, Evil Triumphs Again, set for international release on August 21st on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats. All too appropriately titled, Evil Triumphs Again is a cryogenically frozen blast from the past, offering obeisance to debut-era Bathory in its unremittingly cavernous atmosphere yet resolutely punk-rocking thrust. Bonehunter hail all forms of evil (a quick rundown of some of the album's song titles include "Acid Fuck," "Succubus," "Burning Skulls," the telltale "Devil Metal Punks" and, of course, the title track itself) and extol these virtues through simple, pounding metalpunk drenched in sulfur and sewage, each anthem crankier and catchier than the last. One listen through and these songs will NOT leave your head - and thus, Evil Triumphs Again! Hear the first evidence of such exclusively HERE. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:
 
Tracklisting for Bonehunter's Evil Triumphs Again  
1. Messier 666
2. Black Shrine
3. Acid Fuck
4. Burning Skulls
5. Devil Metal Punks
6. Symbol of the Curse
7. Succubus
8. Deviler
9. Evil Triumphs Again

 
A statement from the band reads: "As longtime fans of Hells Headbangers and many bands from their roster, we are proud to release our first full-length sonic assault under the banner of HHR. With the support of Hells Heabangers, we will continue forging our devilish tunes and to make your ears bleed. This is only the beginning of our triumph, because true EVIL NEVER DIES!"
 
In other Bonehunter news, the band is slated to play Hells Headbangers' "Hells Headbash - Part 2" festival, set for September 4-6 in Cleveland, Ohio at the Agora Theater and Ballroom. Bonehunter will join other such HHR-affiliated bands as Satanic Warmaster, Profanatica, Archgoat, Midnight, Inquisition, Deiphago, Acid Witch, Destruktor, Black Witchery, Deceased, High Spirits, Deathhammer, Nyogthaeblisz, Demonic Christ, and tons more. More info can be found HERE.

 

Denmark's UNDERGANG Streaming New Song at Noisey

Denmark Death Dealers UNDERGANG have teamed up with Noisey for the exclusive stream of "Kogt I Blod," a brand new song from upcoming Dark Descent Records release Døden læger alle sår. Check it out at this location.

The band will release its third album Døden Læger Alle Sår on CD and digital formats via Dark Descent Records July 10. The vinyl version will be released on Me Saco Un Ojo Records. Long live the new flesh!

Døden Læger Alle Sår was recorded at Earhammer Studio, California subsequent to UNDERGANG's three-week U.S. tour in July 2014. The new material is a blend of the suffocating and filthy heaviness heard on the band's previous two albums, Indhentet Af Døden (2010) and Til Døden Os Skiller (2012), whilst adding more twists and neck-breaking brutality to the mix. The new album will out just in time for UNDERGANG's European tour with STARGAZER.
 
1.Døden Læger Alle Sår
2.Jomfrublodbad
3.Kronisk Betændelse i tarmene
4.Ad Ligbitum
5.Radbrækket
6.Lemlæstelsens Kunst
7.Kogt i Blod
8.Gravrust
9.Dødsfald
10 Det Gør Kun Ondt til du dør

UNDERGANG was formed in the early summer of 2008, with the intent of playing old styled, low tuned and extremely heavy Death Metal. Since the earliest breath of existence took place, the band has always kept pushing their limits and always stayed active, both in the studio and in live environments. The band has released two full length albums - Indhentet Af Døden (2010) and Til Døden Os Skiller (2012) ) - and several smaller releases and splits. They've also done several tours in Europe and the U.S., not to mention their exclusive opening slot for U.S. Death Metal legends AUTOPSY, at their first show in New York after 19 years in May 2012. Since then several other tours were completed in Europe, America, Australia and Japan, thanks to the help of underground networking and various connections.

A. Dødshjælp - Drums
K. Ondsind - Bass
D. Torturdød - Guitars / vocals
www.facebook.com/DarkDescentRecords


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ripple Field Trip - Saxon Live At BB Kings



May 12, 2015 

Photos by Ali Amendola 

Life is like a boomerang sometimes. Or a merry go round – or a circus. At least my life lately has not been static. Without going into too much personal detail, I had a really rotten April, I logged more hours as a visitor in the hospital than most people at their day jobs. It's a bad sign when the security guard at the CCU ward stopped asking for ID – he just offered a sympathetic smile on a daily basis. 

May was starting to even out a bit – my daily routine was changed but we had somehow avoided disaster. My social life was non existent. I was the sole person in charge of some else's care, and couldn't be away from home for more than a few hours without panicking and fearing the worst.

On the morning of Tuesday, May 12, I got a Facebook message from my friend Paul Mortz, who I joke is the “tattoo artist for the rock n roll elite” He had gotten in touch with his friend and client, Toby Jepson, who with Biff Byford, co-produced Saxon's 2011 album, “Call to Arms”, and explained to him he had a friend in NYC who was going through a rough time, was a huge Saxon fan, and could he call in a favor. 

So basically Saxon's producer had their singer Biff Byford put me on their guest list. (I am allowed to gloat) 


I got in touch with my best friend, and we made plans to head over to BB Kings. When we got inside it was one mishap after another. My bestie, Starchild, is disabled and has mobility problems. The hostess sat us at a cramped table and kept repeating we had to sit across from each other, those were the rules. I tried to make the most of it and made small talk with the two guys we were sat with. Starchild was becoming increasingly uncomfortable so we asked to be moved. We were then seated at a booth on floor level about five feet away from the stage. That will work!!! A few minutes after we were moved, someone tapped me on the back. It was one of the dudes we had sat with - he bought me a beer! “Great seeing female metal fans!” He said, clinking glasses with me, “Enjoy the show!”. When i did my walk around the club to get to the ladies' room, I had a good look at the crowd. It was 85% male. If I was single, I would have my pick of overweight, balding middle aged men proudly wearing faded Iron Maiden and Motörhead shirts that were being stretched way beyond their limits. I ran into about half a dozen people I knew – and just had a generally good feeling about that night. 

Local band Seven Witches opened the show – and they really impressed me. I liked their songs, they were good musicians, and set a nice tone.

Armored Saint were on next – admittedly I am not too familiar with their catalog but I recognized more than half their songs and halfway through their set I was fist pumping and headbanging with the crowd. John Bush still has an amazing voice, and in his sweatpants and flannel shirt still had great command of the crowd. 

Saxon were up next, after “It's a long way to the top” by AC/DC played over the PA, there was the sound of motorcycles revving. I stood up on the booth we were sitting in. My heart started pounding. “MOTORCYCLE MAN!” I yelled to Starchild. 

She had just had her ears cleaned, but didn't hear me over the roar of crowd, she just nodded her head and smiled the way you do at someone who's not all there. 

Then the band came out and guitarist Paul Quinn did indeed start the opening notes of the classic song. The first Saxon song I had ever heard, years ago, via the “NWOBHM '79 revisited” compilation Lars Ulrich put together in 1990. There they were only a few feet away from me – Saxon!! I couldn't stop smiling, and dancing, and headbanging, and smiling...but mostly smiling!! They sounded so good. Biff's voice was on point!! For a man in his mid 60's he had more control over his voice than singers half his age!!

This was the band's 35th anniversary tour, and was extra special because drummer Nigel Glockler was kicking major ass behind the kit after recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured brain aneurysm last year. As it was an anniversary tour, the set-list was peppered with classics from the band's heyday in the early 80's - as well as tracks from the rest of their long career. It was the first night of their US tour, and they played with so much energy it radiated into the crowd and no one in that room was standing still. I liked having my perch on top of the booth – Biff gave me a thumbs up (could be because of my Toby Jepson shirt too) – and bassist Nibbs Carter nodded and smiled a few times. Nibbs is the “baby” in the band – joining Saxon in 1988 at the age of 22, he is the longest serving bass player in the band's history. Guitarist Doug Scarratt joined the band in 1994, and the current line up has been in place since drummer Glockler rejoined in 2006.

At one point Biff looked into the crowd and remarked as to what a “handsome looking audience” it was. Maybe Saxon's no-frills, “meat and potatoes” style of classic heavy metal draws more of a testosterone filled following then some other bands – but honestly I did not mind watching Nibbs and Doug all night and wondered why there wasn't a gaggle of leather clad heavy metal mama's at the side of the stage throwing their bras at them (I'm too old for that stuff – plus if I threw my bra at someone I'd have to get it back – damn things are expensive!!!) Plus, for someone close to my mom's age, Biff still had that sexy English charm – and had the crowd in the palm of his hand! There was so much audience participation that I was reminded this was a band that was used to playing in front of thousands of people at outdoor festivals – but they felt equally at home in front of a few hundred (even though Biff did remark about how small the stage was). Not sure why he kept switching out microphones between every other song, but I did get a wink from him as he passed me by to go to the sound guy!! 

“I WANT TO HEAR DENIM AND LEATHER” Starchild yelled at me, waving her cane, “DENIM AND LEATHER!” I was the only one calling out “DOGS OF WAR” and the dude next to me in the Sabbath shirt was calling for “Crusader” (during which he played perfect air guitar).

There were so many highlights for me – I couldn't have asked for a better set-list, even though I didn't get my song or “Strong Arm of the Law”. I really went nuts during “747 (Strangers in the Night)”  


“There's a 747 goin' into the night
There's no power they don't know why
They've no fuel they gotta land soon
They can't land by the light of the moon”


That's when it struck me – the level of songwriting was really above par for a band of that “stature” . And literally it was during the guitar solo that I just shook my head and silently wondered why Iron Maiden “made it” while Saxon will always be an “also-ran”. Maybe it was bad business deals, or as rumored in the early 80's, because Saxon were “too ugly”? I'm shrugging as I type this.

“Princess of the Night” was the last song of the set, the song that was the reason behind the purchase of my first Saxon album, “Denim and Leather”. The song that's basically a love letter to a century old locomotive. Locomotives ARE metal!!

“Speeding, sparks like lightning 
Engine working hard
Furnace on the foot plate 
Shining in the night 
Iron striking metal 
The sound of racing steel 
It's all I ever wanna hear 
It's music to my ears”

I literally beat up my friend Darren who made the mistake of joining me in my little go-go booth for that song. I was so happy – so full of – relief – and it all came out at the show!! 

The last song of the night was the one Starchild, and undoubtedly the rest of the crowd, was there for, the bands iconic “Denim and Leather”. Biff lead the crowd into a sing along chant – fists in the air

“Denim and Leather brought us all together 
It Was you – you – you that set the spirit free!!!”

I advise anyone who has the chance to see Saxon on this tour to definitely check them out – you will most certainly get your money's worth!!! And any young metal musician who wants to know how it's really done – go down to a Saxon gig!!! 

Set list:
Motorcycle Man
Sacrifice
Power and the Glory
And the Bands Played On
To Hell and Back Again
I've Got to Rock (To Stay Alive)
This Town Rocks
Dallas 1 PM
Solid Ball of Rock
20,000 Ft
Suzie Hold On
The Eagle Has Landed
Never Surrender
Heavy Metal Thunder 
747 (Strangers in the Night) 
Crusader 
Princess of the Night 

Encore:
Wheels of Steel 
Denim and Leather  

- Rys

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate - hip-hop, spoken word w/ Afrobeat, reggae & irresistible African grooves


Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate are an unlikely duo. Joe, who grew up in Syracuse, New York and moved to Bristol, England, speaks no French. Sekou, who grew up in Guinea, where French is the official language, speaks no English. When they met at a festival in Marseilles in 2010, they relied on music to communicate. Joe raps, loops, beatboxes, and writes songs. Sekou, known in France as the Jimi Hendrix of the kora, plays the West African harp like no one else. Together, Sekou and Joe blend hip-hop, spoken word, funk, and soulful rock and roll with Afrobeat, reggae, and irresistible African grooves. The World Music Report calls their debut album, Faya, “spectacular,” “sublime,” “brilliant,” and “perfection.”

Sekou was raised in an accomplished musical family in Conakry, Guinea. Trained in the ancient traditions of the kora, he has toured the world as a member of the Ba Cissoko band, comprised of his cousin and brothers. Cee-Lo Green calls Joe “the gangsta with an iron lung.” Joe has been touring for years, spreading his unique fusion of folk and hip-hop. He uses live looping to create soundscapes full of beatbox, guitar, harmonica, percussion, and whatever sounds he can find. For an evening of exciting, energetic, and thought-provoking music, catch Joe and Sekou at the Freight!

Sunday, May 24, 2015, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm)  Freight and Salvage, Berkeley,
2020 Addison Street / Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 644-2020 / info@freightandsalvage.org

Valkyrie - Shadows




Who is Valkyrie you ask? Well, to be honest I asked the same exact question just this year upon seeing the promo tease offered up by Relapse Records over at Bandcamp for their new album. ‘Shadows’ is actually their third full length album and debut on Relapse mated with other clutch bands such as Red Fang, Torche, ASG and Royal Thunder just to name a few. Apparently I’ve been sleeping under a rock having just found out about Valkyrie, but like the ancient Norse lore goes, the Valkyrie chose another day of life for me to listen to their astonishing new album ‘Shadows’. Will I survive the auditory battle, read on to find out?

Being late to the game, I’ll recap a brief history of the band. Undergoing several line-up changes between their formation in 2002 and their current state, Valkyrie consist of brothers Pete and Jake Adams (guitars and vocals), Alan Fary (Bass) and Warren Hawkins (drums). Pete Adams is also a guitarist in the legendary sludge band Baroness (take that at face value), which you can hear traces of in the guitar tone in Valkyrie. According to the diehard fans, the new album ‘Shadows’ was somewhat of a pleasant surprise as comments I read from fans ranged from:

Ø      I’ve been dreaming of this day since the day I was born, I’m 57 years old…”-some old dude,
Ø      “If I die tomorrow, please bury me in the shadow of Valkyrie - Shadows,”born again Christian mistress
Ø      “Listening to the song ‘Shadow of Reality’ cured me of cancer and my wife now understands my addiction to vinyl”…. –the man, the myth.

Ya, it’s that good folks. There is probably even memes on the internet describing the potency of Valkyrie?

My first impression of the band was to the point where I pre-ordered the vinyl after only a 2 song preview and a glimpse of the extraordinary artwork on display. As has been voiced in the heavy underground quite a bit lately, the artwork is a major factor in the success of rock music in the digital age. The appearance of vinyl also adds intimate value to the musical experience. Both the art and the vinyl options visible on pre-order left me no choice but to take a listen. What happened next I wasn’t quite ready for? Neither was my wallet. However, Mark Paypal sure made out well. You may know him too, maybe not.

I was hearing elements of several of my favorite styles of rock and metal in this band. Relatively long songs 5-7 minute territory, which is actually the prime length of a modern rock song for my taste, jam packed full of doomy vocals, stoney rhythm, and a hefty amount of dueling guitar solos. In fact, those twin guitar chops were the icing on the cake and one element that pretty much tops this band off as one of my favorites of the year. I am a sucker for a mean double guitar harmony. Instead of making the Thin Lizzy comparison, which is obvious and present, I’ll go with the more obscure nod to a couple modern bands I adore being Gyspyhawk with a little bit of Graviators thrown in for Sabbath worship measure. The guitar slinging goes from fuzzy distorted groove, to a ceremoniously metallic crusade of classic rock reverence. Just when you think the songs couldn’t get any better, another magical twist of chords enthralls the senses to a new level. Each of the 7 songs has its own unique blend of stoner fuzz, battleborn proto-doom, and classic guitar shreddage. It pays homage to the classics such as Lizzy, Deep Purple and Sabbath yet keeping a modern progression at the forefront distinguishing them as a modern and future classic band.

I’d say what sets ‘Shadows’ above some of the other standout albums released this year is their ability to keep the songs alive with several added jams of guitar solos interspersed throughout random parts of each song. I’m not a musical expert, but the format seems rather nontraditional in the sense of songwriting. It’s not your typical verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus type affair. It’s got wicked introductions with an energetic vocal offering, which by the way, won’t be winning any Grammys for Best Vocal Performance (meant as a compliment), followed by progressive stoner jams that sort of create a building current of excitement that prevents you from knowing exactly what is coming next. It keeps you on the edge of your earbuds as I like to say.

The songs flow really well and based on the song titles, I have to imagine it’s somewhat of a concept album. Forgive me for not being musically smart enough to decipher and explain the potential concept, probably more that I am just too lazy and just let myself get lost too deep in the instrumentation to pay too much attention to the lyrical theme at hand. I’m a guitar guy and Valkyrie is the riff dealer in the neighborhood. Just listen for yourself and you’ll understand.

After listening to ‘Shadows’ close to a dozen times, I finally decided I should probably check out their back catalog, which is completely sold out of vinyl (sign of a good band), has re-issue CDs available via All That is Heavy (sign of a good band), has a few songs streaming on bandcamp and new vinyl available at the Relapse Records store (sign of a good band). To no surprise the two previous albums were jam packed full of the same style of herculiffic melodies, scorching solos and Ozzy-esque bellows. You can definitely hear the positive progression from release to release hitting a climax with ‘Shadows’. I bought two vinyl copies of the bone white / bronze merge vinyl edition, one for me and one for a friend. Copies still available, get them while the getting’s good folks. Valkyrie will surely be one of the most talked about albums this summer and into the end of the year listings. I know they certainly will be on my list. 

Order the Record at various outlets either linked above or below here:

-The Huntsman


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