Tag Archives: hard rock

Granite Wolf and SugarSlam – The Vault – 13/10/17

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Following Brunt at The Golden Lion a couple of weeks ago and WaterColour Matchbox at The Vault last weekend the loud, heavy end of Guernsey’s music scene continued to be represented in St Peter Port on Friday 13th October 2017 as hardcore riff machine Granite Wolf and hard power pop quartet SugarSlam rocked the venue on the seafront.

After a bit of time away Granite Wolf launched into their set in tight, punchy and intense form with their brand of hardcore with hints of heavy metal making a refreshing blast to the senses.

While its hard to pin down visually quite why, the five-piece presented a united, gang like, front on stage and this was infectious with the audience at the front feeling like part of the process of the energy flowing through the room.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

With riffs and beatdowns aplenty they did get a couple of modest mosh pits going but it seemed many in the crowd were more worried about spilling their pints than really letting go on the dancefloor, but nonetheless they got into the heavy sounds.

With a good mix of fast, speed metal, heavy head banging stuff and powerful hardcore, Granite Wolf once again set out their stall as one of the bands to watch in the island – I just hope they get to gigging a little more regularly now they seem to be back to their more solid, original, line up.

After something of a protracted break to set up and sound check, SugarSlam hit the stage in slightly heavier mode than usual, no doubt to try to match the earlier band, however, less than two songs in they ran into trouble with a blown amplifier.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With that hastily fixed they were back on form and racing through a set mixing covers and originals new and old, but by this time the audience had sadly diminished to quite a degree.

Undeterred the band blasted on and those who remained clearly had a great time with songs by Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age going down just as well as the band’s own – Jackals being a particular, immense sounding, highlight that isn’t heard as much these days.

Given the time and an under the weather drummer the band cut their set short, wrapping up with their take on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Rockin’ In The Free World, before the audience convinced them back for a super speed blast of Ace Of Spades to close the night on sweaty and exhausted high.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Prophets of Rage – Self-Titled

Prophets of Rage album coverTwenty five years ago Rage Against The Machine blasted into the world with an incendiary hybrid of heavy metal and rap fuelled by perceived injustices and inequalities in life in the USA.

Since then the band have come and gone a couple of times with varying levels of success, and each have pursued their own careers outside the band, but the trio of Tom Morello (guitars), Tim Commerford (Bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), following a few stints with the late Chris Cornell as Audioslave, have now reconvened, joined by hip hop pioneers Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill, under the name Prophets of Rage.

Given the political outlook of all six men it’s probably unsurprising that they should be so re-energised now and across their self-titled debut there is a newly found power that was missing from Rage Against The Machine’s resurrection when I saw them at Reading Festival in 2008.

Here, from the opening strains of Radical Eyes onwards, Prophets of Rage mix everything you’d expect them to in a great balance that brings the hard rock groove of Audioslave into the metallic edge of Rage Against The Machine, with the biting MCing of Chuck D and the more varied but no less pointed vocal stylings of B-Real, all with DJ Lord being a constant presence along with the band.

Prophets of Rage band

Prophets of Rage

It’s hard to not compare this to Rage as, sonically, there are a lot of similarities but, compared to that band’s work this is, unsurprisingly, more mature. Certainly it is packed with political motive, titles like Unfuck The World, Hail To The Chief and Who Owns Who, make that obvious before you even listen, but rather than the largely polemic ranting of Zack De La Rocha, Chuck D and B-Real add something more to it making it much more digestible and more personal feeling.

The supergroup is always a worrying concept and Prophets of Rage certainly fall into that category but, unlike some examples, they don’t feel like several other acts rammed together but do feel like a new band in their own right, just fuelled by the same things as their past projects.

Added to all of this is the fact that songs are hugely catchy and great to listen to.

Prophets of Rage live

Prophets of Rage live

It’s not often a record can sit in the CD player in my car for a week and just loop, but this one does and each listen reveals new things, from the interplay between Morello’s guitars and Lord’s decks to how well Chuck D and B-Real’s voices work together to make a bigger sound that I can envisage and really want to experience live just from listening.

The album has no real weak points but its opening trio of tracks (Radical Eyes, Unfuck The World and Legalize Me) are a solid highlight as are Hail To The Chief and Take Me Higher and I can only imagine (and hope) that with the continuing political upheavals taking place Prophets of Rage will have fuel for plenty more great music to come.

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Ministry – Psalm 69 (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs)

Ministry - Psalm 69 album cover25 years ago industrial metal band Ministry unleashed what is arguably their magnum opus launching them into the hard rock mainstream and making them one of the cornerstones of the sounds that were to become a large part of heavy metal in the mid to late 90s.

While still credited as the duo of founder Al Jourgensen and longtime collaborator Paul Barker, Psalm 69 (aka ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ) saw Ministry develop on the sounds of The Land of Rape And Honey and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste with Mike Scaccia’s electric guitars coming to the fore over their previously established bed of harsh synths and distorted vocals and samples.

This is demonstrated from the off with NWO, an abrasive statement of intent that sets the scene for the first half of the album.

Along with the developed industrial metal sound the song’s subject matter is something that has been a mainstay of Ministry’s music before and since as it openly attacks the American foreign policy (in this case the Gulf War and George H. W. Bush) and hints ideas of conspiracy theories, a formula that saw the band reach their second peak in the early 2000s during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Ministry - Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker - 1992

Jourgensen and Barker in 1992

Just One Fix, a partial collaboration with Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, as the title suggests, deals with another of Ministry’s long-standing preoccupations, extreme drug use.

There are many stories about the band’s drug consumption during the production of this record (with one Jourgensen himself saying they were spending in excess of $1,000 a day of the record companies money on the pass time) and its strongly reflected here.

The combination of militaristic rhythms and distorted, swirling vocals and samples hurls the listens down a dark and twisted rabbit hole like little else, and that if we believe Jourgensen, is a first hand account of what was going on in his and the rest of the band’s heads at the time.

TV II and Hero continue the sociopolitical themes before the album’s highlight arrives in the form of a demented slice of Americana, Jesus Built My Hotrod.

With a near gibberish vocal performance from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, it has a quality that is oddly revelatory in an entirely inexplicable way with slide guitars added to the mix creating an undisputed heavy metal floor filler that has become something of a deranged classic.

Ministry - Jesus Built My Hotrod - Gibby Haynes

Haynes in the video for Jesus Built My Hotrod

After this Scarecrow slows things down from the manic first half of the record and begins a descent into a kind of apocalyptic reverie that is highlighted by the (sort of) title track that combines the intensity of the first half with the later heaviness in the best of ways.

The record is then rounded off by Corrosion and Grace that pull things into a kind of hellishly enjoyable black hole of noise.

While Psalm 69 is a highly enjoyable album purely on its own merits (especially when played at extreme volume), hence its place in music history as a defiantly underground album that crossed over into mainstream consciousness, its place in the history of heavy music is one that, 25 years on, marks it out as a classic.

In many ways it defines the mainstream industrial metal genre which was developed, in various directions, by contemporaries Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and more with only NIN ever reaching a similar level of intensity and power (the others were unashamedly more pop).

Ministry live 1992

Ministry on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour

On top of this it sits alongside the work of Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down and their ilk in reintroducing a truly subversive streak into the heavy metal mainstream following the self-absorption of 80s glam and the nihilism or internal depression of grunge.

This all comes together to make Psalm 69 an album that set the scene for a lot of the music that was to follow, even reaching as far as nu-metal (for its sins), and marking Ministry, who have had a patchy career before and since, as one of the most influential metal bands of the past three decades here if nowhere else.

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Guernsey Gigs presents Thee Jenerators, Joe Young and The Bandits and Silas The Assyrian Assassin – The Fermain Tavern – 06/05/17

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

With a bank holiday last weekend and another coming up next week with Liberation Day, it was hard to escape the feeling of this being something of a limbo weekend, but, thanks to Guernsey Gigs, there was the hope of rock ‘n’ roll salvation at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started off in slightly more sedate fashion than that though with the acoustic punk stylings of Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Silas combined aspects of his past work fronting some the islands most notable punk bands of the last decade with hints of the ranting poetry style of Attila the Stockbroker but all in package that looked constantly on the verge of collapse.

Following a full play of The A-Team theme tune, his performance tonight seemed a little lacking in the energy and spirit of his best ones. That said it was still entertaining enough with the usual grace notes like fumbling with a folded up set list still working well.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Musically it was as you’d expect with highlights coming with Trust Fund Anarchist, Interesting Facts and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while we didn’t get the full song, Boozing’s My Religion started out as a nice play on the REM classic.

By the end of the set, an improbable cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up with Stace Blondel providing backing vocals from the audience, it had picked up a little and it remained entertaining but I couldn’t help but think Silas really needs a more intimate space and engaged audience to really be properly effective.

Styles couldn’t have shifted much more next as Jersey four-piece Joe Young & The Bandits launched us through a time warp into the 1970s for a set of hard rocking power blues.

While I found it hard to engage with their performance there was no denying how well they evoked the sounds and styles of the likes of Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, et al, but through a set of convincingly created original songs.

Frontman Martin o’Neill (there is no actual Joe Young) was nicely energetic (when he wasn’t stood frustratingly with his back to the audience) though there were moments that felt a little too much like Tenacious D, but in the throwback context they worked ok.

Joe Young & The Bandits

Joe Young & The Bandits

Bass player Eddie Laffoley meanwhile was the most naturally energetic on stage and even put in some nice vocal performances in a few tracks. Of course a band like this wins or loses with its guitarist and Greg Alliban more than lived up to expectations with his playing, but again I found it hard to find a connection with the performance.

Joe Young & The Bandits may be a barrage of cliché but it’s hard to ignore the head nodding groove they invoked, even if it was nothing I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.

After a short break Thee Jenerators took to the stage for the first time in a good while and, to start with, it looked like the good but not great feel of the night was going to continue as the band ran through a few of their newer songs.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

As soon as they launched into Fight The Power from their Jenerator X debut though things seemed to kick up several gears and never let up as we experienced possibly the most powerful garage punk assault this version of the band have produced to date.

While there were moments throughout the set where each band member seemed to lose their thread a little they didn’t let that slow them down as they powered through a selection of songs spanning their whole time together from Mystery Man to  French Disco to Yellow Fruit Pastille to Daddy Bones and got most of the small audience onto the dance floor.

With three encores culminating with a version of Bela Lugosi that verged on completely falling apart, Thee Jenerators put in a set that ended up showing them as the cathartic force of nature they are at their best and, as frontman Mark Le Gallez pointed out, there may not be many bands like this left around these days but we’re glad of those that there are, and I’m very glad there’s Thee Jenerators.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand coverFor the best part of the last two decades Mastodon have carved a path through hard rock and heavy metal that is all their own. Often combining conceptual themes with crushingly heavy sounds they have gained a formidable reputation across six albums and have now release their seventh, Emperor of Sand.

From the off everything one would expect is here as the four-piece build from a clear influence from metal originators Black Sabbath to create a sound that marries thrash, doom, stoner and prog into a unique package.

Within all of this the band find a core that is remarkably accessible and this really comes to the fore on Show Yourself that has a sing along type streak and hook laden feel that almost takes it into pop metal territory.

Precious Stones meanwhile brings elements of the concept, based around time, to the fore in impressive style before Steambreather shows the band’s groovier tendencies excellently and that’s followed by several moments that I can’t help but think current Metallica is ironically striving (and largely failing) to emulate.

Mastodon

Mastodon

Across the record as a whole there’s a feeling that Mastodon are doing their best to fill every space  with a sound of some sort and, while in the hands of some this could be unbearable, they balance it out so nothing is overriding something else and, while it can be claustrophobic at times, it never feels like this isn’t the band’s intent.

That said there are moments where it feels like Brent Hinds might be heading slightly too far into guitar histrionic territory but it stays just the right side of being over the top and just feels like guys who can play and aren’t ashamed to hide it.

As the record goes on it builds in power and intensity with largely clean vocals giving way to more abrasive sounds and the soaring solos are matched by swirling riffs escalating it all into a maelstrom of sound that could easily derail things but comes with a smoothness often not present in more experimental metal (not that it always needs to be, but here it fits perfectly). This all reaches a bracing crescendo on Scorpion Breath.

Mastodon liveThis is all brought to a point on final track Jaguar God that seems to do everything the preceding 10 tracks have done in seven and a half minutes as it weaves its way from a piano and acoustic opening to an astral plane tripping climax that, like the rest of Emperor of Sand, continues to stake Mastodon’s claim as one of the most interesting heavy bands coming out of America this century.

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Brunt – Blackbeard

Brunt Blackbeard coverFollowing the release of their debut album in 2014 Brunt put out a vinyl edition and then headed back into their bunker, aside from a few live outings, to work on new material.

Now two and a half years later that new material has been released in the form of three track digital EP, Blackbeard.

Continuing where they left off the EP consists of three slow and heavy tracks bearing all their hallmarks but showing a band more in groove with each other than before.

The EP is available through the band’s Bandcamp page and they have suggested a vinyl release might also be happening, though not in the immediate future.

My review of Blackbeard was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 12th November.

brunt blackbeard review 12-11-16

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Static Alice and Flashmob – The Vault – 02/04/16

Dom of Static Alice and Harry of Flashmob

Dom of Static Alice and Harry of Flashmob

Over the first weekend of April 2016 The Vault in St Peter Port was rocking to a varied but complementary set of sounds of Guernsey pop-rockers Static Alice and Jersey hard rockers Flashmob. Both bands have become mainstays of the annual Chaos weekend over the last couple of years with Flashmob in particular closing the 2015 festival with a highlight set so it was interesting to see them here, in a more intimate setting.

Static Alice started the night off and quickly had the crowd engaged and modestly dancing along. As the set went on this only grew and it wasn’t long until the area around the stage was packed and it is at times like this that Static Alice really come into their own.

While guitarist may have been as focused on his playing as his pedals as ever, despite being hidden under a ‘Morticia Adams wig’, bassist Scott Michel seemed to be feeding off the energy of the audience and put in one of his best performances because of it.

Of course though, Dom Ogier was the real centre of attention and equally seemed to be fuelled by the energy of the audience as the set went on and things got all the more energetic.

Static Alice

Static Alice

Added to Static Alice’s set tonight were a few new songs that take what they’ve been doing so far and polish it a little further but largely stick to the same formula building their impressive repertoire of songs.

Dotted throughout this were a few covers that just upped the energy even more until the band were called back for an encore.

For me the highlights of their set came with original song King Kong from their debut album The Ghost of Common Sense and their version of Don Henley’s (or The Atari’s) Boys Of Summer. The set closer and encore, AC/DC’s Highway To Hell, was the weakest song of the set, but none-the-less Static Alice put on a great show, helped by a very much ‘hometown’ crowd.

Flashmob

Flashmob

While not playing to their local crowd, it would be easy to mistake Flashmob as being from Guernsey with the level of support they received here.

From the off the band were a great fun hard rock band mixing their own songs with covers from the likes of AC/DC, Motley Crue and more (though a run at Ace of Spades in tribute to Lemmy was a low point, but thankfully came early on).

While Flashmob played with a stand in bass player tonight I don’t think anyone would have noticed had they not told us as the band all clicked together. Harry Sutton and Jay Du Heaume led the band from the front with a real knowing sense of performance and fun while the rest of the band back them up to the hilt and get in on the fun whenever possible.

Flashmob

Flashmob

While covers like Girls, Girls, Girls and an epic AC/DC medley (complete with Static Alice cameo) really got the crowd rocking their originals stood up well too with great hooks and use of backing vocals emulating the great songs of the style.

While never likely to tax the brain too far they built on the performance’s sense of fun, to quote Jay: “Flashmob, tackling really serious world problems like ‘F**k off, I’m busy!’”

After what seemed to be a suitable set closer in a metalled up version of The Timewarp from The Rocky Horror Show we got an extended encore featuring Velvet Revolver, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Judas Priest that rounded off a night of fun rock music in a great way.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Ghost and Purson – The Warfield, San Francisco – 23/10/15

 

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

While both my previous visits to California have included live music events – Warped Tour in San Francsico in 2006 and Alice Cooper and Marylin Manson in Los Angeles in 2013 – seeing Swedish doom metallers Ghost at The Warfield on Market Street (with support from Purson) is the most comparable to gigs and shows I’ve attended more regularly in the UK.

This comparability is mostly down to the fact that the show took place in an old theatre venue, reminiscent of the Shepherds Bush Empire or Brixton Academy. The Warfield’s vintage neo-classical style was particularly appropriate for this night’s headliners, but before them came support band, psychedelic rockers Purson.

As soon as the band fired into their set the most striking thing was the voice of Rosalie Cunningham. Her vocal style, along with her flares, screamed 1970s rock and that’s what we got for half an hour or so. 

Purson

Purson

At their heaviest the British band had hints of Black Sabbath while it was clear a large part of their influence came from a slightly lighter, more melodic place, with thick layers of organ and fuzz drenched guitars all coming from vintage amplifiers accompanying Cunningham’s impressive pipes.

While the five-piece didn’t do much that was new or innovative they did what they did well and got a good reaction from those who had arrived early, despite some issues with front of house sound – but they weren’t to be the only ones to suffer from that problem.

Ghost are a band with a reputation that precedes them – from the anti-Pope image of frontman Papa Emeritus III to the myths that surround the band’s members and history – but until tonight I was largely unfamiliar with their music.

From my arrival, queuing outside the venue it was clear Ghost are a band who inspire a dedicated following as, amongst the standard metal uniforms, many were bedecked in a kind of Ghost cosplay with facepaint, mitres, wimples and more. 

Ghost

Ghost

As the five masked Nameless Ghouls made their appearance, following an extended but appropriate intro tape of pseudo-religious chanting, the audience was electric and on their feet all around the venue – even up to the back of the balcony from which we were viewing the show.

Bedecked in full anti-Pope regalia with robes, mitre and corpse paint, Papa Emeritus was a charismatic and engaging presence for the near two hours the band spent on stage. The first chunk of the set was entirely based on the religious imagery aping as, while the Ghouls did a sterling if understated musical performance, Emeritus preached from behind his microphone, complete with swinging censer (at times), and the crowd ate it up.

After a brief instrumental interlude Emeritus reappeared without the religious affectations, in a suit but still with the face paint, and for the rest of the show was a more directly engaging presence chatting to the crowd and playing the more conventional metal frontman. 

Papa Emeritus III

Papa Emeritus III

During this Emeritus came across as genuinely funny at times though there were moments where he was guilty of over explaining things and almost pleading the crowd to mosh, though seeing the design of the venue’s lower level I don’t think a huge amount of moshing was ever likely.

Along with this Nameless Ghouls began throwing more conventional shapes and poses, though they remained masked and silent at all times.

Mixing material from new album Meliora with older the material the set seemed to represent their whole career, even including a well delivered acoustic number, before rounding off with a cover of Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghost. This had the feel of being the band’s theme song and was certainly one of my highlights of the night before encore Monstrance Clock which left the crowd calling for more but seemed to send them off into the night satisfied.

While both Ghost and Purson both put in great performances, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the sound was, at points, near unlistenable as the high frequency tones coming from the stage cut through everything else so much there were times the bass sounds got entirely lost in the mix.

On top of this Ghost’s lighting designer seemed intent on blinding at least the balcony with front facing floodlights making some parts of the show very hard to watch.

Despite this I came away wanting to explore both bands further and generally impressed by Ghost for being far more than the seemingly one diensional most media coverage I’d seen would suggest.

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Stone Em All EP and Launch show – The Vault – 15/08/15

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

After a number of years bringing metal to Guernsey stages Stone Em All launched their second EP, Villains, with a special show at The Vault on Saturday 15th August 2015.

At the show support came from groovy hard rockers Lord Vapour who seem to be playing most weekend’s this somewhere.

My review of both the show and the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd August and you can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Stone Em All and Lord Vapour and EP review scan - 22:08:15

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Black Spiders – This Savage Land

Black Spiders - This Savage LandBlack Spiders are a band who first grabbed my interest when they supported The Wildhearts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in October 2009 and, while the headliners were promoting their poppier tinged Chutzpah! album, the support act brought some straight up, balls out hard rock to the show that was much-needed (The Wildhearts still played a blinder but support bands who really step up always grab my attention, also on the bill were No Americana who I remember being ace as well).

This Savage Land is the Spiders’ second full length release (following Sons Of The North) and kicks in exactly how that album and their live shows did, as the band merge the sounds of Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Motorhead into one rolling hard rock package.

Black SpidersMuch like AC/DC and Motorhead there is little here that reinvents the wheel and, there are points where it could get mired down in the generic, but every song is delivered with such joie de vivre that this is soon overcome and the sounds coalesce into something that is very much Black Spiders’ own.

As the album goes on there are a few other sounds that get thrown into the mix, particularly on Put Love In Its Place which has more of an early 90s grunge vibe and there are moments across the record that hint toward influence of British Rock of the past 20 years too (which is no surprise considering the Wildhearts connection).

Black SpidersWhile the album generally has something of American hard rock mixed in with the Anglo-Australian tones there are some prime moments that show this is a British band as their sense of humour comes through and makes for a record that has a great, well produced, sound, but also a real sense of fun in it as well.

While Black Spiders are walking an already well trodden path, its hard to find fault with This Savage Land and, if hard rocking sounds are your thing, this is certainly worth picking up as I don’t think it could fail to get a rockers head banging.

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