With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

NIGHTBLADE, Pyrodual, Rising Struggle @The Roadhouse 28/3/12

It’s a tricky thing when you watch a young band that is trying its best but they don't offer anything. Especially when it’s a free gig.

That, unfortunately is the position we find ourselves in this evening with Rising Struggle. You certainly can’t accuse them of being conventional. Two guitarists, two vocalists, and no bassist, does at least in theory create an interesting proposition.

In practice it, however, it doesn’t sound too great. One singer screams, the other growls, sometimes they both growl and then top it off with a simply dreadful cover of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” – RTM has written before that pop covers and metal should be kept as far apart as possible and so it is again here. When will bands ever learn?!

Next up are Brummie hard rock trio Pyrodual. They offer a more straight ahead sound than the openers, but – despite their name - precious few fireworks. Tracks like “Otherside” and set closer “Need Me” do hint at some talent, and lead singer/guitarist Adam is engaging enough but right now they don’t quite have the killer song to rise above the pub circuit.

They do however win bonus points from RTM for sticking around to watch the headliners.

And those headliners, Nightblade, have been trying to make waves in the Brummie rock scene since they formed a couple of years ago. Recently they supported Iron Butterfly and this is their first major UK tour. The trek support is in support of debut album “Servant To Your Lair” which they have backed up with advertising in Metal Hammer (which is where RTM heard of them).

Their logo tells you exactly what they are. It is an Eddie-like creature brandishing a massive sword. As such its not really a surprise that they play a rather trad brand of NWOBHM. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course and they do it pretty well.

Beginning with “Jekyll and Hyde” and taking in most of the tracks from their debut album including the stand out “Helloween,” they are playing music for the love of it and good luck to them.

Guitar man Dave Parrish ( once of the long forgotten Scarab) is their star turn and rather carries the performance with his fine playing and solos. Whether he, or the other three members of Nightblade can ever escape the back room of a pub type gigs on this tour remains to be seen, but they are at least keeping their sense of humour.

They are a band of, shall we say, advancing years and at the end of the gig singer Mark Crosby attempts to jump off stage however, upon landing wishes he hadn’t: “I think Ill need a hip replacement now” he says. Sometimes, it truly is a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

GRAVEYARD, Horisont, Signfy @Slade Rooms 25/3/12

A few weeks ago RTM spent an extremely interesting night in Wolverhampton with some of the cream of Scandinavian metal. “ However they keep churning out such fine bands over there,” we wrote about Amon Amarth, Grand Magus and In Solitude, “you can only hope that it continues for years.”
Barely 10 days later and we are back in the same city in the company of a couple more bands from Sweden, although this time there isn't a thrash or melodic death band in sight However,  before that we get to sample the undoubted talents of a band from a little closer to home.

Brummies Signify have been cropping up on the Midlands Rock scene for a number of years and they always deliver a fine show. Albeit, a show with a difference tonight. Deprived of their usual singer they are being fronted by Captain Horizon man Whitty,  who adds his undeniable presence and vocal skills to tracks like the well honed “Sonic Boom.” Signify are a band who deserves, at this point in their evolution, a bigger stage.

Local talent – we got there too late to check out trash punks Dante’s Revenge – out of the way, it is on with the Scando retro rock, and not without good reason, you feel have Horisont been picked to open proceedings. Friends of the headliners, they are also kindred spirits. With a sound – and image -  rooted in the 70s, they are perhaps less overtly heavy rock than Graveyard, with a sound which owes much to pysch rock.

They can let rip when they need too though, such as on the title track to new album “Second Assault” (out recently) and “Nightrider” from their debut. They are an intriguing and rather beguiling proposition.

Its fair to say that RTM has had rather a soft spot for Graveyard since first hearing last years “Hisingen Blues” album. The classic retro sound of the 1970s is back in vogue right now, thanks to the success of bands like Gentlemen’s Pistols and Rival Sons, and in “….Blues” Graveyard have constructed an album that matches those two groups.

This sort of music is made to be listened to live, however, and a new life is injected into tracks like “Aint Fit To Live Here” and “Uncomfortably Numb” when they are played before tonight’s reasonable crowd.

Coming on rather like a cross between Sabbath and Led Zep, they do have a conventional hard rock sound, and while Joakim Nilsson is not perhaps the most hypnotic frontman – standing stage right behind his guitar and mic – that does little to detract from a fine performance. The 70 minute set is split reasonably equally between both their albums and it is “Satans Finest” from the self titled debut that really shines.

Called back for an encore, the four piece seem genuinely pleased with their reception and they respond with an exquisite jam of “Evil Ways.”Graveyard deserve the adulation and the critical acclaim, and bell bottoms have never quite been so cool.

At this point you can't help but reflect on the sentiments expressed in the opening paragraph Musically. Sweden is where its at, right now. Although Abba are still the second worst band of all time behind Simply Red.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

THE MORNING AFTER, Neonfly, A Thousand Enemies @The Roadhouse 20/3/12

We have never come across A Thousand Enemies before, but the Midlands Mob certainly get things going with a bang.
Formed in summer 2011, they have been gigging since, and ploughing a similar furrow to bands like Soil they are an entertaining way to spend half an hour. Man mountain singer Bane has a nice line in jokey patter. He tells the crowd their new video will be “shit” and says they are playing a song called “Forever and a Day” and adds “or fucking ages as we like to call it.” He then tells audience members off for talking when he is.

A band, you surmise, that just wants to play metal because they like it, they are back in Brum this July. Try and give them your support.

Neonfly are positive veterans in these parts, having made their way here three times in the last 10 months or so. And you can only say that the group just gets better and better each time.

Singer Willy Norton is a charismatic and energetic presence and he his ably backed up by twin guitar men Pat Harrington and Frederick Thunder and the five piece have added confidence to their obvious talents and great songs.

Higher up the bill this time, they are afforded a longer stage time and they use it superbly, despite Norton batting tonsillitis and microphone issues. Nearly every song is from debut album “Outshine The Sun” (Norton helpfully points out “they have to be, we only have one.”) but with the road-testing they have undergone over the years, the tracks sound even better than they did just a few short months ago.

“The Messenger” for example sounds even more epic, while “The Enemy” is perhaps their most metal moment. And while “The Ship With No Sails” rattles along like Maiden at their proggiest, they are all eclipsed by superb set closer “Morning Star” – a song which is designed with venues far more epic than The Roadhouse in mind.

By rights, Neonfly should be headlining. But instead that honour falls to The Morning After.” The young Londoners are trying to invigorate the AOR scene of the 1980s, all harmony vocals and posing. Opener “Into The Fire” isn’t bad, but for RTM’s money (and we aren’t great fans of this particular) its downhill from there.

There’s a cover of “Get Your Hands Of My Woman” by The Darkness, which perhaps best sums up TMA’s ethos. This is party music, and as they invite the whole audience onstage to headbang to “Bohemian Rhapsody” it is clear that most enjoy it.

Good luck to them, but we won’t be rushing back to see what they do in the future. This night belonged to Neonfly, who continue to deserve much better than this.

SAVAGE MESSIAH, Diamond Plate @Scruffy Murphys 19/3/12

Early portents are not good.
The gig has been moved from The Ballroom up the road to Scruffy Murphy’s – which is, shall we say, a little bit more on the snug side. It leads you to believe that the attendance for this isn’t going to be massive.

And, unfortunately those fears are right. As a paltry Monday night crowd greets up and coming Chicago Thrashers Diamond Plate, RTM saw them support Anthrax last week and this is world away from that.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that the five-piece are superb.

They take their cue from the Big Four of thrash, of course they do – although more Metallica than Slayer and there are hints of the mighty Overkill – but then all thrash metal has its roots in the early 1980s scene. They also offer something to set them apart from a mere retro retread.

Kicking off with the title track from 2011’s “Generation Why” album they treat us to a rollicking half hour of heads-down-windmill-headbanging stuff, including “Tomb With A View” and current single “At The Mountains Of Madness” and riff-heavy set closer “Empire Tomorrow.” Ones to watch.

Savage Messiah were ones to watch a few years ago, and with this years tour-de-force that is “Plague of Conscience” they have truly delivered. So you can understand the disappointment in singer/guitarist Dave Silver’s voice when he looks out at the crowd and says “I was from here, we played some great gigs here a few years ago, then you desert us. It’s the birthplace of the genre….”

However Metal, not that you would know it looking out at fewer than 10 paying punters, is still alive and well in its home city, and will remain so as long as bands like Messiah are flying the flag.

“…Conscience” is a stunning record and most of tonight’s 45 minutes comes from it. The title track, “All Seeing I” and “Shadowbound” mix with “Insurrection Rising” from 2007’s album and you can only wish this fine group the best in the future.

The staggering thing is that both these bands have record deals, so quite what Earache Record’s PR Department is doing, who knows? Whatever it is, in terms of this gig, it isn’t enough.

Not a night that either band will relish, you suspect, but it really was superb.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

AMON AMARTH, Grand Magus, In Solitude

We know In Solitude are young, but surely they don’t need to go to bed so early that their set starts at 7.15? It is not an early curfew show and is something that venue as a whole (not just this one) need to look at. As a result RTM only manages to catch the last four songs of their set. A tremendous shame because their “The World, The Flesh The Devil” album has much to commend it (and was one of RTM’s top 20 of last year.)
A thrilling mix of the occult of Ghost and the twin guitar attack of Maiden, it is to be hoped we see the Swedes back on these shores soon.

Fellow Swedes Grand Magus follow, formerly on the mark of quality that is Lee Dorian’s Rise Above Label (home to the aforementioned Ghost and Gentleman’s Pistols amongst many, many others) before moving to Roadrunner to put out the phenomenal “Hammer of the North” in 2010, they have long been a name to drop.

Despite being a fan for years, this is RTM’s first time seeing the three-piece live. And they are a revelation. Simply put, if you have any metal in your veins then Grand Magus are a band you need in your life. “The Oar Strikes The Water” tips its hat to Priest and the Irons, while “Hammer of the North” has echoes of Saxon. Front man Janne "JB" Christoffersson shreds and and sings and is more than ably backed up by drummer Fox and bassist Seb Sippola. Their 45 minutes flies by and is right up there with any set we have seen this year.

The question is therefore, how can Amon Amarth follow that? The answer, of course, is by being Amon Amarth. The band have been taking their melodic death metal songs about Vikings and Odin around the world for years, and they know what they are doing and how to do it for perfection.

The first time we clapped eyes on them was three and a half years ago when they opened for Slayer at the Civic Hall next door and they are just the same tonight as they were then. Songs built around a combination of thunderous riffs and singer Johan Hegg’s frankly gargantuan stage presence.

This tour is on the back of the “Sutur Rising” album which was released last year and “destroyer of the Universe” – an oddly catchy track with a fabulous chorus – is perhaps the best song they play, but this is a band you just know is doing exactly what it wants to. There was an interview with Hegg last year where he said he would rather go back to his former job of a carpenter than play songs he didn’t believe in. It is perhaps this attitude that allows him extol the crowd for a sing-song with the words “it doesn’t matter if you know the words, its metal – no one will know the difference!”

After 80 punishing, brutal, yet strangely tuneful minutes, they are back for an encore of the exemplary “Twighlight of the Thunder God” and “Guardian of Asgaard” before, with horns and fists raised its over.

A fine night, showcasing all that’s best in Scandinavian metal. However they keep churning out such fine bands over there, you can only hope that it continues for years.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

ANTHRAX, Diamond Plate @Oxford Acdemy 14/3/12

The Oxford Academy is heaving by the time Chicago thrashers Diamond Plate hit the stage at 7.20. The early curfew show has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for the UK debut of a band who unleashed their debut album “Generation Why” last year.

And the young foursome (“in America we aren’t old enough to drink, but we are here” says the extremely impressively-coiffured frontman Jon Macak) do not disappoint. The title track from the album and “Relativity” in particular showcase the bands talents amply. So much so that they are invited back for an encore, but some bright spark has done something to the amps by this point and it sounds dreadful in the house PA.

Not the first mishap of the evening either, given that their attempts to have the crowd run at each other, Exodus style, are thwarted by security who threaten stop their set if it happens. Sound and health and safety aside, though, Diamond Plate are worth seeing in Birmingham on Monday when they open for Savage Messiah.

That said it really doesn’t matter who opens tonight, because tonight Anthrax are in town. One of the venerable godfathers of thrash, and fully paid up members of the Big 4, The New Yorkers are playing their first British club date in years tonight.

They have had a rather odd recent history, which has seen a revolving door approach to singers. Thankfully though, that’s over with it seems and perhaps their most iconic one,  Joey Belladonna is back. They are riding the crest of a creative wide too, as last year they put out the astonishingly good “Worship Music” album, a record which mixes thrash with the sort of stuff that 'Thrax six -stringer Scott Ian’s phenomenal The Damned Things did in 2010.

It is with the opening track on “”Worship….” “Earth on Hell” that Anthrax begin tonight. Another newbie “Fight em till You Can’t” soon follows, and although the album’s highlight amongst highlights “The Devil You Know” is played early, the rest of the set reads like a “Great Thrash Songs” playlist.

“Caught In A Mosh,” “Indians” and “Got The Time” are all here, as is “Medusa” as well as the first track on their very first album “Deathrider” which is an unexpected and welcome addition. “Among The Living” closes the set and, frankly, it would have been good enough if the band had walked off then and not come bothered with an encore. But they don’t. Instead they come back and play a five-song curtain call, which includes “Metal Moshing Mad,” “Madhouse” and “I Am The Law.”

Sometimes there is a danger of over-using superlatives and hyperbole, but equally sometimes it’s a privilege to be at a gig, and tonight is one of those evenings. One of metal’s greatest bands is in great form. Apparently they will be back in the autumn to do it all again. Just make sure that, whatever you do, you are there.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Zico Chain @The Flapper, Bimingham 13/3/12

In the mid-2000s a band called Zico Chain came to our attention. They released a thoroughly promising self titled EP, which they followed up with a full length CD in 2007 called “Food.” Then they opened for Velvet Revolver and kicked off the main stage at download, while generally being touted as ones to watch.

After which they promptly disappeared, bar an EP that is mentioned from 2009 (but I have not heard).

Well RTM is happy to report that the London based three-piece is back, back, back, and next month will unleash a rather fine second album in the shape of “Devil in Your Heart” (not out until April 16th, but there are… ahem…….ways to hear it right now if you so desire….)

It’s the impending release of said opus that brings them to The Flapper on a Tuesday night. Supported by two Indie-ish bands that we give a wide berth to, there is a decent smattering of fans to watch as vocalist/bassist Chris Glithero, guitarist Paul Frost and Drummer Ollie Middleton stroll and stage and kick off proceedings with the opening track from “Devil….” Evasion – and judging by the amount of people that know the words, there are a lot of folks in Birmingham that have a Rapidshare account.

They follow this up with perhaps the best two tracks from “Food,” “Junk” and “Pretty Pictures” and it is clear just why this band were so highly rated in the mid to late years of the last decade.

Lets cut to the chase here: We are dealing with a three-piece, with a blonde singer, who deal in “angsty” type songs with massive choruses. Obviously as trio’s go they owe more to Nirvana than they do to Rush or Motorhead, but calling them “post grunge” or whatever trendy label they will get foisted on them does them a disservice.

In there somewhere beats the heart of a damn fine hard rock band, while songs like the superb “New Romantic” take them into areas that the early material never did. These are songs of huge scope, the sort that would have been called “Arena Rock” if any band of this type had a hope of getting there these X Factor saturated days.

After playing most of “Devil….” (and why, oh why they weren’t selling it at the shows is beyond me) they return to their early days with the punky "Rohypnol" and “Where Would You Rather Be,” which bring a brisk 50 minute set to a close.

This is a band who already has a decent past, but one also, you hope, with much to look forward to in the future.

Welcome back!

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Metal Ball (Point Blank Fury, Intense, Fury, Maidallica, Shades Of Avalon)

A good idea, this.

10 new and unsigned metal bands in one place, for a fiver. Excellent value.

Five of the bands have already been on by the time RTM shows its face, but we are there in time to see Manchester mob Shades of Avalon. “Here’s a song about killing Vikings,” explains singer/guitarist Tobias Gray and thus the tone is set. Think Amon Amarth with slightly more melody and you would be in the right ball park. There is much merit to their set.

Next up are Maidallica, and I will bet you can’t work out what they were doing. Kicking off with “Aces High” and moving onto “Blackened” – they are ok, but it’s a tribute band, For God sake strap your guitars on and play some tunes of your own, even if its derivative its still better than copying perfection.

Strapping their guitars on is just what Worcester’s Fury have done. The young four piece were a late addition to the bill after Scream Arena pulled out. This is good news for us, though as they have started to make waves recently and have just released their second EP “Burn The Earth.” A twin guitar attack, you know the reference points – a spot of Maiden, a bit of Priest - but that’s not a bad thing. Keep an eye on these boys, they may just have a chance.

Main support is RTM favourite leather clad metal men Intense. When they were last in these parts in October it was to celebrate the release of “The Shape of Rage” album. The intervening five months has allowed them to hone their delivery and, as a masterclass in underground Brit metal they are hard to beat. “Anubis” pounds, “The Elemental” tips his hat to the Irons then moves off in it’s own direction and they really are the real deal.

Headliners Point Black Fury were former stalwarts of the Brummie metal scene, before they disappeared about 12 months ago, when it turns out, they split up. This represents their comeback show “its ok, we like each other again now” points out guitarist Dale Jones, helpfully.

Their 40 minute set highlights why they were so good in the first place, and also allows them to showcase some new songs including “Love Ain’t Always Easy” which strays a little into power ballad territory at first, but then redeems itself by the end. They close, just like they always used to, with “Night Skies” and as a welcome back the job is very much done.

This event is apparently going to be repeated, which is to be welcomed. There are much worse ways to spend a Sunday evening then at a metal ball.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

RISE TO REMAIN, Adept, Malefice, Cytota @ Birmingham Academy 2 8/3/2012

It’s a sign you are getting old when support bands at gigs are so young they probably weren’t born when you left school, and this is definitely the case with Cytota.

Impossibly fresh faced, the foursome have been creating a buzz recently and its easy to see why. First of all they are actually a pretty good metalcore act, with the tracks “Absorption” and “The Prosecutor” showing they have the potential to rise above the slew of bands ploughing this furrow. Second because drummer Harry Jennings dad, Craig, manages Bullet For My Valentine, Bring Me The Horizon and Rise to Remain amongst others, which is hardly a hindrance. Expect to see a lot more of Cytota in the coming years.

Reading’s Malefice have been gigging incessantly over the last couple of years and in 2011’s “Awaken The Tides” they landed one of the best modern thrash records of the year. The last time they were in these parts they supported Sylosis and saw their set cut short and oddly, tonight the same fate befalls them. This is a tremendous shame because in opener “Delirium” they posses the best song played tonight. The best, you feel, is yet to come for the group.

Sweden’s Adept are the main support for this early part of the tour – with German thrash mob Heaven Shall Burn not joining until later -  and it’s a role they fill with confidence and relish. The likes of “Shark! “Shark! Shark!” from debut album “Another Year of Disaster” and “The Ivory Tower” from last years leap forward that was “Death Dealers” sit comfortably side by side and the moshpit loves them. “We’ve never played Birmingham before, so thank you,” says singer Robert Ljung, it’s a safe bet that considering their reception tonight, they will be here again.

In contrast Rise To Remain have been here before. In fact it was only September when they last played in the second city. That gig was next door at the smaller Academy 3. Not for nothing is this trek named the “Progression” Tour.

It has been interesting to chart the, ahem, rise of rise of Rise To Remain. When they first came onto the scene it was too easy for the cynics to snipe that they were only getting anywhere because their singer Austin Dickinson was the son of Bruce. It was against this backdrop that RTM clapped eyes on them in the Bohemia tent at Sonisphere in 2010- and their performance was astonishing.

That seems to be the way, as they have criss-crossed the country supporting anyone and everyone. Any cynicism is washed away by their talent and just in case there were any lingering doubts their debut full length record “City of Vultures” is damn good too.

Not that it has been totally plain sailing for the group and tonight marks the debut of new rhythm section Josh Hammond and Adam Lewin, who are the replacement bassist and drummer respectively as the last two quit on the eve of a major US tour with Machine Head which had to be cancelled.

The duo slot in seamlessly, with “The Serpent” sounding as crushing as ever, carried along on the back of Ben Tovey’s intricate lead playing. New single “Talking In Whispers” gets its first live airing and “Nothing Left” is as good now as it was two years ago.

Indeed the only worrying moment comes during the encore of “Bridges Will Burn.” Such is the excitement at the front there are too many crowd surfers for the security to cope with.  One lad comes straight over the front and crashes into the barriers. The band immediately stops the song to check on the welfare of the fan and with his health confirmed they resume normal service.

Crowd surfing near disaster apart it is yet another triumphant evening in the recent history of Rise to Remain. Indeed, you might say the rise continues unabated.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

LA GUNS, Hollywood Dirtbags, Deathbed Confession, Crusher @Roadhouse 6/3/2012

RTM and LA Guns have a long history. The group were second on the bill on the first gig we ever saw as a 16 year old in 1991. The last time we saw a version of the band was in Las Vegas in 2005 while over for a wedding. So it is something of a surprise that they are playing The Road House tonight.

But, when you look a little deeper it is perhaps not that strange. The particular version of the band isn’t the “official” LA Guns that played The Robin last year, but rather it is a version of the band – who also think they are the “official” LA Guns - featuring original guitarist Tracii Guns and three of his mates. This vintage of Guns has had issues with its singer. The last, Dilana Robichaux (who originally found fame on the Rockstar reality TV show, lasted barely two months.)

Another thing this vintage of Guns has done is bring with them lots and lots of support bands. Four of them in total and all in an enormous tour bus. Although RTM gets there too late to see the first. We are there to see Switzerland’s Crusher, though. The young five piece have clearly spent a lot of time listening to vintage Poison records, with the song “Sweet As Sugar” catchy and impressive. They are however, the sort of band that will be forever low down the bill on these types of shows.

Denver hard rockers Deathbed Confession are up next and they are more modern in sound. “House of Cards” is their standout number and whilst they are efficient and quite entertaining, but they too suffer from a distinct lack of that certain something which will elevate them above the crowd.

If it was 1989 then Hollywood Dirtbags would be the dirty ying to Warrants pretty boy yang. From the second that singer Justin Martin opens his mouth and lead guitarist Shaun Botten’s plays the opening riff, it is abundantly clear that this is an entirely different proposition to anything we have seen before this evening.

Yes, there are hints of Guns N Roses in there – they play “Its So Easy” so its not like they are hiding it – and yes it’s reminiscent of Faster Pussycat at times, but also the more grimy end of sleaze, with a hint of RTM faves Crank County Daredevils too. Title track from their new record “Sinner Takes All” and “That’s Rock N Roll” are superb. They might be the sort of band that’s better live than on record, but live they are pretty damn good.

The audience had been sparse for all the other bands, but minutes before LA Guns hit the stage about 50 people appear from the bar next door. They had probably heard about Tracii Guns little red hat, which he perches jauntily on the side of his head. Or maybe they knew is bass man Jonny Martin’s birthday (a roadie appears with a tasty looking cake at one point.)

Whatever the reason they chose not get their monies worth and hats and cakes aside, the newly reinforced audience are treated to exactly what they wanted and expected: A set of the LA Guns greatest hits one which kicks of with “Electric City, “ and includes “Over The Edge” and a still fantastic sounded “One More Reason.”

Guns – the man not the band – still oozes star quality and can still play the guitar as well as any of his contemporaries. The problem is singer Scott E Harris. To be frank, the young looking vocalist isn’t all that good, and his rendition of “Ballad of Jayne” (Guns big US hit) is really poor.

He is much better on the faster songs and “…Jayne” apart it doesn’t spoil the gig too much. No one ever went to a sleaze gig for the musical ability lets be honest, they went for songs like “Sex Action” – which Guns use to close the show here.

And thus an entertaining evening comes to a close, now all that remains, surely, is all of the groups patch up their differences and Tracii Guns leaves the official LA Guns to re-join the other official LA Guns maybe they could call themselves the Real Official LA Guns or something?

Friday, 2 March 2012

BEHOLDER, Under Blackened Skies, Adust @The Roadhouse 1/3/2012

Brummie Thrashers Adust are not a band we have come across before but they are a welcome surprise. Tight and talented, they have songs that tick all the right boxes but are far from a bullets and high top sneakers type retro tribute.

New track “Refuse, Replicate, Resist” hints at some fine things to come and they end a fine set with a medley of songs including Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica and Pantera.

Under Blackened Skies follow. Heavier than Adust, they are ostensibly here to plug new EP “Faceless Devastation.” The title track bludgeons and they lead the crowd into a fists-in-the-air singalong of “We are Together, We Stand As One” before they disappear.

But if these new breed of Birmingham metal bands were good, the reason we are all here is to celebrate the return of perhaps the best local underground band Beholder. It was 2009 when RTM clapped eyes on the five-piece for the first time, blowing us away as they opened the main stage at the Hellfire Fest at the NEC. Well now, the five piece are back. And this time, it seems, they mean it.

Frontman Simon Hall explains as much to begin with: “There are no fanfares, no intros, no encores,” he says. “Just an hour of heavy metal.” (Far be it from RTM to argue with Simon, who as you probably know is a very big man, but they don’t play for an hour, but actually an hour and a quarter…)

Tonight represents the first night of a major headlining UK tour for the group and also the first time they have played a lot of these songs live. New album “The Black Flag” is due soon and it showcases a heavier, angrier sound, borne out by their apparent frustration at the way the world is going, indeed the title track gets an airing and bodes extremely well from the upcoming opus.

They don’t forget their acclaimed debut either, with the likes of “Heretic” and “Snake Eyes” still sounding fresh and crushing, but it is perhaps “Never Take Us Down” the song written for Sophie Lancaster, the young girl who was beaten to death in 2007 for being a goth, that remains their best moment.

Indeed, it is perhaps the moment that best sums the group up, beneath the rough and ready exterior their beats the heart of a band with genuine warmth and appreciation for their crowd. It is also a band which has some fine musicians, with Si Fielding’s lead guitar especially impressive.

True to their word there are no encores, but they do finish with the title track of their debut CD before playing a new song “Footprints in the Sand” about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is a neat way to show the band they were compared to the band they are now.   

The fact remains, though, that whichever version of Beholder you care to listen to, they are a mighty fine proposition.

Welcome back, boys!