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.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

TONY MARTIN, Blaze Bayley @The Asylum, Birmingham 27/7/12

Blaze Bayley looks happy. Mind you, whenever Blaze is onstage he always seems pretty damn chuffed.
The music business may have done its best to keep him down but he’s here, and he’s still a professional musician – and he never stops telling you how much he is enjoying that job.

Tonight is a Blaze show with a difference though, as he is playing acoustic along with a player he introduces as Thomas Svensson.

The last time RTM saw Blaze live was just before Christmas last year, at which point he announced that he was going to stop focusing on his Iron Maiden output. It is disappointing then that tonight’s show begins with “Lord Of The Flies” and takes in three other Maiden songs – although he did at least include “Como Estais Amigo” as one.

RTM makes no secret that our favourite band is Iron Maiden (look at our backdrop for goodness sake) but Blaze’s solo stuff is so strong (notwithstanding the patchy new album “King Of Metal”) that it be lovely to see him play that exclusively.

He raids Wolfsbane for a cheery “I Like It Hot” and closes things with a sing-a-long  “Doctor Doctor,” and like always you can’t fail to like the fella and wish him all the success in the world.

From the off there is a different, less carefree vibe to Tony Martin’s set. In mitigation the show is being filmed, but RTM was a little disappointed that he was charging people to meet him after the gig (it’s the Asylum, not Wembley) and also that he chose to go through a list of rules before the gig including no cameras and phones. It seems a little over the top for what essentially was a club gig.

However, it’s a club gig that has been – says Martin – three months in the planning and represents his first ever solo gig on these shores. And one for which he has assembled a pretty stellar cast including Venom drummer Danny Needham, former Hammerfall bass man Magnus Rosen, Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls and guitarist Dario Mollo (who plays with Martin in The Cage project).

Martin promised some surprises and the opening song is certainly unexpected as the band kick off with “Liar” from the Phenomena collective that he was part of in the 1980s and followed with “The Meaning Of Evil” a song he recorded as part of Rondinelli.

But its Sabbath that Martin is most famous for fronting as he did in the late 1980s and early 1990s and most of the set is made of Sabbath songs, “Dying For Love” “Lost Forever” and “Ancient Warrior” are first up, before its back to Martin’s solo stuff for the rock n roll influenced “Sweet Elyse.”

Things rather lose momentum at this point as both Rosen and Mollo get solo spots, but when Martin does return its to play a couple of songs from The Cage albums that sound superb – “Terra Torria” – easily the heaviest song of the night is particularly impressive.

More Sabbath follows the pick of these is “Eternal Idol” (which the singer brands the “eternal idiot”) and “The Law Maker” before its encore time. “The Headless Cross” is anthemic and celebratory and things end with “The Shining.”

And yet just when you are ready to proclaim a surprisingly fine night, Martin manages to end things on a sour note. Spotting someone filming the gig on a mobile he takes it from the audience member and appears to be extremely upset, growling: “I told you not to do this.” *** before a terse “thanks, people” and he’s gone.

It was a totally unnecessary end to what was an excellent gig. Martin would do well to remember the humbleness of his support act, but he was off to a signing session he was charging £6 for, so probably didn’t care.

***He then appeared to break the phone, although RTM cannot be certain as we didn’t have a clear view – we would welcome corroboration of this.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

TYLA, The Gypsy Pistoleros @Wolverhampton Slade Rooms 14/7/12

No doubt the Gypsy Pistoleros would tell you they were all about harking back to a time when music was “fun” and how they want to make people forget their troubles. You know, the same thing that all these modern bands that play sleaze rock say.

The sad fact is, though, to be brutally honest this band of Gypsies are not very good. They look the sleazy part, the singer is stick thin, the bassist has tousled his hair and the guitarist looks like Iggy Pop, but the songs are anything but. “Everybody Hates You (When You Love Rock N Roll) is bad, but things reach a truly awful low point with an execrable cover of Ricky Martin’s “Livin La Vida Loca”.  Here is fact for them, even back in the 1980s Sunset Strip heyday, for every Motley Crue there was a Tuff. And The Gypsy Pisterleros are definitely more like the latter than the former.

The artist – literally given his successful painting career – born as Timothy Taylor is here to play a hometown show. Rather annoyingly Tyla is doing so minus his Dogs D’amour and sitting on a stool. For you see, tonight is an acoustic gig.

According to the ticket he is to perform the “Graveyard of Empty Bottles” mini album (which from memory was, back in 1989, probably the first ever acoustic album RTM ever heard) but that doesn’t mean we are in for one of those formulaic Album recital shows that have become bafflingly popular, rather the album will be played during the course of the evening.

So he kicks off with “Last Bandit” and plays a set that takes in other Dogs classics like “Billy Two Rivers,” “Heroin” “Sometimes” and so on.

And its…..ok. The problem is the format, acoustic shows – and for this one Tyla has donned his suit and is joined by a another chap on guitar called Gary – are by their very nature somewhat restrictive. In fairness to Tyla, such is the lyrical content of most of them it all works as an acoustic evening better than most rock would, but you can’t help wishing for some lead guitar or drums.

“Graveyard…” is played more or less in full towards the end, as well as perhaps the highlight of the evening “Just An English Outlaw, “ before Tyla – who had been strangely quiet -  announces “I think you’ve been waiting for this one” and launches into set-closer  “Errol Flynn.” He is soon back, playing “Satellite Kid” and “Drunk Like Me” and the evening comes to a sing-a-long close.

Not going to be gig of the year by any means, acoustic shows are hard to enthuse about. That said, Tyla just about pulled off making this one entertaining.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

BARONESS, Empress, Bovine @Academy 3 Birmingham 9/7/12

John Baizley seems almost apologetic. The Baroness frontman appears concerned that the sold out crowd has enjoyed itself enough as he appears onstage for the encore. “We just wanted to connect with you guys,” he says. “Thanks for coming out tonight. The least we can do is give you what we have – and what we have is two more songs.” With that he launches his band into a stunning “Jake Leg” and an instrumental “Grad.”

What they also had was the foresight to give two young, local bands the chance to show their abilities. First up are the sludgy, riff heavy Bovine, who are interesting in a type of early Queens of the Stone Age type way, while the equally youthful Empress are even more impressive.

The four piece need to work on their stage craft, perhaps but their three song set should leave no one in any doubt as to their potential. Borrowing from the likes of Between The Buried And Me theirs is an ambitious sound, and by the end of “Left In Awe” RTM is keen to see more.

Which brings us back to Baroness. Here is a band that truly defies description. Are they sludge? Are they prog? Are they metal? The truth is they are all these things and more, so how about this: They are merely one of the most innovative heavy bands around right now.

Album number three, “Yellow and Green” rather confirms this. A sprawling, 2cd epic it isn’t out until next week, but early indications are that it is a fabulous affair that won’t be far from anyone’s best of 2012 lists.

Baroness play a decent smattering from “Yellow….” Including the single “Take My Bones Away” which is right up there with the songs of the year. The band, for all their reticence, seem to know this too, attacking the song as if lives depend on it. Another new one “March To The Sea,” casually tossed out early is neatly as impressive and the slow burning “Cocainium” rather confirms the early thoughts that the record might just be very special indeed.

As was the album that preceded it, “The Blue Record.” And a good portion of the best bits of this are played. The show begins with “Ogeechee Hymnal” which turns into “A Horse Called Golgotha” just like it does on the CD, before also taking a stop at a majestic “Swollen and Halo.”

If you came to see Baroness playing superb songs almost flawlessly then you were not disappointed, but where the band did surprise was the energy they showed and how much fun they were evidently having onstage, Baizley and new bass man Matt Maggioni even telling jokes. If you thought the group would be a little over earnest or po-faced you were wrong. Baizley is clearly not the most gregarious chap, nor the most talkative, but that never did Mastodon – a band with whom Baroness have much in common – any harm.

Of course he does open up for his rather passionate speech at the start of the encore. In the 10 minutes that follow we can see everything there is to see about Baroness. The only ones, it seems, who don’t realise their effortless brilliance are the band themselves, for the previous 90 minutes they have both enthralled and entertained and yet Baizley still seeks our approval.

This show bordered on the magnificent. Just imagine how good Baroness could be if only they understood how good they are.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

DIAMOND HEAD, Stampede @Slade Rooms. Wolverhampton 5/7/12

There are an increasing number of bands, it seems, that were nearly big in the 80s that have come back for another go in this century.

These aren’t the type of bands who can fill stadiums at the mere mention of them playing their debut album in full, but are, you suspect, doing it because they damn well enjoy playing music – and of course, if they can get on the nostalgia bandwagon in some small fashion, then why shouldn’t they?

Led by Reuben Archer, Stampede definitely fall into that bracket. The band fell apart in the early 1980s when Archer's stepson, guitarist Laurence left to join Thin Lizzy.

Now they are back, flexing their melodic rock muscles, and doing so in a very British way. Their comeback 2011 release “A Sudden Impulse” is well thumbed tonight and “Send Me Down An Angel” from that record stands up superbly alongside early career songs such as “Days of Wine And Roses” and “Missing You.” Frontman Rueben Archer- is full of confident charm and not even the cramped confines of the Slade Rooms stage can dull his cheer.

Everything we said about Stampede holds true for Diamond Head, except that is for a couple of key points. First, they have a legacy that stands up with most of the late 1970s/early 1980s and second, they are held in massive degree of reverence in metal circles thanks largely to their influence on Metallica, so much so that they are almost the fifth of the Big Four if you will.

Of course, this hasn’t resonated perhaps in record or ticket sales, hence why this gig is being played in the smallest of the three main Wolves venues and even then is far from full.

Since their reformation on a permanent basis, Black Country based Head have blended a couple of new albums with a loving mining of their back catalogue and this is reflected in their setlist. For example, the title track of the brilliant “Lightning To The Nations” album sounds just as good as “Pray For Me” from 2005’s “What’s In Your Head” opus.

This is perhaps because the band have re-invigorated by the presence of singer Nick Tart, who replaced original frontman Sean Harris in the year before “What’s….” came out. He braves both the sweltering heat and the tiny stage to put in an enthusiastic performance, Bassman Eddie Moohan lives up to his nickname of “Chaos” joins him but it is perhaps drummer Karl Wilcox who is the most impressive.

The band had cancelled their previous couple of shows due to Wilcox’s ill-health but he is back behind his kit for tonight’s hometown (ish) show and despite clearly struggling he manages to play a small solo during encore “Helpless.”

Prior to that, the band – who boast the effortlessly cool lead guitarist Brian Tatler as their only original member have given us a thrilling rendition of their signature piece “Am I Evil?” but don’t make the mistake of thinking this was all about wallowing in history.

Diamond Head – and Stampede too – are bands with plenty to be proud of, but plenty to look forward to as well.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

ARNOCORPS @Asylum 2 Birmingham 2/7/12

Ok. Lets get this straight. Arnocorps are amongst the most ludicrous bands in the world. Here is a group from – as RTM understands it – San Franscisco, but who claim to be from Austria and speak with fake German accents onstage.

In 2006 they put out their (so far as we know) only album. Helpfully they entitled this magnificently dumb opus “The Greatest Band of All Time” and by the way, every song on the damn thing is named after an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

Well, now they are back, touring the UK to (they say) to coincide with the Olympics. Even more helpfully they claimed to have been added to a list of banned substances that World Anti Doping body WADA had for the games. This ban was subsequently lifted, the band said and subsequently put out a press release saying that athletes were welcome at their shows.

RTM doesn’t know if there were any Olympians at the Asylum. But we can confirm that much of the crowd was in military fatigues, many carry toy guns and sport camouflage paint. Those that weren’t were cajoled into putting some on by assembled Arnocorps men (RTM resists). This is not an evening to be take too seriously.

And so it is that the lights go down just after 10pm, Little Richard’s “Have Some Fun Tonight” blasts out and some men dressed as soldiers carrying guitars as bayonets run through the crowd, high-fiving as they go. They are quickly followed by an Arnie lookalike waving a big black flag.

This is how Arnocorps like to enter the room, it seems.

When they do arrive onstage it is with “Arno Intro,” which literally introduces us to the band, and all hell breaks loose. They have a punk ethos to things. The crowd are onstage, the band crowd surfs and everyone has the time of their lives.

The songs? Well the songs don’t really matter but are pretty standard heavy metal, but “Predator” kicks things off and “True Lies” gets an airing as does “Total Recall”...enough said? Far more entertaining are the band themselves. Frontman Holzfeuer is quite outstanding. He insists on calling us “heroes and sheroes” and when someone explains its their friend's birthday he tells us all that “right now I will show you how we celebrate in Austria, right now” in his best cod-German accent.

With the announcement that we will get one more if we scream, the band are back from whence they came. The crowd screams, they duly reappear for “Last Action Hero” and off they go for a  collective crowd surf before bidding us Auf Wiedersehen.

Of course Arnocorps are a one tick pony, but they are best one trick pony there is. There aren’t any other bands like them – and RTM cannot decide if that is a good or bad thing! 

ADRENALINE MOB. Voodoo Six @Academy 2. Birmingham 1/7/12

It must be frustrating for Voodoo Six. If their debut album was good, then the 2010 release of “Fluke?” was brilliant (perhaps the best release of its type in the last few years). By rights they should be right at the heart of the thoughts of British hard rock fans.

That they aren’t perhaps says more about the way the music business is these days than anything else, however it has seen Voodoo Six become almost the perfect support act. The band have some fantastic songs, “Take Aim” and “Something For You” not least among them and moreover they aren’t fazed in any way whoever the main band is, rather they are just free enough of flash and ego to get their heads down and get on with it – rather like a journeyman boxer they turn up anywhere and give their all.

Which is just what they do here. Even the temporary loss of main man Tony Newton (the bassist is in the US doing his day job as Iron Maiden’s live sound man) can’t spoil the show. New song “Stop” from last year’s EP is a stomping affair and front man Luke Purdie is confident enough to split the crowd in two for a sing-a-long by the end. Job done, as always.

Russell Allen and Mike Portnoy. We may as well get it out of the way first. Yes the Symphony X man and former Dream Theater legend are half of Adrenaline Mob, but no the Mob aren’t Prog Metal. Instead AM are a very American sounding hard rock band. And boy has this upset the critics.

The same critics who loved the awful new Shinedown album and refuse to acknowledge Black Stone Cherry haven’t been any good for years have had their knives out. As such The Mob’s “Omerta” album has received a kicking in the magazines, reviewers making mention of the fact that this is a rather brainless brand of music compared to their usual work. This might be true to a point, but it rather neglects the point that if they had called themselves Symphony Theater and trotted out some Prog then that would have little point. “Omerta” is instead about fun, and for RTM’s money it is a largely fabulous affair.

As might be expected the whole album is played during the course of the main set. Things are initially hampered by Disturbed man John Moyer’s bass (he is the third man to make this group the prefix “Super”) being way to high in the mix during opener “Psychosane.” Happily this is fixed and the rest of the hour or so is a tasty run through the rest of thne debut. Yes there are bits we could do without  - as a hater of the power ballad RTM was never going to like a live version of “All On The Line” – but really we defy anyone who likes hard rock to not enjoy “Hit The Wall” and set closer “Undaunted.”

When they return Allen (who produced the album with his friend, guitarist Mike Orlando) is anxious to tell us that this is no mere side project, but a bona fide band. This hardly needs pointing out, as anyone who had seen Orlando play his blistering solo at the end of “Angel Sky” knows that he means it.  Actually, it was the largely unheralded Orlando, with his fine fretwork, who perhaps emerged as the star of the show, which when you consider the genuine stars he was onstage with is no mean feat.

The show closes with a couple of Sabbath classics in the shape of “Mob Rules” and “War Pigs,” – the most metal songs of the evening – before the played off, perhaps inevitably given the Mob moniker, by The Godfather theme.

AD are always going to be up against it in the eyes of many, who refuse to accept that musicians can play different styles. The rest of us can just enjoy what was a fine gig from a fine band.