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, 28 February 2013

GODSIZED, Eye For An Eye, Shebrew, Severed Ties @Asylum 2, Birmingham 26/2/13

Local band Severed Ties are ones that have caught our eyes recently. Their EP “Amongst Us All” is a rather ambitious, well thought out, proggy metal thing and is well worth hearing. Sadly, as on the previous time we should have seen them, RTM has to work too late to catch their full set, but the bit we did see showed just why we like them. Just get the EP for yourselves.

Second band on the bill are another local band. Shebrew, who are stoner rock to the core. If Karma To Burn had a vocalist they would probably sound like this. Gargantuan riffs with a locked in bass groove behind them, they might not be the most original but blimey, they sound enormous with it. All the more incredible is that the chap playing bass is only standing in tonight. In common with many bands like this – Mastodon and Red Fang – for example, Shebrew let the music do the talking, but they do it very well.

So you’re opening for a band who is starting a world tour. You have drums in the band. You remember to pack the cymbals, right? Well you would think. But Eye For An Eye managed to leave them behind Swindon, and so are grateful to a few mates who being said percussion items up from Wiltshire for them. It’s worth it too as by the time they attack opener “Apocalypse Angel” it is clear that Eye are , ahem, worth looking at.

They are perhaps the most conventional heavy metal band on show tonight, with some of their songs, such as ”Give It All You Got”  having Motorhead influence. Their 40 minutes, which culminates in “My Fire” highlights a band we hope to see more of.

Unbelievably despite being around for years, it seems, RTM has never seen Godsized before, and arguably more astonishingly they are yet to release their debut album. Happily, said opus “Time” is onsale during this tour and the hour they spend onstage is worth the wait.

Big riffs and bigger beards abound as “Phoney Tough and The Crazy Brave” rocks and rolls its way by way of a hello. “Brothers In Arms” from the quite fabulous EP of the same name follows, before early contender for new album highlight “Moving On” with its massive riffs and huge chorus follows.

New single “Heavy Load” is given an airing, before “Last Goodbye” takes honours as song of the night. Frustratingly, for some reason the set is cut short, with singer/guitarist Glen Korner looking aggrieved. The bands apparent anger at this sees “Heavy Head” transformed into an edgy guitar jam, and they do duly bid us farewell.

Even the frustrating ending can’t disguise the fact that Godsized are a bit special and a band with much to look forward to. Hopefully this album and tour can see them kick start their careers and become the band they always had the potential to be.

Whether they do remains to be seen, but tonight was fine start.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

URIAH HEEP @Robin 2 Bilston 22/2/13

The chap who is onstage doing the introductions might initially seem to be to be over-enthusiastic.

“Here is a band that is one of the big four of British rock,” he chirrups. “Right up there with Led Zep, Sabbath and Deep Purple.”

He then goes on to reel off some surprising facts: Uriah Heep have been number one in Germany three times for example, and perhaps most startling of the lot: they have sold 40 million copies of their records worldwide. Which makes them, as he says, a pretty big deal.

It also makes the public come out to watch. The Robin is pretty packed by the time the band hit the stage. To Heep’s eternal credit though, they don’t just spoonfeed the assembled throng the hits – and neither should they, when their last three albums have been quite as good as they have. Perhaps their recently announced slot at Download is evidence of a bright future too. And after “Against The Odds” kicks us off, a song from a relatively recent album in “Overload” follows.

Heep, rather like Purple, were never a heavy metal act in the conventional sense, rather more a hard rock act with prog influences. The Hammond Organ is evident throughout and by the time “Sunrise” with its stack harmonies and best of all the sprawling epic “Between Two Worlds” with its majestic solo has been played, it is clear that their musicianship is to the fore.

Before long it is back to the new stuff, with last album “Into The Wild’s” rabble rousing opener “Nail on the Head” getting an airing. Extremely catchy, it has Thunder-like qualities and is not out of place here.

There is a dip back all the way to their first album for “Gypsy,” which sees Mick Box – the only original member in the group – talk to the crowd for the first time, before the Marillion- esque “July Morning” and “Lady In Black” bring us to a close.

There is an encore of “Free N Easy,” during which the women of Bilston are invited to take the stage and perhaps their best known number “Easy Livin” brings things to a rather joyous close.

It would be easy to point to bands like as a mere nostalgia act. Yes, there is only one original member, but rather neglects the fact that like Motorhead, they have had a pretty stable line up for years and also that in ex Praying Mantis frontman Bernie Shaw, they have a singer who knows the ropes, hamming it up with “I hope there’s no curfew tonight as we will play for as long as they will let us” before the group plays exactly the same set as the rest of the tour.

With bass man Trevor Bolder missing the trek as he battles cancer, it might have been easy for this gig to not quite be top notch. It was anything but. Tonight, Uriah Heep, were quite heavy, very good, and for that we were very ‘umble. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

THE BRONX, Single Mothers @Wolves Slade Rooms 15/2/13

“We got horse in our food. We got double amputees shooting their girlfriends, it’s not safe to be out there, ladies and gentleman. This is our fallout shelter.”

So says Bronx singer Matt Caughthran in the intro to the track “Shitty Future.” That he says this while wearing a ladies blouse, which has been thrown onto the stage probably tells you that this wasn’t the most serious of introspective nights, but it does neatly sum up The Bronx ethos. They are one of those bands that believes that a punk rock show is a chance to forget your troubles for an hour and, well, frankly, just go crazy.

So do support band Single Mothers , it’s just that no one seems to like them very much. Which is a shame as RTM was quietly impressed by the Canadian’s sound, which was not unlike a heavier Hold Steady playing some Ramones covers in parts. “Brand New Scene” was delivered with passion and set closer “Baby” – which boasted a chorus of something like “Hey Baby, do you want to make a Baby, Baby?” was actually better than it seems. No matter, though, as the crowd cannot be roused and singer Andrew Thompson was leaves us with a “The Bronx next, then you guys can have fun…”

To be fair the assembled throng take his advice to heart and it doesn’t take long for the crowd surfers to come after The LA band take the stage.

The LA based five piece are over in the UK in support of their new album. “IV” which is a quite marvelous affair. Punk purists can argue all day about whether it sounds too polished, but whilst the addition of a second guitarist has perhaps seen them go more “rock” in the last few years, this is still very much a band with a punk rock heart.

Second track “White Tar” from the debut album still menaces with its “got cancer, looking for the answer” refrain and by the time Caughtran has decided to cross-dress, it is a show that just drags you along on its quite phenomenal energy.

Caughtran encourages and cajoles like some sort of viscous ringmaster, but all the time  does it with a smile on his face and appears to be just as ready to be your best mate as fight you. I mean, you can’t take anyone too seriously when they make you howl like wolves because you are in Wolverhampton, can you?

Of course, any show cannot survive on energy alone, and luckily The Bronx have belting songs in abundance, the new albums highlight “Too Many Devils” sounds incredible, “White Guilt” is almost perfect pop (which they might not like, but its true), then they can switch to “They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy)” a screaming punker that Caughtran delivers from the moshpit.

There is no encore, instead “Heart Attack American” and “History’s Stranglers” fair old rip our faces off, and if the stage patter sometimes was too clichéd (“Its Friday night Wolves, lose your minds – are you ready…?” And so on) there is little doubt that the band were genuine in their sentiments.

For 75 minutes tonight, there was a genuine connection between band and audience and some damn fine songs were played, and as such, our time in the fallout shelter was one worth spending. 

BRAD, New Killer Shoes @Birmingham Academy 2 9/2/13

The queues around The Academy full of excitable youngsters, many of whom you suspect are at their first ever gig, and many of whom are with their parents, are not – you will no doubt be amazed to learn – for Brad. Instead they are for some pop sensation called Rita Ora, who has sold out the main room. In fairness too, there is a more than decent crowd next door as those who eschew such throwaway froth.

It is not surprising that the fans are out either. This is Brad’s first ever show in Birmingham. Which makes this gig a pretty big deal. Oh, and did we mention that Satchel frontman Shawn Smith and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam (amongst others) are in this group. Whilst the bands notoriously low profile means RTM forgives you for not knowing, we are in supergroup territory ladies and gents.

As such, these are heady times for Worcestershire’s New Killer Shoes. The fact that this show is close to their hometown is mere happenstance. They are not “local support” on this jaunt. They are instead the opening act on the whole of this Brad European jaunt.

From the off it appears that the four piece are here to take the chance with both hands. When last we saw the band, opening for Eddie And The Hot Rods last Autumn they were a guitarist down. Here, back to full strength, they offer a more muscular sound. They have a nice line in harmonies, new single “Snakecharmer” is a catchy affair and “Happy Families” shows a darker side. This is a local band that seems to have the right indie crossover ingredients.

Crossing over is not something that has ever bothered Brad. Since the 1990s they have specialised in making the records they want to make, it just so happens that those records have a haunting, beguiling quality that is hard to pull off and even harder to quantify.

It soon becomes apparent that this is not going to be your normal rock gig. Shawn Smith sits at a piano and flexes his astonishing voice around the understated “Buttercup” and if his cowboy hat and beard sees him look like a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, his band are genuinely one of a kind.

They turn into a lounge jazz band during the laid back “Waters Deep” get all funky on us in “20th Century” which sees Gossard banging on the Tom Toms, while arguable set highlight “Diamond Blues” saw them give a passable imitation of the Stones.

However, whilst in large measure this gig was incredible, there were a couple of missed steps towards the end which stopped it being perfect. For a start the encore was split into two parts, with Smith’s solo section of two Satchel songs rather dragging to the point of self-indulgence. Then when the band are back they end with a raucous cover of “Jumping Jack Flash” …or at least they should have. What they actually did was rather pointlessly reprise “Buttercup” again before bidding us farewell.

Whilst these are minor quibbles, perhaps, they did, for RTM’s money rather spoil what was a pretty incredible thing for the most part.

That said, as we walk down the street past all the pop fans, you can’t help but reflect on the fact that essentially within the same building the opposite ends of music were on show tonight. The disposable pop chanteuse might get the mainstream coverage, but we are glad that we are on the side of the genuinely original cult rock band that gave us a magnificent couple of hours.

Gossard in particular doesn’t need to be here. He can play arenas whenever he wants with his day job. That he was here shows he just loves playing music and that shone through tonight. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

ORANGE GOBLIN, Admiral Sir Coudsley Shovel, Earls Of Mars @Slade Rooms Wolverhampton 6/2/13

Blimey. Earls Of Mars, when you see them for the first time, will probably engender that sort of reaction (ok probably a lot stronger but we try and keep it clean at RTM). They are, we suspect, the type of band that will provoke a strong feeling one way or the other.

Frontman Harry Armstrong it transpires sang on tonights headliners “The Big Black” album – later joining them onstage – and is an old friend of the band. He stands stage front, bashing away on a keyboard, while someone else plays the double bass, while prog riffs wail over the top. RTM loves them and by the time they finish “The Mirrored Staircase” we are very much in the blimey-in-a-good-way camp.

Despite the name, Sir Admiral Cloudsley Shovel, are a more straightforward affair. Signed to the mark of stoner rock quality that is Rise Above, theirs is a twin guitar, galloping bass sound of proper classic 1970s heavy metal.

Frontman Johnny Gorilla deadpans to the crowd: “You might have heard of us, but you probably haven’t.” However, their astonishingly good “Don’t Hear It….Fear It” record should change that. “Red Admiral Black Sunrise” is multi-riffed freak out, while their cover of the Groundhogs “Bulletproof” showcases a blusier side. Goblin front man Ben Ward joins them for set closer “Thicker The Better. “ Daft name they might have, but these Admiral’s are set fair – and any band with a song called “Scratching And Sniffing” is ok with us.

Over the last few months Orange Goblin have thrust themselves into the limelight as one of the finest bands in Britain. No longer the cult preserve of a few beardy fellas who like massive riffs, they released the absolutely magnificent “A Eulogy For The Damned” album in 2012 (it won the RTM best album of the year poll) while their live shows just get better and better – as they showed when touring with down last Autumn. Happily the gig going public of Great Britain are catching on and despite this being in the middle of a mammoth UK tour, the Slade Rooms is approaching full.

Even better, the crowd is treated to a show that will surely rank as one of the best of the year. Beginning with “Scorpionica” and continuing with the “Filthy And The Few,” Goblin in those two songs showcase all that makes them quite so marvelous. The riffs are huge but catchy and man mountain singer Ward delivers the songs with such conviction that you cannot help but get carried along.

Whilst there are plenty of songs from “…Damned” the band uses the occasion to dust off some old stuff too. The pick of these, perhaps, is a trip back to the first album (16 years old, where does the time go!?)  for “Saruman’s Wish” which sounds re-invigorated tonight.

Guitarist Joe Hoare stands stage left casually and effortlessly knocking out the riffs, perhaps at his best during “Cosmo Bozo.” The main set ends with “Harvest Of Souls” and “Quincy The Pigboy” before “Blue Snow” and “Eulogy’s” glorious opener “Red Tide Rising” bids us farewell.

This winter tour apparently is not the last activity from Goblin in 2013 – and the band have already played with Clutch this year – with Ward promising to see us again the autumn. Whether that heralds new material too is unclear (there is a live album slated) but that matters little, because on this form Orange Goblin are simply unstoppable. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

HIGH ON FIRE, Jumping Jacks, Lizard @Academy2. Birmingham 1/2/13

Lizard are a tough band to find anything out about. Men (and woman) of mystery they may be, but the three piece certainly make a pleasant noise. There are grunge and stoner elements to their progy metal brew, but the whole thing is driven along by some excellent double kick drumming. We would be interested in finding out more.

Next up are Jumping Jack. The name is awful, sounding like some horrible nightclub in a provincial town, but what we actually get is a French stoner band, who much like Lizard, are a very entertaining proposition New album “Trucks And Bones” has much to commend it, not least of which is “She Made No Resist.” Vocalist/guitarist Julian ensures there is plenty to enjoy throughout the brief half-hour sojourn. French might not be the first place you think of when it comes to metal, but now, slowly thanks to Gojira and the newer breed such as Jumping Jack, that perception might have to be re-thought.

What can we say about High on Fire? For 13 years now Matt Pike and his mates have been knocking out superior quality grooves. Sounding not unlike Motorhead playing Pantera covers. Their live shows are notoriously loud. When RTM last saw the group, in the middle of a three band bill topped by Fear Factory, in Nottingham a couple of years ago, Pike stood there shirtless, screaming something at the top of his lungs. We didn’t know what it was about – still don’t – but by golly, you had to admire the conviction.

Happily not much has changed in the intervening period. Pike, guitarist in the doom legends, Sleep, has had his brushes with ill health, but looks happy and healthy (and still shirtless) as he surveys the 500 or so people that have turned out to watch.

The crowd are rewarded with 80 minutes of some of the most powerful US stoner doom around. This is a set that doesn’t just concentrate on the last two albums “Snakes For The Divine” and current opus “De Vermis Mysteriis” – the pair of albums that have largely given them a profile on these shores – but rather spans much of their career.

However, it is with “Mysteriis’” opening track that they begin and “Serums of Liao” sounds as gargantuan as you might expect. This is followed up with the equally mighty “Frost Hammer” and the tone is set.

Pike keeps chatting to a minimum. Occasionally bellowing song titles when the mood takes him. One of the times he does this is to signal the start of “Rumors Of War” and another is to yell “Snakes For The Divine” – the slice of magnificence they choose to end with.

There is no encore, which perhaps sums the group up. They sound enormous, but there is absolutely nothing flashy about them whatsoever. In fact, a less rock-star-y bunch of rock stars you would struggle to find.

High on Fire are quite simply just a damn fine metal band, with damn fine songs and one which is best enjoyed live.