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.

Friday, 30 August 2013

ETERNAL FEAR, In Denial, Salvation @Scruffy Murphy's, Birmingham 25/8/13

There is a really pleasant atmosphere in the tiny basement room of Scruffy Murphy’s tonight. Sweden’s Eternal Fear are making what is apparently their first visit to these shores and given that they never stop smiling all night it is clear they are enjoying themselves.

Indeed, the only blot on the horizon is that the originally slated support, I.C.O.N, who RTM has a soft spot for, have had to pull out with personal issues. This means, though, that a couple of local bands have the chance to impress instead.

In addition to being – on the evidence of our first meeting with them – amongst the friendliest blokes in Birmingham, local band Salvation are well worth keeping an eye on. Whilst we don’t hear the “country twist” to their “hard rock” (as proclaimed by their website) we do hear some very catchy songs indeed.

Songs that groove along with riffs a touch like Corrosion of Conformity and catchy enough to stick with you “Hell and Back” and “Pray For Me” are well worth checking out and even if convivial frontman Dougy Reid gets the title to “Sleep” wrong it is still a very decent song. The band’s central message is one of positivity too, as befits a group that is selling bracelets for the Sophie Lancaster Charity. RTM was there when they played their first ever gig, at Basementfest last year, we liked them then, we like them now. Very good indeed.

This is In Denial’s second time supporting Eternal Fear on this short tour of the Midlands, and they offer a slightly different proposition to the openers. Their sound is a little more rooted in the early to mid-90s alternative scene, with a couple of different vocal sounds too, while one or two of their songs are reminiscent of Faith No More. Even the one word song titles are something of a throwback, with “Twisted,” “Corruption” and “Asylum” all getting an airing. They are interesting and engaging, but perhaps it is set closer “Inside” – the most straight ahead rock song they play this evening – that works the best.  

By contrast to In Denial, there is nothing remotely 90s about Eternal Fear, think Dio, Priest, Sabbath and Maiden and you wouldn’t be far away from their influences. Although they are rather unknown over here, their new album “Eternal Damnation” is their 10th in a career spanning getting on for 20 years, so they have plenty of material to pick from. RTM is pleased though, that most of it is played from “….Damnation” including its brilliant title track, which showcases all that is good about the band.

“Grab Of Doom” soon follows, as does “Army of Hell” which sees clearly excited singer Ove Jonsson disappear into the crowd for a sing-song, but really, there are no duff tracks here.

A superb 45 minute set ends with a track called “Child Of Darkness” which Jonsson explains is one of many they have written for a new record. It is more of the same excellent stuff that preceded it and bodes well for the new opus.

The band promises to return in October for another tour  - if it is anything like tonight, it promises to be most enjoyable. Heavy metal wore a smile tonight and there is nothing wrong with that. 

FALLOCH, Cnoc An Tursa @Asylum 2, Birmingham 24/8/13

Not many here tonight – and indeed RTM must offer its apologies to support band Aloeswood, who we miss altogether. There are major roadworks in Birmingham, meaning a long detour around the city to get the venue and whether this has put people off who knows? It is just as likely, though, that many just don’t know who the bands are.

Of all metals underground genres, doom is still very much an acquired taste and when it has a blackened tinge and the bands are largely singing about historical matters, it is especially niche.

Cnoc an Tursa (or “Hill of Sorrow” in English) might have a collection of poetry on their website but are from arty and by some distance the heaviest of the bands we do watch this evening, with Alan Buchan largely eschewing clean vocals. Most of the songs come from their “Giants of Auld” album although they play a new song which is faster still, before ending their set with a crushing “Lion of Scotland.”

Appropriately for a band whose name means “In hiding” in English, Falloch don’t do communicative. They are content to stand behind their instruments and let the music do any talking that needs to be done.

It helps they have such a stunning record as “Where Distant Spirits Remain” to plug. A former MSN metal album of the week no less, it is an absolutely glorious slice of Gaelic doom – imagine if Paradise Lost were scots or Mael Mordha didn’t have a flute and you are somewhere close. It is atmospheric, haunting and fabulous.

They do manage to be heavier live than they are on record and attack their instruments as if their life depends on it, they also play a track which singer Tony Dunn introduces as “I Shall Build Mountains,” whether this is on some new record, however, is unclear as eager to maintain mystery to the last it seems, he offers no further elucidation.

In hiding they might be, but for an hour tonight Falloch are so glorious you are glad you sought them out.  

CHRIS SLADE TIMELINE @Roadhouse, Birmingham 23/8/13

Chris Slade is, in drumming circles, a seriously big deal. Since 1965 he has played with people such as Tom Jones, Manfred Mann, Jimmy Page, Michael Schenker, Gary Moore and Paul Rodgers to name just a few.  He also played the drums on arguably one of the most iconic rock songs of the modern era in the form of “Thunderstruck” the opening track on AC/DC’s “The Razor’s Edge” album – the only studio album he played on in his spell with the band.

By anyone’s standards it’s a blinking impressive CV. The fact he is in a suburb of Birmingham playing to about 30 punters on a Friday night probably says more about the fact he just loves to play music than it does about anything else. You hope so anyway, given that is the situation he finds himself in.

He has brought with him a fairly large troupe of musicians for this, albeit many of them are not the ones that were promised on the website. Chris Glen, from Sensational Alex Harvey Band isn’t here, neither are one or two others that were trailed.

Still, given the back catalogue that is on offer this cannot go wrong can it?

The answer to that question is in actuality not as simple as a yes or no. It begins with AC/DCs “Are You Ready” which rather sets the tone for the evening in that it is ok, and you sing along, but you do wonder rather what the point is. The song was one that Slade didn’t play on originally, although he did appear on live versions and play it around the world, but still, calling it part of the Chris Slade timeline does seem a little bit of stretch.

Songs by Manfred Mann and The Firm follow, as does one by Judas Priest and a fine version of “Parisienne Walkways” but ultimately there is just too much AC/DC. For every “Blinded By The Light” and “Delilah” there are two DC tracks and when these are being sung by “Slammin Dave” and “Frisky Frank” who are doing their best Brian Johnson impressions, it does lose a little something.

There are a few things that save this two hour show though. James Cornford is superb on lead guitar and not least among them is Slade himself. In between songs he tells stories of his career and he tops it off with a quite brilliant drum solo.

RTM does not want anyone to doubt the fact that we love AC/DC around here and we love the record that Slade played on, our quibble here is simple, with a past like the Welshman has he does seem rather too fixated with one period of his life – there is nothing from his five years in Asia for example.

The fact they choose to finish with “Back In Black” tells you everything you need to know. At times this feels less like a celebration of the career of Chris Slade than a run of the mill AC/DC tribute band.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

HEADBANGERS BALLS, The Rainbow Warehouse, Birmingham 17/8/13

A quite fantastic cause this – and a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, though some background may be required before continuing as the mainstream media appear to have given it paltry coverage.

A few years ago Reign of Fury frontman Bison Steed was diagnosed with testicular cancer, this is his fifth year clear of the disease and to celebrate he decided to do something about it. What the band did was team up with promoter Andy Pilkington and the people at Intune PR and set up a 12 date tour across the UK with a frankly incredible cast of underground metal bands.

This Birmingham date is the finale of the whole thing and saw an all-day festival type thing take place. Hands up, here, RTM wasn’t able to make all of it, but we got here as soon as we could, as we weren’t going to miss this for all sorts of reasons.

We get there in time to see Bull Riff Stampede. The local group has been making a few waves recently – not least of which was their appearance at Bloodstock last week and they evidently have the drive, ambition to get themselves heard. They have the songs too, “Advance And Conquer” and “The Pit March” posses everything a thrash band needs to succeed. They are about to record a new album, so this bull is one to watch.

Another local band, Hanging Doll is next up, and their female lead singer, allied to male guttural vocal approach is an interesting alternative to the previous group. “Cradle To The Grave” is arguably their best track, but they too are worth keeping an eye on.

Reign of Fury are next – introduced by Krusher, who RTM hadn’t seen for years before his Bloodstock appearance, but now appears to be following us about…..We had last seen Worcestershire’s finest at Bloodstock a year ago in the New Blood Tent – originally intending to leave after half their set to watch Evile, however, they were so good we stayed. If they were good then, they are even better tonight. RoF play a brand of metal that deserves to be aired in front of far bigger crowds than this. The aforementioned Steed has a presence and their twin guitar metal/thrash songs – of which “Psycho Intentions” is the pick, are excellent.

As we have said before, at RTM we want to like I Am I, but haven’t quite been won over. We were at their first ever show last May, then we saw them support Skid Row in March. On both occasions we have found singer ZP Theart a little too overpowering. Tonight, though, he tones down all the antics and concentrates on being a singer – and no one has ever doubted he can do sing. Not quite as power metal as you might expect given Theart’s past, instead “Cross The Line” and “Kiss Of Judas” could sit on a mid-1980s rock album pretty comfortably. First single “Silent Genocide” remains perhaps their best song, but this is a band that is making vast improvements.

Beholder’s Simon Hall never cuts the air of a bloke who is at peace with the world. Tonight, though, he gives as angry and incendiary a performance as we have seen from him. He is upset with Metal Hammer for not covering this tour, he is irked by the beer prices in the Rainbow and he is downright cheesed off with cancer itself.  It all makes for a fantastic Beholder show, though. The band showed at Bloodstock that they are in fine form right now and it continues tonight. Afforded a slightly longer set than last week, they use it to play “Never Take Us Down” the song they wrote for the Sophie Lancaster Charity, but its defiance is oddly in tune with tonight’s vibe too. By the time they have raced through the rant of “Liar” and the closing “Footprints” which has the central point that we are all flesh and blood, it is absolutely clear that you are watching one of the finest underground metal bands in the UK right now.

A superb evening all to raise money and awareness for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the final word should go to Hall. “Thank you for doing the right thing,” he says. “Cancer is the biggest bastard out there. It took friends of mine and it took my hero Ronnie James Dio. Anything we can do to stop it must be done. Fuck you cancer.”

Well Simon, the picture of my mother in the living room of my house instead of her being there attests to the fact that it robbed my family too, so RTM agrees. And shame on any magazine that didn’t cover this event – but the unsigned scene will get by without support anyway, it always does. Just as someday, we will beat cancer. 

A tremendous and strangely life affirming evening.

LAMB OF GOD, Sylosis @Wulfrun, Wolverhampton 13/8/13

Regular readers might have spotted a pattern or two in the couple of years I have been reviewing gigs as Rock The Midlands.

One is that I go to a lot of gigs and watch a lot of genres (although I hate dance and pop if you are asking…) another is I rarely write in the first person unless I am attempting to make a point (believe me there is one coming!) and  a third is that the certain bands that watch a lot and champion the cause of. Malefice are one of these, as are melodic power metallers Neonfly and most definitely Sylosis too.

The very first review I ever wrote on this blog (using horrible blue font for which I apologise!) was one of their show at the Institute Library on a blisteringly hot Friday in September 2011.

It is therefore gratifying to watch the band confidently stride out as the support to Lamb of God tonight, the sold out crowd is chanting “Sylosis, Sylosis” and knows their songs off by heart. Here is a band that not only has a stunning amount of talent for creating heavy, dense thrash metal with a proggy twist, but has done it on their own terms by playing live almost constantly and building a following the old fashioned – and for our money right - way.

Given 45 minutes tonight, they play songs from each of their albums, starting with “Fear The World” from the most recent “Monlith.” Other highlights include “Conclusion of An Age” and “Empyreal” and if anyone doesn’t know them before, they surely will after this.

The technical problems that led to Lamb of God’s disjointed performance at Bloodstock were not their fault, but either way, you always felt that this might be the show to see them in anyway. The chance to play a small venue for their only UK show of 2013 evidently appeals to Randy Blythe too. “We are like you,” he tells the crowd. “We aren’t from a big town, so this is cool.”

Blythe and rest of the God squad look happier tonight than two days before too, ploughing through the same set – an 80 minute romp that starts with “Desolation” and ends with “Black Label” but somehow looking invigorated.

As everyone knows, Blythe could have been in prison instead of in Wolverhampton tonight, had he been found guilty of the manslaughter of a fan in the Czech Republic. He mentions the incident just once tonight, calling it a “tragedy” that the young man lost his life, instead the group concentrate on the music.

From their beginnings as an almost death metal band, LOG have morphed into just a fine metal band. “Set To Fail” is an incredible song and “Redneck” remains an enticing proposition, just as it was when we first saw the five piece support Slayer a few years ago.

They are back in 2014, and if you missed it this time, make sure you are there then. And, that, as the band might say themselves, is an invitation.

Moreover, what tonight proves is that however good a festival is, there is no substitute for watching great bands in a great, but small venue.

BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR DAY THREE: @Catton Hall, Derbyshire 11/8/13

The third and final full day of this Bloodstock 2013 always promised to be a thrashtastic affair, with many highlights, but RTM is in the New Blood Tent early on. We hadn’t been in the new, bigger surroundings so far, so went to watch Reading’s Black Emerald. Credit to them for eschewing what must have been the tempting proposition of sounding like the bands in the Reading scene like Sylosis and Malefice, but they don’t really seem to know what they want to be. When they have some focus, this Emerald could be a jewel, but they aren’t just yet.

In contrast to Black Emerald’s scattergun approach, Lifer have it all worked out. Think of a Welsh Down (and given their name is a Down song what else were you expecting?) and you would have it about right. As second stage openers at 11am, they are a superb way to shake off the cobwebs, and the gritty, riffy, heavy “Goathead” gets people moving.

States Of Panic are about as far removed from Lifer as you can get and still be at Bloodstock. Recently seen in the pages of Kerrang, the band are made up like some HIM type group. They play a modern brand of rock which may just have the sort of crossover potential that not many Bloodstock stars do. Not strictly our cup of tea, “Breathe” rocks and rolls as does “The Dream Will Die.” Ones to watch, if you like your rock with a bit of polish and sheen.

Grifter are signed to the same record label as RTM retro rock favourites, Stone Axe and share the same outlook. Not trying to re-invent the wheel, instead they reckon the wheel is just great as it is, thanks. Simply put, they are a hairy arsed rock and roll band for hairy arsed blokes like us. “Bow Down To The Monkey” is catchy, and “Alabama Hot Pocket” is dedicated to the “deviants” amongst us. Grifter got on their bikes and entertained us royally.

When Sacred Mother Tongue wrote their stellar new album “Out of the Darkness” they created a sound that was so huge it was designed for stadiums. Whether they ever get there, who knows, but what it means is 10,000 people in a field is no problem. Andy James plays the massive riffs and singer Darrin South has a presence. Add this to the fact that “Evolve/Become” is a brilliant song and you can see a bright future for SMT.

There is always one band that divides opinion at Bloodstock, it seems. This year it is Fozzy that have people vexed. Certainly some are intent on making rude hand signals to Chris Jericho, whether this is because he is a wrestler turned singer, only they know, but if you take away your prejudices then Fozzy are downright entertaining. They fetch Phil Campbell out for “She’s My Addiction,” and a clearly hyped up Jericho climbs the rigging. Last song “Blood And Pain” features fire-eating strippers before guitarist Rich Ward (also of Adrenaline Mob) smashes an amp. The least “metal” band on the main stage perhaps, their brand of American hard rock sounded pretty good to us.

You certainly cannot accuse Amorphis of not being metal. The one time deathsters from Finland now plough a more progressive furrow, doing so superbly. A set that spans the new album “Circle” for “Nightbird” and goes back to the early, heavier days, for “Into Hiding” this is a band you wish would tour here more.

Exodus, oh how we have missed you. Not only are you one of the greatest thrash bands on the planet you are also one of the best live ones too. You just hope that “controversial” singer Rob Dukes doesn’t say anything stupid onstage. Happily he does not and instead, he presides over a magnificent 40 minutes. “Bonded By Blood” is dedicated to Jeff Hanneman and former Exodus vocalist Paul Baloff, and “Children Of A Worthless God” still has all the menace in the world. As always, though, it wouldn’t be an Exodus show without a wall of death and after “Toxic Waltz” thousands of people are encouraged to smash each other to pieces. They duly do and Exodus do the job once more. Brilliantly.

Devildriver take the energy that their predecessors have created and use it for their own gain. The self-appointed purveyors of “California Groove” know how to work a crowd and “The Appetite” is excellent. “Meet The Wretched” gathers together a circle pit that is as big as any this weekend and you can file the band in the better-than-we-thought-they-were pile.

Seeing Anthrax is always a treat. The band are marvelous – and they are in good form at the moment, as anyone who saw them blow Motorhead off stage last winter will testify. The set is different from that night, tailored, you suspect for a festival crowd, it begins with “Caught In A Mosh” and soon sees “Got The Time” played, together with “Indians” and closing song “Anti-Social.” Singer Joey Belladonna is clearly loving being back in the fold and Scott Ian always gives off the air of a man who just loves what he does for a living. One of the “Big Four” of thrash, they play a cover of AC/DCs “TNT” just because they can (and it’s on their new covers album). But they are Anthrax and can do whatever they damn well please.

Such a sentence could be applied to Slayer too. Frankly, Slayer couldn’t give a rat’s ass what RTM or anyone else thinks. They are Slayer, and it’s their job to close Bloodstock. This is their first UK show since the tragic death of Jeff Hanneman, and the departure, yet again of Dave Lombardo and with Gary Holt (also of Exodus) on guitar and Paul Bostoph (as always) back on drums, they set about giving the public exactly what it wants. Yes, you’ve seen it before, but somehow when “Disciple” kicks in you find yourself screaming “God hates us all” with a field full of others. Elsewhere it’s as-you-were with “Mandatory Suicide” and “Hate Worldwide” sounding fantastic. They encore as always with “South Of Heaven” and “Angel Of Death” and they justify their reputation by being uncompromising and brilliant.

Just like Bloodstock 2013, you might say.

BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR DAY TWO: Catton Hall, Derbyshire 10/8/13

Day two, then, and we begin on the RJD stage to have a look at Stormbringer. A riff machine from Northamptonshire, they include ex members of Viking Skull. Stormbringer have less of a party approach to rock than that band, though. They play a chugging brand of metal/rock and they are very good indeed. “Grinder” and “Traitor” are more than enough to entertain anyone who has ventured in early.

After Krusher has seen us relive our youth watching Raw Power on TV and got us saying “rock hard, rock heavy, rock animal” to our mate just like when we were at school (and if that means nothing to you, then tough!) it’s the turn of Beholder. The Midlands thrash band (and with new album “The Order Of Chaos” is so heavy the band easily suits that moniker) singer Simon Hall always cuts an imposing figure and today is no different, as he strides the stage of the festival he helps organise. “Toxic Nation” is typical of the group’s angrier sound and “Footprints” is a fine closing song.

Being Canadian it was perhaps inevitable that 3 Inches Of Blood might stick some Rush in their set, but apart from the burst of “Tom Sawyer” it is fists-in-the-air pumping metal all the way. There is a Dio impression from singer Cam Pipes and they are big, dumb fun throughout. The likes of “Metal Woman” and “Battles And Brotherhood” are just there to be enjoyed, not analysed.

Just occasionally, watching gigs can be a jaw dropping experience. So, with that in mind, we say welcome to Hell. Best known, perhaps, for having producer to the stars, Andy Sneap in their ranks, for 40 minutes Hell put on one of the most stunning performances we have ever seen. From opening track, “Let Battle Commence” to the ending brilliance of “Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us,” Hell are phenomenal. From the ashes of the original band in the 1980s, their “Hell Awaits” album is superb, but nothing prepares you for the dose of fire and brimstone you get – and did we mention at one point, singer David Bower wears a pair of stilts and a goats head? No? Well he does. “Can you smell that burning?” he asks. “That’s your souls, that is.” Proving beyond all doubt that the devil does have the best tunes, Hell are one of the bands of the weekend.

How do you follow that? The blunt answer is that you can’t. What you can do, though, is go and watch the end of Scarab in the Sophie Tent. Israel’s premier metal export, they are keen to tell us how happy they are to be here and how metal is a unifying force. They are ok too.

But the reason we are in the tent isn’t for Scarab with all due respect, but for Mael Mordha. One of RTM’s favourite doom bands for a couple of years, this is the first time we have seen them – and it is most certainly worth the wait. “Hello, we are here to clean English cocks” might be a strange greeting, but it is the only thing that doesn’t quite hit the spot. Mordha are an incongruous thing. Monstrously heavy, but also using a flute, they have a new album coming out and “Bloody Alice” hints it might be a bit of a cracker

Neonfly are our perennial favourites at RTM. This is our fifth time seeing the band and we like them. We like them a lot. They are power metal, they are melodic, they sound European and they have members from all over the place. They also have one of the best frontmen around in Willy Norton and tons of good songs, like “Morning Star.” They apparently have album number two in the bag and play a few today. “Misspent Dreams” sounds like what we have come to expect, but “Highways To Nowhere” is altogether different. A band that will – we hope – achieve good things.

Especially as Power Quest are giving up after tonight and leaving the way clear for somebody else to become the flag bearers for UK power metal. You either like songs like “Call To Love” or you don’t, and tonight – as they bring former members out for one last goodbye – the band are very much preaching to the converted. And doing so very well.

How do you explain a band like Avantasia to people? Frankly, the collective, led by Tobias Sammet, vocalist in Edguy, and supported by a cast of many, many others, notably tonight, Bob Catley of Magnum, Eric Martin of Mr Big (who brilliantly chirrups “hello Birmingham” when he strolls out onstage…..) and Ronnie Atkins of the Pretty Maids, are a power metal fans wet dream. Gloriously intricate and overblown songs, they are more rock opera than rock band. Clocking in a 90 minute show, they are able to let rip with songs from new album “The Mystery Of Time” and whilst not everyone totally buys into their brilliance, for RTM this was very special indeed.

More special, unfortunately, than Lamb of God. The sense of anticipation that greeted the band’s first show on these shores since what Randy Blythe terms “our legal difficulties” wasn’t quite matched by what happened. Songs like “Ghost Walking” and “Set To Fail” of course are excellent, but their set is dogged by problems with the barrier and result in big gaps and lost momentum. Never mind, though, as we are seeing them do it all again on Tuesday in Wolverhampton…..

BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR Day One: 9/8/13 @ Catton Hall Derbyshire

Bloodstock is a quite fantastic thing. No other festival has a line up quite like it. Don’t like death metal? There is probably some pompous power metal a hundred yards away. Not keen on black metal? No probs there will be some hard rock somewhere. But its more than that, thanks to the Metal to the Masses, no one else does more for the underground scene either – face facts Download, Chase and Status aren’t playing here (and on a personal basis, the disabled section is absolutely brilliant to see from.)

The reformed Earthtone9 are the first to entertain the newly expanded crowd (it is now a 15,000 capacity). Back this year with their album “IV” they have an odd approach to things. “Lovely stuff,” says singer Karl Middleton. “Not my words, those of Top Gear Magazine,” in truth their sound has very little to do with the smuggery of the aforementioned show, it is rooted in the late 90s, with its melodic chorus and shouty verse approach.

San Francisco’s Death Angel (and we might be biased here at RTM) are surprisingly low down on the bill. And there is a real sense that their set is the real beginning of the proceedings. It is apparently the band’s first ever open air show in the UK and it brings the first moshpit of Bloodstock 2013. With songs like “Evil Priest” and “Lord of Hate” it is more or less impossible not to enjoy their 40 minutes.

Following that, RTM decamps to the Sophie Lancaster Tent to watch Bloodbound. The Germans are one of those bands, like Manowar, that sing about metal songs about metal. One of their songs – indeed the title track of the new album – is called “In The Name Of Metal” which sees us “raising our firsts to the music we love” which sums them up.

Norwich thrashers Shrapnel are next up and they sound exactly what you would expect a band called Shrapnel to sound. Let’s be honest, thrash is ace, and more than that, it is very difficult to get wrong, and with songs like “Eternal War” Shrapnel get it very right indeed.

The Prophecy share not only the home town of Halifax with Paradise Lost, but a lot of their sound too. It is a very British doom metal sound. Long songs and longer riffs abound. With a new album out, “Redemption” is typical of their superb set.

Faced with our first dilemma of the weekend, we forgo the brilliant Firewind on the Ronnie James Dio stage as we have seen them before. Instead we watch Skiltron. Largely, we admit, because we like a bagpipe at RTM and second because a power metal band who sing about the Highlands from Argentina has got to be watched. They are brilliantly OTT and by the time they close with a cover of “Long Way To The Top, If You Wanna Rock And Roll” they have won everyone over.

Cypher 16 are next up and set RTM thinking. Has there ever been a great band with numbers in their name? 16 aren’t too bad, but they appear desperate to tell everyone how metal they are. They would be better if they stuck to being themselves, which is a decent electronic-tinged rock act.

Xertath follow and they are ok, but their sub Meshuggah grooves don’t get us hanging around and missing Voivod. Perhaps surprisingly the field is not too busy for their set, meaning a little bit like Sanctuary last year, it doesn’t matter how legendary the act is, the public makes its choice with its feet. The band’s new album “Target Earth” is an interesting if not captivating slab of tech metal, and neatly it is a metaphor for their set. Songs like its title track and “Tribal Convictions” together with the title track of the band themselves are ok but wouldn’t get us rushing back.

Of all the bands that are on today, it is Accept that we were most looking forward to and the Germans do nothing to disappoint us. Attempting to do nothing other than be heads down old school metal, part thrash, part Priest and Maiden they are quite brilliant. Starting with “Hung Drawn And Quartered” and playing “Stalingrad” from their superb new album and they have the track “Balls To The Wall” which is the best song played all day. Band of the day, hands down.

When it was announced that King Diamond were making their first appearance in the UK for donkeys years, grown men were ready to weep. Whilst we never quite got that excited at RTM. We were ready to be entertained. Perhaps, then, it is just us that wasn’t totally bowled over by the performance. Playing the first half hour behind bars probably had some symbolism we don’t understand but the King’s voice doesn’t sound all that wonderful. Tracks pass by and to be frank, they all sound the same and the show isn’t all that spectacular. The set is, disappointingly, a little underwhelming.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

IRON MAIDEN, Voodoo Six @O2 Arena London 3/8/13

It has been said so much that it is almost a cliché, but it really is true. There is no crowd on earth like an Iron Maiden crowd.

This show – hastily arranged it seems given that it doesn’t appear on the tour T-tshirt – has sold out and there are well over 20,000 people in the O2. Nearly every one of them is clad in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and – judging by the flags that are on show -  many of them have come from all around the world just to be here tonight. Bruce Dickinson says during the encore that it doesn’t matter who you are, what race you are what religion you hold, it is all “one nation under Iron Maiden.” Such a sentiment might seem trite if it came out of the mouth of any other singer, but here, somehow, it rings true.

Iron Maiden are quite simply, the greatest band in the world. They have the best songs, they have the best live show, the coolest logo. The coolest mascot, you name it. Just look at this blog. RTM owns – as we tweeted last night in a state of high excitement – around 8000 albums, and we like many, many bands, but it is only one that we choose to be our backdrop, because Iron Maiden are just the best there is, was and ever will be.

Given this atmosphere, sense of expectancy and downright adulation, it is sometimes difficult for a support act to open for the Iron’s. In that respect Voodoo Six are perfect. First of all they are pretty good and know how to open for bigger bands, second, as everyone in here knows, bassist Tony Newton is Iron Maiden’s sound man. He is also Steve Harris’s mate and 5 a side football partner and if we may torture a soccer analogy, songs like “A Little Something For You” and “Long Way From Home” are really very good, but a little bit too workmanlike to put them in British Rock’s Premier League.

So, at just after 8.35 the strains of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” go up and 20.000 people go mental. It means, of course, that Iron Maiden are on the way and doing so with the Maiden England show, which by all accounts, even by their standards is spectacular.

A “re-imagination” of the original Maiden England show from 1988, documented so magnificently in the album and DVD which was released earlier this year. What it actually entails is most of the songs of that era being played together with the odd newer track like “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”. It makes for a show that is pretty similar in content to 2008’s Somewhere Back In Time jaunt.

Beginning with the proggy “Moonchild” it is everything we were told to expect for nearly two glorious hours. “Can I Play With Madness” follows, then “The Prisoner” and in the space of three songs Iron Maiden have rendered every other song you ever knew completely superfluous.

Amazingly from here it gets better. RTM has never seen them do “Phantom of the Opera” before, so that is exciting, but the centerpiece of the show is “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.” 10 of the most incredible minutes you will ever see on stage, it really is quite staggering in its breadth and scope, proving – if such a thing needed proving – that those who dismiss Maiden as “just “ a metal band are so wide of the mark its untrue.

Of course the uproarious sing-along of “Fear of the Dark” and “Iron Maiden” follow – complete with flames shooting out of Eddie’s head – his third appearance of the night – and there is an encore of “Aces High,” “The Evil That Men Do” and “Running Free” before we can all get our collective breath back.

It is pointless discussing what makes Maiden so special, you either get it or you don’t, and those that do have had the time of their lives tonight. This is a band that is bigger than ever – all around the world.

Since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned in 1999, essentially what has happened is that Iron Maiden, with their unbelievable albums (seriously, the last four are almost flawless) and even better live shows (whether they are album tours, or history shows like this one) have been on a massive victory lap which has seen them lay waste to pretty much every other metal band on the planet. No band is better at giving the public what they want, but also doing exactly what they want at the same time. Everything that is good about the band was released tonight in one glorious bust of song, light, pyrotechnics and glorious unbridled happiness, on one incredible evening.

Let’s be totally frank about this right now. Maiden England 3rd August 2013 was the gig of the year. 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

FM, Toby Jepson @ The River Rooms, Stourbridge 28/7/13

It’s almost like finding out Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

You remember that moment? That moment that ensured your life was never quite as good again? Well RTM had a flashback to that revelation when we pulled up at The River Rooms tonight and did so at the same time as Toby Jepson.

Jepson (the now sadly former, again) singer in the Little Angels – one of our very favourite bands no less – the ex-singer in Gun, now producer of bands as diverse (but superb) as The Virginmarys and Saxon, should not be getting out of a Renault….!!

Dammit, if countless biographies have taught us anything it’s that rock stars should live like a combination of Lemmy, Keith Richards and Slash. At no point have those three got out of Renault.

Anyway, Jepson is here to support his old friends, FM (and most probably left his Ferrari at home…) and is doing so acoustically, with a mix of Angels material, stuff from his criminally underrated solo EP’s and others. There is “Deliver Me” from the album he made with Fastway a couple of years back. He even invites a local man, Ross Graham onstage with him to sing “Womankind” after he got in contact with a touching story, and any set that ends with a medley of “Young Gods” and “Back Door Man” is better than one that doesn’t. Excellent stuff, but did you expect anything less?

Seldom has a band passed us by for so long at RTM and ended up being such a favourite as FM. Regular readers will know that we didn’t know a great deal about the band until they opened for Thin Lizzy last Christmas. And so good were they we went to see them again in March and couldn’t pass up the chance to do it again tonight.

The set they play tonight is more reliant on older material than the latter show a few months back, but does begin with “Tough Love” – the opening track on stellar new album “Rockville.”

That album appears to have put the band on an upward curve, with Planet Rock getting behind it – indeed tonight’s show comes in the same weekend that they played the station’s Steelhouse Festival with a host of other big names in the hard rock world. “I Belong To The Night” follows, and proves that this is timeless music that doesn’t belong in a “scene” and doesn’t need the word “core” to be suffixed anywhere near it.

Other highlights include “Wildside” from the 2010 comeback record “Metropolis,” “Burning My Heart Down,” with all its Bon Jovi-isms and the quite superb “Crosstown Train,” which was the first single from the new CD. The latter is complete, like so many other songs tonight, with some fine guitar work from Jim Kirkpatrick, proving that, unfortunately for  bands of this type, musicianship often gets overlooked. Singer Steve Overland, for example, has a voice that is almost perfect for this sort of music.

What FM have proved tonight is two-fold. First there is an audience out there for good quality melodic hard rock (the show is a sell out) and second that in this country we do melodic hard rock better than anyone else does. And almost no one does it better than FM.