Metal 2 the Masses Sheffield | Heat 5

Here’s my thoughts on the latest Heat from the Metal 2 the Masses competition, being hosted by Mulberry Underground at the Mulberry Tavern.


Originally posted on the Bloodstock forums here.


 

Sheffield
Heat 5

A couple of late cancellations mean that this was a four band heat. On another day, that might be a poorer quality band going through, but not tonight.

The Mechanist

These guys brought their own lighting rig and smoke machine. Sound wise, they were very close to Killswitch style metalcore, with an ever so slight tech metal flourish every now and then. Musically, they were very tight. Frontman did mostly growls, and one of the guitarists did the clean vox. I’m not sure if the lead singer was ill or tired but, by the last track or so, his voice was going a bit when talking to the crowd (didn’t seem to affect his singing much). Basically, if you wanted a slightly techy Killswitch, these guys are your band.

Arkdown

Their frontman was purely a growler, with no clean vox in site, and they reminded me a bit of October File’s heavier side. Whilst they described themselves as metalcore, if you removed the breakdowns from their set they would sound much closer to (contemporary or straight up) heavy metal, just with some outside influences that can’t quite be pigeon holed. As a band, they were probably a step below the openers for ‘tightness’, but above them on originality and sound.

Archelon

Oh my word. These guys instantly go into my top three. A sort of post-metal/doom/sludge hybrid, kind of like if you mixed Conan with someone like SubRosa. One of the guitarists doubles up as a sort of secondary drummer (single drum brought out onto the dancefloor area for a couple of tracks). They managed to squeeze four tracks into their 30 minute slot, including a hypnotic 10 minute opener. These guys also brought a smoke machine, and it worked so well with their style/sound. This was just straight up excellent.

Normaliser

Prog band. Sounded a bit like if you stripped back the combined sound of Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Threshold, and made it a bit heavier about half the time. I thought they were solid, but not mindblowing, though my opinion could have suffered a little from them playing after Archelon’s amazing set. On another night, I’d have probably had them in contention to win a heat.

Results:
Arkdown won the evening, partially down to the great support they brought (3/5 of tickets went to their fans). Archelon were second and Normaliser third. I’m fine with the result, though I agreed with the judges scoring more (they had the top two the other way around) and I wasn’t fussed/thought it was very close between Normaliser and The Mechanist.

Other news:
Apparently we are 90%+ likely to be having a 7th heat, formed of bands that came 4th (it sound like one band will go through and they will extended one of the semi-finals by a band as a sort of wildcard). I’m happy with this, as there’s been some heats where the gap between 2nd and 4th was tiny.

Also, I’ve been informed that the 50/50 fan and judge split ends with the heat stage an that the semi-finals will be a 75/25 split in favour of the judges. I’m fine with this, as I’ve tended to agree with the judge vote, plus it stops bands simply getting through because they brought a lot of people.

Metal 2 the Masses Sheffield | Heats 1-4

As anyone who knows me will be aware, I’m a regular attendee at Bloodstock Open Air festival.

Each year, the festival runs a competition called Metal 2 the Masses. In it, venues around the country host regional battles, with the winners being offered spots on eithrer Hobgoblin or Jagermeister stages at the festival.

Sheffield has only occasionally played host to such qualifiers, though not since 2014 when Goat Leaf won the tournament hosted by the South Sea at Broomhill.

From 2017, the event is being hosted by The Mulberry Tavern, under their Mulberry Unerground moniker. Prior to the tournament, I’d visited once or twice for the Metalsammlung evenings.

I started posting general thoughts over on the Bloodstock forums (and I’ll continue to do so), but I thought it made sense to use this blog in the first instance.

There is a week off this week, but there have been heats in the previous four Wednesdays, which I will summarise below.

Just before the summary, I’ll briefly go over the qualifying system. There are six heats of six bands. Attendees vote for their favourites and these votes make up 50% of the score (the other 50% made up by the voting panel). The top three bands from each heat progress to one of the three semi-finals. The same principle applies for the semis, except only the top two from each qualify for the final. The final will be judged solely by a representative from Bloodstock thmeselves.


Heat 1

Bands competing:
Biophony (the radio friendly end of contemporary prog metal)
Aonia (NWOBHM sounding guitars with operatic vocals)
Gorgeous Morgue (Horror Punk)
Sour Tusk (two man stoner metal)
Bovidae (three piece instrumental metal / classical / jazz hybrid)
Path of Subjugation (Slam / Death Metal)

Aonia, Gorgeous Morgue and Bovidae progressed. I agreed with two out of the three. Bovidae were head and shoulders above the others – they sounded like pros and I’m amazed they aren’t signed already. I had Sour Tusk second and Aonia third. GM brought a lot of people with them, and the popular vote seemed to swing them over Sour Tusk, though the latter were definitely better / tighter.


Heat 2

This was a crazier one, with three bands dropping out and one stepping in at the last minute. Still three to go through, which was slightly surprising (thought they might reduce it to two and give a band a wildcard to make up the final semi final spot).

Bands competing:
Horizontal Faults (Metalcore / Hardcore)
– Had a fair few problems with the sound, with all the microphones playing up. Musically they sounded fine, though nothing special. They all seemed quite young, so hopefully they should get better with time.

Shoul Shredder (female fronted Melodic Metal)
– I saw these guys for the first time around ten years ago, and they’ve come along way in that time. Listening to them you can hear bits of Iron Maiden, Helloween, Battle Beast, Unleash the Archers and others (if a little more mid-paced than those). The only potentially negative thing I foundabout them was that the frontwoman didn’t really interact with the crowd at all, but that could just have been an off night in that respect.

Crucifixiation (Death Metal)
– Brilliant name. Quick and heavy band. They had loads of timing changes, that mostly worked well (the drummer seemed to sacrifice precision for speed a bit, but it sort of worked for them). Front man was very chatty and amiable, giving off a good vibe. These were another band that seemed quite young. These guys could be really good down the line.

Sobriquet (sort of Heavy Alternative)
– Fair play to them for stepping in at the last minute. I’m still struggling to describe them, but ‘heavy alternative’ was the best I could come up with. I could hear bits of Placebo, Incubus and others floating around, tohugh Sobriquet are significantly heavier/pacier, and around 1/3 of vocals are growled. Frontman was pretty good.

Sobriquet won on the evening, Crucifixiation came second and Soul Shredder third. I agreed with the three that went through, but had Shredder and Cruci the other way around. Later it would transpire that Soul Shredder have had to pull out, and Horizontal Faults have been put through in their place.


Heat 3

Another five band heat.

2×4 (Hardcore/Beatdown)

Not my thing really, though they were pretty good musicians (drummer was really good). Vocals did nothing for me, and I didn’t find them overly interesting.

Gorilla Warfare (Dirty Rock / Punk / Funk)

Interesting band that had a nice vibe. I actually think that the ‘dirty rock’ description really means ‘stoner’. They were basically the upbeatness (is that a word?) that drew from pop-punk a bit, if overlaid on stoner rock riffs. The funk aspect was sort of the accents to the riffs (I’m making this sound way more pretentious than it was). Without being mindblowing or anything, they were very good at what they did and their style would suitably mesh with a wider selection of bands than most.

Soulphernus (Blackened Death Metal)

Aspects of Immortal and Behemoth here (closer to the latter than the former on most tracks, but their final song was definitely more ‘Immortal with death metal vox’). They had a few sound problems on vocals early on, but nothing too serious. I enjoyed them for what they were. Drummer was exceptional (good drumming was a theme to the evening) and the rest were fine to good. I liked the frontman, even if he was rooted to the spot a bit.

Grandmother Suplex  (Punk Metal)

Winner of the best band name of the evening, these guys were very professional. I enjoy punk / pukn metal without being overly enamoured, and these guys were very good at their flavour of it. At times they reminded me a bit of Rise Against, though that’d probably be an unfair style comparison on the whole. They rotated the vocals through three guys (two guitars and the bass), and that also worked quite well – particularly on tracks where all three sung verses each. Very enjoyable.

Delirium (Classic Rock / Heavy Blues)

Wow.

I’d seen these guys twice before (last year) and had been shilling them to my mates for a while. Last night was the best I’ve seen them. They heavy blues description is sort of in the way that some of Zeppelin’s sound came from rocking up blues numbers, as opposed to just taking standard 4/4 blues numbers and making them heavier.

A friend of mine was witnessing these for the first time last night. He’d heard both my shilling, as well as praise from others bands that we mutually know. Still, halfway through Delirium’s first track, he turned to me and said “Fuck”.

Some of this was probably the booze talking, but I recall saying that Delirium are the closest thing this generation has to a Zeppelin, T. Rex or any other iconic ‘classic’ band. They were that good. And they are all only 18 years old.

Anywho, onto the results. Delirium annihilated everyone, finishing first on both the judges cards and the public vote – apparently by some way. Grandmother Suplex were second and Gorilla Warfare third. Apparently it was very close between 2nd and 4th (Soulphernus).


Heat 4

Another five band heat.

Amnesia (Thrash)

Apparently these guys had an album out in 1991 and they toured with the likes on Xentrix back in the day. I think the opening track was a newer one (based on how they introduced the tracks after), and was not that thrashy. In fact, it resembles Queensryche, or maybe a stripped down Dream Theater. That said, from the second track onwards, they were most definitely thrash. They were pretty tight, and I enjoyed most of the tracks. Would be more than happy to see them again, maybe as a local opener on a thrash tour.

IMRD (In My Restless Dreams) (Hardcore/Hard Rock/Nu Metal)

Given the above self description on facebook, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got was sort of a halfway house between middle of the road / radio friendly metal and the melodic end of Killswitch Engage’s catalogue. They were quite professional looking and sounding, brought a heap of people and got a good reaction.

One Year Dead (Post-Hardcore)

It was like being in the early to mid 00s all over again. Reminded me of earlier Funeral For A Friend. OYD utilise two vocalists – one for clean vocals and one for growls. The growler was front of stage (well, on the dancefloor because they have too many members for the stage). I thought these guys weren’t that original, but did get a solid reaction. There was an interesting bit where they played a ballad, and the entire band sat down for it, and they encouraged the crowd to do it too (front few rows obliged).

Mothcob (Punk / Grind / Heavy Noise)

Grind really isn’t my bag (seriously, I don’t get why you have lyrics if there is a nearly 0% chance of being able to make the vocals out – just seems a bit redundant), but the band were tight (particularly the guitarist). From my limited exposure to Grind, these were (musically) towards the more ‘melodic’ end of the spectrum.

Inertia (Hardcore / Metal)

Apparently they recently changed their name from something else (was chatting to the booker of the event), but don’t recall what they were known by. Apparently they’ve tweaked their sound and made a small line-up change and this was ‘Inertia”s debut gig. Frontman was quite passionate, and the band were fairly tight. Not my usual cup of tea, but would have been fine with them going through.

After Inertia finished, controversy struck! One or two of the staff members became convinced there had been some vote tampering on the public vote side (I can certainly say that one band seemed to have less by the time I cast my vote vs. when I’d looked earlier at how the votes were going).

The resolution to this was that the entire public vote was rendered null/void, and they simply went on the judges votes (which seems fair, all things considered). The judges announces they’d be changing up the voting system so this issue couldn’t happen again.

IMRD, Mothcob and One Year Dead went through (I *think* IMRD were the winners, and Mothcob were definitely second). For me, IMRD should definitely have gone through, as I had them and Amnesia vying for first place. I had Mothcob and Inertia vying for 3rd, though OYD weren’t poor or anything. I’ll be interested to see how these three do against some of the others.



And that brings us up to date! There’s been some cracking bands so far in the comptition, and the semi-finals are already looking too close to call.

In related news, there were rumblings that a 7th heat / reperchage round might be added, potentially with the 4th placed bands being given another shot (the semi-finals being at weekends allows the events to run longer). I’ll keep an eye out for more news, but I would welcome it.

The dates for the remaining shows are as follows:

15th March  – Heat 5
22nd March – Heat 6
8th April – Semi-Final 1
14th April – Semi-Final 2
15th April – Semi-Final 3
29th April – Final


 

Discography Review | Tool

Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.

This is my entry for February 2017.

My previous entry saw me take a look at Danish heavy metallers Volbeat.

This time around I’ve gone for revered Californian alt-metallers Tool.

Background: I have known of them for a quite a while, but never previously made much of an effort to get into them. I do recall seeing a random video on the music channels back in the day (for Schism I think), but little past that.


undertow – Undertow

Interesting  and somewhat otherworldy sounding drums gives way to a heavyish riff and angry vocals on the opener Intolerance. The mix seems a little off (the vocals are too low), but this is otherwise decent enough. Prison Sex is a step up, sounding like a mix of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and maybe a hint of Down. This gives way to the best trilogy of tracks on the album. SoberBottom and Crawl Away are all pretty great! Swamp Song isn’t far behind with it’s sort of sexier, dirtier riff that’s reminiscent of Danzig. The title track is more of the same, with an outro that wouldn’t be amiss in a Mastodon tune. The final three tracks aren’t bad, but definitely are a step down on that which has come before. Flood is probably the better of the three. Disugstipated comes across as something that’s artificially long – there’s no need for the ‘crickets’ section to be so drawn out.

Overall [4]
A good debut album, featuring a backbrone of cracking tracks. It seems to lose it’s way a little towards the end, though none of the tracks were outright poor.

Best tracks: Sober, Bottom, Cast Away


aenima– Ænima

Stinkfist is a catchy opener that would have sat squarely in the middle – quality wise – on the first album. This is followed by the much stronger, patient Eulogyfailed to hold my interest, though it’s far from a bad track. Forty Six & 2 is better, with some nice punchy guitars mixing well with another meandering riff. Message to Manback is a weird softly spoken yet angry voicemail juxataposed with a haunting piano backdrop. Hooker With a Penis is fine, though nothing special. Intermission is a short organ track that serves more as an intro to the next track. jimmy (sic) follows straight on/continues the tunes, except transposed to heavier guitars. The track is a grower, with it taking on a sort of haunting aspect by its conclusion. Die Eier von Satan sort of sticks out a bit – a relatively quiet, somewhat industrial sounding track that Google translate tells me is a recipe for The Eggs of Satan. Hmmm… Pushit is the second longest track on the album and one that flowers into a pretty epic beast. Cesaro Summability is another of the filler / instrumental / intro tracks. This time we start with the cry of a baby, followed by some distortion. It goes a bit dark electro for the remainder. Ænema is next, and is an absolutely cracking tune! Opening riff almost sounds like it should be in a sleaze rock tune. This gives way to the standard Tool sound (quiet guitars, interesting drums). By it’s conclusion, I think it’s one of the best tracks they’ve done, let alone the best on this album. (-) Ions is a combination of cound effects that mimic a rising storm – battering winds mostly – with a pulsating electrostatic loop running over the top of it. Third Eye is quite interesting for the most poart, and certainly easier on the ear than Undertow‘s closer. Not a bad track. 

Overall [3]
I think the quality varies a little more on this one. I really dig three or four tracks from it, but I think there’s more filler here than on Undertow. Also, some of the intermissive tracks seem to be there for the sake of it. On the balance of things, probably a step behind their debut.

Best Tracks: Eulogy, Pushit, Ænema



lateralus– Lateralus

We kick things off with The Grudge. Brooding, meandering riffs that hint at malevolence (something I now realise is sort of Tool’s signature) greet the listener. If we’re comparing openers, it is of a similar quality to Stinkfist, if a bit grungier and a bit proggier. Good opener. Eon Blue Apocalypse is a pleasant little interludeintro to the next track. The Patient is  a great example of one of things Tool seem to do really well – build suspense/expectation and create a generally dark vibe. After a few fakeouts, things kick in proper around the two and a half minute mark and they don’t look back. The back third or so is something else. After the chilled instrumental Mantra, we get one of their big singles in Schism. I don’t know what really to say about this – it’s just so inherently listenable and one of their best. Parabol is a quiet, mournful tune that sounds more like a three minute intro than a stand alone effort. Parabola has a tasty opening riff, dropping us straight into the action. This is another track that I really dig, but struggle to describe exactly why over some of the others. Ticks and Leeches has a nice drum intro, before jumping around a bit across pace and style for the next eight plus minutes. I enjoyed it without being blown away, though the heavy-ish outro is really good. The title track continues the vibe of the album, but it is probably the most ‘filler’ of all the ‘proper’ songs. Disposition is another musical interlude that gives way to the astounding Reflection. The addition of the John Cerpentar-esque synth helps to generator another dark, mysterious musical landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on a sountrack for something like Blade Runner. One of my favourites. Triad is  a decent-lengthed instrumental piece with some interesting callbacks to previous track. I’m not too sure what to make of the closing track Faaip de Oiad – it’s a sort of short more experimental piece that mostly involves spoken word and static. It is what it is.

Overall [4]
Sound wise, Lateralus is definitely closer to Ænima than Undertow. However, the writing and performing is both tighter and there’s less filler here. There’s also some of the best tracks they’ve written to date on here.

Best tracks: Reflection, Schism, Parabola



10000-days– 10,000 Days

First track Vicarious sounds tighter than the previous openers. Jambi is more of the same. Both tracks are good without flooring me. Wings For Marie (Pt. 1) is a six minute, dark, moving piece. We immediately go into 10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2) which is something else entirely. It has a monstrously patient build, and almost feels saga like in it’s story telling structure. The two parts form a sort of eulogy to Keenan’s mother, whose mother tragically spent the last 27 years of her life paralysed after an aneurysm. The mood is reflective, a dark and thick with emotion. Equally beautiful and bleak, this is a masterpiece of a track. The Pot has the unveniable task of following that. Thankfully, it’s a very catchy tune and the change of pace/mood works well after the emotional drain that was what came before. Lipan Conjuring is a pleasant, short track consisting of what appears to be native american chanting. Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann), is really a sort of minimalist prologue for Rosetta StonedRosetta… is an excellent sprawling track, with some nice experimentation in places. On another album, it would likely be the best track. Intension has a sort of etheral, otherworldy feel. Good without being amazing, but fits the vibe of the album. Right in Two was sort of like a better take on the opening two tracks – a little ‘Tool-by-numbers’ – but still good. The closing track is Viginti Tres, a five minute track comprising of sound effects that wouldn’t be amiss on a sci fi or scene, setting the mood. Given the feel of the album as a whole, it feels somewhat apt.

Overall [4]
I wasn’t sure how this was gonna hold up compared to Lateralus, especially after the first couple of tracks (good, without being brilliant). However, from Wings for Marie onwards this thing really kicks into another gear. If the album had ended at Rosetta Stoned, this would have gotten the best score. 

Best tracks: 10,000 Days, Rosetta Stoned, The Pot



That was my whistle stop tour of Tool’s albums. Overall, I’ve got to admit I’ve really enjoyed the whole run. I think Ænima suffers a little more from filler, as well as some of the proggier bits not quite working out. That being said, there are no bad albums here and I can’t choose between the other three.


YOF 2017 #16 – 17 | The Lego Batman Movie, War on Everyone

Continuing my quests to log (and briefly review) all the films I watch in 2017, here are my thoughts on the 16th and 17th films in the series: The Lego Batman Movie and War on Everyone.


 

Lego Batman poster.jpgYOF2017 #16 | The Lego Batman Movie

I originally posted a fll (if short) review of this over at Fake Geeks. You can check that out here.

In short, I found The Lego Batman Movie to be a fun hour and a half or so. There’s plenty of gags, references and quips (relating to the older entries in the Bat franchise and to science fiction in general) to keep adults invested.

3.5/5


War on Everyone.pngYOF2017 #17 | War on Everyone

Now this was a film that flew under the radar last year (despite managing to watch an astronomical amount of 2016 releases, I didn’t make it to this one).

However, thanks to my fellow Geeketeer Simon (aka MelmanPringles to you YouTubers), I had the pleasure of watching this the other week.

This black comedy / buddy cop film divided opinion (4/5 in Rolling Stone, 1/4 at rogertebert.com etc). For me, whilst the humour can miss a little at times, it nails it a lot more often than not.

It’s also worth pointing out how good the cast is too – it’s like a whose who of underated talented. Alexander Skarsgård (True BloodWhat Maisie Knew) has been a favourite of mine for a while, and Michael Peña (End of WatchAnt-Man) has impeccable comic timing that Hollywood is seemingly only now really realising. Theo James (The Divergent SeriesThe Inbetweeners Movie) is entertaining in a one-dimensionally written antagonist role, and Tessa Thompson (SelmaCreed) is solid in support.

4/5


 

It’s been a quiet year so far, but I’m hoping to ramp up the film watching over March – April time. I shall report back soon with more thoughts.

Discography Review | Volbeat

Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.

This is my entry for January 2017.

My previous entry saw me take a look at proggy retro rockers Bigelf.

This time around I’ve gone for Danish rockabilly loving heavy metallers, Volbeat.

Background: I’ve been aware of them for a while (they are huge on mainland Europe and often play towards the top of the bill) , but never actively tracked down their stuff. I’ve heard their cover of I Only Want To Be With You before, and a couple of their later singles.


the-strength-the-sound-the-songs – The Strength/The Sound/The Songs

Their 2005 debut opens up with the solid Caroline Leaving, which leads into the vastly superior Another Day, Another Way. The latter’s main riff reminds me of No Doubt’s Hella Good, in a good way. After the decent Something Else Or…. there is a trio belters in the form of Rebel MonsterPool of Booze, Booze, Booze and Always.Wu. Each of them is contemporary heavy metal, but with a slightly different twist (Pool… for example, sounds almost stoner metal, whereas Always… has some speed / trad metal elements). Say Your Number is good, and the pseudo-ballad Soulweeper is a cracking tune! Fire Song feels like a bit of a filler, and Danny & Lucy gets better as it goes along. Caroline #1 is another track with stoner rock vibes, and really sodding good! Alienized is fine, but is a nice buffer between Caroline #1 and the excellent Dusty Springgield cover, I Only Want To Be With You. The closing double are good in their own ways – Everything’s Still Fine has a tasty mid-paced chugging riff, plus a nice Kasmir-era Zeppelin eastern sounding guitar flourish every now and then. Healing Subconsciously has a warmer guitar sound. Song itself is a rousing, upbeat and triumpant one – a really good closer.

Overall [4]
A really flipping good debut album. Plenty of catchy tracks throughout, and – while there is a sort of signature sound in each song – there’s a nice variety within than scope. It keeps everything fresh.

Best tracks: Soulweeper, Caroline #1, I Only Wanna Be With You.


rock-the-rebel-metal-the-devilRock the Rebel / Metal the Devil 

The 2007 follow-up has a decent opening track in The Human Instrument, featuring a nice guitar sound that’s halfway between Floydian and country/western. Mr. & Mrs. Ness sounds like something from the early 90s – like a mid-paced Megadeth intro, or a heavier Queensryche track. The Garden’s Tale has a calmer intro, before kicking into a track thats almost pop punk. This makes sense considering the guest musician is from post-punk band Magtens Korridor. This is one of the best things they’ve put out so far. Devil or the Blue Cat’s Song feels like a slight comedown after the previous quality of what preceeded it, but would probably be a good track elsewhere on the album. Sad Man’s Tongue has a nice banjo led intro and a very southern US vibe to the whole thing. Not a bad track. River Queen is a bit of a grower, but Radio Girl and A Moment Forever aren’t anything memorable. Soulweeper #2 is a cracking slower to mid-paced, more sombre piece. Juxtaposing You or Them with the previous track is neat, as it makes this seem heavier than it is . A really catchy track. Boa (JDM) is a decent closing track, if nothing special.

Overall [3]
A good follow-up, if one that doesn’t blow me away. There’s some really cool tracks here, but – for a relatively short album – there’s a bit too much that’s just decent filler.

Best Tracks: The Garden’s Tale, Soulweeper #2, You or Them.


guitar-gangesters-and-cadillac-bloodGuitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood

After a plesant intro, the title track kicks in. It’s a really catchy tune/chorus and screams ‘single’. This flows into the pop-punky sounding Back to Prom, and things gets a smidge heavier with Mary Ann’s Place. By this point, all the tracks have had cracking intros anfd been pretty sweet. Hallelujah Goat is a little less memorable than that which went before, but still pretty good. Maybellene I Hofteholder uses the typical ‘slow things down before hitting you with a punchy punky riff’ intro – and does it well. Good track. We is more of the same, and similarly good. The next few tracks are all ‘pretty good’, before the really good cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonely I Could CryA Broken Man and the Dawn starts well, but sort of a peters out. Find that Soul is a pretty good album track, before another good cover (of Jimmy Work’s Making Believe) closes things out.

Overall [3.5]
Probably the middle ground, quality wise, in the releases so far. First half is pretty damned good, but the back half is a bit hit and miss.

Best tracks: Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, Back to Prom, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.


untitledBeyond Hell / Above Heaven

The Mirror and the Ripper is a solid opener, which makes way for up-tempo pseudo-ballad Heaven Nor HellWho They Are has a deliciously malovolent riff that wouldn’t be amiss on a Ghost album. Once things kick in, it sounds like a contemporary metal track as on their earlier albums. It’s good stuff. Fallen and A Better Believer are fine, but 7 Shots is really good! It features guest lead guitar (Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate/King Diamond) and guest secondary vocals (Mille Petrozza from Kreator). It’s not as heavy as the inclusion of those musicians may imply, but it’s heavier than the previous tracks on the album. Nonetheless, its areally catchy tune that utulises them both well. A New Day is fine, but 16 Dollars is better. The latter is closer to a rockabilly / old school rock n roll sound, making it sound somewhat fresh with where it’s placed on the album. A very likeable tune. A Warrior’s Call is fascinating – it’s a song about, and as a tribute to, Danish boxer Mikkel Kessler. It’s got a nice punchy fists-in-the-air sort of chorus, and it’s really catchy! Magic Zone is an upbeat tune that makes user of a warmer guitar tone for the intro, and has a punchy main riff. Evelyn is a fair whack heavier, and features thier first track with growling vocals, courtesy of Barney from Napalm Death. I’ve never been a fan, and this didn’t do much for me. Being 1 changes the tone once more. It’s a short song (a little over two minutes) and feels like it’s made to be the first part of a medley. Thanks is an actual song thanking their fans for their support over the year. Despite how cheesy this sounds in concept, it’s actually quite a memorable tune, and would work in tandem with Being 1 as a sort of medley to close out a concert.

Overall [3.5]
A pretty strong album, probably on a part with their previous release. Though there aren’t many outright killer tunes, there’s very little filler.

Best tracks: 7 Shots, 16 Dollars and a Warrior’s Call.


outlaw-gentlemen-and-shady-ladiesOutlaw Gentlement & Shady Ladies

A collection of acoustic/Spanish guitars, a harp and a mouth organs/harmonica combine to set the western scene in the tro track Let’s Shake Some Dust. The next next couple of track are simply decent, despite some nice guitar work. Dead But Rising is a bit heavier and a bit better. Cape of Our Hero is one of the few tracks I’d heard previously, and this is where the album properly kicks off – a pretty great track! Room 24 has a sort of a horror vibe to it, which makes sense with Kind Diamond on guest vocals. A really good heavy metal tune. The Hangman’s Body Count was the second single released from the album, and you can tell why on one play. The lone blip on the back half of the album is the forgettable My BodyLola Montez is another track I’ve heard before, but I’m not sure where  – maybe a club? It’s one of the better tracks on the album – in fact, it may be one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed the most so far. Black Bart is a good, up-tempo track. Lonesome Rider features guest vocals from Sarah Blackwood (of Dubstar fame). She adds a pleasant extra dimension. The song itself has a the vibe of a single from a film’s soundtrack. Really good stuff. The Sinner Is You grows into a really catchy tune with a memorable chorus. Doc Holliday is a bit heavier and the better type of album track. Our Loved Ones is a strong, epic osunding finale.

Overall [4]
From Cape of Our Hero onwards, it’s a really good album and the closest they’ve come to replicating the quslity of their debut to date.

Best tracks: Cape of Our Hero, Room 24, The Hangman’s Body Count, Lonesome Rider.


seal-the-deal-and-lets-boogieSeal the Deal & Let’s Boogie

Prodecings are started with their best opening track to date, The Devil’s Bleeding Crown. Parts of it remind me of the stoner rock/metal vibe of Poole of Booze, Booze, Booze and Caroline #1Marie Laveau reminds me of one of their previous songs, but I can’t place which. It’s a solid track, either way. For Evigt features Johan Olsen from Magtens Korridor. It’s a bit of a grower, and better than the previous song. The next couple of tracks (The Gates of Babylon and Let Ir Burn) are fine, but would be lost in the mix on the better albums I think. Black Rose features Danko Jones and is a definite step up on the previous tracks. Rebound is a cover of punk band Teenage Bottlerocket. Unlike their previous covers, it doesn’t overly stand out, though still decent. Mary Jane Kelly is somewhat better. Goodbye Forever slows things down a nudge, before Seal the Deal ramps things back up (the former is solid, the latter pretty darn good). Battleship Chains is a cover of The Woods’ song (made famous by The Georgia Satellites). It’s a really good cover of one of my favourite songs. I’m undecided on You Will Know – future listens will determine whether it is a grower, or just a decent album track. The standard edition closes with The Loa’s Crossroad. The intro riff is really cool, punchy and kick ass. Song itself is solid, with a nice – random – bagpipe solo in the middle!

Overall [3]
A step down from Outlaw Gentlemen but still a good album. There’s a little too mych that’s just decent filler for me to rate it any higher.

Best tracks: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, Seal the Deal, Battleship Chains.


 

And that’s that. I’ve really enjoyed this particular listen through. Over the ix albums, there’s some cracking tunes, and no single album is less than good.


 

YOF2017 #4 – 15 | Remainder, Rams, Your Name, Hunt for the Wildepeople, Lights Out, Fire at Sea, La La Land, Under the Shadow, Money Monster, The Neon Demon,The Take, The BFG

In my quest to blas through as many films from 2016 before submitting my film of the year list to my fellow Geeketeers at Fake Geeks, I’ve watched a whole heap of films in recent weeks. They make up all but one of these entries.


YOF2017 #4 | Remainder

You can read my full review of Remainder over at Fake Geeks. In short, while Omer Fast shows promise in his full length debut, it is ultimately more of an interesting head-scratcher than a mind-bending classic.

3/5


YOF2017 #5 | Rams

You can read my full review of Rams over at Fake Geeks. In short, it is an expertly crafted, affecting drama that’s spiced up with sprinklings of dark humour.

4/5


YOF2017 #6 | Your Name

Your Name was at the UK cinemas for about 5 minutes, but a few of us were very loucky to have gotten down to see it. It’s the last film from Makoto Shinkai  (5 Centmieters per SecondThe Garden of Words) who is one of a few directors that has been given the ‘next Miyazaki’ label.

Briefly, Your Name is about a  boy and a girl who – every so often, and seemingly at random – exchange bodies when they sleep, and they spend a day as the other person. Going into the whys and wherefors will spoil this one, but I can honestly say that this an excellently made film. It’s very much a mulit-layered piece, without being impentrable to the casual viewer. I have a feeeling it’ll place well in our film of the year list.

4.5/5


YOF2017 #7 | Hunt for the Wildepeople

Another strong contender for film of the year is this adventure comedy-drama from Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok).

Julian Dennison is excellent as Ricky Baker, a troublesome youth who floats from family to family in the child welfare system. His latest stop is with “Uncle” Hec (Sam Neill) and “Aunt” Bella (Rima Te Wiata).  For reasons that I won’t get into for fear of spoiling certain plot points, Hec and Ricky end up the object of a manhunt in the New Zealand bush.

Hunt for the Wildepeople is a brilliant film. While it’s mostly humourous, there are moments of genuine tenderness and drama. Neill is great, and Dennison steals the show.

4.5/5


YOF2017 #8 | Lights Out

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, there are some nice spots in this adaptation of a 2013 short. The cast is pretty good too, and the characters feel a little more three dimensional than the usuals that get wheeled out for horror franchises.

A sequel has already been confirmed, here’s hoping it improves  on what they have already built and don’t send it the way of Saw etc.

3.5/5


YOF2017 #9 | Fire at Sea

This is a narrrator-free documentary look at the European island of Lampedusa. Being so close to Africa, the island is often a first port of call for migrants from the continents to the south and east.

What could have been excellent, is merely decent. Too much time is spent with the families of the island doing trivial tasks. The times spent focussing on the plight of the migrants is moving, and one of the doctors giving a talking heads piece about why he helps them is somewhat prodfound.

3/5


YOF2017 #10 | La La Land

Damien Chezelle’s  first film since the amazing Whiplash (the Fake Geeks film of the year)  is a musical set in Hollywood, about chasing your dreams.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are very good in the lead roles, and the songs are mostly good. The story meanders a smidge, but the ending is pretty darn good. It’s gonna be quite high on my list of films in 2017.

4/5


YOF2017 #11 | Under the Shadow

This is an acclaimed internationally produced horror set in Tehran, during the Iran-Iraq war of the 80s. As Tehran is bombarded with missile attacks, Shideh (Nerges Rashidi) tries to comfort her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). As the film progresses, things take a turn toward the unexplainable – is a djinn stalking Dorsa?

While I don’t think it’s amazing (it received five star reviews from a number of notable publications), it’s still really good stuff and has a shot at my top 15 for the year.

4/5


YOF2017 #12 | Money Monster

A decent hostage thriller starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. It wholly unoriginal, but done quite well throughout. There’s alsodecent support from prominent TV actors such as Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Denis Boutsikaris and Chris Bauer.

3/5


YOF2017 #13 | The Neon Demon

A bit of a mixed bag from Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest release. It looks amazing (as you’d probably expect), and the soundtrack is spot on. Elle Fanning is pretty good on the most part, though significantly better in the first half than the second (her character undergoes a transformation, and she’s much better at portraying the former than the latter). The film is a smidge slow, and the last third seems to be shocking for shocking sake. Still, I didn’t ‘not enjoy’ it. It’s just… decent/fine.

3/5


YOF2017 #14 | The Take (Bastille Day)

Like Money Money, this is decent (if by the numbers). Elba plays a CIA agent, Richard Madden is a pickpocket and Charlotte Le Bon an naive political idealist. The three of them end up tangled up in bomb plot. Fun enough entertainment.

3/5


YOF2017 #15 | The BFG

I must confess that I’ve never read the book, nor have I watched the famous 80s cartoon. However, I really enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s adaptation. It’s definitely at the better end of and increasingly bloated kids CGI film selection.

4/5


 

YOF2017 #3 | Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One poster.pngMike did a cracking review of this for us over at Fake Geeks, which I mostly agree with so I won’t go on about it too much.

I thought it was very good. There was a strong cast, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed probably the standouts.

While it wasn’t OTT, seeing the film in IMAX certainly seemed like the way to go. The space battles were more impressive for it, and the whole 3D experience worked well. It defintiely didn’t feel like a ‘gimmick’ in this one.

I’ve heard rumblings of continuity errors, though I’m not sure I noticed them myself. I’ve read up on one or two, but they seem to have been explained away (one of them by the director himself).

There isn’t too much more I can say without delving into spoilers (hat hasn’t already been said in Mike’s review).

In short, it’s very good, it’s likely making my top ten films.

4/5