Late, But Worth the Wait (or, Some Surprise albums of 2013)

Greetings, my metal brothers and sisters; I hope that you’re all well, and that your yule/Christmas/what have you was fun, and that you had a much better New Year’s Day than I did. Word of advice: always check the expiry date.

Nonetheless, it wouldn’t do to simply forego a “goodbye 2013″ post on Me(n)tal-Meltdown (even in February), before carrying on with the rest of the new year. While it is certainly tempting to write about musical highs (Carcass, definitely) and lows (the last Crystal Viper, this time), it’s far more rewarding to focus on but a few  – yes, a few – unexpected gems of the year that caught me by surprise.

Let’s do this alphabetically, shall we?
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De Profundis at the Black Heart, Camden, London; September 26th, 2013

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Tucked into an alleyway behind The World’s End, the Black Heart could be considered an elusive venue. Regardless, it’s steadily gaining a good reputation among the metal underground for its cleanliness and intimate spacing. This was the case on Thursday night, when Londoners De Profundis, Mørktår and Premature Birth came to play, with Chesham’s Primitive Graven Image in tow.

The venue’s relative newness naturally came with a few curious folks who knew little about the music they were to see, as evidenced by a few bouts of silly nu metal dancing and moshing, which were entirely out of place at an extreme/progressive metal show. Inevitably, this did little to dampen the spirit of  bands that delivered a full, fun night of music for most who were dedicated enough to listen.

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Live Radar – Black Magician

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At the start of the month, after a lengthy chest infection and bout of ‘flu (which had also kept me from updating this blog), I celebrated the end of my sickness by heading down to the Black Magician/Mourning Beloveth show, at the Relentless Garage in Camden. Seeing as how I deserved something to make up for the drudgery of being ill, I was determined not to miss out.

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Celtachor – ‘Nine Waves From the Shore’, Self-released; 2012

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A couple of years have passed since their last demo release and some line-up changes, and Dublin-based Celtachor have finally released their full-length debut, ‘Nine Waves From the Shore‘. While it doesn’t necessarily reinvent anything within the formula of extreme metal and Celtic folk melodies that’s been coming out of Ireland since the early 1990′s, the album in itself is testament to a young band becoming more focused and stronger in the early stages of their career. Continue reading

‘Live Evil: Angel Witch + Enforcer’ at The Temple, HMV Institute, Birmingham; November 9th, 2012

After waiting outside the HMV Institute on a cold, rainy Friday evening, and following a long queue mixed up with indie fans, metalheads were finally allowed inside to the venue’s top floor for some old school heavy metal and doom in the form of Age of Taurus, Enforcer and Angel Witch. Though not many people were present, owing to the scattered nature of the Birmingham scene, the show’s overarching atmosphere remained one of dedication to the heavy metal spirit. The numbers may have not been very strong, but the passion in the room was there from start to finish.

Without any announcements onstage save for the beginning of guitars playing, Age of Taurus opened the concert with their own style of traditional doom metal. Taking a musically “epic” approach to the crumbling riffs and groovy rhythms of their chosen genre, thanks to sweeping drum syncopation and guitarist Toby W. Wright’s grounded singing range. It’s more expected for traditional doom vocals to morph into horrified, low-tuned soars, and while Wright’s voice is much closer to the ground than the air, they still channel the blues rock-based patterns of singing so associated with the occult, horror film nature of the music. ‘Always in the Eye‘, ‘Unborn Destroyer‘ and ‘A Rush of Power‘ were amoung the songs on offer in this vein, before the band  soon finished with ‘The Bull and the Bear‘; a taster from their upcoming new album.

Less than an hour was afforded to the crowd, before Swedish speed/heavy metallers Enforcer came up to play. Despite the more gothic arrangement of black candles and gold-trimmed banners for their set, the group of fresh faced upstarts delivered a thoroughly energetic set which was a fitting contrast to the slower, lower sounds that preceded them.
Taking cues from the fast-paced notes of 1980′s rock ‘n’ roll and the heaviness of NWOBHM, frontman Olof Wikstrand and friends went straight into an outpour of free-ranged guitar solos and raw, intense singing and wails. It could have been the advantage of having youth on their side that Enforcer had played songs like ‘Black Angel‘, ‘Mistress of Hell‘ and the instrumental piece ‘Diamonds‘ with as much vigour as they did at the HMV Institute, yet it only added to the musical loyalty that was there. From the personal banter between the band and the impressive lack of tiredness from frantic instrumentation, which allowed them to slip quickly with ease into each track, it showed that these were young men who wore their hearts on their sleeves; the effect being that their joy also moved onto an audience which headbanged as furiously as they smiled. Even the much nerdier side of their music, namely through the action-inspired ‘Katana‘ was received as well as their darker, fantasy-based lyrical fare like ‘Mistress of Hell‘.

While Enforcer had brought a youthful kick to the show, main headliners Angel Witch brought the evening to a well-seasoned close with their old school, british heavy metal. Owing to the band’s role in the scene of NWOBHM which came to life around the late 1970′s – mid 1980′s, several of the audience came up to the front of the stage to watch their performance. Despite a recent line-up change for their current reformation, Angel Witch’s sounds stayed faithful and un-compromised to what can be heard on previous albums, largely thanks to original vocalist and founder Kevin Heybourne’s presence in the group.
The final hour and a half of the gig began with a introduction to Angel Witch’s sound from starting track ‘Atlantis‘, with its lively, dual guitar riffs and energetic pace. Though not entirely representative of the whole of the group’s sound, this choice of song helped give a good taste for newcomers of what to expect when followed by the more restrained and down-tuned ‘Dead Sea Scrolls‘. Though not a melodic rock band by any means, Angel Witch’s ability to switch within their own limits from a fast, “rocking out” mood to a more scenic atmosphere means that there is a good, auditorial shake up. Angel Witch weren’t as spunky as the younger Enforcer, but their musical stream’s shift in speed and strong performance meant that their traditional, old school sounds didn’t fall into monotony and – as was the case in Birmingham – the audiences attention were transfixed onto them.
While classic songs from the band’s back catalogue were being played out to an excited and expectant crowd; material from the newest album “As Above, So Below” were also given a live airing. In fairness, whenever an older band creates new music after many, many years, there is always the risk that their recent songwriting may fail to impress in a live setting, if not on record. However, since a number of the tracks on this record were written and then tried and tested live well before its current release in 2012, such a concern was thrown out the window. ‘Into the Dark‘ and ‘Guillotine‘ came out decently that night with their moments of zoned out, psychedelic rhythms and hard crushing notes.

The biggest drawback to the whole evening though, came not from either of the acts onstage but the venue’s initial schedule of a 10:00pm curfew. It made the show feel that it was ending much sooner than it had begun, but fortunately enough, there was enough time for Angel Witch to end with a live rendition of their self-titled song which was enjoyed not only for how well known it was, but also enabling the crowd to interact through the music by means of it being mandatory for them to sing along to the chorus.

On Steve Harris’ solo album ‘British Lion’… or British tryin’

Reuniting with former bandmates from 1992, Iron Maiden’s bassist Steve Harris released his long-awaited solo effort ‘British Lion’.

Normally when it comes to albums, the procedure at Me(n)tal-Meltdown is to give each record a thorough listen for a few times, before writing down a (mostly) fair review. In this case however, I decided to bite the bullet and give a mere first impressions version, to see what was putting off some people in cyberspace. So without further ado – here’s a First Impressions review of ‘British Lion’, brought to you by Me(n)tal-Meltdown (and Steve Harris and friends).

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Primordial ‘Redemption at The Puritan’s Hand’ UK Mini-tour; O2 Academy Islington, London, May 5th 2012

Primordial‘s two show trip in the UK came to a passionate conclusion at the O2 Academy in Islington. Though unfortunately cut short due to the venue franchise’s club night curfew, this restriction did little to deter the overwhelming rapport from an audience made up of loyal fans and relative newcomers alike; the latter mainly tagging along for Winterfylleth and Hell. Continue reading

Carpathia – ‘To Forever Sleep’, Self-released; 2012

 

Due to the occasional tendency of modern music to portray a churning mix of various styles, the use of layers can make it difficult to sort out by ear what direction a musician is heading towards. Even in the modern-day face of “alternative” music styles which include the term “progressive” as a self-descriptor, this can be an issue for young bands like Carpathia. Continue reading

Steve Hughes ‘Big Issues’ tour, The Glee Club, Birmingham; March 28th 2012

 

Much hailed as a champion of sorts in the European metal community, Australian stand up comic Steve Hughes brought his brand of sharp, quick to the point comedy to Birmingham’s Glee Club on March 28th. However, while heavy metal is certainly a key part of the comedian’s identity (and thus routine), it tends to be overlooked how this is truly not the main, driving point of his act. There is always much more to a person than one asset of them on display, and the audience of the aforementioned night was treated to more than one side of Hughes as he shared his experiences as an Australian, music lover, colonial and occasional drug taker on a tour which looked at (and also bathed in) mocking the concept of political correctness. Continue reading

Pilgrim – ‘Misery Wizard’, Poison Tongue/Metal Blade; 2012

Rhode Island band Pilgrim are currently being hailed as the bees’ knees in the doom metal circuit, and on first listen it’s easy to see why. While it is understandable that a number of youngsters will copy their heroes as closely as possible, Pilgrim‘s debut album “Misery Wizard” takes influence from their heroes without using them as a direct template. The record sounds as fresh as it is traditional. Continue reading

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