Richie Ramone, Generation Graveyard and The Idol Dead, Barfly, 13.12.14

After reviewing Richie’s first solo offering Entitled a few weeks back, and then having the great pleasure of interviewing him, I was more than a little pleased to trundle up to Camden on a frosty Saturday and see whether the live show offered by the man known as “The Ramones‘ Fastest Drummer” lived up to the hype.  Camden Barfly however, is the teeniest venue in the world.  When I first walked in, I was a little bit horrified if I’m honest – this is Richie Ramone we’re talking about here, this isn’t a local band who haven’t hit the big venues yet.  I was kind of expecting a bigger stage – it’s smaller than the one at my local!  It didn’t help that at that point there were less than twenty people in the room (including one of the bands) and I was surprised – I’d been expecting a horde of Ramones fans!  More on that a bit later.

Anyway,  in my not especially qualified opinion, Punk roughly falls into five categories – the Discordant, The Angry/Political, The Femme, The Classic, and The Pop.  Bands will sometimes occupy multiple categories simultaneously, but generally speaking I’ll listen to anything except The Discordant because those guys can’t actually play their instruments and I don’t like hurting my ears.

I hadn’t heard either of the support acts for the night – I like to keep support acts I haven’t listened to yet as a surprise – it’s always nice to turn up and see someone completely new to me.

The Idol Dead are strictly speaking a rock band, but I think they straddle The Classic and The Pop beautifully.  They’re upbeat enough to be accessible to an audience who have limited experience of punk but they have enough hallmarks of bands gone by that they’re actually GOOD.

The Idol Dead. Photo Credit Suzi H

The Idol Dead. Photo Credit Suzi H

I couldn’t take a decent picture because they didn’t stand still long enough for me to do so, so I apologise for the blurry offering above.  I don’t mind though because I’ve seen headline bands with sold out crowds (Metallica, I am looking at you) put less energy into their sets than these guys put into playing the opening slot in a poky room in Camden.  My local has a bigger gig room than the Barfly, as I’ve said before, but the way these guys played you’d think they were playing a sold out Donington. Musically speaking they are extremely competent, stage presence-wise they were gripping and I challenge anyone to listen to their latest album and not end up sticking it on repeat.  As a first opener Richie Ramone couldn’t have picked better really.  Their latest album Hollow Point Curse is available on BandCamp – for the love of rock go and buy it so they can keep doing what they do and I can go bop around in the front row to them again.

Next up were Generation Graveyard and my first thought was  “I assume these guys get a discount on skinny jeans and denim cuts by buying in bulk. If they don’t, they’ve missed a business trick”.  Anyway they had a hard act to follow after The Idol Dead ripped up the Barfly.

Generation Graveyard. Photo Credit Suzi H

Generation Graveyard. Photo Credit Suzi H

However, I now have a bone to pick with whoever it was who didn’t tell me that Death Metal and Punk had crossbred and spawned a deadly baby in Generation Graveyard? These guys are dark and twisty and I re-pulled my ruptured stomach muscles headbanging to them.  They somehow manage to combine Death Metal riffs with punk beats and vocals I can’t even describe.  Go check out Human Hive – it was the definite highlight of the set for me.  They’ve assured me they have touring plans for next year and they’ve definitely gone on my ‘must go see’ list.

So by this point in the evening, I was sweaty and hurting and my neck muscles were promising that Sunday would bring a bangover of Epic proportions.  I hadn’t expected to see such amazing support acts – normally I end up not liking at least one of them.

The room had filled to bursting point and the front row were rammed up against the stage.

It was now Richie Time.

It’s hard to know what to say at this point.  Folks who read the album review I wrote will know that a) Richie is my favourite Ramone and b) he has Alex Fucking Kane and Claire P from Anti-Product in his band.  Given I pretty much think Anti-Product are the Greatest Punk Band Who Ever Walked The Earth this means I’m reviewing from a massive disadvantage – my inner 15 year old fan gurl is fucking squeaking away and my calm 31 year old journalist self is totally relegated.

Richie Ramone. Photo Credit Suzi H

Richie Ramone. Photo Credit Suzi H

Hyperbole aside lets get the objective stuff out of the way.  Richie is not a brilliant singer – he’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not brilliant.  The band are tight though – both Claire and Alex have huge stage presence and work together flawlessly – they’re both born showmen.

Alex Kane. I desperately tried to get a picture that had Alex, Claire and Ritchie in but couldnt. Photo Credit Suzi H

Alex Kane. I desperately tried to get a picture that had Alex, Claire and Ritchie in but couldn’t. Photo Credit Suzi H

What Richie misses in vocal strength, he makes up for on drums and in terms of presence. He has a certain energy on stage which younger front men struggle to emulate – on stage he is utterly sure of exactly who he is, and he doesn’t second guess himself for a second.  From the minute he hit the stage (introduced by Matt Stocks from the Punk Show on Team Rock Radio) to the minute he left the stage and headed for the merch stand, he provided an interactive and high octane sprint through a set that was fast, violent and very, very satisfying.  Of course he played a lot of Ramones stuff – the first pit opened to Somebody put Something In My Drink and from then on it was mosh central until Commando the last track of the encore was played.  Tracks from Entitled received a thunderous reception – Forgotten Years – and Take My Hand were particularly brilliant.  If the enthusiasm of the crowd was anything to go by this is a Triumphant solo debut for The Ramones’ Fastest Drummer and should he release another album (please do), I suspect they won’t be lacking in tour ticket sales.  As gigs go, it was everything my 15 year old self could have wanted, and there’s a whole new generation of fans who were throwing themselves about the place last night to keep happy too.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to try and retrieve my voice and stick ice packs on my pit-related injuries.

Týr, Korpiklaani and Sabaton – Sub89, Reading: 2nd December 2014

Review by Suzi H

Well bugger me if it hasn’t been an EXCELLENT year for gigs in the Southern Tower of Wyrd Ways HQ. Of course, it was absolutely topped off when I discovered that Týr were touring with Korpiklaani and Sabaton.  I’ll be honest and admit that whilst I’ve listened to Korpiklaani in passing more than once, I’ve only listened to one Sabaton album because basically, Cat A threatened me until I did. Both of these are mistakes I intend to rectify.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning!

Regular readers will remember that time I got sent a Týr album and fell more in love with it than I ever thought possible and basically decided that a) Viking/Battle/Folk Metal is the best subgenre of Metal ever, b) Faroese is the sexiest language in the world and c) There might be a band I like (slightly!) more than Turisas.  Anyway, after AltFest got cancelled I spent some of my refund on tickets to see this line up and oh gods do I wish I had the leave from my day job to have managed a few more dates.

Týr were up first, and whilst I was a little annoyed that their set was so short (I wanted a full hour long headlining slot!) what they gave me was not in any way disappointing. I don’t have my usual setlist notes** for any of the bands because I was too busy jumping up and down like a squirrel on acid, however from the opening notes of Blood of Heroes, throughout Hold the Heathen Hammer High, the sheer fucking ephemeral BEAUTY of Grindavisin and Tróndur Í Gøtu (which might actually have been Sinklars Visa, I was enjoying the moment not taking notes!) through to the rage of By The Sword In My Hand and Lady of The Slain it was one of the best gig openings I have ever seen.  The crowd seemed pretty damn happy, and while it was weird being in a crowd with no pit, there was certainly more enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen for an opening band before. Especially when you consider it was a Tuesday night, and the band were on just after 7.30 – I’d only made it for doors by the skin of my teeth!

In short Týr were everything I wanted them to be, although next time I want a headline set and to not be stuck at the back behind all the tall people.

Týr. Photo Credit Suzi H

Týr. Photo Credit Suzi H

Next up Korpiklaani. Now, like I said – I wasn’t a Korpiklaani fan – not because I don’t like them but because I couldn’t name a single Korpiklaani song for you if asked and I am very guilty of muddling them up with Finntroll, much to my esteemed Editor’s despair.  So when 5 seconds into their set a massive mosh pit opened up right in front of me and by the end of their set I had shin splints from jumping up and down really hard in my work boots, no one was more surprised than me. As it turns out Korpiklaani who are *quite good* at folk metal in the traditional recorded on a CD format, are absolutely 100%, pure unadulterated frenzied brilliance in a live setting. The crowd (who appeared to be quite hardcore fans) did not stop moving from the start to the end of the set, and it was one of the most intense crowds I’ve ever been in (more on that later).  Anyway, despite not knowing a single track well enough to name, Korpiklaani did a fine job and I didn’t think the evening could get any better.

Korpiklaani. Photo Credit Suzi H

Korpiklaani. Photo Credit Suzi H

Well I’m a foolish monkey.  Following a rousing burst of Europe’s The Final Countdown, Sabaton burst onto the stage straight into Ghost Division and proceeded to, fuck shit right up. And by that I mean the pits got so intense I, for the first (and only!) time in my life retreated to the back.  Because my poor feet had been jumped enough thank you very much and getting clonked over the head by the 6 ft bloke behind me was the final straw so I gave up and went to observe from a safe distance.  At this point I can only renounce my idiocy at having decided some years back that Sabaton weren’t my sort of band (they write albums about history. I’m a bloody fool. If they could do a nice one about the War of The Roses I’d be well happy).  Anyway, despite some annoying PA problems at the start of the set which were more than covered for by the crowds enthusiastic singing, the set was a storming rush through war, death, glory history and the importance of crowd voting for songs in Swedish or English. I’d also like to commend Sabaton for carrying a decent range of girly fit t-shirt sizes. Thank you for being the first band to carry XL T shirts at a gig I’ve attended!

Sabaton. Photo Credit Suzi H

Sabaton. Photo Credit Suzi H

All in, I haven’t hurt this much after a gig for a while, and the bands on the bill left me wanting more – I’ve been cycling through them all on my playlists since Tuesday night and the next time any of them crop up on my gig listings – I’m there.

IAMOMEGA, The Packhorse, Leeds; 29th August 2014

I haven’t heard of IAMOMEGA before and struggled to find any info about them online. So this is quite unusual, to come at a band completely blind. It’s fun, actually. IAMOMEGA are a three piece comprising of a lead singer/guitarist on a gorgeous Washburn, a drummer and a bassist. We are surprised by powerful vocals, very clear and true. The drums are a bit loud in the mix, like they’ve been set up for a much fuller band. The guitar is lush and effect layered, lots of chorus, which helps full an emptiness in the mix which I feel is not their norm. There’s an unfortunate amount of lead crackling which spoils their opener. Otherwise a tight, progressive sound that errs initially on the side of mellow.

The second song takes care of that, launching lustily into a heavy guitar riff joined by a Tool style vocal harmonising with a simple yet melodic bass line. The groove moves from slow and sensuous to stomping and aggressive without any warning, then breaks down something that speaks of a Deftones influence. Very nice. Complex but enjoyable. This song ends on a metal roar; there’s quite a bit of diversity going on here.

We move into a groove that is reminiscent of Incubus; a funky but slow bass line that crashes into a soaring chorus. These guys blend a heavy thrash with gorgeous melodies that shouldn’t sound as full as they do with just the three of them but does. The regular changes on guitar sound keep it really interesting.

By this point the band have suffered two snapped guitar straps and some sort of dodgy lead issue, yet they continue undeterred. The atmosphere is tense and expectant; clearly a few folks have come out to see I Am Omega tonight and despite technical issues are so far not disappointed.

The front man is versatile; there’s no jumping around or crazy antics, just really good music. He sings in about four different styles, including a sweet almost falsetto that works well in the wind down of a song.

The next tune is mellower again, rooted in a solid, slow rhythm and soft, chorus guitar. The vocals ring out beautifully and I can’t hear a single duff note from the singer. Very unusual in a live setting. The melody continues but suddenly everything is very heavy! This is proper ‘swing your hair in a circle’ rock. Some people do. I’m genuinely impressed.

If there’s one downside to seeing these guys live it’s that they aren’t the most interesting band to watch. They’re quite self disparaging and thank the crowd for ‘not fucking off’, even call themselves ‘difficult to listen to’. I disagree. This is one of the best live sounds I have seen on the local scene for some time. Don’t be so down on yourself guys; we think you are very, very interesting to listen to! As do most of the room who are stood transfixed as yet another melodic yet stomping wonder washed across us.

The penultimate tune is pure summer in the ears; joyous, major melody and some of the crunchiest guitars I have ever heard from a 3 piece. Dynamic is the key word here; they use silence as much as sound to build the song and move effortlessly from gliding bass and gentle vocals to gut thumping guitar and drums.

The final song starts with a delayed guitar that sounds like a synth. The drums join in but leave space for a sweet and pure vocal line to shine through. This song builds gently, less shocking than the others with their sudden changes, but the melody and words are catchy ‘Do you feel like I do, do you feel?// I feel nothing show me something good.’ OK, not exactly massively original but it all works together to build a song folks will walk away humming.

If I don’t hear of this band doing big things in the next couple of years I will be very surprised. The influences are clear but their sound is their own and they have honed it to an incredible level of professionalism. A sheer joy to listen to.

Fat Henry, The Packhorse, Leeds; 29th August

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Fat Henry have the task of livening up this damp and dreary Friday night. It’s not too busy upstairs in The Packhorse, but these guys are not put off at all. A strong and confident start, slightly proggy and melodic, then kicking into pure punk style vocals with grungy guitars. Nice, sharp percussive stops interspersed with sludgy guitar and a gut rumbling bass line.

‘We’re Fa’ ‘Enry!’ Announces singer John ‘Ralph’ Hetherington proudly, whilst drummer Little John screams incoherently from behind his ‘Tubs of Death’.

The second tune is classic ‘boom ching'; more technically known as an allegro 2/4 beat with emphasis on the ‘2’ provided by a much abused snare. The vocals aren’t so much sung as hurled aggressively at the microphone. There’s a confident stage presence, from all members. They clearly love their tunes- every member knows all the words. The standard ‘boom ching’ is cleverly broken up by a neat little hook. There are quite a few nice touches like this. One of the stand out points for this song is Matt ‘Jazz Hands’ Thompson’s amazing bass face.

They flow nicely into the third song, bassist Matt leading the way. There’s elements of The Specials here, especially in the vocal. Some interesting off beats weave their way into the mix; I’m unsure if they are intentional or not. Again, there’s little singing as such, just shouting in harmony.

After a short break and some banter (is the song called Diablo Sex Machina? I’m not sure!) a 3 count from the drummer leads us into a more intricate tune which really allows said drummer to flex his rhythmic muscles. The mix of beats in this is reminiscent of a fusion of western rock and eastern percussive styles. A real counterpoint to the harsh vocals and relentless guitar.

The next song Signals tells us ‘we’re stuck in a rut, where no one gives a fuck’. Back to basics here; dark, heavy with punk overtones.

Moving from punk influence to ska, the drums go double time to start the next song which actually has vocal harmonies that are surprisingly tuneful. The band seem to lose a bit of pace in the faster double time bits, but this is compensated for with raw energy in the caustically catchy chorus. We get a drum break down that is as sweet and rich as chocolate; low and thumping, leading into some professionally stomping riffs layered with a smooth groove on the bass. By far my favourite so far.

We are informed that the next song is by guitarist Jimmy; this is followed up by a bit of a verbal scrap as drummer LJ disputes this! On stage band in-fighting: classic. This track is very punk, very sharp and quirky but also very dark.

Last song excellent, moving away from the punk inspiration and into groove based metal; off beats, melodic guitars and some interesting rhythm changes. The bass flows up and down effortlessly behind and over crunchy, tight guitar. The vocals almost become a percussive instrument leading to a climactic finish. Pure rock.

Sadly there’s a quiet atmosphere for these guys. It’s very early on a Friday night and many of us are still digesting our dinner. Which is a shame as this is real get up and kick your heels music. Still by the end of the night there’s a fair few folks standing to appreciate this energetic, rock out band. Not overly complex, not trying to be clever: just sheer, heavy fun. Recommended.

Thine, The Packhorse, Leeds; 29th August 2014

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Thine disappeared off the scene some years ago, but rocked back into our world this year with new album The Dead City Blue Print, which metalireland.com calls ‘a superb mix of dark accessible rock with amazing songwriting.’

Headlining at the Pack Horse this Friday night, expectations are high as the band have just come back from supporting the Devon Townsend Project at the Assemble in Leamington Spa.

Thine do not disappoint. Front man Alan wows us with effortless stage presence and easy confidence. There is much hair thrashing and monitor mounting. The crowd are singing along and the previously partly empty room is now packed.
‘Into the void’ starts with a beautifully melodic intertwining of guitars and bass with the drums building to some astonishing three part vocal harmonies in a crashing chorus. Thine are heavy in the same vein that Anathema are heavy; there is a bleakness to the words and a crunch and bite that is balanced by gorgeous, glowing melodies that make this band one of the most accessible without compromising their own unique style.

The band are tight and together, flowing with a practiced ease that belies the intricacy of the music. This gives Alan a firm base from which to fly; he knows his band has his back and he can engage the crowd with his slight flamboyance which draws you in.

It’s not just his stage style that impresses though; like every member of Thine, he is note perfect and dedicated to making this music sound good. Thine create a soundscape where although you can hear each individual instrument, none overbears and each contributes to a gorgeous wall of sound.

Running, from 2002 album In Therapy, kicks straight in and is more traditionally ‘rock’ than the newer offerings. The band prove without a doubt that these older songs have passed the test of time, and the test of having been put on the shelf and dusted off for a second outing.

The band are massively focused on their playing which leaves little room for ‘on stage banter'; of course Alan is the main focus so I wouldn’t expect the other members to be exactly jumping around! But they do give the impression of being there to do a job rather than doing what they love. It is mentioned though that they have been spoiled recently by playing on a much larger stage than the pack horse can offer! So perhaps it is the cramped conditions that give this impression.

New track Flame to the Oak carries a bleaker sound: crunchy, heavy and dark. Alan’s vocals step back a little to become one strand in the weave of this track which builds and builds then breaks down again with some enticing guitar melodies.

In Scars from Limbo, two guitars do a melody ‘play off’ before the vocals join in another dark and desperate sounding plea. When the drums kick in, this song is actually a bit generic; formulaic although very well executed. The song is saved from drudgery by Dan Mullins‘ expert touch on the drums with some interesting licks and the guitarist’s excellent feedback slide. Later on we can see this guitarist is doing some mental finger action which looks impressive but we can’t hear it! Bad times sound man, bad times…

The penultimate song has a lovely stomping start and a great melody; this is proper moshing music. The vocals are soaring and true as soon as they start. The three part harmonies make a welcome return- not many bands can pull this off live, but Thine excel at it.

Predictably an encore is demanded by a crowd frothing at the mouth. Thine don’t disappoint. The Rift has a hugely heavy start, dropping a touch lighter to let the vocals break through, then belts back in almost immediately. A relentless powerhouse of a tune.

All in all a triumphant return for Thine; it’s a small venue and a big departure from their recent gigs but they approach playing at The Pack Horse with the same energy and skill as they would any other venue. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, so yourself a favour and check Thine out. Good on CD; amazing live.

Onslaught @ O2 Academy 2 Sheffield, 18/7/2014

On a very pleasant Friday night in the middle of July, at the invitation of Mike Exley of MEPR, who look after Onslaught in the UK, I trekked down the M1 to the O2 Academy 2 in Sheffield to see a band I’ve somehow managed to miss at every single opportunity: the mighty Onslaught!

The Academy2 is nice, intimate club-sized venue, so is something of a sweatbox, especially on the kind of day we’d just had.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing last minute substitution opening act, Demonic Resurrection since I was sat outside in the evening sun having a chat with Sy Keeler.  From what I overheard when a portion of the audience came outside, the reaction to the quintet from Mumbai was very favourable.  Having spoken to one of the band members, we’ll see if we can sort out a Skype interview over the coming weeks.

Next up were one of the very first exponents of European Thrash: Denmark’s very own Artillery, on their first ever tour of the UK.  This was a band that Sy was excited about bringing over, and it was fairly easy to see why.  The Danes are exponents of Proper Heavy Metal – fast riffs and solos coupled with gymnastic vocals in a fairly similar manner to Spreading The Disease-era Anthrax.  Admittedly, they aren’t offering anything new or particularly spectacular, but they deliver a very enjoyable brand of Old School Thrash of the kind you really don’t hear anymore, with the older material blending very well with the newer stuff from their current .  Frontman Michael Bastholm Dahl’s enthusiasm was hugely infectious and his charm coupled with the tightness of the band in general, as you’d expect from a Scandinavian outfit, won them some friends on the night.

Dad... can you play bass in my band, please?

Dad… can you play bass in my band, please?

Then came the main event: Bristol’s very own Onslaught.

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Nige Rockett

Sy Keeler

Sy Keeler

This is most assuredly a band whose name fits them perfectly.  From the very first note played by the quintet, it’s obvious they mean business.  Onslaught have been doing this in it’s current form since 2004 (when they reformed), and thanks to the crystal clear sound quality delivered by The Academy’s rig and the sheer proficiency of the band, they delivered a crushing performance.

The combination of Nige Rockett’s punk-fuelled Thrash riffing and soloing, working together with new boy Leigh Chambers, Sy Keeler’s snarling delivery and the sheer power thundering out of the rhythm section of Mick Hourihan (drums) and Jeff Williams (bass) mean calling them Onslaught really could be classed as a textbook case of nominative determinism.

The classics, such as In Search Of Sanity (“…one I wasn’t on!” said Sy as he introduced the song), Onslaught (Power From Hell) and Let There Be Death were there as you’d expect, as well as a sprinkling from post-reformation albums like Sounds Of Violence and newie, VI.  The musical box tinkling followed by brutal battering of 66Fucking6 generated the night’s first moshpit.  The musical highlights came thick and fast.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the Eastern influence on Children Of The Sand put the lie to that, showing that this band really are at their best when pushing the outside of the envelope.  Onslaught ain’t your Dad’s Thrash band, despite Sy (at least) being the Dad of a teenager!

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Jeff Walker and Sy Keeler

On the evidence of this show, long may it continue.

SONISPHERE FINAL ROUND UP – Cat A

1) Posessions Lost?

Do the tents count? I nearly lost my Headcharge hat again, but I went back for it!

2) Injuries?

Just a couple of bruises it seems, and I found some muscles I forgot I had, stupid hills!

3) Best Food/Vendor?

The Motley Brew. I love those guys so much, I am a tea addict.

4) Most Perfect Moment

Seeing Suzi’s face when she finally got to see Iron Maiden!

5) Worst Moment

It’s a toss up between when the press area ran out of Monster, and the horrendously disappointing sausage sarnie on Sunday morning. If I’m fed and caffeinated I’m happy…

6) Best unexpected band find?

Bleed From Within

7) Set you wish you’d missed?

Deftones

8) Set you wished you hadn’t missed?

Black Dogs

8) Credits-

My wonderful NotEvil Twinnie Suzi H, Mr Carl – the Wyrd Ways almighty overlord, the Noise Cartel for being brilliant all weekend, the bands I spoke to and their PRs and not to mention the Motley Brew for the amazing cups of tea!