Kylesa Live

Kylesa live Brudenell Social Club, Leeds January 31st 2014

Originally published in Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine Issue 163 – April 2014

Kylesa live

Lamb Of God Live

Lamb Of God Big Cheese 1 Lamb Of God Big Cheese 2

Originally published in Big Cheese Magazine Issue 164. February 2014

Photography by Emma Stone


Vista Chino & Monster Truck Live





Originally published on 3/12/2013

The inaugural night of this U.K. jaunt see’s the Welsh wonders ascending to the giddy heights of arena rock touring. The show is far from sold out with many empty seats on this cold December night but the arena floor is fit to bursting point with a youthful, enthusiastic audience. Before we see how Bullet For My Valentine fair on the big stage, we get two hungry British acts chomping at the bit to stake their claim to the Brit-rock throne.

Openers Young Guns attempt to warm us up with their brand of emotive pop rock. Despite suffering sound issues early on which makes the vocals inaudible for much of the first number the lads plug away regardless like true professionals. The audience’s response remains relatively tame until closing number ‘Bones’ with a dynamic chorus the number manages to get the crowd singing along. Perhaps a less metal orientated audience would be more applicable for this act but unfortunately, this was not their night despite a gutsy showing.

The reception afforded to Asking Alexandra is far more enthusiastic. The spiky metalcore band are by far the heaviest act on the bill with their post Killswitch Engage screamo angst being aimed squarely at the audience of disaffected teenagers. Whilst Danny Worsnop’s harsh vocals lack powerful distortion to back them up, the York based act make up for their downfalls by delivering an energetic performance. The bright side is that Asking Alexandra may be the gateway act for many younger fans to discover far more edgy new artists.

With a flagrant disregard for their own personal space, fans are pinned to the barrier in anticipation of tonight’s headliners. Bullet For My Valentine have made a career from combining diluted thrash riffs with pop choruses something which has drawn as much criticism as praise but once the union flag covering the stage falls to signal their arrival the reception that greets them is thunderous.

Blazing pyrotechnics accompany ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’ but while Matt Tuck may garner much female attention it soon becomes glaringly apparent that the band look lost on a stage this size. Aside from headbanging on the spot there is little movement onstage and while Tuck utilised the ramp at the rear of the stage their performance is delivered somewhat cautiously.

The rest of the band offer little to back their frontman up either, content to perform their parts on the spot. Although guitarist Padge delivers a decent, if heavily Metallica influenced solo spot. Unfortunately the band seem to lack the energy of acts many years their senior, perhaps some of this can be attributed to this being the first night of the tour.

Their easily digestible pop metal sees the crowd bringing the energy, with ‘Your Betrayal’ provoking several moshpits’ gleefully throughout the arena. Whilst Bullet For My Valentine may not be classed as edgy or inventive their songs have hooks a plenty. Tuck is James Hetfield in espadrilles and whilst the band are nowhere near the calibre of their heroes there is a certain charm that comes from knowing the band were weaned on classic rock and metal.

Adopting a slower tempo ‘Bittersweet Memories’ receives a muted response but a medley of hits including early number ‘Hand Of Blood’ brings the crowd back on side. Questions of authenticity will still haunt them, especially after a lacklustre encore spearheaded by an unnecessary pub rock cover of Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ with Tuck giving a cringeworthy speech about Rock N’ Roll and a patronising dedication to “The older members of the audience”. The saccharine ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ brings the curtain down on the show with a whimper rather than a bang. Tonight saw a proficient but unspectacular outing for the Brit Metal foursome who have much work left to do if they are to cut it at this level. I am hopeful that the energy in their performance will gain momentum throughout the remaining of their UK tour.

Ross Baker

Audrey Horne Live

Audrey Horne, The Mercy House & Sahg Live

@ NQ Live Manchester, UK


Originally published on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website 14/07/2013

Following the acclaim Audrey Horne have received following the release of current albumYoungblood it’s a shame that more punters haven’t chosen to venture down to NQ Live for this promising triple bill.

Sahg 1Sahgdon’t let the sight of a half empty venue phase them. The room is sounding huge tonight suiting the bands classic rock tinged doom to a tee. Embellishing opener ‘The Executioner Undead’ with a snippet of the Thin Lizzyclassic ‘The Emerald’ doesn’t hurt either. ‘Firechild’ suggests good things to come from the band’s as yet untitled fourth album with the combined vocals of Olavand bassist Tony providing some spine tingling harmonies which suggest their finest hour could soon be upon us.

Londoners The Mercy House are a recent addition due to Ancient VVisdom needing to pull out a couple of weeks prior to the tour. The quintet’s downtuned guitars recall Loud Love era Soundgarden yet as the set wears on, the lack of varying tempos and the screeching vocals become quite the irritant. A sub standard version of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Freedom’ does little to help their cause. Singer Drew has a mean vocal range yet when the over the top histrionics are discarded the songs have very little to say for themselves.

Audrey Horne 2Enter sharp dressed headliners Audrey Hornewho possess both stage presence and musicianship in abundance! Every band member is a hive of activity oozing star power from every pore. Numbers from current platter Youngblood are doled out with the crowd cheering and pumping their fists straight from the kick off. The twin guitars of Thomas Tofthagen andEnslaved six stringer Ice Dale are phenomenal and Toschie is impossible to ignore, getting into the front row’s faces and throwing shapes while delivering huge vocal harmonies atop the mountainous fretwork which give songs like ‘It Ends Here’ their kick. ‘Cards For The Devil’ is another with a scything Judas Priest phrasing leading to a dynamic chorus.  The crowd lap up everything the band throws at them with Toschie diving into the audience who fling their arms around him in joyous camaraderie. A constant blur of kinetic energy with an abundance of hooks and personality this may be a small club but it has the feel of a stadium tonight. While their name may refer to a character from mysterious David Lynch film and series Twin Peaks, their music is no high art expressionism just pure modern heavy rock played with a bucket load of heart and soul.

Audrey Horne, The Mercy House & Sahg
NQ Live Manchester
May 1st 2013
Ross Baker
Photos: Fabiola Santini

Hellfest 2013 Report

hellfest logo 2

Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website 08/07/2013

Turning in another formidable line up which featured some very safe bets, attendance wise, on the main stages but a fantastic representation of extreme music with a clutch of acclaimed Doom, Stoner, Death and Black Metal acts on the Temple, Altar and Valley stages France’s premier metal event Hellfestshowed once again the blue print many U.K. festivals would do well to follow. When it comes to carefully staggering stage times with two adjacent main stages and the two tents containing three other stages, the only excuse for missing any of the action is purely because of the exhaustion of rushing between catching so many scintillating sounds. The headline acts may have been fairly average yet at least the appearance of Danish rockers Volbeat in a coveted headliner role was a bold move even though the band is clearly unready to occupy such a position.

Day One

The inaugural day saw brooding homeland act The Great Old Ones deliver a tight early performance of cold post Black Metal before England’s Black Spiders deliver a shoot from the hip set of the slick hard rock we have come to expect from them. ‘Stay Down’ and ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’ ooze confidence, suggesting their rise up the bill may be imminent. The audience may have responded to Pete Spiby’s call to shout “Fuck You Black Spiders” but they won several new friends today.

Hellfest 1Sludge duo Eagle Twin deliver a vital sermon over on the valley incorporating mournful monologues within crushing doom overtures. Massive obelisks of distortion tempered with Gentry Densley channeling the spirit of Leonard Cohen with his rasping overtone vocals lending atmosphere to his glacial arrangements.

Sleazing up main stage two, Sweden’s Hardcore Superstar‘s call and response glam metal has more than one buxom beauty dancing. Frontman Jocke Berg may look a dead ringer for Wednesday 13 but his voice is all his own. While not a complete success there is no arguing with numbers like “Last Call For Alcohol” and “Fuck The Law” with even the sun coming to join the pa

Bison BC are a revelation on the valley. Considering that Mastodon and Baroness have apparently left their heavier roots behind them, this mighty beast harnesses their early work with a hardcore bluster which makes for an exhilarating experience. They tore through an ultra high energy set of Neanderthal riffery, harking back to the days before Mastodon decided to distance themselves from sheer brute power. Last year’s Lovelessness showed an act brimming with confidence and the audience remains transfixed by the onslaught the Canadians bring with bassist Masa Anzai ferociously destroying his instrument at the climax of their scorching performance even handing broken pieces of his bass to the audience along with the guitar case for good measure: a true celebration of metal’s life affirming power.

By contrast Evoken‘s funeral doom is ghastly and grim yet lacks staying power. Alternating between slow mournful melodies and fractured death metal, they have moments of high drama but many build ups end in little pay off.

Math metal act Between The Buried And Me posses much technical dexterity yet their disjointed arrangements, poorly executed vocals and lacklustre stage presence fail to impress.

Hellfest 2Thankfully the quality entertainment resumes with the appearance of virtuosos Alex Skolnick and Gene “the machine” Hoglan who propel thrash legendsTestament through a searing white hot set of technical ecstasy. ‘Native Blood’ is fantastic with Chuck Billy feeding off the monstrous instrumentalists which flank him in addition to the rapturous response from the faithful. ‘Practice What You Preach’ has the moshpit going bananas and recent material shows that the veteran act remains as vital as ever.

Returning to the valley Black Breath delivers a lesson in sonic violence. Their vicious thrust puts the speakers to the test but some of their mid paced material lacks the impact of the breakneck intensity which made them so vital when they burst into the scene a few years ago.

The late arrival of Ireland’s Primordial sees their set cut to a mere three songs and while their Celtic bombast is impressive, Kreator’s performance over on Stage Two is a tough act to follow with the German act pulling off a typically crushing set of extreme aggression.

The eerie darkness of the valley is the idyllic setting for post metal godfathers Neurosis. Drifting between delicate Neil Young Americana and towering obelisks of distortion, Neurosis have truly transcended all the boundaries which sought to confine their majestic powers. The Oakland quintet’s desolate, earth ravaging soundscapes like ‘Distil’ are powered by shaman like vocal mantras and dense percussion. Still, even without the visuals of Josh Graham their music is as emotive and raw as it gets with messers Von Till and Kelly as compelling a songwriting team as can be. Colossal finale ‘Locust Star’ is ominous yet triumphant from a seminal act which richly deserves their revered status.

Day Two

Hellfest 3Audrey Horne take the stage like they own it with the party vibe in full swing despite the wet weather.Toschie is a whirlwind of activity and guitarists and Ice Dale exude star power and classic rock cool. Songs like ‘There Goes A Lady’ and ‘Pretty Little Sunshine’ suggest that Europe is catching on to one of Norway’s finest rock exports.

The much touted Uncle Acid And The Deadbeatsturn out to be a massive anticlimax. While groovy and engaging on record they choose to begin with a couple of slow numbers, showing little ability to connect with the audience with Yotam Rubinger seeming more interested in picking up a joint from a lady in the photo pit than playing their opening number. After this lacklustre beginning, business picks up when ‘Cut You Down’ is introduced but however it’s a poor showing from the much touted act. Let’s hope they perform better when they open for Black Sabbath in July.

Witchcraft show us how it’s done having been rumoured to be off the bill due to illness it is great to see the Swedes deliver a ripping set of doom flavoured classic rock with frontman Magnus Pelander in fine form looking relieved to be unencumbered by an instrument leaving the soaring fretwork to the able team of Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius.’Deconstruction’ and the marvellous ‘It’s Not Because Of You’  show an act at the peak of their powers and indeed the whole scene they occupy.

The sad news of Neil Fallon’s father passing away meant Down would pull double duty replacingClutch. Today’s main stage performance sees Phil Anselmo showing his respect to the Maryland act delivering righteous versions of ‘Stone The Crow’ and ‘Losing All’ before the all star Crowbar, Eyehategod, Pantera cover set that Sunday was treated to.

Hellenic titans and veterans of Hellfest Rotting Christ pull out a stellar set of melodic black metal before Finns Amorphis put cuts from new opus Circle to the test which they pass with flying colours such is the power of tracks like “Nightbird’s Song”.

Day Three

Hellfest 6Gojira’s power is unfathomable. It is a wonder how the quiet Duplantier brothers formed the best sibling act since a young Sepultura first rose to prominence. ‘Toxic Garbage Island’ and ‘From The Sky’ are fantastic with the lads clearly happy to be on home soil.

Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen is a supreme talent however their high drama power symphonics would be of little consequence without his sterling efforts.

Over at the Altar, Portuguese Gothic MetallersMoonspell deliver a rich tapestry of numbers delicately woven from their sterling back catalogue with Fernando Riberiro leading the band through towering anthems like ‘Night Eternal’. The folksy ‘Ataegina’ is a surprising addition which, while quite different from the band’s heavier material, has fans square dancing in gleeful merriment. When was the last time you saw a Gothic band that could do this?

By contrast Danzig’s set in the Valley, having traded places with Ghost, is somewhat frustrating. Solo anthems Like the raunchy ‘She Rides’ and the appearance of muscle-bound monster man Doyle to treat us to a set of Misfits classics make for great entertainment but Glenn clearly struggles to sing many of the high notes tarnishing a potentially great performance.

Ghost: Swapping to take Danzig’s headline set on Stage Two was genius. Satanic magic to the masses. Thrilling melodic hard rock meets soaring orchestration. How fitting their first headline set would be Hellfest! ‘Elizabeth’ the hymn to Countess Bathory and more recent incantations such as Beelzebub waltz ‘Secular Haze’ are fantastical worthy alternatives to the pomp and screech ofCradle Of Filth on the Temple Stage. In pitch dark under a full moon having begun well after the witching hour, it’s a fittingly memorable way to conclude the epic 2013 edition of Hellfest. ‘Stand By Him’ explains it all. It’s the night of the witch tonight! Able to improvise, providing a fantastic spectacle and catchy songs to boot. Believe the hype. Satan commands you! Shockingly the pa shuts down during ‘Genesis’ temporarily banishing the Ghouls from the spotlight. Thankfully they emerge triumphantly for ‘Year Zero’. The towering ‘Gulleh/Zombie Queen’ and ‘Monstrance Clock’ conclude a set in which nothing could derail an act which looks set to enjoy all the success acts like Slipknot have attained. A magnificent conclusion to an event the dark lord would smile upon.

Hellfest 2013
June 21-34
Clisson, France
Words: Ross Baker
Photos: Mark Davies