Pallbearer – Heartless

I can already read the social media potshots. With their latest LP, Heartless (Nuclear Blast/Profound Lore), Pallbearer are likely set to be the next whipping boy for metal elitists. It’s what happens after those trolls feel like you’ve gotten a little too much love from traditionally non-metal circles. Just look at the amount of shit Nails got for just having a brief Rolling Stone write-up. Continue reading

Conan – 11 Paranoias: Camden Underworld, London, UK

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The underground music scene in the UK is now so diverse, so rich and so productive, that it is sometimes pretty hard to keep up with what’s going on half the time. It was therefore with a mixed sense of excited anticipation and a small amount of “I’m not all that familiar with their work” nervousness that your humble scribe arrived at the Camden Underworld, keen to see out the drab grey month of October with some ferocious band watching. However, thanks to a combination of bad food and bad planning on my part, I only arrived at the Camden Underworld at around 9pm but just in time to see 11 Paranoias hit the stage.

11 Paranoias have a brilliant collective intelligence and their approach to music making reflects this in spades. With interests that veer across supernaturally slow doom, stoner and psychedelia, 11 Paranoias treated a knowledgeable and discerning audience to an exercise in music-making that thrilled the head as much as the heart. What impressed about 11 Paranoias were three things: the crediting of their audience with intelligence, their air of mystery but, above all, the ability to shift gear and tenor at the drop of a – ahem – hi-hat. This was a set of rich, powerful tunes, held together by some exemplary playing and occasionally breathtakingly thrilling music. Rarely can the impending coming of Armageddon have sounded so ethereal or quite so odd.

Having not really known what to expect, aside from my Twitter feed telling me they’d been awesome at Roadburn Festival earlier this year, this was one of those gigs that could have gone either way. I should have had more faith; they were absolutely, unequivocally excellent and I’m a fool for having doubted them.

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By the time Conan actually hit the stage at the absurdly late (says he showing his considerable age) time of 10.10pm you got the sense that this was going to be a show about validation. 2014 has been a good year for Conan and this show reinforced and reconfirmed exactly why. That brief moment in early March when every hipster in the land decided that this sludgy doom stuff was for them seems to have (thankfully) passed and this was an audience of the dedicated, the informed and the passionate. Pretty much every journalist will tell you how a band hit the ground running but, honestly, opening your set with a pounding and relentless Crown of Talons is just what the music doctor ordered. To follow it up with an equally brutal Total Conquest and Foehammer had everyone grinning from ear to ear whilst the band casually get down to the business of pounding you some more.

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Particular mention should be given to new sticksman, Rich Lewis, who hits his drums as hard as anyone I’ve seen since that little old masked band from Iowa. It is an education and revelation to listen to him; he’s definitely added something to the band’s live power and the band’s cohesion is markedly improved.

As you might expect with latest album Blood Eagle (Napalm) still fresh in the mind, most of the set comes from those glorious grooves, but long-time fans will have welcomed the addition of an epic rendition of ‘Krull’ from Horseback Battle Hammer (Throne) and a seemingly neverending ‘Monnos’, which closed a set that was everything and more that you hoped it would be – irascible, irreverent, inimitable.

Great, in other words.

 

Conan Setlist

Crown of Talons

Total Conquest

Foehammer

Hawk As Weapon

Gravity Chasm

Horns For Teeth

Krull

Satsumo

Monnos

 

Words and Photos by MAT DAVIES

The Dagger – The Dagger

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You’d be forgiven for thinking The Dagger, a band featuring former members of Grave and Dismember, might be a bit scuzzy. A bit riffy. A bit, denim-jackety. And, well, a bit Death Metally. You’d be forgiven, but you’d be very wrong. The Dagger (Century Media) swims in a different pool of influences to the past escapades of its protagonists, swinging its pants at Classic Rock and proto-NWOBHM with plenty of Deep Purple, Sin After Sin era Priest and The Who prevalent in the sound.

 

The first thing to note is the astonishing attention to detail. The Dagger doesn’t just reference these bands or that period, it has been painstakingly crafted to sound like it was recorded in the 70’s, finding those classic warm Fender guitar tones, that fuzzy bass groove and that thick Ian Paice pound and tickle on the skins. Vocalist Jani Kataja could well be singing on Very ‘eavy… Very ‘umble both in terms of his own delivery, but also in terms of the meticulously recreated rock sound playing around him.

 

But life is not all aesthetics, and while The Dagger has the tones, does it have the tunes? Opener ‘Ahead Of You All’ suggests so, as does the Mott The Hoople inspired ‘1978’ with its tales of weekend warriors and the Iommi worshipping Mob Rules of ‘Dogs Of Warning’. Elsewhere ‘Electric Dawn’ could have been one of the songs Iron Maiden left behind at the Ruskin Arms as they strode towards a recording contract, and ‘Call Of 9’ is all Blackmore stomp and swagger.

 

But for all the smiles it induces, for all that it is an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes, you can’t but think that while the sounds can be replicated, for all the homage being paid, one thing that can’t be copied or magicked out of nowhere is greatness. Where are the distinctive, iconic riffs, and timeless choruses of the Purples, Rainbows, Mountains? The Dagger are a good band, losing the listener in a bygone age, but this album holds no ‘Speed King’, let alone a ‘Child In Time’. (Try and) sound like the true legends and you will invariable come off the worse for the comparison.

 

But, when the twin guitars bring in ‘Inside The Monolithic Dome’ like Saxon’s ‘Strangers In The Night’, or ‘The Dark Cloud’ dances like it belongs on a Di’Anno era Maiden album, The Dagger can be forgiven their indulgences in paying reverence to their forebears.

 

7.0/10.0

The Dagger on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY