Hateful Abandon – Liars/Bastards

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Want some happy music? You know the sort that makes you want to stand up, shout and throw your cares away? The sort that makes sense with beer in hand and shouting along to every chorus…? Then steer well clear of Hateful Abandon as happiness is not a vibe you are going to get from their dystopian vision of a civilisation rotten to the core, its maggot-ridden corpse exposed through musical and lyrical expression. The two-piece from Bristol have carved out something of a cult following with music verging on Killing Joke and Burzum downing fistfuls of barbituates and their latest release Liars/Bastards (Candlelight) is packed with cadaver-ridden angst at the state of 21st Century humanity, all kicking off with the agonised shouts and military drumming of ‘Maze of Bastards’. Its downbeat electronics echoes the sludge of some bands but reaches further through tone and arrangement.

It’s not easy to pick a highlight form Liars/Bastards as it is such an agonised expression of where we have reached in our species evolution. The deceptively upbeat opening of ‘Culprit’ serves to lull the listener into another tale of terror and elsewhere ‘The Test’ opens with a quotation from 1984 that serves to introduce a swirl of keyboards and precision drumming.

Despite their bleak outlook on the world Hateful Abandon declare that they are “not a political band” saying that “we are not preaching to anybody, we merely hold a mirror up to the world. We deal in truth not trickery.” But on ‘There Will Never Be Peace’ there is both their declared penchant for reflecting the world, but it is close to a political statement; a musical single finger thrust at those who would send sons of mothers off to die.

A fair summary of the band, and this album, is on the 10-minute plus closer ‘December’. This where they express themselves, producing an almost epic take on industrial metal and electronica in its purest form with Swine’s drum lines providing a subtle underscore that ensures the keys and vocals don’t disappear up their own ass, something that they stray close to on other tracks.

Vice Martyr and Swine may not want to be anyone’s rock heroes, but there is a distinct feeling that to progress they are going to have to stretch their sound a little further. That this release clocks in at less than 45 minutes suggests that either they have much more to come, or their material takes an inordinate amount of time to emerge.

Either way – this is an “enjoyable” experience in the sense that its’ very bleakness is a cathartic listen; confirming what we know about the world, and with the hope that this form of art can really inspire action in some future time. A good album, if not a great one, it is nevertheless intriguing.

 

7.0/10

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JONATHAN TRAYNOR

Maverick – Quid Pro Quo

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They say rock and metal is dead… If so no-one told the 10-legged monster of rock and metal from Northern Ireland that is Maverick who, in a true 80s cliché, are coming your way. The band’s début release on Massacre, Quid Pro Quo is a heady, high octane take on ‘retro’ rock.

Already familiar thanks to a video release ‘Paint By Numbers’ is a fist in the face of hipsters, scenesters, and fashionistas, but ‘Got It Bad’ is where listener has to make up their mind, and where some may shy away from Maverick. It is a great song, and had it been released in the mid-80s it would have been on constant rotation on AM radio in the US – itt’s as catchy as Ebola in Sierra Leone, while vocalist David Balfour showcases his range on ‘Snakeskin Sinner’ and ‘Electric’, and Ryan Sebastian Balfour’s tasteful, melodic soloing complements the sound throughout

But do we need another band who re-tread the sound of Ratt, Crue, MTV-era Whitesnake, Y&T etc? The love of music is at the heart of the Maverick matter and is dealt with on ‘In Our Blood’ as David declares when younger he would “put all my CDs on and have a concert in my room”. On the other hand the track ‘One More Day (Quid Pro Quo)’ deals with serious matters in a narration of the real personal toll the conflict in Northern Ireland took.

Whether it be the lusting or the longing; whether it is ranting or the wrongdoing of paramilitaries; or whether it is just heads down hard rockin’ Maverick know that telling the tale within each song is about composition and depth. Sure you can write off this release too easily as looking back at a lost time, this simply about declaring their love of the era that spawned so much modern rock and metal.Maverick have produced a chest thumping, raucous, powerful, pounding, melodic release oozing with passion as the Maverick monster pounds all into submission on Quid Pro Quo, as if the 80s never went away

 

9.0/10

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JONATHAN TRAYNOR

 

Stubb – Cry Of The Ocean

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With the profusion of proto-metal, stoner, psychedelic rock acts about the question is, do we really need another one? Zodiac, Blue Pills, Scorpion Child and a host of others are now joined by Stubb and their second full-length release Cry of the Ocean (Ripple). Everything fuzzed up, riffs repeated ad infinitum and laid back languid vocals it would seem that Stubb have all the ingredients to fit into the psych, blues locker and roll out success.

But there is a problem; at times it seems that all the ingredients are part of a formula. It is only by the time track four, ‘Sail Forever’ kicks in that the sense of individualism comes through, as Jack Dickinson’s vocals rise above his intricate guitar work. The ability to put together such involved work is on display on ‘Heartbreaker’, but Dickinson’s vocal performance this time is reminiscent of an off-key punk doing a ballad during the verses, however, when it kicks in it turns into a good track which displays the potential of the band. Stand-out track ‘Devil’s Brew’ has a sense of purpose to the blues tinged classic rock feel as Christopher West (drums) and Peter Holland (bass) drive the track along, though

Throughout this release there is no doubt of the potential in Stubb; but someone needs to sit them down, take that potential (and musical ability) and slap it into shape. At times they stray into early Pink Floyd, Iron Butterfly and Cream territory so much so that it might be best to take any albums they have of those acts away from them until they can work on their own sound, and Dickinson’s vocals range from bluesy to sounding like Roger Waters giving a lecture on life’s lessons.

Despite these criticisms, what Stubb have produced is a solid album within their chosen genre, with the final two tracks –‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’ – showcasing what they can do when they focus. The space the seven-minutes plus of each track allows is enough to doff a cap at what Stubb might become. Overall, this not a bad release, but has too many flaws to make it an essential part of collections of fans of this type of rock.

 

5.0/10

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JONATHAN TRAYNOR

Ace Frehley – Space Invaders

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When Ace Frehley declared on his Frehley’s Comet track ‘Rock Soldiers’, that The Devil said “Hey Frehley, Frehley, let’s not be silly, There’s a life out there to steal” he maybe didn’t perhaps mean that the Space Ace would be stealing from his own past life. On his latest release, Space Invader (eOne Music), Frehley is re-treading his work from Kiss, his early ‘Kiss’ solo album, and Frehley’s Comet, but that’s not always a bad thing. However, too often on this album the retro-feel misses a mark that could be hit by adding some more contemporary touches.

The first four tracks from Space Invader offer a promising taste of what the Space Ace can achieve. Title track, ‘Space Invader’ ‘Gimme a Feelin’, ‘I Wanna Hold You’, and ‘Change’ all nod to the past, while at the same time have Frehley’s flourishes. ‘I Wanna Hold You’ in particular has a garage band feel, while the mid-paced ‘Change’ has subtleties buried within, nodding to Frehley’s Comet days. But the rest of the release is patchy, with ‘Immortal Pleasures’ not containing the pleasures promised by this slowed down track. Equally ‘Inside the Vortex’ flops around without the direction and arrangement that could have boosted its sound. By contrast the next track ‘What Every Girl Wants’ has the right balance of cheesiness and catchy choruses and chest-out verses.

Just as Kiss occasionally dabbled in cover versions, Frehley turns in a nice version of Steve Miller’s ‘The Joker’, a relief after his voice struggles on ‘Past The Milky Way’ and ‘Reckless’ bores its way to boredom. The saving grace throughout the album is Frehley’s ability on his beloved six-string, no better exemplified than on closing instrumental ‘Starship’.

Throughout there is a feeling that Ace could have done with an ‘Ace’ collaborator. He wrote almost all of the tracks, played guitar and bass on most tracks (Matt Starr and Anton Fig are on drums and Chris Wyse takes a turn on ‘What Every Girl Wants’ and ‘Starship’). The single-mindedness of Frehley’s vision on Space Invader is both its saving grace and its downfall. The guitar work is superb throughout, with minimal use or effects, and a clear tone. But the patchy nature of the album suggests that it could have done with an iron hand in writing and production to get the Space Ace into orbit on Space Invader.

6.0/10.0

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JONATHAN TRAYNOR

Triggerman- Origins, Lost Travellers & Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven EP

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When it comes to the Northern Ireland metal scene one of the most respected bands are Londonderry four-piece, Triggerman, who have had some A&R men seriously tempted in the past to sign them…

 

For those new to Triggerman they are a four-piece who deliver hard rocking groove in buckets. And with singer Bap, they have cornered the market in ‘Preacher Metal’ as the vocalist and guitarist releases gruff rants as if from the pulpit. The opener on this three-track ‘Origins’ is the perfect example of this, as Bap challenges the stories of where humanity came from.

 

‘The Lazarushian’ allows Niall (guitar), Rory (drums) and Dixie (bass) to swing like Glenn Miller playing Hawkwind. The EP closer, ‘Valhalla’ is an ode to the afterlife, where according to Bap there’s rock ‘n’ roll, whiskey and beer. As a follow-up to their last album, ‘Hail to the River Gods’ this EP is a perfect exposition of where Triggerman are: still rocking, still playing ‘Preacher Metal’.

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8.5/10

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http://www.triggerman.co.uk/

 

Jonathan Traynor

Stormzone – Donum Dei: Live At Diamond Rock Club, Northern Ireland

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A Bloodstock rehearsal with a difference

When Stormzone announced a pre-Bloodstock Open Air show on Saturday 26thJuly at the Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill, Northern Ireland fans could have been forgiven for expecting a 30-45 minutes run through.

 

Instead they had a real treat as the band played 20+ song in a two-hour set, all based on fan requests – this wasn’t so much of a warm-up as a treat for an audience.

 

Opening for Stormzone were the youthful Donum Dei, who have been making remarkable strides in harnessing their music recently, with the track ‘Justice Fails’ a highlight of a tremendous opening slot.

 

Stormzone have become festival favourites across Europe in recent years, their classic metal vibe hitting the spot everytime with well-judged melodies combined with searing solos and serious riffage.

 

Front man, Harv is the perfect leader of the troupe, hitting high notes and stalking the stage. His easy banter when not screaming out the songs is perfect for this home turf show, as he jokes with the audience and passes out ‘goodie’ bags to those who managed to have their requests played.

 

With a Sonisphere slot now behind them this year the band could have looked on this as a relaxed way to ease themselves into the groove for Bloodstock. Instead they delivered a full speed assault with the twin guitars of Steve Moore and Davey Shields trading solos and merging with perfect riffs.

 

With the title track of the recent Three Kings album one of the highlights, when the band sing Where We Belong, it is clear that this band belongs on the live circuit.

 

‘The Pass Loning’ and ‘Cuchulian’ were an opportunity for Davy Bates to shine, and Graham McNulty shrugging off technical issues with his rig to lock down the bass.

 

Bates was a constant beaming presence behind the kit, standing on top of his drum stool at one point cajoling all in the room to clap along,

 

What was evident from the performance was the range of songs on display from epics such as ‘The Legend Carries On’ and ‘Death Dealers’ trough to the melodic ‘Crying In The Rain’ and ‘Tugging on Your Heartstrings’.

 

If this was a performance for a local audience it had at times the feel that the band were playing for A&R men, not for a crowd that ranged from toddlers to (almost) pensioners.

 

With such a positive response to their Sonispehere set, what is sure that there will be a Storm(zone) front blowing away all in its path with a contemporary hard rockin’ stunner of a set. And, I can confidently pen those words weeks ahead of their appearance, such is the quality of Stormzone.

 

 


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JONATHAN TRAYNOR