Conan – Conjurer – Ba’al: Live at Rebellion, Manchester (UK)

“It’s Pink Floyd turned up to fifty”, my mate said. I’d never heard Waters or Gilmour roar with the same ferocity as Steff, lead vocalist of Sheffield quartet Ba’al, but the band do display a level of progression and turn of pace that would fit in with the Prog legends’ template. The phenomenal power and blackened hostility of the music, however, leaves any such comparisons in the shade. Continue reading

NOIZ All-Dayer, Rebellion, Manchester UK

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He was so deeply huddled under a blanket that it took a while to locate the source of the voice hollering my name. Eytan Wineapple, curator of the rumbling beast that was the NOIZ All-Dayer, initially celebrated its second incarnation looking like death warmed up. After a long couple of days, with Wineapple escorting eventual headliners Dukatalon to Sheffield and back, they eventually bedded down in today’s venue. “They got here around 3 a.m., and I tucked them all in!” joked Rebellion manager and event collaborator Hayley. Five minutes later, the flat-capped Wineapple was bounding around like a madman: putting to serious shame Ghost Cult’s scribe who, twelve hours later, and still nearly three hours from the denouement, interviewed said host in a rather weary and addled fashion…

NOIZ is not your average festival. Displays of album-style art and guitars in various stages of completion (one of which is raffled off later in the day) stand beside the S.O.P.H.I.E. merch stall in the upper level of the club-style venue. A dedicated handful, meanwhile, witness the pulverising Industria of openers Khost: looking for all the world like a couple of local scallies bumbling about on a stage, yet laying waste with a mystical power which deserved a better slot and much more attention. The Birmingham duo’s ambient, crushing set, its implosive chords and guttural scours blending with a wonderful and passionate line in Middle-Eastern vocal samples, ended bang on time: a courtesy that some of the festival’s other performers could have tried harder to match.

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Diemonds – Never Wanna Die

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As much as we celebrate those bands on the cutting edge, the ones that push the sonic boundaries time and time again, sometimes all you really need is some adrenaline inducing, straight up rock. The kind that makes you want to grab a beer, scream along and air guitar like an absolute loon with a massive grin on your face. Toronto, Canada based rockers Diemonds may be relatively new on the block but they deliver such euphoria in absolute abundance already.

Following two well received EPs, Never Wanna Die (Napalm) is the band’s first full length effort and delivers a surprisingly solid release brimming with youthful energy and attitude. Despite the modern thrash looking album cover, this is pretty straightforward hard rock that touches upon just about the standard topics; being rebellious and that red, horned fellow. As cliché as it may prove in part it has a believable defiance about it which saves it from sounding disingenuous and manufactured.

It also helps that much of it is so infectious right from the off. The title track proves a cumbersome start as momentum picks up, and the slower ‘Secret’ proves somewhat cringe-worthy but otherwise this is hook laden and very infectious, coupled with the fact that in Priya Panda they have a front woman with a strong set of pipes and, once again, an engaging and very convincing dangerous streak.

You may need to leave your brain at the door for this one (lyrically there isn’t much to philosophize about), but with their début album Diemonds have proven they are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to penning stupid but immensely fun hard rock, perfect for that aforementioned beer.

 

6.0/10

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

Grave Digger – Return Of The Reaper

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It’s a weird universe where Babylon Whores and earthtone9 are only allowed to release three albums, despite being interesting, unique and intelligent bands, distinctive and critically acclaimed who undersold and vanished into the ether (only to return years later to suffer the same fate) and Grave Digger get to release seventeen albums of middle of the road uninspired dross.

 

Raise your fists and yell… “Fuck off!” For no-one’s favourite band are back! After 30 years of peddling (slightly “harder” than) Running Wild, Judas Priest and Blind Guardian speed and power metal, and 18 years since their best album Tunes Of War (GUN), the ‘Digger release Return Of The Reaper (Napalm).

 

The band is clearly capable of being competent. Axel Ritt can chug, widdle, and chuck out a bog-standard old metal riff with the hordes. Chris Boltendahl is, as always, a slightly more tuneful Cronos, though notably hasn’t improved his range or delivery over the years, and Stefan Arnold holds down that double-bass and uptempo snare beat that all speed metal requires.

 

Presenting eleven more predictable slabs of dated speed metal, the German quintet are so deep in their comfort zone it would be surprising if they got off the sofa while recording. Everything is exactly as expected. ‘Satan’s Host’, possibly the pick of the tracks on offer, sounds like an off cut from Running Wild’s early 90’s output and the remainder is Teutonic 80’s speed metal by numbers with choruses and lyrics so cringe-worthy most teenage thrash bands would have binned them off.

 

 I fail to see the validity of Grave Digger as a current recording artist. They’ve had plenty of chances to say what they’re trying to say, and it wasn’t interesting the last ten times. I wish the band members no ill will, and if people are continuing to support them then fair play to them, why should they pack it in and retire, I just cannot understand who still buys the records of one of the most pointless bands in existence. By all means, tour, do festivals, play the “classics” (do Grave Digger have any classics other than the one about bagpipes?), but no record collection is crying out for a new Grave Digger album in 2014.

 

4.5 / 10

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STEVE TOVEY