Unless you keep one eye permanently fixed on the European power metal scene, the chances are you might not have heard of Swedish act Majestica. You’ll have probably have heard of ReinXeed though, and – no matter what your opinion of them might be – you’ll definitely have heard of Sabaton. The link between them all? Guitarist Tommy Johansson. Continue reading
Check out all of today’s new releases in the music world! Continue reading
Symphonic Power Metal band Serenity is back with a new album, Lionheart (Napalm), and they are strong as ever. As on previous album Codex Atlanticus, which explored the life and writings of Leonardo DaVinci, the band’s passion for history inspired the themes and lyrics of the album. Continue reading
In this exclusive album preview for Ghost Cult, Wintersun mastermind Jari Mäenpää discusses is his biggest musical influences. You can watch the video below. Continue reading
Finland’s Tuska open-air metal festival is celebrating their twentieth anniversary in a very cool way. Continue reading
It was unfortunate that the first thing I noticed after entering the impressive Genting Arena for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was a seriously poor collection of t-shirts at the merchandise stand. How difficult would it have been to produce a nice black shirt with the Rising cover on the front and the single NEC date splashed across the back for a smugness level of 11? Mind you, you did get a free Blackmore’s Night CD with every purchase, so there was that, I suppose.
Support act Mostly Autumn were up first, and shorn of a member or two, could realistically have been called Mostly Mostly Autumn for the evening. Hard rock with a celtic edge, singers Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn sounded fantastic, but you felt they would have been far better suited to a much smaller stage.
And so to the only reason people were in attendance. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Arriving on stage to a recording of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ the lengthy intro was completed by a sound clip of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz followed by Blackmore playing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ while accompanied by the loud and rapturous applause of everyone inside the sold out venue.
Opening properly with Deep Purple‘s ‘Highway Star’, it was lift-off inside the arena as everyone sang along with relatively unknown vocalist Ronnie Romero at the top of their voices. However, even at such an early stage in proceedings it was clear that Ritchie was not on top form. Well, how could he be? He’s 71 with the onset of arthritis and recovering from a recent operation on one of his fingers. This wasn’t Blackmore at the height of his pomp, this was an ageing Blackmore doing his very best his fingers would allow. His guitar sound wasn’t great, he stayed pretty much rooted to the spot, steadfastly refusing to move to the other side of the stage even for a couple of minutes, and he appeared to be playing everything a little slower and a lot more staccato than the studio material everyone knows so well. But he was there. It’s a distinct possibility that Black Sabbath won’t sound their absolute best when they play their final show here next year, but you know it’ll go down as a classic regardless of their performance, and it was the same for Rainbow last night. Blackmore might not be able to let his fingers fly like they used to, restricting his solos to bluesy licks and scales, occasionally throwing in short bursts of speed when needed, but he still gave it his all and the gig will still be talked about for a long time to come.
If it wasn’t for Blackmore, vocalist Ronnie Romero might well have stolen the show last night. I’d never heard of him or his band Lords of Black until very recently, but if there’s any justice in this world then he’ll have a big future ahead of him. He belted out Ronnie James Dio‘s Rainbow tracks with complete authority and his voice was nothing short of spectacular. He handled the Ian Gillan stuff incredibly well too, showing the right amount of power and emotion, with only ‘Child In Time’ being a bridge too far for his ability as he let the two female backing singers take the ridiculously high notes for him while he continued in a lower register. Keyboard player Jens Johannson, stolen for this brief run from Finnish Power Metallers Stratovarius excelled in his role as Ritchie’s foil, playing off the guitar parts and taking over when he needed to. His playing even turned a predictably tedious drum solo into something actually worth listening to.
Mixing just about the right amount of Purple and Rainbow material, Blackmore always had the audience on side, and God help me, I’m sure I even saw him crack a smile on a couple of occasions. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, ‘Spotlight Kid’, ‘Mistreated’, ‘Perfect Strangers’, and ‘Soldier of Fortune’ were brilliant. ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ turned into a massive sing along, and ‘Stargazer’ was phenomenal. However, ‘Black Night’ sounded a little twee, and you’d think the guy who wrote ‘Smoke on the Water’ would be able to play it in time. The few first bar was off by about half a beat and it took a few seconds to get back into it. ‘Since You Been Gone’ was another huge sing along and ‘Catch The Rainbow’ although played well, just wasn’t as good as when Opeth played it at Bloodstock Open Air shortly after Ronnie James Dio died. That version was a serious shivers down the spine moment, while last night it just lacked something special. Thankfully, the omission of the hugely overrated ‘I Surrender’ helped make up for this.
A massively enjoyable evening where everyone went home with daft grins, thoroughly happy that they’d seen someone called Ronnie sing Rainbow songs with Ritchie Fucking Blackmore on the stage.
Land of Hope and Glory/Over the Rainbow (intro)
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Soldier of Fortune
Difficult to Cure/Drum Solo
Catch the Rainbow
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Child in Time
Smoke on the Water
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Gloryhammer are a Swiss/Scottish five piece, founded by Alestorm‘s Christopher Bowes. Referring to themselves as “Heroic Fantasy Power Metal Warriors”, they write songs like ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’, they have a drummer called Ralathor, the Mysterious Hermit of Cowdenbeath, and are quite clearly madder than a sack of badgers.
Most importantly though, Gloryhammer are also ridiculously entertaining. If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards (Napalm) without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.
Opening with ‘Infernus Ad Astra’, quite possibly the most Star Trek introduction ever, the story (of course there’s a story) begins in the distant future of 1992 and war, as always seems to be the case in science fiction, has returned to the galaxy. Apparently, it’s been 1000 years since Angus McFife defeated the evil Sorcerer Zargothrax in the battle of Dunfermline, but now a cult of unholy chaos wizards are planning to release Zargothrax and unleash him upon the universe again.
The absolute bastards.
The album kicks off properly with ‘Rise of the Chaos Wizards’, a song which not only pumps the purest Rhapsody of Fire blood furiously through its veins, but also happens to be better than anything either incarnation of that band have produced since going their separate ways. ‘Legend of the Astral Hammer’ follows with its fierce and manly True Metal chorus – stupidly simple and twice as catchy, you’ll be striding around your house, chest out and holding an invisible tankard of ale, singing it for days. The Rhapsody worship returns on the brilliant ‘Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy’, and ‘The Hollywood Hootsman’ has another one of those choruses which you’ll keep in your head far longer than is medically recommended. ‘Victorious Eagle Warfare’ sounds like Iron Maiden and Stratovarius went to a keyboard party at Judas Priest‘s house. ‘Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!’ will make you sing its daft lyrics out loud and in public, and the fast, pulsing rhythm of ‘Universe on Fire’ will have you dancing in your seat like a deranged gibbon. ‘Heroes (of Dundee)’ is nice and straightforward, and the lengthy and melodramatic ‘Apocalypse 1992’ finishes the story off in the manner you’d wish for, with gravel-throated narration, jabbing and swirling keyboards, mighty riffs, and lines such as “like tears of a unicorn lost in the rain, chaos will triumph this day”. The album is rounded off by instrumental ‘Dundax Aeterna’ and the first thing you’ll want to do after it finishes is go back and to the beginning and start the whole thing up again.
If you want your Power Metal to be original or innovative, then you’re in the wrong place. Gloryhammer don’t just wear their influences on their sleeve, they have them emblazoned across battle armour, embroidered over wizards robes and branded onto unicorns arses.
Faster than a laser bullet indeed.