Hopefully returning for 2021, Helsinki’s Tuska Festival is one of the greatest musical events in the world. Gojira has been added to the bill, joining other headliners Korn, Gojira, Deftones, Devin Townsend, Bodom After Midnight, Insomnium, Mokoma, Beast In Black, Symphony X, Eluveitie, Jinjer, Lost Society, Belzebubs, High On Fire, Perturbator, Oranssi Pazuzu, Vltimas, Gaahls Wyrd and more to be announced. Gojira returns, along with Korn and Deftones as headliners from the previously canceled 2020 event.
Former Manowar guitarist Ross the Boss returns with all guns blazing on Conquered Lands (Steel Cartel), the third full-length release from his subtly named Death Dealer project. In a gloriously predictable manner, the riffs come thick and fast as gods, blood, battles and all other true metal necessities rain down like exploding magma from the skies.
Hot on the heels of the release of their latest album, Demons (Century Media), London based Savage Messiah are wasting no time in getting out on the road and promoting the hell out of it. Of the nine songs the band tears through in front of an excitable Coventry crowd, ‘The Fateful Dark’ is the sole representative of any of their previous releases, the others culled exclusively from the new record.Continue reading
Michael Romeo of Symphony X has released an epic album entitled War of the Worlds Pt. 1 (Music Theories/Mascot). True to the title, the disk evokes the famous 1938 radio program by H.G. Wells combined with Steven Spielberg’s sense of wonder. The ‘Introduction’ is a sweeping symphonic masterpiece that effortlessly blends traditional symphony with extreme rock guitar playing. The result is an aural masterpiece that heightens the senses and bewitches the mind. Continue reading
After 5 years, Greek Power Metal machine Firewind is back with a new album, Immortals (Century Media). In that time guitarist Gus G has been touring with Ozzy Osbourne, and the band has gone through another line-up change, with Henning Basse now admirably fulfilling the role of vocalist. Continue reading
Ross The Boss, the band led by former Manowar and current Death Dealer guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman, will perform with their new lineup at the Hall Of Heavy Metal History induction ceremony on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at the Anaheim Expo Center in California. Continue reading
After a wobbly Saturday morning start, Akercocke carried on from where they left off a few years ago, improving and gaining/regaining fans as they went along. Rotting Christ sounded fantastic, The King is Blind completely owned the second stage for forty brutal minutes, and Fear Factory treated the crowd to all of 1995’s Demanufacture album while singer Burton C Bell tried his best to keep his voice from cracking. Paradise Lost played a set filled with heavier material, and Gojira stunned the majority of the audience with a set that not even headliners Mastodon could come close to touching. A typically eclectic set, the Atlantan four-piece struggled to get any momentum going, and even with the aid of some fancy video screens, only occasionally showed signs of being genuine headliners. A new version of old UK thrashers Acid Reign also managed to steal Mastodon’s thunder all the way from the second stage, playing one of the fastest and most enjoyable thrash sets of the festival while singer, ‘H’, looked resplendent in his shocking pink suit and top hat.
And so to Sunday, and to the wonders of Ghost Bath. Only possessing the vaguest of knowledge about this band, I was simply unprepared for the next forty highly confusing (and occasionally eye-wateringly funny) minutes. Imagine a Black Metal band fronted by the shrieking goat from YouTube and you’d have a good idea of what I witnessed that morning.
Although the pedigree of the members of Metal Allegiance is not in question, I’m afraid the same cannot be said of their collective efforts. Cover version after horrible cover version was mauled and discarded, as people turned to each other in disbelief and disappointment. Playing all of 1996 album Nemesis Divina in full, Black Metallers Satyricon put in one of the performances of the weekend, even in the blazing sunshine. Finland’s Whispered took to the stage in their Japanese costumes and make-up and proceeded to win over an entire tent of confused onlookers. Technical Thrashers Vektor followed and even more people left with smiling faces. Symphony X gave everyone on the main stage plenty to sing along to, but Anthrax obliterated their memory in seconds. The last time the New York outfit played here in 2013, it was all fairly average, maybe even disappointing. But not this time. They were on fire from the second they launched into ‘You Gotta Believe’ until they left the stage to ‘Indians’. Nobody even cared that they dropped a couple of favourites in order to showcase newer material.
Even headliners Slayer struggled to keep up. Again, like Anthrax, it was a much improved performance from 2013, but things seemed to go a little awry in the latter stages of their set. For some reason, ‘Hell Awaits’ became an instrumental after the first chorus, and Tom’s demeanour changed from happy and smiling to fairly disinterested around the same time. Still, when they came back out for the encore of ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Raining Blood’, and ‘Angel of Death’ everything was quickly forgiven and forgotten. It was left up to New Orleans bandGoatwhore to close the weekend on the second stage, and they did so imperiously with one of the loudest, heaviest hours of the festival.
From the almost comical amount of crowd surfers (Acid Reign alone clocked 263 in one hour – an average of over four per minute) to the spontaneous chant of “MAN IN YELLOW”, directed to one of the security staff stood on the scaffolding before Slayer, to the glorious weather and generally contagious good feeling of everyone in attendance (even a lot of the campsite toilets were still usable by the Monday morning!), there was only one place to be last week.
There were a few odd little problems, of course. Since the festival ended, a story has emerged that a girl was sexually assaulted in her tent, and the amount of moshpit idiocy seems to be on the increase again. Not, this time, from the shirtless circle-pitters and kung-fu merchants, but this time from the people who stand on the barrier all day, doing their best to punch and deliberately tear clumps of hair from any crowd surfer (male and female) unlucky enough to invade their personal space as they get dragged over the front. Making sure at all times, of course, that security have a firm hold of their target first so that they can’t retaliate.
The worst thing this year though was the repeated loop of the same bloody music videos on the big screen all weekend. When I arrived in the main arena on the Friday, I said “hey, this new Wormrot song’s great. I’ll definitely be getting the album”. By the time Saturday evening came around, I never wanted to hear fucking thing again. And as for the constant exposure to the videos of Wakrat and Blackberry Smoke, let’s just say that if I ever meet either of those bands in person, then it won’t end pleasantly for either of them.
Overall though, and yet again, Bloodstock Open Air was a roaring success.
Roll on next year.
WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK
Can’t stand Symphonic, Power, or Operatic Metal? Do you hate it when a vocalist gets all wobbly-wailey? Do you think that keyboards have no place in “Troo Metulz”? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then walk on swiftly – this album ain’t for you, friend.
If, on the other hand, your strasse is populated by the likes of Symphony X, Kamelot, Helloween, Hammerfall or Firewind and you don’t mind a bit of Children of Bodom (before they turned themselves into a riff recycling plant, obvs) thrown in for effect, then St. Demonius (Despotz) by Tad Morose may well be worth an hour or so of your time.
Personally, I like a little less vibrato in my vocalists, and a bit more variety from my guitarists, but I think this album stands up well amongst the pantheon of Power Metal. Mainly, because whilst giving you (most of) the power/operatic staples, it also injects an edge of heaviness that sets it apart from its peers & ancestors. It loses points, however, due to the lack of cheesy guitar solos and fist-pump singalong choruses (there are singalongs to be found, but it’s all taking itself rather seriously). For me, these are the things that the different branches of Power Metal are all about, but I’m sure St. Demonius will find an audience to fill rooms with a sea of leather patch jackets and metal claws.
The album opens with ‘Bow to The Reapers Blade’, which is a straight up fusion of Bodom & Firewind (this is a Good Thing). ‘Your Own Demise’ follows next, with some nice bounce, crunchy riffs and some nice vocal hooks; I particularly like the lyric “succumb to my greatness” – I shall have to steal that. ‘Forlorn’ opens with a hook line that’s almost Rammstein and opens out with a Symphony X breakdown. Different. And good. Some excellent choral arrangements with layered vocals make this an epic track which will surely be a crowd favourite. Other standout tracks are ‘Where Ignorance Reigns’, the rifftastic ‘Black Fire’ and ‘The Shadows Play’, a track that has it all, including my vote as best track on the album and ‘Fear Subside’ and its twin guitar noodling!.
All in all, an enjoyable listen and a solid…
The ninth studio album by Symphony X, titled Underworld (Nuclear Blast), is not a concept album, but thematically deals with the journey into the underworld, specifically as pictured in Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’, which is reflected in titles such as ‘Underworld’, ‘Charon’, and ‘To Hell and Back’.
The album opens very nicely with the instrumental ‘Overture’, which, while not an actual overture, has a nicely bombastic classical feel and flows right into ‘Nevermore’, the first single of the album. It is a very heavy progressive song with fast guitar riffs and a slower cadence to the vocals. In similar vein, ‘Underworld’ features some very heavy vocals and even screams from Russell Allen; this contrast between the primal vocals and a more ethereal, clean voice gives a great deal of depth and energy to this song, though the placing of second single, ‘Without You’, straight after – a much softer song that features acoustic guitars and a Country feeling mixed in with the Symphonic Prog – is rather jarring.
‘Kiss of Fire’ has another killer intro, but the most impressive part of this composition is the choral arrangement, which delivers interesting emphases in the lyrics. This is also one of the songs in which Russell Allen can really show off his vocal range. ‘Charon’, a song about the ferryman of the underworld, is also very interesting, as the muted riffs set a really interesting atmosphere and the vocal melodies have notes of mystery and suspense.
Elsewhere, Symphony X mesh heavy prog, 70s prog, and classic hard rock, and the album finishes strongly with ‘Legend’; fast paced and heavy, yet melodious, exactly what you want from the X.
Nine albums in, and while there are some absolute killer songs on this album, there are a few bits, such as ‘To Hell And Back’ and ‘Swan Song’ with its clichéd lyrics that break the tension and don’t come together so well, yet overall the bands’ class shines through more often than not.