Thursday 31 January 2019

Emerald Sabbath - 'Ninth Star' (A Tribute To Black Sabbath) Album Review

Emerald Sabbath – Ninth Star (A Tribute To Black Sabbath)

This is a tale of how an Irish Nuclear Construction Safety Inspector brought 10 ex members of Black Sabbath together along with The English Chamber Choir, AND a string quartet! All I can say is, Irish Nuclear Construction Safety Inspectors must get paid a shit load of money. After all, if you cock up in a Nuclear Power plant it really is curtains.

The man is Michael Suilleabhain from West Cork, and he has been a fan of Black Sabbath since 1983, and has seen them a grand total of 82 times with every line up except with Ray Gillen. Well everyone needs a hobby!

The 10 ex-members are Adam Wakeman, Bev Bevan, Neil Murray, Terry Chimes, Laurence Cottle, Ron Keel, Vinny Appice, Dave Walker, Bobby Rondinelli, Tony Martin, along with Rudy Sarzo. If Sabbaths management don’t even recognize Dio, this group who kept Black Sabbath afloat when Iommi was the only original left, have no chance of recognition, so its good to see someone recognizing the Iommi years. The man has a passion for classical music and he wanted to bring both of them together, and for that he must be applauded.

In 2015 Adam Wakeman was the first to contribute to the project, with keyboards on ‘Changes’ and it snowballed into this final product. He decided to re-record Black Sabbath tracks and instrumentals with as many ex-members as possible. A lot of the artists played on the originals, and unless you are a Sabbath fanatic, then you wouldn’t even know of all the changes that took place in the mid to late eighties.

After a couple of listens, I think you do have to be of the made of the same stuff as Suilleabhain. Because I don’t see more mainstream rock fans picking this up. To give him full credit, on the instrumental tracks like ‘Embryo’ ‘Stonehenge’ and ‘Fluff’, the music is given added depth from the string quartet, and ‘Fluff’ in particular is a joy to listen to here.  The songs he has picked, in general definitely benefit from a classical and metal approach. In my opinion ‘more strings’ have never failed me when it comes to rock classics, re-recorded classics, or a live gig with a backing orchestra (i.e. Stargazer, Deep Purple, Alter Bridge, Metallica etc., etc.,).

I was (still am) a fan of 80s outfit Keel. The three songs on offer here; one each from Ozzy (Hole In The Sky), Gillan (Trashed), and Dio (Die Young) do not get any great benefit from Ron Keel’s vocals. Yes, I get it that he was in the band, but it would have been betting bringing in vocalists like Mike Mills (Toehider, for Gillan),  and Anders Engberg (Sorcerer, for Dio). Ozzy is the awkward one to find a doppelganger for as there really is only one Ozzy! ‘Die Young’ musically is note for note, but when Keel kicks in it’s all strained and, well, painful.  Lets face it, who can follow Ian Gillan. In fact, Keel gives it (Trashed) a good enough of a go, but it still left me wanting. ‘Hole In The Sky’ is no different.

I have to say that I am a big fan of tribute albums and covers. For me it needs to be either true to the original, or mixed up completely giving the song a new lease of life. I’ve heard enough since 1978 to form an honest opinion.

Dave Walker certainly holds his own for the Technical Ecstasy ballad ‘She’s Gone’, and this one is definitely worth a listen. Glenn Hughes isn’t called the ‘Voice Of Rock’ for no reason. Tony Martin who recorded a couple of fab Sabbath albums in ‘Headless Cross’ and ‘The Eternal Idol’ takes over from Hughes, and proves he can still cut the mustard. This is where they slipped up. Lee Small would have nailed this fucker 100%, then they could have re-recorded a Martin classic such as ‘The Shining’ in a different style, still utilizing Martin’s considerable chops.

‘Changes’ sees Suilleabhain take over vocal duties, and is left short of the original. The best track on the album by far, the fantastic ‘Supertzar’, and the choral English Chamber Choir ramp it up to eleven and give the original more than a run for its money.

For energy and enthusiasm I have to give full marks to Suilleabhain. However, a better choice of vocals and a couple of different songs could have taken this up a notch or three. If you’re not exactly an existing fan of Black Sabbath, there’s nothing really here for you. As a die hard fan, its definitely worth exploring.

Score 6.5/10

1. Embryo
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards
Bev Bevan – Drums
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Anneka Sutcliffe – Violin
Sarah Tobias – Flute/Clarinet

2. Die Young
Ron Keel – Vocals
Vinnie Appice – Drums
Rudy Sarzo – Bass
DC Cothern – Guitar
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar
Ellen Morgan – Keyboards

3. Fluff
Sarah Tobias – Flute/Clarinet
Ardeton String Quartet
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar

4. Trashed
Ron Keel – Vocals
Vinnie Appice – Drums
Bev Bevan – Percussion
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar

5. Stonehenge
Adam Wakeman – keyboards
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar
Sarah Tobias – Flute

6. She’s Gone
Dave walker – Vocals
Bill Dwyer – Guitars
Neil Murray – Bass
Chris Cundy – Keyboards
Steve Owers – Drums
Ardeton String Quasrtet
Lisa Ljungberg – Backing Vocals

7. In For The Kill
Tony Martin – Vocals
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

8. Orchid
Neil Murray – Bass
Sarah Tobias – Flute/Clarinet
Ardeton String Quartet
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar

9. Hole In The Sky
Ron Keel – Vocals
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar

10. Changes
Michael Suilleabhain – Vocals
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards
Laurence Cottle – bass
Bev Bevan – Percussion
Queenie May – Backing Vocals
Anneka Sutcliffe – Violin
Sarah Tobias – Flute/Clarinet

11. Supertzar
English Chamber Choir
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards
Terry Chimes – Drums
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Pete Rinaldi – Guitar
Skaila Kang – Harp
Elen Morgan - Glockenspiel

BillyBio at Rebellion Manchester, 29.1.19 - Live Review

BillyBio – Rebellion Club – Manchester – 29-01-19

Billy Bio received 9/10 for his album ‘Feed The Fire’ which I reviewed back in November and rightly so. You can read the review here. An album of stunning quality which deserves all the acclaim it will get.

Tonight, in what used to be a pub many moons ago, the small yet massively unique Rebellion Club in Manchester once again hosts a quartet of bands with massive potential.

Firstly, OMV. A heavy punk rock/hardcore unit with bags of charisma on stage. Only Richie, the lead singer and founder of the Merseyside band has his face on show. The rest choose to stay concealed behind masks. Pretty cool. As for the music, this is a pure onslaught of angry hardcore with awesome speed changes. There’s lots of Pantera and Slayer knocking around within these guys. Well worth catching live if you can. A great start.

Next up were Sonnet 13. Manchester based, although singer Bartek and drummer Lukasz I believe are Dutch(?) These were very D.R.I/Mucky Pup to me. They had that late 80’s thrash punk shout to Bartek’s voice. This is my kind of era and the guys pulled off a worthy set.

Cutthroat LA earned my respect straight away by refusing to play until the crowd came forward. A great move I thought because it worked a treat. If any band could warm a crowd up nicely for BillyBio, it’s these guys. They got everyone involved from the start. Inciting mosh pits, getting fans on stage. Their interaction with their fans is nothing short of perfect. Using political issues to express their feelings, these guys really know how to deliver proper hardcore. Throw in some street rap/punk/thrash. These guys have it all.

And so to BillyBio. Words cannot describe what a stunning and powerful set this guy delivered tonight. Playing virtually everything from his latest ‘Feed the Fire’ album, we were also treated to some Biohazard classics in the form of ‘Shades Of Grey’, ‘How It Is’, ‘A Lot To Learn’, ‘Love Denied’ and ‘Punishment’. Throw in a cover of The Exploited’s ‘UK82’ and you have a set so powerful and true that the only bad thing about it was it went too fast.

Once again crowd interaction was a major part and everyone, indeed, played their part. What I find particularly impressive is that Billy wears a head mike which gives him so much more scope to move around and interact with the crowd.
Seeing such an iconic hardcore legend in such a small venue always gives me that shiver down my spine. Arenas are not for me. This is where music lives and breathes, in venues like The Rebellion club, with fantastic friendly people all looking out for each other. Long may it continue. And lets prey BillyBio returns soon.

Score – 10/10. All day long.

Reviewed by Sty

Sunday 27 January 2019

Puppy - 'The Goat' Album Review

If you’re like me, and are completely unaware of who Puppy are, then stand in line for one the best new(ish) bands you haven’t heard of….yet! I sware that if you’re a fan of anything from the likes of Black Sabbath (heavy riffage to be heard a-plenty here folks), to Van Halen to Teenage Fanclub/ Coheed & Cambria (pop rock sensibilities), then you are in for a huge effin’ treat.

The threesome are made up of – Jock Norton (Vocals and guitar), Billy Howard Price (Drums), and Will Michael (bass), and their debut album, The Goat dropped 25th Jan, and its bloody fab!

From the album cover, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were about to hear some black/death/doom metal, but the reality is far from it. Yes, there are riffs that are some of the best of this side of Tony Iommi’s moustache, and so much melody, that you would think that you were listening to J-Pop, but the combination comes together to great effect. In fact it looks like it is the learners edition of ‘Everything You Need To About Alister Crowley’. With songs like ‘Bathe In Blood’, And So I Burn’, ‘Entombed’, I’I Feel An Evil’, ‘Entombed’ and ‘Demons’, your spider senses would certainly be tingling in an Occult leaning, but its not all true….the titles lead you toward death metal, but the reality is that Puppy reference a lot of your inner demons.

‘Black Hole’ comes menacing straight out of the blocks, and then its not quite the vocals you expect to hear, almost the opposite, but once you’re settled into this path then its all good, very good. The bridge also comes out of left field, its like they are following some magic 8-ball formula, that works! The riff to ‘Vengeance’ takes you right back to the 80s and bands like Anthrax, but with Coheed’s  pop vocals. ‘Poor Me’ sees Norton channel his inner Papa Emeritus/Cardinal Copia as it has the same deep and dark riff, but with a melody that could pierce the Top Ten chart easily.

‘And So I Burn’ plonks us back in 80s territory, with a riff that Ratt would be proud of. The song is carried along through Michaels pulsating bass and Prices’ drum beat. ‘Entombed’ kicks off with a nu-metal riff, before a hint of Alice In Chains style vocals and 70s guitar solo. ‘World Stands Still’ cranks it up to Mark Tremonti levels of riffing, with Prices drum beat pummeling you just because they can. ‘Bathe In Blood’ is riff upon riff chipping away at your sanity, with a prog tendancy. Its where genres collide and form a new one! ‘Nightwalker’ is the first song to give you a bit of a break. Its like a Kurt Cobain ballad. ‘I Feel An Evil’ sees Michael take over vocals and the result is more akin to a whole metal package, like Foo Fighters on steroids. All too soon and its onto the final track, ‘Demons’ an 80s chugging riff that Priest would be proud to have written

Think of all these bands that hit the charts early 90s, - Wheatus, Sum 41, Deftones, etc. Its like that, but with Puppy there is one key difference,  its if the above bands had Tony Iommi (Norton) riffing the place up

The combination of ear melting riffs and polar opposite pop commercial vocals shouldn’t work as well as it does. There a lot going on here that deserves repeat listens as its not as simple as Sabbath meets Ghost. I suspect that it could be divisive. However, I loved it.

Their liner notes state that they would like to thank ‘all 12 of their fans’. After this album I am certain they can but at least four zeros after the 12.

This dog has definitely got ‘BITE’ and one hellova ‘BARK’ . When they tour very soon, don’t expect them to have their bellies tickled at the merch stand.

Score – 8.5/10

Black Hole
Poor Me
Just Like You
And So I Burn
World Stands Still
Bathe In Blood
I Feel An Evil

Tuesday 22 January 2019

GAST - "Morkret Kallar" Album Review

Swedish Doom Metallers Gast, release their debut album Morkret Kallar. This will undoubtably have you all immersed in pure darkness. Gast are as pure evil as they are Swedish. It’s ferocious from the off with ‘Distans’. Intense, evil, dark, brooding. Typical Doom metal at it’s finest.

‘Avgrund’ is more of the same. Starting nice and quietly. But it isn’t long before the Doom hits us again in full force. ‘Under Satans Vingar’ is brutal from chord one. It’s intensity makes this song what it is. Relentless speed thrash in every sense. Only breaking temporarily for a mid-track breather. There’s some great speed changes here and a lot more structure to this track. Brilliant stuff!!

‘Transcendens’ treats us to peaceful, acoustic guitar. And it comes at the right time, exactly at the midway point of the album. It’s a beautiful piece, showing how diverse Gast can be. Bravo for taking such a risk and it’s totally paid off. ‘Dar Livet Kvavs’ takes us back onto our Doom journey with another fierce onslaught. Pounding, relentless drums which pierce right through the soul.

‘Morgonstjarna’ is more of a slower, intense number. Closer ‘Sorgens Skugga’ finishes this rather short debut album off just nicely. It’s another onslaught of dark, black, angry Doom metal. Punishing from the beginning, but slowing down nicely towards the end, like a plane landing.

Gast have landed. Buy it.

Score 9/10

Reviewed by Sty

Track listing:

1. Distans
2. Avgrund
3. Under Satans Vingar
4. Transcendens
5. Dar Livet Kvavs
6. Morgonstjarna
7. Sorgens Skugga

Toby Hitchcock - 'Reckoning' Album Review

Toby Hitchcock – Reckoning

Toby Hitchcock, he of Pride of Lions fame and the proud owner of a 2011 solo album “Mercury’s Down” is a singer. When I say a singer it’s like saying Leonardo Da Vinci was just a painter, Mr Hitchcock has a voice that stops you in your tracks.

Reckoning is an AOR/melodic rock gem, the music is power ballad, keyboard supported, energetic, thoughtful and a showcase for one of the best vocalists I’ve heard in many a year.

Due to work commitments, New Year celebrations that were a bit more full on than planned I only had a chance to listen to snatches of the album until last week when it became my choice of listening at work and I’ve played it multiple times since.

The album kicks off with “No surrender” – No this isn’t a song sung by Rangers fans on the terraces of Ibrox Stadium* but instead a high tempo melodic rock starter with a real Scandinavian feel plus the added benefit of a strong vocal. And yes the vocals are stronger than a Icelandic competitor in The World’s Strongest Man.

*For non sports fans the song at Ibrox is goes along the lines of “The cry was No Surrender, surrender or you’ll die”.

“Promise me” has that classic AOR feel and sound that brings up memories of Survivor and such like. The catchy keyboard synth and a bouncy chorus that TH leads the verses into effortlessly. Again it’s fast, melodic and has the statutory layered backing vocals.

“Show me how to live” – a mournful, emotional slow ballad that demonstrates what a simply stunningly powerful vocalist TH is. OK this is the ultra-soft end of the spectrum and the song is one that would be a superb X-Factor final song to test the vocals of the finalists.

It has a keyboard intro and feel so soft that Smooth radio might make it their record of the week. However this is master class on how to hit and hold a note and demonstrate a magnificent vocal range throughout a ballad. Stunning.

“Behind the lines” – Magnum-esque keyboards with accompanying pomp and restores the high tempo but with an angst ridden story line of break up.

“Fighting for my life” – some classic AOR immediately from the keyboards, a swirling guitar sound and layered backing vocals. A song of being alone and trying to move on and then the power of TH’s vocals and upbeat chorus lift this track

Serenity – one of the catchiest choruses of the record and the pre-release of the album and it’s obvious why. “I’m gonna take my chance and live my dreams, cos it can change in a heartbeat”. Wise words Toby and a superb piece of AOR magnificence.

Queen Untouchable gets a bit rockier but in keeping with the whole vibe of the album. By now there is definitely a distinctive Toby Hitchcock feel to the whole album.

For me the track that stands out is the rocky but emotive “This is our world”. The strength of the vocal (did I mention before that Mr Hitchcock has one hell of a set of pipes?) lifts this song above many contemporaries.  

Someone like you – the vocals are very Dio-like for the verses, think Rock and Roll Children with a more melodic, softer yet strong chorus. The guitar solo is a belter and this one superb way to end the album. The last few moments of Toby holding notes like they are million pound notes sums up the whole album ending it on a high.

I had no idea what Reckoning would be like, I feared a bland melodic rock by numbers effort, I was way off the mark. This is an AOR fan’s dream.

OK so hard rock fans might not like it as much as I do but life is all about diversity and differences.

The band are tight, the keyboards underpinning the whole sound, and professional throughout.

One thing that can’t be denied is the fact that Toby Hitchcock can sing as well if not better than many so called established stars. He could sing in any manufactured super group in a heartbeat.

One not to be missed playing live.

Overall album – 7.5
The Toby Hitchcock vocals – 9.5

Review by Lawrie Willcox

1. No Surrender
2. Promise Me
3. Show Me How To Live
4. Behind The Lies
5. Fighting For My Life
6. Serenity
7. Queen Untouchable
8. Gift Of Flight
9. Don’t Leave
10. This Is Our World
11. Someone Like You

Toby Hitchcock: Vocals
Daniel Flores: All Keyboards and Drums
Michael Palace: Guitars and Bass
Yngve "Vinnie" Strömberg: Drums and Percussion

Thursday 17 January 2019

Evergrey - 'The Atlantic' Album Review

Evergrey are a metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. Founded in 1995 they released their debut LP ‘The Dark Discovery’ in 1998. Twenty-one years and 10 albums later, they hit us with this latest release, the closing epic tale of their ocean trilogy titled ‘The Atlantic’.

Having had the initial completed work stolen from a break in at their studio, Tom Englund admitted that what has been released here may not have been quite how it would have been.

But what a release it is. As the opening chords of ‘A Silent Arc’ hit us, there is just something straight away that tells you that this is going to be a good listen. From it’s thunderous start, to it’s laid back bridge, to it’s beautiful chorus. This is my cup of tea. Proper power metal, chugging away just nicely. An epic 8 minute opener, it has everything. Soul, mood, anger, peace. What a statement of intent this is.

‘Weightless’ very quickly merges thrash, metal, piano and progressive rock all into one. There’s lots of atmosphere here the Evergrey way; and it is an early front runner for song of the album with it’s powerful riff and commanding double bass drumming. The moody ‘All I Have’ greets us with an atmospheric gloom, but this soon lifts into a chorus full of hope. It’s another lengthy number at 6min 20secs. As I take in Danhage’s solos in this technical masterpiece I can feel myself drifting into another universe as they grab me by the scruff of the neck. Powerful stuff.

‘A Secret Atlantis’ whisks us away almost immediately from the drifting atmosphere of ‘All I Have’ and straight into more power metal. On first hearing this song, you get the impression it’s going to be a short track. Not on your nelly. More technical structure and speed changes make this almost another 6 minute epic. ‘The Tidal’ is a short and beautiful one minute interlude which sucks you back into the ‘Atlantic’ way before ‘End Of Silence’ begins with one of Evergrey’s renowned chugging intros. Tom’s lyrics on this track are a major highlight of this album. The music follows Tom here until it breaks out into a rather technical but relaxing solo from Danhage. The chorus in this track is outstanding. Heavy yet melodic. Super stuff.

It’s safe to say as we travel through ‘Currents’ beautiful nautical themed outro and into ‘Departure’ that Evergrey have more than excelled themselves with ‘The Atlantic’. ‘Departure’ sports some stunning bass sounds by Johan Niemann. ‘Beacon’s’ haunting intro and ‘This Oceans’ stunning attack of an opening riff are the final pieces of this superb jigsaw. This trilogy’s epic closer is not to be missed.

Score 8/10

Reviewed by Sty

Track listing:

1. A Silent Arc
2. Weightless
3. All I Have
4. A Secret Atlantis
5. The Tidal
6. End Of Silence
7. Currents
8. Departure
9. The Beacon
10.This Ocean


Tom Englund – Guitars / Vocals
Henrik Danhage - Guitars
Rikard Zander – Keyboards
Johan Niemann – Bass
Jonas Ekdahl - Drums

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Venom - 'Storm The Gates' Album Review

Review by Sty

Formed in Newcastle in 1979, Venom release their 14th full length studio album. I for one am interested in what’s on offer here. Venom are a band I had heard of whilst growing up in the 80’s, but incredibly I never got to hear any of their music.

So I am coming into this one with a ‘blind ear’ so to speak. Is it a bad thing? Maybe. Is it a good thing? I personally think so. I can feel free to review and not compare this album to any of their previous stuff.

When an album starts with a riff such as the one in opener ‘Bring Out Your Dead’, I can usually tell what sort of hour or so I’m going to have. This hits hard and heavy from the off. It’s a killer riff. Pounding, loud and a great opener to the album. I’d say it feels harder than the 1980’s metal I thought I would be listening to. ’Notorious’ ups the pace. Lovely galloping riffs in this. It’s heavy again and leads nicely into ‘I Dark Lord’s’ eerie intro. This doesn’t last long as Dante treats us to some pummelling, ear bashing double bass drumming.

‘100 Miles To Hell’ gives us a more ‘stadium rock’ track. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m in two minds at the minute about the production of this album. I’ll get back to you shortly.

As we hit ‘Dark Night (Of The Soul)’, I have to say the crunching opening riff is somewhat spoilt by Cronos' lyrical content. Doesn’t work for me. Musically great though. I’m hearing lots of Motorhead similarities here. ‘The Mighty Have Fallen’ starts like a steam train and doesn’t stop as it’s heavy and fast riffing, together with Cronos' Tom Araya style lyrics continue throughout.

Another track to mention is ‘Over My Dead Body’. This is by far the best track on offer here. It’s structure, pace and power rise above anything else on this album. It’s also the longest track on the album at just over 5 minutes.

Going back to the production here. There’s something seriously wrong with the drums sound. Remember Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All’ album?? That’s exactly how the drums sound here. They are too distorted and it makes them sound like they were recorded in someone’s basement.

But I’ve heard enough of Venom here to realise that if they toured in my area I would definitely go and see them. I can’t compare this album to older material but from me this gets a big thumbs up.

Score 7/10

Reviewed by Sty

Track listing:

1. Bring Out Your Dead
2. Notorious
3. I Dark Lord
4. 100 Miles To Hell
5. Dark Night (Of The Soul)
6. Beaten To A Pulp
7. Destroyer

8. The Mighty Have Fallen
9. Over My Dead Body

10.Suffering Dictates

11.We The Loud


13.Storm the Gates


Cronos – Bass / Vocals

Rage – Guitars

Dante – Drums