Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - A Year In Live Music

Another year has come and gone (well, almost). It has been an interesting one for sure. I’m not going to focus on the negatives of 2016 in this blog. I’m here to do what I do every year – talk about the best gigs I’ve been to in the last year (I’m sure these introductions are getting shorter and shorter each year).

Before getting into the gigs of the year though, I usually give a mention to the festivals I’ve been to and the various sets I saw and rank them as well. However, I only went to Victorious Festival this year, so this will be a much easier job. I remember looking at the completed line up for Victorious and not being overly impressed with either day until the evening, which was a shame. However, I did discover a pub nearby that had Hop House 13 on tap. Swings and roundabouts I guess. Anyway, my top 10 are:

10. Pretty Vicious –Didn’t know a massive amount about them, but they were alright. 6/10
9. Dagny – I had a choice to see two bands before Pretty Vicious, and this band were on the same stage as them. They were pretty good. 6/10
8. The Boomtown Rats – I thought they were a lot of fun. Few good singalongs along the way which helped. On an unrelated note, they have been booked for next year’s Wacken festival. That is a weird booking for a metal festival but not the weirdest I suspect. 7/10
7. Levellers – Genuinely thought I knew some of their stuff before they came on stage, but I didn’t. They were really good though. 7/10
6. Sound Of The Sirens – Listened to a handful of their songs before the festival and wanted to see them live. They did not disappoint. Good music and genuinely funny in between songs. They had a really good set. 7.5/10
5. Manic Street Preachers – Manics are very dependable live. This was a solid set. It wasn’t my favourite time seeing them live (but to be fair, all their singles in one night will likely never be topped). 8/10
4.  Ash – Missed them at the Wedge earlier in the year because I’m an ass (but mainly because tickets had sold out before I got round to buying one) so seeing them here was essential. So glad I did as they were excellent. 8.5/10
3. Wolfmother – Genuinely didn’t know what to expect from their set but they were outstanding. Loved their set. If they come back to Portsmouth, I’d probably go see them again. 9/10
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Sure there were sound problems in places, but the set was really good. I’m not overly familiar with his solo material, but there was a fair bit of Oasis in there which was pretty cool. The singalongs for Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger were pretty special. 9/10
1. Travis – I’ve wanted to see Travis for years. They played everything I hoped they would and they were great. 9.5/10

I’ve just re-read the conclusion of last year’s blog where I talked about 2016 gigs that could make the list for this year. One of them does which you will see later on. Most of the others were honourable mentions which I will be getting to shortly. Sad to say the Hey! Hello! headline show in Southampton got cancelled. I’ve seen them twice since the cancelled show, both times were really good. Hopefully we will get a headline tour next year. Anyway, to the honourable mentions! These are listed in chronological order

Honourable Mentions:

Cancer Bats – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth – January – I’d love to be able to wax lyrical about this gig. However, “beers before Bats” occurred (as well as beers during Bats) and as a result, there are chunks of the gig I simply don’t remember. Cancer Bats don’t do bad live shows though, and the bits I can recall back this up – which is why this is an honourable mention. People who get twatted for every gig they go to must have a lot of money to fritter away. Not remembering all this gig due to the drink is not a good thing! (Neither was working through the hangover the next day…oofh). Also, Palm Reader were really good.

Crossfaith – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth – March – Sure they were fun but it fell on the same night as I did a 10k run for charity, so turned up already knackered. Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember a great deal from it. It was a pretty short headline set from what I recall though.

Morass of Molasses – Edge Of The Wedge, Portsmouth – April – To my shame, I don’t tend to go to many small local gigs. Going to this was a good call though as this was a really good gig from top to bottom. The other bands that played were Foxer, Victorian Whore Dogs and Sahara Snow – all 4 were really good. Morass though were my favourite band of the night and I’m very tempted to grab an Icebreaker Festival ticket for next January just to see them again. Riffs for days!

Muse – O2 Arena, London – April – I thought after it happened that this gig would without doubt be in my top 5. When I drew up my original list it was towards the bottom end, eventually falling out of the top 10. It would have been 11th had I done a top 11 though. The stage was in the round, sort of, which is pretty cool – only the second gig I’ve been to with that set up (if you discount Rammstein’s second stage in the crowd, which I am) and I am a big fan of in the round stages. On the show, it was pretty damn ace. I can’t remember off the top of my head everything about it but the way the drones interacted with the stage was pretty special. In terms of songs played that night, they played all my favourites from the new album. Map Of The Problematique was a nice surprise as was Plug In Baby. Overall it was a great set list and a really good gig.

Ginger Wildheart Band – Brooklyn Bowl, London – July - Would have been a strong contender for top 10, but I had to leave early to avoid a rail replacement bus. The last train back from London is long enough without a rail replacement bus being in the mix! Think this was Hey! Hello!’s first show with their new singer, which was cool. Ryan Hamilton’s band were a really good main support. The headline set by GWB was ace, and one which included songs I’ve not heard live before from the Silver Ginger 5 days, which was cool. It was really cool seeing Conny Bloom play with Ginger as well – something I hadn’t seen before. Also, I like the Brooklyn Bowl.

Amon Amarth – Roundhouse, London – November - Leaving this one out of my top 10 was a horrible decision. This gig ticked a number of boxes for me, including going to The Roundhouse in London for the first time (a venue I quite like now) as well as seeing Grand Magus live for the first time. They were really good. As were Testament, who were the main support. I saw them earlier in the year and whilst I enjoyed it, the sound mix that night was not their friend. Amon Amarth are an excellent live band – I’ve seen them deliver stunning sets in headline length slots at Wacken before. This was my second time seeing them at a headline show and this was just as good as the Wacken shows, if not better. Also, they had people with swords and shields battling on stage at different intervals which was pretty cool.

Delain – Engine Rooms, Southampton – November - Similar story to the one above really. I left early to catch a direct train home as opposed to staying to the end and getting a service which involved a rail replacement bus. As much as I love the song We Are The Others, I don’t love it enough to have been on a stopping service replacement bus. The gig itself was excellent though. Delain showing off the best of their new album, Moonbathers, with some ace songs from their back catalogue mixed in. No “Sing To Me” though which was a shame.

Alter Bridge – Genting Arena, Birmingham – November - I tend to not go to gigs just to see the support bands and leave before the headliner – but never have I been more tempted than I was at this gig. Alter Bridge are an excellent band, but they were the second best band when I last saw them in an arena (the best band that night were Black Stone Cherry). This gig had Gojira and Volbeat supporting – and they were third best. Gojira are a really good live band and the stuff from their new album sounds massive live. Having seen them live on a festival main stage, I knew they wouldn’t be swallowed by the stage – but they owned it. Volbeat…well what can I say? I’m massively in love with Volbeat and think it is criminal they aren’t headlining venues the size of the Genting Arena in the UK when they can headline stadiums and open air venues around mainland Europe! (More on that later). I enjoyed Alter Bridge a lot more than I thought I would, considering I’d just watched one of my favourite bands. They were very good.

And so, onto the top 10. It was quite interesting when compiling the provisional list as I only had 9. The 10th spot was filled at the end of November. I went to three gigs in December which were all shouts for the top 10. Enough of the waffle though, the top 10 gigs I went to in 2016, starting with number 10.

10. Birthday Bash 2016 feat The Wildhearts – The Forum, London – December

I’ve said this a few times, but I bloody love The Wildhearts. They are one of those bands that as soon as they announce a tour, I work out what dates I can attend, in the hope it is more than one. This London show was also the Birthday Bash as it fell on Ginger’s birthday which meant it had a bigger bill than the other shows on the tour. A bash usually is one long Ginger gig with loads of special guests. This one was multiple bands on the bill. Opening were Elvana, who I missed. Then it was The Main Grains, who I caught the second half of and thought were very good. Then it was The Dowling Poole who were good. Hey Hello were on after them, and they were superb. I liked what I heard from Jim Jones and The Righteous Mind but I disappeared after 3-4 songs to go for a smoke. Dirt Box Disco were the main support and they were excellent – they are just a lot of fun live. After they finished, I cursed the fact the Hey Hello tour earlier in the year was cancelled as they were due to be the main support – whilst Dirt Box are great in a bigger room, it would have been great to see them in a 150 cap venue.

The Wildhearts came on and it was business as usual as far as a Wildhearts gig goes. The set list was a best of and it was outstanding. Unfortunately, Ginger was feeling unwell which became apparent during Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes when he started throwing up on stage (didn’t miss a note of the song mind). I was expecting the gig to end there, but it didn’t. The crew came out and cleaned up the stage (so much respect for them) and Ginger and the band soldiered on throughout the rest of the set, including playing a song which I’d not heard live until this point – Stormy In The North, Karma In The South – which was ace. Danny McCormack joined them for the encore, which was cool to see. It probably should have been more special but Ginger feeling unwell was the main point of note here, and he started being sick again after Geordie in Wonderland which was a shame to see. Again, I anticipated the gig being ended but the final song, I Wanna Go Where The People Go, was played with special guest Frank Turner on vocals. The Wildhearts were just superb and this gig deserves its place on this top 10. It would without doubt been higher but I think after Ginger started throwing up, I expected the gig to end which took me out of the moment a little bit. If anything, Ginger and the rest of the band deserve the world of praise for finishing the gig – especially as well as they did.

9. Black Stone Cherry: Experience Kentucky – Guildhall, Portsmouth – November

In another end of year post, I included my story about having seen Black Stone Cherry at the Wedgewood Rooms. That story was included in the entry for them playing Wembley Arena if memory serves. They played arenas earlier this year I believe and I decided to give that a miss as the London date was midweek. Then they announced this tour. This was a “an evening” with tour, with Black Stone Cherry playing an acoustic set, taking a short break and then playing a full band electric set. As it was taking place in my home town, it was a no-brainer. On a trivial note, when I saw them at the Pyramids in Portsmouth in 2009, they originally booked the Guildhall and it got downgraded.

The acoustic set was brilliant, and they played Stay – which is one of my favourite Black Stone Cherry songs and one which hasn’t been played live in quite a long time (cheers Florida Georgia Line). A couple got engaged on stage during the acoustic set which was pretty cool. The full band set was ace – they played a few covers including Ace of Spades as a tribute to Lemmy. The set contained quite a few songs I’ve never seen them play live which is always good. It was great getting to see them play in Portsmouth again. I didn’t expect to see that happen after they started playing arenas. Black Stone Cherry are an excellent live band – and this gig proved that once again.

8. Billy Joel – Wembley Stadium, London – September

I’ve wanted to see Billy Joel live for quite some time. When he came to the UK in 2013, I so wanted to go but I just didn’t have the money. Also, the London show was at Hammersmith, which was a shock – but it meant it sold out very quickly. He announced a show at Wembley Stadium for this year and I mentioned it to my brother, as I knew his wife wanted to see him live. He asked me if I could sort out the tickets for them, so it could be a birthday surprise for her – which I did. After I done that, and had the Ticketmaster order page staring back at me saying “Michael, you are going to see Billy Joel!” – I was slightly annoyed that I wasn’t. After a bit of deliberation, I decided to grab myself a ticket as well. As soon as I bought it, I had buyer’s remorse but that went away fairly quickly.

Wembley Stadium all seated is a bit strange. I was in the upper tier, looking down on the pitch. Those poor bastards who sat down there got soaked during that gig as the weather was horrible. There wasn’t a support act for the gig which meant we would get about 2 and a half hours of Billy Joel which was pretty ace. The set was basically the perfect Billy Joel set list for me – with the added bonus of an AC/DC cover thrown in for good measure. Joel and his band were on top form all evening. I had read some reviews of his European tour which were all full of praise – so I went in with high hopes and I was not let down. This was a great gig. 

7. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Ricoh Arena, Coventry - June

Going to this gig ticked a box for me, in that I’d wanted to see Springsteen live for quite a while but never got round to doing so. I have spoken to a number of people about his live shows and every review was glowing. My parents, who had seen him once before this gig, said they didn’t know exactly what was going on (he played Darkness on the Edge of Town in full), but they could tell it was something special. This gig just happened to fall on my Mum’s birthday, so I went to visit them and we all went to see Springsteen together. In the US, he had been touring the album The River. I was a bit disappointed when that didn’t happen in Europe but not so disappointed that it took anything away from the gig.

No support band for this one, but one wasn’t needed. Springsteen and his band played for about 3 hours I think, maybe slightly longer. All of the reports I had heard set my bar pretty high for this gig – that bar was surpassed and then some. The whole gig from start to finish was just great – even when songs were being played that I didn’t know, I didn’t feel bored, waiting for one I wanted to see/knew. One thing which impressed me is just how well prepared the band were for the fan requests. They played three fan requests – and one of them was a song rarely played live. Now, they might have ballsed it up for all I know about the song in question – but based on the crowd reaction to it, it didn’t seem that way. They played a few cover songs throughout the course of the evening, the highlight being Because The Night, a Patti Smith song. The overall gig highlight for me was when they played several in quick succession that I loved – Born In The USA, Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark – outstanding stuff. I went to this gig, as said above, to tick a box but I would 100% go and see them again.

6. Clutch – The Roundhouse, London – December

Funny that this gig is here given the first time I saw them live, I dismissed them. I have come to the conclusion that they had a bad sound set up the first time I saw them. It wasn’t great. I saw them again at the Wedgewood Rooms which was noticeably better but I had to leave early to catch a train home. I didn’t give them much thought until I saw them at Download 2011 and they blew me away with how good they were. I wanted to go a headline show to see them again but I couldn’t make any of the London shows that cropped up between this set and their set at Download 2015 – which was even better than the 2011 one. I fully intended to see them on their headline tour in 2015, but I waited too long to get tickets and they sold out. I made plans for that day and then the gig got moved to a bigger venue as the Shepherds Bush Empire needed emergency work doing to its roof (after The Wildhearts blew it off in September – maybe). So there were now tickets available, but I had alternative plans. This tour came around and I again held off buying a ticket but got one in the upper standing area, which actually I quite like.

Lionize were playing as I walked in, who I thought were quite good. I also liked the main support – Valient Thorr – but not as much as Lionize. Clutch came on, opened with The Mob Goes Wild and from that point, this gig was just outstanding. There was not a single “piss break” moment during this gig. The set was almost perfect for me but no Earth Rocker was a bit of a disappointment. That is the only negative I have to say really. This gig made me go back and listen to the latest album again (which I already liked) and discover just how damn good the song Firebirds is. There was a pretty long pause before the encore of Electric Worry and X-Ray Visions – which was a superb encore. Of all the times I’ve seen Clutch live, this is definitely the best.

5. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Guildhall, Portsmouth – December

For most of these entries, I’ve written a bit of context to go along with discussion about the gig. That is a straightforward task for this one – In 2014, the Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls gig at the Guildhall was my gig of the year. In 2015, it was my second favourite gig of the year. It seems strange putting it in 5th this time around as it was outstanding. It has been a tough year for establishing an order.

I missed the support acts because I was in a pub across the road (I know; I am an awful person). I don’t tire of seeing Frank Turner live. Much like The Wildhearts, when Frank Turner announces live dates in the UK, I try to work out if I can make any. This set list was a bit different to the tour from last year but was still pretty great. Also, getting to hear him play Love, Ire and Song was just great (played it in 2014 and I have no memory of it taking place – despite not being overly drunk for that gig). I don’t know if there is anything else to add really – another year, another excellent Frank Turner show seen.

4. Arch Enemy – The Engine Rooms, Southampton – August

I wrote a full review of the gig here, so I won’t tread over too much old ground again. What I will say though is that when I was heading to this gig, I had hoped it would be in my top 10. I had no idea it would be so good that it was a genuine contender for gig of the year at one point. It has changed place on this list a number of times, ending up in 4th. It was a headline show I had been waiting to see for nearly 10 years and it was much better than I ever thought it would be.  

3. David Gilmour – Royal Albert Hall, London – September

I wrote a full review of the gig here, so I won’t go as in depth with this one. The review of this gig was the most recent post to this page before this one and just re-reading it, it reminded me just how special it was. I don’t think I need to add much more than that really.

2. Weezer – Brixton Academy, London – April

I missed Weezer at Sonisphere 2011. I had a headache kick me in the...well head I guess, during Sum 41 and I left the arena to take a break to shake my headache off. I came back in to watch Ginger, who played a great set. However, I left the tent and my headache was back and worse. So I left the arena again and didn’t come back. This meant missing Weezer – but I remember being alright with this because I was convinced they would come back. And then they didn’t. As the years rolled on, no UK show happened. They released an album in 2014 which was pretty decent but still no UK show happened. Then The White Album was announced to come out for earlier this year, alongside a couple of UK dates – Manchester and London. It was midweek which was a pain for those who don’t live in London – but I had to go.

The support band were Dinosaur Jr, who were really good. I’d seen them once before at Camden Rocks festival which was also good. However, having a good support that night was little more than a bonus. I was there to see Weezer and they did not disappoint. I had managed to listen to The White Album twice before going to the gig (it is great by the way) so I was somewhat familiar with them. It seemed I was in the minority though as the crowd didn’t really singalong when the 5 songs from the new album were played (it was a bit louder for the stuff from Everything Will Be Alright In The End). However, when they played one of their better known songs, the singalongs were something else. In the first half of their set, from their back catalogue, they played My Name Is Jonas, Hash Pipe, Back To The Shack, El Scorcho, Pork and Beans and (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To – the singalongs were loud. This to me was almost the perfect Weezer gig (and had they played Dope Nose, it would have been).

1. Avantasia – The Forum, London - March

I’d seen Avantasia twice before this night, both times headlining Wacken festivals and both times they were my band of the festival. I did not anticipate they would play a UK headline show and this view was reinforced when Team Rock Radio were plugging Bloodstock Open Air in 2013 and mentioned just about every band playing apart from Avantasia – who were sub-headlining the Saturday night. One of the publications that fall under the banner of Team Rock, Metal Hammer, when reviewing the festival wrote something like apart from the 500 diehards there, no-one could care less – can’t imagine why that could be. Anyway, fan boy annoyance aside (not least as I couldn’t make that show), when a headline show was announced, I snapped up a ticket immediately.

It was “an evening with” set up in that there was no support band. Doors opened at 7, Avantasia came on at 8. The new material from Ghostlights worked so well live as did all my old favourites that I had seen previously at Wacken. Tobias Sammet was only not on stage for 3 of the 24 songs of the night (sadly, two of them are my favourites but no matter) which is pretty damn impressive. It was everything I hoped it would be and then some. Looking back at the set list from that night now, I’m really struggling to not say “all of it!” were I to be asked about the highlight – and that to me is the sign of a great gig. I’ve spoken about this gig without once giving mention to Michael Kiske. My favourite Avantasia songs that have more than one singer usually feature him, and he was so good during this gig. That isn’t to say the other singers and musicians weren’t great, because they all were. I think the thing which made it gig of the year for me was seeing this music that I absolutely love in such an intimate setting, given the context of the previous times I had seen them. They were always great at Wacken, but this was just something else. I remember watching their first live DVD, and there was a clip of them playing a venue in Argentina the size of The Forum. I remember wishing they would do something similar in London, and speculating just how incredible it would be (and then being annoyed because it would never happen). It did, and it was (and then some).

And that, for 2016, is that. It has been a good year for gig going and I’ve been to some great gigs. I suspect I will do this again next year and I can already see some potential gig of the year candidates in my calendar. At this stage, it is hard to look past Guns N’ Roses at Olympic Stadium – but we shall see. Had you asked me this time last year what my gig of 2016 would be, I would probably have said David Gilmour.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Live Review: David Gilmour - Royal Albert Hall 30/09/2016

First off, I would like to start this review by saying how much I love the Royal Albert Hall. Yesterday was only my 3rd visit to the venue (and first for over 3 years) but I had forgotten just how good of a venue it is. All 3 times I have been, I’ve been in gallery standing up the top. I do need to experience something from lower in the bowl at some point. It was the perfect surrounding for the evening’s entertainment. David Gilmour was playing the last date on the “Rattle That Lock” world tour which saw him play at the Royal Albert Hall 11 times over two years. The setlist on previous nights had a decent helping of Gilmour’s solo material but the majority of it consisted of Pink Floyd songs. Whilst I really like the Rattle That Lock album, I was really looking forward to seeing Pink Floyd songs performed live by one of the people in the band again. I saw The Wall performed at Wembley Stadium by Roger Waters, which was phenomenal.

The evening was set to be broken up into two sets, with a short interval in the middle. The first set kicked off with 3 songs from Rattle That Lock. Hearing the songs live gave me a whole new appreciation for these songs which I already liked. Not that the crowd as a whole weren’t into these three songs, but there was a significant increase in volume whenever a Pink Floyd song was played. The first of these was What Do You Want From Me, which is a great song. This was followed by The Blue – another solo track from the album On An Island and then The Great Gig In The Sky – which got a massive roar of approval from the crowd. Another song from Rattle That Lock – A Boat Lies Waiting – followed which was good. What followed this was one of my highlights of the night. Back to back Pink Floyd classics in the form of Wish You Were Here and Money. Wish You Were Here provided the first loud sing along of the night and the crowd had barely calmed down afterwards before roaring again when the introduction to Money kicked in. This section was certainly one of my top two moments of the gig. Were you to put a gun to my head and demand to know my favourite Pink Floyd song, it is possible I would say one of these two. To hear them both back to back? Awesome. The instrumental section of Money was longer than it is on record, which sometimes can be annoying but not on this occasion. The saxophone player in particular was just superb. The first set ended with another Rattle That Lock song – In Any Tongue – and High Hopes from The Division Bell. The first set was, put simply, stunning.

The second set opened with a real cross section of Pink Floyd material – One Of These Days, Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V), Fat Old Sun and Coming Back To Life. It was great to hear a real mix of Floyd like this – Shine On You Crazy Diamond was another moment where the crowd really got into the performance. This is a part where my memory is letting me down slightly. I know after the four Pink Floyd songs, there were 3 more solo tracks played. The Girl in the Yellow Dress is not often on the set list but it was last night. I’m looking at other set lists and it has the Pink Floyd song Us And Them on. I can’t remember if we got that as well, or if we got The Girl in the Yellow Dress as a replacement. I’m sure someone out there knows. Regardless, I really enjoyed this part of the set – particularly as I wasn’t expecting to hear The Girl in the Yellow Dress. Towards the end of Today, another song from Rattle That Lock, the crowd really livened up – to the point I wondered if I had missed something as they hadn’t got that lively for a song that wasn’t a Pink Floyd song all night. Today is a superb song though so maybe that is why. The second set concluded with two Pink Floyd songs, Sorrow (one I’m not overly familiar with) and Run Like Hell – which was immense. It was one of my highlights when I saw Roger Waters and was one again last night.

Gilmour and the band came out for an encore to close out the night. The room got very loud again when the introduction to Time started. The end of Time blended in nicely with a bit of Breathe, which was really cool. The last song of the night was Comfortably Numb – another one of my highlights from when I saw Waters. It was better last night than it was at Wembley Stadium. I think Gilmour singing the chorus is vital to that song when performed live and no disrespect to the guy in Roger Waters’ band, but Gilmour he is not. Earlier in the tour, Benedict Cumberbatch came out to sing the Roger Waters parts of the song which must have been cool to see. This encore was probably my favourite part of the set due to the inclusion of Comfortably Numb – a predictable but epic closer.

I bought my ticket for this gig in December last year, and it exceeded all expectations I had for the gig. Were I to rank my top 3 highlights of the gig, it would all be Pink Floyd songs. That is not to take anything away from the solo material though – as there was never a moment when a solo song was being performed that I wished it would be over. It is just, in my experience, always great to hear Pink Floyd songs being performed live by someone that was in Pink Floyd. I’ve made reference to the Roger Waters Wembley Stadium show but I am not going to say which gig was better as they were entirely different experiences. What I will say though is that last night was just outstanding, and I am glad I was there to see it. Would I have enjoyed it more being sat down closer to the stage? Possibly. Being stood up at the top didn’t ruin it at all for me though, which is a good thing.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Live Review - Arch Enemy at The Engine Rooms, Southampton 24/08/2016

It has been a really long time since I’ve written a long form review. Not since last year’s Download Festival have I done one. The reason I am doing this one is because last night, I went to a gig that I’ve wanted to go to for about 10 years in going to the Arch Enemy show at the Engine Rooms in Southampton. I first saw Arch Enemy at the 2006 Download Festival. I had never heard of them before and the only reason I saw them is that they were still on the main stage after Devildriver had finished on the second stage and I was walking back round. I hadn’t planned on seeing them but they certainly got my attention that day. I remember thinking I’d like to see them again. That opportunity came when they were on the Black Crusade tour bill, headlined by Machine Head and Trivium. Their set was probably only 30 minutes that night but they were the second best band of the night (they would have been the best but Machine Head on The Blackening tour were phenomenal).  Again, I remember thinking I wanted to see them play for longer. I didn’t see them again until Sonisphere 2011. I had a brutal hangover whilst they were on, but I still remember loving their set.

It was another long time before I saw them again, and in that time, Angela Gossow had stepped down as lead vocalist, with Alissa White-Gluz chosen to take her place. I saw the new look Arch Enemy support Kreator in London and it was superb – it was obvious the change in singer had not taken away from how good the band were live. The last time I saw them before last night was supporting Nightwish at Wembley Arena – the biggest indoor venue I had seen them play which, you probably won’t be shocked to learn, I really enjoyed. It wasn’t long after this gig that a headline tour was announced, with a relatively local date to me – this for me was an essential gig ticket purchase. There had been opportunities to see them play headline shows, but logistically or financially, it just wasn’t possible for me. Thankfully, I was now able to rectify this.

I have one small gripe before talking about the positive. The ticket said doors were half 7. The Facebook event said the same thing. I arrived at 7.45 expecting the first band to just be coming on, and they had finished and the main support had come on. I’ve just looked back over my email and I have just found an email telling me doors had been moved an hour earlier. I got that email nearly 3 weeks ago. It would have been useful for this change to be widely advertised as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that forgot. It is a minor gripe, and one which was caused by my poor memory, but still. I didn’t get to see Griever, which is why there are no words about them. Anyway, that is the only negative point of the evening for me (spoiler alert?)

Not that this gig needed an extra selling point, but it had one in the form of Soilwork being the main support band. I had seen Soilwork twice before this gig, both times on an open air stage at Wacken in Germany, and both times I remember thinking they were great. Last night was no exception to this rule. Due to the aforementioned door time change, I only saw them for about 40-45 minutes (no idea how long their set was). Either way, they had a great set. They didn’t hang around much between songs which was cool to see. As their set concluded, I wished I could drop everything and go and see them again in London (which is today of this writing). I suspect their headline show at the Underworld will be excellent. They closed their set with Stabbing The Drama, which I really like so I was pleased.

As was said earlier, I have wanted to attend an Arch Enemy headline show for quite some time. However, there are occasions sometimes when you build something up so much in your mind that it just can’t possibly reach those heights. The band (in this context) may do absolutely nothing wrong, but because you internally set the bar so high, they had no chance of reaching it. Despite having seeing Arch Enemy live before, and knowing how good they are live, I did fear that I had done this. What I can now say is that if I did set the bar high, Arch Enemy not only reached it, but they surpassed it. It was an outstanding headline set. The set contained pretty much all of my favourite Arch Enemy songs which I’m sure helped my enjoyment of the gig somewhat. Afterwards, I couldn’t think of any song that I would have cut to shoehorn in another one of my favourite songs. Had they played Rise Of The Tyrant and Leader Of The Rats, it would have been the perfect set list for me. The absence of those two songs did not take anything away from this gig for me though – Arch Enemy were just superb last night. I don’t tend to add a rating to the bottom of gig reviews (I tend to save that for festival reviews) but this gig was a genuine 10/10 for me. Choosing highlights from this gig is too tough an ask. I just tried to and I ended up almost writing out the whole set list. I can comfortably say this – when it comes to the end of the year, this gig will without doubt be in my top 10, if not my top 5. My first Arch Enemy headline show was everything I wanted it to be and more – and you can’t ask for more than that can you?

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Revisiting Bands - Nine Inch Nails

I don’t consider myself to be a very creative person. Certainly not when it comes to writing. These introductions to the revisiting bands blogs are getting harder to write each time without it just being a very literal, functional introduction. Enough about my shortcomings – this blog another blog where I revisit a band and so far, it is my favourite band that I’ve covered in this series, and that is Nine Inch Nails.

My Relationship With Nine Inch Nails

I rather like Nine Inch Nails. This photo is my collection of their releases. Every release has a halo number. I have almost all of them (missing re-releases and the VHS tape). I have also previous written a blog about them which you can read by clicking here. I vaguely recall being introduced to them whilst at college by a friend who went to a different college at the time who loved them (I assume still does). I remember he went to go see them in London at the Brixton Academy and at this time, I wasn’t a gig goer. I remember feeling slightly jealous of him and I hardly knew the band. Next time they came around, I snapped up a ticket for the first of their 4 nights at Brixton. The gig was that good it pulled me out of a funk (I had broken up with a girlfriend that day for unrelated reasons) and afterwards, on finding out there were still tickets left for their 4th night at Brixton, I bought a ticket for that night as well. Since then, I’ve travelled a fair bit to see them. I saw them on all 3 nights of their Wave Goodbye tour. I was at their first ever Belfast show and saw them a few days later at Reading Festival (which was awkward as Trent Reznor was pissed off). I then saw them again on their Hesitation Marks headline tour. Every time I’ve seen them live, they have been great. Every time! I highlight that because there are people I know who say to this day that they were shit at Sonisphere 2009. They weren’t, they just chose a non-festival friendly setlist which was very different from everything else that had appeared on stage that day. I love the set they played. I was right down the front for it, and a photo I took from that gig appears in my Decade of Gigs Photo Book Blog - cross promotion alert!

Before I start this, I just want to clarify what I will be covering. I will be covering the 8 full studio albums as well as the first EP, Broken. I won’t be covering the other EP’s as they are a mix of remix EP’s or live EP’s. I also won’t be covering the NINJA tour sampler EP in full. That would be a really quick one to cover as both songs are great; Non-Entity is one of the finest songs Nine Inch Nails have ever released. Oh, guess I just covered it. I will listen back to Ghosts but I won’t be doing a track by track review. As I’ve said on other blog posts, I’m not a smart man and the track titles will cause me no ends of bother. Gone, Still is a fantastic instrumental from the Still EP. Get Down Make Love is also an awesome track, as are Burn and Perfect Drug. I also want to give special mention to one of the remix tracks from Things Falling Apart. The strings reworking of The Frail is phenomenal and almost as good as the original. I’m not sure if NIN’s cover of Gary Numan’s Metal is on that album or not? Either way, that is another ace song. As is their cover of Dead Souls. Argh, moving on!

PRETTY HATE MACHINE (1989) – Lets just put this out there – this is one hell of a debut album. The album opens in a somewhat understated manner (!) with Head Like A Hole. In all seriousness, superb song and one of my live favourites. There are a few of them as you will come to find out. Another one is the next song on this album – Terrible Lie. A song which has lyrics that inspired many a MSN screen name for me back in the day, it is another superb song. The first single Nine Inch Nails ever released was Down In It and that is the next song on the album. I used to think this song was alright until I saw it in 2009 and then fell in love with it. It was then pointed out to me that they played it when I saw them for the second time in 2007. I have no answer to that point. Sanctified was a song that appeared a fair bit on the Hesitation Marks tour, which was cool. I like the song but if I was ranking the album in song order, it wouldn’t break my top 5 songs from this album. Something I Can Never Have on the other hand would break that top 5 because it is excellent. Kinda I Want To is an alright song. It has been a while since I’ve listened to it, and I remember it being better than I found it on this listen. Oh well. Sin on the other hand is possibly better than I remember it being. It is comfortably my favourite song on the album and one I’ve only see them play once. That’s What I Get is a good song, as is The Only Time, as is Ringfinger. I did not go into this listen expecting Sanctified tobe one of my least favourite songs on this album but it is. Said it up top, one hell of a debut album this.
Album MVP – Sin
Also Recommended – Head Like A Hole, Terrible Lie, Something I Can Never Have.

BROKEN (EP) (1992) – Broken is a massive departure from Pretty Hate Machine but that is by no means a bad thing. Pinion serves as an intro track to the EP which…whatever. If you have read any of my other revisit blogs, particularly the Slipknot one (plug), you will know my feelings on intro songs. Anyway, the first real song on this EP is Wish, and my word – what a song. This has become a live favourite for the band and it is not hard to see why. Despite them playing it every time I’ve seen them live, I still love it whenever they do. The next song is Last. I used to adore this song. I still really like it. I remember the first time I saw them live, this was the second song they played live. I was very happy. Help Me I’m In Hell is a two minute instrumental track which is pretty cool. Happiness In Slavery is next up and it is ace. Gave Up is the last original Nine Inch Nails song on the EP and it is also ace. The first cover on this EP is a cover of the Adam and the Ants song Physical (You’re So). Calling the last song a cover is a bit of a cheat because Reznor helped write it, but it was originally on a Pigface album so it is a cover song. Suck is the final song on the album and like almost everything on this EP, it is superb. Two releases in and I’m not struggling to see how Nine Inch Nails are one of my favourite bands.
Album MVP – Wish
Also Recommended – Last, Happiness In Slavery

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (1994) – This album is one of the best albums ever recorded in my opinion. I could go through track by track and say “this song is amazing” to almost all of the songs on this album but to be honest, that would probably get boring quickly. Heresy was one the first Nine Inch Nails songs I loved, because when I first heard it, I was a militant atheist. March Of The Pigs is another live classic and just like Wish, I love it every time they play it live. Especially as they tend to follow it with Piggy. Ace. Closer is probably still a rock club favourite. Listening to it now for the first time in a while, I can definitely see why. I’ve made a tit of myself to this song many a time! I often forget just how good Ruiner is. The same with The Becoming now I think about it. I remember hearing The Becoming live both times on the arena dates of the Wave Goodbye tour and it was just superb both times. According to, I saw them play Ruiner the first time I saw them live. I honestly don’t remember that, but I like it all the same. I Do Not Want This was one of the heavier songs from the Sonisphere setlist that I mentioned earlier in this post ad hearing it live then was probably the only time I’d listened to it outside of listening to Downward in full. I would say the three songs I listen to least on this album when not listening to the album in full are Big Man With A Gun, A Warm Place and Eraser. I’ve just listened to all 3 and they are all great in very different ways. Reptile is one of my go-to songs from this album, but then there are a lot of them. Another one I am really glad I’ve seen them play live. The final song on the album is Hurt. What can I possibly say about Hurt that will do it justice? Oh, I know – Johnny Cash covered it and did an amazing job of it. So much so in fact, I struggle to pick which is my favourite. Right now, as I’m listening to the original, this is my favourite version. It does change though. The video for the Cash version is moving to say the very least. Seriously, revisiting this album has been quite something as I forgot just how good it is. What it must have been like to be in Webster Hall, New York on the 23rd August 2009 when Nine Inch Nails came out on stage and, without warning, played the album in full.
Album MVP –Picking one song as an album MVP when there are over 10 legitimate contenders is just not possible. However, as I have for all the others, I will for this. Reptile. Come at me bro!
Also Recommended – The rest. Seriously.

THE FRAGILE (1999) – How do you follow up one of the finest albums ever written? With one of the finest double albums ever written. Somewhat Damaged is a strong opener for this album and it leads very nicely into The Day The World Went Away. For the longest time, this was a song that I thought was alright but that was all. I think it was hearing it regularly when it was on the Terminator: Salvation (I think) soundtrack that it really clicked with me. With other bands, intro tracks and random instrumentals don’t do a lot for me. With NIN though it is different because it just seems to fit better. None more so than The Frail before The Wretched. I will come back to The Wretched in just a second, but The Frail is just the perfect intro track for what would follow. As a side note, and to repeat myself from earlier, the reworked version on Things Falling Apart is stunning. The Wretched is outstanding. Need I say more? Feeling the need to, this is one of my favourite combinations of songs to hear live. On the Wave Goodbye tour arena dates in the UK, they didn’t play them and I was a bit sad about that. They did then play them at Sonisphere which is one of the many reasons why I loved that set. Anyway, We’re In This Together is the longest song on the album but it doesn’t feel like it when listening to it. It is really good. The title track is another one of my favourites on this album (it is going to be another right bugger picking favourites again). Just Like You Imagined I think is probably the bands heaviest instrumental track up to this point. I really quite liked it. Even Deeper is an alright song, as is Pilgrimage. I really forgot how good No, You Don’t is. There are 3 instrumentals on this first part of the double album. I think that is too many but if you asked me which one to cut, it wouldn’t be an easy answer. I think it would have to be Just Like You Imagined because it couldn’t be The Frail or this track La Mer. I really enjoyed listening back to La Mer. The Great Below is a very calming way to end the first half of this double album.

The Way Out Is Through starts the second half of this album and it is a very good start. The atmosphere builds for about 2 and a bit minutes before ramping up for a bit, then cooling off. Into The Void is the next song and it is another very good song. Where Is Everybody? Is another decent song but one I have to be honest I had completely forgotten about before doing this revisit. The Mark Has Been Made is another instrumental track and probably my least favourite of the ones on this album so far, but still, it is pretty good. Please is another song I had completely forgotten about but is one I quite like. Starfuckers Inc is one of my favourite NIN songs and one I’ve only see them play live once, which is a shame. It appears to be one that has been cast to the side in the live arena as it has not been played live since 2008. Complication is another instrumental and it is very catchy. I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is another fairly decent song. The Big Come Down is just superb. Underneath It All didn’t do a lot for me. Ripe [With Decay] is the last song on the album and it is another instrumental. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think much of this either. The album should have ended with The Big Come Down in my opinion. My word though, last two tracks ignored, belter of a double album that!
Album MVP – The Frail/The Wretched
Also Recommended – Somewhat Damaged, The Big Come Down, Starfuckers Inc.

WITH TEETH (2005) – The album opens with All The Love In The World, which is alright. It is the weakest open to a NIN album at this point in time though (competing against Head Like A Hole, Mr Self Destruct and Somewhat Damaged is always going to be a tough ask though). The song picked up towards the end but if I’m honest, I had lost interest by that point. You Know What You Are? Is a very good song. The Collector is another very good song. The Hand That Feeds is a bit shit isn’t it? No, the other one – excellent. Love Is Not Enough is much better than I remember it being. As is Every Day Is Exactly The Same actually. I didn’t think they were bad songs, I just thought they were alright. They are much better than alright. The title track however is an alright song. I’ve no idea why it appears to stop for 90 seconds and then carries on as if nothing happened. Only is superb - enough said. Getting Smaller is an alright song. Sunspots is a good song, as is The Line Begins To Blur. Beside You In Time didn’t do a whole lot for me if I’m being honest. Neither did Right Where It Belongs. These last two songs are alright I guess but they certainly shouldn’t be troubling any best of NIN albums, should one be released. This is a decent album overall, but it is definitely their weakest release at this point in time.
Album MVP – The Hand That Feeds
Also Recommended – Only, You Know What You Are?, Love Is Not Enough.

YEAR ZERO (2007) – I don’t remember if this album was marketed as a soundtrack to a movie about the end of the world. I seem to recall something similar. Anyway – the opener is Hyperpower! which is a cool way to start the album – one of the heavier instrumentals that NIN have ever done. The Beginning Of The End is up next and it is really good. I’d forgotten how good this song is. The first time I heard the next song, Survivalism, was when I first saw NIN live as the album hadn’t come out then. At least I think that is right. Regardless, it is one of the best songs on the album. The pace of the album slows a bit with The Good Soldier but not in a bad way as the song is decent. Vessel is another decent song. I would have liked it more had the outro been a bit shorter probably. Me, I’m Not is a solid song. Capital G is great. My Violent Heart is another very good song, as is The Warning. God Given is a decent song – I remember enjoying it a lot more than I did on this listen. Meet Your Master on the other hand is excellent. The Greater Good didn’t do a whole lot for me. The Great Destroyer is another very good song. There is a song on this album where the version on the remix album is noticeably better – I’m not sure if it is this one or Meet Your Master. I should find out one day. Another Version Of The Truth is a decent instrumental. In This Twilight is the best song on the album. Zero-Sum is a good closer for this album. Overall, I would say this album is pretty good. There are some real highlights on it. It is the second album in a row though which does not threaten the top 3 of Downward Spiral, Fragile and Pretty Hate Machine.
Album MVP – In This Twilight
Also Recommended – Survivalism, Capital G, Meet Your Master.

GHOSTS I-IV (2008) – Ghosts is split over 2 CDs but looking at the track list, I would say it is a quadruple album as the 36 songs are split into 4 9 song chunks. The first 9 tracks are called Ghosts I, the second Ghosts II and so on. It is hard to give this a genuine review like I have any other album I’ve covered in this and the other posts. It is very different from any other NIN release, that much is for sure. I think I am right in saying it is the first release of original music since Trent Reznor and the band concluded their record label deals. I won’t be choosing an album MVP or recommended tracks as it just doesn’t feel appropriate for this album. What I will say though is I believe this album and these set of songs was Trent Reznor dipping his toe in the water of writing a movie soundtrack. As far as I’m aware, there has been no movie for which these songs have been a sound track to, but this was perfect practice for when he wrote the sound tracks to The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl (as a side note, how good is the film Gone Girl?) My concluding comments on this album is that nothing on it feels “half done” – none of these tracks, to the best of my knowledge, were cut from another album. This is Trent Reznor showing off his skills working in a studio. Should it have been released as a Nine Inch Nails album? I see no reason why not because at this stage in the game, everyone knew and knows that Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails and vice versa. Truth be told, I’m not sure I will ever listen to this album again. As it went on, I did lose my patience with it and want to turn it off. The reason why I think it would be a perfect movie soundtrack is that it makes great background music. It is my main focus though for writing this section and if I’m honest, I’m a bit bored of it. 

THE SLIP (2008) – Ah, July 22nd 2008, I remember it like it was…no wait I barely remember it. What I do remember is that out of nowhere, NIN released this album on their website for free. In fact, it is still there for free if you click here – you can download it yourself. On to the album, 999,999 is an intro track for the album and leads very neatly into 1,000,000 – which is excellent. Pretty sure I’m right in saying it is one of two songs from this album that I’ve seen them play live, which is cool. Letting You is really good. It is followed by Discipline which is superb. I haven’t seen this live which is a shame. I think it was regularly played on the Lights In The Sky US tour – not 100% on that though. Echoplex is next and this is another really good song. This album starts off really well. Head Down is decent enough. It has a nearly minute long outro – on past revisits, things like this have bothered me, But the change in place, including the silence at the end of the song leads nicely into Lights In The Sky. This song is probably my favourite on the album and definitely up there with the classic softer NIN songs. Corona Radiata is the longest song on the album and if I’m honest, it didn’t do a lot for me. I’ve got no issue with instrumental tracks and it does pick up towards the end but by that point, I had lost interest. The Four Of Us Are Dying is another instrumental track which didn’t do a lot for me. The album closes out on Demon Seed which is alright. This album starts really well but the second half only has the one stand out song in Lights In The Sky.
Album MVP - Discipline
Also Recommended – Lights In The Sky. 1,000,000

As a note, in 2009, a tour sampler EP was released with two tracks from each Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction and Street Sweeper Social Club. Non-Entity is better than any song on The Slip. I like Not So Pretty Now and it would have fit in very well on The Slip. Non-Entity is up there with the best NIN songs released in my opinion. Not sure it would make a top 10 but definitely a top 20. Did I say earlier I wasn’t going to cover it? Oh well. Bonus words! Because there just aren’t enough words in this blog as it is.

HESITATION MARKS (2013) – So this album came as a surprise. After the 2009 Wave Goodbye tour, I thought there might be some studio releases from NIN but there wouldn’t be another tour. Then just one afternoon, a blog was released by Trent revealing this album was finished and would be released soon, and that a world tour would follow it. So, that was good news. They came over to Europe twice and I saw them 3 times. Belfast was great, even if the crowd were a bit shit. Reading was interesting because Trent was pissed off. Birmingham in 2014 was ace.

The Eater of Dreams is an intro track which…well whatever. Copy Of A is the first proper song on the album and it is excellent, as is the next song on the album Came Back Haunted. Find My Way is a change in pace from the first two songs but that doesn’t take away from it – it is a very good song. I wonder if it would have served better as the song that immediately followed Eater of Dreams? That would have worked better as an intro track to this song I’d say. All Time Low is another very good song. Disappointed is a decent enough song. Everything is one of the best songs on the album. Satellite is a good song, as is Various Methods Of Escape. Running and I Would For You are decent songs. I don’t remember ever listening to In Two before (I’m sure I have), but it is really good. While I’m Still Here is alright. It didn’t do a lot for me but it isn’t a bad song. Black Noises closes out the album and it was over before I really had a chance to take it in. The album has some very good stand out songs on it, and there is nothing I would consider to be a poor song. There are a few thought that I thought “this is good” and that’s it really. Overall, this is a decent album. If I were to rank it, it would be a solid 6 or 7 out of 10.
Album MVP – Came Back Haunted
Also Recommended – Copy Of A, All Time Low, Everything.

CONCLUSION – I really enjoyed this revisit, but that was to be expected as Nine Inch Nails are opne of my favourite bands. I did discover though I have spent very little time listening to With Teeth, Year Zero, The Slip and Hesitation Marks. More than once a song came on which I just didn’t remember. They are still one of my favourite bands, and chances are I will continue to mostly listen to songs from the first 3 albums as well as hits from the rest, but I did discover a few songs which I had previously overlooked, which is a good thing. Apparently there will be a new NIN album out this year, so I am interested to see if that happens.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Revisiting Bands - Alter Bridge

Another day, another Revisiting Bands blog. The last one, Slipknot, was a lot of fun. It has inspired me to do others about bands I love. This one however will be similar in a way to the Devildriver one in that I do like the band I’m covering in this post, but I’ve found myself going off them in the last year or so. I’ve barely listened to them since they played at Download 2014 – where I didn’t bother to go see them play. I instead went to go see The Pretty Reckless – which was a bad idea, and The Used, which was an ace idea. Alter Bridge have only released the four albums with a fifth due this year.

My Relationship With Alter Bridge – I got into Alter Bridge in the same way I got into Limp Bizkit – by hearing one of their songs as theme music for a wrestler. With Limp Bizkit it was The Undertaker. With Alter Bridge, it was Edge. I had no idea this band had risen from the ashes of Creed. I saw them live for the first time at Rock AM Ring 2008 and I remember being impressed with them. The most recent time was on their first UK arena tour where they were supported by Theory Of A Deadman (the least said about them the better) and Black Stone Cherry. Now, I am biased, but I think Black Stone Cherry were better that night. I missed their most recent arena tour, with Shinedown and Halestorm. I missed them at Download 2014 as mentioned above. They have announced a UK tour and they have Volbeat supporting. I will go to see Volbeat, but I want inspiration to hang around until the gig is over.

ONE DAY REMAINS (2004) – Find The Real is a good opener. The title track is the second album on the album and it is also a good song. Open Your Eyes, one of the bands biggest songs to date, is next. It is not hard to see why this became one of the bands biggest songs – it is great. Burn It Down is alright, but nothing special as far as I’m concerned. Metalingus is the song I referred to earlier as the song that made me want to know more about Alter Bridge. I still love this song. Broken Wings is a great song. I had forgotten how good this song is. In Loving Memory is a really good song, and one which I suspect could be used at funerals for years to come. Down To My Last is another good song. Watch Your Words is an alright song as is Shed My Skin. The End Is Here is a decent enough closer. This is a good album overall with some really good songs on it. Only the one which did nothing for me as well which is good.
Album MVP – Open Your Eyes
Also Recommended – Metalingus, Broken Wings

BLACKBIRD (2007) – I’m struggling to think if I’ve ever listened to this album all the way through or not. I’m sure I have but it must have only been once or twice. Anyway, it opens with Ties That Bind. I enjoyed it but I remember it being an outstanding opening track and it wasn’t. Come To Life is a good song, as is Brand New Start. I really like Buried Alive. Coming Home is alright. I like Before Tomorrow Comes. Rise Today is an excellent song, as is the title track. One By One just seemed to breeze right past me. Went back and gave it another quick go and it seems decent enough but on the initial listen, it didn’t grab me at all. Watch Over You is alright. Break Me Down is pretty good. White Knuckles is a good song. Wayward One closes out the album and it is a bit of a slog – decent song overall but yeah, bit of a slog. Overall, I would say the album is decent. It is tough to say whether or not it is better than the first one. Honest admission – I listened to this album a week after One Day Remains so it is difficult to conclusively state which is better.
Album MVP – Rise Today
Also Recommended – Blackbird, White Knuckles

AB III (2010) – So the first time I saw Alter Bridge live was at Rock AM Ring 2008. I didn’t know a lot about them then, but I enjoyed their set. This was the first release by them since I knew more about them so I was quite excited about this album coming out. The opening two songs, Slip To The Void and Isolation, are both fantastic. As is Ghost of Days Gone By. It is a different song to the first two and is similar to material you might find on the first two albums. It is excellent though. All Hope Is Gone is not as good as the 3 songs that came before it, but it is still pretty good. Still Remains is not a bad song as such, but it is one of those songs that I could easily not listen to again after this is done. Make It Right Is a decent song. I really enjoyed Wonderful Life. I Know It Hurts is another excellent song. Show Me A Sign is alright, as is Fallout. Breathe Again is a really good song. Coeur D’Alene is a decent song. Life Must Go On didn’t do a lot for me. The album closes on Words Darker Than Their Wings which is another alright song. Overall, I enjoyed listening back to this album. There are a lot of “alright” songs on the album though, and only really the three I have listed below that I would say stand out.
Album MVP - Isolation
Also Recommended – I Know It Hurts, Slip To The Void.

FORTRESS (2013) – Cry Of Achilles is comfortably the longest opening track Alter Bridge have recorded. I like it. Addicted To Pain is a great song, one of Alter Bridge’s best. Bleed It Dry is not one of Alter Bridge’s best, but it is alright. Lover is a decent song. As is The Uninvited. Peace Is Broken is really good. Calm The Fire completely passed me by (ironically enough, it became background music whilst chatting on Facebook with a friend about going to see Alter Bridge live). Waters Rising is alright. Over half of the album at this point has been unremarkable, which is a shame. Farther Than The Stream is pretty good. As is Cry A River. All Ends Wel is also pretty good. Just after I moaned about the album after 8 songs, it then throws 3 pretty good songs at me. The final song on the album is the title track. It is an alright song but in my personal view, is too long.
Album MVP – Addicted To Pain
Also Recommended – Peace Is Broken, Farther Than The Stream.

CONCLUSION – Alter Bridge are a good band but they have released a lot of inoffensive, middle of the road, alright songs. It wasn’t a tough choice choosing the standout tracks from their four albums. They have another one due this year and I hope it is better than these four. They are likely to headline Download Festival one day if it is a success (along with their arena tour selling well), and Download is in dire need of new headliners. As for me, I am going to go see them in November and not just for the support bands (those support bands though!) so I guess they won be over. Most of those songs I consider to be “alright” I doubt I will listen to again, which is a shame as there are quite a few. 

Next time I post one of these, it will be about another one of my favourite all time bands - Nine Inch Nails. That should be fun. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Revisiting Bands - Slipknot

This is the 4th revisiting blog I’ve written now and I’ve quite enjoyed the ones I’ve done so far which is probably why I’m continuing to do them. So far, I have learned that my negativity surrounding the Deftones was probably due to the times I’d seen them live and not entirely to do with their albums. I’ve learned that despite them being one of my favourite bands about 10 years ago, Devildriver will likely never be one of my favourite bands again (despite their first two albums still being belters) and I’ve learned why Bring Me The Horizon have become a stadium filling band (and realised that I actually rather like their latest two albums). This time around, I intend to revisit a band who I still love, both live and on record – but want to go back and listen to some of the stuff I never listen to.

My Relationship with Slipknot – Slipknot were one of the bands that turned me onto metal. I remember firmly being in the “grungers are bad” camp at school because I received some terrible advice from people who used to be friends. I didn’t listen to the music but I didn’t need to. I remember in my circle of friends it being a real talking point when we all realised we liked a song that the “grungers” liked – Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit. During this time, I would flick through music channels to find something I wanted to listen to, but would never leave Kerrang on for more than a second as I knew I wouldn’t like anything that was on there. One time I didn’t skip straight past and there was a video on – I don’t remember if I liked the song on first listen but it got my attention and I didn’t change the channel until the video had finished. That video was for Slipknot – Wait and Bleed. It was Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park who got me on the road to liking metal music, but I remember when I was won over, I went back and listened to some of Slipknot’s stuff and loved it.

SLIPKNOT (1999) – Just as a note, I am listening to the “European Limited Edition digipak import” as that is the version I have. The one that ends with Get This. The opening track was an intro to the album. Little needs to be said about it really. I don’t understand the purpose of them. For me, the album really starts on track 2 with (Sic) – what a way to start an album! That positive start continues into Eyeless which prompted the response from me – “Eyeless. Fucking Hell Eyeless”. Clearly I’d forgotten about that song. Wait and Bleed is one of my go-to Slipknot songs – it is just ace. Surfacing continues the run of excellent songs. It is not hard to see how this album got everyone’s attention back in 1999. As I understand it, there was a bit of promotion just based on there being a 9-piece band from Iowa who wear masks and boiler suits which initially got people’s attention – I suspect this album being good helped their cause. This album, lest ye forget, is a Nu-Metal album, and Spit It Out is some Nu-Metal at its finest. I don’t overly like Tattered and Torn. I do not know the last time I listened to Me Inside (it has been a while that’s for sure) – I rather like this. Liberate is really good. I dug Prosthetics but not as much as I thought I would when I started.  No Life is decent enough. Diluted is a good song as is Only One. Scissors doesn’t do a lot for me. “Give me a scream Corey” announces the arrival of the last song on the album, Get This. This song is excellent. I’d forgotten just how good of an album this is.
Album MVP – Wait and Bleed
Also Recommended – Eyeless, Surfacing, (Sic).

IOWA (2001) – Another odd intro track but whatever – it’s only a minute long. The album really kicks off with People = Shit which is one hell of a way to kick off this album. Up next is Disasterpiece, which is not a song I listen to that often. I’m not sure why as it is quite good. Following Disasterpiece however is the run of My Plague, Everything Ends and The Heretic Anthem – all outstanding songs. Gently is a really good song. It is followed by Left Behind (another Slipknot song with an epic music video) which is fantastic. The Shape is a decent song. I Am Hated is another excellent song. Skin Ticket didn’t do a whole lot for me. New Abortion is a good song, as is Metabolic. The title track is the last song on the album. I wasn’t sure if there was a hidden track on it, as it is 15 minutes long. It did lose my attention at times.
Album MVP – Left Behind
Also Recommended – My Plague, People = Shit, Everything Ends.

VOL. 3: (THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES) (2004) – The album opens with Prelude 3.0 which is a better opening song than the previous two albums have had. In its own right, it is an alright song. Up next is The Blister Exists, which is pretty good. Three Nil is a decent song. Duality follows it and this is a Slipknot anthem. I imagine these days it would be rare to see Slipknot live and them not play this song. As it happens, I quite like it – a lot. Opium Of The People is another good song. I had completely forgotten about Circle.  This song is very different to anything else Slipknot had done previously. This album was the start of Slipknot moving away from Nu-Metal, and Circle is just one example of that. I like it. Welcome is a decent song. Vermillion is an excellent song – another example of Slipknot changing their style a little bit on this album. I loved it when they played this song live at Wembley Arena in January last year. Pulse Of The Maggots is a pretty good song. Before I Forget is another Slipknot live favourite and it is not hard to see why – it is a great song. Vermillion, Pt 2 is the softest Slipknot song to date. I’m not entirely sure it fits on this or any Slipknot album, but I love the song. The Nameless follows and I like this song. It is a bit disjointed in places, switching from heavy verses to softer choruses. The Virus of Life did nothing for me. Neither did Danger – Keep Away. The album should have ended after The Nameless or even Vermillion Pt 2. I like the album but it is the weakest of the 3 albums of theirs I have listened to.
Album MVP – Before I Forget
Also Recommended – Duality, Vermillion, Vermillion Pt 2.

ALL HOPE IS GONE (2008) – The intro track was a bit of a waste of time. The drums at the end led nicely onto the first proper song of the album - Gematria (The Killing Name). I really like this song and thought this would become a live favourite before long. I think I’m right in saying it has never been played live so I was wrong on that one. Sulfur is next up and this is a great song.  Psychosocial follows it. This is another Slipknot live anthem and for good reason – it is excellent. Dead Memories is next up and it is another excellent song. On the All Hope Is Gone tour, the first time I saw Slipknot live (and the only time I would see the original 9 members on stage together), they only played two songs from this album, Psychosocial and Dead Memories. I was surprised they only played two but two very good choices. Vendetta is the next song and I’ll be honest, it did very little for me. Butcher’s Hook is a pretty good song. Gehenna didn’t do a lot for me. This Cold Black is a decent song, as is Wherein Lies Continue. Snuff is an excellent song but I can’t help but wonder whether it should have been a Stone Sour song rather than a Slipknot song. Oh well. The album closes with the title track, All Hope Is Gone, which somehow seems heavier than it is following Snuff – and it is pretty heavy as is. I like the song. This album has its moments – the run of Gematria, Sulfur, Psychosocial and Dead Memories is excellent. It all gets a bit sketchy after that. There are some good songs there but nothing that sticks out until you get to Snuff and All Hope Is Gone. I would say, despite the early run, that this is probably the poorest Slipknot album they have released.
Album MVP – Dead Memories
Also Recommended – Gematria (The Killing Name), Sulfur, Psychosocial.

.5: THE GRAY CHAPTER (2014) – What is it with Slipknot and odd opening tracks? Anyway, Sarcastrophe is a really good song, as is AOV. The Devil In I is an excellent song. It took a few listens initially for it to grow on me but now it has, I love it. Killpop does nothing for me. Skeptic is a good song, as is Lech (if you ignore the opening line – makes me cringe every time). Goodbye doesn’t do a lot for me. Nomadic is one of my favourite songs on the album and I think one that has been criminally overlooked. The One That Kills the Least is a pretty good song and one, if I’m honest, I had forgotten about entirely. It was a nice surprise. However, it is followed up by a song that I love and hate (love it most of the time, hate it when it comes on when I’m running). Custer is one of Slipknot’s best songs. Be Prepared for Hell successfully fills two minutes on the album. That’s all I’ve got on that one. I assume it is there to serve as a breather between Custer and The Negative One. Speaking of The Negative One, that is the next song and it is really good – one of the best on the album. The album closes out on If Rain Is What You Want. I don’t mind this song but it takes a really long time to get going. Slipknot didn’t record an album for 6 years for a number of reasons – Paul Gray sadly passing away being the main one I imagine. This is an excellent album. I’d probably rank it as their 3rd best album – but there is no shame in being third to the self-titled album and Iowa.
Album MVP – Custer
Also Recommended – Nomadic, The Negative One, The Negative One.

CONCLUSION – I’ll tell you what, that Slipknot are a bit good aren’t they? This was a fun revisit to do. There were songs I had completely forgotten about (Eyeless from the debut album and The One That Kills The Least from the latest album). There were songs I knew I liked but hadn’t listened to in a while and of course, there were songs I love which I got to listen to again. Yes, there are songs I don’t overly like but when a band releases 5 albums, that is bound to happen. The latest album is just as good as the first two and that is quite the compliment as those first two albums are fantastic.

The next band I will be revisiting is another one that I’ve gone off of recently and that is Alter Bridge. See you next time!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Revisiting Bands - Bring Me The Horizon

Guess whose back? Back again? Mike is…well you probably guessed it was me. I’m the only one who contributes to this page. Anyhow, this installment of Revisiting Bands takes me to another band I’ve never had much time for, regardless of their change in musical style. Today, I approach a band who will be joining the league of Festival Headliner bands sooner rather than later (starting possibly at Download 2017?) – Bring Me The Horizon.

My Relationship With Bring Me The Horizon – I don’t have one. I’ve never listened to an album in full. I have heard a handful of songs on the radio (more so on their later albums) and not had strong feelings about any of them (I did like the acoustic cover The Hype Theory, now Tigress, did of Can You Feel My Heart from Sempiternal). It looks very much like Bring Me will headline festivals next year and from now on, so I want to give them another shot to see if my opinion can be swayed.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS (2006) – It could be a waste of time me listening to this album as there is very little deathcore I’ve listened to that I like. The first two tracks did very little for me. Braille is an alright song. A Lot Like Vegas is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. Black and Blue didn’t do a lot for me. Slow Dance was over quickly, which was nice. Liquor & Love Lost is really good. (I Used To Make Out With) Medusa was pretty decent. Fifteen Fathoms, Counting is, I assume, an intro track to the final song. Otherwise, it being on the album doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Off The Heezay didn’t do a lot for me. That album was better than I thought it would be, but I didn’t have high hopes going in. That’s something I guess.
Album MVP – Liquor & Love Lost
Also Recommended – A Lot Like Vegas, (I Used To Make Out With) Medusa.

SUICIDE SEASON (2008) – So just looking at some of these track names, I already know more of this album going in than I did Count Your Blessings. The Comedown, the opening track, was alright. Chelsea Smile is a song I know and didn’t have much time for before. Having listened again, I still don’t. Had it ended at the 2-minute mark, it would have been a belter. However, it is 5 minutes long and that is a drag. It Was Written In Blood was pretty decent. Death Breath was really good. The football season being over is usually a good thing for me, but the song Football Season Is Over does very little for me. Sleep With One Eye Open is good as is Diamonds Aren’t Forever. The Sadness Will Never End is another decent song. No Need For Introductions, I’ve Read About Girls Like You On The Back Of Toilet Doors was a waste of a minute if I’m being perfectly honest. I’ll never get that minute back. Oh well. The title track was decent I felt but it really could have been 4 minutes long. This album has quite a few decent songs on it actually. I still don’t overly like any of the ones I knew from the album though.
Album MVP – Death Breath
Also Recommended – Diamonds Aren’t Forever, It Was Written In Blood

THERE IS A HELL, BELIEVE ME I’VE SEEN IT. THERE IS A HEAVEN, LET’S KEEP IT A SECRET (2010) – In the spirit of honesty, I sighed when I saw how long the opening track was. There have been a handful of instances where, in my opinion, the band could have ended the song earlier and had a better song as a result. That is not the case with Crucify Me – this song is good. Anthem is alright as is It Never Ends. Fuck is also alright. You can definitely hear the difference from where they started on Count Your Blessings and this. I didn’t think much of Don’t Go. Home Sweet Home is a good song. Alligator Blood didn’t do a lot for me. Neither did Visions really. I do like Blacklist thought. Memorial might mean something to people who know more about the band than I do. To me though, I don’t see why it is there. Same as Fifteen Fathoms, Counting from the first album. I thought Memorial was almost 5 minutes long until I realised Blessed With A Curse has a really long intro. The song didn’t do a lot for me. The Fox And The Wolf was a lively way to end the album. I thought it was alright. Overall I would say the album was fairly decent – my favourite one of the three so far. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it made me a fan of them though.
Album MVP – Crucify Me
Also Recommended – Home Sweet Home, The Fox And The Wolf

SEMPITERNAL (2013) – I will be interested to see how I react to this album, because it was around this album that Bring Me started to become huge. If memory serves me correctly anyway. Can You Feel My Heart is an excellent song. The House Of Wolves and Empire (Let Them Sing) are both very good songs. Sleepwalking is another really good song. This album is off to a very strong start. Go To Hell, for Heaven’s Sake is another strong song.  Shadow Moses is another excellent song. And the Snakes Start to Sing didn’t do much for me. Seen It All Before is alright. Antivist is really good. Crooked Young is decent enough. The album closes out on Hospital For Souls, which is an alright song. On the whole, I really like this album.
Album MVP – Can You Feel My Heart
Also Recommended – Shadow Moses, The House Of Wolves.

THAT’S THE SPIRIT (2015) – Right then. If Sempiternal started Bring Me’s journey to the big leagues, this was the album which got them there. Anyway, the songs. Doomed is an alright start. I don’t think it is as good as Can You Feel My Heart in terms of album openers. Happy Song and Throne are very good songs. True Friends is another very good song. This album is very different to Count Your Blessings. I can’t fault them for that though. Follow You is a fine example of how far the band have come from the CYB days. The song is a good one, but it is very different to old Bring Me. What You Need is a very good song. Avalanche is a good song. Run is a very good song, as is Drown. Drown is the best the album has to offer. Blasphemy is an alright song, as is Oh No. The album on the whole is very good. I can see why, on the back of this, they are doing arena dates later in 2016.
Album MVP - Drown
Also Recommended – Throne, Happy Song, Run

CONCLUSION – I can see why Bring Me The Horizon will be a mainstream festival headliner next year. Have they sold out by doing this? Well, if they have, it has worked. They have definitely changed their sound with each album from a deathcore band to a rock band. It is this reason which is why I would argue they haven’t “sold out” as such – because their sound has changed with each album. If they released That’s The Spirit straight after Count Your Blessings, then that would be different. As for my enjoyment of the band? I didn’t like Count Your Blessings and Suicide Season was a mixed bag for me. I did like There Is a Hell and I thought Sempiternal overall was a very good album. That’s The Spirit is also a very good album but gun to my head, I’d say I prefer Sempiternal. I went into this revisit knowing very little about Bring Me The Horizon – I leave it liking two of their albums and some of their other material as well. I guess you could call me a casual fan? I’m not sure what that will actually entail other than actually listening to their music occasionally but still.  

Next time I write one of these blogs, it will be about a band I love. It will be about Slipknot.