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M3 Festival 2015 – Day 2 – Killer Dwarfs, Tyketto, Vixen, Black’N Blue, LA Guns, Krokus, Warrant, Y&T, Queensryche, Europe – Live Review (5/2/15)

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2015 by novametalreview

So, following on from a decent Day 1 kick-off, Day 2 of M3 rolled around with the early attraction all being on the Festival stage, at least for me. The Festival stage was moved to the very back of the Merriweather site last year, and hence is almost exactly facing the main Pavilion stage, but separated by quite a decent hill. On the Pavilion side this forms the ‘lawn’ area, while on the other, the slope provides an almost perfect view, no matter where you are, to see the action down on the stage, however we got there nice and early and were on the front rail. The only down-side to the Festival stage location is the surprisingly long walk to get over to the Pavilion, so be prepared for some hiking through the day if you plan on hopping from one to the other more than a couple of times.

As we walked in we could hear “Bad Seed Rising” who opened the day on the Pavilion stage. They are a young, mid-early teen band and did a decent enough job, considering no one was really interested, but their female singer could have cut back on the f-bombs which seemed to make up every other word between songs…

Killer Dwarfs
Now I have to confess, despite the fact we have at least one Killer Dwarfs LP at home, I hadn’t heard anything by them (at least consciously), but for some reason I had a good buzz waiting for their set to begin. This was totally on the money and from the moment Russ Graham bounced onto the stage to the last riff I was greatly entertained.

To me they came across as a sort of NWOBHM-infused AC/DC, very much in the vein of a heavier April Wine (to pick a Canadian comparison) – strong melodic riffs, with tight vocals, and perhaps the most energetic vocalist of the weekend. Russ spent nearly as much time flat out on the stage, as he did rolling around, as he did singing. I’m not sure quite why, but Russ also smashed a perfectly serviceable three-wheeled kiddy scooter into lots of little pieces… Overall this was a perfect start to the day and the six-song set delivered a solid slice of metal to earn them a score of 8/10.

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Rhino Bucket
Over on the main stage Rhino Bucket kicked of the ‘real bands’ on that stage, but I knew less about them than I did the Killer Dwarfs, so we remained firmly glued to our spot up front and watched the proceedings on the video screen. Fortunately the audio was also piped over the PA, so this was a decent comprise. I’m sure there are plenty of Rhino Bucket fans, but to me they seemed a touch too close to Kix in style – basic rock’n’roll – but with a rather strained scratchy vocal style. I did a quick video search using “Rhino Bucket M3”, and I think my memory was spot on – the vocals just don’t work for me. Admittedly this is a sort of phoned in score, but for me it’s a 4/10.

Tyketto
Now, in all fairness I have to confess a little bit of “insider trading” for this review, since my good friend Chris Green (also of Pride, Furyon and Rubicon Cross) is now the guitarist for the band, but my affection for Tyketto rolls all the way back to the debut release of “Don’t Come Easy” from 1991, with the opening track “Forever Young”, being a sort of anthem at the time. I still get a kick out of the opening guitar riff of that song, no matter where or when I hear it. However, friend or otherwise, I had high expectations for the band based on reports from the MOR cruise and performances from last year’s UK tour, and this would be my first chance to see them live. The fact they were appearing so early in the day was a concern, but come about 12.30 the Festival stage area was packed as far as the eye could see, so clearly I wasn’t the only one expecting good things. We were not disappointed!

Taking the stage with an air of confidence, vocalist Danny Vaughan and rest of the boys kicked off the set with “Lay Your Body Down”, and immediately the first thing that hit me was Danny doesn’t appear to have aged one damn minute. The second was his voice… absolutely on the money! Unlike rather too many of the vocalists from the 80s/90s, Danny has clearly done a fine job of holding onto his vocal chops, and I swear he sounds exactly the same as back in 1991, at least as far as the album recording goes. But that comment also applies across all members of the band, from Michael Clayton on drums, to Jimi Kennedy on bass, and the newer members of the line-up, Bobby Lynch on keys, and of course Chris on ripping guitar.

Given they only had a 30 minute set, it was always going to be a case of squeezing in as many crowd favorites, which basically meant tracks from “Don’t Come Easy”, which will see it’s 25th release anniversary next year, and we were not disappointed, with four of the six total coming from that recording. There was a slight lull in the energy from the crowd with “Dig In Deep”, the title track of the latest album and fourth track of the set, which I am sure skipped over the heads of most attending M3, but it is perhaps one of the more accessible rockers from the latest record. The set closed with a strong pairing of “Wings” and “Forever Young” from “Don’t Come Easy”. You can see my video of “Wings” here: https://youtu.be/bbi1NEgUM3g I dare anyone to try to claim Danny doesn’t sound EXACTLY like he does on the original recording…

And that was the set done. In the aftermath of the weekend there were lots of polls and “best of M3” lists, and it was rare to see any without Tyketto being listed in the top 3 or so bands of the weekend. I would totally agree with this and certainly hope to see them back at the next M3 on the main stage, later in the day and with a longer set. My score is an easily earned 10/10.

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Vixen
Next up on the main stage was Vixen, who I know bring out great gobs of affection from certain members of the metal community, but, at least to me, seems quite unwarranted. This was convincingly demonstrated when most of the members appeared back at the 2013 M3 as JSRG, which I scored a weak-to-pathetic 4/10 – least anyone of you reading this forgets – the 2013 set included a cover of a song by ADELE…WTF? Why anyone would include a cover song of a modern pop artist in a set at M3 still baffles me… Anyway it was clear there was no reason to walk over the Pavilion stage, so again we watched the video screens.

All I will say is the performance was painful. Just as Dokken the day before demonstrated, just because you are still willing to perform, doesn’t mean you SHOULD still perform. Now, I’m sure you die-hard fans are just about wanting to kill me or something, but, before you do, watch this video first: https://youtu.be/x2WF4HhW47c OK, assuming you are still alive, can you honestly tell me this was anything other than horrible? And this was their big “hit”? I’ve heard cats fighting that are more melodic. My score 3/10.

Black ‘N Blue
Next up on the Festival stage were Black ‘N Blue, and I have to say Jamie St. James was perhaps the friendliest ‘star’ of the weekend, seemingly appearing at all the hot spots over the weekend, including the bar and lobby of the Sheraton at all times of the day and night, and over at Clyde’s, the de-facto post-gig watering hole for all the event. He was always welcoming and happy to take pics and sign stuff – a good way to build fan rapport, so score one for B’N B.

So B’N B hit the stage and opened with “Get Wise To The Rise” from the 1988 release “In Heat” which is a great rocker and set the scene for a solid dose of 80’s hair metal. This was followed by “School Of Hard Knocks” from their 1984 debut release, and we were rockin’. The two newest members happen to be both guitarists (Shawn Sonnenschein and Brandon Cook), and they did a solid job, while original members Jamie, Patrick Young (bass) and Pete Holms (drums) rocked out and seemed to really having a great time up there. The seven song set closed with the crowd favorite “Hold On To 18”, which was perfect. My score 8.5/10.

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LA Guns
So, now we’re off to the main Pavilion stage, but by this point starving hungry, so a bit of an extended food stop delayed us a bit, so we missed perhaps the first three or four songs of their ten song set. However we could still hear them and, no surprise, they were sounding in great form. If you follow this blog you will know we’ve seen the ‘Guns’ a few times including a couple of times at our local venue, the Tally Ho, in Leesburg VA, so we are pretty familiar with the lads in the band, with the one exception being the recently returned bass player, Kenny Kweens (though we did end up meeting him briefly backstage to the very end of the night).

I’ve seen a few on-going comments complaining that Michael Grant (guitarist, since early 2013) doesn’t play the solos exactly like the originals… which to me is a bit like complaining that Ronnie James Dio didn’t sing Paranoid the same as Ozzy Osbourne did. Well, may be he doesn’t, but it’s time to get over that. Obviously Phil Lewis and Steve Riley are happy enough with the way they are being played, so let’s put that one to bed – the band consists of the members on the stage, and they play the songs the way you hear them now. Not the way some former member did. Deal with it!

Basically the band looked like they were having a great time up there, which always is an encouraging sign, and that for me that was echoed in what my ears were hearing. I did miss hearing anything from the latest release, “Hollywood Forever” which is a great album, but of course there was no way we could get away without “The Ballard of Jayne”, which to be honest I could go my entire life without hearing ever again… The set closed with a pretty riotous version of “Rip and Tear”. I think LA Guns have played M3 every year now, and I’m pretty sure they did enough to come back next year. I think they were a solid 8/10.

Krokus
These guys were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing, particularly since the 2013 release, “Dirty Dynamite” was a decent offering. Krokus have always carried an AC/DC-wanna-be label, and notwithstanding this, they seem to have turned out solid records, though it would be misleading of me if I did not make it clear I am far from their biggest fan, with not much more than a recollection of a few tunes from Headhunter (1983), aside from the aforementioned latest recording. This was the first time I’ve seen them live I believe.

When they took to the stage I must admit there seemed to be a lack of energy in the Pavilion generally. I’m guessing most people were not big Krokus fans, and were in a similar frame of mind to myself – interested in the novelty of having them there.

To cut to the chase, to me, they came across as sort of a cross between AC/DC and Accept, and were tight and functional, but the spark just seemed to be missing. I was a little confused by the cover “American Woman” (originally by “The Guess Who”, but later Lenny Kravitz), until someone more knowledgeable than me explained this was a hit for Krokus in 1982… I think we made it through another two songs before deciding to head back to the VIP area for the Queensryche meet’n’greet. All-in-all I scored them a middling 6/10.

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Warrant
We headed back to the Festival stage around 6PM in order to get a good spot for Y&T, which meant we missed Bang Tango and the Winery Dogs entirely, so I can’t comment on them from a performance perspective, but I did hear reports that the Winery Dogs delivered a ripping set, although I am rather confused why they were at M3 at all – since the Winery Dogs were not around in the 80’s/early 90’s…

Once established down the front of the Festival stage again, we turned our attention to the video screens, which were relaying Warrant’s set from the Pavilion stage. I had previously seen Warrant with Robert Mason back in 2013, and despite all the right moves, couldn’t help but feel there was a sense the band were going through the motions. Unfortunately this time around nothing appeared to have changed, and, if anything, things were a little worse. I don’t think this opinion was helped by seeing Robert Mason stumbling into the hotel late the night before, more than obviously the worse for wear, and it may be the case that there was a little too much partying in the hospitality before there set, but the vocals were definitely iffy all through the set. This was not helped by an obviously out of tune acoustic guitar during the intro to “Heaven” and a multitude of wonky guitar parts throughout the set. For those that don’t agree, take a look at any of the videos that have been posted on YouTube from the show – the end of “Heaven” is a veritable train wreck of epic proportions. My score 4/10.

Y&T
Now I am happy to confess I am a big fan of Y&T and have never seen them deliver anything other than a killer show, no matter when or where, so I must admit I had high expectations for Dave Meniketti and crew, and I am happy to report there was to be no disappointment. The nine song set they delivered was absolutely on point from the opening riff from “Don’t Stop Runnin”, through to the last notes of “Forever” from the classic Black Tiger album that closed the show.

Dave Meniketti is a sorely under-rated guitarist and there are few that can touch him when it comes to blues-based hard rock; he has an innate ability to deliver crushing riffs that you just can’t avoid rocking out to, but his solos are off-the-scale. Sure, there are players that are technically more proficient, but Dave has the ability to select and deliver a sequence of notes that are just ripping and, when it comes to some of the slower ballads he is one of the few players out there that can deliver such emotion through the strings of a guitar. Perhaps Gary Moore was on the same level, but let Dave loose with a Les Paul and a hot amp, and he’s deadly.

It would also be a travesty to overlook Dave’s vocal abilities, which are also excellent –if you haven’t seen Y&T live, check out their recent live album “Live At The Majestic” which is a excellent representation of what you will experience at any live show, and pay attention to Dave’s vocals. Awesome.

Of course the band is more than Mr. Meniketti, and the newest member, Brad Lang on bass, does an awesome job of locking down the groove that is so important to the overall Y&T sound. I remember seeing Brad at his first show with the band, at Jaxx (sadly now closed…), who basically learned the set on the flight over from the West Coast back in 2010, following Phil Kenmore’s diagnosis with cancer. Brad has an undeniable energy and passion for the band.

John Nymann on rhythm guitar is the perfect partner for Dave Meniketti and is no guitar slouch when he is let loose to solo, and let me not underplay Mike Vanderhule on the drums. He hits hard and was also quite a hoot at the bar later in the evening. It’s good to meet a band who are not only great players, but also know how to have fun.

All-in-all Y&T delivered a nigh-on perfect set and it would be difficult to score them anything other than a 10/10.

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Queensryche
Once Y&T were done it was time to make the rapid transit from the Festival stage back to the Pavilion, and despite hustling, Queensryche didn’t wait for us! However, we had already had a massive dose of the ‘Ryche earlier in the week after a quick, 250 mile, there and back trip to Pittsburg to see them headline the Altar Bar on the Wednesday. That was a killer show, but not the subject of this review, however we were pumped from seeing them so recently.

Last year Queensryche were perhaps the surprise of the show for many people, and turned most of the audience from indifferent to captivated, so this time around I think more people were clued into what to expect.

Now, it is true there will always be those with their head in the sand and refuse to accept Todd La Torre in place of Geoff Tate, but to be honest they cannot be fans of the band. I’m sure there are some of you reading this now and are already yelling obscenities at the screen, but face facts – Geoff was not interested in Queensryche the band, he was interested in Geoff Tate, and the last 10 years had seen the band in a sad and steady decline, in both recorded music and live. If any of you have the chance to talk to Michael Wilton or Scott Rockenfield or indeed Eddie Jackson, ask them about the band before and after Todd joined and you will see the fire is back in their eyes. I have seen QR perhaps five times now with Todd and the energy he brings to the stage, particularly when delivering the classic material from the first five albums is like stepping back in time to the late 80’s when QR were at their peak.

The set opened with “Nightrider” from the debut EP, which is an absolute killer track and was followed by “Breaking The Silence” from Operation Mindcrime, which is just about when we found our way to our seats. It’s very hard to really review Queensryche in their current form because they are simply so good. “En Force” followed from The Warning and I think it fair to say, any true Queensryche fan was simply locked in the groove at this point. There are so many great songs from the first five QR releases that you could almost pick a set at random and see an amazing show. However, I must admit I missed the inclusion of “Where Dreams Go To Die” from the latest album, which we had heard at the Altar Bar show. I guess that was a concession to the nature of M3, which focused the set on the older material, and probably was the material the vast majority of the audience wanted to hear.

One thing I also want to mention is the way the Parker Lundgren on second guitar is really coming to life in these more recent shows. I remember seeing Parker on his first tour with the band back in 2009, and there was an undeniable “outsider” feel to his inclusion on stage, and this was probably due to the way he was brought into the band (a story I need not repeat in detail here, but will only mention it involves Geoff Tate, his daughter and a marriage that is no more…). However, Parker has always stuck to the original guitar work on the older material and keeps all the solo work true to the originals, which is more than can be said for Mike Stone and Kelly Gray who preceded him. These last couple of shows really show Parker as a fully integrated and key member of the Queensryche line-up, and, I should also mention, if you happen to meet him he’s a nice chap to boot!

The twelve-song set closed with “Jet City Woman” and an absolutely crushing version of “Take Hold Of The Flame” and as far as I have seen, again Queensryche were widely reported as taking the title of “band of the day” – and no, don’t shoot the messenger, I am simply reporting what I have seen online since the show, however I totally agree…. My score is a maxed out 10/10.

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Tom Keifer
Some reading this may be a little outraged that I skipped Tom Keifer’s set on the Festival stage, but by this point we were some 8 hours or so in, tired, and I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t Cinderella performing. Of course Tom cranked out a Cinderella-loaded set with 9 out of 14 songs being Cinderella “covers” (haha, what else can I call them…?), and did them justice by all accounts, but there just wasn’t any impetus to get me up out of my seat and over that damn hill. One thing that was a little odd was this was the only set of the day that overran and they had not finished by the time Europe hit the Pavilion stage to close out the day.

Europe
I think it would only be fair to say that most of the attendees at M3 probably know Europe for one album – The Final Countdown – and unfortunately this is quite a travesty, because once you set away from this record you will find a band with a great maturity and depth of material, and that is where the true fans will be found. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the great proportion of the audience at M3. In fact anyone reading this really should get themselves a copy of the latest Europe offering, “War of Kings” which is a phenomenal record. Very much in the vein of classic Deep Purple or Uriah Heep, but with crushing riffs and massive production – it truly is a masterpiece.

Europe currently consist of the “classic” Final Countdown line-up, with Joey Tempest on vocals, sounding better than ever, John Norum on guitar, who is an absolute guitar hero, John Levin on bass,  a groove master if ever there was, and Mic Micheli on keyboards, who really pulls some showman moves up there, leaving Ian Haugland as the final member on drums, who hammers his kit with great authority. Both on record and live these guys really deliver.

So, was it a mistake to open the set with the title track from the latest record, “War of Kings”? Well, for me it was the best opening, but it was clear from many around me in the audience it was going straight over their heads. Next up was “Hole in my Pocket” another War of Kings track and I felt there was a definite sense of frustration in the audience… Bring on the hits! Fortunately, the day was saved with “Rock The Night” from the Final Countdown, but at this point I would say perhaps 5-10% of the audience had decided they were done and it was tangible that there were fewer people watching than was true for Queensryche for example.

The audience thinning continued with the fourth track, which was a rather deep cut, coming in the form of the rather obscure title track from the 2009 release, “Last Look at Eden”. For me, and any real “Europe” fan, all this was a great set, but that is difference between a festival set-list, and a headline-of-our-own-show set-list. These are two different things. I’m not sure anyone had explained this to the band perhaps, or maybe they just didn’t care?

However, this is perhaps the problem with a festival like M3, where most of the audience is there because of the nature of the festival, not so much the specific bands, and perhaps more so the headliner. There isn’t one aspect of Europe’s performance you could point to that wasn’t absolutely on point, but the end result, which was reflected in comments on various forums after the show, wasn’t a slam-dunk for the band. You will definitely find people like myself that have most of the bands releases (but not all mind you) who thought they knocked it out of the park, but there will be those who don’t quite agree, I’m sure. Of course, The Final Countdown tracks got the biggest reaction all night, and this included “Carrie”, “Cherokee” and of course the final… track, “The Final Countdown” which was greeted with an absolute roof-rousing roar. In fact, this track probably had the highest audience participation of any played all day, and was a stomping good way to end the day. On reflection, I loved Europe’s set, but it wasn’t the best of the day by any means – for me they were a decent 9/10.

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The End
So, there we had it, another M3 was done. There’s always a post-M3 let-down, where you suddenly realize it’s over for another 363 days…. They pass fairly quickly, but I find myself wondering can they keep this up? Can the organizers keep finding enough bands that will keep the venue full? I think so, at least for the next 5 years or so, but these bands won’t keep playing forever, and, as noted, some really should quit while they are still more or less ahead… For me the top three bands of the weekend (in no particular order) were: Y&T, Tyketto and Queensryche. All three delivered killer performances. Of course, I’d be happy to see any of them back at M3 next year, but I’d be especially happy to see Tyketto over on the Pavilion stage and later in the day – they deserve the exposure and would get that place rockin’ hard. ‘Til next year then!

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M3 Festival 2015 –Day 1 – Trixter, Dio Disciples, Quiet Riot, Dokken – Live Review (5/1/15)

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on May 20, 2015 by novametalreview

This is the seventh year for M3, which is probably the best festival if 80’s “hair metal” is your thing. If you need to review the history of this festival then see my review from last year and indeed the review from the year before that! This time around I’m skipping the intro waffle and getting more or less straight into it. The only thing I will say is M3 is a 2-day event and this review covers the shorter Day1.

As a VIP ticket holder (meaning you pay a lot more for the chance to be somewhere near the front), there was a VIP-only acoustic performance by Jack Russell’s Great White at something like 3PM or so, but that in itself wasn’t enough of a draw to get us over there early, and in fact we finally made it over to the venue around 4.15, which meant we missed Korupt. I think I have them confused with the band who opened the second day, so no more comment either way…

Tixter

Last time Trixter played here in 2013 things did not go well, so I was hoping for a better experience, and indeed we got much more what I was expecting. We didn’t see the whole set (missed the first 3 songs of 7), but what we did see was tight, well delivered and without any pretention for a band early in the day. Nothing really to write home about, but job well done. (Score: 7/10)

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Dio Disciples
For me, this band was in the wrong position in the running order. DD are essentially the remains of Ronnie James Dio’s band “Dio” and do an admirable job of keeping Dio’s music alive. The band has very much an open door as far as members are concerned, but generally consists of players who were at one time or another in Dio with Ronnie. Vocals for this show were handled by Joe Retta (Heaven and Earth) and Oni Logan (perhaps best known with Lynch Mob). Personally I think I preferred Joe who cut a pretty convincing Dio, but Oni also did a great job – for me though he has a little more character to his voice, meaning he sounds more like Oni Logan and less Dio…

On guitar Craig Goldy (Dio, Giuffria, Rough Cutt) played a blinder, even though he isn’t really the most visually exciting player around. Simon Wright held down he drums, while keys were handled by the somewhat over-the-top Scott Warren (though maybe he was making up for Craig…). I’m not sure who the fella on bass was, but he did a fine job.

The set opened with Holy Diver, which basically opened the flood gates, filling my mind with thoughts of Dio concerts at Hammersmith Odeon in London through the 80’s. These songs really are metal classics and despite the tribute band feel, Dio Disciples are doing a worthy job of keeping this music alive. Stargazer, The Last In Line, Man On The Silver Mountain and Heaven and Hell were all highlights for me, but all eight tracks player were delivered with conviction and with a great crowd reaction all round. I would have been happy for them to keep playing for another hour… (Score: 9/10)

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Quiet Riot

Trying to summarize the history of this band in a few paragraphs isn’t going to work, so all I will say is there is no one from original line-up of the band at all (1975-1980), and only Frankie Banali remains from the 1982 “Metal Health” era line-up. When Kevin DuBrow died in 2007, it seemed the band was finished, but come 2010 auditions were held and Mark Huff, first of four subsequent vocalists were hired, only to be fired while waiting for brain surgery… Two more vocalists later, Jizzy Pearl (ex-Love/Hate/LA Guns) was hired in late 2013. This show was the first time I saw QR with Jizzy out front.

Overall it was just “all right”. There was nothing particularly memorable or exciting about the set, which finished with the strongest song pairing of “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”, but despite this it felt flat, and certainly paled in comparison with Dio Disciples. (Score: 7/10)

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Dokken

Back in the 80’s Dokken was one of my favorite bands and “Under Lock and Key” would have been in my top ten albums back then for many years to come, so let me make it clear, there’s no lack of love for Dokken siting here. However, sadly I can’t say this performance did anything good for me at all unfortunately.

First let’s cover the good stuff – Mick Brown is still pounding the skins on the drums and he was most entertaining back there. Equally entertaining was Jon Levin on guitar, who has the not so enviable job of filling George Lynch’s shoes on those classic songs – he does a fine job and pretty much nailed what was needed every time. I don’t remember the bassist (Mark Boals) at all, and it seems he is relatively new to the ranks, having joined in late 2014, but he clearly did a fine job. So well done band members…

Now turning to Don Dokken, it is sometimes hard to accept that time hasn’t been kind, but in this case, when you are the frontman of a band, and a band that carries your name, I think you need to be very realistic about how things are going. In this case, Don’s voice just isn’t up to snuff on many of these songs. For example, “The Hunter” and Dream Warriors” in particular were both vocal train-wrecks. To be honest I kind of zoned Don out for the rest of the performance which perhaps was just a coping mechanism kicking in. For me, my lasting impression was one of disappointment with Don letting himself down like this. It was a bit like watching a Karaoke show, where the music was spot on, but the vocals ranged from just about OK, to dismal… (Score: 4/10)

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The End

And that was the end of day 1 for us… Wait you are screaming! WHAT ABOUT KIX? Didn’t Kix headline? This was the M3 Kix-off party after all, wasn’t it? Ah, yes, this is true, but the fact of the matter is if you’ve seen Kix once (let alone every M3 plus a few other shows out and about), then you’ve basically seen the show that is about to happen. Now I do like their recorded music, I do like the live music, but…not so much the in-between banter and jokes. Cringe. Also the fact that the M3 folks felt that Kix deserved 1 hour and 40 minutes for their set, longer than the main headliner the next day and anyone else at the whole festival seemed a bit excessive. Would this festival suffer if Kix did not appear at all? How about Tom Kiefer/Cinderella headline Friday night? I think that would have been killer… I would have stayed for that.

Next up – M3 Day2!

Grave Digger – Return Of The Reaper – Album Review

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2014 by novametalreview

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Based on a pretty decent sample size, I have to say that the majority of bands that have survived since the 80’s are turning out some pretty amazing music these days. I don’t know if this is simply a result of all those years of experience, or an ability to get the best out of today’s recording technology without letting it dominate, or likely both, but there have been some cracking good albums in the past 2 or 3 years from bands that are now able to claim 30-plus years. I’m happy to report that Grave Digger have joined these ranks with a crushing offering in the shape of “Return Of The Reaper”.

Grave Digger are able to trace their roots back to 1980, and notwithstanding a brief 4-year period between 1987 to 1991, when the band was officially defunct, have been knocking out albums at a rate of about one every two years, which is pretty respectable. “Return Of The Reaper” (RotR) represents the seventeenth studio album from the band and it delivers a riff-heavy dose of German-flavored metal with a definite NWOBHM under-current. One particularly redeeming feature is the avoidance of anything too obviously triggered or programmed, which for me has been the bane of too many recordings coming out of the mainland-European metal scene recently.

The album opens with what seems like the obligatory ‘intro piece’ these days, which in this case is actually the title track, and clocks in at 1 minute 16 seconds, but I will note that the track does sequence directly into the first real song, “Hell Funeral”, which smashes out of your speakers with a very-metal riff. It took me a moment or two to get comfortable with the very mid-range-scooped guitar sound (almost like a wha-wah pedal at half-open), but it works. Now, I will caution some of the lyrics are almost into Spinal Tap territory, but I’ll give that a pass… “Rider from hell, with an evil smell”. Haha! After all, if I was trying to write lyrics in German for example, I’m sure they wouldn’t be the most elegant.

Track number 3 also brings a pacey and catchy opening riff, backed by a pounding double kick-drum section that blasts the song into your face. There’s definitely some pretty nice guitar work on this record – nothing ground breaking and certainly with a nod in the direction of Zakk Wylde and a good dose of pinch harmonics, but it all works in a very satisfyingly heavy metal way.

The fourth track, “Tattooed Rider”, opens with a definite hint of Judas Priest’s Turbo Lover, but this ends up in another place and is right up there fighting for consideration as “most catchy track on the album”. Overall, even though there is no question this is a heavy-ass record, there is a lot of melody reaching inside your head and drawing you to play the thing over and over. I really like the use of the backing vocals on this track.

There is no relent in the pace and “Resurrection Day” brings more crushing riffs, but again manages to sneak in a line in the vocal using the phrase “nasty smell” which is rhymed with “straight out of hell” on the following line. Shame on me, but again I have thoughts drifting toward Spinal Tap… The following track, “Season of the Witch” is a definite slower number, and to my ears evokes echoes of classic Saxon and in some parts even some Angel Witch (or is that just because of the track title?).

The next two tracks, “Road Rage Killer” and “Grave Desecrator” are my two personal favorites, and both are annoyingly catchy. Once you hear them it’s very hard to get them out of your head. The chorus to “Grave Desecrator” is impossible to not sing along with in my opinion, and I find it strangely necessary to hit the repeat button for this song more often than not.

The next three tracks roll along pretty much like those that came before. Kind of like a battle tank at full speed, there’s not much that could run this album off the rails and indeed that is true here. The only surprise might be the very final song, which opens with a classy bit of piano and builds to a fairly mega ballad. Now Chris Boltendahl, who has been the stalwart of the band on vocals since 1980, doesn’t have anything you might mistake for subtlety when it comes to his singing style, but it all works out just fine here. At times I am reminded of Chuck Billy from Testament, while at others, a sort of more musical Lips from Anvil.

There is a “however” coming, but only if you happen to shell out and purchase the deluxe version of the CD, which includes a second CD of bonus material. The first two tracks on the bonus CD are welcome additions, however the remainder are acoustic live renditions of various tracks with I think just guitar and piano, and to be honest are not always that well executed. This is a little disappointing, to say the least, and I think to be honest they would have been better off not including them, or at least not including all eight of the tracks and perhaps picked the best three.

Overall I really enjoyed this album, with the main disc offering up a total of ten crushing heavy metal tracks, one strong ballad and of course the intro tune. I’m going to ignore the bonus disk, because to be honest I suspect most people wouldn’t play it much anyway, and taken this way I score it an enjoyable 8.5/10

A Sound Of Thunder – Kickstarter Fund Raiser

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , on October 29, 2013 by novametalreview

Update added – 10/31/13

As of this morning ASoT have passed both their initial funding goal of $10K and their first stretch goal which was $12K, meaning they will record a cover of the Manowar classic “Pleasure Slave”. But, this thing isn’t over and the next stretch goal at $13K is easily within reach, which will bring the world a live feed of the ASoT CD release show! Very cool for all of you who won’t be able to make it in person to the show. But, that’s not all; if the fund breaks $15K the band will commit to a tour of the West Coast of the USA, so let’s make that happen, alright? You know that would be a good thing, right? Who knows… if this train keeps rolling, what could they do if they hit $20K… a European tour perhaps??? Wherever this fund ends up, think about it…. this fund has already well exceeded that raised by many so called “name” bands! Go ASoT!

Original post follows:

So, unless you live under a hedge and have done the same for the past 20 years, you’ll know that the music industry basically doesn’t exist in anything like the same size or shape as before, and consequently most bands have to “do it themselves”. Gone are the days of record advances and marketing budgets. Welcome to the new austerity of the modern digital age. Whether you blame Napster for the beginning of the end, or any one of the other umpteen other file-sharing sites (or even all of them…), once it became possible to share an almost perfect digital copy of a music recording, then the bottom fell out of the music industry. Whereas once-upon-a-time a record would sell 10’s of thousands of copies in the first week or so, now the total sales of an album may only reach the low 5 digits. Why anyone wants to be a musician these days is a question to ponder?

But, the good news is there are still people that enjoy making music and insist on releasing it to their fans. The trick now is figure out how to afford to do this? Strangely, the exact same mechanism that led to the music industry downfall is now providing at least a partial solution to the conundrum – bring on the internet and “funding sites”. Some of these sites are more focused on arts, while others provide platforms to raise money for people who fall on hard times, and other just seem frivolous, but many work and raise large dollops of hard cash. Of course musicians and bands have jumped at the chance to promote new projects and put their hand out for a few Dollars here and there, in return for various “rewards”. Often you’ll receive an advance copy of the album and your name in the “Thanks” section in return for a $25 pledge or similar which is pretty cool, especially if you’re already a fan, but equally, these funders are becoming a way of discovering bands and music you might never have come across and helping them with a few $$$.

So today I want to highlight local favorite, “A Sound Of Thunder” and their latest fund-raiser, for their new album, “The Lesser Key of Solomon”. They have already completed the basic tracking of the album on their dime, but now they need some help to get the thing in the can and pressed up for public release. Their previous release, “Time’s Arrow” was also funded in part by a fund raising campaign, so once again we’re back on Kickstarter with a great array of rewards, all of which stack to give you a bountiful array of goodies in response to your pledge. Their target is $10K, which is a big number of course, but just 4 days in, the fund currently stands at $6,303…. wow! Pretty good, huh? However, as with all these fund raisers, the first couple of days are always busy, and then things calm down and pledges become much less frequent.  The band gets nervous and it all becomes a guessing game – will they reach the funding target or not. The issue here with Kickstarter is the fund is only “released” if the target is reached… miss it by just $1 and you get nothing!

So my message today is to please think about putting in a pledge. Just $8 will get you a digital copy of the album… $15 a physical limited edition CD and more. I won’t repeat the rewards here, so head on over to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/asoundofthunder/a-sound-of-thunder-the-lesser-key-of-solomon

If you are a metal fan and want to help keep this music alive, drop these fine folks a pledge so they can get this next record finished up!

M3 Festival – Love/Hate, Steelheart, Trixter, JSRG, Great White, Loudness, FireHouse – Live Review – Day 2

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by novametalreview

Merriweather Post Pavilion – 5/4/13

For those who attended the festival, the list of bands in the title above clearly isn’t complete; there were some fifteen bands total playing on the second day of this 2-day festival, but I am going to fully cover those listed, simply because they killed it and I like them! However, they weren’t the only bands I saw, and, as you will discover, not all passed the M3 “rocked-it” test.

For those that blinked and missed my Day 1 Review here’s a link: http://wp.me/p2hj3p-3Y

The Saturday for M3 is always a bit of a marathon, with both stages in use and bands scheduled from 11AM all the way round the clock dial to 11PM. What most people don’t realize is the sheer distance you can end up walking in a given day, especially if you happen to like bands on the main Pavilion and Festival stages that keep you switching back and forth. Add in a little bit of midday sun and a few beers…

For me the schedule was front-loaded with bands I wanted to see starting early with Love/Hate on the main stage at 11.50AM and a planned early exit prior to 9.40PM to ensure we missed the (lame) headliner, “Bret Michaels”. I know a lot of people planned similar early getaway strategies. I’ll try to keep my rhetoric under control, but this is by a long, long, long-way the weakest headliner that M3 has offered up and if they pull such a limp move again, you can be sure my $200+ ticket money will not be heading their way. Value for money isn’t hard to calculate. Most of the acts on the bill this year can be seen at venues such as Empire in Springfield, VA, or Soundstage in Baltimore, MD, for a $15-$30 ticket price, so it takes a full line-up from the headliner down to make that ticket price stand up. I gave them a pass this year and went to see the bands I cared about, but next year I suspect I will be more critical.

Love/Hate

You pretty much have to be on your A-game in the world of hair-metal to know much about Love/Hate, but those that were fortunate to discover them at the very beginning of the 90’s will typically be strong fans and both albums that received US-release were exceptionally good. “Blackout In The Red Room” (’90) and “Wasted In America” (’92) both have a pretty cool metal-funk-sleazy-vibe going on that demands the volume to be cranked up to ‘11’. Who knows what great music we would have enjoyed had grunge not come along and slapped down everything before it?

The vocals from Jizzy Pearl have an edge and character that are somewhat unique in my book and I had previously seen him performing with one of the 48 variants of LA Guns (one of the now-defunct Traci Guns versions I believe) back in 2011, at Jaxx (now Empire, Springfield, VA). The only LA Guns recording to feature Jizzy (“Shrinking Violet”, ’99) is a great record too, so I have a lot of respect for him as a vocalist. The remainder of the line up was made of the excellent Robbie Crane (Ratt/Lynch Mob) on bass, Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper, Slash’s Snakepit) on guitar and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley).

We made sure we arrived in plenty of time to ensure we did not miss any of their set since they only had a 45 minute slot, meaning a short set of perhaps 25-30 minutes tops, and pretty much right on the dot of 11.50AM Jizzy hit the stage and they slammed into “Why Do You Think They Call It Dope” from Blackout’. Immediately it was clear that Jizzy had come to bring it, with all the character in his voice per the albums. The PA was nicely cranked up, with a clear powerful sound – hey! What the hell do you expect? We are at a rock-show dummy! If it’s too loud, you’re too old… haha!

Unfortunately I was right regarding the set-length, and a short 25 minutes took us through “Tumbleweed”, “She’s No Angel” (both from Blackout’), “Wasted In America” (from the album of the same name) and closed with “Blackout In The Red Room”. By this time most people had shaken the sleep out of their ears and realized they were at a metal show – hello people, you just missed one of the highlights of the weekend. Basically they slammed it and I scored them 9/10. It will be a crying shame if they don’t tour the East Coast sometime again real soon.

Steelheart

Another latecomer to the hair-metal scene, Steelheart delivered their self-titled debut album in 1990 to much critical acclaim and significant sales in the Asian markets (33,000 sold on the first day in Japan alone) and quickly achieved platinum status. The second album, Tangled In Reins (’92), was a slightly more dirty sounding record and was not nearly as successful in the US due to the arrival of the dreaded ‘grunge’, but in Asia the ballad  “Mama Don’t You Cry” was a massive #1 hit and is still to this day a staple of cover bands throughout the region.

The band is still led to this day by vocalist Miljenko Matijevic, who provides the key character to the Steelheart sound with his wide-range and piercing high-notes. So, the number one sniff test for the show at M3 was could he still deliver? I must admit I never realized until recently that the primary reason Steelheart stopped playing and disbanded in 1992 was a serious injury to Matijevic that occurred during a concert in Denver on the Tangled In Reins tour, when a 1000lb lighting truss broke free and knocked him to the ground, breaking his nose, cheekbone and jaw, and leaving him with a back injury that would take several years to fully recover. The original guitarist, Chris Risola, is still in the line-up, completed by Rev Jones on bass and Mike Humber on drums.

Another odd fact I never paid any attention to was Matijevic provided some of the vocals behind the lead character in the movie “Rock Star” (2001), for the fictitious band “Steel Dragon”, and the set here for M3 kicked off with “Blood Pollution” from the movie. It was quickly obviously that Matijevic still has that amazing vocal range, and as soon as they broke into “Gimme Gimme” from the debut record, I was rockin’ it. Live they came across as a much heavier band than perhaps is obvious from their records.

Again they were fighting the clock and were only able to play six songs, with the breakdown being 3 tracks from the Steelheart album, “Blood Pollution” and “We All Die Young” from the movie (the latter track was also re-recorded on the “Wait” album released in 1996), and a new track called “Cabernet” that I don’t believe is on any recording to date. Missing from this list is anything from the quite excellent “Good 2B Alive” album which is their most recent recording released in 2008. Also nothing from Tangled In Reins. So much good material left untouched!

Their performance was top notch and the band was firing on all cylinders, with the guitar work from Risola being tight and meaner than I anticipated, while the whirling stage presence from bassist Jones was quite a show. At one point he was playing a vicious looking 6-string Dean bass that I swear looked about 6 feet long. Again, anyone that missed them should be slapping themselves as they were excellent. I’d score them level with Love/Hate at a 9/10. So far so good, eh?

Trixter

Up next were Trixter, who I was intrigued to see for the first time. I picked up their most recent release, “New Audio Machine” (’12) earlier this year and it’s a pretty decent record, spoiled by a couple of seriously lame and limp ballads that are so yucky I have to skip them any time they sneak onto my iTunes playlist. Perhaps I should just delete the damn songs? Without the two offending tracks it’s a pretty good listen. While Trixter have a history pretty much that parallels both Steelheart and Love/Hate that preceded them, they really didn’t achieve quite the same level of success, so I was rather perplexed as to why they were playing later and indeed might have seen them as a better fit for the Festival stage really. What is interesting is the band retains the same line-up today, as they did back in early 90’s during the peak of their success.

Their set opened with a backing track, I think from the latest record, but pretty much as soon as they kicked off it was apparent that things were a little bent out of shape. Oh dear. Now, as a guitarist of some 35 years experience, any time any one is having any kind of issue with gear or their instruments I tend to pick up on it, and it was obvious to me that the guitar of Steve Brown wasn’t in tune with the backing tape or the bass of P.J. Farley. Not good. I don’t know what it is, may be we can blame pollen or something, but this is the second show in as many weeks where we’ve experienced a bit of a mess, with instrument tuning issues. This then went from bad to worse, when the guitar rig cut out entirely. I fully understand the pressures of the festival environment, but come fellas, no one else seemed to have a problem all day.

I think we tried to hang in their for the second song, but the fire was out for me, and we decided to make a run for it and scout out the merch stands. Later we found out that the temptation of a little too much backstage hospitality was probably to blame for the issues we had just walked away from, though I need to be clear and state that is entirely rumor. Personally, I’d rather it was that, than a fundamental and basic cock-up – I can excuse a rock band hitting a couple of six-packs hard, but screwing up sober is harder to understand. Sadly I scored them a 3/10.

JSRG

Let me be clear, just because you are a ‘girl band’ does not excuse you the necessity of performing at the exact same level as a ‘guy band’, so I’m assuming that we all agree on that? I say that, because there seems to be some exceptions to the rule, perhaps more so recently, with a few ‘girl bands’ that seem to think the less clothes you wear, the less it matters how well they play or write songs (or don’t write them to be more accurate). Now, there have been some great ‘girl bands’ – Girlschool and The Runaways – and some great musicians – for example “Orianthi” is an outstanding guitarist, and when we saw her with Alice Cooper she shredded like the very best. So, what we have here are the remains of “Vixen” who were hailed as the “female Bon Jovi” back in the day. Hmm? Yeah, right…

Vixen put out two albums in ’88 and ’90 and then imploded. When you dig a little deeper you find that the biggest hit they had, “Edge of a Broken Heart”, was co-written and arranged by mega-songwriter Richard Marx. Unfortunately for some, image triumphs over substance.

Let me keep this brief. We walked back from the merch area and JSRG were already into their set. I don’t know how many songs in to be honest, but somehow it seems they were allocated time to fit nine songs into their time. We took our seats and listened to the song in progress, as I said, I have no idea which one. Then the next one started. Odd, the vocal melody seemed exactly the same as the previous one, give or take. To be fair, the crowd seemed to be into it, but I must have been missing the point or something. Then the next song started. Er, hello, didn’t this one also sound the same as the one before? Well, not quite, because this was a cover of an Adele song! WTF? An ADELE song. Seriously? Is that what M3 has become now… an opportunity for 3rd tier bands to turn out cover songs of current pop stars? Bloody hell, that was lame. I will say, Roxy Petrucci, the drummer was good and that was about as far as I can take it. Everything else was sort of, blah, whatever. My score for them 4/10.

Great White featuring Jack Russell

After leaving the Pavilion and stopping for a beer or two in the VIP area, we wondered up the hill to see what was going on at the Festival stage and found Great White absolutely swamped with people, and they sounded great. I won’t drag out the “this or that Great White” debate… There is enough of that with Queensryche to last all year currently, but this version of Great White sounded right-on, and Jack Russell clearly still has it vocally. We saw the last two songs of the set, which were “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and both were rocking. I’d score them 7/10.

Loudness

Last year Loudness just blew apart the Festival stage and most people regarded them as the best band at the show, so expectation was high. This would be the third time I’ve seen Loudness in the last 2 years or so, and they are in my top 10 bands to see live. I was excited to see them again! But… in the week preceding there was a lot of conjecture as to whether they would be at the show. There were all sorts of rumors circulating and a string of club dates were cancelled. Allegedly there were problems with work visas. Not good. All this “will they, won’t they?” was answered on Friday night, when we walked into the hotel reception and found Akira (guitar God!) and Masayuki Suzuki (drums). Obviously they were very tired, but pleased to be here at all. Yes, visa problems!

We found our seats well ahead of the 4.20PM kick off time and waited with great expectation as their gear was set-up, and just slightly later than scheduled they ran an opening intro tape. This quickly became “Fire Of Spirt” from the Metal Mad album  from 2008. Holy hell, Loudness have released no less that 28 studio albums. Yes. Read that again. Twenty-eight studio albums. That’s damn close to one per year (just short, they formed in 1980). It was clear that there were some problems with the sound at this point. There was NO bass guitar at all and it was clear from the scuttling around on stage that the sound crew was well aware of this. However, Akira on guitar is a monster and his sound is always so awesome that I was dealing with this.

Some people have a problem with Minoru Niihara’s vocals, but those who are hardcore long-term fans understand that once you go with the flow this is not an issue. To be fair the mix could have given us a little more vocal, but Minoru was in fine voice and worked the crowd as best he could given English is a long way from his first language. By about the third track (“Crazy Nights”) they sound crew had found the bass and the mix suddenly caught fire. Loudness easily score the “heaviest band at M3, 2013” award of the weekend. Sounding both heavy and melodic Loudness slammed us with power and a display of out-right master craftsmanship on all of their respective instruments.

Up fourth was “Crazy Doctor” which is a crowd favorite, even for those less fanatical fans and they tore this one up. Akira is perhaps one of the worlds top 10 guitarists in my book and he was on form today. He has a mesmerizing ability to mix melody with just crazy technique and today was no different. There were times when he let rip with riff upon riff that just pummeled you into submission – and then he tore the fretboard off his guitar with a solo that most guitarists could only imagine in their most out-of-world dreams. This guy is a *master*.

Next up they destroyed “Heavy Chains” and then we were hammered by a vicious drum solo. OK, I’m not a fan of drum solos. Give me a guitar solo and I’m smiling, drums not so much, but this was heavy and a part of pretty much every Loudness show. Even so, this was the only part I would have skipped if I were writing the set list.

To close out the set we were hammered with “King Of Pain” (title track of the 2010 release), followed by “Survivor” (Eve To Dawn, 2011) and the classic “SDI”. Of course this track is a must-have for any Loudness show and had the audience fully powered up. And that was it. Loudness were easily the heaviest band of the show and that in itself is a challenge for many in attendance. For me it was perfect. Looking at it in retrospect I would still rate their performance from 2012 better than this time around ,and that may be a function of the intimacy that the Festival stage brings, versus that of the more distant Pavilion experience. Despite this, I still rate them a 9/10.

FireHouse

Ok, at this point I am horribly out of sequence… what the hell happened to Kings X and Steel Panther? Well, we did catch the very tail end of Kings X and they sounded good. I can’t claim to know anything much beyond how to spell the band’s name, so I will leave it that they sounded tight and very musical.

Turning now to Steel Panther… haha! They take what Kix allude to do and wind the comedy dial all the way past ‘11’ and much more. So, Kix tried to be funny, while Steel Panther ARE funny. Since we had seen them a few months back at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, I figured they would pretty much roll out the same set. They did, but shorter. They are both a parody and enigmatic at the same time, primarily because they can play the hell out of their instruments. On a certain level they frustrate me, because I suspect they would be a damn good serious band. Looking at it from a purist perspective you could argue they are wasting a slot a serious band could be playing in, but lets not loose perspective – this is the entertainment business.

So, while Steel Panther did their thing, we waited right up the front of the stage for FireHouse who are one of my all time favorite “hair bands”, whether that hair still applies or not! So, like several of the earlier bands who played earlier, FireHouse arrived on the scene in 1990 with the self-titled debut that spawned three massive hits, including “Love Of A Lifetime” which is one of those hits that any self-respecting musician would love to write and ensures that paying the bills for the rest of their career is not so challenging. This was then followed by the album “Hold Your Fire” which delivered another top 10 hit in the shape of “When I Look Into Your Eyes”. Lightning does strike twice.

From the moment FireHouse hit the Festival stage they were firing on all cylinders and delivered a basically faultless performance from the first note to the last. The sound up front was heavy and pounding, and I will say that FireHouse always come across as a heavier band than their records might have you believe. They opened with “Hold Your Fire” (title track of the second album) and from then on it was a master class from every member of the band.

CJ Snare is still nailing those high notes despite the 23 years that have elapsed since the first record, and you’d have to look hard to see any evidence of that time having passed. Bill Leverty is a seriously good guitar player and he was note perfect throughout the set. There wasn’t a hammer on out of place. Excellent. Michael Foster on the drums is a riot to watch. He is constantly twirling sticks or throwing them impossibly high into the air and still pounds out a vicious rhythm on his super low-slung kit. Allen McKenzie fills out the line-up with tight bass-lines and some super sharp vocal harmonies.

Up second is the massive “All She Wrote”, which still sounds fresh to this day, followed by “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, which of course has all the couples in the audience groping each other… This was soon put to rest with the rocker “Overnight Sensation” which is a wicked head-banger of a track. Keeping the hits coming, we then slowed back down to fit in “Love Of A Lifetime” and sadly the set closed way too soon with “Don’t Treat Me Bad”. Something is wrong when a 3rd tier band like JSRG can make it to the main stage and have time for nine songs, while a top tier act like FireHouse only gets time for six songs. Hello M3 organizers are you listening? My score for the superb FireHouse 9/10.

And We’re Done….

And at this point my M3 was done… huh? What the hell? No Twisted Sister? No Bret Michaels review? LOL, well, no. For the latter, you’d definitely have to buy me several 6-packs of a good IPA to get me to even consider listening to him. In fact I might just pour that IPA in my ears for Bret Michaels. Funny, I never noticed until now, if you shorten Bret Michaels you end up with B.M., which also stands for… Enough! No B.M. for me, not tonight or ever. There are plenty of other Poison cover/tribute bands, that another one is unnecessary.

So why no Twisted Sister? We had already decided to head up to New Jersey for the Old Bridge Militia Reunion show on the next weekend featuring Twisted Sister, Raven, Anvil, The Rods and TT Quick, so we knew we were going to see Twisted Sister a short seven days later, and what a killer line-up the rest of the bill indeed! So, we decided that a tactical retreat to a civilized dinner would be a better way to close the evening. On reflection we could have probably stayed for a couple of T.S. numbers, but all the reports were they nailed it and were one of highlights of the weekend. I totally believe it. I will report from the Old Bridge Militia show.

As for B.M. I am so pleased we didn’t even get a whiff of the ol’ bandana himself. From the fact that he felt he could keep the crowd waiting and come on late, to the Skynyrd cover and the fact he only delivered eight songs, it all leaves me with a sense of relief that I was in a ‘not crowded’ bar knocking back Guinness with some good friends and eating a decent meal at that time. I bet the temperature had dropped something wicked too…

So, closing thoughts? For me Loudness, FireHouse, Love/Hate and Steelheart (in that order) took the day, though I should probably award Twisted Sister a virtual tie with Loudness. Unfortunately this year was a definite step down compared to last year, and that in itself was a step down from the previous, so there is a slide in the wrong direction taking place. M3 needs to step it up next year, or we can begin to count the event out pretty soon. My overall score for day 2 was again a 5/10. It might have been lower had I actually suffered to hear any of B.M., so be thankful!

M3Day2 007

Jizzy Pearl – Love/Hate

Steelheart

Steelheart

Loudness

Loudness

Loudness

Loudness

Akira - Guitar God

Akira – Guitar God

Michael Foster - FireHouse

Michael Foster – FireHouse

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CJ Snare – FireHouse

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Bill Leverty – FireHouse

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Allen McKenzie – FireHouse

Anthrax, Exodus, Municipal Waste – Live Review – Fillmore Silver Spring 4/14/13

Posted in Gig Reviews, Just Stuff with tags , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by novametalreview

Metal Alliance Tour – w/ Municipal Waste and Exodus

Anthrax sure don’t seem to be afraid of hard work. This must have been the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen them in the last 18 months and they played this same stage at the Silver Spring Fillmore about 16 months back, supporting Testament. The fact that the venue was packed (but not quite full, let’s be honest… but it was a Sunday…) just goes to affirm that Anthrax are still a strong draw. However, the overall bill for the Metal Alliance Tour is strong all the way down the order, which opened with Holy Grail, followed by Shadows Fall, Municipal Waste and Exodus, and topped off with Anthrax. Now I admit I know absolutely nothing about Holy Grail and Shadows Fall, so aside from noting that Holy Grail impressed us enough to buy both CDs they had on their merch stand, I’ll concentrate here on the final three.

This show was as near a home-game for Municipal Waste (MW), short of being in Richmond VA itself, so there was a good turnout of MW fans ready to thrash it up. Keeping it honest here, this was my first time seeing or even hearing anything from the band, but I had previously met Ryan (guitar) at a Death Angel show late last year and had him tagged as a “good guy” from the get-go. The band didn’t disappoint. From the moment they hit the stage it was clear they were there to have a good time themselves, and this naturally spread to the crowd without any hint of resistance – I’ve seen the band labeled as a “party thrash band” and from what I saw that’s not an unfair label.

I didn’t keep a close eye on the set list but recall songs with fun titles such as “The Thrashing of the Christ”, “You’re Cut-off”, “Beer Pressure”, “Headbanger’s Face Rip” and “Born To Party” (disclaimer here… I am certainly missing at least an equal number of songs, and may have some mixed up in my thrashed up head). No matter what, they were tight, made me laugh between songs, and bang my head during. Good metal. They also got a pretty big ol’ mosh pit going, which is certainly not my thing (too old for that game), but everyone taking part seemed to have riot. Definitely worth seeing again.

Next up was Exodus, another band that amazingly I have never seen before – good grief these guys have been together since 1980, that was some nifty avoiding on my part! I have no idea how that happened, but I can assure you it was not intentional. Now I have a lot of respect for Gary Holt as a guitarist, and I was lucky enough to see Slayer last year (Mayhem Fest) with Gary standing in for Jeff Hanneman, with Gary doing an excellent job – Slayer were awesome. Another thing – I definitely need to catch up on the Exodus back-catalog.

Anyway here they were in front of me, and the set opened with “The Ballard Of Leonard and Charles” which was the only song they played from the most recent Exodus album Exhibit B: The Human Condition. The remainder of the set was drawn from the older material with three tracks from their debut Bonded By Blood (1985), these being “A Lesson In Violence”, “Bonded By Blood” and “Strike Of The Beast”, “War Is My Shepard” and “Blacklist” from Tempo of the Damned (2004) and “Fabulous Disaster” and “The Toxic Waltz” from Fabulous Disaster (1989). All in all this was a tight set that seemed to be just spot on with the fans.

My impression from the moment they hit the stage was Exodus were here to deliver and were tight with everything sounding sharp. Almost immediately the mosh pit was in mad thrashing form and it was full scale assault all round, with much crowd surfing to boot. Having heard some mutterings before, I was paying attention to the vocals, but there was nothing to complain about here with Rob Dukes delivering a vicious performance. It was just right. I can’t really point any particular highlight, but the overall impression for me was like some turbocharged earth-moving machine that was cranked up and running at full speed ahead – crushing all before it. I really enjoyed Exodus and have them on my list as a must-see-again.

Now it was headliner time, and while The Fillmore had certainly been less than full earlier in the evening, I guess the bars and restaurants in the locale had emptied out, and the venue was now comfortably filled. Anthrax had decided that the 26th anniversary was a good point to celebrate the release of Among The Living, which is one of my all time favorite Anthrax records, but I’m still not sure why they choose this moment to do this? Was it a reflection on missing the 25th anniversary or a sign of impatience they couldn’t wait until 30? Anyway, the intent was to play the entire album through the course of the night’s set and ultimately that was exactly what they did, though not without interleaving the odd other track in here and there. Take a look at the photo below for the set list!

There have been some ‘ructions’ in the Anthrax line-up over the last few months with Rob Caggiano (guitar) leaving in early January. Despite words from the band indicating there are no hard feelings, the fact he first stated his departure was to allow him to focus on producing was soon turned on it’s head with him joining Volbeat a short four weeks later. On reading the story it could be entirely coincidental and just a result of circumstance, but it all seems very convenient. Anyway Anthrax quickly reacted and recruited Jon Donais (who is the full-time Shadows Fall guitarist and founder member of that band) as a temporary replacement for the tour dates. Quite what this all has to do with the addition of Shadows Fall for the last leg of the Metal Alliance tour and the dropping of High On Fire I don’t know, but it all seems a little iffy to me… The ructions don’t stop there in the Anthrax camp, as Charlie Benante (drums) was reported to be unable to tour Australia in February, with the band citing “personal reasons”. To cover this loss, Jon Dette (of Testament/Slayer fame) was brought in to fill the drum stool. How Charlie is now back in on the drum stool, but it seems a bit confusing…

As soon as the first cords of “Among The Living” rang out, two things were clear to me; the first was indeed that album is excellent and a lot of fun, and second Anthrax were determined to have a blast delivering it live. I have always been a fan of Joey Belladonna and tonight he was right on song and commanded the stage with a ton of energy and presence. Scott Ian of course is iconic in look and performance, and was clearly having a great time, as was Frank Bello on bass, but what of new boys Jon Donais and Charlie Benante? Starting with Charlie, his first appearance was standing on the shells of his double bass drums saluting the crowd; so check that box, here’s a fella set to deliver and deliver he did! Turning now to Jon Donais, who happened to be directly in front of my second row position on stage-right, I can’t really say the same thing. To be clear, Jon’s playing is exemplary and I believe he nailed every solo and song. But… was he enjoying it? Well, put it this way; he was rather serious. I understand the desire to get the playing right, but there’s definitely a trade-off in entertainment, and he came over a bit somber. This wasn’t the first or second show in the tour, so I would have thought any nerves that might have served as an excuse would be well dispersed. Anyway, not to dwell, a smile here or there would have gone a long way.

So the band was off and running and basically played all of ‘side 1’ of the LP, which was a pure riot to see and hear. There was a (slightly less) significant mosh pit, lots of crowd surfing and loads of signing along. See below for a picture of the set list. Now, the latest CD release from Anthrax is the “Anthems” EP, which contains six cover songs, but oddly they are all played nearly exactly the same as the originals, which for me is not the most exciting approach to a set of cover songs – if I want to hear the originals, I can. I would much prefer to hear “Anthrax-ed” versions of the songs, but that is not what they did. Odd. So from this recording we got a version of AC/DC’s “TNT” which is a great song. It was fun live and I took a recording with the iPhone. Assuming the audio is half-decent, I will post it to YouTube.

Following “Madhouse” it was back to Among and they tore through side 2 of the LP up to “Horror of it All”, at which point they snuck in another cover, this time Joe Jackson’s “Got The Time” (which is much more an Anthrax song now), finishing off ‘Among’ with “Imitation of Life”. We were treated to “I’m The Man” to close the set, followed by a well planned encore of “Antisocial” which is yet another cover song…

No matter what, I really enjoyed the set, and despite my gripes regarding Jon Donais demeanor, I had a blast. Quite sensibly, everything was done and dusted by just after 11PM, which was smart for a Sunday evening show.  So my score for the show was a solid, but not crazy, 7.5/10. Worth seeing if the show runs through your town, but not one to necessarily drive 300 miles to go see.

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Anthrax setlist – 4/14/13

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Municipal Waste giving some!

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Exodus

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Scott Ian = METAL

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Anthrax in a pretty shade of blue…

Coming soon… The Sound Of Thunder “Out Of The Darkness” and Furyon “Gravitas” album reviews

Posted in Just Stuff on March 28, 2012 by novametalreview

So, for some reason March 27th was a big day for album releases, but two releases of personal interest were offerings from The Sound Of Thunder with “Out Of The Darkness” released on Nightmare Records and Furyon from the UK, with “Gravitas” released on Frontiers Records.

So, confession time – I am friends with members of both bands, so this will be fun won’t it?… Actually, fear not, because, despite an obvious possibility of bias, both are flipping amazing releases. I won’t spill (all) the beans ahead of the ‘real’ reviews, but to cut to the chase, both are “MUST BUY” albums in my book. Both are available on Amazon and iTunes, so you can go get ’em now.

Coming this weekend A Sound Of Thunder play Empire (formerly Jaxx) in Springfield, VA (Saturday 7PM), at the release party for the aforementioned album, so I expect to review that coming next week. This will be the first time seeing them in a headlining situation so I am really looking forward to this.

Rock on friends \m/