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Concerts I've seen

* * * * - Lacuna Coil The Astoria
* * - - - Moonspell 27th December 2003
* | - - - Passenger
* * * | - Poison Black

Lacuna Coil advert Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil ticket There was reportedly going to be a fifth band on the bill, but for whatever reason it didn't happen. Tonight's first band, then, were Poison Black. I'd never heard of them before, but I was actually quite impressed. Melodic and yet still powerful, with a vocal style than reminded me a bit of Danzig. Passenger, on the other hand, were the complete opposite; dull, tuneless and not a band I'll be rushing out to see again. Moonspell had underwhelmed me a bit when I last saw them, and tonight was no different. Not bad, per se, but just nothing to maintain any level of interest. Finally, on to Lacuna Coil. The sound was great, and the band were on great form. Christina apparently had a cold, which probably explained the shorter set than usual, but it didn't seem to significantly affect her voice. My only complaint was that they didn't play any material from "In a reverie". Still, we were treated to excellent renditions of "When a dead man walks" and current single "Heaven's a lie".

* * * - - Metallica Earl's Court
? ? ? ? ? Godsmack 20th December 2003

Metallica advert Metallica ticket Metallica photo Metallica photo Apparently, Godsmack were meant to be supporting tonight. Although Metallica thanked them at the end of the show, they must have been on incredibly early. I was in the venue shortly after the published door time, and was greeted with an empty stage and a long wait before Metallica. No sign of a support at all. Unlike the Iron Maiden gig at the same venue a week earlier, there were no projection screens for Metallica. In a venue this size, that means that all you get to see are a few stick figures on a distant stage, even with the quite reasonable seats that I had. I hate to think how little those at the back could see. As for the performance, it was mostly bland and certainly nowhere near the high standard they set when I'd seen them 12 years earlier. The sound quality was pretty awful. Normally I'd just put it down to the venue, but Maiden had showed is was possible to get decent sound here. Overall, very disappointing. They did, however, manage to rescue the evening somewhat with an encore (one of many -- 3 or 4, I think) featuring "One". Yes, the pyrotechnics helped, but more importantly, the band seemed to be putting more effort in it than they had for the rest of the show.

* * * | - HIM The Astoria
* * | - - Viking Skull 19th December 2003

HIM advert HIM ticket After seeing Viking Skull at The Monarch a few months ago, I was quite looking forward to seeing them again. Sadly, though, they weren't up to the same standards tonight. They weren't bad, but were far from inspiring. HIM, on the other hand, were a fair bit better than the last time I saw them. Like Evanescence, this was another gig to make me feel old, with the average age of the audience being apparently at least a decade younger than me. But that didn't matter, as HIM put on a great show, and I'll be going to see them again when they play here in a couple of months.

* * * * - Iron Maiden Earls Court
* * - - - Funeral For A Friend 12th December 2003

Iron Maiden ticket Iron Maiden advert So much of mainland Europe had Gamma Ray as support for Iron Maiden. Here in the UK, though, we got the dull Funeral For A Friend. Slightly more melodic than the average Kerrang! band, they were nonetheless tedious, and I wouldn't want to see tham again any time soon. Iron Maiden are one of the most overrated live bands around. They make many a good album, but in a live setting, they've left a lot to be desired. Yet for some reason, I keep on going to see them. Tonight, though, proved to be an exception to the rule, and they put on a really good show, probably the best I've seen them since Blaze left. This was probably helped by the fact that "Dance of death" is a considerably stronger album than "Brave new world" was, and so they have better material with which to work. It may not be up to the standard of classic Maiden albums of the past, but it's a step in the right direction. Once again, I felt the set list was a little too biased towards the new album, but this time, not enough to detract from the show. Highlights were "Number of the beast" and an excellent "Run to the hills" in the encore, which they haven't played live for a while. The sound quality was very good tonight, too, which is unusual for such a large venue. A welcome improvement in Maiden's live show, then.

* * * * - Manuskript The Purple Turtle
* * - - - Spares 17th November 2003
* * * * - Adoration

Manuskript advery Manuskript ticket Adoration are a band consisting of a bunch of friends and acquiantances. But even allowing for a certain amount of bias because of that, they were still very good, and have a promising future ahead of them. The recently redecorated Purple Turtle is quite a reasonable venue now, albeit with a stage that's really too small for a six piece like Adoration (with the recent addition of a live drummer and rhythm guitarist). If I had to pick a highlight, it would be "Follow the thief". Next up were Spares, apparently featuring former members of Children On Stun. I'd never really been keen on their former band, and Spares were no better. They were just background music, and provided nothing to sustain any interest. Dull. Manuskript had been extremely unimpressive the last time I'd seen them, and had Adoration not been on the bill tonight, I may not have come. I'm pleased that I did, though, because tonight's show was in a different league to their previous one. The show opened with an excellent cover of "Rock me Amadeus", and continued in a similar vein. They faded a little towards the end, and by the time they reached "Lima", they weren't as strong as when they started. But a great evening nonetheless, and were it not clashing with another gig for which I already have a ticket, I'd be going to Manuskript's next gig in a couple of weeks time.

* * * * - Tigertailz The Underworld
* * | - - Robin Black And The Intergalactic Rockstars 9th December 2003
* * | - - Freewheeler

Tigertailz ticket Freewheeler were much the same as last time. Far from offensive, but nothing much to inspire me to go out of my way to see them again. Just bland seventies rock. Robin Black had been pretty crap the first time I'd seen them, and much better the second time. Tonight, they were somewhere between the two. Of note, though, is that they've now got themselves a drummer. Short though it may have been, the drum solo showed that he easily outclasses the rest of the band. On to Tigertailz, then. I've always thought that the best Tigertailz material was to be found on their later albums. Unfortunately, though, this reformed lineup is driven by their first vocalist, Steevi Jaimz, and so they only played material from their first album. Kim Hooker had a better voice, and the later lineups had better songwriting talent. Tonight wasn't so much bad (and indeed, certain tracks like "Living without you" and their cover of "Tiger feet" were very good) as just highlighting the fact that IMHO Tigertailz were better off without Jaimz.

* * * * - Meat Loaf Wembley Arena
* * | - - Kasim Sulton 17th November 2003

Meat Loaf ticket Tonight's opener was Kasim Sulton, Meat Loaf's bass player, playing bland radio rock solo on a guitar. Nothing offensive, but not a great deal to like, either. Just background music. This was the first time I'd seen Meat Loaf. Normally, I wouldn't have gone. Although I like some of his music, I'm not a huge fan and certainly wouldn't play Wembley prices to see him at a venue as shitty as Wembley. But a friend had bought me the tickets, so I went along. Most odd. The burger from the food stall was really good, and reasonably priced, too. The seats gave a good view, and even the sound quality was excellent. This wasn't the Wembley I know and hate. Naturally, Wembley was to take its revenge. But that came a bit later. The show got off to a good start with "Life is a lemon", but after a couple of songs, I was starting to wonder about Meat's voice, which was lacking the power I'd expected. I was wondering if he just took a lot of takes in the studio to get it right, but it became apparent that something was wrong, and at the end of "Dead ringer for love", he keeled over and collapsed. Was it a gimmick? The timing was right, but when the rest of the band started crowding around him it became obvious that this was the real thing. At that point, I had visions of a Tommy Cooper moment going through my head. Fortunately, though, medics were able to revive him with the assistance of an oxygen bottle. At that point, most people would have stopped the show there and then. Meat Loaf, though, decided to carry on. The next song was pretty lacklustre, and he was obviously struggling, and following that, we got the first few bars of "I would do anything for love" with Meat Loaf visibly struggling for breath before he had to give up. He apologised to the audience, and called an end to the show at that point. Until then, though, it was far better than I'd expected. It's unclear whether or not the show will be rescheduled, but I hope it is. Sadly, there were an ungrateful element of the audience who were moaning that he shouldn't have stopped the show. Excuse me? He's collapsed on stage, needed to be revived, and yet still tried to carry on! I'd like to see them do better...

* * * * - Evanescence Brixton Academy
* * * - - Finger Eleven 10th November 2003
* * - - - Apartment 26

Evanescence advert Evanescence ticket So it seems to be a trend for Kerrang! style bands to pick a name consisting of an arbitrary word followed by a number. Thus we have Sum 41, Blink 182 and the like. Tonight, we got Apartment 26 and Finger Eleven. Appartment 26 were just plain odd. Kind of an odd mix between rock and jazz. Not really my thing, but kind of OK, I guess. Finger Eleven were actually much better. Mediocre somewhat melodic rock. I wouldn't go out of my way to see them again, but from the name alone, I expected much worse. Evanescence made me feel old. Much of the audience was apparently only just out of nappies. Anyway, I digress. Guitarist Ben Moody had left the tour[1] in acrimonious circumstances a few days earlier. To their credit, the band had decided to continue with a session guitarist. I'm glad they did, as they put on a strong showing, and I was very impressed. There was the obvious downside -- because they only had one album's worth of material, their set was shorter than I'd have liked. The sound quality also wasn't great. But the enthusiasm with which they played made up for that, and I'll go and see them again when they're next in town. Highlights were the obvious "Going under", "Bring me to life" and "Tourniquet" (even if being American, they can't pronounce it properly!)

[1] And the band altogether? Unknown at this point...

* * * | - Einherjer The Underworld
* | - - - Reign Of Erebus 24th October 2003
- - - - - Adorior
* - - - - Acolytes Ruin

Einherjer advert Einherjer ticket Acolytes Ruin got the evening off to a bad start by basically being pretty awful. But things went rapidly downhill when Adorior came on stage. Their set seemed to consist of incoherent screeching from their vocalist, interspersed with periods where she screamed torrents of abuse at the audience. For some strange reason, they had the biggest crowd of the night. I know that half of them were probably friends of the band, but still... I retreated to the bar. Reign Of Erebus were a bit better, but then again, it was hard not to be. The best I can say about the support bands is that they were all crap, but with increasing levels of professionalism. That is, Reign Of Erebus, at least looked like they knew what they were doing, but didn't sound much better than the other two. It was a relief when Einherjer came on, then. I'd been unable to find a copy of their new album, Blot, before the gig, so I was unable to listen to the new material beforehand, but the tracks they played from it tonight sounded pretty good. They definitely suffered in a live environment, though. The sound was very pared back, and without the synths that are on the CD, it sounded very sparse and very raw. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I think they would have been better playing with a backing track in places. Still, they were head and shoulders above the support bands, and put in a strong showing for "Crimson rain", "Burning Yggdrasil" and "Dragons of the north". I'd have liked to see "Wyrd of the dead" or perhaps "Regicide", but their absense was more than compensated for by an excellent cover of "Iron Maiden" for an encore. The only real disappointment was the poor crowd response. But I guess if they'd come to see Adorior, they were always going to be disappointed with a headlining act that could play their instruments and write decent songs...

* * * - - Viking Skull The Monarch
* | - - - Opportunity in Chicago 23rd October 2003
* | - - - A.K.O.

Viking Skull ticket Only one support tonight, rather than the two that were billed. I have no idea whether it was Opportunity In Chicago or A.K.O. Perhaps it was neither, and another band entirely. Who knows? They were pretty crap, though with lots of noise, and very little else. I'd bought tickets for this gig on a "what have I got to lose" basis. I'd no idea what the band sounded like, and went purely on the logic that anyone with a band name like "Viking skull" can't be all bad, right? From the name, I was half expecting a black metal band. But in reality, they turned out to be a pretty respectable rock band, reminding me somewhat of Leadfoot, but with tongue very firmly in cheek. The singer was doing his best to portray a mad rock star image, and for most of the show, he kept it up, only letting the persona slip a couple of times. In keeping with the image, part way through the set, he poured lighter fluid over his jacket and set fire to it. Not up to Till Lindemann standards, but an entertaining sight in a small venue like the Monarch, nonetheless. Much hilarity ensued when it didn't go out, and he had to rapidly remove the jacket and stomp on it to put the flames out. For a finale, he did the same to the drummer's cymbals. Although not what I expected, then, a pretty good night out, and I'm glad I went.

* * * * - AC/DC Hammersmith Apollo
* * - - - Hundred Reasons 21st October 2003

AC/DC ticket AC/DC wristband I'd never heard Hundred Reasons before, although I was aware of the name, and that they were a Kerrang! friendly band. Not a good sign, and sure enough, they weren't a good live experience. If you have two guitarists in a rock band, then you take one of two routes. Either you have a strong rhythm in the Malcom Young / Rudolph Schenker mould, over the top of which you have an Angus Young or a Michael Schenker or Matthias Jabs. Alternatively, you go for the Judas Priest or Iron Maiden style screaming twin leads. Both are perfectly valid approaches. Unfortunately, Hundred Reasons did neither, with both guitarists contributing little other than noise. One of them did have a better voice than the vocalist, though. Completely out of place supporting AC/DC. The only other time I'd seen AC/DC was at Donnington. Since then, they'd only played Wembley, which is such a poor venue that I didn't fancy paying the extortionate prices to see them again. This was a somewhat different prospect, though. Hammersmith is a good venue, and the tickets were only 10 quid each. They were only available on the net, limited to two per person, and sold out within 4 minutes. Fortunately, we managed to get 4 tickets. AC/DC were, well, AC/DC. Brian has the most appalling diction of pretty much any frontman I've seen, and even though we theoretically speak the same language, I could barely understand him at times. But it didn't really detract from the show, and they wheeled out all the classics. Notably memorable were "Dirty deeds", "Rosie", "Let there be rock" and the set closer, "For those about to rock", complete with cannon.

* * * | - Helloween Mean Fiddler
* * * * | Rage 20th October 2003

Helloween ticket I'd been disappointed that the UK release of Rage's "Soundchaser" album had been delayed until less than a week before this gig. That didn't leave much time to become acquainted with the material, and even worse, I couldn't find any shops with it in stock, and was quoted 3-4 weeks to order it. However, even without knowing the newer material, it was clear when they played it live that it was going to be a very strong album. In addition, they played an excellent selection from "Unity", plus a few older tracks like "Higher than the sky", and "Don't fear the winter". My only real complaint is that while Mike may be an excellent drummer, he doesn't know how to make a melodic drum solo. But that didn't detract from a superb showing, and I hope to see them return to the UK soon (Bloodstock '04 would be great!). I was curious to see how Helloween would fare without Uli Kusch and Roland Grapow. Their album "Rabbit don't come easy" did just enough to sustain interest, but no more. Obviously, they also felt a need to win over the fans as well, because the set list was far more of a crowd pleaser than a showcase for the new album. They opened with "Starlight", and went on to "Keeper of the seven keys", "Future world" and "Eagle fly free". In total, I think they only played 2 or perhaps 3 tracks from the new album, in stark contrast to the last few times I've seen them. Not the best performance they've put in, but again, they did just enough. New boys Sascha Gerstner and Stefan Schwarzmann were pretty impressive, though, so perhaps the future's bright for Helloween. Time will tell.

* * * | - NFD Lock 17
* * - - - Altered States 16th October 2003
* * * - - Saints of Eden

NFD ticket stub Lock 17 is what used to be called Dingwalls in Camden Lock. Opening band Saints Of Eden were actually far better than I was expecting. An odd mix of electro goth with heavier elements thrown in, which seemed to work quite well. I wasn't so impressed with Altered States. Too much blandness, fronted by a working class London accent, which just didn't do anything for me. Their poor cover of Eleanor Rigby didn't help either. NFD consist of various members of Fields Of The Nephilim, The Nefilim and (for live work), This Burning Effigy. I'd never heard them before, but from what I'd heard about them from others, they should have been my sort of thing, and sure enough, they didn't disappoint, playing a hard edged goth/rock set. I suspect I'll be going to see them when they next play in London.

* * | - - Faith And The Muse The Underworld
* * * * | Killing Miranda 12th October 2003
* * * | - Scary Bitches
* * * - - Misnomer

Faith And The Muse advert Faith And The Muse advert Faith And The Muse ticket Tonight's show was somewhat of a rarity, in that of a goth show with four bands, three of them used a live drummer. That's almost unheard of these days! Openers Misnomer went even further, and started the evening off as a full six piece band -- drummer, two guitars, bass, synth and vocalist. They played a quite presentable trad goth set, with no less than 4 of them taking turns at the mic. The primary singer had a vocal style that occasionally reminded me of Faithful Dawn, and I'd go and see them again. I'd been a bit worried that Scary Bitches would be a disappointment. Would the inital novelty have worn off? Fortunately the answer was no, and I enjoyed their set every bit as much as I did last time. Tonight, they'd grown to a five piece, with the addition of two dancers and a random bloke. I'm not quite sure what he contributed. He stood next to a nondescript box with numerous leads going into it, but didn't appear to be playing it or otherwise contributing to the performance, other than adding a few vocals occasionally, and quite frankly, I think they'd be better off without him. I hadn't seen Killing Miranda for a couple of years. Gone are Rikki's green hair extensions, and as with the last time I saw them, they were much more guitar oriented than in their earlier days. This definitely seems to be the right direction for them, as they put on an excellent show, even managing to make a decent showing of "Teenage vampire", one of my least favourite of their songs. This was probably the best I've seen them to date, and I only hope they continue like this. Headliners Faith And The Muse have eschewed the traditional goth look, and have crafted an image around suits, shirts and black ties. The problem with that is that it really doesn't work when the suits looked as cheap and poorly fitted as they did tonight. Musically, they were competent but no more, and following Killing Miranda, they seemed dull in comparison. Their cover of Kate Bush's "Running up that hill" only served to highlight the fact that Monica doesn't have a particularly great voice. I didn't dislike them, but I won't be rushing to see them next time. Unlike Killing Miranda, who were clearly the band of the night.

* * * - - Toyah The Mean Fiddler
10th October 2003

Toyah advert Toyah ticket How the other half live... I haven't been to a non-metal show in a long time, and it's somewhat strange to see a drummer wearing a shirt and tie, to say the least! No support tonight, just Toyah. The last time she'd played, I'd opted not to go because her newer material was veering a bit too much into the dance music territory for my tastes. However, friends that went later told me I should have gone, as she played a lot of her classic material live. So this time around, I thought I'd give it a go. Tonight was apparently celebrating 25 years in the business, and I have to say she looks very well for it. She's also very energetic on stage. She quipped that she had 50% of Kajagoogoo on stage as her backing band, although I only recognised Nick Beggs (also of Ellis, Beggs and Howard fame), playing a Chapman stick. Musically, the sound was crystal clear, and she played an assortment of tracks, both old and new. I would have preferred a few ore Anthem era tracks, but we still got the obligatory "It's a mystery", "I want to be free", and probably my highlight of the evening, "Jungles of jupiter".

* * * * * Dimmu Borgir The Astoria
* * - - - Hypocrisy 5th October 2003
* * * | - Norther

Dimmu Borgir advert Dimmu Borgir advert Dimmu Borgir ticket I'd been vaguely aware of Norther, and was quite looking forward to seeing them. Sure enough, they put on a decent performance, and were a great opening band for the evening. If I had a complaint it would be that the keyboards were too synthetic, and they could do with being a bit more symphonic and majestic. I was less than convinced by Hypocrisy. Where Norther had been engaging and musically sound, Hypocrisy came across as dull, lifeless and repetitive. It wasn't all bad, though, and their set definitely picked up towards the end, particularly with a new track they introduced. But I think what both Norther and Hypocrisy lacked was ICS Vortex -- that is, some clean vocals to provide some contrast to the harsh vocals, which after a while get monotonous, particularly in Hypocrisy's case. Eventually, then, Dimmu Borgir took to the stage. I'd been looking forward to this gig for a long time. There are some bands that match certain moods, and for me, when I've been having a hard time (as I have been recently), Dimmu Borgir are the perfect antidote. So it was a bit of a surprise when the first couple of tracks failed to do much for me. The lighting effects were great, the sound was reasonably clear, but they just didn't seem particularly inspiring. Fortunately, whatever gremlins may have plagued their opening numbers were soon dispelled, and by the time they got to a stunning "Kings of the carnival creation", they were really turning up the gas. From there on in, it was plain sailing, and although they somehow managed to avoid playing pretty much all of my favourite tracks from the last three albums, I came away incredibly impressed. Gigs where I enjoy myself this much are few and far between, and tonight's show was a much needed break from a really crappy few weeks.

* * * - - Hanoi Rocks Shepherds Bush Empire
* * * | - Anti-Product 30th September 2003

Anti-Product flyer Hanoi Rocks ticket I'd seen parts of Anti-Product backing Tyla in the past, but hadn't seen them as a whole band until tonight. Not bad at all. I couldn't hear a word of the vocals, but the music was good enough that it didn't really matter. When I arrived, there were only about 15 people in the venue, and I was starting to think that they'd made a mistake booking a venue of the size of Shepherds Bush Empire instead of somewhere smaller. However, a steady trickle of people arrived during and after Anti-Product's set, and by the time Hanoi Rocks came on, it wasn't full, but was at least a sizeable crowd. Michael Monroe was as mental as I expected, really. He's either utterly mad, or out of his skull having abused too many substances of various sort. Quite possibly both. But either way, he's aged better than his contemporaries. Unlike some others, though, he doesn't seem to have picked up the stagecraft that should come with experience (or perhaps he just doesn't care). Thus the performance was full of crackles from a badly plugged in mic, and knocks as he swung it round his head and into his body or the ground. A reasonable show, then, but not a great one. Probably not helped by the fact that I'd had a shitty day at work, and was more in the mood for Dimmu Borgir than Hanoi Rocks...

* * * - - Dream Evil The Underworld
* * * * * Falconer 28th September 2003
* * * - - Shadowkeep
* * * * * Descent

Dream Evil advert Dream Evil ticket For various reasons, I'd arrived too late to catch the opening band, Descent, but from what I've heard from others, I did't miss much. Shadowkeep hadn't impressed the last time I saw them. They were desperately in need of a new vocalist then. Well, now they have one, and it's a great improvement. I'll look forward to seeing them again. I'd been more than a little concerned about the future of Falconer after the departure of vocalist Mathias Blad. In many ways, his amazing vocals served to define the band, and he was always going to be a hard act to follow. Fortunately, Kristoffer's voice is not too shabby either, and while he doesn't have the richness of voice that Mathias had, he does have ten times the stage presence. Where Mathias was reserved and uninvolved, Kristoffer is everything you'd expect from a stereotypical heavy metal frontman. Consequently, the audience were much more involved, and the rest of the band seemed to thrive, resulting in a much better show than last time. Particular highlights were "Quest for the crown" and "Upon the grave of guilt", but there wasn't a poor song in the set, and the material from the new album sounds very promising, too. An absolutely stunning experience that I hope to repeat the next time they're in the UK. Headliners Dream Evil were going to have to pull something special out of the bag to follow that, and I didn't have high hopes. I'd tended to think of them as somewhat variable, with "Chasing the dragon" being a great track, but the rest of their songs being more filler than substance. It wasn't until tonight that I actually realised how good some of their other tracks were, for example, "The prophecy" and "The chosen ones". Good though they were, though, they didn't fall into the "something special" category, and Falconer absolutely destroyed the rest of the bands on the bill, and were easily the best of the night. Both Shadowkeep and Dream Evil put on strong performances. But the night belonged to Falconer.

* * * * | Nightwish The Mean Fiddler
31st August 2003

Nightwish ticket An absolutely packed Mean Fiddler for tonight's show. Even now they've removed the seating at the sides, it was still full. I'd managed to lose my ticket for tonight, and when I tried to buy another, they'd sold out, so I had to resort to getting one from a tout. Even that was difficult, few of them had any for sale, and those that did were asking for silly money (up to 100 pounds). While I was impressed by Nightwish at Bloodstock the day before, I wasn't going to spend that much to see them again. A bit of haggling, and I ended up paying a slightly more reasonable 40 pounds. Still a lot of money, but when I am next going to see them in a venue like this? Tonight's set was (as far as I could tell) identical to Bloodstock, and was equally well received by the audience. Still no merchandise tonight, though :-(

Bloodstock '03 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
* * * * | Nightwish 30th August 2003
* * | - - Biomechanical
* * - - - Paradise Lost
* * * - - F.U.L.C.
* * * * | Edguy
* * | - - Waylander
* * * * * Fourwaykill
* * * * - Masterplan
* * - - - Invey
* * * * - Saracen
* * * - - Bates Motel
* * * | - Dragonforce
* * * - - Illuminatus
* * * | - Mercury Rain
* * * - - Ninedenine
* * * | - Cruel Humanity
| - - - - Bumsnogger

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket The second day opened with a couple of local bands being given a 20 minute set each. Not enough to put on a full performance, but enough to give a taster of the band. The first, Bumsnogger, were frankly awful. Not one, but two vocalists, shouting into a mic. Not my thing (although it sounded less offensive from the bar!). The other was Cruel Humanity. They bill themselves as a UK black metal band. I'd downloaded a couple of tracks of theirs from the net a few months earlier, and based on that, and their performance today, I'd disagree with thir characterisation. While the image and the vocals are without doubt black metal, I think their song structure is more power metal than black. Whichever classification you choose, they put on a strong showing, and were my pick for the best of the lesser known bands. My only real criticism is that I'd like some occasional clean vocals to give a bit of relief from the growled vocals -- c.f. Dimmu Borgir or Borknagar. Next in the Darwin Suite were Ninedenine. Not bad, but a few too many Kerrang! influences for my tastes and a little bland. So on, after a lisped introduction by Martin Walkyier, to the first main stage band of the day, Mercury Rain. Having seen them with Power Quest earlier in the week, I had a fair idea of what to expect. Their set was very similar, although perhaps slightly better executed. As with the Underworld gig, the only standout track was Broella. A good performance, but they really need to work on their song writing for the next album. Oh, and they should probably hire a new photographer. Their official pics really don't do justice to Sonia. Illuminatus were another band I'd never heard of, and they gave a good performance, the highlight of which was a set closing cover of "For whom the bell tolls". Next up were Dragonfarce... sorry, Dragonforce. Pretty much the same as the last few times I've seen them, though this time, they were aided by a host of plastic swords and battle axes waved around by the crowd. As seems to always be the case with Dragonforce recently, the show had its farcical elements. Today it was ZP trying to flip the microphone stand up with his foot, and hitting himself on the head with it. Bates Motel were similar to Illuminatus to my ears. Another good performance. Next on the main stage were Saracen. I haven't heard their new album, and can't really remember any of their older material. This was apparently their first live performance in around 20 years, and it showed. They were a bit rusty in places, and looked a little uncomfortable on stage. However, that didn't detract from a good set. Unlike the other oldie bands at previous Bloodstocks (Diamondhead and Glenn Hughes), I really enjoyed Saracen, and would happily see them again. Invey were formerly called Snatch, but for unknown reasons changed their name. Given the Kerrang! recommendation, I wasn't expecting much from them, but in actual fact, they were better than I expected. Which isn't to say they were good, but they're not as bad as they could have been (or as bad as other bands like Kittie are). I was expecting Masterplan to be the highlight of the weekend by some considerable margin. Sadly, though, they were let down by poor sound, and I could barely hear Jorn's vocals at times. They played all the highlights from their debut album, the strongest of which was probably "Soulburn". The lack of vocal clarity was highlighted when they played "The departed (sun's going down)", which is my favourite Helloween track, and I couldn't even recognise it initially. A good showing, but somewhat disappointing, as I was expecting more, and I know they're capable of so much more. Fourway Kill were the only band of the day that I wasn unable to see due to scheduling conflicts, but I wasn't too upset as they were pretty grim supporting Blaze. I was also pressed for time to see Waylander between Masterplan and Edguy's sets, but managed to squeeze in a few minutes. The vocals were too growly for my tastes, and the music not sufficiently melodic, so I didn't feel bad about leaving early to get a decent place for Edguy. Hammerfall were originally scheduled to fill the next slot. However, guitarist Oscar Dronjak managed to ride his bike into a parked car a few weeks earlier, breaking his wrist, and forcing the cancellation of their remaining gigs this year. Consequently, Edguy were drafted in as last minute replacements. Having impressed at the Underworld a few years ago, Edguy were on my list of "must see" bands, and once agin put on a great performance, the highlights being "Tears of a mandrake" and "Avantasia". F.U.L.C. turned out to be another good but bland band, in the same vein as Illuminatus and Bates Motel. Paradise Lost were just dull for me. They had no stage presence, and were lacking any real redeeming features. Biomechanical were headlining the Darwin Suite stage, and while they weren't as good as the previous night, they were still and improvement on last year. Still a bit too much noise and not enough melody, athough their cover of Metallica's "Creeping death" was pretty good. Finally, headliners Nightwish. They'd disappointed fans throughout the day due to the lack of merchandise. It later turned out that the courier had failed to deliver it on time, so we just had to do without. Not that it mattered. They put on an excellent showing for their first ever UK live performance, kicking off with "Bless this child" and "End of all hope". In fact, the new album "Century child" was well represented, as well as a selection of tracks from their older albums, and even a cover of "Crazy train". They ended the evening with a couple more covers in the encore -- "The snowman", and "Over the hills and far away". A great end to another great weekend of metal. Band of the festival is a tough call, but Nightwish probably just edged out Blaze, with strong showings from Edguy, Masterplan and Power Quest, and with Cruel Humanity showing a lot of promise for the future. 21 bands in two days (if you count Biomechanical twice). What more could anyone ask for?

Bloodstock '03 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
* * * * - Saxon 29th August 2003
* * * * | Blaze
* * * * | Power Quest
* * * | - 5th Man Down
* * * | - Biomechanical

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket Another year, another Bloodstock. This year, it's been expanded to a day and a half. Although only 4 bands were scheduled for the Friday evening, I turned up to find Saturday's Darwin Suite headliners Biomechanical playing (in the Darwin Suite). I think they were filming for a video. What a difference a year makes. I was distinctly unimpressed when I saw them last year. This time around, though, they were much better, and I enjoyed their performance. On to the main stage, then, where 5th Man Down officially opened the evening. I'd never heard of them before, and wasn't sure what to expect, so it was a pleasant surprise when they turned out to be a pretty good rock band. After their excellent Underworld show a few days earlier, I knew what to expect from Power Quest, and they didn't disappoint. If anything, they were even better than at the Underworld, and it was nice to be able to see Steve Williams properly on stage, rather than hidden from view in a corner of the stage as he was at Camden. I'm running out of superlatives to describe Blaze's live performance. Once again, the band delivered a stunning performance. If pushed to pick a highlight, I'd have to go for "Sign of the cross", but as ever, the band didn't put a foot wrong for the entire set. Last band of the evening were Saxon. I was pleased to see that their return to form at The Astoria earlier in the year hadn't been a fluke, and that they were able to put on a decent performance here. Once again the eagle rig was flown out part way during the set. It's nice to see some of the newer material like "Killing Ground" able to stand its own against the classic tracks. Other highlights were the obvious "Crusader" and "Denim and leather". A great start to Bloodstock '03, then, but as is so frequently the case these days, the evening belonged to Blaze.

* * * * - Power Quest The Underworld
* * * - - Intense 25th August 2003
* * * | - Mercury Rain

Power Quest advert Power Quest ticket This evening was part of a mini tour warm up for Bloodstock, where both Mercury Rain and Power Quest were due to appear. I quite liked Mercury Rain on CD, and that feeling followed though into their live performance. I'm unconvinced that Sonia's vocals are a good fit for the music, though. Still, an enjoyable set. The last time I'd seen Intense, I'd come away distinctly underwhelmed. However, since then, they appear to have grown a pair of balls from somewhere, and they were a much better proposition tonight. Without a change in vocalist, they're probably always going to be on my "also ran" list, but a significant improvement on last time nonetheless. Until this evening, I'd always thought of Power Quest as being the poor man's Dragonforce, always somehow in the shadow of the latter. Tonight's show completely dispelled that idea, and showed just how good a band they are in their own right. A tremendous amount of onstage energy, and superb performances from the two Italians, with Andrea putting on a particularly impressive showing given the last minute lack of a second guitarist.

* * * | - Danger Danger The Underworld
* * * | - Robin Black And The Intergalactic Rockstars 25th June 2003
* * | - - Freewheeler

Danger Danger advert Danger Danger ticket Freewheeler photo Robin Black photo Danger Danger photo Freewheeler are an average pub rock band. Worth seeing if they're supporting someone else, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them on their own. I felt much the same about Robin Black when I last saw them. However, tonight they were much, much better. They may not be my "new favourite band", but I'm certainly more impressed than I was based on their previous performance. Danger Danger were also very good, and less glam than I remembered them. They were joined for an encore by Robin Black, to make a great end to the evening.

* * * | - Type O Negative The Astoria
* * - - - Kill 2 This 20th June 2003

Type O Negative ticket Kill 2 This were sadly every bit as dull as last time I saw them. Only this time, I think they have a new vocalist, who if anything is even worse than the last one. Not a band I'll be rushing out to see again. Type O Negative, on the other hand, were much better. Perhaps not quite as good as the last time I saw them, but a very enjoyable evening anyway, and I'll see them again next time they play in London.

* * * | - Inkubus Sukkubus The Underworld
* * | - - The Ghost of Lemora 14th June 2003
* * * | - Scary Bitches
* * - - - Soul Takers

Inkubus Sukkubus ticket Inkubus Sukkubus advert Scary Bitches photo Ghost Of Lemora photo Inkubus Sukkubus photo Soul Takers were bland electro goth. Their main problem was the apparent lack of songwriting skills, which led to very repetative songs. Next up were Scary Bitches, who obviously don't take themselves too seriously at all. Extremely over the top stage costumes, and amusing song titles and lyrics like "There's a lycanthrope on the bus" and "Lesbian vampires from outer space" made for an entertaining show. The odd thing, though, is that even without the stage show, they're actually pretty good musically as well. I was expecting more from The Ghost Of Lemora, but actually found them to be a little dull. They're obviously accomplished musicians, but they don't have anything to make them stand out from the crowd. Inkubus Sukkubus are now down to a three piece, with just Candia, Tony and Adam. Not that it actually made a difference anyway. Once again, they put on a good show, and while to a certain extent, if you've seen one Inkubus Sukkubus show, you've seen them all, this was sufficiently different to previous shows that I'm glad I went. Highlights as ever were "Wytches", "Vampyre erotica" and "Paint it black".

* * * * - Queensrÿche The Astoria
* * | - - Hurricane Party 6th June 2003

Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche ticket Do Queensrÿche have a thing about party openers? Last time it was the rather dull Tea Party, this time, we get Hurricane Party. Who were odd. Basically, just a traditional rock band, but with an over the top appearance. Was it a wig? Who knows. Entertaining, but not a band I'll be following with great interest. Geoff Tate is now completely without hair. However, that hasn't affected his voice, which is still as good as ever. I had been hoping that Chris DeGarmo would make the trip over, but he's apparently not yet fully rejoined the band. Still, even without DeGarmo, the band are very good live. Scott Rockenfield may no longer have his awesome chain drumkit, and is now bizarrely protected behind acetate sheeting, but he's still one of the best drummers around. Once again, the Mindcrime and Empire era stuff was the highlight, but it's nice to see some of the newer material being able to stand its own, particularly from Tribe.

* * * | - Bob Catley The Underworld
* * * | - Danny Vaughn 31st May 2003

Bob Catley ticket Danny Vaughn, like Kip Winger before him, was supporting Bob Catley on his own. As in literally just him on stage with a guitar. No backing band. Like Kip, he also oozes professionalism, and it's at times like this that you realise how unfair the music industry is, with artists of this quality struggling, and many with far less talent making the big money. Still, a great opening performance. Bob was his usual self, and put on a reasonably good show. I'm less convinced by the material from his latest solo album, though, and now that Magnum have reformed, he was concentrating more on his own material. Not a bad show by any means, but I'll be more interested in the next Magnum gig than Bob's next solo show.

* * * | - Thunder The Astoria
* * | - - Zico 23rd May 2003

Thunder ticket Zico were yet another "nice" opening band. Nothing particularly offensive, but nothing to write home about either. Thunder had been pretty awful when I saw them at Wembley, and then pretty amazing when I saw them at The Marquee shortly afterwards. Tonight's show was somewhere between the two. They put on a good preformance, but it's hard to beat the intimacy of seeing a great band in a small venue like The Marquee. Still, I'll be going to see them again when they return to The Astoria in November.

* * * * * Blaze The Garage
* * - - - Fourway Kill 25th April 2003

Blaze ticket Fourway Kill have some potential. But until they realise it, they'll fall into my "I'll be at the bar" category for Bloodstock. Too much emphasis on the noise, not enough on the songs. Fortunately the same can't be said of Blaze. In the numerous times I've seen them, they've ranged from merely good to stunning. Tonight was the latter. Despite the fact that I think The Garage sucks as a live venue, this was probably the best live show I've seen from the band, even eclipsing their first Underworld show. So two bands tonight, and I'll be seeing both at Bloodstock in August. On tonight's evidence, Fourway Kill are one to miss, but I'm really looking forward to seeing Blaze again.

* * | - - Cradle Of Filth The Astoria
21st April 2003

Bucket 'O Muck ticket No support for this one, just some projection screens, showing clips from Dani's film "Cradle of fear". Eventually, the band took to the stage, and it struck me just how much of an image driven band they are. Musically, they're fine. Good, even. But Dani is an appalling vocalist. If they'd just get themselves a new frontman, they could really be very good. But the problem is that they rely on Dani so much to promote a particular image that without him, they'd have no media support and would probably descend back into obscurity. The overall experience definitely left something to be desired, then. They didn't play "Mannequin", the only decent track on their new album, and none of the older material was particularly well presented. If you take away the elaborate stage sets or scantily clad dancers, and the other things that make up the CoF image, you're left with a poor show from an uninspiring band.

* * * | - The Sisters Of Mercy The Forum
* * | - - Oceansize 18th April 2003

The Sisters Of Mercy ticket Oceansize were bland pop rock. Not offensive, but not enough there to be worth bothering with. The Sisters Of Mercy were swathed in dry ice as usual. In fact, their whole show was much as they have been in the past. They started strongly, tailed off a bit, and picked it up again towards the end. Tonight was the first time I've been able to hear some of the new material clearly enough to be able to make a decision about it, and Summer is very definitely a good track. They still haven't got around to releasing a studio version, though...

* * * | - Yngwie Malmsteen The Mean Fiddler
3rd April 2003

Yngwie advert Yngwie ticket No support for tonight's show. I very nearly didn't come at all, as I'd been so unimpressed with his last London show. However, his latest album, "Attack!" was much better than the dreadful "WTEAW", and the fact that Doogie White was singing was enough to persuade me to come along. I'm glad I did. This was a much, much better performance. Doogie handled both the "Attack!" material and the back catalogue with ease, and Yngwie's playing was much better. He's certainly eaten all the pies, though, and is heading into Jon Oliva territory! I still think the set list needs a bit of work, and that more songs and less soloing would be beneficial, but the balance between the two was much better tonight. I've seen Yngwie many times over the years, and I don't think I've seen the same vocalist twice. Doogie is probably the best of the bunch, though, and I hope he stays for the next album and beyond.

* * - - - Sepultura The Underworld
* | - - - My War 31st March 2003

Sepultura ticket Don't remember much about My War. I'd only come to this gig because my housemate wanted to go. Sepultura aren't really my thing, but I figured I'd go along and keep him company. To be honest, they were pretty dire, and even my housemate, who generally likes them, was unimpressed and we left before the end. To make things worse, on my way home, I remembered that tonight was also a Stratovarius gig which I was going to go to. So not only was the show a washout, but I missed out on one I really wanted to see :-(

* * * * * Apocalyptica The Marquee
3rd March 2003

Apocalyptica ticket So, back to the new Marquee. I guess I'm not the only one that had complained that it was too bright and open. Tonight there were black curtains hung up, which definitely improved the atmosphere. No support for this gig, just a raised stage with four empty chairs. Eventually, the band came on, sat down and started playing. Wow. Any doubts I may have had about the band's ability to play live were quickly demolished, and they put on a stunning show. Hearing the audience filling in the lyrics to an instrumental rendition of "Master of puppets" was one of those moments that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. On the basis of this performance, Apocalyptica are now very definitely in my "must see" category if they're playing near me again. Easily the best gig I've seen since Bloodstock last year, and a candidate for my top 10 gigs of all time.

* * * | - Never The Bride The Fornax And Firkin, Harrow
22nd February 2003

I'd managed to miss seeing Never The Bride in their regular slot at the John Bull for years, and was long overdue to catch them live. Tonight's show was just the two of them, financial pressures preventing a show with a full band. Extremely long days at work had meant that I was absolutely shattered for this show, and hence probably didn't get as much out of it as I could. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the evening, which came as a welcome break from the stresses of work.

* * | - - Pretty Boy Floyd The Underworld, London
* * * - - Robin Black And The Intergalactic Rockstars 10th February 2003
* * - - - The Plastics

Pretty Boy Floyd ticket Robin Black photo Pretty Boy Floyd photo The Plastics came on stage looking like a traditional punk band, and despite that, played a reasonable set. Not exaclty to my tastes, but better than I was expecting. Robin Black & IGR are just a bit over the top. It's all well and good to have a massive ego when you have the talent to back it up, but realistically, they don't. It's not that they're bad, but they're just a bit mediocre, and they don't live up to their outrageous on stage posturing and claims to be the best band in the world. There was nothing wrong with their set -- they're competent musicians and songwriters, but nothing more. I'd been particularly impressed by Pretty Boy Floyd, who had completely blown away Faster Pussycat a year before. Sadly, though, tonight was just not of the same calibre. The glam image had gone, and with it went the on stage energy. They're looking old now. Quite a change in the space of a year. Again, not bad, but nothing special either. A disappointing evening.

The Eagle Flies Again The Astoria, London
* * * | - Saxon 26th January 2003
* * * * - Nocturnal Rites
* * * | - Wolf
* * * | - Evidence One

Saxon ticket I'd never heard of Evidence One, but given the rest of the bands on the bill, I could take a guess at what they'd be like. Sure enough, they played a set which I enjoyed, and I'll go and see them should they play the in UK again. I'd forgotten how much of an Iron Maiden clone Wolf were. Not even vaguely original, but I don't care. I like the music they're playing, and ultimately, that's all that matters. Particularly as Maiden themselves aren't doing it these days. As for Nocturnal Rites, while I like their studio output, I was a little concerned that it would be a bit lightweight when performed live. Fortunately, I needn't have worried, and they put on a great show. Since this was the last show of the tour, we were treated to the obligatory on stage tricks, and members of Wolf came on and dismantled the Nocturnal Rites drumkit throughout their set, to the point where there was only a single bass drum, one snare and a cymbal left at the end. The drummer played on valiantly, but obviously thought they'd taken it too far, and was getting quite angry towards the end. Since their awesome NWOBHM anniversary show in 2000, I'd been somewhat underwhelmed by Saxon's live performances. Tonight was billed as "The eagle flies again", a reference to their "eagle" lighting rig. It was nowhere to be seen, but that didn't detract from a strong Saxon set, easily the best I've seen them since the NWOBHM show. Part way through the set, all became clear, as the audience were completely blinded by the massive array of lights on the eagle, which had been hidden earlier in the show, and flown out midway through. An impressive sight indeed, and a great way to round off a great evening.

Totalfest 5: All Fired Up! The Kings Head, London
* * * - - Blaze 18th January 2003
* * | - - Orange Goblin
* * * | - Area 54
* * * - - Reactor

Blaze ticket On the way to tonights gig, I officially became old. I was discussing Iron Maiden with someone on the way from the tube station to the venue. It transpired that I'd bought my first Maiden record when he was 2 years old... Anyway, Reactor opened with an OK but uninspiring set. Next up were Area 54. I've seen them enough now to know what to expect. I have to say, though, that tonight was easily the best I've seen them. I still don't believe they have what it takes to make a big splash in the metal scene. But tonight definitely showed they're getting better. Orange Goblin were pretty much as I expected them to be from what I'd read in magazines. Plenty of energy on stage, but average musically. What I didn't expect, though, was someone next to me to double up, apparently in pain. When concerned onlookers tried to find out what was wrong, he threw up on the floor. So far so good, but he then immediately stood up, jumped in with both feet into the pile of vomit, and started headbanging away as if nothing had happened. Bizarre. And so onto Blaze. I've seen Blaze several times now, and although still good, this was probably the weakest show I've seen.

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