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Concerts I've seen

***-- Iron Maiden Earl's Court
**/-- Trivium 22nd December 2006
? ? ? Lauren Harris
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Review to follow.

****- Dragonforce The Astoria
*/--- All That Remains 12th December 2006
****- Firewind
Dragonforce ticket

Review to follow.

***-- Evanescence Hammersmith Apollo
**/-- Revelation Theory 20th November 2006
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Review to follow.

****- W.A.S.P. The Astoria
***-- McQueen 17th November 2006
**/-- Jaded
W.A.S.P. ticket Jaded photo Jaded photo McQueen photo McQueen photo W.A.S.P. photo W.A.S.P. photo W.A.S.P. photo W.A.S.P. photo

Review to follow.

**/-- Everything & Nothing The Purple Turtle
***-- Dirty Vendetta 13th November 2006
****- Rise To Addiction
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Review to follow.

****/ Doro The Underworld
***/- Blitzkrieg 10th November 2006
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Review to follow.

****- Evergrey Dingwalls
**/-- Avatar 6th November 2006
***/- Awake
Evergrey ticket Awake photo Awake photo Awake photo Avatar photo Avatar photo Avatar photo Evergrey photo Evergrey photo Evergrey photo

Review to follow.

***/- Dream Evil The Underworld
**/-- Korpiklaani 5th November 2006
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Review to follow.

***/- Lordi The Forum
****- Turisas 31st October 2006
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Review to follow.

****- Season's End The Underworld
***-- Awake 23rd October 2006
**/-- Innogen
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Review to follow.

****- Lacuna Coil The Astoria
****- Poisonblack 13th October 2006
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Review to follow.

***-- NFD The Underworld
***/- Manuskript 6th October 2006
**/-- Shadow Side
NFD advert NFD advert NFD ticket Shadow Side photo Shadow Side photo Shadow Side photo Manuskript photo Manuskript photo Manuskript photo NFD photo NFD photo NFD photo NFD photo

Review to follow.

Bloodstock '06 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
**--- My Dying Bride 30th September 2006
***/- Vanden Plas
****- Deathstars
**/-- Deadfall
***/- Onslaught
***-- Enemy Unknown
***/- Died Smiling
****- Brainstorm
*/--- Tourettes Syndrome
****- Machine Men
***/- Beyond Afterlife
**/-- Omnium Gatherum
***-- Agankast
**/-- Sworn Amongst
**/-- Mael Mórdha
***/- Spellblast
**/-- Isaiah
***/- H.O.S.T.I.L.E
***/- Illuminatus
**--- The Boy Will Drown
Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket The Boy Will Drown photo Illuminatus photo H.O.S.T.I.L.E. photo Isaiah photo Spellblast photo Mael Mórdha photo Sworn Amongst photo Agankast photo Omnium Gatherum photo Beyond Afterlife photo Machine Men photo Tourette's Syndrome photo Brainstorm photo Died Smiling photo Enemy Unknown photo Onslaught photo Deadfall photo Deathstars photo Vanden Plas photo My Dying Bride photo Photos

The Boy Will Drown were somewhat out of place here, playing modern shouty metal. But they did show some signs of promise in the occasional melodic breaks. Illuminatus have always been worth watching, but haven't really been outstanding. They weren't tonight, either. But that said, it's the best I've seen the band, and their own material was interspersed with a Sabbath medley and a cover of "Comfortably numb". H.O.S.T.I.L.E were aggressive, and yet melodic at the same time. The vocals were cleaner than the clips I'd heard online might have suggested, and I found myself rather liking them. The singer arrived on stage on a hobby horse, but sadly I missed the photo opportunity. Isaiah, the next band on the Darwin Stage, were an extreme metal band. And yet at the same time, were strangely accessible. It's not my favourite genre, but the band had something worth watching. Back on the main stage, Spellblast were playing a traditional power metal set, with to my ears, some viking and folk metal elements mixed in. They got off to a bit of a shaky start, but things picked up towards the end of the set.

Mael Mórdha played doom tinged Gaelic folk metal. They weren't bad, but despite the face paint and the appearance of an oddly shaped hunting horn, they did nothing much to sustain my interest. Sworn Amongst had originally been going to play on the Darwin Stage, but when Tourette's Syndrome didn't arrive in time, Sworn Amongst were given their slot on the main stage. They were more than up for the challenge, and looked confident and professional enough to justify the main stage slot. The vocals were gruff, but still understandable, and the set list included a cover of Pantera's "Walk". Not really my thing, but they did reasonably well given the circumstances. Agankast weren't bad, playing straight forward metal. Omnium Gatherum are hard to classify. They're almost a Gothenburg style band, but not quite. Perhaps adult oriented death metal would be a good description. They didn't make much of an impression, however. Beyond Afterlife played fairly decent melodic metal, and included a cover of "The trooper".

Someone had mistakenly mentioned beforehand that Machine Men featured Roope Latvala from Children Of Bodom. But his absence wasn't noted, as Machine Men put on a strong power metal set. There wasn't much in the way originality, but that's not always a bad thing, and I enjoyed their performance. Tourette's Syndrome eventually arrived, and were relegated to the second stage. To be honest, though, that probably suited them better anyway. Extreme metal, with a female vocalist that would give Angela Gossow a run for her money, featuring the occasional electro bleep. Not my thing at all. Brainstorm were always going to be one of my highlights of this year's festival, and that's exactly what they turned out to be. They put on a better performance than the last time I'd seen them, and the crowd reacted well to them. Died Smiling had the misfortune to completely overlap with Brainstorm, and so suffered from a much depleted crowd. That was a shame, as they played a decent set of melodic thrash, and weren't at all bad. Enemy Unknown played at largely forgettable thrash set.

I'm one of those who thought Onslaught's best material was from their album with Steve Grimmett. Nonetheless, I'm in the minority there, and this reunion lineup features Sy Keeler. To be fair, Keeler actually has a pretty decent voice, and the band played a set of traditional thrash. Keeler wins this year's best onstage quote award: "That was another new one. Unless you've downloaded it illegally, in which case you'll already be familiar with it... ya robbing bastards!". Deadfall were next up on the second stage, playing a straightforward thrash set. But to be honest, having just watched Onslaught show how to do it properly, Deadfall struggled in comparison. Deathstars had come in for a lot of criticism before the show, being deemed unsuitable by many of the festival regulars. Their set mixed Rammstein-like stomp with Eldritch style vocals, and they were certainly better than the last time I'd seen them. I felt they acquitted themselves, despite the vocally hostile minority in the thinning crowd. Vanden Plas were headlining the second stage, and while their prog metal was as precise as you could hope to hear, for me it was completely without feeling and came across as very lacking, particularly in terms of songwriting. That only left My Dying Bride. If I thought the crowd was thinning for Deathstars, it was considerably worse for MDB. Never one of my favourite bands, they showed the occasional glimpse of being about to do something interesting before descending into mindless naval gazing again.

In summary, this year saw one of the weakest Bloodstock lineups I can remember, in particular towards the end of Saturday, and the crowd showed their displeasure at that, with many leaving early. The Friday was actually pretty good, but Saturday was frankly poor. This was not Bloodstock's finest hour.

Bloodstock '06 The Assembly Rooms, Derby
****- Primal Fear 29th September 2006
***/- To-Mera
****- Axl Rudi Pell
***-- Eden
****- Savage Circus
***/- Steel Tormentor
****- Majesty
? ? ? Captive Audio
? ? ? Marshall Law
? ? ? Awaken
Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket Majesty photo Steel Tormentor photo Savage Circus photo Savage Circus photo Eden photo Axel Rudi Pell photo To-Mera photo Primal Fear photo Primal Fear photo Primal Fear photo Photos

I'd arrived too late to catch the first few bands, so the first one I saw was Majesty. I hadn't realised how much they were trying to be Manowar until this show. Of course, that's no bad thing in my book, but still, they were practically clones (although the singer doesn't have as good a voice as Eric Adams). Steel Tormentor weren't bad, but not were they particularly memorable. They did have some nice Maiden-like guitar harmonies in places, though. I'd been looking forward to seeing Savage Circus. I'd long been a fan of Persuader, and liked the Savage Circus material, too. Sadly, while it was a good performance, it wasn't a great one. The mix was awful, with the drums and bass drowning out much of the rest of the band, and although he has a great voice, Jens lacks charisma on stage. Highlights for me were "Tomorrowland" and "When hell awakes".

I'd never heard of Eden before. They turned out to be a reasonable hard rock/blues band. The singer has an amazing voice, though. I'd been a fan of Axel Ruli Pell since his mid-'90s albums with Jeff Scott Soto, and had been looking forward to seeing him live. He didn't disappoint, playing a strong set, with Johnny Gioeli's vocals complimenting the band nicely. "Mystica" and "Temple of the king" were the standout tracks. I'd been given a demo CD of To-Mera one night at The Peel, so I knew what to expect here. They seemed to have toned down some of the jazz parts for their live show, which was probably a wise move. The sound wasn't great, but "Blood" and "Born of ashes" still came across well. Primal Fear were the highlight of the first ever Bloodstock, and had put on another excellent performance in 2004. This was their third appearance at the festival, and they were playing on the back of their strongest album in a while, "Seven seals". From that album, we saw "Demons and angels", "Rollercoaster" and the title track, as well as classics like "Nuclear fire" and "Angel in black". But for whatever reason, the crowd atmosphere just wasn't there this year, which took the shine of the performance a bit.

****- Blind Guardian Koko
***/- Astral Doors 26th September 2006
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I'd never heard of Astral Doors before this show, so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, they were total Dio clones, both vocally and in terms of song structure. I don't know if this is deliberate, but it works reasonably well. They weren't as good as Dio himself, but they did a reasonable job of warming up the crowd, which is, after all, the intended purpose of a support act. Blind Guardian would probably still rank as my #1 pick for the best headline performance that Bloodstock have had to date, and as this was their first return to the UK since then, I was very much looking forward to the show. They could hardly have picked a better way to open the show, choosing "War of wrath" and "Into the storm". But good though the band were, they were hampered by abysmal sound. I frequently found myself unable to hear Hansi's voice, or the guitar harmonies. Had I not know the material, I would really have struggled. Fortunately, I did know most of the material, which helped immensely. Notable songs were "Born in a mourning hall", "Fly", "Time stands still (at the iron hill)", and set closer "And then there was silence". The encore brought "Another stranger me", followed by my pick for song of the evening, "Imaginations from the other side", and finally "Mirror mirror". It was certainly an enjoyable set. But I have to admit to leaving the venue just a little disappointed. The sound quality had made the evening much less than it could (and should) have been.

***-- Xandria The Underworld
***/- Liquid Sky 12th August 2006
***/- Adastreia
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After initially seeing Adastreia supporting Season's End at the start of the year, I'd managed to miss their sets at their next two shows at The Underworld and The Peel. Tonight, however, I arrived in time to catch them. They bill themselves as female fronted black metal, but to be honest, I haven't seen much evidence of the "black metal" bit to date, either live or on their studio output. However, this evening there were definitely signs that they were heading in that direction, particularly on the new material, which is sounding very promising. My only real complaint would be the vocals. Alexandra has a stunning voice, but I'm not 100% convinced that it fits the music here, at least without something extra. Perhaps the addition of some harsh vocals to provide some balance would help. Still, I like the band, and they put on a decent live performance. Liquid Sky had impressed me no end when I saw them at FVOM last year, so I was looking forward to their set here, and they didn't disappoint. I've grown so used to seeing Jon with Season's End that it seems strange seeing him here, despite Liquid Sky being nominally his main band. They were heavier than I remembered, and despite Hecate's vocals being mixed a little too low, put on another strong showing. I was a little disappointed that they didn't have any studio recordings available on the merchandise stall. Xandria had underwhelmed me on CD. Their music just seemed to be bland an ininspiring. I'd really turned up to see the two support bands. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Xandria proved to be much heavier and more intense live. Lisa's voice spanned the complete range from traditional clean vocals, through a Shakespeare's Sister like crone voice, to the occasional full on black vocals. Quite impressive. However, ultimately, they were still a little less enthralling than the two supports.

Bloodstock Open Air 2006 Catton Hall, Derbyshire
***/- Stratovarius 15th July 2006
*/--- Deadweight
?-?-? Sicfelt
****- Turisas
**/-- State Of Serenity
*---- Nekkrosis
*/--- Bal-Sagoth
***-- Kyrb Grinder
?-?-? Spitting Blood
****- Ensiferum
***/- Beyond All Reason
***/- Callenish Circle
**/-- Isaiah
**/-- Gorilla Monsoon
***-- Deadeye
****- Season's End
?-?-? Solace
?-?-? Luna Pins
**--- Phat Jerusalem
***-- Ashtar
***-- Cycle VI
?-?-? Nineteenth Century
?-?-? Black River Project
Bloodstock Open Air advert Bloodstock Open Air ticket Cycle VI photo Ashtar photo Phat Jerusalem photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Deadeye photo Gorilla Monsoon photo Isiah photo Callenish Circle photo Beyond All Reason photo Ensiferum photo Ensiferum photo Kyrb Grinder photo Bal-Sagoth photo Nekkrosis photo State Of Serenity photo Turisas photo Turisas photo Deadweight photo Stratovarius photo Stratovarius photo Stratovarius photo Photos

Day two, and I missed both Black River Project and Nineteenth Century. The first band I saw was thus Cycle VI, who proved to be a reasonable, if unexceptional thrash influenced band. On the main stage, Brazil's Ashtar certainly provided some eye candy, but were a bit lacking in terms of sound. I guess the closest I could come to describing their sound would be to call them folk thrash, mixing electric guitars with a violin and bodhrán. The vocals were alternating between being very good and being flat, and weren't really strong enough to match the rest of the band. There's promise there, but they need to work on it. Phat Jerusalem mixed agressive metal with rap vocals. As far as I'm concerned, rap vocals have no place in metal, and I was left distinctly underwhelmed.

As expected, Season's End put on another strong showing. Becky seemed more aggressive than usual, but the band suffered from a poor mix, which hampered them somewhat. Highlights for me were "Celestia" and of course "Ghost in my emotion". Deadeye introduced themselves with the phrase "we are the cheese in your metal sandwich". The music was less extreme than most of the other bands on the unsigned stage, but the vocals were still harsh. Not bad, but certainly not cheese metal. Gorilla Monsoon played Orange Goblin style stoner rock. Sadly, it was just too bland for me, and was let down by the monotonous vocals.

Isaiah were the most extreme band to play the unsigned stage. They were good at it, and I came away reasonably impressed, even though it's not really my sort of thing. Callenish Circle did surprisingly well for a death metal band playing on the main stage. Again, it's not really my preferred genre, but they made a decent show of it. Beyond All Reason were the first (and it would turn out, only) band to play the unsigned stage with a singing frontman, as opposed to a grunting or barking one. That endeared them to me from the start, but the music was good as well, and for me, they were by far the best of the unsigned bands, playing no frills metal.

After their outstanding performance at The Underworld a couple of years back, I'd expected Ensiferum to do well here, and I wasn't disappointed. Their brand of melodic viking metal went down well, and was a welcome change from the previous couple of main stage bands. Highlights were "Windrider" and "Little dreamer", but as with Season's End, the band suffered from poor sound. Kyrb Grinder had been a bonus band at least year's Bloodstock indoor festival, filling an empty slot when another band was late turning up. They were much the same this time around. Aggressive music with funk influences made for an interesting performance, but I found the novelty wearing off towards the end of their set.

Bal-Sagoth are an over the top band on CD, but they'd been very disappointing at Bloodstock in 2002. If anything, they were even worse here. The epic qualities of their music just seem to be lost in a live setting, particularly when frontman Byron simply doesn't look the part. This was probably highlighted more than usual because Ensiferum had just shown everyone how it should be done properly, and Bal-Sagoth seemed very second rate in comparison. Nekkrosis were the token terrible band of the festival. They had two vocalists, but no singing. They were better than legendary "bad Bloodstock band" Bumsnogger, but not by much. State Of Serenity continued the theme on the unsigned stage with yet another wall of noise. They did, however, have some melodic instrumental breaks, which worked well, and if they emphasised those parts a bit more, they'd be a much more interesting band for me.

What can I say about Turisas? They're a bunch of unhinged Finns. But they certainly know how to put on a metal show, and how to impress an audience. Obvious highlights were "One more", "Battle metal". But in addition, we were treated to the bizarre sight of an onstage sauna, where the band were joined by members of Ensiferum. Plus, in addition to the expected "Rasputin" cover, we also got the theme from "Dallas" and the William Tell overture. Deadweight were more mostly tuneless noise, and did little to sustain any level of interest.

The last time I'd seen Stratovarius live, they'd been somewhat disappointing, without doing anything particularly wrong. Tonight was much the same. They started out well, with "Land of hope and glory" being a popular choice of intro music. But mostly they just seemed to be going through the motions, and were lacking the spark that they had when I first saw them at The Underworld. That said, there were certainly highlights, such as "Hunting high and low". Perhaps it was just that I was tired at the end of a long day. But they just didn't seem to inspire me here.

So overall, I was very impressed with my first Bloodstock Open Air. I think the unsigned stage needs some attention before next year, with only Beyond All Reason standing out from the crowd. On the main stage, strong performances from Rage, Metal Church, Season's End, Ensiferum and Turisas helped to make it the strongest Bloodstock event in a few years. Roll on 2007...

Bloodstock Open Air 2006 Catton Hall, Derbyshire
***/- Edguy 14th July 2006
**/-- Evile
****- Metal Church
***/- Kingsize Blues
***-- Headless Cross
**--- Atheist
**--- Pitiful Reign
**/-- Nocturnal Rites
***-- Nephwrack
****- Rage
**/-- Pyramaze
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I'd missed last year's inaugural Bloodstock Open Air, as the dates conflicted with my racing, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. The site itself was well hidden, and the signs to it were not as obvious as they could be. But I arrived in plenty of time. The site was, as you might expect, basically just a large field with a stage at one side, and stalls around the edge selling a variety of products. Oh, and non-stop, baking hot sun. Unpleasantly hot, in fact. But I suppose it's probably better than rain. The first band up was Pyramaze. I'd never heard of them before, but the vocalist looked familiar. It turns out he used to be in Balance Of Power. They weren't bad, but they were a bit too proggy for my tastes, and lacking bite. Rage, on the other hand, were much better. That wasn't entirely a surprise, as they've always been very strong when I've seen them before. They concentrated mostly on material from their new album, "Speak of the dead", which isn't quite up to the same standard as their other recent work. But nonetheless, it was well presented here, and of course, there was a selection of their other material, as well. Highlights for me were "Down", "Human metal", "Don't fear the winter", and an excellent "Higher than the sky".

Nephwrack played quite a reasonable brand of metal, mixing clean and harsh vocals. If I had a complaint, it would be that the vocals were sometimes a bit shouty and monotonous. But overall, an enjoyable set. Nocturnal Rites had put on a good show supporting Saxon a few years back. But here they were just too bland. They still have a high quality back catalogue to plunder, but they just didn't perform as well as I know they can, and were a big disappointment. Pitiful Reign had been getting a lot of good press on the Bloodstock forum before the show, so I was hoping for good things. Sadly, it seems that it was all hype. They played straight ahead thrash, but nothing that particular stood out, and certainly nothing that justified their reputation. I hadn't expected them to be so young, either, but it does give them plenty of time to grow, so perhaps in a couple of years they'll have improved.

Atheist were one of those bands that I never really rated back in the day, and it's easy to see why from their performance here. They're very good technically, and are obviously skilled musicians. But the songs are just lacking melody, which combined with the terrible screechy vocals just didn't make for an enjoyable set. Headless Cross were another much hyped thrash band. Unlike Pitiful Reign, however, they were actually quite promising. Again, nothing outstanding, but there's definitely potential there. Kingsize Blues once again showed no evidence of playing any blues. They did, however, play a pretty reasonable thrash inspired set, with some excellent musicainship. They were let down by the shouty vocals, though. If they'd just get a vocalist that would sing, they'd be a much more interesting proposition. They were better than the last time I saw them, though. Metal Church always remind me of my friend Luke, who used to listed to them 15 or 20 years ago. To be honest, I hadn't really heard any of their music since that time, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The answer was a solid slab of traditional metal, which was very much welcome, and went down well with the crowd.

Headlining the second stage were Evile, the third of the UK thrash bands that had been hyped on the Bloodstock forum beforehand. Once again, though, they didn't live up to the hype, sounding mostly fairly medioctre. I'd say they were better than Pitiful Reign, but not as good as Headless Cross. All three deserve congratulations for reviving the traditional thrash sound, but none of them really pulled it off as well as they should have done. Headliners Edguy were playing Bloodstock once again, for I think the 4th year in a row. Much as I like the band, I was a little surprised when they were announced as playing yet again. This time, they brought their full European stage set with them, which included a large gargoyle with extending wings. As you might expect, they put on another good show, but one that wasn't quite as good as the previous times I'd seen them. In particular, Tobi and Jens were way too low in the mix, and could barely be heard at times. Moving further away from the stage seemed to improve the sound, though, which helped. Highlights for me were "Mysteria", "King of fools" and "Avantasia".

***/- Diamond Head The Underworld
***-- Humanity 21st June 2006
?-?-? Air Raid
Diamond Head ticket Humanity photo Humanity photo Humanity photo Humanity photo Diamond Head photo Diamond Head photo Diamond Head photo Diamond Head photo

Air Raid had been and gone by the time I arrived at the venue. Humanity had greatly impressed me the last time I'd seen them. Tonight wasn't quite as good. They were still better than their earlier Bloodstock performances would suggest, and the Evergrey influences were once again present. But they were hampered by the small crowd here tonight. Despite that, they still put on a decent show, and I'll go and see them next time they play. Diamond Head took to the stage to the strains of Holst's "Mars", before quite firmly showing they're more than a 1 hit wonder. As with the last time I saw them, the new material stands up surprisingly well, which is always nice to see. After a faultering start at Bloodstock, Diamond Head are now a band I look forward to seeing.

***-- Manuskript Electrowerkz
**/-- Swarf 10th June 2006
?-?-? Trauma Pet
Manuskript advert Swarf photo Manuskript photo Manuskript photo Manuskript photo

I arrived too late to catch Trauma Pet, so Swarf were the first band of the evening for me. I'd seen them many years ago, and had been impressed. Tonight, they played a sort of ambient electro-goth. Inoffensive, but not particularly engaging, either. I'd remembered them as being much more upbeat, and with stronger, more aggressive songs. Is it even the same Swarf, or just a different band with the same name? I don't know. But this Swarf were not really doing it for me. Manuskript were pretty much what I expected. The difference this time, though, was that Christian had been unleashed! He seemed to be playing much more aggressively than normal, with a harsher, more metallic sound to his guitar. For me, it was a definite improvement, although it prompted Mike to point him in the direction of Download. The new material is sounding strong, and they added in a cover of "It's a sin" for good measure.

****- Epica Nexus Bar, Southampton
****- Season's End 8th June 2006
****- Slayted
Slayted photo Slayted photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Epica photo Epica photo Epica photo

Epica had avoided a London show this time around, presumably due to having already played at The Underworld a couple of months earlier. So I headed down to Southampton, which was the next nearest show. Local band Slayted had been added to the bill relatively late, and I didn't really have any idea what to expect. As it turned out, they were all incredibly young. I would guess they're probably all still at school. They played a selection of their own material, as well as covers of some Maiden, Metallica and Slayer songs. They were actually quite musically competent, but they need to work on the vocals. The singer had plenty of attitude, but you need more than that to pull off a good live show, and a bit more attention to singing and enunciating the lyrics would go a long way. Still, not a bad performance, topped off with a warp speed cover of "The final countdown". There's little that I can say about Season's End that I haven't already said elsewhere. They're simply a great live band, and with each show, they become just that little bit more self assured. New song "Into the flames" seems to get better and better the more I hear it, and of course, they can't go wrong with set closer "Ghost in my emotion". Similarly, Epica can do little wrong in a live setting these days. Despite the small venue and sparse crowd, the band are obviously enjoying themselves, and they put on another great show. The more I hear it, the happier I am with the material from "Consign to oblivion". Although I initially thought it to be not up to the same standard as "The phantom agony", it's certainly growing on me, particularly when hearing it live. Notable in that respect is "The last crusade", which was great tonight.

****- Queensrÿche Manchester Academy
****- Roadstar 4th June 2006
Queensrÿche ticket Roadstar photo Roadstar photo Roadstar photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo Queensrÿche photo

When I first saw Roadstar, they were called Hurricane Party. Indeed, they were supporting Queensrÿche at the time. But they were a bit of a joke. They had plenty of on stage enthusiasm, but showed little in the way of musical talent. What a difference a few years of hard touring have made. The band now seem confident and assured on stage, and the material has noticably improved, too. They've transformed themselves from a band I'd tolerate seeing as a support to someone else into a band that I'll now go out of my way to see in their own right. An excellent start to the evening. This show was the only UK date for Queensrÿche on this tour, so a trek up to Manchester was necessary. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered. Much as I like the band, it's a long way to go, and I've seen them several times before. However, this tour was billed as having the band play the whole of the Operation:Mindcrime albums back to back. It was readily apparent just from the door times that they wouldn't be doing that at this show, as there simply wasn't enough time. That said, they did still play a significant subset of those two albums, in order, along with the accompanying stage theatrics. New guitarist Mike Stone now seems to be settling in well, and looks much more at home in the band than did his predecessor Kelly Gray. The sound was excellent, the songs were naturally strong, and it was great to see the Mindcrime material performed on stage. Highlight for me from the main set was "Eyes of a stranger". For the encore, the band played "Empire" and "Jet city woman", both of which were outstanding. They looked as if they were planning a final song, and there were rumours it was to be "Queen of the reich", but the appeared to be told that they'd reached the curfew for the night, and so it never appeared. But it didn't matter. The rest of the evening was easily strong enough to stand on its own merits.

?-?-? M.S.G. The Mean Fiddler
21st May 2006
M.S.G. ticket

I had to be in Malvern for the day of this concert. That meant a rushed trip back, and I was expecting to arrive probably half way through the support band's set. However, it was not to be. Stationary or slow moving traffic resulted in a trip back that took 5 and a half hours instead of the expected 2.5 hours, with the result that I missed the entire show :-(

****- Season's End The Peel
**/-- NFD 6th May 2006
?-?-? Adastreia
?-?-? Opus
Season's End advert Season's End advert Season's End advert Season's End advert N.F.D. photo N.F.D. photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Season's End photo

We arrived at the venue 15 minutes before the published door opening time, only to find that the opening two bands had already played. This was particularly galling as I was hoping to see Adastreia again, and I'd heard good things about Opus, too. So it was that N.F.D. were the first band of the evening for me. They're a band that are quite consistently average. It's not that there's anything wrong with them, and indeed they come across as very professional and experienced on stage. But they just don't seem to have the songs to rise above that to a higher level. Season's End, on the other hand, are an outstanding live band. Tonight was not one of their better performances, and they seemed a little lacklustre compared to previous outings. Even when they're not on top form, though, they still put on a good live show, and the obvious highlight of "Ghost in my emotion" was always going to go down well with the crowd.

**/-- The Sisters Of Mercy The Astoria
**/-- The Ivories 2nd May 2006
The Sisters Of Mercy ticket The Ivories photo The Ivories photo The Sisters Of Mercy photo The Sisters Of Mercy photo The Sisters Of Mercy photo

The evening started badly, with droning reggae being played through the PA, as has been the case for the last couple of TSOM gigs I've seen. I guess it's what Andrew Eldritch is listening to these days, but it's definitely not my sort of thing, and it doesn't get the audience in the right mood before the show. I'd be hard pushed to categorise openers The Ivories, but I suppose vaguely alternative rock and pop punk would come close, if forced to label them. There were snippets reminiscent of PJ Harvey and Lydia Lunch, but little to sustain any level of interest from me. Anyone that has ever seen The Sisters Of Mercy will know of their legendary penchant for dry ice. It's part of the experience, and everyone expects it. Tonight, though, they'd outdone themselves. There was so much dry ice, that the stage wasn't even visible at all, and all that could be seen was the occasional silhouette through the mist. To make things worse, not only was than band not visible, they were barely audible as well, due to the terrible sound quality. Indeed, the band were only really saved by the audience participation, and the crowd singing along to "Alice", "Dominion" and particularly "Lucretia" and "This corrosion" prevented the night from being a complete disaster. The band opted not to play any material from "First and last and always", They closed the show with a terrible rendition of "Temple of love". On the way out, there was muttering among the crowd that Mr Eldritch had gone one step too far this time, and that he wouldn't be getting any more of their hard earned money. I'll certainly think long and hard before buying tickets for another TSOM show in the future.

***/- Saxon The Astoria
***-- Blitzkrieg 23rd April 2006
Saxon ticket Blitzkrieg photo Blitzkrieg photo Saxon photo Saxon photo

Blitzkrieg were one of the original NWOBHM bands, most famous for their eponymous single, as covered by Metallica on their debut album. After a long period of inactivity, they resurfaced in the mid '90s, and although they have put out a few albums intermittently since then, the world hasn't paid much notice. However, there has been a fair amount of buzz about their most recent album, and they seem to be raising their profile somewhat. In truth, they were nothing special tonight. The vocals are clear and strong, and they have a good guitarist. However, they lack stage presence. Perhaps that's just because they're a bit rusty and will improve over time. The songs are well written, though, and they put in a reasonable performance. This was billed as a "back to the '80s" tour, and Saxon would only be playing songs from their albums released in that decade. Since that's where most of their strongest material is to be found, that was a popular move with the crowd. That said, they did make a single exception. Because it was St. George's day, they also played "Crusader", which went down well. Other highlights were "Strong arm of the law", "Princess of the night" and "Denim and leather". Aside from the highlights, though, the overall quality was down on previous performances, I thought. Not bad, but they can do better.

****/ Epica The Underworld
***-- Wolverine 21st April 2006
?-?-? Adastreia
Epica ticket Wolverine photo Epica photo Epica photo

I'd been caught up at work, so I hadn't been able to get to The Underworld in time to catch Adastreia. The second support band were Swedish band Wolverine. I'd never heard them before, but they played a progressive metal set, with a few power metal influences. The vocalist has a great voice, but for me, the songs are just a bit to bland and generic, and do little to maintain interest. Epica were once again, excellent. Having had a slightly sub-par performance at 13th Day, they were once again firing on all cylinders here. Highlights for me were "Sensorium", "Façade of reality", and from the new album, "The last crusade".

Gotham 7 Islington Academy
***/- Inkubus Sukkubus 9th April 2006
**/-- Theatre Of Tragedy
***-- Manuskript
****- Gothminister
***/- Screaming Banshee Air Crew
**/-- M.A.B.
?-?-? Moriarti And The Sith
?-?-? Uninvited Guest
Gotham advert Gotham ticket M.A.B. photo Screaming Banshee Air Crew photo Gothminister photo Manuskript photo Theatre Of Tragedy photo Inkubus Sukkubus photo

I hadn't been to Gotham for a few years, but my friend Tim was playing this year, so I thought I'd go along. I missed the first few bands, so the first one I saw was M.A.B. I'd heard the name before, but didn't know what they sounded like. They're an all female band, with quirky vocals, varying from operatic to punky. Somehow they remind me musically of Rockbitch. Interesting initially, but rapidly becoming a bit tedious. Screaming Banshee Air Crew were much better. Very much towards the more rock side of the goth genre, and quite accomplished and seemingly at home in a live environment. Providing today's dose of Spin̈al Täp were Norway's Gothminister. All of the goth clichés on stage in one place. The white face paint. The cross. The skulls. The top hat. Gothminister had it all. And more. Winners of the most bizarre stage prop award, they featured a goth step ladder. Actually, though, they were surprisingly good. The music had a Rammstein-like stomp in places. The vocals occasionally veered a bit too much towards the shouty end of the spectrum, but that aside, I found myself enjoying their set.

Next up were Manuskript. They got off to a terrible start, when Tim's keyboard completely failed, and stayed dead for the first song and a half. Also, Christian's guitars were also barely audible, but despite that, they still put on a respectable performance, and had some notable highlights, like "Lima". But they've certainly been better in the past. Theatre Of Tragedy were just dull. Their new vocalist is competent enough, but her voice just isn't as distinctive as her predecessor, Liv Kristine. Furthermore, the songs just seemed to lack energy, and the band were just going through the motions on stage. Inkubus Sukkubus were kind of average. Strangely for a headliner, they were blighted by poor sound, which didn't help. Even more strange, the other bands on the bill had been blessed with quite reasonable sound. Highlights were "Belladonna & Aconite" and "Paint it black", but they've been better in the past.

****- Turisas The Underworld
****/ Battlelore 6th April 2006
Turisas advert Turisas advert Turisas advert Turisas ticket Battlelore photo Battlelore photo Battlelore photo Battlelore photo Turisas photo Turisas photo Turisas photo

Having never heard of Battlelore, and only heard one track by Turisas, I'd come to this show pretty much purely on the strength of Turisas's live reputation. Given that, there was certainly potential for it to all go horribly wrong, and for me to hate both bands. I needn't have worried. Wow. What a night. Battlelore were quite simply stunning, playing powerful, viking/fantasy metal with harsh male and clean female vocals. Highlight was a song they introduced as "Sons of Riddermark", but the other tracks were all excellent, too. The crowd loved it, and the band fed on that energy and that just made the show even better. Turisas were going to struggle to follow that, but they certainly made every attempt to do so. It's easy to see why people have been clamouring about their live show. It's like watching Finntroll play nothing but Trollhammaren non stop for an entire set! They call their genre "battle metal", and it's hard to think of a more apt description. To finish the evening off, they chose to cover Boney M's "Rasputin", which just sent the crown wild. A superb evening of metal, with both bands giving it their all, but for me, Battlelore just slightly edged out Turisas, and gave the better performance of the evening. Either way, I'll be going out of my way to see both bands, should either of them play here again.

****- Season's End The Underworld
*/--- Forever Never 29th March 2006
***-- Adastreia
Season's End advert Season's End advert Season's End ticket Adastreia photo Forever Never photo Season's End photo Season's End photo Season's End photo

The obvious focal point of openers Adastreia are the outstanding operatic vocals. The band got off to a bit of a shaky start, but seemed to get into their stride a bit as the set progressed. They're obviously inexperienced in a live setting, and showed little or no on stage movement. There was virtually no evidence of their claims to be a black metal band, but that aside, there's enough promise there that I'll be keeping an eye on them in the future. Things weren't looking hopeful for Forever Never. They had a vocal fan in the audience wearing a Korn T-shirt. Never a good sign. And my fears were justified when they took to the stage. True, there was the occasional rise above tedium, but mostly it was just shouted vocals, and an absence of melody. Very poor. Season's End never seem to disappoint, and tonight was no exception. That said, they weren't on absolute top form tonight, and Dave's vocals seemed a bit strained. The set list consisted of all the regulars to which we've become accustomed, plus 3 new tracks. Best on stage quote came from Becki, who after getting tongue tied with the name of the support band and calling them "Never Forever" came out with this gem: "Bloody hell. Put a blonde in front of a microphone and see what happens! I'll stick to singing." Another strong showing from Season's End, then, and one from Adastreia showing the potential to go on to bigger and better things.

Prog Power UK The Centaur, Cheltenham
****- Therion 25th March 2006
***-- Threshold
***-- Pagan's Mind
***/- Freedom Call
**--- Orphaned Land
***-- Secret Sphere
****- Firewind
PPUK advert PPUK ticket Firewind photo Secret Sphere photo Orphaned Land photo Freedom Call photo Pagan's Mind photo Threshold photo Therion photo Therion photo Therion photo Therion photo

This was the first UK outing for the ProgPower franchise, and a reasonably strong lineup had persuaded me to make the trip over the Cheltenham. The day kicked off with Firewind. Since I last saw them, they've recruited Mark Cross on drums, and Chity has been replaced by new vocalist Apollo. I thought they were promising before, but this new lineup is much better. The band seem to have a sense of self belief about them now, as if they know they're destined for bigger and better things. Gus G's guitar work was excellent, as expected, and a decent mix for the whole set made for a great start to the day.

Next up were Secret Sphere. I'd never heard the band before, so didn't really know what to expect. The name of the festival should have given me a clue, though, and prog and power are both applicable here. The singer had a good voice, but I felt his performance was somewhat spoiled by poor diction.

Orphaned Land. Hmmmm. All I knew beforehand was that they were an Israeli band that mixed metal with eastern influences. That resulted in a strange meld of middle eastern sounds with death and prog metal thrown into the mix. All I can really say is that they were very, very strange, and not really to my tastes.

On paper, Freedom Call should have been one of my bands of the festival, as they've been outstanding whenever I've seen them before. However, today's performance was just lacking any real atmosphere. It was hampered by terrible sound, but even allowing for that, the band just weren't firing on all cylinders, and only the strength of the material kept them above water.

Pagan's Mind were the next band on stage, and were obviously catering more to the prog end of the spectrum than the power end. A fairly competent showing, but I'd have prefered a bit more bite to their material. I didn't dislike any of it, but I just felt it was a bit too safe, and they could have been a bit more adventurous. Still, the crowd seemed to like them, so they must be doing something right.

Another band with the crowd on their side were Threshold. I've seen them several times now, and for the life of me, I can't see why they're so popular. Sure, they're musically very competent. But like Pagan's Mind, the material is just too safe. Too inoffensive. Too bland. There are occasional flashes of something bigger and better lurking beneath the surface, but it never seems to break through.

Therion had been excellent when I'd seen them on a very cramped stage at The Garage. The bigger stage here must have been a welcome change. This was to be Christopher's last ever show singing for Therion. He'd decided that the death metal period of the band's history (where he did most of th singing) no longer represents what they are about, and he's also been finding it increasingly hard to sing those parts. The set list was similar to their last showing, and once again, the band was on top form. Christopher had announced that this should would feature a surprise, which turned out to be two belly dancers sharing the stage. As with their last show, they were joined by a four strong choir on stage, plus soloist Karin Fjellander, which really works well. Another strong showing from Therion, then, to round off a strong start to what I hope will become a long lived event in the UK festival calendar.

****/ Evergrey The Underworld
****- Humanity 7th March 2006
Evergrey ticket Humanity photo Humanity photo Evergrey photo Evergrey photo

I'd been less than impressed when I'd seen Humanity in the past. Tonight, however, they were a completely different band. I'd never really noticed that they had any similarity to Evergrey before, but tonight it was here in buckets. Not only that, but it was accompanied by a hunger I haven't seen previously in the band. They were playing on top form tonight, and really put on an excellent show, one that was a marked improvement on their previous performances. Let's hope that they continue that trend. Evergrey had impressed me at Bloodstock a few years back, so they had a lot to live up to here. Fortunately, they didn't disappoint, and put on a near flawless display of prog/power metal. Highlights for me were "More than ever", and "I'm sorry" with main man Thomas Englund letting the crowd do the singing. The encore brought the night to a fitting end with performances of "Recreation day", "A touch of blessing" and "The masterplan".

***/- Lacuna Coil The Forum
**/-- Death Stars 5th March 2006
Lacuna Coil advert Lacuna Coil ticket Death Stars photo Lacuna Coil photo Lacuna Coil photo

I'd never heard of Deathstars before this show, but apparently they're making big waves in the scene. From this performance, it's hard to see why. They're OK, but really didn't do much for me. The music was Rammstein-like stomp, and the vocals reminded me of a cross between Andrew Eldritch and Pete Steele, but with perhaps leaning a bit more towards the goth end of the spectrum than either of those two. Lacuna Coil were touring in support of their new album, "Karmacode", which hadn't yet been released. Consequently, the tracks they played from the new album (and there were several) didn't really go down particularly well. Even the material with which the crowd was more familiar still seemed a bit lacking. Only their cover of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the silence" served to lift the performance up from what was a fairly bland performance from a band I know can do much, much better.

****- Helloween Koko
***-- Power Quest 13th February 2006
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Having been impressed with Power Quest at Bloodstock a few years ago, I was looking forward to seeing them again. Sadly I was somewhat disappointed by their performance tonight. True, they were hampered by terrible sound. But Alessio's diction was poor as well, and the band have definitely been better in the past. As I predicted, Helloween have struggled after the departure of Uli Kusch and Roland Grapow. That said, they've done reasonably well with their latest "Keeper of the seven keys" album. It's not up to the standards of the classic Keeper 1 and 2 albums, but it's a step up from their previous album "Rabbit don't come easy". Indeed, some of tonight's best tracks were from the latest album, such as "Occasion Avenue" and "King for 1000 years". "Future world", "Dr. Stein" and "If I could fly" were also good. However, "I live for your pain" was very poor, and the Dani Loeble's drum solo was too long. A bit of a mixed bag, then, but overall a good show.

****- Dragonforce The Astoria
****/ Edguy 3rd February 2006
?-?-? Sabaton
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Sabaton had apparently taken to the stage the minute that the doors opened, and by the time I'd made it to the front of the queue, their set was over. Edguy had impressed me with their performance at the Bloodstock Xmas Party a few years back, and tonight was even better. They delivered a new flawless display of power metal, including "Super heroes", "Lavatory love machine", "Mysteria", "Babylon", the first verse of Iron Maiden's "The trooper" (but sadly not the rest of the song), and ending with "King of fools". It's a shame they weren't given a longer set. To follow that, Dragonforce were going to have to pull something special out of the bag. They were noticably more professional this time around. I get the impression that the band have realised that they needed to pull their act together, and it's made a big difference. They still joked around on stage (after Vadim's keyboard solo, Sam quipped "sorry you had to hear that, but it's better than a drum solo"), but musically, they were much tighter than they've been of late. Highlights were "My spirit will go on", and unsurprisingly, "Valley of the damned". They didn't quite do enough to outshine a magnificent Edguy performance, but the band had definitely stepped up a gear, a long overdue move, and it seems to be paying dividends, based on the large and enthusiastic crowd they drew in.

****- After Forever The Garage
***/- Nightmare 31st January 2006
**/-- Crimson Tears
After Forever ticket After Forever ticket Crimson Tears photo Nightmare photo After Forever photo After Forever photo

Crimson tears had a terrible mix initially. It improved throughout their set, but was never great. The singer seemed more confident on stage this time. However, the band were playing out of time, and the singer was out of tune. Neither of those were conduicive to a good show. The set ended with a cover of Iron Maiden's "Moonchild". Nightmare were fairly generic power metal, but reasonable enough with it. They need a bit more imagination, and they might be able to rise above their current mediocrity. Their singer sounds familiar, but I can't quite place where I've heard his voice before. Their set included another Maiden cover, this time "Aces high". After Forever were very polished, just as they were at Bloodstock. However, the vocals weren't clear, and I found myself straining to hear the lyrics. I enjoyed "My pledge of allegiance, part 1", a cover of Metallica's "For whom the bell tolls" and "Forlorn hope". They even played a snippet of the Kiss disco classic "I was made for loving you". All three bands this evening played an Iron Maiden cover, After Forever going for "The evil that men do". Not a bad show, but not a great one, and I found myself being disappointed by the reliance on backing tapes for the choral effects.

****- Stream Of Passion The Borderline
***-- Damian Wilson 29th January 2006
Stream Of Passion ticket Damian Wilson photo Stream Of Passion photo Stream Of Passion photo Stream Of Passion photo Stream Of Passion photo

Damian Wilson opened up with an acoustic set, helped out by his brother on vocals. He's an accomplished guitarist and vocalist, but the songs felt a bit limp, and didn't do much. Stream Of Passion is the latest vehicle for Arjen Lucassen's brand of prog rock -- indeed, the ticket was printed as "Ayreon Lucassen" (sic), but this was definitely a Stream Of Passion show, rather than an Ayreon one. The band requested no flash photography, which made getting usable picture tricky in the low light of The Borderline. However, I was there for the music, not the visuals. They're a talented group of musicians (including Warbride guitarist Lori Linstruth), and played well tonight. However, I felt that the vocals could be a little less ethereal to give more impact. Damian Wilson was also brought out to guest on a couple of tracks, and given the more powerful rock material of Stream Of Passion, was able to deliver some much stronger vocal performances.

****- Deep Purple The Astoria
***-- The Answer 17th January 2006
Deep Purple ticket The Answer photo The Answer photo Deep Purple photo Deep Purple photo Deep Purple photo Deep Purple photo

The Answer came across as a bluesy mixture of Led Zeppelin and Thunder. Nothing outstanding, but a fitting opening band for Deep Purple. I'd never seen Purple before, but they've certainly aged well. Of the classic lineup, only Gillan, Glover and Paice remain. Don Airey has replaced Jon Lord on keyboards, and Steve Morse was doing a decent job of filling Blackmore's shoes. The band would normally be found in much larger venues, so when the opportunity arose to see them at The Astoria, I thought it worth a go. The backdrop was notable for featuring several computer controlled sparse arrays of LEDs, which were displaying a range of pattens and images throughout the show. Musically, the band were good, and it was nice to see they weren't resting on their laurels, and that even though I wasn't familiar with their the new material, it stood up well to the classics. The highlights included "Ted the mechanic", "Highway star" and "Black night" as an encore. Sadly, there was no "Child in time", though.

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