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Concerts I've seen

3.5/5 Tigertailz The Scala
3/5 King Lizard 16th December 2010
3/5 The Peckham Cowboys
???/5 Star Scream

Tigertailz advert Tigertailz advert Tigertailz ticket

Openers Star Scream had cancelled due to illness, so the first band of the night were The Peckham Cowboys. They're the current band of former Quireboy Guy Bailey. I don't know the circumstances of his departure from the band, but I'm guessing it wasn't due to musical differences. He's built himself a virtual clone of The Quireboys, right down to the gravel throated vocalist. But what they may lack in originality, they make up for in just being good at what they do. A decent start to the evening.

Next up were King Lizard. I'd seen them at Bloodstock a few years before, so I knew to expect some glam tinged party metal, and that's exactly what the band delivered. They seemed to have improved musically in the years since I last saw them, and were much tighter as a band. Indeed, all of the band members seemed to be technically very proficient this time around, with the drummer deserving particular praise. The set ended with a great cover of Johnny B. Goode.

The last time I'd seen Tigertailz, they'd had probably the worst sound of any live band I've ever seen. The sound wasn't great this time either, but fortunately was at least much better than the last time. This was the first time I'd seen the band in their current lineup. Robin Guy turns out to be an excellent drummer, and Sarah Firebrand on bass proved she was a good fit for the band. Another criminally underpromoted show resulted in a low crowd turnout, which is a shame because the band were playing well tonight. Highlights were "Love overload", "Heaven", and an excellent "Dirty needles". The encore saw a cover of "Crazy horses", with Kim telling us that The Osmonds were a Welsh band originally from Merthyr Tydfil, and the set ended with the obligatory "Love bomb baby". A second encore saw the band come about again for a warp speed cover of "Ace of spades". A good show, but it's a shame there wasn't a larger crowd.

4/5 Helloween The Forum
3.5/5 Stratovarius 5th December 2010
2.5/5 Trick Or Treat

Helloween ticket

Trick Or Treat were completely unoriginal and although they were playing their own material, they were pure '80s Helloween clones. I later found out that's because they started as a Helloween tribute act. Regardless, they were OK, but did nothing to stand out, other than include a cover of "Girls just wanna have fun". Stratovarius were better than the last time I saw them, but that wasn't really hard. To be honest, much as I like them in the studio I'm coming to the conclusion that they're a weak live band, and in particular, Kotipelto is the reason for that. His voice simply doesn't have the necessary power when he's singing the high notes. Maybe it's just age, as I don't remember him struggling when I saw them earlier in their career, but that seems to be the case now. I know I'm in the minority with that opinion, but that's how I see it. Lorri's bass broke during "Speed of light" which was a shame as it's one of my favourite of their songs. The highlights of the set were "Hunting high and low" and to a lesser extent, "Black diamond". Helloween started strongly, with "March of time" standing out among the early tracks and "A handful of pain" being strong mid-set. But then they threw it all away with a Keepers medley (of "Keeper of the seven keys", "The king for 1000 years" and "Halloween") that just didn't work, and lost the mood. They picked things up again with an excellent set closing "I want out", before the encores brought the obligatory crowd pleasers in the form of "Future world" and "Dr. Stein". But even then, the audience participation in both "I want out" and "Future world" was too drawn out, and lessened the overall experience. They're a quality live act, and tonight was no exception, but they could have been better.

3.5/5 Kobra And The Lotus Bridge House 2
4/5 Triaxis 27th November 2010
3.5/5 Tainted Grace
3/5 Stuka Squadron
2.5/5 Diaries Of A Hero

Kobra And The Lotus advert Kobra And The Lotus advert

Diaries Of A Hero weren't on the list of support bands I'd seen, but nevertheless, they got the day off to a decent start. Just straight ahead metal, with a mixture of gruff and clean vocals, which were mixed too low. They were OK, but nothing particularly memorable for me. Stuka Squadron played tongue in cheek traditional metal, complete with Maiden like gallops and guitar harmonies. They clearly don't take themselves too seriously, and in places, they reminded me of Conquest Of Steel. I overheard a member of one of the other bands commenting that the lead guitarist was being held back by the rest of the band, and that's true. He's really very good, but he isn't going to show it to a wider audience in this band. The last time I'd tried to see Tainted Grace, they'd mysteriously not shown up (I later found out it was due to illness). So this was the first time I'd seen them, and they put on a strong set of female fronted metal, somewhat reminiscent of Season's End. I later found out that their debut EP was produced by Season's End's guitarist. The highlight for me was the set closer, a new track called "Black rain". I'll be looking out for them the next time they play in or around London. Triaxis were the primary reason for my attandence here tonight. They'd put on several memorable performances recently, and I was looking forward to seeing them again. This was the first time I'd seen them play since Gavin, their star guitarist, had left. Glyn, his replacement, had huge shoes to fill, but coped admirably, and the band don't seem any worse for the change. The set felt a bit subdued to start with, but by the end, they were in full stride, and "Lies" and "Wasted years" proved a great end to the performance. As happened the last time I'd been to Bridge House 2, the bands overran significantly, so although I waited as long as I could, I had to leave part way through Kobra And The Lotus's first song. From what I saw, I'd have enjoyed the rest of the show, but it wasn't to be, and I cut it fine enough that I only made the last train home by 30 seconds or so.

4/5 Annihilator Islington Academy
3/5 Sworn Amongst 20th November 2010
3/5 Svölk

Annihilator advert Annihilator ticket

Openers Svölk, obviously in need of a unique genre, describe themselves as true Norwegian bear metal. Clearly not a band that take themselves too seriously, then. They started the evening off with some decent southern rock influenced metal. No obvious bears, but maybe I just missed them. The bass player and one of the guitarists alternated lead vocals, both of them having decent enough voices. As a nice touch, they brought Dave Padden on for some guest vocals in one song. I'd last seen Sworn Amongst at Bloodstock in 2006, where they'd been unexpectedly promoted to play the main stage. At the time, they hadn't really done much for me. Here, the intervening years have obviously given them a chance to hone their skills, and they were much better. They seemed to be playing more traditional thrash than I remembered, which was clearly appropriate given who they were supporting. The lead guitarist impressed, and I'll be keeping an eye on them in the future.

So on to Annihilator, then. I generally have few regrets in life, but one of them is that I'd missed Annihilator at The Underworld on their "Waking the fury" tour. I'd had a ticket, but had written the wrong date down in my diary, so when I went to go to the show, I picked up the ticket, and realised that it had been the previous day, and I'd missed the show. To compound that, everyone I spoke to that had gone told me that it had been a great performance. D'oh! I'd been looking forward to seeing them, but when I did so (when they supported Trivium), I was hugely disappointed. The band put on a performance that could be described as mediocre at best. On the basis of that show, I very nearly didn't bother this time. All I can say is that I'm glad I did. The band was unrecognisable from the Trivium show. They were full of energy, and were everything I'd been hoping for. At the time he joined the band, I'd thought Dave Padden was a huge mistake. Tonight he showed that not only was he not a mistake, he's exactly the right man for the job. A very strong performance. Jeff Waters was on fire, clearly enjoying himself. At the start of the evening, the venue was all but empty, and I'd been concerned that it was going to stay that way. But by the time Annihilator came on, the place was packed. A good crowd nearly always makes for a good performance, and this was no exception. Highlights were "King of the hill", "Phantasmagoria", but it was "Ultra-motion" that was pure magic and sent the crown wild. I'll definitely be seeing Annihilator when they return to the UK.

2/5 White Wizzard The Underworld
3/5 Primitai 14th November 2010
3/5 Godsized
2.5/5 Belligerence

White Wizzard advert White Wizzard ticket

Belligerence opened things up with a largely unmemorable set of southern rock tinged metal. I quite enjoyed it, but at the same time, they did nothing to stand out, and I can barely remember anything about them by the time I'm writing this. I'd managed to miss Godsized's main performance at Bloodstock, but had caught their acoustic set and been reasonably impressed. Tonight I got to see them in their natural environment, and again, came away quite impressed. The band are due to tour with Black Label Society, and it's easy to see why they were picked. A similar style, and competent performances from the whole band make them a fairly obvious choice. The lead singer has a decent voice, too, which helps. They're unlikely to become my favourite band any time soon, but I enjoyed their set, and I'd happily see them again.

The main support for the evening were Primitai. Where did they come from? I'd never heard of them before, but it seemed like most of the audience was there for them. Musically, they just played straight ahead, no frills, traditional '80s style metal, and they were very good at it, too. For me, there's a little something missing that's stopping them from being great, but for a band I'd never heard of before, they came as a pleasant surprise, and were my band of the night. That made them better than headliners White Wizzard, which sadly wasn't that hard. When I saw them supporting Edguy, I'd felt that all the basic ingredients were there, but they just needed a bit more experience on stage. Since then, the bassist fired basically the whole band and started again. And then fired most of the new guys, and brought in yet more replacements. As a new lineup, they clearly hadn't had time to get the experience they needed, and to be honest, they were clearly not as good as the previous lineup. A disappointing performance from the headliners, then, but some enjoyable ones from Godsized and Primitai.

4/5 Freedom Call The Purple Turtle
4/5 Neonfly 5th November 2010
3.5/5 Thundertale

Freedom Call advert Freedom Call ticket

The venue were painfully slow at letting people in for this show, so that by the time I'd made it into the venue, Thundertale had already started their set. Just as Metsatöll are the only Estonian band I know of, Thundertale are the only Lithuanian one. They played folk tinged power metal, the folk elements coming from a strange cow horn instrument. Both guitarists took turns at vocal duties, one in a high pitched power metal style voice, the other in a richer tenor. Some songs were in English, some in Lithuanian, but overall, a creditable performance.

Neonfly's Bloodstock performance was a massive improvement over the previous time I'd seen them, and in part that was because of their guest vocalist, Willy. He's now been made a permanent member of the band, which is definitely a good move in my book. I think the band have a bright future ahead of them. The backing singers from Bloodstock were absent here, but that didn't prevent another strong showing from the band, with highlights once more being "Ship without sails" and "I think I saw a UFO".

Freedom Call opened with "We are one", which on paper should have been great, but was marred by poor sound. Fortunately, the sound improved later on in the set. In hindsight, I should have stayed at home for this show. I was very ill, and had spent the day in bed. But by the evening, I felt a little better, I already had a ticket, and I didn't want to miss Freedom Call, so I headed out. I made it through the first two bands and through the first few songs of Freedom Call's set before I completely ran out of energy and had to retreat to the back to go and sit down. After a while I was able to stand up again and watch some more of the show, but it really detracted from the evening. The highlights for me were "The quest", which was great, and "Freedom call" in the encore. It was obvious the band were playing well, and from speaking to them afterwards, others that were there seemed to rate the show as excellent, so I have to conclude that my illness was what made it merely good for me. I limped home, sick as a dog, but I'll be back to see Freedom Call the next time they play here.

4/5 Therion Shepherds Bush Empire
2.5/5 Leprous 31st October 2010
2.5/5 Loch Vostok

Therion advert Therion ticket

Loch Vostok describe themselves as progressive metal. I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but nor am I sure how else to describe them. A mix of clean and harsh vocals, and music that is too far from the beaten path to be straight ahead metal, but not really quite out there enough to be properly progressive. Either way, they were competent, but not particularly engrossing.

If I thought Loch Vostok were hard to describe, then I was always going to fail to describe Leprous. Just plain odd. They also describe themselves as progressive, albeit with "avantgarde" thrown in on top. They sound a bit like a metal version of the quirky alternative rock bands of the late '80s. In places, there's enough there that you think you know where the song's going. But a few seconds later, it's all changed and they're doing something different. Again, not really my kind of thing, and they didn't do much for me.

After Therion's outstanding last London show, there was no way I was going to miss them this time around. As I expected, the production was somewhat smaller this time around. Christofer had stated that the band's last album didn't sell as well as the previous ones, and I'd wondered at the time about the expense of shipping that much equipment around. But the show is all about the music, and not about the stage decoration. On that front, Therion once more delivered. There's a theatrical feel to their shows, with different singers coming to the front of the stage for their parts, and then retreating to the back. The sound quality wasn't quite as poor as some other shows I've seen at the Shepherds Bush Empire, but it wasn't great either. Christofer's guitars were very low in the mix, and the whole thing was muddy. I had to retreat to further back in the venue in order to try and improve things. I don't know if it was the sound quality or something else, but "Typhon" did nothing for me, which given it's one of my favourite Therion songs was strange. "Perennial Sophia" was a bit better, but things improved later in the set. Many bands play covers of old songs live, but Therion must be one of the few that play really old songs. In this case, Mozart's "Dies irae". Highlights for me were "Enter Vril-Ya", "Lemuria", and the two songs in the encore, "Rise of Sodom & Gomorrah" and "To Mega Therion". Not quite as good as their last show, then, but still another strong performance.

3.5/5 Blitzkrieg The Underworld
3/5 Beholder 30th October 2010
3/5 Toxic Federation

Blitzkrieg advert Blitzkrieg ticket

I'd never heard of Toxic Federation before, but found myself really liking them. They played '80s glam in a modern style. If they'd had merch on sale, I'd have bought the CD. I caught the singer between bands, and he said they had some, but I didn't see him again for the rest of the evening. Beholder have come a long way. From a light hearted covers band at Bloodstock in 2007, they've since started writing their own material, and have turned into a very creditable band in their own right. At the end of the set, they dedicated the last track to "the greatest metal vocalist to have ever lived", and launched into a cover of Dio's "Holy diver". Blitzkrieg are a strange band. They've been going forever. OK, so they didn't make it as big as some of their NWOBHM counterparts, but particularly in the last few years, they've become a really strong outfit. So why is the attendance tonight, and indeed the last time I saw them, so woefully low? In part it's due to lack of promotion, but really, the band deserve better. Once more, they put on a strong performance to a largely empty venue. Highlights were the eponymous track (which until tonight, I'd never noticed bears an alarming similarity to "Hocus pocus" in places), "Pull the trigger", and the now traditional end of set Judas Priest cover, "Hell bent for leather".

3/5 Alike Cooper Tropic At Ruislip
29th October 2010

Alike Cooper are, as you might expect from the name, an Alice Cooper tribute band. They have a reasonably impressive array of props to try and give a facsimile of the genuine article. It somehow all looked a bit clumsy, though. For example, the dollar notes wouldn't come off the end of the sword in "Billion dollar babies", and the straight jacket didn't go on cleanly. They've been doing this for a while now. You'd have thought they'd have practised it enough to ensure things like that went without a hitch. Musically, they were pretty good. Vocally, the singer did just about well enough. He's not particularly close to Alice Cooper himself, but he's close enough that you end up enjoying the show anyway. He got the lyrics wrong a few times, which was somewhat strange. He's obviously studied Cooper on stage, and tries to replicate the same mannerisms and movements. Sometimes it works, but a lot of the time, it just ends up looking clumsy, like the props. The set list was a selection of early Cooper material interspersed with a few newer tracks ("Love's a loaded gun", "Lost in America" and the obligatory "Poison"). I might have preferred, say, "Desperado" to "Sick things", and I'm somewhat surprised that they didn't open with "Hello hooray". But the nitpicks aside, it was still an enjoyable evening.

3.5/5 Kiuas The Underworld
3/5 Metsatöll 26th October 2010
3/5 Celesty

Kiuas ticket

I'd seen Celesty at Bloodstock a while back, and they'd been pretty good, if a bit generic. Since then, they'd swapped vocalists, recruiting Tarja Turunen's brother Tony. I'd seen him sing at one of Tarja's solo shows, and he has a decent voice. His addition to the band has definitely been an improvement. He has more power to his voice than the previous singer, and it shows. The band, too, seemed tighter, and generally put on a solid performance. If there's one criticism, it's that the songs are still a bit too generic, with little to make them stand out from the crowd. But this was definitely a better performance than at Bloodstock, so I'm optimistic for the future of the band.

I'd seen Metsatöll supporting Ensiferum, and to be honest, I wasn't very impressed. This time, though, there was much more to the band. On the folk metal spectrum, they tend more to the folk end than the metal end. The range of strange Estonian instruments was still present, but this time, they could be heard in the mix. The band were at their best when all of them were singing, and somewhat reminiscent of Týr at that point. The set was finished with a brief snippet of "The final countdown", which was a nice touch.

The support bands were both good, but I'd bought the ticket tonight on the strength of the last time I'd seen Kiuas, supporting Firewind. They'd showed at the time that they were a band on the rise, and tonight lived up to that. Compared to the two previous bands, Kiuas were absolute professionals, The band were clearly completely at ease on stage, and were very tight. After a very strong start, I felt the performance dipped a bit as the set progressed, but nonetheless, it was a strong showing, and I'll gladly go and see the band the next time they play locally. For the last song of the main set, "Warrior soul", the band were joined by most of Celesty. The Underworld isn't the largest of venues and that made for a pretty crowded stage. Very unexpectedly, the day after this show, the lead singer announced that his heart wasn't in it any more, and he was leaving the band. All I can say is that he disguised it very well. He certainly seemed to be giving it his all here.

4.5/5 Sabaton The Electric Ballroom
3.5/5 Alestorm 14th October 2010
???/5 Thaurorod

Sabaton ticket

Leaving slightly later than intended, combined with broken tube lines had meant a late arrival at the venue, so I'd missed the opening band. I'd heard good things about them, and were hoping to see them, but it wasn't to be. Alestorm had arrived at Bloodstock with huge amounts of hype, but they hadn't really lived up to it. They weren't bad, but nor were they anything special. In truth, tonight was more of the same, although it has to be said they were definitely better than at Bloodstock. They rolled through a set of pirate themed metal which went down well with the crowd. They'll never be a favourite band of mine, but they did enough to keep me entertained while waiting for Sabaton. Sabaton were clearly at their peak last year. They released my album of the year, and gave three of my top five live performances of the year. This year saw the release of a new album, "Coat of arms", and this show was part of the supporting tour. The album took a while to grow on me. It's not as good as "The art of war", but it's not a bad album either. After several years as a support band, the band are now of a size where headlining in the UK is the only sensible option, as witnessed by a sold out show this evening. They had a huge number of lights on stage, to the point where virtually all of the photos I took were without flash. Once more, they opened with "Ghost division", and it's hard to think of a better track to get the crowd in the mood. Highlights from the set included "Cliffs of Fallippoli", "Saboteurs" and "Price of a mile", and of course "Primo victoria". They changed the set list throughout the tour, which means we missed out on "Panzerkampf" and "The art of war", but as ever, those are minor complaints, and Sabaton proved once again what an excellent live act they are.

4.5/5 Lacuna Coil The Borderline
9th October 2010

Lacuna Coil ticket

I nearly didn't bother this time around. Lacuna Coil are a great band, but their live setlists have been focusing so much on the newer material that they never play any of my favourite songs. Furthermore, their London date clashed with Tristania, so the choice was fairly clear cut. But then they announced an extra date, a one off return to The Borderline, a tiny venue where I saw them perform their first headline show in the UK many years ago, so I thought I'd give it a go. The set was split into three parts. The first part, labelled on the set list as "The history", saw them play one track from each of their first two EPs and three albums. It's been nearly a decade since they've played any material from that era, and it was well worth the wait. The second part, "The acoustic", unsurprisingly saw the band perform acoustic versions of some of their newer material. Apparently they'd originally arranged the acoustic versions at the request of US radio stations. The third part, "The hits", saw the return of the full electric band, and a selection of their more popular songs. I probably wouldn't have chosen "The secret" to represent the first EP, or "Veins of glass" to represent "In a reverie". But the fact remains that this was by far the best performance I've seen from the band in a long, long time. High points were "When a dead man walks" from the history, "Closer" from the acoustic section, and "Heaven's a lie", "Enjoy the silence" and "Our truth" from the hits. A great night, and they've almost certainly done enough to tempt me back the next time they play in London.

4/5 Tristania The Underworld
3/5 Asrai 8th October 2010
???/5 Unsun

Tristania ticket

The ticket said doors were at 19:00. I arrived a little late, at about 19:15, only to find that the door had opened much earlier, and that Unsun had been and gone. That was somewhat disappointing, as I like what I've heard from the band, and was looking forward to seeing them live. I'd never heard of Asrai before this show. They were OK. In places the singer was veering a bit too close to shouting than singing, but that aside, they put on a reasonable performance, and in the parts where they were good, they were very good. It's just that there weren't enough of those parts. I've seen Tristania several times before, but not in this form. Not only did they have a new singer to replace the departed Vibeka Stene, but it's essentially a completely different band. With 6 band members on stage, only one of them was in the band when they last played in London. Apart from a few warmup shows in their Norwegian homeland, this was the first live performance for this lineup. Fortunatly, they're touring on the band of a new album, "Rubicon", which is their best in many years. New singer Mariangela Demurtas acquitted herself well. She's certainly not short of enthusiasm, and although she looked a little unsure of herself at times, a little more stage time will smooth out the few rough edges from her performance. Stand out tracks for me were "Beyond the veil", "Protection" and "Magical fix", which was an unplanned second encore. The future looks very bright for the band, and I'd go as far as to say that this was the best performance I've ever seen from them.

4/5 Blind Guardian Shepherds Bush Empire
3.5/5 Steelwing 26th September 2010

Blind Guardian ticket

Review to follow

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
4.5/5 Twisted Sister 15th August 2010
1.5/5 Winterfylleth
0.5/5 Cannibal Corpse
1.5/5 Witchsorrow
2/5 Bloodbath
???/5 The Prophecy
???/5 Furyon
???/5 Fury UK
???/5 Core Project
???/5 Purified In Blood
1.5/5 Gojira
2.5/5 Orestea
???/5 Stone Circle
2/5 Gwar
3.5/5 Mutant
???/5 Extreme OD
3.5/5 Korpiklaani
???/5 Ishmael
4/5 Doro
???/5 Traces
4/5 Hekz
0.5/5 Holy Moses
4/5 Neonfly
???/5 Suffocation
???/5 Old Corpse Road

Bloodstock ticket

Bonded By Blood opened up the main stage with a set of old school classic thrash. Over on the unsigned stage, Neonfly had a guest frontman. Their regular singer was unable to make it. Willy, the guest in question had a somewhat squeaky voice, but it worked well, and he has much more stage presence than the regular singer. In truth, they were a bit generic in places, but that all changed for the last two songs, where they brought on a couple of backing singers. For me, they made all the difference, and filled out the sound, making for a much improved experience all round. The highlight was "Ship with no sails".

Holy Moses were OK musically, but the Angela Gossow-like growls really ruin the music, and the performance was frankly terrible. In contrast to that, Hekz were a surprise hit on the unsigned stage. I've been aware of the band for several years through the Bloodstock forum, but I'd never actually heard them until now. They proved to be unexpectedly melodic, and the singer has a great voice. I've seen Doro several times now, and she's one of the most consistently good live performers I've seen. As expected, she put on another strong show here. Even the guest appearance from Holy Moses' Sabina Classen couldn't ruin the set, which saw notable highlights in the form of "I rule the ruins", a cover of Priest's "Breaking the law" and the obligatory "All we are".

Korpiklaani were somewhat of a surprise. The last time I'd seen them, the novelty had well and truly worn off and they just weren't particularly good. This time they were somewhat better though, and I enjoyed "Happy little boozer". Mutant were heavy and thrashy with some nice guitar harmonies. The vocals were harsh, but no so much that the lyrics couldn't be heard. Gwar played thrash, as you'd expect. But once you take away the costumes and the squirting blood, you're left with a band that really aren't very good, and I was thoroughly bored by the end of their set. Orestea were close to being very good, without quite making it over the final hurdle. The female vocalist wasn't operatic, just mid-range metal. However, the music was a bit too proggy at times, and the vocals were also out of tune, which ruined the effect somewhat. Gojira were much more melodic than I'd remembered from seeing them support Trivium. Sadly, though the vocals still sucked, and I didn't enjoy their set.

Bloodbath were death metal, which is one of my least favourite genres. But they were actually not as bad as I feared. Witchsorrow are unashamedly a doom band, from the slow, plodding mould. They're probably very good at what they do, but it was just too slow and repetative to be worthwhile. The doom fans seemed to be lapping it up, though. Cannibal Corpse serve no purpose, and were simply awful from start to finish. I struggle to understand how that noise could be pleasing to anyone. Winterfylleth are one of a new crop of English black metal bands. They've gathered a lot of buzz in the metal underground, but I can't really see why. There's none of the epic qualities that I'd normally associate with black metal, just simplistic music played fast with blackened vocals over the top. They're not bad, per se, but there's absolutely nothing of substance there.

Twisted Sister had originally been booked to play on the Friday, but after the death of Ronnie James Dio, they were moved to the Sunday headliner slot. Despite the tragic circumstances, that proved to be a masterstroke. This is the first time I've seen them and they are an astoundingly good live band. Dee Snider is everything you could want from a frontman, and with the wig on, he looks just like he did back in the '80s. For "Burn in hell", Snider said "This is not a Dimmu Borgir song, this is a Twisted Sister song" before launching into a very strong "Burn in hell". After a set full of the hits, including an excellent "We're not going to take it", they ended with a huge crowd singalong for "I wanna rock". The encore saw then cover "Long live rock 'n' roll", and dedicate it to Dio. I've been to Bloodstock every year since the first one in 2001 and the festival has never ended on such a high note. Next year's Sunday headliners have a lot to live up to.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
2.5/5 Children Of Bodom 14th August 2010
1/5 Sylosis
2/5 Fear Factory
1/5 Benediction
3/5 Silas
3.5/5 Devin Townsend Project
???/5 Regardless Of Me
???/5 The Whores
2/5 Cosmic Vortex Of Doom
???/5 Reism
3.5/5 Mordecai
2.5/5 Amorphis
???/5 Chaos Asylum
???/5 Silas
2.5/5 Obituary
???/5 Flayed Disciple
4/5 Hanging Doll
???/5 Aghast
4/5 Edguy
2/5 Lithurgy
3/5 Zocalo
3.5/5 Evile
3.5/5 Archren
3/5 Leaves' Eyes
???/5 Echoes Fall
2/5 Burn The Hives
2.5/5 Andromeda

Bloodstock ticket

Andromeda opened up the main stage with a set that was for me just too proggy, complete with random strange time changes and odd dischordant parts. They were OK in places, but I have no desire to rush out and see them again. On the unsigned stage, Burn The Hives were playing a loud, shouty brand of modern metal. Not really my thing, but they weren't too bad. I'd seen Leaves' Eyes a couple of times before, and they hadn't particularly impressed on either occasion. To be honest, this was more of the same. Liv's got a great voice, but it just doesn't suit the music particularly well, and it comes across poorly in a live setting.

Back on the unsigned stage, Achren were playing a set that was hard to describe. Sort of folk and/or power tinged thrash, with growled death metal style vocals. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying their set. They're good at what they do, although I think that with a proper singer, they could be brilliant. I'd seen Evile at Sonisphere, where to honest they hadn't been particularly impressive. This was a much better performance, though. Joel looks at home in the band, although I see he's wearing shoes on stage now, which is a bit of a novelty. I'm guessing he's been told that not doing so wouldn't be in keeping with the image of the band. Zocalo describe themselves as female fronted groove metal, and they do exactly what it says on the tin. The singer has a very strong South London accent, which completely disappears when she starts singing.

Onslaught have clearly been doing this for a long time, and while they might have looked a bit rusty at their Bloodstock Indoor performance a few years back, they've had time to get back up to speed in the intervening years and it shows. As you'd expect, they played a set of traditional thrash, and looked like complete pros on stage. Lithurgy played fairly straight ahead metal, but with crap, shouted vocals. They didn't really make much of an impression. It's rare for Edguy to put on a bad performance, and they were once again good here. Without having announced anything beforehand, they turned up without Eggi, his place having been taken by Helloween's Markus Grosskopf. It turned out that his wife was giving birth, so he was unable to make it. Highlights were "Mandrake", "Vain glory opera" and "King of fools". Once again there was the criminal omission of "Mysteria", though.

Hanging Doll were on the acoustic stage, but in reality, it was just Sally and Dan, rather than the whole band. But that was enough, and they put on another strong performance. They kicked off with "Sweet retribution" and went on to "Blood ridden skies", "Echoes of sorrow" and a new track. Sadly at the end of the set, they were drowned out by Obituary's sound check on the main stage. Obituary themselves were death metal, as you'd expect, but were somewhat thrashy with it, too, which to my ears is an improvement over straight death metal. Amorphis alternated growling vocals with droning, and neither were good. I just don't understand why so many people rate them so highly. Mordecai were the first band of the day on the Sophie stage, and were surprisingly good. They play no frills heavy metal, but they're all good musicians, and the frontman can sing. They were let down somewhat by the disappointingly small crowd, but I'll keep an eye out for the in the future.

Cosmic Vortex Of Doom were just plain odd. They featured a guest appearance from Beholder's drummer, Chris Bentley, on bongo drums. In truth, what they were playing would struggle to be classed as metal, but it was OK in places, and they ended with an amusing cover of the theme song from "The fresh prince of Bel Air". Devin Townsend had been very weak the last time I'd seen him live. But that was many years earlier, and his music's changed considerably in the mean time. Here, he was variable. Technical problems meant his set was cut short, but even without that, the Ziltoid material was frankly weak. But at other times, such as "Truth", he was fantastic.

Silas were a southern metal band, and were OK but unmemorable. Which was better than Benediction, who played a set of extremely dull death metal. Fear Factory were intense, but at the same time, somehow unengaging and ultimately unrewarding. Sylosis played a death metal wall of noise which did nothing for me. That just left Children Of Bodom to round off the day. They were OK, but nothing special, which was a bit frustrating, as I really feel they're a band that should be much better than they are. All of the ingredients are there, they just don't seem to mesh together properly.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
2/5 Opeth 13th August 2010
4/5 Powerwolf
1.5/5 Meshuggah
3.5/5 Enforcer
3.5/5 Betraeus
3/5 Sonata Arctica
3.5/5 Steelwing
???/5 Arceye
???/5 Sworn To Oath
???/5 Credit To Dementia
2.5/5 Collapse
2/5 Gorgoroth
???/5 Shrapnel
2.5/5 Splintered Soul
2/5 Cathedral
???/5 Senturia
3.5/5 Victor Smolski
3/5 Tempestora
4/5 Ensiferum
2/5 Morgue Orgy
4.5/5 Rage
2/5 Grieve
4/5 Ross The Boss
???/5 Betraeus
1/5 Lordaeron
3/5 Black Spiders
3/5 Under Blackened Skies
2/5 Snakebite

Bloodstock ticket

Snakebite opened the day up, and were musically quite good, but the overall effect was ruined by the terrible vocals. I headed to the second stage to catch Under Blackened Skies. I'm not really sure how you've describe the genre. Blackened thrash? Blackened death, maybe. Either way, although not my normal cup of tea, I thought they put on a decent enough show. Back on the main stage, Black Spiders were playing some decent if uninspired dirty souther rock. Lordaeron provided the first glimpse of Bloodstock's annual truly terrible band. Comedically bad vocals consisting of bestial grunts rendered the music entirely incidental.

I never got to see Ross The Boss with Manowar. He'd left the band a few months before I first saw them 20 something years ago. Given that Manowar were out of the running for a Bloodstock appearance for several reasons, Ross's solo band was the next best thing. Despite the Manowar heritage, his own material is actually quite strong in its own right, and "Blood of knives" showed that well. But it was the Manowar tracks that most of the crowd wanted to see (particuarly given the appearance on stage of former Manowar drummer Scott Columbus), and we weren't disappointed, with performances of "Thor", "Fighting the world" and "Hail and kill". A cover of "Catch the rainbow" in tribute to Dio showed that while he may not be Eric Adams, vocalist Patrick Fuchs has a great voice.

Grieve were another band with crap vocals, but despite that, they weren't too bad. Rage's last performance at The Underworld had been outstanding, and I had high hopes that they'd be able to repeat that here. I wasn't disappointed. They really are a band on top form right now, and in the best tradition of Motörhead, they made an enormous amount of noise for just the three of them. Highlights were the obligatory "Higher than the sky", "Down" and a spine tingling "Empty hollow". A great performance from a great band. More crap vocals followed from Morgue Orgy, but the music was melodic enough in places to made up for that somewhat.

Ensiferum are capable of putting on a great live show. This wasn't one of them, however. They were simply too variable. When they were good, they were great. But they weren't consistently good throughout the set. There were highlights in the form of "Guardians of time" and "Iron", but they've been better. Tempestora played straight ahead, no frills thrash. towards the end of their set, they asked "Does anyone know any Metallica? Well get up here then". A presumably random stranger got up on the stage, and proceeded to sing the vocals for their cover of "For whom the bell tolls". He did surprisingly well at it, too! On the Jägermeister stage, Rage's Victor Smolski was giving a guitar clinic, showing some of his guitar techniques. He played probably his best know song, "Unity" from the Rage album of the same name. He's an astounding guitarist, and made everything look so effortless.

Cathedral hadn't impressed when I'd last seen them. Today they were much better, but still didn't really do enough to be engaging. Their sound was very bass heavy. I don't know whether that was just how they wanted to sound or whether they were suffering from a bad mix. As a fan of female fronted metal, I'd been looking forward to Splintered Soul. She had a good voice, but it sometimes veered towards being too screechy. The band had too much reliance on backing tracks and I think it detracted from the show. Overall, they were a bit too proggy for me, and suffered from poor songwriting. Gorgoroth were a strange sight in the middle of the day, but realistically, their brand of black metal simply isn't popular enough to warrant a later slot on the bill. Musically, they weren't bad, but I didn't get on with the screeching vocals. They were also somewhat relentless. I like my music to have a bit of what used to be called light and shade. Gorgoroth were turned up to 11 all the time, for the duration of their set.

Collapse took to the stage with an epic choral intro leading into a Churchill speech. They're a decent bunch of musicians, and there's the essence of a really good band there. But for me, Duncan's trying too hard to sound brutal with his vocals. He could do with toning it down just a bit. He was also failing as a frontman, in that he was very rarely at the front of the stage. I later found out that was due to a mic failure, and the replacement wired mic didn't have a long enough lead for him to reach the front! As expected, the set highlight was the cover of Judas Priest's "Between the hammer and the anvil". Steelwing were spandex clad power metal. On paper, that should have been a great idea, but they suffered from having a diabolical mix, and it's hard to perform well under circumstances like that. The sound improved later in the set, but it was too little, too late by then.

Sonata Arctica have put on some great shows in the past, even if their previous Bloodstock outing was something of a disaster. But I haven't been impressed with their recent albums, and today's setlist was quite heavily biased in that direction, which wasn't what I wanted to hear from them, a sentiment I believe was shared by the bulk of the audience. If there was a highlight, it was "Don't say a word". Betraeus put on a decent acoustic performance including covers of "Another brick in the wall, part 2", "Play that funky music" and an Opeth song that I didn't recognise. It's a shame I missed their full electric set earlier in the day. Enforcer provided some good power metal on the Sophie stage, and were much better than their showing at Sonisphere. Meshuggah are a massively overhyped band, but I've never really got them. Today's efforts resulted in a wall of tuneless noise.

Powerwolf were headlining the Sophie stage, and it's easy to see why. They were a little slow to get started, but once they got into their stride, it all fell into place and they put on an excellent, theatrical performance. They seemed to be genuinely surprised by the enthusiastic crowd reaction. Highlights were "Kiss of the cobra king" and "Moscow after dark". That just left Opeth to finish off the day. They were drafted in as a replacement for Heaven And Hell, and given their terrible performance last time around, I felt it was a very weak choice. They were slightly better this time, but still performed a set consisting mostly of tuneless droning rubbish, interspersed with occasional musical bursts. The only high spot was another tribute to Ronnie James Dio in the form of "Catch the rainbow". Mikael Åkerfeldt introduced it with "I can't really sing and I'm going to sing a song by one of the greatest singers of all time. Bear with me if I sing like shit, you can always go home and listen to the original because that's going to be better anyway." Despite his protestations, he actually did quite a decent job. But it wasn't enough to rescue an otherwise poor performance.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
1.5/5 Desecration 12th August 2010
4/5 Hospital Of Death

Bloodstock ticket

Hospital Of Death had impressed at their last Bloodstock show. Tonight they kicked off Bloodstock 2010 on a much bigger stage, performing to a larger audience. As before, they just played traditional metal, without taking themselves too seriously. Highlights were "King of Sweden", which they introduced as a tribute to Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and "The rime of the ancient mariner". Desecration started out kind of thrashy with a very harsh snare and tom. But sadly, they soon descended into death metal nonsense, and it destroyed the atmosphere that Hospital Of Death had built up.

Sonisphere Knebworth
4.5/5 Rammstein 28th July 2010
4.5/5 Mötley Crüe
2/5 Skunk Anansi
3.5/5 Blitz Kids
2.5/5 Tim Minchin
3.5/5 Apocalyptica
4/5 Audrey Horne
1.5/5 Rinoa
2/5 Katatonia
2/5 Young Legionnaire
4/5 Anthrax
4/5 Heaven's Basement
3/5 Lacuna Coil
2.5/5 Evile
4/5 Sabaton
3/5 Enforcer
1.5/5 RSJ
2/5 Family Force 5

Review to follow

3/5 The Hamsters The Horns
29th July 2010

The Hamsters ticket

Review to follow

3/5 Mentallica Tropic At Ruislip
2.5/5 Higher On Maiden 21st May 2010

Higher On Maiden were the opening band tonight due to the lead singer's need to drive back to Newcastle in time for work the following morning. And therein lies the problem. When I last saw Higher On Maiden many years ago, they were a great live act. Better even than Maiden themselves, to tell the truth. But since then, they've recruited a new lead singer, and that's proved to be a disastrous move. He simply doesn't have the voice to do the songs justice. Mentallica, on the other hand, are a pretty decent clone of Metallica at their peak. They played a token couple of post-black album tracks, but mostly the set was full of the classics you'd expect to hear.

4/5 Hammerfall The Electric Ballroom
4.5/5 Dream Evil 6th May 2010
2.5/5 Tribe

Hammerfall ticket Tribe photo Dream Evil photo Hammerfall photo Photos

Review to follow

4/5 Ultravox Hammersmith Apollo
2/5 Arno Carstens 11st April 2010

Ultravox ticket

Review to follow

4/5 The Vision Bleak The Purple Turtle
2/5 Alcest 7th April 2010
2/5 Fjoergyn
???/5 Fen

The Vision Bleak advert The Vision Bleak advert The Vision Bleak ticket

Review to follow

2.5/5 Dommin The Borderline
2/5 When Gravity Fails 21st March 2010

When Gravity Fails were a competent enough support band, playing a sort of hard-edged alternative rock, in places reminiscent of Nowhere Near The Garden. Nothing outstanding, but there were decent enough. I'd come to this show on the basis of hearing a single track, "My heart, your hands". From the quality of the video for that song, it's clear the record label is putting serious money behind the band, in the expectation of some mainstream success. I suspect they're right. The band are clearly aiming for the same niche occupied by HIM, further demonstrated by the fact that they've just finished a tour supporting HIM (although I didn't know that until after the show). There are also nods towards Type O Negative and Danzig, both in terms of sound and look. There's also an eye firmly on the 1980s, which is nearly always a good thing in my book, with covers of both Depeche Mode's "People are people" and Cutting Crew's "(I just) died in your arms". I won't be rushing out to see them at every opportunity, but there were good enough that I'd happily see them again.

4/5 Edguy Islington Academy
2.5/5 White Wizzard 20th March 2010
2/5 Inner Eden

Edguy ticket

I'd seen Inner Eden at Bloodstock and come away thoroughly underwhelmed. Tonight they were much better. Musically solid and much more self assured. But the simple fact is that Holly still can't sing in tune. She has a reasonable enough voice, but seems to lack the control to use it in a live performance. Until that's remedied, either with a new vocalist, or perhaps just some singing lessons, Inner Eden will remain also rans. To coin a phrase from Conquest Of Steel, White Wizzard play metal as if the '90s had never happened. At times there was Priest-like riffing, and at others, Maiden-like guitar harmonies. Just solid, traditional heavy metal. All good stuff. But despite having all the right ingredients, they seemed to be lacking something in a live environment. On the basis of this performance, I suspect I'll like their studio output, and will look into that, but live they just felt a bit pedestrian.

I very nearly didn't bother with this show at all. Given how poor Edguy had been at their last London show, I wasn't at all convinced. But I decided to give them another chance, and bought a ticket at the last minute. I'm glad I did. The setlist was a much better mix of old and new this time, and the band seemed to have found their on stage energy again. Tonight saw "Tears of a mandrake", "Vain glory opera", "The piper never dies" and "King of fools", all of which were excellent. The drum solo was perhaps a bit too long, and lacking the magic that he had when accompanying the imperial death march. The only other downside was the omission of "Mysteria". Apparently they were alternating it with "Babylon" on this tour, and we were a night that got the latter. While it's a fine song, I'd much rather have had "Mysteria". But that aside, a welcome return to form from Edguy.

3/5 Emilie Autumn Islington Academy
12th March 2010

Emilie Autumn ticket Emilie Autumn photo

I'd been looking forward to this show, having been on a bit of an Emilie Autumn kick for a while. Having seen her twice before, I knew roughly what to expect. But despite some strong performances, in truth, this show was somewhat of a letdown. OK, so she was on stage for 2 hours, but the theatrical elements between songs seemed to be more intrusive than before. That meant she didn't have time for as many songs as you might expect (and in particular, she omitted my two favourite tracks, "Liar" and "Gothic Lolita"). It also served to break up any momentum that had built up, and the buzz in the crowd subsided during the interludes, which detracted from the evening. There were still some high points, like "Let the record show", Veronica fanning herself to "Dominant", a high speed "Shalott" and a surprisingly good violin rendition of Brian May's guitar parts from "Bohemian rhapsody", but she's been better in the past.

4.5/5 Blaze Bayley The Underworld
3/5 Sinocence 20th February 2010

Blaze Bayley advert Blaze Bayley ticket

Review to follow.

5/5 Rammstein Wembley Arena
2/5 Combichrist 4th February 2010

Rammstein ticket Combichrist photo Combichrist photo Rammstein photo Rammstein photo Rammstein photo Rammstein photo Photos

Review to follow.

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