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Concerts I've seen

3.5/5 Iced Earth The Underworld
4/5 Evergrey 20th December 2012
3.5/5 Steel Engraved
2/5 Dead Shape Figure

Iced Earth advert Iced Earth advert Iced Earth ticket Evergrey photo Iced Earth photo Iced Earth photo

Dead Shape Figure were just completely out of place on this bill. The vast majority of Iced Earth and Evergrey fans aren't going to appreciate a frontman shouting tunelessly into a microphone. Poor songs and lacking vocals didn't make for a good showing. Steel Engraved, on the other hand, were a complete surprise. I'd never heard of them, but they turned out to be very respectable German power metal. The frontman had a decent voice and they had the songs to go with it. I'll be looking into them in more depth after that performance. It had been 6 years since I'd last seen Evergrey, during which time, Englund had replaced the entire band apart from the drummer. Would they be any good? The answer was a resounding yes. The band were tight, and Englund is a great frontman. Highlights were "The masterplan", "Recreation day" and an excellent "A touch of blessing" to end the set.

Iced Earth had been a bit lacklustre at Bloodstock. Maybe that contributed to the poor ticket sales for this show, or maybe it was a combination of the economic climate and the proximity of Christmas. But the show was downgraded from The Electric Ballroom to The Underworld, a venue with less than half the capacity. Not great from the band's point of view, but for a fan experience, it was great to see them in such an intimate location. Further, I suspect it added to the atmosphere, resulting in a better performance than at Bloodstock. I've said before that Stu Block is the perfect frontman for Iced Earth, and he showed that again tonight. Luke also seems at home in the band. Sadly, the sound quality wasn't great which took the shine off the performance a bit (odd, given that it had been better for the previous couple of bands). Although many in the crowd were calling for "Gettysburg (1863)", it didn't feature tonight. Of those that they did play, the highlights were "I died for you", "Melancholy (hly martyr)" and a bonus encore of "Watching over me" which wasn't on the set list, but they decided they had time for one more track at the end of the show.

3.5/5 Epica The Electric Ballroom
3.5/5 Stream Of Passion 19th December 2012

Epica advert Epica ticket Stream Of Passion photo Epica photo Epica photo

Stream Of Passion had greatly impressed me at MFVF. This wasn't quite as good as that performance, but was another decent showing nonetheless. Marcela has a great voice. The highlight for me was a great "In the end". However their cover of Radiohead's "Street spirit" was a little odd and didn't really work for me. In contrast to Stream Of Passion's set, Epica were cursed with very muddy sound, which detracted from their performance. Still, "Cry for the moon" and "Unleashed" were both very good. Marcela came out to guest for a couple of songs near the end of the show, which was a nice touch. A good evening, but both bands are capable of better.

Winter Fuel NQ Live, Manchester
3.5/5 Absolva 15th December 2012
3/5 Exit State
4.5/5 Triaxis
4/5 Hanging Doll
2.5/5 Fantasist
3/5 Steel Threads
2/5 My Wooden Pillow

Winter Fuel advert Winter Fuel advert Winter Fuel ticket

Review to follow

3/5 Stormborn The Intrepid Fox
3.5/5 Inner Fire 14th December 2012
3.5/5 enkElination

Stormborn advert enkElination photo Inner Fire photo Stormborn photo

I should hate enkElination for the gratuitously incorrect capitalization of their name. But musically, they were pretty good. Elina's voice is very strong, and the musicians with which she's surrounded herself are more than up to the task. The only real criticism I have is that perhaps the songwriting could use a little work. That said, in the places where it's good, it really works. "Higher ground" was a good example of that. I'd seen Inner Fire supporting Beholder and they were OK, but a bit nondescript. Tonight, however, was much better. They describe themselves as a melodic thrash band, which I wouldn't have said was entirely accurate, but it's not a bad approximate. Cliff's vocals are gruff in a way that reminds me of Peavey Wagner, without descending into full on harsh vocals. The guitars were also particularly strong tonight. Stormborn had been a bit mediocre at Bloodstock and this was basically more of the same. They have that vocal sound typical of Italian power metal bands (even though Carl's Brazilian) which has a quality that just sounds a bit weak, and for me his voice is letting the band down. The band themselves are Maiden wannabees, and are OK. That was shown by a cover of "Hallowed be thy name" in the encore, which was followed by a cover of Steel Panther's "Death to all but metal". Clearly a band that don't take themselves too seriously.

Voices Of Vixens The Fiddler's Elbow
3/5 Training Icarus 30th November 2012
3/5 The Mariana Hollow
2.5/5 Control The Storm
3/5 Orpheum

Voices Of Vixens advert

Review to follow

4/5 Mono Inc The Underworld
4/5 Hanging Doll 23rd November 2012

Mono Inc advert Mono Inc advert Mono Inc advert Mono Inc ticket

Review to follow

4/5 Doro The Garage
3/5 Seven 20th November 2012

Doro advert Doro ticket

Review to follow

3.5/5 Sorcerer's Spell The Unicorn
3/5 Black State Highway 17th November 2012
3.5/5 Stormbringer

Sorcerer's Spell advert Sorcerer's Spell advert

Stormbringer were a pleasant surprise. It's rare to see a band that play music as heavy as this but still have a vocalist that can actually sing. The result is something melodic that reminds me at times of Leadfoot and Nightvision. The vocals also had an occasional hint of W Axl Rose, although he's far from an Axl clone. I'll be keeping an eye out for them in the future. I'd seen Black State Highway supporting Blaze Bayley and had been impressed by how big a voice the singer had, given her diminutive size. Tonight was more of the same. In truth, she seemed to be holding back a bit at times and was drowned out a little by the other instruments. However, at other times she was really going for it and belting out the vocals at full volume, and the band were at their best when she did that.

Sorcerer's Spell had undergone a major lineup change since I'd last seen them. With a new vocalist, new guitarist and with Season's End's Dave Stanton on bass, I was curious to see how they'd fare. The net result of the changes was a much more professional appearing band who were much tighter than when I'd seen them at Bloodstock. That could have come from the personnel change or just from the passage of time. Probably a bit of both, but it was very welcome. New vocalist Mitchel Emms has a great voice and plenty of on stage charisma. Highlights were " Lead us to Anthror" and the obligatory set closer, "J├Ągermeister metal".

3.5/5 Luca Turilli's Rhapsody Islington Academy
4/5 Freedom Call 12th November 2012
3.5/5 Orden Ogan
3.3.5/5 Vexillum

Luca Turilli's Rhapsody advert Luca Turilli's Rhapsody advert

Vexillum kicked off the evening with some power metal. With the band all clad in kilts, it was tempting to bring comparisons to Grave Digger, but in truth, there were few similarities. Musically they were fine. The lead singer had that tone of voice so typical of any number of Italian power metal bands, and was perfectly adequate. But really, they were just too bland. They did little wrong, but also nothing to make me pay particular interest. Orden Ogan had gathered quite a decent reputation among my friends, and I'd heard a few tracks online which sounded promising. It was somewhat disappointing, then, when they turned out to not be a particularly compelling live act. Unlike Vexillum, they're blessed with reasonably strong songwriting skills. But somehow it just didn't work on stage. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong, but an over reliance on a backing track certainly contributed.

I've seen Freedom Call several times now, and they've yet to put on a bad show. Tonight wasn't as promising as it might have been, with the first couple of songs suffering from an apalling mix. Fortunately the sound quality improved throughout the set. Once again, the set list included some less than stellar songs such as "Power and glory" and the dreadful "Rockstars". Fortunately, however, there was still enough there to make up for that, and highlights included "The quest" and "Warriors".

This was the first UK outing for Luca Turilli's Rhapsody after the split, with the other half of the band continuing as Rhapsody Of Fire. Sadly, they also suffered from a dreadful mix, if anything even worse than Freedom Call. It's hard to see what Luca was intending by splitting off from the rest of the band. The music is good, as you'd expect, but it's not sufficiently different to the other Rhapsody warrant the two camps, particularly given that the split was apparently amicable. It's also hard to see it making sense financially. On his own, he's a considerably smaller draw than the full band, as evidenced by a relatively sparse crowd here. That said, the songs featuring Sassy Bernert were a major improvement on the ones with just Alessandro singing, good though he is, and there were some real high points in the performance, such as "Demonheart", "The village of dwarves" and "Dawn of victory". Once again, the backing track was far too evident, and there was too much messing around between songs. Trying to create a cinematic experience with interludes on the projector is a noble goal, but here it just served to kill the mood between songs, and that was particularly evident when the projector broke! When they were good, they were very good. But there was too much mediocrity in the set as a whole for my tastes.

2.5/5 Pum's Band The Middlesex Arms
13th October 2012

A friend's band, playing at his 50th birthday. They weren't sufficiently organised to have come up with a name for the band. But given that they'd only had a very small handful of practice sessions before the show, they were actually quite reasonable. Typical pub rock, playing covers of classic rock songs. The highlights for me were "Comfortably numb" and when Kayleigh, the female vocalist, sang on songs like "Black velvet" and "The chain".

4/5 Astral Doors The Underworld
3.5/5 Stuka Squadron 5th October 2012

Astral Doors advert Astral Doors ticket

As it turned out, this was one of the band's final shows under the name Stuka Squadron. Legal wrangles over the name following the departure of the bass player resulted in a name change to Iron Nights. Also present tonight was a new guitar player. While not as obviously high quality as his predecessor, he was competent enough, and new drummer Larry Paterson is a big improvement. But absent from tonights show were much of the theatrics of their previous performances. Gone were the skulls and swords, and while this wasn't a bad show, it all felt a bit subdued. The last time I'd seen Astral Doors, the Dio influences had been extremely obvious. Here, though, they were much less apparent. But that didn't prevent them from putting on a strong performance of power tinged traditional metal. The highlight was probably "Quisling". It's just a shame that the audience was as slim as it was. The band deserved better.

The 2012 Singapore Grand Prix Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore
3.5/5 Pretenders 23rd September 2012

Singapore Grand Prix ticket

There were several bands playing at the Singapore Grand Prix, but Pretenders were the only one I was interested in seeing. She may be getting on a bit now, but Chrissie still has a great voice. And while Hynde and Chambers may be the only original band members left, the current lineup has been together for over 4 years now, and that's brought with it a tightness borne of familiarity. I left before the end of the set to ensure I caught the start of the race, but it was a decent performance, with my highlight being "Don't get me wrong".

3.5/5 Ensiferum Islington Academy
3/5 Amoral 18th September 2012
2.5/5 Profane Omen

Ensiferum advert Ensiferum advert Ensiferum ticket Profane Omen photo Amoral photo Ensiferum photo

Profane Omen started the evening off with a set of what they describe as groove metal, but to my ears had much in common with melodeath. Their studio output features a mix of clean and harsh vocals. Here, though, it was pretty much all the extreme vocals in evidence. Bland. I was expecting Amoral to be more of the same, but actually they were much more interesting. Apparently they started out as a technical death metal band, but over time have changed their sound to the point where some are calling them power metal. I wouldn't quite go that far, but there's evidence of that sound in some of their songs. In truth, they show a mix of both styles, and on the songs with more of the latter style, they were definitely suited to my tastes. Ensiferum's live performances of late haven't been quite up to the standards they set in their early days. But this was a definite step back in the right direction. The sound quality was a bit muddy, which didn't help, but overall, a decent showing. Highlights were "Guardians of fate", "Heather throne" and "Battle song".

3.5/5 Tristania The Underworld
3/5 Sarah Jezebel Deva 17th September 2012
2.5/5 Kells
3/5 Sound Storm

Tristania advert Tristania ticket

I knew nothing about Sound Storm beforehand, and was somewhat surprised to find not female fronted gothic metal, but male fronted power metal, albeit with an operatic female backing singer. Actually, they were quite reasonable, but a bit generic and they did nothing to stand out. Kells had a good live reputation, but other than that again I knew nothing. It's easy to see where the reputation comes from, and they were full of energy on stage. But while they were heavy, both the song structures and in particular the vocals were a bit too punk and/or alt-rock tinged for my tastes, and they just didn't do it for me. The drummer was good, though.

Sarah Jezebal Deva is something of a figure of hate in the UK rock world, and I really don't understand why. OK, so she might not be the young, slim model frontwoman found in many bands in the genre, but it shouldn't be about looks, it should be about the music, and on that front, she's pretty strong. That said, she made heavier use of a backing track than I'd have liked. Also, the mix was dreadful, and at times her vocals were barely audible. She apologised for having a cold and not being on form, but her voice was still good, and the music was suitably epic and symphonic. I'll keep an eye out for her next London show.

Tonight, though, was all about Tristania. The last time I'd seen them here was one of their first shows with the new lineup and it was an outstanding performance. I was hoping for more of the same tonight, and indeed a setlist they'd posted from a show a couple of days earlier looked promising. But as Sarah Jezebel Deva had done earlier, they suffered from a poor mix, which didn't help. They played a couple of new songs that will appear on the next album. Of the two, "Requiem" was very promising but "Cathedral" didn't grab me as much. Those aside, "Exile" and "Tender trip on earth" were both highlights. I was somewhat disappointed to see them drop both "The shining path" and "Illumination" from the setlist for this show, given that they're two of my favourite tracks. A good performance, then, but they've been better.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall, Derbyshire
4/5 Alice Cooper 12th August 2012
??/5 Anaal Nathrakh
??/5 Airstryke
3.5/5 Dimmu Borgir
??/5 Mercy House
??/5 Headcharger
??/5 Blynd
??/5 Incinery
2.5/5 Paradise Lost
??/5 Demonic Resurrection
3.5/5 Kobra And The Lotus
??/5 Shattered Skies
3/5 Anvil
??/5 A Thousand Enemies
??/5 Noctiferia
3/5 Orianthi
??/5 Huron
??/5 Ancient Ascendent
3.5/5 Evile
??/5 Reign Of Fury
??/5 Splintered Soul
3.5/5 Crimes Of Passion
2.5/5 Dream Catcher
2/5 Black Dahlia Murder
??/5 A Thousand Enemies
??/5 Hakin
3/5 Battalion
??/5 Nile
??/5 So Da Ko
??/5 Flayed Disciple
3/5 Corrosion Of Conformity
2.5/5 Aethara
2/5 Re-Armed
3.5/5 From Ruin
3/5 Kobra And The Lotus
??/5 Seprevation

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket

Review to follow.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall, Derbyshire
2/5 Machine Head 11th August 2012
3.5/5 Orange Goblin
4/5 Testament
??/5 Gone Til Winter
??/5 ZP Theart
??/5 Sight Of Emptiness
??/5 Doomed
??/5 Reflections In Exile
??/5 Hatebreed
2.5/5 Witchsorrow
3/5 Dreamcatcher
2/5 Cosmic Vortex Of Doom
2.5/5 Sanctuary
3.5/5 Tempus Fusion
2/5 Winterfylleth
3.5/5 Bull Riff Stampede
3.5/5 Furyon
1.5/5 Mayhem
3.5/5 Triaxis
??/5 Crowbar
3/5 Rising Dream
2/5 Chthonic
2/5 Dripback
2.5/5 Marionette
3/5 I Am I
3/5 Stormborn
2.5/5 Savage Messiah
4/5 Merciless Fail
2/5 Benediction
3.5/5 Splintered Soul
2/5 Apollyon

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket

Apollyon were sort of thrashy, but with rubbish vocals. There's nothing much more I can say about them. Splintered Soul had impressed at the London M2TM show, and were significantly better than when I first saw them at Bloodstock a couple of years earlier. Here, they were again good, although perhaps not quite as good as in London. That might have been in part due to the poor sound quality. Benediction were poor at both of their previous Bloodstock appearances. This was better, but they're still a pretty dull live act. From the name and logo, Merciless Fail give every indication that they're going to be black metal. But actually, they were just traditional heavy metal with decent songs and proper vocals. I'll be keeping an eye on them in the future.

Savage Messiah's set continued the poor Sophie stage sound which had afflicted Splintered Soul's performance. I'm not convinced their brand of thrash would have wowed me anyway, but the clean-ish vocals were promising. But it was hard to tell because the sound quality was so bad. Stormborn are European power metal by the numbers, with nothing to make them stand out, and with the "almost good but not quite and slightly out of tune" vocals that seem so prevalent among the genre's less successful bands. I Am I were a very weak booking. There had been much complaining about the lack of melodic bands on the main stage, and this was the response of the organisers. A new band that no one had ever heard of, that had never played live or released an album, but who happened to feature the former lead singer of Dragonforce. That said, they were actually pretty reasonable. ZP's a decent frontman and they played a solid set of melodic metal. But I'd still have rather had a better known band.

Dripback were noisy and mostly tuneless, but I'm sure they were worse last time. Chthonic have plenty of eye candy in the form of Doris Yeh, but musically, their black metal with an oriental slant just didn't really work for me. Still, did I mention that Doris Yeh was very easy on the eyes? Rising Dream were odd. Almost as hard to categorise at Sanguine. In parts, they're just pure power metal. But then there are the parts that are closer to melodeath. The two make for a strange mix. Ines has a voice that varies between an Angela Gossow clone and a decent clean voice, and she switches effortlessly between the two, several times each song. Odd, but I quite liked them. In some ways, the Jägermeister acoustic stage could just be named the Rock Sector Records stage. Fortunately, I like several of their bands, and Triaxis are one of those bands. Much as I would have liked to see a full electric set from them, an acoustic set what they were given at this year's Bloodstock. They're really getting to be a very competent live act these days, and this was no exception, with yet another strong performance. The highlight was once again "Lies".

Mayhem are one of the stalwarts of the Norwegian black metal scene, but they have a reputation for poor live performances. I wasn't convinced they were going to be great, but I wasn't expecting them to be as bad as everyone was claiming. If anything they were worse. It was just a very sloppy wall of noise with virtually no redeeming features, and they came across as very amateurish. Not a trait you'd expect from a band with as much experience as Mayhem. I'd missed Furyon when they'd last played Bloodstock, so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, they put on a pretty decent set of melodic metal. My friend Lorri said they were reminiscent of Alter Bridge. She's sort of right, and there are certainly similarities. Bull-Riff Stampede had won the London M2TM final, so I knew to expect some traditional thrash. It was good, but somehow it seemed a bit less intense than it had done at The Underworld.

Winterfylleth had been heralded as one of the leading lights of the new breed of British black/folk metal bands. But their last Bloodstock performance had been dreadful, with very poor songwriting, average musicianship and weak vocals. This was a bit better, with some Ensiferum-style chanting in places, but overall, they've still got a long way to go. Tempus Fusion were better than when I last saw them. Melodic-ish prog metal, but I'm still not convinced by the vocals. Sanctuary appeared to have been booked to cater for all those crying out for Nevermore. I'd never been a huge fan of the band, feeling they were OK, but nothing out of the ordinary. That view was further reinforced by this performance. There were fewer high pitched vocals than I'd remembered. Maybe that's just a reflection of Warrell Dane's increasing age.

Cosmic Vortex Of Doom surprised me by being not particularly doomy, instead playing modern shouty metal. Dreamcatcher's acoustic set was OK. They're melodic enough, but the songs were bland. Hopefully the electric set tomorrow will be better. Witchsorrow played actual doom metal. I sometimes feel they're going a bit overboard with it, but the doom fans I know lap it up, so they're clearly doing something right. Testament had been very good the last time they played Bloodstock and then comparatively weak when supporting Judas Priest in London. Fortunately, this performance was more reminiscent of their previous Bloodstock show. Just plain old Bay area thrash, but they do it well and Chuck Billy is a very capable frontman when he's on form. Highlights were "Into the pit" and "True American hate" from the latest album, which shows they're still relevant. Orange Goblin were exactly what you'd expect. Doomy, stoner metal. I'd only seen them once before and they'd been OK. This was probably a better show, but nothing great for me. But still, that was better than Machine Head, who were vaguely thrashy, but too shouty and generally uninteresting.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall, Derbyshire
2/5 Behemoth 10th August 2012
??/5 Alcest
??/5 Watain
??/5 Fallen Fate
3.5/5 Absolva
??/5 Eastern Front
??/5 Infernal Creation
4.5/5 Dio Disciples
??/5 Kataleptic
2.5/5 Pythia
2.5/5 Dave McPherson
2.5/5 Scare Tactics
2/5 Sepultura
??/5 Killer Hurts
3/5 Death Valley Knights
??/5 Andraste
??/5 Exile The Traitor
??/5 Derision
3.5/5 Iced Earth
??/5 My Wooden Pillow
??/5 Dakesis
??/5 Sweet Savage
??/5 Cambion
2/5 Moonsorrow
??/5 Skarlett Riot
??/5 Krepuskul
3.5/5 Primitai
3.5/5 Grand Magus
??/5 Warhorse
4/5 Gonoreas
??/5 Waking Theo
4/5 Freedom Call
2.5/5 The Commander In Chief
3/5 Control The Storm
2/5 Malefice
2/5 InComa

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket Gonoreas plectrum

I'd seen InComa in Reading, so knew what to expect. Musically, they were probably better here, but the vocals still ruin it all for me. Still, they seemed to be relishing the bigger crowd. I hadn't enjoyed Malefice when I'd seen them a couple of years ago, and this show did nothing to change that opinion. Musically unexceptional with annoying shouty vocals. Control The Storm were another band where I pretty much knew what to expect. If she could sing in tune, they'd be great. But until then, they'll remain also-rans. I'm a big fan of guitar virtuosity, so I was looking forward to The Commander In Chief. She's clearly very talented in that regard, and that showed through here. But I feel she was let down by the songwriting, and her vocals were too screechy to make for an entirely pleasant experience. Freedom Call were much as you'd expect. Good, cheesy power metal fun. The performance was fine, but the setlist wasn't the best they've had. The new album features a couple of comparatively weak songs ("Rockstars" and "Power & glory") that they seem to feel deserve to be heard in their live shows. A bit disappointing, but still good, particularly on "Warriors"

I'd never heard of the bizarrely name Gonoreas before they were booked for Bloodstock, but the video I found online looked very promising. As it turned out, they video only hinted at how good they would be on stage, and I came away very impressed. They play traditional heavy metal with some power metal influences. The guitars and vocals were particularly noteworthy, and combined with some strong songwriting, they delivered one of the stronger performances of the festival. I'll definitely see them again if the come to play anywhere near me. Grand Magus put in a relatively weak performance the first time I'd seen them, but then surprised me by being considerably better the next time. Fortunately, this show was more like the latter than the former. Their sound is gradually changing from doom metal to just plain heavy metal, and for me it's an improvement. The highlight here was "Valhalla rising". Primitai are another band that just play no frills heavy metal. In theory, they should be ideally suited to Bloodstock, but while they deliver a good performance here, complete with Scorpionsesque human pyramid, they've been better in the past.

Moonsorrow were the token nod to folk metal on the main stage, but as the sole representatives of that genre, they did a pretty poor job. The vocals were poor and the band were hampered by poor sound quality, which combined to make for a less than stellar performance. Iced Earth had recruited Into Eternity's Stu Block to replaced Matt Barlow when he left the band for the second time. Further, Luke Appleton from Fury UK had joined the band on bass. In fact, the band was a completely different from the last time I saw them, with the obvious exception of Schaffer. Appleton seem to fit in well, and Block is pretty much the perfect frontman for Iced Earth. He has a great voice and more to the point, he has the right voice for the band. "Watching over me" was the standout track. Death Valley Knights played a pretty good blend of heavy metal and southern rock (the latter being somewhat appropriate given their Texan guitarist). There were occasional Maiden guitar harmonies, and some glam-like vocal harmonies, neither of which did them any harm. Better than I was expecting, and including a cover of "Man on the silver mountain" was always going to go down well with me.

Sepultura were about as bad as I'd expected. If you're going to have vocals you can't understand, you need good music to go along with it. Sepultura had neither. How they ever got to be such a big name in the metal world is beyond me. Scare Tactics played modern metal with gruff vocals that still managed to stay the right side of intelligibility. However, ultimately, they were musically uninspiring and I found them to be a bit dull. Dave McPherson was a strange booking. Apparently he was the lead singer with InMe, but they're not really typical Bloodstock fodder and neither is he. He was performing a set of acoustic songs here which were OK in their own right, but were bland and out of place at a metal festival.

I've seen Pythia a few times now, and as before, they seem to have all of the right ingredients, but are lacking the right recipe to put them all together in a coherent form. No matter how much I want to like them, Emily's voice just doesn't fit the music. Dio Disciples on the other hand, have both all the right ingredients and they very much have the right recipe. They were on stage earlier than expected, having graciously agreed to swap with Watain so the latter could perform in the twilight. As before, Ripper and Jepson worked astonishgly well as a vocal pairing, and Craig Goldy was once more outstanding on guitar. If the musicians are one half of the ingredients, then the material is the other, and that is basically faultless here. There were many, many strong songs, including "The last in line", "Kill the king", "Heaven and hell" and "Rainbow in the dark". But it was "Stargazer" that really made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Stunning.

When Like Appleton had left Fury UK to join Iced Earth, the remaining members formed a new band, Absolva, to occupy themselves until such time as Luke's Iced Earth duties left him with enough free time to continue with Fury UK. In theory, they were playing on the acoustic stage, but this was a full on electric set of no nonsense heavy metal with some strong lead guitar work. Behemoth had been forced to pull out of their slot in 2010 due to Nergal's leukemia. Fortunately he recovered well, but bizarrely they'd been promoted to headlining status this year, despite the band not having released any new music or toured since their cancelled special guest slot two years earlier. I was unconvinced that they were worthy of the headlining slot, but they certainly did their best to try and justify it, bringing with some interesting looking stage props, as befitting a headlining act. I'm not a fan of the band, though. It feels as though they want to be Dimmu Borgir, but they lack both the songs and the stage presence to do so.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall, Derbyshire
2.5/5 Viking Skull 9th August 2012
??/5 Marionette
2/5 Bloodshot Dawn
??/5 Saturnian

Bloodstock advert Bloodstock ticket

I'd arrived too late to catch Saturnian, so Bloodshot Dawn were the first band of the festival for me. I'd seen them at Day Of Rockening a couple of weeks earlier, and they were OK, but nothing special. Here, they were cursed with terrible sound, which didn't do them any favours. Again, the music was OK, but the vocals were poor, and this performance was weaker than they'd been a fortnight earlier. Marionette were apparently stuck in Slovenia and unable to make it, so we went straight into Viking Skull. I'd originally gone to see them years ago, knowing nothing about them, solely on the basis of the name. For a band that started out as a spoof, they're actually not too bad. This, however, was an unremarkable set of dirty rock. And Roddy didn't even set himself on fire this time.

Day Of Rockening The Royal Oak, Hollywater
3.5/5 Season's End 28th July 2012
2.5/5 Bloodshot Dawn
1.5/5 Breedapart
3/5 Alternative Carpark
2/5 Flayed Disciple
3/5 Alzir
3.5/5 Motherload
2.5/5 Sumer
2/5 Pravus
1.5/5 Blowgoat
2/5 Hurtcore
2/5 Nervous Endings
1.5/5 Headstone Down
2.5/5 Ravenous
1.5/5 Sinuism
2/5 Bloodworks
??/5 Fall Of Idols
??/5 I Witness
??/5 Bare Your Scars
??/5 Ubam

Day Of Rockening advert

An all day festival at a pub in Hampshire wouldn't normally have attracted my attention, but the addition of Season's End as headliners pretty much guaranteed my attendance. I arrived too late to see the first few bands, so my first band of the day was Bloodworks. They were technically competent, particularly the lead guitars. But they were let down by some uninspired songwriting and needlessly bad death metal vocals. Sinuism continued that trend, with more vocals that sounded like the frontman was vomiting into the mic. The song structures tended more towards handcore punk than metal and the band were certainly heavy but showed little to merit further investigation. Ravenous were somewhat better, playing straightforward heavy metal. The lead singer had sort of Hetfield-style gruff vocals, which worked reasonably well. Their set included a cover of Machine Head's "Davidian".

Headstone Down were pretty poor, with unintelligible harsh vocals and weak songwriting. Nervous Endings weren't quite as bad. They played sort of groove metal, but not quite. The vocals were largely shouty, but sometimes intelligible. Not great and they over ran their timeslot significantly. From the name, I was expecting Hurtcore to be dreadful, but actually they weren't too bad, mixing clean and harsh vocals over heavy (albeit uninspiring) music. Blowgoat were enthusiastic, but that's about the only positive thing I can say about them. Shouty vocals, which sounded better from the bar than they did in front of the stage. They did include an amusing cover of AC/DC's "Dirty deeds", though.

Pravus took a somewhat unusual step of having no bass player, just two guitars, drums and vocals. They played alternative metal, with some proggy sections and both clean and growled vocals. Again, not my thing. Sumer played heavy alternative rock, which was OK, but a bit too subdued and shoegazing for my tastes. Motherload were the first band of the day to make a real impact, playing a blend of glam and sleaze rock that really worked. The band were tight, full of energy and had some great songs. They also had a banner behind the drum kit, which I always like to see. It shows they care enough about the band to try and promote themselves. They included another AC/DC cover, this time "TNT". I'll be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

Alzir played what sounded to me like a doomy brand of southern rock. They were competent and tight and put on a decent show. Unlike Flayed Disciple, who were technically competent enough, but their high speed death metal did nothing for me. I'd managed to miss Alternative Carpark when they'd played Bloodstock, so this was the first time I'd seen them. They played decent straight up heavy metal, with clean vocals and, as a local band, were clearly popular with the crowd here, drawing one of the larger audiences of the day.

Breedapart were another band with a banner, but unlike Motherload, they really didn't impress me. Their brand of modern shouty metal is just not what I want to be listening to. Bloodshot Dawn were headlining the outside stage and played technically proficient thrash. Occasionally the vocals veered a bit towards the shouty end of the spectrum, but they were mostly OK. As mentioned previously, Season's End were the reason I was here. After having the world in their hands in 2005/6, they threw it all away by fading into obscurity rather than releasing a new album and growing the band. Still, they were a great band, and it was good to see them again for their first show in 3 years. Yes, they were unsurprisingly a bit rusty in places. But it didn't matter, and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance. I hope this is a sign that we'll be seeing more of the band in the near future.

4/5 Beatlemania Santa Pod Raceway
20th July 2012

A Beatles tribute band at Bug Jam. They were competent enough, but their George was a bit sloppy in places, and their Ringo played far more fills than the real Ringo's more simple patterns. The real problem, though, was the sound. Modern amplification techniques and a sound engineer that wasn't sympathetic to the material left a hugely bass heavy mix that jarred and simply didn't do justice to the songs. Not bad, but nothing special either.

Metal 2 The Masses London: The Perfect Storm The Underworld
3.5/5 Splintered Soul 15th July 2012
2.5/5 Zodiac N Black
3/5 Bull-Riff Stampede
3/5 Divine Solace
2/5 The Conflict Within
1.5/5 Abandon The Faith
3/5 Bloodshed
1/5 Thames Burial
3/5 Second Rate Angels
2.5/5 Kremated
??/5 Blind Eye Fury
??/5 Asperitas
??/5 Skreamer

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I had to wait until the bearer of my ticket arrived, so I missed the first three bands. Kremated played reasonable enough traditional thrash, but it was all a bit bland and repetitive for my tastes. Second Rate Angels were much better, providing some hard edged sleaze rock. Decent guitars and some good strongwriting helped out there. Thames Burial were just shouty thrash-tinged metalcore. All blast beats and scripted crowd interaction and an extremely lacking performance all round. Bloodshed gave a much better example of how to play thrash. They may be young, but these guys show some decent songwriting and a lot of promise. One to watch for the future. Abandon The Faith opened with a melodic keyboard intro that hinted at something good. But when they started playing, it was just blackened death metal by the numbers, with dreadful vocals. The keyboard player didn't actually seem to be doing anything as all of the synth sounds were coming from the backing tape.

The Conflict Within were another band that failed to live up to their potential. OK, so they're not playing my favourite genre of metal, but even so, they could have been better. The cookie monster vocals were overdone, but the clean vocals from the guitarist helped out somewhat. They reminded me of The Hollow Earth Theory, but without the quality of songwriting and with worse vocals. Divine Solace played some good folk tinged metal, with guitar harmonies and a mix of growled and clean vocals. Ensiferum would perhaps be the closest comparison I could come up with, but that's not an entirely accurate representation of the band. Bull-Riff Stampede played heavy thrash. I'd heard of the band in advance, and they featured Jay Walsh and Rod Boston, both of whom have played in several bands I've seen before. The lead singer also looks familiar, but I can't think where I'd have seen him. They were very professional, very tight, and are probably destined for bigger things. Zodiac N Black played a heavy alt-rock mixed with groove metal. It was OK, but they were just too bland to stand out. I'd seen headliners Splintered Soul when they played Bloodstock. Melodic female fronted metal is usually my thing, but although they'd been OK, they hadn't really impressed. What a difference a couple of years makes. Tonight they were very polished, the vocals were much better, and the songwriting appeared to have improved. It's not often you get to see a band featuring a six stringed fretted violin, either!

The purpose of the evening was to select a couple of bands to go on to play this year's Bloodstock festival. My picks would have been Divine Solace and either Bloodshed or Bull-Riff Stampede. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the latter were indeed picked, but the choice of The Conflict Within as the second winner was a baffling one to me. It was nice to see Splintered Soul (who weren't in the competition) also be granted a slot at the festival.

Metal 2 The Masses Reading The College Arms, Reading
3/5 InComa 14th July 2012
3/5 Dark Karma Soul
2.5/5 Control The Storm
2.5/5 Strike Offensive

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A regional M2TM final to determine which of the bands would go forward to play at Bloodstock this year. This was originally scheduled to be at The Face Bar, but a fatal stabbing at an R&B night had left the venue closed while the police investigation was underway. The organisers had scrabbled around and The College Arms was the only other venue they could find in the Reading area. In truth, it was too small to be putting on live music with any sizeable audience. But it was better than nothing.

The night's openers, Strike Offensive, played a traditional brand of thrash. It started out quite strongly, but by the end of the set, it was all sounding a bit samey. They had a ridiculous pit for the postage stamp sized venue, too. I'd been given Control The Storm's demo at a Delain show, and I'd heard good things about their live show from friends. The Bloodstock lineup was desperately lacking in melody, and I hoped that Control The Storm would be able to improve the situation somewhat. Musically, they were spot on. But as is so often the case, the weak point was the vocals. Her voice just isn't good enough, either in pitch or in power, and it was a disappointing performance.

Dark Karma Soul played a set of industrial metal. Initially it was a bit thin and watered down, and tended more towards the industrial end of the spectrum than the metal end. But as the set progressed, it got heavier, and better to my ears at least. The last few songs in the set were very good. I'd seen InComa before at the Music 4 Mental Health show a few months earlier, so I had a fair idea of what to expect. This time they started the show with all of their band members present, and put on a better performance than last time. Once again, though, the vocals were rubbish. If she'd sing a bit, rather than scream and growl in an attempt to mimic Angela Gossow, they'd be a much better band. On the night, Control The Storm were chosen to play at Bloodstock, although it's hard to see why. On the basis of tonight's performance, I'd have put Dark Karma Soul through.

4/5 Queen + Adam Lambert Hammersmith Apollo
12th July 2012

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Queen are one of my few regrets in life. I'd thought about going to see them at Knebworth, but it was going to be a lot of money and a logistical nightmare, so I decided to give it a miss and wait for the next tour instead. Of course, that turned out to be Freddie Mercury's last ever show. Hindsight is always 20/20. I didn't see them when they subsequently toured with Paul Rodgers, because he was frankly the wrong vocalist. He has a fine voice, but it doesn't work for their music. Earlier this year, they were announced for Sonisphere with American Idol contestant Adam Lambert singing. That didn't sound promising, and the videos I saw online did little to change that view, with him using horrendous amounts of misplaced vibrato. But I thought I'd give it a go anyway. However, Sonisphere was cancelled, and the band booked a series of shows in Hammersmith. Given that I work just around the corner, it seemed worth a shot.

John Deacon had retired a few years earlier, leaving just Brian May and Roger Taylor representing the band. The show opened with a medley of "Seven seas of Rhye", "Keep yourself alive" and "We will rock you". Medleys are always risky, and frequently leave me unsatisfied, as was the case here. I want to hear the whole song. And particularly the guitar solo at the end of "We will rock you". "Fat bottomed girls" was much better, though, and Lambert's voice is actually quite good. He faces an impossible task, in that Mercury simply cannot be replaced. But given that, he's doing a decent job of it.

"Under pressure" saw Roger Taylor emerge from behind the drum kit to sing David Bowie's parts, and he stayed out to sing "A kind of magic". His solo output and occasional Queen vocals showed he could sing, but you wouldn't necessarily have expected him to sing Mercury's lines. However, he did so with aplomb here. Brian's acoustic section saw a crowd singalong to "Love of my life", complete with Mercury making a taped appearance on the video screens at the back. Naturally, the crowd went wild. My highlights were "Another one bites the dust", "'39", the mandatory crowd participation in "Radio ga ga", "I want it all" and a reprise of "We will rock you" in the encore, this time with guitar solo.

They're not the same band without Freddie. But this was a strong showing despite that (helped by a back catalogue that means they can't really go wrong), and because of that, I'd go and see them again.

4/5 Shred Santa Pod Raceway
23rd June 2012

Hard to say too much about these guys. They played reasonable enough rock and blues covers, but my lift wanted to go, so I had to leave after the first few songs :-(

4/5 Megadeth The Electric Ballroom
3/5 Sanguine 12th June 2012

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Sanguine had impressed at Bloodstock last year. They're probably the hardest band to categorize that I can think of, but whatever it is they do, it works. Tonight, though, lead singer Tarin was unwell. Despite that, her vocals were surprisingly strong, but perhaps it contributed to the lack of spark that was present when I'd last seen them, and they were a bit subdued tonight. The highlight was probably "Live, consume, drive" and a new song that I didn't catch the name of. I was a little disappointed not to hear "Simplify", though.

It's been many years since I've seen a venue as packed as this one. But when you're playing in a 1000 capacity venue as a one off show after playing to 60000+ at Donington a couple of days earlier, I suppose it's to be expected. Regardless, I could barely move. Megadeth had been hugely impressive supporting Priest a few years earlier, and I hoped they'd be able to repeat that performance here. Mustaine was clearly enjoying the audience feedback from being in a smaller venue than he would normally play, and that helped make for another strong performance. Highlights were "She wolf", "Symphony of destruction", "A tout le monde", and of course "Peace sells". The band seem to be in a good streak of form right now. Long may it continue.

4.5/5 Judas Priest Hammersmith Apollo
4/5 Saxon 26th May 2012
3/5 Kobra And The Lotus

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Kobra And The Lotus kicked the evening off with a wall of noise, so bad was the sound quality. Fortunately, it improved as their set progressed, but it never really reached acceptable levels. The band themselves were OK, although I feel Brittany's voice just doesn't fit with the band's music. "50 shades of evil" was reasonably good, though. Saxon were, well, Saxon. I've seen them enough now that I pretty much know what to expect, and they didn't disappoint, playing another set of classic crowd pleasers, interspersed with some of their newer material. Highlights were "Princess of the night", "Wheels of steel", "Crusader" and "Denim and leather".

This was the first time I'd seem Priest since the departure of KK Downing. Like many others, I thought that might be the end of the band. But they recruited Richie Faulkner as KK's replacement. Many were sceptical of that move, but I've long been a fan of Faulkner, having seen him play with Metalworks, Deeds, Lauren Harris and Voodoo Six. Yes, he had large shoes to fill, but he's coped admirably and his new bandmates are claiming he's breathed new life into the band. On this tour, Priest were playing songs from their whole career, promising at least one song from each album (or from the Halford fronted albums, at least). Halford himself was on good form, with little evidence of the vocal deterioration that others have claimed of his recent live performances. Faulkner looked completely at home and put on a strong showing, and the band as a whole were on top form. This was probably the strongest performance I've seen from them yet. The only thing I can pull them up on was the use of taped backing vocals during "Victim of changes", but as far as I could tell, they weren't used at any other point in the show. Other notable songs were "Rapid fire", "Beyond the realms of death", "Judas rising", "Electric eye" and "Painkiller". All in all and outstanding performance, and I hope they return to London sooner rather than later.

Metal 4 Mental Health The Face Bar, Reading
2/5 Ghost In The Static 16th May 2012
??/5 The Hype Theory
2.5/5 Mask Of Judas
2.5/5 Rurin
1.5/5 Mary Kelly
4/5 Triaxis
1/5 Edge Of Ruin
2/5 The Affronted
2/5 Ghost In The Static
2.5/5 InComa
??/5 Winter Storm
??/5 Junction 13
??/5 Everyone Needs A Nemesis
??/5 Deprevate

Metal 4 Mental Health advert InComa photo Ghost In The Static photo The Affronted photo Edge Of Ruin photo Triaxis photo Mary Kelly photo Rurin photo Mask Of Judas photo Photos

I'd forgotten I was going to be working when I'd originally planned to go to this show. I didn't have time to go home and get the car, so I caught the train straight from work to Reading. Sadly, I missed the first few bands, arriving just as Winter Storm finished, which is a shame as they're one of the bands I wanted to see. The first band of the night for me was therefore InComa. Hard to describe. The music was melodic, the vocals were Angela Gossow-like death metal growls. But the combination didn't really fit the melodeath description. Amusingly, they started their set without the bass player who was late arriving and joined in part way through the second song. Reasonably good at what they did, even if it wasn't my thing. Ghost In The Static played a set of industrial metal. But for me, it was a bit more industrial and a bit less metal than I'd have liked. It was OK when they were going for it, but the quieter industrial sections served to kill the mood somewhat.

The Affronted played modern shouty metal. Plenty of energy, but little else, and the interspersed clean vocals were very weak. Edge Of Ruin were closer to hardcore punk with a slight crossover into something resembling groove metal territory at times. Triaxis were the band I was primarily here to see. They've been consistently good live performers, and tonight was no exception. They suffered a bit with the mix, with Glyn's guitar and Krissie's vocals being way too low. But the band was once again tight and Krissie's voice has come on leaps and bounds since I first saw them. Sadly they had to cut "The wicker man" from the setlist due to time constraints.

Mary Kelly provided more hardcore noise. Simplistic music played at high speed and with a vocalist screaming undecipherable nonsense over the top. A poor showing. Rurin were a bit more promising, with some reasonably melodic female fronted offerings. However, her voice droned too much, and she needed to put some force behind it. The songs were also a bit on the bland side and she was off pitch too often for my liking. Mask Of Judas mixed more death metal growls with some clean vocals. She has quite a reasonable clean voice, and it's a shame it wasn't used more. The song structures were slightly proggy in places, and the guitarist was pretty good although he was sadly lost in the mix much of the time. The final band of the night were due to be The Hype Project, but they pulled out for reasons unknown, and Ghost In The Static did another set in their place.

I normally like gigs like this. You get to see a large number of bands, most of whom are rubbish and you occasionally find a gem mixed in with them. Sadly, tonight wasn't one of those nights, and it was mostly made up of weak, amateur sounding bands. I don't much like the trend of unsigned metal bands in the UK all heading down the "we're not going to sing" route, but that does seem to mostly be how it is right now. Triaxis were the obvious exception, and were head and shoulders above everyone else on the bill.

4/5 Delain Islington Academy
3/5 Trillium 16th May 2012
2.5/5 Halcyon Way

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Halcyon Way are hard to describe, but however you choose to do so, they were completely out of place on this bill. They played a sort of modern traditional heavy metal, with mostly clean vocals and a few harsh vocals thrown in. The vocals sounded a little out of tune at times and the song structures were a bit to progressive for my tastes. They also had a very intrusive (to my ears) backing tape. It's a shame because they're clearly competent musicians, but somehow it just didn't work.

I knew nothing about Trillium other than that they were Amanda Somerville's latest band. Somerville has been a vocal coach for Simone Simons and had contributed to Epica, Avantasia and a number of European melodic metal projects. As might be expected, you couldn't fault her voice. But the songs were a bit bland and the band as a whole fell squarely in my "OK, but nothing special" category.

The last time I saw Delain was a bit of a gamble. I like the genre, but I'd only heard a couple of tracks by the band and was unfamiliar with most of their material. They impressed enough that I was more than happy to see them again. This time around I was a bit better prepared. Even so, they still managed to surprise me by being heavier than I expected. For reasons unknown, guitarist Timo Somers was unable to make this tour, and Bas Maas did a fine job of standing in for him. Charlotte's voice was great and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. As before, They played a number of new tracks from the forthcoming album, all of which sounded very promising. Of particular note was "Get the devil out of me", a song which impressed last time around as well. Other highlights were "Stay forever" and "Invidia". The encore saw "Control the storm", and "The gathering", the former of which didn't really work for me without Marco's contrasting vocals. But that aside, it was another strong showing. This gig was originally due to be at Koko, but was downgraded to the smaller venue presumably due to poor ticket sales. They can't have been too bad as it was reasonably packed. If tonight's performance was anything to go by, they certainly deserve to be played larger venues to bigger crowds. Hopefully the release of the new album "We are the others" will propel them on to bigger and better things.

4/5 Die Apokalyptischen Reiter The Underworld
1.5/5 Emil Bulls 25th April 2012
2/5 Malrun

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Malrun were not a good start to the evening, and were basically just shouty noise, with few redeeming features. But Emil Bulls were worse. Shouty vomiting into the mic, peppered with intermittent singing. Musically, they sounded like hardcore crossover punk. Not my thing at all, although a track called "Nothing" stood out as being better than the rest. I'd managed to miss Die Apokalyptischen Reiter at Bloodstock, but had heard good things about their performance, and on tonight's evidence, that praise was completely warranted. The Rammstein comparisons are a little off the mark, and I suspect come about just because both bands play heavy music with German lyrics. Where Rammstein are firmly industrial, DAR have more folk metal leanings. They were heavier than I expected but put on a strong performance, and I'd go and see them again if they play in London.

4/5 Axel Rudi Pell The Underworld
3.5/5 Mad Max 22nd April 2012

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I'd only vaguely heard of Mad Max before, but they turned out to be unexpectedly good, playing something that straddled the line between hard rock and the lighter end of the metal spectrum. I couldn't tell if the AOR style choruses were coming from an effects pedal or a backing tape, but a good performance either way. Axel Rudi Pell is one of those artists where you generally know exactly what you're going to get. His sound hasn't really changed much in the last 20 years and tonight was more of the same. Melodic, guitar driven metal with good, clean vocals courtesy of Johnny Gioeli. I was a little surpised at how song-centric it was, with little evidence of the soloing and guitar wizardry for which he became famous, but the performance didn't really suffer for it. Highlights for me were "Carousel" and "Fool fool".

2.5/5 Metalworks The Monarch
2.5/5 Queenworks 12th March 2012

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Review to follow.

2.5/5 Elimination The Unicorn
4/5 Triaxis 8th March 2012
3/5 Tempus Fusion
1.5/5 Oaf

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I was later leaving work than I'd hoped for and I'd expected to have missed Oaf's set. But as it turned out, I arrived in time to see the last few songs. They play a sort of punky alternative rock, with comedic lyrics. But mostly it was just noise, and they did nothing for me at all. Following them were Tempus Fusion. I'd checked out a few videos online beforehand, but was somewhat suprised to hear how heavy they sounded live. It turns out there are two bands with that name, and I'd been watching the other one, who are quite different! This one features half of Season's End. Although there was less prog wankery than I was expecting, they could do with a better vocalist. Or at least, to cut out the harsh vocals. When he actually sang, he wasn't too bad. And of course, David Stanton (who was playing bass here) has a great voice.

But really, the only reason I'd come to this show was to catch Triaxis again. They're a great live band, and I take every opportunity I can to see them. Tonight they were due to be showcasing songs from their new album, which should be released later in the year. Time constraints meant they had to cut a couple of those songs ("...and shadows creep" and "The infected"). But we were still treated to "Sand and silver" and "Sker Point", both of which I'd heard before, and "Black trinity" which I hadn't. It's all sounding very promising for the new album. In addition, they played a couple of songs from the first album (including my personal favourite, "Lies") and finished off with a new Iron Maiden cover, "The evil that men do". Glyn is turning out to be a fine replacement for Gav on guitar, and Krissie's vocals were better than I've heard them before. This was among the best performances I've seen from them. They really are a band on the rise at the moment.

I'd seem Elimination at this same venue a few months earlier (also with Triaxis). As before, they put on a competent display, but it just came across as very bland. They play a traditional brand of thrash, but although they don't do much wrong, they don't get much right either, and it rapidly turns into background music. As before, the guitarist showed a level of competence that makes me want to like the band. But until they improve the songwriting, and possibly get a new vocalist, they're likely to remain also rans in my mind.

2.5/5 Lorriworks The Fiddler's Elbow
3/5 Nightvision 24th February 2012
2.5/5 Roxville
2.5/5 The Black Room

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This was a gig organised by my friend Lorraine to celebrate her birthday. The Black Room kicked off the evening, playing glam metal. Jacko has a decent enough voice, but he could do with projecting it a bit better. I've seen Dani before with both Achilla and Metalworks. His guitar work is good, but it was a bit on the sloppy side in places this evening. But overall they weren't bad, and ended with a cover of Skid Row's "Monkey business", in which Jacko did a surprisingly good impersonation of Seb Bach.

Similarly, Roxville also played a set of glam tinged metal. They'll never be more than a pub band, but they're good enough with it. The headliners for the night, Nightvision, were a bit different to the preceding two bands. Lorraine described them as straddling the line between hard rock and heavy metal, which is probably about right. They threw in a cover of Black Stone Cherry's "White trash millionaire", which didn't sound out of place, and should give an idea of roughly what they sound like. They lack the glam element of the first two bands, which prompted the crowd to thin out noticably. That's a shame, though, as they were by far the most polished band of the evening, and for me were comfortably the band of the night.

After Nightvision, Lorriworks hit the stage. They're basically an impromptu band formed of various people associated with Metalworks who agreed to play a bunch of covers in order to help Lorraine celebrate her birthday. Of note was that Mark Cross (of Helloween and Firewind) was on drums. They played songs by Bon Jovi, Ozzy, Twisted Sister, Tyketto, Scorps etc. Luka got the words wrong on a few occasions, but it didn't really matter, and it was a decent way to end the night.

4.5/5 Rammstein The O2 Arena
2/5 Deathstars 24th February 2012

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Deathstars are an OK band, but nothing special. However, when you're sat up in the gods, with dreadful sound, they deteriorate into a very lacklustre live experience. I couldn't hear the lyrics at all, and the music was very muddy. Probably due to the demographics of the audience, they appeared to choose their harder edged song for this show, which was a definite improvement. But the sound quality really hindered them.

Rammstein are a very different experience when you're seated compared to when you're stood at the front. But that doesn't make them any less entertaining. They certainly know how to make an entrance! They entered the arena from the side, and climbed up to a small stage in front of the mixing desk. From there they crossed to the main stage via a bridge that was lowered from the roof, and then launched into an excellent "Sonne". The sound wasn't great, but it was much better than for Deathstars. It was nice to see "Sehnsucht", "Mutter" and "Du riechst so gut" all make an appearance. As expected, the pyro was plentiful, and an excellent "Links 2-3-4" followed by "Du hast" preceded "Haifisch" to close out the show. But two encores followed, which saw almost as many songs played as in the main set. The first of which was on the small stage, which was a nice touch. Then the second encore saw "Mein herz brennt", "Amerika", "Ich will", "Engel" and finally "Pussy". With tracks as strong as those, it's hard to go wrong. Good though it was, I felt they were slightly less on form than the last few times I've seen them. But nonetheless, they remain one of the best live experiences in the world right now.

3.5/5 Dragonforce The 100 Club
2.5/5 Pythia 16th February 2012

Dragonforce ticket

I've seen Pythia a few times now. They're a band much like Adastreia, in that they have a more than capable vocalist, but one that is woefully unsuited to the music that the rest of the band are playing. I like both the music and the vocals. They just don't belong together. This was the first time I'd seen Dragonforce since Marc Hudson had taken over the frontman role from ZP Theart. Vocally, he's fine. Possibly better than ZP. He's a bit green, but the basics are there and he has a promising future ahead of him once he's got a bit more experience of being on stage. The rest of the band were much better, with none of the sloppiness that's plagued their previous live performances over the years. The downside was that they suffered from a terrible mix. It sounded a bit better further from the stage, but it still wasn't great. But that aside, this was a decent showing. Highlights were "Black fire" and "Through the fire and flames". I was very surprised to see "Valley of the damned" omitted. I think it's the first time I've ever seen them not play it.

3.5/5 Edguy Islington Academy
3.5/5 Voodoo Six 4th February 2012
3.5/5 Primitai

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Primitai have put on several decent live performances of late, and this was another one to add to the list. Sadly, they were only given a very short set in which to show off their talents. Still, they made the most of it, with "Sin city" and "Degeneration" both being very good. This Voodoo Six incarnation is virtually unrecognisable from when I first saw them. Nevertheless, this lineup seems to have garnered plaudits, and in particular, a certain amount of mainstream recognition. Matt Pierce is now the main lead guitarist, and Luke Purdie has replaced Henry Rundell, bringing with him a very different vocal style. They came across as very polished here, with a dirtier, more bluesy sound than they had in the past. The standout song here was their current single "Falling knives", which has seen a reasonable amount of radio airplay, and deservedly so. It's probably fair to say that Edguy are past their prime. The last few albums have been sub-par and their accompanying live performances have suffered as well. That said, they're still a compelling live act, and Tobias is a great frontman. "Tears of a mandrake" was head and shoulders above everything else here, with "King of fools" being the only other track that came close. I just don't understand why the keep playing weak songs like "Lavatory love machine" or "Save me" in their live sets. Once again, "Mysteria" was a criminal omission. They're a good band. But they're really doing themselves no favours with their choice of setlists.

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