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Concerts I've seen

4/5 Triaxis Fuel, Cardiff
2.5/5 The 8th Bridge 20th December 2014
3/5 Preacher

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Review to follow

4/5 Epica The Forum
3.5/5 Dragonforce 6th December 2014
3/5 Neonfly

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Review to follow

4/5 Sabaton Sub89, Reading
2.5/5 Korpiklaani 2nd December 2014
3.5/5 Týr

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Review to follow

3/5 Dethonator The Devonshire Arms
3.5/5 Second Rate Angels 29th November 2014
3/5 Hundred

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Review to follow

4.5/5 Accept The Forum
3/5 Voodoo Six 27th November 2014

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Review to follow

4/5 Neonfly Islington Academy 2
3.5/5 Night By Night 20th November 2014
3.5/5 Night Screamer

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Night Screamer played some quite respectable hard rock. The vocals were good. There were two guitarists, sharing lead and rhythm duties, but it's fair to say that one of them was significantly more accomplished than the other. The songs were good, and the cover of Deep Purple's "Mistreated" worked well. They're not particularly ground breaking, but I enjoyed the set and I'll keep an eye out for them in the future. Night By Night played what I guess would be described as AOR, albeit occasionally veering into slightly heavier territory. The Sisters Of Mercy's Ben Christo performed admirably on guitar, and the vocals were very good. The latter isn't much of a surprise given that they come from Henry Rundell, who had impressed in the same role in an early incarnation of Voodoo Six.

The was the launch party for Neonfly's new album. I'd seen the band grow, and had vaguely followed them for a few years, but I didn't really find the debut album to be particularly inspiring. It was one of those records that's fine to listen to, but doesn't really do anything to grab you and make you go back to it again and again. The newer material being presented here tonight was much, much better. The ballads were still a bit lacking for me, but the heavier tracks were a definite improvement. Willy Norton is an accomplished front man, stand in guitarist Andy Midgley was again good (I think this is the 4th different band in which I've seen him play!). Boris Le Gal was particularly impressive on drums, which I hadn't really noticed at any of their previous shows and all in all, I think this was the best performance I've seen from the band.

4/5 Stuka Squadron The Unicorn
3.5/5 Toledo Steel 24th October 2014
2.5/5 Stone Cold Kill

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Stone Cold Kill were pure Motörhead worship, complete with a lead singer with long hair, microphone too high and tilted down, playing a Rickenbacker bass. The songs sounded like Motörhead, the stage moves were the same, the whole works. OK, but nothing special. I'd been quite impressed by Toledo Steel the last time I'd seen them. As with Stone Cold Kill, there is nothing original here, only this time the target of their worship are Iron Maiden rather than Motörhead. They're starting to realise some of the promise they'd shown in the past. Once again the vocals were very good, but I'd say if anything, they're the weak point of the band. He has a fantastic voice, but he lacks the control over it that he needs. Still, another good performance from the band, and they remain one to watch for the future.

Stuka Squadron had come to a less than savoury end, with the bass player leaving and threatening legal action if the band continued to use the name. That resulted in acrimony and a change of name to Iron Knights. That band fizzled out (although they've continued with an almost entirely different lineup and a different sound). But after a break of a few years, differences have been settled and the band reunited with the classic lineup for a short farewell tour, of which this was the first date. They played their debut album, "Tales of the Ost", in its entirety. Which was nice. This wasn't quite the full show, but the sword, blood and costumes were back, even if the skulls were missing. They've been missed. Highlights were "Stuka squadron" and "On the Volga bridge". They were due to play a new track, "Pit of fire" as an encore, but for reasons unknown, that was skipped on the night.

Metal Female Voices Festival XII Oktoberhallen, Wieze, Belgium
3.5/5 Therion 19th October 2014
2/5 Arkona
3.5/5 Xandria
3.5/5 Stream Of Passion
2/5 Holy Moses
4/5 Viper Solfa
4/5 Enemy Of Reality
3.5/5 Magistina Saga
3.5/5 Evenoire
3/5 Aria Flame

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Review to follow.

Metal Female Voices Festival XII Oktoberhallen, Wieze, Belgium
3.5/5 Leaves' Eyes 18th October 2014
4/5 Sirenia
3/5 The Sirens
3/5 Draconian
3.5/5 Diabulus In Musica
2.5/5 Skeptical Minds
2/5 Head Phones President
3.5/5 Jaded Star
4/5 Ancient Bards
3.5/5 Dark Sarah
3.5/5 Season Of Ghosts
3.5/5 La Ventura

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Review to follow.

Metal Female Voices Festival XII Oktoberhallen, Wieze, Belgium
3.5/5 MFV United 17th October 2014
1.5/5 Saeko Kitamae
1.5/5 Ayin Aleph
??/5 Diary Of Destruction

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My transport to Belgium had helpfully broken down on the morning I was due to head off. Once I'd got it fixed, and missed my ferry crossing, I finally arrived in Belgium, but too late to catch the first band, Diary Of Destruction. Ayin Aleph were thus the festival's openers for me. The singer came across as utterly batshit insane, with vocals reminiscent of Kate Bush, but not as good. Having met her afterwards backstage, she's actually fine in person. But her on stage persona? That's a little odd, to say the least! The music was proggy and discordant and not my thing at all. Saeko Kitamae had been given a short set to sing one ballad, with messages of hope and peace being projected on to the screen behind her. I assume that had something to do with the Japanese earthquake appeal, but whatever the cause, it was a bit of a farce. Her voice gave out before she'd even got half way through the song, and she resorted to talking over the backing track.

The last band of the night were MFV United. This was basically an all star performance of a variety of cover songs, much like the Eve's Apple performance last year. Indeed, it featured many of the same artists, but now that Eve's Apple is no more, it had to be under a different name. This time around, the songs included Twisted Sister's "We're not gonna take it", Scorpions' "Send me an angel", Deep Purple's "Perfect strangers", and a set closing repeat of last year with Hear 'n' Aid's "Stars". The highlights for me, though, were Iliana Tsakiraki's performances of Evanescence's "Whisper" and Nightwish's "Bless the child" and Kassandra Novell's versions of Pat Benetar's "We live for love" and Tarja's "I walk alone". Those two's voices stood head and shoulders above the other artists performing here. The night felt a bit subdued compared to last year's superb opening night, but it was a solid start to the festival nonetheless.

3.5/5 Darkest Era Upstairs At The Garage
2/5 Ancient Ascendant 1st October 2014
3/5 Hundred

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Review to follow.

4/5 Black State Highway Alley Cat
1.5/5 Little Brother Eli 14th August 2014

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Little Brother Eli played what I guess would be called blues. In the Blues Brothers sense rather than the Stevie Ray Vaughn sense. They were competent enough and the singer has a decent enough voice, but ultimately it's just not my thing and their set left me cold. Which couldn't be said for Black State Highway. I've seen them several times now, and they've always showed potential. Tonight, the launch night for their debut album, was when that potential was realised. This was by far the best I've seen them and it bodes well for their future. Particular highlights were "Conclusion" and "Sacrifice".

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
3.5/5 Satan 10th August 2014
3.5/5 Megadeth
3/5 Graveyard
2.5/5 Amon Amarth
??/5 The Self Titled
3.5/5 EnkElination
3.5/5 Collibus
??/5 Once Upon
??/5 Kill All The Gentlemen
3.5/5 Saxon
??/5 Krow
3.5/5 Ded Orse
??/5 Scodatura
2.5/5 Obituary
??/5 Stoneghost
3.5/5 Stormzone
3/5 The Heretic Order
??/5 Today The Sun Dies
3.5/5 Avatar
??/5 Stahlsarg
??/5 Psykosis
??/5 Resin
??/5 Voices
3.5/5 Leatherneck
2/5 Biohazard
??/5 Rabid Bitch Of The North
??/5 Akbal
??/5 Morgue Orgy
3/5 Revamp
3/5 Eradikator
??/5 Haerken
2/5 Aborted
??/5 Unforseen Prophecy
3/5 October File
??/5 King Goat
??/5 Arthemis
??/5 Aaron Keylock
??/5 Byzanthean Neckbeard

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Review to follow.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
4/5 Emperor 9th August 2014
??/5 Hellyeah
3.5/5 Sister Sin
2.5/5 Carcass
1/5 All Consumed
3/5 Alzir
3/5 Battleaxe
1/5 Cacodaemonic
1/5 Warcrab
2.5/5 Children Of Bodom
1/5 Blood Red Throne
??/5 Orphaned Land
??/5 Canyon Observer
4/5 Lacuna Coil
??/5 Phantom
??/5 Obsidian Kingdom
??/5 Massive Wagons
3.5/5 Metaprism
3.5/5 Conquest Of Steel
1.5/5 Crowbar
3.5/5 Resin
??/5 The Darkhorse
??/5 Profane Omen
2/5 Born Of The Jackal
3/5 Orphaned Land
3.5/5 The Amorettes
??/5 Synaptik
3/5 The Mercy House
1.5/5 Decapitated
1.5/5 The Threat
1.5/5 Old Corpse Road
0.5/5 Shining
2/5 Darkeye
2.5/5 The King Is Blind
??/5 Reprisal
??/5 Evil Scarecrow
??/5 Babylon Fire
??/5 Back Down Or Die

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Review to follow.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
2/5 Down 8th August 2014
3.5/5 Rotting Christ
2.5/5 Skyclad
4/5 Dimmu Borgir
??/5 Jackknife Seizure
3.5/5 Aceldema
??/5 Diabolical
??/5 Jonestown
??/5 Angerman
1.5/5 Hatebreed
3/5 Winterfylleth
??/5 King Creature
??/5 Dog Tired
??/5 Triptykon
??/5 Hogslayer
??/5 Deals Death
??/5 Undersmile
??/5 Sinpathetic
??/5 Prong
??/5 Zerozonic
??/5 Alone With Wolves
??/5 Ten Foot Wizard
??/5 De Profundis
2/5 Oakhaart
3.5/5 Flotsam And Jetsam
3.5/5 Cadence Noir
3.5/5 Brutai
??/5 Krokodil
3.5/5 Primordial
??/5 Abhorrent Decimation
??/5 Aghast
2/5 Entombed A.D.
??/5 No Sin Evades His Gaze
2/5 Cambion
2/5 Convincing Clearity
3/5 Bloodshot Dawn
2.5/5 Gurt
3/5 Goat Leaf

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Goat Leaf kicked off the first day of Bloodstock proper with a solid set of fuzzed up stoner rock, which was pretty decent. On the Sophie stage, Gurt should have delivered much of the same, but although the music was there, the vocals were almost black metal style shrieks over the top, which was just a bit odd and for me detracted from the experience. I'd seen Bloodstock Dawn a couple of times before and while they were OK, I'm not really sure they deserved bumping up to the main stage having played on the Sophie stage last time around. The music was good enough. I guess I'd describe it as technical thrash. But the growled vocals would have been much better if they'd just been ratcheted down a notch to something closer to more traditional thrash.

The oddly named Convincing Clearity were winners of the Norwegian M2TM competition and it's hard to believe that a country with such a strong metal heritage couldn't have done better than this. It was just generic modern metal with shouty vocals and little to make them stand out from the crowd. Although they're not really my thing, Cambion had impressed when I last saw them. Here, though, the weaknesses showed through. The music was tight and technical, but it was let down by the vocals, both in the clean and harsh parts, neither of which were really good enough. I hadn't enjoyed Entombed much on either of the previous occasions that I'd seen them. Since then the band had gone through an acrimonious split and both halves initially tried to keep the name. One half eventually settled on the Entombed AD name and that's the half that was playing here. To be fair, I think they genuinely were better than before, but still not really my thing. Uninspiring death metal but a least the vocals were largely intelligible.

The last time Primordial had tried to play Bloodstock, it had all gone disastrously wrong with Alan losing his voice part way through the second song and being unable to continue. Fortunately, there were no such problems this time. The band play celtic influenced black metal, but with clearer vocals than is the norm for the genre and it works very well. In some ways, they remind me of the new wave of atmospheric folk black metal bands, although they predate those bands by several years. Either way, it was a good performance and I'll gladly go out of my way to see them again should they be playing in or around London. Brutai turned out to be as badly misnamed as Shreddertron who played a few years back in that they're not particularly brutal. They play modern metal with a mix of clean and harsh vocals. The latter were OK, but the clean vocals were actually very good, and I enjoyed their set.

On the Jägermeister stage, Cadence Noir described themselves as "neuvo acoustic goth". To me, I'd say they played folk blues with occasional Quo like boogie elements. And with a healthy dose of Walkyier era Skyclad throw in for good measure. Whatever the genre, I enjoyed them. As I did Flotsam And Jetsam on the main stage. They're a band that I'd been vaguely aware of and of course I knew that Jason Newsted was their bass player before he joined Metallica, but I was unfamiliar with their material. As expected, they played traditional '80s thrash, but with unexpectedly good vocals. The guitar solos merit particular note, too.

Oakhaart were a disappointment. The music was melodic and the guitar harmonies were very much to my liking, but it was all ruined by the shouty vocals. Winterfylleth had garnered a lot of positive press a few years back and then had delivered an absolutely dreadful performance when they played at Bloodstock in 2010. They're delivered a somewhat better performance on their return in 2012 and this was another step up in quality. They were no doubt helped by a torrential downpour as they played their set, which ensured an absolutely rammed tent. But the performance itself was better, much more melodic than before and with Borknagar/Fyrdsman like tendencies at times. Hatebreed can be summarised as having a frontman shouting "woargh, fuck". Repeat ad nauseum.

Aceldama were a band I'd been wanting to see for a while. I'd been aware of them for a few years, but events had conspired against me and I hadn't managed to see any of their live shows. I'm a fan of female fronted metal, and Aceldama fit into that mould, at the Triaxis-like trad metal end of that spectrum, rather than the operatic symphonic end. Leanna has a good voice, but my only complaint would be that maybe the songs were a bit average and the songwriting could perhaps do with some work. The set ended on a high with a cover of The Pointer Sisters' "I'm so excited" and one of their own, "Metal and beer".

Dimmu Borgir got off to a terrible start, with technical problems meaning that their set started very late. Apparently that was due to a sound engineer messing things up, a sound engineer that they'd brought with them to the festival. Oops. When they did get going, the mix was poor and the set had to be cut short to fit into the time constraints. The problems continued with Shagrath introducing a song: "This is progenies of the great, great apocalypse". Long pause. "Or maybe not" as the backing intro failed to play. Despite the problems, they still put on a strong performance, with my highlights being "Gateways" and "Puritania".

The last time I'd seen Skyclad had been at the first ever Bloodstock in 2001, which had also been Martin Walkyier's final show with the band. I knew nothing about their output with his replacement, Kevin Ridley. Here they were cursed with a muddy sound which didn't help, but I think they'd have been uninspiring even without that. Down turned out to be better than when I'd seen them at Download. The heavy southern metal was OK, and Phil's gruff vocals were a noticeable improvement, but they're still very much lacking in songs. That just left Rotting Christ to round out the evening. Again they could have had a better mix, but they put on a strong performance and were a fine way to end the first day of Bloodstock 2014.

Bloodstock Open Air Catton Hall
2.5/5 Jaldaboath 7th August 2014
4/5 Monument
??/5 Incinery
??/5 Gehtika
1.5/5 Balls Deep

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Balls Deep hadn't impressed at last year's Bloodstock, and this year was much the same. There were perhaps a couple of songs that were slightly better than last time, but mostly it was just unpleasant shouting over uninspired music. Gehtika hadn't impressed last year either (and what's with the repeats of the weaker bands from previous years?) so I decided not to interrupt my chatting with friends that I mostly hadn't seen since last year in order to catch them. The same applied to Incinery, so Monument were the next band I saw. Although they're based in London, I knew little about them and had managed to miss seeing them before now. They played melodic traditional metal with proper high pitched '80s metal vocals. The band were tight, the songs were good and the cover of Deep Purple's "Black night" worked well. I'll be keeping an eye out for them in the future. Jaldaboath were either going to be brilliant or weak, and sadly they turned out to be the latter. Their brand of Monty Python-esque metal doesn't really work live and the semi spoken/chanted vocals came across as being a bit too close to rap for my tastes.

???/5 Imperia The Underworld
3.5/5 EnkElination 28th July 2014
3.5/5 Ex Libris
3/5 Neverworld

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Review to follow.

Download Festival Donington Park
3.5/5 Aerosmith 15th June 2014
3.5/5 Alter Bridge
3.5/5 Steel Panther
3/5 Volbeat
4.5/5 Sabaton
2/5 Sepultura
3/5 Richie Sambora
3/5 Buckcherry
3.5/5 Skillet
3/5 Winger
3/5 Arthemis
3.5/5 Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel
3.5/5 Avatar

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Review to follow.

Download Festival Donington Park
3.5/5 Status Quo 14th June 2014
4.5/5 Twisted Sister
4/5 The Wildhearts
2.5/5 Toby Jepson
3/5 Nothing More
2.5/5 Orange Goblin
4/5 Skid Row
1.5/5 Twenty One Pilots
2.5/5 Lawnmower Deth
3/5 Chevelle
3/5 Fozzy
3.5/5 Collibus

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Review to follow.

???/5 Manticora The Underworld
???/5 Seven Kingdoms 1st June 2014

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Disappointing. I had a ticket and was looking forward to seeing Seven Kingdoms' first UK show. But I had to make a last minute trip to Berlin so I ended up having to miss this one.

M2TM Reading Face Bar, Reading
3.5/5 Remnant 31st May 2014
3/5 Morass Of Molasses
2/5 Confessions Of A Traitor
3.5/5 Ded Orse
2/5 Reprisal
2.5/5 Flight Of Eden

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 Doro Islington Academy
2.5/5 nulldB 19th May 2014

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 Xandria The Underworld
3.5/5 Stream Of Passion 9th May 2014
???/5 Apparition

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Review to follow.

3/5 <Code> The Black Heart
3/5 The Earls Of Mars 5th May 2014
3.5/5 Alzir

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Review to follow.

3/5 Die So Fluid Surya
3/5 Grace Solero 2nd May 2014
3/5 Idlehour

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I knew nothing of Idlehour beforehand. They turned out to be female fronted alternative band. Some decent songs, and she has a decent voice, all of which made for an enjoyable performance, albeit one that didn't particularly stand out. I'd been meaning to see Grace Solero for some time, largely on the recommendation of a friend with similar musical tastes to mine, but each time I'd planned to, something had come up, so after about 4 or 5 attemps, this was the first one I'd actually made it to. In some ways, similar to Idlehour, but leaning more towards rock than the opening act. They songs still had a slight alternative edge to them rather than being straight up rock songs.

Die So Fluid were a band I'd sort of been aware of for a while, without really knowing any of their material. Again, there's an alternative edge to their material, which straddles the border of hard rock and metal. Grog has a decent voice and can clearly play bass well enough. All three bands put on solid performances, but none of them were particularly noteworthy.

3.5/5 Absolva Upstairs At The Garage
3.5/5 Babylon Fire 1st May 2014
3/5 Death Valley Knights
?.?/5 Ephesus

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Review to follow.

3/5 Iron Knights The Black Heart
3.5/5 Dendera 30th April 2014
3/5 The Self-Titled

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Review to follow.

4/5 Beholder Upstairs At The Garage
3/5 Cambion 18th April 2014
3/5 Overthrow

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 Within Temptation Wembley Arena
4/5 Delain 12th April 2014

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 Van Canto The Underworld
4/5 Winterstorm 2nd April 2014
3.5/5 EnkElination

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 Toyah The Jazz Cafe
29th March 2014

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Review to follow.

3/5 The Mariana Hollow The Fiddler's Elbow
3.5/5 Firestate 23rd March 2014
2/5 Dumbjaw
2.5/5 Frowser
2/5 Chemikill

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Review to follow.

4/5 Freedom Call The Barfly
3/5 A New Tomorrow 22nd March 2014
3.5/5 Neverworld

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Review to follow.

Jizzy's Birthday Bash The Underworld
3.5/5 Love/Hate 17th March 2014
3/5 Knock Out Kaine
2.5/5 Gypsy Pistoleros

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Review to follow.

4/5 Grand Magus The Underworld
2.5/5 Asomvel 16th March 2014
4/5 The Vintage Caravan

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Review to follow.

3/5 Metalworks The Monarch
3/5 Lorriworks 9th March 2014

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To celebrate Lorri's birthday, Lorriworks were doing a set of Rainbow covers. Matt Pearce was on guitar, which was fine. He's a more than competent guitarist. But there's something about seeing Blackmore songs played on a Les Paul that just screams "wrong" at me. Still, the material is undeniably strong, and "Long live rock 'n' roll" and "All night long" were very good. A broken snare drum forced a break in the set which was filled by playing "Catch the rainbow" and a cover of Queen's "Love of my life".

The main Metalworks set was their standard collection of classic covers. UFO's "Doctor doctor", Priest's "Breaking the law". Maiden's "Prowler", Billy Idol's "White wedding" and so on. Ade Emsley joined the band on stage for some AC/DC, the highlight of which was "Back in black".

4/5 Blaze Bayley The Underworld
2.5/5 Dendera 7th March 2014
4.5/5 Triaxis

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It's been a while since Triaxis last played London. I've been to see them all over the country, but it's nice to see one of my favourite bands in my home city. I was a little disappointed to see them as the opening act. As the more established band and as the main support for the other dates on the tour, it was somewhat surprising to see Dendera get that slot instead. The consequence of that was a very early stage time, which meant leaving work early to get there, and a slimmer audience than they might otherwise have had. I know a couple of people that couldn't make it because of the early start. There's little I can say about Triaxis that I haven't already said. They're a fantastic live band. Tonight's performance was marred a little by an unusally bad mix for The Underworld, and the vocals were buried by the other instruments. Fortunately, I knew the words anyway, so it wasn't a problem. Highlights were "Sker Point" and "Lies". Nice to see a new song, "Death machine" that will hopefully be on the next album.

I'd seen Dendera supporting Gloryhammer. The vocalist had impressed me, and the band played my sort of traditional metal, but I felt that they needed a bit more stage time to tighten things up a bit and to put it a bit more work on the songwriting front. Tonight's performance merely served to reinforce that view. It was a decent enough showing, and they're one to keep an eye on in the future. But despite the evident Maiden worship, they weren't as good as I would have liked. Still, they're young and have plenty of time ahead of them to improve.

Blaze has been playing smaller and smaller venues in London of late (Monto Water Rats and Aces And Eights, for example), so it was a welcome surprise to see him back at The Underworld. He's completely ditched the idea of having a band now, and just hires a backing band for each album and tour. This time around, he was using Absolva. That boded well, as they've always been good when I've seen them at their own shows. And for that matter, so has Blaze. I've seen him play everything from huge venues down to one man and his dog in the back room of a pub and he's never failed to give anything less than 100%. Tonight was no different. He was perhaps let down a little by the setlist, which included some comparatively weak tracks like "Eating children" and "Motherfuckers R us". Those served to break the atmosphere somewhat. But to counter that, there were plenty of excellent tracks in the mix too. My highlights included "The launch", "Watching the night sky", "Silicon messiah" and a set closing "Man on the edge".

2/5 Broken Jaw The Barfly
3/5 The More I See 3rd March 2014
3.5/5 Second Rate Angels
??/5 Palomino Club

Tonight's planned openers Palomino Club didn't show, but that's probably a blessing. Apparently they're an indie pop band, so I suspect they'd have been quite out of place tonight. Their performance at Islington Academy a couple of weeks earlier had been the best I'd seen so far from Second Rate Angels. This perhaps wasn't quite as good, hampered by a poor mix for the first few songs. But the sound improved later in the set and it was another strong showing.

I'd seen The More I See as a support act some years ago and had been impressed. I was hoping it hadn't been a one off and was pleased to see that it wasn't. The band is led by former Prodigy and Janus Stark guitarist Gizz Butt. The set started off well, and Gizz's guitar work is good, but I'm less convinced by the songwriting, which is maybe a bit patchy in places, and I felt it tailed off a bit towards the end of the set.

I'd never heard of headliners Broken Jaw before. They were advertised as being punky, but in truth I think they were more of a metal band than a punk band, with a mixture of clean and shouty vocals. They'd come a long way ("from Gaaarsterrr, where the hobbits arrrrr") to play to a paltry crowd, but while they were OK, they weren't really my thing.

3.5/5 EnkElination The Rose & Crown, East Grinstead
3/5 Seventh Seeker 1st March 2014

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Foggy's birthday celebrations saw him booking a couple of bands to play in his local pub. I'd never heard of Seventh Seeker before, but came away quite impressed. They had two guitarists, but no bass player, and a reasonable amount of their sound came from a backing tape. Singer Daisy Brookman has a great voice, but perhaps lacks as much control over it as she might have. The lead guitar work was impressive, and the songwriting was good. Covers of Within Temptation's "Stand my ground" and We Are The Fallen's "I am only one" went down well, too. Definitely one to watch out for.

I'd seen EnkElination before, so knew what to expect, but this was a much better performance. Elina's vocals were much more consistent and the band looked more comfortable. Sadly, I had to leave part way through the set in order to catch my last train home. I stayed until their cover of Nightwish's "Nemo".

4/5 Turisas Talking Heads, Southampton
2.5/5 Starkill 19th February 2014

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Review to follow.

Martin Walkyier's Viking Funeral Islington Academy
2.5/5 M:Pire Of Evil 19th February 2014
2.5/5 Exumer
3.5/5 Second Rate Angels

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Review to follow.

3/5 A Pale Horse Named Death The Underworld
2.5/5 Blood Runs Deep 13th February 2014
3.5/5 Stormzone

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Review to follow.

Metal 2 The Masses London The Purple Turtle
2/5 Donkerkarnuffel 26th January 2014
3.5/5 Gévaudan
3/5 Bad Solution
2.5/5 Overthrow
??/5 From The Ashes

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Review to follow.

3.5/5 I Am I Barfly
3/5 Reachback 23rd January 2014
2.5/5 The Mercy House
2/5 The One Hundred

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An ever changing lineup for this one. At various times, Idiom, The Wicked Lies, Death Koolaid and I think a couple of others were due to be playing tonight, but for unknown reasons, none of them appeared. In the end, though, the opening act were The One Hundred. They were quite young, but reasonably competent with it. All of the musicianship was fine, with the drummer being decent if not outstanding and the others being more than adequate. The songs were OK. I think they would have benefitted from a live keyboard player rather than a taped backing track, and some of the almost dubstep-like parts made me do a double take. But they really lost out on the vocals, which alternated between shouting and pseudo-rapping, with some occasional clean vocals for emphasis (and to be honest, the clean vocals needed work). It's rare for me to see generational differences. Music should just be music, right? But this is clearly not my music. It's another generation's music.

The first time I'd seen The Mercy House, I'd been pleasantly suprised, and looked forward to seeing them again. But the next time wasn't so good and so it was again this evening. They were OK enough, but it was all just a bit bland and uninspired. There vocalist has a good voice and manages a seamless transition from full voice to falsetto. But the net effect was lacking.

I'd never heard of Reachback before this evening, so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, they played female fronted alternative pop rock. The sort of thing you'd expect to hear playing at The Bronze in BTVS. Not normally my thing, but actually, they were quite good. The singer was tiny but had a big voice, and the whole thing had a slightly punky feel to it in places. I later heard them compared to Paramore, which probably isn't far wrong. They played a cover "which you'll all know". I didn't. I later found out it was "Burn" but Ellie Goulding. I've never heard of it or her. But anyway, I enjoyed them, and they had the best on stage quote of the night: "We're from Essex... What's that? Boos? Come on, it's not that bad. We're not all orange!".

I am I, then. I'd seen them a couple of times before, at Bloodstock and Download, but this was the first time I'd seen them in a small venue. They're a band I quite like, but will probably never really love. They're just a bit too watered down for my tastes. Andy is a fantastic guitarist, Rich knows what he's doing on the drums and of course ZP can sing. But the band are just a bit too nice, a bit too radio friendly for my liking. They need a bit of a harder edge to transition them from hard rock into heavy metal. The guitars were mixed too low tonight, which didn't help either. The highlight was once again a cover of John Farnham's "You're the voice".

3.5/5 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Hammersmith Apollo
11th January 2014

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I'd heard rave reviews about their previous UK show, so I thought I'd give this one a go. TSO are the end result of Paul O'Neill and Jon Oliva morphing Savatage into something that makes real money. The resulting product is tailored to a far more mainstream audience than the metal fans that followed Savatage. Among the consequences of that was an all seated show tonight. That's rarely a good start to a show in my eyes, and tends to kill much of the energy and atmosphere of the gig. But walking into the venue to the strains of Savatage's "Silk and steel" over the PA was a promising start. But when they started playing, it became apparent that it wasn't going to be a spectacular evening. That's not to say it was bad, and I certainly enjoyed it. But it was all a bit too tame and proper for my tastes. The set list was a mix of TSO's takes on well known classical music, some of TSO's own compositions and a healthy dose of Savatage covers. The highlights for me were "Gutter ballet", featuring Nathan James on vocals, who I'd been impressed with when he played with Uli Jon Roth, "O fortuna" and "Wizards of winter". James was sporting a cold and his vocals weren't quite what they could have been. This lineup also featured Jeff Scott Soto, another vocalist who I very much like. The show had clearly been cut down in size. They're used to playing to 30000 people a night in the US, compared to the 3000 or so that a seated Hammersmith Odeon holds. Even so, there was still a copious amount of lights, lasers, pyro and video screens on display. But I suspect the spectacle of the full show might have helped a bit. Would that have been enough? I don't know. For me, the whole thing was a bit too subdued and choreographed. For want of a better word, it was all just a bit too nice.

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