Pentre Fest 2020

Pentre Fest 2020

McLean’s Pub, Pentre Deeside

21st & 22nd February 2020

I’m sure everyone who was there will agree that this year’s Pentre Fest was the best yet.  The bands were fantastic; the were more people; the vibe was magnificent.

Held at McLean’s in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales, this festival features underground, unsigned rock and metal from near and far.

I attended the full two days this year, and saw most of the acts performing.  I only wrote up a few though, so if you want to read the full review, visit the Ever Metal website here.

There were many highlights.  Witchtripper had been on my “must see” list for a while – they didn’t disappoint.  Old favourites Impavidus and Lullaby for a Unicorn were superb as always.  Cry for Mercy, Stormrider and Womenowar were some of the newly viewed bands that I was very impressed by.

The whole weekend was unmissable and I was genuinely sad when it was all over.  A brilliant, positive experience – well done to Fozzy, Beany, Frank and all the McLean’s staff.

You have to be there next year!

Ryuko

Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage.  First off, they were fully plugged in and electric.  Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands.  Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven.  Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style.  Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a “Negative Creep” or “About a Girl” vein.

Rhiannon and Rachel

Sadly Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year.  One such example was on the acoustic stage, where half of duo Rhiannon and Rachel was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform.  But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage.  Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing, she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort.  Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven.  A beautiful singing voice that even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” – making it sound good for the first time ever.

Mike West

If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you.  I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul.  Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost.  A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can.  Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet?  If not, there’s a headline for us there!

OMV

On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas.  Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy.  Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them.  Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs.  OMV were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they actually were going to pistol whip the audience into submission.  The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.

Luke Appleton

A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage.  In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020.  Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge.  Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers.  Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure!  A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.

Son of Boar

They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests.  And from the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special.  I wasn’t wrong.  These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness; they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch.  The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb.  I even bought a t-shirt.

Pentre Fest on Facebook.

N.E.W Metal Productions on Facebook.

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Mcleans Pub Live on Facebook.

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 27/09/2019

Running time: 49 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes.  They’re pretty damn good at whatever they turn their hands to.  Cheese with holes in, chocolate, clocks… No wait, that’s the Swiss.  The Swedes are the ones who are awesome at flatpack furniture and – most importantly for us – music.

Firebreather are a trio of doom-mongers from Gothenburg in Sweden.  Comprising Mattias Noojd on vocals and guitar, Kyle Pitcher on bass and drummer Axel Wittbeck, these riff-lords are adept at creating massive, epic songs that are both brutal and beautiful.

The music pounds and pummels, but as in opening track “Dancing Flames”, the churning riff becomes hypnotically entrancing.  “Our Souls They Burn” is unleashed with a super-heavy grind that’s underpinned by a powerful groove.

It’s hard to pick a stand-out or favourite track, though the relentless structure of the songs creates a vast tapestry of music that blends together.  This is savage and also seductive, like the wilderness of their native Scandinavia.  Hence, we get the thunderous beat of title track “Firebreather” and the contrast of the slow rhythmic build and almost melancholic vibe of “The Siren”.

Repeated listens are definitely recommended: familiarity with “Under a Blood Moon” coaxes the songs to open up and reveal more treasures each time.  The listeners’ mind can imagine patterns and shapes cascading, like watching flames burn and dance.  It’s a solid album from Firebreather that only promises to grow and endure.

All this talk about fire-breathing brings back memories of my old mate Ronnie James Dio’s fascination with the Dungeons and Dragons board game.  Back in the early 80’s, when he was fronting Black Sabbath, Ronnie was obsessed with it.  He’d constantly badger the band to play it with him, which they did – begrudgingly.

Tony and Geezer amiably played along to humour their titan-voiced tiny singer.  I recall one time though, when Bill Ward had really had enough of elves and dragons – he threw a huge pitcher of ale over the game.  Ronnie was livid, Tony and Geezer were trying to stifle laughter.  Especially when Bill kicked the table, banged his big toe and fell about screaming in agony, ripping a hole in his wife’s tights.  Bill was always wearing his wife’s tights.  I think they kept him warm.

You can find Firebreather on Facebook and Twitter: @FIREBREATHERGBG.

Check them out on Bandcamp here.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal site, which you can visit here.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #13

Unlucky for some, eh?  Well, this thirteenth edition of Singles Night was far from unlucky for me – I had a great night.

It’s been a while since I’ve thrilled you with a blog like this.  So what is Singles Night, exactly?  Well, I’ll tell you: it’s basically me playing through a stack of 7 inch vinyl singles in the order they’re stacked in.  Like a jukebox, but not as good.

The quality of these discs can vary dramatically.  Some are classics I’ve spent a couple of quid on.  Some are charity shop finds, or even donations given to me.  As such they can range from the unfathomably cool to the stinkiest of cheese.

It’s always good fun though.  So take a dip in the Virtual Hot Tub with me, and enjoy a playlist unlike any other…

  1. The Donnas – “Who Invited You” / “Mama’s Boy”
  2. Windsor Davies & Don Estelle – “Whispering Grass” / “I Should Have Known”
  3. Elvis Presley – “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” / “”Loving You”
  4. Chas’n’Dave – “Stars Over 45” / “Harem”
  5. Neil Diamond – “Be Mine Tonight” / “Right By You”
  6. Depeche Mode – “Get the Balance Right” / “The Great Outdoors”
  7. Small Faces – “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” / “Grow Your Own”
  8. Right Said Fred – “Don’t Talk Just Kiss” / “Don’t Talk Just Kiss (Instrumental)”
  9. Bad Manners – “Lip Up Fatty” / “Night Bus to Dalston”
  10. Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” / “Right Track Wrong Train”
  11. Feargal Sharkey – “A Good Heart” / “Anger is Holy”
  12. Bruce Willis – “Under the Boardwalk” / “Jackpot (Bruno’s Bop)”
  13. Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 –  “The Fool on the Hill” / “With a Little Help From My Friends”
  14. Pat Benatar – “Love is a Battlefield” / “Here’s My Heart”
  15. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” / “Anybody Wanna Party?”
  16. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” / “Girl Get a Hold of Yourself”
  17. Showaddywaddy – “Blue Moon” / “I Think I’m Really Going Out of My Mind”
  18. REO Speedwagon – “Keep On Loving You” / “Follow My Heart”
  19. Salt-N-Pepa – “Do You Want Me (Remix)” / “Do You Want Me (Original)”
  20. Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting” / “Gamblin’ Man”
  21. Judas Priest – “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” / “Exciter (Live Version)”
  22. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Sweet Dreams” / “Psycho”
  23. Iron Maiden – “Flight of Icarus” / “I’ve Got the Fire”
  24. Motorhead – “Bomber” / “Over the Top”
  25. Village People – “Y.M.C.A.” / “The Women”

My favourite of all of those records is the Donnas single – just awesome rock’n’roll.  They’re a great band, I just wish I had the album on vinyl.

Other classics from Motorhead (one of their best singles, with a beauty on the B-side); Judas Priest at their best; great Small Faces and one of the greatest singles of all time – “Kung Fu Fighting”.  If I remember, I was actually up on my feet at that point, doing a few martial arts inspired moves.  I’d been drinking, after all.

There’s a fair spread of cheese in that lot too, though you can’t go wrong with “Y.M.C.A.”, “I Will Survive” and “A Good Heart”.  Not to mention one of my childhood favourites, “Whispering Grass”.  Enjoyable songs all.

The one real stinker of the bunch was the Bruce Willis tune.  I remember liking that as a kid, ‘cos I was a fan of Moonlighting.  Listening to it again – with its terrible 80’s production and Bruce’s “adequate” voice ruining a soul classic – it’s less Die Hard than Die of Embarrassment.

Till next time!

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2019

2019 has been an exceptional year for new music.  It started off slowly, but by the end of the year I was struggling to keep up.

As per last year, Ever Metal asked me to produce a Top Ten of my favourite rock and metal albums of the year.  So here we go:

  1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
  2. Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights
  3. Obey – Swallow The Sun
  4. Acid Reign – The Age of Entitlement
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Very Uncertain Times
  8. Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf
  9. Monolord – No Comfort
  10. Crobot – Motherbrain

All fantastic records.  Honorable mentions this time to Kadavar, Firebreather, L7, Wizard Rifle and Duel.

For more rock reviews, interviews and top tens, head over to Ever Metal.

Happy New Year everybody – wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

And thanks for vising Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!  Make sure you come back next year, and if you’ve got any requests or suggestions, please get in touch.

Duel – Valley of Shadows Album Review

Duel – Valley of Shadows

Heavy Psych Sounds (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 17/05/2019

Running Time: 38 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Duel have been on my radar for quite a while.  Despite hearing a few tracks via the band’s social media, I’d never sat down, ear goggles locked in place, to listen to a full album.   So, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to review their latest album: “Valley of Shadows”, released recently by Heavy Psych Sounds.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, these four fiends are responsible for an almighty stoner doom racket; full on heavy rifferama with psychedelic and classic metal references.  In case that description alone doesn’t grab you like a graveyard ghoul on the way to an unholy shindig, their whole aesthetic is tripped out in the sort of late-night, B-movie gore that’s lurid enough to make your eyes pop.

It’s like Dracula Has Risen from the Grave soundtracked by a bunch of longhair ne’er-do-wells, and that’s just how I like it.

“Black Magic Summer” opens up the proceedings with some appropriate rain-soaked sound effects, before launching into the heavy-as-a-crypt-door attack.  There’s a brilliantly melodic middle section too, adding some light to the gloom.

Second track “Red Moon Forming” has a direct, driving pace that’s infectious and purposely concocted to inspire the raising of horns.  “Drifting Alone” has a real classic desert rock vibe, with a cool head shaker riff.

“Strike and Disappear” comes on like the vampire Western that Tarantino needs to make.  A slower, bluesy pace with a dusty feel, it’s the first taste we get of a very different – and effective – approach. It melts into a ferocious, face pummelling section that screams blood and violence.

Songs like “Tyrant on the Throne” have a classic metal, almost (gasp!) Iron Maiden feel to them.  Otherwise, the sound explores more of the head-banging, smoke induced groove of bands like Trouble and The Obsessed.

But just like the best stoner metal movers and shakers, there’s always room for some ZZ Top-style boogie, which particularly comes to the fore in the final track, “The Bleeding Heart”.

As always, my sound comparisons are only meant as genuine compliments.  Duel manage to create an album full of their own spirit and character, and it’s one hell of a fun ride.  At turns hypnotic, fist pummelling, and sombre; “Valley of the Shadows” pulls the stake out of the stoner doom corpse and brings it back to bloody life again.

The last time I actually was involved in a duel, it was a case of duelling banjos.  I was on a canoeing trip with some buddies out in the Appalachian back country.  We ran into some unsavoury redkneck types, one of whom challenged me to a banjo showdown.  Of course, I threw in some licks that my old mentor Jimi Hendrix had shown me, and the creepy little weirdo had no chance: I was victorious.

Unfortunately, the locals weren’t too happy and we had a bit of a run-in of sorts with ‘em later.  It was all fun and games really, and we were on our way home soon enough.  But I tell you: just whatever you do, don’t mention piggies to my buddy Bobby.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal website, please pay them a visit!

Duel are on Facebook here.

The Duel Bandcamp page is here.

Visit the Heavy Psych Sounds website here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Facebook here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Bandcamp here.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 20/04/2019

Running time: 29 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

 

Back in ’68, I believe it was, though a lot of my memory remains hazy.  It was a small London jazz club, in Chelsea I think, and Hendrix spontaneously got up to jam.  Moon was on drums, John Paul Jones picked up the bass, and Clapton and Pagey jumped up to run through a few blues numbers.  I was in the audience, somewhat refreshed, with a quality geezer who worked as a roadie for Hendrix.  His name was Ian, though everyone called him “Lemmy”.

Anyway, I might have overindulged in something or other, but it was a fantastic night.  I mean, musicians of that calibre sharing the same stage!  Incredible.  Until, that was, Jagger decided he wanted to join in on vocals.  Brian Jones decided to bring his bandmate down a peg or two, and lobbed a huge quiche at old rubber lips.  Bosh, hit him straight in the mush.  Jagger was not happy.  The next thing you know, Moon chucks his sticks at Mickey Dolenz and all hell breaks loose.

There was cake and vol-au-vents everywhere.  It took me days to clean the sausage rolls out of Pagey’s pick-ups.  But that was the sixties, you know?  All good fun.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip does a great job of bringing back the vibes from that time.  Compiled by Riding Easy Records, it consists of ten rare shots of proto-metal and stoner rock from the late 60s and early seventies.  These tracks are so long lost, whoever raided the tombs they were in probably received an ancient curse for disturbing them.

The songs on offer aren’t really of the sheer riff heavy variety that Black Sabbath would perfect, but if you’re interested in hearing how rock’n’roll was deep fried in LSD and pushed to the limit, there are some fine nuggets here.

The first track, “School Daze” by Attack!, has a real MC5 hell-for-leather rock’n’roll feel.  That greasy, take-no-prisoners Detroit approach serves them well.  Up next is White Rock with “Please Don’t Run Away”, a glorious fuzzed out, scuzzy rocker.  The brilliantly named Luke and the Apostles give us “Not Far Off”, featuring fabulous throaty vocals over a dynamite slab of blues rock.

There’s plenty more psychedelic, acid drenched fare that will resonate with fans of Hendrix, Cream, Mountain and even early Alice Cooper.  “I Need My Music” by the Tourists is another highlight, along with Moloch’s “Cocaine Katy”.  There’s a reassuring low-fi sound to the whole thing, with occasional faint vinyl crackles even, that gives the enterprise some charm.

Of the two covers on offer here, Inside Experience’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is fine but doesn’t challenge the original.  On the other hand, the wonderfully named Grump take the King’s “Heartbreak Hotel” out on a glorious, whiskey fuelled Leo Sayer and don’t hand it back till it’s puked it’s kebab up in the back of the taxi.

The tracks compiled for Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip may not change your life, but there’s plenty to enjoy.  If you’re not already a fan of rock music from this period, then think of this as a history lesson and indulge yourself.  Just be careful what you indulge yourself in, eh?

Right then, gin and tonic, anyone?

Track List

  1. Attack! – “School Daze”
  2. White Rock – “Please Don’t Run Away”
  3. River Side – “Wayfarer”
  4. Luke and the Apostles – “Not Far Off”
  5. Tourists – “I Need My Music”
  6. Bartos Brothers Band – “Gambler”
  7. Inside Experience – “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Karma – “New Mexico”
  9. Moloch – “Cocaine Katy”
  10. Grump – “Heartbreak Hotel”

 

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Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #8

OK, so Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub is not a dating service.  What it is, is me spending an evening playing through my ever growing stack of 45 rpm vinyl singles and having a drink or three.

Here’s the latest batch of 7 inch goodness:

  1. Elvis Presley – “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” / “Patch It Up”
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Song From the Edge of the World” / “The Whole Price of Blood”
  3. The Rolling Stones – “Undercover of the Night” / “All the Way Down”
  4. Queen – “Headlong” / “All God’s People”
  5. Ozzy Osbourne – “Shot in the Dark” / “Rock’n’Roll Rebel”
  6. The KLF – “What Time is Love? (Live at Transcentral)” / “What Time is Love? (Techno Gate Mix)”
  7. Linda Lusardi – “Eye Contact” / “Eye Contact (Club Mix)”
  8. Philip Bailey – “Easy Lover (with Phil Collins)” / “Woman”
  9. Albert King – “Born Under a Bad Sign” / “I Got the Blues”
  10. Isaac Hayes – “Do Your Thing” / “Ellie’s Love Theme (Instrumental)”
  11. Billy Idol – “Rebel Yell” / “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows”
  12. Kim Wilde – “Love Blonde” / “Can You Hear It”
  13. Aerosmith – “Love in an Elevator” / “Young Lust”
  14. Talking Heads – “And She Was” / “Perfect World”
  15. Shakin’ Stevens – “Because I Love You” / “Tell Me One More Time”
  16. Samantha Fox – “Do Ya Do Ya (Wanna Please Me)” / “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again”
  17. Can – “I Want More” / “More”
  18. ABBA – “Knowing Me, Knowing You” / “Happy Hawaii”
  19. KC & The Sunshine Band – “That’s the Way (I Like It)” / “Queen of Clubs”
  20. Madonna – “Into the Groove” / “Shoo-Bee-Doo”
  21. Dean Martin – “Return to Me” / “Forgetting You”
  22. Roxy Music – “Pyjamarama” / “The Pride and the Pain”
  23. Steve Winwood – “Valerie” / “Talking Back to the Night (Instrumental Version)”
  24. Glen Campbell – “Why Don’t We Just Sleep on it Tonight (with Tanya Tucker)” / A Daisy a Day”

The selection above was, as always, determined by whatever was next on the pile.  There’s no choosing songs involved, it’s just playing the records in order.

But what a great selection that was!  Not one, but two 1980’s Page 3 legends; plus a load of tunes from classic rock to pop, country and soul.

By the way: What’s Madonna and a piece of toilet paper got in common?

They both get into the groove!  HAHA!

I had a great time spinning these tunes, more soon.