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.

Goodfor Audio Entertainment on Facebook

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.

Wizard Rifle – Album Review

Time for another review I wrote for Ever Metal, which you can now read at the Virtual Hot Tub:

Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

Svart Records

Release date: 30/08/2019

Running Time: 45 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

Right, about time I got back to business with these album reviews for my pals at Ever Metal.  But how do you define the indefinable?  ‘Cos that’s basically the issue I’ve had with this review (not writer’s block, honest).  Comparing Wizard Rifle to other bands in myopic, lazy journo style just doesn’t seem to cut it with these guys.

There’s too much going on with Wizard Rifle’s self-titled album to accurately pin down a clumsy similarity to someone else.  It’s a mixture of loud, obnoxious metal, post rock, screamy hardcore punk and grungy sludge; with waves of psychedelic beauty tying it together.

Despite the unholy wall of noise that the band produce there are just two of them – guitarist/vocalist Max Dameron and drummer/vocalist Sam Ford.  That’s a hell of a racket for just two people.  They’re not short of ideas either, as the genre blending demonstrates.  Maybe that’s an advantage of just two minds, rather than several – Dameron and Ford display some ingenious telepathy weaving their creations together.

Loads of energy too – “Rocket to Hell” (great title) is a glorious, shouty opener, and “Caveman Waltz” is a possible contender for Riff of the Year.  It chugs like a drug fuelled locomotive trying to jump the Grand Canyon.

There are only five songs on this record, but as none of them are under seven minutes in length, there’s plenty of value for money.  The guys have learnt to expand a song and explore its possibilities in a way that keeps the ear engaged.  Like on the 12 minute epic “Funeral of the Sun”, which stretches out hypnotically but loses none of its heavy intensity.

Wizard Rifle are from the Portland, Oregon area – which as it’s the Pacific North West, must surely be Big Foot country.  So, I’m gonna coin a lazy journo phrase and label this sound Big Foot Rock.  Remember, you read it here first.  And yes, when this band are huge and Big Foot Rock takes over Western Civilization, I’ll be claiming the royalties for inventing that label.

Big Foot Rock T-shirt, sir?  That’ll be £19.99.  “Now That’s What I Call Bigfoot Rock, Vol 1” vinyl compilation?  Just £27.99.  Can I change a fifty?  Oh, keep the change?  Thank you very much.

The Wizard Rifle Facebook page is here.

You can find Wizard Rifle on Bandcamp here.

The Ever Metal website is here.

Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf Album Review

And now, I present an album review I wrote for Ever Metal; a recording that became one of my favourites of 2019:

Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf

Self Released

Release date: 09/04/2019

Running Time: 36 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

 

I’ve never been to Australia.  Don’t need to go there really, I know exactly what it’s like.  It’s like that David Bowie video where he’s inside a big concrete block in the middle of nowhere.  “Let’s Dance” – that’s the one.  Or it’s like Mad Max 2: all arid desert, people surviving on dog food and a struggle to exist without civilisation.

So, it’s quite apt that such a barren, isolated place has decided to gift us with an album that is, quite frankly, a masterpiece of desert rock.  Or outback rock, if you will.

This is “Giant Dwarf”, by the band Giant Dwarf, who hail from somewhere called Perth in Western Australia.

Right from the start, with opener “Golden Walrus”, the album bursts from the speakers like Gandalf after a month-long Charles Atlas course.  The songs are tough and uncompromising, yet cerebral.  “Black Thumb” and “Kepler” in particular will make you put your foot down on the accelerator and bang your head – whilst absorbing the intricate tapestry of the universe.

It’s all pounding rhythms and hypnotic, repeating riffs.  On first encounter, the album seems very – shall we say, inspired by – Kyuss and the first Queens of the Stone Age album.  Aaron Soppo (vocals) can even do a pretty convincing Josh Homme impersonation.  Which is no bad thing, in my book – in fact, it’s a sure fired recipe for success.

Further investigation reveals far more than this obvious comparison, however.  As well as a more fuzzed-up guitar sound – not unlike a particularly fried Fu Manchu – there’s a trippy, psychedelic sheen to the muscular groove.  There’s even sitar and didgeridoo on here, in wave after wave of glorious chunky riff and rolling beats.

“The Deluge” illustrates this breadth of feeling with a six minute plus track that undulates between exuberant rocker and introspective meander in just one epic song.

If I have one small criticism, I’d like to hear a track like “Strange Wool” – a mind melting instrumental track that’s quite brilliant – dragged out to three times it’s two-minute length.  Even more development and experimentation would really push Giant Dwarf further into a new dimension.  But keep the edge-of-the-seat rockers too, OK guys?

“Giant Dwarf” comes within a koala’s cock of perfection.  Powerful like the venom of a Death Adder, yet enticing like Natalie Imbruglia.  It really is that good: from out of nowhere, an album that will surely be in my end of year Top Five.

Find Giant Dwarf on Facebook and on Bandcamp.

Check Giant Dwarf out on Spotify here.

There’s some cool stuff on YouTube here and here, too.

PS: apologies for the dig at Australia, it’s just a joke.  I’m sure it’s nice there really.

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.

Obey – Swallow the Sun Album Review

Obey – Swallow the Sun

Self-released, Enso Music Management

Release date: 05/04/2019

Running Time: 37 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

OBEY!  CONSUME!  CONFORM!  Have you seen John Carpenter’s masterpiece of paranoid sci-fi, “They Live”?  It’s out standing.  Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on some special sunglasses and is able to see the aliens living amongst us, brainwashing and controlling society.  With the constant subliminal media messages exposed, Rod and his mates attempt to destroy the conspiracy and free the human race from subjugation.

I don’t know if Obey – the band – have ever seen this awesome movie, but these guys have definitely (to paraphrase Roddy) come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…  And they’re all out of bubblegum.

“Swallow the Sun” is the fourth album from Obey and it doesn’t disappoint.  The listener gets more thunderous, rhythmic riffing that bridges across hard rock and metal, courtesy of Steve Pickin (guitar/vocals), Dan Ryder (guitar/bass) and Ryan Gillespie (Drums).  Add in a progressive, exploratory approach that’s open to wide influences, and what we have here is an album full of ideas that constantly reveals new depths with repeated listens.

Take bombastic opening track “Back Home”: it starts out in familiar crunching guitar riff territory, but unleashes a huge chorus that’s catchier than Velcro underpants.  I wasn’t convinced on first listen, but this melody works so hard that despite being a surprise it’s a winner.

“Drive” offers more of the brutal riffing that Obey are known for, but with lush, melodic moments – not to mention a total classic rock lead.

Midway through the album is “Esmeralda and the Dam Blues”, a track that begins with a mellower, supernatural sound – giving way to a massive, chunky chorus.  These songs are extremely well constructed, taking the listener on a stellar journey that’s refreshing and far from obvious cliché.

Some of Obey’s influences appear to froth to the surface with the album’s title track, which has a feel of Mastodon about it.  Mix in some vintage Prong rifferama and the melodic tendencies of Alice in Chains and you’re a tiny step closer to understanding which star system the planet Obey revolves in.

Obey’s ability to meld face smashing heavy with unexpectedly tuneful moments gives this album it’s unique identity.  “Swallow the Sun” is the kind of album that you can rock out to (can’t wait to see these guys live again), or take your time and listen on headphones to savour the detail.

If anything, I’d like to see further experimentation from Obey as the band grows.  “Star Crusher” is an obscenely huge yet groovy COC style track, but sadly lasts less than a minute.  More experimentation with different interludes and variations of pace and intensity can only add more colour to their cosmic palate.

There’s very little to grumble about with “Swallow the Sun” though.  What we have is an intricately created collection of songs with maximum power and thoughtful embellishments.  Obey are a British band with real talent and ambition – check them out and lend them your support.

And beware of those ugly, skull faced aliens.  They want to keep you in line and be part of the system.  Get yourself some sunglasses and see what’s going on.  Open your eyes and fight!

This review appeared on the Ever Metal website and is reproduced here for your enjoyment.  Click here to visit the Ever Metal website.

www.facebook.com/obeyuk
www.youtube.com/obeyuk
www.instagram.com/obey_ bandpage
obeyuk.bandcamp.com