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.

Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights Album Review

Here’s another review I wrote for Ever Metal, which I can share with you now.  This album was also one of my Top 10 of 2019…

Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights

Rise Up and Fall Records

Release date: ?

Running time: 30 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Curse you, Speedealer!  I had pretty much decided on my Top 10 albums for 2019, and then these guys turn up with this rocket fuelled bruiser of a record.  The year had started off slowly, to be honest – but great new music has been arriving at a rapid pace recently.  And just when I was about to bed down for a long winter nap, Speedealer turned everything up to 11 and ruined my plans.

The album is called “Blue Days, Black Nights”.  It’s fast, crazy, adrenaline pumped rock’n’roll and it never stops pounding home the righteous sounds till it’s brief-but-beautiful 30 minute lifespan is over.  At which point, I tend to just start again from the beginning.

The first song is called “Never New” and it smashes in, steals your whiskey and is gone in under a minute and a half.  That’s reckless by anyone’s standards.

It ain’t all super-fast punk’n’roll though, there’s many a change of pace to be heard.  “Rheumatism” and “War Nicht Genug” both feature riffs that are heavy and brutal.  Elsewhere, in “Sold Out”, the band unleash a tortured performance of a song that would be a blues rocker, but is far too dense and violent for that phrase to fit snugly.

Never mess with Texas, goes the old saying.  And these Texan boys do not fanny about AT ALL on this fine collection of tunes.  Instead, “Blue Days Black Nights” will drag you along like an out of control stag party: full of booze-filled fun, ridiculous antics and dangerous detours.  I’m deducting half a point for the terrible cover art, otherwise this one’s a killer.

FUN FACT: Speedealer used to be called REO Speedealer – which let’s face it, is a much better name – until REO Speedwagon got wind of it and issued a cease and desist.  Anyone with a sense of humour would surely take that name as an homage, right?   You’d think the miserable old bastards would’ve enjoyed being put back on the map.

What’s that?  Ever Metal’s lawyers are on the phone?  Court order from who?  Oops…

Speedealer can be found online at: speedealerband.com

You can also find Speedealer on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

And don’t forget to check out Ever Metal here.

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.

The Electric Mud – Burn the Ships Album Review

Another album review that appeared not too long ago on EVER METAL – now catching up on my site:

The Electric Mud – Burn the Ships

Self Released (Dewar PR)

Release date: 23/08/2019

Running time: 38 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Let’s get the important stuff covered off first.  For any of you who thought this band were something to do with that lot from the seventies who sang “Tiger Feet”, you’re wrong.  The Electric Mud have very little in common with their glam rock similar-name sakes.  Of course, a professional such as myself would never make a mistake like that.

The Electric Mud hail from Fort Myers, Florida – and specialise in a making a steaming hot gumbo of stoner rock and dense, swampy blues.

“Burn the Ships” is the Electric Mud’s second album.  Through the course of seven songs, the listener travels from the sweltering everglades through time and space – as vintage sounds melt with modern.

Opening track “Call the Judge” oozes an irresistible Southern rock’n’roll groove, starting proceedings with a triumphant swagger.  Grab a beer and a whiskey chaser, you know it’s going to be a lively night in the Roadhouse.

The Electric Mud show their stoner credentials on tracks like “Priestess”, which melds inventive riffs with pace and dynamics.  “Good Monster” weaves funky, head bobbing grooves and “Reptile” lunges out of the depths, attacking like a gator whose mother’s been made into a pair of shoes.

There’s some stunning musicianship on display here; the guitars of Constantine Grim and Pete Kolter are crunchy yet nimble when required.  Tommy Scott’s bass rumbles and glides perfectly.  Pierson Whicker’s drums can smash and bang yet can be refined when necessary.  Kolter’s voice, smoky yet soulful, is an addictive asset in itself.

Songs range from rocking brawlers to heartfelt blues with awesome proficiency.  “Black Wool” and “Terrestrial Birds” showcase these slower moments really well, allowing the music to breathe and worm its way under your skin.

The variety of sound – together with the confident delivery and clever song writing – is what makes “Burn the Ships” engaging and successful.  In the best tradition of stoner rock, The Electric Mud can combine old and new, fast and smooth, dirty and graceful.  Their Southern charm, marinated in the blues, give this band their unique identity.

Although it feels maybe one song too short, “Burn the Ships” is full of character and demands repeat listens.

By the way, I used to see quite a bit of Mud – and lots of other glam rock bands – in the early seventies.  Mud used to take a paddling pool everywhere with them, to do some backstage mud wrestling.  Hence the name, you see?  Though it never worked.  Not once did they persuade lovely dance troupe Pan’s People to get involved.  Or Suzi Quatro.  It usually just ended with the band in the mud bath, drunk on Babycham and fighting with Slade.

The Electric Mud website is here.

The Electric Mud Facebook page is here; Twitter is here and Instagram is here.

Find The Electric Mud on Bandcamp here.

The Best of 2019

Happy New Year, readers!  And welcome back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub – the web’s number one virtual location for soaking in warm, relaxing waters and enjoying my virtual adventures.

What a year 2019 has been.  I’ve been to Comic Cons; written album reviews for Ever Metal; indulged in another traditional Halloween Horror Fest – and finally managed to get to a few gigs.  Food and drinks reviews, as well as toy and tat blogs, have also made a comeback.

But what have been the most popular and widely read blogs in the last year?  Let’s rewind the clocks and take a look, with a good ol’ countdown from ten to the number one spot…

10. Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

At last!  Some Halloween Horror Fest love, with my final set of reviews breaking into the Top 10.  A first for my horror movie reviews, as far as I remember.  A triple bill of The Wolf Man, Little Shop of Horrors and Lust for a Vampire.

9. New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

All about my latest skate set-up, including sexy pictures of a very fine skateboard.

8. Ewok Village Playset

My vintage Star Wars Ewok Village playset made a welcome appearance.  I must feature some more of my collection in the future.

7. That Beer Place

Very happy to see such a cool local beer emporium prove so popular.  Well done, That Beer Place!

6. Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

A great day out, and the blog didn’t fare too badly at all.  No sign of Part 2 in the countdown, though…

5. Death by Tacos, Chester

The number one food place in Chester makes a justified appearance in the Top 5 most popular blogs.  Awesome food and service.

4. Tat Trek Update #8: Jo Guest Strip Pen

Miracle of miracles – an item from my Tat collection rockets into the most popular blogs for the first time ever!  Perhaps the saucy nature of the Jo Guest strip pen is to blame…

3. Wales Comic Con 2019

Always a great Comic Con, with fantastic guests and most importantly – as evidenced by this blog – amazing cosplay.

2. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

The first part of my visit to the NEC for Comic Con made it to the number two spot.  Few words but plenty of brilliant cosplay.

And now – announcing the Most Read Blog of 2019 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  What could it be?  Why it’s…

1. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

Only a couple of views more than Part 1, but Part 2 takes the crown for the most popular blog this year!

It’s great to see a variety of different topics be successful this year.  Comic conventions, food and skateboards always fare well, but I’m very happy to see Star Wars toys and a bit of tat break through for the first time.I’ll endeavour to deliver more in 2020 – who knows what we’ll see?

My thanks to all my readers over the last year – I appreciate every single view, like and comment.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.