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.

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.

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 

Spacetrucker – Smooth Orbit Album Review

Spacetrucker – Smooth Orbit

Self released, Dewar PR

Release Date: 17/08/2018

Running Time: 51 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

“Have a listen to Spacetrucker!  I think you’ll like them,” came the recommendation from Rick at Ever Metal HQ.  So I did.  And he was right – the “Smooth Orbit” album is one of the most exciting listens I’ve had for a long, long time.

These psychedelic space monkeys have created a superb stoner rock classic that’s right up my space lane.   Throw in some fuzzy grunge and classic rock and Spacetrucker have achieved the almost impossible: put a huge, acid-warped grin on my ancient, grumbly mug.

First track “Sample of a Sample” warms the jets up nicely for take-off with a trippy lead and some bongos.  Yes, bongos!  Past the two-minute mark it erupts into a face-melter of a riff that had my cranium nodding like an Easter Island statue after some herbal refreshment.

Mike Owen (guitar/vocals), Rob Wagoner (bass/vocals) and Del Toro (drums) seem to be able to magically conjure up the grooves with uncanny ease.  “Meat Wagon” is another brilliant track with a pulsating, infectious riff.

In true lazy journo style (hey, I’ve had a few), Spacetrucker combine the stoner slouch of Fu Manchu and early QOTSA with classic Sabbath and Purple, mixing in some Mudhoney and Melvins fuzzy sludge on the way.  Perfect, in other words.  If any of those bands get your hyper drive firing, this is for you.

There are some Iommi-esque shorter numbers and experimental sounds that add a further dimension to the proceedings, constantly keeping the listener on their toes.  “Vanishing Point, Science of Us” has an almost Nirvana Unplugged vibe before bursting into a crushing rocker.  This is followed by another monster riff with “Pulling Teeth”.

Plus the final track, “Lost in the Sauce”, is over ten minutes long!  An extended jam floats in and builds beautifully, never rushing but enticing the listener along on every step.

This might not be the most critical review I’ve composed, but I don’t care.  “Smooth Orbit” is a triumph of an album and I love it.  The only reason it didn’t get ten out of ten is it needs more references to skateboards and 1970s muscle cars.  Other than that, I need a vinyl version, please.

If any of the above references to sub-genre labels and other bands resonates with you, I urge you do a Boba Fett and track this album down now.

All of this “space trucking” talk reminds me my days working with Deep Purple back in the early seventies.  I was working as the band’s roadie/driver when one time, in the middle of the night in the Arizona desert, we got a flat.  I left the Purps partying in the back whilst I went out in to the freezing, dusty highway to change the tire.  I was distracted for a moment, and I swear bling that I saw several lights zipping about in the sky at unbelievable speeds.  “UFOs!” I thought.

I rushed back onto the bus and dragged the band out to take look (all except Roger Glover, who was busy knitting).  Except when we got outside, the lights had vanished.  The Purps weren’t amused and blamed it on me overindulging in peyote.  Gillan was very gentlemanly about it all and even gave me a hand with the tyre.  Blackmore had a tantrum about the delay and docked me a day’s pay.  The bastard.

 

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

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #16

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 25th January 2019

January is a bloody miserable month, so it was nice to have an event to look forward to.  The event in question was Bring Your Own Vinyl Night – the first one I’d been able to attend (for various reasons) for quite some time.

There was a loose Scottish theme for those who chose to indulge, with it being Burns Night.  Personally I didn’t bother as I had other plans for my setlist.

As it’s been a while, here’s a recap on what Vinyl Night is all about:

Organised by the awesome chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is held in The Queen’s Head, a dependable boozer in Mold.  Aspiring DJs can play a fifteen minute set of any songs they choose, but the format must be vinyl.

Here’s the selection I made:

1968 – Devilswine

This is the opening track from the superb debut album by 1968, “Ballads of the Godless”.  That behemoth of a record was one of my favourites of 2018 – a stoner rock classic in the making.  The song is a heavy, riff fuelled monster with a groove that will make your head nod.  Psychedelic biker rock, retro metal, fuzzed up grunge; call it what you will – these Chester lads know how to rock.

Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – Dream

I’ve long been a fan of Jim Jones’ previous bands like Thee Hypnotics and Jim Jones Revue, so I swiped a copy of this latest musical venture as soon as I could.  The album “Supernatural” is amazing, full of swampy, bluesy rock’n’roll that’s part Stooges, part Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  “Dream” is also the opening track, and it’s lethal.  HIghly recommended.

The Incredible Bongo Band – Bongo Rock

This is a 7″ single that I was lucky to pick up for a few pence in a charity shop.  I really need the album too.  This is early seventies funky soul-pop and extremely groovy.  It will make you want to wear a polo neck jumper and huge flares whilst sporting a gaucho moustache, Beastie Boys style.  The Incredible Bongo Band are an integral part of the story of how Cliff Richard invented hip-hop.  If you don’t believe me, Google it.

RL Burnside – Goin’ Down South

My final track was another opener, this time from RL Burnside’s amazing “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey” LP.  When I first heard this heavy blues stomper on a CD compilation, I knew it had to be mine one day.  An infectious collaboration with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, this was recorded in the nineties but sounds timeless.

In retrospect, it seems that my set inadvertently did have a theme after all – though I swear that the suggestive images of ladies on record covers was purely incidental.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music, hope to see you all again soon.

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #14

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 13th April 2018

It’s been a while since I last attended Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and boy did I miss it.  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold with the chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music to spin some records.

If you’ve missed previous episodes (where HAVE you been?), it works like this:  Each person gets a fifteen minute set to play whatever songs they like, but only on vinyl.  Simple as that.  Throw in some beer and some music based chat and you’re in for a great time.

As it was getting close to Record Store Day, Tom from Halcyon Dreams pitched a challenge for us would-be DJs: our set had to be comprised of artists who would be releasing music on the day.

No problem, I thought.  Here’s how my set went:

Killing Joke – The Wait

To begin, a thunderously loud track from the first Killing Joke album.  A riff so mighty that Metallica covered it for their $5.98 EP, this tune also has an incessant tribal beat under the choppy punk guitar.  A great song from an essential album, in my opinion.  I’ve been a fan of KJ for a long time and they’re still turning out screaming punk/metal/industrial noise to this day.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of Johnny Cash, although I was surprised that this track really seemed to go down well with the pub crowd.  Regular readers will know how big a fan of Johnny Cash I am, he’s just unbeatable.  This classic song was taken from an old compilation I picked up at a record fair, crammed full of great tunes.  I’m glad to say this song seemed very popular!

L7 – Everglade

Another crushing riff, this time from the “Bricks Are Heavy” album from all-girl punk rock grungers L7.  My favourite song from that album, and one of my favourite bands from that era.  I saw the band live a couple of years ago at Download fest, they were amazing.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that girls can’t rock – L7 were the best band of the day.

The Members – Sound of the Suburbs

And finally, an old punk rock classic on 45rpm courtesy of the Members.  This track also seemed popular!  I only have the 7 inch single of this song, so I could do with tracking down some more records by them.  Great fun.

So that wraps up another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and what a great night it was! My mixing skills need some sharpening up, but I really enjoyed myself.  Well done Tom and Colin, looking forward to another bash soon.  I know those guys are very busy, but the Vinyl Nights are always a treat.  See you soon!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

PS – Great food in the Queen’s Head too.  £6 for a massive mixed grill!

Gym Playlist #1

Have you been hitting the gym since the start of the year?  Punishing yourself with cardio and weights as you fight to shed those extra pounds that attached themselves limpet-like over the festive season?

I’ve been slaughtering the gym since the start of the year, but then I always do.  Not that it seems to do any good.

Whilst I’m there, pummelling away at the flab in a vain attempt to get in shape, I need some tunes to motivate me.  The music in the gym is usually dancey disco stuff, which is fine if you’re dancing, but when I’m working out I need something a bit more aggressive.

Albums by various bands get a regular spin, but I also made this iPod playlist to help me focus like a Viking ransacking a monastery.  Sometimes I’m so amped I feel like I could run through the wall, rather than just plodding on the treadmill.

You could do worse than to listen to this cacophony yourself.

  1. Rocket From The Crypt – “Pushed”
  2. Audioslave – “Cochise”
  3. Big Chief – “Lion’s Mouth”
  4. Metallica – “Die Die My Darling”
  5. Foo Fighters – “The Pretender”
  6. Rage Against the Machine – “Guerrilla Radio”
  7. Anthrax – “Only”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “Heaven’s Not Overflowing”
  9. Pantera – “Fucking Hostile”
  10. The Cult – “Rise”
  11. Probot – “Shake Your Blood”
  12. Suicidal Tendencies – “War Inside My Head”
  13. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”

There you go: 47 minutes of energetic, in your face music to psyche you up and get you in the mood to destroy. GO!!!