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.

Sweet – Gig Review

Sweet + Novatines

Wednesday 11th December 2019

Buckley Tivoli

What could be better at this time of year than a bit of proper, 1970’s glam rock?  Sweet never had a world conquering Crimbo hit like Slade, but they did have a ton of mega singles that are totally inextricable from the days of seventies glam.  After missing the band when they played Buckley Tivoli last year, I wanted to make sure I was there this time around.

Support band The Novatines seemed like a decent hard rock proposition, however I arrived late and missed the bulk of their set.  Worthwhile checking out another time though.

Andy Scott is the only remaining member from this version of Sweet’s classic line-up.  He’s a local lad – well, Wrexham is just a few miles away – so it’s nice to see him and the band on near enough home ground.  Andy Scott is also a bona fide rock god: his guitar playing is exceptional; the trademark high pitched backing vocals are ball-squeezingly present and correct; his banter funny and his charisma epic.  He’s the real deal.

The rest of the band are a fine bunch of musicians, and together they smash out both the bubblegum pop hits and the rockier tracks.  It’s this combination of pop sensibilities and rock skills that have made Sweet inspirational for generations of music fans.

Starting off with one of my absolute favourite tracks, “Action”, it’s clear that this is going to be a night of delivering the goods.  The set features all the obvious gems: “Hellraiser”, “The Six Teens”, “Sweet F.A.”, “Wig Wam Bam” and “Little Willy” before closing with another personal fave, “Fox on the Run”.

Everything is performed brilliantly, and the audience clearly love every second.  It’s also nice to note that I’m in the younger age range at this particular gig!

Finally, the band return for an encore of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” – two songs that are really no surprise, but could not be left out.  No way, Jose – there’s have been a blitz at the Tivoli Ballrooms had they been omitted.

So a rare Wednesday night out at a gig for me, but well worth the effort.  Some may find Sweet too lightweight in an era that gave us Alice Cooper and Bowie; I thoroughly enjoyed it.  A solid band of fantastic musicians performing well loved (and under rated) songs.

This is one Sweet I’d like a second helping of.  I’ve definitely got a Sweet tooth.  And so on.

Buckcherry – Gig Review

Buckcherry + The Treatment + Rocky Kramer

Friday 1st November

Buckley Tivoli

It’s ridiculous how long it’s been since I last wrote a gig review.  Time to end that drought with a write-up of a great band in one of my favourite local venues: yes, it’s the mighty Buckcherry at the Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales.

Yes, you read that right – US rock’n’roll giants Buckcherry were playing the Tiv.  This legendary venue has welcomed many amazing bands over the years, and happily I’ve seen quite a few of them.  Also sadly missed quite a few too, so I was determined not to miss this gig.  Tickets were snapped up, super quick style.

The Tivoli was buzzing on arrival, the place was already busy and best of all – the main bar was open!  Opening band Rocky Kramer had already started their set, so I grabbed a beer with my compadre, Ben the Swede, and checked them out.

Rocky and his band were very professional, and obviously extremely capable musicians.  It was a bit melodic and keyboard heavy for my personal tastes, but they seemed to go down well with the already excited audience.

Up next were UK rockers The Treatment.  This was a more gutsy affair altogether: their hard rock was energetic and brash; the sound bringing favourable comparisons to a certain massively successful Australian band that I can’t quite remember the name of…  It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll, but The Treatment put on a great show that carried them far.

Buckcherry have never been afraid of rock’n’roll.  They seemed something of an anomaly in a post grunge world infested with sportsgear-wearing New Metal, but they stuck to their diamond-encrusted guns.  And thank God they did.  Opening with a thunderous version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole”, their set was overflowing with swaggering anthems.

“Lit Up” was obviously a highlight, but the whole gig was an electrifying performance.  Sadly, I missed the classic track “Crazy Bitch” when I went to the bar (I know, please shoot me) but made it back for the encore of “Say Fuck It”, a gloriously foul mouthed monster that finished the night off.

My only complaint was that the gig seemed maybe 15 minutes too short – hence my poor bar visit timing.  I thought we had a good half an hour left.  No complaints though, Buckcherry put on a fully entertaining testament to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll that was worth every penny.

And finally, well done again to the Tivoli, who managed to stage something of a coup and host yet another world-class band.  Thank you!

Entombed – Clandestine Live Album Review

Entombed – Clandestine Live

Threeman Records

Release date: 17/05/2019

Running Time: 56 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Live albums, as I’ve stated before, are something of an issue for me.  They should be devoured ravenously, but sometimes, like vegetable pizza, they just don’t live up to expectations.

Too often, live albums suffer with poor sound, ruining the immersive experience.  Other times, they’re just a cynical cash-in to milk fans of more money, when there’s no new product to flog.

Occasionally, a live recording will deliver the goods – and even I have to admit that this album from Entombed is pretty damn impressive.

What we have here is Entombed celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic “Clandestine” album with a performance of the work in full, from start to finish.  Original members Nicke Andersson (drums), Uffe Cederlund (guitar) and Alex Hellid (guitar) are joined by Robert Andersson (vocals) and Edvin Aftonfalk (bass) – both from Morbus Chron.  These five musicians recreate a mighty masterpiece which is both exciting and vital.

“Clandestine” was Entombed’s second album, and followed in the footsteps of its predecessor to help breathe life into Death Metal.  With this concert performance, the sound is great – those buzzsaw guitars really attack the senses – showing the band are on top form.  Audience noise is present, but not intrusive, actually helping put the record in context nicely.

The songs are still just as savage, just as brutal – serving as a fine reminder of just how great “Clandestine” was.  Or is.  All of the tracks are meticulously recreated, but it sounds as intended – as a tribute and celebration, not a cash in.  “Left Hand Path” (from the debut album), tagged on at the end, makes the listener crave more.

Great live recordings should enable the listener to feel like they were actually there.  The performance and sound must be both representative of the studio material, yet also have the power to immerse the listener in the experience.  Entombed have succeeded in capturing a great performance and atmosphere with “Clandestine Live”.  Fans will be rabid for this; for the uninitiated it’s well worth investigating.

Still, I can only award 8 out of 10 – because as good as this is, I can’t help wishing we had new material from Entombed to gorge on.

Fun live album fact: if you play Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” backwards, you’ll hear Bruce Dickinson rehearsing voice-overs for Lucozade adverts.  FACT!

The Entombed website is here.

You can reach Entombed on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Oh, and they’re on YouTube too, here.

Finally, don’t forget to check out Ever Metal, which is where this review first appeared.

Torqued – Resurgence EP Review

Another review I wrote recently for Ever Metal, reproduced here for any stragglers:

Torqued – Resurgence EP

Self released

Release date: July 2018

Running Time: 34 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

AAARRRGGH!!  Run for your lives!  The machines have risen, they’ll destroy us all!  Humanity can never survive the relentless, cruel onslaught of metal machinery in revolt!

Wait, no – it’s OK.  It’s just the start of the first track, “Forgotten Soul”, on Torqued’s brutal “Resurgence” EP.  Phew, thank goodness for that…

Bursting out of the gates, this “groove laden heavy metal” trio call the southern UK their home.  This is their debut EP, one I was keen to review having caught them live at last year’s Pentre Fest.

Both the opening song and the follow up, “Follow Me”, rage with a Machine Head like power.  It’s full on, crunching metal – like Robocop driving a Mustang full-pelt into a tin can factory.  Lead vocals are barked by Marc, who also handles the bass duties in satisfyingly chunky fashion.

Third track, “Overload, I Die Inside” changes gears with a spellbinding instrumental opening section.  I really loved the slow build up, starting with Kurt’s tribal pounding as Rimmy’s melodic guitar begins to chime.  It builds to an Eastern sounding riff, before settling into a huge groove that would make classic Pantera jealous.

“Hollow Core” then shifts the pace up a bit, with another fierce yet catchy riff.  Great spooky breakdown in the middle, too!

The final two tracks are live versions of tracks 3 and 4.  Usually I’m sceptical about live tracks as just filler, but here they do serve to demonstrate that Torqued can dish this stuff up in a live setting.

The “Resurgence” EP is a great introduction to a band with a hell of a lot going for them.  I’d like to hear a full album rather than just an EP, but have no fear – the next EP is on its way very soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this initial sampler from Torqued.  Before your toaster or lawnmower try to kill you.

Visit Ever Metal for all your Rock and Metal action!

Visit Torqued at https://torqued.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Torquedband/

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud album review

Another album review wot I wrote has appeared on the excellent EVER METAL website.  Please go take a look at the website, it’s awesome!  My review is reproduced here for your pleasure:  

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud

Psychout Records

Release date: 16/02/2018

Running Time:

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

Live albums, eh?  I’m not a huge fan.  A lot of the time they’re just cynical exercises in fleecing fans, getting them to pay again for songs they’ve already got.  And usually poorer quality, due to being in a “live” setting.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  Back in my days with KISS, the boys were struggling to step up to the mega bucks level after their first few albums.  I proposed that they record a live album, in order to try and capture their incredible live show.  That was what they were good at, see?  The studio albums were good, but live – wow, those kids could rock.  So eventually the four prima donnas came round to my suggestion, released “KISS – Alive” – and their super star status was assured.  Bang!  Mega platinum seller, through the roof, KISS had arrived.

Thanks to me.

Which brings me to this live release from Imperial State Electric.  Although it’s called “Anywhere Loud”, it could’ve been another KISS live album.  It’s big, bold and brash in a very Seventies Rock kinda way.  It’s almost like we’ve stepped into a time machine and arrived back in 1976.  Not that I’m complaining – these guys are all about fun, over the top rock’n’roll – just how it used to be.

A whopping 23 songs, the album certainly doesn’t scrimp on the tunes.  There are plenty of them, and the sound is reassuringly good throughout.  Snippets of audience noise and banter, applause and well performed improvisations help keep the energy – and authenticity – pushing the meters to overload.

Outstanding tracks in this collection include the catchy riffs of “Apologize”, “Reptile Brain” and “Uh Huh” – plus there’s a hint of their punkier side with a blinding version of The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer”.  If you’re a fan of KISS, Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult then “Anywhere Loud” is for you.  If, however, you’re not a worshipper of Seventies Rock like those aforementioned bands, this release probably won’t change your mind.

Which brings me back to KISS.  Of course the masks were my idea.  Though originally, I’d planned on Peter, the drummer, wearing a samurai style number.  So, you’d have had the Star Child, the Demon, the Space Ace and the Samurai.  Pretty good, yeah?  Except Peter changed his mind last minute and decided to be a cat, for fuck’s sake.  And just look how that worked out.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?