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.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as a big comic book reader in the 1980s it was kind of inevitable that we’d cross paths.  Cleverly playing with some popular comic tropes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a pop culture phenomenon almost by accident.

I do remember the Ninja Turtles and their creators getting a shout out in the “thank you” list of the “Among the Living” album by thrash metal kings Anthrax.  The book seemed quirky and original, it’s popularity boosted with a reputation for genuinely great writing and art.

Next came the cartoon, a couple of years later.  This was the turtles tidied up for a younger audience and it became a massive hit.  I was about 17 at the time (!), but enjoyed watching the cartoon occasionally as a bit of tongue in cheek fun.  I was being ironic, honest.

The toys that were made at the time were very cool; for the era they seemed very well designed and super detailed.  I was far too old for the action figures, but secretly coveted them from afar.

Eventually I picked up the figure of my favourite turtle, Michaelangelo.  He must have been on sale somewhere post turtles craze,’cos this would’ve been in my student days and thus, extremely poor.  He was a perfect ironic, “look how wacky I am” student possession.

Sadly, Mikey disappeared – I know not where – and once again, I was completely turtle-less.

Until a couple of years ago, when taking my daughter on one of her last trips to Toys R Us, before it closed for good.  They had on sale re-issued turtles, exactly like the old versions I loved, and they were cheap (ish).

I replaced Michaelangelo there and then, and over the next few days was so eager to complete a collection of all four turtles that I returned to buy others.  With a little bit of toy spotting help from my old pal Adam, I was soon in business with a full team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At the moment, I only have the full group of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael.  It would be great to have Splinter, Shredder and more one day, but I doubt they’ll turn up cheap.

The four turtles are great figures, nicely stylised and featuring great detail.  And awesome weapons.

All four are still Mint in Box.  How long can I resist the urge to release the guys from their blister pack prisons?  Surely one night I’ll have had a little bit too much to drink, and decide to tear that plastic from the backing card…

What do you think readers?  Should the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stay in their boxes, or should I open them up?

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.

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!