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.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #11

It’s time for another night of spinning wax and drinking booze, as we endure another Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

This is all about playing through a never ending pile of old 45 rpm vinyl singles, and making the best of it.  Some of these songs are bona fide classics, some are far from it.

The only rules are: play whatever’s in the pile, in order, A side then B side.  No skipping records – however much you may want to.

Here we go:

  1. Elvis Presley – “Are You Lonesome Tonight” / “I Gotta Know”
  2. Frank Sinatra – “Love’s Been Good To Me” / “A Man Alone”
  3. Marcello Minerbi – “Zorba’s Dance” / “L’Isola Del Sole”
  4. Tom Jones – “Without Love” / “A Man Who Know Too Much”
  5. Chas & Dave – “Rabbit” / “Sideboard Song”
  6. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” / “Cabaret”
  7. Bobby Goldsboro – “Honey” / “Danny”
  8. Wonder Dog – “Ruff Mix” / “Living on a Farm”
  9. The Four Tops – “Back to School Again” / The Cast – “Rock-a-Hula-Luau (Summer is Coming)”
  10. Right Said Fred (+others) – “Stick It Out” / “Stick It Out (Aerobic Mix)”
  11. Procul Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” / “Lime Street Blues”
  12. Neil Diamond – “Rainy Day Song” / “Be Mine Tonight”
  13. Spitting Image – “The Chicken Song” / “(I’ve Never Met) A Nice South African”
  14. Carpenters – “Yesterday Once More” / “Road Ode”
  15. Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out For a Hero” / “Faster Than the Speed of Night”
  16. Boney M – “Ma Baker” / “Still I’m Sad”
  17. The Kinks – “Come Dancing” / “Noise”
  18. Haysi Fantyzee – “John Wayne is Big Leggy” / “The Sabres of Paradise”
  19. Depeche Mode – “People Are People” / “In Your Memory”
  20. Roxy Music – “Avalon” / “Always Unknowing”
  21. The Jam – “Just Who is the 5 O’Clock Hero” / The Great Depression”
  22. Blondie – “Dreaming” / “Sound Asleep”
  23. U2 – “Angel of Harlem” / “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel”
  24. The Vanilla Fudge – “You Keep Me Hanging On” / “Take Me For a Little While”
  25. Robert Palmer – “Addicted to Love” / “Remember to Remember”
  26. Canned Heat – “Let’s Work Together” / “I’m Her Man”

A real eclectic selection this time, with not much of preferred rock till the end of the session.  Still some great fun songs, a few novelty hits and some easy listening master pieces there.  In my defence this time, a few of those records were given to me (and I’m stupid enough to take them).

If you’re wondering what Wonder Dog is, it’s basically a pop/disco number with a dog barking the melody.  It’s actually not as bad as it seems.

And I quite enjoyed the Four Tops song – I’ve only just found out that it’s from the film “Grease 2”, which is apparently a disaster.  As the first “Grease” film is garbage,  the sequel must be really bad.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 20/04/2019

Running time: 29 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

 

Back in ’68, I believe it was, though a lot of my memory remains hazy.  It was a small London jazz club, in Chelsea I think, and Hendrix spontaneously got up to jam.  Moon was on drums, John Paul Jones picked up the bass, and Clapton and Pagey jumped up to run through a few blues numbers.  I was in the audience, somewhat refreshed, with a quality geezer who worked as a roadie for Hendrix.  His name was Ian, though everyone called him “Lemmy”.

Anyway, I might have overindulged in something or other, but it was a fantastic night.  I mean, musicians of that calibre sharing the same stage!  Incredible.  Until, that was, Jagger decided he wanted to join in on vocals.  Brian Jones decided to bring his bandmate down a peg or two, and lobbed a huge quiche at old rubber lips.  Bosh, hit him straight in the mush.  Jagger was not happy.  The next thing you know, Moon chucks his sticks at Mickey Dolenz and all hell breaks loose.

There was cake and vol-au-vents everywhere.  It took me days to clean the sausage rolls out of Pagey’s pick-ups.  But that was the sixties, you know?  All good fun.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip does a great job of bringing back the vibes from that time.  Compiled by Riding Easy Records, it consists of ten rare shots of proto-metal and stoner rock from the late 60s and early seventies.  These tracks are so long lost, whoever raided the tombs they were in probably received an ancient curse for disturbing them.

The songs on offer aren’t really of the sheer riff heavy variety that Black Sabbath would perfect, but if you’re interested in hearing how rock’n’roll was deep fried in LSD and pushed to the limit, there are some fine nuggets here.

The first track, “School Daze” by Attack!, has a real MC5 hell-for-leather rock’n’roll feel.  That greasy, take-no-prisoners Detroit approach serves them well.  Up next is White Rock with “Please Don’t Run Away”, a glorious fuzzed out, scuzzy rocker.  The brilliantly named Luke and the Apostles give us “Not Far Off”, featuring fabulous throaty vocals over a dynamite slab of blues rock.

There’s plenty more psychedelic, acid drenched fare that will resonate with fans of Hendrix, Cream, Mountain and even early Alice Cooper.  “I Need My Music” by the Tourists is another highlight, along with Moloch’s “Cocaine Katy”.  There’s a reassuring low-fi sound to the whole thing, with occasional faint vinyl crackles even, that gives the enterprise some charm.

Of the two covers on offer here, Inside Experience’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is fine but doesn’t challenge the original.  On the other hand, the wonderfully named Grump take the King’s “Heartbreak Hotel” out on a glorious, whiskey fuelled Leo Sayer and don’t hand it back till it’s puked it’s kebab up in the back of the taxi.

The tracks compiled for Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip may not change your life, but there’s plenty to enjoy.  If you’re not already a fan of rock music from this period, then think of this as a history lesson and indulge yourself.  Just be careful what you indulge yourself in, eh?

Right then, gin and tonic, anyone?

Track List

  1. Attack! – “School Daze”
  2. White Rock – “Please Don’t Run Away”
  3. River Side – “Wayfarer”
  4. Luke and the Apostles – “Not Far Off”
  5. Tourists – “I Need My Music”
  6. Bartos Brothers Band – “Gambler”
  7. Inside Experience – “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Karma – “New Mexico”
  9. Moloch – “Cocaine Katy”
  10. Grump – “Heartbreak Hotel”

 

https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

https://ridingeasyrecords.bandcamp.com/

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https://twitter.com/EasyRiderRecord

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Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #9

Come in, number 9!  Yes, it’s another night of spinning 45s and boozing – a ritual I like to call Singles Night.  Because I play 7″ singles, obviously.  There’s an ever growing stack of 45 rpm singles and I need to deal with them.  This is the latest session.

Starting off with Elvis, as is now tradition, what other wonders will we hear?

  1. Elvis Presley – “Always On My Mind” / “Separate Ways”
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Happy House” / “Drop Dead” / “Celebration”
  3. Albert King – “The Very Thought of You” / “I Get Evil”
  4. Queen – “Los Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love” / “Cool Cat”
  5. ABBA – “The Winner Takes It All” / “Elaine”
  6. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” / “Big Change in the Weather”
  7. Bryan Ferry – “The Price of Love” / “Shame, Shame, Shame” / “Heart On My Sleeve” / “Its Only Love”
  8. The Steve Miller Band – “Abracadabra” / “Never Say No”
  9. The Rolling Stones – “The Last Time” / “Play with Fire”
  10. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” / “Girl Get Ahold of Yourself”
  11. Donovan & Jeff Beck Group – “Barabajagal” / “Trudi”
  12. The Kyriakos – “More Greek Themes: Syneeta Platia” / “Mia Fora Monaha Ftani” / “Moraxia” / “Iliachtida”
  13. Boney M – “Rasputin” / “Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night”
  14. Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass – “The Lonely Bull” / “Acapulco 1922”
  15. Yardbirds – “For Your Love” / “Got to Hurry”
  16. Billie Jo Spears – “Blanket on the Ground” / “Come on Home”
  17. Tony Bennett – “(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco” / “Candy Kisses”
  18. Geordie – “She’s a Teaser” / “We’re Alright Now”
  19. Neil – “Hole in My Shoe” / “Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man”
  20. Talk Talk – “Life’s What You Make It” / “Life’s What You Make It (Live)”
  21. The Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy – “Peter Gunn” / “Something Always Happens”
  22. The B-52’s – “Roam” / “Whammy Kiss (Live)” / “Dance This Mess Around (Live)”
  23. Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet” / “Blue on Blue”

Wow, another eclectic bunch of tracks there!  Points of particular interest include Geordie, who feature (of course) the legendary Brian Johnson in his pre-AC/DC days.  And yes, that is Neil, alias Nigel Planer, from the Young Ones.

Several genres covered there and a fine evening’s listen.  More soon!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #6

Welcome to another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub with your host, Platinum Al!

As previous, I spent the evening listening to a stack of 45 rpm singles that I’d acquired over time from several sources.  Whilst imbibing some fine alcohol.  The following is a list of those singles, A and B sides listened to in order.

There are some particularly sweet slabs of vinyl in this edition.  As always, however, we’re never too far away from some rank cheese…

  1. INXS – “The Gift” / “The Gift (Extended Mix)”
  2. Sweet – “Action” / “Sweet F.A.”
  3. Rod Stewart – “Reason to Believe” / “Maggie May”
  4. The KLF – “America: What Time is Love?” / “America No More”
  5. ABBA – “Mamma Mia” / “Tropical Loveland”
  6. Elvis Presley – “Trouble” / “Young Dreams” / “Crawfish” / “Dixieland Rock”
  7. Cream – “Strange Brew” / “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy” / “I’m Too Sexy (Instrumental)”
  9. Anthrax – “Indians” / “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” / “Taint”
  10. The Stranglers – “All Day and All of the Night” / “Viva Vlad!”
  11. W.A.S.P. – “I Don’t Need No Doctor” / “Widowmaker”
  12. Beastie Boys – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” / “Time to Get Ill”
  13. Iron Maiden – “The Clairvoyant” / “The Prisoner”
  14. AC/DC – “Let’s Get It Up” / “Back in Black”
  15. Yes – “Into the Lens” / “Does It Really Happen?”
  16. Marillion – “Incommunicado” / “Going Under”
  17. Kim Wilde – “Cambodia” / Watching for Shapes”
  18. The Beatles – “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”
  19. The Spencer Davis Group – “Keep On Running” / “Somebody Help Me” / “Every Little Bit Hurts” / “I’m a Man” / “Gimme Some Lovin'”
  20. Booker T and the M.G.s – “Time is Tight” / “Hang ‘Em High”
  21. The Byrds – “Mr Tambourine Man” / “I Knew I’d Want You”
  22. The Skids – “Circus Games” / “Onedecree”
  23. Manuel & The Music of the Mountains – “The Portugese Washer Women” / “Never on Sunday”

Note: the B-side of the Anthrax single is actually their track “Imitation of Life”. 

I’m mighty proud of that selection.  Not that I had anything to do with it, the choice was random – I just took whatever disc was top of the pile and made my way through.

But what a bunch of scorchers!  One of my favourite Beatles tracks; Cream; Booker T; some classic metal and the Beastie Boys.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Or rather, it won’t.  Most of the rest of the pile of 7″ singles isn’t up to that quality…

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?