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.

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.

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.

Torqued – Coup de Grace EP Review

Torqued – Coup de Grace EP

Self-released

Release date: 29/03/2019

Running Time: 20 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Regular Ever Metal readers may remember that Torqued’s 2018 EP, “Resurgence” was reviewed by yours truly not that long ago.  You may also recall that I declared a new EP from the band would be released soon.  So soon, in fact, that the EP is already out and I’m hurriedly trying to cobble this write up together!

“Coup de Grace” builds on the successful formula we heard on the previous collection, but piles on the intensity.  This time, Torqued are taking us into deeper, darker territory – a trip into the recesses of the mind where anxiety and depression fester.  Great lead vocals from Marc are spat out with vitriol, the tortured lyrics given malevolent form.

Musically, the four tracks on the EP deliver a battering ram to the senses.  Opening with the title track, Torqued are in full-on attack mode with crushing metal.  “Open Wound” follows with a relentless pounding, which bleeds effortlessly into a mighty lead guitar break from Rimmy.

Savage riffs are tempered with passages of melancholic breaks, perfectly executed in “The Darkest of Shadows”.  All of these songs are multi layered, featuring haunting lead and even keyboards (?) beneath the main pummelling.  Very cleverly put together – it’s as if we’re hearing the conflicting emotions within someone’s head.

The songs gallop along with a groove thanks to Kurt’s drumming and Marc’s bass, as demonstrated in final track: “The Revelation”.  Torqued have also tempered their sound with a Trent Reznor-like despondency that’s added a further dimension to their music.

So, there you have it – a blistering hot metal EP that drips with torment.  Torqued have cooked up a winner with “Coup de Grace” and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.  I predict… Nah, that would be telling!

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

https://torqued.co.uk/

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

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 

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/

Melvins – Gig Review

Melvins + Big Business

Friday 9th October 2015

Gorilla, Manchester

I had been waiting for this for a long time.  As a long time fan of the Melvins, it seems inexplicable that I’ve never seen them live before.  But then I rarely travel to Manchester for gigs.  2015 has been the year of live music for Platinum Al; as such the planets aligned, the tickets were bought, the wheels were rolling towards the big city and it was on.  Finally, I would witness the wonder of the Melvins.

And not just the Melvins – the support slot went to Big Business, a two piece of bass and drums in a similar mould to the mighty headliners.  Of course, anyone who knows their Black Flag from their Black Sabbath will tell you that Jared and Coady of this band also perform with Buzz and Dale to create the steaming sonic soup with lumpy riff croutons that is the Melvins. Melvins

The Big Business set was extremely impressive in it’s own right.  As I said, the band is just bass and drums, yet the almighty noise they make is astounding for a two piece.  They play a solid set that could’ve been a main course of the evening’s entertainment.  Big grooves, pounding drums and awesome sound scapes create a fine appetiser.

Gorilla in Manchester is some sort of restaurant/bar thing, with a stage at the back for live shows.  It’s seems more in scale with stand up comedy gigs, but despite the modest size it’s a great place to see the band – close up, good views and sound.  The beer is a bit expensive, but I got a Melvins (official!) t-shirt for a tenner!  Yeah!!!

So anyway, the Melvins arrive on stage as a four piece – Buzz, Dale, Jared and Coady – and we’re off.  It’s a gig unlike any I’ve experienced ever before.  There’s no breaks; no chat with the audience; no introducing the songs – the band just plough through their catalogue of fantastic songs and drag the audience along with them.  The audience follow willingly, of course – and the band don’t ignore us – it’s a unique unspoken agreement that we’re all along for a hell of a musical journey.

The music is heavy, sludgy, intense – exactly what I expected and wanted.  There are several songs from newer albums (“The Water Glass”, “Evil New War God” – both superb).  Older classics like “Sweet Willy Rollbar” and “It’s Shoved” are given a welcome play too.  The absolute high light for me though is “Civilised Worm” – what a riff!

The power of the riff is what the Melvins are all about.  Buzz’s guitar is astoundingly heavy, yet also shines with artistic flourishes and strange sounds to keep the listener guessing.  The bass is relentless yet groovy, hammering home the riffs.  Add dual drummers and ears were ringing for days.

It was a truly intense live experience and one I’m really glad I saw.  Unlike anything else and worthy of the hype, the Melvins are a unique band and I love them.

Did I mention I got a t-shirt for a tenner??!!