Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2019

2019 has been an exceptional year for new music.  It started off slowly, but by the end of the year I was struggling to keep up.

As per last year, Ever Metal asked me to produce a Top Ten of my favourite rock and metal albums of the year.  So here we go:

  1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
  2. Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights
  3. Obey – Swallow The Sun
  4. Acid Reign – The Age of Entitlement
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Very Uncertain Times
  8. Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf
  9. Monolord – No Comfort
  10. Crobot – Motherbrain

All fantastic records.  Honorable mentions this time to Kadavar, Firebreather, L7, Wizard Rifle and Duel.

For more rock reviews, interviews and top tens, head over to Ever Metal.

Happy New Year everybody – wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

And thanks for vising Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!  Make sure you come back next year, and if you’ve got any requests or suggestions, please get in touch.

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.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #13

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th September 2017

It’s Vinyl Night!  Once again, Halcyon Dreams hosted the Bring Your Own Vinyl Night at the Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales.  An evening of beer, good company and – of course – spinning tunes!

You know the drill by now, so I’ll fast forward straight to my set.

There was a theme this time, which I stumbled on whilst playing these records over the previous months.  I decided to play songs that weren’t performed in the English language, which produced a few interesting ideas.  Here are the ones that made the cut:

Anhrefn – Molly Melys/Rhedeg I Paris

As I was in Mold, how could I not kick things off with something Welsh?  Anhrefn were a superb Welsh language punk band that I saw several times back in the early 90s.  I had a cassette of their album “Dragon’s Revenge” from those days, and successfully tracked down a vinyl copy not long ago.  This is actually two tracks – sorry, a bit sneaky: “Molly Melys” is a traditional folk song evoking Celtic tradition.  It’s a short, mellow introduction before it suddenly erupts into “Rhedeg I Paris”, a fast paced, energetic, melodic rocker in the vein of the Clash.  Fantastic!

Cypress Hill – Loco En El Coco

This is, of course, the Cypress Hill track “Insane in the Brain” but performed with Spanish lyrics.  Taken from “Los Grandes Exitos en Espanol” – their Greatest Hits in Spanish – and for some reason these versions just sound even funkier in Spanish.  I love the whole album for that reason.  Check it out, I recommend it.

Faith No More – Evidence (Italian Version)

This isn’t the “funk metal” Faith No More you may know.  Rather, this is a kind of smooth jazz-funk hybrid from the album “King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime”, here performed in Italian.  Apparently singer Mike Patton is multi lingual and there are versions of this track in several other languages too.  It’s a great song, showing FNM stretching out and writing something across musical boundaries: and it really works. 

Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi

And finally, I went with this French language pop punk/faux punk/new wave confection.  It’s a fun little treat that bounces along with a life of it’s own.  Loads of fun to end the set.

That was it, set over.  All songs in different languages.  I could have chosen a few others (I have a record by Kvelertak in Norwegian) but I figured that would do.

A great night again – thanks all!  Who knows if there’ll be a theme next time.  I’m just looking forward to another Vinyl Night!

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.

Pentre Fest 2017

Pentre Fest

Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th June 2017

McLean’s Pub, Deeside

Three days of the heaviest of metal, featuring underground, unsigned bands from across the UK, walking distance from my house.  How could I resist?

I’ve been to McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside several times over the years – usually for functions such as birthdays.  I had no idea, though, that they were regularly hosting gigs of the rock/metal variety.  Pentre Fest came out of the blue, but I managed to make it down for Saturday evening.

Pentre is a small area within Deeside, North Wales – and McLeans a fairly well known pub/function place.  Take it from me, the fact that Pentre Fest existed was a surprise at first.

As I was late arriving, I missed the first few bands, including the excellent Bad Earth.  I’ve seen them a while ago supporting Karma to Burn and they were excellent.  A bad start for me, I fully intend to see Bad Earth again sometime.

The first band I witnessed were Pelugion – they were a great introduction to the festival.  A metal band with a healthy element of stoner/doom, Pelugion rocked out in a Judas Priest or Megadeth vein.  They also excelled when they got into a slower, Sabbath like groove – bringing to mind Alice in Chains or Soundgarden.  Really impressive.

Outside the actual venue was a marque hosting acoustics acts.  This was proved handy between bands, especially on a sunny day like this when you could sip a beer outside with some live entertainment.

I saw Pelugion again performing a great acoustic set, which culminated in a heartbreakingly good version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”.  Serious hairs standing up on back of the neck time.  Wonderful stuff – the Pelugion singer has pipes indeed.

The names of other acts in the acoustic tent escaped me (sorry everyone), but I did see a fantastic one-man rendition of Tenacious D’s “Tribute”, and a band doing some classic rock covers.  And I do love me some classic rock.

Back inside, next up were Impavidus from Manchester way.  Their set consisted of some incredibly locked in, expertly performed and aggressive metal.  With a sound not too far away from Carcass, the pleasant surprise with this band is the amazing singer, who happens to be female.  There just aren’t enough girls in rock/metal, but Michelle impressed with a vocal ranging from slinky Siouxsie Sioux to a commanding metal growl.  Excellent show from all of the band, across the board – and a decent bunch of folks, too.

Up next on the indoor main stage were thrash titans Incinery.  Their scorching hot set of purest thrash metal glistened with speed and precision.  Obvious comparisons would be Slayer at their fastest, with the riffs of Testament or even Sepultura.  Absolutely no fucking about delivery and really gripping viewing, Incinery bring back the best of old school thrash and drag it with them into the future.

Amusingly, in a very Phoenix Nights kind of way, whilst all this blistering metal was being unleashed on the main stage, there was 60th birthday party in the next room.  Absolutely bloody hilarious!  I wonder what Granny made of it…?

But back to the music, and next on the bill were Haerken (apologies for the spelling, I can’t find the right symbol on my keyboard).  A different tale altogether from what we’ve experienced so far, Haerken introduced some Medieval themed mayhem with a killer presentation.  Dressed like knights or druids etc, their Olde Worlde death fest was brilliantly presented and featured some intricate musicianship.  Sharp as a gleaming sword and just as lethal.

Finally, headlining Saturday night, were the exquisitely named Sodomized Cadaver, from good old South Wales.  With a band name and song titles in the classic controversy baiting death metal style, it was obvious what we would be getting.  The heaviest band of the day, with a brutal rip-your-face-off  musical attack, these boys mercilessly slaughtered the gathered metal hordes.  Vastly entertaining, their savage yet brilliantly played Metel Angau* was murderously superb.

And that was it.  At least for me, as I could only attend Saturday.  Next year, I’m attending all three days and YOU’RE COMING TOO.

Awesome live music from the metal underground, Pentre Fest also delivered a great atmosphere and camaraderie amongst some very cool people.  Let’s have another!

The Facebook page for Pentre Fest is here.  There are links to all the bands over the full weekend – do the research, it’s worth it.

The McLeans Pub Live FB page is here.

* I am reliably informed that this is Welsh for Death Metal.

St. David’s Day Playlist

Happy St. David’s Day!

To celebrate, here’s my Wales themed playlist, featuring some of the great Welsh artists from over the years.

  1. Tom Jones – “Green, Green Grass of Home”
  2. Manic Street Preachers – “A Design for Life”
  3. Catatonia – “International Velvet”
  4. Feeder – “Buck Rogers”
  5. Goldie Lookin Chain – “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do”
  6. Budgie – “Breadfan”
  7. Duffy – “Mercy”
  8. Super Furry Animals – “Ice Hockey Hair”
  9. Stereophonics – “Local Boy in the Photograph”
  10. Charlotte Church – “Call My Name”
  11. The Alarm – “68 Guns”
  12. The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
  13. Bullet For My Valentine – “Fever”
  14. Shakin’ Stevens & Bonnie Tyler – “A Rockin’ Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)”
  15. Propellerheads ft. Miss Shirley Bassey – “History Repeating”
  16. Bryn Terfel – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”

A mix of genres there, with some absolute legends in attendance.  Shakey and Bonnie on one song, together?  Awesome.  I chose a less obvious Shirley Bassey number also.  From classic pop, to metal, to indie pop to rap; Wales has it covered.

Can you think of any more Welsh artists to add to this list?  Leave a comment and let me know.