Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Live Review: Southampton Annihilation Festival @ The Firehouse, Southampton 26.04.2014

Words by Charlotte Whittingham  Photos by Tomasz Wrobel

Bands and metal heads from all corners of southern England united as one in order to show their undying support and love for metal. This fateful occasion took place at Southampton Annihilation Festival accommodated by Southampton Solent University’s rock and metal society M.A.R.S and their favourite hotspot The Firehouse.

As I arrived at The Firehouse after just managing to get out of lunchtime traffic, Brighton Extreme Metallers WYRDFORGE had just started their set. Influenced by metal legends such as NAPALM DEATH and REPULSION, they showed a lot of energy when performing songs about manga related subjects such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Metroid. The Brighton metal heads had The Firehouse under their thumb; this was demonstrated through the crowd’s head banging and moshing for the first band. WYRDFORGE were a worthy choice to instigate the day of metal.

Next to conquer the stage were Southampton based Thrash/Death Metal five piece LAID WASTED. Their set got off to quite an obscure start where aggressive Death Metal will be played for it then to stop quite abruptly to interject spoken words that didn’t necessarily have any relevance to the song. This provided a comical side to the band’s personality, particularly when one of their main influences is every metal head’s favourite fictional Metal band DETHKLOK. This was reinforced by frontman Sean Walsh’s natural showmanship when growling those Death Metal notes; I would compare it to watching a Death Metal version of either Freddie Mercury or The Joker from Batman. I also heard him being compared to favourite know it all Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”. The passion and energy was clearly visible and infectious as the crowd were certainly taken by their stage presence. Sean’s Batman song allowed Southampton one last mosh before concluding their set.

Hailing from Eastbourne, Black Metal four piece VEHEMENT were next to show Southampton what they were made of. The first thing I noticed was that their shadowy stage presence gave you chills from the word go; this presence reminded me of Black Metal legends DIMMU BORGIR. VEHEMENT offered up absolutely everything that you could ever expect from a Black Metal show on a silver platter; theatrical stage presence, aggressive up-tempo music, sombre guitar riffs and solos whilst keeping a dark atmosphere.  Their set certainly had Southampton metal heads in the palm of their hands and I do very much hope they come to Southampton again soon.

Now there are not a lot of Folk Metal bands in the UK but it was fantastic to see one taking part in this festival. Home-grown from Weymouth, GYMIR did exceedingly well to fill the shoes of the only Folk Metal band to take part. As they swept onto the stage dressed in their kilts and leather waistcoats with the folklore d├ęcor in tow GYMIR’s stage presence had the audience captivated from start to finish. The sweeping melodies on the synthesisers and the harsh vocals are two of the key things you’d expect from Folk Metal. Considering they had a bass player absent they did remarkably well to carry on like true warriors.

With a band name like SPAWNED FROM HATE and the first song on their set list “Filth” it doesn’t really take a genius to figure out kind of metal this band showcase. I personally didn’t get along with the pig squealing vocals within their music, which eventually meant I went upstairs to the ‘chill out’ bar. In terms of their set the crowd did seem interested and for fans of that kind of brutal metal I do think it was a spectacle.

Local Thrash Metal three-piece DESOLATOR had The Firehouse at their command from start to finish. Even with a little crowd they were the first band cause chaos via mosh pits and stage dives. Their melodic choruses’ and their aggressive music reminded me very much of EVILE. For me personally their songs sounded similar, which is what you expect from a Thrash Metal band but the fact they had a more than engaged and eager group of metal heads going crazy showed that they would be walking away with new fans. I could hear spoken words about the band within the crowd such as “I like DESOLATOR”.

For Thrash Metallers OVERTHROW it was the last time bassist Ted Bridges was playing with them, he certainly got a farewell metal style as this performance will be one he’ll be proud of before embarking on a new adventure. They got the whole of The Firehouse pumping with their melodic riffs and slick guitar solos, did I mention they even got people at the bar singing along and raising their rock horns? Definitely a last show that Ted can be proud of.

The last band I managed to catch before I had to dash off due to other commitments was the almighty upcoming Technical Doom Metal band HOLE IN THE SKY. I had the pleasure of catching them at Brighton’s Falmerfest last month and was very taken with their performance despite not being a huge fan of Doom Metal. Their set could have everything you expect from a metal show; moshpits, stage diving, crowdsurfing and of course headbanging. Frontman Monty McDoom is certainly becoming a favourite vocalist of mine and I think in the south of England; his deep growls, his charismatic stage presence and not to mention his iconic dreadlocks, that will make AMORPHIS frontman Tomi Jousten bow before him, will certainly open doors for HOLE IN THE SKY. Keep an eye out for him and drummer Sam Chase in solo project JEREMY LAWLER’S WINTER’S EDGE.

My only regret was missing the last few acts due to other commitments but I can hand on my heart honestly say that I certainly enjoyed this amazing day of local metal! My advice would be keep supporting it and keep it alive!

Find Wyrdforge here
Find Laid Wasted here
Find Vehement here
Find Gymir here
Find Spawned From Hate here
Find Desolator here
Find Overthrow here
Find Hole In The Sky here

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Single Review: Kurecho - Once And For All

Inspired by the likes of Alice In Chains and Stone Sour new acoustic duo Kurecho have released a brand new song about staying strong and fighting against mental illnesses.

Issues relating to mental health are not often discussed in mainstream media; even though there is more awareness and people are starting to accept it as part of day to day life there is still a horrible stigma and understanding to it.  

Once And For All is a beautiful song that communicates a strong and powerful message. The enchanting vocal work from Dani and Sarah correspond well together creating a stunning fusion of music. The haunting lyrics paint a picture of what living and struggling with a mental illness is like and I think if more people listened to this the stigma will start to disappear. This song sounds very similar to Stone Sour’s captivating ballad Bother in terms of melody and song structure.

The message conversed is Stand Up and Be Strong, we are not alone.

Click here to listen to the song.

R.I.Y.L:  Stone Sour and Alice In Chains

Words by Charlotte Whittingham

Friday, 25 April 2014

Interview: James Walsh - Wyrdforge

Photo Credit:  Ryan Penny
"There are no rules in metal in my humble opinion." - James Walsh, Wyrdforge

With an impending festival appearance tomorrow and a new album release it's all going on for Brighton Extreme Metal four piece Wyrdforge. I had the chance to chat to frontman James Walsh about these topics and how he would love to have a metal band write songs about Crash Bandicoot.

Charlotte:  Describe your sound in three words.

James:  Not sure if I can describe it in three words, but in my humble opinion it's like if Dismember and Entombed met Napalm Death along with Extreme Noise Terror in some kind of genre splicing machine, like they do in The Fly, and fused together. I'm sure the others will disagree with me, resulting in them throwing KFC at me or something. 

Charlotte:  Where did the name Wyrdforger come from?

James:  The name I ripped off from a Brian Bates book called "The Way of the Wyrd" because I thought it sounded cool with the word Forge before it. Along with listening to a stupid amount of Sabbath and Wodensthrone at the time I came up with it. I guess I was feeling the old English vibe.

Charlotte:  So tell our readers why they should come down to see you perform alongside other metal acts at Southampton's Annihilation Festival tomorrow?

James:  They should come and see us because we have songs about Metroid, Neon Genesis Evangelion and other silly manga/comic book related subjects. It will fulfil their lives and make them better, if not sweater people by the time we're done pulverising their ears with very fast music.

Charlotte:  Since we're talking festivals, I would like you to imagine your ideal festival. Who would be your three main headliners, three main support acts and what would your festival be called?

James:  That's a tricky one. I don't think I can answer that question if I had to be honest. I like far too many bands. So it would very hard to pick just six to play. I'd probably call it "I have no idea what I'm meant to be doing, so can somebody help me please fest"

Charlotte:  You've recently released physical copies of your album, what was the inspiration behind the album cover?

James:  The only inspiration for the EP artwork is the title track "Her Wings Unfold War" which is the bat monster wearing a gas mask in the middle of the picture. The rest is a load of random ideas I had at the time. There's never really any set ideas for when I do the band artwork. It's just me going off on one and hoping it looks good.

Charlotte:  Just to round up and finalise, have you got advice you wish to give anyone wanting to start their own metal band?

James:  Do what you want, write about what you want. There are no rules in metal in my humble opinion. I have still have to find a metal who will write songs exclusively about Crash Bandicoot or Appleseed. Can somebody please get on that? Either that or a whole grindcore album about Blade Runner.

Catch James and his band Wyrdforge tomorrow at Southampton's Annihilation Festival. There will be copies of their album on sale too. In the meantime check out their links below!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Enthroned - Sovereigns

I have started to write for Metal Temple and here is my first review for them!

Belgian Black Metal quintet ENTHRONED released their tenth studio album “Sovereigns” through Agonia Records yesterday. I am slowly immersing into the world of Black Metal and as a brand new listener to ENTHRONED this album provided the ideal opportunity to inspect their sound.

The album starts off with atmospheric instrumental “Anteloquium” that gives the listener a sense of what sort of ambiance to expect, which of course is dark and bleak. What you’d expect on a black metal album. With the first couple of tracks “Sine Qua Non” and “Of Feathers and Flames” underway I honestly found it quite hard at first to really engage myself into the album as both tracks sounded very similar with a lot of hard-hitting aggression.

For me personally, things perked up on the album when “Lamp Of Invisible Lights” started to play as the aggression is toned down and the tempo of this track being ideal for head banging at their shows. As the album progressed, the sound did start to grow on me; particularly where in songs such as “The Edge Of Agony” and “Baal al-Maut” where the melodic guitar riffs and solos tone down the aggression making it easier for me to listen to.

For a first listen to the band and the album in general it was average for me. The album most certainly had the crucial elements needed to create a black metal album. It may not have been my cup of tea but black metal fans, especially those who like Enthroned, will enjoy the latest specimen.

Words by Charlotte Whittingham

 Find Enthroned on Facebook and official website.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Interview: Nixon - Framing Hanley

"This is us; we wanted to give the fans the best album they could give at this point of our career because they came above and beyond with crowd funding via Kickstarter and it nearly doubleed our goal of that." - Nixon, Framing Hanley

After a four year gap and two years of hard work, Nashville rockers Framing Hanley are getting ready to release their brand new album The Sum Of Who We Are. Frontman Nixon took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about their latest album, the Kickstarter package used to fund the album and upcoming tours.

Charlotte:       So your latest album Sum Of Us; according to your press release the title pretty much sums up who you guys are as a band?

Nixon:             Yeah, I think really the experiences that we went through and the long process of making this album and the naturally the songs kind of went in that direction. Not just the songs themselves but the steps it took to make that album and I felt like we were at our wits end, this album took all of us. This is us; we wanted to give the fans the best album they could give at this point of our career because they came above and beyond with crowd funding via Kickstarter and it nearly doubleed our goal of that. When you have advances from labels you want to produce your best album because you don’t want anything worse out there. When the fans directly fund your album; you know these people are your lifeblood, these are the people that are the reason you do this and it gives us that wave that we didn’t necessarily have before. We spent so long on this album because at certain points it wasn’t enough it wasn’t what I wanted to reward the fans with, how can we make sure that they know that it was worth it. It required even more money raised by Kickstarter. We kept going back to the drawing board and re-writing songs, during that process, two and a half years almost working on an album; invest everything you have in your life on this album. It really took all of us, this album really is the sum of all of us as musicians; it’s really weird to explain that, I don’t think I can even put into words what the last two years have been like.

Charlotte:       Crowdfunding has become a popular way to fund different projects now…

Nixon:             Movies now and everything now. Hollywood Studios are passing on movies and getting fans to contribute whatever they can. More money than what Hollywood studios would be paying out for. This crowdfunding is amazing; I’ve seen television shows are now crowdfunded and different products. I think when we first got into it particularly the early stages; I really fought with the idea for a while but we thought we’re going to release an album soon and we’re on our label right now, it’s funny when I said soon and here we are two and a half years later but that’s besides the point. We really fought with the idea and what alternative means there were to fund the album but if we didn’t have this in place we wouldn’t have been able to release an album. To put it in business terms, the people who want your product are the people wanting to pay for it up front plus rewards. It was amazing to see come forward like that.

Charlotte:       I’ve seen other bands such as Crashdiet and Jettblack who reward their fans when they pledge a certain amount; I take that’s similar to what Framing Hanely are doing?

Nixon:             That’s exactly what it is. 1800 people pledged and I think if they pledged $1 they had their name placed into the album booklet, $5 they would receive a lease demo that we had just recorded that no one has heard of. There’s also a package for a t-shirt, a custom drum head and of course the bigger packages; for example a guy pledged five thousand dollars and we drove down to Texas to play at his daughter’s birthday party. That’s one of the coolest parts of our career; I’m not saying we’ll become a birthday party band but to see what that meant to someone that they were that much of a big fan and that her Dad was the hero of that party. It was weird as it wasn’t really a city but along this back road that went on for about two hours and it ended in a little settlement. It was a really cool experience. We try and make the kickstarter pledging worth people’s money, especially when we have an international fanbase where there are so many backers. We figured shipping internationally would be expensive so it was great to have that bit of help from the fans and we gave something back.

Charlotte:       So you could say this is newest way to interact with your fanbase, other than paying a bit extra for meet and greet passes.

Nixon:             Yes definitely, there is always going to be someone trying to re-invent the wheel and it’s so bands like us can keep going and creating music. Over the past two years we were working real jobs back at home. Our biggest Framing Hanely fans are probably surprised that we all worked normal jobs and if it wasn’t for kickstarter there really would not be a third album coming out. We were working these jobs to provide for our families and the kickstarter provided us with money for the album, that is something we will be forever grateful for and never really be able to repay them for because we ended up signing the new deal with the new label for the release of this album.

 Charlotte:       There is a song called Roller Coaster on your brand new album and I am wondering who the female vocalist is on the track?

Nixon:             That’s our friend Lindsey Stamey; she’s in the band called Oh No Fiasco. She was featured on a Pierce The Veil song on their previous album. Oh No Fiasco is one of those bands that I think the world is missing out on. If this band was heard by more people they would explode, like another band called Imagine Dragons; they aren’t the same musically but they definitely go into the same conversation where they are the world’s best kept musical secrets for now. As friends and fans of that band I hope that won’t be the case for much longer and they are heard more.

Charlotte:        From what I understand you do work with New Ocean Media, which ties in with promoting different bands. Does that provide a good balance between that and singing/promoting your own band?

Nixon:             When it comes to promoting bands as a job, there’s being passionate about an artist you’re working for and doing it as a job. Especially since I’m new at this and I try and take on artists that I am a fan of instead of just looking at it as a job and music you need to listen to. Oh No Fiasco aren’t one of those bands, they’re a band we’ve known over the years from touring and such. A band that are a perfect example from a press standpoint, Brick and Mortar; they are a band that I was doing press for, another band that I think are on the cuss of being on everyone’s tongue.

Charlotte:       I’ve listened to Sum Of Us alongside your previous material and I think your previous material is heavier than your new album, is that something you’d agree with?

Nixon:             Everyone has a different take I think. Some people say it was poppy on the last album and that the first album had more of a grunge thing. If you think there’s a sound and style difference between this album and our previous one is because there was a line up change. Tim who we wrote the first album with is no longer in the band, Ryan came into the band and we connected on a whole other level as far as writing together and that led to band evolving in a way. That was definitely a huge part of the evolvement of Framing Hanley because he and I get together to actually mould the song and take it into the room with the rest of the guys to turn into whatever it turns into. Naturally that is what’s going to happen when you add a different part to the equation and you know how bands usually from first album and their second album will sound different. This is Ryan’s second album with us, naturally you will see it evolve with more influences where it broadens your horizons and as a music lover listen to new sounds.

Charlotte:       It’s amazing how a line up change can have an impact on the sound, hard rock band New Device have had a recent line up change and in my opinion their sound is much bolder. So sometimes it can be for the better.

Nixon:             Yeah definitely, sometimes it doesn’t work out for the better there are plenty of examples of that in music history. Further Seems Forever, the album they did with Jason Gleason is the album that helped me get to where I am as a musician, it changed the type of rock I was listening to. Sometimes it works for the better and we are here now.

Charlotte:       So tell us about your upcoming America tour with Three Days Grace.

Nixon:             It’s going to a two weeks run with them. That should be awesome, they’ve recently had a line up change and things are still going great for them. So we’ve got that coming up which we are really looking forward to. Then we’ll be hitting the road with Devour The Days, Starset and Three Years Hollow, which will be really cool because we’re all new age rock, I mean I’m not sure if that applies to Framing Hanley since we’ve been going for seven years but there are people who haven’t heard of us before so four young and hungry bands in a pack. It should be great; they’re all great guys and have great music so it should be good.

Charlotte:       Are there going to be upcoming tours anywhere other than the US, such as the UK or Europe?

Nixon:             The plan is to come back this fall; unfortunately we’ll be missing festivals this year because that was the most fun we had during touring. We came last fall with The Blackout but there were medical issues where Gavin had to be taken to hospital. That really took the wind out of us because it costs a lot of money to come overseas and when the tour gets cancelled you can’t expect to be paid for it so we took that out into writing kick ass rock songs, it actually led to a couple of the songs for the album. Not as far as subject matter as it was completely out of there hands and I glad to hear Gavin’s OK. It was an unfortunate thing that happened. We’re looking forward to coming back, knowing that we’re going to be playing three or four shows. Our last show in Manchester was a kick ass show, we cannot wait to come back to the UK and we’re hoping to play more mainland shows too.

Charlotte:       The single Criminal you released from your album, would you say that was the best song to represent the album?

Nixon:             When it comes to that, as one of the creators it’s hard to put your finger on that. I really think that there are a lot of songs that vary; a song like Criminal, which opens the album, is completely different and some people might say it sounds like a different band then Cast Away, which closes the album. I can’t pinpoint the perfect song that represents the album. There’s something about Criminal where a lot of our singles, with the exception of Lollipop which is a cover, tend to have a more serious tone whereas Criminal was a little bit more fun and light-hearted that I hope which will be stuck in a lot of people’s heads.

 Charlotte:       Will there be anything else happening for Framing Hanley in 2014?

Nixon:             We’ll hopefully be shooting a video for Criminal in the next few weeks and hopefully be out once the album’s finished and out. We’re more than ready to start touring again it’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that, everyone’s been getting married and having kids so we’ve been focusing on taking care of our families and life. It’s great that we can do this again, being able to go out on tour and personally thank those people who were part of the Kickstarter and who will be part of Framing Hanley’s bloodline in the future. Touring isn’t something we dread doing, it’s what keeps us motivated and really is the reward. Tickets go out and we play stuff that means something to certain individuals and people take away something from it.

Charlotte:       You go to gigs to see a certain band whether it’s the headliner or main support then you see the other bands and actually walk away thinking ‘they were really good’.

Nixon:             That’s always been the more fun spot to be in playing for the headliners, even when we are headlining our fans will bring their friends to the show who haven’t heard of us before. For instance when girl will bring their husband or boyfriend, they will come up to us and say something like ‘I only came because my girlfriend bought but you guys were awesome’ That’s one of the coolest things, it’s happened a thousand times and it’s very rewarding but to get onto that stage every night whether it’d be for thirty minutes or an hour and fifteen minutes that’s when we’re able to block everything else out of our lives and just play songs that we wrote about stuff going on in our lives that someone in that crowd was able to relate to their own life, that’s a beautiful thing.

Keep a look out for The Sum Of Us which is due for release 29th April 2014, in the meantime check them out on Facebook, Twitter and their official website!