I haven’t had much time for blogging recently due to buying my first home, getting a promotion at work, trying to loose weight and parenting a hyperactive toddler.
One thing I do have time for though is acquiring music. Since I bought my home instead of renting, I don’t have as much space for physical media anymore, so have been getting music from a mix of Bandcamp, Amazon mp3 and iTunes.
Here’s what I’ve been buying lately, mostly filling gaps in my existing collection, but a few new things as well (the live Volbeat album, Aerosmith albums 9-12, several of the Dream Theater albums, and Smashing Pumkins’ Melon Coly’ were already in my collection, but I edited them in iTunes so they jumped forward in the list and it wasn’t worth editing the image):
I know, I know, it is probably two weeks too early, but I’m in the middle of moving home and working 65 hours a week on top of that, so may as well get it in while I have the chance. It’s the tenth year of this blog, and I’d hate to miss out on what is now a yearly tradition.
Last week in part 1, I wrote a round-up of what I’d been buying and listening to this year, and links to reviews of the concerts I had been to prior to lockdown.
Here are my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months according to LastFM:
Quite a mix there; Classic Metal, Classic Rock, Metalcore, Thrash, Prog, Hair, Power, Groove, Death, even a bit of indie. Old favourites, new discoveries. Nicely balanced, didn’t even mean to.
And finally; since it is December now, here is the Metal-Nerd Blog Album Of The Year List, 2020:
Honourable Mention: Salem – S/T EP. – Creeper went from being a fun pop-punk band with some Halloweeny lyrics to a ‘90s Britrock band tapping into older American sounds. Afterwards, their singer has a side project basically making a fun pop-punk band with Halloweeny lyrics. Highly recommended to fans of early Creeper (or Alkaline Trio).
10. BMTH – Post Human Survival Horror – Review here.
09. Five Finger Death Punch – F8 – Review here.
08. Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic – Review here.
07. Creeper – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void – Review here.
06. Haken – Virus – (Rhymes with Bacon, not Kraken) British prog metal wizards release a captivating sequel to their previous album and continue to escape comparisons to other bands and forge their own identity. Might have even been higher, but I came to it late and haven’t even fully unpacked all its hidden glories yet.
05. Lamb Of God – S/T – Review here.
04. Testament – Titans Of Creation – Review here.
03. Protest The Hero – Palimpsest – Review here.
02. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say – Review here.
01. Sepultura – Quadra – Review here.
Leaving aside any talk of the pandemic (you’ve read enough about that this year, this is a light-hearted site, I barely even post bad reviews) 2020 has been an interesting year musically and personally. On a personal level my first and only child celebrated his first ever birthday and my wife and I have just finally bought our first home. I also had a nice break at work at the start of the year where they moved me to an easier job for two months, which was a welcome if brief change. I also managed to loose one stone in weight recently after having put on too much around the pregnancy and new-fatherhood stage.
Musically, before the world turned upside down, I got to go to some fabulous concerts, in the form of Slipknot (childhood favourite but hadn’t seen since I was a teen, wearing the tour t-shirt as I write this), Five Finger Death Punch (better than you’d expect, and Megadeth supported!) and finally Testament, Exodus and Death Angel together (Dream come true line-up, shame a load of the band members and crew caught the virus from this tour).
In terms of new music, some icons like Ozzy released a new album, lots of bands have been releasing short one-off singles or mini-EPs (like Machine Head), some of my favourite bands released albums which obviously made it to my Top-10 list, and some other less-obvious bands surprised me.
In terms of old music; I’ve spent a hell of a lot of the year listening to Def Leppard, (expanding my knowledge of the band beyond just the early NWOBHM days), discovering Danzig, as well as expanding my Motorhead collection. That and as per most years, listening to a bunch of Thrash Metal (just got into Canada’s Sacrifice and LA’s Agent Steel recently, and Hirax earleir this year, there’s always more Thrash to explore).
I’ve also been reading band biographies and music books where I can find the time between work, exercise, parenting and trying to get a house. Max Cavelera and Dee Snider’s books were particularly good. I read Fiver Finger Death Punch’s drummer’s book too, but it’s a bit too simplistic Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll for me, or I should really say erectile dysfunction, alcoholism and metal (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean).
Due to all my Def Leppard listening, I’ve just finished Phil Collen’s book (which is a real easy read, very smoothly written). Most recently I’ve just started fellow blogger 80s Metal Man’s simi-fiction, semi-history of Metal/Rock coming of age novel Rock N Roll Children, and obviously if you’re reading this blog, you should read that book, I’ve not finished it yet but its compelling so far so can still recommend it.
I like a good audiobook too, and have listened to autobiographies on audible by the likes of Sammy Hagar, Phil Collins, Rick Wakeman, Rob Halford, Alice Cooper and Steve Tyler, all of which I’d recommend, (except maybe the Steve Tyler one as it is a bit too lyrical and overwritten at times, but still good a lot of the time).
So that’s the introduction, a round up of the year. Part two will see a list of my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months and of course the actual AOTY list (gotta be December before I post that, I haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet!). Stay tuned.
The year is more than halfway over. Its gone pretty quickly for me with crazy changes to the world, crazy changes to my life, and adjusting to fatherhood.
Here’s the top 50 artists I’ve listened to most this year:
And here are the top 50 most listened to albums:
I haven’t had a lot of blogging time recently, with a combination of fatherhood, increased workload due to the pandemic, getting back into exercising again, no concerts available and trying to buy fewer CDs just in case… there hasn’t been as much obvious material to cover (New Releases, Concert Reviews etc) or indeed time to cover it in. Before my next review or opinion piece however, I’d like to just drop a quick blog about what I’ve been getting up to since the new year.
I once heard that classical music can make your child smarter, and while scientific studies eventually disproved this, it is still a nice idea. Now, being a dyed in the wool rock fan who hasn’t willingly listened to classical music since a particularly annoying music teacher killed my love of it at age 15/16, I don’t have a lot of classic music to play to my child. What I do have though, is a nice little collection of progressive rock albums with lots of Jazz, Folk and Classical influences. Hey, my username is Kingcrimsonprog after all.
I’ve decided for a) child bonding b) getting my money’s worth from current CDs instead of buying new ones (remember Getting Into What You Paid For, my blog series of that nature from a few years ago?) and c) listening to some beloved records that I’ve been ignoring lately to focus on newer acquisitions, that I would initiate a new family tradition. Prog For The Sprog. I play my child a new prog record every day. So far he’s listened to Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, Jethro Tull, Camel, Caravan, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Van Der Graaf Generator, early Rush, early Queen and early Marillion. Out of all of them so far, I think, as far as I can tell with a baby, that he enjoyed Gentle Giant the most… I think the xylophone reminds him of Peppa Pig.
During reacquainting myself with some of my favourite prog (or prog-ish albums, if you want to be strict about some of them) I realised that I had another little nerdy project I could resume…
Several years ago I decided that LastFM, the website which I love for making statistics about what I’m listening to, always makes it look like I don’t listen to these bands as much. I mean, you can listen to about 13 Punk songs for every one prog song. To that end, I decided that a few of my favourite side-long or album-long songs, including ‘Atom Heart Mother’ by Pink Floyd and ‘A Passion Play’ by Jethro Tull, should be counted as several different songs rather than one huge song. That way, If I listen to a whole Prog album, and then a whole Stoner Rock album, it doesn’t look like I listen to the Stoner band 10 times as much as the Prog band. Dorky right? But it made me happy and kept me entertained.
During the lockdown but after work and after the baby is in bed, I’ve decided to expand this. ELP’s ‘Tarkus’ for example, and Caravan’s ‘Nine Feet Underground’ as well as Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ all have parts. The track listing actually lists them with either titled sections (eg. Nine Feet Underground is split into: I. “Nigel Blows a Tune” II. “Love’s a Friend” “Make It 76” IV. “Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies” V. “Hold Grandad by the Nose” VI. “Honest I Did!” VII. “Disassociation” VIII. “100% Proof, and ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ is split into parts I-X).
So I have decided to do similar things using the magic of iTunes:
So that’s part of how I’ve been spending my time. Another thing I’ve been doing, which is equally dorky, is trying to keep some of my favourite bands higher up in the LastFM stats. For example, I’ve been listening to an absolute boatload of Sepultura recently, but I saw them overtake or threaten to overtake bands I consider absolute favourites that I want to listen to most often. To that end, I’ve started listening to much more of my real favourite bands like Manowar, Pantera C.O.C and Helloween, and doing so a heck of a lot more often again, just like I used to when I first got into them.
Now again, as I have said; this is driven by a very nerdy reason, but in fairness, I benefit completely, as I am listening to only the best music. I had embarassingly put on a lot of weight when my wife was pregnant, but a nice fortnight-long norovirus infection (full on pant-shitting, can’t stomach dinner stuff) that I picked up taking the kid home from nursery one day made me lose some weight again, and so when I recovered I decided to jump back on the exercise train with a long term view of eventually getting back in shape.
Anyway, let me tell you, there is no more fun feeling than working out at home with Pantera or Manowar in your ears, or going for you daily government-permitted exercise and walking in the sun with a fat groovy C.O.C playlist keeping your pace up. It sure beats some obscure D-list band I’m checking out just for educational/historical reasons. Its nice to just crank out your favourites.
With that being said, here’s a brief screengrab of the artists I’ve listened to most since joining the site back in 2011, just after my first decade into being a rock fan:
Prior to cottoning on to the fact that Sepultura were getting very high up my listening charts and then chosing to overplay my favourites in response, I was doing something else equally nerdy anyway.
I had decided before the Slipknot concert that some of the bands included on my Patch Jacket maybe weren’t being listened to as much as others. I started feeling weird about maybe not listening to Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Death as much as other bands that made it onto the jacket, and was really heavily playing those bands at the start of year. Usually at night. Going to bed? Spiritual Healing. Bed the next night? Once Upon The Cross. Bed at the weekend? Cause Of Death and Covenant!
I also have an Iced Earth patch. No death metal, but still, although I love their work with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Matt Barlow, I decided that it was weird I hadn’t kept up with their new releases, so decided I needed to get the Stu Block era albums. So the most recent CDs I bought, the only ones I dared to buy during all the Covid stuff (just in case…), was Iced Earth’s Plagues Of Babylon (appros pos these days, given that half the record is a concept piece about mankind being destroyed by a plague) and its follow up, Incorruptible. Damn that Stu can sing! I tried to make the baby listen to Iced Earth too, but clearly they don’t use enough Xylophones. Something to think about for the next album maybe?
Also, since I’m on the subject of what I’ve been listening to lately anyway, and its about a quarter of the way through the year already (I’m only a few weeks early) so this is about a good point to do a LastFM screengrab for this part of the year:
I don’t often do requests on this blog, since nobody is asking, but here for your reading pleasure is my first blog by request.
Fear Factory are an interesting band. Beloved by many, but overlooked by a great many more. They are the kind of band who in 2020, more people seem to respect than actually listen to. Their influence on Metal has been huge, both in the underground for their popularisation of clean vocals and samples in extreme metal and also in mainstream metal for their popularisation of rhythmically interlocking kick-drum/guitar chugs in catchy staccato patterns. When you look at a retrospective of best albums from the ‘90s, if the list doesn’t feature at least one Fear Factory album, the list is sorely lacking.
I got into Fear Factory on the Digimortal cycle, when I was either 12 or 13 years old, and music channels like MTV2 and later KerrangTV (and later still, Scuzz) played songs like ‘Linchpin,’ ‘Cars’ and ‘Replica’ every so often. It was the good old days of Nu Metal and the band’s toned down Digimortal album fit in well beside the flavour of the month bands that were grabbing my young attention at the time. I have many fond memories of listening to Digimortal and playing Pro Skater videogames.
I remember the day I got my first Fear Factory cds, it was my birthday, and my dad had taken me to a music store in the big city, and I got to pick out my own presents. I chose Digimortal and Demanufacture by Fear Factory, and three others I can no-longer remember for a certainty (I think Ill Nino’s debut and Biohazard’s Urban Discipline were in there, but my memory gets fuzzy). The store had a deal on, where if you bought 5 albums on Roadrunner Records, you got a free VHS of music videos called ‘Drilling The Vein.’ I took my treasure to the counter, and asked about the free tape, only to be turned down by the clerk as he stated that Demanufacture didn’t count as it wasn’t on Roadrunner. It was, but it had an old-fashioned long thing colourless Roadrunner logo, rather than the modern red and white square logo. I remember very clearly my dad squaring off against the clerk and demanding ‘Just give him the tape!’ in an intimidating way that brokered success, and thus an additional birthday gift. A very fond memory, him standing up for me, when I would’ve totally just given up. Its my version of the Lorelai Gilmore mustard pretzel story from A Year In The Life.
So I had the then newest Fear Factory album, and the big classic that everyone should own, and later I rounded off the collection with the intermediate release, the sci-fi concept album Obsolete. What feels like much later though, I found out they had another record. Their debut. Soul Of A New Machine. Time has passed and I don’t quite remember where or when or at what age I bought this, other than I was still in high school.
I was young at the time. I hadn’t read much rock press, seen any rock documentaries or thought about rock much outside of ‘I want to listen to this.’ I had no idea about recording, budgets, any of it. I assumed every album was as successful as Appetite For Destruction and all bands just started out with infinite money and the best studio possible. (If I even knew what a studio was yet). I just assumed every rock star was a millionaire. I thought the bassist from P.O.D or Black Flag would be just as rich and just as famous as Axl Rose or Gene Simmons. It was still early enough in my musical life that I barely owned any bad albums. You start buying albums, you generally end up buying all classics for a while, as the things that get recommended to you aren’t the bad ones, and you have limited money and options, and you end up getting the best albums.
So, I was kind of shocked when I finally got a chance to buy Soul Of A New Machine. It looked cheap. The album artwork kind of fit with the band’s robotic aesthetic, but somehow…wrong. The actual CD case and booklet looked thin and budget in a way I didn’t know existed yet. Then the music played. Ummm. This sounds wrong. Crystal clear this is not. I think I learned about production values there on the spot. Compared to the cutting edge (at the time) sound of Digimortal or the futuristic sounds of Demanufacture, this sounded so basic. Demo quality, if I knew what a demo was at the time. Maybe I would have understood what demos were based on bonus tracks from Slipknot’s digipak, or having gotten a pirate version of Mate Feed Kill Repeat.
Stylistically, this was very different than I was expected. The ‘machine gun’ patterns that make up 75% of verses on most Fear Factory albums hereafter are almost absent, or where they are present, they are slower and more organic, less mechanical. There’s also a lot more samples and a lack of the Rhys Fulber electronics. It’s a lot less melodic. This is a million miles away from Digimortal. The vocals, while still distinctively Burton C. Bell, are really different. Less accomplished. He doesn’t project the same way. Its more primitive. It doesn’t even sound more youthful, like how Hetfield’s vocals sound more youthful on Kill ‘Em All, just like he hasn’t had enough practice yet, or like he isn’t being as loud in the actual studio. Also, he sounds a bit like Barney Greenway at times, especially towards the back of the album.
Now, I had some limited understanding of Death Metal at the time, as my friend and brother were into Cannibal Corpse and this was probably around the same year I got into some Deicide and Napalm Death, but I has a surface level knowledge at best. In later years, the more I knew about music, the more I would come to realise what a Death Metal influence this album had. (Also the short songs, aforementioned hoarse throaty Greenway-esque vocals and even a few blast beats, are reminiscent of Napalm Death’s Harmony Corruption – the album when the Grindcore band went Death Metal). There’s also a touch of Deicide and moreso, Morbid Angel in some of the riffs. [Not a lot, but some. I remember reading a mean-spirited review that complained when people claimed the band had a Death Metal past. I disagree with that. They totally do. Its there in the guitars, especially towards the back of the record].
It also has the utterly confusing track ‘Natividad’ which to someone who hadn’t heard any prog or industrial at the time, just sounded like the sound of a junkyard for no reason. What the hell?
For a long time I’ve thought of this album as the weird Death Metal demo, before they became a real band with their next album. My friend and I, for many years, had a saying that no band has ever had a bigger shift in quality between one album to the next. The difference between how good Demanufcature is, and what is on offer here, is the gold standard in my mind. I spent almost my entire first year of university walking around in a Demanufcature t—shirt. By contrast, I have only listened to this album about 20 times in my whole life and have resented it basically every time I listened to it.
I developed something of a mental block around this album for a long time. I could only really listen to 2 or 3 songs from it all the way through. I developed an affection for a few tracks, like ‘Martyr’ and ‘Crash Test’ over the years, but even then, ever since the band re-recorded those songs on the Mechanise bonus tracks, I would rather listen to the updated versions. If I try listen to the actual album, as I would intermittently out of a sense of duty and trying to get my money’s worth, then my eyes would glaze over and my mind would fog and I wouldn’t really hear the songs. Often I would try and skip through songs to see if there were good parts I’d forgotten, but then not really hear the songs properly and the whole thing would jumble up in my mind. If you asked me which one was ‘Leech Master’ and which one was ‘W.O.E’ I would have absolutely no idea which was which. If you asked me to name you more than six songs on this, I would really struggle. There’s seventeen tracks on here! That’s too many. Why didn’t someone edit this down?
I vaguely remember that the band used to be a Death Metal band called Ulceration, and then started listening to industrial and punk and changed their name to Fear The Factory before settling on the better name, Fear Factory. (Kind of like how Ratt used to be called Mickey Ratt, which is much worse). I wonder if some of these tracks, the heavier blastier ones, were Ulceration tracks and the more melodic and ones closer to the sound of the later albums were the newest tracks. I wonder if the ones that are halfway between are from the short-lived Fear The Factory days? Or maybe my memory of this timeline is wrong and they had the same songs the whole time and just changed their name three times between three live gigs in sweaty LA clubs, who knows? Other bands have gone through numerous name changes in the early days.
Maybe if some of the tracks were old Ulceration tracks that are very different, then they could have trimmed those tracks off… 17! Seventeen! Seven-bastard-teen!
Since I got the request to review the album though, I decided to really concentrate and open my mind to it. I’ve tried listening to it in full in the dark, on shuffle in the background while driving, in between other Fear Factory albums for contrast. I have it on in the background while I wrote most of this blog. I went online and I read dozens and dozens of reviews of it, positive, negative and neutral. I really wanted to understand the album. I wanted to focus and lose the mind fog.
I came in wanting to write the story of how I found out this was actually an amazing album and I had been mistaken the whole time. Or at least wanting to write that this was the worst musical turd in my collection and getting my readers to laugh at it. Well, sorry. I don’t have a great revelation about this album. I did ‘get it’ a lot more than I ever had. I’ve been listening to lots of Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Obituary recently, so the few bits of Death Metal that are on here are coming to the light more, but also I am learning just how much Death Metal is not on here. I could never understand how Fear Factory said Korn ripped them off before. Now I kind of get it. I can also hear how this could have influenced System Of A Down. Another big thing I can pick out is Chimaira. People always point to Demanufacture in the influencing of modern metalcore and bands like Chimaira and Killswitch Engage. Soul Of A New Machine not so much. However, listening now, with today’s ears I can really pick out multiple points that are clear Chimaira influences. There’s even a riff or two that Chimaira almost lifted note for note.
Having gotten it more, its not like I love it now, but I do like bits of it and understand it. Its gone from a 1/10 album next to a 9/10 classic, to more like a 6/10. What does that do to me and my friend’s gold-standard of improvement argument? I’m not sure. New American Gospel, From Ember To Inferno, Sombre Eyes To The Sky, This Present Darkness, Don’t Close Your Eyes, Killswitch Engage’s self titled… There are lots of early, raw, primitive albums from bands that aren’t great or terrible, next to classic breakthrough albums. Even Tool’s Opiate to Undertow is a big step up. Does this mean Soul’-Demanfacture has lost its status? I guess only time will tell. I do hold it in higher regard than when I started off. That being said I’m already struggling to remember which is which. I can remember some of the movie samples more than the songs they are in. I can remember the 2nd half of the album is heavier than the 1st half. What does ‘Escape Confusion’ sound like? Does it sound different to ‘Fleshhold’ ‘Scapegoat’? I don’t honestly remember. I’ll have to keep listening to it now. See if it goes back to being total mind fog, or if I get a bit more out of it from now on.
I went to go see Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage live in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tonight, (February 1st 2019). It was my second time seeing Parkway, after they decimated Download Festival and were so powerful that they made Guns N’ Roses, even with all their money and with Slash and Duff back in the band, still pale in comparison. It was my third time seeing Killswitch, who I had seen supporting Bullet For My Valentine on Incarnate and Headlining over Trivium on Disarm The Descent.
I wasn’t sure if the gig was going to go ahead though, as it had been snowing prior and I was afraid (given that we live in Britain and they close down all the schools if a snowflake looks at them funny) that it might be called off, but luckily by the time I needed to leave, the roads were clear. (This must sound funny to my Canadian readers, but seriously, google ‘frozen Britain’ and see what the British reaction to snow is like).
Rather than arrive late and hang at the back like I did for Architects a few weeks ago, I new I had to be in the front row. Parkway at Download had whetted my appetite, and I needed more.
So I got there just as doors opened and didn’t have to queue in the post snow chill, but got to walk right to the front without any trouble at all.
The speakers usually play the same few songs at all the gigs I go to. Walk by Pantera, Snap Your Finger Snap Your Neck by Prong, Sad But True by Metallica, Psychosocial by Slipknot.
Not this time. They played some obscure hardcore punk. I couldn’t pin point anything I recognized from my meager 20-30 album Hardcore punk collection. I am not an expert, but I heard something that sounded like or was early Suicidal Tendencies (pre-Thrash) and something that sounded like but probably wasn’t Black Flag.
Not important, but just, different that basically every concert I’ve went to since 2012.
To open the evening where Deathcore lads, Thy Art Is Murder. Their front-man announced he regretted eating fruit around the start, and ended up barfing on stage around the end. He was a weirdly unprofessional burping, farting lads lad who was very charming, like how Orange Goblin‘s singer won me over with his topless enthusiasm a few months ago. Their music was Deathcore, which I am not too familiar with, but I know Metalcore, and I know Death metal, and its basically a mixture of that. There were death growls and blast beats, but there were beat downs and grooves. They were fun enough, and their guitarist has a fun sweeping style of leads/solos that reminded me more of Periphery or Dream Theater (or the Periphery song with John Petrucci from Dream Theater guesting on it). The drummer was very fun to watch, he was very inventive as a blast beater, and did it in more ways than I knew existed, and alternated hands and speeds and cymbals the way Tommy Lee would for a rock beat. They even had a catchy bit in ‘Puppet Master’ where the intro sounded a bit like Lamb Of God‘s ‘Redneck’ gone evil.
I enjoyed them. A much better support band than Beartooth had been last time. I’d be happy to see them again. A heck of a lot more than Asking Alexandria had been at Download. Generally, one of the better modern bands I’ve seen supporting people I like, but whom I didn’t know the support act beforehand.
Then the room got a bit fuller. After a Thin Lizzy ‘Boys ‘Back In Town intro; metalcore legends Killswitch Engage took to the stage. I have written before about how utterly majestic KSE are live, and how captivating it is when a whole room full of people sing ‘The End Of Heart Ache’, with its big long…
I cling to memories
Sleep brings release
And the hope of a new day
Waking the misery
Of being without you”
…all done in perfect time, in its entirety. As a music fan it is one of the purest joys you can experience. Its crazy how good it makes you feel. And the band are always such fun, with Adam D clowning around like a hyperactive toddler making better masturbation jokes than Blink 182 ever did and brightening up the room with his infectious sense of fun and his big smile.
I’ve also said before that Jesse is one of the, if not the, greatest live singers in the genre. Almost no-one can sing cleans that well live. He is a master of this type of music. Sam Carter, Ashe O’Harra and Jesse Leech are probably the best clean singers I’ve ever seen with my own two eye. Up there with Maynard incomparable James Keenan.
They played a set-list that was mostly greatest hits (Rose Of Sharyn, My Curse, End Of Heart Ache, All In Due Time, My Last Serenade) with a few early numbers (Fixation On The Darkness, Breathe Life) and it was more compact than any other time I’d seen them but no less potent.
The crowd seemed to really, really love ‘Always’ too, and Jesse doing the very last line while the band were all silent was some Freddie Mercury level skills. They played the two best songs off the new album too, (‘Hate By Design’ and ‘Strength Of The Mind’) which are even better live than on record, with more of a crushing Pantera groove to them.
Speaking of better live; ‘My Last Serenade’ is so, so good live. Joint with ‘End Of Heartache’ for the most audience participation (and augmented by all the fun guitar squeals and extra shenanigans) it is just excellent live in every way. And of course, they finished on my favourite Killswitch song, the fantastic ‘All In Due Time’ which turned me from a Jesse-reunion skeptic into the kinda guy who goes and sees em three times even though I don’t go to that many gigs.
If it was over then, it would’ve been enough. A solid opener, and mighty Killswitch doing themselves proud with a perfect set-list, excellent performance and decent sound & lighting. That would’ve done me nicely as a gig.
But I wasn’t ready for what happened next.
Now, I’ve banged on and on in this blog numerous times about how good Parkway were at download festival, and if you’ve met me in real life I’ve probably talked about how Ire is a modern classic that deserves to have the reputation sort of The Blackening has. You’ll have noticed the new album Reverence was high in my most played albums and highly ranked in my end of year list for this year just gone.
Well, that’s about to get a whole to more, because I have just seen. The. Best. Show. Of my whole life. No qualifications. No caveats. No exceptions.
I am not been hyperbolic. I am not exagerating. This was the best concert I have ever seen in every way. Visually, muscially, sonically, intangiable x-factor magiaclly. It was absolute bliss.
The set-list leaned heavily on the newest two albums, with just one song from Atlas and Deep Blue each, and two songs from Horizons, but otherwise all newer stuff since the change in direction.
The sound was immense, and the cruch and chug of big riffs like ‘Absolute Power’ or ‘Crushed’ was immense and made you pull that satisfied ”riff face” even harder than usualy. My view was perfect for most of the show, with a spot where I could see every member and even every cymbal on the drum kit. And the band’s performance was so bombastic, confident and commanding that it felt like witnessing something truly extraordinary.
The way Winston would sweep his hands or stomp his feet, or when he got topless and the end and would throw fists, always timed to some musical highlight like a conductor or film director was so entertaining. He is such a fucking golden rock star like we were back in the 1980s again. Having only been born as the ’80s died, its great someone is that for this generation and I don’t just have to read about it in old books.
The crowd were so into it, doing a gigantic circle pit during ‘Idols and Anchors’ and clapping along to the drumbeat in ‘Writings On The Wall’ like it was ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. They sang out not one or two but five or six songs guitar lines like when you see footage of Maiden or Megadeth playing South America. It was a brilliant vibe.
And that’s all without mentioning the fucking sheer spectacle of it all. If you haven’t been paying attention, it might be surprising to learn that Parkway Drive have become one of the most explosive live bands of the modern era. (Or any era).
The evening started with a dubstep or electronic noise while various lights were going off on the empty stage, with crazily loud concussion bombs going off to match the ‘the truth drops like a bomb’ lyrical theme.
Behind use, we could feel heat. Then in unsion we turned and saw that the mixing desk behind the crowd had pyro on it. And then the band, marched through the middle of the crowd, carrying flaming torches like a strange religious ceremony until they got up on stage. Then, wearing matching black outfits like some kind of Apple technology expo, they moved in choreographed and weirdly alien or robotic unison until the music really kicked in after the intro.
The first few songs they played in a tasteful white lighting set up. But it just got bigger and bigger.
There were various lights. And then there was smoke. And then there were fire balls. And then there were towers of fire. And then there were rows of fire. And then there were hydrolic platforms going up and down. And then there was a string quartet.
And then there was an acoustic moment somehow behind the audience again. Then there was mini fire works. Then lights, lasers and fire together. Then well timed concussion bombs, like literally going ‘bang bang bang’ when Winston sang ‘bang bang bang’ in ‘Absolute Power.’ There was a Kiss-esque shower of sparks from the ceiling bouncing off their heads.
At one point he came out with a bottle, and a rag in it, and set it on fire for real with a real lighter, and tossed it onto a big floating PWD shield, and there was really well timed explosives that made it look like he blew it up. And they just kept adding in more and more pyro and explosives until it looked like the whole building was on fire, and Winston would sweep his hands and flames would match the directions, such as during ‘Crushed.’
Slayer had more pyro than I expected on their Farewell tour, but this made them look like a bar band with a packet of sparklers. It was almost Rammstein levels. At one point they had everything going off all at once in complete strobe light sensory overload destined to trigger epilepsy and PTSD sufferers in a way I would genuinely advise them not to attend due to. Absolute bloody war. I’m surprised health and safety let them get away with it to be honest.
Bombastic doesn’t do it justice. It was so well thought out and planned, cribbing all the best ideas from Motley Crue and Kiss and updating them with touches of Maiden and Rammstein and Tool but somehow feeling like a really cohesive and excellently orchestrated performance piece than a cobbled together greatest hits of concert ideas, the spectacle side of things was off the charts.
And all that being said, if they had have came out in day clothes and played the same set in an empty room with not so much as dry ice or a single light, it would’ve still been the best concert I saw in the last decade purely on the utter majesty and perfection of the performance. Songs like ‘Vice Grip’ are so goddamn triumphant sounding that when you see it live you feel like your team won the world cup. Songs like ‘Wishing Wells’ and ‘Chronos’ are so well constructed that you feel like a tween discovering the love of music for the first time. Songs like ‘Wild Eyes’ and ‘Karma’ are sing along fun that you just don’t have enough of as an adult. And best of all, ‘Bottom Feeder’ and ‘Crushed’ just level the place. When he sang ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and the payoff riff after the build up came in I got the kind of euphoric rush normally exclusive to a wedding day or the birth of a child. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the best part is…not by much!
Speaking of the birth of children. This will probably be my last concert for a while. Ozzy with Judas Priest got cancelled due to Ozzy’s ill health (just like my first ever Ozzfest, Ozzy didn’t play due to a quad bike accident.). My son is going to be born just a few months before Kiss say farewell and Download rolls around again so as much as I love music I’m not traveling for any of that this year, and so far nobody seems to be playing in between now and then.
As a last concert for a while, possibly of the year, I could not have asked for a better one. Hands sown the best concert of my life so far. If you ever get the chance to see Parkway live I advise and border on demand that you go. I hope to high heaven that they release a live DVD from this tour. This is how live music is done!
Until next time…
I went to go see Architects at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night (Friday 18th January 2019) with support from BearTooth.
I had to work so didn’t get there in time for the opening act, Polaris. I’ve never been into Polaris though, so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment (even if that sounds a bit rude). I had heard of BearTooth before, and had checked out a few of their songs on Spotify/Amazon Music over the years due to a podcast I like talking about them a few times, but wasn’t really familiar with them overall.
I decided, due to late arrival and back ache, not to bother getting right up to the front, and stood as close to the back as was possible. No moshing and crowd surfing for me. I had loads of space and wasn’t bustled around too much. It was nice being right up near the front for Slayer and Anthrax, but I wasn’t in the mood to be smashed around tonight and just wan’t to look at and listen to the live band.
BearTooth sounded a lot more raw and natural live than of what I vaugley remember about their recorded output, from what I sort of remember they were a bit wet and overproduced and a bit electronic. Live it was less wet and more natural, but still generic melodic metalcore. I feel they’re a little late for me to really fall in love with them.
All the metalcore slots in my brain are taken up by the likes of Shadows Fall and Chimaira and Killswitch Engage and don’t really feel like there’s that much more I can get into. When I saw a few more modern melodic metalcore bands at Download Festival, like the forgettable Black Veil Brides and Asking Alexandria or even the quite good Bury Tomorrow, I felt like I’ve had my fill already. Beartooth similarly offer nothing new, and didn’t win me over enough to go buy any of their albums, but where pleasant enough while they were on.
Their singer was very enthusiastic and called out specific riffs to pay attention to and seemed to be enjoying it. The sound for them wasn’t so good though, and you couldn’t really make out the vocals.
Then after a brief interlude with bands like Limp Bizkit and Rammstein played over the sound system, the main event, Architects took to the stage.
I’d seen them live before, back when I lived in Manchester, on the Lost Forever // Lost Together cycle. I really wanted to see them on the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us cycle too but it was sold out when I got to the counter to buy tickets (should’ve bloody done it online in hindsight!).
I got into Architects when Hollow Crown was their newest album, but I feel like they’ve been getting better over time, and I’d take albums like Daybreaker, All Our Gods’ and even the controversial The Hear And Now over earlier albums like Ruin or Hollow Crown. Lucky for me, the set-list last night was almost entirely off their new album Holy Hell, and the previous two albums Lost’ and Gods’ (as well as one single track off of Daybreaker), which made it quite a different set-list than the last time I saw them, with 12 songs tonight I didn’t see last time (I quite like it when bands do that).
Last night’s setlist was:
I really, really enjoyed ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Downfall’ and ‘Doomsday’ especially, they worked so well live. If you haven’t heard of the band before and you wanted to check them out, they would be good tracks to try out.
Some people online have said the sound wasn’t good, but from where I stood last night, it sounded pretty good to me. A lot better than BearTooth. You could hear everything, each cymbal, all the vocals, every riff was clear (Except in the really heavy parts, like the start of ‘Nay Sayer’).
Sam was very grateful in the stage banter, repeatedly thanking the crowd and pointing out how they used to be in smaller venues and how cool it was to get to play somewhere this big. (He thanked the crowd so much, he ironically called himself a broken record numerous times, so that shows you how much it was!).
Performance wise, they were top notch. Flawless. Can’t say enough good things about them. Sam’s clean vocals are almost record-perfect live which is impressive as hell and something his peers aren’t half as good at.
The production was really good too. Fire balls. Steam cannons. Confetti Cannons. Confetti from the roof. Lights. Lazers. Video footage of trippy wolves and falling bodies and mountain-scapes. A lot of variety and really well sequenced and well timed. There were lazers coming out above the crowd as well as strobes on stage and interestingly laid out lights and beams on stage. Sometimes all of it was going off at the same time, Very entertaining. It was halfway between the time I saw Tool in Dublin and the time I saw Killswitch in Manchester.
There was also a bit where they had a bit paying tribute to late guitarist Tom Searle, and had a nice speech about how his brother, drummer Dan Searle got the band back together when they were all bereaved. It was really nice, and the had a ‘T // S’ in a heart up on the screen.
It was a very good evening, which is good, because I almost didn’t go. I had a difficult day at work, had a massive headache, had just got new glasses and hadn’t got used to driving in them yet, and a bunch of other lame-o excuses, but the gist of it is I wasn’t in the mood. I was very tempted to just skip it, but I remember how good Architects were last time, and I’d heard they had a really good production this time around, and I really like their newer three albums. Getting in and out of Cardiff was nice and easy too, even though it was a Friday night, the streets were quiet and the roads were pretty empty and it was no hassal with the travel.
Good night. Next up for me concert-wise; is also an evening of Metalcore: Killswtich Engage and Parkway Drive at the venue is February, and that’s going to be madness, if tonight’s production was good, I can’t wait to see the upside down flaming drum-kit like at Download Festival, but at their own show, in a more controlled environment than a festival. Can’t wait.
Following on from yesterday, which showed my top 50 most listened to artists this year, here are the Top 50 albums, courtesy of Last FM.
The first box indicated highest to lowest, the second is album art, the third is artist name – album name (ignore the number before each album, that’s just how I make music players do everything chronological instead of alphabetical) and the final box is how many songs from that album I listened to this year.