Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Angra's 'Ømni' - Album Review

Brazil's Angra have been undergoing somewhat of a resurgence of late. Now well into their third decade as a band since forming back in 1991, the progressive power metal quintet seems to be fired up and inspired like never before. Since recruiting former Rhapsody of Fire frontman Fabio Lione to the band's ranks back in 2012, Angra seem to be operating on another level quite unlike anything seen previously - including during their 1990s heyday when they were fronted by the venerable André Matos. 2015's Secret Garden (which I reviewed here), the first studio outing to showcase this new partnership, show the band willing to branch out and vary their established sound. Guitarist Rafael Bittencourt, who is the only founding member left in Angra's ranks, added to the diversity by revealing himself to be a more-than-competent singer in his own right. His lower voice added some grit to Angra's sound, and contrasted well with Lione's higher-pitched and cleaner tone. While Lione is clearly the band's frontman, Bittencourt's vocal contributions helped to push Angra's sound forward and made parts of Secret Garden sound totally different to anything heard on the band's preceding seven albums. The Angra ship was rocked later in 2015 however when guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who had performed on and co-written every Angra album up to that point, was picked by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth. Obviously that meant that Loureiro's role in Angra was going to be affected, and he has rarely appeared live with the band since joining Megadeth. While he is still a member of Angra, his involvement with the band's recent activities has been extremely minimal. That includes on the band's ninth album, the newly-released Ømni, their second effort with Lione. While Loureiro has co-written one of the songs here and provided a guitar solo for it, Bittencourt's main guitar partner throughout is Marcelo Barbosa (Almah) who has been filling in for Loureiro live since 2015. He seems to have been made an official member of the band recently however, and has been a big creative force behind the scenes of Ømni and he is credited with co-writing many of the songs on it. Soundwise, Ømni is not hugely different from Secret Garden. The progressive power metal sound, with a few traditional Brazilian elements thrown in for good measure, remains but Ømni just seems to hit home a lot quicker than Secret Garden. Secret Garden was a real grower, but many of the songs on Ømni are packed full of so many great melodies that you are familiar with them after only a few listens. It never seems like you are far from the next big hook while journeying through Ømni, and that is always the sign of a strong album. Bittencourt remains a vocal presence throughout Ømni, but he uses his voice sparingly here letting Lione take the lion's share of the lead vocals. That is a wise move this time around, as the material here is often much better suited to Lione's soaring delivery than Bittencourt's grittier voice.

Forgoing the usual trend to open a power metal album with a symphonic intro, Angra get right down to business with Light of Trancendence. A majestic guitar lead, which echoes Lione's previous band Rhapsody of Fire, opens things up before transitioning into a great dual lead guitar riff atop Bruno Valverde's speedy drumming. While songs elsewhere on the album take more risks and have greater progressive overtones, this is a straight up power metal anthem with fairly simple melodies and bulging guitar leads. A stratospheric chorus allows Lione to show off his impressive vocal range, while pushing triumphant melodies out of the speakers. Sadly the guitar solos are not credited in the album's sleeve notes, but both Bittencourt and Barbosa acquit themselves really well here. A shredding mid-section shows the guitar talent in the band, before a final reprise of the chorus brings the song to a close. Travelers of Time was the first single released from the album a few months ago, and it presents a slightly heavier take on the band's usual sound. A traditional percussive intro gives way to a crunchy riff that forms the basis of the rest of the song. Valverde's drumming is a powerful force here, and his tricky progressive metal beats really add depth to what is otherwise a fairly straight forward song. Another big chorus sees Lione flying, while the verses see him lowering his style to a more gruff bark. Symphonic flourishes involving gothic choirs pop up occasionally to good effect, and a heavy shredded guitar solo atop an almost thrashy drum beat emphasises the song's heavier nature. Bittencourt also takes the lead vocally for a short section towards the end, but Lione then returns for the chorus to perfectly contrast the guitarist's voice. Black Widow's Web is one of my favourites here, and features guest vocals from Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist; Arch Enemy) and Brazilian pop singer Sandy (who's voice sounds a little like that of former Nightwish frontwoman Anette Olzon). Sandy gets things started with a melancholic intro, before Valverde and bassist Felipe Andreoli create an-almost industrial beat for the verses which sees Lione and White-Gluz trading lines. The latter uses her powerful harsh voice, something not really heard before on an Angra album, which helps to create a really powerful duet. The chorus is more typically Angra however, with soaring melodies that catch on after only a single listen. The mix of heavy and melody is perfect here, and creates a new dynamic for the band. Insania (I wonder if this is about Geoff Tate's brand of wine...) returns to the band's more traditional power metal sound with a rolling drum beat of an intro that soon moves into a quieter verse led by Andreoli's muscular bass tones. Ringing guitar chords add some atmospherics, but on the whole it is the bass that drives things here. That is until the chorus kicks in which makes uses of Lione's soaring vocals once more over a chugging riff. There is less that jumps out here, but the melodies are still strong enough to make this an extremely enjoyable song that ticks all the boxes of what makes a good power metal song.

The Bottom of my Soul sees Bittencourt taking the lead vocally, and he turns in an expressive performance on the pseudo-ballad. The piece starts off acoustically, with jangly guitar chords providing the basic melodies for his breathy vocals. The song does build up, with more metal trappings including big power chords and hard-hitting drums being added in, but the acoustic basis is always present in the mix. This helps the song to feel more relaxed than it is, and effectively makes this the album's first ballad. War Horns is the song that features contributions from Loureiro, and is also the one the band have chosen to film a video for. Overall this is a heavy power metal track with crunchy riffing throughout and a strident drumming performance. It is a song that never really lets up, and the energy is palpable throughout the entire song's length. This includes the soaring chorus, which continues the fast tempos set elsewhere. Lione's urgent vocal wails help to enhance the chorus further, while Loureiro makes his mark on the song with a technical yet fluid guitar solo. It is great to see him adding his talents to this album despite his role as guitarist in Megadeth now taking up so much of his time. Caveman is more of mid-pace piece that has a distinct Dream Theater vibe running through it. The tribal chanting and percussive sections route the song with Angra's homeland, and remind the listener who they are listening to, but quite a few of the riffs sound like something Dream Theater could have written. Lione also sounds a little like an accented James LaBrie at times here, and I wonder if this was a deliberate choice to fit the song's vibe or whether all of the Dream Theater comparisons here are purely coincidental. The chorus in particular has a feeling of the American progressive metal giants, with a strong keyboard lead and AOR-esque vocal melodies - both of which are not in Angra's usual sound bank.

Magic Mirror has a slightly more progressive feel throughout, with a mid-paced tempo that allows the band to do different things. The intro is based around quite technical riffing, but this soon gives way to more of an atmospheric verse that again heavily features Andreoli's bass as a lead instrument. Both Lione and Bittencourt are featured vocally, with the latter adding a few effects-heavy sections to add a slightly spooky feel to compliment Lione's more refined feel. The song picks up the pace somewhat during the guitar solo section, which features plenty of double bass drumming, but soon returns to the more mid-paced feel afterwards for an atmospheric instrumental chug. A piano also makes an appearance to add to the overall atmospherics and adds extra depth to an-already varied piece. The song transitions directly into Always More which is a slower song that also has quite a few ballad traits. Parts of the song have a strong 1980s AOR feel however, which is great for fans of melodic rock like me, and this is not something that Angra have really actively sounded like previously. Bluesy guitar licks mix in well with the atmospheric keyboards, and Lione croons perfectly over the top in a laid back and whimsical way. The chorus picks things up a little, with heavier guitar work and driving symphonic keyboards, but on the whole this song takes on a less-is-more feel. The final moments of the album are taken up with the two-part title track. Ømni - Silence Inside is up first and opens with Middle Eastern-tinged acoustic guitar melodies and strong bass leads before finally exploding into a heavy guitar riff that is augmented with stabs of gothic strings. A wah-heavy guitar solo extends this instrumental intro, before things calm down once more to allow Bittencourt to sing atop some more bluesy guitar lines. Him and Lione share the vocals throughout, with the former singing during the quieter sections and Lione taking off as the song ramps up. The wah-drenched guitar lines from the intro resurface throughout, which creates a slightly haunting sound which permeates through the whole song. The band's heavier sound is also featured heavily here with crunching riffs surfacing often throughout to add some real power to the end of the album. The title track's second part, Ømni - Infinite Nothing, is an instrumental piece that reuses melodies from the first part to create a gorgeous symphonic closing piece that genuinely feels like a piece of classical music. While it might be a bit long for an album outro in truth, it works really well to bring some of the album's melodies together in a different form to round everything out nicely. Overall, Ømni is a real triumph from Angra and it could well be my favourite album from the band yet. Every song here works well for different reasons, and really brings the best out of everyone involved. I hope this album goes on to be a big success for Angra, as this album really deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

The album was released on 16th February 2018 via earMusic. Below is the band's promotional video for War Horns.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Skid Row/Night Ranger - London Review

After only a couple of weeks had passed since my last trip up to London, I was back in the capital city for a double headline show from two great 1980s rock bands. This show was part of a much wider tour headed by Skid Row, marking their first UK headline shows since officially confirming former DragonForce singer ZP Theart as their new frontman, which took over much of the UK. The London show was special however, as it was also announced that AOR veterans Night Ranger would also be performing. Night Ranger were in the UK playing the HRH AOR festival in Wales on the same weekend, so fitting in another show in London made sense for them. While Night Ranger have played in London a few times over the years, I have never been able to make the logistics work to travel up to see them. I made it work this time however, so took the train up from Plymouth to see them and Skid Row entertain a sold out O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire. Skid Row are worth travelling for in their own right too, and their show at Plymouth's now-departed White Rabbit back in 2013 will always stick in my brain. I had not had the chance to see the heavy metal act since then however, so was looking forward to catching up with them too, as well as taking in Night Ranger for the first time. The O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire is a decent mid-sized venue, but I have always thought that the stage there is a bit low which makes views from the pit quite poor unless you happen to be very close to the front. In light of this, I opted to stand in one of the little viewing platforms near the bar, which provided a great view of the stage. Sadly the sound mix was often not as good as the view, with portions of the night sounding extremely muddy. I always think this is pretty unforgivable for established professional venues and bands, so it was a real shame that this kept rearing it's head.

Bluesy rockers Bad Touch hit the stage not long after the doors opened and treated the growing crowd to half an hour of strong riffs and catchy choruses. Being the first band of a four-band bill is not always easy, but Bad Touch gave a good account of themselves - despite battling the above-mentioned muddy sound at times. I had seen the band a couple of times before, although not a for a few years, but I felt that this was the best showing I had seen from them yet. The presumably newer songs seemed stronger than I ones I remember from the previous gigs, and were packed with lots of excellent bluesy guitar soloing. The band had never really grabbed me previously, but this time I found myself enjoying them a lot more. It seemed that I was not alone in this, and by the time their set ended it seemed that many in the crowd were enjoying themselves. I think I will have to investigate the band further, as many of the songs played here were strong.

Toseland also only had half an hour, but the ever-growing band put on a good show which also seemed to go down well with the crowd. Fronted by former World Superbike champion James Toseland (vocals/keyboards), the band play modern hard rock in the vein of bands like Alter Bridge. Toseland are somewhat more generic than Alter Bridge however, but I still enjoyed their set. Many of the songs are based around simple, cutting riffs but all of them had big stadium choruses that were definitely lapped up by those in attendance. For a couple of songs Toseland was behind his keyboard, which helped to add an extra dimension to the material. Piano always adds depth to songs, so it was good to see things being changed up a little with this addition. I am not sure that I was tempted enough by Toseland's songs to now go out and buy their albums, but their half an hour on stage certainly was not unenjoyable.

Night Ranger were the first of the two headliners to play, and sadly they seemed to suffer the brunt of the poor sound. Their first half of their set was extremely muddy, although it did improve as time passed. While this show seemed to be largely an evening of nostalgia from the two headliners, Night Ranger opened their set with Somehow Someway from last year's Don't Let Up. The song is a driving rock song which got the show off to a good start, before going straight into Touch of Madness from 1983's Midnight Madness. Jack Blades' (vocals/bass guitar) vocals were quite high in the mix, which was good, but the guitars sounded very mushy and the keyboards were almost inaudible. The sound hit a real low however with Sing Me Away, which featured Kelly Keagy (vocals/drums) on vocals, as Keagy's vocals were pretty much totally buried in the mix. The reaction from the crowd was quite muted early on, probably due to the poor sound, but things did pick up a bit from Coming of Age onwards. The old Damn Yankees song (of which Blades was a part of) got everyone going, before a personal favourite Rumours in the Air was wheeled out. The sound was actually pretty good on this on, and the following self-titled song which felt big and heavy. The sound mostly seemed strong from this point on, so the second half of the set was definitely the more enjoyable part. Lots of singing from the crowd ensued with a little medley of old Damn Yankees songs, including the epic power ballad High Enough, and Keagy was actually heard this time during Sentimental Street. The real highlight of the night however was a potent version of Don't Tell Me You Love Me, which also included a little snippet of Deep Purple's Highway Star. This song allowed both Brad Gillis (guitar/vocals) and Keri Kelli (guitar/vocals) to shine with some excellent guitar solos, before the high-charting power ballad Sister Christian saw the biggest sing-a-long of the night up to that point. There was time for one more, and (You Can Still) Rock in America proved to be a great closing number. By this point it seemed that everyone was really into what Night Ranger were doing, and they managed to end a fairly mixed set on a high. If the whole set had sounded as good as the last few numbers this would have been an excellent outing, but as it is it has to go down as a slightly disappointing, but ultimately still enjoyable, hour or so of music. The setlist was:

Somehow Someway
Touch of Madness
Four in the Morning
Sing Me Away
Coming of Age [Damn Yankees cover]
Rumours in the Air
Night Ranger
Sentimental Street
Come Again [Damn Yankees cover]/High Enough [Damn Yankees cover]
Don't Tell Me You Love Me/Highway Star [Deep Purple cover]
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock in America

Luckily for the majority of the crowd, who seemed to be there mainly to see Skid Row, Skid Row's set was largely free of any sound issues. Skid Row were always at the grubby end of their 1980s rock scene, so their loud and in-your-face sound filled the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire as soon as they hit the stage with Slave to the Grind from their 1991 album of the same name. With exception of a Ramones cover that was played, all of the rest of the songs in the set were culled from their first two albums. We are the Damned from a recent EP was on the setlist but was not played due to the looming curfew, so this really was a trip back to the past with some of the band's best songs. What was immediately clear is how perfect Theart is for Skid Row. His powerful, but controlled voice allows him to screech the vocals with real venom when it is required of him and tone it down for the ballads. He really shone throughout the night, while original members Dave 'Snake' Sabo (guitars/vocals), Scotti Hill (guitars/vocals), Rachel Bolan (vocals/bass guitar) ground out those timeless riffs and grooves. It was great to hear a few songs played that were not in the Plymouth setlist a few years ago, with Sweet Little Sister and Livin' on a Chain Gang being some of the early standouts. A real highlight for was the duo of the punky and sleazy Big Guns being followed up with the pseudo-ballad 18 and Life. These two songs are ones you would always expect to hear at a Skid Row show, but they never fail to impress. Theart in particular shone on the latter, and shows just what an amazing voice he has! Rattlesnake Shake was another one that I had not heard them do live before, before Bolan took the microphone for the aforementioned Ramones cover - a furious take on Psycho Therapy. He mentioned during his spiel prior to the song that this was their fifth sold out show in London in a row. It sees that Skid Row are still as popular as ever over here, and I hope that means it will not be too long before they return! The main set came to an end with the ballad Quicksand Jesus and the bluesy groove of Monkey Business. The band left the stage to cheers, but it was not long before they were back for two more. Another ballad in I Remember You saw plenty more singing from the crowd, but it was Youth Gone Wild that really got everyone going one last time. It is easily the band's best known song, so there was plenty of movement from the big crowd, especially as Theart led them through a bit of a sing-a-long part way through. The band left the stage having made their shorter-than-average set really count, and I am sure everyone walked away happy. The setlist was:

Slave to the Grind
Sweet Little Sister
Piece of Me
Livin' on a Chain Gang
Big Guns
18 and Life
Makin' a Mess
Rattlesnake Shake
Psycho Therapy [Ramones cover]
Quicksand Jesus
Monkey Business
I Remember You
Youth Gone Wild

Overall, despite some sound issues throughout, this was still a very enjoyable evening. Night Ranger were still fun despite sounding like mud at times, and Skid Row really impressed once again. It is great to see bands like this still attracting good-sized crowds here in the UK, and I will definitely be trying to catch them again when they return.

Monday, 5 March 2018

The Temperance Movement's 'A Deeper Cut' - Album Review

While not ever really breaking through to the super leagues as it seemed might happen when they released their self-titled debut album back in 2013, The Temperance Movement have still become an extremely popular band. The band's upbeat sound, that forges driving blues rock with Britpop-era indie sensibilities, has managed to draw in fans from various walks of life which certainly accounts for much of their popularity. Despite seeming like veterans of the rock scene due to their heavy touring schedule over the past few years, The Temperance Movement are still a relatively young band that are still establishing themselves and their sound. The self-titled debut album was a great slab of raw blues rock; with riffy driving tracks mixed in with heartfelt ballads for diversity. The next couple of years were spent touring it, with their second album White Bear (which I reviewed here) coming three years later in 2016. Despite containing some good songs, White Bear felt sterile compared to the roaring debut. It is not an album I return to regularly, opting for the debut when I feel like I need a hit of The Temperance Movement's music. It was clear that they were trying to do something a bit different from the debut, which is commendable, but I feel that they did not quite pull it off. More touring, two years, and a couple of line-up changes later the band are back with their third album A Deeper Cut, a really strong collection of songs that returns more to the sound of the debut while still managing to incorporate some of the experimental streak found on White Bear. The line-up changes have made very little difference to the feel of the band, with guitarist Matt White and drummer Simon Lea fitting seamlessly into the groove of The Temperance Movement. White replaced former guitarist Luke Potashnick, who left the band before White Bear was released, and Lea replaced original drummer Damon Wilson later the same year after the latter amicably left the band. White and Lea join original members Phil Campbell, Paul Sayer, and Nick Fyffe; and the five men have worked together really well to craft the songs for A Deeper Cut. It is also worth noting that, as far as chart positions go, this is the band's most successful yet. Both the band's debut album and White Bear reached the top 20 of the Official UK Album Chart, but A Deeper Cut has broken into the top 10 for the band's first time and finished up at number 6. This is a big achievement for the band, and shows that they are a band that is still on the rise and continuing to gain fans across the country. This is evident when you go to one of their concerts. There is usually a whole range of different people in attendance, far more diverse than your average rock crowd, which shows how the band's music is reaching out to a broad audience.

The opening number and lead single Caught in the Middle is a driving rock number akin to the sound the band forged on their debut album. A choppy guitar riff drives the song, and forms the basis of the verse, while frontman Campbell barks the lyrics out in his trademark gravelly drawl. This is a very basic song, but one that is packed full of attitude and swagger - especially during the shout-along chorus which is packed with a bluesy stomp as the guitars roar at the end of each bar providing the perfect counter to the vocals. It is a short, but one that will stick with your for a long while. Built-In Forgetter is quite similar, with Lea's shuffling drumming driving the verses while a bare bones guitar riff punctuates in between the vocal lines for some true rock punch. This is a song that is packed with groove, and all of that is down to Lea's drumming. He is not playing a fancy beat throughout, but he is perfectly in the pocket and lays down a groove for everyone else to play with. Elsewhere, the somewhat gospel-inspired chorus is packed full of melody. Campbell's vocals are slightly cleaner here while helps to carry the melodies atop the jangly guitars. The gospel feel continues with Love and Devotion, which has a soaring soulful chorus and a dirty blues riff to drive everything else. It is clear that bands like The Black Crowes have always been a big influence on The Temperance Movement, and songs like this one really show this influence. The Robinson brothers could have written this song, and a great slide guitar solo towards the end seems to pay tribute that great American band and their peers. The album's title track is up next and this takes the form of a fairly delicate ballad, with acoustic guitar and Campbell's cleaner vocals dominating earlier on. Atmospheric electric guitar lines and chords are added throughout, especially during the sparse chorus, but the song never really departs from the basics - even when the drums kick in after the first chorus. Lovers & Fighters from the band's debut albums is one of my favourite rock ballads of the past few years, and this song really rivals that song for me. Campbell, while usually known for his harsh, bluesy vocals, sounds so different here and he manages to inject a tonne of emotion into the song. I love how the song slowly builds towards the end, with a distant, shouted refrain forming the basis of the progression while the guitars etc. swirl around it. Backwater Zoo is easily the band's quirkiest tune yet, and features a piano courtesy of Campbell - something which the band have introduced on this album. The song is a great piece of barroom boogie, with Campbell's piano driving everything while the choppy guitars dance around it and lock in perfectly for a bluesy groove. While not hugely different from the band's established sound, it still manages to stand out with the heavy use of the piano and become one of the highlights of the album. Another Spiral is another slower track, but one that falls somewhat flat compared to the title track. I think after seeing the band perform this song live a couple of times, during which Sayer would launch into a lengthy guitar solo to close the piece out, the more restrained studio version feels less interesting. There are good moments however, including an Eagles-esque pseudo-chorus with some subtle vocal harmonies that do capture the attention.

Beast Nation is probably the song on the album which has grabbed me the least, and it seems to be caught between wanting to be a rocker and a slower piece. The strange verses, with some stop-start guitar riffing, seem like an experiment that has not quite worked; but the gorgeous chorus definitely sits in the song's favour. I really like the simple melodies that Campbell creates with his voice, and the lyrics really sink in after a couple of listens - it is just a shame that the rest of the song does not quite feel right. The Way it Was and the Way it is Now gets things back on track with a strong mid-paced groove that makes a lot off Fyffe's bass. The guitar lines here are mostly simple, with chopping chords again being favoured by Sayer and White, leaving the bass to really provide the main rhythms. Fyffe is a really tasteful bassist, and often really adds to the songs' groove with subtle basslines that bring everything to life. This is a song that really shows what he adds to the band, and is is another example of the band's default bluesy rock sound. Higher than the Sun is a great laid-back piece that makes use of atmospheric guitars throughout and a cool vocal display from Campbell. While not a ballad, this is not a song that every really rocks out. It is a song that has a great summery vibe with shimmering atmospherics. There is nothing abrasive here, and nothing to really get feet stomping, but instead this is a piece to relax with a cold drink to. This vibe is enforced with a snaking and bluesy guitar solo that comes in towards the end, before leading into a final reprise of the chorus. It does seem strange for a rock band to end their album with three (or four if you include the previous number) slower songs, but that is what The Temperance Movement have chosen to do here. Children, with more piano from Campbell, is the first of the three and it is clear from the off that it is another winner. Piano and acoustic guitar dominate, while the drums and bass sit well in the background and only provide a simple percussive backing, which allows Campbell to lay down another really heartfelt vocal. He seems to have really upped his game when it comes to singing ballads recently, and his ability to really convey emotions in his delivery has improved immensely. There is more than a little country in Children, and it works within the context of the album. There's Still Time, while not a true slow song, still has a fairly chilled out vibe. A punchy drum beat helps to drive everything along nicely, while the acoustic guitar chords and playful piano melodies meld nicely with some jangly electric guitar lines. There is something about this song that I really enjoy, despite it being caught between two camps. This song, unlike Beast Nation in my opinion, manages to pull this feeling off successfully; plus there is something just so irresistible about the wistful chorus. The album comes a close with The Wonders We've Seen which seems like an odd choice for a closing number.  A true rock number or a soaring ballad would have been a better choice I believe, but instead the somewhat plodding piece comes and goes without ever really making an impact. The chorus is a little more like it, with a bit of a punch with some ringing guitar chords, but the rest of the song is a little saccharine for a band like The Temperance Movement. Overall, a couple of weaker moments aside, A Deeper Cut is a really strong third release from the band. This definitely packs a punch and rights some of the wrongs of the somewhat lacklustre White Bear. A few of the songs here are destined to become regulars in the band's setlists for years to come, and I hope the album is a big success for them.

The album was released on 16th February 2018 via Earache Records. Below is the band's promotional live video of Caught in the Middle.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Fragile Things' 'Echo Chambers' - EP Review

Only a year or so after officially releasing their debut EP Broken Sun (which I reviewed here), the Brighton-based hard rock four-piece Fragile Things are back with the second collection of songs. The new EP, titled Echo Chambers, follows a couple of stand-alone singles released over the past year and sees the ever-growing band really shine with five new songs that build on the excellent work done with Broken Sun. The past year has seen the band's star steadily beginning to rise, with numerous headline and support shows arranged around a good number of festival appearances. Rave reviews for both Broken Sun and the band's live shows have been popping up all over the internet, showing that the band are gaining fans wherever they go, have all culminated in the creation of Echo Chambers which has been funded as part of a successful crowd funding campaign. The band received their target funding extremely quickly, which allowed work on the recording to begin quickly. Once again the EP was produced by David Radahd-Jones, the man formerly known as Johnny Rocker and former guitarist of Heaven's Basement. He seems to be the go-to man when it comes to smaller bands wanting to record hard rock albums/EPs these days, and his powerful and gritty production jobs always bring out the best in the bands he works with. Of course, the fact that Radahd-Jones is a former bandmate of Fragile Things frontman Richie Hevanz makes the pairing a no-brainer. Speaking of the Heaven's Basement connections, Echo Chambers sees Fragile Things starting to form more of their own identity and break away from some of the comparisons that could be drawn about the Hevanz-era of Heaven's Basement and Broken Sun. There were a couple of songs on the first EP that really sounded like they could have been leftover old Heaven's Basement songs, but Broken Sun sees the band taking on a more modern, tougher sound while still taking influence from their early 1980s melodic hard rock influences. The changes in sound are not huge by any means, but it definitely shows the band are beginning to form their own sound which is great to see.

The EP begins with it's title track, which kicks in with a muscular riff and a rolling drum beat. The 1980s hard rock influences can be heard strongly here, with a strident verse and an anthemic chorus that sees Hevanz unleash his stadium-worthy vocal melodies. This is the song on the EP that is probably closest to the sound forged on Broken Sun and this is exemplified when guitarist Mark Hanlon launches into a shredding solo after the second chorus. This song is a set-opener in waiting, and I imagine their gigs are going to really hit the ground running from now on when this beast kicks in! Adrenaline has a different vibe, and opens with a droning bassline courtesy of Steve Lathwell. Overall this is a much more restrained song, and manages to create a pretty atmospheric sound despite the rock and roll basics of guitar, bass, and drums still dominating. Hanlon's guitar lines here are more subtle and melodic, which leaves the bass and drums to really drive the song during the verses which see Hevanz in a slightly poppier mood. Despite the song's title, this is not a song that ever really becomes a true hard rocker. There is a more in-your-face riff that follows the chorus, but overall this is a piece that is content to lay back slightly. It works well though, and shows a bit of a different side to the band. Pick Your Poison is heavier, with a great sliding riff from Hanlon and a bass-heavy verse that sees Lathwell laying down some venomously snaking basslines while the guitars chime around him. Things build towards to a driving hard rock chorus which really sees the band working together as a unit for maximum power. The mix of thrashed chords and choppy riffing that makes up the chorus is a strong combination and makes for an extremely memorable passage of music. Hanlon's screaming solo is excellent too, and really fits the vibe the song. Long, bent notes are mixed with faster, more fluid runs perfectly to create a true classic rock guitar solo. Disappear is another somewhat laid back piece, and it is actually Hugo Bowman's drumming that really keeps everything on track during the verses. Hanlon again creates some more atmospheric sounds with his guitar, all while Bowman keeps the beat the Hevanz croons out the vocals with a slightly fragile slant on his voice. This is probably the closest thing on either of the band's EPs to resemble a true ballad, but the harder chorus stops it from truly being one. I would really like to see Fragile Things tackle a proper ballad in the future, as I think they would be able to write and perform a good one, but until then this song will show off the gentler side of the band nicely. The final track, The Big Reveal, is a powerful piece that could well be the best thing the band have put out yet. Heavy, chugging riffing characterises the song; and Hanlon's meaty guitar tone brings to mind Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti at times. The verses are packed with real groove, as the guitar and bass play off each other to create subtle counter rhythms which forms the perfect backing for Hevanz's juddering vocals. The best part of the song however is the chorus, which is packed full of kinetic energy that powers through the speakers. Hevanz's vocals here are fantastic, and sees him hitting some pretty impressive high notes while still crafting catchy melodies. It ends the EP on a real high, and leaves you wanting more. Overall, Echo Chambers is a fantastic second release from the band, and one that shows them pushing the boundaries of their sound further. They are truly a band to watch out for, and I think British rock might be about to add Fragile Things to it's list of greats.

The self-released EP was released on 4th February 2018. Below is the band's promotional video for The Big Reveal.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Rhapsody - London Review

Rhapsody, later Rhapsody of Fire, are one of the best-known symphonic power metal bands in the world. Their epic, sweeping music that combines classic heavy metal music with the scope and grandeur of classical music has earned them plenty of fans across the world. The band's history has been filled with drama however, which has certainly held them back at times throughout their twenty-plus year career. Firstly there was the original name change - from Rhapsody to Rhapsody of Fire - which was never really explained apart from that there was some legal reasons for doing so. Secondly there was the long battle with their then-record company - headed by Manowar's Joey DeMaio - which kept them off the road and out of the studio for quite a while. Thirdly, and ultimately lastly, there was the big split that happened in 2011 which saw the band's core songwriting duo of guitarist Luca Turilli and keyboardist Alex Staropoli part ways. Staropoli kept the Rhapsody of Fire name, while Turilli formed his own version - called Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - which has essentially become a solo venture. Long-time Rhapsody (of Fire) members Fabio Lione (vocals) and Alex Holzwarth (drums) stuck with Staropoli for a few years, and released two solidly enjoyable albums. However, this all changed in 2016 when both left the band within a few months of each other. This came as a shock to fans of the band but, despite Staropoli essentially assembling a whole new band under the Rhapsody of Fire name, it seemed there was more going on behind the scenes that was initially obvious. Later that year, it was announced that 'Rhapsody' was going on a final world tour to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their debut album Legendary Tales before going their separate ways. Lione, Turilli, and Holzwarth - along with Dominique Leurquin (guitar) and Patrice Guers (bass guitar) who both left Rhapsody of Fire at the same as Turilli and who both now play in Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - had decided to reunite for a last run of tour dates, playing music exclusively from the Rhapsody years, before leaving Rhapsody behind for good and focusing on their other musical ventures. Interestingly Staropoli is not involved in this reunion, but this current Rhapsody incarnation is the closest thing to the classic Rhapsody (of Fire) line-up to be seen on stage since the big split in 2011. For someone like myself who had never seen Rhapsody (of Fire) live previously, this tour was met with plenty of excitement. The band have only visited the UK extremely rarely throughout the past twenty years, so a show at the O2 Academy in Islington, London was always going to be popular. I snapped up tickets after making plans to head back to Plymouth straight after the show so as not to miss any of my Masters lectures the next day, and it seemed that many others did similar as by the time the doors opened on the night the place was sold out.

Before Rhapsody's set however, the large crowd was treated to sets from two support bands. Up first were Scarlet Aura from Romania, who played for around half an hour but never seemed to really get going. The first song in their set was quite promising, with a strong chorus, but everything that came after fell somewhat flat. There was just very little in their music that jumped out. Very few of the guitar riffs were particularly interesting, with Mihai Danciulescu (guitar) mostly chugging out the rhythms while the keyboards on the backing tape provided the main musical melodies. Aura Danciulescu (vocals) was an engaging frontwoman however, and did help to get the crowd going at times, but with many of the songs being fairly one-dimensional she never really had anything to really sink her teeth into to show off her clearly strong voice. A cover of The Cranberries' Zombie did little to lift their set and I have to say I was quite pleased when they left the stage. Sadly it seems that Scarlet Aura are one of those many, many bands who are all competent musicians but lack that collective and indescribable spark that just allows some bands to shine.

Finland's Beast in Black were another story however, and as soon as they hit the stage it was clear that they really meant business. Formed by songwriter Anton Kabanen (guitar/vocals) after leaving Battle Beast in 2015, Beast in Black are sonically very similar to his previous outfit as they mix driving, upbeat heavy metal with catchy synths and melodies. Their debut album Berserker was released last year to strong reviews, so I was looking forward to seeing what this band had to offer. I was extremely impressed with their set, which was filled with songs from their only album, and in particular the performance of frontman Yannis Papadopoulos who probably has one of the broadest vocal ranges I have ever heard. At times he can sound like a woman, and the next minute he can unleash some Rob Halford-esque shrieks that fit perfectly within the band's heavy sound. The band's self-titled opening number really set the scene for the set, with songs like Blood of a Lion and The Fifth Angel also standing out. It was clear that there were many Beast in Black fans in attendance, as the response to their set was extremely strong throughout, with many fans singing along to all of the band's songs. The real highlight for me was their lead single Blind and Frozen, which I had heard prior to the show, which features an epic chorus that came over well live. Their set ended with huge cheers from the crowd, and it has persuaded me to try and pick up a copy of Berserker sometime soon. Copies were on sale at the show, but they wanted £20 for one which is extremely steep for a CD! This, sadly, sometimes happens on European tours when bands do not update the prices on their merchandise stalls to take into account that we use pounds in the UK and not euros.

By the time Rhapsody started their set, the place was rammed and everyone in attendance had come to sing. Rhapsody's epic music is made to be sung, and the crowd often helped Lione out throughout the night - especially during the big choruses. The set started in fine fashion with the hard-hitting Dawn of Victory, with Lione showing why he is one of the most in-demand singers in the melodic metal world with his highly-controlled display. The song is a favourite of mine, so it was great to belt out the chorus along with the band and see Turilli launch into the first of many neo-classical solos of the night. The vast majority of the set came from 1998's Symphony of Enchanted Lands, with Wisdom of the Kings representing that seminal album early on. Another early highlight for me was the bouncy The Village of Dwarves, which has more a classic rock strut than most of their material, which saw plenty of noise from the crowd. It was not just Turilli who impressed on the guitar front however, as Leurquin also shined with plenty of excellent solos of his own. He was always the 'other' man in Rhapsody (of Fire), never being made an official member of the band despite playing on stage with the band for many years and contributing to many of their studio albums, so it was great to see that he was an integral part of this reunion. By the time the band reached Knightrider of Doom, it was clear that this was well and truly their night. The song is one of the band's catchiest, with a chorus to die for, and it felt like a triumphant celebration of their respective careers while it was played. An emotional moment came later on, as Lione dedicated Riding the Winds of Eternity to their late collaborator Sir Christopher Lee. Lione told the story of how Lee had wanted to perform live with the band, but had never had the opportunity due to the band's infrequent visits to the UK. The song was a great tribute however, before they moved right into the epic title track from Symphony of Enchanted Lands. The song has lots of operatic parts, which really showcased Lione's incredible vocal talents. While most of the songs they played were their shorter, catchier numbers it was great to hear one of their long progressive numbers played also. Lione stole the show, but both guitarists shredded throughout to make for a powerful 13 minutes or so of music. The flow of the show was disrupted a little towards the end with drum and bass solos that felt a little superfluous, but plenty of epic music was still to come including a powerful rendition of Land of Immortals from the band's debut album. A surprise came in the form of Lione performing a version of Andrea Bocelli's Time to Say Goodbye (Con te Partirò). He sounded wonderful singing the short operatic piece, showing he is certainly more than your average metal frontman. The main set came to an end with Holy Thunderforce, one of the band's most ferocious pieces and a personal favourite, which was a perfect way to end the evening with everyone singing along. Sadly this is when I had to leave, as I had to make it back to Paddington in time to catch the sleeper train back to Plymouth. Setlist.fm details that the band played a three-song encore, including the fan-favourite Emerald Sword, so I have no doubt that it would have been as good as the rest of the set. The setlist was (thanks to Setlist.fm for the encore):

In Tenebris
Dawn of Victory
Wisdom of the Kings
The Village of Dwarves
Power of the Dragonflame
Beyond the Gates of Infinity
Knightrider of Doom
Wings of Destiny
Riding the Winds of Eternity
Symophony of Enchanted Lands
Drum solo
Land of Immortals
The Wizard's Last Rhymes
Bass solo
Time to Say Goodbye (Con te Partirò) [Andrea Bocelli cover]
Holy Thunderforce
Rain of a Thousand Flames
Lamento Eroico
Emerald Sword

Overall, despite having to miss the encore, this was a fantastic evening. With this current version of Rhapsody just a temporary touring entity, and Staropoli's new Rhapsody of Fire interesting me very little, this is probably the only time I will ever get to hear these songs live. I am so glad they included  a rare UK show as part of this greater European tour, and I am so glad I managed to make the show tie in with the previous night in Camden seeing Freedom Call and with Uni the next day!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Freedom Call - London Review

Despite having been a fan of theirs for a few years now, I had not previously had the chance to see German power metal stalwarts Freedom Call live. As with most European melodic metal acts, their trips to the UK can be scarce and often consist of a single London date. That is why, when a short four-date UK tour was announced by the band towards the end of last year, I jumped at the chance to get tickets for my first Freedom Call live experience. Despite slightly more choice than average when it came to venues, the show in London at the busy Underworld in Camden was the most convenient. The tickets were very reasonably priced, and the evening was made even more appealing when it was announced that the British power metal band Power Quest, who have been going from strength to strength over the past couple of years since reforming with a brand new line-up. The two bands have toured together in the past, and clearly have formed a firm friendship which made this short UK tour a no-brainer for the pair. Both bands are also promoting new albums, with Freedom Call still heavily pushing 2016's Master of Light and Power Quest dining out on the success of last year's excellent Sixth Dimension. Both albums have been extremely well-received by the metal community, which may have accounted for the strong turnout. While crowds at Sunday nights in London are usually fairly healthy, there was still a decent-sized amount of people in the Underworld throughout the night. With the slightly thin crowd that Firewind had watching their set in the same venue just over a month ago in mind, it is fair to say that Freedom Call have done well here. The ticket price was very affordable, which probably helped, but either way it was great to see a healthy crowd.

Up first however was Hanowar who, predictably, are Manowar tribute band. Manowar will never be one of my favourite bands, but I do appreciate many of their famous true metal anthems. As, it turns out, did many other members of the gathering crowd who sung along to every minute of Hanowar's 30 minute. This would have been fun if, however, Hanowar had been good. While not exactly awful, I think it is fair to say that their set was extremely sloppy. It seemed that more thought had gone into their costumes and attempts at pyrotechnics than really honing their craft. Their vocalist sounded more like Alestorm's Christopher Bowes than Eric Adams, and their live sound was extremely dull and lacked the punch that makes Manowar's songs hit the listener between the eyes. In fairness, Hanowar clearly do not take themselves seriously at all, which is fair enough, but it seemed that so much effort went into making everything seem kooky (handing out party poppers and attaching little sparkler-like things to their guitars) that it all just came across as somewhat forced. The songs played were all Manowar classics, it was just a shame that Hanowar did not really do them justice.

Luckily Power Quest were much better and, despite having some trouble with the guitars during the first song, made their seven song set count. It was clear that a large portion of those in attendance were already fans of the band, and sung along to everything the band threw at them. The upbeat opening duo of newbie Lords of Tomorrow and the old classic Temple of Fire saw Power Quest hit the ground running, with Glyn Williams (guitar/vocals) getting his guitar to work just before launching into the first solo of the night. The standout song for me however was the darker, heavier Face the Raven which features a venomous chorus which was perfectly handled by frontman Ashley Edison. This was my third time seeing Power Quest, and each time Edison has been better than at the previous show. He is clearly growing into the role more and more as time goes by, and his performance at the Underworld was excellent. His screaming falsetto in Face the Raven and the AOR tinged chorus in the old classic For Evermore really showed his vocal diversity. He could well be the band's best singer yet, and with the news of a new album already in the works for next year I cannot wait to see how he translates this growing experience into the upcoming new material. Elsewhere, the band's leader and sole founding member Steve Williams (keyboards/vocals) was thankfully pretty high in the mix which allowed the band's epic power metal to really shine live with his sheen of orchestral keyboards and synth leads. This was particularly evident on closing number Far Away which brought the band's set to a rousing and powerful end. The setlist was:

Lords of Tomorrow
Temple of Fire
Face the Raven
Kings and Glory
Coming Home (Sacred Land - Part II)
For Evermore
Far Away

I have to give credit to the on stage crew throughout this show, as all of the changeovers were extremely quick and without any fuss. It was not long after Power Quest finished their set that the lights went down and Freedom Call hit the stage for what was to be an uplifting set packed with their trademark happy heavy metal songs. Chris Bay (vocals/guitar) has been leading this band for twenty years now, and he led the four-piece band through a strong set that contained many of their best-loved anthems. Tears of Babylon and United Alliance got things off to a good start, with Bay beaming as he sung the lyrics to the enthusiastic crowd and Lars Rettkowitz (guitar/vocals) often stole the show with his shredding guitar solos. An early highlight for me was the slightly thrashy Kings Rise and Fall, which was one of the band's best choruses in my opinion. Another great moment was the band's self-titled song, which becomes a true anthem when played live. From the snaking main riff, through the atmospheric verses, to the roof-lifting chorus - this is a true power metal classic. While Freedom Call are well respected band, it is a shame that they have never reached the heights of some of their peers. While maybe their music lacks the diversity required to be considered a classic band, their catchy songwriting and infectious enthusiasm for their craft definitely deserves to be acknowledged by a wider audience.  Those who were in attendance however really lapped up everything that Bay and co. had to offer. There was a particularly good moment when Bay nipped off stage briefly, only to return moments later in a huge comedy hat and silly glasses before belting out a great version of the tongue-in-cheek Mr. Evil. Bay's traditionally deadpan German humour mixed with his smiling personality is a winning combination, and he took great pleasure throughout in cajoling the crowd to sing louder and jump higher. This slightly off-beat humour culminated in a version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, with alternative Freedom Call-inspired lyrics, which got everyone laughing and singing along before the band launched into the last song of the main set, their current single Metal is for Everyone. With big cries for more, the band came back out for a three-song encore that included some real fan-favourites - particularly Warriors and Land of Light. The latter in particular was truly excellent and got everyone off their feet one last time as the evening was brought to a close in a joyous fashion. The setlist was:

Tears of Babylon
United Alliance
Kings Rise and Fall
Union of the Strong
Freedom Call
Hammer of the Gods
Masters of Light
Carry On
Mr. Evil
A Perfect Day
Hallelujah [Leonard Cohen cover]
Metal is for Everyone
Power & Glory
Land of Light

After the show I managed to get my copy of Power Quest's Sixth Dimension signed by some of the members of the band which was great. They will be playing some headline dates of their own towards the end of the year so I will have to see if I can make it to any of those. I was really impressed by Freedom Call too, and will now have to get their rest of their many albums as I only own a few currently. I will definitely be trying to catch them again next time they visit the UK.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Saxon - Cardiff Review

For one night only in Cardiff the clocks were wound back to the early 1980s, as three bands from the fabled NWOBHM movement took to Cardiff University's Student's Union building for a fantastic evening of good, old fashioned British heavy metal. Headlining the night, as part of a short European tour before heading off to America to tour with Judas Priest, were Barnsley's finest Saxon. With their twenty second album Thunderbolt barely a month old, this was the veteran's band first live outing since the album dropped. This gave the band scope to try out some of the new material live, which they did as part of a varied setlist that encompassed much of their near forty year career. The Great Hall in the Student's Union is a good-sized venue, and it great to see bands like Saxon still able to fill venues of this size. While there were limited tickets available to buy on the door, the vast majority had already been sold by the time the evening rolled around. Saxon are regulars on the UK touring circuit, but that does not seem to deter their legions of fans who come out time and time again to support one of their favourite bands. Before this night in Cardiff, I had seen the band live three times previously. My last Saxon concert was back in 2013, at Nottingham's excellent Rock City venue, on their tour supporting the Sacrifice album. That was a fantastic evening, but for various logistical reasons I have not been able to get to a show on either of their last two UK tours. I was not going to let this happen for a third time, so plumped for this Cardiff show as soon as it was announced towards the end of last year. The fact that Diamond Head were also announced as the specials guests for the shows made this show more appealing. I had not seen Diamond Head live for more than ten years, as I last saw the band in Exeter supporting Thin Lizzy, and I had wanted to catch them live again for quite some time. Clearly I was not the only person who was tempted by this double bill, as the place was pretty much full by the time Diamond Head hit the stage.

Before Diamond Head's set however, the growing crowd were treated to half an hour or so of music from Rock Goddess. I was not familiar with Rock Goddess before seeing that they were a part of this bill, but the three-piece's hard hitting heavy metal sound impressed from the off. While their sound was very typical of the NWOBHM sound, the simple riffs and slightly punky choruses were pretty infectious. Jody Turner (vocals/guitar) has a powerful, raspy voice that really carried the band's material well, and her guitar solos were bluesier than your average NWOBHM band's lead guitarist which certainly added something to the overall sound. While the crowd initially seemed to be fairly ambivalent to the girls' on stage antics, this slowly changed over the course of their set and by the end it seemed that a decent portion of the crowd were really enjoying the songs being played. This included myself, and by the end of their set - when their early single Heavy Metal Rock 'n' Roll was played - I was fully on board. I will definitely be checking out Rock Goddess' back catalogue out when I can, as I have a feeling I will be enjoying what I hear.

After a quick changeover it was time for Diamond Head, and as soon as the band hit the stage for their forty minute set they had the crowd eating from their hands. Despite being a guitarist down, as long-time rhythm guitarist Andy Abberley was unfortunately recovering from surgery, the band put on a crowd-pleasing set with songs mostly taken from their early 1980s heyday. There is a parallel universe where Diamond Head got the success they deserved, but this was delivered as if that was indeed the case. Helpless got things off to a good start, before the sole-newer number Bones allowed the band's relatively new frontman Rasmus Bom Andersen to display his immense talent. He is a very active frontman, constantly prowling the stage while belting out the songs' lyrics. The real star of the show however was founding guitarist Brian Tatler, who's place in heavy metal history is well and truly confirmed, who peeled off excellent riffs and solos all night. Songs like Lightning to the Nations and the epic The Prince showed this the most. With the rawer sound due to the lack of the second guitar, Tatler was left alone to shine. Diamond Head were always only a four-piece in their 1980s heyday, so was probably a taste of what they sounded like back then as opposed to the somewhat more polished sound they have adopted more recently. Unsurprisingly, they closed their portion of the night with their most famous song Am I Evil? which received the biggest reception of the night. The crowd sung the chorus back at the band rather loudly, and I am sure even those in attendance who were not that familiar with Diamond Head's output over the years enjoyed it. I certainly did anyway, and I really hope I am able to catch a full length show from the band in the near future. The setlist was:

In the Heat of the Night
Lightning to the Nations
It's Electric
The Prince
Am I Evil?

Despite the enthusiastic reception that both of the support bands received, this was clearly Saxon's night and as soon as the lights went down the place erupted. Saxon fans are always very vocal, and the energy never let up throughout the band's set, which lasted just short of two hours. As always when they have a new album out, Saxon took the opportunity to showcase a lot of it live. The title track of the new album proved to be an excellent opener and the crowd shouted the chorus back at frontman Biff Byford passionately. Byford is one of the best metal frontmen of all time and he led his troops through an excellent set that showed Cardiff why they are still held in such high regard. Sacrifice and another new one Nosferatu (The Vampire's Waltz) followed, before the band went back in time for a couple of classics, of which Strong Arm of the Law stood out the most with Nibbs Carter's bass driving everything. The sound, overall, was excellent. Sometimes Paul Quinn's guitar was a little low in the mix, which was a shame, but the sheer power of what was coming from the stage helped to create one of the best atmospheres at a concert that I have been to for a long while. In total, six songs from the new album were debuted at this show, and it is a testament to the band they were all really well received. Saxon fans are thankfully not the kind who sit there quietly until the old classics are wheeled out so songs like the hard-hitting Sniper were just as well received as a groove-laden Dallas 1pm. It is hard to pick highlights from a set that was so strong throughout, but it was probably two of the new songs that stole the show. The heavy Predator was excellent, with Carter handling the harsh vocals - very convincingly - that were performed by Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg on the album version, but it was the band's tribute to Motörhead, They Played Rock and Roll, that really seemed to get everyone excited. Everyone seemed to know the song, and hearing it live took to to a whole new level. Nigel Glockler (drums) in particular put in a shift during the song, which even Byford acknowledged after the song came to a crashing end. The last portion of the set was mostly packed full of old classics, and firm favourites like And the Bands Played On and 747 (Strangers in the Night) went down a storm as they have done countless times in the past. The main set came to a close with another timeless tune, Princess of the Night, which received a huge cheer as the band left the stage for the first time. Not one but two encore sections followed, with three more classics being played for the big crowd. The somewhat thrashy Heavy Metal Thunder got everyone moving, before the band's true anthem Wheels of Steel was warmly received. The big riffs from Quinn and fellow guitarist Doug Scarratt whipped up a power the like rarely seen before, while Byford led the crowd through a lengthy sing-a-long section. The band left the stage once more after the song came to a close, but they came back one last time for a hearty rendition of another classic in the form of Denim and Leather. Despite Byford seemingly forgetting the words, which was a very rare slip up in an otherwise note-perfect evening, the crowd helped him out and belted the chorus out with real pride and joy. This sound brought the evening to a close, and the band took their bows to rapturous cheers. The setlist was:

Olympus Rising
Nosferatu (The Vampire's Waltz)
Motorcycle Man
Strong Arm of the Law
Battering Ram
Power and the Glory
The Secret of Flight
Dallas 1pm
Never Surrender
They Played Rock and Roll
And the Bands Played On
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Princess of the Night
Heavy Metal Thunder
Wheels of Steel
Denim and Leather

It is easy to say that a concert is one of the best you have seen but, excluding 'special event' (e.g. Marillion at the Royal Albert Hall) concerts, this was easily up there with the best shows I have seen for a while. The atmosphere was fantastic throughout, and the band were on fire and seem rearing to go for their large American trek with Judas Priest. The show was also filmed by students from the University, so hopefully that means it will be released on DVD at some point in the future. I hope so, as it would be great to relive this night in Wales with one of the best British metal bands out there.