Black Country M2M Final

Fixxion Warehouse Project Wolverhampton 23rd May 2015.

After months of blood, sweat and probably a few tears, the final of the Black Country Metal 2 The Masses is upon us and with Exiles Of Elysium, Eyes Of The Raven, XVII, Glass Bullet, Slaughter Horse and A Born Disaster all being the successful victors from the previous heats, it’s definitely going to be a tough final.

With the draw for tonight’s running order placing Exiles Of Elysium as openers for this event, these guys made quick work in raising the adrenaline charge from zero to max. In the blink of an eye, Exiles Of Elysium did a great job in bringing hardcore to the room and the unleashing of a circle pit was equally as brutal to that of their set.

Andrew Horton - Exiles Of Elysium

Eyes Of The Raven have been firm favourites throughout this competition, and it isn’t hard to see why as these guys have their foundations built from the up front and honest spirit of metal itself. Their set tonight was certainly well received by Fixxion’s audience and as always, it was over way too fast – which for me is always an indicator of a great job well done!

Eyes Of The Raven

XVII were the next band to take to the stage with front man Vaughn Bennett heading up the most brutal attack of metal. Their entire performance tonight was delivered with the kind of raging symmetry that left nothing spared in it’s intensity or power and from start to their finish, XVII were superb.

Vaughan Bennett - XVII

With their feet placed firmly within the realms of rock and metal, Glass Bullet were next to lay siege upon Fixxion’s audience, with a pandemic onslaught of much heaviness and dual guitar riffage. A technical guitar issue saw Ben Evan’s performance on guitar require him to step up into the realms of unbelievable and that is exactly what he did – so much kudos going out to him and to the band for letting nothing get in their way tonight.

Alex Caldicott - Glass Bullet

Our penultimate competitors tonight were Slaughter Horse and in my humble opinion, these guys delivered a performance tonight that surpassed any performance of theirs that I’ve ever witnessed before! Slaughter Horse have never lacked in the raging metal department but the transformation in their stage presentation tonight, launched them into an orbit of psychotic uniqueness that was simply spellbinding to watch.

Jim Chilton - Slaughter Horse

Tonight’s closing performance in this, the first chapter of the Black Country Metal To The Masses, was provided by none other that A Born Disaster . Once again, these guys were clearly a firm favourite with the audience and whose support to the band was equally as vociferant as ABD’s delivery of their own brand of metal, and you really couldn’t wish for a more awesome way in which to sign off the final heat for this competition.

Joey Stanton - A Born Disaster

With all six finalists having played their impressive sets, Simon Hall was now faced with making the ultimate decision as to which Black Country band would be making their way to Bloodstock 2015. I dare say the memory of those anxious minutes came flooding back to Eradikator who were this evenings guest band and winners of last years regional comp but no anxieties about their set tho, as Eradikator delivered a Rolls Royce metal cased performance that really put the golden seal on the whole night.

With the final decision made, Simon’s announcement came to the sounds of much audience approval, and none more louder than those of XVII who will now be performing on the Newblood Stage at Bloodstock with the other successful heat winners from across the UK and Europe.

Much kudos going out to XVII and to all the other bands who have taken part, the judges, Mayhem Promotions, Bearded Monkey Promotions and of course, the Metalheads who have supported the Black Country Metal To The Masses from the very beginning. Roll on 2016!

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.

Coal Chamber

Rock City Nottingham 23rd May 2015.

Tonight saw the return of a legendary band, in Coal Chamber, to our shores and having never seen them before, I was keen to see how these guys fared today.

First though, we had Dope, an industrial metal band from America. Apparently, I think I recall the lead singer saying, this is their first time over here in the UK, which is pretty hard to believe since they first formed back in 1997! As an opening band, they did what they were meant to do and that was to warm the crowd up for the following acts and warm us up they did! What was nice to see was they were warming up a nearly full to capacity Rock City, which doesn’t usually happen for an opening act here. The crowd loved it too, we even had an early mosh pit and you could see these guys were pumped for tonight’s show. Incidentally, I’ve never seen a more jumpier band than these guys! For a minute there, I thought they were doing a cardio work out, but no, they were here to rock out and rock out they did! Great band, great show.

Dope

By looking at the bands FB page, I can’t quite fathom who does what in the band, so I’m not going to try and decipher that, so I’ll finish by telling you tonight’s set list, which was pretty extensive for an opening act..

1.Violence 2.Bring It On 3.No Way Out 4.Fuck the Police 5.Rebel Yell (Billy Idol Cover) 6.Die Motherfucker Die 7.I’m Back 8.Sick 9.Addiction 10.Bitch

Next up were The Defiled, I first saw this band over a year ago and personally, I loved them back then. From what I could see as I looked on, the band are now only a four piece, which means their second guitarist wasn’t in attendance tonight. I hope this isn’t a permanent change and they get another second guitarist soon, as the band were only sounding 80% on form, you could tell something was missing.

Where they were lacking in numbers, members The AvD, keys and Needles, drums were on fine form and made up the show as if they were a two piece. The AvD was especially energetic tonight, but I know what he’s like from that previous encounter! I have to mention the fact that I studied Stitch D on vocals, for some time and I just have to say that he really is an excellent vocalist.

Stitch D - The Defiled

These guys have a massive following, however, I’d say one third of the crowd left the room when these guys came on, which tells me they ain’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought they were very appreciative of the people who were in the room and they certainly rocked all those in attendance. Personally, I love the bands sound and energy! Great Stuff!

Tonight’s set list varied to other UK shows, as one track got dropped from the list “Blood Sells” but the rest of the set remained the same and consisting of;

1.Sleeper 2.As I Drown 3.No Place Like Home 4.New Approach 5.Running in Circles 6.Unspoken

So Soil then, wow, I can’t believe they are back in the UK already, especially when you consider lead singer, Ryan McCombs suffered a stroke the last time the band were in the UK! Thankfully, he is now on the mend and back to rocking form. I thought it best not to interview him again though, just in case! He really is a great front man, I managed to make eye contact and give him a friendly wink to acknowledge the fact that it was great to see him back on stage! As for the rest of the band, I’m convinced they’re all camera shy, as every time I tried to capture them doing their thing, they turned their back on me!

Ryan McCombs - SOIL

Full set list (remarkably) was;

1.Breaking Me Down 2.Loaded Gun 3.The Hate Song 4.My Own 5.Pride 6.Redefine 7.Unreal 8.Halo 9.Black Betty (Ram Jam cover)

Tonight’s main event was muchly anticipated on my part, as I’d discovered Coal Chamber several years ago, but was yet to see them live. Quite frankly I don’t think many people have seen this band live recently as they have only just reformed. They haven’t wasted much time in producing a new album though, as the new one is out now, titled “Rivals”. For fans of this band, I can reliably inform you, this new album remains in the same vain as the bands previous album, so it rocks, seriously, check it out!

Mike Cox - Coal Chamber

Tonight, they opened with the big hitters, “Loco” and “Big Truck” which set the room into a frenzy. It’s the first time I’ve seen crowd surfers appear on the first song of a set at rock city, in a long time and it didn’t let up throughout the entirety of the show. After the track Big Tuck, Dez addressed the crowd to express the bands gratitude for their support. He then went on to tell us a short story about the last time the band were here. It appears, Neil, the cook at Rock City, is a legend and has been here for years, as has his legendary Shepherds Pie. He also congratulated Neil as it was his birthday! I’ve never been fortunate enough to sample Neil’s Shepherds pie, but I’ll also say Happy Birthday to the man.

Dez Fafara - Coal Chamber

Tonight was a nostalgia trip for many in attendance, as the younger folk were no where to be seen. Personally I though the whole night was ace, but my highlight was watching Coal Chamber’s bassist, Nadja Peulen, phwor – woman in metal are hot!

Nadja Peulen - Coal Chamber

Set list consisted of;

1.Loco 2.Big Truck 3.I.O.U. Nothing 4.Fiend 5.Rowboat 6.Something Told Me 7.Clock 8.Drove 9.Not Living 10.Dark Days 11.I 12.Rivals 13.No Home 14.Oddity 15.Sway

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

Flotsam and Jetsam

Queens Hall Nuneaton 19th May 2015.

Tonight was my first outing covering a Razorline Music Ltd show, which is kind of a big deal, when you consider the man behind this promotional outfit is non other than Simon Hall! Straight after work I made the thirty minute trip to Nuneaton, which isn’t too bad really, but what was surreal was being able to find the venue in the day light, usually I arrive when it’s dark and drive straight past the place. Thankfully, this occurs more ofter than not, which I discovered after talking to other people at the venue tonight, phew, it’s not just me then.

As I’d arrived, I made myself known and was then swiftly whisked off to a big tour bus where I conducted an interview with non other than Michael Spencer, Flotsam and Jetsam’s bass player – I’ll have more on that in a bit. After the interview I made my way back upstairs to mingle with the metal folk, who were gathering in their masses for tonight’s event!

First up were a new band to me, a female fronted outfit from Belgium, who go by the name of Bliksem, which is a word that describes the phenomenon of lightening in their native tongue, which is pretty fitting as this bunch are electric!

Tonight’s performance was hindered by sound issues which really didn’t help this lot out as you could see they were battling to find their rhythm, however, despite the set backs all the members in the band gave a sterling performance and showing they were worthy of the main support slot they’d been given (except for tonight) to the titans that are Flotsam and Jetsam.

Jan Rammeloo - Bliksem

I was so impressed with this bands sound, which I’ll describe as metal/thrash, so much so that when I got home, I looked them up on the usual music streaming sites to discover and listen to their album “Face The Evil” which I’m loving at the minute! I’m aware they have some new material being released soon as they played a couple of tracks tonight, so I’ll be on the look out for that, but the crowd knew of these guys and called for more of the older stuff. Personally, I thought they sounded great from start to finish!

As stated, tonight’s main support came from the local lads Beholder and quite rightly so as if I’m honest, especially when you consider all the time, effort and planning it must take to put a show on of this calibre, I think it’s only fitting Simon and the rest of the guys got this spot on the bill!

I was talking to a guy tonight, who asked me why I liked the band Beholder, which I’ve never really thought about before, but found it interesting to explain why I do in fact support these guys as much as I can.

Anyone who knows of Beholder, knows they ain’t scared to discuss the more unsavory topics that plague our lives on a daily basis. Where some are happy to stick their heads in the sand, these guys try to make people aware of these facts and demand change. Personally, I think Simon Hall should run to be his local MP, but I dare say that would go against every moral fibre he has in his body, yet he’s still willing and open to discussion. My reasons for liking these guys so much isn’t for their political beliefs, but more for the morals they live by and the fact these guys stand up for what they believe in and don’t give a fuck about what others think, which is very similar to my own personality. Truth is, every single member of this band are down to earth, nice guys and very approachable. Every time I’ve see them, they always make me feel welcome and are happy to see me at their shows, even if I’m slightly out of their demographic, as far as friends go. These guys are just good human beings, who choose to thrash out their frustrations on a stage, join them, or oppose them, they’ll be there regardless and for that, I’ll always admire them!

Truth is, Simon can ramble on a bit at a show (he even admitted it himself tonight) but tonight was a completely different affair as he and the rest of the band seemed very happy and a lot more relaxed, which helped to set the mood. The primarily reason for this has to be the fact that Beholder were supporting one of Simon’s musical idles, Eric ‘AK’ Knutson, who he openly admitted was one of the people to inspire a younger Simon to start singing in the first place, amongst others, so he must have been on cloud 9 to have the man himself here tonight!

Simon Hall - Beholder

There may have been other factors at play as to why Beholder sounded so good tonight, one factor may have been the fact that temporary stand in guitarist Jay looked a lot more comfortable than when I saw these guys in February. Back then he’d only had two practice sessions with the band and as anyone knows, it takes a while for a new member to fit into a bands groove. Tonight I felt that Jay was in that groove and gelled well with the rest of band!

Beholder’s set tonight was a short one, as Simon said on stage, “Lets get Flotsam & Jetsam out here, as I’m very excited to have them here and want to hear them play!”

Si Fielding - Beholder

Their Set List tonight consisted of; 1.The Awakening 2.Here I Stand 3.Dance (new track) 4.Host (new track) 5.Razor line

As stated earlier, we got an opportunity to talk with Michael Spencer, the bands bass player who is in fact from Sacramento, California. Erik, Steve and Michael Gilbert are from Arizona and new guy, Jason Bittner, who takes up drum duties is from New York. I meet with Michael and he suggests we conduct our interview in the tour bus, sure, I said, as I’ve never really been in a big tour bus like this before! Here we conduct our interview.

Michael Spencer - Flotsam and Jetsam

First things first, who was the Lord of the Rings fan, that got you lot to change the bands name from Paradox to Flotsam and Jetsam?

Jason Newstead!

So when did you first join this band?

Well I originally replaced Jason Newstead when he went on to join Metallica, the first time. I stayed with the band and helped to write material for the album “No Place For Disgrace” but I then left the band and took four tacks away with me. When I rejoined the band in 2013, it was suggested these tracks I’d written back then should be included on this new album. This is pretty exciting as these tracks will have that old school trash feel that our fans love from us.

Flotsam and Jetsam have been very successful as far as finding a balance between touring and writing new material, what’s your secret?

The band have been very lucky, as far as the rotation of musicians over the years. A band of this stature demands a lot of time and effort from its members, sometimes personal lives dictate who can do what so it’s been great to have other musicians stand in and keep us going.

How is the writing for the new album coming along?

We currently have seventeen tracks that we have drums tracked for so far. We have a couple of tracks we are looking to use a drop B, almost a Slipknot tuning, but we’ll not play that low, like they do, we’ll make them our own style. For now though we’ll get the summer shows out of the way, then in August and September, we’ll go back into the studio to finish it off. We should then have a greater understanding of a concept for this album, based on vocals, songs etc. from there, we can then get the album art work done and obviously a title, which can then be released, which is always exciting.

Do you all have different personal tastes in music and would you ever consider incorporate those personal styles into your music, namely, this new album?

Personally, I’m into 70’s mo-town, the Beatles and Iron Maiden, which is basically what I grew up listening to, but my son has recently got me into dubstep, so I’m currently listening to Skrillex, which I never thought I’d be interested in but I like the drum and bass aspect from that genre. As for incorporating more modern styles, we are a trash band so you have the purists who want their trash as it was back in 1981-1984, but Michael does try to incorporate some industrial beats into the music and people don’t like it, so we tend to stick with what our fans love. That doesn’t mean to say we’will produce the same album fifteen times over, we will mix it up.

You’ve openly suggested the new album will be released this year, will it?

That’s the plan, the last two albums have been released by Metal Blade but for this album, things are a little up in the air, as far as timing goes but we’d love to release this latest album with them again, so we need to see, but its release will be towards the end of this year.

The current European tour only has three UK dates, so us here in Nuneaton are pretty lucky, would you have liked to have had more UK dates?

We would have liked the UK leg to have been longer, we tried to tour with Saxon last year, which was a twelve date run, but the timing didn’t work out, which was a shame, so we missed out on that one, but were here now. Once the new album is out, that will give us a great opportunity to come back!

Are you attending any festivals this summer?

We have Rock Hard Festival coming up in Germany this year after the European leg, we fly back to the USA for a run of five dates on the East Coast, we then come back to do Head Bangers Open Air Festival, which is back in Germany.

You played Blockstock last year, do you think these kinds of festivals play an important part in your musical genre?

Absolutely, they help to get the band a maximum level of exposure which gives us an opportunity to taylor our set to attract new fans from younger generations. This set would be different to a headline show like this one, where our fans already know us well. This helps us to mix thing up and keep things fresh for us, within the band.

Thank you for speaking to us Michael, it was great to have the access and to be able to ask these questions. We look forward to hearing the new album.

Eric 'AK' Knutson - Flotsam and Jetsam

As for tonight’s show, for me, it was better than the show I saw at Bloodstock, the music was just as good, but where Bloodstock has 15,000 people between you and the band, the intimacy of tonight was great, up close and personal – just the way I like it. The band were phenomenal and for many in attendance, who last saw these guys play here in the UK, was back in 1987, which everyone seemed to remember very fondly indeed.

Steve Conley - Flotsam and Jetsam

Thanks to some professional video footage from tonight, I’m aware a very happy and slightly inebriated Simon managed to get up on stage to help Eric out on the vocals for a track, sadly, I’d already left to try and get some sleep before work the next day, shame on me I know, but I had a great night at Queens Hall tonight and I look forward to the next show Razorline Promotions Ltd put on.

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)