o2 Institute Birmingham 16.12.16

WOW, two gigs in Birmingham in two weeks – I must be desperate to review a live show, especially after the nightmare I had getting into Birmingham last week! Truth is, we got invited to interview the amazing Valient Thorr (thanks Napalm Records) and these guys are insanely good live and their music speaks volumes! More on them in a bit, along with our interview link.
Valient - Valient Thorr

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, up until recently, tonight’s venue in Birmingham, known as ‘The Institute’ was called just that but got re-branded as part of the o2 franchise, so I can be forgiven for going to the o2 Academy right, right? No, I’m a douche and should have read the details right! I did manage to get to the correct venue in time to interview the band and I even got invited up to watch sound check!

Being my first time here, I was slightly dubious and didn’t quite know what to expect – this place is massive and like a rabbit warren so you could easily get lost here. The main room, where tonight’s gig was being held is great and I’m pretty sure that once upon a time it use to be a grand theatre, complete with overhead viewing galleries which are still accessible and does give the spectator a great view point. Being a theatre, the acoustics in the room are great too! Apparently, the lighting here can be a little hit and miss but although there was a lot of smoke, I had no complaints about the lighting tonight, which is a rarity and some what of a relief, seeing as getting here is a complete ball ache!

With our interview all wrapped up with Valient Thorr, it was time to get ready for Lionize who were up first. We’re familiar with these guys as we first saw them on Metal HammersLord of the Riffs Tour II’ which is where we also discovered Planet of Zeus, incidentally (amazing band).

A little about Lionize, they’ve been around a long time and are multi diverse in their musical style. Their early stuff is very reggae orientated but as they’ve developed, their style has become less reggae and more rock. A contributing factor may be the fact that they were signed to Clutch’s record label, but it now states that they’re on their own label ‘Wheatons Finest Music’? As stated last time, we prefer the bands earlier material however, tonight’s performance was fun though, almost as fun as Nate’s stage outfit – almost! Wow!

Valient Thorr however, are now my new favourite band to watch live! These guys are a group of energetic, talented musicians, who are intelligent and seriously passionate about the music they produce. They are also a lot of fun and don’t appear to take life too seriously. Now on their seventh album ‘Old Salt’ which was released in July and is a great body of work that they’ve only just toured in Europe and the UK. From what we can gather, these guys maybe gearing up to tour the US in 2017, so fans over there need to check these guys out, should they come rolling into your home town.
Storm Thorr - Valient Thorr

I also get the impression after talking to these guys in our interview, that this group are constantly creating new music, so I doubt we’ll have to wait too long before they release new material. Also, now knowing the kind of bands these guys tend to tour with, here in the UK, the likes of Mastodon, for example, I don’t think we’ll have too long a wait either before they grace our shores again! Watch the interview with Valient Thorr.

We last saw Clutch back in 2013 in Nottingham, when they first started touring the release of their most commercially viable album to date ‘Earth Rocker’. Since then, the band have been back here every year and have also been able to release another albumPsychic Warfare’ which includes the hit new singleXray Visions’ which we love. According to Spotify, the band have also released a lot of their older albums this year, such as ‘La Curandera’- I may be wrong, but I’m sure this is older material, feel free to correct me if I am!

Now, back in 2013, I immediately got the impression that Clutch are a band who like to get on with a set with little or no interaction with the crowd, which is fair when you consider the number of tracks they cram into it. Some say Neil is a great front man, which we agree with, but the rest of the band are very much in the moment, especially Dan and Tim! Tonight was very different to that show back in 2013 and a complete contradiction to peoples general consensus! Neil literally lived up to his ‘great front man’ status! The rest of the band did what they are meant to do, perform like a unit and allow their front man to entertain the crowd!
Neil Fallon - Clutch

And what a crowd too – the venue was nearly at capacity, so you could say it was a sell out! Trying to take pictures was hard though, I’ve never found it difficult to stand up whilst photographing a gig before but the bass from Jean-Paul’s kick drum was so strong, it proved a challenge but one I was willing to accept mind!
Jean Paul Gastor - Clutch

We love this band and everything they do, so tonight’s biggest achievement was that we managed to actually say hello to Neil Fallon in the corridor on the way to Valient Thorr’s dressing room and he even said hello back… I know it’s wrong, but everyone’s allowed a fan-boy moment.

This was my last gig of 2016, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the bands, venues, promoters and most importantly our readers and I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! See you in 2017!
Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

Bullet For My Valentine

O2 Academy Birmingham 7th December 2016.

Having not been to a gig for a while, I was quite excited about getting back to what I love doing. Tonight’s gig promised to be special, but my enthusiasm soon died when I tried to drive into Birmingham at the height of rush hour. Thankfully, I managed to arrive at the venue before doors opening, which in itself was a miracle! I don’t suppose it helps that Christmas is just around the corner!

Michael Paget - Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet For My Valentine (BFMV) were scheduled to do two dates here in Birmingham, the first of which was last night. Initially, we were down to review that show but due to the fact the venue was up to capacity (SOLD OUT), they had to cut back on the press numbers, which wasn’t an issue really, however it appears both nights were completely different. It also turns out that the lighting at last night’s show wasn’t as good as tonight, which must have been completely terrible, as tonight wasn’t ideal but we managed to get a few pictures we like! BFMV’s set list differed as well – new stuff last night, old stuff tonight, which suited me fine! More on these guys in a bit, but first the support bands.

Supporting BFMV on both nights, was the up and coming quintet from New Orleans, Cane Hill. It quickly became apparent where they draw their inspiration from ‘musically’ as you simply had to look at was written on the drum kit. Described as head bangin, beer drinkin, pot smokin metal, they’re clearly trying to make a statement however, due to their chosen topics, are they limiting their audience, do kids these days still do these substances……of course they do but should these topics be endorsed? I wouldn’t of thought so, but I’m old (er), so I’m meant to appear responsible.

Elijah Witt - Cane Hill

There’s no disputing these guys have got talent, buckets of energy and plenty of agro about them, sadly, however, no one could see them. I’m all for allowing the music to speak for itself but the lighting for these guys was terrible. Personally, I felt sorry for the people who paid good money to see a show but instead got darkness with WAY too much strobe lighting!

Second up, were a band I’ve been looking forward to seeing live for a while, Killswitch Engage. There are some bands that just connect well with a variety of metal fans by enlarge. Some merely appeal to sub genres and only those people who follow that particular type of metal sub-genre, but this band seems to appeal across the board. People say these guys are predominantly nu-metal, with elements of classic metal thrown in. According to Spotify, the bands second most played track is in fact their cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ and it’s one of those covers you could easily consider as being as good as the original! I wouldn’t say better, but that track has helped them to appeal to more people and helped them to connect with a crowd who may not necessarily know who they are and in KSE’s case, that track has helped them immensely! It’s hard to believe these guys have been going for the best part of 16 years now and have produced seven albums, the latest of which was released this year, titled ‘Incarnate’ and it’s a belter!

Adam Dutkiewicz - Killswitch EngageTonight’s set was full of energy, with everyone playing their part to gee up the crowd. Although these guys have been doing this for many years, it’s great to see a well seasoned band still get up on a stage and still look as though they’re enjoying themselves and that was very much the case tonight! Mike D’Antonio, on bass – what a performer and those facial expressions… priceless!

Jesse Leach - Killswitch Engage

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw these guys again, very soon, in the summer in fact, at a festival near you!

Although the headliners, Bullet For My Valentine, hail from Bridgend in Wales, you wouldn’t of thought it as all three bands worked very well and complimented each other nicely. It’s refreshing to go to a gig where all the bands have a similar style, yet are all very original and to see the crowd rocking the night away!

Jamie Mathias - Bullet For My Valentine

Seeing as BFMV released their latest album ‘Venom’ last year, it makes sense they would go on tour to promote it, however, doing two consecutive nights within a city is a bold move and not one many bands can get away with!

To ensure selling enough tickets to warrant the move, you have to do something different. If you dedicate one night to the new stuff and another night to the album that made you, which in BFMV’s case was the album ‘The Poison’ released back in 2005 and has their monster anthem ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ on it, it’s certainly going to draw in as many fans as possible. Matthew Tuck, the bands lead singer, even acknowledged what that track has
done for the band and thanked the fans for helping them achieve everything, within their career so far, which I though was nice!

Matthew Tuck - Bullet For My Valentine

Although I like the new album, I’ll be honest, it’s new and I’ve not lived with the tracks long enough to get ‘that’ passionate about them. The older material however, is what got me into the band in the first place, so to be given the opportunity to be in the pit, while BFMV played ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ is why I love doing what I do!

Tonight’s show was a true spectacle and one that can only be described well, if you were there. If you weren’t there, you seriously missed out on a brilliant night of metal.

Review and photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

Stone Broken

The Slade Rooms Wolverhampton 12th November 2016.

I think it’s fair to say that this evenings event is going to be quite a special one, as the growing buzz in the music scene around the up and coming band Stone Broken really has given them wings, and boy oh boy, here we have a band who are most definitely set to fly.

Tonight’s line up also includes three other rather excellent bands and getting this evenings event underway were Wicked Stone, who hail from the south east area of Kent. Wicked Stone sit sweetly within the southern style hard rock genre and have a melodic sound akin to that of Black Stone Cherry, which was a perfect match with tonight’s audience. Given that the band only formed last year, their ability and achievements together are impressive and based on their performance tonight, I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more from them in times yet to come.


Next up and fresh from their success at Hard Rock Hell, were the Glasgow based band Mason Hill who are definitely another of the up and coming young bands to watch out for. The stand out aspect for me about the bands set tonight was the level of energy that they put into their performance as from my privileged position in the photo pit, the adrenaline which poured off that stage was quite astounding. Mason Hill are a great band to see live and I highly recommend that you do.


With just one final band set to play before our headliners took to the stage, The Slade Rooms was looking just about full to the rafters so it was amidst some mighty loud cheers and applause, that our penultimate band of the night Trucker Diablo took to the stage.

Trucker Diablo have been rocking the sound waves hard since 2008 and have the kind of history that can’t fail to impress with previous highlights for the band including supports with giants such as Foo Fighters, Terrorvision and Thin Lizzy to name only a few. That being said, these guys are no strangers to outstanding headlining performances in their own right, so seeing them here tonight was a bit of a treat in itself! From the first song to the last, Trucker Diablo and The Slade Rooms rocked and it’s always a pleasure to see a band and audience connect like that, as it’s that kind of atmosphere which captures the spirit of live music and making tonight’s set from the band, something pretty special to witness.


The past three years have seen Stone Broken’s popularity grow at an incredible rate and the fact that tonight’s audience was over 500 strong in numbers marks that fact well. And even though you could pretty much classify this as a hometown gig for the band, some of The Broken Army fans had travelled quite a distance to be here which gives an impressive indication of the growing interest that Stone Broken are currently generating across the UK.

For me, the magic of Stone Broken comes very much from the band members themselves. During the past three years I have seen Rich, Robyn, Kieron and Chris raise their own bar at every opportunity and never give anything less than 110%. With this firm focus now combined with the management of Peter Keevil, Stone Broken are turning their dreams and aspirations into reality and this undoubtedly is quite awesome to see.


And tonight, that focus was firmly fixed on making this an occasion to remember, with the bands energy and enthusiasm being completely addictive to watch.

Tonight’s set list saw Stone Broken’s debut album ‘All In Time’ played in it’s glorious entirety, which made for a very happy audience indeed. In addition to that, we were also privy to a sweet little taster of what album number two might sound like, in the form of two new tracks titled ‘Other Side Of Me’ and ‘Just A Memory’.


Stone Broken really are one of the brightest lights amongst up and coming new music and I really do recommend you go and see them live. The band are set to tour UK and Europe with Glenn Hughes in January/February 2017 so make sure to check their Facebook Page or website for details of where, when and how to get tickets!

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.