Archive for July, 2011

Download Festival 2011: Classic Rock Friday

Day one of Download Festival, over recent years has definitely been moving towards the arena of the classic/hard rock, see previous headliners of Ac/Dc(2010), Def Leppard(2009) & Kiss(2008). Again in 2011 we find another cracking Friday lineup which I could not resist. I had to be here!

CKY

After the substantial journey up from London town, I took up the position I’d be in most of the day, down front on the main stage for the arrival of the skate born, alt-hard rock band CKY. A surprisingly large crowd had gathered and we were not disappointed, as they plundered out wah soaked hard rock riffs with graceful efficiency. The seeming endless barrage of melodies were both catchy and had most of the crowd leaping/banging head like there’s no tomorrow. The standout tune had to be the epic guitar riffed 96 Quite Bitter Beings which sparked the days first circle pit, bodies literally flew in all directions. A cracking opening to what was to be a legendary day.

Puddle Of Mudd

In a bit of a throwback to my younger days, Puddle of Mudd emerged to a much more youthful (and tightly packed) crowd. You would not have guessed they had been away from the UK shores for 10 years, support seems as eager as ever. Playing the best of their early album’s which had so much commercial success, lead singer Wes Scantlin let fly his nasally snarls led by some crunching post-grunge guitars. The biggest roars came with an Ac/Dc cover TNT and their love/hate ballad She Hates Me which had the biggest vocal backing of the afternoon thus far. Yet, they did not play Blurry, a song a lot of people had come to hear. Whether a timing issue was to blame, I dunno? But this soured the performance as they trundled off stage to an unsatisfied chorus of “blurry, blurry, blurry...”.

Young Guns

A short hike back up the arena I managed to catch the end of the Young Guns set on the second stage. They seemed very engaged with the crowd, trying to start a teenage riot with multiple calls of “I want you to go crazy to this one”. From the back It was hard to see what the fuss was about. Clean and scream vocals mixed up well in their post-hardcore melodies many of which were pretty cool, but nothing of distinction sets them apart. 10/10 for effort in pleasing the festival youth.

Duff McKagan

I returned to the main stage to catch the latter half of ex- Gun’s & Roses man Duff Mckagan and his band Loaded. It was clear nothing much had changed since the last time I saw them, still plugging away with sleazy punk slanted hard rock. Much of their original material was met with indifference despite a few catchy guitar and vocal hooks. The same cannot be said for their closing cover tune It’s So Easy. It’s always a pleasure to see a ex-Guns n’ Roses man playing classic material as if it was 1987 all over again.

Black Stone Cherry

Black Stone Cherry followed up next with a the set of the day so far! Full of southern Rock swagger and muscular guitar riffing so deep south it chills with the penguins. Set was comprised equally of from all three albums and mixed mid tempo rockers and all out hard hitting clout with effortless ease. Swinging from the latest  vocal wah (Sambora Stylie) driven single White Trash Millionaire to the  powerful chorus centric chanter Blind Man and the frenzied headbangers paradise on the Lonely Train. Despite these cracking tunes, there was an unexpected highlight…a cover version!

Heavy Metal Devil Horns out in force!

Taking a step aside from the usual hard rock covers they went all live lounge on our asses and pumped out a rocked up ‘Magic FM‘ listener friendly tune,, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. An uplifting and very popular choice which had many a black clad, leather bound macho man singing his lungs out…this alone, provided a classic Download moment! A superb performance from a band totally fulfilling their potential!

Alter Bridge

Somehow four more bands had to grace this stage. First to try were the ex-Creed associates plus one of my favourite vocalists Myles Kennedy, as Alter Bridge picked up where BSC left off! Soaring heavy rock anthems are what these guys do best, hence it was not long before they kicked into belters such as Find The Real and Ties That Bind which spark sing-a-longs and circle pits in equal measure. There are not many bands who write songs as big as Alter Bridge. Mark Tremonti as ever was a total genius with his guitar this afternoon firing off shredded solos, chugging metal riffs and harmonious sweep picked melodies at will. His arrangements are probably the most badass and technically accomplished of any hard rock band on the planet. The key to their success is his partner in crime Myles, who not only had one of the iconic rock voices of modern times, but boy he can play guitar too. An axe battle ensued towards the end of the set with both corners trading powerful knockout blows. A mesmerizing display of virtuosity from both men…I call it a tie! The crowd absolutely reveled in what was a terribly uplifting set that stuck the middle finger up towards the falling rains plans to scupper the show.

Thin Lizzy

Up next I am proud to have witnessed one of the legendary bands of rock. Innovators of the dueling guitar solo, performers of live shows that have gone down in history and true classic rock icons…Thin Lizzy are back! Albeit with a roughly cobbled together lineup of ex-members and newbies, yet with original members Brian Downey and Scott Gorham providing the core of the sound, this was probably the closest I would ever get to their 70’s magic.

Special Guest…Def Leppards Vivian Campbell

It was a set packed with nostalgia and legendary tunes such as The Cowboy Song, Whiskey In The Jar, Jailbreak…(I could list every song)…and of course The Boys Are Back In Town. New lead singer Ricky Warwick was most definitely not on par with Phil Lynott but he did a good job of belting out the chorus and getting the crowd onside. With such a huge chunk of the former lineup(s) missing it was never going to recreate the magic, but it was as good a set of rock and roll classics you will ever likely to hear!

The Darkness

After Wednesdays encounters with tonight’s Sub Headliners still fresh in the rss feed, I’ll be brief. The Darkness did exactly what they do best, entertain! A huge portion of the crowd you could feel were willing them to be rubbish. Those were soon won over by jaunty pop rock numbers and some good old fashion showmanship from the moustached Hawkins. By far the most spectacular set of the day. Comprising of all the usual glitz of confetti, streamers and fireworks, with the surprising addition of giant flame throwers. You can’t fault them for trying to keep the crowd on their toes! I was having a whale of a time, but then it is The Darkness, they only know how to make the good times roll!

Nothing like a naked flame to warm the cockles

It was an agonising wait in the ever plummeting temperatures and drizzling rain for tonight’s headliners Def Leppard (ring, ring…2009 called, says they want their headliner back)! Only 2 years since they last graced the Donington stage, they were back for more stadium sized rock. Their sound can only be described as gigantic. You really can feel with every beat of the drum skin, every hi-hat smash and every massive power chord. Yet it is so melodically balanced, making their pop rock classics sound great! To be honest I hadn’t been expecting much,  but with each passing intro I kept thinking…damn I know this!

Def Leppard

With an arsenal packed with livewire rockers and a bursting heart full of soppy ballads this was the finest show of pop metal outside 1984. Tunes such as Animal, Rocket, Two Steps Behind and Pour Some Sugar On Me ignited my Def Leppard flame which had long been extinguished. They turned in a superb performance, one absolutely worthy of their Headliner status.

Acoustic Time

With jubilation at what was one of the best days of rock I’ve seen and sadness that it was all over, I trekked back out the front gates and back down the M1…singing Def Leppard tunes all the way home at the top of my very weary lungs!

Album Review: Heaven’s Basement – Unbreakable EP

New studio E.P. from the Heaven’s Basement boys, led by new vocalist Aaron Buchanan.

Heavens Basement – Unbreakable E.P.

Unbreakable Cover

RockOSaurus Says:

A turbulent ride it has been, but finally Heaven’s Basement have put voice, guitars and drums to tape and have recorded a large part of their live set list, perfected over the last few years. This is easily their most accomplished and varied album to date, displaying both the raw rock power and melodic prowess throughout each jubilant fist pumping anthem.

Title track and album opener Unbreakable is a fury filled statement of intent as it unleashes a barrage of expertly wound guitars pummelling their way through many euphoric all out attack crescendo’s. The tempo, relentless and the driving bass/drum assault is unstoppable. Mixed in with some good clean vocals, angst fueled screams and a big chorus chant, an early highlight. Paranoia screams exactly that. A dirty scuzz rocker with wickedly pointed vocals from guitarist Sid. It’s the double combo of the deep and fuzzy power chords interspersed with buzzing harmonics that gives this tune its addictive bite and snarl.

This 7 track EP has very little in the way of filler with each track providing something different to enjoy. Whether it’s the funked up off kiltered blues riff on Close Encounters or the soft/loud/louder dynamics of shout-a-long pop rocker The Last Goodbye this is a mixed up bag of hard rock unlikely to be far from the repeat button. However vocals are often to be found too low down in the mix, easily becoming dwarfed by the mammoth music engine room. A difficult balancing act with some fine tuning required.

Where they have really thrown caution to the wind is on the new boundary crossing ballad Let Me Out! This superbly crafted song shines brightest as a huge step forward in their sound. It’s dark and sparse bluesy licks are restrained and purposefully beautiful which only increase the impact of the return of the loud thumping guitars for the rousing chorus line. The solo throws wailing bends like a high mountain pass and screams emotion through Sid’s six overdriven strings almost as much as Aarons hearty howls.

There is something very retro about the album closer Leeches. A bouncy riff machine gun fires off hooks at breakneck speed somewhat reminiscent of their founder band Roadstar. Of course HB have dresses it up in darker clothing and upped the throat shredding vocal shrills, but long term fans and classic rockers a like will find much to love about this rampaging closer!

Unbreakable is their just reward from relentless touring and have produced a cracking record of massive melodies, heroic guitars and kick-ass attitude! Never ones to throw in the towel, Heaven’s Basement will now surely realise the potential, obliterating their rock underground shackles once and for all!

Heaven’s Basement are playing High Voltage Festival this Sunday 24th July in Victoria Park.

RockOSaurus: 8.5/10

DoesItRock Overall Score: 8.5/10

Listen to Heaven’s Basement – Unbreakable now on Spotify!

Buy Unbreakable E.P. at the iTunes store:

The Darkness @ Shepherds Bush Empire

8th June 2011

It is with great excitement and bursting anticipation the DoesItRock posse took up position in the Shepherds Bush Empire to witnes what is was sure to be the reunion which will brighten up the rock scene with incredibly camp singing, outrageoesly tight outfits and hard rock genius. That’s right, after a 5 year break the original lineup of The Darkness are back, and ready to glam up the charts once more!

Before though we had to wait a little bit longer as Max Raptor warmed up the crowd. This was a very hit an miss set, their song melodies were good as were their energy. But the sound balance was terrible and vocals were hard to make heads or tail of. On reflection, this was not a set likely to win them any new fans. A slight disappointment as I quite enjoyed their latest studio offering.


Max Raptor

Suddenly an Irish jig broke through the PA systems cycle of hard rock classics, as on strutted  Frankie, Ed, Dan and Justin to roars and appropriately camp woops of approval from the crowd. This was their Download festival performance warm up tour labeled “…As Promised“, it surely delivered on its label as they flew straight into the quo-esque galloping instrumental Bareback. Immediately you can feel hey are having fun once more as they dart about stage using every inch of stage space available.

The Darkness

Justin had lost nothing (and gained a rather twirly moustache), as his male defying falsetto scaled into the hearing ranges of dogs soaring epic chorus’s while his flying fingers blazed the frets and his overenthusiastic body instinctively launched into split jumps at sporadic intervals. Justin was un-characteristically quiet throughout, but his antics and unhinged energy were plenty to contend with.

Hawkins & Co. back in business,,,

The set was drawn heavily from their debut and breakthrough album Permission to Land, with only one tune coming from their ill fated second LP. After years away they still sounded as joyously kick ass as they did in 2003 as they ran through hit after hit. Highlights include the racously rampaging Get Your Hand Off Of My Woman (probably the most camp fight song ever), sing-a-long classic Friday Night and the truly gigantic power ballad Love Is Only A Feeling. The new tracks given their first outings this evening were very falsetto heavy and so were tricky to decipher.

This was a show chocked full of good old fashion entertainment value, playing all the ace tricks including confetti, jokes, fireworks, and streamers. They laugh in the face of seriousness as the cat suit was unleashed, it was a cheeky little black number with a tail this time!

At the height of their success they ended their UK tour with sold out 3 nights at Wembley aren where Justin rounded out a show soloing Love On The Rocks WIth No Ice atop of a white tiger suspended 30ft above the crowd…tonight he had to settle with a 3ft box on wheels, but the premise was the much the same!

Justin Hawkins sporting a cheeky tash

With more performances like tonight, surely it will not be long before these heights are scaled once more. A sub headline slot at Download festival is up next for the boys…I’ll be there to see of they can top this triumphant comeback show!

Art Brut @ The Lexington

2nd June 2011

So many gigs, so little time to write…It must be the summer!

After enjoying a fine but hideously expensive Brooklyn Lager (Cheers Docktor) at the cool pub/venue hangout The Lexington we ascended to welcome tonight’s warm up act, Baddies.

Baddies

From their sound, it is quite clear to see they missed the bus out of the mid 00’s choppy indie rock, being left to wallow through the mud that’s been caked on for 5 years or so. The sound wasn’t fantastic with overpowering chiming power chords and muffled vocals. Their matching uniforms (with top buttons done up) screamed geek, a look in not sure they were after. Plus they broke gig rule #1: Do not insult the crowd. “…you might not be the clapping sort of crowd…“, quickly followed by #2. If its not going well, do not add kerosene to the fire!!

Art Brut

Art Brut kept their fans waiting eager for a glimpse of the Londoners playing the 4th of their 5 night stand here at the Lexington. When they did arrive it was met with jubilation and roars from the ‘older than your average’  gig crowd packed in this evening. From the first spoken vocal of Lead Singer Vocalist Storyteller Eddie Argos and his first call of “Are You Ready Art But…Let’s Go” to the very last, he was a magnetic presence on stage. His tongue in cheek wordplay and honest observations of life love and lunacy were waited on with baited breath all night long.

Eddie Argos

Seeing as most of his lyrics are conversational it’s no surprise to report that he likes a bit of banter, laughing and joking with the crowd and updating lyrics to the present, such as “Even though I’m 28 31″ rolled out on DC Comics & Chocolate Milkshake. This humour and openness were great qualities which connected himself with his captive audience. Emily Kane also got a nice live rework treatment with an extended interlude that documented the next chapter when Emily got in contact. To find out what actually happened is a live gem I’ll leave for you to find out individually.

Musically the set highlights consisted of the sharp jagged chords of My Little Brother, the playful DC Comics and the uncontrollable Modern Art with it’s chaos call “Modern Art, Makes Me Want To Rock Out” sparking crazed scenes. New tunes were not massively well received, but their newer deeper sound was full bodied and disguised many cunningly understated melodies in its midst.

“Sit down class…”

After 4 nights in the same venue (1 more to go) they knew how to work the London crowd without becoming stale and repetitive keeping the set list mixed up also (sadly no airing for Direct Hit tonight). They are a brilliant live band for one reason and that is their talismanic front man who despite his random tales of booze and chance encounters, feels very, well…normal. That connection drives everything the band do and once backed with sharp and catchy little ditty rock tunes, it’s difficult not to love! The chants of “Art Brut Top of The Pops” faded into the night bringing a thoroughly entertaining performance to an end, from one of London towns very best live bands.

Wolfmother @ Kentish Town Forum

2nd June 2011

After their failed attempts to make the 18 hour, globe circumnavigating flight from their Melbourne homeland this time last year, Wolfmother finally make it unscathed to the UK for a long overdue tour appearance. It is not only their flight here which can turn back the clocks, their 60’s psychedelia infused hard rock sound firmly flings open the door of nostalgia almost as wide as the bands ever lengthening Woodstock tribute haircut’s.

Turbogeist

Despite the trip down memory lane this was sure to be, tonight’s support came from the new furious punk poppers Turbogeist, last seen in a chaotic Camden Barfly not so long ago. It was a tough gig as the nights headline act’s musical tastes and their own have little crossover appeal. It’s not a shock to report that the docile crowd did not really seem all that interested. In this cavernous theatre their sound was less in your face and their choruses were not big enough to grab the required attention. A limp set from an exciting underground band unlikely to break out from the clubs on tonight’s showing.
Wolfmother had no such trouble in diverting eyes stage wards as the sound system bulged with huge power chords pumping out thumping drums, thundering guitars and heart pounding bass lines. Stockdale and co certainly look the part as they ply their trade as hard rock throwbacks with no sign of irony, just simple honesty and a dedicated retro love drip from their instruments all night long. Their guitars are colossal as they rumble through the deeper crunching spectrum with bulldozer like efficiency.


Wolfmother

With so many expertly riffs each song inherently spark heads a bopping and caused a fair few circle pogo pits for the over enthused. The real key to their success tonight lies in their breakdowns. Many bands can play big and write big chorus’s, but Wolfmother marry this with wandering interludes of trip out psychedelia lulling the crowd into their world of dreamy soundscapes. Of course only to be send crashing back into the main riff for the next bout of ecstatic melodies at the pinnacle of these epic crescendo’s. I’m pretty sure every song had an extension of some sort.

They played the best of their two released LP’s including the guitar hero classic Woman, the manic boogie shuffle of Apple Tree and the hammer-on melody maker The Joker & The Thief. They also managed to throw in a brilliant cover of The Doors Riders On The Storm, complete with whacked out organ solo. During a jam they also somehow managed to culminate different underlying melodies into the solo and verse of Stairway to Heaven, thus completing tonights led zep homage and everybody’s incredibly enjoyable evening!

The Wolfmother ball will stay a rolling as long as there is desire for what has come and past…no time soon then!