Blogging A Dead Horse Is 6

11 09 2014

Yes folks, my often neglected patch of cyber-space is 6 today.Send cake to the usual address (and by “cake” I mean lots and lots of booze).



9 08 2014

Here’s a reprint of my Demonic Resurrection review that ran in Metal Hammer.




Ever since Mumbai-based Demonic Resurrection first burst onto the scene in 2000, it was clear that the then 17 year olds had the potential to be a devilishly good band. Led by their talismanic vocalist/guitarist Sahil “The Demonstealer” Makhija, over the years they’ve lost (and gained) members but one thing always remained-their ability to create monstrous slabs of symphonic death metal. This month, they release The Demon King and their first new material since the final instalment of the Darkness Trilogy (The Return To Darkness) begins with a bang in The Assassination. Stabbing strings, chugging riffs, layered vocals and even some Spanish guitar ensure that album number four opens ferociously and from there the Fear Factory-informed Facing The Faceless and the brass-infused, head-banger that is Death, Desolation And Despair make the opus a blast to listen to. Best of all is Even Gods Do Fall though. Regularly flitting from feral death metal riff-fest to piano-led, melodic brooder with ease, the game-changing track is quite possibly their finest recorded moment to date. [8]



8 08 2014

Here’s the unedited version of a review I wrote of the Robyn G. album that ran in Hot Press (ie-sans the random Batman reference that had nowt to do with me that made print.).



The Blood Of The Innocents (NO DANCING)


Key Track: ‘Hello Death’


Completed six years ago, The Blood Of The Innocents by Robyn G Shiels has become something of an urban legend in Belfast (“Have you heard the tale about the troubled troubadour and the original Therapy? tub-thumper making an album together…?”). Hailed as a holy grail by the singer/songwriter’s co-conspirators, the 11 track opus has finally been officially released recently and the alt country and folk flavoured affair is worth the wait.

Inspired by spirits in all senses of the word, the record is a bruised, at times bleak and regularly beautiful effort. Fans of Mark Lanegan’s Field Songs will especially adore the haunting ‘Hello Death,’ and this frankly phenomenal, gloom-laden lullaby almost single-handedly justifies all the critical praise heaped upon the tunesmith over the years. Other stand-outs include the brooding, bluesy rocker ‘When Love It Starts Leaving,’ the acoustic guitar and piano-based ‘The First To Know’ and the wistful, whistling ‘This Deathly Charm,’ which sees Shiels-and that inimitable Ulster Scots heavy croon of his-in vintage form.




7 08 2014

Here’s a reprint on a TV column I write every now and again for Hot Press.



Over the last decade the comic book industry has been well and truly booming. On the home-front, Irish creators such as Will Sliney, Nick Roche, Declan Shalvey and the veteran Garth Ennis have released some stellar work with Marvel, DC and more (the equivalent of a band signing with a major label and touring the globe, for the unenlightened), while internationally, the sub culture’s profile is now less Bruce Banner (misunderstood and maligned) and more Incredible Hulk (a pop culture powerhouse).

One of the reasons for the medium’s new-found popularity in the mainstream is due to the current trend of taking comic characters and story-lines and turning them into big budget movies and TV shows. They’re everywhere these days. In fact sometimes they’re as hard to avoid as Jamie Madrox himself (Google it….). As a life-long fan of the sub-culture, I’ll admit that sometimes I’m a bit bemused by it all, but if it gets more people turned on to the work of creators like Bryan Lee O’Malley, Peter David, Roman Dirge and many, many more then I’m all for it. Plus, it’s nice not being grilled by randoms on why I’ve got panels from comic books tattooed on my arms every single time I’m in a pub.

This fortnight, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and DC’s Arrow ended on the small screen and as you might have expected I made sure to tune in to wave them goodbye (not literally though, as that really would be a bit weird…). First up was the Avengers spin-off, which some wags have re-named Super-Models Of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to the cast’s glossy good looks. Loosely based on concepts and characters created by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Jim Sterenko, it’s fair to say that the show, which was co-created by Buffy The Vampire Slayer supremo Joss Whedon, was a little like a short-sighted milkman (it didn’t always deliver) but its series finale finished things on a high.

Though it was a bit aimless and often boring during the first few episodes, thanks to events in the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which I won’t spoil, the programme picked up towards the end and it was cool seeing characters like Glenn Talbot, Deathlok and Man-Thing all get screen time (or at least get referenced in Manny’s case).

Arrow on the other hand, ended more with a whimper than a bang for me. Inspired by DC’s Green Arrow comic, the programme about a rich kid, bow-toting vigilante suffered greatly due to the presence of Manu Bennett, who plays Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. Packed with more ham and cheese than a Baldwin family picnic, Dickstroke -sorry, Deathstroke- sucked the life out of every scene he was in and by the time the show reached its climax I was happy for it all to be over. Add that to the copious bare-chested, cheeseball montages of lead beefcake Stephen Amell and series two of Arrow really should have been re-titled The Crime-Fighting Chippendales.

With more comic book-based TV shows such as Gotham, The Flash, Daredevil, iZOMBIE, Constantine and Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s romance/western/horror masterpiece Preacher all heading to the small screen soon, it’s an interesting time to be a fan of the sub culture. Whether they’ll be any good or not is another thing of course….

This fortnight at Castle McFee I’ve also been sampling Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful. Set in Victorian London in 1891, the series is an unashamedly schlocky watch, full of guts and gore. Admittedly, the most horrific thing about the programme is actually Billie Piper’s attempt at an Irish accent, but it’s still an entertaining enough show thanks to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of monster-hunting Sir Malcolm Murray and fresh takes on Frankenstein and Dorian Gray. Though Penny Dreadful has only got started, I’m hoping this tale of demons and vampires will provide plenty to sink my teeth into over the weeks ahead. I’ll get me cloak….


31 07 2014

Here’s a reprint of my review of the recent Roddy Piper show that ran in Hot Press last week.



Wrestling villain turned pop culture icon treats Belfast to plenty of rib-tickling tales.

In the weird and wonderful, spandex-clad world of professional wrestling, the word “legend” gets thrown around as regularly as a 90 pound grappler, but when it comes to Rowdy Roddy Piper, the title is very much deserved. A member of multiple Hall of Fame’s, a pop culture icon and, according to the kilt-wearing Canadian himself, “the reason why Hulk Hogan lost his hair,” the veteran has seen and (just about) done it all in the evergreen industry and tonight, he’s holding court in the Empire Music Hall, Belfast.

After being briefly warmed up with a selection of saucy, wrestling-themed gags courtesy of compere’s/stand-up’s Billy Kirkwood and Chris Brooker, Piper arrives onstage and is primed and ready to pit his wits against the fired up crowd. While Roddy has crossed over into the mainstream to appear in films and TV, this evening’s spoken word show is solely about his time in the squared circle and rightly so. After all, you wouldn’t go to see Mike Tyson for any reason other than to hear him wax lyrical on his hunger for human flesh, so why would the assembled masses want anything else but stories about the Nature Boy Ric Flair and Vince McMahon?

However, though the tales about Andre the Giant’s impressive beer drinking (119 brews in one sitting) and Mad Dog Vachon’s penchant for faking heart attacks to get out of paying for his dinner do involve characters that the unenlightened mightn’t be aware of, Piper peppers his anecdotes with enough humour to ensure everyone is on-board from the very beginning.

A master story-teller both in the ring and with a mic in his hand, the wrestler is a natural onstage. Over the next two hours he tells us about Ric Flair’s, erm, unusual dancing (let’s just say it involved “Little Ric”), Haku biting a would-be bully’s nose off in a bar, why he bought a first class plane ticket for a four foot Mickey Mouse toy and lots more.

Appearing genuinely pleased to be in Belfast (“You’re all so happy and full of life and you’re standing next to Satan himself,” laughs the “bad guy” wrestler), the crowd are equally as enamoured with Roddy and they give him time to tell his tales in full.

Though occasionally he forgets what he’s talking about mid-sentence (“I’ve had 7000 pro-fights, it ain’t that fake” he says, telling us that you pay a price for getting regularly hit on the head) and sometimes the references to his wrestling “family” are a little too sweet and sentimental for this slightly cynical reviewer, it’s an absolute pleasure being in Piper’s company for a few hours and the eye-poking, privates-kicking, Mr. T-punching pugilist leaves the packed crowd clamouring for a rematch.


30 06 2014

Here’s a reprint of my review of Katy Perry’s gig at the Odyssey that ran in Hot Press.




It’s the very first night of pop queen Katy Perry’s mammoth 107 date world tour this evening. Not that you’d know it, mind, as the singer looks completely comfortable and at ease right from the get-go thanks to weeks and months of gruelling rehearsals. Opening with a flawless version of monster hit single ‘Roar,’ tonight’s performance is a no-expense-spared, eye-popping experience. Split into six sections (plus an encore), Perry’s Prismatic World Tour takes us on something of a musical journey through time and visits ancient Egypt, a ’90s rave and an MTV Unplugged-esque setting (to name but three) along the way, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.


Acrobats, musicians, a massive cast of colourful dancers and, at one point, a pimped up pantomime horse, share the triangular-shaped stage with the “California Gurl” all night and aside from the kinda creepy cat-themed part of the show, Katy delivers a master-class in slick arena pop, despite being struck down with a bad case of the sniffles during her 10 day stay in Belfast (“I didn’t expect it to rain as much as it does here” she offers at one point…).


A stripped back, acoustic version of the beautiful ‘The One That Got Away’ and a truly thrilling rendition of newie ‘Legendary Lovers’ steal the show for this reviewer, but the likes of ‘Teenage Dream,’ ‘Part Of Me’ and ‘E.T.’ all impress too, as does her extensive collection of wigs which are sure to make Donald Trump green with envy.


‘Firework’ ends proceedings with a bang and sees Perry deliver a powerful, goose-bump inducing vocal performance and while it may only be the first date of her tour, I’m sure that both the hardest working women in pop and her fans will remember tonight for a long time to come.





29 06 2014

Here’s a reprint on my interview with WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler that ran in the Sunday Life newspaper.


Fighting Talk

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler have achieved many things in his short but so far successful career in the ring. The Belfast-bound bronzed, blonde-haired beefcake is not only a former heavyweight champion, but a bona fide fan favourite and one of the most consistent wrestlers in the billion-dollar business too, however, for all of his accolades he’s perhaps best known for an incident he’d probably like to forget-namely being punched in the face by X-Men actor Hugh Jackman on live TV.

“First of all I’d like to say that he sucker-punched me,” laughed the wrestler when Sunday Life asked him about that infamous moment on the WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw. “Second of all, I know plenty of people who would love to say they were socked in the mouth by the Wolverine! Yeah, my pride was hurt a little and some of the other WWE Superstars enjoyed mercilessly ribbing me about being knocked out by the guy from Les Miserables, but that night when Jackman came into the ring during my match to hit me is one of the most talked about events in the 21 year history of Monday Night Raw, which is pretty cool, right?”

While Ziggler’s initial claims of sustaining a broken jaw were later unfounded, he told us that the award-winning Aussie actor didn’t pull any punches and no, there won’t be a rematch.

“I’ll tell you, Hugh really didn’t hold anything back,” smiled the wrestler, whose real name is Nick Nemeth. “I heard afterwards that he was worried he went a little too far, but no, these days we’re all cool. We’ve made up and we’re friends again so I don’t think there’ll be ‘the Show-Off Versus the Wolverine’ part two. I don’t want to hurt him, you know?”

On the subject of pain, Cleveland-born Dolph’s stratospheric rise to the top of the WWE stalled a little last year when he picked up a severe concussion after being kicked in the head by fellow wrestler Jack Swagger and the former champ told us that some of the risks in the story-line-based industry are all-too real.

“Receiving the concussion and being side-lined for a while was very frustrating,” he confessed. “I lost a lot of momentum and I’m now working my ass off to get back to where I was, but I’m determined to be at the top once again. In the WWE we put out bodies on the line for people’s entertainment and we all know the risks before we step out there. Wrestling is all I’ve ever wanted to do though and being able to perform in places like Belfast is awesome.”

Now a regular fixture on these shores, Dolph and his fellow wrestlers will be at the Odyssey, Belfast this Wednesday night as part of WWE Live and the 33year old told us he’s excited about returning to the city.

“I’ve had some of the best matches of my life in Belfast,” he revealed. “It’s always fun coming over, especially as it’s a home-coming show for WWE producer [and Carrickfergus-born] Fit Finlay. I can’t wait to steal the show once again.”

WWE Live comes to the Odyssey, Belfast this Wednesday night. Tickets start from £20 and are available from Ticketmaster.

Edwin McFee



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