News From The North 102

31 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs in Hot Press every fortnight.


Words: Edwin McFee

A few months ago, you may recall we informed you about a new initiative called Untapped that was master-minded by the head honchos behind the upcoming Tennent’s Vital festival which aimed to promote the local music scene by offering four lucky acts the chance to open the main stage at this year’s shin-dig in Belfast. Well, this fortnight, the organisers have revealed the names of the final 16 turns who will be fighting it out for a much coveted slot alongside the likes of the Stone Roses, the Foo Fighters and more on August 21-22 and they’ve also confirmed that they will perform at four showcase gigs in both NI’s capital and Derry in May.


Kicking off in the Limelight, Belfast on May 16, Master and Dog, Gerard i2, Havana House Party and Jepettos all duke it out for a spot on the bill, then the following night in the same venue Trucker Diablo, City of Stars, Peter McVeigh and Futurescope all lay the (sonic) smack down. After that, the Tennent’s Untapped competition takes itself off to the Bound for Boston in Derry on May 23 and features Best Boy Grip, A Northern Light, Rachel Austin and Mojo Gogo battling it out, while the next night features Droids, Morning Claws, Pretty Child Backfire and Two Glass Eyes. I think you’ll all agree that the final 16 are a pleasingly diverse mix of acts from different genres and sub cultures and I’d like to wish everyone the best of luck.


Next up, keeping proceedings on a festival tip, the brand spanking new Link Fest in Derry have just revealed details of their line-up and the bill is as solid as the Incredible Hulk’s armchair if we do say so ourselves. Taking place on July 13-14 and at multiple venues (which include Mason’s, the Playhouse, the Castle, Bound for Boston and Gweedor) some of the acts include Our Krypton Son, By Any Means, Furlo, Wyldling, Triggerman and Making Monsters and for more details check out


Finally this fortnight, I’ve just enough room to remind you all about ska punk deities Pocket Billiards tenth anniversary gig at the Mandela Hall, Belfast on May 12. Doubling as a release party for their second album Last Chance To Dance the show is set to be a doozy (yes, doozy) and Axis Of, Bomb City 7 and Chewing on Tinfoil are the support acts. The band have also uploaded new track ‘So Many People, So Little Time’ onto and it sounds awesome, so check it out.

Metal Hammer Review: Pelican

30 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of a review of the new Pelican mini album that ran in Metal Hammer a few months ago.




This month the un-pigeonhole-able quartet that is Pelican pen a brand new chapter in their storied career with the release of Ataraxia/Taraxis and it’s a grandiose, imaginative affair from the instrumentalists that will leave your speakers a quivering wreck by the time it reaches its epic conclusion. Recorded in four different studios, the EP is their first new material since ‘09’s What We All Come To Need and is a strong offering that shows something of a unified front despite the members living in three different cities at the time of writing. The two tension-filled title tracks bookend the four-song release and  sees the band try to break new ground by putting more emphasis on dynamics and atmosphere than ever before and they are throbbing, intense numbers that employ acoustic guitars and strange alien sounds to great effect. Lathe Biosas and Parasite Colony on the other hand are vintage Pelican efforts that prove they’re still compelled by the power of the riff and our only problem with the EP is that the end comes far too soon. [7]


DVD Review: Iron Maiden ‘En Vivo!’

29 05 2012

Following on from yesterday’s Maiden bloggage, here’s a reprint of a review of their recent DVD ‘En Vivo!’ that ran in the Big List a few months ago.

DVD Review

Iron Maiden-‘En Vivo!’


Filmed in front of over 50 000 screaming fans last year at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile as part of their insanely successful Around The World In 66 Days Tour, En Vivo! is metal legends Iron Maiden’s latest live DVD and it captures the mayhem and utter  magnificence of one of their gigs perfectly. Boasting a near flawless set-list filled with classics and new material, the two disc collection brings Eddie and the boys into your living room in spectacular style and is a must-watch for anyone who likes it loud. Maiden maniacs will also adore the 88 minute documentary Behind The Beast on the second disk and the sneak peek at the day to day life of the Killer Krew is as insightful and it is entertaining. With the Irons not making it back over to Europe until at least another year, En Vivo! serves as a fine alternative to experiencing the spectacle firsthand and is an essential purchase for both fans and new-comers alike.

The Number Of The Beast Voted Best British Album Of The Last 60 Years

28 05 2012

Yes folks, the second album I ever bought (the first one was ‘Killers’) has been voted by the general public as being the best British record in six decades. I’ll always remember the first day I head ‘The Number Of The Beast.’ We were having a Christmas party in school and a friend of mine brought in his big brother’s copy of the album on tape. I was in Primary Five at the time, it was 1988 and I was nine and it fucking blew me away. A few weeks later I used the money my Granny gave me for Christmas to buy myself my own copy for £3.99 in Sounds Good in Newry (the tape is pictured below).

Now, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ isn’t my favourite Maiden album (that would be ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’) but I’ll always remember how I felt the first time I heard Bruce belt out ‘Invaders’ while I stood by the tape desk in Mr Bell’s class to make sure no-one put on shite like Michael Jackson instead, and it’s an absolutely seminal LP from start to finish and I’m happy that it’s getting the recognition it deserves.

Press release is below.Up the fucking Irons!

ron Maiden’s landmark Heavy Metal album of the Eighties The Number of the Beast has been voted the best British album of the past sixty years in a major survey of fans and the wider British public.

The Number of the Beast tops the album poll with a 9.2% share of the total albums vote — a potent reminder of the passion and loyalty of their fanbase and of Rock and Metal fans in particular.  See Notes to Editors for more details.

This landmark recording, which, to date, has sold over 14m copies worldwide and features the anthemic UK top-10 single Run To The Hills, is significant not only for giving the band their first UK no.1 album, but for the debut of their lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who comments: “We’re astonished and delighted to hear The Number of the Beast has been named No.1 in HMV’s Diamond Jubilee survey for the greatest British album category. Some of the most influential and classic albums from the past 60 years were in the running so it’s a testament to our incredibly loyal and ever-supportive fans who voted for us. Iron Maiden is a proudly British band, so to win this category as voted for by the British public, in Jubilee year, is very special.  Thank you to all our wonderful fans!

HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo, comments: “You often tend to see the same artists and albums dominate album polls, but with social media increasingly giving the most ardent and passionate fans a powerful voice, I think that’s all going to change, and so it’s no surprise that Iron Maiden have come out on top as their fans are renowned for being the most loyal and dedicated around.  Congratulations to Iron Maiden — we now know The Number Of The Beast is, I fact, ….1.

“The beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign, and the bright new future it represented, didn’t just coincide with a flowering of British popular culture, it helped to provide the very spark that lit the touch-paper for an explosion in music and film talent.  Since then, the Queen has presided over the richest period of cultural achievement in our nation’s history, so it’s only right that her Diamond Jubilee, which ironically also encapsulates sixty years of the official charts, should be a period when we reflect on the greatest British albums and films of the past six decades.”

The top 10 also features Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon — as voted for by Prime Minister
David Cameron in HMV’s poll, Queen’s A Night at the Opera, Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and the cultural phenomenon that is Adele’s 21, which is the only album currently in the Official UK Charts top-10 to make it into the poll.  Just outside of the top 10 are a number of other iconic artists/albums including Led Zeppelin IV, The Clash London Calling, David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, The Smiths The Queen is Dead,
Black Sabbath’s self-titled album, Radiohead OK Computer and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Featured in the top 30 are acclaimed albums from the likes of Take That, Elbow,
The Who, Coldplay, The Sex Pistols, Muse, Amy Winehouse, Joy Division and The Stone Roses.


News From The North 101

25 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of a recent NI music column that runs in Hot Press every fortnight.


Words: Edwin McFee

While at the time of writing it may indeed be colder than a witch’s naughty bits, I’ve been reliably informed that Spring has most definitely, um, sprung, and with the news that summer is on the way it’s perhaps not surprising that many of NI’s festivals have started making some interesting rumblings recently. One of this year’s heavy hitters is most certainly the Sunflower Fest and their bill for 2012 helps make the bash one of the north’s potential best in the country. Taking place at Tubby’s Farm (just outside Hillsborough and about 20 minutes from Belfast) the three day event runs from August 17-19 inclusive and will feature four stages (the Finn McCool main stage, the Campfire Stage, the Barn and the brand new addition to the shin-dig that is the intriguingly titled Electric Disco Shed) a family area, a cinema tent and various other exciting spectacles too.


However, while the booking of the likes of the well regarded wordsmith that is Scroobius Pip and popular Free Staters Republic of Loose are undoubted aces up the organiser’s sleeve, it’s the NI acts that interest us the most and Sunflower Fest has assembled a great mix of artists from all walks of life. Some of the must see turns include Ben Glover, Fighting with Wire, Duke Special, Nasa Assassin, Lanterns on the Lake, the Bonnevilles, Boss Sound Manifesto and many, many more and the full list can be viewed at Weekend camping tickets are now onsale for £49 via the Belfast Welcome Centre (as well as other approved outlets) and for a full list check out their official site.


Next up, it looks like Stendhal Festival are putting together a pretty stellar bill too. Taking place on Aug 17-18 at the Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady, the initial announcement includes Silhouette, the Gorgeous Colours, Axis Of, Furlo, Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas, the Innisowen Gospel Choir and Wookalily and more will be confirmed as the months progress. For further details on the event, including tickets details, check out


Finally this fortnight, by the time you get your grubby mitts on this latest issue, Belfast-based singer/songwriter Michael Kerr will have unleashed his new EP The Australia Fund out into the wild. Influenced by classic tunesmiths such as Tom Petty, Cat Stevens and Van Morrison, the talented troubadour has been making all the right tongues wag of late and you can find out more info on him via his website


24 05 2012

LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!

Empty Lungs Q and A

23 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with one of my favourite bands around Empty Lungs that originally ran in the Big List.

Check them out.Their music is the tasty juice.

Empty Lungs

Continuing our catch-up with some of the music scene’s latest and greatest bands, this month we meet Kev Jones, vocalist/guitarist for rising alt punks Empty Lungs. Enjoy.


Hi Kev and welcome to the Big List. In a few months time Empty Lungs will be one year old. Can you tell us a little bit about how the band started?
“We started after my old band the Lobotomies basically called it a day. I had wanted to play more melodic kinda stuff for a long time, but I kept getting caught up in other projects and never had the time. After the Lobotomies split I got in touch with Holmesy [bass/vocals] straight away because I knew he was the perfect man for the job and wasn’t playing with anyone at the time. We roped in Matty [drums/vocals] and after the first jam it was obvious there was some kind of chemistry there (sounds so romantic!) so we haven’t looked back since!”


Last September Empty Lungs released their debut single ‘Identity Lost.’ Was it important for you guys to release recorded material as soon as possible?
“I suppose it was excitement more than anything. When you start a new band you can’t wait to get material out there to people! Looking back on it we probably rushed those songs in every way. I mean we’d only been playing shows for 3/4 months when we released that single but fuck it, people seem to like it!”


We love the video (shot by Redcap Productions Was it fun to make?
“Sean at Redcap is a pleasure to work with and he’s really into our music so that was really cool. Music videos aren’t really something we have a lot of experience with so it was a bit of a learning curve shooting this one, but it was fun nonetheless!”


Do you have any more singles/EPs coming up in the pipeline?
“Yes! We’ve been writing and demo-ing an EP for the past few months and we’re going into the studio to record it late March/early April. We’re really excited about this EP, I think we’ve taken our time and crafted the songs a bit better and there’s a big progression from our last release. We’re over the moon to be working with [producer] Rocky O’Reilly again and we’re actually doing an analogue recording and tracking the music mostly live, so that’s gonna be interesting! Hopefully we’ll have it out by the end of the summer but we’re not going to rush into anything with the release.”


You’re also a member of Bomb City 7, a guitar tech for And So I Watch You From Afar and an occasional solo performer too. Do you find it easy to balance all those commitments?
“It can be a bit of a juggling act at times, but I love it. I was away with ASIWYFA for two months on tour before Christmas and that obviously meant I couldn’t perform with my bands during that time, but there was still a lot of writing and behind the scenes planning going on. The inspiration and experience I get from working with those guys is priceless.”


Do you prefer to keep your life busy and varied?
“I love being busy and I love being involved with music 24/7-whether its performing in my own projects, working for another band or promoting gigs. The reason why I always seem to be in more than one band is simply because I fell in love with more than one variety of music!”


You’re a volunteer/booker for the non-profit Warzone Gig Collective ( How important do you think the re-opening of the Warzone Centre in Belfast is for NI music fans?
“I think it’s vital! At the minute we’re one of only two autonomous social centres in Ireland(the other being Seomra Spraoi in Dublin). Spaces like the Warzone Centre provide a place where music fans, artists, activists or anyone at all can come and enjoy the arts in a unique and relaxed atmosphere. There’s no hidden agenda to make profit like a private business , there’s no aggressive door staff breathing down your neck and the whole place is run on DIY principals by a collective of volunteers who are truly passionate about the project. The old Giro’s was a legendary venue that had a massive impact on a lot of people’s lives, including mine (everyone from Pocket Billiards to Refused played there). So if we can do half as well with the new place we’ll be over the moon!”


Empty Lungs have roots in American punk rock, but also have a very clear, Northern Irish identity. Is the NI side of the band something that you actively ensure you hold on to?
“I don’t think we have a choice [laughs]. Growing up in NI our, shall we say, unique culture becomes embedded into your character and ultimately your music. As long as we’re still living here and taking influence from all around us I think it’ll remain a part of the band. The world’s a bigger place than aul’ Norn Iron but clichéd as it sounds, it’s important to remember where you come from.”


Finally Kev, what’s the plans for 2012? Are you guys going to make it over the Europe for gigs?
“We’re going to play as many shows as humanly possible. This is easier said than done when I’m still doing all the booking myself though. We’re gonna get this EP recorded  in March, play around Ireland a lot, hit the UK in late May and hopefully Europe in June with one of the best bands in the country at the minute. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to release the EP by the end of the summer/start of autumn and do some more touring after that.”

For more information on Empty Lungs check out 

Amon Amarth Live Review (Metal Hammer)

17 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of my review of the Amon Amarth gig that ran in Metal Hammer a month or two ago.Pic is by the sultan of snapping/king of cameras that is Ramsey Cardy (



Hell-bent on helping the assembled crowd celebrate St. Patrick’s Day slightly earlier than usual by aiming to shove as much metal up Belfast’s collective asses as humanly possible,

Swedish marauders Amon Amarth are wasting little time delivering the goods tonight. Opening with an unbeatable combination of War Of The Gods and Live Without Regrets from their eighth album Surtur Rising, the dueling guitars and bellowing vocals threaten to break the venue in half at one point as the throng of punters throw beer around, bang their heads and generally re-enact a scene from the banquet halls of Valhalla. At the heart of the action, as always, is frontman Johan Hegg and his performance is absolutely heroic. Whether he’s cupping his hand behind his ear to gain applause like a (much) hairier Hulk Hogan or orchestrating a mass singalong for The Pursuit Of Vikings (“If anyone here doesn’t know the lyrics, don’t worry it’s death metal. No-one understands them anyway,” he quips) he’s both the consummate performer and the best mate you’ve never had. Only Under The Northern Star gives us some relative respite from the Ragnor-“rock,” and it’s an epic number that showcases a more stately edge to their sound, while the blood-thirsty encore of Twilight Of The Thunder God and Guardians Of Asgaard delivers a send-off that’s as strong as Mjolnir itself. 8


R.I.P. Ronnie

16 05 2012

The legend that was Ronnie James Dio died two years ago today,so I plan on spending my day/evening listening to nothing but Dio and RJD era Sabbath and Rainbow.



15 05 2012

What a weekend.