31 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of that lovely DC Comics table book I blogged about a few weeks ago.




Chronicling the early days of the so-called “Golden Age” of comics (which foisted, among others, the world’s first super-hero Superman out onto the public realm, forever changing pop culture in a single bound) this over-sized, painstakingly put together coffee table book charts those tentative first forays of Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and many more. The first of five volumes charting the continuing legacy of the publisher, former DC editor and writer Paul Levitz really pulls out all the stops to reprint the best bits from the company’s past (as well as some of the most bizarre). Including an insightful interview with the recently departed and hugely influential artist Joe Kubert and packed with a veritable treasure trove of old covers, photos and stories, the book is a must for fans of the sub-culture and packs a punch as powerful as the Man of Steel himself.


METAL HAMMER REVIEW: Finntroll ‘Blodsvept’

30 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Finntroll record that ran in Metal Hammer.




This month, those genre-straddling, loveable lunatics Finntroll return with their sixth full length effort and it’s an opus which sees the Helsinki-based seven-piece eschew a less polished production in favour of a rawer, more visceral approach. A record which sees them continue to skillfully walk that tightrope between playful tongue in cheek nods and winks and downright mad as a bag of hammers insanity, the band’s blend of Finnish folk music, heavy metal and rock ‘n’ troll has never sounded better than is has on the 11 track affair. Opening with the ominous sound of something unearthly walking through woods, the band waste little time delivering batshit crazy sea shanties (Ett Folk Forbannat) and hellacious humppa-infused anthems (Mordinnen) and they even add some dueling banjos, which shred with the best of them, on the awesome Skogsdotter, reaffirming that underneath all the over the top schlock lies a band with real musical chops. While at times Blodsvept can get a little too ambitious (Tva Ormar features a riff that sounds just like the Inspector Gadget theme) the band hit the target more often than miss it and if you embrace the madness from the start then you’re in for a treat. [7]



The Wolverine Trailer

27 03 2013

Yes, the first Wolvie solo film was a load of old trunks (that I still quite enjoy anyway) but the just-released new trailer for the second one looks ace. #Snikt

Suicidal Tendencies ‘Cyco STyle’

26 03 2013

Here’s the new single from Suicidal Tendencies’ first album in 13 years and lo, it is bitchin’

Hot Press Album Review: Axis Of ‘Finding St Kilda’

25 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Axis Of record.


Finding St Kilda (Smalltown America)

Three and a half stars

Key Track: ‘Aung’


Ok, let’s get the big-eared pachyderm out of the room nice and early. Yes, it has seemed to take an eon for Portstewart-born but Belfast-based trio Axis Of to release their debut offering, but the riotous slab of wax was most certainly worth the wait. Not quite a “punk” record, but an opus steeped in the values of that scene, Finding St Kilda is full of pleasingly prickly choruses, riffs which could level a mountain and oodles of goose-bump-inducing outsider anthems. Featuring 11 tracks over the course of 34 minutes, Axis Of’s first record sees the band not so much wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but rather nailing the still beating ventricles to the slab of wax for the world to see and the passion and belief in what they’re doing informs the music with a thoroughly righteous sense of purpose.


Opening with ‘Cardiel,’ the song is a punchy effort packed with gang vocals, a nursery rhyme-style melody and even a nod to ‘So You Wanna Be A Boxer’ from Bugsy Malone and it leaves us without a shadow of a doubt that they’ve come out fighting from the get-go. Album highlight is ‘Aung,’ which sees a fuzz-laden, decidedly groovy riff do battle with a superfast hardcore punk chorus, but ‘We Dine On Seeds,’ which boasts a badass brass section at the halfway point of the song, gives it a run for its money.


If there are any criticisms we could make of Finding St Kilda it would be that the constant shift in dynamics can get a little predictable (‘Mapping St Kilda,’ ‘Stan Winston’s Rough Seas’) and at times they’re almost packing too much in, but the vocal performance from Ewen Friers throughout helps makes Axis Of a band to believe in and it’s one of the best debuts this writer has heard in moons.


Clive Burr R.I.P.

15 03 2013

A couple of days ago, Clive Burr, drummer on Iron Maiden’s seminal first three albums passed away.

I was lucky enough to be at this gig, front and centre, in 2002 and it was an absolute privilege to see the great man in person.R.I.P.

Hot Press Live Review: Other Voices

11 03 2013

Last month I decamped to Derry to check out the filming of RTE’s music programme Other Voices. As well as some ace gigs to watch, I was put up in the Erin Suite (later renamed “the Edwin Suite”) which featured multiple tellys, my own living room complete with dining table/three piece suite and a class view. Check it out. Nice eh?

Anywho, here’s a reprint of the review that ran in Hot Press. Looking forward to getting back to Derry again at some stage this year.



Unless you’re currently residing in a galaxy far, far away, you’ll no doubt be aware that Derry has been declared the UK City Of Culture for 2013. With a veritable shed-load of events planned to celebrate the title, the Maiden City looks set to become a Mecca for music fans across the island and this weekend RTE’s Other Voices joins in the fun with a visit to the Glassworks. Taking a brief break away from its usual home in Dingle, the programme makers have assembled a stunning array of acts to perform on the intimate stage (which is bedecked with huge, lyric-branded plastic hearts) and Saturday’s night’s line-up is arguably the best of the lot, which is handy since Hot Press has just arrived to get an eyeful.


On first are Dublin quintet Little Green Cars who play a clutch of songs which all sound like future world-beaters. Just over a year since they first performed on Other Voices (an appearance which they described as “the highlight of their lives”) the band have grown in confidence and talent and their brand of emotive, folksy tuneage could put goose-bumps on-top of your goose-bumps. ‘The John Wayne’ in particular is a beautifully ragged tear-stained threnody and judging by the rapturous reaction tonight it looks like they’re set to join Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters And Men in the charts and hearts of the globe.


Next up is local lass made good Bronagh Gallagher who performs a batch of soul-infused songs backed by an ear-gasm inducing brass section and full band. Paying tribute to the likes of Al Green and Percy Sledge while putting her own stamp on things, the loved-up set takes us back in time to a bygone era and sees the be-fringed performer happily playing the role of torch singer and there’s a real warmth to the likes of ‘Not A Star.’


California-born but Manchester-based chanteuse Jesca Hoop is a different prospect altogether. Clutching her white guitar and sporting decidedly mad granny-esque hair, it seems like it’s not just her music that’s a square peg in a round hole, but that’s ok because we like “different” and the change of pace from nu-soul to unassuming Bjork and Kate Bush-inspired oddities is a welcome one. ‘Born To’ is a bona fide outsider pop classic that’s full of hooks that ache and it’s a real highlight in her short but sweet set.


Welsh warbler Marina And The Diamonds closes tonight’s broadcast in style with a stripped back collection of songs culled from both of her albums. Back to black (hair, that is), the singer tells us she’s a little nervous as she’s spent the last month or so doing nothing but “watching Jeremy Kyle” but you’d never know it as she prowls cat-like around the stage belting out ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ and ‘Hollywood’ like she’s the long-lost daughter of Brian Ferry and the low-key setting really highlights just how good her voice is.


After the broadcast, we spill out into the night to check out the Other Voices Music Trail and honourable mentions go to Wyldling, whose set at the Icon re-affirms that they’ve one of the best front-women in the country and Triggerman, whose blues-imbued, riff-laden rock lays waste-almost literally-to the heaving Mason’s bar and as first date’s go, Other Voices’ weekend in Derry is up there with the best of them.




Big List Q And Q: Axis Of

7 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Axis Of.

Axis Of Q and A

This month the Big List grabs a word in the shell-like of Portstewart-born/Belfast-based punk-imbued rock trio Axis Of on the eve of the release of their much-anticipated debut record ‘Finding St Kilda.’ Bassist/vocalist Ewen Friers gives us the inside scoop on the making of their long-awaited record, tells us why he’s thankful for our patience and comes clean about his budding bromance with American bruisers the Bronx.


Hi Ewen and welcome to the Big List. First off, in a few weeks time your debut record [‘Finding St Kilda’] finally hits record shop shelves. How do you feel about the impending release?

Ewen Friers (bass, vocals): “Hey, thanks! We’re curious to hear what all our friends from over the years will think of the record, but we’re excited to meet some new people through the album and get it out there to everyone at shows.”


Is there a sense of relief now that a full length record will be out there and in people’s hands?

“Its baffling to think we’ve had people turning up to gigs and staying interested in the band so far just on the back of a few demos and singles. It does feel good to be able to say- ‘Here’s an album with songs, lyrics, artwork. Sorry it took so long… and thank you for being so patient.’”


Can you tell us about the creation of ‘Finding St. Kilda?

“The album represents us the over the last two and half years, right up to this point. The sound and content has very much been shaped by our interests and experiences and particularly by touring. The album was recorded in Belfast at Start Together studio. We had a solid couple of weeks in the studio and a few short sessions throughout the course of about eight months and spent a day here and day there, adding little parts.”



The band’s received a fair bit of positive press pretty much since your inception. Did you feel under pressure to deliver a debut that would live up to expectations?

“I think any attention beforehand had actually encouraged us and it gave us the confidence to book the studio time and just make it happen. I would also say Rocky O’Reilly and the Start Together crew made us feel really at ease and relaxed.”


At the time of writing we’ve only had a few spins of the record so far, but ‘Lifehammer’ is a definite stand-out and a great slab of riffola. What’s your favourite track and why?

“I think we each have different favorite songs, and it alternates too. That’s why we’re so happy with album because it seems quite versatile. You can have your favorite in terms of lyrics, your favorite riffy one, heavy one, poppy one and that can keep changing over time.”


Speaking of ‘Lifehammer,’ you made a video for the track. Can you tell us about it? “Mark Easton and Co. at Tiny Bird Media [] put the whole thing together in a matter of hours. It’s a simple concept-the band playing the song in the rehearsal space-but it’s really beautifully shot and edited. I’m really happy with how it turned out and it is nice to think the focus is still the song.”


I’ve always loved the lyrical content of the band. What inspired the words on the album?

“The lyrics were mainly inspired by personal observations and stories concerning everything from touring, travel, nature, human relationships, activism, history and more. It’s a stream of ideas and images. We really hope that, above all, it’s thought provoking.”


‘Finding St Kilda’ is released via Smalltown America and I can’t think of a better label more suited to Axis Of. Were they always at the top of your list of labels to work with?

“I think so yes. Smalltown America have been a huge inspiration for our band since day one.  They’re honest and very passionate about music.”


By the time the interview sees print, you’ll be on tour with the Bronx. This is your second time touring with them right?

“It is yes. We’ve been fans of theirs for years. Ethan [Harman, drums, vocals] and I went to see the Bronx together when we were at school actually and they seemed like the coolest people on earth. We toured with them in November last year and they were the coolest people on earth-and I mean movie cool. It’s a dream come true touring with a band like the Bronx.”


Axis Of are renowned for touring as far and wide as possible. What’s the best and worst thing about being on the road?

“The best thing about touring is being able to meet all the interesting people out there and getting to experience other environments. The worst thing about touring is when the van breaks down or crashes.”


‘Finding St Kilda’ by Axis Of is released via Smalltown America on March 18. The band play a special launch gig at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast on March 30 and are currently on a full-on UK and Irish tour (see for more details). Eager beavers will also be glad to know you can stream ‘Finding St Kilda’ here

Metal Hammer Interview: Cnoc An Tursa

6 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of an interview I did with Cnoc An Tursa for Metal Hammer.

Fresh Meat


Forged in 2006 in Falkirk, Scotland (a place whose borough motto is “Better Meddle wi’ the Deil than the Bairns O’ Falkirk”) Cnoc An Tursa’s Celtic-infused brand of black metal is an intoxicating brew that couples the poetry of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Stuart Blackie together with the power of extreme sounds. While the marriage (which began when founding members Rene McDonald Hill and Alan Buchan decided to put the words of the poem Hail Land Of My Fathers’ to music) may provoke some purists to raise an eye-brow, the band’s debut The Giants Of Auld certainly proves that both art-forms are natural bed-fellows.

“Poetry and black metal certainly works for us,” says guitarist/keyboardist Rene. “We are all interested in our country’s history and culture and the poems are relevant to the band’s aim, purpose and meaning. It’s the heart and soul of Cnoc An Tursa. The poetry usually comes after the music is written; it’s the final touch and truly delivers a positive message of Scotland and its heritage.”

“Musically, the Celtic influence was inspired by the work performed by Blakkheim Nyström on Diabolical Masquerade’s Nightwork album,” adds vocalist/guitarist Alan. “That was really influential to both the lead work and keyboards on The Giants Of Auld.”

Recorded over a period of 12 days in Wales by Primordial/Napalm Death/Electric Wizard producer Chris Fielding and featuring songs that were composed from 2006-2009, Cnoc An Tursa (or “hill of sorrow” in English) release their first opus on February 25 via Candlelight Records and they’re understandably proud to be linked with such an iconic label.

“Candlelight is at the forefront of the extreme music scene and has introduced us to some truly incredible bands over the years,” offers Alan. “We are absolutely stoked to be signed to Candlelight Records and would like to thank label mates Chris Naughton and Winterfylleth for opening the doors.”


Who Are They?

LINE-UP: Alan Buchan (vocals, guitar), Rene McDonald Hill (guitars, keyboards), David Anderson (bass), Bryan Hamilton (drums).

SOUND LIKE: A black metal-scored walk through Scottish history.

CURRENT RELEASE: The Giants Of Auld (Candlelight).


Hot Press Album Review: Rest ‘I Hold The Wolf’

4 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the Rest record which ran in Hot Press a few issues ago.


I Hold The Wolf (Out On A Limb)

Three stars

Key Track: ‘Sol – Luna – Astra’



This issue instrumental Cork quartet Rest unleash their long-awaited second album I Hold The Wolf out into the wild and the opus is a complex and sprawling collection of eight songs which will please their long-time fans (who have waited almost a decade for another full-length offering) and new comers alike thanks to their ear-gasm inducing, almost un-pigeonhole-able sound. Flirting with virtually every rock sub-culture there is, the foursome fuse progressive with classic and math rock and even throw in some black metal into the pot just in case you’re feeling too comfortable (‘Descent With Modification’) and by the time the grandiose and imaginative affair is finished your speakers will be a quivering wreck once they climax with the epic ‘I Hold The Wolf By The Ears.’


Not an easy album to digest in one sitting (or indeed, five or six sittings), I Hold The Wolf is an ambitious, at times bombastic offering that’s a natural successor to their ’07 EP ‘Operation: Impending Doom.’ Highlights include the Sikth-y, hypnotic opening track ‘Babylon – Constructing The Cosmos’ and the sci-fi-tinged ‘Scaradh,’ which starts with odd, B-Movie synths before mutating into a groove-laden, metal-infused monster, but star of the show for this reviewer is ‘Sol – Luna – Astra’ which stands as their best piece of music to date. Essentially a tale of two halves, the song lures us in with some sweetly sinister melancholy before bludgeoning the listener over the head with some blood-thirsty riffs and the pacing throughout is perfect.


While some efforts sound a little formulaic at first (the calm intro, corrosive mid-section and composed coda trick gets slightly over-played) the sheer scope of their soundscapes is nothing short of impressive and will appeal to many a fan of instru-metal.