5 07 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Alice In Chains album that ran in Hot Press.


The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (Virgin)


Key Track: ‘Low Ceiling’


For so many reasons you have to admire Alice In Chains’ massive set of balls. Not only have the seminal Seattle band made the doubters eat their words by reforming with their dignity intact, they’ve managed to pull off the near unthinkable and found a singer (William Duvall) who is up to the task of carrying on from where the dearly departed former frontman Layne Staley left off. They’ve also done it all on their own terms and taken the time needed to make new music rather than giving in to the temptation of accepting a quick pay-day and embarking on a nostalgia-riddled tour of the usual rock festivals and for that, we tip our collective caps in admiration.

The Devil Put The Dinosaurs Here is the band’s second record since their resurrection and it’s a typically dark and brooding opus full of Jerry Cantrell’s trademark sludge-laden riffs and diabolically good harmonies. As with any Alice album post their iconic ’92 LP Dirt, the band’s fifth full length is one that requires (and deserves) time to incubate. A much more rewarding listen than ’09’s Black Gives Way To Blue, this album is focused and confident and there are plenty of treats on offer.

Album opener ‘Hollow’ is vintage Alice and full of that primal power of old, while ‘Voices’ could be a relative of the Jar Of Flies classic ‘No Excuses.’ There are a few gambles on the record too, with the band trying their hands at country (‘Scalpel’) and poking fun at not only the moral majority (“The devil put the dinosaurs here/Jesus don’t like a queer” they observe on the title track) and themselves (“Old Mr Fun is back/Wonder where he’s been hiding at?” they croon on the stand-out ‘Low Ceiling’) while elsewhere DuVall gets time to shine (‘Phantom Limb’).

Granted, the spectre of Staley never really leaves the record and they don’t quite match the sheer genius of the likes of ‘Man In The Box,’ but there’s no denying that it’s good to have the ‘Sludge Factory’ back in business.



4 07 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Sabbath album that ran in Hot Press.


13 (Vertigo)

Key Track: ‘Damaged Soul’



Even as recently as a year ago, most metal fans with a thimble-full of knowledge on Black Sabbath would have scoffed at the idea that they’d be releasing a brand new studio album in 2013. A band that have had more bust-ups and break-downs than the entire residents of Coronation Street, the Brummie legends’ lives really has been just like a soap opera over the decades. They’ve sued each other, survived cancer and various other near-death experiences, snorted anything they could get their hands on and been involved in generations-worth of slagging matches. Despite all the bitterness, bad blood and poop-filled boxes posted to ex-band members however, one thing always remained pure and that was their music and 13 (their first full length record to feature Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler together since ’78’s Never Say Die!) sees the band try to rekindle that spark that birthed a genre.


Featuring eight tracks, 13 is an incredibly self-referential record and over the course of 50minutes there are plenty of nods to some classic cuts from the Ozzy-era of Sabbath. ‘Zeitgeist’ bears more than a passing resemblance to their beautiful sci-fi lullaby ‘Planet Caravan,’ while the harmonica on ‘Damaged Soul’ calls to mind ‘The Wizard,’ and the riff-laden album resonates with a defiant “if it ain’t broke” mentality.


Iommi’s guitar playing is immaculate throughout and his blistering solo on ‘Loner’ is up there with his best work and Ozzy’s voice is nice and eerie, holding together for the most part. While it almost goes without saying that 13 isn’t as good as the standard-setting Master Of Reality or Heaven And Hell from the Dio-era, the record is a welcome new chapter in the band’s story and here’s hoping they can get drummer/founding member Bill Ward back into the fold for its follow-up.



2 07 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend that ran in Hot Press.



Boasting a bill that would make the Norse Gods of Valhalla whisper “hold on a second lads, this looks like it could be too much fun for us,” BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend is back in Derry with a bang and it’s crammed full of performers that would make the most pickiest festival punter’s mouth water. Hot Press has arrived bright and early on Sunday for the best line-up of the last three days and we’re just in time to see 30 Seconds To Mars scamper onstage. Led by singer, actor and former squeeze of Angela Chase (google it) Jared Leto, the band have grown into bona fide headliners over the last decade and open the main stage in style, provoking mass singalongs to ‘The Kill’ despite the 1pm start.


Sadly we miss Haim due to a scheduling clash, but we catch popstrels Little Mix and their canny cover of En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go’ impresses. Miles Kane is up next and he strides on to the In New Music We Trust stage clad in a fetching white suit which makes him look like the coolest ice-cream man on earth. ‘Inhaler,’ newies ‘Give Up’ and ‘Taking Over’ sound massive thanks to some amped up riffs that are fuzzier than a two year old tooth-brush and he looks ready to take things to the next level.


Wretch 32 on the other hand struggles to work the crowd and as a result there’s a mass exodus over to the INMWT stage as people want to get up close and personal with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. In fact, such is the excitement for the rapper, they’ve had to close the doors and refuse entry to hundreds (if not thousands) of punters, making for one of the most electric atmospheres this writer has experienced in moons. Looking like he hasn’t a notion what time or even day it is, the jet-lagged hip-hopper is welcomed like a hero and he returns the favour by dropping ‘Thrift Shop’ nice and early and the venue erupts.’One Love’ ably proves that you can be a mainstream rap act and not be a sexist, homophobic wanker, while ‘Can’t Hold Us’ sounds monstrous as the festival go-ers pogo as one causing the tent to quiver and shake like a blancmange on a bouncy castle and it feels like a watershed moment for the performer and one many won’t forget.


Jake Bugg is an odd way to come down from Mackle-Mania, but it oddly works, though Jessie Ware doesn’t quite hit the spot as we’d hoped she would. Paramore though, are a revelation and bursting with pop punk hits, putting on a world beating performance. Hayley Williams, as ever, is a joy to watch and ‘Misery Business,’ ‘Into You’ and more all sound immaculate.


After catching a bit of the robotic Vampire Weekend, Bruno Mars closes the star-studded event in style with a polished, hit-laden performance that proves he deserves his spot as the current prince of pop and as fireworks light up the night sky, we keep our fingers crossed it won’t be another nine years until the festival is back in the north.