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….