28 08 2015

Here’s a reprint of my review of the outstanding new Maiden album.

Fun fact-while I was writing this I had a workman at Castle McFee beating the absolute shit out of my living room ceiling. I don’t recommend trying to make a deadline while it feels like your head in caving in….


The Book Of Souls



KEY TRACK: ‘Empire Of The Clouds’



Arguably their most anticipated album since The Number Of The Beast (a record which saw Maiden take a huge gamble by replacing original singer Paul Di’Anno with heavy metal air raid siren Bruce Dickinson back in ’82), The Book Of Souls is a similarly important opus in the world of rock. Hell, even the likes of Lady Gaga has confessed to getting up at 5am just to buy the damn thing. You see not only it is the band’s inaugural double album, it also features the debut of their frontman playing piano on the 18 minute long ‘Empire Of The Clouds,’ (their longest track to date) and, perhaps most importantly, it is their first release since Bruce Dickinson beat tongue cancer.

Clocking at over 92 minutes of music, the two disc beast is a feast for fans of the evergreen metal titans. The Robin Williams-inspired ‘Tears Of A Clown’ is a touching tribute to the departed comic and has a massive chorus and Thin Lizzy-esque rhythms, the bombastic ‘Death Or Glory’ sees them hark back to their NWOBHM days, while the sprawling, Steve Harris penned ‘The Red And The Black’ is another future classic from the band’s founder thanks to some Irish trad-inspired melodies.

‘Empire Of The Clouds’ is sure to be the album’s biggest talking point though. Inspired by the R101 airship disaster (a craft so big the Titanic could fit inside) and penned solo by Dickinson, it’s a mammoth rock opera packed with orchestra flourishes, numerous time changes and even some Morse Code. Topped off with beautiful piano playing from Bruce (the singer began learning the instrument when he won one in a recent raffle) it’s very much his masterpiece and closes this ambitious and often spell-binding opus in style.



METAL HAMMER REVIEW: Mutoid Man ‘Bleeder’

31 07 2015

First off, yep, I suck balls at updating my blog these days.There are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately. I’ll try and change that though from August onwards.

Anywho, here’s a reprint of my review of the awesome new Mutoid Man album that ran in Metal Hammer.They’re playing Ireland and the UK this autumn.You should go and see ’em.





Continuing the increasingly incestuous relationship between Converge and Cave In, Mutoid Man is the brainchild of drummer Ben Koller from the former and guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky from the latter. Economical in length (around 30minutes) but certainly not in ideas, their 10 track debut builds on the promise of their 2013 released EP Helium Head, adding more bite, a new bassist (Nick Cageao) and beefier production to their thrash, punk, prog and NWOBHM informed sonic assaults. Crammed with old school Tom Araya screams, unusual rhythms inspired by eight bit video games, bluesy grooves and lightning quick riffs, Bleeder is an instantly infectious slab of heavy metal thunder. Book-ended by the glorious, galloping sludge-fest Bridgeburner and the Dio-era Sabbath indebted doom-laden title track, the likes of Soft Spot In My Skull and the pummelling 1000 Mile Stare prove that their debut is much more than a vanity project for Mutoid Man and it’s as thrilling as anything they’ve put their names to in the past. Step aside Avengers, there’s a new super group in town. [8]



28 06 2015

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


Kablammo! (earMUSIC)

Key Track: ‘Go Fight Win’




Almost eight years to the day, trail-blazing garage pop rockers Ash announced that Twilight Of The Innocents would be their final album and from that point on they’d only release singles. As the quick witted among you might have already guessed, they recently had a change of heart and thank whatever deity you worship they did as it’s a resounding return to form for the Downpatrick natives. Perfectly capturing the fizz and fuzz of Ash’s incendiary live show, Kamlammo! strips away some of the electronic influences of recent singles and reboots the band somewhat.

Old school fans will be thrilled to learn that some material recalls the scuzzy punk of Trailer. The likes of the unrelentingly catchy ‘Cocoon’ and the Brian Wilson meets Rivers Cuomo vibe of ‘Machinery’ are like being punched in the face by a rainbow, while ‘Go Fight Win,’ stomps along like Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’,’ and is packed with pop hooks and metal guitars. It’s not all about revisiting their early days though as the instrumental, galloping sci-fi western ‘Evel Knieval,’ cowpunk-tinged ‘Shutdown’ and string-laden ballad ‘Moondust’ prove they’ve plenty of new ideas and sounds to explore. Welcome back boys.




15 05 2015

Here’s a reprint of Morrissey’s recent show at the Odyssey….




It’s no secret that tonight may be the final time Morrissey performs in Belfast. Currently on the ropes due to well documented battles with his health and his former label Harvest, the modest crowd assembled tonight could be the final nail in the coffin. However, the opening salvo of the Smiths classic ‘The Queen Is Dead’ and ‘Suedehead,’ performed in front of a photo of Elizabeth Windsor giving the fingers, proves that if his Mozjesty is going down, he’s going down fighting.

Those expecting a Greatest Hits heavy, chicken in a basket style cabaret set for his first northern show in six years are of course left wanting. Instead, Morrissey performs a wedge of material from recent LP World Peace Is None Of Your Business and peppers proceedings with life-changing, evergreen anthems like ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday.’ Sounding bullish from the get-go thanks in part to his muscular backing band, tonight’s show is equal parts good (‘Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before’), bad (‘Scandinavia’) and ugly (‘Meat Is Murder’).

Now a regular feature during his gigs, his decision to screen harrowing footage from 2011 animal cruelty documentary Farm To Fridge leaves some weeping, provokes others to walk out and a sizeable minority to boo him afterwards. Played two thirds into his set, it’s impossible to simply “enjoy” the rest of the show after watching so much bloodshed. Undeterred, Moz picks up right where he left off after ”Meat Is Murder’ but it’s all in vain. He’s killed the gig, for want of a better word, and not even an electric version of the Smiths’ ‘What She Said.’ can save the day. On the bright side though, if tonight does turn out to be Morrissey’s final bow in Belfast then at the very least he has this reviewer’s respect for doing it his way.



27 04 2015

Here’s a reprint of a recent TV column I wrote for Hot Press. WARNING: there be spoilers.




Recently at Castle McFee I waved goodbye, with my metaphorical lobster claw, to American Horror Story: Freak Show. Now that the dust has settled on this tale of Elsa Mars’ travelling carnival, looking back I feel that the fourth series of this wildly inventive anthology (yep, I’m still not down with this Yank-ified “season” lark) was definitely a divisive one. Ultimately though, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk should be applauded for not milking the tried and tested horror tropes this time around. As much as the FX Channel may have wanted a more straight forward show featuring large chested ladies incessantly running up stairs away from loonies whose one-liners are as sharp as their knives, the producers instead gave them (and us) an oddly sweet offering about misfits and mistakes.

Once again bolstered by another barn-storming performance from American Horror Story stalwart Jessica Lange, her turn as the fame-obsessed, German ex-pat Elsa Mars was, as expected, terrific. Full of pathos and pure ambition, the leader of the freak show was actually strangely lovable despite her [SPOILER] murderous ways. Other highlights of the 1952-set story was the tale of Pepper the Pin-Head and the eventual reveal that each series is loosely connected. While at first, one of the appeals of AMH was that each instalment featured a different theme and different characters (often played by the same troupe of actors), the comic fan in me loves the intertextuality of it all and [SPOILER] Sister Mary Eunice from American Horror Story: Asylums unannounced appearance in Freak Show was a great treat for fans. Especially as it was set before the events of the aforementioned Asylum. Poor old Sister Mary Eunice….

Anyway, other high points included Neil Patrick Harris as the mental magician Chester Creb. Obsessed with his ventriloquist dummy (which looked a little like Susan Boyle to these eyes), his brief two episode stint was mesmerizing, as was Wes Bentley’s three episode turn as the (literally) two-faced nobleman Edward Mordrake who treaded the line between camp and creepy with ease.

Now onto the negatives. Namely, lobster boy Jimmy and his relentless weeping over [SPOILERS] the murder of Meep the Geek. While I’m sure wee Meep was a lovely lad (when he wasn’t biting the heads off of chickens for a laugh), the grief was over-cooked and unconvincing. Another misfire was the handling of Twisty the Clown, who unfortunately only appeared in five of the 13 episodes. An absolutely terrifying creation inspired in part by John Wayne Gacy, actor John Carroll Lynch was superb as the misunderstood maniac. In fact, according to director Ryan Murphy, a third of the crew often left the set when he was shooting his scenes as he scared them all shit-less. Sadly though, Twisty’s reign of terror ended abruptly and although many suffering from coulrophobia won’t thank me for it, I would’ve really loved to have seen more of his mutilated mug. Some rumours have said that show-runners canned the clown early as they felt he was simply too scary and would force viewers to turn off. Wusses!

Overall, Freak Show was an enjoyable oddity and certainly better than last year’s uneven Coven. New-comer to the series Finn Wittrock was the undisputed star for me. Playing murderous mammy’s boy Dandy Mott, he rivalled Jessica Lange when it came to on screen charisma and killer lines and here’s hoping the actor returns for AMH’s fifth chapter later this year.

Speaking of series number five, the writers have revealed they hid some Easter eggs related to the next theme (American Horror Story: Hotel) throughout Freak Show for fans to speculate over. According to Ryan Murphy, the various images of top hats in different episodes are worth paying attention to. Oh, and Lady Gaga will join the cast. Consider me more than intrigued.


23 03 2015

Here’s an un-trimmed for space review of the new Therapy? record that ran in Hot Press (with added ‘Still Hurts’ track review below).


Disquiet (Amazing Record Co.)

Key Track: ‘Deathstimate’



Known, loved and rightly lauded for never making the same record twice, the unpigeonholeable rock pioneers Therapy? have once more set sail for pastures new on Disquiet. Leaving behind the measured menace of their previous two LPs, album number 14 is a more direct beast which often kicks as much ass as the Mighty Thor. Something of a spiritual successor to High Anxiety, Disquiet boasts 11 melodic punk and metal-imbued blasts of head-cracking riffs and filthy basslines and fans of the likes of Troublegum and Semi-Detached will find much to love on the record.

Lyrically speaking, singer/guitarist Andy Cairns is in vintage form as he muses on the passage of time (the Pantera-punning ‘Vulgar Display Of Powder’ is a particular standout on that front). ‘Still Hurts,’ ‘Idiot Cousin’ and ‘Tides’ are future live favourites, packed with pithy lines, massive choruses and satisfyingly meaty guitars, but it’s album closer ‘Deathstimate’ which really steals the show. Initially intended as a fusion of early Sabbath and Portishead, the seven minute long monster is a masterpiece and like nothing they’ve done before. Built around a magnificent riff dripping with doom influences, Cairns’ mournful vocals are perfectly weighted and utterly arresting. Not only is it the best track on the record, it’s one of their finest recorded moments and a welcome reminder that Therapy? still have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.



WP_20150323_11_54_40_Pro (2)


17 03 2015

So,issue 900 of Hot Press is out (yes,nine fucking hundred) and this fortnight I interviewed Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna and hotly tipped singer Natalie Prass,waved a fond farewell to American Horror Story: Freak Show in‪#‎MyTVFortnight‬ and reviewed records by Swervedriver, the Answer and Cry Monster Cry. My ‪#‎TracksOfTheFortnight‬ include offerings from Therapy?, Race The Flux,More Than Conquerors, Paranoid Visions, Joanna Gruesome and more. Here’s to issue 1000.