DEAD CITY RUINS – MIDNIGHT KILLER Album Review

Posted in Records on February 17, 2012 by Cameron Cooper

Despite the first two tracks indicating it as such, to call Dead City Ruins’ debut full-length Midnight Killer a sleaze metal album would be to do the band a dis-service, as it is far more diverse than that. The Melbourne quartet (now a five piece) take a great deal of influence from across the metal and rock n’ roll board, releasing a fun, catchy and heavy album.

Lets get something straight, though – there isn’t anything particularly glammy about this band.

Sure, there may be influences from that particular genre throughout, but these guys are a dirty, honest bunch of rock n’ rollers. This album is free of pretence, and chock full of excess – just the way it should be.

What hits home the most about the album for me is it’s sheer bottom end. The bass playing leaps between relentless, doomy fuzz to clean accompaniments, and at times the band seems to have more in common with Witchfinder General’s faster moments than Motley Crue.

Other moments on the album, such as “My Lai Massacre” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dio album, with each member showing off their chops – from heavy bass fuzz, to killer metallic leads and soaring vocals. Oh, and the lyrics kick-arse, too.

For much of the album, however, it isn’t so cut and dry as to what genre each song falls into. The band have achieved a cross-section of influences on many of the tracks, with bluesy rock n’ roll riffs shoulder-to-shoulder with speed metal sections.

Not content to follow the traditional formula, DCR bring the tempo down, free of cliche, with the aptly titled “Blues”. This track is heavy and eerie, with singer Jake Wiffen whispering his way into an evil, downright creepy dude. Like every song on this album, the band takes the listener through highs and lows, with the song turning on its head two or three times before it is over. Definitely the stand out track on the album.

Everything on the album are elements you will have heard before, but mixed together in quite this way – not so much. The band definitely summons the ghosts of music’s past, but putting enough of their own spin on these influences to dodge the pit of becoming a throw-back band. This is true, straight-up rock n’ metal. What’s not to love?

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Dead City Ruins + Rampage, Metal @ The Town Hall Hotel 11/2/12

Posted in Shows on February 14, 2012 by Cameron Cooper

In the world of rock n’ roll and heavy metal, it isn’t surprising that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Problems occur for bands which can stunt or put a stop to their gigs all together, and it can be a very frustrating experience for all involved. This can result in bands kicking up a stink sometimes about the problems – but it is good to know that there are still bands out there who manage to take it in their stride, which is exactly what tonight’s headliners, Melbourne’s Dead City Ruins, did.

Saturday night at the Town Hall Hotel in Newtown started out with heavy metal four piece Metal, who are continuing to improve every time I see them. The band unleashed a new song or two, and whilst song writing and overall performance is improving, a certain tightness is still lacking from the band – occasionally slipping out of otherwise decent rhythms and riffs. However, some fantastic lead guitar work, anthemic choruses and a “fuckin’ metal” attitude ensure the band are living up to their namesake. Metal are a great band to have a beer to, bang a head with, and just bask in the glory that is HEAVY METAL!

Cranking up the amps, attitude and chaos to the absolute max, Rampage took the stage and drew a large, thrash-hungry crowd. Having just played a set with Metal didn’t slow axe-man “Chinch” down one iota, who manage to compensate for the absence of fellow guitarist Shane Saw for the night. Rampage create in the room the very atmosphere they sing about, with the whole place turning into a true “Headbanger Hell”, and a thrashified cover of “Born To Be Wild” proves to be quite the crowd pleaser.

Once the sonic dust from Rampage’s set settled, Dead City Ruins were soon to take the stage. After a great instrumental start, singer Jake Wiffen leapt from the audience to join his band members.

Exactly what follows I’m not too sure, and I don’t wish to speculate, but there seemed to be a few problems, with Wiffen’s otherwise outstanding vocals being lost in the mix. After two songs, the power was cut.

The band didn’t, and still haven’t made any sort of fuss about it, with a simple “Power has been cut, cheers”, and they were off. A commendable way to handle a bad situation. It was definitely unfortunate, as the two opening numbers were promising slabs of hard n’ heavy rock n’ roll. As such, I didn’t manage to snag a shot of the band in performance, but Jake was good enough to give me a snap of his smiling mug, and a free CD.

This was gearing up to be an excellent gig, and it is really unfortunate that the band travelled all the way from Melbourne only to be cut short. Whatever the reasons for the power cut, one can only hope Dead City Ruins will return to Sydney soon to finish what they started, and I will most definitely be there!Image

New Years Evilution: DARKER HALF + ELM STREET, TABERAH & THUNDASTEEL

Posted in Shows on January 2, 2012 by Cameron Cooper

2011 has been a great year for Australian heavy metal – Taberah exploded onto the national scene, Darker Half released a new record, not to mention a number of great international acts coming to our shores. What better way to ring in the new year than with a night of metal at Sydney’s own bastion for live music: The Sandringham Hotel? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather raise a glass and bang a head to four solid bands playing Priest covers and originals than watch fireworks.

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The opening set is always a funny thing. Generally, your audience consists of the other bands, maybe the promoter, and only a handful of others. But let’s face it, someone has to do it. A small turn-out can’t be helped sometimes, but what you do with it certainly can, and Thundasteel are well aware of this. The band was un-relenting in their approach, with riffs fit for a much larger crowd and stage, playing mainly originals but throwing in a cover of Hellbent For Leather. It was odd in this way seeing them play to such a small amount of people, because their sound was just so mammoth. With a few more gigs under their belt, and a bit more stage presence, this band will be pulling in bigger crowds in no time.

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Taberah drew a much larger audience, and ran through their usual blend of rock n’ roll theatrics and heavy metal anthems. They were the only band of the evening not to play a Judas Priest cover, and opted for a rather unique run through of Bohemian Rhapsody; breaking off from an original the song’s second half. The band really shines however in their stage banter and antics, much of which is just subtle enough to be recognised – like a few fun lyrical changes – but without crossing into the realm of wankery.

In what was, if I’m not mistaken, their first time in Sydney, Melbourne hellraisers Elm Street cracked a hole in the sky, and left the crowd in a heavy metal daze. The band let out a real exuberance in their set; they were scummy, dirty and all together metal, but tight as anything, too. Once again, Judas Priest covers appeared, with the band blazing through Jawbreaker and Breaking The Law mid-way through their set.

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Headlining the show was Sydney heavyweights Darker Half. Having taken time off to record their new album, this is the first time I’ve seen the band in a fair while, and there seem to have been some changes with how they present themselves on stage, for the better. Bass player Simon Hamilton and guitarist Brad Dickinson leapt back and forth across the stage as the band nailed a set of old and new songs, throwing in a cover of Hallowed Be Thy Name for good measure. Considering the band’s recent opening slot for Children of Bodom, the band may not be playing these smaller venues for much longer, as their fan-base will be unable to contain them.

What made the whole night really special was, of course, the countdown to 2012 itself. Whilst they may have missed the exact mark, singer Vo Simpson shrugged it off and said “Fuck it, we will do a count down anyway!” before ripping into Livin’ After Midnight, with Taberah’s Jono Barwick hoping up on stage to take vocals for a verse or two.

All in all, this was an excellent show. The bands were all loud, tight and happy as hell to be there, and they made sure the crowd was too. If the curtain call on 2011 is anything to go by, 2012 is going to be a hell of a year for the Aussie metal hordes.

TABERAH – THE LIGHT OF WHICH I DREAM album review

Posted in Records on October 27, 2011 by Cameron Cooper

Tasmanian Power Metallers Taberah have been gigging for a while now, and have crafted a solid, entertaining live show. However, in their six year life span the band haven’t committed much in the way of recordings. So how does the quintet hold up on their debut full length, The Light of Which I Dream?

The album finds itself in an interesting position, full of ear-stomping, straightforward riffs, but certainly not without a few deviations to the norm. Thankfully, from the effects-laden vocals to finger-snapping beats, these elements fit in nicely with the band’s overall power metal vibe. The same can be said for the album intro and the few intervals that are scattered throughout the album. Including these, a band always runs the risk of ruining the flow of the album, however Taberah have ensured that these moments don’t overstay their welcome.

As the album continues, the rock n’ roll influence becomes more apparent. Whilst Taberah have done a good job of meshing their influences – which seem to run from The Darkness to Helloween – occasionally a lead will appear straight out of nowhere, and disappear just as quickly, clashing with the rest of what is going on.

However, at other times it works great, as “Stormchild” bridging the sonic gap between Danger Danger and Saxon, with lyrics to match. This track is perhaps the highlight of the album, from an arena-worthy chorus, to a blistering solo. Is that a bird whistle?

Perhaps the only weak song on the album comes in the form of a ballad, “The Ballad of Ruby Joy”. The song starts out decent enough, and wears its Queen influence on its sleeve, but doesn’t have enough going on to warrant its length. All is not lost, however, as the track very nicely segues into the album’s title track, which seems to sum up all the strong elements of the album. But the band isn’t finished yet, and the final two tracks – the epics “Requiem Of The Damned” and “The Reaper” take us out nicely.

The Light of Which I Dream is a phenomenal effort for a band of such young musicians. Solid playing on behalf of all the members has ensured everyone knows exactly what the band is about, and frontman Jono Barwick’s vocals sound like the happy medium between metal master and humble pub rocker. Thanks to the fun quirks and lyrical subjects that range from battles to broads, the album does too.

It isn’t uncommon for a band to take on a number of styles, place them side by side and call it a day, but Taberah have gone a step further, and created something wholly original.

TABERAH Album Launch – The Valve 7/10/11

Posted in Shows on October 17, 2011 by Cameron Cooper

After a well deserved break earlier this year, promoter Dave Balfour has out done himself with an absolutely stellar line-up at The Valve in Tempe. For four rock-solid hours, the proudly pokies-free venue was transformed into the Tempe Thunderdome.

Opening the night was Crimzon Lake, NWOBHM alumni Paul Mario Day’s latest music offering. A loud, fat mix of 70s Brit-Rock and True Metal saw the band proving they were far from past their prime, with Day channelling his younger self in stage presence only, and displaying a matured and unrelenting set of pipes. Mark Middleton (Bass) and Alax Sazdanoff (Drums) provided a hard hitting and tight rhythm section, allowing Danny Jackson’s locomotive riffs and wailing guitar solos to shine. Curiously, the band played a lot of material not actually featured on their debut EP, instead showcasing a much heavier side.

Next up were Newcastle thrashers Sabretung. After some technical difficulties resulted in a late start, the four piece ploughed through a juggernaut of heavy-as-hell, savage numbers. Not content with the lack of crowd participation, frontman Doug Murray made numerous attempts to coax the crowd into becoming much more active. “Come on up the front, that is where headbanging is supposed to happen.”

When pleasantries failed, Murray jumped down from the stage and physically placed a number of us up the front of the stage. In doing so, he reminded us all that we were at a FUCKING METAL show, and exactly why local gigs, were this kind of thing can still happen, are some of the best.

The bluntly-named Metal proved a crowd pleaser, with all singing along to their would-be anthems. The stage presence was there and then some, but the band’s set felt incomplete, something missing from the overall performance. Whether it was the tired vocals or simply the band not playing tight enough I’m not sure, but it stopped the band from achieving their full potential.

Head-liners Taberah managed to steal the show, bringing their blend of glam rock theatrics and power metal melodies to Sydney for the second or third time in their six year existence. Complete with duel guitar solos, as well as multiple and intricate progressions, the group displayed considerable development from their earlier days as a more straightforward metal outfit.

The band has slugged it out in the pubs of Tasmania for some time, with only frontman Jono Barwick and drummer Tom Brockman remaining of the original line-up. However, the current incarnation of the band is certainly their strongest, with the band wearing their experience on their sleeve. Combining flawless musicianship and a down-to-earth, playful attitude, Taberah were firing at full force. A perfect warning shot to fans both old and new of what to expect as the band’s strangle-hold on Aussie metal continues to tighten.

Portal’s “Seepia” album review

Posted in Records on July 26, 2011 by Cameron Cooper

In some circles, Portal are hailed as Australia’s number one death metal band, owing to their extravagantly horrific live performances. Seepia was their first full length, being released in 2003. Since then, the band has gone on to release two more albums and continue to grow in notoriety.

Let me just say, I really do love bands that build a mystique about themselves, so I am not adverse to the pseudonyms and costumes adopted by the band. However, no matter how horrifying a man with a clock for a head may appear on stage, this doesn’t do much when popping in a CD. That is why, when having heard this band’s music described as “Antique Horror”, or in any other way associated with a sense of fear and general creepiness, I return to this record.

Honestly, Seepia offers nothing in the way of fear-building. Perhaps to those unfamiliar with death metal, or for those who have experienced the band live. But for me? The only thing that alludes to any sort of atmosphere-building is the intro track, which comes across as a jarring, distracting piece, detached from the following death metal onslaught – perfectly skippable without any loss on the overall experience. No fear, no terror, just annoyance at yet another band slapping on an un-necessary intro.

These passages return throughout the album, with a semi-interesting chiming bell appearing a little before the half-way mark, but again it doesn’t do much and really just breaks up the flow of the album. Whilst the last few moments may articulate exactly what the band was trying to do throughout with their samples, it is just too little, too late. Despite this, the album, when treated simply as a death metal release, really isn’t bad.

Portal formed a decade before Seepia was released. They have obviously used this time well, as not a single riff feels out of place. The production is muddy, with vocalist “The Curator” commanding “Altar Of Madness”-esque rasps and screams, buried sufficiently in the mix to create a cacophony of noise. The album sounds like it was recorded in a crypt, and this is definitely the perfect production for such an album.

Evil? Sure. Creepy? No.

The guitars are what really stand out on this record. Far from refined, technical wankery, they seem to relish in their dissonant, unpredictable nature, crawling through the album at an alarming pace. A balance has been hit here between distinctive and memorable riffs and use of the guitar as a tool for creating a thick, suffocating texture.

This is an old school death metal release with a few new flairs. Such a deliberately destructive production was perhaps not possible when Portal first hit the scene, and definitely not when their predecessors did. As such, the album is unmistakeably separate from others in the same vein. If it wasn’t for the ineffective attempts at creating a horrifying atmosphere, this could have been an absolutely outstanding slab of raw, evil, music.

There might not be anything too mind-bending about this release, but it sure is a fun one. Those looking for some solid death metal riffs look no further, but those wishing for a disturbing, spine-tingling experience should perhaps look to the band’s other releases, or simply their live show.

Rock n Roll Weapon – Self-Titled EP (2008)

Posted in Records on January 31, 2011 by Cameron Cooper

Rock n Roll Weapon EPIt’s no understatement when I say that Rock n Roll Weapon is one of Australia’s most under-rated bands. Their only release – the self-titled EP – runs for just under fifteen minutes, and in that time manages to display a band hellbent on rock n’ roll rebellion. The EP plays out more like a jam by the tightest band of all time than a collection of composed songs, and that by no means is a bad thing.

Kicking off with “Brick Vs Skull”, vocalist Kenny soars over the top of the chaotic mix of rock n’ roll, hardcore and metal riffs. This intro track is followed immediately by “Deceiver”, a crushingly metallic number which manages to transition into one hell of a breakdown, showing the deathcore kiddies just how it’s done. From the uncompromising rhythm section to the absolutely mind-numbing leads, this song is almost completely without fault.

However, the same cannot be said for the entire EP. “Reason” – while by no means a bad song – simply doesn’t hold up to the energy present on the previous track. The song’s chorus is perhaps the most melodic of those present on the EP, and although some incredibly enjoyable play is present between guitarists Nick and Romano, including an amazing solo, the song feels slightly uninspired when compared to the EP’s opening number(s). As said, this is by no means a bad song, it simply isn’t as unstoppable as Rock n Roll Weapon have proven to be, both live and in the last six or so minutes.

This is soon forgiven, however, as “Just a Bullet” kicks in. If anything, this song is what “Reason” could have been. It follows a very similar sound, although much more emphasis is placed on the vocal performance, which switches between whispers, straight up screams and a ridiculously Australian spoken word bridge. Here, more than on any other part of the EP, Rock n Roll Weapon make their message clear – “Rock n Roll is why we’re here!”.

Without warning, the song transitions into “Cainin’” – which begins with an amazing solo. Elegantly, this transitions into the now established, straightforward verse-chorus arrangements of the EP. Kenny displays his hardcore-influenced vocals on this song, occasionally bursting into them to accentuate particular passages – as opposed to boring the listener with overuse. With this, the EP ends on a high note – albeit not as hard hitting as it seemed to enter.

All in all, this is a flat-out amazing EP. Although my favourite Rock n Roll Weapon number, “This Means War” does not appear, it only proves that there is still more greatness to come from this band. If you get a chance, check out the band and grab a copy.

Rock n Roll Weapon merchandise can be purchased from Repressed Records, Landspeed, or directly from the band, live or at their myspace.