Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
So, at last we get to point the vehicle towards a Mecca of live music once again. This time Waldorf and Statler are without Waldorf, the scribe has fluttered off with his wife for a long weekend in Dublin, so no doubt he’ll be trying to drink his body weight in Guinness yet again!
Ok armed and ready I’m heading to the West Midlands, to that hallowed ground that is KK’s Steel Mill. Its fast becoming one of our more frequent haunts, we will be back here in a few days for ‘Evile’.
Tonight’s band is a new one for me. Having cut my teeth on Classic Rock ‘n’ Blues, I now find myself venturing deeper into the ‘Extreme’ Metal Universe, having recently covered such bands as ‘Conan’, ‘Gandalf the Green’, and ‘Underworld’ to name just three, so tonight I think it’s time to broaden my horizons a little further.
This evening we have a headline band who heralds from the mighty Halifax, the very epi centre of all things in the Death Doom Metal world or so it would seem. Having slightly changed their style over the years to what has now be labelled as Gothic Metal, I jest not when I say that ‘Lacuna Coil’, ‘Cradle of Filth’ and ‘Nightwish’ have all tipped their hats and acknowledged ‘PARADISE LOST’ as being an influence in their sound.
Having been around since 1988 they are currently touring their latest offering, ‘OBSIDIAN’ released in 2020. Its already been hailed as the 11th best metal album by that prodigious rock almanac that is Metal Hammer, yes, it’s still going. This being their 16studio album, and is released on Nucleur Blast records, with whom they have been with since 2016.
The band have had a stable line up over the years, this being Nick Holmes on Vocals, Gregor Mackintosh on Lead Guitar and Keyboards, Aaron Aedy on Rhythm Guitar, Steve Edmondson on Bass Guitar and Drummer Waltteri Väyrynen who joined them in 2015, he’s the 7th drummer to be part of the band.
The band cites old Black Sabbath as a big influence, Tony Iommi, Johnny Marr, Hendrix being inspirational to their collective sound. Gothic Rock has tones of 80’s bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s and the Sisters of Mercy, certainly when you hear the new album there are undertones of these bands mixed in with passages of depressing, dark crushing guitar riffs and guttural throat singing synonymous with Death Metal. I enjoyed the album immensely and recommend it for any growing collection. So, I’m looking forward to the live outing tonight.
Tonight, we have a brace of bands on the ‘undercard’, first up is local band ALUNAH, a Doom Metal band formed back in 2006 as ALUNA but a year later had changed its name to the now seen, ALUNAH with the simple addition of an ‘H’. I’m guessing the reason being that there are several establishments around Birmingham with the same name so it helps to avoid confusion.
They have been hailed as the new generation of Doom Metal bands and so far, have 5 albums to their name. A sixth album ‘Strange Machine’ is due for release in April 2022 on the Heavy Psych Sounds Label.
Over the year the band has undergone several line-up changes the latest having been in 2020. The band consist of original drummer, Jake Mason, Bass player, Dan Burchmore since 2013, vocalist, Siân Greenaway since 2017 and newest member, Matt Noble on guitar since 2020.
They have jokingly been labelled as Black Country Metal in the past, but I’ve not heard any ‘Kipper Ties’ in their song lyrics as yet.
Starting their set off with ‘Silver’, from the soon to be released new album, the strikingly dressed Siân is centre stage, with hair flying, she gets the song going, dressed in a maroon ‘velvet’ ‘playsuit’ which shows off her striking leg tattoo’s visible beneath dark tights, she moves about the stage with ease, obviously not effected with stage nerves, but then this is the last night of their tour with the band.
With the drums cracking a steady 4/4 beat her vocal cuts through with the precision of a diamond edged blade, she has the crowd’s attention as the guitar drones a dark riff. From there we get a second track from the new album ‘Broken Stone’ again has a dark brooding sound that has more than a little touch of a psychedelic vibe to it, a definite move in direction but still keeping the doom grinding sounds befitting the genre.
‘Dance of Deceit’ and ‘Hunt’ are bookended by the new songs. These are both from the 2019 album Violet Hour, ‘Dance’ starts with a crashing drum beat and a simple dropped tuned guitar riff as Siân curls her voice around the melody, she commands the stage, arms swirling as she delivers another fine vocal. Burchmore is down and dirty on the bass, his head low as he locks in with the kickdrum as, combined, they slam out a great driving backline.
‘Hunt’ sees a slight shift in speed as it starts off slow, a grooving bass line dances along as Siân delivers a Joplinesque vocal. This slower track is spectacular in its simplicity, the vocal acrobatics caress and massage, as the song builds, a rhythmic snare crescendo harks a new phase in the tune as things take on a slightly, more sinister sound, the distorted guitar with its repetitive passages sounding massive as a slightly delayed voice cries out to mark the songs demise. Hmm I like that one!
Getting back to the new album, we have ‘Strange Machine’, the title track and the single chosen to be released back in January, heralding the onset of the new album. Again, quite a psychedelic vibe rocks out on this new tune.
The dark heavy brooding sound is there but the guitar seems less sinister, a more melodic tune develops. The vocals are great, on point and cut through with precision. The solo is uplifting and tuneful, a counterpoint to the riffing that ensues, the vocal is back with a scream and a volley of snare crashes, its great to hear a four-hit tiddly dum on the kit to finish. (drummers will know).
The great, but short set is finished off with ‘The Earth Spins’, the final song from the soon to be released sixth album. It’s a shame they have such a short set as they have just got themselves warmed up.
The gathering crowd have been entertained, they show their gratitude by cheering and clapping loudly as the band finish their set and leave the stage. It’s a quick turn over so the band are soon back on helping to strip down their kit making way for the next band
‘Moonspell’, no surprises when I say they are also a new band to me. Formed in Portugal in 1989 under the former name of ‘Morbid God’ which they changed in 1992 prior to the release of their first EP ‘Under the Moonspell which was followed a year later with their debut album ‘Wolfheart’. Now with 12 studio albums under their belt, we see them touring their latest album Hermitage, released in Feb 2021 on Napalm records.
The band are Fernando Ribeiro on vocals, Pedro Paixão on keys, sampler, programming, and rhythm guitar, Ricardo Amorim on Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals, Aires Pereira on Bass Guitar and new comer, Hugo Rebeiro on drums since 2020 (what is it with drummers?
The set kicks off with ‘The Greater Good’ off their latest offering ‘Hermitage’ as previously mentioned, released in 2021 on Napalm Records. A spoken vocal over choral keyboards starts things off, the lights beam around the venue as the drums kick in, Ooosh what a great snare crack as Hugo Rebeiro attacks the kit, an almost tribal beat makes up the backbone as the guitar slides around this opening number.
Stage centre the guttural vocal snarls from Fernando Ribeiro growl out as he stands, arms outstretched delivering a sermon to the gathered faithful. A small pocket on the barrier seem to be fellow country folk as they shout out in encouragement.
The title track ‘Hermitage’ follows, after a quick bit of banter about not playing Birmingham for a while, he was hoping the crowd would have learnt a bit of Portuguese as they have a football player from there in its ranks. I’m clueless to that fact as I’m more into rugby union.
With foot on the monitor Ribeiro delivers and the crowd sing back, hand in the air as he does so. The tasteful guitar has my attention as its not dark and brooding as the driving riff, a great crowd pleaser.
We take a leap back in time now, to 1996 and the Irreligious album for the anthemic ‘Opium’. With a bouncier drum beat laden with double kick drum and a jangly guitar sound reminiscent of the Edge in the early days, drives the tune along, 80’s ‘Cure’ style vocal bounds along until we get a visit from the snarling metal style growl as the darkness takes over, again commanding the crowd centre stage the song builds, bass player Aires Pereira has his curly locks spinning like a whirlwind as the song finishes with a flurry.
‘Breathe’ brings us up to 2015 and the Extinct album. With a flashing on the hi hats the song heralds a steady intro which is interspersed with blast beats and a Sisters of Mercy type vibe ensues, as theatrical Ribeiro screams out the vocals one minute then its all calm, with guitars driving through, riffs full of bends and distortion.
The crowd are enjoying it, a cell front centre have hair flying in all directions. The keyboard hidden behind cut lengths of pipe, looking like some satanic alter, fills out the sound with orchestral strings as the drums crash, the bass thumps and the distorted guitar double stops the end.
The keys sound off as a slow vocal from Ribeiro and Amorim, on guitar, introduce ‘Hermit Saints’. This is quickly replaced by a shouting delivery as the vocal competes with cymbal crashes and a thrashing guitar riff. This soon drops into a bouncing meander from the guitars before a small tuneful run from the keys, Paixão is now back lit and wearing a hat, in shadow he is looking like the Undertaker from the WWe Wrestling days as he wrestles with the pipework
‘Extinct’ from the same titled 2015 album follows with its crushing drum intro and cavalcade of guitars and keyboards, steady double kick drum penetrates the air as the vocal growl kicks in, ‘the taste of your lips before we go extinct’ is sang back by the knowledgeable crowd.
Sadly, we don’t have the girls running around the stage as we see in the official video. The guitar solo with its EVH hammer on’s is a delight to hear as this more ‘poppy’ tune concludes suddenly to great cheers, one of my favourites from the set.
‘Apophthegmata’ from 2021’s Hermitage follows this banging tune. Wolf howls aside this piano keyboard intro makes way for a pure voice, floor toms join in along with a jangly guitar which tunes into a jagged riff like a rip saw through hard wood.
And then chimes salute a more driven sound as the guttural growling vocal takes over, the drums steady and rhythmic throughout. A harmonised chorus strikes a slight change as a piercing guitar screams out from Amorim. His leather jacket is still zipped closed, he must be getting a bit warm by now!
So, the final tracks are visits back to the halcyon days of the mid 90’s. ‘Alma Mater’ from ‘95’s Wolfheart with its crushing guitar soon has the crowd’s heads bouncing along. Gripping the mic stand with both hands we have a guttural vocal as the band deliver this penultimate track in a driving, forceful way.
The crowd are singing back the whoah-whoas when required. Bass player, Pereira is playing with the crowd darting from side to side posing with his bass in the air, wandering to front of the stage, centre to the small contingent of his countrymen gathered within. Arms and horns are being thrust in his direction as he smiles thumping out a gut-wrenching bass line. A final, guttural ‘Alma Mater’ and a crash of drums see’s the tune finish.
The set closer is ‘Full Moon Madness’ from 1996’s Irreligious. A nice steady stroking of the guitar eases this last song into the set, swirling keyboards make way for the vocals, once again guttural growls ensue as the lights dance and chase about the set.
Encouraging the crowd to clap along we get a spoken vocal, at times hard to hear. Horns are thrusting from the fans, here to see Moonspell, in time with the kick drum. The bass is low and menacing whilst the guitar is fat and dripping in all things nice, you gotta love a neck pup in a tele’.
As the song builds, we have a play on the cymbals, Ribeiro has grabbed a set of sticks and is now thrashing them opposite to the seated Rebeiro, the crowd are loving it.
This marks the end of the tune and sadly the band exit, except Pereira the bass player who proceeds to get himself tangled in his lead as he tries to pass a pic to his country folk, much to the liking of the crowd, he is helped by a roadie who almost goes the same way.
Again, a quick change over and we have the headline turn on, PARADISE LOST, the providers of tonight’s ‘miserable’ metal hit the stage with ‘Widow’ from the 1993 album ICON. Full of grinding drop tuned deliciousness.
This tune is a great opener, the drums crash as the guitars cut their way through them. From being in the pit when the vocals start-up it sounds that there are a few issues, they’re very low in the mix. But that’s soon sorted as Mackintosh rips us a new one with a scorching solo, dreads flailing in the air as he does so.
‘Serenity’ from the new album follows, it looks like they swap this one about with ‘Fall from Grace’ having looked at previous set lists. A guttural vocal talks its way through as madness ensues around it, the smoke has started to descend, everyone photographer’s nightmare. The drums smash a steady beat as the song concludes with an anthemic cavalcade of abusive fret work.
Up next is ‘Blood and Chaos’ this follows the same theme of guttural vocals punctuated with riffing guitars and an 80’s Gothic style chorus, reminiscent of the Cure. A very rock orientated guitar quickly flashes a solo, Mackintosh is looking sinister stage left with his 7 stringed V is on point, giving us a tasty cutting guitar that slices the very middle of the song wide open, Nick Holmes vocals growl in retaliation to the onslaught.
‘Faith Divides Us- Death Unites Us’ with its slow melodic passages gives way into drop tuned chain saw abuse as Holmes growls and sings his way through this fan favourite from the album of the same name. ‘Eternal’ follows from the album the 1991 album Gothic.
This album has been heralded as one of the most influential albums in the genre. Its double kick drum and guttural vocals from the start, drag you in and play havoc with your senses. Looking around there are lots of closed eyes and head nodding’s from all around me.
1997’s ‘One Second’ with its keyboard intro sounds out as Holmes vocal drives the song forward singing as himself, no need for gutturals in this one. A great driving drum beat holds the tune together as the bass locks in and helps to drive it forward. Smoke has meant I’ve taken to the back of the venue, having spent to long in smoke previously, my throat can do without it.
The switcheroo song ‘Fall from Grave’ from the latest album OBSIDIAN, full of 80’s Gothic vibes, is next as its slowly menaces its way, guttural growled vocals feature with an almost ‘Ghost’ like lyric over the top giving a throwback vibe that the older amongst us will recognise.
2007’s ‘The Enemy’ is next. A slightly more optimistic vibe hears a solid drum beat once again, a solid snare ricochet’s as the song travels. A buzzsaw guitar riff draws you along as the song builds. Aaron Aedy on rhythm guitar will have a bad back he’s bent right over, guitar hanging almost to the floor as he grinds out the riffs like a nodding Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon.
Blue back light and pulsing strobes, a brooding intro eases us into ‘As I die’ and we’re off again. Aedy has acquainted himself with his feet again as he crunches out the riff and a galloping drum beat propels us along while lights darting here and there as left handed Mackintosh, on the edge of feedback fires off a frightening salvo, the look on his face or his demeanour doesn’t seem to have changed all night. Again, it goes down well with the fans.
‘The Devil Embraced’ gets introduced by Holmes as a song from deep within ourselves, or something like that. With pulsing lights and crashing cymbals it’s hard to see the band from where I’m stood, momentary flashes give a brief idea where the stage is as the night has mostly been in shadow, ‘The Last Time’ from 1995’s Draconian Times is up next.
Heavy drum beat grinds into you as the guitars are riffing a constant note until the vocals kick, the clean riff that doesn’t insult up to the point that Mackintosh has had enough and embarks on an epic solo that builds towards rounding the song off.
‘No Hope in Sight’ from 2015’s The Plague Within’ is the penultimate song of the set. The almost siren quality of the guitar gives way to a deep chugging as the vocals start, Holmes appears centre stage hold the mic as he sings this one, smoke is falling all around as the tempo changes and the growling starts. The drums build and the occasional ‘Bell’ rings out as the song finishes with a flurry on the crashes.
The final song of the set is the favourite ‘Say Just Words’ from the 97 album One Second. Greeted with clapping as the drum beat encourages the crowd involvement.
Again, for those old enough the vibe is very reminiscent of those alternative indie bands of the 80’s but with the addition of a severe steroid kick. A lyrical full song that holds the crowd to the, now customary, sudden finish.
After a brief interlude we’re treated to a four-song encore, starting with Obsidians ‘Darker Thoughts’ with its ballad style start almost whispered by Holmes as the band re-emerge, just in time for the growling to start.
Mackintosh on stage right is grinding out a dirty riff as the crowd is encouraged to clap along. The bass has taken on a life of its own with some quick finger work thumping out a chest pinning sound. Bathed in blue light the song reaches a fade after another sonic bombardment from Mackintosh’s 7 string.
The more upbeat ‘So Much is Lost’ follows on with its Sisters of Mercy style vibe. Drums are crashing around some nice hi hat splashes which ring out amidst the darkness. ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ from 2015’s Plague Within is next, a drop tuned epic with a distorted Sabbath style guitar sound, almost! Slow and purposeful as Aedy harmonises, the bass guitar of Edmondson, is droning away almost cello like in its orchestration. No surprises with a slow growled vocal as it unravels in an almost pedestrian manner.
‘Ghosts’ from Obsidian finishes the night off with a rattling bass line and heavy kick drum a jangly guitar slices through the bass and then the growling vocal cuts just as the chugging guitar riff excites the crowd they’re singing along ‘for Jesus Christ’.
The bassline is slamming into your ribs as the song builds, the drums get busier and, again, Mackintosh is riffing out as the snare slams loud right up to Holmes shrieks the last ‘For Jesus Christ’. And it’s done, finished as abruptly as it started.
Well call it what you want but it was certainly an entertaining night. Again, I’ve been introduced to three bands I’ve previously missed. Whenever anyone’s mentioned Doom or Death Metal it’s always come across as being something that would full of noise and malevolence, so would not appeal.
OK so it may not appeal to the masses but I’ve challenged myself and found bands I’ve actually enjoyed within the genre. I’d say to folk that if you’ve read this far then give it a go, there are some great bands out there waiting for you to discover them.
Get your tickets now: https://paradiselost.co.uk/tour/