REAL GONE GOES OUT: Snakecharmer – Assembly Hall, Islington, London 23/02/13

The union of ex-Whitesnake men Micky Moody and Neil Murray with powerhouse vocalist Chris Ousey, Wishbone Ash guitarist Laurie Wisefield and Thunder skinsman Gary ‘Harry’ James was always likely to create a strong band unit.  Under the name Snakecharmer, their debut collaboration – along with keyboard player Adam Wakeman – served as concrete proof.  Since the album pushed all the right buttons and a little more, their live show was probably going to be equally as solid; and when Snakecharmer played a one-off show at the Islington Assembly Rooms in London, a gathering of classic rock fans got to experience the then still relatively new gathering of old friends first hand.

The choice of venue seemed an odd one; the Islington Assembly Hall comes with more of a function room/town hall vibe than somewhere you might witness a rock gig. That, combined with age of the musicians, may have seemed – to some outsiders – as if this gig was a nostalgia trip with some guys nearing the end of the road.  Fact is, though, with the lines of age also comes years of gigging experience, and Micky Moody still has the necessary oomph in the live setting.  Combined with an equally powerful partner in the underrated Wisefield, the moments of twin guitar during this band’s performance were often responsible for the set’s best moments.   This was particularly the case during an instrumental duel at the end an already cracking performance of Whitesnake’s ‘Ready An’ Willin’’. Watching the two musicians trade off licks, it seemed incredibly natural, as if they’d been playing together for several decades.

Hearing ex-Virginia Wolf/Heartland vocalist Chris Ousey stepping into David Coverdale’s large shoes resulted in flawless performances.  Ousey’s voice may be a little higher, but it has never weakened over the years: in fact, hearing this band hammering through a storming take of ‘Slow An’ Easy’ (preceded by a mid-length slide guitar solo), we’ll wager not even Coverdale and his band could match this performance any more…  A couple of other Whitesnake tunes were treated with equal respect, with solid outings for ‘Fool For Your Lovin’’ and ‘Here I Go Again’, the latter played in its 1982 incarnation (albeit with ’87 lyric), allowing Wakeman to lay down some blankets of organ, keeping Jon Lord’s spirit alive.  In terms of the band’s individual pasts, although nobody heckled for more  ’Snake numbers whenever the attention turned to the more recent, it was rather pleasing to hear a voice occasionally crying “Wishbooone!” from within the crowd.

A gig more than a celebration of the past, the new Snakecharmer tunes sat proudly alongside the classics.  The swaggering blues-rock of ‘To The Rescue’ allowed Ousey to showcase a superb set of vocal pipes (for those who’ve never heard him sing live, it’s almost the same as his recorded delivery), while Neil Murray – unobtrusive at stage left – cranked out a meaty bass.  True to their studio counterparts, ‘Guilty As Charged’, ‘Accident Prone’ and ‘Nothing To Lose’ showed that these newer songs to be absolute belters, while the slightly more AOR ‘My Angel’ allowed each of the members equal space in the overall performance, but naturally, Ousey seemed the most at ease with this Heartland-eque offering.

Although no reference was made to the respective Thunder, Heartland or Wishbone Ash catalogues, after over ninety minutes of fantastically played bluesy rock, it’s unlikely those present went home with even the merest hint of disappointment.  Since the show was captured for posterity, those who were not present may get some consolation somewhere down the line.

Briefly rubbing shoulders with various band members after, it was a pleasure to interact (just briefly) with musicians who still understand the importance of the fan meet and greet.  …And as for watching Chris Ousey converse with a very drunk man while taking it in his stride as if this was a regular occurrence… Priceless.

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February 2013

Delain to release stop-gap ‘Interlude’ in May

Euro symphonic metal band Delain are set to release a special CD at the end of spring 2013. ‘Interlude’ rounds up various leftover tracks, remixes and live recordings in one easy package. It marks the first time the band’s version of the Bronski Beat hit ‘Smalltown Boy’ has been issued on CD, having only ever been available as a free download previously.

In addition, the release includes a DVD featuring live clips from the Female Voices Fest and each of the Delain promo clips to date.

‘Interlude’ is released in the UK on May 6th. A full tracklist can be seen below.

Disc One:
01. Breathe On Me
02. Collars And Suits
03. Are You Done With Me (new single mix)
04. Such A Shame
05. Cordell
06. Smalltown Boy
07. We Are The Others (new ballad version)
08. Mother Machine (live)
09. Get The Devil Out Of Me (live)
10. Milk And Honey (live)
11. Invidia (live)
12. Electricity (live)
13. Not Enough (live)

Disc Two (Bonus DVD):
01. Invidia (Video Live @ Metal Female Voices Fest)
02. Electricity (Video Live @ Metal Female Voices Fest)
03. We Are The Others (Video Live @ Metal Female Voices Fest)
04. Milk and Honey (Video Live @ Metal Female Voices Fest)
05. Not Enough (Video Live @ Metal Female Voices Fest)
06. Backstage Footage
07. Get The Devil Out Of Me (video)
08. We Are The Others (video)
09. April Rain (video)
10. Frozen (video)

To watch a video interview with Delain’s Charlotte Wessels, click here.
To watch a different interview with Charlotte, click here.

Bob Mould announces four UK shows

Following last year’s ‘Copper Blue’ performances, Bob Mould is to return to the UK later in 2013.  As part of the ongoing promotion for his ‘Silver Age’ release, the ex-Husker Du/Sugar man has scheduled four UK shows, as follows:

May 17 – Leeds, UK @ Cockpit
May 18  – Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
May 20 – Manchester, UK @ Academy 3
May 21 – London, UK @ Electric Ballroom

BROCKLEY FOREST – Brockley Forest EP

brockley forestWhether it involves cranking out sweaty rockers like The Dead Exs or tackling tunes with a much more panoramic (and perhaps more commercial) feel as per The Black Keys, the stripped back nature of the blues duo comes with a surprising amount of musical mileage.  With relatively no time for fancy flourishes, the garage blues genre is often – although not entirely – reliant on a sense grit to make the songs stand proud…and when it comes to grit, there’s plenty to be found on this debut EP by Brockley Forest.

Realising the garage blues format’s potential limitations, with no faffing about, this Bristol-based duo ensure their sounds capture the listeners’ attention via some hefty beats and slide guitar work straight off.  ‘Out of Control’ begins with a grubby sound complimented by a kick-drum, giving a sense of where we’re headed for the next sixteen minutes.  Barely breaking from a simple beat for the tune’s first half, Seb evokes Meg White, before making his presence more strongly felt via a simple mix of snare and hi-hat.  Meanwhile, Dec  keeps things on the move with a charming fuzzed up Black Keys-eque vocal. ‘Say My Name’ rattles along at a quicker pace, thus managing to be superior, thanks in no small part to a cracking slide guitar riff.  This fuller arrangement – echoing moments from The Kills – shows the duo’s overall toughness as they rock out a little more, though never loses sight of their dirty blues roots.  Drenched in distortion, the slide guitar riff is a killer during this particular number.  Those looking for quick snapshot of the Brockley Forest sound should head straight for this track without delay.

Slowing things down a notch, ‘Gave It Away’ features Dec crooning over a dirgy guitar part; the slow blues bringing a doomier edge than the previous numbers.  The weighty tune is delivered in a suitably ugly style, the plodding pace allowing Dec more space to stretch his vocal, which again, is fuzzily treated for maximum impact.  Pulling the best elements from the first two tunes, ‘Love & Cream’ at once has a more commercial edge than some of the material here, although that’s due to a very Kills/Dead Weather inspired chorus as opposed to any hint of shininess.  On the flip side, a decision to place most of the vocal lines between some atmospheric stops shows more aggression than anything else featured here.  Their closing statement ‘Only One Survived’ weaves a bluesy minimalist tune around a distorted vocal, which uses repetition for maximum impact.  Coming across as a heady mix of The Kills and Spanish duo Idealipsticks, it would be great to hear the mighty Jack White put his stamp on this!

Brockley Forest make no attempt at reinventing the genre on this release, but attempting to somehow bring new and unfamiliar elements into such a pure form of music would be foolish.  When listening as a whole, these five songs may not always convey much of a change in mood (even within the confines of the genre), but individually, each one is rough diamond.  If you’re a Band of Skulls/Kills/Dead Weather devotee, there’s definitely something to keep you occupied here.

February 2013

The Aprons release animated video clip

The Aprons have released a lavishly animated video clip for their song ‘Sound Stain’, which you can view below.

The song is taken from the Israeli duo’s 2012 release ‘Sound Stains’, which can also be streamed and purchased via the below widget.

The Aprons – Sound Stain from Neil Cohen on Vimeo.