In 1991, ex-Balance guitarist Bob Kulick teamed up with ex-Rainbow/Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet, his Alcatrazz mate Jimmy Waldo, Quiet Riot bassist Chuck Wright and sometime W.A.S.P. drummer Frankie Banali and formed metal supergroup Blackthorne. In 1993, the band unleashed ‘Afterlife’, a cliché-ridden debut album that needs to be heard to be believed. Rarely have four such talented musicians come together and produced such a bewildering results. Nevertheless, it was a success in Japan and by by the mid 90s, Blackthorne (minus Wright) had a second album written, demoed and almost ready to go. …And then Bonnet quit. With no band polish up and then promote the recordings, the tapes were shelved by the record company and seemed destined to never see the light of day. On the basis of about half of their debut, that might’ve seemed like a blessing.
Although on the surface Vehementor’s debut ‘Dungeons of Grotesque Symmetary’ looks like the kind of record aimed squarely at the dyed in the wool death metal fan and pretty much no-one else, the reality is somewhat different. On this album, the Macedonian band mix all manner of extreme metal influences. Huge amounts of melodic death and classic thrash metal meet elements of groove metal and occasional industrial-ish rhythms, resulting in one of the most enjoyable – and filler free – extreme metal discs you could hope to find.
With a name like Astrosaur, you’d half expect this Norwegian trio to be a full on doom metal band. Appearances can deceive, of course, and their 2019 release ‘Obscuroscope’ is nothing of the sort. Its six pieces of music are lengthy and complex; there are elements of trippy space rock and a few stoner-ish tropes, but in the main, the release delves deep into a world of complex post rock and post/progressive metal sounds that should appeal to prog fans who like things at the heavier end of the scale.
“The public perceives metal and academia as rivals” reads the Astrosaur website, somewhat pompously. Whether that’s true of not, at least half of their second album would’ve benefit from far less musical academia and far more actual tunes. With Astrosaur’s brand of prog, it really is all about the flashy self-indulgence…and for anyone whom isn’t actually a musician, this works hugely towards the album’s detriment.
It’s only about twenty past three in the afternoon, but the crowd at the Forum have already experienced superb sets by Mark Morriss and Chris Helme. For so early in the day, the venue had been surprisingly full for the Seahorses and Bluetones frontmen. At this point, it’s less full than it had been, but even the most enthusiastic Britpop fans have to go and eat! It’s a shame that so many have chosen to do so just as Salad are about to appear, but looking at the whole day’s events, Salad are the least traditionally “Britpop” of the day’s acts – only really considered Britpop by virtue of timing. That, and the fact that they’ve always seemed to be one of those “Marmite” bands, so in some ways, the thinner crowd sort of makes sense. Many of those still in the venue have almost certainly come to see Salad specifically and are ready to give their all.
Always known for his self-depreciating humour, Mark Morriss has only been on stage for about thirty seconds before he plays down the fact that he’s released a new album in the last forty eight hours. “This afternoon, I’ll be playing some old songs…and some new ones”, he says, before pretending to be complaining audience members. Nobody is complaining, of course. Star Shaped is so often about welcome nostalgia, but Mark’s fourth release ‘Look Up’ is great and the fans have had nothing but praise for the new record, suggesting it’ll be The Bluetones front man’s most successful solo endeavour to date.