Lorde: Master of Reinvention

Lorde, whose song Royals last night won Best Rock Video at MTV’s Video Music Awards, must surely be the modern-day David Bowie. No other contemporary artist has reinvented themselves so completely. Look at these photos, one from her victory for Finland at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, the other from a concert in 2013.

Lordei

It hardly even looks like the same person!

As well as this stunning visual turnaround, the change in Lordi’s music is remarkable. Who could believe that the woman behind Royals also wrote Bite It Like a Bulldog?

Well done Lorde, and I can’t wait to see how you reinvent yourself next!

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Bloodstock Report Part Four: Summary and Other Thoughts

With a great lineup and lovely atmosphere, Bloodstock is definitely a festival I would consider returning to in future. As I mentioned in the second post, we bought the tickets almost a full year in advance, solely on the basis of Emperor’s appearance, when they were the only band announced. Though I would happily have returned to Brutal Assault, I chose to get the Emperor tickets while they were available and as it turned out, Bloodstock’s lineup was more suited to my tastes. In terms of cost, it is obviously a lot more expensive that Brutal Assault, due to their locations, but allowing for the cost of traveling it probably worked out about the same. This may change in future as Ryanair are now serving Prague airport. My choice of festival next year will again be based on lineup.

As I’ve already said, bar the issue of communicating with the fans, I thought the festival was excellently organised. The toilets were usually in great condition, the showers were adequate, and the one schedule change I was aware of was communicated from the main stage hours in advance. There were some disappointments at the merch stand; Emperor shirts  had sold out by Saturday afternoon, and Decapitated didn’t even have any shirts with them, but these problems can’t be blamed on the festival. If the CD selection from the independent vendors wasn’t as obscure as that I’m used to from continental festivals, that’s probably because it’s a lot easier for a merchant with a collection of releases by obscure scene bands to travel across mainland Europe than it is to travel to the UK. Even at Bloodstock, my hobby of seeking out the most offensive grind CDs is probably pretty niche, and it didn’t significantly impact on my fun at the festival, so I can’t hold it against them.

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Fantasy and Metal: Game of Thrones

…many [extreme metal] scene members are voracious readers, particularly of books on fantasy, religion, horror, the occult and philosophy.

So writes Keith Khan-Harris in his 2007 book Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge (emphasis mine). As a pretty embedded fan of metal, I’m not sure how aware outsiders are of this, but metallers can be big nerds. Or maybe nerds just love metal. Either way, band t-shirts are a regular fixture at comic shops, gaming stores, conventions, and other places where nerd culture takes place; I myself own more than a few polygonal dice.

Metal loves horror – that’s not surprising – but it also loves fantasy. The number of death metal bands growling about mutilating zombies can no doubt be matched by power metal groups singing about Middle Earth. The notorious Varg Vikernes once performed as ‘Count Grishnackh’ – a name derived from a minor Orc character in the Lord of the Rings.

So to celebrate the return of HBO’s Game of Thrones tonight, I’ve selected some metal tracks that celebrate the work of George RR Martin in a way that only metal can – with RIFFS. Continue reading

Gig Review: Red Fang, The Shrine, and Lord Dying, March 18th, Manchester Sound Control

So this was my second-ever trip to Manchester (details of the first found here), and disappointingly it still wasn’t the early nineties when I got there. Get it together, Manchester! I did manage to get in some tourist sights this time around, including the pretty cool Museum of Science and Industry and the Brew Dog bar on Quay Street.

Sound Control is a nice venue just beside Oxford Road train station. I arrived a little early, and took my place in the queue with the expected assortment of aged metalheads and younger, hipper fans – Red Fang being a band with a sizable following among fans who aren’t otherwise interested in metal (their last album was described, a little uncharitably, by Terrorizer as a “my first stoner metal album”).

A couple of amateur musicologists behind me in the line kept me entertained with their analyses of… something, I didn’t quite catch what:

Pretty much every song has semitones, but like, the dissonant kind?

Quite.

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Gig Review: Red Fang and Wizards of Firetop Mountain, June 18th, Whelan’s

I’m going to admit I couldn’t have been more excited about this gig.

I’ve been into Red Fang for a bit over a year now, ever since I saw the video for Prehistoric Dog on the Relapse Records Youtube Channel. They instantly became one of my favourite bands; deliciously riffy stoner metal with a few tasteful glimpses of prog complexity. Somewhere between Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon, maybe.

So when I hear Red Fang have announced a Dublin date, and that date is the same date as my final exam in college? Super.

So I arrived before doors open, get my Red Fang t-shirt as soon as the merch guy comes out, and secure my place right in front of the stage. It’s then a long wait until the opening act appear.

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Gig Review: Devin Townsend Project and For the Imperium, May 4th, The Academy

Proving that their country can master any music that involves heavy guitars, Finnish post-hardcore act For The Imperium opened the Academy last night. It was a thrillingly energetic performance, complete with climbing the stage, mounting the barrier, and great crowd interaction by the guitarist; the actual singer doesn’t seem to speak much English, despite singing in the language.

It’s a band like this that show why the label post-hardcore applies to bands as different in sound as At the Drive-In and Bring Me The Horizon (If you don’t know these bands, start knowing At the Drive-In, but BMTH can probably be safely ignored). For The Imperium combine the riffs and clean vocal passages of the metalcore end of the spectrum with the spontaneity and rhythmic energy of At the Drive-In, and impressive guitar and bass work of their own. They’re definitely worth keeping an eye on.

The main act, the Devin Townsend Project, took to the stage after a lengthy video introduction – his signature Ziltoid TV (a collection of comically bizarre videos, curated by Ziltoid the Omniscient himself) entertain the crowd during the band’s soundcheck.

When it comes to the band’s set, I have to make a small confession: I love Devin Townsend, having seen him twice before and enjoyed the hell out of his show both times, but I never remember to invest the time in his albums. This means that when I do see him, I don’t know the songs – but it doesn’t matter.

Devin Townsend is the most charming front man in metal. Every aspect of the show seems to be carefully planned – from keeping the audience entertained (and preparing them for Devin’s highly silly sense of humour) with the pre-show Ziltoid TV segment, to the videos playing in sync with the band – everything combines to present a well-polished, extremely entertaining stage show. The sound quality wasn’t quite up to his usual (exceptionally high) standards at the beginning of the show, but that got resolved within a few songs.

His stage banter shows how well he knows his audience – asking “Does anyone smell NERD in here!?”, and his general charming self-deprecating humour. He also knows how to send up the music itself – two segments where he lampoons Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me (complete with puppet videos, of course) were not only hilarious, but the BTBAM skit managed to sound exactly like the band in question.

As for the music itself – I just find something so feelgood about Devin Townsend’s music. The songs are so full of positive emotion and affirming feelings, without ever compromising on heaviness. Every song strikes a good balance between being heavy, interesting and catchy – I don’t know of anyone else who can write such commercially appealing music that is so musically interesting.

Laugh, love, live, learn!

Kirkos: Rite

I am terribly terribly excited to announce the Kirkos: Rite event!

To celebrate the centenary of Stravinsky’s seminal ballet The Rite of Spring, Kirkos have enlisted 14 of Ireland’s leading professional and student composers. Each one of these titans of modern Irish music has reimagined a section of the Rite for string trio.

The project will be launched in the Odessa Club on the 29th of May; more details will  be announced over the next two weeks but for now, the Dylanesque stylings of Robert Coleman will say it better than I ever could: