‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 Preview: Sunday

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Like all good things, ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 will come to an end as the clocks chime midnight on Monday 5th May. Until then though, there’s still one full day of action to come, and it seems they saves the goriest bits for last! But for those who like their heavy music a different way, there’s a mix of classic heavy metal, thrash, old school death metal and technical business. Let’s go out with a band as we introduce Sunday’s day of devilry in the last part of our preview.

Shoot The Bastard – 12:45-13:10

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Hardcore/powerviolence lads seen with Weekend Nachos, Agathocles, Pighead and more. Nice fast shouty stuff.

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Employed to Serve – 13:25-13:50

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Crushing heavy blend of technical hardcore/metal/grind featuring Sammy Unwin (Oblivionized/Regurgitate Life). They’ve been busy since forming and their latest release ‘Change Nothing, Regret Everything’ is devastating in its aggressive delivery. One of the best new bands to emerge of late, do not miss them!

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Regurgitate Life – 14:05-14:30

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Sammy Unwin’s one-man tech-metal mission returns for the second consecutive year as the riff master puts in a second shift at the festival (following his earlier appearance with Employed to Serve)

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Palm Reader – 14:45-15:10

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Surrey metallic hardcore lads who’ve performed on bigger stages such as Download, Hevy, etc., and currently tearing up venues with their affirmative passionate sound.

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Basement Torture Killings – 15:25-15:50

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Nasty as London extreme metallers, inspired by all manner of serial killers and snuff videos.

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Unfathomable Ruination – 16:05-16:35

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Heavy as rocking horse shit death metal. Seriously though, this London lot are monstrous, huge sound terrific technical riffs and blasting sections. You will headbang.

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Conquest of Steel – 16:50-17:20

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Bradford’s true heavy metal warriors make their debut at the festival, ten years after they originally formed. Sadly, this is also going to be one of their final shows, having announced recently they were going their separate ways. So come on, wear your denim and leather proudly and raise a beer in the air to true heavy metal!

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Untimely Demise – 17:35-18:05

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Canadian thrashers hailing from Saskatoon, plying their trade for several years now and recently signed a worldwide deal, heralded by the release of their cracking second album ‘Systematic Eradication‘. Great quality modern thrash.

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Holocausto Canibal – 18:20-18:50

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Portuguese gore-maniacs who are one of the European continent’s most revered bands for sheer brutality.

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Crepitation – 19:05-19:35
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After nine years playing the brutal slam game, Crepitation finally got themselves a record deal. With their debut full length now in the offing, prepare for all manner of pig squeals and flying bodies.

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Malignancy – 19:50-20:20

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Death metal straight outta Yonkers, New York. Been around since 1992 and a cracking signing for KHF. They play technical riffs of the highest order and their will be a dizzying, devastating assault.

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Desecration – 20:35-21:05

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Arguably the most savage band to have come out of Wales, death metallers Desecration have been putting out nasty after nasty for donkeys, and their debut appearance at KHF. Still going after 21 years, they’re not quite as controversial now but they’re just as consistent and are going to destroy the stage here.
 
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Wodensthrone – 21:20-21:55

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Critically acclaimed UK black metallers who’ve been creating epic primordial sounds since 2005. Always purveyors of such a fine stage presence, expect this to be a stunning tour-de-force.

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Massacre – 22:10-22:50

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A brilliant coup for the festival, US death metal legends Massacre make their debut appearance at the festival having just released their latest album ‘Back from Beyond‘ following their recent reformation. Featuring Rick Rozz and Terry Butler (ex-Death) once again, this is unmissable.

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Onslaught – 23:10-00:00

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Closing out this year’s festival will be legendary UK thrash metallers Onslaught. Seven albums over 27 years and still bringing it to the stage every time they play. A fitting way to close out this year’s fest with one of the defining bands of the UK scene.

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Peter Clegg

‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 Preview – Saturday

Welcome back to our comprehensive preview of ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014. If Friday’s line-up wasn’t enough for you, Saturday’s bill features no less than 15 bands, ranging from the fastest to the slowest, and indeed spanning the modern era of extremity to its very origins. There should be something for you all here. Doors at 12pm Saturday, first band at 1pm. Go!

Esoteric Youth – 13:00-13:25

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Describing themselves as ‘the most evil band out of Manchester since Oasis’, this blackened hardcore crew who have been making inroads into the fulcrum of the UK scene since emerging with their demo in 2012 – their bleak crusty diatribes should prove a wake-up slap in the chops for anyone still recovering from Friday’s madness.

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Gets Worse – 13:40-14:05

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Another local act, these guys were named in our top 10 short releases for 2013 with ‘Negative’. They have no time for false grinders, pit violence, and indeed as Manowar, and a cracking Scottish blog might say, ‘wimps and posers, leave the hall’!

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Wizard’s Beard – 14:20-14:50

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Smashing stoner/sludge metallers in the vein of Iron Monkey, Weedeater, etc. who continue to raise the bar in what is deemed ‘heavy’. Blogs and zines have raved about their records ‘Pure Filth’ and ‘Four Tired Undertakers’, so buckle up and get your grooves on. This is about to get heeeeeavy.

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Noise Complaint – 15:05-15:30

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Cosmopolitan crossover thrashers Noise Complaint are rooted firmly in the UK, bringing together members from the USA, Italy and Brazil. Speed is the name of the game here and you’d be well urged to keep up. These guys are nuts.

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Monolithian – 15:45-16:15

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This Falmouth duo are creating welcome noise in the UK scene for their bleak and heavy jams that outgun and rise above more populous doom bands. Released a cracking split with hardcore crew Let It Die last year.

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Arkham Witch – 16:30-17:00

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Keighley-based traditional heavy/doom metallers with anthems of Lovecraftian horror, upholding metal values, mythology and famous comic books characters among others. Cracking retro worship.

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Acrania – 17:15-17:45

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Brutally pounding death metal from London featuring members of Pathology and Bloodshot Dawn. Brace yourselves – circle pits are coming!

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Jesus Cröst – 18:00-18:30

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Word is this is going to be the last show ever from the Dutch two-piece, who’ve been ploughing out good-time speedy grind for over 15 years now. With that in mind, let’s give them the ravenous send off they deserve.

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Grave Miasma – 18:50-19:25

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Fantastic old-school death metal crew from London who released the future underground classic ‘Odori Sepulcrorum’ in 2013. Being hailed as one of the flagbearers of the old-school renaissance of the genre by many leading blogs and zines, it’s time to fall under their spell.

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Deviated Instinct – 19:40-20:15

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For me, personally, these guys are going to be completely unmissable. Legendary 80’s crust-punks who reactivated in 2007 and put out their first record in 21 years with 2012’s ‘Liberty Crawls to the Sanctuary of Slaves’. This year marks 30 years since their inception, one of the true pioneers of the scene, and fans new and old can expect a raucous and furious show. Expect the pit to go truly nuts at this point.

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Hawk Eyes – 20:30-21:10

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Mad scientists of rock who incorporate elements of punk, hardcore, electronic and all manner of experimentalism to their sound, bothering mainstream rags and trendies as well as accumulating a rabid following. Hometown show for this lot, guaranteed to be packed out.

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Khuda – 21:25-22:05

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They’re back! Following their decision to disband early in 2013, Leeds’ post-rockers Khuda have reformed to record a new album and to play KHF, in doing so returning to the festival where they stole the show according to our occasional scribe Mike who witnessed them back in 2011. A truly awesome experience to watch and a swerve in direction from the madness that precedes it.

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Anaal Nathrakh – 22:25-23:30

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The reigning overlords of British extreme metal arrive in Leeds as Saturday headliners and ready to lay waste to the Vox Warehouse.

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Birdflesh – 23:50-00:25

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One of the most crackers bands to ever raise hell in grind, Swedish trio Birdflesh bring hell to town in a UK exclusive performance. Expect wild costume, bonkers antics and some classic grindcore from the scene freaks.

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The Day Man Lost – 00:40-01:00

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Preston grinders The Day Man Lost reformed to play the festival last year and emerged as one of its highlights. These guys are brutal, easily one of the most essential UK grind bands on the scene, and will provide a perfectly crazy end to the Saturday with short sharp blasts of purified rage.

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Peter Clegg

Visions: Conan – Foehammer

Shit goddamn. This is one of the best videos I’ve come across for a while. Hail Conan, Liverpudlian lords of the riff, who have unveiled this amazing clip for their track ‘Foehammer’, taken from their forthcoming Napalm Records debut ‘Blood Eagle‘. After a delightful birth via cordyceps, a scorpion/squid- like creature starts to reign over the land, assuming various parts and continuing to grow in size, until it climbs on out of this world, enslaves our planet, and slices the moon in half. Superb. Top animation all round, and the track bloody rocks.

You can now pre-order ‘Blood Eagle direct from Napalm Records, released on Monday 3rd March in the UK/Rest of Europe.

Peter Clegg

Spinal Tap – The Majesty of Rock

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The legend that is ‘This is Spinal Tap‘ marks it’s 30th anniversary this year, and without doubt there won’t be a heavy metal fan in the land who won’t have come across that film, or the music that soundtracked it. It inspired a generation of rockers, be it in stadiums or in bedrooms, to defy the limits of their Marshall stacks or their tiny amps to turn it up to 11 every time they played. Nobody lampooned the excess and the controversy courted by the likes of Aerosmith, Def Leppard and the other big rock bands of the day quite like Messrs Shearer, Guest and McKean.

But as my brother pointed out recently, more people needed to hear this song. And see its video. I am no stranger to the ‘Tap, but I can never recall anyone mentioning ‘The Majesty of Rock’ in the same breath as ‘Big Bottom’, ‘Stonehenge’ or even ‘Lick My Love Pump’. Released in 1992, as thrash metal and heavy metal almost drowned under the wave of grunge that surged into public consciousness, ‘Break Like the Wind‘ would certainly be lapped up by fond fans of the film and of the band that superseded fiction. But it would never reach the heights of its successful predecessor, the soundtrack to the original movie. Not that chart success mattered – it’s creators, reprising their roles as David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls, had birthed a legend that would go on to outlast many of the acts it ridiculed, a joke that would seemingly never get old, being that classic rock and heavy metal has hardly changed since ‘Black Sabbath‘ was released, albeit with far fewer wildmen to emerge in recent years to play the stereotype.

Back on topic though, ‘The Majesty of Rock’ is such a supreme track that really feels at its best when combined with its accompanying video. Ridiculous outfits (Tufnel’s spiderweb spandex in particular is just incredible), digitally imposed images of the Queen bopping her head and legends of pop and rock likes Janis Joplin and Roy Orbison ‘jamming’ with the band, massive speaker stacks atop a cliff, a red hot solo, huge gurning mugshots and lines such as ‘The more it stays the same/the less it changes!‘, you’d have to be devoid of wit and humour to at least not raise a smile to this, and indeed you’ll only need to watch/listen to it once for it to dig a wormhole into your brain. It’s daft, over the top, and a glorious paean to rock’s very character, and its excessive quirks. So turn it up (to 11 of course), and do nothing for the next four minutes but rock out, dance like Tufnel and worship the true glory of this song.

Peter Clegg

Previous posts in our Underrated series can be found here

Groan – Ride the Snake

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Groan
Ride the Snake
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Fun loving doom rockers Groan return here in time for Chrimbo with a new five track EP, ‘Ride the Snake‘. If you’re familiar with Groan you’ll know what to expect, and for the uninitiated, take a trip back into the late 70s/early 80s, only that you’ve taken the modern day scene through a time machine and you’ve pretty much got this band. Riff wise, ‘Ride the Snakekicks arse. The main riff to the lead single ‘Women of Doom’ is big, chunky and full of raw power, and tracks such as ‘Drug Lord’, with the inclusion of gang vocals at the beginning and a rollicking riff, show the band’s versatility between slow doomy trips and straight-up rock monsters. The guitarists here throw some scintillating solos into the mix and really are the driving force of this band Vocalist Andreas Mazzareth reminds me a little of Ronnie James Dio – nowhere near a master thespian as the late metal god but his delivery has a mix of straight up 70s hell rocker and Dio at his encapsulating, soaring best. The only letdown is that lyrically it’s not very inventive at times – perhaps the only thing here that for me really prevents ‘Ride the Snake‘ as being great, instead of ‘rather good’. Still, you can’t sniff at this – Groan come with a solid reputation, which is strengthening with every release, and they are sure to satisfy their growing army of followers with this swaggering record.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Ride the Snake‘ here (name-your-price download/CD)
Stream it below:

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‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 update – more bands, early bird tickets + more

+ We Must Obey officially supporting ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014!

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We are very happy to confirm that once again, ‘Kin Hell Fest have added We Must Obey as one of its official supporters/promoters of its festival, after our coverage of the 2013 edition. We’re absolutely honoured, thrilled and suitably stoked to be part of the alumni, as the fest is set to be even bigger than ever before.

A lot has happened though considering our coverage dropped somewhat because of my running/fundraising exploits and generally a lack of access and family issues to contend with that has really got in the way. ‘Kin Hell Fest have indeed added more in the way of details since then and as such, I’ve constructed this mega-post to get you all up to speed with what’s going on.

What we know so far:

The latest additions

Some stonking bands were added to the line-up very recently, including perhaps the biggest name to be drawn to the fest so far, in the name of Birmingham’s harshest extreme metallers Anaal Nathrakh. Also added are Rot in Hell, hardcore merchants featuring members of UK scene legends Voorhees, as well as Dutch groovy grind/powerviolence freaks Jesus Crost, Falmouth doom duo Monolithian, brutal German slammers Pighead, and Derby’s twisted-punk psychos Ephemeral Foetus

We also got a self-confirm for the first time in the fest’s history, as Leeds post-rock duo Khuda, who split last year, confirmed their appearance at the fest in a one-off reunion set!

Just a couple of days ago, the festival organisers outdid themselves again, with the announcement of five more bands, including Swedish comedy grindnuts Birdflesh, playing their first UK show, a one-off exclusive, since 2006, and Leeds riff lords Hawk Eyes. Both play the fest for the first time and diversify the line-up further than ever before. Also making their first appearances are London’s old-school progressive heavy metallers Amulet, and UK-based crossover thrashers Noise Complaint, comprising members from the USA, Brazil and Italy. Finally, returning for seconds this year are one of 2013’s most impressive acts, Preston grinders The Day Man Lost. Man, they crushed the fest on the Sunday this year and by George, its great to have them back.

Dates

A pre-show will take place on Friday April 26th, 2014 to serve as a preamble to festivities. This show will take place at Eiger Studios in Leeds, with a line-up to be announced.

The main festival itself will take place on the weekend of Friday May 2nd to Sunday May 4th, 2014, at the Vox venue in Leeds.

Bands

27 bands have been announced so far:

Anaal Nathrakh; Wodensthrone; Birdflesh; Hawk Eyes; Deviated Instinct; Ingested; Khuda; Conquest of Steel; Crepitation; Evisorax; Pighead; Necro Deathmort; Jesus Crost; Acrania; Haar; XisforEyes; Amulet; Gets Worse; Noise Complaint;  Iniquitous Savagery; Monolithian; The Day Man Lost; Rot In Hell; Wizard’s Beard; Ephemeral Foetus; Famine; Death Tripper

12 more bands still to be announced, plus the pre-show line-up which is set to be an all-dayer, with announcement of 11 bands for that show at the beginning of 2014, bringing the total up to 50 bands!

Tickets

Early bird tickets for  the fest are now on sale at a modest £49 for at least 39 bands. But be quick – they’re limited to 200 and likely to go quickly! Head here to get yours. More tickets will go on sale at a later date, for both the main festival and the pre-show. The fest are also exploring camping and travel options. Keep your eyes and ears on those if you live many miles away from Leeds.

Finally…

The revamped ‘Kin Hell Fest website is now up and running for 2014. Bigger and better than before, go check it out for the latest news, tickets, band profiles and forum discussion.

You can also keep up to date with the festival and all incoming news on Facebook, and now on Twitter as well.

Phew, that was exhausting. But rest assured, we aim to pick ourselves back up and support this festival loud and proud, heading into 2014 and beyond. Stay tuned for further updates!

Peter Clegg

Five more bands for ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014!

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Next year’s edition of ‘Kin Hell Fest, the Leeds extreme metal fest taking things over, was already shaping up nicely with the confirmation of ten top bands and the securement of a 1400-capacity venue. But as Professor Brian Cox’s former band once famously sang, things can only get better. And better they did, with the announcement of some of the top names in underground metal, punk and hardcore, past, present and for the future.

Undoubtedly the biggest announcement here is the addition of pioneering crust-punk/death metal veterans Deviated Instinct. DEVIATED INSTINCT! Having reformed in 2007 have a long time apart, they will be in Leeds to rain hell to the crusty legions at hand. Bradford’s true metal warriors Conquest of Steel will also be gracing the festival with their over the top charge of battle anthems and incomparable showmanship.

The fest also confirmed plenty of new blood, with the addition of Nottingham d-beat/hardcore crew Death Tripper – whose split with Meatpacker kicked off 2013 with style, Scottish crushers Iniquitous Savagery, and London death metallers Acrania, in what is already looking like an ultra-brutal line-up set to blow a hole in White Rose country once again.

Tickets are not on sale yet but do expect information soon as to when they’ll be available. Head to ‘Kin Hell Fest’s official Facebook page for info, updates and more!

Peter Clegg

Run For Glory – I: On Your Marks

Hello everyone, and welcome to my new feature ‘Run For Glory’, which is in conjuction with my campaign to raise funds for and awareness of the Motor Neurone Disease Association via my participation in this year’s Great North Run. Over the next few weeks this epically named feature will provide a series of thematically linked songs that will provide you with an insight into not just what I’m running to, but what’s really driving me or pumping me up as I run across the various roads, trails and towpaths of West Yorkshire, England.

This first installment focuses on the only place this could start: the beginning. As in, the songs that prompt you to get up and get out. In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing lists based on other varying themes, progressing from the start right to the triumphant finish. Let’s get cracking. And leave your appropriate suggestions in the comments box while you’re at it!

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Judas Priest – Battle Hymn/One Shot At Glory
[from ‘Painkiller’, Columbia, 1990]

Judas Priest may have more in common with motorbikes than running, and thematically this song has sod all to do with running the open pathways, but there’s an undeniably epic feel about warming up and heading off to this track. The ‘Battle Hymn’ intro is dispensable, but it serves ably as a warm-up track to mentally prepare you for the miles ahead.

Key lyric: ‘Let me hear the battle cry/Calling in the wind’. It’s the opening salvo and its hard to pick out another lyric to motivate as much as that one, but Halford delivers it with such authority you can’t help but be fired up.

 

wpid-From-Out-Of-Nowhere.jpgFaith No More – From Out of Nowhere
[from ‘The Real Thing’, Slash, 1989]

This selection owes as much to its musicality as it does any wordplay, but the opening riff sets up the beginning of a run perfectly. Of course, it’s a song about a fleeting obsession with a person of extreme beauty before said beautiful person heads off into the never. But portions of its lyrics can be interchanged with that which drives us as runners – but mainly, it’s the riff and the pace of the song that makes this such an excellent track to set off to.

Key lyric: ‘Sifting to the bottom/every day for two/all energy funnels/and all becomes you’. And ‘One minute here, and one minute there/and then you wave goodbye’ – the set up for the driving riff.

wpid-bronx.jpgThe Bronx – Along For The Ride
[from ‘The Bronx (IV), White Drugs/ATO, 2013]

‘Along For the Ride’ possesses a great melodic riff, an anthemic chorus and all round perfect structure to get up and run to. Lyrically it’s perfect as well, with several lines in the song relatable to our eagerness to get up and get out of the door, though the song is seemingly a resignation of trying to be perfect. It sums up exactly what life as a amateur runner should be all about – don’t try too hard to be the best. Just enjoy it.

Key lyrics: The chorus: ‘We’re all flawed by design/we used to be alive but now we’re just along for the ride/there was a time when the world was under our control/but that time has died, so now we’re just along for the ride

 

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Rollins Band – Do It (Live)
[from ‘Insert Band Here’, 2.13.61, 1990]

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Rollins Band took on this Pink Fairies classic with gusto and morphed it from a psychedelic blues rock number into a…with Rollins as drill sergeant as he barks out the lyrics. As a staple of their live set in their earlier days, the intensity went up another notch, from Rollins’ vocals to the rest of the band. You’d be mad not to follow his commands as he yells ‘Get up off your ass/DO IT!’ 

Key lyric: “I don’t think about it/DO IT!” And pretty much the rest of the song too.

 

 

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Beastie Boys – Alive
[from Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science, Capitol, 1999]

OK, so its not exactly a rock track, but good hip hop deserves a much a place in my playlist as any rock or metal soundtrack, and while ‘Alive’ lyrically has no place in a running context, its opening line, as stated below, is emphatic in terms of a primer for when you exit the door or prepare yourself for the mileage ahead.

Key lyric: Its opening statement: I have never been more ready in my entire life to do this right now, never/all building up to this moment…’ That ought to pump you in action.

Peter Clegg

I’m running the 2013 Bupa Great North Run to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Please click the link at the top corner to view my sponsor page or click here instead. Thank you.

Megadeth – Super Collider

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Megadeth
Super Collider
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Poor Dave Mustaine. He just can’t win, can he? Whether it’s his dispatch from Metallica gnawing away, to his gripes with ‘Satanic’ bands, or even when Megadeth are truly on top of their game, it seems people have always got their crosshairs trained to him, wanting to shine one more laser in his eyes. Having read a lot of stuff from the metal TMZs of this world, it feels like recent reviews for new album ‘Super Collider‘ have not been entirely because it’s perceived lack of quality, but rather for Dave Mustaine’s recent outspoken political views which have caused more than a few ripples in the metal scene. I have to therefore disagree with certain reviewers simply on the notion that hating the man doesn’t justify hating his game. Thus, ‘Super Collider‘ is best judged on its own merits. Mustaine is clearly not aiming for ‘Rust in Peace II’ or a definitive sequel to ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?‘ Nor is this a return to ‘Endgame‘, the last truly awesome Megadeth album in my opinion. But is it really as bad as the massive metal flopper that was ‘Risk‘?

Heck no. This isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch but for the most part, it’s actually an enjoyable juxtaposition between classic thrash-tinged heavy metal and a classic hard rock that we all know Mustaine loves very much. ‘Kingmaker’ is evident of this as it opens proceeding, grooving and chugging along in swaggering fashion, while ‘Dance in the Rain’ could have been written about Edward Snowden, as it details ‘the powers that be will never win/a storm is coming, so get ready/to dance in the rain‘. It’s the high point of the album, a lurking melo-groover at first because morphing into classic Megadeth territory as Disturbed/Device’s David Draiman comes along to  denounce the US government and CIA in a surprisingly great turn as a moonlighting classic heavy metal vocalist, and ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’ features one hell of a vocal hook.

It doesn’t all come up roses – the title track, while well constructed and by no means the worst attempt at stadium rock, its unfortunately not bereft of any lyrical cheese, and as such it’s rather a millstone compared to much of the rest of the album. ‘The Blackest Crow’ is  clumsy in its attempt to country-fy the ‘Deth sound, while ‘Burn!’ is the umpteenth song about motorcycles he’s written and its pretty tiresome. and too much of the rest of the album seems to go along doing OK but not standing out significantly to make any real impact on my ears. But really, an abject failure? Hardly. Mustaine’s 51 now. Do you really envisage him wanting to make a pure thrash album ever again? You can’t blame him for making the album he and Megadeth want, rather than catering to fans’ – and detractors’ – lofty expectations all the time. So he’s gone the mainstream route again. Let’s at least respect him for being daring and not trying to recreate his former glories in potentially tragic failure.

Peter Clegg

Megadeth – Dance in the Rain

Buy ‘Super Collider‘ here

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Black Sabbath – 13

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Black Sabbath
13
Vertigo/Universal

Through heavy metal’s storied history, no universe is bigger than that of Birmingham pioneers Black Sabbath. From the very beginnings of metal’s timeline, through Sabbath’s trailblazing, classic era, the drug-addled 70’s, the Dio-era, the less-well received late 80’s and 90’s, the entire heavy metal, and offshoot stoner, sludge, and doom scenes, ‘The Osbournes’, the hirings, the firings, the rehab, the cleansation, the bitter arguments, the eventual reunions – there’s not a corner of metal’s history, and indeed Black Sabbath’s history, that hasn’t been touched, influenced or even publicly flogged and disgraced and then hailed again like Aston’s favourite sons. You can’t get by listening to one of their many descendants without them immediately described as having ‘Sabbathian’ riffs, a denonym unto itself, as much a noose as it is a form of worship.

But who could have even seen this day coming? True, this isn’t the first time the band have attempted to get back together. There was that period in the middle of the 2000’s when the original line-up of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward all toured together. But even after the very public and disappointing spat between Ward and the remainder of Black Sabbath over payments and contracts and everything, the reunion has largely come through unscathed, still widely celebrated – those Bill Ward diehards seem to go a bit quiet, more so in the wake of Iommi’s battle with lymphoma and so the Sabbath return has been hailed as a triumph of metal. Of sorts.

13’ is certainly the best thing that Sabbath have done with Ozzy on vocals for a long time. Considering he was barely able to finish the disappointing ‘Never Say Die’, Ozzy sounds in fine form, as do his compadres Iommi and Butler, over the course of fifty-three minutes. Rick Rubin has done his usual trick of stripping back the old horses sound a la Metallica, Johnny Cash, etc. to excellent effect again, helping to take Sabbath back to the 70s with a modern shine, all relatively cleaned up compared to the days of old, but no less accurate with the laser-precise vision for the riff. There’s not a short moment on ‘13’ – the shortest song is still a reasonable 4:44 – but Sabbath still remain determined through it all to reclaim their throne atop metal’s vast pyramid.

It certainly starts very well – ‘End of the Beginning’ gets straight into business with a loud and clear signal of intent. As the initial din slips into skulking pace, Ozzy muses ‘Is this the end of the beginning?/Or the beginning of the end?’ It continues on as a diatribe on our ever-digital world, commanding us to ‘rise up, reset and be the master of your fate’, morphing into a celebratory riff which Iommi leads with huge pomp. We then get the now very familiar opening strains of the single ‘God Is Dead?’, which follows familiar Sabbath territory with the juxtaposition between jangling chords and huge roaring riffs, as it plods along with menace and great deliberation, while ‘Loner’ is a straight up rocker that screams huge riffs, huge drums and huge grooves.

Black Sabbath – End of the Beginning

It’s really a shame the rest of the album can’t match up to that – not that its particularly bad, just not memorable in the way the rest of the album. There’s some interesting lyrical themes – ‘Age of Reason’ slams the politically, religiously, financially obsessed world while ‘Live Forever’ is a reflection on mortality, and the excellent ‘Dear Father’ is the spiritual successor to ‘After Forever’, focusing its ire on the child priest abuse scandals within the Catholic church. But it just doesn’t stick out as wholly memorable –the opening half packing such considerable weight and force that the inevitable tailing off in quality creeps in.

It was widely talked about that producer Rick Rubin took the remaining original three on an ‘unlearn everything’ approach, taking them back to their debut album and telling them effectively this was their second album. You can see his point – Sabbath throw everything at trying to recapture that late 60’s, early 70’s spirit. ‘Zeitgeist’ is perhaps the most poignant example of this, blatantly harking back to ‘Planet Caravan’ but doing so in supreme fashion, bongos being tapped away and the most melancholy of vocals from Ozzy, the acoustics strummed away in supreme spacey fashion. And by and large, Butler and Iommi are having a hell of a time pulling off the the grooviest dirges. Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk fills in the inexorable void left by Ward – and does a pretty good job, even though he doesn’t feel quite as free-flowing in style as Ward does, though in the context of Black Sabbath 2013, he fits in fairly well, even as Rubin’s hired hand.

But is this worth the apoplectic praise that some of more established metal zines are losing their stuff over? Hell no. Such fawning is undoubtedly their valid opinion, but it smacks somewhat of hero worship rather than modern day realism. This doesn’t mean that ‘13’ isn’t worth hearing – in fact, this is the most definitive Sabbath album for many, many years, even if it isn’t a patch on anything produced between 1970 and 1974. For me, it just falls short of the line between ‘good’ and ‘great’. Considering Ozzy’s car crash of an exit in 1978, and all that has passed since, the fact three of the four have got back together and made an album of considerable quality, without disgracing either themselves or their back catalogue, is proof that they retain a place at the mantle of 21st century heavy metal, and can be considered an achievement, if not the absolute.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘13’ here

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