Aug 122018

Craig Chisholm reviews Iron Maiden at AECC. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

One of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal returned to Aberdeen for the second time in just 18 months to perform an exclusive Scottish date in front of a sold-out audience.
With the larger Hydro venue in Glasgow being used as part of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the Exhibition Centre provided the bands only date north of the border in what must count as an intimate show for a band more used to headlining stadiums and festivals.

For metal fans in the North East, Glasgow’s loss was Aberdeen’s gain as the AECC hosted the most extravagant, theatrical, over-the-top, and, arguably, one of the greatest performances ever seen in the arena.

However, before they were treated to Maiden’s powerhouse set they also had one of the leading lights in modern Metal to contend with. Killswitch Engage have been around since the turn of the century and provided an energetic, pulverising set that’s rarely delivered by headliners, let alone a support band.

The Metalcore band from Massachusetts stormed through a dozen songs in their all-too-brief set. From opener ‘Strength of Mind’ to the closing cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ the band were relentless in their energy.

Pausing briefly only to praise the “beautiful city” of Aberdeen – and to speak of his hatred towards our wasps! – the bands set was a masterclass in arena heavy metal that would have blown many a headliner off their own stage.

However, Iron Maiden are not of that many. With four decades of touring and recording behind them they are consummate professionals and masters of the stage – despite all of the band now nearing what most normal people would consider retirement age.

Fortunately, Maiden are anything but normal and retirement seems a long way off as the six band members show energy and stamina on stage that would leave people half their age gasping for breath and begging for a rest.

With no new album to promote, the tour is thematically linked to their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ video game which gives them a good excuse to trawl through their back catalogue and pull out some deep cuts, old favourites and tireless classics.

Opening with ‘Aces High’ from 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ LP, the stage is, quite literally, set for a show of epic proportions as a near full size Spitfire is dangled above the band as they power tirelessly through the opener.

Singer Bruce Dickinson comes tearing onto the stage as the track opens and jumps, leg wide open, in the air for a number that’s quite epic, even by their standards.

After the song has finished, and the spitfire has retreated into the stage and out of sight, a quick one-two of old classics ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ follows before Dickinson addresses the crowd for what he says will be the only time during the bands marathon set.

Referring to the spitfire, he praises the “brave men, a third [his] age” that were fighting Nazis and fascism.

It’s a thought provoking and humbling monologue that holds resonance in the current climate of fear and uncertainty and the rise of the so-called alt-right.

He then introduces the next song and how much of an honour is to play it in Scotland before the band play their Scottish themed track ‘The Clansman’.

From then till the main set closer -the eponymously titled ‘Iron Maiden’ – the music is left to do the talking.

However, the band’s theatricality is given full reign during most of these tracks – the bands mascot, the giant zombie-like figure Eddie, comes onstage to engage in a swordfight with Dickinson during ‘The Trooper’.

Dickinson lugs a lit-up cross around the stage whilst performing ‘Sign of The Cross’.

A giant demonic head appears at the rear of the stage during erstwhile classic ‘The Number of the Beast’ and Dickinson fires flame throwers at a giant winged angelic figure during ‘The Flight of Icarus’.

At any other concert such theatrics would be in danger of falling into Pantomime.

But Maiden perform it with a knowing wink and a nod to their fans who are lapping up every move on stage by the legendary six piece.

The band wrap up the near two hour long show with a triple song encore of 1987’s ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and a couple of early 80s classics ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Run to The Hills’.

Despite the length of the set and the energy sapping heat, there’s no doubt that the band and their fans – many of whom have travelled from all over Europe to watch them – could have happily went for another couple of hours of, what surely, must be one of the greatest stage shows in Maiden’s history.

Mar 202018

Piratefest 2018 @ The Garage, Aberdeen. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Lead singer Captain Yarrface (possibly not his real name) is front and centre on stage

In the myriad world of Heavy Metal sub-genres it might come as a surprise to learn that not only is Pirate Metal ‘a thing’ but that it can also sell out a venue in Aberdeen on an otherwise normal Tuesday night in February.

The Piratefest 2018 tour didn’t, unfortunately, sail into town on a Spanish galleon but rolled in on tour buses carrying three of the premier bands on the scene.

Scottish band Alestorm arrived in the company of San Diego’s The Dread Crew of Oddwood and, from the fishing village of Ocracoke, North Carolina, Rumahoy.

Rumahoy open Pireatefest with a short, but energetic and thrashy, set that includes songs such as ‘AHOY!’, ‘Hoffman The Pirate King’, and ‘The Triumph of Piracy’.

They’ve taken the theme to its extreme in not only song titles but in their look.

Dressed head to toe in pirate clothes is striking enough but the black masks that cover their faces make them even more scary and intimidating.

Lead singer Captain Yarrface (possibly not his real name) is front and centre on stage – a giant of a man, as tall as he is wide, as much NFL Line-backer as he is Caribbean Pirate or rock singer.

They are by far the heaviest of the three bands with a sound that owes much more to Slayer or Pantera than it does to the more traditional pirate sea shanties.

The next band on stage are a slightly less intimidating but no less intense proposition.

The Dread Crew of Odd Wood play – no surprise here – pirate themed heavy rock but, this time, on acoustic instruments. A style they refer to as ‘mahogany metal’.

Using accordions, stand-up bass, mandolins and bouzouki their music is a combination of folk music, traditional Celtic jigs and, of course, Heavy Metal.

Again, they are dressed for the part – looking like buccaneers that have just raided a port in the West Indies rather than a modern rock band.

Again, the songs are nautically themed with titles such as ‘Dead Man’s Medley’ and ‘When I Sail’d’.

Drinking is also a common lyrical theme through night with the Dread Crew’s contribution called ‘Raise Your Pints’.

And pints are raised for what is, by far, the most popular band of the evening – Perth’s very own Alestorm.

I’m not sure if the River Tay was ever a hotbed of swashbuckling and pillaging but even if not, Alestorm will make you believe it was.

The band romp through a mesmerising 18 song that never lets up in energy and enthusiasm.

The crowd go wild for them – from opener ‘Keelhauld’ to final encore, the dubiously titled ‘Fucked With an Anchor’ there’s a steady stream of crowd surfers being (keel-?) hauled over the barrier.

Many of them have dressed for the occasion too.

Who ever sells pirate clothing and paraphernalia in the Granite City must have a seen a jump in sales lately, judging by the number of pirate hats on show in the audience.

Alestorm themselves aren’t dressed as pirates – instead there’s a mix and match of styles on show with lead singer Christopher Bowes an arresting sight in Alestorm-branded kilt, baseball cap and a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘I Got Lost in The Gay Dolphin’.

Strangest of all is his instrument of choice – the much-maligned keytar, a keyboard that’s played like a guitar and more associated with 80s soft rock bands than on the high seas.

Visuals aside, the band, lyrically at least, don’t stray far from pirate theme’s – ‘No Grave but the Sea’, ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’, ‘Pegleg Potion’, ‘Shipwrecked’ and the magnificently named ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ (a song that ticks both pirate and alcohol themes) are given an airing tonight.

Pirate Metal may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s a triumph tonight as the sold-out crowd testify – it’s safe to say that inhibitions were lost, drinks were raised, and a good time was had by all that attended.

May 242017

Review and Photographs by Dod Morrison.

Iron Maiden were formed in 1975 by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris.

They’ve released 38 albums including 16 studio albums, 11 live albums, 4 EPs, and 7 compilations – probably making them the world’s most famous heavy metal band.

The band were returning to Aberdeen after a five year gap as part of their ‘The Book Of Souls’ tour.

Released in 2015, this was the band’s sixteenth studio album as well as their first double studio album and at 92 minutes, their longest to date. It also contained the band’s longest track, ‘Empire of the Clouds’ at a staggering 18 minutes.

The album was actually recorded in 2014 but the launch was delayed to allow Bruce to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumour on his tongue.

The album was a commercial success reaching number 1 in 24 countries. They started the tour in February 2016 and it will go through until July 2017.

When Iron Maiden come to town it’s not just to play a gig, it’s an EVENT!

They are known for  their extravagant stage shows which usually feature a huge Eddie The Head (the band mascot). Eddie is a perennial part of Maiden, appearing on all the covers of their albums, and he appears in the live shows in various guises.

Unfortunately, a pending dispute about ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ song credits means that the fan’s favourite song (and my own favourite) had been removed from the current The Book Of Souls tour set list.

The Book Of Souls tour came to Aberdeen where the faithful filled the AECC and prepared to worship. The stage was made to look like an Inca style lost city. A half rectangle shaped wall surrounded and contained the stage with several braziers along its length and moving backdrops, flanked by pyramids on either side.

After a rousing version of ‘Doctor, Doctor’ by UFO was played to get the crowd going, the set commenced with Bruce Dickinson standing on the wall above and behind the drum kit.

Bruce inhaled the vapours from a cauldron on a pedestal as the first chapter of Book of Souls plays.

He then launched into a magnificent, energetic rendition of ‘If Eternity Should Fail’.

Flames erupted from the braziers along the city walls as Bruce dashed across them from side to side. Beneath him Nicko McBrain was drumming up a storm on his impressive and very shiny drum kit.

In front of him guitarists Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith covered the stage, adopting the usual foot on monitor poses.

Janick used the furthest forward set of speakers as a seat, and also enjoyed giving it the odd kick just to show it who’s boss.

Of course, amid all of this, the iconic figure of Steve Harris strode across the stage brandishing his bass.

As the set progressed the huge backdrops behind the band changed to reflect each new song.

Bruce also changed costumes to suit the songs.

At one point he sported a gorilla mask and brandished bananas at the other band members! For ‘Power Slave’ he wore a leather mask, which must have been incredibly sweaty on the warm May night, but it didn’t slow him down at all.

He charged across the city walls above and behind the rest of the band.

As all of this unfolded before our eyes, our ears were treated to a very well chosen set list which covered the entire career of this magnificent band. They played oldies such as ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Iron Maiden’.

During a magnificent version of ‘The Trooper’ Dickinson was clad in a red ‘Trooper’ jacket and he charged along the walls brandishing a huge Union flag.

At one point he amusingly draped it over Janick Gers as he played his guitar below. It was hard to discern how much ‘playing’ Janick actually did as he spent a lot of time throwing his guitar around on its strap, dancing with it.

We were treated to ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and then on to current masterpieces from the ‘Book of Souls’ album, including a blistering rendition of ‘Speed Of Light’ during which the crowd sang impressively along with the chorus.

It was a well chosen, well thought out set list.

You didn’t want to look away even for a second in case you missed something spectacular, such as the huge sporadic flames that erupted from the braziers along the city walls, or the massive inflatable Eddie figure that floated up from behind the set.

During ‘Book Of Souls’  a giant Eddie figure appeared on stage and ‘attacked’ the band.

Janick ran through its legs, then when Eddie tried to chop him with his axe he responded by hitting Eddie between the legs with his guitar.

Eddie then moved on to attack Dickinson who fought back and pulled out Eddie’s heart. Bruce squeezed the blood from it before throwing it into the crowd – most entertaining!!

At the end of the song Bruce said “this isn’t something you see every night, the stage on fire” – and it was! There was a flame about 2 feet high burning up on the top of the set! The band carried on regardless whilst the fire was put out.

The main set finished with ‘Iron Maiden’ before an encore of ‘Number Of The Beast’ (which involved the appearance of a huge inflatable Satan figure), ‘Wasted Years’ and ‘Blood Brothers’.

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May 162016

xerath richard taken by dave reedWith thanks to Mark Chalmers.

RAM It Down Festival began as a grass-roots effort in 2015, organized by volunteers, inspired by established events down south, with the belief that Aberdeen should not miss out on touring bands visiting the city.

The first year was a success and around 160 metalheads descended on The Garage Aberdeen to indulge in their favourite pastime.

Festival organizer, Mark Chalmers remarks,

“The response to RAM It Down Festival has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people in the Aberdeen area are really passionate about their favourite style of music – heavy metal. We even have a number of private donors, who have donated large sums of money because they want to see this type of event in Aberdeen.”

The festival has been extended this year to include an extra and 60% more bands on the line-up, featuring artists from as far away as Sweden.

Paul Nazarkadeh, guitarist of London-based De Profundis commented on their upcoming slot on the festival,

“De Profundis have played all over the UK in our decade long existence, but never have we come so far north as the Granite City.”

The main driving purpose of RAM It Down Festival is to bring touring bands to Aberdeen and put them alongside local bands.

Festival organizer, Mark describes,

“One of the reason’s I decided to organise RAM It Down Festival is because I personally got fed up of people talking-down Aberdeen. I believed that people could do something about the things they are dissatisfied about, rather than simply complaining. I wanted more touring bands to come to Aberdeen, so this was my attempt to provide a solution.”

winter in eden taken by Corina AndrianOne of the heaviest bands on the line-up are Saturday main stage headliner, Winterfylleth. Based in Manchester, Winterfylleth have experienced international success and played many of the major festivals across Europe and extensive coverage in music magazines, such as Kerrang and Terrorizer.

A spokesperson for the band commented,

“It’s great to be invited to play RAM It Down Festival and bring our music to one of the furthest north cities in the UK and to play to fans who might not have a chance to see the band otherwise. See you on show day.”

There is a wide range rock and metal sub-genres represented on the line-up, varying from classic rock-inspired bands, such as The Amorettes and King Witch, as well as extremely heavy bands, such as Winterfylleth and Cambion. Most bands however fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, so there should be something to please most rock and metal fans.

Date: Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May,
Bands from 6pm (Friday) and 5pm (Saturday).

Venue: The Garage, 17 Windmill Brae, Aberdeen

Tickets available online via Skiddle, or in-person at Seratique, 20 Belmont Street, Aberdeen
2-Day Ticket: £15,

Friday Ticket: £6 advance (£7 on the door), Saturday Ticket: £10 advance (£12 on the door)

Friday Lineup (1 stage): Cambion, Risen Prophecy, Sanctrum, Neshiima, Orynthia.

Saturday Lineup (2 stages): Winterfylleth, De Profundis, Red Rum, Ramage Inc, Zombie Militia, Cleanse The Hive, The Amorettes, King Witch, Rats of Reality, Drencher, Frelsi

Pics courtesy of Dave Reed and Corina Andrian.

Oct 182012

For those who love Led Zeppelin, this film has been a long time coming.  Was it worth the wait?  Did it capture the concert as it was?  Does it give the viewer the real taste of the legendary O2 concert? Absolutely. Suzanne Kelly reviews Celebration Day.

If you  have the remotest interest in the fathers of all things metal, you have to see this film.  It delivers the concert as it happened.  I was one of the lucky 20,000 who managed to get a ticket to the  O2 for the one-off Led Zeppelin concert (over 4 million people applied for tickets via the online email lottery), and I can honestly say I felt as if I were back at the O2 and that no time had elapsed between the movie and the concert.
The problem for most bands playing live let alone making a concert film is that a certain level of musicianship is essential.  A concert film is going to capture for posterity any errors, wrong notes or bad musicianship; undertaking to do a concert film of a one-off concert is an act of bravery.

By way of illustration, one of the worst acts live I will ever see was the Scandinavian outfit, The Cardigans. 

Their music was never very complicated, yet when they tried to play the Astoria some years back, they had to re-start one particular (otherwise wholly unmemorable) number three times.  Every member of Led Zeppelin is a consummate, dedicated, hard-driven professional, and the years haven’t remotely changed this fact.

The sound mastering in this film is genius; even without the film to back it up, the soundtrack would assuredly be flying off the shelves on the release date, 19 November.  This is as expected; Page’s standards in particular for delivering sound are unrivalled.

The pressure on all the acts performing on the night was immense.  Pressures included the fans and their expectations; the desire to give a fitting tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the man behind the iconic Atlantic Label; the movie being made and so on must have been an immense weight to perform under.  As Jones told a German interviewer earlier this week, the first thing they said to each other after the show was ‘We did it.’

The certainly did.

There was much speculation what the first song would be; it was in the end ‘Good Times Bad Times’ – the first track on the first side of their first album, fittingly enough.  The film takes you through the concert song by song just as it happened.  Visually there are nods to the earlier (and shall we say ‘quirkier’) Zeppelin film, ‘The Song Remains The Same’.  Special effects  from that earlier work are gently given the nod, particularly in some of Page’s solos.

Perhaps the best thing for me is the film’s close-ups of his unequalled solos.  I could single out work during ‘In My Time of Dying’ or ‘Dazed and Confused’ as personal favourites, but every bit of Page’s solos are blistering.  When not in frenzied guitar attack mode, the film captures the spectrum of his work from ice cold blues (opening of ‘Dazed’) to triumphant pure rock (‘Rock and Roll’ – an encore).

Robert Plant in some ways had the most pressure on him of the four.  He had to relate to and engage with  20,000 fans as well as turn in as flawless a vocal performance as possible.  You can tune guitar and keyboards, but achieving vocal perfection is another matter.  Plant’s voice was required to span quite an octave range and sustain notes for longer than most of us can even hold our breath.  Performing this repertoire was a very tall order.

Verdict:  complete success on all counts.  Whatever it is Plant had in his 20s, he’s still got it now.

They say an army marches on its stomach; complex, layered metal with intricate time signature changes is reliant on a rock solid rhythm section.  They said in the past that John Paul Jones was part man,part metronome, and part god; I’ll give him that.  One minute he’s finishing a bass performance, the next instant he’s playing the introduction to ‘No Quarter’.  This film has in Jones the best all-round, most versatile rockstar musician of our (or any) age captured perfectly, as he turns in a perfect turn.  Jones is one of the reasons this band was far more than the sum of its parts.  If the word ‘gestalt’ hadn’t existed before Zeppelin, it would have had to be coined because of them.

It was very pleasing that the film’s creators devoted many frames to Jones; it was well deserved. Likewise was the attention paid to original percussionist John Henry Bonham’s son, Jason.  Jason Bonham was amazing, and the camera has caught moments of his performance that you just couldn’t see well enough on the night.

Words fail me – everyone who cares about Zeppelin (dare I say loves them?) missed John Bonham – but it was fitting his son got this coveted percussion role – and the son did his father proud.

This is the quintessential metal / rock / blues / innovating act of our time captured honestly and if you don’t mind the word ‘vibrantly’ in their brilliant final performance.  It does what it should do, and if you are of the Led Zep loving set, you gotta see this movie.

Note to the woman who I stopped from taking photos of the screen during the show.

You were astonished and asked ‘why not?’ as to why it was wrong to make any recordings/take pictures.  I don’t care if you wanted pictures for  personal reasons or to share – you quite simply don’t  have the rights to a piece of work people spent years creating.  Your £10 ticket was for looking at the show.

Note to everyone: 

Please buy the official product when it comes out – and help the  music  and film industry which are suffering – definitely from piracy.  It might not be the top stars who suffer financial crunches caused by free sharing of product – but there is a whole long list of people behind the scenes who are going to suffer if people don’t pay for product.

No, this isn’t a very popular line to take – that’s fine with me.  But remember the fifth member of Led Zeppelin who sadly is no longer with us:  the best manager in the world ever, Peter Grant.  Grant fought long and fought hard for musicians to be treated well and paid well.  There is a memorable scene from ‘The Song Remains the Same’ in which Grant confronts people selling illegal/unauthorised merchandise; Grant says  sarcastically and angrily

“as long as there’s an extra nickel to be drained by exploiting Led Zeppelin, that’s fine…” (with a few choice expletives thrown in).

It is because of Grant that Led Zeppelin didn’t suffer the fate of many American blues and Motown artists and writers, who died in poverty.  Thanks to Mr Grant, and I’m glad themusic industry gives out a Peter Grant manager award marking his achievements.