Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A little less screaming into the void

Photo by Simon Harrison
I'm not publishing on here as much as I'd like to. To be honest, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, my writing, my day job, my kids, life and other demands, I sometimes forget to post on the place that was such a big thing for me. Blogging has been part of my personal and professional life for 16 years now, and the changing online landscape seems to be allowing me less and less time to offer something meaningful here on the main stage.

The micro-blogging revolution of Instagram posts, Tweets and the allure of the FB status could be likened to the thing that old fart music fans like myself often say about downloading music - everyone just wants the quick fix of a single these days, and nobody wants to sit through the full album. I can completely understand  that, and have been swept up by it myself for the simple reason that this is where the current is leading us.

The thing is, there are times I want to say more, to go deeper than a tweet or a vague status, but the platform for doing so just isn't there in the way I'd want it to be. Things move on. I used LiveJournal religiously for years, then Myspace. Facebook, Twitter et al came along and were more fun, then LJ had all that stuff going on that was, erm, questionable, and the world kept turning.

I have plenty to say, but with life being as it is right now, the available time to share what I'm saying is spread thinly across platforms. That's a shame, as the outlet that the internet offers is a beautiful (yet sometimes frightening) thing. I'm working out where my future is going and what I can learn from the past and present.

What am I saying? I'm saying I love you, Internet, and I won't be posting here much. Mind you, you know where to find me, right? That's probably where I'll be.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

SKARLETT RIOT - 'Regenerate' - Album review

Genre: Hard Rock/Modern Metal 
Despotz Records 

This is it. This is the point where Skarlett Riot fans get to say 'we told you so'. I've followed this band for the past five years, ever since seeing them at a tiny gig at West Street Live in Sheffield. They've come a long way since then, with tours, festivals and increasingly high profile gigs bolstered by their consistently strong recorded output.

After the 'Villain' EP and 'Tear Me Down' album came the EPs 'We Are The Brave' and the breathtaking 'Sentience', which showed the band to be moving towards a heavier, faster, more precise sound.

'Regenerate', their first album for Swedish label Despotz Records, takes everything that has always made Skarlett Riot special, turns it up even further and pushes them directly into the spotlight as a razor-sharp hard rock act which has the talent and attitude to take on the world stage.

Opening with lead single 'Break', it's clear to see how far the band has come since the pop rock of fan-favourite 'Villain'. With guitars thick with overdrive and battering the listener with an addictive speedy riff, it comes across like early Bullet For My Valentine coupled with the more melodic end of late eighties thrash. Skarlett's vocal starts mean and angry, before the instantly memorable chorus comes into play. An immediate classic.

Through 'Closer' and 'Stand Alone' that vein of chunky, attitude-laden metal continues, as does the band's well-honed ability to give even their heaviest tunes an incredible hook. 'What Lies Beneath' echoes some of their earlier work (in particular 'Faded Memory' in the main riff), but also manages to show that the band isn't staying in one place thanks to one of their most epic choruses to date.

'Calling' and 'Affliction' feel more reflective, with the latter boasting an elegant verse which Amy Lee would have killed for. That song soars, Skarlett's sophisticated vocals adding layer upon layer of drama. The guitars of Danny Oglesby are a shining light throughout the album, his style continuing to evolve and sharpen. He sounds immense. The rhythm team of Martin Shepherd on bass and Luke Oglesby are a revelation – to the point that I'm amazed not to hear Luke actually punching through drums. That man is incredible.

'Outcast' is another strong entry, reminiscent of the 'Sentience' EP material. 'Paralyzed' is one of their heaviest moments yet, just crying out for a live crowd. 'The Storm' brings more of a melodic metal edge with it, evoking Iron Maiden, Bullet For My Valentine and even Avenged Sevenfold in the instrumentation, all held together by a strong vocal line.

The album ends with one of the best songs the band has ever put out – 'Warrior'. Full of danger and energy, its perfect structure and irresistible hook rounds off an album which has absolutely no filler whatsoever. Basically it doesn't get much better than this.

Despotz Records have done the world a good deed in bringing Skarlett Riot to a music scene that really needs someone with this level of talent.


Friday, 1 September 2017


Noooo! I just heard that Dark Matter, by far my favourite show that doesn't have Time Lords in it, has been cancelled by SyFy. This is a great shame, as after three series, Dark Matter had a fully developed universe which was just aching to be explored further.

Blessed with a phenomenal cast, exemplary writing and production, it perfectly managed a mix of action, adventure, intrigue and brilliant characters without constant huge set pieces. It had scope, genuinely developed character relationships, a complex back story and the ability to shock and surprise without resorting to cheap gimmicks.

While its origins lie in comics, the TV version of Dark Matter firmly cemented itself as the definitive article over those three seasons, and it is such a sad thought that it won't get the ending that it deserves.

I would implore SyFy to at least give Dark Matter a real ending. Don't leave it hanging like Defiance. Give it closure. I don't mean on the scale of what Serenity did for Firefly, rather what The PeaceKeeper Wars did for Farscape. Complete it. Give it the bookend that the fans, the cast and the creators deserve.

We've come this far on the journey of the Raza and its fascinating crew – incidentally, one of the most diverse and complex crews of any genre show in history. Could we at least get a goodbye the crew of that infamous ship can use for their final moment of redemption and glory? Those glimpses of the future of the Dark Matter universe were too tantalising. Let's see what happens.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

MR BIG - 'Defying Gravity'

The title track from the new Mr Big album makes for a damn fine music video. It's always a pleasure to hear Mr Big, as while the music is definitely straight ahead rock, it's always presented in their own unique way. The band remains outstanding in every way, and it's so cool to see Pat Torpey having fun in the video. They're one of the real treasures of the rock genre and currently don't get the credit they richly deserve.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

DOCTOR WHO: The 13th Doctor – Adventures Are For Everyone

With the wonderful news that Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the 13th Doctor has come a flood of positivity from fans around the world, along with a flood of outraged ranting from a lot of people who have forgotten that the Doctor is an alien. The Doctor is not a man. The Doctor is not a human being. The Doctor is a time-travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey who hurtles through time and space from one misadventure to another in a ship which is a 1950s wooden police box on the outside and a potentially infinite multi-dimensional time machine on the inside. When injured or at the end of a life cycle, the Doctor can regenerate into an entirely new person.

It's just that this time that person is a woman. Get over it.

I've been a Doctor Who fan for 29 years, since 'Remembrance of the Daleks' first aired. I made a living selling Doctor Who merchandise for several years. I watched, collected and obsessed over Doctor Who. In 2016 I became involved with the Doctor Who pantheon in a small way by having a story published in Doctor Who Adventures. What I'm trying to say is I know my Who, and I know that with the casting of Jodie Whittaker the right choice has been made.

It's been mooted for years that the Doctor should regenerate into a woman, or a non-white guy, and both of those ideas are perfectly valid. I mean, why not? We saw Romana regenerate several times at will before she found the form she was comfy with. We saw a Time Lord general regenerate and change gender towards the end of the Matt Smith era. We've had Missy reveal herself to be a regenerated Master (and absolutely steal the show). Female Time Lords (or indeed Time Ladies, as Romana may correct you) are not a new idea, and this first ever female Doctor isn't a way to pander to the so-called 'PC Brigade' that life-long complainers have invented.

What this is, to me, is a perfect example of showing that a series about adventures without limits doesn't have limits itself. In a show which defies physics at every turn, has the lead character trapped in a nightmare for a billion years or multiple versions of the same character working together without ripping apart reality, why not have the lead switch gender? Here's a show which once had our planet stolen in order to be part of a circuit which would allow a bomb to detonate all of reality itself. Now that Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor, the only thing being detonated is the stuffy notion that the TARDIS should only be flown by a white guy. Hell, the TARDIS herself is female.

As a man who has loved Doctor Who far deeper than is possibly healthy for almost three decades, I can't wait to see where the Doctor takes us next.

Welcome on board the TARDIS, Jodie. I'm certainly along for the ride.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

First look at my NIGHTVEIL story in FEMFORCE 179

Here's a first peek at the brilliant art of Eric Van Elslande for my first ever NIGHTVEIL story, which will be published soon in Femforce issue 179 from AC Comics. It's the first time Eric has illustrated one of my scripts and I must say I'm extremely pleased with what I've seen so far.

Once the full details for the issue are released I can share the title and the inspiration for the story, but for now check out this glimpse of what is to come once Nightveil is finally active again on Earth!

ART OF ANARCHY – Echo Of A Scream

During the latter part of my time as a music journalist I reviewed the first ART OF ANARCHY album in the pages of Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine. It was a solid album (I think I gave it 7/10) which I've found myself revisiting since the project began its new era. Originally fronted by the late Scott Weiland, (also featuring ex- Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal) something didn't quite gel for me.

The music worked well, the production was spot on and the songs were well crafted, but Weiland didn't seem to fit, to my ears anyway. That may have been somewhat to do with him dismissing the project soon after it was out, making his feelings felt that it wasn't a band.

His sad loss in 2015 meant that there would be music which would go unheard, and a second shot at Art of Anarchy would be amongst those things I figured we'd never hear. Then Art of Anarchy took on former Creed vocalist Scott Stapp and started work on new material.

Listening to them now it feels a lot more like a band than just a project. Stapp has had his issues in recent years, but it's clear he's putting those behind him and putting a lot into his performance. I must say I'm digging this tune from their album 'The Madness' which came out back in March.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Album Review: LUXURY STRANGER – 'Darkness Falls Upon The Light'



Cold Insanity Music/Earth-Two Records


Another Intoxicated Release 
A Triumph of the Heart 
When The Lady Takes The Blame 
The Real Is Done 
Side Of The Road 
Darkness Falls Upon The Light 

The Nottingham-based Luxury Stranger are a fascinating act to listen to be it live or on disc, one of those rare bands which sound compelling no matter how their music is consumed.

This third album of original material is a testament to the dedication and creative vision of frontman Simon York, whose songs manage to reference a plethora of classic artists without ever resorting to pastiche. This is music which has been lived. As with a lot of the band's material, the overall atmosphere is one both of euphoria and melancholy, and the line between the two fluctuates throughout the album.

'Another Intoxicated Release' opens the album with an off-kilter rhythm, hypnotic bass and guitars awash with delay. Topped with the strong croon of Mr York, the listener is reminded of the darker moments of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Joy Division, while the musical undercurrent plays somewhere between Bauhaus and early U2. In keeping with the song title, it is a most intoxicating thing.

'Dismissal' is more thoughtful, the aural landscape colder, the militaristic beat of its opening giving way to an uplifting chorus which is remarkably satisfying. 'Wash' is lyrically and musically sinister but has a great hook and a driving rhythm keeping it moving, while 'A Triumph of The Heart' brings a classic Echo & The Bunnymen swagger to proceedings.

The album version of 'When The Lady Takes The Blame' is notably different to its single counterpart, which was something of a surprise after loving the single version so much. To those who hear it here for the first time it will always be this slower, darker piece of chameleonic pop, but those already familiar with the single will find a new side of the song to enjoy.

'The Real Is Done' sounds like Luxury Stranger, by which I mean that by this point on the first listen the band's sound really becomes audible and you stop looking for comparisons. With further listens to the album you realise that unique sound was there all along.

'Side Of The Road' is a sparse and edgy piece of post-punk pop which comes across rather like Joy Divison covering Johnny Cash. The monochromatic rock of 'Diver' further demonstrates the quality of York's songwriting, each tune following a seemingly straightforward structure yet full of surprises. The piano-led title track ends the light on a sombre yet oddly glamourous note. With 'Darkness Falls Upon The Light', Luxury Stranger once again prove that the scenes below the radar of the masses carry the real treasure.

Luxury Stranger on Facebook
Luxury Stranger dot net