Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:24 am

Cassie and I went to The Zoo in Brisbane last night to see Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie on their first Australian tour. It was a week night and we were both pretty tired, but we’re delighted we made the effort, because the show was amazing. If you get a chance to see this band live (and you like metal), do!

We’re going to do a joint review, in which I’ll share my impressions and Cassie will complement them with hers, but she’s a teacher and in class today, so this post probably won’t be completely finished until tomorrow.

David: First support was Brisbane melodic death metal band Before Nightfall. I really enjoyed these guys: super-tight band, loads of shredding. Probably the closest touchstone is Children of Bodom, but they’re in the genre of most of the other melodeath bands (who are not Opeth) like In Flames and Dark Tranquility. Twin-guitar harmonies and ripping solos, and a wide variety of songs with different tempos and styles, some massive mosh-alongs. Lead singer-guitarist1 has a screamy-growl like Alexi Laiho rather than the deep death growl, and while it works well for the style of music it ended up being a little monotone, particularly given that a lot of the songs had a lot of lyrics. Both the other guitarist and the bass player stepped up to a second mic to growl along deeper at some points, and more light and shade in the vocal style would have maybe complemented the music better and made for a more dynamic listening experience. Great energy and connection with the crowd, though, and in general a skilful, speedy, heavy band.

Cassie: This band was very good and I quite liked the music they played but the vocalist was hard for me to handle so I found it really hard to get into the music. I find that screamy vocalists are very off-putting and distract from how good the music was.

David: Second support band was New Zealand’s Alpine Fault, who are a symphonic power metal band in the Nightwish and Beyond Temptation vein. I’d expected to see a violin-playing female vocalist as well as the male vocalist, but the two roles were separated, with different women singing and playing violin. The songs were rich and complex, with mellower and heavier sections including some pounding rifferama. The band connected with the audience well, particularly the male vocalist, and watching the band was very enjoyable. There was one weak link, but I’ll let Cassie talk about that.

Cassie: This band was very good and they had almost everything going for them, except one thing. The female vocalist completely let them down for many different reasons:
1. She was dressed as a typical, club-going, party girl which did not fit the rest of the band or the genre of music at all. I know there is not much I can really say on this subject as I do not really look the part of a metal lover but I am not the one trying to act the part. A part of being on the stage like that is the spectacle of the show so you must be able to look the part.
2. Her singing was very weak and a bit pitchy, she was not nearly as powerful as the music that she supposedly being the front of.
3. Her presence was not very powerful either, she was awkward and difficult to watch as she was not able to grip the crowd as much as the female singer from Eluveitie. Her dancing was a bit clubby and not very metal, and her head-banging seemed forced as if she felt she had to do it rather than really feeling it from the music.

Minor editorial comment: in fairness, apparently she has only been in the band a fortnight, so she may improve with more road and rehearsal time.

David: Eluveitie were just astonishing. I know a couple of their albums quite well, which always helps, but Cassie didn’t know their music at all, and still loved them. I’ve been to a lot of great gigs – Queen (with Freddy), Pink Floyd, Opeth (3-4 times) and all the Big Four. Some shows just have a ‘this is something special’ vibe about them. Tool, a couple of weeks ago, was a very enjoyable show, but didn’t have that. This – a much smaller2 band in a much smaller venue – did. Very folky and very heavy – you’re left in no doubt that this is extreme metal – and a real sense of performance and occasion. Lead singer/growler has a heap of range, and does more of the screamy thing sometimes and a deeper growl others. Stops to play bagpipes or one of several tin whistles holstered on his mic stand frequently. The female vocalist and hurdygurdy player (!) does amazing rich, deep, powerful clean vocals and takes solos. The band normally has 8 members – two guitars, bass, drums, hurdygurdy, vocalist and one guy who does bagpipes and tin whistles, plus a violinist. The violinist was ill and not playing, and the music didn’t noticeably suffer, but the violinist from Alpine Fault joined them on stage for one song. The band has been on the road for more than a year, and this shows in their tightness and stagecraft. Just a compelling, engaging experience. Despite the fact that there was only about 15 feet between the stage and a staircase, they initiated an insane circle pit, and there was plenty of headbanging and pogoing along.

Cassie: This band was amazing!! As dad said this was the first I had really heard of them and I had no idea what to expect going in. The male vocalists did have some screaming, but he also had growling and singing, that is the variation that the first band was seriously missing in their vocalist.

I was sitting on a banister to watch this band for the first half of the show which was amazing, because I was able to see the entire band. I was asked to get down by the security, which was really sucky because after that point I saw nothing and was almost squashed by a circle pit.

David: The pit was pretty intense. At one point I stepped in front of Cassie to protect her. In most venues there’s space for the 5″2′ people to stand back from the pit, but there wasn’t much room. Not hostile at all, and I saw people being picked up and protected, although one guy looked like he got a foot broken by an accidental stomp.

Amazing show. If you get a chance to see them, do, and if we get another chance we’ll be back.

  1. This is an impressionistic review of the experience of the show, rather than a researched review in which I look up the names of band members, histories of the bands and so on…
  2. At least in terms of mainstream exposure – twice as many members, though!



Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:05 pm

It’s kind of a nice problem to have – too much good music playing here to afford! I’d love to have seen Opeth next month – and the fact that they’ve now added Katatonia in support is even more tempting – and ZZ Top, and there are a number of other shows to attend, as well as Bluesfest with Cam and Jen and Suzie.

I’m glad I decided to go and see Anthrax last night, though. Very small venue for a big band (OK, bigger in the 80s, but riding high on the back of their new album and in top form. Ears are still ringing, face is still grinning… just an awesome heavy metal show.

Actually, before I go on, here’s my review of their performance at the Gigantour festival in Edmonton 8 years ago!

Anthrax – what can you say when the classic mid-80s line-up of Anthrax is back together and taking the stage by storm? They were Suzie’s favourite – Joey Belladona does it all from Bruce Dickinson-style long screams to melodic singing to yelling, and the band were tight and intense but just looked like they were having a huge amount of fun playing together. A problem I had intermittently all night reared its head here, and it must have been much worse for Suzie all night (she’s a saint for accompanying me and hanging in there!): we didn’t know all the songs all that well. I knew most of the old Anthrax stuff because I used to listen to it in the 80s, but I’ve listened to the John Bush (replacement singer) era stuff much more in the past few years – I don’t even have a CD of the old stuff. And – I guess it makes sense since it was the old band – all they played was the old stuff. No complaints, they played all the hits – Caught In A Mosh, I’m The Man, I Am The Law, Indians, Metal Thrashing Mad, and lots more – it was just that this was the less familiar stuff for me. Probably shoulda bought up a couple of the old albums when we bought the tickets a few months ago.

Most of that still applies, and in some ways even more so. These guys are my age (within a couple of months), and they’ve been doing this for over 30 years, but they still look as if this was what they were born to do, is their dream and that they’re absolutely stoked to be on stage and are having a great time: so the audience has a great time to.

The band is tight as a duck’s proverbial: it’s really a 3-piece rhythm section with Charlie Benante’s thunderous (but *interesting* – no tedious double-kick pummel, lots of variety) and Frank Bello’s bass underlying Scott Ian’s riff mastery on rhythm guitar. Lead guitarist Rob Caggiano left the band before this tour and his temporary replacement Jon Donais of band ‘Shadows Fall’ played very well but, perhaps fittingly given his band, pretty much stayed in the shadows at the side of the stage. Singer Joey Belladona really *sings*, and his voice has matured beautifully. He can still do the long, loud screams and melodies but also had a more rhythmic, percussive approach on some songs and more bottom end.

Donais’ low-key performance is probably wise, given that everyone else on stage is busy entertaining! Benante sits high above his kit so he can see and be seen, and is working the crowd, Bello and Ian jump and race around the stage and exhort the crowd and Belladona does a lot of mimes to encourage the crowd to jump, shout and raise their fists or horns.

Joey’s banter is fairly traditional ‘Really great to be here in Brisbane (which he pronounced like an American), thank you very much, rawwkkk!!!’ stuff, but Scott Ian also steps up to the mic now and then. He got Brisbane right, and made remarks about ‘taking this seriously, so I know not everyone wants to get in the pit, but if you’re not in the pit you will raise your fist, you will bang your head, and jump up and down’. Maybe it shouldn’t work, but it did.

He also introduced one song saying ‘this one goes back to 1982 – it’s older than most of you’. Paused, then pointed out one dude in the crowd: ‘We’ve have to be Judas Priest for it to be older than you’. Got a laugh. The band’s new album ‘Worship Music’ includes a song called ‘Judas Priest’ paying tribute to that band.

It also has a (great) song called ‘In The End’ paying tribute to the recently deceased (at least, it seems that way) Ronnie James Dio. The band take this seriously, with Scott Ian raising the horns (which Dio popularised) to heaven and bowing his head as in prayer, and Bello making the sign of the cross toward heaven (interesting that they seem in no doubt which direction he went!) The tribute might seem cheesy, but it really felt sincere, and the fact that they left the stage to Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ played at full volume after Joey sang the title (doing a pretty credible Dio) brought the message home.

As in the Edmonton show, nothing from the Bush era. He co-wrote most of those songs, so maybe there are legal issues. Or maybe, between playing the hits and the stuff from the new album – which stands up to the hits well – there just wasn’t time. It’s a pity, because there are some amazing songs on those albums, but I guess we’ll always have the albums.

I tried to remember the set list without taking notes (too busy moshing!), but won’t get them in the right order from memory. We definitely heard ‘Caught In A Mosh’ (first up), ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Indians’, ‘Antisocial’ (the sing-a-long both on the intro and chorus is, ironically, perhaps the most social part of the whole event), ‘Devil You Know’, ‘Madhouse’, ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Deathrider’, ‘Medusa’, ‘Among The Living’, ‘Efilnikufesin (NFL)’, ‘In My World’ (song from the ‘Married… With Children’ episode) and… possibly, memory is mixing, ‘Belly Of The Beast’.

If you have been trying to decide whether to go see them: do! There’s not even a decision to make.


Mason Rack Band – Live In Canada

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:06 pm

I’ve seen the Mason Rack Band twice: once unexpectedly at a concert in Brisbane, then I sought them out at the Byron Bluesfest. Enjoyed their live show enormously both times.

They’re playing, free, at our local – the Southport Sharks – at the end of this month. I decided that the rest of the family needed to be introduced to them so that they might share my keenness for going along. As we say at our place – in reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Vogon poetry – ‘placed in an appreciation chair: strapped in’.

Their albums aren’t on the iTunes Store, where I buy a lot of my music lately, but can be ordered directly from their web site. I picked up the double album ‘Live In Canada’ for a start: will definitely pick up their newest album soon too.

This album is a heap of fun. The band tours Canada at least annually, and at least one and maybe two members of the 3 piece band are from there.

Singer and songwriter Mason Rack grew up right here on the Gold Coast. There’s a great inversion of the usual hard luck stories of blues artists, when he says “My father had a hard life. He had a terribly hard life. He lived across the road from the beach, and every day he had to go across the road and teach people to surf. Spray sunscreen on girls.”

The album combines covers – songs by Tom Waits, Z Z Top, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Willis and others – with Mason Rack’s originals. There’s a wide range of blues/roots/rock styles on display, with Rack switching between lap steel and guitar. Some of it is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, other bits deeper delta blues and so on. Lots of variety across the songs.

The live recording is great, very clear and well balanced. It’s a trio – Mason Rack plus bass and drums. Live, the band have a crazy show and switch instruments, drum on beer kegs and perform a variety of other stunts. There’s less of that here, but there are extended drum and bass solos… your mileage might vary on those things.

The other small liability of a live album is that the between-song banter, which is witty and fun the first time, palls a bit with multiple listens. Music stays great but I find myself skipping bits. One good thing that’s been done is that the longer stories are separate tracks on the CD, so it’s pretty easy to skip them.

This album is definitely recommended – I’m enjoying it a lot, and so are the other family members, who have a very wide range of different musical tastes.

But even more so is seeing this band live – no album can really do the live experience justice. So, if you see that they’re playing near you, get yourself there. As Molly would say: “do yourself a favour”.


Christians and Evolution: A Different Take

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:17 am

I think this relates to some of what Cadmann commented a little while ago, and is a very interesting take on the issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-dudley/christian-faith-requires-_b_876345.html


Reflecting the Soundwave

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:31 am


Alex and I had a big, big day yesterday. In the morning we were in Lismore for the ordination of my brother, Paul, as a pastor. Got to see the family, and will write more about Paul and the ordination later. At one point during the church service when a lovely little old lady was singing a solo hymn in that vibrato-heavy old church style I leaned over to Alex and whispered ‘This is one extreme of your music experience for the day.’

Then we jumped on my bike after a short chat with the assembled family members after church and heading the 2.5 hours north to Brisbane. Combining that ride with the wooden benches we sat on later in the day, ‘The Iron Butt Challenge’ was considered as an alternative title for this post.

We’d planned to make it to the Soundwave festival at about 3, but church ran long and then we had to at least briefly hang out with the family, so it was more like 4 by the time we arrived.

We headed to Stage 1 and got into it. The rest of this post features guest commentator Alex, who was at her first big festival and also seeing her first metal gigs, giving her complementary reactions and comments.



I did want to see Primus, and I’m glad we made it. Les Claypool is a freak-genius player of the bass, and their funky anthems are a lot of fun. Got to hear ‘Tommy The Cat’, and then a couple of others I didn’t know, and Les donned a pig mask partway through. Definitely fun, but for me the whimsy kind of overpowers the music, so that it’s a novelty act more than something I want to listen to seriously. We meandered off after 3 songs so as not to miss Dummi Borgir.


For the first real metal show I’ve seen live, I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised at the quirks and oddities of the Primus show. The pig mask definitely made me look twice. In terms of their music, it was weird and funky and probably not something that I’d listen to on an iPod just becuase I think that you’d need the weirdness of the live show to complement the weirdness of the music. But, live, they were a great show and very entertaining.

Dimmu Borgir


When we were planning our day at the festival there were only two non-negotiables for me, these guys and Iron Maiden (though of course Alex could have gone and seen something else). I didn’t get any real argument about either of them anyway, but I definitely wanted to see this band, and they didn’t disappoint. Highlight of the festival for me in terms of discovering something new.

I was kind of peripherally familiar with their brand of symphonic Norwegian black metal, but the show was just amazing. Corpse paint really needs a grim and frost-bitten northern midnight, not a big blue sunny Brisbane afternoon, but they played with great power and conviction, chatted with the crowd and just put on a great metal show. They used backing tapes a fair bit, but that’s understandable given that their last album heavily featured a symphony orchestra and choir. I could say more, but I’ll just say see these guys live if you get the chance.

Oh yeah, and I yelled to Alex during this set ‘…and this is the other extreme!’


Dimmu Borgir was the band that surprised me the most in terms of my reaction to them. I really, really enjoyed the show and the music. I had thought that because they were on the heavier side of metal their songs would all be similar with fast guitars and faster drums but this was definitely not the case. Each song had different and interesting riffs and melodies and, although I couldn’t understand the growl-y words at all, it was not unpleasant to listen to.

In terms of the performance, it was amazing, although I couldn’t help but laugh at the very metal-ness of the show. The corpse paint, long hair, costumes, it all seemed a little too stereotypically metal, like maybe it was a loving parody (think: Spinal Tap). This was before I realised that metal shows were exactly how they were portrayed and, while it seemed a little comical at first, I really enjoyed the epic-ness of the performance and the show that the band members put on for the fans.

Ill Nino


Crank had told me this was a band to check out, and they were on right next to the stage where Dimmu had just finished and where Slayer were next up, so it was convenient.

In general I enjoyed them, but they focused on the heavier end of their spectrum, and it all got a bit repetitive and ‘samey’ after a while. Too many profane exhortations of the crowd. They were massively groove-heavy, with two drummers as well as bass and two guitars, and I suspect I’d probably enjoy their albums, but they just didn’t do a huge amount for me live.


My reaction to Ill Nino is very similar to Dad’s. I enjoyed the groovy-metal music for the first few songs but after a while, all the songs kind of melted into one continuous stream of drumming and bass riffs. I did really enjoy the singing-growling mix that the singer did and felt that that helped to break up the general monotony of the music. Like Dad, I suspect they are better on their albums when you can hear and understand the lyrics a little better.



I’d seen the other three of the Big Four thrash bands (Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax) live and enjoyed them, so in a Pokemon sort of way I needed to complete the set by checking out Slayer. Friends whose taste I trust {waves at Boogerhead} had assured me I’d be converted to fanhood, but I had my doubts and I’m afraid they were confirmed.

I think I gave them a reasonable shot, but given the intensity and roughness of the crowd, we ended up bailing after 4 songs.

Part of the problem was the mix: maybe it was intentional, but the guitars were completely buried. The kick drum could be felt whole-body, which was great, and while Tom’s monotone roars, which don’t impress me much, were kind of audible, Kerry King and Geoff Holt (from Exodus – standing in for the ill Jeff Hanneman) almost might as well not have been there.


I must say, I wasn’t too impressed with Slayer. It might have been because the very rough crowd pushed me aside every few minutes and so the music wasn’t really worth dealing with the sweaty, stinky metal fans. Similar to Ill Nino, the first few songs were good but the monotone singing made it difficult to enjoy for very long. We left pretty early into the gig (something that involved hitching a ride behind other fans because both Dad and I are too polite to shove our way through the crowd) but I don’t feel like I missed out on a real metal experience at all.

One Day As A Lion


I’d been anticipating this show – Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine with a drummer and a fuzzed-out Rhodes electric piano, rapping and singing. And for 3 songs or so, it kinda worked. Then you realise that a fuzzed-out Rhodes doesn’t really replace the complexity of bass and guitars. And it all starts to sound the same. The fact that we didn’t know the lyrics and couldn’t hear them was unhelpful too, since this is political hiphop/rock and the content is important. Have to say, an hour of it ended up being a bit of an ordeal.


I hadn’t really heard of One Day as A Lion before Soundwave so I was fairly open to anything they did but I just found them a little boring. The music was good although it did tend to sound the same after a while. The performance lacked flair so I found myself watching the fans instead of the band. It was just a little hard to be amused by one guy running around stage for an hour while the other two did nothing particularly interesting behind their instruments. Again, I think they’d be better recorded when you can hear the lyrics and do something else while listening.

Queens Of The Stone Age


We’d intended to head back to Stage 4 to see Rob Zombie, but sanity intervened: Maiden is Maiden, and if you don’t want to stand for a 2 hour set you capture a seat early. So with some misgivings I decided to skip the Zombie experience and stay where we were seated in front of Stage 1 for Maiden. That meant an hour of QOTSA first.

I was only peripherally aware of their body of work, but had a sense I didn’t like it. And yeah. Not horrible, rocked pretty hard, riffy, sometimes trippy, kind of punky in spots…

But lots of simple, repetitive riffs. And maybe I’m just too old for it, but ‘This song is about screwing’ as stage banter just doesn’t do it for me. It all just seemed tedious and a bit dumb, though lots of people around us seemed to be into it. Maybe I’m missing something… but I won’t be seeing them again. I left Alex minding the seats (and our bike gear) and wandered off to find some food and a couple of drinks.


QOTSA just tried a little too hard, I think. I’m not really sure about the performance because I spent most of it people-watching but when I did look, they seemed to be really trying to get the audience involved and it was just a little annoying. If fans want to jump, they will, stop asking. But, that being said, the music was good. It was interesting background music to my watching and it didn’t get same-ish after a while so I didn’t mind listening. Good time filler while we waited for Maiden.

Iron Maiden


I might leave this one to Alex, since I’ve seen them before and written about them here before. But they definitely did not disappoint, with a set heavy in the new stuff and some from the middle career, but enough old classics sprinkled through as well. Great show and a great end to a big day.


I don’t even know where to start with Maiden. It was fantastic! The stage set, I’m told, was relatively simple by Maiden standards but the band’s energy and geniune enthusiasm was electrifying. Bruce Dickinson performed with his usual antics, sprinting all around the stage, jumping, dancing, generally acting like a child who ate too much candy. The guitarists played amazingly, and entertainingly as well, dancing and running around as they played. The entire time my eyes were drawn to the stage and delighted by what I saw. They made my aching butt worth the pain, and, if you’ve ever ridden pillion for a few hours, you’ll know that that is saying something!

Conclusion: Incredible ending to an incredible day.


Progfest Brisbane 2010

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:58 pm

Saw a brief reference in one of the local free rags to ‘Progfest’ at Rosies in Brisbane on Friday night. Lots and lots of Aussie progressive bands, from post-rock to metal. For 15 bucks, at the end of a long week… how bad could it be?

The answer, as it turned out, was that it could be freaking amazing! We saw 5 of the 10 bands who played on the night – some played on another stage, and we had to leave before ‘Neath played, but apparently they were also amazing – and of those 5, 4 just completely blew me away. Lots and lots of fantastic new Australian music to listen to: and Matt and I both snarfed up many CDs from the merch table.

So Cassie, Matt and I wandered out. Sue dropped us off on her way to work, so we were in town a bit early. Had coffee and thought about waiting around a bit longer, but ended off heading to Rosies at 7 pm when the doors opened. And we’re so glad we did.

The poster said ‘Toe Hider’s Mike Mills‘, and we wondered ‘what’s that about?’ As it turned out, it was Mike Mills on a stool with an electric guitar, and a Brisbane muso on keys as backup, because it wasn’t possible to bring the full band, Toe Hider, up from Melbourne for the show. There was hardly anyone in the room, so we just sat at a table, with cold ones, and had our socks comprehensively blown off. Brilliant, funny, amazing songs, and the voice of a horny angel. Toe Hider (which, it has to be said, are pretty much Mike Mills’ band) are producing 12 EPs in 12 months, each with 6-10 songs… and they’re all amazing. We bought a two-CD set of ‘The First Six’ – so something like 40 original songs – for 25 bucks. If you want to get a sense of what they’re about, go here: http://www.toehider.com/12in12/ (but acoustic, in terms of the show on Friday… which if anything showed the songs off even better)

Next up were Silver Ocean Storm – kind of progressive melo-death, I guess. Competent, and with interesting elements, but overall the least interesting band of the night, for mine…

Sleepmakeswaves were the point of departure for me from Matt and Cassie – they found them amiable enough but not very interesting, with their long evolving post-rock excursions. Being a big fan of Agalloch and post-rock generally, I found them absolutely mesmerising. Their music is all available for free streaming and download, so check it out here: http://www.archive.org/details/LostChildren077

I’d been hearing good things about local Brisbane band Arcane for a long time. They were a fair bit more metal live than on record – but amazing in both forms. Proggy metal that’s fascinating and complex, with an amazing vocalist. Definitely a band that will be huge if there’s any justice at all. The word ‘arcane’ is used enough to make it a bit tricky to find them on YouTube, but ‘arcane brisbane’ will find you lots of examples of their stuff.

The really surprising band of the night were ‘Ne Obliviscaris‘. Cass and Matt were sitting down in another room while they were setting up, but I saw the chops of the guitarists and bassist in sound-check and dragged them in. So we were in the second row from the stage when they came on. Their name is rare enough to be easy to find on YouTube and there’s some good live footage that will give you the idea. In short, right in front of us was a very business-like looking guy in chinos and a business shirt, short hair, looked a bit like a young Guy Pearce, could easily have walked straight out of an accountants’ office. And he was playing violin and singing clean vocals. Next to him was a cadaverous-looking pale freak with long straight black hair and a complex skirt-like outfit covered in zips, singing extreme death-black vocals. And around them an incredible tech-prog-death band… with a drummer who looked like a blonde rugby player. Just stunning music.

I would have been absolutely stoked to see any of these bands for 15 bucks – to see all of them together with amazing.


Messin’ With The Recipe

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:15 pm

A friend asked recently in his Facebook status message “Why is it that AC/DC are still credible after all these years and Metallica aren’t?” (Or words to that effect.) My response was that AC/DC have never really messed with the recipe, while Metallica have done nothing but mix it up.

AC/DC had one huge change forced on them when Bon Scott died. Their albums before that time showed change and progression and different approaches, and I personally prefer Bon’s voice and in particular his lyrics over Brian Johnston’s. Bon’s lyrics are sleazy with a nod and a wink and a double entendre, and are quite witty: Brian’s are just kind of straightforwardly sleazy: as someone said a while ago “AC/DC lyrics are mostly single entendres and proud of it”. Bon’s are naughty, Brian’s are dirty. Bon’s prime characteristics were cheekiness and charisma.

But if you compare AC/DC’s newest album, ‘Black Ice’, to their 1980 opus ‘Back in Black’, you’ll hear a band doing essentially all of the same things. Doing them extremely well, I hasten to add, and AC/DC rock hard and are enormous fun to listen to. But they’re very explicit about the idea of ‘not progressing up your own arse’, as Angus memorably expressed it in an interview. They know what works and stick with it.

Metallica is different: every album is a huge change from the previous one. In their first few years in particular, then differences from ‘Kill ‘Em All’ to ‘Ride The Lightning’ to ‘Master of Puppets’ are just immense. It was after these albums that Metallica hit their own tragedy – the death of bass player Cliff Burton. It’s possible to argue about how Cliff’s demise effected the band’s output in later years…

I personally love ‘…And Justice For All’. The band has since said it’s their least favourite album, and it’s true that the production sounds very thin by modern standards, but it’s another big step on from
‘Master’ and represents the extreme of the long, almost prog songs. The ‘Black Album’ is also a good rock record, but it was with this album that Metallica’s changes begun to lose them their core fans (though, to be fair, it also won them a heap of new fans). Even ‘Load’ is a good album, IMO, though people might argue that it’s not really a Metallica album in the classic sense.

By ‘Reload’ things were getting weaker in the Metallica camp, and ‘St Anger’ is one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard. ‘Death Magnetic’ is really only a partial return to form, hampered by horrid drums sounds from Lars and immature lyrics from James Hetfield who used to be a reliably excellent writer.

Can’t really decide which is better. For mine, Metallica at its peak eclipses the best of AC/DC, but Metallica at its worst is truly abysmal. Maybe you have to have the abyss to have the peak?


Five Horns Up – ‘Flight 666’ review

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:54 pm

Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen, who made the metal documentaries ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ and ‘Global Metal’ were invited along on Iron Maiden’s incredible ‘Somewhere Back in Time’ world tour – the one Cam and I saw them on last year. The movie ‘Flight 666’ was the result, and Cassie and I went to see it together this afternoon.

As we were waiting to be admitted, I said ‘I bet, after seeing this, you will want to come to the show the next time Maiden is in town’. She said ‘What odds do you put on that?’ I said ‘I was gonna say 80:20, but let’s be conservative and say 70:30’. I explained that I’ve seen Maiden live twice and know how good they are, and I also know what she likes. As we walked out of the cinema after the movie, all she said was ‘You know me way too well…’

Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, is a bit of a polymath who fences and writes novels and makes films. He’s also a qualified airline pilot who flies for a small airline between tours. Hence the idea for this tour – a customized Boeing 757, ‘Ed Force One’ with Iron Maiden logos and images painted on it, fitted out for all the band’s gear, the crew and the band and families, flown by Bruce, allowed the band to tour to places that would otherwise have been uneconomic. The tour stretched from Mumbai in India through Australia and Japan, the US, several South American countries and Canada.

The movie is as much about the fans – including a few famous ones but really mostly just the ordinary fanatics – as it is about the band. There’s lots of fantastically-shot, amazing sounding concert footage, but also lots of interviews with fans and footage of the insanity that occurs when the band is in town. Fans in South America camped outside the venue for over a week to get good spots in the stadium. In some cases the crush was quite frightening – but the spirit was generally one of joy.

The documentary crew was ‘inside’ the life of the band, on-stage, back-stage and on rest days, for the whole 6 weeks of the tour, and there’s plenty of candid footage of 6 modest, smart, funny middle-aged men who can move whole stadiums to tears or roars of pure joy.

‘Flight 666’ is showing in limited venues for a limited time, but if you have the chance to see it, do – it’s an amazing, energising and life-affirming experience.


Religion and Truth

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:32 am

I need a big book to take on a big flight, and as I think I mentioned here before, I’m enjoying Neal Stephenson’s ‘Anathem’ on this trip. It’s over 900 pages of fairly small print, so I only read about half of it on the trip up, and have plenty to keep me occupied on the trip back.

It’s excellent and highly recommended to those who enjoy dense, philosophical science fiction. Lots of the ideas have struck me, and extended things I’ve been thinking about, but one quote from page 577 really hit me. I need to offer a bit of background so it will make sense for you. Some of the characters were using a simple gas stove to cook a meal. Erasmas, the main character, asked why they were using such a simple cooker, when there were much more hi-tech ones available, and they replied that because they often travelled in isolated, difficult environments, they preferred to rely on things that they could understand, and that they could pull apart and repair if necessary (I often have the same reaction under the bonnet (hood) of modern cars…).

So here’s the passage:

Later, Cord [Erasmas’ sister] began to share her views about what had happened, and it became obvious that she was interpreting the whole thing from a Kelx [a fictional religion in the book] point of view. It seemed that Magister Sark had got himself a convert. His words, back in Masht, might have made only a faint impression on her, but something about what we had lived through at Orithena made it all seem true in her mind. And this didn’t seem like the right time for me to try to convince her otherwise. It was, I realised, like the broken stove all over again. What was the point of my having a truer explanation of these things if it could only be understood by avout [kind of secular philosopher-monks] who devoted their whole life to theorics [kind of science/philosophy]? Cord, independent soul that she was, wouldn’t want to live her life under the sway of such ideas any more than she’d want to cook breakfast with a machine that she couldn’t understand and fix.1

OK, so leave aside for a moment Erasmas’ automatic assumption that his own explanation is ‘truer’ than hers, and the implied condescension. This passage just got me thinking about ideas and explanations and our insistence on forcing our ‘truer’ interpretations on others.

Thinking this way is anathema to Christians (and presumably to followers of other religions too): evangelism is all about convincing others to accept our explanations. It’s seen as a sacred duty in most religions. And not only religions, of course: we try to encourage, and when that fails coerce, others to see the world in accordance with our political and scientific and philosophical views, too. But I dunno… it seemed to me that perhaps what we need to look at is (again) the Dr Phil test: “How’s that workin’ for ya?” If other people’s world views seem to be making them happy and fulfilled, and leading them to make the world a better place by caring for others and the world around them, how about we leave them alone, and focus on those whose beliefs are obviously (in their frame of reference, not ours) making them miserable or making them act in evil ways toward others?

Hmm, that might change who is the evangelist and who the sinner in need of salvation, in quite a few cases, I suspect.

  1. Hmm, didn’t realise quite how many explanatory notes I’d need to insert when I started this!



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:59 am

(apologies for the quality of the cellphone photo)

Extreme metal crowds are some of the friendliest and nicest people you’ll meet. Don’t be confused by the long dreads or buzzcuts, the piercings and tattoos – the crowd waiting outside to file into the Arena for the Carcass show was a huge band of brothers (with one or two sisters lightly sprinkled through). I got chatting with a guy in his late teens or early 20s who was mainly into Nightwish and had come to Carcass via Arch Enemy, and to some guys in their 30s who had been Carcass fans as teenagers. We discussed which was our favourite album, and the transition the band made from grindcore to melodic death metal, and the production issues on the first album… and then it was time for the show.

Carcass chose local metal bands in each city they played on this Australian tour as their support, which is a nice way to support beginning bands. So we got two local Brisbane metal bands, Defamer and Limb from Limb.

Defamer were excellent – one guitarist looked a bit like a monk with short hair and a beard, the other had a shaved head and a full beard an Amish man would be proud of. The vocalist wore a floor length black leather coat and had a mane of blonde hair almost to his waist, which he hid behind a lot of the time and headbanged and helicoptered with the rest. The band was tight and the music varied, with headbanging rifferamas, excellent solos, speedy technical breaks and a lot of dynamics. Plenty of stage presence, and a mix of some black metal style screams with an impressive death-grunt. An excellent band, recommended.

Apparently there are at least three bands called Limb from Limb – one in Vancounver, one in the US and this one in Brisbane. Have to admit their version of extreme technical death metal didn’t do a lot for me: the assault was just too unrelenting, with constant blastbeats, and basically the identical vocal style on all songs. For those who are fans of this style I’m sure they play it well, but the contrast with the complexity and dynamics of Defamer didn’t do them a lot of favours, and with Carcass even less so.

Carcass took the stage at 10:30, after maybe 15 minutes of chants and yelling and anticipation, and ripped it up from the first song. The band was incredibly tight, and all looked as though they were having a great time just playing. The music is huge and varied and impressive, with fantastic melodic passages and riffs, actual guitar solos and a variety of vocal styles from Jeff Walker as well as vocal contributions from both Bill Steer and Michael Ammott on some songs. Solos were bluesy, rich and complex, with the kind of real ‘storyline’ through the solo that I’m always looking for and seldom find these days in extreme metal. Daniel Erlandsson, who has stepped in on drums because Ken Owen is still not well enough to go out on the road and play, did an awesome job, hitting the heavy sound that marks Carcass apart from all the other ‘double-kick on everything’ bands in this genre.

It was cool to hear a wide range of songs from right across the band’s career – and to realise that with decent production the songs from the first two albums aren’t actually as different from the later stuff as they seemed. The band played a couple from Swansong, and took on the perceptions about that album, saying that many of the songs on it were written at about the same time as the ones on Necroticism.

Jeff was in his usual sarcastic, humorous mode, generally having fun and making fun of the crowd and the band. He went with the “So, we last toured here in 1993…” and got the expected roar, then pointed out someone in the first row and said “You weren’t even born then… I can tell by the Arch Enemy shirt”. (For those unfamiliar with the history, Michael Ammott left Carcass and formed Arch Enemy… and brought their drummer back with him into the band – so half of this band is Arch Enemy, but it’s a newer band.) He also asked “So who is seeing Meshuggah tomorrow night?”, got the roar and came back with “Yeah, I could tell – you’re the ones who don’t headbang or raise your fists”. (Sorry to explain another joke, but Meshuggah is very technical metal in, like, 19/8 time signature, so their audiences sometimes tend to stand back and listen rather than risk injury by trying to headbang to it.)

The sheer complexity, melody and dynamics of the Carcass show are what stayed with me: a perfect example of using the technique and the power to serve the song, rather than for its own sake. This is music that is extreme because it needs to be, but doesn’t take being even more extreme as a goal.


Something I’ve never seen before

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:56 pm

This musing was prompted by seeing the movie ‘Southland Tales’. It’s odd and weird, and was booed at Cannes when it premiered. It was recut after that, but it’s still a pretty complex and confusing movie. I think part of the key to enjoying it (as I did) is to let go of strict logic and operate on dream logic, where things have rich layers of symbolic meaning beyond their obvious surface meaning.

Since then I’ve also been (re)reading China Mieville’s novel ‘Iron Council’ and watching a Canadian-German science fiction series called LEXX. Both, in one way or another, are something I’ve never seen before. Like Iain M Banks and Clive Barker, Mieville is a master of prodigious invention, and any of his book is likely to show you a hundred things you’ve never seen before, not just one. And LEXX too is odd and strange and sometimes disturbing, but very interesting and completely new.

Of course, sometimes I’m also in the mood to just sink into something that’s familiar and that I know I’ll enjoy. I’m off to the new Indiana Jones movie this afternoon, and that will be the case for that movie – nothing I haven’t seen before, but very enjoyable and competently done.

I don’t even know what the distinction is useful for, and I’m not placing a value judgement on which is better, but some people are much more likely to stick almost entirely with the things that are familiar and that they already know they will like. Mills and Boon novels, for example, are written to a template. If you like one, you’ll like them all. There’s always a risk when you try the new dish at the restaurant that you’ll hate it… but there are very few books I’ve read that I’ve hated. Most often I just really enjoy reading something new… but in some cases I’ll seek out more and in others I won’t.

How about you? Do you like to see something you’ve never seen before? If so, who is your favourite source? If not, what’s your favourite flavour?


Oliver Twist-n-Go: 1000 km Bandit 1200S review

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:30 pm

In Dickens’ classic novel, the orphan Oliver Twist finishes his meager serving of gruel at the orphanage and has the temerity to ask “Please sir, may I have some more?” From memory he gets his ears boxed for his trouble.

This is not the experience of the Bandit rider: there’s always more. You just have to ask, and a heaping helping of horsies is there. From 2 grand in top, or wherever, it’s ‘twist and go’, never ‘twist and oh-blast-I-forgot-to-knock-it-back-2-cogs-go-you-mongrel!’

Almost stationary in traffic? 0-100 km/h in about 3.5 seconds means you’re outta there the second there’s a gap. Overtaking at 80? Better keep an eye on the speedo ‘cos a buck fifty comes up much too easy. The buck-twenty to buck-sixty roll-on will still pin ya ears back and take a couple of seconds… and beyond there I haven’t explored, but backing off knowing there’s another 80 km/h in reserve is nice. ‘More’ continues to be the theme everywhere. Haven’t wheelied it intentionally yet, but had the front wheel skipping a couple of times on take-offs that were well short of 100%, so it’s very easy to see how attainable it would be from a roll-on in first or second.

It’s also completely happy to putt along at 20 or to stop and start, although a heavyish hydraulic clutch means I’m kicking it into neutral at lights more often than I’m used to (after checking the mirrors and making sure I’m buffered). The gearbox is… well, ‘positive’ is a good word. It engages with more of a clunk than a snick, but in a good way… although pussyfooting around with changing into first on the move can sound pretty graunchy.

The aftermarket pipe yields a reasonable amount of extra power (I rode it with the stocker because it had had to be put back on for the roadworthy, and quickly changed back to the aftermarket). It also helps drivers be aware, and yields a very enjoyable rumble in tunnels and car parks. Stock power peaks at about 100 hp, I believe, but just adding a pipe and an air filter and jetting accordingly (as has been done on my bike) can add 10-15 more. Not in the league of current 170 hp sportsbikes, but lots none-the-less for road use. Probably even more important than power is torque, though. It’s huge and it’s relatively flat. Here’s a dyno graph showing stock exhaust vs aftermarket slipon muffler for a 2002 Bandit, but the issues are similar:

As you can see, significant torque virtually from 2 grand: grunt-monster!

The effect of the bike over all is kinda stealthy (apart from the pipe) – it’s pretty calm looking, no big fairings or wild graphics or whatever, pretty mellow seating position and so on. Quite happy to cruise along with the traffic – but twist the wrist and all pretense disappears.

Handles the pillion (The Boss, aka Mrs Bravus) very nicely. I don’t mention it to her too much, but I can flat-foot it with both of us on, while I’m balls-only (erm, of feet) when I’m on the bike by myself. I’m 173 cm/5’8″, and with the height and weight (people think of it as a big heavy bike, and in a way it is, but it only weighs the same as the current GSX650F – about 240 kg wet) this is probably not the bike for someone much shorter than me.

After a bit of a tweak (toughening up the back and softening the front a bit) from Dirty TRiX on the weekend it’s handling the bumpy corners better, tracking the bumps rather than bouncing a bit. Might stiffen the back up one notch further, since most of the time is spent with a pillion – the stiffening so far has not made it unmanagable or uncomfortable solo. Need to borrow or buy a C-spanner: it’s the one thing missing from the otherwise very complete underseat toolkit. While we’re in that area, plenty of underseat storage for rain gear or a spot of lunch.

Brakes are excellent: quite soft to pull but heaps of feel and power. It’s easy to see how these bikes can pop the back in the air as well as the front.

The bike handles well – took a while to get used to the extra commitment needed to throw something taller and heavier into the corners the way I was used to flicking the little, light 400, but that was me holding the bike back rather than vice versa. Big rubber both ends with limited chicken strips, and just a heap of fun. Reminding myself not to get onto it too hard when launching out of corners is still necessary. I bought it with Battlaxes both ends, and they seem to be getting the job done, though I may look at something a bit sportier but dual compound when those wear out.

I have a rack and sack on the bike that is big enough to hold a helmet, so The Boss rides in with me with her book bag in the sack, then swaps it for the helmet when she gets off. That means if I need to pick up the teens or do anything else during the day I have helmet, gloves and jacket handy.

Seating position is quite straight, although I rolled the bars back a fraction to lower them because it just felt a bit *too* cruiser-like. I really noticed how far back the pegs on the GSXF were by comparison when I got back on it – these are pretty much straight down. I don’t get tired or get a sore back or wrists at all, and it feels like it would work well as a medium-range tourer. Would work well for someone whose back gets sore in a sportier position but who isn’t quite ready to move on to a cruiser.

The screen I have on the bike is quite small – much smaller than that on the later 1200S, one of which I sometimes park next to at work. If I was going to do long distance touring I’d look into putting a bigger one on, but at legal and quasi-legal freeway speeds the buffeting is fairly limited even with the small screen.

There’s a reasonable amount of vibration at different revs, though not annoyingly much. I do need to shake some feeling back into the right hand sometimes after a long splitting session, though that’s probably as much due to a high state of alertness as to the vibration.

I bought it mainly because I wanted something bigger and faster and more powerful that was also comfortable for daily pillioning… and because I didn’t want a ‘real’ tourer like an ST or a GTR or one of the big Beemers. Honestly, it’s hard to think of anything else out there that suits my particular set of needs and tastes as well that I could buy, even with a much bigger budget. So, pretty much the perfect bike for me, in immaculate nick, with under 50,000 km on the clock, for well under 5 grand. Hard to go past for anyone whose circumstances are similar to mine.

(I planned to wait to post this until I had some more pics, which I’ll take this weekend, but I was basically procrastinating from doing another job and felt like writing it now, so pics are pending.)


To love a country

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:40 pm

We stayed up and watched the Oscars last night, after struggling a bit to get a recalcitrant TV tuner card to work properly. Fairly enjoyable as spectacle, we thought, though we’d have loved Juno to win Best Picture…

Despite Cate Blanchett’s great achievement in being nominated for both Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, I think pretty much Australia’s only winner was Eva Orner as part of the producing team for the Best Documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, about the torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib. She didn’t get to give an acceptance speech at the ceremony, but later to the media called the current US administration ‘a bunch of war criminals’.

Reaction in the discussion sections of the Australian newspapers was roughly equally split between ‘Exactly, good on yer’ and ‘How dare she bite the hand that feeds her and attack the Americans who gave her the award?’ Here’s my response to the latter party:

Those bagging Ms Orner to ‘defend’ America may want to have a second think. Her film and her comments *do* defend America – the best of America. It shows what America can do at its worst, under this current administration, precisely because that is important in America, because the country aspires to a higher standard. To love a country means to challenge it to be its best, not to excuse it at its worst.


James Blunt on Top Gear

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:39 pm

Cam gave me a season of BBC car program Top Gear on DVD when he came up last week, knowing we don’t do TV at our place. We’ve been enjoying it a lot – it’s great, entertaining, beautifully shot TV, and the girls are also learning more about cars than they’ve ever known. (And they do have a slight crush on Richard Hammond.)

One feature of the show is the ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ segment where they get various stars of stage and screen to take a little tuition and then do their fastest lap of a test track. They interview the victim of the week and show the lap. It’s always amusing – and who would have though Jennifer Saunders was a ferociously fast and competitive driver?

The episode we watched tonight featured James Blunt. If you know me at all, or if you took the hint and checked out my Last.fm, you’ll know that his wispy, weepy, emotional singer-songwriter music is pretty much the diametrical opposite of anything I would ever listen to – and that if anyone wanted to torture me for any reason, a James Blunt album would be a fiendish solution.

But he was actually funny, self-deprecating, and has clearly had an extremely interesting life, from getting a pilot’s license at 16 to being a tank driver in active combat in Kosovo during the war. Here’s the tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWb0woGFBFc

I look at the guy with a new respect… but still won’t be listening to his music. Oh, and please ignore Jeremy Clarkson’s bikeophobia.


Iron Maiden Live in Brisbane

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:28 am

Cam and I last saw Iron Maiden live in Sydney in 1985. (They also toured in 1992 but we missed that one.) We were in our early 20s, unmarried, no kids, just getting started in life. And it was one of the top 3 shows I’ve ever been to (the other two were Queen and Jethro Tull) – just amazing.

So it was with plenty of anticipation, as well as a bit of nostalgia, that we headed out to the concert. We both think it’s a bit naff to wear a band’s t-shirt to their own show (not an opinion apparently shared by about 80% of the audience), so Cam had a black t-shirt with the Rosetta Stone on the front and I had my (CPU) plain black t-shirt. One of the sports of the evening was spotting what bands’ shirts we saw at the show, and it was a fair sort of rendering of the more mainstream rock and metal acts around… not too much of the more obscure stuff though.

The Brisbane Entertainment Centre is way out in the sticks, north of the city, so it took a while to drive out there, then a few minutes to park, but it wasn’t too onerous. From the carpark we wandered along a path through tree-filled, Everglades-like swamps to the actual venue, which was an interesting introduction.

Inside the place is a big cavernous hall, like most big entertainment centres. There were a few hundred people milling around the front section of the floor, more in the back section and plenty in the seats, though it also looked as though a lot of people had decided to skip the support bands and just turn up for Maiden.

I’d bought our seated tickets online, and got them as close to the stage as possible, and I thought we had fantastic seats, from looking at the floor map of the entertainment centre. We would have, too, except that (as you can see from the photos I posted earlier) Maiden uses an 8 foot high runway all around the sides and back of the stage for Bruce to run around on – and we were right down behind that. We could barely see the tops of the heads of the support band. D’oh!

Fortunately the venue realised this and a representative came and talked to us and the people sitting near us. They apologised for the visibility and allowed us to move to some unsold seats higher up the rake of the room. We were even closer to the front of the venue, which meant even more side-on to the stage, but we could see everything (except Nicko, the drummer, who sits with his enormous drum kit in a well in the runway and wouldn’t be very visible to anyone). And we were still close enough to see every facial expression and gesture, which wouldn’t have been the case from seats in front of the stage but far away. The guy also gave us a voucher for a free t-shirt, stubby holder and poster for our trouble. At 50 bucks for t-shirts and 20 for stubby holders that’s about 85 bucks value back toward our $150 tickets, so not too shabby an outcome (though I certainly wouldn’t have been paying those prices for the merch on my own).

The first support was Lauren Harris and band. Lauren is the 23 year old daughter of Iron Maiden’s bass player and founder Steve Harris, and there was a certain amount of cute factor in the ‘bring your daughter to work day’ angle. She was not too difficult to look at, either, in sprayed-on black vinyl pants, but that’s about where the positives end. The set was some pretty straightforward hard rock, and she sings in tune and competently. But the songs were pretty uninpsired, the guitarist seemed to have just one solo that he used on every song, and her stagecraft was odd… she would start a gesture but then just kind of abandon it and do something else, without tying it together or connecting it to the song. It’s weird – Maiden would have to be one of the most skilled performing bands out there, in terms of putting on an entertaining and cohesive live show, and you’d think she might have learned something from them. Though I guess in fairness they’ve been doing it since before she was born… The not-hard-to-look-at factor got her a decent reception from the audience, but honestly it was more something to be waited through than really enjoyed.

Next support was Aussie metalcore band ‘Behind Crimson Eyes’. Apparently Maiden hand-picked them as the support, and we could see why in terms of their competence and stage presence, but it seemed an odd choice since metalcore/post-hardcore is somewhere at the other end of the genre chart from Maiden’s prog-tinged heavy metal. They certainly got enough boos, and even rubbish tossed onto the stage, from narrow-minded Maiden fans, but Cam and I actually really enjoyed their set, even if it’s not stuff we’d usually choose to listen to. They played with power and dynamics, and a sense of melody that’s often lacking in that genre. Plenty of power and aggression, a variety of vocal styles from two vocalists, some fantastic and varied guitar playing and drumming and a cover of Motorhead’s iconic ‘Ace of Spades’… the boys done good. They also handled the abuse goodnaturedly, and kinda counted down their own songs toward the advent of Maiden… nice work, and of course this tour was a huge opportunity for them, at least among the more open-minded fans.

But really, we were all here for only one reason. A bit of waiting time as the big stage was set up (our odd position at the side gave us a perfect view of the backstage area, so we got to see Steve Harris huddling with the stage manager and sorting out details for the show, and Yanick Gers warming up with some stretches and chatting comfortably with various roadies). Then the lights go down, the aero engine sounds start up, and Sir Winston Churchill sonorously enumerates the places where we’re going to fight them. A burst of sound, a burst of pyros and light, and it’s all on! Rrrooooaaarrrrrrr!!!!

I’ve watched lots of interview footage with Bruce Dickinson (vocalist and frontman) over the years, and a consistent theme has been ‘it’s all about the audience’. He’s very conscious that the audience is there to have a good time, and that it’s his responsibility to put on the best show he possibly can for them. Steve Harris (bass player, founder and runner-of-the-band) has a similar aesthetic, just does it more quietly in the background, and that attention to detail shows in the sets and backdrops and showmanship. But the band also just look like they’re having the time of their life. They grin and gurn and run around and goof around – but the music comes first.

On the last tour (which didn’t make it to Australia), supporting their latest album ‘A Matter of Life And Death’, the band played that album in its entirety, leaving little room in the show for the classics. This show was pretty much a reaction to that – the newest song played was ‘Fear of the Dark’, from the 1992 album of the same name, but apart from that everything was from their heyday in the 80s. I posted the set list in the earlier post – all the classics, although of course with as many albums as these guys have done there were always going to be some favourites that would miss out. I’d love to have heard ‘Alexander The Great’ from ‘Somewhere in Time’, but it wasn’t to be. Hearing the 14 minute ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ live was amazing, though. I think ‘Revelations’ is still my favourite Maiden song, and may even be my favourite song ever.

So Bruce runs around like a maniac, has several costume changes, is incredibly entertaining and leaps around off the foldback speakers in a way that completely ignores the fact that he turns 50 later this year. Steve Harris plays to the crowd, gallops his finger-picked bass lines at a million miles an hour, sings every word at the top of his voice even though he doesn’t have a mic because he can’t sing in tune, and just has the time of his life. We can’t see Nicko McBrain, the big Irish drummer (voted one of the top 10 ugliest men in metal) directly, but a big screen above us and a great camera and editing crew keep us right in the action – and Nicko is grinning his head off for most of the night.

The band started out with two guitarists, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Adrian left the band and was replaced by Yanick Gers about 20 years ago. There’s a long saga, that Cam can tell you, about how Bruce also left the band, and so did Nicko, and they played together on some of Bruce’s solo albums, and … anyway, the thing is, all three of them ended up back in the band, but by that time Yanick had been in the band for over 10 years and they weren’t going to dump him for the returning Adrian. So Maiden ended up with three lead guitarists. It actually works really well, and sounds great, with various guitarists taking solos, lots of harmony guitar work and a huge sound. Yanick in some ways is still considered the ‘new guy’ in the band, and some fans resent his very flamboyant stage antics – he plays the guitar sometimes by whipping the strings with the guitar lead, swings the guitar around his neck and jumps around more than the other two guitarists. But he’s an excellent player and a big part of the band – and the whole band works well.

It was a huge show, and a hugely enjoyable one. And given that the shows in every Australian capital city sold out, and extra shows had to be added in Sydney and Melbourne, which also sold out, I think the oft-repeated promise that it won’t be another 16 years before they make it back down under is fairly solid. I’ll definitely see them again if I ever get the chance – and if you get the chance, you should.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:41 am

Words to come, but here are some pics:


This shows the angle we were on to the stage, and the platforms around it. From nearest to farthest, Yanick Gers, Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray.


Bruce waving the Union Jack in his Light Horse tunic, with the huge Trooper painting as a backdrop.


Adrian Smith playing in the direction of the hidden Nicko McBrain.


The whole band in action and motion.


Bruce in his feathered mask sings in front of the Powerslave backdrop.


Of course the camera chose the moment when 4 m cyborg Eddie was walking toward us to malfunction, so I only got his back.


01. Intro – Churchill’s Speech
02. Aces High
03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
04. Revelations
05. The Trooper
06. Wasted Years
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Run to the Hills
09. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
10. Powerslave
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Can I Play With Madness?
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. Moonchild
16. The Clairvoyant
17. Hallowed Be Thy Name


Bill Bailey is a brilliant, hilarious, multi-talented freak

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:37 am

He speaks several languages, plays several musical instruments expertly, is a fantastic standup comedian and actor and sprinkles his standup routine with jokes about Neitsche, Chaucer and general surrealism. Some people just get way too much out of the talent pool. Here are a couple of excerpts from YouTube, but check out the 10 part full live show ‘Part Troll’ also available on YouTube, and the TV show ‘Black Books’ for more.

Chaucerian Pubbe Gagge (slightly rude, as fits Chaucerian language)

Cockney Music and the Classical Repertoire

Love Song

Bill plays the Theremin (and Jonathan Ross)


‘A Comfort for the Bright Child’

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:50 pm

This article from Britain’s ‘Telegraph’ newspaper reports a study of the correlation between being smart and listening to heavy metal: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/21/nmetal21.xml

Intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressures associated with being talented, according to research.

The results of a study of more than 1,000 of the brightest five per cent of young people will come as relief to parents whose offspring, usually long-haired, are devotees of Iron Maiden, AC/DC and their musical descendants.

Researchers found that, far from being a sign of delinquency and poor academic ability, many adolescent “metalheads” are extremely bright and often use the music to help them deal with the stresses and strains of being gifted social outsiders.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:37 pm

Wow. Just finished playing T2X. This is a fan-made, free game set in the Thief universe. It takes place after the events of Thief 2 and before Thief 3, and stars a female thief rather than Garrett, the protagonist of the Thief games.

I’ve mentioned the various Fan Missions (FMs) that have been made for Thief here before, and those are stunning enough, in terms of achievements in game design and writing. But T2X is a whole other level, with an original and affecting story, all new artwork and textures, new weapons and tools and lots of what we love about Thief too. It also fits neatly into the timeline and world of the official games.

Just astonishing work by dedicated and talented amateurs… one more of those achievements that make me wonder at the infinite capacities of the human heart and mind.


Dragonforce Review

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:53 pm

When my friend Cam (best mate since Year 9, so for over a quarter century now) suggested that Dragonforce were coming to town and we should go to the show together, a couple of months ago, I initially wasn’t keen. I ‘get’ what the band does, but I used to find that if I played one of their songs on my show (or had it on my mp3 player) I tended to be bored with the extreme and often unvarying speed of the music after about a minute… and since it’s epic power metal, that usually meant I had another 7 minutes to get through in the song. But Cam is a good friend, and I don’t really have anyone to go to gigs with here, so I decided to check it out anyway.

Australian support band ‘Vanishing Point’ were enthusiastic and played well, and I enjoyed their set, but they were a little bit AOR for me and a bit smooth, and I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to pick up the CD any time soon.

Dragonforce hit the stage with speed and energy, and played a whirlwind set, only pausing for one slow song. They did do something I haven’t really seen a band do before – leave the stage halfway through the concert for an intermission. After a minute or two Ukrainian-born keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov came out and, on his keyboards and ‘keytar’, played a bunch of wild stuff until the rest of the band returned. During the whole concert he was bouncing around wearing shorts and a tie – and the bouncing as well as the clothes suggested Angus Young at his most manic. Not bad for the guy stuck behind the keys.

Drummer Dave Mackintosh is from the UK, and plays very well, but I didn’t see a lot of him behind the kit. I do wish he’d chill with the double kick sometimes, though… it does get a bit repetitive.

Vocalist Z P Theart is from South Africa and has the looks, charisma and singing chops to make an excellent frontman for the band. It was an all ages show and Cam and I wouldn’t have minded taking my daughter and his son along, but Theart’s rather obscene stage banter (“OK, on the count of three, everyone say ‘Sam is a c%$&'”) and oral sex/masturbation mimes made us kind of glad we hadn’t.

Herman Li is a guitar wizard from Hong Kong with butt-length hair who is insanely fast and talented, playing over the top of the neck, or with his tongue or mic stand, or doing whammy bar bombs, or tapping across multiple strings, all the while spinning and leaping and racing around the stage.

We’d actually taken our kids to the Art Gallery earlier in the day, and I’d mentioned to Cam that I liked art that I couldn’t take in at a gulp, that was beyond me, where there was so much going on that I had to spend time understanding, and that there was the feeling that there would always be more to discover. The band onstage had something of that about them: everyone was doing something, everywhere, all the time. The two guitarists would be at the front of the stage ripping off lightning speed harmonising runs, and the bass player would be sprinting from side to side of the stage, the keyboard player pogoing on the spot and the singer making play with water bottles and the crowd. It could have been annoyingly chaotic, but last night at least I found it exhilaratingly so.

French bass player Frederic Leclercq is a phenom: apparently he speaks 8 languages, but it doesn’t stop there. He plays bass in this band but plays guitar and sings in another band. He played some guitar last night, and kept up with Li on some soloing, which is pretty impressive. He sang ‘clean’ backing vocals on most tracks, and when they kicked in a bar or two of death metal growling on a couple of songs he sang that too. Oh, and his bass playing for Dragonforce was pretty good too (in fact excellent).

Sam Totman, the English-born, New Zealand-raised other guitarist and main songwriter for the band, tends to play the drunken goof on stage, and be the butt of the band’s jokes. He has a beer holder on his mic stand and is the only muso I’ve seen with a ‘beer roadie’ to replace the plastic pint mugs of beer fairly frequently. He also does his share of spinning jumps off amp stacks and so on, but whether he’s very drunk or just feigning some of it, he’s still playing at a million miles an hour, note-perfect. He also disarmed the fairly obvious critique people could make of the band: on the second encore he said “Now you’re in for a real treat: this one sounds exactly the same as all the others!”

Plenty of stunt moves, including a point at which the two guitars, bass and keyboard axe were in a circle, all playing the left hand of each other’s instruments and the right hand of their own.

I’m not a convert – I still find their songs too monochromatic (all speed, no dynamics) and just a little cheesy in the lyrics and melodies department, but I had a great time seeing them live, just for the energy and obvious enjoyment they all get out of playing live. Even if you think you don’t like Dragonforce, you could definitely do worse than go to a show…