Album Review – Spiral Skies / Blues For A Dying Planet (2018)

Get ready to be put in a trance and to be taken on a unique musical journey by a psychedelic Swedish band and their “rock from another planet”.

With influences ranging over decades, Swedish Occult Rock band Spiral Skies has created a sound that can most easily be described as “rock from another planet”, a unique blend of folk, doom and 70’s-inspired rock music the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Curved Air and The Devil’s Blood, all embraced by a unique visual performance at their intense and enchanting live shows. After their debut EP A Queendom to Come, released in 2015, it’s time for Spiral Skies to further spread their sorcery with their brand new album beautifully titled Blues For A Dying Planet, an ode to the past that’s at the same time always looking into the future.

Formed in 2014 in the Swedish capital Stockholm, Spiral Skies are the talented Frida on vocals, Jonas and Dan on the guitars, Eric on bass and Daniel on drums, each one with a different musical background and distinct influences, but all sharing the same passion for 70´s genuine rock and metal music. In Blues For A Dying Planet, which features a classy cover illustration by Vadim Karasyov, cover and booklet design by Atmanoid, and cover photo by Björn Pettersson, the band brings forth an amalgamation of styles with a strong Psychedelic Doom Metal and Rock core essence, putting you in a trance and taking you to the golden years of rock, always spearheaded by the mesmerizing vocals by Frida.

An organ and the sound of the wind in the intro Black Hole Waltz ignite the feast of Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal named Awakening, with Jonas and Dan dictating the rhythm with their Iron Madein-ish riffs while Frida gives a lesson in passion and energy with her flamboyant vocals. Put differently, this rockin’ hymn has an old school Heavy Metal vibe that, when blended with its core Doom Metal essence, makes things even more captivating. Following such powerful start we have Dark Side of the Cross, a very good song to dance under the stars that leans towards the classic Doom Metal by Black Sabbath with a more whimsical Rock N’ Roll aura, also showcasing a great job done by Daniel with his intricate beats; and The Wizard’s Ball, where Frida keeps delivering sheer awesomeness through her charming and potent vocals, with the rest of the band keeping the music at a very pleasant and gripping pace, flowing smoothly until its climatic ending. Then it’s time to dance with Frida and the boys in Danse Macabre, a classic Hard Rock song with tons of psychedelic elements from Doom Metal added to its beautiful sonority, with Jonas and Dan blasting straightforward, old school guitar riffs that effectively help embellish the ambience.

Labyrinth of the Mind is perhaps the most Black Sabbath of all tracks, with a great balance between the heaviness of the guitar riffs and the gentle voice by Frida, resulting in a hypnotizing musicality perfect for closing your eyes and letting the band take you on a one-of-a-kind musical journey. In Shattered Hopes we’re treated to a hybrid between pure Psychedelic Rock and more contemporary Doom Metal and Hard Rock, uniting past and present through the riffs by the band’s guitar duo and the always fiery vocals by Frida; whereas the poetically-titled tune Left Is Right and Right Is Left Behind has its name translated into classic Rock N’ Roll with tons of psychedelia added to its mesmerizing waves. Furthermore, Eric with his solid bass lines and Daniel with his fierce beats create the perfect background for Frida to shine once again on vocals. And lastly, their feast of classy and gripping sounds is majestically concluded with the lesson in Psychedelic Rock and Metal named The Prisoner, a full-bodied voyage led by the heavy and very melodic guitars by both Jonas and Dan.

The enchanting voice by Frida and her Spiral Skies can be better appreciated through the band’s Facebook page and Spotify, and if you want to buy a copy of Blues For A Dying Planet and consequently have all that’s needed to prance around the fire pit under a moonlit sky, you can find the album on sale at the AOP Records’ BandCamp page or webstore, at the Nuclear Blast webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. Although the 70’s might be long gone and everything is now just a distant memory, the music by bands like Spiral Skies is what keeps the spirit and passion of that golden decade burning bright inside our souls.

Best moments of the album: Awakening, Danse Macabre and The Prisoner.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 AOP Records

Track listing
1. Black Hole Waltz 1:25
2. Awakening 3:31
3. Dark Side of the Cross 4:04
4. The Wizard’s Ball 5:36
5. Danse Macabre 4:18
6. Labyrinth of the Mind 5:42
7. Shattered Hopes 3:18
8. Left Is Right and Right Is Left Behind 4:38
9. The Prisoner 6:02

Band members
Frida – vocals
Jonas – guitars
Dan – guitars
Eric – bass
Daniel – drums

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Concert Review – Nova Rock Festival 2014 (Pannonia Fields II, Nickelsdorf, Austria, 06/14/2014)

A flawless festival at one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

novarock2014

INTRODUCTION: The City of Nickelsdorf and 10 Years of Nova Rock

The town of Nickelsdorf is located in the district of Neusiedl am See in the Austrian state of Burgenland, it belonged to Hungary until 1920 (like the whole province of Burgenland) and it has a population of less than 2,000 people. Those details alone wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit this little town in the middle of nowhere in Austria, don’t you agree? However, over the past 10 years there are three very special days between the second and third weeks of June when its population increases almost 100 times and Nickelsdorf becomes the world capital of heavy music: that’s what happens when the awesome Nova Rock Festival hits the town.

It was from June 9 to June 12, 2005 when the first edition of Nova Rock brought to town names such as System of a Down, Marylin Manson, Nightwish, Audioslave and Green Day, with over 30,000 fans per day. The following year, with huge bands like Metallica, Motörhead and Guns N’ Roses, the festival received over 150,000 visitors, becoming the largest ever rock festival in Austria. Since then, names like Volbeat, The Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Rammstein, Kreator, Testament, In Flames and many other heavy music icons have helped put Nickelsdorf in the route (and in the hearts) of metalheads from all over the world during the always incredible European summer.

This year the lineup was once again more than amazing, starting on Friday, June 13 with the power of Volbeat, Slayer, Steel Panther and Sepultura; kicking fuckin’ ass on Saturday, June 14 with Epica, Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden (and believe me, American actor David Hasselhoff); and topping it off with Rob Zombie, The Offspring, Bad Religion, Arch Enemy and Black Sabbath. You can take a look at the full lineup per day by clicking HERE.

As I was travelling around Austria and Eastern Europe I couldn’t attend all three days of the festival due to time and money restrictions, so this review is solely in regards to Day 2, with focus on the performances by Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden. Unfortunately (or not), I couldn’t stay later to see “The Hoff” singing the hit song Du or doing whatever he was going to do there.

NOVA ROCK FESTIVAL: Where to Stay, How to Get There and Overall Organization

If you’re planning on attending Nova Rock next year for only one or two of the three days of the festival, or if you’re not a huge fan of camping sites, the two best options available are staying in the capital Vienna (about 70km from Nickelsdorf) and driving for about one hour or taking the train to the festival, or staying in the very pleasant city of Bratislava, in Slovakia, which is only 40km from Nickelsdorf (or a quick 40-minute drive). We chose to stay in Bratislava, mainly because it was our first time in Slovakia and our chance to know that amazing city, and we do not regret that at all: it’s a lot cheaper than Vienna, the food and drinks are amazing, and it is full of breathtaking views like the one of the entire city from the top of the Bratislava Castle during the sunset.

The festival itself was very well-organized, with a huge free parking lot, good camping space, lots of different options to eat, good toilets, decent prices for the merchandise available, and more important than all that, both the blue and the red stages were set up in a way you could see and listen to everything no matter where you were. There were also lots of different activities going on, keeping the fans entertained before their favorite bands hit the stages, including a huge party zone. The only issue this year was the unbearable dust that impregnated the entire festival due to the dry and sunny weather in Nickelsdorf, which was responsible for lots of people wearing bandanas to cover their faces like if they were some kind of outlaws. Anyway, it was better than a heavy storm, especially because driving back to Bratislava all covered in mud wouldn’t have been a nice experience.

TRIVIUM

IMG_1976Because I had some sightseeing to do in the morning and part of the afternoon, I was able to get to Nova Rock only at 4pm, which means I unfortunately missed Epica (and fortunately missed Ghost). However, I was there just in time for one of the best bands of the past 10 years: American Heavy Metal band Trivium started their powerful and fun concert at around 4:30pm setting the crowd on fire, especially the ones in the front row/section. The band’s sonority was better than the last time I saw them, partially thanks to drummer Mat Madiro: he seems to be an excellent replacement for Nick Augusto, helping the band sound more cohesive with him on drums.

A constant presence in previous editions of Nova Rock, the band seemed pretty happy to be back in Austria and, with heavy and technical songs such as Strife, Black, Through Blood and Dirt and Bone and Down from the Sky, Matt Heafy and his crew delivered what in my opinion was the second best show of the day, only behind Iron Maiden. Matt said numerous times the fans were kickin’ ass at Nova Rock, which is an absolute truth, leaving the doors open for more Trivium at future editions of the festivals, maybe one day as the main attraction (and they indeed deserve that opportunity).

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitars
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

ANTHRAX

IMG_1996After a short break, American Thrash Metal icons Anthrax started their energetic show at around 6pm, showing why they have their spot in the famous “Big Four”. What an amazing performance! Mixing some old mighty classics like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time, Indians and Antisocial with songs from their latest album from 2011, Worship Music (with highlights to the fun zombie-anthem Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t), Anthrax kept a very positive energy flowing among the fans and got the recognition they deserved from everyone in the end.

Two things should be said about their performance: first of all, in regards to the band members, Joey Belladonna proved one more time why, just like Ozzy, he’s a horrible singer but an incredible frontman. The man doesn’t stop running around the stage, cheering up the fans and making the whole experience of watching Anthrax live really awesome! And Scott Ian might not be the best guitar player in the world, but he is a true Heavy Metal hero, banging his head and delivering lots of awesome heavy riffs during all songs.

And last but not least, the tribute the whole band payed to Dio (R.I.P.) and Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) with the banners and the song In the End, and the other tribute to Australian masters AC/DC in the form of a beautiful cover version of T.N.T., just proved how humble all members of Anthrax are and how much they love heavy music. Anthrax were not only an excellent warm-up for Iron Maiden, but a superb lesson in Thrash Metal for everybody at Nova Rock.

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums, percussion
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar 

AMON AMARTH

IMG_1997Then came one of the most anticipated attractions of the day for me, as I love most of their albums and it was the first time I was able to see them live, but sadly it was not as powerful as I was expecting: Swedish Melodic Death Metal warriors Amon Amarth had a very competent performance, playing some great tunes such as Father of the Wolf, Guardians of Asgaard and The Pursuit of Vikings, and Johan Hegg is becoming one of the top frontman in heavy music. However, probably due to the fatigue everyone was feeling after so many electrifying attractions that day, their concert sounded a bit tiring after a while.

I don’t know if most of the fans there were not that much into their Viking theme, but I saw lots of people simply static and some even yawning during the entire show. I would say that huge festivals are not the best place for a band like Amon Amarth, because let’s face it: singing about Vikings is not considered cool by a huge part of the society, so I’ll wait until they come to Toronto this fall during their own tour to better analyze them live. I’m pretty sure it will be a lot better than their performance at Nova Rock.

Band members
Johan Hegg – lead vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Fredrik Andersson – drums 

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_2010And at around 9pm, guess what happened? My sixth “Maiden England” concert, which was also my second one in less than a week (and of course the second of this Maiden England Tour 2014), was once again totally awesome. Because it was a festival, which means you’ll find all types of people there and not only true Maidenmaniacs, I just felt the audience wasn’t as great as in Brno, but that doesn’t mean people didn’t go crazy with classics like Aces High, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and The Trooper. Revelations was again one of the top moments in my opinion, and the energy people put into singing Fear of the Dark always reminds us why they keep it in the setlist even if lots of diehard fans want them to change it for something else.

I’m not sure if the band was running out of time or if they just wanted to end the show earlier to watch the World Cup match between England and Italy, but without any further explanation they simply removed Wrathchild from that night’s setlist. I bet it was because of the match, as Bruce was wearing a weird English white jumpsuit during Aces High and said a couple of times that we all had to get back to our tents to see England beat Italy 10-0. Well, I guess Mick Jagger is not the only jinx around.

Apart from that minor upset (I’m talking about Wrathchild, not about England losing to Italy, of course), all fans were able to witness another memorable performance from the most influential Heavy Metal band of all time, which was corroborated by everybody happily singing Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life when the concert was over. Now I really hope “Maiden England” is over (after three years) and they come back with a new album, because although I’m 100% passionate about all those classics, I also love when Bruce, Steve & Co. provide us some fresh compositions. Let’s hope they deliver us something as good as The Final Frontier, and that they keep on rockin’ all over the world with their unique and marvelous tours.

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, backing vocals
Dave Murray – guitars
Adrian Smith – guitars, backing vocals
Janick Gers – guitars
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Brno Velodrom, Brno, Czech Republic, 06/08/2014)

SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!

INTRODUCTION: The City of Brno

tour_500Finally back from my awesome trip around Eastern Europe, there couldn’t be a better way to “reignite” the moose than with a review of another flawless performance from Heavy Metal behemoths IRON MAIDEN! But before I talk about the concert itself, let me do a quick intro about the city of Brno, where Maiden played for the first time ever in their brilliant career.

With a population of almost 400,000 people, Brno is the capital of the South Moravian Region and the second largest city of the Czech Republic (Prague is the first one with 1.3 million people). This beautiful city is located about 200km from both Prague and Vienna (Austria), so it doesn’t really matter where you fly to if you don’t live in Europe and want to visit there.

And believe me, it’s definitely worth a visit: the people from Brno are very friendly and beautiful, their food is amazing, their beer is not only delicious but also very cheap, and of course, there’s a lot to do in the city such as visiting the imponent Špilberk Castle (you can have a pint of Brno’s awesome Poutník light draft beer for less than two Canadian Dollars at the pub on the top of the castle), seeing the mummies at the Capuchin Crypt and Church, or visiting the Brno Ossuary. Or maybe if you’re planning to have a very romantic dinner in the city, my suggestion is the excellent La Bouchée Restaurant. You can find some good info about the city and its hotels, attractions and events at the website Brno.me.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

IMAG2183We flew from Toronto directly to Vienna from the evening of June 7 to the morning of June 8, picked up a car at the airport, enjoyed the 2-hour drive to Brno, checked in at our hotel located only 500m from the venue (the open-air Brno Velodrom, which seemed really old and not very well-maintained from the inside), slept for about 2 hours to recover our energies, and then simply walked to the Velodrom. When we got there, Swedish Hard Rock band Ghost was already onstage, but we couldn’t care less as we’re not fans of the band nor will ever be. We really don’t get why so many people love this overrated band. Well, Ghost did exactly what we expected: despite their good instrumental, interesting lyrics and all their theatrical performance, the vocals are extremely bad and the songs sound way too boring for big venues or festivals. I wasn’t able to distinguish any of the songs from one another, so for me it sounded like a single 40-minute boring song being played all the time. Anyway, even the most diehard fans of Iron Maiden respected the band and not even a single boo was heard, which was good for the band members, but that left me wondering how cool it would have been with Anthrax instead of Ghost opening for Maiden, as it happened in previous concerts this year.

Band members
Papa Emeritus II – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists (lead guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, rhythm guitarist)

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1829It was around 9pm when, after the traditional intro with UFO’s Doctor Doctor and the video showing scenes of ice meltdown with the epic orchestral song Rising Mercury in the background, Steve, Bruce & Co. hit the stage with the classic Moonchild (by the way, the sound quality was excellent). I don’t need to say how great that was, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge festival like Rock Am Ring or a small city like Brno: Iron Maiden are ALWAYS on fire and ALWAYS deliver the most electrifying show one can ever imagine! “What a lovely evening!”, Bruce said in regards to the sunny and hot weather in Brno, with the temperatures above +35°C making it even hard to breathe sometimes. Nothing that cannot be solved with some cold beer, though.

Besides that, it was clear to me that the vast majority of the fans there were not from Brno, but from other parts of Czech Republic and major European cities like Prague, Vienna and Bratislava (as well as other distant parts of Europe like England and Finland), which means only true Maidenmaniacs attended the concert, enhancing the connection between band and fans even more. Moreover, as it already happened in 2012 and 2013, each and every all-time classic like Can I Play With Madness, The Trooper, Wasted Years and Run to the Hills didn’t let the energy down not even for a single second throughout the entire concert. Not even the limited English from most fans in the venue curbed their enthusiasm and their will to sing along all songs with the band. And what was that crazy dude on the fence with the British flag? He was 100% drunk, his T-shirt was all torn because of the fence (and I believe he was also bleeding because of that), but he was so happy seeing Maiden live that none of that could stop him from enjoying every song played. That was awesome.

IMG_1809In addition, the highlights of this concert (and of the whole Maiden England Tour 2014) were once again the thrilling masterpieces The Prisoner and Aces High, the undeniable perfection of the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and of course the three changes the band made to the setlist this year. This was my fifth “Maiden England” concert (after three in Canada in 2012 and one in Germany in 2013), and by far the best in terms of setlist: replacing Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant and Running Free by Revelations, Wrathchild and Sanctuary was an awesome move that added more power to their performance, especially the wonderful Revelations, one of my favorite Maiden songs of all time. Bruce had such an outstanding performance on this song, one of the best I’ve ever seen, that it was impossible not to get emotional with its perfect lyrics. Can someone please ask the band to NEVER remove it from the setlist again?

Talking about Bruce, he was singing A LOT better than a few days before at Rock Am Ring. For instance, during the encore it sounded like the concert was just starting, and we’re talking about very difficult songs to sing like Aces High and The Evil That Men Do. Maybe he had more time to rest until the concert at Brno, or maybe he feels more excited when it’s a smaller venue and not a huge festival? The same can be said about the other band members, especially Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain, who were both in top form even after so many years on the road. They simply love what they do, and that’s why we love them so much. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about, there are many good videos shot at the concert in Brno that you can compare with their performance at Rock Am Ring.

In summary, as the band itself always says, “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”, even if it’s as far as Brno, in the amazing Czech Republic. No one knows if Maiden will return to the city in the future for more concerts, but based on this first one and on all the beauty, peace and the enthusiastic people there, Brno truly deserves to be constantly visited by our beloved Heavy Metal giants. And if they do so in the following years, I hope I can take some days off again to witness Bruce shouting out loud “SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!” under the beautiful and clear Czech sky during one more of their superb summer tours.

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, backing vocals
Dave Murray – guitars
Adrian Smith – guitars, backing vocals
Janick Gers – guitars
Nicko McBrain – drums

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