Twisted Illusion & Friends Excite The Light Tour 2019 The Zanzibar Club, Liverpool 12/05/2019 Review By Beth Jones with nonsensical ramblings by Rick Tilley
It is a little under 5 months since we saw Twisted Illusion last, and it is safe to say a lot has happened to the band in that time, from the shock announcement of two of its three members departure, to Matt, the life blood of TI, soul searching and wondering if it was all worth it, to being on the road touring and recording the second part of the ‘Excite The Light’ Trilogy, and now, as of last Friday, becoming a band again, after the confirmation that the line up of musicians guesting on the tour have now decided that it worked so well straight away, that TI (version 2.1.1) has been born, and that this is the new line-up! We couldn’t wait to see how they were doing as a group, given the short space of time that they have been working together.
Now to start, but as a bit of an aside, I will say that I liked driving in Liverpool far more than I liked driving in Manchester, and I managed to navigate without any bus lane infringements, so already this was good! We arrived at the venue a little after the first band started, but still with enough time to get a good feel for them. A quick look around the venue let me know that it was going to be a down to earth place. It was a good old, no bells and whistles, grass roots venue, which to me is the perfect way to enjoy music. You don’t need fancy bollocks when the tunes are top quality! Anyway, enough of this – to the music!
Although we only caught two-thirds of these guys’ set, what we heard was pretty good; Gruff, chunky, and in places fairly intricate. They are quite melodic too, which I like. I am going to call it Melodic Prog Stoner Doom! They were a good way to start the night, but my only criticism is there was too long between songs. I’m nit picking, but this is one of my bug bears. I know you have to tune and stuff, but you need to fill that time or people’s attention wanders! Musically though, they know what they are doing and what sound they want to achieve.
Fresh from their amazing gigs in Russia, supporting Bullet For My Valentine, these guys were stoked for a good show. Having seen them support Twisted Illusion at Christmas last year (when they were called Equinox), we knew what they were about, and that we liked it! They didn’t disappoint! They are so full of youthful exuberance, of which we are very jealous, and they hammered straight into a full-on set, with powerful vocals, fast paced melodies, and chunky rhythms. They are a good, solid, classic hard rock band, and they make you happy. Lead singer, Dan Moran, has such a presence on stage plus pulls some spectacular faces and drummer Jess Stanley is a whirlwind of arms behind the kit! We were chatting to them afterwards and they are such awesome and humble people, and we wish them every success moving forwards.
These guys are a name who, up until three weeks ago, I hadn’t come across (Rick is familiar with the name but hadn’t seen them live before). Having now seen them twice in the space of a month we would like to report that they are blisteringly good! If Dream Theater and Linkin Park joined forces, this is what they would sound like. Incredibly intricate rhythms, modern rasping vocals, mixed with clean harmonies, and stunning solos. They do remind me a bit of Killswitch Engage, who I also love. Why these guys aren’t bigger is beyond me. And again, they are thoroughly nice chaps too – Rick very much enjoyed having a chat and sharing a fig roll with lead singer Andy Barker, after they had come off stage! I was jealous. I love fig rolls. Damn you gluten intolerance!!
After seeing these guys at Badgerfest last year, I knew they were heavy. I had found them a little too heavy for me on that occasion, but I think it might have been because it was later in the day, and I was knackered, and the sound wasn’t great. Here, I enjoyed them a lot more, and had more time to concentrate on what they were doing, which was very heavy prog metal done very well. Lead singer, Danny Daemon, is an absolute unit, who looks incredibly menacing in the mood lighting on stage! He makes guitarist Christian Hickson (also of Frozen In Shadows) look much small, which is quite an achievement! Musically though they are very, very tight and look completely at ease performing. A very good main support.
In what seemed like no time at all, we were at the pièce de résistance, and what we had all been waiting for – the new look, five-piece, Twisted Illusion. Straight away, before they even started playing, there was an air about them. They looked comfortable, relaxed, and ready to put on a show! And Christ is that what they did, right from the first note! Now, we all know that Matt Jones is a formidable front man, and that Saxon Davids can play a bit of guitar, but not having seen the newly added Cici Powell – Melkonian, Chris Jenkins and Andy Gotteri before, our mind were blown within about 30 seconds by how good they all were as individuals, but also how amazing they sounded together as a collective. This was not the sound of a band that had only had a few weeks rehearsal time, this was the sound of a band who were seasoned pros, who had lived in each other’s pockets for years, and who had more experience than any of these baby faced cherubs kicking it on the stage! This should not be possible – but yet here it was, with a sound so massive and together, it can only be described as pure raw talent, combined with a deep love and understanding of live performance, and with a bit of help from fate, to make a Utopian level musical experience. They were a bit good!!! Matt’s songs came alive with the addition of Andy’s keyboards, and Cici looked like she had been born with a bass in her hand – her skills absolutely blew us away, and her constant smile is infectious. Add to that the masterful percussion of Chris, executing the demanding rhythms to perfection, and of course the immense noodling abilities of Saxon and huge vocals of Matt, and you have the perfect recipe for putting me into a euphoric trance. I was welling up by the end of their set and was so ridiculously happy that it sounded this amazing. Better than I could ever have expected. It was like witnessing the birth of something truly special. Quite simply stunning! Rick, who felt the same, spoke to Matt afterwards, to tell him that, as a live experience, what he had just seen was, for him, right up there with the live performances of early Queensryche (circa “Operation Mindcrime”) and Rush! These guys should not be playing small venues like this, they should be touring arenas. They are that talented. The world now needs to know who Twisted Illusion are. Always remember that every huge band started in a back-street pub. The sky is the limit now guys.
That was a very, very special night and is going to take some topping! Currently, festivals aside, we have nothing on our radar that we can see coming close, until we go and witness Devin Townsend at Manchester Royal Albert Hall in December!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones, Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images https://www.facebook.com/PhotograBeeImages/
Badgerfest -The Sequel Saturday 13th October 2018 Rebellion, Manchester Review by Beth Jones
Badgerfest 2018 had been hotly anticipated here at camp Ever Metal, and so you can imagine our dismay when Rick’s illness demons reared their ugly head throughout the night before. To say he wasn’t a happy bunny was an understatement. Luckily Sian, my third man, stepped up to the plate with the enticement of taking pictures and seeing old friends again. As we headed to the venue, the weather was murky and grey, which could mean only one thing – we were in Manchester!! This was my first experience of the much talked about Rebellion venue, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at how well laid out it was. With one main area housing the main stage, then a side area housing the second stage, it was a good-sized space for an all dayer!
The one thing I love about going to a metal gig is that pretty much wherever it is, you are going to see someone you know – the metal family is much extended, but close knit, which is why it is the best family to be a part of! Today was no exception, as when we arrived, the first person we saw was a very smiley Nick Gregory (Radio Deeside), who was one of our fabulous compéres for the day, along with Steve Tottle – fully kilted up and ready to go! By the time we had got in, said our hellos and found somewhere to dump our stuff, it was time for the music to start, so we headed to the main stage, or The Mushroom Stage, as it was called. Today’s billing was going to be loud, fast and heavy as f….udge, so we had our ear plugs at the ready ( health and safety of course being our main priority here 😉!)
First up was Blackpool boys, Daybreaker. Bang! If ever anyone wants a lesson in how to be the first band on at a gig and make an impression, watch these guys! They were like a tightly coiled spring, bursting with energy and ready to set the tone for the day. Bass player Lynden was superb and had bags of stage presence. They included quiet, more toned – down middle 8 sections in a couple of songs, and this contrast worked really well. Their sound was superb, with vocals that were screamy, but not over the top and great guitar work, all kept in check by the crazy drumming of Tom, who looked like he was having some sort of episode but couldn’t half hit them bangy things well! A great start to the day. We were all now very much awake!
After a brief digest of the stonking set just delivered to us, we headed over to the second stage – The Snake Stage – covering the massive 20 foot walk in a matter of seconds! Norwich based noisy people, Hedra, had the pleasure of opening this stage for us. They had some sound tech issues to start with (more on that later) but it was sorted quickly, and they soon got into the swing of things. These guys really know how to create the full package. A quick visit to their Facebook page will show you their level of professionalism, and I really like the fact that they almost had a band uniform, black shirts with the logo and band name on – which I liked a lot – it is good to see a band thinking about their whole image, not just the sound. They are very technical rhythmically and have lots of nods to varying genres in there, most noticeably modern djent style guitars and cross beat rhythms, but with more power. Their new drummer, Shaun, smashed it, and had some sweet sounding cymbals! For me, the only criticism was the bass was a little high in the mix. My god we were in for one powerful day!
Over on the Mushroom stage, the next act, Lancashire’s Promethium, were ready to go. Rick had been sent their album earlier in the year, so we were interested to see them live. The one thing that stood out for me was the great guitar solos. Unfortunately, to me, every song sounded a bit the same. The singer was very passionate but maybe pushing too hard and it ending up sounding like he was shouting a lot of the time – maybe he couldn’t hear himself enough in the mix. The lead guitarist did have a lovely classic sound and liked a bit of wah, which is always a plus. Things picked up a bit towards the end of the set, but they didn’t blow me away sadly. Whether we caught them on a bad day, or they were having some unknown sound issues on stage, I don’t know. I need to see them again to make a proper judgement really.
Back over to the Snake Stage, for another new name to me – God Shaped Devil. One word. Yes!! This was more like it! For a start, they looked more into it, and worked really well together. They were extremely well – rehearsed but looked like they were having fun with it. They had a fantastic thrashy sound and really great vocals. The sound was much better now on this stage. Their songs were well constructed, and even though they were still heavy, they had a real good groove and excellent melodies that you could really get in to. The drummer, Luke, was having a great time thrashing out, with some cracking double bass pedal work backing up his relentless pace! The fast-paced penultimate song, ‘Deadly Sign’, was superb and really got the crowd going. I think a lot of people really appreciated their energy as there was plenty of audience participation. Every song was a big hitter, with really well thought out riffs and beginnings and endings, which can sometimes be the hardest part of song writing! Absolutely loved their performance. My band of the day!
After that amazing performance the room was buzzing, and the excited energy continued to build, for next on the Mushroom Stage was new super-group Frozen In Shadows, fronted by none other than Footprints In The Custard’s Russ Custard, and with our intrepid organiser, Mr John Badger giving his first of two performances of the day on percussion (because, why just give yourself the stress of organising an all dayer, why not chuck a bit extra in with two rounds on the stage innit!). Now, for those of you who know and love Footprints, and were expecting a comedy band, you would have been disappointed, but for those wanting something kick ass, heavy and in your face, this is most definitely for you. I had purposefully not listened to the recently released EP, as I wanted the results of this meld of minds to be a surprise….Fuck me sideways! If the day’s proceedings so far had left anyone in any doubt about what sort of music we were all there for, then that was blown out of the water with this performance! They fired straight in to the set with an insanely fast, killer song and then carried on in the same vein throughout. It was so in your face it was like being beaten with a brick, but in a brilliant way! It was full on, high octane stuff, performed by consummate professionals. Some superb drumming from John who at one point nearly lost a cymbal he was hitting it that hard! I personally couldn’t hear Russ’s vocals at times. He was using a radio mic and there were issues with feedback and getting the levels right – I don’t think the desk could get the mix right, a theme that I eluded to earlier in the review, and that would continue through the day, which I will talk more about that later! Regardless, this was the business. Start to finish. Considering this is a new project and only their second gig, it was mind-blowingly good, and whilst I love Russ’s comedy side, he has shown here that he is just an all-round great frontman!
After the crazy dose of ear porn that we had just been served, it was time for Northern heavy heads, Skeletal Damage on the Snake Stage, where none other than Footprints drummer Alex Sladen (their plan to secretly take over the world, one band at a time has been put into action, and no-one will ever find out about it unless someone says… oh, wait, what, no! Forget you read that bit!) With some very fast blast beats from Sladen, they set the pace for their performance almost as quickly as Frozen In Shadows had, however they had a very tough act to follow, after what we had all just witnessed on the Mushroom Stage. For me, they were just ok. They know what they are doing and are solid, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The connection with the audience wasn’t quite there, but I think a lot of that had to do with the space they were in, as they were good to dance to and it was crying out for a circle pit in a bigger venue!
We first saw the next band, Fractions, at Uprising 2017, when they were fairly new in their current line-up, and we were kind of undecided about them at the time – and for us there was something missing; they didn’t seem quite ready. What a difference a few months makes! It was like watching a different band! From Leicester, they bill themselves as Metalcore and Progressive, and that is now clearly evident in their writing. They gave us a full-on set of really complex tunes with intricate guitar and lots of cross rhythms throughout, with absolutely superb vocals from Christophe Hare. It was all very polished, and they seem to have grown unrecognisably in confidence since we last saw them. It was really pleasing to see the progress they have made in the last year and the strong fan base that they have. Well done lads, you have me converted! Fractions! Fractions! Fractions!!
I was in a really good mood now after that and headed back to the Snake Stage for Reprisal – from the shiny bit of the country that us lot up here call ‘The South’. They bill themselves as Brutal Thrash. They aren’t kidding!! The vocalist, Tom Johnstone, JEEEBERS!! Now there is an angry man if ever I saw one!!! Or at least his stage persona is!! They are a bloody heavy, brutally fast wall of noise, which makes you feel like a hedgehog facing up to a bulldozer! They got some in the crowd going a bit too much for my liking and things started to get a bit ugly, so I got out of there – Ross Kemp fashion. I’m only a titch and, with no photo pit, and some seriously large people all going a bit Jackie Chan behind me, I thought it was best to retreat before I got squished! Musically, it wasn’t really my bag if I’m honest. It was a bit too brutal. I do like a bit of tune with my growl! But that said, they did what they do really well, and the drummer was insane and in perfect time, which isn’t always a given with drummers!!
Next up on the Mushroom Stage, were Manchester’s own, Impavidus – with John Badger making his second appearance of the day. Before that though, it was time for our fabulous compéres, Steve and Nick to have a bit of silliness with the audience, in the shape of the renowned ‘Badger Dance’! After a quick audience training session, the whole room was jigging about to the ‘Badger Song’, and having a right old party! Great fun was had by all and it breathed a new lease of life into the crowd, just in time for Impavidus to come on and do their thing.
So, what can I say about these guys that I haven’t already. I love them. They are so good together as a band, with each member being superbly talented in their own right; and with having such a good balance of growl and clean vocals, their music is always interesting and intriguing. You never get that same old same old feel with them. I am also completely in love with Michelle and want to marry her, because her vocal ability is stunning, and she is also the nicest person you will ever meet. Sadly, one thing that I will say about this performance is sound issues, and not through any fault of the band. I have mentioned earlier in this review that I would come back to this issue, and this is the point I am going to. Up until now, there had been some issues with levels, and feedback, and not enough of one thing or another in the monitor, however this is where it got real, and unfair. During the badger dance, the main stage sound tech had disappeared, and hadn’t arrived back by the start of Impavidus’ set, leaving the booth completely unmanned, and not having turned on the stage right mic, or monitor, which was needed for Bassist Patrick McBride. Myself and Sian happened to be stood on that side of the stage, and he was not a happy bunny one little bit – and completely understandably! I had ignored most of the issues until now, because they were only small, and sorted quickly, and with live events in a venue like this, you expect there to be the occasional issue, but this was a whole different level of unprofessional in my opinion, especially considering this was the main band of the guy that has organised the whole thing and was essentially paying the sound guy’s wages! Not only was the bass player about to go apoplectic, but there were issues with feedback, and Michelle’s vocals were very low. Eventually after about three songs, the scarlet pimpernel returned and just about sorted out the sound issues. Thankfully, the band just got on with it and the crowd loved them, so much so, that at the end of the set, they chanted ‘One More Song’ until they guys came back to do a thoroughly deserved encore!
After a short delay, due to the impromptu encore on the main stage, Nick Gregory was able to very enthusiastically announce the wonderful Torqued. Having travelled 7 hours up from Devon, they were hoping for a great show and the crowd were right behind them from the very start. Yes, you’ve guessed it – today’s running theme – some sound issues to start, with gremlins in the wireless equipment, but it got sorted pretty quickly. On speaking to Bassist, Marc Cleave, briefly before hand, he had said that Rimmy, their awesome guitar megaman, was now also going to be sharing the vocals with him. This worked really well, as their voices blend very nicely together, and it added another element to their sound, which is already mightily impressive for a three piece. They are also becoming a lot tighter the more they play. I love the Bass tone that Marc uses – it is really meaty and adds a lot of depth to their sound, and with Rimmy’s solo work just making everyone a little moist, they are a proper contender for one of our stand-out bands of the year. It was a good reception from the gathered crowd too, which was great to see. By now, the venue was packed to the rafters, which is a shining success, and tantamount to the hard work that John has put into the promotion of this event.
If metal music was like car manufacturing, our next band, This Is Turin, would be the Japanese model – impeccably technically mastered and something to drool over. This was a bunch of amazingly talented people delivering a perfect set. They are heavy and industrial, unrelenting and powerful, and great to watch. The double bass pedal work was Incredible and would have most drummers salivating and crying with envy! This set was a bit of a photography nightmare with complete red lighting throughout, but it did give a great effect and tone for their performance – it was almost like a vision of hell, bathed in fire and fury. Vocalist, Darryl Jones, was really animated and got the crowd really pumped. I loved this – it was super heavy, super dark, and super technical. Well worth checking these guys out.
Back over on the Snake Stage, Manchester death metal outfit, After The Abduction were just about to start. I have to admit that I was flagging at this point and had to wimp out cos my brain was fried, but what I could hear from the beer garden was brutal as! Thankfully the beer garden was situated adjacent to the Snake Stage, so it was still possible to see and hear what was going on, and I can tell you that not only did they sound brutal, but it was packed, and the crowd was brutal! It was great to see everyone having such a good time, and again, even though their music was a bit too much for me, they were certainly pleasing the crowd.
Next up were the positive folk orchestra, Isarnos, a seven-piece outfit, including violin, hurdy gurdy, penny whistle and Irish bouzouki, who marry up folk music with metal! Holy Moly! They certainly filled the stage, and this was right up my street! Having roots in classical instruments, and having played in a folk band, I was really stoked to see these guys in action. Again, the soundman couldn’t quite keep up, with levels all over the place to start with. In fairness, the range of instruments here would make even a hardened sound tech, sweat like Satan’s armpits! But it was an extremely good merger of folk instruments and heavy, almost symphonic metal and I need to listen to more of them! My one note would be that occasional tuning issues were apparent. I’m not sure how they tuned, but it could have done with being tuned to the Hurdy, as the drone sometimes seemed a little off. But massive kudos for them to do something as epic as this, and different, but still managing to fit in so well on a day like this. I really enjoyed them, but it was a shame that the sound wasn’t great again!
Out headliners on the Snake stage were up next – Prognosis. A good dose of extreme heavy prog to close out the second stage was perfect. They were very heavy and again very technical, but a real crowd pleaser. The place was completely heaving by now, and the space on this stage was noticeably cramped. The sound was now a lot better. Yey! For anyone who likes their prog on the heavy, very technical side, these guys are definitely ones to check out, it was a great, fast paced set and a brilliant way to close out that stage.
Our final act and headliners on the night were Londoners, Divine Chaos. Three words: In another league! You could tell that these guys had been going a good while and lived for the band. They also brought with them their own sound tech, who knew exactly what he was doing and what sound the band wanted. In all honesty, he was a little too fussy, and took a bit long sorting out tech issues including the second mic, that decided it couldn’t be arsed working any more. They eventually started 30 minutes late, which I think was detrimental as the crowd thinned a little with people needing to catch last trains. But, and it is a big but, their performance was absolutely stunning!! Thrash at its very finest. It was impossible not to like them, with their great hooks, catchy riffs and superb vocals, which really got everyone moving and singing along. They were a brilliant choice as headliner and a perfect example of British Thrash at its best. Their final song was all about crowd participation, and they had the entire place singing along and waving their arms, stadium style. They brought in another level of entertainment and breathed a new lease of life into the weary crowd. This is what these events are about. Still seeing that joy on people’s faces at the end of a high-octane day. There wasn’t a single person in that room who wasn’t having a good time.
As the houselights came up and the room cleared, one thing was certain – we had all had a stunning day. Yes, there had been issues with sound, but hey, it was a great gig with some really great bands, and everyone had a fantastic time. My Absolute Highlight of the day were God Shaped Devil. A totally new name, that blew me away! I love it when this happens!!! A very close second to them were Frozen In Shadows, just for their pure power and professionalism. Hats off to John Badger for stepping up to the plate to organise it all, and to all the other people behind the scenes – the stage crew, headed up by Simon Robertshaw, our fabulous compéres, Steve Tottle and Nick Gregory, who made sure the day flowed and that everyone knew who was next; the bar staff and security staff for keeping everyone safe and stocked with beer, Michelle Adamson and Abbie Taylor et al, for manning the doors, and looking after Sian; and the sound team, who did try their best – every experience is good experience. I Cannot wait for next year! If I had one ask, it would be for a proper photo pit at the front, because I don’t want to die of being squashed in a mosh pit, unless I am in the middle of it on purpose, not by default! Thanks again for inviting us John, and a massive well done to you. We are not worthy!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.