W.A.S.P. & South of Salem – O2 Academy Bristol, 23/03/2023

WASP poster

W.A.S.P. & South of Salem
O2 Academy Bristol

Review by Simon Black
Photography By Paul Hutchings

It’s a ridiculously wet night in Bristol tonight and a sold-out Bristol Academy is taking a while to fill up thanks to the slightly paranoid approach the venue is taking of insisting everyone goes through an airport style metal detector, making me wonder if W.A.S.P. are still all that controversial after 40 years. But then Blackie’s been allegedly shot at, received countless death threats and a near miss with a tampered-with Jaguar over the decades, although I suspect it’s more likely to be a backlash against the venue than the artist. 

I can’t get into the review proper without qualifying that, but basically the O2 live organisation did nothing to deter the reputation they have earned as one that likes to wring every penny out of a crowd. Not just the obscene bar prices that one might expect from a central London venue – not out in the sticks, then there’s the subject of merchandise. The support act were the only ones selling anything, but let’s face it at £40 a shirt they weren’t going to be shifting many units when the price point is £30 for a headliner and £20-25 for the support, all of which screams of having to part with 40-50% of the take to the venue if you compare the prices to their Bandcamp page (hint). This explains why there was no W.A.S.P merch at all, as Blackie’s answer was likely to have involved two words, the second one being “Off”. 

Bournemouth’s rapidly rising South of Salem don’t hit the stage until a good hour after the doors open and most of the 1,600-capacity crowd have been standing up for a while by this point, so are more than ready for them. It’s remarkable how well this band have done in such a short time given they did not form long before lockdown, but they’ve worked hard and earned their dues, and if the performance tonight is anything to go by then it’s not hard to see why. They rocked it.

It’s not a huge stage at the best of the time, and with the headliner’s backdrops and risers taking up a lot of room the band have to carefully pick their way through the narrow space available and have their work cut out for them. But these guys know how to work a room that isn’t there to see them, and despite the lack of space throw out a huge amount of energy and passion that very quickly makes people forget the woes of entry and waiting. 

Blessed with a really good sound mix and a generous amount of lighting the songs are just what is needed tonight. Their brand of ballsy Hard Rock has been around for decades (fortunately so have most of the audience), so that process does not take long and their forty odd minute set whizzes by leaving an appreciative bunch of folks who will happily go out of the way to see them again, myself included.


This gig has been a long time coming. In fact, for me personally this is the final show in the clutch of events that have been kicked down the can a fair few times since the world first went to hell in a hand cart (and ironically enough coincided on the 3rd anniversary date of the UK entering lockdown). Blackie Lawless had the bug, and had it hard early on in January 2020, when most of the world was still not recognising what was inbound. Given that he also had malingering long-Covid symptoms for a while and is a man in his 60’s, which makes his performance tonight all the more commendable and he more than anyone else in the room is humble and happy to be here on the other side of it all.

Although advertised as a return to the blood and thunder days of the 80’s, the reality is flaming signs, drinking blood from the skulls of your PMRC enemies and throwing raw meat into the crowd are not going to happen anymore, but that doesn’t stop the band making the effort to put a proper show on without so much as a sparkler in terms of pyro. Turns out they don’t need it, and to be honest Rammstein have made all that their own now. The 19th Century side show banners evoke a darker take on the “Inside The Electric Circus” era feel they are aiming for, but the retro theatrics remain confined to a couple of back projection screens in their midst showing vintage video footage, although it’s clear that the set was designed around a much larger stage size, so the band still don’t have much space to work with. Lawless still manages to dance around nimbly – no mean feat given the amount of space the floor-stand for his infamous bones and bike parts mike stand ‘Elvis’ takes up, but it’s still a great prop and a great way of keeping the energy moving on stage.

The first thing that strikes you though is how little Lawless voice has aged. He may be a bit out of breath for his in-between song banter with the crowd, but he still hits the notes spectacularly well and all in the songs’ original keys, which is highly unusual for a band 40 years out. Again, the whole sound mix is handled brilliantly, allowing all the instruments to crisply be heard individually, with Lawless slavish drive for perfectionism making sure that all the extra sound layers and elements are audible and not just drowned out in an excessive amount of amperage. 

W.A.S.P. have always maintained a unique sound (OK, we’ll pretend “K.F.D.” didn’t happen), but it’s the distinctive songs from their 80’s heyday that always shift the audience response up a few notches live, so with a set comprising of material no older than 1992, the crowd responds accordingly with a circle pit an aging contemporary Thrash band would love to see. The set list is pure nostalgia, opening with a four-song medley and a couple of other belters from their first three albums, before changing pace completely with three tracks from “The Crimson Idol”. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I still love that album to bits, and am absolutely delighted at their inclusion, even if ‘The Idol’ still feels like it’s desperately trying to redo “The Wall” (’Comfortably Blackie’, anyone?). Nevertheless, it’s consummately delivered and still for me remains one of the most moving bits of solo guitar work ever. 

The older material finishes things off, and with ‘Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)’ getting an airing and the loudest singalong of the night – despite us all being told it would never get played again a while back. This is W.A.S.P. giving the crowd what they’ve been missing for a very long time, and that’s their money’s worth. Oh, and a nice touch to credit every musician who has contributed to W.A.S.P. over the years on their play out. The only thing I can really complain about is that the lighting really struggles to pick Blackie out, but again I suspect that’s a side effect of squeezing into such a dinky stage.

The fact that that distinctive sound has been recaptured so perfectly, was delivered so consummately as well, and with the energy from the frontman that would have been a tough delivery if he was half his age, I am left feeling with what I wanted most – a show that captured this seminal band at their best, and indeed probably better than I have ever seen them play before. 

You can catch up on a good night’s sleep, but you can’t catch up on a good night out, and this was a very, very good night out.




Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. Photography the property of Paul Hutchings. 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.

Grande Fox – Empty Nest

Empty Nest Album Cover Art

Grande Fox – Empty Nest
Release date: 19/02/2023
Running time: 41:00
Review by: Alun Jones

Thessaloniki, Greece: the home of Grande Fox, a psychedelic heavy stoner rock band who have presented us with this, their fourth released project “Empty Nest”. The band have been in existence for ten years, though they’re a new find for this listener. I was intrigued to see what sort of feast these Titans would bring to the table.

Yes, the music on offer here is essentially stoner rock, as evidenced best by the Kyuss meets Clutch thunder of ‘Backstab’ and ‘Route 99’.  There’s some swirly psychedelia on display in the calmer moments of ‘Brutal Colors’, whilst final track ‘Birth of an Embryo’ has a doomy, Pantera feel. The highlight of the album is ‘Hangman’, which features a folky blues element – the description might not entice readers, but believe me – it’s magnificent in its Dionysian glory.

So, there’s plenty of experimentation in this album, which for the most part works very well. The only exceptions being vocals that move close to rap on ‘Rottenness of Youth’ and the riff of ‘Golden Ratio’ resembling Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’ too closely. Now I love me some Rage Against the Machine, but sometimes these explorations veer too near Nu-metal for my tastes. 

Running at around 41 minutes, the only promo copy I had of the album was a YouTube video, which made it difficult to keep track of which song was which. However, despite my minor criticisms, I found “Empty Nest” to be an enjoyable and intricately crafted album. Grande Fox are certainly ones to keep an eye on: they impress with their heroics enough here that one day they could be sitting on top of Mount Olympus themselves. Yamas!       

01. Backstab
02. Rottenness of Youth
03. Hangman
04. Golden Ratio
05. Deathblow
06. Overdose
07. Brainstorm
08. Brutal Colors
09. Route 99
10. Manganite
11. Birth of an Embryo 

Nikos Berzamanis –  Frontman
Lefteris Zaoskoufis – Guitars
Dimitris Loukas – Drums
George Chaikas – Bass


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Alun Jones 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.

John Robb – The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth

John Robb – The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth

John Robb – The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth
Louder Than War Books
Release Date: 24/03/23
Review by Rick Eaglestone

Eight years in the making, author and musician John Robb explores the floorshow through smoke machines and snakebite in hand to present his new book – The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth.

Now before I begin I would like to add that what I am reviewing isn’t the final version of the book as there are still a few bats in the belfry to work on, but at this point that I will mention that at over 600 pages with photos from Mick Mercer, I am already looking forward to exploring this further and yes, I am already feeling Nostalgic as a lot of my twenties and thirties were spent with drum machines ringing through my ears (usually through Oldgoth’s famous phone headset).

The Art of Darkness revisits the early days of the smoky pulsating labyrinths where Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy provided new dark beats and although the book also delves into history and the literary world of music through the decades, it’s interweaving is very much at the books core and for me personally it was great seeing some of the contributions and acknowledgments BUT as the book started to conclude and came back to modern day – mentioning the Netflix show “Wednesday” and the like – there didn’t seem to be a mention of how the scene looks today with festivals such as Wave-Gotik-Treffen and M’era Luna still being very prominent.

The sticky floors of 90’s Slimelight, Whitby Goth Weekend and Rosetta Stone all seem to be have been omitted and yes, I absolutely have my own personal reasons for wanting to see their inclusion and I absolutely understand that this a look back through time and a lot has happened in over four decades but I can’t help but feel inclusions like this would not only be have warranted but would’ve also made me enjoy the book more, but there is no denying it is an impressive body of work nonetheless.

“The Art Of Darkness. The History Of Goth” is OUT NOW via Louder Than War Books. Order your copy at https://linktr.ee/artofdarkness


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone 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.

Leprethere – Tarnished Passion

Tarnished Passion Album Cover Art

Leprethere – Tarnished Passion
Release Date: 24/03/24
Running Time: 32:40
Review by Dark Juan

Having been mocked unmercifully by Rory Bentley in the staff Facebook chat about my preambles not being at all relevant to the bands I listen to, I have decided to cock a snook at him and continue to campaign for him to receive the triple CD Symphonic Power Metal epic we have on our review books, that NO-ONE WANTS TO TOUCH. I would have done it, but haven’t, and this is because Dark Juan feels that he really would not have the vocabulary to adequately describe the singular brilliance of such a release. Rory does and Rory really, REALLY loves Power Metal in all its forms and Dark Juan is of the opinion that Rory should have it and it will be a labour of love for him and the review will end up being a fine and transformative piece of descriptive writing, of considerable interest to the reader and absolutely informative, seeing as Rory is ENTIRELY professional and would not AT ALL compromise the excellent standards of journalistic integrity we have at Ever-Metal.com. There would be absolutely no jokes about dragons and heroes with bulging thews and sticking their battleaxe where I wouldn’t put the ferrule of an umbrella. Oh no. Not from Rory.

Today’s spinning brain-masher on Dark Juan’s Platter of Splatter™ is from Minsk, in Belarus, from two chaps called Anton and they play a rather explosive blend of Math Metal and Progressive Death Metal with a bit of dissonance chucked in for good measure. It makes for a most interesting listen indeed. 

Regular readers of the nonsense I put out and Ever-Metal.com foolishly publishes will know that Dark Juan is extremely turned on by any form of Progressive or Technical Death Metal because the combination of velocity, heaviness and sheer technical ability of the musicians (‘Worthless’ more than adequately demonstrates this, having four distinct movements in a song that lasts a mere two minutes and forty-five seconds, yet is cohesive and well written. Having an opening line of “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” is also a massive bonus) hits every pleasure centre in the lump of grey meat that serves as the brain of your favourite faux-Satanist and reduces him to a twitching, orgasmic mess in very short order. Mrs Dark Juan is very grateful for this because it means she doesn’t have to and she can get on with work. Work at this point is a fabric sculpture of a hare that she has taken a chunk out of and made it look like a geode on the inside. She asked whether she should give it a ribcage. I ran and hid.

Yes, Leprethere appear to have charmed your ersatz Metal hack somewhat. They effortlessly meld the brutality of Death Metal and the complexity of Prog and Math Metal. Think Necrophagist and Protosequence getting jiggy with Meshuggah and early Mudvayne. Now wonder what the resultant offspring would look like. I’ll wait…

Leprethere are very much a band of light and shade – for every full-on turbo nutter bastard of a song like ‘Consecration’, there’s a “slow” song in the vein of ‘Shining II‘. I really enjoyed the full bore enthusiasm of the performances on the album – it has that je ne sais quoi that lifts a record from merely competent to a labour of love. Guitar Anton flails the living fuck out of his guitar at all times, with his fractured, tortured, complex riffing forming a perfect counterpoint to the demented howling, screaming and lung-burstingly aggressive roaring from Vocal Anton, and the compositions of the songs show a worrying and complete disregard for the usual rules of tempo, rhyme and meter, such is the complexity of the songwriting. Tempo and key changes abound, the loud/quiet/ FUCKING LOUD dynamic is used to surprisingly sparing and effective… effect. Yes, I know. If you don’t tell anyone, I won’t.

Album opener ‘Shining I’ is a furious statement of intent rather than a song. It says that Leprethere are going to cudgel your brains with song structures that you need to be a member of MENSA to understand properly (there’s more than one sequence written in 13/8 time, for fuck’s sake) and simultaneously gut you with raw power. ‘Shining II’ is actually really quite reminiscent of the fucking amazing Earthtone9 and considering Dark Juan is a rabid fan of that mob of worthy British Math Metal manglers, this can be described only as a Very Good Thing. Vocal Anton’s performance also sounds not unlike the throat desecration of Karl Middleton at his finest. 

It’s safe to state that Dark Juan is a bit of a fan of Leprethere’s music then. There’s not much negative shit to report on, really, because any demerits are outweighed by the sheer good humour and enthusiasm of the two Antons and their… alarmingly vigorous performances. The sequenced drums and bass, while not annoyingly so, are very obvious and the drums are especially artificial sounding, but to be fair, there are points on this album where I am not sure a physical drummer’s meat computer would be able to cope. However, Dark Juan is a fan of drum machines in music simply because they can take you into realms of musical insanity that human drummers can’t. See Godflesh and the Sisters Of Mercy and Necrophagist. Leprethere take Death Metal to new levels of hypertechnical ecstasy and then sustain it, seemingly with ease. The production of the record is actually pretty decent for a self-released album. The vocals are not overpowered by the spasmodic St. Vitus Dance of the music and the guitar(s) are decently produced and the overall sound of the album has a warm quality that hints threateningly at further dangers within – like the gates of Hell. My only complaint is that the cymbals are too low in the mix and they are frequently overpowered by rapid-fire thumping from the floor tom. The guitars are well mixed though and flit around the mix in a predatory fashion, moving from ear to ear and then smacking you right in the centre of the forehead before slinking away to lurk menacingly around the edges of the sound.

One can only hope that we hear much more from Leprethere in the future.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Запатэнтаваная сістэма ацэнкі пырскаў крыві Dark Juan для ўсіх нашых беларускіх сяброў) awards Leprethere 9/10 for an excellent record with jaw-dropping complexity and more than adequate firepower.

01. Shining I
02. Shining II
03. Shining III
04. Aftermath
05. Worthless
06. Collapse
07. Adoration
08. Consecration
09. Tarnished Passion

Anton Berezovskiy – Guitar
Anton Bandarenka – Vocal


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan 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.

Morass of Molasses – End of All We Know

End of All We Know Album Cover Art

Morass of Molasses – End of All We Know
Ripple Music
Release Date: 24/03/23
Running Time: 37:00
Review by Paul Hutchings

If you’ve ever seen Morass of Molasses live, you’ll know that it’s an intoxicating experience. The heavy blues riffs that the band purvey with such ease are mesmerising. Their laidback style disguises an underlying quality which here, on their third full-length album, is laid bare for all to see and hear. It’s no surprise to find that this 37-minute trip is another journey into space and time, a pleasing excursion that ebbs and flows with thick riffs contrasting with gentler passages and melancholic reflection. 

There’s a confidence that oozes through Bones Huse, Phil Williams and Raj Puni. Tours with Orange Goblin, Crowbar and Elephant Tree as well as appearances at Bloodstock and HRH Doom vs Stoner have honed the band’s technical approach, and their ability to make genuine, heart-felt music is evident here. With the use of flute on the likes of Terra Nova, the band have expanded their soundscape, providing a sonic sweep that embraces all aspects of their heavy stoner and swamp music. Not bad for a band from Reading. 

“End of All We Know” opens with the heavy groove of ‘The Origin of the North’. It’s a swaying intoxication which draws on a real seventies’ vibe, the retro feels given full head. Close your eyes and sway as the music envelopes, drawing you deep before all power is temporarily cut for a gentle interlude, before the chaos intensifies. 

Whilst Morass of Molasses stick to a relatively similar style in terms of delivery, with Bones Huse’s vocal style very much following a pattern, it’s the content of what they do that works best. The heavy riffs dominate, whilst Huse is most comfortable with his frantic, rage-filled roars that erupt in the most unlikely moments. The dual guitar work is delicate at times, whilst letting loose on others to explode in a crazed, kaleidoscopic carnival of aural colours. 

Songs like ‘Sinkhole’, the jagged edge of ‘Naysayer’ with its compelling hook and psychedelic leanings and the trippy explorative ‘Terra Nova’ with added flute all add to the overall experience. Closing track ‘Wings of Reverie’ shows the band’s calmer side, although you are left anticipating the crunching riff which inevitably crashes back in. It’s a bit of a curved ball, a melodic trip that ebbs and flows, with Williams delivering some beautiful lead guitar work. It’s a fine finale to another solidly good album by one of the UK’s underrated bands. Crushing doom, raging metal, psychedelic and trippy, it’s all here, wrapped up with a huge sludgy sound that compliments the avalanche of riffs that fall.  

“End of All We Know” builds on the discography that Morass of Molasses have created and stands comfortably alongside debut album “These Paths We Tread” and sophomore release “The Ties That Bind”. The sweeping dynamic that they create is substantial, unique, and absorbing. I fully recommend you dive in deep… And enjoy the journey. 

01. The Origin of North
02. Hellfayre
03. Sinkhole
04. Naysayer 
05. Slingshot Around the Sun 
06.Terra Nova
07. Prima Materia
08. Wings of Reverie

Bones Huse – Vocals & Baritone Guitar
Phil Williams – Lead Guitar 
Raj Puni – Drums & Vocals 


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings 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.

“If Music Is Such Big Business, How Come I’m So Skint?”

“If Music Is Such Big Business, How Come I’m So Skint?”
Some Thoughts on the History of the Music Business, and Why Nothing Has Really Changed Since the 20th Century.
By Simon Black

“If Music Is Such Big Business, How Come I’m So Skint?” I hear comments like this from many of my peers these days (although often more fruitily worded), many of whom, like me, have been involved in the music business in some way for most of their adult lives. Of the people on my social media feed for example, I would say that applies to about two thirds of them. Of that number, only about 10% actually seem to make any kind of consistent living out of this game. Of them, only a smaller handful of them you may ever have actually heard of in Rock and Metal circles as either fellow writers, musicians or producers. They may be successful in their fields, but they are far from rich and have known both feast and famine in their years. The majority however either struggle on or above the bread line, or actually make a living doing something completely different (as indeed do I).

That is insane when you consider the size of the music industry….

So, You Wanna Be A Rock Star…?

According to Statista, the Global Music Industry had a whopping global 28.8 billion US Dollar turnover in 2021 (2022 has yet to be published as of today), of which $18.5 billion of those are from streaming revenues, but leaving a still fairly sizeable $10.3 billion of revenue from touring, physical media sales, merchandise, TV rights and publishing royalties. There are whole countries out there with smaller Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures than that, yet most musicians struggle to make even a basic living no matter how many times you stream their music. Then there’s the army of publicists, labels big and small, pressing firms, publishing houses, managers, music publishers, venues and crews out there, although to be fair most of them seem to do better than the actual musicians around whom everything depends, because unfortunately that’s because the whole deck is stacked against the poor bastards.

Nothing illustrates the plight of many professional musicians more than the heart-warmingly tragi-comic 2008 documentary movie “The Story of Anvil”. Coming across here as a real life example of “This Is Spinal Tap”, this Canadian band have been grinding at this for over forty years and while quite influential in their early days, only really started to get any traction after this film was released and people started taking them a little more seriously. In the intervening time they have produced endless albums at great expense (that no-one really bought), toured the toilet venues of the world (for bowls of goulash as fees) and all this funded by blue collar day jobs and using every day of annual leave (and no doubt a fair few unpaid ones) to continue to strive for their dream. 

It’s funny; it’s sad. But in reality, they are far from alone…

The Privilege & Plight Of Music Journalism

A slight diversion if you will indulge me. It is relevant…

I never intended to be a writer, but it’s something that I have done off and on for what will be thirty years in 2023. I am conscious that I get to hear a lot of new music for free, to watch live shows for free, to talk to bands in person, yet I do not receive a single penny for the many hours of work that goes into turning that content into the words you read.

It started as a means to keep busy during breaks in my day job, which back in the early 90’s meant working as a lighting contractor for a number of lighting hire firms doing band tours, TV and theatre work on a freelance basis. That didn’t always pay the bills, so in between gigs I would DJ at various Rock pub and club nights around the East Midlands in the UK, dabbled at being a promoter and wrote pieces for a long defunct free regional music paper (which survived on advertising revenue alone), before starting my own music web page back when that was still a real novelty. During this time, I had somehow managed to buy a house. Sadly, I couldn’t actually afford to live in it, so rented it out as a student let and limped back to my mum’s with my tail between my legs until times got better. 

As far as the music side of my early career went, they  didn’t. 

Eventually an ‘in-desperation’ full time job in IT support grew legs and turned into a proper career. Like many, I left all things musical behind at the grand age of twenty-seven, realising that I was never going to make a living from it. That was over twenty-five years ago, and it seems like very little has changed in the intervening years since I was persuaded to start writing again by a good friend who runs another music site. I’m lucky that IT does indeed pay the bills, and so I now do this for fun when I have spare time, and because I would probably only blow all the spare cash I had from the day job on music and gigs anyway…

I recently read Jason Arnopp’s excellent “From The Front Lines of Rock” and it was most insightful about how very different his experiences as a journalist for Kerrang! at the tail end of the glory days was from my own experiences as a writer around the same time. The book reprints a number of features and interviews Arnopp conducted for the magazine in the previous century, and although he himself was joining in at the point where the tide of excess was starting to turn, it’s still an amazing peek into how life at the top end of the music writing profession was lived back then. Many of these features were the product of all-expenses trips from his modest flat in London to far-flung places such as L.A., paid for by record labels out of their PR budgets, with non-steerage class flights, luxurious hotels and liberal expenses. Oh, and of course gigs, interview slots and hang-out time with some of the absolute stars of the day at a time when being a rock star actually meant this kind of lifestyle was possible (even if, as the artist, the eye-watering bill for all this would eventually be laid at your door and as the jobbing recipient of all this expenditure, your actual paid salary and standard of accommodation fell someway behind that of the trips). 

Needless to say, although Arnopp was a peer when we were both writing in the 90’s, someone I would talk to over a pint when we met at gigs through our shared love of music and Doctor Who, that wasn’t how those of us in the free publication end of things lived. This is important, because the music business is very much a tiered hierarchy then and now. Jason was then and is now a thoroughly nice guy, as well as a damned fine writer, but some of his colleagues from the big papers very much looked down their noses at people like me at the time, not because of my abilities as a writer but because I, an upstart from a free regional paper, was even allowed to rub shoulders with them. But then the times were a’changin’ in the 90’s.

Sadly, that attitude still prevails throughout the business, whatever you do within it. Many have clawed themselves out of the crowded lower rungs the hard way and are wary of anyone who hasn’t. If you are in the top tier, you’re in the club; if you are not in the top tier, watch your back. And that’s just us journos – what about the poor artistes?

Screwed, Blued and Tattooed

My first inclination at just how rigged the system was (and still is) came not long before I walked away from it all. A friend loaned me a book to read that I have been trying to track down ever since by a member of the Manfred Mann band (and whose title eludes me despite much Googling). It wasn’t a long book, but alongside all the anecdotes about electrified mic stands and backstage ‘doctors’ dishing uppers and downers to align worn out bodies to show times, it basically outlined how all the finances worked in the business and how little the percentage an artist received actually was. And this was at a time when there was comparatively a lot of money sloshing around the actual musicians in the 70’s and 80’s for physical copies of their recorded output. The numbers went something like this:

An artiste having worked themselves out of the mire of the underground scene and achieved notice is spotted by an A&R talent scout, gets signed to a major record label and gets an advance on their future earnings. Let’s say that sum is £20,000 (a fortune for most musicians in the 1980’s). They give up their day jobs, turn professional and set about writing and recording an album. 

They’re gonna be Rock stars… 

That deal is for something like 13% of future sales for the artiste. “Hey”, thinks the artiste, “We’re on the gravy train here” and goes crazy ape bonkers in the studio and replacing clapped out music gear, not understanding what the 13% was actually of. 

That 13% was the per unit sale cost of the artiste’s product. Now most musicians think that their ‘product’ was something that sold for upwards of £10 in a record shop in those halcyon days, and whilst not a huge slice, 13% of that price times by how ever many hundreds of thousands of disks they dreamed of selling seemed like a huge improvement on splitting £30 between six of you after a gig (minus van hire cost, petrol, a few beers and a bag of chips to share on the way home).

It was anything but…

To keep the calculations simple, I will ignore taxation and VAT (but they always came along and usually were the final nail in the coffin). What it actually was equaled 13% of what the label sold the product for, which was nowhere close to the retail price you and I would have paid then. That’s because labels sold to distribution companies; distribution companies then sold on to retailers. The label’s price to the distributor was actually only about £1 a unit for an album back then. The distributor, with all the costs of warehousing and delivery would then probably crank that up to about £5 a unit as the price to retailers, who would then double up again for Joe Public. So, the label kept 87% of that original unit price, the rest going to the artiste – all 13 pence of it. 

The artiste was being shafted straight away here, because what they won’t have known is that both the label and the distribution company would have actually been different legal entities of the same parent company, which means whilst the unit price may have quintupled before it got to the retailer, effectively the same parent company has taken £4.87 of the total middleman price, whilst the artist still only had 13 pence a pop.

As if that was not bad enough, the label then deducted any costs against the artiste’s account (such as advances or paying for journalists to swan around the globe in business class) and whatever was left would be sent to the artiste’s manager. Here’s an example:

The manager would then deduct their fee (usually about 15%) and any costs, and whatever was left would be divided between the band members. Oh, and that’s pre-tax, just to rub it in. This is how artistes could be selling millions of units and still have no money from the sales of their music or, more likely wind up in debt to the label if it bombed. If you’ve ever seen the mockumentary “More Bad News” when the band realise that they’re paying for an army of people working to film their music video and start running around eating every bit of food from the caterers you may have laughed hard, but I can guarantee every band with a major label deal in the 70’s and 80’s will have had a similar experience at some point.

Fortunately, the musicians had things like music publishing and merchandise as additional revenue streams, but if they had been unwise enough to let the label steer them to their preferred choice of publisher, merchandiser and indeed manager then they could be well and truly screwed if all those dotted lines led eventually back to the same parent holding company as the label and distributor. This is why so many bands folded under the pressure of ‘musical differences’ and debt to the label and their management company, along with a huge back tax and VAT bill, declared bankruptcy and got a job in a factory. 

“But that was thirty years ago” I hear you say? In reality, nothing much has changed other than the way the product is consumed and the addition of another skimmer of the pot in the form of the streaming platforms, who make the 13p a unit revenue look like the glory days compared to the pittance they pay an artist per play currently. More about them later…

The Green Shoots Of Hope – Independent Labels In The 90’s

Most of the above relates to the way things were structured in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I was growing up, and during that time little changed apart from a few slight tweaks to the type of plastic commodity people were physically buying. Digital downloads didn’t become a thing until this century, but the 1990’s did see a massive shift in the commercial landscape due to the rise of the Independent (or Indie) record label. To be fair this couldn’t really have happened without the arrival of the Compact Disc (CD) the previous decade, as suddenly not only was there a cheaper and physically smaller means of consumption available, but the ability to press them was no longer the exclusive purview of the major labels and their giant record pressing plants. Literally anyone with a personal computer could start cutting their own disks (albeit at a really slow rate of production) but also the machinery to press them in higher volumes was comparatively cheaper to purchase than the sheer amount of space and machinery you needed for the equivalent for vinyl. 

This meant smaller labels were able to start pressing themselves with lower costs of entry for the hardware, and suddenly bands had a lot more options to choose from with regard to where they took their music. For a few thousand pounds of outlay, pressing machines with faster rates of production were commercially available, meaning smaller labels could produce small batches on demand without risking getting stuck with huge amounts of unsold product if an album didn’t sell well.

Not only that, but being smaller operations started in the main by entrepreneurial music fans who had felt squeezed out by the business tactics of their larger rival, they not only had a point to prove but generally offered their much smaller roster of artistes much more personal attention and significantly more generous royalties. This varied enormously but offering the band up to 50% of the product unit sale amount was a huge improvement on 13 pence. In addition, quite a few of them either managed their own distribution (and therefore gave the band a bigger slice anyway by cutting out the artificial middleman) or worked through specialist distributors who worked only with small independent labels and were doing so in a more co-operative model. Going further, the more entrepreneurial bands might choose to do all of this themselves and capitalise on the enthusiasm of a receptive crowd by selling a couple of boxes of CD’s after a gig…

The major labels dealt with this sudden threat of new entrants to their closed shop marketplace in the way they always have and will in three ways. Firstly, they ignored it. Well, up until it became impossible to ignore them that is. A good example of the watershed moment in the UK was when Britpop band Oasis, signed to independent Creation Records suddenly became the biggest things since sliced bread in the charts. Secondly, they tried to flex their muscles and shut them down by bully boy business tactics. This meant upscaling their investment in marketing for whatever equivalents they had on their roster who suddenly found themselves getting a huge amount of attention. 

Now in principle this is fine, but your average music fan is a discerning beast, especially in non-Pop circles, and can spot a fake construct band drowning in hype a mile away. Market forces win out when it comes to live show reactions and what that used to do to record sales in those days. Consequently, despite the cash outlay, the major label competition wasn’t denting the sales of the independents, leaving these big label executives to scratch their heads, and the poor artists in the middle of it to wonder how the hell they were going to pay for the huge marketing deduction from non-existent sales. 

Thirdly and finally, they went on a spending spree. The back end of the 90’s saw many of these small labels snapped up for huge sums by the bigger labels, their owners suddenly found themselves sitting on significant lump sum buyouts and, if they wanted them, Executive positions of the now subsidiary label on the boards of the majors. If they didn’t fancy the latter, they could always start again with that handy sum of cash. 

Rinse and repeat… well, until the world truly changed that is.

Oh Great, it’s The Internet… Oh F*ck, it’s the Internet…

As someone who created one of the first internet Music mags back in 1995, I can tell you for a fact that the behaviour of the labels was a variant on the way they reacted to the independents. It started as an idea for an online version of the free paper I was regional editor for, but that didn’t appeal to the editor owner. This chap to be fair was a bit of a luddite and a technophobe, who scorned desktop publishing software in favour of big sheets of A2 paper and a big jar of glue to paste his pages ready for the printers. In addition, I suspected that part of the magazine’s raison d’être was actually to get away from his family for three weeks out of every four delivering the physical paper copies of the mag, collecting advertising monies in cash, going to gigs and getting hammered, so the thought of an online version left him cold. I went ahead and did my own thing anyway, and his magazine did not survive the decade, because you can’t fight the future.

Now to be fair my site was really, really basic by today’s standards. These were the salad days of the internet, when it first started moving out of the labs and universities of the world and those few people with MS-DOS or early Windows based Personal computers started dialling into the internet on noisy modems and with download speeds that make remote mobile network coverage today comparable with a direct fibre connection. The point is the mobile phone was still a novelty the size of a brick at this point, and the smart phones, tablets and home laptops most people use today were a long way off, so the internet was still very much a niche thing, but clearly the direction of travel.

A few CD reviews, some gig reviews with photos courtesy of my then partner (very limited because of the way download speeds were back then) and a few interviews was the limit of the site, but there really was no-one else doing it, as music journalism still firmly belonged in print and audio-visual domains. As a DJ, journalist and occasional talent scout prior to that, I knew a fair number of people in press and A&R departments back then and attempted to use that to schmooze my new, funky online thing in through the doors and start getting CDs, gig guest invites and interviews to publish, because that was and is the whole way the business worked. It was new, and it was funky, so that must be cool, so the CDs came through the letterbox, our names were on the guest lists at gigs up and down the area for reviews and interviews. 

Then one day it all just suddenly stopped. The .mp3 file had arrived…

Let’s Get Digital, Baby…

Music piracy has been around since music publishing in any form enabled wider circulation. Go back far enough in history, and you will find tales of composers furious thanks to the 15th Century invention of the Gutenberg printing press meant almost anything could be printed and circulated both by the artist and their parasites. Music composers naturally wanted to earn a crust selling copies of their work, and did, but that meant there was always someone not far away with access to the same tech able to do a knock off version and make a fast groat or two. And so it has continued ever since. 

The .mp3 was a game changer though, as we all can tell with the benefit of historical hindsight. Around the time I had really started to get somewhere with my website, Napster and the other peer-to-peer file sharing sites happened. All PC’s had CD drives in those days (as that was how you got software on them) and that meant a small piece of software could quickly digitise a purchased CD into a digital version without all that endless mucking about changing pieces of plastic around when you wanted to listen to something else. You can see the attraction – a hard drive the physical size of two or three CD boxes tucked inside your computer could now hold the contents of a couple of hundred of them. Starting in the university community, where students usually had access to decent bandwidth networks before anyone else did, the file sharing sites sprang up everywhere. Users could upload their meagre collections of CD’s and download what everyone else had posted, and suddenly they were filling up their hard drives with everything they could get their hands on, regardless of whether they actually got around to listening to them. 

Now the reality was that for most PC users without access to a decent network, the cripplingly slow download speeds for dial-up users in the pre-broadband age (that only arrived in 2000 here in the UK) meant that it would take longer to download the latest Metallica opus than it would to catch a bus into your nearest record store and buy one as well as bumping up the cost of your phone bill by a pretty penny, but the times were a changin’ and the labels started shitting bricks at the thought that people might stop buying their physical products completely and download them for absolutely nothing. They panicked, went straight to stage two and refused to engage with anything to do with the internet for quite a few years. My site was included even though I was there to promote and help them sell stuff, but to be honest by then I had started to move away from the whole business, and so left them to it.

You can’t stop progress and the axiom “If you can’t beat them join them” finally dawned on the execs. Eventually the labels realised they had to engage and monetise this before someone else did and they were wiped out, so threw their weight behind the emerging digital stores such as Apple, focussed on copy protection through Digital Rights Management (DRM) and how they could make a buck.

The Fall of the Physical Product

Once the technology caught up and downloading became a realistic possibility, most people needed something to play it on, and at this point Apple changed the world in 2001 with their iPod – a portable device that could hold several GB of music and fit in your pocket, which was a lot easier than lugging a laptop around on the tube. Intended to be the portable player only for the songs purchased on their music store, these devices were a challenge to get material not bought from Apple onto their using the much-maligned iTunes application, but with the cat out of the bag it was not long before competitors entered the market with products that worked with a simple copy and paste in Windows. Eventually the smart phone merged these functions as applications and still holds the dominant position today, but from the early days the labels now had a storefront to sell their digital versions of music on without the need for the middleman distributor. 

The product retailed at a slightly lower price for the end user to encourage the uptake to this new platform with non-existent production and distribution costs, with the two big co-operating corporations continuing to take a massive slice of the pie. The artist still got their meagre sliver of course, but of a much-reduced pie, because for every person legitimately buying a copy from the Apple or the equivalent store, there were probably half a dozen sharing a ripped version via external drives. Some unsigned acts might also be able to sell .mp3 versions directly for users to buy of course, and did, but without the sophisticated DRM protection the likes of Apple used meant that one legitimate purchase could very quickly be shared more widely.

For once, the technology had actually shifted in favour of the user. The labels survived and adapted of course, despite being burned but the artists continued to receive a pittance from legitimate sales, which were now a fraction of the volume of material actually in circulation and therefore much diminished. 

More Technology = More Bands, Right?

As a side effect of everyone having computer power and cheap and easily accessible software, it also became possible for bands to go it alone. This has proven to be both positive and negative ultimately. If you are a band just getting off the starting blocks, suddenly the possibility of being able to record music to a professional standard without the need for expensive production costs was a very real possibility. From the perspective of the underground scene this has been hugely positive, allowing bands to pull together demos for labels and to have something to sell at shows without having to risk getting ripped off by anyone, with the upside that every penny came straight back to them. 

To put in perspective, in the 70’s and 80’s here in the UK it was really hard for a band to claw their way out of the underground, particularly if they wanted to play original material and that meant slogging things out the hard way, forking out a fortune to do showcase slots in London because that’s where the press and labels were based, forking out for decent demo and grinding at it until you either succeeded or folded, and a great many more folded than succeeded. With the ability to record and distribute suddenly available at home inexpensively, and with journalists shifting away from print to online in the 2000’s it suddenly meant that getting noticed was a lot, lot easier. 

Making a living however, suddenly became a lot, lot harder.

With most of the money from music sales shifting online, and shrinking, bands had to start making their live offerings worthy of note. Shows meant people, and a successful show meant merchandise sales, and suddenly this became far more important than the sales of the music, which is probably just as well given what was around the corner. Everyone thinks this was a post-millennial phenomenon, but wise owl Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood spotted this twenty years previously, which is why Iron Maiden made and continue to make a fortune from shows and the shit-tonne of shirts they sell at them regardless of music sales or streams. The rest of you are just catching up…

The ease of recording and increase in market size has a downside though. There was a huge explosion in the sheer number of acts out there, and this has not meant an increase in the overall size of the market, but a dilution of the amount of money it can generate amongst a much larger selection of bands. More artists competing from a smaller share of the pot means less to go round, and guess who loses out?

No Matter How Many Times Your Band Gets Streamed, Joe Rogan Gets Paid…

Almost overnight the digital album died a death at the start of the 20th Century, mere months after it liberated us, because after all for the consumer why would you continue to pay £9.99 for each album you bought when for the same amount you could have access to an unlimited selection of music? Streaming platforms literally changed the world once again, but as always little changed for the artists.

There’s been a huge amount of debate about how little of the revenue generated by streaming platforms in recent years end up with the actual musicians (that’s $18.5 billion remember in 2021). Whilst I welcome the debate and the fact that the issue is now widely known, I do wish people would get their facts right. 

In 2021, the rights paid to the actual artist per stream had been estimated at about $0.0033 to $0.0054, which at the lower end of that spectrum means that you need to have had 303 plays of a song before you literally would see a penny of that (before tax). Then you have to remember what actually counts as a stream. If you don’t play more than the first thirty seconds of a song, it does not count, and for the purposes of stream revenue you have to divide the consumers into two groups anyway.

The first group are those that pay actually for the monthly charges. The second are those who listen to these platforms for free and have to put up with constant advertisement interruptions, which used to be a bearable twenty seconds every third or fourth track, but now come thick and fast and mid-song, just before that really neat guitar solo you’ve been waiting for. In reality, the second group doesn’t really count for streaming number purposes, as that model is actually funded by the advertisers, so they are effectively paying the streamers on your behalf. Plus, it’s so off-putting most people abandon it very quickly, so statistically it’s so small a percentage of the streaming volume as to not count.

So, the people paying the monthly platform fees are the ones most weighted in the numbers, and no doubt the source of the size of the pot used for the per stream calculation that is so often erroneously bandied about. Whilst translating a problem into such a literal model, this calculation is doing more harm than good. Although it has spawned a whole barrage of debate around upping that number to a more generous model per play, in reality the way the revenues work for the artist is not by actual stream at all. That is because the labels and the streaming platforms have the whole deal sewn up nicely between them, with the artist having very little say in it, with the problem being different depending on whether you are signed to a label or independent.

If you are a truly independent unsigned act, then just loading stuff up yourself would seem to be the way forward, but there is a cost to that for them. If you take Spotify as an example, then the platform proudly claims that they do not charge artists to upload their material, but there’s a catch. Currently you cannot do this yourself without a digital distributor such as DistroKid or TuneCore. This is allegedly for formatting and technical reasons, but in reality it’s because limiting the access means more opportunity to throttle the revenues. $29.99 is what it will cost you to upload an album that way, so you need 10,000 streams before you’re in the black. Needless to say, for unsigned acts that amount of streams is as far away a target as headlining Wembley stadium, so many acts work through independent or major labels and there lies the rub.

The model for the labels is very different to the concept of the per stream payment most people think is in place. In reality Spotify pays the rightsholder the per stream revenue for both recording and publishing royalties. It’s there in black and white on their Spotify For Artists page (https://artists.spotify.com/en/help/article/royalties) and whilst that applies to both premium or ad-supported revenue customers, the reality is it’s the same business model for the artist as ever was. Spotify pay 70% of that revenue to the rightsholder, and the rights holder pays the artist according to the contract between them. Whilst I can’t quantify a percentage royalty rate labels use currently, I know from my peers how little this translates into actual artist income, because let’s face it never has and the 13% model of latter decades is remembered fondly in comparison.

Then you have to remember that the 70% revenue figure they laud will actually refer to 70% after costs. Now you might think that for a product that costs peanuts to upload, then that would be a big slice to divide up, but then you have to remember what else the platform will count as costs. It’s 5-6000 staff on the payroll for a start, then all the development costs for the tool and its various apps, its hosting costs, and any charges the likes of Apple or Google charge for making that app available on their App stores and let’s not forget the huge wedges of cash they pay for exclusivity rights to certain artists who can only be found on their platform. Which is why no matter how many times you stream the new Obituary album, Joe Rogan is actually the one getting paid…

DIY or Die

For many acts the only way to make this work is to do everything yourself. But that’s a full-time job in itself and one that needs to be balanced against the dwindling opportunities for revenue. I can think of a few acts who have been very successful of late whilst still remaining fiercely independent. Dragging yourself up by the bootstraps as a band takes time. You’ve got to get a band together, write stuff, tour stuff and people need to like it. Then you need to keep that up to have a hope at longevity, and that means being in it for the long haul.

If you are starting out here in the UK, maybe you will get lucky and win a regional round of Bloodstock’s highly lauded Metal To The Masses competition and get a slot on the New Blood stage at the festival. Maybe you will use that as a springboard, and get your ten best songs down on record, press a pile of them to sell and get out on every support slot you can get up and down the country until people start showing up just to see you. Bear in mind that once you get to that point of being a headliner, you won’t be able to tour too often without a fresh record, so many acts who get into this do so on a three to four year cycle of write record, tour album, play festivals and repeat. And that’s if you’ve got an audience. Then you need to learn the art of working with promoters, being technical experts on your stage, backline, sound and lighting requirements (plus someone you  trust in tow to man them), becoming your own PR machine, or paying a PR firm to do it for you (which needs so much monitoring it’s sometimes better to just do it yourself), running your own website and social media accounts, designing, ordering, marketing and distributing merchandise, doing interviews and occasionally eating and sleeping.

Most can’t do it without a full-time job behind them, and the challenge then comes even if they can all keep at it with family commitments and the like sustainably, they can’t break the glass ceiling to the next level of European break out without going out on the road doing the toilet graveyard support slots for a year to break each territory without staying away from your home market for too long. Then everything listed above scales up even more, with the added complexity of no longer being in the EU. The reality is they don’t, so getting signed is the only way to reach those audiences, and we all know how the cards are stacked there.

You do have to ask yourselves why they continue to actually do this?

Who Is Responsible For This Mess?

The answer is everyone is. 

You, me, them, every one of us at any level of the business or in consumption of it is in some way contributing to the situation and maintaining the status quo. But the biggest blame probably lies elsewhere. The music industry is a business. It exists to make money and nothing else. They offer us products and services; we buy them. Whilst we continue to pay for what they offer and for them to make money out of it, they will continue to deliver. If we stop buying (as you can see from some of the examples above), the business reacts until it can find a way to make money out of the new paradigm shift.

The trouble is at the bottom of the stack is the actual musician, who writes, records and tours this stuff we all pay for, and seems to get the rawest deal unless they manage to claw their way up the greasiest of poles to a level of success when the business has to be more reasonable. The business is there to make money; the musician just wants to make music, and that’s where the real problem is, because the whole of the business knows that and has created a toxic shark pool ecosystem where success, recognition and money are there but always tantalisingly out of reach for all but the chosen few. 

Musicians bust a gut to achieve this, and if they don’t, they soon burn out and are left on the scrap heap because there’s always some other new starry eyed naïve set of fools sitting behind them waiting to take their place. And woe betide you if, when you are only part way on the journey to success, that you make the mistake of trying to negotiate something marginally better for yourself. The business will just bury you and accelerate your demise, because there’s always more waiting, desperate to get a foot in the door.

As long as musicians and everyone else in the game is complicit and allows this to happen, then it will continue. So yes, it’s your fault. And mine, for taking the free music and like a mug giving up my free time to write this stuff for no money. You for not bothering to go to that underground gig, for not buying stuff direct from the band, for ignoring the merch stall at a gig or trusting that because you paid your streaming fees you were doing your bit. The labels for absolutely ruthlessly screwing the bejesus out of the weakest link in the chain, along with every one of their little helpers.

And yes, the musicians, for letting us all get away with it.

Disclaimer: This article is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this article, 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.

Infernal Tyrant – Winter EP

Winter EP Cover Art

Infernal Tyrant – Winter EP
Release Date: 13/03/23
Running Time: 13:00
Review by Paul Hutchings

In a world where contemporary music has increased in quality, the occasional bit of rough gets through the filter. Finding out a bit about new bands is always helpful, so when an EPK is almost non-existent, the temptation is to sling it in the bin and move on to the next one. Apparently, this EP is the first of four that Infernal Tyrant are threatening to inflict on us in 2023. Jesus H Christ! That’s the worst threat I’ve had since a run in with a local dealer who threatened to burn down my house a few months ago. 

I know truly little about Infernal Tyrant. Their Facebook page describes them as a two-man desktop power thrash project. That is it. Assuming that this is a DIY outfit home producing gives them a couple of points for effort, but that’s about all. The production damages the sound to the extent that it’s almost unlistenable. The opening song, ‘Project Chaos’ is sloppy, ragged, and struggles from start to finish. It’s routine in the extreme, with the vocals struggling in the mix. In fact, I had to clean my ears to check I wasn’t suffering hearing loss, such is the muffled sound. Some decent guitar work is buried deep within the track, but overall, it’s uninspiring. 

If you thought the opener was a struggle, the tin pots drum sound of ‘Path of Peace’ which follows makes ‘Project Chaos’ sound like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Where to start with this one? Vocally it’s a strain to listen to, mainly because the singing just isn’t good. The production obviously hasn’t improved; if anything, it’s deteriorated, and you realise that the joy of the first song is that it was half the length of this one. For there is nothing to inspire. The song is all over the place, the time changes don’t flow, and it sounds like a garage band where each member is playing a different song. 

I struggled to get to the final track but hit play with some trepidation. This is a re-recorded version of ‘Call from Beyond’, so one can only imagine what the original was like. It’s clunky, amateurish and brings nothing new to the table. If you can get through it without laughing, then you are a better person than me. Let us be honest, it is dreadful. 

I am loath to write scathing reviews. Few bands deserve such a mauling. Infernal Tyrant are no doubt genuine musicians and for that I applaud them. It’s just that this music is not very good. And I’m here to point out that just as much as I am to eulogise about perfectly crafted albums. If this band come back to haunt me in a couple of years, I’m ready for it. I wish them all the best, but “Winter” did absolutely nothing for me. 

01. Project Chaos
02. Path of Peace
03. Call From Beyond

Billy Lynn – Vocals
Metal Thrashing Mike – Guitar?
Mathias Skov Samsø Jepsen – vocals & Drums


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings 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.

The H​ÿ​ss – H​ÿ​ss III: The H​ÿ​ssening EP

H​ÿ​ss III The H​ÿ​ssening Album Cover Art

The H​ÿ​ss – H​ÿ​ss III: The H​ÿ​ssening EP
Release Date: 18/02/23
Running Time: 21:06
Review by Dark Juan

I have worked over 96 hours in the past five days and 120-plus over the week. My sense of reality is warped as fuck. I am not sure if I am even human anymore. Which way is up and which way is down? Is that large truck actually there or is it an audio-visual hallucination brought on by lack of sleep? Why is the amphetamine not working anymore? Could it be that fatigue has shagged my nervous system to the point where spaghetti would be of more use for transmitting signals from brain to leaden limb? I have consumed so much caffeine that sleep is now a distant and almost-forgotten memory. Joyful repose is a thing of the past, a bed a luxury only fleetingly glimpsed as I go past it to complete another task. My existence has become machine-like and I have suppressed my emotions and my desires in order to complete the work. The never-ending work. My colleagues (who are working just as hard as me) are breaking down in tears and recrimination around me as the stress builds and builds with no sign of respite yet I can’t. I have to be an inspiration to these people and keep them going and so I will lead by example, a man who externally displays no emotion apart from withering sarcasm, a wholly inappropriate sense of humour, professionalism and the will to carry on despite the physical and emotional cost to myself and to Mrs Dark Juan and I do this for about two thirds of what a nurse gets paid.

I am not a nurse. I am one of the forgotten – I care for vulnerable children and I work in kids’ homes. There are no people who notice the plight of the utterly dedicated workforce of which I am a part – no politician to support us to gain political mileage because we are a horrible secret to be swept under the carpet mainly because there are over 80,000 kids in care and a problem ignored is a problem you don’t have to deal with and a whole fucking underclass of poor, abused fuckers who haven’t been picked up by Social Services, because Social Services is an underfunded fucking mess and social workers are as overworked as us care staff are, with no union that directly represents us and because we rarely have any children die on us, no media spotlight unless there has been some shocking abuse perpetrated on a child. And before anyone tells me to go and get a better job – if I don’t do it, who the FUCK will? We are so short-staffed because there is no-one who WANTS to do it and therefore the pressure increases exponentially upon those of us who choose to do this work. Don’t you EVER moan to me about your shitty 37.5 hour a week office job with all the tawdry little affairs between you and Julie in accounts and shit. I would love to go home every night.

Apologies. I am a bit tired. Maybe some music might wake me up a bit. Let’s have a bit of a rummage in the review list and see what I come up with… Ah, splendid. Let’s have another one of Simon “You Have Never Fucking Heard Of Brevity, Have You?” Black’s wild card reviews. Hang on while I sling this 5-track EP from Chicago’s The H​ÿ​ss upon the Platter of Splatter ™…

The band open their account with ‘Are You Listening to the Hÿssening?’ which is a Stoner based song with a real shitty middle finger punk attitude in the gravelly, snot-nosed vocal. The guitar work has a strong Grunge element in it and it’s a pretty cool sounding thing, although I think The Hÿss suffer a bit from not really knowing where they are going next, musically. While the song is good and the vocals brilliant and the chorus killer, it all feels a bit unfocused.

Witness ‘Silvio’. It’s a great song and it really appears to reference Tool-style guitar dynamics and the arrangements of Deftones but with a Stoner and Classic Rock edge in the guitar sound, all Marlboro Reds hanging out of the gob of the guitarist as he peels riffs and licks out of a classic 1959 Les Paul through his valve-driven Marshalls. It’s this disconnect I am having trouble with. ‘Science Mountain’ does it to my poor abused brain again, being a speedy, straight-ahead rocker which grips you by the throat and doesn’t stop shaking you about, yet somehow incorporates a Grungy aesthetic in the guitar work.

I’m not understanding this at all.

‘Angle Of Repose’ does yet more genre-bending and twists Grunge, Nu-Metal and Stoner into tortured new shapes and even has a breakdown. I don’t know why, but it works somehow. Album closer ‘Gnome Ken Bone’ throws yet more musical curveballs and has really idiosyncratic guitar sounds more suited to classic Rock and Metal playing music that starts off really grungy and then breaks out the church organ, stamps on the Metal pedal and kicks your poor, abused correspondent in his poorly abused head.

Good points – fucking amazing bass sound. The bass makes you want to shake your ass like a room full of cloned Nicki Minaj-es all twerking simultaneously. If it doesn’t collapse first. The bass is thunderous. The guitar work is also fucking great. The band use unusual sound textures and combinations in their songwriting to lend the band’s sound an uncomfortable, febrile quality, not unlike the experience when you spill a drink on a large and muscular man who could break you in half simply with his erection and you have that second of time when you don’t know whether he is a reasonable man who will accept an apology and a replacement drink or an absolute fucking psychopath who is going to tear off your arms and beat you to death with the wet ends. The gruff, gritty, Punky vocal performance is also pretty good too. And at last we have a resonant bass drum that doesn’t sound like someone twatting a mic’ed up lettuce with the back end of a kitchen knife.

Bad points – I feel that The Hÿss are very much an acquired taste and that I just don’t get them. Like Volbeat. Their sound is too idiosyncratic for me but this could be because I am fucking exhausted right now but I am not sure about them…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards The Hÿss 6/10 for a record that is sure to find an audience but that Dark Juan doesn’t want to be a part of, yet is perfectly competent and probably sounds fucking brilliant if you’re pissed or not exhausted.

01. Are You Listening to the Hÿssening?
02. Silvio
03. Science Mountain
04. Angle of Repose
05. Gnome Ken Bone

Bill Sullivan – Bass 
Mike Scales – Drums 
Pat Kennedy – Guitars, vocals 
Dave Fitzgerald – Guitars, vocals
Matt McDonald – Vocals 


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan 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.

Höllentor – Divergency

Divergency Album Cover Art

Höllentor – Divergency
Release Date: 17/02/23
Running Time: 33:00
Review by Rory Bentley

Another week, another wildcard release. Simon Black has quickly realised that he can assign releases to us lowly Metal scribes out of pure spite, pairing us with records that we’re likely to detest and give a needlessly vicious review to. Mainly myself and Dark Juan as we both have a proclivity to take things too far. Thus I found myself with something Power Metal adjacent in my inbox, fuse lit and ready to explode and piss off more of the Metal community. Luckily for me this ruse has backfired as this is actually a decent little release!

With a few notable exceptions this Trad/Power Metal style is never going to be my vibe. I’m a skinhead kid from the midlands who likes his Metal with a large dose of Hardcore, but I can appreciate a well-crafted, lean record like this. In fact I’ve actually just bumped up the original score as I’m writing this with the album in the background for one last listen!

The 33 minute runtime was a sight for sore eyes before I’d even pushed play – “At least it’ll be over quickly,” I thought somewhat melodramatically, but the fact that everything here ranges from solid to occasionally excellent had me doing cartwheels. I mean not really, I’m too fat for cartwheels but you get the idea!

‘Behind The Wall’ kicks things off in solid fashion, wasting no time with ornate intros and slapping you round the noggin with a big slab of beefy riffage. The raspier vocal style was a welcome relief as well, possessing just the right balance of dramatic gravitas and down to earth grit. This bulkier approach continues in the title track which has a strong chorus and a satisfying mid paced chug.

Even more encouragingly the album actually gets better as it ticks along. ‘Lotus Eater’ stomps on your face like the best moments of that other American Power Metal band we don’t talk about anymore, maintaining a level of momentum that ensures nothing feels plodding. ‘Seize The Day’ is rousing blue collar Trad Metal that fans of Visigoth would raise a beer to and ‘Vikings Pride’ is pure silly fun.

By the time the stirring ‘We Are Chosen’ has reached its climax in a flurry of ear splitting shrieks from ex-Priest man Tim ‘Ripper’ Iwens and roaring feedback, I’m left very satisfied with a thoroughly entertaining listen that doesn’t overstay its welcome. You could do a lot worse than this for your Denim and Leather fix and it comes with the added bonus that Simon’s cruel little trick didn’t work. Result!

‘Divergency’ Official Video

01. Behind The Wall
02. Divergency
03. Find The Light
04. Judgement Day
05. Kraken Awakens
06. Lotus Eater
07. Seize The Day
08. Vikings Pride
09. We Are Chosen

Glen Poland and some famous Metal lads


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley 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.

Attercopus – Last Utterance

Last Utterance Album Cover Art

Attercopus – Last Utterance
Release Date: 17/02/23
Running Time: 60:14
Review by Dark Juan

It is well known that Dark Juan is a fan of extremity in all its forms, be it musically, sexually or just how much drugs and booze I can cram into the massive gap where my soul should be but it is not quite so well known that Dark Juan also has an expansive and broad musical taste that encompasses everything from baroque Classical to the fastest, most aggressive Metal there is. It is also fairly unknown that I am more than partial to a bit of Progressive Rock. Yes, Dark Juan likes men in breeches spinning round playing flutes and extended jams where the music goes exploring dimly lit hinterlands full of psychedelic swirling patterns and scantily-clad elf women, beckoning Dark Juan to come forward and taste the pleasures of their flesh and drink from their potions of desire, with Dark Juan immediately forging a path through the undergrowth to their fairy glen where there are promises of fleshly pleasures hitherto untasted by mortal men…

Sorry. I really shouldn’t use my imagination when I am writing a (supposedly) record review. This missive is another of the mighty and puissant Simon “Do It, Or Taste My Steel Tipped Cat O’ Nine Tails, Ratboy” Black’s wild card reviews, whereupon the wrangler of everyone else’s writing assigns an underground or British band to us at random to get the writers out of their comfort zones and to get some newer or do-it-yourself bands some proper recognition. Hence, today’s spinning disc of doom upon the Platter of Splatter ™ is “Last Utterance” by South Wales-based bards Attercopus.

Opening with ‘Caravan’ and a gentle, flute-led intro and Eastern sounding wah and phaser-soaked guitar, Attercopus take their time building up a head of steam before unleashing a riff of such Sabbathian majesty Tony Iommi was running screaming for the phone to call his lawyer but this is where the Sabbath influence ends and the Space Rock takes over. And the Prog… Rob Harrison tootling his flute like his life depends on it in the central part of the song as well as doubling up with some expansive guitar work – imagine, if you will Black Sabbath kidnapping Hawkwind and them forcing Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull to fight in a pit to the death, clad only in sheer loincloths, their oiled torsos gleaming and rippling in the shaft of sunlight illuminating the pit from a giant skylight as they attack and clasp each other as they wrestle for dominance and dominion over the other… 

Good grief. What the fuck is wrong with me today?

‘Chemical Pigs’ sees Rob breaking out the squawky sex horn which adds a serious Hawkwind vibe to the proceedings on this spiky, razor-edged song which successfully moulds Prog, Sludge and Space Rock together in a wholly satisfying fashion – exemplary musicianship from the whole band on this song (Lloyd Stratford on bass and Martin Jones on drums) as they take us on an elongated exploration of the universe on the middle eight (more like a middle sixty-four on this song) that never dips into self-indulgent noodling and manages to remain purposeful and tense. ‘LV-246’ (not sure whether that’s supposed to be LV-426, Alien xenomorph fans!) has an almost Jazzy section but is generally one of the beefier songs on the record – think the Garage Rock feel of ‘Night Of The Hawks’ by Hawkwind and Sabbath’s ‘Fairies Wear Boots’, amalgamated and sent shambling into the ether. The guitar and bass interplay on this song is pretty fucking special and the soloing is tasty as fuck throughout. Rob’s voice is engaging and likeable if not particularly memorable and it fits the music well, but this is a minor criticism considering the annoyingly talented bastard can toot his flute (cheeky!) like the incomparable Alia O’ Brien, can drop panties at a hundred yards with the squawky sex horn and plays the guitar as well, thereby taking care of all the panties in a half-mile radius. He’s nearly as bad as Lisa Mann for awesome musician-ness. Arsehole. I hate him. And there are key and tempo changes all over the fucking place and it’s awesome because it all has about four hundred key riffs in the song and must have been a right bastard to write and remember… even if it has one of the longest drawn out endings ever, not unlike one of Dark Juan’s orgasms…

‘Space Garden’ starts off with a super-stoned Prog bent, absolutely decides it is staying exactly where it is and having all the snacks and really references the influence of Gentle Giant and the more hippy-dippy moments of Hawkwind, all mad phaser and wah-wah on the guitar, whizzy and whooshing electronics and the sax (I will never stop calling it the squawky sex horn so don’t even test me) being the lead instrument and being all beguiling and shit, like it is beckoning you into the title of the song. Lloyd Stratford goes absolutely fucking barmy on his bass on this one, playing almost like it is a lead guitar and flitting up and down the fretboard flaying his fingers like a man possessed. All this underpins a languid and almost liquid vocal, honeyed and charming, and it is a fucking long, relaxed jam lasting 12 minutes or so – again, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and keeps the listener charmed throughout. This is a measure of high-quality songwriting and really fucking terrific musicianship. Oh, and the intro on ‘Astral Projection’ had me thinking I was listening to ‘Silver Machine’ until the monstrous central riff kicked in and there’s another riff in the bridge that reminded me briefly of fucking Swedish Rap-Metal rapscallions Clawfinger (Remember them? ‘Warfair’ being the song) at one point. Now THAT is an esoteric fucking influence for a Space Rock combo and no mistake…

Criticisms, for I am a critic – The record has a curiously artificial-sounding production that takes some of the warmth from the music and makes it almost sound like parts of it are sequenced rather than played. Dark Juan feels that this record should have had a more organic sound to better fit the music. I also have issues with the sound of the drums – again, there is clarity and everything is easily listenable, but they sound like poor Martin Jones is using Tupperware for a snare drum and there is no resonance at all on the bass drum, which means there is an unpalatable lack of richness that their music undeniably deserves. But that’s it for criticism – I’m not sure whether the sound of the album was a conscious choice or just the limitations of equipment… Otherwise this is a fucking masterclass in LSD-fuelled psychedelic madness from opening flute to closing reverberation. The musicianship of the band is absolutely breathtaking, their compositions and songwriting flawless and their execution brilliant. It’s just the production job I have a problem with. Da iawn, boyos! Da iawn…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (System Sgorio Gwaed Splatter Juan Tywyll Patent – I’m not convinced by your skill at Welsh, Google Translate) awards Attercopus 8/10 for a flawed gem of an album marred only by the lifeless sound of the production which robs the album of some of its considerable charm.

01. Caravan
02. Chemical Pigs
03. LV-246 (I am not sure whether this is a typo on my EPK because the planet that Hadley’s Hope colony was on is LV-426 – Science Fiction Editor/ Spod. Yeah, it’s me…)
04. Space Garden
05. Astral Projection
06. Chrysalis
07. Wasteland

Rob Harrison – Guitar, vocals, flute and sax
Lloyd Stratford – Bass
Martin Jones – Drums


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan 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.