Saturday, June 16, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 11 vs Coniston Gold

A rematch against remembered foes in Coniston Gold for the Albion Park Soccer Club Under 11 Red team was what was set for today, and while the talk was of a rough and tumble match what was closer to the hearts and minds of the players was the need to improve on last week’s performance and ensure they did not start slowly as they did in that match.

The opening stanza was quite even, with both sides feeling out where the breaks in the defence might be. Indy Middleton was a different player today from last week, a ball of energy as he chased hard and through his opponents in the midfield and created the early spark that got the Park team moving. After a couple of early breaks, the Park defence shut down the two dangerous players from the Coniston team and began to work on a way to get to their own goalmouth. A couple of good plays broke down at the vital moments, as Jack Tate looked in great touch once again. On at least three occasions he wound his way past multiple defenders, only to just go a little too far before disposing of the ball and instead had it stolen off him. He showed however that there were ways to get through the Coniston team. A couple of balls went wide for goal kicks, and the Park attackers began to get wise, and were chasing hard once the kick was made. Eventually Ky Van Helden latched onto one of these goal kicks and crashed it back past the goalie to open the scoring and a 1-0 lead for the home team.

Last week’s problem was that the team fell asleep once a goal had been scored and allowed their opponent to get back into the match. Thought they were more switched on this week, they still allowed the ball to get past the defensive line, and it only took this to happen once for their forward to get a good strike in and put the ball in the back of the net and level the scores at 1-1.

Forced to work hard once again with scores level, the Park kids did begin to get the larger amount of possession and in their opponent’s half of the ground. Still pressuring the goal kicks as hard as possible, one again fell loose as Zali Middleton tried to kick towards goal. This ball was boomed back out of the goal square by the defender that was twice as big as Zali and three times as wide, but she managed to get her right leg in the way of it, and it instead rebound at speed straight into the back of the net for a great goal for Zali, and Albion Park regained the lead at 2-1.

The ball was being kept in one half of the ground now, thanks in part to the great defensive line of Brock Young, Josh Peters and Belle Kadwell, with help from the mid-field of Indy and Jack-Ryan Eberwein. Claire Kadwell was making great runs up front down the left wing and managed to get a couple of shots off that were picked up by the keeper. One of these was another attacking raid that was cleared by the fullback, which went straight towards Jack-Ryan who was positioned at right back, only two metres into the Coniston half. He had time to steady, but instead he went for the no-touch booming kick straight back at the goal mouth, and as 18 payers looked up with gaping mouths, the ball rose to a great height, and the fell back to earth, just over the top of the keepers reach and just under the cross bar and into the back of the net. It was an astounding goal, one that no one who saw it will ever forget. It allowed the Park team to go in at half time with a lead of 3 goals to 1.

The second half was punctuated by three terrific pieces of play. Jack-Ryan headed back into goalkeeper, and after a great break down the left the Coniston striker had a clear shot at goal with only Jack-Ryan on his own. The powerful shot came in, but Jack-Ryan was having none of it, and made the save of the year so far. Inspiring stuff.

At the other end there were more chances coming, with Ky continuing to attack hard, and being well supported by Noah Black on the right who had come out of goals and was making himself known to his opponents. Down the left Zoe Middleton was just fantastic again, running hard and making at least four perfect passes down the sideline for Josh and Ky to run onto. It was great to watch. Noah fought hard to be awarded a free kick, and then a great set piece between Noah, Ky and Josh was finished off by Josh for his first goal of the game and a 4-1 lead. Five minutes later Zoe had fought hard and forced a corner for her team, which Josh took and calmly curled the ball from the left corner into the goal where it beat the keeper for his second goal and a 5-1 lead. Three great pieces of play that typify the best this team is offering when everyone is switched on and playing at their best.

A late goal by Coniston was some consolation for them, but the park kids finished up with a handsome 5-2 victory to help make up for their first loss last week.

Indy Middleton and Jack-Ryan Eberwein had one of their best ever games, both were busy throughout. Zoe Middleton again was just terrific and was backed up by Zali Middleton who was fast and furious up forward. Belle and Claire Kadwell were as busy as always, and Noah Black, Jack Tate and Ky Van Helden did well with their opportunities. Josh Peters claimed it wasn’t one of his best games, but again when given the chance in the midfield the team seemed to click better with his great runs and passes.

Still, above all this was Player of the Match Brock Young, who did as he does every week. He is great in defence, he clears the ball when needed and he runs hard into position when the team needs him to move the ball upfield. He laughs at his own errors but always makes up for them. A well-deserved award this week.

As it turns out I managed to get Josh’s two goals on video, mostly as they were from set pieces. Have a look at both of them, especially the set piece from Noah to Ky to Josh to score.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 8 vs Albion Park Yellow

 On a much more typical winter day for junior soccer at Terry Reserve, the Albion Park Junior Soccer Club Under 11 Reds took on the Albion Park Yellow team for the second time this season, with both teams keen to show they had improved since the first time they clashed, which was in the first match of the season when the Reds had come out on top with an 11-6 victory. No doubt the Yellow team was seeking revenge for that result.

With a howling southerly blowing to cause mayhem on the pitch, both sides made a tough start to the match. The ball spent a lot of time in the Reds defensive half but the back four held firm, and despite a couple of early shot in attack the ball was having a difficult time getting into the right areas. Ky Van Helden had one nice shot at goal that was saved, while Jack-Ryan Eberwein also unloaded a bomb was the right that flew wide of the top corner. For awhile it looked as though it was going to be a scoreless first half, before Belle Kadwell found a space working her way from the back and through the midfield, where she then passed perfectly to Ky who beat one defender before dishing off the pass to Jack Tate who continued his great form from last week by beating the keeper and allowing the Reds to take a 1-0 lead.

Perhaps this led the Reds to relax a little, because not for the first time this season a team went from defence to attack to goal in a matter of moments. An attack on goal went to the opposition keeper who quickly got the ball moving while the Reds attack and midfield virtually stopped. This didn’t help the back line, but they too didn’t recognize the danger early enough and the whole laxness of the team meant that the Yellow’s scored a terrific length of the field goal with barely an effort made in stopping it. The score was 1-1 and in the end the halftime whistle couldn’t have come soon enough.
The first half of the second half proceeded much as the first half of the game had done (that’s a mouthful). Not much was happening up forward for the Reds, while the backline had a few to clear out. Eventually Josh Peters at centre back got a good foot on a ball to find Claire Kadwell in the midfield, who made a great pass to Noah Black at right striker. Noah made a great run diagonally back into the centre of the field, beating three defenders before planting the ball in the back of the net, and restoring the lead for the Reds at 2-1. Unfortunately this didn’t last long, and some sustained attack by the Yellow team saw them have three corners in succession, and the third one found Jack-Ryan’s leg which changed the direction of the ball perfectly out of reach of his goalkeeper and fellow defenders and found the net to have the game levelled up at 2-2.

The heads of the Reds team had dropped a little and the next goal was crucial, and there was a sense that both teams knew it. Certainly the coaching staff on the sideline knew it. A good period of play saw the Reds get a couple of chances in their attacking zone, and finally a great corner taken by Noah found the number one striker Ky unattended and he slotted the ball to get the Reds back in front again with a 3-2 lead.

The Reds now began to run over the top of their opponents, again through their better fitness and perhaps their belief. Ky had three consecutive shots on goal from runs down the left and winding through defenders in the middle, only to have all three saved by the goalkeeper. But the tidal wave was becoming overbearing. Belle again made a tough hard run through the midfield to get the ball to Noah who ran and jagged past three defenders before leaving the keeper guessing the wrong way and crushing the ball into the net for his second goal and extending the lead to 4-2. From the kick-off the ball was quickly stolen and moved downfield, where Ky made no mistake with his strike on this occasion to bring up his second goal and leave the Reds with a comfortable lead of 5-2.
With tensions easing on the sideline the players were encouraged to exhibit their wares, and the wave of attack kept coming. In the dying minutes Jack-Ryan made a play for goal of the year with a crashing right boot from out wide on the right that just failed to find the goal, while Brock Young also made an excellent run and shot in from the left that was just parried away. Finally a great tackle and pass from Brock was taken by Claire who beat one and passed infield to Josh. Josh then ran and beat two before passing perfectly onto the unmarked Ky’s boot who made no mistake for his third goal and a final scoreline of 6-2 to the Reds.

It was a tough day to play soccer, and hard to keep motivated in the game when you were on the field. Noah had a terrific second half after spending the first half in goals, and is beginning to show a great combination with Ky. Jack was again busy in the first half before moving back to keeper in the second half, while Jack-Ryan is showing himself to be a dominant player around the park.

Still, to me at least, the reason this team managed to win today was to our three girls, Belle and Claire, and Zoe Middleton. Belle and Claire once again barely stopped running for the whole match, and when a ball fell loose into a gap it was they who seemed to be first on the scene to grab it. Belle’s work at the back was just fantastic, while Claire was tireless doing double duty up forward and then rushing back to help the mid-field. Similarly, Zoe continues to take on boys twice her size fearlessly, never afraid of getting in and trying to steal the ball off them, always making a second attempt when necessary, and today also got away several great passes down the line to her teammates. I’m not dissing the boys, but each week these girls are just amazing and today especially were instrumental in ensuring victory.

Player of the Day though deservedly went to Ky, who looks to be a natural striker. He gets double and triple teamed once the opposition see how dangerous he is, but he doesn’t let that stop him. He was great again today and deserves his award.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 7 vs Figtree Amber

It’s been a good start to the season for the Albion Park Junior Soccer Club Under 11 Red team, who going in to the weekend were still undefeated after their first five matches. Though not complacent as such, perhaps the fire wasn’t burning so brightly as it has been as they approached their match against the Figtree Amber team at Harry Graham Oval.

Playing without a reserve due to the illness of Ky Van Helden, the Park team was under pressure from the outset as the Figtree team immediately breached the defence and the ball was sent wide of keeper Josh Peters for the home team to take a 1-0 lead. The play was in a bit of disarray, and it took a great piece of play to get them heading back in the right direction. From a stoppage in play for a goal kick, Jack Tate chased the attackers and forced a mistake, from which Belle Kadwell swept in from defence and stole the ball, passing it back up to Jack. Jack then went on one of his signature runs, beating four players before shooting from a fair distance outside the box, and beating the keeper with the ball crashing into the top right corner for a fantastic goal, and the score was level again at 1-1.

The dominant order had been restored, with the Park kids finding their feet once again. There was some excellent work from the forward five who were working hard to find a way through their opponents defence. On the left, Zoe Middleton made a great tackle on her opponents and forced a slick pass forward to Claire Kadwell who beat one player before giving the ball to Indy Middleton who raced diagonally across the field to the right where he found Brock Young. Brock turned and shot at goal only to have it saved, but the ball rebounded all the way back to where Jack was waiting again, and once again from long long range he launched a shot on goal that was too good for the keeper. Jack had his second goal, and the score was now in Park’s favour at 2-1.

With their tails up, the Park forward line was looking to capitalise. There were some great attacking moves from Indy, Claire and Brock, and Zoe only narrowly missed getting a goal of her own when just failing to get on to a great cross past the goal by Brock. The pressure told, and when Jack again attacked his opponents from a goal kick, he stole the ball and slotted home his third goal of the half to take the score to 3-1 when the half time whistle blew.

The second half proved to be one of frustration and jangling nerves as one team attacked for no result and the other took their opportunities and forced their way back into the game. Jack moved into goals, noticeably exhausted from having run himself off his feet, which gave others the chance to make the running. Up front Noah Black and Claire combined well, with Noah twice able to find Claire in space, but she was just not quite able to make it count. From one of these plays the Figtree team took advantage of a Park defence that had gone to sleep and were taken unawares, leaving Jack stranded and unable to prevent the goal being scored. Despite being the dominant attacking team, the score was now only 3-2 to Albion Park.

There was now a period of ten minutes where Albion Park had multiple shots on goal for little reward. Both Indy and Noah had three shots on goal, and though a couple went well wide the others were superbly saved by the Figtree goal keeper. Jack-Ryan Eberwein also unloaded his big right boot on two shots but couldn’t beat the great defence. Finally, after a lengthy period of sustained attack, Noah managed to get one past the outstretched hand of the keeper, which then hit the post and rebounded into the goal for Albion Park to increase their buffer to two, and the score to 4-2.

With at least six goals saved, the score could have been a blow-out, but in the end the reason Albion Park was able to call themselves winners was because of Belle Kadwell. Through the whole match she has been tireless and never stopped in defence, rushing at her opponents before they could control the ball and kicking it long out of danger. In the second half especially she was magnificent. A further Figtree goal down the left had brought the score back to 4-3, and there was little doubt they were looking to not just draw the match, but win it. But time and time again belle saved the day, appearing when no one else was in sight, keeping the goal box clear, stealing and passing the ball upfield, or just getting it over the sideline. Even for an Energizer Bunny it was quite a display of football.

When the whistle blew full time, there was a mixed feeling on the sideline. With all of the attacking chances, the score could well have been a much bigger victory for the Albion Park team. But the Figtree goal keeper had been terrific, and the few chances created at their end were mostly converted. The right team won, but the feeling was that there is still plenty to work on in all facets.

Player of the Day was a tough choice. Jack Tate, almost a year to the day from when he scored 5 goals against Lakeside, was brilliant in the first half scoring his hat-trick, and on any other day he would have won the award. But it went to Belle Kadwell for her match long amazing effort in defence that really proved to be the difference between winning and losing on the day.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 5 vs Kiama Gold

It has taken some time for the soccer season to break the incredible run of weather we have been having, but finally it managed to do so on Saturday when the Albion Park Under 11 Reds travelled to Cavalier Park (also occasionally referred to as Kiama Sporting Complex) to take on the Kiama team.

The weather was… atrocious. It was cold, it was windy, and was wet and raining. While the less hardy of the spectators gathered under the barely appropriate covered canteen area, some of us braved the sideline in order to encourage our kids to keep moving to avoid freezing to death. The fact that the rain was at time horizontal should give you an indication of what the kids faced. The delayed arrival of the team jerseys was fortunately not problematic as the game was delayed due to the grounds still needing to be set up in the awful conditions.

The game was shortened to just 40 minutes to make up for lost time, but for all intents and purposes it was over after just two minutes, at which point the Albion Park kids led 3-0. Josh Peters first touch of the match was to diffuse a missed pass from his Kiama opponent, which he then passed perfectly through the attacks to Ky Van Helden up front, who then ran in and crashed the ball into the goal for a 1-0 lead. From the restart Ky stole the ball, and then ran past four defenders before striking hot again for his second goal in under a minute. A third restart saw the ball move back into the Albion Park forward line, where Claire Kadwell on the left pushed the ball to the right of the goal, where Jack Tate also beat the keeper to give the team their 3-0 lead.

Kiama was able to regain some ground, but never really found any way to overcome the conditions or the barrelling offense. Ky soon had the ball again, and this time got a great pass away to Jack-Ryan Eberwein who booted the goal home. This was followed by some good play in the middle of the field by Indy Middleton and Josh who halted a couple of advances from their opponents before delivering the ball to their teammates upfield. Zoe Middleton made one terrific tackle on the left wing and also chased down two opponents and bustled them into giving up the ball as they tried to find an open player. As a result of this good work at the back and in the midfield Jack again got a pass to the centre where Ky took full advantage and scored yet again. Immediately following the restart Ky again bounced forward, stealing the ball and making another solo effort and finishing off with a great strike to beat the keeper again, and making the score 6-0 to Albion Park.

With the weather getting worse, one of the best pieces of play for the match unfolded, as Jack worked the ball past three defenders on the right wing before finding Ky in space and slotting the ball to him. Ky ran toward goal with only the goal keeper to beat, but unselfishly passed the Claire on his left who made no mistake with her shot on goal. The whistle mercifully blew half time, with Albion Park leading by 7-0, their winning score for the entire match the previous week.

Coaches Shane Black and Andy Middleton decided on a policy of ‘silent coaching’ for the opening of the second half, in order to see how the kids reacted without any talk from the sideline, as well as giving everyone a chance to have a run up forward. The early minutes of the second half saw the ball trapped mostly in the midfield, but it wasn’t long before the Albion Park team began to assert their dominance once again. After a couple of shots went wide, Jack-Ryan decided to launch a shot from long range which beat the keeper with its ferocity, and the score increased out to 8-0. Jack-Ryan was getting a taste for being up forward, and having beaten two defenders down the right flank he passed perfectly to Brock Young who was getting a chance to showcase his wares up forward, and he beat one defender before slotting the ball into the net for his first goal of the day, and making the score 9-0.

The attacking raids kept coming, and three consecutive corners finally made Kiama pay, as Jack’s cross found Josh from long range hitting the ball perfectly, only to be denied by a great save from the Kiama keeper, but the rebound fell for Belle Kadwell who jumped on the chance and kneed it home for her own goal and a 10-0 lead. Josh was also unfortunate to be denied another long range shot shortly after, which found the back of the net but was then called up and denied by the referee, though the reason was unclear.

The weather wasn’t letting up and neither was the Albion Park wave of attack. Ky and Brock combined expertly through the centre of the park for Jack-Ryan to boot home his third goal for the morning, and then some great lead up work from Claire allowed Noah Black, who had been keeper for the first half, to get himself into the game as he poked the ball past the keeper for his own goal.

The goal of the match followed, when Ky rescued the ball from the back of the field, and passed perfectly down to the left wing where Belle was playing. She took the ball on the sideline on her own side of half way, and then scooted down the left wing leaving defenders in her wake, she then jagged back infield on an angle directed towards the goal, where she lined up and fired the ball past the keeper for a fantastic and brilliant solo goal for the Energizer Bunny.

Still it was getting wetter, and Noah proved deadly from long range, firing the ball from outside the box to crash into the top right corner of the net to make it 14-0, and with five minutes still remaining the referee finally relented and called a close to the match, much to the relief I’m sure of everyone.

The kids were frozen and drenched, but winning always seems to help that. They all played wonderfully well and never let their foot off the pedal. Ky probably could have scored 14 goals on his own except for his unselfish play and then dropping back to allow other players a chance at scoring a goal.

Player of the Day was awarded to Josh Peters, which made his father wonder whether it was just because he was one of the few not to score a goal. He has been excellent at the back this season, and the number of clean sheets produced by this team can be partly attributed to his work in the centre back position.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Megadeth / So Far, So Good... So What! 1988. 4.5/5

I had moved on to university by the time this album was released, and was all the more excited because of it. To this point in time I had only had Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! (as finding anywhere that imported Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? in those days was ridiculous) and I couldn’t wait to have new Megadeth material to feast my ears upon. The differences between the first two albums and this are noticeable, and some find it is too much to bear. On the other hand, there are songs here that are incomparable and still stand the test of time thirty years on.

The opening of So Far, So Good... So What! is once again once of the big strengths of the album, setting the tone from the outset. The instrumental “Into the Lungs of Hell” is a beauty, showcasing the renewed vigour of replacement guitarist Jeff Young into the fold along with drummer Chuck Behler. In the days where the one-upmanship between Megadeth and Metallica was at its height, it’s hard to say whether or not Dave Mustaine felt the need to create his own instrumental in order to counter what Metallica had done with “The Call of Ktulu” and “Orion” on their recent albums. Whatever the reason it is a great way to open up here. This segues wonderfully into the thrashing rites of “Set the World Afire” which starts out hard and ends in a flurry of Mustaine’s vocals spitting out fire and flame. I’ve always loved these opening two tracks and they are as good now as they were back when this was released.
The closing tracks to Side One of the album have not held the same love affair for me. The cover of Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.”, with the U.S.A. substituted in conveniently when necessary in the lyrics, is okay, but it doesn’t really have any of the fire and spirit you would expect from a band trying to add their own personality to it. It is the third cover song in successive albums from Megadeth and this is probably the lamest version of the three. This is followed by “Mary Jane”, and for the most part I find that the whining and warbling of the lyrics tends to harm the output of the song. It’s not a bad track by any stretch of the imagination, but it just isn’t up to the high standard you (or at least I) would expect.
“502” kick-starts the second half of the album off in style with a better rendition of what you expect from the Megadeth sound, though the middle section with transfer of the song to a car’s stereo does sometimes get in the way. I love the riff progression and spitting lyrics which starts off “Liar”, in many ways it is the favourite part of the album. I also enjoy the way it ends abruptly, because charging straight into the finale of “Hook in Mouth”. Mustaine loves a rant, and these two songs are ranting at their best.
The star attraction of the album is “In My Darkest Hour”, which along with the previous album’s “Wake Up Dead” are the two best songs from the 1980’s Megadeth releases. “In My Darkest Hour” has the most mature sound from the band to this point, with clear and distorted guitars combined with both mournful vocals and harsh anger, and combines the raw heavy metal with a distilled thrash sound towards the end that makes this a unique song for the band and the genre to this point.
There’s a lot going on here and the album has divided fans opinion ever since its release. Some feel this was a weak album with the band throwing aside most of its thrash tendencies in an effort to find more credibility and commercial bent. Others believe it is a landmark, a crossing of the divide from the first two albums to what would eventually become their masterpiece, Rust in Peace. Once Mustaine fired both Young and Behler he was critical of their contribution and of the album itself which probably didn’t help to win it any fans or any favour.

Clearly the majority of those people who are young and looking back at this album having not grown up with it are seeing flaws in the songs and the production, and that is not necessarily an incorrect view from that perspective. Judging this against an album such as Endgame one could see many differences that would colour their perspective. On the other hand, I grew up with this album from the age of 18, and I played this to death when I first bought it on vinyl, and I loved every square inch of it. I spat lyrics at the mirror imitating Mustaine and perhaps overlooked a couple of things that could have been ‘less strong’. But even taking those into consideration, this album deserves the respect it has earned, and I for one still love putting this on and singing along at high screeching volume.

Rating:  “No survivors, set the world afire!”  4.5/5

Megadeth / Cryptic Writings. 1997. 4/5

Some fans had issues with the Youthanasia album because of its divergence from what many saw as the quintessential Megadeth sound. That intensified with the release of Cryptic Writings which takes even more liberties than the previous two albums. The question asked at the time was could Megadeth fans move with the way the band was heading?

Unlike the previous album my initial memories of this album were all good. I got drawn in by the opening two tracks in particular, “Trust” and “Almost Honest”. I like the moody opening of “Trust” and the build into the heart of the song. I still think the break in the middle of the song, which had become a bit of a Mustaine thing to do, was probably beyond its lifetime, but the song itself is still one I like. So too with “Almost Honest”, which again has a varied mood all the way through than what previous Megadeth songs and albums but it’s one I can get on board with.
Whether or not you think there is an issue with the songs through the middle of the album is going to be a matter of personal taste. “Use the Man” has a sludgy pace to start off with before exploding towards the close of the track. “Mastermind” is probably the least exciting of this crop of songs but that’s not to say it is a bad song, it just doesn’t inspire much excitement. “The Disintegrators” is one of the fastest songs on the album, with Nick Menza having to get out second gear for the first time in a while. It’s actually a pretty underrated song, showcasing the dual soloing from Mustaine and Friedman in a speed that better reflects what most people enjoy from Megadeth songs. “I’ll Get Even” is a similar track to “Use the Man”, understated with quieter Mustaine vocals until the chorus comes around, which does tend to repeat too often. “Sin” and “Have Cool, Will Travel” are only on the good side of average
On the other hand “A Secret Place” has always been a favourite. This goes the same for “She-Wolf”, though it was in a roundabout fashion for me. I always felt it was an average song until I heard it live on a subsequent tour, where it was one of the stand out songs on the playlist. From that moment on it became one of my favourite Megadeth songs of their later years, and it does feel like a star attraction here.

After an extended period when I played this album constantly for a good four month period and probably had stars in my eyes because of the band that recorded it, It hasn’t been one that I’ve gone back to very often in the years since. In the long run that only means that it isn’t one of my favourite four or five Megadeth albums, and that certainly is true enough. Despite that, and the obvious change in style that this album has compared to previous releases, I still get plenty out of it every time I decide to give it a spin again.

Rating: "Beware the she-wolf and her bite”. 4/5.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Anthrax / Kings Among Scotland [Live]. 2018. 4/5

For a band that has been around for four decades, it is unusual that Anthrax has never really had a definitive live album. Iron Maiden, Slayer, Ozzy Osbourne… they all have live albums that are legendary and are caught as moments in time of the era they were recorded. Anthrax has the afterthought of their Island Records contract when it released Live: The Island Years, and then the John Bush-headed recording of Music of Mass Destruction, before the reunion with Joey Belladonna release of Alive 2 (2005). All three are good solid live albums, and Music of Mass Destructionespecially at least stands as a monument to the Bush-era songs, but for a quintessential live recording of the band there has been somewhat of a gap.

Does that make this release the live album we have been waiting for from this band? Well, to be fair to the band that moment when they could have released a live album that would stand the test of time has probably passed. Music of Mass Destruction is probably the closest they will come. And the songs have had to be naturally altered with some tuning and a slower pace in order to accommodate the changes in the techniques of the individuals in the band. Yes, tuning down in order to allow Joey to come close to singing some of the older songs that they have in this set list. For me a live recording on the Persistence of Time tour would have been the ultimate goal, but seeing as this was when I first saw them perhaps I am blinded by that.
So does this have a chance to be that definitive live album? It does have a chance, for two reasons. Disc One is a mix of the old and the new. Amongst songs taken from the album on which the band is touring, For All Kings we have a mix of classic Anthrax tunes. The new songs all sound good in this live environment, and given they had been toured for a while before this gig was recorded it shows. “Evil Twin”, “Blood Eagle Wings” and “Breathing Lightning” showcase the best of the latest studio album, and new crowd favourite “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” from the Worship Music album still comes across well. Liberally splashing with the crowd pleasers such as “A.I.R.”, “Madhouse”, “Medusa” and “Be All End All”, there is something for everyone.
What will elevate this live album into a more accessible category is the second disc, which was the second act of the evening during the tour. It involves the playing live of the entire Among the Living album which is revered and generally accepted as Anthrax’s finest moment. It is not played here in correct running order, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Each of these nine amazing songs are played in full and with reverence. The crowd know all the words, and especially in the backing vocals of Scott Ian and Frankie Bello you can hear the crowd at full volume joining in. The album and gig then ends with a rousing rendition of “Antisocial”.
The band are older, and perhaps wiser. Joey Belladonna may not be quite the vocalist he was, but no one is at his age. He still does a great job throughout, and even where he has to make changes to accommodate it comes across well enough to keep the doubters at bay. Jon Donais on lead guitar does a sterling job, while Ian and Bello are as enthusiastic as always. Charlie Benante still amazes on the drums, and again while it may not be his heyday his drum sound is still one of the best in the business.

I’ll admit that after the first two or three times I listened to this I was wondering if this was just another album I would buy and within a couple of weeks would return to the collection to be hidden forever. That may still happen, given I am less likely to drag out a live album to listen to that a studio album. But I have softened my hard resolve against the tiny things I held against this release, and now I can happily continue to listen to it despite the fact I wish it had been released in 1988 and not 2018.

Rating:  “Evil witch casts her spell”.  4/5.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Michael Schenker Fest / Resurrection. 2018. 4/5

Michael Schenker has been shredding his guitar for half a century now, and for much of it he has been doing it superbly. He has been in different bands with different musicians and band mates, and at times his work has been astounding. But how do you keep producing material that your fans are interested in without having it sound like the same stuff over and over again? Or is that exactly what you try and do?

With the formation of Michael Schenker Fest, what is being presented to us is a collection of songs that under any other circumstances may be seen as a fair result, though without the kind of excitement or intensity that would make it stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that is what it is anyway. But what does inspire here is the band that centres on Schenker himself also has Ted McKenna (drums) and Chris Glen (bass) from the original incarnation of the Michael Schenker Group from the early 1980’s, and they all bring that old feeling back to this album. It’s feels like a comfortable pair of shoes, you can slip into this album and feel like you are in your comfort zone.
As if that isn’t enough, just to sweeten the pot even more, we have not one, not two, not three but FOUR former vocalists who have collaborated and recorded with Schenker through the years, all here to not only perform on individual songs but to even come together and do some of the songs together. And THAT is more than enough to give this album a listen.
OK, so you have to know coming in that you are just not going to get those most memorable and brilliant guitar riffs and fireworks that you got from Schenker in his days with UFO and Scorpions and those early days of MSG. Don’t even try and kid yourself that that is going to happen. But if you come in with an open mind and you just allow the music to wash over you, I think you’ll find this is actually better than you first imagine. Because I came in wanting this to be a shred-fest and it isn’t, and it coloured my initial judgement. Once I got away from that and just listened to the album for the fun of it, I found it was terrifically enjoyable, and that Schenker’s guitar work may be toned down from his glory days but it is still excellent nonetheless. As a counterpoint, take the instrumental “Salvation” which comes at the rear of the album. THIS will straight away take you back to those MSG days, of the magic of “Into the Arena” and “Captain Nemo”. This is a great song and showcases Schenker’s best. Once you have heard this and enjoyed it, you can then focus on the rest of the album. Because there are some good moments here, and at times it sounds similar to some of those best songs we know from the band back in the 1980’s.
It’s interesting that the songs which Graham Bonnet sings on have a somewhat slower and stilted feel to them, more in the style that some of his other solo material has headed than his best MSG material. I was most looking forward to the songs he participated in. “Night Moods” fits this perfectly. “Everest” segues in from the previous song and is immediately a better fit for Bonnet’s vocals. Gary Barden has at times had problems in a live environment, but in the studio he still has the pipes to do the job. In many ways he is still the quintessential MSG vocalist and he still sounds that way in his songs here, and they sound most like the old MSG songs. “Messin’ Around” and “Livin’ a Life Worth Livin’” are his contributions here and they do exactly that. Robin McAuley may not have the same singing style as he did thirty years ago, but he still has the energy and drive in his vocals that lend themselves to the songs in a great way. His two songs are probably my favourite on the album, probably because they are the fastest and only songs with a double kick throughout. He has the opening track “Heart and Soul” which also features Metallica’s Kirk Hammett on guitar which adds to the great guitar sound it exudes, and Robin’s other track is “Time Knows When It’s Time” which also sounds great and utilises his vocal range to its utmost. In amongst all of this, current Temple of Rock vocalist Doogie White does his work well. Having worked with Schenker on that project in recent years he is obviously comfortable in his setting, and his songs, “Take Me to the Church”, “The Girl with the Stars in Her Eyes” and “Anchors Away” still have that touch of his previous band’s work in them. Then you have the complete collaboration songs, where all four vocalists combine to add their vocal chords to the same progression. The second song “Warrior” and the closing track “The Last Supper” both feature the entire ensemble, and it’s great to hear everyone together and enjoying themselves so much.

As is usually the case with some who is as revered as Schenker is in the metal music community, and who continues to record music beyond what could be considered his ‘golden years’, opinion on this album will come down to how much you allow sentiment to alter your perception. If you love Schenker’s music and also enjoy the vocalists who are on show here, then you will really enjoy what this album has to offer. As long as you aren’t expecting to hear anything ground-breaking and are happy to accept that, you will find this collaboration is worthy of your time, and an enjoyable experience.

Rating:  “We are all the same, no one is to blame, and we live on to tomorrow”  4/5

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Curious Case of Fawad Ahmed

When Fawad Ahmed first came to national prominence six years ago, he was widely seen as the answer to Australia’s spin bowling prayers. Now on the verge of being without a state contract for next season, is his fading light due to a complete oversight by national and state selectors or has he just not put the figures on the board to demand selection?

Much was made at the time of Cricket Australia and the Federal Government pushing through his claim for permanent residency in late 2012, after which he was rushed into the Victorian team and subsequently the Prime Ministers XI that took on the West Indies. In July 2013 he was granted Australian citizenship, allowing him to play for the Australian team.

His entire international career was then squeezed into 19 days in August and September 2013, when he played three ODI’s and two T20’s at the tail-end of the Ashes tour in England. He has not been chosen since, though he did tour the West Indies and England in 2015 as the second spinner behind Nathan Lyon.

What happened in the time between when he was given express service to ensure he received residency and then citizenship so he could represent Australia, to those few games he was given to show his wares? Why did the water turn from hot to cold so quickly? Did his insistence on not wearing badges of sponsors that belied his religious beliefs come into the decision making? Was there any other behind-the-scenes issues that marked his card on being selected again? There is no evidence of this being the case, but why would someone who had been so obviously fast tracked for this role then go to never being selected again?

Prior to Fawad gaining national selection there had been question marks on Nathan Lyon’s ability to do a job in the Australian team, and whether he was the match winner the team needed. Though he was dropped at the start of the 2013 Ashes in England he came back in the subsequent series in Australia and did well enough behind the dominant pace attack that the spin fears of the team seemed to calm, thus probably halting any need to rush in a new option. Lyon’s growing confidence both on the field and within the team clique probably closed the door on Fawad getting a look in for the Test team, and once the World Cup in 2015 was won with extreme pace and part-time spin options his pathway to the shorter forms of the game probably closed as well.

Fawad forced the selectors’ hands with his Sheffield Shield season in 2014/15 when he topped the bowlers aggregate with 48 wickets at 24.85, including a Shield Final best of 8/89 from 40 overs. He made the Ashes touring squad but never got a sniff of playing a Test. This was his best season, and since then he has had a battle to even be selected for Victoria as Jon Holland’s rise has created a battle within itself.

His first class career record stands at 196 wickets at an average of 31.74. In 2017/18 he played seven matches and took 27 wickets at 37.74. At 36 years of age he has been usurped in the race for the Test team by Queensland’s Mitchell Swepson who toured India and Bangladesh last year. Swepson’s Shield figures for 2017/18 almost mirror Fawad’s, with 32 wickets at 36.96.

To watch Fawad bowl is a treat. He bowls the leggie, he has a terrific wrong ‘un and can bowl the flipper as well. At Big Bash level with the Sydney Thunder he has been a revelation, and the way he sets up the batsmen before dismissing them is a masterclass for leg spinners young and old. He rarely seems flustered and continues to come back even if he is being flogged around the park.

If taken on just figures alone, many would argue Fawad has not done enough to force his way into the Australian side on merit since his brief stint five years ago. Figures don’t always tell the whole story, but no selection panel over that time frame has felt strongly enough that he should be in the national side. I think that is a shame. Perhaps if he had been given a chance at Test level he may have bombed, but he may also have stepped up to the challenge and not only succeeded but improved by being at that level. We’ll never know.

Though Australian cricket may be the loser in the long run, Fawad’s career since his asylum here has been a revelation. If his first class career is to end then he has given a lot of people enjoyment from watching him bowl (myself included) which is something he can be proud of.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Slayer / Seasons in the Abyss. 1990. 5/5

I can totally understand why Slayer fans who came into the band all the way back at the beginning in 1983 have problems reconciling what is offered on Seasons in the Abyss. Where you have been raised on a diet of pure thrash and speed metal that the band delivered on their early albums, coming into this album must have been a slightly off-putting experience. On the other hand, for those that found Slayer at about the time this was released, it could be seen as being a liberating event. This is where I met Slayer.

That it took me so long to get around to listening to Slayer is not only a bit surprising it is also disappointing. I should have been listening to Slayer a lot earlier than this, but as none of my friend group with whom I shared all of our album purchases with had found their way into the band either, none of us had a reference point. Don’t get me wrong, I had heard snatches of songs at record stores and on metal programmes along the way, but had never actually made the connection to go out and buy their albums. As a result, it wasn’t until a few months before this album came along that I finally started divulging in the band, and it was this album that was the first of theirs I bought and obsessed over.
This is where the two sides of the fan debate will part, and maybe I feel a little fortunate that I was able to take in and love this album without the past albums intruding to colour my judgement, because if I had I too may have felt that this album changed everything that Slayer had produced before. Yes, I’m talking about the speed and ferociousness of the songs in general. It’s not the case for the whole album but there are certainly moments where the groove and riff sets in rather than the pure speed or high level thrash that dominated the band’s earlier albums. “Dead Skin Mask” and “Seasons in the Abyss” are the two high profile songs on this album that do this. They are both terrific songs in their own right, but they are not like anything that came from their early days. Perhaps the best example on the album is perhaps my favourite song, “Skeletons of Society”. It’s a simple groove and riff, it tends to plod along, but I love the song and the lyrics. It mirrors “Expendable Youth” though the soloing goes off on its own track as well.
Still if you want thrash you’ve still got it here. Album opener “War Ensemble” is a killer track, set off on the back of the remarkable drumming of Dave Lombardo who ignites the song at a fever pitch but is challenged by the riffing of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King as Tom Araya somehow plays the bass at this speed while spitting out the lyrics in the same speed. “Blood Red” and “Spirit in Black” continue in a similar vein, as do “Hallowed Point” and “Born of Fire”. Another favourite is “Temptation” with dual vocals tracks that Araya had recorded separately (one the way he wanted to sing it, the other the way writer King thought it should be sung) that were then put together on the song when it was thought it worked. And it does!

In a year where so many fantastic but ever-changing heavy metal albums were released, you can’t deny that this one is still at the top of its game. All four band members are on fire here, Hanneman and King’s amazing guitars brought to the fore with Araya’s bass and vocals pushing the limits and Lombardo’s drumming smashing the silence and at times the sound barrier. While we will always have the raw majesty of Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits, and while Reign in Blood will always stand as a pinnacle, and while South of Heaven still ranks alongside these other albums, this album shows that thrash metal can show a maturity without overly compromising its principles. As I said initially, I can understand where those early fans are coming from with their criticism of this album, and find I am thankful in this instance for the fact that I was able to fall in love with this album for the right reasons and not just be angry about any perceived changes in the make-up of the songs from their earlier vintage. This still ranks as one of the greats.

Rating:  “The final swing is not a drill, it's how many people I can kill!”.  5/5

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Dokken / Return to the East Live [Live]. 2018. 2.5/5

The heyday of bands can stretch for any length of time, but once that heyday has been reached and passed there is no returning to it. Nostalgia can often carry a band to further heights at a later stage, and classic line up reunions can do the same. Dokken appears to have gone for most of those things combined with this live album release, and while there will be fans of the band out there who will lick this up, many others will rightly ask whether or not this release was necessary in any shape or form apart from being a money spinner.

The classic run for Dokken of Tooth and NailUnder Lock and Key and Back for the Attack was completed by the release of the live album Beast From the East, which tied up the ends nicely before they disbanded for other projects apart from each other. Despite other albums coming and the band members changing once a reformation of sorts was accomplished seven years later, nothing has approached those four albums in the Dokken discography.
Once again though, the ‘classic’ line up reformed a couple of years ago, did a run of shows with their greatest hits through Japan again (where surely their main audience still resides), recorded a new tune and put this album together along with a live video of the shows and titled it Return to the East Live (2016). No doubt looking for the nostalgia buffs.
If you truly loved Dokken in the day, or discovered them later on, then there is no real need to invest in this package. To be honest, it is somewhat of an injustice to the memory of just how good this band was in the 1980’s where their greatest material was written and recorded. One of the first problems you run into on this recording is that there just doesn’t feel like there is any energy coming through. Dokken always thrived on stage, and on their studio albums you felt that energy pumping out of the speakers. Here however it is almost like they have produced an easy-listening version of their songs, and that they are playing in front of a crowd of grannies at an old folk’s home. It’s a soft comeback, and while I’m happy to attribute some of that to the advancing age of the participants on the stage, and perhaps even that this still wasn’t the happiest of reunions apart from being a grab for cash, it still doesn’t excuse the lounge act kind of atmosphere that most of this album seems to sound like.
One of the inescapable facts of the album is that Don’s voice just cannot do the things that it used to do in those more enlightened times. Every song has been tuned down and altered vocally so that Don can at least give a semblance of a performance of the lyrics, which is interesting because for the most part Jeff Pilson’s supporting vocals still sound the same as they ever did. So I guess for much of the time I spend listening to this album I keep hearing how the vocals SHOULD sound and in trying to marry that up with the way that Don HAS to sing them now, and it just doesn’t come together very well.

Is it a bad album? No it’s not, but it is different. This was all done better on the 1988 live album when the band was at its peak, and this is just a reunion show playing much the same material but 30 years later. The new single recorded for the release, “It’s Another Day”, does sound fine, mostly because it is recorded with the band’s current requirements being taken into account. There are also two acoustic track, “Heaven Sent” and “Will the Sun Rise”, which I can take or leave without too much trouble.
If you don’t know Dokken and want to see what they are all about, then the four albums listed above will give you the best chance to grow to love them. Unless you are a completely obsessive fan who is a die-hard lover of the band, you don’t need to hear this.

Rating:  Only for the mega-fan.  2.5/5

Stryper / God Damn Evil. 2018. 3.5/5

Before I sat down to write this review of Stryper’s new album God Damn Evil, I took a look back at what I have said about their last four or five albums. Not to steal from them, but more to confirm that in essence how I feel about this album is exactly how I have felt about those albums. I didn’t want to head into writing what I guessed was essentially the same old feelings without knowing that was what I was going to do.

So yes, that’s pretty much what I’m going to do. Because here is yet another excellent sounding album by a band that rediscovered its mojo with their 2009 release Murder by Pride and has maintained that level of excellence since. And I can’t really say anything different this time around because all of the same things stand true here as they have on the previous three albums. Those being:

1. This is a Christian band, and these are Christian-themed lyrics in each song. If you are in to that kind of thing then you are in the right ballpark. If you aren’t, then you should ignore what might be being proclaimed in the lyrics and just enjoy the songs, because they still sound great.
2. The musicianship and production is fantastic. Robert Sweet’s drumming is still terrific, and drives each song perfectly. He has always seemed to get a great sound from his equipment on Stryper albums, which is not always the case on studio recordings. New bass guitarist Perry Richardson does his job admirably in support of the rhythm section.
3. The guitars of Oz Fox and Michael Sweet are just incredible. Not only the sound they get, but the brilliant riffs and soloing from the two of them has always been one of the major themes that draws me to this band. Whatever you might think of their themes, the actual guitaring is always magnificent and more than worth coming back to hear time and time again.
4. The vocal chords of Michael Sweet. I’m not sure if he has ever gotten due praise for his voice. It is one of the best in the business, in any genre of music. In harmony with Oz Fox, these two just nail every song and still hit notes that are surely impossible to sing.

I don’t always find particular songs to rave about on Stryper albums now, but I can put on this album and listen all the way through and then have a repeat dose. There are some things mixed in on this edition, the chorus high pitched screaming of “TAKE IT TO THE CROSS!” on the opening track of the same name is a change in habit, and then the drop back in intensity in “Sorry”. The hard core riff and beat of “God Damn Evil” is followed by the smooth and rumbling “You Don’t Even Know Me”. The closing track “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here” is another favourite.

In the long run, if you have enjoyed Stryper in the past you will enjoy this album as well, even though it probably isn’t quite as heavy or creative as the previous couple of albums. The groove is well maintained here, and the best parts of the band are highlighted and maintained. If you are not a fan of the band then you won’t find anything here to change your mind.

Rating:  “You better change your reflection and start a new crusade”.  3.5/5

Saturday, April 28, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 3 vs Coniston Gold

The Albion Park JSC Under 11 Red team faced a tough away game on Saturday against Coniston Gold at McKinnon Oval, but perhaps didn’t expect it to be as ‘tough’ as it turned out to be.

With Ky and Indy absent the team was lucky to have Under 10 players Johnny and Jayden fill in for the day, and their speed and enthusiasm up front kept the pressure on the Coniston team.

The game was hard fought from the outset. The Coniston team were big bodied, and although that could have been intimidating the Red team used their improving skills and speed to keep them on the move. A couple of attacking moves early on found the ball sneak across the face of goals but not over the line. The backline of Belle Kadwell, Brock Young and Josh Peters worked hard in keeping any attacking moves at bay, clearing well to the midfield on a number of occasions. After 15 minutes, Josh dispossessed his taller opponent and passed meticulously to Jack-Ryan Eberwein on the right wing, who moved down his wing, beat two opponents and then crashed the ball to the goal where it forced its way through the keeper’s legs to get the Reds on the scoreboard and a 1-0 lead.

The work rate of the kids was enormous. Belle was unstoppable, chasing down every player who made their way through midfield, worrying the ball off them and then supporting down her flank. Zoe Middleton and Claire Kadwell up front on the left side of the field ran at everything, not giving the Coniston players any time or room to move, consistently frustrating their attempt to get to the other half of the field. Up front Noah Black did well to keep himself clear of defenders, giving his teammates an easy mark to kick to and open up attacking opportunities. He had one shot that just went wide of the right post, and his sharing of the ball was also excellent. This pressure eventually led to the Reds second goal, when a shot almost caused an own goal for Coniston, but Johnny was on the spot to put the ball in the back of the net and take a 2-0 lead.

It was not all one way traffic, and while the defensive line was good there were three or four chances for the Coniston team to open their account, but they were twice denied by good goal line defence from Brock and Josh, and there was also two great saves by Jack Tate, one a fantastic dive to his left that would have made Mark Schwarzer proud. At half time the score remained at 2-0.

There was plenty of enthusiasm from both teams to open the second stanza, with Coniston making three big attacking raids on the goals, but they were repelled by two brilliant saves by Noah who had taken over the custodian’s role, one a pure reflex screamer that must have been frustrating for the home team. The defence held though, and once these attacks had been dispelled the Reds put on another goal for themselves, this time Jayden able to breach the defence to put the Reds up 3-0.

The remainder of the game was somewhat overshadowed by the roughhouse tactics by some of the Coniston team that unfortunately were mostly overlooked by the official. But the Reds team soldiered on bravely and refused to take a backwards step for any of them. Jack Tate was barrelled over unceremoniously after he had made a cracking shot on goal that was only denied a goal by a terrific save by their keeper. Belle Kadwell was monstered in one play where she was elbowed once and knocked down twice illegally, but she kept getting up and took the ball off him three times in the same play. Brilliant stuff, and she refused to leave the field of play. Josh got knocked down and trodden on at least three times for no whistle, while almost every player felt the tough tactics of their opponents. And yet, none of them buckled and they refused to return the tactics. It was great play by all the kids and a credit to their coaches Shane and Andy for the way they held themselves.

The final score of 3-0 was a tremendous effort from the team, and they should be rightly proud of their efforts.

Player of the Day was Zoe Middleton who against didn’t stop for the whole game, and took some punishment herself against the bigger boys that she refused to shy away from, and she showed a lot of bravery in continue to get in their face and take the ball off them even when she was being kicked in the shins and ankles for her trouble. Well done Zoe, you deserved your award today.

Friday, April 27, 2018

W.A.S.P. / ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to The Crimson Idol). 2018. 4/5

I guess there are any number of reasons you can come up with for wanting to re-record an album from your back catalogue, especially one that is as dear to the hearts of fans as The Crimson Idol is. I imagine in this case that the main reason for Blackie revisiting what some believe is his magnum opus is that he wanted to bring it closer to his original concept, to add in the things he left out the first time, and to change some things that he was no longer comfortable with. Whether it is a great or foolish idea will be in the eye of the beholder, if for no other reason that the original album was so popular, did it really require any touching up?

The original 1992 album is one of my favourite albums of all time. There is a real angst and anger delivered throughout the album and storyline, and the musicianship, especially in the drumming of both Frankie Banali and Stet Howland is incomparable and in Bob Kulick’s guitar riffs and licks. Almost every song is a winner in its own way and at that time of my life it spoke to me in a way that the grunge-soaked rock that was proliferating the music world then couldn’t do.
As to this re-recorded version, well… in many instances it doesn’t have the same effect as the original did. Don’t get me wrong, the great songs are still great. The opening from “The Titanic Overture” and “The Invisible Boy” to “Arena of Pleasure” and “Chainsaw Charlie” are still terrific, but they do not have the same anger and defiance and angst in the vocals and the music that the originals did. They aren’t stonewashed as such, but they are less powerful. The current line-up of Blackie, Doug Blair, Mike Duda and Mike Dupke do a good job of recreating each song, trying to get the same nuances and not messing about too much with the song structure, but it isn’t the same. Blackie tries to give us a few harmonies in the vocals which work for the most part. There are six ‘new’ tracks added to the album, which for actually mess up the whole feel of the story and disrupt the continuity of the music. I cannot get used to not flowing straight from “The Gypsy Meets the Boy” into “Doctor Rockter” which has always been a great pick up. Instead, we have the quiet reflective “Michael’s Song” and “Miss You” which was also added on the previous album Golgotha. Then, once we had the power ballads of “The Idol” and “Hold on to My Heart” we would crash into the epic closer “The Great Misconceptions of Me”. Here though we have four further additions. The clear guitar driven “Hey Mama” is followed by “The Lost Boy”, which very much sounds like a post-2001 era W.A.S.P. song, and for me feels out of place because it does come from a different time period of the band. “The Peace” just feels like it’s a repeat of “Hold on to My Heart” (of course with different lyrics telling a different part of the story) and “Show Time” another short addition. All of this for me stops the story and album in its tracks, and takes away some of the enjoyment. For those who are not familiar with the original this shouldn’t be an issue.
There is also the noticeable elimination of language from the album. The changing of words in the middle of “Chainsaw Charlie” makes it a little awkward to listen to on this album. It tends to detract from the power of the middle of the song, where the real charge of the album comes from. There is also the exchange between Jonathon and Alex Rodman pre-“The Idol” which has the harsher words changed for less demonstrative ones. This isn’t a big thing, and was no doubt an obvious move given Blackie’s changing belief system in recent years, but for me it takes away a part of the energy and drama of the album. On the positive side, I can at least allow my ten year old son to listen to this version of the story without fear of him listening to words he probably shouldn’t at his age (but given he is a fan of W.A.S.P. he has heard them all anyway).

Blackie had his reasons for taking on this project again, and for making the changes he did. That’s fine, and if it introduces new kids and new fans to this great album then it is more than worth it. Those that listen to this without the looming large shadow of the original hanging over it will be pleasantly surprised by a wonderful rock opera filled with awesome heavy metal tracks mixed with some slower ballad tracks that for the most part combine together well. Everything sounds great here and is in its right place. The Crimson Idol is still one of my favourite albums ever, and in being seen to judge this somewhat harshly it is only because I have such fondness for the original production.

Rating:  “But the dream became my nightmare, no one could hear me scream”.  4/5

Anderson's Match We Can All Relate To

New Zealand’s Corey Anderson had one of those forgettable days that we have all had on the cricket field on Wednesday, as the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) chased down an unlikely target to defeat the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in a high scoring match in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Anderson has lived in the shadow of his amazing feat from New Years Day in 2014, when he smashed what was then the fastest ODI century, bringing up his ton off just 36 deliveries against the West Indies. His 2015 World Cup campaign was also successful with both bat and ball as New Zealand charged to the final. His left handed batting has always been on the attacking side, while his left arm bowling can be pushed beyond military medium. As an all-round package he appears a perfect fit for T20 cricket.

His start to the IPL in 2018 had been largely forgettable, having only played in two of the first five matches for RCB, making 0 and 15 with the bat and taking 2/47 and 1/10 with the ball.

Chosen to play against Chennai on Wednesday, he came to the crease with the score at 2/138 in the 14th over, after a wonderful pace setting partnership of 103 off nine overs, ostensibly to swing from the hip and keep the momentum going. Easier said than done some days, and that’s just what Anderson found out. He faced five consecutive dot balls off Dwayne Bravo to hand him a wicket maiden, a rare event in T20 cricket. He chopped two wide balls to point, watched a short slow ball pass by his eyes, charged and missed a wide ball and was completely fooled by a slow full toss that struck him on his back pad, which was met with a raucous appeal from Bravo for LBW.

In the following over from Imran Tahir, Anderson put a miscued slog short of mid-on for a single, followed it with another tentative push to long on for another single before he failed to pick the wrong ‘un which he parried to first slip for a simple catch. An innings that was supposed to be one that continued the RCB momentum ended after eight balls had produced just two unconvincing singles. Not the kind of innings to hang your hat on.

There is no fun being a designated ‘finisher’ with the ball in T20 cricket. The opportunity of being a hero is far outweighed by the chance that you will instead be the one who is blamed for a loss. Virat Kohli made his decision to close out the match bowling Anderson and Mohammed Siraj for three overs each. At that time, CSK required 80 runs from the final 36 deliveries.

What chance does a bowler have? Flat wickets, short boundaries, wides called for anything not bowled almost directly at the batsman. Miscues fall beyond the reach of fieldsmen, edges fly away into gaps to the boundary. The last thing you need is to have a teammate drop a catch off a batsman that is flying. This is what happened to Anderson’s third ball of this spell, when Rayudu’s skied ball was put down by Umesh. Reprieved, Rayudu then gleefully smashed the final two balls of the over for six.

Anderson’s ploy was to bowl his left arm deliveries short of a length across the right handed batsmen wide of the off stump. It meant if they wanted to hit to the leg side they had to take a risk. On the other hand, the shorter off side boundaries were also in play if you could clear the fieldsmen.

16 runs came from Anderson’s over, and 15 came from his next. By this stage Anderson’s tactics were predictable to those watching on TV and to those batting in the middle. With 16 required for victory in the final over, Dwayne Bravo top edged the first wide delivery to the third man boundary, the second over the long off boundary. A single gave MS Dhoni the strike, and he calmly stepped across outside his off stump and put the predictably directed delivery twenty rows back over long on to win the game with two balls in hand.

Anderson finished with 0/58 from 3.4 overs, conceding six sixes and two fours. Watching Anderson forlornly trudge off the ground, with the crowds cheers ringing in his ears, you couldn’t help but sympathise with his position. After all, we have all been in the same position on the cricket field. My father always said “there’s another game next week” as a way of reminding me that the chance for redemption was not far away. For Corey Anderson in this season’s IPL, that may not be the case.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Judas Priest / Firepower. 2018. 4.5/5

In an world where the early leaders of the heavy metal art form are ageing and deteriorating such that not only do band members change but the music itself has evolved outwardly since their earliest incarnation, it makes sense that many people may question the arrival of new music from these bands. What do they have to offer in the current music environment, and how could it possibly be relevant to either long time followers or possible new recruits who may find it is obsolete? These are thoughts that it would not be unfair to have running through your head as you approach the 18th studio album released by metal stalwarts Judas Priest, and yet by the time you have listened to Firepower on a couple of occasions most will appreciate that there is still plenty of firepower left in the old war chest.

When the previous album Redeemer of Souls was released it was a positive feel. I was perhaps relieved rather than completely excited. From the get-go here though I was excited. The first taste of the album dropped a week or so before the album arrived, and it had everything that you could have hoped for in a Judas Priest song. And the when I first got the album, it was… well, not mind blowing as such, but it was somewhat unexpected as to how much I enjoyed it.
The best part for me is that I went in with no expectations, but got plenty in return. You won’t get supersonically fast songs, you won’t get heavier than heavy songs, you won’t get vocals and screams that raise the roof. What you do get are pacey songs with great riffs and solid thumping drum work with those great Halford mid-range vocals throughout. The songs are catchy, and the structure works terrifically. They are not as simplistic as “Breaking the Law” or “Living After Midnight”, and they are not as bombastic as “Painkiller” or “Leather Rebel”.
This album hasn’t left my rotation since its release almost two months ago. It gets me in right from the start with the great riffage of “Firepower”, “Lightning Strike” and “Evil Never Dies”. “Firepower” is a brilliant opening song, clattering along, and followed by “Lightning Strike” with great guitar work from Glen Tipton and Richie Faulkner and dual vocal work from Halford creating another great singalong song. Then we fall back into a more traditional heavy riff, complemented by super drumming from Scott Travis again, that keeps the brilliant vibe of the album going. These three songs make for a superb opening to the album. The rest of the album too is terrific, with songs such as “Rising From Ruins”, “Flame Thrower”, “Traitors Gate” and “Sea of Red” all of different tempo but no less enjoyable than the rest of the album.
Many of the older fans may be looking for the classic Judas Priest on this album, and younger fans may be looking for something completely different. For me I could not have asked for anything more from this album, from this band, at this stage of their career. All of the elements that make Judas Priest such a timeless band are here, even if they may be subtly different. Halford’s vocals continue to amaze, and they sound as powerful as ever. He doesn’t go for the heights anymore, which more than anything else makes it easier to sing along to the songs on this album. Tipton and Faulkner are still magnificent in the art of guitaring, with Faulkner in particular really coming to the fore on this album. Hill’s bass work can still be completely underrated but once again here his playing is compulsory in bringing the low end to the songs. Topping it off is Travis’s drumming which continues to be the benchmark for the band, perfectly timed and adding flourishes when there is a gap to fill.

Many may write this off as too tailored or too predictable or not relevant in the modern age of metal, but I would counter that this is the perfect release for this time. Whether or not it was inspired by the classic Judas Priest albums of the 1980’s, the sound has a tie to that era, but without trying to transplant or copy it. This is a modern album with relevance to the band’s past, and by doing so creates exactly what the fan wants. There can’t be another Defenders of the Faith or Painkiller, but for 2018 this will suffice nicely.

Rating:  “He pulls the strings inside you and plays upon your fears”.  4.5/5

Backyard Cricket Will Be More Relevant Than "The Hundred"

The news of the brave new initiative of the ECB to introduce a fresh approach to cricket with their “The Hundred” domestic competition in the English summer from 2020 has missed the real opportunity to bring in ‘backyard’ rules that would actually draw regular people to the game.

While Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss and current English Test Captain Joe Root have been positive in their belief that this will be a good thing for cricket, many others have suggested that as a marketing ploy it has little to offer.

With the concept still in its infancy, the fact that it has been announced this week seems to indicate that the ECB plans to move forward with the proposal as it tries to offer an eight city-based team competition that will stand apart from the other domestic T20 competitions around the world, such as the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League. The announcement has brought a varied and proportional response from cricket lovers around the world.

At the heart of the concept is that both teams would face 100 deliveries, made up of 15 six ball overs, and a final over of ten deliveries. Of course there is no chance this will be a 100-balls-per-side initiative, because the number of wides and no balls that come with the one day game will ensure that number is never achieved. There are also possible rule tweaks that include abandoning LBW dismissals and allowing a change of bowlers in the middle of the final ten ball over.

The ECB chief executive Tom Harrison believes "This is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attractnew fans to the game," while England captain Joe Root has been quoted as saying "It's going to appeal to a completely new audience, and I think that's great,” and that mums and kids would be drawn in by the ‘new’ concept.

If the ECB is serious about creating a new competition format for cricket which would bring in the mums and the kids as well as new people who have not been regular followers of the game, then instead of borrowing heavily from the T20 cricket format that already exists, why wouldn’t they design a game that revolved around the type of cricket that everybody already knows and participates in, such as backyard cricket rules?

Who wouldn’t be excited about seeing domestic cricketers playing a game under rules such as can’t get out first ball, hitting the ball over the fence is six and out, and batsmen can be caught out on the ‘one hand one bounce’ rule? What about bringing in the automatic wicket-keeper? Or put in the garbage bin at silly point, and if you hit it on the full you are out caught? If you want real excitement, let’s play under the ‘hit and run’ rule. How about bowlers who claim they have two balls to go in their over, even though they’ve been bowling for twenty minutes?

These are the kinds of changes to cricket that might draw in the Mums and the kids in a different way from the current cricket formats, not just another shortening of the overs being faced by each side and then a fancy multi-ball over to finish off the innings. Better yet, open up the discussion to the public as to what rules they actually want to see in a new cricket competition, and not just give the game a quick polish and pass it off as ‘new and exciting’.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 2 vs Albion Park Green

The unseasonable warmth for April persisted through to today's second round of the junior soccer season, and left its mark on the match-up between the Albion Park Under 11 Red tam and their cohorts the Albion Park Green team at the beautiful Terry Reserve for this week's match.

Down a pair of twin velociraptors in Belle and Claire Kadwell for the match the Reds got some top up value from the lending of Lachlan from one of the other Albion Park teams, as well as the addition of Zali Middleton. Both players helped to handle the workload on a warm morning for both teams.

Early on it felt as though the Reds were all still asleep. There was none of the usual energy and drive, and a lot of standing around and not willing to do the hard work to get the ball. Fortunately on a couple of occasions Indy Middleton and Jack-Ryan Eberwein were able to shut down some attacking raids that looked dangerous, and cleared the ball up to the forward line. Ky Van Helden did some good swerving in the mid-field from these deliveries, while Zali continued to be the live wire up front, never stopping and attacking at every opportunity.
The tough beginning was broken wide open by Indy, who stole the ball again and then make a big break himself down the right wing before getting the ball in to Noah Black, who made a great pass to Zali who was unmarked, and she crashed the ball home to open the scoring at 1-0.
Lachlan showed his own skills not long after, beating three opponents down the right before slashing a shot that passed right across the face of goal to just miss scoring. From the restart however Zoe Middleton forced a mistake from the defense before passing the ball to Noah, whose strike was not 100% but managed to go through the legs of the keeper to make the score 2-0

The team had started to get themselves moving now, as Brock Young found space down the left side before passing in to Noah, whose shot was wide of the goals. From the goal kick however Zali blocked the kick perfectly, and on the rebound slotted the ball home for her second goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Green team however was also coming to life, and from a goal kick at their end they managed to get past a slightly lax defensive unit to get the ball to the other end, where they scored a goal past keeper Josh Peters, who did his best to save by was beaten by a great strike, and the score at half time was 3-1 to the Reds.

The second half opened much better for the Reds after Coach Shane Black and CEO Andy Middleton had instructed their young changes on what was required. Ky took a ball early on from halfway, and found his way through the defenders to put the ball in the back of the net and extend the lead to 4-1. The Greens replied with a goal of their own to keep the pressure on. Some great work from Josh in the mid-field and then a perfect pass to Ky's feet up forward brought another goal for Ky and made the scoreline 5-2.
Some indecision in the backs and perhaps some exhaustion setting in (all of the kids were red in the face and puffing hard by this stage) gave the Green team several chances to score. Jack Tate in goals was busy, and made a great fist of his job. he made one excellent save to deny the Greens a goal, and then made a diving full length save against a cracking shot that should rank as save of the season, only to have his opponents sneak the rebound past him to make the score 5-3. With the defensive line too high when a great break was made it left Jack stranded, and despite his best efforts the Greens scored another goal to bring the game back to 5-4 and now it was very tight.

A good play between Josh and Brock saw the ball go out, with Brock making a great throw back to Josh who ran down the right wing almost to the flag, before making a perfect pin-point cross into the centre past three defenders to where he found Noah, who controlled the ball and then placed the ball into the back of the net for a terrific goal that extended the lead back to 6-4. These three combined again not long after, with Noah in the centre making a run before passing perfectly to Brock on the right, who then composed himself with a short run before blasting the ball home for a great individual goal, and the score was a more comfortable 7-4. This didn't stop the Green team, who again forced a goal from nothing at the other end to get the score back to 7-5, but time was against them and that was the final play of the match.

All the kids did well in tough conditions, but Zoe Middleton deserves special mention for her work rate. She didn't always get much of the ball, but she was in position all the time, and ran forward to present herself but got back quickly when the ball changed sides. She worried the ball off her opponents terrifically well.

Player of the Day was awarded to Indy Middleton who again showed great defensive skills (although his eyes wandered to the other match a couple of times) and continues to take his chances to make big runs through the centre and down the wings before getting the ball to his teammates in the scoring positions. Great work Indy.

A short break ensues for the school holidays, but the kids have already shown they should be in for a great season, especially if they keep listening to Shane and Andy's advice.