Will Not Fade’s best of 2017

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What a year!

Every year offers new highs and lows, but for Will Not Fade it has been the best yet.

I started the site during my second year of university, making the most of the downtime between assignments to write about two new records I’d bought. (Shihad – FVEY and Maybeshewill – Fair Youth). The blog slowly gained traction as I continued writing. Most posts received very little attention, but I kept at it, refining my style, making musical contacts, and learning more about the IT side of things.

Believe it or not, we’ve published over 200 posts now – not a bad effort for a small DIY blog. I (Joseph) also made a few dreams come true this year, travelling to America to meet a bunch of musicians I’ve come to know online through the blog.

I met with Jesse from Glacier in Boston for a beer at a brewery near a peanut butter factory. Matt from Aviation and the War hosted me in Chicago for a few days, and we watched the solar eclipse from his back yard. Former Will Not Fade contributor CJ Blessum also hosted me at his house in Montana, and I traveled across America on tour with his band Ranges. I also stayed with Arctic Drones writers Aaron Edwards in Idaho, and David Zeidler in Vermont. It is incredibly gratifying meeting people in person after being “friends” online for some time.

I also met Samuel at a Ranges show in Colorado. He mentioned that he’d like to get into writing about music, and next thing you know, he’s making me look bad with his excellent reviews. It’s great to have someone so passionate on board.

I also teamed up with A Thousand Arms to print a limited run of WNF t-shirts. They turned out great, and I’m proud to say there was fair demand for them. Thanks to everyone who requested one.

Joseph’s best of 2017

Song of the year: Tides of Man – We Were Only Dreaming

This is the sound of happiness. The awesome instrumentation makes me dance every time. I met Tides of Man on tour and feel blessed that I can now consider them friends. I saw them play four sets on tour, and this song was my highlight every night.

His Master's Voice The Devils Blues Woman EP CoverRelease of the year: His Master’s Voice – Woman EP

Filthy, raw blues inspired heavily by Black Sabbath. Hands down the release I’ve listened to most since I first got a copy. These guys are seriously underrated.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Band of the year: Living Colour

This year I interviewed one of my drum heroes, Will Calhoun. Then his band blew me away at The Powerstation in Auckland. I also managed to catch a free Chuck Berry tribute show in New York, featuring a hotshot band assembled by Vernon Reid. And then Living Colour dropped Shade,a brilliant album that treads the line between heavy and soulful.

Live highlights:

There are so many that it is hard to narrow down.

Obviously dunk!USA was a major highlight. Not only was this my first international festival, but I was friends with many of the acts, and had an all-access pass. I may have let the journalistic integrity slide somewhat with my drunken antics, but as far as I’m aware, I’m the only person who wrote a review of the festival, so technically I still pulled off writing the best review. Plus, I think the photos I took were killer.

El Ten Eleven Rough Trade NYC Brooklyn

El Ten Eleven played in Brooklyn, not too far from where I was staying. I had a blast dancing along to their tunes. It’s amazing what two musicians can pull off with the help of technology and talent.

I flew to Las Vegas to see St Paul & The Broken Bones. They played a great set. But headliner Trombone Shorty blew them out of the water. This was a class act. The stage was packed with hotshot musicians, all exuding vibrant energy.

Frank Turner has long been one of my favourite artists, so it was a blast to catch him live in Vancouver. He even previewed a few new songs. There’s few things as good as seeing an artist play some of your favourite songs live.

Head Like A Hole Valhalla Wellington

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never seen Kiwi rock legends Head Like A Hole before this year. Duncan from Hiboux invited me along to a show at Valhalla, and I’m so glad I went. Like their contemporaries Shihad, they’ve been around long enough to know what they’re doing.

And I’m always partial to some outrageous novelty shows, so David Liebe Hart, Guitar Wolf and Chain and the Gang all stand out. Especially Guitar Wolf, who pulled me up on stage to play guitar with them.

David Liebe Hart with Alien singing Salame at Meow, Wellington

2018

Looking forward to 2018, I’m super pumped for Thundercat in March, Biffy Clyro in April, and Royal Blood in May. And new albums from Alien Weaponry, Frank Turner and Tides of Man all sound very promising.

And, of course, it will be awesome to meet many European friends at dunk!fest 2018 in Belgium. I may even make it to Pelagic Fest in Berlin the following week, but we will see…

 

Special thanks to all the readers who take the time to read our content. It is so gratifying when I hear that I’ve put someone on to new music. If you have any suggestions for what content you want to see us cover in 2018 then by all means, let us know!

Joseph James

Will Not Fade Awesomeness Award 2018 – Adam Page

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Adam Page has brought so much joy to my life that I feel the need to coin an award just to express how he makes me feel.

I still remember the first time I saw him. It was at a bar called Lido on Victoria street, which is now under construction. My friend Sam invited me along, and seeing how Sam’s recommendations are always trustworthy, I made a point of coming. It was weird in a way, because there was no charge for admission – just buy something to eat or drink to support the venue.

Adam led the trio. He largely stuck to vocals and saxophone, but also employed other odd instruments like kazoo and shakers and melodica – just to spice up the sound. He kept his band on their toes, turning to the drummer and saying “give me a disco beat at this pace”, clapping to count him in. Ed Zuccollo was on mini moog, closely watching Adam for key changes. Adam would shout out something like “and now for a solo in the key of E!”, putting Ed on the spot and forcing him to improvise.

It was a brilliant example of great musicianship. Unrehearsed, but still incredibly good.

The highlight of the night was when Adam launched into the Lion King theme song, belting out the African lyrics with intense passion. I found it so funny that I almost fell off my chair, tears rolling down my face with laughter. Adam even paused the song to check that I was OK.

Adam played a series of these gigs over the next month of so, always a free mid-afternoon improvised show at local bars and cafes. Always a complete joy to watch.

Adam Page


I remember him opening for comedy-rockers The Beards the first time the came to Wellington. I think they had some history, both coming from Adelaide. Adam had all the vital ingredients anyway: musical talent, a wicked sense of humour, and a beard. Using a looping pedal and a microphone, he played a set of songs that comprised of beat boxing and beard noises.

Beard noises? Well, when he pull on one long hair it made a high-pitched sound. When he brushed a comb through his follicles percussively, it made a beat. It sounds unbelievable, but he pulled it off.


Another show of note was at Puppies or Happy [I can’t remember which name the venue had at the time]. It was a Star Wars themed gig, to tie in with May the Fourth. Everyone in the band was dressed up as a Star Wars character, with Page dressed in a Boba Fett outfit that was far too small for him, giving him a major wedgie. Ah, the sacrifices we make for music!

I remember one individual was dressed in the infamous sexy slave Leia outfit. Said individual was a guy.

It was a fun night, a gathering of nerds and music lovers. The band ran through hits like “Imperial March” and that fun Cantina tune, adding fun twists to the covers.


It was a glorious period when Adam Page lived in Wellington. The name Adam Page was synonymous with fun times, and those times were frequent. He comes back now and again, often for Fringe festival.

Adam plays weird, but good music. He’s known for his improv looping sets. He released an album of Native American flute songs. He also featured on Name UL’s debut EP.

Adam personifies musical talent. You never know what to expect from one of his shows because they’re so spontaneous. He doesn’t stick to genre or convention, he just plays well and has fun. He’s such a gifted goofball. If you get the chance to see Adam Page live, do it! I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

And that is why Adam Page is the recipient of the 2018 Will Not Fade Award for Awesomeness!


Adam Page is playing at Meow in Wellington on Saturday 16 December. Tickets:  http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/gig/57366/Adam-Page.utr

Adam Page links:

Website: http://www.adampage.com.au/

Bandcamp: https://adampage.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/egapmada

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adampagemusic/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/egapmada/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1u9MxsquCsO80boF-fClZw

 

Ten Years On: Discovering Biffy Clyro’s breakthrough album Puzzle

Biffy Clyro Puzzle Cover Art
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Ten Years On: Biffy Clyro – Puzzle

Isolated on the other end of the planet

The internet existed ten years ago, but it was a completely different animal.  My family still had a dial-up connection, so good luck trying to load a video. Not that there were many music videos on YouTube anyway. A few of my slightly older mates tell me about how they left the computer running all night just trying to load a new four-minute Blink 182 video when it was released.

Can you remember the ghastly screeching sound that the computer made when making a connection on dial-up? I can certainly remember my dad shouting at me to disconnect when he wanted to make a phone call. And to think that today we use our phones to connect to the internet!

Biffy Clyro Luke Gilford

Biffy Clyro. Image: Luke Gilford

Youtube was a fledgling, Spotify and other such streaming sites were the speculative talk of some sci-fi future. Facebook existed, but didn’t become popular within my peer group until around 2009. We were all on Bebo [remember that???], with some of the more alty scene kids also having a Myspace account. Nobody really bothered with Facebook messenger anyway, because everyone used MSN.

Which gives you some rough context to why I was my best friend’s house trying to listen to a song called “Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” using a program called Limewire. I’d read about this Scottish band called Biffy Clyro who had just released an album called Puzzle. They were on the front cover of Rock Sound magazine and they sounded interesting, so I was trying to find some of their music to listen to.

Like I said, my family had a dial-up connection, so no point trying to find anything online at home. Streaming sites didn’t exist and sites like Youtube offered little music content. The record stores in my small hometown of Nelson weren’t going to import music by an unheard of [ha!] band like Biffy Clyro unless I was willing to shell out at least $40 – almost as much as I earned in a week working part-time at a supermarket. So I decided to use Tom’s computer to try to listen to this band.

Limewire was notoriously bad for containing poor quality content. Viruses were abundant and most tracks were mislabeled and poorly spelled. So when I started listening to this song that I’d tried to download – “Living Is A Problem…” – it was of little surprise that the track sounded corrupted. I listened to the jarring, stabbing sounds at random intervals for about a minute before I stopped listening and gave up. There’s no way that this file was the single I had read about!

[This video clip cuts roughly 90 seconds off the album version of the song]

Hearing more material

It was a few months later that I bought a Kerrang! Magazine which featured a best of 2007 sampler. That CD featured a Biffy song called “A Whole Child Ago”.  It had a crazy riff that sounded like a polyphonic ringtone [yes, this was 2007 remember!], weird drumming that had a looping pattern [or did it?] and nonsensical lyrics. And I loved it!

This track – along with “Get Fucked Stud”, from the Rock Sound sampler that I’d got when I first read about Biffy – made me want to track down this elusive Puzzle album again.

Tom pulled through for me. A true best friend, he had heard me go on and on about wanting to listen to that album so somehow managed to buy a copy of Puzzle on CD for my birthday.

I remember being so excited. I finally had it! I put it into my crappy discman that was hooked up to criminally bad speakers [so tinny they should have come with a gram of bud!] and sat down to listen to the album. It had a bright orange sticker on the cover with a quote from NME: “This album will change your life!” Yeah… right… I doubted the claim, but still had high expectations.

The first track was “Living Is A Problem…”. Wait… What the hell? The same stabbing sounds for almost two minutes! So that file from Limewire wasn’t corrupted? And this was a single???

Upon closer listen, I figured that the song showcased some incredible musicianship. Certainly not easy to listen to, but bloody impressive that the three musicians could play something with such odd timing and play as a tight unit. The song got really aggressive, but oddly enough had choral sections and string arrangements juxtaposed again the heavy rocking.

Listening through the rest of the album was an interesting ride. It was weird, that’s for sure. Clearly they were on drugs when they came up with most of the lyrics. And there are so many quirky elements and odd time signatures, which were actually tame compared to their previous three albums – not that I knew it at the time.

I think it is impossible to listen to the infuriatingly catchy “Who’s Got A Match?” and stay still. The triplet groove compels the listener to nod their head, tap their foot… something!

In fact, Biffy may well lay claim to my first exposure to math elements in rock. It’s either them or Tool. They took my listening experiences beyond the standard 4/4 or 6/8 time signatures that most songs we listen to are written in. “Now I’m Everyone” contains a 5/4 passage that used to annoy me so much, but I now love it.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the lyrics for most of this album. Plenty are simply nonsense. However, there is a coherent theme of mourning throughout. Simon’s mother had passed away shortly before the album was written, and glimpses into his grieving can be found throughout. I couldn’t tell you why a man is on the corner selling dozens of bones, but when Simon cries “Eleanor, I would do anything for another minute with you” the message to his late mother is clear.

And, just like that, I became a Biffy Clyro fanatic. I started trying to push it on all my mates, spreading the good word of the Biff. It became a bit of a running joke among my mates – “yeah, yeah, Joseph. We know – another weird rock band. Stop going on about it would ya?” Took a photo of the Puzzle album cover with my phone to use as the phone wallpaper, but after a while switched it for something else after a few too many people had asked me why I had the photo of a naked man on my phone.

I did manage to convert a few mates. I was in a band with my best friend Tom [who had gifted me the CD] and another friend Harry, and we chose to add “A Whole Child Ago” to our repertoire, alongside other obligatory teenage covers band numbers: Nirvana, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, System Of A Down, Incubus, Rage Against The Machine etc… I actually sat down to try to drum along to the track a few days ago and realised that I never did figure out how to play it properly, and just managed to come up with something similar that seemed to work. It’s a tricky linear beat that swaps between the hi-hat, snare and kick, and changes ever so slightly every few bars. I think I was more suited to playing something more simple and aggressive like Nirvana’s “Breed”.

It’s crazy that no-one had heard of Biffy in New Zealand. At the time, the band was busy headlining major festivals and touring with the biggest rock bands over in the UK. I guess that shows how important radio play was for entering the public consciousness, back in the days before music was so easy to find online.

I’ve since dug through the band’s catalogue, and own all of their albums and on CD or vinyl (I have most in both formats, because I’m a loser fanboy) as well as a few b-sides collections. I saw Biffy the one time they played in New Zealand and it was everything that I’d hoped for and more. I used that review to launch this music blog (and probably got a meagre 10 views – whoo!).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that NME was right. On that little orange sticker, stuck to the front on the album near the parent advisory box, they told me that the album would change my life.

It did.

Mon the Biff!

Joseph James

An Ode To An Important Local Venue: Bar Bodega

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Bodega

Bar Bodega hosts some of my most revered memories.

Florida punks Against Me! played there back in 2011, back when their front man was still a man. Sweat dripped from the ceilings as the crammed-in crowd tussled, swayed and shouted along to the songs. There were stage dives aplenty, but not many came off the stage. My friend Steve and I took turns boosting each other up. We cupped our hands near our knees for the other person to step onto and launch off.

I remember my first time witnessing a Guitar Wolf show. I’d seen Foo Fighters play in Auckland the night beforehand, and struggle to decide which band put on the better performance. Guitar Wolf were almost cartoonish – Japanese rockers fully buying into the stereotypes. They preferred to suffer under intense heat rather than ditch their leather jackets and sunglasses. There was thumb wrestling, human pyramids, and a LOT of noise. The music wasn’t that good, but never mind that, it was about the overall experience.

Cody ChessnuTT blessed us with his smooth, soulful R&B beats on the night of his 40th birthday. I had been awake for roughly 36 hours trying to juggle university assignments around work, but as exhausted as I was, it was worth staying awake late into that Monday night.

I’ve marvelled at my favourite singer Frank Turner as he spread the folk punk gospel from his pulpit, and was inducted into some other-worldly ritual when Killing Joke tried to set off the apocalypse from the stage.

Locals and internationals; punks, rockers, soul-singers, blues-players, beat-layers, rappers, wailers and crooners have all graced the stage, amongst many others. Look around the bar and you will see many records, photos, posters and backstage passes that lay testament to the many musical memories that still linger within the venue. Furthermore are the memories of first bar, from its original site on Willis Street 25 years ago.

Bodega has now followed the likes of Mighty Mighty, James Cabaret, and Puppies by closing up shop. May the memories remain long after the doors have shut.

 

Joseph James

Will Not Fade’s Guide To Surviving A Music Festival

Will Not Fade Guide Festival Survival Guide Wristbands Timetables Tickets
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Festival Season

It’s summer in New Zealand. New Years celebrations are mere days away, which will soon be followed by regional anniversary days and Waitangi Day. And those holidays come on top of any time off many of us have around the Christmas/New Year period.

Just as the warm summer evenings usher in a time of barbecues and backyard cricket, they also signal the start of festival season.

It has been a fickle time for promoters in recent years. Many festivals I cut my teeth on sadly no longer exist, such as Parachute at Mystery Creek, and Big Day Out. This year saw the cancellation of Westfest (due to the cancellation of the Australian festival Soundwave which it had piggybacked off) and the McLaren Falls/Echo festival. There will be no Auckland City Limits next year either.

All is not lost however, with staples such as Rhythm and Vines/Alps, Laneway, WOMAD, Homegrown, Raggamuffin, Splore, and some new entries like Bay Dreams and One Love offering a variety of genres and locations to appeal to all tastes.

So to help you to have the best festival experience possible, here are some tips for surviving festivals.

Wear Earplugs

Your poor ears get enough of a hard time as it is. Wearing earplugs is a super easy way to protect them, and believe it or not, actually makes the music sound better. It does this by cutting out the higher frequencies that cause hearing damage. Ok, so some of the foam plugs won’t make things sound optimal, but take my word for it when I say that I never go to a love music gig without my earplugs. I use these and they are well worth the money. Go for the attenuating type for best sound quality that still protects. They’ll be more comfortable than foam plugs after a full day’s use too.

Stay hydrated.

It’s summer. It’s hot. Being packed into a venue with hundreds of other sweaty concertgoers makes it even hotter. Do yourself a favour and have plenty of water throughout the day. And increase that amount if you’re having alcohol as well. Because you’re going to be kicking yourself later if you spent $150 on that ticket just to hang out in the paramedics tent for most of the day.

Be prepared for the weather.

I got sunburnt so badly at Big Day Out 2011 that I was still peeling a few weeks later. But the weather changed halfway throughout the day and got cold and damp. Suddenly everyone in singlets couldn’t cope and the crowd noticeably thinned well before many of the headliners played.

If you’re attending a fest with any outdoor stages I recommend buying a $2 rain poncho. It’s cheap and small enough to fit in your pocket, so no harm done if you don’t need it. But you’ll be glad you have it if the weather starts to turn.

It’s more likely to be a scorcher over the summer months, so slip, slop, slap and wrap to avoid looking like a beetroot for the following week. And as tempting as it is to take your nicest gear, think about taking a hat and some sunnies that you won’t miss so much if they get lost in the mosh pit.

On that note, jandals may be great for summer, but don’t protect your toes from getting trampled on by the people dancing near you!

Figure Out Your Schedule

The worst thing about festivals is that often the best bands clash. Have a look at the timetable beforehand to plan which stages you need to be at and when. Sometimes this means deciding between watching a full set of one band, or catching half sets for two bands.

Bear in mind that often stages have limited capacity, so get there early if there is an act that you are desperate to see.

Take some cash.

Many festivals won’t let you take your own food or drink in, even if it’s just water in a clear, sealed bottle. Once you’re inside they’ll charge you the earth for food and drink because you have no other option. My advice is buy the biggest bottle possible at the start of the day and keep refilling it at a tap.

And take cash. It can be faster and more reliable than eftpos.

Have a contingency plan

I once lost my mate at Big Day Out. We were both at Rise Against’s set to start with. He decided to leave early to secure a good spot to see Muse later on, while I stayed on. The crowd was so wild that I swear I was sideways for most of the set. After the band had finished I reached into my pocket to text my friend, only to find that I had lost my phone. Luckily I had his home phone number written on a card along with other emergencies contacts that I kept in my wallet. After some panicked moments of stressing I managed to find a phone I could use and rang his mum, who in turn messaged him to meet me at an appointed spot.

What I learnt from that situation was that it pays to establish a meet up point at the start of the day, so that you can find your friends if you get separated.  It also pays to carry some spare cash and have a list of emergency phone numbers with you.

Charge your phone. 

So you can contact friends. But also keep it in your pocket when you don’t need it. You came to watch bands play live, not through a screen.

Avoid The Queues

This tip depends upon how desperate you are for overpriced beer. I tend not to drink alcohol at most gigs, so am happy to line up for an under-18 wristband if it’s an option, or chose not to line up for the extra over-18 band if that is required. I don’t find it embarrassing and it usually means that I get to watch an extra hour of music, compared to those who deciding to spend their time queuing for a wristband (not to mention the additional time queuing up for drinks!)

Another way to miss the queues is by showing up late, but that means you will miss the acts playing at the start of the day.

Have fun!

Have fun! Check out a band you haven’t heard of before! Get your boogie on! Soak it all in!

[on an unrelated note, the gif above of the crazy frog bro looks so much like I did when I was a kid. It’s uncanny!]

Here’s a link to a cool web comic by Toby Morris which sums up this last point well.


Is there anything we forgot? Feel free to comment below and offer your own tips!

Will Not Fade’s Best of 2016

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2016 in review

A lot of celebrities died in 2016. Lemmy, Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael all got a lot of attention for having passed away. It is sad, but all the people taking to social media to complain about 2016 signalling the apocalypse because of an election and some dead celebrities are idiots. 2016 was awesome. If  those people had chosen to listen to good music and attend great concerts instead of bitching about life on Facebook then maybe they would realise this as well.

Like every other year, 2016 gave us some outstanding musical releases. We were also blessed enough to have many talented bands come to town as well.

CJ had a great year. His band Ranges released a new album and a 7″ single on vinyl, and by the sounds of it had a great time recording and touring. His company A Thousand Arms released a free post-rock compilation called Open Language, and signed a partnership deal as the USA distributor for Belgium based dunk!records as well.

My year was incredibly busy, having finished university and working full-time as a teacher. Thankfully I found the time to fit in the odd review here and there, and was even asked to contribute to an Arctic Drones write-up! I’ve made some great contacts this year, which leads me to think that I may have some exciting doors opened for me in the future.

And we welcomed Murray to the team this year. He already has his own site, Relative Silence, but we connected over a mutual love of many prog-rock and post-rock bands so he was more than happy to contribute to Will Not Fade.

Best Live Act

After much deliberation, I’ve decided that Iron Maiden are the best live act I’ve seen. The stage set up, the theatrics, the musicianship and the brilliant songs all proved why Maiden have sustained such longevity.

It was a great way to start a bogan weekend, followed by Black Sabbath the following night in Dunedin, and Shihad after lunch in Wellington on Sunday.

Other incredible acts that stood out this year include Sufjan Stevens, Thundercat, Tortoise, Strung Out, Into. It Over It. and local heroes Jakob and Into Orbit.

 

Best Night Out

My friends all thank me for making them come and see The Beards play Bodega during their farewell tour. They only have one joke, but the joke remains funny.

Steel Panther was another comedy rock act that put on a fun show, albeit far more crass.

 

Best Album

There have been some strong releases this year. My favourite band Biffy Clyro gave us album number seven, and Run The Jewels and Nine Inch Nails have even dropped new content in the past week.

But I cannot stop listening to the new Into It. Over It. album, StandardsEvan Weiss went to a remote cabin in the woods with drummer Josh Sparks and the two of them messed around with sounds and effects and somehow it turned into this masterpiece. I even flew to Melbourne to see Weiss play in October [review] and it filled me with such joy to meet him and see him play. It’s an easy choice for me, ranking Standards in top position this year.

Best Personal Discovery

Technically they are not 2016 releases, but Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle and Winter Dust’s Thresholds were two absolutely stunning releases that I discovered this year. Both have been on high rotate ever since I first heard them.

I also discovered Australian prog-rock act Cog this year. I was raving about The Occupants when they released their début EP last year, so it stands to reason that the band that spawned them would also be incredible.

2017

And as for the year ahead? I’m super excited to see Alexisonfire and Living Colour playing in Auckland next year, and am working on plans to attend the inaugural dunk!USA  post-rock festival in Vermont in October.

David Dallas previewed some new tracks when I saw him play at Victoria University during O-Week, and Solemn Sun dropped a new single “Bloom”, so I look forward to new albums from both acts. And of course the new Tool album is due… possibly… sometime in the next decade… maybe?


Thanks

It is hard finding the time to write and update this site, so big thanks to CJ and Murray for also contributing reviews and for both being a vital part of the Will Not Fade team.

Thanks to all the bands, labels and promoters who sent us music to review, arranged press passes to attend gigs or helped to set up interviews. It is humbling that people value my opinion enough to read what I have to say about music.

And thanks to you, the readers. Feel free to give me feedback about what you like, dislike, or would like to see more of.

Here’s to an even better 2017!

Joseph James