Sunday, December 30, 2012

One word, three letters, ends in x

That's it, tax.
If you have more complicated tax affairs such as income paid gross, or you're a higher rate taxpayer, or you wish to claim for allowable expenses, then you will need to go online and complete a Self Assessment Tax Return.
Self Assessment Tax Returns are due at HMRC by 31st January 2013.
You can complete this yourself or for a free, no obligation, professional quotation, contact Eye For Finance on 07784 691677 or visit the website

Friday, December 21, 2012

Albums of the Year 2012

A little later than usual, but just squeezing in before the end of 2012, my albums of the year across three categories.
"Classic Rock" Album of the Year - The Who Live At Hull 1970 
As part of a generation that's grown up with live albums recorded at the Budokan, Madison Square Gardens, or even Hammersmith Odeon, a live recording in Hull does still make me smile with irony. But be absolutely clear, this is as live and as down and dirty as it gets with The Who, and for that reason it's a musical gem. 
Live At Leeds (recorded 14 February 1970) is well known and for many is seen as the first live heavy metal album (don't agree? Well, what do you call screeching vocals, played over intense riffs, powerhouse bassing and thunderous drums?) But gathering dust for years has been the live show recorded at the City Hall in Hull, February 15, 1970.
The story goes that some of Entwistle's bass lines were lost on the original recording and so could 'never' be used, but, now, with those missing lines dubbed in from Leeds, we have as fine an example of The Who in 1970 as you could find.
It's a very interesting time in the band's history and I think perfectly captures them at the transition between 60s modfathers and 70s stadium rockers. Still small enough to play these type of venues but moving into the kind of improvised powerhouse arena rock that defines their live show to this day.
The 2 CD set is clearly demarked. Disc 1 is the 60s set of pop rock: I Can't Explain, Substitute, Happy Jack, I'm A Boy and obligatory set closer My Generation (the prototype punk anthem way ahead of its time). Disc 2 is the live Tommy and shows the direction into which Townsend was leading the band until the drift into addiction took hold.
All the hallmarks of The Who are here: Townsend's riffs, Daltrey's all round magnificence as the singing frontman, Enwistle booming on bass, and of course the finest "lead drummer" that ever drew breath (albeit occasionally), Keith Moon, the greatest sticksman surely?
Summary - Spellbinding
"Mainstream Pop/ Rock" Album of the Year - Coldplay Live 2012
Ok, so this is the point at which all of Coldplay's detracters groan and switch off. Of course, no one admits to liking them or owning any of their CDs or ever going to see them live. That's a step too far for cool people...
There always seems to be a band like this in every decade. Genesis carried the can for a while as did Dire Straits (and personal 1980s favourites Marillion), and yet what they all have in common is that they shift records by the bucket full and fill football stadiums and festival venues around the world delighting a silent, yet very sizeable, minority.


Basically, this is greatest hits live. It's all on there: Hurts Like Heaven, In My Place, Yellow, just for starters. All tracks that fire live. And when you think there's no more you know, they keep coming: Violet Hill, God Put A Smile... and of course the splendid singalong Vida La Vida.

And then there's more: Charlie Brown, Paradise, Clocks before closing with Fix You and Every Teardrop...

This is an outstanding purchase of CD with accompanying DVD of a band at the very top of their game. It's difficult to see how it could get better for them.

Summary - The defining band of the early 2010s

"Metal" Album of the Year - Triaxis Rage and Retribution

There are albums that make you realise that a good band has finally come of age. We can all think of them: Ride The Lightning, The Number Of The Beast, (Rainbow) Rising.

For South Wales metal heads Triaxis, R&R is that album. Building upon a fine debut release (Key To The Kingdom), this 2nd release is up several notches. With Glyn's lead guitar joining established quartet Krissie (vocals), Giles (drums), CJ (rhythm guitar), and Owen (bass), the songwriting has developed further and when combined with such crisp, defined production, the outcome is a winner.

Album opener and anti war/propaganda anthem "Sand and Shiver" hits you hard, just like many an Iron Maiden record opener ever did (you won't get far into a Triaxis review without referencing their most overwhelming influence); [sample lyrics like this "These sheep you guide them further, your flock you will deceive, brainwash the callow and naiive"]

Next up is single Black Trinity, followed the dark "Infected" ["Putrid air floods my lungs and chokes my veins" - boy meets girl this isn't]. And so the album goes, "And Shadows Creep" is excellent, live favourite "Sker Point" (named after a headland between Porthcawl and Port Talbot) before the opus closes with the glorious 7 and a half minutes of "Some Things Are Worth Dying For".

The album has been magnificently received in the metal press and in the underground rock blogging scene. The live experience is equally impressive as are the wonderful people who comprise Triaxis. This band deserves a big 2013.

Summary - fresh, furious and fantastic.

Honourable mentions.... in 2012 go to Accept "Stalingrad", Black Country Communion "Afterglow" (dodgy opening two tracks), Megadeth "Countdown to Extinction" (20th anniversary release) and Europe's "Bag Of Bones".

"Gig" of the Year - Diamond Head, Hog and Hosper, Pontypool

What's this I thought? Diamond Head playing in a pub in Pontypool? Surely not? It can't be the Diamond Head; the Diamond Head as in "Am I Evil?".

It bloody well was, with the NWOBHM legends using the date as a warm up for their European Tour and what a night it was as around 200 punters packed into the tiny Hog and Hosper pub. Frankly, I could have stood any closer had they played in my frontroom.

As well as the aforementioned number popularised by Metallica, we had them all: The Prince, Dead Reckoning, Lightening To The Nations, It's Electric, Shoot Out The Lights etc.

Loud, proud and definitely still cutting it.

and so to 2013.
Appearing over the horizon are 2 masters of rock. Deep Purple release their first album since 2005 (and it'll probably be their last). Also, there's the much anticipated first Black Sabbath album with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978.
Can they still deliver? Don't bet against it.
Happy New Year all. Keep rocking hard.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ebbw Vale 62 Llanharan 11, SWALEC Championship, 08/12/12

Thankfully, after viewing the underperforming primadonnas of the Internationals, we had a return to league rugby this Saturday, with Llanharan the latest victims of a thrashing from Ebbw Vale.

A keenly contested first half saw only a 15-11 interval score, but it was one way traffic in the second half as the fast and powerful Ebbw back line turned on the style.
Llanharan have always fought hard against and we came unstuck against them several times back in the 1990s era of the Heineken league. They scrapped well for the first half for sure, but from 1-15 plus subs Ebbw Vale were simply superb in the second half.

From the Ebbw Vale website:
"On a cold, dry afternoon, Josh Lewis got the scoreboard rolling for the Steelmen with a beautifully struck penalty from half way. Harley Thomson equalised soon after, then alert home scrum half Chris Thomas finished off fine work by the pack following a penalty line out drive. Lewis missed the conversion and, when Ronny Kynes was yellow carded, Llanharan struck back with an excellent try for Morgan Williams on the left. Llanharan took the lead when Thomson added a penalty and it seemed that his side, though depleted by injuries, fancied their chances of an upset. It wasn't to be though: the returning Dan Dearden crashed over to regain the lead for Ebbw and Lewis's conversion sent the Steelmen in 15-11 up.

Ebbw ran riot in the second half to score 47 unanswered points. The magnificent Ronny Kynes got things going with a touchdown following another line out drive, then the always-threatening Adam Jones made a superb break that sliced the Dairymen wide open and scored to secure the bonus point. Slick passing and brilliant support play gave Wes Cunliffe Ebbw's fifth, then Ashley Sweet benefitted from a break by Mathew Williams, who found Robert Sevenoaks in support. It looked as if the popular tight head would reach the line, but when he was hauled down just short, he popped the ball to Sweet who did the rest. Foul play by a Llanharan defender meant that Ebbw were given a penalty on the centre spot at the restart, enabling Lewis to pin the unhappy visitors back once again. Chris Thomas scored his second with a sharp dart from a scrum 15 metres out then Josh Lewis ran great support to bag one of his own. With time running out, full back Charlie Simpson notched up his team's ninth of the afternoon and Josh Lewis goaled it to register 22 points in a Man-of-the-Match performance."



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Europe, Coal Exchange, Cardiff, 30/11/12

Quite remarkably, Europe had never played Cardiff before, although they'd ventured to Newport once, and it was a packed crowd at Cardiff's Coal Exchange which enthusiastically greeted them.

They were powerful, energetic and the sound was excellent, and by the look of them have plenty of petrol left in the tank.
The set list was a mix of material from the last two albums, Last Look At Eden and Bag Of Bones, together with the 1980s classics Carrie, Rock The Night and, of course, The Final Countdown (here on you tube).


Europe take it acoustically

Joey Tempest still fronting up

Up close and personal
Judging by the response of both crowd and band, it shouldn't be too long before the Swedish rockers are back in Wales.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ebbw Vale 63 Bridgend Athletic 3, SWALEC Championship. 17/11/12

On an afternoon which my Nan would have described as 'turning nippy', Ebbw Vale completely overwhelmed the visitors from Bridgend by running in 9 converted tries, and quite frankly could have had more.
Playing in a startling pink number more designed for the evening's BBC showing of Strictly Come Dancing, the faster and fitter Steelmen showed many a nifty turn of foot to outflank and outpace the opposition and reaffirm their position at the top of the league.

The Official Ebbw Vale website puts it best:

"In an excellent display of running rugby, Ebbw scored 9 tries to send a combative Bridgend Athletic side to a comprehensive defeat. Outside half Dan Haymond was in magnificent kicking form, converting all of his team's tries and adding a try of his own in a superb performance that saw him accumulate 23 points. Ebbw's first score came from Wes Cunliffe (his fifth in three games), who intercepted on half way and sped away to cross under the posts. Bridgend Athletic were certainly not slow to attack Ebbw, but the home defence was solid and, when the turnover came, Jamie Jones broke down the left and kicked ahead for the alert Adam Jones to bag the second. Ross Jones almost made it to the line for Ebbw's third, but was tackled just short. Ebbw continued the drive but were held up over the line. The subsequent scrum saw Athletic retreating rapidly under immense pressure and, when their front row dropped, referee Mr Shorte had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Athletic were next on the scoreboard, outside half Steve Lewis stroking a penalty after a breakdown offence by the home side, but it was soon all back on track as a breathtaking break and offload by the inform Cunliffe put Chris Thomas over for the bonus point try. It was 28-3 at half time.

In fairness to the visitors, they continued to try and play rugby, looking to move the ball from deep and often driving well around the fringes. It was just that Ebbw were better at doing what they were doing: not over-committing to breakdowns, defending well across the field and tackling fiercely. With ball in hand, the Steelmen played with tremendous pace, always supporting the ball carrier and looking to offload. Wales, take note! Five more tries came to Ebbw, through, Josh Lewis, the rampant Cameron Reagan, Dan Haymond replacement Polu Uhi and a brilliant individual effort by Charlie Simpson, who caught a clearance wide on the left, jinked past several defenders and danced down the touchline past covering opponents. Inevitably, Haymond goaled it and the victory was complete."



We now have a ludicrous 3 week break from league action whilst the primadonnas at the Millenium Stadium attempt to justify high salaries and ticket prices. Yawn.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bonafide, Steelhouse, Ebbw Vale, 16/11/12

Another superb night at the Ebbw Vale Steelhouse last Friday as Swedish rockers Bonafide kicked off their UK tour with a blistering hour and a bit set.
If you weren't there and want to imagine what it was like, just dig out AC/DC live in Paris 1977, and you'll get a pretty good idea.
Every track is so influenced by the Aussie legends, you end up going, "Oh that's like Sin City, that one's like The Jack, oh and that one's Let There Be Rock".
Nonetheless, they can certainly play and entertain and that's what they did.
Able supported by SKAM, there was a good crowd present, many of whom had travelled from some distance. It's excellent to see this fine rock venue thriving.
I caught them at Hard Rock Hell in 2011, but couldn't recall much about that, due to, err, tiredness, until I heard their trademark number, "Fill Your Heads With Rock". What a great crowd pleaser that is.
Any band that can finish off with "I Don't Need No Doctor" and The Who's "I Can't Explain" (a perfect a 3 minute piece of 1960s pop rock that you'll ever hear) is alright by me.

We even had frontman Pontus Snibb taking a full tour of the rugby club, Angus style complete with guitar.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bargoed away

Good luck to the boys tomorrow as Ebbw Vale RFC travel to league leaders Bargoed in what will undoubtedly be the toughest scrap of the season.
If we play to our best we'll win, but it'll be tough.

Update 04/11/12

Bargoed 3 Ebbw Vale 10 - excellent, it also means this:

Happy days!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Timid's Wedding, 27/10/12

What a blomin' great day we had at the Old Rectory in Llangattock last Saturday for the wedding of Carl and Tracey, and best wishes and many thanks to them.
Some pics

Powis and Timid share a cheeky one before kick off

Spike and Mrs J

The happy couple

Reservoir Gods, nearly...

Best man Rob (Kamikazee Millionaire) does his duty

into the evening

Dudes (Steelhouse Spike plus Mrs Spike, Powis and Hangfire Max)

Showdown rock the joint...

...whilst Dai Crespin struts his stuff...sort of..

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Triaxis, Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham, 26/10/12

I remember James Hetfield of Metallica fame striding the stage at the 1985 Monsters of Rock at Donington, and snarling; "if you want eye make up, spandex, and the words rock'n'roll baby in every song, then this ain't the band for you." (expletives deleted).
Well, Triaxis don't guarantee the absence of eye make up, but aren't really a spandex band and lyrically they're in tune with Hetfield's outlook in that you're more likely to hear, "putrid air floods my lungs" and "brainwash the callow and naiive" as part this five piece's verbal assault.
CJ, Krissie and Owen (and Glyn's hand)
Touring the UK to support their recently released "Rage and Retribution", Triaxis landed at Scruffy Murphy's Birmingham on this particular Friday and proceeded to blow away the dedicated gang who made their way down to the cellar.
The album is absolutely knockout, there are just no duffers on it. It's been brilliant received by the on line metal community and deservedly so.
Those of us who can remember buying Maiden's Powerslave in 1984 (at Spillers) will recall on early plays how it was all about the first two tracks (Aces and Two, you know it) but after several plays you learnt that it was all about the last two, and tonight in B'ham, it showed that R&R is similar in the respect that it's "The Butcher" and "Some Things Are Worth Dying For" which hit you hard live.

After local thrashers Eradikator had warmed up the venue, Triaxis delivered a high intensity one hour set containing the following:

Stand and Shiver
Under Blood Red Skies
Gates of Damnation
Sker Point
Some Things Are Worth Dying For (youtube - out of synch)
And Shadows Creep
The Infected (youtube)
The Butcher
Black Trinity (youtube)

 A bit of Giles on drums, Owen's hand and Glyn

Do I have a criticism? Yes, I do. Why didn't more of the people sat in the bar upstairs get off their back sides and pay £2 to watch 2 super bands? I just don't get it.

Great gig, could have done with more watching, but this is a seriously good band who need to be on more festival slots in 2013, a Download appearance is deserved and then a full supporting slot for a major act.

If you haven't seen them yet you really should. We'll certainly be back.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ebbw Vale 37 Newbridge 7, SWALEC Championship, 29/09/12

It was another Derby Day Demolition job at Eugene Cross Park as Ebbw Vale crushed near neighbours and nemesis of recent seasons, Newbridge.
The Steelmen ran in 5 tries and gained a valuable bonus point to go to the top of the table on try count and, on current form, it is a position in which they'll stay. On a bright but cool afternoon a healthy crowd saw the pace and power of the home side totally dominate the encounter, and, quite frankly, if it wasn't for some last gasp slip ups and some benevolent refereeing (towards Newbridge) by top ref Nigel Owens, it could have been 67.

From the Ebbw website:

"In a game the Steelmen dominated, Ronny Kynes got the first touchdown after Dan Haymond's early penalty. It was vintage catch and drive from a lineout following a penalty. Ebbw's forwards had their opposite numbers back-pedalling faster than Mark Colbourne in reverse and Kynes grabbed the try. Ebbw's second was scored by Tom Ashmead whose scintillating run-in from half way saw him turn would-be tacklers inside out. It was 18-0 at half time, but it could have been much more had Ebbw taken all their chances, one following a superb slicing break by the influential man-of-the-match Dan Haymond and the other when a 3-man overlap was overlooked. Newbridge were clearly wounded by the first half and came out strongly after the break. In the first minute, former Ebbw scrum half Tom Edwards charged down Haymond's clearance and Burnett goaled to make the score 18-7. Any prospects of a fightback were nullified when Josh Lewis capitalised on a Simpson kick ahead to score, and the bonus point was in the bag when replacement scrum half Josh Davies darted over after sustained pressure by the superb Ebbw pack. That made it 30-7, but Ebbw weren't done and a brilliant break by the hungry-looking Wes Cunliffe appeared to have put Davies in for a second score. When he was tackled short, the alert Cunliffe, who had run a great supporting line, was on his shoulder to accept the pop pass and register his side's fifth try."

The match ball was sponsored by Eye For Finance :)