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Gig Review: The Rock Den (27/02/2016)

The Birmingham based metallers, a favourite among many of the Rock Den regulars, unleashed a full on, pure old school set including Rock and a Hard Place, Heartbreaker, Drama Queen and One Thing More from the 2007 album Handsome Beasts, an emotional Beast Within a Man, in memory of former front man Gary ‘Flabby’ Galloway and the infamous Sweeties from the equally infamous 1981 album Beastiality, which featured on several ‘Worst album cover of all time’ lists.

Since their last appearance at the Den (Denfest II), Alan Smith and Mark Boreland – Guitars, Max Mckee on bass and Mick Jones on drums have been joined by the excellent Ian Hooley on vocals. A definite plus. Hard to believe this was only his second live gig with the band. Hooley has a real gravelly edge to his voice that lifts the all-round delivery of the band up a notch and could quite possibly leave a freshly shingled driveway feeling under dressed.  The excellent After Blood and Back from the Rack also featured in their set. A set of the highest order.

Review by Steve Ellis

To read more about this gig and the other bands involved head over to The Rock Den website.


Review of Rock And A Hard Place from the italian website From Burn To Now (review by Umberto Meoni, translation by Mario Fraschetti,  January 2008)
Handsome Beasts were a great Heavy Blues Rock band that, in 1981, composed an awesome album titled “Bestiality” with a not ordinary cover at all (criticisms weren’t spared) with its historical big fat leader Garry Dalloway (his nickname is “The Original Fat Bastard”) bent down embracing a pig and the back cover showed other pictures of Dalloway in different positions with the pig again. Unfortunately, the cover caused a bigger sensation than the album and that obscured the album’s beauty a lot. Infact in the grooves of that vinyl we could listen to that famous blues-rock beloved by David Coverdale and his Whitesnake (belonging to the period of “Come An’ Get It”) and also Dalloway’s voice reminded us of the great David more than ones.

Now a new album by Handsome Beasts, called “Rock And A Hard Place”, has just been released. The line up has totally changed and a lot of things should be said about this, but I’m just going to talk about the record, even if we have to know that this CD was written by Garry Dalloway (together with Nyland and Boreland) shortly before his death in 2005 caused by a heart attack. To be precise, Dalloway died a week after he recorded the vocal parts of “Rock And A Hard Place”. That means that this is a true Handsome Beasts album without any doubt!

Since the first notes of “Rock And A Hard Place” you can hear how the sound of the band is harder compared with their first LP, fast riff by Nyland and Boreland for a powerful opener!
Here there is no Blues-rock, this is true Heavy Metal.

“Animal” opens with a beautiful riff again and Garry Dalloway shows (…) to be good even where the vocal part is more melodic. “Blood On Their Hands” starts with a guitar part which could sound like an AOR song but nothing could be so wrong. A few notes and an amazing Black Sabbath-style riff starts and the marked rhythm of the song (including the vocal parts) reminds us of the Sabbath of the 70’s.

“Drama Queen” goes along a classy Hard Rock and a catchy refrain. It’s time for great guitar solos with a bass which sustains the whole song. “One Thing More” has got a Deep Purple style opening and Dalloway takes us back to the Blues Rock sound of the past times. The very beautiful guitar solo reminds us a bit of Brian May, too. “Never Before” wonderfully opens with the bass firstly, then with the rhythm guitar which plays a great riff and the lead guitar kicks out an awesome solo, terrific. When I think it’s a very beautiful instrumental track, another Sabbath style riff comes back and Dalloway starts to sing a song which results to be the heaviest one of the full-length. We have to specially mention the two guitarists Alan Nyland and Mark Boreland, they’re excellent. With its 6 minutes and 10 seconds it is one of the best songs of the whole album.

Strong opening for “Heartbreaker”, another song which doesn’t mince matters. No excessive technical details just to show their own skill, but wonderful solos to listen to, my favourite ones. What a song!

“Headstrong” starts in the Heavy Metal style again. “Love’s A Game” seems a first-rate ballad. An acoustic guitar intro and an amazing electric guitar solo that impresses the listener as the wonderful Garry’s voice. It can’t be considered as a real ballad, but simply as a great song with a less wild rhythm than the other ones. Hard rock sound again with “Piper” and the ending track “Believe”: bass intro and another great riff with a catchy refrain. Maybe this is the song mostly devoted to the American market but not totally. Note that Pete Way (Ufo-Waysted-Fastway), Spike (Quireboys) and John Ward (O.D. Saxon) took part in the chorus sections.

Hats off to Handsome Beasts who released a masterpiece album! Yes, this time I’m really enthusiastic! Garry Dalloway (R.I.P.) 1953-2005, as many other great artists, will go on living forever thanks to his music. But I would like to close this review with a deserved mention also to the boys who cooperated with him in this masterpiece, Alan Nyland and Mark Boreland (guitars), Sean Brennan (bass) and Mick Roobottom (drums).
Rating 9/10

Review of "Rock In A Hard Place" CD from  november 2007 Classic Rock magazine, written by Dave Ling
“We’re pragmatic, we know we’ll never be rock stars,” singer Simon ‘Mongo’ Hall told a highly responsive audience at the Rock And Blues Custom show earlier this summer. He’s probably correct, but there will always be a place for a band as unremittingly entertaining as the Handsome Beasts.

Many wrongly assumed the veteran Brits would fold when man-mountain frontman Garry ‘Flabby’ Dalloway died last year. Instead, Hall – possessed of equally formidable girth and charisma – seizes the mic for a fourth album of wide-tread, souped-up dragster-blues. Although it doesn’t quite match the group’s unmissable live show, there are at least half a dozen great, hook-laden ditties on this 11-song CD, including Heartbreaker, Animal, Headstrong and the surging, chest-beating title cut.
Rating 7/10

Review of The British Steel Festival 2006 (Milton Keynes Pitz), taken from Terrorizer magazine, written by Chris Chantler / Damien
NWOBHM fanatics from all over the world have converged on Milton Keynes to watch a string of reformed line-ups recapture the sweaty glories of their 80's youth. Plenty of dudes on stage tonight look like they're fishmongers oor bank managers by day, but denim-clad soldiers of metal at the weekend, banging out blazing heavy rock like their lives depend on it, clearly having a great time living the dream again. It's the heavy metal Dad's Army, in the noblest sense.

It's all good-time sing-along with The Handsome Beasts, but damn it what a good time. New singer Simon Hall has big shoes to fill (and even bigger trousers) replacing the recently departed front man, legendary man-mountain Garry Dalloway, but his belligerant bellow and beer-swigging, rabble-rousing showmanship work a treat.

Review of the 04 album, taken from the Tartarean Desire Webzine written by Georgios Sidiropoulos.
I was looking for info on the web on this band and I was shocked to find that they "recently" released this album. For those of you who don't know the importance of this band (waky - waky), let me tell you that they were one of the coolest bands of the NWOBHM period and the first signing of the legendary Heavy Metal Records.

Their debut 7" single "All Riot Now" with "The Mark Of The Beast" on the B side was released back in 1980 and naturally was the first thing that label ever released. Two consequent 7" singles were released and then (in '81) the debut LP "Bestiality" attracted the attention not only because the music was excellent but also because of the instantly recognizable and bizarre album cover (check out the band's web site). Note that the "Bestiality" album was re-released in '96 on CD with the addition of the songs that appeared in the 7" singles. Nine years later they released the album "THE BEAST WITHIN" both on LP and CD.

We had to wait another 14 years for another album, so, I don't think that anyone can accuse them that they saturate the market with products or that they rush their releases... maybe some people might even say that they are lazy bastards. Whatever the reasons for this band's tendency of making Guns 'N' Roses look prolific are, we better focus on the actual quality of the new album. Well, it is absolutely great if you happen to like the NWOBHM and Hard Rock. In any case almost half of the songs come from the early '80s and are remakes of the old classics. Each and every song sounds great and exactly as if it was recorded back in the glorious '80s, meaning that the voice of the singer is still fantastic and the playing by the rest of the band as good as you would have wished for. Then the new songs are equally good. Production is 100% what the doctor ordered, meaning totally appropriate for the band and fitting their long established sound and their background.

In an era where many (reformed) NWOBHM bands tend to release new products that have some guts but is badly recorded and averagely executed, the "sexy" Handsome Beasts pull all the stops and make sure that none gets disappointed. It's great to know that they did not sell themselves or the fans short with this release. A commendable job done and I can only give my congratulations to the band members, especially the singer Gary who seems to be totally unaffected by time. The voice is the same and the appearance absolutely the same. It's like not even 26 days have past since their debut 7"... let alone 26 years. I am loving it, loving it, loving it. Buy this record and have a look at the fantastic T-shirt the band is selling through their web page, I am sure that you will be seriously tempted to buy it. (I know that I will wear mine with pride). By the way, the band asked me to recommend a London venue for them to play (of course I recommended The Underworld, which is by far the best Rock / Metal / punk venue), so I hope that I will see them play one of these days and bring you a live report too. Until then I suggest that you should buy the album.    
Rating 9/10

R.P.M Magazine (review of gig at the Adam & Eve, Birmingham, UK 4/11/05)
Anticipating a great show from the mighty Beasts we weren't disappointed. Thunderous opener, After Blood, certainly set the tone for the nights entertainment, chugging guitars, pounding drums and bass, classy vocals from Sir Gary really cleared away any cobwebs that way have been lurking in anyone's ears, and it kept going strong.

Sweeties being a particular favorite of mine, not for obvious reasons, but because it took me back, rightly to the glorious days of NWOBHM, taken from the Beastiality album, it really got the head into bangin' mode, Don't Talk To Strangers and Chain Gang were other outstanding tunes, we need more bands like this.
As for the last song of the night, Rockin' Is My Business, well it just about summed up the Beasts, and by god, their business is good!

Xposed magazine (review of 04 CD by John Pierpoint)
A graveyard, winged demons, half-naked nuns, centrefold girls, dogs ...er...pigs...and thats just the cover! And leering from the centre in all his corpulent magnificence is Garry "Flabby" Dalloway, legendary frontman
and beer-belly soloist. This can mean only one thing: The Handsome Beasts Are Back!

Opening mood -piece "Sickies" announces their intent. A wobbly organ note winds up and down, as layers of impish laughter and screaming creep in. This sense of humor and a good-time rock feel counteract the grimness of the following songs, real-world subjects, including perverts, rioting, bereavement, atomic disaster.

Past singles "Sweeties" (about the dirty raincoat brigade and schoolgirls) and "Riot" (originally cheekily titled "All Riot Now") are present, but the newer songs blow these classics away. "Ghost In My Mind" has a great driving feel, aided by layers of interwoven guitars. "The Only One Who Cares For You Is Gone" is the closest to a ballad you'll find here. Even then, the song shifts up a gear halfway through.

"Did You Sleep Well" is where it really comes together, though. The chilling nuclear meltdown lyrics show that the band look beyond the usual rock clichés for their song ideas. Final track "Rockin Is Ma' Business" (".....and the business is good!") is just plain fun, an anthem to life on the road.

The guitar breaks on all these songs are consistently melodic and uplifting, definitive air-guitar fuel! Flabby's vocals haven't lost anything over the years. They cut through the mix, but there's also a welcome rich bluesy quality in there.

The only criticism is that sometimes things are too restrained, "Don't Panic" for instance really sounds like it's going to open up in the middle but doesn't quite deliver. The overall production is crisp and clear, but maybe too much so.

Perhaps to ears used to the onslaught of modern metallic variants, much of this may sound a little dated. Personally, I think this is how metal should be: heavy but melodic; laying down a beat, piling it high with crunching guitars and topping it off with soaring vocals. It gets the ol' head banging!

The world needs more of this stuff! Rating * * * * *

Buy The CD

Rock and a Hard Place CD