About Me

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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tilt - 'Hinterland' Album review


Tilt – Hinterland

Well….if you are going to hit 300 reviews, no. 300 might as well be worthy of a milestone, and this one is an absolute belter from last year, but it passed me by and its such a good album I wanted to review it still.

One of the absolute highlights for me as a blogger was back in 2009 when I was sent a cd of a band I’d never heard of called Tilt. It was a 4 track EP that completely blew me away. I’ve pestered band leader Steve Vantsis (Bass) a couple of times over the years asking when an album was in the mix. A random tweet I found a few weeks in my feed informed me of a new Tilt album called Hinterland, released in April 2016. Bugger.

A hasty purchase was made of the vinyl. If you’re a vinyl fanatic, this version is one of the most sumptuous versions I have in my collection. Heavyweight vinyl to be played at 45 speed for ultimate sound, gatefold sleeve with some mighty fine inner sleeves and lyric postcards. Basically before I even listened – it’s a thing of beauty. Its the real reason vinyl was made for. Enough of the gushing, back to the review.

There’s been a personnel change from Million Dollar Wound. Its still Steve Vantsis (Bass), Dave Stewart (Drums), Robin Boult (Guitars), and Paul Dourley (Vocals), now graduated from ‘featured’ vocalist to the main man.  In comes Paul Humphreys (guitars), with guest appearances from John Beck (It Bites) and guitarist John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot, Kino, Frost*). Steve, Dave and Robin have been associated with Fish (the human) on his solo albums and tours for twenty-plus years. Mitchell is also responsible for the final mix.

 Well as per the EP, not a lot has changed (in a great way!). The music on offer rises and falls like the tide, one minute subtle and mellow, the next a crescendo of riffs, and textures that just hit you full on. 

‘Hinterland’ is an area lying beyond what is visible or known. If you can’t see it, you can certainly hear this Hinterland. Opener ‘_Assembly’ is straight up in the same vein as the EP a few years back. It has a bit of an electronica and somber opening, before Dourley’s vocals drag you in to its latter intensity. Its a song (and album) that could easily be played as background music, or full on ‘open the windows mode’ for all your neighbours!! Right out of the box, ‘Hinterland’ is a song that just hits you straight between the ears with its metal-prog riff and up-tempo vibe, and carries you right along for the ride. ‘Against The Rain’ is a song that you could easily hear on a Scandi drama, drawing you into the action with its atmospheric sound, mournful even. It’s the polar opposite of ‘Hinterland’, its a prog ballad in essence, but it is equally fantastic. It’s fairly minimal in its approach, with Dourley’s haunting vocals moving the listener.

‘No Superman’ is the sole survivor from MDW to be worthy of its place on the album (I wish some of the others had made it across). Its rock all the way with this one and Dourley’s vocals when hitting the higher notes have a tone of Chris Cornell to them. Its not grunge, far from it, as this has more textures than Edinburgh Woolen Mill, and is still a fave of mine a further 8 yrs down the line. ‘Growing Colder’ is just beautiful, right from the delicate piano opening, through to the instantly memorable sing-a-long chorus to the gorgeous orchestral string ending. ‘Strontium Burning’ is in the realms of arena rock. I can just imagine this one being belted out at full pelt at Wembley. ‘Bloodline’s’ opening section is similar in stature to OSI (look ‘em up), a gentle opening feeding into a pulsating bass line and chorus, and a crackin’ guitar solo from Mitchell, before reaching its chilled and relaxed finale. ‘_Disassembly’ bookends Hinterland with ‘_Assembly’ as a companion piece – it has an atmospheric opening, centred around Dourley’s delicate and moving vocals before the song slips away via its long fade-out. Fantastic!

Think of a film that you get more out of it the more you watch it. Hinterland is exactly the same; it deserves multiple listens before you can really comment – just like a Rush album in the 70s/early 80s. Whilst most of the site and mags that review this I expect to be prog specialists, but to me, its an album for all tastes, covering electronic, pop, metal, rock and more. It truly is one of my fave albums of recent times. I cant single out any individual, as all of Tilt has worked their arses off to make such a superb album.

This is not a typical album by any stretch of the imagination. My brain has already been conditioned to Tilt for some years, so it’s been like shaking hands with an old friend. It may take non-believers a couple of listens, but once you’re ‘in’, I guarantee you, there’s no way out!

Hinterland has been picked up by Classic Rock ‘PROG’ mag for its awards ceremony. Stealing a line from that M&S woman, ‘this isn’t any old Prog rock, this is Tilt prog rock’ and long may they continue.

Score 95/100

Tracklisting
_Assembly
Hinterland
Against The Rain
No Superman
Growing Colder
Strontium Burning
Bloodline
_Disassembly

Tilt –
Steve Vantsis – Bass, double bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, programming, loops
Paul Dourley – Vocals
Dave Stewart – Drums – Percussion
Paul Humphreys – Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, programming, loops

Robin Boult – Electric Guitar, acoustic guitar
John Beck – Piano, strings, organ on 2,3,5 & 6
Irvin Duguid – Keyboards on ‘No Superman’
John Mitchell – Guitar solo on ‘Bloodline’





 Catch Tilt on tour in August with Lonely Robot....








Saturday, 5 August 2017

Atlas (UK) - 'World In Motion' EP review


Atlas – World In Motion EP

I really look forward to the days when either a friend (Michael K) recommends a band, or just a band themselves gets in contact, especially if it’s a gem of a release. In this instance it’s a UK melodic rock band from Manchester called Atlas. Just don’t confuse them with the other Atlas who is a metal Bengali band.

Atlas (UK) consists of Craig Wells (Vocals), Howie Little (Guitars), John Moss (Guitars), James Thorley (Keys/Percussion) and Christian Redfearn (Bass).

‘World In Motion’ is a four track EP that I’ve been waiting to hear since I heard a song of theirs a couple of months back. On early inspection vocalist Craig Wells is a mix of Tony Mills and Vince Neil. Guitarist John Moss has recently been added and his guitar work is exemplary. Just check out the Atlas FB page, which shows John jamming along to a couple of Work of Art tracks which, is no bad thing in my opinion.

Opening track ‘Change Of Heart’ sounds as if Tony Mills is fronting Vega. There’s some definite Vega-esque ‘Whoa’s’ and keyboard riffage along with some excellent guitar work from both Little and Moss. ‘Alexandria’ is the weakest of the four. It’s not bad, but Atlas has some good stuff going on for the rest of the EP. The pitch is high on the vocals for the early part, but settles into place once the chorus comes into play.

The stand out tracks by a country mile is the latter two. First is the rather excellent ‘Cross The Line’ a true melodic rock song in a 80s influenced style, everything about it is good.  (Bloody Good!) It brings in influences from Survivor, and sees Moss trading riffs with James Thorley’s keyboards. Exceeding it for brilliance is ‘Lost In The Moment’. There’s a lot more going on with this track, its more in line with something on the lighter side that Dream Theater would do, it ranges from complex, to acoustic and then technical, before finishing with a more West Coast vibe, this my dear reader is a damn good song.

If the first two songs were on a par with the last two, then Atlas would have an absolute pearler on their hands. As it stands its comfortably good. This is a very promising EP. The guitar work from John Moss is particularly of note, but when it is set amongst the mix of the other guys its taken up another notch as what could be some humdrum songs by others is given a kick up the arse and you just have to take notice.

I hope that some bands touring the UK (especially those from Sweden) would take Atlas under their wing and get them out to a decent audience. Also HRH, Rockingham SOS and JSY could do these guys a favour and get them on their bills.

80/100

Atlas
Craig Wells- Vocals
Howie Little – Guitars
John Moss – Guitars
James Thorley – Keys / Percussion
Christian Redfearn – Bass

Tracklisting
Change Of Heart
Alexandria
Cross The Line
Lost In The Moment

Monday, 31 July 2017

Walkway - 'WWIII' Album Review


Walkway – WWIII

Its bleedin’ criminal how a band like Walkway can go virtually unnoticed in the UK, especially when they are as good as they are. They opened up the HRH AOR festival back in March. I dug out a YouTube vid a couple of days before and was blown away as to how good they were. It turned out they were as good as I hoped they were going to be, probably, no, definitely even better than imagined.

To emphasise how good, they were as tight as a very tight thing at HRH towers. Why? Ill tell you why….when this album was launched recently, Walkway performed their 1000th gig to launch this album. If you follow them on FB, it seems like it was their 1000th gig just of 2017. If they have endorsements, a couple should be Dunlop Tyres, Kwik Fit, and Premier Inn, as these guys are away from home more than a Jehovah’s Witness.

Walkway doesn’t take any prisoners, whether it’s in the recording of the album (just 13 days at Sonic One Studio in Wales and mastered at Abbey Road), or the songs themselves. Walkway is based around the Ready brothers – Chris (guitar lead vocals) and James (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Andy Burlace (drums and backing vocals). The subsequent output from these guys in nothing short of memorable

I don’t have the first two albums to make that contrast, so it’s all on this one for analysis. I definitely wouldn’t class Walkway in the AOR bracket. They just happen to be a very good rock band with a knack for melody and hooks.  ‘Stutter’ has a big dirty riff, that’s up Nickleback’s street. Add in the chorus, and is a good a song as Kroeger can muster up. Its stadium rock at its finest. ‘Best I Ever Had’ again is to grab the listener by the ears and force-feed you with a giant riff and instantly memorable chorus. If this were an established US band like say Nickleback, then the radio play, and plaudits would be all over it. ‘Get A Grip’s’ chorus again is nothing short of ear candy. Add in James’ rolling guitar lick and its song that screams quality. Casey in particular takes some of its lead from Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar…’ – especially the ‘Whoa’s!’ If you are going to nail your flag to the mast, it may as well be a good one. ‘Kiss Me Hard’ falls on the grittier side of their repertoire, such as ‘Stutter’ and ‘GAG’. ‘Holding On To Letting Go’ is Walkways ballad; all good bands should have one. ‘HOTLO’ builds up its pace and is in a similar vein to Skid Rows ‘I Remember You’. It is also included as an acoustical bonus track. Both stand tall in their own way.

The rawk returns for the frenetic ‘Leap Of Faith’ with James Ready letting rip in the soloing stakes and is as good as anyone I’ve heard in some time. ‘Something ‘Bout You’ falls on the heavy side, more Grunge than anything preceding this, and sees James making good use of his wah-wah!

There’s three bonus tracks to take on board….‘Rain’ a great Quo cover and tribute to the late Rick Parfitt, and features John Coghlan on drums, ‘Mission Impossible’, another Leppard-esque air punching anthem if ever I heard one, and finally the afore mentioned ‘HOTLO’

Chris has a bit of Robert Plant in him (oo-er), and is a front man of excellence. Couple this with James’ ability to rattle off huge riffs for breakfast and is in the style of some 80s classic guitarists, and it all makes for a sumptuous experience.

To be honest, this is a good a release as any band you’ll hear this year. The songs are great, performed with a swagger and an experience that only comes from experience and age, and constant touring. Walkway has two of these in abundance (age is on their side). See these guys live, as this is definitely where the magic happens. They tour that much, there’s a bloody good chance they will be hitting a town near you soon!

If there’s any justice, more festival appearances should be on the cards for Walkway, as they would play to many more I’m guessing than playing 3-5 gigs a week in pubs up and down the UK. It’s certainly honing their quality, but they truly deserve to play in front of bigger audiences. Walkway are going places, and its only in one direction….up!

Score 89/100

Tracklisting -

Stutter
Best I Ever Had
Get A Grip
Casey
Kiss Me Hard
Modern Day
Same Old Situation
Holding On To Letting Go
Leap Of faith
Something ‘Bout You
Rain (Bonus)
Mission Impossible (Bonus)
Holding On To Letting Go (Acoustic) (Bonus)

Walkway -
Chris Ready – Lead Vocals, rhythm guitar, keys
James Ready – Lead Guitar, backing vocals
Andy Burlace – Drums, backing vocals



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Moritz - 'About Time Too'



Moritz – ‘About Time Too’

Well I thought if I was going to do a last review, it might as well be a good one! Moritz are back in the game, it’s been four years since SOS was released and a mighty 30 years since their first. In terms of Prog bands, Moritz are still pretty damn prolific by comparison!

There been some changes since the last album. Greg Hart has departed to form his ‘Kittens In Orbit’ band, or ‘Moggies on Mars’, or whatever it is. Hart was one of the main songwriters in Moritz, and you would think that his trip into space would affect the Moritz output. Well, you’re completely wrong, because ‘About Time Too’ sees Moritz ditch some of the pomp and go more rock than roll and added a bit of soul and blues without losing any of the melody that the AOR crowd love them for.

I was fortunate to be given the demoes to listen to a few months back, and they were a stellar set of songs before they were tweaked and polished. I can’t believe it was 10 months ago.

The band still consists of its core members Peter Scallan (Vox), Mike Nolan (guitars) and Ian Edwards (Bass/Keys). In comes long time cohort Kenny Evans (guitars) and John Tonks (drums). I add that for the ‘up and coming gigs’, Moritz will be joined by Chris Teeder (keys) and Russ Wilson (drums). Cool. Everyone’s got a mention.

The demoes didn’t need much polishing, but they have pulled out all the stops and raided both Auto Glym and Mr Sheene and its been polished to within an inch of its life (in an utterly good way). The change is fantastic.

Scallan has had his shackles unleashed and is like a different singer. No longer trying to be pushed into being a Scottish Freddie Mercury, the guy now has a  more bluesy raspiness to his tone. And the result on the opener ‘One More Beautiful Day’ is brilliant. Couple this with the sumptuous harmonies and the wonderous composition, and starts to albums don’t get much better than this.

‘Moon And Back’ is like ear candy of the highest order. The chorus just infecting your lug’oles and embedding itself after just one listen. It's like something that the lapsed Rock God Michael Bolton would have done in his brief dalliance with AOR. ‘Chance of a Lifetime’ has a great 80s lyric, ‘walking on a thin line, between love and hate’. It’s a huge 80s influenced song. In fact, if it were 1986 we would all be shitting ourselves with excitement! I’m an old fart brought up on music like this, and I did let out a little excited trump if I’m honest, as it brings back a lot of great memories from so many great bands (and times). The melodic rock community will love this. 'Dreamland’ is probably the only song on the album that keeps it all reined in. It shows a different side to Moritz and never attempts to go for the huge riff. ‘Take it On The Chin’ kicks off with Flight Lieutenant Mike Nolan (he of the flying V display troupe) who steps up and produces a face melting riff, combined with Ian’s Hammond sound which also sees Peter Scallan catching his balls on razor wire and hitting a note that only dogs and teenagers can hear. Scallan sings, ‘Some you lose, some you win, you gotta take it on the chin.’ Well based on this selection, Moritz will undoubtedly be winners.

‘Run’ shows that its not all about pure pink fluffiness. The Moritz boys like to rock out occasionally and this is a prime example. A co-write with Ivan Gunn, it gets full marks as a soft/LOUD rocker; the best ones mix the tempo, and this one does it with flair, and has a cracking guitar solo. It will sound massive live. ‘Love Long Gone’ is the kind of song that bands tried to coax out of the ‘masters’ such as Diane Warren or Desmond Child back in the day, and it wants to make you dig out your bleached denims and leg-warmers, and buy a DeLorean and head back to the 80s. ‘Own Little World’ is ‘Styx-esque’ with layers upon layers of vocal harmonies. It is a ‘Part II’ companion piece of ‘Caught Between Life & The Light’ from SOS and is an absolute delight.

Next up is my outright favourite on ‘ATT’. The demo stood out like a baboon’s arse, and it does today even though I had to go looking for it as the title has changed to ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’. It's Like Procul Harum, Percy Sledge, and Lorraine Ellison got down and dirty, and 9 months later it spawned ‘YDKWLI’ (it just rolls off the tongue)! The guitar solo from Mike Nolan is up there with some of the best. Moritz hit the final furlong full in their stride with ‘There’s Something About/Unwanted Man’. Its got a moving synth intro (think Tarot Woman), before unleashing the beast. Fuck. Me. ‘Unwanted Man’ is huge. The opening riff is to die for, then it steps back to build its tempo to a crescendo and ‘that chorus’. Evans and Nolan trade licks like Robbo and Gorham back in the day. Wow! It's one of the best finishes to an album I’ve heard in quite some time.

Kids, there’s a bloody good reason why Moritz are so damn good. They have influences from a time when there were lots of great melodic rock bands around. They take snippets from the best and turn them into their own style. When other labels are turning out ‘average’ as being acceptable, it's great to see some local boys leading the charge and showing the rest how it should be done.

I’ve loved ‘Undivided’, and ‘SOS’, but ‘About Time Too’ takes it all to a whole different level.

95/100*  (5 deducted for Peters' taste in footwear! Courtesy of Grant Foster)

Photo credit - John Bull
Rockrpix -  website here - http://www.rockrpix.com/

Moritz –
Peter Scallan – Lead & backing vocals
Mike Nolan – Electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
Ian Edwards – Bass, synthesizers, Hammond organ, vocals
Kenny Evans – Electric & acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars
John Tonks – Drums

Tracklisting –

About Time Too (Intro)
One More Beautiful Day
To The Moon and Back
Chance Of A Lifetime
Dreamland
Forever Is
Take It On The Chin
Run
Love Long Gone
Own Little World
You Don’t Know What Love Is
There’s Something About (Intro)
Unwanted Man



Thursday, 11 May 2017

Inglorious - 'II' Album Review







Inglorious – II

Somewhere in a Faraway land, a Change Is Coming. Come Hell Or High Water, I Got A Feeling that Inglorious 'II' has been fed n watered on Black Magic. Read All About It here -


I am hoping that the album had a bit more planning and substance in the songwriting and performance than the meeting to name the album. Serafino, “Ciao Nathan, any names for the new album?’’ Nathan, ‘’Er, I quite like ‘II’’’ Meeting over.

I am a big advocate of these fellas, especially ‘The James’.  I liked the debut album, I really did, but the ‘shining light’ moment comes in the live performance, as they are eons better in the flesh

The theme of the debut was infused with influences like  Purple, Zeppelin, Whitesnake, bad Co., and Aerosmith.  With II James wanted to make inspires=d and incredible rock in a very honest fashion. Nathan thought to himself, “Why are those classic albums so awesome?” He realised it was because “the musicians were recording in an organic way; they could track it live and capture amazing energy."

“Not only in rock but in Motown and even classical music they tracked everyone in the room at the same time,” adds Nathan.  “The air movement from a bass drum, that same excitement you get when you perform, and that's exactly how I wanted the album to feel."

Nathan wanted all his fellow musicians in the room at the same time, no click tracks, no auto tune and no overdubs. He wasn't willing to compromise.  Says Nathan - "For so long people have been hiding mistakes, singers using auto tune to make them sound perfect, double tracking to make it sound bigger and using click to play in time. There is none of that on this album.

This record is about vibe, feeling, excitement, energy and performance of songs we all wrote together. That's how it came out that day and it will never be exactly the same again. We captured a series of moments that make up our debut album."

Well said that man. What I can say is that if you’re a big fan of any or all other the aforementioned bands (and their debut) then look no further. Even if you’re brand new to Inglorious, this is a perfect opportunity to get on board the Inglorious train, as this is a little belter.

‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’ teases you into thinking its this demure, quiet opening before letting loose into a typical Inglorious rock explosion with James’ vocals being the fifth and most prominent instrument. ‘Taking The Blame’ picks up the batten and is faster than Usain Bolt with a case of the trots! I don’t think this will be the first reference to Coverdale in this review, but James is one of the few who can match and out-Coverdale’s Coverdale!  ‘Tell Me Why’ has one of those instantly memorable choruses that just sticks like glue, and wont let go. ‘Change Is Coming’ looks to lull you into a false sense of security, before the riff and pulsating bass line kicks in.

I warned you about the WS references, and its here in abundance with ‘Makin Me Pay’. It’s the great WS, not the fluffed up and Harmony hairspray version. ‘Hell Or High Water’ takes me straight to LLRNR era Rainbow, and is short but very sweet.

The album ends on a high. ‘Faraway’ gives any of your fave singers in the World a run for their money. It’s an acoustic triumph and knocks the album up into sixth gear for me. This is old school brilliance that few do nowadays. Its almost part Soundgarden/Mother Love Bone/Zeppelin and Whitesnake rolled into one gem. Awesome. When I think its peaked, then comes this riff….’into ‘High Class Woman’, its one of my riffs of the year. Damn!

When people say ‘it ends on a high note’, never has a saying been more truly stated? If James were a beer, ‘He hits the parts other singers cannot (and dare not) reach!’

A good friend and me resort back to a conversation regularly whereby new bands don’t do their homework and listen to what made great albums and great bands. Well not on this watch, it’s all in abundance. I’m expecting the probably named ‘III’ to be epic! Somebody get these lads on a major US tour, as they will destroy the headliners.

A mere handful of bands for me are driving rock forward at moment – Alter Bridge, Rival Sons, and Inglorious. Great things await Inglorious.

‘II’ is great. Its no 100/100, but also its no ‘Back In Black’, ‘Burn’, ‘Heaven & Hell’

95/100

Inglorious are
Nathan James – Vocals (and sonic boom!)
Andreas Eriksson – Lead Guitars
Wil Taylor – Guitars
Colin Parkinson – Bass
Phil Beaver – Drums

Tracklisting
I Don’t Need No Loving
Taking The Blame
Tell Me Why
Read All About It
Change Is Coming
Making Me Pay
Hell Or High Water
No Good For You
I Got A Feeling
Black Magic
Faraway
High Class Woman


Monday, 1 May 2017

Ayreon - 'The Source' Album Review


The conversation was short and simple, “Do you want me to review the new Ayreon album?” “Yes” says Chesy “Ok then”. I’m such an idiot.
How hard can it be? I’ve listened to every Ayreon album a hundred times (except The Theory of Everything) so I know what’s coming: lots of top notch singers and musicians coming together under the experienced eye of musical maestro Arjen Lucassen, weaving a convoluted story with over the top prog rockness (MS Word won’t believe that’s a word but we know differently don’t we?).
Well the answer is both easy and difficult, easy because it is bloody brilliant and difficult because I want to get across how brilliant it is and I feel I’m going to fail. How can I encapsulate this intricate work of genius whilst retaining my aloof reviewer cred and general cynical outlook on life?
Ayreon (Arjen) has carved a niche for itself by not compromising and following the vision of the universe it wants to create. If you’re not familiar with their work it is a creation of one man, Arjen Lucassen, who gets together the biggest names in rock and metal to play characters in the rock operas he writes. The whole thing inhabits a universe plotting the birth, death, rebirth, interstellar migration, death, rebirth and probably death again of civilisations across eons of time, you know; the stuff your average pop song is about.
I’ve made this all sound very complicated and a difficult listen but like Coheed and Cambria you can go right in and follow the story to its nth degree or just listen to the songs and tap your foot, it’s up to you and you’ll enjoy it either way probably.
For people familiar with Ayreon, this is a more rock focussed affair than previous offerings with the drums and guitars more up front in the mix. Less flutes and strings, more killer riffs. As a (terrible) drummer myself this is direction I can get behind, it is properly head nodding at times and my air drums are getting a work out.
It goes without saying that the musicianship is top notch and with vocal performances to match. With names like James LeBrie (Dream Theater), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), vocal gymnast Michael Mills (Toehider), Simone Simmons (Epica) and a host of others on board the whole thing is in safe hands.
The album races along without getting bogged down like ‘The Theory of Everything’, TTOE was the last album Ayreon put out and for me was their only misstep. Don’t get me wrong it is an impressive work, but with four 20 minute tracks on it and no discernible hooks it was hard work and I can’t get through the thing anymore. Some people love it, I do not.
Arjen has gone off in a completely different direction from TTOE though, this is full of killer hooks, melodies, riffs and Ed Warby gets to let his hair down (if he had any) on a few tracks showing why he is the drummer of choice for Ayreon. You can hear lots of musical nods to other Ayreon albums plus nods to the various singers styles, at times you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to ‘Dream Theater’ when James LaBrie is singing or ‘Between the buried and me’ when Tommy Rogers is front and centre.
This is the album Dream Theater’s ‘The astonishing’ should have been instead of a wet, boring, navel gazing waste of my time and I hope James LaBrie goes back and makes the rest of DT listen to it. Nightwish too could have a listen and realise that now they’ve got a talent like Floor in their midst they should write something better than their last outing for her. Grumble grumble.
A quick word about the packaging, I got the CD/DVD digipack containing the two CDs plus a DVD containing music videos, behind the scenes footage and a 5.1 mix of the album. The booklet is full of great artwork and shows just what you miss if you only buy digital downloads. There are a few choices when it comes to formats so check out which suits you before buying this.
If you aren’t sure you’re up for this look up ‘The day that the world breaks down’ on YouTube. If you like that you’ll like the whole thing.
This is my new benchmark for Ayreon and the album I would recommend anyone new to them to start at. I’m going to be playing this all year I suspect; several listens are needed to experience the whole thing without becoming overwhelmed. This is an genuinely epic piece of work that deserves to sell a million.
It’s that good.
10/10 (I could not think of anything problematic enough to knock a point off)
Cast
James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as The Historian
Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) as The Opposition Leader
Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) as The Chemist
Simone Simons (Epica) as The Counselor
Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) as The Prophet
Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia) as The Captain
Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) as The Astronomer
Mike Mills (Toehider) as TH-1
Russell Allen (Symphony X) as The President
Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) as The Diplomat
Floor Jansen (Nightwish, ex-After Forever, ex-ReVamp) as The Biologist
Will Shaw (Heir Apparent), Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg (Scarlet Stories) as The Ship's Crew
Zaher Zorgati (Myrath) as The Preacher

Tracklist

Disc One
1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea Of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star Of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

Disc Two
1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry Of A Race
4. Into The Ocean
5. Bay Of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March Of The Machines

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sainted Sinners - S/T Album Review


Sainted Sinners

Sainted Sinners release their self-titled debut album. Fronted by the unique, much travelled (but still got it) soul-driven voice of American born vocalist David Reece (ex-Accept) and highly gifted guitar player Frank Pané, they are completed by legendary keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) and the dynamic rhythm section of the two former Purpendicular members Malte Frederik Burkert (bass) and the Hungarian drummer Berci Hirleman.

“The idea first started with me thinking about forming a band where I can follow my natural taste of music without compromises. I was writing music and then basically formed the band around who would fit the direction it was going”, remembers Pané, whose first step was to contact his former band mate Reece.  “Being one of my all-time favourite singers, he was my obvious choice. It just clicked immediately and so we agreed to lead the band together as we trust and respect each other.”

My own dalliance with Reece only is a ‘toe dip’ into his back catalogue with Reece Kronlund, and for me in particular, one of the highlights of the early 90’s, Bangalore Choir’s debut. Now then, if your idea of ‘rock’ is served with a huge slice of ‘classic’, then you need look no further than Sainted Sinners. If you’re of a certain age then the sound of a Hammond will make parts of your anatomy tingle like they used to in the 70s and 80s. I’m a sucker for a Hammond organ (oo-er! F’narr!) and SS has it in bleedin’ abundance. That much so, it should have its own credit in the sleeve notes.

For ‘Knight Of The Long Knives’ the Hammond is right up in the front of the mix, placing their classic rock intentions firmly in front. Its duels with Pané’s guitar as did the greats of old (Blackmore/Lord). Throw in Recces vocals that are a bit more lived in than I first heard, but are still highly effective for this king of style, and it’s in your face, unadulterated ROCK! ‘Beauty In The Beast’ is a fast paced

On times Reece comes over all David Coverdale, and that is not a bad sound. I mean the 70s Coverdale, not the current millennia Bee-Gees version, none more so than on ‘Maybe She’s Got Balls’. It’s even written in the old skool (now almost defunct) Coverdale style.  ‘We Are All Sainted Sinners’ is more blues tinged than its predecessors that goes for the ‘anthem’ effect. My outright favourite is the next song, ‘Blue Lightning Man’. Nudging the best part of seven minutes, it incorporated steel guitar before a Blackmore-esque ‘Kill The King’ inspired song kicks into high gear where organ and guitar trade licks for fun. ‘This Love That I Have Found’ clearly shows Sainted Sinners love of all things Led Zeppelin, from the Kashmir inspired riffage to the Cov/Page collaboration. ‘Did You’ takes me back to my favourite Deep Purple glory days of the ‘Burn’ era. Its just builds and builds to this great crescendo. ‘In Need’ is like a song that VH would have done around the ‘W&CF’ era – its part Take Your Whiskey Home’, part Southern rawk! What’s a classic rock album without a song title with a woman’s name? Nothing I tell ya! It lives up to the legacy of the past – April,  Cherie, Angeline, Luanne, etc. The album finishes with the equally powerful double barrels of ‘Shine Diamond Girl’ and ‘Truth Is A Lie’

Recce, Pané, Doernberg, Burkert and Hirleman have clearly struck gold here. Their love of all things classic has come to the fore in one belting little diamond of an album. They all have their both feet planted in their love for the classics -from Purple to Zeppelin, and from Rainbow to Whitesnake – its all done with an admiration of the great era of the past, than a blatant plagiarism, all with a modern twist. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t expecting this to be so damn good!!

9/10

Tracklisting
Knight Of The Long Knives
Beauty In The Beast
Maybe She’s Got Balls
We Are All Sainted Sinners
Blue Lightning Man
This Love That I Have Found
Did You
In Need
Evangeline
Shine Diamond Girl
Truth Is A Lie

Sainted Sinners are –
David Reece – Vocals
Frank Pané – Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards
Malte Frederik Burkert – Bass
Berci Hirleman - Drums



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Viana - S/T Album Review


Viana – ST

Viana is the brainchild of Stefano Viana, of which the band name originates from. He took up the guitar aged 16 after a typical Randy Rhoads ‘experience’! He is certainly not the first to be influenced by Rhoades, and definitely will not be the last. Basically this album has been a loooong time coming. It’s roots started back in 2009 with Alessandro Del Vecchio writing and performing the lyrics and vocals respectively.  In came some of the more renowned Italian session musicians – Anna Portalupi on bass, Alessandro Mori on drums, Gabriele Gozzi on backing vocals, and Pasquale Indo on keyboards. Apparently a serious personal problem puts his album on hiatus until April 2016 where he handed the reins over to Alessandro for mixing etc. With the ear that Ale has, he decided to bring in an additional guitarist, Francesco Marras to round off the sound and the band.

On early inspection, you can tell that Viana is influenced by 80s rock bands.  Opening track ‘Straight Between Our Hearts’ is standard melodic rock fare, but not in a bad way. ‘Bad Signs’ is the song to pick as a promo/single for the album, as it highlights the vocals of Del Vecchio, and also the interplay with the BVs of Gozzi and the whole composition in general. It typifies the sound and melodic direction that Viana are heading in. ‘Feel Your Love Tonight ‘ is a ballad that ticks the boxes with its lightness of the verse and then the punch of the chorus. ‘Night Of Fire’ has more of an 80s straight for the jugular riff. The verse here is a bit weaker than its predecessors, but again Viana have a knack for a strong chorus that pulls the song up by its britches. ‘Follow The Dawn’ is your melodic rock staple ballad, before ‘A New Love’, ‘Living A Lie’ and ‘Just To Sing’ and ‘Open Road’ pick up the pace and shows the type of songs that Viana are best at, and give the album a strong finish.  ‘Thet Place Is You’ is the one gem of the ballads –Del Vecchio has this nice throaty rasp that displays the emotion needed for a song like this.


Considering the time it has taken to write and produce / mix this album, and what with the talent involved, I was expecting something much bigger. That said, it’s a good album, but its not brilliant. Its let down by the quality of some of the songs. Its consistently average. Average can be good, but there’s currently a lot more bands playing this music much better and effective than Viana. However, the up-tempo rockers are much better than the ballads, and this is where I’d concentrate in future. Hopefully it will not take Stefano another eight years to complete the follow up.

70/100

Viana –
Stefano Viana – Guitars

With special guests….
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Vocals
Francesco Marras – Guitars
Anna Portalupi – Bass
Alessandro Mori – Drums
Gabriele Gozzi – Backing Vox
Pasquale India – Keyboards

Tracklisting
Straight Between Our Hearts
Bad Signs
Feel Your Love Tonight
Night Of Fire
Follow The Dawn
A New Love
Living A Lie
Just To Sing
Open Road
That Place Is You