- 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!!!
Saturday, 22 August 2015
Concept albums are ten a penny. Lots of bands have tried to tell a story, and there’s a small number that have succeeded in getting it right…Pink Floyd, Ayreon, Queensryche, and Dream Theater will appear at the top of many a fans list. For me, Amadeus Awad needs adding to this list. For those not in the know Amadeus Awad has already released a few nuggets – “The Book Of Gates” and “Schizanimus” being just two recent ones. A mere nine months after ‘The Book Of Gates’ comes ‘Death Is Just A Feeling’. The guy is releasing albums like it’s the 1970s all over again.
Along for the rise is his longtime collaborator, Elia Monsef (Ostura), just adding vocals to one track (no writing), and transferred in on loan is the exquisite Anneke Van Giersbergen, and the European Master of all things Concept, Prog and genius at pulling in talent from all over the world, Arjen Anthony Lucassen. For once he is the hired hand, and Amadeus Awad has pulled off a master-stroke in getting both AVG and AAL. He has also managed to snare (pun definitely intended) Marco Minnemann (drums on 4 of the 6) and Spocks Beard drummer Jimmy Keegan
‘Death…’ is a personal account, and one that eclipses any of his work to date. I’ve never been anywhere near a hurricane but I can imagine from what I have read, and that listening to ‘DIJAF’ is akin to placing yourself in the eye of the storm. A calm and stillness is present, yet all around you, ‘DIJAF’ is an all encompassing entity, a whirlwind of music, surrounding your senses; and its got THAT VOICE! It opens up with Arjen Lucassen saying, “Right where it ends”, after which we have a narrator (Dan Harper) basically declaring that “he does not know what love is”. So, ‘Opia’ gently unfolds and draws you into its story. I think of it in a similar way to Dream Theaters ‘Scenes From A Memory’, only this album is two thirds in size. I imagine that Anneke Van Giersbergens vocals are not for everyone. Not for me, as I hang onto every word and phrase. ‘Sleep Paralysis’ is where ‘DIJAF’ really kicks into gear, it’s a dark, brooding piece that you would expect from a title like ‘Sleep Paralysis’. AVG vocals here are almost hypnotic, lulling you into sleep and when coupled with the acoustic, guitar, Hammond, and Marco Minnemann’s sublime drumming, the end result is dramatic and captivating. Such is the level that you are being drawn in, you hardly notice the change in track (‘Monday Morning’), the narrator asking a lot of life questions before an intensely powerful instrumental acoustic passage, that just glides by.
Ostura’s Elia Monsef steps up to the mic for ‘Tomorrow Lies’. The whole piece you can feel is building gradually with each passing song. Monsef adds passion and depth to the sorrowful and searching lyrics. Amadeus Awad knows not to overplay and just throw tons of tones at you, there a nice slide guitar playing subtly underneath the vocals, with a nicely constructed guitar solo played with slabs of emotion. Like I stated earlier, I felt it was all building to a crescendo, and that crescendo comes in the form of AVG and the longest track, ‘Lonesome Clown’. Not only is it the longest, but also the finest track. AVG’s lilting vocals are conveyed with sadness, but beautiful tone...”Death is just a feeling that you’re never coming back”. It’s in this middle section when the instrumental lies that the track really takes off, synth vs guitar combining to make an expansive piece. Its up one moment, down the next, with Minnemann’s playing surrounding Awad’s excellent guitar soloing.
‘DIJAF’ soon gets to its last track, ‘Temporary’. Only there is nothing temporary about it. Arjen Anthony Lucassen makes a rare appearance as a vocalist, and despite his lack of vocals in anything Ayreon, proves that he can hold his own. It’s a departure from everything before, and is more upbeat and positive. The song finishes with a lengthy instrumental piece with Lucassen having the final word…”I want the whole universe to know that The story begins…” and takes you right back to his opening words…”Right where it ends”.
All in all it’s not a long album, at just under 45 mins. To have a great concept album, or any album, doesn’t mean it has to fill up a cd or two. The length is the length, and in this case ‘DIJAF’ takes you on a compelling story in a fleeting moment and it just flies by to the point where you want to take it in all over again. Amadeus Awad has turned out some compelling pieces of work these past few years, but none is quite as good as this. If you want to take a trip to the dark side and come out illuminated, then this is what you’ve been looking for….
Amadeus Awad – Acoustic, Electric & Bass Guitars, Keyboards & Orchestration
Anneke Van Giersbergen – Vocals
Arjen Lucassen Vocals
Elia Monsef – Vocals
Marco Minnemen – Drums on tracks 2,3,5 & 6
Jimmy Keegan – Drums on track 4
Nareg Nashanikian – Cello
Rafi Nashanikian – Clarinet
Dan Harper - Narration
Thursday, 20 August 2015
Back in the 80s I was a huge Dokken fan. I loved them that much I even got a local newsagent to order me the US mag ‘Hit Parader’ just so I could follow the Dokken / Lynch war in the press. I was gutted when they split, even though it wasn’t a surprise. I was even more gutted as I never got the chance to see them live. One of the few opportunities was when they supposed AC/DC. I was never going to fork out a small fortune to see 30mins and a shit sound all amongst a partisan crowd. The closest I ever got was seeing this very band (LM) on their first foray in the UK supporting the mighty Ryche on the Empire tour! Lynch lived up to his hype and fucked off stage just as they were to play Dokken’s ‘Kiss of Death’. After all that I have still never heard a live Dokken song!
‘Wicked Sensation’ was a great step away from Dokken’s shoes. Oni Logan (Like Don Dokken) was a perfect foil for Lynch, and it was the best (and still is) Lynch Mob album. The line up though for ‘Rebel’ is as good as any, Lynch, Logan, Jeff Pilson, and Brian Tichy.
Just as Lynch Mob wanted to gain momentum, Grunge killed it. Hair Metal was past its sell by date. What we have today is a nostalgic nod to those heady days. Logan sounds as good as he ever did, and Lynch is still one the finest guitarists of his generation as they hit the ground running on tracks like ‘Automatic Fix’ and ‘Testify’, with its huge 80s riff, and Logan shows his massive chops on ‘Dirty Money’. The bloke hasn’t waned in 25 years. The only thing is, it all sounds like its trying to recreate past glories, and its all been done before. That’s not a bad thing I hear you say, but songs like ‘Pine Tree Avenue’ and ‘The Hollow Queen’ are struggling to be fillers, and come across more of a whimper than the bang I’d like to expect.
‘The Ledge’ is a decent pick of the bunch with its slow pulsating groove, but all in all ‘Rebel’ is a pretty average listen. As a huge Lynch fan, it pains me to say this. Lynch Mob have been around now for almost 26yrs so they must be doing something right. At the end of the day, ‘Rebel’, unfortunately, isn’t about to get them any new followers.
I’m also a huge fan of what Frontiers are doing with their music. I’d rather them opt for quality over quantity, as 2015 has been a solid year, but its been nothing spectacular given the names on board. 2015 isn’t over, so I’m not giving up hope just yet.
If you want to hear LM in their element, dust off the debut.
George Lynch – Guitars
Oni Logan – Vocals
Jeff Pilson – Bass
Brian Tichy – drums
Between The Truth And A Lie
Pine Tree Avenue
The Hollow Queen
Kingdom Of Slaves
Sunday, 16 August 2015
There was a time, when I used to think that Spocks Beard were the Bees Knees, The Mutts Nutts, The Badgers Nadgers, The Cats Whiskers etc., (check local listings for appropriate slang version). I was a convert up to the fifth album, aptly titled, er, ‘V’. Then ‘Snow’ came along and it just put me right off as it seemed a test for even the most hardened SB fan. I was pleased that they had a ready made vocalist in Nick D’Virgilio, and I still persevered, but losing Morse to God became a huge hole (and shoes to fill). Neal Morse has had a hand in co writing songs on the last couple of albums, which also got the SB fans juices flowing. After D’Virgilio bailed in 2011 I thought it truly was the end for them. Thankfully, in came Ted Leonard (Enchant), a singer who has given Spocks Beard a refreshed dimension
According to bassist Dave Meros, it’s not a matter of how much the album recalls past Spock’s material, but how much it differs. “I think the opening track 'Tides of Time' is classic Spock's in terms of arrangement and style, but everything else is fairly different. That said, the whole album is still within the parameters of what people expect to hear from us.”
The Oblivion Particle finds the band answering the needs of their creations by utilizing the considerable versatility of each member. In addition to Ted Leonard's soaring vocals and Dave Meros' distinctive bass, Alan Morse adds autoharp, banjolele, electric sitar and mandolin to his array of instruments, drummer Jimmy Keegan takes over lead vocals on “Bennett Built a Time Machine” and Ryo expands his arsenal of keyboard sounds throughout the album. In addition, virtuoso Kansas violinist David Ragsdale lends his touch to the album’s majestic closer, “Disappear.” Basically, there is probably nothing that SB cant play with this line up. Throw in Leonard’s guitar live and they are the prog Iron Maiden!
Opening track ‘Tides Of Time’ is unmistakably and categorically the ‘classic’ Spocks Beard sound. A song in structure that takes you right back to the heady days of their golden period in the late 90s. So, all is not lost then. Morse (N) was a part of this unmistakable sound, but Leonard has definitely made the position his own. Ryo’s keyboards/synths entwine majestically with Alan Morse’s guitar, creating a‘Minion’ https://youtu.be/QiUisFo1bz4 kicks off with Leonards soaring vocals, very much akin to Kansas and ‘COWS’. If there is such a thing in prog as a ballad, then ‘Hell’s Not Enough’ is as close as you’ll come to one. ‘Bennett Built A Time Machine’ is as you would expect a time travel tale with some mighty fine details from another singing drummer, Jimmy Keegan. Our hero of the tale, Bennett, goes back to ‘change his choices, guided by his inner voices’ to New York, 1983. Once halfway, ‘BBATM’ builds into something that only SB seem capable to achieving. Its more pop than prog, and will likely piss off the naysayers, but its cracking stuff. By now, Spocks Beard are now on a roll….
Get Out While You Can is ‘a single’ by SB standards, clocking in at just under 5 mins. It has an end of the world feeling to it, with its ominous tone. ‘Get out while you can’ wails Leonard ‘Judgment day is here’. For the latter half of the album, SB set the dials firmly to ‘prog’. This is what Spocks Beard can do, they stretch the listener, take them on a long and fascinating journey. Its not comfortable, nor should it be. There’s some challenging moments, but if you stick with them then there are rewards to be gained. The boys collectively pull out all the stops, bringing all the musical tools out of the shed, especially hard on ‘The Center Line’. ‘To Be Free Again’ at ten-and-a-half minutes, oscillates from mellow, to chunky riffs, and atmospheric. It’s certainly the most cinematic song on the album. For the finale ‘Disappear’, Spocks Beard wheel out Kansas’ violinist David Ragsdale. At 66minutes, TOB glides along like a knife through butter.
The Oblivion Particle, like Bennetts Time Machine employed, sees them plying some of the best of their past along with the current tone, and hopefully showing glimpses of whats to come in their future. Long may they continue to push the boundaries for another 20 years.
Tides of Time
Hell’s Not Enough
Bennett Built A Time Machine
Get Out While You Can
A Better Way To Fly
The Center Line
To Be Free Again
Catch them on the road in the UK in a few weeks –29.09 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK
30.09 – Assembly, Leamington Spa, UK
1.10 – The Classic Grand, Glasgow, UK
2.10 – O2 Academy Islington, London, UK
3.10 – Club Academy, Manchester, UK
Following their previous albums Ballads For Beauties And Beasts and Zer0, Welsh classic rock band V0iD are back with their third album ‘Keep Fighting’. Produced by Tim Hammill, who has worked with Lemmy, GirlSchool and Ronnie James Dio, the album is released this summer alongside a string of live dates throughout the UK and Europe.
Based on its title as a theme; third album ‘Keep Fighting’ sees the band work though personnel changes, and gain inspiration from various stories of human endurance: A close friend of the band who battled against leukaemia for ten years whilst raising over 25k for charity, a fan in Holland who suffered a brain tumour, taking strength from V0iD’s music whilst in recovery, and their own drummer Gary Doyle, who had major knee surgery followed by a long period of rehab and physiotherapy, not knowing whether he’d be able to drum again.
I’ve not heard any of their previous output, but, straight out of the blocks ‘Keep Fighting' has this marching drum vibe, and I must admit that its not normally my cup of tea, but the V0id lads seem to have a knack of drawing you in, such is the quality of the hooks coupled with instantly hummable choruses.
To be fair V0id have the corking ‘Let Me In’ as the lead single, but the fact is, most of these songs on offer could be picked as future nuggets. From the soaring ‘In The End’, the powerful balled ‘Forever Girl’ to the anthemic ‘For The Soul’, and haunting melody of ‘Starting Again’. ‘How Come’ to a point sounds very much like Tyketto. The gem for me is the first single (of many) ‘Let Me In’. It reminds me of a very unknown (?) rock band from the 80s called Diving For Pearls. Unless you’re a DFP band member or a lover of Klassik 80s AOR then you’ll never get the reference. All I can tell you is that its high praise indeed!
V0id are more pop-rock than out and out rock, but I think its firmly set in the musical realm of FM friendly music that lots of people can enjoy, and not just bitter old rockers with a narrow mind to anything other than metal. V0id seem like they are a guilty pleasure, but not to me. I'll stick my head above the parapet, V0id are a new fave band and definitely underrated, and very talented indeed.
As I said previously, I’d not heard their previous 2 albums, but I’ll be putting that right immediately. V0id are going places, and its only one direction, up!
Not The One
In The End
Where Have You Been
Let Me In
For The Soul
Say My Name
Sunday, 9 August 2015
Newman – The Elegance Machine
Now, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I never really got into Mr Newman (F’narr) or the band Newman. A small oversight on my part which was rectified a few years back writing for another website whereby an actual CD fell thru the letterbox and I was completely transfixed. It wasn’t a Newman album per se, but a quite cracking side project with Mark Thompson-Smith called 'Big Life'. I managed to catch part of them (Newman) live at the ill-fated Z Roxx fest a couple of years ago. My points of Newman reference are as about as obscure and as rare as rocking horse shit. I apologise to Mr Newman for this glaring omission in my record collection. Fast rewind a couple of years back and ‘Siren’ was one of my fave albums of that year.
Back to the present and Newman have blown me away (again!) with this new album, 'The Elegance Machine'. Albums nowadays are recorded on a Trevor Eve (Shoestring!), but Steve has the knack of turning out these albums on a big production scale that big record companies would struggle to replicate. Not only that, the bloke knows how to get a striking album cover drawn up that looks like its been completed way beyond its budget.
Steve has gone for the ‘if it aint broke’ skool of rock – Rob McEwen (drummer for the last 8 Newman albums returns), and brings in a couple of mates, Mark Thompson-Smith of afore-mentioned 'Big Life' who contributed BVs to ‘Illuminate’, ‘Send Us Salvation’ and ‘Pretender Surrender’; and Geoff Wootton for BVs on ‘The Suit’, ‘One Good Reason’, and ‘Halo’.
|Steve and the band in happier days!|
If anything, 'The Elegance Machine' builds on Siren and is a more hard-edged affair, and that is certainly a big plus. Opener, ‘The Suit (Skyscraper)’ comes out of the starting blocks quicker than Usain Bolt after a dodgy curry. Once past the irritable synth opening, title track 'The Elegance Machine' puts Newman back on the rails with its Newman (™) pulsating riff, sonic backing vocals, and instantly sing-along chorus. It’s the type of riff that Whitesnake have been looking for the last 10 years. ‘Don’t Stay Lonely’ has a Journey-esque chorus, and wears its 80s influence firmly and proudly on its sleeve. You can’t sing the words ‘Don’t Stay Lonely without thinking Steve Perry!
Steve goes into the loft for one his bezzie mates (Mark Thompson-Smith), dusts him down, sticks him on charge and lets him loose on the fast paced rocker, with ‘Illuminate’ being the pick of the 3 that MT-S appears on. ‘Confess' is standard fare, but even Newman’s standard is still better than some other bands can muster. 'Halo', in contrast is like a kick to the nuts in comparison, and Geoff Wootton is brought in for some BVs. It will bring comparisons to U2 as the tone is very ‘The Edge’ (why the fuck Mr & Mrs. Edge called him ‘The’ is beyond me!). It will surely be a staple in the live set, due to its uplifting and crowd participant chorus. ‘Prayer For Apollo’ is what it says, a space themed track about Apollo 13. Steve’s not one to generally go for the ‘cock-rock’ school of songwriting, he’s far too intelligent a writer. This is shown on ‘She Walks In Silence’, a song about domestic violence.
Such is his output; both Steve and the band that bears his name should be a household name. I know he is in certain homes (especially a Spurs loving one in S.Wales), but nowhere near enough.
All I can say is that existing Newman fans will be salivating at this, and if there’s any justice, he should pick up a new set of devotees along the way.
Cracking stuff and highly recommended
YOU CAN PRE ORDER THE ALBUM HERE - www.newmansound.com
Newman is (for this release)
Steve Newman – pretty much everything (Vocals, guitar, and keyboards)
Rob McEwan – Drums
Geoff Wootton – BVs on The Suit, One Good Reason & Halo
Mark Thompson-Smith – BVs on Illuminate, Send Us Salvation & Pretender Surrender
Newman live is
Pete Newdeck – Drums
Shaun Bessant – Guitar, Vox
Paul Boyle – Keys, Vox
Dave Bartlett – Bass, Vox
The Suit (Skyscraper)
The Elegance Machine
Don’t Stay Lonely
Prayer For Apollo
She Walki In Silence
One Good Reason
Send Us Salvation