Beatrix Players announce headline show and Carl Palmer support!

Beatrix Players are a London-based all-female trio whose unconventional but evocative   music straddles the boundaries of folk, prog rock, acoustic, classical and pop music.  The band have now announced they will be supporting Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (In Memory of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & John Wetton) at The Stables in Milton Keynes next  Sunday November 19th. They will also be performing a warm-up London show at  Camden’s Green Note on Friday 19th January; before heading to The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton on February 11th next year to support Serpentyne.

Beatrix Players recently released double A-side single All That Thinking / Hurt in October. All That Thinking being taken from their 2017 debut album, Magnified, while Hurt is a previously unreleased studio recording of the Nine Inch Nails song, famously covered by Johnny Cash on his American IV: The Man Comes Around album.

The trio recently won the Limelight Award at the 2017 Prog Awards which took place at London’s Globe Theatre on September 14th, and performed Hurt live to an audience of peers, critics and industry insiders. The Limelight Award highlights the best of the talent that has emerged over the past 12 months on the progressive rock scene.Previous winners of the coveted award include The Anchoress, Messenger and TesseracT.

Through their enchantingly dark and evocative melodies, expansive arrangements and empowered orchestral sound Beatrix Players tell stories of real life and fantasy. Citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spektor and drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Einaudi Ludovico. There are tempestuous passages in the bands’ music that you can imagine being delivered by traditional rock instrumentation but it is the veryabsence of guitars and drums that means there’s nobody out there quite like Beatrix Players.

BEATRIX PLAYERS UK SHOWS

 

Sunday 19th November

The Stables, Milton Keynes

(supporting Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy: In Memory of

Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & John Wetton)

SOLD OUT

Friday 19th January

Green Note, London

(Serpentyne warm up show)

www.wegottickets.com/greennote/event/420455

  Sunday 11th February

Robin 2, Wolverhampton

(supporting Serpentyne)

www.therobin.co.uk

Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Broken But Still Standing – By Progradar

A brooding, damaged cube, like something from The Borg of Star Trek fame, mysterious and enigmatic, a lone, shadowy figure walking towards it. I’ve long been a fan of great album art and the cover of the new album from UK Art/Prog rockers Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate is another one that really caught my eye.

Cryptic and original, like all the best album art, it really does invite you to wonder about the music behind it and knowing what this imaginative and inventive set of musicians are really capable of, I was very intrigued to find out more about ‘Broken But Still Standing’.

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway, on his own, or with his colleagues Kathryn Thomas (flute), Mark Gatland (bass), Rudy Burrell (drums) and Ibon Bilboa (guitar). They are based in London, UK.

Malcolm and Mark have been playing together since they were at school. Malcolm and Kathryn are married. This album also includes spoken word and backing vocals from their children James and Ethan Galloway, and James co-wrote two of the tracks.

Their music combines progressive rock, classic rock, acoustic, blues, metal, folk, funk, minimalism, and electronica and often explores scientific and philosophical themes.

‘Broken But Still Standing’, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s third album, is a science/science-fiction themed concept album. It follows the story of human evolution, from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor of all current life on earth, via Lucy, one of the possible precursors of our species, to conflict and eventual symbiosis with artificial intelligences. The general theme of the album is that life has progressed by forming coalitions, whether between the primitive cells that engulfed each other to become the cell and the mitochondria (the power stations of the cell), between individuals to form communities, or between different forms of life in the future.

This band really know how to deliver a seriously complex and yet ultimately rewarding concept album, this is what I had to say about their previous release ‘When The Kill Code Fails’,

“I love it when new music lands on my desk with no fanfare or previous knowledge. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate may have a brilliant name but they also produce excellent music. Sometimes progressive, sometimes more rock orientated but, overall, it is an enthralling listen.”

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in…

(Photo by Jaz Dhillon)

The opening instrumental Vent is dark and almost elemental in its low brooding delivery with the haunting flute making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and an apprehensive feeling seep into your mind. There’s a seamless segue into the deeply atmospheric Almost Familiar with its vocals that drip with passion and longing, ethereal flute and the achingly bluesy low-down guitar. Unashamedly progressive in its outlook, it’s a slow-burning piece of musical storytelling for dark nights and open fires. Kathryn’s emotive flute solo is a piece of genius and closes out the track to perfection. There’s an alien, science fiction tone to the next two tracks, Luca to Lucy opens with an uneasy, unerringly off-kilter soundscape before the music seems to creep in like an ancient dawning of time, all measured, deliberate and low-key. An exact and infallible life force that has only one motive, to exist. Lucy sees Kathryn’s flute take centre stage on this short piece, all mysterious and enigmatic with its late night jazz feel, asking questions of the listener.

There’s nostalgia in spades about Last Man On The Moon, a wistful, almost melancholy song that gets under your skin with its elegant music and heartfelt vocals, especially the excellent harmonies between the male and female voices on the captivating chorus. Thoughtful and yet somehow forlorn, it’s a great track with a wonderfully plaintive and meandering guitar solo that leads you on a reflective musical journey. Advancing On Snailback is a trance-like ambient instrumental that gets inside your head and mesmerises you with each well considered note, Serious, discerning and meditative, it leaves you lost in thought. That reverie is broken by the edgy, almost punky guitar, drums and bass of Anywhere, Malcolm’s vocal has an angsty tone to it and the whole song seems to have discordant, uneasy feel. A short, sharp shock after the more refined and gentle feel of the first few tracks. There’s a jazz lounge aura to the opening of One Day When before the vocals begin and the energy builds to another catchy chorus, to me there’s a real vibrancy and energy that has infiltrated the music now, an addictive and harder note more akin to modern punk and alternative rock.

I love the intoxicating ambience of I Fell In Love With A Mechanical Dragon, rock infused electronica with high octane keyboards and a vibrant guitar note that combine with the urgent vocals to give one of the grin inducing highlights of the album. It does feel slightly absurd singing the chorus out loud in the middle of Morrison’s but that’s what great music does to you! The most overtly heavy track on the album, Let Me Out is dark and deliciously dangerous in its outlook. The in-your-face riffs and impassioned vocals drive the song on towards the dissonant flute solo and special mention must go to the superb drums and funky bass that are the engine room of this song. More electronica that almost verges on drum and bass underpins Under The Skin with its clever use of female spoken vocals that almost break into rap. A really inventive piece of music that makes me nod in appreciation every time I listen to it. That electronic vibe really comes to the fore on the retro grooves of Lucid Assassin. A high energy song with some rather excellent synthesisers that work on a  hard working drum and bass foundation to give a special 80’s ‘laser show’ ambience.

Broken But Still Standing Till I Fall is another hard-edge, punk rock soaked track with a take no prisoners attitude. The vocals have attitude to them and the music just rocks, especially the dynamic and vivid guitar solo, another short sharp shock to the music system. The metaphorical lights are turned down low as we segue into the melodramatic All Alone Together, the heartfelt vocals give real poignance to the song and the music adds not a little tension to proceedings. Take some 70’s jazz funk, add some 90’s Happy Mondays Madchester vibe and you’ve got Host, one of the more upbeat songs on the album. The blues-rock imbued guitar solo is worth the price of entry on its own and the restless energy of the song soon finds itself manifested in your dancing feet. Transient Stars is an intelligent instrumental with a cinematic quality to it, you could imagine this as being part of the score for a high-brow, cerebral science fiction film. An enlightened piece of music that had me musing about all sorts of unfathomable things. Things come to a close with the astute progressive rock of Close My Eyes, dextrous musicians showcasing their skills and a contemplative vocal performance culminating in the simple but eminently memorable chorus. A cultured close to  what has been an engrossing musical experience.

‘Broken But Still Standing’ is a brilliantly perceptive and original work of art that enthralls with every listen. Taken as a whole it is an utterly immersive musical experience that will captivate and enlighten the listener, Hats Off Gentlemen Its Adequate has to be one of the most creative and innovative artists out there today.

Released 7th October 2017

Find links to order ‘Broken But Still Standing’ at the band’s website here:

 

 

 

BLACK MOTH ANNOUNCE FEBRUARY UK TOUR DATES AHEAD OF NEW ALBUM ‘ANATOMICAL VENUS’

RELEASED 23rd FEBRUARY 2018 VIA CANDLELIGHT RECORDS

Following two recent shows in London and Leeds to celebrate their latest single ‘Moonbow’Black Moth have announced a run of UK tour dates in February next year ahead of the release of their upcoming album ‘Anatomical Venus’. Vocalist Harriet Hyde comments:

Black Moth eagerly anticipate February’s UK tour to promote our 3rd album, ‘Anatomical Venus’. Some days the prospect feels like an ideal opportunity to exorcise some demons and inflate our egos a little to see us through the dark winter months. Some days it fills us with morbid anxiety and existential dread. Nevertheless, we will hit that road and play you our music hoping that you like it or otherwise formulating psychological defences against your hypothetical disapproval.”

While their first 2 albums were released by New Heavy SoundsBlack Moth will have their latest / third studio album issued worldwide via Candlelight Records on February 23rd 2018, the result of an alliance between Candlelight and NHS.

Produced by Andy Hawkins (Hawk Eyes, Maximo Park) with Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir) handling the mix, this 10-track affair sees the Leeds / London outfit – vocalist Harriet Hyde, guitarists Jim Swainston & Federica Gialanze, bassist Dave Vachon and drummer Dom McCready –  further honing the various elements of their sound to make the hooks more barbed and the focus more collective.

Latest single ‘Moonbow’ – recently played on Daniel P Carter’s Radio 1 Rock show – provides the first taste of things to come, successfully combining wide-eyed wonder with true metallic weight, the whole thing supported by a clip that delivers from the off in both intensity and colour. Watch the video here:

What’s for sure is that ‘Anatomical Venus’ is the heaviest Black Moth album to date, taking the signature Mothic sound – a dark and heady swirl of garage rock, mind-blowin’ psychedelia and amplified over-drive – down a more targetted path, effectively opening a new chapter in a career that stretches back to an inaugural single in 2010 and a debut album, ‘The Killing Jar’, in 2012.

For ‘The Killing Jar’ and its 2014 follow-up, ‘Condemned To Hope’, the band brought in Jim Sclavunos (a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since 1994) to handle production and mixing duties, and the results immediately connected with fans and media alike…

“Like Electric Wizard meets Band Of Skulls, in a dungeon” is one press description that sticks in the mind, with other points of reference including Black Sabbath, the Stooges, PJ Harvey, Melvins, Kyuss and Patti Smith; however, with ‘Anatomical Venus’ Black Moth are seeking to forge their own path, both musically and conceptually. The album’s name and central theme, arrived at when Hyde was introduced to the 18th century wax models of the female form employed by male surgeons to learn their craft, provides a strong platform for both the artwork and the lyrics, allowing the singer to take command and truly find her voice…

The Anatomical Venus spoke volumes to me,” she reflects. “She embodies the male gaze, a history of men dissecting women in an attempt to understand her, reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame, while all the time needing her to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to their taste. These models are not simply practical medical models for education – they are fetish objects, women stripped back as far as you can go. But there is a look of defiance in their eyes as if to say, ‘keep looking if you like. I dare you. Peel back my skin and peep behind my ribcage, you won’t find anything unless I choose to tell you’.”

Pre-order now on CD, vinyl and digital along with exclusive bundles –  https://candlelightrecords.lnk.to/anatomicalvenus

 On the live front, Black Moth have appeared at a number of high-profile UK festivals (including DownloadReading & Leeds and Bloodstock Open Air), and guested – in the UK and Europe – with artists such as L7Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats and The Sisters Of Mercy.

FEBRUARY 2018 TOUR DATES:
7th February: Hope & Ruin, Brighton
8th February: Boston Music Rooms, London
9th February: Rebellion, Manchester
11th February: Garage Attic, Glasgow
12th February: The Cluny 2, Newcastle
13th February: Mama Roux’s, Birmingham
14th February: Fuel, Cardiff
15th February: Waterfront Studios, Norwich
16th February: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Tickets avilable here: https://dice.fm/artist/black-moth
22nd December 2017: Electric Ballroom, London (Orange Goblin Xmas Show)
2018
May 4 – 6: Desertfest, London

 

Death, Politics & American Standards- Phoenix metalcore band comes together to release an album about falling apart

Sometimes strong emotions can make you lose focus. That’s not the case for Phoenix, AZ based four-piece American Standards. After losing their founding guitarist to suicide, then shortly after the vocalist Brandon Kellum’s father to cancer, the chaotic hardcore band founded in 2011 released their most emotionally and socially poignant album to date.

ANTI-MELODY” released on April 28th, 2017 displays the political noise-punk outfits ability to navigate the troubled waters of depression and loss while still incorporating the social commentary that the band has become known for. More so, once signed to an imprint of Victory Records, the band took a new approach of self mixing, producing and independently releasing the album after recording at Kingsize Soundlabs (Mars VoltaLetliveBad Religion). The result is a raw and powerfully resonate glimpse into the group’s minds during the troubled times.

Now more focused then ever, American Standards has hit the road playing over 300 DIY booked shows to date, sharing the stage with bands such as; Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Zao, Comeback Kid, Stick To Your Guns, Stray From The Path, Knocked Loose, He Is Legend, Emery and Atreyu.

‘ANTI-MELODY’ which had premiers on Revolver Magazine, Alternative Press and Lambgoat; is available now on iTunes, Google Music, Amazon and Spotify or you can pick it up along with exclusive merchandise through the American Standards Bandcamp page.

BANDCAMP:

http://AmericanStndrds.bandcamp.com

FACEBOOK:

http://www.facebook.com/AmericanStandards

 

Review – Playgrounded – In Time With Gravity – by Emma Roebuck

Playgrounded is a Greek band born and forged in the heart of the financial crash post 2007 and whose first album ‘Athens’ is a narrative of Greece and a Greek youth in crisis and ultimately the European Project. They moved to Rotterdam to explore their music more, in their own words “Heavy Rock meets Electronic”, this is of course is not happy joyous music.

‘In Time With Gravity’ is 8 tracks of music but, technically, only 6 as the final track is a long form piece subdivided into 3,  The Stranger, based on the Albert Camus book of the same name which can be summarised in Camus’s own words.

‘I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

I will let that dangle for a while as I explore the rest of the album and return to it later.

To begin properly at the beginning, The Crossing, the meaning of this song eludes me if I am honest. It could be a metaphor for their journey from Greece and learning to connect to a Northern European culture? It could also be a metaphor for the journey of the refugees making a similar journey or I could well off the mark. Musically it is very dark and electronic driven with an understated but definite slow grinding guitar work woven around the main themes.

Mute is a definite stand out track on this album for me. There’s big sounding and very powerful guitar work but not in a way that swamps the rest of the music. They manage to sound big and yet leave space in the music, it is a trick some of the other Prog metal bands could do with learning if I am honest. There’s an addictive guitar hook that repeats often enough to become an ear worm.

Waves, now this is to me where the band show their influences at their clearest. A song of a wasted generation lost in the turmoil of politics and chaos of the times. Playgrounded have played on the same bill as Anathema and Riverside and they are very comfortable musical bedfellows here.

In Time with Gravity is the title track and the most electronic based track on the album. I have not heard ‘Athens‘ so it could be a hangover from the past or a hint at the direction to come but it has a lighter tone and feel to it almost but not entirely optimistic in outlook. I suppose this is as close to a love song as this album has but a pop song it isn’t. Coming in at over 10 minutes long it has plenty of time to explore the themes and melody and give a few opportunities to have off-shoots and pathways to explore.

Rotterdam is obviously the band trying to express their first experiences of living in a new country and finding their feet, moving to be as close to the heart of Europe as they could to see where the music could take them. Musically the main driver here is the bass line and keyboard sequencing.

Finally we Return to The Stranger, I will be honest with you here, I only know of the book but  have never read it. Praise the internet and a cheat sheet to help me with cross referencing Camus’ book and the tracks that make up the whole piece based on that tome. In short man attends his mother’s funeral then kills someone and is then sentenced to death. The primary character, the Stranger of the piece is an outsider of the society that he inhabits and ultimately that society destroys him because he is an outsider.

Hence:

‘ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

The three parts “Funeral”, “Killing” and “Verdict” break down the story into its component parts. It expresses the film noir of the 50s French film scene very well and how the outcome of one who is outside the whole is doomed in one way or another, in this case execution by guillotine. The Cure’s ‘Killing an Arab’ is based on the same book.

I have avoided genres here as much as possible in this review as I honestly think that these guys sit apart in many ways from any specific genre or type. I have chatted with a couple of fellow DJs about it and they agree, they sit in an area of their own BUT I am going to make a few comparisons and references for people who have an interest.

Dark moody emotional and different are good words for these guys. If you have a liking for mid/ late period Anathema, NIN, some of the slow grinding Black Sabbath with added late Depeche Mode and Gary Numan for a little spice then this could be for you. If you want happy and lightness with lots of sparkling unicorns then i would suggest that you steer well clear!

I have a feeling that live these guys are far less restrained and rip it up good and proper.

Released 19th October 2017

Order ‘In Time With Gravity’ from bandcamp here

Review – Iconic Eye – Into the Light – by Progradar

“I was ten when I heard the music that ended the first phase of my life and cast me hurtling into a new horizon. Drenched to the skin, I stood on Dunoon’s pier peering seawards through diagonal rain, looking for the ferry that would take me home. There, on the everwet west coast of Scotland, I heard it: like sonic scalpels, the sounds of electric guitars sliced through the dreich weather. My body hairs pricked up, each one a willing receiver for the Thunder-God grooves. To my young ears, the sound of these amplified guitars was angelic (although, with hindsight, I don’t suppose angels play Gibson guitars at ear-bleeding volume). A voice that suggested vocal chords of polished silver soared alongside razor-sharp overdriven riffs. I knew that I was hearing the future.”
― Mark Rice, Metallic Dreams

Good rock music has always appealed to me, not that bland soft rock rubbish but music with drive and ambition that rocks into town, blows everyone away and then leaves in a blaze of glory, THAT sort of rock music! Vibrant, heavy riffs, a powerful and dynamic rhythm section and gilt-edge vocals all combine to give a listening experience that is like a shot in the arm or a musical kick up the arse.

I spend so much time listening to, and writing about progressive and alternative rock that I rarely have time to listen to good rock music apart from when I’m running and I use it as a motivational force through the headphones. However, my friend Jane Gould joined UK rock band Iconic Eye last year and they have a new album out so it would be remiss of me to not spend a bit longer with ‘Into the Light’

Iconic Eye burst onto the rock scene in 2015 when they self-released their debut album, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’. They leapt straight onto Jake’s Stage at that years Download festival, then on to support the Treatment at Rockingham’s Pre-party in the same year and then to Hard Rock Hell (HRH) in March 2016. A truly remarkable start! Since then the band has seen many changes and has also been struck by tragedy. However, the band refused to give up and made the bold move to become female fronted with the addition of the amazing Jane Gould. This change has lifted the existing songs and created the right environment for the band to start writing again.

The album title says it all. It contains 5 of the bands favourite songs from ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’; re-worked with Jane and Robin Mitchard (the bands new youthful lead guitarist) to the fore. Together with harder guitars from Greg Dean and a more aggressive mix, this is classic Iconic Eye, updated!

Added to these existing songs are 6 new songs, mainly written in partnership between Dean and Gould, but also with Mitchard adding to the songwriting credits on two of the songs. On the new recordings you also have ex Max Bacon and Dante Fox bassist, Michael Dagnall and on drums, Adrian Scattergood. This is Iconic Eye as it is now, and at its best.

(Jane Gould)

The album opens with two properly hard rocking tracks, Am I The One and You Make It are both edgy, fast paced and in your face, basically hard rock as it bloody well should be! Jane’s vocals are powerful and dynamic and lead the rest of the band in a merry roller coaster ride across these two energetic openers. The guitar playing is slick and dextrous with a couple of smoking hot solos from Robin Mitchard thrown in for good measure. I love the chorus on You Make It which rapidly becomes an addictive earworm and Greg Dean’s keyboard add a lush touch of AOR magic, I’m hooked already!

(Robin Mitchard)

Those Tears Won’t Last adds a huge dose of melodic melodrama to the music, soulful and full of passion with driving riffs and compelling drums. I’m detecting a touch of the legendary Anneke Van Giersbergen to Jane’s vocals, they really are that good, silky smooth but imbued with a deep seated power and fervor. The solos are coming thick and fast, each one iridescent and hard-edged and giving these tracks proper drive and direction. Jane and the band show us a sultry side with the heavily soul infused Let It Rain Down. A sensuous piano joins the vocals at the opening before the accelerator pedal is pressed and the intensity increases with a forceful riff and those all-powerful drums. Another chorus that is just asking for you to sing along with it and the emotions are just set free with the delicious guitar that closes out the track.

(Greg Dean)

Get the lighters (or mobile phones) out ready, Black Country Lady is a moving and hauntingly beautiful ballad come anthem and one that leaves a big lump in your throat. The elegant guitar and Jane’s elegantly melancholic vocals are stylish and wistful in equal measure. This is definitely going to be a live favourite and the band have the necessary chops to carry this off in any venue. It’s as good, if not better, as anything you’ll hear in the charts and is topped off with another stunning piece of guitar work from Robin and Greg, backed ably by Adrian’s drums. A funky, bluesy guitar opens Better Place, a high energy filled track that definitely treads the blues rock path and does it with aplomb. The vocals take on an Alannah Myles hue showing Jane’s versatility and downright potency. A catchy chorus and suitably fiery solo complete this punchy track.

(Michael Dagnall)

A fast paced hard rocker Black Heart has the requisite heavy riffing, influential rhythm section and in your face vocals that take you back to the height of the 80’s peak of the genre. Greg gets inventive on the keyboards and I’m kind of reminded of a female fronted Magnum around the ‘Wings of Heaven’ period. Damn these guys can write some serious hooks and songs that become downright habit forming! Bluesy, soulful, dynamic, powerful, I’m running out of words to describe this compelling and captivating group of musicians and All She Needed just carries on the superlative music experience. The riffing guitars drive the song on at a breathless pace, a really electric and intense piece of music with superb vocals that flies headlong to its guitar solo inspired close.

(Adrian Scattergood)

The pace is notched back a bit on the AOR classic Thanks For The Memories, a nostalgic track with its contemplative vocals and reflective guitar tone. Another memorable chorus and polished solo just leave me shaking my head in disbelief at how good Iconic Eye are at what they do. Jane’s tastefully emotive vocal being the final layer of class and style on this refined song. Don’t Stop Me From Leaving has a simple sadness at its core, another anthemic song that will be a sure fire live hit. Jane’s poignant voice sings of a sorrow and heartbreak that may come and the music fits the mood perfectly with the plaintive keyboards and the wishful and reflective guitar solo. The last song on the album is the enigmatic Never Get Through The Light, a proper hard rock track with a heavy touch of AOR in the guitar , drums and vocals. A compelling piece of music that never lets up, keeping you on the edge of your seat, another standout chorus and some simply superb guitar playing close the album out in suitable style.

Iconic Eye should soon be a name on everyone’s lips, a byword for sumptuous hard rock stamped with their own unique style. An outrageously talented group of musicians with one of the greatest female vocalists I’ve heard in a long time, in ‘Into the Light’ they’ve produced a rock album of rare quality from beginning to end.

Released 4th November 2017

Order ‘Into the Light’ direct from Iconic Eye here

(Featured image by Samantha Lloyd)

 

 

 

Review – Human Pyramids – Home – by James R. Turner

As ever our esteemed editor has an uncanny knack of being able to listen to the piles of albums he gets for review and then a few days later you’ll receive a message on Facebook with those immortal words ‘I reckon you’ll like this’ and, as I like a challenge and new music, I will always say ‘ping it over then’ and then usually ask for it to be re-sent as I forget to download it before the deadline runs out.

The latest of Martin’s picks that he thought would reach the parts that other records wouldn’t reach, is ‘Home’, the new album from Human Pyramids.

Brain child of Paul Russell, the Glasgow based composer from instrumental outfit Axes, this see’s him meld a chaotically brilliant fusion of orchestral arrangements, pop and electronic sensibilities, performed by a cross country collaboration 16 piece band.

Now I am a sucker for big ensemble sounds, and having heard the mighty sound that bands like the Polyphonic Spree or Bellowhead can make, that definitely got my spidey senses tingling, and with the band having performed at festivals like the End of the Road, 2000 Trees and Glastonbury, these guys have the chops to back up their ambitions, and ‘Home’ is their second release.

As an inquisitive teenager rifling through my parents record collection, and devouring anything they had that was slightly different (remember I grew up in the Britpop era where everyone sounded the same and there was nothing exciting musically happening) I discovered bands like ELO and Sky, who were using different compositional forms and sounds, and (certainly in the case of ELO) plenty of strings.

Thus I have always had a soft spot for ensembles that push beyond the four-piece sound and look to do something new and exciting.

The fact that Louise starts off with some wonderfully stirring strings and then develops into a fantastic string and brass off (again being from South Yorkshire the stirring sound of the brass band runs through my veins like Henderson’s Relish, and there is nothing more uplifting than the sound of a brass ensemble going some). So to hear the two meeting in a fantastically stirring piece that mixes a great riff and some superb musical duelling/duetting certainly drew me straight in.

Canned Thunder does exactly what it says on the tin, with an absolutely brilliant drumbeat and more of that amazing brass. Paul Russell has an amazing ear for a melody and a knack for putting the right instrumentation in the right place, he makes it sound so easy, which is why this is such a well made album.

Slush mixes piano led riffs, some subtle electronica bubbling under the surface, and slowly the rest of the ensemble seep in, those driving strings, the heart tugging brass, the wonderful countermelodies.

The press blurb describes this as a mix of punk energy fused with electronic elements and orchestral sounds. I would say this is the musical sound of humanity, there is so much depth and power behind each song, that even in the quietest moments there are little riffs and licks, subtle string tones, a small brass part here and there, from the almost dance like infusion that ripples through Crackle Pop (reminiscent of Rob Dougan’s work) and the driving strings and powerful brass.

There is a country tinged sound to Your Flag, with a mellow and relaxed vibe that just builds as song grows and counter melodies weave and intermingle as the sinuous drum beat helps hold it all together until the brass kicks in for the massive elegiac finish that is full of power and emotion, reminiscent of the closing part to one of Mike Oldfield’s opus’.

With the strong use of brass and shorter tunes it reminds me at times of the tunes of The Home Service or Bellowhead, and the intricate musical composition quality reminds me of Mike Oldfield in parts, but that is probably coincidental, as lets face it when you’re pulling music of this nature together with such a powerful ensemble you’re bound to get a touch of the Oldfield in there whether consciously or not.

This is no homage though, this is living breathing music, and the stuff that gets in your veins and into your soul, the driving power of Blast Off for instance is widescreen film music.

Nico is a wonderful uplifting piece of music full of life and light, whilst the closing Home rounds off a highly emotional and enjoyable album with some sublime piano work and another great brass section, bringing the album home.

I’d never heard of this ensemble before, and the description was vague enough to get me interested, and the music is sublime enough to keep me hooked and listening again and again.

This is one of those albums that ebbs and flows like life itself, and is full of emotional highs and lows, and above all the musicality, the sublime performances and the compositional chops on show here, this album is brimming full of heart and soul, and one you can’t help be swept away by as an aural emotional sucker punch.

This is what music is meant to be like, and this album deserves a place in everyone’s Home!

Released 10th November 2017

Order ‘Home’ from bandcamp

Review – Misto – Helios – by Progradar

One thing I really like about working with independent musicians is the fact that I get to see how their musical projects develop from start to finish, often being the first to hear the end product or asked for my input as to how I think it is developing.

Last year Italian multi-instrumentalist Mirko Viscuso contacted me to ask if I’d review the debut release from his project Misto, a one man band based in Genoa, Italy. After different experiences with several local bands, Mirko decided to compose, record and produce his first solo album, ‘Infinite Mirrors’, featuring instrumental music inspired by personal experiences.

I was suitably impressed saying that, “…ultimately I feel relaxed and as one with the world as I listen to this beauteous offering. Trust me, you should do yourselves a favour and listen to it too.”

Out of the blue Mirko contacted me again asking me if I would review his second album, ‘Helios’, due to be released in November. I was intrigued to see what musical direction he had taken on this new record so it was a bit of a no-brainer really!

Calling himself a ‘One-man post rock instrumental project’, that’s what you got from the first album, chilled-out, laid back and relaxed but ‘Helios’ sees him blend that original style with something a bit heavier and more aggressive at times.

Opening track Buried Under Remote Lands has a repeated, chilled out guitar line reminiscent of the sound of Sanguine Hum, an addictive melody that runs throughout the song. The dynamic rhythm section adds some stylish drama to everything and you get the feel of floating on a cloud of elegant music that takes you away from the stress and worry of life in the fast lane. That darker edge is first heard on the rather frenetic and energetic tones of Polemic Guy Wants To Fight with its crashing guitar riffs and superb drum and bass rhythms. A surprise from start to finish, Mirko has really extended his musical horizons with this track, I really like it, the spirited close is genius!

Daffodils Crashing Into The Water returns to the wistful and nostalgic tone with its chiming guitars and dreamy atmosphere. A gentle musical journey through a world of calm collection and reflection. It’s one of those pieces of music that really lifts your spirit. The addition of the delightful violin playing of Giulia Ermirio adds an ethereal grace to what is already a graceful and charming piece of music.

(Giulia Ermirio)

A pensive and sombre track, Set Your Firearms Against The Sun builds up from solemn beginnings with its absorbing guitar and keyboard note into something elemental and primeval. The sound turns ominous with the restless riff and the questioning guitar note, like a soundtrack to a sci-fi film about an apocalyptical future. It really gets under your skin with its deliciously dark and uneasy feel, Mirko is really stretching his musical boundaries here!

Mirko says that title track Helios is the most ‘proggy’ song on the album and, to a certain extent, I’d have to agree. It begins as all relaxed and laid-back post rock that draws you into its winsome and captivating world, relaxed, chilled and without a care in the world. Music for hot, hazy summer days that never end, looking back on the good times and forgetting the bad. A vibrant riff opens up, giving a more intense mood and atmosphere but still charismatic and engaging before a more subdued and thoughtful aura falls over the music, a nostalgic feel of looking back at how life used to be. The gossamer-like guitar notes landing randomly on your aural receptors, it’s actually a very cathartic and soul-cleansing piece of music that sees your pulse rate drop and your mind clear. Twelve minutes of music that could make all psychiatrists redundant..

The final track is Time To Destroy My Life Capsule and the opening takes the more ambient route again, harmonious melodies leaving an ambience of soothing tranquility in the air. There’s a short period of reflective silence before a more insistent tone takes over, never dark but questing, more demanding and with a slight touch of that new found aggression. Everything comes full circle once again though as the serenity returns to see this track and the album to a close.

Mirko told me he was worried about the fact that the few who loved ‘Infinite Mirrors’ might be in some way confused about this more aggressive sound. I can happily attest to the fact that this is not the case, that edgier and sometimes darker feel has added another level of innovation to Mirko’s music and produced an album of many sophisticated layers that intrigues and delights with every note. A superb return from Misto indeed!

Release date to be announcedon Misto’s Facebook page in the next few days, keep checking below:

https://www.facebook.com/mistoband/

You can listen to ‘Infinite Mirrors’ at bandcamp here

 

 

Review – Geof Whitely Project – Time – by Progradar

He’s a prolific fellow that Arny Wheatley, the creative mind behind the Geof Whitely releases an astounding amount of new albums, surely the quality will have to dip at some point? Well it hasn’t since I got involved with reviewing the releases and December will see the latest record from this musical project see the light of day.

In a break from the norm ‘Time’ will only be available in CD format and exclusively from the website only in CD format and a limited edition of 300. In a further change to the standard format, this album is shorter and features only 6 tracks.

We start with the dark and atmospheric Deadly Alliance. That signature base sound is present and correct but, carrying on from the slight deviation we heard in ‘The Blessed & The Damned’, Arny adds some subtle nuances. The keyboards and resonating guitar add a real sombre note and serious tone, it’s a great direction to take. A tasteful piano introduces Stay before the yearning vocal joins in. A wistful and slightly melancholy song of hope  and one that sees yet another sonic string added to this talented musicians bow. Within the loose strictures of the recognisable Geof Whitely Project sound are now thrown some really interesting variations and it works very well.

Title track Time has a seasonal, festive feel to it as it begins with its bells and horns and exudes a feelgood aura. Arny’s vocal adds some seriousness and authority along with the powerful guitar and dynamic drums to replace this almost pastoral tone with something a bit more rock influenced. An effective and compelling piece of music, it holds your attention as it takes its measured strides along a vibrant musical journey. Sometimes sees that contemplative and thoughtful feel return, the vocals have a pensive edge and the keyboards give a wintry sheen to everything. A polished and reflective song that certainly left me reflecting on my past, there’s a real maturity to Arny’s songwriting that is pretty evident on tracks like this.

An elegant guitar and reflective keyboard open Runaway Express before a heavier guitar stirs things up. The emotive vocals grab you straight away with their really meaningful delivery and give the song a thoughtful and determined mood. The occasional lighter feel of Geof Whitely Project albums has been replaced by a more serious and sober intent which is highly evident on this cultured and stylish track. All too soon we come to the album closer Out of Touch and Arny throws another little curveball in with its Floyd-esque intro, there’s intelligence and some not inconsiderable subtlety in the songwriting on this album and it manifests itself perfectly on this track. Measured and brooding in delivery, both the music and the vocals have an earnest honesty to them and make for a compelling listening experience.

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but, as Arny keeps showing us, that doesn’t mean you can’t make little improvements to every release to keep on improving your music without losing its original identity. I personally think ‘Time’ sees the Geof Whitely Project at the zenith of their creativity so far and am intrigued to see where Arny will go next!

Released 4th December 2017

‘Time’ will be exclusively available from the Geof Whitely Project website here

Listen to ‘Deadly Alliance’ here

Review – Mother of Millions – Sigma – by Progradar

‘Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. It is the initial of the Greek word “Σιωπή”, meaning Silence. Sigma is also used as a symbol for the summation operator. “Silence has the sound of shame.” We are submissive to unspoken rules of obedience, which are sealed with a spiral of silence. Our chains are bound to break by speaking out as a mass, as a musical ensemble willing to sing out liberation.’

So says the PR information that came with the second album from the enigmatic Greek band Mother of Millions. I reviewed their debut release ‘Human’ back in 2004 and was impressed by  the complexity and diversity of their musical influences and the incredible talent on show. I summarised it as “An album that deserves the highest praise and leaves you slack-jawed in appreciation.”

So, unsurprisingly, I was very excited to get the promo of their sophomore album and see where this talented group of musicians had gone to next on their musical journey.

Mother of Millions is a five-piece progressive/alternative metal band from Athens, Greece, formed in 2008. Their sound of can be described as equally massive as cinematic. An intense experimentation involving elaborate rhythms, folk aesthetics and progressive rock tunes.

In 2014 the band released its first, critically acclaimed, concept album ‘Human’, during the spring of 2017, Mother of Millions finished the recording, mixing and mastering of their second concept album ‘Sigma’ which was released on 3rd November 2017.

Mother of Millions is George Prokopiou – Vocals, Kostas Konstantinidis – Guitars, Panos Priftis – Bass, Makis Tsamkosoglou – Keyboards, samples and George Boukaouris – Drums, percussion.

(Photo by  Panagiotis Tsalavrettas)

‘Sigma’ is, by today’s standards, a relatively short album, coming in at just under 42 minutes but at no time do you ever feel short-changed by what these guys have delivered. Mother of Millions jam so much incredible music into this release, there is absolutely no filler from the first note of Emerge until the final strains of Sigma drift away.

The slow burning introduction of Emerge sees the listener drawn into this deeply engaging story as the subdued voice-over grabs your attention. Haunting and full of tension, it is really setting the scene for what is to follow with its towering guitar, dynamic keyboards and dominant percussion. We segue straight into the vibrant and compelling riffs of Shine before everything calms down and Geroge’s passionate vocal makes its first appearance. Not progressive metal, nor alternative rock, these guys have forged their own sound to a certain extent and its one that demands your attention with its staccato riffs, vibrant keyboards, driving bass and edgy percussion. I have to say that this already seems a huge leap on from what was an impressive debut album, I’m not a fan of the so called growling or screaming vocals but the little bits that George delivers really catch my attention. I love the way that the next track flows seamlessly form the last, Silence is a towering edifice of music, eight minutes of sublime listening. The guitars have an elemental feel to them, powerful and compelling and the primordial drums seem add to the huge soundscape. The vocals are forceful and influential and all combine to give a monumental feel to this fine song, definitely one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year.

That funky, edgy riff returns on Rome, I don’t know if it’s really a technical term for music but there’s a density to the sound that these five fantastic musicians produce, almost a sonic viscosity and a feeling of permanency to every note and every word. A deliberate and measured piece of music with a memorable, captivating chorus, George’s voice once again stands out, if there’s a better hard/heavy rock vocalist out there I am yet to hear him this year. Fusing traditional and folk styles with hard rock Their Passage, The Light is a really mesmerising instrumental that intrigues and delights with its tasteful guitars and strings. A track to calm the mind and sooth the soul after the deeply affecting music that has gone before, it refreshes the musical palate ready for the next course. Another track that builds up from quiet beginnings, Collision simmers with intensity keeping you right on the edge before the enigmatic vocals introduce and increase in pace and emotion. This is music that seeps into your entire being and asks questions of you on every level as the vocals break out accompanied by the portentous music delivering quite a dark and potent tone to the end of the song. As the final notes ring out I’m left in an enigmatic silence.

The Rapture is a brooding and cryptic feeling instrumental that has a real dystopian aura that carries on over all its two minute length. Very haunting and quite disturbing. The introduction to Spiral is powerful and commanding before the song takes a step back to allow George’s stirring vocal to take centre stage, once again he delivers an authoritative performance aided and abetted superbly by the gifted musicians that surround him. Technically proficient but playing with heart and soul, the music is as much part of every brilliant track as the vocals and both combine to deliver an incredibly impressive experience. The subdued voice over returns to be followed by wonderful instrumental close out, one that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with its incredible intensity. This exceptional musical spectacle closes out with the title track Sigma and the level of performance does not drop one iota. Another deeply engaging song that slowly draws you into its embrace with great vocals and music that stays just in the background adding a mysterious and esoteric ambience, it’s a track that delivers a perfect conclusion to this fine album.

It’s been three years since the last Mother of Millions album and that time has seen this superb band develop and improve on what was already a very impressive sound. Powerful and dark at times and yet incredibly illuminating at others, it is a piece of music that entraps the listener on an astonishingly immersive musical journey. ‘Sigma’ is one of those releases that stands out immediately and then gets even better with every listen. One of the releases of the year, please do yourselves a favour and get your hands on this incredible piece of music as soon as you can!

Released 3rd November 2017

Buy ‘Sigma’ on CD from Amazon