“We are proud and happy to announce that PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS, led by the legendary long time MOTÖRHEAD guitarist, have inked a worldwide record deal with Nuclear Blast.”
Commented Phil Campbell: “I am really pleased to announce that my band PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS have signed a record deal with Nuclear Blast. The label is home to some great bands, some of which are also very good friends of mine. Once we get back from the summer festivals we look forward to recording our first full length album!”
In celebration of the announcement, the band has put together the exclusive digital only live EP ‘Live At Solothurn’ (see cover below) which is available via all download and streaming platforms as of today!
‘Live At Solothurn’ tracklist:
01. Big Mouth
02. Nothing Up My Sleeve (MOTÖRHEAD Cover)
04. Take Aim
05. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (MOTÖRHEAD Cover)
06. Sweet Leaf (BLACK SABBATH cover)
After supporting sleaze rock icons GUNS N’ ROSES on their stadium tour, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS are currently touring Europe, playing a selection of big festivals:
23.06. NO Halden, Tons Of Rock Festival
24.06. ES Madrid, Download Festival
01.07. GR Khaniá, Chania Rock Festival
22.07. UK Gloucester, Amplified Festival
25.08. CH Granichen, Open Air Granichen
02.09. UK Durham, Stormin’ The Castle Festival
More info on PCATBS: Phil Campbell was the lead guitarist in MOTÖRHEAD for 32 years. He has toured the world, sold millions of albums and headlined the biggest festivals. Phil has a passion for music and it is this passion that has led to the formation of PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS.
The band is unique as it features Phil‘s 3 sons on drums, bass and guitar. The band is completed by Vocalist Neil Starr.
In November 2016 the band released a self titled EP and headed out on tours including a European tour with SAXON. Now in 2017 the band is finishing off the writing and recording of their debut full length album and are about to play shows with GUNS N’ ROSES and play many of Europe’s biggest festivals.
Phil Campbell – Guitar
Todd Campbell – Guitar
Dane Campbell – Drums
Tyla Campbell – Bass
Neil Starr – Vocals
UK progressive metal quintet THRESHOLD are shooting a video for their forthcoming single ‘Small Dark Lines‘ and you could be in it! The video will be directed by Sitcom Soldiers at their studios in Bolton, England on Friday 28th July.
The film directors have developed a powerful narrative, involving people from varying backgrounds marking their bodies with paint before water cascades over them to wash away the lines as if wiping the slate clean – so if you want to take part we should warn you that you’ll be asked to expose most of your skin. However, we’ve been assured that it’s all being done in the best possible taste. The aesthetics of the video will be heavily stylised and moody, with a large amount of slow motion and cinematic tone.
To apply for the video please ensure you’re available in the day on July 28th and able to travel to Sitcom Soldiers’ studios in Bolton. The band are looking for a range of people from all walks of life. Please send a photo, phone number, name, age, where you’ll be travelling from and any details of acting experience or reasons why you’re perfect for the role to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a limited number of spaces so please apply quickly!
First put out in October 2016 as a self released album both digitally and on CD; ‘The Island’ by North East Progressive Rock/Metal four piece Kylver is getting a re-release on 12” vinyl via Newcastle label ‘Inverted Grim-Mill’ and also on cassette through Colorado based label ‘Graven Earth’ on the 6th of July 2017.
Kylver is made up of guitarist Jonny Scott, Bassist James Bowmaker, Drummer Barry Micherson and Organist Neil Elliott. They have crafted their take on the progressive genre by mixing slow and heavy doom riffs, odd time signatures, atmospherics of post-rock and Hammond tones of the 70’s with a classic rock and metal sound.
Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings is a small independent label based in Newcastle upon Tyne, established in 2012. Acts working with the label are mostly gathered from the local and regional music scene, with releases and live events aimed at helping artists take the next logical step for their music.”
Graven Earth Records was born in the summer of 2016 in Denver, Colorado as a fiercely independent effort to support the best of the metal underground. The label has thus far worked with bands both local and abroad, issuing limited edition cassette releases with plans to expand to vinyl releases in the near future.
‘The Island’ is the follow up to their 2015 debut release ‘The Mountain Ghost’. ‘The Mountain Ghost’ is a forty-minute long concept album consisting of four tracks that follow the fictitious tale of a spirit who inflicts torment on the residents of a village that lies in the shadow of his mountainous home. The success of this first self released album lead the band to be nominated in the ‘Limelight’ (best newcomer) category of the 2016 Progressive Music Awards which was followed in the same year up by seeing ‘The Island’ listed in the Prog Magazine Critics Choice listings and Prog Magazine Readers Poll.
The Story of ‘The Island’ Goes…. “In November of 1703, a privateer ship and its crew set sail in search of a mythical island that was said to hold a portal to another dimension or another world in space and time. But from the outset, the journey was doomed to never reach its destination. After a day or two at sea the ship was wrecked in a great storm, losing all on board with the exception of one sole survivor. It was as if by fate that he was washed ashore on the very island that the expedition had been searching for, with nothing but a pendant around his neck which contained a strange undecipherable map. As the confused mariner made his way deeper into the heart of the island he was accompanied by an eerie feeling that he was not alone. It was a feeling that he was being ushered along the trails of the island by its shadows, shadows that lured him towards a cave inhabited by an unfamiliar yet familiar stranger. The sibyl of the island showed him the meaning of the pendant’s contents before showing him what and where he was searching. Upon his arrival at the ancient monoliths he found himself greeted by four hooded figures who were members of The Great Race. They proceeded to transport the weary traveller to an abyss where no man should venture. The sojourner begged that he be sent back to where he came from as the strange environment he found himself in was turning his mind into something he could not fathom. To this The Great Race agreed but not before they had removed all recollection of how and when this all happened from his mind. But The Great Race added a curse to protect their knowledge even further. He awoke in his world on the eve before the ship was due to set sail and from then on the rest of his life was a perpetual loop, with the same journey continuing to happen over and over again with no end…”
Not having the time pressures of a “proper music journalist” means that I have the opportunity to mull and digest an album I am given for review as I’m not on a specific dead line most times. Occasionally I am asked to get one done quickly but thankfully I am not on this album. I have played this one through a couple of times a night through headphones while reading since it was sent to me. You could call it a longevity test or the fact It makes great night time listening while immersed in a novel. Both are true in this case as the album will take repeated listening and doesn’t become tiresome in any way.
Most people who know me are aware I am fascinated by the human condition and people politics and this album ticks those boxes and then some. The band describe the album thus;
“Black Science is a musically powerful progressive rock album that thematically explores the dark side of humanity and technology.”
I would agree that it is thematic rather than a concept as the songs do connect and flow excellently and explore modern life and the challenges that are very prescient in the minds of many. Yet I would say it will not become dated in any way.
Opening with a short track Armistice Day, highly reminiscent of a Roger Waters’ vocal style, it’s a doom laden post apocalypse electronic minute and a half that drops straight into Weimar, with a truly ‘Prog’ keyboards, piano and guitar symphonic introduction followed by a very open vocal . It’s very odd as I read this as a narrative close to the series “Handmaidens Tale” currently unsettling the public on Channel 4. There are musical hints of a backward baroque Harpsichord in the vocal breaks then a huge rocking out of synths and general guitar indulgence. Time and key changes rip through this 10 minute mini-epic, a treatise on society’s misogyny and patriarchal dominance. One caveat with this is my reading of the song and I may be off the mark and seeing something that the band don’t.
Cannons Cry opens with a heavy riff and a martial theme that warns of the rise of fascism and the use of propaganda to drive towards an oncoming war of the destruction of common values and principles. These guys are fans of classic Waters/Gilmour Floyd and though this is obvious but not in any way that is derogatory, only complimentary, to the music.
Airfield on Sunwick is very very English despite these guys being Ontario based. Fans of Big Big Train will find solace in a track that is very spartan in structure with lots of space in the music. Guesting on vocals on this, Jakub Olejnik (of band Sound Of Maze) adds real authenticity. This is a song of tragic conscription and the loss of country by Polish refugees in the post 1939 invasion period. Referencing Wojtek, a bear adopted and given a rank of private in the forces in World War two. It has a beautiful tone and quality about it.
Black Science is a real homage to the 70s if ever I heard one. A warning of the darker side of the misuse of science, a very simple tune and the use of the saxophone solo at the end literally took straight back to 1973 as Josh Norling superbly channels the spirit of the use of the instrument so effectively, deliberately referencing our nostalgia for a supposedly better time.
Noise to Signal, the closer on the album, is a real standout track for me combining doom chords and huge sounds to scare the pants of you in a treatise on how social media has filled our lives with noise over substance. Not a second is wasted on this track and it’s as tight as you could possibly get in a studio recording.
The eight tracks on this, their third album, show huge maturity and discipline in writing and production. It is crafted excellently and thoughtfully and fans of music in general will find much to enjoy in this album. Fans of the progressive genre particularly should lap it up as it carries a sense of the past while being still relevant to the early 21st century. These Canadians have a touch and an ear for music that needs to be shared.
Machines Dream are:
Brian Holmes: Keyboards. Craig West: Bass and vocals. Jake Rendell: Acoustic and backing vocals. Ken Coulter: Drums. Rob Coleman: Lead guitar.
“Who is the optimist? Elements of our psyche? Of yours? The part of us that secretly yearns for escape? For meaning? For a reason? Would you like to know more? Well why don’t you come and find out?” – Daniel Cavanagh, Anathema
Following a phenomenal set at this weekend’s Download Festival, Anathema have announced their headline tour of the UK in September, in support of their brand new album ‘The Optimist’. The band will be joined bybe accompanied by French blackgaze pioneers Alcest ( www.facebook.com/alcest.official ).
The full UK tour is as follows with tickets on sale from Friday 16th June
22 – Glasgow Garage
23 – Belfast Limelight
24 – Dublin, The Academy
26 – Manchester, O2 Ritz
27 – Sheffield, Plug
28 – Bristol, The Marble Factory
29 – Exeter, Phoenix
30 – London, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and drummer/keyboardist Daniel Cardoso recorded ‘The Optimist’ in the winter of 2016 at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals] at the helm and was mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
Anathema’s eleventh full-length The Optimist was released on 9th June through Kscope, where the ambient rockers revealed some of the darkest, most challenging and unexpected music the sextet have put their name to and has garnered some incredible reviews from the UK media:
“The album of their career thus far.” Prog Magazine – Album Of The Month
“The Optimist showcases the blissful chemistry that now exists within this particular line up” Classic Rock Magazine
“The Optimist delivers on every level” Metal Hammer Magazine
“‘a band finding new ways to be magnificent so far into their career” Kerrang! Magazine
“a record that makes the world better for its existence – and you can’t ask for more than that” Planet Rock Magazine
“Anathema really do cement their title as one of the UK’s most revered rock bands” Drowned in Sound
“The band are surely one of the country’s most innovative and imaginative rock bands around today.’Musipedia of Metal
“this could well be their greatest work to date” Ghost Cult
“Humor keeps us alive. Humor and food. Don’t forget food. You can go a week without laughing.”
― Joss Whedon
“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
To be honest, I never thought I’d use a quote from a Harry Potter novel in one of my reviews either but it is really relevant. Humour in music can be really clever, incisive and actually work or it can be excruciatingly unfunny and spoil the whole record. When that humour is witty and full of wry observations of relationships and life in general then it can lift the music to a whole different level.
When a good friend of mine (and bass player with Sleeperman) Stephen Skinner described their music as a cross between Alan Bennett and Ian Dury & The Blockheads I was definitely intrigued. After watching a video of them singing a track from the new E.P. live on social media I was hooked!
A levity filled 12 minutes of music, ‘Late Onset Optimism’ is full of sharp social comment and brilliant wordplay where the whimsical lyrics written by published poet and the band’s vocalist John Hilton have been set to music by Stephen and the rest of the band, Neil Scott (guitar) and Joel Cash (drums).
Sleeperman have played music since vinyl was not just the hipster choice but the only choice of music format – for and with artistes such as Everything But The Girl, Felt, Denim, Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins.
The band are from a generation brought up to pick the bones from a confusing diet of Clint Eastwood and Germaine Greer and remember when the only late night TV was The Open University and a time before smoothies. They embrace the work of Ian Dury, Fred Dibnah, Alan Bennett and The Buzzcocks, Ken Loach and The Kinks but cannot endorse films based on video games or careless use of the word ‘baby.’ They are trying to write and perform catchy songs about what now is like and embrace and cling to the old-fashioned idea of everyone getting along.
(L-R Neil, John, Stephen & Joel)
After the opening guitar flourish for I Put The Bullets In But Can’t Pull The Trigger, Neil launches into a Duane Eddy ‘Peter Gunn’ style riff that’s as catchy as hell and John’s semi-spoken vocal adds real atmosphere to this song about the age old conundrum of how to end a relationship. Joel and Stephen’s subtle rhythm section guides the track along at a jaunty lick and, as you listen to the incisive lyrics, a big grim spreads over your face. We’ve all struggled with trying to end a relationship and not being able to say the final words. This is my first introduction to John’s wicked lyrics:
“I wish I had the sense to just get rid, like Shane or The Milky Bar Kid, but you need bigger balls than I’ve got to clean up Dodge the way they did..”
That about sums it all up on this song full of modern metaphors, the music is brilliant, Neil’s mariachi-esque guitar solo a case in point, and the lyrics are full of social comment but with a real wry sense of humour.
A song about a quirky relationship, Accrington Not Hollywood sees the music and John’s vocal take on a wistful and nostalgic tone, the lyrics full of gentle humour. There’s a real feeling of bonhomie running throughout this track, a proper feelgood piece of music.
“You thought us star crossed lovers cos we’d not had many others, you called it fate and kismet though I hadn’t met your Mum yet…”
There’s a hypnotic, lilting tone to John’s voice that just draws you in, I don’t know why, but it really took me back to the sepia tinged black and white pictures of the 50’s that I’ve seen, when the world seemed a simpler and better place.
A bittersweet love song, Just Talking opens with a gentle guitar intro before John’s dulcet tones join in with a plaintive edge added to his sweet sounding vocal. There’s a regretful feel to the lyrics, like a man unsure of what he wants and how to express it.
“I didn’t just fall from the tree, you might fool them, you won’t fool me. It’s just something I thought I’d mention, don’t pay me any attention…”
There’s a delicate balance between happy and sad, heavy-hearted and walking on clouds that goes one way and then the other as the song continues. It’s beautiful but there’s darkness deep within.
The four track E.P. finishes on an uplifting note with the wonderful dysfunctional friends that are the subjects of This Is Us Lot. A funky, jazz infused rhythm is given by Stephen’s smooth bass and Joel’s stylish drums, add in Neil’s infectious guitar with its New Orleans tone and John’s cutting lyrics and you have a brilliant piece of social satire. Imagine Billy Bragg on happy pills and you wouldn’t be far wrong!
“You catch up with Mandy, it’s while since you’ve seen her, she spent a month as Joe Longthorne’s cleaner, caught him plucking his eyebrows, cursing his mother, downing glasses of Baileys one after the other…”
I find myself imagining these characters as real people, a musical version of Shameless even and the short but exceedingly addictive chorus just sticks in your mind becoming an irreversible earworm. All too soon the song and the E.P. come to a close and I find myself with a knowing grin on my face, that was thoroughly enjoyable!
Wit, humour and social commentary make for excellent bedfellows in music when it is written and performed as well as this. Incisive, socially conscious and yet sometimes irreverent and witty lyrics that we can all relate to married to music of the highest quality, folk, alt-rock, country and good old rock n’ roll and a little birdy tells me that a full-length album is mooted to be in the wings for later this year…
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― Ernst F. Schumacher
In this ever increasingly complex life that we lead it is nice some times to have a bit of simplicity to allow us to take stock and have a little breather from our hectic and convoluted lives. For every million note Dream Theater solo from John Petrucci there is a counter balance in music that has an absence of complication, that can be enjoyed for it’s lack of elaboration and Chris Topham at Plane Groovy has sent me over a vinyl album that just captivates with it’s beauty, a beauty achieved through it’s ethereal sparseness.
Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman got together in 2015/2016 to record 9 new acoustic songs that would become the album ‘Weir Keeper’s Tale’. This was released in 2016 and now Plane Groovy are releasing the vinyl version complete with wonderful album art by John Townshend.
Adam said that, “With this album, Damian and I both wanted to capture a real cohesive album of our songs outside of the writing we do with Headspace and other heavier bands. It gave us an opportunity to really focus on the songs as singer songwriters, and to concentrate on telling individual stories.”
And this collection of stories has been crafted into beautiful songs and given the home they deserve on this wonderful vinyl package.
(album art by John Townshend)
Once I’ve extracted the album from the shrink-wrap I get to admire the brilliant album art on both the sleeve and the inner liner, it truly is a thing of beauty and just oozes quality, what I’ve come to expect from a man as passionate about vinyl as Chris Topham is.
There’s satisfaction to be had from just handling the vinyl package and pouring over the liner notes after I’ve let the needle gently land on the record and the first notes ring out, the sound wonderfully rich and warm, not like the clinical music you get from CDs and digital.
Damian Wilson has a brilliant voice, powerful, deep and resonating but on this album we see the more humble and gentle side of him, as the graceful piano of Adam Wakeman opens Seek For Adventure you’re immediately put into a mood of repose and calm and then Damian’s voice joins in and it is just captivating. Together with the simple instrumentation it has a grace and charm and not a little wistfulness too. I was left open mouthed by the impact that this uncomplicated delivery could give. Adam’s backing vocals are unobtrusive but really add to the childlike innocence that the song conveys. Just sit back and enjoy this effortlessly classy music. The tempo increases with the title track Weir Keeper’s Tale, the piano has a bit more urgency and Damian’s vocal a touch more intensity but the wonderful warmth and bonhomie are still present and correct. It’s a humble and inelaborate little ditty that moves along at a jaunty pace and leaves such a feeling of goodwill in its wake. The choral backing is a lovely touch and adds even more elegance to this unembellished track, a short but exceedingly sweet piece of nostalgic artistry.
Adam Wakeman takes over vocal duties for the dreamy and thoughtful Catch You when You Fall with Damian providing the delicate acoustic guitar backing. Here the sparseness levels are at their highest, the music stripped back bare of any unnecessary trappings and it works brilliantly as a result. The guitar provides the opening bars allowing you to clear your mind of any frivolous thoughts and concentrate on what you are about to hear. Adam has quite a striking voice with an earnestness at its core and it really fits the song, a calm authority settling on proceedings. As I’ve said before, these songs really work on a vinyl release, the music is rounded and full of character, warmth and charm.
Damian himself said, “How we ever got convinced that the CD was a better medium than Vinyl, I will never understand. Cramming music onto a 16 bit CD loses a lot of information. The best way to hear what’s missing is to listen to the vinyl.”
With a feel of a singer/songwriter’s track Together Alone opens with that rich piano note that Adam conjurs up at will before Damian’s heartfelt vocal begins. There’s an almost melancholy tone but you can’t help but be caught up in the exquisitely delivered music. There’s a memorable chorus that I can’t help but sing along to and the whole track moves along at a fairly sharp clip. Actually making music this simple and yet so mesmerisng is an art in itself.
Murder In A Small Town is like a very short story (4 minutes and fifty-two second to be precise) that has been set to music, an American noir novel sung to you by Damian himself. The tender vocals and fragile acoustic guitar add an ethereal feel to the song and you soon get lost in its sublime and intangible ambience. I feel like I’m in a a shadowy half-world of calm serenity. The piano solo in the middle is a thing of heavenly refinement and adds even more gracefulness, it actually takes me a few seconds before I realise that I’m listening to silence as the needle comes to the close of side one.
Side two starts with the excellent Freedom Is Everything, the opening notes from the piano set up a rather engaging song that, again, has a feel of the great singer/songwriters to it, in fact I’d go as far to say that it actually reminds me a bit of early Simon and Garfunkel. Damian delivers another ardent and heartfelt vocal performance that comes straight from his heart, there’s passion and devotion dripping from every note and the simple but effective piano accompaniment is genius. When I’m sat back with a nice glass of red wine in my hand and listening to this beauteous creation, I’m in a very happy place indeed. There’s a somber feel as God Be My Judge begins, the acoustic guitar and Damian’s vocal give a contemplative and thoughtful edge to the song and the backing vocals in the background add a really wishful tone. A fragility runs throughout, a slight catch in Damian’s voice and the near intangibility of the guitar, a piece of music with its heart laid bare for all to see and judge. There’s a lump in my throat and moisture in my eye as it comes to a close.
That emotion stays with me as we come to the penultimate track and one of my favourites on the whole album. People Come And Go opens with a powerful, almost forlorn piano note and Damian has real pathos in his vocal, a subdued guitar in the background. The yearning feel disappears as the piano takes a harder tone and the tempo increases, Damian adds even more emotion and poignance to his voice leading into a hauntingly memorable chorus that has become a real ear worm for me. An incredible piece of music that touches my heart and really moves me on an emotional level. It’s a song that I keep returning to on a regular basis, maybe it’s the subject matter, I don’t know, I just love it and the part where everything goes quiet before bursting out into that brilliant chorus again is just inspired. So to the final track on the this release and what a way to bow out. Cold is the epitome of simplicity and grace, the beauty of a delicately strummed acoustic guitar matched with Damian Wilson’s exquisite and heartfelt vocal is near perfection. A song that takes wistfulness to a whole new level and one that takes you to a place of calm reflection, the fragile and tender guitar playing that closes out the song and the album is just divine and as the needle reaches the final grooves I just sit there in silent admiration.
This is one album that always seems to be on my record deck or playing in the car. A testimony to Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman, it is an absolutely timeless record that takes music at its most simple and lifts it above the mere excellent and onto another level altogether. Nine incredible songs that deliver both emotionally and intellectually to give a listening experience like no other, I cannot recommend it highly enough but please buy the vinyl as that is what makes it so special.
I confess I have never heard of Isildurs Bane before, and yet the Swedish band have been going since the 1976, well renowned for their complex music and their own festival known as the IB Expo. It was at one of these expo’s where Steve Hogarth guested that they invited him to record an album with them.
We should all be grateful that he said yes.
Having been known for the past 30 years as the voice of Marillion, let’s not forget that Hogarth has a strong musical pedigree outside of Marillion, firstly with How We Live, and their seminal album ‘Dry Land‘ (reissued, ripe for reappraisal on Esoteric last year) and of course his solo projects, of which both ‘Ice Cream Genius’ and the collaboration with Richard Barbieri, ‘Not the Weapon but the Hand’ are prime examples of his versatility.
Stepping outside of his musical comfort zone see’s Hogarth in surprisingly strong form, his powerful and distinctive vocals dominate this album, whilst the musical prowess and ingenuity of Isildurs Bane weave an amazing sonic tapestry for him to work his magic.
I thought H was at his finest on last years ‘F.E.A.R‘, I was wrong.
This is the strongest I have heard him for years, and working with different musicians has brought something totally different to his songwriting.
The approach taken by main man Matts Johannson on keyboards with composition is to focus on the music and let H bring the vocals, and as approaches go, it’s one that works perfectly.
H sounds like he has free rein to go where the music takes him, and a band with as broad a palette as Isildurs Bane gives him plenty of space and scope to get there.
This album clocks in at 41 minutes, with 6 tracks, and not one moment is wasted, not one lyric feels out of place. Whilst the music veers from contemporary rock, to atmospheric sounds, folk elements, jazz, stabs of brass and strings, pulling together a diverse and eclectic sound to a coherent whole.
This is a song cycle, not a concept but a collection of songs around the same theme, life and love, all delivered with poetry and passion by H all underpinned by the musical dexterity of Isildurs Bane.
From the opening Ice Pop (from which the title is derived) and the lyrical phrase ‘Up, down, Left right’ which doesn’t sound the most inspiring, but which returns later on, the song flows beautifully into The Random Fires, as the lyrics and music flow conceptually and powerfully.
Peripheral Vision, features some of the most atmospheric music on the album, allowing Hogarth to sound his most wistful, and by golly his range is apparent on this record, from rock to ballads, and half whispered vocals to full on power, he sounds like a man reborn. He sounds like he is relishing this challenge, and by stepping outside of the Marillion bubble he has really pushed himself, and the results are an absolute joy to behold.
The longest track on the album, The Love and the Affair, with it’s list of day to day things that love does (pushes the children on the swing etc) and it’s counter reaction to the mundanety of these acts, reflects musically the impact of what looking outside of the established relationship does in one of the most powerful tracks on the album.
I know that on albums like this the singer is also the actor, placing themselves in the protagonists role, but if H hasn’t had any experience of the devastation an affair can have, then by God he deserves an Oscar.
Musically the band tone it down for Diamonds and Amnesia, with its chamber music accompaniment, and more of H’s low key vocals is a precursor to what I think is the strongest tracks on the album, and if there were such a thing, the hit single from the album.
Starting where the first track started, spoken word vocals, almost a confession or a life plan, and those lyrics again ‘Left Right, Up Down’ and some fantastically insistent music from the band, H’s lyrics are almost an instruction ‘Watch carefully’ he instructs and as the band blasts into some fantastic musical interludes, Incandescentpulls the finest points of this album together, as Klas Assarssons vibraphones and marimbas dance under the track and build and build to an astonishing crescendo as the Axel Crone’s brass section blasts through the air, and H echoes round the musical maelstrom.
The mighty musical work of this band is sublime, and the way all the musicians intertwine to create 6 songs that allow Steve Hogarth to stamp his presence on them is a testament to both parties vision.
This a wonderfully vibrant collaboration and one that shows what happens when two parties working in slightly different spectrums bring their joint vision to bear on the music.
Having worked with Marillion and now Isildurs Bane, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Steve Hogarth with Gandalfs Fist next.
Seriously though this is a mighty powerful album, one that sounds fresh, contemporary and timeless. One that could well be up there as an album of the year, and who said you can’t teach old progs new tricks?
Steven Wilson released a new track from his forthcoming fifth album To The Bone yesterday.
Song Of Iis a story of unrepentant obsession set to a sharp-as-a-tack rhythm trackand an orchestral sandstorm – the third track taken from ‘To The Bone’ (following Pariah and The Same Asylum As Before), it is another tantalising musical curveball thrown by the UK’s biggest underground artist.
The video for Song Of I features performance artist Maya Petrovna and has been directed by Steven’s long time visual collaborator Lasse Hoile and will be available on Vevo from Saturday 10thJune.
Steven Wilson plays a previously announced UK tour in spring 2018 – two extra dates have just been added due to huge demand. The tour dates are:
Thu 15th Mar Warwick Arts Centre (NEW DATE)
Sat 17th Mar Belfast Mandela Hall
Mon 19th Mar Dublin Olympia Theatre
Wed 21st Mar Cardiff St David’s Hall
Thu 22nd Mar Birmingham Symphony Hall
Sat 24th Mar Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
Sun 25th Mar Gateshead Sage 1
Tue 27th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)
Weds 28th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (NEW DATE)
Sat 31st Mar Manchester Bridgewater Hall (sold out)
Sun 1st Apr Manchester Bridgewater Hall (NEW DATE)
The following fragment of my review was recovered from the hard drive of my (now deceased) PC. This new shining Windows 10 machine is sleek, slim and functional, but does it like Prog?
One way to find out – Mr Andy Summers, if you please :-
“TRIBOLUMINESCENCE is actually a scientific word that means creating light from dark, which I believe is a great metaphor for any creative act and, especially, music.”
These words from the press release accompanying these tracks are perfect for encapsulating the feelings evoked listening to these 9 instrumentals. As I listened for the first time, I decided to be a grown-up reviewer and scribble notes as I listened, almost word association, but musical links rather than words. I then realised that even I can’t read my writing!
Anyway. I persuaded a lonely spider to decipher my scrawl and add his views. I then read the press release where a lot of technical information about capos, guitar tunings and stuff to please guitar nerd’s lives. I’m not a musician, but my ears know a few, so my impressions of this album are set out below.
One caveat – If you subscribe to the view that Prog is all about bands from the seventies singing epics, or modern bands recreating those seventies bands, then this album might cause you to break out in hives. There are complex drum patterns, guitars noodle away and tracks last more than 4 minutes.
The most “PROG” of them is the opener, if Anything which has a lovely, mellow Pink Floyd vibe to it, more “Shine On” than “Roxanne” if you like. Summers’ guitar soars over a bubbling brook of synths. The fluidity of the guitar also caused my brain to think of Funkadelic’s masterclass in evocative slow sustained emotional guitar, “Maggot Brain”.
A great start and I’m a happy listener as this ticks my boxes – it sends goose bumps up and down my arms as I listen.
The second offering, the title track Triboluminescence , has some great percussion and a bass line that conjures up an image of Mick Karn and Ryuichi Sakamoto jamming with Mr Summers on this track. It has a nice Eastern vibe to it and flows along like a Japanese Zen garden stream full of enlightened carp. The little guitar motifs grow and as they weave in and out of the mix like those fish surfacing between the water lilies of percussion, I’m drawn into the soundscape of this Zen garden. Eddie Hazel* is a point of reference once again, with the sustained flow of guitar throughout this track, a continual stream of notes flowing from the dexterous fingers of the guitarist.
*Eddie Hazel – legendary Lead guitarist of Funkadelic. George Clinton, whilst allegedly under the influence of yellow acid, famously told him to play “As If he’d heard his mother had just died”! That 10-minute improvisation went down in history and there are echoes of it in the guitar lines on this album.
By now, we are deep into Jazz territory, with track 3 sounding like Miles Davis and the groove is strong in this one. After that, there is a series of 1’s and 0’s. lots of them. In a random pattern. This means something. I know it does. What? I’m not sure. I will dig out the download of the album and see if it can translate them for me.
Ok, plan Z. instead of scribbling as I listen, let’s be scientific and type.
This is a one shot live as I listen review, all similarities are mine, they may not work for you, but that says more about the way my head links things than is healthy outside of a couch and a Psychiatry session!
Adinkra – Miles Davis as I said before. There is that vibe in a muted trumpet behind the beat, but the dominating instrument here is a drum, or rather a percussive type of instrument as it crashes and bangs high enough in the mix to overpower the delicate instrumentation. There’s a hypnotic melody played on sampled guitar that sounds like a clarinet, a trumpet and all float and glide up to the 3rd minute. Then a huge bass drum drags the rhythm off in a reggae direction. It’s almost a dub piece now, but he guitar motif is now African and fragmenting, little drips of notes falling from the branches of the jazz tree. Then it breaks down again, this time returning to the Miles Davis theme, but with the guitar scribbling all over the margins.
Prog? who knows ? more to the point, does it matter? If I said it was post bebop fragmented jazz tinged progressive post rock, would it still sound as sweet?
Track 4 , Elephant Bird, continues what is becoming a world tour, with discordant brass over a shimmering gamelan style guitar tune that ebbs and flows , with a very Middle eastern feel to it, especially the later part where an electric guitar arrives straight from the tubular bells album, sustained and octave shifting like a heat haze in a desert, the almost frippertronic backing adding to the Egyptian feel.
In fact, that sense of King Crimson déjà vu strikes again on the next track, Shadyland, which is all Robert Fripp and Steve Hillage looping around a laid back Bill Laswell bass and cymbals pattern. The repetitive guitar parts are deceptively simple, but layered and combining with the bass part create a jungle scene of aural beauty , with birds calling from the trees at dusk and the wind stirring above us in the canopy.
Haunted Dolls is all Zappa and freaky, next up, Gigantopithecus has that off kilter drum sound again, it’s not as if Andy Summers doesn’t know any drummers and had to rely on a couple of pots and a cardboard box is it? There is more of the subdued Fripp riffing in the background again, this is more reminiscent of “3 of a Perfect Pair” era KC, where thy attempt to out “Talking Head”David Byrne. The track wouldn’t be out of place on “Speaking In Tongues” or “Fear Of Music”, except it lacks Byrne’s literate lyrics.
Pukul Bunye Bunye follows on swiftly, another piece that thumps away whilst a guitar almost fumbles its way through the tune. Again, the percussion dominates , with the guitar acting as a counterpoint to the complex patterns being bashed out here. It gets louder and more frantic, with big tub thumper drums and big open chord guitars taking over before leaving this wonderful middle piece of a pair of spiralling guitars, slowly unwinding the tune and rearranging it before the drums pick up the new beat and all concerned fall off the stage.
Finally, Garden of the Sea invites us to view the fishes whilst contemplating the sheer sensuality of a cello playing slowly over the little sampled guitar chirrups as the waves slowly cause the seaweed forest to ebb and flow The track is slow and gentle, the sounds drift along gracefully with the guitar parts seeming to bunch up together and spill over each other, a shoal of notes swimming in the kelp forest whilst the cello evokes the tides, ebbing and flowing all around us.
The whole of the album is an exercise in shapes and textures, the antithesis to all those “Guitarist’s guitarist” albums which rely on someone rehashing bits of classical music either very loudly or at hyper speed, or both. Mr Summers is having a ball here, indulging himself in textures and sound patterns rather than simple song, and the album is stronger because of this experimentation.
Would I buy it? Hmm. Tricky. It’s very pleasant to listen to, and by its instrumental nature, would be ideal dinner party music, or music to study to.
It’s not bland wallpaper music though and if it was on in the background, I’d find myself stopping to listen as the little hooks and splashes worm their way in. When I’m in an ambient sort of Brian Eno / Future Sound of London / The Orb sort of mood, then this would fit in nicely.
In fact, I could create Spotify playlist of all the bands and tracks that my head associated with this album as I played it, but that would take another couple of hours and Martin is already chasing me for this piece! So, if you fancy a blast of ambient noise, then this would be a good way to spend an hour.