Review – Kalle Vilpuu – Silver Lining – By Progradar

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As most people who have followed my reviewing career will know, I am a big fan of instrumental albums and have reviewed many in the past 3 or 4 years, some excellent, some great and some, well, okay.

I am also a sucker for great album covers so when the chance came to review renowned Estonian guitar god Kalle Vilpuu’s first solo album ‘Silver Lining’, and I saw the minimal but stylish artwork by Hannes Aasamets & Mihkel Maripuu, I was very happy to take it on.

I’ve been really busy this year but I have finally found time to put my words down and deliver my review of this ultimately satisfying collection of songs.

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Kalle Vilpuu was born in the Estonian miners’ town of Kohtla-Järve on July 24th, 1963. He started playing drums in a school band at the 1st Kohtla-Järve High School. Kalle soon switched to the guitar, however, due to a lack of serious interest in the drums and the rest, as they say, is history.

He has had a lengthy and interesting career, first playing in one of Estonia’s biggest band’s, Seitsmes Meel, while still studying at the Georg Ots Tallinn Music School. Kalle has played with some of Estonia’s biggest rock acts including Tõnis Mägi’s 777Ultima ThuleMarju Länik’s Saxappeal Band as well as hard rock act House of Games.

After leaving HoG, Kalle started composing and recording his own music that culminated in 2013 in his first solo album ‘Silver Lining’. Now he continues to play for Ultima Thule and Seitsmes Meel is back together after a 23 year break, busy working on new material and playing gigs.

Joining Kalle on his solo release is a fantastic collection of musicians:

Andrus Lillepea (drums), Henno Kelp (bass guitar), Mari Pokinen (vocal), Tarvi Jaago (flute), Tiit Kikas (violin), Martti Mägi (violin), Imre Eenma (bass, viola da gamba) Eduard Akulin (trombone) and Indrek Kruusimaa (flamenco guitar).

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I have listened tot his album many times now and I have to admit it has taken its time to work its way into my affections. At first it seems a disparate collection of songs with no common thread but, give ‘Silver Linings’ time to appreciate its subtle nuances and stylish musicianship and you will realise that this is one of those albums that needs repeated play and will stay in your memory a lot longer for it.

Opening track Anomalies has much of the feel of a Satriani/Vai style track, if a little less in your face and you immediately respect the quality of Kalle’s playing, it has a sci-fi feel to it, like a harder edged Public Service Broadcasting. We move on to Unforgiven with its mystical, laid back opening which then proceeds into a determined, driving track but one which also has a rather nice ethereal flute as accompaniment. Here we get Kalle firing some burning licks and thunderous riffs, once again demonstrating his undoubted proficiency. Next Inferno, a piece of music which belies its title to deliver an otherworldly feel of peace, calm and harmony. A bewitching vocal performance adds some Celtic drama and gives a real ‘World Music’ appeal to the track.

Industrial No.4 does exactly what it says on the tin. A hard rocking industrial metal riff powers this leviathan of a song along. Pensive and solemn, I’m put in mind of hard-edged industrial rockers Ministry as the repetitive riff gets you nodding in appreciation, hitting you like a ten ton heavy thing! Fast paced and fluid, In The Back Of My Head charges into view like an irresistible force and an amalgam of sci-fi films all rolled into one. The solo in the middle of the track is a really powerful piece of playing that just adds to the drama of this juggernaut, a superb monster of a track. An electro-psychedelic homage to Satriani’s ‘Surfing With The Alien’, The Aliens (Have Landed) is quite a fun track that bounces along like it hasn’t got a care in the world. Discordant, left-field and just out there, it adds a real note of fun and mystery to the album.

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Trapping is like the X-Files turned into music, quite disturbing and with a real creepy edge to it, it is quite deliciously suspenseful and apprehensive and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There is a feeling of tension and anticipation running throughout and it doesn’t let up right until the end. Dreamlike and hypnotic, The Touch Of An Angel washes over you with its calming influence and mesmerising vocal backing. You feel yourself becalmed and in an oasis of musical serenity. That feeling continues with the delightfully  charming and alluring notes of Rosie. Two and a half minutes of enchanting and sublimely soothing tranquility, just let all your troubles float away to leave you totally unruffled.

Forgiven gives us heavy, persistent riffs and matches them with a mystical feel of eastern promise to deliver a haunting and yet vibrant piece of intrumental music that has an inner vitality urging it along. We end with the title track Silver Lining, a song that has an initial anxious edge to it, treading water with some stylish electronic beats before a deep and dense guitar takes up the tale. It reminds me a bit of Shoot High, Aim Low from Yes’ much maligned 1987 release ‘Big Generator’ but without the vocals, obviously! This track goes off in its own direction with the addition of Kalle’s unforgettable soaring plaintive guitar playing. Quite a moving piece of music to close out the album with.

After the first couple of listens to this album I thought that, despite the obvious musical talent on show, it was a collection of disparate songs that were great in their own right but didn’t quite click together. Well, how wrong was I? Please give this stylish, classy release time to work its undoubted charms on you and you will come to realise, like I did, that is a really rather excellent collection of songs. Another great recommendation from me to you!

Released August 2014

Buy ‘Silver Lining’ on digital or CD from a selection of outlets.

 

 

Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend announce Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress / Will join Jethro Tull, Marillion, Anathema & more

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30th June – 1nd JULY 2017 – BARCELONA

THE FESTIVAL WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE WORLD’S BEST PROGRESSIVE BANDS ADD MIKE PORTNOY’S SHATTERED FORTRESS TO THE LINE UP

Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ihsahn and Alcest.

Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.

This year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth. So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announced the legendary Jethro Tull as Saturday’s headliner alongside Norwegian music collective Ulver, Anathema, Animals as Leaders and Caligula’s Horse. While Marillion will headline the Friday.

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Now Be Prog! My Friend have announced that Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress will join the bill. Mike Portnoy comments:

‘I am so excited to be bringing my Shattered Fortress show to Spain and Be Prog My Friend! The Shattered Fortress is myself and an all-star Prog lineup performing Dream Theater’s 12 Step Suite live in it’s entirety for the first time!

This is not “a new band or project” for me, it is an exclusive event that will be making several select live appearances in select markets throughout the world in 2017…and Be Prog My Friend is one of the selected shows!

The setlist at the show will be comprised of the 12 Step Suite and select other Dream Theater songs that I’ve written the lyrics to. 

Keep in mind, I have no plans (or interest) in revisiting DT material in any of my other bands…this is not an ongoing “project” or career move…this is merely a unique event that I am doing in select markets in 2017 to share with fans around the world…so catch it while you can!!’

Tickets are on sale now at the fixed price of 130 Euros:

http://www.ticktackticket.com/entradas/goto.do?claves=.127248&origin=TTT&codIdioma=ING

Press for Be Prog! My Friend festival 2016:

‘And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend has to offer’ – Prog Magazine

‘The leading festival for progressive music in Spain, showcased avant-garde music in a magnificent location’ – The Independent

‘Set in the hazy sunlit square of Barcelona’s historic and quite stunning Poble Espanyol, it certainly beats the sodden mud of the British festival season’ – Total Guitar Magazine

‘If nothing else, it proves that prog is alive and kicking. Especially in Catalonia’ – Classic Rock Magazine

http://www.beprogmyfriend.com/

facebook.com/beprogmyfriend

Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.

http://www.barcelonaturisme.com

 

PAIN – NEW LYRIC VIDEO FOR “DESIGNED TO PISS YOU OFF” RELEASED

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The Swedish metal force PAIN, led by multi-instrumentalist and producer Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY, LINDEMANN), will return to the road with their Coming Home Tour 2016 this week. The band will join forces with THE VISION BLEAK, DYNAZTY and BILLION DOLLAR BABIES.

Today, the band released the brand new lyric video for the song “Designed To Piss You Off“.

“Coming Home Tour 2016”
PAIN
THE VISION BLEAK
DYNAZTY
BILLION DOLLAR BABIES.
13.10.  D         Berlin – Astra
14.10.  D         Wuerzburg – Posthalle
15.10.  D         Leipzig – Hellraiser
16.10.  CZ        Prague – Meet Factory
17.10.  A          Vienna – Szene
19.10.  D         Ludwigsburg – Rockfabrik
20.10.  D         Munich – Backstage
21.10.  CH       Lausanne – Les Docks
22.10.  D         Lindau – Vaudeville
23.10.  D         Essen – Turock
24.10.  UK      London – Underworld
25.10.  UK      Wolverhampton – Salde Rooms
26.10.  UK      Bristol – The Fleece
27.10.  F          Paris – Petit Bain
28.10.  E          Barcelona – Razzmatazz 2
29.10.  E          Madrid – Changó
30.10.  P          Lisbon – RCA Club
01.11.  E          Bilbao – Stage Live
02.11.  F          Marseille – Jas Rod
03.11.  F          Lyon – Ninkasi Kao
04.11.  F          Nancy – Nancy On Rock Festival*
05.11.  D         Markneukirchen – Music Hall
07.11.  NL        Tilburg – 013
08.11.  B          Antwerp – Trix
09.11.  D         Hamburg – Klubsen
10.11.  DK       Aalborg – Aalborg Metal Fest
11.11.  S          Gothenburg – Brewhouse
12.11.  S          Stockholm – Debaser

17.11.  FIN       Kuopio – Henry’s*
18.11.  FIN       Oulu – Hevimesta*
19.11.  FIN       Helsinki – Nosturi*
24.11.  FIN       Tampere – Klubi*
25.11.  FIN       Jyväskylä – Lutakko*
26.11.  FIN       Seinäjoki*
*without support

Order ‘Coming Home’ below:
Limited Edition Gatefold Orange Vinyl from the Nuclear Blast UK store:http://nblast.de/PAINComingHomeNBUK
Limited Edition 2 CD Digibook / CD / Vinyl via Amazon.co.uk: http://nblast.de/PAINComingHomeAmz
And digital album: http://nblast.de/PainDownloads

More on ‘Coming Home’:
“Call Me” (feat. Joakim Brodèn of Sabaton) official video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml4iBTfoplY&feature=youtu.be
‘Black Knight Satellite’ lyric video: https://youtu.be/UBRMKyuwS54
Track-By-Track Part 1: https://youtu.be/awXfEcUm2SY
Track-By-Track Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P68y-RpYtls
Track-By-Track Part 3: https://youtu.be/l_t0pM92WT0
Album Trailer 1#: https://youtu.be/FnT0i5bjMw8
Album Trailer 2#: https://youtu.be/_pkOCSEbuWE
Album Trailer 3#: https://youtu.be/0QWJJBGlki8
Peter recently sat down to discuss his introduction to music – including the first record he picked up, how he switched from drums to guitar, plus his discovery, and the profound impact of the late and great David Bowie. Video here: https://youtu.be/614Kof_kqjk

More info:
www.painworldwide.com
www.facebook.com/officialpain
www.nuclearblast.de/pain

Pain - Coming Home

 

Review – Nerve Toy Trio – Accidental Bar-B-Que – by Progradar

Nerve Toy Trio Cover

I have often said in the past that I am a sucker for great album cover. Top quality album art can draw you in and make you want to find out what the music is all about. Occasionally it can be a false dawn and the music does not stand up to the stature of the art used to portray it but, thankfully, most of the time it is an accurate facsimile.

When Tony Harn, guitarist with the Prog/Jazz Experimental group Nerve Toy Trio, first showed the artwork for their first full-length album ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ on social media I was immediately hooked and Tony soon sent me a copy of the release to have a listen to and review.

Bass player David Jones and drummer Howard Jones are the other two parts of this melodic fusion trio and between them they have created quite a work of art…

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‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ is 55 minutes of rather stylish music. Jazz tinged but with progressive music as its core, it is really infectious and intelligent music with a huge amount of joie de vivre running throughout.

The six tracks have, shall we say, interesting titles that also put a big grin on your face starting with opener Frozen Veg Alarm (yes, it really is called that!), a mesmerising meander with more than a hint of 70’s psychedelia to it. The metronomic music draws you in almost to a trance like state. The distinctive tone of Tony Harn‘s guitar is a constant echo in your mind before the track changes tack and opens up into something altogether more bright and infused with a sunshine like glow. The feel-good factor of the music is delightfully contagious as these three highly impressive musicians go about their business with n’er a hair out of place. Title track Accidental Bar-B-Que begins about as laid back as you could possibly get. Seriously chilled jazz that lulls you into a bit of a false sense of security, one minute you are relaxed and then the next it segues off into some experimental, free-form jazz jam that knocks your whole psyche off kilter. Like a warped soundtrack to some 70’s secret agent series it has an energy and rawness that actually makes you feel vibrant and alive. Tony’s guitar may be directing proceedings but the bass and drums of the Jones boys are the engine room of this highbrow creative track.

Mushroom Attitude has a 70’s hippy feel to it, some laid back world music that is creamy and effortless. Once again, the feel-good factor is ramped up to maximum, a carefree and untroubled tone runs throughout the opening minutes but, in the background, you can always feel something a bit more serious and vital that anchors the music back in the real world. The interplay between the three musicians is an absolute delight to behold and Tony’s signature guitar sund is becoming more and more recognisable with every note. Howard Jones’ drumming has a vitality and energy that gives it a life of its own and David Jones’ bass playing is superb. Onto Potholing and a song that begins as almost a nod to Hank Marvin with Tony’s intricate guitar picking reminding me of The Shadow’s guitarist. It’s a real fast paced and upbeat track in parts that gets your toes tapping and your head nodding. A touch of folk/country and even Canterbury scene to add to the progressive jazz tendencies perhaps with its hints of Camel and Caravan. The guys really excel themselves on this track and their musical interplay is almost fluid in its skill. It may be eleven minutes long but you get so engrossed that the time just flies by.

Split The Sketch has an apparent serious tone to it, a wealth of musical nous and years of nostalgia seem to seep out of every note and inflection. The guitar playing is more intricate and the bass and drums have an experienced and cultured edge to them. It reminds me a bit of when Neal Schon decided to go all serious and drop his guitar god guise on his instrumental release ‘Beyond The Thunder’ and has touches of that album’s quiet power, cool jazz licks and worldbeat rhythms to give this track a really soulful feel. The final track on this elegant release is the gracefully energetic Blue Blazes, a stirring piece that has an abundance of life and soul to it. Again those Canterbury touches are present and correct but just add to the heartfelt sincerity and emotion of the song. An evocative guitar note and the ardent rhythm section add layers of vivacity and substance to give us an emotive finish to the album.

A really impressive and ultimately satisfying release that really gets into your psyche and has you reaching for the repeat play button again and again. Nerve Toy Trio has given us one of the best instrumental releases of the year with ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ and one with which the music really does stand comparison to the excellent album art. Seems my gut feeling was right once again, a highly recommended release.

Released 9th September 2016

Buy ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que from Burning Shed

 

Be Prog! My Friend festival announce Friday headliners Marillion

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FESTIVAL WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE WORLD’S BEST PROGRESSIVE BANDS ANNOUNCE FRIDAY HEADLINERS MARILLION 

Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Steven Wilson, Opeth, Camel, Meshuggah, Anathema, Devin Townsend, Pain Of Salvation, Katatonia, Leprous, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Between The Buried And Me, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Agent Fresco, Fish, Riverside, Ihsahn, Alcest, Textures, Haken, Iamthemorning, Obsidian Kingdom, The Algorithm & Antimatter.

Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.

This year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth. So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announced the legendary Jethro Tull as Saturday’s headliner alongside Norweigian music collective Ulver, Anathema, Animals as Leaders and Caligula’s Horse.

Now the festival have revealed Friday’s headiner for the 2017 edition of Be Prog! My Friend will be Marillion. The festival organisers comment:

Marillion’s music is, by its nature, tough to sum-up but perhaps can be described as experimental-yet-emotional rock, married to thought provoking, soulful lyrics – a powerful and moving cocktail which, for those who “get it”, elicits extraordinary devotion.

After over thirty years, the band shows no signs of slowing down; this last month they released “Fear (Fuck Everyone And Run)”; an album that has been called “the best album by Marillion in twenty years”. 

Steve Hogarth said, “We don’t know how many more albums we’ll make, or how long we’ll live. Everything has to be the best it can be”.  With ‘FEAR.’ Marillion show that they are as vital and potent as ever. Peerless and, yes, fearless…

 We welcome Marillion with our arms wide open!’

Tickets are on sale now with final price. 130 Euros:

http://www.ticktackticket.com/entradas/goto.do?claves=.127248&origin=TTT&codIdioma=ING

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30th June – 1nd JULY 2017 – BARCELONA 

Review – Emmett Elvin – Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason – by Shawn Dudley

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Earlier in 2016 I was finally introduced to the enjoyable wonders of Knifeworld via their latest album ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’.  In the ensuing months it has been one of my most played albums and has inspired me to check out the other releases the band members have participated in. One such release is the engagingly obtuse ‘Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason’ from Knifeworld keyboardist Emmett Elvin. Happily just as unique and vibrant, it’s another album that I can’t seem to get enough of.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  I’m not going to attempt to assign this album into a particular genre or style, with an album this diverse it would be a ludicrous attempt at categorization.  In 1968 The Amboy Dukes scored a hit single with a song called Journey To The Center Of The Mind, that title works better as a descriptor for ‘Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason’ than any preconceived genre tag would.  It’s a singular, personal work of an artist freely expressing himself; the rest of the journey is up to the listener.

The album is beautifully balanced; it consists of satisfyingly diverse instrumentals with a few vocal tracks mixed in throughout. While the various pieces aren’t necessarily connected to one another and cover a wide swath of stylistic ground it nevertheless sounds like a cohesive album experience.

emmett

The playfully comic Boiling begins our journey and the impeccable quality of the arrangement and the production is immediately evident.  The strummed acoustic guitar introduction (reminiscent of Time Flies by Porcupine Tree), the lap-steel (or possibly pedal steel) slide guitar motif that segues into a Zappa-esque mix of carnival piano and a vocal line that brings to mind the more tongue-in-cheek aspects of King Crimson ala Happy Family. Then the soundscape expands to include a sweeping string section and wordless vocal choir that conjures visions of mid-period Led Zeppelin, the full effect heard beautifully in the instrumental coda.  While the influences are immediately evident, the resulting arrangement is wholly unique.

The use of orchestration (primarily strings and horns) is one of the most appealing elements of the album as a whole, whether used to add dramatic effect to a beautiful piano-driven instrumental piece like Dysnomia or fully integrated into a progressive rock workout like the thrilling, multi-layered Heartburster.  So many bands use orchestration as aural wallpaper, just slathering it onto everything to help disguise the fact that not much is going on underneath, to hear it used so successfully, so musically, is joyous to behold.

It’s really an album best experienced as a whole entity, to be enjoyed in a one sitting without interruption. While there isn’t a weak track on the album and each piece can exist completely on its own, it really becomes greater than the sum of its parts when viewed as an extended work. There is such a variety of mood and instrumental texture; it remains completely gripping throughout the 50-minute running time.

Some of my favorite individual pieces are the darker, more menacing cuts like the eerie The Democracy They Deserve and the wonderfully heavy, almost doom-like dirge of The Plankton Suite. The second half of which hints at what a collaboration between King Crimson and Opeth might sound like. I’m also especially fond of the more textural, avant-garde pieces like The Curate’s Eggnog, the bonus track Sphere Of The Deceiver and the joyful insanity of the title track. Of the vocal tracks my favorite is the gonzo Dozy Phantoms which reminds me a little of Josh Homme’s work with Queens Of The Stone Age.

Overall each listener is going to experience something quite unique when listening to ‘Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason’; the associations I bring to it likely won’t mirror the ones you experience.  That to me is one of the integral ingredients of great art, it’s not truly complete until the individual brings their own personality and experience to it.  Emmett Elvin has crafted a beautifully complex yet still highly accessible work and he respects the intelligence of his audience enough to let us complete that journey toward it. I highly recommend the destination, however you get there.

Released 23rd September 2016

Buy ‘Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason’ from Bad Elephant Music at bandcamp.

 

Review – Epica – The Holographic Principle – By Kevin Thompson

 

Epica Album

There are some excellent bands producing Symphonic Metal. Very popular and with some exceptional exponents, among them Nightwish, Within Temptation and Stream of Passion to name a few. So it is very easy for a few to slip under the radar, for me one of those has been EPICA, (which they define as Excellence. Power. Intelligence. Creativity. Ambition. on their publicity blurb). Hailing from the Netherlands and formed in 2002, “The Holographic Principle” is their seventh studio album, which they say is their heaviest to date.

As is often the case, prerequisite for the majority of these bands is a powerful/operatically voiced frontswoman and EPICA tick the box well and truly with the beautiful, flame haired Simone Simons. Guitarist Mark Jansen’s sonorous growls contrast like Beauty and the Beast, sometimes for me a little intrusive as I’m not a big fan of this sort of vocalisation. This is loud, heavy and bombastic music, with Gregorian and choral style chanting and the screaming guitar solos from Isaac Delahaye cutting a swathe through the cinematically orchestral embellishments of Coen Janssen’s keyboards. The thundering rolls of Ariën van Weesenbeek’s drums combining with Rob Van Der Loos’ bass foundations on which the arrangements are built.

The album opens with the miniature epic Eidola which is far too short for me, but a great introduction. It could have soundtracked the film ‘300’, conjuring scenes of a huge procession. Armoured elephants in gleaming gold cresting the horizon as thousands of battle hardened, marching infantry hammer the road before them, their feet smashing into the dust. Heat and sweat mingle as they haul huge war machines of mass destruction toward the enemy.

I would have liked for it to merge into Edge of the Blade, as I find the suddeness of the starting riff jars slightly with the preceding track. A small niggle soon forgotten as you are then carried along at a crashing pace with only the soothing vocals from Simone to give respite, before they reach for the stratosphere. There is a middling slow of pace before the growling hits with the guitars and you are hurtled into the maelstrom of battle again.

Plucked strings are crushed by the guitars as they issue in A Phantasmic Parade, and the war machines unleash a hail of deadly notes and choral choruses to assault your senses.

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A brief lull, then charging through the settling dust and smoke come the Universal Death Squad, screaming their war chants and brandishing weapons, lusting for blood and souls. Red rimmed eyes seeking foes and victims as they reap bodies like sheaves of bloodstained stalks of grain. Simone’s vocals and Isaac’s keyboards lifting the track beyond the onslaught.

A few retreating survivors fire back in the distance as orchestral swathes mix with piano before they are scattered to Divide and Conquer, Mark’s barked ululations at his marauding horde, directing their onslaught to demoralise the enemy, with the engaging Simone encouraging a memorable chorus at his side.

Exalting vocals precede celebratory instruments, orchestrated as they march Beyond the Matrix, Simone conducting the guitar verses, Mark gutterally picking off survivors on the wasted battlefield and guitars herald their affirmation to a rousing choral end.

Haunting Celtic violins bring an ease to the aggression as we wander Once Upon A Nightmare, accompanied by Simone’s voice and Coen’s piano, the orchestra and choir falling into line with the guitars and drums treading respectfully across the musical battlefield intensifying to a rousing dramatic end.

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Melodramatic choir, heavy riffs and driven drums crash in, with Simone adding gloss to Mark’s hard edged vocals. The layered orchestration and keyboards propelling us forward across the universe in search of answers to The Cosmic Algorithm, as the tune hurtles to it’s inevitable end.

Mr Jansen’s portents add gothic doom to the Ascension – Dream State Armaggedon, a brief verbal passage warning this is the end of everything as we know it, echoing the bands’ attempts to elevate themselves out of their comfort zone and progress their sound, morphing and fading out as drums and exotic strings bring a Middle Eastern touch to Dancing in a Hurricane. The addition of  Asian instruments like whirling dervishes dance between the band, swirling dust and sand in the heat of the music.

Lush strings and atmospheric piano soothe before you are bludgeoned by the propulsive metal of battle as the band Tear Down Your Walls, Simone and the choir flying above the destruction like avenging angels crushing all and everything in their path with their symphonic cannons.

And so we come to the grand finale, The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality, (even the title’s epic) and for me the band’s most adventurous track on the album. They have literally thrown everything at their disposal into this, creating a huge production. From the monastic chanted introduction, this veers from soft piano to orchestral swathes. The drama of the vocals against soaring guitar solos and pounding staccato rhythms ascending into the heavens to a headrushing climax.

I now have a confession, I had to take a break for a few days before finishing this review as the intensity of the album after five plays became a little overwhelming. There is no doubting this is an excellent example of the genre, but I would have liked to hear maybe a couple of slower tracks, even ballads to give this more balance and the faster, heavier tracks more impact. The ones that do start gently are quickly swallowed up by the band’s apparent enthusiastic attempts at progression and a slight release may have allowed the music to breathe a little.

That said it’s a cracking album and I am surprised I have not picked up on Epica before and I shall certainly be listening to the back catalogue and watching for future releases. If you like this genre and you have also passed them by I suggest you give them a listen.

All pictures by Tim Tronckoe Photography..

Released 30th September 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records.

Buy ‘The Holographic Principle’ from Nuclear Blast Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Blues Pills – Lady In Gold – by James R. Turner

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This is the second album from Swedish Blues rockers Blues Pills, who appeared as if from nowhere back in 2014 with their assured self titled debut album with its wonderfully psychedelic artwork and its feet planted firmly in the blues rock tradition of the late 60’s. In fact, with the power behind the band and the sublime vocals of singer Elin Larsson, they sounded like Led Zeppelin if they’d been fronted by Janis Joplin.

Of course the band hadn’t appeared from nowhere, they’d been working hard since they formed back in 2011 and Blues Pills was the culmination of their hard work. Now in 2016, after a slight personnel change, where Andre Kvarnstrom has replaced original drummer and founder member Cory Berry, they unleash their second studio album on the world.

One of the things that is always a concern, when faced with a band who’ve built up their presence organically and had time to refine their sound, is that, once they’ve unleashed a cracking debut, you find the second album is either rushed to capitalise on their success or is half finished, as they’ve used all their ideas up.

Luckily Blues Pills have been working hard to avoid this and ‘Lady in Gold’ is a clear evolution of their sound.

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Opening with the title track, the traditional figure of death is reimagined as a Lady in Gold who comes to all at the end, and with the superb vocals of Elin to the fore and with some amazing guitar work from Dorian Sorriaux.

With a lot more depth and range than their debut album, Elins soulful vocals get a real workout on the moving and beautiful I Felt a Change. With this being a piano ballad, the band taking a back seat whilst Elins vocals shine, you can hear the emotion in her voice and, whilst it’s a more mellow sound to the band, it fits perfectly within the album and confirms how the band are maturing as songwriters. With a driving drum and bass beat powered by Zach Anderson, it gives us no pause for breath as it takes us into the driving Gone So Long, where the music that underpins the track simmers with power and energy, always only just under control before exploding into a powerful solo.

Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes with 9 original songs and a cracking cover of Elements and Things by Tony Joe White, the energy and soul never lets up, giving you a wonderful contemporary blast of psychedelic blues rock. The band are honest about where their influences come from but they are not mere copyists, instead, they take the ideas from an exciting era in classic rock and give it a 21st update, almost the musical equivalent of a Fiat 500. Something unmistakably from the classic rock mould but slap bang up to date as well.

Drenched in Hammond and with such amazing vocals, this is for anyone who enjoys foot tapping, soulful, catchy blues rock and, with no misstep on this album, Blues Pills have proved they have staying power.

If you can’t guess I bloody love this record!

Released 5th August 2016

Buy ‘Lady In Gold’ from Nuclear Blast

 

BE PROG! MY FRIEND NOW ADDS ANATHEMA, ANIMALS AS LEADERS AND CALIGULA’S HORSE.

anathema-announcement

Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Isahn and Alcest.

Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.

This year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth. So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announnced the legendary Jethro Tull alongside Norwegian music collective Ulver.

Now the festival have added another 3 incredible bands to the line-up. The festival comment:

Anathema, who formed in the mid 90s, have risen to become one of the UK’s most cherished and critically acclaimed rock bands. With their star rising ever higher, Anathema returned in 2014 with ‘Distant Satellites’, another assertive step into the realm of miraculous songwriting.

Animals as Leaders incorporate influences from jazz, electronic, progressive, classical and fusion. After amazing releases like “Weightless” and “The Joy of Motion”, Animals As Leaders continue to explore their musical endeavours with the highly anticipated fourth album “The Madness of Many”, to be released this next November. Be Prog! invites you to forget all musical boundaries for an instrumental act that will blow your mind.

Caligula’s Horse channel the raw honesty of rock and the skill of progressive metal into a seamless voice at once energetic, grand and forthright, They offer devotees of all strains of powerful and progressive music something unique. Be Prog! My Friend are confident that this for this charismatic band will become a big success in the progressive metal scene. Caligula’s Horse, Welcome to Be Prog!’

Tickets are on sale now priced at 100 Euros for a limited time:

http://www.ticktackticket.com/entradas/goto.do?claves=.127248&origin=TTT&codIdioma=ING

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(Anathema pic by Scarlet Page)

http://www.beprogmyfriend.com/

facebook.com/beprogmyfriend

Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.

http://www.barcelonaturisme.com

Review – Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze – by Gary Morley

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I have a love hate relationship with post rock. It depends on the weather I think.

Someday a gumbo mix of old Black Sabbath riffs, Bauhaus vocal growls and thundering Bonham influenced drums hits that spot. Other days the “everything louder than everything else” mantra grates and I want a simple clean palate of sound.

Crippled Black Phoenix (CBP) take pride of place in my collection as the only stoner/ Rock/ post rock band that I like. Their albums are dense, complex affairs, their live shows are powerful multimedia events and the band themselves look as if they’ve been auditioning  for the part of the  Swedish Biker gang in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” series. I will confess now, I loved their version of Echoes that came out last year, it was a deserving cover that took the original off into new directions whilst retaining the musical core. I liked it so much that I tracked down both versions, sad…

On their latest album, ‘Bronze’, CBP tick all the boxes for my Post Rock checklist. There are all of the above and one crucial factor often missing from albums today, a sense of theatre and dynamic.

We all know the quite / loud/ quiet / shouty formula for songs. Post rock goes for a calculus derivative of that with fractural loud / loud/ full throated roar.

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I described CBP as Pink Floyd’s Echoes played by Black Sabbath.

There is that underlying melodic core to their songs that Pink Floyd use, alongside the power and menace injected by the Heavy Rock Sabbath influenced riffs and drums.

Track 5, Champions of Disturbance (Pt 1&2) for example , at the 4 minute mark goes off on a boogie that is equal parts Run Like Hell and Paranoid. It shouldn’t work but it does. I want to turn the amp up to eleven and introduce the whole street to this glorious noise.

This is all things a great rock album should be: Loud, full of power and menace, but with glorious tunes and riffs that make you want to play air guitar to.

There are subtle touches hidden among the noise too, great little Rock n roll piano at the end of that track, some nice snatches of dialogue interspersed among the songs, even a brass section at one point.

There are thumping drums, great guitar parts that layer and build and build to a point of almost obscene climatic release.

Some bands make the most awesome racket and are let down by the singer. Too clean, too growly, too weak, too OTT. No such issues here, every track has a vocal that works, from quiet reflective musings to the powerful rockier numbers, Daniel Änghede and Belinda Kordic sing with passion and skill throughout.

I’m listening for the 4th time now and I’m enjoying the nuances unfolding.

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Some lovely drum and guitar on track 7, Turn To Stone, remind me of the middle of “stranglehold” by Ted Nugent, where he scrapes his plectrum down the strings before ripping a glorious solo, the superb guest vocals are supplied by Arvid Jonsson.

Nugent is a dick, politically as far as I am concerned, but that track is sublime. CBP tap into that feeling here, this is rock music, big rock music.

I don’t know what the tracks are called (Ed. – don’t worry, I’ve helped you there…), but it matters not as it’s the “feel” I meant to convey.

This album is progressive and retro in equal measures. CBP are determined to forge their own path, if that path needs a detour into a forest of gothic beauty, as in track 8, Scared and Alone, where celestial distorted sounds underpin Belinda Kordic’s vocal before a Big Country type guitar leads us out onto the path, then they go there without fear and we wander along with them, out into a clearing  where Justin Greave’s guitar makes with the Pink Floyd inspired playing  before we stare back into that gothic forest again , mournfully now as Robert Holm’s Brass Section appears, not to soothe but to twist and snipe alongside the angry and menacing vocal. The sweet forest is now a threatening black mass of trees blocking out the light, but hope is at hand as the celestial sounds returns and this gothic musical journey ends.

If you liked The Mission, the Sisters of Mercy, Classic Pink Floyd and a bit of good old Black Country riffage, then this is for you.

I’m sure that there are bands out there that are “heavier”, more technical in their approach to playing, but this is, to me, what a “Rock Band” should be doing.

tracklist

The dynamic of the album, even in preview mp3 quality, is impressive. Cranked up it sounds great. There are lovely little piano pieces before the drums explode and fill the spaces. The guitars are in places shoegazingly monotone, as the songs unfurl they gain in definition, the soundscape broadens to encompass keyboards and layers of drone , all mixed, all ebbing and flowing in the mix. The songs are allowed to stretch and run to over 5 or 6 minutes, but without getting dull.

My Grandfather would approve of this album as there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

My review file had 10 tracks, running for just over an hour. It’s an hour well spent.

There is a deluxe version of the album that has2 extra tracks. I have ordered it , although the  double clear vinyl album version looks tempting . Whichever version, it will be a thing of dark beauty, a proper “rock” album for the modern age.

Released 4th November 2016

Pre-Order ‘Bronze’ from Season of Mist