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2009

Cirrha Niva, For Moments Never Done, 2009

Cirrha Niva - For Moments Never DoneTalking about misconceptions… Somehow my mind tricked me into believing this Dutch outfit was a neo prog band. So can you imagine my surprise when I started playing this? From the opening riffs and screams of The Fooling (how fitting) it became clear that this is a complete different animal. We are talking progressive metal here. And of international allure as well! Think Fates Warning (dual guitars and complexity) combined with modern rock acts (vary varied vocal delivery).

So after shedding my bewilderment, I became very enthusiast about this album. A shame I did not pick this up earlier! The seven tracks range in length from 5 to 8 minutes and together clock in at over 46 minutes. Very convincing in every department, a band not shy of exploring the boundaries of the genre, yet keeping themselves firmly rooted. And no matter where the song takes them, they still mange to deliver enough catchy hooks and melodies to keep you on track. Another good selling point is that many solos are also more melodic than about firing as much notes as possible.

So an album that is easy to get into, melodic and dynamic. Great stuff! But does anybody know where the name comes from?

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Mind Key, Pulse For A Graveheart, 2009

mind key - pulse for a graveheartCan you imagine Jorn Lande joining a band like Threshold or Dream Theater? (yeah I am aware of the albums Jorn made with Ark) Well that might lead to the sound of Mind Key, a stunning singer stretching his vocal cords to an infectious progressive metal band.

So that ain´t a bad reference or? Well, not in my book in any case. In all honesty I had read some good things about this outfit, but they have surpassed that with ease. Besides the vocals, who really are that good, the songs proved to be highly entertaining as well. Mainly because you never feel it is about making as many noise and notes as possible. A lot of feel in the guitar playing, some nice keyboard effects, and overall just songs with heads and tails. Always nice when a band in this genre chooses songs over muscle. And still they impress with intricate instrumental parts. So if that is what you are after, this will not disappoint either.

So whatever the reason, if you are into progressive metal, enjoy melody and power, or just have a knack for Jorn typed vocals, you know what to do. For me a highlight and a reason to delve deeper into the band. Congratulations to Frontiers for another winner on their roster.

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Winger, Karma, 2009

winger - karmaMust say I never quite understood the Winger bashing when they started out. Guess they could not care less as it did not stop them from scoring a couple of hits in the early days. Still they turned left somewhere down the road and stuck with the music they cared about. Thus delivering us some pretty entertaining albums. After a period in which they all went their separate ways (and Kip Winger releasing some stunning solo work in a much more progressive style as well as a mandatory live acoustic disk) they have returned to recording again.

And in 2009 that brought us Karma. Opening with some fierce tracks like Deal With The Devil and Stone Cold Killer, they prove they still know how to write rocking tunes with catchy hooks and some flashy solos from Reb Beach. And could it really be this is heavier than ever?
But I am also happy to report some more expanded songs have found their way to the album. Supernova,  After All this Time and Witness all clock in at 6 to 7 minutes and go way past the verse – chorus routines. And with bonus track First Ending they prove even more that boundaries only exist in the minds of the narrow, as that is a lovely piano piece.

So for me another great Winger album with huge choruses and killer songs. Keep ´em coming!

Website

On The Rise, Dream Zone, 2009

on the rise - dream zoneThis second album from On The Rise (now with only Terje Eide playing most of the instruments, along with the help of people like Eric Ragno) is a prime example of how commercial sounding melodic rock, can still be relevant. Commercial actually being the wrong word of course, as almost bloody no one plays this type of music on radio anymore. Which is a shame! But you will get I am hinting at music that is easy on the ears and quickly sinks into your system.

Opener Lifeline has a brilliant riff and chorus, and the guitars are supported by some tasty Hammond. As is the case on several other tracks on the disk. Enough room for variation, and arrangements are mature as well as the playing.

So in all honesty, I think this is a pretty simple thought process; do you like your rock to be melodic, with enough guitars and keyboards to keep things interesting and diverse, and with harmony vocals that are big where they can be? Than this is clearly a winner for you.

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Lobster Newberg, Actress, 2009

lobster newberg - actressShould you ever have wondered if talent is in the genes, and thus hereditary, here some proof that is actually the case. Does the name Jim Peterik ring a bell? Think Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor), Pride Of Lions, etc. . In short the writer of many hit songs and other great music.
Well his son Colin Peterik is the main songwriter, singer and keyboard player of this Chicago based outfit. And you know what, at the home of the Peterik family there must have been a massive 70´s (prog) rock record collection, because Lobster Newberg serve up what might be described as an amalgam of prog rock music from the seventies on. And do so with a class and panache that is quite mindblowing.

Not afraid to add trumpet, sax, harmonica, flute and what ever they feel adds to the colour of the songs, this quartet delivers an album filled to the brim with exquisite musicianship, catchy melodies and  daring arrangements. Classy Hammond playing, and the Mellotron is present as well.
Without ever losing momentum or trying to be clever just for the sake of it. Nope, this is a wonderful album that keeps fresh and lets you discover new things all the time.

So if the music from bands like Spock´s Beard, Steely Dan and the greats from previous era is featured in your collection, than this is something you have to listen to. Timeless!

Website

Leverage, Circus Colossus, 2009

leverage - circus colossusJust when I thought that the summer was gonna drown out all the energy in me, this Leverage CD popped up to play. Maybe you remember I was already saying a lot of good things about their 2008 album Blind Fire? Well, if anything, the boys have set out to be just a little more better on all accounts.

So still emphasis on writing good songs and melodies. The basis of the band is very strong, with excellent guitar work. Yet my attention was caught by the playful and outright fantastic keyboard work this time round. Cleverly avoiding the sounds everybody uses, and still adding depth. And sometimes the keys give a very vibrant flashy solo (solo, or in unison with the guitar) or add deep, almost ambient moods.

So you will have guessed this album really made my day the last couple of sunny days and made me enjoy my beer just that bit more. But I am quite sure that it will also work on rainy days. The melodies and the clever rhythmic variations are just too good to only work on casual listening. Pretty sure anyone into the genre will love this band. So get it if you are not yet familiar with it.

Website

Vision Divine, 9 Degrees West Of The Moon, 2009

vision divine - 9 degrees west of the moonVision Divine is one of those bands that took me a long time to get acquainted with. More to do with money and time constraints, than with quality from their side by the way. But allright, the time has come to dive into their 2009 release 9 Degrees West Of The Moon. First question is how to tag this music. Is it heavy metal with progressive overtones, power metal, or? Something like that anyway.

Singer is Fabio Lione, who I think is also part of the (also Italian) Rhapsody crew. The rest of the names did not ring many bells, though I think I heard the name of guitar player Olaf Thörsen before. What I find strange is that the latter is responsible for the concept of the album, but is not mentioned as a writer. Or he uses a pseudonym?

The album starts with the epic Letter To My Child Never Born, with almost 9 minutes the longest track on offer. Which is as progressive as it gets I think. From flashy metal pieces full of solos, to quiet piano parts with singing, it is all there. The singing is as expected, full of drama. Harmonies are a bit choir like, which sounds better than you´d think. What you hear in this band is a piano line over the rhythm guitars, introducing the melody. Somehow that creates openness not always present in this type of “busy” music. I am sure producer Timo Tolkki (former Stratovarius mastermind) knows how to handle that type of stuff ;-).

All in all a pleasant addition in this genre. Lots of melody and dynamics, good band!

Website

Street Legal, Bite The Bullet, 2009

street legal - bite the bulletFor anyone who is longing for a band like Thin Lizzy to stop reliving the past and record some new music: your wishes have been fulfilled! That is, a bit. Because the current Thin Lizzy miss their original founder, singer, bass player and principal songwriter Phil Lynott and will probably tour till the end of times, playing all those famous songs. But record new material, no, not likely…

So here is where Street Legal come in. Norwegians Bjorn and Oystein Boge have again assembled a couple of friends and recorded their second album, Bite The Bullit. And while singer Bjorn is not a clone of Phil, I can stop thinking of Lizzy when listening to this. And mind you, not because they are blatantly ripping them off! No, this outfit has a mind of their own, but just ooze that same hard rock and boogie quality that Lizzy were famous for. Of course there is more to this. Firmly rooted in seventies music, but with a modern sound, this is not a one trick pony.

So this grooves, rocks and parties all night long. Easy to connect to, well done and just plain worth adding to your collection. So if you like Thin Lizzy, or if you are into melodic hard rock that kicks ass, this is a CD for you. Love it.

Website

Redemption, Snowfall On Judgment Day, 2009

redemption - snowfall on judgment dayA CD I was very looking out for to listen to. But failed to connect with the first couple of spins. Must be my frame of mind, because after leaving it alone for a couple of days, now I am finally getting into it.

Everyone familiar with the band will know their brand of progressive metal. The mighty Ray Alder (Fates Warning) on vocals, and Bernie Versailles on guitar, Redemption is in essence still the brainchild of Nick van Dyk. The music is often complex, with fierce riffs, many fills and breaks. But the good thing is that the vocal melodies really soothe the muscular musical attack and let the songs shine. And to be honest, when one has been listening to more mellow stuff a lot lately, you really need great melodies to be able to listen to the blur of notes. But like I said, that is just the state I am in at the moment.

I am sure this will grow on me with every listen, as so far this band has never failed me before (see my previous post). And I am also sure that will apply to every reader that has a knack for progressive metal or the players involved.  This band is just too good to let things slip out of their hands!

Website

Outloud, We´ll Rock You To Hell And Back Again, 2009

outloud - we'll rock you to hell and back againTo me, everything about this release screams metal clichés. From the CD title, the wall of Marshalls on the front cover, the way the lady is dressed, to the logo. And on the back it is much of the same. Only this time the musicians in black leather posing with what I guess are their angry faces…. Must admit that does not impress me much. Must be me, or maybe I am not getting it. Because let´s face it, in many cases image is as important as the music, and as this blog is about the music, so let´s move on to that.

Little surprise this is melodic metal, with some guys already known for other ventures. And while there is no denying there are some cute tracks on the CD like We Run or Search For Truth, overall I got the feeling the band is aiming at a specific target audience. Making it sound a little too consciously written to meet certain demands. I mean, the band can play, songs are carried by melodies to sing along to, everything is where it should be. But I find myself not challenged. If it were a pop band, I would think they were a product of a marketing department, instead of some guys coming together to rock the world.

Little doubt there are a lot of people who want this. And if you feel the music has stopped after the eighties, maybe you are one of them. I think I need a little more adventure… Oh, and again a Frontiers release without a direct link to the band´s website. Wake up, it is 2012! (or 2009, but you get the point)

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