Ben Granfelt, My Soul To You, 2018

ben granfelt - my soul to youRegular readers of the blog will know that I am not that big on blues. Infuse that with rock, and it gets another story. Especially when the guitar player loves Jimi Hendrix and has a great tone in his finger to show it. And reading through the press sheet, I understand why; as it turns out, mister Granfelt is one busy dude and has already released 15 solo albums before this, played with Wishbone Ash and Leningrad Cowboys to name a few, and thus has been making his living from music for over 30 years!

And now onto the songs. There are 10 on the album, clocking in at a good 40 minutes. First song Weight Of The World already shows that strat tone that reminds me of Hendrix. And somehow it also reminds a bit of Toto’s Steve Lukather. Very good moody soloing too. On This Is Love (PJ Harvey) his wife Jasmine takes over on lead vocals and does that very adequate. They share vocals on Fuel To Burn, and that works great as well. The title track is blessed with more great playing and melodies that lift the song up. A Better Place is another gem with great riffs and an upbeat energy that is hard to resist. And on My Heroine the lead vocals are handled by Bryn Jones, whose smokey tones add nicely to the mood.

So even when some tracks are deep into the blues, the overall sound and energy and especially the great playing makes me enjoy this very much. A damn fine album in the genre!


Sick N Beautiful, Element Of Sex, 2018

sick n beautiful - element of sexApparently what we are dealing with here is the biggest rock band on this side of Alpha Centauri… But loaded with creatures that enjoy listening to the likes of Rob Zombie, Halestorm and Alice Cooper, to give you some references. After their emergency landing in Rome in 2013, the quintet formed this band and now unleash their next instalment of groove metal to the innocent inhabitants of our little place in the universe.

Well, crazy talk and staged pictures in full costumes aren’t what this blog is about, it is the music that counts here. And I must admit, the album sounds powerful, with singer Herma delivering all sorts of vocals and pulling them all off too. The band is more melodic than you might think, yet infuse large doses of energy into their songs. So Megalomaniacal features some additional low gravelly voices, where All Wanna Go To Heaven is an upbeat party which even features harmony vocals. Because of the use of sequencers, songs like Hellawake or Hexxx have a very modern industrial metal feel and again, the band convince with a very tight performance.

While I do not care much for strong imagery or the use of (the element of) sex to sell an album, the band do deliver a strong set of songs, and that is what counts. So how ever you want to look at it, if this type of music is your thing, you could do much much worse.


Ewian, Of Those Who Drown To Live, 2018

ewian - of those who drown to liveAlready album 4 for Ewian!  You can also find their 2014 and 2017 release here. The intriguing front cover was made by Polish painter Tomasz Alen Kopera. Another thing I got from the mail exchange with singer Ewian Christensen was that there will be a video for every one of the 12 tracks on the album. Find those via his website below.

And now the music. Think it is safe to say that Ewian have not lost their alternative touches.  Yet when I compare this to their previous effort, for me the total balance is better. Judging from the titles (Drown To Live, Beautiful Lie, The Final Breath, See You In Heaven, etc.) the lyrical subjects are more on the dark side. And indeed, the music is often dark in tone, moody and melancholic.

But that is not a bad thing when the performances create an atmosphere that fully justifies the already mentioned cover. This is an intriguing album, with mood swings and emotional singing by Ewian. The regularly sparse arrangements serve to highlight those vocals. And of course sometimes the songs just plain rock, like on Paradise Lost. Where most of the songs feature guitar, from Box Of Pandora the keyboards take over, creating an almost Eighties New Wave sound.
The album closes with 3 longer songs. On Inception the keyboards continue to take centre stage in the 3+ minute intro. Then the guitars are tuned back in, and the slow brooding tempo keeps you on your toes, anxiously waiting for things to develop. And then the keyboards return, slowly guiding you to Life Uncut. The piano and strings here give it an almost classical feel. Closer See You In Heaven reminded me a bit of Coldplay. But more musical and with more depth.

All in all my favourite album by Ewian so far. More diverse and very intense.


Hekz, Invicta, 2018

hekz - invictaOh yes! Took a while but with help from Matt (vocals and bass), the latest offering from UK prog metal band Hekz has landed. And the guys even signed it for me, cheers!

Well should you not be familiar with the band, think of them as a cross between the less technical side of Dream Theater with the melodic senses of Threshold, and add to that bits of Rush and Iron Maiden. Yet when I say less technical it does not mean that these guys are not up to par on their instruments. Au contraire, but to me it just feels they use technique as a means, rather than as a goal.  So every song will have exciting playing, but more important, hooks and melodies that attract you to invest time in it. And of course, in my book that is a good thing!

So from opener Quetzlcoatl to closer Victorious, we are taken on an exciting 65 minute journey by a band that seems to go from strength to strength. For a fairly young looking bunch they are well aware of their influences, and now, with a couple of EP’s and 3 full lengths under their belt, seem ready to conquer the world. And when you can bring songs like For Our Lives, The Light Fantastic, the epic The Devil’s Coin or the already mentioned Victorious to the table, that world had better be ready! Talking of Victorious, if ever a prog song seems tailor made to get picked up by a premier league team, this is the anthem that will get the blood pumping.

A clear winner, better check it if you are into progressive metal!



Cross & Jackson, Another Day, 2018

cross & jackson - another dayWhat we are talking about here are David Cross (a King Crimson member in the Seventies on violin and keyboards) and David Jackson (from Van Der Graaf Generator on flute, saxophones and keyboards). Joining them are Mick Paul on bass and Craig Blundell on drums.

The 2 Davids met in 2010 and discovered they shared a mutual vision on music, based on improvisation. And so they set out to create this, playing anything from fierce avant garde to somewhat rocking riffs and everything in between.
And like with a lot of improvisational music, you will need time to get into the moods and songs on the album. This is no dinner ready plate, this is music to dive into and suck your teeth in. While I do realize this is not music for everyone, the beauty of it is that when you stick to it, the melodies and themes start to reveal themselves more clearly and you start to realize what an amazing quartet this actually is.  Yes, on first listens this album can make you nervous and restless, but tracks like Anthem For Another Day will help you discover the mastery at work. Here the melodies prevail from the opening segments, thus making it much easier to enjoy. Compliments to producer Jake Jackson for giving the album an awesome sound.

So if you enjoyed either of their heritage bands, make sure you check this out. And if you are open minded and don’t mind a lot of things happening at any second, you might like this too. A grower for sure!


Smoking Martha, In Deep, 2018

smoking martha - in deepFrom Down Under come Smoking Martha, built around songstress Tasha D and guitarist Mick Broome’s love of raw rock ‘n roll. Joining them are Azz on guitars, Matty on bass and Jordon on drums.

Now I must confess that I wasn’t all that impressed on first listen. Don’t know why, but in hindsight I probably wasn’t paying enough attention. Because repeated play has taught me that this is actually a very solid rock album. Martha has a damn fine voice for this type of rock and the songs do travel beyond the all too familiar. Even when it is sometimes in the details.
So, after spending a bunch of time with the album ( I got the version with the 5 European bonus tracks, the album itself has 10 songs) I am totally digging tunes like So Lonely, Say You’re Mine, To The Stars, and so on. The melting pot that make up all the songs is quite broad I think. A bit of punk energy, classic rock , grungy overtones, melodic hard rock and probably even more. And a song like Baby Let Me Go proves that know how to chill too, beautiful!

So in the end I can say that it is a tasty rock affair that shows a singer in possession of an impressive delivery and a band that is able to give the songs energy and flair. And knows how to keep things interesting. More proof that rock is not dead at all. It is lurking somewhere, waiting for you to fall for it again!



Alan Simon, Big Bang, 2018

ALAN-SIMON-Big-BangA couple of releases into Alan Simon now (check for instance this or this). And now we have Big Bang playing. And it is definitely something different compared to those before. Not only from a technical point of view, with the press sheet talking about 120 musicians or 200 active tracks per song on average… Or the inclusion of the sound bank of the universe from NASA.

This is indeed a musical odyssey from the origins of our universe to the destiny of planet Earth. And one that marries classical themes and orchestrations with contemporary music like never before in Simon’s work. As far as I know it that is. With a starring role of Supertramp’s John Helliwell on various saxes. So the instrumental pieces prevail and are a showcase of diversity, atmosphere and feeling. Lingering dreamy melodies, sound scapes and bits of rock interweaving. Like in Seven Moons In the Sky, where Roberto Tiranti delivers the vocals. Or on Fools, with Saga’s Michael Sadler. And Pink Floyd fans will embrace The Soul Of The Stars, with great guitar playing by Paolo Ballardini.
Because of the less obvious rock side, at first I wasn’t too sure about this album. But the more I played it, the more I fell for it. Diversity, dynamics and combining genres has always been part of Simon’s music and this is no exception. There is a certain grandeur to the themes that will get you hooked, sooner rather than later. Else you can always look at the fantastic space photography present in the art.

So the man delivered again. Simple as that!


OH, Metallia, 2018

oh - metalliaThis is the second time Olivia Hadjiioannou, better known as OH., makes an appearance here on the blog. The first time was the first ever vinyl here (still is I think) and now she is back with a stunning looking digipack and lush booklet. And this is not the only stunner here. Olivia is a true one woman force. She writes, plays, records, mixes and masters all her music herself, is very into (award winning) video, and if I am not mistaken also models for her art. Truly mindblowing. And speaking of mindblowing, here we have a musician that seems to excel at everything she does. Fluent in drumming, bass, guitars, piano and violin!

So how does that translate to the music on this EP?

Red Lion is opening with her voice (used as an instrument on this release), followed by a slapping bass and then frenetic riffing. She can shred like the best of them. The use of her voice is pretty intriguing throughout. Singing multi layered counter melodies, or dramatic wails, she creates atmosphere for sure. Not an easy introduction maybe, but a colourful and energetic show piece of her abilities. Bee opens with acoustic guitar and proves a song that keeps transforming. Androgyny welcomes you with multi layered vocals before the thrashy riffs take over again. But the combination of vocals and metal again creates something special.
Of the 6 tracks, my personal favourite so far is Dragon Kiss. Maybe one of the most melodic pieces, yet still testament of her vivid imagination and skills to pull off amazing musicality.

I can imagine that people get confused because of the frantic pace of change throughout. But I cannot help but be impressed by the creativity on display. Unique!


Martin Turner, The Beauty Of Chaos, 2018

martin turner - the beauty of chaosTo put the record straight; the full name of this double disk is Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash – The Beauty Of Chaos, Live At The Citadel, St. Helens – 26th February 2016. And it is a deluxe 2CD + DVD set. Glad we got that out of the way 😉

And indeed you regular followers of the blog, lots of (ex) Wishbone Ash has been landing in my CD player lately. Not that I mind that much, Argus is a classic record of course. And talking of that, disk 2 features some of that classic Ash tracks with The King Will Come, Warrior and Throw Down The Sword to name a few.
But there is a lot more to enjoy on this live album. Some tongue in cheek humour, some fantastic playing, especially from Misha Nikolic who has a great tone in his fingers. And I love songs like Falling Sands (what an enchanting guitar melody) or Interstellar Rockstar.  But also the very recognisable harmony singing and dual guitars shine.
So the album is very much worthy of your time and money. Even without seeing the DVD yet. No, Martin Turner (bass and lead vocals), Danny Willson (guitar and vocals), Misha Nikolic (guitar) and Tim Brown (drums and vocals) have got a good thing going here. Timeless music.


The Soul Exchange, Edge Of Sanity, 2018

the soul exchange - edge of sanityThe boys from The Soul Exchange sure like to keep busy. Ever since coming on my radar in 2016, they keep writing and releasing new music. So this is already release 4, and the third with fabulous singer (and keyboardist) Daniel John in their ranks. Not that I want to short sell the band of course, after all they provide much of the canvas and songs for John to shine on. Another big role is for producer and co-writer and arranger Magnus Ljunqvist.

But on to the album now; 9 regular songs and a bonus track for those lucky enough and a total playing time of 51 minutes. John is now the sole lyricist, with the Von Bell’s, John and Ljunqvist writing the songs. Lyrically the album explores the darker side of the human psyche. Tailor made for Daniel’s emotive delivery.
The songs are, as before, a winning combination of classic hard rock with some contemporary metal infused, with emphasis on melody and vocal harmonies. The album sounds big, think Metallica’s black album is a reference. And should modern radio still be playing rock, a lot of songs on here would fit seamlessly in, as they impact already on first listen.

And since the album still gets better with every play, it is safe to say the band have created another winner. Personally I hope the band break in Europe, so we will get a chance at seeing them live. Very very solid, and surely an album to check out!