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Ghostly Beard, Infinite, 2017

ghostly beard - infiniteSometimes it is hard to fathom why some releases are independent. Except when it is by choice of course. Anyway, after some 15 years away from music, the entity that is Ghostly Beard (the handle one man band Patrick Talbot chose to release his music under) is treating us with this EP, called Infinity.

I have been listening to this quite a lot over the past week or so and I must say I am totally impressed with what is on offer. The 5 songs in almost 25 minutes of music span a wide array of rock, but every song has multiple reasons to fall in love with them. Opener Close Your Eyes will surely appeal to people who are very fond of Pink Floyd. Including a blistering guitar solo. But also because the feel and mood of the song is just very enchanting. Frozen In Time is carried by some stunning bass playing (sounds fretless) as well as more exquisite and moody guitar work. Let alone the synths and flageolet like sounds throughout it. And good melodies of course. No Return is another moody piece that grabs you and refuses to let go. No need to discuss the last 2 songs, they are equal to the others.

Ghostly Beard proves that there are no limits when it comes to quality in music. Every song hits home, and hits home hard. Essential stuff if you ask me!

Website

Moma, A Permanent State Of Transition, 2017

moma - a permanent state of transitionMoma are an Italian band and A Permanent State Of Transition is their second release.  And despite their singer making them sound a bit like Belgium rock / prog band Machiavel (which was an Italian of course 🙂 ) their music is probably best described as (classic) rock. And while the songs are sung in English, the booklet is mainly in Italian so was hard for me to understand.

So let’s talk music! Operating as a drums, bass, guitar and vocal unit, focus is on songs and melody. I really like the guitar playing from Maurizio Marsiani by the way. Often deceivingly simple, but the little bits here and there tell you the guy knows what he is doing. Another smart move is that here and there they added additional parts. Mostly from guitar, but also piano. That created extras that work really well in the overall sound of the album. Singer Marcello Valenti has a bit of an accent, but it did not disturb me much. To round off, bass and keyboards are by Alessandro Bozza and Andrea Rossi plays the drums.

All in all it will not be considered a groundbreaking album. But what they do they do well and the album is easy to enjoy and just done with taste and class. So give it a try!

Website

Machine Mass, Plays Hendrix, 2017

machine-mass-plays-hendrixI guess the cover art and the title says it all really. Yet if you know that the album is out on Moonjune Records, you might also suspect that this will not be a regular covers album. And you would be spot on with that assumption.

Machine Mass is a trio consisting of Michel Delville on guitar, samples. loops and electronics, Tony Bianco on drums and Antoine Guenet on piano and keyboards. And they have taken a lot of liberty with the 9 Hendrix songs they choose to record. Even to the extent that many of them are hardly recognisable anymore. To some extent that has to be praised because of the creativity. On the other hand, if it sounds unfamiliar, why cover it?

So I guess it is a double edged knife for me. Musicianship is always tight on the label’s releases. But the rocker in me misses much of the hooks that identify the songs. You have a listen and decide for yourself what you make of it.

Website

Katre, Encounters, 2017

Katre-Encounters-2017I love the internet! It makes the world so small and easy for people to find one another. Like in this case, where guitarist Hasan Koç contacted me about this release. When I saw the band name and it’s 4 members, I presumed the name was a wordplay on the French word for 4 (quattre), which phonetically sounds the same. But as it says in their biography, it is in fact an old Arabic word meaning drop. And it refers to the 4 members contributing to the ocean of life. Nice. Another aspect is that the members live in 4 different cities in 3 different countries. So they work and communicate online.

This album focuses on the concept of existence. The 8 songs are divided in 2 chapters (Existence and Existing) and are carried by applying the ebow to the electric and fretless guitars, thus sustaining the sound. And you really have to hear that sustain to believe it. It gives their sound (coming from guitars, along with bass and drums) an almost synthetic dimension, like keyboards do. Of course, throughout the songs you still hear the guitars and for those familiar with the ebow, that is also easy to recognise.
The result is a wonderful, sometimes dreamy album of so called post rock, with progressive elements. Instrumental, but I did not miss vocals for one second. A lot of thought has gone into the creation of these songs. The info sheet they sent me explains every one of them to great detail and makes for an interesting read. Still for me the most important part is the music and that I enjoyed very much. So much feel and passion. And their Eastern origins pop up here and there, adding even more colour.

A tasty and diverse album that sucks you in, awesome!

Website

Ayreon, The Source, 2017

ayreon - the sourceThe beauty of every release of Ayreon is that they are fairly simple to review.  I mean; on one hand you know what you are going to get. And on the other hand, every album is as fresh and exciting as the one before.

So you expect nothing less than fantastic guest vocalists. On this double album from for instance Tommy Karevik, James LaBrie, Michael Mills, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue and many more. You rely on the killer drums from Ed Warby. You look forward to some flashing guest spots with exquisite solos from in this case Guthrie Govan, Marcel Coenen or Paul Gilbert. You slightly hope for additions on less obvious instruments like violin or flutes. And of course, the man himself writing another bunch of killer songs with over the top lyrics wrapped in memorable melodies and infectious riffs. There will always be light and dark in the music from Arjen and there will always be quality control before any note is made public. Also the artwork is always top notch.

So no, I cannot imagine that anyone who is into melodic metal with a lot of progressive overtones can turn away from an Ayreon release. In my mind it is not necessary to discuss songs. Just put the album on and hit play. And repeat. And repeat. And… Enjoy the maestro at work…

Website

Chris Brockbank’s Phantom MkV, Phantom, 2017

From down under comes the fifth cycle of the band Phantom. At the centre: the Australian Blackmore Chris Brockbank. So to anyone who likes the music of old Whitesnake (before the hair days), Deep Purple etc., this might be right up your alley! And they got it down to a tee, even the sound of the album.

Opener So Clear is indeed not spilling beans. In your face rock with that hammond lurking, strat styled guitar solos,  powerful vocals, etc. Next track One O’ Clock even manages to add solos on both the organ as the guitar and still keep it under 4 minutes. I guess it is safe to say to people who are stuck in the rock of the seventies are going to have a ball with the album. It ticks all the right boxes. In all honesty I needed a bit of time to get used to the voice of Steve Mulry, especially since he is a bit dominant in the mix. But once you get used to that, it is alright.

Okay, it is retro so do not expect anything new. But the guys are having fun, they know what they are and how to sound and they do it well. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. If interested check songs like Beggin’ You, Miss You or Rapid Fire and you will know what to do.

Website

 

Ninth Of May release Bend

Just when you thought 2017 was going to be a repeat of crappy old 2016, along comes Ninth Of May to save the day.

The completely independent, powerhouse Brisbane 5-piece are back doing what they do best with the release of their new single, and corresponding film clip, ‘Bend’. Whilst it is a slight deviation from their previous endeavours, the super heavy guitars, pounding drums, hooky vocals and synth bass of ‘Bend’ are all undeniably “Ninth Of May”. One listen through will reinforce the fact that ‘Bend’ really is a dichotomy, beautiful yet heavy as F! Recorded and produced 100% in-house, ‘Bend’ is an example of a band truly defining their sound and doing things purely on their own terms. Playing to their strengths and relying solely on their own instincts and experience, ‘Bend’ is possibly the strongest release from Ninth Of May to date.

Schooltree, Heterotopia, 2017

schooltree - heterotopiaNow here is an ambitious work for you! Schooltree is built around the songs of singer, pianist and synth player Lainey Schooltree. Her band consists of Brendan Burns on guitar, Derek van Wormer on bass, Tom (Tod or Tad) Collins on drums, Peter Danilchuk on organ and synths and Peter Moore on nylon guitar, vocals, strings and programming. I think there are 2 versions of this album, but I laid my hands on the double disc edition.

With a sound that could be described as the evil child of Kate Bush and Queen, mixed with a lot of vintage prog elements, this is not an album filled with elevator music. Not that the songs do not have hooks and catchy melodies, no there is just a lot happening throughout the album. But I guess that for people like me, that makes for a really interesting listen. And one that has to be repeated to be able to fully appreciate the work that has gone into this.
And I cannot help but be impressed by the music. It is versatile, full of twists and turns and in fact a bold testament of just creating that album that you think it should be. In this case it is also an example of listening from start to finish and immersing yourself in it.

The result is a release that impresses on all accounts. Songs, performances, arrangements. Rich in ideas and textures, an album that reveals more every time you listen to it. One for eternity I think, so fans of prog: BUY!

Website

Exit 31, Wood, 2017

exit31 - woodThere is always an exception to a rule. So where as normally I am not really fond of mini albums, or EP’s if you prefer, in the case of Wood by Exit 31 I am only too happy to ignore house rules. So what makes this a stand out album? Well it starts with the knowledge that the 7 songs are brought to you in a special arrangement; acoustic guitars, percussion and vocals. And when I say vocals I am really selling these guys short. In my humble opinion their harmonisations are right out spectacular. Not exactly sure how many of the band contribute, but at least 3, but probably more.

So on songs like Call Your Name, Betray Me, Levity or pick just any title, the delivery totally comes alive when all those voices unite. And that is not saying that the rest is below par, far from it. Maybe not an album for every moment, but for those special moments, this is sure one that will create beautiful new memories. Memories for all of time…

Nothing more to say except yes, I really want to hear their previous albums now!

Website

MKB Ultra, Self Titled, 2017

mkb ultraSomething life moves in mysterious ways. Like when Mia Katherine Boyle set out to record her third solo album and it ended up becoming this new band, MKB Ultra. With the name a combination of her initials and the government mind-control experiments. The sessions resulted in this debut, with 10 songs and a playing time exceeding 43 minutes.

The result is a diverse album, firmly rooted in rock with a sometimes psychedelic nature and founded on groove and melody. On the first runs through the CD, the longer songs Black Ship, Strange Attractors and especially Forever Now impressed me the most. Somehow these songs grabbed me immediately. But repeated play saw the others slowly reveal their beauty too.
For the most part I reckon the difference is caused by the singing. The double female vocals seem to need a bit of listening adjustment. Yet after some time I really connected to the songs and loved them. I am always bad at referencing, but Jefferson Airplane might be a fit. So it is part rock, part blues, part psychedelica. But the most important thing is that it is a grower. And as you know all good albums are.

So if you are in for that sound of the Seventies and don’t mind a few turns left or right, you know what to do!

Website

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