Tomorrow’s Eve, Project Ikaros, 2018

tomorrow's eve - mirror of creation 3With Project Ikaros, German based progressive metal outfit Tomorrow’s Eve release part 3 of their Mirror Of Creation saga. Which are built around the works of Edgar Allen Poe. In total this is album #5, although I don’t think earlier work has been presented here (even when at least part 2 is somewhere in the collection).

Anyway, what the band present here is certainly worth your time and money. Not only because people like Mike Lepond (Symphony X – bass) or John Macaluso (Labyrinth, Ark – drums) are joining long term singer Martin LeMar and founders Rainer Grund (guitar) and Oliver Schwickert (keyboards). But also because the band have managed to deliver an album that not only ticks all the proper genre boxes yet still has its eyes firmly on melodies.
So the 11 songs and 68 minutes of music are diverse, go from powerful to intimate and from aggressive to epic. And with the strategically placed catchy choruses they still manage to keep you attracted throughout.
Of course all musicians involved are top notch. But I would like to give special props to singer LeMar, whose range and ability to adapt to the various moods really lift the band to the top of the game. Fans of Savatage, Circle II Circle, or the names mentioned above, better pay attention!

Yep, Tomorrow’s Eve are back with a vengeance and ready to take any stage by storm. Should be entertaining!

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D’Ercole, Made To Burn, 2018

d'ercole - made to burnAnd the hardest working man in the music business is back. This time with the band D’Ercole which features  Damian D’Ercole on guitars. B.F. D’Ercole on drums and the mighty Phil Vincent on vocals and bass, and additional drums and guitars.

If you are familiar with Phil and his work, you know you can expect driving rockers, heavenly melodies with tons of harmony vocals, lots of guitars and shredding solos. So opener Time To Walk Away delivers his brand of rockers. And Out Of Time is another one of his beautiful melodic pieces, where Paul Sabu guests on the guitar solo.  Another guest is trusted pal Vince O’Regan (his former Legion partner) who shreds away in 6 tracks.
Also on the album, the last recordings of guitarist David Zycheck (RIP), on the tracks Feel The Burn, Get Undone and Tragedy In Motion. And these tracks show a different side of both men’s combined talent. More groovy, some downtuned guitars, yet still melodic and energetic.

These additions to the familiar sound add some extra sizzle to the plate. And while the overall picture is familiar, this, and other little details in the mix, show that Phil is still pushing forward and trying to expand. With a back catalogue of over 30 albums and contributing to numerous others, a sign that the man is still hungry to learn and grow.

That alone is so cool. As is the record.

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Adult Cinema, Teaser Trailer, 2016

adult cinema - teaser trailerAnother one of those albums that slipped between the cracks for a long time. But now surfaced again to claim it’s spot. Besides the off-kilter name, you should know that AC is in essence Mike Weston, a multi-instrumentalist from the UK. Okay, he gets help on several of the tracks from various people (including his dad and uncle Bob) but what we get to hear is his vision.

I guess in many ways this is to be labelled as a progressive record. But bear in mind it is more like (an early) Supertramp kind of progressive. By which I mean that it would not surprise me if a whole bunch of people would like this album a lot, should they get to know about it and actually have a listen. So hopefully this helps a bit…

Because this is just a very pleasant album in every sense. It has great melodies that hook you in with ease. It has extended arrangements that show Mike is not afraid to think outside of the standard pop formulas (hence the prog tag) so you can enjoy instrumental bits, hooks, riffs and so on. It is never too much of anything yet has enough going on to keep you interested. And above all it has songs that are varied, have roots in various styles, and together make for an album that is a joy to hear. Especially for fans of Seventies music.

So go ahead, get in touch with him and have a listen!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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