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CD Reviews

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Todd Rundgren, White Knight, 2017

todd rundgren - white knightThe career of Todd Rundgren spans generations and genres, so this iconic songwriter, artist, producer and innovator probably has a rolodex with a lot of names… And he used quite a few of these on this, his newest album. To drop a few: Trent Reznor, Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall, Joe Satriani and Robyn are among the guest on White Knight. And those names also give a clue as to how diverse this album is.

Now diversity is often a good thing, at least in my book, and in this case I am bound to listen to styles I would normally not take the time for. Knowing Rundgren’s work, it is not always instant, so I try to keep and open mind and listen without prejudice. Even to raps and stuff like that. And this album requires a lot of willingness to listen properly. After all, you get to hear hip-hopped funk, synth rock, ballads and power pop. All in one go.
It is probably unavoidable that this will turn some people off. But I don’t think Rundgren for one second will reconsider his choices. This is the what he wants to say and he will say it no matter what. Something I admire, but that won’t come as a surprise either.

So, after a couple of spins, what did I think? To me this is a Rundgren record, period. Clever songs, diverse arrangements, and all done in a focused and mature matter. Of course some songs speak more easy to me than others. But I am also certain that over time, all will sink in and share an equal love.

Not sure this will gain him new fans, but those into his amazing body of work do not need to hesitate. And before I forget; I already love his stab at the current political climate with Tin Foil Hat 😉


Kiddie Coke, Medical Walls, 2017

kiddie coke - medical wallsHere is a French band that started out in 2010 and consists of Christelle Lacombre on vocals and guitar, Yann Charliquart on guitar, Yann Ferry on bass and Guillaume Dupré on drums. But let me tell you upfront, if I had not read they were from France, I would have thought that they came straight out of California! Because their brand of melodic alternative rock with a slight punky energy sounds international. And yes that means that singer Lacombre effortlessly delivers her vocals without any form of accent.

And that is not the only good thing as the vocals are very pleasant and convincing. The band put a lot of energy in their playing, but avoid constantly hitting you with a wall of sound. Most of the songs are instant, with enough good hooks and diversity to keep you interested. In fact, I feel some songs are so catchy, they deserve to become global hits. So if you want to know what I mean, my listening tips would be Displeasure and Familiar Circles. Oh, if only radio would play songs like this, with melody and rocking guitars…

But hey, we still have CD’s to enjoy (or streaming or mp3 if that is more your thing, as long as you buy it!), and this is an album I will play more often. Yes, I am happy label Bad Reputation sent this!


Jorn, Life On Death Road, 2017

jorn - life on death roadWhen one of the best current hard rock / metal singers puts out a new record, you’d better pay attention… It is no secret that for me Jorn is one of those best, with a voice that can compete with the likes of young David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio. And just have a look at the team he surrounds himself with on this platter: Alex Beyrodt on guitars, Matt Sinner on bass, Alessendro Del Vecchio on keyboards and producing and Francesco Jovino on drums! Some big names there! And that is not even mentioning guest solos from Gus G. and Craig Goldy.

So how does that all translate to the still most important part of a release, the songs? Well despite being a fan I did notice that more recent albums started to sound like a repeat exercise. Even when last years covers album Heavy Rock Radio saw some very good new arrangements to some rather surprising choices.
But I am happy to say that this album kicks the ass of most, if not all, of its sometimes awesome predecessors. Beyrodt tears it up like John Sykes did on Whitesnake’s 1987, the arrangements are more diverse, Jorn is exploring all facets of his voice and the album has a punchy and full sound. Although I do think he has never delivered a bad sounding album. And the songs are killer!

Always a lot of energy pouring, but for me this album somehow sees him coming of age. If such a thing is possible for such a scene veteran. Consider me impressed!


Doris Brendel and Lee Dunham, Eclectica, 2017

doris brendel - eclecticaRegular followers of the blog will surely be familiar with the name of Doris Brendel. This unique rock singer with the husky voice is going from strength to strength it seems. And as usual, again with the help of Lee Dunham, the songs on offer reflect her multi faceted personality and styles to the tee.

So far I have loved every album she has released (I even made sure to get a copy of her 1990 debut with The Violet Hour) and after a couple of spins of Ecleptica, I am starting to wonder if this is maybe her strongest effort yet. Yes, with every spin I am loving this album more and more. And while there are many moods and influences throughout this 10 track album, one thing is for sure, this might also well be her rockiest effort ever. And the rocker in me just cannot resist that.
Whether it is the tribal drums in opener The One, the rocky Love App, or the progressive 8+ minute epic (1 of 2, the other one clocking in at almost 10 minutes) I Rather Wear Black, I am really addicted. For me, all 10 songs hit home, and hit home hard. The choruses pick you up, the inventive arrangements keep you interested and the melodies make you want to hear it again.

So if this is your first encounter, or if you already own all her output, this comes heavily and heartily recommended. Outstanding album!


Ewian, Heart Crash Boom Bang, 2017

ewian - heart crash boom bangI quite liked the previous Ewian album that landed on my desk, so was very curious to find out how this one would fare. In all honesty I am not sure if this is the successor, or if I missed one, but anyway. If my memory serves me right, this is quite another animal than Good Old Underground from 2014. Yes I would still label this as alternative rock or maybe post rock (whatever that is) but somehow the impact this album has on me is different.

And I guess the key factor is the sound of the album. Several songs sound distorted. And by that I do not refer to the guitars, as that is normal, but I also hear it on piano, vocals and cymbals and that kinda spoils my enthusiasm for the songs. I understand that may be down to preferences, but still, I have a bit of a hard time getting used to it.
Radioactive Star is a good opener, catchy and energetic with again that touch of melancholy I liked so much. Visions is still sounding fairly normal, but Sorry just comes across as a blur of harsh sound. And this feeling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde keeps coming back to me throughout the album.

So for me a two faced monster, part good and part not so much. You will have to check for yourself!


Cellar Dwellers, Junkyard Chronicles parts 1 + 2, 2017

cellar dwellers - junkyard chroniclesSo now on to something new. Well, not quite perhaps. Turns out this band has been around since 1990. In various line-ups they have been gigging. And stopping. And starting again. And now, since early 2015 they are back and stronger than ever! First prove of this re-found energy is these 2 EP’s Part 1 from 2016 and a fresh part 2. The plan is to record 4 in total, each with 5 songs. Smart idea from this ehhh 5 piece 🙂

Part 1 starts very strong with the song Enemy. Raw power and energy, served with catchy hooks and good melodies. Melodies are memorable throughout the songs, and it sure helps they use more vocalists. It really enhances their mix of punk rock, classic rock and a dash of psychedelica. Another smart thing is additional arrangements, be it sound clips, or keyboards. Take for instance track 4 S.O.S. The overall sound creates a haunting atmosphere in the verses but when the guitars kick in on the chorus, you are back on earth in seconds. Oh, and closing track Ramones can only be a tribute to…. right!
EP 2 starts with another belter, the aptly titled Rock City. Lyrics go a little crazy with Pornosluts and Puke & Boogie without losing momentum. And the other 2 songs Long Distance Lovesong and Mayhem’s Trash (some Black Sabbath anyone?) are further testament to the talent in the band.

Energetic, powerful and experienced. You cannot go wrong with this music to start a party!


Ivory Tower Project, How Much More?, 2017

Ivory Tower Project - How Much MoreNow here is a tale of determination for you. This New York based band has served as a safe haven for its members to process, and ultimately triumph, over trying times. These involve serious accidents with continued health issues, the passing of key members and so on. And I can personally relate to the feeling that making music helps with getting over troubles and keeping sane. Surviving member Mark Regula found a new partner in Tony Novarro. Their shared love for the music of Styx, Queen, Foreigner or Boston has helped shape this album, How Much More?.

Opening with the title track, that starts life as an emotive piano ballad accompanied by crying guitar lines. But it does not take that long before those melodic rock references are coming to the fore. Great chorus and harmony vocals, and more intense soloing too. Great way to start. Next is the Shakespearean tragedy made into a rock song The Ides Of March (et tu bruté). It is also nice to hear the band infuse some prog keyboard influences into their songs. Surprisingly maybe, next track Gotcha starts with a funky bass, something that is used in other tracks as well. Also scratched type vocals and additional sax give this song a light footed timbre, without losing the catchiness. Ring Around Rosie is a very commercial tune, with powerful chords and a fairly basic structure.
With 14 tracks and a playing time of almost 70 minutes, there is a lot on offer. Even if one is a remix made for dance clubs. Personal highlights for me are Burning, Way To Late and the beautiful ballad Always.

So easy choice for fans of the aforementioned bands, music tailor made to play loud while cruising.


Post Death Soundtrack, The Unlearning Curve, 2017

post death soundtrack - the unlearning curveListening with an open mind is regarded highly at YMB HQ. And with this release from Post Death Soundtrack, that comes in handy. If anything, this is not typical. In my mind this comes closest to obscure Eighties New Wave bands like Freur. And since you probably don’t remember them either, what can I say about this that will clarify my point?

Okay, first thing of note is that keyboards and vocals are at the centre of this album. Yes there is some guitar, bass and drum (machine) involved, but the voice(s) and the keyboards take care of flashing out the arrangements. I guess that is why I am remembered of the Eighties. Second thing is that mood and sphere is very important on this album. And that makes for an intense listening atmosphere. It is pretty hard to not listen to the album. Or on the other hand, if you just let it pass you by, it might come across as bland. But that would really be a criminal injustice as giving it a proper spin rewards the listener with making real contact with the music.

So in this case I will keep it very simple, if you are open minded too and are willing to invest your precious time into an intense album, than go and get this. I am confident it will not leave you untouched.


Matheus Manente, Illusions Dimension, 2017

matheus manente - illusions dimensionThis is the debut from Matheus Manente, a Brazilian multi instrumentalist and one man band. To be honest, when I started listening to this album I wasn’t all too sure about it. Sure, great shredding, a lot of stuff happening in a short time, but missing a bit of hooks and melody. And then track 4, Inner Peace comes on…. Mind blown! What a feel in this song. Absolutely fabulous in delivery, melody and all. So that really peaked my interest in what was to follow. Symmetry Of Evil proved to have plenty of hooks, or had I started listening properly? Then again, any song that plays way past 9 minutes needs positives to keep the listener interested. So it managed to kept the momentum going. Market Garden has quickly become a fan favourite. It is complex and rich in structure, and it’s rhythmic and harmonic changes fulfil the genres standards. Keyboards have a more prominent role as well, so that makes for a nice change.

By this time is was clear to me that Manente is a very impressive player. Maybe the drums need a bit more work to sound less mechanical, but the rest of his playing is without doubt classy. He is not shy of using light and dark in his compositions, so as a whole the album delivers. Because of the sometimes almost serene parts, he avoids flooding you with a wall of sound.

Great debut, job well done!


Sunrise Auranaut, The Ocean Of Unspoken Words, 2017

sunrise auranaut - the ocean of unspoken wordsOh my! In my review of the previous album from Vitaly Kiselev’s Sunrise Auranaut I suggested he’d try a more focused approach to his music to attract even more listeners. And while I am not sure it is because of that remark, the thing that is sure is that this album surpasses it’s predecessor on every level.

Let’s start with the artwork, I think this is simply stunning! Next the songs of course. On offer are 9 songs and this time Kiselev (electric and acoustic guitars, bass and programming) got help in from Alexander Malakhov on synths. Total playing time is just over 50 minutes and the songs range from around 4 to over 8 minutes. And like before, this is an all instrumental album with it’s feet firmly rooted in Seventies progressive rock, spiced with the influence of classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
But the most important thing for me is the balance in this collection. All songs have room to breathe so the melodies really shine. Since it is a prime example of what is looked upon as the classic era of prog, it is never heavy or flashy. This is all about telling stories with the songs and have the melodies to keep you interested. And that is delivered in spades.

As is the case with all releases on the Rock Company label; limited edition digi, so better grab a copy fast! Excellent stuff.


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