Sky Empire, The Dark Tower, 2018

sky empire - the dark towerSometimes an album just blows you out of your socks. And simply put, this is one of those albums! Yes I may be a bit biased, but what this UK, London based band deliver on The Dark Tower is of the highest progressive metal order in my humble opinion.

But let’s start with the musicians: Tom Hobson on keyboards does not limit himself to adding colour, but manages to shine on his solo spots as well. And does not mind playing some beautiful piano either. Singer Yordan Ivanov delivers his vocals in a wide variety of styles and with a great reach too. Also the clever placed harmonies add nice touches to melodies. Which tower magnificently over the often complex rhythmic music. Remi Jalabert provided the drums, keeping all together like clockwork. Main songwriter and guitarist Drazic Lecutier… what can I say… he is up there with the best. Be it as a shredder or delivering stunning and heartfelt melodic solos or bone crushing riffs, he delivers in spades. Rounding out the band is Tony Snow on bass, providing that much appreciated low end.

Then the songs; 5 in total, starting with Marionette (over 6 and a half minutes) and closing with the title song, delivering all its beauty in an epic 26 minutes. Every song on the album lasts longer than its predecessor. But all of them create a punch, even in the quieter moments. All tick the necessary prog metal boxes: complexity, solos, breaks, orchestral parts and choruses that hook you.

Everyone who thinks of themselves as a serious prog metal fan ought to own this. It is that good!

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The Kentish Spires, The Last Harvest, 2018

kentish spires - the last harvestWhile this is the first release of The Kentish Spires, the musicians involved certainly are not new to the scene. Singer Lucie (also violin) has a past in folk and metal, Danny Chang (producer, guitars, keys and backing vocals) was a pro musician at 15 and Paul Hornsby (reeds and keys) is a session player. Rik Loveridge (keys and guitar) composes for the advertising industry and Phil Warren (bass) played for instance for Mike Stock.

The idea behind the album is a nod to the Canterbury scene, and even the recording equipment used for the album contributes to that. In all honesty it took me a while to get used to the sound. It is clear, but somehow sounds old and a bit dry. Since that is deliberate, I’d say mission accomplished.

The 7 songs on the album range from 3 to 13 minutes. And as you can deduct from the instruments mentioned above, the music could be described as early King Crimson and Jethro Tull mixed with jazzy interludes. Of course because of the reed instruments. The voice of Lucie is powerful and distinct. The band do know how to rock out a bit too.
The result is an album that keeps growing on you. There is a lot happening so you will have to invest time into getting to know the music.

Over time I have learned that this type of album turns out to be very rewarding, something you can revisit from time to time and still find new discoveries. Well done!

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Dr. Savage And The Shrunken Heads, Primitive, 2018

dr_savage - primitiveWell, this type of rock does not often hit my mailbox! Don’t know about you, but I had never heard of this band. And the press sheet talking about garage rock did not really get the juices flowing to be honest.

But while listening to this, I can relate to the name dropping in the info sheet; this does sound like fifties acts Bo Diddley and Howling Wolf messing with sixties bands like the Troggs, while adding a few pinches of punk. Might be the reason they cover The Last Time from The Rolling Stones, who share those roots.

So what can you expect? Simply put, this is music meant to party to. Pretty sure they burn every place down that let’s them have a go. Never complicated, just in your face, feel good rock.  And while this is not really a genre I feel at home with, I do think they pull it off well.

So if they show up in your neighbourhood, and you are in the mood, pay them a visit!

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Light Freedom Revival, Truthonomy, 2018

light freedom revival - truthonomyBuilt around the vocals and songs of John Vehadija, and accompanied by a wealth of ace musicians, here is the as yet unknown to me, Light Freedom Revival. And of course you want to hear names, so what about Oliver Wakeman on keyboards, Eric Gillette on guitars or Billy Sherwood on bass and drums? Rounding out the band are Jamie Glaser on acoustic guitars and Marisa Frantz on harmony vocals.

The result however, is not your typical run of the mill big name project. It seems Vehadija had a certain vision and this was carried out to the tee. The result is an album that sees all songs clock at least 5+ minutes, has an epic of 16 minutes, and still sounds not as you would expect.
The reason I feel, are that there are a lot of words in every song, so there is no escaping the (fairly high pitched) vocals. Vehadija is also almost always accompanied by Frantz. Also Gillette’s guitars are rarely heavy.
The outcome? An almost lightweight sounding album, with tons of melodies.

Is it a bad thing? Think that depends on taste. I would have loved if this had been packing more punch, but I cannot deny that it listens away pretty easy and is overall still a good listen. So melody before riffs and solos here. Listen to it yourself to make up your mind.

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Maks, 3FT No Diving, 2017

maks - 3ft no divingMaks are a Dutch rock band, initiated by singer and multi-instrumentalist Maks A. Assisting him are Peter Bernauw (guitars), Claudio Guliker (bass), Andy Kockelkoren (synths), and Jeroen van Tuijl and Tommy Stillwell (guitars).
Coming from a punk background as a drummer, Maks also played in cover- and later new wave bands. Eventually to end up in a blues rock band. So I guess it is little wonder all these influences somehow sip through in the music on this album. Although, when pressed to describe the music, I would go for pop rock with some wave accents (because of the synths).

While listening to this it is clear there is experience behind this. For instance, adding a little flute solo to The Gods In My Head, steers the song away from a fairly standard pop song. Clever. Most of the songs are carried by not too complex rhythms and chord progressions. Yet adding little things here and there gives them a bit of sizzle. The songs have hooks and melodies that will quickly sound familiar. Even when in Critical Mess there is a synth melody that made me think of Kraftwerk…

The result is an album that aims to be a pleasant listen and delivers just that. It never outstays its welcome, and will not shock the world for ground breaking new additions to the world of music. But it does not need to be.

Time will tell if this sparks the intended career as a professional musician.

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Hello Stranger, Long Division, 2018

Hello Stranger - Long DivisionHello Stranger are a fairly new band, who met in LA around 2015. Sam Deffenbaugh is the singer / guitarist, Daniel Rodriguez the drummer, Sam Plotkin also plays guitar and sings the harmonies and the band is rounded out by Doug Slohm on bass.

Listening to the album I cannot deny there is some massive appeal here. The songs are catchy (often damn catchy in fact), and Sam D has a voice that ought to make many a young girl take note. Well, I am not a young girl and and I still like the singing 🙂 . But there is more to this album: there are enough distorted guitars and variation at work throughout the album to keep me interested.
Still the band prove many times they are not a one trick pony. Where a song like Victorious has hit written all over it, The Flood is a riff monster waiting to explode. All The Things I’m Not sounds powerful, yet is carried by groove and a lighter sphere that works like a charm.

Most of the songs clock between 3 to 4 minutes, so will work in a radio format. I hope the band will get picked up, because they write quality songs that stick in your head and still manage to avoid the overly used clichés.

Nice one!

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Krakow, Minus, 2018

krakow - minusWell well, this is something different! Krakow exists for 13 years and have worked a year on the creation of this, their pinnacle achievement. For me it is my first time hearing them and the sound of the band still puzzles me. So I understand why the press sheet talks of heavy, subtle, melodic, groovy, sluggish and mostly about dense. Because it IS a wall of sound…

On first impressions I guess I am reminded somewhat of the goth from earlier Sisters Of Mercy albums, or something similar. I suck at names from Eighties bands… This because there are a lot of effects used throughout and the vocals are not on top of the music, but more a part of it. Okay, when those vocals get really harsh, I am glad they are a bit low. But since the band use lots of dynamics nothing really gets in the way.
The diversity in both vocal delivery as well as musical arrangements is big. And yet somehow they keep you on your toes, never knowing what to expect next.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not disqualifying them! It is merely an observation. And of course, being a sucker for bands that dare to be different, I admire what the band have produced here.

Not an album to play in the background, this is one to explore! Pretty sure you will dig it too if you really dig in.

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Mark Wingfield, Tales From the Dreaming City, 2018

mark wingfield - tales from the dreaming citySeems Mark Wingfield loves to keep himself busy. So here is his next release on Moonjune. Joining him are the familiar faces of Yaron Stavi (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums) and special guest Dominique Vantomme (keyboard solos on several tracks).

Alas the recently discussed Dwiki Dharmawan album (also from Moonjune, and same rhythm section) did not do much for me. Thankfully this one is a lot easier to get into. Here songs do have structures and hooks I recognize after a few plays, making my listening a much more pleasant experience.
Mark has a very fluid style, vaguely reminiscent of one Jeff Beck. But there is room for all involved to shine. Because we all know these are experienced musicians whose playing capabilities are beyond any doubt. So besides the intricate solo (and rhythm) parts of Wingfield, there are also some expert bass playing and drumming parts to enjoy.

What also helps is that most songs range between 5 to 8 minutes, staying away from endless improvisation. Still, at least for me, the most important part is that the tracks resonate with me after a couple of plays. The moods are often a bit melancholic, with Mark’s guitar really ‘singing’. Try for instance Sunlight Cafe.

Maybe not for everyone, even when they like instrumental guitar music. But sure worth checking if you have an open mind!

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New Rock Company Releases

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Phil Vincent, AOR God Paul Sabu, D’Ercole drummer B.F. D’Ercole, together form CRANSTON. Their new album “II” defies any easy pigeonhole. By turns, they perform melodic rock to accompany a throbbing backline as in “What’s it Gonna Take” and “Always on the Run”, singing about life, love, and everything surrounding it. Then suddenly dropping a pop song worthy of massive attention in the form of “Wish I Had More Time”. Then changing course to insight the metal fury of “Throwin’ Down”, “Dead & Gone” and “Tables Turning”. CRANSTON “II” checks all the boxes. They top it all off with a massive production on par with the most successful albums of our time– This, all skilfully blended into a seamless flow. Watch What’s It Gonna Take:

Legendary Dutch punkrock / psychedelic / classic rock band Cellar Dwellers are back, and they are stronger than ever! Since their establishment in 1990 things might have been turbulent at times, but now they are more determined than ever to amaze their audience with their energy and enthusiasm.

The current line up consists of:

  • Sven – guitar and vocals (founder of the band)
  • Andy – vocals
  • Sander – guitar
  • Ritchie – drums
  • Marcel – bass

Besides playing live on a regular base, they set out to record and release 4 EP’s. Parts 1 and 2 were released independently earlier. Rock Company is proud to help the band with the distribution of these EP’s and also arranged a digital release.
Part 3  was released early 2018 and after the current release of Part 4, these 2 will storm the digital platforms as well. And with part 4 the picture and the Chronicles are complete! 6 tracks this time.

Listen to Song About Nothing:

Sky Empire are a UK based progressive metal band with a distinctive sound, redefining the entire genre.

Let yourself be guided by the music as Sky Empire take their listeners on a journey, interweaving emotive storytelling through the fabric of powerful and evocative music.

Effortlessly and effectively blending the likes of Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Dream Theater and Symphony X, Sky Empire are preparing to take 2018 by storm in the launch their new album, The Dark Tower.

There are no new acts coming through in the progressive metal scene doing what Sky Empire do, marrying artfully and thoughtfully the band’s propensity for daring musicianship with grandiose compositions set within the soundscape of modern metal music.

Listen to samples of the album:

Dwiki Dharmawan, Rumah Batu, 2018

dwiki dharmawan - rumah batuThird time Indonesian musician Dwiki Dharmawan is present here. I quite like the first, had some doubts about the second, and have lots of troubles with this one…

Again it is not a case of production or musicianship. Moonjune always takes good care of either aspect. For me, no matter how often I listen to the album, I just cannot seem to find a connection with it. Some songs just seem to linger on, others lack any hook or theme. At least in my ears. A combination of Eastern influences with  Western music can be exciting or at least interesting. This goes by and does not stick.

So I guess the moment has come that I have to confess this is just too abstract for me. At least at this moment. Is it a matter of wrong place / wrong time? That is in the future.

For now this is not an album that I will revisit anytime soon. Sorry! Try it out for yourself to find out what you think of it.

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