Bjorn Riis, A Storm Is Coming, 2019

bjorn riis - a storm is comingThe third solo album from Airbag co-founder, songwriter and guitarist Bjorn Riis. Riis plays a number of instruments on the album, and gets help from guests on drums, keys, guitar and vocals.
On the album you will find 6 tracks from 3 to 14 minutes, with a total playing time of 51 minutes.

If you already are familiar with his music, I think you already know what to expect. Unknowing fans of bands like Pink Floyd (Gilmour era), Porcupine Tree and latter day Marillion, might like what is going on musically here.

To be honest, even after numerous plays, I still have a bit of trouble to really get into the album. I am guessing this is because of the overall mellow mood and slow tempo of the album. Sure there are some outbursts, but on a whole the energy level is rather low.
For some that may translate into epic, beautiful and enticing, while others might say it is too much of a good thing. All depending on what you are looking for. For me, the album passes along and I hardly ever tap my feet or hum along. Sure, his guitar playing is spot on as always, but I am just not enjoying it as much as I hoped.

Since this is maybe due to my current state of mind, try for yourself, you might feel it differently.

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Lucy In Blue, In Flight, 2019

lucy in blue - in flightThe first thing that popped in my mind while listening to this was King Crimson. Tracks like I Talk To The Wind or Epitaph from their classic debut In The Court Of The Crimson King. Further down the listening path also one Pink Floyd came to mind.
And I guess that tells fans all they need to know. Yes, this is progressive music, heavily influenced by late Sixties, early Seventies progressive rock, with a dash of psychedelica.

But don’t get me wrong, these Icelandic dudes are not copying songs or structures or anything. The way I see it, they have created their own songs, but just wear their influences on their sleeves.
And the result is an album that feels like a warm bath for those who love the references I already mentioned. Their ability to create songs that flow like the tides is a feast. Sometimes they erupt into a more menacing modern machine, but the intense mood of their melodies and song build, is never far away. And with songs ranging from two and a half, to almost 10 minutes, prog purists will be happy as well 😉 Especially when they discover the use of vocal harmonies, soundscapes not unlike the mellotron and soaring solos…

Yes, quite enjoyable, and not only if your head is still stuck in times long gone!

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Battersea, Arguments & Sentiments, 2019

Battersea - Arguments & SentimentsWhere the Rock Company label normally releases melodic (hard) rock or progressive music, occasionally something a bit different comes to the surface. So here we have Dutch band Battersea!

The 5 piece recorded their full length debut (after an EP and a demo in earlier years) in the studio of bassist Erwin Hermsen (see also Souls Of Deaf), making this sound like a big budget high profile record company release. And when it comes to the music, the guys came up with 11 tracks that will make fans of bands like Muse, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon or U2 very happy. Should they take note!

Opener To Ithaca is accompanied by a great (and funny) video, but lots of songs are hit material if you ask me. Hard to choose favourites, but The Just, A Sound or The Sight are surely amongst them. And them adding Trapped (Bruce Springsteen version) as a bonus track does not hurt either.
And it is in the little details that you hear the quality at work. Not only from a sonic perspective, but also in breaks, hidden time signature changes and so on. This is high calibre melodic power pop / pop rock with a slight alternative touch and catchy as the flu in kindergarten.

Are you sold yet?

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Monograf, Nadir, 2019

monograf - nadirIf I am not mistaken, this is the second time a band sends in the vinyl edition of their release. And truth be told, it looks beautiful. And of course, a double lp, with a separate lyric sheet, brings back lots of memories… Another thing of note is that the vinyl edition actually holds a 6th track, where the CD and digital version only has 5 tracks to offer. Pretty sure vinyl adepts will dig that!

Okay on to the music then. I have listened to this a lot the last weeks and think I describe it best when I ask you to picture the highlands, in the morning, with a mist clouding the view and hearing the sea in the distance.
With that I mean this is a somewhat intense experience. Not because of heavy guitars or anything, but because this is all about atmosphere and feel. Even when the music sometimes erupts, overall this is a moody, melancholic and mostly laid back piece of art. The 5 piece band take the time to develop melodies and arrangements, in order to create that bit of magic.

I guess the William Booth quote that features on the inside and the lyric sheet says it all: “…. Perhaps we shall fail with many. Quite likely. But our business is to help them all the same.” To me that translates as even if we are bound to fail, try we must.

Believe me when I say this album does not fail at all. Beautiful.

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*Edit; there is no official CD version of this. But you can burn your own if you buy this from their bandcamp page.

 

Joost Maglev, Alter Ego, 2019

joost maglev - alter egoAfter 2016’s Overwrite The Sin, Joost Maglev is back with Alter Ego. This time not only influenced by Robby Valentine or Valensia, but the latter is joining him on the title track too. Making it sound even more like himself…

And while the overall length of the songs on this second release is notably shorter than on his debut, I also think that the album is more varied. Opener Lucid is fairly short, with female vocals creating a lovely mood. After which Angel takes over with high energy and melody, again in the style that has been made famous by Queen / Valentine and or Valensia. But this time Maglev did try to expand on that. Corpus Christie is an example. Very rhythmic and varied, but still highly infectious. As well as a bit more heavy. Ever After holds a phenomenal guitar solo that hits me in the heart every time I hear it. But is also beautiful without that. Judith sounds closer to Ayreon, were it not for the massive vocal harmonies tying it to the sound we come to love and expect.
The biggest surprise might be the track Burning Girl, as it is by far the heaviest outing on offer. But it is also one of my favourites! The driving riffs and synths couples with the dynamics and another great chorus are just killer.

So there you have it, another great release and one where every song counts. Massive!

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Spitfish, Penny Dreadful, 2019

spitfish - penny dreadfulFrom Polish coastal city of ships, Gdansk, comes Spitfish. Despite being a “new” band, it’s members describe themselves as experienced. They are a trio, with David Zwolan on vocals, bass and synths, Pawel Kwagz on guitar and Jedrzej Antkewicz on drums. Yeah, I had not heard of them before either.
The CD holds 7 tracks and almost 28 minutes of music, making it more of an extended EP or mini album. But it’s the music that counts, so let’s take a look.

Opener Into The Void is a quite misleading half minute intro, built on sequencing and a mellotron type sound. But when it bursts into second track Grim Suspiria, we hear what the band is really about. Powerful guitar riffs, pounding drums and an energy that harkens back to punk. And it must be said, the album does sound mature. It is well played and recorded, and the songs are delivered with swagger and bravado.
Another good thing about them is that the music is well put together. They got hooks and melody. By using dynamics in their arrangements, the band also avoid sounding like a one trick pony. A good example is Swallow The Dust, with it’s soft intro and a verse that builds up the tension before they set loose in the chorus.

Yup, good one!

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Tony Mills Festival Fundraising and Bands info

Tony Mills Festival fundraiserAs many of you already know, Tony Mills was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April 2019, so a huge fundraising effort is underway to collect as much money as possible for cancer research in Italy.

Black Swan Productions is very honoured to present the Tony Mills Festival Crowdfunding effort. There are many ways you can donate. All money will go to Tony Mills for his therapies or to the Fondazione Piemontese per la Ricerca sul Cancro, according to the information on the website. Please support Tony Mills and cancer research by donating and be generous! We need you.

The Tony Mills Festival is a celebration of Tony Mills life and music, organized by Black Swan Productions, that will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at the Luppolo Saloon in Roletto (TO), Italy, from 3:15 to 11:30PM, in the context of a larger 3-day biker fest.

tony mills festivalThere will be six bands, selected by a team of Italian record labels, playing a selection of their original material and Tony Mills songs from his different projects. The festival will close with a rare headlining performance by Docker’s Guild, who will present a special show made exclusively of material featuring the voice of Tony Mills (Docker’s Guild, Shy, TNT and solo works).

 

Oxley Meier, The Alluring Ascent, 2019

Oxley-Meier-the-Alluring-AscentAs if running an award winning venue, touring with Jeff Beck or releasing numerous albums isn’t enough, you can always get together to do another combined album. So that is what Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier did on their fourth album together.

Since they tour as a quartet, or perform as a duo, all songs on the album can be played in both formats. As usual, they also use a plethora of stringed instruments of which the 11 string fretless guitar, or a 7 string nylon are amongst the less obvious choices.

But it is the music that counts and this album is just wonderful for many occasions. Yes it is jazzy, but this oozes the mood of a weekend barbecue with some good friends, drinking wine and enjoying each other’s company. Musically it is of the highest order, with intricate playing. But the guys made sure it would work for both the occasional listener, as well as the fan that studies every lick and trick. It is tasty, it is sophisticated as it is warm and authentic.
East Coast Jams is such a fine example. On the surface it passes along nicely, but there are so many details incorporated that showcase how talented all the musicians involved are.

A very enjoyable album, and one I would play to people who say they don’t like jazz / fusion.

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Phil Vincent, Hypocrite, 2019

phil vincent - hypocriteIt is no secret that I am a fan of Phil Vincent’s work. In any capacity, and in every band he is in. So if you do not share that sentiment, little use in reading on ha ha.
I know the man works hard and on average releases more than 1 album in about every year. To me, the quality never drops. If anything, I admire that Phil keeps trying to push his boundaries, whilst still staying true to his favourite style, the hard rock made popular by bands like Dokken, Winger and Whitesnake. I also think his production skills keep improving, adding more clarity and punch to his releases.

So solo album 21 sees Phil delivering 12 more songs. As on his solo albums he takes care of about everything, with only some help on guitar solos and acoustic guitar. Since his style is known, let’s have a look at some of the more different tracks. Back In The Day is a  great 7 minute track with lots of piano as well as his trademark vocal harmonies and a catchy chorus. What Might Have Been sees him add drum beats, giving the track a modern flavour. Waste Of Time opens with a clean somewhat psychedelic sounding guitar and a vocal. After the opening solo, the song comes alive and arrives at more familiar territory. Another track with a beat is Caught In The Act. There is a bit of sequencing in the bridge, giving it a somewhat progressive (Saga?) feel. But the chorus is again vintage PV.
I am sure the most surprising song on offer is the closing title track. This is a monster with a synthetic, almost industrial groove and a bit of harsh vocals (“lies” “despise”) in the chorus.

Like I said, in my book the man can do no wrong, great album!

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Vasil Hadzimanov Band, Lines In Sand, 2019

vasil hadzimanov band - lines in sandBeen a couple of years since previous album Alive was discussed here. And looking back, and now hearing this, I have been wondering; is this album more accessible, or have I grown in understanding this type of music? As you will know by now, a lot of releases coming from Moonjune are not for the faint hearted. Often based on jams and improvisations they always impress with musical and technical skills, but rarely hit home on first play. I consider most of them growers…

So how about this one then? Well it seems that this time, the mix of fusion, funk, psychedelia, rock and so on, has generated a couple of tracks I like from the first time I heard them! Mr. Moonjune has some recurring themes (always helpful to connect with), and a great funky groove going. The way the piano arpeggio in San Snova is rhythmically accompanied by the band is very imaginative. Lost, with vocals from Marta Hadzimanov, is a beautiful jazzy song, with impressive restrained playing. And Maklik is just brilliant.
Of course, variation is key here, and they do sometimes indulge in extensive soloing on whatever instrument they seem fit. But for me this is an album that I would play again in the future.

Yes, I like it, especially the funky side of it!

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