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CD Reviews

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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.

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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

Brother Ape, Karma, 2017

brother ape - karmaFor me personally, this is a giant treat, a new Brother Ape album. Finally! The last couple of years the only releases becoming available were EP’s in digital format, alas. As you might know, I prefer CD’s, so I am very happy to present their new album here. I also was so lucky to be able to buy one of the Deluxe Editions. Those 3 EP’s I mentioned are all present on the bonus disc, including 2 extra songs, making that bonus disc a 14 track miracle of listening pleasure.

The regular album on this release holds 8 songs with a playing time of just over 40 minutes. Now I don’t mind because of my extra disc (even when 6 of those 8 originate from those EP’s), but for modern standards that is… well modest. But hey, you do get totally awesome songs as opener Oblivion, the instant Sixteen and the hauntingly exciting Hina Surawa. As well as 5 other killer songs of course, no fillers here.
Because in my humble opinion, every Brother Ape album is a testament of beautiful crafted songs with emotional depth, coupled with instrumental prowess, hooks and melodies. It is sometimes hard to believe how the trio of Damicolas, Maxen and Bergman keep coming up with brilliant idea after wonderful arrangement.

Every lover of melodic rock music infused with prog elements will absolutely love their music. No doubt in my mind.

Website

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 😉

Website

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!

Website

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!

Website

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!

Website

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!

Website

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