Red Mourning, Under Punishment’s Tree, 2018

red mourning - under punishment's treeIt was tempting to repeat what I said when I wrote about their 2014 album Where Stone And Water Meet. But that would not do the band justice. Yes, this album is still a mix of hardcore screams, heavy riffs, beautiful vocal melodies that open up the whole sound, ferocious drumming and all in all a massive amount of energy.

If anything, their vibrant mix of blues, heavy metal, hardcore and groove, seems to have matured even more. Even someone like me, who typically does not like screaming vocals, can fall for the combination at work here. I can understand why a lot of what is going on is still not aimed at the faint of heart, but listeners who enjoy a band that dares to cross boundaries, will find lots to their liking here. For instance, take a listen to Calls Of Pan and you will know immediately what I am talking about. When the vocal melodies and harmonies kick in, this band produces a power that is impossible to resist. And then the screaming serves a purpose too, like dark serves light.

I can only applaud the band for delivering another unique set of songs, where blues harp and slide guitar sit beside hard hitting metal and still make sense.

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Vantomme, Vegir, 2017

vantomme-vegirAh, another Moonjune Records release. And featuring none other than the mighty Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Stick Men) on bass! Vantomme is the project led by Dominique Vantomme (keyboards, Ana Popovic, Vaya Con Dios, Viktor Lazlo)) who wrote all the songs/ jams that Tony contributed to, together with Michel Delville on guitar (The Wrong Object, Machine Mass) and Maxine Lenssens on drums.

Now this introduction should tell you a couple of things. First, yes it is instrumental and probably falls into the jazz / fusion category. Yes, this music takes time to digest as most of the themes incorporated in the songs will not show themselves in the first (few) rounds. Still, some songs do have a fairly quick impact, like opener Double Down or the haunting Sizzup. Other songs remind of the soundscapes King Crimson do. Something Levin is of course very familiar with.
Guys like this are ace players, capable of taking everything that is thrown at them into their own hands and turn it into something special. Yet in all honesty, the result is not always easy on the ears. So people expecting  straight forward songs should be beware that this might disappoint them. For the adventurous amongst us, this is a discovery that will last you a long time. And not only for funny song titles likes The Self Licking Ice-cream Cone!

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Marygold, One Light Year, 2017

marygold - one light yearOh, this must be the wet dream for those progressive rock lovers that keep stuck in the seventies. Italian band Marygold have delivered an album that sounds modern and up to date, but is filled to the brim with the musical concepts that formed that classic era of prog.
And is that a bad thing? Well, I suppose that depends on where you stand on the matter. Is it really progressive to play music akin so much to that fruitful period in time? But let’s not get trapped in that discussion and focus on what the band deliver.

And what the album brings, besides the unique vocal delivery of Guido Cavalleri (who also adds flute), is 7 songs with a total playing time of over 56 minutes. So yes, there are two 10 plus minute epics present. But most of all, the release has depth and attracts the listener with well written and executed songs. I hear a lot of influences from the neo-prog of early Marillion, so it is no surprise various members once started in a Marillion cover band.
But no all too obvious copying here, the band convince in every department. The songs flow, and are kept in balance with clever arrangements and solos and or breaks on the right spot. All enhanced by a transparent, yet powerful production.

So in itself a very pleasing album to listen to, and one that will be lapped up by the prog community.

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Maverick, Firebird, 2018

maverick - firebirdOriginally released by this Aussie band in 2017, this version concerns the Bad Reputation release from 02-2018.  The band is a quartet consisting of Craig Jovanovic on vocals and guitar, Nick Dudman on drums, Mark De Vattimo on guitars and vocals and Simon Hallett on bass and vocals. Their musical influences are said to be Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Humble Pie and Mountain.

But while listening to this, the name that popped up in my head the most was The Black Crowes, even when that is mostly due to the vocal delivery being somewhat similar to Chris Robinson. Anyway, if balls to the wall rock is what you are after, these guys have the right attitude and the chops to pull it off. Does that make them special? No not really, at least not in my book. This is vibrant and I have no doubts that they will rock every stage and take their crowds by storm. But most of the songs sound a bit as by the numbers. Solid, well done, but nothing really stands out.
That is, until the closing part of the album. I found I really fall for The Road and Tonight We Die, the last 2 of the 8 on offer. These do hit home for me. So I hit repeat and just listen again. And slowly but surely the album becomes more of a friend. Track 3 Obsession is also rather good. As is that riff in Black Voodoo.

So, as is so often the case, it is a grower. Play it often and see what it does for you!

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Ghostly Beard, Inward, 2018

ghostly beard - inwardWell, not sure if I can add anything to what has already been said about Ghostly Beard. But of course I am still trying just that 🙂
Because there is a lot to like about the music of Patrick Talbot, the bearded one himself. After the Infinite EP, with it’s magnificent prog leanings, came first full length Invisible, which proved a treat with it’s sophisticated, sometimes fusion like approach. And in what seems only a few months after, we are now treated with the third release, titled Inward. Seems the guy loves words that start with I.

And to be clear, I love the music of this man. Not because he is the best singer in the world. He isn’t but can deliver his tunes with an inspiring honesty and clever use of backing vocals. Also not because he is an awesome instrumentalist who seems to handle every instrument with an ease that could make people jealous. He does not play to impress, he shines because he serves the song in the best possible way.
No, it is because of the feel good nature of his songs!

Yes, on this album some tracks are melancholic, but they do not make me sad at all. Ever since getting the album I have been listening I don’t know how many times, and the album always picks me up. From the slow burning How Does It Feel, (great chorus and heartfelt guitar solo) to the full on happy Going Away, every song enchants me.

In his words this album defines his style as an artist. To me the only thing that is important is that I hope he releases many more songs. Treat yourself and pick this up!

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Eden Seed, Age Of Creation, 2018

eden seed - age of creationWhen bass player Matheus Manente sent me the new album of this band, I of course wanted to listen. I quite liked his solo album from some time ago. Well, this is something different in a couple of ways….

First the fact that their guitarist is female. Not so special maybe, except that she appears to be the first Muslim metal guitarist that appears only in the traditional clothing, the niqab, leaving only her eyes visible.  Not that it matters to me actually, this blog is about music first and foremost!
Also in the trash metal genre sometimes the singing mostly consists of angry growling. And alas in most of the songs here that is also the case. And even when it takes some getting used to, I cannot say it is done bad. It just a matter of taste.

So now on to the music. Opening track Return shows the type of riffing you’d expect from a trash band. Some nice guitar work in it, so guitarist Gisele Rocha knows what she is doing. The production from Manente is crisp so the overall sound isn’t drowning out anything.  As I said, the singing in the first couple of tracks is not really my thing, but I cannot deny the band are able to create an impact. What is also a good thing is they added electronica to parts of the music. Creates a different feel and it actually contributes rather than distracts.

Combine that to the pretty varied songs (and actual singing in songs like Disturbing The Silence, Peace Be With You or Rocking All Night Long (reminds me a bit of Ozzy music wise, with Lemmy  on vocals) and it becomes clear that the band have potential.  If any of the references interests you, go check them and be your own judge.

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Marenna, Livin’ No Regrets, 2018

marenna - livin no regretsAfter releasing an EP in 2015 and a full length in 2017, Brazilian band Marenna, built around singer Rod Marenna, decided it was about time the world got to know their stage presence.

The way I look at it, if you decide to do a live album, do it right. So raw and in your face, and no studio overdubs. And I am happy to say Marenna did just that. Recorded in their home town of Caxias do Sul in 2016, if anything, this is a fitting testament of a band on fire.
After a short intro, we are treated with a fierce rendition of You Need To Believe. And talking of fierce, the energy the band put into their performance is noticeable throughout the album. And yes, here and there small things appear that prove this is natural and as is. But what the album proves most of all is that the output of the band is a delicacy for anyone into melodic rock and AOR. I know Brazil is most known for bands on the heavier side of the rock spectrum, but melodic rock is also very much alive in that part of the world.

So if this is the genre for you, than treat yourself to the likes of Never Surrender, Reason To Live or whatever song on the album, you will not regret it!

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The Stranger, Self Titled, 2018

The Stranger - The StrangerAlas I have not received any info on who the Stranger is. All I know is that he or she (probably he) is from Burbank California and wrote all the melodies and handled the drums and synths on this release. Tim Lawrence added guitars and bass and mixed and mastered the album. Or maybe it is an extended EP, with 8 tracks clocking in at  35 minutes.

Anyway, what we have here is a modern metal album. The modern aspect being that part of the singing is of the aggressive type. A bit metalcore or screamo I think (sorry, you should know by now that genre tagging isn’t my forte). But don’t let that prevent you from listening in, overall this is a melodic metal album with some progressive accents and 2 piano pieces too!
Opening is the track Enough, high energy drumming with keyboards adding light to the dark riffs on guitar. Good introduction! While You Can continues in the same vein. Scarlet Moon is one of the longer tracks (almost 5 minutes) with again a by now familiar synth sound. Track 5 is called The Difference and is just piano and voice. Actually nice to have a break here, after 4 full on songs. The piano sound is rich and full but with the right dynamics to support the emotional vocal delivery. From the last 3 songs the first 2 are again heavy yet melodic and closer Ghost is another piano and voice song.

Overall a nice effort to welcome The Stranger into the world of music. For me a little more variation in synth sounds would be good, and I think the lead voice is good enough to have a little more presence in the mix.

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Emil & The Ecstatics, Rise Again, 2018

emil & the ecstatics - rise againDon’t know about you, but I am not really into blues. I can enjoy it when it gets infused with a healthy dose of rock, but often I find the musical vocabulary pretty limited.

And now Emil & The Ecstatics have landed their new album Rise Again on my desk. It is their fourth, but obviously the first I have been listening to. Going through it a couple of times I noticed a bit of similarity in the singing to Robert Cray. Not bad for a white guy me thinks. Also the guitar sound is not unlike that of Cray. At least to my limited knowledge! Then again, using a strat must be pretty common ha ha.
Another thing worth writing about is the regular use of the hammond organ. Being a big fan of the sound of that, it actually makes it more easy for me to get into the album. This edition has the 8 regular tracks plus 3 bonus ones, with 2 of those being live tracks.

Ultimately, even when this genre isn’t something I will listen to often, I think this is done well. The playing is of course there, the songs have enough variation to hold my attention throughout, even when not all ideas sound very original to my ears.

Overall pretty awesome for some Swedish dudes to pull this thing off and sound like the real deal.

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Dawson Rutledge, Monsters, 2017

dawson rutledge - MonstersOne of the best things about doing this is that you get to hear a wide variety of music. And since variety is the spice of life, this album is been making quite a few rounds in my CD player lately.
The 19 year young Dawson Routledge is a fairly new name on the scene, delivering his first official album here, the 9 track album Monsters.

Probably best described as a mix of soft rock, pop, jazz and folk, Monsters has turned out to be quite the laid back affair. But of the kind that grabs you with an unique voice, clever lyrics and a delivery that is beyond Rutledge’s years.
Sometimes a song starts with a hook that makes you wonder if you have heard it before, but in the end this is all original. The overall sound is warm and does justice to the songs that are carried by their pop sensibilities and folky arrangements. It is clear that he is serious about his craft, especially since his picking skills are on par with his vocals. And the subtle rhythmic changes are often the icing on the cake.

Personal favourites are When Life Gives You Monsters and Heavy Heart, but there are enough choices to please many.

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