Mob Rules, Radical Peace, 2009

Mob Rules - Radical PeaceThis German band gets labelled as Power Metal. That combination often leads to the conception of happy metal with galloping beats with double kick, simplistic lyrics, etc.. Hey not judging here!

But this album (actually the first I bought, but it appears to be their sixth full length album if I counted right) would not be done justice by referring to it that way. No, this has a lot more to offer. I even think the label is not correct. It is metal al right,Ā  but the depth of the songs and lyrical content borders heavily into more progressive territory. The fact they they have 6 songs on it which tie together as one epic of over 18 minutes, only adds to that.

But they kept the sense of melody Power Metal is loved for and shy away from long instrumental passages in which they only exhibit their technical skills. Which does not mean they are not capable musicians. Those passages are used here to create the atmosphere they need in order to strengthen the lyrical content.
So this leaves us with an album of powerful songs, full of melody, atmosphere and feel. It rocks and it moves. It kicks ass, or sometimes just sets a mood. All in all a very pleasant surprise and a reason to check out their other material as well. Hope there is more Hammond on those too šŸ˜‰

Personal play tips: The Oswald File (track 5-10).

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To-Mera, Delusions, 2008

TO-MERA - DELUSIONSThis proved to be a difficult beast to review. While I like to think To-Mera are a bunch of gifted musicians, I struggle with the material on this CD.

For example, in the first song they jump from Gothic, to Progressive Metal to Jazz lounge (and back) within seconds. And yes, I am no stranger to musical adventure, but this approach asks a lot of the innocent listener. This stays the same throughout the disk. There are constant changes in style, in mood, in tempo, and so on. A lot of breaks and soloing as well.

It is obvious this band can play. But I for one wished they would decide on simplifying. This is just too much for my little brain. You have to be a very expierenced listener to enjoy the album as a whole. After a few spins only some fragments sounded recognizable and thus identifiable. So despite the sometimes wonderful 7 string guitar chops, the angelic voice (and appearance) of Julie Kiss (whatĀ“s in a name?), and the technical prowess, I think this is music for the experimental and the daring. For others this might be tiring.

Personal play tips: The Lie, The Glory Of A New Day, Inside The Hourglass.

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Vanishing Point, Embrace The Silence, 2005

vanishing point - embrace the silenceNot so long ago I listened to what turned out to be the 1999 debut album by Australian prog metal band Vanishing Point (called In Thought by the way). To me that was nothing special. Typical shredding fodder with little extra.

Now this, their 3rd album popped up in my play list. At first my thoughts were about the same. For the lovers of the furious riffing and fretboard shredding, yep they still do that. But I am happy to say the guys expanded their game and actually created songs with melody and slower pace. That extra space really works well for them, ahem, me.

With this the listening pleasure is surely raised more than a few bars. It might still be too early to propel them to the premier division, but now they are getting close. They have a lot to speak for, blistering guitars, time changes, hard hitting drums, piano and other keyboards, and a singer with a pleasant voice. But now they have the songs with melodies and emotions as well. Thumbs up guys!
Oh, and nice to see a band that says it all in songs lasting between 4 and around 7 minutes. No epics here.

Personal play tips: My Virtue, Embraced, Breathe.

Website

Guilt Machine, On This Perfect Day, 2009

guilt machine - on this perfect dayThis is another brainchild of Arjen (Ayreon) Lucassen. Perhaps because of the line-up (consisting “only” of Lori Linstruth – lead guitars, Chris Maitland – drums, Jasper Stevelinck – vocals, and Arjen on all other instruments) he felt the need to create Guilt Machine.
Another reason might be the topic. All lyrics were written by Lori and the booklet explains the coming about of the themes. The word depression is mentioned several times, so that might give it away a little.

The find of Jasper is a great catch. He has the capability to sing soft, clean, hard, has a great reach, and does it all convincingly. The perfect vocalist for the job.
Music wise, I feel this is instantly recognizable for all who know Ayreon. Maybe a little lighter at times because of the vocals and arrangements, but all Ayreon trademarks (music with a lot of changes, both in style and dynamics) accompanied by great guitar riffs, vintage and modern keyboards, melodic vocals and versatile drumming, are present. So the connoisseurs already know that this album is a grower. But will also never disappoint. The manĀ“s work has got too much class for that.
A fun trick is the use of several phone messages from fans throughout the album. Talking of audience participation…

Personally I feel no need for other names than Ayreon, but on the other hand, when a CD is good, who cares what the name tag is?

Personal play tips: hey, there are 6 songs on the album…

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Chinawhite featured in Fireworks

fireworks 40I am proud to announce that my band Chinawhite is featured in edition 40 of the famous British magazine Fireworks.

Not only did Nicky Baldrian publish an interview with yours truly, our song How Many Miles from our latest CD Challenges is also present on the free CD that comes with the magazine. You can hear a sample of that track on our audio page.

Check it out!

Audrey Horne, Same, 2010

audrey horne - stThis is the third album by hard rocking outfit Audrey Horne. Earlier I reviewed their debut here. Must dig out their second as well, as that is also a clear winner…
They claim this is their best to date and I tend to agree. Though their second is a hard one to beat.

Because of a more diverse sound (besides organ, now also mellotron peeps through), even more melody and more change of tempo between songs, I think this always important third release is the winner by some points.

If you heard the band before, you already know what to do. For those who are unfamiliar with Audrey HorneĀ“s music, let me try to paint you a picture: this is hard rock with guts, but highly melodic as well. In fact most songs have a haunting quality that is very hard to resist. ItĀ“s got groove in abundance.
The lead vocals are cleverly accompanied by backing vocals thus adding to the melodic impressions. The vocals are a strong force, though not necessarily sounding typical hard rock, but more alternative instead. As this sets them a little apart, I think it is a bonus!
Another welcome feature is the use of Hammond to colour the sound. People who read my reviews regularly know that is a point scorer.
And last but not least, their songs are vary varied, they do not shy away from a little trickery here or there, so are able to keep things fresh.
So if hard rock does it for you, buy this! Yeah, that simple.

Personal play tips: too hard to choose.

Website

Robert Berry, The Dividing Line, 2008

Robert Berry  - The Dividing LineRobert Berry is one of those people I feel is not known enough. In my humble opinion he deserves a much bigger audience. Be it melodic rock or more symphonic work, he pulls it all off in style and with class. Just listen to his album with The December People (he still officially does not claim this by the way) where he plays various Christmas songs in the style of bands like Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Kansas, etc.) My favourite X-mas album of all time!

This is by my knowledge his latest release so far en borders mostly into melodic rock territory. If you know his work you already know what to expect. For the non believers, Robert Berry is a very capable multi instrumentalist who writes songs with memorable choruses, great hooks and enough variation to keep playing and enjoying them. Because of his studio work (I believe he owns and works from Soundtek Studios in Campbell California) he also knows how to make everything sound good.

So I hope this will stimulate more people to check him out. Solo, or with bands like Three, Hush or Alliance. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Personal play tips: The Dividing Line, This Life, Young Hearts.

Website

Hybrid Ice, Mind’s Eye, 2009

hybrid ice - minds eyeThe first album of this band I heard a few years back. Little late since it was originally released in 1982 , but it was a reissue (with an awesome extra track).
Not so long ago I read somewhere they posted a video for a track of the current release on YouTube. And what an exceptional track it was, I was hooked…

Described as one of the most famous unsigned bands ever (to me they are one of the best) this release is filled with great to exceptional songs. The quality is in fact unbelievable. Why they have to do it all by themselves is beyond me. Or maybe it is because they want to.

This is melodic rock with a lot of depth. Both musically as well as lyrically. Some songs and arrangements border on progressive rock. But it all has meaning. And what melodies! This is highly addictive stuff with everything in the right place. As they say in the album closer “Faith Without Works is dead” (see the video also). I am so glad they still have the faith to produce another album and I for one hope their work is not ended yet.
So far they have 3 albums under their belt, so I have to find their second album as well. Fingers crossed there are more coming up. Fantastic stuff, GET IT!

Personal play tips: just push play and repeat.

Website

Leap Day, Awaking The Muse, 2009

leap day - awaking the museA little confession is at order here… I often hesitate to buy albums from neo prog bands because of my fear of how the lead vocals will sound. I love vocalists with a strong and varied sound (for instance Dio, Jorn Lande, Russel Allen) and alas, in this style you hardly find them.

So the first question to answer is, how does this band fare in that aspect? Well, singer Jos Harteveld may certainly not fall into my favourite category, and at times may even miss a few notes trying, I do think he is capable of a listen-able experience. This is partly due to the clever arrangements from the band. There is a lot going on, but how strange is that with 2 keyboard players in the band. That said, that may also be a turn down for some people. All 6 musicians seem to feel a need to be present at all times. So the sound does get a little crowded and takes time to digest. Little open space here!

Nevertheless, in itĀ“s genre I feel this band is a welcome addition. The craftsmanship is high, the band write recognisable tunes with a lot of melody, especially in the (guitar) soloing and instrumental phrasing. And with all 7 songs lasting between six and a half and nine and a half minutes, that instrumental showcasing gets a lot of room. And oh yes, Hammond organs present! To counterpart all that, the band have come up with some funny lyrics. Little Green Men anyone?

Personal play tips: Secret Gardener, Shop Window Dummies, Eyes Wide Open.

Website

The Calling, Camino Palmero, 2001

The Calling - Camino PalmeroThis disk I have been playing a lot lately. And it made me wonder if the band would still exist since I havenĀ“t heard of them since their second album from 2004. So I checked the web and found out they are on hiatus since 2005… Mmmhmmm, I guess their momentum has gone by now.

But regarding this CD, it is everything a melodic rock fan can hope for: catchy songs, capable musicians, great lead singer, memorable melodies. All bundled in a damn fine dƩbut. I feel this is a very uplifting and thus addictive piece of work. And with enough variation to keep you interested.

So final verdict; a shame they are on to different things, but if you are into melodic rock, get it if you donĀ“t already own it.

Personal play tips: NothingĀ“s Changed, Adrienne, Stigmatized.

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