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 Horne´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. It´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 it´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 haven´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 début. 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 don´t already own it.

Personal play tips: Nothing´s Changed, Adrienne, Stigmatized.

Website

Jolly, Forty Six Minutes Twelve Seconds Of Music, 2009

jolly - 46 minutes 12 seconds of musicFrom the looks of it, this band must have some serious fun. The incredible Jolly presents Forty Six Minutes Twelve Seconds Of Music… Always a good thing when people don´t take themselves all too seriously.

But then again, it gets a joke when you don´t deliver the goods. Fortunately that is not the case here. Jolly seem to know exactly what they are doing. And yes, they do it in 46:12.

The music is labelled as progressive metal, but I think that is only part of describing their sound. There is a lot of atmosphere here, with the use of very open sounding pieces with little guitar. Almost ambient. But for the lovers of the heavier stuff, no worries, that is present also.
I like the way they arrange and vary their sound. Sets them apart from the majority I feel. Also the vocals are more alternative rock oriented than metal. Perhaps in a way Muse-like. And that is meant as a compliment. Another reference might be the material of OSI, Tool and or Porcupine Tree. Mind you, still with a face of their own.

So yes, it rocks, hard sometimes, but also creates beautiful sceneries. Definitely a band for the adventurous listener. Comes recommended!
Only comment again is the booklet. A pity much of it is hard to read.

Personal play tips: Renfaire, Peril, Downstream.

Website

Daedalus, The Never Ending Illusion, 2009

daedalus - the never ending illusionDespite the Marillion reference through the artwork of Mark Wilkinson, this band sounds nothing like neo-prog. No, this is your typical progressive metal, with all it´s clever use of time signatures, guitar riffs, unison leads, overtones, solo´s and shredding, orchestrations, etcetera. Or is it?

To write this off as another Dream Theater clone does not do the band justice. I think they pride themselves in coming up with adventurous arrangements, adding out of the box influences, and even performing a song in their native tongue, Italian.

Like often is the case with Italian bands, the lead vocals take some time to get used to. They tend to overdo the drama (probably born and raised that way). But Davide Merletto does his job convincingly nonetheless.
I like the way they play with their influences. They do not shy away from clean rhythm guitars, acoustic parts or fusion like pieces. And the album still flows. Which is a major achievement in my book.

So a save buy for lovers of progressive metal, or for the adventurers who like to try something a little off centre.

Personal play tips: Perfect Smile, Cold Embrace, Horizons In A Box.

Website

Ajalon, On The Threshold Of Eternity, 2005

ajalon - on the threshold of eternityI reviewed a more recent album of Ajalon earlier here, and now this one turned up for playing.

Interesting here is the use of flutes in some tracks. Gives it a folk vibe at times. But other than that, I feel I can repeat myself saying that Ajalon is worth checking out if you are into classic prog or progressive rock.

Is some aspects this album made me think of bands like White Heart or John Elefante. These are also Christian acts who serve very convincing material without preaching their beliefs to the listener all the time. Ajalon are definitely more progressive though. Not unlike (in a positive way) Neal Morse, for which member Randy George is also active.

This material only grows after repeated plays. It is so diverse, yet able to attract with the clever use of melody and arrangements. Great performances throughout. Songs ranging from 4 to 16 minutes. It is all I can wish for in a progressive band. Top notch, so don´t hold back and buy their albums.  Simple!

Personal play tips: play and repeat…

Website

Mr Gil, Skellig, 2010

mr gil - skelligOn the base of a sound sample at the ProgRock Records webstore I bought this album. Not knowing is was sung in Polish, as the impressive sample was purely instrumental.

After playing it a few times I must admit I am a little disappointed by the album. And it is not that it is no good, I just think it is a little pale. The sound puts a lot of emphasis on the melodic phrasings of the lead guitar. Trouble is it has a constant sound throughout the album. Also the other instruments are placed a little soft in the mix. And as there are no keyboards, what you hear is that guitar courtesy of Mirek Gil, the voice of singer Karol Wroblewski, and some bass and drums. In the distance there are some backing guitar parts. The only track where the rhythm guitar plays a role of some importance is, you guessed it, the track that got me to buy the album. And it is an instrumental track, and a beautiful one at that.

So what about the songs? I think this is labelled as neo prog. It is melodic and surely has it´s moments. But I think a more balanced sound would let the material shine more. If you are into this kind of music, give it a chance anyway. The language doesn´t help to understand the topics at hand, but does not distract either. The delivery is still convincing.

Personal play tips: Skellig, Otwieram Drzwi, Czas I Ja.

Website