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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Bad Butler, Not Bad At All, 2017

bad butler - not bad at allAfter a couple of more progressive albums to listen to, now back to a more straight in your face release. Bad Butler are from Germany and describe their music as “Impressive melodies, gripping guitar riffs and an accentuated heavy sound that gets straight under your skin. The troupe works with driving, atmospheric songs that create a mystically dynamic soundscape”.

Mhm, atmospheric songs that create a mystically dynamic soundscape? Afraid that means something different to me. For me this is a “take no prisoners” album. Heavy metal as it is supposed to be. Not overly German by the way, with which I mean there is no constant galloping on the double kick. The band sure mean business though. Lots of energy and melodies that stick. Actually, one of the good things about the album is that the band keep trying to avoid using all too obvious genre clichés. And indeed, they are not afraid to make use of dynamics. Listen to Gunman for instance; clean guitars, break downs, a talking voice… All this resulting in a song that makes you want to listen.  Or take Straight From Hell, with an addictive rhythm. Another highlight for me is Nameless Thing. The vocal and guitar melodies in this track are just stupefyingly brilliant. And still the thing rocks your socks off.

Even when not all 10 tracks are of the same calibre, this is a solid release that will make many genre addicts very happy. And considering it is an independent release, one of high quality.

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DBA, Skyscraper Souls, 2017

dba-skyscraper-soulsIn full this is the Downes Braide Association. With Geoff Downes being the prog rock legend from the Buggles, Asia and Yes. And Chris Braide being a master in pop hits with the likes of Beyonce, Lana del Rey and Britney Spears to name a few. It is their third album together and according to the press sheet their most progressive so far. I would not know, as this is the first I have been listening to.

Well, with someone with such a pedigree in hits, it will not be a surprise that melodies are very important on this album. Even the 18 minute title track has many moments that catch your ear with ease! The good thing with melody is of course is that they catch your attention easily. Yet in this case that does not mean the material is lightweight or plain fluffy. What the duo have created has much more depth. And it is a band effort too, with drummer Ash Soan and bassist Andy Hodge adding their qualities to the songs. As well as guests like Andy Partridge (XTC) and Kate Pierson (B-52’s). And the art from Roger Dean is fitting too, especially since Braide’s voice is not too distant from that certain mister Anderson.

Anyway with 9 songs ranging from 1 to 18 minutes and a total playing time of 53 minutes, this is an album that will appeal to an audience beyond the fairly closed prog rock community. And that cannot be a bad thing!

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The Foxholes, Sci-Fox, 2017

the foxholes - sci-foxThe Foxholes have been featured here before, making this their second release on these pages. And from a dialect, we now move on to Spanish as the language of choice. But no translations this time.

The album opens however with the instrumental title track. Or actually part 1 to be more accurate. And it is a prime example of how to build up such a track. Just like the other instrumental tracks they have on offer, Andromeda Blues and part 2. Themes, riffs and breaks are glued together in such a manner that the song has a clear identity. And the sound is just very transparent, yet powerful, great job!  And speaking of powerful, next track La Ciencia De La Confusion opens with a very attractive hook! It immediately sucks you in, especially since it is based on a groove Led Zeppelin would have been proud of. But the guys manage to work a little beyond that idiom, adding textures and parts that sometimes turn it into a more progressive song. Anyway, great track. And even though I barely understand any Spanish, it does not withhold me from enjoying all I hear.
Mephistopheles is the shortest track on the album. Very catchy chorus, and the use of dynamics is plain clever. In a perfect world this would have the potential to become a hit. Tierra Ni Hogar continues the high level of songwriting, and the same goes for the bonus track Cada Miércoles.

In my book there is only one flaw with the album, with 7 songs and less than 40 minutes it is a bit short. But we can’t have all now can we.

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Huub Holtman, Trap Door, 2017

huub holtman - trap doorNot 100% sure, but this might actually be the first CD discussed here, that is sung in my native dialect, Limburgs, from the South of the Netherlands. And to complicate things, from the somewhat North of the South… So while the English speakers amongst us think they are reading Trap Door, in reality that means something like; go on. Or more specific, go on with your biking. Or something like that 😉

Anyway, this album is written, performed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Huub Holtman himself. Albeit with some guests on percussion, additional vocals, lead guitar and a few other bits and pieces.
It took me a while to tag the music I was hearing. It sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel and Muse have been experimenting together. So I guess it is a mix of rock and pop with alternative touches and a tad of prog thrown in for good measure.
But the beauty of it all is, that even when most of the world will not understand the lyrics, the music does have the quality to reach out and grab you. Trap Door and Neet Van Belang (It Doesn’t Matter) have an attractive catchiness about them. Veur Dich (For You) is an intricate follow up to the suspense closing bit of Neet Van Belang. Heb Ik Waat (Do I have Something) just plain rocks.

Obvious conclusion is that this is an album that the (alternative) rockers, no matter the language, will be able to enjoy.

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Alan Simon, Excalibur IV, 2017

alan simon - EXCALIBUR-4From never having heard of Alan Simon, now on to a second album. The first was his recent released Songwriter double disc, which I enjoyed very much. And since this one is called Excalibur IV, The Dark Age Of The Dragon, we can be pretty sure that there have been Excalibur albums before this (duh).

Not sure if everyone will agree with me, but for me one of the highlights of Simon is the diversity on offer. From folk, to rock, to classical and many in between, you can find a lot of genres on this album. Sometimes even in one song. And while in many cases that would make an album suffer from a lack of focus, this guy produces songs that are able to tell a story, even without words. The fact that all is executed beautifully only helps of course. Just take a look at the guest list: Michael Sadler (Saga), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Moya Brennan (Clannad), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth), John Helliwell (Supertramp) or Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep) to name a few! What all these names confirm is the scope of the material.

So a haunting song like Alone can stand firmly besides a more rocking song like for instance Stonehenge. Just like the pop bliss of Calling For You easily sits besides the proggy Don’t Be Afraid or the dreamy and almost opera-esque The Last Lament Of A Fairy.

For me there is no more excuse in trying to find earlier albums. Great stuff, worth checking out if you, like me, have been living under a rock as far as Alan Simon is concerned…

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Trucker Diablo, Fighting For Everything, 2017

trucker diablo - fighting for everythingThis is the third Trucker Diablo album that has reached the YMB office. Find the 2012 The Devil Rhythm and 2013 Songs of Iron albums amongst these pages. Yet it seems that means I missed album 3, Rise Above the Noise, from 2015. Which also answers my question about the time gap between albums.

In the past I have called the music from Trucker Diablo a combination of Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society. Yet this time around I would like to describe this as the evil younger brother of Nickelback. With which I mean to say that many songs on this are catchy as the flu too, yet brought with a venomous intent and a take no prisoner mentality. Yes a little of that wonderful Thin Lizzy dual guitar attack is still present (check We Will Conquer All for a taste of that), but overall I have found this to be a kick ass hard rock album that grabs you from the go and still manages to get better every time you listen to it.
For me the killer tracks are opener Born Trucker, the already mentioned We Will Conquer All and the beautiful album closer When The Waters Rise. But this surely is a no filler album.

Anyone who thinks that rock is dead should get this served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That will make ‘m change their mind. Rocks, and rocks hard!

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Dave Kerzner, Static, 2017

dave kerzner - staticDave Kerzner has been making a name for himself with Sound Of Contact. Or with working with artists like Kevin Gilbert, Steve Hackett, Keith Emerson, Alan Parsons, and many more. Should you still have no clue; he is a singer and keyboardist, as well as a songwriter and producer. And Static is his second studio album. And guesting on this are even more names! Like for instance Nick D’Virgilio, Durga McBroom and Colin Edwin.

Looking at that list it will not be much of a surprise that this is tagged as progressive rock. But like with the music of Kevin Gilbert, this is music that in my humble opinion stretches beyond that. The reason being that this is about songs, and not about technicality. And in songs, melodies are always important. And the artwork gives clues about what to expect. Fake News and faceboot 😉 Yes this is an album about all the clutter in life today. Especially those twisted minds in politics, media or society in general.
The result is an album that is not as dark as the subject would imply. Of course it is not “party all night long” music, but to me it is more melancholic than angry. And as we all know, melancholy is a feeling that reaches out easily and creeps under your skin before you realise it. And when it gives you beautiful songs like Chain Reaction, Trust or in fact any other song on the album, who cares?

Excellent album from start to finish, and another one of those that just keeps getting better.

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FAS IV, Catatonia, 2017

fas iv - catatoniaHow time flies when you are having fun… Still catching up on 2017 releases, and now it is time for the second album from FAS IV/ FASIV that landed on my desk. I really liked their first album so in that case it is always nice to hear what comes next.  The band originates from San Francisco and consists of Frank Abreau Salazar IV on guitars and vocals, Miles Delaco on bass and production and Tim Aristil on drums.

The music sometimes reminds a bit of songs and bands of the past (the Beatles being an obvious choice), mixed with more modern acts like Muse or Oasis. The album opens with the extended intro of Broken Mirror before kicking into gear with the title track. The first of many songs with a memorable hook and catchy melodies. Because even when the reverberated sound brings back memories of the Eighties, it is clear they stand with two feet in the now. Many of the songs have developed a bit of a crush with me. Chelsea, Deep Inebriation or Different Personality being a few of them. I love the band’s energy and knack for songs that sound familiar but fresh. So that dose of pop mixed in with the rock really serves them well.

And thus we, the people, have another band on our hands that deserves to be big. Maybe not 100% original, but what they do, they do with class and conviction.

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Tragik, Tainted, 2017

Tragik-TaintedAlbum number 7 for this US hard rock band with many pomp influences. Lead by the unmistakeable voice and talent of multi-instrumentalist Phil Vincent. And what is most striking is that, even after recording for over 20 years and being involved in over 30 albums, the man still manages to evolve. Both as a songwriter, as well as a producer. So even when this is in essence a pomp hard rock album, some things cross new borders. And yes people, that is a very good thing in my book!

Opener Welcome Back is a driving song, built around riffs and melodies and with crunching guitars and solos. And then arrives Not Over You (Listen). I can already hear the critics wail over this… And why? The base of it is a drum loop and parts of the song have an Eighties wave feel to them. It also clocks in at over 9 minutes. But if you are able to listen beyond that; you will hear it is an adventurous take on something familiar. And people who follow the blog on a regular base, know that I am all for experimenting. I think this is a great song that keeps you on your toes!
Songs like Can’t Take It Back or Face Of Sorrow are aiming for the more traditional tastes. And songs like Into The Great Unknown or Heaven (another 8+ epic) aim to blend genres again. And closer Harsh Reality sees Vincent and co groove like never before. The guitar work of the late David Zychek playing a great part in it.

So for me this is another great release from the band. And as with all of the earlier releases, the album just keeps growing on you. Wonderful stuff.

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