Heartscore, Black Riders part 1, 2018

heartscore - black riders 1Oh man, where to start? From their bandcamp page comes this: “Heartscore sets the dark poems of the famous American author Stephen Crane (1871-1900) to music. A daring combination of Metal with electronic drums and dramatic clear vocals lead to a mixture, which sound like a cross of Captain Beefheart, Black Metal and Wagner.”

Built around the musicianship of Dirk Radloff (all instruments) with the assistance of Chris on lead vocals and Gdaliy Garmiza playing saxophone on “In the desert”, this is not so much a standard song oriented album, but more of an overall music experience. Maybe it’s a concept album in the most truest of senses?
By no means it is a simple experience. Yet, on the other hand I have found it to be very interesting and also attractive. It is a mix of a tad strange, a bunch of weird and lots of beautiful.

But above all this has a unique signature and identity. Something that is awfully hard to achieve and thus should be met with tons of applause. And as is often the case, the more you listen to it, the more you get sucked into the magical world that is this Heartscore release.

For me they can bring on part 2, this is outstanding!

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Xavi Reija, The Sound Of The Earth, 2018

xavi reija - the sound of the earthSpanish maestro drummer Xavi Reija is giving us another insight in his musical world. And if you are familiar with his previous releases, you will already know that his world is one of complex ideas, based on inventive rhythms and jazzy notes and free form jams.

Accompanying him on this album are the ever so wonderful Tony Levin on bass and stick and on (touch) guitars Markus Reuter and Dusan Jevtovic. All of them no stranger to the Moonjune label.

If anything, this is another album that you will have to digest slowly and repeatedly. Well, at least for me that is certainly the case. Should you be familiar with the Three Of A Perfect Pair album from King Crimson, I am getting the same kind of vibe from several of the songs here. So lots of sound and noise things happening in seemingly random order.
So where opening track Deep Ocean surprises me with riffs and hooks I can immediately identify with, others like From Darkness make me look over my shoulder to check if I am still alone…

Of course there is no debating the quality of the musicians here. This is just a matter of taste and the willingness to invest a lot of time of getting to know and appreciate the music. Which is too rare a thing sadly in today’s world of fast everything. But if you regard yourself an exception to that rule, enjoy this trip!

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Electric Mud, The Deconstruction Of Light, 2018

electric mud - the deconstruction of lightAfter repeated listens to this album, I still was struggling a bit with how to describe it. So I checked the website, and there the answer was: “moving from krautrock to ambiant, from post rock to traditional prog, from edgy to contemplative. Imagine Deep Purple and Camel jamming together with Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream”.

And I must say, the unique feel of this album hit one of my soft spots. Because you might be lead to believe that all these influences lead to a patched up collection of sounds and ideas. But the reality is, that this is not the case. If anything, the project have managed to deliver an album that keeps you on your toes, anxiously waiting for what will happen next. Ideas develop, and then slowly transform. So you do get all these different genre typicals, but the 3 guys (Hagen Bretschneider; idea, sound concept and bass – Lennart Huper: rhythm guitar and Nico Walser on all other instruments and… sound alchemy) mix and match, transform, evolve and warp everything. So what sounds like an old fashioned obscure and rocking Deep Purple song at first, might end up sounding like an ambient Tangerine Dream like electronic track.

Add to that: this is another example of how to create interesting instrumental music. It is creative and exciting, and is definitely exploring new grounds. Recommended!

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Claudio Delgift, The Essential, 2018

claudio delgift - the essentialClaudio Delgift is an Argentinian guitarist who so far has released 7 albums and a couple of EP’s. All these are only available in the digital format so with The Essential you get the chance to listen to a collection of his songs on CD or Digital. All in remastered form. His 2018 album One Life Many Roads is featured here.

There are 12 songs on the release, ranging from 2 to almost 9 minutes. What always strikes me most about “C” is the quality of his guitar playing. Which is of course at the centre of each song. He uses a fairly clean guitar tone, but always manages to surprise with tasty solos and inventive song structures. Even when he is not the best singer in the world (you cannot have all), his delivery is always honest and authentic. Guitars and bass and some keyboards are also handled by Claudio, with additional keyboards coming from One and Fernando Refay. Drums are provided by an international cast of 4, Tom Geisler, Theo Heidfeld, Nicolas Jourdain and Nicolas Roldan.

So what more is there to tell? Well, to me it seems that the melodic intent of the songs makes them accessible. This means that even people who are not really much into progressive rock, could enjoy this material, should they give it a chance. And the more critical listener is sure to discover more and more less obvious details on repeated listen.

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Ronny Morris, Sweet Silence, 2018

ronny morris - sweet silenceI cannot help but smile while listening to this debut from Danish musician Ronny Morris. Not because of the beautiful and a bit mysterious artwork. Not because of silly lyrics, or anything like that.
No I smile because this album keeps reminding me why I like music. This guy obviously creates for the love of art. And not because of stupid things like fame, winning TV competitions, reality TV, etc.

But even if you do not fall for that, there are lots of reasons why you should check out this album. First; it is a damn good pop rock album with tons of moody songs that reach out to your soul and heart. Morris also has a fine voice with that bit of edge that many people find attractive. Also the performances and production are top notch.
Another reason is that this is produced in a climate neutral way. First time I ever heard about that, and, being a firm believer we are here to make sure our children also have a planet to live on, a worthy cause.

And last but not least, even when all songs are accessible, by no means they are carbon copies of things you have heard a thousand times before. If I would be forced to mention a reference, it would be something like Bryan Adams met Donald Fagen with a bit of Beatles thrown in for good measure. Also the sophisticated sound reminds me a bit of 3rd Matinee, but that is a reference not all too many will understand.

Most important thing is you go listen to this album, it truly deserves your attention.

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Seven Thorns, Symphony Of Shadows, 2018

From Denmark arrives power metal band Seven Thorns. Whom I suspect also love the likes of Symphony X, since their sound incorporates lots of the same neo-classical / progmetal trademarks. And having Tue Madsen produce your album, sure helps to get a bombastic sound, with still all necessary details in the right place.

Yes, it is clear that Seven Thorns mean business. So it is rather a good thing they remembered to include lots of flashy solos as well as choruses that easily stick in your brain. Center stage is the playing of Gabriel Tuxen (guitars) and Asger Nielsen (keys). Keeping all together are Mads Molbaek (bass) and Lars Borup (drums). With singer Björn Asking they also have someone in their ranks that is able to project a wide palette of styles in his singing. But none of the musicians is a slouch, they all perform top notch and pull off some amazing musicianship. While thankfully infusing lots of melody too. Nice addition is a female singer in Beneath A Crescent Moon.

It is safe to say that the 9 tracks on offer will please fans of bands like Symphony X, Adagio, as well as Helloween or Stratovarius.
All this does not mean they offer something that has never been done before. But they are really good at what they do and pour tons of energy in their performance and songs.

If you dig the bands mentioned, you can buy this on sight.

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The Chris Squire Tribute, A Life In Yes, 2018

the chris squire tributeThe Chris Squire Tribute is carried largely by producer Billy Sherwood. Who not only is the replacement of Chris in Yes (on his request!) but also a long time friend. So little wonder Billy plays most of the bass parts on this. On drums we find another long time collaborator of Billy, Jay Schellen. Who also is no stranger to Yes. Same can be said of course of people like Patrick Moraz and Jon Davison, who join forces on opening song On The Silent Wings Of Freedom.

Tributes like this are always a sort of who’s who: so expect Steve Hogarth on Hold Out Your Hand, Annie Haslam on Onward, Steve Stevens on South Side Of The Sky, Sonja Kristina on The Fish, etc. Or what about David Sancious, Steve Porcaro, Steve Hackett or more Yes connections with Tony Kaye?
Other songs present are the majestic The More We Live, Roundabout or a more surprising choice like Don’t Kill The Whale ( with Candice Night).
My version has 2 bonus tracks that include Squire himself, on bass on The Technical Divide (with Alan Parsons singing) and Comfortably Numb, where he sings and plays bass. The latter probably taken from an older Pink Floyd tribute album.

Anyway, Squire will always be a legend, and the music is timeless. No matter in whose rendition. So any fan will enjoy this tribute.

Rich Krieger, Nowthen, 2018

rich krueger - now thenLet me first confess I am not really an Americana expert. Still I think that Rich Krieger’s album Nowthen qualifies as such. And even when for me, this is a couple of songs too long (15 tracks and 74 minutes), I firmly believe that for the right people, this will be a very enjoyable release.

Also I guess that listeners who enjoy storytelling a lot (think Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen for reference), will admire the way Rich goes about. His high baritone singing surely adds to that.
Because of the variation in the musical landscape ( brass, violin, accordion, pedal steel. upright bass are amongst the instruments used, besides the more regular electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piano and drums) we can enjoy a plethora of moods. Taking into account this is done independently only makes me appreciate the effort even more. This has been done with 100% dedication and professionalism!

So even when the pun of Elisabeth (RePlease) is probably only really funny once, this seems to be an album that fans of the genre will applaud. Of course the lyrics and vocals take centre stage here, but the arrangements make sure you are taken along for the ride. Those lyrics can be found in the booklet by the way, so you can read along too.

Check this out of this is a genre you like. (and someone please tell me where that chord sequence in The Great War is from, it keeps slipping away from me)

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Karmamoi, The Day Is Done, 2018

karmamoi - the day is doneKarmamoi are an Italian prog rock band around the duo of Daniele Giovannoni (drums, keyboards and backing vocals) and  Alex Massari (guitars and backing vocals). Daniele wrote the music and lyrics are provided by singer Sara Rinaldi. The album is inspired by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. There are several people guesting on the album, of which Colin Edwards might be the most prominent one.

The mood of this album is already set with the opening title track.  It is a slow, and very emotional track. No wonder, as it is dedicated to the 2 Syrian refugees Omar and Mohammed, of which the latter died in the fire. The final solo abruptly coming to silence, is surely reflecting the tragedy.
Emotions keep running throughout the album, sometimes reminding me of Pink Floyd. This because of the tasty arrangements, with the guitar whispering or rocking out over the music. And lots of slow and mid-tempo tracks.
Besides the vocals of Sara and the guitar solos, another highlight is adding flute to the proceedings. As we all know, that alone qualifies this as a progressive album… 😉

All kidding aside, for me Karmamoi have managed to create a wonderful and emotional monument for a moment in time that should only be classified as horrific. As has been said many times before, sometimes the hard times provide the best inspiration. And inspired and inspiring this is for sure!

If you like this, also check their Odd Trip album.

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Snew, You’ve Got Some Nerve, 2018

Snew - You've got some nerveEven when this turns out to be their fourth album already, I must confess I had never heard of Snew before. And the fact that they released it independently, says absolutely nothing about the quality they have to offer. This is clearly an experienced bunch, operating somewhere between AC/DC, The Ramones, Deep Purple and Motley Crue.

Listening through these 9 tracks, I can imagine they win over every audience. Highly energetic, massive riffs, and bursting with attitude. Don’t let opener UR Freaking Me Out fool you into thinking they are a one trick pony. Tracks like Acetylene Queen, Put Upon  or Revolution Is A Closed Loop show they have more things going for them.

While I guess that haters will say they have heard it all before, personally I don’t always care for bands trying to be original. This is a hard rock band, and they know how to write a good tune that does not sound like a rip off. They also perform it like they mean business. Nothing wrong with wanting to party, and with the current state of affairs in the world, maybe we should have more bands like this.

So a damn solid album, and a band they will blow the roof off once they hit the stage.

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