Folllow Me on Twitter

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Controlled Mind - The Symbols of a Hero

The city of Colombia has been considered the place for Metal. When you think of Metal, you think of Metallica, Megadeth, Dream Theater, and Voivod. Colombian’s own Controlled Mind have released the first album that is a combination of Scenes from a Memory and Systematic Chaos and probably considered one of the most finest progressive metal bands to come out of Bogota.

All of the influences of different time changes are in The Symbols of a Hero. Now you’ve got to admit that is one hell of a title, if you are going to write a requiem for Batman, or write a concept album about it, this would definitely be it. You have the shredded guitar sounds from Guillermo Gil, who is the leader and composer of Controlled Mind and let’s just say that he knows the score when it comes to Progressive Metal. Different time changes, classical Spanish and shredded guitar sounds, militant drum work, two-part epics, and mind-blowing synths that are in the realms of Jordan Rudess. It’s mind-blowing that it makes you wonder that you are wondering if they are Colombian’s answer to Dream Theater, and the answer to that is, yes.

Even though the band’s a trio, with Guillermo on Guitar, Alexander Parra on Bass, and Sergio Pinilla on drums who is the next Mike Portnoy when you listen to his drum playing, you can tell that the band show no sign of stopping for them. Above all, Colombia sure knows how to kick plenty of ass and crank this bad boy up to 100 and let the Prog controls reach to assume control. You have to look at some of the tracks that make you realize that this isn’t just a job, but a commitment for some of the compositions they wrote. In fact, the pieces feature five mind-blowing centerpieces.

The two-part Returning is beautifully crafted and disturbing as the band go into interstellar overdrive with various time changes and bring a conceptual piece to be in the realm of Fantasy and written a hard rock score for Lord of the Rings. The Dark Road, which is released as a downloadable single on their Facebook, Reverb Nation, and on their MySpace page, crosses the path with a sinister version of Metallica meeting Brian May’s howling guitar work as it becomes a moody yet haunting touch of sensitivity rather than showing off.

You have Gil conducting the band as he and two members go at it squaring off to see who will in the final battle of guitar vs. bass, keyboards, and drums, but the three of them are winners and show how damn good music can really get while the moody middle-eastern atmospheric opener The Keys and the rumbling and melodic touches of The Premature Burial are both hypnotic and mesmerizing that is the band’s hopefully going to be one of their favorites pieces for up-and-coming fans to appreciate.

Yet even though it’s their first album since releasing the EP online back in 2008, it’s a good start for them to get the wagon on the wheel going. If you haven’t heard Controlled Mind’s music, well then get moving. Because this a band that have created a most respectful debut album and bringing the prog and metal sound a new life and a new beginning for young listeners to know that the music isn’t dead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Black Widow - Black Widow

While bands like Coven and Black Sabbath were going into more of the darker territories into the occult and Satanism that was about to be called Doom Metal, one of those bands took it with a sense of humor with their stage performances that created a huge stir no other than Black Widow. Their music was darker, eerie, sinister, and hidden. It wasn’t bombastic and pretentious like ELP and Yes, but a whole lot of energy. Formed out of the ashes of Pesky Gee, featuring Clive Jones on Woodwind, Vocalist Kip Trevor, Guitarist Jim Gannon, Keyboardist Zoot Taylor, bassist Geoff Griffith, and drummer Romeo Challenger from the Caribbean Islands, helped created the Black Widow sound in an evil yet terrifying sound.

After causing the controversy in one of the infamous performances with a mock sacrifice with a nude woman that had the religious Jesus freaks protesting the band (this was before Alice Copper and Marilyn Manson), their second sole self-titled album, which was a follow up to their dooming debut of Sacrifice, saw Black Widow going into more of the psychedelic prog-pop sound that would have listeners and fans draw a line in the sand dividing people on if they love it or smash it into pieces. But with help from producer Patrick Meehan who helped work with The Groundhogs and Yes, it was an excellent match made in heaven to work on an underrated album in the ‘70s.

You have the soul-rock shuffle sounds in the realms of the Stax-era on the 7-minute boogie on Poser which starts off with a crescendo introduction that turns into a driving on the road sing-along sound that people go on the dance floor and just hit it off as Kip Trevor does his Steve Marriott vocalization section that is almost straight out of the sessions of Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake while Tears and Wine, the opening track, Tears and Wine, has a heavy organ rocker with an early reminiscent of Family’s Music in a Doll’s House and The Gods not to mention a mind-blowing sax solo that Clive does as he takes the band into a mournful beauty. The Gypsy, could have been a psych-pop single to write about the people. A touch of Spooky Tooth’s Sunshine Help Me that could have been lifted from it soaring organ sound and mixed with a touch of ragtime rock in the mix as if it’s 1912 all over again.

Bridge Passage features bassist Geoff Griffith’s fusion-sque lines as it segues the angelic psychedelic ballad on finding yourself and seeing how you can make it and not giving up on When My Mind Was Young. It has a baroque pop flavored touch on the composition mixed with heavenly organ sounds, lovely acoustic guitar creating the rhythm, and the daring electric guitar sound while the vocalization seems straight out of Yes’ Sweetness before going into the homage of Traffic’s I Just Want You To Know with another dosage of Soul Rock into the mix. The jumping yet bouncing upbeat tempo sees Black Widow going into more of the dancing rock tempo of The Journey.

It has the time signature of 4/4 and seeing where the band can go into far of a hard rock sound, makes it quite a fun track to sink your teeth into as Poser is a Bluesy yet funk-rocking driving song that is almost in the style of Cream’s first two albums and Hendrix’s Rainy Day Dream Away. Mary Clark introduces some haunting British Folk melodies with flute, bass, and screaming for Mary’s name that has never been done before on a Black Widow album as Wait Until Tomorrow sees the band going into the early sound of Metal and Proto-punk reminiscing an early retro sound of The Seeds meet Black Sabbath with an attitude as it goes into the ¾ jazz waltz moment between guitar and flute on the touching yet emotional ballad with An Afterthought as if the song is to leave you now with one last hurrah.

It goes straight into more of the British Folk haunting melodies to close the album off as they pay tribute to Comus and Trees with a medieval story on beginning of a new life, this time with a shuffle touch of the Grateful Dead with the Legend of Creation. Quite possibly, the album that would have Black Widow fans cringe, it was their touch of going into a psych-pop sound that didn’t catch the fan’s eyes for some for the doom rock band. It’s still again one of the most under-rated albums that deserve’s a lot of attention and the recognition it deserves for the doom metal and prog community to take wind of.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ghost - Opus Eponymous

Let’s cut through the bullshit here, with a dosage of the occult and satanic metal that sets the soundtrack for either a slasher film or reviving the hammer horror films for the 21st century, it looks like Metal has received a warm reception of the two genres and a band that wants to remain nameless and not to mention looking like the occult that came out of Alan Moore’s graphic novels for a short story. Ghost, one of the finest and newest bands to come out of Sweden, has gotten something up their sleeve for their debut albums.

Opus Eponymous might not only scare the living shit out of listeners, but since releasing their first album this year on the Rise Above Records label, makes one hell of a record that not only is bringing doom and occult metal sounds back from the grave, but give the beast a slap in the face and a huge wake-up call saying, it’s time to attack and release the hounds of hades to attack. If Ghost is following in the footsteps of Angel Witch, King Diamond, Black Sabbath, and Pentagram, then this album and the front cover that features an evil pope lending an attack on the city, is a disturbing yet wonderful journey into uncharted territories.

The touches of fierce guitar lines, fuzz-tone bass lines, and haunting organ sounds in the realm of Black Widow have been slammed by so-called rock critics during the ‘70s in Rolling Stone Magazine, but now is intense, vicious, and emotional, while the lyrics deal with worshipping to Satan, betrayal, murder, rape, and celebrating the witches anniversary, well let’s just say you’ve got yourself one hell of a weekend to hang out with them as they release their venom and go with a bang of a revival from Ghost.

From the eerie atmosphere organ introduction of Deus Culpa which is homage to Pink Floyd’s Celestial Voices from A Saucerful of Secrets to roaring bass intro into a mind-boggling insane ride into a glorious touch of ‘70s retrospective rock sound on Con Clavi Don Dio, makes you realize that this isn’t your daddy’s heavy metal album. The chugging rhythm sections make the pieces like a rock opera in the right on Ritual, the reminiscent of thrash on Elizabeth, the drum section giving it a real pounding in the gut that would be told through campfires and scaring kids on the Uriah Heep meets Coven touch of Stand By Him and Satan Prayer.

Yet on Death Knell, which carries the torch of Black Sabbath’s first five albums, has a very catchy tempo while the guitar goes into a haywire mode followed by a Geezer Butler-sque Bass metal intro as they go into the Horror mode with Prime Mover that is almost straight out of The Wicker Man. And the closing track which is a home run for Ghost to hit the ball in the park with: Genesis (no pun intended) starts off like something out of Argento’s Tenebre in the realm of Italian Prog maestro’s Goblin and Metamorfosi. Opus Eponymous is the album that you might want to take note of.

Ghost has a long road ahead of them. It’s a good album, not the best, but the production and the compositions are spot on and what great performers they are and someday, they might open for Metallica one day in the future or for Blood Ceremony and lets the fans of Doom Metal know, that the music is still going strong than ever since 1970.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Josh Leibowitz - Guitar For Money

The concept of musicians using "free rein" on their first albums is quite a challenge. For an artist, they want to have a chance to get their song and music heard online for people to take notice whether it’s on Reverb Nation, Facebook, or on MySpace, in the realm of Jeff Tweedy, Brian Wilson, and John Lennon, it would be my taste of music hearing new artists to take chances and take a Quantum Leap for liftoff. And for Josh Leibowitz has been following in the steps of the three artists and of course, Matt Stevens as well. That and his debut album, Guitar for Money is a wonderful and heartfelt album.

Rooting in the acoustic and alternative rock sound almost influenced by Wilco, the tracks have almost an Indie sound and have been development since he’s been working on this for a good time with an acoustic guitar and psych-beauty for a sentiment. The title-track is the type of jumping upbeat tempo that would appeal to some who wants to appreciate this man for not signing to a huge record label as he’s saying, this is much better than doing stadiums and wanting to see what the road is beyond the horizon while Child of the Sun follows of the haunting sounds to those who admired Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs as Flashbacks Halfway House of Horrors features a Garage Rock roar with a fuzz tone organ sound, ‘60s vibe guitar sounds, and a rumbling drum section while Josh’s voice is double-tracked to carry the Nuggets sound that would have gotten him a chance to perform on Little Steven’s Underground Garage.

The progtastic roars comes in like a blazing fire of Live With Yourself plays more of the psychedelic sounds of The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow and Creation’s stamp of roaring guitar licks and their hallmark of using a bow to give their guitar a screeching sound, while the futuristic middle-eastern tango upbeat sound of So Fla So Good is an epic spaghetti western theme song. The quirky sense of humor of Pants gives more of the Beatle-sque sound of Rubber Soul as he goes back into the future with a bit of Jeff Wayne’s War of the World’s Forever Autumn and Genesis’ Get ‘Em Out By Friday that you will notice as he does an homage to the song with the song about survival as he uses the guitar and the synthesizer playing the melody together on The Here and Now, when you hear the pair of the two collide, you’ll know that this guy is paying tribute to the prog sounds and not ripping it off.

Like Matt Stevens, he’s got a long road ahead of him and for fans of Wilco, PG-era of Genesis, Beatles, Jeff Wayne, and the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd, will enjoy this man’s music and decide where the line should be drawn, but for Leibowitz, his debut album is a beginning road for him to go on. Mixtures of Indie Rock, Prog, and Futuristic Rock? Not a bad idea after all!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Summer Turns To Autumn: Progressive, Psychedelic, and Folk Rock from the Ember Vaults

We’re back in the city of the reissue label Fantastic Voyage as they make a sequel to the obscure psych folk and prog sounds that was coming out of the indie label, Ember. Now I’ve always admired the welsh Prog-Psych Pop sounds of Blonde on Blonde and their glorified unsung masterpiece, Rebirth after moving from Pye to Ember to make a follow up to their debut album, Contrasts. This new compilation, which you could buy on Amazon MP3 and on iTunes as well, Summer Turns To Autumn: Progressive, Psychedelic, & Folk Rock From the Ember Vaults is a sequel to Looking Towards the Sky and is almost the second volume to see what the bag of Ember Records have hidden in store for us and it turns out there is more out of the frying pan and into to be cooked well done with a slice of toast to go with it.

While we give Fantastic Voyage credit to search in the vaults for these unearthed gems, the compilation takes the listener to an amazing journey of these rare unknown bands in the underground scene that never saw the day that never came for them, drawing from the sounds of the three genres, makes it a worth and magnificent piece of lost and hidden treasures to discover. From the glorified psychedelic pop dreamland sounds of the opening track of Blonde on Blonde’s Castles in the Sky, this isn’t your daddy’s prog tribute album per se. The surreal gems that are unexpected and could have given The Beatles a run for their money with Sgt. Pepper.

9:30 Fly’s psych-dance beat to the floor with Summer Days and the driving sing-along song that is a perfect drinking song, September while the Canadian garage rockers, The Dorians pay tribute to the Stax sound and Curtis Mayfield on Means and Ways while Knocker Jungle’s eerie acid folk comes into the picture with Oh To Be Free and the almost FM radio hit with a humoristic touch in the style of Seals & Crofts Summer Days, Not Even a Letter. Then we have Blue Beard who almost brought the attitude of the Nuggets proto-punk sound of Sly Willy and the anti-war protest love song with a mixture of middle-eastern folk and bluesy rock on God Save the World. But then The Dorians come back into the picture for a softer-psych pop flavor in a Beatle-sque way on Torch Song and the Back Street Band pay tribute to The Nice with acknowledgment in the style of a slowed-down version of Bonnie K on Daybreak.

However, the tracks have a boogie and wonderous adventures to make an adventure that was worth the wait including Polly Niles ‘60s tribute to the open road on the orchestral wah-wah psych ballad East Virginia, Blonde on Blonde’s emotional heartfelt song November really hits home and the people who were fighting for their country in Vietnam while they go hard rock on our asses with I Don’t Care taken from Reflections of Life. Milt Matthews Inc goes into a gospel ballad in his cover of Blind Faith’s Presence of the Lord, but it becomes a touching finale in the styles of Elton John and Bernie Taupin as Paddy Maguire pays tribute to the two as if he performs this James Taylor-sque beauty Lay Me Down at the Troubadour and receiving critical acclaim.

And while these 16-tracks seems like it may be interesting or un-interesting to some listeners, its hidden treasure does provide a lot of unexpected independent grounds for hopefully a third volume to see what Fantastic Voyage have up their sleeve of the lost gems that could focus more of the bands, just like Summer Turns to Autumn summing up the sound of the late 1960s.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blood Ceremony - Living with the Ancients

Keeping in touch with the horror genre and the mixtures of doom metal and obscure prog sound that is coming out of the woodwork around these days as sort of a revival of bringing it back from the dead, the Toronto band that gave listeners a huge scare with their sole self-titled debut album back in 2009 on the Rise Above Records label and appreciated by Classic Rock Presents Prog, it gave listeners Tony Iommi guitar sounds, disturbing organ sounds, and Alia O’Brien, whose haunting vocals carry the sounds of Jex Thoth, and is following in the footsteps of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and her dazzling flute solos, are worth a good fortune. Yet Blood Ceremony has achieved full control with their follow up self-titled debut with their new album, Living with the Ancients.

Alia O’Brien has put Blood Ceremony in top of their game and even though she doesn’t want to be center of attention, she and the other band members; guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Lucas Gadke, and drummer Andrew Haust, she and the band members know that the music always comes first and even though they look like something out of an album cover of Black Sabbath’s Sabotage album and Queen II, Living with the Ancients is such a creative album from start to finish that would make you go back and take out all of your doom metal albums and go back and hear the roots of Blood Ceremony’s music and see where their influences came from.

Opening with the retro psychedelic rocker The Great God Plan, it’s an occult haunting and vicious track that kicks off the album off with a bang. The spooky organ sound, Sean’s guitar playing through an Orange Amp and the drums following the tempo in 4/4 adds a disturbing notion on how religion can really fuck you up in a big way. Even though there are nine tracks on the album, O’Brien has come a long way since the formation of the band in 2006. She really carries the torch very well and her vocals are wonderfully made, it’s almost like the nightmare from hell in a beautiful way and the instructions on the Blood Ceremony manual are well made.

As Alia is carrying the Jethro Tull ‘70s sound of Stand Up, you can hear the influences of the album on Coven Tree as she and Sean Kennedy play different rhythms as they both play like a disturbing waltz section between guitar and flute as it displays to both perfection and to their catchy beats to surprise fans with their prog sounds and seeing where the line in the sand goes for them while The Hermit is in the realm of the British Folk sound, Garage Rock, and the Middle-Eastern ‘60s psychedelic west coast American sound, while it carries a passionate sound of The Doors debut album.

Track by track, the album makes you wonder what is going to happen next. My Demon Brother starts off with homage to Bigelf’s Cheat the Gallows and a spoken word introduction that is almost straight out of the Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the song is basically a tribute to the horror genre they grew up admiring as in their MySpace page mentions, “We’re Anti-War, but Pro-Horror.” This is one band you don’t want to get into the crossfire with, if you do, well, your ass is about to get hassled. You can hear O’Brien doing a Beefheart and VDGG-sque organ sound in the midsection , but it demonstrates how wonderfully and disturbing compositions they would come up with.

Morning of the Magicians is in a 6/8 doom waltz, as we see the band write almost a dance to the Sabbath and let the occult come in and create a disturbing moving beat that would shock a lot of the prom dancers into oblivion and run for their lives as Oliver Haddo, which almost sounds like Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral it opens with Sean’s guitar sounding in the realms of Iommi-like atmosphere and O’Brien’s organ sounds paying tribute to Jon Lord of Deep Purple fame and Haust does his Bill Ward sections on the drums to give you a warm welcome to a delicious taste test. In fact as O’Brien uses the organ to give the Uriah Heep’s Look At Yourself and Colosseum’s Valentyne Suite-era to really beat it to the punch on Night of Augury, she rocks the organ not like Keith Emerson, but more of a combination of Dave Greenslade of Colosseum, Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep, and Virginia Scott of Beggars Opera. The Witches Dance is a small little folk instrumental acoustic piece between guitar and flute with a twist as it segues into the haunting and vicious rocker, the 11-minute finale Daughter of the Sun.

At times it sounds like Black Widow performing with Aphrodite’s Child, which is a wonderfully crafted composition that makes you feel that the dinner and performing for the dark queen was well received and makes her decide that she wants the band to be her opening act to make it a pretty kick-ass musical rock opera. Living With The Ancients is a treat for Doom Metal and Obscure Prog fans to sink their teeth into, this is one hell of a second album that shines so brightly and glows for the brilliancy that comes with it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Barclay James Harvest - Once Again [40th Anniversary Edition]

The loss of Woolly Wolstenholme, keyboardist of Barclay James Harvest and founder of Maestoso, has been a tragic day for the Barclay James Harvest camp after he committed suicide last year due to a mental illness that he was suffering from. And now there are only two members left, John Lees and Les Holroyd. So far as since the passing of drummer Mel Pritchard and now Woolly, the show must go on and John Lees would let Woolly know that he will carry the BJH flag wherever he goes and wherever he takes it to, he’ll know that he will always be with Woolly forever and ever.

Now let’s get to the good stuff. It’s been nearly 40 years since Barclay James Harvest have released one of their cornerstone albums in the 1970s with their second album, Once Again, a pastoral and orchestral album that is finally getting the recognition and still does to this day after it was released in 1971. Considered as one BJH’s finest work to this date, the songs are still a touching sentiment and very heartfelt with only eight tracks and let’s not forget the seven bonus tracks that were recorded during the Once Again sessions to give it almost the BJH treatment. The band really has craved the swarming beauty of the mellotron as if to give it the symphonic mode rather than being a rockabilly album.

While the second album was going to be a huge follow-up to their previous sole self-titled debut album which was recorded by the Barclay James Harvest Orchestra under the conducting button of none other than Robert John Godfrey of The Enid fame. But soon it was about to be a war of words between him and the band themselves as they were fighting over Godfrey’s score as he and Harvest were having creative difference between the two as tension would rise making the album before they drifted apart after the album was released.

The times might have changed between the two and while Godfrey successfully won the lawsuit against the band to retain full credit on Once Again, it might have been a relationship gone horribly wrong in a messed up way. But when you go back and listen to the second album again, it’s almost like a watershed flower growing to rise and see the sun in all of its glory. From the swirling pastoral guitar sounds and mellotron shed beauty of She Said, to the tribute of the folk-lore stories of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the ballad orchestral tinged beauty of Galadriel and going through the moral change of a love song with Vanessa Simmons, for these songs, it shows that we don’t give a damn about the lawsuit and praise the album for what it’s worth and why it was completely ahead of its time.

The lakes in the river with mellowing guitars, the orchestra, and the keyboards are rolled up into one with climatic finales which dip into a haunting yet lukewarm touching sense of beauty which is evidential on the fan-favorite, Mocking Bird. And then, Barclay James Harvest goes hard rock into uncharted territory in a disturbing bluesy realm of Deep Purple with Woolly’s composition, Ball and Chain (Not the Janis Joplin version) while the band decides to come back into the English country side in the finale with a little help of country rock sounds to add to the sound of Once Again by giving it a beautiful closing curtain call encore on Lady Loves that shows John Lees love of country and folk music as for the eerie yet twilight zone piece of Woolly’s classic, Happy Old World, makes the band write an anthem for Earth Day.

As mentioned before, the seven bonus tracks features the non-orchestral version of Mocking Bird and Galadriel, the Symphonic overture dramatic beauty of Introduction – White Sails (A Seascape), the homage of Led Zeppelin’s Hey Hey What Can I Do and The Band’s Music From Big Pink comes into full swing on Too Much On Your Plate, the first take of Happy Old World that features Woolly doing his homage to Shakespeare for an introduction, the full un-edited version of Song For Dying, and the extended director’s cut of Mockingbird that really sets the table for Appetizers, Dinner, and Desert.

If you want to get into Barclay James Harvest’s music, then this is the album to get you started and you’ll see why this band are one of the most under-rated bands to come out of Lancshire to carve out a roaring sound.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore

If the glass slipper fit’s well on Cinderella’s feet, then The Devil’s Blood The Time of no Time Evermore is one of the most high voltage debut albums to come out in the revival of doom metal and obscure progressive rock gems for the band to come out of the dead and giving us a hellish nightmare. Almost as this was the band’s stepped into the waters of the two genres and not knowing what they look like, will have a chance to settle the score to worship the Gothic boundaries and it’s quite a theatrical festival for them to come out of the graveyard with a bang. For people who are interested in bands like: Black Widow, Black Sabbath, and The Doors, it proves to be than a farfetched album with unbelievable songwriting, fierce musical boundaries, and rehab for the mental institutes to go apeshit when they sink their teeth into The Devil’s Blood music.

Anyone who wants to follow in the band’s footsteps, The Time of no Time Evermore is a ride into hell and crying out for mercy, but with an attitude and almost sounding like a psych-nightmare of the turbulence going into the terrifying waters 50 feet below. Vocalist F manages to provide a disturbing storyteller as she sings in a psych-metal way and gives the band creative freedom and does her touches of Grace Slick, early Ozzy, and Linda Hoyle of Affinity. From the occult guitar finger picking opening segue of The Time of No Time and the fierce driving force on Evermore, becomes almost like magic potion with a lot of ingredients that becomes a bubbling roar.

But one of the band’s interesting tracks is the haunting ballad The Yonder Beckons, it’s quite a twisted track as the stories of the mysticism and witchcraft in the minds of Edgar Allen Poe comes into the open air. Its post-apocalyptical storyline may have a combination of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan and Linda Perry featuring Grace Slick’s doomy alternative swansong duet Knock Me Out and qualifying female metal bands to capture the sound of the ‘70s metal/prog sound, it doesn’t have to be a boy’s sport, but to see how the female bands would carry the torches and see where the direction would lead them to. From the riff homage of the NWOBHM on Christ or Cocaine as F pays tribute to Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson that manages cool duo guitar sounds and pounding drumming techniques, would make the song a perfect end credits to a delicious horror film while Queen of my Burning Heart would have made David Bowie wish he was in a heavy metal band.

Now if there’s some issues with F.’s vocals which people might cringe because of her voice (I love it), then the duo guitar sounds, fierce bass lines, and the drums really come into place. As I’ve mentioned before, the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) carries the flaming torch to these guys and they really carrying it to the Olympics as if they are about to set the stadium to ablaze and makes the album a journey into uncharted territory. Not to mention the Irish jig rocker on Angel’s Prayer that carries the sound on the Vagabonds of the Western World-era of Thin Lizzy.

And now they’re carrying the epics to a standstill and the 11-minute finale, The Anti-Kosmik Magick, which is the only epic track on the album, is a little lacking, but that doesn’t say it’s a bad track, it needs a little polishing up and make the piece almost like 8 chapters on there. The song really needs a little bit of work, but it really kicks ass at the same time with militant, spaghetti western, and Ritchie Blackmore sounds filling the edge. You might want to keep a close on The Devil’s Blood and see what the long and winding road will lay ahead for them. For a band that carries the doom metal and obscure prog sounds, it’s quite clear that every musician might want to take note of them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Within Temptation - The Unforgiving

After taking a four year hiatus from touring on The Heart of Everything, it seems that Dutch’s Within Temptation have finally opened the door to get a chance to do a concept album for a big comeback in their touch of dramatic, epic-symphonic progressive metal music. It’s hard to explain why Within Temptation is one of the finest metal bands to come out of the Netherlands. I’m guessing it’s because of the structures of the songs, fierce guitar sounds that Robert Weterholt brings to the table while keyboardist Martin Spierenburg comes with an atmospheric sound that is very epic and almost like a film score. And don’t forget Sharon Den Adel’s vocals that will have male listeners in tears, you almost couldn’t play their music because of her voice, not just because it’s beautiful, but heart-warming, and emotional at the same time almost as if Kate Bush is watching her as if she was her stepmother being very pleased on what she’s doing and following in her footsteps.

All of that and The Unforgiving is one of the WT’s magnificent concept albums of 2011while it carries a part of their previous album, The Silent Force. There are a lot of roads to travel from and searching for the greatest albums to look for. As for The Unforgiving, it’s one of those albums that could be made into a movie set to beautiful music. The story of the album is about Mother Maiden, a blind elderly woman, who brings people back from the dead including Sinead to stop the city from its corruption of evil and sin. Sinead, who was originally a drug addict, who dies and is resurrected after killing her own father and trying to bring her daughter back from him after a vicious and tense argument. The whole story is almost straight out of Alan Moore’s storyline on V for Vendetta thanks to comic book writer Steven O’Connell and illustrator Ramano Molenaar, they really added a dark-like atmosphere for the Unforgiving.

With a huge kick in the stomach, you would say that the band would do a lot of research reading graphic novels and would listen to Metallica, Tori Amos, Pink Floyd, Rush, and Iron Maiden. However, the influences are almost like a Road Runner (no pun intended) which goes about 900 miles per hour as the lyrics deal with life, death, resurrection, and revenge. You want to talk about revenge? Here’s a lyric on the fast-driven single, Shot in the Dark, “Now I’m fighting this war/Since the day of the fall/And I’m desperately holding on to it all/But I’m lost, I’m so damn lost.” And isolation on Sinead with “I’ve been drowning in sorrow/Chasing tomorrow, running away/Now you’re crossing the borders/Sealing tomorrow but you’re not afraid.” Now these songs you wouldn’t hear them on FM radio in corporate American radio stations, but with real good music like on Total Rock Radio and Planet Rock in the UK would get a real kick out of it.

Alongside from the mind-blowing artwork that Ramano did, the production on The Unforgiving is a home run. Alongside other female symphonic metal bands like Amberian Dawn, Kingfisher Sky, After Forever, and Delain, Within Temptation may have probably released the prog album of the year for 2011. From the short dramatic spoken dialogue by Mother Maiden on Why Not Me to the haunting ballad finale Stairway to the Skies, It makes The Unforgiving an epic soundtrack from the compositions and the fight for survival. In The Middle of the Night goes mysteriously into the sound of Symphony X while the roaring sound of the British Steel-era of Judas Priest meets Depeche Mode on Faster with synths sounding like a speeding train and a sense of orchestral proportions.

Fire and Ice provides a Danny Elfman-sque score in the realms of the 1989 Tim Burton classic, Edward Scissorhands as it goes into a gentle grand piano of mourning for about a minute and thirty seconds as it goes into a glorified beauty with Adel’s tearful angelic voice. On Iron, we hear a reference of Dream Theater and Metallica as new drummer Nicka Hellenburg and the guitarists Robert Westerholt and Ruud Jolie, bring a sinister depth to the song as the three go in the race track to see who will win. Nicka has a strong mind-blowing militant drum section while the duo guitarist just go at it with rhythm and lead as if Iron Maiden’s trio guitarist Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers are like father figures watching them and being so proud of them as if they are giving the torches to them to carry the Maiden flag.

Where is the Edge, with its previous ballad on Fire and Ice, contains the ‘80s synth sound, losing your mind, and a fierce rhythm section while Sinead, based on the character on the album, who’s back from the dead, is almost a theme song. It has a dance beat almost in the New Wave sounds of 1983, but it’s a catchy yet sounds like it could be used in a club for people to break dance to, however it’s a heavy track and lets the listener know that Within Temptation haven’t lose their Symphonic Metal sound, but it gave them a chance to cut free with energy. It’s destined to become a fan favorite alongside Mother Earth, Caged, Stand My Ground, and Ice Queen as the melodic acoustic touches for Within Temptation to calm down on Lost that allows Sharon to shine with her vocals as the band follow her to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Right next to Lost is Within Temptation’s homage to Space Rocker’s Eloy and Camel as if they were formed in 2006 with a Metal attitude in the realms of Dream Theater on Murder, showing that there’s a killer on the loose in a punch-like sinister guitar twist heard into an orchestral time machine back to being a vigilante to stop the evil sins in the world. As with the closing on Stairway to the Skies, A Demon’s Fate has everything that the Symphonic Metal and Within Temptation fans have in their veins for. You have an amazing drum patterns from Hellenburg, heavy rhythm section, keyboards sounding like a string quartet, and the vocals from the angels of Sharon Den Adel. You may ask yourself, “How the hell did they do that?” Well imagine if they wrote a rock opera on V For Vendetta, this would be it and see what Within Temptation have up their sleeves in the future.