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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Peter Hammill - Fool's Mate

While he carried the sound and the vision behind the sound of Van Der Graaf Generator and receiving cult status with albums including; The Aerosol Grey Machine, The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, H to He Who Am the Only One, and the darkest masterpiece, Pawn Hearts, Peter Hammill is for me, one of the most overlooked singers in the history of the Art Rock scene in the 1970s. During VDGG’s heyday, Peter wanted to do something that was beyond the band’s career at their peak. He wanted to do simple shorter songs.

That and his first solo album, Fool’s Mate, a calming, evocative, and spiritual album that he unleashed, but he still carried the VDGG sound in there to give it more of an alarming, eruptive, yet hypnotic debut that is ready for lift-off. Originally released on the Charisma label in 1971, which was home to Lindisfarne, Rare Bird, String Driven Thing, and Genesis, Fool’s Mate is a staggering gem that just makes you wonder, how the hell does Hammill do it?

Well, you have some friends including Robert Fripp of King Crimson along with Rod Clements and Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne to lend Peter a hand on some of the tunes that are at times humorous, dalek, twisted, balladry, and joyous, he can take the listener into a strange new world that he or she has never seen before. Songs like the waltz-like dance organ upbeat on Happy and the tribute to the Victorian-era of the late 1890’s on Sunshine has this odd homage to Gilbert and Sullivan with a Salad Days sound featuring jazzy sax beat and a swirling wah-wah guitar solo.

Then, he goes into the surroundings of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory-era which I imagined he listened to during the sessions for his solo album on the acoustic yet laid-back calmness on Child and Candle while he goes into the Acid Folk fuzzy atmosphere that he could have recorded at a dark and cavernous place on Solitude in which he sings about a person going through the early stages of having a nervous breakdown by trying to get away from the real world with lyrics like “Out here, Life Is At its Essence/Watches the World with Innocent Eyes/Far from Grime/Far from Rushing People it seems That I have Found a Tiny Peace.”

Meanwhile, he’s at the piano for a ballad that resembles the chord introduction on Whatever Robert Would Have Said on Vision and you can tell Hammill is taking a break from the heavy material to take a relaxation as he goes into a joyous introduction featuring a loud alarming keyboard note before going on a trip on his Imperial Zeppelin. It has the upbeat psych-swinging grooves, operatic organ-like movements in the midsection with his wailing and dooming, calming voices that he improvises, sax riffs, and Hammill having a blast on this piece that almost could have been a hit single.

And then, the tension level increases on the closing yet mourning piece with him on guitar and singing that has this Edgar Allen Poe inspired lyrics on I Wrote Some Poems. He calms for a minute and then strums loudly by singing and its just thunderous, that you can tell something special is happening on here. Still after 43 years by the time it was released, Fool’s Mate is an unsung masterpiece that Hammill has brought to the table.

Monday, May 27, 2013

17 Pygmies - Isabel

17 Pygmies have been around for 31 years since their formation in 1982, and while they have this various sound of atmospheric experimental music that they carry into their music, it’s probably a good idea to come up with the next story line after the release of Even Celestina Gets the Blues. Their next concept is based on the Celestina story as it continues in through the mind of Dr. Isabel. A spiritual follow-up to the previous album, they take music into a different levels of the genre by making it a laid-back, soothing adventure like you’ve never heard it before.

With 11 parts of the Isabel suite in different variations and the sounds of classical, new age, surrealism, and dark-like cavernous sounds that they did in the movement of the story,  it’s a homage to the bands, composers, and artists they grew up on and researched to get ready to move with the next involvement of Celestina. There are touches of; Storm Corrosion, Philip Glass, Mike Oldfield, Terry Riley, Amon Duul II, and early Tangerine Dream in there as well with bits of early Porcupine Tree in there as well from the Delerium Records-era in the early ‘90s.

At times, the pieces have bits of Acid Folk, Avant-Garde, Alternative, and uplifting moments with string quartets and orchestral boundaries to get you ready for the journey. And then, it goes into these electronic trip hop sounds reminiscing; Radiohead, NoSound and elements from Pink Floyd The Wall’s Empty Spaces. The gentle lukewarm crisp and electric guitar sounds that come at you out of nowhere, makes you feel right at home and has this calm-like surroundings as Meg Maryatt’s voices on the compositions has this haunting yet beautiful surroundings on her telling the story on Isabel’s life and she makes it very poignant.

The synths go through different surroundings and time-changing signatures along with background vocalizations that transforms into a voyage into the milky-way and the capturing the essence of Space Rock at times and it works, perfectly like a charm while it goes through the sounds of space into dripping watery touches of the ocean. Also, there is one part where everything becomes a psychedelic raga-rock vibe that captures the late ‘60s featuring a thumping bass line, drum beat, hypnotic sitar sound, fingerpicking guitar layered sound that is haunting, sinister, and the futuristic city of a dystopian universe that will send shiver down your spine.

But the closing track, Kyrie, has this angelic yet gentle finale featuring a string-quartet that has this ‘80s melodic structured beauty that lets the listener know, that the story is not over, but just the beginning of the Isabel story. Along with 17 Pygmies previous albums, Isabel , proves to show that the band are the music and they are the story-tellers when it comes to both of the pieces coming together as one.  The future is still coming and 17 Pygmies are still coming up with more tricks in their sleeves for years and years to come.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Allan Holdsworth - FLATTire: Music For a Non-Existent Movie

Allan Holdsworth, is perhaps one of the most overlooked guitarist in the Jazz Rock scene. He’s probably best known for his work with; Soft Machine (Karl Jenkins-era), ‘Igginbottom, Nucleus, Tony Williams, and the earliest obscure heavy metal short-lived trio, Tempest.  He is ahead of his time alongside John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Bill Connors to name a few to really take the guitar into the voyages of the passages of both time and space to boldly go where the genre of Jazz has never gone before.

In the mid ‘80s, he used an instrument called the SynthAxe, which was a MIDI software guitar-like instrument that would produce sound by using his arm to play notes on the neck resembling the instrument in different usage that Allan himself did with Atavachron in which it was an homage and a tribute to the original Star Trek series back in 1986. Then, eleven years ago, where he would create this moody atmospheric new-age sound with 2001’s FLATTire: Music For a Non-Existent Movie.

The album was out of print for a long time until MoonJune Records this year has reissue it and from the moment you put it on, you could tell that Allan himself wants to give the New Age sound, by adding a touch of the Jazz genre up a notch. Listening to this, it’s almost a one-man guitar show and featuring Dave Carpenter on acoustic bass on two tracks, he would come up with some smooth lines to help Allan out with the swirling beauties that he would come up on the SynthAxe.

At times, it is a tribute to the Hyperborea-era of Tangerine Dream and bits of Wendy Carlos in there to give this ‘80s vibe on the sound as you can imagine some of the compositions could have been a part of the Atavachron sessions. You have to understand, Allan is a conductor and composer, so the instrument that he’s playing, he’s playing the bass, strings, sax, keyboards, and orchestral choirs that would fill the entire setting into that one MIDI instrument, that would have your jaws dropped when controls it to see where he would take it to next.

It almost as if he was writing the score to some of the PBS shows like Newton’s Apple, NOVA, Long Ago & Far Away, and Square One. It goes through a spiritual journey like walking through various landscapes set to a dazzling electronic score to fast-upbeat moments, haunting, and emotional themes that makes Allan, a mastermind through the soundscapes. All in all, FLATTire, is a hypnotic, moody, and quirky electronic jazz adventure like you’ve never heard it before in the mind of Allan Holdsworth.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Avengers - On A Mission

This Jazz-Rock quartet from New York City takes a lot of sound and vision of the world of Fusion like you’ve never heard it before.  Their music is very laid-back, soft, soothing, mellow, balladry, and dance-like from beginning, middle, and end. Taken their name from the Marvel Comics universe, The Avengers plays their music like a soundtrack to the Big Apple which makes you feel right at home as you go through the streets and remembering the good times you had in the city as a child growing up that makes you feel safe and sound.

Uruguayan guitarist Beledo, who is almost is for me, Jazz Rock’s answer to Leopold Stokowski and John McLaughlin on the guitar as a conductor and leader of the group, takes his playing into various movements and holds the band together like walking through a tightrope and holding on to their lives to see where the musical compositions will take them into. Then there’s Adam Holzman, who is on tour right now with Steven Wilson promoting The Raven That Refuse to Sing, using his Fender Rhodes-like sound on the keyboards and the Moog, creates a lot of swarm and moody sounds on the instruments that will take you into different dimensions.

Drummer Kim Plainfield and bassist Lincoln Goines, create some mind-blowing passages and incisive wonders between the rhythm sections that will have your jaws dropped when you expect the unexpected.  There are some amazing atmospheric arrangements that are enduring four highlights from On a Mission. After All begins with a layered guitar and bass melody line that Beledo and Goines do while Holzman gathers some soulful Rhodes and Organ sound as they soar into the heavenly skies for some fantastic receptions as Beledo just takes it down the highway as Holzman creates some Herbie Hancock touches for a hypnotic solo.

Portia begins with a haunting synth-like introduction and it has some classical elements in there with soothing guitar beats and vocalizations that makes this band worth listening to. You have to admit, there is a lot of magic and creativity behind the four members of the group. Meanwhile, Rauleando has some heavy inspirations from The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame-era and King Crimson’s Red-era in there as they go into some Prog-Funk movements with some jumpy and spacey sounds as Exactly, goes into this 1980s fast-driven turned expansive exercise beat that sees the band go into this massive car race to see who will win the Stanley Cup for best sound.

And then, there’s the opening title track. With touches of Weather Report and Return to Forever surroundings in there, it makes it a perfect introduction for the curtain to rise up. Lincoln is doing this mind-blowing bass lines in the style of Jaco Pastorious as Beledo creates some virtuosity as Holzman does this Jan Hammer workout on the keyboards to get going as Kim helps him out on his up tempo drum beats.

An amazing journey that is spiritual, innovative, powerful, and magical from the moment you put the CD on, and it’s an exhilarating experience.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Chewers - Chuckle Change and Also

When you have a band or an artist who is strange, surreal, avant-garde, twisted, and mind-blowing, you think of; Swans, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, The Residents, The Deviants, and the Krautrock group, Faust. And there is one band, a duo, which is following in the footsteps of the six and that is The Chewers. Coming from West Virginia, the duo considers Travis Caffrey and Michael Sadler who according to their bio on their website, live in the hills of the Backwoods and wounded up in Nashville.

They have this weird concept of Deadpan Humor, bizarre time signatures, instruments that have the avant-rock and bluesy twist that works perfectly and it almost feels like they were left off the sessions for Trout Mask Replica and The Faust Tapes. That and their second album, Chuckle Change and Also, offers a huge middle finger to the commercial music industry and the reality shows, that is wildly weird and strangely strange, but it makes perfect sense from beginning, middle, and end.

Now while the title sounds like something straight out of a 1930s Three Stooges short, the out of the blue monotone’s, dystopian views of the business, muddy swamp-rock orientations that has a ‘60s feel, sinister overtones with a humoristic feel, and nightmarish sounds coming at you to give you a leap from your comfy listener’s chair. For example on Down There, it feels as if you are inside the asylum and imagine, if you will, Alvin from Alvin and The Chipmunks, wearing a strait-jacket, locked up in the mental institute, with these voices in his head, and going insane featuring a doomy atmospheric sound, is staggering!

The chaotic twists of: Burn it Down, Steam, A Part Machine, and The Fat Man has these crunchy bluesy guitar haywire effect that are pounding, resembling to the post-punk sound of the late ‘70s, and shuffling creaking that will make you to take notes. The fuzzing bass, saw-hypnotic squishing effects on the keyboard, and robotic voices on Techno-Slaves, is their take on House music while the homage to the Magic Band comes in full swing on the free-jazz marching sing-along song between bass drum, bass, piano, and almost a violin in the wings with Smiling Samuel.

Then, there’s the 6-minute terrifying eerie yet almost Twilight Zone story about a disturbing man who is suffering from a nervous breakdown and his obsession with Rats on Tornado of Stasis. It has this combination of a loud bass, dissonant piano chords, mellowing drum line with 4/4 time signature, makes you get the goosebumps and shivers down your spine.

Then on Funnel Head, they go into the Punk Rock punch with a fast ¾ beat with double vocals with a slowed down beat and hypnotic guitar work as the robotic voice comes in dealing with the issues of the massive big corporations with the with a nice homage to CAN’s Ege Bamyasi with a nice homage to the sound of the late Michael Karoli’s guitar lines as an homage that Travis does on Burn it Down.

I have listened to Chuckle Change and Also about four times now and its not an easy album to listen to. Now do I hate it? No, this is bizarre yet mind-boggling adventure that you are going to embark on when you listen to The Chewers’ music. A must have for anyone who’s into the Post-Punk, Avant-Rock and Krautrock sounds of the ‘70s.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Purson - The Circle and the Blue Door

One of the labels I’ve championed since 2009 alongside KScope, MoonJune Records, and Esoteric Recordings is Rise Above Records. My introduction to them was from the very first issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog and Astra’s The Awakening was my one of favorite progressive rock albums to come out of that time period. And soon bands like; Orange Goblin, Cathedral, Electric Wizard, Diagonal, Ghost, and Doom-Prog band, Blood Ceremony in which they have a combination of Black Sabbath meets Jethro Tull, shows that this label have come a long way since the late 1980s founded by Napalm Death’s Lee Dorrian, who for me, is the Sherlock Holmes of obscure Prog and Doom Metal.

This year, one of the most promising groups to come out of England is Purson. This quintet is for me, one of my favorite bands after hearing their Rocking Horse EP. And now, they have unleashed their debut album, The Circle and the Blue Door. It has this very ‘70s retrospective rock feel in the realms of Prog/Psych/Doom with a combination of Black Sabbath, King Crimson, The Beatles, Julian’s Treatment, and the acid folk rock group, Trees, with a gothic twist.

Musicians on the album are; Rosalie Cunningham on Lead Vocals, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Keyboards, and Percussion, Ed Turner on Bass and Acoustic Guitar, Raphael Mura on Drums, and Rosalie's brother William on Saxophone and Jester Duty. What is simply mind-blowing about Purson is how they would take the sounds of the three genres and just kick it up a notch by making an amazing experience to embark from the moment you put the album on and listen to it from start to finish.

Filled with soothing Mellotronic, Hammond Organ and Fender Rhodes-like sounds, hypnotic guitar lines that have a lot of heavy and folk-like structures along with Sabbath sound that comes along with it and Rosalie’s vocals that will send shivers down your spine from the moment she sings.  There are some amazing moments on the album that endures six centerpieces from The Circle and the Blue Door. You have the walking bass line, and the Spacey wah-wah feel from the acoustic guitar, and the keyboards setting the emotions on The Contract and the homage to Italian Prog group, Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto on the joyous and upbeat feel on Leaning on a Bear.

The eruptive and rumbling middle-eastern with a haunting and sinister beat to it on Spiderwood Farm, it has this heavy riff on guitar, bass and keyboard before Rosalie comes in hammering as it goes into a dark folky movement for a brief second and then it goes back into full swing and then back into that movement, it is such a killing track and feels like they could have recorded this piece for the Italian Horror Films in the 1970s.

The jazzy rock vibe comes at you like a breath of fresh air with a lot of tension on Well Spoiled Machine as it goes into this amazing groove in ¾ time signature between Bass, Drums, and Keyboards as they help out Rosalie get the vibes thumping by reminiscing Motorpsycho. Sailor’s Wife Lament which has this haunting waltz-rock vibe, feels very much like something straight out of Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera as you can imagine Lotte Lenya’s character (Jenny) singing this at an abandoned bar with a wonderous jaw-dropping approval.

And then there’s Rocking Horse. It features some delay and reverb surroundings on the guitar and some lukewarm crisp on the 12-string acoustic guitar for the introduction before Rosalie comes in as she sings “Look, here, picture if you can/an old photograph in my hand/Gaze in, remember if you can/Hazy days, far- away lands.” And then the band comes in with high spirits as they go into this Beatlesque ‘60s touch that just takes you by surprise by going into different voyages in the midsection.  Unexpected and out of the blue, it is a killer.

I have listened to The Circle and the Blue Door about 12 times already and I’m completely hooked into the music and Purson have scored a homerun with their debut album. Even though it’s their first, and receiving word-of-mouth in the underground circuit, they are soon going to become one of my favorite bands in the revival of the Prog and Psychedelic community. A must listen-to album for 2013.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tumbleweed Dealer - Tumbleweed Dealer

This amazing band from Montreal, have a huge dosage of Prog, Doom, and Stoner Rock as if this was recorded in 1973. For a lot of the arranging and compositions that are featured in seven pieces they have stowed upon us, Tumbleweed Dealer goes through the massive voyages of space combining the sounds of Black Sabbath, King Crimson, and Tool. And with their sole self-titled debut album released this year, it is soon going to become one of my favorite up-and-coming bands to come out in 2013.

What is really amazing about the music is just how mellowing, dark, and bluesy it sounds that they take the dosage of the three genres and add it up a notch into experimenting with various themes that some of the titles has some fantasy elements and at times like a Grindhouse film from the ‘70s that makes them wish they could have recorded a score for one of the films. Since I’ve mentioned about Tool, Sons of the Desert and The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross sounded like something straight out that was left off the sessions for 10,000 Days and Lateralus featuring a lot of swirling guitar and fuzzy bass lines with a doomy surrealism that would send shivers upon the stoner’s spine.

The doomy bass and the Hendrix-inspired guitar sounds come in like an eruptive volcano explosion on (get this title), How To Light a Joint with a Blowtorch, is a mind-boggling sound of early Proto Metal in the late ‘60s in the underground scene in Europe. The opening track, Opiates, which is a medicine of opioid alkaloids in the poppy plant, begins with a sinister riff introduction then kicks into a laid-back groove with some hypnotic vibes that goes along with it by going into higher places to set the tension vibes rumbling.

From the muddy yet crunchy hard blues rock of Trudging Through an Egyptian Swamp to the post-apocalyptic bass licks with a soothing drum beat on March of the Dead Cowboys, it feels as if they were harmonizing the sounds of High Tide’s Sea Shanties on the piece and almost writing a score to the AMC TV series, The Walking Dead. It’s very relaxing and calm on the number and dip their toes into the water for going into Spaghetti Western territory with the lines going in a psych rock vibe of an alarm siren waiting to attack.

The closing track, Dark Times A’ Comin’, evokes the sounds of the Electric Prunes,  and MKI of King Crimson and an evil version of early Deep Purple, that has this Fuzzy Garage Rock with a dramatic vibe to close the album with a calm after the storm. Tumbleweed Dealer has a long road ahead of them. And while this is their debut album, I bet there is more to where they came from in the near future. A must have for anyone who loves early Sabbath, Crimson, and the proto-prog-metal band, High Tide.

Revelation's Hammer - Revelation's Hammer

Blistering and Powerful sounds of Black Metal comes at you like a fast-speeding train going 600 miles per hour from this soon to be up-and-coming bands out of Norway with snarling vocals, thunderous guitar lines, and machine gun drum patterns. That group is called Revelation’s Hammer and they are as mind-blowing carrying the torch of the genre and following in the footsteps of Venom, Celtic Frost, and Morbid Angel.

With a cover that has of a Hammer smashing parts of Earth’s atmosphere and the cover almost resemble Dante’s Inferno done by Ricardo Ferandes from Portugese, it is epic, stories of betrayal, fantasy, horror, and almost as if the machine is ready for a full scale assault.  The band features Accuser on lead vocals, guitar, and bass, Myrvoll (Nidingr) on drums, and Exilis (Troll) on keyboards and it was recorded at Toproom studio where the controversial band, Mayhem and Borknagar did some of their sessions and let’s just say that Revelation’s Hammer have scored a knock-out with their sole self-titled debut album.

You have the opening 9-minute epic, Obsessed Onslaught that sounds like something straight out of Black Sabbath’s first album with the doomy guitar introduction before it ascends into a full chaotic nightmarish pummeling throttle. Then there’s the drilling title track and the balls-out Den Blåøyde (The Blue Eyed) that goes through this wonderful homage to the ‘80s Thrash Metal scene featuring Monk-like choir in the midsection that is jaw-dropping as they pay tribute to Slayer’s early days.

Buried as Filth feels almost like a Black Metal opera set during 1945 post-war where everything has gone down into a brink of destruction with someone going insane screaming in a mental asylum done with a lot of heavy energetic driven and pumped up sounds setting the scenery while Avgudsdyrkelse (Idolatry) in which it deals on worshipping the physical object of god as they take on the subject matter with a climatic-climax battle against heaven and hell that has a thunderous attitude.

Closing track, The Crown of Malice, is back into the Thrash/Hardcore Metal roots and where all the headbangers get ready to mosh on this mind-blowing epic. There are at times in which is an homage to early Metallica, Napalm Death,  and the occult Italian prog band, Jacula with the doomy organ lines done by Exilis before Accuser and Myrvoll go into this chaotic duel between guitar and drums as the spell-binding last few minutes brings a closure to drop the curtain for an enormous applause.

Revelation’s Hammer is one of the most explosive, yet dangerous bands I’ve listened to. Their debut album is soon going to receive word of mouth in the Black Metal community in different parts of Europe and maybe hit the big time in the festivals to see where the road will take them. A must listen to band for anyone who’s into Thrash and Black Metal.

PTSD - A Sense of Decay

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an Italian group from Grottammare, which is a commune located on the Adriatic coast of Ascoli Piceno which is a province. They have this alternative and metal feel in their sound as well. They have been around since 2005 after releasing their debut album, Bureploom and appeared on the soundtrack in the 2007 independent horror film, Am I Evil (named after the Diamond Head song) and won the Horror film festival that helped the band get some recognition in the states.

That and their new album, A Sense of Decay, shows a lot of power and a lot of hope for this band to deal with the issues on their namesake with anxiety disorders, flashbacks, nightmares, and taking your own life. It’s a difficult subject matter on the compositions they wrote, and it’s quite amazing for the group to really deal with the issue and how some of the people (including Soldiers coming home from Iraq), who are suffering from the anxiety disorder, are receiving help and trying to cope with it and it’s not an easy task for them to revisit the past.

The mellowing turned rapid guitar driven lines and thunderous drum beats on Suicide Attitude which almost sounds like something out of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality-era, comes at you like a kick in the gut with momentum while the haunting and poignant surroundings on A Reason to Die and the electronic atmospheres on Staring the Stormwall with an acoustic turned uplifting background, soars into stirring momentum. Then there’s the energetic yet fast-driven tempo of Breathless where the snarling and calm vocals come in full swing and at times it has rumbling guitar lines in the rhythm section where both the instruments and vocals come together as one.

On Solar Matter Loss, it has this ‘80s vibe with a sci-fi futuristic dystopian universe feel and at times it has some elements of Queen’s latter days in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s while the opening track, Event Horizon, goes into the electronic/alternative rock vibe with some grooving movements on both guitar and vocals that sets the tone of the album. Parasomnia and By a Thread are both alongside the other tracks, another fast-driven compositions with thumping guitar lines between rhythm and lead that has some calm and relaxing movements before kicking into full gear with alternative metal going into overdrive.

Their take on Anastacia’s mellowing ballad on Heavy On My Heart which deals with her battle from breast cancer, is stunning with layered clean and heavy guitar lines as the vocals soars into the heavenly sky while …If? Has some of the Prog and Metallic structures with a lot of vibes to the mix as the closing track of Event Horizon in which it’s the “Forgotten Sunrise remix”, is sinister and haunting in this version that makes the piece almost a soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner.

PTSD keeps the touches of Prog, Electronic, Alternative, and Metal true to the core and they have shown no sign of stopping. A mind-blowing album that is a big surprise from beginning, middle, and end on A Sense of Decay, they are about to really take their music into different levels and they keep it solid.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mortal Form - The Reckoning

Death and Thrash Metal can be an interesting crossover as if to say either Metallica had teamed up with Mayhem with snarling vocals or Overkill teaming up with Celtic Frost with extreme results for the headbanger’s to mosh like crazy. However, one of the most extreme metal bands to come outside of America, is a group from the Netherlands called Mortal Form and they are surely to become the loudest and heaviest metal bands to erupt like an explosive volcano waiting to erupt and send a river of lava to reign terror in the big and small cities of Europe.

Following in the footsteps of Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Arch Enemy and dare I say the group Deathklok from the Adult Swim series, Metalocalypse, they have been around for about 19 years since their formation in 1994. The band considers Oscar on Bass, Bastiaan on Drums, Ralph on Lead Vocals, Teun and Vincent on guitar. Their fifth album, The Reckoning, is an earthquake and mind-blowing album from start to finish with rapid gunfire guitar lines, militant drum patterns, pumping bass, and snarling/roaring beast-like vocals that let the Metalheads know, that the genre is not just a five letter word.

The fast-driven pieces – At Fever Pitch, Apocalyptic Aftermath, As Nature Turns Evil (The Sleeper Awakes), and Storm Before Calm, feels as if the violent tornado has come back with thunder and its getting ready for a full scale assault on the towns with a lot of attitude and energetic vibes that is a rumbling earthquake coming out of nowhere that are absolutely jaw-dropping. Then there’s the 5-minute metallic mini opera about someone going insane on Dungeon. Here on this composition, they deal with the issue on who are they, revisiting their childhood and feeling like ages, and how they are still alive in the prison of the hellish nightmare they are living in.

Radiation Breath, which deals with the toxic Radioactive Waste and dying from the stuff after the apocalypse, sounds like something straight out of Slayer’s Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood-era that has the volume going up to 200 not to mention the crazy guitar solo in the midsection while the closing track, Sinners Repent, has this early resemblance of the Kill Em ‘All-era of Metallica’s Seek and Destroy, but with an attitude and a tribute to the Thrash Metal heroes. If the Thrash and Death Metal scene has been revived, then Mortal Form is certainly one of the bands to watch out for.

The Reckoning is one of the most vicious, sinister, and haunting albums I have listened to and this is the album to get ready for a lot of headbanging from start to finish and there is no stop sign of a band to get the blood and veins flowing inside them. It is a must have album and highly recommended to see where the road will take them into.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

Steven Wilson, the man behind Porcupine Tree, the remasters of the Prog gems of the golden-era of the 1970s, and as a solo artist, has come a long way from his first two albums (Insurgentes and Grace for Drowning) and on pet projects including the eerie and haunting beauty with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt on Storm Corrosion, Blackfield with Aviv Geffen, and No-Man with Tim Bowness to name a few. This time the Prince of Progressive Rock is back in action this year with his follow up to Grace for Drowning with The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories).

With help from engineer Alan Parsons, who’s known for his work on Pink Floyd 1973 magnum opus, Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles Abbey Road, and his band, The Alan Parsons Project, is his way out of retirement to come back and work with Wilson himself and track by track, it is an absolute stunning beauty of storytelling and journeys that you will embark on from the moment you put it on from start to finish.  Starting the album off is the 12-minute epic, Luminol, which was performed on the live box set, Get All You Deserve, is an eruptive rollercoaster ride that starts the album off with a powerful big bang.

Featuring thunderous bass and drum work done by Nick Beggs and Marco Minnemann along with a funky Rhodes-like work by Adam Holzman that reminisces Herbie Hancock and Jan Hammer in the 1970s for the first five minutes of the composition before it becomes a moody atmosphere that has a mellowing touch as Holzman does this Monk-like concerto on the piano while Steven layers the ground with his guitar and the usage of Robert Fripp’s MKII Mellotron with some wonderful harmonizing vocalization. Most of the time, it sounds like something that was left off the sessions for King Crimson’s Lizard album.

Drive Home, is a calm and relaxing orchestral piece. Lush, Bliss, and Delicate, it has these elements of Folk, Jazz, and the lukewarm crisp sounds of the acoustic guitar, Wilson’s mellowing voice sets the tone for the song as he and Adam sings the line, “You need to clear away all the jetsam in your brain/And face the truth/Well love can make amends/While the darkness always ends, you’re still alone/So drive home.” What the line really means is, all the past and present that you’ve encountered, you have to face it and you’re still an outsider, so the best thing to do is to drive home to forget about what happened in your childhood and focus on the future.

Theo Travis and Guthrie Govan play the melody between the Sax and Guitar before Govan does this wonderful jazzy guitar solo as Theo helps him out to make it sound very dreamy and soothing.  So, everything becomes a darker and terrifying nightmare in which is where you drink with the devil himself as The Holy Drinker. The title sounds like a Hammer Horror film, but the 10-minute epic is the real kicker. Starting off with Adam’s Fender Rhodes into haunting territories along with some guitar lines that Guthrie does and goes into touches of the Jazz Fusion of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, it is an out of this world experience with thunderous results.

And then, the last 3-minutes of the song, becomes a nightmarish ambient atmosphere before it goes into this homage of the shrieking roaring sound of the Moog and guitar in the styles of early Van Der Graaf Generator. The Pin Drop in which it deals with the loss of a love one through the eye of the husband’s only companion, his wife, has a lot of tension and goes through these emotional and dynamic structures while the Acid Folk turned nightmarish surroundings of The Watchmaker, goes through various movements.

At the first three minutes, it starts off with an acoustic guitar classical fingerpicking beauty along with flute and mellotron setting on what is coming about into a touch of Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto and Agitation Free’s Haunted Island that will have your jaws dropped on what the band will do next. And then, in comes the closing title track. Beautiful piano chords, experimenting atmosphere, impressive vocals from Wilson, string quartets and the guitars setting the story that has this Edgar Allen Poe background, there are touches of the OK Computer-era of Radiohead in the story-complex that has an uplifting transcendent to it.

The Raven That Refused to Sing is truly a crowning achievement and Steven Wilson is not even quitting, he’s a storyteller and there’s more for where it came from. And who knows which stories he will have up his sleeves in the near future.