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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Avoral - War Is Not Over

With the sounds of Epic, Power, Thrash, and Speed Metal thrown in along with the inspirations of Fantasy Literature, you know it’s going to be an interesting combination of the four concepts. And one of the up-and-coming bands to come out of Italy is an Epic Heavy Metal band called, Avoral. Since their formation in 2011, the band’s music is like a roller-coaster ride that is almost a legendary adventure from start to finish to see where the quintet would go to next.

I’m not a wild fan of the Epic and Speed Metal sounds, but I do respect the genre very well and understand that yes it might be over the top, but it is without a doubt an interesting debut album that Avoral has unleashed this year with War is Not Over. And of course not to mention the five highlights on here that took me by surprise. The opening track, Ivory Gates, begins with the rain pouring and the thunders crashing along with the footsteps for a person to open the gate as the blaring guitars and drums along with the vocals come pumping in for a charging introduction.

Not to mention the midsection in which it features a militant sound along with a rapid fire sound on the guitars between the lead and the rhythm. There is an accelerated yet energetic sinister sound featuring the clean and growling vocals that is almost that the battle is still raging on Unwanted Treason while the tolling bells with a sing-along operatic double time ramming faster speed to stand for justice and freedom gets you in the mood to get ready and hopefully sacrifice yourself in I’ll Rise Again.

Speaking of Opera, it is almost as if this along with the sixth composition were almost if you wish a mini Metal opera. The vocals go into the area of the section that is a tribute and inspirational sounds of Iron Maiden. Which is evidential on the throbbing yet palpitating vivid extreme roar on Journey to the Glory and the guitars paying tribute to the duo guitarists of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith as it resembles of the first two albums in the early ‘80s on the Dark Caves Melody.

The closing title track, starts in a ¾ time signature of a waltz before the rhythm section goes into a hammering and rapid roar between the drumming and guitars as the beats per minute goes at 190 but still in the signature before ending with a haunting string section that knowing the battle may not be over for everyone, it is only just begun. Now is this a great album? No, but I’ve listened to War is Not Over three times now and even though it’s a starter for Avoral, it’s an interesting and an adequate debut for them and they have a long road ahead of them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dragonhammer - Time for Expiation (MMXV Edition)

Dragonhammer’s second album, Time for Expiation, was released 11 years ago and was a follow up to their debut album, The Blood of the Dragon. The album sold 5,000 copies and it showed the band were strong and powerful as ever to give a follow up a surprising jolt of electricity that is the spark that gives the juice for the band’s sound. Alongside their debut album, their second album is now reissued in the digital format as well along with the artwork also. The music itself still carries on like a flaming fire ready to ignite.

The opener, Ancient Voice starts with an atmospheric yet nightmarish sound with a growling voice and resembling Black Sabbath’s E5-150 as it segues into the elevated Eternal Sinner. With galvanized guitar and drum power from Max and Raf before Alex’s mellow line of the piano comes in filling in the midsection. With improvisation flowing very between the three of them, the song is strong and it deals with the question on how much of the sins they must go into and why they are living in the hell they are in with no hope of getting out.

Free Land deals with the issue on survival. And with the beat per measure at 140, it has an electronic feel. Not to mention the heavy riffs with a church organ, synths, and choral background along with giving Gae Amodio a chance to come in front with a thunderous bass work as Max, Alex, and Raf give him free rein to Gae on a powerful metallic touch on his creative ideas on his instrument to see what he will do next.

For Alex Valdambrini, he would create these wonderful swirling solos that are classical, orchestral, and symphonic that is shown on the closing title track in which it has this sing-along feel that would get audiences in the vibration of the composition. And it’s the drive and vision of Dragonhammer which is shown on the ballad, The Pages I Never Write that starts for the first three minutes on Piano before he turns to the synths for an adventurous wonder on where he would go to next while the pummeling rhythms come for a thumping attitude on Blind Justice.

It has an ‘80s sound and Max is taking the sounds of the guitar from an ascending solo and reaches the highest note as Alex helps him out along with Raf helps him reach to go for the melodic structures and its wonderful for them along with Gae helping each other out to make it for that note to close the finale between guitar and keyboards and Max’s soaring vocals. But on Fear of a Child, Max takes the guitar on the beats per measure going at 160 from the riffs and solos that are fast and he brings them to the table for the two instruments to give it the Iron Maiden sound with a driven force.

There are three bonus tracks on here including the moving and gentle yet emotional ballad Letters of Pain which was released in the Japanese edition and two live versions during their European tour with Freedom Call featuring; Believe and Fear of a Child which were recorded last year in Barcelona and Madrid. Time for Expiation was Dragonhammer’s last album before they went on hiatus and came back in 2013 with their third album, The X Experiment.

I have to say I really enjoy both of the reissues that showed how Dragonhammer brought everything into the table of Progressive and Power Metal by creating magic, wonder, and creating a surrounding of their essence of the two genres. So if you want to relieve the experience and the wonders of Dragonhammer, go ahead and crank up the first two albums up at maximum volume and ride the lightning.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dragonhammer - The Blood of the Dragon (MMXV Edition)

I’ve always have a love of Metal in the sounds of Progressive, Symphonic, Doom, and Power. As a geek, combining between the music of Symphonic, Prog, and Power along with the elements of Fantasy and Swords and Sorcery, it is a perfect match and the music as well. And one of the bands that I’ve always enjoyed is Italian Progressive Power Metal band, Dragonhammer. This year, they have reissued their debut album released 14 years ago called, The Blood of the Dragon along with their follow up, Time for Expiation. The first album sold 6,000 copies and it’s still one of the mind-blowing debut of a band who can take it into a higher level.

With their debut album, it is a new edition featuring a new digital treatment including a new artwork done by Antonio Pannuilo, and the music itself is still amazing to capture the essence and the beginning of Dragonhammer’s music as they were just beginning. The opening track, Legend, has these amazing touches between a sing-along anthem, power chords and riffs, and not to mention Alex Valdabrini’s mind-blowing keyboard solo thrown in to give it a perfect introduction to the start the album off with a bang.

It’s War begins with the effects of the battlefield with thunder, screams, laughter, and slaughter as it segues into Dragonhammer.  It has a beat per measure of 159 featuring some rapid guitar and drum beats done by Max Aguzzi and Milko Morelli. But it’s Aguzzi’s voice that not only just plays the guitar in rhythm and lead, he also sings as well. He sings in the styles of Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kurch as if he is paying tribute to him.

There is also an intense midsection that Max does to give it the scenario of what’s happening that is like a movie inside your mind to give that scenery of the battlefield between good and evil. The sing-along compositions always come in handy for the audience to follow with the band to give it their all and mighty and its evidential on the booming and angelic sounds on You Kill while they go into a mid-fast tempo on the rhythm section and the keyboards on Black Sword before both guitar and keyboard go at it a duel as if it’s a battle to see who will win.

But then, Dragonhammer go into the headbanging mode for the listener to really get into the mood for as the fight to the death begins as the war is starting for the music go into the action, drama, and the tempo as Aguzzi goes into his guitar styles of Iron Maiden, Brian May, and the duo guitars and Valdabrini. And the duel between them is spellbinding to see who will make it and win, but they are winners on Blood in the Sky.

The two bonus tracks is their live performances they did last year in Barcelona and in Rome in which they were on their European tour with Freedom Call and you can tell the audiences were in amazed and being in awe of what they have experienced as they performed Dragonhammer and Scream. Dragonhammer have really come along way and having a blast of listening to their debut album around six times now, I am still blown away of their music and its majestic, stunning, intense, and incredible at the same time. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Yagull - Kai

Sasha Markovic is a very busy man when it comes to projects like; Yagull, The Sours, and Sashasonia. And now with Yagull, they are now signed with Moonjune Records in which it is their official debut this year with their follow up with to Films, are back this year with a new album called, Kai. Both Sasha and pianist Kana Kamitsubo have really taken a huge step with this because it is very melodic, classical, and beauty inside with their second album and they also brought some guests including guitarists Dewa Budjana and Beledo, drummer Marko Djordjevic, double bassist Yoshiki Yamada, and flute player Lori Reddy to name a few.

There are 12 compositions on the albums including two classic rock covers from Free and Deep Purple to shown to take into an acoustic and calming direction to show their love and take of the two songs. Not to mention six highlights to show how much they have done well. Mio is a flamenco style reminiscent of Eric Burdon and the Animals with a Ottmar Liebert touch to it and it is almost as if Sasha was writing the score for Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi trilogy to give the action and power to it.

Elsewhere with Kana Kamitsubo, she brings the sounds of Vince Guaraldi to her inspiration with the soothing and touching dance of a ballad on Blossom. On the composition, she along with Sasha and Dewa Budjana who gives a Gilmour-sque flavor on his guitar to help Sasha create the melodies together, they bring a soaring sound to ascend into the heavens between the three of them.  But their takes between Free and Deep Purple are the ones that are interesting and blown away from what they have done to the pieces.

On Wishing Well, it has a lukewarm touch with a relaxing beat and Wen Chang’s violin has a Gentle Giant touch to it as Sasha’s rhythm and lead is a clean touch with a spiritual wonder while Burn begins with a classical introduction between Ritchie Blackmore and Mason Williams at first before the catchy rhythms and Kana’s piano has this Gershwin flavor (Rhapsody in Blue vibe) to it and it’s a foot tapping beat.

Z-Parrow has a Celtic influence in there with the beats and tempo going into a clapping rhythm and Lori Reddy’s flute helps capture the beat and the tempo of the instrumental and not to mention the militant introduction of the snare drum done by Sasha before getting into the dancing. Kana comes back into the jazzy beats as she lets the listener walk into the sunset thanks to Jackson Kincheloe’s harmonica’s setting of the ballad throughout the last two minutes helps it make it on the way of the road towards home on the Sound of M.

I have listened to Kai about four times now and both Sasha and Kana shown a lot of what they have from their previous first album and the touches of classical, jazz, and folk, is a perfect welcome back into their inspirations. So if you love Films, their debut album, Kai is their achievement on what is to come now for the road to see where they would lead to next.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Simakdialog - Live at Orion

Indonesian’s Simakdialog have returned to start the New Year off and bringing the culture of World Music and Jazz Fusion mixed in with some Canterbury touches to the mix with their 2-CD set released by the good people of Moonjune Records performed live on September 7, 2013 at Orion Sound Studios in Baltimore, Maryland. The band was on tour promoting their upcoming album, The 6th Story two years ago. And from the moment you put the CDs in to listen, you can close your eyes and imagine being at the studio being in awe and taking to a spiritual adventure of their music with tension, relax, wonder, and wonderous ideas they would take their compositions into.

Whenever I would listen to Simakdialog, I get a sense of the sounds of Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Soft Machine, and Hatfield and the North to name a few that have been mixed together in a blender into one. And the music itself is unbelievable and creative ideas and they can take it those sounds and having the percussions, Fender Rhodes, Guitars, and Bass, it’s the essence of those three ideas and the genre of Progressive Rock is an electrifying beat I’ve really get a kick out of.

Riza Arshad is bringing the Rhodes into a golden-era of the 1970s by carrying the touches of Richard Sinclair (Caravan), Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine), and Martin Kratochvil (Jazz Q). He’s helping the band to give them where the directions it would lead and between Tohpati along with special guest Beledo (The Avengers), it is very much like helping out a friend in need and it’s marvelous the way the live performances gives it that wonderful touch that you could imagine what the band would come up with next.

There are some significant highlights throughout the entire performance that just completely draws you into their sound and their hearts to give out to make the most amazing live show ever done at Orion. And not just Riza and Tohpati, but Rudy Zulkarnaen on Bass, but Endang Ramdan, Erlan Suwardana, and Cucu Kurina on the percussion instruments, it’s a journey to a wonderful world of the sights and the visions and the ideas they would bring to the table.

There are some moments in which they do almost like a Tango rhythm meets Jazz-Funk wah-wah pedals between the Rhodes and Guitar for an amazing improvisation which its evidential on a dazzling version of For Once and Never, Beledo and Tohpati helping Riza going through a wonderful melody on their guitars by taking it into a Zappa-like vibe duel as you can imagine the audience being in awe and jaw-dropping between the three of them creating some dynamic intensity on the rhythm that is very Mahavishnu Orchestra in a Canterbury touch on 5, 6.  

But on This Spirit, in which they tribute to the Soft Machine’s Third-era in a Chamber vibe, it’s has an ominous introduction between the Percussions and the Fender Rhodes going into an ambient/atmospheric surrealism and the tempo goes up for a wonderful relaxation as they get into before Riza goes into some wonderful ideas to create something special cooking up to pay tribute to the two keyboardists I’ve mentioned earlier (Kratochvil and Ratledge).

Simakdialog have scored an amazing welcome into 2015 with Live at Orion and from the audience applauding and being in awe of their music, is a warm reception and the people from Moonjune have scored a knockout with this. And after listening three times of the 2-CD set, I get a kick out of what brainstorming ideas they bring to the table and the live set from the Orion Sound Studios is superb and a captivating beauty that is creative, imaginative, and tremendous.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tesla Manaf - Tesla Manaf

Whenever something from Moonjune Records comes in, I know something special is about to happen that is about to take me into a rocket ship adventure in the realms of Progressive, Avant, and Jazz Rock. And the beginning of this year in 2015, one of the most up-and-coming guitar prodigies from Indonesia is Tesla Manaf. He brings a sound on his instrument that carries the sounds of Wes Montgomery, Frank Zappa, Pat Metheny, Robert Fripp, and John McLaughlin that makes him a; virtuoso, composer, and a musician.

From his dad’s collection of discovering ELP, Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra to classical composers like Bartok, Debussy, and Penderecki when he was a kid, Music has been there Tesla since he was born from day one. He’s been playing guitar since he was nine years old and moving away from classical and into the jazz world and studying music theory, Tesla himself shows no sign of stopping and going into different styles of world music with complex time changes and it’s almost as if a jet engine has roared passed very quickly to be prepared for what you are about to experience.

The album released from the good people from Moonjune Records, in which it his international debut, are two of his albums compiled into one.  It features A Man’s Relationship with his Fragile Area released last year and four years ago, he released, It’s All Yours. It begins with a woman speaking in an exciting tone as Tesla plays along with her voice in the melody describing what she’s excited about as it is done in a Zappasque style on the opening title track as it segues into Necrophilia in which it has some intense time signatures as he goes through a rapid virtuosity of the combinations between Jazz, Classical, and Flamenco music rolled and combined into one.

But on Moving Side, its Tesla’s tribute to the Rock in Opposition sounds with the Chamber rock beats to it beginning with a Crimson intense beat as it goes through a darker area inside the caves thanks to the wind instruments setting the scenery before Hulhul’s Terompet Pencak, gives it that alarm yet blaring tone that is something straight out of a Ornette Coleman or Lol Coxhill free-jazz composition that he could have wrote it for either Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three or Univers Zero. It’s intense as Tesla plays it calm and gives Hadis "Hulhul" Hendarisman a chance to shine through his wind instruments by that sound that is intense and not to mention Desal Sembada’s militant drum beats.

The time-signatures keep’s the flow of Tesla’s compositions going. It’s evidential on the medium beat with Counting Miles and Smiles in which it has a loosen beat that shows him going into that laid-back but driven sounds that is unexpected as Rudy Zulkarnaen’s double bass gives that wonderful ideas of the solo that he’s paying tribute to Charles Mingus and Jimmy Garrison as he lets go through the fretless sounds that you as a listener are in awe of what he will come up with next on the solo.

Tesla also shows his Chamber Music side which is really evidential on here. Chin Up has that with the touches of Coltrane in a waltz style as it goes into an up-and-down scale as he and Hulhul do this amazing climatic classical introduction for the first three minutes before it movies into a soothing Brazilian beat as a ballad that you can imagine dancing in the sunset before closing with an unexpected RIO twist while The Sweetest Horn is perhaps soon going to be one of Tesla’s live favorite.

It begins with a militant introduction with a patriotic flute for 37 seconds as Tesla and the team going into a different change of the rhythm. There are some elements of the avant-garde and ominous tones following by a rapid-fire roar between guitar and drums that slows the bullets down for recharge. Not to mention the droning double bass coming with a menacing sound that sends chills down my spine as it relaxes and going into a calming finale.

The 6-part suite, It’s All Yours which was released back in 2011, features the Balienese ensemble, Mahagotra Ganesha, and the piece is about the connections of what humans have to go through relationships they endure. The first part starts off with a calypso beat that reminded me at times of Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the vocalization and the smooth jazz rhythm comes in. It’s not until the sounds of the Kantil shows in up as William Teh Putra and Wishu Pramadi, do a duet between each other as the sounds that resembles the xylophones, create joy and wonder between the both of them.

The second part for the first two minutes and forty-seven seconds, has an ambient/atmospheric surrounding that goes into a combination between Acquiring the Taste-era of Gentle Giant meets Tangerine Dream between guitar, sax, and keyboards setting the landscape and then they move into this lovely ballad in 4/4 time signature as Tesla goes back into a cleaner sound that is loosened and releases the stress and help from the upright bass, makes it an excellent combination.

The fourth movement is perhaps one of my favorites. It starts off with the percussion and chanting that begins very calm and the tempo increases as it kicks into gear in the styles of the Canterbury Jazz sound that has some touches of Hatfield and the North as Tesla is moving his fingers in an increasing beat of Allan Holdsworth and Zappa as well. It’s an unexpected foot-tapping beat that will have your jaws drop to see where he and the ensemble would come up with next.

The sixth and final movement, comforting and its between like a quartet as Tesla gives Gega a chance to come in front circle and shine on his upright bass and its gorgeous like a sun coming up to raise up for a chance to rise up and start the morning off and hitting at the right moment at the exact right moment. And then Tesla comes in as the percussion and drums help him out the beat to give it a radiant finale along with the vocalizations to see where they would drive into next.

Moonjune Records have done something special this year and Tesla himself has accomplished well this year to start 2015 off with the two albums into one CD and after hearing the album about six times now, it is Tesla’s chance to shine for his international debut and here, he has done a job well done. Let’s see what the new year will hold for him and where the road will take not only just him but his band mates and the Mahagotra Ganesha ensemble, would take us next for the years to come and this is only the beginning not just for him, but for everyone that helped him out.