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Monday, August 29, 2016

Gandalf - Magic Theatre

After the release of his third album, To Another Horizon released in 1983, Gandalf (Heinz Strobl) went back into the Beginning Sound Studio in the summer of that year to work on a follow up of another concept album. But taking inspiration from the 1927 novel by Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. 

The story of a middle-age man named Harry Haller is led through several doors of this Magic Theatre he embarks on. It deals with Harry’s pain and suffering and he has a chance for redemption.

When the book was released during that time period, people didn’t quite get it because they were dealing with Haller’s depression and missed the whole point of the story as he free from the journey that he went through and has a chance to be free from the prison he was in. What Gandalf did, is make it almost as if it was as I’ve mentioned on previous albums, the soundtrack and movie inside your mind. Gandalf honored and stay true to Hesse’s vision of Magic Theatre.

Originally released on the WEA records in Germany and Austria and reissued by Esoteric Recordings this year, the tracks on here mixes the sadness and the hope for a new beginning of a spiritual journey towards understanding oneself.  Each of the doors in the compositions of the seven chambers of each of where they go to. Gandalf is very smart on creating the atmospheres of all the doors and what’s behind all the doors.

It creates mood, tension, despair, childhood, and bringing peace to their inner selves. Joseph Campbell who wrote The Power of Myth once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Pieces like Loss of Identity in the Labyrinth of Delusions is incredible with the electronic drums, poly synths, heavy guitar rhythms, and screeching sax’s done by Peter Aschebrenner.

Here, both Strobl and Aschebrenner create these climatic battles of inside the perception loss of who they were before ending in a mysterious echoing cavern from the Sax. 12-string acoustic guitars flow through a path of the beginnings of growing up from their Reflections from Childhood as synths and flutes go through the time what was life like growing up while Peace of Mind sees Gandalf delving deep into the Mellotron and walking towards of bringing the chance of tranquility.

I love how he takes his classical guitar into the ascending warmth sunrise. It has the extra boundaries between Camel and Pink Floyd. And it’s a futuristic composition thanks to the synthesizers to create the oceanic wonderous adventures. The Fountain of Joy channels the essence of Moonmadness and almost as if Strobl wrote a continuation between both that and Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as he combined into two with the Lunar Sea in a jazzier approach.

It’s been 33 years since this album was released and I could imagine Gandalf himself doing more of a film score of Steppenwolf as if it was done the right way. This is a beautiful and emotional concept album that I’ve really enjoyed. The liner notes done by Malcolm Dome contains the history about the album including an interview with Strobl in a 16-page booklet.

The cover done by N.A.O. Creations who also worked on the second album, To Another Horizon, is brilliant. It’s feels very much like a Xanadu of a palace and they nailed it down to honor not just the book, but the vision and musical landscapes of Gandalf. For me, I love this reissue and always finding the hidden treasures that Esoteric would release.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ill Wicker - Untamed

From the seaport of the Country’s west coast off the Gota Alv Rver in the major city of Gothenburg, Ill Wicker are a six-piece band that carry the torch of the Psych and Acid Folk sounds of the 1970s. They have this essence between Comus, 9:30 Fly, Fuchsia, Spirogyra, Forest, and Trees. The band’s second album entitled, Untamed released this year and a follow up to their 2014 debut, Under Diana, is for me, one of the scariest, enthralling, and bewitching albums I’ve listened to this year.

I first heard some of their music on their bandcamp website and was just spellbound and I went ahead and bought the album on The Laser's Edge. And let me tell you, if you are ready for Halloween, then this is the perfect album for October of this year. Released on The Sign Records label, and recorded during the autumn of 2015 at Silence Studio in Koppom and mixed in Ekskogen, just imagine the chill coming down your arms and spine the moment you put this on from start to finish and knowing that this is not your typical Folk album. As the title on the back cover suggests, Free as Souls, Out of Flesh Crawled!

You have these bursts of creepy acoustical backgrounds, fiddle, percussion, and late ‘60s organ vibration that sounds like the soundtrack of between Alejandro Jodorowsky and Czech filmmaker Jaromil Jires collaborated together to create a film together set by chilling psychedelic-progressive folk on The Charm on your Chest.  The 3/4 time-signature waltz on the title track unveils some of the vocals going through a Leslie speaker and resembling the styles of Roger Wotton, Celia Humphris, and Maddy Prior with ascending rhythms and the fiddles at the last 2-minutes goes into chilling improvisations.

Silent Impulse sees Ill Wicker flex their take of the darker hypnotic twisted compositions of the late Syd Barrett and delving into the territory of The Madcap Laughs-era as if he had continued the melodic arrangements as if you can imagine both Barrett and Comus working together to create a mysterious version of Golden Hair. It’s not until the last 3-minutes becomes this intense climatic dense as the rhythm changes before the fiddle gets down into a dramatic leap followed by captivating acoustic guitars and percussion heading into the end.

What I love about the track, Earth Child, it’s not just the energy, but to give at first the homage to Vivaldi as the six-piece take their instruments for a push as affections on here, shows how much ill Wicker are having a blast. And of course a nod to the classic, Drip Drip. It’s not ill Wicker being retro, but honoring the legacy of Comus and staying true to the legacy of the band’s obscure gem of the First Utterance period.

Ill Wicker’s Untamed is not an easy album to listen to. It’s not for the faint of the heart, but it’s a big gigantic step for the six-piece to take the Acid-Psychedelic Folk genre up a notch. So as I’ve mentioned about the five bands of the Acid-Folk genre, if you love the scene, again, you are warned. And just be prepared to turn the lights off with a candle burning bright for the chilling compositions of ill Wicker.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Barock Project - VIVO

Now if you like the cross between Progressive Metal, Symphonic Music, intense time changes, and the sounds of ELP, please step inside for the music of Italian’s own Barock Project. Since their formation in the mid 2000’s and launched by founder keyboardist, Luca Zabbini in which he shows his admiration of the sound of the late great Keith Emerson, shows he take the essence between Jazz, Rock, and Classical. And for me, being introduced this year to the band’s music, I have to say that they know their Prog very well.

They have released four albums from 2007 to 2015. One of them including Skyline in which they worked with cover designer Paul Whitehead who did the album covers for the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis (Nursery Cryme, Trespass, and Foxtrot), Peter Hammill (Fool’s Mate and Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night) and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Pawn Hearts and H to He Who Am the Only One to name a few. And guest vocalist Vittorio De Scalzi of New Trolls.

This 2-CD set is their live album released this year entitled, VIVO was recorded last year at the time they were promoting the Skyline album and you can imagine as you close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the concert and seeing in awe of the five-piece band giving the audience all they’ve got. I’ll admit after each of the songs, I can hear at times some dry applause and cheers, I just wish there was more and more applause to show support for them.

But I’ll leave that little criticism some other time. There are some amazing moments on here that shows the power Barock Project brought. Overture is channeling the dynamic structures of Symphonic Metallic concerto’s while Ombelli himself is delving into an ecstatic mode on the drums. Here, they are honoring ELP, The Nice, Rick Wakeman, Queen, and Premiata Forneria Marconi. Not only that, but honoring the legacy of the late great Keith Emerson.

Los Endos is a vitalizing take of the Trick of the Tail-era of Genesis while Mazzuccolo reminisces the styles of Luca Turilli on both Gold and Fool’s Epilogue. But it’s the dynamics of Duellum that will set course for an adventurous ride. It is a bound and determined composition with impelling rhythm as both Zabbini and Pancaldi duel together between keyboards and vocals in the styles of the early sounds of Uriah Heep’s Easy Livin’.

If this is your first time delving into the music of Barock Project, then be prepared for some powerful music that connects both Metal, Pop, Jazz, Classical, and Baroque into a full circle. VIVO could be your introduction to the band’s music and know how much this is something that will take you to higher ground and again to quote the great Stan “The Man” Lee, “Nuff Said!

Friday, August 19, 2016

MJ12 - MJ12

Percy Jones who you probably know for his work as a Bassist with Brand X. Not only that, but he worked with; Soft Machine, The Liverpool Scene, and Brian Eno to name a few. He is a very busy man when it comes to performing with such bands and artists. He is with a new band called MJ12 and they have released their sole self-titled debut album on the Gonzo Multimedia label in the UK. It is a combination between Jazz, Electronic, and Prog-Fusion with amazing strategy.

Taken their name from Majestic 12 which assembled 12 scientists in which they investigated the sights of UFOs. It’s whether or not if the debate about the idea existed or not. The band recorded their album at Shelter Studios in Manhattan in the summer of last year in over two days. I remember hearing one piece of their music on an episode of Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room this July and my eyebrows went-up at the moment of Jones’ bass playing just completely amazed of where he would take the Bass to unbelievable situations either high or low.

He brought along Dave Phelps on Guitar, Chris Bacas on Saxophone, and Stephen Moses on Drums and he wanted it to be spontaneous as if it was tied together as the bits and pieces were coming in and making the compositions coherent. So once you put the album on your CD player, you’re about to experience either powerful chemistry or ominous atmospheres with dynamics.

I remember listening to the album in its entirety and wasn’t quite sure at first, but then I thought “Let me give it another listen.” And throughout the second time, I knew I need to keep playing it again and again. The six highlights on here, show how much MJ12 bring the noise and levels into incredible strength. Bad American Dream Part 2 shows Percy’s haunting opening of a nightmare gone horribly wrong for the first two minutes and fifty-one seconds. And then, it kicks into action.

With a whammy-bar that makes it the guitar sound like it’s going through a sliding rhythm while Moses soars through the drums as he, Dave, and Percy go into insane mode as the sax’s swoop into Egyptian tombs and Avant Free-Jazz while there are some stop-and-go moments and ending into an anti-climactic crescendo a-la Crimson momentum.

Talk Time is one of the most chilling and disturbing compositions I’ve listened to. There is an electronic and futuristic groove as bass is filled with reverb effect. Meanwhile, the guitars sound like a snarling and wall crawling shrieking sound as if something is hunting is prey as the hair on your arms rises up with momentum of this dystopian hell before ending in ominous and hypnotic end.

Magic Mist whispers and echoes Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation-era while Big Daddy’s Road goes into an electronic jazz rock take of the early days of Black Sabbath. Percy goes towards mid-fast walking lines on the Bass, instant ride cymbals all over the kit that Moses himself is giving the juice and energy throughout the drums and the finale is fast as if Jaco Pastorius had teamed up with The Mahavishnu Orchestra during the sessions of the first two albums.

Since I’ve mentioned about The Mahavishnu Orchestra, MJ12 change direction and go for a slowed-down turned climbing rhythm of The Phantom Maracas. Dave’s guitar transforms through a ‘80s experimentations done in the styles of Alex Lifeson’s textures. I can hear elements of Rush’s Moving Pictures in there, but it’s Bacas that comes center stage.

He adds passion throughout his improvisation on the sax and the band give him the chance to show support and honor of team work. Now Guns and Pussy, there’s a title that has a catchy and humoristic twist. When I first heard the name of the eighth track, I first thought it sounded either a Strip Club or a Motorcycle Bar in the middle of the Mojave Desert, but the arranging and composition is wild and exhilarating right in your face.

Very much going into the path of King Crimson’s The Sailor’s Tale and bits of Italian Jazz-Rock group Area, they are punching into outer space as they let the circle come into full. Saxes, Guitars, Bass, and Drums filling up the void and really giving everything they have. MJ12’s sole self-titled release this year, is as I’ve mentioned earlier, is a powerful chemistry.

It proves that Percy shows no sign of stopping. This is now my third time listening to MJ12. And I have to say that this Jazz Rock/Fusion at its finest. I hope they will do some more and hopefully a follow-up to their debut and defying significance. So if you admire Brand X, Weather Report, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Frank Zappa, then go ahead and pick up MJ12. 

Tempelheks - Serpents, Gods and Men

Tempelheks are a band from Oslo that carry the sounds between the psychedelic and the doom metal approach. Since their formation back in 2013 as originally as a solo project by HS with the Red Forest EP as it got picked up by a Stoner/Doom YouTube channel. It would later had the opportunity to write the self-titled debut album two years ago. Alongside HS, it considers Andreas Prestby on Drums and Percussion, Espen Sande Larsen on Bass and Backing Vocals, and Sindre Ohman on Guitar.

The influences range from Thin Lizzy, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, King Crimson, and Pentagram. Their follow up album this year entitled Serpents, Gods and Men released on the Heksekunst Productions label which is Norway’s answer to Sweden’s label Crusher Records and Lee Dorrian’s label, Rise Above Records (U.K.), is inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy universe Hyboria.

Not only the influences of the band’s but there’s also Electric Wizard and bits of a doomier version of Mastodon thrown into the mix. Just close your eyes and imagine it is 1971 all over again and this album came out on the swirling Vertigo label and put it on your turntable with your Koss Pro4AAs headphones and play it loud. Now while I’m not crazy about Robert E. Howard’s work, their second album is an homage to the man’s work and honoring not just Hyboria, but the legacy of Conan the Barbarian.

For me as a geek who loves both Science Fiction and Fantasy as a kid growing up, I was completely surprised and I found a very interesting take of Howard’s stories told through a heavier and doomier approach. Opener, The Serpent Citadel has haunting lyrics, dooming bass lines, slowed-down groove, and a clapping section as if the whips are hammered down upon the heroes being tortured by Thulsa Doom.   

The Fall of Man sees Ohman going into a darker territory as he puts his guitar through the wah-wah pedal and creates these ominous atmosphere followed by Larsen’s bass and Prestby’s drumming with a calmer tempo as the band head into the aftermath of the battlefield with a gory scenery that it was gruesome and disturbing for what just happened. Awakening is a short space-rock instrumental as Sindre channels the essence of Ash Ra Tempel as it segues into Come Atlantis.

It’s the conqueror’s tale as the rhythm of the 4/4 time signature starts into a walking and heavier section before it changes beats into a terrifying and thunderous end as An Ancient Wizard has mid-fast tempos. Featuring a militant section between the drums and rhythm/riff-like guitars, as the lyrics really shows Howard’s storytelling but in the styles of Candlemass and Black Sabbath before twisting it in a cosmic end in a Manuel Gottsching-sque finale.

The Dawn of Man is a 2-minute spooky instrumental as Ohman goes through the heart of the milky-way with psychedelic hard rock melody improvisation atmosphere before landing back on a planet of the Blood of Acheron. It is a fallen world that has never been able to conquer any world and destroyed by the Hyborian Empire. And the music itself captures the fall of it’s city as you can imagine it is now a hellish world that is a place you do not want to visit.

Now during my first listen of the band’s music, it didn’t capture me because I didn’t know how to put it. But then I had to listen to it again and it grabbed me, and then the third time, it is a very interesting and haunting follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Now I have to admit, I’m not crazy about Tempelheks’ music, but Serpents, Gods and Men is not so bad, but pretty good.

I hope they would continue to do more in the future and see what lies ahead for more brainstorming momentum to continue the legacy of Robert E. Howard’s stories or where they will come up with next. If you love the Doom, Psychedelic, and Space Rock voyages filled with the stories of Hyboria, then delve into the world of Serpents, Gods and Men.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dunbarrow - Dunbarrow

Dunbarrow are for me one of the most mind-blowing up-and-coming Doom Metal bands from Haugesund which is in the west coast of Norway and they have been performing for eight years now. They have just released their sole self-titled debut album on the record label, Heksekunst Productions. This is proto Occult Doom Psych Rock at it’s best with thunderous riffs and sinister grooves.

The band considers Espen Andersen on Lead Vocals, Kenneth Lonning who did the graphic design of the album cover on Guitar, Eirik Overgard on Guitar and Sondre Berge who switched from playing the drum kit to the Bass Guitar. The studio musician who plays the drums on the album is Kim Henry King. It is very much bringing back to the roots of the golden-era of the 1970s and an homage to the swirling Vertigo label as I can imagine this album being released on the same label in that time period.

Dunbarrow know their Doom and Psychedelic roots very well to a T. And with six highlights on the album, you know when to crank this mo-fo out! My Little Darling begins with a psychedelic drum intro and heading into the time signatures from 3/4 waltz and into 4/4. I just love that little homage if you will to the dark lord of Progressive Rock of Van Der Graaf Generator’s Killer sax riff on the Guitar that both Kenneth and Eirik do in the styles of David Jackson.

Featuring some freak-out guitar work, Espen’s vocals are a real treat as he nails it down in the styles of an early Ozzy Osbourne, Peter Hammill, David Bowie’s Pre-Ziggy Stardust period and Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter. The Crows Ain’t Far Behind starts with a dooming bass intro that is essence of Sabbath’s Warning. You can imagine the engines are revving up with some bluesy crunchy guitar work as the riffs become like a killing machine ready to start on their prey.

Elsewhere, Guillotine shows hints of Black Mountain’s In The Future-era while Try and Fail deals with once you have succeeded and failing miserably, there is no turning back and there is a price to be paid and being locked away with no escape. As the lyrics explain, “You try and fail and you try again/you expect the outcome will change/you’re forever cold under the warm sun/as you chase the shadows of pain.

The heavier tones on the opening track is hits you right in the stomach as Berge’s Bass channels the styles of Geezer Butler before delving into a tidal wave of a rumbling roar motorcycle ending of a late ‘60s garage-rock style twist. The waltz-punchy yet bluesy sludge groove of You Knew I Was a Snake which is in 3/4 shows both the doubling guitars working on the melodic side from Kenneth and Eirik as the intense section comes in.

The last lyrical structure of the composition deals with betrayal and then soon both karma and payback comes down on you and bites you on the ass 100%. The doubling guitars are a cross between Tony Iommi and Mick Ronson and both Kenneth and Eirik work well as a team. And its evidence on Lucifer’s Child is fantastic. Its enthralling structure of Blood Ceremony meets Frijid Pink meets The Man Who Sold the World-era of David Bowie meets Master of Reality-era of Black Sabbath.

This is my fifth time listening to Dunbarrow’s debut album and I have to say I was not just on the edge of my seat, but really jaw-dropped of what I’ve heard. It’s not just Doom Metal, but elements of the Psychedelic boom, bits of the ‘70s Glam movement, and the Garage Rock genre also. I can’t wait to hear more of their music for many years to come to see where they will come up with next.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Aperco - The Battle

Since my beginnings as a blogger started originally when I was in a class of writing reviews 11 years ago of writing concert reviews at Houston Community College entitled Commercial Music Forum along with taking the same course for both of my Ear Training courses from 1 to 4. My blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room wouldn’t have gotten started if it wasn’t for HCC. 

Whether my first review back in 2008 was King Crimson’s groundbreaking 1969 debut, In The Court of the Crimson King or an up-and-coming band like Heart of Cygnus which they are now defunct, it’s great hearing music, meaning real good music that is not just your typical top 40 radio nonsense. And from the labels such as MoonJune, Esoteric, Cuneiform, Inside Out, or self-released albums that are released independently, some of these bands and artists are trying really hard to make a living and working hard on their butts to perform.

One of the new bands that have caught my attention, is a Progressive Rock band from Israel named Aperco. Formed in 2013 in their hometown of Tel Aviv, they have a symphonic sound that follow the footsteps of Barclay James Harvest, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, and Camel. I remember hearing samples of the band’s music on their YouTube page and I was completely blown away right from the get go. I went ahead and bought the album on the Syn-Phonic Music website and played it straight through.

Their debut album, The Battle which was two years in the making, is a concept album about the person’s life cycle as the songs and compositions describe their emotional stage. The band considers on the album are: Tom Maizel on Guitar and Vocals, Yuval Raz on Bass, Tal Maizel on Keyboards, and Dor Adar on Drums. Featuring guest musicians Eran Teicher on Flute and Neil Kalman on Saxophone.

The opening Intro gives an epic atmosphere on Tal’s keyboards to create this orchestral opening from the horn section between horns and brass along with a string quartet that starts the album off before seguing into Focused as Eran’s Flute improvisation flies through the mountains. Here, Aperco channel the styles of Camel’s The Snow Goose-era which shows how much appreciation they have the band’s music to carry and follow into the footsteps of Andy Latimer.

Tom and Tal create this moody vibration of mourning rhythm atmosphere on the balladry acoustic waltz for Another Day To Live. The first minute and eight seconds contain sadness from Tom’s guitar as if it is starting to become a new day in the afterlife as Tal creates the funeral touch on the Organ as if while it’s sad to say farewell, we will never forget the memories. You can hear the hints of Barclay James Harvest’s Once Again as Tom channels John Lees and sings in the styles of Vanessa Simmons.

A Call for Submission deals with insanity and the voices inside your head. Starting with spoken-dialog twisted arrangements, it turns into a stirring and disturbing composition on what you are seeing is just a part of your imagination and hallucinations of someone that haunted your nightmares, but knowing that taking someone’s hand and knowing that everything will be okay and that they will be on your side no matter the cost.

Now Euphoria this track I really enjoyed. Not just because it’s cool and awesome, but here Aperco take the adventuring level to a higher standard. The swirling Moog improvisation as it goes into the battlefield followed by the tempo drumming, thunderous bass, and heavy guitar rhythm that is ready to fight for survival and justice. I can hear the influences of Yes and Premiata Forneria Marconi that comes to mind and Latimer-sque improvisations.

Dissonant Sound Within talks about once we were stuck inside of our own prison and being free from it, but then finding out it’s been quite clear that we were being used and betrayed by our own people and finding the right Spark and search to find hope, but what we found is nothing but pain and sorrow. There’s a Floydian vibe throughout the composition of the song with a climbing arrangement with some chilling improvisations and hope that the near the end while the past is behind you, there is always hope as the spark awaits you to start your new life.

Horizon is a gentle pastoral classical guitar with a finger-picking beauty as there are hints between Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett while the 11-minute and 37-minute title-track, is showing Aperco giving a lot of the energy they are needing. There’s the orchestral boundaries, Yuval’s jazzier bass riffs, Tal’s immense moog synths with sinister guitars, and Dor’s drumming goes from soft to mid-tempo punches. It’s a killer improvisation between the band members.

It will give you goosebumps throughout the entire section. I love they are in sync together and showing how much they are almost in a duel between each other, but showing the utmost respect with one another as they take the listener to a higher standard to see where the battleground is in full attack mode a-la Crimson momentum. I just wish the whole piece could continue in a 23-minute epic and seeing where the battleground is.

Tal heads to the piano and gives it an aftermath when the styles of the Peter Hammill’s The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage-era momentum with a Genesis twist at the last 3-minutes of the song is a chilling end. I have listened to The Battle about three times now. This is how I always view Aperco’s debut album. I’ve listened to the album when I went out for my morning walk.

On a hot and steamy Texas morning, I can almost close my eyes and picture the movie inside my head. It fits with all the Progressive Rock inspirations into full circle. I hope they will continue to do more. Not to mention they opened up for Deep Purple in honor of their induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in May of this year as an opening act.

There are essences I’ve mentioned earlier between Pink Floyd, Camel, Barclay James Harvest and now Yes, Genesis, and Premiata Forneria Marconi. With the recordings done at Muzeex Studios and Gidon Ricardo doing the production, this is an album and a band you need to check out. You will not be disappointed. I just hope they will get the recognition they deserve not just in their hometown in Israel, but globally and receiving word-of-mouth in a big, big way.

The Pineapple Thief - Your Wilderness

We are in Exile/You know/We were Akin/Our lies you know.” The opening line from the aural dream soundscape of In Exile dealing with in my opinion, being isolated and locked away from the world without help and being part of as Mark Twain puts it, The Damned Human Race. That and the band’s new studio album which is a follow up to their 10th album, Magnolia entitled Your Wilderness. Released this year on the Kscope label, it is one of the band’s aural textures and moody/darker atmosphere’s that Soord himself brings to life.

Since their formation back in 1999, The Pineapple Thief have always redefined their sound. Now I’m not a gigantic fan of the band’s music, but I have a huge amount of respect of what they have accomplished along with Bruce Soord’s songwriting and mixing. Soord is also a very busy man when it comes to 5.1 mixes. He’s done work on the 5.1 sound with bands and artists such as; Opeth, TesseracT, Tim Bowness, Katatonia, and Riverside.

Alongside Bruce Soord, Bassist John Sykes, and Keyboardist Steve Kitch, they brought along some help including Caravan’s Geoffrey Richardson of Caravan to help out on the string section, Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on Drums who recorded his sound and engineered at his own studio and Geoffrey himself did the recording of the string quartet at his own studio in Canterbury. There’s also Darran Charles of Godsticks on Guitar and Supertramp’s John Helliwell on Clarinet.

The four highlights on the album including the amazing artwork done by Carl Glover’s photos which is a trip back in time in the 1960s of the conceptual brainstorm of the album, it’s like looking at a pair of old shoes you haven’t wore for a long time and the photos adds the ideas and up to you as a listener to give your own ideas of what’s happening. And Soord is keeping his lips firmly closed about this.

No Man’s Land is a touching composition with an acoustical section. The lyrical themes on the loss of innocence and knowing if you’re happy in the empty scenario for the sun to return. Gavin is in free-form as he is in full control of the drum kit while the harmonizing background vocals featuring an intense chugging section of the electric guitar, gives forth the booming Bass sounds before the last minute of the song section, goes heavy.

With throttling intense guitar riffs on Tear You Up, it has the switch genre. From Acoustic to Alternative Rock as the distant shores of the voices calling out for someone, but no one is there while Take Your Shot feature riff-melodies. With a reverb/delay effect intro it has a louder rhythm groove as Soord’s songwriting takes up a whole new level with a wah-wah improvisation.

The lyrics almost remind me of a competition game of Chess to see who will in the final round or about the person’s detail of moving toward a new beginning and seeing where their future lies ahead for them in the long and winding road. Fend For Yourself is Bruce channeling the mind of Steven Wilson.

There’s a Jazz atmosphere on the composition. With a beautiful piano and into the acoustic rhythm as Gavin goes into the jazz techniques of his kit before John Helliwell’s driving clarinet section gives forth the styles of both John Coltrane and Miles Davis as he takes flight throughout his improvisation.

As I said this before earlier, I’m not a big Pineapple Thief fan, but listening to the entire album about three times now, it’s not bad. Is it a great album? No, but it is an interesting and beautiful texture that Soord has brought to the kitchen table. Your Wilderness is a fascinating and emotional album I’ve listened to and I might check and see what Bruce himself will come up with next.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Electric Citizen - Higher Time

Electric Citizen are back again this year with a release to their 2014 follow up Sateen with an album entitled, Higher Time. Released on the RidingEasy Records label, the band are still bringing back real good music to where it belongs. With Doom, Occult, Prog, and Heavy Rock, it shows that the quartet have more up their sleeves and taking it up to a greater volume. The Ohio rockers can kick a huge amount of ass and give Auto-Tunes, the big gigantic middle finger.

Laura and her husband Ross Dolan aren’t doing for the money and showing attention, they along with Randy Proctor and Nate Wagner are doing it for love, support, and the music. Higher Time is the example of working hard and creating an eruptive balls-out hard doom metal roar as if more the beasts have come out to reign more adventure and terror that lie ahead.

Nate and Randy work together very well and it is still growing as Wagner’s drumming grows stronger and stronger. And he can hit those snares like a cannon blast by giving the driving force with a punching sound that is coming out of nowhere. And the five highlights on the second album, proves they can come at you with a blaring sound.

Ghost of Me reminisces Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave rhythm with Andrew Highley’s heavier organ sound. The song deals with the reflection of another self as it is telling us of what you are doing and who can you trust as the music has a rumbling rhythm section and head-banging to the core while Crux has a catchy heavy riffs and cranking it up with the 4/4 bars!

Here, Electric Citizen channel both the styles of a sinister grooves between Rush’s Fly By Night-era and Premiata Forneria Marconi’s E’ Festa as if they blended well to combine a Progressive Doom Metal technique and believe me, it’s very interesting and knowing how they can take the Prog genre up a notch. Ross channels the styles and essences of Jimmy Page with a Bluesy Rock twist as the song, Two Hearted Woman deals with messing with someone’s life and creating a catastrophe.

Laura herself is a powerful singer and she hit those arrangements in the style of early Ozzy Osbourne’s Sabbath-era and Frijid Pink’s Kelly Green. With Devils in the Passing Time, you have the crunching melodies between the Organ and Guitar as the bullet train of the rhythm section takes the listener into unbelievable paths. But it’s the futuristic title track that goes more into the Prog direction with a Proto-Rock atmosphere.

You have a surrealism section of the Theremin done by Chris Surface as he takes the instrument along with the band to a dystopian vibe with a psychedelic twist. The lyrics are something straight out of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone as the spoken dialog itself which Laura does, it feels out of the stories of the adult illustrated fantasy magazine, Heavy Metal. It’s one of the darker, experimental, and psych-prog metallic vibrations to get the marijuana vibes going!

I had an amazing blast listening to Higher Time. They have never done me wrong and I highly recommend it if you admire Blood Ceremony, Electric Wizard, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and Purson to name a few. They worked hard and they mean it well to get the job done and seeing where they will go to next. The quartet from Ohio are still going strong and if you like some of the band’s I’ve mentioned, then get the first two Electric Citizen albums, you will never be disappointed. Crank this mo-fo up!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Neal Morse Band - Alive Again

This 2-CD/DVD (Blu-Ray) set consists of The Neal Morse Band’s performance recorded last year on March 6th at the Cultuurpodium Boedrerij in the Netherlands to a sold-out crowd as Beardfish was their supporting act. They were on tour promoting their new album of The Grand Experiment which was released last year. The Alive Again live album is released on the Radiant Records label. Once you put on the DVD (Blu-Ray) on, you can imagine you are at the concert being in awe of the band exhilarating performance.

Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer, and Eric Gillette, bring the audience together and give them a performance they will never forget for many years to come. You have The Grand Experiment which has this symphonic roaring composition that reminisces the Album-Orientated Rock eruption (AOR) followed by a cross between Gentle Giant meets Styx as if it was recorded back in 1977 for the Arena Rock sound.

With the haunting opening of the Alive Again Intro begins with a haunting distortion drone of a Church Organ sound before it turns into a symphonic roar of the keyboards filled with the audience’s applause as it segues into the 10-minute epic, The Call. With a-cappella introductions, Portnoy’s roaring drum of a militant rhythm, organ and uprising melodies, Gillette’s lead guitar takes flight as the audience are in awed of showing their stamp of approval.

Randy’s Bass brings some intense work as the Keyboards help him out through the melodies and a nod to the Wah-Wah pedal in the nod of Herbie Flowers. Then it goes from a Thrashing-Prog Metal approach and ending in to a heavenly climax. Leviathan features intense rhythm sections, Mellotron done with a Brass sound in the style of King Crimson as if it’s a combination of the Red-era meets ELP’s Tarkus.

Neal also wanted to make sure that he still has the magic of his old band, Spock’s Beard and making sure that he’s not letting the fans down. He brings a classic of the band’s material from the third studio album, The Kindness of Strangers entitled Harm’s Way. There is a late ‘70s/early ‘80s sound between the approach of Genesis and Yes while Neil introduces Mr. Hubauer.

Bill goes into an amazing piano concerto. There are moments that you can close your eyes as Bill goes through the styles of Freddie Mercury, Keith Emerson, and George Gershwin and influences of both Jazz and Classical Music are blended. It segues into the 16-minute adventure, The Creation.

As the audience embarks more of Neal’s journey, Eric’s solo on the intro is a killer before the band lead in the chorus as the last 3-minutes of the piece, you could feel the emotion Neal lets outs for the earth to grow. The crowd is completely in awe for the stirring epic finale. Portnoy introduced Neal to the audience as they are about to head into an acoustical sound.

Listening and watching both the CD and the live performance that is both on the DVD and Blu-Ray, you can imagine Neal is fighting back tears as he sings, There Is Nothing that God Can’t Change. The first half of the story in the song deals with the characters going through of becoming their own worst enemies. Neal then tells his story to the audience about what he and his wife were going through of the birth of their daughter, Jayda.

After praying, Jayda’s heart problems disappeared. And she remains healthy to this day. I can hear Neal’s tears in his singing as he is trying to finish the song and he nails it. As the audience are showing support and know that they are not just fans of his work and Spock’s Beard, but they are also family. The 34-minute piece of Alive Again is where the magical circle comes into swing.

Here, the band give everything in what they got. With a symphonic introduction followed by a droning sitar including a pop momentum in the movement, it is improvisation time! They take turns of playing each of the instruments one including Neal on the Drums, Eric on the keyboards, and Randy playing an exhilarating solo that got the audience’s applauding. As one of the members say, “You can’t get much Prog than that!” And they are absolutely right.

The DVD contains a documentary called Inside the Neal Morse Band tour. It’s very much like a home movie footage of the band’s tour of the new album. There are couple of moments including meeting the band members at a hotel and Portnoy giving his humoristic take of the Broadway musical Annie singing excerpts of Tomorrow. Driving through ice-slid roads and doing rehearsals in Nashville from February 18 to the 20th to make sure they got it right.

Frank Zappa always said, “Touring Can Make You Crazy.” And it’s a big job to not just go on the road, but to make sure they get the fan’s approval and show they are doing it 100%. And they would take time sing a few songs on the bus in an acoustical manner of The Beatles I Feel Fine and Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. And a photo of meeting Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult in an Airport.

While it showed their European tour, it showed some serious moments including Neal’s run to the doctor’s office at Switzerland of a fever and Mike to the Emergency room in London and seeing if the show was still about to go on or not. And other moments also on the road. Including interviewing with the fans in London about their appreciation of Neal Morse.

Now while I’m not a giant fan of both Spock’s Beard and Neal Morse, I was completely spellbound and blown away of listening and watching at the same time. This is magical and promising at the same time when you watch or listen to the performance to know they give it all and what they got. So buckle your seat belts and get ready for an amazing journey of The Neal Morse Band’s Alive Again.