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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Melted Space - Darkening Light

I can’t remember whether I’ve done a review on the genre of Metal. Whether it’s the Progressive or Symphonic genre, so it’s about time. And it’s been way overdue. This is a new area for me to discover this project called Melted Space. The brainchild behind Melted Space is French composer is Pierre Le Pape. Launched back 11 years ago, it was originally going to be an instrumental project, but Pierre wanted to take it as a step towards a potential ultimate in the style of The Divine Comedy.

The first release that Melted Space did their debut album which was self-released back in 2012 entitled, From the Past, then in 2013 they released an EP with Between, and then a second album in 2015 with The Great Lie. And now, this year, they’ve released their third album entitled, Darkening Light on the Sensory Records label which is a division from The Laser’s Edge.

With Melted Space, it’s not just a project, but a who’s who that appeared including; Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Kobi Fahri (Oprhaned Land), Clemetine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis), Ailyn Gimenez (Sirenia), Attila Csihar (Mayhem), and Lisbeth Cordia (Eve’s Fall) to name a few. On Darkening Light, they include; Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo, Journey), Silje Wergeland (The Gathering), Oyvind Haegeland (Acturus), Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ) and Catherine Trottman.

The musicians on the new album includes; Pierre Le Pape on Keyboards, Adrian Martinot on Guitar, Brice Guillon on Bass, Mike Saccoman on Drums, and Gildas Le Pape on Guitar with a track called, Trust in Me. With the sounds being menacing, lifting, eruptive, and classical, Darkening Light combines these elements into this gigantic globe with this story reflecting the story of the creation of the world and rejected by the gods of man. Not to mention the killer artwork done by Adrien Bousson. And with five highlights on here, it’s peaked my interest.

The Void Before begins with this spacey operatic vocalization as if setting up the scenery on the creation of the earth featuring some Oldfield-sque piano, booming electronic drums as if they’re bringing the thunder as the climatic strings set up on what is to come in the segue with Newborns. Trottman’s vocals give you the scenario of the beginnings of Earth with its operatic vocals.

Soto and another female vocalist comes in setting up this duel on where do we go from next on another planet Earth before the synths and guitars set up the construction before Trottman sets this angelic arrangement. It’s a great introduction to start the album off with a bang. Then you have The Dawn of Man (I’m Alive!) which starts off with some fast-paced guitar intro on the frets before getting the guns rolled up.

Describing on who you can trust and knowing that you’re alive and not knowing who you are and taking control of the world whether god or creation, it comes with a penalty. It’s knowing that the tension it is not going to be easy to try them out and feel the anger and rage inside your body and get rid of it with one single shot. You have the beauty and the beast vocalizations on here.

There’s some elements of Power Metal and nod to Within Temptation’s Mother Earth-era thrown into the mix while the devastation of the tempos going into a fast-mode with some sing-along momentum From The Beginning to the End. You can feel the epic boundaries around you as the drums and guitar go into some rapid firing as the snarling cookie monster vocals chants come out of the blue.

Gildas does these incredible guitar lines as if he’s got the machine guns ready to reign fire on Trust In Me. He’s firing in a rapid range and shows no sign of stopping by going through the riffs and killer improvisations he brings to the table of Melted Space. He’s not just an amazing guitarist, but bringing the energy and electricity as a guest musician on the album.

This is my third time listening to Darkening Light. I will admit the death metal vocals didn’t grab me. I’m not that crazy about the vocals on here, but this album almost grabbed me at times. Now am I saying is this a great album? No, but Pierre has brought like a movie inside your head and showing on what is happening with the creation of the earth. All in all, Darkening Light is a not-so-bad release from the Sensory label.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marbin - Goat Man and the House of the Dead

Now the title of Marbin’s sixth album, sounds like something Hunter S. Thompson could have used during one of his chapters either in Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 or in one of his essays, The Great Shark Hunt. But then, I begin to realize it sounds like one of those double features as a Grindhouse during those drive-in cinemas of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.

Released in 2016 on the MoonJune label, they see themselves as if they were scoring a film set in the Spaghetti Western-era in Italy filled with an epic adventure that would have given the folks at Disney, the big giant middle finger on how a real western should be done instead of a singing princess in a frozen castle by letting it go.

They did the same thing on a track called Breaking the Cycle from Last Day of Dreaming released in 2013. And listening to Goat Man and the House of the Dead twice now, Marbin pays nod to the legendary filmmakers of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. The music captures some of the late ‘60s vibe by tipping their hats to Ennio Morricone and most of the time it’s showing how a real spaghetti western score should be done in the right way.

You can almost feel the essence of Uma Thurman’s character The Bride from the Kill Bill series returning for one last fight before returning to being a mother again on Goatman. This time it’s vengeance and Marbin’s nod to the Man with no Name and the Bride as if they teamed up together for a final showdown who have wronged both of them and ending to the sunset in black and white.

I love how in Whiskey Chaser that there’s a Malaguena riff intro that Dani does as jiracek’s galloping section on his drums before it transforms itself into a Surf sound reminiscing the late ‘50s/early ‘60s nod to The Ventures and Dick Dale with an intensive paced/speed-driven arrangement. But then Carnival comes along. There is this ominous/moody atmosphere that Rabin and Markovitch do as if they are driving into a ghost town.

You can feel the pins dropping at any moment by going into the abandoned locations as Dani’s guitar has these clean tones that sounds almost like Tony Iommi during Planet Caravan. It feels like an aftermath of the bloody aftermath of gunfight that had happened for the first 3 minutes and 12 seconds. It then changes into gear between the guitar and bass ready for another duel at the O.K. corral as if the Man with No Name isn’t done yet.

Markovitch comes in for another dualistic melody between him and Dani. Markovitch takes some of the middle-eastern vibes to follow pursuit between Rabin and Nadel by going in the lead. Not to mention some of the Coltrane improve he does on the sax. The last three minutes heads back for one last view of the dead as Rabin drives off into another sunset for the night to come down.

Goat Man and the House of the Dead, what a killer title. Again it sounds like a Giallo Spaghetti Western that Lucio Fulci could have used by collaborating with Dario Argento, is a very interesting release that Marbin released two years ago. But it shows the cinematic vibes they brought on here and the futuristic setting as if an Italian Horror Western film was made in the late ‘70s would have been the perfect choice for the movie inside your head.

Marbin - Israeli Jazz

It’s been almost a good while and a few years since I’ve listened to Marbin’s music. They have put out six albums, one of which is a live album they’ve released four years ago. For me, they’ve been one of my favorite bands to come out of Chicago that combines the essence of both Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion that is rolled into a big gigantic blender.

This year, they’ve released their seventh album entitled, Israeli Jazz. Both Dani Rabin and Danny Markovitch grew up not just the sounds of Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Folk Music, but Israeli music in their hometown. Danny describes the naming of the album as an appropriate title because it makes them whole. And while they look through the roots in their hometown in Israel, but also drawing the four traditions of music to create a consistent vision.

And it’s a perfect naming of their new album. It shows that Marbin have come a long way since their formation 11 years ago. And are they ever going to stop? Absolutely not! I’ve always wanted to discover what both Rabin and Markovitch will come up with next. And they’ve never disappointed me by each release they’ve brought to the worlds of Jazz, Prog, Blues, and Hard Rock.

In my opinion, they’ve opened the doors to see what Marbin will be cooking up with next. And the album cover of a bird shooting flames out of its mouth is not just how good this album is, but adding some hot and spicy flavors on here. Swamp House makes you take a trip towards the bayous of Louisiana on a canoe. Stroking down the river on the hottest part of the day, hearing Rabin’s guitar bringing the essence of down-home swamp rock.

With the essence of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s golden-era of the late ‘60s as Dani channels the riff styles of John Fogerty followed by the twists of New Orleans Jazz that Markovitch plays on his sax. They do this incredible melodic duel between some odd time changes as Danny follows the listener towards the night on life of the French Quarter as if Marbin threw their own version of Mardi Gras with a punch at the Preservation Hall.

The title-track gives Dani a chance to get the engine revved up and ready to drive into unbelievable locations. There is this nod to the Mahavishnu Orchestra on here thanks to the speeding tempo they do. Markovitch’s sax at times sounds like Jerry Goodman’s violin while Dani goes through various speeds as if he’s making sure he’s not running low on fuel.

At the 4 minute and 37 second mark, the band go through a tunnel for relaxations as Markovitch lays down some mind-blowing improvisation. And as they reach the light at the end of the tunnel by around the 7-minute mark, they finally reach the end for the highest mark to close it with a crescendo. 

Jon Nadel goes into some funky slap-and-pop bass workout on Arkansas Jumper. He comes at times center stage to bring some grooves that give him some free-rein on his instrument. The only criticism I have with this track is that I wish he had more time on this track so that Nadel could bring some brainstorming ideas so that he extended the minutes more and more.

Now Marbin takes the listener to the sounds of Russian music with Moscow Mule. The style of the arranging and composition has essence of a traditional Russian folk dance with a kick. Dani goes through these various landscapes of the largest nation of the world. The militant drumming by Blake Jiracek and Dani’s guitar makes you wonder how much appreciation they have for Ennio Morricone which is evidential on Breaking the Cycle from 2013’s Last Day of Dreaming.

Nadel comes back for another bass workout to take the frets by going up-and-down as if it is really in some fast walking speed while Pirate Punch makes you feel as if you are on an abandoned 18th century ship as if you are lost in the middle of the pacific ocean. There’s no wind set to sail, cabin fever, and everything going into a panic mode.

The music sets up the scenario through a bluesy atmosphere as Dani sets up the loneliness by going from calmness to raising the temperature level. Then, Blake and Jon go into the driving mode before Markovitch in the last 2 minutes of the piece by showing the listener that there is hope to see a sign of land to be away from the ocean and finding freedom.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Marbin have been around for 11 years and Israeli Jazz shows that the duo have come a long way. This is really another follow-up that we can see and wonder what Marbin will think of next.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Zombie Picnic - Rise of a New Ideology

It’s been two years since I’ve heard music from the four-piece band, Zombie Picnic after the release of their 2016 debut, A Suburb of Earth. And I almost completely forgotten about them after they did their first album. Well, this year they are back with a follow up and the name of their new album, Rise of a New Ideology, is giving the listener and eye-opening view of what’s happening now and many years to come, and it isn’t a pleasant scenery.

George Orwell once said “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The band give you the scenario of what is going on both the 21st and it might happen again in the 22nd century. You can imagine the pictures inside your head of what once was a bright and hopeful city, turned into an abandoned nightmare filled with people gone insane, dead, killed, and it is become the hell that is now of a dystopian nightmare.

You can hear some spoken dialogue throughout the sections on Rise of a New Ideology and the details of the speeches of a knowing that the democracy is now lost and gone forever. Most of the music taken from the inspirations between Mogwai, Radiohead’s Kid A-era, and The Fierce and the Dead. Zombie Picnic take forth on a journey that isn’t just a progressive album, but a sonic yet complex ride filled with Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Melodic Space Rock.

There are some rising tidal wave sections from the instruments by making you ready to hurtle through the cosmos. After listening around by eighth or ninth time, I was not just mesmerized on how Zombie Picnic’s new album blew me away, but how they would come back for another adventure. And it delivers again. I hope they continue to do more instrumental work and maybe add some vocals on the next release to see where the future or the yellow brick road will take them into next.

Bruford - Seems Like a Lifetime Ago 1977-1980

This 6-CD/2-DVD set reissued on Winterfold Records last year, consists of Bruford’s solo career from 1977 to 1980. The box set contains three of the studio releases and the “official bootleg” live album (Feels Good To Me, One of a Kind, The Bruford Tapes, and Gradually Going Tornado). It also includes unearthed material from one of their live performances they did at The Venue and an unearthed sessions for the fourth album. Bill Bruford has had an amazing career from his run with Yes (1969 to 1972) to joining King Crimson the same year to 1974.

He would worked with his frequent Yes artists including Steve Howe’s Beginnings and Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water while joining National Health for several live performances. In 1976, he went on tour with Genesis after Peter Gabriel left to embark on a successful solo career as Phil Collins replaced him on vocals. It was the only time Bill toured with them from March 26th to July 11th for their Trick of the Tail tour.

In 1977, at the height of both the Punk and Disco movement, Bruford was formed. He wanted to step into the sound of Jazz Fusion which featured keyboardist Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health), Jeff Berlin on Bass, and the late great Allan Holdsworth (‘Igginbottom, U.K., and Tempest) on Guitar. They released their debut album, Feels Good to Me originally on the E.G. label in 1978.

Recorded at Trident Studios in London, they brought electronic composer and vocalist Annette Peacock to sing on three tracks, and the late Kenny Wheeler (ECM Records) on Flugelhorn. Listening to their debut album, Bill wanted to open the floodgates of the Fusion genre to a wide surrounding and give it a big gigantic push.

The opener, Beezlebub features these odd time signatures between the Marimba, Keyboard, and Drums doing these dueling races by paying a nod to Zappa’s One Size Fits All-era. Holdsworth, Bruford, and Berlin share a section to see on the time changes as Stewart’s rising organ comes into play by going back into the intro. Back to the Beginning begins with Stewart’s dreamy moody ambient opener before kicking into a 22nd century futuristic sound.

Annette’s vocals and Holdsworth’s guitars share the melodic structure while the two part suite of Seems Like a Lifetime Ago has these different mood swings. The first part has this romantic vibe as Wheeler’s flugelhorn makes a melodic ballad to give Annette a chance to duel together. Then it changes into a rising adventure for the sun to come out by giving the band a chance to go for some exercising improvisation.

With clapping rhythms, cowbell (yes, cowbell) keyboards going into the side of fantasy, Bruford gets a little bit of the Brazilian vibes on his kit. Not just a samba, but giving some creative ideas of what he will come up with next. Sample & Hold has some of the progressive textures with bits of post-Gabriel era of Genesis thanks to Stewart’s Twilight Zone-sque organ including a little honor to the Grand Wazoo himself to show some appreciation on the last minute of the arranging and composition.

Their second album, released in 1979, One of a Kind which was a follow up to their debut album, sees an approach of the progressive melodies but with the flows of the Jazz Fusion genre to keep it on a tightrope. The fanfare of Hells Bells by Dave Stewart, makes you ready to embark on an adventure as he gives us a chance to float and soar to new heights on the opening track.

But Berlin himself comes to the forefront for a slap-and-pop introduction on Five G before leading the members for some real funk-fusion vibrations. Holdsworth and Bruford follow up to Jeff by catching up with him for one of the most challenging compositions on One of a Kind.  It did reminded me a little bit of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in a good way.

The moody introduction that Dave does on Forever Until Sunday, brings this scenario of the sun to come down featuring some amazing violin work by Eddie Jobson. They do some incredible yet romantic balladry between each other before the groove changes as Jeff lays down some Headhunters-era vibes on his bass before the Keyboards, Guitar and Drums come knocking the door down before Allan brings everything to a crescendo end.

Originally the two-part suite of The Sahara of Snow was going to be on U.K.’s second album along with Forever Until Sunday which featured Eddie and the late John Wetton, but instead it’s used on here. The first part has a droning organ sound featuring a classical piano section with a Dave Brubeck twist. With dynamic sections between Bruford’s drumming and Marimba’s, he’s not just a drummer, but taking turns on where he would go to next by going back and forth on the instruments.

The second part has some of the heavier notes from the piano as it goes into a booming sound along with some clapping sections. Allan follows through with some melodic structures on the guitar. He goes high or low between the frets and bits of the synth loop in the middle.

By 1979, Allan Holdsworth left the band to pursue his own musical aspirations. John Clark or simply known as “the unknown” John Clark replaced him on guitar. The Bruford Tapes was recorded live in the summer of 1979 for a radio broadcast on 92.7 FM WLIR radio at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York.

Listening to this live performance, it shows Bruford at their finest. It may have a rough sound, but giving the audience a deliver that shows their stamp of approval. And it is a delivery they’ll never forget by bringing both the energy, and the cannons to erupt at any second. When you listen to Fainting in Coils/Back to the Beginning, the band makes sure the audience are all revved up and ready to go into outer space.

Berlin’s bass and Stewart’s moog give the crowd to clap along for a stomping vibe. Clark isn’t bad on here. He’s almost as if he’s putting his toes in the water to make sure he’s okay. The live version of 5G, is a killer version. They’ve made the jump to light speed for a race tracking version of the classic as Berlin takes the stage in front the club.

But a nice little nod to Rush’s YYZ. The last studio album, Gradually Going Tornado released in 1980, is now one of my favorite albums. Yes, there’s some dividing lines in the sand on Jeff Berlin taking over on vocals on some of the tracks, but is he a great vocalist? No, but it’s not so bad, but okay. However with Ron Malo who produced Weather Report’s two albums (Heavy Weather and Black Market) on the realm, it seems for me, in my opinion, a perfect combination.

Age of Information deals with the subject matter of commerciality and ignoring what the media (we’re talking about pre-Social Media) tells you what to do and doing it your own way and how you want to do it while Gothic 17 which features some chilling cello notes done by National Health’s Georgie Born on the subject of being an neglect and as an outsider and hopefully to escape the hell they are in.

But it’s Joe Frazier that is a real surprise. Inspired by the 1975 Thrilla in Manilla between two of the legendary boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, it showcases more of Berlin’s bass exercise. You can imagine the intensity between the match at the coliseum fighting for the heavyweight championship. The music is almost an alternate score set to the scenery of the match as Stewart’s takes his step towards the Fuzztone approach.

Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons (The Northettes) appear on this album and do some amazing vocalizations on Land’s End.  Barbara who would later join with Stewart in the ‘80s as a duo with their 1981 hit single of the new wave take of Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party, and worked with him during his time with Egg (The Civil Surface), Hatfield and the North, and of course, National Health, lends Stewart a helping a hand.

The vocalizations for the first 2 minutes and 22 seconds, have this symphonic epic surrounding before going into the styles between the Wind & Wuthering-era and Moonmadness-era of Genesis and Camel. It’s has this approach as if the band are riding back home to Earth by going towards a Space-Fusion rock style that the band go into.

Clark and Berlin do some incredible improvisations between the two of them that resemble a little bit of Lunar Sea from Camel’s fourth studio album as if they’re following in the steps of Andy Latimer and Jaco Pastorius. Now we’ve come to the bonus CDs that are in the box set. It includes their live performance in which they shared a bill with Brand X at The Venue in Victoria, London. They did each Monday performance from April 28th to May 19th.

Recorded on May 5th, 1980 during the Tornado-era, the band go into some incredible work at the club and the challenging it was, the unexpected was shown on the live recording how they can take the audience some incredible ideas with them. Bill at times like a conductor on the drums. And he’s giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to know which direction and area he wants them to go into.

Now the next disc, covers the rehearsal sessions which was going to be their fourth album. The band wanted to move forward into an electronic approach on the next album. Listening to the sessions, I find it very interesting hearing these sketches and it would have been interesting if this was released.

You can hear the essences of Reggae (Hell’s Midriff), New Wave (Hooligan Juice 2, There Is No Reward, and Consequential Circus), R&B (Should’ve Been Something), Blues shuffling rock (Hooligan Juice 1), and a nod to Stanley Clarke with Saturday No School. But then it all changed when the band broke up due to an expensive bill of tour losses. Bill knew that he had to repay the costs and that was where joined up with Robert Fripp in 1981 for the reincarnation of King Crimson.

The 2-DVDs contain two of the 5.1 mixes from the original master tapes done by Jakko Jakszyk, along with the new stereo mixes of the first two Bruford albums on CD that he’s done. Now I’ve really admired what Jakko has done with the ELP albums, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery and his touch on the ’78 Berne concert of the released reissue of Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses: New Shoes Edition. Listening to the new mixes of those two albums, I find it to be quite interesting.

On the new mix of Back to the Beginning, Jakko’s mix gives Holdsworth a chance to come forth on the chord progressions and improvisational moments he would do throughout the midsection as the synths would lead into a different corridor and then on If You Can Stand The Heat… I love how Jakko brought the levels of Stewart’s jazz piano playing chords and Bruford’s insane Marimba playing on here up a notch on the mixes on the first few seconds.

In the original mix of the piece, it feels as if someone turned the volume a little bit down, but what Jakko did on the new mix, was that he brought the levels up and it’s has a clearer sound than what was on the 1978 mix. And then what he did on Five G, he brought the instruments to come towards the center as if the duel between the Bass and drums doing a frantic duel with a speeding chase.

I had an amazing blast listening to the entire box set. Speaking of the box set. It contains a large 16-page booklet done by Sid Smith containing the history of the band including interviews with the members, photos, newspaper cuts, and promo posters to name a few. It also includes the replica of the Venue ad they did in 1980, two pictures of the different line-up from ’78 to ’80, and an autograph of the limited edition by Bruford himself.

So if you want to discover more than just his run between Yes and King Crimson, then delve into the pool of Bruford’s music. You will not be disappointed.