Quite an interesting collection this week; an encouraging start to 2008. Something quite nice happened this week. I discovered an excellent band I confess I have never heard about before. I have always felt this is one of the "perks" of doing this gig. It doesn't happen that often, but it's great when it does.
Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree's sideline returns, after their stunning debut, with an album that comes close to equaling its predecessor. It is a touch darker but in no way does it waver from the formula that worked so brilliantly the first time round. As with many great albums there is no real highlight but more of a case of it being great in toto. From the soaring nature of "Once" right until the end, this is a complete pleasure.
If you liked the first one anywhere near as much as I did then you should have this. Words are tough to find for this sort of quality.
Eyes of Eden: Faith
Much touted by many as a symphonic metal band of merit in certain circles I was curious to find out what all the fuss was about. Not varying from the formula too much this is quite a pleasurable album except for one minor thing. The lead vocals, on occasion, most notably on the last track, the wonderfully epic "Not Human Kind", started sounding like Madonna.
My first review thought for this album was: imagine if Madonna fronted a power metal band instead of doing pop fluff. It's oddly endearing and is an interesting break from the operatic based female vocalists that are so prevalent.
I have been hearing quite good things about this lot of female-led symphonic metallists. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. This is wonderfully competent metal with oodles of quality and class. I could listen to it all day. It never gets old. Lots of keyboards and strings twinned with some heavy power metal stylings; with delicate female vocals over the top. Soaring epics like "Shattered" are a pleasure to listen to.
Just when you thought the genre might have run out of ideas and quality, something like this comes along. If you like this sort of music and want more; then check out Delain you won't be sorry.
Indigo Dying: s/t
Take the sensibility of the modern female-vocals led metal scene and combine it with the attitude and fun of the female heavy rock of the 80s to get something close to ID. There is none of the cheesiness that occasionally creeped in back then. However there are hints of Saraya, Heart, and even Baby Animals. Gisa Vatsky who has worked with a whole myriad of pop and heavy rock heavyweights. Clearly she can lend her voice to whatever she damn well pleases and pull it off. Whether passionate hard rock/AOR with an occasional drift into country ("Taken" could be a huge country hit) or full force metal this woman has the pipes to deliver. Mike Kiske and Mark Boals show up to lend some heavy rock male vocals on three duet tracks.
You will have no doubt why this woman has worked with everyone from Placido Domingo to Enrique Iglesias. Oh yes, in addition to amazing voice the song-writing is quite good as well. In the right hands, there are at least three songs on here that could be hits. "All I Ever Wwanted" and "Go" spring immediately to mind. On "Go" Vatsky sings like Gloria Estefan at her best. This is a quality heavy rock album that ticks all the boxes and delivers in spades.
Sandalinas: Fly to the Sun
With this name you won't be too surprised to hear that there is some Spanish singing on this rather good heavy rock album. Band leader and namesake has a good pedigree to boot. They attended Spain's version of the Berklee College of Music (where Dream Theater met), but don't let that put you off. This isn't over-indulgent musicianship but rather quality. Not at all proggy in fact; falling far more into the metal category. "Fly to the Angels" has a distinctive touch of Helloween-esque power metal.
There is a cover by Derek Riggs, with appearances from members of Savatage and King Diamond to name a couple. This guy is one of Spain's best regarded guitarists and it's clear to see why on here. Europe is producing quite a bit of heavy rock these days and this album is no exception. A varied album delivered with equal amounts of ability goes a long way.
You would not be blamed for reacting in horror to the title and concept of this album. A bunch of bassists — Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth), Rudy Sarzo (Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot), Lee Rocker (Stray Cats), Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Ted Nugent), DD Verni (Overkill), Wyzard (Mothers Finest), Dirk Schlchter (Gamma Ray), Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Anthrax), Stig Pedersen (D.A.D), Nibbs (Saxon), Tobias Exxel (Edguy), Jens Becker (Grave Digger, Running Wild), Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69), Peter Baltes (Accept), Jan S. Eckert (Masterplan), and Michael Miller (Jaded Heart) — lead by Helloween's four-stringer Markus Grosskopfs, releasing an album of bass-centric music.
Well this isn't a bass instrumental album, the equivalent of the shred albums on Shrapnel back in the day. Instead this is a decent collection of proper songs of the heavy rock variety, including a Helloween cover "Eagle Fly Free". Toss in Firewind's vocalist Apollo Papathanasio and the lead singer of D.A.D. My feelings of dread and trepidation were unwarranted. While its not essential, it's a suitably enjoyable album that is full of a bunch of mates having a good time. It is rather heavy on the bass it has to be said.
Well it's beginning of chemo for me next week. Got my chemo line in ready and I'm to go. Not exactly the type of “plugging in” I had in mind for this year but oh well. Fortunately, I still have a nice raft of CDs to review.
As always stay safe and make sure you find time to check out live music whenever and where ever you can.