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Music CD / DVD Reviews: The New Black, James McClean Band, Katatonia, Power Quest, Allen Lande, Marillion

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As spring approaches so does the flood of new material to review. This last week was no exception.

CD reviews


The New Black – II: Better in Black

This is heavy rock that comes across as combination of LA sleaze and the bands like Dangerous Toys. The thing is this very American sounding band comes from Germany, not the states. Rather than aping ACCEPT or AC/DC, this is Southern-tinge, American heavy rock. What helps a great deal is the fact that the lead singer manages to sing with no trace of accent or German-English. Klaus Meine of the Scorpions he isn’t. The gruff style is reminiscent of Zack Wylde, whose band this lot have opened for in Europe.

“When it all Ends” is a classy, slower tune that never gets twee or mawkish. Only small criticism is there might be a few too many tracks on here for anyone checking them out for the first time. The band even manage a touch of post-grunge about them, but not enough to scare off old-time rockers. It’s no surprise they were picked to open for Alter Bridge in their homeland. There is truly something for everyone on this release. Yet another great rock band from Europe. No doubt a great live act, this CD is well worth checking out.

 

Jamie McLean Band – This is My Life

A six-track “EP” is an excellent way of getting to know this great Southern-tinged rock band. There are touches of the Black Crowes and Shooter Jennings; even Tesla come to mind when listening to this album. It’s all very familiar yet not at all derivative in any way. The songs have a timeless quality to them that means they could have been recorded at any time in Southern rock’s rich history. The title track is a great anthemic sing-along rocker. The band have toured with all sorts of Southern blues, country and soul rockers.

If you recognize the guy’s name it’s because he was once guitarist for Dirty Dozen Brass Band who have toured both nationally and internationally. The EP is to celebrate the launch of their latest tour. If you live anywhere near a venue that is hosting them I would highly recommend checking them out. They are the harder edge of band like the Zack Brown Band. No matter what you wanna call it, this is a great rock. The perfect soundtrack to a lazy warm spring day.

 

Katatonia: Night is the New Day

Katatonia is yet another one of those bands from Europe that has made the transition from doom/death metal to prog-tinged goodness. Add this lot to the list of those that have done it well, including Opeth and Anathema. Far less grunt and groan, and much more epic soundscapes that sweep you up and take you away with them. This is glorious stuff that enthuses the soul in the way that Pink Floyd did in the day.

Instead of going for the meandering long epics, this band have done something similar in a far shorter dollops. “Onward into Battle” doesn’t event hit the four-minute mark, yet it’s so involving you have no idea it’s so short. Musically and lyrically the songs stand alone and work as a body of work whichever way you want to approach it. Interestingly Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth did session work for this band a few years ago; clearly he rubbed off on them in a good way.

That said this sort of transition angers old fans in a way that is quite fantastic. Fans of driving doom metal will find this stuff boring. The band deserve kudos for such an amazing slab of prog metal. Anything that reminds one of Opeth, in a good way, is a bad thing. This is Opeth for those with a shorter attention span.

 

Power Quest – Blood Alliance

This is power metal with a big p. It has all the elements you expect from this sort of stuff. The galloping pace of every song is set by the drums and the bass, histrionic vocals and epic themes of triumph. Every song is an anthem every time if done right. Power Quest pretty much do what the name implies. They are questing to find the absolute best in power metal they can. Some of their older material was struck down by lack of songwriting and sameness, but this album is far cry from that.

This is everything that people love or hate about power metal. Driving guitars closely aped by keyboards or visa-versa (as on the track “Survive”) in every track. If you ever liked this sort of music tracks like “Glorious” just catch fire. While they at times seem like they are careening towards the heights of Manowar-esque self-parody they always seem to step back from the brink. This release has a similar feel to Dragonforce and I am sure they deliver the same feeling live. Of course they toss in a track like “Only in My Dreams” which could have easily appeared on a Europe album in the ’80s. A whiff of cheese, catchy chorus and stadium poodle rock in a small doses is never a bad thing.

 

Allen Lande – The Showdown

Yes, Jorn Lande, vocalist for too many damn bands to mention, and Russell Allen of Symphony X fame have produced yet another disgracefully good slab of melodic metal. Putting on a vocal tour de force, the two guys cover every vocal style this music needs with so much ease it makes other vocalists sick. No egos, just two great talented vocals trading vocal licks over an entire album.

Magnus Karlsson plays everything else save drums, which are played by Jaime Salazar. Their playing is the standard you would expect to keep pace with the vocals. Another sense you get out of these tracks is that the pair had a damn good time recording this. They both have solid day jobs yet they don’t half arse it on this release. The soaring keyboards on “Never Again” give the song that spine-tingling feeling that you should get from good melodic metal.

This is maybe not the release for people who are more into the music than, say, vocal gymnastics. However, if you like damn good vocals delivered in some great tunes then check this out. Great title track as well. I know some people were not so keen on the second release from this duo, I think this third outing will return their faith in the effort.

 

Marillion – Live from Cadogan Hall

In a simultaneous release there is a 2CD or 2DVD set of the band performing 21 tracks at Cadogan Hall in London. A real treat for fans, the band plays these songs acoustically, stripped down to their basic elements. Oddly the audience sounds acoustic as well as it seems more the jazz or classical crowd than a rock one. Then again Marillion are a rather odd sort of prog band and their fans are just as odd.

In this cunning release the band perform the entire Less is More album from 2009. The second disc is the band’s older stuff stripped down in a similar way. However, don’t expect to find any of their more well-known tracks on the second disc. It’s more obscure stuff, so there is no “Kayleigh,” “Hooks in You,” “Incommunicado,” or “Uninvited Guest” on here. There are mostly obscure singles like “No One Can” and “Beautiful,” To be honest I would have loved to hear some of the more well-known tracks done in this way too.

The CD and DVD are very much for completest and ardent fans. A compilation like The Best of Both Worlds would be a better introduction. This is a very mellow release that will delight Marillion fanatics but offer little for those not au fait with the band. If you know their newer material well it’s a very mellow affair, perfect with a bottle of wine and a relaxing evening.

 

On that soporific note I wish you a safe and rocking next week.

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About Marty Dodge

  • http://www.martydodge.com Marty Dodge

    In my enthusiasm for Jamie McClean band, I managed to get the name wrong & that of the EP. Its called “Time of My Life” and its really rather good.