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Music CD/DVD Reviews: Black River, Steve Morse, Tristania, Lillian Axe, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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It’s been an interesting week all around in matters non-music. “Interesting” in the Chinese curse sense mind you. It’s great to have some quality heavy rock to keep me rocking.

CD Reviews

Black River: Black n’ Roll

A bunch of black and death metal guys produce a heavy rock record. The results could have been horrific, and not in a good sense. Worry not, this is one heck of a good album. It’s a bit Danzig at times, combined with a touch of Black Label Society and the howls of Ian Ashbury, shoved through a European sieve and recorded. The members of Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir and Neolithic must be having a freaking blast.

You can just imagine that members of these bands go hang out in seedy rock clubs after shows and get dragged up on stage to jam. This music sounds like a bunch of guys at the top of their game having some fun and stretching their wings. This CD would warrant your attention if it were a bunch of nobodies. It’s their second release and you really hope they plan to tour with it. As an extra bonus there is “Free Man” from their debut.

Side-projects can so often be a load of self-indulgent dross. Instead this is a proper album filled with great tunes. It might have been created by a bunch of black metallers, but the spirit of the Sunset Strip exudes from every track.

Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer: Angelfire

Steve Morse of Dixie Dregs and Deep Purple fame (who has actually been in Deep Purple now longer than Ritchie Blackmoore whom he replaced) has released one of the mellowest releases of his career. This is not heavy stuff and were it not he on the guitar, it would not have made this column. However since it does involve on of the most underrated talented guitarists in heavy rock, it’s worth a listen.

Sarah Spencer has a very “pure” voice that is ethereal, but not light and strained. She effortlessly sings the tunes on this CD. Morse said that he would listen to the tracks on here as therapy and a break from his normal fare. Recorded over two years whenever Morse was able, this is collection of tunes that never sounds rushed.

What does strike me as amusing is that some of the tracks drift into the realm of Blackmore’s Night material. In fact fans of that Blackmore’s post-Purple band at their mellowest would love this CD.

Tristania: Rubicon

Every since my dear friend Birger, who grew up in the same town in Norway as this lot, tipped me off, I have been quite fond of this lot. While they do the female-led, gothic-symphonic metal bit, they are less frock metal than say Within Temptation or Delain. In fact, on some tracks like “Protection” they use “rough” death metal vocals and a counter to the female vocals. “Clean” male vocals are used as well. There is a touch of “all in” vocals here that sometimes reminds of Therion, if not ever as mind-blowing over the top epic as that band.

One thing that is great about a Tristania release, especially this one, is there’s a decent amount of variety to prevent it sounding rather samey. One song that particularily interested me is “Patriot Games” and not because of the name. The catchiness of the chorus really grabs you the first time round.

A Tristania release is something which I want to stay with a long time. As with any quality review disc I have forsworn reviewing this title at least two weeks in a row as an excuse to have to listen to it more. Yes, it is that good. So I think its clear by now I rate this album and recommend it to anyone that likes a bit of gothic symphonic metal.

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