Before we get into the pummeling meat of our first review, I would recommend people check out the five-song EP of reworked songs by Greg Rolie of Journey/Santana fame, called Five Days. The new version of “Black Magic Woman” is worth the price of admission alone.
American Heritage: Sedentary
Readers of a certain vintage will remember the Encyclopaedia Britannica alternate that shares a name with this band. I am sure if this lot came to your door flogging books you would either be scared or sic the dogs on ‘em. This is pummeling modern metal as its most intense. This has got the punky vibe of the original era of thrash, especially the New York-based stuff. The group hails from Chicago, so that big city vibe is not put on at all. There is even a taste of Biohazard-like punk-metal in there somewhere. Fortunately, the band never drifts into the realm of rap vocally—spoken vocals certainly, but never rapping.
Tracks like “City of God” and “Chaotic Obliteration” demonstrate why people are raving about this lot. While there is certainly a Mastodon vibe to their music, this is far more raw than many similar bands. The tracks retain a melodic quality to their pummeling rather than just sticking to the “chuga-chuga” vibe. There is quite a bit of subtle nuance in here if you care to listen for it. There is certainly a great deal going on here and fans of modern metal would be fools not to check this lot out.
Asia: Spirit of the Night
This is the original line-up playing tracks from its past and present. While there may have been previous live albums from the band, this one seems to be a worthy addition to their pantheon. Even the inclusion of tracks from its most recent album Phoenix, which in fact was ok (and that is being generous), does not distract from its run of tracks from the band’s past. Of course, they toss in “Fanfare for a Common Man” from Palmer’s ELP days. This album was recorded in 2009 in Cambridge, UK.
A bonus track is included in the form of “Midnight Sun,” which was recorded in 2007. But we all know people will be along for the classic from its first two mega-selling albums. All the tracks you would hope to hear from those releases are on here. Despite all the versions of the band ASIA, this is the only one people really care about. This is the live CD to remind just how good they were and still are. There is a DVD of the gig for sale as well, should you need a visual reminder. This CD & DVD are released to plug a North American tour that is happening right now.
Mr Big: What if
I am not sure what Frontiers is putting in the water for its older acts these days. After various sub-par excuses to tour from some of their stable, its bands are firing on all cylinders. First, there was the cracking Unruly Child release last year and more recently the label released the proper follow-up to Nelson’s debut by the Nelson twins. Not only is Mr Big back playing together but it has released this slab of goodness. It’s their first album in 14 years and you would never guess.
“Undertow” the opener is good but the group really hits their stride with “American Beauty” with Eric Martin doing his best at trading his vocals with Gilbert’s guitar machinations. There is just no way you can find fault with this album; each track drips with the quality that made this band so huge in the first place. There is not one duff track no matter how hard you try to find one. Funny thing is that there are times when Mr Big sounds a bit like Sheehan/Vai-era David Lee Roth, which is no bad thing.
And just in case you thought this lot only did fluff, check out the ode to the returning soldier “Stranger in my Life,” It’s a touching track that never gets itself bogged down in mawkishness.
My Inner Burning: Eleven Scars
A metal band with a female lead singer normally ends up sounding rather gothy and Within Temptation-like these days. Not this lot, however. This is driving metal that just happens to be sung by a woman. That is not saying that the lead singer cannot actually sing; she just eschews the light and fluffy type of singing. There is a touch of the modern with guitarist Jorg’s extreme metal grunts, but it never gets in the way of a good track. There is just the right balance of everything on this release to make it interesting and never boring.
There is a hint of the dark about the lyrics, but it never lasts. This is heavy rock and metal done the way it should be. “Electrified” even touches the sort of music that you would find the masses dancing to at your local metal club on a Saturday night. It’s not poppy by any definition, but it is certainly danceable should you be so inclined. Then again you expect this sort of musical perfection from a German metal band. They have a knack for nailing things just right whatever they aim at musically. I am sure it is damn impressive live and itching to get out on the festival run this summer.
Two Yes alums (Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye) team up with Bobby Kimball (ex of Toto) in a prog and melodic rock supergroup. First, let’s look at the second disc of the band performing hits from its past. Bobby Kimball is in full voice and you would never guess he was not fronting Toto. The band don’t mess about with the songs from whatever band they are covering and all sound great on this disc.
The new stuff, including the title track are an odd combination of both bands, which works rather nicely. There is a hint of both bands in both tracks, but it never seems as if it is mimicking either. If you had never heard of either Yes or Toto you would still be able to enjoy this prog-tinged goodness. Needless to say, the playing is exquisite, as is the songwriting. No doubt fully aware that the critics will be itching for them to fail, as they are with all supergroups, the tracks team with class. “Path to Your Heart” is a great track that could come from Toto’s prime.
Well, that is your lot for this week, as diverse as always. Stay safe and rocking.