A whole load of heaviness with a touch of pomp this week. The heaviness comes via jazz, the blues and classical to metal.
Voivod: Warriors of Ice
The tempting thing when it comes to a Voivod release is saying the following. Its Voivod and thus very odd, fans will love it and most people will have no clue why people love this band. But that would be lazy and I am meant to write at least 200 words a review. So here goes nothing.
Voivod for those who don’t know are a bunch of Quebecker art metal nutters who have inspired many bands in their wake, yet remain very cult. For a while Jason Newstead, formerly of Metallica and Ectobrain, played bass with them until his back problems took him off the road. They create a cacophony that is both fascinating and frightening and when they are on its something to behold.
This is a new album was recorded in 2009 in their hometown in Quebec. It’s the first live album to feature new guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain and has two original members in the form of Snake (Denis Belanger) on vocals plus Jean-Yves Theriault aka “Blacky”.
You get to hear tracks like “Voivod”, “Nuclear War” and “Astronomy Domine” in front of frothing home-town crowd. This 15-track has a pretty good selection of their best tracks. Though hard-core fans may disagree. Is another live album needed from this bunch? Probably not, but is it worth a listen, damn straight.
Unexpect: Fables of Sleepless Empire
And staying in Quebec, we have this lot. Rather than the pummeling art metal of Voivod, this bunch do something that is far more diverse. Dueling female and male vocals with loads of acid jazz guitars and violin. This is the odd side of progressive metal or the progressive side of avant garde metal depending on the track. What I heard oodles of on here is Frank Zappa, if he played metal instead of rock. This bunch mix in jazz and classical in equal measure to add depth to something that at its core is basically symphonic metal. The bassist plays a seven-string bass, which says a great deal.
Unlike a lot of avant-garde metal, this is not that hard a sell. There is a decent amount of accessibility to the tracks on this album. You will not find yourself having to trawl through turgid tracks of impenetrable noise in order to get into it.
Expect the unexpected certainly, but there is a great deal that is instantly likable about this album. This just might be the release to take this bunch from cult to a broader fan base. If you want clever metal than stays clear of the weeds then take a punt on this bunch. You will not regret it.
Wolverine: Communications Lost
First of all this band play progressive metal of a pretty high standard despite the name. I have to say I expected something far more gumby metal having never heard of this bunch. I was pleasantly surprised to find a combination of Pink Floyd and Dream Theater with a touch of Opeth. I find it a quite pleasant outing that ticks all the boxes.
Unlike some reviewers, I don’t find it to be an album of a band just doing it well without any feeling. It does take a bit of time to fully realize its quality; this is very much a complicated wine of an album. However, give a chance to breath; it truly becomes quite a bit of creative work.
At times there are snatches of Marillion and Opeth. It ticks all the boxes for those of us who like their progressive metal to be rather clever and fulfilling. The band are pretty tight and profession.
This is one of those releases that strikes me as keen “headphone music” for sitting back and relaxing. They might want to change the name of the band to something more proggy to make it easier for people.
A valued addition to the pantheon of progressive metal and something worth checking out.
House of Lords: Big Money
Yep, they are back with a new album and boy is it a good one. While this is not a patch on their stonking debut, it does have its moments. This is certainly a great AOR album that delivers in droves.
The opening title track sets the tone for the entire album. It is a great track that sees the band at their peak with James Christian proving he has not lost his vocal chops in any way.
House of Lords only features one original member from their debut, but this is done with the blessing of original members. That one member, Christian, lends the link between the two phases of a band; his voice is particular and is a special part of what defines the band.
It’s unabashed big sound power pop AOR. Hooks galore together with catchy choruses abound. There is nothing the slightest bit modern about the sound on here and fans will be thankful for that. This is not a band trying to keep up with trends, but one that is doing what they do best. Its quite enjoyable all the way round and is great music for a summer drive. A great return to form from Christian and company.
Seven Witches: Call Upon the Wicked
This band so wants to be Judas Priest it isn’t even funny. James Rivera of Helstar is a dead ringer Rob Halford most of the time. But we already have a Halford and this all seems a bit like a tribute band. There are touches of Rainbow as well, or at least Blackmore, however it’s mostly about lead singer James screeching alot. Joey Vera of Armoured Saint fame, who was once a member of the band, produces. This is very much proper metal in all its glory. The trouble with this release is that it all sounds like you heard it before. The track “Metal Tyrant” sounds like it comes from a bootleg, as do the other live tracks.
Jack Frost is a great guitarist who really likes to show off. Judas Priest should have tapped him when looking for a replacement for KK Downing recently. Frost seems desperately to want to be in that band. All of the bits are there and done quite well, but it just lacks a feeling of something. None of the tracks, bar the one with the female vocals merely because it’s different, really jump out and grab you. And that track “End of Days” really isn’t up to much. This album elicits the term “decent” in everything it does. “
The standard of this type of metal these days is pretty high; this just doesn’t cut it.
Black County Communion: Black County Communion 2
If you bought and enjoyed the first one, this review is not necessary. This is like the first one, but even better, proving the touring this bunch did in the last few years has made them a tight band. Needless to say it helps that the same four guys who recorded the first one are on hand for this too.
The fact they recorded this so quickly after their first harkens back to the days when bands released two records a year; it’s more 70s and less Velvet Revolver. There are touches of Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple all over this. The opening track is pure Deep Purple and a wonderful slab of heavy rock. If you can imagine the best of the Coverdale/Hughes Deep Purple (with Joe Bonnamassa taking the Coverdale spot) and Bonham on drums you will understand what I am on about. Derek Sherinian does an ample job at channeling Jon Lord.
“Man in the Middle” is pure Zep-esque brilliance with Hughes singing his guts out, like on “Save Me”. The great thing about BCC is they have tamed Hughes temptation to go funky with his voice and kept doing his best heavy rock vocalist. I am one of those people who thinks Hughes has done very little that is any good bar his time in Purple, Trapeze and Hughes/Thrall outing. Never liked his solo stuff at all. Hughes needs a band to truly tame his voice and put it to best use. BCC seems to be the perfect vehicle for the “Voice of Rock” as he was dubbed by the KLF.
As I have said before, there are releases that I don’t want to review so I can continue listening to them. This is one such release. If you like heavy rock and haven’t got either BCC release, then go get them. I am not quite sure how any release can top this for best heavy rock record of the year.
Well that is your lot for the week. Stay safe and rocking ok?