This is the bumper edition of my column. I am skipping out of a column next week as I am getting married this Saturday and the inevitable honeymoon follows on Tuesday. We have reserved Sunday for a jam at a local tavern as one does for all the musos who are attending. I even went as far as to buy a black Takamini acoustic for the occasion. Anyway enough excuses to the reviews we go.
John Wetton: Agenda & Amata
This pair of Wetton re-releases comes via Metal Mind Poland more renowned for the series of Roadrunner thrash/speed/death metal releases I have been working through of late. This two CDs are a more mellow affair especially Amata which features as acoustic performance of a mixture of Wetton's solo material, a few Asia hits and some King Crimson as well. Its a laid back affair with a three piece band. As you might expect there is a bit of doubling up between these two CDs, Agenda has 13 tracks with a full electrified band. On this one you have Wetton playing all the Asia hits in their full glory including "Heat of the Moment," "Smile has left your Eyes," and "Sole Survivor."
Both of these CDs are cracking examples of Wetton's talent and show him in full solo flow. What with Asia's full original line-up reunion, there is a bit of good timing about these releases. A Wetton live CD for whichever mood you are in — how convenient.
Marillion: Somewhere Else
This is one of those CDs that I didn't want to write a review for because it meant I would not be able to listen to it as much. Somewhere Else is a wonderful collection of tracks that does not outstay its welcome, as is common with so many prog/neo-prog releases. This is mostly rather mellow stuff but no complete background tunes. There is a level of talent here that is quite stunning as there is nothing even close to being considered a duff track. It's laid-back but full of nuance and imagery. Steve Hogarth is sounding better than ever, as is the rest of the band.
I shall not bother to mention any of the ten tracks on here as they are all great. If you are a Marillion fan its essential. If you like prog, it is close enough. If you just like finely crafted music played by talented musicians, you should probably get yourself a copy post haste.
Rush: Snakes & Arrows
Rush return with their best album since Power Windows is the short review of this CD. Forget all the naysayers — this is a great album from a band back at their creative best. Neil Peart seems to have worked through all his troubles and is back on cracking form. There is not a duff track on this here CD. I can't get enough of this CD and will be taking it on honeymoon with me. Thirteen tracks of absolute prog perfection. Geddy Lee's voice has lost none of its power, quirkiness and majesty. This is probably a bit short for some of you readers. When its this good there is no need for long-winded gushing. If you have ever liked Rush, get this CD. If you claim to like good heavy rock…well you know the score.
With a name like Battlelore, you would be expecting Dragonforce clones right? Well in this case you would be wrong. They do straight ahead heads-down metal with touches of power metal but with a female lead singer twist. For once, the person hitting those high notes should actually be doing it. The band base a lot of their lyrics on Lord of the Rings and Viking Metal, however unlike, say, Rhapsody, it never tips over into farce. "Summon the Wolves" is just great metal with its keyboards/guitars. Battlelore use male death metal growls as a clever counter to the lovely voice of their lead singer.
Just when you thought you were in a mellow bit, heavy vocals come along to kick yer arse. It adds up to something quite special and is a great addition to the female fronted metal brigade.
Great German female-led metal with a tragic twist that has nothing to do with the name. Sabine Dunser, lead vocalist, who has the voice to propel them to the heights of Within Temptation and Nightwish, died recently of sudden illness. The album is dedicated to her memory and is a fitting memorial to the talent that was Sabine. This is a quality goth female-led power metal to rival the above mentioned bands. To demonstrate the full breath of her and the band's talent the bonus track is a cracking cover of "Heaven and Hell" by Dio-era Black Sabbath.
Some of the tracks on here are in German, which almost adds to the nuance and mystery of the music on offer. The cover looks ominous and some of the music has a sense of foreboding. It is a great shame Sabine has died and she is a great loss to metal in general and female-voiced specifically. "Pheonix from the Ashes" is quite powerful, it has to be said, followed by the excellent "How Long." This is a great disc from a talented band who has suffered a great loss.
Artrosis: In Nomine Noctis & Fetish
A couple of CDs from another femme-metal band, as I have heard it described. This lot are far more goth industrial than some of the other bands I have reviewed of late in this category. The band combines elements of Jesus & Mary Chain and Depeche Mode. Much of it screams to be heard in the Goth clubs round the world. You can just see the floor crowed with goth dancing in that way they do in their own little world. "Sin City" at the Electric Ballroom would have eaten this lot up.
The band do not necessarily offer anything that unique, but they do it rather well. And you got to love a band that has tracks that are merely represented by small pictures of certain fazes of the moon, oh and a few tracks on Fetish are listed in binary. Not the chirpiest stuff you have ever heard, but perfect for yer Goth moods when you want to hear something new and Eastern European. My mate Ghost of Flea would just love this lot.
Legend Heart: Legend Heart
Fifteen tracks of pretty decent pub rock that is nothing unique but is pleasant none the less. I can think of far worse ways of spending some money for good causes. 50% of the net profits is going to homeless women, children, and teens charities. So you are not only getting some decent music, you are doing a good deed as well. Reno West seems to be the main man behind the tracks — a man who certainly has soft-spot for 80s pop-rock (Bon Jovi, etc.). Go have a listen and see what you think. Yeah, the production isn't the greatest, but it does remind one of listening to rock back in the 80s on cassettes.
Beatallica: Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band
The lark is Beatles tracks played by Metallica. The daft thing is that it works rather well and the band have got Metallica down to a tee. Thirteen tracks of sublime daftness done rather well. Will you be playing this CD lots? I rather doubt it, but its the absolute perfect choice when you have a bunch of mates round and drunk off your gord. My fave tracks are "Sandman" (think "Taxman") and the absolutely bloody brilliant "Ktulu (He's So Heavy)."
Yet again we are presented with a novelty act that should not last the course of a full CD and still be funny, but it works. So impressed was the actor, Perry Benson, that he tried to pinch my copy of the CD. It shouldn't work but it does…'nuff said. And boy will it annoy your favorite Beatles fan-freak.
Chasing Victory: Fiends
A themed CD with each track about a different type of fiend this is mainstream indie (at least in the UK) with a twist of humour and angst. Its pretty good stuff that is well played by a talented bunch of lads. I am sure this lot, with the right backing, could be top 40 in the UK right now. Its just got that right combination of attitude, angst and indie sense. Just check out the sing-along chorus on "Wolves." Its recognizable, but with originality and talent so lacking in much of stuff on the charts (anywhere). I would expect this lot to do well and get somewhere. Ones to watch that is for damn sure.
Well that is your lot for the next little while. As always I wish you all be safe, remain rocking and please catch live shows where ever and when ever you can.
NB: I have managed to sneak MMM approved music into the reception sound-track. Let's just say things get heavier and harder as the night wears on.