Deveria – Suicide Forest

Suicide Forest Album Cover Art

Deveria – Suicide Forest
Animated Insanity Records
Release Date: 17/03/2021
Running Time: 50:37
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Deveria describe themselves as being a Progressive Power/Thrash hybrid and are based in Upstate New York, USA. They’ve had a fairly chequered history, having originally formed in 2008, got an EP out and then disbanded for eight years, with this line up once again forming around front man Chuck Woodward. So this debut album has been a long time coming…

Musically these chaps are very, very tight. The intro track ‘The Beginning Of…’ builds up the layers of sound with some thundering drum work before launching into the full on attack of ‘Silent Cries’. The instruments keep those arrangements tight, but suffer somewhat from the production values. The problem is the vocals sound just that little too high in the mix, with the guitars in particular being in danger of being drowned out completely – particularly by the bass which is so high up in the mix that I was reminded of what happened when Iron Maiden let Steve Harris first try out the producer’s chair.

In parts I am reminded vocally of early Queensrÿche, in that period when Geoff Tate hadn’t quite taken hold of the flame with his lyrical phrasing and although that voice showed tremendous promise, the vocal lines tended to meander somewhat. Woodard does something similar – his voice has power and range but sometimes seems slightly at odds with what the music is doing. There’s a fine line between creating an element of musical tension by being half a tone out from what the melody lines are doing and sounding plain out of key, and this album walks that line once or twice – but the bigger problem is that the instrumentation is just too damned quiet. It’s actually the times when he turns on the more extreme vocal styles that he is actually at his most effective, as it forces a dirtier sound from the rest of the band and the frustrating thing is those stronger and more rounded songs are some way back in the running order. We’re well over half way through before things really get going for my money and the intermittent bursts of pure Thrash from ‘Reign of Fire’ is actually the point when the record really grabs me and starts to run.

Mostly the song writing is pretty solid, with some clever technical arrangements – the title track being a good example, but it’s really let down by that production sound, which is crying out for those guitars to be much more in your face, crunchy and dirty than the slightly too crisp and sanitised sound they have. When they do start to get a bit more down and dirty, say with ‘Kingdom of Evermore’ the effect is immediately obvious in a song that takes you along for the ride, rather than wanting to give notes of improvement. I’m far from writing these boys off though as there is enormous promise here, and no small amount of technical skill and proficiency – but desperately needs someone with a good Metal pedigree on the mixing desk to bring out the best in a more consistent manner. Nonetheless a very promising start.

‘Suicide Forest’ (Official video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Beginning Of…
02. Silent Cries
03. Suicide Forest
04. Fate
05. Demons Inside Me
06. Reign of Fire
07. Kingdom of Evermore
08. Miracles
09. IX
10. One Nation
11. …The End

LINE-UP:
Chuck Woodard – Lead Vocals
John Suski – Drums
Marvin Veeder – Bass
Christian Bivona – Guitar

LINKS:

Deveria Promo Picture

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Pentesilea Road – Pentesilea Road

Pentesilea Road Album Cover Art

Pentesilea Road – Pentesilea Road
Self-Released
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 71:00
Review by Simon Black
6/10

This is pure Prog. Originally starting life as a solo effort from all round instrumentalist Vito F. Mainolfi, the outfit has extended over lockdown to a wider project, although clearly Mainolfi remains front and centre given that he is delivering guitars, bass, programming and assorted other instruments. The record has actually been available digitally for a while, with a physical version now available this month.

Opening with the lengthy instrumental ‘Memory Corners’, this band deliver pure 70’s influenced Prog from the opening bars and throughout its, quite lengthy, seventy-one minutes of run time. As you would expect, there’s plenty of instrumental breaks and nearly all of the twelve tracks clock in over six minutes of run time, so experimentation is very much the order of the day. Lorenzo Vincenzo Nocerino has a slightly more edgy vocal tone than is normal for this sort of Prog, where cleaner than clean is the norm but actually it works quite well, but the strongest song is when the vocals open up and goes full on rock mode with the guest appearance of Ray Alder from Fates Warning on ‘Shades Of The Night’ being a good example – although he does feel like he has been added to the mix quite latterly.

Recording remotely through lock down has been a challenge many acts have had to manage in the last eighteen months, but many at least have had the advantage of working together physically before Covid called a halt to travel. That’s important here, because with contributions coming from band members and assorted guests located in The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the USA who have not worked together face to face there comes the risk of fragmentation.

There is some great playing here and I cannot fault the skill of this, but where the album is weaker is the song-writing. Even though by its very nature Progressive music is not going to opt for over-simplification of song-structure, this one rambles just that little bit too much in many places. It’s worth noting that even the masters of the genre can lose focus in this way though and there’s a fair number of noughties-era Dream Theater records for example that suffer from this sort of meandering and slightly lost feeling. The trick would appear to be to have a strong core song structure and then play around the edges, whereas in this instance the experimental parts have been allowed to predominate. It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens again when all of the players are in the same room together when material is written and recorded, as all this could simply be the product of the fact that the core material is based on Mainolfi’s original demo’s, with everyone else added later and remotely.

In fact ‘demo’ is probably the key word here. This very much has the feel of a record that is only at the pre-production stage and is missing that crucial studio phase when the artists develop their short hand interactive personal chemistry (perhaps more vital in Prog or Jazz than any other musical genres) and where a firm handed producer focusses them on tightening up the arrangements. Get these guys in a room together to polish for a few weeks, then I suspect the end product will be quite formidable.

‘Memory Corners’ (Visualiser)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Memory Corners (feat. Mark Zonder)
02. Stranded
03. Genius Loci
04. Spectral Regrowth (feat. Mark Zonder)
05. Stains (feat. Michele Guaitoli)
06. Give Them Space (feat. Mark Zonder)
07. Shades Of The Night
08. The Psychopathology Of Everyday Things
09. Noble Art (feat. Ray Alder)
10. Pentesilea Road
11. A Tale Of Dissidence
12. Shades Of The Night (feat. Ray Alder)

LINE-UP:
Vito F. Mainolfi – Guitars, Bass, Backing Vocals, Programming & Whatever Else
Ezio di Ieso – Pianoforte & Keyboards
Alfonso Mocerino – Drums
Lorenzo Vincenzo Nocerino – Vocals

Special Guests:
Ray Alder – Vocals on ‘Shades Of The Night’, ‘Noble Art’
Mark Zonder – Drums on ‘Memory Corners’, ‘Spectral Regrowth’, ‘Give Them Space’
Michele Guaitoli – Vocals on ‘Stains’
Paul Prins – First Solo on ‘Give Them Space’

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Motorjesus – Hellbreaker

Hellbreaker Album Cover Art

Motorjesus – Hellbreaker
AFM Records
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 44:32
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Motorjesus have been at this a long time, coming from the Lemmy school of ‘down to earth roll up the sleeves and get on with it’ corner of Rock ’n’ Roll. They date back to the early 1990’s, having changed their names from the slightly less commercially acceptable The Shitheadz and have been producing albums under the Motorjesus moniker since 2004. This is album number six for the German five piece and follows the well-trodden path of high-octane German Rock ’n’ Roll wrapped up in a colourful mascot-emblazoned cover. That long experience is positively tangible, but at the same time it’s wrapped up in a really fresh and crisply energetic delivery of the calibre newer bands often exude.

This is a band who know exactly what they need to deliver and who seem to have no problem cranking out the tunes on demand. The vocal delivery is very gruff and gutsy, but so full of energy and enthusiasm from Chris “Howling” Birx with lyrics that follow the formula of driving music meets fantasy, perhaps summed up best by the nod to Judge Dredd and more specifically his gun, both named ‘Lawgiver’ which alongside pure road music like ‘Drive Through Fire’ and the absolutely belting ‘Car Wars’ is road music at its best and will go down a treat at a bike rally. It’s Rock ’n’ Roll, so I wasn’t expecting complex technical instrumental interplay – this is all about living fast and delivering the goods and I can foresee each and every one of these songs working well in a sweaty club somewhere (assuming there are any left when this fucking virus has been kicked into touch). That said, it may not be overtly technical, but that does not mean that there is some seriously skilful musicianship at work here as these boys can play fast, melodic and heavy as fuck all in one go – with enough boogie in the rhythms and beats to keep feet tapping and heads nodding. They are also running in a new guitarist in Patrick Wassenburg who seems to have subtly changed their sounds in favour of the more Metal tropes of blistering solo work to go with that crunch rhythm based delivery and the opportunity for a bit of harmonised playing. And pretty good with it he is too, so the end result is a Metal tinged R’n’R album that really is going to appeal broadly.

From what I can gather, this album isn’t doing anything conceptually, tonally or lyrically that they haven’t done before but, if like me, you are not familiar with the back catalogue, then with eleven fast and furious, well-delivered tracks to get you going this is an excellent place to start. And this does not sound like a band who’ve been at it forever with a huge back catalogue. This is new, fresh and positively full of energy. Spot on.

‘Firebreather’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Drive Through Fire
02. Battlezone
03. Hellbreaker
04. Beyond The Grave
05. Dead Rising
06. Car Wars
07. Firebreather
08. Lawgiver
09. Black Hole Overload
10. Back To The Bullet
11. The Outrun

LINE-UP:
Chris “Howling” Birx – Vocals
Andy Peters – Guitars
Patrick Wassenberg – Guitars
Dominik Kwasny – Bass
Adam Borosch – Drums

LINKS:

Motorjesus Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Gary Hughes – Waterside

Waterside Album Cover Art

Gary Hughes – Waterside
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 49:47
Review by Simon Black
5/10

Gary Hughes is a name I’ve not heard much of recently, despite the fact that he has a prodigiously prolific rate of output. I first came across him in the late 1990’s when Ten appeared out of the blue and stubbornly refused to acknowledge any of the current fads in rock music and to carry the torch of Melodic Hard Rock firmly forward for long enough to restart the genre. Ten’s contribution is significant, but the man has put his name to many more projects and is probably single-handedly responsible for reinvigorating Bob Catley from Magnum’s career when that act went on hiatus (check his first solo album “The Tower” on which Hughes’ very distinctive song writing and musical tone is clearly audible if you don’t believe me).

This, however, is the first time I have listened to one of Hughes’ solo recordings, although with at least half of the members of Ten playing on here anyway, it feels more like a side-step than stepping out. I was expecting pure Melodic Hard Rock in the Ten vein, but this is a slightly softer sounding piece of work. Vocally he is quite restrained and mellow, despite the sometimes more rockin’ nature of the tracks. Lyrically is a bit more of a mixed bag though. I was less than impressed with some of the lyrics. ‘Lay Down’ with its S&M references invoking a bygone age of 80’s latex-clad bimbos in music videos felt downright cringe worthy and really not what’s needed in this day and age – despite it being attached to one of the catchier sounding songs on the record. But on the flip side of this are thoughtful, evocative and heart-warming songs that showcase his song-writing abilities perfectly. I’m normally quite wary of Melo-Rock Power ballads, but Hughes has a gift for them and plenty are to be found on here.

As always with Hughes you get well-structured songs that lead the ear through gently and tell you where to start waving the phone lights during the live show. The songs individually are fine, but I am struggling to find too many strong tracks on here – the exception being the title track, which has oodles more energy and pace than the majority of the disk and was a wise choice for the lead track. His voice has naturally aged over the decades and this time he’s playing to that tone rather than trying to push himself and generally this works absolutely fine. It’s a calm bit of Melodic Rock, but doesn’t quite have the energy that I was hoping for.

TRACKLISTING:
01. All At Once It Feels Like I Believe
02. Electra- Glide
03. Lay Down
04. The Runaway Damned
05. Screaming In The Half Light
06. Waterside
07. Video Show
08. Save My Soul
09. Seduce Me
10. When Love Is Done

LINE-UP:
Gary Hughes – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitars
Dann Rosingana – Lead Guitar
David Rosingana – Bass Guitar
Darrel Treece-Birch – Keyboards and Drums
Karen Fell – Backing Vocals
Scott Hughes – Lead and Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Katana Cartel – The Sacred Oath

The Sacred Oath Album Cover Art

Katana Cartel – The Sacred Oath
Self-Released
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 48:07
Review by Simon Black
10/10

The debut album from these Melbourne, Australia based metallers has, like so much of the last eighteen months, been put completely on hold by Coronavirus. When this is your debut release, the decision to hold back or plunge forward is slightly trickier. Debut albums are critically dependant on bands’ getting out on the road and working their dues in gruelling support slots until enough people realise they are there and start creating demand for their music; then it’s about working the brand for all its worth. Australia and the state of Victoria have been locked down harder and longer than most (as my father, who lives there, never ceases to remind me) and so to release an album too soon and risk it disappearing, relatively unheard, despite rave reviews cannot be ignored. Equally, the financial costs associated with the production need to start to be met, which no amount of streaming success will balance out. It’s a tough call and my personal view is that a band should have the courage of their convictions and keep moving forward if they can. So with no sign of things lifting out of lockdown enough for touring to start any time soon, we need to work on the basis of what’s available and try and support the acts themselves, which is why I always ask people to buy the product directly from the band or label’s web site – even if they dip their toe into the streaming waters to see if they like it first. Because if we don’t there won’t be many new bands for us to enjoy.

And enjoy is the key word with this record, something the band clearly do and that infectiously spreads to the listener. Like many debut’s Katana Cartel have had a longer gestation period and the material presented is likely to be the pick of the material the band has crafted to date. Equally, when you are self-produced there is also the danger that without a manager or label forcing editorial decisions that the path of self-indulgence sometimes opens up. I need not have worried in this case, as the eleven tracks on here feel wisely chosen, well-written and a great showcase to the musical abilities of the band.

This is punchy and lively traditional Metal, with a strong early Thrash sentiment underpinning it instrumentally. Vocally the style is largely clean, but with enough of the Thrashier aggressive vocals mixed in to keep it from sounding retro, so consequently you can absolutely hear the influences, but the overall feel is very fresh and modern. What this translates to is anthemic and energetic songs liberally interspersed with some blistering technical time changes and instrumental interludes which show off the skill without being self-indulgent. OK, maybe they do a bit with the album’s closer (the brilliantly named 2000 AD comic tribute) ‘Judge Shredd’, as when you are treading the same lyrical path as one of Thrash’s Big Four, you need to differentiate. Which they admirably do, with several minutes of pile driving blistering shredding and playing that’s tighter than a possum’s bum hole and then counterbalanced by a more melodic and gentle few bars to counterpoint it and close it. It’s a great bit of playing and that’s probably the weakest track on the album!

I really can’t fault the rest of the record and its infectious energy has slowed down my writing, as I’ve been loath to stop listening and move on to what’s next in the pile. That tells me this is an act that I’m going to enjoy listening to for a while longer and therefore one that’s got legs. I’m normally slightly more generous on my scores with new bands, as I cut a little slack first time out, but in this case the score is fully deserved and if I could have gone up to eleven I would have. Because that’s what the band have delivered.

TRACKLISTING:
01. War Prelude
02. Air Raid
03. Bang Your Head
04. Night Town
05. Dime A Dozen
06. The Battle
07. Fragile Denial
08. Grenade
09. The Art Of Self-Destruction
10. Judge Shredd

LINE-UP:
Steven (FluFFy) Falkingham – Vocals
Rob (Rockit) Georgievski – Rhythm Guitar
John (JP) Price – Drums
Matt (Matty) Lentile – Bass Guitar
Dylan (Dylzy) Reeves – Lead Guitar
Dr. Mike Trubetskov – Keyboards

LINKS:

Katana Cartel Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Lifeblood Album Cover Art

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 51:33
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This Italian Power / Progressive Metal outfit have been treading the boards since 1999 and having only really come across them latterly, I had to say they had not really registered much on my radar. This is probably because the challenges of maintaining a steady line-up vocally had taken their toll, with the word on the street being that with their original vocalist Roberto Messina having long since departed in 2012, that their best days were sadly in the past. So, the fact that he has re-joined them for this important tenth record, is a significant milestone event for these chaps.

And with his return, comes their mojo, as this record is a very palpable hit.

European Power Metal can be a hit and miss affair, with the Italian acts in particular often having a very distinctive classically influenced sound that makes everyone assume their name is some derivation of the word ‘rhapsody’. Whereas this record, whilst being firmly of Italian heritage, also has a strong transcontinental feel and appeal – which is a convoluted way of saying that these chaps can write lively Power and Progressive influenced material that has the right level of radio-friendly accessibility to guarantee plenty of chorus singalongs in a festival field of your choice with an audience who never actually heard your songs before. A key element of this is the phrasing within individual tracks that keeps melody lines and some of the solo breaks superficially simple and effective, but allows for a few moments of progressive flourish that remind you of how well these boys can play without limiting the accessibility for the more casual ear, that might be put off by the more technically proficient elements. That said, when guitarist Aldo Lonobile and keyboardist Gabriele Ciaccia let rip, they really can shred – ably supported by either a blisteringly relentless when needed or more measured and paced rhythm delivery as required. And because these guys know how to use their Progressive tropes sparingly, it doesn’t jar when a song manages to go both directions within the space of a few bars. This kind of flexible appeal is remarkably rare…

It’s bombastic, energetic and lively stuff for the first half then dovetails into a more melodic and commercially accessible second half, with some real care taken in the song-writing and a highly polished standard of production. For such a long album it also does the honourable thing and does not outstay its welcome. Or worse – drown you in ballads – having only the one. It’s also going to appeal to the more Metal fan base compared to some of the more Melo-Metal sounding releases they have delivered in recent years despite the commercial focus, making this an album with a really broad range of appeal. A hook-laden and well-crafted return to form.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Shaping Reality
02. Lifeblood
03. The End Of An Ego
04. Life Survivors
05. Alive
06. Against All The Odds
07. Thank You
08. The Violent Ones
09. Solitary Fight
10. Skywards
11. The Lie We Love

LINE-UP:
Roberto Messina – Vocals
Aldo Lonobile – Guitars
Andrea Buratto – Bass
Gabriele Ciaccia – Keyboards
Marco Lazzarini – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson

The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson Album Cover Art

Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 61:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10

When he’s not pumping out the riffage on Primal Fear, Magnus Karlsson has a whole bunch of other side bands keeping him busy. This latest project is an incredibly ambitious Metal Opera but musically it’s been handled slightly differently from similar efforts within the genre. Before I analyse that, a little on the definition of the genre itself, as frustratingly put the words ‘Opera’ and ‘Metal’ together and automatically many Metal heads just tune out, which is a shame.

A Metal Opera is not to be confused with (largely Italian) Operatic Metal. The latter is usually a combination of a Metal band with Neo-Classical instrumental stylistic tropes and a vocal delivery which fuses the Metal with the sort of delivery style that might tread the boards at Covent Garden. The former is usually more varied, subtle and probably had its birth with Tobias Sammet’s original Avantasia record twenty years ago. In this form, the ‘opera’ part refers to the way that the albums (which by their nature are nearly always conceptual) tell their story vocally through a series of characters, given voice by a whole bunch of contributing guest artists around a core central voice. The distinction between genres is important before you make that decision to tune out, as Operatic Metal is very much trapped by the Neo-Classical form, whereas a Metal Opera can really deliver the Metal part using almost any form of Metal.

In this instance the two sub-genres in the driving seat are very much an even mixture of Melodic, Power and Symphonic styles. The traditional rock sounds are almost entirely delivered by Karlsson who delivers all of the guitar, keyboard and bass parts, alongside drummer Anders Köllerfors. The other two named instrumentalists are delivering a full time cello and violin into the mix which makes the Symphonic sound much richer and more authentic than the more keyboard orientated synthesiser sounds many other acts opt for. For that core Metal sound we have strong Melodic Metal with, as you would expect from the Primal Scream stalwart a very strong Power Metal sensibility, giving it a good Euro-Metal bedrock on which to build, which predominate over the Symphonic.

But although the musical contributions are really strong, it’s the absolutely fantastic vocal deliveries that make this record stand out. In this case the central narrator voice is admirably delivered by Seven Spires frontwoman Adrienne Cowan (who is ironically enough also a part of the touring version of Avantasia, amongst others). The cast of characters also includes guest turns from Netta Laurenne (Smackbound), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn Gimenez (Her Chariot Awaits, Sirenia), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise) and erstwhile Nightwish singer Anette Olzon. Each and every one of those performances is strongly delivered, top notch and powerfully emotional, but for me it’s Netta Laurenne’s more bluesy delivery (whose performance on Smackdown’s “20/20” album was quite exceptional) and the more edgy turn from Battle Beast’s Noora Louhino most notably on ‘Evil’s Around The Corner’ that really hit the top spots over the more Symphonic and cleanly delivered tracks throughout the rest of the record.

Having given each voice the chance to shine, Karlsson brings them all together for a powerful finale with ‘This Is Not The End’, and I am slightly saddened at the thought that this project is unlikely to be delivered live – although I said the same thing about Avantasia and got happily proven wrong, so never say never. Strong, well-written and powerfully delivered, this has some quite exceptional vocal delivery and it’s worth taking the time to unpick the story.

‘Into The Unknown’ feat. Noora Louhimo (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Awake
02. Come Out Of The Shadow
03. Who Can Stand All Alone
04. Back To Life
05. Into The Unknown
06. When The Fire Burns Out
07. Evil’s Around The Corner
08. Mesmerized
09. Weaker
10. This Is Not The End

LINE-UP:
Magnus Karlsson – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards
Daniel Tengberg – Cello
Anders Köllerfors – Drums
Erika Sävström Engman – Violin

Vocals:
Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires, Masters of Ceremony)
Ailyn Gimenez (Her Chariot Awaits, ex-Sirenia)
Youmna Jreissati (Ostura)
Netta Laurenne (Smackbound)
Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast)
Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise)
Anette Olzon (Dark Element, Ex-Nightwish)

LINKS:

Heart Healer Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

The Blue Dawn Album Cover Art

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 61:00
Review by Simon Black
8.5/10

This Italian five-piece Progressive Metal outfit have been quiet for some time, with 2013’s ‘The Last Embrace To Humanity’ being the last we heard from them and, as always, the inevitable line-up fluctuations that plague most bands have been a significant part of that. With a stable line-up and the passage of time comes a more mature sound and a rich and complex release to emphasise that. This record is a Science Fiction concept piece about a couple of space travellers forging a new race in a musical take on the old Adam and Eve from space concept that has long been a staple of pulp paperback SF fiction.

As often when reviewing these records, having the time to unpick the minutia of the plot is a luxury this reviewer does not have, but needless to say it’s clear from the three spins I’ve given this record that this is a well-constructed and crafted story, with musical themes and flourishes woven into its tapestry. Musically this is somewhat impressive however, and that alone justifies taking it out for a spin. This is rich, mature and well-crafted Progressive tunage of the highest order, not particularly heavy in its sound and therefore likely to appeal to those who like their Prog to sound commercially accessible. Equally it avoids sounding Neo-Classical or Operatic, which let’s face it happens a lot on Italian acts in the genre, and has a more North American feel to it (think early Dream Theater or Fates Warning) with an undeniably radio-friendly vibe despite the technical proficiency on display. Also, unusually the vocals are very high and loud in the front of the mix, and given the power and timbre of new lungsman Jan Manenti’s excellent voice this is perhaps for the best.

As with the most successful Prog records, the musical brilliance is definitely there but it’s subtle and understated, so it doesn’t alienate less technically toned ears with overtly complex melodies, but allowing you to tune into the complexity if you choose. Working on two levels like that is really, really hard to achieve and to my ears, far more clever than an album full of overt fret-work and fragmented time changes ever can be. It’s really only on the title track itself when there is a bit more showiness on display, but then if you’ve managed to get erstwhile Dream Theater ivory-tickler Derek Sherinian as a guest, then be my guest, you deserve a moment of indulgence.

Overall this is an album that flows well, is easy on the ear, but with plenty of depth to dip your toes into should you wish and like all the best Prog, rewards the patient re-listener with more to appreciate despite being more than accessible enough on first listen. Thoroughly recommended.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Mission N°773
02. Landing On Axtradel
03. The Invasion
04. Escape To Blue Planet
05. Solar Wind
06. Life Creators
07. The Blue Dawn
08. Sands Of Yazukia
09. Flags Of Victory
10. The Supreme Being

LINE-UP:
Jan Manenti – Vocals
Gianmaria Saddi – Guitar
Gabriele Ciaccia – Keyboards
Gigi Andreone – Bass
Marco Lazzarini – Drums

LINKS:

Odd Dimension Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

U.D.O. – Live In Bulgaria 2020: Pandemic Survival Show

Live In Bulgaria 2020, Pandemic Survival Show Album Cover Art

U.D.O. – Live In Bulgaria 2020: Pandemic Survival Show
AFM Records
Release Date: 19/03/2021
Running Time: 178:15
Review by Simon Black
5/10

Although Udo Dirkschneider has arguably been more successful outside of Accept with his U.D.O. project than he was in Accept (or certainly than Accept have been since he left them), I seem to have managed to largely miss out on his contribution to the Metal world (OK, I heard ‘Balls To The Wall’ back in the day, but it never did much for me). Which makes this quite an interesting experience to listen to, as it means I’m coming to this German Heavy Metal stalwart as if for the first time. The show was recorded last year in a socially distanced Roman amphitheatre environment in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and although the crowd size was clearly limited, that’s not slowing their enthusiasm down noticeably.

This is primarily about a visual release, with dual DVD/CD and Blu-Ray/CD formats being available alongside a strictly limited vinyl audio only pressing, which is why for those encountering this on audio streaming only the full two hours and eighteen minutes running time might seem a little daunting. Given that there’s been plenty of live material from the man in recent years it might be argued that this wasn’t necessary, but then the environment is rather visually special if you go for that format and his fans tend to be very loyal and therefore more than happy to shell out for it.

It’s straight ahead traditional Metal and so it should be, with a fair number of Accept tracks alongside the solo material just in case anyone has forgotten where he came from. The track choice is worth dwelling on for a moment as it’s got plenty of less obvious choices in there, which although this gives the release something to distinguish itself from other recent live offerings, does mean it’s not necessarily as engaging for the casual audience member. Not that this is pitched at anything other than the hardened core of his very loyal fan base.

There’s plenty of live energy here and that distinctive gravelly voice is still there but does sometime seem to struggle with the sustain and vibrato, but then he is nearly seventy (which is still probably older than the combined ages of everyone else in the band). Dirkschneider also manages to keep the crowd well engaged, interacting well and encouraging huge amounts of enthusiasm (although to be fair at this point in 2020 I would have started a circle pit at my kids’ school play if they had been allowed to hold it). With twenty-five tracks you also get value for money, but I forgive anyone if they chose to skip the drum or bass solo segments, as quite frankly they’re one part of the 80’s best left in the past.

As for the musical performance, the band are tight enough, and work well together, but are very much in the background of the mix to the vocals. There’s a lot of energy coming off of the band, but unfortunately it’s let down by the fact that his voice although maintaining that distinctive timbre just doesn’t have the strength and power it had in the past. Consequently with much of the music being in a key he has a chance of hitting, that up tempo energy of the older material just doesn’t quite materialise.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Tongue Reaper
02. Make The Move
03. Midnight Mover
04. Wrong Side Of Midnight
05. Metal Machine
06. Independence Day
07. Rose In The Desert
08. Vendetta
09. Rising High
10. Prologue: The Great Unknown
11. In The Darkness
12. I Give As Good As I Get
13. Princess Of The Dawn
14. Timebomb
15. Drum Solo
16. Bass Solo
17. Hungry And Angry
18. One Heart One Soul
19. Man And Machine
20. Animal House
21. They Want War
22. Metal Heart
23. Fast As Shark
24. Balls To The Wall
25. Outro (Stillness Of Time)

LINE-UP:
Udo Dirkschneider – Vocals
Andrey Smirnov – Guitar
Sven Dirkschneider – Drums
Fabian Dee Dammers – Guitar
Tilen Hudrap – Bass

LINKS:

U.D.O. Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Corporain – Purge // Purity

Purge//Purity Album Cover Art

Corporain – Purge // Purity
Volcano Records
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 52:44
Review by Simon Black
8/10

It’s my own fault, as I keep saying ‘yes’ to them, but most of the music emanating from Italy that lands in my direction to review tends to be of the Symphonic / Power / Progressive bent, is more often than not some great conceptual piece with strong operatic overtones and either directly a part of or at least influenced by the Rhapsody family of acts. So when something like this arrives that doesn’t fit that mould in the slightest, then it makes an incredibly refreshing change. Which is odd, because Progressive and Symphonic are definitely a part of Corporain’s DNA, but they don’t sound like anything else I’ve heard recently from Italy’s fine Metal stables recently.

And bloody good with it they are too…

Unlike much from those more overtly operatic corners of the country, this is highly accessible craftsmanship and a far more modern sounding record than I expected from this Tuscany-based four piece. That said, the classical motes are in there, particularly in the quite frankly outstanding keyboard work from Edoardo Giacomelli, who most of the time sticks to a classical piano sound lending the whole album a distinctive and consistently mature sound. I can’t praise his musical contribution enough and he’s the beating soulful heart of this record. The three instrumentalists all share the vocal duties, running the gamut of styles from Heavy and Hard, to Rock ’n’ Roll, to clean Power, to Nu-Metal, to heart-achingly soulful and so many shades in between. I know this contradicts what I said about a distinctive and consistent sound, but despite the range of vocal sounds they somehow achieve this.

They do exactly the same thing with the songs, which bounce round a whole range of styles whilst still sounding like it’s the same band at heart. It’s incredibly disconcerting, but works a treat and the inherent contradiction that the more progressive elements throw at the ear, such as seamlessly flicking between a burst of brutal heaviness and some beautiful melodic sections without jarring in the same track is quite exceptional. These songs betray a musical skill and song-writing excellence way beyond their years, not to mention no small amount of restraint and focus, meaning the songs are not sacrificed on the altar of overt technical wizardry, but instead just accentuates that structure. It also has incredible depth, with each listen like peeling an onion layer by layer to reveal something I missed the previous time round. This is a highly impressive debut of the calibre that doesn’t come round often, with a well-rafted record that’s like the gift that keeps on giving. This is clearly an act to watch.

‘Rage’ (Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Millenium
02. Inception
03. The Purge
04. Apocalypse
05. Hollow
06. Pitch Black
07. Never Forget
08. Rage
09. Whispering The Wind

LINE-UP:
Edoardo Giacomelli – Keyboards & Vocals
Andrea Singulti – Guitar & Vocals
Iacopo Campinoti – Bass & Vocals
Marco Visconti – Drums

LINKS:

Corporain Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.