Chaos Frame – Paths to Exile

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Nightmare Records

Review by Rick Ossian

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Chaos Frame comes to us via the windswept prairie of the midwestern United States; St. Paul, Minnesota, to be more precise.  They have dubbed themselves ‘regressive‘ metal, which may seem contradictory to most, but to me it makes perfect sense.  After all, everyone else in their ‘genre’ seems to be satisfied with being referred to as ‘progressive‘ metal.  Well, either would seem appropriate in today’s genre-happy mixed up musical world.  Perhaps by being regressive CF are just making light of the whole situation. Who’s to say?  Let us move on to the important stuff, shall we?

Chaos Frame are about as regressive as it gets, and they have one powerful message to give to us.  Vocally, they have a sonic powerhouse in the shape of one Dave Brown.  Dave not only lets rip vocally somewhere in the sky next to the kings of the falsetto – he also brings it home and back down to the ground when the music calls for it.  Most of the time he is in the stratosphere, but then isn’t where a regressive metal vocalist should be?

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Instrumentally, we have two duelling guitars that scream and wail, oftentimes in unison, though perhaps slightly disjointed.  Many times they both go off in search of the ultimate shred together, one taking a lead while the other rests/riffs, then swapping spots at the drop of a hat.  The guitarists in question are Matt Hodson and Andy Xiong.  Ably backing this dynamic duo are Aaron Lott on the bass guitar and Steve Bergquist on the drums.

Our first track up is Painful Lessons.  It opens with a lead jam, then some vocal effects.  This is very proggy, but let’s not forget that we’re trying to be regressive.  Just whose leg do these chaps think they’re pulling, anyway?  I smell PROG.  Energy – check.  Urgency – check.  Wicked vocal hooks – check.  Then, at about a minute in, the main riff/jam kicks in.  When the vocals return, Dave exhibits his range in the way that only he can – sky one moment, then grounded the next.  The lead guitar work seems to be part of the ultimate refrain, which is refreshing.  We do get brief bursts here and there, but nobody seems to be leaning on the shredding – also refreshing!  This is a powerful tune, and a good choice for an opener.  There is even a little lead at the end!

The title track, Paths to Exile, is up next.  This one is a real barn-burner, but a long epic to boot.  The intro is a thrashy double-thumping slam to your senses, and I’m digging the main riff with the sky vocals mixed in.  This is great stuff, with the energy just barely in check again.  I think one of the reasons I’m liking these guys so much is that, at the risk of sounding like so many others, they pour some extra passion into the mix and come up roses!  They could be Dream Theater, they could be Pagan’s Mind – they could even pose as my beloved Symphony X – but they are, instead, a big pile of heaping Chaos Frame – and that should be enough for all of us.  Vocally, Dave exhibits controlled righteous anger – but only just – he sounds like he could be threatening to let rip (literally) at any moment!  There are several guitar solos here, but as before they can be brutally brief.  Short but sweet, as we Americans are so fond of uttering.  The first is mixed with a sort of instrumental breakdown with HEAVY double-bass drum usage (4:15).  Then their is another (4:53).  Then, at about 5:50, there is a longer, shreddier, if you will, one that’s laid down very nicely.  At six-and-a-half minutes in we get an all-out jam, then another solo at 6:50.  The shift to the refrain at the close seems a bit disconnected, as the lyrics let on.  This track is nothing short of brilliant.  Small wonder it is the title tune!

Derceto must be some sort of prog-monster/demon, or something, as is evidenced by the mix of Cookie Monster vocal FX with the straight vocals – something, by the way, that I would NOT recommend.  Perhaps it is just me, but as I’ve mentioned before, I like to hear my vocalists actually SING, thank you very much.  I realize that I waffle considerably on this particular issue, and today I happen to be on the side of the fence wherein the straight singers reside…no offense to the growlies, of course!  The triumphant keys on here make me wonder if there is, indeed, a keyboard player – after all, there are only guitars, bass and drums listed as the main source of instrumentation.  Perhaps there is a bit of keyboard thrown in here and there…only the CF blokes know for sure!  This is thrashy prog, and the above-mentioned growls are indeed well done, but the straight vocals are better, in my opinion.   There is also the obligatory guitar solo at about three-and-a-half minutes in, but instead of remaining a mere shredding exercise it goes into vista-sky style (sorta bluesy).  The vocals at four minutes in remind us of Dave’s inimitable powers, and he throws in a scream at the outro, to remind us – as if we needed it!

Terra Firma also features a thrashy/proggy intro with heavy riffing and busy double-bass drumming.  Then things are airy, then power riffing with vocals.  There are several shifts here, and that is just within the first minute or so.  There is a shreddy lead solo at 3:40, and an instrumental breakdown of sorts at four-and-a-half minutes in.  Vocally, World Trade and TNT came to mind whilst I was listening.

Paper Sun features yet another heavy-as-fuck opener riff, with the killer vocal imprint all over the proceedings AGAIN – doesn’t Dave get tired of kicking ass?  It also includes a sort of keys solo at 4:20 that morphs into a saxophone, somehow – either that or these old ears are playing tricks on me.  There is a nice little shredding also at 4:40.  Lyrically, I was briefly captured aurally by this couplet: “Since you’ve been gone/ I wander the roads where you left me“.  Profound, right?  Romantic, no?  Perhaps.

Giantkiller is another lengthy, epic-y production with a classic prog-rock opening.  Everything is here again, by the way – the urgency, the energy, the brilliant, powerfully sky-rocketing vocals.  This bloke is obviously of hero status, as well.  Just check the lyrics if you don’t believe me: “For justice and the helpless/He’s the man who walks among the giants“.  At the 3:45 mark there is an instrumental breakdown that shifts slightly into a brief lead guitar bit, then there are more prophetic lyrics: “The only way to win the war/Straight down into the planet’s core“.  By the way, the drums are again very busy on this particular tune, and we get another couple of lead pieces as well.  Some shredding (4:15), plus riffage, and at 5 minutes in, more shredding that leads to traveling bluesy/rocky leads and riffs, then a lovely instrumental breakdown from around 6:45 to the close.  Absolutely brilliant.

Doomed starts out a bit doom and gloom (hence the name, right?), almost reminding one of Sabbath-esque riffing.  There is some seriously shredding riffage here again, and some wicked cool powerful vocals as well.  At 2:40 we hear yet another breakdown/shift of sorts (with vocals), an instrumental version at three-and-a-half minutes in, then a shred-fest with both guitars at the 4:20 mark.  How appropo!

At long last we arrive at the closer.  It has been a considerably long journey.  I would not deem our proceedings arduous, however.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this ride.  It seems only fitting that this, our last number, is the longest of the batch.  At almost 8 minutes, in length, one would be tempted to dub The World Has Two Faces as an epic.  It IS very tempting, because it is nothing if not an epic, musical journey.  We start out with keys/guitars PLUS drums and bass doing the heaviness-and-airiness at the same time thing…not sure how on earth they do that, but CF do it WELL!  The main riffing that comes in about 1:45-2:00 is heavy as fuck (again), and the doom factor creeps back in at about 3:20.  Busy drums – did I mention that?  At three-and-a-half minutes in there is a nice lead guitar bit.  At 3:50 they falter only slightly with some chanting/whoa oh oh’s (I like the 60’s/70’s as much as anyone, but I’m not sure this is the place for that).  It is repeated again at the 7-minute mark, oddly enough,.  At 4:20 there is something you don’t get to hear often in prog metal – we get spatial FX – guitar riffs moving from speaker to speaker – and if I can detect it on a little ol’ PC, just imagine how groovy it will sound on your stereos!  Both guitars positively shred at the 5 minute mark. Some proggy keys are happening at 5:20, and some nice vocals plus riffs at the 6-minute mark. There is an instrumental breakdown (broken record, Rick!) at 6:45.  Let’s see, does that about wrap it up?  Indeed it does!

Upon consideration of adding this piece to your listening library, do not focus strictly on what I have written.  It may indeed influence you to go out and purchase it instantly!  I have already decided to purchase my own copy to support these deserving blokes.  However, I think you should hear some first!  So, go to YouTube, punters!  Go to Facebook!  Go to your record store!  Just go, I tell you! Hear Chaos Frame, they will make you want to stand up and rock!

*****/5

 

Pyramids on Mars – Echo Cosmic

 

 

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Independent

Review by Rick Ossian

For those of you who did not know (myself included), Pyramids on Mars is a one-man operation.  Kevin Estrella, of Hamilton, Ontario, is the sole owner, operator, player, and evidently distributor of the brand as well.  He plays all guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, programming and FX.  He labels himself as ‘melodic instrumental rock, and that is exactly what he is.  However, for those of you who are thinking ‘oh there’s enough of that on the market already‘, perhaps you are correct.  I, for one, have heard some but would dearly love to hear more!  I highly recommend POM for anyone interested in listening to some pretty decent ‘cosmic’ widdling.  To even further clarify, if you like Joe Satriani‘s instrumental work, or can imagine, say, Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen sans vocals, then this is for you!

Many of the tracks contained herein are merely exercises in six-string masturbation.  There are some that involve massive shredding, and there are those who merely noodle away ad nauseum.  There is even one track that is presented twice (I’ll never understand why artists insist on doing this).  The offending article here is the lead-off track, Dream Division, and for it’s second go-round we get to hear the ‘radio edit’ version.  Those of you who find yourselves already disgusted may as well shove off.  Things do get better, but patience is required… As Mr. Estrella explains in his description of himself and his tunes, this is very melodic.  It is also pretty heavy at times, and VERY shreddy (is that even a word?).  Any aspiring guitar players will probably really enjoy this stuff, until it comes time to map out the solos!

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I was absolutely transported by this particular track, and several others, as you will hear/read if you choose to continue.  Whether or not one could be transported to Mars is entirely up to your own sets of ears.  Dream Division is entirely listenable, as are the rest of the tunes on offer, but only if you are into ‘melodic instrumental rock’.  By all means, please continue at your own risk.  This is Mr. Estrella‘s second effort, by the way, having released his eponymous debut in 2013.  I can only assume it contains more of the same.  Those of you who are interested are whole-heartedly invited to seek it out.

Battle For Rome is up next, and assaults our ears with a bass solo intro of sorts before delving off into a spacey keyboard-laden jam.  Synthesizers are not the order/instrument of the day, however, so don’t be disheartened if you are a 6-string (or 4-string) fanatic.  Estrella gets back to the string bending soon enough.  In fact, on most of the tracks here, the keys seem to be an ancillary instrument.  They decorate, they enhance, but they do not lead.  That duty is left to the guitars, of course.  BFR is, again, another shred-fest, as are all of the tunes on board.  Do not be dismayed, there is more…

Death Valley Driver starts out life as a helicopter/airplane FX vehicle (see what I did there?), then kicks into the drums and guitar.  The guitar could definitely be construed as heavy metal and/or hard rock, and, again, is entirely listenable, especially if one is into melody.  This particular track is more of a Star Wars/Star Trek sound-trek, if you will.  The lead guitar work goes way up high, into the sky, but I’m not sure if any of the work here could be deemed ‘guitar solo(s)’, as most of it IS a solo.  Pretty much every track starts out with Estrella soloing, and ends in the same manner.

Tribute starts out slow and mellow, almost dirge-like, in fact.  This is another exercise in shred, and is bluesy for the main part.

Heaven’s Gate features a heavy riff introduction, and is largely repetitive, particularly the rhythm(s).  This track, for me at least, smacked of Satch’s Surfing With the Alien period.

Sailing the Oceans of Neptune begins with what sounds like waves, then drums, then more heavy riffing at the outset.  This track is, like most of the others, one long solo.  Not that that is a bad thing, necessarily – just thought I would let you in on the ‘secret’.  There is some wah/crybaby on board here (yay!), and proceedings are more doom and gloom then before.  It is still pretty good, and one thing I noticed that, for some reason, the rhythm riffs kept threatening to lead up to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh, Well’.  Perhaps Estrella really likes that one!

Spectre of Orion begins with more synths and a slashy slide guitar intro.  The synths actually pervade things here, which is a refreshing change.  More nice, heavy riffing at the outset, and again another shred-fest in the mid section.  This is sort of a spacey journey with lots of leads, for lack of a better description.  More riffing and synths at the close remind us that there is not a lot of variety in the general attitude of the music.  This could be considered derivative or repetitive, unless one is aurally inclined to groove on melodic instrumental stuff.

Order of the Freemasons is a whopping epic monster at just over eight minutes, and contains more of the same.  There is another synth-y intro, and portentous of doom and gloom.  There are monks (or demons?) chanting in the background, and other voices that chat at us briefly here and there.  There are also lots of leads, lots of cool riffing, and a general heaviness overall.  At the close we are asked; “Do you understand me?” by whom I can only assume is the protagonist.  There is more spacey percussion at the fade-out, and before you can say ‘bob’s your uncle’, we again find ourselves at the end of another track!

Occam’s Razor features more heavy-as-fuck riffing, a cool break beat on the drums, which kind of surprised me being placed where it was, but what the hell, right?  OR is spacey and melodic – starting to see a pattern developing here.  It is also heavy with riffing and we get a bass solo thrown in for good measure.

The closer, unless you include Version #2 of Dream Division, is the title track.  It is more of the same, although a bit drowsy compared to its predecessors.  There are voices assaulting us again, but there is still lots of shred to absorb, and it is still very good music.

In short, Echo Cosmic will delight your ears – but ONLY if you are into ‘instrumental melodic rock’.  That is all!

****/5

Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast Records

Review by Rick Ossian

Any of you who have already heard these cats KNOWS what they are capable of, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I was duly impressed by their latest release.  If you are a fan of the grandiose, the spectacle, the bombastic stuff – then ye need seek no further.  Symphony X are the epitome of the prog metal genre in my humble opinion.  They eat Dream Theater Crunchies for their morning tea, folks.  These blokes are NOT messing around, they seriously mean business!  Upon my hearing the first ‘single’ for release, Nevermore, I knew that the wait had been worth it.  It was in these very pages where you must surely have read my musings on their previous release, Iconoclast.  They have stepped up their game even more, which probably should have come as a surprise, but alas – it did not!  Paradise Lost was also a gem, but we are not focused on that particular rock at the moment.  Today we focus on the Underworld

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The second ‘single’ release, Without You, is more of a ballad-style piece, but it also has its anger appeal factor, as we are blasted about midway through the track by a lead guitar solo par excellence from fretmeister Michael Romeo.  By the way, since we are doing a bit of name-checking, let us stop briefly and introduce the other key members involved here, shall we?  Those of you who are familiar with the Adrenaline Mob know of Russell Allen, who is the man behind the pipes.  Seldom have I heard a vocalist with such exuberance and skill(s) to match.  He is ably backed by Michael Lepond on bass and Jason Rullo on the drums.  The man tinkling the ivories is one Michael Pinella, and while not necessarily a Wakeman or Emerson, he is clearly in possession of some of the most innovative keyboard techniques I’ve ever heard.  The fellows who call themselves Symphony X are from Middletown, New Jersey.

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Also on our listening list for this endeavour are the epic title track, not to mention seven other worthy titles; Kiss of Fire, Charon, To Hell and Back, In My Darkest Hour, Run With the Devil, Swan Song and Legend.  We also have the Overture at the beginning, which is mainly drums and monks chanting (of course), but there are also horns and violins and that sense of creepy cool on the synths that always makes people want more, you know.  At about the one-and-a-half minute mark the gents really rock out.

The title track is quite possibly the best example of trip-hammer drumming and double-time Maiden gallop I’ve heard in some time.  The main riff is a wicked one, and the vocals really don’t make their presence known until about a minute in.  At 4:20 all hell breaks loose musically, and then at 5 minutes in they go back to the main riff.

Kiss of Fire features more of the monks and drums, but a minute in and the gents are off to the races again with the main riff.  There is also a big riff at the intro, and more enormous riffage throughout.  At five-and-a-half minutes in there is a wickedly cool lead guitar solo.  It also seems that the bass, guitar and drums are busy as fuck!  The only thing that makes me wonder is what the hell are five schmucks from Jersey talking about the Winds of Charon for?  Oh, crap there I go profiling again!  After all, there ARE some smart folks in Jersey, right?  Just busting your balls, guys!

To Hell and Back is a very large and beautiful ballad with a nice tight intro and another awesome main riff.  Three minutes in there is a lead guitar solo, and at 4:30 there is also an instrumental breakdown.  The lyrical couplet at 5:30 calling for ‘no quarter to be given‘ is very Westeros, but it is also very genuine.  These guys have grand ambitions, and it seems that their chops are, at last, on equal with their musical goals!  At 7 minutes in, there is another guitar solo – in fact, Michael Romeo‘s fretprints are all over this number.

In My Darkest Hour, at least compared to most of these numbers, is short but sweet.  There is a slamming double-bass drum-fuelled intro and a neat guitar solo at 2:45.  Run With the Devil is also a heavy slammer with the opening seeming to be the moment when everyone’s interest is captured.  After all, intros ARE important.  If they can’t grab you within the first 10 seconds of the tune, most punters will bail.  Trust me, if a song starts out stupid, nobody wants to stay on board for the whole thing…To be fair, there is a total jam at the four-minute mark!

Swan Song, another of the longer beasties, is mellower than most of the music recorded here.  It features some beautiful piano work, some nice lyrics (But now you’ve gone/ And the swang song echoes on), and some wicked shredding at about the four-and-a-half minute mark.

Legend is a closer, and again the shredding and the drums and the slamming take hold like a nice-fitting glove.  Any of you out there who are into Symphony X need to immediately discover this piece.  It will not disappoint you!

*****/5

 

 

 

Palace of the King – White Bird/Burn the Sky

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Listenable Records(EU/UK)/Devil’s Music Records

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Review by Rick Ossian

Upon first listening to this recording, I marvelled at the fact that it is, indeed, a debut.  I was sceptical at first, as I am upon hearing most debuts.  How dare they?, I find myself asking – how dare they be THIS good on their first time out?  How is it possible?  Trust me, dear readers – it is not only possible – it is nigh on likely that you won’t hear a better debut this year.  If you like music that rocks, then this is the debut for you.  If you like music that is dance-floor, back-alley club funky, then this may just be the funkiest cuppa you’ve heard/drank all year!  I know I sound enthusiastic, and anybody who is used to reading my drivel can tell you that I get pretty excited when I hear something I like it.  Hell, I’d be the first one to admit it.  I am not only enthused by this group, I am going to champion them every chance I get!

Every track within is not only funky, it is HEAVY.  So, if you are into the heavy funk, then this is a must-hear for you.  Take the opener, Take Your Medicine, for example.  Maybe you like the bass guitar, you say?  Then you NEED to hear this tune.  It is old-school 70’s style heavy metal boogie.  Imagine some early Foghat or Savoy Brown tail-gating The Answer to a fireworks stand and arriving simultaneously with a blast of Faces or Beggars Banquet-era Rolling Stones!  If you can somehow summon a picture like that, then you’re getting close!

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Most of the tracks herein can be described with equal enthusiasm.  If you dig the funk from up above, then the track Another Thing Coming (NOT a Judas Priest cover, by the by) should titillate and fascinate in equal measures.  This tune features a driving, pumping , THUMPING solid beat – a total funk metal groove.  Though it is not the Priest cover that I was fully expecting, it is every bit as good.  Throw in the obligatory guitar solo (2:30) and you’ve got the rock song in a nice neat little package.  Albeit of Ramones-style length (2:47 overall), it is short AND sweet. If you can imagine a funky wicked synth groove with a kick, then this is what you’re about to hear!

I should probably put something in about your lovely lads before I go any further.  These Melbourne chaps are Tim Henwood (vocals, percussion), Leigh Maden and Matthew Harrison on guitar(s), Andrew Gilpin (VERY funky bass guitar), Anthony Troiano (drums) and Sean Johnston on keyboards.  As I mentioned earlier, this is, believe it or not, their debut LP.  Their bio says they are “steeped in bluesy swagger and riff-heavy psychedelia, this is rock and roll that leaves a trail of denim-clad soldiers and converted non-believers in its wake“.  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Burn My Bridges brought the inherent excitement back to the fore again.  This is thumpity funking heavy again, this time almost grumpy, grungy, even doom and gloomy.  Kind of like a Sabbath/P-Funk slam at the intersection.  Nice riffs and a sweet, superfunky 60’s/70’s groove.  “I ain’t takin’ no more shit from you!“, bellows Tim.  We get the distinct impression that he means business.  This is some definitely Stoner-y stuff, too, featuring a psych breaking with a lead guitar solo AT THE SAME TIME!!  There is also a psych fade-out with feedback.  I would be willing to bet that you haven’t heard THAT for a while!

White Bird (Bring Your Armies Against Me) is another tune with a way cool riff intro and a solid rhythm pocket that keeps on kicking.  This track features a super-human stonking funky groove (AGAIN!), not to mention vocal and instrumental breakdowns and lead guitar solos – one even includes a marching drum roll (wow) at the same time.  About five minutes in they actually bring in a new riff after the breakdown, with another lead thrown in for good measure right towards the end.  What a great track!

Ain’t Got Nobody to Blame But Myself is yet another nut-busting, funkified power blast of a heavy metal groove.  I know, broken record Rick (right?), but I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  There is also some serious bad-assery going on in the bass guitar department, and oh yeah can’t forget the intro! If you like the old feel of a Hammond B3 organ ala Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) or Jon Lord (Deep Purple), then you will absolutely dig this number!

Leave Me Behind is more of the same, only I would probably describe this as a mosh of several styles.  Namely, blues, rock, pop and heavy metal.  All at once, you might ask? Indeed, I would respond.  Tim keeps going on about how “I’ll be here in your rear view mirror“, but other than that lyrically not much to digest.  At 1:55 we get a brief saxophone solo, but we all need a little brass in our lives, right?

Devil’s Daughter is another super funky romp through some old heavy metal stylings.  This one also features nice and tight vocal harmonies (I was reminded of a track title in particular here, just for the overall feel of the tune – Good Rockin’ Tonight!).  This is bluesy rock with funky riffs, and also includes an instrumental breakdown about two minutes in.  Live, this track would be an absolute showcase for the bass guitar and the keyboards.  There is a lovely guitar solo at 2:30.  I was reminded of several acts here – the Answer in particular (again), Cry of Love and Tangier.

Get Back Up (Burn the Sky) is another healthy, funked-up riffy number.  There is a bluesy metal harmonica on board this one, and I noted to myself how this one would be another great showcase for the keyboards were it to be played live in concert.  Another funkified rock number very much in the blues/funk of the 60’s and 70’s.

If It Ain’t Broke featured a sort of back-alley beat/sweet intro à la Humble Pie or an updated Faces swagger (again I was reminded of The Answer as well).  “Don’t change a thing/why would you mess that up?” Tim asks us. Indeed, why?  One lead guitar solo (2:40) and an instrumental breakdown – mainly guitar – later, and we are almost finished.  This is a blues, barroom boogie style number, with the keys and the bass to the fore again.  We get to hear everybody jam on the fade out, which is a cool trick if you can pull it off.

No Chance In Hell struck me as an interesting tune – not only is it another funk-heavy beat boogie, it is about something we ALL go through during our primary years…I know I did when I was in junior high and high school.  This is about the one that got away, the one that we thought was out of our league…get the picture?  The models, the wannabe actresses, the ones they always feature in the underwear ads!  It is a heavy slammer, and I was reminded of Status Quo for some reason.  Probably the boogie aspect!  We get an instrumental breakdown again (of course), and the obligatory guitar solo (2:50), but that is beside the point!  What we get with this set of tracks is far beyond anything that I could tell you about – even as excited as I am- in a simple review.  This is one of those missives that BEGS to be heard – to be listened to!  Please do so, and you will NOT be disappointed! Enjoy!

*****/5

Desolate Pathway – Valley of the King

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Independent

 

Review by Rick Ossian

Here we find London’s Desolate Pathway following up their Withered Heights recording with all the bluster and bravado that battle-hardened metal blokes should bring.  Herein lies doom.  There is also spoken word battle bits.  There are lots of lead guitar pieces.  There are clean vocals!  Not that unclean vocals are bad, mind you – clean vocals are just easier for this scribe to understand.  Desolate Pathway are Simon Stanton on vocals, Vince Hempstead on lead guitar, Nuno JB Silva on rhythm guitar, Jim Rumsey on bass guitar and Mags on drums.

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First up is the title track.  This is classic proto-metal, doomy with a spoken word battle intro followed closely by a sweet guitar lead.  There are plenty of biting, clean vocals and crisp drumming.  There is also a lot of nice guitar work throughout, with leads at 4:40 and 5:50.  At 5:10 there is also an upshift in tempo.  Not bad at all for starters.

Desolate Pathway (the song) is up next, and features a doomy, Sabbath-style intro.  This is mid-to-slow tempo ‘caveman’ rock, if you will.  Definitely heavy metal, but also a sad lament.  The vocals reminded me of Paul Stanley (KISS), and not for the last time.  The 3:20 mark boasts an upshift and a lead guitar solo.

Forest of Mirrors is another classic doomy number, with a riff very reminiscent of Sabbath (again) at about :40.  This is elementary stuff, my dear Mr. Watson, but not in a bad way.  The crows cawing at three minutes in again reminded me of the evil Sabbath men, and there is an evil spoken word bit (very brief) just in case we were in any doubt.  There is also another lead guitar solo at 3:30.

Last Of My Kind has one of those freaky weird intros with sound bites and FX, followed by lead guitar – slow and doomy (surprise!), with some excellent bass work.  There are nice leads at 2:15 and 4:00.  The vocals again reminded me of Paul Stanley.  This is a bit derivative but good.  There is a storm at the close, again, I suspect, in case we were in doubt as to Desolate Pathway’s intentions.

Season of the Witch is NOT a Donovan cover, as I suspected it might be.  It is a short but sweet mid-tempo metal number with a cackling intro and a cool main riff.  Guess who the vocals reminded me of?  There is a breakdown/shift at two minutes in, and a neat lead at 2:20.  At 2:40 it’s back to the main riff and out before you know what hit you!

King of Vultures features another classic doomy riff, and shifts even further down and heavier at about one minute in.  Again, elementary work here, but not in a bad way.  Sabbath came to mind again; perhaps Desolate Pathway worship at the Iommi altar?

Shadow of the Tormentor is almost depressing in its delivery, and features a very cool double riff at the outset (with yet another doomy intro).  A scream in the background vocal mix reminds us of where we are, and we get another lead guitar solo at the two-and-a-half minute mark.

Upon the Throne of Lights is a bit different.  The goblins and wizards make another appearance, but the opening actually features brighter riffs, as if to say that doom and gloom might NOT be their only trademark swagger.  There is also a good lead guitar piece at three minutes in.

So, in short, if you like the doom and gloom, and you also worship at the Iommi altar, then perhaps Desolate Pathway is for you.  If you do not, it is not.  That is all.

***/5

Seven7 – The Follower

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MGP Records

Buy the CD HERE
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Buy on iTunes HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

Hailing from London, Seven7 are on their third record this time around, following 2009’s Try Something Different and 2011’s Under Eye.  They are Dave Brown on vocals and percussion, Swiss guitarist Nicolas Meier (lead AND rhythm), Arran McSporran on fretless bass, Luke Nelson on drums and percussion and their latest edition, Sally Jo on electric violin.  She evidently joined after the most recent recording.

The tunes on this particular outing are fairly lengthy and all sport decent musicianship.  For example, on opener Palms we are treated to a very heavy, slamming intro with bursts of lead and vocals.  The singing is slightly growly but is intelligible.  I was reminded on several occasions of Metallica (particularly James Hetfields singing).  There are also some hellish drum rolls and the occasional double-bass slam included. seven7groupshot

Free boasts a cool guitar slam at the outset, and brief pieces of lead guitar work (:25 and 1:50).  There is a shift on a mission (1:45), if you will, to a more uptempo piece, and more leads throughout.  Lyrically there was an interesting couplet or two as well: “How to give/how to take/how to not make the same mistakes again“.  Some really decent guitar work on here.

Fall is a medium-tempo rocker with a powerful drum intro.  This soon gives way to riff-heavy rock, and even heavy metal.  This is VERY heavy stuff, with some overtime bass work going on also.  I found myself digging the bass groove very much.  At 3:20 we are graced with a subdued, bluesy lead.

The title track is another uptempo rocker, bordering on heavy metal, with some busy bass work again.  The chiming guitar effect in the background mix gets a bit annoying at times, but that was about the only real complaint I would have.  The infamous atmospheric guitar intro makes an appearance here as well as several lead guitar bits, a spoken word/rap section, and slamming guitar, bass and drums all around.  There is also a wickedly cool guitar bit at the close.

Magic Box is another heavy slammer with a good groove and is mainly uptempo heavy metal.  There are some very cool guitar parts (:30, 3:45, 4:25), and some incredibly good bass playing.  I was again reminded (vocally) of Metallica, which happened several times during the listening of this recording.  “The magic box is evil!“, bellows Dave at one point, which I think we all already knew, but perhaps we had to be reminded.  The ending features a nice build-up to a final slam, which is done with a few of the tracks on here.

Business is a bit longer (just shy of 7 minutes), but is well executed, with a spacey intro and a sort of heavy-slamming skate punk/rap mixed with psych.  I was reminded of Metallica (again) and Suicidal Tendencies.  The lyrics mainly focused on the “I don’t give a fuck about ____” refrain.  At the four-minute mark there is an instrumental breakdown of sorts and some tribal drumming.  There is also an excellent lead guitar part (4:40), and another big build-up at the end.  Very nicely done.

Euthanasia includes more tribal drumming and monks chanting, both at the intro and during the meat of the song.  The big bad rhythms kick in at :25 and again at 1:35, then towards the end we hear the chanting in the mix again.  The chanting may have been a bit overdone. Why, the closing track, is a longer number, just shy of nine minutes, and begins life with an Indian-style raga guitar intro.  It is very atmospheric.  Things kick in at :50, and the bass and drums are VERY busy.  A tempo shift (1:55) leads us to the vocals arriving (2:00), and there are are guitar solos at the four-and-a-half minute mark and more at 5:45.  At six minutes in, there is a bass solo, and a bloody good one, at that!  At 7:25 there is a final instrumental wig-out, and a neat guitar piece at the close. Though they can be somewhat derivative, Seven7 have, for the most part, carved out their own sound.  These eight tracks are pretty well done and deserve another listen.

****/5

Powerwolf – Blessed & Possessed

Powerwolf

Napalm Records

Review by Carl “DJ ThunderGod” Pickles

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3 HERE

Let’s get something straight before we start, shall we? Power Metal, as a subgenre is totally and utterly ridiculous. That has to be a given. Soaring guitars, soaring vocals, bludgeoning drums played at a speed you’d expect from bands classed as being much heavier.  Some bands, like DragonForce, take that to extremes. Other bands, like HammerFall and Sabaton play it straight down the line and create some truly anthemic stuff.

Then there is a German outfit by the name of Powerwolf. They use twisted, blasphemous religious imagery, cross-pollinated with werewolf mythology, corpse paint and monks robes as costumes. The formula should be a recipe for disaster, but it works when it really, really should be an absolute train wreck.  It doesn’t exactly hurt the German band’s cause that Attila Dorn’s voice is a truly stunning instrument. There is absolutely no way to mistake this man’s pipes for anyone else’s. Incredibly charismatic and powerful in a subgenre where many vocalists go for range rather than power, he works in a similar register to Sabaton’s Joakim Broden. Then there’s the keyboards. The best keyboard players use their instruments to add colour to the proceedings. That’s another thing that helps this insane formula work so well. Falk Maria Schlegel’s sepulchral cathedral organ matches perfectly.

Right from the off, these guys are not messing about. The opening track (which also happens to be the title track), Blessed & Possessed has “anthem” stamped through it like a stick of Blackpool rock. The momentum gained from that one takes you barrelling straight into a pummelling Dead Until Dark, before slamming down another anthem in Army Of The Night. This one has “live favourite” stamped all over it.

That takes us into the first single, Armata Strigoi, (which you’ve probably just watched above) with its staccato riff and yet another masterclass from Dorn, beautifully supported by Schlegel… and so it goes on. If your foot isn’t at least tapping, or your head nodding by this point, you really are deficient in some major way. Other honourable mentions have to go to Sanctus Dominus, Higher Than Heaven, We Are The Wild, Sacramental Sister… sod it… I’ve just realized I’m typing out the titles of the entire remaining running order. ALL the tracks on this one really hit the spot in a pretty major way. There is truly not one single track you could even think of as being “filler”.

On Blessed & Possessed, Powerwolf absolutely nail the formula. They’ve got close on previous albums, most notably on the mighty Bible Of The Beast, but for this one there is not one single misstep throughout the entire album. This is absolute perfection. It’s an incredible piece of work. The pace only really drops on the final track, Let There Be Night, but that just allows Attila to really flex his vocal cords. The man sings out of his skin on that one, and when matched with an exquisite solo from Matthew Greywolf… well, it’s not often I can be said to be lost for words, but hearing this song for the first time was one of those occasions.

Make no mistake. Powerwolf have thrown down the gauntlet and staked their claim for Album Of The Year for 2015.  This one is absolutely awesome.  What’s more, if you get the limited edition version, you get a CD of cover versions, including this one:

No hesitation at all with a rating of..

*****/5