Reviews in This Issue:
Fates Warning - FWX
Tracklist: Left Here (6:59), Simple Human (4:03), River Wide Ocean Deep (6:09), Another Perfect Day (4:43), Heal Me (7:38), Sequence #7 (2:13), Crawl (4:21), A Handful of Doubt (5:06), Stranger (With a Familiar Face) (4:20) Wish (6:38)
One of the true pioneers of the progressive metal genre, since bursting onto the scene two decades ago with the release of Night of Brocken, Fates Warning have never stood still. Always prepared to develop their sound and push the boundaries of their chosen craft, they've maintained a massive respect and loyal following from music lovers across the globe.
This, their tenth studio album, carries on the tradition but with what I can only describe as a major increase in 'the hunger' for success. Last year the band went out on a mouth-watering US tour in support of Dream Theater and Queensryche. Listening to this album, it certainly seems that the accolades they received from this high-profile exposure has really revitalised the foursome - there's a sense of energy, verve and creativity running throughout this disc that I've not really sensed of late. One of the big plus points for me with this band is that very few of their albums sound alike. Thanks to Jim Matheos' unique guitar style and Ray Alder's pristine vocals - they have an immediately recognisable sound, but each album comes with a slightly different mixture.
There's been no such thing as a 'bad' Fates Warning release. They just tend to have different levels of appeal to different listeners. As a result, fans of the band tend to have very different personal favourites. For the record, FWX stands as a mixture between the more electronic sounds of their last release Disconnected, the melodic accessibility of Parallels and the more modern in-yer-face metal epitomised by vocalist Ray Alders side-project Engine.
We open with birdsong, delicately-plucked guitar and a mood evocative of a lazy, hazy summers afternoon gazing across the sweltering plains of mid-America. Left Here is a exquisite piece of music mixing a delicious chorus with cool harmonies and some chunky riffs. A generous handful of electronic samples - as in Disconnected - are laid over the top.
Next, Simple Human takes more of the Engine ingredients with a powerful drive and deeper guitar, yet retaining some delicate additions such as the great little guitar lick that accompanies the main vocals.
River Wide Ocean Deep takes the middle ground between the opening two tracks. It starts off back in the hazy heat of the afternoon with the addition of some Eastern/North African elements and some female chants, before stepping up quite a few gears in the second section. This is also the approach taken in my favourite track - Heal Me. Although here the
song writing has a sharper edge and the ideas are allowed a bit more space in the seven plus minutes of playing time.
Elsewhere Crawl and Stranger are pretty direct rockers, that really could have been lifted from Alder's
Engine sessions. In sharp contrast Another Perfect Day and A Handful of Doubt have a far more laid back vibe, with again a noticeable use of electronics. Wish meanwhile, goes off in another direction altogether. Blending piano, a bouncy bass groove and some impassioned vocals it creates a slightly ethereal but beautifully mesmerising end to the album.
As mentioned at the start, Fates Warning don't do bad albums. Whether FWX is one of their best will depend largely on whether you like the emphasis they have chosen this time around. Personally I'd rate this as one of their most coherent and consistent albums since Parallels - and as that disc sits as one of my all time favourites, then that is no mean achievement.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Mind Key - Journey Of A Rough Diamond
Tracklist: Secret Dream (8:18), Love Remains The Same (6:47), Deep Inside (6:05), Memory Calling (4:37), Lord Of The Flies (9:35), World Of Illusion (8:26), Without Ann (3:28), Waiting For The Answer (11:28)
The Italian prog rock band Mind Key started in early 1999, thanks to founding members Dario De Cicco (keyboard player) and Emanuele Colella (guitar), who decided to create a band with the precise task to meet the sound of prog metal bands like Elegy, Dream Theater, Symphony X and Royal Hunt. They recorded four songs which ended in their first
demo tape called Welcome To Another Reality and it was very well received by the press. Later on Frontiers Records pick up the band for the production of their debut album.
With this album Mind Key clearly state that they like to compete with other prog metal bands, and after listening to this album a lot, I can truly say that these guys rock like hell. I would rather go as far as to say that these guys are the Italian equivalent of
Dream Theater. Check out the marvellous opener Secret Dream and you will be astonished by the guitar solo intro of Emanuele Colella, which will remind you of solos like that famous guitar player of DT used to produce… Furthermore this song, which lasts over 8 minutes by the way, is filled with brilliant keyboard passages and the vocal parts of singer Mark Basile are definitely worth mentioning as well. This really is a superb opener and you might wonder if it can get any better than this???
The second highlight is a song called Lord Of The Flies (title from a book by William Golding, I presume…), this is real prog metal at its best! A heavy guitar riff opens this song, then the vocals come crashing in and later in there is an instrumental duel between the guitar and the keyboard. Last but not least the album ends with the longest song (11:28) which is divided into two parts. Firstly, an instrumental
Symphony-X-like overture followed by a marvellous second part with almost James LaBrie-like vocals.
Melody is the keyword on this amazing album, while the music is also very complex, although the songs are rather easy accessible. Furthermore you could say that there is never a dull moment on this CD, although the shortest track Without Ann is a rather average piano ballad. Other Italian bands like Eldritch, Empty Tremor or Kingcrow should be aware of the fact that they have a keen competitor in their country, but also internationally well-known bands like DT,
Enchant, Symphony-X and Royal Hunt should keep an eye on this brilliant new Italian prog metal band. One of the highlights of this year, for sure. Dream Theater fans should really buy this album!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Neue Regel - In A Word
Tracklist: Inner Word (1.30), Just Pretend (5.29), The Waking Mind (5.46), Building Towers (6.05), Visions (1.40), The Road To Nowhere (5.27), If Not Myself (6.10), Nothing (9.33), Crossing Over (2.36), Behind The Wire (4.41), Room 23 (6.36), Wise Men and Fools (6.07)
From the band name alone - you know these guys are gonna have lot of early Queensr˙che albums in their collections at home. In snapping up the impressive US band All Too Human, the fledgling NuParadigm label seems to have a reasonable eye for spotting new talent in the ProgMetal field - especially those with a heavy 'Rhyche influence.
Neue Regel hails from Australia and consists of Dave Bellion (vocals/guitar), Dakota Rhoad (guitar,
keyboards) and Mark Stone (drums, percussion). Dave and Dakota previously played together 11 years ago in a band called Eldritch (nothing to do with the Italian
Prog Power band). In A Word, is their debut release and was recorded between February 2002 to December 2003. There are three bonus tracks added onto the end with Michael Pipe taking over as session drummer. It's unclear whether these three tracks are more recent compositions or earlier ones added to extend the playing time.
This CD is definitely not your average ProgMetal album and definitely not an instant hit. It may take some time and effort to get into this music, but if you always wondered what Queensr˙che would have sounded like if they had gone in a darker, more progressive direction after Rage For Order, then it's worth the effort.
The vocals too have a clear Geoff Tate influence although Dave Bellion has a lower tone - which with a judicious and careful use of harmonies I find really easy on the ear. I can fully appreciate (and admire) what Neue Regel has created here and it provides a fascinating and not unenjoyable listen. But - and there's often a but - this isn't an album that I'm going to be putting on repeat play.
In A Word is the type of music that you just have to sit and listen to without interruptions. Darkly intense and very progressive in an experimental sorta way, this album creates a sound that I don't think I've ever heard attempted across a whole album before. You need to concentrate to fully take in the different textures and moods contained within. Very well-executed, but I don't think it is accessible enough for a lot of people's tastes.
If the band wants to broaden its appeal then it needs its songs to have a few more captivating melodies as with the track released as a single Room 22. Also a much wider use of dynamics could give their music a bit more variety - most of the songs tend to go at a fairly standard, brooding pace that becomes a little predictable. A good effort though.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Season's End - The Failing Light
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2004|
Tracklist: Touch (8:31), A Ghost In My Emotion (6:29),One Sadness (7:12), Innocence (5:15), Nothing After All (7:51), Celestia (9:43)
Despite pretty much inventing gothic metal in the early 90’s, the UK’s contribution to the recently burgeoning female-fronted variation of the genre has been pretty much non-existent, which makes the appearance on the scene of Season’s End a welcome one.
Musically, whilst there are the expected echoes of bands like Within Temptation in Season’s End’s sound, the influence of British forebears such as (early) Anathema, My Dying Bride and, in particular, Paradise Lost are also heavily in evidence. Whilst Season’s End are not a particularly heavy outfit, the riffs and sinewy lead work from guitarist David Stanton tend to lead the sound, with Dave Smith’s keys providing (in the main) a symphonic backwash. Front woman Becki Clark also provides some cello and viola to add further texture to the sound. Vocally, Clark has an impressive delivery – whilst not quite in the Floor Jansen school of operatic vocal acrobatics, she nonetheless gives a commanding yet versatile performance which is mostly pitched in the mid to high range. Stanton also provides vocals; refreshingly he eschews the ‘death grunt’ style that male vocalists usually provide in this genre, instead having a strong clean vocal style which works well both as both a foil for, and on occasions in tandem with, Clark’s voice.
On the song front, Season’s End have come up with some quality pieces here. The highlight of the album for me is the opening Touch, a lengthy, multi-faceted piece which has a convincing momentum and features melodic and vocal hooks a’plenty. A Ghost In My Emotion is an up-tempo, more straightforward track with a strong chorus, whilst One Sadness brings to mind Paradise Lost circa the Icon album, and features what is arguably Clark’s strongest vocal performance. Final piece Celestia meanwhile, manages to show the band at both their most ornate and bombastic, and at their heaviest.
I would say that, on this evidence at least, Season’s End aren’t quite yet the finished article. A couple of the songs could certainly have done with some editing and tightening of the arrangements, whilst Innocence is a rather stodgy ballad which has a definite air of filler about it. The sound, meanwhile, is a bit rough round the edges, betraying the fact that the album was obviously recorded on a tight budget. However, in conclusion this is undoubtedly a promising debut album from the band. With some time to hone their song writing skills, plus a bigger recording budget, Season’s End should definitely be in with a chance of making a name for themselves in this increasingly popular genre.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tom De Val
WithoutEnd - WithoutEnd
Tracklist: Again (6:40), In Transit (4:58), Analyse (5.30), I Still Remember (8.01), Searching For Meaning (4.30), Descend (4.35), Comfort Zone (3.17), Compulsion (5.17), The Third Day (3.08)
Well I've had to go to the other end of the world, but with this debut release from WithoutEnd I've managed to find one of the freshest and classiest new bands to hit my decks this year.
Coming all the way from Melbourne, this Australian trio has produced an album that just hasn't been left alone for several weeks. Claiming influences from such bands as Pain of Salvation, Fates Warning and Marillion, complex rhythms intersperse with flowing melodies and metal riffs to produced a dark, but addictively melodic slice of original-sounding progressive metal.
In terms of comparisons, I'd even go so far as to ignore the usual culprits and offer a big nod in the direct of the formidable Green Carnation. WithoutEnd is a far more progressive band for sure but the darkly gothic tone, the mixture of light and shade, the lyrical matter and especially the slightly alternative, deep voice and delivery of singer/drummer Nicholas Georgakopoulos, frequently brings to mind the Norwegian metallers.
From the very first listen, I knew I was gonna love this disc. Although it does take four or five spins to really take its hold, the melodies and the sound of Michael Totta's guitar hit you right between the ears.
In terms of the songs Analyse is the cream of the crop. It mixes up the tempos to great effect, has some intense heaviness in the guitar work of Totta and an absolutely massive hook for the chorus. Crunch is the heaviest song but again mixes in plenty of light and shade, whilst I Still Remember is an epic, brooding ballad that shifts between four different phases. Comfort Zone meanwhile boasts the album's catchiest chorus, whilst the closing track The Third Day is a piano-led number seeing the band at its most plainly progressive.
On top of all this, the production by jazz and fusion guitarist Endel Rivers - renowned for his work with top Australian metal acts such as Vanishing Point, Eyefear and Black Majesty - is truly superb. There's a sharpness and balance that allows every instrument to play its part. The drums play around the beat to great effect, the bass jumps around at will and the keyboards are used sparingly but in all the right places. The sound really grabs hold of you and pulls you in.
And there's even a cherry on top of the cake in the shape of some guest operatic vocals that are used on a couple of tracks. Not in the Nightwish or After Forever way but as an extra instrument to add another dimension to the band's sound.
Simply due to the distance, bands from Down Under always find it difficult to break out overseas but of all the Australian metal bands I've heard to date, WithoutEnd have that certain x-factor that should bring them a wider attention. In conclusion, this is a distinct, top-quality album of dark, melodic, progressive metal that is executed to a level that would put many long-established bands to shame. Superb.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
*NB: WithoutEnd signed to ProgRock Records in 2005 and saw the album re-released.
Pyramaze - Melancholy Beast
Tracklist: Sleepy Hollow (6.11), Forsaken Kingdom (5.27), Melancholy Beast (6.11), The Journey (5.47), Until We Fade Away (4.36), Legend (7.11), Mighty Abyss (8.01), The Nature of Triumph (0.50), Power of Imagination (6.29)
Let's not mess around with fancy words here...the debut album from this Danish/American band is the best Progpower album of the year by some considerable distance. There will need to be some seriously good last-minute releases to dislodge this from a spot close to the top of my annual favourites.
The brainchild of Danish guitarist Michael Kammeyer, Pyramaze delivers a quite spellbinding blend of progressive metal in the vein of Balance of Power and Vanden Plas mixed with a more melodic power metal as typified by Kamelot. With most tracks weighing in at around six minutes, Melancholy Beast has songs with a good helping of those additional musical ideas that makes it an absolute essential listening for any fans of the genre.
American vocalist extraordinaire Lance King, provides the x-factor here. Now, I was a massive fan of his work with Balance of Power and couldn't hide my disappointment with his absence from their last release. And this disc proves why. I just love everything about his voice but especially the amazing harmonies he brings to the vocal arrangements. The rest of the band forms a tight ensemble around him with some ever-changing beats and rhythms, cool, flowing solos and instant melodies.
There really isn't a weak track among the ten on offer here. At a push The Journey and Legend are my favourites but really everything about this album is just pure class.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Lyranthe - Oculus Inferno
Tracklist: Revolutionary Man (8.06), Darkened Days (7.44), Pharaoh's Call (9.54), The Hours (8.52), Paraphilia (9.14), Oculus Inferno (5.50), Requiem For A Dreamer (12.50), There Will Be Gone (8.03)
Hailing from Seattle, Lyranthe is a technically accomplished ProgMetal five-piece claiming influences of Nevermore, Dream Theater (natch) and Evergrey (not really). With their debut release, they've managed to create a solid sound of their own that has sadly been routed by an appalling production job.
With three of the band members credited as producers you could say they only have themselves to blame. However with other independent US ProgMetal bands such as Power Of Omens and Zero Hour able to produce discs that sound even better than those on major labels - you have to say that this just sounds like pants.
The biggest casualty of the mix is drummer Will Anderson. He provides a great range of driving rhythms and ever-changing moods to the songs but sounds like he doing it on a mixture of tin cans and wooden buckets. Vocalist Walter Ballard is also done few favours. He's got a decent if not great voice but too often passages could have done with a few retakes and the harmonies just don't work.
As I said, it's a bit of a shame as Lyranthe obviously know their instruments well and have more than a passing knowledge of how to write a decent Progmetal song. Paraphilia has some mean riffing at the end following a nice jazz rock section; Evolutionary Man and Darkened Days have a good structure and stick in the mind on repeated plays and The Hours has a reasonable balladic opening. However the real standout track is Pharaoh's Call where the guitar melody manages to fit perfectly with the vocal melody to create a good Progpower number.
The songs have plenty of ever-changing patterns and flowing solos but towards the second half the songs tend to loose their focus and lack some memorable hooks. The need for a production overhaul aside, I can't help but feel the addition of a keyboard player would fill out their sound to good effect and add another layer of interest and the backing vocals need a desperate rethink.
Lone Wolf Music deserves congratulations for trying to develop new US talent in the Progmetal field, but with so many bands of this ilk trying to break out of the underground, the end product really has to be top quality. What we have here is a creditable but horrible sounding debut from a band that does have promise. Lyranthe is due to release a follow-up early next year. If they can get some decent studio time with a decent producer it may be worth keeping an eye on.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Divine Ruins - Sign Of The Times
Tracklist: Sign Of The Times (6.22), Carpe Diem (5.17), At Heavens Gates (5.40), Shine On (4.36), Voices (4.34), Flight Of Icarus (3.53), Hands Of Time (6.00), Take My Soul (6.20)
It was when they supported SymphonyX in London at the start of the year that I first came across Brit ProgPower metallers Shadowkeep and remember being impressed by their then new American vocalist Ronnie Stixx. Well I may not have bothered to try them out had I heard this first.
From the limited information available - a one paragraph press blurb and no website - it appears that Divine Ruins is a band that Stixx fronted previously. The core material on Sign Of The Times was written back in 1997 and recorded around 2000/2001. It is unclear whether this is an ongoing project or whether this recording has just been brought out of the vaults following renewed interest in Stixx's career following his arrival in Shadowkeep. What is clear is that it should have remained in the vaults - locked away forever.
The purpose of Divine Ruins was to 'explore the union of progressive rock and power metal'. The album is made up of two parts: what appears to be a mini concept stretching across five tracks and three 'additional tracks' to follow. In total it just about stretches to 40 minutes - and that's about 39 minutes too long.
The production is absolutely appalling. Even as a demo this is real amateur stuff. Stixx shows he can hit everything from the low to mid range vocals to early-era Queensr˙che-like screams. But sadly he misses almost as many notes as he hits. It really is hard listening at times.
Musically, the songs fit mix between the early ProgMetal of say Fates Warning, with a Euro Power Metal drive and melody and a heavy nod towards NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden. In terms of the mini-concept: there are a few decent riffs floating around and the second song Carpe Diem is okay, but the rest is very average. In terms of the 'additional tracks' the cover of Maiden's Flight Of Icarus is nauseating while the other two songs are plain dull. Personally I'd just like to put this down to part of Stixx's steep learning curve and I'd recommend any fan of his to wait for the next Shadowkeep release currently being recorded in the Thin Ice Studios with Karl Groom (Threshold) - where a decent production is all but guaranteed!
Conclusion: 3.5 out of 10
ConXious - Between Arrival & Departure
|Country of Origin:||Austria|
|Year of Release:||2003|
Tracklist: Arrival (1.41), How Could You (4.32), I Want You (4.32), Don't Fear The Dark (8.02), Manifested Lies (7.31), Not That Pain Again (4.47), I Turn Around (7.50), Too Many Times (5.38), Supposed To Fly (6.22), Since Winter '72 (7.48), Between Arrival and Departure (7.03), Departure (8.24)
I guess most of you will have a few odd jobs waiting to be done at home. The sort of tiny tasks that your partner has been pushing you to get done for anything up to a few years. In the words of my father they are the 'when I get around to it' jobs. You know that they have to be done. You know they will probably only take an hour of your time. Yet you just can't find the enthusiasm to 'get around to it'. Never have I taken so long to write a review as I have with this album. It has sat in my listening pile for months now. Many albums, DVDs, interviews and gig reviews have come and gone - but the name ConXious has been an ever-present feature.
It's not that I haven't listened to it - it's probably spun around my player more times than any of the albums in this Prog Metal Special - it's just that it has singularly failed to inspire anything but negative reactions. After the first few plays I thought it was the biggest pile of rubbish that
I've had to review for DPRP. After a short break, I gave it a second chance and started to find a few decent melodies and interesting musical ideas. However, after another break I returned to my original conclusion. On the fourth session, one of the tracks actually brought on roars of laughter from my wife as she overheard me listening to it in the bath. 'Are you looking for an excuse to drown yourself? ' she asked hopefully.
So what has brought me to this and why the hell did I end up with this disc anyway? Well according to the band's biog they are 'definitely in the tradition of big prog bands like Yes, Fates Warning and Dream Theater'. They also claim to be Austria's biggest Progmetal band. Well I quite like fellow Austrians Edenbridge and Dead Soul Tribe - so ConXious seemed well worth a listen.
Well, whoever wrote the ConXious biog' wins my admiration for having the cheek to take journalistic licence to new levels of the imagination.
What we have with Between Arrival and Departure is guitar-driven rock with a heavy new wave/Indie vibe but one that is adventurous enough to mix a wide range of influences and styles. The problem is that musically it's all very messy. To take the album title a little further - this is a band that somewhere between departure and arrival got very lost.
Across the twelve tracks on offer there's a bit of punk, folk, jazz fusion, 60s retro rock, 70s prog, 80s stadium rock, 90s thrash metal and a lot of nu-wave guitar rock. What there isn't, is any great reasoning why, for example, a calypso section should suddenly appear and then disappear in the middle of I Want You or more generally much attempt to blend all the styles together into a cohesive sound. Supposed to Fly is just a musical mess, with constantly conflicting rhythms and styles and the attempt at Dave Lee Roth-style good time rock on Too Many Times falls flat on its face.
There are some nice melodies hidden away between the meanderings. How Could You, I Want You and Manifested Lies have a certain charm. Some of the 'twin' guitar work is quite tasty, the prog opening to the title track works well (until the semi-thrash guitar blitz!) and there is a certain drive to many of the songs that I should think works well in a live setting.
But the real stumbling block is that the vocals are abysmal. Absolutely abysmal. I could be kind and just say that Alex Ranic Dimoski just has a unique style. But listening to the horrible yelling at the end of Not That Pain Again ('pain' being the operative word!), the painfully discordant harmonies attempted on Manifested Lies or the horribly-exposed tones on the balladic I Turn Around (the song that got my wife laughing), I really would be being too kind. And anyone who has to resort to the vocal lines that Dimoski dishes out on the aforementioned Too Many Times, really does open themselves to ridicule. At a rough translation, there's a chorus that starts off with a good tonguing of 'Ba la laahs', converting to a plethora of 'da la ba das', onto a mouthful of 'ba da lum ba da lums' before coming to a high-pitched climax of 'wo do doo do doos'.
If you like your vocals on the bare-naked side of raw, and your rock on the Indie side of Indie, then you may find enough to warrant a dive into the very 'unique' sound of ConXious. If you've never heard progressive metal before then you may indeed consider this to follow in the fine tradition of Dream Theater and Fates Warning. But if you like your music with at least a few polished edges, then steer well clear. As for me - I'm sticking to my original conclusion. Sorry but this is the worst album I've ever reviewed for DPRP.
Footnote: I note from the band's website that they may well have come to the same conclusion, as they've now got a new singer. There may be hope!
Conclusion: 3.5 out of 10
Jon Oliva's Pain - Tage Mahal
Track list: The Dark (5:11), People Say – Gimme Some Hell (4:09), Guardian Of Forever (7:44), Slipping Away (4:29), Walk Alone (4:32), The Non Sensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind (5:31), No Escape (3:24), Father, Son, Holy Ghost (5:54), All The Time (4:58), Nowhere To Run (5:23), Pain (3:13), Outside The Door (4:00), Fly Away (4:11)
Finally, after 4 years of silence, a new Savatage album, at least if you listen to Tage Mahal you think that it is a new Sava-album. But in fact it is a solo CD by Jon Oliva, singer, keyboarder and composer of one of the best melodic metal bands in the US. Tage Mahal is the debut release by his new band Pain, which will exist alongside Savatage, just like his other side projects Trans Siberian Orchestra and Dr Butcher. Pain consists of Matt Laporte (guitar), John Zahner (keys), Cris Kinder (drums) and Kevin Rothney (bass). Remarkable is the fact that all four musicians also played on the debut CD of ex-Savatage singer Zak Stevens’ band Circle2Circle.
The album features 13 brand new songs, which all have trademarks of previous Savatage albums. In the opener The Dark there are those typical Savatage “things” like for example the piano passages or the raspy voice of Jon. As for the guitar riffs, which are rather heavy, this song reminds me of Dr Butcher. People Say – Gimme Some Hell is filled with screaming guitars, excellent melodic parts and an awesome chorus with Jon screaming his lungs out. The lyrics consist of several old Savatage song titles, and real Sava-fans might start counting how many titles there actually are “hidden” in this song ...
Guardian Of Forever is the first highlight of this album, as this is a true and sheer brilliant power metal ballad with dramatic vocals and chill to the bone melodies. A mixture of the best of TSO and Savatage actually. If you really enjoyed Sava-albums like Gutter Ballet, Streets, Dead Winter Dead and Poets And Madmen then songs like: Father, Son, Holy Ghost, All The Time or Nowhere To Run will be to your liking. Great Sava-riffs, melodies, instrumental parts and typical Sava-vocal lines bring out the best in Jon and his band during these three tracks. If you are more into the Dr Butcher stuff then you should really check out songs like No Escape or Pain, which are probably the heaviest and fastest tracks on Tage Mahal. The album ends with a semi-acoustic power ballad with lots of orchestral passages and a breathtaking guitar solo.
Conclusion: no weak tracks on the entire album and after the super release of Savatage guitar player Chris Caffery we now have two great “almost” Savatage albums in one year. Who could ask for more?
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Dali's Dilemma - Manifesto for Futurism
Tracklist: Within A Stare (5:48), Miracles In Yesteryear (7:09), Despite The Waves (5:49), Whispers (2:04), Ashen Days (5:27),
Andromeda Sunrise (2:00), This Time Around (4:50), Hills Of Memory (4:47), Can't You See (5:15), Living In Fear (7:41)
Californian quintet Dali's Dilemma's sole album, Manifesto for Futurism, has been missing from DPRP for some years now; it's been one of my favourite albums for some time, so it's probably worth a wider airing. Another of Magna Carta's non-touring groups, Dali's Dilemma matches keyboardist Matt Guillory, known from experiments like Explorer's Club and Mullmuzzler, with progressive metal musicians of equal talent to remarkable success.
The obvious comparison here is with Dream Theater, and indeed Dali's Dilemma stand up well. The album opener Within A Stare serves as a powerful introduction, Guillory's keyboards leading into a rhythmic feast of metal riffing. Vocalist Matt Bradley has more of a raw voice than we often hear, even in the upper reaches, and never really enters the stratosphere, preferring to remain in the melodic lower range. The backing vocals are used throughout to excellent effect.
From this strong start, it's good to hear that Dali's Dilemma keep the standard throughout. Miracles in Yesteryear could come straight from Images and Words, high praise for any band in the genre. Bassist Steve Reyes stars with a remarkably melodic bass solo. Despite the Waves sounds like a major-key Fate's Warning, if such a beast can be imagined. Two instrumentals bracket Ashen Days, which breaks things up nicely between hard rock onslaughts. Whispers, a short 2-minute keyboard instrumental, is the better of the two, although neither of the two hangs around for long before launching into This Time Around.
The high point of the middle of the disc, however, is Hills of Memory, a fairly straightforward but melodic metal ballad clearly intended as single material. Can't You See is a technically demanding but melodic excursion into Queensryche territory, but the standout is the ELP-inspired Living In Fear, diminished chords leading into a fast-paced rocker that never loses momentum even as it shifts from rhythm to rhythm on its way to the climax.
It's a shame we've heard no more from Dali's Dilemma, because this debut album is simply faultless. Strong melodies buoy up the songs throughout, while the riffing and technical prowess is used to superb and tasteful effect. It may not be the last word in originality, but it's rare to find CDs as good as this, and it easily ranks alongside the best written and executed prog-metal of all time.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
Jorn - Out To Every Nation
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Record Label:||AFM Records|
|Catalogue #:||AFM 075-2|
|Year of Release:||2004|
Tracklist: Young Forever (4.53), Out To Every Nation (4.22), Something Real (5.40), Living With Wolves (3.53), Vision Eyes (4.11), One Day We Will Put Out The Sun (6.25), Behind The Clown (4.15), Rock Spirit (4.36) Through Day and Night (4.43), When Angels Wings Were White (4.31)
Generally regarded as one of the top rock vocalists in the world today, Jorn Lande possesses a range, power and passion in his voice that few can match. Add to that a growing reputation as a professional songwriter, he undoubtedly has a rare gift - one that has allowed him to place a distinctive mark on everything he has recorded. The soar-away success of last year's Masterplan project caught many by
surprise and brought the talents of this Norwegian singer to a much wider audience.
With a backing band that features a trio from Norwegian ProgMetallers Pagans Mind including guitarist Jorn Lofstad, plus Hammerfall bassist Magnus Rosen, this latest solo effort treads a juicy middle ground between his more adventurous work with Ark and the more traditional classic hard rock from his days with the Company of Snakes and Millennium.
There are two problems with this record.
Firstly, this disc must bring his output well into double figures for albums on which he has appeared in the past few years. With a Millennium covers album and the next Masterplan due for release later this year, there must be a serious risk of over-exposure. The second problem is that the production on this disc falls well short of the mark - probably the cause of the reported 'difficulties' that delayed the release of this disc. The vocals are fine, but at times the rest of the sound is very sludgy and some of the arrangements don't seem to flow in the same direction as the melodies (Vision Eyes in particular).
Despite this, Out To Every Nation is an equal match to Worldchanger and as long as you're not in danger of Jorn-fatigue will provide an enjoyable listen for fans of his work to date. He's still absolutely hopeless at lyrics though!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tim Donahue - Madmen & Sinners
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Frontiers Records|
|Catalogue #:||FR CD 185|
|Year of Release:||2004|
Tracklist: Million Miles (7.07), Let Go (2.37), My Heart Bleeds (5.58), Feel My Pain (5.28), Morte et Dabo (2.21), Children Of The Flame (5.50), The End (5.10), Wildest Dreams (5.55), Master Of The Mind (7.21), Madmen & Sinners (15.50)
Until now, best known for his fretless guitar work, Tim Donahue spent more than two years writing and recording this album, and the result has been far from a waste of his time. His sixth album Into The Light, featured acclaimed Hurricane vocalist Kelly Hansen. This time Tim has managed to persuade Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie to provide the lyrical foil to the music he has created. And LaBrie hasn't wasted his time either - putting in a quite stunning performance throughout.
Indeed, if like me you were grossly disappointed by the latest offering of musical
masturbation from the Dream Theater corporation, then the ability of Donahue to capture some melodic hooks within some uncompromisingly powerful progressive metal, may provide ample compensation.
Neither totally progressive, nor totally metal, the material has a moody mix of melody and metallic driven guitars, with a heavy helping of progressive twists, some superb vocals and intense instrumentation. Mike Mangini (Extreme/Steve Via) has also been brought in to give some clout, I guess after working with La Brie on his Mullmuzzler side project.
Million Miles is a great opener with an abundance of challenging rhythms and melodies with LaBrie in impressive form. My Heart Bleeds opens with a juicy organ and builds into some moody, melodic metal in the vein of early Dream Theater. Feel My Pain is a straight, drum-fired rocker with some fine lead guitar work. Morte Et Dabo boasts Gregorian chanting, leading into a short, spoken passage before kicking into another dark and moody number, Children Of The Flame.
Wildest Dreams offers a bit of light relief with six minutes of acoustics, while with the 15-minute title track at the end, Donahue tries to bring all the album's ideas into one piece, with reasonable success.
It's not wholly satisfying. A few of the tracks drift too far into musical introspection - needing a stronger chorus or more
identifiable song structure to aid digestion. I'm not wholly convinced by Donahue's style of playing either. I find the riffs very bass heavy and monotonous (lacking subtlety) at times. It may be my speakers, but it can sound somewhat distorted too (rather like a bee buzzing around). But that's all a matter of taste and it certainly adds to the power of the overall sound.
Overall, I find it strange that this disc hasn't received a bigger buzz. It's no Dream Theater rip-off - although LaBrie's contribution will bring obvious comparisons. Donahue has managed to bring enough of his own style and ideas to give Madmen and Sinners its own identity and for anyone into melodic progressive metal with balls, this should be a contender for a top ten finish at the end of the year. Recommended.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Burning Engines -
A Good Time Was Had By All
|Country of Origin:||Sweden|
|Record Label:||Bad Murtha|
|Year of Release:||2004|
Tracklist: Break The Circle (4:16), Money For Love (3:08), 42 (4:23), I Think I Hate You (3:58), Going Down (2:54), Rock 'N Roll (3:24), Shoot You In The Back (3:03), Come On (3:19), Dreaming With The Eagle (3:42), Love Song (3:26)
A band called Burning Engines. Now just try to imagine what kind of music a band with that name is making... Of course you are right, Burning Engines is a metal band performing a rock and roll kind of metal, somewhat like Metallica in the early days mixed with ZZ Top.
So what we have here is a band creating pretty straight forward rock songs. The recording quality is not too good though, could have been recorded in someone's garage. Maybe that is done on purpose but I don't know that for sure. Musically it's pretty good actually, but not too interesting if you like complicated or melodic prog metal. It is old style metal luckily without speedy guitars but unfortunately also without interesting and complicated structures. The vocals are not exactly sung but screamed in a rough sort of way, but again sounding pretty good. Kalle Johansson (the singer) confessed after leaving Embraced he wanted to make hard rock-and-roll and that is probably the best description for this kind of music.
If you delve into the bands history a small interesting fact comes up. Burning Engines founder Kalle Johansson was in a band called Embraced. In this band he was accompanied by bass guitar player Michael Hakansson who later joined "Evergrey". I know which of the two has made the best choice in my opinion.
If you ever catch Burning Engines at a festival they will probably be fun to watch and dance to. Listening to it for the review was fun indeed but I will probably not be listening to it again, not my kind of music and probably not what the average DPRP reader is looking for either. That's the basis for my rating
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10