Reviews in this issue:
- Deadsoul Tribe - A Lullaby For The Devil (Duo Review)
- Aghora - Formless
- Delain - Lucidity
- Amaran's Plight - Voice In The Light (Duo Review)
- Animations - Animations
- Kinetic Dissent - I Will Fight No More Forever
- Karma To Burn - Mountain Mama's
- Poverty's No Crime - Save My Soul
- Twinspirits - The Music That Will Heal The World
Deadsoul Tribe - A Lullaby For The Devil
Tracklist: Psychosphere (3:36), Goodbye City Life (8:27), Here Come The Pigs (4:01), Lost In You (4:55), A Stairway To Nowhere (6:35), The Gosamer Strand (6:21), Any Sign At All (6:17), Fear (4:24), Further Down (2:57), A Lullaby For The Devil (6:13) Bonus: Multimedia part
Andy Read's Review
"The last three albums were pretty much cut from the same cloth. Now was the time to begin anew, and redefine Deadsoul Tribe."
So sayeth the Tribe's founder and frontman Devon Graves and in many ways that quote provides a perfect summary of what can be found on the band's fifth album.
As someone who really enjoyed the first two albums from the former Psychotic Waltz musician, I must admit that the last couple of releases were, whilst enjoyable, very much a case of the song remains the same. Therefore, the change of direction on A Lullaby For The Devil is a very welcome move in the right direction. Having said that, depending on your viewpoint, don't get your hopes up/don't be too fearful. What you have on this album is still very much Deadsoul Tribe/Devon Graves. It just comes with a bit more anger and aggression and with a few new influences thrown into the mix, giving everything a fresh and reinvigorated sound.
Nowhere is the new approach clearer than on the opening track Psychosphere. Built on a disturbingly repetitive bass riff, Graves' voice has an aggression rarely heard before, alongside a flurry of confused guitar solos. It's short, sharp and to the point. Here Come The Pigs utilises a similar approach as does Further Down. However Graves has more than one string to his bow. A Stairway To Nowhere features a Peter Gabriel-esque voice, lots of atmosphere and acoustic guitars and a 60s vibe, that when combined, brings to mind latter-day Fates Warning.
The title track mixes piano, programming and a Sabbath riff to solid effect, Fear also has a very 60s/70s feel with a Queen-meets-The Eagles on a blind date with Simon And Garfunkel harmony, alongside a very reflective verse and a Brian May-sounding guitar. Lost In You and Further Down offer close comparisons to the band's recent work and are both very good songs. Two tracks will offer interest for those who enjoy Grave's use of the flute. The Gossamer Strand is actually an instrumental. We open with a piano and flute, that when the guitar is added, sounds rather like Jethro Tull covering Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. Then around two minutes in, it turns on its head to sound like a Jethro Tull-meets-Metallica number.
The album's highlight is Goodbye City Life, which stands as one of the best songs Graves has ever written. As a piece of music this is easily the longest track on the album and is a constantly evolving mini-epic. It's all built around a great melodic hook and riff and combines the band's heavy and light elements brilliantly. I guess this is really where the 'old' and 'new' combine to great effect. Almost worth the admission price alone.
Taking three months to mix the album, has also paid off, with the ten songs really benefiting from a very full and rich sound. Overall, this can be described as a more metallic Deadsoul Tribe. There should be more than enough from the previous albums to please existing fans, whilst Graves has brought in enough new ingredients to hopefully attract some new ones, as well as pleasing those, like me, who were getting a little tired of a rather repetitive diet.
NB: The initial pressings of this album include a bonus multimedia part, with four live acoustic tracks including two Psychotic Waltz songs. They're not included in my promo package, so I can't really add anything further.
Jeffrey Terwilliger's Review
I became aware of Deadsoul Tribe after hearing Devon Graves on Ayreon's The Human Equation. With several releases under their belt, this time out is said to be a departure of sorts. But as this is my only exposure to the band thus far I will leave any comparisons to prior work to Andy.
The CD starts out with a very Vanden Plas-like riff to open Psychoshpere. However it soon becomes apparent that Deadsoul Tribe is emphatically NOT another Dream Theater Jr. There are a lot of dynamic shifts in tempo and volume, as expected with any band that calls itself 'progressive'. Additionally Graves' vocals run the gamut from lilting balladeer to whispers to power metal clean through to death grunts. Along with the layered guitars and double-kick drumming, the comparison to Opeth is unavoidable because of these and it is also probably the best touchstone if you need to ask what this sounds like. Graves plays a very soulful flute too. In fact this is the most effective fusion of flute with power metal I've heard since Jethro Tull. (Although the 'Tribe doesn't sound at all like Tull, the trills in The Gossamer Strand still remind me of Cross Eyed Mary.) Also noteworthy is the fact that Graves plays all the parts except the drums - the other two players are credited as touring members. And his bass sounds damn good I might add.
Each song on this CD is a unique and interesting composition, showing a breadth of styles and depth of lyricism that is not as common in the genre as I would like. I already mentioned Vanden Plas and Opeth, and as track 5 opens Peter Gabriel comes to mind. A little touch of Gordian Knot in track 7. These and other comparisons are what I would call faint references, since Graves most definitely has his own thing going on.
Technically this is a nice work, except for a few unnatural-sounding vocal punches in the opening of Goodbye City Life. At 54 minutes it could have been longer; some reviewers like shorter CDs because they get tired of the material. OK I agree with that if the material is tiresome, but there are real gems out there - Bridge Across Forever and Scenes From A Memory and ? for example - that set the standard for long CDs that don't drag. This one might be a drag if it was 80 minutes long because the material is pretty heavy.
Aghora - Formless
Tracklist: Lotus (1:14), Atmas Heave (5:10), Moksha (5:29), Open Close The Book (4:58), Garuda (2:53), Dual Alchemy (5:36), Dime (7:00), 1316 (5:30), Fade (4:40), Skinned (6:41), Mahayana (7:16), Formless (12:31), Purification (1:45)
Female-fronted progressive metal bands are few and far between. UK-based To-mera tried it with a rather avant-garde approach on their debut last year, but I'd struggle to find too many others in my collection.
Hailing from America, Aghora have had twelve years to perfect their take on the genre. Whilst this is only the second album to emerge with the band's name on it, in my humble opinion, Formless really sets the standard to which other such band's will have to aim.
The band was formed in 1995 by guitarist Santiago Dobles in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Aghora released their self-titled debut album which featured Sean Reinert (Cynic/Death) on drums and Sean Malone (Cynic/Gordian Knott) on bass. The disc became a bit of a treasure among underground progressive communities. Despite the seven-year gap, some members have come and gone but the band has survived, with a line-up still including Santiago and Reinert, plus Alan Goldstein on bass, and twenty-year-old Diana Serra on vocals.
I bought this as an independent CD on import from the States, on the basis of a few sound clips and the fact the band is due to play the Progpower Europe Festival in Holland (they've since been signed to Season of Mist in Europe). And after living with it for a few months, I am more than looking forward to their appearance in Holland and highly recommending this disc to any lover of progressive metal.
On Formless, Aghora deliver an interesting mix of old and new sounds. Their influences clearly run the spectrum of classical music, fusion, jazz, world music, alt rock, progressive, gothic and death metal. The result, is a collection of songs that manage to carve out a sound that is uniquely unique, yet an accessible and absorbing listen.
After a Middle Eastern intro, we are launched into Atmas Heave with a flurry of riffs and a groove that moves between Communic and Faith No More/Mordred. In sharp contrast, over the top flows the heavenly voice of Diana Serra. Not at all 'metal' in her delivery, her melodies, mood and lyrics overflow in total contrast to the instruments. At times she reminds me of Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia, yet at other moments she could be any number of alt rock female artists. I especially like the free-flowing, improvised feel that she utilises. Just another aspect of the band's sound that I've never heard in this genre before.
One of the delights of this album are the lovely little details that crop up all over the place. On this song it's the delicious little guitar lick that Santiago introduced just before the chorus. Another one of the delights are the contrasts between the intense, guitar-led instrumental sections and the lighter, sparse sections where Diana's voice takes control. Duel Alchemy, with its fantasic chorus and groove is probably my favourite track for that reason alone.
Whilst Diana's vocals are memorable, and Reinart's drumming impressively powerful and inventive, Santiago really is the star of the show here. Take his inventive guitar opening to Open Close The Book, the clever guitar lines over the top of the main melodies on Garuda or the jazz/rock influence to be found in Dime.
The album was co-produced by Santiago and metal-producing guru Neil Kernon. It is a rather dry production with the general absence of any keys leaving things sounding rather cold and harsh. The regular Eastern vibes add a touch of warmth, as do the occasional funky grooves plus the flamenco guitar and the deeper, richer tone to Diana's voice on Fade. This really is an album with such variety and depth that I will keep coming back to it regularly for many years to come.
If you like your progressive metal to combine power and melody, with intelligent and inventive compositions and musicianship from the top of the class, then Formless will be heading into your Top 10 list at the of 2007. It'll certainly be in mine, and I can't wait to see them at Progpower next month. Unfortunately since writing this article Aghora did not play at Progpower Europe Festival - a shame.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Delain - Lucidity
Tracklist: Sever (4:53), Frozen (4:43), Silhouette Of A Dancer (5:24), No Compliance (5:09), See Me In Shadows (4:40), Shattered (4:19), The Gathering (3:34), Daylight Lucidity (4:35), Sleepwalkers Dream (4:27), A Day For Ghosts (3:37), Pristine (4:31), Deep Frozen [bonus track](4:44)
Back in 2001 things were looking good for the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. The release of the second single Ice Queen, from the album Mother Earth, was their big breakthrough and the world lay at their feet. At that moment in time keyboard player Martijn Westerholt was diagnosed with Pfeiffer's disease and was not able to handle the busy schedule of the band. However immediately after his illness he started writing songs as a way to pass the time and the desire to make music on a professional level got stronger everyday and he finally decided to personally contact some talented musicians from well known bands to create his project Delain. The name Delain is inspired by Stephen King's book The Eyes of the Dragon.
Famous names helped recording this album among whom Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Ad Sluijter (Epica) and Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes). But the real star of the album is 19-year old Charlotte Wessels. Martijn met her as she lived down the street from the house of Martijn’s parents. She contributed to the lyrics and has a pleasant natural way of singing in contrary to the operatic style common to the symphonic metal genre. Starting out as a project Delain is currently a busy live band. Besides Martijn and Charlotte, Delain is completed by bass player Rob van der Loo (Sun Caged), guitar player and vocalist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer. Guitar player Ray van Lente recently left the band for personal reasons but will not be replaced.
Delain's sound is a mixture of Within Temptation (of course) and Epica. Especially the dark atmospheric keyboards from main song-writer Martijn define the sound of this album. Despite the high quality of this recording it’s all very on the safe side. Absolutely no risks were taken and a few songs can easily be categorised as commercial material, with most of the songs around four and a half minutes and the song-structures are very predictable.
The opening song Sever immediately shows what to expect on this album. Heavy guitar parts drenched in keyboard are varied by slow parts with Charlotte singing beautifully. Frozen is the first single (released 21 May 2007) and is a very accessible song. Silhouette Of A Dancer is a slower and more atmospheric song with the chorus spiced up by grunts form George Oosthoek (Orphanage). No Compliance is the only song sung by Sharon den Adel and it’s also the low point of the album in my opinion. The song lacks direction, it’s not a ballad and it never starts rocking. The vocal parts of Sharon and Marc never really appeal to me.
The second single See Me In Shadows (release 23 July 2007) is a ballad of sheer beauty and marks the first highlight of the album. It’s a duet between Charlotte and Liv Kristine and on this song Martijn rules the show with beautiful piano parts and atmospheric keyboards. Shattered is a straight forward song that holds nothing really interesting besides the fact that it’s the bridge to the absolute highlight of the album. The Gathering is a rock song that blew me away the first time I heard it and after several spins it still does. It starts with a sing-a-long chorus followed by a powerful riff. After a vocal part and a bridge to the sing-a-long chorus we start all over again. After doing this twice the song steps up a tone and ends with the powerful riff drenched in keyboard. This is the most predictable song on this album but the bottom line: IT ROCKS.
Daylight Lucidity and Sleepwalkers Dream are straightforward songs that never reach the level of The Gathering. On A Day For Ghosts it’s clear that Ad plays the guitar and this song could easily be on a Epica record whilst Pristine is a heavy ending to the album with lot’s of grunts from George Oosthoek. The bonus track Deep Frozen is simply the song Frozen with a different chorus.
Delain has produced a very good debut-album that provides high quality music, however if you are looking for ground breaking music then this album is not the place to find it. The songs follow a predictable pattern and all is very much on the safe side. For fans of symphonic metal, especially Within Temptation and Epica, this album must be present in your collection.
Conclusion: 8- out of 10
Amaran's Plight - Voice In The Light
Tracklist: Room 316 (1:33), Friends Forever (2:56), Coming Of Age (4:58), Incident At Haldeman’s Lake (11:34), Reflections Pt. 1 (3:21), I Promise You (2:57), Consummation Opus (4:24), Truth And Tragedy (2:57), Shattered Dreams (13:29), Viper (5:36), Betrayed By Love (7:16), Turning Point (4:48), Revelation (13:06)
Gerald Wandio's Review
Kurt Barabas’s bass guitar work on this album is superb. He has a deep but concentrated tone that both supports and cuts through the mix, and his playing is a model of tastefulness: he knows when to hang back and when (much more rarely, but therefore to great effect) to cut loose. He gives a disciplined virtuoso performance on every track.
Why would I begin by praising the bass player of a progressive-rock super-group while reviewing an ambitious concept album? Because it’s the one element I can praise without reservation on this deeply flawed CD. I specifically requested this album for review because of my great admiration for two members of the group – Spock’s Beard’s excellent drummer Nick D’Virgilio and D.C. Cooper, former singer for the great Danish band Royal Hunt – and thus this review is very difficult for me to write. When I popped the CD into my stereo the first time, I expected to be blown away. But the first half-dozen times I listened to the album, I thought it was somewhere between disappointing and just plain awful; on the next half-dozen listenings, I decided just what was wrong with it and found that there are virtues that need identifying. Identify those virtues I will, but I’m afraid my opinion remains the same: overall, the album is a flop.
Along with Barabas, D’Virgilio, and Cooper, Amaran’s Plight includes guitarist/composer Gary Wehrkamp, and I ought to make clear that, strictly speaking, the musicianship of the four is above reproach – as one would expect. But I have to employ that tired cliché all over again: in this case, the whole is much less than one would expect from the sum of these parts. I’ll explain what I think is the overriding flaw of this album; describe other particular problems with the work; and end by detailing what I consider its very real virtues. All this I do, I repeat, with a heavy heart, because I expected to love this album and still wonder what I might be missing; and yet, having given many, many hours to careful listening, I have to be honest about what my ears have heard.
That overriding flaw is a deadly sense of solemnity, of seriousness, a sense we (or I, at least) get from every song, every note on the album, that the band believed that it was creating A Work of Art. Now, I should back up and explain that the story told by the album’s lyrics (yes, it’s a concept album – yet another reason I expected and wanted to love it!) is convoluted but filled with significance – apparently – and based on a novel by a man named John W. Crawford, who also writes or co-writes most of the lyrics. The story concerns, in the words of Crawford’s website,
I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out what that miracle is by listening to the lyrics, but I give that description of the story to explain just why the band probably thought they were creating Art (rather than, you know, just recording another rock album). I think especially at fault here (again, as much as I hate to say it) are D. C. Cooper’s vocals. He invests every lyric, even the most banal (and there are lots and lots of those), with MEANING. The word for the vocals, as for the whole enterprise, is “portentous,” because such weight is given to words such as (to take a couple of examples out of many possible ones) “She went away on business/And something is oh, so wrong” and “Life it can change in the blink of an eye/Tragedy comes with no warning sign.” In general, then, it’s the band’s attitude that I think is the biggest problem with the album: they think perhaps more highly of the project than is warranted.
So it is that even some of the more musically straightforward numbers – say, the rather plodding power ballad Friends Forever – are performed with pomp, carefully mapped out and elegantly arranged so as to suggest that every word, every nuance is fraught with meaning. And so it is that a sort of typical pop love song like I Promise You comes across as overwrought and grandiose, when it might just have been kind of pretty. Now, I’ll acknowledge that the über-seriousness of the performance occasionally really does work, but mostly in the instrumental numbers or sections, as in the middle of Incident At Haldeman’s Lake (when the near-death experience occurs) and in Consummation Opus (when goodness knows what’s supposed to be going on). And, interestingly enough, and I’ll acknowledge too that this change suits the gradually more complex story, the music itself becomes more challenging as the album wears on (and I choose the word “wears” deliberately, since this CD is almost an hour and twenty minutes long – far, far too long), and nobody can complain about a bit of pomp with his technical progressive rock. But, too often, the grandiosity of the performance damages individual songs, or so I think.
I don’t think I need to say more by way of adverse criticism; you get my drift. So I’ll conclude with the rest of the praise that I’m happy to give, aside from that of Barabas with which I began. Although the compositions as a whole don’t, to my ear, come off very well, each musician is at the top of his game (and I say that objectively about Cooper’s voice, if not about his histrionic choices). Nick D’Virgilio plays as well as anyone who knows his work with Spock’s Beard would expect him to, and that’s meant as very high praise; and Wehrkamp’s keyboard and guitar work is – within the flawed context I’ve suggested it’s in – first-rate, too, varied and skillful throughout. In the best parts, such as (in my opinion) the middle section of Incident At Haldeman’s Lake, the tightness of the band and the taste and talent of the individual musicians really create, if only too briefly, an exciting experience. But then it’s undercut (as, again, in that track, as too often throughout the album) by conversations, whispered or spoken, or various noises in the background “enacting”s what’s happening in the story – all of which are anywhere from unfortunate to embarrassing.
I keep thinking “What if?” – because, dammit, this ought to have been a killer album. But for the reasons I’ve given, it’s just not. I’d like to hear this great conglomeration of musicians just play some songs – not create an “epic,” not compose a work of art (in the pejorative sense in which I’ve used that expression), nothing meant to pack in and convey Deep Meaning. What we have here is a decent enough idea, I guess, and some truly great musicians, and even a few compositions that actually work to a degree as individual songs; but the whole thing is, to my ears, tedious, overlong, and overblown. I can’t describe how much it pains me to say that.
Andy Read's Review
On paper this looks like a tasty proposition. The line-up behind Amaran's Plight features Gary Wehrkamp, guitarist, keyboardist and producer of long-running proggers Shadow Galley; ex-Royal Hunt and Silent Force vocalist DC Cooper; Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgillio and Under The Sun bassist Kurt Barabas.
It's not the first time Cooper and Wehrkamp have worked together. DC appeared on Shadow Gallery's 1999 album Tyranny, providing vocals on the epic track New World Order. The result this time, is a 78-minute concept album that tells of one man's search for answers following a near death experience. The concept was developed by writer J W Crawford who also contributed as musical director and lyricist. The aim appears to have been to tell the story through an epic musical journey that mixes the melodic heavy rock/metal of Silent Force with the more relaxed orchestration of Shadow Gallery and a touch of Spock's Beard progginess.
On the whole it fails, simply because the song writing rarely rises above the mediocre. There is a scattering of little musical nuggets, but they are surrounded by an awful lot of padding and instrumental meandering.
We start bizarrely with Friends Forever, a dull Survivor-esque AOR ballad that would barely warrant a b-side on one of their singles. Coming Of Age shows what the line-up is capable of - good quality melodic rock in the vein of Bonfire with a nod to Royal Hunt and a great chorus. The Incident At Haldeman's Lake also has some good moments with a catchy, if limp-wristed, chorus and a Queen-meets Saga vibe. In between, there's a lot of dull instrumental stuff. We then have a short ballad, followed by another short ballad and then another dull instrumental.
Tragedy In Truth has potential, but fails to develop the initial theme. The Rush-like opening, the heavy riffing and the musical variety makes Shattered Dreams the best five minutes of the album. It's just a shame that the track is drawn out for 10 minutes by some more dull riffing. Viper is an okay, up-tempo Silent Force song, Betrayed By Love suffers from more extended instrumental work, and Turning Point is another okay Silent Edge song. We close with Revelation which is okay for the first six minutes, before it goes off into a Spock's Beard-esque instrumental section. This lasts for two-and-a-half minutes before the original theme is repeated, somehow dragging the song out to 14 minutes thanks to the world's longest fade.
This album does get better with repeat plays, as the gentle melodies sink in. The first few spins I really disliked all of it. For fans of Messers Wehrkamp and Cooper, their performances alone will mean that this will hold some interest. But overall, I can find little to lead me to any other conclusion that this is just a very average release.
Animations - Animations
Tracklist: Dare You Enter? (2:56), Sonic Maze (4:19), 911 [I. Introduction/Overture, II. Realization, III. Retrospection, IV. The Prayer] (14:31), The Four Symptoms [I. E.D.S. II. Cataplexy, III. Hypnagogic, Hallucinations, IV. Sleep Paralysis] (9:57), Oranges (6:03), Lost In Infinity (9:31), 912 [The Day After] (3:58), Animations (18:02)
What a pleasant discovery. I'm not usually a great fan of instrumental albums, but this debut from new Polish band Animations is pretty darn impressive. Hailing from Jaworzno, this quartet initially worked under the name labyrinth.pl, releasing 100 copies of a two-song promo in June 2006 featuring the tracks Lost In Infinity and 911. It received good feedback from the Polish media and was also downloadable from the band's website, with several thousand listens to date.
Encouraged by the response, the band decided to record a full-length studio album. The recording process started last October, and was completed by the end of March. It was then that the band changed its name to Animations and played a concert, due to be released as a live DVD official bootleg soon. With no record label interest, the band has decided to release the album itself. But don't let that put you off, as once you've got it in your hands, you'll see it is actually better than most label releases. The whole thing is beautifully presented, thanks to Polish artist Maciek Zielinski, and being produced in the band's own studio, it sounds pretty good too.
Musically, this album really overflows with ideas. There is some great harmony in the playing with plenty of unexpected details which makes listening to the album great fun. There is plenty of power across the songs that generally fall into the ProgMetal category. I like the way that the multi-parted tracks have a very classical feel to their compositions, with the keyboards adding plenty of light and shade to the intense burns of guitar energy. This will be of great interest to fans of Planet X and Liquid Tension Experiment, plus for the jazz fusion influences, Canvas Solaris, although I feel that there is a lighter, more song-orientated direction to Animations.
The band consists of bassist Bartek Bisaga, guitarist Kuba Debski and drummer Pawel Larysz. Most impressive are the keyboards of Tomek Konopka. Never overwhelming, or just showing off a set of fast fingers, his playing really adds a lovely texture to the songs.
The one thing I'd say, is that with a playing time of 70-odd minutes, it can be a bit overwhelming to take it all in one listen. As a debut album, a more manageable portion would I feel, have left an even greater impact.
In short, this is a young band with huge potential and an album that deserves worldwide attention. For anyone who enjoys intelligently composed and played progressive instrumental music, this is well worth searching out.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Kinetic Dissent - I Will Fight No More Forever
Tracklist: Cults Of Unreason (3:28), Banished (3:43), Melanin (2:59), 12 Angry Men (4:22), Social Syndrome (3:34), I Will Fight No More Forever (3:35), Novocaine Response (5:04), Testing Ground (4:34), Reworked (7:01)
This unknown band was formed in Atlanta back in 1987, recording and releasing their debut album in 1991, and over the last couple of years this album has become a cult album for lovers of early prog metal. In fact this album could be described as a mix of Queensrÿche’s Operation Mindcrime and Metallica’s Ride The Lightning. However to me this material really sounds out-dated as the songs are already sixteen years old, but for fans of those earlier mentioned albums this one is also worth checking out.
The albums kicks off with the rather trashy up tempo Cults Of Unreason, which is a typical example of the Metal of the early nineties, kind of like Metallica meets Flotsam And Jetsam. Banished is more Queensrÿche-like, however the rather hollow sound and the strange drum solo make a strange song to listen to. Melanin is rather groovy and rocky; in fact it almost sounds like King’s X in their early days.
Kinetic Dissent saves the best for last as Testing Ground and Reworked are without any doubt the best songs on the album. Testing Ground is a guitar dominated track with great hooks, grooves and an extremely well played spacy/speedy solo. But the absolute highlight is the last song which clocks over seven minutes. It features great guitar passages, excellent vocal parts, well sounding arpeggios and last but not least a heavenly long melodic guitar solo.
I had never heard of this cult band before, so I was really surprised by this excellent – although sometimes dated – musical flashback of early prog metal. Check it out for yourself and be surprised. Listening tip: Testing Ground!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Karma To Burn - Mountain Mama's
~ A Collection Of The Works Of Karma To Burn
CD 1: Ma Petite Mort (4:08), Bobbi, Bobbi, Bobbi (3:00), Patty Hearst’s Closet Mantra (5:13), Mt Penetrator (4:27), Eight (4:39), Appalachian Woman (3:51), Twenty Four Hours (5:02), Six Gun Sucker Punch (4:11), Thirteen (3:48), [Waltz Of The] Playboy Pallbearers (3:38), Twin Sisters And Half A Bottle Of Bourbon (3:57), Six (14:05) Bonus Tracks: Twenty Eight (4:08), Thirty Four (3:57), Nine (4:08), Twenty (3:49), Six (3:48)
CD 2: Twenty (3:30), Twenty Eight (4:23), Thirty (3;26), Thirty One (5:23), Twenty Nine (3:03), Thirty Two (5:01), Twenty Five (4:40), Twenty Six (4:13), One (4:05), Three (3:58), Seven (4:40), Eight (4:45) Bonus Tracks: Thirty (3:34), Thirty Three (5:41), Thirty Two (5:06), Twenty (3:35), Twenty Nine (3:06), Thirty One (5:25)
CD 3: Nineteen (4:01), Thirty Eight (5:50), Thirty Four (4:13), Thirty Seven (5:19), Thirty Nine (5;33), Thirty Six (4:29), Thirty Three (4:51), Thirty Five (5:14), Five (4:50), Forty (3:39) Bonus Tracks: One (4:08), Three (3:55), Twenty Two (5:27), Seven (3:01), Eight (4:05), Six (4:16)
Karma To Burn has always been known as that underground band from West Virginia, a band that originally started back in 1993, but with a line up that was not very stable in the early days. Their first demo tape was issued in 1995 and it contained the songs One, Ten, Three and Six, all of which were instrumental, but when they signed a deal with Roadrunner, they insisted that the band would have to record an album with vocals. The band tried out a couple of vocalists and in the end they decided to “hire” Jason Jarosz. In February 1997 Karma To Burn’s debut was released and shortly after that the band dumped the singer and so the group was again an instrumental power trio. Shortly after that Roadrunner dropped Karma To Burn and the band started touring again, only playing the instrumental stuff. To fill the gap for the release of a new album they self-released a four song tour EP with the numbers Thirty, Thirty Two, Thirty Three and Twenty.
After signing with MIA Records the second full length Wild Wonderful Purgatory was released in the spring of 1999. This album truly set the tone on the band’s own terms, no words, no song titles, just a seamless wall of stoner metal riffs from start till finish. The third album Almost Heathen came out in 2001 by Spitfire Records, picking up where its predecessor had left. In February 2002 Karma To Burn were starting to record a new CD, this time with vocals, but the album never reached the production status as Rich leaves the band to join Speedealer. Karma To Burn is no more, but we still have those amazing albums to listen to ...
Their debut contains the songs with vocalist Jarosz, but I have to say that his singing performance is not really that great, he mumbles and grumbles... All the songs are of course filled with those typical KTB stoner metal riffs and hooks, making most of the songs sound a bit too much of the same. Waltz Of The Playboy Pallbearers even features some female vocals and a rather heavy and doomy atmosphere. The version of Six clocks over 14 minutes, however 10 minutes are filled with silence, which is of course very original. The bonus tracks on the first CD were all recorded in Utrecht (The Netherlands) on 7 March 2000. Sadly all these five instrumentals have a very bad sound quality.
CD2 is completely instrumental and is therefore for die hard fans only. All the twelve songs are filled with stoner/doom heavy riffs, lots of tempo changes, hardly any real guitar solos and very familiar melodies after a couple of tracks. Thirty One has an Asian sound, while Twenty Nine sounds like Black Sabbath. The only real guitar solo can be heard in Thirty Two, which is really a Kyuss-like track, very swampy indeed. The first four bonus tracks are from the EP and the other two are again from the recordings in Utrecht, just like on CD 1.
Almost Heathen is again completely instrumental and after a while you get kind of fed up with again the same rhythms, riffs and melodies for more than seventy minutes. The odd one out on this CD is called Forty and this one features an acoustic guitar part and some funky/jazzy tempos. The bonus tracks on this CD were all recorded at the notorious Dynamo Festival in 1997. The sound is very good and there even is a “new” track here called Thirty Two.
All in all, a great document for fans of KTB, but for the objective music lover I think it is a bit too much instrumental stoner rock.-
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Poverty's No Crime - Save My Soul
Tracklist: Intro (0:37), Open Your Eyes (4:50), Save My Soul (6:27), End In Sight (3:55), Key To Creativity (5:33), In The Wait Loop (6:47), The Torture (3:50), Spellbound (6:06), From A Distance (5:56), Break The Spell (9:24)
With five albums to their credit to date, this German five-piece have always produced competent albums with several highlights but never quite enough class or consistency to break into the elite of ProgMetal bands. Always getting a better reception from fans with a propensity for power metal than those who like their progressive music with bucket loads of complex time changes and widdly solos, Poverty's No Crime provide a pretty accessible listen. However having taken four years in creating this, their sixth studio release, it really must be seen is their final chance to escape from being seen as also-rans in the race for wider recognition. Sadly, I don't think that Save My Soul is a good enough album to do it.
The first four songs did get my hopes up. Open Your Eyes, awakens the album with a heavy blast of guitar and keys, and with a strong hook is one of their best-ever songs. The rousing title track has a more poppy chorus, but that balances nicely with the much weightier slab of ProgPower-metal-built-on-a-great-keyboard-riff, that is End In Sight. The pace is taken back again on neo-proggish The Key To Creativity, where piano, voice and acoustic guitar tie together another solid melody. A nice, spacey instrumental section adds extra interest. Along with the opener, this is the album's highlight.
The Peter Gabriel-meets-Sylvan progginess of In The Wait Loop, shows the band is happy to try something different. It's all going so well until the second half of this song, where down-tuned guitars and a proggy instrumental section combine into a noisy mess, taking the song down a one way street to nowhere.
The Torture, which follows, is well-named. Repetitive riffs, dull melody and plodding drumming just gets on my nerves. It's an attempt at dark and heavy, but it simply isn't the band's style. The instrumental, Spellbound, does manage to create an ever-moving variety of moods and shades. However it does leave me wondering why they can't do that a bit more often, when they add the singer.
From A Distance sounds like a band just going through the paces, whilst Break The Spell is a bit of a limp lettuce of an album closer. There is a good riff in there somewhere, but it takes so long to get there and then it's followed by such a drawn-out riff section, you get the feeling that the band was just desperate to create a song lasting almost ten minutes.
This is certainly Poverty's No Crime's most diverse album to date and although no monster, is a good solid album. For fans of their previous works, I can see no reason why this won't be an enjoyable listen. Personally, I'd take Slave To The Mind and One In A Million as exhibiting a better selection of songs. With so much good progressive metal music around this year, I really can not see this album extending the band's fan base too much. It's a shame, because if they could take two or three of the really good songs from each album, they'd probably have a classic. Perhaps InsideOut should do a 'Best of..'?
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Twinspirits - The Music That Will Heal The World
Tracklist: Projected (4.22); Back To Reality (7.16); What You Want (6.40); Take My Hand (7.51); Power To Kill (5.22); Understand (10.01); Fire (7.32); It's Just Life (7.27); The Music That Will Heal The World (12.03)
The latest product from the hands of Italian keyboardist Daniele Liverani, this rather pretentiously-titled album is being promoted as being new 'accessible progressive metal'. Twinspirits continues the partnership between Liverani and drummer Dario Ciccioni, which has so far spawned the Genius Rock Opera trilogy. Each of the nine songs have been written and composed by Liverani, who also produced the disc. The band is completed by 19-year-old guitarist Tommy Ermolli, who the pair saw playing some Vai/Satriani tunes at a trade show when he was just 14! Bassist, Alberto Rigoni, comes from Italian Dream Theater cover band Ascra. The line-up is completed by Danish singer Soren Adamsen. As far as the description of 'accessible progressive metal' goes, I can certainly agree on the accessibility of the music here.
There are some very catchy melodies and guitar riffs to be found in the likes of the strong opener Projected. The bluesy rockers Fire and Back To Reality, mix-up elements of Deep Purple, Pretty Maids, Great White, Tangier and Mr Big to good effect, whilst the pompy Scandie rock of Take My Hand, shifts between Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marillion and 80s Danish rockers Skagarack. However, as you have probably guessed by now, I am struggling to find much that will appeal to lovers of progressive metal. Certainly the songs last long enough. But most of them simply repeat initial ideas, rather than develop the ideas or introduce new ones. As a result, those that wade past the five-minute mark, like the initially-impressive Understand, are just treading water.
You have to wait until the sixth song, Understand, before there is anything that I would label Prog Metal. Here, the keys and guitar finally combine for some impressive interplay that sounds not unlike Scandinavian ProgPower metallers SectionA. The title track offers similar comparisons, but has nowhere near enough ideas to fill twelve minutes!
Surprisingly, considering Liverani's input to the project, the keyboards play only a supporting role in the music. I fell that this rather misses an opportunity to expand the band's sound and develop some interesting interplay between two clearly talented musicians.
As someone for whom the singer is often the key as to whether I really like an album, Adamsen doesn't really convince me. He can hit the notes, but just hasn't got the range of styles needed for an album that is trying to mix it up a little. He's best on the softer material like the balladic What You Want. For the blues-based material, a lot more vibrato and soul is required to really bring off the songs. He struggles too, when he has to force the power on Take My Hand or the bridge section of Understand. The husky voice he utilises on the filler ballad, It's Just Life, is a bit embarrassing. Worst of all, is his attempt to be a heavy metal screamer on Power To Kill. A song that I really could never listen to again - horrible. There's also little use of harmonies, which leaves the vocals sounding a little lifeless.
So in summary, if you're after a blues-based melodic metal disc that sits on the very fringes of the progressive genre, then there are four or five songs here that are well worth a listen, if unlikely to demand heavy rotation. For anyone who likes their music to fit a more common definition of progressive metal, I don't think that this will excite very much.
For the band: there is plenty of potential here, especially in the melodic song writing and the guitar riffing. If they can write songs that better suit the voice of Adamsen, maybe make heavier use of the keyboards, and stop dragging out songs past their sell-by date, then this album could be the basis for something worthwhile.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10