Reviews in this issue:
- Neal Morse - ? Live
- Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's Neverland - Reversing Time
- Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard
- Crooked Mouth - Hold In The Sun
- Alec K Redfearn and the Eyesores – The Blind Spot
- Point Of View - Disillusioned
- Lillian Axe – Lillan Axe
- Lillian Axe – Love + War
Neal Morse - ? Live
Disc 1: The Temple Of The Living God (7:09), Another World (2:37), The Outsider (2:29), Sweet Elation (2:37), In The Fire (8:17), Solid As The Sun (6:04), The Glory Of The Lord (1:35), Outside Looking In (4:35), 12 (6:48), Entrance (9:11), Inside His Presence (4:44), The Temple Of The Living God (4:07)
Disc 2: The Creation (19:01), The Man's Gone (4:02), Cradle To The Grave (5:32), Help Me / The Spirit And The Flesh (12:57), King Jesus (5:02), Reunion (12:01) Bonus Tracks: Encore Medley: We All Need Some Light, Open Wide The Flood Gates, Solitary Soul, Wind At My Back (18:50)
When this double disc set first arrived I speculated on how it might compare with the previous live album. That’s before it struck me that surprisingly up until now there hasn’t been a live solo CD from Neal Morse. So prolific has his output been that it’s natural to assume that he’s covered all the bases. With the release of ? Live he now has. When he was in the ranks of Spock’s Beard the band released umpteen live albums and even the relatively short lived Transatlantic matched their studio output with two live releases. Neal’s previous solo work has of course included the Testimony Live DVD in addition to his six studio albums. Then there have been several sideline projects and collaborations. It’s was in 2005 that the studio version of ? first saw the light of day to mostly positive reviews. Two plus years on and it seems that now is just about the right time to reappraise this expansive work. And since ? he has of course released yet another ambitious concept in the shape of Sola Scriptura. A significant difference between this release and its studio namesake is apparent even before a single note is heard. The studio version included Morse regulars Randy George and Mike Portnoy together with guests Jordan Ruddess, Alan Morse, Roine Stolt and Steve Hackett. In contrast for this live outing recorded at the Columbia Club, Berlin on 14th July 2006, Morse is surrounded by a band of relatively unknown but stellar Dutch musicians. They are Elisa Krijgsman (guitars & vocals), Collin Leijenaar (drums & cajon), Jessica Koomen (vocals & keyboards), Wilco van Esschoten (bass & vocals) and Henk Doest (keyboards). You’ll be familiar with several of these guys (and girl) already if you’ve seen the Sola Scriptura DVD trailer on Morse’s website. Neal of course provides lead vocals along with keyboards and guitars. The CD packaging is fairly modest with a two page booklet providing the basic information and a cover design that combines the original artwork from ? and One. It’s the music and performances that count of course and that’s where this release really delivers.
In addition to ? which takes up disc one, the set list includes highlights from Morse’s previous album One and a medley of three songs from SB’s Snow with We All Need Some Light from Transatlantic’s SMPTe thrown in for good measure. Whilst I agree with my colleague Martien that the studio version of ? didn’t reach the same heights as Testimony I believe it was on a par with One. After several plays I rate this live version even higher although it remains faithful to the original. The Dutch ensemble performs with fire and precision throughout so the absence of the ‘star’ names is not an issue. Disc one provides ample opportunity to demonstrate their chops especially during the lengthier instrumental passages in The Temple Of The Living God, In The Fire, Solid As The Sun and 12. The latter in particular stands out with a mesmerising proggy workout for guitar and keys. Elisa Krijgsman gives a stunning exhibition of supercharged soloing (Steve Hackett eat your heart out).
The acoustic songs are very effective especially The Outsider which builds into the synth rich Sweet Elation lending a definite Selling England By The Pound era Genesis feel. It’s during these slower songs however when Morse has a tendency to lay on the Christian piety. This is most obvious during Entrance where he strays off the song to indulge in some impromptu sermonising. Also the lyrics to the otherwise melodic Outside Looking In are too self pitying, and Inside His Presence with its stirring piano and strings would be far more palatable without the preachy sentiment. Despite my views however the lyrical content in no way overshadows the quality of the music or the performances. Throughout Morse is given strong vocal support especially from Jessica Koomen who comes into her own during In The Fire. The bombastic choir section in The Glory Of The Lord is obviously pre-recorded however. Disc one and ? concludes on an emotional high with a reprise of The Temple Of The Living God featuring a soaring Krijgsman / Morse guitar duet.
Recreating a sixty minute album in its entirety live may seem a might self indulgent even by prog standards. However even if you don’t share Morse’s faith (which includes me) it’s not hard to appreciate that ? is a spiritual entity rather than a collection of songs masquerading as an epic. The acoustic ballads for example work precisely because of the energetic instrumentals that precede them and visa versa. Subtract any of the songs and the work would loss its dramatic impact. I’m sure that had time allowed Morse would have loved to have performed the whole of One. As it is he’s axed about one third retaining the stronger songs and none better than the epic length The Creation. This is supremely delivered by the band especially the tricky instrumental parts which have more than a hint of Transatlantic about them. The evocative vocal theme is pure Morse however and Collin Leijenaar provides some impressive lighting fast drumming to double the synth line. The band pulls out all the stops for the majestic symphonic finale.
The two acoustic ballads The Man's Gone and Cradle To The Grave follow. Unfairly I felt, both songs received a less the enthusiastic review on their initial release. The former has a memorable chorus enhanced here by rich harmonies but the latter suffers from the absence of Phil Keaggy whose atmospheric vocals made the studio version so memorable. He is replaced by Will Morse who joins his dad for a sentimental duet. Partway through Help Me / The Spirit And The Flesh Morse embarks on more self indulgent sermonising which is a pity because his Spanish guitar playing that precedes it is stunning. The inclusion of the uplifting King Jesus which originally featured on the One bonus disc is an inspired choice with Leijenaar laying down a solid driving beat. For me Reunion didn’t entirely convince as an album closer on the original but here it has a rawness and energy that impresses. The sampled horn parts remain intact as do the dramatic orchestral punctuations courtesy of Henk Doest. The rhythm partnership of Collin Leijenaar and Wilco van Esschoten play their hearts out. During the bridge section Morse enlists the help of the audience for the counterpart harmonies and remarks that the women are outnumbered by the men. What do you expect from a prog audience Neal!
Following the crowd’s applause and a protracted silence (a little editing here would have not gone amiss) we arrive at the encore which opens with a live favourite We All Need Some Light. The audience are clearly familiar with this acoustic anthem joining Morse for the rousing chorus. The mood continues for the catchy Open Wide The Flood Gates before a stunning Solitary Soul which has a sumptuous arrangement capped by a soaring guitar solo. Jessica provides superb lead vocals for a gorgeous Love Beyond Words which also gets an airing. This leaves probably my favourite Beard song to close, the U2ish Wind At My Back. It gives the studio bound original more than a run for its money making an uplifting and fitting closer to the show.
As you can probably tell I have a great deal of time for this album. The sound quality is excellent making this one of the best live recordings to have come my way. More importantly the band, which was assembled by drummer Collin Leijenaar, makes the material their own giving excellent performances all round. During the band introductions Morse remarks that all he had to do was turn up and play although he acquits himself superbly throughout. I do have certain reservations of course, which I’ve mentioned in the review. Whilst I can usually overlook Morse’s religious fervour, here I found it heavy going at times. It could be one of those ‘you had to have been there’ situations because to be fair the faithful audience seem to lap it up. There’s certainly no doubting Morse’s passion and sincerity. In the final analysis, with the possible exception of Testimony, I’m likely to return to this release as much as any other Morse album and I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's Neverland - Reversing Time
Tracklist: Shooting Star (4:19), To Lose The Sun (5:53), Mankind Is A Lie (4.17), Everlasting Tranquillity (4:04), Reversing Time (4:11), Black Water (6:33), Mountain Of Judgement (1:45), Mountain Of Joy (4:26), World Beyond These Walls (3:53), Transcending Miracle (6:16)
As this is not the first encounter that I have with the people of Neverland I know for a fact that they took a big leap by creating this album, and they decided early on that this project was only worth doing if it were done exactly right from the start. So they used a real orchestra, asked some big names to cooperate and just started recording the album without backing from a record company. Luckily the quality of the album got noticed and AFM offered them a deal.
Officially this band is called: Dreamtone And Iris Mavraki's Neverland. Dreamtone is a Turkish Metal band that we have reviewed three releases of: Unforeseen Reflections, Sojourn and Snowfall and who have been support act to Blind Guardian and Dream Theater in the past year. Iris Mavraki is a Greek singer who has had an impressive career so far. Among others she has been touring Turkey with an symphonic orchestra and participated in numerous antiwar concerts, but because this is her first venture into progressive metal it is the first time we hear of her. I don't know what made her decide to take this step but it was a very good decision. And the same applies the other way around, it was wise of the Dreamtone boys to ask her.
To just put the label progressive metal on this album would do it great injustice. Sure, Dreamtone has it's roots in prog metal but this album is so diverse that progressive rock, rock and power metal would suit it just as well, progressive being the operative word here. The one description that would define all the tracks is: melodic. I have been listening to this album for some time now and it still amazes me how well thought out and original these tracks are. The melodies on this album are very very powerful but yet seem so simple (the way it is supposed to be in my opinion). And although there are amazing solos on the album all of the music is very open and clear. With a symphonic orchestra cooperating one would expect a wall of sound but nothing of that, quite the contrary. Although comparisons are hard to make, names that do spring to mind are: Blind Guardian, Orphaned Land, Dream Theater and Antonin Dvorak, But even all these influences do not really describe this album.
Next to the Philarmonia Istanbul Orchestra a number of well known names are credited on this album: Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tom Englund (Evergrey), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery). Again it is necessary to note that although these are all well known names in the metal genre, metal is not the best description for this album.
Although the first track Shooting Star does have the ingredients of a more traditional metal track it also has the first signs of what makes this album so special, so hard to define. Bands have incorporated symphonic orchestration into rock music before (e.g. Metallica's S&M) but in those cases the orchestra always seemed an addition to the "normal" music. While on this album it is also an integrated part of the melody, part of the band. To Lose The Sun starts of acoustically and then becomes power metal but again with violins. Half way the song slows down and the lyrics that follow after that are really emotional, the compassionate outcry of a father that is losing his son ("No father is to lose a son, no sun should leave the sky") perfectly done by Hansi Kürsch (what a great voice!). Mankind Is A Lie has the first leading role for Iris, it is wonderful how her voice goes together with the voice Oganalp. And although the music is not complicated at all, it changes melody and rhythm a couple of times towards the end Onur Ozkoc proves what so many people know but so little take to heart: a good guitar solo is not one of fast notes, it is one of the correct notes.
If it had not already been clear after the previous track there should be no doubt after Everlasting Tranquility: Iris Mavraki is a great "find" and one of the pillars of this project. Her Greek background never disguised in her voice: it is what makes her contribution so special and surprising. The guitar again is brilliant in this quiet melodic track leaving a feel of melancholy, one of the best ballads I have heard in years. Reversing Time is bombastic with a lot of violins and guitars, a leading role for the voice of Mike Baker. And then halfway one of those weeping guitars that I like so much. Throughout the whole album the keyboards play an important role but on Black Water it is really a leading role. At the same time the best guitar playing on the album can also be found in this track. It shows that this track, like the rest of the album, is really a team effort.
Mountain Of Judgement again has atmospheric piano, splendid Iris Mavraki vocals one of the mellow tracks on the album. But then: Mountain Of Joy, the best track on the album. Up tempo, energetic and fantastic guitar playing that climaxes in a wonderful solo just after a splendid break. Again with great lead vocals of Oganalp and backing vocals of Iris. World Beyond These Walls is sung by one of the best, and most recognizable voices to be found in prog metal: Tom Englund. His voice fits the lyrics and music perfectly. Transcending Miracle is the last track of the album but it was the first track I heard. It is an instrumental track with a number of surprising tempo and melody changes that somehow make sense, it is a patch work of ideas that fit together even though they are very different. It is the best example of what Neverland is capable of.
On the limited edition there is a bonus track: Once Again In This Life again bombastic, violins and excellent vocals of both Iris and Oganalp. I do not understand why this track is not part of the album it is way too good to leave out. And to make matters worse on the Japanese edition there will be another bonus track: Who Asked You To Fight, a track with a medieval feel to it and the second best track of the whole album. They should not have left that track out either.
As the music and the lyrics on this album are inspired by fantasy it is only natural that the cover artwork takes from the same source. The artwork created by J.P. Fournier complements the album. Like the album it is intriguing and hard to label, yes it is a fantasy picture but there is much more to that.
Although I have only recently received the promo, I have been listening to this album for some time now as the band fed the music to me track by track. Every new track was a pleasant surprise and every time I was eagerly waiting for more, and now after listing to the complete album for weeks, I am still deeply impressed. In a time of decreasing sales, because of downloading and stealing music, these people have taken a stand and created an album of ultimate effort and quality. Taking no shortcuts or concessions using well known names, a real orchestra, tracks with great melodies, superb lyrics. All that has paid off, this is a surprisingly good album! It is an album that might appeal to a lot of people, prog metal fans as well as prog rock fans. So my advice: buy this album! It's the best way to show our appreciation for this effort. But, more important, it is a great album, one should own it.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard
Tracklist: Into The Fire (5:10), The Frozen Sea (5:05), Capture The Sun (7:23), Jessica (6:00), Stepford, USA (4:04), Shine (4:29), Lazy Summer Day (5:43), No Tears Left (5:32), Save The World (6:20), Angels And Magicians (6:01), The Sheltering Sorrow (4:48), Red Planet Boulevard (7:56)
The Queen of symphonic rock is back with another studio album. Lana Lane has been around for over 10 years and made a variety of symphonic albums, each album featuring a number of musicians linked to Rocket Scientists, the band from her husband Erik Norlander. The new album Red Planet Boulevard is an exception to that rule with only two other musicians besides the couple Lane and Norlander. Ernst van Ee plays drums and Peer Verschuren on guitar, who were in the past, regulars on albums by Norlander or Lana Lane but not related to Rocket Scientists. Erik Norlander not only plays keyboard but also the bass guitar on this album, to my memory a first time for him. All writing is done by Lana Lane and/or Erik Norlander so even on that part no more influences by members of Rocket Scientists.
This cut in staff results in a much heavier album than previous releases. The keyboard parts are still present but this album is dominated by the guitar of Peer Verschuren. The solos are mainly guitar solos and many of the theme melodies are also played on the guitar. The hard rock sound of the first three songs might scare the progressive part of her fans. Into The Fire, The Frozen Sea and Capture The Sun are all heavy guitar dominated songs. The guitar solos by Peer Verschuren are very good, the keyboard solos by Norlander are mainly brief variations to the main theme of the song. Capture The Sun is the longest normal song on the album and ends with a ho-ho-ho-ing part that is faded out, probably due to lack of inspiration to create a fitting final chord.
Each Lana Lane album features a number of power ballads in a distinctive style. These ballads are a trademark for Lana Lane and are always nice to hear. The first one on the album is Jessica. Very slow and pounding rock ballad. Not grabbing nor is it bad. Lazy Summer Day is not really a tear pulling song but more a laid back easy relaxing song. As the title states this song is perfect for a warm day in the summer in the company of a cold beverage. No Tears Left is on the border of being classified as a ballad. Some parts are very heavy but the major part of the song is gentle guitar music. The best ballad on this album is The Sheltering Sorrow. The last normal song on the album is very beautiful and Lana Lane's singing is very touching.
Songs like Stepford, USA, Shine, Save The World and Angels And Magicians are all very good hard rock songs. The last two reach closest to the progressive style of earlier Lana Lane releases. Angels And Magicians suffers a bit from an overdone na-na-na-na and a cheesy chorus.
In this review I sometimes used the classification 'normal' song. This is because the last song and title track is not a 'normal' song but a compilation of tunes from the songs on this album. The song Red Planet Boulevard is an abomination. The structure of this song sounds very forced and fails in every way to be interesting. This one should be skipped at all times.
Red Planet Boulevard is a good album with a sound leaning a lot more to hard rock than earlier releases. Norlander's keyboard has been put to the background in favour of the heavy guitar by Peer Verschuren. The production, as always, is very good. This also applies for the vocals of the queen of symphonic rock, as always beautiful and clear. The downside to this album is the level of interest and renewal. Apart from being just the next Lane Lane this album doesn't bring anything interesting or new. Compared to her previous release Lady Macbeth this album is a bit of a disappointment.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Crooked Mouth - Hold In The Sun
Tracklist: How Do We Survive? (1:38), David & Goliath (7:07), Iron Wonders (8:47), Stand (3:33), (In Here) The Sun Never Sets... (4:01), Delta (8:18), Two Worlds (4:30), Idiotsublime (4:09), Ether Street (8:26), We Are (4:00), Touching The Heliosphere (7:01)
When the opportunity to cover the second release from Scotland’s Crooked Mouth came my way a courtesy read of Bob’s review of their 2003 self titled debut made it clear that it was going to be an intriguing prospect. Masterminded by guitarist and songwriter Ken Campbell this Edinburgh based collective also includes Tony Hodge (drums and programming), Kenny Haig (lead vocals), Alison Mitchell (keyboards and flute), Mike McCann (bass and Chapman stick), Leen (bass), Lynne Campbell (backing vocals), Eilidh Mclean (backing vocals) and Mike Warren (cello). The drummer and keyboardist also make a sizeable contribution to the song writing process. Campbell’s previous band Gods Monkey released three albums before disbanding in 2000. His dissatisfaction with the chart obsessed music scene led to the formation of Crooked Mouth. The striking artwork that probably caught your eye as you scrolled down this page depicts members of Kataklo an Italian performance group made up of former Olympic gymnasts.
This is without doubt an album that’s difficult to pigeon hole. Campbell and colleagues lace elements of tuneful mainstream rock with ambient electronic effects. For the most part the latter frankly left me cold particularly in the opening How Do We Survive? and closing Touching The Heliosphere. Fortunately at less than two minutes the former with its ambient washes and synthetic rhythms doesn’t outstay its welcome. The latter however is a disappointing closer featuring a lengthy low key soundscape broken only by gentle percussive effects and distant ethereal guitar which proves to be the highpoint. But I’m getting ahead of myself especially as the better songs appear in the albums first half. Although it’s one of the shorter songs Stand is one of the most effective. It’s a straight forward mid tempo affair punctuated by string effects and graceful mellow moments.
David & Goliath and Iron Wonders allow the band more space to stretch out. Campbell’s guitar is edgy one moment and sublimely melodic the next. Often sounding deceptively simplistic, he prefers dense textures through sustained notes rather than out and out soloing. Mitchell’s piano playing is also a significant feature with an upbeat but lyrical style that brought fellow Scots Deacon Blue to mind. Even after numerous plays I’m still coming to terms with Haig’s voice. He has a blues inflected rasp that sounds a tad out of place to my ears. The vocals however are thinly scattered, with the second half of each song being mostly instrumental. In fact (In Here) The Sun Never Sets... is purely that with rhythmic spacey effects that have a haunting quality concluding with a piano solo. Both this track and the low key We Are with its fuzzed guitar solo are very reminiscent of Robert Fripp's solo offerings.
Two Worlds is the albums token ballad and sees Haig joined by Lynne Campbell and Eilidh Mclean providing some smooth and engaging harmonies. A mellow bass line from McCann and serene cello playing from Warren add to the graceful atmosphere. Delta and Ether Street are both lengthy tracks that for my money don’t fully justify their playing time with Delta being the better of the two. It provides Alison Mitchell on all too rare opportunity to demonstrate her flute skills and Haig gives probably his best performance with a soulful delivery. Leen provides a superb bass pattern during Ether Street and despite my misgiving both songs end on a high with strident guitar and keys codas. Idiotsublime concludes in a similar fashion and features monumental drumming from Tony Hodge who gives a solid and tasteful performance throughout the album.
Crooked Mouth have without doubt produced an intriguing collection of songs that sets them well and truly to the left of the run of the mill. Often in the space of a single song they drift from moments of sublime beauty to a raucous hard rock sound. To say it was Mostly Autumn meets Motorhead would be an exaggeration but you get the idea. Check out the rampant guitar work in Ether Street for example which borders on punk rock. Despite my misgivings regarding the new-age musings there is much to enjoy in this album. The message of optimism contained in the album title will certainly strike a chord with many people. By all means tread with caution but tread nonetheless.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Alec K Redfearn And The Eyesores – The Blind Spot
Tracklist: The Perforated Veil (2:01), Queen Of The Wires (4:12), Myra (3:45), I Am The Resurrection And The Light - A Song Cycle: Blue On White (4:48), The Radiator Hymn (3:28), The Burning Hand (4:50), River Of Glass (1:38), The Flesh Of The Drum (2:25), The Blind Spot (2:50), Rising (3:12), Blue On White [Reprise] (8:03)
Back around 1991 or so, I was hanging out one night at AS220, the unjuried alternative visual and performing arts space in Providence, Rhode Island. I was checking out a band called Space Heater. After the gig, I spoke briefly with the band’s accordion player Alec K Redfearn who gave me cassette of the band.
Alec has come a long way since those early days at AS220. After Space Heater morphed into another band called The Amoebic Ensemble, Alec formed Alec K Redfearn And The Eyesores in 1997. Their sixth and most recent release is entitled The Blind Spot and is a dark, alien venture into left-of-centre experimentation.
The core of the band line-up is Redfearn on voice, accordion, jawharp, organ, and loops; Frank Difficult on loops, processing, and “other electronic mayhem”, Orion Rigel Dommisse on voice and organ, Jason McGill on alto sax, Laura Gulley on violin on several tracks, voice on a few tracks, and viola; Matt McLaren on drums, glockenspiel and percussion; Ann Schattle on horn in F, Erica Schattle on bassoon, and Domenick Panzarella on guitar. Several other musicians contribute to a few tracks.
The music and lyrics were skilfully composed and written by Redfearn, who also handled the bulk of the arrangements except for the vocal harmonies on Queen Of The Wires, which were written by Marissa Nadler and Dommisse. The excellent quality recording was funded in part by The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and The Rhode Island Foundation’s MacColl/Johnson Fellowship.
The band plays a bleak swath of drone, noise and folk on the CD. It opens with The Perforated Veil, a brief bit of electronics and percussion that tracks into Queen Of The Wires. This tune, with its pairing of male and female vocals, some bassoon from Erica Schattle, and violin, is reminiscent of dark neo-folk band Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Redfearn’s accordion on the track evokes sounds of the same instrument from Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen. The only other stand-alone track is Myra, which features a fine horn solo from Ann Schattle.
Then we get into the bulk of the CD, the eight-song conceptual I Am The Resurrection And The Light - A Song Cycle. As Redfearn frankly puts it in the CD’s liner notes, the cycle is
“intended as a eulogy for several of my friends who died of drug overdoses and addiction-related suicides as well as a meditation on my own spiritual history and bankruptcy in relation to my own experiences as an addict”.
The thirty minute cycle takes the listener past references to The Velvet Underground, Russian neo-Kraut band Vespero, Stereolab, early Tangerine Dream, Jethro Tull (minus the flute) and German experimentalists Einsturzende Neubaten. The descending and ascending electronics of Blue On White and the brooding percussion of The Radiator Hymn set the pace for the cycle. Gulley accentuates things with her violin on The Burning Hand and The Flesh Of The Drum. Speaking of drums, the last two tracks of the song cycle and of the CD, Rising and Blue On White [Reprise], feature customized instruments performed by Steve Jobe, the drone hurdy-gurdy and the gong-drum. Blue On White [Reprise] trails off in some rumbling contrabass from Margie Wienk and some electronics, leaving the listener to contemplate the cycle’s dark theme.
This CD will most likely appeal to any fan of avant-garde music or dark, droning Velvets-style rock. If you are into brighter or more “perky” pop or rock than this CD is probably not for you.
In all my years of living in Providence and checking out the local music scene here, I must admit I have not seen the Eyesores live. It might be time to change that.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Point Of View - Disillusioned
Tracklist: Disillusioned (5:48), Bleak (5:41), Reborn (7:41), Asylum (4:32), Mercy Killing (6:43), Shame (6:23), Point In Time (6:25), Out Of The Blue (5:30)
Another new band from Poland, a country, which on the back of the success of Riverside, is building a solid reputation for producing top quality acts in all areas of the progressive genre.
Judged from the opening title track, Point Of View could easily be lumped in the same mould as Riverside. The atmospheric, repetitive riffing; the sombre vocal delivery and lyrical theme, and the keyboards humming above it all, creates an impressive opening. However, as this cleverly-constructed album evolves, you will be increasingly impressed by the range of styles that this five-piece is able to bring to the table.
The second track has a modern metal meets Prog vibe, which reminds me of the excellent Karnivool. The powerful keyboard and guitar riff of Reborn is very VandenPlas/Threshold, with a lovely Riverside guitar solo on top. Point In Time is another song where classic elements ProgRock and ProgMetal are brought together to great effect. This time there’s a clear influence of Farewell To Kings-era Rush.
A lot of the riffing on this record reminds me of fellow countrymen Newbreed, with the odd dose of ProgMetal instrumental excess, not unlike another Polish band Animations. Throw in a few classic 70s Prog stylings, whilst never being afraid of paying your respects to the purveyors of classic NeoProg, and you really do have a very varied collection of songs.
From my point of view, this band is not yet the finished article. Stronger melodies are needed in a couple of songs. The two balladic tracks are the weakest on offer – always play to your strengths. Singer Bartek Kurkowski really suits the music, although he needs to smooth out the accent, and stick to the range and key which best suits his voice. Two tracks, Reborn and Shame, take his voice to the limits of his range and the listening becomes a little uncomfortable.
However, as a debut album with six really strong progressive rock/metal songs, this is well worth searching for.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Lillian Axe – Lillan Axe
Tracklist: Dream Of A Lifetime (5:18), Inside Out (3:57), Vision In The Night (3:20), Picture Perfect (4:00), The More That You Get (3:46), Misery Loves Company (3:27), Nobody Knows (4;19), Hard Luck (4:51), Waiting In The Dark (4;28), Laughing In Your Face (3:51) Bonus Tracks Dancer (4:49), Memory Of Me (3:10), So Far Away (4:39), You’re Gonna Lose That Girl Tonight (4:37), My Number (3:26)
Lillian Axe – Love + War
Tracklist: All’s Fair In Love And War (5:58), She Likes It On Top (3:55), Diana (4:46), Down On You (4:24), The World Stopped Turning (5:00), Ghost Of Winter (5:18), My number (3:23), Show A Little Love (4:36), Fool’s Paradise (4:41), Letters In The Rain (4:24)
This is Lillian Axe’s self titled debut album and this is the remastered version, also featuring five bonus tracks. The album was originally released back in 1988 and on this debut the songs can be best described as straightforward glam rock with lots of sing-along choruses, catchy refrains; melodic guitar solos and those typical eighties rock characteristics.
The “highlights” from the Lillian Axe CD are the opening song, Hard Luck and the melodic power ballad Waiting In The Dark.
The album was produced by Ratt guitar player Robbin Crosby and this album is in fact only interesting for die-hard Lillan Axe fans!
The second Lillan Axe album has a more modern sound than the debut which was released a year later. It is in fact a completely different sounding band, mainly due to the polished production of Tony Platt. This album features diverse heavy rock songs with also complex structures reminding me of Pink Floyd... This album is much better than its debut and therefore more interesting to buy as a remastered version.
The album opens with All’s Fair In Love And War, a melodic up tempo track with howling guitars and huge keyboard passages. Another highlight is Ghost Of Winter, featuring a ballad-like melody and lots of heavenly guitar solos.
But again I have to say that the musical level of Lillian Axe is not at its peak with this album as this will happen later, especially on their best album ever called Psychoschizophrenia (1993).
This album is again a must for Lillian Axe fans, but also for lovers of great melodic rock with a touch of progressive rock.
Lillian Axe: 7 out of 10
Love + War: 8 out of 10