Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Marathon - Judicator - Tokyo Blade - Stygian Bough - Countless Skies

 You can't hear every album. Especially not if you stay away from Spotify and the likes. So herewith some CD's I missed in 2020 and only bought after seeing them appear in end of year lists by people or fanzines I trust.

Marathon - Mark Kelly's Marathon
This was not a pure missed, but more I did not get to check it out yet. When I did listen to the opening trilogy Amelia I heard it was good and could order straight thereafter. Mark Kelly is of course known for playing keyboards with Marillion. This is his frst solo album and he got a decent band together. The vocalist sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel or Jon Mitchell and that makes this prog rock album one pleasant ride. Two long songs broken into parts and three shorter ones make this album just a good LP lenght. It must be nice for Mark Kelly to play this music without the overly presence of H on vocals. A very pleasant easy on the ears album, which for me might come to de boerderij one day. One final comment is on the cover. The painting of Corcovado on the background means this must be from Piratininga beach in Niteroi. I know as we have family living there and I was often on that beach. The painting misses Sugar Loaf mountain in the bay, to be realistic. Just saying.

Judicator - Let There Be Nothing
This power metal outfit made it to Andy's number three of heavy prog and progmetal releases of 2020 on DPRP. I remembered checking it out when originally reviewed. I liked the album immediately, but when finding out that bandcamp meant postage costs would be more than twice the CD costs I bowed out. Than Andy even was as friendly to tip me where to get the album in Europe fairly priced. Seven songs clocking in close to one hour on their fifth full lenght. Therefore they have all the time to sing about battles, swords and betrayal. Now that Jon Schaffer in his utter stupidity killed Iced Earth and Demons & Wizards, this band might go for the throne of US Power metal. Highly recommended album

Tokyo Blade - Dark Revolution
I did not forget about this album, but naively thought upon release in May that I would pick up my copy during their December show in Breda. A bold thought as the last few times I saw Tokyo Blade live they brought zero merch. Later on I did sort of not remember the album indeed, until Theo put it very high on his list of 2020 favorites. This is one nice surprise of an album, as we get eleven fast rocker fired at us. Several of these songs would blend in perfectly with the likes of Night of the Blade or If Heaven Is Hell. Come to Musicon I'd say and we will enjoy, even if they are the only band so far who refused to stay at my HM B&B.

Stygian Bough - Stygian Bough
This band is according to the cover a collaboration between Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin. Bell Witch of course before this album released their one song 80+ minutes wonderful trip called Mirror Reaper. So I was still supposed to check out this new work, when Arno called it best album of the year and posted the Youtube clip of the album. I only needed to hear 19 minute opening song The Bastard Wind to understand we have another work of beauty in our hands. This band with their extremely patience needed slow doom, so goes against today's fashion of very short attention spans, that you must like them for that alone. Atmosphere with a capital A. They are supposed to come to Tivoli together with Death Metal masters Blood Incantation which should be two opening acts that  Wolves in The Throne Room can never top. Their luck is that we still shall be suffering from Corona in October.

Countless Skies - Glow
AngryMetalGuy put me on the track of many a new discovery. Countless Skies their album of the month Novemer, being their last tip. I thought that for world class Melodic Death Metal, you needed bearded Scandinavians. Turns out that four bearded Brits can take care of duties as well. Standing proudly among the best Melodeath albums of the last years this band released with Glow an album anyone mildly interested in this style should hear. Variation all over, with clean vocals going very dramatic reminding me of Barren Earth. On the other hand they can go heavy and bombastic as well. This is their second full lenght, so one left to still dive into soon.  If not released last November definitely end of year list material.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Top 20 of 2020 (or my favorites that did make it to my list)

After a teaser earlier this week with several good albums, herewith my absolute favorites of the year. While this year is definitely the year of progmetal I am pleased to see that also ProgRock, Hardrock, Thrash, Death, Black, Melodic and AOR made it to my list. And still some people say that my taste in music is limited. Well let the countdown begin and you can be teh judge of that.

20. Novena - Eleventh Hour
While they already released an EP in 2016 a new band to me. I knew Ross Jennings from Haken, but also had others on CD already with No Sin Evades His Gaze. A heavier Haken with grunts by Gareth Mason of Slice the Cake (waiting for their CD releases). A wonderful album, which grows to a stunning finish with Corazon, The Tyrant and Prison Walls at the end. If the whole album was like that they would have scored even higher. Now a very fine discovery.

19. Red\Shift - Grow.Decay.Transform. 
An independent release that I found on Angry Metal Guy. 76 minutes is long, but the trio with three voices gives a progmetal variation in the Mastodon vein that sounds very good. King's X says hello as does Tool at times. They also set my PR for waiting time between ordering and receiving, which was over 4 months. Still picking it up occassionally.

18. Solitary - The Truth Behind The Lies
Thrash metal to me has two options. Either you go short and at full speed with no time to catch your breath (Reign in Blood) or you go more widespread with time for intro's, instrumentals and possibly even a ballad (Master of Puppets) My UK thrash friends from Solitary are in the first camp. With TTBTL they easily release their best album to date, which is a kick in the face (or anywhere else) for 36 minutes. Still with enough variation and in Homage to the Broken a new personal favorite to thrash Musicon one day.

17. Pattern Seeking Animals - Prehensile Tales
At first this band might seem a less heavy version of Spock's Beard, Not that SB is heavy, but Alan Morse and Ryo Okumoto usually help cracking up their music. Turns out that without them the songs speak much more and this was such a pleasant release with six songs that all worked for me. Two epics 12 and 17 minutes, two songs around 8 minutes and two short songs in prog under or just over 5 minutes. Always good when albums you did not have that high hopes for on forehand surprise you.

16. Alcatrazz - Born Innocent
Alcatrazz making a come-back album after 34 years!!. That is good news with three orignal members and Joe Stump as current guitar hero. This resulted in a very fine album indeed. And then they decided to split. I wonder which band is coming to Musicon (if etc.) next year the band with Doogie White on vocals, or Graham Bonnet with a new outfit. Both seem welcome to me, but I would have preferred this band.

15. Anubis - Homeless
Anubis are my favorite progrock band that formed in this century. This helped by two legendary shows in de Boerderij and later 't Blok. This album is their fifth studio album and surprises. Gone are the epics and long songs. 9 titles in 42 minutes is very to the point for this lot. Well it works fine and now they can spice their live-set even further with the inclusion of some short rockers. 

14. DeadRisen - DeadRisen
To many maybe yet another project of Mike Lepond, for me the new album with Will Shaw on vocals. After all he sang on Heir Apparent's The View From Below, my album of the year 2018. Then I also saw him live and what a voice on stage. This band plays Heavy Metal no bones about it and Ten songs 48 minutes. some fast some mid-tempo and a ballad. All sounding so well it became a must hear album for anyone into metal really.

13. Armored Saint - Punching The Sky
It is 2020 and the Saint marches on. Actually this album should have been much higher on my list if I look purely at the songs, the performance and how much I like this style. Maybe it is the lack of surprise that put them only on 13. I know what I get and I know I shall love it. Up to the next live gig and the album shall only get better. Possibly the most underrated band in metal.

12. Heathen - Empire Of The Blind
 See my comments under Solitary and this must be 2020's Master of Puppets. We have an instrumental intro and outro, plus a wonderfull instrumetal shred fest. Than there is a dark ballad as well, but mostly we get thrash overdosed with crazy stunning guitars. When you then add catchy choruses like the one of Sun in my Hand, you have for me the best thrash release of the year. They were supposed to tour Europe, hope that shall still happen when possible. 

11. The Reticent - The Oubliette
Again Chris Hathcock presents us a progmetal concept album filled with emotion and heavyness. This time the topic is Alzheimer and you can hear it comes from the heart. Amazing how one man can put this work together. A must hear for anyone not scared of by your occassional grunt. Again only placed at 11 because I thought his pre-decessor a bit stronger and at the time this rollercoaster was all new to me. This album shouts for a place on PPE stage.

10. Compass - Our Time On Earth
This band is created by Steve Newman known from melodic rock band Newman. Turns out that when he goes a bit more prog the music only gets better. I say a bit as this album is still filled with lots of accessible melodic rock. A conceptalbum that is pretty easy to follow musically and lyrically. Only mystrey remains, why does a four-man band put three people on their band pictures?

9. Dark Forest - Oak, Ash & Thorn
Another great discovery through angrymetalguy for me. This is their fifth album, but I had never heard of them. They mix NWOBHM galloping rhythms with some folky influences and sing about old England heroics. This is Heavy Metal of the uplifting kind, that makes me smile and should be a party live. I have not yet dug into their past, but when finding time for that definitely will.

8. Pyramid - Amnesty
Rune's Progfiles put me on the right track for this band. Not holding their first two releases, this is number three since 2017. So productive they are, especially if you consider I saw the drummer with Redemption and keys plus guitar with Arch Echo. If you like your progmetal heading towards tech metal and can appreciate a band like Zero Hour this one is not to be missed. from vocals to instrumentally they do everything right and deserve at least to lose their independent status.

7. Waiting For Monday - Waiting For Monday
2020 got me nostalgic remember? Well this lot put everything I ever liked in AOR together in such fashion that they completely surprised me. I did not even know such strong albums were still written nowadays in a style that is very much late seventies/early eighties. This time no project on Frontiers, but an actual band releasing an album that sounds even very nice to Josie. Check the clip for End of a Dream and order I'd say.

6. Wayfarer - A Romance With Violence
After my AOR pick now for something completely different. Not every year a Black Metal band makes it to my end of year list. This band is not Scandinavian face painted, but shirt wearing Americans who mix spaghetti western sound with their BM. When I read about them and played the album on bandcamp I was so blown away that I even ordered the cool Long sleeve together with the CD. Original, heavy and accessible, while different. Must be checked out by all.

5. Fates Warning - Long Day Good Night
Now some five weeks after release I still could not figure out how much I like this album. It is long to start with, but also less heavy than Theories of Flight. Still it is Fates Warning and if I am forced at gunpoint to name one favorite band I probably mumble, well that's impossible, but OK FW. Ray Alder is without doubt in topform all through the album. The variation in styles is also wider than normal. Yet I stil need to hear some of these songs live in order to potentially make it my album of the year after all.

4. Exist - Egoiista
So True, So Bound in 2017 was a pleasant surprise, but Egoiista overcame my wildest expectations. What a rollercoaster of an album this is. Maybe the best Cynic album after Foucs? At least the opening song dedicated to Sean Reinert makes you think so. We have tech death, but than in the Cynic style, but also  clean vocals. You go from neck-break speed banging to a ballad and instrumentally the whole album is a joyride. This band should be huge, but then again most on my list should.

3. Hittman - Destroy All Humans
An album I still did not receive on CD (note Vivas Machina on the picture) making it to my Top20 must be special. Well Hittman are making a comeback after 27 years and then release an album Queensryche can not match during the past 27 years. Why I say this? because that is the most heard comaprison.  Does not matter to me, can't get enough of this US metal with progressive traces. I am even open to shout along with lyrics like Love the Assasin that's all. Welcome back my friends now come over to Europe.

2. Fish - Weltschmerz
Fish announced this farewell album for years. In 2018 I already saw several songs being played live. Now that the double CD was finaly released I can say that few albums in history got me this emotional. Start looking at the 100 page booklet filled with the beautiful Wilkinson family designs. Than the music holds two wonderful epics in Waverley Steps and Rose of Damascus. Some more upbeat songs and in Garden of Remembrance a song that will touch anyone who faced Alzheimer from nearby. What a way to say goodbye. The best news is that on the many extra's at one point Fish states still planning two tours. One based around this album and Vigil, a second playing two nights in a row at several venues going all throug hhis career. Thank you Fish for so many unforgettable hours on CD and live on stage. A hero is leaving us with a blast.

1. Psychotica Waltz - The God Shaped Void
Maybe Fish deserved the top spot based upon his career, but let's face it musically Psychotic Waltz are so close to being perfect to me. Definitely the best live band in the nineties, now released a come-back album after 24 years. It follows perfectly on their four classics from the nineties. Overall this album is a bit heavier and slower than their past. This suits fine with the voice of Devon Graves. Starting the album with flute and that so typical sound that makes you recognize PW by a mile. How is it possible that the guitar tandem of Dan Rock and Brian McAlpin are not world famous. Psychotic Waltz are heavy, spooky, mysterious and metal.  I loved the album upon release in February, still do so ten months later and probably will pick it still up ten years from now. Given the overall pleasure playing this album presented to me throughout depressing 2020 makes it a well deserved number one.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

20 albums that did (just) not make it to my Top 20 of 2020

2020 has been a shit year to almost everybody on almost all fronts. Never all is bleak so apart from some very good times in Portugal, a nice spring and summer the biggest surpise was the huge amount of great CD releases. So in 2020 I am allowed to pick a top 20 and long time thought I needed to extend to at least a top 30, as there simply were too many very good albums. As that would be the easy way out I played, listened, thought and defined a Top 20 after all. Now I only need to listen some more and rank them over the next few days. Meanwhile I herewith share 20 albums I also highly enjoyed, but this week did not make the cut. Maybe next week some of them would, but one has to take decisions in life. 

So if there are any rules let me set them out here. I am old school. This cannot only been seen by the bolding head, but also by the fact that I don't do Spotify, Deezer or any streaming service. So in order to qualify I must have bought the album. Normally I check albums of bands I do not know on bandcamp or youtube and decide after first hearing if a purchase is necessary. A direct result of this is that I have not heard many new albums. Several of those I would typically pick up during after a show, but that did not happen this year. So I shall not rank the albums that missed the top 20 as they are in no particular order. I will discuss them under genres. I know I shall forget a lot of albums hich I missed and should like but again tough luck.

For me 2020 was a year of nostalgia with the large amount of time spent at home. This resulted in me going back to the styles I loved in the eighties most, which does reflect in my list. 

Extreme metal
Especially the more extreme end of metal came less into my picture. I do like extreme metal live and often pick up albums after shows or buy in advance and play a lot at home before a gig. Now that I only saw the very short Imperial Belial gig in January and the shows of Diabolical in February plus the Noctem/Spectrum of Dilussion later that month. The last band released an album that received praise, but I have not heard it yet. Dark Tranquility, Fen and Enslaved I should also have picked up at a show, but not heard yet. What I did buy and liked a lot are albums by 1. God Dethroned , 2.Rages of Sin, 3. Contrarian and 4. Azusa. Rages of Sin even released the probably best extreme metal album ever released in The Hague. Pity they could not tour, nor do all seated shows, to bring the album even more alive to me. Azusa last year blew me away with album and show in their very own hardcore/progmetal way but was now less of a surprise to me. God Dethroned I missed in Baroeg due to storm in February and Contrarian is too recent to judge completly.

Musically 2020 has absolutely been the year of progmetal. Most of the greats releasing an album and several new discoveries to add to the party. Starting with the best release that did not make it to my Top20 5. Wolverine. This band released video/audio beauty A Darkened Sun, but not releasing same in any format. I donated at their side, but could not buy a release anywhere, staying restricted to Youtube plays. Another band that came with a very strong release was 6. Green Carnation. Their only problem was that of the five songs the longest was a re-release and one a cover, so only three new songs made them drop out of my Top20. Of the big names in Progmetal three bands released an album that definitely did not disappoint, but also was not their best work ever. 7. Haken were more to the point and definitely overcame their Mountain/Affinity dip. 8. Pain of Salvation could never follow up In the Passing Light of Day, but did not falll back to Road Salt levels either. A pleasant album indeed. 9. Oceans of Slumber released yet another moody masterpiece but where The Banished Heart held in the title track and No Color, No Light two breathtaking beautiful songs, this album had no such highlights. Good but not at their best therefore. 10. Gargoyl is a new band around David Davidson (Revocation) Reason enough for me to order fast, but this one is hard to get into. Still sort of struggling with it, while hearing the beauty in songs. Finally 11. Katatonia fall in this area of progmetal, but also doom. This year's release received more praise than I really understood. Album of the month in Aardschok, but not enough happening for me. Very nice on Sunday mornings though.

Doom for me best works live. That being said not all doom. The more accessible doom mixed with Heavy Metal works anytime. 12. Sorcerer released another winner with Lamenting of the Innocent. Unfortunately the Little Devil show got canceled, as we already were with 8 having tickets and counting. That day in Tilburg probably would have catapulted this album straight into my Top10. Another LD winner Spririt Adrift I have not even heard yet, knowing I should love that album as well reading the reviews. I even never took the time to listen to the new Bell Witch which I definitely still should do. iOPages magazine put me on the track of 13. Lotus Thief. This and is hard to box again, but doomy rules to me, while prog must be there given the magazine I first read about them. Nice one

Thrash Metal
2020 was agood year for Thrash Metal, but I missed most albums. I mean I did not even hear Testament. Still a few made it to my Top20 and 14. Havok was a nice album as well. I did not pick up Warbringer whom I thought stronger when seeing them together. 

If I missed out on many many thrash metal albums NWOBHM almost completely passed me in the blind. I should have bumped into albums by Raven, Tokyo Blade or Satan's Empire really. The only highlight was that I finally got hands on Traitor's Gate Devil Takes the High Road. One of my absolute favorites of teh year, but a re-release so not qualifying.

Hard Rock
More mainstream hardrock had some good albums as well. To me both 15. Horisont and 16. The Night Flight Orchestra were very uplifting albums perfectly matching a warm summer. Yet for both it was not their strongest release ever.

Prog Rock
While over the past years prog rock lost playing time to extreme metal in my CD player, this nostalgic year they made a comeback of sorts. Still I missed many releases especially Lee Abraham, whom I follow rather close. I just discovered 17. Vulkan and it seems to be a grower even. 18. Prehistoric Animals released an album even stronger than their debut making you happy, maybe lacking a bit of punch though.19. The Pineapple Thief  is perfect for the Sunday morning, but too slow most other days in the week. Finally 20. Pendragon originally disappointed me. Too calm and easy. When Nick Barrett played a brilliant version of water during Proglove home sessions I needed to review my disappointment and now play the album with pleasure looking out for their bi-annual return to de Boerderij in years to come. As re-releases do not count I won't add Marillion's script box to any list. Otherwise candidate for album of the year with all the extras.

No Portuguese album in my list this year. This mainly due to bad luck. Last visit to Glam O Rama resulted in sold out album by Gaerea and waiting for the release of Attick Demon to come in any day. The one I most definitely should have is Wanderer, so next time and year better luck.

So these were only albums I loved, but just not making my Top20. Imagine what a ride that will be. Online on Thursday, still needing to play some and decide on picking orders and rankings.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Hittman - Vulkan - Contrarian

Some last CD tips for your christmas shoppings. A special edition as two of them I have not even  received on CD yet myself.

Hittman - Destroy All Humans
Under the header "bands that disappeared for a long time and make a sensational come-back" 2020 gives us Hittman. In 1988 Hittman released their self titled debut album. US metal with some progressive hints and they were compared with Queensryche as happened to more bands from that era releasing albums in this style (Crimson Glory, Heir Apparent, Lethal) I loved the album and bought the LP. Five years later they were suddenly back (pre-internet days so some releases came as a surprise indeed) Viva Machina was as strong and I got the CD. Then all went quiet and I never managed to see them playing live. So when a return album was announced I was interested indeed. The first clips released sounded promising and I was ready to order. That is where the delay started as I was waiting for Large or to bring this release. Well waiting in vain only last week I ordered the album directly from the No Remorse label, waiting everyday for the mailman next week. So I played this album many times on Youtube to get the idea. Opening Metal Archives for the lyrics to read along and what I found is one of the absolute highlights of 2020. So they still sound like old school Queensryche, but if that results in album Queensryche can not match since 1994 Promised Land I am not complaining. Actually quite the contrary I can't hear this album enough. Eight songs starting and ending with the longer ones with the rest around 4-5 minutes. This style of metal comes pretty close with my favorite music. Starting with a great vocalist Dirk Kennedy who lost nothing of power in his voice. Guitar solo's all over and a base of heavy metal with progressive trends. All eight songs are ace and in Total Amnesia they look back on their absence from the metal world in a funny way "Marches of Saints, warnings of Fate, When was this life that you claim I was leading". Well what count is that they are back and how. Now bring them over to Europe in 2022 and I am prepared to travel to see this live.

Vulkan - Technatura
Sometimes you read a review and decide to check the band out on bandcamp. If then your next decision is to hear the full album at once, the only next step can be buying the album online. That is what happened with Vulkan for me. This album came out much earlier this year, but I missed it. I found it at Angry Metal Guy under the header Things you might have missed in 2020.  Well what an interesting release this is. These Swedes mix two languages on a concept album and my Swedish is limited to "I don't speak Swedish" and "two strong beers please". So there goes the storyline. Well not to worry as the music speaks for itself. It is progressive rock, although as heavy as some progmetal as well many times. Basically having all the ingredients that should make younger prog rock/metal fans happy (those who go and see Haken, Leprous, Caligula's Horse, but avoid the originals (Hittman)). A very nice album indeed, which also is still to arrive on my doormat, but might be tried by you before that within the year.

Contrarian - Only Time Will Tell
This one I do have on CD. Reason is that I pre-ordered as soon as I learned of the album, based upon last year's very strong Their Worm Never Dies. Another year, another album, another vocalist, another drummer and another bassist. Result? same highclass OSTDM. The drummer/vocalist was George Kollias of Nile fame, being replaced by two different band members. The vocals now only do grunt and some spoken parts The music is another Sci-fy concept album that clocks slightly under 35 minutes. this is OK for me with this style of music. The title track is instrumental and according to the booklet a variation of the song 4th of July by U2. Not knowing that original it did not hinder me. Not sure if I will see this band playing live anyday, but pretty sure I will see bassist chapman stick player Bill Bodily as he just joined Flotsam and Jetsam as well. For anyone into Tech Death a tip, although also OSDM lovers might appreciate this album.


Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Armored Saint - Compass - Fates Warning - Gargoyl - Prehistoric Animals - The Reticent - Solitary

With the end of the year nearing herewith some more CD's I believe you might like to hear. As I will soon have to start the impossible task of ranking my favorite albums of 2020 I now kept it simple and let mr alphabet guide us.

Armored Saint - Punching the Sky
It is the year 2020 and can Armored Saint still surprise me? The answer is a firm No and Yes. No they shall not change their style suddenly from the traditional heavy metal that made them big. So be ready for the voice of John Bush, a heavy drum and bass basis and the guitar solos flying all over the place. Yes they can surprise me by the simple fact that they did it again. Not many bands can state that their last albums are as strong as their early work from the eighties. Armored Saint can and only nostalgia might make the oldies favorites to some. So the outcome is simple one of the best albums of the year which is an obligatory purchase for anyone into Heavy Metal.

Compass - Our Time on Earth
Compass showed that it pays of to keep next to Aardschok also a subscription to iO Pages. It is all about discovering bands and latter magazine had a raving review first and an issue later an interview with Compass. Both made me check out the album on internet (and buy it straight after doing so) This band has Steve Newman from the band Newman writing the music. This results in a wonderful mix of melodic hard rock and progmetal light. At times I remembered the band Stride when listening to Our Time on Earth. Then I checked if Aardschok ever reviewed the album and saw they gave it a 50/100 score with lines like not one original note etc. Well for me those unoriginal notes did wonders

Fates Warning - Long Day Good Night
When I recently ranked all Fates Warning albums I stated I can not compare this album yet with the rest of their discography. Not much changed since then. It is Fates Warning, so obviously I love the album. Further it is much longer than any other release, which gives them the time to explore some different routes along the way. This variation definitely works fine. What stands out with such variety is that Ray Alder just gave us one of his best performances ever. Favorite track probably the epic, as The Longest Shadow of the Day starts simply amazing building to an instrumental outburst halfway before lyrics kick in. Not sure how it compares to other FW albums, pretty sure how it does compare with other bands of mere musicians.Geniusses.

Gargoyl - Gargoyl
The reason I checked out this band is that it holds David Davidson on guitars. He is better known from his work with Revocation and now would release an album wit Gargoyl, where no grunts appear. When I saw the clip of Plastic Nothing I ordered the album. Later while reading reviews I often saw comparisons with Alice In Chains. Not a grunge man myself I believe the voice and darkness do have some similarities. After playing the album several times I still can not fully describe what I think of it. Definitely different I might give it another ten attempts

Prehistoric Animals - The Magical Mystery Machine
Prehistoric Animlas were last year to many including me, one of the best surprises of PPE. A very nice performance and good songs. One year later they give us a follow up album and show they got even slightly better. What I like about them is that while I prefer in general my music dark and moody, they play optimistic music. With an album title that reminds us of the Beatles, no surprise maybe. Again we get seven very pleasant earwurms and I would love to see an uplifting show again by them one day.

The Reticent - The Oubliette
The Reticent is an almost one man band project by Chris Hatcock. Since 2008 he releases every four years an album. I got into this band after 2016's beautiful sad concept album On the Eve of a Goodbye. Four years later he does it again. Releasing a sad concept album that goes musically all over the place and is filled with emotions. This time Alzheimer is the subject and you can feel he has been through this process from nearby to come up with such intense songs. Overall I would call it a progmetal concept album, but be open minded towards grunts, blasts, spoken word and very calm passages. Another masterpiece makes you happy that he does have a touring band around him so who knows one day. 

Solitary - The Truth Behind the Lies
I said it before and say it again the big four in thrash is only history based. If you look at the current century there are so many thrash metal bands that release albums the big four can only dream of nowadays. Further unlike Aardschok tries to tell us often good thrash metal does not have to come out of the USA or Germany only, it is a global movement. UK band Solitary herewith release their fourth album and first thing standing out is the sound blasting out of your speakers. Solitary promised us before to thrash forever, but rarely did they do so ferociously. Opener I Will Not Tolerate sets the pace and basically we get eight highlights in a row. My personal favorite so far Homage to the Broken, where we do get half a second relief before When We're Broken is spit at us in full force again. A great album on a new lable, which should bring them back to Hertog Jan country again in years to come. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Wayfarer - Heathen - The Pineapple Thief

 While I am waiting for quite some time now for a wave of new CD's to be delivered herewith some tips from the past months. With my alternating months between Holland and Portugal I try to order so that I can hear new albums  while in The Hague. As I than need to play them a few times I lack behind release dates, but just focus on some albums I think deserve soem extra attention. These three made it often to my CD player even if Fish and Fates Warning almost refused to get out. Normally I start calm and review the loudest band last. This time it is the other way around as I start with the surprise of last weeks by a band new to me.

Wayfarer - A Romance with Violence

It was at first a review on Metal-Experience that made me check out this album. Listening to the two available songs on bandcamp made me decide to jump in the adventure that is called Wayfarer and I ordered the full album. Their style was described as Black Metal and also the term Spaghetti Western passed by. Now it must have been around eleven year old me who bought the soundtrack of Once Upon a Time in the West as one of my first LP's. I was at the time (and still) very impressed by the work of Ennio Morricone and mixing Spaghetti Western with Black Metal sounded great on paper. Turns out that in reality it sounds even better. Wayfarer present us in 45 minutes 7 songs. This includes two instrumentals and one ballad like song. Three mainly Black metal sung epics and a finale where all comes together in potential highlight Vaudeville (although Masquerade of the Gunslinger is also a candidate for that) How great it is to discover a new band and get all excited over their release. Also finding you have a past to discover still. I am blown away by this album and after playing the CD a few times even decided to order the longsleeve as well in support. This also because the artwork in the booklet is very nice and fits the western theme. Year end lists material with a twist of being different. Check them out.

Heathen - Empire of the Blind
Late last year or begin 2020 a new Heathen album was announced, plus a European tour which would hit Baroeg. Two reasons to make me happy as their last album The Evolution of Chaos is already ten years old and I never saw them playing live. Well the shows were postponed, but the album meets my high expectations. Heathen is among those thrash metal bands who started in the eighties and now manage to release thrash metal albums the big four can only dream of (Death Angel, Flotsam & Jetsam and Exodus do the same) This album holds an instrumental intro and outro. While those are nice and calm, the instrumental A Fine Red Mist is a true shredfest and highlight. Further there is a ballad in Shrine of Apathy, which is both not cheesy and welcome being placed inbetween neck braking bangers In Black and Devour. The full album is a high and written by guitarist Kragen Lum alone. If anything on the strong songs stands out it must be the overdose of great guitar solo's by Kragen and Lee Altus. Finally the album booklet closes with a picture of Jim DeMaria proudly wearing his Toxik Tee. A strong candidate for best thrash metal album of the year.

The Pineapple Thief - Versions of the Truth
Now it is up to The Pineapple Thief to follow these two monsters up. Well I can be short they cannot. That does not matter as I would never play their album after the above mentoned two. TPT makes progressive rock music which is not all that progressive. I had in the past an album by Vulgar Unicorn and picked up TPT debut Abducting the Unicorn in 2000 which was a sort of development from there. in 2010 I bought their album Someone Here is Missing and now ten years later again I listened to Versions of the Truth on Progstreaming and decided to buy the album. So I follow a pattern here, which does not follow their 13 album career at all. TPT were often compared with that other TPT headed by Steven Wilson. When listening to Versions of the Truth  it was this what attracted me again. Clips of the new Steven Wilson solo make clear that my open-mindness shall be tested again with his next album so playing safe and have some calm TPT for my Sunday mornings made me buy the album. So don't expect anything heavy or wild here, but if you don't want to wake up yet and put some music on this album works wonders.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Fish - Weltschmerz

 If ever anyone decided to go out with a bang, I doubt they managed to do it as overwhelming as Fish just did. Fish is for 38 years now my favorite story-teller in music. This album was announced years ago together with the fact that it would be his last. Several personal issues, family matters followed by Covid-19 made this release being pushed forwards, but now we have it. One of the delays also got caused by a hospitalized cover artist Mark Wilkinson. In the guiding documentary Fish explains that there was no way he would move to another cover-artist for his last album and boy can we be pleased with that decision as I can recommend the special edition with artwork, that won't be met in years to come.  So in order to go out in style this is a double album with the total lenght of two eighties LP's in 84:30. Ten songs only so we can look forward to the inclusion of some epics. Over the years we could hear and see parts of the album with especially the EP a Parlour of Angels and the three songs of that album being played during his 2018 tour.  But as it is a last album let me exceptionally do a song by song review.

The album opens with the sounds of a MRI scan, which Fish underwent and decided to use on the album. The Grace of God is a personal story about his hospital days and is a strong start 8 minutes classic Fish with an emotional bridge on the girl with the Docs. Immediately we know we are in for an emotional album, where no feelings are spared. And there but for the grace of God go I. Next song Man with a Stick, did not blow me away when first hearing it live in Edinburgh September 2018. Reading along with the lyrics, watching the clip and suddenly this song came alive, talking about many sticks in live. Walking on eggshells discusses problematic relations one of his favorite topics. The song is upped with heavy orchestration and female choirs on the background leading to a louder end before a final calm line closes off. This Party's Over at first sounds like the party song on the album, with some celtic influences plus whistles and saxophone. But then the lyrics are about saying goodbye to alcohol and the state of the word, so where's the party here?. This short uptempo song breaks the album nicely and opens the path for the first epic of over 15 minutes Rose of Damascus. This song follows a girl from early days going out in Syria until the decision to move abroad ending with her heading for the sea on a boat. Two strong spoken word parts make this such a powerful song with a message in a fashion that only Fish really is able to do in music (for me that is).  If emotions were not on a high already the second CD opens with Garden of Remembrance. This already is the best song ever written  on Alzheimer and lasting love. The Blu Ray contains a documentary on the making of the videoclip and this only adds to the emotion of that song. As the full album is dark and emotional throughout. The next C Song is about being diagnosed  with Cancer stating I won't let you bring me down. The instrumental part is called the Trondheim Waltz as during his 2018 Trondheim show this song under development was played and Fish asked everyone to dance with the person next to them. Getting an uplifting spirit in a hall while singing about such a topic is only for few an achievable option. Little Man What now is another 11 minutes of self reflection, packed in a ballad like orchestral song. Next song Waverley Steps is my absolute favorite of the album. A story on a London City or Amsterdam Zuidas work hard, party harder young man, who gets married, in marital fights, divorced and ending with his dog on Waverley Steps at Edinburgh station. I first heard this song when in Edinburgh and the next day I visited the steps to take a picture of Josie there. Not knowing the lyrics yet, I am now pleased that I can place the description of this song. The title track Weltschmerz closes the album in style where Fish sings about the sorry state of the world ending in a biting The rapture is near. 

So reading back I noticed I did not write about the music, but more on the stories told. Well that is exactly what I love in Fish. I think it is safe to say that if you ever liked any work by Fish solo or with Marillion, you can safely buy this album. I do recommend the special edition as it offers so much extra's including the story on making four promo video's in lockdown days. A final word of thanks must go to Mark & Julie Wilkinson as they outdid themselves with some beautifull artwork. For me that all culminates on page 100 where the cover of Market Square Heroes got an upgrade to the grey-bearded warrior with a mask used against the plague. So much beauty released made this whole package an adventure to me. Vigil Fish'first solo album was considered a classic and still stands strong 30 years later. I am sure that this album 30 years from today shall still stand proud as well. Finally on the docu Fish made an uplifting comment on his touring. He plans still two tours. First one where Vigil meets with Weltschmerz. Than thereafter a farewell show where he plans to play two different sets on two nights in several of his favorite venues over the years. That should include Tivoli and Paradiso so For the grace of God shall I be there four nights. And if you see me cry it shall be of sheer joy for his music and you can buy me a beer for comfort. Thank you Fish.