Saturday, May 24, 2014
Sundown On Humanity
Pitch Black Records
Armageddon Rev. 16:16 (Or simply Armageddon as they were originally called back in their formative years) is a band that has earned a reputation as one of the true founding acts within the underground Cyprus metal scene. Founded way back in 1984 (Initially starting out as a covers band called Heavy Duty), the band soon gained a cult following with the release of a couple of demo efforts (The first in 1987, and the follow-up in 1988), before making their mark with the release of their debut E.P. effort ‘Rev. 16:16’ in 1991. But despite the critical acclaim following the release of their debut effort, it would be another eight years before Armageddon Rev. 16:16 would release their follow-up E.P. ‘Spoils Of Conflict’. But with a change of tastes within the metal scene, and the relative unknown label the E.P. was released on (Bologna Rock City Records), both the band and the E.P. soon faded into obscurity. However, rather than completely disappear, the band’s status grew and after an absence of fifteen years, Armageddon Rev. 16:16 (Who now comprise of original vocalist Jimmy Mavrommatis, founder/lead guitarist Kikis A. Apostolou, and new rhythm guitarist Elias A. Andreou, bassist Nikolas Papaeftychiou and drummer Kerry Elgar) have returned to the scene, and released their first full-length effort in ‘Sundown On Humanity’.
The album begins with a suitably dramatic and orchestrated instrumental piece entitled ‘E.K. 40 (Intro)’, which eventually makes way for the first official track ‘Human Sundown’. It’s with this track that Armageddon Rev. 16:16 really showcase their take on the progressive/power metal sound. And it’s quite good. The guitar riffs are weighty enough to give the band a heavy and gritty sound, while the keyboards (Provided by Firewind’s Bob Katsionis, who also mastered and mixed the album) add a sense of drama to proceedings. Mavrommatis’ can take a little getting used to, but in general, manages to suit the music provided rather than go against the grain.
‘Shades Of Tomorrow’ is definitely an early stand-out on the first half of the album with its catchy chorus, varied tempos and impressive solo brackets, while the fast paced ‘Strange Dreams’ and the rather heavy ‘Fallen Angels And Lost Souls’ (Which features guest vocals from Blynd’s Andreas Paraschos) are solid follow-up efforts that show the diversity of the band’s overall sound.
Unfortunately, as strong as the album begins, the band can’t seem to retain the same level of consistency throughout the album. Although solid on the musical front, the up-tempo ‘Hypocrites Of Destruction’ sounds like its been torn in two completely different directions style wise, while ‘New Day Will Come’, ‘Why’ (Which starts out with a somewhat familiar Scorpions sounding whistle), and the cliché metallic inspired anthems of ‘United’ (Which features guest vocals from R.U.S.T.’s Tasos Karonias and Arrayan Path’s Nicholas Leptos) and ‘Heavy Metal’ just don’t hit the mark on the song writing front.
‘13-Seventh Eleven’ is a little stronger, with the band exploring the progressive side of their sound a little more, while the closer ‘Icy Blackness (Kursk)’ (Which features a guest guitar solo from Katsionis and Solitary Sabred’s Petros Leptos providing the song’s narration) is an impressive mix of the progressive and the thrashing, and therefore is easily another stand out.
Overall, ‘Sundown On Humanity’ is a solid album, but marred by a running length that is a little on the long side of things, and some fillers that bog down the middle of the album.
But despite the obvious issues, I can’t see ‘Sundown On Humanity’ doing any harm to Armageddon Rev. 16:16’s reputation as one of Cyprus’ truly enduring metal founders.
For more information on Armageddon Rev. 16:16, check out - https://www.facebook.com/Armageddonmetalcy
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 7:48 PM
The Road Of Bones (Special Edition)
Giant Electric Pea
I’ve been a fan of U.K. (Southampton) based outfit IQ for some years now, and given how much I loved their last release - 2009’s ‘Frequency’ – and the rather lengthy gap between studio releases (The band has kept fans on their toes with a couple of live albums, a live D.V.D. and a couple of anniversary reissues in the meantime), I was really looking forward to the return of the long running neo-progressive rock outfit.
Returning with their eleventh studio effort ‘The Road Of Bones’, IQ have once again produced another solid release, but one that strangely manages to disappoint as much as it does satisfy. A change within the ranks of IQ isn’t necessarily a new thing for the band, and once again, they have had a change of guard since their last visit to the studio. Vocalist Peter Nicholls and guitarist Mike Holmes are the only surviving members from the ‘Frequency’ line-up, with former members in founder/bassist Tim Esau and drummer Paul Cook returning to the fold. The only new member making their IQ debut this time around is keyboardist Neil Durant, who otherwise came from the instrumental progressive/fusion outfit Sphere3. And while the change in line-up is one of the biggest shake up’s we’ve seen between IQ releases, it has to be said that it hasn’t altered the sound of the band in any way that will have long time fans up in arms.
The first disc of this double C.D. special edition version of ‘The Road Of Bones’ is actually a conceptually based affair. The concept is centred on the point of view from a serial killer on a murder spree. It’s a dark theme, and not surprisingly, that translates atmospherically through to the music accompanying the opening track ‘From The Outside In’. Starting out with atmospheric keyboards and a sample from Bela Lugosi, the song soon falls into a thick guitar/bass driven groove alongside Nicholls’ distinctive melodic vocals. Overall, the song is a darker and heavier take on the familiar IQ sound, which works quite well for the band. However, it has to be said that the stripped back song writing approach does mean that the song does lack a little variation, which does have a tendency to make the song drag a little longer than it should.
Next up is the title track ‘The Road Of Bones’, which not unlike the opener, begins with a fairly gentle No-Man like intro with Nicholls backed with some haunting keyboards. It takes a while for the song’s brooding vibe to build up, but when it does (Around the six minute mark); it does in a huge way. But as good as the song is it’s the same issues that plagued the opener that can be found at fault here. The song is a little on the long side, and the changes in tempo are minimal, which gives the impression that the band has stripped things back a little too much at times.
Clocking in at just a touch over the nineteen minute mark, there’s no denying that ‘Without Walls’ is the big centrepiece of the album. Unlike the two former tracks, IQ do mix things up here, with shades of latter era Genesis heard in the beginning, before delving into heavier terrain in the middle section. Holmes really stands out with his guitar work throughout the song (Bringing to the fore his Steve Hackett influences), while Durant’s diverse array of keyboard sounds gives the song plenty of diverse sounds. Although far from a perfect track (The song doesn’t seem to flow all the time, and it’s still a touch too long for its own good), it’s certainly one of the album’s stronger moments.
‘Ocean’ provides a bit of a breather towards the tail end of the album, and brings to mind ‘Closer’ from their last album, albeit with the full band backing Nicholls’ emotive voice, and perhaps not as memorable on the melody front.
Finishing up the album is ‘Until The End’, which is hands down the real shining moment on the album. It’s on this track that IQ throw everything they can into their song writing, and manage to produce a song that manages to avoid the issues that hamper the bulk of the album. It’s also quite a diverse offering on the sound front as well, with some middle-eastern themes thrown in amongst some early era Genesis influences, while the intro and the tail end is a perfect example of Durant’s contribution to the band’s sound, and how well he fits alongside both Nicholls and Holmes.
As I mentioned earlier, ‘The Road Of Bones’ is an album that both satisfies and disappoints in equal measure. But not in the way you might think, because while I liked ‘The Road Of Bones’, I couldn’t help but feel a little letdown by the album after the brilliance of ‘Frequency’. But here’s the strange part of the equation – I actually feel that the bonus disc is a far stronger collection of songs than the album itself!
The opening track on the bonus disc is ‘Knucklehead’, and it’s possibly one of my favourite songs from either disc. It’s uncharacteristically heavy for IQ, and it works a treat. Nicholls’ biting lyrics and vocal delivery matches the harshly delivered music perfectly, and gives the overall song an intensity that’s rarely ever heard from IQ.
The instrumental piece ‘1312 Overture’ (Which bears its name from its time signature and Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’) is a great showcase of the band’s progressive leanings, and should have perhaps served as the opening track for ‘The Road Of Bones’ in my opinion.
Despite its misleading electronic driven rhythmic opening, ‘Constellations’ turns out to be a seriously strong track that could have slotted onto the official album if it wasn’t so upbeat, while the mellow ‘Fall And Rise’ is another classy effort from the band with its fretless bass, oriental influences and dominant acoustic sounds. But what makes the latter so interesting is that it shows a completely different sound. Needless to say, it’s exclusion from the album is not all that surprising.
Although interesting, ‘Ten Million Demons’ is again an experiment into uncharted sound territory for IQ – but a venture that doesn’t quite work. Somewhere within the Pink Floyd/Underworld influenced track there’s a great song, but it sounds like it needed a little more work to coax it out.
Finishing up the bonus disc is ‘Hardcore’, which is another dark and heavy sounding effort that begins with an almost Porcupine Tree sounding introduction, before finishing up with a lengthy instrumental section that relies more on acoustic atmospherics and a natural flow of different instruments rather than heavy guitar riffs and densely layered keyboards.
Overall, it has to be said that the bonus disc is an interesting addition to ‘The Road Of Bones’, and well worth getting.
In the end, ‘The Road Of Bones’ is a good album, but a little flat sounding. The band’s performance can be faulted, and the production (Handled by Holmes) gives the band their best sound to date. But where the band fails is their unwillingness to broaden their song writing to add a bit of spice to their songs. Instead, ideas are thinned out and stretched, which makes the album sound like its dragging in places, and overly long at times. The opposite can be said for the bonus disc, where most of the tracks showcase a far more diverse array of ideas and sounds – even if sometimes they don’t quite work.
For diehard fans, ‘The Road Of Bones’ will no doubt be a must. But for me personally, ‘The Road Of Bones’ is a little underwhelming after the brilliance of ‘Frequency’.
For more information on IQ, check out - http://www.iq-hq.co.uk/
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 7:44 PM
In A Mirror Darkly
Mekong Delta is without a doubt one of the most criminally overlooked progressive thrash metal outfits on the scene today. Despite a history that has spanned more than twenty-five years (Admittedly, the band went on hiatus between 1996 and 2007), and universal critical acclaim for each and every one of their album’s released, the German based band still remains relatively unknown to most outside their cult underground following. But that hasn’t stopped them from doing what they do best, and four years after the release of ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ (Excluding 2012’s ‘Intersections’, which was an album of re-recorded/reworked tracks), Mekong Delta has returned with eleventh full-length effort ‘In A Mirror Darkly’.
Although described as a continuation of the themes that were previously explored on ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’, it has to be said that ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is in no way a mere carbon copy of its predecessor. If anything, the band (Who comprised of Lalu/Tomorrow’s Eve vocalist Martin ‘LeMar’ Rammel, guitarist Erik ‘Adam H.’ Grösch, bassist/classical guitarist/group founder Ralph ‘Ralf’ Hubert and ex-Annihilator/Axxis/At Vance drummer Alex Landenburg) has really gelled in their six years together, and the album stands alone as unique, while delivering all the core elements you would otherwise expect from a Mekong Delta release.
The album is introduced via the classical guitar piece ‘Introduction’, which is essentially a showcase of Hubert’s lifelong passion for classical music (Which has had an influence on Mekong Delta’s vast body of work in the past). As ‘Introduction’ closes, the band quickly follows up with ‘Ouverture’, which is an instrumental piece of thrash metal that allows the band to demonstrate their skills on their respective instruments, and their ability to write a tune that boasts complexity and is melodic in equal measure.
It isn’t until ‘The Armageddon Machine’ that Rammel enters the fray, and his appearance certainly has an immediate impact. Despite the rather frantic and chaotic nature of the music itself, Rammel manages to inject just the right amount of power and melody into the song to really give it an immediacy that makes it stand out as a favourite. Although being in the band for some time now, Rammel adds a real element of power and melody to the band’s harsh/aggressive thrashing sounds, and now more than ever, sounds completely in synch with the band.
The band slows things down with the dramatic ‘The Sliver In Gods Eye’, but still manages to keep the intensity within the song with a gradual build that gathers momentum as it proceeds on. Rammel’s again stands out on the vocal front, with his performance at times bringing to mind early era Geoff Tate (Ex-Queensrÿche) in places with the heavily layered and effective backing vocals.
On ‘Janus’, Mekong Delta once again return to familiar terrain with the song a progressive thrash epic that allows everyone within the band to showcase their talents. But while the song is a little chaotic and scattered (Almost everything is thrown in over its six and a half minutes in length), there’s a groove and melody that links everything together for the listener, which again proves that while Mekong Delta are nothing short of incredible musicians, they’re also capable song writer’s too.
If there’s one definitive stand out on the album, it has to be ‘Inside The Outside Of The Inside’. Not unlike the former track, ‘Inside The Outside Of The Inside’ is a progressive/thrash metal piece that is constantly twisting and turning. But there’s something about the arrangement of the riffs, the intertwining tandem guitar work, Landenburg’s ever-present fills and the overall energetic tempos and catchiness of the song that really makes it stand out.
Although Rammel manages to impress throughout ‘In A Mirror Darkly’, his best performance can be found on ‘Hindsight Bias’. Again, his ability to get a melodic foothold within Mekong Delta’s thrashing sonic soundscape is nothing short of astounding. And what he’s managed to produce on this track is amazing.
Finishing up the album is ‘Mutant Messiah’, which sounds like a natural continuation of the former track, only with more venom and aggression thrown into the mix to close things out with a blistering finale.
Although not straying too far from what the band delivered on their last couple of releases, it has to be said that ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ does stand out on its own. The production (Handled by Hubert) is notably better than ever before, and the album seems to flow better than previous efforts as well (‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ is one of the more obvious examples that comes to mind).
In fact, the only real obvious flaw I can find with Mekong Delta’s latest effort is the cover artwork.
Overall, ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is exactly what you would expect from a Mekong Delta album. It’s progressive, thrashing, forward thinking, complex, melodic and an impeccably performed piece of art, and one that deserves more attention than it will most likely attract.
For more information on Mekong Delta, check out - http://www.mekongdelta.eu/
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 7:03 PM
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Catacombs Of The Black Vatican
Bullet Proof AU/Universal Music Australia
Over the last fifteen years, Los Angeles (California, U.S.) based southern/groove metal outfit Black Label Society has amassed a diehard following through relentless touring, and a prolific output of studio/live releases that has maintained a fairly consistent standard for the most part. Four years after the release of the band’s return to form effort ‘Order Of The Black’ (Particularly when compared the two lacklustre efforts that preceded the album – Namely 2005’s ‘Mafia’ and 2006’s ‘Shot To Hell’), vocalist/guitarist/song writer/group founder Zakk Wylde has once again assembled his brothers in arms and returned with Black Label Society’s ninth full-length effort ‘Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’. Given how strong their last release was, I had high expectations of ‘Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’. And while it’s not quite up to the same high standard of their former release, Black Label Society’s latest offering is at least one of the group’s stronger efforts.
Black Label Society (Who consist of Wylde, bassist/mixer/associate producer John ‘JD’ DeServio and ex-Breaking Benjamin/Scott Strapp drummer Chad Szeliga) get the album off to a surprisingly slow start, with the opener ‘Fields Of Unforgiveness’ sounding reminiscent of Alice In Chains in both tempo and overall feel. But despite the comparisons, ‘Fields Of Unforgiveness’ is still typically Black Label Society, albeit in a slower, darker and more groove orientated direction.
The single ‘My Dying Time’ continues the same downbeat vibe of the opener with a touch of southern rock thrown into the mix on the vocal front (Which brings to mind 2003’s ‘Stillborn’), while the faith driven ‘Believe’ sees Wylde turn up the amps a little with some heavy duty Black Sabbath inspired riffing shining through.
‘Angel Of Mercy’ is the first acoustic based number on the album, and it’s certainly one of the album’s really shining moments. Sounding like a natural successor to 2013’s predominately acoustic based effort ‘Unblackened’, this track wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1995’s ‘Book Of Shadows’. The same can be said for ‘Scars’, which is another particular favourite on the album.
Both ‘Heart Of Darkness’, ‘I’ve Gone Away’ and ‘Beyond The Down’ are typical Black Label Society riff led efforts, and in all honesty, are the album’s filler-like moments. Although good, these songs don’t sound particularly inspiring on the song writing front. The same problem can be pointed at ‘Shades Of Gray’, which is a rarity given that Wylde’s acoustic based efforts are generally of a high standard.
‘Damn The Flood’ and the rhythmic/percussion driven ‘Empty Promises’ both stand out as the definitive cuts on the harder edged side of things this time around, and rival anything from ‘Order Of The Black’. Towards the tail end of the album, Wylde channels Black Sabbath in the driving ‘Dark Side Of The Sun’, before closing the album with the slower paced and inspired effort ‘Hell And Fire’.
Black Label Society’s ethos can be summed up as ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it...’. And ‘Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’ lives up to that philosophy. It’s another Black Label Society album, and one that is somewhat similar to those before it. The only real difference is that while it doesn’t quite hit the mark for me like ‘Order Of The Black’ did, it still easily stands as one of the strongest efforts the band has released in years.
For more information on Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, check out - https://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 4:11 PM
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Prowling Death Records/Century Media Records
When Thomas Gabriel Fischer emerged with the debut offering from his new outfit Triptykon (2010’s ‘Eparistera Daimones’), it’s fair to say that the album divided fans’ opinions. Now returning after a lengthy four years away, the Zurich (Switzerland) based outfit Triptykon (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist/programmer Fischer, Dark Fortress/Celtic Frost touring guitarist/album co-producer V. Santura, bassist Vanja Šlajh and ex-Fear My Thoughts drummer Norman Lonhard) are back with their highly anticipated sophomore effort ‘Melana Chasmata’.
Not unlike ‘Goetia’ on their previous album, ‘Tree Of Suffocating Souls’ kicks off the album in a brutal fashion, with Fischer and Santura delivering some truly hard hitting riffs in the fast paced track, while the production (Handled by Fischer and Santura) allows the bass and drumming to penetrate the guitar mix with perfection, and allows the heaviness of the band’s sound to deliver a crushing blow. But what really makes ‘Tree Of Suffering Souls’ rise above a track like ‘Goetia’ is the notable lack of unnecessary padding. This track sounds incredibly streamlined and purpose built, with the experimental guitar tones and the dual spoken/growled vocals adding to the song’s overall grim vibe rather than simply sounding tacked on (Which was an obvious flaw to some of the tracks featured on ‘Eparistera Daimones’).
The follow up track ‘Boleskine House’ takes on a completely different path musically to that of the opener, with the bass driven/gothic tinged track slowing down the pace to a near crawl, but still retaining a suffocating and haunting atmosphere with its dense guitar work, clean female vocals (Courtesy of long time Fischer collaborator Simone Vollenweider) and the occasional growled effort.
‘Altar Of Deceit’, while maintaining the lumbering pace of the former, is a perfect example of the sound that Fischer has perfected over the years. The crushing heaviness in the guitars on this dooming/sludge-like black metal tinged effort is as crushing as it is slow, but still manages to have enough deviations on the musical front to keep the listener engage throughout. Not surprising, the catchy chorus and vocals from Fischer bring to mind ‘Monotheist’ (2006) era Celtic Frost.
‘Breathing’ (The first single lifted from the album) retains the Celtic Frost vibe with its thrashing/speed induced sound and vicious demeanour, and will no doubt stand out for most listeners, while on ‘Aurorae’, the band take the template previously heard on ‘Shatter’ (2010) and push it further into post-rock territory. While the description sounds strange, it works exceedingly well when the end result is heard. Fischer’s monotone spoken word vocals coupled with clean guitars evokes an eerie atmospheric vibe throughout, and the searing guitar solo at the tail end is the perfect way to finish thing. Although some may disapprove, I think it’s a real experiment into the unknown for the band, and a definite highlight on the album.
‘Demon Pact’ (Which features contributions from Odem Arcarum/Secrets Of The Moon guitarist Michael Zech) is a bit of an oddity on the album with its overtly industrialised Apollyon Sun feel, and tends to plod along without any real change. If there’s a song that fails to really go anywhere, it’s this track.
While tackling the same terrain as the former track, ‘In The Sleep Of Death’ is a far superior effort with its variations coming from dual vocal contributions (Fischer’s angular spoken word efforts and Santura ravaged guttural growls) and the shift towards heavier and denser sounds around its second half. The same could be said for the epic on the album ‘Black Snow’ too, which despite its twelve minutes, still maintains the listener’s full attention with menacing feel, crushing doom-like riffs, duality of vocals throughout and it’s largely avant-garde like instrumental tail end.
Finishing up the album is the haunting ‘Waiting’, which sees the return of Vollenweider in what could be described as a gentler tune with its fair share of experimental moments compared to what fans would expect from Triptykon.
In a lot of ways, Tryptikon’s new album doesn’t stray too far from where the band last left listeners some four years ago. Their mix of dooming/blackened death metal with straight out experimentation is still very much present throughout ‘Melana Chasmata’. And really, you wouldn’t expect anything less from Fischer. But what does separate their debut from their latest effort is Fischer’s emphasis on maintaining a mood or vibe within each of the album’s nine offerings, and ensuring that each track stands on its own as much as they do as a whole.
Some fans may feel that ‘Melana Chasmata’ is too drawn out and lacking any real move forward musically for the band. But for the rest of us, this album is a worthy follow-up to ‘Eparistera Daimones’, and quite possibly one of 2014’s finest releases.
For more information on Triptykon, check out - http://www.triptykon.net/
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 7:33 PM
Better Days Comin’
Given that I was a fan of Winger back in the late ‘80’s, I was curious to see what the band had to offer fans when they decided to reunite after going their separate ways in 1994. But despite being a fan of the various members’ solo output throughout the years, I wasn’t all that impressed with Winger’s 2006 comeback album ‘IV’. It was far from what you would call a complete disaster, but it hardly qualified as one of the band’s more memorable efforts. Despite my disappointment towards ‘IV’, I did check out the band’s follow up studio effort ‘Karma’ (2009), and found that while the band’s past is often ridiculed and overlooked, their present output is a class above most so called hard rock acts.
Over the last five years, vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Kip Winger has been focused on his solo career and score work, while guitarist/backing vocalist Reb Beach has been kept busy with Whitesnake. And then there’s guitarist/backing vocalist John Roth, who has been on the road and in the studio with Starship and drummer Rod Morgenstein, who spends his time teaching as a professor at Berklee College Of Music. But as luck would have it, the various members managed to get their busy schedules to line up, which has resulted in Winger’s new album in ‘Better Days Comin’’. And for the most part, the band’s sixth studio effort is a worthy follow-up to the band’s highly acclaimed last album.
Winger starts the album off in heavy rock fashion with the opening track ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’. Beginning with some effects that bring to mind Kiss’ ‘Detroit Rock City’ (1976), the song soon shifts into high gear courtesy of Beach’s solid riffing and Kip Winger’s signature crooning vocals. Heavy enough to rock hard, and yet catchy enough to sing along to (Courtesy of Kip’s infectious melodies and backing vocals), ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’ is everything you could ask for from Winger.
The follow-up track ‘Queen Babylon’ sees the band maintaining the heavier edge of the opening track (Albeit with a slower tempo) without forsaking any of the band’s trademark melody, while the first single ‘Rat Race’ is without a doubt one of the most adrenaline fuelled rockers Winger have ever produced, and a true showcase of the combined talents of Kip on vocals and Beach on guitars.
The title track ‘Better Days Comin’’ is an interesting detour into grunge/funk territory that locks into bass heavy groove with a killer chorus, while on ‘Tin Soldier’, the band’s progressive side to showcased a little more (And stylistically more in line with 1993’s ‘Pull’ direction wise), and proves once again that behind the visual and sonic façade, Winger boasts some truly talented musical individuals.
No Winger album is ever complete without some slower tracks, and ‘Better Days Comin’’ is no exception. ‘Ever Wonder’ is a solid addition to Winger’s long list of ballad-like efforts, but it’s the psychedelic/Beatles tinged ‘Be Who You Are, Now’ that really stands out of the two.
Returning to more orientated terrain is the melodic ‘So Long China’, the heavy/groove/angst driven ‘Storm In Me’ and the guitar driven ‘Another Beautiful Day’, before the band closes things with the soaring ‘Blind Revolution Mad’ (‘Pull’) like ‘Out Of This World’.
‘Karma’ was a step up from ‘IV’ for Winger in terms of song writing. And while ‘Better Days Comin’’ isn’t a huge departure from what you would generally expect from Winger, it’s at the very least on par with the best the band have ever offered up fans the past – and that’s the heaviness of ‘Pull’ combined with the classiness of ‘Karma’. What more could a Winger fan ask for really?
For more information on Winger, check out - http://www.wingertheband.com/
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 7:28 PM
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Distant Is The Sun
Surreal Records/Rockstar Records
Despite being around for close to twenty years (The band formed way back in 1995), Melbourne (Victoria) based outfit Vanishing Point aren’t quite the household name they should be, given the consistency of their output in that time. While there’s no doubting of their highly regarded place within the Australian progressive/power metal scene alongside fellow outfits Black Majesty and Eyefear, it’s the band’s continued line-up changes and the lengthy gaps between releases that has at times been to the band’s detriment in keeping their name in the minds of followers outside their diehard fan base. So it comes as no surprise to see the band return after a seven year absence with ‘Distant Is The Sun’, which is their long awaited follow-up to 2007’s ‘The Fourth Season’ and only their fifth full-length release overall.
As expected, some changes have been made since they last graced listeners with something new, with vocalist Silvio Massaro, guitarist Chris Porcianko and drummer Christian Nativo the only surviving members from all those years ago. Joining the trio this time around is Drop Forged guitarist James ‘Bushy’ Maier and ex-Envenomed bassist Simon Best. And as you would expected, the new line-up assembled has had its effect on Vanishing Point’s sound on the new album.
The album opens up with the short ‘Beyond Redemption (Intro)’, which sees the band incorporate piano and spoken word samples into a dramatic introductory piece that seamlessly moves into the follow-up track ‘King Of Empty Promises’. If there’s one track that sums up everything that Vanishing Point stands for in the musical sense, it’s this one. Fast paced, and fusing elements of progressive and power metal perfectly, ‘King Of Empty Promises’ is hard hitting, epic sounding (Again, Porcianko’s underlining orchestral mix of keyboards and choral effects help emphasise the heavy guitars and drumming efforts) and extremely catchy (Courtesy of Massaro’s impressive vocals and melodies).
The title track ‘Distant Is The Sun’ sees the band slowing things down a little, but still manage to pack a punch on the groove front. Once again, Massaro really impresses on the vocal front with a killer chorus, while Teramaze guitarist Dean Wells provides the song with an inspired guest solo performance.
Despite the orchestration sounding a little too heavy handed in places, ‘When Truth Lies’ is a solid number with some well crafted melodies, while ‘Circle Of Fire’ sees Massaro teaming up with Sonata Arctica vocalist Tony Kakko on what is honestly an O.K. track, but far from a highlight on the album.
The real shining moment on the album can be found in ‘Let The River Run’. Sounding a little out of place on the album with its ‘80’s hard rock/heavy ballad vibe, ‘Let The River Run’ is hands down the album’s catchiest tune (A credit to Massaro once again), and something you wouldn’t normally expect from Vanishing Point. And that’s a good thing.
Another favourite is ‘Denied Deliverance’, which sounds uncannily like Evergrey (Especially on the vocal front), while the powerful ‘Pillars Of Sand’, the mid-paced ‘As December Fades’ and the Evergrey like ‘Walls Of Silence’ are the definitive picks from the latter half of the album.
But despite the strength evident within ‘Distant Is The Sun’, it does have its flaws. Much like Vanishing Point’s last couple of releases, this new album is a little bloated. With the front of the album boasting some really strong tracks, it’s inevitable that some weaker efforts towards the tail end would stand out. At fourteen tracks, the band could have easily dropped a couple of tracks, which would have given the album a little more consistency.
But despite its issues, ‘Distant Is The Sun’ is once again another strong album for Vanishing Point, and one that diehard fans will no doubt find worth the waiting for.
For more information on Vanishing Point, check out - http://www.vanishing-point.com.au/
© Justin Donnelly
Posted by Justin Donnelly at 4:10 PM