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Old 08-15-2011, 11:12 AM   #151 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Monday, August 15 2011

Ah, a new week, and seven new tracks whose identity I don't even know at this point to get through! Yes, it's time once again for “Random Track of the Day”, and today has interestingly brought up a band I recently featured in the journal, though it's not from that album. This is the symphonic rock/metal band Fairyland, who come from France. I reviewed their “Of wars in Osyrhia” previously, but this is from the “new” version of Fairyland, formed by founder member Philippe Giordana, after he had disbanded the original group. It's just basically him from the old band, with a lot of session and guest musicians helping him out. The album was released in 2009, and is called “Score to a new beginning”.

Master of the waves --- Fairyland --- from “Score to a new beginning" on Napalm



There's certainly a feeling of a film score about the opening minute or so of the track: epic, powerful, dramatic with that choir again (well, maybe not the original one: see my review of “Of wars in Osyrhia”), then the song gets going with multi-guitars (seems Giordana mostly booked the services of guitarists for this album) and of course later on we hear Philippe himself bashing out one of those magical keyboard solos.

Bombastic, that's the only way to describe it. Having only heard one Fairyland album to date, I must say the sound on this is incredible and I can't wait to hear the whole album. This guy could have a career scoring fantasy movies if Fairyland doesn't work out for him. Epic, sweeping, majestic and stunning.
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Old 08-16-2011, 01:24 PM   #152 (permalink)
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Crimson skies --- Cloudscape --- 2006 (Metal Heaven)


Scandinavia seems to be the place, other than the US and UK, most closely linked with emerging metal acts these days. Maybe it's because it's so cold up there, they have to learn to play guitar and keyboard and drums as fast as they can to keep warm! Seriously though, there have been some premier bands coming out of the “cold countries” in the last five or so years, the likes of In Flames, Evergrey, Amon Amarth and of course Opeth --- perhaps the most successful of them all --- not to mention Children of Bodom, Therion, Tiamat, Katatonia, Hammerfall... the list goes on. Now it seems we can add another to that pantheon, in the shape of the interestingly-named Cloudscape.

More melodic than most of the abovementioned, Cloudscape hail from Sweden, and released their debut self-titled album in 2004, to mostly rave reviews. It was pretty clear then that there was a new player emerging from the Land of the Midnight Sun. This is their second album, and it continues in the same powerful and melodic vein that the debut began. It's heavy metal, there's no doubt about that from the opening powerchords of “Shapeshifter”, and the twin guitars of Patrik Svard and Daniel Palson make sure the “heavy” is retained in heavy metal, while singer Mike Andersson roars out the lyrics with a clear, understandable voice, a welcome change from the “death vocals” practiced by so many of the bands listed above, and with which I will have no truck.

There is a keyboard player, but information on the album is hard to come by, even at the band's own website --- imagine having no “discography” tab? What [i[are[/i] they thinking of? As a result of this dearth of detail, I can't tell you who is playing the keyboards, but he (presumably it's a guy) is doing a great job. “Shadowlands” is another hard rocker, with a great melody and the barest tinges of AOR just bouncing off its edges. Great guitar solo here, but from which guitarist? I wish they'd be a bit more helpful when there are two guys on the axe: how are you supposed to know who to credit? Either way, whether it's Svard or Palson, it's a great solo.

Things slow slightly for “And then the rain”, but it's by no means a ballad, more one of those slow metal songs I like to call “crunchers”, whereas “Take the blame” comes in on spacey swirling synth, but it's not long before the guitars savage everything again and the drums pound like the Apocalypse as the song moves into high gear. “Psychic imbalance” has a kind of Iron Maiden feel about it, particularly their longer songs, like “To tame a land” or “Alexander the Great” --- long, multi-layered, thematic, almost progressive in its approach.

One thing this album is full of is power and energy. There's a freshness and an honesty about Cloudscape that is refreshing and quite infectious. Songs like “Hope”, with its atmospheric guitar passage recalling the early days of Steve Rothery with Marillion, or the almost “Phantom of the Opera” keyboard introduction to “Breath in my sanity”, or indeed the pure guitar attack of “1000 souls”, Cloudscape keep you constantly guessing as to what direction they're going to jump. They can be hard guitar rock, semi-mellow keyboard/synth or power melodic as the mood takes them. Though there are no ballads on this album, I'd be willing to bet they can pen a fierce one, and look forward to their first effort.

“Someone else” is a great power rocker, with nice keyboard touches and shredding guitar, while the closer, “Will we remain”, gets going on proggy keyboard and gentle percussion before the guitars slam in and the album ends as it began, hard and heavy.

My one quibble with this album is that a lot of it sounds the same. I found it a little difficult to distinguish one track from the other. Also, whenever things seem to be going into a slower mode, usually with keyboard or piano intro, it's only a few seconds before the hammering guitars drga everything back up to speed territory. I would have preferred something at least a little slower-paced, if not actually a ballad then a nice piano or synth led song, rather than just a few seconds.

That aside, I would certainly recommend this album to any metalheads. Those looking for more thoughtful, progressive or melodic metal, might be advised to look elsewhere. Of course, this is my first listen to “Crimson skies”, so it's very possible that it could grow on me after repeated listens. The question is, do I want to listen to it repeatedly? Or even once more?

The jury are having lunch...

TRACKLISTING

1. Shapeshifter
2. Shadowland
3. And then the rain
4. Take the blame
5. The last breath
6. Psychic imbalance
7. Hope
8. Breach in my sanity
9. Demon tears
10. 1000 souls
11. Someone else
12. Will we remain
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Old 08-16-2011, 01:28 PM   #153 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Tuesday, August 16 2011

Now in fairness this isn't the track my random system came up with, but as that actually happened to be an interview with Porcupine Tree, I didn't feel that fit in with the spirit of RTotD, so I went on to the next track, which turned out to be this. Interesting, as I have just yesterday reviewed my third album in the occasional series “The Very Best of Irish”, that being Mary Black's superlative “No frontiers”. Here we are then with another Irish act, through no intention of my own, but it's worth listening to.

It's Aslan, whose album “Feel no shame” kicked off the VBoI series as it happens, though this is from their second album, “Goodbye Charlie Moonhead”, released in 1994, six years after their debut.

Sweet time --- Aslan --- from “Goodbye Charlie Moonhead” on BMG



It's a nice mid-paced rocker, not the best track by any means from that album, but a decent song with nice jangly guitar and Christy Dignam in fine voice. If you like this, check the review of “Feel no shame” a bit further back.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:00 PM   #154 (permalink)
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Ever heard a song and thought I have GOT to get that album, then been really sorry you did, as it turned out the rest of it was terrible? I've bought a few albums in my time which, based on the single or track I heard, sounded like they would be great, but were a huge disappointment.

I'm introducing this new section as a way of demonstrating that odd trait bands can have, where they pen an absolutely great song, but fail to live up to the promise of same on their album. It's really odd how a band or artiste can get it so right with one, two or three tracks, and just mess the rest up. I hope also that this section will serve as a warning to anyone thinking of buying the albums featured here, and a cautionary tale that just because one track is great, it doesn't necessarily follow that the rest of the material will be up to scratch.

These will not be reviews. These albums in general are so bad that I would not want to review them. What I will be doing is posting the one (or two or three) good track(s), and alongside them showing other tracks off that album, demonstrating the disparity between the material. This is not meant as a slight on anyone, nor a smart comment or a cheap shot. I was genuinely looking forward to the album featured below, and the same will be true of the others covered in this occasional series, and I do find it hard to rationalise how the work can vary so widely on one album. I guess there's a lot to be said for the advice of listening to more than one track before buying the album!

My first case study is an album by American AOR outfit Seventh Key, 2004's “The raging fire”. It kicks off with a truly excellent track, a rocking monster with wonderful hooks, great chorus, fine musicianship, the lot. It just sets you up for more of the same. Unfortunately, there is no more of the same, and the rest of the album is really poor.



I'm actually shocked to find that Billy Greer of Kansas is involved in this band, and the few reviews I've come across seem universally positive, but I was terribly disappointed, and I stick by my opinion of this album. Here's “Sin city”. I'm not saying it's a bad song, but it's certainly not up to the standard of “The sun will rise”.



Nor, indeed, is “Pyramid princess”...


or the title track, but I can't find a YT for that, so try “An ocean away” instead.


This album really got my hopes up with the first track, and then dashed them to the ground. I think Seventh Key only have this one plus their self-titled debut, apart from two live albums, but on the basis of “The raging fire” I don't see our paths intentionally crossing again.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:01 PM   #155 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Wednesday, August 17 2011

Something very weird is happening. After the original eclectic and downright weird choices thrown up by the Random-o-meter during the first week and part of the second, this week has seen tracks come up by artists whose albums I have already reviewed, some from those actual albums. Spooky! Today is another case of this, with a track from Nick Cave's “No more shall we part”, in fact the title track.

And no more shall we part --- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds --- from “No more shall we part” on Mute


Okay, it's not actually the title track, but it's as close as dammit. There's just an “and” missing, you pedants! As I said, I reviewed this album not too long ago, so if you like this and haven't read that review haste ye to the writeup afterwards! A nice slow but essentially melancholic song, carried mostly on piano but with some lovely mournful violin coming in and really changing the mood of the song.

I couldn't find a YT of the studio version, so we'll have to make do with this live recording.
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Old 08-18-2011, 10:18 AM   #156 (permalink)
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NOW That's What I Call Music!
(Volume I)

Just thought I'd try throwing a few selections of videos at yaz, the kind of thing I tend to listen to. Not quite a playlist as such, and no real link or connection, but an example of the music I enjoy. Much of this will be from albums I've already reviewed, or artistes I've already covered at some point, though I will throw in some new stuff. As ever, comment/discussion welcomed.

One of my favourite Rory Gallagher tracks, from “Top Priority”, this is “Follow me”. Great guitar intro!


A great track from the Alan Parsons Project, “Don't answer me” from “Ammonia Avenue”.


Classic Meat Loaf. Say no more.


Great song by ELO from the album “El Dorado”, this is “Laredo tornado”.


Gotta have some Iron Maiden in there! This is “Hallowed be thy name” from the classic “The number of the Beast” album.


Another great metal band, Kamelot, from “The black halo”, one of the best tracks, “Memento mori”.


Love this by Scarlett and Black: “You don't know”.


A great anti-war song by the sadly broken up Big Country, “Where the rose is sown”.


The very first Marillion song I heard, and bought: “Market square heroes.”


And to finish, a truly great song by Led Zep, from the “IV” album, “When the levee breaks.”
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Old 08-18-2011, 10:30 AM   #157 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Thursday, August 18 2011

Yeah, done it again! The die has rolled on an album I already reviewed, and even more weirdly, it's one of only three by this artist that I have. Millenium (spelled that way) from the album “Hourglass”. This isn't one of the better tracks on the album, but it's not too bad. Little formulaic, I find. But hey, that's how the bones fall...

Superstar --- Millenium --- from “Hourglass” on Frontiers



What, I wonder, are the possibilities of the entire week being characterised by albums I have already reviewed? Considering the amount of material I have, and what a small percentage of it has been included in my journal, the odds must be pretty low, and yet here we are again with another track from an album I've done previously. Wonder what Paddy Power would give me on this bet?
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Old 08-18-2011, 07:34 PM   #158 (permalink)
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I always check your journal out as it is always written with huge enthusiasm and a love of music no matter what the genre.

I cannot stand Barry Manilow and Lighthouse Family were one of the most insipid, bland and forgettable bands I have ever heard but I hold my hand out to you for writing about the music that you like. If people like what you listen to then that is personal justification but if they don't then its bollocks to us all and you will just keep listening away and quite rightfully so.

Keep it going... you do have at least one avid reader!

As for Y & T I think that their album Ten from '91 (I think) was a great slice of radio friendly rock. Especially this beauty:

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Old 08-19-2011, 03:28 AM   #159 (permalink)
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Ah Jack, I can always rely on you!
I don't expect everyone to like everything I write about: in fact, I'd welcome some heated debate on the demerits of some band or album I've praised, or vice versa (kind of anticipating a Seventh Key backlash...!), but as I mentioned in a few posts already, the view count proves that at least my journal is drawing regular attention, good or bad. If more people commented I'd know which, but I have to expect that it's generally positive, otherwise why would people keep coming back to read?

So yeah, I'll keep on writing and of course there are bands/artistes people will not like --- Manilow was one of the Random Tracks of the Day, and I literally have no control over what's chosen (though of course if it's not in my collection it by definition can't come up!), but I thought it was quite hilarious to have him alongside the likes of Cloudscape, Bonfire and yeah, Y&T! Just shows that you never know what's going to hit you when you click on "newest post" here!

Wait till you see my feature on Big Bands of the Forties! Heh, just kidding!

Thanks again for the comments: nice to know someone is interested enough to post.

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Old 08-19-2011, 04:16 PM   #160 (permalink)
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Underworld --- Adagio --- 2003 (Nothing To Say)


Ever heard a full concert orchestra stuffed into a heavy metal shell? Listen to this and you will! Adagio pride themselves on not only being heavy and progressive, but on playing intricate, complex orchestral music, the ultimate fusion of classical and metal, which I would like to call Orchestral Metal, except I can't, as that assumes there are no vocals, which is not true. So, what else to call their style? Classical Metal doesn't really cut it either, and Metal Concertos is misleading again. I like Dramatic Metal, but I think we'll probably have to stick with the standard Progressive Metal, though Adagio are far from your standard prog metal band.

A French group, Adagio are the brainchild of guitarist Stephan Forte, though its really the work of Kevin Codfert on the piano that characterise the sound of Adagio and gives the band their edge. The album opens with a great keyboard solo followed by a truly wonderful piano solo, introducing “Next Profundis”, and coming as close to a classical concerto as I have so far heard, outside of the world of classical music. The vocals of David Readman are clear and powerful, though I am informed that on their next two albums they dispensed with his services and resorted more to “death vocals”, which is disappointing (though I haven't yet heard their other albums at this point).

The piano really drives this track, though the guitars certainly do their part, with a really nifty solo on this track, and the power of the drumming by Dirk Bruinenberg should not be understated either. They obviously enjoy a penchant for using latin names for their songs, but my latin is not up to scratch, so I have no clue what either of the first two tracks mean. I know “profundis” is generally to do with depth, so perhaps the opener is “the next level” or something, but the second track, “Solvet saeclum in favilla” --- not a clue. It's full of choral vocals though, and has a very dramatic and epic feel to it, and indeed at just over eight minutes it is epic enough. The vocals on this are gruffer, more rough and raspy, and you can see the beginnings of the direction Adagio would later go in manifest in the singing on this track.

Not as reliant on the piano this time, this track is built more around Forte's guitar work, with some solid keyboard wizardry from Codfert. It's got an overall faster tempo than the opener, and is a little heavier too. Some really nice acoustic and electric guitar as it winds towards its end, then a great keyboard solo. “Chosen” is almost as long, with a church organ intro. Adagio really weave incredible, dramatic soundscapes with their music, and the technical proficiency of this band is something to behold. It really is a pity if they went down the “death vocals” route, as that rules out their releases post this for me. Of course, you may not feel the same way, but I just can't enjoy any music that employs that mode of singing.

The title track is a thirteen-minute monster, with a four-minute overture, I guess you'd call it, that sounds like it should be in one of the “Lord of the Rings” movies --- all heavy organ, keyboards and choral voices. The piece is a progressive/classical meisterwerke. full of chugging guitars, rolling drums and keyboard runs, with Readman singing at the top of his game. It ends powerfully too, and then we're into the only ballad on the album.

“Promises” shows what a metal band can really do when they put their minds to it. Carried on acoustic guitar and breathy keyboard, it's a powerful vehicle for Readman's vocal talents. A very effective string section is recreated on Cadfert's synthesiser, and it really adds atmosphere to the song. A really nice piano run brings the song to a close, then it's on to the penultimate track, “The mirror stage”. Another powerful rocker that takes the tempo right back up again, with very prog-rock keyboards from Cadfert, and the last performance from Readman, as the closer is an instrumental.

An eight-minute instrumental? No problem to these guys! “Niflheim” closes the album in fine style --- at least I know what this means. Niflheim is one of the nine worlds in Norse mythology, the world of mists. The track itself is, as might be expected by now, epic, dramatic and full of swirling keyboards, screeching guitars and pounding drums, with the sort of rhythm that puts you in mind of an army marching to war. The track changes time signature, speeds up and slows down --- and this all in the first two minutes!

It's a virtuouso performance to mark the end of a quite remarkable album. I really doubt you'll have heard anything like Adagio before: I certainly haven't. Take a listen to this album and prepare to be amazed. Seriously.

TRACKLISTING

1. Next profundis
2. Introitus/Solvet saeclum in favilla
3. Chosen
4. From my sleep to someone else
5. Underworld
6. Promises
7. The mirror stage
8. Niflheim
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