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Old 11-24-2011, 10:46 AM   #521 (permalink)
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Personally, the worm links the name Eric Carmen with that old seventies smoothy “All by myself”, but he had another hit more recently, from the soundtrack to the movie “Dirty dancing”, here he is with “Hungry eyes”.
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Old 11-24-2011, 12:59 PM   #522 (permalink)
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FIFTH SPIN

So, let's see where the Wheel of Mystery (well, the “play random” key on my media player!) ends up sending us this time! Looks like it's settled on a band from Switzerland --- first time for that, I think --- known as Lunatica, who are described as a “symphonic metal band”. Can't be bad. Let's get a little background, then, shall we?

Formed in 1998, the band has released, up to now, four albums, with a fifth in the works since 2010. A quick look at their website, however, for up-to-date information, merely informs the reader “We are working on our new album and website”. Hmm. No date. So could be that abovementioned --- and as yet untitled --- fifth album, or could be that the information is old and Lunatica have split. Who knows? When your own website gives out that little information, bad news I fear. But all may not be lost.

Fables and dreams --- Lunatica --- 2004 (Frontiers)


Lunatica are, it would seem, another of those female-fronted bands like Nightwish, Leaves' Eyes, Within Temptation et al. This is their second album, and it opens like a movie soundtrack, with low synth, wind noises and the sound of what I take to be an eagle screeching. Dramatic, powerful music flows over the listener, then a voice announces ”Two years ago, Atlantis was found/ But this is history/ And my search continues/ The search for a book/ A book called Fables and Dreams.” It appears from the opener, “The search goes on” that this album is a concept one, based around the search for the eponymous book, and that a tale is going to unfold as the album progresses. I don't know who does the narration, as the only credit given for vocals is for Andrea Datwyler (there are some umlauts in there, but my character set doesn't support them), and the narrator's voice is definitely male.

At any rate, “The search goes on” is carried mostly on the atmospheric and ethereal keyboard work of Alex Seiberl, and is pretty much an overture to the album proper. First real track, “Avalon”, is much punchier, guitar-driven by Sando D'Incau, with Seiberl swapping his synth for a nice piano, and we first hear Andrea's vocals. Very powerful and clear they are too, not as operatic as Sabine Edelsbacher or Tarja, but strong and distinctive. The music is very much what you'd expect of a symphonic metal band: big, brash, dramatic, bombastic, with lots of keyboard runs and guitar solos. “Elements” slows things down just a little for its opening, then speeds up again as the keyboards lead the song in what becomes a powerful slice of symphonic rock, nice sharp guitars backing up the keyboard lines and again some effective piano slotted in there too.


The title track is the first (and only) ballad, nicely laidback with a duetting vocal, but don't ask me with whom Andrea sings: information on this album is sketchy, to say the least! Whoever he is, he's good, his raw, somewhat gutteral style perfectly complementing the clear, angelic voice of the lead singer. Nice ballad with some very nice keyboards and choral vocals. “Still believe” is an epic, strings and keys driven monster, the second longest on the album (“Elements” pipped it by about forty seconds), mid-paced with urgent guitar and frothy keyboards, more of those nice choral vocals. “The spell” is a much faster, uptempo rocker, with male backing vocals added in the style of Evanescence and some nice guitar work from D'Incau, and the tempo doesn't slacken for “The neverending story”, and though it seems like “Hymn” is bringing things down a gear, it's actually not the case as it explodes into another fast rocker with some really good backing vocals. A cover of an old Ultravox, apparently, but I don't recognise it personally.

Things keep moving with “Silent scream”, and a problem I'm coming up against fairly regularly now with these bands I've not heard before is that a lot of their material sounds very similar. It's certainly the case here: the last three tracks have sort of gone by in something of a blur, one could be the other and so on. That's not to say they're not good, but I don't see anything about any of them standing out enough to make me either remember them, or want to seek them out to play them again. In short, if I were making a playlist of symphonic metal, I'd be hard-pressed to know/remember which tracks to choose from this album, if at all. Perhaps that will change with the final track...

Well, it starts off like some dance track. That's interesting. Loud, brash keys, galloping guitar, choral vocals. This is “ A little moment of desperation”, but despite the promisingly different opening, it seems to slip into what appears to be the natural groove for this band, and becomes another somewhat faceless and generic track, indistinguishable from the rest. Pity, thought there was going to be something original here to close.

After all that, I'm left with the feeling that this album could easily have fit into the “Meh...” slot, which is never a good thing. You never know what you're going to get when you Spin The Wheel, of course, but I had hoped for so much more from this band. From something that began well, it quickly slipped into mundanity and even the concept --- if there truly is one --- is lost on me; it's certainly not expressed through the songs, though as ever with a concept album (if indeed this is such) it helps to have the liner notes to follow the story, as we found when I reviewed Fairyland's “Of wars in Osyrhia”. In the end, not bad at all, nothing against them, but kind of like I said at the beginning, there are so many other bands doing this so much better than Lunatica, I have to wonder if they'll ever get that untitled fifth album finished?

TRACKLISTING

1. The search goes on
2. Avalon
3. Elements
4. Fable of dreams
5. Still believe
6. The spell
7. The neverending story
8. Hymn
9. Silent scream
10. A little moment of desperation
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Old 11-25-2011, 04:54 AM   #523 (permalink)
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Friday, November 25 2011
Raincloud --- Tony Banks --- from "Bankstatement" on Virgin


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Old 11-25-2011, 04:57 AM   #524 (permalink)
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Footie fans will recognise this as the once-theme to Goal of the Month on BBC's “Match of the Day”. This is the Lightning Seeds, with “The life of Riley”.
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Old 11-25-2011, 05:20 AM   #525 (permalink)
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As exclusively revealed by Stacey-Lynn's NewsFoxes last week, this is a new section starting up today, wherein I try to review an album in two hundred words exactly. Why? Well, firstly to try to rein in my often over-loquacious writing (that's running off at the mouth, to you!) and to see if it's possible to get across the important points about the album in a short review. Secondly, to allow me to write more reviews: my usual ones take time, obviously, and these new ones allow me to quickly skim through an album --- or listen to it all the way through --- while just picking out the relevant points, instead of having to analyse each track, the history of the artiste, what the producer had for breakfast (just kidding there: the sound engineer, maybe...) and so on. In short, it's an effort to cut the waffle and present you with a filleted version of one of my reviews.

As Kate mentioned in the NewsFoxes report, this doesn't mean that any album I review in this way is any worse than one I do a full review on, or that I consider it less worthy, or anything. Often, these will be albums I know well and can write succinctly about. Sometimes they will of course be new albums I haven't heard before, but the decision will be mine as to in what format they get reviewed.

The two hundred words does not include the title, banner, tracklisting or any notes I may make before the review, such as to give a quick idea of who the artiste is, or any special information I have about them. Oh, and as the review is barely a few paragraphs, I'll only be featuring one YouTube from the album. It's a challenge, to write to such an exacting formula, but I like a challenge. So let's have the first one off the blocks then, shall we?

Soul provider --- Michael Bolton --- 1989 (Columbia)


Smooth. Sexy. Sterile. Three words that could be used to describe this, Michael Bolton's famous (or infamous, if you prefer) breakout album. Although it seemed to everyone as if he appeared overnight, this is in fact Bolton's sixth album, but it was the one that made him a household name, yielding a slew of hit singles and making his style of smooth jazz/soul rock fashionable.

There are some good covers, in particular Hoagy Carmichael's classic "Georgia on my mind", Laura Branigan's "How am I supposed to live without you" (which was in fact co-written by him) and Cher's "You wouldn't know love", but there are rockier tracks (sort of) too: "It's only my heart", "How can we be lovers" and "Love cuts deep" all rock along nicely, for Bolton that is. In general, the album is a smooch-fest, crammed with ballads and slow songs, though it's true that here he really does excel.

Although this album marked a move away from Bolton's more hard-edged, rocky approach, commercially it would see him rocket to the top, and indeed earn for himself the title of lounge rock lizard, and the undying scorn of rock fans who had hoped for so much more.

TRACKLISTING

1. Soul provider
2. Georgia on my mind
3. How am I supposed to live without you
4. How can we be lovers
5. It's only my heart
6. You wouldn't know love
7. When I'm back on my feet again
8. From now on
9. Love cuts deep
10. Stand up for love
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Old 11-25-2011, 10:43 AM   #526 (permalink)
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Been a while since we moseyed on down to the (yeah, I know: even I'm getting sick of the tired old western references --- doesn't mean I'll stop though! Yeehaw!) place where unappreciated albums get one final shot at convincing me they're actually better than I at first believed, before they're consigned to the scrap heap. This is the final stop before the border, where the passport is checked one more time before deportation, the last desperate appeal before sentencing is passed, the


Billy Joel is not one of my favourite artistes. I mean, I have some of his albums, and his greatest hits of course, and the man has written some exemplary material, but I wouldn't go for his whole discography. The last album of his I bought was “Storm front”, way back in 1989, and I was seriously unimpressed with it. I've never bought another of his albums since. There are many artistes who come to what I call their “Lady in Red” moment, that is, they release a song which just makes me hate them, and look at their former work in a less than favourable light. No prizes for guessing where that phrase came from!

Well, in fairness, the “LiR” moment doesn't really affect previous output: I'm not that shallow that I can enjoy an artiste's music until they record something I don't like, and then say I hate everything they do, or have done. No, not quite that shallow. Not really. But the “LiR” does affect, usually, my desire (or lack thereof) to purchase, download or even listen to any of their music post-”Lady in Red” moment. For me, Billy Joel hit that point with “Uptown girl” which, although it was one of his most successful singles, I truly hated, and since then I've viewed his output with first a suspicious and then a disinterested eye.

In general, at least pertaining to Joel, this attitude has, for me, for the most part, been vindicated, as post-”Uptown girl” I see very little in his music that I've liked. Certainly, there have been moments: “The bridge” is a good (but not great) album, and “Baby grand” is a wonderful song, and “We didn't start the fire” is clever and catchy, but I see most of Joel's best output in the late seventies to early eighties bracket, and what I've heard --- I stress what I've heard, as I can't really offer an informed or decisive opinion, not having listened to his recent albums --- just has not measured up to that.

All of which prefaces nothing really, because the album I'm going to feature here comes well pre-”Lady in Red” moment, from 1978, and I initially bought it (on audio cassette!) purely because of two songs from it I had really enjoyed, but on listening to the album through, I was quite disappointed. Now, I point out that I only really ever listened to the album once, maybe twice, so here is its opportunity to make its case and see if I was really giving it a fair chance or if, after all, it is nothing more than what I took it to be at the time, filler for the few tracks I enjoyed.

52nd Street --- Billy Joel --- 1978 (Columbia)


I know it's gone down in history as a great album. I know it had three hit singles (two of which are the tracks on the basis of which I bought the album) and I know it's been hailed as one of Billy Joel's best. But I certainly didn't like it. It was, I told myself, no “The Stranger”, though measuring up to that classic was always going to be a hard, even impossible task. But I wasn't expecting “The Stranger II”, just a good album with more tracks on it like “My life” and “Honesty”, the latter of which I had really fallen in love with. I was as I say at the time disappointed. Is it still the case?

It starts with “Big shot”, a boppy, uptempo number that really isn't too bad. Great piano goes without saying when you're dealing with Joel, but there's some pretty funky guitar too from Steve Khan (Star Trek fans will understand if I roar KHHHAAAAAAAAANNN! Others will just think I'm crazy, and who knows? Could be true...) and nice measured percussion. A good enough start, nice horns too from various brass players employed for the album, but it's the next track that takes the album into could-be-classic territory, the beautiful “Honesty”, played against initially a solo piano melody, Joel's voice low and earnest, Diogenes in the dark looking for that one honest man. Or, in this case, one assumes, woman. It's a lovely, gentle ballad which breaks out for a short time with a heavier midsection as Joel snaps ”I can find a lover/ I can find a friend/ I can have security/ Until the bitter end/ Anyone can comfort me/ With promises again.”

Everyone knows the big hit, “My life”, with its jumping, joyful piano melody juxtaposed against the lyric which yearns for freedom from rules and having to please people. It's “Zanzibar”, up next, which sort of let the wind out of my sails, with a more jazzy sort of beat, but listening to it now, you know, it's not that bad. Kind of reminds me of the faster sections in “Scenes from an Italian restaurant” on the previous album. Joel's voice is as ever perfect, loud and strident when needed, soft and gentle when not. “Zanzibar” also features some instrumentation not used before on Billy Joel's albums, to my knowledge: vibes, marimba and flugelhorn.

“Stiletto” is another jazzy type song, sort of mid-paced, kind of reminds me of a slower “Only the good die young” in melody, with marching drums and nice organ, some very clever bass lines and great sax breaks. Nice handclaps and stride piano halfway through, but not one of my favourites, then we're into “Rosalinda's eyes” (not literally!) with an interesting organ and marimba intro which takes us into a mid-paced half-ballad, with very Spanish overtones (it's about a Cuban lady, but you get the idea) and some piano licks borrowed from “Just the way you are”. Again, it's okay, but nothing special, I feel. Probably doesn't help that I'm no fan of Latin American music --- I only listen to Gloria Estefan for the ballads (and to watch that fine aaa-aahhh never mind...)

“Half a mile away” is very much built on a horn section, and funky and jazzy in a way I'm really not all that fond of, lot of soul in there but not my kind of song, sorry. I lied above in the intro when I said I bought this album for two tracks: it was three, and the penultimate song is one of those, in fact one of the two most important to me. “Until the night” is a slowburner ballad which opens on piano and guitar rather slowly, and builds to something of a climax to the horns-heavy ending, a triumphant string section carrying the song to its powerful close, and indeed this is the song that should have, in my opinion, closed the entire album.

As it is, we're left to hum the title track, oddly the shortest track on the album (the previous having been the longest), sort of blues and jazz melding with soul and rock, but it lacks a certain something. Nice sax, good piano as ever, but a little flat I feel. After the glorious “Until the night” this feels limp, flaccid and anticlimactic (sorry for all the inadvertent sexual imagery there!), and a huge disappointment.

No, I'm still not convinced. There are good tracks, but they're the ones I already knew, and on second listen “Zanzibar” is okay, but the rest I feel are just filler, and not very good filler. Maybe it's the jazz leanings Joel used on this album, as opposed to the, in my opinion, far superior “The Stranger”, or even its successor, “Glass houses”, that alienated me, but I'm still largely bored with this album. Pass.

TRACKLISTING

1. Big shot
2. Honesty
3. My life
4. Zanzibar
5. Stiletto
6. Rosalinda's eyes
7. Half a mile away
8. Until the night
9. 52nd Street
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Old 11-25-2011, 06:20 PM   #527 (permalink)
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I know I said, when I featured Bon Jovi's two versions of “It's my life” at the beginning of the month, that that sort of thing was quite rare, ie an artist essentially covering their own song, and it is. But I've found something even more weird, and it's from my favourite ever band, Marillion.

The song “Berlin” appears on Marillion's first album after Fish left for a solo career, and it's a great song, heavy with Cold War rhetoric, obviously written well before the Wall came down. The strange thing about it is that it actually surfaces, in another form, on a previous album. In fact, it's the last they made with Fish, the downbeat “Clutching at straws”, and it's not part of the actual album released, but an extra track added to the CD remaster that was released ten years after “Seasons end”. But the music and lyric had been written during the sessions for “Clutching at straws”, lyric by Fish, so you could say that the song had been around really since 1987.

When Fish departed, the band were left with a lot of material he had written or collaborated on, and the original version of “Berlin”, which had a totally different lyric but virtually the same melody, and was then called “Story from a thin wall”. This was then the song included on the remaster of “Clutching at straws” in 1999.

Meanwhile, the lyric that powers “Story from a thin wall” seems to have been taken by Fish for one of his own first solo songs, on his debut solo album “Vigil in a wilderness of mirrors”. The song “Family business” has the same lyric as “Story from a thin wall”, but new music.

This is, therefore, the only time that I can see when a band not only covered their own song, but a former member of that band also covered it, and each of the three versions, though similar, are radically different. Admittedly, it's only the lyric that links the two Marillion songs with the Fish one, but even so, it's interesting. And to hear the same song sung with completely different lyrics is also very intriguing.

Anyway, below I've included all three versions: first, the original, “Story from a thin wall”, with Fish on vocals, unused until 1999, then “Berlin”, with new singer (at the time) Steve Hogarth, from the “Seasons end” album, released 1989, and finally Fish's solo “Family business”, used on his “Vigil in a wilderness of mirrors” album, which hit the shelves in 1990.
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Old 11-25-2011, 07:05 PM   #528 (permalink)
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Saturday, November 26 2011
The space... --- Marillion --- from "Seasons end" on EMI


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Old 11-25-2011, 07:16 PM   #529 (permalink)
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Hey, the worm admits it: he just selected this tune for the video. Hey, worms get horny too, ya know!
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Old 11-25-2011, 07:24 PM   #530 (permalink)
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Moderator cut: image removed
When searching through my vast (vast!) collection for something new to review, something I've not heard before, something, in short, to make the next “Unwritten” slot, I came across this and thought, hey why not? I've already featured two tracks from Cain's Dinasty in Random Track of the Day, and liked what I heard. Besides, any album whose closing track is titled “**** you forever” has to be worth a listen! So, step forward, guys...

Madmen, witches and vampires --- Cain's Dinasty --- 2010 (RedRivet)
Moderator cut: image removed
Almost making it a candidate for “Meanwhile, back in the real world”, Cain's Dinasty's second album was released December 30 2010, still making it very current. The band hail from Spain, a country previously known among the heavy metal fraternity mostly for Baron Rojo, but these guys sing in English, which is a help, no matter what way you look at it. They do offend the spelling Nazi in me though: why they couldn't have called themselves Cain's Dynasty (or Destiny, if that's what it's meant to be) I don't know, but it's a minor quibble so let's not blow it out of proportion. Makes 'em hard to search on the internet, though!

Cain's Dinasty seem to have gone through something of a lineup change recently, but as far as I can gather, at least three of the five were born in Alicante, so perhaps this is a case of childhood/school friends getting together to form a band? Though they seem a little old for that, but who knows? Maybe they've been together under different band names. Either way, it seems these guys have always been a quintet, and are based around the tried-and-trusted format of singer/guitar/guitar/drums and bass. And away we go!

It's power/speed metal right from the off, mad steamhammer drums with finger-frying guitar on opener “Breaking the bloodlines”. It's quite long for a speed or even power metal track, just over seven minutes, and the longest track on the album at that. Vocalist Ruben Picazo alternates between a powerful, throaty roar to deep growls (or maybe someone else is taking that part of the vocal?) but seems very competent: you can certainly make out what he's singing. The band seem to have something of an obsession with vampires and other creatures of the night --- you'd never know it from the title of the album! --- and a lot of the tracks seem to reflect that in the lyrics as well as the title. Here, we have ”Crying for the wasted blood/ The weak man kills the strong one/ Breaking the blood lines /Devil May Cry.” Great guitar solo from Pablo Rizo, who is obviously strongly influenced by Kirk Hammet and Dave Mustaine, but who is also an accomplished classical guitarist.

“After death still you play with me” --- a dodgy title if ever there was one! However, the song seems to be based on the fact that even in death there is no release, though a common problem with bands for whom English is not their native or first language surfaces here, in some pretty incomprehensible lines: ”Open my mind, open her grave/ She excused my life, But broke all my hopes” but in fairness the rest of the lyric is quite well written. However this is power metal, and we're less concerned with the lyrics than we are with the music, and there's little doubt that's pretty damn good. Nothing extraordinary, but definitely up there with the better bands of this ilk.

I'm getting the vague feeling that this may be a concept album, as the next track, “Waiting for death”, has some sort of introductory narration or soliloquy in a language I don't recognise, and I don't think it's Spanish. There's the name of a character (Lord Strigoi), and there's a definite idea of some sort of story going on here, but I can only guess from the lyric how that fits together across the album. At any rate, the song is another fast power rocker, but there are definitely some keyboards in there, as they were in the background to the introduction to this track, though no player is credited. Apparently the main figure, the hero I guess, is on a quest for his soul, which seems to have led him to Hell. Interesting, if a little confusing.

Quite dramatic, the music here, with some excellent guitar solos, something of a cut above the norm, here at least. “Devil may cry” seems to be about the Fallen One (hard to follow the story, if there is one) and is a fast, powerful rocker-on-rails-of-thunder, that everpresent galloping, pounding drumbeat driving the rhythm like some infernal engine, courtesy of David Sabater. More great guitar solos, and the double vocal lending that sort of “background death grunt” prevalent in a lot of this music. One criticism I would level at Picazo though is that it's hard to make out the lyrics he's singing, though he's quite clear when there's a break in the instrumentation, as in this song, so perhaps it's the overexuberance of the players, drowning him out?

“Clarimonda” is a slower cruncher, with definite elements of Metallica, the tragic tale of a man who sees his lover turned to the Darkness, and has to kill her for good. ”After bearing the pain of burying her beauty/ I saw her back to life turned into a vampire/ And blinded by ambition of breaking her damnation/I returned to the graveyard to finish with her/ I Scattered blessed water on her body/And all her beauty turned into ashes.” There are a lot of choral vocals (whether on synth or an actual choir I don't know, though I'd suspect the former) and the melody has tinges of Thin Lizzy in the guitar parts. The song speeds up near the end, as the awful deed has to be performed, I would assume. Hmm, nice bit of Maidenesque guitar in there too!

Vampires figure again in the next track, “My last sunrise”, but this time the singer is the creature of darkness, and is about to give his life, or unlife, as he faces the sun, which is obviously true death for any vampire. It opens with sorrowful, dramatic synth, then powers right up into another fast headshaker, as Picazo sings ”Rising from the East bringing life/ To a new day (the last for me)/ Feeling the heat of light /With tears in my eyes.” Given the subject matter, I think this would have worked better as a slower song, maybe some lonely piano, a crying violin... maybe Cain's Dinasty don't do that sort of thing, I don't know, but in a way it's a pity that at its heart “My last sunrise” is just another fast power-metal-rocker, when it could have been so much more. It is, at any rate, the first of the tracks on the albums that fades!

We've had the madmen (“Waiting for death”, “Breaking the bloodlines”) and the vampires (both the last tracks), now we have the witch, as “Miss Terror” gets going, and it's pretty clear that all the imagery used in Cain's Dinasty's lyrics is dark, centred around death and doom, blood and horror. No love songs then, and no “We're the toughest/fastest/loudest/delete as appropriate” songs. I guess this is what they call Black Metal then? It's a faster track than previous, if that's possible, and really rockets along, but there's nothing there to really mark it out as all that different from the rest of the songs on the album. Soon forgotten, unfortunately.

“Bring me your blood” is more of the same: fast, powerful, anthemic. I'd say this goes down well onstage. Vocals a good bit clearer here, you can make out what's going on. Well, you can hear the lyric: it's kind of hard to figure out what these guys are on, assuming they write their own stuff! All very dark and gothic. This, at any rate, is where Pablo Rizo briefly shows off his considerable skill on the classical guitar, and this carries through into penultimate track “A void in my heart”, with more effective keys, and the first slow track, indeed the first, and I would venture only, ballad. It's handled very well, with tasteful guitar, nice emotive keys and a very restrained vocal from Picazo. Nice to hear him rein it in for once. See, you can do it if you try!

No such restraint, as you would expect, for the closer, the gloriously named “**** you forever”. It's another heads-down, blood-boiling, teeth-chattering speedfest, but then, that's only really appropriate with this band as I've come to know them through this album, and in a weird way it would have been wrong to have finished on something like the previous track. There's no pretensions here, just out-and-out metal, with every sinew straining as the band charge headlong towards the finish line.

I have a sort of sneaking admiration for Cain's Dinasty, perhaps born of their very deep and intricate, if sometimes obscure lyrics, or maybe because they're Spaniards who do very well singing in English and seem to be building up quite a following. Or maybe it's just because they're honest. Here we are, they say, we're Cain's Dinasty. We play metal. It's loud. It's fast. It's hard. And if you don't like it then **** you! They don't try to be what they're not, they don't aspire to some level they can never hope to attain, and most of all, they're dedicated to their music. It's not really my kind of metal: I prefer to be able to make out the lyrics and speed is not really my thing. But for what they do, these five guys from Alicante do it exceedingly well.

Oh, and that concept? Your guess is as good as mine. Answers on a postcard...

TRACKLISTING

1. Breaking the bloodlines
2. After death still you play with me
3. Waiting for death
4. Devil may cry
5. Clarimonda
6. My last sunrise
7. Miss Terror
8. Bring me your blood
9. A void in my heart
10. **** you forever
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Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
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