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Monday, July 21, 2014

Progressive Metal Review: Distorted Harmony-Chain Reaction

Release Date: July 9, 2014

Label: Independent

I think that Progressive Metal is one of the strongest genres out there in music today, with no shortage of talented bands making amazing music that will still be listened to decades later.  Progressive bands are unafraid to take risks and push boundaries with their music.  Not caring about what mainstream sound is selling at the moment, they create music the way great writers or painters create new worlds.  Distorted Harmony is no exception, adding another pillar to this already sturdy genre.

Based out of Tel Aviv, Israel and founded in 2010, Distorted Harmony consists of Misha Soukhinin (vocals), Guy Landau (guitars), Yoav Efron (keyboards), Iggy Cohen (bass), and Yogev Gabay (drums).  Describing their sound as “a delicate combination of the complex progressive metal, the unique harmonies of modern Jazz and Classical music and some heavy shit,” Distorted Harmony established themselves as a leading progressive metal band in Israel with their 2012 debut album, Utopia.  Their sophomore album, Chain Reaction, seeks to build upon that foundation and launch Distorted Harmony toward global prominence.   

Their self-description is neither boasting nor is it facetious. “Every Time She Smiles” is the perfect introduction to the sound of Distorted Harmony.  The ambient opening gives way to a heavier sound in the beginning instrumental part for a perfect blend of harmonies.  Then Misha Soukhinin’s soothing voice chimes in to take the song to new heights.   “Children of Red” wastes no time by coming out heavy and unrelenting.  Its juicy riffs, funky bass, and catchy chorus make for one unforgettable song that will leave listeners hypnotized.  Songs such as “Hollow” are more traditional.  It is a straight-up hard rocking tune with an excellent guitar solo that stands out prominently.  

They also know how to let the music do all the taking with the instrumental “Nothing (But the rain).”  It is the type of song where the music is constantly rising, moving toward a cathartic conclusion.  Then there is the acoustic “As You Go.”  It is a beautiful sounding song, with thanks to those vocals that are so calm inducing.  Chain Reaction goes out with authority, as its final two songs are bewildering in their brilliance.  With its crunchy chords, crushing drums, and a sense of uncontrollable energy, “Natural Selection” is a progressive metal masterpiece.  “Methylene Blue” starts off slow and controlled, rising toward its eventual release half-way through the song.  The drums and guitar take over with the force of a conquering army.  It is off to the races with a cavalcade of sound before returning to the serenity of the beginning, which leads us out.

Chain Reaction is the sophomore album that every band dreams of recording.  The elegance, intricacy, and complexity of it has me thinking of some of my favorite progressive bands, such as Tool and Pain of Salvation.  This is no mistake, as these guys have proven that they belong with the best that the progressive metal world has to offer and Chain Reaction is the proof. 

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Every Time She Smiles, Children of Red, Natural Selection, Methylene Blue

Tracks:   
Every Time She Smiles
Children of Red
Misguided
Nothing (But the rain)
As One
Hollow
As You GoNatural Selection
Methylene Blue

Brian McKinnon

July 21, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

Cleopatra Records Partners With Carmine Appice's Rocker Records to Release Rare Live and Studio Recordings By Cactus, Bogert & Appice and Travers & Appice!


Los Angeles, CA - Much to the excitement of music fans around the world, Cleopatra Records has joined forces with drum icon Carmine Appice's Rocker Records and will be releasing rare live and studio recordings by US rock legends Cactus, Tim Bogert & Carmine Appice and Pat Travers & Carmine Appice!

“I’m so excited that my label Rocker Records has partnered with Cleopatra Records to put out this collection of RARE and UNIQUE kick ass rock !!!” - Carmine Appice

CACTUS - AN EVENING IN TOKYO (CD)
Available Now!

The band referred to as America’s Led Zeppelin, Cactus, offer this stunning concert performance recorded in late 2012 at the Garden Shimokitazawa club in Tokyo! Features founding member and Vanilla Fudge/Ozzy Osbourne alum Carmine Appice plus Detroit blues legend Jim McCarty (formerly of Mitch Ryder’s backing band The Detroit Wheels), vocalist Jimmy Kunes (formerly of Savoy Brown), bassist Pete Bremy and harp player Randy Pratt!

Tracks:
1. Swim
2. One Way...Or Another
3. Bro. Bill
4. You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover
5. Alaska
6. Electric Blue
7. Muscle And Soul
8. Evil
9. Parchman Farm
10. Rock N’ Roll Children

CACTUS - LIVE IN THE U.S.A. (DBL CD)
Available August 5!

Drum legend Carmine Appice reunites with his fellow rock n’ roll superstars Tim Bogert & Jim McCarty for a very special Cactus reunion show at B.B. King’s in New York - June 2006! Includes powerful performances of Cactus’s live favorites “Parchman Farm,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Evil,” “Bro. Bill” and more! Like a fine double-barreled bourbon, this group has only grown stronger and better over the years!

Tracks:
DISC 1
1. Long Tall Sally
2. Let Me Swim
3. One Way...Or Another
4. Cactus Music
5. Bro. Bill
6. Muscle And Soul
7. Oleo (Bass Solo)

DISC 2
1. Part Of The Game
2. Evil
3. Cactus Boogie
4. Parchman Farm
5. Rock N’ Roll Children

CACTUS - TKO TOKYO - LIVE IN JAPAN (DBL CD/DVD)
Available September 2!

A blockbuster multi-media 2CD+DVD live set recorded in 2012 from the mighty Cactus! Features one single, mind blowing concert performance captured on both audio CD and crystal clear digital video, and includes some of the band’s finest versions of “Bro. Bill,” “Parchman Farm,” “Evil” and more! This show was recorded the night after Evening In Tokyo at the very same venue.

DISC 1
1. Long Tall Sally
2. Let Me Swim
3. One Way...Or Another
4. Bro. Bill
5. You Can’t Judge a Book By The Cover
6. Alaska
7. Muscle And Soul
8. Electric Blue

DISC 2
1. The Groover
2. Evil / Drum Solo
3. Big Mama Boogie
4. Parchman Farm
5. Randy’s Song
6. Rock N’ Roll Children
7. Part Of The Game

DVD
1. Long Tall Sally
2. Let Me Swim
3. One Way...Or Another
4. Bro. Bill
5. You Can’t Judge a Book By The Cover
6. Alaska
7. Muscle And Soul
8. Electric Blue
9. The Groover
10. Evil / Drum Solo
11. Big Mama Boogie
12. Parchman Farm
13. Randy’s Song
14. Rock N’ Roll Children
15. Part Of The Game

BOGERT & APPICE – FRIENDS (CD)
Available August 19!

Longtime partners in crime and one of the tightest rhythm sections in all of rock music, bassist Tim Bogert & drummer Carmine Appice, team up with musical friends and family for this special studio album! Features Vanilla Fudge alumni Bill Pascali, Teddy Rodinelli, and Vince Martell PLUS special guests T.M. Stevens (James Brown / The Pretenders) & Brian Auger (Rod Stewart)!

Tracks:
1. Bye Bye Love
2. Falling
3. Black Box
4. Eternity
5. The Star-Spangled Banner

BONUS TRACKS
6. Falling (with Brian Auger)

TRAVERS & APPICE - LIVE IN EUROPE (CD)
Available September 16!

Together again on this very special live album recorded in 2004, guitarist Pat Travers and drummer Carmine Appice, along with special guest bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm), bring the house down with some of the realest, rawest classic rock you’ve ever heard! Includes Travers’ biggest hits “Snortin’ Whiskey” and “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)” as well as a supercharged version of the mega hit Appice co-authored “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and lots more!

1. Taken
2. Better From A Distance
3. I Don’t Care
4. Crash And Burn
5. Livin’ Alone
6. Tony Solo
7. Gotta Have Ya
8. Keep On Rockin’
9. Snortin’ Whiskey
10. Can’t Escape The Fire
11. Evil
12. Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
13. Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)
14. Stand Up

To purchase:
Cactus - An Evening In Tokyo
http://georiot.co/2d2U

Cactus - Live In The U.S.A.
http://georiot.co/2WGk

Bogert & Appice - Friends
http://georiot.co/340n

For more information:
CARMINE APPICE
www.carmineappice.com
www.drumwars.com
www.cactusrocks.net
www.therodexperience.com

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158, glassonyonpr@gmail.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS, Inc.
11041 Santa Monica Blvd #703
Los Angeles CA 90025
www.CleopatraRecords.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Progressive Rock Review: Curved Air-North Star

Release Date: 25th March 2014
Label: Cherry Red Records

Curved Air, the British Prog Rock band, came into being in 1970, formed from musicians from mixed artistic backgrounds which included classical, folk and electronic. Recently I reviewed Airwaves (Live at the BBC) by the band, which was an album of live recordings made between 1970 and 1976, but what is on the table for review now, is a new studio album, North Star. The first Curved Air studio album was released in 1970, Air Conditioning, and was one of the first “picture disc” releases and North Star is the 7th studio album, released 38 years after Airborne, album number 6 from 1976.

Curved Air at present is a 6 piece band comprising Sonja Kristina Linwood (vocals), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Kirby Gregory (guitars), Chris Harris (bass), Robert Norton (keyboards) and Paul Sax (violin). Sonja and Florian were original members back in 1970, Chris joined in 2008, Robert and Paul in 2009 and Kirby, who was briefly a member in 72/73, joined again in 2012.

North Star is a 14 track album which has a total running time of around 75 minutes. The penultimate track, “Young Mother” is the longest on the album, running on to 6:45 minutes, with the opening track, “Stay Human” the shortest at 3:50 minutes. The album comprises 7 new tracks, 3 from earlier Curved Air albums (1 from Air Conditioning in 1970 and 2 from Second Album from 1971), 1 track from a 1980 solo release by Sonja and 3 cover versions of songs by The Police, Snow Patrol and The Beatles.

The opening track on North Star, “Stay Human” (3:50) is an excellent introduction to the album. Chunky guitar, drums and electric violin followed by the characteristic voice of Sonja Kristina, make the track sound like vintage 70’s Curved Air. The track motors along perfectly dovetailing the old and new style of Curved Air and crams much more into under 4 minutes than would seem possible.

“Time Games” (6:24) is highlighted by a solid rhythm unit, great guitar and that soaring violin. Sonja’s voice floats above the music and there is an excellent section of interplay involving the guitar and violin. “Puppets” (5:20) follows and dates back to 1971, but due to the skill of the musicians involved, it doesn’t have the feel of an old song. Track 4, “Images and Signs” (4:39) is more of a slow burner with the guitar and violin again to the fore. “Interplay” (5:41) has a standout guitar section courtesy of Kirby Gregory which is superb and also has stunning violin and piano work.

The next track is an instrumental, “Spider” (4:39) which “reeks” of 70’s style allowing bass, guitar, violin and keyboards to dovetail superbly. “Magnetism” (6:32) is another differently styled track with a fairly standard drum/bass foundation, but with a more “whispered” double tracked vocal, leading into a short violin passage which then repeats. The time change around 2:45 minutes pits the keyboards against the violin, with the keyboard passages superb and again the opportunity arises for Kirby to show his mastery of the guitar in a longish passage.

“Colder than a Rose in Snow” (4:26) is a melancholic, emotive song from a Sonja Kristina solo album, followed by “Old Time News” (5:08) which is an up-tempo track featuring those chunky guitar passages and stunning violin sections. “Situations” (6:14) and “Young Mother” (6:45) are re-workings from earlier Curved Air albums, but both straddle the decades with ease. None of the “old” material on the album sounds dated and fits in seamlessly with the “new” tracks.

The only thing about this album I am unsure of is the need to have the three cover versions included. “Spirits in the Material World” (4:58), “Chasing Cars” (4:54) and “Across the Universe” (4:20) are all very competently performed, but I don’t feel that they add anything to the album. They are presented in a very different style to the rest of the album.

North Star is a superb new album from Curved Air with the new material and the selected oldies highlighting the classic Curved Air sound, a sound that has been missing for too long a time. North Star is certainly a hugely satisfying listen, with little hooks throughout, meaning that you latch onto tracks, even on only one hearing. Both stickers are adorning this release, “One to Buy” and “The Experience will last forever” and my advice is simply to go out and purchase it, swiftly.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks:  Stay Human, Puppets, Images and Signs

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

July 20, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get Your Song Ideas from Symphonic and Heavy Metal Music

Russ Suereth

Last week we discussed getting music ideas from new age and ambient music. This week we’ll discuss getting ideas from symphonic music and heavy metal.

It’s hard to find two types of music that are more different from each other than heavy metal and symphonic music. But they are also similar, because both can excel at musical passages that are simple and hard to get out of your head.

Case in point is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor. Written around 1805, this composition starts with the famous ta-ta-ta-daa, ta-ta-ta-daa. These eight notes are part of our ordinary music knowledge, and have been used by modern groups such as the Electric Light Orchestra.

The point here is that these eight simple notes can be used as a basis for your eight-note or ten-note hook. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are memorable and that catch a person’s ear.

The same goes for heavy metal music. There have been a lot of great hooks in heavy metal for years. Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album is full of powerful hooks. For instance, the beginning of the song “Ironman” has a great guitar hook that feels like a giant metallic beast stomping across the countryside. That piece still makes me smile today.

Other heavy metal examples, of course, can be found in Led Zeppelin tunes. The song “Good Times Bad Times” starts off with a great riff from Jimmy Page that is simple and memorable.

Just because Beethoven and Page were, and are, great artists does not mean you should be intimidated. Just focus on the notes, and forget the rest of the song, and everything else. Start playing some notes on the keyboard or the guitar, and find something you like and that sounds catchy. Keep it simple. And then embellish it a little with your style and tone. Or embellish it a lot. It’s your riff!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Symphonic Prog Rock Review: Renaissance-Symphony of Light

Release Date:  15th April 2014
Label:   Red River Entertainment

Renaissance originally formed back in 1969, and to date, through an evolution of in excess of 30 musicians, they have released 14 studio albums from the self-titled debut in 1969 to the current release, Symphony of Light, 2014. This release follows hard on the heels of Grandine il Vento, released in 2013, and is the same album re-issued plus 3 bonus tracks, one of which is in tribute to Michael Dunford, who passed away after the recording of last years’ album.

The best way to describe the music of Renaissance would be that of symphonic prog and using the adjective majestic would fit in there somewhere as well. The band that recorded the majority of Symphony of Light was a six piece, comprising Annie Haslam (lead vocals), Michael Dunford (guitars), David J Keyes (bass), Rave Tesar (keyboards), Frank Pagano (drums, percussion) and Jason Hart (keyboards) plus some help from Ian Anderson (flute) and John Wetton (vocals).

Renaissance disbanded a few times in their existence, but the latest reincarnation of the band has been active since 2010. They released an EP, The Mystic and the Muse, in that year, and then toured, playing two of their classic albums, Turn of the Cards (1974) and Scheherezade (1975), which was then followed by the release of the CD/DVD of the tour. Symphony of Light, as mentioned, contains a tribute track, specially written by Annie and Rave, “Renaissance Man,” to the late Michael Dunford.

Symphony of Light is an 11 track album with a total playing time of around 67 minutes. The opening, and title track, “Symphony of Light” is the longest on offer at just over 12 minutes (12:08) and the last track, “Renaissance Man” is the shortest at 3:27 minutes.

Opening tracks have a huge weight on their shoulders, as they determine, even if subconsciously, an opinion as to what the album is like. “Symphony of Light” (12:08) is an excellent start to this album, with the emotional, powerful voice of Annie Haslam towering over a background of “strings.” The starting passage is one of those that can set the neck hairs tingling before around 2 minutes, the sound drops away to return with a chiming bell, superb keyboards and simple acoustic guitar. Annie’s voice reappears   above this enhanced background and the track moves on and builds. A change at 4 minutes takes the track in a slightly different direction and the tempo is “upped” by a few degrees. This then leads back into the keyboard/guitar and that voice before a piano gently supplies a little theme in the background and at 6 minutes the piano then gets a chance to “show off.” A very gentle, almost classical, theme then evolves into a “fairground” style keyboard burst before the gentler piano theme returns. Guitar, backed by “strings” then carries the track onto a more urgent staccato style session with sweeping piano ripples. Around 10:30 minutes, there is a return to the earlier guitar/piano/”strings” theme with the return of Annie’s vocal. A stunning opening track ends with just the “strings” and that superb lead vocal.

“Grandine il Vento” (6:29), or “Hail the Wind,” is another stunning chunk of symphonic prog, starting with a keyboard intro heralding the entrance of the superb lead voice supplied by Annie. The background continues to build with some majestic piano melodies and moves into an almost theatrical, operatic style around the 1:45 minute point, which reminded me of the recent release, Invicta, by The Enid. This track dips and soars with some excellent phases from both singer and keyboards and is another very satisfying track.

A continuation of the theatrical symphonic style is apparent on “The Mystic and the Muse” (7:50), which contains all of the previous elements, emotion drenched vocals, stunning keyboards, with a powerful, yet unobtrusive rhythm engine, some shimmering “strings” and subtle interjections of guitar passages, providing an atmospheric soundscape.

The final track on Symphony of Light, “Renaissance Man” (3:27), which is the tribute track, is a very emotionally tinged affair with subdued piano, “strings” and Annie’s voice. “Renaissance Man” is a simple and short but very powerful tribute, which ends a spectacular album.

Having not really kept a close eye, or should that be ear, on Renaissance from the early albums (Turn and Scheherezde mentioned earlier, and the single in 1978, “Northern Lights”), this album has made me think of returning to check out the band’s back catalogue. There are no “fillers” on this album and I would heartily recommend Symphony of Light to anyone who appreciates symphonic prog. The album certainly gets the “One to Buy” sticker, so try to get a listen to this majestic album and then create a small space on your CD shelf to allow it to feel at home.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks:  Symphony Of Light, Grandine il Vento, The Mystic and the Muse

Tracks:
Symphony of Light
Waterfall
Grandine il Vento
Porcelain
Cry To The World
Air of Drama
Blood Silver Like Moonlight
The Mystic and the Muse
Tonight
Immortal Beloved
Renaissance Man


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

July 16, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk