Reviews roundup – Eric Williams John vs. Gamma Ray vs. Xavi Reija vs. Coen Walters Band
ERIC WILLIAM JOHN
Smoke In The Sky
I remember Southern Gentlemen. It was metal near-legend David T Chastain and his attempt at a more mainstream southern rock meets metal fusion. It seems like a long time back, and if I could be bothered throwing some internet on the fire I might even look up my review from back in the day.
However, I do remember quite enjoying it, and Eric William John was the singer on that there record. Fast forward to 2014, and he’s doing his solo thing, albeit with said David T Chastain producing and co-writing. And it’s a bit like Southern Gentlemen!
Which means you’re getting bruised and battered metal riffs over some blues rock rhythms and gutsy vocals. Which is my kind of thing. And if it’s yours, you’ll find yourself grooving along nicely to the likes of ‘The Finest Wine’, the title track and ‘Bleed The Blues’. One for your next keg party.
Empire Of The Undead
I remember when the “Masters Of Confusion” mini album came out, thinking that the song ‘Empire Of The Undead’ was one of the best things that Gamma Ray had ever done. I had high hopes for the album, and now that it is here, I’m glad to report that they’ve gratified my hopes and more.
I reckon that this is one of their best, quite an achievment after so many years, and it’s chock full of metal anthems, the likes of which I thought were way in their past. It says a lot for the power in their metal, that the master tapes survived their studio burning to the ground, and it’s good news for metal fans as well.
For sure, they get their groove on with songs like ‘Pale Rider’, but they rarely stray far from their power metal template. But with a set of songs better than anything they’ve done in years, tunes such as ‘Demonseed’ and ‘Avalon’ they’ve hit new heights.
Fans of Gamma Ray will simply love this album, and hopefully it will bring more back to the fold. Get the deluxe edition for even more metal fun.
Time for some jazz now, and it’s an album from well regarded percussionist Xavi Reija. If you’ve been keeping up to date with modern jazz rock, you may well recognise his name, but this record sees him leading his own trio in search of his own adventures.
Having said that, a lot of what is on offer is a collaboration with Bernat Hernandez and Dusan Jevtovic on bass and guitar, respectively, and they have an empathy with each other that resonates.
At it’s best, the mix of fusion and jazz rock is quite breathtaking with pieces like ‘Flying To Nowhere’, ‘Macroscope’ and ‘Shadow Dance’ simply breathtaking in their scope and ambition. In places, the music sometimes spills over into noise for the sake of noise, but overall, a worthy investigation.
COEN WOLTERS BAND
You’d never guess, from listening to this, that young Mr Walters is a Europeran blues rocker. But then he has spent a lot of time over in the American colonies, especially on tour with a band called Blinddog Smokin’.
But now he’s doing his own thing, and his own thing is traditional blues rock, with a hint of funk. Unlike some, he takes just as much care with his vocals, as he does his guitar, something best realised on the slow blues of ‘Into The Light’.
But even when he picks up the pace on the self penned material like ‘You, Me And Your Monkey’ and ‘Yellow Eyes’, he never fails to impress with the well rounded care and attention to the whole, rather than just showing off on a fretboard.
When he expands his sound, as he does with some sweet organ on ‘Shake My Tree’, the groove gets fatter, and you can’t help but think that this is a big step forward from Mr Wolters and his band.