Reviews roundup – Bekah Barnett vs. Hugh Cornwell vs. Bohemian Lifestyle vs. Across The Abyss vs. Ebony Wall
So what’s on the menu today, then? Well, first up, it’s the second release from American singer / songwriter Bekah Barnett, who was operatically trained before getting bombed out early doors on “America’s Got Talent”. Which is a wee bit odd, because she’s American and she’s got talent. Go figure.
This is a singer / songwritery album that goes from folky pop to jazzy pop to introspective ballads. So, no surprise that she’s managed to reel in producer Julie Wolf, who has worked in various capacities, with the likes of the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco.
There are some good songs on offer and Barnett has a very listenable voice. When it all comes together as it does on the likes of ‘Beautiful Girls’, ‘Jesus & Judas’ and ‘See You Soon’, then it’s very enjoyable indeed. Granted, it’s not all out of the top drawer, and some of the songs verge on hippy tosh, but there are a lot of people out there looking for a new Fiona Apple. They should give this a try.
The Fall And Rise Of Hugh Cornwell
Invisible Hands Music
Hugh Cornwell, eh? The bloke always to be known as the bloke out of the Stranglers, even though he’s now been out of the Stranglers longer than he was in them. And if people have been wondering what he’s been up to, then this compilation, comprising songs from his first six solo albums should see them right.
All the tracks are remastered and the album includes a new studio recording of ‘Live It And Breathe It’. Oddly enough, it all sounds a bit like latter day album tracks by the Stranglers. Before he left, natch. There’s nothing from the myriad of live albums, acoustic albums and odds and sods albums. Just proper studio work.
He was always a good songwriter, who had a way with words, and the songs here reflect that. He’s managed a dozen or so solo albums since 1990 and this selection is a fair reflection of what he’s been up to.
It takes in tracks from “Hi Fi”, “Hooverdam” ” (my favourite of his solo albums), “Wired”, “Wolf”, “Beyond Elysian Fields” and “Guilty”, so if you’ve missed out on what one our better curmudgeons been up to, this is a good place to start.
If I wasn’t old and riddled with rugby players knees, I’d probably be bouncing up and down to this. The oddly named Bohemian Lifestyle are responsible for that, so if my arthritis plays up any time soon, you know who to blame.
The youngsters in question are Daniel Gustafsson (Keyboard/Vocals), Filip Conic (Lead Guitar), Richard Lindström (Drums) and Pontus Viberg (Lead Vocals/Guitar), and as you may have guessed by the names, they’re a Swedish band. Now there are only three ways to go in Sweden – AOR, metal or punk, and it’s the last of three they’ve gone for. Or at least the Hellacopters version of it.
Which is fine by me, as they keep the energy level at Red Bull status, whilst banging out pop punk anthems as if there was no tomorrow. And if that is your thing, then you will really enjoy tunes likes ‘Fool’s Mask’, ‘A Brighter Day’ and ‘Coming Back Around’. They’ve managed the clever trick of having pop tunes but with good riffs, something that is trickier than it sounds to pull off.
It’s definitely one for the kids, so here’s hoping they hear it.
ACROSS THE ABYSS
Silhouettes Of A Perfect World
Equatorial Storm Records
Heavy Metal? In Singapore? I’m surprised they get away with that, as the powers that be don’t seem very keen on anything of that ilk, but that’ were Across The Abyss come from, so fair play at making it this far.
And I’m delighted to report that rather than ape western metal, they’ve made the effort to try and bridge the world, hence the appearance of erhu, sitars, gamelan percussion, koto and guzheng zithers. Yes, really.
They’ve allied that to a power metal sound, which will be familiar to most, bunged in some fancy arrangements, a touch of prog metal, with the album divided into three acts – ‘The Sacrament of Sacrifice’, ‘Celestial Solitude’ and ‘Lost In The Land of Dreams’. And it’s pretty good.
Songs like ‘When Dreams Die’, ‘The Core of Darkness’ and ‘Illusion of Significance’ can hold their heads up high against anyone, and it’s only a few production issues that let things slide a little. That aside, this is an interesting debut, well worth checking out.
Lastly for today, and it’s female fronted symphonic metal time. From Germany. So no great surprises there. However, Ebony Wall, are one of the better ones in an over saturated field, so bear with me.
They certainly know how to grab your attention with the over the top opener ‘Strangers In Hell’ even incorporating the Lord’s Prayer. Boom! On into the album proper and they’ve got some great songs tucked away with ‘Creatures Of The Night’ a particular highpoint, and one that would win over any metal festival crowd.
They throw in some sound effects here and there, the double bass drums blast away, and the twin lead guitars all complement the vocals of 17 year old Nina Irmscher, with some additional grunts from guitarist Ronny on numbers such as ‘Dance Of The Dead’.
They’re not doing anything that fans of Nightwish and their ilk won’t have heard before, but they do it very well indeed.