Reviews roundup – Arion vs. Orions Belte vs. Bryan Lee vs. Hercules
Life Is Not Beautiful
To Finlandia! For some power metal. So far, so predictable.
So what can Arion bring to the table that is new and unexpected. Well nothing really because this is a genre largely defined by rules. But don’t go running off just yet because they’re actually very good at what they do.
It’s a busy world of metal out there so I’ve never actually heard their previous records. But since then they’ve dispensed with their singer, released a single with Elize Ryd of Amaranthe and set about recording this record. And mainman Iivo Kaipainen has struck a seam of gold with singer Lassi Vääränen who really lets rip on the best songs here. And there are a few doozies.
Where they differ from from a lot of their contemporaries is thematically as a few of the songs are more concerned with a state of the world address as opposed to pillaging and battles. But that makes a pleasant change regardless of how much I like a sword weilding epic. Musically the best for me were the title track and ‘Punish You’ but I’ve got a great deal of time for their legally obligatory power ballad ‘Through Your Fallen Tears’, which made me a wee bit moist as a middle aged widower. So not in the good way.
It’s a powerful album which only sags slightly and is certainly well worth investigating if power metal is your thing.
We’re staying in Scandinavia for some (largely) instrumental, um, prog meets shoegaze meets post-rock from Norwegian trio Orions Belte.
Øyvind Blomstrøm (guitar, pedal steel), Chris Holm (bass, vocals, keyboards), and Kim Åge Furuhaug (drums, programming) are the trio responsible for what is a very interesting record. It’s to their credit that there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind their approach to music which means that anything goes. Of course that can backfire but I’m all in favour of folk having a go. Better to be a glorious failure than never to try. (c) my life.
If I were considerably younger I’d certainly be skinning up to this next to my lava lamp as they wander off into some strange places, no more so than on allbm highlight ‘Atlantic Surfing‘. To be fair a couple of the tunes go, quite literally, nowhere but I’d rather go on the Orions Belte Mystery Tour than stick to the main road.
If you know Bryan Lee at all it would be for the times he worked with a young up and comer called Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
But he was around a long time before that and he’s still going now. Largely known around the New Orleans area he’s put out around a dozen albums plus live releases Where this one differs is that it’s a religious blues album.
Now a lot of blues records reference God. Or more often the Devil but this stems from a 2011 dream where Mr Lee came up with an arrangement of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. He recorded that the next day but it’s taken all this time for a record to be completed. And it’s well worth the wait.
Now some people are put off by God. Me, I’m a lapsed Catholic who was once training to be a pastor so it couldn’t be more up my street even if God and I have seen fit to part ways. But you don’t need to have the fever in your soul to enjoy what is a remarkably good record. Mr Lee and his band mix up soul, blues and gospel in fine fashion. The good news is that there is nothing po-faced about the music which is largely uplifting. Most of the tracks are Lee originals and I was taken first time out by ‘Jesus Gave Me The Blues’, ‘Mr. Big’ and ‘Only If You Praise The Lord’. And a couple of weeks of relentless playing has not withered its charm.
Definitely one of my blues albums of the year.
No video for this one so here he is live in concert.
On The Radar
We’re back in Norway but this time there’s no prog / shoegaze / postrock malarkey. No, we came to rock!
And rock Hercules certainly do in an old time rock and roll meets boogie kind of way. Thankfully that’s the noise I hear in my head when all is silent.
They’ve been around in various forms, on and off, since the nineties and have put out a few records over the years but the lineup of Vemund Moss-lead and rhythm guitars, lead vocals, Tormod Haug-rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals, Simen Knuts-bass guitar and Lars Braastad-drums – have done a bang up job here. It’s the sound of a roadhouse night out where the beer is warm and the girls are cold and on songs like ‘Don`t Blow Your Fuse’, ‘Something New’ and ‘Nothing For Nothing’ they managed the rare trick of raising my spirits.
There aren’t many bands who know how to turn on th 12 bar boogie so grab it now.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton