Reviews roundup – Spirits Burning & Michael Moorcock vs. Valermada vs. Collateral vs. Time Shifters vs. 41Point9
SPIRITS BURNING & MICHAEL MOORCOCK
An Alien Heat
If I take a handful of painkillers and close my eyes I can almost remember being young. Before life destroyed everything I held dear. Back then I was a Michael Moorcock addict. Not that he benefited as nearly all the 100+ books of his I owned had come from second hand bookshops, mainly Bobbies in Dalry Road and Morrison Street. Fast forward a few decades and it turned out they were worth a blooming fortune. So they helped the late Mrs H move to her dream house shortly before she died.
As befitted an MMhead I was also a Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult fan, attached to the boc-l mailing list and following HW around on tour. Strange days. “An Alien Heat” is volume one of the “The Dancers at the End of Time” trilogy which sees mastermind Don Falcone ably assisted by Albert Bouchard, and Michael Moorcock. As well as the main instigators there is also room for Blue Öyster Cult family members Joe Bouchard, Richie Castellano, and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, Hawkwind family members Harvey Bainbridge, Adrian Shaw, Mick Slattery, and Bridget Wishart, plus Andy Dalby (Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come), Monty Oxymoron (The Damned), Ken Pustelnik (The Groundhogs), Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven), Andy Shernoff (The Dictators), Lux Vibratus (Nektar), Steve York (Arthur Brown), and more. So that’s going to make a lot of people very happy.
And there is some very good spacerock on offer here as you would expect. What it’s missing, though, is a good vocalist. A few folk have a bash including the Bouchard brothers and Buck Dharma but no matter who it is the voices aren’t substantial enough. Now I’m not saying they realised that but the record does come with a second disc comprising an all instrumental version of the record. They kick things off with a fine Hawkwind sounding number in the shape of ‘Hothouse Flowers’. It’s one of the more powerful tunes here and sets you up for a diverse tour through spacerock territory. There’s a wee bit of Gong now and then, some synth driven tunes, the best of which is ‘Dark Dominion’ and plenty of detours into ambient, electronic and psych sounds.
There is a lot to enjoy here especially if you liked the Calvert era Hawklords approach to music mixed with some vintage Cult. It’s not essential but there is an awful lot for classic spacerock fans to enjoy.
Fear, Regrets And Mourning
To Finland now for some prog metal tinged with a wee bit of Meshuggah styled violence.
You can tell that there is a death metal background to some of the players here as the ever welcome sound of the blast beat pops up hither and thither so it’s actually more metal-prog than prog metal. Although they’ve really went to town when it comes to bringing in other more ambient an cinematic styles to flesh out the music. And it works.
The album highlight is definitely ‘Dear Desperation’ which seems to marry up all their influences and showcases their adventurous approach to arrangements, something that also shines on ‘The Scars That Hurt the Most’. Heck, they even go for the whole kitchen sink thing by throwing in a choir to give ‘Happy’ a boost.
I certainly admire their cavalier approach to music where everything goes. Hopefully the wider world will be as appreciative.
Dude! Party on! Rawk!
Well this certainly took me back to a time when men were men and my old mucker Kaz wandered about Sighthill with 3 foot tall hair and a healthy amount of eyeliner. He was a bloke, was Kaz. And it was the eighties.
And it’s those days of big hair and big rawk that seem to have got Collateral all hot and bothered. It’s a world of big riffs and in their own minds they can picture themselves on a stadium stage getting their hair ruffled by an industrial sized fan. And there is nothing wrong with that.
So it’s a shame that vocalist Angelo Tristan, drummer Ben Atkinson, bassist Jack Bentley-Smith and guitarist Todd Winger have started their EP with a mid paced Jagged Edge cast off. That’s the Myke Gray / Matti Alfonzetti JE not the US r’n’b outfit. Then they go all mainstream AOR with ‘Midnight Queen’ which made me very happy. Mainly because there aren’t enough songs with titles like that anymore but also because it’s a quality melodic rock tune. Then it’s time for the legally obligatory power ballad and ‘Angels Crying’ mines a fine Eric Martin meets Bad English vibe. Quality.
They close with the epic ‘Just Waiting For You’ which slowly builds over six minutes with some fine Def Leppardy guitars and a monster solo. It’s a record that’s at odds with their image as I was expecting some more glam slam thank you ma’am but as it’s a Very Good EP indeed I shall let that slide.
We’re off to Prague in the Czech Republic for some poppy meets punk meets New Wave.
Founded by one Vasilis Nikolos who was a punk back in the days when, at the very least, you would get a beating from the SNB. But things have moved on, as did he from Kecup to punkabilly band The Gangnails until 2015 saw him start to put the Time Shifters together.
They kick off with the very 1979 Blondie sounding ‘New Sunday Morning’ which did absolutely nothing for me. Much like Blondie. But then the guitars of ‘Highway Road’ kick in, my ears prick up and it’s a whole new ballgame. That and the following ‘Fuck You’ go for a Motordamn approach to things which makes me feel very happy indeed. As did the “Electric” era Cult riff of ‘Time Shifting Heroes’.
But it’s an extremely diverse record as they also take in some sixties garage sounds and a few acoustic guitars. Although it’s when they let rip on the likes of ‘Dirty Race’ that the guitars snarl and Karolina Dvorakova gets to howl and sneer with reckless abandon that makes this record work.
Mr Astute Trousers
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me
Well maybe that’s just me, but it’s the first thing I think of when I see 41:9.
But back to the record and it’s a couple of prog rock veterans that are responsible for this. That would be bassist Bob Madsen and vocalist Brian Cline who first worked together during the days of neo-prog back in the nineties before reconvening a decade or so back for their current collaboration.
They’re not overly keen on the prog tag which is fair enough as they wander far and wide in search of a good tune. But regardless there are more than a few times on this record that had me thinking It Bites or Hogarth era Marillion. But those are good things especially as they have enough of a pop sensibility about them to make sure that there is always a melody for you to hang your hat on. In fact it’s probably more mid period Kansas pop/pomp than anything else.
Things kick off with an instrumental intro (always a good thing) before they crack off properly with they dynamic ‘For The King’ which drips with portentous synths. From then on it’s a diverse and always interesting set. Highlights include the none more seventies mix of fusion and rock that is ‘Tilting At Windmills’ and the retro poppy sound of ‘Familiar Strangers’. The production might not always match their ambition but if you’re looking for some adventurous songs which may or not be descended from neo-prog then I would definitely be giving this a spin.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton