Reviews roundup – Herman Frank vs. Old Riley & The Water vs. Watershape vs. Rainlight vs. The Chocolate Watchband vs. The Vostok vs. Dice
Fight The Fear
Now see that’s how to make a heavy metal record. It’s not really a surprise though, bearing in mind the classic riffs that Herman Frank churned out during the formative years of Accept.
Since he finally got a solo career sorted out in 2009 it’s been balls to the wall metal from Herr Frank and this record does not deviate one iota from what has gone before. And this is officially A Good Thing. He’s managed to hang on to the same lineup for two albums in a row now and this is also good as Rick Altzi (Masterplan, Sandalinas, At Vance) can wail with the best of them and André Hilgers on drums (Silent Force) and bassist Michael Müller (Jaded Heart, Heavens Trail) lay down a solid backbeat for the guitars and vocals to soar over. He has brought in another guitarist with Heiko Schröder the new kid on the block.
As you would expect it’s foot on the monitors raging metal from the opening ‘Until The End’ right through to the closing ‘Lost In Heaven’, thirteen tracks down the line. The pace does vary in places with ‘Terror’ mining a bit of a stoner groove and ‘Hatred’ having a Dio-esque feel. But numbers like ‘Rock You’ will have you punching the air with a metal fervour. They save the ballad to the very end so that you, the listener, can avoid anything girly for a solid hour or so. But even ‘Lost In Heaven’ has power in its midst. A cracking s;ab of heavy metal that is thoroughly recommended.
OLD RILEY & THE WATER
It’s off to New Orleans for some brand new blues, courtesy of Old Riley & the Water. Although being of a certain vintage I have now typed Old Mother Riley on several occasions. The band comprises the titular Sean Riley on guitar & vocals, Ray Micarelli – Drums, Andrew Landry – Bass, Scott Craver – harmonica & Joshua Cook – guitar & vocals and very enjoyable it is too. The latter two musicians seem to be guests judging by the typography and photography although Cook has also co-written a lot of the songs.
A mini-album / extended EP sort of thing, you’re getting seven tracks, six of them original and one rearranged Howlin’ Wolf song, the opening ‘Howlin’ For My Darlin. They’ve done some kind of old school revival thing in the recording studio with the vocals deliberately muffled but the instrumentation is clean and well defined.
The original material is good with a lot of acoustic work, although they rock out a wee bit more on ‘Kind-Hearted Woman’. It’s an excellent introduction to the band and if they can perform live to the same high standard then it’s a band you’ll hear a lot more of in the blues world.
To Italy now for some metal tinged progressive rock. The assorted members of Watershape have plenty of form in the Italian rock world with time served in bands like Power Quest, Arthemis, Hypnotheticall, Hollow Haze and many more.
But now they’ve combined over some shared King Crimson, Genesis and Gentle Giant influences and brought those to bear on the modern world of Dream Theater and Opeth. And they’re very good at it especially when they go a bit doolally as they o on the opening ‘Beyond the Line of Being’ where the time changes, falsetto and intricacies really do combine their new and old inspirations.
Elsewhere they can get a bit generic with ‘Stairs’ and ‘The Puppets Gathering’ not really doing too much but the acoustic ‘Alienation Deal’ the weird and wonderful closing ‘Cosmic Box #9’ an absolute treat. It’s an always interesting release and the band do bring their own identity to the world of prog. They’re skilled musicians, the production is solid and if you are looking for something a wee bit new for your prog ears then I’d be giving this a chance.
Lost in Time
Some folks have been hailing this as a return to eighties melodic rock. I don’t get that.
It’s a good record, mind, but it’s more intricate than straight ahead melodic rock with some interesting rhythms which give it a prog-lite vibe in amongst the more mainstream melodies. Which is nice.
They’ve also got a modern pop/rock sheen about them on tunes like ‘Rain Soldier’ and ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ which might get them on the odd college radio. But in the main it’s a melodic prog style which fans of Twelfth Night and John Payne era Asia will warm to. The band themselves – Band Members Carbo – Lead/backing vocals, Steeve Poirier – Guitars,bass,keyboards, Jean-Patrice Leroux – Drums, Martin Tremblay – Bass – seem well seasoned and are good at what they do.
The production is a bit flat in places but with a bit more spit and polish there could be something very good going on here.
THE CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND
This Is My Voice
Hippies eh? The Chocolate Watchband released their first single in 1967. ‘Sweet Young Thing’ it was called and even I’m to much of a sweet young thing to remember them first time out.
Oh and in case you’re wondering this is the Californian hippy band not the UK Chocolate Watch Band who also released their debut single in 1967. Small world and all that. This lot released three albums before splitting up, along with the hippy dream, in 1970. Fast forward twenty nine years and they reformed in 1999, a reunion that saw a studio album and a live release. For some reason they issued a record of re-recordings in 2012 but this is their first proper album in 19 years.
They’ve managed to hold on to a couple of original members (which is one more than Deep Purple) in the shape of singer David Aguilar (although he left in 1967) and drummer Gary Andrijasevich with guitarist Tim Abbott (who was around in 1967) with a few relative newbies around to fill out the sound. But it’s basically the same psych meets garage meets protest that they’ve always done.
So if you like distorted guitars, Dave Clark type drumming and people singing about how shit the world is, then this will be for you. It’s mainly original material although they find room for covers of songs by Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan (natch) while the blistering version of The Seeds’ ‘I Can’t Seem to Make You Mine’ is the album highlight. Chuck in a Donald Trump sample and this is as woke as they come. Geography teachers of the world unite!
Lack of Instinct
Some more prog metal, this time from France.
The Vostok got together back in 2015 and this is their second EP. They’re firmly on the metal side of things and there isn’t anything here that would scare off fans of Mastodon, Opeth, Gojira and their ilk. So it’s muscular, dense and intricate. Which is how this sort of things should be.
The band – Nicolas Kowalski, David Giordano, Erwin Ronco, Fabrice Nabet and Remy Boccaron are accomplished performers and when they get stuck in to the likes of ‘Black Frost’ and ‘Friendship Dies’ their songwriting matches their musical output.
They’ve got an excellent sound for an independent release and if they can get noticed outside their native France then there is a world of prog metal fans out there who would really like this.
What, If My Black Cat Is The Alien?
I’ve lost count of the number of records by Dice that I’ve reviewed going all the way back to when Zeitgeist was an actual paper publication you got through the post.
I’ve also lost count of the number of records they’ve released. This may be number 24 but I’m really not sure. For the last 44 years Christian Nove has been the mastermind behind their always enjoyable melodic prog and fans of the genre will be delighted to know that this latest one is another concept album. Oh, yes. But not one about cats so cat botherers should look away.
No it’s about a fella who is going a bit mental and tries to immerse himself into the inner being of his black cat. As you do. Me, I’m going mental but stick to talking to the blackbird in the back green and drinking heavily. Oh. Musically, it’s a real treat, taking a seventies melodic sound and mixing it up with elements of “The Final Cut” and other latter day Roger Waters sounds. The title track is bonkers as it ambles across 11 minutes of bliss and breakdowns. Also check out ‘Vision In The Eyes’ for some sparkling guitar work from Peter Viertel although the album remains rooted in the traditional Dice keyboard sound.
I’ve been wondering for a quarter of a century why Dice aren’t better known. I’m still surprised so get your finger out and give them a listen.
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