Reviews roundup – Rhapsody Of Fire vs. 21 Taras vs. Still No Doubt vs. Transnadeznost vs. Pressor vs. Mark Sultan
RHAPSODY OF FIRE
The Eighth Mountain
So Rhapsody of Fire are back with a new album and another new lineup.
It seems like a long, long time ago that the then Rhapsody were pioneers of symphonic power metal but after the soap opera shenanigans when guitarist Luca Turilli left they lost their place with neither the new Rhapsody of Fire or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody ever matching the mental as anything splendour of the Emerald Sword saga. And let’s not forget the madness of the farewell tour a few years back when former members Luca Turilli, Fabio Lione, Alex Holzwarth, Patrice Guers and Dominique Leurquin got back together.
But they’ve battled on and this sees the new material debut of vocalist Giacomo Voli. They’re also trying to reclaim some lost legend status by embarking on a new concept series with this marking the beginning of the ‘Nephlins Empire Saga’. And it comes close to the sounds of old with plenty of theatrical keyboard flourishes, rampaging guitars and over the top vocals. Thing is, none of this is new anymore, so no matter how enjoyable it is (and it is) you can’t help compare it to what was going on around the time of “Symphony of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret”.
But it is a good album. Voli can scream with the best of them, the guitars are, thankfully, further up in the mix than before, and when they throw in an orchestra as on ‘Rain Of Fury’ or go for a huge epic (‘Tales of a Hero’s Fate’) then it’s a very good metal place to be. Heck, they’ve even brought Christopher Lee back from the dead to declaim “In ages past, the Nephilim Empire ruled the earth….”
To Colorado for some seventies classic rock influenced music. As well as winners of the seriously bad shirt competition.
And 21 Taras are good at what they do. They’ve been around since 2014 and already have an album and an EP to their name but according to singer Julian Falco this one sees a change in direction.
They’re certainly ambitious as they’ve thrown a lot at this record with horns and strings making an appearance, filling out an already expressive sound that takes in vintage keyboards, mellotron and even a kazoo. But it’s not all flash as they have some good songs to their name as well. Despite the polish and the arrangements they still manage to sound like a real band with some grit always just under the surface.
As well as seventies classic rock they can get a wee bit heavier when they need to and they can also throw in some Humble Pie / Cactus vibes on the tougher tunes. Falco has a strong and raspy voice that suits the material and when it all comes together on the best of the songs it makes for an enjoyable listen. Try ‘Gettin’ Hungry’, ‘Time Traveler’ or ‘Heavy Road’ and you could find yourself converted.
STILL NO DOUBT
The original No Doubt.
Yes, this No Doubt put out a couple of albums back in the nineties but seems there is another band of that name. No, me neither.
This lot were actually first having first seen the light in the eighties and if the cover image wasn’t enough of a clue then prepare to be amazed. Yes, they play eighties style hard rock. It’s more melodic than you might imagine, though, as the band seem more of a Motorhead / Nashville Pussy judging by their image. They still have some grit about them and on the tougher tracks they can rock with the best of them.
Original guitarists Sir Marlowe and Uli “Gibson” Hoffmann are still leading the charge alongside vocalist Schorsch, bass player Rudi and drummer Lars “Chief Larsen” Thoebel. They can make a right old racket (in a good way) and that’s when they’re at their most convincing. When they get serious as they do on ‘Pictures Of War’ it all goes a bit ‘Winds Of Change’. Which isn’t a good thing. But more often than not they set about their business of rocking you with vim and vigour.
There are plenty of choruses you can shake your fist at and were they to appear on a festival stage near you then a good time would be guaranteed.
Oh, this is a good one. Monster Magnetty desert rock meets spacerock. From Russia. Do they have deserts in Russia? They must have. It’s a bloody big place. And I’m not counting steppes. They’re not deserts and I speak as someone whose DNA is 45% Caspian steppes based. So I know what I’m talking about. Oh, right. The one good thing about talking aloud in a library with free internet is that there is always a drunk / unemployed philosopy lecturer sleeping nearby. And he just shouted “Chara”.
Right, so Transnadežnost are blooming good at this. They err on the spacerock side of things which suits the boyhood Hawkwind fan in me just fine as they swoosh their way through prime tunes like ‘Ladoga’ and ‘Star Child’. Certainly when it comes to serving up a feeling of desolation and emptiness they can’t be faulted. The guitars are interesting as they often seem to be playing against the music rather than with it. But it works so fair play to them.
It’s largely instrumental which is another good thing with this style of music and they manage to keep well away from the world of prog which is actually quite tricky when you inhabit this sort of world. There’s a helluva lot of good psych / spacerock / weird shit coming out of Russia recently and this is one of the best. Don’t believe me? Take 12 minute out of your life and listen to the closing, trumpet enhanced (!) ‘Day/Night ‘ and then thank me.
Apparently, Pressor, who hail from Kostroma in Russia, started life as doom metal band about 10 years back under a different name. But after some lineup changes and a move in style they became Pressor.
By a move in style it seems that they became a sludge metal band instead. Now that’s such a fine line that only three people in Louisiana can actually explain the difference and they’re usually too busy drinking shine to be coherent. So it’s still kind of doom metal but with some swooshy spacerock style synths. Which means I loved it.
So well done Stas, Anton, Dennis and Danya. And don’t forget Tanya who performed on the recording and is credited with Therminvox. As you do. With this style of music the songs tend to be irrelevant as it’s all about a groove and a mood, and so it proves to be here. But the first track, Heavy State’ and the closing ‘Hexadecimal Unified Insanity’ are particularly good. Even better, it’s an EP so never overstays its welcome. It’s still half an hour of music, mind, which is almost an LP in old money.
Prior to this they’ve had an EP, a split album and a single, with the latters ‘Tripping Deep’ popping up here as well. Quality rather than quantity. If doom / sludge with spacerock sounds seems like fun to you, then I can’r recommend this highly enough.
Let Me Out
Dirty Water Records
According to that there internet Mark Sultan is a Canadian garage cult hero.
Turns out he’s not a superstar mechanic but instead a modern day purveyor of sixties garage rock. So we’re talking Mouse & The Traps, Blues Magoos, the Human Beinz and their ilk. Which is nice.
And he’s very good at what he does with fuzzy guitars, muffled drums and a slightly sneering vocal style. Which is essential as anyone who has ever listened to the many Sky Saxon imitators out there. The guitars are particularly fine aided by some jabbing keyboards which are resonant of that fella with the van who got the job because he got lug his own organ around.
There are some very listenable tunes as well with ‘Coffin Nails’, The Other Two’ and ‘Don’t Bother Me’ definitely standing up to repeat plays. He also seems to have a way with words. When you can make them out. Readers of Shindig! will take this to their hearts and if you bought the latest Chocolate Watchband record, only to be disappointed, then this will restore your faith in 1966.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton