Reviews roundup – Axel Rudi Pell vs. Ape Shifter vs. Disen Gage vs. Blackhearth vs. Locate Your Lips vs. The Raz Band
AXEL RUDI PELL
XXX Anniversary Live
Steamhammer / SPV
Despite the title this is neither a WWE soundtrack nor a sudden diversion into mucky territory. Nope the triple X indicates that it is now 30 years since he released his first solo album.
Amazingly he’s been with the same record label this whole time which must be getting close to a Guinness World Record.
Apparently there was no plan for another live album but after hearing the soundboard recordings from Bochum and Budapest among others, Axel felt he just couldn’t scrap them. So now we have a follow-up to “Magic Moments”, the three hour anniversary show at the ‘Bang Your Head’ festival in 2014, where he celebrated 25 years as a solo artist. Thankfully the last five years, much like the twenty five years before, sees Herr Pell sticking to what he does best. Classic, melodic, power metal. To the max.
This was recorded on the “Knight’s Call” tour so there is plenty of that record. In fact 50% of the album appears here. But it was a very good record so it’s good to hear the live renditions. Granted it is his fifth live album so you might not be knocking down the doors to get it but it certainly sounds more live than most live albums with the whole band in fine form. And that still leaves plenty of room for an array of classic Axel Rudi Pell tunes so long term fans won’t be disappointed.
Me? This kind of music is uisge-beatha to me so I lapped it up. Vinyl junkies will be delighted to know there is a 3 LP box set out as well which also includes the double CD so knock yourselves out. Thoroughly enjoyable.
I remember the first Ape Shifter album a couple of years back saying “it’s definitely one for the widdlers out there.” And now here’s album number 2 heralding a shift into eighties acid house.
No, actually, it’s more of the same. Jeff Aug is the guitarist responsible and he’s still billing it as instrumental prog rock. And I still don’t get that. I hear some ferocious shredding and some powerful seventies styled riffing but prog? Maybe on bits of ‘Mask Of The Ancient Warrior’ but on ‘Fu Manchu’, ‘Jiggy Jiggy Boom Boom’ and ‘Die Rauschmeisser’? No.
But Mr Aug and his trio – Florian Walter on bass and drummer Kurty Münch are very talented indeed and if you’re in the market for some insanely good technical guitar virtuosity then this is somewhere you really should be. Personally I find it hard to move away from the wah-wah sounds of ‘Jiggy Jiggy Boom Boom’ which is just an insanely good tune. He does finish up with a vocal track, a violin infused ballad but don’t worry guitar heads. You have a button marked stop. It’s an album full of energy and talent and well worth checking out.
Well it’s been a whole three weeks since I last reviewed a Disen Gage record so this is well overdue.
Of course I could leave it to the band to explain what’s going on with this three track, 48 minute release so; “Mrs Toad said to Mr Crocodile “Dude, why not concoct a Tops-of-the-Pops album of all those ingredients, one of which we would all sing together?” “I’ll call Mr Bear, my Siberian friend. He knows how to mix all stuff with a beat”. So now you know.
Which means lots more prog, fusion, art rock and improv all rolled into one although I failed to detect an accordion this time out. Boo. In fact, if that there internet is right the only actual instruments here are guitars with all the rest of the noise coming via sourced and recorded sounds including some lovely Russian railway sounds on, um, ‘Trains’.
It’s music, Jim ,but not as we know it. However, it is most definitely Progressive in the truest sense of the word.
To the Basque country now for some progressive metal.
The brainchild, it would appear, of Asier Larrea (Drums) and Alex Hernández (Guitar) who’ve been plugging away for a decade in various guises trying to get ahead in the world of metal and who finally have a shiny CD they can hold in their hands and admire.
Their take on progressive metal is quite old fashioned. Not in a bad way, I hasten to add but it actually sounds like a long lost eighties proto prog metal release. So it has more in common with Fates Warning and early Savatage than it does the more modern, widdly exponents. So there are plenty of powerful, metal riffs while vocalist Alain Concepción wails away over the top of whatever mayhem is going on underneath.
The opening ‘Flying Away’ actually isn’t that impressive but when the beastie, horror filled ‘Tarker’s Mills’ comes to a close you can appreciate what a strong outfit Blackhearth are. The (English) lyrics are by and large very dark with ‘Earls of Darkness’ (natch) a short, sharp of shock of intensity. That may only be three minutes but that’s a mere taster for the eleven minute title track in which they throw several kitchen sinks into the mix in their quest for for darkness. A slow start but a record that keeps on getting better.
LOCATE YOUR LIPS
Happy Growl Records
This is a two-CD collection by Milwaukee, Wisconsin trio LYL (Locate Your Lips) consisting of the late Kenny Baldwin on drums who passed away in 2015 and to whom the album is dedicated , along with bassist and vocalist Andy Cavaluzzi, and guitarist Jim Eannelli.
You’re getting a live album, ten studio tracks and three bonus live tracks for your bucks here from a band who, according to the press release had “the energy of punk and the sophistication of jazz and progressive rock”. Which is odd because I hear bog standard eighties indie rock which would have warmed the paedophile heart of John Peel.
Apparently they were briefly a “thing” in Milwaukee back in the day and it’s nice that the surviving members have pieced together a lost album as a tribute to Kenny Baldwin. And I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will be delighted to hear some familiar yet new spiky guitar runs. Obviously it’s not my thing but as far as I can tell they were just as good as the likes of Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and names much lauded. If you’re looking for an alternative to your pre-existing alternative eighties then stream some of this before you buy.
THE RAZ BAND
For the last thirty-five years, The RAZ Band has been recording and performing their own brand of original songs. Recent years have seen them bunging out a best of and a 2015 album, “Madison Park”.
This new release, produced by band member and former Badfinger Joey Molland, features eleven new songs and if you get your finger out, the first 1000 copies include a limited edition live EP, recorded in Los Angeles on December 8, 2018.
So have they made their jazz odyssey or are they sticking to a beefy seventies power pop kick. The latter, you’ll be glad to know. The current lineup of Michael ‘Raz’ Rescigno on guitar & vocals, Jeff ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson on drums & vocals, Jim Manzo on bass & vocals, and
Joey Molland on guitar vocals & production know there way around a melody and there are plenty of them on offer here. Oddly, for me, I prefer it when things kick back a little so ‘Curveball’ and ‘In The Meantime’ were the winners for me.
Over on the live disc it sees the band reaching back into days of yore on four songs as well as giving three of the new boys an early work out. An enjoyable throwback.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton