Reviews roundup – AJ True ~ Forest Field ~ Nightrider ~ Rocky Kramer ~ Lunar Cape ~ Vigil-Ante
Jirga: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I’ve never heard of the film or the composer. The film is set (and indeed was filmed) in Afghanistan which sounds like you’re just asking for trouble. The director, Benjamin Gilmour, asked for “Ennio Morricone meets Giorgio Moroder in the Afghan desert” and I think he got what he was asking for..
Naturally, there are plenty of what we Western folk call Middle Easter motifs but there is an electronic drone running through a lot of the themes that is both disquieting and unsettling. Which I’m sure is the point. There are some gorgeous string patterns, plenty of instruments I’ve never heard of, some vintage sounding synths and a few vocal tracks featuring Sam Smith and Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad who are the leads in the film.
AJ True apparently started life in an Australian psychobilly band but has went on to score some acclaimed films with his work on this one being nominated ‘Best Music’ in the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards (FCCA). It’s certainly deserved as this is a compelling piece of work that stands up well on its own. Even though a lot of it would pass as ambient there is an edge to the whole affair that lifts it beyond that into a special place. Highly recommended.
Now I really enjoyed the last couple of Forest Field releases, especially “Lonely Desert” which saw them upping the prog part of their melodic prog and I’m delighted to say that this one continues in the same vein.
It’s still the baby of Peter Cox who takes care of all the all the instruments, songwriting and production while the man who never sleeps, Phil Vincent, is on vocals. There are a few guitar solos from Legion/Bob Catley man Vince O’Regan for good measure but it’s mainly Mr Cox.
It’s another concept album, although he moved away from Dune into a more environmentalist stance. Musically it is very compelling and it’s no disservice to Phil Vincent to say that the instrumental tracks are particular highlights. Although the old metalhead in me took great pleasure from ‘Into The Lion’s Den’ where Vince O’Regan gets let off the leash.
But Cox can move from almost prog metal right across the spectrum into some almost pastoral moments, with plenty of prog rhythms to keep the hardcore happy. Another excellent offering which genre fans should definitely be investigating.
I can understand why some young fella me lads might find this hard going but when I was a boy this is how heavy metal sounded. So it does me just fine.
See, Nightrider got together back in 1979 and rode the metal train through till the mid eighties playing up a storm in their New Hampshire heartland. At that time I was just a wee Mr H weaned on the teat of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as well as a host of Music For Nations compilation albums.
Yes, this is bread and butter metal with guitars set to stun and songs called ‘Hard Driving Metal Machine’ and ‘Rockin’ Down The Night’ but if it weren’t for bands like this then metal as we know it wouldn’t exist. So although these songs are recent recordings by the resurrected band they sound like they’re straight out of 1982 when metal was metal, studded wristbands were de rigueur and you either got up or got out. I liked this. \m/
Rocky Kramer certainly knows how to give good press release. “..a modern day Viking poised to take no prisoners as he conquers the hearts, minds and souls of rockers round the world”. You go Rocky!
He even kicks off the album with a song called ‘Rock Star’ which might have been a tad more effective if the opening line wasn’t “My body is like a milkshake and my mind is like a cake”. Although if you watch the video below you will see that his tongue is firmly in his cheek.
Musically, it’s a bit of an odd mix from the Norwegian singer/songwriter/guitarist. At times he digs into eighties styled almost sleaze rock riffage then turns it on its head with some prog metal rhythms. He’s certainly an excellent guitarist and has obviously listened to a few Yngwie albums in his time, hence the wee instrumental interludes.. Vocally it’s so-so but he has the panache to get away with it on tunes like ‘Alcohol’ and ‘Sick & Tired’.
It’s a solid ball of rock that just needs a bit more oomph
Lunar Folk Tales
See this is why I still get a frisson of excitement when my long suffering postie dumps another pile of jiffy bags at the bottom of my drive. Because every once in a while something magical happens. Not often mind, and especially not in the last few years. But this is that magical thing.
Mad as a hatter. But magical. Apparently Lunar Cape are moon based musicians who transmit their music to Earth. I suspect they’re actually a Russian folk/prog band who released an album beck in 2016 before shrinking to a trio and setting about making this marvel. There are a few different versions of this floating about with Russian, English and instrumental versions. Although if you’re minted the deluxe version seems like an absolute joy.
We’re looking at pastoral prog here with flutes, recorders, tin whistle, mandolins and more with Roman Smirnov, Audrey Shaskov and the splendidly named Olga Scotland setting about tales of nymphs, leprechauns and goblins. There’s no actual singing as such, it’s narration set to music. Much to my surprise it works really well as the version I have contains the English version along with the instrumentals. Now the instrumentals work well but the narration adds so much more. It’s the kind of thing that the long winter nights were designed for, especially now that the sun is setting the back of four o’clock.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have a glass of whisky, a comfy chair and some lunar folk tales for the night ahead.
I suppose it could be two words. But then there would be no need for a hyphen. But damn it’s annoying me.
But that aside we’re off to the Canadian colonies to catch up with the third album from (argh) Vigil-Ante. Who ply their trade in the world of heavy and metal.
Now, deep breath, but they seem quite keen on the Watchers from the Book of Enoch. Right. Back here now. There’s no hippy dippy Jesus stuff in that one. It’s one of my favourites actually, an apocalyptic religious text that tells us off the origins of demons, why angels fell from heaven, why God decided to wipe the Earth clean and start anew and how there’s another one coming. Oh yes. Actually it’s not even in the Bible anymore. “And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His Saints To execute judgment upon all, And to destroy all the ungodly!” Gimme some of that. Ethopian Jews still cleave to it mind.
Anyway, you distracted me. I might be completely wrong but I had a daunder through the (ugh) Vigil-Ante website and they seem quite keen on it. The band are pretty straightforward meat and potatoes prog metal with a few nu-metal influences thrown in for good measure. Vocalist Samja Simpson has an interesting timbre and there are some decent riffs dotted around tracks like ‘The Scythe’, ‘Open The Gates’ and ‘Redemption’. The production isn’t the strongest but they’re doing this off their own back so consideration is given. Guitarist JC Auger throws in a a few good solos although I’d have dropped a couple of the songs for a more virulent blast. There is certainly enough here for prog metal fans to wander by for a look see.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton