Reviews roundup – Delain ~ Kate Garner ~ Natural Spirit ~ Joe Candelario ~ Dave Plotel
Apocalypse & Chill
Delain never really worked for me. They should have. Everyone knows how much I like a bit of symphonic metal. Thing about that genre, though, is you have to get everything right. One misfiring element and it becomes unlistenable. The problem I had with Delain was the vocals. Some of the music was fantastic but, too often, the vocals were almost pure pop. Sometimes a dichotomy can work. But it didn’t work for me. So we went out separate ways. They were fine, don’t worry.
So I didn’t even other with ‘The Human Contradiction’ or ‘Moonbathers’. But I thought to myself, we’ve both grown older, we’re more mature, maybe we can put our differences aside. So here we are. A few months after it arrived but, hey. And some of the music is magnificent. “Chemical Redemption” and “Vengeance” are fantastic songs, full of power and majesty. On the latter, when Yannis Papadopoulos arrives for a singsong, things go stellar. But for most of the record I’m still afflicted by the same problem I always had. It really is me, not you. Although when you consider the chart bothering Within Temptation you do wonder sometimes.
There are some great songs here and the arrangements and production work is second to none. Although whoever was responsible for the audible Autotune needs a slap on the list. They’re actually at their best when they dial down the metal a bit as it suits the vocals an awful lot more. So ‘Ghost House Heart’ is a real highlight. Mellow, reflective, a song that seeps into you. Conversely, the pure metal of ‘Legions Of The Lost’ overcomes the limitations by sheer brutality. It’s when they get stuck in the middle that I start to think about popping the kettle on.
The final track is a really enjoyable instrumental and they’ve also chucked in three orchestral versions which show how good the compositions are. Let’s just put it down to experience and go our separate ways.
Songs From The Art Deco Decades
Alright, fact fans, here’s a fact for you. “The Way You Look Tonight” is the greatest love song ever. Don’t bother arguing. Although you might wonder why a bear sized, long haired, bearded, tattooed metalhead would make such a claim? Simple. I was brought up on tunes likes this. I spent most of my childhood in the company of my Great Aunt Euphemia Moore Bell and her husband. And she was born in 1906. So guess what kind of music she listened to? Correct. And it never left me. Heck, I even used to have a weekly radio show called Golden Memories where I rarely strayed past 1949.
So I’ve really been enjoying Kate Garner’s Sunday Best during lockdown where she sits at her piano and performs songs from said olden days. And she has a CD out. This one. And it’s really good. She has the light, bright and breathy voice that you’ll hear in many a 1930s film musical and it’s one that suits the music. As it should.
When you’re performing songs as exquisite as “Please Don’t Talk About Me”, “You Got Me Crying Again” and “Someday I’ll Find You” you really need to bring your best game, and with Ms Garner on piano and vocals accompanied by Dave Berry on double bass & tuba (not at the same time), Robert Fowler on clarinet and sax and drummer Mike ‘Ozzie’ Osborn, you’ve got a set of musicians completely in tune with the material.
It’s a delightful release and should keep me going inbetween our Sunday dates. You can order via her Twitter account at https://twitter.com/KateGarnerMusic
Under Sickle Of Time
Ukranian folk metal anyone? Well me certainly because this is fantastic.
Folk metal is one of my favourite things. Has been for aeons. Maybe it’s hailing from North of the Wall. Maybe it’s that Nordic blood swilling about in my veins from the days when they were Lord of the Isles and spent a fair amount of time pillaging my ancestors. I’m still waiting for reparations by the way. Regardless, chuck together some great true metal, throw in some bagpipes, flutes and pipes and lyrics about the hornhead master and I’m your man.
Turns out Natural Spirit were a thing over a decade ago before original band member, guitarist and vocalist Oleg Kirienko, decided to have another go in the company of new members guitarist Olexiy Samovol and vocalist Antonnia Vinnyk. There’s also a dozen guests taking care of the aforementioned flutes and bagpipes as well as hurdy gurdy, trumpet, cello, bandura, didgeridoo and more. So far so Eluveitie. But there is a symphonic underscoring to the music of Natural Spirit that raises it above many others in the genre. The classical female vocals and harsh male vocals are also another staple of the genre but they’re used really well here.
They do sing in Ukrainian but have done us the courtesy of having the lyrics translated into English in the booklet. And there are plenty of references to folklore, the ancient Gods and even a Viking tale. After all, the Norse were just as happy sailing up an Eastern European river as they were crossing the North Sea to bother my folks. Musically, it’s very intricate at times but with enough crushing riffs to keep the metallic hordes at bay. In general the songs are a tad heavier than your standard folk metal offering but they know when to transition into something more subtle as the mood requires.
There is always a melody running through the songs and it’s one of those rare albums that I actually wish was a wee bit longer. That aside, this is easily one of the best metal albums this year.
The Big Engine
Mad Hare Entertainment
A working musician in Colorado for over thirty years, Joe Candelario has worked in cover bands, prog metal outfits, his own well regarded Joe C. Wails Gang and now as a solo performer. In fact, so solo, that his is the only name on the credits. Although I’m assuming other folks were involved given the female harmony / backing vocals.
His last offering, “Pangea”, in 2018 was prog but this releases sees him firmy in blues rock mode. He describes it as a kind of railroad concept album and as well as lyrics there are occasional rhythmic references in the groove. He’s a really good singer and guitarist and you do wonder if he’d punted this out twenty years back whether the blues world would have made his name.
No point in hindsight, though, because wer’re here to enjoy this. The first three songs are real crackers with “Conjunction Dysfunction”, “Bad Mojo Rising” and “Hell-Bound Train” absolute delights. Great hooks, melodies and performance. There is a slight mid album lull where things get a bit generic hard rock but it’s not long before he recovers his mojo in time for the home straight which leads up to the closing, epic, “Banks of Sunshine”.
It’s a rock solid release with half a dozen tracks you’d be happy to hear on repeat.
Here’s a chap who’s been around for a while. Even I’m not old enough to remember ‘Marvel World of Icarus’ which came out in 1972.
As well as progging out Mr Plotel spent time touring with the likes of Ben E King, Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley and others. He was in the band at Ronnie Scotts and even played with the Real Thing when they toured supporting the Imperial Wizard himself, David Essex. I’d have lead with that. He then got into session work as well as leading his own jazz fusion outfit. Which brings us to this. Because that’s what it is.
But it’s jazz fusion at the listenable edge, not the pointless flurry of notes side. It’s a proper solo release with Mr Plotel playing everything apart from some keyboards on “Sweet Times Blues” which is ridiculously melodic tune. A real delight.
The opening number, “Flyin’ High” is proper seventies fusion pop with a hint of Alan Parsons Project about it while “The Pony Blues” slows things down a bit but with some really saucy guitar work. The title track is more uptempo, sees the guitar a bit fuzzed up in places, while the solo seems to run under the entire tune. Things close with the aforementioned bluesy and melodic “Sweet Times Blues”. That would have been a sure fire hit if it had come out when Snowy White was bothering the charts.
Vocally, he takes the semi spoken approach which actually suits the music and is very listenable. A four track EP without a single duff moment. If you’re in the mood for a poppy Steely Dan meets “White Flames”.
Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton