Reviews roundup – Ben Lang ~ Pyramaze ~ Trellis ~ Phil Vincent ~ Adam’s Curse
Modern Man EP
Moo Moo Records
He’s been about a bit has Ben Lang, as a founding member of the San Francisco cult band Biv and the Mnemonics with friend Dan Paggi as well as an assortment of other bands such as Azalea Drive, Moblad, and The Devil’s Chord, but this sees him in solo troubadour mode.
And it’s enjoyable. It’s acoustic singer / songwriter stuff with a helping of country. Well he does originally come from Texas. He’s been performing solo for a few years now and the six tracks here were recorded between 2018 and 2020. He rarely gets out of a canter but that’s how it’s supposed to be with this sort of reflective material. He’s not a singer (in capital letters) but has a world weary voice that in a few places is reminiscent of Lou Reed. Make of that what you will and take a listen to “Hollow Spaces” if you want actual evidence. Although in our two minutes to midnight world evidence isn’t what it was.
A few years back this would have been plumped straight into the Americana ranks but I’ve no idea what they’re calling it these days. But that’s where it would have lived. Certainly he’s a strong songwriter and all of the songs have their moments in the sun. The best of them is probably “Houston-New Orleans”, the opening number, which certainly sets out his stall. The guitar playing is uniformly excellent and the production while nominally straightforward still manages to throw in a few, well thought out moments where you go “ooh”.
A good one.
For a while there it looked as though Pyramaze were going to be a “thing”. Then there was the whole Matt Barlow farce. Then founder, songwriter, and guitarist Michael Kammeyer left the band. And that was, kinda, that.
They sort of regrouped with a different lineup but it would be seven long years before the follow up to ‘Immortal’ arrived in 2015. Since then they’ve actually managed to maintain their lineup and this is the third album since their regurgitation. And it’s good. It’s certainly powerful and theatrical and even if they’re missing that wee bit of magic from years ago there is a lot here to commend it. Newish singer Terje Harøy has a voice perfectly suited to this sort of progressive power metal and puts on a good show throughout. Interestingly enough, when you reach the final track, “The Time Traveller”, former vocalists Lance King and Matt Barlow return for a threeway with the new boy. Who can resist the Guardian of Time and the Spirit of What Could Have Been! It’s also one of the best tracks on the record.
Add to that the scene stealing turn from Brittney Slayes (Unleash The Archers) on “Transcendence” and there is enough of interest for the curious to take a look see. They’ve certainly got a knack for remembering to pop a melody in that lodges itself away for return visits. They’re largely keyboard motifs so a well deserved round of applause for Jonah Weingarten. I’m not sure whether this is a concept album or not but certainly there is a Ragnarökr feel to the music and lyrics. Oddly, the lyrics are mainly from non band member Henrik Fevre. Presumably the same one that’s in Anubis Gate with Pyramaze drummer Morten Gade Sørensen who used to feature Jacob Hansen. You know, the one in Pyramaze!
It’s an excellent offering that, hopefully, will bring a few folk back to the table.
Christmas, eh? Not for me, thanks. Did I mention my Da died on Christmas Eve when I was still at the school? Oh, and I’m a widower whose wife died too young. So you can take your festivities and shove them. Well, you know where.
Chris Wira must like it though. He’s the fella who is Trellis and who plays the drum, guitar and bass on this festive offering. To it’s credit, it’s proper Christmas music. You know, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “The First Noel”, “Angels We Have Heard On High”, “Silent Night” etc. But done as heavyish guitar instrumentals.
Yes, you read that right, widdlers. Heavyish guitar instrumentals. His list of influences include Carlos Santana, Mozart and Guns’n’Roses but in terms of tone, it’s very much the latter that is to the fore. It’s not technically technical in the vein of your Satriani and Vai. It actually does sound a wee bit like a hair metal band in search of a vocalist. Thrown Sebastian Bach (hah!) into the mix and you might have something.
If you are looking for something to sing along to next Christmas and want something with a medium sized set of balls, then this might be for you.
Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday
It’s always 1987 in the world of Phil Vincent as he brings us his 77th solo album of melodic hard rock. Actually it’s only (!) his twenty second solo album but factor in all the records with Cranston, Chinawhite, Legion, Tragik and D’Ercole and it can’t be far off.
At least you know where you are with one of his albums, an increasingly rare thing in a fragile world. He runs the gamut all the way from melodic hard rock to hard melodic rock and all points in-between. It’s as if Boston and Bon Jovi had a love child who was reared in a recording studio and never allowed out into the real world. And, you know I can think of worse fates.
I’ve always really liked his voice and he’s also a dab hand at the songwriting, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums all of which he’s responsible for here. Although, for that wee bit of guitar crunch he’s brought along Legion cohort Vince O’Regan to use his nimble fingers on the solos. There’s always a hit single on every Phil Vincent album and this time it’s probably “Flying High” which is ridiculously catchy. Of course when I say hit single I mean eighties rock hit single not beep-beep autotuned 21st century hit single.
He hasn’t forgotten the legally obligatory power ballad here and has pulled out the stops on the closing “Loss (Part 2) – One Day, We’ll Meet Again”. It closes the album and it’s a pure dead brilliant, three hanky job and as an official widower I can never listen to it ever again. You’ve been warned.
What The Ancients Knew About Us
“We sat grown quiet at the name of love. We saw the last embers of daylight die.” That’s all I remember. It’s been a long time and I’m tired. Has he cracked up again, I hear you ask? Well, yes, but not for that reason. It’s all I remember from the WB Yeats poem, “Adam’s Curse”. I don’t really approve of poets. It’s a sign of spiritual weakness hence why, if you search the internet really hard, you’ll find a bijou booklet of poetry written by me.
Back to this Adam’s Curse, presumably named after the poem, what with them being Irish an’ all. I actually remember seeing Glyder back in the day which was where Bat Kinane, the mainman behind Adam’s Curse, first came to notice. They were good but never seemed to get past the curse of Baby Lizzy. He’s kept busy over the years with a few low key solo releases but the madness of lockdown saw him getting together with bassist John Treacy and drummer Brendan Gilligan to record this.
Some of the material goes way back with the opening “A Vibe For Philo” dating back to 2011 and “Stargazer” (not that one) first appearing on the debut Glyder album in 2006. And the best songs here do hark back to the Glyder days. Maybe, like a lot of us, the impending Armageddon has seen Kinane looking back to when we still had hope. That’s why “A Vibe For Philo” and “Borrowed Time” are my favourites. They’ve got the rough and ready Celtic edge that always grabs my attention, the scion of illiterate Irish cobblers who made their way to the mainland over an array of famines. As for “Tattoos and Loneliness”, well you can inscribe that on my tombstone.
I do wish they’d managed to find a singer somewhere in the Pandemonium because Kinane, while a serviceable vocalist, is missing that magic wee something that can lift a good song into the realms of great.
But, that aside, there’s a lot to enjoy here and a lot to think about.