Reviews roundup ~ Joe Bonamassa ~ Nine Skies ~ Fire Bridge ~ Hellsike
If it’s Wednesday (checks, yes it is Wednesday) then it must be time for a new Joe Bonamassa release.
It only feels like yesterday when his last live album appeared but as he seems to be a consummate workaholic he’s back with the first single of his next studio set. And it’s a good one.
It’s more on the rock end of blues rock and it’s nice to hear him pulling those chops for a change. Maybe it’s having some fresh faces in the studio, maybe it was co-writing this with Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke.
It certainly rocks harder than anything of their last release. According to Mr B it sees him addressing the vagaries of the music industry and the southern swagger that Mr Starr brings to the writing table is very welcome.
As always it sounds great and it’s a fine advert for the next album although I’d recommend checking out the full length version rather than the single edit. The latter rocks but the former rocks like a bastard.
I would imagine the next few years is going to see a few plague influenced albums appearing and one look at the cover of this release from French progsters Nine Skies shows that they’re not immune to it.
This is their third studio album and they have a gentle way about their prog which is rather endearing. There are 11 (eleven!) band members listed on the CD and that’s before you get to the special guests. But the music is largely composed by the trio of Eric Bouillette, who plays guitars, violin, mandolin and keyboards, Alexandre Lamia who plays guitars, keyboards and piano, and Achraf El Asraoui who sings and plays guitars. Add in another keyboard player, Anne-Claire Rallo, who writes the lyrics as well as additional guitarists, bass player, drummer, saxophonist, violinist and cello player and they’ve got just about every base covered.
It’s very seventies influenced so fans of Camel and Genesis will find this a very comforting place to be and they’ve even got Steve Hackett popping in for a solo as well as John Hackett playing flute on another song. And Damian Wilson sings on one of the songs as well. So, musically, it’s pretty damn faultless. ‘Colourblind’ is the most Genesissy track while album highlight ‘The Old Man in the Snow’ is simply gorgeous.
The production and arrangements is impeccable and they are really good at painting pictures in your head. As prog goes, this is just about as good as it gets. Shame there’s no lyrics included but, that aside, an absolute delight.
Almost A Distant Memory
Royal City Studio
I don’t get many records from China. And with everything that’s been going on it was dowsed in lighter fluid, burned and then reconstituted before being allowed in the house. Can’t be too careful.
And, by crikey, they’ve went all out on the packaging. Once I managed to extract the various bits and bobs, there were seven (7!) posters, six postcardy things including two with lyrics. Oh, and a CD. I nearly forgot about that.
The assorted members have come from all corners of the globe before the emergence of Fire Bridge in the heart of the Pearl River Delta back in 2012. Apparently that’s a megalopolis which is just about as scary as it sounds. Oh, music, yes. That’s why we’re here. Well there thing seems to be hard melodic rock with a few wee post grunge twists and turns. There’s eight tracks on offer here, largely mid placed solid as a rock rock. Instrumentally, they do a decent job although the drums seem to suffer slightly in the mix while the vocals do tend to be a bit one dimensional.
But when they step out of the mainstream things can be interesting. I certainly wasn’t expecting the jazzy bass to pop up in ‘(Don’t) Try’ and the oddly titled ‘I Wanna Rock, Rock N’ Roll’ has a groove and swagger to it that makes it stand out from the rest.
Norwegian trad metal. Hah! Heavy fudging metal.
A concept album with mental health as the theme as we’re taken through a series of nightmares from one of the inmates of the “Insanitarium”.
I liked this but then I was a young fella me lad when the early days of thrash kicked in. And this is very eighties in feel. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the members of the band clutch their early Venom albums close to their hearts.
Certainly vocalist / guitarist Ole Morten Kvarme has a touch of the Cronos about him. And that’s before the rhythm section decide that hitting everything at the same time is definitely the way to go.
It’s their second album so they’re not complete novices but they do manage to sound as though they’re kids in a toyshop. Or in this case a recording studio. After the legally obligatory spooky intro they head off into the title track and for the next 26 minutes they just got Metal! Metal! Metal!. That’s right. Twenty six minutes. We’re not pissing about with 90 minute concept albums here. And it’s a blast.
That title track and ‘River Of Blood’ are probably the highlights with the latter having a touch of 1988 Slayer around the edges. Metal fans who like things rough around the edges should be giving this a spin.
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