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Quick Play: A round-up of December 2009 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

PRYMARY The Enemy Inside (Prog Rock Records)

Supposedly melodic prog rock/metal from California, which kicks off in a brutal trad metal fashion. The opening guitars are heavy and fast, and there are some intricate keyboards there too, and a bass line reminiscent of Rhapsody Of Fire.

The prog rock is so brutal and in your face on the opening track, it hits you like King Crimsonís Thrak. With a whack.

This five pieceís third album is well produced, and has many more melodic almost acoustic moments, and the heavier moments keep the rhythms and melody too.

The vocals have a good range and strong sound, and the music intricate but not anally so, there are classical metal touches.

When it gets heavy, itís about as heavy as prog metal can go and still be interesting, workable, and enjoyable. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ELDORADO Eldorado

Second album from this Madrid (Spain) based band and is solid hard rock that mixes trad metal with more modern touches such as funk metal. Opener 'The House Of The 7 Smokestacks' is heavy, full of riffs, catchy, and funky too. 'The Rocket Song' could easily mix Glenn Hughes with Quireboys. 'Atlantico' is more acoustic prog, while 'Falling Falling' is heavier, mixing metal and acoustic balladry.

And there's some out there my recognise 'I Don't Need No Doctor'.

New Vintage Rock. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ATMOSFEAR Zenith (Prog Rock Records)

Formed in Germany in the mid 90s, this is Atmosfearís third album, and mixes prog rock/metal with dark operatic undertones. The rhythms are solid, chunky, catchy, and some of the scales and arpeggios give classical nods.

The slower moments still retain heavy touches, the piano mixed with chunky guitar riffs is a good touch on 'Reawakening'. With two tracks at nearly 8 minutes each, two more at 12 and another at over 20, itís very progressive indeed. A mix of Magnum and Marillion, beefed up.

Good prog metal, if a little long at times. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

AJALON This Good Place (Prog Rock Records)

This band were discovered by Rick Wakeman and through him got a lot of exposure, and well deserved it is too.

The sound centres around multi instrumentalist Randy George (guitar, keyboards, bass), who has played with Neal Morse for many years. Vocalist Will Henderson and drummer Dan Lile complete the trio. These three have played a lot of session work including with Steve Hackett, Paul Gilbert and Adrian Belew amongst others.

The vocals are good, strong yet often gentle, some good layered effects and the prog influences varied. From Yes to Marillion and 80s King Crimson, there is also a nod to the commercial guitar pop/prog of Toto.

At times the higher end vocals are reminiscent of Ra era Eloy, and as the album goes on there are some surprisingly heavy bursts. The changes of pace and use of female vocals (lead and backing) work well.

At times a little easy going, but really well worth a listen. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

IMARI TONES Welcome To The School

Christian Rock from Japan? Yes, I've just wet myself too. But this is no joke.

Opening title track is very cheesy guitar pop, and lets things down, because when the rock really does start, this three piece produce some high energy metal chock full of chops, riffs and the odd solo.

The vocals are rather high, we're not quite in King Diamond country but there is definitely something clamped on to his testicles. 'Illusions' gets a little jangly at times but when it rocks it REALLY rocks.

While this is largely rock, there are a range of sounds, it's not all all-out metal. A lot of beefed up 80s rock/pop, some trad metal, some power metal, indie, beefed up guitar-pop.

It's all very energetic, some good stuff in here, but equally a little inconsistent, and at times a little jangly.

Some tracks do stand out, but I'd listen online first. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

VARIOUS The Best Of Fried Egg Records (Bristol 1979 - 1980)
(Bristol Archive Records ARC119CD)

Every music scene has its regional centres, and punk/new wave was no exception. As the title suggests, at the end of the 70s Bristol was no different and, like with any other scene, labels spring up to accommodate the interest. In this case, Fried Egg Records.

Opening track 'Jerusalem' by Shoes For Industry has a post pub rock feel, with a touch of ríníb, think Dr Feelgood. Then itís the more jangly Pete Brandtís Method, whose sound mixes the new wave of Siouxie/Banshees with the romantic sound of Flock Of Seagulls, and a saxophone too. Quite jangly and a little disjointed.

Art Objects keep the punk / pop sound going well, spoken vocals and noisy guitar aplenty. Exploding Seagulls feature a hint of rockabilly in with the very thin punk sound. The Wild Beasts, The Stingrays, The Untouchables and The Viceroys are amongst the bands included in this 20 track set.

Well annotated, a good intro to the regional scene, but really one for aficionados. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

DAYNA KURTZ American Standard (Munich Records)

Singer/songwriter, folk, country, it's all here, so I'll keep it brief. Some interesting and good songwriting, the use of banjo on the opening 'Invocation' adds a nice touch. Not quite bluegrass but a nod that way.

Things pick up with 'Good in Ď62' which is more a rock'n'roll / rockabilly number, a retro feel that's kept inoffensive by the singer/songwriter. 'Billboards For Jesus' mixes blues with folk and rockabilly and has a dark tone to it. The organ work keeps it moody, in a 60s garage kind of way. The lap steel works well there too. 'Are You Dancing With Her Tonight?' is more balladic.

There are a range of styles here, the moodiness in places takes from the 60s Garage the same way Siouxie & The Banshees did, and other influences are retro too, but it's all done with the singer songwriter angle.

Dayna handles the vocals well, but at times it does sound like a man singing. Songs range from just Dayna's vocals to a 6 piece band.

Good but not rock'n'roll, something to chill to maybe? ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ANGEL HOUSE The Gun, The Love And The Cross (Escape Music)

Birmingham based three piece Angel House have roots firmly planted in trad British metal, especially the NWoBHM, and in a melodic way are doing their damndest to reignite it here.

This is their second album and is full of chunky riffs, solid rhythms and screaming solos.

'Day By Day' is a little more commercial, a nod to Aerosmith or Def Leppard, itís the kind of metal that could have influenced Crue or GíníR without being hair metal itself.

Back in the 80s this would have been a guaranteed hit; itís still very good but not quite what you expect in 2009, a breath of fresh air perhaps. Itís solid, itís heavy, itís trad, and itís better than OK. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

THE MISERY GARDEN Another Great Day On Earth (Prog Rock Records)

Formed in Geneva in 2005, this is the debut full album from The Misery Garden, whose twin guitar take is on the dark metal side of prog.

Lots of dark grinding energy, heavy rhythms, and some bursts of extreme metal screams, but itís done with melody too. Imagine prog rock/metal influenced by Katatonia, Tool and Perfect Circle.

At times the guitars get intricate, the vocals very melodic, the rhythms catchy, all with dark undertones. Several songs have a constant upper-mid range jangliness, giving an alternative alt.metal feel.

At times this is an interesting mix that comes off, at others itís as annoying as it is confused. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

HERO Fires Of Beltain

A mix of styles in rock here from this Canadian band, with opener 'Hey Hey Hey' a catchy riff led number, while 'Living In The Closit' is a just straight rock at the lighter end that is good, in an ordinary way, not standing out. The title track is an intricate acoustic pop/rock track, soft, the drumming gentle, yet quite commercial. 'Free As A Bird' is equally acoustic pop/rock with strings.

'Hangover' is slightly rockier, touch of blues rock.

Some good tracks, but stands out the most is that nothing stands out, and the band can't decide if they're pop, rock, acoustic or god knows was. Despite the good musicianship, even the rockier moments sound half hearted.

Just a few songs in and I'm in a quandary. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

THE OCTOBER GAME Wildblood (Carmandie Records)

Kicking off with a stringed intro before guitar strumming opens 'Greenbacks', this is very much indie folk rock. Along the lines of singer/songwriter done with a full band. The track is OK, some nice ideas but a little monotonous. 'Right On Time' has an interesting rhythm, but the harsh / bright production makes the main beat stick out a little too much.

That said, there is (in their own way) a folkish nod to The Stone Roses. There is the emphasis on the general sound, which at times is a little whimsical (the vocals are often soft over music a little too harsh), but each individual component is kept simple. Nothing too taxing or intricate. Some good melodies, but this is indie folk rock.

There is also the rare nod to prog, like an acoustic King Crimson before the drums come in. Hints of a 90s sound. Itís OK, but itís not rockíníroll. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

L-Mo Got Gumption?

Ummm. You worry when an artist has a hip-hop style name. What does L-Mo stand for? Little Mutha? Who knows. The other reason for deep concern is the leery inner sleeve photo of a youth tipping a baseball cap towards the camera.

But contrary to expectations, L-Mo are a band. A multi national three piece - singer Luke of Australian / American / English extraction, drummer Evan form Ireland and bassist Phil from Oxford. And thankfully, they're not a hip-hop band.

What they do serve up is 'upbeat adrenaline fuelled acoustic mayhem'. Which is a fairly accurate monica. And with a growing fanbase around the Leeds area and with exposure from Tom Robinson on BBC6, things are looking good for 2010.

For the most part Got Gumption? does what it says on the tin - manic acoustic and heavily percussive tunes that sound like Jack Johnson on speed. And for the most part it's easy on the ear, although the beatboxing on Too Bad and Classicbox does nothing for this reviewer.

I can see that L-Mo would be an entertaining live act, but as a package, Got Gumption? tends to be a bit singularly paced and unlikely to be an album you are going to want to regularly listen to from beginning to end. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

HENNESSEY KEANE Nowhere Fast

Named after the main men - Shaun Hennessey (guitars, banjo, backing vocals) and Ian Keane (lead vocals, drums), the pair are backed by Carl Storey (guitars), Spencer Brown (bass) and Nick Beere (hammond and production duties) on their debut album Nowhere Fast.

Formed a little over a year ago, the duo draw heavily on folk and country influences to deliver their own easy on the ear brand of classic country/ folk embellished by their Irish and Irish-American roots.

With banjo, a telecaster twang and harmony vocals at the forefront of their sound, Nowhere Fast owes more to Nashville and Johnny Cash style country music than you would expect from a Southern English pairing.

Likely to be popular on the folk circuit and with the likes of Bob Harris, the album is a little straight laced and 'traditional' for this reviewer. Certainly there's little by the way of crossover material and while the playing can't be faulted, it's hard to see where the market for Nowhere Fast is. Apart, that is, from post gig sales. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

SOL SKUGGA Fairytales And Lullabies

The third album in three years from Swedish solo artist Sol Skugga is not what you might expect from a female solo artist who has - apparently - been compared with Nine Inch Nails, U2, Blondie, Peter Gabriel, Amy Lee, Tori Amos and Kate Bush.

And with a background as a classically trained singer and studio animal, Fairytales And Lullabies should be an intoxicating mix.

But the warning lights flash as the album opens with a disclaimer that 'We will not be held responsible for any hearing impairments or damage caused to you by excessive exposure to this sound, sound .. sound Ö'

Any hopes you may have that you might be about to assaulted by some full frontal female rock dissipates as it dawns that Fairytales And Lullabies is a lo-fi affair that sits more in the teutonic, neo-classical industrial pop/folk field.

Perhaps of even greater concern is the lyrical content with lines like 'I'm gonna say 'I do' when you ask me to'. Hardly rock 'n' roll material. More like Aqua.

Yes, the album has plenty of folky pop meanderings overlaid with electronica and classical influences, but it lacks any big hooks and conceptually Fairytales And Lullabies couldn't be further removed from classic rock if it were from another planet. **

Review by Pete Whalley

 


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly


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