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Quick Play: A round-up of May 2007 album releases

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

THE SIMON HOPPER BAND A Land For The Many (2007)

A very talented singer/songwriter and this album is a 'must have' for fans of traditional British folk rock in the tradition of Fairport Convention.

The title track alone, with its lyric praising the positive impact of immigration and attacking the far right, is one you could easily imagine Fairport Convention tackling. Then there is the traditional folk backing on 'Gewgaw' (a neat attack on the disposable consumer society), whilst 'Trevor Square' is just one of those songs to chill out to.

Singer/songwriter based folk music doesn't come much better than this and it is heartily recommended for fans of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson and Steve Tilston. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

ART OF DYING Revolver Records (2007)

Canadian band's debut album and they have already been gaining glowing praise form 'Classic Rock' amongst others. This praise is indeed justified as there are some cracking rock tuners on here like 'Fits Of Clarity', with its catchy chorus and ''Completely' driven along by a cracking guitar riff. They sound at times like fellow Canadians Nickelback as they have the knack of penning hook filled modern rock tunes that will have a wide appeal.

An assure debut album and one for fans of Nickelback for sure. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

BLASDEAD Ground Flare Majestic Rock

Is there a New Wave of Japanese Heavy Metal?

Another new metal band from Japan on the Majestic Rock label, this new album is a stormer.

Opener 'Empty House' is ferocious, solid heavy metal. Melodic speed metal with a nod at Helloween. A modern and more polished Raven.

A touch of roughness to the vocals that remain coherent, near machine gun drums, late 80s era high fire Priest guitar.

While the music is good, with some great guitar moments, it is in places ordinary, occasionally disjointed.

At times the vocals sound a little forced, but as we go on you get kinda used to it.

'Triumph Over Hardships' features some great guitar work.

Enough good moments, some of this Jap metal should be checked out. ***

Review by Joe Geesin


This Canadian progressive unit mix rock with fusion, and as the 8 minute opening track 'Threads' shows there are a range of moods and rhythms. Imagine a modern mix of the more eclectic sides of ELP and King Crimson.

'Three Valley Gap' kicks off acoustically with a lot of guitar oriented noise experimentation.

'DIagramma Suite' features keyboards and a nod at Rick Wakeman and 90s King Crimson. But running at over 20 minutes the room for manoeuvre is well utilised.

Elements of fusion punctuate 'Tempra' and like the rest of the album it is largely instrumental. Some nice bass runs.

A good set if you like prog fusion at the modern experimental end. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

NEPHWRACK The Once & Future King

After a series of self financed EPs sold independently, we get Nephwrack's debut full length LP with a near alternative metal take, and a nod at goth metal too.

The opening track features some furious guitar work, while later we get some good vocal range, and guitar interplay with the intelligence of Iron Maiden.

'Cold Skin' kicks off with a rhythmic bass line and a melodic guitar riff, before we get the heavy rhythmic growls of the vocals.

The vocal and guitar harmonies on 'Fall Of Empires' work well.

'Teargas' takes us more into extreme metal territories, the thrash bursts handled well and coherently.

Good solid and consistent, great debut.***

Review by Joe Geesin

THE SKY PIRATES 1234 EP (Inshore Madman Records)

Interesting release from this young band. Opening track 'Raincheck' mixes the modern indie / proto punk take on guitar pop of Wire Daisies with the proto 60s rock of The Kinks, while 'I Like Girls' is down’n’dirty take on the guitar pop of The Kaiser Chiefs. 'If You Ever Change' is acoustic, more balladic singer / songwriter. Final track 'A Little Too Easy' is uptempo with a meaty guitar riff and more of a guitar pop harmony in the chorus. A noteworthy rocker.

Well worth checking out, you can find them on Myspace. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

H.I.M. Uneasy Listening Vol.2 (Universal)

Second volume of live and alternate versions that is really for fans only, as those new to the band would be better off getting the 'And Love Said No' greatest hits collection (which is re-released and re-mastered along with this CD and includes two unreleased songs).

Frankly some of these tracks are cack like 'Rendezvous With Anus' and 'Again'. On the other hand the live version of the Chris Isaak cover 'Wicked Game' is great stuff - wonderful vocals - and 'Endless Dark' is the hook filled goth metal H.I.M. do so well.

If you're a fan buy this, otherwise spend your money on the band's studio albums. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

GOURISHANKAR End Hands (Unicorn Digital)

Russian progressive band who mix the 70's classic prog of Yes along with modern synths and programming similar to modern day Tangerine Dream (listen to 'The Inexpressible Chagrin' a TD flavoured number if ever there was one).

Highlight is 'Syx' with some lovely violin/viola woven into the music and bringing to mind that 70's Kansas sound.

Not for everyone as this is a little to indulgent (too many lengthy solos for my personal liking) at times for my tastes but others will love this and the band should be applauded for creating such a varied and soundscape. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

LUX OCCULTA The Mother and the Enemy

Bizarre disc, this one. Firmly planted in the Portishead school of making music, it's rather a tale of two halves.

The heavier male sung stuff is a bit bog standard black metal electronica while the female sung tracks have the ethereal qualities of bands like Nightwish and Tristania.

The trouble is the two are a bit incompatible at times. The male sung stuff is mostly just annoying, like the god-awful "Gambit," while the other material is far more of quality.

Granted all of it is rather mournful stuff but the starkness of the opening of the track "Yet Another Armageddon" is quite breathtaking and beautiful ala Portishead.

It's really hard to tie this one down but I have to say its peaks and lows are dramatic...maybe that was the intent. **

Review by Marty Dodge

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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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