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Quick Play: A round-up of October 2008 album releases

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

Crash Records / Plastic Head

By the time this album comes out TFA will be halfway through a UK tour, and have already been getting some good reviews.

Opening track "If The Ink Runs Dry" adds a touch of uptempo pub rock to the usual mix of rock/pop, with some heavy guitar and pop melody vocals that make the track memorable and catchy. "Roll Up" is pure guitar pop thrashed out with aplomb and a touch of sleaze.

The music does have a punk edge, and the harmonies in the backing vocals do add to that new wave feel, but just when you think it's all gone guitar pop, "BRB" breaks out in a very decent guitar solo (something many young bands have lost the art of). The guitar mixes rhythms and riffs well too.

From punk to pop, this is 1979 all over again for the guitar pop generation and it works well. The maturity and melody are shown in "Big In Japan", a potential classic.

Definitely worth a listen ****

Review by Joe Geesin

NEONDAZE Neondaze (Artistworxx)

Swedish band Neondaze have just released their self-titled debut album-12 tracks of melodic hooks, crunching guitars and catchy songs.

The band has a sound that embraces that late '80's LA sound, mixed with a dose of Def Leppard and the touch of Scandinavia's current batch of melodic rock bands such as The Poodles.

Highlights include opening track 'Intoxicated', 'Live 4 Tonight', 'Chains' and the ballad like 'Caroline'.  ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

MOODY McARDLE Fractured Soul

Tommy McArdle, forensic psychiatrist by day, guitarist vocalist and songwriter by night, has got this debut album together to document his efforts to understand people in his job.

Opener "Get Up" is a piano based piece, with a nod at Mike & The Mechanics, while things pick up for "Curtain Call", where piano and guitar mix evenly in commercial rock fashion. From the outset it is all very well crafted, with as much intelligence in the music as in the lyrics. The duel guitars mix acoustic and electric, with some neat but subtle solos, all fitting with the piano and bass well.

"Let It In" is a classic example of a great melody; think classic rock meets AOR meets acoustic singer/songwriter, full band style. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

NAVARO Under Diamond Skies (Halo Records)

Singer/guitarist Beth Navaro has teamed up with singer/songwriters Pete White And Steve Austin for a strong and melodic acoustic set.

The opening "When You Go From My Door" shows Beth's great voice, and guitar and piano mix well. Then on "Made To Match" there's a touch of huskiness, but not too much, it's a solid sound that carries the tune well.

Having several guitarists works well, as here it's not all strumming; while one may provide a rhythm, you still get a lead guitar.

"Home" opens more whimsically, with voice and piano, while "Always" kicks off just guitar and piano and voice. Then the rhythm section come in, and there is a slight country feel. Some nice overdubs on the backing vocals, and there's a horn section too giving a northern England feel.

The songs are generally short, 2-4 minutes, so they do their job in delivering without boring or dragging. A good range of voice and of tempos. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

HISTORY OF GUNS Acedia (Line Out Records)

New album which kicks off in extreme fashion with a gothic nod and obnoxious vocals that don't sound out of place. Some mean riffs too. The rap like thumping drum gives an Anthrax feel too.

Moody metal with catchy tones, and track 3 "But I'll Be Waiting" features a nod to modern day Hawkwind trance mixed with slightly gothic metal (not quite as extreme as NFD), a piano/bass break, this is one of the best tracks of the year.

Deep and dark vocals and gothic metal with effects, while another track opens with some up tempo rock'n'roll drums.

An interesting of not totally consistent mix, but when it's good it really comes off.

Worth buying for "But I'll Be Waiting" alone. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

LUCKY FUNERAL Lucky Funeral (Trailblazer Records )

With a name like Lucky Funeral, you would expect a mix of doom and stoner metal, and that is exactly what you do get. And with the initial pressing already sold out (following successful tours in Greece et al) this debut CD is being re-promoted.

Opener 'My Dealer Is The Best' is as druggy as it sounds, and by 'Stay Away' we are being blasted by uptempo 70s Sabbath with a slight indie nod, the vocals mixing alt-metal with Chad Kroeger.

Like with Sabbath’s Masters Of Reality, there are changes of pace; here the title track is akin to 'Into The Void', more stoner and very much beefed up.

Aside Black Sabbath, there are also Pantera and Kyuss nods.

For the heavy end, it does it’s job.  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

UNTAMED Insanity Bound Transcend Media Group / Cargo

The NWoBHM rises again, with a Peterborough band who started life as a trad metal covers band before adding more and more of their own material. And where they lack technical ability the band more than make up with power, direction and attitude.

With riffs aplenty, there’s not a great deal of variation throughout the album, but if you were brought up with the likes of early Metallica, Ozzy, Tygers Of Pan Tang et al, this album will bring your youth flooding back.

The direction is a touch trebly, and the vocals a little, well thin isn’t the right word, but think Hammers Rule; however they do a good job. The guitar harmonies on 'Broken Silence' stand out as well as the solos.

Very retro, and enjoyable with it. If you are under 25 buy this and your dad will want to borrow it too!  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin


First album in 20 years for these NWoBHM legends.

Led by original guitarist Ian Toomey, the band are joined by vocalist Tony Tomkinson, Bassist DBasser and drummer Steve Thurton. And don’t forget producer, guitarist and keyboard player Chris Tsangarides.

The opening title is as rough as it is heavy; the sledgehammer that hits you square in the face is covered in briars. 'Metalize' is heavy but a tad smoother – a nod at Judas Priest. The album develops well from there, solid power metal with doom, prog and NWoBHM edges.

The opening riffs to 'Red Skies' will grab fans new and old, and the alt-metal vocals keep the modern edge.

There’s a distinct nod to both Priest and Saxon on 'Mr Toomey', a dark uptempo number with some blistering guitar.

In the main a good classic trad metal album let down by trying to sound too modern in some places, and a little sloppiness in others. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

SILVERSKY ‘Calling All Killers’ SS Music EP

Three track EP of which the title track is the weakest of the three songs - the distorted guitars are good, the tune not so good. But grab a listen to ‘We Should Be Dead’ which has a suitably doomy lyric and a vocal/sound not unlike a Morrisey solo song and is a cracking song.

‘Bare’ rounds the EP of nicely and again has a whiff of Morrissey although more in the vocals of Pete Smith than the sound this time. A band that certainly tweak the listener’s interest and wants you to hear more by the band. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

P.O.D. When Angels & Serpents Dance (Cooking Vinyl )

An interesting and varied range of songs here, with melodies exploring rock, pop and even reggae, all over the very heavy rhythms. Pop or alt-metal? So why not try both at the same time. And after a four year absence this set sees guitarist Marcos return to the fold.

'Addiction' is at the at the heavy end, nodding at alt-metal, tuneless and rhythmic, but not bad at all. 'Shine With Me' is more indie rock/metal.

The rhythms in 'Condescending' are more disjointed, in not too an unpleasant way. A few bars nod at rap-metal.

'It Can’t Rain Every Day' is bluesier, with the intro nodding at Hendrix, but he main part of the song a 90s indie throwback, and a touch of the more melodic Saxon too. Contrast that to the following 'Kalifon-Eye-A' which is an even mix of metal and indie, and features guest vocalist Mike Muir.

An interesting mix that may not grab everyone, or not very many people at all, but some good moments. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

OHGR Devils In My Details SPV

This programmed metal affair features former Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre, and programmer Mark Walk.

Opening track 'Shhh' is driving bass / catchy drum led, and is dark and uncannily pleasant. It somehow sits in the region of NFD without the guitar, and mid 80s Damned.

'Eyecandy' opens in almost stoner country, before the effects come in with some dark background vocals. Good videogame soundtrack material.

The rest of the album continues in similar fashion, with variation in pace and rhythm. There is a strong element of ambient gothic metal here, with guitars and keyboards standing out on occasion.

A lot better than it sounds. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

NICK LOWE Jesus Of Cool (Proper Records)

Singer songwriter Nick Lowe was a front-runner in the British pub rock/punk rock/new wave explosion of the late 70’s, and is a bit of a local legend round here - he lives in Brentford, and was once the son-in-law of the even more legendary Johnny Cash.

'Jesus Of Cool' was originally released in 1978 and was Lowe’s breakthrough album, following a string of single releases, it has been long since out of print and now makes it’s first appearance on CD. As well as the original album there are 11 bonus tracks including live tracks, b-sides and EP tracks. Amongst the musicians on the album are Blockhead Norman Watt-Roy and guitarist Dave Edmunds.

Highlights include the singles 'I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass', 'Cruel To Be Kind' and 'Halfway To Paradise' alongside 'Shake and Pop', 'So It Goes', 'Nutted By Reality', the instrumental 'Shake That Rat', and 'Heart Of The City'.  ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

GOURISHANKAR Close Grip (Unicorn Digital)

This Russian prog outfit released this album independently in 2003, and is re-released here to a wider audience with a bonus track too.

Modern production with hints of Yes, Asia, Rush, and an occasional nod at the European metal scene. So in between your Genesis structures and Rush riffs and Asia AOR, you get some heavy, fast and furious guitar workouts. Almost as eccentric as King Crimson. "Insomnia" features a couple of keyboard bursts reminiscent of the dual guitar harmonies Iron Maiden used on "To Tame A Land".

It's also quite an electronic album, some effects and tape loops not sounding too out of place. This more experimental prog is definitely worth investigating and enjoyable though it is, I can somehow imagine many oldschool fans listening, nodding in approval and filing it away. Perhaps the modern experimental approach is just too varied. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

LYNNE HANSON Eleven Months
(Lynne Hanson Records / Weatherbox/Pinnacle)

A roots folk album, which take the singer/songwriter angle through a range of influences.

While Lynne strums the acoustic as she sings, she is augmented by an electric lead, dobro, lap slide, pedal steel, drums, upright bass, you get the idea. The obvious country angle is roots enough to be of the kind that influenced rockabilly, but done acoustic / singer/songwriter fashion.

Canadian born, this has more American influences than your typical singer/songwriter, a strong voice with gentle music. The acoustic picking ads a slight hillbilly touch to the folk music, especially on "Nazareth Bound".

There is some good guitar work, some decent rhythms, but even the uptempo songs and Americana sound whimsical. A good take on roots though. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

JELLYFICHE  Tout Ce Que J'ai Reve (Unicorn)

Jellyfiche are a French-Canadian progressive rock trio. They have a particular love of late 60s and early 70s prog rock; and the eerie, fantastical sounds that early Pink Floyd composed are present in this album.

As they sing in their native tongue I have no idea what the lyrics mean but the actual music is really quite wonderful. The band was formed in 2005 and this is their debut album.

Parts of the album are really quite surreal and even poetic with a very atmospheric fusion of sounds so the sixties French New Wave probably had an impact on Syd (vocals and bass,) Eric Plante (saxophone and keyboards) and Jean-François Arsenault (guitars.) It’s a creative and at times blissful piece of work. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

REEMER Snakes and Ladders (Reaction Records)

Since the dawn of The Arctic Monkeys it has become fashionable, once again, to sing in your natural regional dialect. It is this trait that will draw comparisons between Manchester band Reemer and the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys. On debut album 'Snakes and Ladders' there are also slight strains of The Killers to be heard, more than that though, the songs themselves are packed with catchy choruses and indie guitars.

Andy MacPherson and Chris Kimsey who, between them, have worked with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Cult and Blondie produced the album and they have done a good job in retaining the energy of the band within the recording.

Singles 'Maniac', which reached the top 5 of the indie charts in July, and 'Rockstar'- the video to which features Reemer fan Johnny Vegas, feature alongside highlights including 'Words'- which if released as a single would do very well, 'Too Bad', the anthemic 'Miles' and 'Find My Place', which features some very nice guitar work.

The band have already supported the likes of Scouting For Girls and The Feeling and look set to tour in support of 'Snakes and Ladders'. ***

Refview by Nikk Gunns


The Hot Club Of Cowtown have been playing Western Swing/Hot Jazz since 1997 and have released 5 albums to date. They have recently toured Europe and remain one of the hardest working trios of their genre. The band will appeal to fans of Willie Nelson, and of Bob Dylan- in fact the band toured with the pair in 2004,with vocalist/violinist Elana Fremerman going on to join Dylan’s touring band in 2005. Hot Club briefly parted ways at this point, reforming in 2008 they release this 20 track best of compilation.

There are no new tracks on the CD but this is compensated for by an in depth cover booklet, live tracks 'Ida Red', 'Deed I Do' and 'Orange Blossom Special' sit alongside highlights such as 'When I Lost You', 'Sleep' and 'Secret of Mine'- there is even the odd standard like Hoagy Carmichaels 'Star Dust' or the bands arrangement of the traditional 'Cherokee Shuffle'.

Not an album to suit everyone’s tastes but fans of country music should enjoy a listen. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

MORGLBL Cartoons From The Past
(Free Electric Sound)

Morglbl are a French trio, formed in 1997, they mix heavy rock with a kind of acid jazz- like a heavier Frank Zappa, if you like- to create their own brand of instrumental mayhem.

'Cartoons From The Past' is a double CD set that contains the bands first 2 albums 'The Morglgl Trio!!' and 'Bienvenue A Morglbl Trio', originally released in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The band are about to embark on a US tour and guitarist Christophe Godin was recently voted the 5th best guitarist in France in a French guitar magazine.

Highlights include 'Inside Flower', 'ravel' and 'Skouskymegum'. There are also two bonus tracks 'Nounours a Disparu' and the appropriately titled 'Cartoons Tunes'. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns


THE SEA Get It Back

The Sea - Peter and Alex Chisholm - have taken the White Stripes guitar and drums formula, and while not exactly copying it, have made a damn good fist of replicating their sound. It bears all the same hallmarks, but let's face it there is a limit to what you can get from an electric guitar and a set of drums.

So what you get is big chords, big hooks and big drums. And if you like White Stripes this may be to your taste. But let's not forget, Jack White has diversified considerably at least in part, one assumes to the limitations of the line up.

And listening to The Sea you can only think that some of the material may benefit from a more conventional 3/4 piece. But I guess I'd then be asking whether they have anything more to offer than so many other garage bands.

Get It Back is pretty 'full on', although when they do ease off for a moment - such as on I Spend my Days (which sounds eerily like Kelly Jones) - they hint at hidden subtleties, but it only lasts for exactly one minute before they go back to thrashing the skins and strings. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

TALISMA  Quelque Part (Unicorn)

Talisma come from Quebec City and was formed in 1993 by Donald Fleurent. It was in 2003 when they created ‘Corpus’ that gained them a reputation as a talented musical force and got them a deal with Unicorn.

‘Corpus’ fused all kinds of styles together like rock, jazz, classical and even ethnic influences. In 2005 they released ‘Chromium’ and here they are in 2008 with ‘Quelque Part.’ It is certainly heavy going but as an instrumental piece there’s plenty to offer the most dedicated aficionado such as the wacky ‘Basse de Fou.’

Rock fans will appreciate the riffs but again this sort of progressive rock is really an acquired taste. Interesting stuff but at times quite repetitive. **½

Review by Neil Daniels

UNITOPIA The Garden (2CD) Inside Out/ PV

From the outset two things are very clear; firstly this six piece from Australia are more than competent, producing at times solid progressive rock, yet secondly the space a CD allows you to ramble and explore far over and above the limits of the music. So you can imagine the stamina required for a double CD of studio concept album where the music and concept are just not deserving.

There’s many a fine melody, an intricate run, but to be honest, 1 CD is too long, the ideas drift more than the music does. Some moments are good enough to dip into, but that is really it. Where the music nods at Eloy it is excellent, but there is too much mediocre mid 80s rock/pop.

A double LP used to cost so much to produce, forcing succinct ideas and performance. Artists need more self control, as what is fun to produce is not always as fun to listen to, but the label’s A&R needs to have words too.  **½

Review by Joe Geesin

KARMAKANIC Who’s The Boss In The Factory
Inside Out/SPV

This side project of The Flower Kings mixes prog metal with whimsical moments.

Opening with the 20 minute 'Send A Message From The Heart', the strong opening bars that draw you in soon drift off to a song that twists and turns far too much to keep you interested. Some excellent bass lines and some neat metal solos are interspersed with jazz that has you reaching for the skip button, and some Richard Clayderman style piano

If that wasn’t hard work enough, 'Jet In Hollywood' mixes electro pop with progressive guitar pop/metal.

Throughout the album, the better moments (which are good) are too far and few between). Fun but unfocused. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

NERVED Finally Nerved

Out and out metal from Sweden and recorded in Stockholm. This is their second album, and introduces new vocalist Johan Ekelund.

Being a good friend of original vocalist Emil Gammeltoft I was unsure of what to make of this, so was surprised the opening bars were more akin to a hardcore dance piece. But in comes the guitars and it’s full on power / alt.metal.
To be honest, Johan handles the direction very well, but it’s the direction I’m really not sure about, largely being nu/alt metal with a fair amount of programming.

Some of the bass riffs (especially in 'Run But Can’t Hide') are very Sabbath like, something to groove to, but with solid clean vocals, noisy guitar and panel beating drums, it’s a rough old mix.

Other tracks add a nod at rock’n’roll and grunge, but in the main it’s headache inducing.

Definitely try before you buy. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

Bluewolf Bloodwalk
(Unicorn Digital)

The avant-garde and jazz are one thing mixed with rock, few have done it well, but when mixed with metal, dark ambient, psychedelic, funk and prog, really (and I mean REALLY) take caution.

The album's intro track "Provocation", like a rehearsal and overture all in one, is a grating noisy mess with all the finesse of trying to back comb the hair on a pre-menstrual cat. Listen to it at high volume and the effects will be as devastating too.

In addition to guitar, bass, keyboards and drums there are a saxophone, wind-synth and flute, and with the jazz influence too it would be very easy to draw comparisons with early King Crimson. Take that and beef it up, add some metal, and imagine it at a free form jazz festival rehearsal.

There are quieter moments, spoken word, atmospheric moments, and there is some good musicianship (think 70s electric era Miles) but, I'm going to stop before we get into the Fast Show's "Jazz Club" territory ("Tune? What do you mean tune? This is Jazz!"). *½

Review by Joe Geesin


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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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