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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Reviews: Journey, Black Country Communion 1&2, Symphony X

Journey: Eclipse (Frontiers)

After returning with Revelation, AOR veterans Journey return with their second album with new singer Arnel Pineda. However something must have come over Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain as they have broken away from their sugar coated past and released a hard rock album. Starting out with City of Hope they immediately hit their stride rocking and rolling like a band renewed. through some more heavy riffing tracks Journey are back with a vengeance a slight detour to the not great Tantra throws the listener off slightly, it seems like the obligatory ballad but it just isn't suited to their new harder style, the album then gets back on the rails with Resonate and the thrilling She's A Mystery a song that starts off with a poppy vibe and then morphs into a Schon guitar freak-out. If I had to have one criticism of the album it would be the production, Kevin Shirley is a great producer (see Maiden and the next review for proof) but he does work better with 'natural' sounding bands, unfortunately this doesn't work that well with a band like Journey who need that 80's polish to give them that 'big' sound. Despite this small mishap the album is very good and will appeal to fans and new listeners, just don't expect it to appeal to Glee fans. This is an album for rockers only! 8/10

Black Country Communion: S/T & '2' (Provogue/J&R Adventures)

I couldn't review the new BCC album without first reviewing their debut to give background to what I am going to say (I could have reviewed it separately but this is my blog and i wanted to do it together so there) BCC is a 'Super group' formed by Vocalist/Bassist/ 'Voice Of Rock' Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Solo, Tony Iommi) Guitar Virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, Drummer Jason Bonham (Airrace, Zeppelin son of original Zeppelin drummer John) and Key/Organ player Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater). The band was brought together by producer Kevin Shirley (that man again). After some initial problems they quickly recorded their debut. The album opens with the storming bass line and then power riffing of Black Country this shows the bands statement of intent. Moving into the funky One Last Soul we see that Hughes definitely has reclaimed his title as one of the greatest rock singers of all time. The band merges effortlessly and the tracks have a jam like feel to them with Stand (At the Burning Tree, Song of Yesterday and Too Late for the Sun all clocking in at over 5 minutes. The rockers rock and the ballads sway, Bonamassa's guitar playing is fantastic as is his voice when he shares vocals with Hughes. In fact the entire band is on top form and definitely live up to the tag of super group. 9/10

The second BCC comes less than a year after the first, this album shows a more gelled sound than previously, they now sound like a 'band' rather than a collection of musicians. Sherinian and Bonham have more influence on the songs with Jason playing as well as his dad ever did. The song writing has improved with elements of Free, Purple and Zeppelin all featuring in the tracks. The atmospheric Save Me sounding very similar to Kashmir (Although is it plagiarism if you have been in the band?) Crossfire also has very Purple inflections with it being heavily organ led. There are fewer epics on this album with only two tracks breaking 7 minutes. Most of the songs are heavy and rocking in equal measure but also they show their prowess on the acoustic Battle for Hadrian’s Wall and Bonamassa really lets rip on An Ordinary Son. So BCC '2' is equal if not better than the debut albeit for different reasons. Whereas the first is a collection of gifted musicians with something to prove, this is a band trying to conquer the rock world. Just fantastic 9/10

N.B Small note on the production Kevin Shirley excels with bands like this as he really gives them a warm, rich organic 70's sound.

Symphony X: Iconoclast (Nuclear Blast)

After the heavier but slightly disappointing 'Paradise Lost' Symphony X return with their new album. A double album with the overarching concept of technology taking over humanity. They have produced great album for fans of Progressive metal. Continuing with the heaviness form the last outing they have however got rid of the fret wankery that started to get annoying and concentrated on song writing more. The industrialesque opener and title track is one of the few lengthy tracks on the album clocking in at over 10 minutes, but many of the tracks are shorter, with the next few bludgeoning the listener with razor sharp riffs and keys, precision drumming and Russell Allen's almighty howl. The band all play spectacularly throughout the album with guitarist Michael Romeo giving a tight and restrained performance. The songs are noticeably darker mirroring the lyrical content of destruction and doom. Older fans shouldn't worry though as there are a couple of tracks that hark back to Symphony X's past the last track on the first disk When All Is Gone is the most noticeable, the first 3 tracks on the second disc are also very classic sounding. The band are definitely back on track with this album, much like other bands such as Pagan's Mind and Hammerfall they have changed and refined their sound for the better so they can continue into the future. More please guys. 8/10

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