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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Reviews: Dream Theater, Stuka Squadron, Rise To Remain & Neonfly

Dream Theater: A Dramatic Turn Of Events (Roadrunner)

The mighty Dream Theater arrive with their latest album and their third since moving to Roadrunner. My personal opinion of those albums is the same as that of many bands that move to Roadrunner, they seem to want a specific Roadrunner sound. On Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings Dream Theater were trying to reach for an aggression and heaviness they were not used to. On this album that is not the case, there is still the orchestral and epic arrangements that have featured on their later albums but this album is definitely focussed on DT's past. What this change has to do with the exit of Mike Portnoy is anyone's guess but Mike Mangini fills the stool admirably, the rest of the band are as usual completely flawless, (and no matter what anyone says James LaBrie has one of the best voices in music). Starting with the first single which is definitely drawn straight from the Pull Me Under era. Second track Build Me Up, Break Me Down has a techno styled backbeat, which is also present on the epic and eastern influenced Outcry. These small new instrumental flourishes add a new dimension to the DT sound. The relatively short track This Is The Life is a tender ballad that breaks up the album and makes way for the two 11 minute plus songs that follow it. A Dramatic Turn Of Events is a new chapter for the legendary US Prog-metal band, but it is one that looks back over former glories. Simply great stuff 8/10
 
Stuka Squadron: Tales Of The Ost (Iron Crown Records)

What would happen if Iron Maiden only sang about the occult and Nazi's. The answer is simple, they would be Stuka Squadron. All the band have joke names with Von, Herr and Vampire references featuring prominently and the band itself being named after a WWII German fighter plane. You would expect them to be from Germany but this is a band of plucky Brits that have their tongues wedged in their cheeks. They do however take their music seriously using NWOBHM as inspiration and adding some doomy elements that make them sound more akin to a latter day Grand Magus. Opening with the album's title track that's sounds very similar to 2 Minutes To Midnight, they immediately show their statement of intent. All the tracks are well written and also well played, with frontman Duke Fang Begley's being a highlight. The tracks are split by small spoken word interludes that set the atmosphere of a WWII horror film, the songs themselves are fairly long all clocking in over 5 minutes, whether you think this is good or bad is up to personal taste. All in all this is a well-conceived and well executed retro styled metal album. Truly a blood sucking treat. 8/10

Rise To Remain: City Of Vultures (EMI)

Rise To Remain could have had an easy ride since starting their career in 2008. Frontman Austin is Bruce Dickinson's (Iron Maiden) son. They could have traded on his name and ridden the coat tails of his father's success. They haven't done this, despite a few opening shows with Maiden. What they have done is trade on the success of some other bands. Rise To Remain are at their heart a Metalcore band, they have the screamed and clean vocals and the melodic choruses built on heavy riffing. Austin's vocals are great, he can scream, growl, roar  but also crucially, sing cleanly. His clean vocals have more than a touch of Matt Tuck from BFMV to them. The band back his voice admirably, their riffing is concise and technically brilliant and the soloing is strong and reminiscent of Maiden it also moves them away from the rest of the Metalcore pack. A great album to pick up if this type of music is your bag, but be weary if not because despite the flawless execution, they are not doing anything new. 7/10

Neonfly: Outshine the Sun (Rising Records)

Neonfly are Power Metal band from the UK that play upbeat melodic metal. They have a metallic base but build on it with stadium size choruses in  the style of Helloween and other European contemporaries. The vocals of Willy Norton are very expansive and band founder Fredrick Thunder's guitar harmonizing with second guitarist Patrick Harrington is fantastic. The band have already toured with Pagan's Mind and fellow Brits Power Quest meaning that they have great live experience, this shows on their album which is very professional. The album is made up of speedy, powerful tracks full of great soloing and subtle keyboards. The only thing I would say is that the production is a bit flat which is barely noticeable (and only really affects the drum sound) over the quality of the songwriting. A very enjoyable debut from a home-grown band. 8/10

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