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Friday, 23 September 2011

Reviews: Opeth, Arch/Matheos, White Wizzard

Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner)

Prog metal masters Opeth have been threatening to make this album since Blackwater Park the band have been slowly adding more 70's style prog rock flourishes to their work with every album. Watershed featured less of the guttural roaring from Akerfeldt and now Heritage has got rid of it completely. They have also toned down on the metal and become a 'rock' band. That isn't to say this album isn't heavy. It is but in a different way to its predecessors. The album starts and ends with two acoustic instrumentals that frame the album perfectly. The first proper song is Devils Orchard which is a very retro sounding organ drenched progressive track that sets the tone nicely. The following 8 tracks are songs that would be more at home on a King Crimson or a Camel album. The only thing that links them to the Opeth of old is Akerfeldt's undeniably powerful and resonant voice. Second track I Feel The Dark starts off as a slow acoustic number and then the guitars after about 3 minutes and crush everything that came before. Next track Slither is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and as such has a very definite Rainbow-like sound with Akerfeldt doing his best Ritchie Blackmore impression this leads into the dramatic and haunting Nepenthe which features a jarring piano opening backed by a jazz shuffle that turns into a song that sounds very similar to Porcupine Tree. In fact the whole album has a very Porcupine Tree sound. The bonus tracks of Pyre and Face In The Snow are also excellent the one a jazzy number with an excellent classical guitar solo and the other a doom laden and emotional ballad. This is truly a finely crafted album from an excellent band, it will split opinion but the faithful will see it for the masterpiece it is. 10/10    

Arch/Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade)

John Arch and Jim Matheos were the two founder members of the flagship progressive metal band Fates Warning. Arch left soon after their first few albums but Matheos is still the leading creative force behind the band. So because of the history between these two this album was going to be special, and it lives up to the expectation. Although only featuring 6 tracks they are all over 5minutes long with three clocking in at over 10 minutes long. All of the tracks have the emotional and intricate playing of Matheos who is on fire throughout, Arch's LaBrielike voice (or should that be LaBrie's Archlike voice, because of the chronology) soars above the heavy riffing with fantastic emotion and power. Admittedly this album does sound a lot like Fates Warning, but that isn't a bad thing, so if you are not a fan of that band then you will not like this album (there I said it) if however you like well written, played and produced progressive metal then this is an album I suggest you purchase. 9/10

White Wizzard: Flying Tigers (Earache)

This is White Wizzard's second full length album; it was recorded with second vocalist Wyatt Anderson before he left recently. The album is also has an expansion in sound, the band's core is still a new take on NWOBHM but they have now included a distinct Sunset Strip sound of bands like Skid Row and Motley Crue. The first 6 tracks are speedy metal tracks Night Train To Tokyo having a distinctly sleaze style. The main bulk of the album though is a concept that revolves around aliens as the beginnings of humanity; these tracks are very well formed and have some prog tinged elements similar to Maiden's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Founder John Leon handles not only the bass but also the lead and rhythm guitar on this album, all of his playing is good and Anderson's vocals are very overwrought and soaring, but he can also do the sleaze style grit. A great album but even with the new expansion in sound this is still a very formulaic but enjoyable album. 7/10   

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