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Friday, 6 April 2012

Reviews: Shinedown, Flying Colors, Zodiac N Black

Shinedown: Amaryllis (Roadrunner)

According to frontman Brent Smith "Amaryllis is the manifestation of that vision, the centrepiece of what Shinedown is" and it is hard to argue, this is what Shinedown have been working towards since their inception, whereas their first album was pure American rock, the second added solo and their third Sound Of Madness made them famous through radio hits Second Chance, If You Only Knew and The Crow & The Butterfly. As many will probably know despite the rock and metal tendencies Shinedown seem to have excelled at big radio hits so it's no surprise that this continues on Amaryllis. Yes there are rockers in the shape of Adrenaline, Enemies and Nowhere Kids however it's the ballads and pop influenced hits. The ballad quotient is filled with the title track, Unity, I'm Not Alright and Through The Never meaning that the album has more mid-paced and slower moments and the poppier rock moments are filled by tracks such as Bully which has a hook that most bands would die for, all this means that this is prime American radio rock fodder but before you groan it is superbly done American radio rock, each track is brilliantly written and performed, the production is also fantastic (but when you get the current chairman of Warner Bros. Records Rob Cavallo to produce your album because he produced that last one it helps). This is a great album for fans and it’s guaranteed to do brilliantly in America and probably here as well. 8/10

Flying Colors (Mascot)

Formed as an "Experiment" Flying Colors are a collection of virtuoso musicians who are expanding their musical palate. The members are Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, ex-Dream Theater) on drums, Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) on bass, prog god Neal Morse (Transatlantic, solo, ex-Spock's Beard) on the keys/vocals, Steve Morse, no relation to Neal (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs) on guitars. The unknown quantity is vocalist Casey McPherson who is the singer in Alpha Rev an alt rock band. The album varies wildly in its influences, all of the songs are expertly performed with all the players parts given equal room to breathe, the guitar of S. Morse and the keys of N.Morse brilliantly interplay throughout giving many of the tracks like Blue Ocean, Kayla and Infinite Fire all have a 70's sound with many of the tracks also having more modern influences with All Falls Down having a distinct Muse sound. The drumming of Portnoy is subdued but still technical (and his singing voice is good shown as while the jazz bass of Dave LaRue anchors all of the tracks. McPherson (who also provides extra keys and guitar) brings his excellent vocals to every track and is equally adept with rockier tracks as he is with the ballads. The songs are not 'metal' but have some Deep Purple vibes along with the aforementioned Muse and even some pop-proggers like Supertramp. The production of legend Peter Collins is perfect giving a very mainstream pop sound to the album along with classic warmth. This is a mixed bag of tracks that are more of compilation of influences rather than a full album from a single band, it is project for these immensely talented musicians to get away from their day jobs and see if it would work. On the whole it has worked but whether they can make another with their busy schedule is debateable, still if is their only album then it's a corker. 8/10

Zodiac N Black: The Aftermyth (STM Records) 

Zodiac N Black are a British metal band. They have released their debut album The Aftermyth and fans of well played stoner/psych metal will love it. The band are very similar to Monster Magnet with frontman Jad having the Wyndorf howl down to a tee. The band is held together by the funky basslines of Hank dulling with the powerhouse drumming of Luca, with the guitar of Jim providing crunch and melodic touches with its fuzzed up sound. The album opens with the storming Bastinado which is an incredibly catchy track that sets the tone with its groove laden bass and heavy riffage, the album continues in this vein but every track is different enough to not be boring. The final track Lights On Blues is a bluesy/psychedelic 10 minute opus that shows the bands chops. The production is punchy and raw which adds to the sound. The vocals can be a bit one dimensional at times but on the whole of the album is an excellent of British rock. 7/10

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