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Saturday, 2 March 2013

Reviews: Steven Wilson, Lordi, Screamer

Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused To Sing...And Other Stories (Kscope)

So Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson is now on his third solo album, in between Porcupine Tree touring and albums as well as mixing and producing for other bands. Wilson has experimented on his two previous solo albums but on this one he has brought everything together pitching the album somewhere between In Absentia era Porcupine Tree with some King Crimson and even some Jethro Tull flutes and woodwind on Luminol and The Holy Drinker thrown in to excite and bemuse. The genres are from a wide spectrum with rock, pop, jazz, folk, krautrock, electronica all catered for but mostly the album is a homage to the true 70's progressive bands like King Crimson (whose back catalogue Wilson remixed recently). Wilson really shows just how talented he is on this third solo record, opener Luminol is a 12 minute epic sprawling many different genres with jazzy guitars, huge Hammond and synths as well as some fantastic drumming from Marco Minnemann who shines throughout the album. In fact Wilson has acquired some fantastic musicians for this record with the lead guitars handled by Guthrie Govan who is possibly the best guitarist Britain has ever produced, as well as several musicians who are more jazz trained than rockers, keyboardist Adam Holtzman is the example. Wilson himself is no slouch as usual providing the record with his excellent vocals as well as mellotron, keys and all manner of stringed instruments. These virtuoso musicians put their sheer ability on display on every track; however there is no silly showing off, all of the musical muscle is tightly coiled to ready to be released during the course of each track. After the opener blows you away with its musical dexterity and sheer disregard for genre classification, the second track Drive Home has the acoustic pacing of a Division Bell era Pink Floyd track with a huge guitar solo crescendo from Govan. (In fact a lot of this album has elements of the Gilmour led Floyd) This moves into the jazzy, synth fuelled The Holy Drinker which has a solo from Alan Parsons, who also engineered the album (and a bloody good job he did too!). The Pin Drop follows and continues the twisted fairy tale theme that runs through the album, it is a very percussive song with a multi-layered Wilson vocal and is the most Porcupine Tree sounding track on the album. The Watchmaker is a haunting track built upon some folky guitar playing that screams Fairport Convention before the heavier guitars kick in and the track becomes almost doom like in its melancholic lyrics. Finally after the muscly build-up of the final moments of The Watchmaker the pace changes again with the title track which is full of swirling orchestrals and piano building up into an uplifting but at the same time heart-breaking song that resonates with beauty in its simplicity. This is record is not only Wilson's best solo album it's also the best album he's made in a long time. If I could give it eleven I would because it is simply flawless! 10/10

Lordi: To Beast Or Not To Beast (AFM Records)

Lordi are now on their sixth album and this time they are looking back to the horror metal of their first three albums rather than the more 80's sounding Babez For Breakfast. It has the trademark great riffage from Amen as well as the big backing vocal harmonies and Mr Lordi's evil snarl. Things kick off with We're Not Bad For The Kids (We're Worse) which is a speedy riff that is followed by the slightly weak I Luv Ugly both of the opening tracks have great solo's (something which seems to be a theme on this album as the solo count is through the roof). The first real monster (sorry) track is The Riff which is a schlock-horror rocker full of Lordi's B-movie metal. Since the last album Lordi have acquired two new members with the keys now handled by the zombie cheerleader Hella and new drummer Mana who replaced Otus (who passed away in 2012), who in turn was a replacement for long-time drummer Kita who unmasked and formed an 80's AOR band. This is a very Lordi album full of tongue-in-cheek humour and some very professional musicianship, however it's not actually a very good album with a lot of tracks that could be considered as filler with only Candy For The Cannibal, The Riff and I'm The Best being what you could consider above average. I am a Lordi fan however they have produced three sub-par albums in a row now and I'm starting to get a bit tired of it. There are obviously some gimmicks that can go too far, plus the album ends with a drum solo!! 5/10

Screamer: Phoenix (High Roller Records)

High Roller Records were the home of trad metal revivalists In Solitude, Ram and Zuul. This information will tell you what Screamer sound like. Coming from Sweden (where else!?) Screamer are a dual guitar wielding, bullet belt wearing retro riffing metal band. The dual leads have all the hallmarks of Thin Lizzy and early Iron Maiden with the vocals of Christoffer Svensson sound an awful lot like Diamond Head's Sean Harris with his croon, the band also have a lot in common with Diamond Head as they mix NWOBHM riffage with some more progressive passages with hard rock tendencies. With tracks like Demon Rider, Far Away From Home (which has lots of woahing, which is always welcome) and the title track, this is an album of excellently executed traditional metal album full of skilful guitar playing, galloping bass and some powerful and even soulful vocals see the tremendous Red Moon Rising. For fans of retro metal or anything that makes you want to re-live your 80's metal days but brought right up to date from a young and hungry band, this album will be right up your street. 8/10

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