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Monday, 1 April 2013

Reviews: Spock's Beard, Von Hertzen Brothers, Audrey Horne

Spock's Beard: Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (InsideOut Music)

Veteran proggers return with their eleventh album and their third singer. Long-time frontman/drummer Nick D'Virgillo and was replaced on the sticks by touring drummer Jimmy Keegan and behind the mic by former Enchant man Ted Leonard, this is a genius piece or hiring as Enchant have always been similar to Spock's Beard's style of song based prog where virtuosity takes a back seat to song writing, Spock's Beard have always been a song writing band with every member contributing, Leonard fits in amicably handling all of the writing duties for the opening track Hiding Out which is filled with big keyboard riff from Ryo Okumoto and then the unique melodic and soaring guitars of founder member Alan Morse. This is an album that sees Spock's Beard going back to their roots with long expansive tracks (all clock in at more than 5minutes) with the carnival folk of A Treasure Abandoned which is driven by some truly great keys and organs and with a huge crescendo. This is mixed in with the strong rock ballad Submerged the jazzy and electronic Afterthoughts and the album ends with the epic Waiting For Me (which was co-written by original vocalist Neal Morse). Every track is filled with great musicianship and some very intelligent and sometimes thought provoking lyrics. At 7 tracks (11 on the special edition) this is a very good album full and the sound of a band revitalised with new members after the concise pop sound of their last album X. With Leonard fronting the band he they will continue to provide energizing, emotive and in places excellent progressive rock. 8/10

Von Hertzen Brothers: Nine Lives (Spinefarm Records)

The Finnish trio of prog have again produced an album that stretches far beyond the realms of prog bringing in pop, alternate rock, jazz many other forms of music into one melting pot of an album. The Von Hertzen Brothers have always tried to challenge listeners and have done so again on this record with the myriad of influences. From the off they try to disorient and engage with the relentless rock of Insomnia to the euphoria of Flowers And Rust, before Lost In Time brings a doomy Sabbath vibe to the proceedings with its sledgehammer riffage, then we have the dreamy melancholic have of One May Never Know which segues into the almost choral chamber music of World Without which itself becomes a Pink Floyd song if they played with Asian instruments. The hallmarks of many great bands are here with Pink Floyd and King Crimson being the two major influences, however Mikko's voice sounds like Cornell's when he's in his upper range so some tracks have that Soundgarden edge to them. This five piece are all excellent musicians with the keyboardist Juha and drummer Mikko Kaakkuriniemi both adding their own talent to the brothers soundscapes. The brothers themselves hold down the string instruments (two sixes and a four) as well as a myriad of other instruments (I can pick out Balalaika, Theremin, banjo as a start) and the huge vocal harmonies. Again the VHB have created a fantastic, engaging and unique record that enthrals with its musicality. 9/10

Audrey Horne: Youngblood (Napalm Records)

Audrey Horne are now on their fourth album and follow a trend of Black metal musicians forming hard rock side projects. Audrey Horne features members of Enslaved and Sahg, founding guitarists Ice Dale (Arve Isdal) and Thomas Tofthagen, like I said much like Shagrath's side project Chrome Division, this is full on classic hard rock with some shredding dual guitars, pounding bass lines and some killer drums which is moving away from the slightly grungy sound of their previous records. The band have elements of early Van Halen, AC/DC and mostly KISS with tattooed vocalist Toschie having an uncannily Paul Stanley like voice. All of the tracks on this record are great with the propulsive Straight Into Your Grave, the melodic and uplifting title track, the acca dacca swagger of There Goes A Lady and the trippy ride of The Open Sea. Audrey Horne have been producing quality albums for a while now and Youngblood is another cracker, it has 11 awesome tracks all featuring some shredding guitars and solos as well as Toschie's great vocals. Another album brimming with cocksure hard rock power that once again why Audrey Horne are a great rock band, it's just a shame they are still on the fringes of the success mainly because of Isdal's workload in Enslaved, hopefully this release will see them propelled to the headliner status they deserve! 9/10

1 comment:

  1. Unrelated, but have you heard Nails - God's Cold Hands? Would be interested to see what you think.