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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Reviews: Dream Theater, Michael Monroe, The Temperance Movement

Dream Theater: S/T (Roadrunner Records)

With their last album A Dramatic Turn Of Events being a big U-turn away from the heavier elements brought in by Mike Portnoy since Train Of Thought I believed that Dream Theater were trying to rediscover themselves and it seems things have continued on this album. They have returned to the prog-metal scene with their second album featuring drummer Mike Mangini. Most notably it is self-titled which is usually a sign of a band either defining or more likely when this is your 12th album re-defining yourself. Things start off simply enough with the cinematic instrumental (which features a full orchestra that I'll get to later) False Awakening Suite which does sound like something from a Hans Zimmer would write if he had a metal band after it's crescendo the first song proper is the fast and furious The Enemy Inside which kicks off with all the DT hall marks of Petrucci's amazing guitar work, Jordan Rudress' melodic and sometimes mental keyboard runs, Myung's workman-like bass and most noticeably of all Mangini's superb drumming (this is the first album he has had creative input into) finally the song has the unique and soulful crooning of James LaBrie meaning that it is the perfect distillation of DT's sound. So all in all it's a very good start and things continue in this strong vein as The Looking Glass is a homage in terms of sound to Petrucci's heroes Rush with some technical bass brought to the fore, lots of melodic guitar lines a Lifeson-like solo and shed loads of off-kilter drumming. This is not the end though as all of the tracks are very strong and they show that Dream Theater are once again a cohesive unit, they also bring some of the heaviness back with the instrumental The Enigma Machine which moves into the obligatory ballad The Bigger Picture which could have been lifted off Octavarium, more looking back comes on Behind The Veil which has evil verses and a euphoric chorus. Yes this is definitely the sound of a re-energised Dream Theater and after the amazing 22 minute plus finale of Illumination Theory which has the aforementioned full orchestra and takes you through every emotion possible (and gives you a hell of an ending!) you find yourself wanting to play the whole disc again. Welcome back guys I've missed you. 10/10

Michael Monroe: Horns And Halos (Spinefarm)

The former Hanoi Rocks frontman swaggers back into the scene with his follow up to the unanimously excellent Sensory Overdrive however this time he is sans Ginger Wildheart however he has still managed to mix glam, hard rock, punk together to form a swinging party record. The record immediately blasts out of your speakers with a snotty punk sucker punch to open proceedings, the guitars of former New York Doll Steve Conte and new boy Dregen scythe and slice through the garage rock backing of Sami Yaffa and Karl Rosqvist which is all fuzz and pop. The punk overtones are the most pressing sounds with most of the songs filled with a huge amount of attitude mainly due to Monroe's vocals which sound like they've come from the gutter however he still has the glam rock stomp with Ballad Of The Lower East Side mixing both the punk and glam to encompass the two big sounds of this city, this is followed by the bluesy Eighteen Angels which features Monroe's simmering saxophone. I've made much of the punk influence but he does widen his remit too as Stained Glass Heart shows as it is very Foo Fighters sounding Soul Surrender has a reggae/dub back beat to the verses. Monroe has done it again with a sprawling rock album that still has the genre spanning elements of The Wildhearts even without the genius of Ginger on the writing staff. Another strong, eclectic, rock n roll album 8/10

The Temperance Movement: S/T (Earache)

 From the first, soulful blues guitar licks of Only Friend this album immediately latches on to you and transports you to the sunny climbs of California by way of Alabama. Over the course of the next 11 tracks The Temperance Movement move through the highest quality blues-based rock that this island has produced in a long time. Yes you read that right THIS island, The Temperance Movement are a British band taking on bands like Rival Sons at their own game. Musically the band mix the honey toned rock of The Black Crowes if they were fronted by Rod Stewart (in his Faces days). It’s the emotion that really draws you to this album, all of the songs sound real this is a band that love their music and take pride in it. The guitars of Luke Postashnick and Paul Sayer are equally strong when fuzzy and raw, clean and melodious and even beautiful on the more acoustic numbers like Pride and the understated, stripped back beauty of Lovers And Fighters. The rhythm section is made up of Aussie Damon Wilson who handles of the percussive shuffles and flailing smashes and Nick Fyffe, who was previously the bassist for Jamiroquai so adds a liberal amount of funk, see Be Lucky. Like I said before the band sound authentically American as if they've been taken straight out of the delta and lot of this is due to vocalist Phil Campbell (no not the Motorhead one) who has a staggering voice, its gritty on the rockers like Midnight Black and croons like Willie Nelson on the countrified ballad Chinese Lanterns (which lots of tasty slide guitar). This is a superb album that features some excellent songs that are made for the live arena especially Know For Sure along with the bouncy Take It Back and its "Woah woah" refrain This is one of the strongest debuts I've heard in years, pure, authentic, rhythm and blues for the modern generation! 9/10      

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