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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Reviews: Joe Bonamassa, Threshold, Order Of Israfel

Joe Bonamassa: Different Shades Of Blue (Provogue/J&R Adventures)

It has been 14 years and 10 studio albums (not including collaborations and bands) since Joe Bonamassa first arrived on to the scene, having been a young blues hopeful for years it was his trifecta of albums; You & MeSloe Gin and The Ballad Of John Henry that cemented him as one of the new millenniums rock powerhouses. A man that is truly D.I.Y he has shunned major labels to self release, self promote and ultimately owes all of his success to his immense talent and hard work. Bonamassa's albums have always been a mix of his own material and covers of his favourite artists, from Rory Gallagher to Bad Company, Leonard Cohen to Yes. His 11th album Different Shades Of Blue is his firts to feature all original songs and one instrumental intro originally by Hendrix which hardly qualifies. As the dust of this atonal guitar passages settles we get into the first track proper the blues drenched Oh Beautiful! which features lashings of organ, a dark delivery and Joe's trademark guitar prowess during the middle eight. This first song is a testament to Joe's thoughts about this album, he is back in the blues that he came from all those years ago. Apparently he felt he owed his hardcore a strictly blues album due to his straddling of the Rock God borders. Well he has definitely reconnected with the bluesman inside as Oh Beautiful! is a throwback to Clapton, Baker and Bruce, it moves straight into Love Ain't A Love Song which is funky, hip shaking tale of loss driven by Carmine Rojas' bass, Lee Thornburg's horns and Ron Dizubla's sax, a theme which continues on the shuffle of Living On The Moon and the 12 bar walking riff of Heartache Follows Me Wherever I Go. Never Give All Your Heart comes next and has real heartbreak to it and is one of the songs that breaks the blues mold a little as it sounds a bit rockier than the rest of album, the song was co-written with Jonathan Cain of Journey and is a ballad of his bands lofty proportions which is immediately offset by the tongue-in-cheek I Gave Up Everything For You, 'Cept The Blues. As usual Joe is backed by some Class-A musicians the most notable being Anton Fig's drums, Reece Wynans piano and organs, the aforementioned horns and the Bovaland Orchestra. Joe himself is way beyond comparison we all know by now how good he is by now. Yep this is another great Bonamassa album that will please the long term fans and also show the newly found ones exactly where the man they call Joey Bones comes from. 8/10

Threshold: For The Journey (Nuclear Blast)

Threshold have always been Britain's premier progressive metal band and since 1993's Wounded Land they have been the purveyors of top quality music and our weapon against the American prog metal of Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery and Symphony X. The band have evolved their sound throughout their career and since reuniting with Damien Wilson they have been releasing some of their best material to date. 2012's March Of Progress saw the band come firing back on all cylinders with a majestic album and For The Journey continues with yet more technical but melodic music that has the hooks of rock on the Marillion sounding Autumn Red and crunch of metal on Siren Sky. The band have moved away from longer songs on this album with only the magnificent Floydian The Box clocking in at over 6 minutes, it moves from a piano opening, into a organ drenched rock middle section that sounds very similar to the Ayreon project that Wilson has worked with extensively something that is also evident on Watchtower On The Moon. These two songs set the tone for the album as it has a much darker tone than previous efforts but for all the dark lyricism there are elements of light on Turned To Dust. Wilson has a very unique voice he soars above the majestic music and brings you to tears on Lost In Your Memory which is the band's first proper ballad in years and it is a real stunner. The guitars of founder Karl Groom and (relatively) new boy Pete Morten are excellent with Morten getting some writers credits as well, they meld perfectly with Richard West's superb keys, synths and organs to create some fantastic melodies, they are impressively backed by the rhythm section of Steve Anderson's bass and Johanne James' drums. All of the tracks on this album are very, very good with a great mix of dark, progressive, precisely executed music, The album has a cool little bonus track with a great (sort of) cover the song is I Wish I Could which comes from Johanne's other (also excellent) band Kyrbgrinder albeit with a Threshold twist. Another top level release from Threshold who are one of the best progressive bands to come out of the UK. 9/10    

The Order Of Israfel: Wisdom (Napalm Records)

Wisdom is these Gothenberg doomsters first album and the title track starts things off with acoustic minstrelling before the sledgehammer riffs kick in. This is classic denim clad 70's style doom at it's best with occult lyrics, drug induced psych, rumbling bass, jazzy drums and guitars that swap between higher melodies and big tasty riffs. With elements of Candlemass (of course), Cathedral and of course Sabbath, The Order Of Israfel are the very epitome of doom, as from the microcosm of title track, we plunge into On Black Wings, A Demon which is a four minute rocker and one of the three short tracks on the album (one of which is nothing more than an intro) All the rest are over 5 minutes long with the folky The Earth Will Deliver What Heaven Desires clocking in at over 8 minutes and porvides a great song for the middle of the album, The Order is a short call to arms that moves straight into the Orange Goblin style stomp of Born For War which moves into the 15 minute plus instrumental Promises Made To The Earth which breaks the album up but does little else. In fact the last half of this album is just a bit too slow for my liking, the band do play well but its all a bit too depressing. A good effort but trails off at the end. 6/10

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