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Friday, 27 February 2015

Reviews: The Neal Morse Band, Wolfheart, Mojave Lords, Eradicator (Reviews By Paul)

The Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment (InsideOut)

Neal Morse has been kicking around the progressive scene for many years; Spock’s Beard, prog super group Transatlantic and a lengthy solo career to name but three. This latest release features Mr Rent-a-kit Mike Portnoy alongside bassist Randy George (Ajalon), guitarist Eric Gillette and keyboardist and vocalist Bill Huabauer. The group are credited with writing all of the music on this album, and musically it is a top quality release. Portnoy’s playing is excellent, once again demonstrating his technical skills whilst Huabauer’s synth work is progressive rock at its most flowing. Some very neat guitar work, time changes and various patterns of play draw you in. However, unfortunately for me, it turns out that most of this motley crew are mainly born again Christians and The Grand Experiment is actually a Christian progressive rock album. Yes, okay, song titles like The Call and the 26 minute closer Alive Again give you the clues. Opening track The Call actually develops during the course of its 10 minutes into an almost evangelical opus, with lots of multiple harmonies in the backing vocals. The title track has some delicious keyboards, coating the track in the vein of the late great John Lord and an infectious hook; but you can’t shake off the happy clappy lyrics which unsurprisingly sit quite uncomfortably with me. And that is where I leave this; before I vomit all over the keyboard as Jesus and his sunshine band continue their love in on Waterfall. Musically, this is fine progressive rock. Lyrically, it makes me want to heave and so happy that the devil has all the best tunes. 6/10

Wolfheart: Winterborn (Spinefarm)

So another release from a Finnish outfit arrives at MoM towers and this time it’s a release which appears to have slipped through our net. Wolfheart is a solo release from Tuomas Saukkonen, following the disbandment of numerous other bands, including Before The Dawn and Black Sun Aeon (ah yes, of course!) Wolfheart is melodic death metal in the vein of Winterstorm, Wintersun and any other band with winter in their name. If you like death vocals, oodles of technical guitar work and battering ram style drumming, give this a whirl. If you don’t it might be one to miss. On the plus side, the quality of musicianship, as typified in most of these bands is excellent with some really intricate playing whilst retaining the heaviness that sits in the death metal camp. On the negative side, much of it just sounds the same and after about 20 minutes you can be excused for wondering if the same song is on loop. There are some changes of pace; Routa Pt 2 starts with a string intro, kicks off into a head first charge, recedes to a classical vibe before heading back into the maelstrom once again. Whiteout is a stomping piece which has a slower, less frenetic pace but retains the death growls. It’s one to bang the head to. More of the same as the album continues, blast beats aplenty and you do wonder how Saukkonen’s throat is feeling by here. It must be raw! Chasm has an element of Opeth about it, death metal interspersed with acoustic parts and some rather tasty time changes to boot. This one has dark mood written all over it. Breathe is a brooding piece, firmly sat in the Triptykon corner with down tuned guitars and clouds gathering above. You just know it would rain if this was played at a festival. Overall then, a varied mix with some very interesting sounds. The biggest problem is getting past the first half of the album which is kinda ‘samey’ in order to access some of the more atmospheric and crafted tracks and it is for that reason that I'm giving it a relatively low rating. 6/10

Mojave Lords: Unfuckwithable (Self Released)

Combine members of the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Masters of Reality and the Eagles Of Death Metal amongst others and what do you get? A slab of steaming hot heavy stoner desert rock more groove laden than a field at harvest time. David Catching and Bongo Ritchey have produced a surprisingly heavy album, as demonstrated on opener Sweet Little Down And Out. The QOTSA sound oozes throughout. Hot Throwaway a case in point with a huge drum sound interspersed with some neat single note guitar work. Unfuckwithable doesn't let up at any point, galloping along in an almost throwaway fashion until you actually analysis that this is really good shit. Anytime Rock is a must for a driving compilation, but then so is most desert rock. It really is pretty damn fine stuff. Simple but deadly and so efficient. The fact that four different drummers feature on this album is quite impressive, as each of them maintain the slamming vibe needed to move the whole thing along. The guitar sound is raw and dirty, and the vocals remain level and in key throughout, apart from one or two interesting falsetteos. If you like your desert rock, this is for you. A very tidy debut from a group that are veterans of the scene. 8/10

Eradicator: Slavery (Yonah Records)

According to their Wikipedia page, Eradicator play classic Thrash Metal in the vein of bands from the San Francisco Bay Area, comparable to the works of Exodus, Death Angel and Testament. Well, it just proves that you can’t believe everything you read on Wiki. Yes, the German outfit play thrash, but so apparently do Madicide. Musically Eradicator are perfectly competent, if routine in their playing with the odd decent hook and some tasty riffs at times. However, the vocals of Sebastian Stober are just dire and destroy any hope of a decent song on the album. How in the name of Satan this lot have managed to release three albums is beyond me. Overall this could be the worst release of 2015. Avoid at all costs. 2/10

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