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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Reviews: Moonspell, Apocalyptica, Hasse Froberg & Musical Companion

Moonspell: Extinct (Napalm) (Review By Paul)

Moonspell’s excellent and very heavy 2012’s Alpha Noir and its Gothic twin Omega White saw Portugese gothic metallers pay homage to both the thrash metal world and Gothic heroes Sisters Of Mercy and Type O Negative. Three years later, the quality of their music continues with Extinct. Another storming album comprising light and shade, Extinct once again demonstrates that when you get it right, boy do you get it right. Fernando Ribeiro combines the best of Andrew Eldritch with some almost death metal growls to great effect. Orchestral samples courtesy of Pedro Paixao and the massive guitar riffs of Ricardo Amorim swirl with the rhythm section of Aires Pereir and Miguel Gaspor to produce dark and depressive heavy rock that drives forward at pace. Opener Breathe (Until We Are No More) could have been written for The Mission or The Sisters, whilst Medusalem includes some riffs and hooks that Jaz Coleman would love get hold of. If you don’t like your rock soaked with the introspective, blackened elements of the 1980s then you may not like this. However, I think it’s an absolute stunner which improves on every listen. Tracks like Domina and The Last Of Us capture the very essence of the Gothic metal scene, shades of old school Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and early Anathema immediately come to mind. Another marmite album I suppose; for me the songs are beautifully crafted and capture the heart and soul of another excellent band who still fly under the radar in the UK. 9/10

Apocalyptica: Shadowmaker (Eleven Seven) (Review By Paul)

I’ve never paid much attention to the Finns. When they first arrived on the scene they were just a bit of a gimmick to me, playing orchestral Metallica covers and trying to establish a niche in the world of metal. They have substantial staying power though and 22 years since they first appeared they release Shadowmaker, album number 8. Interestingly, it is the first album to feature just one singer, who happens to be Scars on Broadway guitarist Franky Perez who was also a member of Slash’s original live band. So, what is Shadowmaker like? Well, the cellos are still very much in evidence, leading the charge on the 7 minute title track, and Perez’s vocals are easy on the ear, very much with an AOR bent although containing a much harder edge at times. The Metallica influence runs deep and the majority of tracks have more than a nod to Hetfield and co. The sound and style of the band varies throughout, some hard rockers weaving in and out softer radio rock ala Sixx AM style softer rock; see Slow Burn for an example. Reign Of Fear has an atmospheric intro, with the cellos supported by the percussion of Mikko Siren and some heavy guitar power chords.

It helps that the band have secured the excellent producer Nick Raskulinecz, who has a list of credits longer than your arm and he has done a super job, capturing the classical elements of the band whilst allowing the heavier side of the band to come to the fore. In fact, it is on the instrumental tracks that you get a real feel as to the true soul of Apocalyptica, with the frenetic yet controlled orchestral elements setting the band apart. Although Perez has done a great job, it’s the classical side of the band that has earned their reputation. It’s not all good stuff mind; Hole In My Soul is just horrible mid-paced soft rock whilst House Of Chains, stomping riffs and all is second rate Soil.

As I said at the start of this review, my attention was never focused on Apocalyptica. Although there are some decent enough tracks on Shadowmaker, it isn't going to make me change my mind and seek them out with any great effort any time soon. A reasonable release but there is much more out there more deserving of your hard earned cash. 6/10

Hasse Froberg & Musical Companion: HFMC (Glassville Records)

Hasse Froberg is the vocalist and occasional guitarist of prog rock titans The Flower Kings, that band are one of the top bands in the prog rock sphere and over eleven albums they have consistently developed their sound while retaining the true sound of progressive rock favoured by Yes etc. As well as the numerous Flower Kings albums Hasse Froberg also has a solo career HFMC is his third album he handles his the vocals and rhythm guitars, Anton Lindsj√∂ on lead guitar, Ola Strandberg on drums, Kjell Haraldsson on keys and Thomas Thomsson on bass. Thompson and Strandberg have already collaborated with Froberg in the 80's band Spellbond and were hand picked along with the other members of the band. All of these men are excellent musicians each one adding their own talent to this album that has a huge scope of influences, this album draws more from various genres than sticking rigidly to the prog rock format drawing from blues, folk, jazz, classic rock and yes prog rock. As things kick off with Can't Stop The Clock we are in prime prog territory with huge organs and some big riffs before we get into Everything Can Change which is steeped in jazz, the first real epic is Pages which clocks in a over 15 minutes taking the listener on a musical journey before Genius strips things back with an acoustic based Steven Wilson-like track. In fact this album has a lot of Steven Wilson about it as well as Neal Morse which is mainly due to Froberg's high vocals and the poppier overtones to tracks like the very Morse-like In The Warmth Of This Evening which has swathes of keyboards and a melodic upbeat delivery. Hasse Froberg and his musical companion have crafted an album that has a wide palette of colours and sounds, however there will be few that may be put off by the sheer density of the music here. 7/10   

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