Nick Beggs is probably most well known as the main writer and bassist of 80's popsters Kajagoogoo, however he is much more than that as in recent years he has been the bassist for king of prog Steven Wilson contributing to both is recorded works and on his live tours. Suprisingly you would think someone that works closely with bonafide workaholic wouln't have much in the way of free time but apparently he has and has managed to form his own band The Mute Gods and has even managed to record a debut album with them. The record doesn't stray too far from the progressive streak that Beggs has shown in this latter career albeit this album is prog with the pop sensibility of a man that started his career writing four minute pop songs, the overtly dystopian themes are set to an upbeat melodic musical backing that means that the records sounds a lot like Yes (in fact the album dedicated to departed Yes bassist Chris Squire), encompassing some Duke-era Genesis, a touch of ELP, and some more recent stuff like Arena and Frost* all due to the heavy use of keys on the record. The band are ostensibly a three piece with Beggs playing bass guitars, Chapman Stick, guitars, and doing the majority of the vocals.
He has teamed up with Steve Hackett-man Roger King on keyboards, guitars, he also gives the record it's warm rich production, finally providing the rhythm section foil for Beggs is drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann who has worked with Paul Gilbert, Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats (With Guthrie Govan) who handles drums guitars and sound modelling. The trio are the main contributors as a 'band' but one look at the liner notes will tell you that Beggs has recruited many of his compatriots to help him on the record these come in the shape of Ricky Wilde (Kim's Dad), Frank van Bogaert, Gary O'Toole, Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgilio, Magenta keyboardist Rob Reed, Steven Wilson's ivory tinkler Adam Holzman and even Nick's own daughter Lula who sings on Father And Daughter. The songs on this album range from the quirky regret driven Night School For Idiots, the heavy Feeding The Troll (that's about the internet variety) as well as the rocking title track and almost psych-like Swimming Horses the songs have swirling synths, shimmering guitar lines, deft bass playing all combine to create some excellent songcraft. Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me is a collection of songs that have broad appeal with some truly excellent musicianship, The Mute Gods is yet another impressive string to Nick Beggs' already large bow. 9/10
Illustr8ors: Photopia (Self Released)
Ok so Photopia is the second full length album from the band formerly known as Blackwolf, now many of you will recognised the name as one of the bands that we here at the Musipedia Of Metal have touted to be very big, so as you can appreciate we were expecting their sophomore album was going to be make or break for them. Launched through Kickstarter the Bristol masters of soulful hard rock kept everyone updated about the album adding to the anticipation. Then with the release of the album to pledgers the band made the announcement that they have decided to change their name due to growing as a band on these recordings, this is where I have to criticise I'm afraid, the new name for the band is Illustr8tors, which in my opinion is a terrible name, now calling yourselves Illustrators is fine, yes you do sound a bit like indie pop darlings but the name itself is fine, unfortunately Illustr8ors makes you sound like a rap collective so it was with trepidation that I pressed play. happily their sound doesn't seem to have changed much as Something Biblical roars in with a rampaging rock riff and the excellent vocals of Scott Sharp who has a soulful weathered delivery.
Songs like the rocking Heal You the bluesy grunge bluster of Grace which sounds a lot like Soundgarden at their pomp, in fact this is also present on Citizen which has some hazy acoustics in the backing and a psychedelic lead guitar to end the album. The music on this record is as good as it was on their debut they are still plowing that hard rock groove but they've added some 90's grunge for good measure, Won't Bury Me is the perfect example of this with grunting reverb drenched riff some walking bass and punching drums leading the charge as is Steady Slow which has groove to die for. All in all Photopia is a great album nothing too much has changed from their debut which begs the question why the band felt they needed a new name, which I'm afraid is absolutely awful. Blackwolf were a favourite here they can be again, the music is still there but that name needs to go sharpish for their own good. 7/10
Jessikill: Metal Knights (Self Released)
OK so now we're talking!! Jessikill are a five -piece traditional metal band hailing from Texas in the good-ole USA. The bands name got my curiosity but when I researched and saw they had former Immortal Guardian guitarist Jyro Alejo in the band I knew that I'd probably like this album. Guess what? I do it's the kind of muscular, technical solo filled metal with furious blast beats, rumbling bass gallops, shredding guitars and glass shattering vocals. Think Armored Saint, early Queensryche and contemporaries Holy Grail you won't be far wrong, as Midnight Rush erupts from stereo it's everything you could hope for rampaging metal assault with the dual axes of Jyro and Joey V widdling like crazy trading licks and solos on every track as frontwoman Jessica yells at the top of her lungs with her incredible vocals taht would leave most metal singers in the shade. The band have written some very catchy and very metal songs that Joey DiMaio would be proud of the marching bass led The Beast would soung perfect on any modern power metal record with it's big keys (also from Jyro) head banging riff, blitzkrieg middle section and the shared vocals from Jessica and bassist Arturo that blend perfectly on the albums impressive centerpiece. With progressive touches on the excellent Give It All Jessikill show that they have an enormous amount of talent for such a young band, this EP is a real call to arms for these Metal Knights, old school metal at it's best Jessikill do indeed kill and my God is it good! 8/10