Spiritual Beggars: Sunrise To Sundown (InsideOut)
Swedish 'supergroup' Spiritual Beggars' new album Sunrise To Sundown is their third album with third vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (ex-Firewind) and their ninth overall. The band have developed their sound over the nine albums moving from more stoner metal with Spice (vocalist #1), to stoner rock with J.B (Grand Magus) before settling into a 70's hard rock groove, that yes has always been there but is now more pronounced. This album especially draws from the 70's influence more than ever, this is at it's most noticeable on Diamond Under Pressure which builds from Per Wiberg's bubbling organ into a strutting rocker that owes a debt to Deep Purple's Mistreated and makes for a strong first single. As usual the production is rich like a fine mahogany and the analogue sound that Staffan Karlsson creates behind the desk is very natural, letting his years of experience in engineering and mixing, for many of the band members day jobs, shine through. Obviously the production would be wasted if the performance was below par but this is never the case with Spiritual Beggars as Sharlee D'Angelo (Bass/Arch Enemy) and Ludwig Witt (Drums/Grand Magus) give a solid backroom with soulful rock groove see No Man's Land, they act as the foundation for Per Wiberg (Keys/ex-Opeth) and Michael Amott (Guitar/Arch Enemy) to really rock out and in places duel like Blackmore and Lord, see What Doesn't Kill You all while Apollo soars above the noise with his unique fervent vocal. The track credits are split between Witt, Wiberg and Amott and each track encompasses all the bands talents, from the rollicking Hard Road, to the percussive clatter of I Turn To Stone all the way through to the restrained rocker Southern Star. From start to finish Sunrise To Sundown is a classy classic rock album from 'the band that refuses to die'. 8/10
Blood Ceremony: Lord Of Misrule (Rise Above)
Canadian psychedelic folk doomsters Blood Ceremony make their comeback with fourth full length, their first album in three years, The Lords Of Misrule continues with Blood Ceremony's bewitching, retro styled rock filled with riffs a plenty and towering organs and of course the trademark flute that echoes the sound of the legend Ian Anderson. The record starts off with 7 minute The Devil's Window which opens with a flute blast and some rocking riffs from Sean Kennedy and bassist Lucas Gadke rumbles in unison while Michael Carrillo clattering along with the jazz drumming allowing the song to breathe in it's mid-section that sees acoustic folkery and a flute solo the order of the day before it builds up again into a stomping doom riff. Blood Ceremony's frontwoman has always been the bands special attraction her quirky vocal phrasing and haunting delivery, used to it's full on the proggy organ filled Loreley and the driving The Rogue's Lot but at it's most understated on the creeping The Weird Of Finistere. Things get ethereal on the opening on the title track, then Half Moon Street brings back the Jethro Tull influence featuring a flute guitar duel while Flower Phantoms is propulsive power pop that is The Beatles tripped up to the max. Everything about this album screams retro from the production to the songwriting and it is all the better for it, Lord Of Misrule doesn't vary wildly from Blood Ceremony's previous releases but this is no bad thing they still sit near the top of the retro rock pile brimming with occultism and pagan ritualism, this is a good album and as the last subdued acoustic chords of Things Present, Things Past trail off Blood Ceremony once again prove their credentials. 8/10
Dakesis: The New Dawn (CapsAArx)
Coming from the heartland of metal Birmingham Dakesis are a progressive power metal band that despite being relatively young in their inception (they formed in 2010) The New Dawn is a tour-de-force in modern prog-power metal, the pre-requisite stirring classical intro is a stable of the genre but as the riff of title track kicks off any kind of complacency is washed away by the rampaging riffs and frontwoman (the band's former keyboardist) Gemma Lawler's amazing strong vocals that are not the usual soprano wailing above the noise she has a tough but melodic set of pipes that mean the band are sitting on the same bracket as Welsh metalists Triaxis, think Thunderstone, Kamelot, and more modern Maiden all with a strong progressive element found in Symphony X and you wouldn't be far off. The pace doesn't let up on Betrayal which is very Kamelot as a duet with Matt Gore of The Mighty Wraith allowing Matt Jones to shred his head off, the man is literally possessed with the power of the riff thrashing away on Destined For The Flame which borders on Dragonforce territory especially with the keyboards, Adam Harris' pulverising drums and the fret melting solos.
A lot has changed since Darkesis' debut album but Lawler's move to the mic has been the most dramatic she is a revelation and gives this album it's melodic bite both behind the keys and by belting away on every track of this concept album...yes thats right folks a concept album but one that doesn't sacrifice the songwriting for the overall feel of the album, the soloing is incredible too with Amie Chatterley's fleet fingered bass playing steering the meaty rhythm sections. This album is brimming with metal anthems in the making To Conquer Or Die could be a Manowar track with it's thundering drumming, Judgement Day slows everything down with more symphonic elements filling things with some soul, The Sacrifice brings a more Gothic element to proceedings hinting at Evanescence with the opening building into a haunting track that builds the layers with chunky riffs coming in underpinned by keys. Autumn has beautiful classical guitars (that permeate many of the tracks giving them scope) along with some superb vocals from Lawler in duet with Harris that evokes the Mostly Autumn style of progressive folk rock.
All before quieter more straightforward elements and indeed shorter songs are brushed away by The Seventh Sky which is a progressive tour-de-force with frequent time changes, acoustic interludes, huge keyboard swathes, frenzied guitar riffage, the impressive vocals, thumping rhythms and amazing songwriting. Dakesis are an amazing band, they have a talent that reaches far beyond their years, I am actually amazed this is only their second album, it's brilliantly realised collection of songs that has you reaching for the play button as soon as the final epic By The Fading Light has finished. With a collection of songs like this Dakesis have stepped up to show they are indeed a force to reckoned with and one that you need to watch out for as I predict bigger and better things for them very soon and I can't wait to see them in Cardiff at the end of the month. 9/10