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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Reviews: Anderson/Stolt, Denner/Shermann, Whitford/St Holmes

Anderson/Stolt: Invention Of Knowledge (InsideOut)

Jon Anderson and Ronnie Stolt are two names that will be very familiar to prog rock fans, one the unmistakable (and only real) voice of Yes the other a the impressive guitar prowess of The Flower Kings. the two collaborated to play all of the first side of Tales From Topographic Oceans while at a gig together, this one collaboration has resulted in the two prog rock legends writing an album together that harks back the 1970's prog rock glory days. The album is made up of four parts each then split again to make up a total of 9 tracks most of which over 6 minutes long. What I got from the first playthrough of this record was that the songs are intensely musical but sounds stripped back and at times like an acoustic record with the layered guitars both 6 and 12 string variety, shaking percussion and many world music influences coming from the addition of dobro, lap steel, Portuguese guitar. The record is a musical journey through the Invention of Lying with the title track split into four parts; Invention is the record's most Yes sounding song with the building Anderson vocal based around a Medieval folk sounding musical backing that builds into a the trademark keyboard heavy sound of the band that abandoned their frontman a few years ago, as an opening salvo it's a perfect welcome to the record Stolt's multi faceted musical palette at it's most effective and Andersons chirping falsetto in fine fettle, it's also 9 minutes long and leads into the Indian sounding We Are Truth that forms the second part of the title track and acts as a bridge into the immediacy of the final part Knowledge which once again is a direct psychedelically tinged rocker. With 23 minutes past you realise that you are only still on the first part of the record but the magical mystical journey continues through the second part Knowing, made up of Knowing and the introspective Chase The Harmony. The music on this record is fantastic it's a majestic, grandiose and played by musicians that are all top flight along with two of the prog rock genres finest names. There is too much on this record to give a full autopsy of the record so I suggest you just take up your comfiest armchair, put on your headphones and just ease your way into this progressive voyage. 8/10

Denner/Shermann: Masters Of Evil (Metal Blade)

I reviewed Denner/Shermann's debut effort last year giving the EP a solid 7/10, well the band have been working hard and their debut full length is now upon us. If the names are familiar then you were brought up with schlock-horror of King Diamond, Michael Denner and Hank Shermann were and in Shermann's case still is, the dual axe attack for the Mercyful Fate as well as many other bands including King Diamond's solo work. As I mentioned in my EP review the band unashamedly sound like Mercyful Fate, but in a question I've posed before can you actually copy yourself? Denner/Shermann are trying their hardest to do just that, right down to the cover of this record that was designed by long term Mercyful/King Diamond artist Thomas Holm and features the same bursts of yellow and Satanic beasts as Don't Break the Oath. The eight tracks on this record are prime slabs of speed metal, lightning speed riffs, trade-off solos, frequent changes of pace and a biting high frequency tone giving it a sharp 80's sound akin to DBTO and Melissa. The talent is in evidence from the outset with a thundering rhythm section of Snowy Shaw's drums and Marc Grabowski's bass in almost robotic unison, all of this would be for nothing without a vocalist that has the same powerful lungs as The King, luckily Sean Peck has that role down to a tee already familiar as the Halford-esque vocals in Death Dealer and Cage here he shows off his range a bit more on the atmospheric Son Of Satan which has the tolling bells, a chugging building riff and some ear piercing vocals in the chorus, there's a lower register on the less rapid moments such as the crunch of Pentagram And The Cross, nods to Ozzy on The Wolf Feeds At Midnight  Masters Of Evil still relies heavily on the horror imagery of both men's past but you wouldn't expect anything less from two men who have made their name with Denmark's premier metal outfit. The songs on this record are just as good as those two early Mercyful Fate records and indeed better than much of King Diamond's solo output, this is proto-thrash at it's best from the duo that were two of the leading exponents of the sound back in the day. Masters Of Evil is a non stop metal assault from beginning to end and if you lament the loss of Mercyful Fate and love bands like Metal Church, Angel Witch and Satan then Denner/Shermann will come near the top of your end of year list. 8/10         

Whitford/St.Holmes: Reunion (Mailboat Records)

When Brad Whitford left Aerosmith in 1980 he teamed up with ex-Ted Nugent man Derek St Holmes, their debut record was released in August 1981 and unsurprisingly was a mix of the bluesy hip shaking bluesy hard rock of Aerosmith and the Southern styled hard rock of St. Holmes' work with Uncle Ted. Without achieving any major success the band split and both went back to their subsequent charges. However in November 2015 with Aerosmith on a relative hiatus the band reformed and embarked on a reunion tour, as part of the tour package they recorded an album of new songs (packaged with a digitally remastered version of their debut as a bonus). Once again the band is made up of St Holmes on vocals and guitar and Whitford on the screaming leads with the percussive backbeat coming from Tesla's Troy Luccketta who is no stranger to bluesy hard rock with his day job. the band is rounded out by Buck Johnson's keys and the excellently named Chopper Anderson on bass. The new album is imaginatively titled Reunion and it features nine brand new songs written especially for the record with Shapes being the stand out single a big ballsy riff leading the song into it's massive "Come Tomorrow" refrain displaying St. Holmes' excellent vocals that sound very much like KISS lead singer Paul Stanley throughout, most impressively on the Rock All Day which makes the most of the organs with it's sleazy sound, Hot For You has a definite KISS sound to it and Hell Is On Fire is the album's heaviest moment and it's a benefit as a juxtaposition to the more AOR saccharine tracks like Catch My Fall and the country love song of Tender Is The NightReunion is a good album from two old hands that work in unison very well showing that in 2016 unlike 1981 they have become a more pressing concern. 7/10


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