Goldray: Rising (Akashic)
Kenwyn House is probably best known as the riff master for Brit rockers Reef but Goldray take that bands more psychedelic elements and embellishes them for a much more expansive trip. Goldray were formed when House and singer Leah Rasmussen started writing songs one Christmas Day, it was a slow burn but soon things started to boil over and they courted Geoff Laurens for the four string groove, I'm unsure of the bands drummer but they have had numerous, it's the core trio that drive the 60's sound of this band, much like Sweden's Blues Pills or even our own Purson (listen to Diamond Road), they marry lush guitar lines with soulful, blues influenced vocals from Rasmussen who channels the lonely spirit of Joplin on the heartbreaking Rising.
Her vocals are so varied she has the range of Kate Bush most noticeable in her ethereal, echoed highs but with the a gutsy lower she can really adapt to any backing. House challenges her he lets Laurens play free and easy with the basslines while he brings riffs, acoustic flourishes (Gypsy) and ties everything together with lots of wild kaleidoscopic experimentalism on Eyes, expansive desert rock on Soulchild and bewitching voodoo creeps in on Calling Your Name. Rising is a proper psychedelic rock album, it's off-kilter, twisted, at times nonsensical, but it lets the music wash over you and by the time the train-of-thought Syd Barrett-esque The Oranges Song concludes the record you are fully invested in the bands classic oddness, this is music from a bygone era brought into the modern day. 8/10
Shade Empire: Poetry Of The Ill-Minded (Candlelight Records)
Shade Empire's last album Omega Arcane in 2013 saw them add orchestral synths to their already established melodic death metal mayhem, it was a really superb album so since then the band have been relentlessly touring and have finally gotten round to releasing a new record. This record is the last to feature original vocalist Juha Harju, he left the band after recording the album and his replacement has big shoes to fill as so much of Shade Empire's appeal comes from his intense vocal performance, his harsh, screamed vocals are aggressive and vicious but equally you can hear every single word he spits from his mouth.
Musically the band are equally as dexterous and they bring a colossal sound to the table with an explosive battery of furious riffage and crushing groove, they intersperse this with great use of samples and synths to bolster the tracks even adding some blaring sax breaks on Thy Scent which put you in mind of the band Shining. The record is only 7 songs long but with so much going on in each anymore would be overkill, especially after the 9 minute centerpiece that is Anti Life Saviour which is simply majestic in it's scope and delivery, it really leaves you breathless in its cinematic glory spanning both SYL and Pink Floyd. Poetry Of The Ill-Minded continues Shade Empire's evolution as band increasing the industrial and orchestral elements to create a dense, lush record, with a new vocalist in tow I will be excited to hear what happens next. 8/10
Ghost Community: The Cycle Of Life (Self Released)
Ghost Community isn't a band it's a Community, formed by members of such bands as The Reasoning, Magenta, Also Eden, Unbroken Spirit, the resultant album definitely draws on all of these acts. It's at it's core a classic rock record with progressive rock overtones rarely leaving the field of view, this progressiveness comes from founder members Matt Cohen (bass) and Jake Bradford Sharp (drums) history in now split up The Reasoning (of which Matt was also a founding member), guitarist Simon Rogers also has time served in the progsphere so the Floydian shimmers that cut through on Mirror Lakes are perfectly executed with the main core of the band embellished by Moray MacDonald's excellent keyboard work.
The album deals with all manner of subjects but the title track is probably the darkest, you can hear the emotion bleeding through John Paul Vaughn's microphone as he delivers every line with his superior vocals that can move from a quiet whisper to a hair raising top end. Musically the band are all masters of their craft and luckily the forgiving co-production of Bruce Soord (Pineapple Thief) allows everyone to show their talents, just listen to Matt's bass on Anything And Everything or the haunting keys and fluid acoustic on Blue December Morning. The Cycle Of Life is a debut album that is a sum of it's parts, musicians with a heck of a lot of experience contributing everything they have, it rocks hard, it progs harder and it is a foundation stone of promising future for this Cardiff based band. 8/10