Kansas: Leftoverture Live & Beyond (InsideOut)
Taken from various shows on legendary prog rockers Kansas' 40th Anniversary of Leftoverture tour, made up of two discs this expansive live record features deep cuts and hits from their entire career including 3 songs from their most recent release The Prelude Implicit on the first disc and then a run trhough of their classic Leftoverture record. Disc 1 opens with the two 7 minute plus tracks Icarus II and Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel) reinforcing the band's progressive rock credentials, the band are led today by founder members drummer Phil Ehart and lead guitarist Rich Williams and they take this band through some of the best songs in prog rock. It's a "good start" as singer Ronnie Platt puts it after Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel) ends leading into Point Of No Return which sees David Ragsdale really show why he replaced Robby Steinhardt in 2006.
This is a live record for real Kansas fans three tracks from Point Of No Return those being Paradox, the title track and the staple of adverts and TV shows, favourite Dust In The Wind. They go right back to their debut on Journey From Mariabronn then Lamplight Symphony from their second record, this of course would all make a fine live record but they up the ante and as soon as that acapella opening of Carry On My Wayward Son the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and it's all up from there through The Wall, Cheyenne Anthem and the concluding Magnum Opus all bring a huge sense of nostalgia and the performances of the band are outstanding, finishing with Portrait (He Knew) (from Point Of No Return) this is a true reflection of both the band Kansas were and the band they are now. 9/10
Hallatar: No Stars Upon The Bridge (Svart Records)
“After the death of my beloved and my life partner Aleah Starbridge last April, I have been gathering writings, lyrics, and the poems of Aleah to keep them safe and close to my heart. About one month after the world came down on the blackest day of my life on April 18th, I knew I needed to pick up the guitar and try to create something or I would be truly destroyed. I wrote the music for the Hallatar album in a week’s time. I don’t have much memory of this week, not a memory of a single day of writing the music. But all I remember a promise to myself that whatever music would come out, I would not touch or change anything of it afterwards." these are the words of Hallatar guitarist and songwriter Juha Raivio, Juha is the guitarist of Swallow The Sun and Trees Of Eternity, you may remember I scored that record very highly, it was recorded by Juha and Aleah before her tragic death and serves as her debut and her swansong.
Hallatar as you can see from the harrowing quote that starts this review is the band formed by Juha after her death as a reaction to it. He acquired the services of Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick, you can hear that this record was produced after immense heartbreak, the songs on this record are devastating to listen to, slow, mournful and at times hopeless, it rips the heart out of your chest with every deliberate cumbersome riff and raw vocal scream of Joutsen. The record has six bludgeoning doom metal songs split by recordings of Aleah reading her poems, these serve as small glimpses of beauty between the grief-stricken heaviness.
Joutsen's adaptive vocals are ideal for the musical backing and are complemented by the whispered vocals of Draconian's Heike Langhans and interplaying with previously recorded Aleah's for maximum emotional devastation on Dreams Burn Down. The music here is desolate, melancholic, abjectly hopeless and brilliant, not for anyone in a nervous disposition but it's an incredible piece of work, you have no excuse get this record. 10/10
Stormbringer: Born A Dying Breed (Attic Records)
Northants rockers Stormbringer return with their third album Born A Dying Breed, one listen to the record and you can hear that the album's title is a falsehood at least musically, they are not a dying breed at all they are bang up to date with the most modern sounding hard rock music around, their driving metallic hard rock is born of the classic rock styles with very modern bent to it. A closer listen to Dying Breed reveals they are referring too the patriots who are ignored by so many, it's a great song with Southern Skynyrd style to it. They have been on a upward trajectory since their inception and on this third record they continue playing highly polished heavy rock in the vein of A7X, Bleed For could have been from any of the most recent Avenged records due to the sneering vocals, the thundering riffs and melodic hook.
Their sound is honed from their numerous performances at Download and Bloodstock it's professionally performed and the songwriting brings yet more kudos avoiding the normal tropes and cliches for more intelligent lyricism for the heavyweight battering of Pay Your Respects, it's one of the many songs on this record built on the theme of defiance, Stormbringer have a rebellious attitude from the flag waving album cover to the rallying cries of Stick To Your Guns, Through These Eyes. Stormbringer are really on the cusp of greatness, if they were American they would be already be all over the radio and a big deal, however their geographical location just means that they have to work a bit harder, the songs are there it's now all about exposure. Dying breed? Hardly this is band right on the pulse of modern metallic hard rock. 8/10
Noturnall: 9 (Rockshots Records)
Something of Brazilian supergroup Noturnall is made up of former members of Angra and Shaman, two legendary names in the Brazilian metal scene. 9 is their third record, their debut was one of the best selling records in Brazilan metal, so they have a healthy pedigree and a lot of experience to display. It's a weighty slab of metal featuring low slung riffs and a progressive approach that has orchestrations throughout. Symphony X and Shaman are the notable comparisons but halfway through the first song Hey you realise that this song is pretty much the level Noturnall can reach, it's not particularly inspiring, bog standard prog metal with neoclassical flourishes. It's not bad, with the experience involved it couldn't be but it's just not particularly memorable with Thiago Bianchi's vocals being the weakest links. 6/10