Daniel Cavanagh: Monochrome (Kscope)
Listening to The Exorcist, the opening track on Anathema main man Daniel Cavanagh’s debut solo release Monochrome, you immediately understand what he meant when he described his album as having “a late night, candlelit feeling, evoking the light of dusk as the summer sun sinks below the horizon, setting the scene for thoughts and meditations that many people will relate to.” A beautiful, evocative piece which wrenches at the heart and soul, full of emotion and feeling. It’s a song that could easily be accompanied by a chilled glass of wine as the evening tapers. Perfect in front of a roaring fire with a loved one. If it had surfaced in the middle of The Optimist or a future Anathema release you wouldn’t have been disappointed. This track was apparently considered so good by Anathema that the rest of the band would have made this the centrepiece of an album. Cavanagh said, “taking it from the band was not an easy decision – but I’m glad I did!”
Monochrome features guest appearances from Anneke van Giersbergen, with whom Cavanagh has worked with on several occasions before and who is perhaps more widely known for her work with Devin Townsend. She adds some deliciously delicate vocals to several tracks including This Music and the stunning, haunting Soho. Cavanagh played virtually everything on the album, highlighting just what a fabulously talented musician he really is. He has enrolled another brilliant musician in Anna Phoebe, whose violin work adds texture to the piano on The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours. Cavanagh described the album as “a deeply reflective and personal offering, inspired by internal feelings of love and loss” and you truly feel that as the album progresses. Soho is the kind of track that would comfort in those long hours of despair after losing a loved one. Monochrome contains some lengthy tracks, with three songs close to ten minutes each in length but what that allows Cavanagh to do is build his melancholic pieces.
The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours is a perfect illustration of this, solo piano joined by violin before synths reminiscent of Cavanagh’s Floyd influences intertwine with the piano, allowing a peak that then slows and falls to more dramatic piano. Dawn is short at under three minutes but is one of my favourite tracks, the combination of looped acoustic guitar and Phoebe’s violin just magical. Penultimate track Oceans Of Time is a delightful duet between Cavanagh and Van Giersbergen, subtle piano and simple drum beat all that is needed to guide the track perfectly along its path. And then you arrive at the simply blissful Some Dreams Do Come True, which is mesmerising. It is simple, a lone piano riff looping for part of the track, but with added effects and tempo. The waves crashing on the shore provides a calming effect, whilst Phoebe’s violin is subtle and understated. It’s an instrumental which brings a lump to throat, such is the emotion pulsing through it.
I’ve played this release at least once a day for two weeks and it continues to improve. It will not be to everyone’s tastes but there will be few modern-day Anathema fans who will find this anything but genuinely magical. 9/10
For All We Know: Take Me Home (Self Released)
The solo project of Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie is a mellow affair, with relaxed, almost pop style rock on the first listen. Peel away the outer layers though, and on second run through you are suddenly confronted with some much more complex compositions. The album features a host of guest musicians who add to the melody and quality of the songs. It’s mainly light, delicate and rather fine at times. The vocals of Wudstick (Ayreon) are smashing, clean, gentle and soothing. With members of Pain Of Salvation (Leo Margarit on drums and ex POS bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow), the ivories of Marco Kuypers (Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer) and Thijis Schrijnemakeo (Hammond) and the lovely vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen adding to several tracks. The overriding progressive elements on tracks such as Let Me Fly, Fade Away, The Big Wheel and the retro sounding We Are The Light, would sit on either Devin Townsend or Steven Wilson releases all grab the attention. Jolie’s guitar playing is understated, and becomes more apparent on repeated plays. It takes time but has become an album of real enjoyment. 8/10
Dirty Thrills: Heavy Living (Frontiers)
London based blues rockers Dirty Thrills make no pretence about their influences with Led Zeppelin and Rival Sons most prominent. Heavy Living is 45 minutes of superb, cock strutting blues rock which is pleasing to the ear. Louis James’ vocals are full of heart and soul, hitting the notes with the same effortless ease that Sons’ frontman Jay Buchanan does. Add in a dollop of The Temperance Movement and the sweetness of Vintage Trouble on tunes like Lonely Soul which sees a beautiful piece of interplay between James and guitarist Jack Fawdry and it’s not hard to see why these guys have picked up some prestigious touring slots over the past two years. Impressing at events such as Ramblin’ Man Fair and Planet Rockstock, I’d say that Dirty Thrills are heading upwards at speed. It’s simple, quality music which appeals to the connoisseur. If you like your Thrills Dirty, then Heavy Living is going to get you even messier. 8/10
Idlewar: Rite (Off Yer Rocka Records)
This beauty has been out for a few weeks now but it’s better late than never. Rite is the second album from the South Californian power trio whose recent set at Hard Rock Hell was well appreciated by the Musipedia crew. The band kick out the jams from the off, their high velocity stoner sound warm and inviting. The difference with Idlewar in comparison to many other bands is that these guys have a real Soundgarden feel. Check out the opening salvo of Sullen Moon, Break and Keep Your Word. James Blake’s vocals haunt and mesmerise in equal measure, whilst Rick Graham's jangling guitar turns into crushingly heavy riffs in an instant. There’s more than a nod to Alice In Chains as well with the likes of Strain and Panic echoing shades of the Seattle grunge masters. James fuzzy bass and Pete Pagonis’s accurate drum work support Blake throughout. Rite is a solid, impressive release from a band who are as good on album as they are in the live arena. 8/10