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Thursday, 22 March 2018

Reviews: Crippled Black Phoenix, Auri, Collibus, Greybeards

Crippled Black Phoenix: Horrific Honorific (Season Of Mist)

Covers albums are never really welcomed, they are either cheesy rehashes of famous bands songs, slavish copies or completely terrible. So then it was with a little trepidation that I approached the newest EP of covers from multinational miserableists Crippled Black Phoenix, having been compared to Pink Floyd in the past it may seem strange that the seminal prog band aren't featured here, however long term CBP fans will note that they have covered Floyd numerous times on previous EP's. The songs chosen for this record are taken from CBP founder Justin Greaves' personal influences.

First we have their interpretation of alternative rock band Arbouretum's False Spring which they turn into a spiraling psych piece, then they riskily tackle SwaNS by adding an ominous feel to their The Golden Boy Swallowed By The Sea, but yet making it more accessible than the original. The songs on this record keep the compositional integrity of the originals but they are all given that sprinkling of CBP inspiration.

Will-O-The-Wisp
 (Magnolia Electric Co) is turned into sparse country plucked track with some haunting vocals from Belinda Kordic and only CBP can turn a punk tune like Victory (No Means No) into an sprawling, atmospheric doom number.

As with many CBP releases Greaves handles guitar, backing vocals, saw, samples, drums, with Mark Furnevall briniging synthesizer, keyboard, bass guitar and Daniel Änghede is still firmly in place as the singer, CBP have always been a collaboration over a band so Jonas Stålhammar (guitar), Helen Stanley (piano) are additional players with Belinda Kordic and Daisy Chapman adding vocals and backing vocals respectively to Will-O-The-Wisp and the gothic In Bad Dreams (The God Machine).

In what could be seen as a curveball for the band they choose to end the record with an organ drenched version of The Faith Healer by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band which is now a very dark, creepy and disconcerting song. As a band that have never really followed any rules CBP probably won't give a crap about what I think but that's why I love them, fortunately I also like this record so give yourself a chance to hear songs you might know through a new musical filter. 8/10

Auri: S/T (Nuclear Blast)

Outside of his main project Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen has never really followed the path of a traditional rockstar, his first solo record was written for an orchestra and told the tale of Scrooge MacDuck and this new project sees him teaming up multi-instrumentalist (and recent Nightwish member) Troy Donockley and vocalist Johanna Kurkela (who happens to be Tuomas’ wife). Nearly all of the music on Auri is played by just these three members with Donockley contributing the most variety as he plays acoustic and electric guitars, bouzouki, uilleann pipes, low whistles, aerophone, bodhran, keys and even vocals as duets with Kurkela on Desert Flower.

She takes most of the leads on this record and her haunting, folky voice, makes the stripped back but in no way simplistic recordings on this album float beautifully over the listener with a waft of Clannad, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and Mostly Autumn (of which Donockley is also a part).

It’s pastoral folk music with a classical soul meaning that the use of strings, especially the viola of Johanna, Holopainen’s keys and the trademark low whistles, uilleann pipes of Troy make this record a very appealing one for anyone that wonders what Nightwish could be if they dropped the symphonic metal sound, to focus on something a little more ethereal and spiritual.

The record was put together by engineer Tim Oliver in the surroundings of Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in rural Wiltshire, it’s clear that the British countryside has had a major effect of the sound on this record as it calls to the idealistic days of British folk but also the artistic experimentation of Kate Bush (Night 13) and Gabriel himself.

The sheer amount of instrumentation on this album is what makes it so magical from the bouzouki and twisting synths on See, through the stirring symphony of The Name Of The Wind up to the sheer magnificence that is Aphrodite Rising and the Gothic deliverance of Underthing Solstice the songs display so many elements and instrumentation that it’s hard to comprehend that the main cast is just three people.

As a lover of the British prog/folk/pop bands such as MA, Panic Room, Magenta etc I loved this record it’s mystical and gorgeously performed, it has a power that doesn’t need distorted guitars, with spring on the way (hopefully) this is the record you need to lull you out of hibernation. 9/10

Collibus: Trusting The Illusion (No Dust Records)

Progressive metal band Collibus are probably a name known to anyone that follows the British metal scene, they have appeared at Download Festival, Bloodstock Open Air, Graspop and Sonisphere Festival, they were also won the Mike Weatherley MP discretionary award of the Parliamentary competition Rock the House, becoming the first band to play a live set in the House Of Commons.

Trusting The Illusion is their third full length and they continue to be a progressive metal sensation, thick muscular riffs come from Daniel Mucs (rhythm guitar) and a session bassist, with Stephen Platt alternating between riffing and Jeff Loomis styled lead guitar playing.

Behind this there is battering percussion and some symphonic overtures which set the foundations for the simply excellent vocals of Gemma Fox, her voice is throaty and melodic and the ideal style for Collibus who successfully merge hard hitting prog metal toughness with melodic emotive choruses, a song like Fear Of The Fall backs up my point as it's a groovy track with a riffy crunch and glorious hook, it sounds like Nevermore at their best a band I would compare Collibus favourable too.

Gemma's vocals are so adaptive that at times she sounds like a different singer she can snarl with the best of them on Hold Fire but also soar majestically on the more dramatic tracks like End Of The Line or the graceful ballad Give Into MeTrusting The Illusion is yet another excellent record full of contrite brawny progressive metal from this Manchester mob. 8/10

Greybeards: For The Wilder Minds (Attitude Recordings)

Swedish rock music is a very broad church, pretty much anything goes and every band can come from a different musical background. So with that in mind Swedish act Greybeards have a sound that takes it's influence from a couple of places, their top three influences on their social media seem to be Foo Fighters, The Beatles and Rise Against and you can hear all three bands in their first track Falling Asleep which has a power rock base, an alternative grit but some big pop melodies.

It's the chorus hooks that bring you in to this record they have a touch of AOR but the riotous social conscience of Rise Against or The Gaslight Anthem, with the shout along sounds of Free and You Struck Me pull you into this second record and make you take notice of Greybeards as band. Musically they play really well with jangly guitars and stirring vocals, they'll certainly be ripping up the stages in Europe with their white hot performances such as the furious closing track The Nerve. More great rock music from the Sweden, catch them on tour with Bonafide and get wild. 7/10

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