Lords Of Black: Icons Of New Days (Frontiers)
Having been following Lords Of Black since their debut album, I've seen them turn from a reasonably underground heavy/prog/power metal band into one of the guiding lights of the Frontiers catalogue. Much of this is due to Chilean singer Ronnie Romero's being chosen as the new vocalist of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, his Dio-meets-Freddie vocal handle the Rainbow material well and he can also be heard on both The Ferrymen and CoreLeoni albums released on Frontiers. His main band though is Lords Of Black and it's here that his vocal prowess is at it's most dexterous.
He's got the gritty sentiment to the electronic mid-paced rocker Not In A Place Like This but he's up there with the top voices in power metal on When A Hero Takes A Fall and World Gone Mad both of which are the kind of galloping Helloween-esque tracks that co-producer Roland Grapow used to shred on back in the day. This isn't a solo record though Tony Hernando is guitar genius, Andy C the ominous heavy hitting rhythms (Forevermore) and new boy Dani Criado the low end. It's a record that sits at 12 tracks of progressive (The Edge Of Darkness), melodic heavy metal, although the special edition features another 6 tracks with two new songs and four covers of Anthrax, Queen, Journey and Bruce Dickinson. It's pretty simple if you like Romero's vocals in anything else he's involved in and if you're a fan of Lords Of Black or melodic metal more generally it's a class A release. 8/10
Awooga: Conduit (Rockosmos)
Awooga (stylized AWOOGA) draw their inspiration from Tool, Alice In Chains, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis, it means that they have transcended their sludge roots with vast soundscapes that means the debut album from these Sheffield progsters is one that flows as almost one long sprawling track that flows like a river of musical influences. The Tool comparisons are clear from the outset as Temporal and Waterhole both are hooked in by Tam Ali's dulcet basslines and his voice that is full of fervour, locking down to some sibling symmetry with Taran on drums.
On Blue Rose his dulcet tone over swathes of Mogwai-like instrumentals but for every fluid melodic shoegazing there's a trudging riff from James Borrowdale that erks out some Mastodon comparisons as the sludge sounds come back. Witness the longest track on this record brings everything that has preceded it together in the most evocative song of the record which shifts through numerous aural textures as it goes on before beautifully phasing into Otherside a track that takes the ambient textures of Steven Wilson. Conduit is a record that sees Awooga taking their own path as a musical entity, make sure to check them out as support to Amplifier later this year. 8/10
Electric Monolith: Resurrect The Dead (Self Released)
Ever wanted to hear The Sword play Budgie? Well now's your chance as Madrid Trio Electric Monolith pretty much do just that, with the title track of this record the main culprit, the echoed vocals of Oscar Chamorro over his flowing riffage as Pepo Villena (drums) and Ramon Viña (bass) plough with some Butler/Ward low end. Yes folks if it wasn't immediately clear Electric Monolith are disciples of the Church Of Sabbath and they have the the chops to emulate their heroes on every song, even having a track named Hole In The Sky. Rifftastic from the beginning to the end and played loud it may stir a corpse or two. 7/10
The Slyde: Awakening (Self Released)
Name the most famous Canadian progressive rock band? If you said Rush then you'd be correct and now you can add The Slyde to that list as well as they draw their major stylistic influences from their legendary countrymen as well as progressive alt rock of Coheed And Cambria and 3 (Back Again). Much of this comes from the eccentric time signatures and Nathan Da Silva's nasal vocals, for the majority of the album they belong to the C&C sound though. Divide, In Silence and These Wars have some frantic riffing from Da Silva that emulates Claudio's use of NWOBHM gallops and post hardcore grooves.
However it's the impressive synths, samples and keys of Sarah Westbrook that really lets this album zing with an assured confidence, she takes the majority of the solos and saturates the record with bristling electronics and even some chiptunes on opening gambit Awaken which is a hard rocking track that could be on a videogame soundtrack. Awakening doesn't do go overboard there are now sprawling epics just contrite, funky, quirky progressive alt rock that lays a baseplate of Rush but adds the alternative rocking of C&C and 3 (who if you love this record you need to check out) and the stylish modern edge of Haken.
It's modern progressive rock at its most daring and musically harmonious buy Awakening and let three generations of progressive rock wash over you. 9/10