Michael Romeo: War Of The Worlds Part 1 (Mascot Records)
War Of The Worlds Part 1 is the first official/non instrumental solo album of Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo, it's his neoclassical style that puts the New Jersey porg metal act near the top of their genre. This record is based upon the H.G Wells book and while it's not Jeff Wayne's musical version of the iconic story of Man verses Martian it's got a lot more going for it than the god-awful Tom Cruise version. The record is cinematic taking it's orchestral cues from John Williams, the score throughout brings touches of Star Wars, especially on the two instrumentals Introduction (just listen to that swell and not imagine the Tatooine twin suns) and War Machine and it's integral to making this album one of the best Romeo has been involved in. I haven't heard his compositions this good since Symphony X's Paradise Lost in fact it could easily be a Symphony X record if it was not for the other musicians that are involved.
The album was mostly written while Russell Allen was recovering from injuries sustained during the horrendous bus crash while on tour with Adrenaline Mob that killed their bandmate and tour manager. Because of this and that the rest of the band were busy with other projects Romeo brought in three friends of his including schoolmate John DeServio (BLS) on bass, multi-talented drummer John Macaluso and singer Rick Castellano who is a revelation having what I'd say is the perfect progressive metal voice with the aggression of Allen but the tenderness of James LaBrie. Musically this album takes your breath away, of course there are the fluid, intense guitar workouts from Romeo but they don't detract from all of the virtuocity that happening around it and more importantly they never get in the way of a song, take F*cking Robots it's the one song on the record not written by Romeo and it has dubstep throughout while other tracks fuse thrash, speed and the film score theatrics. With a second part promised you do wonder how they will follow this, it's the best Symphony X album never made if you like progressive metal then you need to hear this! 9/10
Destinia: Metal Souls (Frontiers Records)
Japan has very odd history with metal/rock the country seems obsessed with shred guitar and big ballads, bands such as Dokken, Mr Big etc all do well due to their mix of these things alone. So it's no surprise that Nozomu Wakai has made Destinia as similar to Rainbow, Priest and Japan's own Loudness as possible, he's part of the new generation of Japanese guitar hotshot who like all the best Frontiers acts has brought a star studded cast along with him for this third record that serves as an international debut. His rhythm section is Marco Mendoza and Tommy Aldridge while on the mic is Ronnie Romero (again) so it's a got serious potential and the title track kicks off with fire and fury. Romero beating his chest as Wakai peels off licks and solos with relative ease.
Wakai has named Rainbow as major influence and the Blackmore style oozes through especially due to Romero's connection with the band. The End Of Love has power metal gallop, Promised Land a keyboard backed fist pump of a groove full of Dio-isms. Happily the first ballad arrives after 4 riff happy rockers and it's not too sweet or sugary although quickly they return to hard rocking on Be A Hero. I'm always hesitant to praise anything with Marco Mendoza is involved in but Metal Souls is a really good record, it's at the heavier end of Frontiers musical releases but all the better for it, if you fawn over old Shrapnel albums from the shred gods of the 1980's then pick this up and get that air guitar tuned. 7/10
Plini: Sunhead (Self Released)
Following up from his previous album Australian guitarist Plini set about making this EP as he explains: "I started working on the material almost straight after Handmade Cities was released in 2016, sort of with the goal to make a very big, small EP - aiming to put as much detail and refinement into the composition and playing as possible. The music is greatly influenced by the amount of touring and travel I've done in the past couple of years." You can feel the excitement with these gloriously breezy jazz-inflected tracks with Flâneur featuring piano and saxophone mixing with the fluid guitar playing of Plini who is true talent with a six string.
You may have seen Paul H review Arun Gosh in these pages before well Plini is the rock/metal equivalent of that, with djent coming in on Kind but there's a real cavalcade of musical influences from there on with no reliance on vocals it's all about the instrumentation and the compositions which are light, airy, upbeat and full of personality. I listened to this during the recent storms and it cheered me up no end it's a great EP! 8/10
B.O.E: The Rebirth EP (Self Released)
B.O.E (Brink Of Extinction) are a Bristol based band that deal in progressive-groove metal and when I say progressive groove check out Jeckyll & Cyclops' Mike Pattonesque oddness on to of edgy thick djent riffs. What you'll also hear is that B.O.E have two vocalists and while watching them live I failed to pick the differentiation, on the bands latest EP, Liam Denning and Colt Shapland have two distinct vocals meaning this record has an interesting duality to it that allows Billy Turner (guitar), Chuck Knight (guitar), Ben Harding (bass) and Chris Stefanczyk (drums) to really stretch themselves with bass flourish here, a time signature shift there, a drum fill and even some madness I can't describe. It's a bit djent, a bit nu-metal, a bit alt and totally intriguing. I'll warn you that you'll need an acquired taste for this one but stick with it as The Rebirth is a band returning from a hiatus with a renewed fire! 7/10