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Sunday, 11 November 2018

Reviews: Opeth, Kalidia, Red Dragon Cartel, Algy Ward's Tank (Reviews By Paul H & Alex)

Opeth: Garden Of The Titans: Live At Red Rocks Amphitheater (Nuclear Blast) [Paul H]

Those of you who follow the Musipedia will know that Opeth sit in my top two favourite bands of all time. This release captures the band on the US leg of their Sorceress tour from 2017. Recorded at the stunning Red Rocks amphitheater in Denver, Colorado, it is a fabulous setting. This DVD/CD release was recorded at Red Rocks on 11th May 2017.  I was fortunate enough to catch them later that year and this is a solid representation of the form that the band were in on that tour. With a dry sense of humour, Mikael Akerfeldt’s between song banter is always a highlight, including his continued deflection of the inevitable shouts for Freebird. Here it’s the music that really does the talking Garden Of The Titans captures Opeth in imperious and majestic form.

The DVD provides the visuals, with an impressive light show and clever imagery on the screens, as well as multi-angle shots of the band. All the musicians in this band combine to deliver some of the band’s complex and lengthy progressive songs that are both crushingly heavy and ethereally light. The fusion of prog, death metal, black metal, hard rock and jazz which makes Opeth unlike any other band around today. The setlist at Red Rocks was more varied that the UK tour but still contains some very heavy beasts indeed. The band opened the evening with the jazz intro segueing into Sorceress, the gruesomely heavy Ghost Of Perdition and then the intensity of Demon Of The Fall.

The Wilde Flowers and In My Time Of Need allow more delicate exploration and includes some impressive audience participation.  It’s noticeable that keyboard player Joakim Svalberg is playing more of a role with his Hammond prominent but also his backing vocals supporting the others. Akerfeldt’s death growls do appear less effective but it’s a minor point as the pulverising Heir Apparent and an absolutely punishing Deliverance close the set. As live albums go this is just superb. 10/10

Kalidia: The Frozen Throne (Inner Wound Recordings) [Alex]

Theatricality and grandiosity are values I hold dear in music. Acts in the vein of Kalidia have the potential to create vast and gorgeous textures by daring to experiment. It’s not an objective measurement of quality, nor is it a standard I apply to everything. though it is a taste probably owing to an early love of Queen, film scores and – as an unashamed guilty pleasure - musical theatre. The Frozen Throne is certainly ambitious and even commendably takes some paths that I didn’t expect, only really falling short of being great in the comfortability of tired old clichés, and lack of obligation to their splendorous ideas

Let me stress that for a second album, this is by no stretch of the imagination a disappointment. Each member of the band plays with precision and Nicola Rosellini's vocals are beautifully melodic. Often you can see the makings of a great symphonic power quartet. Circles Spell introduces some alluring Middle Eastern influences, beginning with sitar and with a charming oriental hook lacing its way throughout, while aggressive instrumentation roars alongside. Likewise, To The Darkness I Belong contrasts distortion and thundering rhythms, with Celtic or Vaudevillian instruments, making the twisted fairy tales told across the lyricism feel animated and alive. Myth Of Masada and Go Beyond take these experiments to epic heights, placing the orchestration front and centre, rejoicing in their eloquence. It is in these moments among others, that The Frozen Throne sparkles and Glimmers with royal prestige.

With everything I’ve already said, my criticisms aren’t so much harsh as they are concepts which I think will be improved on, not far into Kalidia’s future. Firstly, for all the dazzling moments that exist, songs such as the opening Frozen Throne and the closing Queen Of The Forsaken do not display enough of a multifaceted nature or instrumental palate to make for a believable aesthetic. Incidentally, while I can respect Black Sails and Orpheus, for effectively creating tension they the same issue. Finally, if I can allude to film soundtracks again, one potential pitfall incurred in attempts to sound powerful is that every song ends up sounding like a battle sequence. That said, we do get a little nuance here, and that’s a skill which I’m hoping will bloom into radiant colour. Indeed, where there are problems, they are the pitfalls of talented musicians cutting out their own sphere of influence, as of fashioning a throne from ice 7/10

Red Dragon Cartel: Patina (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]

If I read right recently in the media, Patina may be Jake E Lee’s last album. Period. Featuring Phil Varzone (Skid Row) and bassist Anthony Esposito along side Lee and vocalist Darren James Smith, back in the fold having sorted his differences with Lee, we move forward four years after their eponymous debut. Patina is solid without being ball grabbing. This is classic rock in every sense, with an American larger than life production. Songs like Crooked Man with its Alice In Chains breakdown and the foot stomping Speedbag really catch the attention. However, there are a few turkeys here; average Chasing Ghosts and My Beautiful Mess both contenders for blandest song of the year. Whilst Lee’s guitar work is grittier and gnarly than before it retains the quality that secured his slot with Ozzy for those few glorious years albeit sans the songs with anything near the quality of the double ‘O’. One for background music whilst cooking methinks. 5/10

Algy Ward’s Tank: Sturmpanzer (Dissonance Productions) [Paul H]

Synonymous with the original Tank line-up which formed in 1980, Algy Ward was part of the band responsible for the legendary Filth Hounds of Hades album in 1982 at the height of the NWOBHM movement. Tank were regularly compared to Motörhead, mainly because they were a three-piece and because they displayed a similar punk-edged playing style. It’s been a pretty shambolic history ever since though, with the band changing line-ups, splitting into the Tucker/Evans Tank releasing three albums (and playing as a five-piece) whilst Ward released Breath of the Pit in 2013. This is, as it appears, a solo effort from Ward as he sings and plays all instruments. There are a couple of listenable songs here, but his vocal delivery was never his strong point and he reinforces that with a ropey performance. The seven-minute plus instrumental, Revenge Of The Filth Hounds Pt 1 & 2, a brooding affair, at least partially restores some pride to an otherwise simply average album. 4/10

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