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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Out Of The Beyond 30

Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)

Katatonia's path towards giving up metal completely now seems complete; Dethroned & Uncrowned is an acoustic re-working of their most recent album Dead End Kings. There are little to no electric guitars on this album just acoustics, mellotrons, synths, dulcimer hammers, pianos and orchestral backing throughout. It means that the songs have much more impact in their stripped back form meaning that the band have echoes of Porcupine Tree at their most introspective, bringing huge soundscapes that explode from the stereo but are equally at home when listened to late at night on headphones, drawing you in with their bewitching melodies and Jonas Renske's deep sonorous voice. This is a life affirming album that shows that Katatonia have some excellent songs that translate just as well in this setting as they are on the full electric version of the album, Dead Letters is a highlight as always as is opener The Parting. This is Katatonia casting their net for the future, they do not need to worry about any further experimentation as they have shown that they are quite capable mixing up their style. 9/10

Slave To The System: S/T (2002/2006)

Slave To The System released their debut and so far only album in 2002 before it was re-released with an extra track in 2006. The band are made up by former Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray and former Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield, in a change to their day jobs the album is hard rock mixed with some alternative moments. The band is finished off by members of the alt-rock band Brother Cane composed of bassist Roman Glick and vocalist/guitarist Damon Johnson (Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders) and guitarist Scott Heard. As I've said the band have hard rock mixed with alternative metal, Stigmata sounds like Velvet Revolver with Johnson doing his best Weiland, before Ruby Wednesday which is very Pearl Jam like into the title track which sounds like Soundgarden and Cruz Out Of Control is Audioslave at their heaviest. As you can see many of these tracks have similarities, most of which are because of Johnsons' Cornell-like vocals. This is a good album full of chunky rock tracks and massive ballads like Abyss. If you like American metal throwing in grunge, hard rock and acoustic balladry then Slave To The System will tick all your boxes. 7/10  

Crystal Breed: The Place Unknown (2011)

Crystal Breed are a Prog rock band from Hamburg and that's all you really need to know, they play pure progressive rock full of massive synths and keyboard runs, chunky/melodic guitar passages, driving bass lines and some technical drumming, the band have also got some amazing vocal harmonies from lead vocalist/guitarist Niklas Turmann, keyboardist/vocalist Corvin Bahn and drummer/vocalist Thorsten Harnitz. From the synth driven opening Lies the band spiral out of control into a massive crescendo that immediately changes pace with the acoustic opening to Floating On Waves which brings light and shade with its quiet/soft dynamics, as well as the classical piano middle eight. the band have a similar sound to The Von Hertzen Brothers (which could be why I like it!). The band bring together a lot of elements from prog-legends the title track is part Marillion, part Barclay James Harvest with its country refrain which turns into a heavy as lead breakdown at the end! This is a band with some sublime songs and amazing song-writing, there's Rush, Pink Floyd, Marillion and even the Beatles present on this album and it all works perfectly. This is a bit of a hidden gem for prog fans, an amazing album from a band you may not know too much about. Give it a spin, live with it for a few weeks and you will love it I promise! 9/10    

The Winery Dogs: S/T (2013)

The Winery Dogs are a rock trio like no other; the three members are all virtuosos in their own rights and have appeared on hundreds of album between them. The three men in question are tub thumper extraordinaire Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Transatlantic and every other band under the sun, master of the 4 stings Billy Sheenan ex-DLR and Mr Big and the third part of this trifecta is the perhaps lesser known Ritchie Kotzen who is a solo singer/guitarist and did a stint in Poison. Together they meld to bring some muscular blues based hard rock full of virtuosic flourishes, a drum fill there; We Are One, a bass solo here see Desire for an example and lots of Hendrix-like freak-outs from Kotzen who not only plays a means strings but has the smoothest rock voice this side of Chris Cornell. Things start strong with Elevate which has a euphoric chorus; in fact this word can sum up the album to a tee. Three men playing up lifting rock music that is as life-affirming as it is technical. Portnoy is a genius equally adept to smashing out rock rhythms as he is playing stripped back jazzy refrains. Sheenan plays his bass like a lead guitar contributing funky leads and rumbling rhythm and Kotzen howls and croons while shredding and rocking like a motherf*****! The band get plaintive on I'm No Angel showing their stadium rock leanings are not far away. This is an album full of strong tracks that are both catchy and beautifully played. if you are a fan of any of the contributors work then you will love this and if you're not then really you shouldn't even be reading to here. 9/10  


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