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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Reviews: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Unisonic, Halcyon Way

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (Reprise Records)

Tom Petty has always been the last bastion of the American dream, his songs no matter how forlorn, have always encompassed and strived for that American Dream imagined at Ellis Island. Petty and his working class countrified rock has always had a glint of hope in all his songs however the man maybe losing his can-do spirit it on his thirteenth album. The rocking American Dream Plan B is an opening number with an agenda, it's a clarion call to the disenfranchised to strike back at the greed that has no become the norm in the upper echelon of society, ruining his American Dream with their "Political Scheme". Musically the album harks back to his first two albums with The Heartbreakers who also support him on this album. The triple guitars of Petty, Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston is at the heart of the songs especially Red River which is old school country Petty in a song about love and loss, along with Benmont Tench brings the keys, synths and organs adding Ron Blair's bass and Steve Ferrone's drums also providing the rhythm section see Fault Lines. This album is the sound of a man re-evaluating his lot in life on Full Grown Boy and Sins Of My Life you can hear this in full effect. This album is a lot rockier than many of Petty's releases you hear the influences of Mudcrutch as well as the burgeoning blues sound that started on previous release Mojo, the seedy smoke of Power Drunk is where the blues comes out to play as Petty once again rallies against those in charge, Burnt Out Town is another bluesy track with some killer harmonica blasts. All You Can Carry is the song where you hear Petty trying to escape his Dream rather than running down it. Still U Get Me High is another love song that reinvigorates the expectation again, this album is by no means a sad one, but it is angry and in places introspective with this last man standing finally starting to wean in his youthful resolve, he has managed to turn this resolve towards the big government corruption and indeed his own mortality on Forgotten Man. Yes Hypnotic Eye (named for the Eye Of Providence on the one dollar bill) is possibly Petty's best album in years, it is the sound of our favourite american hero rallying against the establishment, while drawing on the sound of his youth. An excellent album! 9/10

Unisonic: Light Of Dawn (earMusic)

Unisonic released their debut album in 2012 and despite the talent involved the album disappointed slightly, although it was good it could have been so much more. Unisonic marked the first collaboration of Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen since The Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 but in spite of the history between them the first album was more AOR/Hard Rock orientated than anything they produced in Helloween, much of this was down to bassist/producer/writer Dennis Ward who put his seal all over it, don't get me wrong yes it was a good album and many of us accepted that if this was what they were going to play then so be it, however with the small glimpses of the past we knew the power (metal) was still there. The first album may have been slightly disappointing but as the orchestral intro Venite 2.0 moves into Your Time Has Come it's like the last 30 years hasn't happened as we are back in prime Helloween territory with the galloping bassline from Ward, some rampaging drums from Kosta Zafiriou, the best guitar playing Hansen has been involved in since the glory days, the twin guitar attack he has with Mandy Meyer harks back to one he had with Mr Weikath all those years ago. On top of this top quality power metal assault are the stratosphere bothering vocals of Kiske who is top form throughout with his majestic vocals. Fans of Helloween will be grinning from ear to ear on this opening track it is a blast from the past, a rampaging power metal masterpiece. Just as you get your breath back the bass lead intro of Exceptional which brings you back into the AOR territory with the love paean on top of a bouncy hard rock backing and a middle section that just calls for audience participation, the thrashier For The Kingdom brings back the kick drums, the harder edge and the sublime solos along with a whole hunk of keys from G√ľnter Werno. Yes on just the first three tracks you can tell this album is going to be awesome, from the scorching solo on Not Gonna Take Anymore, to the hard rock of Night Of The Long Knives, the 80's riff-fest of Find Shelter which has a few nods to the progressive, before the pace finally slows on the double ballad whammy of Blood and When The Deed Is Done before things pick up again on the metallic Throne Of The Dawn and continue this way through until the amazing album ending You And I which has tinges of Bon Jovi and a mountaintop guitar solo. This album is simply stunning!! It may just be the best power metal album of the year, in fact I have no doubt!! 10/10

Halcyon Way: Conquer (Nightmare Records)

Atlanta based progressive metallers Halcyon Way are now on their third album and it continues their particular brand of intensely technical modern metal. The title track starts the album on a strong point with the percussive beat starting things off before the guitars come in with their thrash modern riffage but also the mainstream hooks of Disturbed but also a lot of Shadow Gallery with their technical delivery. The guitars rip out riff after riff with gallops, breakdowns and some thrash passages see Conceived In Torment which also shows off the explosive drumming of Ernie Topran. One of the bands key selling points is the voice of Steve Braun who can hit the big highs when required but also has a hell of a rasp and with the growling backing vocals in the heavier parts like Hatred Is My Cause. Stylistic the band change over and over on every song but maintain their own style of delivery throughout with the Maidenesque rhythms of Militant and on Home they have the sound like Architects as it has an almost metalcore style as well as the bouncy pop-like The Poisoned Apple which has tinges of emo. Now I've said the vocals is the key selling points but it could also drive people away as it can be an acquired taste. This is a good album yes but when you have bands like Haken, Aeon Zen, Above Symmetry and Borealis flying the flag for modern progressive metal you find your self wondering where Halcyon way fit into the picture as they don't seem to have anything that makes them stand out. Yes they are modern and progressive but with legends like Symphony X and Dream Theater all still doing the rounds then it means Halcyon Way are a little lost in a genre. They are not intensely progressive but they do have some catchy hooks and some heavy riffs. I think this album is a little bit of try before you buy, but for me they just seem a little adrift and samey sonically. 6/10    

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