Frost*: Falling Satellites (InsideOut)
Excuse while I get abit nerdy at the beginning of this review. Frost* is the brainchild of Jem Godfrey who in a previous life wrote songs for Blue, Atomic Kitten, Holly Valance and Shayne Ward (that bloke from X Factor) however thankfully he stepped away from the forces of evil and embrace the good by following his heart and forming Frost* in 2004. Their debut record Milliontown in my opinion is one of the best examples of post-millennial progressive rock there has ever been and pips their second record Experiments In Mass Appeal to the accolade just because it was the debut. However things never ran smoothly in the frost* camp and the band broke up just after Experiments...only to reform several times for live tours but no actual studio albums.
Around 2012 however Godfrey confirmed that their would be a new Frost* album and in true to the bands way of doing things this has finally been released in 2016. So what if anything has changed? Well I'd say this could be the best Frost* album yet, it's just as ambitious and intensely musical as it's predecessors but these songs sound like they have had time spent on them, they've been able to mature over the album's long gestation period. What has stayed the same is the talent of those involved, Jem Godfrey is still the band and be default the albums Commander-In-Chief with his melodic Gilmour-like vocal style, the beautiful production work and the swathes of keys, piano and synths that drive this album forward and make up the bulk of the bands sound, happily the keys work in perfect synchronicity with the impressive guitar work (and vocals) of Godfrey's long term collaborator John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Lonely Robot) the two match each other throughout riff for riff, solo for solo which means that they are the focus of the record. For the first time Mitchell has collaborated on the songwriting with Godfrey meaning that both men can add their own mark to the record.
Now with the excellent lead instrumentation leading what can be quite technical pieces you need an engine room that can cope and luckily Godfrey has one in the shape of Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) who is no stranger to the prog sphere and adds a powerful but deft touch to the record behind the kit, aided by the son of possibly one of the best bassists in the world Level 42's Mark King, Nathan King has all the talent of his father as he fleshes out the songs with his virtuoso plucking. So with four of the best musicians in Britain together on a record (and a guest spot by one Mr Satriani) the album has to be good, luckily Falling Satellites is better than good, it's phenomenal, split into two parts from track six, the synth heavy Heartstrings until track 11 the reflective Last Day you get a 6 song suite that moves between instrumentals and vocal tracks with ease defining it as one long piece that sees Mitchell and Godfrey duelling with keys and guitars and on the pulsing electro pop of Closer To The Sun sees Joe Satriani rip one of his trademark solos which is matched by Jem.
Away from the suite which also features the rocky The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 (showcasing that excellent basswork), the euphoric Hyperventilate and as I've already said climaxes with the haunting Last Day, we come on to the stand alone tracks, First Day serves as an intro, albeit one that harks to David Gilmour's solo work, to Numbers which has distinct Marillion flavour, this is before they go darker and more angular with the sample heavy, twitchy, industrially sparse Towerblock that builds up to dubstep drop with the synths rattling the speakers, some might call this a misstep but personally I like the experimental factor of the song it is totally different to the rest of the album and is better because of it as it shows the band are in a place where they aren't afraid to take risks. With the darkness abated Signs has a Muse-like quality full of twisting electronics, but not as much as on the synth pop of Lights Out which sees Godfrey duet with Tori Beaumont adding a new dynamic to the song and bearing witness to Godfrey's pop career as this track could be on any modern chart.
Falling Satellites is the culmination of Frost*'s immense talent a triumph of progressive but accessible music, even the CD only bonus tracks are well above many bands best shots, Lantern is a folky romantic simple but effective song while British Wintertime encompasses all the melancholia of what that title brings and finishes Falling Satellites perfectly. I'm so glad I've got a ticket to see this band live at the end of July as one I get to see them perform tracks from the genre beating first two albums but also their equally as fantastic new record, my advice is to play this album often as each time it reveals more of itself meaning you fall in love a little more. 10/10
Lacuna Coil: Delirium (Centrury Media)
Lacuna Coil have always played with their Gothic Metal tag adding industrial and even some pop touches to records but never straying far from their normal style, they have always been a safe bet for New Rock sporting, eyeliner wearing Gothic rockers the world over. Well no more after long term drummer Cristiano "Criz" Mozzati along with guitarist Cristiano "Pizza" Migliore left the band on February last year, followed by guitarist Marco "Maus" Biazzi, the band have found their inner brutality.
As the House Of Shame starts off the thrash/groove metal battery is laid down by new drummer Ryan Blake Folden which means that founding frontman Andrea Ferro now screams and growls with haunting vocals of Cristina Scabbia acting as the perfect counterpoint. Ferro's vocals have always been hit and miss for me but I think he has found his niche with the screams as he is a very good harsh vocalist leaving the cleaner stuff to Christina's sublime soaring pipes. This change of style also means that the album features many guitar solos from various guitarists the most high profile being Myles Kennedy on the majestic sounding Downfall with the rest of the musical backing supplied by bassist Marco Colti Zelati who plays bass, guitar, keys and also produces and is the album's renewed creative spark.
This sounds like the album Lacuna Coil have wanted to make for a while, there last couple of records have been darker but this one is their darkest and heaviest, only the title track and Take Me Home both with their bouncing electronic influenced bass driven style harks back to their early years meaning that the sound change is more pronounced on tracks like Blood, Tears, Dust and Broken Things ramping up the more modern metal style with a tip of the hat to Lamb of God or Machine Head with touches of the In This Moment driving industrial metalcore on You Love Me Cause I Hate You. Lacuna Coil have taken a big step in their evolution this album seems more deliberately targeted at turning the band into a more powerful aggressive beast and it's all the better for it. Delirium is the band's best album in a while, let's hope they stick with the newer style as it has reinvigorated Lacuna Coil. 8/10
No Sinner: Old Habits Die Hard (Mascot)
Coleen Rennison the vocalist of Canadian blues rockers No Sinner has a few habits that she can't break, luckily she has an album full of blues rock to tell the world about it. No Sinner burst on to the scene a few years ago with a debut album that centred around driving blues rock riffs and Coleen's impressive vocal performance somewhere between Janis Joplin and Robert Plant with the attitude and passion of those two and many besides. As she explains on the opener All Woman she is indeed that but this album slinks it's way in and out of several stories with sultry and sometime explosive style every song recounted by the powerful, husky pipes of their frontwoman. This second record builds upon the first by adding some more blues influences see the parping mouth harp infecting the stomp of Leadfoot, working through the Southern harmony of Tryin (very Susan Tedeschi) the bayou march of Mandy Lyn and the strutting Fading Away.
The whole album sounds a bit more worked at with the band adding more flavours to their work, this is no 'difficult second album' no it's as good as if not better than their debut and has a greater amount of influences throughout all driven by some top-class musicianship and and Rennison's stunning vocals. When The Bell Rings adds a Zep-style rock out, whereas the homesick Lines On The Highway and barroom ballad Hollow slow things down and allow the powerhouse voice to croon a bit, the percussive filthy One More Time has the hip-shaking groove of The Stones while we go right back with duck walking Chuck Berry Rock N Roll on Saturday Night and the new protocol of soul Vintage Trouble loom large on bonus track Wait.
No Sinner have once again produced a sterling effort putting Rennison up there with some of the best blues rock vocalists in the business her sass and supreme talent are this bands main focal point but with a great backing band bolstering her performance and giving the tracks one hell of a licking as they mesh together with power and passion. If you love your blues rock filthy, flirty and full of excellent talent then pick up Old Habits, Die Hard and get your boogie on. 8/10