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Monday 26 February 2018

Reviews: Oceans Of Slumber, Borealis, CoreLeoni, Moonparticle

Oceans Of Slumber: The Banished Heart (Century Media)

This was an album that took a lot of listening to absorb and digest Texan band Oceans Of Slumber's second album the band commented on where the record came from “The last few years have been turbulent. When you have this mixture of a few very emotional and creative people, it gets shaky sometimes. Internal and family struggles were trying to rot us from the inside out. This new album is a reflection of those personal feelings.” you can hear the pain in this record it's dark, very dark, melancholic, ominous, there's a poetic sorrow to the record that was a major part of their debut but here it's all consuming. Much of the emotional intensity comes from the arresting vocals of Cammie Gilbert she has passion that can bring tears to the eyes but also has an ability to bring optimism even in the most hopeless of circumstances.

The lumbering yet frantic doom of The Decay Of Disregard starts the record with the technical mastery that Oceans Of Slumber showed on their debut album. The song itself is slow, deliberate piece with a deep heavy riff but behind that there’s technical guitar playing and expressive drum fills, sonically it’s the right start to the album giving you an idea of what the band are all about using changes of pace to create extreme soundscapes for Cammie to pour her soul over. Fleeting Vigilance adds aggressive death vocals and some insane drumming from Dobber Beverly who forms a really tight, grunting rhythm section with Keegan Kelly, it’s his bass playing that gives tracks such as At Dawn their throbbing chug. 

Guitar wise the band rely very much on black metal styled ferocity that brings dynamics to the thunder, Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary abuse their instruments trying to keep up with the blistering double kicks of Beverly, every once and a while there is a peel off for a tasty solo (Etiolation) but this is all about the riffs rather than fret fireworks, they create the atmosphere. I’ve said that this record is dark at its core but with the title track it moves into haunting as the riffs give way to a piano and strings which in turn moves into bleeping synths and an industrial final part of this 8 minute plus album. 

The Banished Heart has 11 songs but they are all multi layered, progressive, extreme pieces with only an interlude such as The Watcher and Her In The Distance acting as bridge between the atmospheric vehemence. It’s towards the end of the album that we get a guest appear on No Colour, No Light, no stranger to misery the voice belongs to Tom S Englund of Evergrey who counterbalances the soul of Cammie with his deep resonant tones burning a slow trail to its climax. Debut album Winter showed what Oceans Of Slumber were capable of whereas The Banished Heart is the culmination of a perfect storm of musical dexterity, personal tragedy and resilience in the face of adversity, it’s a record with a fervour that it finds hard to contain and it’s simply brilliant and as Wayfaring Stranger closes the album it almost leaves you on cliff hanger for album number 3. You probably won’t hear another record like this in 2018. 10/10

Borealis: The Offering (AFM)

Fourth record from one of my favourite bands, I'm not going to hate it folks. You might want to stop there as from here I'm going to explain why this album is another classic from this young Canadian band. Clearly re-recording their debut has stoked the fire in Borealis as they are once again shining their progressive melodic metal brightly. The record is unrelenting from The Fire Between Us, through The Offering to River the sound on this record is huge, veritable walls of riffs are wrapped up with orchestrations, a pummelling rhythm section and strong gritty emotional vocals. The band strip things back for The Devil's Hand which features some delicate strings and acoustic guitars from Ken Fobert and Matt Marinelli who also consistently delivers the best vocals this side of Tom S Englund.

The music on this record doesn't let you go once it has you in it's grasp, the heaviness getting your head banging but the accessible nature of the music taking you away into a story of “the creation, rise and ultimate demise of a cult who practices human, more specifically child sacrifice. They believe this method of belief, sacrifice and devotion will bring an end to the suffering of humanity (but) the men in the cult are too self-consumed with their righteous quest (and) they've overlooked the fact that children are the true key to restoring and preserving lost innocence.” It's a horror movie themed concept record which is really advanced by the cinematic style of Borealis, right up to the devine final song The Ghosts Of Innocence which is 8 minutes of progressive metal perfection. Evergrey are the band I'd most associate with Borealis as they both possess that beautiful mix of heaviness and delicacy and on this fourth record they've turned it up past 11, impressive, muscular metal with epic soundscapes The Offering is another masterpiece by Borealis. 10/10

CoreLeoni: Greatest Hits - Part 1 (Frontiers  Records)

CoreLeoni was Gotthard guitarist Leo Leoni's band before he formed Gotthard, so with Gotthard now on a permanent hiatus after the death of frontman Steve Lee. Leoni wanted to pay tribute to his former band by releasing a record in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Gotthard's self titled debut. So this is essentially a compilation of Gotthard tracks from the first two albums but mainly from the debut; played by a founding member of that band with a new band (complicated I know). The opening two tracks, the strutting Firedance and the Whitesnake-esque Downtown get the blood pumping from the beginning and both come from the debut record, Higher from the second and the record follows this strict tracklist of albums 1 & 2.

The backing band are pretty spot on with their hard rocking, drummer Hena Habegger was also in Gotthard so this stuff is easy for him but Jgor Gianola (guitar) and Mila Merker (bass) hold their own while Ronnie Romero displays again why he is rapidly becoming the new voice of rock. These songs take you back to the bluesy beginnings of Gotthard but wth re-recorded and refreshed sound and Romero taking the place of Lee, it means these songs sound as fresh now as they did when the Swiss hard rockers first hit the music world. It's a great album that obviously means a lot to Leoni as he uses it as chance to reminisce on the songs that Gotthard overlooked as their career moved on, the solitary new track is Walk On Water which sticks out as more modern song due to the orchestration behind it putting it against the simplicity of the early songs. For Gotthard diehards Greatest Hits - Part 1 will serve as a nostalgic treat but for those unfamiliar with the band this is very solid hard rock record. 8/10

Moonparticle: Hurricane Esmeralda (Self Released)

Moonparticle is a band that all seems to have one common denominator, that is Steven Wilson. Formed by Bulgarian guitarist Niko Tsonev who played with Steven on his live album Get All You Deserve he has managed to snap up keyboardist Adam Holzman, wind instrument extraordinaire Theo Travis and drummer Craig Blundell all of whom are either in or have been in Wilson's solo band. With such a high profile cast you can probably appreciate that this isn't going to be an easy record and it isn't, the majority of it is built on progressive jazz rock that hints to Wilson's work (White Light) but also the jazz rock of Brand X and the outright oddness of King Crimson (Michelangelo Don't Stop).

The musicians get to flex their muscles liberally throughout as Tsonev's compositions are brought to life by the virtuoso performers each getting their own solo sections throughout. Much of Hurricane Esmeralda  instrumental but when vocals are required Die So Fluid's Grog Lisee she adds a new element to the trio of songs she contributes too. Her unique vocals are well placed to give a little variation to the record. It's intelligent progressive music that defies genre boundaries at every turn, all you real proggers out their will find this an interesting and intelligent album. 7/10

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