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Thursday, 14 February 2019

Reviews:The Neal Morse Band, Leach, More Human Than Human, Saint Apache (Sean & Paul H)

The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure (Radiant Records) [Paul H]

It’s a return of the God-fearing guitarist and his band with a progressive opus that is gargantuan in both ambition and style. Huge synthesised waves echo throughout the release, whilst the guitar work is as spectacular as you would expect it to be. Polished and over the top, this double album kicks off with Overture, a ten-minute statement which freestyles its way in almost barely restrained chaos. Huge interplay between keyboards, organ, a battery of drumming and some raw guitar work is no surprise given the members of the band. With Mike Portnoy behind the kit, quality drumming is assured; Randy George is a multi-instrumentalist who has played with Morse in several band’s including Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard; Bill Hubauer is another well-known progressive artist who focuses on keyboards and synthesisers; Eric Gillette covers the lead guitar work, another who has worked with Morse for many years.

I’ve dabbled with Morse’s previous works, the saccharine rich quality usually made even less palatable by the underlying Christian themes that disagree with me on a level which gives me chronic indigestion. However, there is no doubting the quality on display here in. A double disc 22 song release, it is either impressive or incredibly overblown, depending on your view. Tracks on disc one includes the the pomp of Welcome To The World, the slow paced A Momentary Change which houses some neat guitar work as it evolves into another keyboard dominated track. There is plenty of evangelical breakdowns here, such as the hymns which underpin To The River, as the story evolves.

Plenty of religious iconography and references throughout this leave you in no doubt that this is another Christian themed album; “My father left me on the road, but the Lord lifted me up”. So, whilst the musical ability and technical quality can be admired, the lyrical content is an anathema to me, the soaring feel good and a hook unsurprisingly joyous and pure in comparison to my usual listening content. Disc one concludes with an unlikely Hey Ho Let’s Go, not a cover of the Ramones classic and another evangelical hymn in Beyond The Borders, all draining emotional vocal and soaring guitar. By this time, I’m beginning to think this is just a little bit over the top, but there is still another album to go!

Overture 2 begins the second part of this release, more soaringly heart tugging classical style, posing the question is this a musical soundtrack, especially when the church organ kicks off before Portnoy’s drumming pulls you back towards the rock path. A voyage of prog noodling commences, the occasional hard rock riff adding the heavy. When TNMB do rock out they really do rock, and for a few minutes here you can immerse yourself before the underlying Christian riff pops back into view. By now I’m beginning to think that this is too much duty to the cause. The other question I’m asking is who the hell buys this stuff. It really is a struggle to get through the feel-good God themes that overpopulate here. Long Ago continues the story, the clean harmonies and incredibly rich keyboards really testing the patience. I’m at the point of surrender by the time we hit As The Dream Continues, but I hold fast, waiting for something a bit heavier to arrive and Fighting With Destiny initially appears to answer my prayers, the huge drum sound driving the song forward with some massive keyboard riffs but then, oh dear, we get to Vanity Fair, an absolute steaming dog turd, which is at least partially rectified by Welcome To the World 2, that has a much darker edge to it but with the same refrain as the earlier Welcome To The World

It’s astonishing in its composition, the interplay remains intricate and complex, but it really doesn’t push my buttons. The Element Of Fear contains a snarling guitar riff that is completely thrown by some lightweight keyboard work, whilst Child Of Wonder is another ghastly song. Flicking forward to the finale, A Love That Never Dies, I applauded myself that I had managed to get through an album that is at times strong, at other times weak and always a real challenge to embrace fully. This is a massive review of an album I’ll never listen to again. Its religious undertones don’t work with me, the complex and progressive meanderings too much, but there are at times some real gems hidden within. If your bag is lengthy, progressive rock opera style music then you may well enjoy this. I wish you well. 6/10

Leach: Hymns For The Hollow (Self Released) [Sean]

Well, this ain’t bad. I’m not normally one to jam some hardcore, even metal tinged hardcore. It’s not something I've actively avoided as a few acts have are known to me, it’s more of the fact that we seldom crossed each others paths. Still, I’ve never been one to turn my nose up at stepping outside of ones comfort zone. Which brings us to Leach, a furious four piece from Sweden. What’s that? Me listening to Swedish and not a HM-2 in sigh?! Shockingly, there’s more to music than just Stockholm worship (no, really). Digressions aside, Leach have got plenty of wallop amongst the usual influences on this, their second offering, Hymns Of The Hollow. A bit of Punk’n’ thrash here, a bit of groove there and all the “man having a painful shit” vocals one could ever want. So press play, open a beer and open this fucking pit up!

First two track, The Untouchables and Free From All, are what one would with both tracks exhibiting the punkier side of Leach. No frills here though the playing is tight, to the point and energetic as all hell. Thrashier number, New Low ups the pace to frantic and brings the chunk. Straightforward it may be but you can’t deny the earnestness of the bands delivery. Chapter two is a similar beast, complete Hatebreed vibes, gang vocals and the emotive lyrical theme’s that hardcore tends to favours. Then it changes again, where Leach bring their full swagger to the fore with We Have It All. It’s quite the stomper, seamlessly fitting in the Hymns of the Hollows sound and Leach’s overall oeuvre. Framgangssagan and Do It brings us back to the thrash once more, bringing to mind the simpler moments of The Haunted. End Of An Era even manages to conjure fragments of Entombed’s groovier, death 'n' roll output (Inferno, for example), which can only be a good thing. It then finishes with the title track, a stripped down instrumental that feels a bit at odds with the smash-mouth antics preceding it. Still, an ends an end and onwards to the nitty gritty!

What we have here is an album that know exactly what it wants to do, by a band that know exactly what they want to be. Originality may be out of the window but who the fuck cares, it’s catchy as all hell. The tunes are tight, the riffs are thick, the production is massive and form start to finish, Leach sound like they fucking MEAN it. If Leach can win over this jaded cave dweller, then their sincerity and penchant for noisy fun will win you over too. 7/10

Saint Apache: Black Days (Self Released) [Paul H]

The third EP from Saint Apache, a four-piece alt-rock outfit from the South Coast of England. Full of politically charged angst and message the band power through this four-track release in no time. With influences from RATM through to Cancer Bats, you will be unsurprised by their focus and power. Opener Amongst Vultures kicks hard to the shines, whilst the band unashamedly continue to scream and shout in your face until closing track Tory Man by which time you are unable to do anything but acquiesce to their demands. Raw, wild and aggressive, this is a shouty, angry release which has a definite message to deliver. 6/10

More Human Than Human: Re-Evolution (Self Released) [Paul H]

I really enjoyed this album. It’s not the run of the mill metal that we get so much of here at Musipedia Towers. No, More Human Than Human is a groove-soaked two-piece from Cheltenham. The band is Tomislave Vucetic on bass and vocals and Anthony ‘Badger’ Collins on drums, synths and vocals. With heavy bass riffs, massive drums and searching synths, the band combine the progression of Tool with the power and energy of Royal Blood to create music that you can dance, mosh and drive to. Opening with the title track and moving quickly into The World Is Flat, it’s immediately apparent that the driving bass lines allow the groove to develop with an intensity that is addictive. Burn It Down and Open Your Eyes demonstrate that even with a mere two people you can create some interesting sounds; each track brings something different to the table and unlike some of the two-piece combos around today, More Human Than Human stimulate and interest from start to finish. Inevitably there is the cover of the White Zombie track that the band take their name from and it’s a decent version, with the thundering bass line and swirling synths capturing the passion of the original, some 24 years later. 7/10

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