Jordan Rudess: Wired For Madness (Mascot Records) [Sean]
Ah, Mr. Rudess. What will Dream Theater’s king of keys and sultan of synths have in store for me, I wonder? Having already been a very busy man since the late 80’s, ol’ Jordan has well over 30 releases under his belt. Either as a solo artists, DT or with the supergroup, Liquid tension Experiment, it’s safe to say that the man never sits still. Hell, I haven’t even included his guest appearances yet! Where does he find the time to do it all!? Does he have access to some sort hyperbolic time chamber, only made privy to the ridiculously talented? The public demand answers! Dragonball Z references aside, this restless composer has never sat still and still somehow finds enough time to release new solo album, Wired For Madness. Joined but a whole host of equally virtuoso individuals (Marco Minnemann on drums, Vinnie Moore, Guthrie Govan, Joe Bonamassa and Papa Petrucci on ye olde axe), Wired For Madness is equal parts classical, prog and all manner of compositional contortions bending both space, time and the universe beyond. Strap yourself in, we’re about to go interstellar! Warp engines……ENAGE!
Wired For Madness Pt.1 opening noises take sometime to warm up, before layers of synth slowly amass, Schoenberg-esque noodling from one phrase to the next. Already a sensory overload, though a mere prelude for the madness that Rudess is about to unleash. There are moments of tangibility, acting tasteful as waypoints amongst the endless sample switching. It never buckles (or relents), Marco Minneman’s drums anchoring it all together. Nothing feels wasted, as Rudess and co sprint through each section with masterful ease. Everything comes in at just the right moment, including the shredding guitars, used tastefully and in tandem with the legion of synthesisers. Wonderful, rounding out with Rudess’s mellow tones. Wired For Madness Pt.2 by comparison is (somewhat) more measured, though no less dense. Heavier and cinematic in scope, it feels orderly as opposed to the veritable big bang of Pt.1. Amidst each cadenza, my mind creates a tale of two mechanoid lovers free of their programming, desperately trying to reunite across multiple timelines and universes in this dramatic space opera. How the hell do you follow that? Simple, you don’t and JR knows that. What follows is some Floydian moodiness with Off The Ground, a necessary comedown after Pt.1 and Pt.2’s cosmic compositional conflagration.
Drop Twist is somewhat more tame, even more so on the funkier Perpetual Shrine, though still stuffed to the gills with Rudess dextrous finger-work. Then there’s some blues. You heard the right, blues. We’ve just traveled a million miles an hour across a million notes, so why the fuck not? Just Can’t Win brings the boozy swagger, Joe Bonamassa contributing with his trademark guitar excellence. Just For Today is sombre a number that shifts nicely into closer, Why I Dream. Back in prog rock mode, Why I Dream is a satisfying ending, complete with an epic shred off between key and axe. Wired For Madness vastness is so alluring, I couldn’t help but totally engrossed in it’s numerous notes and noises. Rudess has been doing this for a LONG time, he knows how to make the impenetrable….well, penetrable, palatable and extremely enjoyable! Like fuel for the imagination, it immediately recalled memories of my favourite video games, conjured hope, sadness and the pure unadulterated glee from experiencing a master composer and his craft. Chaos and order come together as one, Wired For Madness is its soundtrack and Rudess and company are our guides. Glorious and totally deserving of a full blown stage production and /or musical. About robots, obviously. 9/10
Avem: Meridiem (Wormholedeath Records) [Rich]
Progressive metal when it is done right can be some of the most captivating and rewarding music you will hear but when it is done badly it can be completely dull and tedious and unfortunately that is where Meridiem the debut album by Austrian band Avem lies. The musical capabilities of the band cannot be brought into question nor the vocals of frontwoman Nora Bendzko but the band have written music which simply fails to captivate, intrigue or hold any interest to this listeners ears. The album is full of songs that generally go nowhere and do nothing. There are odd moments throughout the album such as in the songs Lost Cosmonaut, Chernobyl and Sonder which caught my ear only to be drowned out by the mediocrity that followed it. Avem are clearly a talented and capable bunch of performers but with Meridiem their songwriting ability is severely lacking and at over an hours duration I found this a complete struggle to get through. Unfortunately this album did very little for me at all. 4/10
Sanguinary Trance: Wine, Song & Sacrifice (Self Released) [Sean]
Anonymity is pretty kvlt. Seriously, one look at either the band’s Facebook or Bandcamp will reveal a mystery wrapped in an enigma. No photos, names, not even a Tinder preference! Okay, I may have made p the last one but the point still stands. In this day and age!? Yes indeed, a rare thing when all of our data is shared, scrutinised and digested by every Tom, Dick’n’ Zuckerberg. Digression aside, it’s pretty kvlt, reinforced by the Austrian Black Metal entity known as Sanguinary Trance. Though the (sole) member(s) may be shredded in darkness, their/his/her/whatever debut EP has come to light in the form of Wine, Song And Sacrifice. Shall we? Atmosphere begins to build as opening title track, Wine, Song And Sacrifice, eventually erupts in pure black metal might. It’s Bathory like build is soon replaced by blasting and shrieking, leads falling on each other in tumultuous chaos. Shades of Burzum’s hypnotic aura entrenches itself into the sound, including some Varg like shrieking for good measure. The vocals themselves, however, are far more powerful and varied, shrieking all manner of unholiness into a cavernous and raw production.
Traces of discordance appear here and there, adding to the overall intentional discomfort. A solid start, the 13 minutes go by fairly quickly and end on a high of strumming acoustic guitars. Carvings begins to wade further into the delirium. Compared to the more orthodox title track, Carvings comes across as something FAR more inhuman and unhinged. The EP closes with The Dionysos Whip, fully leaping into the dissonant abyss, all manner of foulness swirling in its twilight depths. Note clashes with note, this instrumental is akin to having ones being stripped away and devoured by the ravenous deep. Lead fights with lead in eerie cacophony, it’s haunting presence conjuring moments of Deathspell Omega. The sudden harsh noise at the end causes me to jolt, sending my then resting cat, careening into the wall.
Thanks for that. Well bugger me sideways, there aren’t many EP’s that pack this much clout AND vision. All in all, a strong first offering from the fledgling outfit. Whatever visions Sanguinary Trance have witnessed in the twilight, one can only hope they will return soon. For now, allows Wine, Song And Sacrifice to consume you. It’s corrupting tendrils will bury deep into your flesh, ensuring you’ll be hitting repeat into the wee hours of the dreadful night. 8/10
Hand Of Fate: Messengers Of Hope (Self Released) [Rich]
Messengers Of Hope is the debut album by Greek symphonic metallers Hand Of Fate. This album was originally released in 2018 and features the former line up of the band having recently obtained a new singer and a new drummer. Messengers Of Hope plays to the usual staples of the symphonic metal genre with operatic vocals, a heavy use of keyboards and some fairly pedestrian riffs but whilst most symphonic metal bands go for an epic bombastic sound Hand Of Fate go for a more subdued atmospheric sound. Whilst this is a slightly different take on the genre it means that this album doesn’t really jump out at you with the songwriting being a bit on the boring side of things. Whilst there is some stuff to enjoy on this album it didn’t do much for me and Hand Of Fate don’t really have anything that makes them stand out in a sea of similar symphonic metal acts. With the previously mentioned line up changes hopefully the band will step up their songwriting for any upcoming releases. 6/10