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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Reviews: Kobra And The Lotus, Stew, Conjuring Fate, Chasing The Monsoon (Matt & Paul H)

Kobra And The Lotus: Evolution (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

2017 and 2018 saw KATL release Prevail I and Prevail II. The latter had me eulogising that it was the best album of the band’s ten-year career. Well, within seconds of the title track roaring into earshot, that award was close to moving to the sixth album from the Canadian outfit. With a shift away from their metal roots to a harder rock feel, Evolution feels almost a natural progression. At times almost hard pop (WoundsGet The Fuck Out Of Here), this release contains a mix of styles which push Kobra Paige’s stunning vocals to the fore. The hard rock edge of first singe Burn! retains enough gritty guitar, We Come Undone hints at Disturbed whilst Thundersmith echoes Halestorm in its pomp and bravado and perhaps is one of the more average songs here. Circus reminds you that Jasio Kulakowski and Ronny Guitierrez can riff with the best, whilst the hook bears a striking resemblance to Lacuna Coil. Evolution is an album that grows with each play, and it is the variety which adds to the enjoyment. Whether it matches the band’s heavier style prior to this release is debatable, but with a broader scope now on offer, can you blame them for looking to widen their scope? 7/10

Stew: People (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

Another Swedish retro influenced power trio, do we need another one? Well the answer based upon the Stew's debut record People is a definite yes, as this triumvirate are a rock band drenched in psych tendencies lending and ear to Cream on Goddess which crawls with some fuzzing rhythms and cutting solos. It's and album which has been recorded with a loose jam style the three men gelling together like one cohesive unit while letting the songs have that louche style of a band who are happy to let things breathe. The album like their EP was recorded live in the studio with only the vocals and solos recorded separately, meaning production wise it follows the songwriting style of keeping things retro.

It made me feel bad that I was listening to this as a digital version rather than on thick black vinyl. Along with their usual rocking psych style which also remind me of The Jimi Hendrix experience (Right On Time), they also bring in some bluesy fringes to Afraid Of Getting Nowhere and the strutting Sweet And True, even ramping up the cowbell for the title track. Stew are Markus ├ůsland (bass/vocals), Nicklas Jansson (guitar), and Nicklas Dahlgren (drums) and despite only being a band since 2017 they exhibit a maturity of a band going 10 years this can be heard on Morning Again which closes out the album with some breezy folk. People is a really robust debut album from a band who have come out as a fully fledged blues rock steeped in the sounds of some of the greats. 8/10

Conjuring Fate: Curse Of The Fallen (Pure Steel Records) [Matt Bladen]

Way back in 2016 I reviewed the full length from Norn Iron metalheads Conjuring Fate. Complimenting its traditional heavy metal style that merged the thrashier sounds of Iced Earth with the bounce of Helloween. So what about their second album? Does it live up to their debut well yes but it is different, here the band have focussed more on the energetic European style with Midnight Skies and the Jack The Ripper inspired Night Of The Knives having that definitive gallop which is also present on much of this album, mainly from the boiler room of Steve Legear (bass) and Niall McGrotty (drums) driving it along like it's coursing with rocket fuel. Though in Journey's End they have a slow fist pumping Maiden epic for the middle of the album and is actually the best song on the record.

Much like the first one there is a lot of horror influences on this album much like the first but it's not ott, well intro The Premonition is basically a gothic organ piece that moves into the anthemic opener Burn The Witch which re-introduces you to Tommy Daley's piercing but gritty vocals and the twin axe attack of Phil Horner and Karl Gibson, I was full of high praise for the debut but with more of a focus on the European sound the songs here don't jump out as much as they did on the debut. Maybe it's the gap between releases but Conjuring Fate are still fighting in that melee, rather than coming out with victory. Difficult second album syndrome? Maybe? But it's great to see where they will go in future. 7/10 

Chasing The Monsoon: No Ordinary World (Immrama Records) [Matt Bladen]

No Ordinary World is a folk/prog album from Chasing The Monsoon a band based in Swansea. It was formed by Ian Jones bassist/keyboard player of cult Welsh prog band Karnataka, renowned writer/producer Steve Evans (keys, guitars, vocals 7 programming) who has worked with many artists such as Rihanna and Karnataka and the third member of the writing trio is a guitarist, artist and designer, Ian Simmons. They have created an album of intellectual progressive music that draws from world music and as such has a sound very similar to the early Peter Gabriel albums or the work of Eric Serra, as the rhythms of African music, Celtic music and beyond fuse with the electronic elements for some ambient, driving musical compositions that feature the emotionally charged vocals of Lisa Fury who has played with Karnataka and the unmistakable flutes, Uilleann pipes and whistles of Troy Donockley who has played with pretty much every UK progressive rock band though most recently has become a permanent member of Nightwish.

This is life affirming music with a ethereal quality too it as electric guitar flashes ring out over Dreams with the one note power of David Gilmour, though the atmospheric Innocent Child shows this better as Fury gives her most dramatic vocal of the album. Things turn into Anderson fronted Yes on Into The Light with its major key appeal and Anderson-esque vocals, but mostly this is music that takes from the 80's art-prog scene where synths and guitars merged to take things away from the dragons and wizards realms of the early progressive rock into more adult themes and sounds. No Ordinary World is an album that came as a surprise to me as I had been immersed in the UK's often incestuous progressive rock scene for a long time and this slipped under my radar. Having followed Karnataka from near the start too I was also annoyed that Chasing The Monsoon are a Swansea based act with members from that band and I have overlooked them, however not anymore as this record was played multiple times and each time bewitched me with it's beauty, seek it out yourself, you won't regret it. 8/10

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