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Sunday 22 September 2019

Reviews: Sascha Paeth, Flying Colors, Atlantean Kodex, Wash Of Sounds

Sascha Paeth’s Master Of Ceremonies: Signs Of Wings (Frontiers Records)

If you’re reading this blog an you are unfamiliar with who Sascha Paeth is then I suggest you go back and do some research. He’s probably one of the most talented men on the current metal scene. As a writer, guitarist, producer, mixer etc he has overseen over 200 albums (usually with Miro Rodenberg) by Kamelot, Rhapsody, Epica etc as producer along with playing in cult German metal band Heaven’s Gate and also more recently Avantasia (where he instrumental in the bands studio and live sound). Master Of Ceremony’s is his first ‘own’ band since his collaboration with the now departed Andre Matos in Virgo but unlike that he has focused his attention on making this a metal album much like his past in Heaven’s Gate but with the potpourri of styles from his time in Avantasia. It opens with The Time Has Come which has Paeth’s choppy guitar sound working with the Alien Drum Bunny himself Felix Bohnke (Avantasia/Edguy) on drums and André Neygenfind (Avantasia) on bass for some traditional Teutonic speed metal.

He’s picked the perfect musicians for this album relying heavily on his contact list to get the best players he can, duelling with Paeth’s guitars are the keys of Corvin Bahn while the only non-German member is singer Adrienne Cowan from the band Seven Spires who can move from soaring cleans to aggressive screams at the drop of a hat. She’s got a unique voice that I would compare to Tim Ripper Owens or even Rob Halford because of its gritty but powerful style. As I said they dabble with a lot of styles here from straight up metal of My Anarchy, to the nautical-themed Radar, the symphonic sounds of Weight Of The World through some melodic metal and even a bit of Goth on Wide Awake and yes there is a ballad for those wondering, The Path is the one slower paced number and it’s probably the albums weakest. Happily the harder edged Sick follows with its modern heavy metal sound. All are delivered with the high standard you’d expect from any band led by Paeth, of course he also produces which means it’s a big sounding record. Signs Of Wings is a sturdy metal album that does have one or two tracks that don’t really hit the spot however most of it will be satisfy any fan of Paeth’s other work. 7/10

Flying Colors: Third Degree (Mascot Records)

So with their third album in a decade, prog/pop supergroup Flying Colors return to the collective consciousness. The spacing between these albums should be explains really by the membership, Flying Colors are made up of guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, ex-Kansas), drummer Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater, Transatlantic), keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse (Transatlantic, ex-Spock’s Beard), bassist Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, ex-Joe Satriani), and powerhouse vocalist and songwriter Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev, The Sea Within). So with so many other projects Flying Colors has to be different and that could be said about their debut which mixed prog with pop brilliantly, even their second record upped the game a little becoming more progressive showing that this band were creating a bit of niche for themselves, unfortunately for them there are now many bands using this formula to great success, it will be harder for the band to maintain their winning streak.

This is really a record of two halves much of the first part is very similar, clear, melodic rock music with pop hooks and Casey’s lighter vocals as things move between Muse and Spock’s Beard on the melodic scale, especially lead single More. Everything is clean and crisp perhaps due to the album being engineered with the “award-winning Harmonic Phrase Analysis and Restoration (HPAR) technology, resulting in unprecedented fidelity” so while it’s clear it does make the sound a little lifeless, with the middle section of the album revolving around more emotional ballad-like tracks, it only really opens up in its second half as Geronimo brings in a distinct jazz sound, the overly poppy Love Letter is there to satisfy Portnoy’s Beatlemania with a nod to the Beach boys too and the 10 minute final number Crawl is probably the best on the record.

Now I will say that on repeated listens certain songs do get better, it is the definition of a grower, but I did find my attention wandering a little after repeated plays. For all the band vocalise about this being a bit different, it’s more of the same from Flying Colors, same tones, pitch, time signatures, and effects. There’s no for lack of a better word progression, meaning for me it just wasn’t as appealing as their previous albums. 6/10

Atlantean Kodex: The Course Of Empire (Ván Records)

Ok so why have I not heard of German band Atlantean Kodex before this album? As a lover of chest beating, leathern clad battle metal, the classic bands such as Manowar (even though it's cool to hate them), Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road are all held in high regard by your writer. Even more so are newer acts still carrying the flame like Grand Magus, Visigoth and even The Sword. This is epic metal built around those halcyon 80's days along with a nod to the doom acts like Candlemass, Cathedral, Saint Vitus and a explosion of the Bathory Viking metal sound (and also in the cover). Very little is known about this band but my God their music is good, it's a cinematic soundtrack to any fantasy film you can conjure up in your mind, with riffs that stand astride of a mountain cutting down it's enemies without remorse, tracks such as Lion Of Chaldea boom out of your stereo daring you to pump your gauntleted fist into the air with every massive riff.

This is only the band's third studio album and it's over an hour of bombastic heavy metal that just gripped me from the opening moments. The doom riffs of Chariots turns into huge gallops and a massive chorus sung with gusto by Markus Becker before the incredible guitar work of Manuel Trummer and Coralie Baier rings out over the Manowar like epic, which funnily enough is actually one of the shorter songs on the album at 8 minutes 29 seconds as it barely comes close to the 10 minute plus The Course Of Empire a monolithic piece of heavy metal on an album full of Homeric odysseys based on battle, heroics and folklore all wrapped up in heavy metal histrionics, choirs and traditional folk trappings. It's an album that builds as it progresses really showing what this band can do with heavy metal with the rhythm section of Florian Kreuzer and Mario Weiss the monumental engine room to these colossal tracks except on the finale Die Welt Von Gestern which is a synth outro. The Course Of Empire is a fantastic album that cements Atlantean Codex as in a league of their own. 9/10

Wash Of Sounds: Heaven’s Crying (Self Released)

Created in Athens in 2015 Wash Of Sounds are a band who draw their influence from the grunge and alt rock sounds, big dirty grooves come at you from moment one as the rhythm section of Giannis Soundias (bass) and Foivos Andriopoulos (drums) provide the low slug chug for founder members Kostas Mauros (guitar) and Nairouz (vocals) to do their thing. This is their debut album, it comes after the band won Metal Hammer (GR) and Remedy’s live battle of the bands last year. You can see why this is and in places there are the riffs of Alice In Chains (For Real), the stoner riffs of Sabbath (Fight), the quirkiness of Faith No More and the power of Lacuna Coil, which you can hear due to the dual vocal on The Fall.

Heaven’s Crying is an album that goes from strength to strength as song writing gets more varied and the vocals get stronger throughout the albums course leading to tracks such as the funk rocking Saddest Truth which even has the ‘wacca wacca’ guitar sound or the groove-laden final two numbers. I didn’t know what to expect from this band as they were new to me but their alt-metal sound mixed with grunge/stoner riffs, got my head nodding throughout and even at times shouting along. A band that live up to their name as they are a real wash of sounds but that does a lot to keep things interesting. 7/10

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