Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 6 November 2020

Reviews: Hawkwind Light Orchestra, Lord Of Black, Eternal Idol, Sepulchre By Sea (Paul H & Simon)

Hawkwind Light Orchestra: Carnivorous (Cherry Red) [Paul Hutchings]

You’ve got to hand it to Dave Brock and all those currently on the flight deck of the starship Hawkwind. Virus or not, nothing gets in the way of their annual studio album release. Carnivorous, (an anagram of Coronavirus) follows on from their fantastic 2019 release All Aboard The Skylark and 50th anniversary shows. The only thing missing is the yearly pilgrimage to see the band live. Carnivorous was recorded entirely during the lockdown (that’ll be lockdown one, fact fans) and initially started as a Dave Brock solo project before additions from the band in January and February. Whilst you might not have the full-strength line-up here, the inclusion of stalwart’s Richard Chadwick (drums) and Magnus Martin (guitar, vocal and keyboards) make this in essence a Hawkwind album. 

Despite the moniker of the Hawkwind Light Orchestra, the trio have an album which is as futuristic yet classic sounding as anything that has gone before. At 71 minutes in length, this is some journey. 15 songs which range from the one-minute intro of Expedition to Planet X through to the ten minute plus The Virus. As ever, the soaring space effects are in full swing from early on, Dyna-mite allowing Brock to demonstrate his searing guitar work, the melodic feel propelled forward as ever by Chadwick’s fantastic drumming. There’s plenty to groove to, such as the electro dance vibe of Void Of Wasteland, all urban bass and rhythm, and littered with sci-fi sounds. For most Hawkwind fans, it’s when they start to turn up the tempo that things get going, and the driving space rock of Repel Attract sees the band start to motor with the trademark riffing and pumping bass, as well as some swirling keyboards. Once again, it’s the duel guitar work with Brock’s subtle solos that work so well. Despite the historic portrayal of the band as a bunch of lettuce munching hippies, Hawkwind are never far away from social commentary. Human Behaviour (No Sex Allowed) considers overpopulation, the additional female backing vocals adding new dimensions to the classic sound. 

Lockdown (Keep Calm) and the ten minute The Virus are clear in their meaning, the latter pushing the vegan agenda in a manner that doesn’t preach but points the finger in a certain way. Windy Day at first listen is a throwaway bit of bizarre, but once more considers the overflowing population. Model Farm Blues changes direction with a smouldering blues rocker, something rarely heard from Hawkwind but certainly enjoyable. Reflection is described in Forgotten Memories, one of the heaviest songs here with Chadwick’s blistering drumming combining with the keyboards and pulsing riffage. There is plenty more to explore. Hawkwind have featured in my album of the year lists for the past few years. Carnivorous is an album that by design had to be recorded without a full complement of Hawkwind members Yet it  bears all the hallmarks of classic Hawkwind and as such is likely to be in that list come year end once again. 9/10

Lords Of Black: Alchemy of Souls, Part 1 (Frontiers Music) [Simon Black]

It seems no time at all since I was reviewing Vandenberg’s 2020 album back in May, and it didn’t impress. Given that Dynazty in the same month had just given a masterclass on how to do a Melodic Metal album, I had expected much better of an experienced bunch like that. I think I was generous giving that album a 5 to be honest. I wasn’t alone, and perhaps singer Ronnie Romero took all this to heart (and to be honest his performance was the only thing going for the 2020 release). Either way, he’s not involved any more and his project with Tony Hernando Lords Of Black is once more the focus of his energies with a much revitalised album number four. Maybe he never left. Who knows … or cares, because this one is spot on.

In much the same way as Vandenberg got schooled by their younger pretender’s, this Spanish supergroup have blown that earlier release into the history books of mediocrity, this is Melodic Metal at its best. From the energetic hopeful opener, Dying To Live Again, which lights a candle of hope and tries to remind us that’s its always darkest just before the dawn (on the day when I am watching the results of the USA election drag on interminably), this album is bold, confident and heart-warming. This is a very modern-sounding album, but with enough of a nod to the influential forebears of old (it really drips the emotive melodic hooks of Rainbow, so you can see why Blackmore used Romero to front his reincarnated touring band recently), but with more technical Progressive Metal influences front and centre. There are definitely touches of the likes of Symphony X here – that technical complexity with enough Progressive elements to make it interesting and not off-putting, with the keyboards back in the mix and the focus bouncing between voice and guitar as needed. I’m also reminded of Savatage at their best, particularly in terms of tone and mood.

This is definitely a band with two front men. Romero’s performance is top drawer here. The press release twitters on about a cross between Dio and Mercury, but to me he is sounding more Jorn Lande at his best – gutsy, down and raw, but boy can he hit the notes with it when he needs to. …And then there’s Hernando’s guitar work. During most of the songs’ run time he focuses on solid riffage that simply, but effectively drives the songs forward, letting Romero carry the melody most of the time … and then the instrumental sections simply shred. From confident, catchy and melodic breaks to full on 100 m.p.h. shredding this guy really delivers. And we’re not talking about short 20 second lead breaks – these sections can run effortlessly for minutes at a time.

The title and the fact this is the first part would seem to imply a concept, but I am not getting a strong sense of a story, more of a thematic concept capturing the mood of the age. It’s the performance of the two leads that makes this gel. Most of the album delivers solid Melo-Metal, but as the album draws to its end, we get some moments of pure musical and experimental brilliance. The album title track is a beast at nearly eleven minutes, and with an absolutely superb two minutes of Spanish guitar solo brilliance from Hernando, before the song crashes in with the heaviest and meatiest song so far. In direct contrast the album closes with the frankly superb vocal piano-accompanied ballad You Came To Me, which is worth shelling out for the Japanese version of the album for the acoustic guitar version alone for another chance to hear Hernando’s understated brilliance and Romero’s voice without electric heaviness drowning out its power. Meaty, inspiring and quite frankly excellent musicianship. 9/10

Eternal Idol: Renaissance (Frontiers Music) [Simon Black]

Italian Symphonic Metal is very much a beast in its own right, with a very distinctive sound. Opera has a grand old history in that country, and it is arguable that this little slice of the Symphonic pie is the only one that really and truly grasps that fusion. OK, so the Finnish started it all and dominate, but it’s arguable that their version of Symphonic is more of a natural extension of Progressive dipped in Neo-Classical, with an Operatic nod vocally. The very particular Mediterranean take on the scene, when at its best, is more like the love child of what happened at the Teatro dell’Opera when the Motley Crüe tour bus was left in their car park overnight…

The Italian scene is dominated by the various incarnations and splinters arising from the original Rhapsody line up that dates back to the 90’s, and this is no exception. For those not in the know, Rhapsody became Rhapsody of Fire in the mid 90’s for legal copyright reasons outside of the band; followed by a splintering into guitarist Luca Turilli's Rhapsody’s version. Enter Eternal Idol, whose first album had a completely different line up, but seems to have been rescued by former Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione joining the band (a case of Rhapsody Out of the Fire?). Got that? Phew!

A lot of musicians have been in these various Rhapsody incarnations and they tend to pop up elsewhere in the scene, which is the root of that distinctive sound. For a start it’s a hell of a lot more epic and expansive than many other examples of Symphonic Metal. For me, it’s the fundamental structural difference of sound between a Metal band influenced by classical music and playing neo-classical guitar / keyboard interplay within a Metal song structure (like Stratovarius), versus the ambitions of the likes of the Italian Baroque Symphonics (or indeed Metallica’s original S&M) to build Metal structurally into the classical music shape and Baroque ethos. And indeed, vice versa. Outside of Italy, the lead Symphonic voice is also frequently female, but in this case it’s a male lead in Fabio Lione with a female guest artist for each album (in this case Claudia Layline). Given the small and interconnected nature of the whole scene, this make Eternal Idol something of a supergroup anyway, and when you have this level of skill and experience in your makeup, then a blisteringly tight set of performances on a rock-solid song-writing base is the inevitable consequence.

Musically this one hits all the spots. It’s moody and dark, and actually slightly less operatic in its structures (other than the soaring vocal performances from Lione and Layline), and has some damned fine out and out Metal moments throughout, in an album where mercifully the keyboard voices do not over-dominate. Not The Same is one of the more out metal tracks on the album, and the play out instrumental guitar work reminds me of WASP’s The Idol. It’s also a good example of how the whole album is a lot more listenable to than some other examples of the Italian scene - which can become wearing after a couple of songs unless you grew up (as I did) on classical music. Even the epic closing title track carries itself effortlessly over its nearly ten minutes of run time, and the whole album improves with every spin. An enjoyably open and accessible take on a scene that is normally more of an acquired taste. 8/10

Sepulchre By The Sea: Conqueror Worm (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

A one-man black metal project from Bristol, Sepulchre By The Sea is inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I’m not that familiar with his works but what I do know is that Conqueror Worm is a bit of a mighty recording. At 58 minutes in length, it may be a little over long, especially with two tracks comprising over half the release. The album is however, drenched in delicious black metal melodies, soaked with emotion and traditional searing soundscapes. Formed in 2019 with a single demo, this project has evolved substantially, into a full recording situation. Opening with I Loved Alone, the sweeping guitar work is slightly lost in the mix, one of the few issues I have with the album being the slightly muddied production. Otherwise, Conqueror Worm is a feast of atmospheric black metal that allows the listener to delve deep and immerse oneself in the intricate compositions. The title track follows, a blasting harrowing song which invokes pulsing riffing and a more traditional driving feel. 

Certainly, one to get the head nodding away to. It’s the two central pillars of the album that really hold the attention. And So It Crumbles explodes in a maelstrom of technicality, the haunting synths echoing eerily as the track begins its 12 minute journey. Ebbing and flowing as it progresses, there are many little flicks that pop out, the deathly vocals and occasional flashes of fire blending perfectly. Behind The Walls is almost the antithesis, a raw and brutal at times death metal flavoured track, which gallops along before slowing into a sludgy segment that is enhanced by wailing guitar and a slow burn that inevitably increases in tempo before racing away once more. It’s binary in comparison to some of the other songs here but fits neatly into the overall package. The other pillar of this album closes proceedings. At over 17 minutes long, it was with some trepidation I waited as the sole guitar echoed its anguished intro to Plutonian Shores

The track has ample time to build, creating tension that slowly fires as the song begins its journey. A gentle pause is followed by crashing cymbals and tremolo riffing, the slightly off key down tuning creating a ghostly echo. Slowing to a crawl, the use of the instruments to create a harrowing soundscape continues. It’s an impressive piece which loops back to the opening guitar work at the midpoint before an expulsion of savagery blows all calm out of the blackened waters. There are some rough parts in this album. The production is muddy at times, the instruments on occasion fight for parity and the song writing will benefit from experience. This is something of an acquired taste album, but I think the second record could be a monster. 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment