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Monday 1 March 2021

Reviews: Joseph Williams, Steve Lukather, Demon King, Summoning The Lich (Reviews By: JT Smith, Paul Hutchings, Charlie Rogers & Richard Oliver)

Joseph Williams - Denizen Tenant (The Players Club/Mascot Label Group) [JT Smith]

Whilst never being a huge fan of Toto, the idea of a solo album from one of its members is an interesting enough proposition for me to give it a fair shake, and right from the get go Never Saw You Coming is a sparkling piece of bluesy pop rock with a slow, sexy groove in the same sort of vein as Toto (and in fact, this is going to be a thread running through the album, as David Paich and Steve Lukather feature on it). It’s a sound from a bygone era, but doesn’t necessarily suffer for it.

There’s not much interesting to say about Liberty Man except for the mood is a lot lighter than the previous offering (and there’s an… interesting middle eight with some curious instrumental choices), which sounds like a criticism, but honestly, this is the sound of a musician who really knows what he’s good at. Title track Denizen Tenant is an oddly arranged, almost atonal track, but again features some strange instrumental choices, and honestly, it’s compelling enough to keep me listening, as are the vocals. These are lush melodies, richly harmonied, and extremely catchy.

But being completely honest, this record leaves me a little cold. Not because it’s a bad album, it’s not by any means. The instrumentation is fantastic, the vocals are really well done and really well produced and this is a decent collection of songs. But… We’ve kind of heard this before. On a Toto record. This is slightly poppier, sometimes jazzier, sometimes a little more blues rock, but it is still a Toto record in everything but name. Even on the excellent cover of Don’t Give Up, it’s most interesting dynamic is that of Joseph William’s daughter Hannah Ruick lending her vocals. But, y’know. You could just listen to Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush’s version.

Listening to this record isn’t a waste of time by any stretch. It would be a good introduction to the works of Toto, for example. And if you’ve already listened to everything Toto have done and wanted some more, this is what you should spin. But as a totally new piece of work? It struggles to get out of the shadow of its more famous, parent band. 7/10

Steve Lukather - I Found The Sun Again (The Players Club/Mascot Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Toto will forever be known for their 80’s hits Africa and Rosanna. Oh, and Hold The Line. But if you delve even an inch under the surface, you’ll find their main engine, one Steve Lukather, guitar player extraordinaire. A quick glance at his Wiki page will tell you that he has played guitar parts on over 1500 albums, including, of course, that Michael Jackson record, Thriller. (Don’t know it? Leave the room).

His solo work is always sublime, polished perfection and this latest release, I Found The Sun Again is 50 minutes of stellar playing, easy and relaxing to listen to but beautiful in performance and production. I Found The Sun Again features a number of musicians who have played with ‘Luke’ for decades. The list is impressive and includes drummer Greg Bissonette, keyboardist Jeff Babko, bassists Jorgen Carlsson and John Pierce. Life-long friend and Toto band-mate David Paich performs piano and organ, while band-mate Joseph Williams sings on multiple tracks alongside writing string and horn arrangements and tracking keys on Run To Me, which featured Ringo Starr on the recording and in the video. Other co-writers include Stan Lynch, Jeff Babko, and Joseph Williams.

Five originals are paired with three covers. The pick of the latter probably being Traffic’s Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, all ten minutes of it which allows ample time for expansion and exploration in a relaxed, almost lounge room style. According to ‘Luke’, all the tracks were recorded live, eschewing the click track or fix. One run through and then the take was done.

Every track on this album brings something different to the table, from the mellow instrumental guitar work out of Journey Through to the title song, this is music which you can immerse yourself deeply into, such is the richness that is contained here. ‘Luke’ doesn’t blot his copybook in anyway, with the final track a solid cover of Robin Trower’s Bridge Of Sighs. This isn’t going to crush your skull with pounding riffage; you are in the wrong place if you ever thought it would. What it does do is demonstrate that after 40 years + in the music business, there is no substitute for class. Pour a glass of wine, put this album on and relax. 8/10

Demon King - The Final Tyranny (The Artisan Era) [Charlie Rogers]

Demon King are a fresh technical death metal band from Tennessee, sporting a distinct blackened tone, and a commanding presence that will cause lovers of all things fast to pay sharp attention. Blisteringly quick guitar licks swirling over a deliciously pingy bass tone, often otherworldly drumming, and shrill high vocals culminate together to form the four tracks featured on this EP. The musicianship is utterly sublime, showcasing both the passion and technical ability to produce impressive swells, captivating hooks, and soaring leads.

This would mean nothing if you couldn’t hear it properly, and luckily the production is equally breathtaking. Absolute clarity across the entire audioscape brings the notes to life, leaving no flourish forgotten. All in all, this is an incredible first release for a band, and considering the talent that came together to make this project possible, it’s no surprise. Demon King are without doubt a band to watch, and this release is a must listen. 10/10

Summoning The Lich - United In Chaos (Prosthetic Records) [Richard Oliver]

United In Chaos is the debut album by death metallers Summoning The Lich. Forming in 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri, Summoning The Lich have established themselves with a well-received demo plus shows alongside bands such as Origin and Beneath The Massacre. The band have been signed up by Prosthetic Records who are releasing this debut album.

Summoning The Void are certainly going big and ambitious with their debut album as United In Chaos is a twelve song concept album with a narrative inspired by The Lord Of The Rings, Magic The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons amongst others. Whilst it has a fantasy laden narrative normally associated with power and symphonic metal, the music on United In Chaos is very much in a death metal vein. It is a contemporary death metal sound heavily inspired by bands such as The Black Dahlia Murder. It mixes brutality, technicality and melody in a ferocious sounding package. There are also some influences taken from the deathcore genre with chuggy riffs and meaty breakdowns making appearances throughout. The musicianship throughout is fantastic with great guitar work from Ryan Felps, a pulversing rhythm section of John Flynn on bass and TJ Chilton on drums whilst the vocals by David Bruno are a mix of piercing shrieks and guttural growls definitely influenced by the vocal stylings of Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder.

Whilst the musicianship and performances cannot be faulted the music itself is fairly generic sounding and doesn’t really have much staying power. This contemporary death metal style isn’t really too much to my tastes (I’m an old school death metaller at heart). The deathcore elements were grating when they appeared but thankfully they were kept to a minimum and weren’t an overriding part of the bands sound. Whilst the music on United In Chaos does sound good it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression by the time you’ve reached the end of the album. For fans of this contemporary death metal style there is no doubt loads to enjoy here but this grizzled death metal fan will stick with the old school stuff. A solid album with great performances and an ambitious fantasy concept but just not for me personally. 6/10

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