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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Reviews: Fortress Under Siege, Michael Voss, David Eugene Edwards, Dogstar (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Fortress Under Siege – Envy (Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt Bladen]

Having been at the forefront of Greek prog/power metal since the 90’s Athenians Fortress Under Siege only have three albums under their belts, the most recent being Atlantis in 2020. However with the global pandemic, they set to work on writing their fourth record Envy

Produced by the immensely talented Fotis Bernardo, Envy is an epic record that will delight fans of bands such as Savatage, Angra and Symphony X. Envy really leans on the virtuosity of the band, Look At You is a track with shifting pace and an 80’s sound that reminds me of everything Jon Olivia but Fotis Sotiropoulos peels off some killer lead guitars at the beginning and in the middle where it switches to a chug augmented by keys of George Georgiou. Another great solo comes on the crunchy Disobey where the Symphony X style permeates, especially with Tasos Lazaris’ varied vocals. 

With highlevel performances from all involved there’s more of Georgiou’s keys/orchestrations are used on the title track, where the double kicks of Dimitris Kapoukakis give it that power metal gallop but the riffs of Themis Gourlis bring the muscle linking with Alexandros Stavrakas’ bass doing the same on the more hard rock Broken And Torn where there’s a 70’s rock vibe. This latter half of the album has Fortress Under Siege branching out a bit more from their normal style, adding melodic rock/AOR numbers as well as more symphonic cuts. Envy manages to continue to bring quality prog/power metal that Fortress Under Siege are known for but also more varied styles. 8/10

Michael Voss – Rockers Rollin’ (A Tribute To Rick Parfitt) (Massacre Records) [Matt Bladen]

You like Status Quo? Great you’ll like this album from German guitarist/vocalist Michael Voss. Having been a Quo fan since 1979, he was always in awe of the heavy riff general that was Rick Parfitt, the rock n roll soul of Status Quo, he tragically passed away in 2016 but his legacy within Quo still stands to this day. Voss has been obsessed since he was young, now as an established musician in his own right he has drawn on his years as a part of Mad Max and Bonfire amongst others, to pick 10 tracks written and sung by Parfitt in tribute to him. 

Voss sings, plays guitars and adds some keys/synths, while Alex Toff drummer on Rick’s solo album plays drums on all but one cut, a who’s who of the German rock/metal scene help with names such as bassist Ed Poole (ex-Romeo’s Daughter), Mat Sinner (Primal Fear), Gregory Harper (Zendemic), Marc Lynn (Gotthard) and Uwe Köhler (ex-Bonfire). Keys come from Jens Skwirblies (Barclay James Harvest) and Holggy Begg (ex-Herman Rarebell) while additional lead guitars from Tony Thorpe, Uwe Schneider (Teens), Andy Susemihl (ex-U.D.O) and Jörg Sander (Udo Lindenberg). 

But what is much more exciting is that Voss has brought together the people that probably knew Rick best and while Francis Rossi isn’t wielding a green Telecaster, John Coghlan gets behind the drums on Living On An Island, as Quo bassist Rhino Edwards brings the boogie along with Andy Bown on Hammond. There’s also Rick’s tour manager and co-writer Bob Young bringing harmonica on Coming And Going, his best mate Jackie Lynton sings on Again And Again (which is the closet Quo got to metal). On the glammy Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like Voss duets with Rick’s racing driver son Rick Parfitt Jr, inhabiting the spirit of his father as he takes the mic. 

I could tell you all about the songs but they’re all faithful recreations of the originals, played on bright white Telecaster, from a superfan. Get on your denim and boogie on down with Rick’s rock n roll, care of Mr Voss. 7/10

David Eugene Edwards - Hyacinth (Sargent House) [Rich Piva]

I have to say I was way more familiar with David Eugene Edwards’ first band, the mid 90’s to mid 00’s alt country rock band 16 Horsepower more than I was his more recent project, Wovenhand. This is definitely not 16 Horsepower. Edwards goes all Nick Cave on us with his debut solo album, Hyacinth. Leaning way more towards his more recent work, Hyacinth is sparce, dark, creepy, neo-folk that should be a nice change of pace for metal heads looking to get dark without the heavy.

Edwards’ does the dark, gothic stuff rather well, channeling Mr. Cave on tracks like Lionisis and Howling Flower. The opener, Seraph, has a beat and vibes like something the late Mark Lanagan would have been into from one of his solo or late period collaborations. Sparce acoustic guitars partnered with dark synths provide plenty of atmosphere and makes you think he could do some opening slots for Chelsea Wolfe or Emma Ruth Rundle. All sorts of weird and dark sounds bring a mood on Weavers Beam, where vocally we get a Sisters Of Mercy vibe. Celeste, my favorite track on Hyacinth, is like a Sisters/Cave mash up in the best possible way. Like if the Sisters played an acoustic set. The title track is some serious dark folk that shows Edwards is in his element playing the darkest styles here on Hyacinth.

After checking out Hyacinth, I went back to check out some Wovenhand stuff, and the solo record is a nice compliment to the denser, heavier, stuff that his current band is all about. We are not going too off the Wovenhand vibe, but for the guy who only knew 16 Horsepower this is very, very different. Call me a convert, however, because David Eugene Edwards has a new fan of both Wovenhand and of the dark, creepy, neo-folk coming at us from Hyacinth. Good stuff. 7/10

Dogstar - Somewhere Between The Powerlines And Palm Trees (Dillon Street Records) [Rich Piva]

I am pretty sure everyone knows who Keanu Reeves is. As one of the most famous actors in the world, you can debate how good he is at his craft, but some of the characters he has taken on are some of the most iconic in cinematic history. Fewer of you may know Keanu had an alternative rock band trio when that sort of thing was all the rage in the mid-90s, releasing two albums, him on bass and vocals, that was a forgettable effort, but I give him credit for taking the step to do something he was passionate about, not caring how many units the album sold (not a ton, but did gain a pretty strong worldwide fanbase). Well, looks like he has the music bug again, because twenty plus years later we have Dogstar’s third album, Somewhere Between The Powerlines And Palm Trees. I try not to go into reviews with any preconceived notions, but this can’t be good, right?

No, no it can’t be. This is one of those cases where I am not sure anyone would know this band existed if the bass player was not who it is. The songs are simple, bland, straight ahead alt pop rock. The production is quiet, which takes any bite out that may have been there. The drums sound electronic, and the vocals are tough to get through. The opener, Blonde, is neutered pop that I am not sure anyone would say is something they will go back to listen to ever again. Boring stuff. But boring and so very basic. But not basic in a clever way, basic in a “I am pretty sure the 8th grade battle of the bands could top these songs” kind of way. Everything Turns Around sounds like a song Dishwalla thought was not good enough for their fourth album (and yes, they had a fourth, even a sixth!!!). There are really no highlights on this one to speak of…I was hoping he brought some edge to this project, but it is much more Much Ado About Nothing than John Wick.

This is not worth your time, but hey, good for you Keanu doing your thing, albeit that thing is pretty terrible. I can get past his acting, but the new Dogstar, not so much. 2/10

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