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Wednesday 18 October 2023

Reviews: Lalu, Vitalines, Pretty Addicted, Akkadian (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Lalu – The Fish Who Wanted To Be King (Frontiers Music Srl)

Prog rock? Virtuoso composer/producer? Damian Wilson on vocals? Probably a high chance I’m going to like the fourth album from Vivien Lalu. I mean I liked all his previous albums so why wouldn’t I? 
That’s a lot of questions, I’m sorry, so here are some answers. 

Vivien Lalu comes from French prog rock royalty, and as such plays classic, analogue, heavily orchestrated/synth driven prog music that is inspired by Genesis and Yes, which has been driven in the current era by acts such as The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, IQ Pendragon and Arena (of which Damian Wilson is now the singer). I suppose you could call it neo-prog, but I just call it prog that leans heavily of keys, both Lalu and Matt Daniel share keyboard duties, to create the dense soundscapes of the title track, a 10 minute prog epic with all the performers getting a chance to impress. 

The guitars of virtuoso Joop Wolters, weave in and out of these cinematic keys/synths, with gleaming lead breaks and effortless solos, eeking out the emotion like Gilmour, Hackett or Rothery, while also guiding the rhythms with intricate riffs, acoustic moments and that serpentine bass, which goes all Chris Squire on Deoxyribonucleic Acid. Rounding out the band are Jelly Cardarelli, who sits comfortably behind what I assume is a massive drumkit, guiding the tracks as percussive rudder for the progressive journey. With an artistic style of prog, they couldn’t have asked for a better singer than Damian Wilson, his is one of the most versatile and recognisable voices in the prog genre and here he’s allowed to be as dramatic as he can be on Is That A London Number and the 14 minute Amnesia 1916.

 Forward thinking, backward looking prog rock from a virtuoso. The fish takes the crown here. 8/10     

Vitalines – Wheels Within Wheels (Frontiers Music Srl)

Firstly an album called Wheels Within Wheels doesn’t have a cover of Windmills Of My Mind on it, so that’s a bummer. But what it does have is two AOR veterans combining their talents for an album of accessible, enjoyable melodic rock. Multi-Talented composer/musician and Radioactive founder Tommy Denander is the instrumental side of this band, playing guitars, bass and keys, Neil Anami joins on drums, but Denander has enlisted one of the voices from his 2022 Radioactive album X.X.X to Vitalines. 

That voice is Robbie LaBlanc of Blanc Faces and Find Me, he has a soulful, whiskey hued delivery that lends itself to both the Survivor stomp of Love Not Fantasy, the Toto-esque bop of Hello World – We Need To Talk, or the Journey-like Love And Thunder. He gives one of the best vocal performances on Wheels Within Wheels, able to interpret the adept song writing of Denander. Tommy really gets AOR, the influences of some of the top acts audible on this album but never tread on, making for a lot of individuality too. A more muscular style of AOR than a lot of the sugar coated kind, Vitalines make a good first impression. 7/10

Pretty Addicted – We The Broken Children Of Hell (Self Released)

Not to sound like Ace Ventura but Pretty Addicted is Vicious Precious, Vicious Precious is Pretty Addicted, two entities that are one and the same. This maelstrom of rave, metal and punk is a 18 track(!) is all drawn from the brain or Vicious Precious, who writes, records, plays and produced everything on this fifth album. She also books all the shows, including the recent appearance at Uprising, along with goth/industrial and 80’s/90’s festival and an upcoming UK tour. It’s a lot to take in, both from a business and a music perspective, having taken 20 months to write, you can understand why she would want as much content as possible on this record, starting what she calls a new era for the band. 

So I’m no rave aficionado, despite 5 years on sound at the dance tent at Glasto amongst others, but this really manages to bring the hot, sweaty, intensity of a dark, neon clubnight to your home stereo. Pulsating synths, repeating breakbeats, twitching quirks and samples topped with Vicious Precious’ vocal squawk and sneering punk delivery. If The Prodigy played a gig with My Ruin, supported by Jayce Lewis and The Distillers, where all they talked about was how dangerous organised, religion was then you’d get a feel for the Pretty Addicted sound. Vicious herself carries trauma from a religious upbringing so this record is as blasphemous and anti-religious as possible, raging against all the controlling facets of it. 

The major problem for me as someone who is not a rave fan usually is that this record is really long, 18 tracks most of which are over 5 minutes, it’s an entire hour and 45 minute set, so you really need to be in the right headspace for it. I can really appreciate and respect this as an artistic endeavour and for an upcoming Halloween/goth rave you’ll have just the right soundtrack, for me though We The Broken Children Of Hell was just a little too much to take in. 6/10

Akkadian – The Devil Has Evolved (Self Released)

Cambridge is a hive of musical kudos though not much in the way of heavy metal. Akkadian are out to make their name as the heaviest thing in Cambridge with this new EP The Devil Has Evolved (into some kind of Super Devil I assume – Family Guy Ed). 

Consisting of Danny Thurston (vocals), Harry Newberry and Max Sylvestre (guitars), Chris Kontos (bass) and Aaron Wright (drums), this three track EP gives you the loudest introduction to Akkadian and their groove-driven modern assault. Having toured with bands such as Origin and Chelsea Grin, that penchant for extremity is exhibited on the grinding title track but just as the downtuned guitars crush your bones they bring in atmospherics and quietness to counterpoint. 

No wonder then they also played Tech Fest as I felt myself gurning just listening to this EP. With two of their own they impress mightily but the cover of Teardrop could be ill-advised as what is normally a delicate song builds into another modern metal breakdown. It could be worse but I’d have preferred another original. However that aside The Devil Has Evolved will win themselves a lot of fans with this EP, so catch them on tour soon. 6/10  

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