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Friday 8 December 2023

Reviews: Mars Red Sky, Dan McCafferty, Sonny Vincent, Starchild (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Mars Red Sky - Dawn Of The Dusk (Mrs Red Sound/Vicious Circle) [Rich Piva]

Mars Red Sky is back with album number five, and we should all rejoice because the French heavy psych/stoner/doom band rarely disappoints, and they keep that streak up with the new one, Dawn Of The Dusk. The band has a very distinct sound, a clean sort of buzz that is double downed on Dawn Of The Dusk that makes this one of their best sounding outputs of their excellent career. 

The band is once again leveraging the amazingly beautiful and haunting vocals from Helen Furguson (aka Queen Of The Meadow) on multiple songs and embrace a sort of heavy prog feel to several of the songs here, making this the most complex and complete record the band has released as well.

The first two songs, Break Even and Maps Of Inferno, as well as tracks like Slow Attack leverage Furguson’s vocals, creating a chill but somehow still heavy vibe, an almost Doomy Cocteau Twins, but only in MRS case sung in English. I love the low end fuzz the band creates as well as the complex clean psych ™ that The Final Round is all about. 

Retuning to Julian’s male vocals on this one, the soundscape created makes this my favorite song on the entire record. Is it possible that Mars Red Sky sounds like a super chill and doomier version of Gojira? Is it a French thing? The seven-minute plus Carnival Man is the slowest burn of the album leveraging Furguson’s vocals again to sculpt a “in a French forest” vibe. Somehow, I feel like this even though I have never been in a French forest. There is still that low end crunch from the rhythm section that always gives MRS songs a heavy feel even on the slow ones. I love how the album ends with a haunting instrumental with only some of Ferguson’s oohs overlaying the music.

All in all, the new Mars Red Sky is a beautiful, atmospheric, yet still heavy offering from one of the best bands doing this kind of stuff out there today. If you are not familiar with the band, Dawn Of The Dusk is a good place to start. If you are already a fan, you will not be disappointed, as usual, with the new Mars Red Sky. 9/10

Dan McCafferty - In Memory Of Dan McCafferty: No Turning Back (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt Bladen]

One of the major inspirations of Axl Rose of Guns N Roses, Nazareth were the Scottish rebel rousers that for the majority of their career were fronted by the gravelly voice of Dan McCafferty. From ballads such as Love Hurts to This Flight Tonight and Bad Bad Boy, McCafferty stepped away from the band in 2013 due to health issues, eventually passed away in 2022. In tribute to this powerhouse vocalist, Rock Of Angels Records has been let into his personal archive to create this tribute album. 

It opens with an unreleased track Children’s Eye, a ballad collaboration with composer and producer Detlef Wiedeke, while the other two previously unreleased tracks; the smooth Occident and No Turning Back were written in the late 90’s with German director, composer and music producer Christoph Busse. Perhaps not what you’d expect from this died in the wool rocker but his smoky vocal works well with these distinctly 90’s songs. Elsewhere there’s three cuts from his 1987 solo album Into The Ring, now out of print, the electronic punch of the title track, the Celtic acoustics of Starry Eyes and the percussive pulse of Sunny Island reminds me of the early H Marillion albums, as well as a bit of Phil Collins. Again it’s not Nazareth but displays his diversity as a singer. 

The final track sung by McCafferty is the best one of the lot, Going Home uses Largo from Dvořák’s 9th Symphony From The New World, better known to many as the music from The Hovis advert, but is a used as a Celtic home ballad. If you don’t get a chill you have a heart of stone. These tracks alone are worthy inclusions to any fan of Dan McCafferty, as they are all rare or unreleased but this record goes one better with two Nazareth covers which are Love Hurts and Dream On both recorded/mixed by Bob Katsionis and sung by Panos Kalifis, who’s a dead ringer for Dan vocally. (Making me wonder why they didn’t get him in Nazareth). 

They’re neat but are basically the same as the originals because of the vocals. Overall a fitting tribute a great singer from one of the UK’s longest tenured rock bands, a tribute that shows another side to his musical output but retains that raw, unfiltered, unmistakable voice. 8/10

Sonny Vincent - Primitive 1969-76 (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Man do I love finding proto metal gems from the late 60s and early 70s. The Brown Acid Series from Riding Easy Records and their new grail series makes me so happy, finding stuff that shaped what metal is today and defining what was heavy during that era. 

There is so much great stuff out there, and now we can add Ripple Music to the proto party, as we now have the output from long time punk Sonny Vincent and his more proto leaning output from that era, aptly named Primitive 1969-76. Full disclosure, I did not know who Sonny Vincent was until Ripple announced this album. I am so glad I found out because he is such an underrated and influential figure in punk and heavy music overall. These songs are all his proto metal stuff, pre his punk days, and let me tell you, Sonny knows how to rock.

Rippers such as Lament from his 1971 EP Distance and 100% Proof from 1972’s Fury are pure proto excellence. Concrete Bliss combines his proto leanings with his punk attitude which blend perfectly. The excellently titled She’s Like Hiroshima from 1969’s Distance is a chill slow burn with an amazing guitar line throughout and the primitive drum sound that makes proto stuff so endearing to me. Liquid Diamond’s AWMAW is some killer raw garage rock that sounds like it was recording on a boombox and that is alright by me.

All in all, you get twelve killer tracks that show Vincent’s early direction and what molded his output over the last number of decades. This is true proto greatness. Primitive 1969-76 belongs with all of those excellent Brown Acid comps…let’s hope this is not the last of these unearthed gems from Ripple Music. 8/10

Starchild - Magic Well (Metalapolis Records) [Matt Bladen]

Full speed ahead! Is the clarion call from this new album from German power metal band Starchild. Only releasing their third album in 2022, they have quickly followed or up with the fourth Magic Well

Founded and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Sandro Giampietro Starchild play a blazing style of power metal that's gallops along at light speed, the guitars and vocals of Sandro are perfectly placed Castles In The Sky which manages to fully reach Helloween realms vocally and musically, he has a clean melodic vocal that's in the Kiske/Dickinson mold, while his guitar playing is given with virtuosity (At The End Of The Rainbow). 

Yeah it's got a lot of Teutonic hallmarks, but they're done well, touches of Primal Fear come on Westernworld, the drumming of Michael Ehré (Primal Fear) perfect for it. He is the drummer on the album, also playing on their debut, but they now have a full time stickman. Westernworld is slower but still has rampaging kicks against the swinging groove. 

Speaking of grooves Tom Nendza's bass gallops on the chest beating title track which goes more toward Iron Maiden. Starchild have an additional wrinkle to their sound with the additon of Andi Pique on the keys, he brings more emotion to Letters Of Life and the acoustic I've Lost A Friend which is very personal to Sandro. 

Magic Well is a killer slice of German power metal, very much full speed ahead. 8/10

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