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Monday 8 April 2024

Reviews: Ironside, Cedric Burnside, Susan Santos, Symphonity (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Ironside - The Viking Saga (Self Released)

If the title didn't give it away this is not a band dedicated to the wheelchair bound American detective. 

No this Ironside hail from The Midlands but their hearts and their shields carry the beat of the Norsemen from Scandinavia. Having seen this prog metal band make their live debut at Power Metal Quest Fest in 2022 Ironside have spent 2022/2023 sculpting this debut album into the 31 minute concept piece it is.

The band tell stories as part of a full conceptual piece, surrounding a warrior and his battles against a new king, the loss of his brother and Ragnarok. The trio of Dale (bass), Joel (keys/drums?) and Josh (guitars) using plenty of synths and orchestrations to increase the cinematic effect of these songs, such as the magnificent ballad Warrior's Rest. Anchoring the pianos/keys etc are the thick djenty riffs and blast beating drums that drive the apocalyptic End Of Everything. It's all polished by Matt Jones of CapsaArx Studios/Dakesis.

Now if you're coming in thinking this is Viking Metal, it is not, it's prog rock with a Viking theme to the lyrics, on track such as Shield Wall they remind me of Coheed And Cambria or to a much bigger extent the often over looked 3. The high pitched vocals are soaring into Leprous territory, but on Skål the bassy rock is cut from a Muse album track as is Valhalla, though this one is more a Black Holes & Revelations single.

I was impressed by the band when I saw them live but bloody hell this is an absolutely epic debut record. It's worth all the time and skill that has been put into it. Hammers and shields in the air as you serve Odin with every single note. Fantastic! 9/10

Cedric Burnside - Hill Country Love (Provogue Records)

Drawing from his heritage in Northern Mississippi, GRAMMY Award winning musician Cedric Burnside deals out another set of road anthems that at their heart always find their way back to Hill Country. So much so that Burnside's music is labelled Hill Country Blues as it's his soul that is the engine of these albums. 

It's about giving back, showing his roots and how they got him where he is today, a musically diverse artist that traverses America's homegrown genres such as blues, gospel, country and Americana, following in the musical footsteps of his grandfather R.L Burnside who 'invented' the hypnotic, repeating Hill Country Blues sound and was given his due finally when Jon Spencer (he of the blues explosion) took him on tour. Cedric was playing drums with his grandfather at just 13 and from there has found fame and recognition of his own including the previously mentioned GRAMMY. 

Hill Country Love was recorded in a flurry, just two days is all it took to lay down these 14 tracks in an old building with Luther Dickinson, capturing the spirit of the blues that gives some parping mouth harp to I Know, punching acoustic rawness on Shake Em Down and moody shuffles on Toll On They Life or the percussive beat of Funky. The stripped back, immediate sound of this record allows you to feel how the recording process was, 14 tracks that showcase why Cedric is now the leader of the Hill Country Blues movement. 7/10

Susan Santos - Sonora (Self Released)

The sixth album from Susan Santos is a boisterous record where Santos' blues background is stretched into country and even psychedelia, showcasing her talent as a guitarist and a singer too. Influenced by the desert, these are outlaw road anthems from the inhospitable heat, nothing that resembles Kyuss unfortunately but there's enough that you can hear the cicadas clicking, the dust devils rolling and smell the cacti. Santos plays all manner of guitars, as well as banjo and sings, locking in with David Salvador (bass) and Juli El Lento (drums) as a power trio. 

Drawing on songs about the desert itself and the often notorious characters and animals that live there, Susan leans into her Spanish heritage with some Tex-Mex influence; ZZ Top riffs on What I Want and SRV scuttles on Let It Ride. However elsewhere there's smoky jazz on Have Mercy and even a bit of dreamy Lady A country on So Long, it's all played with panache from this veteran axe slinger. Classy American rhythms, Santos is a very welcome mirage on Sonora. 7/10

Symphonity - Marco Polo: Live In Europe (Limb Music)

Now I was at this tour so I remember what it was like live. Symphonity headlined Power Metal Quest Fest last year on their Marco Polo: Live in Europe tour where this live album is drawn from. If you don't know who Symphonity are they are a symphonic power metal band who have delivered a fair few concept albums in their time and this set followed their Marco Polo concept record but with some older material thrown in. 

This is a DVD/CD collection and the audio selection has 13 songs recorded in different cities while the DVD was filmed in Zlín/Czechia. The mix of gigs covered in the CD is a little jarring, especially as they made sure that this release had very little post editing on the DVD so I assume they've taken the same route on the CD as there's odd cuts, moving to the next song while having a brief but of talking that's stopped abruptly. 

I think it would have been better to have the album from one of the shows rather than a mish mash of a few. Anyway the music is good, both vocalists work well together though the one is a little quiet in the mix but if you want to hear what Symphonity sound like then listen to their albums, this live release is for hardcore fans only. 6/10

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