Nightwish – “Decades: Live In Buenos Aires”

Digipak - D-52 digipack cd 6pp 2 tray + booklet.inddWell… here we are again… another year, another live release. Looking back at their discography, it seems the last few (including this one) have been every three years. Nice and steady release schedule. Again, it will primarily be the already established fans that buy this (and I don’t need to persuade them) so this is mostly for the few of you who AREN’T diehard fans, per se.

Also to note: as with most live album reviews, this is only of the audio. We don’t get the video for it. So I can’t comment on that outside of what is already on YouTube. And that clip, see below, looks to be VERY high quality.

So what does this one bring us that the last couple haven’t? Like the Decades album that this tour was based on, this concert is a crawl through Nightwish’s history. And there is a lot of the older stuff! With one key difference, the prior Decades album had remastered versions of the originals with the original singers, which was cool of them to do (also cool was the give away of the album at the concerts with the ticket purchase). On this live show, and this really is a “duh” comment, you get most of the same songs, but all with Floor. And, as expected, Floor shines nicely on this release too.

I don’t need to do a play by play of each track but I will note a few things:

  • the concert/recording sounds excellent. Every vocalist and instrument are clear to me. It really is a great mix.
  • This is a beast of a show with a lot of songs. Seriously… 21 songs with one at 16 minutes (Greatest Show, of course).
  • And finally, a note about Floor and Anette:

I know that Nightwish fans seem to be divided into camps. Some like Tarja, some Annette, and some Floor. Granted the split doesn’t seem to be as divisive as Portnoy/Mangini (anymore, at least), but there are always a lot of people bitching about one over the other. And in all of that I see, Annette gets the most of the complaints. I say all this as I want to note the song Amaranthe as presented here. Floor is without a doubt one of the most amazing and talented singers I have heard and I am totally happy that she is their singer. BUT… as can be heard on this song on this release, she is not infallible. The chorus seems to be a beast of a vocal melody to pull off live as Floor seems to have trouble with it at times. So, for those giving Annette a hard time, maybe not so much?

But outside of noting that, the band are in top form and sound incredible. Overall, this is another great slice of history from my favorite band off all time. But, as someone who prefers their later material to their earlier stuff, this one doesn’t hold a whole lot on it to make me rush out to get it that the last live ones don’t already have. But, man, am I looking forward to their new album next Spring.

Songs that were on the Decades Remastered release set that aren’t represented here:

My Walden
Storytime
The Poet and the Pendulum
Sleeping Sun

Nightwish

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting:

01. Swanheart ***
02. End Of All Hope
03. Wish I Had An Angel
04. 10th Man Down
05. Come Cover me ***
06. Gethsemane
07. Elan
08. Sacrament Of Wilderness
09. Deep Silent Complete ***
10. Dead Boy’s Poem
11. Elvenjig ***
12. Elvenpath
13. I Want My Tears Back
14. Amaranth
15. The Carpenter
16. The Kinslayer
17. Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean
18. Nemo
19. Slaying The Dreamer
20. The Greatest Show On Earth

21. Ghost Love Score

*** Songs in this show that weren’t on the Decades Remastered set.

Release Date: December 6, 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast

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Iapetus – “The Body Cosmic”

iapetusI believe metal fans who will encounter the new release The Body Cosmic by two-man team Iapetus will be divided into three camps.  Camp one: folks who love “early” Opeth and progressive extreme metal; camp two: metal fans who don’t care about long compositions and/or concept albums; camp three: people who don’t like black metal at all/black metal purists.

For camp one this music should be an auto-purchase.  Not even a question. Tempo changes, blast beats, thrash grooves, guttural/clean/female vocals, acoustic and post-rock interludes.  Matthew Cerami is responsible for vocals, guitars, bass and arrangements. Jordan Navarro handles keyboards, additional effects and instruments.  Drums are performed by none other than Ne Obliviscaris’ Dan Presland and music was recorded by the one and only Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist, Last Chance To Reason, etc).  My job to convince camp one that this is amazing stuff is an easy one.

Selling camp three on this music is probably best done by someone else as I don’t know how to convince someone who only likes poorly-recorded black metal from Europe in the early 1990s this music is worth their time, along with those who don’t appreciate the aesthetic of tremolo picking, brutal vocals and/or lofty subject matter.

Camp two may be convinced by a few different arguments.  Have a long drive ahead of you? Have a lengthy hike on the horizon? Listening from start to finish to experience the flow and intention behind The Body Cosmic might seal the deal.  Another benefit to this music is that the band is offering it via their Bandcamp site as a NYP (name your price) download.  The lyrics to this cosmic concept album are also on that site – check them out!

I’m easily a member of camp one.  It is my pleasure to listen to Iapetus (which by the way is the name of one of Saturn’s moons).  This is not easy listening! I can appreciate how people in camp two might feel that listening to these tunes might feel like homework but that is something I enjoy.  For me, deeper understanding leads to deeper enjoyment. I find myself being immersed in the density of the tunes and then I hear “one of those riffs” where I remind myself why I dig this kind of music and I think to myself “that’s the kind of riff I’d like to write.”  And the eighteen minute track “The Star of Collapse” (divided into four acts!) is as epic as anyone could ever want.

Look again at the artwork that accompanies The Body Cosmic.  There is a juxtaposition between outer space and humanity just as there is a cross between brutal and calm.  This might not get dozens of spins by yours truly but I can easily say this is an amazing work of art.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

  1. The Body Cosmic        9:58
  2. Dark Matter Genetics        2:00
  3. I Contain Multitudes        14:31
  4. Galaxy Collective        2:09
  5. For Creatures Such As We    12:56
  6. Hadean Heart            4:54
  7. Moonwatcher            2:06
  8. The Star of Collapse        18:00
  9. Angeuls Novus            3:39

Bandcamp: iapetus1.bandcamp.com/album/the-body-cosmic

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Godsticks announce new album ‘Inescapable’ / Share first single ‘Denigrate’ feat. TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins

Godsticks announces their new album “Inescapable” will be released in February. Also a new single is out which features Daniel Tompkins of TesseracT! Here’s the full press release with all of the information.


 

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THE NEW STUDIO ALBUM – DUE FOR RELEASE ON FEBRUARY 7TH 2020 ON KSCOPE

Band reveal first single and video for “Denigrate” (feat. Daniel Tompkins)

Godsticks open 2020 with their new and most accomplished studio album, Inescapable. Their mix of heavy rock, progressive and alternative metal with a dynamic range of angular riffs and emotional depth will leave listeners reeling. The band’s sound has refined over their releases on Kscope, beginning with the technically astounding metal on Emergence to the more industrial and progressive-influenced Faced With Rage. Now, with Inescapable, the band have channelled their energy and technical ability into the melody, phrasing and vocal performance, allowing emotion to take centre stage.

The band found themselves wanting a definitive theme running through Inescapable, without turning it into a concept album, of being more open, more personal and ultimately one that shines an inquisitive light on Charles’s struggle with inner demons which gave the songs a new level of intimacy. “Lyrically, I’ve always shared personal thoughts, feelings and experiences but in a very ambiguous way. For Inescapable – in a conscious effort not to repeat ourselves – I thought I’d be a little more self-reflective and perhaps examine some of my inner demons. I have a strange relationship with music, and especially playing guitar. I would struggle to survive without either, but equally they have made my life mentally torturous because my own self-worth is completely wrapped up in them. I used to be very much a perfectionist in my early years, and whilst some people may wear that as a badge of honour, I eventually viewed it as huge heavy weight dragging down. It was a long time before I arrived at the realisation that perfection was impossible to achieve.” elaborates Darran Charles.

Perfectly highlighting the album’s leitmotif, the band reveal their first single “Denigrate”, “the writing of this song was a sort of analysis of my ongoing battle with perfectionism and the general feeling that nothing you do ever meets the impossibly high standards you set for yourself”. The song features additional vocals from TesseracT’s gifted vocalist Daniel Tompkins to record vocal harmonies, adding an extra layer of aggression and energy.

The shoot for the quirky video, directed by George Laycock (Blacktide Audio/Visual) proved to be a memorable day for the band as Godsticks drummer Tom Price recalls “Everyone in the band was so excited about the concept, but when we arrived on set and saw a large table full of cakes, sweets, chocolate, sugar, sprinkles, honey and all manners of confectionary, the magnitude of what we had all let ourselves in for finally dawned on us! By the end of the shoot we were completely covered in everything – it was like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ meets ‘Apocalypse Now’! It was so much fun to make, but despite several spins in the washing machine I still can‘t get that sweet sickly smell out of my jeans!” Charles chimes in “It wasn’t fun, it was horrible!”

Inescapable was produced by James Loughrey (Skindred) and recorded at the famed heritage Monnow Valley studio.

Godsticks are supporting the new material beginning in April with a UK tour followed by summer festivals

2/4/2020 – Cardiff – Fuel Rock Club
3/4/2020 – London – Black Heart
4/4/2020 – Manchester – Gullivers
5/4/2020 – Edinburgh – Opium

Tickets available: www.facebook.com/godsticks/

Inescapable will be released on CD, LP & digitally. (“Denigrate is available as an instant download on digital pre-orders) on 7th February through Kscope and is available to PRE-ORDER HERE NOW!
Tracklist:
1. Denigrate [03:53]
2. Victim [06:14]
3. Relief [05:40]
4. Surrender [04:44]
5. Numb [05:08]
6. Change [09:31]
7. Breathe [05:17]
8. Time [05:48]
9. Resist [04:36]

Godsticks are:
Darran Charles: Vocals, guitars, keys, synths
Dan Nelson: Bass
Gavin Bushell: Guitars
Tom Price: Drums
Backing vocals on ‘Denigrate’ – Daniel Tompkins

Follow Godsticks:
Website: www.godsticks.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/godsticks
Instagram: www.instagram.com/godsticksmusic
Twitter: twitter.com/Godsticks
YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/godsticksmusic

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Lobate Scarp launches Kickstarter campaign for their second album

Here’s the press release for the second album by Lobate Scarp which promises to be another epic prog rock extravaganza!


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LOBATE SCARP LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR EPIC SECOND ALBUM

11/22/2019 (Los Angeles, California)- Indie progressive-rock band Lobate Scarp has launched a new Kickstarter campaign for their full-length album follow up to their 2019 EP Spirals and Portals, entitled You Have It All. According to their Kickstarter page, the new studio album will serve as an expansion to Spirals and Portals, interweaving the tracks within the album to tell a more cohesive story.

Rich Mouser, whose mixing repertoire includes Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Neal Morse, will not only once again mix the album, but also produce. Current members of Yes, Billy Sherwood and Jon Davison, as well as Spock’s Beard Keyboardist Ryo Okumoto will appear as guest musicians. Steve Leavitt, producer of Time and Space, will also return to co-produce. David A. Hardy, the world’s oldest living space artist, has once again created the album cover art, which has been revealed on the Kickstarter site. Prog rock fans will especially appreciate the two 15-minutes tracks they have planned including the album title track, a strong edgy piece with made up of several parts.

You Have It All’s Kickstarter campaign, features a variety of great pledge rewards such as a special edition 2-CD booklet containing lyrics, credits, art, and a bonus disc containing an entirely instrumental version of the album. Some of the higher-level pledge rewards include T-shirts, a visit to a recording session at The Mouse House, house concerts, and very limited hand-knit “got prog?” drink cozys and Lobate scarves.

Check out the You Have It All Kickstarter page at http://gotprog.com

Lobate Scarp is a progressive opera-rock band located in Los Angeles. Their influences are far and wide and range from classic prog-rock of the 70’s such as Genesis and Yes, to 80’s pop to modern music as well as musical theater. Their debut Time and Space was made possible in 2012 by a successful Kickstarter campaign and has since received accolades from all over the world, played on radio shows, podcasts, and had reviews published in numerous music publications. The band is making their RoSfest debut next year in Sarasota, Florida and if their Kickstarter campaign is successful, they plan on having the new album ready for the festival weekend.

“Spotlessly produced and skillfully performed, the music is large and panoramic in scope. Highly recommended for fans of symphonic prog”. – Jerry Lucky (The Progressive Rock Files)

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no-man – “love you to bits”

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The core of no-man is Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson.

I wasn’t aware of no-man when they were first active. I was led to the duo’s work via my discovery of Steven Wilson’s solo albums in 2013.

My favorite no-man album is the trip-hoppy, atmospheric art pop set Loveblows and Lovecries: A Confession. That release has some competition now.

love you to bits is a successor to that 1993 album. This one is a 21th century disco ride, with tonalities which harken back to an earlier era but sound fresh in this context.

I read that no-man have been working on this album on and off for a while. Eleven years have passed since their last studio album, Schoolyard Ghosts.

This is a concept album of sorts, a memoir of an ended relationship, of a longing to return to a happier time. The style of the music might seem at odds with the subject. I perceive it as a comforting envelope, a reassurance.

The work is divided into two sections, Love You To Bits and Love You To Pieces.

(Sounds like an album designed for vinyl – or cassette!)

There is a sonic theme that runs through both sections and ties them together..

The rhythm moves the music, with Mr. Bowness’ atmospheric voice fitting in the soundscape.

There are keyboards, guitars, bass and drums in the mix.

Love You To Bits (Bit 4) features a wild guitar solo, played by (I’m taking a guess) David Kollar, noted for his work on Mr. Wilson’s To The Bone album. (Mr. Kollar’s own music can be found on Bandcamp.)

Brass instruments close out the first section, a bit of change up to the groove.

The openings of each of the musical halves have a similar buildup that might be found in a classical piece.

Love You To Pieces (Piece 2) features some darker sonics with a keyboard solo by (I’m guessing again) Adam Holzman and a dense bass tone from (another guess) Pete Morgan.

I never thought there would be another no-man album – with all the other projects that Mr. Bowness and Mr. Wilson are involved in, how could they find the time?

But here is the magic, undimmed by the years passed since the last. A gift for the fans, one that will bring new members into the fold.

no-man have delivered music to uplift us and move us, with lyrics to commiserate shared loss and longing. Try a listen via headphones for a truly blissed out experience. (And an earworm that will linger!)

Yes, it’s not prog, but it is music by two men who are well respected by other musicians in the prog world. Free your mind…..

N.B. I wasn’t given any information with the music for my review, so I am guessing on the soloists from information I have found on the internet, including an entry on Discogs.

Rating 10/10

Release date: November 22, 2019
Label: Caroline Records

Tracklist:
A. Love You To Bits (Bits 1-5)
B. Love You To Pieces (Pieces 1-5)

Players:
Tim Bowness: vocals
Steven Wilson: various instruments and backing vocals
Adam Holzman: keyboards
David Kollar: guitar
Ash Soan: drums
Pete Morgan: bass
The Dave Desmond Brass Quintet

Website: no-man.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nomanofficial
Instagram: www.instagram.com/nomanhq
Twitter: twitter.com/nomanofficial

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Yogi Lang – “A Way Out Of Here”

GAOM 062_RGB_72dpiYogi Lang is the “L” in RPWL. As the singer and one of the main songwriters, he is very much identified with the sound of RPWL. His second solo album “A Way Out Of Here” (to no surprise) does not stray too far from the RPWL framework. To be clear, this album does have some moments that you haven’t heard on an RPWL album but you’d be hard pressed to distinguish. Since I love RPWL, I have no problem with that at all!

Add to this that Kalle Wallner, guitarist for RPWL, handles solos on two songs. His solo on “I’ll Be There For You” is one of the best he has done. Lang does switch things up by having excellent female backing vocalists and pedal steel courtesy of Klaus Reichart is just incredible. And THAT is how you know this is not RPWL.

Evenso, “A Way Out of Here” doesn’t sound too different from what Lang has done before and with good reason: it works. Why change it? One somewhat surprise is the instrumental “Early Morning Light,” which is one of the best tracks on it. Why surprising? Well Lang is known for his vocals so it’s refreshing to hear his music writing skills on full display. The song is big and atmospheric, and has plenty of melody even without a vocal line.

“A Way Out of Here” continues the winning streak of releases that Lang has enjoyed recently. The last few RPWL albums are some of the best that the band has done. “A Way Out of Here” is so strong that it does make me wonder if Lang needs the band. But Wallner’s contributions to this solo album make it clear that they are a formidable team. Yogi Lang proves his is more than just a frontman, he is a great talent.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Move On
2. A Way Out Of Here
3. Shine On Me
4. Don’t Confuse Life With A Thought
5. Love Is All Around
6. Freedom Of The Day
7. Early Morning Light
8. The Sound Of The Ocean
9. I’ll Be There For You

Label: Gentle Art Of Music
Release date: 8 November 2019

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 16

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Frank Wyatt and Friends – “Zeitgeist”
Release Date: 1 November 2019
Website: frankwyattmusic.com

Frank Wyatt is one of the founding members of prog rock legends Happy the Man. The band was signed to Arista Records in the late 70s when prog was actually going out of style. They were a mostly instrumental band with some of the craziest playing I have ever heard. Their first 2 albums are ESSENTIAL for anyone that loves prog rock.

More recently, Frank formed Oblivion Sun with former HtM cohort Stanley Whitaker. The band release two top notch albums which sound quite a bit like Happy the Man. That’s inevitable really. So I was very excited when Frank contacted me about his new project “Zeitgeist” which is billed as Frank Wyatt and Friends.

Who are the friends? Well the list does include many of his former Happy the Man bandmates including Stanley Whitaker on vocals and guitar, Ron Riddle on drums, Mike Beck on percussion, Rick Kennell on bass, David Rosenthal on keyboards and yes even the great Kit Watkins on keyboards and “cool sounds.” Now to be clear, they all aren’t on every track but Whitaker and Watkins are together on the title track. While Riddle and Whitaker join Wyatt on “Twelve Jumps,” which works well for Riddle’s playing.

Kennel and Rosenthal are on the track “Eleventh Hour,” one of my favorite tracks. Original HtM drummer Mike Beck adds percussion to “Fred’s Song.” But this is definitely Frank’s show. Frank Wyatt shows how important he was to his original band’s sound. The only disappointment being that Wyatt didn’t play any sax on the album as he did back in the day. It always added a bit of a “madcap” vibe to the music. And the music? It’s the usual mix of jazz, prog and ambient beauty.

What I love about Happy the Man is they had a sound that was unique to them. NO ONE sounded like them and that’s what separates great bands from the pack. It’s nice to hear that the essence of that band is still very much alive on “Zeitgeist.” I might not get a full on Happy the Man reunion but this is damn close and it works for me!

 

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Bask – “III”
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 8 November 2019
Bandcamp: basknc.bandcamp.com

“III” is the aptly titled third album by Asheville, North Carolina’s Bask. The band blend post rock and stoner rock with psychedelic rock mashed with just enough prog to get me excited. The riffs are thick and would not sound out of place on a Mastodon album or the last few Opeth records. In fact, Bask would be a better fit as an opening act for Opeth than Graveyard!

The only problem that I have with “III” is it’s only 36 minutes. I wish it was longer only because it’s really awesome. But it’s better to have a solid 36 minutes than add filler to make it longer. The highlight for me is the two part of “Noble Daughters.” The first part has the cool riffs while the second has possibly the best melodies on the album. Plus the guitar solo on Part II is killer.

There are moments that remind me of Elder or Thrice or King Buffalo but never a rip off of either of those bands or the others I’ve mentioned. It’s a point of reference. The playing is tight and Zeb Camp has a really great voice…plus his name is Zeb. The album is really strong from start to finish and they finish with some banjo on “Maiden Mother Crone.” You can’t beat that.

 

voyager

Voyager – “Colours in the Sun”
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 1 November 2019
Bandcamp: voyager.bandcamp.com/album/colours-in-the-sun

I have a special place in my heart for Voyager. That said, their last album “The Ghost Mile” was a big disappointment for me. I suppose it was bound to be a let down after their masterpiece “V.” So I was curious if they could bounce back with “Colours in the Sun.” Did they ever!

While I am not sure if “Colours in the Sun” is as amazing as “V,” this new album is the album I wanted the last one to be. The melodies are stronger, the riffs are there and the band have an even more 80s vibe going. As my buddy Matt said to me, they sound like “if Duran Duran went prog metal.” It’s a fair description!

As for a more modern prog comparison, Voyager have a lot in common with Leprous. Even more so now that Leprous mainman Einar Solberg provides guest vocals on “Entropy” which really makes the song. His unique vocals fit the track, and I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Voyager singer Danny Estrin also has a unique voice!

But it’s the music that really makes a comeback on “Colours in the Sun.” From the hooks in the lead track “Colours” (a favorite) to the shimmering synths on “Brightstar” to the jagged riffs on “Reconnected,” this is a true showcase of what Voyager is capable of. I suspect that the album will grow on me more and more and who knows, maybe it is as good as “V.” At least, it shows that Voyager is back with a vengeance!

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