Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 6

Roine StoltI cannot understand if “Manifesto of an Alchemist” is a Roine Stolt solo album or just a strange variation of The Flower Kings. It is credited to Roine Stolt’s The Flower King. I know this shouldn’t drive me nuts but it does. Regardless, this sounds like the Flower Kings, which works just fine for me. What makes it different is the use of musicians not from any TFK lineups: Marco Minnemann, Max Lorentz, Zach Kamins, Rob Townsend & Nad Sylvan. But it also includes TFK members (past and present): Jones Reingold, Hans Froberg & Michael Stolt.

Musically it does sound like Stolt but he also incorporates some other styles that maybe TFK wouldn’t explore. The straight up rock riff in the middle of “Lost America” is a good example. Stolt also is the main vocalist on “Manifesto of an Alchemist” which makes it seem more like a solo album.

But for me, it’s the instrumentals that make this album worth buying. He always surrounds himself with great players so it’s nice to hear them having room to stretch out on tracks like “Rio Grande” (my favorite track), “Six Thirty Wake Up” and the mostly instrumental “The Alchemist.” Nothing against the vocals but it’s really awesome to hear all of these musicians weaving their magic together.

Is this vastly different from The Flower Kings, no but it is different enough. It has music that dates back before the first TFK album too! All in all, I found this album on par with The Sea Within (Roine’s side project from earlier in 2018) and honestly better than the last few TFK albums! It’s a top notch effort by a super talented man and his friends.

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 23 November 2018

sydney-rococoThe Church was one of those bands I had meant to check out for a lot of years and didn’t actually do it until their album “Untitled #23.” I liked it and yet forgot to persue them more. Luckily I made time to dive into their vast back catalog and found out that I do really like them. So now it turns out frontman Steve Kilbey has a solo career that I haven’t explored. It starts now with his latest album, “Sydney Rococo.”

So one down and 20 more to go? Well lets look at this album. With a voice as distinct as Kilbey, it’s very hard not to hear this album as one by The Church. The main difference is that it’s less experimental and more about beautifully orchestrated tracks. It start off with the lovely title track which for me wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Church album. But it has a more timeless sound to it. Acoustic guitars sitting along side powerful strings and Kilbey’s unique voice.

The album is what I call very listenable. Many of the albums that I listen to, I have to be in a specific mood for them. “Sydney Rococo” is one of those “go-to” albums where when you don’t know what to listen to, it’s one you can easily pick and enjoy. Atmospheric tracks like “Distant Voices,” the straight ahead rocker “When I Love Her She Sings,” or the ballad “The Wrong One” give the listener so much variety. That’s what makes an album great and “Sydney Rococo” is indeed a great album by the legendary Steve Kilbey.

Label: Golden Robot Records
Release Date: 23 November 2018

NAOScotland’s North Atlantic Oscillation’s fourth album is called “Grind Show” and while I wouldn’t call it their best album, it is definitely a really good outing. I am partial to “Fog Electric.” I think most of that comes down to that it was the first thing I heard from the band. Style wise I have always compared them to Kevin Moore’s Chroma Key jamming with Brian Wilson and Mogwai.

NAO is now up to their fourth full length album and “Grind Show” has all the hallmarks of past albums. Pulsing synths, Sam Healy’s Moore-like vocals and sweet hook laden choruses. What always makes me love albums by NAO is the atomsphere. There’s a weird dichotomy between claustrophobic verses and frequently vast, open choruses. It’s not just the music. The vocals open up the same way. I love dynamics.

Favorite tracks include the opener “Low Earth Orbit” which really sums up what NAO are all about, while “Fruitful Little Moons” has a very quirky vibe to it that I like eventhough I have no idea why. “Spinning Top” is another one of those typical NAO songs that defies explanation. It goes from a dance funeral dirge to weird ass samples. I love it. Then there’s “Sirens” which is as rocking as NAO gets…assuming you like weird samples in your rock. I like it, but it’s a complete headfuck.

What makes North Atlantic Oscillation a favorite of mine is that are able to take elements of modern prog, post rock and a genre I don’t like in electronica and mash them into this…THING that I love. It’s rare and unique. That’s all I can ask of an album like “Grind Show.” More people need North Atlantic Oscillation in their lives.

Label: Vineland Music
Release Date: 16 November 2018

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Leah – “The Quest”

704981smallIt’s been a while since I have listened to a Leah album. Loved her earlier work and got pretty excited when King’s and Queens came out. Especially after I saw how long it was (I like longer songs). And while there was some great stuff on it, overall it didn’t grab me as much as I expected. It felt overly long and an album should never overstay its welcome. I need to revisit it to see if I still feel the same way.

That said, I wasn’t overly optimistic about this one going into it given how I felt about the last one, but I quickly found my wariness unnecessary. This one is incredible. It’s heavy, symphonic, has those Enya elements at times, with lots of harmony and melody. In short, it kicks ass.

And the album this time around is a bit shorter, closer to 50 minutes than 70. So nothing ever overstays it’s welcome. To seemingly contradict this, the first track, The Quest starts things off with an epicish 10 minute length. There is a bit of repetition here with the chorus over that run time but it is so good, I don’t care.

Every freaking song here is excellent. A big airy, yet weighty, chorus on Edge of Your Sword coupled with an upbeat verse section that is just catchy as hell. We get a bit of a power ballad type track in Lion Arises.  And you get the almost poppy Ghost Upon a Throne. And every song here works. They all work.

The album closes with an Amazing Grace type song, The Water is Wide. Basically Amazing Grace in all aspects but lyrics. It is but it isn’t. Very beautiful and now the only version I can listen to as the other is way overplayed.

The band on this one is made up of: Troy Donockley (Nightwish) on pipes and flutes, Timo Somers (Delain) on guitars, Chen Balbus (Orphaned Land) on Saz and Oud,
Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian) on bass, and Sander Zoer (ex. Delain) on drums and percussion. Pretty stellar line-up if you ask me.

I do want to note we have another loud album here. It isn’t so bad that I have to take a break part way through. But I am noting it and a point or so is being deducted for it. Otherwise, this album is stellar. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of hers (you know you already have it), love Celtic sounding metal, or just love songs with lots of melody and harmonies and gorgeous vocals.

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Rating: 8.5/10737748small

Tracklist:

01. The Quest
02. Edge of Your Sword
03. Lion Arises
04. Heir
05. Ruins of Illusion
06. Labyrinth
07. Abyss
08. Oblivion (Between Two Worlds)
09. Ghost Upon a Throne
10. The Water Is Wide

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Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: Out now
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LEAHthemusic

Edge of Your Sword

 

Making of The Quest Documentary

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Psycroptic – “As the Kingdom Drowns”

755644Tasmania’s Psycroptic is BACK with “As The Kingdom Drowns” and wow, it’s a killer album. Sure it’s only 35 minutes but it’s a relentless, blistering album nonetheless! I enjoy Psycroptic in doses. Like any tech death metal band, they can be a bit overwhelming at times.

The main difference with “As The Kingdom Drowns” is that the band have more dynamics in their music. And that’s why I think this may very well be their best album to date. To be sure, this does NOT mean they are mellowing out at all. Rather this slightly more prominent dimension makes the heavier parts seem even MORE heavy.

The album kicks off with “We Were the Keepers,” a track that is traditional, in your face Psycroptic. From there the next two tracks weave in some groove metal moments into the over the top insanity. “Frozen Gaze” blends those two elements perfectly while “Directive” has a complex yet slower main riff that is just plain awesome. “Deadlands” veers into speed metal territory while the title track has a super cool slower vibe to it while showcasing how amazing the band can play. Granted they step on the gas pedal when you least expect it too. GREAT track!

“Upon These Stones” is by far my favorite track because it shows off the dynamics that I mentioned. This is the track that could point the band into a new, fresh direction. I’d love it if this track was twice as long too! I think epics are something that could be a game changer for Psycroptic. The album ends with a short blast of energy with “You Belong Here, Below.” And while I like the track, I wish there was a big “statement” track at the end.

There’s a lot to unpack in 35 minutes here. “As the Kingdom Drowns” shows that Psycroptic are still as dangerous as they have ever been and yet still willing to push themselves. There’s no doubt fans of the band will find a lot to love on this album. If you are someone who loves tech death metal, you need Psycroptic in your life!

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. We Were The Keepers
2. Frozen Gaze
3. Directive
4. Deadlands
5. As The Kingdom Drowns
6. Beyond The Black
7. Upon These Stones
8. Momentum of the Void
9. You Belong Here, Below

Label: Prosthetic Records
Release Date: 9 November 2018
Facebook: facebook.com/psycroptic

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Four Stroke Baron – “Planet Silver Screen”

867948“Planet Silver Screen” is the sophomore release by Nevada trio Four Stroke Baron. It’s an interesting mash up of metal, prog, and new wave, with a healthy sprinkling of 2000s alt-pop. From the opening track “Cut”, it was coming off with a completely different sound than is suddenly thrust upon you with the title track right after.

The album altogether is a bit disjointed sounding. Like a doll stuffed full, but the sewing job isn’t the best and it’s a bit patchwork. While the instruments on the album are quite good, the vocals get lost in the reverb at times. Particularly on the track “Neon Person”, where it’s rather hard to even understand what is being said. The vocals really only work for me on “Duplex”, which is slowed down and more ambient in the instrumentation. It takes on a more ethereal quality then with the amount of reverb. While Jorgen Munkeby from Shining is a nice jazz saxophonist, it doesn’t mesh as nicely as I wished it would have on the last track “Video Maniacs”. One does not simply put a saxophone solo in the middle of a pop metal song. At least the second solo has a chance to shine with no pounding instruments behind it.

It’s a big sound for a second album from Four Stroke Baron. To me, it comes off that they are still trying to find their particular sound. While swinging between prog and metal seems rather easy, adding those elements of new wave and pop makes it a bit harder. The production also comes off as “all in or nothing”. It’s a sound that teenager me in 2005-2006, during that ever-infamous emo phase every millennial went through, would have adored. The sound is something along the lines of if Gojira, Ghost, and Arcade Fire decided to collaborate. Which is either a compliment or an insult, depending on your view on Arcade Fire.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklist:
1. Cut
2. Planet Silver Screen
3. Neon Person
4. Machine and Joy
5. A Matter of Seconds
6. 7th of July
7. Cyborg Pt II The City
8. Duplex
9. Video Maniacs ft Jorgen Munkeby

Label: Prothetic Records
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Website: https://www.fourstrokebaron.bandcamp.com

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HEADPHONE MEDITATIONS: Secret Oyster – “STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS”

R-1208943-1200853766.jpegLet me begin by saying that this album, in my opinion, is a lost gem. The fourth and last studio album, originally released by CBS Denmark in 1976, is the result of an already talented band coming to their creative peak. All four original albums have been remastered with added bonus tracks on the label Laser’s Edge.

Opening this album is “Lindance” the intro and the title track “Straight To The Krankenhaus” which brings to mind many different influences ranging from old Wooden Nickel era Styx to a foray into the world of King Crimson’s Mel Collins. Many prog bands can be easily over-technical and lifeless but Secret Oyster, while still retaining a level of virtuosity, leave plenty of room for space and emotion. Many of the songs differ radically from each other so you may hear some funky grooves, some emotive guitar solos and later some smokey jazz. This is prog rock with feeling.

Stand out songs include the title track, My Second Hand Rose, High Luminant Silver Patters and Stalled Angel. Fans of bass guitar will love this album!

Musicians… Claus Bøhling / guitar – Kenneth Knudsen / keyboards – Karsten Vogel / saxophone – Jess Staehr / bass – Ole Streenberg / drums

 

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DREAM THEATER RETURN WITH 14th STUDIO ALBUM DISTANCE OVER TIME SCHEDULED FOR WORLDWIDE RELEASE ON FEBRUARY 22, 2019

I know most people know about this but here’s the official press release regarding the brand new album by Dream Theater!


 

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Band To Embark on The Distance Over Time Tour of North America Beginning March 2019

 

Two-time Grammy-nominated and millions-selling progressive music titans Dream Theater announce the forthcoming worldwide release of their 14th studio album, Distance Over Time on February 22, 2019. Distance Over Time showcases a newfound creativity for Dream Theater while maintaining the elements that have garnered them devoted fans around the globe. The album also marks the first for the band’s new label InsideOutMusic / Sony Music. The artwork was created by long-time cover collaborator Hugh Syme (Rush, Iron Maiden, Stone Sour). Distance Over Time was produced by John Petrucci, mixed by Ben Grosse and mastered by Tom Baker.

 

“When I listen back to the album, I can distinctly recall every moment of the writing process; where I was standing in the room, what inspired us in that instant and the meaning behind each song. As a producer, my goal was to try and create the best-sounding Dream Theater record we’ve ever made so that listeners can just be enveloped in the music. I really wanted this recording to truly reflect the spirit, joy and passion that went into making the album and for people to walk away feeling some of the organic nature, personality and raw energy that the band captured while together in the studio. For me, I think it accomplishes that and I hope that other people will feel the same way,” explains John Petrucci.

 

In June 2018, Dream Theater secluded themselves in a private location in upstate New York to begin writing for the new record. While spending the summer living together in the property’s adjacent residence, the band spent their days and nights crafting the music that would make up the new album in the ‘Yonderbarn’; a beautiful and spacious barn that had been meticulously transformed into a state-of-the art film and recording studio. Following an intense & extremely productive period of group writing sessions and wanting to retain the magic that was captured in this scenic and inspiring location, they decided to record the album in the very room they had all convened to write together in. Living together during the writing and recording for Distance Over Time marked another first for the band’s 33-year career. The result is a heavier collection of songs that showcases the early roots of the band while exploring new territory as musicians and as friends.

 

“It was like going back to summer camp,” adds James LaBrie. “Being around each other the whole time made it that much more of a profound experience. I think the songs reflect the energy. It was a lot of fun to have a situation so powerful at this point in our career.”

 

It has been 3 years since Dream Theater released new music. To announce the details of the brand new album, Dream Theater enlisted the help of one lucky contest winner to break the news of the record to the loyal fans of the band. An Alternate Reality Game was launched that encompassed a “treasure hunt” whereby fans were able to search for clues hidden in various photos, videos, social media posts, and more. Ultimately, one lucky winner was given access to content before everyone else including the release date and cover artwork, and the winner would be the one to share the first taste of never before heard music.

 

Dream Theater is also planning to hit the road in support of the new album. The Distance Over Time Tour of North America was recently announced and kicks off on March 20, 2019 in San Diego, CA. The tour will run for seven weeks before wrapping up in Mexico City on May 4, 2019.

Information on tickets for all upcoming shows as well as VIP packages can be found at www.dreamtheater.net. More tour dates for the worldwide tour will be announced in the near future.

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Progressive metal pioneers Dream Theater— James LaBrie (Vocals), John Petrucci (Guitars), Jordan Rudess (Keyboards), John Myung (Bass), and Mike Mangini (Drums) —share a unique bond with one of the most passionate fan bases around the globe as evidenced by their two GRAMMY® Award nominations and 15 million records sold worldwide. The 1992 opus Images & Words received a gold certification and landed on Rolling Stone’s coveted “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All-Time.Guitar World placed the follow-up Awake at #1 on “Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994.1996’s A Change of Seasons notably soundtracked NBC’s coverage of Downhill Skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Fans voted the 1999 Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory the “Number One All-Time Progressive Rock Album” in a 2012 Rolling Stone poll. Not to mention, it ranked as the “15th Greatest Concept Album” by Classic Rock.  2009 saw Black Clouds & Silver Linings crash the Billboard Top 200 at #6 as A Dramatic Turn of Events [2011] and Dream Theater [2013] maintained a three-peat in the chart’s Top 10. Consequence of Sound dubbed 2016’s The Astonishing, “An absolutely unique experience.  Beyond three platinum and two gold videos, the group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010. On its 14th full-length and first release for InsideOutMusic / Sony Music, Distance Over Time, the band recharge the brotherhood that has kept them creating music together for over 30 years. It’s Dream Theater at their most dynamic, direct, and definitive.

 

Find Dream Theater online:

www.dreamtheater.net

https://www.facebook.com/dreamtheater

http://twitter.com/dreamtheaternet

http://instagram.com/dtimages

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Antimatter – “Black Market Enlightenment”

Black Market EnlightenmentTime to start with another one of my disclaimers. I love Antimatter so a new album by Mick Moss would have to be dreadful for me not to like it. That said, I do tend to have higher expectations for bands that I love. Fortunately, not only is “Black Market Enlightenment” a good album, it’s the best Antimatter album to date. Yes I said it.

First off, Mick is a great songwriter. So the songs are bound to be good and these are just an amazing batch of songs. Strong melodies and powerful lyrics through out. What makes THIS album special to me is the music. There’s plenty of tension and dynamics but also these songs are heavier. There’s no doubt songs like “The Third Arm” and “Wish I Was Here” would translate when done acoustically but DAMN, they have an added punch in the face when they kick in. I love that.

Even the synths are heavy. Jumping ahead to the moody closing track “Liquid Light,” it’s synth heavy…with heavy synths. It works perfectly and makes a great closer. Backing up one track, “Between the Atoms” is one of my favorite songs not only on the album but by Antimatter in general. The evil section toward the end of it just makes the song for me. Additionally, there are some AMAZING performances by the backing band on “Black Market Enlightenment,” especially the sax work by Paul Thomas and the drumming of Fab Regmann.

And yes the songs are still catchy. As soon as I think of “This is Not Utopia,” I am singing the chorus in my head. It doesn’t hurt that I can relate to the song lyrically. Mick is one of those writers who has never been afraid to bare his soul and many of us have been through the same things. Life is NOT easy for most of us. So it makes the music so much more personal when you can relate to it on another level.

“Black Market Enlightenment” is easily a candidate for my album of the year. Certainly it’s one of the finest releases of 2018. Musically adventurous, sonicly appealing and intensely rewarding, “Black Market Enlightenment” is the definitive Antimatter album. So stop what you are doing and go buy it now!!

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:
1. The Third Arm
2. Wish I Was Here
3. This Is Not Utopia
4. Partners In Crime
5. Sanctification
6. Existential
7. What Do You Want Me To Do?
08. Between The Atoms
9. Liquid Light

Label: Self-released
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Website: www.antimatteronline.com

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