McStine & Minnemann to release debut album on July 3rd!

Exciting news! The great Marco Minnemann is teaming up with the immensely talented Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance) for a new album! Check out the press release below!


McStine & Minnemann is a new band consisting of Randy McStine and Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats). Pre-orders for their debut album will begin on Friday May 1st, along with the release of their first single, “Program.” Over ten minutes from the album can be heard below.

The duo initially met in 2018 while working with other artists, but as they discovered their shared passion for an assortment of Rock, Pop, and Punk artists, they decided to embark on a collaborative project together. Although McStine and Minnemann initially set out to record an EP, they quickly shifted to making an album as their musical ideas and chemistry flourished.
The result of their self-titled debut, McStine & Minnemann, is a high-energy collection of ten compact, yet expansive Rock songs that sit well next to the likes of XTC, Mr. Bungle, The Knack, Queen, and Frank Zappa. As both men are prolific multi-instrumentalists and writers, they have created a space for each other to showcase their incomparable instrumental talents, while infusing them with an incredible mix of melodic and lyrical depth.


 Premieres on May 1st

McStine & Minnemann was produced by the duo, and mixed by Forrester Savell (Karnivool, SikTh).


Randy McStine is an acclaimed guitarist, bassist, and vocalist, whose initial work under the name Lo-Fi Resistance led to collaborations with members of King Crimson, Joe Satriani, Porcupine Tree, King’s X, Tears For Fears and more. McStine’s work embraces genres such as Rock, Alternative, Progressive, Blues, Singer-Songwriter, Folk, Pop, and Ambient. Towards the end of 2019, McStine released a new album called ‘Idle’, which coincided with a 20-date North American tour as support for The Pineapple Thief.


Marco Minnemann is one of the world’s most respected drummers, having recorded and performed with diverse artists such as Paul Gilbert, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Steven Wilson, Necrophagist and U.K. His own band, The Aristocrats (featuring Guthrie Govan and Bryan Beller), is a hugely sought-after touring act all over the world. Marco is also an accomplished guitarist and composer, which is evident throughout his vast catalogue of solo albums. His most recent album, ‘My Sister,’ was released in 2019.

McStine & Minnemann Tracklist:


  1. Program
  2. Falling From Grace
  3. Your Offenses
  4. Catrina
  5. Top Of The Bucket
  6. Tear The Walls Down (No Memories)
  7. Fly
  8. Activate
  9. The Closer
  10. Voyager

Pre-Orders for McStine & Minnemann will be available on Bandcamp from May 1st with several packages to choose from – PRE-ORDER HERE NOW


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Katatonia – “City Burials”

889592After a (thankfully) brief hiatus, Katatonia got back in action with a tour to honor the 10th anniversary of “Night is the New Day” in 2019. So naturally the next step was a new album and that’s something I always look forward to. And once again, Katatonia do not disappoint! “City Burials” is quintessential Katatonia with more metal muscle than the last two albums yet still a ton of atmosphere that they’ve come to be known for.

“The Fall of Hearts” was a bit more overtly prog rock than anything that the band had done prior so there was no need to clone that album. So on “City Burials,” there’s songs like “Behind the Blood” that’s about as straight forward metal as Katatonia has ever done. But then the band have songs like “Lacquer” and “Vanisher” that drip with synths and style which wouldn’t sound out of place on the previous albums. Both of those tracks are definitely favorites.

“City Burials” does a great job of not only acknowledging Katatonia’s classic sound but also adds a new wrinkle here and there to it. “Rein” is one such song. The chorus is classic Katatonia while the guitar line on the verse is that nuance that I’ve not heard before. Katatonia know how to be subtle…especially when there’s a shitload of layers there are well. Hiding in plain sight? Something like that.

In addition to the songs mentioned before, “The Winter of Our Passing” also uses synths but more to drive the song along. Throbbing a bit. Then you get that BIG chorus as well. This one will sound great live…whenever they get to play live again. Just another really great song.

While the album is called “City Burials,” the files that I received were tagged as “City Glaciers.” I like that as a title. But there is a song called “City Glaciers.” You are probably tried of reading this but yes it’s another GREAT song. Katatonia is almost upbeat on this album! Well, okay they are upbeat for Katatonia. “City Glaciers” sounds like a band that’s rejuvenated. That’s really true for this whole album. The hiatus seems to have served them well.

What don’t I like about the album? Wow I can’t think of much really. “Lachesis” is a tad brief and solemn but it’s still a nice piece. “Behind the Blood” is a little bit too 80s metal at times but again, I like the song. There are just better tracks on the album than that one. The shapeshifting “Neon Epitaph” is a good example of that. Any time the second to last song on an album is great, the album is great. Try that out on albums that you love.

I’ll admit that I am very partial to Katatonia but as most people who know this site know, I am even harder on bands that I love. My expectations are VERY high for a band like this. If this album was “just okay,” I would rip it to shreds. But they have done it yet again. “City Burials” is as good as ANYTHING the band as done and underscores that Katatonia are without question still a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 9.5/10


1. Heart Set to Divide
2. Behind the Blood
3. Lacquer
4. Rein
5. The Winter of Our Passing
6. Vanishers
7. City Glaciers
8. Flicker
9. Lachesis
10. Neon Epitaph
11. Untrodden
12. Fighters

Label: Peaceville
Release Date: 24 April 2020

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Mantric – “False Negative”

falseIt always amazes me when a band sets the bar higher with each album that they release. Eventually you think “okay, there’s no way this one can be better than the last one.” Mantric has 2 exceptional albums already and their last one “Sin” was outstanding. So when I saw that they were back again with “False Negative,” I was figuring that maybe this was going to be the step backwards. Not in the least!

“False Negative” is yet another massive LEAP by the Norwegian outfit. And I mean this one is one great song after the next. While the band always was able to write strange songs with some hooks, “False Negative” is the perfect balance of quirky stuff and just amazing song craftsmanship. It’s just relentless! The first three songs hit you (“Itching Soul” should be played on prog radio) and you’re thinking “ok how can this get any better?”

That’s when Mantric twists into a modern version of the Beach Boys whilst channeling Failure on the song “Norwegian Dastard.” It’s the best track that Mantric have done. Well okay there are other songs on “False Negative” that rival it. “Down” is a fuzzed out asskicker which still holds to Mantric’s odd style. “The Towering Mountain” is a mix of blasting punk metal and Motorpsycho on acid. It proves that Mantric isn’t about to stop trying different things.

Mantric were always good with twists and turns which keeps the listener alert. “Every Day Is Independence Day” is a classic Mantric song in that respect. Odd time signatures and unique arrangements. That’s all here. “Darling Demon” will definitely upset those people that don’t like harsh vocals, while “Starmonger” is the big epic that I’ve wanted from Mantric. Big sound, big riffs and powerful vocals. Reminds a little of Oceansize, a good thing!

It’s time to officially stop thinking of Mantric as an Extol offshoot. Mantric have evolved to be something way, way more than that and to be honest they’re more compelling than Extol has been in years. “False Negative” is the masterpiece that Mantric always had in them. I can only hope that people that love truly progressive music won’t miss out on this album.

Rating: 9.5/10


1. Polyana
2. Itching Soul
3. Queen Fatigue
4. Norwegian Dastard
5. Blame the Beggar
6. Dawn
7. The Towering Mountain
8. Everyday Is Independence Day
9. Darling Demo
10. Starmonger

Label: Solid State/Tooth and Nail
Release Date: 24 April 2020

Posted in art rock, atmospheric metal, modern prog, progressive metal | Tagged | 1 Comment

Witchcraft – “Black Metal”

Witchcraft - Black Metal - ArtworkFirst off, do not be fooled. “Black Metal” is not a black metal album. For that matter it is not a Witchcraft album either. So what gives?

What “Black Metal” really is is a solo acoustic album by Witchcraft mastermind Magnus Pelander. Because of this, it sounds more like his side solo project Pelander. It’s a bit puzzling as to why it was not released under that moniker. I supposed Witchcraft would get more attention.

So with all of this out of the way, how is the music? Well it has a few things going for it. Pelander is a great vocalist and a great writer. But even that doesn’t save it. Soundwise, it reminds me a bit of My Morning Jacket (not as good though), in that Pelander uses a fair amount of echo on his vocals. The songs are good but I wouldn’t rank them among the best that Witchcraft/Pelander have done. Fair from it to be honest. I’m curious if any of them would sound better if they were fleshed out more. These really sound more like acoustic demos than final versions.

The other issue is the overall length. It’s a brief 34 minutes and given that the songs don’t always seem like they have a clear direction, I suppose 34 minutes might actually be a good idea. For example, “Sad People” just moves so slowly and at times it seems like Pelander is still working it out. It comes across as unfinished. Certainly it lacks any sort of polish. And that’s really true of “Black Metal” as a whole.

“Grow” clocks in at almost 8 minutes and actually works the best for me, other than probably being a little longer than needed. It does move along and has nice melody lines. The other issue is that midway thru there’s a sameness that creeps in. Without anything other than Pelander’s voice and acoustic guitar, there’s little options to make things songs any more than they are.

At best, the songs are nice and the performance committed. The problem is there’s nothing compelling about this album. It sounds like something done to fulfill a contract. Recorded in day? It very well could have been, I am not sure. It’s very disappointing considering the great albums that Witchcraft have done. “Legend” is essential. “Black Metal” is more of a throwaway album for completists only.

Rating: 3/10


1. Elegantly Expressed Depression
2. A Boy And A Girl
3. Sad People
4. Grow
5. Free Country
6. Sad Dog
7. Take Him Away

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 1 May 2020

Posted in art rock, folk rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

Hexvessel – “Kindred”

hexvessel KindredLife is made up of second chances and second opportunities. This is provided we choose to take them. Given how many times that I miss my first chance at something, I am always willing to give it another chance. Such is the case with Hexvessel. While I did really like their album “When We are Death” from 2016, for whatever reason “All Tree” from 2019 really did nothing for me…at the time. So this of course left me at a crossroads when the new album “Kindred” came my way.

I heard the first song I heard from it was “Phaedra,” and I was VERY interested. It sounds like Nick Cave doing a dark folk song. That really works for me right now. I say that because I’ve recently (and finally) discovered the brilliance of Nick Cave. But that’s another story. “Kindred” takes the epic darkness from “When We are Death” and melds it with the acoustic folk of “All Tree” for a nice balance of each. In the process, it actually prompted me to go back to “All Tree” and yes, I actually understand and appreciate it now! Ah, second chances.

“Billion Year Old Being” is a haunting opening track and my favorite one. It’s starts with a very moody intro before it stomps into gear. For whatever reason, it reminds me of Ghost with a lot less Satan and a lot more “druid in the woods.” And if you like vintage keys, well you’ve come to the right place. This is an exceptional track and very progressive too.

“Demian” is very interesting because it sounds like it’s warped for a bit. The first time I heard it, my head tipped to the side like a dog. But once you know it’s coming, it makes sense. It’s a nice slice of eerie psychedelia. Plus it has a very tasty guitar solo. “Fire of the Mind” is the more folk side of Hexvessel and Mat McNerney turns in one of his best vocals. The instrumentation is another strength of this album. An example is the muted trumpet on “Bog Bodies.” It adds that dark alley sort of vibe to the song. Wow.

“Kindred” is so good that I even love the shorter instrumental pieces, “Sic Luceat Lux” and “Family.” If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know I hate what I call “throwaway” tracks and often those are interludes or short tracks. These are not that at all. They are beautiful and add to the flow of the album as a whole. “Sic Luceat Lux” is an unsettling number that while acoustic still has power because of it’s avant-garde style. “Family” is the opposite. It’s a tranquil acoustic guitar piece that’s warm and welcoming.

Instrumentation once again makes a song “Kindred Moon” interesting. The percussion is really unique and when coupled with McNerney’s falsetto and the chord patterns, it’s absolutely striking…and unnerving too. “Magical and Damned” is a great title for a song and it really sums up Hexvessel’s sound too! The song is magical musically, a beautiful ballad while the lyrics are far more damned. “She’s so magical, so mystical and damned.” A beautiful track. “Joy Of Sacrifice” is the closing track and seems to arrive too soon! There’s not a missed moment in the 40 minutes of “Kindred.” So much so that when it’s done, you want to start again.

Sometimes understanding a band and their music is about you and the band reaching the same point at the right time. When that happens, all doors are opened and all veils are lifted. I’ve had that happen a lot of times and when it does, that’s when you can truly love music. That’s when you feel the power. “Kindred” is one of those times for me. “Kindred” is a compelling album that has a perfect flow and sequence. It’s one of those albums I know I will go back to when I am not sure what to listen to. That’s the highest complement I can pay it.

Rating: 9.5/10


1. Billion Year Old Being
2. Demian
3. Fire Of The Mind
4. Bog Bodies
5. Sic Luceat Lux
6. Phaedra
7. Family
8. Kindred Moon
9. Magical and Damned
10. Joy Of Sacrifice

Label: Svart Records
Release Date: 17 April 2020

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Zopp – “Zopp”

BEM080 album cover

Music, for many of us, is a stress reliever. It is an enjoyment that uplifts us and resets our mood. It can be an escape to another space, that helps us deal with the real world upon our return.

If you would like some new music to assist you in these times, I have a wonderful suggestion.

Zopp is UK-based composer Ryan Stevenson. In this self-titled debut release he embraces the sounds of the Canterbury music scene.

Mr. Stevenson is assisted here by Andy Tillison (The Targent) and Andrea Moneta (Leviathan).

The style of music may have originated in another era. But the keyboard-driven sound of this project is alive and timeless.

One track that I enjoyed is Before The Light, a song with many textures. It’s like a train that pulses forward, running through different landscapes.

The song Sellanrå features a peaceful piano with bird song! It is a wonderful atmospheric blend of sound.

A very animated tune in the collection is V. It is jazz-like and percussive while the sounds interweave. This track features flute by Theo Travis.

This album is a great listen from end to end. It held my attention with the variety of sounds at play. And it was a great mood elevator as well!

If you enjoy bands such as Camel and Caravan, I would suggest you give Zopp a try.

Rating 9/10

Available Now

1. Swedish Love
2. Before The Light
3. Eternal Return
4. Sanger
5. Sellanrå
6. V
7. Being And Time
8. Zero
9. The Noble Shirker

Performed by
Ryan Stevenson: Keyboards, Mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesiser, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, bass and electric guitars, Nord Electro synth, voice, sound design, noises, field recordings, percussion

Also featuring
Andrea Moneta: Drums, percussion and drum recording engineering
Andy Tillison: Additional piano (6), additional Hammond organ (3), Leslie processing (2, 5, 6), co-production (3, 6, 9)
Theo Travis: Flute (6)
Caroline Joy Clarke: Voice (1, 7, 8)
Mike Benson: Tenor Saxophone (9)

Label Website:
Artist Website:

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Oranssi Pazuzu – “Mestarin kynsi”

Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsi - ArtworkOranssi Pazuzu are not going to be for everyone. If you aren’t into wretched black metal vocals like Ihsahn or Enslaved do, then you can skip this review. But if you do like those style of vocals and love the adventurous spirit that both of those acts have, then Oranssi Pazuzu are definitely worth exploring. The Finnish band just signed with Nuclear Blast and “”Mestarin kynsi” is their fifth album, which means “Master’s Claw” in Finnish.

Musically they mix psych rock, space rock and post metal with some heavy ass metal for a very creative and legitimately unique sound. It’s often intense and that’s not even considering the vocals. They will groove along for a while before boiling over into a bombastic riff. Add in the shimmering keys that give things yet another angle, and you have some seriously creative stuff. The first two tracks “Ilmestys” and “Tyhjyyden sakramentti” are a great start that require your full attention…or else you will feel attacked.

“Uusi teknokratia” is a spacey krautrock number from another dimension. Midway thru things get really, really fucking weird and it’s awesome yet disturbing. It’s a 10 minute full on freakout!! Wait. Maybe that’s it? Oranssi Pazuzu aren’t actually Finnish, they are from another galaxy! Vocalist Juno Vanhanen sings in Finnish, I believe. Granted his voice is so harsh, it could be any language or really not a language at all! It works because his voice is so sharp and acidic, it cuts thru the wall of music like a knife. Which is often needed. This stuff is dense.

Then you have “Oikeamielisten sali” which might have one of the most off-kilter, uneasy opening riffs ever. Either the riff is warped or my brain is warped. Then the track takes off and the bass line fucking rumbles. It’s amazing how intense this track gets and it’s both massive sounding and crushing at the same time. And the album maintains that vibe until the end.

“Mestarin kynsi” is 51 minutes of powerful, extreme metal doused in psychedelia. In some ways, this album reminds me of when I heard Between the Buried and Me for the first time. Not that there is a direct link musically but rather it’s a LOT to take in yet once you figure it out, it’s so rewarding. Also if you like Oranssi Pazuzu, check out Waste of Space Orchestra who are a side project that also features members of Dark Buddha Rising. For now if you have a brave heart and an open mind, “Mestarin kynsi” by Oranssi Pazuzu is a beautiful yet twisted masterpiece.

Rating: 9/10

1. Ilmestys
2. Tyhjyyden sakramentti
3. Uusi teknokratia
4. Oikeamielisten sali
5. Kuulen ääniä maan alta
6. Taivaan portti

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 17 April, 2020

Posted in atmospheric metal, avant garde, black metal, death metal, extreme metal, krautrock, metal, progressive metal, psych rock, space rock | Tagged | Leave a comment