Iris Divine – “The Static and the Noise”

ID-TSATN_Cover Low-ResIris Divine is another one of those bands that I’d heard of and been meaning to check out, but just never got a chance to do so. That’s one of the reasons I am still doing reviews! And after hearing their latest album “The Static and the Noise,” I am really glad I got a chance to hear this band. “The Static and the Noise” is one of those albums that plays like a band’s greatest hits album.

The album starts out with a killer one-two punch with “Catalyst” and “Taking Back the Fall.” Both songs have incredible hooks, tight musicianship and great vocals. This is how you start an album! When you have to listen to albums to see if you’ll review them, it’s great when a song like “Catalyst” jumps out and punches you in the face. This is the kind of modern prog metal that has you driving faster in your car than you realize.

And Iris Divine never take their collective “foot” off the gas. The band seem to have an endless supply of wicked riffs. “Echoes/Effigies” has a driving riff and a sweeping chorus that work so well together. “Fractures” might be the heaviest and tightest track on the album. EXCELLENT bass work on this one by Brian Dobbs. The title track is next and it has a relentless verse with yet another powerful chorus.

“Like Glass” is a GREAT change of pace track that comes at exactly the right moment. It’s more mid tempo and has one really apeshit-prog section in it for those who need something that usually is reserved for Dream Theater. Iris Divine really don’t sound like DT though but I can hear a bit of an influence. Vocally, Navid Rashid sounds more like the guys from Heaven’s Cry, especially since Rashid harmonizes with himself a lot through out the whole album (love that) which is very much like what Heaven’s Cry does. I also hear some Byzantine in their more groove metal moments, I love that too.

“The Acolyte” showcases the band’s playing along with their songwriting talents. Drummer Kris Combs deserves mention too since as I always say, a band is only as good as their drummer, and Combs kicks ass. “We All Dissolve” is the moody closer and it’s yet another great vocal from Rashid, who by the way is a great guitarist too. My only criticism is the use of samples on the track. As most people know, I am not keen on hearing people talking over music and while the sample is fine at the start of the track, I wish that was all there was of it. I just prefer not to have the distraction.

“The Static and the Noise” is one of those albums that as you hear each track, you find yourself saying “oh wow another great song!” And that’s important here. Iris Divine can definitely play BUT the song is clearly the most important thing here. Too many prog bands are worried more about the cool things that they can do rather than making a song memorable to the listener. The song is what matters to Iris Divine and because of that,”The Static and the Noise” is one of the best albums of 2017.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Catalyst
2. Taking Back The Fall
3. Echoes/ Effigies
4. Fractures
5. The Static And The Noise
6. Like Glass
7. The Acolyte
8. We All Dissolve

Website: irisdivineband.com
To order this album: irisdivine.bigcartel.com/product/the-static-and-the-noise-cd-pre-order

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Threshold – “Legends of the Shires”

thresholdlegendscdI’ve waited 22 years for this. Threshold has been one of my favorite bands for a LOT of years now but it was with Glynn Morgan on lead vocals that I became a fan. So much so that the lone studio album with him on lead vocals, 1994’s “Psychedelicatessen” is still my favorite Threshold album. To be clear, I do love the vocals of the late Andrew “Mac” McDermott but I still preferred Glynn. And I’ve never liked Damian Wilson so when I heard that he was fired from the band for the third time and replaced by Glynn, I was beside myself with joy.

“Legends of the Shires” is the first double studio album by Threshold and of course a concept album. The one downside to all of this is that my dear friend Pete Morten left the band but I think that given how great his band My Soliloquy sounds, it was best for him. What about the new/old Threshold though?

The rest of the band is back and sound…well like Threshold. The playing is tight, the solos are melodic and for me, “Legends of the Shires” sounds more like a classic Threshold album than anything they’ve done in a good 15 years! Glynn has lost nothing vocally and that was definitely a concern of mine going in. As a fan, you hope that the artist has everything they did before. But it’s been 22 years and he is a singer. Honestly, he sounds exactly as he used to sound and that is fucking awesome.

The album has more than a few epics on it including the first song released “Lost in Translation” plus the grandiose “The Man Who Saw Thru Time.” Each are well over 10 minutes and rival any epic that the band have ever done. Threshold have always written memorable songs with hummable riffs and singalong choruses. There are MANY on this album. Among my favorites are “Small Dark Lines” which is one of the best tracks the band has recorded, “Trust the Process” which lyrically questions following leaders blindly, “On the Edge” which kicks major ass, and “Shire (Part 2)” which is one of the best ballads they have ever recorded. The lyrics on this track are some of Richard West’s best: “This life is not for me!” It hits close to home.

And that is just the first half! “Lost in Translation” is near the end of the second half and is joined by the relentless “Snowblind” which has yet another classic Karl Groom riff. “Subliminal Freeways” is a slow grinding track and yes yet another favorite. I love the hooks on this album. In addition the use of echoes and repeating the main lines of the chorus just adds to the catchiness of the songs. “There’s nothing in my heart, there’s nothing in my heart” in “Subliminal Freeways” is a fine example.

Not only is Glynn back but the band also recruited original bassist Jon Jeary to supply the vocals on “The Shire (Part 3)” and it works great. It’s a short piece and is a nice fit for Jeary’s distinct vocals (he did backing vocals and live harmony vocals when he was in the band). “State of Independence” is another incredible ballad which has yet another amazing hook. I have no idea how West and Groom do it but they never run out of great songs. I felt the band was carried a bit by Pete’s songs on the last 2 albums so it’s nice that they are back to form here.

I waited 22 years for this and it was worth it. “Psychedelicatessen” WAS my favorite Threshold album. “Legends of the Shires” is now my favorite Threshold album. Welcome back, Glynn Morgan! I have missed you. This album will most likely be my favorite album of 2017 because not only is it a “comeback” for a favorite singer but checks all the boxes of what I love about music in general. This is a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

CD 1:
1. The Shire (Part 1) (2:03)
2. Small Dark Lines (5:24)
3. The Man Who Saw Through Time (11:51)
4. Trust The Process (8:44 )
5. Stars And Satellites (7:20)
6. On The Edge (5:20)

CD 2:
7. The Shire (Part 2) (5:24)
8. Snowblind (7:03)
9. Subliminal Freeways (4:51)
10. State Of Independence (3:37)
11. Superior Machine (5:01)
12. The Shire (Part 3) (1:22)
13. Lost In Translation (10:20)
14. Swallowed (3:54)

Label: Nuclear Blast
Website: www.thresh.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/threshold

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Daydream XI – “The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn”

SR3083-Daydream-XI-TCOTTAT-cover-3000px-1024x1024I had heard OF Brazil’s Daydream XI but hadn’t heard them before doing this review. They are definitely a prog metal band with a hint of power metal usually in the vocals. In some ways, they remind me of bands like DGM, Circus Maximus (older), Anubis Gate, Pyramaze and even Symphony X. “The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn” is a concept album (what isn’t nowadays) and regardless of the concept, the music is very strong throughout.

Unfortunately the album starts with a dialogue track which I hate with a passion. It might be key to the overall concept but it comes off REALLY cheesy. You all probably know just how much I loath anything spoken on an album anyway. The good news is that once “Raise the Curtains” kicks you in the mouth, the album really starts. It makes for a solid intro track. The next track “Trust-Forged Knife” is excellent with vocals that remind me of Mark Basile of DGM, who I love. The key solo is very Rudess-esque.

“Painted Smile” is another favorite of mine with a killer intro on bass. This one was released as a “single” before the album and I think it was an excellent choice. It really is a good representative of the whole album. “Windblown” slows things down with lush piano and strings. It’s a good change of pace, though almost overly dramatic for my taste.

That’s basically how the album goes, a good variety of approaches to keep the listener interested. “Cup of Agony” has a good drive to it with an Eastern tinge, while “Overhauling Wounds” is more middle of the road. “Collector of Souls” is almost a metal blues number which doesn’t work for me but it does show yet another side to the band’s sound. This all leads up to the epic title track, 15 minutes of absolutely killer prog metal. There’s some really apeshit playing on it plus great vocals and melodies.

“The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn” is a well written and VERY well executed album. I guess I can live with skipping the first track! Daydream XI are definitely a force to be reckoned with. This could be or at least SHOULD be the album that gets them onto prog metal fan’s radar!

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Ticket 000011
2. Open The Curtains
3. Trust-Forged Knife
4. Painted Smile
5. Windblown
6. A Cup Of Agony
7. Overhauling Wounds
8. Collector Of Souls
9. Forgettable
10. The Love That Never Was
11. The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn

Label: Laser’s Edge
Website: http://www.daydreamxi.com
https://www.facebook.com/DaydreamXI
Bandcamp: lasersedge.bandcamp.com/album/the-circus-of-the-tattered-and-torn

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Glass Mind – “Dodecaedro”

glassmindMexico’s Glass Mind are a bit of an old school instrumental prog metal band. What I mean is that the current scene is littered with djent bands or guitar virtuosos masquerading as a band. Don’t get me wrong, I love Animals as Leaders but it seems like everyone is going that direction. While Glass Mind’s “Dodecaedro” is as heavy as those bands, they owe a bit more to Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment albeit with a Latin feel.

This immediately clear on the opener “Babel” which has this old school Santana vibe infused with LTE muscle. It makes for a VERY cool sound. I really wish the second track “Caliente” was longer. It’s got this breezy vibe but it’s over just as you start to really get into it. This is a trend throughout the album which is the main downside for me. Four of the nine songs are under two minutes and never get a chance to take flight.

“Fu” is a great showcase of the musicianship in the band. They are TIGHT! “Inside the Whale” has some great unison playing, though I am not keen on the keyboard patch used in the track. “Detritus” is a riff fest and a great track. The title track closes things out with some bizarre sounds and an off kilter riff. I really like this one probably the most but I still wish there was an epic to close out the album. None of the tracks hit nine minutes and as I said there are a LOT of short interlude-like songs.

There is no questioning the talent of Glass Mind. There’s also no questioning that there is an audience out there for their music. They are really, really good. While “Dodecaedro” is a very solid album, it misses out on the true epic factor which is a shame really. I have a feeling there’s nothing to hold this band back from doing whatever they want.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. Babel (6:14)
2. Caliente (1:40)
3. Fu (6:04)
4. Humedo (1:56)
5. Inside The Whale (8:25)
6. Frio (1:18)
7. Detritus (5:54)
8. Seco (1:49)
9. Dodecaedro (5:59)

Label: Rockshots Records
Facebook: www.facebook.com/glassmind
Bandcamp: glassmind.bandcamp.com

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Interview with Pete Morten of My Soliloquy

DG2492-XYAE4JuPPete, a few big changes have happened since we last spoke here. The first being that you have left Threshold after being in the band for 10 years. Was it hard to leave?

Yea, it was very hard, but I was sensing a slow change of heart over the last year or so, if I’m honest with myself. I agonised over it for a good six months before announcing it to the guys. Every day, it would be on my mind, but, due to various reasons, I just didn’t feel like I belonged there any more. My feelings were confirmed during the writing sessions for the ‘Legend Of The Shires’. I wrote and fully demo’d a complete 8 minute song, but it was rejected. I reasoned, take my bow now, before committing anymore to a new record and tour.

Make no mistake, I feel very blessed to have been in Threshold for the last 10 years
and quite apart from being very proud of the songs I’ve written for them, I’ve had some great times touring, to say nothing of all that I’ve learnt, playing with those guys.

Was it a case of wanting to devote more time to your own music then?

In short, yes. To answer more fully, I would have to say that I feel very self assured and confident in my own writing style and ability. Having pressed 1 E.P. and 2 My Soliloquy albums now, where I am the sole author of all the songs, there is no doubt in my mind, that what I’m writing is a perfect expression of who I am. While that statement is an obvious one to make, allow me to elaborate. I think to allow anything, or anyone to influence, control or compromise my writing, at this stage in my career, would in fact, be a step backward.

Speaking of your own music, the other change for you has been that your band My Soliloquy left one label, joined another label, only to leave that one to start your own label. That had to be a bit frustrating at the time all of that started happening.

“Frustrating” is an understatement ha ha. I made the assertion that I was absolutely done with not getting paid the writing royalties I am due. You see, our publishers went bust. I also made another assertion, that I was also done with dealing with publishers and indeed record labels, too, for that matter.

Unless you’ve been a musician, trying to track down late/missing/stolen royalties (check as appropriate) you simply cannot begin to fathom how entirely exhausting, nauseating and stressful it all is. I’d had enough.

My view is simply this: everything is learnable. So I resolved to set up my own label, under which I could put out my own albums. I’ve learnt a lot already, and I’m learning everyday. I’m not alone in this thinking. Marillion set one such precedent and have made a success of taking control of their own destiny, I am simply choosing to do the same. As far as I can tell, a huge portion of the industry is still operating under the old paradigm of how the business used to be, before the internet happened. A lot of those rules simply don’t apply anymore. A new way of thinking is required.

How does it feel to be your own man and release your music yourself?

Liberating, life affirming, and very rewarding.

my-soliloquy

The new album is called “Engines of Gravity” and I’ve been lucky enough to have heard and reviewed it. How would you say it compares with the first album?

The predictable thing to say, would be, its more mature, but while that’s as maybe, I feel there’s no really comparing the two. I say that, cus they are both perfect records, for the time that they were written, so one is no better or worse than the other. Any way you slice it, both albums are incontrovertibly ME.

That said, I would say that ‘Engines’ has some of my favourite songs, I’ve ever written, on it. Personally speaking, Darkness Is Gathering, for me, is a perfect expression of the hopelessness, I’ve sometimes felt, when I’ve been at my lowest ebb. Of feeling the black closing in all about me, and feeling powerless to stop it. Yet, conversely, the pathos laden chorus, simply stating “we are all the same” is where the hope, the salvation comes in. Ultimately, making it a compassionate piece. We are all the same, because, in our ability to be wounded, we are all rendered equal.

What themes are you hitting on lyrically this time around?

The whole premise of this album is centred around the idea – to paraphrase the beautiful words of 19th century spiritual philosopher, James Allen – “what you think, so you become”. His wonderful little book ‘As A Man Thinketh’ is a profound source of wisdom and insight. So I wanted to loosely use that philosophy, under whose umbrella, I’d centre the themes. This is not a concept album though, and in point of fact, the artwork is more of an expression of that philosophy, than the lyrics are.

So lyrically, as always, it’s deeply personal – I simply cannot write about what I don’t know – and it has a deep spiritual thread too. But all my work does, so no great surprise there. Getting back to that philosophy though. It ties in, because no matter what challenges or adversities presents themselves in our lives – and the album is littered with many such events – we are always placed at the point of choice. We can choose how to feel, how to think, and how to react. Thus, your own outlook, concerning an adverse condition, can either be a curse or a blessing.

You get to decide that outcome, always, no exceptions. So if you choose to be bitter and resentful, as a result of your thinking about something, so you become.
Indeed, the more you hold yourself in vibrational alignment with bitterness and resentment, the more you attract into your life experience, circumstances that will breed yet more bitterness and resentment. The law of attraction states that it is so. The Progenitor, for example, from the new record, touches on this, but from a more spiritual vantage point.

A small crystal ball moment for you here… I’ve already started drafting out and writing for the next two albums. One of which, will be a concept-type record, entirely centred around this and many more wonderful spiritual wisdoms.

Another thing that people should know, if they don’t, is that you are a graphic artist and once again you did the artwork for the album. I have to say it is one of the best album covers that I’ve ever seen. It really stands on its own as a piece of art. What were your inspirations for this beautiful piece? The room one the album cover represents the Self; the character. The stone figures surrounding the room represent the aspects of personality exerting influence on the Self. They are made of stone to represent the often unchangeable core of personality, and the internal struggle, often met when we try to effect a change. The isometric mosaic represents thought becoming reality through action as it manifests from 2D to 3D via the gravity of thought. So we see the room – as character, from two perspectives “as above, so below” but also as a reflection of itself, being formed through ones deeds. The figure sitting on the right, is constructing a mosaic, that is the very image of the album cover, illustrating, we are what we think, and so create our own realities thus.

I know you have started pre-orders for “Engines of Gravity” so give the people the places they can order it and when the release date is.

Thanks Rob, well you can only preorder it from us here; www.mysolilquy.co.uk
Release date, worldwide is: 14th September.

A thing to note. The preorder prices are special offers, we won’t be offering those bundle prices, post September 14th.

Now that you are near the finish line FINALLY with this album, what are you up do next? Any chance of touring with the band? Other projects?

Obviously, I’d love to tour the record, but touring is expensive business. The numbers need to make sense, so we don’t lose money hand over fist, and we need to be paid. That’s asking a lot for a small band like us. But, this won’t always be the case, and I’m working hard at getting us the right kind of exposure. After all, I have to, I AM the record label and publisher now.

The only other band, I’m working with now – despite offers still coming in to guest on other people’s albums – is Nightmare World. Besides two shows coming up in London, in the next two months, we’re busy writing for the 2nd album. I’ve already begun writing lyrics and demoing vocal lines/harmonies etc etc. I can’t possibly predict when we’ll have it finished, but the fact we’re working on it at all, is good enough for me.

Thanks, Pete!

Thank you Rob for this lovely wee chat, and thank you so very much, for your continued support.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mysoliloquy
Website: www.mysolilquy.co.uk

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Anubis Gate – “Covered in Black”

ANUBISGATE“Covered in Black” is a truly progressive album. Anubis Gate could have played it safe and not pushed their sound. Their last two albums are both amazing and while I prefer them to their older catalog, they built upon the foundation of those albums. I just prefer the vocals of bassist Henrik Fevre. For me, that’s been the difference between the older material and the more recent.

Back to the new creation. What makes “Covered in Black” so compelling to me is that it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the songs work fine on their own while they work even better with the other songs around them. Other songs work best with the songs around them. Besides that, the songs are darker (as the title of the album would suggest) plus they are bigger sounding and more complex. This is not an album that you will “get” after one listen. However, with each listen it makes more and more sense and as it does, you fully appreciate the level of detail in each part of each track.

The opening track “Psychotopia” is a perfect example. Yes it has those great Anubis Gate melodies but it has some different harmonies, an orchestrated section and proves to be a challenge to fully appreciate the first time. It then segues into “The New Dehli Assassination” which works better as a part of the songs on each side of it. It has a cool Eastern vibe with sitar and percussion. Initially, I assumed it would be the usual verse/chorus/verse track but it’s not that exactly because you don’t quite settle in. It’s a bridge to the next song but it makes the songs on each side of it better because it’s there.

This is part of why many people might find the first single “The Combat” harder to digest. I think it was the wrong track to release as a “single” not because it’s a bad song. Not at all! But it’s a song that fits better within the context of the album. “The New Dehli Assassination” leads right to it and “The Combat” has some very different melodies that aren’t typical for Anubis Gate. This for me is a good thing.

The next track “Too Much Time” has an intro that reminds me a little of the Alan Parsons Project. It has a very cool vibe to it which I love. It gets heavy and when it does things get interesting. The song is a testament to Fevre’s voice. These are challenging melodies and never “obvious” if you know what I mean. The solo section harkens back to the Middle Eastern melody of the previous tracks. While this album isn’t a pure concept album, you can hear and feel the connection of themes throughout it.

The three part suite: “Black,” “Blacker,” and “Blackest.” This is the main part of the jigsaw puzzle. “Black” would have been the song I would have released as a single. It works on its own BUT it works just as well as the first part of this suite. “Black” is very catchy and memorable. “Blacker” continues the melodies of “Black” but also is stranger and yes darker. “Blackest” finishes the suite and while it’s the shortest piece, it makes a great finale for the suite.

The suite is definitely a favorite of mine on “Covered in Black” but “Operation Cairo” is my other favorite. This song is not only epic in length at over 9 minutes but it’s even more epic in sound and scope. Remember those Eastern melodies? Well this takes all of that to a new height. Feel like you are there in a dessert or something. The chorus is very memorable too. This is one of the best tracks that Anubis Gate has ever done.

Taking this further, “Covered in Black” is the best album that Anubis Gate has done to date. They took risks with the overall vibe of the album and the melodies and arrangements of the songs. It paid off! This is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety and not just once but many times. When you “get” the album, you realize just how amazing it is. This is how to be progressive.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1.  Psychotopia
2.  The New Delhi Assassination
3.  The Combat
4.  Too Much Time
5.  A Journey to Nowhere
6.  Black
7.  Blacker
8.  Blackest
9.  Operation Cairo
10.  From Afar

Label: Nightmare/Sony/RED
Website: anubisgate.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnubisGate

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Alberto Rigoni – “Duality”

a1383561283_16Alberto Rigoni is one of the best bassists that you may not have heard of. The Italian lawyer (yes he’s a lawyer too) is also one of the busiest players around. His solo output keeps growing and he keeps expanding his sonic palate in the process. His last outing was “Bassorama” which covered so many different genres including funk, electronic, prog and ambient. His previous works “Overloaded” and “Three Wise Monkeys” were more prog metal based and I did prefer those two over “Bassorama.”

Rigoni is back with “Duality,” an EP that is a bit more experimental but still has enough rock to keep you interested. It starts with the jazz tinged “Song for My Soul” that features the elegant keyboard work of Mistheria. It’s a really nice way to start out with some nice harmonics and fretless work by the man himself. The title track is next and has more of a muscular bass line along with a bass melody line. Add in a guitar solo by Frank Caruso and you have a heavy yet quite funky track.

“Message in Morse Code” is another showcase of what Rigoni can do with a bass. I’m sure most people wouldn’t consider the bass to be a good “lead” instrument but tracks like this one are proof of otherwise. “Kyoto’s Gardens” features Spock’s Beard keyboardist extraordinaire Ryo Okumoto. It’s a very atmospheric piece with the rain coming down and the mellotron as a perfect back drop, before it transitions to a pulsating bass heavy song.

“MAD 333” is a feature track for two guests, guitarist Matthias IA Eklundh of Freak Kitchen, who turns the track upside down midway through, and keyboardist Jonah Weingarten of Pyramaze, who closes the track with a fine solo. I wish the track didn’t FADE! I should give some props to drummer Doug Harris who holds down the fort on each track. When you have a bassist like Rigoni who wanders a bit, it’s important to have a rock solid drummer and Harris plays the part well.

“Obsessions” continues the experimental sounds that Rigoni can get out of a bass plus it’s a basher of a track. Good stuff. The final track is a bass solo piece called “Afterneath” which is quite ambient and makes for a nice finish to the EP. All in all it makes for a cohesive listen despite the experiments that happen from time to time. I do wish it was longer but I guess that’s just me being selfish. If you love virtuosos that not only can play but aren’t afraid to take chances, you need to check out Alberto Rigoni. “Duality” makes for a great place to start and it’s a nice addition to the catalog for those who know about Rigoni’s music.

Rating: 8.5/10
Release Date: September 20, 2017

Tracklist:

1. Song for My Soul
2. Duality
3. Message in Morse Code
4. Kyoto’s Gardens
5. MAD 333
6. Obsessions
7. Afterneath

Bandcamp: albertorigoni.bandcamp.com/album/duality

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