Saturday, October 30, 2010

James LaBrie - Static Impulse

James LaBrie is related to marmite many would agree; perhaps a distant cousin, but definitely related. Dream Theater fans seem to be split down the middle with regards to vocals. The truth is LaBrie is an astonishing vocalist but of course Dream Theater’s backbone is the artistic wizardry of his colleagues in Petrucci, (now former band-mate) Portnoy, Myung and Rudess.

But Static Impulse isn’t James LaBrie’s first foray into solo work, it’s his second effort released under his own name and the follow up to 2005’s Elements Of Persuasion. However, many will ask – how will he fare on his second endeavour on his own initiative and with complete creative control and this time, hindsight?

While Static Impulse is a far cry from both the quality and bombast of the day job, there is a rich hook laden texture to these twelve songs. Dream Theater are of course notorious for heady, expansive songs but with this solo venture all is much more reigned in and succinct with just one song exceeding five minutes.

Static Impulse marks a collaborative effort with Swedish melodic death metal outfit Darkane’s drummer Peter Wildoer (and also of Pestilence now) who also lends his voice for the harsh growls. He provides for a sterling pairing as he trades off with LaBrie’s cloud striking clean vocals.

There’s an inescapable “Swedish influence” here too which one can assume is down to Wildoer’s partaking. 'Superstar' opens with riffing that sounds like In Flames circa Clayman and 'Mislead'’s execution is nothing but slick.

That said there is still some John Petrucci reverence in the guitar work from guitarist Marco Sfogli. However he more than earns his stripes with a flurry of clean angular riffing which run across some lush keyboards throughout. But seeing as this is his solo record, James LaBrie is of course the star, delivering hooks on every song from the relentlessly catchy choruses of 'One More Time', 'I Tried' and album highlight, 'Euphoric'.

It’s all wrapped up a production with a pop sheen on it that brings out the best of what LaBrie has to offer. It’s an unexpected but totally welcomed triumph. Static Impulse will be somewhat a satisfying stopgap until Dream Theater release a new album, an album which will of course has many, many fans curious and sceptical.


Swans - The Button Factory 22/10/10

After a 13 year dormancy, the mighty and ineffably important Swans have returned and finally, to European shores. With Dublin being the second show of this tour it means that inevitable creases of the first night of a tour are quick to be ironed out.

Firstly though, lone support act James Blackshaw’s set is an interesting one. He stands alone on stage, acoustic guitar in hand delivering beautiful and sombre finger style instrumental guitar work. It is stunning stuff overall despite the slightly annoying re-tuning between each song.

A drawn out intro then beckons the arrival of Swans and when Michael Gira walks out onto the stage, it’s clear immediately that a special night has indeed commenced.

‘No Words/No Thoughts’ is the opener that rears its head from elongated intro stretched across nearly half an hour. It’s emblematic of how Swans’ songs take on a new life-force on stage.

New material from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky features heavily in the night’s set-list. Michael Gira has continually insisted on this current incarnation of Swans not being a “reunion” and most certainly not nostalgia based. With that, it doesn’t come as a surprise that new track; ‘Eden Prison’ is a standout moment marking the climax of the night.

Several songs have in fact endured a transformation with many long, dense instrumental jam sessions between some songs. There isn’t one aspect of this night’s performance that is not otherworldly intense, the vibe is vast throughout and unrivalled, creating an air near indescribable.

Older material is of course present too though and they sound every bit as emotionally devastating as they did upon their conception but still, with a difference. They too have been re-worked and adjusted to fit the 2010 existence of Swans. These re-imaginings are just elegantly brutal, which is one way to put it like, the overpowering 'Sex God Sex'.

The encore is another new number, 'Little Mouth' which concludes with a harrowing silence throughout the venue. It’s overwhelming, the sound of the person next you breathing eventually collides with your eyes and it’s only broken by Gira’s “thank you” after which this peerless enigma that goes by the name Swans exits. Breathtaking.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Underoath track

Metalcore stalwarts Underoath are about to return with new album Ø (Disambiguation) the first since the departure of drummer/clean vocalist Aaron Gillespie.

This new track is indeed heavy with some guttural vocals trading off with slightly higher pitched screams and riffs are aplenty. But on the first few listens ‘In Division’ doesn’t appear to reveal any major hooks like some of Underoath’s previous output. Ø (Disambiguation) is out November 9th.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rorcal - Heliogabalus

Heliogabalus is a lot of things but the undisputable facet of this effort is its ferocity and intensity. This is the Swiss doom/sludge outfit Rorcal’s 2nd full length album, and also the follow up to three EPs, one of which was 2007’s The Way We Are, The Way We Were, The Way We Will Be and it’s more than worth your attention

Heliogabalus is a one track effort, clocking in at an impressive 70 minutes and 33 seconds. It’s an extensive listen that’ll leave the listener weary as often the finest of doom records do, or should do. Whereas before Rorcal songs (like that of 'Seven Suns') had some pace, here all has been slowed to a snail’s pace with the cataclysmic guitars being mostly sludgey, riding on a whirring and droning bed.

The vocals are corrosively gnawing away throughout the din as colossal, tectonic plate shifting riffs crush and crush repeatedly. It creates possibly one of the most dank, harrowing atmospheres you may hear on record this year. Atmosphere is the key, remember that, and Heliogabalus has it in vast spades.

At the 46 minute mark in particular, gloriously buzzing guitars taking centre stage which pulsates viciously ‘til the end.

This record is daring but it isn’t Rorcal’s finest hour when compared to previous outings. But with foresight, and Heliogabalus as an indication, the finest hour is yet to come.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

New The Ocean track

The Ocean are set to release their new album Anthropocentric next month, the follow up to April’s Heliocentric thus completing the two album concept. Anthropocentric has been billed as the heavier component of the two, an enthralling idea seeing Heliocentric had more than a few blisteringly heavy moments.

‘She Was The Universe’ opens with dense riffs that owe a debt to Mastodon and are accentuated by underlying string sections. Vocally the track is much more visceral as the previous record was very much clean led in Loïc Rossetti’s hugely versatile singing.

Anthropocentric is out November 9th. Listen to the track here:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Times Of Grace track

The much hyped project Times Of Grace is upon us. Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam D reunites with former vocalist Jesse Leach, and ‘Strength In Numbers’ is the first track to finally surface online.

Military drum beats give way to a deafening wall of sound which shows that there are some stark similarities in ‘Strength In Numbers’ to Empire Shall Fall, Leach’s current band. But with that said, he’s on top form vocally and it serves as a reminder of what a truly stunning singer he was and is still. Meanwhile, angular hook laden riffs are no strangers to Adam D, however a vibrant and lucid guitar solo points that he is in fact one of the most ludicrously talented people in modern metal today. But it’s the relentless, stream train pace chorus that steals this show.

Unfortunately the debut album, Hymn Of A Broken Man, has been postponed for release until January but for now listen to the track below:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini

Enslaved’s name has become synonymous with the art of nose-diving into the unknown, throwing caution to the wind and embracing whatever technique and forward thinking mind frame feels right at the given time. It’s that outlook on musicianship and song writing that has seen Enslaved morph, majestically, into the monolithic avant-garde and progressive presence that they are today, particular since 2004’s boundary shattering Isa.

The Norwegian heavyweights still nonetheless have the darkened blood of yore running through their veins. Their black metal and Viking metal pasts are what made them such visceral components of the now infamous Bergen scene. But since then Enslaved have even been called the “Pink Floyd of extreme metal”.

Every so often the press fire a label like that on a band that only belittles them more so. Why should they be correlated with another act that they or anyone for that matter can’t match? Enslaved are an entity entirely to themselves, with their own modus operandi. But like many Floyd albums Axioma Ethica Odini is a glorious suite of music intended for one single listen, something necessary to fully soak in this stunning musical journey.

For so long we were living in the age of brevity in music and the art of the album was evanescing amongst the maelstrom. But in recent years some bands, including Enslaved, have continued to perpetuate the aesthetic of the album and digesting it whole. In the case of Axioma Ethica Odini, that’s in one glorious listen.

From the ambling riffs of 'Ethica Odini' to the grandiose 'Lightening', Enslaved take you on that incomparable musical journey. No band of their ilk before them has accomplished such splendour before.

They’ve once again taken the primeval nature of black metal and injected it with beautiful scents of verdant melody, emphasised by Herbrand Larsen’s clean, almost operatic, vocals which are a stunning dichotomy next to Gruttle Kjellson’s almighty barks and guttural growls. Axioma Ethica Odini – another triumph. But honestly, were you expecting otherwise at this stage?


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red Sparowes, Crawdaddy - 12/10/10

After a fairly long wait Red Sparowes have returned to Ireland and again to Crawdaddy. But first is Legion Of Two, whose set is a slow burner as they play continuously, barely with any breathers, for their time and reach somewhat of a crescendo nigh the set’s end.

Then, Head Of Wantastiquet proves to be horribly underwhelming. Consisting of a grand total of one man with an electric guitar droning through a 20 minute set with croons placed sporadically throughout, it proves how so few acts can really pull off drone live and keep it interesting. The occasional amp blunder certainly didn’t help matters either but after that, finally – the headliner.

Red Sparowes are truly an enigma, a medium of melodic and hypnotic, ambient musical airs. On record they dazzle with ease but for such multi-layered art there’s always the fear that it will translate poorly live… not the case here.

Accompanied by aesthetically majestic projections, their songs assume a new essence live. Material from new record The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer are beginning to cosy up well with their seasoned tracks. 'Giving Birth To Imagined Saviors' marks the stunning highlight of the show with the likes of 'In Illusions Of Order' and 'A Hail Of Bombs' making a heady presence.

However Crawdaddy’s minuscule surroundings, though intimate, can’t justly hold their sound anymore or even them physically along with their gear. Bryant Clifford Meyer is essentially hidden away in the corner of the stage behind an amp. It’s a minor complaint though as while the new material glistens nothing can take slightly from older tracks either like the gorgeous soundscapes of 'The Soundless Dawn Came Alive As Cities Began To Mark The Horizon'.

Meanwhile the cascading melodies of 'Alone And Unaware…' and the maelstrom opening bars of 'We Left The Apes To Rot…' make up the encore – a solid and wondrously cohesive display, to say the least.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Porcupine Tree - Tripod, 11/10/2010

When Porcupine Tree last set foot on Irish shores they played to a venue void of atmosphere, lacking a sizeable crowd, performing essentially to an abyss. But several years on and after one of the most important and meteoric years in their illustrious history, Porcupine Tree have returned valiantly to Ireland as The Incident tour cycle is very near its end.

Firstly, support act North Atlantic Oscillation stroll through a short 30 minute set of electronically driven post progressive rock which in parts owes a debt to both Radiohead and The Beach Boys.

But tonight is all about one entity and one entity alone. Tripod is blessed with Porcupine Tree’s vast stage set-up including their breathtaking projections and to a rapturous reception, ever the sophisticated and fascinating Steven Wilson enters and the tidal wave riff of 'Even Less' collapses in.

'Open Car' gets off to a strenuous start with Wilson snapping a guitar string during its intro only to have his back up guitar in the wrong key. “Take 3”, he quips, cheerfully dispelling the blunder and launches into its angular, weaving riffs and, simply put, massive chorus.

There’s a focus on newer material from 2002’s In Absentia through to last year’s opus, The Incident. But 'The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)' makes a hefty appearance throwing the entire proceedings into a psychedelic din that’s never been experienced in Tripod before.

'I Drive The Hearse' though flips the air to that of the sombre. Its haunting acoustic led ambience is delivered with flawless execution with Wilson shining vocally and John Wesley hitting the crescendo solo without blemish. In recent shows the set list was actually lacking in material from In Absentia. However here, 'The Sound Of Muzak' features surprisingly early and the monolithic chorus of 'Blackest Eyes' never sounded so amazing.

The visual projections add a whole new dimension to the show, seen earlier with the emotive images accompanying 'Lazarus'. But with 'Anesthetize' and 'Time Flies', they take on a life of their own. The former – the haemorrhage-inducing heaviness melded with lithe meandering fretwork and the latter – the vigorous guitar techniques and cascading synths from Richard Barbieri. The concept of both is narrated and accentuated by a visually stunning display.

Steven Wilson seems genuinely humbled by the appreciation and adoration shown by all on hand tonight and Gavin Harrison’s grin from behind the kit can be spotted light years away. The whole night is then punctuated by the immaculate, elegant and life affirming 'Trains' that brings the curtain call on this long overdue experience.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cloudkicker - Beacons

Earlier this year Ben Sharp, better know under the pseudonym of one man band Cloudkicker released the ephemeral but simply magnificent EP ]]][[[, you figure out a pronunciation. With only three tracks it was enough to incite great, and we mean great, anticipation for Beacons, the second full length album after 2008’s dazzling record The Discovery.

Beacons is a stunning tour de force of gripping technicality and lush, captivating “hair stand up” crescendos. Sharp has achieved a recognisable guitar tone, in fact an overall distinguishable sound and vibe for Cloudkicker that commences immediately in the one-two openers of 'We Are Going To Invert…' and the cataclysmic 'Here, Wait A Minute! Damn It!'. The latter of which is rife with an overwhelming meeting of verdant riffs.

The resilience and endurance of the guitars harkens to Meshuggah, but noticeably more melodic. The dense melodiousness of 'We’re Goin’ In. We’re Going Down…' sets an immense mood for Beacons, a mood which is maintained and eventually accentuated greatly. Furthermore, it seems to be a concept album by way of the somewhat quirky and idiosyncratic narrative track titles.

One of the most beautiful elements in the Cloudkicker arsenal has been the trade-offs of soothing mellow and often hypnotising verses with otherworldly heavy riffs, all done so with apparent ease. '…It’s Just Wide Open Field' is an elegant interlude into the breathtaking closing two tracks - 'It’s Bad. We’re Hit, Man. We Are Hit' and 'Amy, I Love You', the latter of which hits you with danceable opening bars.

Beacons requires one whole listen to truly appreciate its towering dynamics and jagged edged fervour and frankly, there’s no reason to do otherwise.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Atheist track

Atheist – “the benchmark of technical metal”. That statement more or less sums up the Floridians. After a 17 year long wait for new material and the shocking departure of bassist Tony Choy earlier in 2010, ‘Second To Sun’ is the first taster of new record Jupiter.

The intricacy of course is the focal point of the track and Kelly Shaefer’s vocals are as visceral and throat shredding as ever. He sounds, simply put, on top form.

But ‘Second To Sun’ hits its stride more than half way through with a pummelling and shuffling riff that may very well set the tone for the whole album.

Jupiter is released November 8th. Listen to the track below:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Porcupine Tree - Atlanta

Atlanta is a live digital download only release from Porcupine Tree consisting of material originally intended for the Anesthetize DVD, released only recently. Recorded on the heady touring cycle for 2007’s Fear Of A Blank Planet, and of course in Atlanta, this is merely a reminder of why Porcupine Tree are one of the most stunning bands of this era, in almost every facet of rock music.

Atlanta is mostly going to appeal to the completist fan, for obvious reasons but the casual PT listener could still, most certainly, enjoy the offering. A sizeable chunk of the setlist is made up of material from 2002 to 2007, which is unsurprising as it was the backbone on the wondrous Fear Of A Blank Planet tour. Though, Atlanta also features the first official live recording released of 'A Smart Kid', from 1997’s Stupid Dream. Similarly, Signify’s 'Dark Matter' illuminates beautifully amongst the setlist.

The 17 minute 'Anesthetize' is presented in its full, gorgeous, breathtaking entirety. It swans from the luxuriantly calm melodies through to its cathartically heavy and crushing riffs, only to revert 180 again to mellifluousness.

The usually heaving chorus of 'Blackest Eyes' is a little patchy here though but that’s followed by a rendition of 'Half Light' that is nothing short of mesmerising, sounding like the appropriate cadence of a gentle kaleidoscope. Then, the live staple 'Way Out Of Here' is of course present and sounds every bit as invigorating as it does on album through earphones.

To reiterate Atlanta is like someone tapping you on the shoulder and whispering in your ear: “you know who are great? Porcupine Tree”, swiftly answered by “well, obviously”. But with that said, the ideology of “what you see is what you get” doesn’t apply to Porcupine Tree. Scratch the surface a little more and something new will always be unearthed.

Porcupine Tree play Tripod in Dublin next Monday (and Mandela Hall, Belfast on Tuesday), miss them at your peril.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BoySetsFire reform

In 2006 the post hardcore innovators BoySetsFire parted ways asfter the hefty swansong record Misery Index; Notes From The Plague Years. Now, the band is to return to the live stage for a series of tour dates this year. A statement from the band reads:

“We were a band for over a decade. We decided that we wanted to try different things with our lives. So we stopped playing music together. It wasn’t Noel/Liam Gallagher ugly; we parted as friends and we generally see or talk to each other all the time.I think we underestimated how much we would miss it. The communion, the intensity, the genuine outpouring of emotion- it just doesn’t exist for us without BoySetsFire. So we are going to start playing together again. All we know now is that BoySetsFire is playing in Berlin on December 5, 2010.”

Good news, yes?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trevor Fleming passes away

Founder guitarist Trevor Fleming of Belfast NWOBHM stalwarts Sweet Savage has passed away. A statement from the band read:

"It is with great sadness we have to report the passing of Trevor, our beloved friend and musician.

"He has not been well for the whole year and passed away early on Saturday 2nd October."This was very sudden and we are shocked and extremely saddened with his departure.

"Trevor was the lifeblood of the band both in terms of musicianship and crack. He was funny, charming, extremely clever and deep, a unique individual who had many talents. Trevor could make anyone laugh, could write the catchiest riffs and lyrics; in fact, everything about Big T was totally infectious.

"He will be sorely missed by us all.

"God bless you, my friend!"

Not too long ago Sweet Savage were maligned on this very site; however that should be all put aside right now. Our condolences go out to Trevor’s family at this difficult time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Storm Of Light, Whelan's - 2/10/10

A night of highs and lows indeed, a beautiful performance from A Storm Of Light that was cut short due to a poor attendance. People Of The Monolith and Refraction supported, click HERE for the full review.