Midnight Masses - Departures

Artist: Midnight Masses
Album: Departures
Label: Superball Music
Genre: Rock


This opens with a moody and emotional “Golden Age" and it’s a little hard to place. As the album progresses there is a little bit of quite a lot with words like ambient, funky, psychedelic and generally groovy all being appropriate.

The drum has been recorded to sound a little false and machine like, which isn’t my taste, but it does allow the floating vibes of the other parts, including the sometimes distant vocals, to really build up the moods.

Layers abound and this is an album that allows the listener to really detach for a while. Perhaps eleven tracks of trance inducing beats are a couple too many but each song does occupy its own space.

There Goes Our Man" closes and its raw atmospheres are probably the highlight of a strong album. Yes, it sticks to a script but it is fortunately a pretty good one. If you want an album of reflection and introspection then grab this.


Knifeworld - The Unravelling

Artist: Knifeworld
Album: The Unravelling
Label: Inside Out Music
Genre: Prog Rock


Opener “I Can Teach You How To Lose A Fight" starts with a fairly flat female vocal that I thought was going to be an odd intro. The song then just develops its empty weirdness and does indeed begin to unravel, the horns particularly grating.

It’s probably incredibly clever but I just found it irritating.

And that is sadly how it continues for me. I really don’t like the vocals of anyone involved as they deliver off beat words in a quirky way. The supporting music is shallow and the arrangements simple.

The jazzy parts to the prog make my flesh creep right up until the point I manage to reach for the off button.

Apparently this has been long awaited since their 2009 last. I don’t see the appeal although I do quite like the sleeve! It is a real proggers prog rock prog fest.


enkElination - Tears Of Lust

Artist: enkElination
Album: Tears Of Lust
Label: Independent
Genre: Melodic Metal


The opening title track has a very subdued musical backdrop to an often exposed vocal - when it sounds vulnerable it is great but sometimes it just sounds like it is on its own. I don’t think the arrangement has quite the right balance but it is interesting.

It’s independent and it does perhaps show.The guitars do annoy at times though - they sound false in the way that drums recorded by a machine do and the rhythms are a little empty too. The playing is fine but they just don’t sound that strong.

The vocals soar when they need to and the songs do seem quite pleasant if a little melancholic. But there is just something missing from the arrangements and as observed, the levels are just wrong.

I’d like to see this band play live (I am guessing they will be great) and then maybe record this again with an experienced producer. The vocals are intriguingly good but there are no layers to the tinny sound and distant riffs, the musicians not sounding anywhere as good as they probably are.

There is promise but someone needs to get a grip of what could be a good band and quickly. I’ve scored this way lower than it truly deserves but it sounds too wet for what is clearly a band with a future. If you haven’t worked it out yet, the production lets it down.


Tim Bowness - Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

Artist: Tim Bowness
Album: Abandponed Dancehall Dreams
Label: Inside Out Music
Genre: Prog Rock


From “The Warm Up Man Forever" through to closing "Beaten By Love”, this is an unusual trip in so many ways. That opener is a little repetitive but still somehow interesting.

The vocals drip with something distinctive and luscious and tend to be to the fore, the sound a little retro with individual instruments or parts being allowed to dominate at times. The mood and emotion in the vocal is at times impressive and the music perhaps just a little simple.

Depressing, introspective and morose, this isn’t a funfest in the slightest but it is still very enjoyable. It reminds me of a lot of the last Marillion album and there are some more subtle layers to find on each listen.

The songs rarely seem to get going but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter. I wouldn’t recommend listening in the car as this may send you into a pleasant dreamy trance but it is worth checking out.


Flood Of Red - Throw

Artist: Flood Of Red
Album: Throw
Label: Superball Music
Genre: Earth Rock


I saw this band live almost four years ago and was really expecting this to be something different. The opening title track is a slowish meanderer of a song and is too long for something that doesn’t really go anywhere. Plenty of yearning but not a lot of bite.

And that is really the theme. Loads of big atmospheres and layers but no sense of positive direction. Perhaps that’s what they were after but after a while it is a little dull.

That’s a shame really as it is very good if not that interesting! One song and I’ve generally had my fill of their murky moods and slow paced complexity.

It’s all quite clever but too soft and wandering to get me going. Talent abounds in most areas but a little more pomp would be a better showcase of their skills for this listener.


(Source: floodofred)

Voyager - V

Artist: Voyager
Album: V
Label: IAV Records
Genre: Progressive Metal


This fifth from Australians Voyager hits a lot of the right spots. Melodies abound from the start as some synthetic keys merge with the riffs. The vocals then drift over the top of the next section of opener “Hyperventilating”.

Choruses are banked up and the rhythms keep a steady pace behind it all. At first listen this is very solid and generally pretty cool.

It’s a little odd after a second play and begins to unravel just a little. The songs start to feel a little staged and unnatural,

the pieces starting to become tad repetitive. That isn’t to say it isn’t good - it is, and very, - but it does seem to flatter more on the first run through.

That is of course the risk with the progressive, that it can feel a little superficial and constructed, and this maybe drifts a little too far to the world of pop. I’m very impressed by the individual parts but maybe the songs just aren’t as good as the components. It will be interesting to see what more listens bring as this is still one to give a few more spins to.


Uriah Heep - Outsider

Artist: Uriah Heep
Album: Outsider
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


Here’s a band that gave me a very pleasant surprise with their last. I caught one of their Official Bootleg albums back then too and loved their assured mastery, rounding it all off with a very enjoyable interview with Mick Box.

But what of this? It kicks off strong with “Speed Of Sound" that has it all, rolling rhythms, cool Hammond keys and the Mick Box guitar, before solid hard rock vocals float over it all. They do melodic heavy rock very well and keep it going.

They mix in some piano led mellowness on a slower “One Minute”, and there are some diversions like that, but this is at its roots a solid rocker. Mellow parts of songs soon yield and the bulk just roll up the sleeves and get on with it.

There is a little bit of over familiarity after a while and I think that may be difficult to avoid with this their twenty fourth studio piece. A few choruses slip into rock cliché for example but I can forgive them that - the solid hard rock does bring a smile and I imagine many of these will come alive on stage.

My favourite is the blues infused “Is Anybody Gonna Help Me" and that might just be because it is a real diversion. I like the main approach but we have heard it before. We’ve also heard the blues style too I suppose!

Solid and reliable, this is Heep hitting the mark but probably not dragging in many new fans as they do so. But it is infectiously fun.


Tesla - Simplicity

Artist: Tesla
Album: Simplicity
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


My last real engagement with Tesla was in 1980-something when they supported (and blew away) Def Leppard. I have never understood why I haven’t caught up with them over the years although this is only their seventh album.

They open with a slow grinder in “MP3" which is okay but a little lacking in variety and perhaps an odd start, and way too long. And the album never really gets going for me.

The guitar is safe, the rhythms largely anonymous, the vocal approach samey. The songs never really go for it and it all feels very within their comfort zone. Occasional pace tens to dissipate into more easy playing.

Looking for some positives, the basic melodies are well played but then you would expect that from such simplicity! The album title is unfortunately spot on and I have to be honest - it’s all a little boring.


Neal Schon - So U

Artist: Neal Schon
Album: So U
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


The Journey guitarist now appears to have an umlaut on the “o”. How silly! There’s a Journey bedfellow on drums and a Black Star Rider on bass, but this is Schon’s own piece too.

There’s some blues in here and some jazz too as Schon mixes it up. But the bluesy opener “Take A Ride" isn’t that interesting and the following overlong title track just drifts and drifts before going off the rails.

There’s an instrumental and a procession of average rockers, nothing really inspiring. I guess this is all stuff other bands rejected and maybe some self criticism wouldn’t have gone amiss.

I think Schon has scored pretty low with this one and I am struggling to find many redeeming features. Maybe he enjoyed recording it!


Nightmare - The Aftermath

Artist: Nightmare
Album: The Aftermath
Label: Label
Genre: Power Metal


A spoken atmospheric intro suggests it’s a movie about to start rather than an album but “Bringer Of A No Man’s Land" leaves us in no doubts. It’s a full on if slightly slower power metal track that reeks of the past but is still reasonable fresh.

Vocals are gruff but clear, riffs deliciously heavy, and melodies abound. The songs are well produced and there is generally a good flow to the whole piece.

It is a little bit of a set piece album so don’t expect any surprises. But the power is embedded in the heaviness and whilst I guess it’s isn’t ground breaking, it is a solid affair.

There are plenty of good songs and they don’t let it go on too long, showing that this veteran band still has something to offer. That slower approach to the power should widen the appeal.

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