Author Archive

Phil Lanzon – 48 Seconds

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 17th August 2019 by mickbirchy

 

Phil Lanzon
48 Seconds
Prog Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock
Released 2nd August 2019
via Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records

If you’re familiar with your classic rock and music history then I shouldn’t really need to tell you who Phil Lanzon is… But if you’re not acquainted with your old school prog rock, he is the man who you will usually find rocking the keyboard in Uriah Heep. They are one of those bands that encapsulates a lot of people’s image of the 70’s – 80 prog-rock scene. Phil has also brought his talents to other projects such as Grand Prix and The Sweet. He has had a legacy in music that, starting in 1986, carries on today. In recent years Mr Lanzon has been striking out as a solo musician starting with his 2017 record If You Think I’m Crazy! and on to this album, his latest release, 48 Seconds. This album is a pretty fun listen, with all songs written by Lanzon and produced by the excellent Simon Hanhart. It also features some exceptional talent that elevates this to excellence.

The album has a big band feel with multiple layered sections of music and a lot of different instrumentation. Ranging from very synth and keys focused songs to music bigger rock n roll productions. Every song has this big-sounding chorus that hits hard and feels uplifting when listening to it. It definitely feels like an album with an older school method of production. The way the album is mixed is excellent with each musical idea perfectly complementing the other. From the brass section to the violins to the excellent vocal performances, it all feels oh so glorious. Listen to the song “Rock n Roll Children” for an example of how great this album can sound. The production is just excellent, making this very easy on the ear and I think anyone can listen to music like this. Just so rich with sounds and beautiful, carefully crafted melodies. 

One of the major influences for this album is Lanzon’s love of film scores and soundtracks. That definitely translates as every song sounds like it comes from some forgotten 80’s flick that is only really remembered for its soundtrack (you know the ones). Every song is filled with such powerful emotion and it can be very easy to get caught up in it all. With each song just building to an eventual climax that is really satisfying by the end. I will say I prefer the songs that go with the more orchestral vibe than the straight-up hard rock songs. Though I do like some of those tunes too, for example, check out the songs  “Look At The Time” which feels like an 80’s era Uriah Heep tune or “In The Rain” which has more of a John Parr feel to it. What I’m trying to say is, this album is very eclectic in its sound and works for a variety of listeners.

Simply put, this is an excellent album made by a musician who clearly still loves making music. I love the way Phil Lanzon has written this album. Full of sharp singer-songwriter notes whilst scaling it up to be this massive production. From the quiet subtle slower tracks to the more lively and intricate songs this album is filled with emotions and brilliant musicianship. 

10/10

Mick Birchall

Advertisements

Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics – Dirty, Sleazy, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 6th July 2019 by mickbirchy

Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics
Dirty, Sleazy Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sleaze Rock, Hard Rock
Released: 26th July 2019
via Cargo Records

OK, I was not expecting what I actually heard on this album. Then again, I really didn’t fully understand what I was getting this one. I mean, what would you expect from a band called Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics? The band comes from Ontario, Canada and have spent quite a lot of time here in the UK. Everything that I’ve heard about them so far is relatively positive, with a great hype building behind them, consistent gigs and good feedback. It really feels like a band that has taken their time and grown on their own accord rather than forcing a quick fix to success. After taking a listen to this album, I have definitely thought about it and the first impressions were mixed to positive. However, now I have had some time to let this one settle, let’s talk about this one.

The album sounds decent from the get-go, great rock tone with well-produced instrumentation all the way through. The balance of the instrumentation is great with all of the instruments coming through clear. Then you get the vocals and, well I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, if you like this style of singing then that’s awesome but if you’re like me, then it’s truly going to grate on you quite quickly. He’s not out of tune but the vocals are incredibly coarse and it doesn’t really fit in with the slick instrumentation. For me, it ruins the sound of the songs. Now, this is just me, I realise that there are people that like the way the rough vocals contracts with the slick and well-executed music. 

Most of the lyrics are about your typical rock ‘n’ roll topics such as sex, drugs, drinking and working-class life. Which is fine, I mean I don’t expect much from sleaze rock, in terms of lyrical content. Usually, sleaze rock mainly focuses on light-hearted, easy to grasp subjects that audiences can immediately identify. However, when one of your songs literally starts with a woman moaning in orgasm, I think you’re going to have a good sense of what album you’re getting into.

Overall, this is not a bad album. I can’t say I personally like the vocals but I can certainly understand the appeal. The rock is great and there are some damn catchy and fun tunes to listen to. If you’re looking for a band that delivers rough and dirty sounding rock music, then Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics are something to behold.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 28th June 2019 by mickbirchy

Moonlight Haze
De Rerum Natura
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released 21st June 2019
via Scarlet Records

It really is funny, if you follow the scene enough you start to see familiar names here there and everywhere. To the point that it will lead you to more music. This is very much my relationship with the Symphonic and Power metal scene in Europe. It’s a scene where everyone knows everyone, or at least it feels that way. Which is what lead me to Moonlight Haze.  I’ve been a fan of the singer Chiara Tricarico for a while, I first heard her singing in the band Temperance. I just find her vocals really enjoyable and pleasant to listen to and I’m a fan of pretty much any project she lends her name to, so when I heard she was starting a new band with Giulio Capone and includes members (and ex-members) of Temperance, Elvenking, Sound Storm, Teodasia and Overtures. You could probably have won a bet, that I would have taken the time to listen to it at some point. 

From my first listen I immediately gravitated to their music. Tonnes of energy, great production with charm and passion, De Rerum Natura makes a great first impression for fans of power metal who like that little more grandiose tone to the sound. The album wastes no time with engaging and commanding rhythm and tight sounding production that keeps you listening, track after track. The band sounds awesome, with great sounding instrumentation which is mixed really well. The guitars and drums, in particular, hit hard and the bass keeps the rhythm nice and tight and the keyboards set a really nice atmosphere that elevates the music to another level. As great power metal usually does. 

As for the vocal performance from Chiara, well, it’s excellent. As usual, she displays such excellent technique and it makes the lyrics just shine with personality. With this excellent vocal performance, it really brings the entire thing together really nicely. I love the mix of style on the record to with powerful and heavy rhythms and slick, well-executed guitar solos, all packaged in a great power metal experience. I quite like some of the more jazzy and groovy parts between the main parts of the songs, that little bit of intricacy really adds to the enjoyment of listening to this album.

I love the way the overall sound feels to listen to. It has this excellent energy and it’s entertaining from start to finish with lots of replay value. I will admit that I have been playing this album a lot since it’s release and plan one listening to it a whole lot more. If you like your power metal blended well with other musical styling, that also packs that little extra punch, then definitely give De Rerum Natura a listen.

4/5

Mick Birchall

King Zebra – King Zebra EP

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , , on 6th May 2019 by mickbirchy

King Zebra

King Zebra EP

Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Released: 22 March 2019

Self Released

Right from the first notes of this EP, I knew I was going to like this one. I mean, this is the sound I grew up on, pure hard rock with lots of energy and pep. Swiss hard rockers, King Zebra have been tearing up the European rock scene as of late. Opening for awesome bands like The Dead Daisies, The New Roses and Crystal Ball just to name a few. Armed with their new lead vocalist Eric St Michaels (formally of the band China) and this new self-titled EP, they are setting out to conquer. The EP can really be divided into two pieces, firstly the three songs they released last year and the two new songs they’ve released for this EP. Putting it all together makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

The one thing I will say about this EP is that it has a lot of energy. I mean, it’s the kind of music that makes you want to get up and move. The guitar work is fast and loose and the rhythm sections are tight. The grooves are excellent and the riffs really land a hit every time they come in. The band just feel like a forceful presence at all times. Eric St Michaels is a great vocalist and he sounds amazing here. He’s mixed in really well to the tunes. His vocal performance is really impressive, with a powerful voice and a tonne of charisma he’s able to keep you invested in the songs and adds that extra punch to the hooks. The production is great and easy for any listener to get into and enjoy.

There really isn’t anything to say beyond this. I mean, if you like your 80’s glam rock then this will definitely fill a hole for new material to listen to. It’s an entertaining listen, to say the least. With songs about the general rock topics and production that’s clean enough to get a general audience but edgy enough that rock fan won’t turn it off either. I like the EP, it’s not my favourite release of the year, as good as it sounds and as fun as it is to listen to, it’s just an okay release. Not bad but not something that I have to listen to again and again. It will be one of those EP’s where if it’s on I’ll keep listening but not one I will go out of my way to listen to.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Uncle Paul – Dot Rotten

Posted in CD, Experimental, Rock with tags , , , , , , , on 14th April 2019 by mickbirchy

Uncle Paul
Dot Rotten
Noise Rock, Stoner Rock, Psychedelic
Released 14th January 2019
via Introclusor Records

You guys know me by now. I’m usually the first in line for the weird and experimental side of rock n roll. After all, today’s experimental music is tomorrow’s mainstream. So, why not listen to everything that you can? Which leads me to this EP. Dot Rotton is the newest release from the weird and wonderful Uncle Paul and let’s just say it’s an interesting listening experience, to say the least. Sounding like a weird hybrid of Butthole Surfers, Deerhoof and Lightning Bolt, this band have really captured my imagination. Though this isn’t the best example of the genre, the North-West UK rockers certainly work as a weird noise rock psychedelia band, that incorporate elements of garage rock and stoner rock into their style. Referring to themselves as “refined musical dyslexia” is a good call, because this is what this is, a random assortment of musical ideas thrown into a melting pot and left to simmer.

Though it would take you longer to listen to “In A Gadda Da Vida” than it would this entire EP. I think there is some merit to the EP. In the sense, that you shouldn’t try to investigate it or look into it too deep. It’s more just a musical experience with a hodge-podge of ideas, riffs and distortion just blasting full force at the listener. With vocal effect layered over the sound and weird noise coming from every which way. It’s an EP to lose yourself in and not worry too much about its motivations or connotations. It’s just music for music’s sake and, you know what? That’s actually quite refreshing from time to time. The production is all over the place with nothing really meshing or coming together. Very much like the noise rock movement of the early 90’s this band just make what they feel like and run with the ideas they have.

Let me put this straight, this is not of the average consumer of music. There are no hooks or ear-worms to be found here. Yet, there is some creating bass work, some great riff ideas and guitar licks littered throughout the EP. Which makes it enjoyable enough. Also, considering that a couple of the songs don’t even reach two minutes long and the longest track here is four minutes, the music just passes by so quick that you don’t even realise that you’ve just heard something really fun and ridiculous.

By no means is this a great example of modern rock music. Yet, it serves as an interesting example of the noise rock sound and how it can still be relevant today. Then again, noise rock usually exists outside the normal boundaries of music anyway. If you like that  90’s Gen-Xer sound or watched a lot of Bevis and Butthead then I would recommend this in a strange way. It’s not a masterpiece, nor is it trying to be. It’s designed to be off-putting and weird and to be honest, that’s what I liked about it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Cellar Darling – The Spell

Posted in Alternative, CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 24th March 2019 by mickbirchy

Cellar Darling

The Spell

Progressive Metal , Folk-Metal, Symphonic

Released: 22nd March 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

After being really impressed with their 2017 debut album, This Is The Sound, Cellar Darling have returned with their new record, The Spell. After that debut, I was hoping for another record and I was hoping that they would attempt something a little different. Well, they must have heard my wishes because their second record is a very different beast from the first album. The Spell is a much heavier and more progressive album than This Is The Sound. It feels like a lot more care and attention to detail was put into this album. I mean they improve on their sound in every way conceivable here. There is also an audiobook of the album, which offers more context for all of the songs and where the lead vocalist Anna Murphy adds another layer to this album’s meaning.

This album is just a tonne of fun from the first few notes. Immediately hitting you with those sharp tones and sweet melodies that were present on the last release. The production on this album real super slick and everything feels really tight with all of the instrumentation standing out and playing its part. When it all comes in together, it just sounds so grandiose. This sound can only be described as progressive rock with enchanted whimsy thrown in. The beautiful compositions with excellent sound mixing give the album an other-worldly vibe to, what would be, just another progressive folk-metal album. Then you have the immense vocals of Anna Murphy. She just has an amazing presence on this album, it really is a star-making performance. It baffles me how she isn’t usually brought up in the discussion of the best female rock-vocalists by the fan community. She has so much range both, in vocal technique and in, emotional presentation.

There is a really nice variety of musical styles presented here. From eerie and atmospheric to heavy and “in-your-face”. The Spell will captivate and entrance listeners. I immediately wanted to put it on again and again as this album rewards repeated listens as there is a lot you can miss on your first play-through. There are just so many subtle little things in the music that you only catch on repeated listens. I would say the songs that are really worth your time on this album are “Burn” with its excellent riffs and exciting chorus, “Love” & “Love Pt II” also “Death” & Death Pt II” both of these two-part songs make for excellent companion pieces and really show the strength of Cellar Darling’s songwriting abilities. Also, my personal favourite on the record is the haunting ballad “Sleep” which reminds me of those old progressive tunes where the music sounds like random instrumentation but it really perfectly calculated musicianship.

Yep, I would definitely say this is worth your time. I really didn’t know how they were going to follow up that first album but I truly wasn’t expecting this. The Spell is one of those perfect records to accompany your imagination. It’s enjoyable and enriched with wonderful lyrical content. This one gets a big thumbs up from me.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Stelios Gatziolis – Sphere of Resonance

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Stelios Gatziolis

Sphere of Resonance

Instrumental, Progressive Rock

Released: 30th September 2018

Self Released

 

 

What do I say about this one? It’s weird, I mean I grew up listening to a menagerie of different rock and metal styles. One of the records I loved was Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani. From there on in I always made time to instrumental records done well. So, here I am listening to the new EP by Stelios Gatziolis and I’m not getting into it. I don’t know there really feels like there is something missing from this and I can’t put my finger on it at all. The new EP, Sphere of Resonance dropped last year and it’s done well for the solo guitarist. As well as that, this EP features ex-Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who put his seal of approval on Stelios’ playing by featuring on the tune “Doomgazer”. Not a bad endorsement at all.

The four-track EP is relatively impressive from a technical level. The intricate guitar skill of Stelios is really impressive. The way he weaves in and out of melodies is awesome, it really is a captivating listening experience. The backing band creates a nice backdrop for the guitar to truly shine. The heavy booming bass perfectly syncs up with the well-executed drum work. The keyboard and synths add a really nice atmosphere to the tunes. The guitar playing is slick and you soon pick up on his playing style. As each song has a slightly different variant on this style. The songs all play on the rule of tension and release. Each song builds up the tension and then has a massive payoff of guitar goodness. The song featuring Derek Sherinian, “Doomgazer” probably uses this technique the best.

Unfortunately for all of its positives I still can not get into it. For the most part, it just feels soulless. It just feels like a passion project that was meant for the artist himself and no one else. In fact, it feels like a demo to a much bigger project yet to be released. Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a project is on the way but I hope it is. You know, to justify this EP’s existence. The songs, whilst impressive on a technical level, are meandering and trite. I’m fine with ‘progressive’ music but this feels like a jam session that was recorded and released.

It’s decent enough and I stand by both parts of my review. From a technical view, it’s really good. Yet, at an entertainment level, it’s a little toothless for me.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall