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24.10.11

Autumn - 'Cold Comfort' (metalblade) 4/5

I'll be honest and say I had never heard of Dutch hard / progressive rockers Autumn until this one arrived in my inbox, apparently its their fifth full length offering, and I'm beginning to wonder what I've been missing.

Over recent years I've become a little tired of and endless wave of female fronted so called prog rock that has become the standard prog fair in recent years. In essence most of it has been third rate post All About Eve neo-folk meets second rate Fleetwood Mac clones showing very little in either rock or progression. However this is not the case here and I'll be first to admit I'm enjoying this one very muchly.

For a start this album isn't pure prog, sure it has a strong progressive influence in places, take the nice 7/4 time signature section in Alloy or the driving synth intro on Naeon for example, but there is other stuff going on on this album as well. Opening cut The Scarecrow, has some nice old school metal riffage on show that conjurers up memories of cult NWOBHM outfit Runestaff, End Of Sorrow has an almost gothic vibe to it that sounds not unlike Karmadeva, Black Stars In A Blue Sky is a great hard rocker that brings to mind the likes of Within Temptation and the great Anubis. Sure there are folky moments, but they are less away-with-the-fairies, and more kidnapped by the goblins.

Musically this is a pretty well realised album. Vocalist Marjan Welman has a very pure and charming voice that has touches of the great Cathy Lesurf (former Albion Band vocalist) and it is used to perfect effect to both counterpoint the heavier and more complex sections on offer and to blend in perfectly with the quieter moments. The two van der Vaulks, Jens and Mats, on guitar are also just as versatile, be it playing driving riffs, mellow acoustic interludes or soaring solos they manage all with ease.

The over all effect this album generates is quite a dark one, although in places it can come over quite light weight it never looses the feeling of black menace that purveys through out all nine cuts, and to me, who is some one who likes hit art dark and gritty and hates movies with happy endings is a very good thing.

In short this is a very enjoyable album that manages to sit well between the hard rock, heavy metal and prog rock stools and will be enjoyed by fans of all those genres.

For fans of... Anubis, Nightwish, Delusion Squared, Within Temptation, Trillium....

Rush - 'Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland' (roadrunner) 4/5

To say Rush are true elder statesmen of rock is a gross understatement. Since they first crawled wide eyed and innocent from the suburbs of Toronto in 1968 they have grown to become one of the biggest selling rock outfits of all time. 40 million units shifted, gold and platinum discs by the shed load, 18 studio albums, eight previous live sets and more singles than you can shake a stick at... all goes to show that over the years they must be doing something right And now we have live album number nine to keep the Rush heads happy while they are waiting for next years Clockwork Angels, which will be studio opus number 19.

Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland, was recorded in Cleveland Ohio (natch) as part of a North American tour the band played as a break from the recording of the Aforementioned Clockwork Angles opus. Now I know live albums can be a bit of contentious issue amongst rock fans. Some, me included, love them and revel in the rawness, the power and the atmosphere they create, others tend to find them too rough, under produced and lacking the polish of studio recordings. Horses for courses I suppose, and I know this one is going to be just as divisive.

Basically this is a warts-and-all-as-it-happened raw live set. All the little mistakes and errors have been left in. For example Geddy Lees voice on the first few tracks isn't fully warmed up, and he doesn't quite hit some of the high notes on the opener Spirit Of the Radio, Alex Lifeson does a few nearly dropped notes and swift recovery in places like the intro to Presto, later on in a few places a tiring Neil Peart tends to drag the tempo on a few tracks. Now before you fill the comment box damning me for saying that these rock gods are making errors let me explain that this is a GOOD THING. It shows that what we have on offer here is a genuine live show, there's been little or no post production studio tinkering or over dubbing going on, and its those little imperfections that make the live performance come alive, if you want it note perfect stick to the studio stuff, live albums are about excitement and atmosphere not slavish musical reproduction. Besides this album is a full concert well over two hours long, I defy anyone to go on stage with any instrument and play for that length of time without making the odd fluff or getting a bit weary. Hell, when I'm onstage with Alien Stash Tin I'm struggling after half that time, so I have maximum respect for these guys for doing it for two hours plus night after night and still keep playing to this exceptionally high standard.

And to be honest the standard of playing is as good as you can expect from these three musical legends. Once he's warmed up Geddy Lees voice is still as rangy and as distinctive as it was back in the 1970's, Mr Lifeson is still showing why he is one of the most influential guitarists of all time, and whether your one of the people who thinks Neil Peart is one the greatest drummers the world has ever known, or one of those who thinks he's too flash for his own good, the fact remains he does what he does in fine style (even if it is a 6 minute drum solo).

Gotta admit the set on offer is a pretty good un as well, I'm glad to hear my all time fave Rush cut Time Stands Still given an airing (no Analogue Kid, The Trees, Body Electric or New World Man though, still you can't have it all), all the old faves are on show, Tom Sawyer, Spirit Of The Radio, Red Barchetta, 2112 Overture... along with some more recent cuts like Workin' Them Angels and Far Cry. Plus there is an airing for a couple of numbers, Caravan and BU2B, from next years Clockwork Angels album that shows that the magic of the Rush machine shows no sign of drying up anytime soon.

So as far as live albums go, or Rush live albums go for that matter, this is pretty good, its no Exit Stage Left, but its still pretty damn fine all the same.

Well worth checking out.

For fans of.... Rush and classic rock in general

Mind Museum - 'The Power Of Three' (self released) 4/5

Bristol act Mind Museum haven't been around that long but they have already shared stages with the likes of Royal Republic and are beginning to build a solid home town reputation as an act to take note of. now they have just issued this six track mini album.

In their release blurb they describe themselves as post rock, a term I've never really got, after all when did rock die? and its a term that will normally put me off a band from the start, but as these guys are local and I was spurred on by their growing local reputation I decided to give them a go and I'm glad I did.

There are six tracks on offer here and the over all vibe is one that brings to mind the likes of Kids In Glass Houses, Lost Prophets with touches of Biffy Clyro and Funeral For A Friend. Lots of nice commercial melodic vocals, chiming guitars and slick danceable rhythms. But the more you listen the more you hear going on.

The opener The Watcher starts off with a Led Zep style drum intro and cuts into a riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Grifter track before firing head first into a as fine a slice of pop-rock sensibilities your likely to hear anywhere. Next track Rat Race has a snifter of AFI in their quieter moments about it and then we get the real surprise, Everything Eventually opens with a riff that is pure Hogarth era Marillion and resolves into another cool and listenable slice of commercial rock that has a Tiger Please vibe about it.

Add in the jagged glass riffage of Gambling Man with its sub hardcore growled chorus punchline, the sneering frustrated angst of The Secret Of Happiness and mini epic closer Seal The Cracks which its semi hardcore sensibilities, Amity Affliction style riffs and KIGH over all vibe; and you have in this album something to make most rockers, both pre and post sit up and take notice.

Basically this is a very worthy offering from a good young band who show a lot of promise, and one you should check out

for fans of.... Kids In Glass Houses, Tiger Please, The Effect, AFI....