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21.6.12

Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham 'Not Utopia' (Sky Rocket) 4.5/5

One of most interesting releases of 2010 was the album 'The Last Adventure' by Doris Brendel a remarkable album that manged to capture every type of rock genre from prog to punk and wrap it up in one very coherent whole. That album became a listener favourate and ended up being nominated for the Album of the Year award.Now, two years on, Doris is back, this time working with Primary Slave guitarist Lee Dunham (NOT the racing motorcyclist) on this her latest opus.

Not Utopia sounds like The Last Adventures older and more grown up brother - as with the earlier album this one is another glorious mating of styles and genres, but Not Utopia is a far more together and complete work, it dances smoothly from style to style. And what a range of styles we have on offer. Opening cut No Lonely Girl sounds like a female fronted Pendragon on a Hawkwind trip, Going Out is a meaty slice of disco influenced dance rock that hints a little at the Scissor Sisters in feel and bounce. Beyond Words is a strings lead sadly introspective ballad and Too Bad To Be Good is a quirky post rock and roll ditty with a shade of the Jim Steinmans about it.... and so it continues.

However whatever the style the music, the real killer here is Doris' voice. She has the power and range of the true greats and whats more has a real earthy and warm Janice Joplin type edge to it. What is even better; she does none of that annoying cat wailing and flash vocal gymnastics that often passes for 'good singing' these days (just watch any episode of the 'America has the voice factor' to see what I mean), just good old school gusty rock steady old school rock and roll vocalisations. Just check out the post prog excellence of Conflicted to hear one of the vocal performances of the year so far.

It must not also not be over looked that this is not a solo album, a lot of praise must be heaped on Lee Dunham as well, playing everything on here apart from the strings, saxophone and the piano (yup he did the drums as well) and producing the whole kit and caboodle he has forged a series of emotive and sonically stunning soundscapes  that not only bring the best of Doris distinctive voice and song writing talent, but also marks himself out as an arranger, producer and musician of real note.

Highlights? Well I'm getting to like this album lots, but if I had to pick just one track to take to a desert island it would be the closer Your So Not a sweet folky influenced prog track in the Jethro Tull / early Genesis vein with some fantastically dark and cutting lyrics. (and the hidden bonus track is pretty sweet as well of you can find it)

All in all this is a damn fine album from a couple of great British musicians, who deserve to be far better known.

Well worth a spot purchase

For fans of... Joni Mitchell, The Subways,  Janice Joplin, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, ...and many more.

15.6.12

Various Artist - 'Fear Of Fiction - 008 12" Vinyl Compilation' (Fear Of Fiction) 4/5

Fear Of Fiction is a Bristol based music magazine and record label that has been doing a lot in recent years to help raise the profile of music in the Bristol area and this is the latest of their long list of compilations show casing some of the cream of the current crop of up and coming Bristol talent.

And what an interesting listen this one makes. Whilst batting firmly off the old alt and indie rock bats, a quick pick through of this one soon goes to show not only the depth of talent Bristol has to offer but what a diverse fields those old genres are these days. I don't often give a track by track breakdown on these reviews, but here I think I will make an exception.

We kick off with an outfit called Scarlet Rascal & the Trainwrecks doing a rather interesting little cut entitled The Haunting, a sort of post gothic noise rocker that sounds not unlike Rock In Your Pocket jamming with Alien Sex Fiend - a very good thing indeed. Then we have The Hit-Ups  with A Turn At Twelve Paces, a rather tasty slice of punk fueled leftfield post indie that drips heart felt angsty vocals and sweet chiming guitar lines.

Archimedes contribution Orrey is a tad more traditional alt rock in the Radiohead mode, a sweet number, nothing too earth shattering, but good enough to pass muster. Contrast this with Encore Encore by The St Pierre Snake Invasion, a track that blends a post screamo vocal, a sub Sabbath doom metal riff and the spirit of Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages into a rather tasty little pseudo punk pasty. With Casimir and their track Lucid we return to the more mainstream modern indie vibe, whose dreamy vocals and a stammering guitar lines are sure to make this lot a big hit with the students.

Idles provide one of the real stand out cuts on here with Thieves, still very much indie, but here those chiming guitars are given an almost rockerbilly beat and the whole song drives on in an almost Cheap Trick pop-rock vibe. My Favourate track on offer is Grand Moff Tarkin by The Naturals, which features an almost prog rock signature riff and a wonderfully spacey atmosphere.

Another cracker is Call The Doctor's Seventeen. Nice crunchy hard rocking punk inspired riffs, a Lauren Harris style vocals and the overall vibe of the great and much lamented SAL. Trials by Mayans is another cut that falls into the more traditional indie territory, but is still a sweet little cut overall with some wonderfully tripped out moments, some engaging vocals and a dreamy laid back feel.

The album finishes with Nightmares by Emma McNeill, a rather fetching soft rocker with some distinctive and compelling vocals wrapped around some rather deep and heart felt lyrics.

Over all this compilation is pretty good and shows a good insight into whats going on on the local indie and alt rock scenes, and maximum praise to Fear Of Fiction for all their hard work in getting local music out there and in the public eye.

Recommended

For Fans Of... Good music in the alt / indie vein


For more information on Fear Of Fiction and this album visit - http://www.fearoffiction.com

13.6.12

Jorn - 'Bring heavy Rock To The Land' (frontiers) 5/5

OK I'll admit I'm turning into a bit of fan of Norway's finest metal hero Jorn Lande and his solo band Jorn, Maybe its his sounding uncannily like Ronnie James Dio at times, maybe its cos he pens and performs balls out old school hard rockers full of lyrics like 'raise the metal signs and bring heavy rock to the land' or maybe its the cover artwork that turns me on. I suspect its all three, but whatever the reason. This band speaks to me in ways I've not been spoken to for years, they revive my teenage years when all that was really important, was getting the beers in, getting off with girls and listening to a bottom booting metal sound track while you were doing it.

Now this is the seventh studio album Mr Lande has issued under the Jorn monicker (he has done many others with Masterplan, Vagabond, Millennium and a host of other projects), and I gotta admit in my humble opinion this is one of his best. Aided and abetted by a very talented band of metal merchants including guitarist Tore Moren and drummist Willy Bendiksen he has cooked up a cracking metal album of the old school that pay tribute to and is more than equal to the metal of 25 years ago. You get slices of Dio and 80's Sabbath (natch), hints at the Michael Schenker Group, hat tips to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and even a garnish of The Scorpions for good measure.

There is not a weak moment on offer here. Highlights include the Dio-esque title track, the Rainbow influenced Chains Around You, the power drive of the Helloween tinged Time To Be King, and the closer I Came To Rock a cut that has a certain Armored Saint feel to it. There is also an interesting cover of the Christopher Cross cut Ride Like The Wind which comes over like the version Saxon originally had in mind before they had their take on it remixed and murdered for the American Radio market.

Basically this record does just what it says on the cover, it brings heavy rock to the land by the JCB bucket load, and in a world awash with ten thousand minority metal sub genres the fact that Mr Lande and friends are still producing no bullshit quality hard rock of the old school to such a high standard can only be seen as a very good thing indeed.

Buy or Die

For fans of.. Dio, Black Sabbath, Helloween, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, UFO and classic hard rock in general.

Six Feet Under - 'Undead' (metalblade) 4/5

Formed back in the early 1990's by Chris Barnes (ex-Cannibal Corpse) and Allen West (ex-Obituary) Florida outfit Six Feet Under have become fairly major players on the US death metal underground, with eight previous studio albums and three more albums of 'fun' cover versions theur distinctive brand of groove flavoured death has won them a lot of friends and now we have album number nine to delight us.

Now despite a bit of internal upheaval in the recording of this one (guitarist  Rob Arnold quitting on the day of release having already played the bass on this one following the departure of Terry Butler early in the recording process) SFU have delivered a nice tight, competent and very entertaining record. It manages to comfortably bridge the gap between death metal and the mainstream, being heavy, and brutal enough to keep yer average Cannibal Corpse fan pit happy, whilst heading far enough into Machine Head / Lamb Of God territory without leading to any hint of an accusation of sell out.

There are 12 cuts on offer, all penned, performed and produced to a high standard. Highlights include the post Sabbath riff fest of Blood On My Hands, the groove metal workout of Reckless and the doom fueled plod and pound of Vampire Apocalypse. Impressive stuff indeed, but my fave cut on here is the closing 'micro-epic' Depths of Depravity which manages to compact a full on multi section prog doom epic into under four minutes.

All in all this is another very worthy album from a very worthy band that after 20 years or so are still showing no signs of running out of ideas.

Worth checking out

For fans of... Machine Head, Unearth, Lamb Of God, Titan's Eve.....


Richard Marx - 'Inside My Head' - (frontiers) 4/5

US based soft rocker Richard Marx has become something of an institution with the more AOR types of rockers. Ever since his big break came in the late 1980's with a string of US chart busters, such as his seminal single 'Hazard', he has built up a loyal following worldwide and is still bringing out quality records in his trade mark feel good laid back rock style.

This double album is his latest release and is a sort of semi compilation work, bringing together a number of tracks from a couple of download only albums such as 'Emotion Remains' and 'Sundown' along with a few other odd songs he seams to have had laying around.

All in all this is pretty standard Richard Marx fare. Late night chilled out ballads such as Through My Veins and Loved rub shoulders with some very listenable light weight rockers such as Over My Head, Always On My Mind and Come Running... metalheads and the like my find it a bit forgettable, but anyone with a taste for the early works of Elton John, Tom Petty and The Eagles will find a lot here to entertain them.

Chuck in the fact that Mr Marx had a bit of a talent for songsmithery; turning out catchy hooks, intelligent lyrics and hummable melodies and for anyone who likes their rock on the soft side this one has a lot to offer.

Highlights? well this album is pretty good over all, and there is any track that strikes you as duff, but my fave cuts have to be the hard edged rocker All Over Me and the funky groove workout of Scars.

Worth checking out if you like good solid soft rock

For Fans Of... Tommy Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, House Of Lords....