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OSI - 'Fire Make Thunder' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Fates Warning / Arch Matheos guitarist Jim Matheos must be a contender for the hardest working man in rock award. Just six months or so after the release of the most recent Arch - Matheos album, he's back, working once more with Chroma Key (and ex Dream Theater) keys man Kevin Moore and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison to bring us this the fourth album from OSI.

Now I'll admit I'm rapidly becoming a bit of a fan of Mr Matheos, and with this release he has cooked up another winner. From the dark and almost paranoic opening of Cold Call, which builds and builds for almost two minutes before the first killer guitar riff cuts in; to the desolate and bleak closing chords of Invisible Men; this whole album is a sonic ride through a glorious texture of sounds, styles and musical excellence. You get gloriously powerful metal riffing, some infectious pseudo electronic beats and rhythms and some truly inspirational prog rock moments, yet its all blended together into a superb whole that keeps the listener hooked from beginning to end.

Highlights include the almost Pink Floyd like Indian Curse, the Porcupine Tree influenced Wind Wont Howl and For Nothing, a track that has a certain blues feel about it.

In short Mr Matheos and Mr Moore have served up a fantastic album here, and with the once great Dream Theater falling apart at the seams and vanishing up their own backsides, it is one that may well catapult OSI into the top slot of US prog.

Very highly recommended

For fans of... Dream Theatre, Porcupine Tree, Panic Office, Opeth etc.....

Jack Blades - 'Rock And Roll Ride' (frontiers) 4.5/5

Legendary four stringer Jack Blades has had a bit of a glittering career, having done time in Rubicon, Damn Yankees & Blades and Shaw amongst others, he's still a key member of the classic AOR outfit Night Ranger, penned several movie sound tracks and played session for the likes of Ringo Starr, Ted Nugent, Motley Crue and a whole host of others to boot. And that's not to mention a long list of song writing credits.Yet he has still found time to bang out a couple of solo albums, of which this is the latest.

Now I will say from the off that I'm liking this one lots and lots. Rock and Roll Ride is an eleven track long old school rock and roll album, the sort of thing you used to get off the likes of REO Speedwagon before they sold out to the MTV vid kid movement. Kicking off with the highly boppable Back In the Game, this record just rocks. We get some great hard rockers like Born For This, The Who meets Tom Petty influenced Love Life and the superb title track that hints at classic Aussie rockers Rose Tattoo. Then there are other influences in here as well; West Hollywood is a fantastic piece of laid back west coast post psyche rock that hints at the likes of The Beach Boys and Supertramp. Closer Hey Now, is a nicely chilled out semi blues fueled cut that has an almost country rock vibe and Anything For You (penned by Cheap Tricks Robin Zander) is a classic pop-rock track of the old school. All in all this is a damn good album, and one I can't stop playing.

In short this album is a big of a gem and one I will recommend to anyone who likes classic US rock at its best.

Just great

for fans of... Cheap Trick, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty.....

Jeff Scott Soto - 'Damage Control' (frontiers) 3.5/5

New Yorker Jeff Scott Soto is definitely a guy who gets around a bit. So far he has sang for the likes of Journey, Talisman (the Swedish rock outfit, not the UK reggae band), Yngwie Malmsteen and a fair few more, sang sessions for every one from Brian May to Lita Ford and even done sond tracks for TV shows like Biker Mice From Mars and the movie Rock Star; and he still has found time to put out a string of twelve solo albums, of which this is the latest.

Now it cannot be denied that this guy as a great voice and knows how to use it to maximum effect. There are eleven cuts on offer here ranging from hard edged power ballads like If I Never Let Her Go and How To Love Again through to some great hard edged rockers like Krazy World and Look Inside Your Heart. Ok it does get a little bit cliche and cheesy in places, but there is still enough good stuff on show here to keep the interest going. Add in the fact that Mr Soto is aided and abetted here by the likes of Y&T's Dave Meniketti and Night Ranger's Joel Hoekstra and you do have an enjoyable if not exactly earth shattering album.

In short, a good effort that the AOR fans will love and the rest will find interesting at least.

Worth a quick look

For fans of... Journey, Drivin' and Cryin', Loverboy, Night Ranger, etc....

Veil Of Maya - 'Eclipse' (Sumerian) 3.5/5

This is album number four from Illinois progressive deathcore outfit Veil of Maya, a band who are very much caught up in the hip and happening djent scene at the moment.

Now I'm not sure if I like this one or not. There are places on this album like the brutal post hardcore riff fest of The Glass Slide and the progtastic Eclipse, that I can only describe as superb. Yet in other places such as the messy and over complex Divide Paths where any kind of vibe and musical flow has been sacrificed on the alter of seaming soulless math rock.

This is a shame, cos there is a lot of interesting stuff going on here, the musicianship is great and Brandon Butlers pig grunt vocals are as brutal and effective as it gets.

Still its horses for courses I suppose, and djentist and the like will love it up.

Try before you buy

For fans of... Periphery, Rolo Tomassi, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless, Uneven Structure....

Delusion Squared - 'Delusion Squared II' (self released) 4.5/5

One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2010 was the debut album from French prog outfit Delusion Squared, a dark yet alluring concept work about corporate control, genetic engineering and revolution. Now two years on we have this nugget of a follow up.

Once again we have a concept work, this time dealing with a dark and complex tale about the end of the world, and once again it is a tale well told through first rate musicianship and song writing.

Vocalist Lorraine Young has a sweet, almost innocent sounding voice, coming over a tad like the great Errin Williams - all restrained and with an almost childlike charm. Yet it works so well, when the other two (who I'll get to in a moment) a playing the soft folky type stuff it blends perfectly, then when the guys start to lean on it and rock it up a bit the juxtaposition is spine tingling. Just check out the middle section on Recipe For Disaster to see exactly what I mean.

As for the other two members of this project, Steve Francis and Emmanuel de Saint Meen - here are two performers of the highest level. Not only are they first rate musicians, but they have read the prog rock 101 instruction manual - Mark Kelly style keyboard widdles, Andy Latimer style guitar solos, interesting time signatures and key changes... and know how to apply them and keep just the right side of cliche - and they have also learned the biggest lesson of all. In music rules are made to be broken. And that is what makes Delusion Squared stand out head and shoulders above so many other of the generic proggy wannabes out there.

Highlights? well this is a smooth and seamless concept work, so picking out any individual track would be wrong, but my favourate moment has to be the shiver inducing Vertical Paradox.

In short this is another great album, but a truly great band.

Highly Recommended

For fans of... Mostly Autumn, Porcupine Tree, Pendragon, Camel, Darwins Radio....