It has been eight years since the last album from Seventh Wonder, but they are finally back with their fifth studio album with just one line-up change from ‘The Great Escape’. I am not really sure why it has taken so long for them to release this, but I presume the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of singer Tommy Karevik who also joined Kamelot with whom he has released three albums. But they are back, and in many ways it is almost as if they have never been away. This is very polished melodic rock with symphonic overtones and great vocals (yes, I know they are often classed as prog metal, but while this is a great album, prog metal it isn’t).
Tommy Karevik is recognised as being one of the best frontmen around, and here he is being given the perfect playground. Given that bass player Andreas Blomqvist, guitarist Johan Liefvendahl and drummer keyboard player Andreas “Kyrt” Söderin have all been in the band since 2000 it should be no surprise they lock in well, while drummer Stefan Norgren (ex: Lion´s Share) drives the music along with a much more powerful and dynamic approach to many in this field. This is melodic and powerful, and far heavier than would often be expected from bands on the Frontiers label. Let’s hope it isn’t quite so long until the next one. 8/10
Roz Vitalis have been one of the most consistent progressive rock bands out of Russia for many years now, always stretching boundaries with avant garde and jazz inspired music, and this their latest album definitely shows them playing to their strengths. Recorded at two different venues in Saint Petersburg and Narva in 2018, the line-up now has a new drummer in Evgeny Trefilov, while band leader keyboard player Ivan Rozmainsky has also brought in saxophone player Ilya Belorukov which also allows the band to spread their wings even further. While four pieces are from their most recent studio album, ‘The Hidden Man of the Heart’, the other three are new compositions.
It is completely instrumental, and while Rozmainsky is at the heart of everything which is taking place, the use of sax on five of the numbers and clarinet on the other two has the band combining jazz, avant garde and elements of VDGG to create something which is sometimes challenging, always fascinating and certainly never boring. No one can accuse Roz Vitalis of wanting to follow the prog mainstream but instead are out there attempting to push boundaries and create something which is truly progressive and not another clone. This album has been released through Bandcamp, and I urge you to discover not only this but also the back catalogue of one the most interesting and enjoyable prog bands around.
In 2018 my good friend Olav furnished me with a copy of Doug Rausch’s second album which had recently been released. Some months later Doug tracked me down and we started having regular contact. During that period, I mentioned that I hadn’t heard the debut, and if he would like it reviewed… So, although ‘Book II’ was released in 2018, ‘Rausch’ actually came out as long ago as 2009, and we are now in the 10thanniversary year. In some ways I find it incredibly surprising there was such a gap between the two, and in other ways possibly not so much. I have lost count of how many times I have played this album recently but know that it is a great deal many more times than I would normally for something I was planning to review.
Doug is first and foremost a pianist and came to public attention when Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) heard a college demo and then asked him to perform in the very first Keyfest. This helped in attracting guitarist/bassist Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) with drums provided by Joe Novolo and Doug everything else, while Rich Mouser (Neal Morse, Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater) was also involved. The result is an album, where a piano is often at its heart, combined with some stunning guitar, and a mix of styles which should be said to be eclectic. Imagine Wheatus combined with Queen, mixing it up with Bowling For Soup, with some Galahad or IQ is thrown in for good measure, topped up with a little Pallas, and you may get close to what this album is like. It is light, it is joyous, and every time I play it I enjoy it just that little bit more. The ballad like “B.P.M.S.” is acoustic, gentle, and totally irreverent. It is a Seventies album to its very core, and will be enjoyed by anyone who wants to search it out. Doug has a new website, https://rauschband.com/home, so visit it, stream some songs and see what I making a fuss about. This is fun, and sometimes that is all I want from my music.
Originally released in 2008, October last year saw Aural Music celebrating the 10thanniversary of the album by reissuing with new artwork by Umberto Stagni, new remastered tracks plus a second bonus CD containing the previously unreleased ‘Live in Russi 2010’. This package now contains 24 songs and is an impressive 103 minutes in length. Although this is the older album, the sheer length combined both with great songs and live versions means this is the album to start with if you haven’t come across these Italian metallers prior to this. I swear some of the songs wouldn’t sound out of place on Wolfsbane’s mighty ‘All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place’ (boy was I pissed when Blaze joined Maiden a few years later). This is power metal, played powerfully, with stacks of aggression, great hooks, all combined with a serious dose of commerciality. This was the first album to feature singer Francesco “Il Biondo” Grandi (who had left by the time of their latest, ‘Spacepirates’) and he has the perfect presence and vocal style to really make his presence felt over the top of a punching backline.
Accept have again also been an inspiration, but classic Wolfsbane are at the forefront of what they are doing and anyone who remembers them in their prime should be seeking this out. Aural Music often release music which is quite removed from the mainstream, but in Rain they have a band who could, and should, easily be featured on hard rock radio. They are certainly an act I am going to keep an eye on, as this is both incredibly solid and a load of fun to listen to. If you enjoy classic metal with influences from the new wave, then this is definitely something you should be seeking out.
magine if you will Wolfsbane and Accept coming together to produce NWOBHM flavoured power metal with a very heavy bottom end, and then you may get close to what this Italian band released in 2016. Actually, this is still the most recent new release by the band who have had more than a few line-up challenges during their career, but when a band can state they will soon be celebrating their fortieth anniversary then that is something that should be expected. Prior to this album I must confess I hadn’t come across them before, and there isn’t that much information available about them on the web (doesn’t help when they have a one-word name which is a common word), but I have definitely been missing out.
True, there isn’t anything dramatically new about what they are doing, and the songs are never exactly memorable, but when it is being played at the right volume there is something about this which just makes me smile. This is metal which is all about having a good time, not trying to be anything more than music to get people moving and into the party mood. It has both the naivety of NWOBHM and the polish of power metal, combined with some reasonable tunes and plenty of riffs. There are a few power ballads, but they always keep the chords close to hand and never become too schmaltzy. Not a band or album which will ever set the world on fire, but this shows just why they have been around for so long.