LACUNA COIL – THE 119 SHOW – LIVE IN LONDON – CENTURY MEDIA

To celebrate twenty years, Lacuna Coil played a special sold-out show at O2 Forum Kentish Town in London on 19th January 2018, which has now been made available in multiple formats. After the release of their 2014 album ‘Broken Crown Halo’ the band went through some major line-up changes with the departure of drummer Cristiano Mozzati and guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi. But they returned with a new line-up and ‘Delirium’ in 2016, and there is certainly nothing here that shows that the band have been through any significant change.

Although bassist/guitarist/keyboard player Marco Coti-Zelati has been providing music since the very first album, he is happy to hide behind a mask, as does new drummer Ryan Blake Folden and guitarist Diego Cavallotti, as their role is to provide the music for Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro who control the stage. There are times when the three musicians all stay at the rear to allow all the spotlights to be on the singers, and it is their harmonies and different styles working together with the dark melancholic Goithic metal that really makes this band stand out. For fans who have been there since the beginning there is plenty here to enjoy, as they really do run through their whole career in a set that is nearly three hours long. To hear songs such as “My Wings” from their debut ‘In A Reverie’ is wonderful, while “Comalies” of course gets a huge reaction. Theatrical, over the top, this is an amazing set, which of course finishes with the mighty “Nothing Stands In Our Ways”.

This is a superb record of the first twenty years, and they are showing no sign at all of slowing down. If you have yet to hear Lacuna Coil then this is essential, and if you are a fan they you must already have it. Exciting, dynamic and powerful, this is Lacuna Coil at their very best. 10/10

LACUNA COIL – BROKEN CROWN HALO – CENTURY MEDIA

I still remember hearing ‘In A Reverie’, ‘Unleashed Memories’ and ‘Comalies’ when they were released – three albums that made a huge impact and certainly launched this Italian dual vocal Gothic inspired act straight into the big time. I hadn’t heard any of their material for a while until I came across this 2014 album, which immediately got me wondering why on earth I hadn’t stayed current with their career, as Cristina Scabbia has an amazing voice, singing sweetly or with venom as the need arises, and in Andrea Ferro she has the perfect foil and when they combine they lift each other, and then there is the driving bottom end of the music which is punchy, hard and bombastic with symphonic elements that lift it way out of the norm. 

There are times when it somehow feels commercial, with buzzsaw riffs, but is that just because the scene has moved so much since they first came on the scene, as there is still an honesty and passion shining through what they are delivering. Ferro is a great singer in his own right, able to provide multiple styles, and with these two at the front it is no surprise the guys behind them have to keep mixing it up and punching hard. The more I played this album the more I wanted to play it, as there is a groove and life behind this which is simply superb. Hard, smooth, heavy, silky and raw, this is well worth investigating. 8/10

KEN WILEY – CUERNO EXOTICA – KRUGPARK MUSIC

I have only come across one other of Ken’s albums, 2014’s ‘Jazz Horn Redux’ and this is a totally different beast both in terms of personnel and style. Much of this album feels incredibly Latin and Cuban, and Wiley shares the lead voices with Mark Leggett (acoustic guitar) and Dan Higgins (flute), although a special mention must be made of Bernie Dresel (drums) and Luis Conte (percussion) for the incredible feeling they pour into the music. There are very few bands of any style which are led by a French Horn player (Wiley also provides piano), and it does take the ear a little while to realise exactly what is going on. But what makes this album works so well is that Ken realises that often he is better placed to provide a supporting role and lets one of the others take the lead. It is certainly the arrangements and switching between different leads, combined with the superb percussion, which provides the album with a real life and vitality. It is often very bass and woodwind oriented, but the acoustic guitar also has a major part to play within the sound as a whole.

Balanced, sophisticated, this Latin jazz album is inviting, warm and full of exotic delights.  7/10

KARMAMOI – THE DAY IS DONE – SONICBOND

At the time of their last album, 2016’s ‘Silence Between Sounds’, the band had been reduced to a trio with guests, but now they are down to just the duo of Daniele Giovannoni (drums, keyboards and backing vocals) and Alex Massari (guitars and backing vocals) as bassist Alessandro Cefalì is also now listed as a guest and only plays on four songs. Strangely, all vocals are by Sara Rinaldi who also provides the lyrics, but she is not listed as being a member of the band. It is safe to say that I haven’t been the biggest fan of this band in the past, viewing their last two albums as solid and okay but not incredibly interesting, but that is no longer the case as I have found myself playing this a great deal indeed. Interestingly, this a concept album, but not the normal subject matter one may expect. When the tragedy which was the Grenfell Tower fire took place on 14thJune 2017 the writing of the album was already well advanced. 89 people died in the burning of that London skyscraper and among the many stories, we were deeply struck by that of two Syrian boys, Omar and Mohammed, who fled from Syria in the war, finding refuge and a new life in Britain. Mohammed died in the fire and his brother was unable to help him.

 Daniele Giovannioni continues: “This typified my feeling of discomfort with the world. Many of us humans are on the run and living in fear of not being accepted. The two Syrian boys typified this feeling of unease. The terror in the eyes of the survivors of the fire was the same as that of the survivors of a bombing or an attack. Certainly, those who suffer a such a bombing know that it is possible there will be another, while those who are victims of a fires can hope that such a thing will never to be repeated, but the desire to escape is the same for everyone.”

Again, there are plenty of guests involved, most notably Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and Geoff Leigh (Steven Wilson, Ex-Wise Heads), but this album works best when it is at its most simple, gentle atmospheric piano combined with ethereal vocals. The production is superb, while the use fretless bass adds additional dynamics. This definitely feels like a band as opposed to a few musicians being thrown together for the occasion. At times incredibly Floydian, others more like Camel, what makes this album work so well is the sense of drama and the way the music moves and flows from one style to another. I wasn’t a fan of Sara’s vocals on the last album, but here she is a perfect fit with the music, and in many ways, this feels to me like a totally different band to what I had reviewed in the past.

There has been major step change in all directions, and the result is an album that is full of passion, thought, hooks and drive which keeps the listener involved engaged. That they can change from simplicity to complexity, quiet solitude to rock band, totally confident in throwing out rock guitar shapes and solos or keeping it tied down, shows just how far they have come in such a short time. Well worth investigating.
8/10

MAGIC MOMENTS AT – TWILIGHT TIME – CREAVOLUTION REBORN – TMR RECORDS

To say I was surprised when this arrived recently was something of an understatement. Although Mick and I have been in contact quite a bit over recent years as he delves back into the Music & Elsewhere back catalogue and his own MMATT, all that has been digital. But here we have a physical CD, with an incredibly informative booklet detailing the recording process for the original ‘Creavolution’, which was released on CD in 1996. Apparently the original sessions were recorded down to three TDK DAT tapes which were discovered to be still playable in late 2017, so they were transferred to PreSonus Studio One V3 professional software. They were then remastered at the same studios where the album was recorded, Brain Dead Studios, by the same producer, Marc Bell. 

I defy anyone to listen to this a couple of times and then not find themselves going around the house singing the chorus to “The Starship Psychotron”, it is just bloody annoyingly catchy. The whole album has a warmth and big studio sound missing in many ways from the original, and all these years down the road it is wonderful to be listening to it again. It is nice to be able to listen to the music without the awareness of all the issues that went with the original release. There were many problems with the initial CD pressing, which was only resolved after Mick went to court, and it was only after this was resolved that they could get it re-pressed by another company and it was released some seven months after it should have been.

To Mick it is more than just a reissue. “For me, this is far more than just a remaster of a 22 year old album, this is catharsis. ‘Creavolution’ may well have been the most successful MMATT album and best-selling M&E release ever, but it was always something of a hollow victory for me, overshadowed as it was, at least in my mind, by the bitter legal battle with the original manufacturer, that both surrounded and tainted its release. When you’re involved in a civil case like that, at County Court level, it’s very hard to keep a sense of perspective, it can easily become very all-consuming, especially when there are no legal professionals to handle everything for you. It had a profoundly damaging effect on my personal life, the aftermath of which Sam and I only just came through in one piece; it was the beginning of seven long years on anti-depressants, which may well alleviate some of the worst symptoms of unending melancholy, but it also fucks with your motivation, drive and ability to concentrate. By the time I came off the damned things, Music & Elsewhere was on its last legs. It would also be 20 years before I recorded another note, and that was just two tracks for MMATT’s 30th anniversary in 2016. Even by that point, I’d already been talking about ‘one last MMATT album’ for at least three years. It just kept not happening. Somehow, I think I needed closure on this one first. 23 years after we finished recording the album, I can finally enjoy it for what it is; “The best damn space rock ‘n roll, dance party, sci fi concept album I’ve ever heard!!!” (Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations)”.Alternative, underground, catchy, poppy, sequencers, keyboards, drum machine (which sounds perfect here, in its proper environment), rock and roll, time travel, fun. Yes, FUN. I love playing this as it allows me to enjoy music without concentrating too hard. Visit Mick’s site at http://www.mickmagic.net/to get the free digital download, or buy the CD. It may not be what you normally listen to, but you will be grateful you did so. 8/10

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