MARCO RAGNI – LAND OF BLUE ECHOES – MELODIC REVOLUTION

Having enjoyed Marco’s 2018 album, ‘The Wandering Caravan’, I have now gone back to the previous release, 2016’s ‘Land of Blue Echoes’. He again provides multiple instruments himself, and has brought together a stellar cast of musicians, including the wonderful Peter Matuchniak on acoustic and electric guitars. Colin Tench also provides guitar on the opening number, “Between Moon and Earth”, which made me stop when I realised as it is nearly the anniversary of his sad passing. We had been swapping emails on Christmas Day in our normal jokey manner, and just two days later he was gone. Both Poms, both living away from the land of our birth, at opposite ends of the planet, he signed his off “Colin of the North”.

But, this isn’t one of Colin’s great albums, but again another masterpiece by Marco. He not only provides vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, Greek bouzouki and bass, but also  keyboards and piano. His ability to play multiple instruments enables to get the best out of those he is working with, with masterful arrangements. Drummer Jacopo Ghirardini  is a monster behind the kit, driving complex rhythms (or sitting there having a rest), while Peter demonstrates yet again that he can turn his guitar style to anything at hand. He can be delicate and restrained, Gilmour or Latimer-like, or he can turn on the overdrive and become far more powerful.

It is the multiple styles that makes this such an interesting album to listen to, with elements of Pink Floyd and (especially) Tangerine Dream giving way to some driving hard rock, all controlled and making perfect sense throughout. There are a couple of epics on the album, which comes in at more than 70 minutes long, and although there are long instrumental passages there are also some wonderfully delicate and powerful vocals from baritone Durga McBroom, which add to the feel of class which is prevalent throughout this release. Strong bass counter rhythms and melodies, Spanish guitar, it all combines to produce yet another compelling album from Marco which is well worth investigating. 8/10

MAGIC MOMENTS AT TWILIGHT TIME – FLASHBAX ULTIMATE – KLAPPSTUHL

I probably first came across Mick Magic some 25 years or so ago when he was not only running an underground cassette label Music & Elsewhere, which released nearly 600 albums between 1987 and 2003, but also had a band called Magic Moments at Twilight Time. It is safe to say that they were incredibly prolific themselves, releasing material not only through the M&E label but on others. There were ten volumes of a series called ‘Flashbax’, and German label Klappstuhl Records has released a “best of” that set, based on a fan poll conducted in 1992, specifically for a proposed ‘best of’ called ‘In Search Of Albert’, which never saw the light of day. Mick then added an additional disc of songs specially chosen by him, which assists in telling the story of the band, in their own quirky little style, all the way from their time travelling adventures that made our early existence so confusing, right up to the final track of the cassette era, “Freedom Overflow”, used for some years as the theme tune of the renowned pirate radio station. 

I really wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I revisited this for the first time, as I remembered MMATT were quite an acquired taste, but I put on the headphones and decided to immerse myself in music that in some places goes back thirty years. It took a little while, but I soon realised I was smiling while I was playing this. It is nothing like what I normally listen to, as not only are the keyboards and sequencers horribly dated, but they must have sounded that way when the music was first made available. It is independent underground alternative rock pop which has elements of space rock contained within it, is jagged, simplistic, yet thoroughly enjoyable all at the same time. When the album finished, 18 songs and more than two hours later, I was really disappointed that it was over and had to delve back into it again. This is not music that takes itself seriously, but rather is all about having loads of cheap synths and sequencers with female vocals, and then having the nerve to make the music incredibly catchy and fun. Listening to it again and bloody hell I’m still smiling! Available for just €5 from 

https://klappstuhl.bandcamp.com/album/flashbax-ultimate 8/10

LANDMVRKS – FANTASY – ARISING EMPIRE RECORDS

Apparently this metalcore quartet started off life as Coldsight in 2014, only changing the name when founding guitarist Florent Salfati switched to lead vocals. They self-released their debut, ‘Hollow’, in 2016 and have now signed to Arising Empire Records for their second. I have never made secret my general dislike of the metalcore genre, and here I find myself rather more frustrated than normal, as what we have here are a bloody good metal band who are mixing in other bits and pieces which I find distracting. They are much heavier than many in the genre, with heavily distorted bass, and very strong guitars indeed. For me they lose it on the vocals, and some of the more “emotional” moments should be removed and the band just keep powering it out. But they are bombastic and powerful, and I am sure those who enjoy the genre far more than me will get a great deal from this highly polished and energetic band.  6/10

LIGHT DAMAGE – NUMBERS – PROGRESSIVE PROMOTION

Three years on from the debut, and Luxembourg-based Light Damage are back with an album that builds on the first album and expands on that platform. Another change of drummer with Christophe Szczryk now on board, but there is also the use of guests which have allowed the band to bring in cello, double bass, violin, flute and most notably two female singers. One of these, Marilyn Placek, is involved with the one truly epic song, “From Minor to Sailor” which nearly break the twenty-minute barrier.

On the first album I said they reminded me of Guy Manning, and although that is still very much the case, they have hardened the sound as well as broadened it, so although we can be treated to some flowing piano and delicate bass, this can give way to some driving riffing guitars. I am also very impressed with Szczryk who really understands his place in the band, so much so that he can be driving the band with incredibly strong drumming (along with some great rolls around the kit), or just sits back and takes a breather and contributes to the overall sound by playing absolutely nothing.  There is also a superb use of different sounds from cymbals, which provides a superb backdrop for the rest of the band. Guitarist Stéphane Lecocq has also really matured with this album, and his powerful interplay with keyboard player Sébastien Pérignon really drives the band on.

Strong neo-prog with large elements of both symphonic and hard rock, this is a wonderful follow-up. It will be interesting indeed to see how this band progresses over the next few years, as two albums in they are already very impressive indeed.   8/10

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

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