VALYRIA – INTO THE DYING OF TIME – INDEPENDENT

Here we have a band describing this as an EP, but at 32 minutes long I do often get sent albums that are shorter than this. Influenced by Wintersun, The Faceless, Dragonforce, Blind Guardian and Omnium Gatherum among others, here we have a death metal band that is also taking in influences from power metal and even some symphonic acts, and I could easily see them sharing a stage with the likes of Betraying The Martyrs. They get everything right this with this release, it is hard and heavy, complex and intricate, with great musicianship and production that is able to handle it. I am more than a little surprised to see that this is a self-release as I would have thought that a band producing music as powerful as this would have been grabbed by a label.

They now have two EP’s and a single behind them, but they need to be grabbed by someone who can give the band the promotion they deserve and get them back into the studio for an album. Or repackage this with the older releases if they are strong enough, and put that out as a stop gap. If you enjoy melodic, heavy, structured and complex music that takes elements from different areas and creating something powerful, then this is for you.

7/10

Kev Rowland

AMANDA SOMERVILLE’S TRILLIUM – TECTONIC – FRONTIERS MUSIC

Somerville has written and recorded with bands such as After Forever, Edguy, Kamelot, Epica, Avantasia, and Mayan, and this is her second release as Trillium. ‘Alloy’ was released in 2011 when it was credited to just Trillium, so it appears that there are views somewhere that she needs to be pushed more to the fore, yet keep a link to the last album. Either way, whenever I see a band name extended with the name of a member I do ask, why bother? Anyway, there is no doubt that Amanda has an amazing voice, and it is no surprise that she has appeared on other people’s albums as well. She is a strong alto, which allows her to go sing in a slightly lower register than many other female singers, with power and control, yet still hit higher notes when the need arises without going to the very heights of sopranos.

It may have been seven years since her last solo album, but as well as being in demand in the symphonic metal world she has also got married and had a baby, so life has been rather full on. Musically this is a symphonic metal album, which to be honest doesn’t really stand out too much from many of the other albums around, but what makes the real difference are Amanda’s vocals which are direct, and contain such incredible power that it cuts through like a hot knife. The album has been designed as a vehicle for her voice, so even though the songs aren’t as rich and as expressive as I would wish them to be, the album is still far superior to what it would be with many other singers. Perhaps her forte does lie with other bands, such as the mighty Kamelot or Epica, but fans of the genre should still try and hear this at least.

6/10

Kev Rowland

 

MEKA NISM – THE WAR INSIDE E.P. – INDEPENDENT

According to the EPK I am looking at, these guys were formed in 2006, but surely that can’t be correct as not only have they not yet released an album (there have various EP’s over the years), but they’re not signed either, and that definitely doesn’t make any sense at all. Frontwoman Meka is obviously a force of nature, and it is no surprise to see that they have supported bands as diverse as Mastodon, Gojira, The Offspring, Limp Bizkit, Otep and In Flames. Inspired by Metallica, Joan Jett, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Ghost, guitarist Bobby Keller describes Meka Nism’s sound as “powerful, metallic, aggressive, melodic, and in your face.”

There are times when one thinks the riffs are going to turn into some down-tuned monster, but while it is still a beast to be reckoned with they instead turn it into another direction altogether. They are incredibly melodic, incredibly diverse and dynamic, but when the time is right to put the hammer down then they will do that with some force as well. Fans of Lacuna Coil, Arch Enemy and Epica should seek these guys out. It surely can only be a small matter of time until they get picked up by a major and get the album out that they so richly deserve.

by Kev Rowland

MOTHER BASS – MOTHER BASS – FREYA RECORDS

I decided to go over to the band site to get some more information, only to discover that the site itself is incredibly poor, but I did learn something, namely that they call their style neo-grunge. Now, I thought I was pretty up on the sub-sub-genres, but I must confess that this is a new one on me, especially when however I think about it, it’s not at all accurate! The Dutchmen may think that they are taking influences from the end of the Eighties, but they’re nearly twenty years out, as this is early Seventies/late Sixties to a tee, as they bring together Blue Cheer, Free, Taste, Sabbath, and others into a glorious noise.

The rhythm section keeps it tight, while the guitar pumps out riffs and chords that are fat enough to saddle and go for a ride on, and then at the front, there is singer Daan Dekker. The guy has a wonderfully broad emotional set of pipes, and he knows it. I haven’t seen any live performances, but if he doesn’t absolutely own the stage then I would be amazed. The band gives him the platform to strut his stuff, and he does that with aplomb. This is honest music, with no room to hide, as they just lock into the groove and I find it almost impossible to sit still while listening to it as it is just so infectious. This is real music from real musicians, who don’t feel a need to produce to any sort of expectation but instead have produced music from the heart. Solid stuff.

by Kev Rowland

OVRFWRD – OCCUPATIONS OF UNINHABITED SPACE – INEPENDENT

When keyboard player Chris Malmgren contacted me to let him know that Ovrfwrd were releasing a new album, recorded live in the studio, I was definitely interested. Recorded and filmed live at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, MN (Nirvana, Live, PJ Harvey, Soul Asylum) on August 5thand 6th, 2017 it  features music from the first two albums (‘Beyond the Visible Light’, 2015, and  ‘Fantasy Absent Reason’ from  2016) as well as new unreleased music for an album they are currently working on. Chris, along with Rikki Davenport (drums), Mark Ilaug (guitar) and Kyle Lund (bass) have produced some of the best instrumental progressive rock music for a few years now, and it is incredible to realize that this a live recording as they definitely nail it.

Influence-wise I have previously stated that they combine the likes of King Crimson and Discipline in their music, and give that much of this is taken from their first two albums there is no surprise that this is still the case, but there are times when one thinks that Spock’s Beard have had a part to play, or Arena, or Dialeto, while there are times when they bring infusion and make it centre stage. There is a great deal going on, but the guys never lose focus and there is no room for any meandering as the intent is always clear and there is just no room at all for any vocals! Al four play to their strengths, and while Mark and Chris often are taking the melody leads, the contra-melodies from Kyle and the aggressive attack from Rikki all make the music what it is.

All in all, this is an incredibly intense and enjoyable progressive rock album, one that I have no hesitation at all in highly recommending to anyone who enjoys this style of music. I suggest you play the video for ‘Unitopia Planitia” and then buy the album.

 

  • Kev Rowland

 

PERFECT PLAN – ALL RISE – FRONTIERS MUSIC

 

Formed in late 2014 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, these guys came to the attention of Frontiers Music in 2017 who immediately signed them up, and now here they are with their debut album. The band features singer Kent Hilli together with Rolf Nordström on guitar, P-O Sedin on bass, Fredrik Forsberg on drums and Leif Ehlin on keyboards, and what makes them so very interesting is the way that they are combining classic Scandinavian AOR (such Work of Art, Treat, early Europe) with nods to legends like Giant, Foreigner, and Journey. In many ways, it feels as if we have been taken back to the classic days of AOR, yet it also feels very now, polished but not with too much sweetness. It is a given that Jeff Scott Soto has had a major impact on their sound, and there are a few times when it could almost be a modern Talisman strutting their stuff. That at times they also use a good old fashioned organ also gives their music depth and passion. I know that everyone had to be having a blast in the studio when this was being put together, as it shines through in the final product.

Everyone thought that grunge would kill this style of music forever, but Perfect Plan demonstrates that it is very much alive and kicking nearly 30 years after ‘Bleach’ made such an impact on the world. There are times when they do veer a little too close to Michael Bolton-style power ballads, but when they get it right these guys are a force to be reckoned with. Their more up-tempo songs such as “Stone Cold Lover” gives Kent a real chance to shine, and the eighties-style synth bubbling away in the background definitely provides additional charm. These guys are going to have a quite a future in the melodic rock genre, and this is well worth hearing.

  • Kev Rowland
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