Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Details

Produced by Chris Fasulo and Greg Giordano. Mastered by Will Quinnell at Sterling Sound.

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Band

  • Greg Giordano—Vocals and guitars
  • John Vullo—Guitars
  • Mike Murray—Bass
  • Mark “The Sorcerer” Dara—Drums

Other musicians

  • (Ch)arles Midwinter—Spoken word on “A slight amplification” (track 1)

Tracks

  1. A slight amplification
  2. Emptiness, darkness, acceptance
  3. War inside

Review

Turrigenous are a progressive thrash band from Long Island, New York: think Annihilator meets Dream Theater. A Slight Amplification is their fourth release, their first EP (18 minutes long) following three full-length albums.

The song writing and arrangements are good, the playing is flawless, and the production is clear.

The title track “A slight amplification” (track 1) opens with a bit of widdliness but soon develops into mature thrash song, with more than a few nods of the hat to Megadeth, not least the spoken part about four minutes in.

“Emptiness, darkness, acceptance” (track 2), the longest of the three tracks on the disc, begins quietly and ponderously. It bubbles and bounces before bursting into life. It stops and starts, it soars and dips. In the words of my son Joshua (7) it is “good”.

The EP closes with “War inside” (track 3) which opens with a very spacious and uncharacteristic ‘chug-chug’ riff. It is the only song of the three that introduces any growling death vocals; this track in particular could have benefited from more of them. The solo about halfway through breaks up the song nicely and takes the listener on a bit of a progressive jaunt, even if it is a bit too formulaic.

Conclusion

All in all, this is decent release. I didn’t end with a burning desire to listen to the rest of their back catalogue, but I would probably listen to this again, and may grow to like it more. It didn’t set my ears on fire, but it didn’t offend them, either.

Review score: 70%

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Charles Massabo. Mastered by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios, Denmark. Drums and bass recorded at Coxinhell Studio, St-Aygulf, France (June to July 2006). Guitars, keyboards and vocals recorded at Kallaghan Studio, Vence, France (July to August 2006). Produced by Spheric Universe Experience.

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Band

  • Franck Garcia—Vocals
  • Vince Benaim—Guitars
  • John Drai—Bass
  • Fred Colombo—Keyboards and English voice on “Being” (track 2) and “The inner quest” (track 3)
  • Ranko Muller—Drums

Additional musicians

  • Ludovic Phiriet-Arcaleni—Italian voice on “Neptune’s revenge” (track 4)
  • Carmen López—Spanish voice on “World of madness” (track 6)
  • Yo Ishikawa—Japanese male voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)
  • Aurélia Borg—Japanese female voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)

Tracks

  1. Sceptic
  2. Being
  3. The inner quest
  4. Neptune’s revenge
  5. Stormy dome (instrumental)
  6. World of madness
  7. End of trauma
  8. Heal my pain
  9. Questions
  10. The key
  11. Black materia

Review

Anima is the second (of currently four) full-length album from French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (SUE).

Theirs is a very Dream Theater-influenced flavour of progressive metal, complete with soaring vocals, complex time signatures, retro keyboard flourishes, and John Petrucci-style guitar chops. Other than Franck Garcia’s vocals which are quite noticably not those of James LaBrie, on first listen you could easily be mistaken that you are listening to DT.

Curiously, this is one of the few French bands that I’ve heard who sing in English rather than French.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times now and I can’t really fault it: the songwriting is great, the songs are complex and beautifully performed, the production if first class. But… it just sounds so derivative. To my ear, there is little that makes Spheric Universe Experience stand out as much more than French Dream Theater Experience.

Conclusion

If you are a Dream Theater fan then there is a very good chance you will enjoy this album. I can’t help think that this could be something more. But as it is, it is still something rather good.

Review score: 80%

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

Details

Recorded at Red Bull Studios, Santa Monica, California, USA, and Johnny Yuma Recording at Henson Studios, Hollywood, California, USA. Recorded by Jesse E String and Nicolas Essig. Produced by Leonard Simone and Jesse E String. Mixed by Jesse E String. Mastered by Michael Verdick.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Nathan Ells—Vocals
  • Dean Herrera—Guitars
  • Andrew Tapley—Guitars
  • Brett Powell—Drums and percussion
  • Sean Leonard—Piano, B3, Mellatron and Prophet 5

All bass by Sean Hurley except “Breathing life into devices” by Dean Herrera and Sean Hurley; “Metanoia” by Dean Herrera.

Tracks

  1. A violent strike
  2. Procession of the fates
  3. Breathing life into devices
  4. The world is a tomb
  5. Metanoia
  6. The path
  7. Echoes of the spirit
  8. Calm in the chaos
  9. Counting down the days
  10. A dead world at sunrise (additional vocals by Shenkar)

Review

The Human Abstract are yet another band that I’d never heard of. Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2004 they disbanded in 2011 having released three albums and an EP; “Midheaven” was their second release.

The band seemingly took their name from the title of a William Blake poem published in 1794 in Songs of Experience.

I threw the album on one evening while I was cracking on with some other work and gave it a half listen. It was more melodic and progressive than I was expecting.

Listening to it again in the car a day or two later I found myself caught between two opinions of the album. On one hand I liked the progressive nature of the songs as they wandered where they willed, but there is a lot of post-nu-metal shouty-style rawk that I really don’t connect with.

But fear not, I discovered that if I just keep listening then the progressive element of each song comes to the rescue and quickly whisks the song in another direction.

“A violent strike”, the opening song is a case in point. There must be two or three moments that I really don’t like and just as I’m reaching for the fast-forward button the song morphs and heads in another direction.

Curiously, “Breathing life into devices” (track 3) has an almost pop feel, verging towards gospel and pseudo rap about two thirds of the way through. Not exactly my cup of tea (although I don’t drink tea) but I can appreciate what they did.

There are a few, I guess power ballads might be the best term on this album. “This world is a tomb” is the first. It’s a beautiful song with plenty of piano. “Calm in the chaos” is the second, which rides along an acoustic guitar chord progression for the most part before twisting into an almost mathcore riff. The last is the final track, “A dead world at sunrise” which quietly brings the album to a close.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things for me to like on this album. But then there are enough elements that jar with me to not fully embrace this album as a classic. But it’s not them, it’s me. Definitely a keeper, though. Next…!

Review score: 80%

Cynic—Focus (1993)

Cynic—Focus (1993)

Cynic—Focus (1993)

Details

Produced by Cynic and Scott Burns. Engineered and mixed by Scott Burns. Recorded and mixed at Morrisound Recording, Tampa, Florida. Released on Roadrunner, 14 September 1993.

http://cyniconline.com

Band

  • Paul Masvidal—Vocals and guitars
  • Jason Gobel—Guitars
  • Sean Malone—Bass (inc. fretless bass)
  • Tony Teegarden—Keyboards and death growls
  • Sean Reinert—Drums
  • (Sonia Otey—Vocals)

Tracks

  1. Veil of Maya
  2. Celestial voyage
  3. The eagle nature
  4. Sentiment
  5. I’m but a wave to…
  6. Uroboric forms
  7. Textures
  8. How could I

Review

With both guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert former members of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death when they recorded the seminal album Human (1991) I had an expectation of what this album was going to sound like. How wrong I was.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definite hints of Florida death metal sprinkled throughout Focus but this is more Death meets Devin Townsend meets King Crimson and Dream Theater. It’s technical-progressive-death metal.

The songs twist and turn, hardly settling for a moment into any kind of groove. One moment they are slow and clean, the next dark and overdriven. Masvidal’s vocals at times sound like they’ve been processed through a vocoder. Keyboardist Teegarden adds his death growls now and then for good measure.

Production-wise this album is very much of the era. The production on track three, “The Eagle Nature” has a moment around 1′ 50″ that reminded me of “The demise of history” from Sabbat’s 1991 album Mourning Has Broken (1991). In recent years metal albums have gotten bassier and punchier. This album sounds quite top-heavy and weak in comparison with say the latest albums from Lamb of God, Machine Head or Testament.

There’s an uncomfortableness to this collection of songs, as though the melodies are hanging on by their fingernails ready at any moment to fall into dissonance. Coupled with the continual time changes this isn’t a particularly easy album to listen to.

Conclusion

My overarching feeling is that I want to like this album more than I do. And yet each time I listen to it I get drawn in. It’s an album that demands that you pay attention or… wait for it… focus. This is nothing if not an interesting record. There’s something there for everyone: blues, rock, metal, death metal, jazz, prog… and yet, well, I’m not surprised the record company had a difficult time finding the right market for this album.

This is the kind of album I don’t think I’ll go searching out to play over the next few months but if I stumbled on it via shuffle I wouldn’t switch it off.

Review score: 65%

Video

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Details

Track 1 (‘My heart bleeds’) produced by Kyrbgrinder and Richard Spooner. Engineered by Richard Spooner. Recorded at Fast Track Studios, Cambridgeshire, England.

Tracks 2–11 produced by Curtis Lugay and Kyrbgrinder. Engineered by Curtis Lugay. Recorded at Theorem Music Studios, London, England.

Released on Mausoleum Records, 2007.

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Band

  • Johanne James—Lead vocals and drums
  • Ben Glover—Guitars and vocals
  • Dave Lugay—Bass

Tracks

  1. My heart bleeds
  2. Defiance
  3. The guide
  4. What about me
  5. Fall away
  6. Not in my name
  7. Wayside
  8. I wanna kill
  9. Monster
  10. Swallowed my life
  11. Greatest weapon

Review

The name Kyrbgrinder is misleading. It sounds like a gnarly early 90s death metal band from somewhere northern and cold. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Kyrbgrinder are a progressive metal band from London, UK whose sound reminds me of elements of Living Color, Stone Temple Pilots, King’s X, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Helmet, Sting (yeah, really!), Mordred, and that other band that I kept thinking I should write down before I forgot.

This is another absolute winner this week. After getting over the shock of them not coming from Norway, and not needing to protect my eardrums from an onslaught of angry riffs I’ve loved listening to this album. I may even have unconsciously forgotten to blog about this yesterday just so I could listen to it for another 24 hours.

The album opens with a meaty riff (‘My heart bleeds’) that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stone Temple Pilots album. Or Freak Kitchen. That’s them! I remember now. The song dances along like a train across a sunny vista. Despite the lyrics, it’s fun.

The title track ‘Defiance’ opens with a Voivod-like discord that builds to another killer riff. Overall the song has a distinctly Living Color feel to it. And that’s not a bad thing. ‘Not in my name’ (track 6) sounds very influenced by Living Color, right down to the spoken elements that litters the early parts of the song.

‘The guide’ (track 3) opens with a Helmet-style riff before sitting back into another Living Color-like groove. Another Helmet-like riff is the one that bores its way through ‘Fall away’ (track 5).

My favourite track is ‘Wayside’ (track 7) which surprisingly has the feel of a Sting track. It’s a really catchy tune that I’ve found myself singing to myself throughout the week.

The rest of the album is interesting and fresh. No two song sounds the same, the album is heavy but not at the expense of melody or musicality. This is a band, a three-piece no less, that have absorbed their influences and made something that is their own. And what they’ve created is quite beautiful. This is an album that I’m going to be playing for a long time to come—an album that I will seek out to listen to, not just let random play discover it from time to time.

Conclusion

I can’t fault this album, to be honest. I’ve listened to it on repeat for most of the week (Last.fm currently reports that I’ve listened to 133 Kyrbgrinder tracks in the last seven days—that’s 12 listens, and doesn’t take into account the times I’ve listened to it in the car or on my phone) and I’ve grown more fond and more familiar with it each listen.

I will definitely be listening out for more Kyrbgrinder in the future. I’m so glad this band is now on my radar. Seriously, check them out.

Review score: 100%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhQir3lge8o]

Bonus video

Amazing live performance from Kyrbgrinder.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35rV7b2xIrQ]

Big Elf—Money Machine (2000)

Big Elf—Money Machine (2010)

Big Elf—Money Machine (2000, re-released in 2010)

Details

Produced by Bigelf. Recorded at Room 222, Hollywood, August 1997. Engineered by Ian Lehrfeld and james Bennett. Mixed by Kevin Wilson and Damon Fox at Mad Hatter. Mastered by David Schultz and Digiprep. All songs written by Fox / Butler-Jones (except the covers!).

Originally released on Record Heaven label, Sweden in May 2000. Re-released on Powerage Records, August 2010.

www.bigelf.com

Band

  • Damon Fox – lead vocals, keyboards, guitar (1991-present)
  • A.H.M. Butler-Jones – lead vocals, guitar, piano (1992-2001) RIP
  • Steve “Froth” Frothingham – drums (1995-2010)

Tracks

  1. Money machine
  2. Sellout
  3. Neuropsychopathic eye
  4. Side effects
  5. (Another) nervous breakdown
  6. Mindbender
  7. Ironheel
  8. Death walks behind you
  9. The bitter end
  10. Bad reputation (bonus)
  11. Sellout (live)
  12. Neuropsychopathic eye (live)
  13. Money machine (live)
  14. Sweet leaf (live)

Live tracks recorded at Sodra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden on 13 December 2000.

Review

As I said in my review for this album’s successor, Hex (2003), this is one of the few bands featured in this project that I’ve seen live: they joined Opeth and Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation 2009 tour. I really enjoyed their honest mix of prog, rock, psychedelia and laid-back stoner metal. Five years later and former-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is sitting behind their drumkit as a session musician.

Their debut album kicks off with the title track “Money machine”. It opens with a choppy, 4/4 on the beat riff: guitars and organ. “It is so hard to get a break from the money machine,” confesses mad hatter Damon Fox, a full three years before the album was actually released. Right from the start this album feels like a small victory. That they’ve hung on for 14 years and released four albums and three EPs shows that they have have staying power.

I’d forgotten what I’d written in my previous review as I was sketching out this review. I made a note that the album reminded me of Sergeant Pepper-era Beatles mixed with early Black Sabbath. I wouldn’t be surprised if this recorded was recorded analogue rather than digital. It has a very 60s/70s feel to it.

Track two, “Sellout” has an Abbey Road Beatles vibe. Next up, “Neuropsychopathic eye” has a Clutch-style riff. “Side effects” is another Black Sabbath-meets-The Beatles fusion with a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Dodgy song.

And so the album continues: a twisted amalgamation of psychedelic progressive, pop rock and sneering metal riffs on a bed of Hammond and Mellotron organs. I can see why Mike Portnoy wanted to get involved: this music suits his style of drumming.

Conclusion

I’ve not found a lot of time to listen to this album this week, unfortunately. I listened to it twice through in my car and that really didn’t do it justice. It put me off listening to it at home or in the office, which is a shame because it’s a really solid album.

This album has something of a melancholy feel to it in places (“The bitter end”), it’s thoughtful in others, and the rest of the time it rocks out with the best of them. It was no mistake that Dream Theater chose them for support in 2009.

As a footnote, I was sad to learn that vocalist, guitarist, pianist Butler-Jones fell into a diabetic coma in the summer of 2001, a year after the release of this album, and died. May he rest in peace.

Review score: 80%

Video

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Details

Drums recorded, played, engineered by Pete Riley at Tindrum Studio in December 2010. Bass, guitars and vocals recorded at MGP Studio, Guildford in January and February 2011. Mixed by Nick Kacal in March 2011. Mastered by Rupert Christie in April 2011. Produced by Nicholas Meier. Co-produced by Arran McSporran. Music written by Nicholas Meier; lyrics written by Dave Brown.

Band

  • Dave Brown: Vocals
  • Arran McSporran: Fretless bass
  • Nicolas Meier: Electric and acoustic guitars, oud and baglama
  • Peter Riley: Drums and percussion

Tracks

  1. The Ice Man
  2. Boy drowns girl
  3. Three days
  4. Run
  5. Blood stains
  6. You can have it
  7. Wannabe
  8. Forgive
  9. Under eye

Review

From the moment that the opening riff of this Seven7‘s second full-length album bludgeoned my ears I was immediately hopeful that I’d like this band. I wasn’t disappointed, and on the basis of this fine platter I’m really eager to listen to their first album Try Something Different.

So many of the tracks I could imagine as TV theme tunes — that’s not a great recommendation, is it? What I mean, I think, is that they are solid tunes. There is something anthemic, inspiring and grand about this album. Not bad for a collection of songs mostly about death.

The music is dark but melodic, heavy but accessible, progressive but thrashy, brutal but intricate. It’s like a strange cross between, at times, Pantera or Metallica with Steve Vai and Marty Friedman, particularly on the Japanese-influenced “You can have it”.

And who can argue with a band that lifts the theme from Tchaikovsky’s “The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” and effortlessly turns it into an enormous riff-laden metal epic?

CONCLUSION

From start to finish this is, using the words of novelist Dave Eggers, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Every time I’ve listened to this album I’ve finished it with an enormous smile on my face. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

This is an album that I am genuinely excited about. It is so very much a welcome addition to my wall of CDs. I urge you to listen to them. The album is on Spotify, check it out.

Review score: 97%

Video