TMR

Bride – “Snake Eyes”

 Posted by on September 26, 2018 at 21:26  No Responses »
Sep 262018
 

Fans of Bride have held out for a true return to form for some years now, as “Snakes in the Playground” is often touted as this hard rock outfit’s most potent album. Released on 21 August 2018, “Snake Eyes” does not disappoint. I picked out a fragment of “Psychedelic Super Jesus” in “Intro”, which plays like fractured memories – snippets of song fading in left, then right before an almighty yawp from frontman, Dale Thompson kicks off “Fake News”. It’s a bold track that oozes attitude.

I love the energy in “Famous When I’m Dead” – it is not short of cowbell, and races by quickly. Around the middle, Troy Thompson delivers a tasty solo while Dale stretches his vocals in an elongated growl. I heard it said that the drums in this recording sound muffled, but listen to “John The Baptist” – especially how the toms ring in your ears – and I think you’ll agree that the clarity is there. “Think I’ll Build a Bomb” is a rock n roller, the riffing supplying just the right amount of sleaze. It’s a provocative title that comments on how pervasive violence is these days. That breakdown sounds downright ominous – I’m unsure of the production technique used, but the treatment on the vocals and/or the harmony leaves you feeling like a deranged individual is sharing a terrible secret with you. Shivers.

I wonder what I would discover if I had to play “The Real Jesus”, followed by “Psychedelic Super Jesus” off “Snakes in the Playground”? What differing perspectives do these two songs present regarding Jesus Christ? The reason I’m thinking along these lines is because you may have heard the recurring “Jesus Christ is knocking on the door of your heart today…” at the start of both albums. It may point to a link. Continue reading »

Aug 302018
 

Sit back and put your feet up when you listen to “Fist of the Seven Stars – Act 2 (Hokuto Brothers)”. Gabriels, a composer and keyboardist from Italy, creates musical stories on a grand scale. Some of you may be familiar with his rock opera, Prophecy, dedicated to the victims of the September 11 attacks in the United States. He is also known as a seasoned session musician, having served as arranger and keyboardist on amongst others, the “Vivaldi Metal Project”. For this album, he again involves a large cast of talented performers to continue the story inspired by “Hokuto no Ken”, a Japanese anime by Tetsuo Hara and Buronson.

One thing is for sure, he makes the keyboards wail! When I listen to this album, and appreciate how sweeping a production this is, I cannot help but think of Finnish band, Dark Sarah. While Dark Sarah is more clearly symphonic in its brand of metal, both bands share what I would call an “old world grandeur”. This lavishness is evident for me in a track like “End of Cobra”. I truly enjoy the layered vocals, the massive synths and that guitar solo – out of this world! It’s like this production would be at home in both a stadium and in a theatre, with elaborate costumes and kick ass lighting design. Continue reading »

John DeGroff -“SALT”

 Posted by on August 23, 2018 at 20:55  No Responses »
Aug 232018
 

Greg Hough, one of the founding members of Petra tells the story of how, when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour, God’s message of “You will play for Me” came to him. John DeGroff (also a founding member) completes the story as he tells of meeting both Greg, and Bill Glover (another founding member of Petra) at Christian Training Centre in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1972. It is towards the end of that year that they got onto stage in church to play together, ministering through the medium of what is now Christian rock music.

Produced by John DeGroff, “SALT” follows on from “…demos and other moments…” released in
2015. “SALT” gives the impression of ease, or better, effortlessness. There is a playfulness in the descending arpeggios that open “Runnin’” that sets the tone of the album for me. John is a fan of progressive rock and jazz music, and having recently revisited Kansas’ “Point of Know Return” album myself, I’m loving John’s musical direction. I enjoyed how the bass guitar and organ synchronised with one another on this first track, complemented by John Schlitt (Head East, Petra – 1986 to 2005) on vocals.

I’m intrigued by John’s harmonic playing on “Sneeze”, where bass notes ring together much like they would when you strum a guitar. On this track you’ll also hear perfectly executed tempo changes; proof of a great band locked into the groove. “Dave’s Living Room” showcases the band’s lightness of touch, and is addictive like cotton candy.

Continue reading »

The Radio Sun – “Beautiful Strange”

 Posted by on August 8, 2018 at 20:41  No Responses »
Aug 082018
 

It’s hard to make changes. They rock your soul. Try quitting a bad habit, or a toxic relationship. Try making good where you’ve wronged. Try standing up for your beliefs. Imagine the sinking feeling when Peter heard the rooster crow that day (Luke 22:54-62). When you’re down in a pit, you need “Hold On Tight”, the first single off “Beautiful Strange”. This song heralds the release of The Radio Sun’s fifth studio album, in as many years, on 24 August 2018.

The guitars are strident, and Jason Old’s voice encouraging. I get spoonsful of courage, similar to when I hear “Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot. The sing-along chorus of “Believe In Me” goes: “I can see forever and it’s in your eyes / No more hesitation, no more alibis / Believe in me, my fantasy” and I pause. Who’s talking here? Is it like when Samuel answers God, “Speak, for your servant is listening” in 1 Samuel 3:7-11? How do I interpret the two phrases together: “Believe in me, my fantasy”? On the one hand I’m like, “Dude, it’s a rhyming couplet. No analysis needed.” On the other hand, if it were His voice what should I take “my fantasy” to be? This is the beauty of the lyric. You can interpret it your way. Continue reading »

In The Verse “Transformer”

 Posted by on July 30, 2018 at 15:24  No Responses »
Jul 302018
 

It’s the keyboard melodies that had me coming back for yet another listen. I must admit, I’m a bit of a prog fan and to my ears the synthesizer can do little wrong. To be clear, In The Verse are not prog rock. They’re a hard rock band out of Wisconsin, U.S.A, started in 2013. “Transformer” is their debut release, from 2016.

Why should you pay attention to this album in 2018? Honest lyrics, for one. Noah Hulbert sings in “Alone”: You look inside my cold, hardened heart / At the things I hide that are tearing me apart”. When he appeals to God, he drops his brave face, encouraging me (the listener) to do the same. Inside, the light and dark are vying for supremacy – a fight that has me weary. God delivers victory in battle, and I am welcomed home.

While the growls and grunts of extreme metal certainly appeal, I sometimes need the clear sung lyrics I hear on this album. I was watching Jason Mantzoukas talk about his record picks at the Amoeba store earlier, where he said he’s drawn more often to the expressive qualities of the voice than to what is being sung; often not even noticing the words. On the “Transformer” album, disillusionment makes way for hope, and I wouldn’t have been able to follow this trajectory if lyrics were unclear. Continue reading »