TMR

Michael Sweet “Ten”

 Posted by on December 6, 2019 at 23:20  No Responses »
Dec 062019
 

Stryper frontman, Michael Sweet, released Ten – his tenth solo studio album, on 11 October.

Do yourself a favour and head over to Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives here and scroll his biography. So many releases, and with such consistency spanning a professional music making career of 35+ years. That is amazing!

I wonder what freedom he sought when he commented in a 2016 interview with The Aquarian Weekly about why he enjoyed making solo records: “it’s an opportunity to free myself up a little bit more… and try some things that Stryper may not be able to try.” In a recent interview with Mark of The Rockpit, Australia, Sweet said that each song on the new album was written with a different guitarist in mind. If you look at the track list, you’ll notice that “Better Part Of Me” features Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy (and technical death metal supergroup, Conquering Dystopia) for instance. The risk then might be that each new guitarist’s unique style would result in divergent contributions to the album. As a songwriter, Sweet was able to unify the differing creative impulses into a cohesive whole. I agree with him when he says that “they all work and flow perfectly well together”. You can read the full interview here.

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Lance King – “ReProgram”

 Posted by on October 5, 2019 at 18:54  No Responses »
Oct 052019
 

What would we become if allowed to grow into our own passions? Lance King raises this tantalising question right off the bat in his second solo album, “ReProgram” that was released on 29 March 2019. His concern for the death of a child’s creativity is underscored in the music. I hear the dread in the volleys of driving kick drum and plaintive keyboards, while the guitars point accusatory fingers at a dystopian status quo where conformity trumps originality.

King delivers a compelling performance in “Pointing Fingers”, and I can hear why his tenor has graced the likes of Pyramaze and Balance Of Power: liquid ease. I’m in love with Kim Oleson’s guitar work on “Stand Your Ground”. It is no doubt tempting to follow the vocalist ever upward into the song’s crescendo and then lose yourself in soloist heaven, but not Oleson. He plays with both feet firmly rooted in the ground. His modern tone suits King’s voice to a tee, and when he does solo it is technical and melodic at the same time – and with just the right amount of restraint. I’d also like to acknowledge how the keyboards were played in this song. Oleson and/or Fred Colombo played counterpoint to the rhythm guitar in a way that brings the sequencer to the fore. Not so much that it becomes a lead instrument but rather that it adds to the overall urgency of the track.

“Technology” celebrates how technological advancement puts the means of musical production into anyone’s hands and while this democratisation is to be admired, King also poses the question, “Where will it all end?” Made in an instant, and shared in an instant in a world that is media hungry. This critique of consumerism is akin to that found in Porcupine Tree’s “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Continue reading »

Pyramaze – “Melancholy Beast” (re-issue)

 Posted by on September 9, 2019 at 19:48  No Responses »
Sep 092019
 

Whether fast and heavy or slow and atmospheric, this album is sure to please whether in a  depressive or manic state. Great musicianship and excellent vocals, this album is great with  a cup of joe to prepare yourself for a journey.

It doesn’t take much thinking to figure out what Pyramaze is all about in their first album, a re-issue, ‘Melancholy Beast’. They are all about the journey in this mood enhancing set of 10 songs going just about 5 minutes under an hour. This album originally came out in May of 2004, but the album seems just as relevant now as it did then. This Danish power metal band started in 2001 with Michael Kammeyer as a guitarist looking to start a band. Vision for this bands future couldn’t be clearer since introducing the story driven album to kick things off with a clear understanding of how to write a song already in place when ‘Melancholy Beast’ made its first appearance.

The Album starts off somewhat unexpected considering what the album as a whole has to offer. Just a couple of notes from the guitar for an atmospheric beginning to start with. The album is generally high energy with the exception of when the band goes to lengths to play slower and moodier. I think it balances these two concepts quite well where each song really is a journey for the ears. There is some great storytelling in the lyrics bringing up some almost forgotten folklore stories that make the album somewhat familiar to listen to while also adding a fresh look and new sound to what parents might tell their children at night before bed. Continue reading »

Sep 072019
 

Neal Morse is a storied musician, having started his career as a member of Spock’s Beard in the nineties. He became a born-again Christian in 2002 and his religious convictions steered him on a path to start producing music infused with his faith. Neal has a prolific discography, and 2019 sees the release of his progressive rock musical, Jesus Christ the Exorcist. This double album has been 10 years in the making.

At first I thought Jesus Christ the Exorcist, what a curious title! When I listened to “The Woman of Seven Devils” and “The Madman of the Gadarenes” I understood that it’s about how His compassion for the sinner sets the sinner free. By rebuking their devils He helped both that man and woman become whole again.

The music of Jesus Christ the Exorcist sounds like it’s meant for stage, not only in terms of the number of musicians on the roster but also because the songs gel together in a compelling story, much like Jim Steinman and Meatloaf’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The Introduction places the listener at Jesus’ crucifixion before returning us to John announcing the coming of the Christ in the desert. Continue reading »

Cellar Darling – “The Spell”

 Posted by on August 7, 2019 at 01:04  No Responses »
Aug 072019
 

Some time last year I searched the internet for female-fronted metal bands. The results included Nightwish, Dark Sarah, Arch Enemy and Cellar Darling. From those, Cellar Darling had me the most curious. I read that they had incorporated such curiosities as the hurdy-gurdy in their songs, and because I have a taste for lute and other baroque instruments I took a listen. I should have persisted longer, allowing the whole of “This Is The Sound” to make an impression on me. Unfortunately, “Avalanche” is all I remember now. I cannot say why, but One More Time’s song, “Highland” came to mind at the time. Despite what you might think, this is a good thing. It seemed to me that Cellar Darling were bringing something other than operatic vocals to melodic metal. I still have this impression, listening to “The Spell”.

Prepare yourself to listen intently to this album. A girl enters a stark, unforgiving world. She encounters Death, and falls in love. She weaves a spell to bind him to herself, and follows him into the underworld. I was not prepared for this story, and still I remain conflicted. Both Anna’s voice and the band’s music serve the story, and I am filled with a deep sorrow when I listen to a song like “Hang”. “Burn” is another favourite, and I agree that Cellar Darling have a progressive sound – one that is not necessarily driven by intricate guitar passages or changes in time signatures that are impossible to repeat. There is enough grit to satisfy the metalhead, but “The Spell” is so much more. I appreciate the peaks and troughs where, after you experience the dread of entering a netherworld with the character you are given reprieve by floating in the embrace of a halcyon sea. These impressions will stay with me for a long time. Continue reading »