John Jackson

Neal Morse – The Dreamer, Joseph pt. 1

 Posted by on September 6, 2023 at 21:56  No Responses »
Sep 062023

Those into progressive rock should need no introduction to Neal Morse, but for the rest of us, some introduction would be helpful.  First off the presence of Steve Morse (Deep Purple) on many of Neal’s projects instantly made me curious being a longtime Deep Purple fan and then when you add in Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) also being involved in many of Neal’s projects, you start to get a picture of why the progressive rock tie exists and also the quality of people Neal can bring in. If we go back to 1992, Neal formed the prog rock band Spock’s Beard which went on to some acclaim followed by Transatlantic and after Neal’s conversion to Christianity, he formed several bands with Portnoy including Yellow Matter Custard, Flying Colors, and the Neal Morse Band.  Neal has released several concept albums about Christianity and Christian themes starting with Testimony (2003) and more recently, Jesus Christ the Exorcist (2019) and Sola Gratia (2020).  Prog rock aficionados will likely have also heard of Morsefest which started as a weekend festival at Neal’s local church in Tennessee and continued virtually through the Covid years and will be held live again this year.

For The Dreamer, Joseph pt. 1, Morse chose to cover the story of Joseph, who has quite the epic in the Bible (Genesis 37-50).  Joseph was the most beloved of Jacob’s sons and his jealous brothers sold him into slavery, where he ended up in Egypt but through remaining faithful to God gained the favor of his master only to be accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife after Joseph spurned her advances and ended up thrown into prison which is where Part 1 ends.  Part 2 will be released in 2024 and will conclude the story with Joseph gaining favor from Pharoah, essentially saving Egypt from starvation and also being reunited with his family when they come looking for food.  To create such an epic, Morse brought in a variety of vocalists for different parts such as Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard), Matt Smith (Theocracy), and Jake Livgren (Kansas, Proto-kaw).  For some guitar help, Steve Morse and Eric Gillette join in on some tracks.

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Aug 302023

Fantasy metal masters Gloryhammer return with their fourth album and first with a new vocalist, Sozos Michael.

Gloryhammer has released four albums going back to 2013 with Tales from the Kingdom of Fife being their debut in 2013.  The brainchild of Alestorm vocalist Christopher Bowes had the band from the start representing characters and performing in costume as their representative characters.  Over the years, the band toured with the likes of Stratovarious, Blind Guardian, and Hammerfall, played lots of festivals in Europe, toured North America, and was nominated for awards.  In 2021, the band parted ways with longtime vocalist Thomas Winkler and named Sozos Michael as his replacement.  Note: Winkler has gone on to form a similar band, Angus McSix.

For the uninitiated, Gloryhammer is essentially power metal with fantasy-themed and somewhat comical lyrics describing the adventures of Angus McFife.  All the elements of power metal are well-represented even if the keyboards and vocals are a bit too dominant in the mix for my liking. Production quality is excellent and all the instruments do come through in the mix.  For those who know of the rough edge and aggression in Winkler’s vocals, you may be surprised to hear the soaring, clean vocals and range of Sozos Michael. Remaining are the catchy elements to their songs the band is known for and some that comes through multiple times in choruses when you can’t help but sing along with lines like “Wasteland Warrior Hoot Patrol” and “Holy Flaming Hammer of Unholy Cosmic Frost”, which is also the first real track on the album.

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Dreamyth – Aletheia

 Posted by on August 12, 2023 at 19:17  No Responses »
Aug 122023

Power metal band Dreamyth come onto the scene with their debut full length Aletheia, an album filled with everything one would expect in power metal from the heavy riffs, soaring vocals, and lush arrangements.

Dreamyth, a combination of dream and myth, is a Spanish melodic power metal band started in 2020 by guitarist Adrián Carrer0, drummer Davi Macarrilla, and vocalist Andrea Carrero.  For Aletheia, guitarist Dani González Suárez and keyboardist  Paolo Andreotti joined and Dani González Suárez recorded, mixed and mastered the album in his Estudios Dynamita studio.  For a band new on the scene, they were able to recruit some great guest talent to participate with guest vocals from  Ralph Scheepers (Primal Fear), Herbie Langhans (Firewind, Avantasia)  and Eduardo Guilló (Sun of the Dying, Crusade of Bardos and a keyboard solo from Bob Katsionis (ex-Firewind).  Production and mixing quality is excellent with all instruments clear in the mix and the vocals coming through very clearly if a bit too pronounced in the mix for my taste.

The album opens up with a keyboard –driven atmospheric  intro track featuring a spoken intro to set the stage.  In general, I’m not big fan of intro tracks but given the genre, this one works for me. “Odyssey” is the first real track on the album and did bring some surprises in the clean female lead vocals being offset by some death metal growls along the way from guest vocalist Eduardo Guilló.   The overall melody ends up being quite catchy and the use of a choral like backing in places works really well.  The female lead vocals are incredibly clear and strong and the tone is amazing and unique.  Being power metal, one would expect some great guitar work and that is the case here as well and there is a bit of restraint in the solo and some good songcraft working it seamlessly into the song.  Later in the album, Eduardo contributes more vocals in similar style on “The Curse of the Erinyes” and they work equally well there.

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Teramaze – Dalla Volta

 Posted by on August 1, 2023 at 03:25  No Responses »
Aug 012023

Australian progressive metal band Teramaze latest album Dalla Volta is a compilation containing some new tracks, some older tracks redone, older demo versions of other tracks and a cover, covering the history of the band and showing their progression.

Teramaze  is going on their 25th year and Dalla Volta even has an updated version of the song “Shadows” from their 1998 release, Tears to Dust.  From my count, the band has 10 full length albums going all the way back to 1995 with Doxology.  Looking at the release history, the band took a bit of hiatus following Tears to Dust in 1998, not releasing another full length until Anhedona in 2012, but they’ve been relatively consistent in releasing albums every couple years or so since then, so definitely a band with a long history and listening to Dalla Volta, one can hear the fully developed sound of a veteran band.

Dalla Volta opens up with new tracks that includes the updated version of “Shadows”, here “Shadows II”. “Navigate in Solitude” opens things up with a slower, heavy riff that slows for the melodic clean verse section showcasing immediately the deep, smooth and strong vocals of Nathan Peachey, which are a perfect match for the music.  The deep growled vocals make for a nice contrast and remind the listener that this is heavy music and are a nice touch.  The rhythm section is tight, solid and suitably heavy.  Production is perfect for the genre, allowing the vocals to come through clearly but not overly dominating and keeping the growled, screamed vocals more toward the quieter side of the mix until their turn to come through.  The somewhat requisite keyboard/orchestral interlude in the song again highlights Peachey’s vocal abilities and works well as an intro to the guitar solos which are matched will with the song and show some restraint while remaining impressive and interesting.

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Jul 312023

Atmospheric black metal in all its glory and majesty fills Autumn’s Dawn, Winter’s Darkness in the new full length from Fathomage

Akul who handles all aspects of Fathomage hails from Adelaide, Australia and has been quite prolific as an artist releasing  7 Fathomage albums in 5 years.   From an artistic standpoint, Akul looks to present his Eastern Orthodox faith with allusions to Orthodoxy through imagery, lyrics and ascetics, while keeping Fathomage as an experimental band at its core and this can be seen in the previous releases of which there are 10 if you include another project called Gelure (dungeon synth/ambient).  From a lyrical content, the goal is to present the listener with a chance to do some of their own interpretation and Akul avoids concrete explanations of his lyrics in interviews.  This is truly a solo project in every sense with all aspects of the performances and recording, mixing and mastering being done by Akul.

As can often be the case, the band logo gave some fairly large hints as to what I was going to hear on Autumn’s Dawn, Winter’s Darkness and the album cover using the beautiful fall landscape, Multnomah Falls by Albert Beirstad, turns out to be perfect for the album.  For those new to atmospheric black metal, the first track which is also the title track, is a great introduction. Keyboards set an overall mood and backdrop with a fairly long intro before drums and guttural screaming punctuate the relative calm.  The vocals are the black metal screaming, near shriek variety and are toned down a bit within the mix.  The song has some of the droning black metal guitar riffs but within the overall mix, they convey a sense of melody while the drumming avoids blast beats and adds a good low end rumbling power to much of the song.  Partway through there is a shift as the keyboards fade further to the background and the guitars become more prominent in a driving riff.  I can’t help but hear bands like Antestor in the overall music and the acoustic guitar interlude serves to highlight the strength in the music and being able to follow that melody as the song reverts back to the full metal approach highlights the songcraft at player here.  There are many levels in the soundscape.

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