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Friday, October 24, 2014

Armageddon - Armageddon

Armageddon is considered one of the most unsung gems from the lost and hidden treasures of the heavy and progressive rock bands to come out of the mid ‘70s and their sole self-titled debut album is an overlooked gem. These 5 tracks show how much they never reached the recognition they deserve and since their formation forty years ago, it shows how much they were way ahead of their time and would have given Led Zeppelin a huge run of their money if they had still continued to move forward, but splitting up after a sudden tragedy.

The band considered; Keith Relf (The Yardbirds/Renaissance) on Lead Vocals and Harmonica, Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond) on Drums, Martin Pugh (Steamhammer) on Guitar, and Louis Cennamo (Steamhammer/Renaissance) on Bass Guitar. The band was signed to A&M Records with help from supporter Peter Frampton, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The label did everything they could to promote and market the band whenever they can as the group was recording their debut in Barnes at Olympic Studios during the autumn of 1974.

Opening track, Buzzard, begins with a rumbling wah-wah buzzing guitar introduction that Martin Pugh does before Caldwell and Cennamo come in as Pugh is going into his improvisation on here as he and Caldwell just nail it through like a bullet train going 600 miles per hour before Keith’s voice comes in knowing that there is not a single stop sign for the quartet. And he is going through heavy solos and riffs as Caldwell is lending a helping hand throughout his drum kit and it goes through the styles of Zeppelin and Purple rolling in town.

And then Keith Relf’s wailing and crying harmonica echoes throughout and the Bluesy touches are fitting in perfectly before closing with a bang from guitar and drums. Silver Tightrope shows Relf going through a moving vocal arrangement as the echoing sounds of Martin Pugh, gives it a wonderful clean reverb sound that is very much in the realms of the Physical Graffiti-era for the first four minutes before the band comes in and let the piece relax and calm into the clouds before Pugh goes back into the improvising melodies as the background vocalizations help him out to end the piece.

After the moody and relaxing vibes of the second composition, Armageddon gets back to harder edges and back into town. Paths and Planes and Future Gains sounds like cannon going off thanks to Pugh, Caldwell, and Cennamo’s bass line before Keith sings “Silver Trumpets Call/Herald Shining Armour/Armour so bright/That the blind will fall.”  It has this war cry if you will as you can imagine the situation between good and evil are preparing for battle to fight and sacrifice for their lives as guitar, drums, and Relf go into this chugging rhythm and it’s almost a head banging feel throughout the last 2-minutes.

Last Stand Before sees Armageddon laying down some proto-metal grooves and shows their touches to Led Zeppelin once more and having the riffs and drums fitting in before a dueling battle between Keith Relf’s roaring harmonica and Martin Pugh’s rhythm and lead guitar sound makes it a perfect competition to see who would win in the race and they are all winners on this. After four compositions, it is time for the 11-minute epic, Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun.

This is where the band is in full tight swing on this last piece before going off for the sun to go down. With a riveting introduction as if the ship is ready for take-off, the band get cooking as Pugh gets the beat down to a pulsing riff and intense turned psychedelic rhythm along with Caldwell’s drumming that is very uptempo beat, makes it a joyous adventure into outer space. Along with Keith improvisation on the harmonica adds the reverb and delay effect to make it as if it’s a roaring beat along with Caldwell’s homage to Ginger Baker and Pugh’s growling rhythm chords that are monstrous and having a crescendo and then the interstellar driving force is heading back to earth for a climatic ending.

It is their magnum opus with a hard rock and reminiscent of Nektar’s music that deserves to be played loud and get the dancing kicks in there and almost as if it could have been a live favorite among the audience to enjoy and embrace the piece. The band never got any help from their label and with only limited backing and only two performances, Armageddon called it a day. Keith Relf was having asthma problems and was planning to joined up original line-up members of Renaissance called, Illusion.

But it was never going to happen for him. Sadly, Keith Relf died after being electrocuted while playing guitar in 1976. He was only 33 years old. It’s a shame when a band releases only one or two albums and never got the respect they needed from their record labels due to poor marketing and receiving some good reviews and Armageddon never got that chance. The people from Esoteric Recordings have done an amazing job reissuing this album back in 2009 with liner notes about the history of the group and lyrics from the album. So if you love Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin to name a few, then Armageddon is worth checking out. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quiet Observer - The Smell of Time

It has this interesting and sublime combination of different genres of music. From Metal, Electronic, Prog, Ambient World Music, to Jazz. And its almost as if they have been put into a blender and creating a futuristic sonic surrounding sound like almost as if it is something straight into the 22nd century as if its ready to bring the genres into the machine and bringing a sound and taste for the people in the new planet to enjoy the music to by getting into the vibes and the visions of the sound. And one of the most experiencing touches that do the sounds of these connections is Ukraine’s own Quiet Observer.

Quiet Observer have released five albums back from 2012 with five albums in their hands from the mind of Zolar Czack who has been playing and composing music since 2009 and there is not a stop sign for him. The new album released this year, The Smell of Time is nine compositions by Zolar as he plays all the instruments throughout the entire album and he is virtuosity when it comes to creating music for the future on this one.

Using keyboards, xylophones, drums, flute, guitar, and bass, the instrumental pieces establish the sounds of space with different time signatures and moods that make the journey worth an exciting ride.  You can always imagine this being used as a score one of National Geographic specials or one of the IMAX films for the Science Museums and then, going on a ride into the horizons of the Grand Canyon, walking into dark cavernous caves and feel the cool water dripping on the rocks, or swimming to meet the dolphins at times and he is going into areas that are calming, energetic, taking flight, and at times relaxing to set you in the mood for the pieces on here.

Giving the concept of going through different spaces of time, Zolar shows a lot of his energy given on here and is making it into directions of places that you haven’t seen in your whole life when you listen to the entire pieces from beginning to end. Yet, The Smell of Time is one of the most thrilling yet experience albums I’ve listened to about seven times now. And Zolar Czack has really shown a lot of potential here for what you are about to experience as you take on the ride and music of Quiet Observer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Voice of the Enslaved - Voice of the Enslaved

Blake Carpenter is a very busy man when it comes to projects including; Corvus Stone and of course his band, The Minstrel’s Ghost. Blake also now has a side project that is called, Voice of the Enslaved. The story of the album is about how this amazing paradise that was, is now corrupted filled with everything that they promised the citizens that can live their dreams, is just one big hoop of lies that the government and the corporation is a controlling brainwash and how they must survive to get out of the mess that they are in. You can imagine Blake almost as if he’s paying tribute to George Orwell and Ayn Rand of doing research behind the side project.

Alongside Blake who does the lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards, he brought help from Robert McClung (Telergy) on Guitar, Violin, and Sitar, Petri “Lemmy” Lindstrom (Corvus Stone) on Bass, and Zoltan Csorsz Jr (The Flower Kings, The Tangent, and Karmakanic) on Drums. Alongside who do the breaking news for the opening of the first piece are special guests including; Blake’s wife Terri, Troy James Martin, Elizabeth Martin, and Marty Dorfman (The Prog Doctor who does his own radio show on House of Prog called, The Waiting Room on Friday nights).

Like a film inside your head, Blake really brings a lot of ideas to the table and it is almost like lending a helping hand for a friend to see where they want to take the side project into. And not to mention on how the people they must struggle to survive of the government corruption. There are touches of a heavy symphonic middle-eastern ominous atmosphere (Apocalypse Now), energetic guitar riffs and solos (Watching You, Police State, and Idiot Box), and swirling advanced keyboard works along with a dosage of ascending melodies to fight for freedom (Revolution and Rich Man’s Dream).

Blake has really done his homework very well to show that what is in the storyline, that is really strong and powerful on what has been done wrong and the struggle to fight can be complex and difficult to survive by escaping from the brainwashing policies. There are reminiscent of bands like; Touchstone and the early Styx thrown in. And on Voice of the Enslaved, this isn’t just Blake, but his friends and his wife, bring a lot of his support by being a team and lending a helping hand on the project.

There are touches of Progressive Metal, Arena Rock, Electronic vibes, and of course, Middle-eastern music for the adventures on what is to come and what is about to happen next on each of the compositions that is on here. This is a wonderful concept storyline that Voice of the Enslaved is brought on here and Blake’s project is a knock-out. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grus Paridae - Passes By

Grus Paridae is a duo from Finland and their debut single, Passes By, is one of the most promising sounds from the progressive rock sound and the two members consider; Petteri Kurki and Rami Turtiainen who play the instruments by creating scientific, experimental, and art rock sounds that resemble the golden age of the 1970s in their music.

There are only two tracks on the album and they have made a huge intuition on me on hearing their debut single from start to finish.  The opening title track begins with rainfall, acoustic guitar and soothing vocals between both Kurki and Turtiainen as they really set the tone throughout the song with the ballad to make you imagine the scenery walking in the coldest part of the evening and listening to this on your headphones as it snows.

The chorus, have a lot of pleasant-sounding vibe between the guitars and string section to close off the piece as they take turns on the solos that have a touch of Pink Floyd thrown in there. The closing track, Inheritance of Devotion, has a catchy vibe that has double-tracking robotic vocals that is completely unexpected. And to have guest violinist Jarno Koivunen taking the piece to a whole different area, makes the composition swirl beautifully.

It reminded me at times of ‘70s French-Prog Rock group Atoll from Jarno’s violin work as he pays tribute to Richard Aubert. The duo have a good ear on what needs to show which piece comes next and where they land on first on their feet.  But it has an amazing psych-prog with an electronic vibe to it that makes it swell and they can take the melodic arrangements flown along with the ascending climb from the instruments, guitar solo, and vocals, it makes it very much like a story that is about to begin.

This is a promising up-and-coming band that have a lot of spirit in their music and I hope I can expect what they will come up with next with their first debut album as they are about to walk into one of these days, the Yellow Brick Road on what will lead them to next.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Times Up - Sea of Schemes

It’s hard to do a follow-up album and making a departure of a band that have been known to stay true to their music and deciding to go in a different direction. And it’s very much what is going to happen next and how must they have no choice but to go to that area and dividing a line in the sand for the fans to accept the new sound or not. And it will have a huge impact on a band's career. Its needs a lot of ideas, creation, and innovation as well. And for Times Up, it gives them a chance to go back on the Yellow Brick Road again with their follow up to 2012’s Snow Queen on their third album, Sea of Schemes.

There are some symphonic, electronic, harder moments, and atmospheric pieces that Times Up brought on their continuation. The ambient-moody opener, Chasing Ghosts, begins with almost an instrument going through an ARP 2600 before the guitar goes into a cleaner mode as Linda Barnes come in as if she's doing a sermon to say farewell to a friend, but not sense the idea of “rest in peace” in their mind. And then after her vocals, the synths and guitar gel together as the keyboard creates these swooshing sounds and ‘80s vibe for their adventure to begin as the guitar from Mike Hagland creates a visual yet mysterious vibration.

Meat on Bone is a walking guitar and banjo line along with the snapping fingers sound that almost is a reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s first solo album for the first two minutes before the landing into another dimension comes kicking in as the synth and sliding guitar is in full swing with the orchestral string section vibes for a brief second. It’s almost like an epic film score as the instruments are combined into one as if it has a dramatic vibe and not to mention the harder edges flown in from the guitar riffs with different signatures that go harder, classical, and harder.

It is a wonderful combination on the four movements that go through walking line, extreme turned classical, soothing, and then back into the preparation for everything to change at the exact moment for a wonderful finale between guitar and synth creating emotional melodies along with the stomping drums and piano chords before fading off into the sunset. When Kings Fall sees Times Up going into a brave and daring adventure into an exuberant composition with a haunting introduction as it shifts from the heartbeat and melodic boundary before heading into space between drums, guitar and keyboards as the vocals comes right in and everything fits throughout with a Yes vibe thrown in.

You begin to wonder if Times Up are really up to something by making magic throughout the suites and the brainstorming ideas have come inside their heads, but the last three compositions, are just worth the adventure to come to an end. Snakes and Ladders begins with a Morse Code introduction before Lawton’s minor piano works and Hagland’s spacey and intense guitar and haunting banjo work comes flying in for light speed as Andy Gibbon helps out on the rhythm of the beat while Steve Leman gets into the improve as Richard Lawton creates this jazz vibe on his sax that reminisces David Jackson (VDGG), and bits of Dick Parry thrown in there.

The 8-minute title track at first begins with an Electric Light Orchestra vibe with the Jeff Lynne-sque sound for the first 50-seconds before setting the controls between organ, drums, and guitar that provides a lead-in as it heads into the mellowing acoustic rock crisp from Linda as the last 2-minutes becomes a dystopian percussion-ambient featuring whispering spoken fading vocals by Bob Teague saying “Welcome to Corruption,” about five times. The closer, Let the North Wind Blow, is the journey’s end, dulcet turned thunderous string sections, enthralling guitars, keyboards, and bass, makes it go back into the epic score again to ride off into the sunset.

This is my 4th time listening to Times Up new album and I have to say that I’m really impressed from what I’m hearing of their establishment and perception that contains a lot of something emotional and it shows the power and beauty that you can bring in with your strength and Times Up have for me, succeeded and delivered very well with the Sea of Schemes. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone II

Corvus Stone are always trying to bring new ideas to the table. They have these brainstorming concepts for each of the members to come to the table with since their debut album back in 2012. And now with the follow up album released on the Melodic Revolution Records label this year, it proves that they can take the concepts and the ideas, into unbelievable results by creating and helping out on 15 compositions that clock for 80 minutes to embark on another journey into the world and journey to experience.

Alongside Colin Tench’s guitar playing, keyboardist Pasi Koivu, Petri Lemmy Lindstrom on Bass, Robert Woff on Drums and Blake Carpenter (The Minstrel’s Ghost) on vocals,  they brought along guest vocalists including Phil Naro (Druckfarben), Stef Flaming (Murky Red), Andres Guazzelli, Timo Rautiainen, German Vergara (Aisles) and Sean Filkins (Big Big Train). It’s almost very much like team work on which songs they have to sing and taking turns on which part of the harmonies they have to be at right moment at the right time and they have done a superb job taking different types of the variations of music whenever they would bring it to.

Pieces like the ¾ waltz time signature featuring a church organ, Tench’s swirling guitar solo, and Robert’s drumming setting the uplifting moments on Early Morning Call, gives it a haunting and moving dance that has a moment for the sun to come up at the right moment for dawn to break as Purple Stone in which it is a tribute to the music of Deep Purple, sees Blake Carpenter going into the styles of Rob Halford and Kevin Heybourne.

Opener, The Simple Life, in which its sung by Phil Naro, features harpischord and guitar playing into this moody piece before going into a lukewarm wake-up to say good morning to everyone that starts the album off for the sun to rise on a beautiful day to start a new chapter. Then Corvus Stone goes into some different variation. You have the sound of the futuristic voyages and the sound of Gilmour and at times, the Canterbury group, Khan. You can tell that Colin and Pasi are creating these soothing symphonic structures of the Floyd on Boots for Hire while they get into the sense of humor in the styles of Salsa and in the mood for a dance to get the congas ready with Scandinavians in Mexico.

But they get into the groove of Jazz, Fusion, and Blues combined into one as Colin, Robert, Petri, and Pasi’s wah-wah keyboard, gives each of the four to take turns in improvising and creating their own beat and tempo on Uncle Schunkle. The mourning, Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana) , features a funeral drum march, dooming organ, bells, and Timo Rautianen just nailing each note on the vocals before getting into the emotional pieces that fit perfectly on this track. But it’s the 14-minute epic, Moaning Lisa, that at times feel like a story.

The first five minutes and twenty-seven seconds of the piece, reminded me of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle and elements of Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left-era thrown in to give it a mourning acid folk resemblance in there with a Renaissance-Symphonic waltz figure thrown in there by doing the step 1-2-3 dance along with the clapping rhythm section not to mention Colin’s guitar roaring on the different lead section and the harmonica blaring thanks to the intense drumming to give it a vibration. And then it goes into a soothing Brazilian bossa-nova with a jazz-classical twist to it before it segues in an ambient/atmospheric move as Petri comes in with his bass touch as the band go into the dancing waltz again to close off the last 2 minutes of the piece.

For 80 minutes, this is a wonderful follow up that Corvus Stone have brought here for 2014. So far, I have listened to this about three times now and I’m completely blown away of the improvisation, humor, story-telling pieces, and it is a great adventure for them to bring something special by creating magic and not to mention the artwork that Sonia Mota has done. I’ve always wanted to hear what the band have coming up next. And their second album is a great continuation of the music and still, the road still lies ahead on what is next for Corvus Stone.   

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pink Fairies - Never Never Land

Formed out of the ashes of The Deviants, The Pink Fairies are one of the most overlooked proto-punk rock bands to came out of the Ladbroke Grove scene that was a part of the underground movement from the realms of; Hawkwind, Edgar Broughton Band, Quintessence, The Pretty Things, and The Action to name a few. Pink Fairies had this combination between the Stooges, MC5, Groundhogs, and adding a bit of spacey melodies to the mix by giving it a real cosmic hard rock adventure on their debut album released on the Polydor label in 1971 called, Never Never Land.

In the Pink Fairies; the band considered Paul Rudolph on Guitar and Lead Vocals, Duncan Sanderson on Bass, Russell Hunter on Drums, and Tomorrow and Pretty Things’ drummer, Twink adding to the mix and it is one of the albums that is a knock-out yet psychedelic momentum that they brought on to their first album. The album starts the engines off with Do It in which it is a tribute to social activist, Jerry Rubin and his book of the same name released in 1970. Beginning with a folk-like tempo on the acoustic guitar for an introduction for a minute and five seconds, then it changes the mood into heavier call-and-response as Paul Rudolph screams out and the band go into town with him as his solo is a psych-wah wah and punk rhythm chords to keep the tempo going up a notch.

Then it’s straight into the mellowing compositions that have a touch of the political backgrounds of 
the Blues with a galactic vibe on War Girl along with the trippy and dreamy voyages on Heavenly Man and it shows their fantasy side and their laid-back moments that the Pink Fairies bring their softer side in there along with the far-out psychedelic adventure on the 6-minute title track as Rudolph just improvises with his guitar at the very end as he takes it to a world that is beautiful and being free from the chaos.

But it’s Track One, Side Two that does something very special for the first two minutes and forty seconds it starts with piano and drums as a ballad, but then they go into a freak-out session for the last few minute with a lot of rhythm and lead just going into different areas and I can tell the band are having a blast going into outer space with this piece. Then, after the mellowing pieces on here, the Pink Fairies get down to business.

With Thor, it’s very much a droning experimentation with a haywire vibe as it segues into pure attitude of three chord roar like a motorcycle ready to rev up and go into rebellion on Teenage Rebel. This reminded me of something straight out of The Groundhogs Split-era as to pay tribute to them and Paul’s voice reminded me of Lemmy and Tony McPhee as he is having a grand time along with the band going to unbelievable results as Twink closes it off going in the styles of Buddy Rich on his drumming like a tidal wave coming at you.

Say You Love Me is a foot-stomping, head-banging and fist-pumping attitude while the 10-minute jam session Uncle Harry’s Freakout Session, sees them going into the early reminiscent of Hawkwind. Rudolph is doing a lot of spacey voyages into the outer limits on his guitar as Sanderson and Twink improvise as he is increasing the voltage to a maximum level. You can tell that its heavy, psychedelia, shuffling blues and ending with a homage to Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive as to pay tribute to Syd Barrett-era as it ends with an echoing vocal effect with a sliding effect and haunting acoustic guitar chords on The Dream is Just Beginning. 

The bonus tracks feature the rumbling driven force with an attitude of the single, The Snake along with a single version of Do It without the acoustic introduction followed by unreleased material of War Girl and Uncle Harry’s Last Freak Out. In the 12-page booklet, it features rare promo, photos of the group and liner notes done by founder of Esoteric Recordings, Mark Powell as he gives amazing insight about the history of the band.

So if you admire the sounds of Hawkwind, The Clash, The Groundhogs, Stooges, and the MC5, this is the ultimate Proto-Punk Psychedelic trip to explore the adventures of The Pink Fairies and ultimately it is an album to worth check out!