See Red – Demos

See Red - Demos

Verdict: Crunchy classic metal.

More info: www.myspace.com/seeredmetal

See Red are a metal/classic rock band from Bolton, England. The band consist of Rich Davenport – Vocals / Guitar * Kirsten Slater – Guitar * Ian Schofield – Bass / Vocals * DJ Powell – Drums / Vocals. Rick was previously a member of Through The Storm who sent me some material to review a few years ago.

Rich actually sent me three demo tracks to review a long time ago, but checking the web I see that they now have an account on myspace and an EP called “Scars Across Your Soul” available. Also, according to the myspace site they were due to start recording a new EP in November.

The three tracks I have are “Drag Me Out”, “Scars Across Your Soul” and “Wait For An Answer” are all feature on the first EP. “Drag Me Out” is a slow crunchy track, with almost a death metal feel. “Scars Across Your Soul” is another riff heavy track that sounds like Sabbath meets Metallica meets Diamond Head. “Waiting For An Answer” is a more straightforward hard rock track with a more definite chorus.

The sound is a bit raw in places, but the basic ingredients are there. So, overall a decent start for the guys.

T.A.O. – The Abnormal Observations

 

T.A.O. - The Abnormal Observations

Verdict: Polish prog merchants attempt a modern take on prog metal
More info: www.unicornrecords.com , http://www.tao.freehost.pl/plyta1.html

The idea for TAO came about in 2003 when Adam Jurewicz (Guitars & vocals) and Robert Sztorc (dummer) were sitting around listening to and playing the music of Planet X, Tower of Power and Mike Patton. The band decided to create their own music. Since then Kamil Urbanski (keyboards) and Lukasz Adanczyk (bass) have been added to the band. The band recorded their debut album during the first half of 2005. The album was released independently, but was later picked up by Unicorn for this 2006 release.

In true prog style this is an eclectic collection of tracks. The opening track starts off with some heavy riffing with a tinkling piano sprinkled over the top, but drops down a gear to a laid back jazz groove before building up again and drifting out. Second track, “Forget It”, like a couple of other tracks feature vocals. In general the tracks with vocals don’t work as well as the others for me. The vocals are way down in the mix and don’t make an impression. The best track with vocals is “Ifot” where they are less annoying. This tracks start off as D’Arcana but develops into a Dream Theater style. “Rhythm of Silence” stands out from the rest due to it’s Red Hot Chilli Peppers style which kind of seems out of place on a prog record, but I guess we should commend the band for some lateral thinking.

As you can probably guess, this didn’t quite work for me. Then again any band that sails in the same waters as Dream Theater often suffer in comparison in my book. The other elements such as the funk and jazz also tend to be very hit and miss with me also.

Daryl Stuermer – Rewired – The Electric Collection

 

Daryl Stuermer - Rewired - The Electric Collection

Verdict: Jazz rock instrumentals approached from a ‘melodic rock’ perspective

More info: www.unicorndigital.com

Daryl Stuermer has worked along with fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and Genesis and is an essential member of Phil Collins’ band. He has released an number of solo albums on the Urban Island record label. “Rewired – The Electric Collection” picks the best tracks from those earlier records and re-masters them.

The overall style of this album is jazz-rock, but it takes a ‘melodic rock’ to this genre. The result is an instrumental album that will appeal to a wider audience than pure jazz-rock enthusiasts. The playing, guitar and the other instruments, throughout is excellent. This is the type of music you put on your stereo to impress your mates with how great it sounds. “Road Warrior” being particularly good for this sort of thing. Daryl adds variety to the mix on a couple of tracks, “American Fields” and “Highland Hip Hop”, by incorporating some Celtic jigs. Whereas on “Wherever You Are” there is a laid back Westcoast vibe. However, style variations tend to be subtle and the album has a ‘tried and trusted’ feel.

This an entertaining jazz rock instrumental album that incorporates some great guitar playing and takes a “melodic rock” approach to the material.

Rosemary – Suburban Kings Single

Rosemary - Suburban Kings

Verdict: jangly pop with 60’s overtones

More info: www.rosemarymusic.com , www.myspace.com/rosemarymusic , www.ma2music.com

Rosemary are 3 lads from Dartford ( Tim Hill (vocals & bass), Martin Brett (vocals & guitars) and Jon Chamberlain (drums) ). This single was released back in August and the band have moved on since then with a new single release in November called “Benjamin’s Ego”.

The two songs featured here, “Suburban Kings” and “…for he’s blue” are of the jangly pop variety. Quite a contrast to all the prog rock that I’ve been reviewing lately. The band have been compared to bands such as The Libertines. The band have a sound that whilst modern tends to also harks back to the 60’s acts such as The Kinks. Maybe not a great match to the musical tastes of many Mood Swings readers, but could be of interest to the more adventurous.

Joe Brown – Down to Earth

Joe Brown - Down to Earth

Verdict: polite mixture of blues and country
More info: www.joebrown.co.uk, www.myspace.com/joebrownuk

I remember this guy being on the TV quite a bit when I was kid. In fact, Joe’s career dates back to the 50’s when he played along with acts such as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Cash. Since then he has formed a
couple of successful groups (Joe Brown & The Bruvvers in the 60’s, Brown’s Home Brew in the 70’s), been in films (such as Mona Lisa with Bob Hoskins), been in West End plays, been a DJ and had a number of TV programme which is probably where I remember him from. More recently he played at Glastonbury in 2002 and appear at the George Harrison tribute concert later that year.

Not much wonder then that it was only in 90’s that he started to make albums again.  This album, produced by his son Pete and featuring daughter Sam on vocals, feature some original songs plus covers of song by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson and Gallagher & Lyle. The musicians are from his regular band, but Joe doesn’t tax them too heavily as he plays Dobro, Tenor Dobro, Mandolin, Electric and Acoustic guitar, Mandola, fiddle and squeezebox.

Joe has created an album of polite tracks in a style that is a mixture of blues and country. The album is well executed and is easy listening There is nothing here to take offence at, but on the other hand there isn’t anything
to get really excited about either. I, and I imagine that most Mood Swings readers,  would prefer something with a bit more ‘balls’ – the blues to be dirtier and the country to be grittier. For example, the cover of Ram Jam’s
“Black Betty” have been transformed into a country hoedown, whereas I would prefer a more ‘metalised’ versions of this song.

Karfagen – Continium

Karfagen - Continium

Verdict: folk tinged melodic progressive rock

More Info: www.unicorndigital.com

 

This could be a first for Mood Swings – a review of a Ukrainian band! The band emerged in 1998 when Antony Kalugin formed the band whilst he was still at school. Work on a first album was started in 1998, but the band wasn’t really a viable proposition until 2005 when Antony had the money from working on a number of other projects to fund the recording of the first album.

 

The music on this album mainly keyboard based and the music is of the melodic progressive nature as played by for example Camel and Eloy. The distinguishing feature of Karfagen’s music is the blending in of elements of folk which might sound a bit horrendous, but which works quite well. There are few vocal parts, but the music is mainly instrumental. I hesitate to use the work relaxing as this can have negative connotations, but the sweeping keyboards and folk tinged melodies evoke visions of vast peaceful landscapes. I enjoyed the Eloy style opening numbers A Winter’s Tale (Pt 1 & 2) and the 8 min Amused Fair which has some good jazz fusion elements and see the band stretch themselves.

 

Some of Unicorn’s instrumental releases can a bit of challenge to really get into, but with Karfagen I had a positive reaction right from the first listen.

Nil – 40 jours sur le Sinai

 

Nil - 40 jours sur le sinai

Verdict: engaging musical odyssey

More info: www.unicornrecords.com , www.nilweb.com

 

I had been intrigued by this album ever since I reviewed Nil’s “Nil Novo Sub Sole” album last year. When I was doing some background research, this album kept cropping up. In fact Nil, have recorded 4 albums.  “40 Jours sur le Sinai” dates back to 2003 and was their third album. It was originally independently released, but has been put out by Unicorn whilst we await some new material from the band.

 

“40 jours sur le Sinai” is a concept album which deals with Atlantis and ancient Egypt. There is a booklet in both French and English to accompany  the album. In terms of the music, it really is a varied mixture with many styles covered including progressive, ambient, electronic, classical, even metal. The band are helped out by a number of additional musicians on flute, cello, harp and sax. There are a few vocal parts in the album, but they are used sparingly. In particular, the vocals of Roselyn Berthet, who at the time this was recorded wasn’t a full band member, have that wonderful ethereal quality in mentioned in the “Nil Novo Sub Sole” review.

 

As you may have guessed from the previous paragraph, this is difficult to classify and thinking of comparisons almost impossible. The only one I will mention is King Crimson because the basslines are a common element creating a continuity between the tracks. There are 29 ‘tracks’ which are nominally split between 2 acts. In practice, this is the sort of album where talk of individual tracks is meaningless. Instead, it is better to talk about an intriguing and enchanting musical odyssey that draws the listener in and engrosses you with it’s twists and turns.

Spaced Out – Unstable Matter

Spaced Out - Unstable Matter

 

Verdict: Spaced Out get heavy

More info: www.spacedoutmusic.com

 

I have already reviewed previous Spaced Out albums here at Mood Swings. The band specialise in complex jazz fusion that amazes out with the sheer brilliance of the musicianship. However, I’m always left wondering if as well as impressing me with their technical dexterity, have they actually entertained me as well.

 

On “Unstable Matter” the band aren’t about to compromise at this stage in their career. The music is still as challenging as ever. Around the middle of the album is a track called “Big Crunch” which very accurately describes what has been added to the mix for “Unstable Material”. The Jazz Fusion gets merged with metal to push the band’s sound even closer to the boundaries. Maybe so close that this is indeed unstable matter! Before I listened to this I would have thought that if Spaced Out pushed things any further the result would have been less appealing than their previous album. Curiously I found myself actually preferring this to their previous work and I rate this as their best work so far.

Retroheads – Introspective

Retroheads - Introspective

Verdict: Retroheads nod towards rather than immerse themselves in the past this time out

More info: www.retroheads.com

 

The Retroheads are a bunch of Norwegians that a first listen seem to have their heads stuck firmly in the past. Their debut album, Retrospective,  had a distinctive 70’s vibe to it. The band’s objective is to play music without limits and despite the fact that they play retro music, they do so using all the latest technology to recreate the vintage sounds.

 

There has been a few personnel changes since the debut album, with the band now expanded to a seven piece. This has helped the band move beyond the mere recreation of the past that dominated the debut, into a more creative region where they are starting to define their own sound rather than emulating the sounds of their influences.  The overall sound now mixes the retro with more current prog acts such as The Flower Kings.

 

As with all decent prog, the album doesn’t reveal everything during initial listens and it will take a few sessions to really discover what the band’s intentions are. The most immediate element on initial listens is the use of the female backing vocals which have a jazzy-folk feel to them which might sound out of place on a prog album, but which actually work well to complement the more conventional prog of the lead singer.  I personally would have liked to have heard them used to create some more hook laden chorus material, but I guess this style of music shies away from that sort of thing. Musically, it’s a case of vintage keyboards meeting fluid guitar work and both displaying an awareness of the past whilst creating a sound that is more contemporary than the previous album.

Xinema – Basic Communications

 

Xinema - Basic Communications

Verdict: Xinema’s progressive side comes to the fore

More info: www.xinemaworld.com

 

This is Swedes Xinema’s second album, the first being “Different Ways” which was a compilation and re-recording of material from the band’s previous incarnation as Madrigal.

 

When I look back at my review of the band’s previous album, I note that I mentioned Saga amongst the list of influences. This time out that influence shines through even more clearly, to the point where it almost detracts from the band’s efforts here and relegates their status to that of a tribute band. However, leaving that aside, the positive element here is that the band have created an album that moves them forward from the debut.

 

The music is a lush combination of keyboards and guitars, with the keyboards generally pushing themselves to the fore and defining the overall style of the band. As the instruments battle it out for dominance, the vocals tend to be left lower down in the mix and don’t take as prominent a role in the scheme of things as you might expect.

 

I personally liked the last album as quite a bit of the material had an AOR flavour to it. This time the band bring out the progressive side of the music more, as witnessed with the couple of 13 minute epics on offer. This means that the album isn’t quite as immediate as it’s predecessor and takes a few more listens to get into. The reward for doing so, is an album that successfully blends AOR and progressive rock, with the progressive side getting the upper hand this time out.