Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dream Theater - Dream Theater

Release Date: 24th September 2013
Genre: Progressive metal/rock
Label: Roadrunner
Number of Tracks: 9 (Total playing time is 70 mins)

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Was it really 2 years ago that Dream Theater entered the post Mike Portnoy era and released A Dramatic Turn of Events? With Mangini on board, Dream Theater shattered rumours that they might disband, and solidified their status as prog metal masters by confirming they were in for the long haul.

There maybe other prog metal outfits out there, that blend dazzling crunchy riffs with swirling strings and dramatic keyboards creating musical prowess, but DT are still considered lords of the genre. Being one of the progenitors of the early progressive metal genres, Dream Theater (DT) have been the most consistent metal band of its generation. The influential concept metal masters release their 12th studio album, their first in 1989, and drummer Mike Mangini's second album since joining in 2011. 

From Petrucci's ultra efficient, flawless guitar to Myungs inventive fingering, every musician in the band gets time to shine. A hurricane of heavy, arpeggiated duals and mesmerizing time changes feature in musical mayhem madness. But it is not just who can play the most notes. They have the ability to take that power and make an elegant set of masculine and heroic masterpieces. 

Opener 'False Awakening Suite' is a brief three sectioned (i. Sleep Paralysis, ii. Night Terrors, iii. lucid Dream) cinematic near-instrumental with twinned guitars from Petrucci and Keyboard riffs from Rudess. From the first track, it is clear that we are in for an explosive ride. 

After Portnoy laid down the drum tracks in 'A Dramatic Turn of Events', this is Mangini's first chance to be creative. 'The enemy Inside'' shows he has few mortal equals and is a stand out track. The track is lyrical genius by LaBrie, and the meaning of the song will grab a lot of people. Released as a single, DT have created a conceptual video showing the torment of a soldier  reintegrating with normal life whilst suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Petrucci told Billboard that: 'The topic of PTSD really seemed to fit the song as it is fast paced with machine gun style riffs which makes you feel anxious, perfectly matching the theme and song'.

'The Looking Glass' is influenced by Rush but moves beyond its crunchy intro into an intricate web of time changes, tight melodic rock riffs and invincible vocals, and will have DT fans thinking back to Images and Words released in 1992. 'The Enigma Inside' is a 6 minute guitar masterclass from Petrucci, featuring some Portnoy style drumming. Virtuosic piano arrangements start 'The bigger Picture' off, before a steady guitar interlude takes over. This is definitely the slower song on the album, but is emphatic in its own way. 'Behind the Veil' reveals itself slowly, but to punishing guitar riffs pounding bass lines and proof yet again that LaBrie's vocals show no sign of weakening. 

Acoustic lead 'Surrender to Reason' is reminiscent of 1997's Falling into Infinity and has a hint of 'Subdivisions' by Rush. It ends with a really groovy rock section, with funky bass line by Myung. Radio friendly 'Along for the Ride' is similar to track 5, 'The Bigger Picture' as they are both easy songs designed to hook in new listeners and are rather disappointing. 

All this leads up to the astronomical 22 minute epic finale 'Illumination Theory'. Every second of this track is phenomenal and epitomises everything we seem to know about Dream Theater, and their creativity. Its packed with face melting jams, and forests of progressive majesty and is a progressive metal jewel where every instrument is utilised tremendously. The song can be broken down into 5 parts (i. Paradoze de la Lumiere Noire, ii. Live, Die, kill, iii. The embracing Circle, iv. The Pursuit of Truth, V. Surrender, trust & passion). 

Overall, this is a prog metal show piece done by the best in the genre. If you were worried that Mangini's couldn't fill Portnoy's shoes, he shows outstanding technical ability, and really drives some songs. He adds a new flavour to the band, whilst being previously influenced by Portnoy. 

A world tour has just been announced, starting Jan 15th. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chron Goblin - Life for the Living

Release Date: 13th September 2013
Genre: Stoner Metal
Label: Unsigned
Number of Tracks: 10
Sounds like: Queens of the Stone Age, Wolfshead.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Nothing gets the blood pumping like an aggressive smack of heavy stoner metal. Thats the exact feeling when you first listen to 4 piece Canadian band Chron Goblin. Life for the Living is their first full length album and 3rd overall after an EP released in 2010 and an LP released in 2012. 

Based on the traditions of early heavy metal, Chron Goblin have plenty of ideas to keep things fresh. The signature style, croaky aggressive vocals from Josh Sandulak fit well with an abyss of fast tempo chunky guitar riffs from Devin 'Darty' Purdy which are often held together in rhythmic style by bassist Richard Hepp and creative drummer Brett Whittingham. What impressed me the most about this album, is how they utilise every instrument in the construction of a mix of blues style rock and roll songs. You often hear the guitars taking a lead role, but also a lot of the tracks are bass lead and they are often just as aggressive as the guitar. Track 3 'Lonely Prey' and Track 5 'Give no More' are great examples.

Theres something juicy about this album and there's no messing around as track 1 'Deserter' soon gets going a pulsating onslaught of stoner metal riffage. Every song has a different feel, but each one is as aggressive as the other, and overall it is a solid album worth a listen. Stand out tracks are, track 4 'Big Baby', track 5 'Give no More' and off their ep 'Bring Your Idols'.

Chron Goblin have potential, and you can definitely hear they will be a great live band, and they will release many more cracking albums in the future.

Western Canadian tour booked for fall 2013. 
Chron Goblin Facebook

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Stormzone - Three Kings

Release date: 2nd September 2013

Genre: Power Metal, Melodic Metal, Classic Rock.
Label: Metal Nation Records
Number of Tracks13

Sounds Like: Iron Maiden, Saxon

Overall Rating: 7/10

Surfing youtube for new music is an arduous process, usually skipping through songs which don't fit and that have no musical talent. However, you do find the odd gem, and last week that gem was Stormzone. Three Kings is the Irish metallers 4th studio album and is packed with mighty melodic riffs, suitable solos, superb vocals all impressively held together by the drums. This is an album which you do not want to ignore.

Hints of old school charm, but laden with modern influences, this album takes us back to when music was simple, straight forward and fun. It is clear that Iron maiden are their main influence as well as Judas Preist and Saxon but they also have their own memorable style. The unique vocal style of front man John 'Harv' Harbinson, which whose vocal range is simply mind blowing throughout. Harbinson shows us his ability to lay down powerful deep vocals as well as taking it up a few pitch levels when necessary. Guitarists David Shields and Steve Moore provide us with retro riffage and at times heroic solos. Graham McNulty hold the bass fort with style, especially in the slower songs in which he takes a lead and drummer Davy Bates complete the set of a well constructed, organised metal band.

Things are pretty great on the first half of the album, with songs like 'Spectre', 'Heart of Stone' and title track 'Three Kings' all have energetic playing and are heavy metal classics. There is definitely an 80s glam flavour to songs like 'Night of the Storm' and 'Alive'. Track 12 titled 'Bang Your Head' is more of an anthemic track which isn't to everyone's taste. The later part of the album seems to wear the listener down and you get the feeling that they have committed the cardinal sin and they should have left some of the tracks off the album, specifically track 9 'I am the One'.

Overall this is a mighty metal album packed with retro punch. They create songs which would remind anyone of the 80s and they prove that this genre is not in ancient rot, but is very much alive. It is worth checking out with an open mind if you're a fan of metal.

Currently touring the UK with Saxon, with dates in Preston and Northampton confirmed.