Monday, August 29, 2016

Music Review #85:
Cave of Swimmers
Cave of Swimmers

Now this is an interesting one. A two-piece Doom act calling themselves Cave of Swimmers appeared around 2012. Both members, Arturo Garcia and Guillermo Gonzalez-Perez, have dabbled in sludgy material in the past. This seems to be their first 'real' effort, and it's quite a good one.

From the artwork to the Latin influence, this album has quite a bit of sophisticated leanings. It's quite unique for what it is, as it constantly changes tempo and style on a whim. Come to think of it, "doom" is rather a restricting term, because this album can change pace with the drop of a hat, like I said before. One minute it's slow and trudging and next it's borderline thrash. Progressive is really the only word I can describe it assuredly as. It has a sort of AOR type feel to it, even with such a short overall album length (which is rather disappointing because it leaves much to the imagination). It is extremely symphonic at times, aided by the operatic vocals of Gonzalez-Perez, who I swear I have not heard a single voice like his in the metal circuit. The closest he comes is Einar Solberg, but even there's a subtle difference between the two.

Cave of Swimmer's debut is fantastic, and I'm quite eager to drop a few dollars if it rewards me with this. It's quite an enjoyable album I just happen to find while browsing the web. Just goes to show you can find anything great if you look hard enough.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 8/30/2016.
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Music Review 84:
Glass Hammer
Cor Cordium
Arion Records

Glass Hammer has been putting out consistently for the entirety of the 2000's and even more frequently this decade. Of this constant flow of new albums Glass Hammer has had very few missteps during the 00's, and, so far, even less during the 2010's. The decade started out with the stellar If, a slight slip-up with One, and a hearty rejuvenation with Cor Cordium. Now I myself have not gotten my hands on a physical Glass Hammer until I spotted Cor Cordium, and my was it a good first.

This album is nothing short of expected of Glass Hammer, a punchy, melodic prog-athon of the highest caliber. A part of the greatness of GH to me is their sense of self-awareness, particularly when it comes to how they define themselves genre-wise. All of the old prog bands weren't necessarily fond of calling themselves 'prog', either because it was an extremely new tag, or the bands simply didn't like themselves to be referred to as such. Glass Hammer however embraces the progressive rock label, letting it define every single musical blip that they make. Of course it must be addressed that Glass Hammer takes extreme influence from Yes, however for me I feel that the former is the superior. This may sound short sighted by Glass Hammer's clean cut modern utilizations of musical technology that Yes didn't have allows them to sound...just...better. Now I suppose you could just chalk this up to me being easily influenced by pretty sounds as opposed to the hard-work of Yes, but my respect for Yes has never waned. However their time has passed, and I believe Glass Hammer is a perfect band to take the mantle. Don't get me wrong, Yes can be more respected for what they were able to accomplish with much less to work with- I certainly do. But Glass Hammer is just, I guess, the "new Yes".

Enough case study, how is Cor Cordium itself? Like I said before, it is very punchy in it's delivery, and harnesses a sort of neo-prog type sound with it's heavy double-kick drums and booming electric. I know this might be heresy, but I actually consider Jon Davidson's vocals to be superior to Jon Anderson's (even in his prime). Davidson's harmonizations are simply better, and is more along the lines of Geddy Lee in quality standards. The opener 'Nothing Box' is simply fantastic, with a great atmosphere and also very lyrically sound. 'To Someone' is for those who like the long stuff, with changing tempos and moods- expected of a prog epic. The album closes out very nicely with 'She, a Lonely Tower', which is the final of the four epics of the album, and carries with it a somber note to the otherwise quite jovial album.

Another quality album from the oxymoron bunch. If you're looking for an example of great modern prog rock, then this album is for you.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/30/2016.
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Music Review #83:
Pike 13 / Untitled

Buckethead's Pike 13 is one dedicated to his indisposed father (who died not long after it's release), Tom Carroll. Buckethead, a guitar virtuoso who can be described as a freakshow with the musical stamina of a demigod, turned down his sound into something a bit more lackadaisical and emotional.

Pike 13 is a collection of ambient quasi-progressive rock songs which are all untitled, so they're generally referred to as "Track ___" depending on where they land on the album. They are all extremely slow and melodic, with a space rock vibe, but where most would fail with this laidback concept but Buckethead uses it to his advantage to create some pretty emotional pieces. Much of the album is very compact, usually only with Buckethead's echoing guitar doing the work. The longer parts, mainly the fantastic 'Track 6' is where he uses some simplistic yet effective drum fills for background sound.

Pike 13 is a short but sweet album from the recent years and is good for any occasion you want peace and quiet. I'd recommend to fans of soundtrack music (very Buckethead) or just soft prog in general.

 2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 
Music Review #82:
Bitter Potion
Roadrunner Records

Thorn are perhaps one of the most underappreciated industrial metal (or just metal in general) acts I think I've ever come across. It's lineup is one that's both spectacular and odd, featuring one of the first musical ventures of soon-to-be drummer of Soulfly Roy Mayorga, Winter guitarist Steven Flam, and a freshly-strung bassist/vocalist John Jesse making his debut. All in an industrial metal format, which is quite contrary to other the other types of metal they would go onto play in their respective bands. It's so peculiar looking at it from the outside that it's both baffling and understandable that the band was a commercial failure. Thorn were able to knock off two semi-albums (the first being a cassette-only release) until eventually the unsuccessful battle to gain leverage disbanded them shortly after this album. Although undoubted the band members would go onto great things, how does this cornucopia of bizarre fare in itself?

Bitter Potion isn't exactly as technical as most industrial metal, nor is it as sulking. It's actually quite a unique release from the scene, with abnormal time signatures and odd elements thrown in throughout. It has an overall organic style, almost stripped down. It is just three sole musicians after all, but each of them delivers a powerful performance. Roy Mayorga's thunderous slams are of course amazing as any Soulfly fan would know, and Flam is great on the strings. Jesse's vocals sound uncannily like Denis Bélanger (Voivod) circa 1990s, with his almost monotonous growl that I've come to enjoy very much. There are some middle-eastern influences thrown in here and there, though they are downplayed a fair amount so don't go in thinking it'll be the centerpiece. It does add a nice dash of eclecticism that does well to make this record fairly unique.

The best music in my opinion comes from the second half of the album ('Legions of Lace' and onward is fantastic), where it's a bit more cohesive stylistically, and less bouncing all over the place. The heavy stuff is all throughout so don't worry about not having that as a main aspect.

Although rather minimalist Thorn's debut is nothing to scoff at. I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of 90's metal and searching for the odd stuff. This is perfect for you.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 8/25/2016.
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Music Review #81:
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
BMG Music International

This place ain't big enough for stars and stripes.

Yes was in a downward spiral in the late 80's- no-one can deny that. Drastic sound changes were starting to shake the band's ideals, and the lineup was practically broken compared to when the band started. Jon Anderson, Yes' proclaimed golden boy, was fed-up of the boundaries of pop-music presented by the eighties, and thrived to create some prog solo work reminiscent of the band's old days. However as these ideas began to take birth so did it's scope. Old Yes members eagerly started jumping on board, those being Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe, as well as King Crimson's Tony Levin. The new-old mostly Yes amalgamate renamed themselves cleverly to "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe" and released their debut in 1989.

The structure of the songs on the album are what you'd consider to be progressive- multi-sectioned neo-classical rock epics that prog musicians are so fond of. Whilst these tended to be rather good in classic Yes days, they sort of fall short here. For the most part. Remember this was not two years after Yes' Big Generator, arguably their most pop-indulgent album to date, so there's still much of a trace left over. The most musically infuriating part of this era for me was doubtlessly the keyboards, where it was always a decision to either use these dinky electro-pop keyboards or over-the-top pseudo-epic synthesizers. Even the legendary Wakeman's keyboards sound horrendous here, except of course for the Genesis-like 'Birthright', which gives me the idea that I think Wakeman could take a lesson here or there how to do good pop keyboards from Tony Banks. Bill Bruford, outstanding on the skins, is reduced to using heavily programmed drums that sound nigh insincere. Levin is practically nonexistent for the majority of the album, but Howe and Anderson are the two that sort of remain consistent even if they are bleating out cheesy music. The band's cohesiveness is palpable but it doesn't have a trace of the overwhelming sophistication or supreme talent I know they've displayed. The styles bounce all over the place, from slightly subtle prog to annoying Latin-infused songs. 'Teakbois' is nothing short of an auditory insult, awfully reminiscent of Genesis' 'Illegal Alien' in 1983.

But I digress. Let's take a look at where the album shines. The aforementioned 'Birthright' is quite a creative piece and is rather rich lyrically. Has great and powerful drumming from Bruford to, for a moment abandoning the terrible robotic drums. Unfortunately the longer 9-10 minute epics can't really stay away from the 80's cheese pop style for very long, that is except for the extremely awesome 'Brother of Mine'. Other than that, the "bad" songs are pretty innocent. They aren't offensive for the most part and are I suppose enjoyable to an adjusted ear.

My rating would be higher if ABWH dropped some of the typical eighties pop style for the album they wanted to be containing less of. Like Anderson I yearned for something different from pop-rock Yes, but unfortunately ABWH just doesn't deliver that very well.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/25/2016.
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Music Review #80:
Cold Heat
WEA Musik

Groovy? Yes. Jazz? Debatable.

Cold Heat is the last album from the Snowball supergroup formed by several wonderful musicians from other bands, like Embryo, Passport, and Nektar. They showed wonderful promise on their first effort, Defroster in '77, although not exactly as prolific as the albums from the bands the members originated from it was not that bad. Now 1977 was already approaching the fringe for the 80's invasion, so that band was to either take the neo-prog revitalization path, or fall, like so many others, down the rabbit hole of the upcoming decade's pop music.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Snowball took the path that would come to be so utterly beaten that it would become an annoyance. Their second album, Cold Heat, was released in 1979, the dawn of a new era. This time the band really makes themselves seem like a bunch of oxymorons.

Cold Heat turns out to be a balancing act of occasional jazz bursts and cheesy disco-funk that more often than lot swings to the latter. Vocalist Eddie Taylor embodies the archetypal swagger that would become more and more popular as the 80's progressed, almost like a Maurice White without the lovable factor. The few moments where the band breaks into anything remotely jazz-like it's immediately swept away with a sonic cheese onslaught, making for music nothing short of a dishonest. Schultz and Gebauer occasionally throw in echoing buzzes and other effects that does nothing to help the mood. I actually commend Taylor on sax; he's not bad- but he isn't made for jazz. His latin- infused dance style aged extremely poorly and I would go so far as to say that if he was placed in any other kind of musical environment he wouldn't flourish nearly as easily.

So as a verdict: I suggest you either take a look at Snowball's debut or the bands these obviously talented musicians came from. You'll definitely get a bigger bang for your buck.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/23/2016.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Music Review #79:
Meat Loaf
Bat Out Of Hell
Cleveland International

Not many people had heard of Marvin Aday prior to 1977. Before his massive nuclear hit album, the only true work he had done was a collaboration with soul and gospel music singer Shaun Murphy in a short lived duet named Stoney and Meat Loaf. Almost nobody who knows Meat Loaf's career knows about the 1971 album, and even at the time it wasn't the most popular of all debuts. And while Murphy went on to participate with Little Feat, Aday was cranking on with his solo career.

Shrugging off the old jacket of soul and blue-eyed music, Meat Loaf made one of the most drastic music changes of any of the musicians I know. It was the edge of the 80's, where many metal bands would spring, including Iron Maiden, Metallica, among others. But even during the 70's, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath had become part of the biggest uprising in metal music. Even though Meat Loaf didn't follow exactly the same path, the man went in a direction of hard rock that has remained a legend throughout not only metal music, but music history itself. Thus, his magnum opus Bat Out Of Hell (1977) was released to the masses. At first, reception was slow. Some critics sneered and were quick to note how the album was a lackluster pop album and nothing more. In fact, everyone who worked at Epic Records, the label of the album, hated it with a passion. However, these were quickly swallowed by the tidal wave of fans that the album itself generated. The album is "timeless, in that it didn't fit into any trend. You could release that record at any time and it would be out of place." reflected the Jim Steinman, the guest guitarist for the album. What Steinman said was in fact, very true. Meat Loaf had done something completely different. He had in a way made music that didn't restrict itself to one genre. And while critics still enjoy bashing it for all it's worth, my opinions are thus.

For the general aspect of the album, it's excellent. Perhaps it's not something i'd listen to over and over, with the exception of the title track (which we'll get to soon.) But I simply cannot deny the thought and care put into the album's structural integrity. Every track shines in it's own way, with differentiated themes, largely bouncing between slow melancholic piano pieces to rolling pounding tunes to bouncy poppish tunes. To judge all sides, the piano pieces are wonderful. All of them are, even though heavily harmonically basing themselves off of eachother, are very great outright. The harder rocking tunes are the greatest part, however. The aforementioned title track, 'Bat Out Of Hell' is my definite favorite from the album. Wonderfully adapting to it's extreme ten minute long length, the song trudges through themes like Priest-like riffing (mainly in the opening), to vocal lead sections by the man himself. The title track is probably the heaviest on the album, and definitely the most enjoyable to listen to. The only other exception to this theme to rocking is the second half of 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light', with funk figure-heading it. And finally there's the pop side of the album. And in the genres case, it's pretty great pop. All of the songs that retain the theme of mainstream rock has their own light that they use in their own light. Although silly at times, the quirky late-70's feel is comfortable to listen to at least when knowing that the musicians behind the music are definitely having fun, especially Aday himself.

So, all in all, Bat Out Of Hell is absolutely fantastic. If you've heard of this album before (doubtless you have) and haven't listened to it, I suggest you do right away. One of the great highlights of the late 70's era.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 3/7/2015.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Music Review #78:
Miles Davis
Kind of Blue
Columbia Records

Jazz with pizzazz- a phrase with many 'z's but in reference to an artist that keeps doesn't let you sleep a wink.

Miles Davis was a pioneer for his time, undoubtedly. Although not as progressively experimental as future jazz fusion bands like Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Davis (among a other notable jazz groups/musicians) did a complete turnover on the jazz scene around the end of the 50's and the rest of the 60's with unheard-of experimentation. Incomprehensible by many of the jazz critics at the time, artists like Davis were scolded for changing the industry in such a drastic way, but over time garnered sensational praise with how revolutionary they were.

While not jazz-rock fusion like electric period Davis, Kind of Blue is no doubt progressive jazz. While following typical 4/4 standard (mainly with the drumming by Jimmy Cobb), the famous dual saxophonists John Coltrane and "Cannonball" Adderley tender an eclectic vocal-like melody of illustrious toots in a back-and-forth sort of way. They are really what make this album what it is, as they can change in a snap without hesitation from soft to booming. Miles Davis himself is very similar, except as the royal trumpeter of this engagement hitting the highest notes. The brass section really does a good conjoined job of throwing up some unique patterns unseen on most jazz albums of the time. A problem much jazz faces is that sometimes the saxophone/trumpet/really any kind of brass overcomes all other instruments. This means it's up to the brass to be unique with such a mainline part, and much like vocals, if not done correctly can lead to some extremely irritating music. This is untrue of Kind of Blue- Davis, Coltrane, and Cannonball make for a really unique and creative experience that doesn't fade in quality even after all these years.

Enough about the brass, how's the rest of the band? Cobb is a standard drummer but I laud him for his vitality to keep up a clean beat even when faced with a doozy like 'All Blues', an eleven minute epic. Paul Chambers on bass and Bill Evans (and Wynton Kelly even though he only plays on track two) on the keys really go hand in hand as the backup. They rarely get moments to shine as a fronting instrument, they always manage to keep a cool and laidback atmosphere, really working well with the idea of cool-jazz better than most.

Kind of Blue is not fusion in the slightest but it is undeniably a classic. It deserves reverence and I suggest you hasten to check it out.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/16/2016.
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Music Review #77:
Béla Fleck and The Flecktones
Flight of the Cosmic Hippo
Warner Bros. 

Anyone ever notice that the album cover for this album is just a wider shot of the band's debut cover? To say the least, it's better that they went with more as opposed to just re-using the same cover or something along those lines. You know, speaking of a zoom-out, that's what this album is- a wider picture of the talents and attributes of Flecktones thus far. Let's delve deeper.

The band's eloquently titled sophomoric album Flight of the Cosmic Hippo is yet another wonderful output from banjoist Bela Fleck and his pals The Flecktones. Seeing as I've reviewed their third album, UFO Tofu, in the past, I suppose it's fair to compare the two. A big conclusion we can make right off the bat is that this album is much more controlled than that of the Flecktones' later work. Eclecticism is at a low here, instead Flight has your more standard groovy jazz-bop, albeit with more ambiance and well-above-average musicianship. The band melds so well together when playing it's almost mesmerizing, especially during faster tracks like 'Blu-Bop'. They work as a cohesive unit, held together by the standards of jazz but occasionally breaking the mold to deliver zany bursts of imagination into an already colorful din. Fleck's banjo is of course on point, I expect nothing less from a man who can keep up with Beethoven and Mozart's work with ease. One of my favorite bassists of all time, Victor Wooten is intricate as ever, blasting out refined yet ever changing neo-classic jazz thumps without fail. Not without mention is his brother Roy Wooten with his one-of-a-kind "synthaxe drumitar", a cobbled-together piece of machinery that also happens to be the cornerstone of rock-ambiance combination, delivers an ever-present echo and feeling of the cosmos to each track.

Although haphazard at times The Flecktones' second album is a spectacular piece of art, and some of the most innovative music from the jazz-fusion circle. Highly recommended.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/15/2016.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Music Review #76:
Energostatic Records

Coming from the fairly standard electronic artist Edgaras Zakevičius, his 2012 work Echoes is your basic ambient electronic album. In the vein of some of Brian Eno or The Orb, Zakevičius (under the name Stellardrone) utilizes the soundscape to project ideas of the cosmic void with sound of billowing choral echoes. This ultimately is a fair definition of 21st century ambiance, and unfortunately Stellardrone fails to bring much of anything new to the table. A state of calm is instated upon listening, but the same can be said for most other albums of it's stature. Zakevičius is very keen on his work being used in different forms of media, but the niche that this sort of music fills is small. Without any prior experience into this artist, I can easily say that this is extremely dull and uninteresting.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 11/17/2015.
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Friday, August 12, 2016

Music Review #75:
Mighty Cosmic Dances
Radiation Noise

Before we get this review underway, I'll just let you know that I myself am not a fan of black metal. In fact, I'll even say that I dislike most of the material that comes from it. So as a person who holds a certain distaste for black metal, a positive review of an album from the genre means it is particularly exceptional, so much so that it transcends my prejudices against the genre. 

Oblomov's debut is quite the interesting record. It's more of a power-thrash album that features some actually pretty decent black metal vocals (a screech and growl between Pavel Dlabaja and Honza Vanek). Both vocalists/guitarist have prior experience in black metal, with Dlabaja being in Sacrist and Vanek being from Panychida, so don't expect amateur material from these guys.

Now the idea of space and the metaphysical isn't new territory for black metal, but Oblomov does well to differentiate themselves with some extremely clever ideas. First off, Mighty Cosmic Dances is more atmospheric than most black metal albums, not to mention that it's combined with it's melodic power metal double guitar riffing. The screech of the black metal vocals coincided with a practical space opera-esque symphony of discord to back it up makes for quite the impressive auditory spectacle. Combine this with both the strange but oddly fitting inclusion of saxophone and didgeridoo in the vocal breaks is quite a touch. A song that really stands out and uses these elements best is on the track 'Starsend'.

I must say Oblomov, you impressed me. This album is truly the greatest black metal record I've ever heard so far, at the very least the best of the 2000's. Even for someone who doesn't like black metal that much this was truly a journey for me from start to finish. My heart truly has grown three sizes.

Written for Metal Music Archives' September 2016 Reviewer Challenge.

 2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 
Music Review #74:
Thor's Hammer
Thor's Hammer
Won-Sin Music Company

Thor's Hammer are a bit of an unknown bunch picked out from the 70's prog scene, but usually in my experiences obscure bands produce the best music, and that's definitely true here. The band's sole album and debut was released in 1971 and is as energetic as the best of them.

A problem that I've found with eclectic prog bands is they feature too much emphasis on experimentation and not enough on, well, the music. Here however Thor's Hammer combines all sorts of dazzling elements, like operatic rock, symphonic rock, and hell why not throw in a few crunchy riffs here and there. It truly takes a lot of effort to be a consistent, but TH pull it off very well. Although extremely eclectic, the album is refined even when it gets to it's most climactic points. As for jazz influences, they aren't exactly prominent aside from Simon Koppel's drumming and Jesper Neehammer's occasional saxophone breaks. Hell, King Crimson used saxophone and I still don't consider them to be very jazzy. The song selection, although short is extremely well done and each track has careful time and care put into it. A major highlight is 'Not Worth Saying', a powerhouse of a song where there is not one, but two solos from guitarist Michael Brunn and from Koppel. I would sort of say that the following track 'Blind Gypsy Woman' is so similar in atmosphere that it is just a continuation of the former.

The only problem I would say I have with the album is after the third track the erratic powerful nature the album has starts to lose it's punch; there aren't any really breaking points or slower sections. I'd hate to parallel this with VDGG but on Pawn Hearts, after the loud rocker 'Lemmings', 'Man-Erg' started with a beautiful piano opening to sort of calm you down and prepare you for the rest. If the album were to have at least a few interludes that calmed the atmosphere a bit, this would be close to a perfect experience. Other than that I have no problems except for the cover. But I mean if the music's good what does that matter?

So I'd suggest take a look at this one. Eclectic prog, next to jazz-fusion is the prog sub-genre where I found has usually the best musicians. Give these guys more attention because they deserve it.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/12/2016.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Music Review #73:

Hey reader, just a little background info for you before you begin:
This is in fact my first ever review I wrote way back in early 2014 for the website Prog Archives. It's a track-by-track review of Pink Floyd's debut Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and was written to express how overrated I thought the honestly below-average album was. So if you're looking for a positive take on the album, it's not here.

There are numerous flaws in the review (like bad sentence structure, incorrect usage of words, and just childish writing), as well as opinions that have changed with time, however I have decided to leave it unedited in order to sort of preserve it. I did change the layout for the review as the original was extremely messy and hard to read due to me not quite grasping how reviews really worked back then. If you wish to read the original I have left a link in the outro box at the end of the review.

I wrote a second review of this album on a new account (my main account now) for Prog Archives in 2015, therefore I will use a different cover and other layout changes to indicate which is which (neither are positive reviews). So just to be clear, this is in fact the first 2014 review of PATGOD as well as my first review ever. Enjoy!

P.S.: I do not do track-by-track reviews anymore because I feel when you review music some should be left up to the listener to discover for themselves. I have a few other t-b-t reviews from my earlier days but it is doubtful that I will put them on here.

Review #1:

Pink Floyd
Piper at The Gates of Dawn
EMI Columbia

(Everything past this point is from the original review, except for the outro box of course.)

Piper At The Gates Dawn is The Pink Floyd's debut album released in 1967. The album, being highly different than the Pink Floyd we know today, was written by founder of the band, Syd Barret. This album received high ratings from the general public, ranging from 4/5 - 5/5. The albums genre can be easily set into Psychedelic Rock / Space Rock. The album consists of 11 strange songs. The strangeness of said songs can be traced back to the writer, Barrett. It is known that Barrett's mental degradation caused him to be removed from the band completely after the release of Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets. This growing insanity caused Barret to produce and write some incredibly strange songs that are featured on this album. 

1. Astronomy Domine

Considered to be the father title to most Space Rock genres, Astronomy Domine paves the way for Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by being the first item on the list. AD has a progressing rock feel that gives you the impression that this song did not just set the way for the album, but set the way for Pink Floyd's songs to come. My opinion on the song is that it is good, and was well written compared to the other songs in the album. Throughout the song there is a constant wavering along with the occasional noise of an astronaut, which gives it the clear title of being Space Rock. Overall, the song is definitely one of the better songs on this album.

2. Lucifer Sam

Lucifer Sam definitely has some qualities as a song. The music is not horrible; a nice beat and rhythm really adds a lot to the song. However, lyrically, the song is degrading. The line: " That cat's something I can't explain. Ginger, ginger, Jennifer Gentle you're a witch." needs a little more explaining for it to make sense. For me, bad lyrics really set of a song as bad. You always want a song that you can sing along to and not feel like you're high without the drugs. Definitely, this song was the preferred - sounding song of that age, but I can't seem to like it that much.

3. Matilda Mother 

In my opinion, this song is the best on the album. The dark and creeping guitar and the surprisingly good lyrics gives Matilda Mother an excellent quality. This is definitely one of the lowest regarded songs on the album, but most definitely the best.

4. Flaming

Flaming is another one of the most unappealing songs on the album. The annoying chord progression and Barrett's voice, which barely holds notes and is highly annoying in this song, makes it extremely hard to enjoy.

5. Pow R. Toc H.

Being yet another lame hit on Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Pow R. Toc H. is less annoying and more foolish. The name itself is just stupid, and the opening of the song sounds like an adolescent's first time beatboxing. PRTH is definitely one of the less appealing songs on the album.

6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk

Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk is a unique song on the album, being the only song written by Roger Waters. However, this quality does not make it very enjoyable. Most of the instruments are very looping, and the 'guitar solo' sounds like just someone lamely tinkering around with a guitar. Again, like Lucifer Sam, holds very low lyrical value.

7. Interstellar Overdrive

Alongside Astronomy Domine, Interstellar Overdrive holds the title of another highly memorable song to people today. This epic is not as bad as Pow R. Toc H. or Flaming, for it holds it's note progression very highly throughout all ten minutes of the song.

8. The Gnome

Being the least known song on the album, The Gnome deserves that title. Sounding like a children's song, it has terrible rhyming words, and has instruments that are drowned out by another bad singing performance of Barrett. The singing in this song is very cracked and annoying and the lyrics barely hold up.

9. Chapter 24

This is probably the worst song on the album. The opening is formed of random banging on cymbals and bad keyboard progression, which is a terrible start to a song. Barrett's voice again is cracked and annoying, sounding like a teenager hitting puberty. Again, the lyrical value is terrible and holds no structure throughout this song. This song sounds like it was made very quickly and therefore sounds horrendous.

10. The Scarecrow

Another unique song on this album, Scarecrow is a very simple yet catchy song. The interesting percussion and rhythm give it an enjoyable quality along with the soft guitar. Even though this is another song where Barrett's voice is annoying, the music makes up for it.

11. Bike

Strangely regarded as one of Barrett's masterpieces, Bike is the last song on this album, oh and did they end this poor album with a poor song. The instruments sound that they are just getting slapped and smashed on. The singing. Oh the singing. The singing is probably the worst performance on this entire album, maybe in Pink Floyd history in my opinion. The lyrics hold no value whatsoever, and are not enjoyable in any fashion. Halfway through the song, the music disappears to be replaced with a terrible and ear wrenching symphony of bicycle sounds. After this horrendous melody, the 'song' ends with an incredibly annoying laugh. Overall, this song is one of the worst things ever.

Overall, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn could have had much more potential then it did, but sadly did not live up to my expectations. I give it a 2/5. If you wish to purchase the entire Pink Floyd discography, then this should be one of the last albums you buy.
Thanks for reading my review, and try not to be vulgar to anyone who is commenting. Thank you!

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 5/10/2014.
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Link to the original review here

Monday, August 8, 2016

Music Review #72:
Glass Top Coffin
Vertigo Records

A glass-top coffin. Deceased, your body's placed in a coffin whose lid is made entirely of transparent glass. Dead, you can't move a muscle- but the world continues anyway. People walk their walk of life with and society moves on without you. Your friends slowly forget about you, and even the memory you've put in the minds of your family becomes hazy. The only imprint of you that you've put on this earth slowly gets pulled away by time, the unstoppable enemy. The worst part? Your dead eyes see every bit of it. You can see through your coffin, right?

A terrifying prospect, is it not? Well Britain's nutcase duo named their second work after it. You may have heard the name Space Hymns somewhere circulated about the rock circle during the 90's, along with the tragic but also sort of poetic death of Kimberly Barrington Frost. The truth is a year before his death Frost and his wife Dorothy Laflin released a second album titled Glass Top Coffin. This certain release is very different compared to Space Hymns, as it features a completely different tone compared to it's predecessor. While many chastise Hymns for being amateur and very disjointed (at least those were my criticisms), Glass Top is completely different.

Sure, it may sound very similar, but when you get down to it's not. Glass Top is far more refined, infinitely more mature, and there is a tinge of tragedy to it. You see, Laflin and Frost both thought themselves to be the descendants of the gods Ramses and Serket from Egyptian mythology. This was happily expressed and flaunted on Space Hymns, and to many people's distaste. Four years pass however after a slew of unsuccess came with Hymns' release in '71. This is complete conjecture, but it is my belief that there was a moment of epiphany for the two, a realization that they weren't living in some dream where they could say they were godsends and that would be the word of law. This epiphany I believe started some time after Space Hymns ('73 or '74) and ended with Frost's death in '76. If we take this as true this album becomes a whole lot more meaningful, as it occupies that middle space in time shortly before Frost went into a state of isolation and disconsolation. Now after we've laid that base, let's actually take a look at the album.

Glass Top Coffin, like I said before, is much more mature in structure than the meandering Space Hymns. The songs are quieter and more secluded, and do not tend to become too energetic. Even at times where you feel the album should kick up a notch is does so very slightly (with the exception of the upbeat rocking title-track). Also noticed is a certain, dark motif that comes to light during the album, and that is one of death and solitude. These may not seem clear at first, for they are a bit cryptic and/or minimalist in nature. Some of the more clear cut examples of this are 'Only the Loneliest Feeling', a short, atmospheric tune consisting only of ambient sound and a lone warbling falsetto by Frost. The opener 'Golden Landing' is a soaring almost angelic strings/choral piece that's tinged with a sense of dread, which is very strange for an opening. But of all these the most interesting I found was 'Sweet Reason', a wonderful tune where, like before, has a tinge of sorrow in it. Here Frost inquires to the listener their thoughts of certain aspects of life, including friends, family, nature, and of course, those passed away. It really is a bittersweet tune that actually brought me close to tears at one point. Even the rocking title track I mentioned before, 'Glass Top Coffin', ends with an almost maniac but completely flustered intensity, something not expected by a happy-go-lucky song you thought it would be in the beginning., only to abruptly bleed into 'Golden Landing, Pt. 2', which marks the end to out long journey. It ends with the tumultuous words of Frost: "I can see! / I can feel! / I can breathe! / I'm still myself!".

This is already way longer than I would have wanted, but it is an album that truly deserves more respect. Sure it's not particularly a 'concept album', but it's main theme is executed so well that I am in haste to recommend it. If you're looking for examples of music that transcend boundaries, then this is one for the books. Check it out.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/8/2016.
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Music Review #71:
Vynil Magic

Ever imagine a universe where Icarus didn't fly too close to the sun? Well, obviously he would have gone on to form a 
wonderful little jazz band named after his beloved father, Daedalus. Somewhere along the way he forgot the 'a' in his 
name, most likely due to the one too many ouzos he'd downed the night before in the name of celebration. 

Anyhow, this little obscure gem of a group comes from the wonderful country of Italy. They released their first album in 
1973, and it was their only album featuring their complete original quartet, as their bassist Furio Di Castri departed after it 
was released. The album, self-titled Dedalus, is a cool combination of the free-jazz style of Chick Corea and the slightly avant-
garde nature of Mahavishnu Orchestra, if I were to put juxtapose it with it's bedfellows. Much of the album is surprisingly 
spacey, but in the kind of way that cool jazz can just be so....'out there' at times. The best of examples of this being the 
two epics 'C.T. 6' and 'Santiago' (the latter being the superior in my opinion). 

A glaring problem that becomes rather annoying after a few listens through is the incessant noodling that goes on 
(generally) towards the latter half of the song. It's not the worst avant-garde elements they could have mixed in but it 
does tend to ruin the atmosphere they so easily crafted. If I were to compare it to something I would say pre-Kraftwerk 
Organisation's Tone Float from 1969, which I shiver when thinking of associating it with anything particularly tasteful. 
This is the main reason why 'Leda' is my favorite track; it's devoid of any of the aforementioned. Yet, it also has a 
tranquility provided mainly in part by that classic floaty synthesizer (the guitar and drums are some of the best as well). 
That is not enough for me to hate the album though in any case, because the music still remains extremely pleasant for 
the majority of it's duration.

Criminally unknown and underrated, I want to the best of my ability to spread the world of this little-known album. Hell, 
it's got me hooked for the remaining material of the band, so why don't you get in on it as well?

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 8/8/2016.
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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Music Review #70:
Mental Jewelry
Radioactive Records

Live is a fantastic, fairly well-known Pennsylvanian band that has produced some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking rock from the last two decades. Their journey started with this little album, Mental Jewelry, in 1991.

Well, technically this is the second album the band released, having released an album titled The Death of a Dictionary under the name Public Affection, in June of 1989. The band's first release under their reformed name, Live, was that of the Four Songs EP in 1991. Two songs were used from the EP, those being 'Operation Spirit' (retitled on Mental Jewelry to 'Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition), and 'Good Pain', while the other two were made into b-sides.

Compared to Live's later work, even their second album, Mental Jewelry is the more soft-spoken of the bunch. Owe this to beginner's shyness or what you will, the fact is this so more in terms of classic funk rock. The rolling guitar of Chad Taylor creates nothing less than a finger snapping experience. But let that not dissuade you, for this album is quite eclectic. The instruments constantly shift around in order of significance; the bass can be a background instrument and then all of the sudden Dahlheimer's slapping with the best of them. Taylor harnesses soft acoustic for the quieter sections, and when he switches to electric he cranks it up to ten in ten flat with some rocking grooves. Chad Gracey also deserves a mention due to how dynamic his drumming is, especially during the more climactic sections.

But this would not be a Live review without mention of Ed Kowalczyk's stunning vocal work. If the instruments ever get too straightforward, then he'll invigorate it back up extremely quickly by belting out a bittersweet line. His self-harmonizations are some of the best, particularly on 'Operation Spirit' and 'You Are The World', almost like he's trying to top himself with how strong his voice can be.

Mental Jewelry is a bit strange with a first listen, so I'd suggest starting out with something a bit safer, like Throwing Copper or The Distance To Here. Once you've gone through them, this album will impress you much more.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 8/5/2016.
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Friday, August 5, 2016

Music Review #69:

Arizona based Doom metal act's second studio album to me is the definition of what doom metal should be. Dark and brooding, these stoner metal megatons have delivered another fantastic album full of brain-crunching riffs that are guaranteed to blow you into a metal induced stupor. This is the album following 777 (2013), an album that had some faults, particularly in leaning too heavily on Sabbath and Sleep influences with vocal work and song structure. That is all wiped away with their followup, Obelisk. The band has gained strong individuality with Jeff Owens switching to a more distant, yelling style, and Asselin and Taylor going for a more clean cut route on their playing styles. The album is filled with long, ripe tracks that utilize speaker-blowing power to deliver a sullen and brooding lyrical and instrumental communiqué to your senses. While I do criticize some doom metal albums for being too plodding and one-track-mind, Goya constantly switches it up with acoustic ballads such as 'The Star' and '300 Eyes', and a power-metal style 'The Sun'. The outro 'No Place in the Sky' is extremely Sleep-like, in the way that it's a long composition that retains a very clear motif throughout (usually a very slow, dark stoner slog).

Goya's Obelisk is perfect for those whose tastes beg for something fresh and new from the doom metal genre. You will receive a wonderful experience in return.

 2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day!