Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Single Review #3:
Breath & Burning
Elektra (?)

'Breath & Burning' is the first single from Phish's (currently) upcoming album Big Boat, and was released as a promotional single. As most promos go, this single should be, for all intents and purposes, a song that encapsulates the general sound of the album to give you a taste of the upcoming experience.

If this rings true for Breath & Burning, then this is a good sign for what's to come. This song is more in the vein of early 90's Phish (counting Junta), with it's doodling pop rock sensibilities, except incorporating the more clean-cut lyrical and musical quality of the current style of the band. McConnell's soft bluesy keyboards coincide well with the more receded drumming of Fishman, the two band members who I've noticed have changed the most throughout the years. Gordon's thumping bass and Anastasio's acoustic sound very similar as to how they always have, so comforting territory there. As for vocals, Anastasio holds up, however on my wishlist is more acapella from the band- one of their many quirks I've grown fond of over the years.

Well signified by it's artsy cover with clouds and baby blue sky, this track can be described with such emotional adjectives like free and floating. This is definitely more in the territory of innocent, Fuego Phish than of the acid-fueled nonsensical band they were known to be two decades ago. Whether this is good or not completely depends on your feelings of the different eras the band has gone through. If their more recent stuff is to you liking, this definitely will be too.

Breath & Burning is a good sign of what's to come on this new album. I'd say for Phans or just easy listeners, keep your ears up. There might be some good stuff ahead.

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Music Review #93:
The Impossibility of Reason

The Impossibility of Reason was Chimaira's first record to transition the band from metalcore to groove metal, and it's obvious which genre fit the band more as subsequent releases followed the same line of thinking. It's not hard to understand why The Impossibility of Reason was such a breakthrough record for the band; it's almost perfect production quality bringing out never-before-seen qualities of Chimaira previously not seen under their banner.

Chimaira's 2003 album showcases a new and improved set of tracks, tuning down electronic elements to create a more clean yet powerful album. Rob Arnold has mentioned that bands they've toured with's influence on the band, these compatriots including the likes of In Flames (whose history is almost like the reverse of Chimaira's) and Soilwork. The influential melodic death metal style of these bands is evident on The Impossibility of Reason, an album littered with brash unforgiving sonorous riffs give way to energetic spectacles of raw power. The band holds a candle to the likes of Mudvayne, in fact this album in particular is very similar to Mudvayne's then-studio output (i.e. The End of All Things to Come), albeit with less experimental qualities.

The tracks are nearly all stunning. Not one misses a beat and keeps the sort of power-trip (funnily enough a track on the album) like theme of the album going. The dark, film-score like nature of the album's #1 single 'Down Again' is endearing, as well as the anger-filled 'Pure Hatred' (which I first heard on an episode of Mythbusters in 2004). It might be a bit cliche but Chimaira's closing epic 'Implements of Destruction' is an actual epic, not five minutes of music with eight minutes of silence/noise/sound effects, and is highly recommended. It goes through a variety of drum pattern and stylistic changes, all in an instrumental format. I'd suggest listening to the album to get a taste of it for yourself.

Lastly, the band itself. Chimaira's raw style is owed completely to Andols Herrick on drums and Rob Arnold on guitar. This as well as the Chad Grey-like Mark Hunter on vocals. The guitar section of Chimaira is where the band stands out the most, with the aforementioned Rob Arnold accompanied by Matt DeVries, both of whom would go onto play live guitar and bass respectively for Six Feet Under in 2011 and 2012.

A highly respectable release and a key contributor to the New Wave of American Heavy metal movement, Chimaira and their 2003 album are not to be underestimated. Mind your mind when entering this territory.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 9/25/2016.
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Music Review #92:
Far From Home
Virgin Records

Traffic is by far one of my favorite bands of all time. The innovative music they cranked out in such an early stage of progressive rock was nigh unparalleled by many other bands. Traffic split up rather early in the seventies (in '74), but at the same time had released a studio album practically every year up to that point since their debut in 1967. The split couldn't be more appropriate. Traffic was releasing great material seemingly effortlessly, until that year with When The Eagle Flies, debatably their weakest album of the period. They went quiet for three decades until in 1994, they released a sudden comeback album out of the blue. This was none other than Far From Home, a haphazard assemblage of 90's pop rock and very vague progressive undertones. Was it as great as any of the classics?

No, not really. Now you could say that with such an old band as Traffic, thinking that an album released thirty years after their golden era would be as great as when the band was young is wishful thinking. I don't believe that Far From Home should match any of their old albums in the slightest. To me, a comeback album is one that is more of a callback to old material, replicating it slightly but with other sounds and gadgets to make up for weak points. This is especially the case when an album is such a flash-fire like Far From Home was (the band released and nothing subsequently). But this didn't happen. FFH was a complete overhaul of Traffic's sound, demolishing the eclectic folk influence, the progressive construction, and any semblance of what made Traffic Traffic. If every element of the band was removed, then what exactly was left? Nothing particularly remarkable.

Far From Home, in layman's terms, is a glorified Steve Winwood solo album, the only difference being that drummer Jim Capaldi from the original lineup joined him on it. The album is over-saturated, much like Winwood's albums, with harmonized synth keyboards, slow echoing drumming, and soul backing vocals. To call Far From Home a prog record would be a stretch, but you could make a case for it. The album does have many Latin and salsa jazz influences, no matter how badly used they may be. Funnily enough this album features some of Traffic's longest tracks, which have little-to-no experimentation in them; this may be a trap for you if you're going into the album looking for some hardened progressive rock, so it's better to be aware.

Winwood's vocals in their early stages were quiet, yet when required were able to belt out power notes. However after spending the 80's successful with just using the latter, Winwood's over-enthusiastic yell became the centerpiece of the vocal arrangements. Capaldi, who I know is a great drummer, is restricted within this genre with slow, linear drum patterns that rarely shift from their solid mold. Mick Dolan and Davy Spillane appear as newcomers to the band, on rhythm guitar and Uilleann pipes (a type of Irish bagpipe) respectively. Even with their presence though, it's undoubtedly primarily Capaldi and Winwood doing the work.

The album has some pretty good moments, the title track is stand-able and features one of those super-filtered guitar solos from Winwood at the end of the song. The tracks that I always come back to are that of 'Nowhere Is Their Freedom', a punchy film-score esque epic, and the wonderful closing instrumental 'Mozambique'. The other tracks are forgettable, but I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to say they wouldn't appeal to anybody because this music definitely still has an audience.

Far From Home is not a fantastic record. It has more ups than downs, and unfortunately isn't that great of a resurrection of such a classic band. Yet if you are open minded I'm sure this album would have it's fans. My two-cents don't mean anything in the wider picture. Happy listening. 

Come to think of it, maybe Traffic needed a little more Mason after all. If anyone can do campy right, it's him.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 9/18/2016.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Music Review #91:
No Idea!

I'm not sure what my attraction is to one word-named bands, but I sure find myself running into and enjoying them a lot. This is one of my newer finds while on my never-ending quest to discover creative and innovative music. Seeing as I enjoy doom metal and wish to get more and more involved with the genre, I've been attempting to seek out the best bands of it, for hours, looking for the perfect band to fall in love with. Suffice to say, I hit the darned jackpot.

You may or may not have heard of Floor before; they're a quasi-obscure band that's remained relatively on the down-low and stuck more to the underground doom scene, but have sparked some attention with their songs being on YouTube. They were formed way back in 1992 but for reasons, the main one being that the band only appeared on splits for the first ten years of their activity, they didn't release their debut until 2002. The experience that Floor has had really translates well with their music, seeing as they've bared witness to the rise of many of doom's greatest. Even with this though, Floor is one of the most unique bands I've heard in awhile, and that's always a joy for me.

Floor's debut is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. clocking in at a short but sweet 32 minutes, the structure of Floor is a bit different from other doom bands. The slower, sludgier doom metal bands always seem to have an element of jam in their music, extending songs to 8 minutes, 12 minutes, or even longer. Floor takes the form along the shorter lines, with no tracks broaching 3 and a half minutes. This is actually believe it or not a great pro for Floor's album- the quality of each individual track is condensed in powerful, emotional tracks that come and go with ease.

Now what makes Floor so unique? It's undoubtedly an interesting album. The drumming and overall composition is flourishing and complex at times, and vulgar and relentless at others. Steve Brooks and Anthony Vialon's guitars can switch between a traditional pound, to throbbing and doom-y, to downright hardcore punk. This punk vibe is helped by vocalist Brooks, whose tenor yelling-style translates well into the music, much like A. Jay Popoff's does with Lit.

An album that truly has no low moments. This is nothing short of a masterpiece of doom metal music. I recommend it to any fans of doom metal, anyone who's looking for some special stuff from the metal scene, or those sat frozen in a state of perpetual boredom. This outta cheer you up.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 9/7/2016.
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Music Review #90:
Sub Templum
Witchfinder Productions

Now for something completely not different. Moss is a band hailing from the weirder side of doom metal- the occultist side. This area of doom has created some pretty weird and admittedly disturbing material, and UK's Moss is no exception. 

If you've heard slow doom metal, you've never heard it like this. Most of the band's second album Sub Tempulum's monolithic 73 minute LP is devoted to the low rippling guitar screeches of Dominic Finbow with the slow cymbal crash on occasion. What I presume to be "vocals" of Olly Pearson's are distant, hoarse screams with indiscernible lyrics (not a big surprise). Honestly even with your basic "doom metal tools" laid perfectly out there for them Moss just seems to make a below-average album. Something I noticed is that Sub Templum is rather similar to Sleep's Dopesmoker, except just more repetitive, lower quality, and less fun. I myself as a fan of doom metal should know better than to expect much more from an obscure occult metal band, especially one from the doom genre, but I was nonetheless disappointing. This was even after I saw the decent album art. I'll pass on this one.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 9/7/2016.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Music Review #88:
Mercury Records

It's obvious that Rush's zenith was none other than the 1980's, a time considered emphatically by most to be the worst ten years for progressive rock (and admittedly there is some truth to the hyperbole). What gave Rush the edge over the rest of those who hit a low point in the 80's was their ability to be simplistic yet deeply complex seemingly at the same time. A record that exemplifies this well is none other than '81's Moving Pictures. It was a refreshing glimpse into the hard rock scene, and was what I like to call the second coming of Rush, where the legendary trio was once again able to meld the entire rock scene with pure power. Now I am a fan of Moving Pictures but I actually have somewhat of an unpopular opinion, because I believe that their following year follow-up, Signals, is in fact an even better record than it's predecessor. 

Signals is very similar to Moving Pictures in many ways. For one, Lifeson sounds nigh identical to how he did on the latter, with the same echoey twang that's become signature for Rush. But what I thing Signals did so much better was the balancing of the instruments. I will admit sadly that the bass guitar, an obviously necessary instruments gets buried in progressive rock, and a lot of that comes from how many filters and sounds are layered over it. Signals is one of the few records where I can honestly say that Geddy Lee presents his full blown talent to us on the bass without fail, while still keeping Lifeson's guitar at the helm. Peart is somewhat receded in his playing which to a drummer like myself sort of does get under my skin because I know that his simplistic drumming on Signals is a bit of a facade, though he still does still have some great rolls even with his constraints.

Most of the songs are either fast-paced swinging rockers or slow, intricate jams. 'The Weapon' showcases one of the catchiest beats by Peart I think I've heard by far, and some of those pseudo-poetic lyrics that I know the band loves dearly (as do I). The two man-centric songs, 'Digital Man' and 'New World Man' are quite different, the former being practically a cheesy b-side from a Moving Pictures track (not a bad thing), and the latter being slow methodical tune that talks about the development of technology and the wonders of one certain man who has harnessed it to his own will. 'Countdown' I love so much but it infuriates me in equal measure. This particular track irks me because of it's potential to become an epic (one that could maybe even be a 20-minute long spectacle). It has so many different coinciding musical themes to it that bounce off eachother, and practically are an introduction to a suite where these different themes will be displayed in their own unique and powerful movements...but alas nothing of the sorts happens.

The only song I dislike in any way is 'Losing It', which granted starts out with a particularly creative intro Kraftwerk-like techno tune, but shifts into a particularly annoying ballad halfway-through. Unfortunate because I found the first third and the last third to be dreadfully catchy and particularly good background music. Not exactly 'bad' but definitely not a high point of an otherwise great album.

If you show someone who you know who by some mystifying means doesn't know Moving Pictures, and afterwards inquires for more of it, give them Signals. Depending on how well-versed they are with Rush or at least Rush's sound, they may like it the same, or in my case more than other 80's Rush works. Two thumbs way up.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Music Review #87:
King Crimson
E.G. Records

Not much is needed to be said about King Crimson's 1982 album Beat, other than it is more or less the same as many other 70's bands' absorption of 80's sound. Beat is infamous for it's split between fans of King Crimson; some say it's good musicianship pulls it through even with the musical styles it harnesses , others say it's just a sellout album that only features a modicum of King Crimson's actual talent. Personally I don't belong to the KC fan clique but I sure can tell you this a terrible album.

Dated and extremely wince-worthy, Beat showcases perhaps every single way you can mess up 80's pop rock. The instruments sound watered down, annoyingly twanging out heavily effect-laden chords, the electro-drumming from Bill Bruford, who I know is a fantastic drummer, sounds completely artificial, and the keyboards and "Frippertronics" add a terrible atmosphere to the whole piece. The album has a pseudo rock-and-roll vibe, showcased mainly by Andrew Belew's croon (and in a way his attire shown in the band's live performances of the album). The album needs not one, not two, but three different guitarists (if you count Tony Levin's Chapman stick as one) to keep it afloat. Even with such a plethora of strings the album is weak. The whole album also has a sort of selfishness that differentiates itself from it's kin. It's minimalist album art, it's structure as an album. This may be just King Crimson still not getting over the fact that they made artsy bollocks in the last decade and can't go a single album without showcasing it like a bunch of prudes, but I really can't say for sure.

Frankly it's insulting to see these talented musicians go under just to please a certain audience. Perhaps this was all a Fripp plan and has some art rock meaning behind it. Perhaps it's a botched follow-up to 1980's Discipline. Perhaps it's just a bad album and that's all. The world may never know. But I'll take a shot in the dark and say it's the third option. All in all it's just my interpretation of 80's cheese. Sometimes it's innocent and fine, other times it's infuriatingly stuck-up and full of itself. This is one of those other times. Not recommended.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 9/2/2016.
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 Music Review #86:
Standing Pavement

Tiles came out in the mid-90's, a time where a modern form of hard rock was starting to spring forth in the wake of the grunge explosion. At this time most bands went the commercial route and just pounded out cliched music that that has become a bit of a joke in recent years. Tiles however, did not. With their influences taken not from Nirvana but from the classic penultimate hard rock band Rush, Tiles's debut was released in 1994.

The influence from the 70's hard rock circuit for Tiles is palpable, especially on their first album. These influences aren't limited to Rush- the symphonics the band uses are very reminiscent of Styx, even vocalist Paul Rarick sounds uncannily like Dennis DeYoung. It's not unwelcome to me but I will say if you have a distaste for Styx's sound, perhaps this may not suit you. The progressiveness of Tiles comes in the same package as much of the heavy prog bands on the site, loud and proud arena rock spectacles with rich lyrical content in every word spoken. Chris Heren doubles as keyboardist and guitarist; with the latter he's a bit secluded at times especially when it comes to solos. Solos on Tiles' debut aren't limited to a solo per-say, more along the lines of instrumental breaks. Mark Evans channels Neil Peart with his powerful drum-work, and guest bassist Kevin Chown is great even though he is sometimes obscured by the music.

Really a good lesser-known gem of the 90's rock circuit. I recommend it.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 9/2/2016.
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