Sunday, 22 July 2012

Guano Padano 2 review

Guano Padano - 2

Italian trio Guano Padano, Alessandro Stafana on guitar, Danilo Gallo on bass and Zeno de Rossi on drums, released their “Guano Padano” debut album in 2009. It featured a shimmering display of Ennio Morricone infused soundtracks to exotic landscapes and sultry, mysterious characters. That album featured the likes of Captain Beefheart band member Gary Lucas on guitar, and the mighty Alessandro Alessandroni (the original Morricone whistler) on whistle duties. This latest offering features Italian culture loving Mike Patton on vocal on the villainous “Prairie Fire”, an ominous, siren soaked journey through the underworld. This collection then, has lost none of those early references from their former release, and if anything has built upon them to come up with a further collection of evocative stories from a far-flung territory.

The album “2″ opens with ‘Last Night’ which brings to mind the distant vision of a heat haze blurred traveller, with tantalizing piano lines broken occasionally by cascading castanets. ‘Zebulon’ breaks loose the surf guitar, tremolo arm and chiming bells, as the pace increases over rolling drums. ‘One Man Bank’ slows the pace but never loses the atmosphere, whilst ‘Gran Bazaar’ becomes more reminiscent of Dick Dale or Man or Astroman? in its surf guitar fury.

The tempo and disposition is given a long shot of bourbon on ‘Gumbo’ as the listener lights a cheroot, tips their hat over their eyes, and settles in. ‘Bellavista’ brings a country flavoured edge to the music, bringing finger picking banjo and fiddle into the soup. Just when the listener has begun to think they have understood Guano Padano and their vignettes of sound, ‘Lynch’ brings a mixture of jazz and neo-classical influences, with a hint of the surreal, reminding the poor naive victim of a David Lynch film set piece. Even slices of oriental music cut through tunes such as “Miss Chan”.

The extensive ‘Un Occhio Verso Tokio’ is virtually the soundtrack to a short piece of film in itself, with scenes of poignancy, introspection and joy, all within its eight minute duration. The album closes with the laconic ‘Sleep Walk,’ drifting over soaring lines of steel guitar, and dramatic passages of distortion, percussion and organ....

Full review here

Guano Padano – 2

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers review

Greenleaf - Nest Of Vipers

Swedish Greenleaf have, since 1999, been through a number of incarnations, but the 2012 adaptation featuring Tommi Holappa on guitar, Bengt Backe on bass, Oskar Cedermalm on vocals, Johan Rockner on guitar and Olle Marthans on drums, has come up with a heavy dose of early 70’s rock inspired genius with “Nest of Vipers” on Small Stone Records.

The opening few bars of “Jack Staff” set the bar high with raw, fuzzy guitar, melodic vocal and drums that lurch around high up in the mix. By the time the listener has reached the second track “Case of Fidelity” they will be reaching for the bourbon and cigars. “Lilith” is drenched in sumptuous organ and plump fuzzy guitar, whilst “Tree of Life” is pure cosmic psychedelic progressive rock of the highest order.

The highlight for this reviewer has to be the mighty “Dreamcatcher” with its easily recognisable and easily imitated on air guitar driving guitar chord progressions and clattering “Keith Moon” drumming. The pace slows slightly for “At the Helm”, but the power and the flamboyance is still very much in evidence. The reverberation of a dinosaur meandering over the opening of “The Timeline’s History” is the thick heavy bass sound of Backe, which gives way to a further four minutes of tightly controlled but mischievous blues.

The mighty eight minutes, however, of “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” which closes the album, is a tour de force of realised ambition with extravagant arrangements, luxurious organ drones, rich vocal lines and the familiar clatter of drums. Eight minutes here allows for a little more experimentation and lateral arrangements, but by this time the listener would forgive this slight indulgence.

“Nest of Vipers” is bursting with energy and excitement, and displays a level of musicianship and teamwork that is rare to find, but when found, promises much. Each track carries the hallmark of well planned song structure, and there is never a sense that each individual player is vying for the limelight. Greenleaf here manage to maintain a balance between free-form psychedelic jams and tightly crafted, blues tinged workouts. What comes across primarily is how the percussion is used as a focus for the tunes....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Greenleaf – Nest Of Vipers

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Interview with Adam Wakeman of Headspace for This Is Not A Scene

Adam Wakeman Of Headspace Talks To ThisIsNotAScene

After reviewing “I Am Anonymous,” the recent album from progressive supergroup Headspace, ThisIsNotAScene’s John Toolan put some questions to Adam Wakeman. They talked about the albums themes, influences, the concept and artwork behind the album and much, much more…

Due to the pedigree of the musicians involved in Headspace, is it a concern that there may be preconceptions regarding the content of the album and its’ themes?

I don’t really think so. I think people know what the band is about and will certainly read reviews and interviews before they buy it. People may be surprised that it’s as heavy at is is but when you see 15 minutes songs on the track listing I don’t think people will be expecting an album of piano ballads…

I described the music as “indulgent” in my review, but only in the sense that true artistry, it could be argued, is, by its very nature, indulgent. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

Absolutely. We all think or Headspace as our artistic outlet. Its important to have somewhere to let out your artistic emotions. You rarely get to do that playing for other people and performing their music, so this is that outlet for us.

As for being indulgent, we made this album entirely the way we wanted to make it – with no outside influence financial or otherwise. We signed the deal once all the artwork and music was completed. That was the only way we could truly make the album we wanted to. So in short, ‘indulgent’ is fine with us.

Rather than be ashamed of embracing your influences, you appear to blend a variety of musical styles into your work. Again, with such an experienced group of musicians, is it difficult to remain focussed on what the Headspace venture itself is about?

I think the musical diversity helps the writing process, certainly with Progressive Rock music. We have all played with some great artists in many different genres of music. The more experience you have in different fields can only help the end result.

I understand the album concerns itself with Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grief, what was the impetus around that notion?

The title of the album has the finger pointed directly at the listener. This is about you and your relationship with humanity, ultimately the battles fought within the mind from child to man. Through Kubler Ross’ model of impending death, with reference to war, the turmoil leads us to peace and acceptance… only then to swing straight back round to chaos. Current events that affect us all are obvious reference points so War , Religion and Man’s inhumanity to Man are present throughout.

Which comes first with a collection of songs such as this, the concept or the music?

The concept came first from Damian, and Pete and I worked on some of the music. Damian had a few acoustic sections too which we weaved into the fabric of a couple of songs.

As we developed songs and sections of songs, we’d email them to Damian who would come up with melodies and lyrics, and Lee and Rich would start working on writing their parts.

We demo’d the whole album first before starting again and re recording it properly.

It would look as if that a lot of care and attention has gone into the lyrical content of the album. How important were the lyrics to “I Am Anonymous”?

With an album that’s conceptual, the lyrics are really important. Damian is very conscious about the themes and lyrical message, as we all are but as far as the album is concerned Damian was in charge of that department.

You have probably been asked about the artwork many times, but in an age where digital downloads are becoming more prevalent, how important is the cover art nowadays to the character of the album?

I think it’s really important to have an album that is tied in with the visuals on the cover and booklet. There will always be people buying the album online, but we wanted to make sure that the people that buy the CD get a great package.

Pete and I worked on lots of ideas along with the designers to make sure we were truly happy with the way the album looked.

We called the label the day before the artwork was due and said we weren’t 100% with what we had and wanted to develop another idea that Blacklake had shown us. To us it didn’t matter how long it took, as long as it was right. There’s no point having a fantastic picture of an exploding toaster just because it’s a great picture, if it’s got bugger all to do with the music.

Are there any significant problems inherent in taking such a long time to produce an album, as I understand this one took around four years?

This band started with the intention of being able to do something for ourselves, in the time we have. That’s why this album took such a long time. We didn’t have the time restrictions of label deadlines and with each of our schedules we had to fit in the writing and recording as and when we could.

2007/8 and 2010/11 was really busy for me with Ozzy but what that did mean was that we could spend a lot of time getting used to sections of songs and changing bits we didn’t like. Sure there were times when I wondered if we’d ever finish it, but deep down I knew we’d get there when the time was right....

Read the full interview at This Is Not A Scene

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme

Following their previous release three years ago with “Descent into Depravity”, Maryland’s Dying Fetus have been crushing audiences around the world with their own brand of technical death metal. Despite a number of line up changes, John Gallagher has held together a trio of musicians that have constantly, it could be argued, produced work that combines demanding intense metal with elaborate musicianship.

An example of this can be found on the absurdly brisk introduction to “Invert the Idols”. Verging from blast beat insanity to pummelling riffs and back within the space of a few bars, each track on “Reign Supreme” embraces the listener, shakes them beyond sensibility, before tossing them back into their own individual mosh pit.

“Subject to a Beating” bounds in with a plodding riff, which is brushed aside on occasion for blast beat fury. “Second Skin” is both furious in nature and angular in tempo and chord progression. “From Womb to Waste” opens with the spoken words, “It’s not my fault I’m pregnant, and I love drugs…who cares…fuck the baby, let it die”, and what a perfect sentiment to set the scene for another shattering display of tightly crafted metal ferocity. Although the weathered extreme metal lover will be hard pressed to shock, the passage still instils a sensation of uneasiness which brings another level to the experience. “Dissidence” carries on the tone of high velocity chord mauling, whilst “Revisionist Past” opens with a flourish of guitar before locking into that characteristic savaging....

Read the full piece at This Is Not A Scene