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2011 – Music Year in Review


Well, what a bloody good year for music, if I do say so myself. Yes it’s that time of year to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on how all those sound waves reverberating off of my eardrums have done!

We’ll do the awards in reverse order starting with the ever so predictable individual awards before looking at the runners up and then the big top 5!

I will also post links to my recommended song on each album, so with one swift click you can check some of these babies out, sound good?!

So here we go then…

Most Disappointing Release

Opeth – Heritage

I’ve tried so much to get into this album, I love Opeth. Now when I say it’s a bit of a disappointment I’m by no means implying it’s rubbish. There’s a lot to like here, heavily inspired by 70s progressive music, it’s jazzy in places and technically fantastic. However if I wanted to listen to King Crimson, I’d go and listen to an album like ‘Red’. Therein lies the problem, it sounds like Opeth trying to not sound like themselves (they still do, but it sounds forced).  Surprisingly for me it is the lack of death growls and heavy guitar passages that let this album down, and I’m not usually a fan of heavy for heavy sake.  I will admit having a soft spot for the track ‘Folklore’ though!

Check out: Folklore

Best Album of 2011, not from 2011

The Cooper Temple Clause  – Kick up the Fire and let the Flames Break Loose

Indeed. This album was released in 2003 and the band have subsequently split up, so what relevance does it have on this list? It is the album that I’ve been listening to for the past couple of weeks that’s practically become the background music to my life as we close off the year. Not a bad song on the album, and I find myself relating to every single tune on the album, it’s spooky!  The first time I heard the melancholic opener ‘The Same Mistakes’ and the electro driven ‘New Toys’, I knew this album would quickly become an instant classic for me.  I will certainly be checking out their other two albums.

Check Out: New Toys

Best EP

Amplifier – Fractal

4 tracks of pure instrumental Amplifier genius, probably the only chance to catch them improvising extremely tight prog-goodness. The excitement a song like ‘The Chase’ creates is in complete contrast to the EP closer ‘Solaris’ which is more like music akin to listening to whilst sunbathing on the Moon.

Check Out:  Executive

Band we didn’t want to see spilt up

Sad times. Well it is if two of your favourite bands decide to call it quits:

Oceansize called it quits in February (very quietly) not citing a reason for the split, entirely bizzare set of events considering their 4th album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ was a masterpiece of melody, texture and emotion.  To speculate; I’m convinced that it may have been down to them not getting as much media exposure or popularity as they deserved. I’m of the opinion they are the best band to come out of Manchester (Oasis? Who are they?) it would seem they were just very unlucky with timing. I will lament their passing but I can always listen to their 4 albums and 2 EPs knowing they were one of Britain’s best kept secrets. Oh and Steve Durose has gone onto join Amplifier so not all is lost.

Check Out: Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

Pure Reason Revolution in the other hand announced a very amicable split citing it was just time to move onto other projects. Fair Enough. They did a farewell tour around the UK which I attended which was fantastic. I will miss not hearing how their sound would have probably continued evolving especially as they had started to incorporate more electronic elements. Still I can always go back and listen to a track like ‘Deus Ex Machina’  and smile lots!

Check Out: Last Man, Last Round

Runners up

The following 5 albums came very close to entering my top 5, therefore they are all subsequently tied in 6th place you could say. These are the albums I’ve enjoyed thoroughly this year, but faced very stiff competition. I recommend them all HIGHLY.

Blackfield –Welcome to My DNA

There’s a lot to like about Blackfields 3rd attempt, whether it be the Arabian metal tinged vibes of ‘Blood’, the orchestral drenched ‘Dissolving with the Night’or the energetic acoustic arrangements in ‘Waving’.  Not as strong as the first 2 albums though as explained in my full review here.

Check out: Blood

M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

Multi-layered, beautifully composed soundscapes with chilled vocals, I fell in love with ‘Midnight City’ the first time I heard it, the electro beats and childlike humour of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ are awe inspiring and the album finisher  ‘Outro’ is perhaps one of the soothing ends to an album I’ve heard.

Check out: Midnight City (Official Video)

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Delightful, delightful, oh delightful Mogwai, they deliver something different on every album, and this one is no exception. Listen to a song like ‘White Noise’ and it’s hard not to fall in love with the ethereal vibes. Having a song like ‘Rano Pano’ on the same album certainly helps gear things up a notch, and the video (see below) is pure genious!

Check out: Rano Pano (Official Video)

Anathema – Falling Deeper

Running this risk of sounding like a complete girl, I listened to this album once on the way to work and by the time I arrived I wanted to quite literately weep.  By taking old classics from the early albums and reaaranging them with such deep emotional changes (the addition of an orchestra  helps) it’s hard not to be moved by tracks  like ‘Sunset of Age’ and ‘Kingdom’.

Check out: Crestfallen

Lunatic Soul – Impressions

Mariusz Duda (The frontman and bassist from Riverside) certainly delivers with his 3rd solo album,  it’s dark in places, beautifully haunting yet carries a positive optimism about itself in tracks like ‘Impressions Part 4’ and ‘Impressions Part 8’.  Stick your headphones on and turn the lights off.

Check out: Impressions Part 4

HERE WE GO THEN – MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2011!

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

Perhaps the heaviest band on my list, I’ve always been aware that Mastodon are fairly prolific, but not a band I’d previously invested much time in. Let’s get one thing straight ‘The Hunter’ is a metal album, you’ll hear chugger-chugger riffs, metal screams and thundering flurrying drumming but it also has mellower moments. You’ll also hear some of the most refreshing progressive music of our generation, technically the band are on fine form here and also at their most experimental. Take a track like ‘Creature Lives’ for example that starts with the most crazy mindblowing bit of synth manipulation I’ve ever heard. ‘Blasteroid’ grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let up for 2 and a half minutes, ‘Stargasm’ is a personal highlight with contrasting heavy counter melodies dominating the track and then the relative gentleness of the album closer ‘The Sparrow’ proves that Mastodon are a band that think about the dynamic range of their sound.

Check out: The Sparrow

4.Thomas Dolby –  Map of the Floating City

Well it only took him 20 years to release a follow up to his last album ‘Astronauts & Heretics’, but the man best known for electro-pop new wave hits in the 80’s with ‘Hyperactive’ and ‘She Blinded me with Science’ has finally returned. The reason for his long hiatus probably stems from the fact he created a company back in the 90’s now known as Beatnik Inc, they were the ones who created the .RMF  (Rich Music Format) format for electronic music distribution, he’s largely responsible for creating the technology behind just about every ringtone in existence for mobile phones, a very profitable endeavour no doubt.  His new album is spilt into 3 sections each covering a different musical genre (electro-pop, bluegrass & ambient) with  songs like ‘Spice Train’ and ‘Evil Twin Brother’ certainly harking back to his glory days. Despite not being a massive fan of Bluegrass music, you can’t help but smile when you hear a song like ‘Toadlickers’. The albums most moving moment comes in the form of ‘Oceanea’ which is structured to a carefree perfection. The album also features guest appearances from many popular musicians such as Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor & Imogen Heap.

Check out:  Oceanea

3.  Amplifier – The Octopus

The first of two double albums in this list, and bloody hell, what a double album! I’ve known Amplifier for a fair few years; I own their first two albums which aren’t half bad, just not masterpieces. ‘The Octopus’ most definitely is though and contains some of the best music I’ve heard all year. ‘Interglacial Spell’ contains magic by the tonnes, the title track ‘The Octopus’ is a pulsating odyssey with a killer bass line but the albums high point definitely reaches a climax with ‘Interstellar’; a song I guarantee would motivate the most lazy of individuals and get them air guitaring during the high peaks of musical pathway it soars. Sel Balamir and Co. really deliver on this release to say there’s only three of them, each one sounding brave and bold on their respective instruments. Atmospheric soundscapes, heavier bridge sections and lots of guitar effects make for quite a trip. Now that Oceansize have folded, Manchester’s best band? YOU BET.

Check out:  Interstellar

2.  Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning

You may be surprised to see Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) in 2nd place on my list, however that’s just the way it is, considering I think my number #1 album of the year is well deserved for the artist. It’s obvious though to anybody who knows me, that this album would make the list. Sounding completely different to his debut attempt (Insurgentes) for his double album Steve has embraced 70s progressive music and used influences learnt to create something rather refreshing in this decade. Full of jazz influences and free form movements thus witnessed in songs like ‘Sectarion’ and the epic ‘Raider II’, the album also contains more self contained pieces such as the deliously dark industrial sounding ‘Index’, the gentle to heavy ‘No Part of Me’ and the beautiful sadness of ‘Postcard’. As is typical of anything Steve releases, it is very well produced, it has a certain charm and warmth to it that endears me to the album everytime I play it. That and I got him to sign it when I met him earlier this year! It’s a great sophomore effort, and his best solo work to date. Can we have some new Porcupine Tree next year please Steve?!

Check out: No Part of Me

…and the winner is:

1.Tides from Nebula – Earthshine

This album IS 2011 for me, might come as a surprise, I wouldn’t imagine many post-rock albums by relatively unknown Polish bands would make the top of any Englishman’s list, but it’s in at number #1 on mine. Music for me is very much about how it makes you feel, and music to party to aside (for that has its place also) can also be an extremely private and personal experience. Everytime I listen to this album, nothing else matters, it’s like I’m floating in a tranquil sea, completely at peace. This is powerful music, entirely instrumental yet in this case the absence of lyrics enhances the experience for the music can be interpreted in so many different ways each time around.  A Track  like ‘Caravans’ was written to be listened to in the dark on your headphones as you float away laid on your bed. The guitars here are often used dynamically to build up layers and to set the scene, yet moments of ethereal heaviness come and blow all this away in moments of breathtaking clarity. This is not the most immediately accessible music, yet upon repeat listenings the most rewarding album of 2011. ’Siberia’ really does conjure up desolate arctic settings and ‘The Fall of Leviathan’ sounds like a battle of hearts and minds forever fighting and winding down. I actually reviewed this album in full  here. I highly recommend investing in 60 minutes of your time, to get relaxed, turn off the lights and LISTEN – pure bliss.

Check out: Caravans

…and there we go folks, I hope you enjoyed seeing the musical word of 2011 through my eyes for a little while, certainly a year to remember for me. Lot’s more to discover next year no doubt, and I look forward to all the upcoming new releases with my usual excitment!

D.P


 

Genre:  Post Rock
Year of Release: 2011
Record Label: Mystic Production
Recommended for fans of: Mogwai, This Will Destroy You, God is an Astronaut

Track Listing:

01. These Days, Glory Days                                                                  
02. The Fall Of Leviathan                                                                       
03. Waiting For The World To Turn Back                                        
04. Caravans                                                                                               
05. White Gardens                                                                                   
06. Hypothermia                                                                                      
07. Siberia                                                                                                                                     
08. Cemetary of Frozen Ships                                                            

Review:

It’s not that often an album comes along and truly blows me away, sure I’m fond of many albums, but it takes something special to make me think ‘WOW PAY ATTENTION’!

It’s no secret I’ve fallen in love with instrumental post-rock and metal within the last year, bands like God is an Astronaut and Mogwai leading the charge, this is thinking man’s music; lyrics completely discarded as the music leads the narration and paints the pictures. Love, loss, emptiness, elation, bliss, wonderment, excitement – it’s all here in aural delight.

There’s no denying that lyrics are something we can all relate to, Post-Rock is characterised by the total or near absence of them, some might think this a detriment, I’d say give it a chance because once you understand the reason for the lack of lyrics you may just get hooked like I have!

You know that old saying ‘I just can’t put my feelings into words?’

That is the epitome of Post-Rock, let the music tell the story and atmospherics and texture convey the feelings and emotions. 

It works very well.

I got into Tides From Nebula after I saw them support Riverside at the Picturedrome in Holmfirth a few months ago, funny how I’m now listening to the support band from that gig more than the headliners! It was the first time they had played in England and it was fantastic! (Both Riverside and Tides From Nebula come from Poland)

I knew I had to get their albums upon my return. This is their 2nd album after they released the debut in 2009 entitled ‘Aura’ which is a fantastic debut album, to be reviewed later!

Tides From Nebula: We're from Poland and we play Post-Rock!

So here we have ‘Earthshine’:

The album opens with the brilliantly titled ‘These Days, Glory Days’ straight into sad distant piano and shimmering synths with tribal style drumming entering the fray soon after. It’s like a prologue, as it builds up tremolo picking (a post-rock staple) guitars sound off in a massive crescendo. What a build up! It certainly pays off as well as the full band move flawlessly together in all manner of directions.

‘The Fall of Leviathan’ is one of the albums strongest offerings,  opening up with a gorgeous tremolo picked guitar as the build-up commences, soon joined by the rest of the band in what I can only describe as pure elation. When the lead guitar kicks in, it sounds so sad it’s unreal! Things soon go all quiet and ambient, and it’s apparent that Tides From Nebula are really strong songwriters when it comes to loud/quiet contrasts and connecting them. As in this case when the song enters its penultimate phase, sweeping guitar lines turn into distorted melodies that literally rip you from one emotion to the next. Beautiful, beautiful song.

We go all ambient for the ‘Waiting for the World to Turn Back’ which is a short pleasant segue track that brings the listener back down to earth with distant piano and ethereal atmospheric textures.

‘Caravans’ starts off dark and dreamy, like as if you were flying above storm clouds but oblivious to the noise they were making, that is until the drums kick in and your heart rate begins to increase. There is something primitively sexy about this track, almost carnal, I daresay it’d be a great soundtrack to make love to as when the guitars kick in, it’s euphoric! The outro being one of the most memorable parts of the album with a fantastic arpeggiated guitar line holding everything today, almost sounds contemplative.

After taking that in, you’d probably think the album couldn’t get any better, but it does! ‘White Gardens’ is a fantastic 6 minute piece that is lovely and mellow for the first 4 minutes, a much needed respite after the previous track. The last two minutes are loud and pure excitement, the guitar line that kicks in at 5:05 for example makes my soul want to weep with pure passion.

‘Hypothermia’ acts as a short ambient introduction piece for the next track and serves its purpose well as ‘Siberia’ starts. This is my favourite track on the album, it is one of the best pieces of post-rock I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. Everything about this song is perfect from the mood it conjures and the story it seems to tell. When I listen to it, it makes me feel as if I was trekking across a vast arctic wasteland and then only thing that was keeping me going was ‘hope’ that I’d see that special somebody again. In the absence of lyrics you can tell your own stories!

The highlight of this song for me, and therefore the album is at 5:55, the fast paced tremolo picking guitars practically scream raw emotion before the track comes to a close with a medium paced mellow outro that wraps up the song very aptly indeed.

Siberia - large arctic wasteland - try not to get lost!

 The album closes with ‘Cemetry of Frozen Ships’ and by association with the previous song if you allow my creativity to continue, it’s almost as if after endless wanderings through the aforementioned arctic wasteland I appear to have stumbled upon a graveyard of ships, and I’m taking this epic sight in with melancholic wonderment! This song is the perfect end to the tour de force of the album, in complete contrast to everything else before it, it is slow and plodding, the perfect comedown.  The track ends with some beautiful acoustic guitar and keyboard that seems to be crying…

…and thus the album closes!

Earthshine is an excellent example of the genre, and a clear contender for album of the year for me (although with new Steven Wilson, Opeth & Anathema all coming out this autumn it’s going to be tough). I would go as far as saying it’s certainly my favourite Post-Rock album at the moment, the production is top notch and sounds great when having an immersive headphone session.

I expect big things from this band in the future, one to watch!

Lineup:

Adam Waleszyński – guitars
Maciej Karbowski – guitars, keys, piano
Przemek Węgłowski – bass
Tomasz Stołowski – drums

5/5

D.P


Genre:  Art Rock

Year of Release: 2011

Record Label: Snapper

Recommended for fans of: Steven Wilson, Aviv Geffin, Porcupine Tree

Track Listing:

1. Glass House
2. Go To Hell
3. Rising of the Tide
4 . Waving
5 . Far Away
6 . Dissolving With the Night
7 . Blood
8 . On the Plane
9 . Oxygen
10. Zigota
11. DNA           

Review:

NB: This review contains swearing…

I felt compelled to write this review due to unfortunate passing away of Steven Wilson’s father whilst the band were touring North America. Indeed testament to Steve as he performed the show in Toronto knowing this fact and many fans (who were unaware of the events at the time) have commented saying that he and the rest of the band put on a fantastic show.

The rest of the North American tour has been postponed whilst Steve flies back to the UK for more than obvious reasons, so my maximum condolences go to Steve and his family at this time and I write this review in honour of Steve’s father.

This album marks the first time where Aviv has been responsible for most of the songwriting, in fact Aviv wrote all but one of the songs. The reason for this seems to be that Steve has been very busy working on his 2nd solo album. I’d say that the album sounds quite different to the first two entirely for this reason.

The album opener ‘Glass House’ lacks the punch that ‘Once’ did on the Blackfield II, and for this reason it’s one of my least favourite songs on the album, I always tend to skip it. It’s a rather slow and laborious affair that builds up but never seems to reach the grand heights it perhaps could of. It does feature some rather splendid strings though, what seems to becoming fast a Blackfield staple.

‘Go to Hell’ is next, and in complete contrast to the first song we have something far more edgy. Musically this song is fantastic, I have no complaints, the guitars sound fantastic and the build-up pays off; it’s the lyrics that bug me on this one.

I’m not totally against profanity in songs, the rare use of a swear word can be very effective in conveying the songs message, for example how Roger Waters from Pink Floyd might throw in the occasional ‘Fuck’ to make a point particularly poignant, it works. What I’m not a big fan of is when it’s everywhere. (See generic RnB/Hip-Hop/Rap for prime examples of how to sound like a moron)

The lyrics in ‘Go to Hell’ consist entirely of one line repeated over and over:

‘Fuck you all, fuck you, I don’t care, anymore, go to hell, go to hell’

Well, seeing as I’ve already thrown the word around as above, can I just say ‘What the Fuck?’

Was there any need to have the lyrics like this?

 The problem is that Blackfield aren’t a teenage angst emo band, so when they write lyrics like this, it sounds unnatural and forced. I think we’ll chalk this up to some experimentation, and like I say I love the music on this one, just a shame the lyrics ruin it for me everytime!

Steven Wilson putting foul language to a better use then in 'Go to Hell'!

‘Rising of the Tide’ is classic Blackfield that showcases a nice Wilson guitar solo near the end, and the vocalisations are decent especially when Steve and Aviv harmonise with each other, they really are getting good at doing this.

‘Waving’ is the only song on the album that Steve wrote, and (probably as a result) is my favourite on the album.  A gorgeous acoustic guitar leads the piece accompanying Steve’s vocals, the chorus is sublime and electric guitars enter the fray midway into the song helping to pick up the piece. Love the outro, sounds like something Kula Shaker might have written!

‘Far Away’ is a quiet melancholic number that’s obviously about loneliness, features one of my favourite bit of lyrics on the album, love this:

‘Maybe I’m free, but freedom just means that I’m lost, it feels like I’m driving, without ever arriving, I really don’t know what it means to put my smile on…’

‘Dissolving Away with the Night’ is another highlight. Aviv starts off singing over some sparse sounding piano as the song builds up into what could be described an orchestral climax blitz; you need to hear it really, but conjures up the orchestral pieces from the James Bond films believe it or not!

‘Blood’ is very middle-eastern sounding, punctured with distorted guitar chords, this is the most metal sounding song that Backfield have written and I like it a lot, has a real energy to it, the band have been opening their sets with it at the moment and makes perfect sense why. Has some excellent drumming and riffage!

‘On a Plane’ is more classic Blackfield, not quite sure what the lyrics are about ‘Daddy’s on the Plane?’ but nevertheless the guitar solo is pretty chilled and overall the song keeps the flow of the album going.

Up next is ‘Oxygen’ which is screaming out for a single release, this should be on mainstream radio. It’s a great pop song that was actually produced by Trevor Horn. It’s slightly dreamy and distant sounding.

‘Zigota’ starts off sounding like a No-Man reject but soon turns into something so much more satisfying with some great sections intertwining each other, and features the best outro of any Blackfield song to date. The main problem being is that I think it closes the album perfectly, or at least what I’m trying to say is that ‘Zigota’ should have been the last track on the album.

As it turns out ‘DNA’ is the last track, and I would have switched the running order around because whilst DNA is a good song it doesn’t have that closing track feel to it, it’s a very mellow quiet affair and then the album just finishes…

When I reviewed Blackfield II a few years ago, in my closing remarks I mentioned that I thought the 3rd release would be the one to get them the recognition they deserve, do I still think this?

Well the answer would be Yes, I do think their fan base will increase based on the success of this album, however I don’t think it’s their strongest album to date. I think that this is largely due to the fact that the song writing duties have been weighted heavily towards Aviv on this one. He’s a good songwriter, but the beauty behind Blackfield is when Steve and Aviv write material together and I think the 4th release will need to go back to this format to hold my attention.

Good album, but weakest one yet to summarise my thoughts on this one.

3.0/5.0  

 Lineup:

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Aviv Geffen – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Eran Mitelman – piano, keyboards
  • Seffy Efrat – bass
  • Tomer Z – drums

D.P

Rush – 2112


 

Rush - 2112

 

Genre:  Hard Rock/Progressive Rock

Year of Release: 1976

Record Label: Anthem

Recommended for fans of: Led Zeppelin, Cream, 70s Progressive Rock

Track Listing:

  1. “2112” – 20:33
    • I: “Overture” – 4:34
    • II: “The Temples of Syrinx” – 2:11
    • III: “Discovery” – 3:29
    • IV: “Presentation” – 2:00
    • V: “Oracle: The Dream” – 2:21 
    • VI: “Soliloquy” – 2:14
    • VII: “Grand Finale” – 3:44
  2. “A Passage to Bangkok” – 3:34
  3. “The Twilight Zone” – 3:17
  4. “Lessons” – 3:51
  5. “Tears” – 3:33
  6. “Something for Nothing” – 3:58

                                

Review:

Well, it’s about time!

I’ve put off reviewing this absolute gem of an album for a while, and it’s been bugging me, so let’s get to it!

This review may be a little larger than normal, I’m also placing emphasise on the title track and will only be quickly looking at the songs on Side B.

As I said when reviewing the last 2 Rush albums, the band were really experimenting with unusual song structures and finding their feet, which definitely proved useful!

‘2112’ is a concept song, a 20 minute track that takes up all of Side A on the album. The premise is simple; the story contained within the song is this:

‘A Man living in the future under a totalitarian oppressive government finds a guitar in a world where all forms of culture have been banned, in his excitement he goes and shows his leaders who are annoyed with him and then banish him. The Man realises he cannot carry on living in a world devoid of music, so secludes himself in a cave and dies, as he does so the oppressive government he has been living under is attacked by invaders. The ending is left deliberately ambiguous ’

That’s it in a nutshell, what ‘2112’ does though is tell this story through a 20 minute musical landscape.

The song itself can be broken down into sections as seen above, so I’ll go through them one at a time. The song opens up with the very powerful instrumental ‘Overture’ which most certainly sets the scene, after some swirling sound effects, hard rocking guitars enter the fray soon joined by the drums and bass; in typical Overture fashion. There’s plenty going off and I never get bored of listening to this dramatic entrance, amazing solo by Alex to boot!

‘The Temples of Syrinx’ continues the story straight after the Overture concludes with the first lyrics on the album ‘and the meek shall inherit the earth’. This part of the song serves as an introduction to oppressive government being the priests, Geddy’s voice is fantastic in portraying their controlling nature ‘We’ve taken care of everything, the words you hear, the song’s you sing, never need to wonder how or why’ – excellent stuff!

The Man facing the Solar Federation

The next piece ‘Discovery’ is very clever, we are introduced to the Man, who has found a guitar in a cave, the song starts off with rushing [no pun intended!] water, and you can hear the Man manipulating the guitar as he is discovering it, Alex does a great job by building up the complexity of the music being played. Geddy sings the Man’s emotions upon this discovery:

What can this strange device be?
When I touch it, it gives forth a sound
It’s got wires that vibrate and give music
What can this thing be that I found?
See how it sings like a sad heart
And joyously screams out it’s pain
Sounds that build high like a mountain
Or notes that fall gently like rain’

 

The amount of joy this discovery has brought to the man is immense, he’s completely overwhelmed and in his moment of passion without thinking, he runs off to show his leaders what he has found, with not quite the results he was perhaps hoping for. ‘Presentation’ has Geddy sing on behalf of the priests and the Man, as he tries to convince them:

‘Listen to my music, hear what it can do, it’s as strong as life, I know that it will reach you!’ he pleads!

They are not convinced.

‘Don’t annoy us further, forget about your silly toy, it doesn’t fit the plan!’ is their rather closed minded response.

The music battle that happens here is one of sheer enormity, every note is perfectly placed, and you really start to feel sympathy for the Man in his endeavour.

In desperation, the Man then runs away from the city and holes himself in a cave (‘Oracle: The Dream’) with his beloved Guitar, and inevitably dies of starvation (‘Soliloquy’), this sounds sad but the Man cannot continue to live in a world where music has been banned!

‘2112’ ends with the oppressive government being attacked by another entity, left entirely up to the listener’s interpretation, in a rather energetic finale during the last segment of the song which is called ‘Grand Finale’:

‘To all planets of the Solar Federation, we have assumed control!’ is the rather ominous sounding announcement as the track finishes.

Utter genius!

The Band in a promotional shot for '2112'. Nice Garments Guys!

The rest of the album is great, starting with the oriental sounding ‘Passage To Bangkok’ which conjures up images of traveling across Asia, the Alex Lifeson led riffage is quite awesome.

 ‘The Twilight Zone’ is a straight forward rocker, nothing too remarkable. The next 2 songs are quite special though, firstly ‘Lessons’ is a wonderful cheery acoustic number that always makes me smile, by way of a 12-string guitar no less!

‘Tears’ is up next and it’s a wonderful slice of melancholy which Geddy sings beautifully:

‘All of the seasons and all of the days
All of the reasons why I’ve felt this way
So long…
So long
Then lost in that feeling I looked in your eyes
I noticed emotion and that you had cried
For me
I can see’

 

One of the highlights of Side B!

Concluding the album is ‘Something for Nothing’ which after listening to ‘2112’ is rather underwhelming, as a finisher for the second side it does work though, it’s a nice little rocker with some nice guitar work from both Alex and Geddy.

I’m giving this album top marks, because as I explained in my first Rush review, it’s a very special album for me, and one of the reasons I’m into Music big time. I remember being blown away by the album the first time I listened to it, and it still has the same effect today.

Truly a musical classic, which will remain timeless.

Forever.

Lineup:

  • Geddy Lee – lead vocals and bass
  • Alex Lifeson – guitars and vocals
  • Neil Peart – drums

5/5

D.P

Rush – Caress of Steel


Genre:  Hard Rock/Progressive Rock

Year of Release: 1975

Record Label: Mercury

Recommended for fans of: Led Zeppelin, Cream, 70s Progressive Rock

Track Listing:       

  1. “Bastille Day” – 4:37
  2. “I Think I’m Going Bald” – 3:37
  3. “Lakeside Park” – 4:08
  4. “The Necromancer” – 12:30
  5. “The Fountain of Lamneth” – 20:01

Review:

Interesting fact: The album cover as seen above for Rush’s third studio album should have had an embossed silver ‘steel’ look. The reason why it looks like ‘copper’ is due to a printing  error! I’d have been pretty annoyed at this and is something that could be fixed today pretty easy, back in 1975 though this probably would have been a nightmare to resolve!

So the album is hardly getting off to a great start already is it?

Released the same year as their 2nd album ‘Fly by Night’  their 3rd attempt was supposed to be the breakthrough album, it’s easy to look back today and simply state ‘well it wasn’t…’ but back then the boys from Canada were coming under increasing pressure from the record label to deliver the goods and produce a hit album.

On examining the track list, the first thing that is noticeable is that there are only 5 tracks on the album, one of which is 12 minutes, the other a more epic 20! One wonders whether it was a good idea to have songs of such length on a breakthrough album. I would argue it shouldn’t matter, but many people have the attention span of goldfish so need something in smaller concise chunks!

Anyway, it was the 1970s and Prog-rock was in fashion, so why not do an album like this anyway and promptly ignore your record labels advice and the critics flaming tongue!

Which they did!

‘Bastille Day’ opens the album, and the subject matter is the French Civil war and heads on guillotines. This song is considered prime classic Rush, and typical of their 1970s output, strong melodic hard  rock! After his debut antics, Peart seems to have settled into his role of drummer and prime lyricist role, the song screams of his trademark writing style, with strong support from Lifeson and Lee on their instruments of choice. It’s a great fun opening song!

 

I wish I could say the same for the 2nd track, Rush fans tend to disagree on lots of different issues surrounding the band,  but one thing that unites them is that ‘I Think I’m Growing Bald’ is the WORST song the band have ever written. I tend to agree, terrible lyrics and subject matter, the song doesn’t go anywhere and has nothing really remarkable to say. The band sound like they enjoyed it though and I guess that’s what matters the most!

‘Lakeside Park’ is the token soft number on the album, which after the terrible second song has a lot to live up to. Luckily it’s a strong piece that’s reflective of the Neil Peart spending his youth at the aforementioned park located in St Catharine’s  on Lake Ontario.  Geddy Lee has gone on record saying it’s one of his least favourite songs, and in general he has a hard time listening to anything ‘pre-2112’, it does hold a certain charm to it though.

After 3 small concise pieces we encounter the first long progressive attempt on the album in the form of ‘The Necromancer’ – it’s typical 70’s  progressive rock with its fantasy lark, the song even opens up with a narration given about ‘3 intrepid travellers’ setting out on a fantastical adventure. I have a soft spot for this song if I’m being honest and it’s definitely the strongest composition on the album. It can be broken into 3 sections of which are clearly listed on the back of the album, the first section is called ‘Into the Darkness’ which sets the scene and is deliciously dark as its title suggests, the second section is called ‘Under the Shadow’ which opens up with some heavy reverberated drums and polished guitar work. The suite closes with ‘Return of The Prince’ which is far more upbeat compared to the earlier sections and can’t but help make you smile!

The last track on the album is the albums magnum opus, although not one I’m overly fond of to be fair. ‘The Fountain of Lanmeth’ is an epic song, and it must have taken some long hours of writing and practicing to get the piece down. Musically its fine, however I find it hard to indentify anything I really, really enjoy about it! It contains a short drum solo by Peart, and I whilst I like drum solos in a live setting, on an album? No thanks! The song does showcase some of Alex Lifesons fine guitar work though, even though admittedly everything else he does after this album is far superior.

For me this album is stronger than ‘Fly by Night’ but not by much, so I’ve awarded it the same score as seen below.

I think it’d be fair to sum up albums 2 & 3 as laying the ground work for the following record, the album that catapulted Rush to dizzy heights and heavy weights in the Progressive Rock world, for their next album was ahead of its time and conveniently as such entitled ‘2112’ .

Lineup:

  • Geddy Lee – lead vocals and bass
  • Alex Lifeson – guitars and vocals
  • Neil Peart – drums

2.5/5

D.P


Hi all!

Should have the third Rush album ‘Caress of Steel’  review up later today, my intention is to get all their studio albums reviewed before the release of their new album ‘Clockwork Angels’ in 2011. So only 15 more to do! I’ll try and get a review of album #4 up later this week, seeing as its one of their best albums, should be a pleasure to review, so expect ‘2112’ sometime soonish!

Also, I’ve been listening to the new Oceansize album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ and its rather good, review coming in next 2 weeks!

In other news, Pure Reason Revolution have a new album out in October entitled ‘Anvil & Hammer’ and Steven Wilson is hard at work on the 3rd Blackfield Album, his 2nd solo album and an exciting collaboration between himself and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth.

Lots to be excited about!

D.P

Rush – Fly by Night


Genre:  Hard Rock/Progressive Rock

Year of Release: 1975

Record Label: Mercury

Recommended for fans of: Led Zeppelin, Cream, 70s Progressive Rock

Track Listing:

  1. “Anthem” – 4:36
  2. “Best I Can” – 3:24
  3. “Beneath, Between & Behind” – 2:59
  4. “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” – 8:36
  5. “Fly By Night” – 3:21
  6. “Making Memories”  – 2:58
  7. “Rivendell” – 4:57
  8. “In the End” – 6:48

Review:

A year on from their Led Zeppelin inspired debut effort; Rush’s 2nd album hit the shelves back in good old 1975!

This album curiously titled ‘Fly by Night’ would be more important than anyone realised back in the day, for this album would see the addition of Neil Peart to the band replacing John Rutsey on the skins.

 Here he is, sporting a very impressive drum kit:

 

…and so the band line-up would remain unchanged to this very day, the days of Rush as a major rocking power were about to begin, however not quite yet, this album would turn out to be a bit of a mixed bag, with some rather underwhelming material taking up much of the album.

Neil Peart turned out to be a dab hand at writing lyrics as well as a very proficient drummer, so the lyrical duties defaulted to him, marking a dramatic change of themes then seen on the debut album. Peart a wide reader of much literature would incorporate a lot of serious themes into his writing for the next couple of albums.

This is evident as soon as the first track kicks in ‘Anthem’, with the lyrics heavily inspired by a novella of the same name written by a Russian Author called Ayn Rand, the story takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered another dark age due to the all the failings of society in general. I’ve read the novella myself and its extremely interesting, highly recommended reading!

Anthem is a great opening track, there no doubt about that, you can tell the drumming style is completely different, far more technical. There’s some excellent guitar work from Alex  Lifeson who is now starting to find his own unique playing style. Geddy Lee also having no trouble singing the lyrics penned by Peart!

Next up we have ‘Best I Can’ a by the numbers kind of song which sounds like something which could have been on the debut, it’s nothing too special to be honest but does feature a rather quirky guitar solo by Alex Lifeson.

‘Beneath, Between & Behind’ is by no means a terrible song, but I can’t honestly say I enjoy it too much either having nothing really exciting going for it. The first true progressive effort by the band is in the form of the next track ‘By-Tor and the Snow Dog’ and the longest track on the album being 8 and ½ minutes long. It contains some decent instrumental sections most notably what the band have described as the ‘battle’ segment between By-Tor and the Snow dog, this can best be described as a guitar solo vs. bass guitar movement section. This typical of 1970s progressive music and is quite enjoyable to listen to, it’s by no means their best work though, and the quiet bit during the middle is a complete yawn fest.

The next track ‘Fly by Night’ was actually released as a single along with ‘Best I Can’ and to be fair is a fairly decent stab at radio friendly rock. One of the stronger efforts on this sophomore release, and showcases Lee’s vocals and Lifesons neat guitar work.

‘Making Memories’ is an acoustic lead affair and has a certain charm to it, but is very repetitive despite its short length of 3 ½ minutes, and the next track ‘Rivendell’ doesn’t fair much better with its obvious connections to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, thus gentle guitars and Plant like vocals abound, but not really achieving much.

The closing track ‘In the End’ falls a little flat on the ears, it’s important for an album to have excellent opening and closing pieces, but this just doesn’t work for me at all and being over 6 minutes in length you’d think something would happen that would leave a lasting impression.

It’s probably fairly obvious from the above that I’m not a huge fan of this album, yes it’s an important album as it marks the addition of Neil Peart and the move to progressive song writing, however it shows a band still getting to grips with these changes so isn’t as cohesive as some of their excellent later releases.

I’ve listened to it quite a lot this last month in order to review it fairly and to be honest I shall not be revisiting it anytime soon. It contains some very interesting music and as an evolution piece fits into their discography well, but you’d be best to try their later efforts for something far more fulfilling.

Lineup:

  • Geddy Lee – lead vocals and bass
  • Alex Lifeson – guitars and vocals
  • Neil Peart – drums and vocals

2/5

D.P

Demians – Mute


Genre: Metal/Rock

Year of Release: 2010

Record Label: Century Media/EMI

Recommended for fans of: Porcupine Tree and Anathema.

Track Listing:

1. Swing of The Airwaves
2. Feel Alive
3. Porcelain
4. Black Over Gold
5. Overhead
6. Tidal
7. Rainbow Ruse
8. Hesitation Waltz
9. Falling from the Sun

Review:

Demians is a one man band.

Yes, that’s right, one dude, does everything, goes by the name of Nicolas Chapel.

 Here he is:

This guy is like Steven Wilson, a genius capable of crafting the most intense beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

Chapel released Demians debut album ‘Building an Empire’ back in 2008, an album that for reasons I’d rather not divulge here makes it a very personal experience for me to listen to these days. I was lucky enough to see Demians live the very same year supporting Anathema, and was not disappointed, Chapel having called on session musicians to help him on the tour.

When I heard that another album was in the works, I was very excited about this and waited patiently for its release.

…and so in 2010 we have ‘Mute’. Nice album artwork by the way, loving the font!

Despite the title of the album suggesting this is going to be a quiet ‘muted’ affair, all preconception goes out of the window the minute ‘Swing of the Airwaves’ starts, it kind of reminds me of the start of  The Incident with the dissident chords being thrashed, the only difference being the amount of ambience that Chapel creates is greater.

My first thought upon hearing this track was: ‘Wow, sounds so much more aggressive then the debut, and in a good way’ – I do adore the debut, but the whole point of progressive music is to evolve and Demians have certainly done that. The tune is a great album opener and I especially love how the chorus creates a brilliant intense atmosphere.

The 2nd track ‘Feel Alive’ keeps things further ‘unmuted’ with a roaring guitar riff and some excellent drumming. One point I’d love to emphasise at this point is the fact that Nicolas Chapel plays EVERYTHING on the album – you’d be hard pressed to pick up on this unless you were told. The production and skills of Chapel are extremely noticeable. This track has lots of layers and I especially like the hard hitting parts were Chapel screams, it fits the track perfectly and is not harsh as to grate like the vocals in some death metal songs.

The flow of the album slows down for the next track ‘Porcelain’, it opens with some nice keyboard and guitar parts before Chapel adds some of his soothing vocals to the mix. The song builds up quite slowly before a quiet middle 8 section which then leads into the outro. I especially like the vocal section at the end which is sung off pace. The vocal harmonies are also quite beautiful!

‘Black Over Gold’  is an emotional piano driven piece that again like a lot of Chapels songs builds up and comes to a giant crescendo, out of all the pieces on this album it does sound like something that would have fitted on the debut, well that’s the link I made!

‘Overhead’ is one of my favourites on the album, an excellent sounding acoustic guitar opens up the proceedings [or it could be an electric with amp modelling/POD effects?!] and then joined by STRINGS! If you’ve read previous reviews by me, you’ll know how much I love the addition of strings in rock songs.  The outro section features some bonus riffing and the chord progression in general is a delight to the ears!

‘Tidal’ opens up with what I’d hesitantly call an ‘Indie’ sounding riff but quickly becomes something so much more satisfying. It’s the shortest track on the album and defiantly knows it’s the straight out rocker, it would be awesome it this track got as much radio play as possible, as it would certainly make me curious if I was uninformed.

The next track is the highlight of the album for me in the form of ‘Rainbow Ruse’ – one of the strongest tracks to have come from the mind of Chapel. It’s driven by a strong piano line which is quickly joined by awesome sounding guitars. This is also the highlight track for me for Chapels vocals, I just love the way they sound, so much passion and emotion has been put into this song! I could write all day about this track, but I’ll spare you the indulgence, go and listen to it!

‘Hesitation Waltz’ follows; I love the title of this song, very clever. Chapel makes interesting use of drums at the start, almost tribal sounding they are joined by a dark guitar riff and curious sounding vocals. The atmosphere this creates is one of immense introversion!  This builds up into a wonderful heavy shoegazing soundscape; very different from anything on the debut, loving it!

The album closes with ‘Falling from the Sun’ which at least to my ears sounds heavily influenced by No-Man, I almost expect Tim Bowness to start singing after the first couple of bars. This is a compliment though as No-Man have written some of the most beautiful, emotional songs I’ve ever heard. This song is no exception, considering the overall heaviness of the album; this is a complete contrast and a good choice as an end piece! It also has strings!

They say the 2nd album is pretty important, and can sometimes be ‘the difficult one’, I think that Chapel can hold his head high though as it sounds like it wasn’t too much of a struggle for him to compose this sophomore effort!

I would certainly hope to see Chapel get a band together and tour with this material, tracks like ‘Rainbow Ruse’ and ‘Swing of the Airwaves’ would go down a real treat at a live venue.

‘Mute’ is a fine effort and going by the noticeable evolution so far, I’d say the third album will be very interesting indeed.

Lineup:

Nicolas Chapel / all instruments

4/5

D.P

Theme Change


Hey Guys!

I was looking for an alternative theme in the WordPress categories and found this new one which I think is awesome!

Everything looks miles better and more user-friendly, you can even subscribe to my new RSS feed above. [once I figure out how to use it!]

Loving the categories tabs at the top of the page!

Anyways, more reviews coming soon, hope you enjoy the new layout!

D.P

Rush – Rush


 

 

Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal

Year of Release: 1974

Record Label: Moon Records

Recommended for fans of: Led Zeppelin, Cream

Track Listing:

  1. “Finding My Way” – 5:05
  2. “Need Some Love” – 2:18
  3. “Take a Friend” – 4:24
  4. “Here Again” – 7:37
  5. “What You’re Doing” – 4:22
  6. “In the Mood” – 3:33
  7. “Before And After” – 5:34
  8. “Working Man” – 7:11

Review:

It was only a matter of time before I got round to writing my first Rush album review, and what better way to start this endeavour off then by reviewing the debut!

This is a special review for me to write, and if you permit me I shall explain why; Rush are the entire reason I am addicted to music to this very day, they were the catalyst for my obsession and along with Pink Floyd the entire reason I ever picked up a guitar in the first place!

I will always remember the day when I was 15 years old mooching around the house bored out of my mind, it was this boredom that got me scouring my Dads record collection, to this day I do not understand why I did this, only that I did. Before the age of 15 I had no interest in music at all, something that seems hard to believe now!

As I was looking through the various albums, not really knowing what I was after, something caught my eye, it was this:

 

I looked at the album art and read the name of the artist ‘Rush’ and the name of the album ‘2112’ – My eyes lit up, I didn’t know why but I had to play this record. So off I went up to my room, donned my headphones and there started my love affair with not only Rush but MUSIC.

‘2112’ is a magical album and I will get round to reviewing it, but I thought it’d be apt to start from the beginning of their discography and look at the self titled debut first.

So ‘Rush’ marks the only album out of their 42 year career without Neil Peart on the drums, here the percussive duties are left to original stickman John Rutsey who left the band after this album not wanting a life on the road touring. I have always admired Mr Rutsey for this decision and was very sad to hear of his passing away in 2008, his drumming is very different to Neil Pearts but is still very strong.

The debut opens up with ‘Finding My Way’ with a roaring guitar riff from Alex Lifeson and it’s clear to tell the Led Zep influences straight away, Lifeson’s licks reminiscent of Jimmy Page and Geddy Lee’s Falsetto voice screams Robert Plant! It is however a great album opener and is very tight, something that would serve them well considering the progressive direction they would take over the next couple of albums.

‘Need Some Love’ keeps things flowing quite nicely, the first signs of Alex Lifesons soloing ability is showcased here with a slightly blueish edge to it. The song is only short but punchy, a straight up rocker with some excellent singing from Geddy Lee about wanting to take some sweet young thang out for a good time!

‘Take a Friend’ is next, and what’s apparent about this debut is that quality of the recording is quite superb for the 1970’s, the album having been recorded at the Toronto sound studios in Canada. This track showcases a groovy rhythm section and some brilliant guitar playing from Alex, keeping a rather upbeat mood to the proceedings, the song is about friendship and considering that Alex and Geddy were about to spend the next 42 years writing platinum selling albums and touring round the world in the best stadiums it’s just as well they started off like this!

‘Here Again’ is a slow paced downbeat number that is essentially blues-rock, the theme seems to be about the music writing process and how it feeds/emotes the soul. Powerful stuff from a young band indeed! The guitar solo itself is introverted yet powerful and closes the song quite fetchingly. It’s also the longest song on the album clocking in on 7 and a half minutes, but has perfect pacing and interest factor.

‘What You’re Doing’ is my personal favourite on the album, it’s a dead cheeky little number that’s full of fun and exciting musical motives, the main riff for one just makes me smile every time I hear it!  I especially love the staccato guitar that accompanies Geddys singing during the verses.

‘In The Mood’ is a song about… well y’know. It conjures up images of the 70’s man during a night out, finds his crush is out at the same time and the excitement that he is feeling. As a result the lyrics are slightly clichéd. It’s probably one of the weakest tracks on the album, but considering this is a debut this is forgivable.

‘Before and After’ is the only track on the debut featuring some acoustic guitar [at least to my ears] and starts off at a slow pace with some nice arpeggios before building up with the addition of an electric guitar. The track then completely changes pace half way through and goes all funky with some nice jangly guitar parts and a solo complimenting the rhythm section, before a nice and concise outro.

The last track entitled ‘Working Man’ is a sure fire sign of the direction Rush would probably take with their next album that of Progressive Rock. Although short by Prog standards at 7 minutes, the song encapsulates many things within this length. The subject is about Working Class life ‘Well I get up at 7 yeah, and I go to work at 9, they call be the working man, I guess that’s what I am…’ and I can imagine that for many young bands at the time [and still the case now] it was a case of having to go to ridiculous day jobs in order to fund their main passion being music. The riffs in this song are straight to the point which misleads slightly when the mid-section comes around, we have a great jamming section which showcases that Alex Lifeson is no sucker when it comes playing ability. Indeed all the band members skills are highlighted on this track, there is so much going off it can be hard to believe that there is only 3 of them. YES 3!

All in all, whilst not a massive representation of the direction the  band were to head into, there are clear indications on this debut that this band were [and did] going become a huge success. Geddy Lee being able to belt out falsetto vocals WHILST playing complicated basslines, the texture and emotion that Alex Lifesons guitar added to the mix, and the strong drumming of John Rutsey complimented each other to perfection.

It’s possibly one of the strongest debuts I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to by any band, it’s not their best by far but you could do worse than spend a cheeky 40 minutes listening to this, I guarantee you one thing:

If you do it’ll have you yearning for the decade you never grew up in!*

*unless you did, in which case – lucky!

Lineup:

  • Geddy Lee – lead vocals and bass
  • Alex Lifeson – guitars and vocals
  • John Rutsey – drums and vocals

 3/5

D.P