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REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC

Posted by simon On September - 11 - 2011

As Roadrunner’s heavy-hitting release schedule gathers pace, prog metal superstars Dream Theater (pictured) continue the charge with their latest album.

We review and rate the band’s first post-Pornoy offering and check out the latest records from Rise To Remain, Arch/Matheos, Electric Boys, Anterior, Cypher System and What The Night Brings.

Rise To Remain – City Of Vultures (EMI)

Hype and expectation can often pre-empt huge disappointment but in the case of the much vaunted Rise To Remain there’s no fear of any depressing let down. This fast-rising British quartet are the real deal and debut albums don’t come any better than the scintillating City Of Vultures.

With supercharged Dickinson blood coursing through the veins of frontman Austin, the vocal performance is simply stunning. Throw in gorgeous guitar licks, emotive percussion and the perfect mix of all-out aggression and well considered melody and this is molten metalcore for the masses.

The standout Talking In Whispers gives Avenged Sevenfold a run for their money and the three pounding minutes of Nothing Left take some beating. A pin sharp Colin Richardson/Carl Brown production ensures R2R’s rich and varied sound is never compromised but it’s the consistency of the songwriting which makes such a lasting impression.

The biggest challenge facing Dickinson and co. now is how to trump this genuine triumph. A must-buy metal record. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 All Rise

 

Cipher System – Communicate The Storms (Nuclear Blast)

Recently inking a deal with esteemed German label Nuclear Blast, Cipher System do some serious impressing on their second record.  It’s as if Communicate The Storms has been lingering in the shadows, awaiting in patience until its impending force is finally unleashed, leaving us gawking, slavering and eventually windmilling in reverent appreciation.

Considering Cipher System have released just two demos since their solitary full-length attempt in 2004, this pushes the meaning of the phrase surprise-package to a whole new level.  If there were any In Flames fans left disillusioned with their turn of direction back in the early noughties, Cipher System might have escaped your radar as an alternative to the melodeath-gone-mainstream act.

But there’s a lot more than simply melodeath that Cipher System are offering and it’s hardly their intention to fill the gaps of your previous heroes.  There’s lush lashings of electronica, carefully polished djenty prog crunches and ferocious screaming crossed with blearing clean wails – all channelled tightly to punch the living hell out your eardrums while offering its intricacies in apt measure.

God’s Terminal might have the kind of excessive electronic intro that verges on borderline cheesy, but it’s soon bolstered by a fortress of powerful riffing, with a vocal amalgamation of deep resonating growls and raging, harsh screams.  It’s a formula that breeds something special throughout Communicate The Storms.

Objection flashes us with a charismatic charge of those djent riffs with proggy keys before leading us into a rampant thrashy melodeath crusade with tenacious break-downs in The Stairway.  The extra edges of intricate picking is a welcome addition, but the brooding atmospheric mass is best helped along by Peter Engstrom’s clever synth patterns that flow wonderfully through the record.

A return from the back o’ beyond could have gone seriously wrong.  In this crucial moment they have instead put themselves firmly on the metal map. CR

rushonrock rated: 8/10

 

Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (Roadrunner)

Possibly the biggest underground band on the planet – now that fellow prog masters Rush have gone all mainstream – Dream Theater don’t allow expectation, convention or trends to shape their definitive sound.

Even the potentially divisive departure of co-founder Mike Portnoy failed to divert this determined pack of musical pioneers to veer from their blueprint of measured bombast and aural experimentation. A Dramatic Turn Of Events might be Dream Theater’s most polished record for some time (and that’s saying something) but it stays true to the band’s ethos of evolving at every given opportunity.

Build Me Up, Break Me Down is catchy enough to make an instant impression – a rare commodity when faced with new material from this American crew – but it’s follow-up track Lost Not Forgotten which showcases a familiar and enduring talent for juxtaposing heavy and light, melodic and metallic within the confines of one, albeit lengthy, tune.

Dream Theater know how to satisfy their die-hard fans but the trick for a band with such intricate layers is opening up to a wider audience and finally shedding that underground image. A Dramatic Turn Of Events is unlikely to do that despite its many uplifting moments. To enjoy Dream Theater as they are meant to be a certain commitment and a great deal of time are prerequisites – if you don’t have either then don’t bother. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Theater Goer

 

Electric Boys – And Them Boys Done Swang (Escape Music)

Twenty-one years after the rather fabulous Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride fired funk metal to a whole new stratosphere, one of the coolest bands on the planet is back with a glorious reminder of why Electric Boys were, albeit briefly, the next big thing.

There’s no denying Conny Bloom’s ability to carry a tune and, for those who remember the fantastic live shows, his penchant for connecting with crowds. That the band are on tour across the UK later this year is an added bonus for rockers keen to reacquaint themselves with the ultimate Swedish entertainment package.

The fourth album from a band which always suggested it could dig deep into a whole bag of unfinished business doesn’t exactly pick up where 1994′s underrated Freewheelin’ left off but it does enhance the legacy of those good old Boys. For those who remember White Trash there’s more than a hint of that band’s 1991 debut – almost the natural follow-up to Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride – with liberal helpings of sax, trumpet and trombone underpinning the jam-hot groove.

Welcome To The High Times is a terrific amalgamation of Prince, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix while Sometimes You Gotta Go Look For The Car utilises an Extreme-esque Get The Funk Out intro to usher in a luscious late summer soundscape.

If this is the Boys’ Bloom or bust comeback it has all the quality to ensure they come back for good. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 And Them Boys Done Good

 

What The Night Brings – Bound By Blood EP (Self Released)

What The Night Brings – we’d be lying if we said it was the most mind-blowing, inventive of band names and we’d also be telling porkies if we were to say the same about this second EP by the Buckinghamshire band.

Bound By Apathy is nothing unfamiliar, treading over territories that have been trodden on tirelessly for the last few years. Having said this, WTNB might gain a few fans seeing as there’s such a ridiculously high-demand for this stuff right now.

A resurfacing of backing hardcore vocals continuously try to reinforce their sentiments and, in all honesty, it derails them whenever this rare addition is present.  It sounds badly feigned and incredibly forced, especially on opener Deus Ex-MachinaThe Barren holds more groove-orientated pulses in its guitar harmonics and sharp, edgy riffs – if only there wasn’t poor, high-pitched hardcore yelps desecrating this instrumentation.

The March That Makes A Man only continues this sentiment and adds another generic breakdown to the mix.  The lower growled vocals in this track are much more desirable than the urban style squawks that perpetually negate what good musical credence WTNB have. CR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Bad Blood

 

Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade)

For Fates Warning fans twiddling their thumbs in anticipation of their favourite band’s long awaited follow-up to 2004′s FWX here’s something to fill the void. In fact Jim Matheos and John Arch do more than deliver a stop-gap record with much of the material here far better than your average progressive  metal masterpiece.

It seems Matheos couldn’t wait any longer for a new Fates record and this sounds like the result of pent up frustration put through a Marshall stack and turned up to 11. Alongside the band’s former vocalist, one of the most talented songwriters in the business has managed to craft a record which will resonate with old fans and would-be converts alike.

Typically astute axe work ensures Sympathetic Resonance rolls along at a blistering pace and, while Arch doesn’t always do the better songs justice with his Geoff Tate sucking helium approach to vocals, his is a style undoubtedly suited to the power metal genre. In partnership the experienced duo provide a platform for thought-provoking progressive metal but releasing this in the same week as Dream Theater’s latest? Whose daft idea was that?

If this record can get the profile it deserves then tracks like We Will Last Forever and the epic Stained Glass Sky (13 minutes and counting!) should seal the reputations of Arch and Matheos for years to come. As for Fates Warning? This album could have been theirs and it’s a huge loss to all concerned. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Without Warning

 

Anterior – Echoes Of The Fallen (Metal Blade)

Now there’s nothing wrong with having a good old shout, delivering a grizzly growl or roaring down the mic like you’ve just swallowed a nest of wasps. But when the vocals are so aggressive and so ill-placed that they overshadow some of the finest metal music you’ll hear all year then what, exactly, is the point?

Welsh warriors Anterior are capable of crafting some of the most mesmerising riffs, hooks and solos you’ll hear this side of Machine Head and their trademark twin guitar style could slay arena crowds with ease. Some of the guitar work is so good that you find yourself crossing your fingers in the hope that an instrumental version of Echoes… will be available very, very soon.

For now frontman Luke Davies manages to make a mess of just about every vocal he tries his hand at and it’s a shame that listening to a record so rich in potential fast becomes a fraught exercise in attempting to block out the singing and enjoy the music.

Venomous and Senora de las Sombres wrap things up and this double-pronged finale almost act as one final plea for credibility and recognition. The best back-to-back songs on the album might come too late for those already turned off by Davies’ uniquely annoying voice but stick with this record from start to finish and you’re sure to find something that tugs at the metal heartstrings. SR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Ant Music

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.

 

 

 

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