Archive for August, 2015

Borealis – Purgatory – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2015 by novametalreview

Borealis_Cover

I first ran into Borealis back in 2012 when they were on tour supporting Saxon on the “Call To Arms” tour and was immediately impressed by their progressive-leaning, symphonic power metal. Call me a “newbie” if you like, but this genre of meal isn’t really one that has been in my wheelhouse up until quite recently, so forgive me for my simple observation-based review. I am currently catching up on my homework with healthy doses of Symphony X, Evergrey and a few others.

So what do I know about Borealis… well, not much more than you could write on the back of a relatively small envelope. First off they are Canadian, so that immediately puts them in some good company, eh? They hail from Orangeville, Ontario and formed back in 2005, and originally were fronted by a female, delivering “opera-style” vocals… I can’t claim to have heard this line-up (there is a demo out there apparently). With the departure of their front-woman in 2007, Matt Marinelli took over the lead vocal, along with his original role on guitar, leaving them to operate as a four piece, the remaining three members being Jamie Smith on bass, Sean Werlick on keys and Sean Dowell on drums.

These four remain as the foundation of the band to this day, taking them past their 10 year anniversary. A second guitarist, Ken Fobert, was added back in 2009, who remained until mid-2011, to be replaced by current-day member, Michael Briguglio. I think the second guitar was an important step in establishing the band’s sound live, since without this, the band would have a hard time replicating the depth and power they bring to their recorded offerings.

So turning now to the album in question, “Purgatory”, is the third offering from the band and from what I can discern from some (admittedly brief) listens to the earlier works, it would seem that the band has found it’s groove and shows a nice progression from the previous album ,“Fall From Grace”, released in 2011. The album opens with what seems to be the obligatory intro-piece, which an atmospheric piece that appears to center around a heart monitor, that seems to signify the end of a life, which leads logically to “Past The Veil”. This is a majestic track and sets the scene for what’s to come. I will note that from the get-go Matt Marinelli delivers a great vocal performance acress the entire album.

As the opener gives way to “From The Ashes” you begin to sense the strong power metal foundation that the band uses to build on, and despite the various textures, this is a solid heavy metal recording. “From The Ashes” also brings a little twist to the mix in the form a very nicely executed male-female duet, with a guest vocalist going by the name Sarah Dee. Something else to note are the very nicely delivered lead guitar solos, which are never excessive but contribute significantly to the melodic edge the album carries through the 12 tracks contained here.

The fourth track, “Destiny” opens with a crushingly heavy riff, which gives why to an even heavier riff… but there is still texture here, and this perhaps something that has matured with this album, versus those that came before. The “Darkest Sin” is a nice contrast to the speed of the opening tracks, and gives the listener a chance to catch their breath. I was aware of a touch of auto-tune on the vocal, which is perhaps de rigor for all recordings these days, but just a bit of a distraction. The auto-tune is a little more obvious on “Rest My Child” another slower mostly acoustic number that comes later. Personally I doubt that Marinelli needs this treatment, so perhaps this is the one minor negative the band might consider when it comes to production treatments for the next album.

I would remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent drumming throughout the entire record from Sean Dowell, who also carried out all duties related to engineering the record. The album has a very crisp tight production feel to it and is a credit to Sean for his obvious attention to detail. I could have probably handled a little more bottom end to the overall mix, but this is a good sounding record from start to finish.

Most of the time my true litmus test is whether I can handle hearing the album from start to finish, played many times over while I write these reviews. Since this isn’t my day gig, it can take a lot of days to get a review done and this was no different – I am still happy to hear this record from the first track to the last! In fact after hearing this record I am now hoping to see the band out on the road with Evergrey in the next couple of weeks – Baltimore Soundstage – you have been warned! My score for the album is a healthy 8.5/10

  • Neil Waterman August 2015

Raven – Party Killers – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2015 by novametalreview

Party_Killers

Some would question the point of reviewing a limited edition album release – after all, most who read this will have no chance of getting hold of a copy. Well, I’d equate it to a car magazine reviewing a Ferrari… The greatest majority reading it will have no chance of ever owning such a car, but they can dream, right? What we have here is a limited edition recording issued as part of the Kickstarter campaign that fans were able to contribute to used to fund the recent (and excellent) Extermination album release by Raven. See my review of that gem here: http://wp.me/p2hj3p-9q

So the story behind this recording goes something like this… The Raven lads are in a studio in Richmond essentially to work on pre-production for the Extermination record, but as they are wont to do, they happened to jam a couple of covers, and, blow me down didn’t they sound killer? Before you could boil a kettle for a cup of tea, the idea of a covers album was in the making. And not just any old tracks, but the tracks the lads grew up with. The title of the record, “Party Killers”, was born back in the day, when the Gallagher brothers would take over the record player and spin their favorite tunes – and accordingly kill the party. At least that’s how I remember the story 🙂

Another nice aspect to this recording is this isn’t a ProTools digital recording, but a “real” analog recording and in my book it sounds amazing. The drums sound alive and everything has a warm sheen to it – none of that rather cold digital hardness that some modern recordings suffer from. Overall this a big sounding record and all the better for that.

The record opens with the Deep Purple classic “Fireball” and the first thing that hits you is how un-convoluted this feels. If you had somehow never heard the original, there is no way you could tell this wasn’t a Raven track from the get-go. John Gallagher’s vocal just sits so well in the track it’s uncanny really, while Joe Hasslevander nails it on the drums. Another nice touch is how Raven fill the keyboard parts in the original with their own interpretation, in this case with some wacky bass effects.

“Fireball” is followed by a Thin Lizzy classic in the shape of “Bad Reputation” and again there is no ‘cover song sheen’ here at all – these are songs that have clearly found their way into the very being that is Raven. It’s hard to get over what this really means, but in so many cases, bands that try the covers album route simply end-up producing poor repeats of the originals, but that just isn’t the case here at all. While there is certainly an element of homage to the original artists, Raven have stamped their essence into each of the tracks presented here.

What follows is an eclectic journey though the musical foundations that brought us the band Raven we know to this day. Cheap Trick’s “He’s A Whore”, is followed by a Budgie rarity in the shape of “In For The Kill” with an infectious groove, which then gives way to a Status Quo number, “Is There A Better Way”, which had me reaching for YouTube to check out the original. Some of these are pretty deep cuts.

The rest of the track listing runs as follows: “Ogre Battle” (Queen), “Queen Of My Dreams” (Edgar Winter group), “Too Bad So Sad” (Nazareth), “Cockroach” (Sweet), “Tak Me Bak Ome” (Slade) and “Hang On To Yourself” (David Bowie). This latter track is perhaps the least obvious of the set, but every track here works wonderfully. It’s quite remarkable how well Mark Gallagher handles all the guitar parts here, because, although retaining the original character, it’s unmistakably Mark. It’s not Mark trying to be Ritchie Blackmore for example on the Purple track. Hopefully you will get the chance to hear what I’m trying to get across.

I believe the idea was that only 500 copies of the Party Killers album would be released on CD, so if I remember the number of people that signed up to back the Kickstarter campaign correctly, by my math there should be a two or three hundred copies of this CD still available. I suspect these will be sold at live shows, so if you want a copy check out the merch booth – you might just get lucky… My score for this album is a straight 10/10