Archive for the Album Reviews Category

Q5 – New World Order – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2016 by novametalreview

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OK, hands up who has heard of Q5 before? Yes, that is probably a pretty small showing; at least that’s my bet. Well, let’s do some catching up, since there isn’t a massive amount to catch up on.

So, Q5 were originally formed back in 1983 in Seattle, by smashing together two groups from the local scene, taking three members of TKO (guitarist Rick Pierce, bassist Evan Sheeley, and drummer Gary Thompson) and two members of C.O.R.E. (frontman Jonathan K and guitarist Floyd D. Rose – of Floyd Rose tremolo system fame). This line up released “Steel The Light” in 1984 and it was through this record that I discovered the band, and it has to be said it was the cool sci-fi spaceship cover art that really attracted my eye, rather than any knowledge of the band or music when I bought it. Fortunately the album was an absolute corker and kicked some serious butt. Hello Q5!

Following “Steel The Light”, their sophomore release in 1985, “When The Mirror Cracks”, was a little less heavy and seemed to me at least to have a little more keyboard than I would have perhaps liked. Unfortunately the band was already coming apart at the seems and split due the all too common “personal differences” soon after the album release. To be honest I assumed that was the last that anyone was likely to hear of Q5, but, surprise, the band popped up on the Sweden Rock Festival in 2014, with 3/5ths of the original line up, with Scott K. on vocals, Pierce on guitar and Sheeley bass, joined by new blood in the form of Dennis Turner on guitar and Jeffery McCormack on drums.

It seems the band had such a good time that they decided to keep the band going with an aim of putting out a new album, which is what I have in front of me right now. Released on Frontiers, “New World Order” turns in no less than fourteen tracks (one being listed as a bonus track on my copy) with a runtime topping just over an hour, and I have to honest there isn’t a duffer amongst them! It has been quite a long time since any album caught my ear quite as much as this did – so much so that I played it back-to-back straight through three times following the first listen!

So, Q5 really seem to have found their happy place with this record, and have adopted a solid power/heavy metal foundation here, which is just PERFECT in my book. Sure there is melody by the bucket load, but you will also find massive power-driving riffs and plenty of excellent playing from all contributors to keep you drawn in. I don’t really like drawing comparisons to other bands, but I’m going to break my own rules here just so you can get an idea of nature of these guys in 2016 – after the first couple of listens through I was starting to get infusions of Saxon, Judas Priest and recent Accept, but not in any derivative way.

Since I have only had my hands on this record for two days now I can’t claim to have any particular favorite track, but I think there would be something wrong with me if I didn’t mention “A Warrior’s Song/Mach Opus 206” which are listed as two separate tracks, but run into each other, and form an absolutely epic power metal trip. “Mach Opus 206” is in fact an massive riff-tastic monster of an instrumental track and I can’t help turning this one up to ‘11’ whenever this hits my ears. It’s honestly epically huge!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a great recording this is too. So often these days albums seem to come out flat and lifeless, but this record has a real energy and feel behind it driving the whole experience along. The drums and bass sound massive and the guitar sound is just about perfect – cutting, but still heavy. Jonathan Scott K’s vocal sit perfectly within each track and it may be his lyrical phrasing that makes me think NWOBHM. All in all despite there being 14 tracks here – I WANT MORE.

So, to close – it doesn’t matter a damn whether or not you remember Q5 from before (though if you do, all is good) – if you like your rock on the heavier side, GO AND BUY THIS RECORD. I can’t believe anyone could be disappointed. And just to make things clear, it has been quite a long time since I felt motivated enough to write a review, but I could not let this pass. This is a killer album and a straight 10/10.

Borealis – Purgatory – Album Review

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

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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

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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

George Lynch – Shadow Train – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , on July 22, 2015 by novametalreview

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Those that know me in person will attest to the fact that I am a big fan of George Lynch and have been ever since I was knee-high to a Marshall stack. In fact I was such a fan that the only ‘guitar tuition’ videotape I ever bought featured George Lynch. I think the booklet that accompanied the tape was almost worn to shreds (and I still have it and got it signed by George a couple of years back). It is true that the “Tooth and Nail” Dokken era is still perhaps my favorite, but George has managed to keen his wits about him and has continued to put out some great music over the years.

Most recently I think the Sweet & Lynch album “Only To Rise” was a masterpiece and something I should have reviewed. May be I can find time to backtrack to that one. Of course there was also the Lynch Mob recording “Sun Red Sun” which was also an excellent release (late in 2014), albeit only seven tracks long – I suppose that was closer to an extended EP – but the new Lynch Mob release, “Rebel”, is due out in a few short weeks. George has been a busy boy recently.

So, the Shadow Train release is supposed to be the musical accompaniment to the Shadow Nation, which is a documentary about the Native American Indians in the modern world today. I’m not sure when that is due for release, or exactly what drove George to pursue that, but he did make the following comment on Blabbermouth: “I’ve spent over four decades of my life pursuing elusive musical aspirations. But for even longer than that, I’ve cared, studied and thought deeply about the human condition and how we interact with each other and the world around us. Fusing these two aspirations into one has been a challenge for me throughout my creative life. This is my attempt at bonding the music and the message into one cohesive whole.” Right-o. Now we know….

The Shadow Train album actually stretches to eighteen tracks, across two CDs, which is quite a mammoth offering. It seems that the first tracks recorded were the nine tracks that are included on CD number 2 in the set, so the presentation is actually chronologically reversed, and in my opinion the tracks on CD#1 are more accessible, which may be a result of the players becoming more familiar with each other. As for the line-up here we rather obviously have George Lynch on guitar, while on vocals we have Greg Analia, Gabe Rosales on bass, Donnie Dickman on keyboards, and Jimmy D’Anda on drums. Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life, but I’m not familiar with any of the other players listed here, and certainly each does a fine job, but I would be hard pushed to say any one of them stands out as exceptional, at least within the constraints of this release.
So turning to the album itself, CD#1 opens with “Vulture”, which kicks things off with a pretty crushing riff, however the verse takes things in a bit of a different direction, perhaps more in-line with something from the “Souls of We” record from 2008. Once the track gets to the solo section, it’s clear this is a more restrained George Lynch and perhaps it’s less about the guitar, than the song itself.

The second track, “Currency Of Lies”, seems to take a more familiar path and I swear there are times when I could mistake the vocals for Oni Logan (Lynch Mob). This is definitely a track I could have seen making it on to a Lynch Mob record. With that out of the way, up next is perhaps my favorite from the eighteen included here – “Power And Resistance” – and it is one of those Lynch songs that gets inside your head and has you coming back again and again. The chorus has a great hook, and the verse a neatly melodic riff. This is right there in “the zone” that draws me to so many George Lynch records.

The following track, “Now It’s Dark”, is what I call a “plodder” in terms of pace, but…! That chorus vocal melody… this is another track that is hard to skip and digs its way into your subconscious.

Now the rest of the record actually does a bit less for me. I don’t want to imply there’s anything ‘wrong’ with what follows, but in the “CD in the car” test, this record fails – despite having this CD for nearly a week now, it has failed to inspire me to burn a copy and swap out any of the CDs currently sitting in the CD changer (yeah, up to date I am not…). Track 7, “Ghost”, has a sort of spoken/rapped vocal line, which again sort of reminds me of the “Souls Of We” record for some reason, but as things move on I’m less engaged with the album.

Moving on the second CD, there seems to be more of a blues influence to the tracks included here, which is certainly no bad thing, and the opening track “Believe” has a nice bluesy, almost Gospel vibe to it, and is really the first time I noticed the keyboards. The second track “Blinded” is definitely a blues stomp, and while there’s nothing ground breaking here it’s a track I want to hear again. This groove is carried into the next track, “Fallen”, but from here out I’m less enthusiastic; track 5, “Prayer Mechanism” comes across as a bit of dirge to me, while “Soux Wake Up” probably works in the context of the movie I’m sure, but this message laden track is probably the one I’ve skipped more times than I’ve felt compelled to listen through. May be I’m just missing the point here? I think this same comment also applies to the next track, “Trail Of Tears”, which carries a definite Native American Indian atmospheric vibe, but it’s a little heavy.

The final track, “World On Fire”, draws us up out of the funk that I can’t help feel from the previous four tracks, and get’s things rocking again with some nice melodic guitar work buried into the very frame of the track.

So, in summary, not a total success, at least in my book. There’s a part of me that wants to blame the length of the whole thing on my funk here, but that’s not really it. I can’t help but think there was more rockin’ going on here and less intellectual posturing, the overall vibe would be more upbeat, but the bottom line is this just isn’t a record that I feel I will be reaching for to often, unlike the Lynch Mod, Sweet & Lynch or T&N albums which I continue to spin with great anticipation. All-in-all, I would say this is a record that hard-core Lynch fans will embrace, but otherwise there isn’t a great draw here. My score overall here is a muted 7.5/10

Raven – Extermination – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2015 by novametalreview

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The band Raven represent one of the foundations of much of what we regard as “heavy metal” these days, but sadly, many fans of the genre simply don’t understand just how influential Raven were when they broke into the mainstream in the early 80’s. I have previously written about my first Raven gig at Brighton Dome back in early ’82, which was the only full UK tour Raven carried out before leaving for the USA in ’83. That gig will always remain as one of my most enduring early metal smashing experiences… three impossibly young looking lads, creating such a powerful sound and doing it with so much passion and fun. The first two albums, “Rock Until You Drop” and “Wiped Out” remain favorites of mine to this day.

After arriving in the US they toured with Metallica as their support act… the history of the band in the following years can be left to the reader as homework, but some of the record company-led decisions in retrospect probably did the band less good than might have been otherwise, however there is still great music to be found in the Atlantic-era album releases, in particular “Life’s A Bitch”.

There is one thing that seems to have been missed by many so called ‘fans’ – Wacko (Rob Hunter) left the drum-stool back in 1987… Joe Hasselvander has been the permanent drummer ever since, which clocks his membership within the ranks at 28 years. I still cannot believe how many times I’ve seen people act surprised that Wacko isn’t with the band any more. Come on people – 28 years!

There is a dark period in the history of the band; In late 2001 Mark Gallagher suffered a very serious injury to his legs following the collapse of a wall at a construction site, that left him lucky to have not lost at least one of his legs. Despite contrary opinion from several doctors, Mark showed incredible will and fortitude, and was back performing with the band from a wheelchair in 2004 and then back on his feet! The album that followed this, released in 2009, “Walk Through Fire”, the title of which is perhaps a reflection of the trials the band has suffered, was a beaut and brought back the raw energy that the band delivers every time they hit the stage.

Now, admittedly there is a good long time between 2009 and today, but 2015 brings the release of the latest Raven album – Extermination – and it might just be the best ever Raven album… Sure, I am getting ahead of myself, but it really is a massively great piece of heavy metal music. Another quick note – production duties were once again awarded to Kevin Gutierrez of Assembly Line Studios, who was also at the helm for the previous record, and this album is another killer job. The production is crisp, heavy and alive with groove – avoiding the all to common-these-days ProTools flatness. Nice job Kevin!

So, turning now to focus on Extermination, the album opens with a short 42 second piece called imaginatively “Intro” which flows directly into the opener, “Destroy All Monsters” which is a double kick-drum fueled thrasher –the opening guitar riff is annoyingly catchy and the vocals announce themselves by tearing themselves out of the speakers with what I can only call “The John Gallagher Scream”. This track is a masterpiece of power through the verses, coupled to a hook-melody in the chorus that you can’t forget. There isn’t anything you could point to here and change for the better. This is heavy metal at it’s best. Exterminate!

Now I’m not going to run through this track by track, so don’t imagine for one second any that I skip over are any less worthy – I can only afford to spend so much time on this review – but the following are perhaps my favorites.

“It’s Not What You’ve Got” – This is a mid-paced stomper of a track, but with one of those “oh, shit, I can’t get this out-of-my-head” vocal melody lines, particularly in the verses. This track also has a short-but-sweet signature Mark Gallagher going nuts on guitar solo.

“Battle March/Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)” – What a crushing riff! And again John on vocals sounds in tip-top form. This track allows Mark to cut loose through an extended solo section, and it really shows what a unique approach he has to tearing the frets off his guitar.

“Thunder Down Under” – A fitting and well executed tribute to Bon Scott. Just a great heavy metal song, that cleverly rolls in so many classic AC/DC song titles. With a great overdriven bass intro into the solo section.

“Malice In Geordieland” (bonus track) – A celebration of John and Mark’s roots. Just magic stuff… of course being from the UK, despite being from ‘down South’ I can understand what this song is all about, but some may struggle!

Overall this is a slice of heavy metal that deserves to be bought by every single fan of heavy metal, heavy rock, thrash metal, you-name-rock-metal-whatever! Raven have captured all the power and energy that comes with a Raven live show and shoved it into the bits encoded on the CD or in the wiggly groove of the LP if you happen to be a vinyl addict. This may be the 41st anniversary of the bands formation (yes, they formed back in 1974…), but this is as fresh sounding and power-driven as you could ever wish. A cracking good album and easily worthy of a 10/10 score.

Iris Divine – Karma Sown – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , on January 15, 2015 by novametalreview

IrisCoverIt is rare that the first play of an album from a band has me glued to my speakers, almost speechless in disbelief at what I am hearing, and this would be an even less common with a “local band”, but I am still struggling, several weeks after receiving this CD in the mail, to coherently express my impressions in way that captures how truly excellent this album is. This isn’t just good, great or stunning… It is all of these and way, way more. Let me reset and get my feet back on the floor for a second here and give you the lay of the land first.

Let’s start with the obvious – who the heck are Iris Divine? What we have here is a three-piece outfit, with Navid Rashid handling vocals and guitar, Brian Dobbs on bass and Kris Combs taking care of drums and keys/programming. The band declares their hometown as Centreville, VA, which puts them about 12 miles from the NoVAMetalReview homestead, and I have to declare that I have managed to skillfully miss them playing at various gigs over the past two years – a fact I am kicking myself very hard over right now. Style-wise my immediate go-to would be Dream Theater and Fates Warning, with perhaps a good squeeze of Rush for good measure, but I think you could find quite a diverse set of influences if you wanted to pick at it. Personally, other than to get some sort of stylistic footing, I don’t feel there is any need to compare them, since as soon as you get this album spinning you will immediately have them on level pegging with any band you care to name. Yes, they aren’t just in the same bucket as <name band>, they are equal to any you might pick, including those with millions of album sales… (let that sink in OK?).

Despite missing them live (facepalm again, uhg!) all these times, I have bought tickets for gigs from them (I forget supporting who…), have at least one t-shirt, and also funded their Kickstarter campaign that provided some of the funds behind this album, which is how I came about receiving the CD. That was good move. At least I got that right. So, come December, an innocuous padded envelope arrived in the mail with another CD in it. The cover art was intriguing, so it was clear some effort had gone into the packaging at least – you can see the artwork at the top this article.

Now, this is the second full length CD from the band, but since their debut release, “Convergence” (available from the band’s Bandcamp page: http://irisdivine.bandcamp.com/album/convergence), the line-up has changed, with Navid and Brian remaining at the core, but seemingly greatly benefit from the addition of Kris to the line-up. The newly trimmed line-up seems to provide a tighter and heavier vibe than was evident from the debut. It’s certainly not a great change, but is a positive re-focusing. For those who like to dig deep, the band put up two tracks from Karma Sown as demos in mid-June of 2013 (again on Bandcamp), so it is clear the gestation period for this album has been well over a year, and to be honest, quality will always win over quantity. The demos certainly capture the ‘soul’ of the tracks as they appear on the final album, but the leap in production quality is immense, but now I am ahead of myself!

The album opens with “The Everlasting Sea” and the first thing that hit me was just an amazing production job. It isn’t just “good”, it’s bloody amazing, OK! Now, I don’t have the CD in front of me, but I believe this was self-produced (if I got that wrong… apologies), but whatever/whoever, they did a fantastic job. The sound is modern, tight, and heavy, but avoids what I will call the ProTools sheen, that all too many recent releases seem to drag along for the ride. Basically I can crank this album through my studio monitors, my car stereo, my reference system at home, or slammed on ‘11’ on the old iPhone earbuds and it sound fantastic everywhere. Great start.

“The Everlasting Sea” was one of the two demo tracks from the 2013 teaser, but the updated version here has a vitality and energy that is entirely new. It is immediately apparent that the core track retained its form, but the performance from the players is top-notch and all instruments have a nice “space” in the mix, but perfectly integrate. What set’s the album apart for me are the vocals. They sit so damn well in the musical “picture” that they knit the whole thing together in a way that is entirely “right”. It seems a little unfair now I’ve written that to single out a particular piece of this jigsaw, because the whole here is definitely the sum of the parts and more. The opening track clocks in at 6 minutes 20 seconds, but at no point do I feel any track on the entire album is anything other than well timed.

Up next is “Fire Of The Unknown” which breaks into a pretty crushingly heavy riff from more or less the get go, but even with this, the track is lifted by some very subtle but clever programming/keyboards. The more you listen, the more you get back. Now I don’t know how easy/hard it is to do this, but the attention to these smaller details and the care in getting the mix down right has paid off magnificently. Make sure you pay attention to all that is going on – there is some pretty spectacular bass playing to be had here, the drumming is spot on and the guitar work is stellar. Well done indeed!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift here… right? If I have any complaints at all then they are simply a request for more! The first request relates to the fact that there is only eight tracks on the album, which is perfectly OK, since the runtime for the record is around 48 minutes, but I would have happily enjoyed a couple more. Second, I would have been quite happy to hear more solo guitar from Navid. When he does let loose it is a good time, but I suspect there was an element of restraint in place here which can be backed off next time around. Let the man play!

Now there is one final twist in this story. Shortly after releasing the album, the band somewhat mysteriously pulled the recording from their Bandcamp page and all other sources, with a cryptic message that this was good news… Now, as far as I can ascertain (without any further official word from the band or any other source), the situation is that the band has interest from a significant label, which will come as no surprise to anyone that has heard this album. Iris’ certainly deserve to have this album released to the global market, which is something much harder to do on a self-basis. I can only hope this happens sooner rather than later, because this is a record that needs to be “out there”. I am certainly more than grateful to have the physical CD in my collection right now.

Most often I would pick a couple of tracks as favorites, but in this case that is a pointless exercise. All the tracks are standout and I can play them in any order and still walk away with a smile on my face. I do enjoy the instrumental “In Spirals”, but that is probably my inner musician sneaking out and applauding a band with the chops to drop a true instrumental track on a record and pull it off so excellently. All in all there is little else to say other than to hope for great things for these guys – they turned out a cracking good record here and it is a no-brainer to score this a straight 10/10.

– Neil Waterman 1/15/15

Marseille – Unfinished Business – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , on December 9, 2014 by novametalreview

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The music business is full of stories of unfulfilled destiny and at times some of these leave me just shaking my head. As you may well guess, the subject band of this review, Marseille, are a prime example of this. My bet is there are very few who will read this who will have even heard any material from this band. So first a history lesson….

Marseille were formed in Liverpool, back in 1976, a time that was spawning many of the roots of what became know as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Originally garnering attention by winning the very first UK Battle of the Bands, being judged by Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen at Wembly Arena in 1977, they signed a record deal with Mountain Records, which was an off-shoot of the band Nazareth I believe. Recently I had the privilege of having dinner with Andy Charters (rhythm guitarist from the band), and learned that the unbeknown to the band, the CEO of Mountain died in a plane crash two weeks before the band signed their deal. This unfortunately set a sequence of events in motion that would not do the band any favors.

The bands first release, “Red, White and Slightly Blue”, was produced by Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton, and did not receive the promotion or distribution it needed to really blow up, but the second album, simply titled “Marseille” from 1979, broke the band to a much larger audience and most importantly was the first NWOBHM album to get released in the USA on RCA. At this point I don’t think it unreasonable to have anticipated a rise that may have rivaled that of Def Leppard, Saxon or Iron Maiden.

However, this story has a twist that would suck the life from the band. Following the US release, the band were invited to tour the USA in 1980 along with Nazareth and Blackfoot, which seemed like the next and most logical move up the rock’n’roll ladder, and indeed the tour was successful. However, behind the scenes, the bands record label Mountain, due largely to completely inept management (remember that plane crash…), was drawn into bankruptcy and the moment the band returned to the UK they were dropped into a two-year legal battle, leaving their equipment stranded in the USA and unable to move on with another record deal until all the lawyer stuff was done with.

Faced with this, the original band more of less disintegrated, with lead guitarist, Neil Buchanan, moving on and finding a successful career in kids TV, Andy Charters moved the USA and Paul Dale (vocals) simply quit. The remaining two members, Keith Knowles and Steve Dinwoodie continued on and recruited vocalist Sav Pearse and guitarist Marc Railton from local Liverpool band Savage Lucy to complete a third album entitled “Touch The Night”, which I must say is a cracking good record and strangely is the album I first bought back in 1984 and how I first discovered Marseille. If you ever see a copy, immediately snap it up – it’s a must have for any NWOBHM fan, even if it isn’t really the “real Marseille”… Unfortunately, times had moved on and the record industry largely ignored the band leading to their split.

After a successful career in TV, Neil Buchanan reunited the original line-up in 2008, which in itself is no mean feat. However, Paul Dale left after about a year and was replaced by Nigel Roberts, who remains the vocalist to this day. In 2010, Keith Knowles and Steve Dinwoodie stepped down to be replaced by Gareth Webb (drums) and Lee Andrews (bass). This is the line up that recorded the album being reviewed hrere! To complete the history, Gareth Webb, left the band in 2011, with his drum stool being filled by Ace Finchum (also of Tigertailz). Lee also left and currently the bass positioned isn’t permanently manned. So, the original two guitarists and founding members, Neil Buchanan and Andy Charters, continue to lead the band, and while not active on a regular basis (mainly because of the 3000 mile stretch of Ocean that separates the members), they continue to play festivals and the odd small mini-tour mainly in mainland Europe.

So, turning to the album that is supposed to be the subject of this review, the first thing to point out is that you’re probably only going to find this as download, with the CD being out of print now (unless perhaps you are prepared to find a copy on one of the “used” sites out on the internet). As you might guess from the title, “Unfinished Business”, this album basically continues on from what might have followed the second album, but here we have the benefit of some very nice production.

As soon as the title track “Unfinished Business” kicks off, the band is firing on all cylinders and I’m talking at least a V-8 here. There is a classic NWOBHM vibe stamped all over this record, but it doesn’t drag along a dated feel at all, sounding fresh and charged with energy. In fact it’s as if the band has stored up all those missing the years worth of rock and released it in one hit. The double guitar line up brings some very nice interplay and the vocals are strong and remind me of several great British bands – Thunder and Little Angels come to mind, but there may be others.

The second track, “I Believe” continues the theme that the music is still relevant and the rock’n’roll dream is still alive, and really could be my personal theme song, haha! Having just gotten back from a 600-mile weekend round trip to see bunch of great metal bands I can’t really argue. “Rock Radio” is a somewhat humorous comment on the sad state of music on the radio these days…! Spot on I’d say. What I can’t really convey in these words is the great upbeat vibe all the tracks on this record bring. “Wanna Get High”, the fourth track here, is a slightly faster number, and, again is a ‘let’s live life to the full’, positive number. There’s some great guitar work in the middle of this track. Solid heavy metal, rock’n’roll.

With track five, there’s a definite hint of Def Leppard (from the good Def Leppard days…) but better than anything that particular band has put out for a long time. This song carries a great melody and it really digs into your brain, such that it’s almost too annoyingly catchy! Skipping over track six, “Blown It”, which is fine, but perhaps my least favorite, we get to “Raise Hell” which is a nicely mid-paced rocker, and just one of those songs you want to crank to ‘11’ when your driving down a nice stretch of highway.

The album closes out with “Everyone Dies Young”, “In For The Kill”, both of which are fine songs, but take us to “The Game” which is another strong number with a cool drum-driven riff through the verse. I found myself leaving this CD in the car player for multiple plays on my most recent trip and was sneakily jacking the volume up as the tracks played through.

So who’s going to like this? Well, least I don’t misrepresent anything here, this isn’t NWOBHM in the vein of Maiden, Saxon or Priest, but more on the Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang and later British bands such as Thunder, so, if those bands ring a bell with you, you will most likely really dig this. There’s definitely a blues edge here, leading me to feel a little more denim, as opposed to leather, but overall it is a really great album and now I have a copy, it feels like one of those that I will always want to hear from start to finish, no matter I’m in shuffle mode on the ol’ iTunes. Again, another testament to music of the late 70’’s/early 80’s, a crackin’ good come back album – how this didn’t do better when it first came out in 2010 is a mystery to me, but then again I’ve only just discovered it myself. My rating for this is a strong 8.5/10.

You can find this on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Business-Marseille/dp/B0045JB5H4) and iTunes.