Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mad as hell!

HEIR TO MADNESS – “The Citadel” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Keller, Texas. I have to admit, I know nothing about it. Google it and you read about it being “part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.” Sounds kinda modern and yet, when I hear the name I’m first thinking of a place where there’s a lot of pick-ups and rodeos. I should be ashamed, first off because I’m probably dead wrong and secondly because I never expected to hear a prog rawk gem the likes of “The Citadel” emanate from it’s boundaries. HEIR TO MADNESS, the “band” involved in the building of this “Citadel” is, as it turns out, one guy named Jay. That may not sound intimidating but, as an amateur musician, I’ve gotta say, his work here is damn impressive. So now you’re going to try & get me to ‘fess up and tell you what HTM sounds like and I guess the jumping-off-point would be Porcupine Tree. Still, there’s a lot more to be found in the 8 mostly-lengthy tracks here. While a the title of a cut like “Arbiter Of Somnolence” may bring horrifying visions of a Fates Warning outtake, this track features jutting guitar riffs alone that would make a band like that wilt in their pseudo-prog tracks. When you couple with it the deft melodies that weave in and out, including a chorus to die for, you’ve got a bona fide winner. This kind of musical blend continues throughout the album, adding in aspects of jazz as well. The melodies are catchy and cohesive and there’s always a generous dollop of distorted axe grinding right around the corner to keep the mood heavy. We’ve debated the “prog” word ad nauseum around these parts, yet with Jay riding his HEIR TO MADNESS project outta Texas & into your speakers, there’s definitely a new sheriff in town. 8.5

GLYDER – “Weather The Storm” CD EP ’08 (Private, Ire) – Funny thing, this music bizz. Some bands take 7,000 years to make an album, piss about a hundred band members off in the process and come up with a pseudo effort that’s weak, tired & uninspired. Then they make a hundred or so mil off said debacle. Others throw 5 songs on an EP between records that they release themselves ‘cause they can’t find a label to even nod at ‘em and the thing hauls motherfriggin’ ass. Meet GLYDER. They’re from Ireland and they’re a lot better than Gums & Noses. In fact they’re so good that the late Phil Lynott’s mother likes ‘em. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Within these 5 songs, these cats go everywhere from a rousing cover of a tune by THE STUNNING to a lengthy title cut that recalls the best moments of the aforementioned Philo’s gang, Thin Lizzy, without ever getting close to aping. The dual guitars of Bat Kinane and Pete Fisher bob & weave like twin jet fighters and Tony Cullen’s vocals tell the respective tales with a wry storyteller’s vibe. Those of you who’ve read this site for awhile know how damn great I considered this band’s last full length opus, “Playground For Life,” and this EP is way more than just a taster for the next one. Buy now. 8.5

THE MANSFIELDS – “Cramp Your Style” CD ’08 (Gearhead, US) – Of course, once you say “New York Dolls influence,” everybody and their brother says “Fer Crissakes, Ray, how many jerkwads have done that?” And I say, “Yeah, maybe so hossy-hoover, this ain’t gonna change the world, discover an element or feed an entire country’s worth of starving children but they do what they do good.” A couple of Elvis (as in The Pelvis) covers as well as the odd nod to Nashville litter the back alley formed here by one zombie punk brick after another. Like I said, this ain’t gonna be the band you sell your Buick to follow around on tour but they sure do make a sweet drunken listen on a Friday night…well, if I was young enough to drink anymore, leastwise.

OMNIUM GATHERUM – “The Red Shift” CD ’08 (Candlelight, Swe) – Damn, isn’t that a mouthful! OMNIUM GATHERUM. It’s the kind of name that makes people smile. I have to admit, I chuckled at it a little. Then again, it sort of pissed me off when the Hives-loving, skinny-jeans-wearing, stupid-hair-cut-sporting dude at Local Record Emporium laughed when I asked him if he had it in stock. Still, all joking aside, this crew are a good bit better than their name might imply. Surely steeped in the age-old (how ancient does that make me feel?) Gothenburg death metal tradition, they rise above the ad nauseum level by injecting some real melody into the proceedings. A very consistent record, aided and abetted by the always-sterling production values of Dan Swano, “The Red Shift” won’t blow you away but it’s surely worth a 2nd or 3rd…maybe even 4th listen. 6.5

SIENA ROOT – “Far From The Sun” CD ’08 (Transubstans, Swe) – Hey know what, this Transubstans label has it all goin’ on, dig me? Yeah man, of course they’re from over Scandinavian way where the geetars rule the world. But there’s more to it than that. You see, besides understanding that rawk runs rampant over everything, they also understand…dig the vibe, man! It’s all about the vibe. SIENA ROOT are from Sweden and, brother do they dig the vibe. Not content to be stoner, not content to be desert, these cats take the deal way back to the ‘60’s and wear their tie-dyed headbands on their shirtsleeves. Hmm…maybe it’s the lysergic dust floating down from the loft upstairs or maybe I’m just old but dang if the names of the songs aren’t hard to read. Who care, though as this here musical combo reminds me of the old days of the Airplane and records like “Surrealistic Pillow.” Guitars like Jorma-before-he-was-a-tuna pervade and luscious melodies waft through the hazy smoke of those “funny” cigarettes. Sweet. 8.0

ULI JON ROTH – “Under A Dark Sky” CD ’08 (SPV, Ger) – At first I got kinda psyched about this newest effort from guitar God ULI JON ROTH and, on initial listen, was kinda smitten with this release. Funnily (is that an adjective for something being “like a funnel?”), however, with repeated spinnings, my assessment began to decline. Thing is, I’ve always really liked ULI. His odd Dylan-on-helium vox aside, the guy has always played a mean freaking axe and the octaves he’s reached on that wicked Sky guitar has cost me a few years off the old auditory nerves in the live format. Still, with each listen of “Under A Dark Sky,” this disc has revealed itself to have less & less actual substance. Sure, the arrangements are classically admirable. Sure, the musicianship in general and the guitar work (natch) in particular are startling. And yet, upon reaching the end of the album, I’m left wondering…what the hell did I just hear? That’s right, can’t remember a whole lot. Nowhere to be found are the either the blustering rhythmic onslaught of old Scorps gems like “Dark Lady” nor the ethereal Hendrixian landscapes of “Firewind.” While ULI still seems like an old friend, his latest disc should perhaps be entitled “Under A Kinda Empty Sky.” 4.5

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