Escape From The Shadow Garden Live 2014

"This is Magnums 9th live album and is a fitting reminder of just how good last year’s studio release ‘Escape from the Shadow Garden’ is. If you missed the supporting tour then this is as faithful a reproduction as you are going to get, my venue on that tour was 53Degrees in Preston, but the less said about that venue the better.

The first 6 tracks are taken from Magnum’s last three Studio albums, opening with ‘Live till you die’ a modern classic Magnum song in the making. The opening riff to The Visitation’s ‘Black Skies’ gives the band a edger sound, Bob is sounding as good if not better than ever and what can you say about Tony Clarkin, the man is a genius.

‘Freedom Day’ and ‘Dance Of The Black Tattoo’ are defining Magnums new heavier sound and the band aren’t afraid to play them live with both five string bass player Al Barrow and drummer Harry James delivery a power house of a rhythm section. Pianist Mark Stanway’s playing is as fluid and complementary as ever especially on ‘Freedom Day’ the interplay between Tony and Mark is just sublime, a joy to watch and a pleasure to listen to.

‘Blood Red Laughter’ is another strong track and deserves a place at the live table as well as the slow burning ‘Unwritten sacrifice’.

The second half of the set see’s Magnum delivery the classics, but there are so many of them it must be hard to choose the set list.

We get the mighty ‘How far Jerusalem’ the astonishingly moving ‘Les morts dasant’, the unexpected ‘Falling from the big plan’ as it’s taken from the Escape album, then it’s back to the classic’s with the anthemic ‘All England’s eyes’ and the uber catchy “Vigilante”.

‘Kingdom of madness’, off course, rounds the set and the night off. My only critisim is that the running time and the gig is a little on the short side, another couple of tracks, both favourites of mine ‘Don’t wake the lion’ which hasnt been played live since 2010, or ‘Midnight’ has’nt been played since 2008, or countless other songs would have made a wonderful gig and disc. Still, can’t wait for the next tour.

I have seen Magnum live many many times over the years and they never fail to impress, and this live release is no different, it is worthy of a place in your record collection." - PlanetMosh.com

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  • Reissue of the 1997 release from this melodic metal/AOR band that has been around for an eternity. Vocalist David Readman is one of the best singers out there (check out the first two Adagio albums). This is a new mid-line edition that comes with three bonus tracks, photos and new liner notes from guitarist Dennis Ward.
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  • "Ashent, an Italian Progressive Metal band, return in 2012 with their third release, Inheritance. This being a milestone for any band, it also sees Ashent returning after a period of change, with changes in the band's lineup. After the 2009 release of Deconstructive, Ashent announced three new members would be filling in: Titta Tani (Goblin,Daemonia, ex-Necrophagia, ex-DGM) on lead vocals, Gilles Boscolo on keyboards and Alessandro Cossu on second guitar. And so, with lineup changes like these, it comes as no surprise that Ashent are redefining themselves a bit. Inheritance finds Ashent taking a very unique stance on Progressive Metal, melding together various styles and sounds to create a somewhat unusual blend. Along with what might be considered the "typical" combination of Progressive Metal instruments with heavy guitars and synths, Ashent mixes in some Mellotron, Hammond, and Saxophone. This gives their sound an almost Neo Prog take on Progressive Metal. And dynamically, Ashent swings between more atmospheric and mellow sections to some louder, chaotic blends. Ashent has a way of using chord progressions where they fill every chord out to the point of almost bursting, adding dissonant tones to the more conventional structures. This is not only achieved with the instrumentation (often combining atmospheric keyboards that are reminiscent of Devin Townsend with some heavy, rhythmic guitars) but also with some very full harmonies in the vocals. Add to this a very dynamic rhythm section, and the music can at times be a little overwhelming. And Ashent deploys many different textures throughout the album, with modern synths, orchestral parts, sequencers, choirs, and even some fusion, making for a very dynamic experience. All this combined also gives them a sound that has a very new, crisp and modern feel to it. This is definitely an album that breaks the mold, and as such will leave some scratching their heads, while others will praise it highly." - Sea Of Tranquility
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  • Since the release of 2013’s In Crescendo, Kingcrow toured North America in support of Pain Of Salvation, and headlined a European tour.  Kingcrow kept busy in 2014, touring Europe with Fates Warning and at the same time crafting the material that would become Eidos.“Eidos” is a new conceptual album about choices, consequences, dealing with regret and disillusion. Their earlier album Phlegethon dealt with childhood and In Crescendo about the end of youth.  Eidos can be considered the third part of a trilogy about the path of life. Musically it sees the band exploring new territories and pushing the extremes of its complex soundscape with a darker atmosphere and a more progressive attitude.Describing the band today is quite a difficult task, but one could state that the influence of such artists as Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead , King Crimson and Massive Attack are all present in the music of Kingcrow.With each release Kingcrow has taken a step further away from their original roots as a classic metal band and is now one of the most personal and exciting bands that Italy has to offer.
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  • "Well, Italy is known for being a country with extremes: on one hand, you have very good bands of extreme Metal; on the other, bands of more melodic and technical Metal. And the both ways granted the world with excellent works. Going into a more Power/Progressive Metal way, coming from Trieste (Milan), we have the trio STARBYNARY, which released their first work, the album “Dark Passenger”.We can say that they follow a technical and heavy path of the style, making an elegant work on the same vein from old SYMPHONY X, but not eclectic as DREAM THEATER (so you won’t hear elements from Pop and Jazz on this album). Excellent vocals (a legacy from Italy in terms of Metal), very good riffs and solos (being melodic, heavy and technical in the due proportions), good rhythmic kitchen and powerful and grandiose keyboards parts is what they offer in a musical work full of elegance and weight. And we must accept it with opened heart and soul, for their efforts in create good music had success!The sound production is fine, granting their music a clear and heavy sound quality, so we really can hear all the musical arrangements and little details that make the difference. Yes, they are near perfection on sound quality. To speak about this album is a pleasure, for the trio’s music is wonderful, flows spontaneously into our ears and souls, and really conquest, but to name songs on this album as the best ones is an act of injustice. From “…Dawn of Evil” to “The End Begins” (a very long song, divided in three excellent parts), they show that they made their songs with hearts and wisdom. So hear it, and you’ll understand what your Ol’ Big Daddy here is trying to say." - Metal Temple
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  • In 2013 Renaissance ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and self-release the album Grandine Il Vento.  The response was an overwhelming success.  Sadly shortly after the recording of the album, Michael Dunford suddenly passed away so there is a bittersweet aura around the album.  The album never went into distribution - you could only buy it from the band's website.  Renaissance has now licensed the album and repackaged and renamed it.  Symphony Of LIght contains all of the tracks from Grandine Il Vento but with an additional three tracks.""Though the release of Renaissance's brand new album Grandine il Vento has been tempered somewhat by the recent passing of guitarist Michael Dunford shortly before its release, let's not fail to state what is pretty obvious...this is a wonderful little album. Coming 12 years after their last studio album Tuscany, Grandine il Vento manages to successfully recreate the classic Renaissance sound just like its predecessor. The line-up for the album is Annie Haslam (vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), David J. Keyes (bass, vocals), Rave Tesar (keyboards), Frank Pagano (drums), and Jason Hart (keyboards).If anyone has caught the band live over the past few years, you've no doubt witnessed Haslam's voice sounding quite good, and she's in great form here as well. Just listen to her gentle touch and soaring lines on the epic & majestic opening song "Symphony of Light", a remarkable tune that has all the classic Renaissance elements; stunning piano & keyboards, nimble bass lines, deft acoustic guitar work, and powerful vocals. This track wouldn't have been out of place on Turn of the Cards or Ashes Are Burning. "Waterfall" is a lovely little ditty, complete with Haslam's charming vocal and warm guitar chords from Dunford, while the alluring title track offers up some fascinating lyrics to match the majestic musical arrangements. Tesar and Hart have really laid down some exquisite keyboard tapestries on this one, and the soaring chorus from Annie is a thing of beauty.The band goes for a more groove laden pop feel on "Porcelain", but again, Annie steals the show with her soothing delivery on the chorus. "Cry to the World" is for all the folk lovers in the house, complete with lush acoustic guitar and guest flute from Jethro Tull legend Ian Anderson, while "Air of Drama" is a quirky, mysterious little song that has a majestic feel thanks to some glorious keyboards, lush guitars, and a great vocal duet between Haslam and Keyes. Tesar's gorgeous piano leads in the dramatic "Blood Silver Like Moonlight", another song with that classic era feel, and none other than John Wetton (Asia/King Crimson/UK) makes a guest appearance to join Annie on vocals. The album closes with the dark, ominous "The Mystic and the Muse", a powerful song that features plenty of bombast and drama, thanks to some huge symphonic swells, complex passages, and soaring vocals from Annie. It's easily another one of the main highlights of the album.Though it took over a decade, Renaissance have truly delivered a stunning album here with Grandine il Vento. Sadly, it's also the last appearance of the late Michael Dunford, but he most certainly has gone out on a high note. The band have regrouped after Dunford's unexpected passing, with new guitarist Ryche Chlanda, and are taking the new album out on the road. Expect to be wowed, as much of this latest CD should slot right in alongside all those great Renaissance classics." - Sea Of Tranquility
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  • "London based Neonfly, are Willy Norton on vocals, Frederick Thunder on guitars, Patrick Harrington on guitars, Paul Miller on bass and Boris Le Gal on drums.They have managed to get onto some pretty cool and important supports slots lately, including Power Quest, Magnum, Sonata Arctica and Dragonforce. They lit up the Sophie Lancaster Stage at Bloodstock 2013 and their rapidly rising reputation as a force to be reckoned with live won them an invitation to open for Alice Cooper on the German leg of his Raise The Dead Tour 2013.Neonfly released their explosive debut album ‘Outshine The Sun’, in September 2011 on Rising Records, to critical acclaim. Now they are back with the ever difficult 2nd release ‘Strangers In Paradise’.What is clear about this new offering, is that they have used the three year gap in recording time wisely, so many bands get rushed into making their 2nd album that it is generally a poor effort, full of tracks that never made the final cut the first time around, however I am pleased to say that Neonfly have not done this. The new album is a step up both in songwriting, playing and overall production than the debut, so anything left over from the debut will still be on the cutting room floor.Opening song ‘Whispered Dreams’ is a massive opener, with a big chorus and the soaring melodic vocals of Willy Norton. Both “Better Angels” and “Heart Of The Sun” are catchy enough to win over casual fans and draw them in at festivals, before discovering the deeper delights this album has to offer.The use of keyboards and orchestrations on most, if not all of these songs help to lift them above the norm and add a touch of quality to an otherwise good track. ‘Sons Of Liberty’ has a String section at its heart and this works really really well.‘Aztec Gold’ is another track that benefits from the orchestration treatment yet remembers its power metal roots with a great guitar solo trade-off between guitarists Patrick Harrington and Frederick Thunder.‘Fierce Battalions’ is a fast-paced track allowing drummer Boris Le Gal to show us his skills, a basic yet effective trip down European power metal road.‘Chasing The Night’ and ‘Falling Star’ are two outstanding tracks, both for different reasons, the former is the longest track on the record and it has a more progressive rock feel to it. It’s also has a great lead guitar solo at the mid-point and plenty of explosive passages throughout. The surprise on the cd is the last track though, a ballad, the lyrics on “Falling Star” are just beautiful, this is a massive ballad and AOR rock band would be proud off.This is a very complex album that needs quite a few listens to fully experience it: is it Power Metal, is it AOR , is it Progressive?, the simple answer is Yes, it is all these and much more.
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  • Limited edition digipak comes with a bonus live CD."Even if I’d spend a decent amount of time, I don’t think I would be able to find an average album in BRAINSTORM’s discography. You can try it for yourself but I am sure you’ll realize that this German band has been releasing very good albums being extremely reliable to its fan base. I am sure some will object to my statement by saying that the albums are indeed good but not stellar. Then you’d reach to the dilemma of what a metalhead prefers his favorite band to release; a couple of really good albums or keep a constant quality level? On the other hand, over-thinking music takes a huge chunk of just-having-fun time, so I will leave all these questions to the hands/minds of the deep thinkers because “Firesoul” comes with ten great songs to sing and headbang along.“Erased By The Dark” opens the album and the trained ear should not have a single problem recognizing the (by now) trademark BRAINSTORM sound. Andy B. Franck’s powerful voice is once again delivering a hearty collection of vocal melodies that do not need a lot of time to get you humming or even singing along. The guitars have a US Power Metal quality that is hard to miss and impossible to fail, so please crank the volume up during the fat rhythm of the self-titled track and “Entering Solitude” (love the opening guitar groove here). “Shadowseeker” steps on the gas and throws in the mix some killer leads that guide the song to a climax during the solo before passing the baton to the album’s highlight, “Feed Me Lies”. This song could easily be a BRAINSTORM showcase for those who have missed this band completely bringing along; the dialogue-like mix of the lead-vocals, the collection of catchy melodies (I challenge you to resist singing along the chorus) and the awesome double guitar action that tops everything off. The band’s German ancestry comes to surface through the solid rhythm that can make you think of PRIMAL FEAR or SINNER; in other words, Power Metal in its finest and obviously I am not talking about the cheesy/cookie cutter one. I have no idea about the bonus material (I will hunt the vinyl edition anyway) but having the album in repeat-mode made me think that the mid-tempo and kind of dark “…And I Wonder” leads to the faster and heavier album’s opener in a natural way, so it will keep you listening.After listening more than it would be enough to write my thoughts/opinion about it, I realized that “Firesoul” is better than the last two albums and I think I enjoyed it as I did “Liquid Monster” that placed BRAINSTORM under my music-radar. This album is the perfect way to starting dealing with this band that I think has not received the deserved recognition (yet) and I will again refer you to its high-quality backcatalogue." - Metal Kaoz
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  • "Despite what the name might lead you to think, progressive metal is among the most static and boring of all heavy music genres. Half the bands that fall under the moniker exist merely as a vehicle to show off the skills of the players involved, which is fine in small doses, but rarely sustains a creative career. The other half of the bands stick rigidly to the blueprint of one of the fore-bearers of the genre, giving us music that sounds exactly like something we've already heard. Very little of progressive metal is actually interesting, because it is a genre that lacks people dedicated to the art of songwriting. Songs are what makes any band successful, no matter how much sheer musical skill they possess. Dream Theater didn't get to where they are just because they are amazing musicians, they also wrote a slew of great songs and albums. The number of progressive metal bands who have impressed me with their songwriting in recent years is miniscule, but I mention all of this because Ascendia is one of them.As “At The End Of It All” swells into focus with a tribal drum beat and chanted vocals, it's already obvious that this is not going to be prog-by-numbers. The song kicks into gear with a syncopated guitar riff, before the vocals soar over the top of everything, slapping a thick coat of melody atop the sound. There's a quiet section in the middle of the song that feels like a cousin of Killswitch Engage, which is a fresh sound to hear in this kind of music. When it opens back up into the chorus, the song is massive, and it's hard to believe all of that music was contained in five and a half minutes.The songs on the album are more bite-sized than typical progressive metal, but that plays into the band's strengths as songwriters. By keeping the songs lean and tight, they hit harder than if the instrumental sections had been extended by a minute here and there. There is interesting playing going on, but it's all done within the framework of the songs, and never put out front to dominate the spotlight. It's an approach that is smart not just because of how easy it is to get bogged down in instrumental pyrotechnics, but because an album of that sort would never be able to survive the Herculean vocal presence of singer Nick Sakal.With more than a little bit of similarity to the former singer of the aforementioned Killswitch Engage, Howard Jones, Sakal's vocals dominate the album, making you wonder where a voice like that could have come from. His baritone is warm, rich, and not at all what you would expect to hear in a band that isn't playing down-tuned hardcore.But what is most important are the songs, and that's where Ascendia proves themselves as standouts. Whether tackling more modern fare like “Remember Me”, or more traditionally melodic songs like “Moonchild”, there's a phenomenal blend of heavy riffing and soaring melody. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear a progressive metal band that is so in tune with melody, and can write songs that could stand up if they were stripped down to the chord structure and the vocals. We get an example of that with the duet ballad, “The Song That You Deserved”, a largely piano and voice song that is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. Ascendia's ear for songs is excellent, and that is what makes “The Lion And The Jester” such an engaging listen. Song after song, there's a warm and inviting chorus waiting to wrap its arms around you after you've heard the heavy and intricate moments.This year has been off to a ridiculously great start, with at least half a dozen legitimately great records having already come my way. Add “The Lion And The Jester” to that list, because Ascendia is making progressive metal the way it was always supposed to be. Both challenging and gratifying, intense and cathartic, “The Lion And The Jester” is a phenomenal piece of work that reminds me of the very best progressive metal I've ever heard. This is an album you need to hear.Oh, and how awesome is that cover art? That is one album that will look as good as it sounds in a collection." - Bloody Good Horror
    $10.00
  • "A new interpretation of a classic RPI title! This is quite an undertaking, but it comes off in an outstanding way, giving new life to old friends. In contrast to so many reworkings of old pieces that I've heard in recent years, this one does not leave me only wishing to listen to the original. Rather, the new work stands well on its own, not only helping me listen to the original with new ears, but also bringing new insights and experience.In 1972, Latte e Miele released their debut, an incredibly ambitious work based on the Passion of St. Matthew, "Passio Secundum Mattheum." This is one of the seminal titles of 1970s RPI and has rightfully stood the test of time. The band would never equal this album, although the subsequent title, "Papillon", came close. After that the band broke up for a time, until drummer Alfio Vitanza reformed the band, with new members including bassist Massimo Gori. Their only album, "Aquile e Scoiattoli", has its moments but is inferior to the first two, and the band disbanded a few years later after moving toward more commercial music.In 2008 the band reformed, including all three original members (Vitanza and songwriter/keyboardist Oliviero Lacagnina, as well as guitarist Marcello Giancarlo Dellacasa) and Massimo Gori, bassist from the second generation of the band. The quartet released "Live Tasting", an excellent live album that portended of the good to come. Their time together also produced a wonderful new album, "Marco Polo: Sogni e Viaggi" in 2009.Over the years, Lacagnina never stopped composing his masterpiece, his "Passio". Now the quartet has recorded anew their masterpiece, adding those "new" compositions into the narrative. For example, "Il Pane e il Sangue dell'Alleanza" has been inserted right after "Ultima Cena", and "Il Rinnegamento di Pietro" and "Il Prezzo del Sangue" between "Il Pianto" and "Giuda". Also, the ending has been fleshed out significantly, with four new songs, and the final song, "Come un Ruscello che..." includes the final themes previously entitled "Il Dono della Vita". Also of note, a solo organ piece entitled "Toccata per organo" is placed just before "Calvario"--this is special, as it is an original take from 1972!The instrumentation is true to the spirit of the 1972 piece, although with an updated sound. Ditto the choir, which sometimes on the 1972 version is muted and thin--here the choir parts are strong, lush, and vibrant. The majority of the pieces that were rerecorded for this edition also maintain their compositional structure, although there are a few changes inserted (notably in "I Falsi Testimoni", the new version of "I Testimoni" parts 1 and 2). There is nothing that violates that spirit of the original work, though it is impossible to duplicate its wonderful innocence.Another unique feature of this album is the presence of several prominent figures from RPI providing the spoken Evangelist parts. These include Alvaro Fella (Jumbo), Lino Vairetti (Osanna), Silvana Aliotta (Circus 2000), Paolo Carelli (Pholas Dactylus), Aldo de Scalzi (Picchio dal Pozzo), Sophya Baccini, Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre), Giorgio D'Adamo (New Trolls), Max Manfredi, Simonluca, and Paolo Griguolo (Picchio dal Pazzo). It's a nice touch that really rounds out the album.The CD comes in a jewel case with a lyric booklet. I'm told that the pending Japanese version will contain a newly recorded composition as a bonus track. But don't wait for that one--go out and grab this one. You won't be disappointed. Four plus stars (Gnosis 13/15).Edit: I can't stop listening to this! Though it's not quite as good as the original, it's very close. I'm bumping it up to Gnosis 14/15, which is five stars on PA." - ProgArchives
    $16.00
  • "Countdown To Revenge is album number five from Italian metallers Hollow Haze, a band who’ve been rattling out grandiose metal since 2003 but never getting the recognition they deserved. Mind you, gigs with German metal kings Accept certainly did them more good than harm, and this 11-track affair comes straight out of the box writhing like a metallic serpent, bolstered by the venomous vocals of Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire / Vision Divine).This is the first Hollow Haze platter to showcase the soaring talents of renowned frontman Lione, who replaces Alex Sonato, the singer on the band’s last two records, including the critically acclaimed Poison In Black (2012). For me, Lione is a marked improvement on Sonato, having a far greater and certainly more epic range for this style of powerful, majestic metal.This sort of metal can be an acquired taste due to its orchestral drama and polished feel. Hollow Haze, among numerous others (often European), are certainly one of the more adequate bands carving out this type of vast, melodic metal landscape. Any fan of hard-hitting metal should certainly give this record a spin as well, though.Firstly – and revisiting that vocal style – we’re hearing a set of lungs that combines the glorious heights of Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) with a more modern, epic range. These strengths are complimented by the clean orchestrations of Antarktica and the Wintermoon Orchestra which, rightly so, give the platter an icy, clinical feel as Nick Savio’s guitars chisel out those huge valleys of sound.Storming in after a brief orchestral intro (‘Room 212’), album opener ‘Watching In Silence’ adopts all the theatrical nuances one would expect from such heroic metal. Hollow Haze have always been an ambitious band, keen to tell their tales by way of lush arrangements and stately dynamics. The band keeps the drama going with the pacey ‘Still Alive’, a track which combines classical preparations with a thrashy drum and ominous guitar chug.Clearly Fabio Lione has found his fiery home with Hollow Haze, his voice slipping in without trace of any cracks as ‘No Rest For The Angels’ sweeps into the room, evoking images of grand halls and luxurious tapestries unfolding. It’s the sort of track that would need to be heard to be believed live; the solos are punchy, the drums racy and again the vocals soaring into the zenith – Lione aided by Rick Altzi (At Vance / Masterplan / ex-Thunderstone) – to create another vast landscape of sound.With this type of album, it’s always difficult to pick out a favourite track because there is always a conceptual feel about proceedings due to the textures and overlying drama. For instance, ‘Life Has No Meaning’ – one of the more melodically subtle tracks on the opus – is far removed from the pounding eight-minute title track, but both songs are testament to a band and its ability to create moods and sprawling pastures.There are certainly sceptics within the metal fraternity who would deem this sort of heavy metal as being over the top in its quest for atmosphere. I can see where they’d be coming from, but in small doses bands such as Hollow Haze need to be experienced. After all, how can one fault the reflective symphonies of ‘Il Tempo del Fuoco’ or the Helloween-styled power metal soar of ‘A Fading Angel’s Life’? It’s metal at its purest, metal which doesn’t rely on anything remotely evil or weighty to deliver its message.Hollow Haze may be stuck within hair metal pomp and goth-laced histrionics and theatre, but for some this is what makes metal such a tour de force. Hats off to mix-master Sascha Paeth (Avantasia) for giving Countdown To Revenge such a clean, yet furious sound, and let’s hope Hollow Haze keep hold of Fabio Lione – this guy has added an extra dimension to that already flourishing landscape." - Metal Forces Magazine
    $15.00
  • "Oh Italy, will you ever stop delivering kick ass metal? Now don’t get me wrong folks, I love the San Francisco Bay Area I’ve called home for the majority of my life, and am very pleased with the area’s contributions to heavy metal, namely the thrash era of the 1980’s, but at the present moment, no country has been consistently delivering like Italy has, especially when it comes to just buckling down and busting out some no holds barred, guitar crunching, drum smashing, vocal chord tearing heavy metal. And when it comes to metal that is blunt and to the point, Astra pretty much nails it on their album Broken Balance.Astra began their journey in Rome in 2001 as a four piece instrumental band, three of which are still in the band today, Andrea Casali (vocals and bass), Silvio D’Onorio De Meo (lead guitar), and Emanuele Casali (keyboard and rhythm guitar), and after a few changes, settled on drummer Filippo Berlini. According to their bio, they cut their chops on Dream Theater covers, and managed to win the first Italian Dream Theater Tribute Contest, leading them to a show with the Wizard Rudess himself for the Italian fan club’s 10 year party. From that point, they followed the tried and true path of releasing albums and touring. In 2005 they released About Me: Through Life and Beyond, and followed that with the 2007 release of From Within. Now, it’s time for that ever crucial third album, so let’s take a look at Broken Balance….Now, unlike a lot of the music I’ve been reviewing in recent days, there is no genre bending, no quirks or hidden aural agendas. From note one of the opening track, Losing Your Ego, Astra makes it crystal clear that they just want to rock the fuck out. The song, and the whole album for that matter, is a catchy riff fest with a strong hard rock/metal vibe. It’s the type of music that would have taken a very high place in the annals of late eighties metal, with the searing high vocals of Casali, the constant double bass of Berlini, and the relentless guitar riffs and solos. They do mix it up a bit, throwing in a few time changes here and there, some subdued moments, and a growl or two, just to add some flare and color to the overall product. Hole in the Silence picks up right where the opener drops off, without skipping a step. The third track, Sunrise to Sunset, has a slightly balladesque touch to it, with a soaring and catchy chorus that really showcases the vocals of Casali. Buried in the midst of the soaring vocal work is a brilliant instrumental section and a jaw dropping solo. It’s surely my favorite on the album, a song that will be listened to many times, me singing at the top of my severely under qualified lungs.From there they go right back to the metal. Song after song they are relentless, one of those albums that screams “LIVE SHOW PLEASE!!!!!!”.  Too Late has yet another catchy chorus, something of a standard throughout the album actually. The title track, Broken Balance, opens with a sultry tone, something else they are rather adept at, and delivers a fairly complex song afterwards, teasing at exploding out multiple times before restraining themselves, working the listener into a furious sense of expectation as to what’s going to come about. Then comes the instrumental, where they let loose in a fury of notes scattered around before the guitars take control. Six more tracks follow, delivering a good variety on their version of solid metal. Another ballad comes in the form of Mirror of Your Soul. Risk and Dare is a crushing and rather dark number on an album that is overall fairly uplifting. Three more rockers lead into the closing track, You Make Me Better. This one opens on the heavy notes, and then settles into ballad zone. It’s a love song of course, with all the requisite cheesiness lyrically and the solid climactic moments.Astra gives at the core of this album a polished sound for sure. Though there are very few mistakes on it, they also don’t break down any barriers. It is altogether a good, fun rocking album, the kind that is meant for cranking up and punishing your neck and your neighbors. Their tightness as a band is clear on every song, and the catchiness of the album should ensure a good deal of longevity for yet another addition to the growing pantheon of Italian metal." - Lady Obscure
    $15.00
  • "Death.Taxes.Ozric Tentacles.Since 1984 this loose collective have been releasing reliably great music from the mind of leader Ed Wynne. Their margin of error is enviably tiny – there is no such thing as a bad Ozrics album. Sure, some are better than others, but the body of work is as inescapably consistent as mortality and societal contributions. Technicians of the Sacred is their fifteenth studio album, second double album and the first release in this format since Erpland in 1990. It is also one of the best they have ever recorded.The blend of electronica and inner-space rock is instantly recognisable with ‘The High Pass’. World music and gently undulating synths take their time to ease us back into the required frame of cosmic consciousness. It takes almost 6 minutes for the secret weapon, Wynne’s signature lysergic lead guitar, to be deployed and that is the modus operandi of the whole album – nothing is rushed, each track unfolds lotus-like.‘Changa Masala’ distils all the band’s ingredients into a spicy side-dish. Sequencers, vocal samples and a reggae skank provide the base while acoustic guitar rips like a John McLaughlin solo, interjecting a nod to their past, a musical in-joke for the fans, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t yet heard it.The Steve Hillage (Gong, System 7 and sometime Ozrics collaborator) influence is foregrounded in the first disc’s closer, ‘Switchback’. Tap-delay guitar slithers over a web of ambient keyboard washes. Portamento bass notes slide and glide their way through the patchouli-scented psychedelic haze.f the first disc was an aromatic treat, then the second is manna. ‘Epiphlioy’ recalls the classic ‘Saucers’. Its serpentine twelve-string acoustic riffs employ Eastern modes to evoke a scene that is paradoxically earthy and otherworldly. Staccato strings conjure Kashmir while a celestial orchestra of whooshing keyboard pads threatens to levitate us into the stratosphere and beyond. We are back in the bizarre bazaar, folks. Brandi Wynne pins down the ethereal mix with a heavy dub bassline. The track changes constantly. This is the most compositionally complex music the band has ever produced.While there are references to Ozric history and a more organic feel similar to early classics with the occasional use of non-electric instruments and ethnic voices, the album as a whole is a step forward. The painstakingly crafted symbiosis of synthesised sounds and rock instrumentation, coupled with a slick production, lend Technicians of the Sacred a holistic integrity not heard since Jurassic Shift (which incidentally entered the UK charts at a very respectable number 11 in 1993). The whole gels together and flows with the multi-layered sophistication of a symphony while retaining some of the jam-band aesthetic of the free festival days.‘Smiling Potion’ features interlocking sequences even Tangerine Dream would be proud of and a tribal metronome-sense beat straight out of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ.As ‘Rubbing Shoulders With The Absolute’ throbs along on a blissed-out dub rhythm artificially generated voices ensure the weirdness meter is kept firmly in the red.Hungarian drummer Balázs Szende makes his first studio appearance and throughout the album he proves to be a superb addition to the group, whether approximating the tight programmed style of The Hidden Step era or, as on the closing track, ‘Zenlike Creature’, tackling elusive prog time signatures with ease and finesse. As Ed Wynne winds up a solo worthy of fusion maestros Mahavishnu Orchestra he introduces a shimmering Hillage-esque repeating motif that stays in the mind long after the music has stopped.Technicians of the Sacred, for all its dynamic shifts and intricacies, is a very chilled-out release, one for relaxing to and for transportation to the other, wherever that may be. There are no jarring wig-out rock guitar hero sections or all-out sonic attacks like ‘The Throbbe’. Rather this is Ozric Tentacles’ most cohesive and accomplished effort in almost 20 years and a highlight of a long and peerless career." - Echoes And Dust
    $13.00
  • Mr. Norlander's latest opus is in fact a symphonic hommage. It pays tribute to the progressive icons of the 70s. Utilizing the talents of Think Tank musicians Kelly Keeling, Gregg Bissonette, Don Schiff, Mark McCrite and others, Norlander interprets classic prog material from ELP, King Crimson, ELO, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Yes ao. You won't believe your ears when you hear his version of ELP's "Pirates". He nails all of Emerson's parts and then some. Impressive!
    $9.00