Retinal Circus (2CD)

Retinal Circus (2CD)

BY Townsend, Devin

(Customer Reviews)
$15.00
$ 9.00
SKU: 0506612
Label:
Inside Out
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"Artistry is never about conformity and straight lines. It’s about taking risks, and then pushing boundaries to a point where the impossible suddenly seems a little more flexible. Such has been the career of Devin Townsend, one of the most uniquely insightful musicians of the 21st Century. And it’s certainly the case with the Retinal Circus.
Staged at The Roundhouse in London on October 27, 2012, this was the chance for Townsend to present a performance that summarised his career so far. And he did it with aplomb, style, humour, a sense of blackness and a touch of the bizarre.
“My manager and I were looking for a way to sum up 20 years of my music, without making it seem that I was some kind of multi-headed hydra. And over a period of time we came up with the idea of the Retinal Circus.”
The concept was to piece together a presentation that was musical, visual and startling. One that reflected Townsend’s own remarkable ability to take up almost any idea, twist it within his own show, thereby adding to the overall impact.
“To me it’s like somebody putting a cauldron in the middle of a room, with only a nail in it. Eventually someone comes along and says, ‘That cauldron could do with some potatoes’. And then someone else says, ‘Let’s add some tomatoes’, and before you know it you have a cauldron filled to the brim with all sorts of interesting items. That’s how we approached this concept.”
Over a period of eight to 10 months, during which time he was also working on other projects, Townsend assembled all the factors and talents that would eventually help to spit this Circus into something so fascinating that it took The Roundhouse by storm, and is still being spoken about as one of the great triumphs of the live environment over the past decade. While the centrepiece was clearly the music that has helped to propel Townsend to such eminence, it’s very diversity allowed for the introduction of characters who were wild and wacky enough to be the music made flesh and blood – not to mention fire breathing skills, in some cases!
“We always knew that it was going to be a one-off performance. It’s not as if we planned to repeat the process. So what you see and hear is captured from the one night when the Retinal Circus will ever be brought to life.”
Given the complexity and wide-ranging nature of this production, it’s astonishing to think that there were just one-and-a-half days of rehearsal time prior to the show itself. But it would all prove to be quite extraordinary, as the night in question brought out a kind of collective feral belief from everyone.
“To me, it’s like going on a long bicycle ride. You can always give up at any point, but what do get out of that? It’s far more satisfying to keep going, whatever the problems you face, and to know that you’ve made it on your own merit and in your own time.”
Since the show itself happened, Townsend has been busy getting together the live release, and ensuring that every aspect reflects the night itself in the best possible sense.
“I wanted the sound and musical quality to be of the highest order. I wanted the commentary, the visuals...everything about it to be appealing and comprehensive. And I feel that’s what I’ve now got. This will never happen again, so what I release to the fans has to be of a quality that reflects the original ideals. It was so much fun to do, and had so much passion. I believe you can feel that when you watch and listen.”
The Retinal Circus was so extreme, full of depth and intelligence that it should have taken much longer to produce with considerably more financial and manpower back-up. But then the beauty of Townsend is that he made it work on his own terms and in his own times.
“It was an absurd project to start. But it was an even more absurd project to finish. But I am proud of what I did. I will always have a special place for the Retinal Circus.”"

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But to be more exact in order to offer a worthwhile review? Ok…If I was to try and sum this album up in a few words, I’d say it’s an absorbing blend of melodic progressive rock, metal and pop with rich cinematic overtones.Dealing with the latter aspect first, the cinematic, symphonic flavour can be heard right from the outset via the relatively brief instrumental opening. This is Richard West at his best, creating a piece of music which is subtly dramatic, emotive and pure film soundtrack fodder. In fact, much the same can be said of the even more dramatic ‘Traveller’ which is equally as enthralling and which could easily fit a suspense or action thriller.That said, West’s stamp is all over each of the thirteen compositions, bringing a rich elegance to proceedings just like he does with Threshold. 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A prime example being ‘The Sound Of Isolation’ which contains a riff which befuddles my brain but which works in and around the simpler aspects of the song.One of the biggest strengths on this record however is its melodic sensibility. I mentioned earlier about the pop influences and its in the choruses that this is most noticeable. Just about every song has a hook or a melody that’s memorable. Some are immediate and others take a bit longer to work into the psyche. Regardless, they are there and many of them, alongside those modern programmed flourishes, lend the music that more mainstream feel. ‘Leave Me Here’ and the beautiful ‘Now’ for example, might not be out of place on mainstream popular radio. Elsewhere, ‘Bulletproof’ offers one of the most gorgeous choruses I’ve heard in recent times, ironic given that it’s also one of the heavier, busier tracks that packs a lot of light and shade as well as apparently disparate elements into its relatively short length. 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  • "Let There Be Blood, Stormblåst MMV, more recently Battle Hymns MMXI, aren't exactly big success stories in the world of heavy metal. This rash of "re-recorded classics' has seemed more like embarrassing cash grabs and/ or desperate contractual out-clauses. The only example of severe ass-kicking that came from large-scale re-recording for me has been Vader's XXV compilation, which is tasty. The latest band to do so is Tarot, personal faves and the granddaddies of Finnish heavy metal, reworking their less-known 1986 debut The Spell of Iron.It works extremely well, considering the poor track record of such attempts and the disparity between Tarot's dual-guitar, single-vocalist scrappy metal of the '80s, and their dual-vocalist, single-guitar mammoth sound of Crows Fly Black and Gravity of Light. The album features a huge guitar sound for Zachary, with even 'Never Forever' sounding a lot heavier than the Iron Maiden copycat original. The athletic scale runs punctuating the track still sound nice and sharp, and Zachary does a fine job of flexing his ability in various styles throughout the record.Things have been slowed down in places, possibly to allow the release to make more sense alongside the band's recent discography. No problem. Opener 'Midwinter Nights' sets a mid-paced groove for much of its runtime, but this makes the neoclassical shredding of its halfway solo even more exciting. 'Love's Not Made For My Kind' is slowed down and expanded into a crawling epic. Although the lyrics and melody suit the pace, the twinkling keyboards throughout prohibit the new, creaking mid-paced riffs from letting it be as awesome as 'Hell Knows' or 'Warhead'. Without the Nightwish style synths it MIGHT sound a lot cooler, but unfortunately they are all I can hear. The title track is no longer the simple, breathless metal anthem it once was, but rather an eerie mid-paced track that gives the lyrics and tune a more foreboding quality. The chorus, which remains at a galloping pace, still gets the heart thumping - but now with a more sinister vibe. It doesn't always work - 'Dancing on the Wire', which was an absolute standout on the original, floats past here, possibly due to its acoustic chorus and now rather relaxed vocals which sap the tension from the composition.Tommi Salmela took his time to grow on me, until the release of Gravity of Light actually, but now I dig this guy's vocals big time. His high wail gives a great contrast to Marco's gruff howl. He's had a workout with these songs onstage, but here he's allowed to bellow in unison as well as line-by-line with Marco in the climaxes of 'Back in the Fire' and 'Wings of Darkness' (the former ending with a huge ad-lib roar from both, awesome), and it sounds as epic as it did on songs like 'Satan is Dead'. I think Salmela's voice has even improved, he just slays when he opens 'Never Forever' and sings on the title track, and often rivals Marco for the accolade of most insane sounding Tarot singer on this and other tracks. Marco, meanwhile, who has developed a more varied and above all intimidating vocal presence since For the Glory of Nothing, puts in a far superior performance here to the original (something which I don't think can be said about any other re-recorded album anywhere). He does 'Things That Crawl At Night' solo, and sounds as if he's stood alone on stage in an opera house, he's that powerful, not to mention dramatic.Aside from Salmela, the greatest necessary contrast to navigate in recording this was likely the fact that Tarot has had only one guitarist since the mid '90s, and their songs have been written for such a setup. The bass has played a bigger and bigger role since the days of the '90s, and the grooving sound of recent albums now pervades these old songs. They adapt well, with slight amendments to a number of riffs giving a more lumbering, heavy sound than the melody-dependent originals. This is also the first time the band have substituted early dual-guitar attacks with keyboard lines on record as they do during concerts, and on 'Back in the Fire' in particular it sounds great, giving a threatening modern twist to what was a decidedly old school sounding track. Now it fits right in with 'Crawlspace' and 'Traitor!'All in all, a number of tracks actually sound better, due to the heavier sound, the tendency toward ominousness the band has built into their sound over the last decade or so pervading through, and the fantastic vocals. 'Pharao' is melodic as it ever was, the tense riffs sounding unbelievable in this reimagining, and surpasses the original due to Zachary being far tighter and heavier than back in the '80s. 'Wings of Darkness', the band's signature song, is now assisted by a hammond organ and the most outrageous vocal performance on the album (possibly by Tarot in years), both singers sounding totally unhinged and fucking awesome over the newly throaty interpretation of the addictive guitar riffs. It's only 'Love's Not Made For My Kind', 'Dancing on the Wire' and the bizarre acoustic rendering of 'De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene' (which while being cool and catchy, doesn't really make sense here) which fail to impact in quite the same way.Somewhat sacrilegiously, I've enjoyed a good number of these better than their original incarnations. The original album should still be bought first (for context, or as a friend of mine would put it, for awesome), and I'd even recommend Undead Indeed for a first taste of Tarot blasting out their oldies with their current lineup and sound. Loyal Tarot troopers definitely need this record. It's received a lot of attention from me and is by far the best attempt I've heard at reimagining an old album in its entirety. However, just because this turned out good, does NOT mean Venom and Slayer have an excuse to give me Black Metal MMXII and Reign in Blood MMXII next year." - Metal Archives
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  • I remember how I felt the first time I heard Riverside. Its purely a coincidence that Pinkroom also hails from Poland but this debut disc hits me in a similar way. The band is (at the moment) a duo of Mariusz Boniecki (guitars, vocals, keys) and Marcin Kledzik (drums). In terms of the music there is definitely somewhat of a similarity to Riverside and Porcupine Tree in the way they incorporate atmospheric blissed out passages and then drop the heavy bomb on you. The more intricate parts have a retro-Crimson vibe particularly from the Mellotron samples. There is lots of intricacies to the music but I'm always drawn to the drama and emotion from this disc. Boniecki is a solid vocalist - the production envelops his voice is a gauze-like dreamy texture adding a hallucenogenic effect is places. Truth be told had Pinkroom not pressed up this disc already it would probably be sporting a Laser's Edge imprint. I'm really impressed by this band and if you are a fan of the band's I've mentioned you really need to hear this.. They are in the process of expanding the lineup so they can gig - can't wait to hear them live. You may very well not hear a better album this year. BUY OR DIE!Don't believe me?? Check 'em out for yourself: http://pinkroom.bandcamp.com
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  • New budget priced remixed and remastered edition of the 2nd album from the French Canadian band. Their debut album Food For Thought Substitute is a wonderful eclectic blend of lite progmetal and progressive rock. On the new album all of the metal influences are gone. This is guitar driven melodic progressive rock with a nice degree of complexity. The singer still sounds like Jon Bon Jovi!! If you really liked the first album I think you'll find plenty to appreciate here but if you like a harder edged sound you may want to stay clear.
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  • UK band Touchstone take a surprising (at least to my ears) turn in a heavier direction.  While I would never call this full on metal, mixing engineer John Mitchell decided to turn their guitar up a notch.  Some good crunchy guitar bits through out the album.  The band was never a complex prog band.  Touchstone always had a melodic sensibility touching on AOR and neo-prog.  There is a symphonic element that keeps the music rooted in the prog world but you can tell that this is a band that is looking to cross over into other genres.  Their strongest asset remains vocalist Kim Seviour , who along with Leslie Hunt is one of the best female vocalists in the prog world."Returning once more to confound listeners and music reviewers alike, such as yours truly, with their ever evolving and pleasing neo-prog is England's Touchstone with their fourth long player, Oceans Of Time. Dare say, for their benefit, it's hard to pigeonhole Touchstone's sound. Is it hard rock? AOR? Progressive rock? Yes and then some, and it's not necessarily all that confounding really.However, I might say that Oceans Of Time could be their most 'proggy' album to date. If anything, the songs are quite varied, visiting old territory and exploring the new. Touchstone also returns to some familiar themes. The title track continues the Wintercoast story, and Shadow's End wraps up the Shadows trilogy begun on Discordant Dreams.These songs are also good examples of the strong progressive nature of the album, with Touchstone throwing curves to your ears. Yet Oceans Of Time will also sound more like familiar Touchstone as well. The musical canvas is quite grand lavished with layers of instrumentation, notably Hodgson's guitar and Cottingham's keyboards. Flux is another fine example of Touchstone's exotic musical brew. It's got some hard rock chops mixed with the prog, and then, about the three minute mark, it calms down. Synths stir, then Kim Seviour's vocals arrive, and the arrangement swells to sweet crescendo. It's one of best moments of the album.Other highlights include the bass and drum lines of Contact, a moody piece where Seviour's voice is alluring and graceful; the clever drumming within Fragments, possibly the closest thing to straight melodic rock song here; and, Spirit of the Age, a song with balancing lighter moments with heavier ones, and Seviour at her most sublime. Touchstone is band that keeps evolving and getting better, and so is always interesting and entertaining. Oceans Of Time is well recommended." - Dangerdog.com
    $5.00
  • "First time ever CD release in Europe of "Canterbury" - Diamond Head's third album . Recorded and released in 1983, reached Number 32 on the UK Album Chart. Diamond Head are a British heavy metal band formed in 1976 in Stourbridge, England. Re-release includes bonus tracks: extended version of "Makin' Music", 1 live track plus an interview. New digipak edition, limited to numerated 2000 copies."
    $15.00