Blaze Bayley: Infinite Entanglement (Blaze Bayley Recording)
Blaze Bayley is a man who will always be overshadowed by his past, unlike Paul DiAnno who was there at the beginning and is still held in the same regard as Maiden's current and long term vocalist Bruce Dickinson, Blaze came into the band at a turbulent time and had to try and compete with Dickinson, ultimately this never worked but many thought this was Blaze's fault which I think is a little harsh. Blaze is a different singer to Dickinson, he has a lower register yes but the same dramatic power as the current Maiden frontman. In Wolfsbane he was pure rock n roll fury and his solo albums have been the heaviest of any of the other Maiden members, dating back to Blaze and his current outfit Blaze Bayley he has consistently released heavy albums that incorporate NWOBHM, thrash and speed metal that means he can rightly call his fans Head Banging Bastards.
The other trademark of Blaze's solo records is Science Fiction, most of his albums deal with Sci-Fi themes, most within a concept dating back to his debut solo record 2000's Silicon Messiah and it's follow up 2002's Tenth Dimension, Infinite Entanglement continues that theme of Sci-Fi concept records with one that deals with the themes of artificial intelligence and quantum physics that appear on the two previously mentioned albums. The record is the first part of a trilogy following Bayley's central character on a quest to dealing with what it is to be human, high concept indeed but luckily everything is backed by Bayley's trademark pounding heavy metal style. Now Bayley does seem to change his solo band from record to record but this one he has settled on his most recent touring band of Chris Appleton (Guitar), Karl Schramm (Bass) and Martin McNee (drums) who are also known as the band Absolva. The three men are all superb players McNee and Schramm locked in to rampaging grooves throughout the album which allows Appleton to riff and solo like mad, exploding when needed.
The opening trio of songs sets the album's tone, the proggy title track starts things off with off kilter rhythms and almost a breakdown on the chorus, then things go to the arena on A Thousand Years as it has a massive hook and Human is a superb slice of proper metal. Things get slower on What Will Come which has long time Bayley collaborator Thomas Zwijsen playing the nylon classical guitar behind accompanied by Anne Bakker on the violin, Stars Are Burning and Solar Winds bring back the steel before The Dreams Of William Black sees a dreamscape comprised of numerous Bayley fans saying "Where Are You?" but this leads into the galloping Maiden-like Calling You Home a trick that's repeated on the closing A Work Of Anger which is a classic Maiden epic starting off slow burning before turning into swaying fist-in-the-air anthem. Infinite Entanglement is a great record, it works well as a concept, has strong metal themes, intelligent lyrics and proper metal anthems all of this is brings together yet more powerful music from this often overlooked icon, for metal fans Blaze always delivers. 8/10
Shooter Jennings: Countach [For Giorgio] (Black Country Rock)
Shooter Jennings started his follow up to The Other Life in 2014 around the time of his last EP Don't Wait Up (For George) and just as that was a tribute to country legend George Jones, Countach is Shooter's tribute to film composer/synth pioneer/disco king Giorgio Moroder, it was initially slated to be released last year but was delayed due to the death of Jennings' longtime manager and friend and Black Country Rock co-founder 'Colonel' Jon Hensley. So the album is as much a tribute to Hensley as it is to Moroder and what a tribute it is skillfully blending synth driven neo-noir with Outlaw Country. The album is primarily all covers drawing from Moroder's solo work, collaborations and his soundtracks, only the opening title track is one of Jennings' own starting out a country on Loading where he proclaims "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Got Out Of Hand" the track builds and the synth cuts in halfway whisking away the country bit quickly for swathes of 80's-tastic repeating electronic pulse that did so much to inspire the House/EDM genre years later, it even has Moroders trademark synthesized vocals that lead into From Here To Eternity (from the Moroder album of the same name) where Shooter goes back to his normal Southern grit vocal at the end.
Shooter has never been afraid to take risks but on Countach he's taken a fair few, much of the country styling of earlier records are done away with, albeit not completely as there is still plenty of acoustic guitar and fiddle, on From Here... and the creeping I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone supplied by Aubrey Richmond and Cliff Wagoner, but all the traditional instrumentation is used to bolster the synths and keys from Shooter himself. His support unit and band are a tried and tested set of guys with bassist Ted Russell Kamp and drummer Jamie Douglas providing the backline, along with Mark Rains recording, Pete Lyman mastering and David Spreng producing with Jennings to give this album it's thick, layered, authentic late 70's/80's sound. Jenning's has also brought in few friends to help out with the father of outlaw country Steve Young on a traditional Country sounding version of Moroder's Born To Die. Video game designer Richard Garriott de Cayeux (who's Shroud Of Avatar served as the platform for this album's launch) crops up on Chase which is the man himself explaining his passion for games over the originals synthetic backbeat.
This album is not a collection of songs but more like with the modern dance artists and of course Moroder himself the tracks all flow together as if they were one song with small snippets from the movies Moroder has scored in between. The album builds up after the break of Born To Die with Chase quickly moving into Love Kills where Jennings' channels Freddie Mercury on the Hi-NRG styled song that ramps things up ready for a full on honest to the original version of the title theme from The Neverending Story albeit featuring Brandi Carlile adding a note of heartbreak and Neal Casal adding a mean guitar before the album climaxes with the disturbing cover of Cat People where Manson tries to reach the darker part of Bowie (the original's vocalist). Countach is I will admit is an odd album, if you don't like Country music or Giorgio Moroder then you won't get much out of it however once again Jennings has impressed with his sheer versatility and for a music fan like me this is very interesting indeed. 8/10
Dyscordia: Words In Ruin (Road Mark Productions)
Belgium has always been a bit off the grid for metal but they do have some bands that are big players in the metal genre, brutal death metallers Aborted are possibly the most well known but it's in the progressive/power metal genre that Belgium makes it mark with Ancient Rites, Dushan Petrossi's two projects Iron Mask and Magic Kingdom, Fire Force all coming from the Dungeons And Dragons Metal. Dyscordia are Belgian and they are not Aborted, in fact the band owe more to Nevermore, Iced Earth, Evergrey than anything else.
Formed from the ashes of noted Belgian progressive metal act Gwyllion (named after a Welsh monster) Dyscordia features that band's drummer and guitarist; Wouter and Martijin Debonnet respectively, as well as former members of Anesthesy & Artrach, bassist Wouter Nottebaert, lead guitarist Guy Commeene and singer Piet Overstijns (who was also in Battalion with Commeene), Dyscordia's final member is Stefan Segers you plays yet more guitar and adds this bands secret weapon the death grunts. With the dual male vocal and three (yes three) pronged guitar assault Dyscordia are an interesting prospect and sees the band revamping their style since their Gwyllion days, Words In Ruin is their second album as Dyscordia and sees the band improving and perfecting their craft to play heavy progressive power metal, with down tuned guitars, blasting drums and a distinctly Gothenburg melod-death sound, matched with the robust vocals from Overstijins who has a wide range much like Warrell Dane or Tom S Englund that work well with the deathy grunts of Segers giving the songs an extra edge of heaviness.
Harlequin's Grief opens proceedings with a blastbeat driven thrashing rager, A Perfect Day is a galloping power metal track, the pace is kept heavy for most of the album, the folky Blind Guardian elements creep in on Sacred Soil Of Souls, with the pace slowed and rage abated the final two songs Chthonic Star and Words Of Fortune go back to kicking the hell out of you. Dyscordia have taken me by surprise, but it's a pleasant surprise I may add, I picked up this album blindly and I am very impressed the mix of Gothenburg-death metal and progressive power metal and the bands obvious musical talent, Words In Ruin is a superior release and one that should mean the Belgian band are held in high regard. 8/10