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Reviews 2004

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Venia - Genesis (demo 2004), Independent

Venia is a new band from Finland. They were formed in 2002, but only in May of 2004 the line-up was completed. Their first demo was recorded at once as there were some songs ready. Genesis is a real demo with a dull studio sound. Yet you can get a good impression of the band. The playing is decent. Venia is fronted by Veronica. However, I can't appreciate her singing. Not that she sings out of tune, but her singing will fit acoustic music better. Venia is a melodic metal band that needs something stronger. Veronica also plays the violin, as can be heard in Eternal Sanctuary. This is a bonus for the band.

!KBoemm - Zoon, Ecovata

This is a Dutch rock band singing in the Dutch language only. The majority of the songs are mellow rock songs with slicky vocals and a lot of melody. !KBoemm features two singers, resulting in duet vocals in the choruses. However, there are a few songs on this album that may appeal to the open-minded hard music fan. A track like Zoon sounds very likeable with its hard guitar sound and melodic vocals, while keyboards add to the atmosphere. It's very poppy music altogether. Besides Zoon only Diep and Me Lief have heavy guitar stuff embedded. The rest of the album contains rock with fusion and jazzy flavors. The production is done very well. The song writing proves !KBoemm is a band going for quality. The lyrics are very explicit about the band's Christian mission.

Peace Machine - Selftitled, GoMano Music

Peace Machine is a melodic rock band. This thirteen song album appears to be their debut, though I reckon the three members have been in music for some time. This is good hard rock with a variety of styles. Sea Of Mystery makes me think of good old Foreigner, while The Mission could have been a song written by Tower. More uptempo rock songs then these are UJB with its load of lead guitar playing and the Chippewa Boogie (both instrumental). Also blues has a place on this album in the laid-back instrumental Blu Morpho. Peace Machine delivered a fine hard rock album.

Veni Domine - The Album Of Labour, Rivel Records

Since the release of Fall Babylon Fall, the debut release, I have a high regard for Veni Domine. With massive riffs, singular melodies and great musicianship, that disc is still an unforgettable progressive metal album. Now, twelve years later, The Album Of Labour has come out. On the fourth album you can still hear the trademark elements of Veni Domine: The guitar sound, the melodies and the high pitched vocals. There are even riffs you might recognize from one of the previous albums. The River Of Life II, for example, has a riff quite similar to one used in Chronicles Of The Seventh Seal from the first album. Yet, on this album Veni Domine isn't a copy of the band it was twelve years ago. The Album Of Labour is probably the most eclective album so far, with quite different elements. There's even a blues song (Deep Down Under) and a keyboard oriented track. What impresses me most, is the guitar work. Guitarist Torbjörn Weinesjö is a master on the fret board. He knows how to play tight riffs as well as he knows how to conjure all sorts of weird sounds and solos. Still I think the song writing on the first two albums is unsurpassed, I think. The drumming is sometimes a bit listless. A bit of double bass would be great here and there. But, overall this disc is really good. Sound wise it's a smooth production. The Album Of Labour took years to be released and I'm glad it's out. Veni Domine is a band to be welcomed back!

Fort Knox Amsterdam - Demo 2004, Independent

This demo is a foretaste of the album coming out later this year. There are three songs on it. Fort Knox Amsterdam plays hardcore with funky and ska elements. Straitjacket, for example, starts with funky music and rap-like vocals. But the music gets heavier in the chorus. The third track, Awake, is the best track. The production could be much better. But, of course, this is a demonstration of what yet is to come...

The Awakening - Darker Than Silence, Intervention Arts/Youngside Records

I remember when I reviewed the previous album, Roadside Heretics, and said that The Awakening will never become a gothic metal band. Listening to Darker Than Silence proves I need to add some nuances. Since the release of the debut album Risen in 1997, electronic and distorted guitar sounds have increased in importance. The majority of the songs on Darker Than Silence has heavy guitars. Songs like One More Crucifixion, The Needle And The Gun, Armageddon Style and Animal are heavy, dark tracks. Yet I don't want to call the band gothic metal as they still have other sides as is evident in tracks like the atmospheric rock song Self and Page 13. A few tracks are less interesting, but overall I can say Darker Than Silence is a great album that becomes better after listening to it a couple of times. One advice: Play it loud!

Paramæcium - Echoes From The Ground, Veridon Music

It's been a long wait since the release of A Time To Mourn, the third album from Paramæcium. Finally you can get Echoes From The Ground, a seven song album with sorrowful, depressive doom metal. This disc is a concept album based on Henry Barclay, a young Englishman who sought evidence of the historic accuracy of his faith in 1864. In the opening track, Night Fears Morning, Barclay travels to Palestine. In this song you can hear singer Andrew Tompkins using clean vocals. In more songs you can hear clean vocals, besides grunts. But in some of the songs there's also a soprano (Tracy Bourne). Violin was added to give the music even a more plaintive sound. Paramæcium delivers with Echoes From The Ground another interesting doom metal piece. The depressive atmosphere probably won't appeal to many people, nor the slow tempo and the monotonous riffs. Yet these elements make the record likable to me. Great music when you're in a depressive mood.

Deep Insight - Itch, Fullsteam Records

This is the first single of the new album Red Lights, White Lines. Itch is a great melodic rock song with mellow, acoustic parts for the verses, and a wall of sound for the chorus. The chorus itself is catchy. Vocalist Jukka sings at the top of his lungs. Itch rocks!

Deep Insight - Red Lights, White Lines, Fullsteam Records

Wow, I'm impressed when I hear the first sounds of the new Deep Insight album. The opening track Three-Ring Circus is a great heavy rock song. The following songs prove I'm not mistaken. Red Lights, White Lines is a top notch album with heavy rock/emo. Everything about this album is great: the song writing, the production, the musicianship, etc. A fine progression since the previous album (Ivory Tower). Many songs could do well on radio, I believe, if they were released on single. Hurricane Seasons (reminiscent of REM), Failsafe, Itch and other tunes are good melodic rock songs that will probably stand the test of time. The eleven tracks fill 41 minutes. Two thumbs up for Deep Insight!

Callisto - True Nature Unfolds, Fullsteam Records

To give you an idea of what kind of album this is, let me tell you that the ten tracks fill 58 minutes. Two tracks are instrumental. And the song with the shortest text (Storm: "the roaring floods shall come; before the never ending sea") is also the longest track with more than nine minutes. True Nature Unfolds is an album of sounds: Chaotic, stirring, dreamy, aggressive. To contribute to these sounds, several elements were added. You can hear additional slideguitar, saxophone, glockenspiel, cello and female vocals. This description only misses the vital element: Callisto plays metalcore with harsh, screaming vocals. The music never becomes fast. The production is real good as all the elements come through well. Sometimes there are wonderful moments, like in the songs Cold Stare and Masonic. Personally, I still prefer the Ordeal Of The Century EP as it was more song oriented. I wouldn't mind if they did some up tempo stuff either.

Frosthardr - Makteslos, Momentum Scandinavia

This five track EP from Frosthardr is a melting pot of various black metal styles. Sometimes you'll hear fast, old school parts, other times there are slow, doomy passages or atmospheric passages. The variety makes me think of Antestor's Return Of The Black Death album, though Makteslos is a different production. The songs are quite long though. Beside the intro and the outtro track, the three remaining songs vary from six to nine minutes. The sound quality is real good and the EP does have some great sounds.

Drottnar - Anamorphosis, Momentum Scandinavia

Drottnar started back in 1996 as Vitality. After recording a demo they changed their name to Drottnar and made another demo. These demos were used for the first album, Spiritual Battle. Anamorphosis is the follow-up, recorded in 2002. In fact, it's an EP with three songs and an intro track. Overall, Drottnar's music is very basic black metal without the addition of extras like keyboards. There are only a few moments in which you can hear a violin. Personally, I think they should expand that. Though the music is mainly a guitar/bass/drums kind of black metal, it doesn't have a shrill sound. There's a variety of fast, mid-tempo and slower parts. Though Drottnar isn't bad, their songs don't impress me.

Crushead - Can You Handle This?, Gerth Music

Explicit Content, the previous Crushead release, finally has its follow-up. Crushead is a German band that describes themselves as Crunch 'n Roll. Basically it's melodic rock music with some rap influences (like in Doubt). They proclaim they're also inspired by hardcore and crossover. This isn't very evident on Can You Handle This? Heavy rock and catchy lines go hand in hand on the new album. The combination of clean vocals and rap influences with rock makes me think of DC Talk. The result is a fine German production. The singer's English pronunciation could be better though. Some of the songs I liked are Ready For Take Off, Cuts Like A Knife and Behind The Curtain.

Blindside - About A Burning Fire, Elektra

When I had downloaded the title track from this fourth album, I was convinced Blindside was returning to the sound of their second album (A Thought Crushed My Mind). I was expecting to hear raw and wild hardcore with lots of screams and some clean vocals. Even though these hard elements are all over About A Burning Fire, the melodic emocore elements prevail. With the first listen it's clear Blindside made a very fine recording, both sound as song wise. It's the blend of powerful rock music with melody that convinces in songs like After You're Gone, Follow You Down and Across Waters Again. Twice the band mellows down to catch a breath. In these two songs you can hear instruments like trumpet (in Roads) and cello & violin (in Shekina) add to the album's curiosity. And then I almost forgot to mention Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. You can hear him in Hooray, It's LA!. Great stuff!

Fearful Symmetry - A Loss Of Balance, Serpent Media

Let me state from the start, this album doesn't fit the format of Art For The Ears. Fearful Symmetry is another incarnation of the musical mind Jimmy P. Brown II, known for the Christian metal band Deliverance. A Loss Of Balance was released on his own label Serpent Media. Deliverance fans who might hope for some heavy guitars will be disappointed. The new Fearful Symmetry album is a pure electronic album. This is clear in a song like Tension. Yet the song has a dark sound that might be appealing. Jimmy Brown's singing sounds a lot like the singer for Marilyn Manson in that song. But if you think Fearful Symmetry sounds like Marilyn Manson gone electronic, you're wrong. The title track is a mid nineties dance song with a different vocal approach. Music that you might think is outdated, at least in Europe. On the other hand, you might consider it as nostalgia. In fact, I can appreciate several of the songs.

Remission - Including You, Feedback Records

Remission is a new band from Sweden, playing pop/rock. It's the sort of music to play on a hot summer evening, as it's quite happy, friendly music. Don't expect anything heavy or uptempo. The friendliness of the music is achieved by happy melodies and easy to sing along to choruses, as in the song His Call. Besides guitar, bass and drums there are keyboards, giving the songs more body. The songs are made even poppier with the other guys singing along with vocalist Samuel Haglund. Some of the material rocks more than the rest of the album. The title track is one of the rockier songs. It's definitely the keyboards that add to the atmosphere of this particular song. The happy sort of music doesn't always fit the lyrics. On That Hill is a song that screams for something more remorseful. Yet the music sounds too nice and catchy to complain for long. Including You is a fair start for a young and still developing band. Not all songs convince me, but the title track and On That Hill do. Let the summer start!

Fire Fly - Pre-production demo, Independent

Okay, this disc isn't in the stores. It's a pre-production demo with four songs from on upcoming album. You can download these songs from the internet. The new tracks show a heavier Fire Fly. Still they combine mellow parts with heavy passages and electronic influences. The outcome is impressive atmospheric rock music with different, yet beautiful soundscapes. None of the songs are as catchy as Blue Eyed Boy from the previous demo, but the songs are very likeable.

The Rick Ray Band - Night Of The Living Dedicated, Neurosis Records

The latest burned CD from The Rick Ray Band offers another 60+ minutes of seventies progressive rock. There are three lead vocalists (Phil Noch, Rick Ray and Gary Wood) on this release. They're doing three songs each. On this album you can hear eleven songs. Indeed, two of them are instrumental. As a deejay I tend to listen to an album from a deejay perspective. The first thing I noticed was the length of some of the songs. I listened to The Civilized War and thought 'this one might be cool to air', but then I saw it's a twelve minute song. Not very suitable. Fortunately, the album also has more radio-friendly tracks, like Wired Wrong, a hard rock driven tune. There are plenty of nice guitar solos on Night Of The Living Dedicated, as well as wind-instruments. Overall, this is one of my favorite Rick Ray Band albums. I even may be tempted to air that twelve minute song one day.

Shaphal - Satanic Operation In Horror Dreams, Independent

If you listen to the first few intro's, you'll think Shaphal is an electronic artist. However, Shaphal is a metal band from Brazil. The line-up features Arnon Mello, formerly of South Diesel. Shaphal plays metal with some progressive elements, as they combine electronica with metal. This is evident in the first two songs, as well as in Stronger Than All. Some of the other songs are more straightforward, like Nobody Separates with its galloping riffs. The electronics in the music add to the overall dark sound. Though the sound quality could be improved greatly, it's refreshing to hear a band trying to incorporate new elements to the normally so conservative metal scene.

The Narrow - Selfconscious, Intervention Arts/Youngside Records

Here's a new band from South Africa, formed in 2001. From the very first vocal lines you can hear what band has influenced The Narrow: Rage Against The Machine. But being influenced by is not the same as being a copycat. On Selfconscious you can hear an interesting combination of rap, rock, nu-metal, hardcore and electronics. Singer Hanu had training with an Opera choir for four years. His abilities are clear in a song like The Banded. This song is also featured in the music video that you can find on the enhanced part of the CD. This enhanced part also contains four breakbeat tunes. A lot heavier are the song on the album itself. There are eleven songs, plus a remix of The Banded. It's a music with a lot of variation. Mellow parts and heavy passages, different styles. Songs like The Banded and Gracious Creature are very appealing. The Narrow is a band we hopefully hear more from in the future.

Ashton Nyte - Sinister Swing, Intervention Arts/Youngside Records

Gothic rock band The Awakening is Ashton Nyte. He writes all music, records almost all instruments and does the vocals. He also produces all albums from The Awakening. This might make you wonder why on earth he would feel the need to do a solo album, as The Awakening already is a one man show. However, The Awakening is a certain format, rock oriented. On Sinister Swing the artist Ashton Nyte shows a different side of himself, though it's not entirely different. The dominating element on Sinitster Swing is electronic music. This was always an element incorporated in The Awakening's rock sound. As this music is much more mellow than what I'm used to hear from Nyte, it doesn't really fit the Art For The Ears format. I'm not even supposed to be an expert on this kind of music. 

Comeback Kid - Turn It Around, Facedown Records

Comeback kid from Canada delivers a high energy packet with their debut. The album came out in March 2003. The first track is sheer hardcore power. Expect great old school hardcore with gang vocals. The aggression in songs like Never Fade and Lorelei works highly contagious. Also the lead vocals (Kyle Profeta) fit this music perfectly. It's not very original, nor complex music, but Comeback Kid convinces with a quality release. The only minor point is that the CD is only 28 minutes.

Junker Jörg - Ignite The Machine, Youngside Records

Ignite The Machine was released in 2002. The album contains ten bold and groovy metal songs, a semi-ballad (In You I Believe), and a short intermezzo. Compared to the band's debut, Junker Jörg sounds more like a nu metal band like Limp Bizkit, but then more metal oriented. Often there are raw vocals or rap-like vocals in the verses, and clean vocals in the choruses. It's hard for me to give a good review of this release. With this kind of music the feeling overwhelms me that when I've heard one song, I've heard them all. So, the best thing is to go to the stores and listen to the CD. Best songs to pick are probably Storm and Crutch. Overall, the production is better than the debut album.

The Awakening - Sacrificial Etchings (selected works 1996-2002), Intervention Arts

After four full length albums and three EP's in seven years, Intervention Arts must have thought it was time for a compilation of old material. However, there are no songs taken from two of the EP's. The album starts with the attractive The Dark Romantics. This gothic rock song has the characteristic dark sound, while Ashton Nyte's eccentric vocals fit in very neatly. As you may expect, this compilation displays the different aspects of the band. Martyr from the Fountain EP is a great atmospheric rock song that I liked from the start. Amethyst is a dark piano ballad, and the previously unreleased track Vampyre Girl is a heavy gothic rock song. There are also electronic elements in the music. The album contains fifteen songs from a talented band.

The Awakening - Roadside Heretics, Intervention Arts/Youngside Records

With the latest album from The Awakening mastermind Ashton Nyte permits some metal influences to the gothic rock music he's known for. This is evident in the second track, Mirror Tricks, when a heavy distorted guitar is added to the dark rock sound. However The Awakening will never be a gothic metal band. The metal influence is welcome new element to the wide variety of elements Ashton Nyte uses to compose his music. There are a few other quite heavy songs on this album, but there are songs that are more mellow as well (like Cover). The lyrics are poetical. You have to read them carefully to begin to grasp their meanings. Roadside Heretics came out in homecountry South Africa in October 2002. By the way, beautiful cover art.

Fort Knox Amsterdam - Demo 2002, Independent

This demo CD is the second demo from Fort Knox Amsterdam (FKA). In ten minutes you can get a good idea of this band's music, though the sound quality is as if they've recorded it all live in studio. FKA mixes punk rock energy with funk, ska and rap. The line-up features Terry Knox who was in NLM ages ago. This demo won't change the world musically, but it may be a first step to something better. A new demo and a full length are supposed to come up...

Junker Jörg - Diet Of Worms, Cellar Records

Though I had heard about Junker Jörg as they had been touring with Disciple, I had never heard any of their music. Diet Of Worms was their 2000 debut. The thirteen song album shows a band that plays groovy metal. Though I don't fancy this kind of metal very much as it bores me often too easily, there are probably a lot of people who do like it. The recording is quite alright, and the instruments are played in a decent way (especially the bassist does a fine job). You can hear rap-like vocals, clean vocals and some screams. Listening to Diet Of Worms I only liked the songs that are somehow different. Songs like Autibionic (with guitar solo), Dunamis and Lamentation (finally a song with some uptempo stuff...). Muscled rock music for who cares about it.

I Am - xthree.one.four, independent

Music from the Faroe Islands (somewhere between Scotland and Iceland) is a rare phenomenon. Hearing music from such a faraway place, I can't help but wonder whether it isn't a lot of poorly produced stuff. Well, my sceptical mind was proven to be wrong. Xthree.one.four is a very fine product with five musicians who know how to write a great song. I Am plays modern rock with English lyrics. Only one song is sung in that weird language they seem to be able to communicate with. Expect nice melodic rock with lots of harmonic vocals. There are heavy as well as mellow moments. The musicianship is well beyond my expectations. It's hard to say what songs I like best, but Why Do You (with a nice guitar solo), Drowning On Land and Heaven Is My Goal are definitely worth checking out. Though I Am is a bit on the light side of my normal musical diet, they proof the Faroe Islands do have something to offer.

Tower - Turn The Page, Front Row Seat Media

Tower is a new name in hard rock. But the sticker on the cover of the disc conveniently informs me that the band is a side project of Jerry Gabriel. He sang on the latest album of Joshua Perahia. He, at least, is a guarantee for solid hard rock vocals, just as they need to sound like: powerful, passionate and raw. But the song writing on this album doesn't disappoint either. Turn The Page is a classic hard rock album from which you can expect to hear some good old rock songs and a few ballads. Great solos are here too. The album starts real nice with I'd Give You My Life. There are ten songs on this record that will appeal to fans of the latest Joshua Perahia album. I don't like every song, but there are some real cool tracks, like Say A Prayer, the ballad Rain and Doesn't Really Matter.

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