LEON ALVARADO – 2014: Music From An Expanded Universe
Melodic Revolution Records – [Release date: 30.10.14]
The title says it all really as this sounds like it was written in space, played in space and beamed down for spaced-out people to muse upon.
Keyboard whizz Leon Alvarado has been around for quite a while in the USA and his recordings date back to the late ‘70s, although he didn’t release his first album until 2008 – ‘Plays Genesis And Other Original Stuff’.
But don’t get the idea that this 24 minute ‘mini-album’ is any sort of tribute to said Charterhouse quintet – it takes its lead more from the Aphex Twin end of the ambient spectrum of things and, as such, points to a very niche market.
Just the five tracks, all instrumental, and, if I’m honest, it’s not that easy to distinguish one from the other as the spacey laid-back vibe is all permeating – leading to a sort of ho-hum vibe in the listener.
Things pick up a little on the final track ‘Cinemania’ with audience applause giving the game away that it’s a ‘live’ recording but by then my eyelids were getting heavy.
It’s not that it’s bad – the album is well played and musical – but falls down somewhat on its lack of surprises and the feeling that it is just too homogenous.
Music for the floatation-tank set I’m afraid. **1/2
Review by Alan Jones
KNIGHT AREA – Hyperdrive
Laser’s Edge [Released 01.11.14]
This is the fifth album from the prog rock band Knight Area who have dabbled their musical toes into pomp rock a la Styx through to the more neoclassical prog of bands like IQ. This album sees them going for the more melodic rock/AOR moments of say Dream Theater. There is even a special guest in the shape of Arjen Lucassen who plays guitar on the instrumental ‘Stepping Out’.
There are two real stand out songs on this album, first up the opener ‘Afraid Of The Dark’ which is a cracking mix of metal riffs meets OTT prog/AOR keys. Then the moving ballad ‘Songs From The Past’ brings to mind Queen in their 70′s pomp. A real vocal tour de force from Mark Smit, who also plays piano on the song.
Knight Area seem to fly under the musical radar of many prog and melodic rock fans, who would enjoy their music. Worthy of your listening attention. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
SHADOW MERCHANT – The Tunnel
Merchant Music [Release Date 02.05.14]
There are just some albums aren’t there, where you wish the band had done things just a little differently and it all would have been so much better.
If they had only taken a few risks, if they had left out a couple of stupid tracks, if only they had changed vocalists (see: Rush)…
And so it is here with Shadow Merchant – an aspiring progressive rock band from Philadelphia whose debut album this is and which, you guessed it, could have been so much better.
The problems lie not with the song structures, which are classic prog; all soaring keys and chorus pedal-laden guitar, nor with the quality of the musicianship which is top-notch throughout.
The fact that the best tracks here are the instrumentals, indicates that the problem occurs both lyrically and vocally.
The lyrics for the most part are both cringingly moralistic and shot through with biblical references (a very worrying trend in American music at the moment) and are sung in a rather hackneyed, early seventies style which unfortunately makes the entire edifice sound rather dated.
Oh that they had dispensed with the vocals altogether and settled for an entirely instrumental album and we could have been talking four stars.
As it is…
Review by Alan Jones
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