ASHBY Fragmental [Release date 13.11.15]
Ashby are a progressive rock quintet from Germany.
Fronted by Sabina Mosel, three thoughts immediately struck me a vocal symmetry with Sam Brown and Doris Brendel, a proggy sound that put the band in a not dissimilar space to Purson, and symphonic tendencies that never stretch quite as far as the extremes of that genre.
Founded in 2011, Fragmental is the band’s debut. It’s an accomplished offering that runs to just under 64 minutes and in true ‘progressive rock’ style has four numbers that run to 10 minutes or more.
Complex and dense, it’s an album that needs repeated listens to be fully appreciated. But even on a first play the talents of Jan Göpelt (guitar), Joel von der Heiden (keys), Christopher Streidt (bass), and Rik Schindler (drums) are self-evident, with Sabina Mosel’s vocal talents being the band’s ‘ace in the hole’.
As with all neo prog there’s a multitude of influences on display – from early Genesis and Mike Oldfield to Doris Brendel’s 1990s alt-rockers The Violet Hour (which is probably the most relevant reference point). If that’s enough to prick your ears up, don’t take my word for it nip over to https://ashbyofficial.bandcamp.com/album/fragmental and give Fragmental a listen.
Von der Heiden’s keyboard work adds a definite Euro feel to Ashby’s sound (although some of his playing on the epic Aether A Lunar Year, is pure Tony Banks) but at heart they’re the epitome of a very fine British sounding prog outfit. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
AMELIA WHITE Home Sweet Hotel
Nashville-based Amelia White’s last release Old Postcard (2014) was an impressive Americana crossover album with echoes of classic Tom Petty delivered with a soft vocal drawl that carried elements of Stevie Nicks and Marianne Faithful.
Her 7th long player, Home Sweet Home, reflects on the tension between life on the road – the endless round of coffee houses, bars and house concerts and maintaining a stable long term relationship.
Dark and moody, and produced by Marco Giovino (Band Of Joy) with guests including multi-instrumentalist Sergio Webb (David Olney), Stuart Mathis (Lucinda Williams) on guitar, Ron Eoff (The Band) on bass, Paul Gordon (The B52′s) on keys, and Julie Christensen (Leonard Cohen) on backing vocals, it’s an intense and introspective reflection of life on the road.
In terms of crossover appeal, and like her last release, it works best where that Tom Petty soft rock vibe is deployed, for example, in the song construction, in White’s seductive vocals, and the excellent lead guitar lines of the title track. It’s that ability to balance singer/songwriter,pop/rock, and country that has seen White’s songs placed on a number of US TV shows.
But life on the road ain’t all fun, and Home Sweet Hotel has its equal share of ups and downs. That major breakthrough is likely to remain elusive. ***
Review by Pete Whalley
SAM OUTLAW Angelleno
Come on, Sam Outlaw? That surely can’t be the dude’s real name? Well, actually it was the maiden name of former LA advertising professional Sam Morgan’s mother.
At 30, he followed his dream and two year later finds his debut LP, produced by Ry Cooder, garnering broadsheet approval; it featured in The Guardian’s 10 best country albums, came in at 21 in Rolling Stone’s top 40 Country albums of 2015, and ‘Love Her For A While’ made the iTunes Best Of 2015: Americana list.
But I don’t get it. It sounds like a pastiche of sixties county meets Dr Hook. Outlaw calls it SoCal (short for Southern California) country – absorbing the classic vibes from ’60′s Bakersfield honky-tonk to ’70′s Laurel Canyon. OK, Ry Cooder’s presence gives the project some credence, and there’s no arguing that’s it’s a perfectly constructed set.
But since when did the schmaltzy country of the 1960s and 1970′s become cool again? It’s about to happen, it would appear. To me it was cheesy back then, and remains so today. But if Lady Antebellum can shift tens of millions of singles and albums, I’m guessing maybe Sam – with his good looks, Stetson, skinny jeans and cowboy boots may well be able to do the same. **
Review by Pete Whalley
SHADES OF SORROW Ascension
Shades Of Sorrow are a female fronted metal band from Canada, and boy, do they sound angry.
With two EPs and two full length albums under their belt, Ascension explodes with the fury of Motorhead, the band’s USP being bludgeoning riffs and Monise Ouellette’s acidic vocals. There’s little subtlety here: SOS get into your face from the first number and rarely take a backwards step throughout the set.
When they do, ‘Fall From Grace’ and ‘Skyblazer’ briefly expose a semi acoustic underbelly, while the title track and ‘Parade Of Lunatics’ revisit the brooding riffery of early Sabbath, and ‘Move’ takes a convincing excursion into the hip hop crossover genre dominated by the likes of Linkin Park. But the overriding feature is the extreme metal/punk nature of the performance.
Ouellette’s melodic vocals (no great surprise to find she’s on the Cirque du Soleil database) are just about the only feature that drags the band’s sound even remotely in the direction of the mainstream, but even they’re unlikely to be enough to make SOS’s neo-progressive metal appeal to anyone other than Kerrang! subscribers. Be scared. Be very scared. **
Review by Pete Whalley
CRUEL SEASON Rise
Dark Star Records
“Rise” is the debut album from Cruel Season, though you would be forgiven for thinking that the band is more seasoned, thanks to the various members’ musicals pasts. The album comprises 10 tracks which vary in sound from the Soundgarden like opening track “Rise”, through the grunge style “Heard It All Before”, “and “Sink” to the heavier melodic “Heavy Clouds” and the sparse yet melodic “Passage”.
The highlights of “Rise” though are the afore mentioned “Heavy Clouds” and the different, but very good take on the KISS classic “God of Thunder”.
All in all, Cruel Season have produced a convincing debut upon which they can build a solid future. ***
Review by Nikk Gunns
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