DELAIN Apocalypse & Chill (Napalm Records) [Release date 07.02.20]
There was a time – around 10 years ago – when I was rather taken with Delain, and for that matter, Within Temptation. Both brought a slightly more commercial edge to their brand of symphonic metal – Delain with April Rain (2009), and Within Temptation with The Unforgiving (2011).
And with those albums came a wider public appeal, and the inevitable – the arena circuit. Probably the worst thing to happen to rock in decades. Because with it comes a focus, not on the music, but on business models, spreadsheets and profit margins.
And so it is with Apocalypse & Chill – another nicely packaged and produced ‘product’ filled with the expected levels of bombast, Charlotte Wessels’ excellent vocals, soaring guitars and crunchy riffs, all wrapped in a in an attractive pop meets metal wrapper aimed fairly and squarely at an arena audience.
It’s far more ‘apocalypse’ than ‘chill’ with the pace seldom letting up, little space for subtle nuance, and with most tracks clocking in around the 4 minute mark delivered in a ‘wham bam thank for Mam’ fashion.
I realise I’m probably in a minority here = there seems to be a general consensus this is their best effort since April Rain – but for me it’s symphonic metal by numbers, dialled in to a corporate formula.
What I did find though, was that the three ‘orchestral’ bonus tracks, stripped of their metal pomposity, were a far more rewarding listen. But as for the ‘main course’, while it’s polished, I just don’t hear any ‘soul’ and it’s about as memorable as a re-heated microwave dinner. ***
Review by Pete Whalley
JESSICA WOLFF Para Dice (Metalapolis Records) [Release date 19.06.20]
Whatever happened to the art of a well-crafted song? Lost for ever, presumably when it became the ‘norm’ to write in mobile text shorthand.
Actually, the songwriting here – from Finnish artist Jessica Wolff – isn’t bad, in a pop/rock sort of a way even if it’s far from original, and Wolff is a more than competent vocalist. But what spoils Para Dice is the incessant, rudimentary, guitar playing placed way too far forward in the mix. Frankly, it’s tiresome and spoils the whole album.
When it does relent, the whole song is lifted, but sadly it’s never far from returning to dominate proceedings, and in many ways I was reminded of the similar shortcomings of Verity White, another aspiring female pop/rocker.
Interestingly, the overbearing guitar work here looks to have been a conscious move, with the harder rock guitar aspect being dialled up considerably in contract to Wolff’s 2017 sophomore album Grounded – which featured the same guitarists = but was decidedly more [Euro] poppy in comparison.
It’s a shame, because Wolff is a decent singer, and has the looks and moves to go with it. But she’s going to need to find a better balance between rock and pop, and quite possibly some better supporting players if she’s going to appeal to a wider audience. **
Review by Pete Whalley
BEFORE SUNDAY Anticipation (Rockshot Records) [Release date 24.04.20]
Fresh off the back of a successful UK / Greece tour with unlikely bedfellows Pavlov’s Dog, London based popsters Before Sunday release their debut album Anticipation.
Having scored songwriting awards in 2017 for ‘No Destination’, and ‘Obsessions’ in 2019, both of which feature on the album, Before Sunday’s music has been compared to the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sia, Pink and Michael Jackson, to mention but a few.
So what’s the Pavlov Dog connection? Well, it’s because the band are originally from Greece and it was an opportunity to get back to home turf, and a home audience.
Blurring the lines between pop and R&B is never easy. And creating catchy pop melodies, even more difficult, and there’s precious little rock on offer here from guitarist and songwriter Nik Basis and singer Stella Panteloudi.
The apt opener ‘Living In London’ gives no hint to the band’s roots = a number somewhere between Def Leppard-lite and Eurovision. There’s hints of early Madge in ‘Big House’ and ‘Unconditional’, although both are frankly, unconvincing. And it gets no better – ‘No Destination’ is typical Paloma Faith fare, and ‘Obsessions’ is the sort of stuff Lisa Stansfield was knocking out for fun in the 1990′s.
Frankly, I just don’t see the relevance of this sort of stuff today. Unless you’re in a Greek taverna, having missed the last repatriation flight home, with no internet connection, and have had one ouzo too many. **
Review by Pete Whalley
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09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Our Glass House (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SERGEANT STEEL Truck Tales (Boyz Tyme Records)
14:00-16:00 DAN REED Liftoff (Zero Entertainment)
Power Plays w/c 11 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)
BLACK SPIDERS – Good Times (Dark Riders Records/Cargo Records)
GRAVITY MACHINE Standing Stones (Zyse Records)
EMPIIRES Love Or Hate (TLG Entertainment/INgrooves)
RAY FENWICK Tam Tam (Singsong Music)
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