Skeletal Lightning/Dog Knights Productions
Release Date: December 9, 2106
With a name like Youth Funeral, you can pretty much assume a few things about this New England-based trio. First, more than likely they are going to be heavy. Things are also maybe not going to be the most comfortable. Also, it’s going to be an emotional ride. So if you are looking for a heavy, emotional and uncomfortable ride, Heavenward is the place for you.
In classic hardcore fashion, Youth Funeral manage to blister through 11 tracks in 15 minutes. By traditional standards, this is definitely an EP, but it’s enough of a ride that I think it stands on it’s own as a full length. The band tends to take two tacts at songwriting. First they go all out and punch you in the face with Daughters-like spastic aggression (see “Heavenward”, “Amber Light”, “Unthought” and every other track under a buck and a half). On the other hand Youth Funeral can stretch their post-hardcore muscles and stretch into almost sprawling territory like some early Roadside Monument. The instrumental “Bloom” is a highlight of the latter style and is one of my favorite tracks. They even flirt with jam band territory on “Shadow Phases”.
Lyrically, Heavenward is brief but intense. These 11 tracks deal heavily with loss and abandonment. Together with the band's frantic playing style there’s a chance of this record either being extremely cathartic or a massive trigger. I guess one would have to know themself before choosing a record like this. There’s nothing fun about Youth Funeral, but they sure deliver on the expectations.
Reviewed by: Rob1340
Your Turn to Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Uriah Heep is one of those bands that means different things to different generations. Throughout the seventies, the band was a mixed bag of Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, and Arena Rock. In the eighties, they evolved into a more mainlined Hard Rock beast- a part of the band’s career that is too often ignored (as is their continued contribution to music to this day). Much of the focus is placed on the first decade of the band’s career and as a child of the eighties, and a fan of Heep, it’s awesome to have this more comprehensive anthology available. This 2 CD anthology spans 1970-1990 and, admittedly, it’s kind of wild to hear just how much the band changed throughout years.
The seventies rock the first disc of this collection. It’s easy to forget how psychedelic and progressive these guys were in their formative years. “Bird of Prey” is as strange as they come, laying foundation stones of Heavy Metal while fully embracing the fusion and Jazz elements that Progressive Rock made a staple of AM radio. “Suicidal Man” is another moment that lets the Heavy Metal flag fly high- from the darker lyrical matter to the gritty guitar work. Of course, the stomping, epic sounding, wizardry (musical and lyrical) of “Gypsy” screams seventies cool from the first note to the last. The more grandiose single edit of July Morning is my personal favorite here. The song is a journey in and of itself. I liken it to a shorter “In A Gadda Da Vida” or “Stairway To Heaven.” It’s part folk, part psychedelia, part progressive and incredibly fascinating to listen to.
Disc two finishes up the seventies and then takes a radio-friendly turn with 1980’s “It Ain’t Easy” from the Conquest album. This is the Heep I mostly grew up on but it is pretty shocking when you listen to all the seventies stuff first. Synthesizers, balladry and some near-falsetto vocals dominate the song and it’s, honestly, a little hard to listen to in retrospect. “No Return” has an Elton John kinda quality to it, but it’s progressive quirk sells it wholly. By the time you get to 1983’s “Straight Through the Heart” though, the Heep are rockin’ again. This is my favorite Heep era with it’s massive guitars, big anthem swagger, and powerful lead vocals. When you intertwine it with songs like the futuristic “Rockarama” and the poppy “Voice on My TV” (which concludes the anthology at 1989) you have an entirely different, but just as thematically interesting band. The psychedelia is long gone, replaced by pristine production and stadium-worthy anthems.
All in all, this is a fun trip through across the many faces of Uriah Heep. Throughout the next two decades, they would find some balance between what was and what is, making this is a fascinating listen to one of the few bands that have managed to evolve, survive, and thrive for nearly four decades.
Reviewed by mark1340
Slaves on Dope
The ILS Group
Release Date: October 7, 2016
I have to admit that Slaves on Dope is a band I have heard here and there over the years but never really paid much attention to. That all changes with the release of their fifth proper album, Horse.
Horse is an album centering around all the people in the world suffering from addiction and echoing a message of hope and recovery. The album features appearances by DMC, HR from Bad Brains, and Bill Kelliher from Mastodon. Musically, this reminds me so much of what Metallica would have been had they continued down the Rock and Roll route and eventually settled in. It’s hard to pick songs here to hone in on because this is one of the best start to finish records I have heard in years…and definitely the best I have heard in 2016.
“Health, Food, and Heroin” inches out the others I suppose with its unrelenting guitar work and Hetfield-esque vocal snarls. The heaviness explodes into a huge chorus and I’m always a sucker for an anthem. The groovier riffs of “Script Writer” are a favorite here as well. While it’s definitely a true blue Rock and Roll tune, the Punk influenced drumming and the angst-ridden vocal sneer give it a more dynamic twist than some of the other songs. About two-thirds of the way through the song the band get down and dirty and take a backseat to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer DMC before kicking it back into high gear. The more melodic “Codependency” is a highlight as well, offering a fresh take on the oft-overlooked good things that came from Nu-Metal.
The fact is, Horse is a helluva ride that any fan of Rock or Metal will fall in love with. The band are unstoppable on this album from the memorable riffs to the dynamic twists that keep the ride interesting to the positive and passionate lyrical content. Horse is the complete package and you should not pass this one by.
Reviewed by mark1340
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Release Date: September 30, 2016
It’s truly sad to know that the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer deluxe reissue series coincide with the deaths of two-thirds of this Progressive Rock supergroup. While it saddens me, it’s also pretty cool to see the band come to a physical close while revisiting their masterworks one last time. For this reissue, both the 2015 remaster and the Jakko Jaksyzk (King Crimson) stereo mixes/alternate album are included as well as extensive liner notes by Chris Welch. The latter album also includes a live version of “Hoedown.”
Trilogy was ELP’s third album and it finds them getting more experimental at just about every turn. The Hipgnosis designed cover pretty well sets the stage for the album by featuring all three members as one being staring off into the sunset. In my opinion, ELP was at their most cohesive on this 1972 masterpiece that rocketed up the charts thanks in no small part to their amazing take on Aaron Copeland’s “Hoedown.” This would also become a fan favorite live throughout the years.
I don’t know that there is much left to say that hasn’t been said about this album. The words “epic” and “majestic” certainly come to mind as the Progressive movement was really starting to take shape at the time. You can feel the prowess the band had on just about every track here. “The Endless Enigma” parts one and two are as brilliant as any Progressive piece ever penned, playing like an intricate Rock Opera with the bareboned “Fugue” piano instrumental placed between, allowing the listener time to reorganize their blown mind.
The song that benefits the most here, particularly on the Jaksyzk version, is “Abaddon’s Bolero.” The impeccable timing is pretty much unparalleled. Emerson’s triumphant synth work here likely made Rick Wakeman jealous. When you put that on the same album with “Hoedown” questions about who could take Progressive Rock into the mainstream were quickly answered. The live version of “Hoedown” is just as powerful, maybe more so, as it benefits from the live setting and is played slightly faster!
This is an excellent reissue that any incoming or long established fan should own. Trilogy is a masterwork of any generation but when you consider the time it was recorded in and the technology available at the time, you start to wonder why these three men were musicians instead of rocket scientists.
Reviewed by mark1340
Sound Resources/Arion Records
Release Date: Sept 27, 2016
Glass Hammer is probably one of the greatest progressive rock bands that you may have never heard, and if you haven’t heard them yet it is high time you did. I have been a fan of these prog rock masterminds for nearly fifteen years, and I have watched these guys evolve from a good band to one of the greatest, most entertaining progressive rock bands of all time. One thing that makes Glass Hammer stand above the rest is their willingness to fearlessly experiment with new sounds and continually recreate themselves without compromising who they are. Sure, during their experimental phases they have been criticized but for this reviewer, I saw it as a sign of maturity and an openness to go against the flow and not allow themselves to be put into a box.
Valkyrie is their newest and 16th studio album which is a concept album about a soldier who goes off to fight a noble war and for whatever reason cannot return. The soldier may not be able to return but Glass Hammer fans do see the return of Susie Bogdanowicz to the forefront and she sounds magnificent! The last album she was featured on was Three Cheers For the Broken Hearted. This reviewer would like to say that it’s nice to hear Boganowicz again. But fear not fans not much has changed as the music and lyrics are still written and played by the dynamic duo (masterminds) Fred Schendel and Steve Babb. Additionally, drummer Aaron Raulston provides all percussion and jazz-rock guitarist Alan Shikoh mans the axe.
Valkyrie is a nine track CD that clocks in at over 60 minutes of some of the finest progressive rock ever recorded. Opening the CD is the nearly 7-minute blockbuster “The Fields We Know” which quickly sets the pace for the remainder of the CD. From the opening note listeners are assured that this is “classic” Glass Hammer and it only gets better. The highlight of the CD is the longest song “No Man’s Land” clocking in at 14:20 is a great catchy number that highlights the genius of Fred Schendel’s keyboard artistry. Closing out the CD is the 24-minute epic “Rapturo” which begins on a very somber note but crescendo’s and fades out to an epic ending leaving the listener begging for more.
Valkyrie is hands down the best prog rock album of 2016. Glass Hammer continues to deliver album after album. Their sound is reminiscent of the early to mid-70s which is the greatest era of prog. VALKYRIE’s musical mixture of Genesis, Yes and Kansas and the vocal of Susan Bogdanowic makes for a prog geek like myself dreams come true.
Reviewed by: Jeff1340