Review: Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day

Upfront: This won’t be a track by track review. If you are looking for one of those go to Pain of Salvation’s Facebook page, plenty of those there, I like e.g. this one a lot, here’s a review in German, here’s a very thoughtful one.
Before I get lost in my thoughts let me be clear: I love this album. I had it on constant rotation for a week and to me it’s deep, clear, sonic, Pain of Salvation. And I can hear all the other albums in it, from Entropia to Road Salt Two.
What I have always loved about PoS albums is the dynamic of a song, Daniel’s ability to compose from soft to full blast in one song without it sounding like pieces spliced together. This goes for the voices as well – the lyrical content gets linked to the music and that includes the voice. Pattison calls this prosody and I am amazed how well Daniel has always (ok, most times) achieved this in the past.
I am a music first, lyrics later, kind of listener but that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to the melody. It just means the focus of my attention is on what do the drums do, oh, there’s an interesting rhythm, is it memorable, how do the guitars tie into that, oh, I love that vocal line. I’ve been humming along after the second go-through. In fact, I feel compelled to listen to the album again, because I am looking forward to that line. And all of a sudden this 71 minute album isn’t long at all, because it works from beginning to end. It’s a actually a very comprehensive record as an entity with the songs working individually as well.
You might not feel the same way, obviously, that’s the beauty of music, and neither of us is right. 😉 I am just writing this down because I sense that Daniel is unfortunately very susceptible to critical comments. He has put his heart into this album and the six years are well worth it in my opinion – take another six years to write the next if it comes out this way (just without the hospital/almost dying part) – and the first thing people are writing as a response is “oooh, that is very egotistical cover art”. So that’s why I am writing how I feel about this album. We need more people saying nice things anyway.
In closing some random pointers:
The synth intro of “Meaningless”. So beautiful. Works over everything thrown at it. Simple drums, guitar melodies, full blast band. These melodies are 1-in-a-million. Another one is Steve Vai’s “Aching Hunger” from Fire Garden. Heart opening.
And the range of the chorus melody. I bet it’s really challenging to sing, too.
The vocal sound in Silent Gold. Just golden. The harmonies in the second verse.
Full Throttle Tribe. I think one of my favorite tracks. From the machine beeps that transcend into the beat, through the change of the snare hit from -e, to & to and -a, until the “I’ll take it to far and drive it to hard” line that is a perfect example of matching lyrics to the music. Beautiful breakdown, making room for the burning shower tap, sound banks from Road Two rubbing salt in.
Angels of Broken Things: I am a sucker for polyrhythms that work in sync, incorporating not only one instrument (drums) but in this case syncopic vocal melody and guitars and all. Soothing.
If this is the end. I am guessing this is a baritone guitar. The ring is different. And then comes the accordion. Did I mention I love PoS orchestration? Having more than two people who can sing a melody helps.
Thank you for a brilliant album.

Review: Sean Ashe – Flux

(if you don’t want to bear my preface, the actual review starts at the fourth paragraph…)

I have been into Sean Ashe for quite some time, I don’t even remember how I got introduced. My guess would be his Instagram but who knows. For the last year or so he let his followers follow (;-)) the development and recording of his first solo album, titled Flux. It was available for pre-orders on his Bandcamp page so I did and this week it finally came out.

Hemisphere and Luminescence were two tracks previously available and there I was, syncing the tracks to my phone, thinking, “well, this might as well be this generation’s Passion & Warfare”. Talk about expectations… The teaser track Memory Lane before New Year’s was equally daunting and promising…

Well, Passion & Warfare might be a bit farfetched in the end. Not because it’s not great but due to what it stands far. First I was wondering whether a statement like that would be fair to Guthrie Govan’s Erotic Cakes or Pete Thorn’s Guitar Nerd, but obviously it’s a very personal matter. What Passion & Warfare was for me – most likely it was a different album for you. But I digress from the actual matter: Sean Ashe’s brilliant debut album:

Sean Ashe’s Flux is of 8 instrumental guitar tracks. But: It’s not really a shred album (good) and it’s not a riff album (awesome!). I am not a fan of songs that feature a great guitar riff but lack a melody to carry the tune. Riff songs unfortunately bore me. Flux is a great selection of melodies that also happen to be played by guitar, in a very fluent manner. I am not the best at describing influences if I am not familiar, so could be saying something like Scofield and Satriani but would probably very wrong.

I like the variety of song styles. There’s a bit of folk guitar, there’s a ska-ish track, but also the instrument selection: It seems that he really puts melody at the forefront, and the instrument at second: Acoustic guitar, piano, and keyboards all have a moment to bow to the song and shine.

And then there is lots of fusion-y songs with many layers of electric guitar but carefully selected tones. Sean endorses Tom Anderson Guitars and I know he uses Mesa Boogie amps – no doubt are they happy because the guitars sound pristine and I am not just click baiting here. Lead and rhythm guitars sound stunningly good. Kind of what I would expect from a Pete Thorn record but not for a debut album – which Sean produced & mixed himself (with a little help, but still).

I knew the drums were done “for real”, but it has to be pointed out that Andreas Sjoen did a superb job playing and recording. The songs have punch and a dynamic range that comes through without disturbing the melody, rather supporting it.

In short, the only complaint I have is that the album could have been longer and that there could have been a tad more shreddage – we know he can play, so maybe just once give in and let us have it full-blast. But all in all, a must-have for fans of great melodies and electric guitar playing.

And if your in the LA area, go to Namm and check him out in person:

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-17 um 19.43.36

A musical review of 2014

(my year in other people’s music. here’s 2013)

Maragold

My album of the year (although from 2013). Glad I discovered this. Great guitar tone by Greg Howe and awesome vocals. It’s not a shred record but great songs, great arrangements and very tasty guitar playing.

KXM

A great guitarist (George Lynch), an underrated drummer (Ray Luzier) and the awesome Dug Pinnick on vocals and bass. Another super group, this years Winery Dogs. Great record.

Lynch Mob – Sun Red Sun

24 years after one of my favorite records, Wicked Sensations, they do it again. George Lynch and Oni Logan with great songs. 2 great albums by George Lynch in one year.

The Double Stop Podcast

Props to Brian Sword. If you like rock’n’roll you have to listen, a musicians podcast.

Slash – World on Fire

I wasn’t so sure I’d like this but Slash, Myles Kennedy and producer Elvis Baskette made a great record, solid rock music that will stand the test of time.

Sixx A.M. – Modern Vintage

I had high expectations for this since Are You With Me Now is one of my favorite songs and has been for some time. Modern Vintage isn’t quite there yet but still growing. Well produced as to be expected.

Vulfpeck – Fugue State

I discoverd Vulfpeck with Vollmilch last year and this year’s Fugue State is just so good. Lush. Jazzy but accessible. Easy listening but so not vanilla.

Eden Circus – Marula

„We have listened to Karnivool and Tool.“ Great record for darker days, Hamburg Export I think. Going to be great year for them.

Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit

Can’t go wrong with this, amazing voice, mellow.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah

I love it.

Dave Kilminster – and the truth will set you free

How had I not heard of Dave? Probably because I am not such a fan of Pink Floyd and personnel. But he’s a great player and needs to be heard more.

Dirty Loops – Loopified

Finally. A little too pop for me but great to see them out there, hope to catch them live soon.

The Brew – Control

I am not so big on the concept album part, but they just rock. Trio, so important I take notice…

Jack White – Lazaretto

Not just another album. Worth listening.

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

Cause it’s the Foo Fighters.

Also new to my head phones but not from 2014:

Mother’s Cake – Creation’s Finest

Another support band that took the main stage. Great musicianship, rhythmically challenging, great drumming.

Army of Anyone

Old project from KXM/Korn drummer Ray Luzier. Great rock album.

Brand New – The Devil and God are raging Inside me

Avon Junkies – The Lesser Evil

Punk ska-ish, very fresh.

Wilson Hawk – The Road

Old Richie Kotzen project, very r’n’b soul, almost Motown.

Review: Queensryche – Queensryche

If you left the earth after Queensryche’s Empire or Promised Land album, came back in 2013, went into a record store and bought their current release Queensryche you’d hear exactly what you’d expect: a modern sounding Queensryche record with good lyrics, great riffs, grooving bass lines and of course Rockenfield as Rockenfield on drums. All non-time travellers had to suffer several some so-so albums but should trust all reviews out there, rejoice and make sure to catch the Todd La Torre-fronted Queensryche on their upcoming tour (I know I will, even if I have to go to f*cking Quadrath-Ichenau… seriously, who finds these places in the woods).

My favorite older album is Empire and I can say exactly what won me over on this record: Bass guitar and drums are grooving in sync again. You don’t have to listen farther than the second track and make it to the verse to understand what I mean. If you were worried about the new frontman don’t be – he can actually sing, and does which feels genuinely refreshing, compared to the last albums with Geoff Tate (who’s turd of a record Queensryche – Frequency Unknown features 1-2 nice songs but only one track that fits under the label Queensryche).

I’d say the new Queensryche definitely delivered and if that is what will convince the judge, so be it. I for one can’t bend my head around the fact that a judge would hold back his verdict on such an integral part as a band’s name for almost a year, but hey, I am no judge…

Review: Joe Satriani – Unstoppable Momentum

About three weeks ago Joe Satriani released his 14th studio album, Unstoppable Momentum. It is a beauty. I say this with the listening experience of all albums, being a fan since the The Extremist album.

Coincidentally, The Extremist is also the album that Unstoppable Momentum reminds me most of sonically. From the opening bars of the opening track with the same name, Unstoppable Momentum is a very dense record melodically while giving you a huge sound range, inviting you to lie back and enjoy the ride just like the track Why did on the mentioned Extremist.

Rhythmically one can find the classic straight Satriani tracks as well as the syncopated beats that The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing suggested and many songs on the 1995 Joe Satriani answered. Especially during the latter kind of songs drummer extraordinair Vinnie Colaiuta, first time playing on a Satriani record, really shines.

The band. In the Behind the recording YouTube video(s) Satriani explains how the band came about and how every take was special. I think you can hear it. In the drum intro to Can’t Go Back, in the break beats that work as foundation for Lies and Truths, in the groove that powers Jumpin’ In and Jumpin’ Out. This was not a track by track recording process (meaning first click, then drums, then bass, then guitars) but “let’s roll the tape and see if we catch the magic”.

Unstoppable Momentum is a really good record and maybe the best Satriani record since Joe Satriani.

Review: Black Country Communion – Afterglow

This is a review I didn’t expect to write. Not that I don’t mind writing bad reviews or anything but I’d rather write about records that trigger some kind of emotion. And I didn’t expect Black Country Communion’s (BCC) Afterglow to do that for the simple reason that I am not such a big fan of the late 70s rock sound unless everything falls together. In addition, I had listened to the first two albums and thought, nah, not my cup of tea.

Long story short, Afterglow (Spotify link) is a hell of a record. Very moody but the perfect fall release. If you don’t know, Black Country Communion is Glen Hughes on bass guitar, Joe Bonnamassa on guitar, Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Jason Bonham on drums. Yes, one of these supergroups. What really surprised me most is that the vocal melodies and timbre of Hughes voice appeal to me. I wonder why he has never popped my horizon so far. He brings a big range to the table and is able to go very high which complements guitar and bass lines very nicely.

What also separates this release from similar sounding material e.g. Led Zeppelin (hey, I said similar, not the same. It’s just so you have a hunch of what this could sound like) is that the long instrumental passages are missing which makes it much more listenable in my opinion. While I appreciate a great guitar riff probably even more than anybody it serves the song when it’s not overdone.
Thumbs up!

Here is a snippet from the title track Afterglow:

And here a snippet from my favorite The Circle: