What a musical year ahead: Releases by KSE, Satriani, Soilwork, Adrenaline Mob, Sebastian Bach, Dream Theater

At one point last week I began collecting album release dates from bands I like and I have to say, 2013 is going to be a big year:

March 1st Soilwork
March 8th Bon Jovi
March 11th Amplifier
March 12th Adrenaline Mob
March 26th Sebastian Bach, Sevendust
April Spock’s Beard
April 2nd Killswitch Engage
April 8th Mike Tramp
April 23th Queensryche (with Geoff Tate)
May 7th Joe Satriani
May 27th TesseracT
June 11 Queensryche (with Todd La Torre)
July 16th Aristocrats
July 23rd The Winery Dogs
August 31st Bleu
September 24th Dream Theater
September 13th Sharron Levy
October 15th Trivium
November Dream Theater Live DVD

Plus Steel Panther, Flying Colors coming with unspecified dates.

Call me excited!

Review: Flying Colors – Flying Colors

(before you get any ideas, I have the pre-order confirmation so I think it’s ok to write about it)

Although it’s only March I can say without a doubt that this album will contend for album of the year. Flying Colors, the supergroup consisting of Steve Morse (Dregs, Deep Purple), Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Solo), Dave LaRue (Satriani, Dregs, numerous others), Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev) and of course Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, numerous others) was for once not the brain child of Mike Portnoy but producer Bill Evans. With maybe the exemption of singer Casey McPherson, Evans put together a room full of egos and made it work. Flying Colors – Flying Colors is a great debut album and I am not just saying this as a Dream Theater/Mike Portnoy fan boy.

During the first listen, I didn’t even notice/remember/pay attention to the drums because they don’t stand out. Portnoy’s playing is of course outstanding, but this isn’t a drums album. When Portnoy characterized the album as Beatles meets Yes meets I don’t remember, I was thinking that this might be a tall order to follow. Of course I was hoping for it to be true but then of course the artist is going to laude is work.

Rest assured though: This album is a must have for music connaisseurs as it is as song-oriented as you would like a Beatles album to be, yet delivers enough nuggets for lovers of every instrument/fans of all participants to be very happy. Although only Portnoy knew singer McPherson and he was kind of the wild card in that quintett the vocal lines are catchy to a degree that I was whistling some lines after one listen. For a bunch of guys who haven’t been rehearsing material for half a year but just got together in a studio for 9 days, this album is truly epic. You think I am exaggerating? Listen to Blue Ocean and Kayla and try not to sing the chorus under the shower tomorrow? Listen to Fool in my heart and try not to think of old Steve Morse , listen to Better than walking away only to have your heart ripped out by McPherson’s lyrics.

Seriously, give it a spin.


Review: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events

Update: I’ll raise my score to 8,5 of 10. Why? I have been listening constantly and liking most songs more and more. Still no 10, because I still think that you can hear that writing took place without Mangini. But the album has definitely entered my top 5 DT album list.

After the first listen, I was ready to put all my dismay into reviewing this album that I was very much looking forward to, especially since Black Cloud & Silver Linings was the first Dream Theater album in a long time that I really liked. However, after giving it some thought (and some more ear-time), I am not so sure anymore. Some primers: I have been listening to Dream Theater since some time between Images & Words and Awake. From the Awake tour to Scenes from our Memories I have seen every tour, sometimes even caught more than one show. Collected countless live tapes back in the days. Watched “The Spirit Carries on” relieved and fascinated. Favorite albums are I&W, Awake and Scenes from a Memory.

When I read the early reviews and many interviews and two things started bugging me: The constant comparison of the new tracks with older hits, and the fact that they wrote the album without the drummer. Let’s do a quick run-down of the songs before I cast my verdict.
On the Back of Angels – The teaser track. I didn’t get it at first, but after more than 10 listens I think it works quite nice, opening up the ears for what’s to come.
Build me Up, Break me Down – Think Linkin Park meets Dream Theater. It’ll go down as ADToE’s You not me, very radio-friendly. And no, I am not a fan of LaBrie going back to the screaming department.
Lost Not Forgotten – People will say the opening sounds like Under a Glass Moon, and it does. A lot. But then it doesn’t match the variation of the original. After some high-speed wanking the song really starts, and is not my favorite. This song shows the missing red thread of the album, actually the song has not red thread in itself…
This is the Life – This is actually a beautiful song. Great melody that highlights LaBrie’s vocals. Balladesque, not as dreary as Wither, nice guitar solo.
Bridges in the Sky – (Formerly titled The Shaman). I don’t care much for the chorus hookline nor the lyrics I have to say, but basically all this is just build up to a long instrumental section.
Outcry – Finally a guitar riff to my liking. Not quite About to Crash nor Finally Free, but very catchy.
Far from Heaven – A real ballad, no drums at all. Really beautiful melody, I like the lyrics as well as the  string sections.
Breaking all Illusions – Great song, including the instrumental section. Long. I like.
Beneath the Surface – Another ballad. Also catchy.

So, what’s my early verdict? I am sure composing without a drummer partly lead to two songs no drums at all and an additional ballad. I like those three songs. I have an issue with the other songs though. Nothing against Mangini’s playing but if anybody had doubts whether he’d be able to fill Portnoy’s shoes he won’t find the answer on this album. Sure he can play it all, but the drum parts are somewhat disconnected in the song structure. They don’t sound programmed per se (although that’s how they wrote the songs, with a drum computer), but I am sure the songs would have sounded much better if Mangini had been part of the composition progress. Many of the songs sound great from Petrucci, Myung and Rudess’s point of view, and then the said “ok, what can we do with the drums here”. Melody-wise and also guitar sound-wise I felt myself thinking about Scenes from a Memory quite often, unfortunately the composition isn’t quite there.
Concluding, this is not a bad album. But it also isn’t the holy grail of prog and “return to DT as it should be”. I’d say 7 of 10 points, and please consider to include Mangini in the composition process next time.