(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:
(my year in other people’s music. here’s 2013)
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.
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.
Props to Brian Sword. If you like rock’n’roll you have to listen, a musicians podcast.
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.
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.
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.
„We have listened to Karnivool and Tool.“ Great record for darker days, Hamburg Export I think. Going to be great year for them.
Can’t go wrong with this, amazing voice, mellow.
I love it.
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.
Finally. A little too pop for me but great to see them out there, hope to catch them live soon.
I am not so big on the concept album part, but they just rock. Trio, so important I take notice…
Not just another album. Worth listening.
Cause it’s the Foo Fighters.
Also new to my head phones but not from 2014:
Another support band that took the main stage. Great musicianship, rhythmically challenging, great drumming.
Old project from KXM/Korn drummer Ray Luzier. Great rock album.
Punk ska-ish, very fresh.
Old Richie Kotzen project, very r’n’b soul, almost Motown.
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…
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.
I had originally planned to interview Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy for Backstage in Hamburg but my request wasn’t even answered. So I changed plans, spent the afternoon with the kids, arranged with the neighbors to take the baby monitor once they were asleep and then headed to the Markthalle.
I did catch the last two songs by The Flower Kings and with the little time they had they have intrigued my interest. I will definitely revisit and spent some time with their albums on spotify.
I had seen Neal Morse only twice before: with Transatlantic 10 years ago and with Flying Colors last September but spent lots of time listening to Testimony 2 and the new album Momentum as well as the newest Transatlantic release plus of course the Flying Color album. To make the story short: I think his style of composition is marvellous and his music has – at least for me – the perfect mix of rock grooves and catchy melody lines. On most songs you can join in humming the chorus after one listen and realize they have already crept deep into your melodic memory. It’s uncanny really, especially adding in the fact that the lyrics are sometimes not the easiest to digest or accept.
(as always I took many bad pictures, you can find them on flickr)
From the opening sequence of Momentum it was obvious that Morse and his band – Mike Portnoy on drums, Randy George on bass plus the YouTube-found threesome of Bill Hubauer on keyboards, violin, saxophone and vocals, Eric Gilette on keyboards, guitars and vocals and last but not least Adson Sondre on guitars and vocals – were there to have fun and had no place else to be. How refreshing when everybody brings the energy, his A-game and is totally in the moment. I had watched parts of the Momentum live DVD ahead of the concert and was fascinated by Morse’s openness, gratefulness and the moment of pure emotion when he had to wipe away some tears after a song had ended. On Monday there were some close calls but the whole experience showcased that he chooses to be a musician 100%. And the audience thanked him and the band for this attitude, singing along, rocking along, knowing the music and it’s nuances. Weathering Sky‘s epic chorus made it into every last corner of the room and people were very happy to hear Thoughts Pt 5.
Advertised was 1.5 hrs Flower Kings, 1.5 hrs Neal Morse and 30 minutes Transatlantic. Neal Morse’s setlist (linked is Cologne but HH was very similar I think) was heavy on the new album and the arrangeur Morse took full advantage of the versatility of his band in order to bring the album sounds to life, from 5-6 voices on Author of Confusion to slide guitar to Dregs-ish feelings when Bubauer brought out the violin. Every musician had a little solo spot as well, so it was a real band effort. I am not the die-hard Morse fan so I admit there was one part in the program where I wouldn’t have minded two shorter songs instead of the World without End Suite from the new album but that is really petty whining – I enjoyed all the melodies immensely, Morse is right there between the Beatles and Frank Zappa. No kidding!
A lot could be said about the Morse/Portnoy partnership, I think this picture of the two says enough.
— Mike Portnoy (@MikePortnoy) March 1, 2013
In my book the song Momentum is in a way a little bit about Portnoy…
And in case you are a guitarist like me and were wondering: Adson Sondre played wonderfully, playing Paul Gilbert’s solo in Momentum with ease and a smile.
The Transatlantic encore did surprise some parts of the audience and turned into a great party – aside from the Flower Kings’ keyboarder, all musicians were on stage at one point and they had a great song selection covering all studio releases.
A lot of notes, for sure, but again, few composers in today’s music have the ability to write hook lines as catchy as Neal Morse. If you get the chance, go watch him and the band for a great live show.