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April’s album reviews take us on a journey from East to West, commencing in India, calling in Dubia and England, with multi-cultural references to Bangladesh and Europe, before crossing the Atlantic, straddling the North American states from Maryland to Washington.  

World influences have always infiltrated and enhanced rock music, from the formative years of Elvis Presley, through The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stone Roses etc to the present day as we find a reversal of sorts, rock and metal embraced across the globe in perhaps unusual locations, not previously regarded as the traditional heartlands.  Surely confirmation, musics ability to transcend all cultures, creating a joyous aural melting pot.

Fasten your safety belts and enjoy the ride. 

Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise : Illusion & Chaos – Released April 23rd

Indian metal outfit Skyharbor began life initially as a bedroom studio project devised by guitarist Keshav Dev. Three years in the writing, an additional year in production proves time well spent on debut “Blinding White Noise : Illusion & Chaos.”  The base, three piece line-up of Keshav, Anup Sastry on drums and bassist Nikhil Rufus are bolstered via international guest appearances from guitarists Marty Friedman (ex Megadeth,) and Vishal J. Singh (Amogh Symphony) alongside clean vocals supplied by Daniel Tompkins (ex TesseracT) with throat ripping duties provided by Sunnieth Revanker.

 The album is spilt into two discs, seven tracks constituting “Illusion” Tompkins to the fore, fronting epically, intricate and powerful soundscapes although on occasions skirting dangerously close to 30 Seconds to Mars territory.   There’s no denying however, both “Dots” and especially the grandiloquent (in a very, very good way) “Celestial” are impressive extravaganzas of ambitious, sophisticated progressive rock.

 I’m more naturally drawn towards disc 2, “Chaos,” Revanker commandeering the vocals, the band upping both the intensity and sheer bludgeoning potency of the music immediately with “Trayus.”  “Aphasia” and the phenomenal “Insurrection” bring the collection to a close in searing style, more breath taking and welcome than the hottest of Indian Summers.  If you assumed Asia totally bereft of metal, compared to the Americas, Europe and Australasia……think again.

Absolace – Fractals

After the invigorating surprise of Indian metal, hot on the heels is “Fractals,” second album from Dubai progressive rock band Absolace, which proves so close to being an absolute classic of the genre. The song structures outstanding, the vocals haunting or forceful as required, the changes in tempo, drops and breakdowns painstakingly co-ordinated and Absolace possess that extra dimension which all truly great bands require….. a sense of funk.  Bass lines particularly within “Chroma Mera” and “The Rise” circumnavigate the depths below the guitars, keyboards and voice, providing a substructure upon which the layers are laid.

“Fractals” virtually ever present on my ipod over the last couple of weeks, it’s intrinsic beauty always close to hand, opening with “Sirens” I feel cheated if unable to run the whole course to “Closure” in one sitting. On more than one occasion “I Am So I Will” requires multiple plays, the intense distorted vocal adding an extra passionate dimension.

Why therefore, only close to a classic. Subsequent attention reveals a crack in the edifice, a further aspect of progressive rock or metal always holding prominence omitted within “Fractals.” The drum rhythms too basic, requiring much, much, more in the way of fills and flair. Whilst not fully detracting from an excellent piece of work, for album and band to truly stand alongside the greats of the genre, an absolute requirement for Absolace.    

Aziz – Rusholme Rock

The easy and potentially more popular references to the culture clash of East and West of former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim’s second album “Rusholme Rock” are the cover versions. In particular The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law (and the law won)” or Ian Brown’s “My Star” (cunningly re-titled) “My Sitar” both given ancestral treatment behind Aziz’s Mancunian accent to great effect.

More interestingly however the lengthy instrumentals “Xen and Now” or “Morassi,” truly exhibiting the amalgamation of musical styles defining Aziz as a genuinely gifted, inventive and forward thinking musician.  Sitar changes to distorted guitar in one fell swoop, add intricate tabla rhythms, Rusholme Rock establishes itself, similar to a night out on the Manchester boroughs curry mile from which it’s name is derived, an absolute highlight of the month.

POM – Sleepwalker

Although born in the U.K, POM spent his formative years in Singapore, New Zealand and Australia before the call of England hastened both a return and a decision to make music his life. His weapon of choice, the acoustic guitar and further travel in Europe heralded influences from Flamenco in both styles and techniques.  POM’s completely instrumental debut album “Sleepwalker” exudes guitar skills of the highest order, his masterful control and speed of fingers almost defying aural belief. Within the completely solo compositions, “Deep Shift” or “Blind Man” melody perhaps lacking, although sheer awe inspiring dexterity is ever present. With additional instrumentation added to “Propeller” recognisable construction arising, more accessible. Ultimately however, “Sleepwalker” defines a love affair between man and instrument, one practised and nurtured over many years, providing us the opportunity to witness almost the perfect, harmonious partnership.

Strong Intention – Razorblade Express – Limited vinyl release in May T.B.C

Baltimore’s industrial history has created a reputation of a tough and uncompromising city, elements heard throughout any number of bands from the area, most definitely within Strong Intention.  Their latest release, available via a limited first press release of 500 next month decries music as an art form, more a means of release and survival.  The opening title track incorporates the most variety, doom riffs, breakdowns and squalling guitars to the fore, interspersed with brutal and punishing passages.  Strong Intention are not for the faint hearted, no Guantanamo Bay of a mini album, their intention, take no prisoners, an ethic  maintained since the mid 90’s.  The remaining five songs are unyielding slabs of grindcore thrash, any subtle changes in tempo, purely fleeting breathers before the pounding intensity re-introduced.

Strong Intention are designed for sweaty bars and clubs, locations where audiences pre-gig warm up include a few beers  while eyeing up your opponents as if weighing in before a boxing match.  Mosh pits in the truest sense and most violent of forms , not happy, clappy bouncing up and down, apologising for stepping on another’s toes, virtual gladiatorial arenas, perhaps not exactly a fight to the death, but certainly survival of the fittest, the stage just another area to be infiltrated.

7 Horns 7 Eyes – Throes of Absolution – Released April 23rd

Our journey started and ends on the opposite of the world with metal of the most epic variety. 7 Horns 7 Eyes as Skyharbor, release their debut album on April 23rd through Basick Records although inhabiting the more traditional musical location of Seattle.  “Throes of Absolution” self-produced and mixed by guitarist Aaron Smith, is mean, moody, impenetrable and darkly atmospheric collection of Progressive Death Metal.  It’s been a long, at times difficult six years since the band formed, before able to unleash this herculean effort on the masses, which will surely see their metallic star shine radiantly beyond the North Western States.    

The nine tracks on show are highly technical and compelling, battering the brain into acquiescence, vocalist JJ “Shiv” Polachek exhibiting a particularly impressive death growl.  “Throes of Absolution” does however proves a very demanding listen, it’s mechanics and minutiae more forthright than flow and melodic values.  Incorporating a surfeit of ebbs, flows, retreats and surges, it’s imposing and infinitely impressive, although demanding of full attention.

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