Welcome to part 2 of my round-up of some of the other great rock and metal releases from 2013 that, thanks to a very strong year, missed out on a spot in my top 20 list. Part 1 can be read here if you missed it.
Also, if you missed my full top 20 countdown, that can be accessed via this link.
This band is one of the main reasons why I have embraced melodic hard rock over the last couple of years. I always thought it was a little cheesy, something that firmly belonged in the 80s unless you were of a certain vintage. Well, I admit that I was wrong. Yes, there are a lot of cliches to be found within the genre but when it’s done properly, it can be a great source of feel-good, sing-along music. I tend to refer to it as ‘summer music’.
Featuring the immense vocal talents of Jeff Scott Soto as well as basist/keyboardist Erik Martensson and guitarist Robert Sall, the band was named after the musician’s other bands, namely Work Of Art, Eclipse and Talisman. Anyone familiar with this genre will therefore understand the ‘supergroup’ tag that W.E.T. have obtained of late.
“Rise Up” continues where the self-titled debut left off. As such, the album benefits from excellent song writing which delivers huge choruses, hooks big enough to catch the Loch Ness Monster and allows for great, yet understated musicianship all round. And Soto’s voice…if you’ve not heard the guy sing, you’ve been missing out, trust me.
It’s a massive undertaking to record a double album. It’s an even bigger undertaking when you’ve lost your principle song-writer and creative force for the second time. However, that’s exactly what Soilwork have done with “The Living Infinite”, their ninth recording. It was as if the remaining members wanted to stick a metaphorical two fingers up at those who thought they couldn’t hack it without Peter Wichers at the helm.
And they’ve done it too. I have to be honest and say that it isn’t quite up there with ‘Natural Born Chaos’ for me but that aside, with no less than 20 songs over the two discs, I remain impressed by the consistently high standard of song writing throughout. It is arguable as to whether Soilwork can be described as melodic death metal any more, but what’s not arguable is the quality of the output here. The music remains aggressive and heavy, the choruses are huge and melodic and the performance from vocalist Speed is one of the strongest of his career. But in addition, there’s also a variety within the compositions that perhaps hasn’t previously been present, including a brief foray into doomier territory. It all adds up to a fine release.
I will admit that three reasons drew me in to listening to “Dimensionaut”, the debut album from Sound Of Contact. The first was the fact that the band were signed to InsideOut Music, one of the most tried and trusted record labels within the industry, particularly if prog is of interest to you. The second reason was the cover artwork – those who have read previous blogs about me will not be surprised by this. The third reason was, if I’m honest, one of the names involved – none other than Simon Collins, son of Phil.
There’s no getting away from it – Simon is the drummer and vocalist for the band and he does sound freakishly like his Dad at times when he sings. Therefore, the comparisons with latter-day Genesis are inevitable. However, importantly, Sound Of Contact have proved with this impressive debut album, that they are more than capable of standing on their own.
“Dimensionaut” is simply brilliant and well worth checking out if you’re not already familiar with the band. The musical content is progressive rock on the lighter end of the scale and is very accessible. Aside from the epic closing track, the majority of the compositions are not overly long and, with plenty of hooks, melodic choruses and swathes of keyboards to soften the edges, there is an almost mainstream feel to much of the deceptively complex material. “Dimensionaut”, with a its plethora of earworms, is one of those albums that is so well put together that it’s almost impossible not to like it.
Amaranthe are one of those bands that seriously divide opinion. On the one hand, many metal fans will dismiss the output of this young outfit as vacuous, plastic nonsense, a synthetic hit of ear candy. To a certain extent, they’d not be too far wrong as much of the material owes more to pop music than it does to melodic death metal. And the fact that the band has three singers to cover all bases does little to help the Amaranthe cause.
However, delve more closely into the music and several things become abundantly clear: the vocalists are actually very good, the hooks and choruses are hugely infectious, the guitar work and strong rhythm section is out of the metal top drawer and the song writing is undeniably slick and nicely arranged.
Personally, this second album is a big step up from the debut and it is an album I unashamedly enjoy. I suspect that if you give them a chance, many of you will enjoy them too.