OUTLOUD – LOVE CATASTROPHE

Out now on Metal Heaven

Outloud’s debut album was a fine platter of heavy rock. Can they keep the momentum on this follow up?

Opening track “We Came To Rock” doesn’t bode well. A fairly simple party tune, aimed squarely at the current wave of Swedish sleaze. Fortunately, they pick up the slack. Both “Falling Rain” and “Live Again” have a lot more on offer. These set the tone for the rest of the album. Catchy choruses, nice twin guitars, the odd metal riff… It all blends into a palatable whole. “The Night That Never Ends” and “Isolation Game” are stand out tracks, while “Someday” is the predictable yet competent ballad.

Production is not quite as good as on the debut, but nothing to be ashamed of. Another good album from this bunch, if not quite up to the level of the debut.

Rating – 84%
Review by Sancho

BIG LIFE – BIG LIFE

Out now on AOR Heaven

Big Life is a new project (there’s that horrible word again) of two lesser UK rock gods, Steve Newman and Mark Thompson-Smith. What matters isn’t the names but the music of course.

Well, it’s a pleasant surprise. Opener “Dying Day” is a solid cut of AOR. Thompson-Smith has an agreeable voice and there is an undeniable energy to the tune.  And so it goes, basically. Whether it’s “Better Man”, “I’ll Still Be Here” or “Takin Me Down”, there’s little to find fault with. Well, “At The End Of The Rainbow” isn’t exactly the best song I’ve heard this year.

Don’t expect any surprises or a revolution in AOR. Just an enjoyable album. I am somehow reminded of Overland at times. Production is up to today’s standards, for better or worse too.

 Rating – 84%

Review by Sancho

HURTSMILE – HURTSMILE (REVIEW)

Released 21st January 2010 on Frontiers Records

Even with the Extreme reunion in full swing, Gary Cherone has found time to release this album with his new band.

Gary has an instantly recognizable voice. Love him or hate him, he always sounds like he’s having fun.

Musically, there are definitely parallels with Extreme (“Jesus Would You Meet Me” anyone?). There’s less funk, but the same sense of freedom oozes through the veins of this record. Check opening track “Just War Theory”, “Kaffur” or “Slave”.  There’s not really a lot of surprises on the album. Well maybe the reggae of “Just War Reprise” or the Dylan-esque “The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner”. Other than that it’s mostly easy going, groovy hard rock. Of course there’s ballads. “Painter Paint” is a particularly tender tune. There’s more than a hint of Zeppelin in “Beyond The Garden”.

What this album illustrates is that the much-maligned Cherone really was a good option for Van Halen, even if you wouldn’t say so from the horrible “III” (I liked it! – Editor).  He has the David Lee Roth swagger and sense of fun and adventure.

Inevitably, the guitar playing isn’t at the level of Extreme. But there is no insult intended with that statement. Comparing a guitar player to Nuno is like comparing a drummer to Neil Peart. You just can’t win… Markus Cherone (yes, Gary’s brother) puts in a valiant effort and is by no means a slouch.

Even without Nuno, I’ll take this album over “Saudades De Rock”.

Rating – 90%
Review by Sancho

TWINSPIRITS – THE FORBIDDEN CITY (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Lion Music

Back with their second album, Twinspirits led by keyboard whiz and general musical genius Daniele Liverani follow up the debut album “The Music That Will Heal The World” with another progressive metal offering in “The Forbidden City”.  With one line up change happening between albums, the band welcome in new vocalist in Swedish powerhouse Göran Nyström, whose vocals are simply superb.  The rest of the line-up is “as you where” with the Italian contingent of the aforementioned Liverani handling all keyboards, guitarist Tommy Ermolli, bassist Alberto Rigoni and drummer Dario Ciccioni.

Our glowing reviews of the bands debut (here) ended by saying it would be interesting to see where the band headed on their second album.  Well in short, Twinspirits have consolidated their own sound which was evident in a number of places on the last album.  New vocalist Göran Nyström plays a big part in this with superb range, yet an original tonality and deserves a lot of praise.  But then you also get the impression Liverani had a clearer idea of where to take the bands sound.  So essentially all is good, the production is superb, a great powerful sound, great separation between the instruments and excellent clarity, arguably one of the years best so far.

Musically the band still plays accessible progressive tinted metal with a strong melodic edge.  Whilst not overloading the album with overly extended instrumental segments like DT, Twinspirits use their instrumentation skills for purely for the song and the flashes of musical brilliance are there to enhance the proceedings.

Opening with the ten minute title track is a bold move, yet the track “The Forbidden City”, is strong enough to maintain your interest throughout.  In initially teasing the listener for close to 3 minutes building the track instrumentally Göran Nyström makes his grand entrance and instantly you feel he is a better match for the band than his predecessor. This is a voice which is rich, powerful and quite original in character, similar in power to Jorn Lande but with a different tonal slant more in tune with say Bruce Dickinson. “Taste The Infinity” brings the tempo down to a soothing dark ballad, lone piano starts and once again Nyström makes his mark on this subtle, yet captivating track.

“Number One” is a fast paced track with intense riffing, vocally the track is interesting due the different voices Nyström uses to add character.  “Everything” is back to the classic prog sound, those that heard Liverani’s last Cosmics album will instantly feel at home here as the musical reminds me a lot of that release. Building nicely, with keyboard working heavily over simple power chords the impact is impressive before working to another dark riff for the verses. The track has a great chorus, powerful and melodic.

Guitarist Tommy Ermolli gets to shine on “One Of Us”, arguably the most commercial number musically speaking on the album, its powered along with a very tasty riff from Ermolli, simple yet melodic with Liverani layering keyboard and organ textures to enhance the sound further.  The pre-chorus is quite unique in character, with an ascending chord progression before the luxurious main riff charges in hard for the chorus.  Ermolli also delivers a glorious solo, yet is painstakingly too short.  A massive track.

The instrumental “BTR” plays around with exotic time signatures and again the mix of guitar and keyboard work incredibly well.  The rock solid bedrock of Dario Ciccioni and Albert Rigoni is highly impressive on this track as well. Ballad number two “Hide This Feeling” is a much more joyful affair than the “Taste The Infinity”, presented in a major key tonality the track features Nyström duet-ing with Irene Ermolli who also possesses a superb voice.  “My Future” presents itself as a nice fusion of metal and modern musical styling, dark and home to a mysterious quality that is quite unique, yet I find it strangely alluring and captivating, and after repeated spins has become a favourite.

The closing duo is started with “Reaction” which comes across in the early stages like modern Deep Purple before the band mold the track into a melodic metal direction.   Again highly melodic and Nyström gets the chance to show us what he can do in more straightforward rock waters, and again he impresses, the commercial is reminiscent of the heavier numbers from Journey i.e. interesting melodic structure.  Tommy Ermolli goes a little Marty Friedman meets Neal Schon in the songs solo, exotic melodies mixed with sustained melodic content – nice.  Another 10 minute epic “I Am Free” closes the album in even more fine style.  One of the heaviest numbers on the album with numerous segments which work well to form a solid cohesive unit finishing with a big finale.

With “The Forbidden City” Twinspirits have passed the often tricky second album with flying colours.  As already mentioned the album builds upon the debut in every department and this album deserves all the praise I can see it getting from the prog metal crowd.  Whether this will translate into mainstream media remains to be seen, yet any metal fan with an open mind will find a great deal to like.  Daniele Liverani has penned a number of great albums over the last few years but this has to be considered his Magnum Opus.  This collection of 10 tracks is pretty much superb from start to finish, with nothing that sounds surplus to requirements.  In short, if you like your metal well played, with strong melodies and delivered in a great sound then Twinspirits have the album for you.
 
Hot Spots : Taste The Infinity, One Of Us, My Future
Rating : 95%

WHITE WIDDOW – WHITE WIDDOW

Out now on AOR Heaven

This Australian band delivers their debut album through AOR HEAVEN. Their intention is to deliver 80s style hard rock and AOR. Well, mission accomplished!

Keyboard driven melodic hard rock, as evidenced from the go in opening track “Tokyo Rain”, is the order of the day. Think mid 80s West Coast AOR.  Comparisons? Well, Cry Wolf comes to mind, as does Icon. Early Aldo Nova is another reference.

The band keeps the pace up on strong tracks like “Cross To Bare” and “Spirit Of Fire”.  Of course there’s the odd (semi)ballad. “Shadows Of Love” has all the necessary ingredients.  The musicians are competent, the singer solid. The guitar leads are tasty and the keyboards fill the spectrum nicely (see “One More Day” for proof).

The one weak spot has to be the production. It’s on the dry side and, well, it sounds a bit cheap. The thin rhythm guitar sound doesn’t help…

A very enjoyable album that will take most of us back to better days.

Rating – 85%
Review by Sancho

ANTHRIEL INTERVIEW

Interview conducted 16th November 2010
Interview with Timo Niemistö, Simo Silvan and Antti Hakulinen

Many thanks for agreeing to this interview. When did the band form and have you been through many changes to arrive at the present day incarnation?
Timo: We have played together with Jari (drummer) and Antti (keyboards) since we were kids. Along many projects and cover bands, we have made music of our own from the start. We have gone through many line up changes through the years, we just couldn’t find the right guy for the bass and vocals. Gladly we found Klasu for bass in 2006 from open stage jam session at a local music bar. He was jamming some Jaco Pastorius staff with a band and I knew immediately he was the guy we were looking for. Couple of years ago Antti and Simo (vocals) shared the same day job and Antti played some old demos to Simo who liked our music and joined the band at late 2008.

What was the common goal with the band members for the band and have these always been the same?
Timo: We have always wanted to keep the ball in our own hands as much as possible, which is why we recorded our debut ourselves in our rehearsal garage/studio. We don’t use external lyricist, songwriters, producer etc. What comes to the Anthriel I have always been a workaholic and I personally like to dive into the discomfort zone to do things or solve problems, I believe it bears fruit at some point. There is plenty of time to rest in a coffin 😉

Your debut album “The Pathway” has recently seen release on Lion Music. When did work commence on the album?
Timo: After drum recording session at late 2007, we noticed we could manage the rest of the recordings and mixing with our equipment so we did some cover gigs to cover the expenses of a new computer, recording software, pre-amps and such stuff. The studying to use of the new equipment was more time-consuming than the recording itself so our progression was slow and frustrating. The vocalist change in 2008 did hasten up things a bit as most of the lyrics had to be re-written. We got vocal tracks done in spring 2009 and after a mixing and mastering “The Pathway” waited for release for some time, about the year.

How did you hook up with Lion?
Timo: We had a lot of interested offers along the way. We wanted to have label that was specialized on our type of music, had the experience and had strong distribution. We knew about Lion for long time and we also know personally some artists signed to them so we heard positive feedback. We knew the fact that Lion Music had announced to not sign any new bands at the time but they contacted us and made an offer we couldn’t refuse.

The album got a very positive review here at V1, for a debut this a very clear picture of what the band is all about. What was the hardest and easiest aspect of making the album?
Timo: Yeah, thanks for good review. The easiest part was the actual playing, of course we had to practice a lot individually and as a band. The hardest part for me was the learning to use a new equipment, recording software and recording techniques during the recording. Crashing computers didn’t help at all. I curse all computers, they have to be one of Satan’s creations. However, the making of record from scratch can be really frustrating but very rewarding at the end.

I believe the album is concept based. Can you give us an overview of the story line?
Timo: The Pathway is the story of a man who finds himself grown against his former principles and philosophy of life. He decides to leave his past behind and begin a journey to find his own personal promised land and balance. As the path gets rough good and evil starts to battle in his mind where the reality and fantasy gets mixed. He puts the blame to the Gods for playing with his life and turns his adversities to the divine entertainment with consequences that ultimately lead to the discovery of perfect harmony from within his own soul.

The concept is based on a series of events in our lives, individually and as a band. Told as a timeless adult fairytale. You could say it is a kind of biography of the rough road the band has gone through. Naturally “The Pathway” was the perfect title for the album. There is a pretty clear highlights in music and lyrics, for example some years ago I found myself stuck in to lousy day job that totally killed the energy and inspiration 24/7. Still every morning I just automatically dragged myself there to pay the rent and food, knowing that me and my musical ambition were wondering their separate ways. That is simply the story behind “Devil’s Lullaby”. After a five frustrated years I was experiencing the most beautiful sunrise and ”awakened” by that I gathered my courage and quit my job to try my wings as a musician. That is the story behind “Light Divine”. We don’t want to chew it up too much on behalf of a listener or tell what kind of emotion an audience should get out of each song. I prefer to let the audience be an artist who paints the fantasy world around our music and dives into it.

What did you decide to make a concept album?
Timo: I don’t want to accentuate too much “The Pathway” as a concept album, because we are not trying to reinvent the wheel. But I have always been a fan of concept albums as they force the listener to see a series of songs as a whole. Concept also gives the listener the joy of discovery from the relations between of a songs, melodies and lyrics.

What has worked in the bands favour is that these tracks also stand on their own, i.e. they don’t need to be heard as part of the album to be understood. How vital was this aspect of songcraft for the band?
Timo: First of all I try to make strong solid songs. Secondary I think the album should include as many versatile songs as possible because I feel it very exhausting to listen to, for example,  power metal songs for sixty minutes. Like I said, we have made music together for pretty long time now so we got material from which we can choose, of course we want to use also new material as possible to capture the freshest sound of the band. After all every song has its own feeling so we don’t want to combine lyrics and music by force to fit it in a concept. For example we have recorded a couple of most beautiful love ballads but we think our traveler from “The Pathway” concept isn’t right there yet on our second album;) Mp3 shopping has gone and gets more common nowadays but there is always a risk that someone preconceives an opinion on a sound from a randomly picked mp3 example of some web shop. For example the instrumental song “Glance of Dawn” is a short classical orchestra piece so we can only hope that if someone downloads it randomly, he likes short classical pieces 😉

Timo, your guitar work is stunning. Who were your influences growing up and today in 2010? What gear did you use on the album?
Timo: Thanks, I must say that I am not so interested of shredding. I try to develop myself as a composer and a guitar for me is just a tool among the other instruments to express my emotions into the music. I have had my moments and it is overwhelming if someone feels my playing interesting. My very first instrument as a child was the keyboards, inspired by Uriah Heep and Deep Purple along my father’s music hobby.  I also played drums in a couple of bands, later on I earned my living as a cover band bassist. So I am not in any way directed solely guitar as a musician, I have had an opportunity to study other instruments among the guitar and that has helped me a lot as a composer to built rhythmic patterns, odd time signatures and such.

Back to your other questions, as a guitarist I have been most influenced by Tony MacAlpine, David Gilmour, Eric Johnson and Michael Romeo to name a few.
The recording gear that was used on “The Pathway” was: guitars-Customized Ibanez Prestige 1527, Ibanez J-Custom, ESP M-II Custom,Customized LTD Viper, Landola Classical guitar, Takamine acoustics and Fender Lab steel. Amp system was: Mesa Boogie Triaxis->DBX 166 compressor/gate->DBX 231 EQ->Mesa Boogie 2.90 power amp-> Marshall cabinet.

How did you go about mic’ing your amps? Any specific mic locations you found worked well?
Timo: I used Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421U together close at a same speaker in 45 degree angles. On acoustics I used Rode NT1A mixed with piezo-microphone signal.

Is there anything you’d do different on the second album guitar wise?
Timo: Of course, making an album and especially listening to it afterwards is very educational.  I learned a lot and I can’t wait to begin the recordings of our next album.

Simo, your vocals are up there with the metal elite. Who are your influences and what were you looking to express on the album?
Simo: Well thank you for giving me such overwhelmingly kind words about my singing! If I were to name some singers who have influenced me the most I’d say first and foremost Mr. James Labrie of Dream Theater. He is just so incredibly talented singer with a huge package of nuances that when I first heard James sing I was totally blown away by his voice. Then to name a few singers more there’s always these guys whose voices have influenced me as a singer: Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, Marco Hietala, David Coverdale and Roy Khan. Well as you’ve heard by now, our music on The Pathway album is very versatile. That also means that there were a huge amount our various feeling that I was to bring out with my singing. So I hope that these various feelings and moods can be sensed from my singing during the whole album.

How do go about bringing a lyric to life?
Simo: Bringing a lyric to life in the sense how I do it is simple. First I must make up my mind about the topic of the song. Then the words just come to my head as I listen to the instrumental tracks I supposed to sing on. Of course much of our lyrics bind together so we often share ideas, Timo and I, where we wish to go with the story and how it relates to the things that have already happened and so on..

Do the band have any particular favourite moments on the album, or perhaps a song that you feel is definitive Anthriel?
Antti: Haven of grace is good example of definitive Anthriel and it’s my personal favorite.
It has softer and heavier parts while maintaining melodic and partly epic feeling in the piece throughout the song. Almost every part has a piano in the song so that I love very much; also I think the name of the song is brilliant.

When will work commence on album #2 and do you have any ideas in mind for the direction?
Timo: We have demoed plenty of songs for the next album and I believe we start record new material in the beginning of a next year. Again, there is going to be a lot of different kind of songs; fast, slow, short and long. And again our traveler from “The Pathway” acts a main role.

Any plans to play live outside of your native Finland in support of the album?
Timo: Finland only for now. Bringing Anthriel to the live stage wasn’t easy, we rehearsed a lot because we wanted to minimize any need of backing tracks. Of course it wasn’t our plan to play everything exactly as in record so we added some extra live parts. When it comes to touring, we’ll go anywhere we’re booked and wanted. We’re working for possibilities regarding different festival appearances in 2011.

Any final messages for our readers?
Thanks for your interest and time.  Prog on and stay tuned for Anthriel!!!

Official Websites
www.anthriel.com
www.myspace.com/anthrielmusic

CHARLY SAHONA – NAKED THOUGHTS FROM A SILENT CHAOS (ARCHIVE)

Released Feb 2010 on Lion Music

Dedicated followers of Virtuosity One may well be familiar with the name Charly Sahona from his work in progressive metallers Venturia who have released 2 excellent albums to date.  However, the French guitarist has seen fit to use songs not geared towards the Venturia sound for a debut solo album “Naked Thoughts From A Silent Chaos” which is a much more streamlined album built around heavy riffs with catchy vocals and Sahona’s trademark solos with the press promo sheet describing this is a fusion of Dream Theater, Muse and 30 Seconds To Mars.  Certainly the musicianship and heaviness of DT is here with the melodies taking on the more modernistic feel of Muse.  Fans of either band should be able to latch on this rather easily, yet at the same time it has its own sound going on.

Sonically the album sounds great with a production that puts many big names to shame with the rhythm section of Sahona’s Venturia band mates Diego Rapacchietti (Drums) and Thomas James-Potrel (Bass) powering the whole 8 track album along with exuberant ease and skill.  Sahona’s guitar is as excellent as anyone who has heard Venturia knows yet here where it’s the main focus you really see that Charly’s style is taking metal guitar to new places.

Highlights come in practically every song from opener and debut single “Relieved”, the stomping “Away From Our Sins” which is full of catchy vocal melodies, “Forgotten Past” is closest in style to the sound heard of Venturia’s “Hybrid” album.  “River Of Lies” is the most straight metal tinged track on the album.  “Living In A Dream Is Not Right” is relatively laid back in comparison to other tracks and allows Sahona to show his vocal skill, something which it could be argued is mixed a little low in places, this could maybe be put down to debut vocal release nerves, however, Sahona has a good voice, melodic, clean and likely to win appeal with the modern day listener so next time push the fader up a little Charly!  “It Will Fly Away” has more commercial possibilities and those that like Muse but would like that heavier may just find their perfect match here.    Closer “All That Can Be Said” sees the album out on another strong note.

With “Naked Thoughts From A Silent Chaos” Charly Sahona has delivered a mightily impressive debut album.  If your penchant for metal is to avoid clichés then this could be right up your street.  Essentially with performances this good, a production this strong and song quality excellent from start to finish then you have to ask the question what’s not to like?
 
Hot Spots : Relieved, Away From Our Sins, It Will Fly Away.
Rating : 95%

Y&T – FACEMELTER (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Out Now on Frontiers Records

After years of successful touring, Y&T saw fit to release a new album, a full thirteen years after their last bonafide studio album “Endangered Species”.  An eagerly anticipated release by a favourite band is always a risky proposition. Expectations tend to be high, so it’s quite easy to be disappointed. As their gigs have proven time and again, the band can still cut it live. But did inspiration strike for the new material?

After the Prelude, the album kicks off with “On With The Show”, a stomping hard rocker. “How Long” drops the pace a bit. A really cool middle eight in this song followed by a typical Meniketti solo. Next track “Shine On” is a bruiser, plain and simple. “I Want Your Money” suffers a bit from the overall lack of refinement in the album’s sound, but there’s no faulting the song in itself. You’ll have your fist punching the sky for this one.

“Wild Child” is the first (semi) ballad. Y&T do this like no other, and while this tune (obviously) doesn’t reach the level of “I Believe In You” it’s a fine track in its own right. “I’m Coming Home” hints ever so slightly at “Forever”.

The centerpiece ballad of the album comes to us in the form of “If You Want Me”. I found myself eagerly anticipating the lead breaks. After all, Meniketti is at his best when he can do melodic soloing over a melodic tune. There’s some fine guitar playing as expected, even if it is a bit more restrained than I’d hoped for.

If these were the eighties, “Hot Shot” would most likely have been the single off the album with its catchy sing-along chorus. “Blind Patriot” is Y&T at their hard rocking best, from its kickass opening riff onward. Black Tiger revisited! Y&T’s mid-nineties albums are referenced in the more subdued “Don’t Bring Me Down”. “Gonna Go Blind” throws some country & western into the equation. A nice departure from the typical Y&T sound. The subject matter is quite surprising as well. The tempo goes up again for “One Life”. Dave once again pulls out all the stops for the lead break. The album closes with the epic love song (not ballad!) “Losing My Mind”. A song that builds to a powerful climax and ends the album on a high.

Production is bone dry. The bass sounds immense to the point of being overwhelming at times. This does serve to showcase Phil Kennemore’s excellent playing. Mike Vanderhule is a solid, powerhouse drummer, John Nymann the perfect six-string sidekick for Meniketti’s chops. Speaking of Meniketti, the years seem to have had no effect on both his voice and his guitar playing.

This may well be Y&T’s best album since the Earthshaker/Black Tiger/Meanstreak trilogy, even if it lacks some of the pop sensibilities of albums like In Rock We Trust or Contagious. There’s no “Summertime Girls” on this one, for better or for worse.

The band have not made a misjudged effort to reinvent themselves, but have simply released an album that does what they do best : rock hard.

The only minor point of criticism is the production, which could have done with a bit more polishing. Still, I’m not gonna let that spoil my party. BUY THIS ALBUM!
 
Hot Spots : Everything.
Rating : 97% review by Sancho

www.meniketti.com
www.myspace.com/yandtrocks

KATSU OHTA OF ARK STORM INTERVIEW (ARCHIVE)

Interview conducted June 2005

About The Interview.
Katsu Ohta is one of the star players of the blossoming Japanese neo-classical metal scene.  Katsu is the guitarist and leader of Ark Storm who are becoming quite a sensation on the Japanese metal scene, to date only one of their 3 albums have been released outside their native Japan, but we manageed to track down Katsu and find out his thoughts on the band, their excellent latest album ‘The Everlasting Wheel’ and find out what else if going to happen in 2005.

The interview was the first interview done by Katsu in English and to the best of my knowledge perhaps the only one.  It’s been a steady favourite over the years in terms of hits at the old site so its fitting its kept on here on the new home.

Many thanks to Nikki Matsumoto for translating Katsu’s answers and assistance with arranging the interview.

Katsu, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. First, I would like to congratulate you on “The Everlasting Wheel”; it’s a superb slice of neo-classical metal. When did you start writing for the album?
Thanks to you too. I started writing material for the album back in January of 2004. I came up with about 15 songs in the next 4 months.

What does your writing process normally involve?
It depends really. But I normally come up with a melody for a singer or start chunking a guitar riff and take it from there. One of these 2 patterns normally. And when I hand out a song to the rest of the band, it is usually near completion as far as arrangements and melody go.

How long did it take to record?
It took about 20 days for the recording, not counting the hours of pre-production rehearsals for the recording.

What did set out to achieve with this album?
I wanted to have a meaning and as the album title suggests, the meaning Of eternity was what I had in mind. I wasn’t really concerned about anything else.

I hear a slightly more streamlined and commercial album compared to “Beginning Of The New Legend“, was this an aim of the album?
No, it was not something we intended to do. But we built the whole production with mainly melodies in mind. The melody line was the key for the song writing. So I am not surprised that people feel the sense of commercialism to some degree. We just did what we wanted to do as Ark Storm on our own way. And the result just happened this way naturally. It may fit into the current trend or whatever but it wasn’t aimed anyway intentionally.

How has the reaction been to the album in Japan?
We have been getting quite pleasant reaction from the fans, it’s been really good. The fan basis is growing and getting bigger and bigger day by day  as it seems. But the Japanese HM magazines don’t give us good evaluation, even though the fans are supporting us and spreading bigger.

What are your thoughts now on “Beginning Of The New Legend” and “No Boundaries”?
I feel like there had been so much left undone. I am not satisfied completely with any of those pieces. But that is how I should feel probably. I never ever get totally content with my work. If I ever did, it would be pretty much the end of my aspiration. I always find something new when I’mwriting or playing.

“Beginning Of The New Legend” was released in Europe, are there any plans to release “The Everlasting Wheel” outside Japan?
It’s all up to the record company. But I have not heard anything on that matter.

How did you hook up with the other members of Ark Storm?
I selected them on my own, one by one. I wanted real professionals, you know. Before the release of the first album, it was hard to find right musicians. I wanted the best of the Japanese when the time for the second album was approaching. So I got them now.

What made you want to play guitar?
One of my uncles gave me a real old trashy classical guitar and that was the start.

I see you use Scalloped Stratocasters, what made you start using a scalloped neck and why?
I started it because I liked Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth when he was with the Scorpions. Now I still use scalloped neck all the time because It gives me the vibrato I want.

There’s a couple of Marshall Amps on your website, what models do you use and are there any modifications done to them?
It’s a 1978 Marshall 100w. The guitar technician of my own modifies it mainly on the tones.

What effect / overdrive pedals do you use?
It depends, case by case. But most of the times, I use a DOD or a Tube Screamer by Ibanez. Those two are my main effects.

Does the band have any plans to record a live album / DVD?
There is no plan for it as far as I’m concerned. But I do want to release DVDs.

What else does the band have planned for 2005?
We are going to start another Japanese tour in October.

Anything else you would like to tell the readers of virtuosity one?
I want you to experience Ark Storm, please get your copy anyway you can. And if that will take us there to tour in Europe, the rest will follow. I really really hope to see you at Ark Storm concert.

Katsu, many thanks for your time.
My pleasure. Thanks you all.

Official Ark Storm website – http://home.att.ne.jp/kiwi/arkstorm/

KISKE SOMERVILLE – S/T (REVIEW)

Out Now – Frontiers Records
 
Michael Kiske is a great singer, no arguing that point. His performance on Helloween’s seminal “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” albums had him marked for greatness. It wasn’t to be, however. Kiske has gone on record time and again how he doesn’t want to make metal music and basically disappeared from the scene. He’s done some solo stuff and several guest performances on distinctly metallic projects. Not to mention his work with Place Vendome, a project he preferred not to refer to as metal. So how come this new album falls decidedly in the metal corner of the market? Money talks and bullshit walks I guess…

Opening track “Nothing Left To Say” wouldn’t be out of place on a Primal Fear album. Second track “Silence” is aimed squarely at the Evanescence/Within Temptation crowd, with those annoying contemporary keyboards and choppy guitar riffs that have been done to death in this genre. “If I Had A Wish” is a faux-Helloween track. Only lacking the power that made that band so enjoyable. And so it goes on. Primal Fear, Helloween, Epica and After Forever all alternate with varying degrees of success. You can’t help but feel this album has been put together after a marketing study to determine what the present day metal fan expects. “Rain” is a particularly insipid song.

Both singers are a cut above average, even if Kiske has lost some of his mojo over the years. Unfortunately I find their voices don’t mesh together particularly well. Production and execution are both solid if not particularly inspired.

A formulaic and bland album. Faceless and lacking excitement.

Rating – 60%
Review by Sancho