HEADLESS – GROWING APART

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Out now on Lion Music

Headless were a band that were kicking around in the late 1990’s, they disbanded in 2000 but have seen fit to reform under the watchful eye of guitar duo Walter Cianciusi and Dario Parente, making up the core of the band is vocalist Goran Edman, he of some of the finest pipes to have come out of Scandinavia.  Completing the lineup is guest drummer Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche fame for the bands come back “Growing Apart”.

Stylistically Growing Apart sits somewhere between straight metal and hard melodic rock mixed with some progressive elements, all tracks are listenable and accessible from the first spin and to be honest this is a very good collection of songs with good performances from all involved. 

The promo literature states that the music was built around the drum rhythms of Rockenfield, fortunately this doesn’t sound like musicians trying to lay down music to drum rhythms, instead its well written, focused and with good arrangements.  Edman contributes strong vocals and melodies and throws down some interesting vocal harmonies on the likes of “Primetime”, “The Backstabbers Around Us” and the title track. Cianciusi and Parente prove themselves to be more than capable guitarists, who also know the art of restraint when it comes to lead time too.

Overall, a good album worth checking out.

Rating – 83%

DOCKER’S GUILD – THE MYSTIC TECHNOCRACY (SEASON 1: THE AGE OF IGNORANCE)

Released 15 June 2012 on Lion Music

Now here we have a bit of a treat for all lovers of progressive rock.  Written and led by the keyboard dazzle of Douglas Docker, the cunningly named Docker’s Guild sees a whole host of first class musicians involved in this, the first part of a series of albums.  How do the following grab you? Vocalists John Payne (Asia), Goran Edman (ex Malmsteen, Karmakanic), Tony Mills (TNT) and Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Epica),  guitarists Guthrie Govan (Asia) and Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder) and drummers Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth / Joe Satriani) and Magnus Jacobson (Miss Behavior). Not bad eh and fortunately the album sees good use of all amongst captivating compositions that have depth and soul.

The sound of The Mystic Technocracy results from the mixture of several music styles. Progressive rock is the main driving force with reference points in sound being Yes, ELP, Dream Theater and Genesis.  Whilst the songwriting and vocal arrangements have an air of more traditional melodic rock and AOR acts, mostly Asia and Journey about them.

Couple this with more subtle and unusual influences from the likes of David Bowie (including a great cover of “Loving The Alien”) and Jean-Michel Jarre and you will start to see how this is a big sounding record.

The Mystic Technocracy is perhaps, to be expected, a concept album (or first part of). It is the fictional outcome of a very simple observation: for 4000 years man has tortured, murdered, waged warfare and committed genocide in the name of the same God worshiped by Christians, Jews and Muslims, the three monotheistic religions. It is not a story against religion, but it is a story about the madness of man when he falls under the influence of fanatical dogmatic faith. This religious premise has then been plugged into a science-fiction universe, in which religion was created by a silicon-based life form, the Mystic Technocracy, in order to control, manipulate and eventually destroy humanity.

Song wise the album contains complex multi-section suites, more straightforward rock songs or ballads, as well as more unusual instrumental or groove-oriented tracks.

Highlights are pretty much all over, and whilst it make take a few spins to fully take stock of all on offer there are many moments of instant gratification such as the driving rock of the title track “The Mystic Technocracy” home to chugging riffs, parping keyboards and big vocals.  The 8 minute epic “Darwin’s Tears” showcases some of the more obscure influences mentioned but really works being a very compelling composition.  “Judeo Christian Cosmogony” and the 11 minute 3 part-er “The Secret Of DNA” have everything plus the kitchen sink in them but are no worse off for it.  Overall its compelling stuff with great performances from all involved.

Negatives? Not many, perhaps the guitars sound a little digitised being devoid of midrange but in a way this helps create a more “space age” quality to the music and is a small gripe.

Sonically the album is big, perhaps to be expected where keyboards (and variants of) make up a big part of the sonic landscape but its well mixed by Simon Hanhart (producer of Asia, Marillion and Arena) and mastered by Mike Lind (Dio, Talisman, Candlemass etc) so no complaints here either.  The artwork inlay also promises to be a lush affair designed by the excellent Carl-Andre Beckston (aka monowasp).

Fans of any of the classic big prog names, or indeed newer variants ala Ayreon etc are urged to check this album out when released.  A work of art is here with the emphasis firmly on songs and it promises to be a superb journey on future releases.

Rating – 94%

AN INTERVIEW WITH BOGUSLAW BALCERAK OF CRYLORD

Boguslaw Balcerak is the super talented guitarist of newcomers Crylord.  Blessed with not only formidable technique but an ear for writing a winning song, the debut “Blood Of The Prophets” is one of the surprise releases of the year and a contender for debut of the year and a release we heartily recommend.  We caught up with Boguslaw to discuss the album and his history in depth.

Your debut release Crylord – Blood Of The Prophets hit the streets in October.  It’s an exceptional slice of metal. Please tell us how the band came together as you have some other very talented musicians with you.

It was not easy because in Poland it is hard to find good musicians in this genre. As for the rhythm section I asked my musical friends :  Kamil Wyzinski (bass and sound engineering) and Marcin Kwasny on drums. These guys provide a good rhythm section and they have great musical feeling. At the end I met Lukasz  Dybalski who is a keyboardist  and he just played my arrangements for this album.

The album is home to 3 fine vocalists in Carsten Schulz, Mark Boals and Goran Edman. How did you get these 3 vocalists involved and what sort of freedom did they have with the material?

I arranged melodic lines for each song and backing vocals. Of course, singers sometimes get swept away by emotions and sang them more in their own way, but it was so good that I decided not to be exactly as I wanted. Each of them has added something unique and it was good.

Especially Göran sometimes strongly modulate melodies, sometimes even like soul style. He never sings the same way twice, if a fragment is repeated he recorded it again, and always in different way. He made his own and amazing versions of choirs.

I think you did a nice job of picking songs to suit each vocalist’s strengths. Was this intentional or something that just worked out?

Their vocal skills are so high that I’m sure that each of them can sing no matter which song on the album, but obviously I thought about it who is to sing which song and reported to a concrete proposal.

When did you begin writing the music that appears on ‘Blood Of The Prophets’ and over what timescale was the music completed?

Music was written in 2008 and then it was the beginning of recordings.

Changing the recording studio and long mixing was the reasons why the album was ready until spring of 2011.

Can you remember what the first track you wrote was?

The first composition on the album was “Blind Dance” which is an instrumental song. It was the time when I was just dreaming about great vocalist and composing instrumental music.

Whilst there are elements of other bands, there is a very definite original voice within the material as well.  It’s an exciting sounding record, full of energy and vigour; I guess it must be a relief to finally get something out to the public?

I’m glad you think so. It is hard to do something original in neo-classical music, because it seems that everything has already been done by someone else. If the material is fresh is to say that it can appeal to people. It is important to me because for years I wanted to record my own music. I did not think, however, that it would be possible to record an album with such good singers.

Often I meet with the opinion that “Blood of the Prophets” is not revealing. Probably its true but it appears a lot of albums worse than “Blood of the Prophets”  have better reviews, and nobody there, no negative comments that it’s not revealing, though it is.

Your guitar work is exceptional, a superb technique yet with a strong dose of emotion in your play.  Can you tell us who your influences are and what you believe you have taken from their style and added to your own ideas to make your own voice?

I think the emotions are not only in the solo parts but also in the vocal lines and in the whole music.

Of course, Malmsteen as the biggest inspiration for me is still the most important. It’s a beautiful example of emotional music. There is no sense, however, to be another clone of Malmsteen. My playing is contaminated with Malmsteen’s style, but was expanded with a lot of elements such as: string skipping, more arpeggios, tapping, picking with the wide gauge of fingers, chromatic scales etc..

For years however I have been interested in guitar technique not only Malmsteen’s. Since many years I am inspired by albums from Shrapnel Records and Lion Music. Also there are newer virtuosos as George Bellas, Rusty Cooley and Francesco Fareri, from whom I’m still learning techniques, but in conjunction with my own feeling. At these times the level of guitar playing throughout the world is very high, and never can you say that you can play everything.

There are a few various styles on the album and there is a very strong flow to the music.  Do you have any personal tracks or performances and if so why?

It’s hard to say which of the songs I like most. Sometimes it is “The Healing Hands”, sometimes “Grave of Love” or “Bard’s Tale” but also “The Heretic” is very personal for me.

What guitar/amp/effects equipment did you use and is anything modded in any way?

Amp: Marshall 800, Messa Boogie Stiletto,

Guitar: Fender Stratocaster Standard, Ibanez RG2550 Prestige (),

All used without additional effects when recording

What are you looking for in your guitar sound and are you totally happy with the final sound on record?

I’m still looking for strong sound in riffs and crystal Fender sound in the solo parts. Of course I have a few comments about sound on the album but it’s not time here for that;)

Another great guitarist Andy LaRocque mastered the album. How did this come about and what did Andy bring to the sound?

Because of recording instruments at many sessions, and several studios the effect was such that each song had a different sound and different equalization.  Andy LaRocque proved to be invaluable here.

Andy is my guitar idol since the time of my elementary school, even before I heard Yngwie. I’ve watched his production of music for some time now, so finally I ask him for mastering the album. I’m happy that he found time to master the album, despite the flood of work he already had.

People might raise an eyebrow when they hear of a Polish metal band as its not a genre the country is really know for, so is Crylord the only band playing this form of music in your homeland or is there a sizeable scene for metal?

In Poland metal music is limited to very brutal like death, thrash metal or soft pop rock that is played at radio stations. Bands in the centre are missing, that is hard rock, classic metal, etc.. It is regarded as the relic and something funny. I do not know any other neo-classical metal band in Poland except Pathfinder which is truly brilliant power / symphonic band from Poznan .

The promo video for “Warriors Moon” has just been released as well, a nice effort with Carsten Schulz on vocals, how did the video shoot go?

We wondered together with Carsten which track could be the best for promoting this album. After a deep analysis, we decided that “Warrior’s Moon” would be the best choice as it’s a song with a fairly compact form. I also wanted it to be not too long  a song  so that people do not  switch off during playback 😉 What can be interesting is that this song was instrumental in the original. It was Carsten who found the potential for the vocal lines.

Can we expect any live appearances from Crylord in the future?

In fact, it’s hard to say is it possible to play concerts at this time. Certainly Carsten is the vocalist who could be involved. It all depends on how the CD will be accepted. If not at this time it may be the next album we’ll play something together.

Outside of Crylord what do you like to do for fun? Listen to? Etc..

In fact, I do not have much free time now since the birth of my daughter Liliana. Now she is 16 months old and there are many responsibilities associated with it.

Additionally work takes time and effort. I spend my every free time to work on myself as a guitarist and composing new songs and arrangements. If I have a moment for myself I like to read books and meet with friends.

What are your plans for the rest of 2011 and beyond?

This year I intend to finish the composition and arrangement of the material on the second album. In the next 2012 if everything goes fine we will start the hard work with recording.

Boguslaw, may we thank you again for this interview and even more so for the excellent music on ‘Blood Of The Prophets’, we wish you all the best for the future.

I also thank you for the interview, analysis and review of “Blood of the Prophets”

BOGUSLAW BALCERAK’S CRYLORD – BLOOD OF THE PROPHETS

Released 14th October 2011 on Lion Music

Neo-classical metal has been a bit of a hit and miss effort of late.  Strong releases from Concerto Moon have been counteracted by poor releases from the leading starlet of the genre Yngwie Malmsteen, so it’s with some hope that the debut effort from Polish guitarist Boguslaw Balcerak’s band Crylord can restore the balance for what is a favourite genre of mine.

The initial signs look good with a steady backing band behind guitarist Boguslaw Balcerak of some highly talented musicians from his native country, whilst vocals come from Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One, ex Domain) and former Malmsteen vocalists Mark Boals and Göran Edman.  Impressive names for sure and it’s easy to see how Boguslaw got them onboard as the quality of material is superb.

Whilst some will compare to Malmsteen purely because of the genre and a couple of names involved, the keener ear will hear an original sound.  There are some power and some small progressive elements here and there, but this is mostly about excellent songs with great performances.

After a brief orchestrated instrumental opener “Blood Of The Prophets” kicks into life with the ultra powerful title track.  Big riffs, fleet fingered lead work and a heavy dose of melody make this a great start.  The guitar work is as good as you’d hope for in this genre whilst the vocals of Carsten Schulz are arguably the best stuff I have heard from him yet making great use of layering on the choruses and a nice gritty delivery on the verses. This heavy, driving sound is heard elsewhere on the likes of “Warriors Moon” which has a nice change of tempo and very strong personality, and again within  “Beyond The Walls Of Sadness” which is home to a slower tempo and more epic sound.

The neo-classical sound is really at the fore on “Bard’s Tale” which is a track fans of classic Malmsteen and early Symphony X will warm to immediately.  This track has an absolutely scorching solo that reminded me a little of Balcerak’s label mate James Byrd. Beginning with a nice melodic theme before progressing into a very fluid workout with a great melodic edge and killer vibrato, this is one of the many tracks that you’ll be playing over and over.

Schulz and Boals combine well on the likes of “Face Of Destiny” which its melodic verses and soaring chorus which, again, home to a glorious solo from Balcerak. This guy really does have a great feel and the fast paced instrumental “The Heretic” is a perfect showcase for the mans skills.  But listen beyond the guitar work and you hear excellent keyboard inflections and orchestrations from Łukasz Dybalskand whilst drummer Marcin ‘Kanclerz’ Kwasny hits the skins with as much skill and gusto as many of the big names.

For Göran Edman’s vocals Boguslaw has composed a couple of commercial stompers in ‘Grave Of Love’ and ‘Angel Of Divine’ which are perfectly suited for the melodic commercial sheen of Edman’s voice.  The former is a quite fast paced and Edman pulls out all the stops on the vocal front, the chorus is perfect for his voice.  The latter track is darker, with a more majestic feel to it and again very infectious, a grittier vocal from Göran works well on the verses and you get the impression he is enjoying singing this material.

The 8 minute “Valley Of The Dead” sees the tempo taken down to a doomier Sabbath meter for the most part.  It’s a nice change of pace and you can see an intimidating atmosphere developing in the live arena with this one.  Schulz turns on the darker side of his voice.  The track picks up in tempo in the middle section which paves way to another sublime solo from Boguslaw, one of his best on the album.  The solo on this one is one of the most extended on the album- the opening bend and descending lick which will raise the hairs on anyone’s back and makes the rest of the fretboard skills compulsive listening.

Next up we get some respite in the melodic themed tonality of power ballad “When The Time Has Come” which is a duet between Boals and Edman, a sweet track with an anthemic chorus and heart wrenching solo from Boguslaw.

The album closes with the dark magnificently titled “The Healing Hands Of Destruction”.  Beginning with a wealth of movie score type orchestration before the track moves into a neo-classical charger, this one will blow your head off. Vocals come from all 3 vocalists who combine well yet the power of the delivery is to die for. A fitting closing number.

“Blood Of The Prophets” is in a word awesome and ranks as one of the releases of the year. After the horrible taste in the mouth left by Malmsteen’s dire “Relentless” release, this is a reminder of when done right how strong neo-classical metal is a genre. Although to recommend it to neo-classical fans along would be selling it short as “Blood Of The Prophets” will appeal to a fans of classic/trad metal and power and progressive metal (think early Symphony X) genres as well.

Aided by an excellent production and mix and superb artwork this is in many ways the complete package.

Boguslaw Balcerak’s leaves us in no doubt of his guitar ability with this album, but more importantly he’s leaves the lasting impression of a musician that can pen incredible songs and is a name that I hope you will be hearing a lot more from.

Buy now.

Rating – 95%

DREYELANDS – ROOMS OF REVELATION (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Out Now  – Lion Music

Hungary might not be the first destination to spring to mind if you were to take a world cruise of progressive metal hotbeds, but with their debut ‘Rooms Of Revelation’, Dreyelands will instantly make you add the country on your must check out list and also give the genre’s big boys something serious to be worried about.

Freshly signed to Lion Music the band may just have found their ideal home as the band sound ideal for what the label promote – high quality melodic progressive metal.  Couple that with a stunning album cover and overall presentation from the band and this suggests a band that is concerned about all aspects of their presentation.

‘Rooms Of Revelation’ is home to 9 tracks (1 short intro and 8 “rooms”) the album is a concept piece which depicts a journey in a schizophrenic mind.  The rooms signify points in the mind of the main character as we learn about his past as does he.  However, it’s nothing to get bogged down with as the songs stand individually as well as any non concept album.

Musically the songs are powered by heavy guitar riffs and great lead work from András Ádám Horváth (a guitarist of considerable skill) fused with ultra melodic, memorable vocal themes from Nikola Mijic who possesses a superb strong clear voice with no accent to speak of.  To these ears he is like a more gritty Göran Edman and takes the band away from all the Russell Allen / James Labrie clones that litter the genre. Special mention also needs to go out to bassist Gergely Springer and drummer Omar Gassama who are a quite formidable rhythm section.  Keyboards on the album are handled by Zoltán Kas who has since left the band being replaced in a hired capacity by György Nagy (Age of Nemesis).

Sonically ‘Rooms Of Revelation’ is big, modern and natural with the band boasting of no triggers on the drums and live string arrangements  for which extra kudos must be given. 

Each of the main body of songs are highlights in their own right, whether it be the dark ‘Seek For Salvation’, the groove inflected ‘Can’t Hide Away’ (check promo video on side of review), the commercial and impossible catchy ‘Pretending’ with its glorious chorus and melodic hooks, and the firey riffery of ‘Fragments’ which again has enough hooks on to hang the coats section of H&M all make the first half of the album fly by  despite all clocking in over the 5 minute mark- always a good sign of quality

Things get darker hereon in with ‘Way To You’ being quite complex musically yet accessible vocally, the gentle piano led ballad ‘Blossoms Of Decay’ is a nice breather before the numerous facets of ‘Vain’ takes hold (some great riffs are contained within) and the glorious final track ‘Closing Grace’ which again which is sure to find favour with fans of Dream Theater, Seventh Wonder and the like plus I detect a little of the darkness of label mates Tomorrow’s Eve on the chorus.  A fine closer.

With ‘Rooms Of Revelation’ Dreyelands may well have delivered the prog metal album of 2010 and a serious contender for album of the year overall.  Given this is a debut offering suggests the band have a great future ahead and I sincerely hope all prog metal fans take a chance on this unknown band as they will be richly rewarded on all levels – simply awesome.
 
Hot Spots : Everything.
Rating : 98%

www.dreyelands.com