KAMELOT – SILVERTHORN

Kamelot_SilverthornCover

Out now on SPV/Steamhammer

Kamelot have always been one of the better symphonic prog bands with classics album like ‘Karma’ and ‘The Black Halo’ always seen as benchmarks for the genre, yet to these ears the band were on the wane for the last few years.  2012 saw some big changes in the band with lead vocalist Khan leaving.  Now when one of the world’s most praised metal vocalist leave’s your band it can sometimes lead to problems, not so for Kamelot as they have enlisted the glorious pipes of one Tommy Karevik who previously (and we are led to believe will continue to do so) came through the ranks with Swedish prog metal and V1 faves Seventh Wonder.

‘Silverthorn’ as such as peaked my interest in the band and I’m pleased to report this is the most I’ve enjoyed a Kamelot album in sometime.

The whole band sounds reinvigorated by Karevik’s arrival with guitarist Thomas Youngblood in particularly fine form.  Those that know Karevik from his work in Seventh Wonder might be a little surprised by his lower timbre performances on many of the tracks yet he also delivers the more associated higher pitch stuff as flawlessly as ever on ‘Song For Jolee’. Just view it as another string added to his bow.

Elsehwere there is plenty to enjoy in the likes of single ‘Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)’, the dark pulsating groove of ‘Veritas’ and the atmospheric title-track.  Given many of the tracks are more streamlined than those heard on previous album makes ‘Silverthorn’ a more immediate release and one that is likely to appease fans both new and old.

Production is pretty much flawless, dark and powerful and another fine sonic statement from producer Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Edguy, Rhapsody).

Overall ‘Silverthorn’ marks a very strong return to action by a band that has cleared the lead vocalist change hurdle with ease.  Good stuff.

Rating – 88%

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CONSORTIUM PROJECT II – CONTINUUM IN EXTREMIS

Out now on Lion Music

Second reissue CP reissue from Lion Music in a run that sees parts 1 to 4 get a remaster  + bonus tracks reissue.  As with all albums in the series, Consortium Project is a prog power metal delight led by the leather lungs of Ian Parry (Elegy).  Backed by an all star cast including members of Vanden Plas, Kamelot and Elegy this is again good quality stuff not a million miles away from the sound heard on CP1 ‘Criminals & Kings’.

If you like your metal bombastic and epic this is definitely for you.  Stand out cuts come in the likes of the opening title track, the absolutely crushing “The Catalyst” which marrys massive riffs, lush keyboard orchestrations and a healthy dose of melody from Parry.  Yet the albums piece-de-resistance is the progressive treat that is “Lapse Of Reason” which sees melody to the fore over great chord changes and its reason enough to buy the album.

Continuum In Extremis offers up another slice of high quality metal and if you’ve yet to check out the band this is as good a place as any to start.

Rating – 90%

CONSORTIUM PROJECT I – CRIMINALS & KINGS

Released 18th November 2011 on Lion Music

First of Lion Music’s expanded and remastered reissues of the Consortium Project back catalogue which follows on from their release of the bands final outing “Species” earlier in 2011.

Led by vocalist and mastermind Ian Parry this is a hard striking effort from 1999 shortly after Parry left progressive metallers Elegy and this release follows in a similar vein.  Guitar work comes from the highly reliable roster of Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Patrick Rondat (Elegy) and Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot).

Opener “House Of Cards” sets the scene in blistering fashion, a great opening track driven by a powerful riff and powerered along further by the leather lungs of Parry.   The metal assault continues for “Banquet Of Thieves” before the commercial punch of “Evilworld” with another blistering riff is another highlight, and this is how it continues pretty much unabated for the rest of the release.  Strong powerful metal tracks with excellent performances with the extra spice of Parry’s vocals to take them over the edge.   Some respite from the full on metal assault if needed can be found in the instrumental “The Entity”, the power ballad of “A Miracle Is All We Need” and the upbeat pomp rock of “Chain Of Fear” so there is a nice dose of variety on offer.  It has to be said though that this is gripping stuff pretty much from start to finish.

As the added incentive we get 2 bonus tracks in an acoustic version of “A Miracle Is All We Need” and a cooking demo version of “Evilworld”.  By no means making the album they are nice additions none-the-less.

Backed by a strong production which is arguably more classic than that heard on “Species”, this is an excellent debut and starting block for the Consortium Project story.  If you like your metal on the intelligent side with powerful bold performances look no further.

Rating – 92%

CONSORTIUM PROJECT V – SPECIES

Released 15th July 2011 on Lion Music

I must confess despite being a fan of Consortium Project’s mastermind/vocalist Ian Parry’s work with Elegy I have never until now heard a Consortium Project album. Now having heard “Species” I am kicking myself as this is a finely crafted slice of prog power metal of the highest calibre.

Ian Parry’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive in metal, none of your usual run of the mill metal vocals here folks, but a voice with power and depth, not to mention great projection and one that adds true drama to the compositions.

The music is equally grand, expertly crafted by Parry with a variety of musicians including guitarists Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Niels Vejlyt (Infinity Overture), Veith Offenbächer (Dawn of Destiny). Bass tracks are performed by Kris Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) and Jens Faber (Dawn of Destiny) whilst Casey Grillo (Kamelot) provides the magnificent drumming. To create contrast to Ian’s vocals we get a pair of female voices in Lene Petersen and Ani Lozanova who work well also. A fine supporting cast indeed and it seems Ian knows how to pick the right musician to support the framework of each track with all tracks working nicely as a cohesive unit.

Essentially this is the final instalment of the Consortium Project 5 part story which sees “Species” take mankind on a final epic journey into outer space met with dire consequences the world has never seen!

Musically CP-V is mainly about big riff orientated metal numbers over a variety of tempos with a pleasant aggressive streak running for the majority of tracks. This big musical push is then backed up by some truly infectious vocal melodies and strong chorus such as the delightfully swooping lines of “Life On Earth” and “The Worst Is Yet To Come” where images of the impending apocalypse are brought to life through Parry’s delivery.

“To The Earth & Back” is epic whilst the “Sirens” has a nice punchy commerciality about it where the rhythmic interplay of the riff builds nicely. “Pitch Black” is another scorched with a truly thunderous riff after the contagious chorus.

The delicate female vocals at the start of “Silence Calling” have an ethereal angelic quality to them that contrasts nicely with the tracks heavier middle before the commercial tint of the title track is another success. “Enemy Within” then lays to waste everything in its path with its brutal delivery that sees Parry adding to the fervour more so and this is another excellent number. The album then draws to a close with the strong bookend that is “Oracle” which serves as musically rich and melodic closer.

As my first taste of Consortium Project I am mightily impressed with the quality on offer from “Species”. The songwriting and performances are all first class and the album has an excitement about it from start to finish. All of which adds up to make this essential listening.

Rating – 95%

P.S. Lion Music will also be releasing remastered and expanded versions of the first four Consortium Project albums beginning later in 2011.

JON OLIVA’S PAIN INTERVIEW (ARCHIVE)

About The Interview
Jon Oliva’s Pain should need no introduction to anyone with a passing interest in metal. Led by one of the most talented and charismatic vocalists the band are taking up the reigns left by the legacy of Savatage. Now four albums in the band have delivered the best album of their career in ‘Festival. We caught up with drummer/producer Chris Kinder to discuss the bands’ beginnings, the new album in great detail and much more. Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival is out now on AFM Records.

Interview conducted 24th February 2010

Chris, many thanks for taking the time to talk to Virtuosity One.
“My pleasure Andy..…! Thanks for having me.”

Your background is in Circle II Circle. Some might see it as a no-brainer then that the personnel from the band would for the basis for Jon Oliva’s Pain, yet can you tell us how you personally got the nod as it were?
“Well, all the Jon Oliva’s Pain band were playing with Zak (Stevens) in C2C actually including me, and Jon asked us to be his back-up band at the ‘Criss Oliva Memorial Show’ first of all….. It really just went from there! Soon after that, we parted ways with Zak and that management and Jon called us the very next day and asked us if we wanted to make a record together? Obviously, that was a very easy decision to make!”

When was this?
“Literally, right after the ‘Criss Oliva Show”.

How did it feel knowing you would be working with Jon?
“Amazing…. And I still appreciate it everyday! You can’t imagine it being any better really! I was going to be working with one of my favourite singer, songwriters and getting the once in a lifetime chance to work with one of the very, very best! What a blessing!”

Here we are 6 years on from the debut JOP album, the new album “Festival” is out on Feb 22nd here in the UK, personally I feel this is fine return to form after the slightly disappointing ‘Global Warming’, how do you as a member of the band feel about the new album?
“I love this record and I feel it is a very big statement from all of us that proves we have come together relaxed and un-afraid to take chances this time. Plus, I feel Jon’s comfort zone with the band and us, with his song writing, allows us to explore and push ourselves musically as far as we can. Songs are like recipes; it takes the right chef and his cooks to put all of those elements together. It takes time, and is not always easy. Look at any great band in history and you will always find a growth period before the stars align and everyone is firing on all cylinders. This is “Festival”!

When did you initial begin working on the new album?
“Typically for us, it took quite a while, possibly as much as a year? First there were the ubiquitous demos in our studio – we’re always doing those. And, this time Jon O. spent a lot of time writing while on tour in 2009 also, which is quite unusual… Then it’s back to our studio, recording more demos and giving the rest of the band a chance to improve the songs…., before we finally sat down at Morrisound and put the whole thing together. It’s a real team effort for sure!”

Jon is famous for still working on an old 4 track machine for his initial ideas, what raw state did you first hear the material in?
“4 track….? No shit! He is still using one of those silly hand-held cassette recorders…. I am not kidding! It’s a real trip trying to put his ideas down into something listenable….. But it’s a very funny and enjoyable process at the same time.”

How does the process work from getting the rough demos to the final product? At what stage of the process do you come in?
“Well, I’m always involved in the process from day one Andy… Being given a rare opportunity to produce Oliva’s music is something that was a real blessing and I work hard to earn his respect every day. In the beginning, Oliva and I try to capture as many of his ideas as we can – we spend hours doing demos and playing with ideas, assembling them into useable demos, then those demo’s go on to the rest of the band for their input…. Matt (LaPorte) is a very important part of the process, he’s amazingly creative in the studio…”

What do you see as your role in the recording process?
“See above… As a producer, I am fully involved in every aspect of formulating Jon’s riffs into cohesive, well-written songs that offer the rest of the band (and his vocals) the chance to breath and take on a life of their own. I am fortunate to be there every step of the way helping Jon and the rest of the band to create the very best music we possibly can. It’s an awesome experience each and every record.”

How do you go about working on your rhythm parts with Kevin Rothney?  Are you guys working constantly on getting and keeping it tight or is all quite natural?
“Well, Kevin and I have been playing together for nearly 20 years, so it is as seamless and as natural a process as you could ever ask for. He is a fantastic bass player with perfect meter and pocket. Nothing can create that without years and years of playing together. It’s almost like having a twin; you’re always in synch no matter what. We’ve gotten to the point now where we don’t even rehearse the records together before we go in, and we cut our tracks at the same time. With all the producing duties I have leading up to the recording, I only have time to work on my own parts and I have to trust that Kevin and I will bring all that together without any problems whatsoever… And we do!”

How long did your drum tracks take to record and is this an average sort of time for you?
“I think it took 4 days or so, which is very common for us. We don’t rush the process and try all kinds of alternate rhythms and fills until we are completely satisfied. There’s no point, when you have your own studio, setting too many goals – leave that until you reach the main, final studio session and nail it then!”

How do you like to prepare for the days when you are recording?
“It’s pretty straightforward these days….. I usually warm up for 30-40 minutes to get the bones moving freely. It’s not always easy to start recording at 10:00 am after you’ve been at the studio the night before ‘til way after midnight, but it’s really quite a smooth operation nowadays, I guess?”

Is Jon present at all recording stages and does he offer you advice as to what he would like the drums to do or do you have relative free reign on this aspect?
“He sure is. He will leave me and the Morris brothers (at Morrisound) alone during tracking and once we are happy, we bring him in to hear the tracks and make adjustments….. It’s a great team. We’ve been to Morrisound quite a few times now, everyone knows us, and it’s about as smooth an operation as you could wish for. Jon is a good drummer actually and always has good ideas. So, I welcome his input.”

What size kit did you use for the sessions?
“Well, this CD gave me the chance to use my new Ddrum ‘Dominion Ash’ kit. That’s Double Bass, 6 toms, and a healthy variety of cymbals and percussion, ha! ha! I like having as many options as possible at my disposal. The new kit is fantastic and I thank Ddrum once again for bringing me into the family and providing me with the drums I really needed for this record.”

When you have finished up your parts is that you done in the studio or do you stay around to hear the album get completed?
“Well, like I said before, as producer, I’m there right the way through, but even if I wasn’t producing, I think I’d be like everyone else. It’s a full time job for 3 or 4 months for everyone, and what a Killer job it is!”

Jon sounds vitalised on the new material – quite angry in fact, which is great to hear as a fan of his voice in full belt.  What are your favourite tracks on the new album?
“You know, He is an angry man…He ! He! And one of the nicest people you could ever meet at the same time. He is really enjoying what JOP is doing these days and he is indeed energized by the music we are creating. His voice is in amazing shape and there is nothing he can’t sing. Favourites for me are “Lies”, “Afterglow” (a real moment of Oliva genius!), “Death Rides A Black Horse” and “The Evil Within”, but in the end, I love the entire record. In our minds, we don’t just write songs…we write records that are meant to be listened to from start to finish. In fact, you need to listen to our albums several times over before you even begin to see all the facets of them, and I love that!”

How do you view “Festival” compared to the previous 3 releases?
“Really, as a more cohesive body of work… The band is really in its prime right now. There were a lot of great songs on all the previous CD’s, it’s seldom Jon ever writes a bad song, and we don’t let those ideas go forward, but this one has an element to it which is just that bit stronger; more close to the grain, really enthused…!”

Any touring plans on the horizon?
“Yes… For sure! A Euro-Festival run and a full on tour in the fall is all booking right now, with the filming of our live JOP DVD at the 013 in Tilburg, Holland on October 15th….. It’s going to awesome! Can’t wait to get started!”

Anything else you’d like to add for our readers.
“Sure… We hope that our hard work and the final product reach your ears with a grand reception. This record is a true festival of music and emotions, something for everybody. See you on the road in 2010 and thanks again for all the support and encouragement!”

OFFICIAL WEBSITES
http://www.jonoliva.net
http://www.myspace.com/jonoliva