STATUS MINOR – OUROBOROS

Out now on Lion Music.

Second album from the Finn progressive metallers Status Minor.  Their debut Dialog was a very solid opening gambit and Ouroboros steps up the quality further. 

On the darker side of the prog metal spectrum, Status Minor kick some sizeable ass with openers The Wind and Hollow.  Both of which contain chunky riffs, impressive drum work and some fine melodies from vocalist Markku Kuikka and the album follows a similar pattern throughout.

Ouroboros is arguably a more accessible album that its predecessor with the likes of the excellent, and contender for album highlight Glass Wall packing a strong commercial punch. In fact fans of label mates Seventh Wonder would find much to enjoy throughout this track and indeed the album in general.

Like A Dream and Confidence Of Trust (guest lead vocals by Anna Murphy of Eluveitie) offers up a couple of moments of relative calm before the 6 minute Stain showcases the multi-faceted Status Minor sound rather nicely.  Smile is pissed off and angry before Flowers Die might be a little too plodding in nature for some incomparison and one track I could live withouth. 

The other contender for album highlight comes in the 10 minute progressive treat that is Sail Away, which I could see appealing to fans of Metallica and Dream Theater’s earlier classic work in equal measures with its tight riff work, flamboyant delivery and all round high quality making it a track worthy of your time.  And just when you think the band might end on a soft note Verge Of Sanity serves up more crushing riffs over an array of dizzying time signatures and more fine vocals from Kuikka.

Ouroboros is a nice build on the bands debut, and hopefully one that will see the band catch a little more attention from fans of the genre as Status Minor serve up high quality progressive metal with enough of an original take on the genre to stand their own ground.

Recommended.

Rating – 90%

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – EMBRACE THE SUN : THE LION MUSIC JAPAN BENEFIT PROJECT

Out now on Lion Music

In what has seems to be somewhat of a trend amongst record labels since the terrible earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 here we have the first benefit album to be announced in the metal community from Lion Music.

Whilst it may not have been the first to be released when you delve into its 2CD contents you realise that perhaps more care and true feeling has gone into this release than many of its ilk.  For starters the vast majority of the material here was written specifically for this release which sees all label, publishing and artist royalties being donated to the Japan Red Cross.  This key difference to many other benefit albums (which you felt just culled together any old unreleased tracks from artists to get it out as quickly as possible), “Embrace The Sun” lends a higher quality of material, not to mention a more personalised and sincere sound to the music on offer.

With 28 of some of Lion best known names contributing there is a plenty to enjoy here across a wide spectrum of artists on the labels roster with tracks coming from Mattsson, Iron Mask, Anthriel, Dreyelands, Mastercastle, Overdrive and Section A amongst others.

Guitar fans are well catered for with tracks from Milan Polak, Jennifer Batten and Marco Sfogli not to mention the closing guitar jam track which sees contributions from notables such as  Francesco Fareri (Virtual Mind), Daniel Palmqvist (ex The Murder Of My Sweet), Simone Fiorletta (No Gravity), Dave Martone and Borislav Mitic.

Highlights are often and plentiful making this 28 track collection a real joy to listen to.  Personal favourites include  Milan Polak’s excellent “End Of Time” sees guest appearances from Kip Winger, Ron Thal, Pete Lesperance, and Harry Hess, whilst Dreyelands continue the excellent work heard on last years debut with new track “Life Is Worth The Pain”.  Mastercastle throw a trademark metal slant on the album with “Sakura” which has a great vocal performance from Giorgia Gueglio.   MindSplit serve up a tender ballad in “Guardian Angel” and this really strikes a chord of how the devastation seen in Japan has hit people worldwide.  Emir Hot contributes the epic “Fear Of The Storm” with orchestra and backing choirs adding depth to the track whilst Iron Mask see a successful outing with vocalist Carsten Schulz at the mic for “Sons of the Sun”.

The album also showcases some home-grown Japanese talent in new label signing, progressive rockers Early Cross whose melodic prog rock is a classy number, whilst the direct influence of the aftermath in Japan can be heard on Jennifer Batten’s track “Sakura Season” was written after her visit to the country in April 2011.  Despite highlighting these tracks there are moments of enjoyment in all tracks and congratulations go out to all involved.

Overall “Embrace The Sun” not only manages to hopefully make some good money to aid with the recovery in Japan but also serves as a strong compilation album full of great tracks, musicianship and comes highly recommended.

Do your bit and pick up the album now at http://www.lionmusic.com/cd/embracethesun.htm

Rating – 90%