Riverside – Wasteland Review

Polish Prog Metal band Riverside suffered the terrible loss of their lead guitarist Piotr Grudziński less than half a year after their superb sixth full-length studio album; Love, Fear & The Time Machine.

After the difficult decision to carry on without replacing him, their next and at time of writing newest album was released in 2018 via InsideOut Music and met with deserved acclaim (and surprisingly in this day and age, sold relatively well for a prog album, continuing their streak of gold albums in their homeland).

It can’t have been easy carrying on without such a key member of the band, who’d been there since the very start, but somehow they managed to create a beautiful, affecting, and very interesting album with no loss of quality, while also not losing their ‘sound’ or ‘spirit’. If they had understandably chosen not to continue after 2016, they would have been leaving us with a wonderful catalogue. As it stands however, on Wasteland they do a masterful job of continuing their genuinely near-flawless discography and only solidifying their legacy as absolute masters of the genre.

The actual playing and vocals are top notch. The production and mixing and have a tasteful, stripped back, classic-sounding, raw feel that perfectly suits the material and the place in the band’s discography.

The real magic of the album however, comes from the material here, which is simply wonderful from start to finish. There isn’t one track I would lose, edit or alter. Nine perfectly balanced no-fat tracks over 50 minutes and not outstaying its welcome.

Its so good all the way through it could be difficult to choose highlights, but if you like the band at their proggiest, then check out nine-and-a-half minute “The Struggle For Survival” which features a bit of a 21st Century Schizoid Man/Heart Of The Sunrise/The Necromancer vibe with a lot of instrumental muscle flexing with some brilliant bass and keyboard showing off (and Maciej Meller’s guest guitar solo is especially quite entertaining in a Fripp sort of way). If however you prefer the band just writing good songs; then the varied ‘Veil Of Tears’ and the haunting and touching semi-ballad ‘Guardian Angel’ for example are two of the best songs the band have ever released to date.

This is a record with a lot of up front charm and instantaneous gratification, but a lot of mood, atmosphere and subtle depth as well and even the tracks that don’t drop your jaw right away become favourites in time (I like “River Down Below” more every single time I hear it for example, and I do mean every single time, I can’t say that for many other bands). As with all the Riverside albums to date, I can’t recommend it enough.

Queensrÿche – The Verdict Review

Queensrÿche have been on a hell of a hot streak since they got former Crimson Glory frontman Todd La Torre in and started a band called Rising West, playing material from Queensrÿche’s first EP and first 4 albums, following the departure of their long time legendary singer Geoff Tate.

When they changed their name from Rising West back to Queensrÿche, and released their self-titled album in 2013, (with great tracks like ‘Where Dreams Go To Die,’ ‘Redemption’ and ‘Vindication’), it was an utterly excellent batch of material and the ensuing live shows saw the band energised and revitalised in one of the best late-career renaissances in the history of Metal (up there with the likes of Kreator and Accept for later-year triumphs). The following album Condition Human was a strong follow-up that kept up the quality.

As you can imagine, their third album since this revitalisation, 2019’s The Verdict, is my most anticipated album of this year. When they dropped the pre-release tracks, such as ‘Man The Machine,’ ‘Dark Revierie’ and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ it was every bit as good, if not better, than Condition Human’s pre-release tracks like the excellent ‘Arrow Of Time’ and ‘Hellfire.’

With all these expectations I had built up in my head, I was fearful I had built it up too much and set myself up for disappointment.

After having listened to it both via streaming while I waited for the postman, and on CD repeatedly after delivery, I am happy to inform you that not only is it not a disappointment, but rather it is the best Toddryche album to date. Arguably the band’s best album in a very long time at all, Todd or no Todd.

Even from myself, who doesn’t dislike any Queensrÿche album, (even the controversial ones), this ranks easily in the top half of their discography, top quarter even! I hate statements like “it’s the band’s best album since…’’ but in this case, it really feels true.

The production, (once again by ‘Zeuss’) is brilliant. All instruments are clear and distinct, you can hear the bass at all times, you can separate each guitar from each-other and the drums sound fat and powerful. Speaking of drums; Now that singer Todd La Torre is also playing drums this time around as well as his singing duties while classic drummer Scott Rockenfield is on paternity leave, you also get some drum styles you don’t usually hear on a Queensrÿche album. (Have a quick listen to ‘Launder The Conscience’ and ‘Light Years’ and listen to the beats to see what I mean).

The press prior to this saw Whip telling everyone that this was their heaviest and most progressive album in a while. Usually statements like that are always wrong. Strangely though, again, in this case, it really feels true.

There are some nice heavy moments on here; such as the aforementioned pre-released tracks, ‘Man The Machine and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ as well the very crunchy ‘Inner Unrest’ amonst others, and furthermore, there are some great proggy moments; such as ‘Bent,’ ‘Portrait’ and ‘Inside Out.’ There’s moments that recall the middle-eastern vibes of their American Soldier and Tribe albums, there’s some of the bass-driven textured stuff like their underrated Operation Mindcrime 2 album, and there’s some of the trippy expansive stuff reminiscent of their Promised Land album.

As well as the heavy and proggy stuff, there is just loads of great, catchy, accessible Hard Rock meets Heavy Metal material that has been the core thing tying all of the band’s albums together to date. You can hear bits that sound like the last two albums, like calssic material such as Rage For Order and all sorts of new things as well.

There’s so much great bass guitar parts and lots of space for Todd to show off his impressive vocal range. Album upon album he pushes it further, showing off more and more styles and becoming more of his own thing and moving away from the Geoff Tate style, but still staying close enough that it always sounds quintessentially Queensrÿche. (Take that vocal style and mix it with those really distinctive guitar leads, and you’ve got Queensrÿche in a bottle.)

Overall; its yet another strong Queensrÿche album, but more than that, it is an interesting album, with a strong production, a great range of material, and some of their honestly best material in years, even if they have already been on a very strong run.

Rishloo – Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth Review

Rishloo - Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Rishloo – Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is the crowd-funded reunion album from the incredible Seattle Progressive band Rishloo. Its their fourth full-length album overall and sees the band back together now that singer Andrew Mailloux has returned to the fold and the other bandmembers changed their separate crowd-funded new instrumental band The Ghost Apparatus back into Rishloo. Its been an interesting wait as a fan, but I won’t bury the lead… that wait was well worth it!

Consisting of just eight tracks with no intros, outros or hidden bonuses, this is the bands most succinct and concise offering to date, but you can file that under fat-free and lean rather than skimping on extras.

Stylistically; if you haven’t heard the band before, they are often compared to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Coheed & Cambria, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Soen, Dredg, Fair To Midland, Jurojin, Cog, Karnivool, Circe, The Mayan Factor and others. No single comparison there really does justice to what you can actually expect, but if you understand the sort of common theme between all of those bands you can at least expect the right ballpark. On top of that, Rishloo are also constantly developing and evolving, and no two of their albums sound that much alike because they progress and change over time (while always retaining a certain core identity where you can still tell its them straight away) so even their own catalogue doesn’t necessarily train you for what to expect here. This album is stylistically a million miles from their 2004 debut Terras Fames, but in a way that makes sense and feels logical.

In that spirit, Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is no simple retreading of their back catalogue, nor any attempt to sound like someone else. On this album Rishloo sound like nobody but Rishloo. Even the previous Tool comparisons bounce limply off this album like wooden arrows off a tank. Hints is all you get, the rest is new. This record sees the band mix things up even more and explore different sounds, textures and combinations. Drew tries out new voices and styles he hasn’t used before, such as the deranged sounding heavy vocals in the middle of ‘Winslow.’ There are guitar styles a past fan wouldn’t expect. Things that only came up once on a previous album are given more time.

The rhythms are more disjointed and jarring. There’s even more playing in uncommon time signatures and switching between tempos; opener ‘The Great Rain Beatle’ is particularly jagged, its unhinged and yet hypnotic like some psychedelic nightmare and makes Mars Volta comparisons more understandable… its like the most jagged parts of ‘Scissorlips’ made into an entire song. So too is the jazzier single ‘Landmines’ in its heavier sections. Although that being said, towards the end from the guitar solo onwards that kicks into some beautiful, straightforward head-banging energy.

There are also more hints of classic ‘70s Progressive Rock here than there have been on previous albums, to the point where (deep and hidden) you get feelings of almost Tales Of Topographic Oceans era Yes sounds at some stages (such as the middle of ‘Dark Charade’), and the intro to ‘Salutations’ reminds me a little of Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ updated through some Radiohead and Deftones filters. There’s also five-second bursts of King Crimson influence all over the place in spidery Fripp-esque guitar runs crammed in there every now and again by the underrated Dave Gillet. None of it is overt though, its subtle, bubbling under the surface. Hints.

Its difficult to pick album highlights in such a well-crafted, concise and consistent body of work; ‘Dark Charade’ for example has THAT riff, and afterwards kicks off into an exciting build-up that feels like the sequel to ‘Downhill’ off of the previous record and ‘Dead Rope Machine’ is just so unique, its like every song has its own identity and something completely singular to offer. Gun-to-my-head I’d have to recommend that you check out ‘Winslow’ (which people who followed the whole Ghost Apparatus period might recognize) and ‘Just A Ride’ as your tester-songs to see whether or not you’d like the album. Jesse’s drums on those two are particularly excellent. ‘Just A Ride’ is the absolute perfect ending to this roller-coaster of an album and features the defining lyrics of this whole saga. That said, the whole thing works so well as a single journey that I almost feel bad picking favourites.

There are some things you can always count on Rishloo for; Firstly – interesting, poetic, provocative, intriguing lyrics. Secondly – powerful, emotional, evocative vocal performances. There’s also always interesting, spiraling, unexpected music that will defy initial expectations but feel ‘right’ once you’re used to it. Furthermore you can count on a certain arty air of mystique and most of all, quality songwriting depth that means you never get sick of the tracks, they just get better and better with each listen. Considering all these aspects, this new album is no exception to the rule, no misstep and no weak one in the set. This album has it all; whimsy, brooding, passion, intensity, subtlety, power, aggression, chilled out moments, virtuosic moments and scaled-back serve-the-song-not-the-player moments. Its got a strong sense of diversity yet feels like one cohesive whole throughout and a single journey (or ‘ride’) from start to glorious finish.

If you are a fan of the band then you unquestionably need this satisfying grower of an album. That may be a bit of a redundant sentiment but it’s the absolute truth; I know that if you are an existing fan of the band then you probably crowd funded The Ghost Apparatus or pre-ordered the record already and got rewarded with early access downloads, so recommending it to you seems like preaching to the choir… but if you haven’t checked out the band yet, or were waiting for the reviews then by all means please do give this a chance. This album is just as good as their previous work and if you give it enough spins to reveal its subtleties and hidden depths you will be greatly rewarded.

Oh, and if you enjoy it make sure to go back and check out the rest of their records too!

*** Side note: If you are a regular reader of this blog and generally agree with most of my taste in music, or like any of the comparison-bands, you can consider checking out this band as a personal favour to me. That’s how much I recommend them! ***

New Rishloo Song!!! Landmines

Rishloo, my favourite band in the world, (suitable for fans of Tool, Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Amplifier, The Dear Hunter, The Mayan Factor, Soen etc.), have released a new song from their long awaited reunion album Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth. I am a keen kickstarter contributor to this album, I have a Vinyl of their previous album Feathergun up on my wall as decoration, and I advise all my readers to give them a listen.

I haven’t been as excited about new material since Queensryche got together with Todd La Torre, that’s how big a deal this is.

Official KCP recommendations: Listen to this, encourage it, give it lots of views, get into the band, buy all their albums, go see them live.

Fair To Midland – Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True Review

Fair To Midland - Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True

Fair To Midland – Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True

The major label debut by the Texan Progressive/Alterative Rock band Fair To Midland; 2007’s cumbersomely titled Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, drew public attention to the underground band when it was released on System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike record label.

The album; produced by David Bottrill (of Tool, Muse, King Crimson, Dream Theater and Mudvayne fame), sees the band in an experimental mood, mixing touches of electronic music, Progressive Rock, Metal and hints of country music and bluegrass, with large doses of Alternative Rock, and turning it all into a single, cohesive whole. For the most part they manage to squeeze all this into succinct yet multifaceted four-minute tracks that work as catchy rock songs on one level and display hidden depths on closer inspection.

The lyrics concentrate on fairytale themes, old sayings and a general feel of poetic antiquity. The vocals are a mixture of soft melodic singing with harsh Metallic roaring in moderation, very much in keeping with the band’s spirit of mixing it up. Then the toms will starts coming in as heavy singing overtakes them and suddenly keyboards or pianos will appear. Tones range from whimsical, artistic, angry and bittersweet, often within a single track.

Highlights include “Kyla Cries Cologne,” “April Fools And Eggmen” and “Walls Of Jericho.” That being said its all fairly consistent and there isn’t much in the way of filler.

This is a record with a pretty broad appeal, and would suit fans of bands like Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Rishloo, Dead Letter Circus, The Mayan Factor etc., as well as bands like Linkin Park, Flaw and Disturbed, or indeed bands like Muse, Placebo and Radiohead. It’s a grower, and isn’t quite as instant as its superb 2011 follow-up Arrows & Anchors, but is definitely worth your time and will reward repeat listens.

I’ve Just Been To See Tesseract and Protest The Hero Live

I’ve Just Been To See Tesseract and Protest The Hero Live at the Manchester Academy, on Thursday the 6th of February 2014. Fuck me. What. A. Gig.

What a gig, and I almost missed it. All week, I’ve thought that this concert was on on the Friday, so today after Uni I had dinner then got undressed and into my pyjamas (well, I don’t own pyjamas, so, into the normal clothes that I wear if its too cold to sleep without clothes) and got ready to drift away to sleep. At the last minute, for no reason I can discern, I got up to look at the tickets. Not to check the date or anything, just to look at them, covetously. That’s when I noticed that the gig was on tonight, and had to get dressed and head straight out the door and walk to the venue. Luckily doors hadn’t opened yet, but I wasn’t in the que very long.

I got in, walked straight to front row center (well, two human body’s distance to the right of center, to be specific) while others where buying beer or t-shirts, and rooted myself in for the night. I remembered jerk crowds the last few time I was here in this section of the Academy (upstairs, not the biggest part that’s in a separate building, where bands as big as Megadeth get to play), so I expected thugs to try come and uproot me. It never happened. Much like the Queensryche crowd, this was the politest, most honourable crowd anyone could hope for. I was really pleased. A little faith in humanity is restored every time you spend a whole evening in the company of people who don’t act like assholes.

The evening was opened up by the Canadian Djent band, Intervals. I didn’t know much about Intervals (no songs, so that’s pretty little) beforehand, but they really won me over. They were really, really impressive. Their musicianship was incredible for an opening band, they had a pretty professional demenour and good songs. A very good band indeed. The sound didn’t really help them out, but they were so good you could tell through the bad sound that they were seriously talented. They were also kind of the heaviest end of Djent you can be, without using any Death Metal parts. Their singer was pretty charismatic and their drummer was straight up awesome (at one stage he hit a cymbal so hard, he broke a big wedge straight off of it and left it looking like a shark had taken a bite out’ve it). Great band. Go see them if you can.

Next up came The Safety Fire. Who were a British Tech Metal/Prog Metal/Djent band. They were also absolutely excellent. Their sound was a bit lighter, more radio-friendly in parts, and sometimes they actually played little guitar runs that sounded like Protest, or those bits on Periphery’s new album that John Petruci from Dream Theater played.

Their drummer was freaking incredible. He plays like he’s trying to pass an exam. Watching him drum was like playing a videogame without dying on the hardest difficulty. Everything about that band seemed on, but the drummer especially was hot, hot stuff. Plus, no Death Metal. They were more like if a Djent band listened to a lot of At The Drive In.

The sound for them was less muddy but the vocals were mixed very low. Again, luckily, they were clearly brilliant so it didn’t matter.

They were really good. Go see them if you can.

Then Tesseract came on. Tesseract are a fucking incredible live band. I took a punt on them just before Christmas and went to go see them live without knowing them, just because I like Periphery, and the two are often spoken of together (like Metallica and Megadeth). Also because Karnivool were headlining and Karnivool are often spoken of alongside bands like Cog and Rishloo, so I wanted to try them out too. Tesseract stole the show, hands down and unequivocally. That show was absolutely incredible (despite a small section of annoying honking fans making clown-horn noises endlessly) and completely sold me on the band. I got their new album for Christmas as a result and absolutely love it.

Seeing them tonight was even better than the first time. These guys are one of the best live bands going. They are like fucking superstars, from their casually cool world’s-tallest-man guitarist, to their Danny Carey’s-maths-homework drummer, their business-looking bassist and the friendly looking other guitarist. That and the new singer. My goodness. That man can sing. Remember what I said about Jesse Leach? Yeah, well double that!

That guy is the best live singer I have ever seen with my own two eyes (and I’ve seen Maynard James Keenan!). If I could give him some sort of award I would.

In fact, maybe I can.

I hereby award Ashe O’Harra the ‘Kingcrimsonblog Best Live Singer’ award

Done. (And well deserved).

Tesseract are such an incredible live band, they just really draw you in, they are so powerful and captivating, it really makes my enthusiasm for live music grow and both times that I’ve seen them, they have absolutely dominated. Furthermore, they had great quality sound. Thank you Tesseract’s soundman.

As if that wasn’t enough, I got to see Protest The Hero too.

If you’ve ever read this Blog before, you’ll probably know that I love Protest The Hero. Since I first got their debut album as a birthday present, I have listened to and talked about them absolutely constantly. Constantly! – According to my LastFM account, I’ve listened to them 1,361 times since August (at time of writing), and in that short time, they have become the band that I’ve listened to Eighth-most, in the entire last three-and-a-half years!

So, with that sort of context, you should be able to figure out that I was beyond excited for this gig. You may however have also seen my write-up about their Live DVD, which I was actually a little disappointed by. That made me a bit fearful that Protest’ were more of a studio band. I mean, their albums are some of the best ever made by anyone. Kezia, Scurrilous and Voltion especially. I mean, I just hammer those albums constantly!

Even if Protest’ were poor live, at least Tesseact had been headline-worthy.

Protest’ weren’t poor live though. Protest The Hero were one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. I had suuuuuch a good time. The energy level was off the charts. They were so good that they pulled out all my reservations. I’m more like a Japanese audience member than a western one usually, but boy did I make an exception. Ever since Lamb Of God’s concert, I’ve been getting more and more into things. I screamed my lungs out, I jumped about, air-drummed, air-guitared, gestured descriptively for all the lyrics and generally banged and danced away like I was having a damn great time (which of course, I was). I haven’t ever thrown more of myself into a gig since I was about 15. I had more enthusiasm here for that hour than I’ve had all year. I looooooved it.

But enough about me, the band, the band were unbelievable. Absolutely nailing such complex, multifaceted, incredible music like it was easy. Even the new drummer who didn’t write any of this bonkers material was absolutely phenomenal. Every musician was entertaining to watch and great fun to listen to.

The setlist was brilliant. They played more or less all of my absolute favourite songs, including ‘Underbite,’ ‘Mist’ ‘Sextapes’ ‘C’est La Vie’ and ‘Blindfolds Aside.’

The crowd seemed to be going pretty wild for them. Proportionately, it was probably the most sing-along concert I’ve ever seen, with the most knowledgable and into-it fans I’ve ever witnessed. It seemed like an absolute love-fest. Deservedly so. They make brilliant songs, and they’ve backed it up live with a stunning performance. I think the fact that they have some of the best and most interesting lyrics I’ve ever read also helps. People sang along like their lives depended on it, which I think is a big endorsement of the quality of those lyrics.

The sound for them was great too. Thank you Protest The Hero’s soundman too.

Roddy was pretty entertaining, commenting on a security guard being the world’s strongest man (which is not an unreasonable assessment) to the point where the bouncer even cracked a happy smile, joking about Buckfast, referencing WWF, WCW and Holywood Hulk Hogan, inviting a handsome crowd member up on stage to be ‘hunk of the week’ (the band played him a little specially-written hunk-of-the-week theme tune too!) and then joking about getting him into bed. He also started singing football chants about Stephen Gerard to annoy the football fans in the crowd, and fake-dedicated a song to Stephen Gerard. It was pretty amusing stage banter. I guess he takes what he written in ‘Underbite’ seriously.

The band’s performance overall was so, so strong. That DVD must have been an off-night, because what I saw tonight was a frigging phenomenal Live Band. It was such a good, good show.

It was such a good show I even bought a t-shirt afterwards (a thing my wallet has stopped me doing since seeing Queencryche Live – so you can tell how much I was impressed to be moved to t-shirt purchasing)

The gig, as a whole, is one of the absolute best I’ve ever seen. Two great Djent bands supporting Tesseract’s world-class superstar-quality live show and the most fun gig (Protest The Hero) that I’ve been to in the last decade.

If you have any interest in modern Metal, live music, or any of the bands mentioned, try and see them live. This was a fabulous bill and a brilliant night. The only way it could be any better is if Periphery also played, and Protest’ got a slightly longer set and were able to fit in ‘Dunsel’ ‘Skies’ and ‘Turn Soonest To The Sea’ – then it would have been the hypothetical best gig ever. As it stands it was pretty damn close.

“So How You Fucking Feeling Tonight?” – Boy, am I in a good mood!