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The Jonestown Band “The Last Days Of Jonestown”

26 Jul, 2012 Mike DeGagne

The Jonestown Band’s The Last Days Of Jonestown is a concept album of sorts, but it’s not about the historical Jonestown Massacre. The songs that make up the album are culled from the themes born out of film noir movies and spaghetti westerns, or movies that incorporate thematic shades related to religion or the end of the world. That being said, the music that puts these themes into fruition is gritty, well-played rock and roll, with elements of popular music sprinkled in here and there. The closest comparisons that come to mind are somewhere in the field of The Black Crowes, The Eagles, or Bon Jovi.

The opening track, “Proposition 66”, is a bluesy tune that rocks out as it progresses. The familiar rhythm, that staggers and weaves as it plays out, is a perfect match for the singer’s vocal swagger. The next song switches gears a bit, beginning with a bare vocals and a clean instrumental guitar bit. Passionate and well sung, singer Malo Byron Jones sounds wonderfully professional on this ballad-type track with a slightly western feel. The mid-tempo pace, the guitar playing, and the sincerity of Jones gives this track a unique personality. “Nightbird Flying Over” has a catchy rock swing to the overall hook, and the blues-rock riffs are appealingly slippery and sloppy.

“Stone Cold” is a slower track, again dressed up with an emotional vocal mainline and some eye-opening lyrics (…“this is what the bitch said to me” ) about a woman who decides to leave a relationship for another man. Evidently, it’s the vehement singing in this song that elevates this track a little higher than it would have been. “The Ballad Of William Brown” is similar to the previous track in tempo, rhythm, and cadence, while the title track opens with a preacher-like spoken word spiel, followed by some Eagles-like country-rock filled with a catchy hook, great background singing, and an even balance of energy and rock and roll sauntering… probably the best cut on the album.

“Spin” is a typical blues-rock number with clichéd string-bending in just the right spots, and then rocking out here and there for good measure. “Sadie’s Gone” has a great country flavor to it, proving that this band can play more than one style, and play it effectively. There’s a slight Eagles or Poco feel to this track, mainly due to the subtle twang of the guitar and the honky-tonk ambience of the track as a whole. “Zed’s Dead” is another fervent vocal array laid atop a back-and-forth bluesy sway.
 
“Lions” switches gears a bit, beginning with a bare vocals and a clean instrumental guitar bit. Passionate and well sung, singer Malo Byron Jones sounds wonderfully professional on this ballad-type track with a slightly western feel. The mid-tempo pace, the guitar playing, and the sincerity of Jones gives this track a unique personality. “Devil’s Bread” is a down-home array of rock and roll, lead by a great guitar riff and some greasy singing, wrapped up nice and tight with a catchy chorus. It’s kind of an amalgam of 70’s rock a la Bad Company and 80’s radio pop/rock. After this, the title track to the album opens with a preacher-like spoken word spiel, followed by some Eagles-like country-rock filled with a catchy hook, great background singing, and an even balance of energy and rock and roll sauntering… probably the best cut on the album. The last song on the album, “Monsoon”, presents a haunting little ditty complete with echoing thunder in the background. Again, the singing is heartfelt and resounding, and it merges nicely with the subtle strumming guitar to create a lonely, almost desolate mood.

All in all, The Last Days Of Jonestown is an album that will be enjoyed by anyone that loves The Eagles’ Desperado album. The concept is there, but it’s not thrown in your face, and the music alternates up and down the scale, from rock, to blues, to blues-rock, to country-rock. Many of the songs have a slight formulaic approach to them, but the vocals are strong, and the fact that there’s an overlying theme in there somewhere boosts the entertainment value of the majority of the tracks a notch or two higher. While it may not blow you away at first, The Last Days Of Jonestown will grow on you after a few listens.

Review by Mike DeGagne
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)

The Listener’s Job “No Vacancies”

11 Jul, 2012 Mike DeGagne

“Midnight Prayer” opens up The Listener’s Job No Vacancies album, and acts as a beautiful introductory song to this mysterious, five song voyage. Ambient, moody, other-worldly, and masterfully put together, this first track washes over the ears with subtle yet tangible keyboard movements nestled beside vocalist Paul Van Geldrop’s soothing output. Like the easier side of New Order (not the full-fledged techno side), or the workings of Ultravox, O.M.D., and maybe some of Depeche Mode’s work, the keyboard is utilized as a vast canvass on this particular track to which Van Geldrop paints his aural picture, yet he doesn’t take away any stock from the lyrics or any other part of the music.

On “I Can See Paris”, the beauty and subtlety is first and foremost via the tinkling of the keys. Van Geldrop’s voice rides smoothly overtop the keyboard fluttering, and the strings that gorgeously accompany the keyboard add an even greater dimension of atmosphere and tone to this simple but truly beautifully constructed song.

“Nowhere Left To Run” has more of a staccato tempo yet remains in the album’s vein of using the keyboard as the nucleus to the music. Here, sharper tones and an obvious rhythm takes over, complete with a percussive backbone and a forward-progressing pace. Van Geldrop’s singing blends well with the jaunty, colorful measure of the song, making the entire track catchy and musically spry.

The fourth installment entitled “Eulogy” is a bit more lyrically intricate and poetic. That being said, the underlay of the synth and the up-and-down singing style gives this one a unique Canterbury-like character and a wee bit of mystery as it plays out.

The last track on the album, “ Flying In The Air”, is another airy and elusive ballad-like song that is soft and gentle to the ears. Whether or not the lyrics are meant to be philosophical, metaphorical, or purposefully perplexed is up to the listener, but in any case, they are well-written and are exquisitely blended to the soft piano tones.

Dutchman Paul Van Geldrop does a great job at using his keyboard to convey image, mood, and beauty in his music. His voice truly matches his playing, and it’s as frail, as light, and as effective as the keys that support it. Some music can convey and invoke mood and atmosphere as immediately as it hit’s the air, which is truly the case throughout these five tracks. It’s going to be interesting to see if the The Listener’s Job will be employing more “listeners” in the near future with a full-length album. Let’s hope so.

Reviewed by: Mike DeGagne
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)

Colobar “Behind The Veil Of Oblivion”

17 May, 2012 Mike DeGagne

Caught somewhere in the middle of hard rock and progressive heavy metal is Colobar’s
Behind The Veil Of Oblivion, a seven-song barrage of sometimes melodic, sometimes
hard-pounding music. Hints of Rush, Dream Theatre, and Styx run through their high-
paced, frantic-but -controlled guitar onslaught. The music itself is simply well-played,
with the tempos, rhythms, and guitar shredding sounding spot on. The changes in speeds
and rhythm m give the music that progressive element, mixed proportionately with
traditional heavy metal/hard rock fundamentals.

The album starts of with the frenzied “Change Of Ages”, a hard hitting, pile-driving
tune that brings out the metal in the band. The guitar soar, the drums kick and pound,
and the song rockets from start to finish; a real high-energy heavy metal bullet. After
this track, the title cut is bolstered by some mighty fine keyboard work in the middle,
surrounded once again by slick time changes, excellent guitar work, and a bounty of
different progressive elements that churn and weave throughout the tune. Think of a
heavier, metal-sounding Yes, with a harder edge.

“Timeline” is another hard-pulsing mover, with feverish percussion and great singing
from Carl Sentance. This one doesn’t stop to breathe for a second, and the lyrics are well-
composed to boot. Similar to “Timeline’ is “Listen”. While not as feverish, it’s a stellar
track that begins with some sparkling keyboard playing, which then morphs into a sharp-
sounding prog-metal tune with emphasis on the crisp drum work. “Secrets” has a sort
of Styx-sounding aura to it, incorporating violin with the guitar bits, and placing all this into another intricate piece of well-crafted music. Although slightly more commercial
sounding than the other tracks, this cut shows the band can also create slicker stuff if they want to.

On “The Way Out”, sounds a bit like Supertramp in places (the keyboard lines do,
anyway), but their bottom-heavy guitar playing and classic metal tempo evens things out
as the song progresses. This one has a lighter feel on the whole, but moves well thanks
to the singer’s part and the changes in tempo every so often. The last song, “Can’t Feel”,
employs a little bit of everything; prog keyboard, crunchy guitar, snappy drum playing,
and mellow interludes.

Metal fans will hear quite a bit of their listening repertoire in Colobar’s music…there’s
nothing extremely new here. That being said, this band does know how to blend the best
elements of progressive metal, heavy metal, and hard rock together to produce some
attractive metal music. There’s nothing boring, mundane, or repetitive within these seven
tracks. There is, however, a delightful myriad of genres fusing together for an exciting
and dynamic end product.

Review By: Mike DeGagne
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Carrie Armitage “The Singularity Point”

09 Feb, 2012 Mike DeGagne

Canadian Carrie Armitage’s The Singularity Point is a peculiar album. It mixes a little bit of ambient, new age, mild jazz, and world music together, creating a well-made package of different musical flavors. The album isn’t your typical mishmash of earthy, eco-green, Kumbaya stuff, but instead unravels with upbeat rhythms, sparkling vocals, and great instrumental work…far from the stereotypical new age sound.

Vocally, Armitage sounds a lot like Canadian Jane Siberry at times. Siberry was popular in Canada in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, known best for her single “Mimi On The Beach”. Musically, Armitage adds plenty of intricate mixes, cool instrumental blends, and attractive beats to all of the songs, giving each one a very distinct identity.

The opener, “The Singularity Point”, has her scatting simplistically to a haunting background rhythm and a semi-driving beat that comes off instantly funky and wonderfully laid back; a nice intro track that sets the tone perfectly. “Father Of Time” has a slight pop air, but without the commercial feel. It’s here that the Jane Sibbery comparison begins immediately, as Armitage puts forth a great vocal effort behind a blend of keyboard stints and swirling background vocals.

“Far And Away” is lead by some crisp piano work and another pleasing vocal display from Armitage. A slower track, yet one can hear the expression and effort in her voice, which is greatly partnered with more haunting piano and mysterious instrumentation. The music works well here, in that it creates the mood and feel of the song by churning and intertwining at a constant rate throughout. “Bright White Astonishing Light” is a simple but reflective piece of sorts, again bolstered by piano and a world beat-slash-rhythm that gives it a modern, new age aura. Even though the lyrics are repetitive, repeating the title mostly, her eerie scatting and background “do-do-do-ing” actually gives off a meditative, trance like quality that’s effective.

“Reflection” opens up with some beautiful synth work and more instrumental swirling and twirling atop her vocal acrobatics. While her scatting may be a bit overdone by now, the music itself is what takes precedence for its smooth transitioning from one tone to another, and for the manner in which it conveys a sort of “relaxed state” as it plays out. A bit of spoken word weaves in and out of “The Sleep Of Reason”, varying in different languages including Portuguese, Japanese, and Spanish. The music is a dance of piercing keyboard stints and succinct, short rhythms that emit more poignant ambiance in a spiritual sense.

The spacey “U4EA” is the drippiest of the bunch. The music spirals and ascends, dips and soars, somewhat like “listening” to a kaleidoscope. Whatever it is, it works. The sound is crisp, the beats are felt, and psychedelic abstractness is present from start to finish. Armitage does a great job at sounding “far out” without sounding pretentious, and the musical trip is enjoyable and amusing.

On “Human Race”, there’s an eighties sound to the keyboard bubbling, but once again, the nuance and subtleness of the song’s multi-dimensioned tone is attractive and groovy. The album ends with a short track called “Sidhe”, containing more angelic chanting, invoking pure, hypnotic peace.

The Singularity Point is a new, “new age” type album, minus all of the traditional, new age trademarks. The grooves are deep, the rhythms are catchy, and the overall unperturbed, tranquil affect won’t lull you to sleep, but it will make you close your eyes and dream a bit.

Review by Mike DeGagne
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Silentaria “The Beginning of the End”

19 Jan, 2012 Mike DeGagne

Cosmic. Trance-like. Hypnotic. Celestial. Mesmerizing. These are just a few of the sure-fire adjectives that will most likely be employed when describing Silentaria’s album The Beginning of the End. The music is synthesizer based, with layer upon layer of spacey progressive waves, apropos vocal injections, and multi-colored flashes of assorted beats, rhythms, and pulses. Like a trip through outer space and then suddenly experiencing a supernova, Silentaria take you on a voyage with plenty of surprises. Yes, it’s been done before, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t indulge once again in this trippy, new-age style of delicious sonic syrup.

The comparisons are plenty…Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, just to name a few. These resemblances hit home right away on “Emerge”, the opening track. A dancing rhythm and pulses of synthesizer beams painting colors in your mind, both combining and leaving you with a peaceful ease that is aided by the faint choral of “aaahhhs” that float by in the background. There’s a wonderful detached feel that arises from Silentaria’s style of music…a type of “comfortably numb“-ness that the band was aiming for and succeeded in accomplishing. The same can be said for the album’s title track, the next song in sequence, which adds a faint backbeat but still incorporates a lush, celestial-like bunch of keyboard swatches up front to keep with the mood.

“Return of the Lost” incorporates more of a mysterious feel to its body, sounding like the music being played in a suspense movie, chock full of short, sporadic bits of synth. “The Ruined Innocence” is haunting, almost Omen-like in its mood and soft yet sinister air. This pair of songs exhibit yet another color in the spectrum of Silentaria’s electronic music…a welcoming change to what could’ve been (but is far from) a set of tracks weighed down by similar rhythms, themes, and time signatures. They change gears once again in “Lament of Being”, a science fiction-like set of mechanical keyboard lines that sound purposely cold, lonely, and distant. The pace is picked up on “Beyond Destiny”, which sounds like it could have been used in the movie Blade Runner. Melodic and musically vibrant, the synthesizer is put to good use once again with its up-tempo pace and ethereal pastiches swimming about in mid-air.

“One Last Quest” has the listener visioning a barren landscape with a solitary voyageur trekking across its stark terrain…quite effective. “Hidden Utopia” is a shimmering barrage of pulsating rhythms, short and sweet, but merging together to create a kaleidoscope of electronic hues. In “It’s Time To Go”, the robotic voice that repeats the title of the track is nestled in amongst more mood-infused patches of chilly tones and tinges, while “Farewell” bubbles with frothy keyboard fragments and dazzling bursts of electronic sketches. The album ends with “Eastward”, a sort of clunky, Alan Parsons Project-ish track that doesn’t feel out of place from rest of the album’s topography.

To sum it up, Silentaria doesn’t really do anything new here. They don’t break new electronic ground or add any special effects for shock value. What they do, plain and simple, is create an appealing collection of electronic pieces that breed their own definite personality. Who cares about the comparisons, or what other artists their music reminds you of, Silentaria’s The Beginning of the End makes for a great escape into the wonders of electronic music, and they get full marks for making each track distinctive, individualistic, and eccentric.

Review by: Mike DeGagne
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)