John Wetton/Geoff Downes - Icon III, Frontiers Records
Even before Asia’s original lineup reunited, longtime friends and songwriters John Wetton (vocals/bass) and Geoff Downes (keyboards) were making new music together as Icon. They have two previous studio albums (and a brilliant live acoustic CD/DVD) already to their credit and have just released their latest effort, Icon III. The CD is mostly what you’d expect from these guys - great songwriting, catchy hooks and melodies, Wetton’s distinctive, warm and inviting voice and Downes keyboard wizardry. You’ll also find some nice work from guitarist Dave Kilminster and Wetton’s beautiful duet with guest vocalist Anne-Marie Helder on “Raven.” Other highlights include “Twice the Man I Was,” “Destiny,” “My Life is In Your Hands,” “Sex, Power and Money,” “Don’t Go Out Tonight” and “Never Thought I’d See You Again.” A great album from two of melodic rock’s best.
ALESTORM - Black Sails At Midnight, Napalm Records
Alas, Alestorm’s Black Sails At Midnight has docked. In this follow up to Captain Morgan’s Revenge, every song is easily a fist pumping, sing-a-long and would have the soberest of people drinking until they’re drunk. Showing no mercy, “Keelhauled” goes ashore with the meanest cutthroat pirate keytar while telling a tale about life’s wretched way on the high seas. Folk instruments like the violin and horns section intensify the already stout mixture of Alestorm’s Scottish Pirate Metal. James Murphy (Obituary/Death) oversaw mastering responsibilities, and he truly captured the essence of the band’s unique sound. Once again these filthy scoundrels have made a bountiful treasure chest full of riches, Yar!
Judgement Day - Opus 3 Acoustic, Independent
Opus 3 Acoustic, with violin and cello only, levies this duo into a small corner of the metal arena, and makes for an unconventional listen. Judgement Day’s classical instrument use is daring in this nature and even more so because there are no guitars (the assumed essential element in metal music). “Barrage” and “Air Raid” are arranged with the speed and intensity of metal, but “Noae Kaedae” lends itself closer to the classical field. Opus 3 Acoustic “string metal” is a nice departure from their previous CD, Dark Opus, which includes drums.
Ioannis Anastassakis - Orbital Attempt, Wild Rose Angel Productions
Orbital Attempt is a guitar overload on the senses. Ioannis Anastassakis shows his many styles and skills throughout this gem. “The Promised Land” features more of an 80’s hair metal sound and has a nice interplay between guitar and keyboard. “Progressive Minds” is comprised of Dream Theater rhythms, chickin’ pickin’ licks and plenty of shredding. “Weird Thing” has more of a Santana-esque tone but with licks that set Ioannis apart from Santana. “A Mi Madre (Soleares) (Live Solo Flamenco Guitar)” is a mesmerizing piece of speed and beauty. You may have never have heard the name, Ioannis Anastassakis, before but, if you’re a guitar nut, it’s a name you’ll want to become familiar with.
The Ghost Inside - Fury and the Fallen Ones, Mediashare
Why are angry sounding bands springing up like wildflowers from The Golden State? Where Cali’s warm sandy beaches lie unexpectedly while fragile hardcore metal bands lurk in the umbrellas’ shadows, while they peer into the ocean with breeze flowing over them. I guess sounding pissed off comes from knowledge that their state is slowly sliding into the deep blue.
With all sarcasm aside, The Ghost Inside does produce catchy songs. For example, in “Faith of Forgiveness,” the screaming lyrics of “I’ll see you when the sun sets” will be repeated in your mind along with its crunchy breakdown. This band would fit in one’s CD pile if they like As I Lay Dying or early Poison the Well.
Tantric Mind Control, Silent Majority Group
Tantric has never been a band that’s easy to define. Since rising from the ashes of the original Days Of The New in the mid-90s, the band has established itself as singular in style and sound.
The music on Mind Control waxes ever so much heavier than previous works, yet retains that signature sexy groove thing that is Tantric’s alone. Songs like “Coming Undone,” “Walk Away” and the title track slither from the speakers like a 1970s pimp strolling the Sunset Strip. Fans of Incubus or Hoobastank not familiar with Tantric should tune in and turn on. As for those who already get it, groove on, baby.