Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Reno Brothers
90 Miles To Reno
Tis a tale of two-tonne truckin’ in a nifty forty-five minute frolic from the Netherlands for more than the highway kind n' a rockin’ twang-tangled hunk o’ hot-blooded honky-tonkin’ that mixes covers and originals from the pen of leader Rogier Hermans and is one garrulous and good-natured affair as it leaps, bounds, bops and barrelhouses along blacktops, somersaults truck-stop café’s, rattle trains, shake snakes and bakes fields, unfurling desert vistas and grins just as wide across your unsuspecting state lines. With Hermans’ slightly parodic though plenty pleasing and unstintingly smile-savouring baritone hard wired into this finely tuned engine and ensemble this sweeps your hair back and puts a rhinestone twinkle slap bang in your eye, with any tongue-in-cheek tomfoolery tempered by string-tingling torrential enough to braise a whole herd of Texas beef. It’s slick and polished, sure, but classic chrome, not saccharin sap, laden with almost ludicrous lashings of the saucy rollicking spirit of James Burton and band, be they goofin’ with the King on the rehearsal footage of That’s The Way It Is, stacking up the soul on the late sixties Memphis sessions, spinning wheels with Gram Parsons on casino boogies such as Ooh Las Vegas or downtrodden but devil-may-care with Emmylou on Feelin’ Single, Seeing Double along with the feeling of Merle Haggard really let loose with a young Rodney Crowell or Dwight Yoakham in all too willing tow. If titles like Rollin’ Roadhouse, Hotrod Saturday Night, 90 Miles, Rollin’ Ramblin’ Man along with Dale Watson’s Truckin’ Man and an entirely apt and effervescently superlative, however much-covered, take on East Bound & Down strike chords, pluck strings and paint pictures, uncover the petrol cap, however metaphorically, and cop some miles with this veritable slew of supertruckin’ dashboard delights and a whole loada fun shall ensue. Splendorous.
Stu Gibson
Memoira
Memoira

Female-fronted melodic/melancholic gloom metal from Finland ring any bells for you? Lo, lest ya be thinking like yer errant scribe here of Lacuna Coil and turgid Evanesence and other bands that scarcely skim across your consciousness on the odd occasion you flick through Kerrang! while yer mate pays for their shopping, this is more worthy and displays much more promise than pitiful pouts. The metal element is met by chugging guitars that seem there to keep the boys busy – note the potentially pulveristic riff-pillars on Destiny Of Yours and Amortization that end up squashed and emasculated, deprived of their ability to let loose under faceless chasms of processed sound pillows and so sneak about the edges of industrial wastelands like curious children on their first time out in the big city without parental guidance. The graceful keyboards and string-synths provide a lustrous sweep, thankfully largely adding an alluring poise not a horrendous prat-fall into eighties atrocities of Asia and Magnum, that you could ice-skate to but then, like Torvill and Dean, it becomes somewhat sexless, especially sections such as Experimenters Farewell that conjure Ray Of Light where that Madonna invented EBM, or occasionally even T’Pau’s Carol Decker, no mean feat given her voluminous warble. Overall it ends up becoming a bit formless though without shape-shifting and is bereft of a vital presence. Putting the guitars to the stake would be an interesting experiment, a stripped-down candle-lit session of macabre frolics sorta like Stevie Nicks covering The Sisters Of Murky’s 1959 (not that she sounds like Ms Nicks but it’s a nice vision for one’s peripheral planes though that Jennifer Charles lass from Elysian Fields would be more like it, maybe wreathed in Stevie’s shawl) or a duet with Rob Vitacca from Lacrimas Profundere, as sections that really combine and combust to hint at transformations like segments of Haunted and Half Alive where Jemina Pitkala’s vocals suggest the ethereal nursery rhyme coo of Curve’s Toni Halliday, invoke visions of future banquets erupting into more sumptuous and sinicious feasts. As it is though, its striving for icy grandeur remains more soporific, more sullen than seductive, however pleasingly it stares at times. Stu Gibson

Alkemyst
Through Painful Lanes
Nightmare

Conjuring this second album over a three year period proves a fruitful quest indeed for these French power metallers. From the bell-tolling somewhere opening, through acoustic prog-interludes, maypole dancing medieval buffoonery and gallops against time ‘cross cliff edges and thro’ thick-set forests these parables for the mordant modern ages are drenched in the totems of glory metal that’ll make you assume they’re saddling up to conquer its traditional German heartland helmed by the likes of Helloween (whose classic Eagle Fly Free they hoist anew like a maiden’s colours at a joust) and UK veterans DragonForce. Battle-ready with valiant anthems to slay their way into the annals of war-hymns and swathed in chivalric allegories of kingdoms, illusions and dragons like a séance with old Nostradamus they may be but as the title indicates, the crest on these troopers shields is forged from rather more arduous endeavours than some. Gallant guitar scimitars hoist Icarus aloft from his pathetic perch, hurling him sun-ward getting a nice Eddie style tan before sweeping generals and entire armies friend or foe easily aside on scything odes of hope and valour. Tech-freaks will froth and fulminate for evermore over the precise musical intricacies, intelligent design and Ramon Messina’s de-hymenising shriek n’ soaring vocals but the common foot soldier will pledge several allegiances in drunken revelries at the surging splendour and commanding presence. It’s preposterous and absurd as you want but enthralling and passionate and cute and heroic. An epic work of true artisans. Stu Gibson

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