Friday, 14 December 2012

Well I stopped subscribing to Classic Rock probably about 18 months ago but I've just picked up the Christmas edition just to have a look at the 50 albums of the year.

Now normally I find I've only purchased two maybe three of their top tips but this year I got a whole five!

No. 44 Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls (reviewed on this blog in May)

No. 42 Killing Joke - MMXXII

No. 35 Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) the Crafty Ape

No. 30 Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made (reviewed on this blog in October)

No. 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd - Last Of A Dying Breed (reviewed on this blog in December)

Out of the five, the Skynyrd album is the one I rate least but I'm guessing it's high placing has a lot to do with the fact that Classic Rock released it as a fan pack.... Cynical or not ???

(Still can't believe I forgot to review the Killing Joke and Crippled Black Phoenix albums...)

Friday, 7 December 2012

And here comes another quick sprint through the albums I didn't remember to write about....

Dead Can Dance- Anastasis.
A beautiful album displaying two distinct types of vocal. For the female led tracks, it's like the high priestess of ancient Sumeria calling you to prayer over swirling middle eastern rhythms. Utterly hypnotic. The male vocals are more Scott Walker and a bit more of an acquired taste.
There are individual tracks but the album lulls you a trance like state so titles are meaningless.
A unique and mesmerising piece of work

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Last Of a Dying Breed
Forget dying, this album suggest dead. After God and Guns (their best album since the 70's) this is a tepid affair lacking ideas and some terrible cliched lyrics.
Poor Man's Dream and Something to Live For are some of the most uninspired Skynyrd I've heard. The title track isn't bad and a couple of bonus live tracks mean it doesn't end on a low.
The Classic Rock magazine the album came with is very good though !

Seth Lakeman  - Tales From The Barrel House.
A return to the folk of Kitty Jay after the more glossy rock sounding Poor Man's Heaven.
Seth plays all the instruments and there's a concept with the tracks all about tradesman. Blacksmiths Prayer and Brothers of Penryn are top notch folk songs but there is a  major problem.....
I actually prefer the glossy rock sound of Poor Man's Heaven

Hussey-Regan- Curios.
A covers album by the lead singers of The Mission and All About Eve respectively. Some covers work and some don't but that's the nature of these albums. Witchita Linesman is lovely and really benefits from the duet format. A speeded up version of Ordinary World from Duran Duran also works but Ashes to Ashes is a bit of a mess. There are a couple of new compositions of which Regan's Dangerous Eyes is the best. 
An intriguing album at best but anything featuring these two vocalists is worth a listen.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

So the plan was to review all new albums I bought this year and I've failed that in some style......
Even avoiding the buying of reissues, I'm still a bit behind, so here's a whirlwind review of those I missed:

Enslaved - Riitir.
More brutal Scandinavian metal. Some concessions to melody and the the occasional clean vocal but really just pummelling heaviness to annoy your neighbours with. The lengthy Death in the Eyes Of Dawn is a pretty good summary of the album

Rosa Rebecka - Songs For Mrs Beautiful
Gentle folk with a Scandinavian lilt including some sung in Swedish. Nothing spectacular but if you need a break from making your ears bleed with Slayer then the title track and Heartful of Seaweed make a pleasant distraction

Egbert Derix - Paintings In Minor Lila.
I'm not sure the world was screaming out for a Dutchman to cover lots of Marillion songs on a grand piano and string quartet. Not as odd as it sounds and both Fish and Steve Hogarth lend spoken parts. However, not even a Marillion masochist needs 3 classical variations on Marbles I though.....

Smoken - Spoonful Of Stars.
One of the greatest wasted talents ever. Lauren Smoken has a voice to shame Janis Joplin but insists on singing self penned songs which sound like the wine bar blues Gary Moore was peddling in the 90's. A complete waste of an amazing voice

Lydia Loveless - Indestructible Blues.
Like a runaway female Georgia Satellites, this album is was brought up on banjos, moonshine and rednecks. Some fantastic rollicking country rock such as the tracks Bad Way To Go and Do Right. And it's always a pleasure to hear a woman not afraid to let rip with some industrial language

Insomnium - One For Sorrow.
Probably the best of the five albums here. This time Finnish death metal which makes greater use of melody and clean vocals than Enslaved. The use of more than one vocalist and keyboards makes this a standout record in an already crowded Scandinavian metal market. The opening salvo of the instrumental Inertia followed by Through The Shadow is the highlight of the album

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Very rarely do a band release a great album in a year only to top within 12 months but Crippled Black Phoenix are becoming the masters of this trick. Their latest offering No Sadness Or Farewell is a masterpiece.

It starts off with a 12 minute instrumental called How We Rock which is simply the best thing they have ever recorded. Starting off slowly with some oriental theme going on in the background it breaks into a guitar solo Dave Gilmour would be proud of. The song almost stops, and then the guitar picks out a naggingly repetitive motif before the piano and then drums join in and all the while gently building and increasing the tension. It's like Tubular Bells with added balls - cymbals are added, power chords, choral backing and still it builds. Over 4 minutes to go and there are even real bloody tubular bells joining in now. Listening to this through headphones on heavyweight vinyl is just awesome as the whole thing reaches a crescendo before letting you down gently and leaving you with the ringing bells.

There are other tracks but you need to breathe and relax after that opener. Hold On (So Goodbye To All Of That) starts like U2 at their most pretentious before deciding to end the song an an accapella crowd sing along.

Jonestown Martin is just indescribable really - Heavy guitar, synths effects stolen from Hawkwind and according to the sleeve notes 'Monk Voices' !!

It all ends with Long Live Independence a galloping rocker very similar to Laying Traps from the last album (which was good enough to nominated in the Prog Magazine awards recently)

This is a band so full of invention and variety that they deserve so much more than to be adored as cult heroes by those who dare to try. This is the real Prog for the new age and not the tepid outpouring of one Mr S Wilson

How We Rock - indeed......

Thursday, 1 November 2012

One of this year's easiest reviews - Doro has released her latest offering and it's called Raise Your Fist

And it sounds EXACTLY like a Doro album..... Grab yourself a studded leather wristband, throw some devil horns and just pretend grunge never happened.

Details are really superfluous but let's see - Track featuring Lemmy? Check. Power Ballad sung in German? Check. Terrible track titles? Check (Little Headbanger and Rock Till Death being great examples)

To be fair the power ballad Engel is fantastic song and the album overall is a big dumb slab of enjoyable metal.

The art work below is just a joy to look at !

Friday, 26 October 2012

two very quick reviews.....

Blueneck have released an instrumental album, Epilogue, as a soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist !
It is exactly that - a backdrop to put your own visuals to.... Lots of piano and shimmering guitar but you do miss the vocals of the earlier albums. Whilst it worth a listen you won't return to it again and again like the Fallen Host album

(and I think it was probably a film like Aliens they had in mind......)


Biggest disappointment of the year so far is the new Placebo EP - 5 tracks and only one is in any way memorable. The lead of song B3 could well be an outtake from the Battle For The Sun album, and the rest appear to be filler with the exception of I.K.W.Y.L. This is the standout track with a nippy little guitar riff and lyrics straight out of the New Model Army songbook of vengeance. One of their best songs since Nancy Boy

I approach the forthcoming album with caution

What is it with French music - You wait ages and suddenly they're producing bands all over the place (Delusion Squared, Gojira) and now Alcest

Apparently they used to be a black metal band but the album Le Voyage de L'ame shows very little of that heritage. By the sound of it they may have travelled a similar path to Opeth. A lot of the track are long with plenty of instrumental passages. Vocals appear to be in both English and French but are part of the sound rather than standing out for you to dissect the lyrics.

Là où naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles is the one track to feature growled vocals in the background and Faiseurs de Mondes includes some brutal drumming to keep the whole thing interesting.

There are also a lot of Pink Floyd influence with some beautiful chiming guitar lines especially on the extended outro of the album closer Summer's Glory.

This is an eclectic album but one of my favourites so far of the year. Music to immerse yourself in

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Two of the albums I've most been looking forward to this year and neither disappoints...

Firstly the Smoke Fairies have returned with Blood Speaks, their second album.
This album still retains what the press call a "spook folk" feel but with a harder edge than before. Some tracks such as Awake have that ethereal feel they perfected on the debut album but the more guitar driven Feel It Coming Near show their sound palette is still expanding. The harmonies are reserved more for the choruses and it interesting to hear both girls voices to the fore in different places

The outstanding track is The Three Of Us featuring some raw slide guitar and one of the best lyrics they have yet written. The title track Blood Speaks starts at a much more sedate pace over skittering drums before building to a glorious crescendo showing off the harmony vocals to full effect.

An album that shows no shortage of ideas after a stellar debut and still driving forward to further recognition


Secondly Marillion have returned with their 17th (!) studio album, Sounds That Can't be Made and it's a stunning release. Not as sprawling or as unfocused as the last couple of releases, it appears having the stop gap acoustic album was a good idea to allow the creativity more time to flow

I had worries that the band was becoming a vehicle for the singer Steve Hogarth but this is a fully functioning band production. Highlights are many and very few negatives.

The opener Gaza rocks harder than anything since possibly This Strange Engine. It's a complex 17 minutes complete with political lyrics and imagery and some searing guitar soloing from Steve Rothery. It's a bit of a shame that Hogarth feels the need to apologise in the sleevenotes for the lyrics - Stand by your words and defend what you sing
The return of Rothery's guitar is really welcome and can be heard to good effect on the title track and Lucky Man.
The Sky above the Rain is a poignant album closer with soaring peaks of music built around the lyric of a disintegrating relationship.
Album highlight for me is the lengthy Montreal which is just a series of diary entries which somehow ends up as a fascinating set of images of a trip to Canada with the whole band contributing some immense musicianship.

This is simply Marillion's best album since Marbles - a consistent set of brilliant songs

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Time for a roundup of recent singles I've downloaded recently........

Firstly In My Blood by Black Stone Cherry. A fantastic track which sounds like the single Skynyrd should have written sometime in the late 70's..... When you can include lyrics such as "when Tuesday comes, I'll be gone again" and a chorus blessed with a hook that could catch a whale it should have been a massive radio hit. Says a lot about the state of radio and record promotion when this remains a hidden gem but Kings of Leon are a commercial radio staple - such a shame

Now a song that was not designed for the radio - L'enfant Sauvage by Gojira. Confusingly a song with a French title by a French band but sung in English !!
This chugs along with a simmering brutality and vocals best described as an acquired taste. Sound is somewhere between Sepultura without the tribal drums and a heavier Apocalyptica
Worth a listen just to see what is happening across the channel in the world of metal

Regina Spector's single All the Rowboats is one my highlights of the year so far.... An ode to paintings hanging in museums, this is one of the cleverest lyrics I've heard in a long time. Some insistent piano in the background means comparisons to Tori Amos will be made but this is less self consciously kooky and with a harder edge. The unexpected ending with the synthesised drum crashes is strangely in keeping with the whole feel of the song

Fear Factory have returned (in case anyone noticed they had been away) but for a band that once was the cutting edge of metal, this is just treading water. Recharger could have come from any of the last 3 albums I've heard.... Whilst there is some melody in the chorus, this band ceased to be relevant many years ago. Check out the albums Demanufacture or Digimortal to hear the band in their prime rather than listen to this

Finally Kate Bush has released a remix of Running Up That Hill. Debuting at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, the first thing to note is the re-recorded vocals and then the fact that thankfully she hasn't tampered too much with what is a classic song. Whilst it always a delight to hear new material from Ms Bush this is probably the least essential thing she has done in years.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Finally a bit of a mis step..... Read some very good reviews about a band called Delusion Squared who I believe come from France

They are a prog rock trio with female vocals and so I bought the album II (the cleverley titled second album)

It's not a bad album in that you rush to turn it off but it's utterly forgetable once the last song finishes. The vocal are polite but nothing special. The opening track Double Vision suggests they may listen to a lot of latter day Marillion and the whole album feels like a bit of a Porcupine Tree homage in places

The music is all well played with some nice keyborads in places but there just aren't enough hooks to make you want to revisit the album on a regular basis

A shame but an album that fails to shine

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Very rarely do I buy an album solely on the album cover but this proves the exception to the rule.....

Four heavily made up young ladies holding hands and dressed all in black with large brimmed hats - surely the  riders of the apocalypse younger sisters leaving the cowboy bar from hell

The Black Belles self titled album is an unexpected treat. This though is American Gothic and so these girls grew up on The Ramones and The Cramps rather than dry ice and the Sisters of Mercy....

of the 11 tracks only one last more than 3 minutes - short sharp shocks of primal guitar rock with attitude. There is nothing musically subtle here and those aren't the vocals of a X Factor contestant.

Lyrically it's not quite at the levels of male hatred that Emilie Autumn reaches but I would guess these girls may have been wronged by a few men in the past.

The swirling eerie organ on Honky Tonk Horror and Pushing Up Daisies add to the atmospherics and there is also a large dash of melody spread throughout the tracks. The Wrong Door has a surfin' feel to the guitars and is as catchy as hell.

Jack White produced the album and there is a White Stripes influence but not enough to detract from the band's own sound

This is how an all girl band should sound  - highly recommended

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Now this can be considered a very odd thing to do... Porl King of Miserylab fame has created a side project called In Death It Ends

Clearly a vanity project to release some atmospheric and claustrophobic instrumentals, he chose a C60 cassette tape as the format on which to release the debut album !!

Though I missed out on the very limited cassette run there is a more conventional download available through the Miserylab website of the album Forgotten Knowledge.

The music is a pulsing, dark and menacing brew with occasional flashes of keyboard to alleviate the gloom..... Title are kept mainly to a single word - Covet, Evoke, Summon....

There are some sampled female vocals in the tracks Rite and Forgotten Knowledge which catch the ear and one track, We All Die, with vocals from Porl.

The sound doesn't differ too much from Miserylab (both are musical visions from the same individual so what do you expect ?) but there is enough interesting differences in both the rhythms and overall feel to make this a worthwhile purchase

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Having finally got a turntable in place I can review my Record Day Store purchases from April....

First up is a double A side 7" from Nerina Pallot. You have to wonder what this lady has to do to get more airplay - Side A, All Bets Are Off, is a string laden piece of summery pop which Radio 2 and the commercial stations should have on heavy rotation. And to top it off you have Bernard Butler contributing a short but sweet guitar solo in the middle. Side AA, Butterfly is more forceful and features a guitar intro from Butler which curiously sounds a bit like it was lifted from a 80's track by The Cult. Throughout Pallots' world weary vocals are spot on and she should be such a bigger star.

Second up is remix 12" from Simple Minds. Curiously the tracks come from different albums but is in keeping with their current nostalgia for their early albums. Moby has remixed the instrumental, Theme For Great Cities from the Sisters Feeling Call album. The main difference seems to be to update the track as a shiny piece of dance music. Having re listened to the original I can't say the remix was at all needed. The flip side is John Leckie's remix of I Travel from the Empire And Dance album. If anything this mix is even less essential - I've sat and listened a couple and times and struggle to even work out if their is any difference to the original.... Great to have this 2 songs on vinyl but the remixes are a complete waste of time.

Finally a 9" EP from The Smoke Fairies to celebrate their forthcoming second album. The opening track, The Three Of Us, features some gorgeous swampy slide guitar and a full bass/drum compliment which makes this their heaviest rack to date. The second track, Radio Clicks On dials back the heaviness and has a bit of a west coast vibe.
Bells is the track that sounds most like an outtake from the debut album, all acoustic guitars and fabulous harmonies. The final track, The Wireless, carries on the mellow acoustic feel.
The opening track suggest a harder, heavier direction which could be really intriguing if it's carried forward onto the new album - Can't wait.

I do have one more purchase, a 7" from the Civil Wars featuring their cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean but the record is currently sat in Bristol waiting for me to collect it !

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Had this album hanging around for a while but recently reminded to do a review by the band offering free downloads of all their albums last week..... Blueneck come from Bristol and manage to make it sound like the most desolate place on earth

Repetions is their 3rd album and is continues from where the magnificent last album, The Fallen Host, left off. It's in an exercise in melancholy and wanting yet you never quite understand what the yearning is for. The album contains huge swathes of piano and strings which ebb and swell to magnificent crescendoes of noise. Song titles such as Pneumothorax, Venger and Ellipis are meaningless but somehow more simple titles would make it feel less otherwordly.

Repetitions contains a lot more vocals than previous albums but they are not there to be listened to or deciphered to convey a mood. In a couple of songs the guitars come to the fore most noticeably in The Last Refuge but there is less of a that apocalytic thrashing heard on The Fallen Host album

A quite brilliant album and if you got for free then bargain of the year. Play with the lights out but never at the end of a bad day.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Based solely on a couple of reviews I bought Boys & Girls album by the Alabama Shakes only to find that everyone else knew they were the hot new thing !!

This is proper R&B rather than the Rap& Bling version.... A proper band with real soul and rythmn, all topped off with the most amazing voice. A version of Janis Joplin for those too young to remember
Beware though, there is nothing 'new' on here but they borrow well from history.

The first 3 songs include Hold On and Hang Loose which are prime examples of this bands potential. They groove with really purpose and highlight what the hype was about. The album is too long though and suffers badly towards the end were the enthusiam and ideads dry up before ending with the upbeat On Your Way and a flurry of cymbals

Brittany Howard's vocals are the real star quality on this album. She is no X Factor wannabe but someone singing from the heart even when the lyrics sound like they were the put together at the last minute from the Penguin book of song lyrics. The Chorus on Hold On really shows off her power

A fantastic vinyl album on side 1 but trailing off on side 2 - Interesting to see where they go next

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Well it's only been 12 months since the official website advertised the latest offering from the Fields Of The Nephilim so in terms of previous delays it's almost on time.....

Ceremonies is not going to change anyone's view - You either already buy into the Nephilim mystique in which case you will adore it or this will still leave you feeling bewildered as to why anyone cares.

For all the packaging OTT latin subtitles - (Ad Mortem and Ad Vitam), DVD and double vinyl option, this is the soundtrack to two live shows from 2008 and should not be regarding as something 'new'

This is a second official live release and the attraction is the tracks from the Mourning Sun and Zoon albums that appear live for the first time. Songs such as Xiberia and Penetration have a distinct metallic feel and that can be felt through most of the album. Highlight from the new songs would be the epic 11 minute Mourning Sun which should have been the final song to end the album as a glorious celebration of whatever religious evocation Carl McCoy is trying for. Curiously the much slower and downbeat Celebrate ends the set.....

While this is still a great live document of where McCoy and his hired hands now stand, the original members and especially the bass playing of Tony Petitt are missed at times.

The rarely heard pair of tracks Wail Of Summer/ And There Your Heart Will Be Also from the album Elizium still show this to be a band that has to be experienced live but you should still firstly purchase the preposterously brilliant Earth Inferno for a demonstration of the Nephilim at the peak of their magnificent live power.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

You know sometimes you buy an album on impulse..... Having read a couple of reviews and a recommendation, I downloaded an album by Terry Riley called A Rainbow in Curved Air. Recorded in the mid sixties it consists of two instrumentals lasting 18 and 21 mins.

It's definitely interesting but possibly not something you would listen to that often. It has the air of a man who on delivery of his new synthesiser decided he had to try every pedal, effect and button to see what it did.

The title track is more energetic and was obviously heard by Pete Townsend because he subsequently lifted the intro to Baba O'Reilly from about 4 minutes into the track ! The second track revels in the name of Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band and is a more disconcerting 'song' as just as you settle into a section it shifts and drifts off in another direction

Not an easy listen but one for the devout muso in you only.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Waited a while but finally there is some new material from The Eden House. It's only a 5 track mini album but the Timeflows EP is worth seeking out.

The core musicians remain but as usual the vocals are taken on by a variety of female singers. The opening track Neversea is one of the rockier tracks they've done and feature guitar heroics from Simon Hinkler which could easily have come from the classic Mission album Children.

The pace then drops for Into the Red and The Only One which rely much more on gothic atmospheric and mesmerising vocals.

The album ends with the two part Timeflows track. Immediately the pulsing Nephilim like bass line pushes this into more epic territory. At over 12 minutes long this pushes deep into prog realms with part 2 of the song being an extended coda to the earlier exhilaration of part 1.

I've been lucky enough to purchase the album on as a 10" 180gsm vinyl and it sounds magnificent. Andy Jackson is the man Pink Floyd trust when is comes to remastering their back catalogue and even though his primary role in The Eden House is as a guitarist, the production is impeccable.

This is just meant to be a taster for a new album which already makes it my second most anticipate release of 2012 only beaten by the possible return of the mythical Carl McCoy.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Heard a lot of interesting stuff about The Civil Wars so thought I would take a risk on the debut album, Barton Hollow

It's a very laid back album with a real americana vibe - you want to be sat on a veranda looking out over a sun setting on miles of fields. The male/female vocal harmonies are just stunning on the mainly acoustic tracks like 20 Years and Girl With The Red Balloon.

The two stand out tracks couldn't be more different, Poison And Wine is a pained ballad about a disintegrating relationship with real feeling behind it. Barton Hollow though offers a welcome respite from the acoustic harmony with a real southern style and gritty feel. What feels like an authentic civil war tune from deepest dixie with references to both god and outlaws.  This is then followed with a plaintive piano led instrumental, The Violet Hour, to change the mood completely.

The album ends with an acoustic and very slowed down version of Michael Jackson's track Billie Jean. In no way is a bad track but you wonder if the gimmick is necessary with an album this good....

Apparently Taylor Swift is a fan but don't let that put you off.....

The band also have a live album available for free from their website

It makes a great companion piece to the album - It's called Live At Eddie's Attic and while it does exactly what the title says it is still well worth investigating

Thursday, 1 March 2012

I stumbled across a mini album by a band called Cynic... I heard rumours they were pioneers in death metal and released a seminal album way back when. This though is not in any form a death metal band anymore but a prog thoroughbred

Carbon Based Anatomy contains only 6 songs - The opener Amidst the Coals consists of female vocals singing in an unknown language over drifting keyboards. The title track feature some prodigious drumming and a good ol' fashioned guitar solo

The variety within only 6 tracks is jaw dropping - Bija features tabla drums and a very eastern feel with no vocals while Elves Beam Out is a 70's prog work out with a decidedly space rock feel

This album met none of my preconceptions of what it would sound like and is all the better for it.
It's an album which never lets you settle into one style of music and leave you wanting to hear more

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Porl King used to record under the Rosetta Stone moniker but for a few years now he has used the Miserylab name.
Being the work of one man it's a very singular sound but worth exploring.

The first Miserylab vinyl was made available in January featuring two of his best tracks from the recent Void Of Life album. Whilst we wait for the vinyl to be pressed, Porl included an exclusive 5 track download with every order called the Somewhere Between EP. The first track Say What We Mean has a great melody and Porl's vocals improve on each release. The use of a drum machine can be restrictive and it does mean tracks can begin to sound similar. Lyrically as with all miserylab releases, there is a lot of anger and despair at the modern world and the song Too Big To Fail is a diatribe against the banking system.

The bonus track on the EP is an 8 minute version of People which was a highlight of the Void Of Life album. With a really strong chorus and a great low slung bass driving it along it's one of the best Miserylab songs out there.

On the website, Miserylab offer a whole host of free track to download if you are intrigued to know what it all sounds like -

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Couple of short reviews me thinks.... Firstly a single by My Dying Bride. It's called the Barghest O'Whitby and is one of the most gothic songs ever.
To call it a single is pushing it - It's 27 minutes long, has many changes of pace whilst retelling the story of a hellhound in Dracula country (Whitby for those unfamiliar with the novel). There is a fine range of storm and rain effects and huge swathes of doomy cello. The vocals are an acquired taste but aren't quite as extreme of some of the Scandinavian death metal bands out there.
Well worth a listen but make sure you're wearing black

Pete Trewavas and Robin Boult have got together to record a 5 track EP (which is shorter than the My Dying Bride single) It sounds like the Acoustic Industry EP was recorded one afternoon in a spare studio. The songs are all instrumental and there's nothing wrong with it apart from after listening to it I couldn't even hum any melody let alone remember what song one sounded like. It's inconsequential background noise for Marillion completists only

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Think I'll start with my Christmas gifts last year. I know outside the 2012 time frame I set myself but I really didn't get to hear them properly till the new year.

So Kate Bush returns with 50 Words for Snow and it's a difficult album to embrace from the start... The first 3 tracks last half an hour and move at a glacier pace. The opening track Snowflake uses her son's vocals which follows on from the Director's Cut album and is my favourite of the three tracks - a simple piano / vocal ballad. Some say Ms Bush's vocals are on the decline but they are still a thing of beauty and so full of feeling. Safe to say even now I have no idea what she is singing about half the time but it really doesn't matter. The best two tracks are hidden in the second half of the album... Snowed In At Wheeler Street is a fantastic duet with Elton John about two lovers meeting across the centuries at various times. I'm no fan of Elton but this is the second time I've recently heard him guest on a female vocalist album (first was with Ann Wilson) and perhaps he is improving with age.
And so to the title track which features Stephen Fry counting down those 50 Words For Snow while Kate provides encouragement in the chorus. In places it's funny, in other it conjures up evocative images of winter. It's the most uptempo of the 7 tracks and as such stops the album being too laid back.
Whilst a great album it really is one you'll play in the winter wrapped up warm rather than laying on the beach in the summer

Nightwish have probably constructed one of the most over the top albums in recent years... Not so much throwing in the kitchen sink but included the dishwasher as well.
Orchestra ? check
Children's choir ? check
Uilean pipes ? check
Completely pointless instrumental bonus disc ? check

Imaginaerum is the second album featuring Annette Olzon on vocals and she sounds much more comfortable this time round. The album does disappear worryingly into Lloyd Webber territory at times but is consistently stronger than Dark Passion Play. The lead single Storytime carries a melody that Abba would have killed for and just lodges in the brain. Scaretale is a song teetering on the edge of lunacy but just about stays this side of listenable with a brilliantly deranged vocal delivery. The growls of Marco the bass player are still in place and best used in the chorus of Ghost River where he battles the children's choir for supremacy.....
Where Nightwish go after this is going to be interesting because once you've gone this far over the top, where is left to go ?
OK.... where to start. Two months in to the years and I seem to have a lot of new music to catch up on. The plan is for a year to review all the albums I buy.... Some reviews may be more in depth than others and some may be a bit late but let's give it a go.

Not expecting anyone to worry about what I say or even read it so consider it a bit of a vanity project but lets see what happens....