Saturday, April 02, 2011

Hephystus - Burn the Page

Spectra Records - 2011
Burn The Page, the new release by Greensboro based Hephystus is a magnificent album replete with original material that evoke memories of a day when ambitious, sprawling and lavishly produced rock albums were a mainstay of rock radio (YES and Emerson, Lake & Palmer come easily to mind). Make no mistake though, Burn The Page is not a rehashing of 70's rock, instead it is fresh, new, progressive metal and full of life.
With the opening riffs of "Moment of Clarity" the tone of the entire album is set. The album's title track "Burn The Page" best exemplifies the complex musical textures found throughout each cut. "Strength," "Malice In Wonderland," and the aforementioned "Burn The Page" each open with instrumentation that is as unique as it is mesmerizing.
"Legacy Pt. I" is an engaging slow tune that really serves more as an introduction to "Permission to Die" a tune heavy on drum work and which seemingly leads the listener on a journey through a musical tapestry that imparts feelings of both adventure and danger before culminating with a conclusion in "Legacy Pt. II."
"No Compromise" and "Origami" provide an appropriate closing for this original album that utilizes Brandon Miller and Matt Halberg's guitar and Aaron Yow's bass parts heavily layered against the exquisitely melodic drums of Troy Surratt and the surging keyboards of Andrew Pollard.

stratocruiser - Our New EP

New Atlas Digital Recordings
Greensboro based rock band stratocruiser's newest album release, simply named Our New EP, is now available for download and/or streaming from the band's website. EP (or Extended Play) isn't a term you hear much of these days since its roots are from the days of vinyl albums. But, the term is definitely appropriate for this album as stratocruiser has an engineered sound that is reminiscent of the rock albums of the 70's and early 80's. Our New EP is comprised of six original songs including the 2009 single "Kids Hate Rock and Roll" (chosen as Song of the Year by Pop Garden Radio, WMEL), and one cover song - a wonderful revision of "I Woke Up In Love This Morning."
"Freak Flag" is heavy on guitar and the overall sound of the song is like listening to a mix of Jimi Hendrix and early 70's arena rock. "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" (yes, the same song popularized on the 1971 Partridge Family Sound Magazine album), is a driving, foot tapping cover behind lead singer Clay Howard's exciting and well-crafted vocals. The EP's fourth cut "New Glasses," slants towards an early new wave sound that leads into "OK Class" which was previously turned out in 2009 on a limited 300 copies release of OK Class, the Best of stratocruiser and more. "OK Class" starts out with a guitar riff that brings to mind Meatloaf and the Bat Out of Hell album.
"Slush" starts off with heavy organ instrumentation that segue's into a Beatles-esque sound reminiscent of the band's psychodelic period.
The final cut on the EP, "That Phone Call" was also contributed to the indie horror film Hellphone as the films end title track. You can view the video to the song below. In all, Our New EP is an enjoyable listen and full of riff's & sounds and engineering that brings to mind an era of rock & roll most of us grew up in. Yet, the EP manages to bridge the gap between then and now and is comfortably at home in the new millenia.

Dreamkiller - Sleepless Dreams

Dreamkiller Music
  Melodic rock concept group Dreamkiller's debut full length album Sleepless Dreams is a compelling and artfully crafted work that imparts a vision splendid, the music itself seemingly transporting you to the dream itself.
  Singer/songwriter/actress/model/business woman Christy Johnson takes the helm of this musical journey that feels at once like a pilgrimage through a mystical landscape. Sleepless Dreams is a concept album that fires on all cylinders with characters Lyrik, Theone, Cliché and Dreamkiller.
  Christy's vocals are clear and powerful, punctuating each song and providing the mystical quality the concept requires.
  The opening tune "Lyric's Battle" sets the stage for the album with it's protagonist vs. antagonist theme which is made more poignant by the compelling narrative that precedes the song itself and which is also found throughout the album.
  No song on the album is more chilling though than the third cut "All or Nothing" which could easily feel at home in a James Bond movie (indeed, everytime I hear it I see the opening graphics of that movie franchise playing in my mind).
  While Christy's vocals and the lyrics illuminate the music, it is the exquisite dynamic instrumentation of the band - Tian Garcia (guitar), Erny Galvan (bass), and David Lanning (drums) that propels the listener into a mystical place.
Dreamkiller's Sleepless Dreams can be purchased on in MP3 format for downloading or the CD can be purchased at Dreamkiller shows while supplies last.

Lisa Manning - Gravel Road

  Burlington native Lisa Manning left the confines of the small town and made her way to Nashville. Today Lisa makes a living as a fiddler and vocalist in Whispering Bill Anderson's band but the former North Carolina resident is also an accomplished songwriter which is borne out in her 2009 CD Gravel Road - a tour de force of old style fiddling and stalwart bluegrass vocals.
  Ten of the twelve songs included on this wonderful album were written by Lisa and seven of those were co-written with her husband Derek Deakins who is also a renowned fiddle player in his own right having played with the Osborne Brothers and also Blake Shelton.
  For Gravel Road Lisa pooled the talents of several other bluegrass genre greats for both playing and singing duties. Former Shenandoah front man Marty Raybon provides lead vocals on "You'll Come Back On Your Own" while Blake Shelton lends a hand with lead vocals on "The Tractor Song." Bluegrass phenom Cia Cherryholmes also lends her vocal talents with a turn on lead for "Forecast of My Heart."
  Lisa handles fiddle duties or harmony fiddle on all twelve songs and provides harmony vocals on the three aforementioned tunes as well as "While We Can," "Smiling Down On You," "Black Raven," and "What Could've Been" and with the exception of the three instrumentals - "Climbin' the Castle," "Piper's Reel," and "Stop-N-Chat" Lisa's delightful voice takes the lead.
  Gravel Road is an incredible album that exemplifies the very best of a modern bluegrass