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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Sylvia Tosun
Kirsten DeHaan
Petra Berger
Alex Bach
Christy Baron
Hayley Hutchinson
The Dreaming
Francesca Lee
White Willow
Mostly Autumn
Of Infinity
Lullacry

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Instrumental Digest
 
Sylvia Tosun
Image © Sea to Sun Records 2005

Sylvia Tosun
Image © Sylvia Tosun 2005

Sylvia Tosun
Image © Sylvia Tosun 2005

More Sylvia Tosun
Exclusive Jump In 2005 Interview!
Too Close To the Sun (2001)
Anthem (2002)
Jump In (2004)


 

(revised 10 May 2005) Sylvia Tosun has released her stunning second full length album Jump In. A thirteen-track collection of material that builds in sound, texture and lyrical content on her debut 2001 EP "Too Close To The Sun" (feature), the album is brilliantly produced by Miklos Malek and co-produced by Sylvia Tosun. It was arranged by the duo and by Istvan Csont, who joined forces previously on Sylvia's award-winning 2002 album Anthem (review). Read our exclusive 2005 Jump In interview with Sylvia.

Tracks on Sylvia's new album were mixed by the legendary Tom Lord-Alge and Miklos Malek and were mastered by Tom Coyne of Sterling Sound. Sylvia has continued to write with long-time friends Emil Adler and Julie Flanders (October Project) who contribute to music and lyrics respectively for ten of the album's tracks. The result is captivating and addictive with a quality certain to enthrall and expand Tosun's loyal following. All new arrangements contribute to the new renditions of songs previously released on "Too Close To The Sun."

The album's twelve songs range from upbeat rockers to soft ballads and include vastly accessible pop numbers as well. The sequence of the tracks builds interest as the material unfolds. The opening "All This Time" has a catchy, upbeat melody and a beautiful instrumental accompaniment. Richness and clarity flows throughout this song and it has a strong, sensual quality. The rock rhythm urges one to move with the infectious beat. Lyrics speak to the heart and relate a message of hopefulness and reality. The exciting "Jump In" continues with lush vocals--Sylvia's crystalline lead atop backing harmonies--and a percussion driven melody. The song is about taking chances and to "feel the edge of a miracle."

The album continues with the standout "Sleepless," with its mysterious and exotic Middle Eastern texture. The melody draws the listener in further with a frenetic beat and a sensual delivery of the lyrics. Soaring vocals complement the rich arrangements. Sylvia's beautiful, soaring voice in the down tempo "Your Girl" casts a spell over the listener, evoking a sensitivity and energy in the music. Layers of backing vocals contribute lush harmonies to the number. The album continues to expand in style with the upbeat dance rhythm of "Sanctuary," where vocal purity and power are joined by a mystical sound and undertones.

"We Belong" is a gentler number, a ballad that draws the listener into a wonderful and heartwarming dream. "Maybe we're all healing, kneeling to an altar of hope, when our hands are touching, clutching to that open door..." expresses the inspirational lyrics and melody that is rich with texture and harmonies. Another album standout is "Head Over Heels," which explodes into a breathy, take-charge melody. Pulsing rhythms and synchronized instrumentals punctuate layers of vocals that display Sylvia's best assets. Her extensive range and clarity are simply flawless.

The poetics in the title track of her debut EP "Too Close to the Sun" are treated with soothing harmonies that indulge the senses. The dreamy melody captures a spirited mood that crescendos with a touching tenderness. The simple hypnotic percussion in "Dreaming" helps to create the ambience of a wistful frame of mind. The beauty of the echoing vocals and backing harmonies and infectious hook continue to impress and inspire. "Once and Always You" has a compelling rock rhythm and demonstrates both Sylvia's vocal range and power. The lush instrumentals and catchy tune are joined by rich vocal arrangements that make this another album standout.

The slower "Moving Away" is an evocative tune that envelops and dazzles the listener. There is a stunning blend of well articulated vocals, lyrics and melody. The album concludes with the gently delivered yet vocally powerful "Blue Sky." Here Sylvia creates a mellow and enchanting sensation with tender vocals. Floating melodies unite to complete a tapestry of words and music and illustrate the range and depth of the artist's musical talent.

Sylvia's powerful voice perfectly complements the rock rhythms, pop melodies and poetic metaphors on All This Time. Her crystalline lead is supported by layers of backing harmonies as well as rich arrangements on each of the album's tracks. Sylvia's live shows are special events with diverse musicians participating -- all accompanied by her sensual silhouette moving about the stage. Our new interview with Sylvia Tosun and review a live performance is planned for publication later this year. All This Time is a timeless album and it is certain to attract the significant attention this tremendous artist's work deserves.

 
Conform CD Cover
Image © SirLady Records 2004 
 

(11 September 2004) Conform (SirLady Records (USA) 2004) is the rock debut album for current New Yorker Indie artist, Kirsten Dehaan. Her music is a conglomerate of styles including blues, latin, jazz and classical, that culminates to create her own unique sound. With her voice and style likened to Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, this singer/songwriter has come up with a sure winner.

The album has been described as the "quintessential" rock album, capturing varied human emotions combined into a unique sound. "As the title of the album indicates - we all tend to 'conform' to what's around us and sometimes loose our individuality in the process ... I express individual words like liberation, motivation, desperation, etc. and stir all these emotions up into one poignant melody to capture their importance," according to Kirsten.

Opening with "The Money Sinner," she expresses her views while delving into the topic of conformity via mass consumption. Her rocky and edgy sound capture the listener. Her sultry and breathy tones continue in "Floating." She shows diversity in her melodic interludes, as "Push" and "Breakthrough" have a tender quality, capturing different feelings and emotions.

Each song seems to have a standout value, with its varied rhythms and vocal beauty. Kirsten seems to raise the bar with each song, and the result is one of excitement and wanting more. This ten track album has a distinctive sound and Kirsten's talents shine through.

 
Mistress CD Cover
Image © Universal Music (NL) 2004  
 

(26 September 2004) Dutch classical-contemporary crossover songstress, Petra Berger, soars to the heights with her second album, Mistress (Universal Music (NL) 0602498080597, 2004). Her exquisite soprano voice enraptures the listener with beautiful classical and pop renditions. Enthusiasts of Laura Turner (feature), Sarah Brightman (Harem review) and Emma Shapplin (Etterna review), Izzy (Cooper) (New Dawn review) and similar artists are certain to be delighted with this album.

Petra chose thirteen famous women as the source of her inspiration. The album tells a story of the mistress, the scorned wife and the cheating husband. The roles are personified by famous women and her singing/storytelling brings about the emotions of despair, sadness, love, humiliation, jealousy and revenge. The power of her beautiful voice brings a new meaning to an angelic aria.

Petra adds to the ambiance of her story by singing in Italian, English, French and Spanish. Each of these languages helps to transform the music from a delicate tale to a robust masterpiece. The musical arrangements by her husband, Jeroen Englebert, and Pim Koopman make this album truly outstanding, in addition to the gorgeous performance by the remarkable Petra.

Each song is a standout, all unified by the central theme. Her range is extensive, and with outstanding clarity, she brings great joy in her dazzling classical and contemporary musical interpretations. From the contemporary "What He Means To Me" to the radiant classical aria in "Passion" adapted from ‘Rêverie’ by Debussy and title track, "Mistress", adapted from "Adagietto" in Mahler's Fifth Symphony, Petra charms and beguiles the listener.

Her innovative style, blended with her romantic, pure and emotional vocals, creates an album with powerful musical style. Her soaring operatic style crescendos into a true success.

 
Miles To Go CD Cover
Image © Alex Bach 2002-2004 
 

(11 September 2004) French born pop singer, Alex Bach, released her debut album, Miles To Go in 2002. The eight tracks on the album display a richness and diversity, using graceful melodies and pop/rock rhythms. The singer offers two additional tracks via her website that show substantial artistic development since the initial release of this album and our correspondents report her live performances are outstanding.

She comes from an international background, and speaks four languages. Her father is French Tunisian and her mother is American. She was born and raised in France, and later relocated to Abu Dhabi, Germany, and finally the United States. This varied background certainly has affected her music in a distinctive and positive manner, with striking lyrics that cut to the chase. Her voice mesmerizes the listener with its poignancy and evocative tones.

"Remember every day that you have been given a gift that very few people have and almost everybody wants: the ability to make music!" Alex certainly takes this statement to heart and truly has been given a melodic gift. All the tracks, except for the collaboration on "Anymore" with Gerald Fischer, were written by Alex.

She has a distinctive quality in her voice, complemented by the graceful tunes. The captivating and soaring vocals in "Kaleidoscope" and "Hurricane" showcase her strong talents. The title song, "Miles To Go," is a touching ballad, displaying her sensitivity and maturity. The two bonus tracks from Alex's website rock with more intensity. The funky pop tune "Blame God Instead" demonstrates the power of her voice and the stunning "Crucifixion" has a harder, Evanescence-style, edge.

Alex said, "Sharing my music allows me to communicate my emotions and connect personally with all of you." She certainly has accomplished this goal, and has touched many hearts and minds. Her distinguishing tonal eloquence and engaging lyrics make this CD a must listen.

 
Take This Journey CD Cover
Image © Chesky Records 2004

More Christy Baron
Steppin'
Retrospective
 

(26 September 2004) Mellow, sultry and in the groove is the only way to describe jazz/pop diva, Christy Baron. Her third album, Take This Journey (Chesky Records (USA) JD239, 2002) brings the listener a repertoire of modern classics from a list of famed songwriters including Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Stevie Wonder. She has a captivating voice and approaches these renditions with grace and passion.

"Happy Together" sets the tone for a fabulous set of thirteen tracks. Christy has great intonation and exudes an enthusiastic quality in these popular tunes. She is a very talented vocalist who mesmerizes the listener. Her background in jazz, pop and R&B certainly has contributed to her expertise and dynamic approach to her music.

In addition to her jazz/pop career, Christy's experience includes theater and film. In the 1990's, she had leading roles in the film "Pants on Fire" and in a theatrical production of Eduardo Machado's Stevie Wants to Play the Blues at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, MA. She also played the lead role of Fantine in a Broadway production of Les Miserables. With her well-trained theatrical style, Christy's voice will appeal to Stephanie Adlington and other West End singer fans.

Many of the songs, including "I'm All Smiles," has wonderful saxophone solos by David Mann (also credited with flute). Credits also go to David Finck on bass, Paul Gollenback on guitar and Graham Hawthorne on drums. Christy adds her own texture to other well known tunes including "That Old Devil Moon," "Stand Behind Me" and "The First Day in August."

Christy combines both music and poetry in her exquisite style. She has enchanting vocals and enthralls us with each note she sings. And the top production quality one expects and has come to take for granted from Chesky has been delivered once again. How can anyone not Take This Journey without a smile on their face and be put under her spell!

 
Independently Blue CD Cover
Image © HayLo Media 2004 
 

(11 September 2004) Born in Scotland, yet now based in York, indie artist Hayley Hutchinson has burst onto the scene with her self-finanaced debut album, Independently Blue (HayLo Media (UK) mrcd007, 2004). The album is strong acoustically with a mix of pop and country. This talented songstress is just in her early twenties, and already shows a sophistication and variety in her craft.

All the songs on this twelve track album were written by Hayley. Opening with "Deadman," her renditions are reminiscent of an early Sheryl Crow. The number is catchy and toe-tapping, with wonderful acoustics. "Climb Through" has a more delicate delivery showcasing Hayley's touching lyrics and tenderness. Adding to the mood is the cello accompaniment of James Lindsay.

The title track, "Independently Blue," is another appealing melody that exhibits her vocal versatility and song-writing talent. Her father, John Hutchinson, an accomplished guitarist of David Bowie fame, contributes his talents to numerous songs on this album. Tinged with country roots, "Minor Key" continues to fuse the guitar and piano melodies with Hayley's beautiful, poignant vocals.

Another highlight is the touching and compassionate "I Have to say I Love You." The simplicity of the tune accentuates the loveliness and clarity of her soulful voice. The lilting flow continues with "Fall Down," another engaging and spellbinding song. "Here's The Love" changes the tone with a more pop-filled, percussion number that contributes to the diversity of this singer's talents.

This gifted singer/songwriter closes with "Happy Endings" which is quite apropos for this delightful debut. She said, "I'm going to carry on creating, whatever it may be. Who knows what's next, I just want to enjoy myself as much as possible in the process!" Hayley brings a freshness and variety to this original material, and delivers it with a punch. She has certainly mastered her initial album, and her future efforts are anxiously awaited.

 
Shadow Days CD Cover
Image © DreamSuite Records 2004

Ann Janish-Schieder
Ann Janish-Scheider
Photo by Irene Haupt
Image © DreamSuite Records 2004

Leah Pinnavaia
Leah Pinnavaia
Photo by Irene Haupt
Image © DreamSuite Records 2004
click on image to visit the
Cosmic Stepping Stones' website
 

(12 September 2004) The Dreaming have returned with a new eleven-track release entitled Shadow Days (DreamSuite Records (USA), 2004). Our visitors should recall the band's prior two releases Picture Book Rain and Silent (review). The Dreaming play a light blend of progressive rock and other styles laced with gorgeous female vocals. Based in Buffalo, NY the band is fronted with the silky vocals of Ann Janish-Schieder (lead and backing vocals, keyboard). The lineup is completed by newcomer Leah Pinnavaia (harmony vocals, clarinet and lead vocals on "Useful Vagueness"), with Ray Lorigo (guitar, bass), Daniel Haskin (guitar, ebow, keyboard), and Patrick O'Connell (drums, percussion and acoustic guitar on "The Dreaming"). The album also includes a guest appearance by Joe Pinnavaia [Leah's brother and co-member of the band Cosmic Stepping Stones] playing mandolin on "Mourning Rain."

The album demonstrates significant development since The Dreaming's prior two releases with more refined and lush arrangements joined by Leah's soaring soprano vocal harmonies. We can't wait to hear more from her. Tempo and musical styles vary across the album contributing to changes in mood and texture. Says Daniel Haskin, "Ray and I have been playing together for a long time and we orchestrate our parts a certain way to capture a feel." The trend continues into Shadow Days.

Shadow Days, like The Dreaming's earlier work, plays on the lighter side of progressive rock and is dominated by gentler art- or folk-rock oriented numbers. The ballads contribute to the most memorable moments of the album. Standouts include "Useful Vagueness" and "Love Is A Grieving Thing" with echoing acoustic and electric guitar parts amply contrasting with the singers' stunning vocals.

The new album is varied yet cohesive collection of tracks with most blending smoothly into the next in the running order. Opening with the upbeat folk rock tune "Demons," the album rapidly progresses into the dramatically produced "Useful Vagueness." The rapturous yet bluesy lead is sung by Leah Pinnavaia. The singers' backing harmonies perfectly complement the lush instrumentals that build in the bridge. "Perfect Skin" is the first of the album's ballads. A tender lyrical message led by Ann is perfectly balanced by Leah's harmonies and clarinet backing.

Ann's folky vocals are perfectly underscored by Leah's soaring soprano vocalise in "Piglet and the Black Fox," a typical progressive rock track with vast tempo and mood changes. "Supernova" is an downtempo piece with notable vocals by the two singers offset by a sharpness to the otherwise lush arrangement while the folk-oriented "Loki" instrumental is dominated by estremely crisp acoustic guitar licks.

"My Resurrection" is a more thickly arranged progressive rock number with Ann's evocative yet bluesy lead backed by Leah's lush harmonies. The perfect sonic blend of vocals and instrumental--especially electric guitar--arrangements is especially notable. "Mourning Rain" presents an immediate and striking change with layers of vocals backed by mandolin and folky acoustic instrumentation reminiscent of much earlier days.

Driven by blues guitar and standup bass, the album takes another 90 degree turn into a smokey lounge tune with "Hard Enough." Ann's vocal leads and soars above the arrangements between the notable guitar solos. The album concludes with the dramatically arranged cross-cultural and frenetic instrumental "The Dreaming." Leah's soaring vocal introduction compliments instrumentals before Ann's contrasting vocal enters the fray. Daniel told us, "[this track] was an off the cuff improv based upon a beat and was supposed to be immediate, feeding off each other at 1AM in the studio. We wanted it capture a moment and did the track with hardly any overdubbing."

The Dreaming have continued to demonstrate the maturity of a modern day progressive band with material spanning ballads, blues and rock. The variation between the accessible songs and the more intricate numbers works well for the band on this third release. Standouts include "Useful Vagueness," and "Love is a Grieving Thing" with "Perfect Skin" and "My Ressurection" running a close second. The band gig in the Buffalo area and we hope to catch one of their live performances and discuss it with our readers soon. In the meantime be sure to check out Shadow Days, available directly from the band's website!

 
Francesca Lee CD Cover
Image ©Blue Iris Records 2003 
 

(updated 20 September 2004) California-girl now based in Texas, Francesca Lee, introduces her self-titled debut album (Blue Iris Records (USA), 2002) from a pop/alt rock perspective. This singer/songwriter comes from a musical background, with an accomplished guitarist father, and a folk singer-songwriter mother. Her own musical experiences have been diverse, having dabbled in electronic music, modern soul, folk and avant garde bands.

She also attended Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. During that time, she performed solo and in various bands, and eventually created her own label, Blue Iris Records. She recorded her debut album while living in Liverpool. The album was recorded at The George Martin Studio. Says Francesca, "A variety of musicians from all over the world performed on the album including musicians from Scotland, Finland, Canada, England and Luxemborg." She continued, "Since then I've been performing solo acoustic primarily." She provided Musical Discoveries an exclusive sample of this extremely promising alternative.

The album consists of eight tracks, each showcasing Francesca's amazing talents. It is driven by soulful harmonies, interspersed in this pop/folk grouping of songs. She opens with "Tricks," where the listener is drawn into the upbeat melody with her beautiful vocals. "I Never" changes beat with an edginess in tone. This talented songstress delivers the goods in "Light Falls" with her sensual lyrics and rocky musical interpretation.

Her tender side comes through in "Goodbye" and "Only Human" with its more lilting and intimate tone. Her vocal warmth has a purity that is uplifting in "Mystical Fact." All in all, Francesca's efforts have not gone unnoticed, with some of her songs being featured on radio stations and in media publications. Her music was also showcased on an MTV Network production for The Real World.

Francesca Lee brings home a welcome sound from this talented singer/songwriter. She has a message that she easily delivers with her striking songs and vocals. Francesca delivers a dynamic performance throughout. She's been working on additional material since this album was released in 2002. Our review of it will be added here soon!

 
White Willow - Storm Season - CD Cover
Image © The Lasers Edge 2004

More White Willow
Sacrament
Live / Photos/ Interview
Tirill Mohn: A Dance With The Shadows

Sylvia
Image © Guro Lindskov 2004

Jacob and Sylvia
Image © Marie Sjøvold 2004

Sylvia
Image © Mike Davies 2004


 

(15 September 2004) It has been a long wait, even by White Willow's standards, but the wait has certainly been worthwhile. Each White Willow album, from the folk-prog of Ignis Fatuus, the beautiful, yet experimental Gothic rock of Ex Tenebris to the classic symphonic prog of Sacrament (review), has had a markedly different approach. Storm Season (Lasers Edge (USA) LE 1038, 2004) is no different, this time offering a dark intensity and a much heavier, more disturbing rock sound.

There seem to be two main catalysts for this change in musical character. Firstly, ever-present guitarist and chief architect of White Willow, Jacob Holm-Lupo started to create somewhat darker songs after the lushly symphonic "Sacrament" and it’s preoccupation with Gnosticism. On Storm Season, Jacob writes about extreme environmental conditions and how they influence with the lives of ordinary people, here personified in the recurring character of Sally. Environmental turbulence, therefore, also becomes a metaphor for emotional turbulence. If the album is not quite a full concept album, it is still pretty close--indeed how odd to be writing this review, in mid September 2004, just as Hurricane Ivan lashes Jamaica and Cuba. A special note should also go to Killustrations, whose artwork illustrates some of the lyrical themes superbly, suggesting painter Andrew Wyeth’s vision of rural America but rewritten as nightmare.

Secondly, some key personnel changes--a feature of any White Willow album--have made all the difference. Former bassist Johannes Sæbøe’s switch to second guitar has added a raw, crunching metallic sound to a number of the songs, while new keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie has brought with him a vast array of vintage analogue keyboards and a precocious technique, swamping the album with rich textures. Marthe Berger Walthinsen takes over bass duties in fine style, while, of the players from Sacrament, flautist Ketil Einarsen, no longer a permanent band member, contributes some excellent woodwind. Like his work on Tirill Mohn's A Dance with the Shadows (review), Ketil here tones down the virtuosity much celebrated on Sacrament for much more atmospheric playing, while the talented Aage Moltke Schou makes his second appearance on drums. Also from Tirill's band is cellist Sigrun Eng, whose frequent contributions add plenty of edgy, melancholic beauty. As for Jacob Holm-Lupo, he contributes his usual fluid lead guitar and some lovely acoustic moments, as well as the electronics on the title track. Singer Sylvia Erichsen is a revelation, continuing the move, begun on Sacrament, towards a distinctive, rock style in addition to the lovely soprano she brought to her early work with the band. Her vocals here are brave, and not always pretty, but suit the requirements of the music perfectly.

Opener "Chemical Sunset" acts as a bridge between Sacrament and Storm Season. Ketil's atmospheric flute leading into some a slow, bass-heavy song, full of tension with Sylvia's multi-tracked voice singing a plaintive, folky melody. This melody is taken up and varied by a variety of instruments, including cello, Mellotron, flute, moog and lead guitar, while the backing builds in intensity beneath them. "Sally Left,"a love story from beyond the grave, opens with electronics and Sylvia's chilling vocal before the whole band comes in, restrained at first, until a superb slide guitar break and heavy rhythm guitars carry the song into a second vocal section, with its sinister Mellotron. The gentle, pastoral "Endless Science" provides respite from the intensity of the first two songs. Sylvia's vocal is a delight, especially towards to the end of the song, and there is some typical acoustic guitar, a charming lead guitar break and some sensitive cymbal work from Aage.

But the respite does not last long, and the magnificent prog metal of "Soulburn" follows, a song that makes its intentions clear from the first few bars, with a brooding, heavy introduction, before the lead vocal from guest singer Finn Coren. The restrained screech of his voice combining with Sylvia's on the first chorus is both spine tingling and disturbing, before a more restrained cello / piano duet leads into a heaver section as the instruments increase in intensity, speed and volume into a few moments of all-out metal. Finn returns to a Mellotron backing, leading into another massive chorus, and a brief Moog solo reminiscent of Rick Wakeman. More huge guitars and flutes lead the song to a conclusion. This is an astonishing nine minutes, and might just be White Willow's finest recorded moment.

The tone changes on "Insomnia," a piece of hardcore prog by keyboardist Lars, which fails to satisfy only because it is too full of ideas. The initial melody is carried by vocal and piano, before church organ enters the fray followed by the whole band. A brief vocal and piano section follows some moody organ and bass, before the piece opens out into a glorious vocal chorus. Sadly, this lasts a total of 20 seconds when several minutes would have been a delight. The piece then shoots off into an excellent up-tempo instrumental section, which is again over all too quickly. The title track, follows, an atmospheric electronics and vocal piece, before the album closer the wonderful 10-minute prog metal masterpiece "Nightside of Eden." This opens with a guitar-dominated metal workout, lulling briefly for Sylvia’s initial lead vocal, before the guitars return with full force and a superb Keith Emerson-like organ solo from Lars, leads into a more restrained guitar and moog duet. Storm noises over classical guitar and more Mellotron build tension towards the final onslaught, and finally it comes, with Sylvia screaming Jacob's apocalyptic lyrics. A final vocal, piano and cello section leads to the stately lead guitar and Mellotron of the final few bars. An eighth piece, the instrumental "Headlights" was recorded and appears as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album.

Those who prefer their progressive rock antiseptic and germ-free, may have problems with Storm Season. The album is awash with moody minor keys, power chords and intense emotions. However this is still very much a White Willow recording, and many of the bands trademarks remain, from strong melodies and interesting thematic developments to plenty of Jacob’s Steve Hackett influenced lead lines. Furthermore, the move away from Gnosticism as subject matter has made the lyrics more accessible, even if their message is an uncomfortable one. Fans of the band will hopefully embrace the small drift towards heavier rock that this album represents, whilst enjoying the washes of authentic analogue keyboards. Metal fans, on the other hand, especially those with inclinations towards the Gothic, may also find much to enjoy. Storm Season is very challenging, yet a completely unique and hugely rewarding listening experience from a band at the peak of their powers. A moody, magnificent, masterpiece.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham and Russ Elliot in New York

 
The V Shows DVD Cover
Image © Classic Rock Productions 2004

More Mostly Autumn
Spring 2004 Tour, Index

Heather Findlay
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004
 

(15 September 2004) As described elsewhere on Musical Discoveries, the "V" audio-visual concerts during spring 2004 were a significant step forward for Mostly Autumn, taking their visual presentation and popularity to new heights. The shows were originally planned to showcase the band's next full length album, but alas, insufficient time was available to prepare new material so the shows were positioned with enhanced visuals to accompany material already in the band's catalog. The Astoria concert in Central London--from which this double DVD and bookhave been taken--was a distracting occasion for a variety of reasons, but this visual representation is certainly a very welcome reminder of the evening.

Mostly Autumn's The V Shows is a two disc DVD collectors' edition (Classic Rock Productions (UK), 2004) available both in PAL and NTSC formats. The package itself is similar to the near-perfect Live at York Opera House DVD (review) from 2003, given a sumptuous hardback book style cover and a 64-page booklet inside, written by Jerry Bloom, the editor of Autumn LeavesMostly Autumn's quarterly magazine. Though hardly essential, this is decent stuff, and the reproduction of Chris Walkden's excellent photographs is decent rather than spectacular. Much care has been taken with sound formats with versions in Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround and DTS, all the instruments are distinct and the string quartet is very effectively used in the sound balance, however the overall mix comes across as rather dry. Sadly, there are no other extras on either of the two discs, which, when considering the steep retail price and the relatively brief running time of this two DVD package, is disappointing.

Disc one presents the entire first set on the night, a performance of the Passengers album in its entirety, while disc two features the second set, a delve into the bands back catalogue--and a surprising but effective cover version of the Genesis song "Afterglow." The visual presentation is very effective. Closeups--particularly of Brian Josh and Heather Findlay--make for added intimacy, and the visual elements of the show, particularly the lasers, come off particularly well. Better, in fact, than the experience of being there. However, the whole set up still seems a little over the top. Having seen Marillion's Marbles tour a couple of times in recent weeks, plus Steve Hackett's live show, it is amazing to see how effective subtle lighting techniques–-the use of back lighting, strobes and near darkness--can be. The Mostly Autumn “V” show was about sheer numbers of lights and lasers. Not necessary, in our view, though the lasers were certainly more effective at the subsequent Wulfrun Hall concert.

In retrospect, it's not entirely clear whether playing the Passengers album in its entirety, albeit in a revised order, works, though the band have to take credit for giving it a go. This could simply be because there is no specific reason to play the album back to back--it is a magnificent recording, but despite some loose lyrical themes, the album does not have an overall concept strong enough to give any real point to playing it in that manner. The result is a slightly stilted performance--excellent in the main, but many of the songs will have been performed better elsewhere. That said, "Pass the Clock" benefits, once again from Troy Donockley's Uilleann pipe playing, and it is also good to see some of the rarely performed songs, like "Pure White Light" and "Bitterness Burnt" get an outing."Somewhere in Between" and "Simple Ways" have both improved considerably in concert, to the extent that they are now part of the regular live set. Bryan Josh's singing sounds rather forced and nervous, though, thankfully, Heather Findlay is on great vocal form.

On Disc two, the band revisits some of their more popular older songs, and they, not to mention the big Astoria crowd, seem more relaxed. Bryan singing is much improved, and the band really kicks into life. The version of "The Night Sky" is essential viewing, with Troy’s virtuosity in Low Whistle and Pipes adding emotion and atmosphere. "Evergreen" and "Heroes Never Die," in particular, are both played with huge passion and confidence, as is the long version of "Mother Nature." The aforementioned "Afterglow" rounds things off beautifully--an emotional rather than musically flawless version, but very welcome. A special mention should go to new drummer Andrew Jennings who gives a performance of supreme competence after a remarkably short time with the band. The accompanying book explains his background well.

As an introduction to the band, the emotionally charged York DVD remains our recommendation. However, fans of Mostly Autumn should buy this in the full knowledge that the content is not perfect, but, like The Story So Far DVD, it marks another important stage in a superb band's evolution, and remains fascinating viewing.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham and Russ Elliot in New York  

The Essence Of Infinity EP Cover
Image © Allesandra & Nazareth 2004

Allesandra
Image © Allesandra & Nazareth 2004
 

(12 September 2004) The debut recording from Of Infinity is a an absolutely stunning three-track EP entitled "The Essence Of Infinity." The three tracks left us longing to hear more. Of Infinity is a three-piece progressive melodic metal band from San Antonio, Texas. Fronted by the absolutely stunning voice of Allesandra Zinicola (also piano, synths), the lineup is completed by co-founder Nazareth Sando (guitars, electric drums) and Kurtis Kyllo (bass). The band was conceptualized and born in 1999.

Living hundreds of miles apart, the two began flying cross the US between New Jersey and Arkansas to develop themselves and their music. Their quest for adept band members has taken the duo to all corners of the country with notable stops in the New York tri-state area, Arkansas and Utah, where in Salt Lake City, the band was solidified with Kurtis Kyllo. The band have since settled in San Antonio.

Of Infinity are described as heavy, gothic, progressive and melodic and are therefore likened to Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and Evanescence. The three track EP opens with the rousing Nightwish-oriented "The Voice Without." Allesandra's powerful voice rises in layers above powerful guitar riffs and melodic keyboards. Vast tempo and style variations contribute to the rocking progressive sound. The tremendous production of Allesandra's soprano vocals leave the listener in complete awe.

"Shadow Of A Lie" is the longest piece of the EP running just over six and a half minutes. Heavy and rhythmic guitar riffs complement tremendous synthesized violins, crisp percussion and Allesandra's powerful vocals to produce a very Lacuna Coil sounding track. The robust instrumental conclusion of the track follows a downtempo melodic bridge accompanied by Allesandra's soaring vocalise.

The EP concludes with the guitar-laced "It's Only For Forever," an upbeat melodic rocker again reminscent of Lacuna Coil with a dash of Evanescence thrown in for color. The vocal harmonies and piano lines blend with guitar and crisp percussion. Allesandra's soaring vocals rise above the instrumentals in various breaks and leave the memorable melody lingering long after the song concludes.

Of Infinity show tremendous promise. With five years of collaboration recently celebrated it's time for a full length release. We can't wait to hear it!

 
Fire Within EP Cover
Image © Century Media 2004
© Spinefarm Records 2004
 
 

(11 September 2004) Finland's melodic metal band Lullacry are back with an five track EP certain to enthrall their already loyal following and expand it to new listeners. While known to many as a hard rocking band, the EP offers sharp contrasts with gentler numbers included as well. Tonja's vocals soar above richly- and well-produced guitar-based arrangements.

Our review of Lullacry's previous full length album Crucify My Heart and interview with Tonja drew significant hits from visitors whe originally published in April 2003. Sixteen months later the band have returned with "Fire Within" to accompany their United States tour with the Finnish supergroup Nightwish.

The title track is a rousing hard rocking number showing off not only the guitar chops and rhythm section of the band, but Tonja's power and versatility. The EP continues with another powerful number entitled "L.O.V.E. Machine," that presses on in the same vein. The pace then drops with the evocative, tribal reprise of "Be My God." Tonja's soaring voice rises above layers of harmony in the chorus and dominates the solo sung verses.

"The #1 Rebel" is a fabulous pop song with layers of vocals blending perfectly with rich guitar arrangements and almost spoken portions of the track building tension before the song releases in the chorus backed with lush keyboard washes. The EP concludes with the stunning and everso gentle Madonna-esque ballad "Crucify My Heart Pt. II." Tonja's voice is absolutely at its finest.

Lullacry have continued to develop their sound and refine it further in the months following their last full length album. Reports of their recent tour indicate that the live show is equally stunning. We can't wait to hear more from this dynamic band.

 
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