Tag Archives: Halo Blind

The Panic Room Weekend – Day One

Panic Room Weekend

In addition to their regular gigs of 2016, Panic Room decided to do something rather different and far more ambitious at Bilston’s Robin 2. Taking a similar format to the successful and now legendary Marillion weekends, they booked the venue for two full days. They would play a headline set each night, with an array of support acts all of whom had some connection to the band. With an afternoon start and five sets each day, it amounted to a Panic Room-curated mini-festival.

Things kicked off with a solo set from Alex Cromarty, best known as a drummer in more bands you can count, but here performing as a singer-songwriter. He began with a great cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” leading into as set of largely original songs from his forthcoming solo album.

Morpheus Rising have supported Panic Room many times, and were originally planning to play a full electric set. But unfortunately their drummer exploded in a freak gardening accident, or something like that. So Simon Wright and Pete Harwood instead played as a stripped down acoustic duo. It says a lot about the quality of their songwriting that material written for twin guitar metal works in this format, even though Simon’s vocals sometimes came over a little fragile. But the highlights were a couple of completely new songs, both of which came over extremely well. The band have both an acoustic and a new electric album in the pipeline, and at least one of those new songs is to appear on both.

Panic Room Weekend

Shadow of the Sun were a very late addition to the bill. They’ve been away a long time and been through a few changes, with the departure of their original bassist, frontman Matthew Powell now doubling up on bass. and a new second guitarist Matt O’Connell bringing them back to a quartet. Unfortunately Matt couldn’t make the gig for urgent family reasons, so hats off to stand-in Lewis Spencer who came in at very short notice and played what must have been largely improvised lead guitar parts without any rehearsal. Playing a mixture of songs from their four-year old début “Monument” and brand-new material, their blend of metal and alternative rock is still something of a work in progress, though Matthew Powell is considerably less awkward on stage now he has a bass to play. Dylan Thompson is starting to look like a younger Mikhael Åkerfeldt, and the couple of times he launched into solos he sounded a little like Åkerfeldt too. It will be interesting to see how this band develop, and how they sound with their proper guitarist.

Halo Blind are part of the Panic Room family, since both Anne-Marie Helder and Gavin Griffiths were members of the first incarnation of the band, though they’re now one of the many bands with Alex Cromarty behind the drums. They impressed a lot supporting The Heather Findlay band back in April. Tonight saw them lift things to another level in intensity. Again the bulk of the set came from their most recent album “Occupying Forces”, and it was a thing of mesmerising atmospheric beauty, with fragile vocal melodies and swirling effects-laden psychedelic guitar. Anne-Marie guested on “The Dogs” from the first album, which proved one just highlight of many. This had to be one of the best sets they’ve played to date.

Panic Room Weekend

Then it was time for Panic Room themselves for the first of their two headline sets of the weekend. They proceeded to pull out all the stops with a spectacular set including material from across all four albums. There were many of the usual favourites; “Apocalypstick”, “5th Amendment”, the jazzy “Chameleon” with Anne-Marie’s flute solo, and the hard rocking “Hiding the World” An acoustic interlude included the arrangements of “Song for Tomorrow” and “Screens” from the unplugged album “Essence”. They finished the main set with an epic “Nocturnal” before encoring with “Sandstorms” and covers of All About Eve’s “Road to your Soul” and Led Zep’s “Kashmir”. This was a roof-lifting performance even by Panic Room’s standards, and with so many of the regular standards in the set it left you wondering what they were saving for the second night.

Posted in Live Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

If you liked Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead Moon Shaped Pool Not a review as such, because it’s only had a single listen so far. But the atmospherics with strings, repeated piano figures and occasional nods to Pink Floyd made a very good first impression.

But the modern progressive rock scene has put out quite a few albums with a similar feel and mood over the last few years; records by artists that probably aren’t on the radar screens of the mainstream fans and critics who have been praising “A Moon Shaped Pool”. It makes you wonder whether Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood have been listening to Anathema, The Pineapple Thief or Steven Wilson.

So, if you love there new Radiohead album, here are just three records you might also like:

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m probably telling you things you already know.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Support Bands Announced for the Panic Room Convention

Panic Room have announced rwo of the support bands for the Panic Room Convention at Bilston Robin 2 on May 21 and 22, joining Panic Room’s acoustic side-project Luna Rossa on the bill.

First, Panic Room guitarist Dave Foster with his own band, including drummer Leon Parr and vocalist Dinet Poortma, along with one or two members of Panic Room, playing material from his two solo albums “Gravity” and the forthcoming “Dreamless”.

And on the Sunday Night, Halo Blind, the project from singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Johnson, featuring Panic Room’s Gavin Griffiths on drums. Although she wasn’t on their most recent album “Occupying Forces”, Anne-Marie Helder was a member of an earlier version of the band, and it would not be a surprise for her to join them on stage.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Heather Findlay Band to tour in 2016

John Mitchell and Heather FindlayHeather Findlay has announced a tour in April 2016, to support the album “The Illusion’s Reckoning.

Because Dave Ketzner and Dave Kilminster are both unavailable due to other commitments, the tour is billed as The Heather Findlay Band rather than Mantra Vega, though they’re promising that they’ll be playing the album in full along with a few selected older favourites.

For this tour it will be a six-piece band including Angela Gordon on keys and flute, and John Mitchell on lead guitar alongside Chris Johnson and the rhythm section of Alex Cromarty and Stuart Fletcher.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Halo Blind Live

Announced by Chris Johnson of Halo Blind:

There will be a rare live performance by Halo Blind on Friday 17th July at Fibbers in York.

Most of the the new album and a bit of The Fabric (our debut album) will by played. I am delighted to tell you that my Mostly Autumn band mate and all round awesome dude Alex Cromarty is on the drum stool.

PLUS, the evening will also play host to the first ever live performance by Mantra Vega, who will be performing acoustic versions of material from their debut album. Mantra Vega is a new transatlantic band fronted by Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) and Dave Kerzner (Sound of Contact).

AND IF THAT WASN”T ENOUGH exciting live music for you, the uber talented Chris Helme (The Seahorses) is also on the bill.

Tickets are available from the Fibbers website

It’s been a long, long time since Halo Blind last played live, so this is a very rare opportunity to hear the excellent album Occupying Forces performed live.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2014 Albums of the Year – Part Two

Part two of the end-of-year album rundown, here’s the other half of the alphabetically-sorted albums ranked between 11 and 25, going from H to Z.

Halo BlindOccupying Forces

Halo Blind Occupying Forces smHalo Blind is the project that used to be called Parade, led by York-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Johnson, currently part of Mostly Autumn. The long-awaited follow-up to 2009′s The Fabric is a little less eclectically-varied than it’s predecessor, but hangs together far more strongly as a coherent album. The blend of indie-rock guitars and progressive rock textures combined with strong songwriting ought to have a wide crossover appeal.

IQThe Road of Bones

IQ: The Road of BonesThe neo-prog veterans have never been prolific, but never disappoint. This double album sees them not afraid to experiment, with an abrasive industrial-metal edge alongside the more traditional neo-prog sounds. There is still plenty of what ought to be expected from any IQ album; lengthy kaleidoscopic songs, dark and melodramatic vocals and climactic guitar and keyboard solos.

Morpheus RisingEximus Humanus

Eximus HumanusThe York twin-guitar rockers raise their game significantly with their second album. It’s an old-school hard rock album recalling the early days of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, with a focus on songwriting and melody. Si Wright comes into his own as a lead singer with material written to take full advantage of his vocal range.

Robert PlantLullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar

Robert Plant Lullaby and the Ceaseless RoarThe veteran former Led Zeppelin frontman returns with his strongest record for many years. It’s a mix of English rock and folk with African and Middle Eastern sounds, and even the occasional blast of hard rock guitar, but there’s a fire to it that’s been missing from his last few records. It’s still a long way from the swaggering blues-rock of his early career, but like much of his recent output it’s music that suits an artist in his 60s rather than his 20s.

Polar BearIn Each and Every One

Polar Bear In Each and Every OneIt’s jazz, Jim, but not as we know it. Twin saxophones meet electronic soundscapes, with shades of Miles Davis meets Pink Floyd. One moment it’s melodic and atmospheric, the next it’s squawking cacophony. It can be a challenging listen at times; this is a record than imports elements of rock into jazz, but takes things in an altogether different direction from jazz-fusion.

Matt StevensLucid

Matt Stevens - LucidHaving taken his acoustic looping guitar thing as far as could go, Matt has made something far more eclectic, combining his loves of post-punk, progressive rock and extreme metal. While there are some delicate acoustic numbers, much of the album is electric, with a full band and and interesting array of guest performers. Proof that you can make an all-instrumental guitar album without it becoming a vehicle for endless soloing.

When Empires Fall

When Empires FallThe new project from former Breathing Space and Stolen Earth bassist Paul Teasdale is a very interesting blend of progressive rock atmospherics and Britpop-style songwriting. There are strong guest vocal performances by Aleksandra Koziol and Joanne Wallis, but Paul handles the majority of the lead vocals himself, and the soaring melodies prove him to be a fine vocalist as well as a songwriter.

Posted in Record Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Giving the excellent Occupying Forces by Halo Blind another spin. One of no fewer than five excellent albums from the York scene so far this year.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 4 Comments

Halo Blind – The Puppet

Halo Blind have put together a video for the track “The Puppet” from the album “Occupying Forces”.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , | Comments Off

Halo Blind announce new album

Halo Blind Occupying Forces smHalo Blind, Chris Johnson’s interestingly quirky prog/indie crossover project, have emerged from an extended hiatus with the announcement of a new album entitled Occupying Forces, a follow-up to their début album “The Fabric”.

In their own words:

With Occupying Forces Halo Blind build layer upon layer of textured guitar-driven soundworlds to forge condensed epics that are truly mesmerising. The songs are imbued with a true emotional depth and range, from introspection and angst, to excitement, anger and venting socio-political frustration. Whether through the direct, fearless songwriting, or the nuanced, inventive musicianship, Halo Blind explore creeping paranoia, soul-searching spirituality and everything in between.

With tripwire lead guitars, twisting bass lines and innovative beat work, there’s a lot going on both above and below the surface in their music. Powerful and complex, yet completely accessible, Halo Blind make cerebral music that rocks.

The band have another new lineup, and now consists of Chris Johnson, Gavin Griffiths, Stu Fletcher, Andy Knights and Chris Farrell.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Sound of the World

It may be that social networking has killed the webforum, but HippyDave, who already runs the official Panic Room and Stolen Earth forums has started a new forum The Sound of the World, dedicated to Mostly Autumn and the extended family of side projects and related bands. It has sections for Mostly Autumn, Halo Blind, Morpheus Rising and for Heather Findlay’s solo career, as well as past projects such as Odin Dragonfly, Josh and Co, and Breathing Space.

It’s a matter of debate as to whether or not the world really needs yet another Mostly Autumn forum. As HippyDave himself explains, a great many people, including a lot of dedicated fans, have issues with the way the official forum is over-moderated. There is already an unofficial forum, but that suffers from the opposite problem in that it’s under-moderated and tends to get overrun by trolls. There isn’t a place online where you can have a serious discussion about their music without the constant feeling that you’re walking on eggshells.

Time will tell if the forum gets a critical mass of regular posters and hosts meaningful discussions about the bands’ music.

Posted in Music, Music News | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments