Tag Archives: Kamchatka

2015 Albums of the Year – Part One

It’s that time of year again, when us music bloggers write our end-of-year lists of the albums that have impressed us over the past twelve months.

Usual caveats apply, of course, there are no doubt plenty of superb albums from 2015 I have yet to hear, and won’t be on my radar screen until I see them on other people’s end-of-year lists. Which, in a nutshell, is really the whole point of these things. I still think lists compiled by committees for general music publications are largely a waste of time. But this is not one of those lists.

There are 25 in my list this year, and here’s part one, going from 25 down to 18. They’re not in any particular order, consider them all 18-equal.

Caligula’s Horse – Bloom

Caligulas Horse - BloomState of the art twin-guitar prog-metal from Australia, filled with serpentine riffs, memorable vocal melodies and some spectacular soloing. It combines the dynamics of mid-period Opeth with the modern jazz-metal experimentation of Haken and Maschine with the atmospherics of Riverside, while managing to avoid sounding remotely derivaive.

Kamchatka – A Long Road Made of Gold

Long Road Made Of GoldThe Swedish power-trio deliver some classy blues-based hard rock. There’s an emphasis on tight arrangements, with punchy songs and short but effective blasts of shredding lead guitar, with a superb production that makes it sound as though the band are playing in your living room.
 

Muse – Drones

Muse DronesTeignmouth’s finest take a step back from the Queen-with-kitchen-sinks approach of their last couple of albums in favour of something of stripped-down guitar-driven power trio approach of their early albums. But when you’ve got Mutt Lange of AC/DC fame as producer, “stripped-down” is still a relative thing. There’s still a big expansive sounds that goes from hard rock boogie to a nod to spaghetti western soundtracks. This is still a Muse album, after all.

Pope Francis – Wake Up

Pope Fancis Wake UoNot many people would have put “The Pope releases bonkers prog-rock album” in their musical predictions for 2015. One of the years strangest releases mixes excepts from sermons with a blend of traditional church music and progressive rock with a nod to world music. The combination of spoken word with big minor-key choral crescendos and the occasional blast of full-on rock guitar is worth a listen for anyone who appreciates things like Mostly Autumn’s “The Gap Is Too Wide”. It certainly makes evangelical protestant worship music look tame by comparison.

Praying Mantis – Legacy

Praying Mantis - LegacyThe tenth album by one-time NWOBHM heroes is polished twin-guitar hard rock, more AOR than metal, with echoes of Uriah Heep and Journey. Remarkable in its consistency, there is no filler and every track has something to like about it. Just occasionally it skirts on the edge of cheese, but most of the time this is a classy piece of work.

Queensrÿche – Condition: Hüman

Queensryche Condition HumanWith new vocalist Todd Le Torre the prog-metal pioneers recover some of their mojo, with a record that evokes the spirit of the 1980s heyday, with soaring vocals and razor-sharp riffs. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of their peerless 80s masterpieces, but it’s still the best thing they’ve done for many years, and certainly blows Geoff Tate’s lacklustre album “The Key” clean out of the water.

Secrets of the Sky – Pathway

Secrets of the Sky - PathwayThis Californian band brew up a monstrous wall of sound. With no choruses or solos the songs take the form of dense soundscapes of layered guitars, doom-laden drums and washes of keys. With evil-sounding growls for the heavy parts and clean vocals for the reflective, atmospheric moments, the end result is an intense and in places very heavy record where even the lighter parts can sound truly menacing.

Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle

Spocks Beard The Oblivion ParticleTheir twelfth album has verything we’ve come to expect from a Spock’s Beard record; swirling Mellotron and Hammond organ, blasts of hard rock guitar, rich layered vocal harmonies, and a strong sense of melody. Spock’s Beard again succeed by having one foot in the past and one in the present; creating a delightfully retro sound with a modern sensibility.

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

Kamchatka, Long Road Made Of Gold

Long Road Made Of GoldSweden has long been known as a centre of cutting-edge European metal, but it’s not quite as strongly associated with blues-based hard rock. But that’s what Swedish power trio Kamchatka do, and on the evidence of their sixth album, “Long Road Made of Gold”, they’ve very good at it.

Produced by Russ Russell, known for his work with extreme metal acts such as Napalm Death, it’s an album of tight punchy songs punctuated by short but effective blasts of shredding lead guitar. This isn’t an album that’s doing anything spectacularly original, but the combination of strong songwriting, meaty guitar riffs and a very powerful driving rhythm section still makes for a very enjoyable listen. Russell has done an impressive production job, resulting in a sound so huge it feels like the band are playing live in your living room.

The album kicks off with shredding banjo leading into the opening hard rocker “Take Me Back Home” which demonstrates a lot of their strengths, especially Thomas Juneor Andersson’s soulful vocals. Other highlights include “Get Your Game On” with Tobias Strandvik’s relentless force-of-nature drumming, the slow-burning “Rain” making good use of vocal harmonies, and “Who’s To blame” with its big riff and spectacular guitar break. But this is an album where there’s something to like about every song; there’s no filler at all,. They keep the arrangements tight too, avoiding self-indulgent wig-outs but still leaving enough space for Andersson’s lead guitar to make an impact.

Fashionable British blues-rock bands such as The Temperance Movement have toned down the guitars to make their music more mainstream-friendly for indie-dominated Britain. Kamchatka in contrast, while still rooted in the blues-rock of the 60s and 70s, are far more appealing for those who’s first love is old-school rock and metal. As a modern take on a very traditional form, this album is highly recommended.

Posted in Record Reviews | Tagged , , | Comments Off