Tag Archives: Karnataka

2012 – A few more records of note

I decided to restrict my best-of-2012 list to full-length studio albums of new material with a 2012 retail release date. But there are a few great records that fall outside that definition, and would be difficult to place in any kind of ranking. But they’re all too good not to give a mention, so here they are.

The Heather Findlay BandSongs From The Old Kitchen

A delightful album of acoustic reworkings of Heather’s songs from Mostly Autumn, Odin Dragonfly and more recent solo work, with the band featuring the now-departed Dave Kilminster and Steve Vantsis. The organic chilled-out arrangements are a very good match for the natural warmth of her voice, making this perhaps the best record she’s made since going solo.

KarnatakaNew Light, Live in Concert

Live album (also an excellent DVD) capturing the band on their first tour with new vocalist Hayley Griffiths, fronting the short-lived six-piece lineup with multi-instrumentalist Colin Mold, whose violin playing enhanced the Celtic side of their music. Aside from Hayley’s imaginative re-interpretation of old favourites, this record is also a showcase for Enrico Pinna’s phenomenal guitar playing.

Crimson Sky - DawnCrimson SkyDawn

Excellent four-track EP from the new lineup of Crimson Sky with Jane Setter and Moray McDonald, with two brand new songs and two reworked older numbers. As with their previous work, it’s an intriguing blend of progressive rock and 80s-style new-wave, and benefits from a far more polished production than earlier recordings.

Twelfth Night Live and Let Live - Album CoverTwelfth NightLive and Let Live

The classic and long out-of-print single LP-length album from the seminal 80s neo-proggers, reissued and expanded into a two-hour double-CD capturing the entire two-hour show, which must have been a painstaking labour-of-love to put together.

Rob CottinghamCaptain Blue

One of those records where the pre-orders shipped in December, although the retail release isn’t until the new year There will be a full review of this forthcoming, but let’s just say this is a good one. Will it make the 2013 end-of-year list? Time will tell on that…

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Karnataka and Winter in Eden, Leamington Assembly

Karnataka’s extensive Autumn/Winter 2012 tour came to the magnificent Leamington Assembly on the 17th November.

Wiinter in Eden at The Assembly in Leamington Spa

Winter in Eden, fronted by Vicky Johnson (above) made a very complementary support act,and helped boost the crowd by bringing along a lot of their own fans. A British take on the European symphonic metal genre, they were one of the highlights of the first day of the Cambridge Rock Festival back in August. This support set carried on where they left off then, and made a very strong impression.

Wiinter in Eden at The Assembly in Leamington Spa

Unlike some bands of their ilk they don’t rely on choirs and orchestras that can’t be produced live without backing tapes. Steve Johnson’s keys and Sam Cull superb fluid guitar give them all the instrumental depth the music needs.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

The latest incarnation of Karnataka got off to a strong start when they toured in the spring, and their recent “New Light” DVD is a good document of that tour. Now down to a basic five-piece minus multi-instrumentalist Colin Mold, their sound has become rawer and rockier. Lead singer Hayley Griffiths has grown far more in to the role of frontwoman for a rock band, getting inside the songs far more than she did in the spring.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

While most of the material naturally still dates to the Rachel Jones and Lisa Fury versions of the band, the set did include some brand new songs, at least one of which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Winter in Eden’s set.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

One of the big attractions of Karnataka’s music is still Enrico Pinna’s fantastic guitar playing, with the extended workout on the epic “Forsaken” a particular highlight.

Karnataka play one final show in 2012 at The Scala in London, again with Winter in Eden as the support. Tickets available online here.

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Karnataka – The New Light DVD

A trailer for Karnataka’s new live DVD, filmed at The Met Theatre in Bury earlier this year. It’s available now from www.karnataka.org.uk. The band are currently embarking on an extensive tour throughout the UK. They’re well worth seeing live.

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Karnataka, Colston Hall, Bristol

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New review of mine on Trebuchet Magazine of Karnataka at Colston Hall in Bristol. Photos in the review are mine, but the embedded videos of an earlier lineup of the band were not my choice – I’m blaming the editor for that one!

I’ve uploaded a few more photos from the gig. They’re not my best, since the lighting could be described as “challenging”. Was using my f1.4 50mm virtually the whole time.

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Lirium – Fallen Fae

Lirium is the new project from Lisa Fury, formerly lead vocalist of Karnataka, who sang on the superb “The Gathering Light“.

It’s a very different musical style to Karnataka’s sweeping symphonic rock, but it’s great to hear Lisa’s fantastic voice again.

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Karnataka – The New Light Tour 2012

Atmospheric Celtic-tinged proggers Karnataka are back on the road in the new year with a new lineup. The New Light Tour runs through much of Feburary 2012. The 13 dates announced take in regular progressive rock venues like Montgomery Hall in Wath, Bury Met, and of course, The Robin in Bilston, as well as that strange little venue The Village Hall in Lowdham. A London date is also promised, with venue and date to be confirmed.

This tour marks the début of what is now the third incarnation of the band, with Hayley Griffiths as the new lead singer, and only bassist and leader Ian Jones and guitarist Enrico Pinna remaining from the band that recorded the superb The Gathering Light released in 2010.

It will be very interesting to see this version of Karnataka in action, and to see how well they manage to interpret the material from the two previous versions of the band. I’m hoping there will be some new songs in the setlist too!

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A blast from the past

OK, so this post is a test to see if I can now embed YooToob videos after upgrading to the newest version of WordPress.

I never did get to see the original incarnation of Karnataka live before that lineup imploded back in 2004.  But I have seen all six of them in action in different bands in 2010 (In the case of Gavin and Anne-Marie, more than one band).

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Top Ten Albums of 2010

It’s that time of the year again. 2010 doesn’t seem to have been quite as strong a year as 2009, when I did a top 15 – this year I struggled to name ten. On the other hand, my top four are absolutely superb. A couple of 2010 releases are missing (most notably the excellent Satellite by Panic Room) because I included the pre-release editions in my 2009 list, and it doesn’t seem right to list them twice.

10: Tarja – What Lies Beneath

The second solo album from the former Nightwish lead singer has a massive production including orchestras and kitchen sinks as well as metal guitars, but never quite comes alive. There are some good songs in the mix of big rock numbers and power-ballads, but Tarja’s soprano vocals, while technically superb throughout, lack emotion too much of the time.

9: Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels

More Dungeons and Dragons operatic pomp-metal from the Italian quintet, again featuring narration from Sir Christopher Lee and a corny plot featuring a Dark Lord called “Necron”. All good fun in a cheesy sort of way, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground for the band. Twenty-sided dice are not included.

8: New Dance Orchestra – Electronica

An unexpectedly good album from Geoff Downes (the instrumental half of The Buggles) with the superb Anne-Marie Helder on vocals. Billed as “dance-pop”, it’s more 80s pop than Ibiza-style dance anthems, a great collection of well-crafted songs. This one’s a pre-order, currently available direct from the band, but won’t have a retail release until the new year.

7: Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here

The former doom-metallers return after a lengthy absence and drop just about all traces of metal from their sound in favour of atmospheric soundscapes. It’s a musical journey that works far far better as one continuous listen than as a collection of individual songs.

6: The Reasoning – Adverse Camber

The Cardiff band’s third album continues in a similar prog-metal vein as 2008′s “Dark Angel”, albeit with Rachel Cohen handling the majority of the lead vocals. A solid piece of work with some great songs, even if it doesn’t (for me at least) quite reach the heights of their first two albums.

5: Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer and Anvil

PRR describe their third album as “Disco-prog”, meaning they’ve put electronic dance, prog and metal into a blender. At times atmospheric, at times sounding like The Prodigy at their most mental, it puts the progressive back into prog.

4: Therion – Sitra Ahra

Not quite as bonkers as their last album “Gothic Kabballah”, this one is the slightly more accessible side of Therion’s choral metal. It’s still filled with complex multi-part vocal arrangements using multiple classically-trained singers, which when combined with twin lead guitars makes for a very rich sound indeed.

3: Black Country Communion

The combination of Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian is in danger of giving supergroups a good name with this album of classic 70s-style hard rock. Hughes, despite his age is on fine form vocally, Bonamassa shows he can do hard rock as well as blues, and Jason Bonham is in the same league as his famous father. Sherinian really only has a supporting role given that cast, but still delivers some great Hammond playing. The best album Led Zeppelin never recorded in the 70s? Maybe.

2: Karnataka – The Gathering Light

Five years in the making, the second incarnation of Karnataka finally deliver an album of old-school symphonic prog on a truly epic scale. Features heartfelt female vocals from the now-departed Lisa Fury and some fantastic guitar playing from Enrico Pinna, as well as guest appearances from Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes, and Hugh McDowell, formerly of ELO, on cello.

1: Mostly Autumn – Go Well Diamond Heart

OK, so you all know I’m a huge fan of this band. But this is the first time since I’ve been blogging that they’ve come up with my album of the year. It’s an immensely varied album containing atmospheric celtic moments, belting hard rockers, shimmering four-minute pop songs, and soaring ballads. They’ve managed to take the spirit of 70s classic rock and made it sound relevant for the 21st century with great songwriting, singing and musicianship. And they’ve done it straight after the departure of a much-loved lead singer too.

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Karnataka Split

Posted on the Karnataka forum this morning

Dear Karnataka fans and friends…..

Karnataka is set to begin a new chapter following the announcement that Lisa, Ian Harris and Gonzalo will be leaving the band.

We look forward to bringing you further news and line up announcements in the near future.

We also look forward to seeing you on the road!

Thank you for your wonderful support!

We wish Lisa, Gonzalo and Ian Harris all the best.

As one door closes another opens…

This came as a complete shock. They’d just released a stunning album, were getting better and better as a live act, and one got the impression they were well on the road to bigger and better things.

As the statement says, it’s not the end. Ian Jones and guitarist Enrico Pinna plan to regroup and promise to be back with a new singer, drummer and keyboard player.

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Karnataka – The Gathering Light

Ian Jones came in for a lot of criticism when he revived the Karnataka name in 2005. The previous incarnation of the celtic-flavoured progressive rock band had imploded a year earlier just at the point where they seemed to be poised for a major breakthrough. The new-look Karnataka played some live dates in 2007 with just Ian Jones on bass remaining from the original band, which led some critics to dismiss them as a ‘glorified tribute band’, despite a fair proportion of new material in the setlist, including the memorable title track for their forthcoming album “The Gathering Light”.

In the end it would be another three years before that album would finally see the light of day, but when it finally emerged,  it’s exceeded all expectations.  The original band was great on atmospherics, but the new Karnataka have gone and done an album of the sort of hugely epic symphonic prog I haven’t heard done this well since Marillion’s “Brave”.  The sound is massive and multilayered with impassioned vocals and soaring guitars augmented by guest appearances from Hugh McDowell of ELO fame on cello, Troy Donockley’s distinctive Uilleann pipes, and a string quartet on a couple of songs.

Lisa Fury has always impressed me as a live singer, her studio vocal performances here have just the right balance between emotional depth and technical precision that distinguish a great singer from a merely good one. But for me the real revelation is Enrico Pinna’s guitar playing; prog guitar at it’s finest, with occasional echoes of Steve Hackett or Pendragon’s Nick Barratt, but a symphonic style that’s still his own.

The album starts with two instrumentals, the short but evocative “The Calling” featuring Troy’s pipes, followed by the lengthy workout “State of Grace“.  The string-laden ballad “Moment in Time” is one song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on “Delicate Flame of Desire”, and again features Troy’s pipes, along with some great slide guitar from Enrico.  The three-part epic “Forsaken” is perhaps the high spot of the album, tremendously moving vocals from Lisa Fury on the opening section, the symphonic instrumental “Glowing Embers” flowing seamlessly back into a reprise of the opening part.  Lots of prog bands have attempted epics like that over the years, but very few succeed as magnificently.

It’s been a long time coming, but Karnataka have delivered the first essential progressive rock album of 2010.

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