Tag Archives: Morpheus Rising

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.

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Morpheus Rising to support Graham Bonnet in December

Morpheus Rising at Bilston Robin 2, July 2013

Just announced by Morpheus Rising.

We are very excited to announce that Morpheus Rising will be tour support for Graham Bonnet on his December UK tour! Having supported Graham Bonnet at York Fibbers in earlier this year, we’re really looking forward to this! It’s going to be a great tour and one not to be missed – get it in your diaries!

This tour will see a slightly different line up, with Craig Hill depping for the injured Nigel Durham, who is currently off games and nursing a shoulder injury, and the irrepressible Yatim Halimi (Panic Room, Steve Rothery Band) filling in for Andy Smith on bass whose Mostly Autumn commitments mean he is unavailable for the tour.

The dates are London O2 Academy Islington December 1st, Sheffield O2 Academy 2 December 2nd, Liverpool O2 Academy 2 December 3rd, Glasgow O2 ABC 2 December 4th and Birmingham O2 Academy 2 December 5th. We’ve been dying to announce this for a while but now everything is signed and sealed so we can finally spill the beans.

Great to have the chance to get out on the road again, and even better to have a chance to support Graham Bonnet again! So dig out your MR shirts, come down to the shows and show us your support! See you down the front.

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Morpheus Rising and Fahran at Bilston

Si Wright of Morpeus Rising at Bilston Robin 2 on 13th July 2014Morpheus Rising played a headline gig at Bilston Robin 2, with support from Fahran. Because the gig was more than week ago, I didn’t take proper notes, I’ve reviewed Morpheus Rising many times before and it was a few days after Stabcon, I’m going to write this up as if it was a session of Umläut: The Game of Metal.

Fahran at Bilston Robin 2In Umläut terms, Fahrah’s strongest performance trait was Stagecraft, and their set consisted largely of Face-Melters. They did well enough to win at least one Impression Check, and won themselves some Glory. They’re a very young band, and on the strength of performances like this they’re going places.

Pete Harwood and Damien Sweeting of Morpheus Rising at Bilston

The level of musicianship and especially their strength of songcraft suggest that Morpheus Rising’s best performance trait is Technique, though their Stagecraft and Power were hardly lacking. In the absense of drummer Nigel Durham who’d suffered a shoulder injury, former drummer Paul “Gibbo” Gibbons stood in on drums having hurredly learned the band’s new songs, and the band were still as tight as ever. Despite only two albums I heard the set described as sounding like a greatest hits set, with the bulk of the new album “Eximius Humanus” alongside highlights from the debut. Morpheus Rising too came away from the gig with plenty of Glory.

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Record Store Day

Today is Record Store Day. You could of course spend the day buying the albums you loved on vinyl but never owned on CD, or fill in the gaps in the 70s Jethro Tull back catalogue. Or even waste your money on cynical cash-in box sets.

Or instead you could buy some exciting new music released in 2014. At least some of these albums have been seen on the shelves of my local HMV.

  • Panic Room, Incarnate – A little more stripped-back, intimate and confessional than the wide-screen rock of its predecessor, their fourth album is a beautiful work which may take a few listens to fully appreciate its subtleties.
  • Gazpatcho, Demon – Dark and sinister folk-prog from Norway. At times it sounds like Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis fronting The Decemberists, at times there are strong echoes of Marillion. This is another of those records that will reward after many listens.
  • Matt Stevens, Lucid – An ambitious and varied instrumental album that defies easy pigeonholing. The London-based guitarist has been one of the more interesting, innovative and genre-busting artists in the contemporary progressive scene for a while now, and this album sees him raise his game to a new level.
  • Halo Blind, Occupying Forces – Combines indie-rock guitars with progressive rock atmospherics. Shimmering summery pop numbers with a hint of darkness and melancholy flow into one another to build into something more than the sum of the parts.
  • Bigelf, Into the Maelstrom – Imagine the melodic ear of The Beatles, the sense of doom of Black Sabbath, the theatricality of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the musical ambition of King Crimson, and the lack of restraint of early Queen. That’s what this album sounds like.
  • Morpheus Rising, Exmimus Humanus – Classic old-school twin-guitar hard rock given a modern makeover.
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Bending Light

One of the standout tracks from Morpheus Rising’s “Eximus Humanus”, notable for Pete Harwood’s E-bow solo.

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The Morpheus Rising album launch

Morpheus Rising's

Morpheus Rising chose Bilston Robin 2 as the location for the launch of their second album, both as an excellent rock venue with great acoustics, and as a central location that’s accessible for fans across the country. Not only that, the show also marked the live début of Luna Rossa, Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards’ acoustic Panic Room side project.

Luna Rossa at Bilston Robin 2

Luna Rossa played a beautiful set, drawn almost entirely from “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies”. Shorn of the strings and additional instrumentaion of the album, the stripped-down sound of just voice, piano and guitar emphasised the strength of the songs. Jon Edwards’ expressive piano and Anne-Marie’s equally expressive voice make a perfect combination in a live setting, and songs like “Heart On My Sleeve” came over especially well.  The one all-new song was an atmospheric piece featured electric piano and some of Anne-Marie’s flute, and offered an intriguing taster for the next Luna Rossa album. They closed with the multi-layered “Gasp”, the one time they resorted to backing tracks for a song that wouldn’t work without the strings and looped backing vocals.

Morpheus Rising's

Then it was time for the twin guitar classic hard rock of Morpheus Rising. Their shows supporting Panic Room last hear had previewed quite a few of the new songs, one of two of which even became live favourites. But for the launch show the band played the whole album including the two download-only bonus tracks. The whole thing came over very powerfully live, so much so that it’s hard to pick a single highlight, though “Bending Light” with Pete Harwood’s e-bow solo came over especially strongly. With new drummer Nigel Durham they’ve gone up another gear as a live band.

Morpheus Rising's

They had intended to continue with the highlights of their first album, but unfortunately a poorly drummer forced them to curtail their set, making for a slightly confusing ending.  They did come back for one more number, a rousing rendition of “Lords of the North”. But the slightly premature end failed to take the edge off a fantastic night. On paper, the two very different acts sharing a bill ought never to have worked. But the combination of delicate acoustic beauty with full-on rock and roll ended up complimenting each other extremely well, and the whole thing made for a remarkable evening.

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Morpheus Rising – Eximius Humanus

Eximus Humanus“Eximius Humanus” is the second album by York-based metal/hard rock five-piece Morpheus Rising, funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The electronic openings and industrial riff of “Superhuman” throw the listener a bit of a curve ball at the very start, but it’s the big riff of the second number “Looking for Life” that sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s old-school twin-guitar metal at its core, with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as the strongest influences, with a bit of goth atmospherics and progressive rock textures for good measure. The whole thing is anchored in solid songcraft. “Day One” with it’s AOR-flavoured vocal harmonies is a bit of a departure, and a real highlight is “Bending Light” with Pete Harwood’s e-bow solo, a sound you don’t hear much on metal albums.

The twin guitars of Pete Harwood and Damien Sweeting remain at the heart of the sound. Their contrasting styles work well together, Harwood’s melodic textured playing complements Sweeting’s flashier pyrotechnics. With new drummer Nigel Durham, once in Saxon, alongside Mostly Autumn bassist Andy Smith, the new-look rhythm section has a solid power and groove. At times it makes you wonder whether Mostly Autumn are making full use of Andy Smith’s talents.

But it’s vocalist Si Wright who has really raised his game on this record. The band’s début album consisted largely of material written before he joined the band. This time, with an entire set of songs written to take advantage of his greater range, he has found his voice far more impressively. In an age where rock vocals are expected to be growling, screaming, or flat and gravelly, Si Wright’s performance on this album represents old-school hard rock vocals at their finest. He’s got both a range and power, and a degree of emotional depth.

As a rule, metal bands don’t really do “difficult second albums”, and Eximius Humanus is further evidence of this rule. The album comes over as a stronger statement of intent than their début. Morpheus Rising have given a modern makeover to a sound rooted in great hard rock tradition.

You can pre-order the album now from the Morpheus Rising website.

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Also Eden & Morpheus Rising co-headliner

Also Eden Morpheus Rising

As readers of this blog ought to have noticed, I’m a big supporter of co-headline gigs, where two highly complementary bands not only give audiences good value for money, but both bands gain exposure to each other’s fanbases.

Also Eden and Morpheus Rising have played on the same bill before, and they’re together again on March 8th at The Asylum 2 in Birmingham. This ought to be a great night.

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Eximus Humanus pre-order

Eximus HumanusMorpheus Rising are now taking pre-orders for their album “Eximus Humanus”.  The band funded the album with a successful Kickstarter campaign. Those of us who backed the have already downloaded the digital version of the album, and it’s exvellent. Now is the turn of those of you who missed the kickstarter.

Morpheus Rising will be playing a launch gig at Bilston Robin 2 on 23rd February, with Luna Rossa as the support, which ought to be an excellent night.

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Luna Rossa to support at Morpheus Rising album launch

Morpheus Rising AlbumMorpheus Rising have annonced the launch gig for the Kickstarted-funded second album “Eximius Humanus”, at Bilston Robin 2 on Sunday 23rd February 2014.

With a strong crossover fan base, Morpheus Rising deliver an energetic and powerful show which appeals to the Classic Rock and Prog fans alike. This will be the band’s first headline show at the Robin, having previously played shows supporting the likes of Panic Room.

Not only that, but the show will also be the first even live appearance of Luna Rossa, Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards superb acoustic project.

In this, their first ever live performance as ‘Luna Rossa’, the duo will explore the stripped-back splendour and beauty of their debut album ‘Sleeping Pills & Lullabies’. A rare treat for any fans of Panic Room or those who love the magic of timeless, entrancing songwriting.

This is looking like a show not to be missed.

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