Tag Archives: Pure Reason Revolution

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.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer and Anvil

Pure Reason Revolution are not a band to stand still musically. Their 2006 debut album “The Dark Third” captivated progressive rock audiences with hypnotic soundscapes owing a lot to Pink Floyd. Then their second album, “Amor Vincit Omnia”, confounded that same audience with an utterly changed sound. Gone were the Floydian atmospherics, replaced by hard-edged gritty electronica, sounding a lot more like Depeche Mode than any 1970s progsters. Where would their third album take them? A blend of the two styles, or something else entirely?

Some Doctor Who noises herald the opening number “Fight Fire”, which pulls no punches whatsoever, sounding like The Prodigy at their most mental, all harsh, scraping electronic clanging with an utterly relentless pounding rhythm. But just when you expect the album to continue in that vein, it changes tack. Subsequent songs are far more melodic with the multi-layered harmonies from Jon Courtney and Chloe Alper still very much present. The instrumentation is still very strongly centered around dance and electronica, albeit with churning guitars along with the electronic rhythms. First track aside, it’s really a logical progression from their previous disk, more evolutionary than revolutionary this time around.

The best moment has to be the lengthy “Open Insurrection” towards the end of the album, a dark intense piece that puts which puts electronica, metal and prog into a blender to come up with something hugely epic. That and the closer “Armistice” with it’s harmonies and chiming guitars are the few places we hear any echoes of the dreamy sound of their debut. All of which goes to show Pure Reason Revolution are still a genuinly progressive band, always moving forward musically, and never content to retread their own past.

Posted in Music, Record Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Another 2009 Roundup – Live Music

Yet another end-of-year roundup, this time live music.

  • Best Gig – Has to be Progressive Nation at Manchester.  A great performance from headliners Dream Theater, a superb one hour set by co-headliner Opeth, and good supports from BigElf and Unexpect, neither of whom I’d seen or heard of before.
  • Worst Gig – Pure Reason Revolution playing in an awful venue that really didn’t do them justice.
  • Strangest GigBreathing Space playing a sold-out village hall in Nottinghamshire in snowy February.
  • Biggest Disappointment – Not seeing Karnataka at the Cambridge Rock Festival due to PA company snafu.
  • Band of the Year – Has to be Mostly Autumn, of course.  I saw them no fewer that twelve times over the year, always good, with their Halloween show at Burnley possibly the best of the year.  They recorded the whole of the spring tour, of which I saw several gigs, and the recordings make up the excellent Live 2009 pair of albums. A great band, and a lovely group of people too.

The overall verdict for the year can be summed up with the word “Progtastic”.

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

Pure Reason Revolution, Moho Live, 8th March 2009

This isn’t really much of a gig review I’m afraid. And it’s certainly not one of the glowing fan reviews I usually write.

I love Pure Reason Revolution’s first album “The Dark Third”, a superb album mixing atmospheric heaviness with wonderful vocal harmonies.  So I jumped at the chance to see them live in Manchester, at a new venue to me, Moho Live in Tib Street. But the evening turned into something of a disappointment, which I attribute for more to the venue than the band.

To start with I turn up at the venue at 7pm as printed on the ticket only to find that the gig had been put back to 8pm. Not only that, there were two support bands, and the headliners wouldn’t take the stage until gone 10pm, which meant an expensive taxi trip hope unless I wanted to miss more than half of PRR’s set. Bollocks!

Then there was the confusion about the stages.  There were actually two stages two different rooms; the two support bands on the main stage, and a whole host of what I presume were unknown local bands in a little room at the side.  Early arrivals were directed into this small side room.  There wasn’t any explanation at the door, but the list of set times making no mention of Pure Reason Revolution made me wonder.  It wasn’t until I went to the loo that I actually realised there was another hall with a much bigger stage where PRR would actually be playing.  In the event, this side room’s bands were timed to finish before PRR started, so in effect you had a choice of support.  But it would have been nice if someone told us this.

The main hall was clearly a nightclub trying to pretend it’s a live venue.  Converted from the ground floor of a warehouse it has a low ceiling meaning the stage is ridiculously low, with only the front three or four rows having a chance to see the band.  From further back the view was obstructed by pillars and a bloody great staircase intruding into the middle of the room.

I positioned myself about three rows back from the centre of the stage for the start of Pure Reason Revolution’s set. While you don’t always get optimum sound down the front, what we heard was absolutely awful, very bass-heavy and muddy, with the vocals so low in the mix that those wonderful harmonies from the records were all but lost. PRR tried their best, and certainly rocked hard in places, but all the subtleties of their sound just got lost in the horrible mix. With sound that bad, their music didn’t really have much of a chance.

The band themselves really deserve another go – I’m not going to write them off as a band who sound good on record but can’t cut it live until I’ve had the chance to hear them in a proper venue with decent acoustics.  As for Moho Live, I have no intention of going there again in a hurry.

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