Gentle Giant – 50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissues

Gentle Giant – 50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissues
Gentle Giant/Acquiring the Taste/Three Friends/Octopus
Alucard Music
Release Date: 03/04/2020
Running Time: 37:00/39:26/35:24/34:09
Review by Paul Monkhouse

One of the originators of Prog Rock and active between 1970 and 1980, Gentle Giant were a unique band and their mix of rock with jazz, folk, soul and classical music made them certainly stand out from the crowd. They were also certainly prolific, releasing eleven albums that charted their arc from their experimental titular first release through to the hard rock of “Civilian” at the end of their career. Having allegedly turned down Elton John as their vocalist, the core of the band consisted of three brothers, Derek, Ray and Phil Shulman, accompanied by Kerry Minnear and Gary Green with the line-up changing only slightly over the years with Phil leaving in 1973 and three various drummers coming in and out of the fold. The first four albums have now been re-released in their full glory and certainly make for interesting listening, their content at times challenging but always nothing less than rewarding and hugely enjoyable.

Their debut, “Gentle Giant” (8/10), treads a path that blends more traditional rock and blues with the classical, the multi-instrumentalist musicians and was produced by superstar producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie / T Rex). From the sweet ‘Funny Ways’ to the Beatle’s like eccentricity of ‘Isn’t It Quiet And Cold’ and onto the heavier psychedelic guitar-centric ‘Why Not’ the album bristles with great tracks that capture the spirit of their late 60’s origins and add a very new decade sensibility. It’s certainly a captivating experience and one that bears real exploration as you go on this fantastical journey with a band who were determined to break new ground.

Things got even more experimental on the follow up, “Acquiring The Taste” (6/10) which at times delves much more into jazz and electronica passages that mix in orchestral instruments and motif. With Visconti at the desk again, tracks like ‘Edge of Twighlight’ are a real melting pot of ideas and sounds with barely a hint of the more straight ahead influences rock shown in the first album. Whilst some things did stray off an entirely different path there are other moments that really work magnificently such as the blues and heavy soul album closer ‘Plain Truth’ which winds its merry way through some thrilling passages.

Gentle Giant seemed to reign in some of the more excessive limits of their musicality and head to calmer waters with “Three Friends” (8/10) and this concept album is considered one of the real highpoints of their career. With the band growing in confidence, they took over the job of producing themselves and created something that gave no quarter but sounded exactly how they wanted it to. Mixing their flair for classical music arrangements and some heavy R&B, the album follows the lives of its titular subjects as they grow up and go their separate ways in the world. Highlights include the fantastically evocative ‘School Days’ and the heavy blues bluster of ‘Strip The Paint’ as Gary Green’s guitar tears things up in no uncertain terms.

1972 was obviously a very fertile year for the band as “Octopus” (9/10) came hot on the heels of “Three Friends” and is considered by most people to be the finest in their canon. Lulling you with two relatively gentle tracks, the third, ‘A Cry for Everyone’ sees Gentle Giant heading into definite hard rock territory and the track shapes up to be their heaviest yet. More jaw dropping sideways moves and staggering musicianship draw the listener in to what is still an utterly compelling listening experience forty-eight years later. Of special note are the closing duo of tracks ‘Think of Me with Kindness’ with its lush and ever-changing patterns and the virtuoso ‘River’ that seems to pull in all their finest ideas into one perfectly formed six-minute track. If you’re brave and want something that will both challenge and entertain, you can’t go wrong with the brilliance of “Octopus”.

Gentle Giant (1970):
01. Giant
02. Funny Ways
03. Alucard
04. Isn’t It Quiet & Cold
05. Nothing At All
06. Why Not
07. The Queen

Acquiring The Taste (1971):
01. Pantagruel’s Nativity
02. Edge Of Twighlight
03. The House The Street The Room
04. Acquiring The Taste
05. Wreck
06. The Moon Is Down
07. Black Cat
08. Plain Truth

Three Friends (1972):
01. Prologue
02. School Days
03. Working All Day
04. Peel The Paint
05. Mr Class & Quality
06. Three Friends

Octopus (1972):
01. The Advent Of Panurge
02. Raconteur Troubadour
03. A Cry For Everyone
04. Knots
05. The Boys In The Band
06. Dog’s Life
07. Think Of Me With Kindness
08. River


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Dakesis – Fractures

Dakesis – Fractures
CapsAArx Records
Release Date: 28/03/2020
Running Time: 56:50
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Rating: 9/10

From the shadow filled realms of the home of hard rock, the Midlands, comes the epic Gothic Symphonic/Progressive Metal of Dakesis and this, their third album, is an outstanding next step on a career that has seen them rapidly rising through the ranks. By far and away their most mature and ambitious release yet, “Fractures” is an epic journey into a world where metal goddesses and gods ride fiery steel chariots and huge black wolves run by their sides.

You are thrust into this realm from the opening notes of the instrumental ‘Eos’, its atmosphere a fanfare and prologue for the widescreen adventure hurtling your way as the band tear into ‘Ends of Time’ (Parts I and II). Full of frantic fretwork, the percussive heft of charging drums and bass and Gemma Lawler’s soaring vocals, this one-two punch screams that this is a band who know where they want to go and absolutely nothing is going to stand in their way. ‘Overthrown’ is full of surging and slashing rhythms as glacial cool meets head on with industrial punch, the vocals switching from sweet to passionate. You can imagine this being played in a woodland clearing as black robes flow and feral eyes shine as razor sharp canines glisten in powerful lupine mouths.

Matt Jones shreds and produces monstrous riffs with every fibre of his soul on the huge ‘Kairos’, Amie Chatterley’s bass and Adam Harris’s drums providing the engine that powers the beast along. There’s more of a feel of the Mystical Far East that threads its way through ‘Surrender Your Fears’, its timeless quality bringing changes in tempo as it builds and builds as percussion thrills and choirs raise the drama to an almost unbearable pitch of widescreen colour and light. Following this, ‘Hold Forever’ continues to up the ante, its Gothic sweep clawing you into a land where the night is reluctant to give up its dark dominance to the gentle rays of the dawn.

The album closes with two absolutely epic tracks that elevate Dakesis above their peers and show themselves to be one of the finest and grand bands of their type in Europe. ‘Legacy in Memory’ starts with the gentle piano of Jacob Underwood as that and the bass accompany Lawler, the singer putting in a showstopping (but not grandstanding) vocal before the full power of an orchestral section threatens to tear the roof off. Again, the production and attention to detail is breath-taking as the band seek to push themselves further and further, making something that will stand the test of time their goal. Clocking in at a lengthy fifteen minutes, the titular ‘Fractures’ is a piece that truly deserves its running time, all guns blazing as it takes you on a musical journey that immerses you in a gargantuan adventure. Choirs sing, modern keys hint at a ‘Bladerunner’ style future, drums and bass are unstoppable, guitars frantically flayed in pitiless fashion and lead vocals overwhelm as they surge and dive. There is a deft understanding of light and shade as the band drop things down in the middle section before cranking things up for the last act as they race for the finish line, breathless and triumphant. If you like your metal full of character, melody and atomic strength power then “Fractures” is the album for you. Truly outstanding.

01. Eos
02. Ends Of Time, Pt. 1
03. Ends Of Time, Pt. 2
04. Overthrown
05. Kairos
06. Surrender Your Fears
07. Hold Forever
08. Legacy In Memory
09. Fractures

Gemma Lawler – Vocals
Amie Chatterley – Bass & Vocals
Matt Jones – Guitar
Adam Harris – Drums & Vocals
Jacob Underwood – Live Piano & Keyboards


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Blue Öyster Cult – 40th Anniversary, Agents Of Fortune: Live 2016 CD

Blue Öyster Cult – 40th Anniversary, Agents Of Fortune: Live 2016 CD
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 06/03/2020
Running Time: 35:02
Review by Paul Monkhouse

Few bands have been as well loved and influential as New York titans Blue Öyster Cult, their constant aim to push their own musical boundaries seeing them leading the pack for over fifty years. Originally forming in 1967 under the moniker Soft White Underbelly, it wasn’t until they changed their name in 1971 that things really took off and their seminal fourth album “Agents Of Fortune” was a game changer in 1976 and featured one of the all-time rock classics ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. Returning to the album forty years later, the band decided to play it in its entirety and captured one of these sparkling performances at Hollywood almost exactly four years ago.

Following the running order of the original album, ‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’ comes first, all heavy psychedelic rock that is sprinkled with the sort of dark, shock glam rock that was Alice Cooper’s stock in trade. More melodic than previous releases, the album at the time was seen as a more polished move from their heavy roots but there is so much to enjoy, and the songwriting stands up as well today as it always has. ‘True Confession’ adds a real rock ‘n’ roll feel, the guitarwork peeling off some of the sort of riffs that caught the imagination from that golden era. This idea of playing all these tracks live, giving them a new shine is most noticeable on the next track, but then ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ is so familiar to everyone over the years that any slight changes are magnified. Giving it a new coat of paint and shorn of the studio trappings, it sounds cleaner than ever, the vocals and guitars particularly fresh sounding and the fretwork at the end really stands out.

Another favourite, ‘E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)’ sounds as heavy as it always has, shining as one of the most powerful songs the band penned, the guitars of Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, Eric Bloom and Richie Castellano work together to huge effect. Also, the vocals of the long-time Roeser and Bloom are also outstanding, providing the sort of sweet colour to offset the heaviness in this, the second of a mighty one / two punch of album highlights. ‘The Revenge of Vera Gemini’ and ‘Sinful Love’ are prime examples of the sort of great 70’s material they were writing and it’s a joy to hear them, reflecting just why this album made its way into the homes of so many over the years. More sinister and hard-edged vibes appear in the form of the delightfully dark and fun ‘Vampire Tattoo’, the commercial sounding ‘Morning Final’ rolls magnificently and ‘Tenderloin’ echoes more psychedelia in a spacey but tightly controlled feast for the ears. It’s just left for ‘Debbie Denise’ to round things off and the track is a rollicking and majestic epic, full of the fire and class that is a Blue Öyster Cult trademark.

With a guest appearance from founding member Albert Bouchard, the band, along with rhythm section bass guitarist Kasim Sulton and drummer Jules Radino, have produced something that is not just a great celebration of a superb album but also a timely reminder of just how good they are. ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ may have been the peak of their worldwide fame but there is a hugely rich treasure trove of gold standard rock songs to discover if you’ve not scratched any deeper than that monster hit. With a new album penciled for release this year, there’s no better time to get acquainted with New York’s finest and “40th Anniversary, Agents Of Fortune: Live 2016” is a perfect entry point.

This is also available as a DVD/Blu-Ray.

01. This Ain’t The Summer Of Love
02. True Confessions
03. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
04. E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
05. The Revenge Of Vera Gemini
06. Sinful Love
07. Tattoo Vampire
08. Morning Final
09. Tenderloin
10. Debbie Denise

Eric Bloom – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Castellano – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Jules Radino – Drums, Percussion
Kasim Sulton – Bass, Vocals
Special Guest: Albert Bouchard – Guitar, Vocals


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.