Guiding Light

SKU: BSK064CD
Label:
Basick Records
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"As band histories go, Skyharbor‘s is somewhat unique. Debut album Blinding White Noise was a bit of a (nevertheless beautiful) Frankenstein’s monster – bolted together gradually onto the skeleton of guitarist Keshav Dhar’s home studio demos. With members spread across three continents, live performances have been few and far between, limited to one-off festival appearances and just a couple of short tours – probably fewer than twenty shows in total. With the line-up solidified and a very successful crowdfunding campaign under their belts, Skyharbor have delivered their second album Guiding Lights.

Right from the start it is clear that Guiding Lights is a more focused affair than its predecessor. Possibly with the benefit of having a better idea of what they are aiming for together as a band, it sounds much more cohesive and sure of its own identity.

Guiding Lights is also slightly more restrained than Blinding White Noise. The guitars are more driven by texture than out-and-out riffing, and there are fewer djentisms. There’s also barely a vocal scream to be heard throughout its duration, which may be a disappointment to those for whom that kind of thing is important.

Obviously, a significant chunk of the spotlight will fall on singer Dan Tompkins, especially because of his recent decision to re-join TesseracT – but Dan has used the time he spent apart from the band in which he really made his name to show how capable he is at managing multiple projects simultaneously. Since the summer of 2013 alone, as well as Skyharbor and TesseracT we’ve seen him record and perform with In Colour, White Moth Black Butterfly and Piano, not to mention a host of one-off guest appearances – yet it is clear that Guiding Lights received his undivided attention, and the result is potentially his most captivating performance to date. There is a shift in his approach in the direction of Maynard James Keenan, particularly in his phrasing, which both suits his voice and compliments the music.

This is especially apparent on “Halogen“. Falling around halfway through the album, the song is very probably the best Skyharbor have written. A genuine masterpiece, with no fewer than three sections vying for the position of chorus. It is one of those rare tracks that practically demands skipping back for a second listen the moment it has finished. Glorious.

Whilst there are some more uptempo passages, particularly in “New Devil“, the majority of the album is mid-paced. It carries a vibe that seems to draw inspiration from the likes of Tool, Karnivool and the dreamier parts of the Deftones‘ discography. Anup Sastry’s inspired drumming also has similar flavours to Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, which provides a subtle sense of urgency under Keshav and Devesh Dayal’s intertwining guitars.

Guiding Lights feels particularly well-named. It shimmers, glistens and sparkles throughout its near 70 minute run-time with an uplifting feel that is frequently close to euphoric. But more than this, Guiding Lights is Skyharbor coming of age. Blinding White Noise showed what enormous potential this collection of musicians had together, and the album is all the stronger for having them all working together on the material from day one.

Guiding Lights is an enthrallingly beautiful album that should help warm the hearts of progressive metal fans as the winter nights draw in. It would be easy to see Skyharbor as a kind of side-project supergroup, but that feels like it sells them short. We can only hope that with all the various commitments the members of Skyharbor have on their collective plates, they are able to carve out the time to keep the band as a going concern." - The Monolith

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  • "Germany's Eden Circus is a band that has been together for a while but worked tirelessly on the songs that make up this, their debut album, "Marula." Much like the time they invested in the album and its songs, the listener should be just as committed to listening to the album and giving it the necessary time to plant its seeds and grow. When I first listened to "Marula," I thought it was just a good album with a fair amount of contrast in each song. But when you have those contrasts (i.e., quieter moments and heavier moments), it's important to pay closer attention to how they are used and what is going on. It's easy to think "Wow, that's so subtle" and not really listen to the vocal or the intricacies of the music underneath.The fact that vocalist Siegmar Pohl has a very quiet, raspy voice that tends to blend with the music just makes it more challenging. But the key to music that has a thick layer of complexity is to listen to it over and over, allowing it to reveal itself. You cannot force "Marula" to be something it isn't. It has elements of '90s alternative progressive metal like Tool, but don't expect them to attack you like Tool would. They have post-prog moments like Porcupine Tree, yet they never commit to sounding like them. Eden Circus is familiar but still a stranger. You think you know what will happen next but when it doesn't, you aren't sure why.The opener "Devoid of Purpose" starts off quietly before it works its way into heavier riffing. "Comfort" has quieter verses leading to a very angular riff that works as the chorus. Siegmar does have a harsh vocal in his arsenal but uses it quite sparingly, which makes those moments all the more powerful. A perfect example is "101" where he works his way to a growl.The majority of the songs are long, which allows them room to ebb and flow as needed. In addition to the aforementioned songs, my favorite tracks are the two closers, "Her Lovely Hands Upon the Black Earth" and "Playing You." Both are atmospheric, progressive and epic - full of dynamics.Eden Circus has figured out how to be melodic but not make it so obvious that you tire of them. "Marula" is a textbook "grower" of an album. If I were to give it a rating a month from now, it would probably be an even higher rating." - Power Of Metal
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  • "Despite what the name might lead you to think, progressive metal is among the most static and boring of all heavy music genres. Half the bands that fall under the moniker exist merely as a vehicle to show off the skills of the players involved, which is fine in small doses, but rarely sustains a creative career. The other half of the bands stick rigidly to the blueprint of one of the fore-bearers of the genre, giving us music that sounds exactly like something we've already heard. Very little of progressive metal is actually interesting, because it is a genre that lacks people dedicated to the art of songwriting. Songs are what makes any band successful, no matter how much sheer musical skill they possess. Dream Theater didn't get to where they are just because they are amazing musicians, they also wrote a slew of great songs and albums. The number of progressive metal bands who have impressed me with their songwriting in recent years is miniscule, but I mention all of this because Ascendia is one of them.As “At The End Of It All” swells into focus with a tribal drum beat and chanted vocals, it's already obvious that this is not going to be prog-by-numbers. The song kicks into gear with a syncopated guitar riff, before the vocals soar over the top of everything, slapping a thick coat of melody atop the sound. There's a quiet section in the middle of the song that feels like a cousin of Killswitch Engage, which is a fresh sound to hear in this kind of music. When it opens back up into the chorus, the song is massive, and it's hard to believe all of that music was contained in five and a half minutes.The songs on the album are more bite-sized than typical progressive metal, but that plays into the band's strengths as songwriters. By keeping the songs lean and tight, they hit harder than if the instrumental sections had been extended by a minute here and there. There is interesting playing going on, but it's all done within the framework of the songs, and never put out front to dominate the spotlight. It's an approach that is smart not just because of how easy it is to get bogged down in instrumental pyrotechnics, but because an album of that sort would never be able to survive the Herculean vocal presence of singer Nick Sakal.With more than a little bit of similarity to the former singer of the aforementioned Killswitch Engage, Howard Jones, Sakal's vocals dominate the album, making you wonder where a voice like that could have come from. His baritone is warm, rich, and not at all what you would expect to hear in a band that isn't playing down-tuned hardcore.But what is most important are the songs, and that's where Ascendia proves themselves as standouts. Whether tackling more modern fare like “Remember Me”, or more traditionally melodic songs like “Moonchild”, there's a phenomenal blend of heavy riffing and soaring melody. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear a progressive metal band that is so in tune with melody, and can write songs that could stand up if they were stripped down to the chord structure and the vocals. We get an example of that with the duet ballad, “The Song That You Deserved”, a largely piano and voice song that is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. Ascendia's ear for songs is excellent, and that is what makes “The Lion And The Jester” such an engaging listen. Song after song, there's a warm and inviting chorus waiting to wrap its arms around you after you've heard the heavy and intricate moments.This year has been off to a ridiculously great start, with at least half a dozen legitimately great records having already come my way. Add “The Lion And The Jester” to that list, because Ascendia is making progressive metal the way it was always supposed to be. Both challenging and gratifying, intense and cathartic, “The Lion And The Jester” is a phenomenal piece of work that reminds me of the very best progressive metal I've ever heard. This is an album you need to hear.Oh, and how awesome is that cover art? That is one album that will look as good as it sounds in a collection." - Bloody Good Horror
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  • "The telling strikes of new power metal have been falling left and right this most righteous of autumns, and the Frenchmen of Operadyse have seen fit to lend their sword arm to the collective effort to bury us listeners utterly in a mountain of releases. The band’s debut release, Pandemonium, is a symphonic power metal affair that draws upon the considerable vocal talents of Frank Garcia (better known as the erstwhile frontman of Spheric Universe Experience), and boy do I ever like him in this setting!Drawing to mind similar recent projects like Fogalord and perhaps Galderia, I find Operadyse outstanding for its sheer buoyancy. This is not, as some may say, “yet another Rhapsody clone”. Please. If that statement were true of half the bands accused of it, we’d be dwelling in a cesspool of artistic stagnancy – and that is hardly the case. Pandemonium, the album’s title, should be interpreted in the most jubilant, energetic way possible. Often a generally uplifting, almost martial power metal beat (“Unfold Legend”), Operadyse nevertheless varies its formula more than you might think, featuring variety in the mystique of “Fairies Secret Garden”, a sudden black metal lapse in “Keeper Of The Flame”, and the absurdly joyful strains of “Nevermore”.A large part of what makes this work outstanding is its bombast. String samples, synth brass, rich choirs, lots of tom rolls from the drum kit, extremely good supporting female vocal work, and even some timpani and big crash cymbals in the background – Operadyse pulls out all the stops to make this as big and as ambitious a project as possible. While that’s true, this isn’t as ludicrously over-the-top as a band like Pathfinder. As explosive as the aural pyrotechnics are on Pandemonium, there’s also a noticeable sense of restraint. This tendency is best manifested in the sweeping breaks that take place in the music from time to time. Mark my words – wherever Pathfinder would insert a shriek or spin up a brazen guitar solo, Operadyse is more than happy to draw back, lay off the guitars and vocals, throw in some deep brass, and let the scale of the compositions grow. As a result, we have a pronounced “peaks and valleys” feeling with this album – but I’m not addressing the quality of the music, which is universally good to great – but rather the dynamic and textural sensations. Further emphasizing this behavior is the tonality – so much of this album abounds in uplifting major key revelry that when anything discordant arises, it is very pronounced, and consequently that much more powerful.There are only a couple of very minor drawbacks to this otherwise very impressive album. The first is my sometimes back-and-forth relationship with Garcia – a singer who wasn’t remotely on my roadmap prior to this album. He has the typical French slur that affects his enunciation with much of the lyricism, and I feel that his softer vocals leave something to be desired. On the other hand, when he ratchets up to the high register and gives his voice a bit of a bite, he reminds me of Bill Makatowicz of Illusion Suite – which is a rather flattering comparison in my book. Secondly and finally, in terms of real criticism, and I’ll put this simply: I want more guitar. For all my talk of comparing this to Pathfinder and praising its subtlety, I miss some of the bright and flashy guitar work that that album featured. Operadyse definitely does not excel at “heavy” metal.Pandemonium is, however, a symphonic power metal lover’s blissful release, and a joy for anyone that craves the inspiring, feel-good brand of power metal that genre stalwarts Freedom Call and Power Quest once emphasized. This will get dismissed by those who don’t like “flower metal”, but the devil take them – this is exciting and not insubstantial material. Just one more banger on the books for 2013 to you and I, perhaps, but this album is an auspicious beginning to a career for Operadyse." - Black Wind Metal
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  • Import special edition comes with:Download code for studio version of “Into The Sun”40-pages picture booklet"Imagine this - you're thrust into the metal world and, as a classical singer, it's pretty alien. But you do your job, sing your songs and the money comes in. And your name gets bigger. And the band become enormous and before you know it - you're literally singing for your supper. Your ultimate passion becomes your job. But is the world of metal really a place for a classical singer? Many thought that, once ousted by Nightwish, Tarja Turunen would soon return to her classical roots. Not quite. She began producing symphonic tinged material that, dare we say it, took the same path as the band that brought her success.The cynics are always going to be around, and I admit, I had the tendency to be one of them - Tarja is clearly only sticking with the guitars because it pays the bills, right? If it was up to her, she'd be singing 'Ave Maria' until the cows came home, right? Some of you stubborn lot will never shift from that point of view, no matter how many metal albums she releases, but it has become clearer than ever whilst listening to 'Colours In The Dark', that Tarja has found the beauty of orchestral metal just as captivating as Nightwish fans and her conviction is growing ever more powerful - if you don't believe it, check out the Romanticide-styled outro of 'Never Enough'. There's plenty more headbangs left in those raven locks - know that!'Victim Of Ritual' highlights the way Tarja commands a song vocally and suits it's position as opening track. The rolling 'R' in the title refrain and the silence she will inevitably conjure during live renditions of the accapella bridge stand to prove why she is such a beloved vocalist. Musically, the track deals in 'Phantom Agony'-era Epica, orchestra-lite and guitar heavy. It also has the most addictive refrains on the album, so it's position as single is proven correct. Likewise 'Never Enough' is instantly enjoyable - the chorus still sounds as vibrant and exciting as when it premiered. The real standout, surprisingly, is the Peter Gabriel cover though. 'Darkness' is not half as pop-ready as her take on 'Poison' and much more Tarja-friendly than 'Still Of The Night' - it shows just how successfully she can transform a cover and make it into her own. The thick strings and swooping instrumental wrap around her versatile vocals as Tarja switches between sinister and emotional at the drop of a hat.It can be a little taboo to mention the language problems, but the purity in which Tarja approaches her English lyrics is both a positive and a negative. Whilst there are the odd cringe-worthy blips throughout ('A conquest of fear, lonesomeness and dislike'), there is a richness to the lyrics of songs like '500 Letters' that simply tell a story, without killing it with too many pretence-laden metaphors. Tarja's infamous pronunciation also serves in her favour on the record - as minor as it may seem, her slightly peculiar delivery brings an unfamiliar flavour to the songs and possesses the ability to coat any banal lyrics with seductive and intriguing overtones just with a twist of a syllable.The record does have plenty of moments to excite you, as I mentioned, but it's not an entirely smooth ride. Too often, the songs feel a little lengthier than they should. I noted in my review of 'Never Enough' that the closing guitar riff went on for too long and a lot of the songs have a similiar fate. None of the tracks are skippable and every single one has it's merits, but it feels as if their strengths may be washed aside by a niggling thought in the back of your head, pondering whether you can bother to venture into a seven minute song for three minutes of beauty. 'Lucid Dreamer' is one such track that would have benefited from a little chopping. 'Mystique Voyage', too, could have seen a shorter track length further highlight the triumphant classical influence on the chorus.Though I exaggerate her operatic past, Tarja has spent most of her vocalist talent and career amongst metal music and it has really shown. What is both frustrating and rewarding, though, is that she is learning as much as the fans are. The music she has produced so far has been on a huge upward curve. The saccharine tendencies of 'My Winter Storm' pale in comparison to 'What Lies Beneath' and it's fantastic manipulation of orchestra, ambiance and metal. 'Colours In The Dark' comes as the next step up - slightly better than it's predecessor but, and this is where the frustration might set in, not quite as brilliant as you predict the next release will be. Editing the tracks a little more and emphasizing the true moments of beauty that linger within the songs is the next mission for team Tarja to take on.Watching an artist grow into the music that gave her the career she has  is not something you see everyday and Tarja is truly and deeply passionate, something many musicians don't retain after many years of the same old record-and-touring routine. She has eager ears and versatile lungs that want to explore. They want to learn and they want to become better. Listen to that aforementioned discography and you'll see how much Tarja has grown and become a force to be reckoned with in metal. 'Colours In The Dark' is nowhere near perfect but it's another chapter in the increasingly refined career of a woman that is, quite rightly, sticking her middle finger up at those who have written her off much too soon." - The Sonic Reverie
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  • "These days, it is one thing just to be able to release an album given the current state of the music business. However, to release said band’s best material while trying to pin down a job, scrap together some funds, have a family, maintain a “normal life” and deal with record companies with a 2014 “business model” is a whole other thing all together.Most bands know that the gold at the end of this rainbow, through all the hard work and creativity, is merely deeming albums a “labor of love” and hope and pray they get enough gigs to make it “worth it” even with vast monetary loss. So is the life of A Sound of Thunder – a snapshot of a hard working band that is both the current and future of this business. Blessed with immense talent upswing that garners a “legion of thunder” to quickly reach crowdsourcing campaign goals, it is actually hard to take any record company offers seriously. Whether or not the band made a pact with the seven princes of hell, “The Lesser Key of Solomon” is A Sound Of Thunder's best work to date and a sleeper album of the year that should not go unnoticed.In stark contrast to “Time’s Arrow” (which listening back now almost sounds Cro-Magnon by comparison), “The Lesser Key of Solomon,” pushes the band in a much more progressive and mature direction over a bed of gleefully evil lyrical content. The style is a unique combination of progressive rock, 90’s W.A.S.P. and an overly obvious dose of eerie King Diamond. Oddly enough, when the Kickstarter edition of opening track “Udoroth” was issued to backers, it was a real stripped down pure metal song in the “Queen of Hell” vein and seemed way more basic metal than what the band has been releasing in recent years. However, when the completed album version hit my stereo it was as if it had been transformed. Choirs, sound clips, and added vocal parts have expanded it into way more than the simple barbaric nature of the pre-release.With longer songs and higher levels of progression all around, “The Lesser Key of Solomon” presents the band's most complex material to date – with a foursome of tracks in “The Boy Who Could Fly,” “Elijah,” “Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb,” and “House of Bones” that stand up to any album released this year and back. “Elijah” is near 10 minutes with so many flowing parts it could really be divided into three separate and distinct tracks, but it is just so damn perfect linked together.Guitarist Josh Schwartz has perfected his craft over the years and each album presents an ever growing talent. On “Lesser” there is more exploration with bluesy styles alongside the usual butchering riffs and soaring, engaging solos that have propelled him into one of the best out there. Sadly though, he is still under the radar of most of the world. Check out the guitar emoting on “Black Secrets” and “House of Bones.” Backed up by the monster rhythm section of drummer Chris Haren and bassist Jesse Keen, the musicianship is absurdly fantastic.Vocalist Nina Osegueda has blossomed into one of the leading front women in the business today (and if you haven’t heard….shame on you). You won’t hear an operatic droning or any glitzy bubble gum pop metal infused vocals that are all the rage in Scandinavia these days. What you get is ass kicking, bold, face-punching power. On “Lesser,” Osegueda really expands her “softer side” (shown last on “Time’s Arrow” favorite “I’ll Walk With You”). Check out the performances on “One Empty Grave” and “Lesser” favorite “The Boy Who Can Fly,” with just the perfect amount of emotion to draw listeners into the same feeling. On top of all that, Nina has clearly re-stumbled upon the King Diamond back catalog, for she adds a huge dose of creepy “sing song-telling” in tracks like “Elijah” (check out 7:34-7:50 for example).Armed with the knowledge that the next album is already nearly completed… I can’t even imagine where this talented U.S. act will take its musical direction. “The Lessor Key of Solomon” already represents the best material the band has released to date, which is exactly how I felt with “Time’s Arrow.” The constant drive to be better coupled with perfect execution makes "The Lesser Key Of Solomon" easily rank among the elite albums released in 2014. Skipping over this album would be a real disservice to truly inspiring and independent music." - Metal Underground
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  • “I love the CD...the sheer skill and gusto with which they tackle it makes you laugh out loud. Great drumming. Jonathan plays and writes like a demon. Congratulations to them.” - Bill BrufordDistrict 97’s 2010 debut “Hybrid Child” took the progressive rock world by storm. Since then the band toured across the US, performed at a number of high profile festivals, and even opened up for prog icons Kansas. The band now returns with their second opus “Trouble With Machines”. Former American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt fronts District 97. With a fantastic voice and looks to match, she has captured the hearts and imagination of the progressive rock world. Complexity is one of the hallmarks of District 97s compositions but the album is laced with catchy vocal melodies. The track “The Perfect Young Man” features a guest vocal appearance by King Crimson/Asia bassist John Wetton. Rich Mouser who has produced albums for Spock’s Beard and Neal Morse mixed the album. Audiophile mastering comes courtesy of Bob Katz.
    $14.00
  • PG II marked an about face from the debut. The 1978 album was produced by Robert Fripp. His features his audio verite production technique that he was using at the time (see The Roches). Tony Levin was a linchpin for the band as well as Larry Fast. The featured guitarist is Sid McGuinness who was unknown at the time but became a staple of late night tv as part of David Letterman's band. The music had a nervous punk energy indicative of the times. The opener "On The Air" introduced a character named Mozo that was supposed to be an ongoing theme throughout his future albums but was eventually dropped. A flawed classic.
    $12.00
  • "“Where Dreams Are Forgotten” is the sixth album by Swedish power metal quartet “AXENSTAR” and is their first to be released under “Inner Wound Recordings”.Power metal is one of my favourite metal genres; I love the energy, the melodies, the vocals, everything about power metal never fails to get me pumped up, and that’s exactly what AXENSTAR achieve from the very start of this album, “Fear” opens up “Where Dreams Are Forgotten” with speed and intensity, and sets the attitude for the album perfectly. What I love about this album is the diversity; frequently you will hear that signature power metal sound of harmonised guitar melodies and pretty ‘cheesy’ choruses, whilst surrounding all of the typical ‘happy’ sounding power metal genius, you also gets tastes of darker and moodier music, and AXENSTAR seem to blend the two attitudes well without causing too much musical conflict and confusion within a song.“Inside The Maze” kicks off with a very catchy melody which slightly makes me think of bands like “HELLOWEEN” or “EDGUY”, this is a great song with a moody verse and a typical catchy power metal chorus along with some great riffing from Joakim and Jens. “My Sacrifice” is next and is one of the highlights of this album. It starts off with possibly my favourite riff on this album, when the drums come in under this main riff you cannot help but bang your head to its galloping aggressiveness! Some of the lead work in this song is pretty amazing too!I love when a power metal band like AXENSTAR can showcase a lot of aggression along with that signature power metal ‘cheese’; It gives an album and/or band a lot more personality with the type of diversity shown here on “Where Dreams Are Forgotten”. I feel as if this album can easily reach my top 10 power metal releases this year; it is a brilliant well structured, well written, well recorded work of art and I urge you to not let this go without your attention, buy it and support AXENSTAR. I’m already eager to see what these guys do next." - Metal Temple
    $15.00
  • This album compiles and releases for the very first time all of the studio recordings (as well as two live recordings) made by guitarist and composer Kerry Livgren with the 2nd edition of Kansas, a seven-piece band that immediately preceded the formation of the lineup of the band that the world knows as Kansas. These recordings present a different and fascinating contrast to the music that Kerry would develop and release upon the world with Kansas just a couple of years later. Yet, as composer of all the tracks here, they still have his obvious imprint. In fact, two of the songs here would later reappear in different versions on Kansas' albums; Belexes would show up on the band's self-titled debut album, while Incomudro would appear on their 2nd album, Song For America. With dual keyboards (one of whom doubled on reeds) and an electric saxist/flautist featured in addition to the more standard rock instrumentation, the sound is obviously influenced by jazz/rock pioneers such as Don Ellis, Soft Machine and Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention as well as early progressive rock bands such as Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. Early Recordings From Kansas 1971-73 is an exciting archival release of dark and exploratory early American progressive rock. The fact that these musicians were not able to find success while making this adventurous music in the heartland of agricultural America over 30 years ago should not be a surprise, but the fact that the tapes have survived and are able to finally be presented to the world in an authorized form will give fans of Kansas as well as all fans of early progressive rock a very pleasant surprise. These recordings have been licensed from, and released with the full consent and agreement of all the musicians. Kerry Livgren has returned to the original tapes and worked on all tracks in his studio to present this material in the best possible light. He also contributed liner notes and provided archival photographs.
    $13.00
  • Reissue of the band's first album.  Fantastic progressive power metal with a strong spiritual message. Normally I'm not a big fan of the one-man-band concept but composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Smith really blew me away with this first time effort. Elements of Savatage, Queensryche, Symphony X and even Kansas pop up. Long epic sweeping tracks with lots of power and melody. Matt's proves he's got the voice and the chops to go far. Highly recommended.
    $13.00