The Lesser Key of Solomon

"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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    $9.00
  • Under the Red Cloud marks the 12th studio album from Finland’s grandfathers of extreme metal, the band’s sixth LP with Tomi Joutsen as vocalist and his 10th year in the band. The string of Tomi’s six records started with 2006’s Eclipse and had an absolutely epic beginning. Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger  showed the band’s new found drive and energy, reclaiming some of their death metal heritage, while veering further into what Nuclear Blast has fittingly labeled ‘melancholy rock.’ Unfortunately, Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ is a fickle mistress, and The Beginning of Times and Circle were both records that were good, but lacked the urgency of that initial trilogy. These records saw the band pushing into newer territory—heavy Jethro Tull influences bled through on the former, while Circle developed some of the band’s folky elements in cool ways. Neither album gripped me. But when Amorphis releases an album, it’s hard for me not to get excited, and upon seeing the cover art for Under the Red Cloud, all that warm anticipation came back. And fortunately, they didn’t disappoint.Under the Red Cloud is a return to form for Amorphis, and the most cohesive album the band has released since 2009’s Skyforger. Clocking in at 50 minutes, it’s made of ten thematically cohesive tracks. The album isn’t a story though. Instead, the lyrics (written, as always, by Pekka Kainulainen) are conceptually foreboding; about living under a red cloud in troubled times. The music matches this feel, and while I wouldn’t say the album is necessarily so much heavier than previous records, it may have been influenced by the 20th Anniversary of Tales from the Thousand Lakes, because the band has certainly produced the most growl-heavy material of the Joutsen-era.You wouldn’t notice that on the opening title track, however. “Under the Red Cloud” starts with an atmospheric piano bolstered by throbbing bass and a clean guitar in harmonic minor before merging into prime Amorphis territory: a chunky, groovy riff with Tomi’s cleans augmenting the sound perfectly. This format—the classic hard rock song-writing—is the stamp with which the band’s newer material has largely been pressed. “Sacrifice” is similar, breaking in with a “House of Sleep” intro, and a heavy, syncopated verse before giving way to a hooky chorus and a slick guitar melody. “Bad Blood” features Tomi’s growl in the verse, but it’s heavy on the groove and light on the melody before giving way to an epic chorus and beautiful bridge.Amorphis isn’t afraid of their death metal side here. Between “The Four Wise Ones” and “Death of a King,” every single track starts with growls, and the former doesn’t feature any clean vocals from Joutsen at all—instead there’s a short bridge with a haunting, effected vocal line that evokes Elegy. “The Four Wise Ones” and “The Dark Path” both feature crescendos with a ’90s black metal feel—wet with keys and a trem-picked melodies—only undermined by Rechberger’s refusal to use blast beats and Tomi’s growls. The death-laden material works well, though moments like the verse in “Bad Blood” or “Death of a King,” which is one of the singles from Under the Red Cloud, are places where I would have chosen clean vocals rather than growls.There is a danger, however, in Amorphis‘s modern sound, in that it’s pretty easy to fall into a rut. A fairly close listen to Under the Red Cloud reveals that the songs pretty much all follow the same structure, which when the band isn’t producing their sharpest writing can become repetitive. When the album hits its stride, though, it’s an extremely well-crafted record. From “Sacrifice” to “White Night” is a stretch of pure enjoyment—each song flowing into the next, while peaking on the final two tracks. “Tree of Ages” features a folky Celtic theme that has been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it, and “White Night” is a moody track that closes the album out with a surge.Under the Red Cloud is a very good album and a return to form. The record simply sounds like Amorphis; the band has developed a sound that bridges the gap between their old material and the new—with plenty of moments on here that remind me of Elegy and Tuonela with sitar (“Death of a King”) or bong water keyboard solos (“Enemy at the Gates”). And it’s incredible how the band’s riffing can still be so idiosyncratic. “The Skull” and “Enemy at the Gate” have riffs you only hear in Amorphis and Barren Earth; and after 12 records they still pull them off without feeling like they’re ripping themselves off. Consistency is a virtue for big bands if they’re any good, but I think there are hints on UtRC that Amorphis could get more adventurous going forward, and I hope they do. Until that time, though, I’ll be sitting here enjoying these tunes under the red clouds." - Angry Metal Guy
    $15.00
  • "With 'Home', for the first time since their critically acclaimed 'Posthumous Silence' of 2006, Sylvan have taken the chance to create another full-on concept album. Even though the Hamburg natives attach great importance to creating contextually comprehensive pieces of art with any of their albums, this time around Sylvan have upped their ambition another notch and taken on the mammoth task of building an overall concept around the never ending quest of the human condition for 'home' - that very special place that can provide a feeling of complete safety."This is the deluxe mediabook edition.  Same track listing as the jewel box but in much nicer packaging.
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  • "The Prog Rock supergroup whose debut became the surprise hit of 2012 returns with a brand new album featuring an even more impressive lineup of stellar musicians and artists lending their talents to this incredible project!Features performances by mindblowing musicians Steve Stevens, Rick Wakeman, Steve Morse, Peter Banks (in his final appearance) as well as Captain Kirk himself William Shatner, PLUS members of Yes, Dream Theater, Nektar Asia, Gong and more!Deluxe digipak packaging!Performed by:Rick Wakeman Steve Stevens Chris Squire Peter Banks Steve Morse Larry Fast Alan Parsons Sonja Kristina Jordan Rudess Steve Hillage John Wesley Nik Turner Geoff Downes Roye Albrighton Gary Green Tony Kaye William Shatner Colin Moulding Mel Collins John Wetton Derek Sherinian Billy Sherwood Fee Waybill Patrick Moraz Jim Cuomo "
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  • Live recording from 2012 at the Rites of Spring Festival in Gettysburg PA USATracklist CD1:When the world is caving inWhere earth meets the skyTurn it upDo U tango?1969EternallyCD2:Send a message from the heartUndertow/When the world is caving in repriseJonas Reingold: BassguitarMorgan Ågren: DrumsGöran Edman: VocalsNils Erikson: Keys and VocalsLalle Larsson: KeysKrister Jonsson: Guitars 
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  • ""RUSH: CLOCKWORK ANGELS TOUR" was filmed and recorded last November at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, during Rush's highly successful Clockwork Angels Tour. The eleven month-marathon world tour crossed North America twice and ventured overseas to Europe in support of the band's acclaimed 2012 studio release "CLOCKWORK ANGELS."In capturing the tour's electrifying three hour set, "RUSH: CLOCKWORK ANGELS TOUR" pairs Rush classics ("Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit Of Radio," "2112"), with a nod to the 80's Rush era (The Analog Kid," "Territories," "Subdivisions") alongside newly reworked arrangements specifically for the tour featuring the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble ("Headlong Flight," "YYZ," "Red Sector A"). The string section marks the first time the trio has brought additional musicians on the road with them. To showcase their latest studio release, the epic set list also features nine tracks off "CLOCKWORK ANGELS." Other highlights include tracks rarely performed and never before recorded live ("The Body Electric," "Middletown Dreams"), in addition to three separate drum solos by the incomparable Neil Peart."
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  • Second album from this Dutch "sympho" band. Leap Day has roots in bands like Flamborough Head and Trion and wear their influences on their sleeve. Camel, Kayak, Steve Hackett, and Marillion immediately come to mind. They take a lush symphonic approach with a strong emphasis on melody over complexity. Keys have a 70s feel. This album pretty much characterizes the Dutch sound. If you can't wait for the new Knight Area album you might want to check this one out in the meantime.
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  • "Ever since rising from oblivion with new Greek goddess Maxi Nil, Visions of Atlantis is back on track to become one of the most important bands in symphonic metal. Within eight months of releasing its comeback album "Delta" this past February, the band already has a brand new EP entitled "Maria Magdalena." Over the years, EP releases have notoriously consisted of throw away tracks recorded during a full-length writing process or demo tracks from years past, but "Maria Magdelena" is worthy of attention.The band chooses to live dangerously by naming and commencing the EP with a cover track, especially one of an 80's pop song. However, the result is a bombastic symphonic metal rendition of the 1985 Sandra hit "Maria Magdalena" that could easily pass off as a Visions of Atlantis original. This interpretation outdoes the former in so many ways and on so many levels, most notably with far superior vocals by Nil and Mario Plank. After further review of the original, it sounded a distorted chord shy of being symphonic metal itself.The EP is also home to two tracks that can easily be considered the best material the band has composed to date, "Melancholia" and "Change of Tides." Both rain "tides" of mellifluous hooks swaddled in the Visions Of Atlantis brand of "supple heaviness." Both Nil and Plank really flash the pipes, Plank in the former and Nil in the latter. "Distant Shores" is equal in its melody and just as strong as either of the aforementioned tracks, just a little less theatrical. The maturation of sound and song writing really shows since the days of "Morning In Atlantis."I normally would have balked at the inclusion of "Last Shut Of Your Eyes," the slow starting tasty rocker that originally appeared on the band's 2004 release "Cast Away." However, upon listening to the re-recording, the sound is so much fuller with the addition Nil's little background inflections. Her vocals are much less classically operatic than that of former vocalist Nicole Bogner. In comparison, Bogner's version seems abrasive to Nil's sweet and soaring one. Rounding out the EP is the slumbersome ballad "Beyond Horizon, The Poem, Pt. II" (the sequel to "The Poem" on the 2007 release "Trinity"), which represents a typical ballad of the genre. Its placement at the conclusion of this release was perfect.Visions of Atlantis is right on the edge of stardom, ready to spread its wings and fly from the safety of the Nightwish nest to exert its own influence throughout world of symphonic metal." - MetalUnderground.com
    $7.00
  • Interesting studio project from the Altrock/Fading team.  This is 70s influenced progressive rock with a dark edge to it.  Vocals are in English and overall it doesn't have the typical Italian sound.  If you told me this was a British band I wouldn't think twice.  I'm digging the Mellotron-type sounds!  Highly recommended."Not a Good Sign is a project by AltrOck and some bands’ members of the label. Marcello Marinone, Paolo «Ske» Botta and Francesco Zago, after a successful collaboration in Yugen and Ske, propose a new blend of their musical attitudes. The result is an ominous, fascinating sound melting vintage keyboards, powerful guitars and voice, besides ethereal and autumn nuances, supported by a compelling rhythmic drive.In 2011 Botta and Zago began to write the music, and Zago provided the lyrics too. Soon Gabriele G. Colombi and Alessio Calandriello, from La Coscienza di Zeno, joined the band. The drummer Martino Malacrida completed the line-up in 2012. In these tracks many of you will recognize the Old Prog School from the 70s, but in a modern key, with a pinch of hard-rock and psych. Resonant vocal melodies and lyrics complete the gloomy but colourful imagery of the band."Personnel:Paolo «Ske» Botta, keyboardsAlessio Calandriello, vocalsGabriele Guidi Colombi, bassMartino Malacrida, drumsFrancesco Zago, guitarsGuests:Maurizio Fasoli, grandpiano (Yugen)Sharron Fortnam, vocals (North Sea Radio Orchestra, Cardiacs)Bianca Fervidi, cello
    $18.00
  • In 2013 Renaissance ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and self-release the album Grandine Il Vento.  The response was an overwhelming success.  Sadly shortly after the recording of the album, Michael Dunford suddenly passed away so there is a bittersweet aura around the album.  The album never went into distribution - you could only buy it from the band's website.  Renaissance has now licensed the album and repackaged and renamed it.  Symphony Of LIght contains all of the tracks from Grandine Il Vento but with an additional three tracks.""Though the release of Renaissance's brand new album Grandine il Vento has been tempered somewhat by the recent passing of guitarist Michael Dunford shortly before its release, let's not fail to state what is pretty obvious...this is a wonderful little album. Coming 12 years after their last studio album Tuscany, Grandine il Vento manages to successfully recreate the classic Renaissance sound just like its predecessor. The line-up for the album is Annie Haslam (vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), David J. Keyes (bass, vocals), Rave Tesar (keyboards), Frank Pagano (drums), and Jason Hart (keyboards).If anyone has caught the band live over the past few years, you've no doubt witnessed Haslam's voice sounding quite good, and she's in great form here as well. Just listen to her gentle touch and soaring lines on the epic & majestic opening song "Symphony of Light", a remarkable tune that has all the classic Renaissance elements; stunning piano & keyboards, nimble bass lines, deft acoustic guitar work, and powerful vocals. This track wouldn't have been out of place on Turn of the Cards or Ashes Are Burning. "Waterfall" is a lovely little ditty, complete with Haslam's charming vocal and warm guitar chords from Dunford, while the alluring title track offers up some fascinating lyrics to match the majestic musical arrangements. Tesar and Hart have really laid down some exquisite keyboard tapestries on this one, and the soaring chorus from Annie is a thing of beauty.The band goes for a more groove laden pop feel on "Porcelain", but again, Annie steals the show with her soothing delivery on the chorus. "Cry to the World" is for all the folk lovers in the house, complete with lush acoustic guitar and guest flute from Jethro Tull legend Ian Anderson, while "Air of Drama" is a quirky, mysterious little song that has a majestic feel thanks to some glorious keyboards, lush guitars, and a great vocal duet between Haslam and Keyes. Tesar's gorgeous piano leads in the dramatic "Blood Silver Like Moonlight", another song with that classic era feel, and none other than John Wetton (Asia/King Crimson/UK) makes a guest appearance to join Annie on vocals. The album closes with the dark, ominous "The Mystic and the Muse", a powerful song that features plenty of bombast and drama, thanks to some huge symphonic swells, complex passages, and soaring vocals from Annie. It's easily another one of the main highlights of the album.Though it took over a decade, Renaissance have truly delivered a stunning album here with Grandine il Vento. Sadly, it's also the last appearance of the late Michael Dunford, but he most certainly has gone out on a high note. The band have regrouped after Dunford's unexpected passing, with new guitarist Ryche Chlanda, and are taking the new album out on the road. Expect to be wowed, as much of this latest CD should slot right in alongside all those great Renaissance classics." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $14.00
  • Their last album for a major label, Azure D'Or finds the band still creating their unique brand of classically influenced progressive rock. Unfortunately, perhaps because of changing tastes, record company pressure, or even their own success...the music is a bit more produced and the songs are more concise. Still a track like The Flood At Lyon captures all their magic. A conditional recommendation.
    $15.00
  • Xandria have been around for quite some time and for whatever reason they seem to churn through vocalists - perhaps each one better than the previous.  Their new vocalist is Dianne van Giersbergen, formerly with the Dutch band Ex Libris.  She's a great one for sure.  Luckily the overall band sound hasn't changed very much.  This is pure bombastic symphonic metal that follows the Tarja-era Nightwish template very closely.  You may have to play this one in secret or the originality police may come after you but if you do play it loud!This is the deluxe mediabook edition.  It comes with a bonus CD that features an exclusive studio track as well as an instrumental mix of the album so you can karaoke to your hearts content.  
    $16.00
  • Perhaps inspired by the passing of the legendary Jon Lord (who the album is dedicated to) or by the creative infusion from producer Bob Ezrin, Deep Purple's 19th studio album arrives firing on all cylinders.  Sure I miss Ritchie Blackmore.  Steve Morse is Steve Morse.  A legend...but he brings a different element to the band that to my ears was always defined by the neoclassical explorations of Blackmore.  Getting past that this album is a pure smoker.  Don Airey replaced Jon Lord over a decade ago.  He's always played the hell out of the Hammond organ and he doesn't disappoint here.  He's the perfect replacement for Jon Lord and even adds his own imprint in some not so subtle ways.  Oh yeah - Ian Gillan sounds great.  I wasn't a huge fan of the last couple of albums but this one sure does kick some major ass.This is the deluxe digipak edition.  It comes with one bonus track on the CD and a DVD that has interviews and bonus live clips.
    $15.00
  • Reissue of the band's 1988 album now available with three bonus tracks from the Millstream sessions."After being dropped by EMI Records Pendragon (i.e. Nick Barrett) decided to go for an own record label, called Toff records. After a few years this was the first (studio) CD with Clive Nolan and Fudge Smith. This album indicates a slight difference with the earlier albums. Nick Barrett tries to write some shorter, more single orientated songs, but he doesn't forget the long epics ! Therefore this must be one of the most varied Pendragon albums, unfortunately not all the songs do have my interest !KowTow opens with Saved By You, a very simple track, and very poppy ! The Mask, Time For A Change and I Walk The Rope are a little "best of both worlds": very good compositions but a little shorter (4-5 minutes) than the songs on previous albums. An indication that Pendragon goes a little more song-orientated.2.AM starts with a saxophone and is a very sad, melancholic ballad. Next tracksTotal Recall and The Haunting are long, progressive songs which make me think of the "old" classical Pendragon songs. Especially The Haunting is a FANTASTIC song (by far the best on this album); Pendragon at it's best ! Solid Heart is a very nice sing-along song while KowTow is a statement about war in which Nick Barrett proves he can write good lyrics. A great (re)start for Pendragon at this stage of their career. Especially the nice keyboard sound of Clive Nolan and the aggressive and subtile drum sound of Fudge Smith makes it a very good album. But you have to like the song orientated direction Pendragon shows on this album." - DPRP.net 
    $13.00