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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  • "NEWLY REMASTERED EDITION OF THE RARE 1978 ALBUM BY CANADIAN PROGRESSIVE ROCK BAND FM BOOKLET WITH FULLY RESTORED ARTWORK & ESSAY. Esoteric Recordings are pleased to announce the release of a remastered edition of the 1978 mini-album by the Canadian Progressive Rock group FM, Direct to Disc . The band began life in 1976 with CAMERON HAWKINS (Synthesisers, Bass, Vocals) and NASH THE SLASH (Jeff Plewman) (Electric Violin, Mandolin, Vocals) coming together as a duo, making an appearance on national TV in Canada in the Summer of 1976. By March 1977 FM became a trio with the addition of MARTIN DELLAR on Drums. The Canadian Broadcasting Company offered to release the band s debut album, Black Noise on the CBC label later that year. By the end of the year Nash the Slash had been replaced by BEN MINK on Electric Violin and Mandolin in time for the sessions for Direct to Disc , an album that featured one track per side and was recorded directly to a master disc from which records were pressed, rather than from a master tape. This mid-priced Esoteric Recordings release is the first time Direct to Disc has been issued in Europe and has been newly remastered and includes an illustrated booklet and a new essay."
    $14.00
  • "About 30 seconds into the album opener, "Some Enchanted Evening," one starts to realize the ramifications of what this collection is: that voice -- that beautiful soprano siren from the legendary Renaissance -- is singing South Pacific. More traditionally associated with prog rock, neo-classical pieces, or even new wave music, Annie Haslam has never done an album of standards before -- let alone a live album that sounds like it captured a very regal, dignified affair. The album is very theatrical in its design -- there is even an instrumental interlude halfway through the album in "Gymnopédie 2+." And Haslam certainly hasn't forgotten her fan base -- "One Day" mines the "turning classical works into bravado pop vocal performances" franchise that Haslam created and artists like Sarah Brightman and Charlotte Church have mined ever since. But to hear the great Annie singing musical theater -- whether it's more South Pacific ("Bali H'ai") or classic West Side Story ("One Hand, One Heart") -- is indeed a revelation. Her take is far different than most interpretations of standards or numbers from musicals -- Haslam doesn't so much act the numbers (the way Streisand or Midler would). Instead, she performs the heck out them, delivering them in that inimitable voice that for many has made her a contender for greatest female vocalist of all time. Haslam is still playing in territory similar to Sarah Brightman (courting the international audiences with "Lascia Chio Pianga" and "Dank Sie Dei Herr"), but -- much like Brightman -- Haslam likes to mix it up and deliver a few more contemporary flourishes, like her solid performance of "Nature Boy" (recently re-popularized by Moulin Rouge). By the time she reinvents the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" with minimal accompaniment, the half-minute of thunderous applause that follows is all that is needed to recognize Haslam hasn't lost one iota of her talent in over 30 years. And that is -- indeed -- truly enchanted." - Allmusic
    $6.00
  • 2CD special edition arrives with a bonus CD featuring live tracks taken from the "It Happened One Night" DVD - a live gig from Carlisle, England 2/12/10."‘Map of the Past‘, the fifth studio album from Cumbrian prog rockers It Bites, will most likely inhabit a strange, disturbing place in your heart. It’s a release that is obscurely beautiful and tender, but also one that can occasionally sound incongruous and lost in time. Very often, when it comes to progressive music, people will often justify anything odd by defending it with its genre. In the case of It Bites, there is a temptation to lean on a sound from their 80s heyday, which occasionally makes ‘Map of the Past’ seem staid and not just a little cheesy.In places this album is a wonderful, soaring retrospect vision of a forgotten generation, built around the ‘discovery of an old family photograph’. Although not a concept album per se, ‘Map of the Past’ explores the idea of lives captured within photographs, and reflects these contemplative visions with equally thoughtful music; album opener, ‘Man In the Photograph’ opens with the fuzz of radio static and soon leads into sound of organs and John Mitchell’s recollections borne from this one picture. The song blends into the more progressive sounding fare of ‘Wallflower‘ and its indulgent synth solo. The title track is more engaging, with soaring chorus vocals and disorientating time signatures, showcasing the tight musicianship and richly mature songwriting ability that has grown from their 30 years of existence.The strength of this album falters with ‘Flag’ and its irrepressibly outdated smattering of 80s memorabilia and Sting powered vocal lines, although the lyrics are undoubtedly more engaging than any Police offshoot. The album does have a tendency to wander into these unpalatable territories, but more than often than not redeems itself; as the grandiose, irresistible flounce of ‘Send No Flowers‘ resurrects its orchestral bombast and moves into ‘Meadow and the Stream’s artistically detailed backdrop, it’s clear that this album is more rollercoaster than record. The album finishes, as it started, relying on simply constructed songs and that radio static to bookmark the end; ‘The Last Escape’ is honestly beautiful, and seems even more so in contrast to the tumult of the remainder of the record.‘Map of the Past’ shifts between temporal paradigms rather than changing between tracks; it’s a scintillating album that is honest to itself, and stays true to It Bites’ form, even if it does rely on sounds from their back backcatalogue occasionally. Despite this, the depth of the album is phenomenal and is genuinely rich in its storyline, with music that peaks and troughs fittingly. Well worth a listen if you find yourself pointed at the progosphere." - Bring The Noise
    $17.00
  • "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 "
    $15.00
  • 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
  • "Next is the third album by Journey and was released in 1977.Journey continued the formula from 1976's Look into the Future but this album also retains some of Journey's progressive rock style from the first album."
    $5.00
  • "Good morning, good afternoon, good evening or good night (depending on where you are in the world), how’ve you been? I’m good, thanks. Anyways, first thing’s first, before we get to the review, let’s take a minute to explain what is “Lingua Mortis”? “Lingua Mortis” was a 1996 album by German Heavy Metal legend RAGE, an album which took some of their classic songs and presented them in new symphonic arrangements.Fast forward 17 years, RAGE is still going strong, and after playing live shows with what’s known as “Lingua Mortis Orchestra” over the last few years, RAGE finally decided to create a new “Lingua Mortis” album, this time however the band chose to create an album of all new material. Based on the true story of the “1599 Gelnhausen” witch hunting’s and featuring around 100 musicians, “LMO” is a monster of an album. Make no mistake about it, this is a Metal album through and through, Composed by Victor Smolski with Lyrics by Peavey Wagner, this album is as much RAGE as any album they have released in their illustrious career, but this is RAGE with a completely different edge to them.It opens with “Cleansed by Fire” a ten minute opus opening with a witch chanting with a choir coming in, this is the song that tells you all you need to know, the song is melodic, deep, heavy, catchy, this is Rage at their finest, Peavey Wagner’s usually harsh vocals are softer here and are perfectly complemented by the female accompaniment, this song incorporates three parts into it, “Convert the Pagans Pt1”, “The Inquisition” and “Convert the Pagans Pt2”, the guitar work by Victor Smolski is absolutely exquisite throughout.I wanted to do the usual track by track review, but I honestly can’t, it would take too damn long, this album moves and twists more times than I could possibly put into a single review, it’s heavy as hell, the masterful blast beats are here, the guitars are incredible and at times reminiscent of the masters like Pell and Malmsteen. The choice to mix Peavey’s heavy vocals along with softer and operatic female vocals and at times choirs is a brilliant move as they blend perfectly. The album at times even has an 80s sound (like the opening of “Devils Bride”).The bottom line here is that this album is nothing short of a masterpiece, if you love RAGE (like me), you’ll love this album, if you love Symphonic Metal, you’ll love this album, hell, it’s very hard not to love this record as it features elements from a lot of metal genres and mixes it in with an amazing array of orchestral work. I’m not really the type to call an album perfect, but I find it hard not to in this case, the hooks are there, and so is the heaviness, it’s probably the best symphonic album I’ve heard without a NIGHTWISH label on it.The album comes out August 2nd, and I certainly suggest you go on YouTube right now, have a listen to a sample and go out and get this album as soon as it’s out, you won’t regret it. " - Metal Temple
    $13.00
  • Re-Evolution takes an interesting approach from this popular Finnish power metal band.  Long time lead vocalist Heidi Parviainen left in 2012.  The band is using this as a vehicle to introduce her replacement, the singularly named Capri.  Essentially this is a greatest hits re-recording of older material with new vocals from Capri.  Its a stop gap until the band records their new studio album.
    $15.00
  • "Refreshing, powerful, and extremely melodic – the adjectives I’d use at a push to describe Teramaze‘s 5th album. I have to admit I pretty much consider this their sophomore release as I was not party to their releases throughout the 90′s, with my first introduction to the band with their 2012 powerhouse ‘Anhedonia’ which quite ironically generated feels of anything but anhedonia. There has been an undeniable buzz around this release and I have found it virtually impossible to escape the widespread word and hype around this album anywhere I look online; generally I wouldn’t necessarily see this as categorically positive as it can taint your expectations unintentionally. Thankfully for the most part, my expectations and hopes with this album have been realised to the point that I welcome any melodic, thrash, progressive or otherwise metallically inclined music fan to check this 79-ish minute thematic conceptual monster.The initial impressions I have when comparing this with ‘Anhedonia’ is a development away from the slightly more thrash-oriented direction that I suspected was the impact of the members growing up in the era where that particular sub-genre beared its greatest fruits. I use the term development as I believe it has very much naturally progressed as compared to what I would consider a departure. The addition of more progressive structures and more varied layering works exceptionally well in Teramaze‘s favour to create a soundscape of in your face riffs, contemplative and brooding moods, earworm choruses, and timeless unity across the entire album.Without doubt one of the things that will grab listeners’ attention is the astonishing fretboard wizardry of band leader and Dean Well’s who treats us to undeniably wondrous smorgasbord of head nodding animosity (special mention to the riff at 2:02 in ‘Line of Symmetry’ – that will get you nodding with the mania of Jack Black), and emotive, creative, delicious lead playing that is akin to guitar heroes aplenty (Petrucci, Sfogli, Skolnick – just to name a few). The balance of great lead playing and rhythm work is a pleasure with nothing inappropriately overstated like one can sometimes expect of the genre. As a special addition, the tones are simply incredible on this album and it is glued perfectly with the bass and bonded by the fairydust keyboards that emerge to keep the sonic palette interesting (courtesy of Circadian Pulse keyboardist Dave Holley).The production is another point of veritable quality with all the instruments presented in a crystal clear state whilst maintaining vibe and not losing out to sterility which is a sad by-product of the self-produced musical climate of 2014. The only complaint I really have is that the mastering is a little hot which is noticeable after the first track (which was mastered in my ideal sweet spot). It sits at DR6 across the whole album on average which is nothing out of the ordinary for this day and age but it occasionally gets fatiguing especially over such a long record. Thankfully moment of distortion are kept to a minimum, however there are some trace elements of weakened transients and the occasional buried vocal that loses intelligibility.Vocalist Brett Rerekura is a joy to listen to and I am appreciative of the fact although his voice pushes the aggressive edge to fit the setting of the music, it is rich in melody and characteristic timbre and is not sabotaged with growls. Long live the singer in a metal band, I say! I detect glimmers of Layne Staley, Sebastian Bach and the rhythmic phrasing of James Hetfield. My only beef is the occasional “Aussieisms” I hear in some inflections which I am hyper-sensitive too (even though I’m Australian myself), however this doesn’t detract too much from what is a splendid vocal performance across the board. There are moments of supreme delicacy especially in ‘Bodies of Betrayal’ which I would have liked to have heard more of as well as a bit more of that delicate side to the band overall to give this album the dynamic curve it deserved. This is of course only a minor criticism.The album’s concept, while not narrative based centres around the experiential nature of deception; especially by that of governing bodies and the powers that be. I think the title of ‘Esoteric Symbolism’ is perfectly apt as this is not the viewpoint or mindset of everyone and best kept as the worldview of a particular minority of people. I think for some the lyrical approach could border on conspiracy but I like the exploratory nature of them and what is truly the harm in questioning some of the taken-for-granted “truths” we hold in this ever-changing world. Kudos to Teramaze for honestly and whole-heartedly fusing their beliefs with such hard-hitting music in a way that I see as completely lacking pretence.For me the standout tracks are ‘Bodies of Betrayal’, ‘Esoteric Symbolism’ (6:53 in this gives me goosebumps), and ‘viii In Vitro’ as I believe they hold the most profound emotional connection with me due to the individual moods they build. I have to admit the only track that I am not particularly keen on is the one with the guest vocals as I feel as though it breaks the flow of the album in a way that was superfluous to requirements. It came across as guests for guests sake which is probably my most direct criticism of the record.This is an exceptional release that stands up to my extremely critical ear and was only let down by perhaps a slight lack of expression with regards to dynamics (mastering and songwriting) across such a long album. Its length to some may indeed be a bit hard to swallow in single listens, however this is par for the course for me as a fan of long form writing. For fans of Metallica, Dream Theater, Alice in Chains and anyone who wishes to have a boot up the bum and an electrode to the brain from an ambitious and highly satiating album." - Metal Obsession
    $12.00
  • "Hailing from Poole in Dorset, the band featured GARY MARGETTS on guitar and vocals, TRISTAN MARGETTS on bass guitar, vocals and synthesiser and TONY BROCK on drums.Formed in 1971, the band was originally known as Transient Sand and was managed by local promoter John House, a friend of GREG LAKE of EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER. Through this association Lake offered to produce the band, now known as Spontaneous Combustion. With Lake’s interest confirmed a recording contract was arranged with Harvest in the closing months of 1971."TRIAD” was the band’s second album, released in October 1972 and over the coming years has become a sought after Prog Rock classic.This Esoteric Recordings reissue includes three bonus tracks from the band’s singles of the period, two of which are previously unreleased on CD. It has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features a booklet that fully restores all original album artwork with a new essay."
    $7.00
  • Withem is an up and coming Norwegian progressive metal band, inspired by the likes of Symphony X, Pagan’s Mind, Dream Theater and Circus Maximus.The band started to take shape in 2011 when Øyvind Voldmo Larsen (guitars) and Ketil Ronold (keyboards) met the gifted drummer Frank Nordeng Røe. Soon they were joined by the vocal talents of Ole Aleksander Wagenius and bass duties were taken care of by the special guest Andreas Blomqvist from Seventh Wonder.Withem’s debut offers varied sonic landscapes for the listener to explore, ranging from guilty-pleasure choruses permeated with memorable vocal hooks, to symphonic epic themes.  The unique vocal range of Ole Aleksander Wagenius gives the band a distinctive touch to tackle the overcrowded progressive metal scene.The passion and dedication put into the album is emphasized by the countless hours spent in studio perfecting each individual performance and making sure that the end result is a world class blend of progressive, symphonic and power metal.The Point Of You was mastered by Markus Teske (Vanden Plas, Saga, Spock's Beard)
    $13.00
  • If you love that classic hard rock sound of the 70s and 80s you will go crazy over this album plain and simple.  Alex Beyrodt reined in the neoclassical overtones just a bit, David Readman shines as always (LOVE this guy's voice).  The result is an album that evokes the spirit of Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Deep Purple.  I thought the last VC album was excellent - this one is even better!  Highly recommended.Limited edition digipak with two bonus tracks and one video clip.
    $17.00
  • "Iced Earth are going through a bit of a renaissance period at the moment. While they do have many hardcore fans who would defend their back catalogue to the end, honestly the heavy metal titans haven’t made a truly exciting album in about twenty years; that is, they hadn’t, until the release of 2011’s Dystopia. After two decades of putting out stale and generally uninteresting meat and potatoes heavy metal, finally they had an album that managed to match up to their first few records, one with the power and energy to justify their continued status as metal heroes. Plagues of Babylon is its follow-up, and thankfully they have managed to take this momentum forward and release another great album.Opening with the title track’s marching drum beat (strangely similar to Dystopia in that regard) and ominous harmonized leads, as soon as the heavy, chugging main riff kicks in it’s clear that this album is going to be a worthy successor. Noticeably, the production is very good, giving the guitars a sharp razor edge that albums like the totally flat The Glorious Burden lacked. Mainman Jon Schaffer churns out some of the best riffs in his career on this album, especially on the raging and thrashy Democide. Some new blood is brought in with an all new rhythm section, bassist Luke Appleton helping give the album its low-end crunch while drummer Raphael Saini (who was sadly since left) punctuates the songs with intricate tom patterns and ride cymbal work while maintaining a constant driving power. Stu Block meanwhile, who debuted as vocalist on Dystopia, continues to make sure that fan favourite Matt Barlow is not missed too much, his gruff voice helping give the songs a darker edge while his highs are utilised when appropriate, never being over-used.This is hardly perfect though. Plagues is a bit front-loaded, the second half never quite managing to match up to the first, especially considering it contains two somewhat unnecessary covers. The first is Spirit of the Times by Sons of Liberty, a Jon Schaffer side project, and you can’t help but question the logic in covering your own material, especially as aside from the darker and heavier overtones it’s not massively different from the original. The second, Highwayman by Jimmy Webb, is hardly electrifying either.That said, many of the problems that plagued previous Iced Earth efforts no longer show up. The obligatory cheesy metal ballad only appears once in If I Could See You, which is one of the better ones they’ve done, and only a couple of songs have a clean guitar intro, unlike on The Dark Saga where they appear on nearly every song. Iced Earth are a band who are at their best when they’re firing on all cylinders, and that is largely what they stick to here. With it’s almost death metal cover art, Plagues is for the most part a balls-out thrill ride, and honestly might be Iced Earth’s most complete work to date." - Sound And Motion Magazine
    $12.00
  • Justin Greaves continues to churn the lineup but the core sound of Crippled Black Phoenix remains the same.  Vocals are now helmed by Daniel Änghede and he's quite good.  Not sure why no one can hold down the fort at the microphone for more than one album but Greaves keeps finding quality voices.The sound of CBP is a modern twist on vintage Pink Floyd.  A mash up of post rock and old school prog rock.  No Mellotrons here but lots of splashes of organ at just the right time that will remind you of Richard Wright.  Contemporary but old all at the same time.  That's the enigma of Cripple Black Phoenix and what keeps me coming back for more, album after album.  Highly recommended.(Oh - apologies about the price.  The band is signed to Mascot Records, who for reasons unknown to either the band or their management, do not give CBP's albums a US release.  This is an expensive imported digipak)
    $21.00