The Winery Dogs

SKU: LDPD3.2
Label:
Loud And Proud
Category:
Hard Rock
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"After some high profile releases and particularly impressive ubiquity, the ex-DREAM THEATER / A7X drums God Mike Portnoy is back again with his new musical partner the magnificent Bass Maestro Billy Sheehan (NIACIN / TALAS / DAVID LEE ROTH / MR BIG / STEVE VAI / PSMS), under a power trio format, completed by none other than one of the most gifted Guitarist of his generation once Sharpnel Records alumni Richie Kotzen but this time no instrumental trickery, no instrumental knitting, because Kotzen beside his absolute skilled six strings wizardry is also indeed an hell of a fantastic soulful singer and a very underrated vocalist of the best brand. This is a  supergroup, a Dream Team hell yeah…but mostly a great band.

With such a busy time schedule for both workaholics Portnoy & Sheehan, we could have feared a fast almost sloppy affair, luckily with this first album is exactly the opposite. Sheehan & Kotzen were working many years together with MR BIG and in fact the sound of THE WINERY DOGS isn’t that far from what Sheehan, Paul Gilbert , Pat Torpey and Eric Martin have magnificently achieved.

The album start with groovy 70s infused blast of “Elevate” and followed by the heavy Funk flavor of “Desire” each track feature an intense rhythmic groove with short but impressive unison synchronized lead bass / lead guitar whirlwind licks of exuberant virtuosity, some unexpected harmonies that coming out of the Jazz-Rock / Rhythm N' Blues recipe book owned by Kotzen, but every song carries most of all a strong focus both on the catchy melodies and on the sing-along hooks which are everywhere boosted by rich Backing vocals (“The Other Side” or “The Dying”) really magnetic & irresistible. Those who are familiar with the prolific superb Kotzen’s discography knows that he’s an hugely skilled songwriter with a lot of style in his arsenal, so THE WINERY DOGS debut album is out of the same tradition as THE MOTHER HEAD'S FAMILLY REUNION, “Not Hopeless” contains however some over the top sharing duo between Richie & Billy, in the real MR BIG's shredding frenzy fashion, like a modern day GRAND FUNK RAILROAD with full injection of high tech dexterity.

Cuts like “One More Time” or “Six Feet Deeper” seems to be outtakes from the breath taking 1990s “Fever Dream”, with furious playing and great musicality concentrated for an even more efficiency. The Japan only bonus track, “Criminal” is strangely one of the most commercial song with an almost AOR chorus, a syncopated bridge and another outstanding lead guitar solo spot in two parts with a tasty sound. The closing number “Regret” is the sole composition handled exclusively by Mr. Kotzen: it’s a soul music track with slight Hammond layers and a real harmonious balanced to finish this album in a positive way. The pristine production is powerful and crystal clear, still organic with a strong vintage feel but not muddy, in fact it sounds like how Classic Rock in its purest form should sound in 2013. Just unadulterated genuine Rock played by an exemplary bunch of extremely talented musicians and it’s an understatement.

After an imposing huge list of albums and projects under his belt, Mike Portnoy with the help of another all-star lineup show to the incredulous crowd of jealous fellows, how his playing field is broad and how he can multiply in an almost monthly omnipresence the recording with the same prestige and the same success as FLYING COLORS / NEAL MORSE / PSMS / ADRENALINE MOB and the forthcoming BIGELF." - Metal Temple

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  • "Album art can certainly set the tone and expectations around an album.  A quick look at the cover for Enlighten by Sleeping Romance instantly sends my mind to a gothic, dark medieval setting and that is the right place to go with this release.  Recently signed to Ulterium Records, Sleeping Romance from Modena, Italy has released an epic symphonic metal album that is very impressive for a debut.Being from Italy, my first thought was that this may be an album similar to that from Mourn In Silence, which I really liked as it is a blend of gothic, symphonic, power and black metal, but that is not quite where the sound of Sleeping Romance is.  Those familiar with female-fronted symphonic metal bands like HB, Within Temptation, Delain and others know what to expect from this genre and it is all here.  This is symphonic metal that borders on hard rock and power metal at times.  At times, the songs do seem a bit too formulaic for my tastes as most start with an orchestral intro with beautiful clean vocals and then the “metal” parts of the song kick in with much of the verses consisting of just drums and bass with the vocals at the forefront.  There is nothing wrong with this formula especially when done as well as it is here, but this does introduce a bit of predictability to the album.Any review of this album simply has to have some lines devoted to the vocals of Federica Lanna.  Throughout the entire album, her vocals are one of the standout qualities of the album.  At times, quiet, at other times soaring, but always fully in control with a great range and tone, these are the vocals designed for this genre.  Now, given the implied darkness and gothicness depicted in the album cover, I was expecting a bit of a darker tone from the vocals but they are somewhat surprisingly bright, complementing the music very well.   Quite a few other bands choose to employ some unrestrained, strained screaming female vocals or employ some deep guttural male vocals to provide a contrast to the clean vocals, but Sleeping Romance have chosen to highlight Federica’s vocals.  I would have liked to hear the vocals move a bit more toward the edge of being out of control, but that’s just my personal preference.  With the lush orchestral arrangements often being in the forefront and dominating the sound, having the vocals remain restrained works well with the overall sound.In terms of overall sound on the album, the production quality is very high and the emphasis is definitely toward the symphonic and away from the metal.  In fact, I found myself thinking some was definitely more power metal influences at times as well.  Some of the songs instantly reminded me of Evanescence with the use of certain keyboard effects and those would be hard to miss for anyone familiar with that band.  Despite some similarities, the overall sound of Sleeping Romance is a bit brighter than Evanescence and others in the genre, not just the vocals as mentioned earlier, but also the instrumentation both the metal and symphonic.  More of a light of dawn feel than a darkness of sunset feel, if that makes any sense.  There were moments that surprised me a bit as well. For instance the song “The Promise Inside” starts out with some of the Evanescence sound and feel and then morphs into almost a power ballad in the chorus that sounds strikingly like that from the song “Alone” by Heart in terms of tone and phrasing.  Thankfully, the song has much more to it than that including a string section in the middle and later in this song I found myself liking how the drums by Francesco Zanarelli carried parts.  “Devils Cave” certainly starts out as the darkest and heaviest track on the album, and carries that feel through much of the song with a hammer-like  driving guitar, bass, and drum beat through the verses, which picks up to a gallop in later parts of the song.  Vocal tone is a bit darker here through the verses as well and is more along the lines of what I was expecting after seeing the cover.  All in all, this song is a good example of an epic symphonic metal song due to the seemless combination of orchestral and metal elements, seemless transition between them, and the back and forth shifts between styles.  For example,  midway through the song there is a symphonic interlude with some spoken word from Federica that shifts into some beautiful clean singing and the return of the metal elements and one of the few guitar solos on the album before returning to a true symphonic metal section.Despite some of the songs leaning toward the formulaic, Enlighten is a great debut album of symphonic metal that highlights both the phenomenal vocals of Federica Lanna but also the intricate symphonic/orchestral arrangements of Federico Truzzi and makes a great addition to the genre." - The Metal Resource
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  • "The rise of Greek power metaller, Firewind, has give the world two new metal heroes. They are Bob Katsionis (keyboards) and Gus G. Both are skillful musicians, now world class respected. Bob released his solo album in 2012, but only in March 2014 that Gus G finally catch up with a release his long waited solo album. Gus G's solo album titled as I Am the Fire, he is well backed by world class musicians and singers. As Gus G was previously active in Ozzy Osbourne team, the styles of heavy metal and hard rock in this solo album is not surprising, a bit step further away from his main band of Firewind, which is a power metal band.Let's see the two most interesting tracks by observing the guess list. Vengeance is back by Megadeth's David Ellefson. This is instrumental track for sure, the riffs are heavy, fast double pedal drum and of course Gus' shred + David's bass attack was more than cool enough. The second instrumental is fall to "Billy Sheehan's track". Terrified is yet another ultra fast shreds with a title that reminds us to Scarified by Racer X. Both instrumental tracks is enough to made guitars fans demand an exclusive instrumental guitar album from Gus!On the vocalized songs, they are all excellence. Mat Levén is acting as host singer, he tackled four tracks. From the opener My Will Be Done, a straight forward modern rock tunes, then Blame It On Me, a happier glam metal one. On the later are Eyes Wide Open, this is kind of late '80s hair metal scenes feel. The last from Mat is End Of The Line, acoustic ballad in the style of wild wild west. Mat Levén was once Firewind singer also.I Am The Fire is a collaboration with Devour The Day / Blake Allison. The riffs quickly brings us to modern nu-metal feels, this concurred with the style of singing, the song's structures, and utilizing of choruses, which is in the spirit of alternative metal. Long Way Down on the other hand is the only female guess track with Alexia Rodiguez. Alexia is from the band Eyes Set To Kill. The song can be categorizing as a heavier version Evanescenes style. Jacob Bunton from Lynam / Adler fame contributed in Just Can't Let Go. This is yet again in alternative / US modern metal feel. Michael Starr from Steel Panther trusted with Redemption, a track that focused on wild glam metal form, fit the image of Steel Panther. Veteran singer Jeff Scott Soto is in the spiritful AOR track of Summer Days. Finally there at least an European feel in Dreamkeeper, where Evergrey singer Tom S. Englund delivered it epic-ly!What a great packed of quality materials in one album. Of all tracks not only Gus G able to fit the styles of his song to the respected guess, he also seem like outdone the guess' each band. For example in Tom Englund's track, we can feel Evergrey's music in it. There are enough punches on each song, added more  replay value to the album. Interestingly, Gus G decided to not gives any clue about his music from Firewind. A good choices, meaning his creativity in the area of power metal will still dedicated to the main band. I Am the Fire is a great album with fresh ideas stretching  from modern metal to oldies glam metal. A must have." - Metal Harem
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  • French female fronted band with an extreme metalcore sound similar to compatriots Kells. Vocalist Candice Clots mixes up the clean and harsh vocals with the former dominating. Produced by Fredrik Nordstrom (Arch Enemy, In Flames). This is the international English vocal version.
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  • Armed Cloud is a new Dutch band that straddles the line between progressive metal and symphonic rock.  The vocalist moves in the stratospheric realms from time to time drawing Geddy Lee comparisons.  I'm particularly enjoying the keyboard solos which remind me immediately that I'm listening to Dutch "sympho"."Just by looking at the artwork, I knew this was gonna be a good album. Sometimes, you just know. The cover art reminded me Dream Theater's seminal album Awake with the wide array of details and the odd characters. I think it's charming and represents their genre pretty well as it's intricate and nuanced. Fortunately, the album lived to my expectations and it's one of the best progressive metal record I heard in 2015. Obsidian Desert, the debut album of Armed Cloud manages to be a modern yet interesting and fresh take on classic progressive metal/rock. The quintet has all the ingredients to play this complex form of music, an engaging bass presence, super talented guitarist and keyboardist, a singer who can actually sing very well and a versatile drummer who's not afraid to use some blastbeats.While they're obviously technically skilled and that's proven at numerous occasions by the guitar solos and the way the keyboard interacts with the rest of the instruments, they're very emotional and has this frank desire to write compelling songs instead of flashing their technicality, a concept often plaguing their peers, like the later Dream Theater work to give an obvious example. They have a symphonic flair intertwined with some pop tendencies but it's thoroughly enjoyable and it's not saccharine. I think the ballad “Meltdown” is really beautiful and fits their identity as it remains highly atmospheric.Daan Dekker has a particular voice, powerful and with a lot of range but it's also soft and rich. A track like “My Own Kind” is a good showcase of his abilities. For some reasons, I thought of Ray Alder when I first heard them but I enjoy him more than the Fates Warning frontman who never managed to beat John Arch in the heart of many. The vocal melodies are well written and the addition of some aptly placed back vocals add an epic touch to the songs (see “Pyramid of Charlatans”). In fact the band reminds me of the American legends from Connecticut in their capacity of mixing technicality, songwriting and emotions in one solid package. There's also some influences from progressive alternative rock like Muse, Gazpacho or later days Marillion in the vocal department and considering I'm a big fan of these bands as well, it's a big bonus for me.Augment their formula with obvious nods to the more progressive side of power metal (see Kamelot or even Angra) and you have a very solid mix of influences. Furthermore, compared to many progressive metal acts, their songs are cohesive and on the shorter side except perhaps the eight minute closer “Wasted” and the excellent “In Your Mind”. Sometimes, it feels like they're a more streamlined version of some of Ayreon's stuff. There's no fluff as the album is a little bit under a hour and it doesn't feel this long either. There's no self indulgent long ass instrumental track but there's a serene, symphonic one before the last track and it gives the listener a break and a change of atmosphere.To conclude, If you like your progressive metal with solid solos but still in possession of its soul, Armed Cloud is a band that you should check out." - Metantoine's Magickal Realm
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