ALBUM REVIEW: Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

If you still haven’t reconciled the fact that Opeth moved away from death metal years ago – that these days they owe more to the likes of Camel and Gentle Giant than to Morbid Angel then you might as well stop reading now. Uncross your fingers and stay your optimism for an unlikely return to roaring brutality because the Opeth prog train just keeps on rolling and shows no signs of slowing down. However, for those of you happy with the Swedish progsters’ change of direction almost a decade ago, climb back on board, take a window seat and relax. Continue reading

Exclusive: Pallbearer Says Don’t Call Us A Doom Band

Pallbearer’s epic new record Heartless drops this Friday, March 24th via Nuclear Blast in Europe and Profound Lore in the USA. In this exclusive video interview clip for Ghost Cult, watch Joe Rowland (Bass, Vocals, Synth) discuss why Pallbearer shouldn’t be defined as a “Doom” band. Continue reading

All Them Witches – Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

All THem Witches surfer album cover

So much of working in the music industry thrives on chaos, it’s hard to breathe sometimes. I’m not lamenting the job of the music journalist, but just part and parcel of the this business seems to be powered by anxiety. Labels push bands, PR firms push albums and events, bands promote themselves (if you are lucky) and we the writers push reviews: in hopes that some eager ears find some enjoyment among the dross. Sometimes in all the chaos what you need is the vibe of a band that makes you reevaluate what you have listened to and why. All Them Witches, I’m glad you showed up when you did!

Not he most technical, brutal, fast or screamy music to come across my desk in 2015 and my trusty AKG studio cans this year, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (New West) just jams. All Them Witches, mashes up the meticulous songcraft of a Jazzier Pink Floyd and Camel with the doomy cadence of Ufomammut. ‘Call Me Star’ eases into things with a laid back guitar swell. Things get weighty with ‘El Centro’, which is hypnotic riffer complete with B3 organ vamps and a dedication the proto-metal a la Sabbath. ‘Dirt Preachers’ steps up tempo wise and is a garage feeling little ditty. This is where the vocals of Chris Michael Parks Jr. come into play. At times channeling J. Macias, Frank Black, Josh Homme and best of all a smoked out sounding Mark Lanegan; so you need to stop what you are doing and listen Chris sing. The album follows a similar ebb and flow the rest of the way, mellow moments, slow simmering blues joints immaculate musicianship, and versatile singing. Sometimes they will remind you of Baroness with their ability to focus on a motif such as on ‘Open Passageways’.

Toward the end of the album ‘Instrumental 2 (Welcome To The Caveman Future)’ sounds like the ending credits of a 70s movie. ‘Talisman’ is a fuzzy out joy full of wailing solos. The final track, the mysteriously named ‘Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters’ will have you thinking of the more space rock Floyd moments again. Do not sleep on this band and spend some time with this album for unexpected rewards.

8.0/10

KEITH CHACHKES

Ramblin’ Man Fair Festival (Saturday) – Maidstone, Kent (UK)

Ramblin Man

In the absence of the much missed High Voltage Festival the UK festival scene has been screaming for a high profile outdoor festival which specializes in the worlds of classic rock and progressive rock. On a glorious, sunny Saturday the gates open to the sport park in Maidstone, Kent, revealing everything we rock fans need, namely great names and booze. The main and Prog stages sit either side of the site, as well as a beer festival bar and a third stage that will host both Country & Western today and Blues tomorrow. Welcome to the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Fair!

 

Touchstone hold a very special place in the hearts of their fans. So it comes as no surprise that they amass one of the biggest crowds of the day. With their last ever shows looming, it’s no wonder that as the first bars of ‘Wintercoast’ burst through the speakers, the crowd are completely immersed in the five piece. Kim Seviour’s vocals are on magnificent form, and it is clear that the reaction of the crowd means a lot to her and the rest of the band. Their encore is their renowned cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’ for which they are accompanied by John Mitchell on guitar. The prog world will be very sorry to see them go.

Things take a psychedelic turn as prog upstarts Messenger prove that age doesn’t mean a damn thing. Having already supported the likes of Devin Townsend it is clear that we can expect great things from them. Unfortunately the vastness of the field locale seems to overwhelm their folk tinted melodies, and many an interest is lost. That being said, it is an impressive set, which only hints at things to come.

Ramblingman Festival2

Your scribe’s first visit to the main stage sees Blue Oyster Cult prove why they are one of rock’s most underrated gems. Arriving to the Game Of Thrones theme tune, BOC put on a master-class performance, which shows both experience and, perhaps, a surprising level of energy. Donald Roesar, Eric Bloom and Kasim Sultan prowl the stage and exude charisma, backed by a sterling set of anthems including a monstrous (pun entirely intended) ‘Godzilla’. Sadly a large portion of the crowd leave once THAT song is played, but this doesn’t take away from a sterling set which proves that these legends are so much more than a one song band.

 

British Prog heroes Haken are soaring right now, garnering plaudits a plenty and following a very well received EP release, and today’s performance shows signs of just why, if with some inconsistencies. Beginning with the short and shaper ‘Premonition’ from Visions (Lasers Edge) and The Mountain’s (InsideOut) ‘In Memoriam’ , they kick the Prog dial up with 3 long players closing the set. An unusually mixed set sadly sees a flat performance of breakthrough song ‘The Cockroach King’ which seems to lack its urgency and power. A stunning rendition of ‘Crystallised’ following on however certainly makes amends as the set closer.

There cannot be a rock and metal festival goer on the planet now who hasn’t seen legends Saxon at some stage now, seemingly an ever present each year, and with performances like this it’s a bloody good job too. Offering very few surprises, their set is loaded with the familiar classics that everyone knows and loves to rapturous response from the gathered masses. Biff Byford gives an engaging and genuine display as ever as he commands his troops through classic anthems like ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ and the timeless ‘Wheels Of Steel’, barking that they will play until they are booted off the stage. No such set cutting occurs however as they close the set with a rousing ‘Denim And Leather’, further cementing their reputation as one of metal’s most beloved acts.

 

Up on the main stage, prog maestros Dream Theater are going through the motions. Sadly despite their flawless, CD-perfect performance it feels as though they’re lacking personality. There is a sense of love ‘em and leave ‘em about this performance, and with the exception of Jordan Rudess the band looked as though this was a 9-5 job. Even the heart-wrenching ‘The Spirit Carries On’ falls flat emotionally, and the bombastic ‘Burning My Soul’ feels forced and perfunctory. The humdrum nature of closer ‘Behind the Veil’ bookends what has been a worrying glimpse into the bands future.

The last few years have seen Anathema rise from underground heroes to one of prog’s most celebrated entities, showcased as second to headliners to icons Camel. Renowned for their knack to bring grown men to tears, today they give a set full of some more energetic numbers but still with that trademark emotion and serenity. After a low key but building start to ‘Anathema’, things kick up a gear into ‘Untouchables Part 1’ before a raucous ‘Thin Air’ gives momentum. The splendor of the vocal harmonies really shows on ‘The Lost Song Part 3’, showing Lee Douglas’ growing ever more confident performance after performance; particularly so when she leads on the beautiful ‘The Lightning Song’. Closing with a harder and more energised rendition of ‘Distant Satellites’ than on record, they show just how versatile they are. Yes it may be songs that they have aired countless times in the last few years, but they are played as stunningly as ever.

 

The level of adoration for Camel the prog community has is unrivaled, and with good reason. Since their incarnation back in 1971, Andy Latimer and his brethren have produced some of the most iconic albums both inside and outside progressive music. It is a privilege to be amongst the crowd tonight, and as ‘Never Let Go’ begins proceedings, it is clear that their form has not floundered. Latimer is on his finest form yet; both his guitar work and vocals are flawless. Each song is met with elated cheers and fervent applause, with song like ‘Spirit of the Water’ flowing seamlessly into ‘Air Born’. Noise bleed from the Scorpions set does punctuate some of the quieter segments, but Latimer is undeterred proving that Camel are the real headliners of a glorious first day in Maidstone.

With the pull of the returning Camel on the Prog Stage, the crowd for German legends Scorpions is not quite as rammed as perhaps expected, and the huge delay does not help shake the underwhelming feeling. When they finally do take to the stage its to a somewhat flat and uninspiring rendition of ‘Going Out With A Bang’, at this point a seemingly ironic statement. Fortunately proceedings pick up with the sterling ‘Make It Real’ and ‘The Zoo’, as guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs and drummer James Kottak show tonnes of energy and Cheshire cat grins.

For the most part this is an immensely enjoyable set that balances classics such as ‘Wind Of Change’ and ‘Big City Nights’ with stellar tracks off the new album Return To Forever (Sony) like the monumental ‘We Built This House’ which sounds right at home with the anthems. But inconsistency sets in with a couple of moments that don’t hit the mark: for example the momentum killing acoustic segment. Inconsistencies aside this is a thoroughly enjoyable set, and as they close with favourite’“Rock You Like A Hurricane’ they affirm their legendary status with a great, if not perfect, close to day one.

 

WORDS: CHRIS TIPPELL & SARAH WORSLEY

Haken – The Mountain

Haken 2British progressive outfit Haken have slowly but most assuredly built themselves something of an avid following over the past couple of years. This might be stating the bleedin’ obvious but this is hardly a surprise for those of us who follow this sort of thing. And, if you’re reading this, I suspect that you are the sort of person who does follow that sort of thing. Continue reading