The Dagger’s CM Debut Is Pure Rock At Its Finest

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

The self-titled debut record from The Dagger is a solid first effort for the Stockholm, Sweden-based four-piece. The Dagger isn’t the first band to ever take listeners back to rock’s golden era. But it still has done something special on its debut that other bands of its ilk (E.g. Horisont, The Sword, Gypsyhawk) have not done. What it has done on its first full effort for Century Media Records is crafted an album that exhibits one of the widest swaths of influences to date from any band of its kind. That’s one part of what makes this record one that purist metal heads will appreciate about this album. Also noteworthy about the album is its overall production values. That, too will be discussed shortly. And last but far from least are the lyrical themes that run through the album. All three factors together make The Dagger an album that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much with each listen.

The Dagger’s debut record is a good addition to the library of anyone that is a fan of The Sword, Horisont and Gypsyhawk. Much like those bands, The Dagger takes listeners back to the golden era of rock on its Century Media Records debut. As much as it carries a sound similar to those bands, it actually takes things a step further on its self-titled debut. Instead of focusing primarily on one specific classic rock sound, the members of The Dagger—Jani Kataja (vocals), Fred Estby (drums), David Blomqvist (guitar), and Tobias Cristiansson (bass)—exhibit influences from a rather wide swatch of veteran bands. Those bands include the likes of Judas Priest, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and even Deep Purple among others. Such a wide array of influences having been exhibited here, it makes the album one of those rare albums that is actually worth listening through without skipping a single song. That’s truly saying something, especially in an era when audiences seem to be increasingly downloading single tracks from the likes of iTunes instead of purchasing entire albums. Taking this into consideration, it shows that The Dagger’s debut record could very well be one that older audiences will appreciate just as much as younger audiences. To that extent, it shows great potential for this record.

The sound crafted by the members of The Dagger on the band’s self-titled debut is the most important factor in the overall enjoyment of this record. The band doesn’t stick to just one influence, even in taking listeners on a trip back in time to the golden age of rock. It exhibits all of its many classic rock influences. Just as important to the album’s success as its sound is the album’s production. The separation that was formed between The Dagger and other “modern classic rock” bands thanks to The Dagger’s extensive background of influences is made even wider thanks to the album’s production values. Painstaking efforts were made to not only bring out the band’s veteran influences, but to make the band’s album sound like it was itself a product of rock’s golden era. From Blomqvist’s powerhouse guitar playing to the almost hollow sound of the drums made popular in the 1960s and 70s to Kataja’s own vocals, and even Cristiansson’s bass work, each part was given special attention. When all four parts came together, those behind the glass exhibited expert talent, crafting an album that sounded like it came right from the era of so many great garage rock style bands. Credit is most definitely to be given in that area. It wonderfully compliments a sound from the band that is already impressive on its own.

The songs that make up The Dagger and the production values that make the album even richer are both integral parts of the album’s success and enjoyment. They are but part of the whole, though. There is still one more factor to consider in the album’s enjoyment. That factor is the variety of lyrical themes that run through the album. As [Fred] Estby noted in an interview with Terrorizer magazine, the influences behind the songs’ lyrical themes come from a number of sources. Those sources include the news, novels, and even lyrics from contemporaries such as Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, and Blue Oyster Cult. That means that unlike so many rock bands out there, The Dagger tries its best to avoid the standard themes of relationships. Rather the themes on this album vary just as widely as the band’s musical influences. It’s a breath of fresh air, considering just how many bands even in today’s world of hard rock and heavy metal base their songs on that standard fare. That factor, alongside the album’s overall sound and production values make this record, once again, one that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much the fiftieth time around as the fifth.

The Dagger will be available in the U.S. Tuesday, July 22nd and June 30th in Europe.  It will be released both domestically and internationally via Century Media Records. The Dagger is currently scheduled to perform live September 18th and 19th in Stockholm Sweden as part of Close-Up Magazine’s Close-Up Baten Festival. Until then, audiences can keep up with the latest news and more from The Dagger through its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/daggerofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Horisont’s New Album Takes Listeners On Another Musical Trip Through Time

Courtesy:  Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

2013 has seen the music scene become increasingly crowded as each month has passed by.  This has made choosing the year’s best records in each category increasingly difficult.  Now with the impending release of its third full length album, Time Warriors, Swedish rock band Horisont has made making that choice even more difficult.  The band’s new album, released via Rise Records and Metal Blade Records, is an excellent follow-up to its 2012 album, Second Assault.  It is an excellent follow for the band’s fans as the band picks right up on Time Warriors where it left off with Second Assault.  That is to say that the band’s new album bears much the same sound and feel as Second Assault.   It takes listeners back in *ahem* time once again (pun fully intended) with this record, offering that full on stoner rock sound once again.  For those that appreciate this sound, Time Warriors becomes a solid listen from start to finish.  Whether for a party or for an upcoming holiday road trip, it is a solid record all the way through for any stoner rock fan.

Time Warriors opens with a solid classic stoner rock style piece in ‘Writing on The Wall.’  This song was a good choice to open the album as singer Axel proves that his vocals are as strong as ever.  And drummer Pontus nails the song’s polyrhythmic patterns throughout without missing a beat.  Guitarists Charles and Kristofer take listeners back to rock and roll’s golden era once again with their solos and general musicianship.  Lyrically speaking, ‘Writing on the Wall’ is just as interesting as it is musically.  Axel sings in the song’s chorus, “You know the writing was on the wall/When you decided to take us all/Give us your soul.”  It’s a little bit cryptic.  Though a closer look and listen reveals it’s something of a motivating piece.  This is revealed as Axel sings, “There’s a time when there’s nothing/Nothing that’s holding you back/You give it all you’ve got/But nothing comes close/So there’s still time to set things straight”  If this interpretation is correct, then it makes this song an even better way to start the band’s new album.

The classic rock vibe established on the album’s opener doesn’t end with that song.  From one song to the next, the members of Horisont offer audiences a nonstop musical trip back in time right through to the album’s end.  From ‘Diamonds in Orbit’ to the up-tempo rocker that is ‘She Cried Wolf’ to the album’s two-part closer, ‘All Must Come To An End’, this album will impress the band’s fans new and old.  The driving drum part on ‘She Cried Wolf’ is one of the album’s highlights.  As soon as it kicks in, it’s sure to have listeners on their feet.  By contrast, ‘All Must Come To An End’ is just as impressive in its musical variance.  It goes from an up-tempo rocker in its opening segment to a second movement that could almost be argued to be a Pink Floyd influenced work.  The song’s third and final movement kicks the song right back into high gear.  By the time that final movement ends, listeners will find that it leaves them breathless.  It’s a fitting closer and excellent exclamation mark to the band’s third full length studio release.

Fans will get a chance to hear the band’s new material live when it takes Time Warriors on the road beginning September 27th.  That is the same day that the album is expected to be released overseas.  It’s currently set to be released stateside on Tuesday, October 8th.  More information on the album’s upcoming release and the band’s tour dates is available online at http://www.facebook.com/horisontmusic and http://www.horisontmusic.com.

Scale The Summit Impresses Once Again On Its New LP

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Metal Blade Records was a powerhouse of a record label in 2012.  It led this critic’s lists of the year’s best rock records, best Hard Rock/Metal albums, and Best Albums overall with releases from Horisont, O.S.I., Gypsyhawk, and Trioscapes, just to name a handful.  But with 2013 now halfway over, this critic’s list of the year’s best Hard Rock and Metal albums at least is being controlled by a different label.  This year, Prosthetic Records leads the way in the world of Hard Rock and Metal.  Holy Grail, which is being touted as the second coming of Judas Priest tops the list of the year’s best metal records with its sophomore album, Ride the Void.  And now with the upcoming release of its brand new album, The Migration, Scale the Summit becomes the second band signed to Prosthetic Records to make this critic’s list of the year’s best Hard Rock and Metal albums.

The Migration is an impressive introduction to this Houston, Texas based band for first-time listeners.  It’s just as welcome a return for long-time fans.  The band wastes no time getting right into the swing of things with this album.  Its opener, ‘Odyssey’ is a fittingly titled piece.  In its roughly five-minute plus run-time, the band—Chris Letchford (7 & 8-String guitars), Travis Levrier (7-String Guitars), Mark Michell (6-string bass), and Pat Skeffington (drums, percussion)—takes listeners on a three movement opus that boasts three completely different musical emotions.  Most interesting about this is that those listeners that are open minded enough will be able to close their eyes and truly take in all three movements and understand the emotion being presented in each one.  It is a song that more than makes for a solid re-introduction for the band after having spent the past couple years touring in support of its previous release, 2011’s The Collective.

‘Odyssey’ as a whole is an impressive opener to the Migration.  Looking deeper into the song, the transition from the song’s slower, more subdued third movement into ‘Atlas Novus’ is another factor to note in the success of the upcoming album.  The transition itself is notable as it’s not the only time on this album that this happens.  It is just one of so many transitions that make The Migration one of those rare albums this year, which audiences will enjoy taking in from start to finish without skipping songs.  That’s not to say that The Migration is some instrumental concept album.  It’s anything but.  It’s just that the sequencing (along with the equally impressive production and mixing) has made this album so easy on the ears.

Getting back to the songs as a whole, ‘Atlas Novus’ is more subdued than ‘Odyssey’ by and large.  But it also has its own kick.  Fans of fellow experimental rock band Animals as Leaders will appreciate this piece with its controlled guitar and bass runs throughout its run time that also comes in at just over five minutes.  In an odd way, it proves the old adage that less truly is more.  That’s because as impressive as the song’s runs are, Letchford and company prove in the song, that some of the best riffs are ones that are not loud, shredding riffs, but softer, more controlled pieces.  Drummer Pat Skeffington gets his own opportunity to shine here, too.  Skeffington shows that he’s just as good as Mike Portnoy (Adrenaline Mob, ex-Dream Theater) or any other far more experienced drummer here and throughout the album.  He shows that he can handle some extremely tough polyrhythmic patterns without missing a beat and even some simpler rhythms, too.    

So much was done right with this album that one could ramble on for some time on everything right with this record.  As already noted, it’s not just the songs, but the album’s sequencing and its general production that makes it one more record that the band’s long-time fans will enjoy just as much as new listeners.  The variety of musical styles from harder edged prog-metal to a slightly progressive jazz sound to something a little softer make this album worth more than just one listen, too.  It will prove with each listen to be an album that grows on listeners more each time.  Considering all of this, it may end up even on this critic’s list of the year’s best albums overall.  The Migration will be available in stores and online Tuesday, June 11th.  It can be ordered online via the Prosthetic Records store at http://www.indiemerch.com/prostheticrecords/item/19303.

The band is currently on tour in support of its new album.  Fans in North Carolina will get to see the band live in Charlotte on Saturday, June 22nd at the Tremont Music Hall.  It will be joined by Intronaut and Mouth of the Architect.  The show is slated to start at 9:00pm.  Tickets range from $13 – $15.  They can be purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/244625?skinName=tfly&utm_medium=api&wrKey=AF9450BAA81C7D8C2DAA1CA5ED7CAC4F

For the most current list of tour dates, all the latest news and more from the band, fans can “Like” the band on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/scalethesummit.  Fans can also keep up with the band online at http://www.scalethesummit.com

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Metal Blade Keeps “Spreading Its Wings” With Firebird Re-Issue

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Metal Blade Records has made quite the name for itself in the world of hard rock and metal this year.  New releases from the likes of Horisont, OSI, and Six Feet Under have shown audiences what makes Metal Blade THE leader in hard rock and metal right now.  The re-issue of Gentleman’s Pistols’ debut self-titled serves as another reminder of that.  And now, the re-issue of Firebird’s fourth album, “Hot Wings” continues to show Metal Blade branching out, making itself that much more versatile and respected in the music community.

Firebird has allegedly disbanded.  But the band’s fourth album, “Hot Wings” will be re-issued by Metal Blade Records at the end of the month.  It is a fitting tribute to a band that could only be described as one of the best pure rock bands in recent memory.  “Hot Wings” opens with the guitar driven, ‘Carousel.’  Front man Bill Steer sings here, “How many times have you found yourself stuck on your own carousel?”  In other words, how many times have you found yourself going in circles?  Rather than taking the low rode, the energy of the song really captures what a person feels like when he or she is going in said circles.

The band slows things down a little bit after ‘Carousel’ with the King’s X-esque ‘Good Times.’  The guitar solo in the middle of the song will have any true rocker grabbing their air guita and jamming along to it.  Steer asks in ths song, “Where did all the good times go?”  But again, rather than making the song into what could have easily been quite the downer of a song, it’s more contemplative without losing its rocking energy.  The segue into the bluesy ‘Misty Morning’ will keep listeners locked on the album.  That the band can go from rocking to blues in a matter of songs without losing anything along the way is a real tribute to this band.

The mix of rock and blues in the first three tracks of “Hot Wings” make for an excellent listen.  But three tracks alone don’t make an album.  Those tree tracks are followed by the classic rock feel of ‘Play The Fool.’  There are hints of some very well known classic rockers in just this one song alone.  As with the previous tracks, this is one more that any fan of true rock won’t want to miss.

Perhaps the most intriguing track on the entire album is ‘Overnight.’  This straight forward jam band style song is unilke anything else on the album.  Set next to the remainder of the tracks on this brand new re-issue it shows once again how much talent Firebird’s members have.  It only makes fans wish the band hadn’t called it quits after just a handful of records.  One can only guess, after hearing this album, and its last, “Double Diamond”, how far Firebird could possibly have gone.  At least the band’s legacy will now live on thanks to this re-issue courtesy of Metal Blade Records.  Who knows, maybe the label will even re-issue the band’s other albums, too, and really pay homage to one of the modern era’s best little known rock bands.

“Hot Wings” will be re-issued via Metal Blade Records next week.  It will be available in stores and online at http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/firebird.

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Horisont’s sophomore album a shoe in for one of 2012’s best rock records

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

The members of Swedish based rock band Horisont could not have chosen a better name for their band.  For those who don’t know, Horisont is Swedish for horizon.  So what does that have to do with anything?  Everything.  For every band and act that wants to hit it big, fame is just over the horizon.  It’s in the distance.  But for Horisont, the band has reached the horizon (horisont) line and crossed over to major fame in the rock community. 

The band’s new album, “Second Assault” is arguably one of the year’s best rock records.  There are lots of acts that try to emulate the old school rock/metal sound.  But what Horisont does is more than just emulate that classic rock sound.  Horisont sounds like it came direct from rock’s golden era. The album itself makes the band’s name fitting, as it starts off very quiet as if the band is off on the horizon before launching into ‘Time Warrior.’  This is one that fans of Deep Purple will love.  The band gives listeners just enough time to catch their breaths at the end of ‘Time Warrior’ before going headfirst right back into things with ‘Road to Cairo.’  The softest that the band gets on “Second Assault” is on the seemingly Pink Floyd-esque, ‘Crusaders of Death.’ 

‘On The Run’ is yet another perfectly fitting piece to this band’s musical puzzle.  It’s a straight forward, hard driving piece that will get any true rocker moving.  The band’s dual guitar attack, mixed with the Rob Halford/Ozzy style vocals of frontman Axel make this one of the album’s highest of points.  And who would ever have imagined Fleetwood Mac being mentioned in the same thought as Ozzy and Rob Halford.  But it’s true.  ‘Watch Them Die’ shows a pretty obvious Fleetwood Mac influence throughout.  And the guitar solos in this piece will even conjure thoughts of Jimi Hendrix, with their styling.

The title track from “Second Assault” kicks off the second half of the album just as strongly as ‘Time Warrior’ kicked off the first half.  There’s no denying the Judas Priest influence on on this one, from the vocals to the music as a whole.  Axel even gets the high notes with an ease that would make Rob Halford proud.  He doesn’t lose his vocal footing even once anywhere in the song.  The band barely lets off from there as it segues into ‘Spirit.’  The bluesy/rock fuzz feel of ‘Spirit’ brings to mind so many different influences.

‘Hard Bargain’ especially is an impressive track. It boasts a touch of Jimi Hendrix on the guitars mixed in with the thundering John Bonham-esque drumming from Magnus.  Add it together, and audiences get yet another great musical experience.  Once the band pounds through ‘Hard Bargain’, there’s jsut one more song on the album.  That song is the hard rocking, guitar driven, ‘Thunderflight.’  It’s just as relentless as the rest of the pieces on “Second Assault.”  Once it’s all said and done, and ‘Thunderflight’ ends, audiences are left breathless.  But it’s a good breathless.  From start to finish, this record leaves real rock fans feeling like they haven’t just listened to another album.  Rather, it leaves them feeling like they actually just experienced something special.  It leaves them wanting more, in a good way, like a really good book.  They don’t want it to end, even though they know it has to.  And thankfully, just like a book, audiences can listen to it again and again and relive that experience each and every time.

Rise Above Records made a great choice signing Horisont.  “Second Assault” is proof of that.  Of the ten total songs on the album, there is not one bad song.  All combined, “Second Assault” makes for an album that stands on its own two feet among the masses of bands whose albums try to emulate perhaps one classic rock band or another.  Horisont has taken the road less traveled, instead, making its own path.  Because of that, the band has put itself in place to be a candidate for the best rock record of 2012.

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