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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rundgren Re-Invents Himself Again On New LP

Courtesy:  Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

Courtesy: Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

If Beatallica’s new album, Abbey Load is the most intriguing album of 2013, then Todd Rundgren’s State is a direct runner-up to the title.  Rundgren continues his tradition of re-inventing himself yet again with this new album.  The album opens with what is best described as an ear-opening mix of Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend, and Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) in ‘Imagination.’  This is a fitting title for the song, especially being that it is the album’s opener.  Its mix of electronica and rock make it a song that will definitely get many listeners’ imaginations running wild with all kinds of images.  Rundgren’s vocals on this song sound like a mix of Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).  Whether or not it was intentional, the prog influences are there.  And at over eight minutes long, listeners are sure to find their own connections.  Regardless of the connections made, what can be sure of this song is that Rundgren shows just how much ‘imagination’ and creativity he still has.

‘Imagination’ is just the beginning of Rundgren proving that he still has plenty to offer his listeners on this new record.  The album’s second track, ‘Serious’ is just as imaginative and creative as the album’s opener.  It boasts a rather interesting funky electronica/rock hybrid sound.  The backing choruses of the song sound rather familiar, too like a much older funk tune.  And his screams are solid.  They are reminiscent of King’s X front man dUg Pinnick, strangely enough.  That combined with the song’s mix of sounds easily makes this another highlight to this new album.  It’s not just another dance/electronica song.  It’s a bridge between two musical worlds that could potentially bring fans of both electronica and dance together if only for about four minutes.

It’s not until the album reaches just past its halfway point that Rundgren goes full on techno.  ‘Smoke’ is sure to be an instant club hit with fans of the dance/electronica genre.  This is one of those types of songs that will bring down the lights, and bring out the black lights and mirror balls in clubs around the country.  Its keyboard part and solid two-four beat makes it an easily danceable song.  Of course that electronica vibe doesn’t last long as he goes back to a rock/electronica hybrid in ‘Collide-A-Scope’ before eventually making his way back to a full on techno vibe with the album’s penultimate song, ‘Party Liquor.’  This is sure to be another club hit with its keyboard part and up tempo beats and crowd chants.  What’s really interesting about this song is that at times, one can actually hear a hint of a disco influence throughout the song’s bridge section.  Forget the fact that the song is seemingly about alcohol.  It’s the song’s music that fans will really hear.  And it’s that music that audiences will enjoy.  Though there are more songs from which listeners can choose for their favorite.  This is just a sample of what makes the album stand out.  It will be available next Tuesday, April 8th in stores and online.  The physical CD and digital can both be pre-ordered now.  It can be pre-ordered via iTunes at http://smarturl.it/STATEiTunes and at http://smarturl.it/DeluxeCD for the physical CD.

Todd kicks off a tour in support of his new album next month at the Infinity Hall in Norfolk, VA.  It all kicks off May 8th.  He will have eight U.S. tour dates before heading overseas for a European tour through most of June.  And on June 23rd, he will be back stateside for the second leg of U.S. dates beginning at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA on June 23rd.  Fans can get a full list of tour dates online at Rundgren’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/toddrundgren or on his official website, http://www.tr-i.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fates Warning Announces Plans For New Album, Tour

The members of Fates Warning have kept themselves quite busy in the past year or so.  Now, after taking some time apart doing their own projects, the band’s members—Ray Alder (Vocals), Frank Aresti (guitars), Jim Matheos (guitars), Joey Vera (bass), and Bobby Jarzombek (drums)—have collectively announced that it will hit the road this Fall and Winter in support of a new album, which the band plans to start work on this Spring.

The band has announced that it plans to get back in the studio to start working on its eleventh full length record.  It is planning on having the new record out this Fall just in time for its upcoming tour.  That tour is schedule to start November 15th at Mojoe’s in Joliet, IL.  Tickets will go on sale beginning this coming Wednesday, March 27th.  The twenty-two date tour is currently scheduled to run through December 14th.  To keep up with the latest tour and album updates, go online to the band’s official website, http://www.FatesWarning.com and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/FatesWarning.

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

OSI’s fourth LP one of the best of 2012

The best comes to those who wait.  Who hasn’t heard, spoken, or written that old adage?  Well, in the case of prog-rock supergroup OSI (Office of Strategic Influence), the best–so far–has come.  The band–Kevin Moore (Chroma Key/ex-Dream Theater), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree)–has rewarded fans who have waited since the release of its 2009 release, “Blood.”  Simply put, the band’s fourth full length studio effort, “Fire Make Thunder” will be making fire and thunder of its own among fans once it drops.

“Fire Make Thunder” is without a doubt a work of genius.  It is collectively some of the band’s best work to date.  The album starts off soft, with “Cold Call” and ends just as soft with the eery final tones of the album’s closer, “Invisible Men.”  In between these two tracks is a collection of works that make for an album that real prog-rock fans will love.  “Fire Make Thunder” opens eerily, with an announcer speaking about an emergency of some type.  That’s overlaid by the electronics and keyboards that fans have come to know from OSI.  That opening leads into a solid, heavier sound that doesn’t let up until the album’s third song, “Indian Curse.” 

Lyrically speaking, Indian Curse” comes across almost as a history lesson of sorts.  The lyrics seem to speak of the journey of the Native Americans, including their eventual forced removal of their people from their land.  The accompanying music would seem to enforce that theme, too, as it has a rather subdued feel.  It isn’t the only interesting change of sound for OSI this time out.  The bittersweet sound of the album’s penultimate song, “For Nothing” is painful, yet somehow something so beautiful.  Maybe it’s the strains of the piano in the background that really help set the mood.  Regardless, it’s definitely one of the album’s standout tracks.  The full-on instrumental “Enemy Prayer” is another of the album’s real standout songs.  It’s one more piece of evidence that a rock song doesn’t always have to have lyrics to be a great song.

“Fire Make Thunder” has far more great pieces that could be dissected.  But to do that would require far more time than would be needed to properly do service for this album.  So suffice to say that whether for any of the pieces mentioned here or the others not mentioned, OSI has crafted in its new full length studio release, “Fire Make Thunder”, not only another great album, but perhaps its best album to date.  Fans who want more information on the band or its new album can follow the band online at http://www.osiband.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/OSI/203893353038854?sk=wall  and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/osi_band.