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B. Turnbull (Newcastle, England)
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Voice From The Silence
Voice From The Silence
Price: 4.60

5.0 out of 5 stars The Vocal Star Of Luca Turilli Rises Again, 18 July 2012
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This review is from: Voice From The Silence (Audio CD)
I've always been a fan of Olaf Hayer; he is simply one of the best singers in the genre, and everything he puts his vocals to wins on all counts. Fresh out of Dionysus, Hayer joined forces with Czech metallers Nemesis, who in turn became Symphonity and voila! Voice From The Silence, the band's so-shiny-it-blinds-the-eye debut, and if you like your Power Metal melodic and full of catchy choruses, this is an absolute must buy.

Sounding like a mix of everything Hayer has ever done (and a touch more), Symphonity play fast, neo-classical Power Metal with the pretentiousness of Luca Turilli, the instrumental flair of Dionysus, and the speed of old Stratovarius. First thing you'll notice about this album is that despite having Hayer on board, it isn't all about the vocals. One of the finest elements of Voice From The Silence is the teamwork of guitarist Libor Krivak and keyboarder Ivo Hofmann, two extremely talented musicians that were born to play this kind of music. Every trick they pull out of the bag will remind you of how you came to love Power Metal in the first place, and if your poison is the particularly sugar-coated and melody-infested treats of Sonata Arctica and Timeless Miracle, then this is going to be right up your street.

Hayer, as usual, gives his all with a stunning vocal, and his performance becomes tighter and more athletic as the album unfolds. There really isn't a dull moment here (despite the three-part center piece, which disrupts the flow a little), and every song is up there with the best the genre has to offer. "Give Me Your Helping Hand" is a belter of an opener, the eight-minute-plus "Evening Star" will have most grown metallers in tears with its shameless sentiment, and "Bring Us The Light" is the kind of song Edguy would be playing if they hadn't shed their Power Metal skins. But the real highlight is "Gates Of Fantasy", which not only explodes into a beautiful chorus (even if the lyrics are a little silly), but it features possibly the best Power Metal riff ever recorded 30 seconds in. It gets more exciting every time I hear it, and it's up there with Crystal Viper's "Night Of The Sin" as the best song I've heard in recent times.

With a mix from genre stalwart Sascha Paeth, how can you go wrong? Indeed, Voice From The Silence is one of the best records of its kind, and really, if you're remotely interested in the style, it should, with any luck, be your next purchase.


Unisonic (Mediabook)
Unisonic (Mediabook)
Price: 11.71

4.0 out of 5 stars Just Don't Expect Helloween..., 18 July 2012
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This review is from: Unisonic (Mediabook) (Audio CD)
When news broke of a reunion between Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske, the metal community took a breath, held it, and dug out their old Keepers records to remind themselves of what Unisonic had in store. Upon purchase, most probably listened to the first five tracks and tried to get their money back, unable to comprehend that after twenty five years the music these guys decided to make didn't sound at all like what they made when they were young men. I mean, just imagine it. The horror! But naturally, this wasn't going to be packed full of songs like "March Of Time", and if you're a fan of recent Kiske material you will understand that and take the record for what it is. Hell, you might even enjoy it.

This is exactly what fans of Gamma Ray and Place Vendome will expect from a modern Kiske and Hansen collaboration. It's certainly the liveliest artifact Kiske has lent his voice to in recent years, and he shines here in a way he hasn't since his heyday. You can hear Hansen's song writing contributions a mile off, but mostly these tracks revolve around Kiske with particular emphasis on the vocal lines. The only real clunker is "No One Ever Sees Me", the album's parting ballad. Beyond that, Unisonic deliver hit after hit. The silly "Never Too Late" recalls an old Gamma Ray tune, "Time To Break Free", while "Never Change Me" is a radio-friendly AOR attempt that gets the foot tapping from the get-go. "Renegade" is the most metal thing here, with a chorus that grasps at power metal and almost reaches it, and the now infamous opener "Unisonic" throttles at full speed, a triumphant anthem that will slay the live stage.

There are a couple of questionable moments that take us from familiar territory. "Star Rider" requires a number of listens before developing a taste for it. Similarly "I've Tried" isn't all that engaging, but a strong chorus makes it an unexpected curiosity. At times, this album does stray towards hard rock, but it never sounds out of place amongst the heavier segments. This is certainly not half as bad as some reviewers claim; in fact, if you've followed the careers of Kiske and Hansen over the years, you'll probably love every moment. It's a very pleasant album, perfect for the casual mood. Just don't expect Keepers Part IV. Please, guys. I'm begging you.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2014 2:37 PM BST


A Book of Common Prayer (Vintage International)
A Book of Common Prayer (Vintage International)
by Didion
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.14

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Didion Challenge, 27 Jun 2012
Like many readers, I came to Joan Didion through her notable memoir `A Year Of Magical Thinking'. Wanting to explore some of the fiction she spoke of throughout that piece, I picked up `A Book Of Common Prayer', a novel about two Americans crossing paths in the fictional backstreets of Boca Grande. While her writing style resembles that of her touching memoir, there is little in the way of story here; Didion is more interested in subtext and metaphor, burying the reader in useless detail and strikingly complex prose that we all know is trying to say something, but the question is what?

Overall, if you're looking to be challenged for no apparent reason, then Didion's fiction might resonate with you. Those who like to sample quality writing and evocative storytelling in equal measure should seek it elsewhere (Carson McCullers or Jeanette Winterson might be more fruitful options).


The Storm is Coming: An Anthology
The Storm is Coming: An Anthology
by Sarah E. Holroyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bedside Companion, 27 Jun 2012
The first paperback original to arise from Sleeping Cat Books is a solid entry into the world of independent anthologies, edited and pieced together by the multi-talented Sarah E. Holroyd. The theme that permeates these works of poetry, essay, and short fiction revolves around storms and their destructive nature, be it literal or figurative. Though one might think such an idea clichéd and overwrought, the contributors to this anthology are no strangers to metaphor, and their work sparkles with new and innovative concepts on the connotations of inclement weather.

Peppered with visual representations from notable artists such as Walton Mendelson, `The Storm Is Coming' manages to satisfy every medium, with striking works of fiction and poetic endeavors sitting side by side. Morgan DePue's `Rain-soaked Redemption' compares the theme to crushing defeats, while `The Approach Of Doom' by Henrik Ramsager is a classic tale of terror at sea. The anthology is at its strongest when the subject matter reflects social concerns (as during Hal O'Leary's `Oh, Yes, The Poor'), but one can't deny the impact of powerfully emotional stories like `Prisoners Of Storms And Tides' by cancer survivor T. Fox Dunham. As the book progresses, you begin to notice that the net cast over these writers serves only as a thread to connect them; you can't deny that Miss Holroyd has been shrewd in bringing together such a diverse collection of mindsets and worldviews.

With so many sub par anthologies on the market, finding one worth reading cover to cover is a difficult task. `The Storm Is Coming' features stories, recollections, poetry, and artwork that will stimulate, educate, and expose you to the exciting new writers that make up its table of contents. Any serious reader would do well to make it their bedside companion.

My contribution to this collection is a short story entitled `Turbulence'.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2013 11:15 PM GMT


Sympathetic Resonance
Sympathetic Resonance
Price: 6.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morning Desert, Sun Horizon, 22 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sympathetic Resonance (Audio CD)
The members involved in this project should need no introduction. Suffice it to say, any fan of Fates Warning will be a fool not to have noticed this, which is the first time John Arch has leant his vocal talents to a full-length since 1986's seminal "Awaken The Guardian". While Arch's solo EP from 2003 was a mighty progressive affair, it was generally more melodic than anything offered on "Sympathetic Resonance", which is progressive metal in every sense of the word.

Just to clear something up: if anyone tells you this sounds like the material the Fates put out in the early 80s, then they are quite mistaken. Don't expect shrieking vocals over mystical twin-guitar melodies and proto-power metal lyrical content. This is unmistakably the sound of John Arch fronting modern Fates Warning, only without the electronic elements brought forward for "FWX" and "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray". In fact, the music here is heavier and more complex than anything Matheos has done before. It is truly a musical tour-de-force. At times, it gets so technical it almost seems to lose focus, but that's only apparent to the virgin listener; the more you listen to it, the more you start to see the bigger picture, and believe me, it is a work of art.

As it has already been stated, John Arch sounds unbelievable here, much as he did on "A Twist Of Fate". The range and depth of his vocals are simply astonishing, and considering his age, it's amazing how he compares to heroes like Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate. Regardless, if you're interested in this only to hear Arch bewitch you with his magic spells then nothing here will disappoint you. The only gripe I have with his performance is the lack of the vibrato that made tracks like "Exodus" and "Valley Of The Dolls" such momentous moments in metal. The missing vibrato is replaced with more interesting, and dare I say, mature vocal lines that meander and wind until they eclipse everything the rest of the band are doing.

Musically, there is much to this release, but what we're looking at is heavy, complex riffing backed by manic percussion and slithering bass. Don't let people tell you this doesn't sound like modern Dream Theater in places, because it does. Also, those up to speed with Ray Alder's time with Redemption will notice similarities there, too. I guess the question on everyone's lips is does this satisfy the old school Fates fan hoping for a follow up to their first glorious trilogy of works? In all honesty, it does, but for different reasons. It would be pleasurable beyond measure to discover Alder has decided to sit out the last promised Fates Warning record so Arch can fulfil his duty behind the mic. It would be even better to see an album with a mystical portal on the sleeve, the old logo back of it, boasting a preposterous but image-conjuring title like "The Kraken Sleepeth" or "Triumps Of Torlough". But I guess that's not to be. So enjoy this reunion for what it is, and pray to whatever God is listening that there will be a follow up.


Unbreakable
Unbreakable
Price: 15.68

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Return To Form, 5 Mar 2012
This review is from: Unbreakable (Audio CD)
After experimenting a little with their last couple of releases, Mat Sinner and co return with an excellent disc of rocking power metal, recalling the heights of early triumphs such as "Black Sun" and "Nuclear Fire". Armed with two new guitarists, both coming with impressive credentials, Primal Fear bash through a series of heavy yet melodic tracks that show just why they have become one of the most reliable bands on the circuit. Ralf Scheepers sounds fantastic, and the song writing itself is some of the band's strongest. "Unbreakable Part 2" is the best track here, with its kick ass riffwork and catchy chorus, while "Strike", "Give Em Hell" and the killer "Conviction" give up the goods in true old school fashion.

While there is so much choice in the metal world these days, you can't go wrong with a bit of Primal Fear. Anyone who has a passing interest in acts such as Judas Priest, Cage, or Sinner (naturally) needs "Unbreakable" in their collection. Recommended.


Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One TPB (Spider-Man (Graphic Novels))
Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One TPB (Spider-Man (Graphic Novels))
by Kaare Andrews
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Underrated, 10 Dec 2010
Zeb Wells always does a good job hitting the re-start button on comic's coolest characters (just check out "Venom: Dark Origins"), and this is no exception. Following Doctor Octopus from his battered childhood into the insanity of adulthood, Wells has created a dark, often disturbing origin that fans of the character shouldn't miss. The writing is nice and tight (unlike Mark Millar's cluttered dialogue in the first two Ultimates books), and the art is really something special, infantile and yet sickly gothic. Spider-Man fans need to check this out, period.


The Glass Menagerie (Modern Classics (Penguin))
The Glass Menagerie (Modern Classics (Penguin))
by Tennessee Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Drama, 10 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Though most will pip for "Streetcar" as Williams' finest hour, I'd go for "The Glass Menagerie", a dark tale with great narration and stage direction that reads like lyrical prose. In the gothic genre, you will find better examples of the key themes ("Streetcar" is an obvious example), but there is something truly haunting about this play, something that will have you sympathizing with Tom and his odd family. A great read, even if you're not studying the genre.


the con man and `til death
the con man and `til death
by ed McBain
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Every Penny, 10 Dec 2010
Two great books here from one of crime's greatest novelists, both are engaging reads, but "The Con Man" is the most immediate. "Til Death" is a strange tale that treads different ground for Carella and the gang, with his sister getting married and the turmoil that ensues as a result. "The Con Man" is a classic crime story that will make you laugh at how damn good McBain is; his style is timeless and magical.

After a good read (well, two, really)? Give this a go. One of the best decisions you will make.


Killer's Payoff
Killer's Payoff
by Ed McBain
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best McBain I've Read So Far, 10 Dec 2010
This review is from: Killer's Payoff (Paperback)
There are many good examples of Ed McBain's soaring talent as crime writing's best, but "Killer's Payoff" is the best I've read so far, just outdoing "Cop Hater" thanks to its winding narrative. A multi-thread story that takes Hawes and co out of the city (and their comfort zone), there is a lot more explored in this book than in others such as "The Con Man" and the wonderful "Til Death". Perhaps because of the length, we have more time to digest the events and try to figure out where McBain will take us next. As usual, you have an inkling here but don't really know for sure until the sublime finale, where everything is revealed.

Pick up any 87th Precinct book and you are guaranteed a good time, but "Killer's Payoff" sticks out as the most immediately enjoyable. 100 percent recommended.


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