Album Review: Gandalf’s Fist | A Forest Of Fey

gandalfs-fist-a-forest-of-feyOur Verdict: 4/5
Release date: 20th of October
Find it at: Gandalf’s Fist’s official website
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

“Guard yourself from the lands outside, for the world we create is not cruel, nor kind. Welcome one and all to the other side…”

And so the superbly named Gandalf’s Fist return with their new full length album, A Forest of Fey. And much like Tolkien’s titular wizard, the music comes with an unassuming outward disposition, concealing an awesome power unleashed only when necessary, and to devastating effect.

Gandalf’s Fist mainstays Dean Marsh and Luke Severn are officially joined this time around by the able talents of Chris Ewen and Stefan Hepe. The expansion to a four-piece, combined with an astonishing array of guest musicians, delivers mesmeric and immersive results. Rather than dilute, the additional input seems only to have enhanced Marsh and Severn’s vision.

And what a vision.

In the album’s evocative opening, we are led into the woods through the character of a young girl wandering too far from her mother, the latter’s cry ringing out in fear. From there, A Forest Of Fey proves to be a mysterious and magical realm populated by a myriad of arcane characters, at turns exotic, fantastic and grotesque.

The menacing sound of a crow squawking, the squeal of a gate and the crunch of footsteps on gravel segue into the neo-folk setting of “Garden’s of the Lost”, an apt title for the plight of this unwitting traveler gone astray. Troy Donockley (The Bad Shepherds, Nightwish) provides hugely expressive flourishes of low whistle, and Melissa Hollick’s strong, crisp and clear vocal delivery complements the piece perfectly. Beyond its gentle but unsettling beginning, the song shifts thrillingly in to a rock setting, weaving around off-kilter minor progressions, and playing out beautifully to the end of its “…neverending fantasty.”

The title track, perhaps the most epic of the set, introduces a lyric about seasons that “…never change.” Being stuck and stagnation are themes that appear time and again throughout the remainder of the album, and help to build a sense of a place somehow locked in time and space, along with the notion that if she’s not careful, our protagonist will also find herself lost here forever. The music is spellbinding in itself, with spectacular passages of lead guitar and several stunning dynamic shifts.

Elsewhere in the forest, our lead stumbles upon “The Circus in the Clearing”, a sagacious saga with a galloping central passage that could be plucked from a classic ‘Maiden album. And as well as Marsh, Severn, Ewen and Hepe’s peerless skills, Donockley makes another appearance, this time on Bouzouki as well as whistles.

“The Figure Speaks” is essentially a poem; an interlude featuring dialogue from the mysterious ‘figure’ himself, delivering both a welcome and a warning to people passing through the lands beyond. The message seems to be that all is not necessarily as it seems.

Here again, in the “The World We Created”, are lyrics pointing to the shadows that seethe just beneath the surface of this fantastic place. This is a “…world without limits, a world without guilt… a world in pain, a world without conscience, a world of the vain.” The song is a spacious, psychedelic affair, with layers of keys and Marsh’s phased vocal suggestive of someone drifting through a surreal dream.

Something of a wise and benevolent wizard himself, guitar conjurer Matt Stevens (solo, The Fierce And The Dead) lends his not inconsiderable talents to the towering “Drifter on the Edge of Time” and the penultimate and triumphant sounding “Stories Old and Stories Told (Of Children Brave and Children Bold).” “Forest Rose (Coming Home)” is reminiscent of a time when Jethro Tull were making their mark on the mainstream, and “Return from the Tournament” seeks to get you off your arse and on your feet with it’s thundering, bounding Bodhrán courtesy of Dave Oberlé (Gryphon).

Progressive rock in the best possible sense, if A Forest Of Fey was a film, it would likely be Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Its meticulous and carefully crafted production allows each and every detail room to breathe and offers something new with every listen. Ultimately, whether you love this album or not may well hinge on your predisposition towards fantasy and the fantastic herein. If you’re the sort of person who needs their art grounded in gritty realism, don’t venture here. For everyone else, a visit to this particular forest will prove to be richly rewarding.

“A Forest Of Fey” is released on the 20th of October. You can listen to track “Gardens Of The Lost” below.

Find out more by visiting Gandalf’s Fist’s official website.

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Listen! Rancid stream new song ‘Face Up’

Rancid 2014

Punk icons Rancid are streaming a song from their new album.

The band revealed last week that they are set to release their first LP in six years later this month. Honor Is All We Know will drop on the 27th of October.

You can listen to new song “Face Up” via the stream below:

The full tracklist for Honor Is All We Know is:

Rancid Album Cover01. “Back Where I Belong”
02. “Raise Your Fist”
03. “Collision Course”
04. “Evil’s My Friend”
05. “Honor Is All We Know”
06. “A Power Inside”
07. “In The Streets”
08. “Face Up”
09. “Already Dead”
10. “Diabolical”
11. “Malfunction”
12. “Now We’re Through With You”
13. “Everybody’s Sufferin'”
14. “Grave Digger”

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Antemasque announce album and tour details

o-ANTEMASQUE-facebook

Antemasque, the progressive punk group started by former Mars Volta and At The Drive In members Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, are set to release their debut LP later this month.

The eponymous album will be released digitally on the 27th of October, with a physical release following on the 24th of November through the band’s own label, Nadie Sound.

Antemasque will play three headline shows in the UK to support the release, with confirmed dates as follows:

13th October: Concorde 2, Brighton
14th October: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
15th October: Electric Ballroom, London

The full tracklist for Antemasque is:

antemasque01. “4AM”
02. “I Got No Remorse”
03. “Ride Like The Devil’s Son”
04. “In The Lurch”
05. “50,000 Kilowatts”
06. “Momento Mori”
07. “Drown All Your Witches”
08. “Providence”
09. “People Forget”
10. “Rome Armed To The Teeth”

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Listen! Finch stream new album ‘Back To Oblivion’ in full

finch-1024x682

US post-hardcore crew Finch are streaming their new LP in its entirety.

The band released Back To Oblivion – their first new material for nine years – earlier this week via Spinefarm Records.

The band officially split up in 2010 but returned to live shows in 2013, including a spot on that year’s Vans Warped Tour. Frontman Nate Barcalow says it took Finch a while to rediscover their musical identity:

“We stepped out of it for so long that when we came back, it was like, “Who are we?’ I felt like we didn’t know who we were and what we sounded like any more.”

“You can’t write about high school – stupid stuff you used to write back in the day. You try to make it a little more poignant, a little more important.”

You can listen to the whole of Back To Oblivion via the stream below:



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Album Review: Gerard Way | Hesitant Alien

GW Hesitant Alien CoverOur Verdict: 3/5
Release date: 29th September
Find it on: Warner Bros. records
Review by: Cameron Millar

“An album incorporating elements from his old band as well as late 80s Britpop… Gerard Way’s collection of clever and interesting riffs ultimately leaves you wanting more than it delivers.”

When My Chemical Romance broke up in February 2013, the internet was filled with thousands upon thousands of blog posts and tweets from anguished and distressed fans. Here comes some comfort. Ex-MCR frontman and lead vocalist Gerard Way has released an album incorporating elements from his old band as well as late 80s Britpop. On Hesitant Alien he is joined by his former bandmate and brother Mikey Way on backing vocals and one-time MCR collaborator, drummer Jarrod Alexander. The album is packed with little hints and references to Danger Days and Conventional Weapons. Straight off the bat you can tell it’s heavily influenced by Gerard’s MCR contributions, reminiscent of songs like “The Only Hope for Me Is You” from the former, and “Ambulance” from the latter.

“Bureau” opens with a head-noddable tempo, discordant guitars and subtle background noises, like phone ringing tones, towards the end. It’s repetitive, but not in a bad way. The album swiftly moves on to “Action Cat”, with driving power chords and massive, noisy, echoey drums. Is Gerard referencing unrealistic expectations of beauty with the line “we want television bodies that we can keep”? It wouldn’t be surprising considering his cynical take on a lot of popular culture. There are also lots of references to “missing”. Could this be a tribute to his fans or has he been missing the music industry?

“No Shows” is where Gerard’s obsession with Britpop really kicks in – the video is a direct reference to shows like Top of the Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test but with a sci-fi twist under the name Pink Station Zero, complete with intentionally dated lighting and camera effects. The song has an oddly jarring key-change that might appeal to some… but not to me.

“Brother” takes the pounding piano chords and sentimental and sombre yet self-righteous lyrics directly from The Black Parade, but without the influence of the other members marching behind him. “Zero Zero” starts industrial with a Bloc Party-style guitar riff. The song sounds angry at times, getting its message across in traditional doom and gloom style, which should, again, feel familiar to fans returning to Gerard’s music.

“Juarez” has Gerard describing himself as the “heavy metal master”, treading a thin line between pop-rock and deeper, heavier post-hardcore. The song has an attitude, aspiring to stir up the more disaffected teens in his audience.

In contrast, “Drugstore Perfume” starts with a psychedelic swirl that metamorphoses into a stadium anthem that should be a cue for crowds to reach for their phones and lighters. The song slows down again towards the end and smoothly transitions into “Get the Gang Together” which returns to Britpop, with parts sounding like Blur, Elastica and even Sleeper.

“How’s It Going To Be” seems like a bit of a mess, its skipping rhythm is jarring and is in conflict with the rest of the album. Definitely a low point. It seems like a disposable pop track rather than Way’s usual troubled, sardonic opinion on the world. He picks it up slightly with “Maya the Psychic”. It’s certainly an improvement on the previous track but it’s nothing special. It’s lacklustre and leaves you wanting more than it delivers. Not the way to end the album

Gerard Way delivers a collection of clever and interesting riffs but towards the end fails to deliver and seems to be hesitant to give the spark of the first eight tracks to the last three. Almost alienating in fact.

Hesitant Alien is out now on Warner Bros. records.

Way will play the following UK live dates during November:

Nov 05th: Manchester Ritz
Nov 06th: Oxford O2 Academy
Nov 07th: Glasgow O2 ABC
Nov 08th: Cardiff Y Plas
Nov 10th: London Koko

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