CD REVIEW Casket Music/ Copro Records special March 2012, Part 1 : Plain English – Scarleth – Skam

Last week, I got myself a package with 6 Casket Music/ Copro Records albums (along with a bunch of other stuff, and that coming on top of some material I'd gotten only a week before), but here we are already with a first special. I'm handling the albums alphabetically according to distribution date in our region (not as by original release date), which may be somewhat confusing, but hey...we do what we can do to keep thing interesting to y'all (hahah!!!).

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Band : Plain English
Album title : Shine
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD
Release date : 13/02/2012 (Europe; UK= 05/12/2011
Release : CD

Based in Brighton, Classic Rock-with-a-modern twist, this quartet consisting of singer Max, guitarist Lucas Cook, bassist Jose and drummer Tom were previously known as The Jackals and started their activities somewhere back in late 2005.

In that time they've done the usual small gigs, but also managed to play support gigs to the likes of Keane and Status Quo. They did a US tour which ended with a spot in the Rocklahoma Festival (where they shared the stage with high profile acts such as Ace Frehley, Extreme living Colour, Bret Michaels, Sebastian Bach, UFO, and Lita Ford. They also participated in a worldwide viral advertising campaign for the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in their combat against climate change, and this led to a showcase at London's high profile venue Royal Albert Hall. For the recordings of their debut album under the new monicker (changed to avoid confusion with the Hard Rock act from Viborg, Denmark, and an Alternative/ Progressive/ Rock band from Milano, Italy?) the quartet traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where producer Freddy Wall (whom also contributed to the writing of the songs) recorded the material in two studios.

The info sheet describes PE music as follows: “Take The Rolling Stones, add a bit of Free, pour in some Bad Company, and mix vigorously with a spoonful of AC/DC, then bring to the boil with a modern twist and serve very hot and loud,” and recommends the album to fans of Free, Bad Company, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Nicleback, and Alter Bridge. That's very big company to be in the presence of, and I'm afraid PE simply do not live up to the expectations. Let's start with the lead singer, who's voice comes close to none of the vocalists of the recommended bands just mentioned. In fact, one might say that his slightly nasal mid-high pitch has a somewhat nagging quality, especially in the calmer songs. Then, in order to enhance the somewhat basic and bland rhythm guitar play, the producer not only allowed the band to throw in extra solo guitar in all songs, but he also had a bit of keyboard added here and there. Regretfully, in most of the songs the additions do very little to make the songs more interesting...and the nagging lead singer's voice doesn't help either. Still, there àre a couple of nice songs on the album, and among the more invigorate tracks the album opening “Amy” sure stands tall! There's also a couple of nice opening riffs in other songs (like “Highway”, “Tell Me Why”, or “Riot” for instance – and it so happens you'll find those in sequence on the album) but overall the tension is not carried through (“Tell Me Why” and “Riot” the exception to that rule).

End conclusion, this is somewhat of a disappointment. In the first place the band would never be able to recreate their studio sound on stage (except if the lead singer would also hang a guitar around his neck, and start playing some of the necessary keyboard lines), and on top the singer simply gets on my nerves with his somewhat heady vocal stylings. Of course, you're free to form your own opinion, and to do that, I am happy to tell you that all 10 songs on the album can be heard at (www.) myspace.com/plainenglishband.

74/100

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Band : Scarleth
Album title : Break The Silence
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD
Release date : 13/02/2012 (Europe; UL= 28/11/2011)
Release : CD

Aha, another band from the former USSR, namely from Donetsk in the South-East part of the Ukraine (now inhabiting over a million people and  thus the 5th biggest one in the Ukraine, the city was but a hammock when industrialist John James Hughes – after whom the town was named for quite a spell – established a metallurgic company there in 1869. By 1900 the population had grown to contain just over 50,000 souls)!

Formed in 2005, the only remaining original member is guitarist Victor Morozov, and with a line-up comprising (female) singer Anastasia Kostyukova, keyboardist Nina Morozova, bassist Alexander Petrenko and drummer Sergey Frolov (who'd joined the band in March 2007; amongst others, he had already played in Heavy Metal act Avangard between 2002 and 2006, in Thrash Metal act Reagent in 2006 & 2007), the band recorded its first demo (which was never officially distributed, songs being distributed on the Internet individually). Following further line-up changes, and more demo recordings, the band consisting of singer Julia Elyashova, keyboardist Sergey Kovtun, bassist Alexey Belikov (joined Nov. 2008 and is still part of the band today; started playing in his first band Asgard in 2005), plus Morozov and Flolov on guitar and drums, took out time in November and December 2009 to record a complete set of songs of their music (including 4 new recordings of songs already demoed before), and had it mixed in collaboration with two engineers between Jan. and June 2010...the result of which we now get offered as their debut official album.

Their music is mainly a Gothic Power Metal, but with several added flavourings (and that occasionally depending on the song at hand). With influences “...ranging from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath through Nightwish and Metallica...”, there's elements of Classic Rock, Doom Metal, Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Power Metal Gothic, and even Symphonic Metal to a certain degree. First though, I need to note a weird anomaly, because current keyboardist Vladimir Iskchuk is actually cited as having joined the band in June of 2009...weird then, don't you think, that it was still Kovtun whom was employed in the recordings? Oh well, never mind!!! Because the compositions are all very well done, both in arrangement (catchy tunes which immediately attract the listener's attention for the nice structures) and performance (really...). The only very slíght let-down, is the front woman's somewhat heady vocal stylings, which somehow reminded me of Kim Wilde. But maybe you, reader, won't mind so much...you might even be very much into that style of female singer? Check it out for yourselves by listening to the music (8 out f the 9 songs on the album plus two with Cyrillic letters) at the band's Russian facebook (www.) vk.com/scarlet. Then again, the band has already “mended the wrong”, as the lead vocal position in the band was taken in by new singer Olga Marenich (joined the band in March 2011). I'm curious to hear the band's next album.

83/100

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Band : Skam
Album title : It's Come To This
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD
Release date : 20/02/2012 (Europe; UK= 12/12/2011)
Release : CD

They (being the trio of lead singer/ guitarist Steve Hill, backing singer/ bassist Matt Gilmore, and backing singer/ drummer Ray Peverill) have been together since the Fall of 2008, self-released two EPs (for which they did a full UK tour each time), have been asked to play support slots for The Wildhearts, Laika Dog, Bonafide, Blaze Bailey, Del Bonham's Stray, sold out Liverpool' Cavern Club, played in front of over 7,000 people at the 2011 Glastonbudget festival, and recently (March 2012) were on a tour of the UK and Ireland supporting The Answer and The Union, thus bringing the count of their gigs well over the 350 margin! Time to make the next step in their career was due, and therefore the guys secluded themselves with renowned Rock producer Matt Elliss (check stuff by the likes of Black Spiders, Groop Dogdrill, Laika Dog, and Terrorvision) at his Doncaster (which is 100 km North from the band's hometown of Leicester) based Axis Recordings studio.

Cited musical influences being AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Foo Fighters, you can expect up-tempo Power Rock (meaning the pace is a nice up-tempo most of the time, except for some intros) with catchy melodies and nice solos, and a lead singer with a warm mid-high pitch. Being a trio only, each instrument comes to the fore in admirable way, as each musician can play the darn thing very well indeed. Of course, it's for sure that the hand of Matt Elliss behind the recording unit accomplished that sound! The info sheet recommends Skam to fans of AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy, and if you fall in that category, maybe you should check out the band's music at either (www.) skamuk.com, (www.) facebook.com/SKAM, or (www.) reverbnation.com/skamuk (they all have the same music files, but the latter doés give access to a nice run of live videos, including covers of AC/DC's “Whole Lotta Rosie” and Bad Company's “Feel like Making Love”). I'm sure you'll find the music healthily sweathy and, as the info sheet says, exuding “...sex, raunch, and just a glimmer of humour...”!

84/100

Tony.

Note : the upcoming next special (should get to you within the week, but I have a heap of other stuff to go through first) will comprise work by Russia's Grenouer (we came across those guys before), Lancaster (North-West England)-based Massive Wagons, and Glasgow, Scotland's Senzafine. Gives y'all something to look out for.