CD REVIEW Drought – Lords Of The Trident - Soularflair

TSM/ SLW Promotions special, April 2012 : Drought – Lords Of The Trident - Soularflair

It took me over a week to write this particular special, and I blame...with a warm feeling in my heart and mind...it all on Soularflair's Post-Human. Compared to that album the two others indeed pale with a “commercial” reek. Not that they are without their entertaining merits, mind you...read on and learn more!

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Band : Drought
Album title : Untapped
Label : Blue Ocean Music Group
Distributor : /
Release date : 18/10/2011
Release : Digipak CD

Okay, so before we start up this particular review, let's put it staright from the start that there's other bands/ projects with this name having existed (a Metal act from Memphis, TN which released a selftitled 6-track demo in 2003, before taking on another drummer and chaning their name to On A Dead Machine; and a depressive Black Metal one-man project from California...Wolf made one songs, and then ceased the project) or still existing : 1) a Crust-flavoured Hardcore Punk act from Pittsburg, 2) a Polish Alterative/ Grunge/ Rock act from Krakow, and 3) a Drone/ Doom/ Ambient band from Santa Fe, NM (there may be even more acts working under the same monicker).

This Texas based band (From the info, I gather they were based in San Antonio for a while, but now operate from Austin) was originally founded in 2001 by Houston native brothers Charles (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Shannon Mikulas (bass, backing vocals) with the intent of attacking the Rock scene in their home State with some high-quality music. And if it's taken the siblings so long to finally release their debut album, it's because they only found the perfect complements of their band line-up (in lead guitarist/ backing singer Taz Osterhouse and drummer Bobby Sheehan) in more recent years.

Which doesn't mean that the brothers didn't already achieve quite a few things on the regional level, undertaking several tours and managing to play support for several national bands thanks to word of mouth about their energetic and professional shows. The band has already worked with BoDog Productions in conjunction with Fuse TV, and has a good reputation in their local community because they've been involved with the School House Rock program which promotes music education for children. Somewhere early last year the band eventually signed a deal with Blue Ocean Music Group (possibly the band's 5-track 2010 demo-EP Cattle & Grain put the label wise about the qualities of this band in a studio?), which greatly facilitated the release and distribution of this, their debut album, which was recorded at Austin suburb Pflugerville's Tropical Heat Studios with the help of some guesting friends : Tim Dolbear plays guitar on one track (he's an Austin based multi-instrumentalist wit over 20 years of experience, and who's worked/ performed with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Tim Bogert and Billy Sheehan, and performed in The Tonight Show Band during 1989), Jason Baker (about whom I did not extra info) plays lead guitar and does backing vocals to 4 other songs, Andrew Astran (again I'm not sure how to link up that guy) plays drums on 6 songs (4 of which also featuring Baker), and female backing vocals on the song “Wish You Everything” come courtesy of Stephanie Delich and Carrie McCleary (the latter's wife to one of the Mikulas brothers).

Cited influences being The Byrds, Soundgarden, The Pixies, Neil Young, The Kinks, Nick Drake, Nirvana, etc, etc...Drought nevertheless has a very contemporary sound based in Hard Rock with a slight Metal touch which would have the likes of Nickelback turn their heads in attention for the possible threat to their status as multi-platinum major label act. The band's material is a nice balance between harder Rock songs with a touch of sensitivity, and ballads with a punch to 'em, and should indeed have a lot of teenager girls swooning along with the music! On the other side, the male part of the audience will love the nice lead guitar play that runs throughout the album. In essence, you can call Drought's music a very refined “Emoti-Rock”, which will please both genders. In other words : here's a major act in the making...or at least, thus might've been the situation some 10 or 15 years ago, because with current day's “economic crisis” still goin' on worldwide, chances to get a deal with the major league of the music business is scanty to say the least. To get acquainted with the band, and in fact àll the songs on the album, all you need to do is surf to the “Music” section on the band's own (www.) droughtrocks.com. They're a very good band which should draw quite a nice audience from the mainstream type of youngsters, and if you're a concert organizer in the Texas area, by all means contact the band for the possibility of doin' a show. The guys àre after all looking to do a full-blown Summer tour.

82/100

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Band : Lords Of The Trident
Album title : Chains On Fire
Label : Junko Johnson Records + own release
Distributor : /
Release date : 28/01/2011
Release : CD

There's big possibility that, when looking up this band's webspace (www.) lordsofthetrident.com, you might get an awkward feel about this Heavy metal act with Progressive leanings, due to the theatrical way in which the band members clothe themselves. However, when you get into the band's music, you'll find that the image (including adopted stage names) is all part of a fantasy, which spewed forth from an idea ripened in the head of the band's lead singer and founder. Besides, the band's music is fàr from bad! Fantasy is certainly something you'll find in the story Fang wrote about the band's origins, and I certainly advice everyone to go read that sometime. For pure facts, however, here's the less imaginary version I distilled from it.

Originally goin' under a different stage name (which he had to change pending a copyright suit), Fang VonWrathenstein set out to create the most Metal band in the world. Somewhat of a traveler, he found his first bandmember, a taented guitarist by the name of Socrates Of Shred, in Greece. For some reason the two left that country behind, in favour for Japan, where they found guitarist Asian Metal willing to join the still to be completed band. On their way back to the US, the band got acquainted to bassist Captain Bluddbeard, and convinced him to leave the troop he was with at the time. The quartet then settled in Madison, Wisconsin, which I suppose is actually Fang's home country. It's here that the foursome encounter drummer Danalog, with whom the band does its first shows in late Summer 2008. However, his joining would only be of a short duration, and he was swiftly replaced by Korgoth. Shortly after, the band recorded its first album Death, Or Sandwich, which was released through Junko Johnson Records (which at one moment I thought must be the band's own label, but turned out not to be so) in early February 2009. For some reason, Socrates left the outfit some time after. Undaunted, the band soldiered on, and during a trip to Rome found a suitable replacement in Kilius Maximus. For a while, the band was again complete...but trouble was still ahead! Bluddbeard also leaves, or is forced to leave due to circumstances...the imaginary story can be interpreted several ways, you know! I'm not sure about what happens next, but from the (imaginary) story one might deduce that a bassist was then trained to be up to par with the rest of the band, and eventually Pontifex Mortis filled in the gap. Somewhere in 2010 the band started work on the new album (yes, the one we're reviewing right now, but not quite yet, as the story is not yet at an end), which is released in January of 2011, and celebrated by a release show which is recorded for a DVD entitled Chains On Fire Release Party. 8 months after the release Korgoth suddenly decides to leave the band, and in their search for a new drummer the band again turns its attention to Europe, from whence they eventually entice Sledge Garotte.

The band's slightly progressive Heavy Metal is of a very decent quality, with melodies that have a catchy feel about 'em. The music itself has been compared to more traditional Heavy Metal acts such as Iron Maiden and Dio on the one side, and to more contemporary Heavy Metal revivalists Split Heaven, Arctic Flame, and Thunderblast on the other. However, the slightly heady Fang makes all the difference, and with his broad range (can he ever gét that high note, man!) gives the band a face of its own. I therefore completely disagree with that one music journalist (check the “Press Kit” section on the band's website) whom stated that Fang “...pumps his macho mid-range and screeching falcetto in a silly yet affectionate approximation of Bruce Dickinson...”! In the first place his range is higher, and he does nót screech, for his voice remains quite melodic indeed! An approximation of BD? If it was meant that way, I have to say something's all wrong! Don't try to find too much into the band's lyrics! They're somewhat cliché for a Heavy Metal, although not too much so, and the music at least gives 'em more than decent support.

Whether LOTT music is actually something for you, is something you'll have to determine on your own, and to help you decide the band posted several songs off both the new ànd the album album on their website (just click on the music note icon on the right top side of the screen to activate the music player. One mmore song off the debut album can be found at the band's MySpace (link on their own site), and there's also “tons of videos” of the band on YouTube.

85/100

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Band : Soularflair
Album title : Post-Human
Label : Own release
Distributor : /
Release date : Jan. 2010
Release : CD

This is the solo musical means of expression of Melbourne, Australia based multi-instrumentalist Adam Mannering. He had some guitar lessons at the age of 10, but otherwise he is really self-tought. He confesses that there has been two pin-point important periods in his musical life, the first learning about the music of Pink Floyd (a major influence, he played The Wall every day for years coming home from school), Yes, Genesis, Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa thanks to his stepfather. Music he had not known before, and it gave the controversial young musician, whom already had strong views against commercialism in music, a strengthening in his idea and motto that “Mediocity is the Cancer!”. The second was to attend University in order to get his Bachelor of Science degree. His first year at Uni was not exactly a very happy one, and he gathers he started to write a lot of poetry and tried to write his own compositions (no longer content to just play other people's music) as a means to counterbalance the rigid scientific dogmas he was confronted with in his studies.

Being an absolute control freak whom not only can fret for hours on a certain part of a song which seems wrong to him, but also will not tolerate anyone else trying to change his music, it seems but logical that Adam would start recording stuff all on his own. Nevertheless, if I'm not mistaken there have been, at least short, collaborations twice, namely with Luke Mosse and Paul Risso (at this time however, I'm lacking the info to tell you in which capacity these people worked with Adam). So far, this has already resulted in the Soularflair full-length albums Dark Matter and Soularflair (but I'm at my wit's end to tell you when they were released, as the conflicting info puts the first down as either being issued in 2002 or 2004, and the second in 2005 or January 2006 – I'm inclined to go for the 2002 and 2006 dates, seeing as the writing process for the songs must be a very time-consuming thing with such a pickish composer), and a couple of projects in the form of a couple of independent songs (“Shadow Flamenco” started as an experiment of a song without repetition, and is claimed to be one of Adam's easiest songs, written and finished in only one week – remember my comment about the albums? – and “Shulgin's Dreams”, a heavy guitar/ electronica hybrid track inspired by Aphex Twins) and the soundtrack to the short film Silicon Spies, filmed in Canberra (Australia). Seeing as Post-Human was already released in January of 2010, one might say that there's a certain delay here, but you will not find me complaining about having been sent this little jewel!

Well...I won't complain about the exquisite nature of the item that is! It so happenstanced, that I had to start reviewing the thing at a moment when, after quite some turmoil in my personal life, I had finally found a balance again between work, the music journalism, and my other passion as an amateur paleontologist (which includes a lot of photography)...and this baby pulled that fragile equilibrium to shreds! Ranted, there were some small chores I had to deal with in between, but otherwise I took every opportunity to spread those as much as possible, avoiding as much as possible to have time to sit down and get to writing again, while allowing myself to listen to Post-Human over and over again. It has to be said, Post-Human is a very nice diverse album with an alternating and blending of several genres. Because, besides being so hugely influenced by the bands mentioned above, plus Mike Oldfield and King Crimson to stay in that same musical “field”, Adam is also a lover of more aggressive things such as Coroner, Devin Townsend (and his projects Strapping Young Lad, Ocean Machine and Infinity) and even more so for Meshuggah (who's Fredrik Thordenthal he considers as his all-time favourite guitarist). Along the years, a diverse taste for the likes of Dead Can Dance, Opeth, Ozric Tentacles, Soundgarden, Grand Silent System (a Classic Prog Rock act from Australia, currently on a hiatus), Mark Hollis and Bjork also developed, and in the world of electronics a big appreciation for Squarepusher and more importantly Aphex Twin came to be. He also took a liking to some Classic music and soundtracks. As a result, Adam's music is a mixture and/or hybridisation of Progressive Rock, Metal, Classical, Experimental; soundtrack and Electronica.

To tell you what you can expect from Post-Human, I would have to guide you through each of the 13 songs on the 72 ½ minute album...make that 12 instrumentals (2 of which even exceeding the 10-minute barrier, without boring even for a second, thanks to skillful writing & playing) and one song (“Alice Through The Windshield” being the exception to the instrumental “ruling” on the album), because Adam has a nack at expressing himself musically (and through the track titles) foremost. However, I am not too dumb to be able to tell you that this music will be appreciated most by people who love their music with some nice layers in 'em. Layers which are occasionally written in counter-time with each other, things that should conflict on paper, but are hinged together masterfully by great intertwining epic or ethereal passages, created either on the guitar or on synthesizers/ organ. Some songs have no guitar, others have no keyboards or synths, yet others displays a great hybridisation with occasional futuristic sounding synths. And now here's the beautiful thing : you can listen to the material of all 3 of Adam's albums via (www.) soularflair.bandcamp.com, from where you can also buy downloads of the albums at $6 each. A downright cheap price for the quality music you'll get, I tell you! Personally, I'm gonna try to get “hard” copies of the albums (the deal with my editor-in-chief is that he gets to keep all TSM/SLW Promotions material, so I won't even get to keep the cdR copy that was sent us of this album!), because each and every one of 'em deserves a top place in the respective year-lists that they were released!

98/100

Tony.