Where The Pieces Lie

Posted on 26th April 2020

April's Artist of the Month is Wheel.

I accidentally came across Wheel while listening to a few other bands, and a suggestion came up for a song off their latest album, Moving Backwards. Trying to find more information about the band initially proved awkward, as the band's website was inactive (it's back now). Thankfully, after a bit of searching across various website, provided me with their Twitter and Instagram handles. From there I discovered a few more bits of info.

The band hail from Finland, although vocalist James Lascelles is from the UK. Moving Backwards (2019) is their debut album, and was preceded with two EPs; The Path EP (2017) and The Divide EP (2018). They have since also released a combined CD with both EPs. They've been touring for some time, but mostly across Europe so far. With the state of the world and gigs at the moment, it might be a while before they head out for a more extensive tour, but hopefully they fit a few UK shows into their itinery.

The band have a sound that is very reminscent of Tool in places, but at the same time I can also hear influences of Porcupine Tree. However, those comparisons might mislead you, as the band have their own style, which builds on these influences, but gives something else in return. I've heard a few bands recently, some well known, that seem to have similar influences, but for me Wheel have something that is just that extra special, and given the right exposure, will forge their own identity.

The songs are a blend of rock, metal, progressive, hardcore, and maybe even a bit of grunge. They have the complexity of what you might expect of a modern progressive rock band, but it's underpinned by some solid bass and drums, allowing the guitars and vocals to weave their way into and around your mind. The song Wheel being a good example, as the bass and drums lay the foundations and settle you into a groove, when the guitar riffs start infiltrating the flow, and almost without you noticing, the bass and drums have been getting harder and more infectious. The vocals then appear seductively drawing you in, until they have you and then drag you raging through the chorus. 

Several of their songs clock in over 8 minutes, but while listening to them, you become so engrossed it's easy to think they finish far too soon. It's become acceptable now for the progressive rock/metal bands to clock in long songs, but I do remember the days when anything breaking a 5 minute barrier was frowned upon by the metal press. Wheel strike a good balance between the song lengths, with each song sounding as long as it should. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point they come out with a 20+ minute epic, along the lines of Dream Theatre.

If you only see Wheel as another band influenced by Tool, then I think you'd be doing both bands and yourself a disservice. Most bands start with their influences, but those with talent and substance, quickly evolve their own personality. Judging from the early EPs to the debut album, Wheel are doing exactly that. Personally I can't wait to hear what comes next. I'm also hoping I get to see them live at some point.

Favourite songs: Wheel, Farewell, The Path

Check them out at wheel.band

File Under: music
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Under the Oak Tree...

Posted on 29th February 2020

So for the February spotlight, I'm going to look at a band called Cellar Darling.

The band are from Switzerland, and grew out of a band called Eluveitie, which has been around since 2002, mixing folk, symphonic metal, rock and death metal. Think All About Eve combined with Killswitch Engage, singing in a language you've never heard before, and you'll be close. All three members of Cellar Darling were in Eluveitie. but left in 2016 to form Cellar Darling.

There are some elements of Cellar Darling that will be familiar to fans of Eluveitie, but Cellar Darling have a much more accessible style, taking just the folk rock and symphonic rock elements with them. Anna, vocalist, flautist, synths and Hurdy-Gurdy player, brings the folk style, while guitarist/bassist Ivo and drummer Merlin bring the symphonic style to the band. For me Cellar Darling bring a cleaner style to the genre than some other bands, and without meaning to be detrimental, they have a refreshingly simpler sound. As a consequence, they breath life into songs and stories, where other bands often sound like they're trying too hard.

Their first album, This Is the Sound, was released in 2017. It manages to conjure an almost medievel landscape though the words and music, and maybe because I know where the come from, they evoke visions of Alpine escapades through forests and over mountain trails, somewhere around Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany. It's a wonderful mix of ethereal folk, driving rock rythmns, together with some atomspheric synth sounds. As a debut album, it certainly packs a punch and sets the table for a successor.

That follow-up came in 2019 in the form of The Spell, a concept album, which portrays some very Grimms Fairy Tale style storying telling, with contemporary themes, and poignant lyrics. Once again that driving rock soundscape underpins a very classical influenced vocal. The folk elements are deliciously woven throughout the album, with flute, hurdy-gurdy and acoustic guitar all making appearances. In the song Death, there features a middle section apart from the rest of the song, and I can't help be reminded of the song Black Sabbath by (obviously) Black Sabbath. Both pieces are haunting, atmospheric and sinister, and although the two bands are quite different, they both capture that dramatic feeling, drawing you into the story and taking you to another world. Burn also has that undercurrent of early 70s Sabbath influence too, but again woven intricately with many other influences too.

All in all, they are a fine addition to the Symphonic Rock genre, which they seem most often attributed, but they are so much more than that too. I look forward to them touring the UK, as I can imagine they are quite something to see live. Favourite songs currently are Black Moon and Death. If you want to find out more, head over to
https://www.cellardarling.com/ and check them out.

File Under: music
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Sea Of Faces

Posted on 31st January 2020

So what is this monthly blog post idea I had. Well, over the years I've happened upon some wonderful music, and some amazing musicians and songwriters. Some have gone on to great things, others have left their mark, but not necessarily found their audience. It has always frustrates me that record labels turn their back on some of these great bands and artists, until they are a "success". Social Media has really helped over the last 10 years or so, but I thought it might be nice to highlight some really interesting bands and artists that I come across. Some might have been around for a while, some are fairly new, a few are either on hiatus or have split, but all are still worthy of spreading the word, as someone else may discover and enjoy it as much as I have.

 


So who is first up?

I very recently came across this band while looking through bandcamp. The band are Code Ascending, who have been performing since around 2015, releasing two EPs, and more recently an album. They are 3-piece hailing from Crawley, West Sussex, where a certain other band started as a 3-piece, and went on to major world wide success.

The first EP, What I Choose To Forget, was released in April 2016, and showcases a band that are slightly rough around the edges, which personally I love, but still have at their core a very focused sound and identity. The second EP, Pre-emption, released in March 2017, takes a step forward in the production, and brings more of the band's character to life. With their first album, Dark Taxa released in December 2019, comes a much more polished production with an audible step up in song-writing, and some wonderfully brooding soundscapes.

The band remind me to a degree, of some of the indepentdent bands I picked up on during the early to mid 90s. In particular, some elements of Prolapse, Thrum, and Ride are in there, but overall Code Ascending have brought ahard driving background to their songs, thanks largely to a great bass sound and some solid drum work, with some delightful riffs and solos weaving between them. The vocals fit the music perfectly, and in many ways are a subtle accompaniment to the music, rather than necessarily being the focal point. All this belies their ambient and showgazing tags, as there is so much more to them that this. Not quiet sure what tags I would include though, as they are the kind of band that touches on the fringes of several genres, without establishing themselves in any particular one.

I'm really hoping that they get to make it to the midlands for some gigs in the not too distant future, as I have no doubt they must be formidable live. In fact, I really hope they get interest from promoters to take them up and down the country, as I have no doubt that they could easily take their sound from small clubs to major arenas, given the chance. 

Favourite songs so far have been, Blink, Black Ink Ocean, and By My Side, but the rest are no slouches either. This band will be on my playlists for a long time to come.

For more information see their bandcamp pages: codeascending.bandcamp.com

File Under: music
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Reanimator

Posted on 30th January 2020

So it's been a while since I posted, and there are several reasons for that. Mostly the fact I have been busy with real life, including family and work, and haven't had the time, inclination and/or ideas to put thoughts down in this blog. However, I'm going to try and change that this year, and start a series of blog posts with themes, that I can pick up in parts over the course of the year. The aim being to post at least once a month.

This month you'll get this post, which is mostly an apology, but I have another that I have planned as the beginning of a regular once a month post. 

As you can probably tell if you've read my blog posts, my main interests are music, gaming, Perl and exploring. I've done precious little of that last one over the past few years, but hopefully that will change. Perl is still my focus at work, but my OpenSource projects have largely taken a notable backseat. That is something that will be definitely changing this year, with maybe even the occasional blog post, as I want to update a lot of the code that has been sitting around on my old laptop, waiting to be released. 

I'll take an aside here, briefly, as back in 2015 I bought a new Linux laptop, but sadly I dropped it, and damaged the screen. At the same time, work gave me a brand new laptop, so the impetus to get the personal laptop sorted fell by the way side. And by the time I thought to get it fixed, it had just passed it's warranty. I couldn't use the work laptop for my OpenSource projects, so they got put off, with minor fixes here and there, by using my webserver as a dev box. It kind of works, but not ideal for how I was used to editing, commiting and deploying to test environments. So they have languished a bit. Ok a lot! 

However, Gaming and Music have both had somewhat of a resurgence in my interest these last few years. 

Music never really went away, but my gig attendance had dropped off during the earlier part of the decade. That kind of changed when a lot of the bands I hadn't seen in a long time, or had never seen, all happened to start touring. This year I have several already booked throughout the year, so expect the odd review now and then too.

My gaming exposure, aside from board games and mobile gaming, has seen a lot more of me watching and enjoying the current retro gaming community. Many of the games I've never heard of, and those I have, I haven't played since the 80s, so it's been wonderful to see that era of gaming, a time that saw me get more into programming, come to life again. I'll never be a streamer, but I'll quite happily watch the fun of someone else playing those games now. The retro gaming community that I've discovered, also happens to have some of the loveliest people around. It's the kind of gaming community I wish I had been a part of back in the 80s ... even though there wasn't really one like there is now.

With the lack of writing over the last few years, I've been out of practice with blog writing, so you'll have to forgive my rambling for a while. I might get there one day!

Any road up, expect some music posts, Perl posts and maybe other rambling, notes and rantings. 

File Under: games / life / music / perl / rant
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Nomzamo

Posted on 19th May 2012

Earlier this month, on the 5th May 2012, The Paul Menel Band, stripped down to Paul and Steve, together with special guest Martin Orford, provide support to Pendragon at The Assembly in Leamington Spa. They may have been the supporting band, with an early time slot, but word had got out that doors were opening early, as nearly half the venue was full by the time the guys took to the stage. A great turn out, as even the Assembly staff noted.

Paul and Martin came on stage first for a rousing rendition of the Piano/Vocal Version of No Love Lost. A great start to the set, and got everybody eagerly awaiting the other delights from the Nomzamo 25 Years Anniversary Tour. This tour was a celebration of the release of Nomzamo, the album Paul and Martin first joined forces on, when they were in IQ back in 1987. 25 years later, the songs are as classic as they were back in 1987. Paul then welcomed Steve to join the two on stage. The Nomzamo set then continued with one of the best live performances of Promises (a personal favourite) and Nomzamo, the title track of the album.

To break the set up, the band added a few surprises throughout the set. The first surprise was a track from Martin's latest solo album, The Old Road, with Paul and Steve doing a fantastic job of Ray Of Hope. Common Ground began with Steve sitting on the floor with the acoustic guitar, having forgotten to arrange to have a stool on stage, and ended with some great electric guitar fret work, much to the appreciation of the audience. The next surprise, of sorts, was the Paul Menel Band song She's Up On The Chair Again, taken from the forthcoming album. Then on to the final song from the Nomzamo part of the set, Still Life, with yet more amazing guitar solos from Steve.

As so to the final song of the night. Although I knew ahead of the set what it would be, I hadn't seen the rehearsals, so wasn't quite expecting the result. As Steve stepped forward to the mic I was just expecting some backing vocals, and was just as surprised and impressed as everyone else when he took on the Roger Waters vocals for Comfortably Numb. Paul and Martin handled Dave Gilmour's vocals to great effect too. It was an unusual song for the set, but an absolute delight too.

Seeing Martin on stage again after so many years, was great, to see him playing and singing was fantastic, to see that he and Paul sounded as good as they did 25 years ago, if not better, was a joy. The following weekend they repeated the performance at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, to just as much applause. Hopefully, this won't be the last time we see Paul and Martin on stage together, as there is already talk of an Are You Sitting Comfortably 25 Years Anniversary Tour in 2014 :)

If you missed the gig, fear not we recorded the whole event, and you can now watch the full set on YouTube. You can either watch via the playlist, or by clicking the links below to view the individual song performances:

Photos coming soon.

File Under: gigs / menel / music
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