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[Recap] April 2010

Here we are leaving great month behind, but hopefully entering into another one. Despite major roadblocks, including malfunctioning computers and final exams, I’ve been able to keep up with my posting. It has been weaker and with more filler than previous months, but there have still been high quality posts. These highlights will be discussed here, including the following:

  • Album of the Month
  • Avantasia: The Wicked Trilogy
  • Other April releases
  • Introducing Haken
  • New Page: Artist Guides
  • My Personal Favorites of the Month

There have been several albums released this month, but like usual, I avoid the extremely brutal end of things. The ones I did manage to get around to reviewing are spread across a wide spectrum in terms of quality. They include the albums by Avantasia, Jeff Beck, Wuthering Heights, and Ratt. The best of these albums (Album of the Month) is…

Album of the Month: Salt (Wuthering Heights)

Like the past two Wuthering Heights releases, Salt has been met with great praise. There are some that feel it does not match the quality of the former releases, but I disagree. In fact, I think this album could not be any better. There was a huge amount of hype surrounding this album prior to release, and it certainly lives up to its expectations. The lyrics are sometimes silly, but it is more than compensated for in the musical construction and deliverance. Wuthering Heights is a band that knows what they want to give to the music world and how to do it; they do exactly that in Salt. Not only is it by far the Album of the Month, but also a possible contender for Album of the Year.

Avantasia: The Wicked Trilogy

On April 4, Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia simultaneously released part II and III of The Wicked Trilogy. I have yet to hear the first, but word on the street is that it is only mediocre. However, the next two pieces, The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon do not disappoint.

Despite having not heard the first album, I still think it’s safe to say that the second part of the trilogy, The Wicked Symphony, is the strongest album of the three. It has a lot of vocal manpower, and it easily shows in the quality. The other instruments serve mainly as support for the vocals, but it is highly warranted in this album. It is a bit lackluster in terms of general originality, but it is still a very enjoyable listen. Make sure to check this one out!

The conclusion to the trilogy, Angel of Babylon, was not as strong as its predecessor. It is still a good album, but simply not as stand out. The music seemed to follow a similar guideline as The Wicked Symphony with the whole idea of using vocals as the main focus and the remaining instruments to emphasize them. I think the main downfall here is the lack of star power that was evident in the former release. It lead to a decrease in variety in quality.  However, it is still a solid album worth listening to.

Other Releases

The two other albums released this month which I reviewed are Jeff Beck’s Emotion and Commotion and Ratt’s Infestation. However, I was not overly impressed by either of these releases.

Jeff Beck released his latest album, Emotion and Commotion on April 13. I was not at all impressed by the release and gave it rather harsh criticism. Despite all the disagreement I’ve received, I stand by my original opinion. It was long and dragging, and sections filled with simplicity received much more play time than required. These sections may have been salvaged simply by a carefully crafted guitar solo, but none ever arise. Also, I found the abundance of covers detracted from the potential originality in the album. And though there is a collection of high-profile guest musicians, they never seem to express their full potential. It seems like all the wrong moves were made in this album, but I do commend Jeff Beck for the risk. Better luck next time, Jeff.

April 20 marked the comeback of the glam stars, Ratt. Infestation is the first album released by the band in over a decade. Ratt fans will most likely lavish great praise towards the album. It will also probably get much radio air time and exposure to new possible fans. However, to music “purists” such as myself, it will feel too mainstream and unoriginal. It is still a decent creation, but it is more of a fad as opposed to a timeless album. Infestation is an enjoyable album, but not a replayable one. If you are remotely interested, check this one out, but it won’t be the worst thing to pass it by.

Who is Haken?

Some time in March, I got wind of an up and coming progressive band that was extremely promising. I was hoping to review their release by the end of March to give them a chance to compete for Album of the Month. This unfortunately proved impossible. However, if I had done so, there would have definitely been a different Album of the Month for March.

The progressive rock/metal band, Haken, released their debut album, entitled Aquarius on March 30. It is the best album I have heard in a long time. Despite having relatively little recognition, the band does not go out of its way to gain some commercial exposure. Aquarius is music in its purest form. Being in the progressive genre, Haken is able to show how limitless their potential is. The album is extremely diverse, including genres such as jazz, folk, symphonic rock, and so on. It touches every point on the “heaviness spectrum,” meaning it is extremely mellow at times but also has growl moments. But the progressive genre also demands a high level of instrumental capability, and Haken delivers 100% in this aspect. Every member, at minimum, holds their own ground in the progressive genre, sometimes going far beyond that. For anyone with an open mind, this is a must-hear. In fact, I honestly believe this is a must-hear for everyone, though realistically that won’t happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “though I may be quite presumptuous, it could very well be album of the decade”. Show recognition for this group of excellent musicians!

Artist Guides

In March, shortly after I purchased tickets to Iron Maiden’s upcoming Final Frontier tour featuring Dream Theater, I made a two-part post as an outlet for my excitement. They discuss the way I would approach listening to each band, and include a top 5 album list and a top 10 song list. It seems to me like something that would be very helpful to readers, no matter how few that may be. I decided to build off of this concept and so I created a page dedicated to this entitled “Artist Guides” (see the bar near the top of the page). I may be able to do one new artist per month, but I won’t be forcing anything out. As I stated earlier, in March, I made guides for Dream Theater and Iron Maiden. In April, I posted my interpretation of my favorite thrash metal band, Megadeth.

For future posts, I hope to cover more of my beloved bands including Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Judas Priest, Kamelot, King Crimson, Metallica, Pain of Salvation, and Symphony X to name a few. Keep checking back if this at all interests you!

Avril Pour Moi?

Just like usual, there is much progressive music that goes on in my music life. The overwhelming and continuous bombardment of musical complexities is absolutely irresistible!

My favorites of this month have been:

  • Band: Wuthering Heights
  • Album: Aquarius (Haken)
  • Song: “Reality Dream II” (Riverside, Out of Myself)

Thank you all for a wonderful April. I’m looking forward to another great month with you!

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