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Various Artists - 2024 - NEF100. Burn After Hearing

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(50:31; Nefarious Industries) I am fortunate enough to hear music from some incredibly varied and interesting labels, and there is no doubt in my mind that Nefarious Industries is one of the finest around in that they seemingly have no limits to what they release, understanding that there are some of us who enjoy being challenged in what we are presented with to listen to, and any label who delivers up the likes of Gridfailure will always find room for me to explore. Originally founded as a collective of like-minded individuals seeking an outlet to release off-kilter music, Nefarious Industries has grown into a label which has now reached the heady milestone of 100 releases and to celebrate they are releasing ‘Burn After Hearing’, a compilation of fourteen exclusive tracks that showcase the harrowing sonic landscape of their eclectic roster. It features new and exclusive songs from instrumental deviants and label co-founders El Drugstore, freshly reunited sludge thrashers Arbogast, D-b

The Aristocrats - 2024 - Duck

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(59:45, Boing Music) Given that guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Marco Minnemann came together due to an accidental formation at a NAMM show it is amazing that not only have they stayed together but have released so many albums. I thoroughly enjoyed their 2011 debut, while their 2019 album ‘You Know What?’ is simply wonderful, and now they are back with their sixth studio album, following on from their 2022 foray with Primuz Chamber Orchestra. First and foremost, each player is an incredible musician, and while Guthrie often provides multiple layers of guitars, Bryan and Marco stick to a single track and the three of them then produce some of the most complex, inspired and downright enjoyable instrumental progressive rock music one is ever likely to hear. Govan is allowed to show off his rock skills, often laying down very heavy material, while Bryan and Marco come to the music from a jazz style, and they meet somewhere in the middle. If that is not enough the

Zac Bauman - 2017 - Bell Jar

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(66:00; Zac Bauman) I have searched through my records and have no idea why I have an album from 2017 on my review list, and cannot find any information on this in my files whatsoever which is a real shame as this is a definite find. Looking on Zac’s FB page I can see he describes himself as a “multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer specializing in fingerstyle guitar and baroque pop”. This album is pretty much a totally solo release apart from trumpet/trombone on five tracks by Joe Espena, a guitar solo by Doug Shernock on one and some female backing vocals on two. This is very much an album out of time, as there is nothing on here that feels more recent than the mid Seventies, and while he is obviously heavily influenced by Ian Anderson there are also some stylings which are more in common with Gryphon, while he also puts in plenty of eclectic ideas which remind me somewhat of Captain of the Lost Waves. Music like this is not supposed to exist in this day and age, where music

Venus Loon - 2024 - Pandora's Paradox

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(43:04; OOB Records) Following on from 2022’s ‘Havoc’, Peter Lawson (electric, acoustic, bass and lap steel guitars, mandolin, keyboards and vocals) and Wolfgang Ostermann (drums, percussion, tongue drums, keyboards, mixing and production) have returned with an album which at times is incredibly layered and dramatic with multiple guitars and punchy drums and at others can take the music in a very different tangent indeed. Of course this is telling us about Pandora, the first human woman created by Hephaestus on the instructions of Zeus, who opened a box left in her care, releasing evil into the world. It is not the first time this theme has been developed in rock music, and it won’t be the last, but there is an energy about tracks such as opener “Inside The Simulation” which immediately grab our attention and bring us deep inside the album. AS with their last release together, I am mightily impressed by the way that Peter and Wolfgang work together as equal partners. “Ouroboros” commen

Soniq Theater - 2024 - Solar Winds

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(41:24; Soniq Theater) Back in 1996 WMMS released the debut album by Rachel’s Birthday, ‘An Invitation To’, and I remember reviewing it at the time. This was by a full band, and then four years later their keyboard player. Alfred Mueller, released his debut solo album the under the name Soniq Theater. He halved the time for his second, releasing that in 2002, and every single year since he has released a brand new album on January 1st, making this his 24th solo release. That is quite an achievement for anyone, especially when working totally solo with very little outside assistance (there have been guests on a few tracks in the past but they are few and far between), and here he is back with another release which brings in his favoured influences of Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream. Sadly, Alfred has yet to invest in using a real drummer, which is a shame as there are some tracks (“Kopernikus” being a case in point) where the synthesised percussion probably does more har

Shadow Lab - 2024 - War On Titan

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(49:09; Shadow Lab) I am not sure just how long ago I first came across Mark Price, but let’s just say it has been a while, and I have followed his musical career with multiple bands including Final Conflict (I was wearing my ‘Redress The Balance’ shirt just yesterday), Framework and Grace while these days he is in High Spy. He has also kept a solo career going through this time, releasing 14 albums since 1983, and here he is with his new project, Shadow Lab. What we have here is a concept album, but one without words so Mark has kindly told us what it is all about on his Bandcamp page, “The year is 2126 AD, the planet Mars is colonised by people from Earth and it boasts modern cities in display of dazzling magnificence, rotating aerial orbs give light to the cities by night in an array of stunning hues and colours.  Further out in the colder reaches of the solar system, Titan, one of Saturn's moons, has undergone major atmospheric transformation, from a former frozen methane world

Refestramus - 2024 - Intour​í​st

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(51:38; Melodic Revolution Records) A few years ago I reviewed ‘Decoupage’ by Refestramus, which at the time was drummer and songwriter Derek Ferguson along with a couple of guests which included Ian Beabout and Jerry King. Here we have their second album, with Refrestramus now a band with Derek again being joined by Jerry (bass), Derek Pavlic (guitars, Mellotron and viola), and  Rogelio Souza (keyboards) along with various guests. I raved over the use of singer Craig Cairns last time, and he is again back on lead vocals but only on four tracks with NIDA on 8 and Ian and Nathan James on one. I noticed there is a statement on Bandcamp which says, “Might appeal to listeners of: Styx, Kansas, Flying Colors, Pattern-Seeking Animals, Lisa Hunt, Motar, Karnataka, and Asia”, and it is with the Seventies bands which this music is most aligned. This is the style of prog which the American do so very well, mixing melodic rock and pomp into the genre to create something which is accessible and en