The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vancouver's Celestial Ruin: Studio Update

So, how many of you out there are familiar with Xandria, ReVamp, and Epica's latest releases?  What do they all have in common?  The answer: producer Joost Van Den Broek.

Who is currently in Vancouver working with the city's premier female-fronted symphonic band, Celestial Ruin?  Answer: Joost Van Den Broek.

Celestial Ruin is in the midst of recording their new release, an EP of five tracks.  I was able to visit the band in the studio on the weekend and get a sneak peak at the production.  Greenhouse Studios has seen some big names over its various incarnations throughout the years, including Bon Jovi, Metallica, and Poison, not to mention a who's who of Canadian artists, like K.D. Lang, Brian Adams, and Nickelback.

I got a tour of the studio once the drum tracks, laid by percussionist Adam Todd, were complete, and I learned all about click tracks and punch ins, isolation booths, and some acoustical stuff.  Drums were laid first, followed by the guitar tracks, performed by Eriz Crux, and now they are in the process of recording bass parts, performed by Mike Dagenais.  Estimated completion of the recording process is this upcoming weekend.

 The songs will be killer, that you can count on.  Also, the band has just signed on with Blackstream/Universal. If you want to follow the progress of Celestial Ruin, please go to their Facebook page, where lots of updates will be, and have been, posted.  They also have a web site.

CD Review: Leah - "Kings and Queens"

Vancouver native Leah McHenry recently released her second full-length album, entitled Kings and Queens.  Leah has a lot of fans, and this album was much anticipated by them.  It was also produced by Timo Somers, the guitarist of Delain, who also did the guitar work on the album.  Released just this month, with a heavy amount of social media promo around it, Kings and Queens is sure to please fans of this musician, but as I am not a fan, I am not impressed.

Since this is a blog and not a publication I need to have any modicum of journalistic integrity around, I will fully admit that I am biased against Leah because she has fucked with friends of mine in the local music community and as a result has a bad reputation.  I will not support her by buying her album, and I didn't even bother to illegally download a torrent of it - I just listened to what was available of it on YouTube.

Timo Somers, on the other hand, is a musician I have a lot of respect for and quite like.  I even got to meet him last Sept. and he was gracious enough to have a photograph taken with me, which I really appreciated.  I am not sure how much production experience he has, but he did obviously put his all into the production of this album.  The overall sound is bombastic, dramatic, heavier, and much more complex than what Leah has produced before.  Also, Timo is a killer guitarist, and that shows very well on Kings and Queens.

My main issues with this album are twofold.  For one, although there is no denying that Leah has a gorgeous voice - even I love it - she lacks technique and projection, and to be honest, range.  I thought she had more range on her previous release, the EP Otherworld. Though beautiful to listen to, her vox turns monotonous after listening to a few songs because she doesn't use the full extent of her range.  And she has very little technique that makes her voice stand out or sound interesting.  Anette Olzon has more technique from what my admittedly uneducated ear can gather when comparing these two womens' styles.

The other issue this album has, again to my untrained ear, is the mix.  There are some songs in which the vocals are very overwhelmed by the music, especially the bass and the drums.  Some songs are just messy with a confusion of competing instruments that create a chaotic listening experience.  "This Present Darkness" is probably the best example; it luckily it has a lyric video, otherwise I wouldn't have understood much of what Leah was singing in it.  By the way, it also has a lot of awkward words in it that sound really off because, kinda like Alanis Morissette, she is trying to fit difficult words into a difficult vocal line, therefore putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable of the word, which is weird.  I'm used to hearing this from bands whose first language is not English - they don't know any better, of course.  In general, too, I found this to be a very "wordy" album, and again, "This Present Darkenss" is a very long & repetitive song that could have used some editing of the lyrics to shorten it down a bit.

The bonus track, "Siúil a Rún", is the only track on the album I can honestly say I loved.  That's probably because I've heard it before as it is a traditional Irish tune that's been performed by all kinds of people.  I recognized it as a song Clannad had covered years ago; I love Clannad.  There are two versions of this song on Kings and Queens, one acoustic and one rock.  Both versions are very nice and I liked them both. Also, Leah does use a bit more of her range in the acoustic version, which was a huge plus.

I think that's about all I can say about this album without agitating myself further.  BTW, what is going on on the album cover?!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nightwish- Élan Song Review

So yeah, I haven't posted anything in a while, but since this new single has been released by the one and only Nightwish, I figured that this needed to be done!

So about the new single.  Well, how can I put this.  To sum it up, it's bland and boring to be brutally honest.  Floor Jansen never ceases to amaze me with her talented voice, but I feel that she is underutilized in this song.  However, that isn't the only thing that is wrong with this song.  The instrumental section is generic and uninspired for the most part, the song structure is predictable and plain, and Emppu's rhythm guitar section is barely audible in the music.

Everything in this song feels forced and mundane to me, and this isn't something I expect out of Nightwish at all.  It lacks that depth Nightwish songs typically have.  Even songs like "The Crow, The Dove, And The Owl" and "Amaranth" though poppish and typical still each had a nice hook to those tunes that made those songs more memorable. This felt completely uninspired and lackluster.  I hope this isn't a sign of things slowing down for this band.  As some may know, I actually enjoyed the last album very much, even with Anette singing the songs.  Now that they have Troy Donockley as a full time member, the great Kai Hahto (Wintersun, Swallow the Sun) filling in for them in Jukka's absence at drums, and of course Floor Jansen at vocals, I expected a better single out of this group.  It is just a mediocre song altogether.

Let's hope the rest of the album is better.  There is going to be a 24 minute long song on the new Nightwish album Endless Forms Most Beautiful entitled "The Greatest Show on Earth".  That should be fairly interesting.  I expect that there will be better songs to come, or so I hope that is the case!  I will be reviewing this album as soon as it comes out.  The new Nightwish album will be released on March 27th in Europe, March 30th in the UK, and March 31st in North America.