Vajra: Pleroma

Having already been captured by Vajra through their track Inside The Flame which was featured on The Bone Orchard Radio Show, there was a lot of biting at the bit hoping to have the chance to hear and review their debut album Pleroma. From that song alone our anticipation and expectations were probably unjustly high not that it was a problem as the album simply blew everything imagined away. It is aural majesty, a beautifully crafted and emotively driven piece of wonder. Admittedly the list for album of the year candidates is longer than the waiting list at an NHS hospital but Vajra are there at the fore with their stunning introduction to the world.

The seeds of Vajra began with its founder composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Annamaria Pinna during her self-imposed exile in India. The daughter of a former monk and school teacher, Annamaria was encouraged to look at, learn about, and question assumptions about the world including her own, her creativity and music borne from and continuing that premise. She also has a neurological condition called synesthesia, which results in one sensory stimulation opening a secondary involuntary experience, in the case of Annamaria she attaches colour and shapes to sound.  How it impacts on her songwriting one cannot imagine but certainly her music is nothing less than enlightened imagination and melodic mastery.

With sell out gigs including shows at The Bowery Ballroom, The Mercury Lounge and The Bowery Electric in NYC, licensing deals with The Discovery Network, MTV, Showtime and Bravo, and their music being played across 200 radio stations nationwide in the US and of course across the internet, Vajra is on an unrelenting rise. Alongside Annamaria bringing her vision and music to realisation upon Pleroma, there are the skills and talent of drummer Blake Fleming (ex-The Mars Volta), bassist Doug Wright (The Dirty Pearls), and guitarist Will Dahl (ex-Harley’s War), together the quartet exploring and expanding the passions of progressive rock and welcoming hearts.

The theme of Pleroma is an exploration in paradoxes (east vs. west, soft vs. pummelling, female vs. male), with songs which are enveloping and inciteful suns of melodic rock woven with Eastern Indian themes and sounds. Grammy-award winner, Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) co-produced and mixed the tracks whilst mastering was handled by Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince), the resulting understanding and clarity as important as the invention within.

The album opens with the wonderful Inside The Flame, a song which wraps its tender arms around the senses with melodic beauty whilst squeezing throughout with anthemic intensity to increase the wanton pleasure. It opens on a brewing atmosphere, slightly haunting but soon with shadows lit by bobbing bass tones, fiery guitar play, and the stunning voice of Annamaria. Her voice is that of an angel and devil combined, her tones warm caresses or heated squalls forged with feisty and forceful power. The song itself rises and ebbs throughout, always with a sirenesque call no matter if consuming the heart with subtle whispers or blood surging sonic anthem. The bass of Wright is glorious, a moody and prowling presence whilst the rhythms of Fleming ignite all primal and instinctive urges and passions.

As mentioned the song was a deeply rooted fever before the album so a fall was a possibility from then on in but no chance. The following Almost One slowly treads its way through the ear with shimmering keys behind the provoking bass and precise guitar touches. Once more the vocals lead to drifting thoughts and imagination as the lyrical content is unveiled with heart and expertise. Though not as dramatic as the first track the song is an absorbing melodic summer which heats and thrills evenly across the senses.

The darkly ambient instrumental India makes way for the immense Blind, a song which prowls with layers of rippling muscle and explosive sonic heat. It is a towering piece of vision and creativity, its heart a pulsating living passion driven with brooding rhythms, evolving flaming guitar juice from Dahl, and showers of golden vocal harmonies and feeling. It is irresistible, a sunspot of aural wonder veined with spires of intensity.

Pleroma just moves from one slice of majesty to another, every track a perfect combination of ingenuity, sounds, thought, and heart. The likes of the evocative Intuition with its hypnotic heartbeat, the smouldering 3.14, and See Through, a song which sways and glistens with crystalline delight within its firm breath, lead one down further diverse roads of sound and thought to the same result, total joy.

Closing on the magnetic lure of The Apple, a shifting storm of building emotion and energy, Pleroma is quite glorious. Its soundscape is a perpetual emotion generating journey of expression, reflection, and investigation. At times it is a shadowed meditation and in others a towering fire of spiritual might which flames with burning passion. It is extraordinary and wholly delicious. The last line of their bio states ‘Vajra’s music will leave you spellbound’. Hell Yeah!

RingMaster 17/09/2012

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Stinking Lizaveta: 7th Direction

US instrumental rock band Stinking Lizaveta have returned with an album in 7th Direction, which is arguably the best instrumental release in a very long time and is easily one of the best albums to be unleashed this year if not the very best. It is magnificent, a masterful vision of imagination, artistry, and storytelling. It is a collection of pieces which tell tales, but your tales, the band offering all the tools and emotions along with an irresistible invitation to write your own script, 7th Direction the perfect vibrant and inciteful canvas of sound and evocation to individual visions.

This their seventh album, follows on from the acclaimed Sacrifice and Bliss of 2009, though all their releases since forming in 1994 have generated an eagerly growing respect and following. Formed by then partners, guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos and drummer Cheshire Agusta, in the basements of West Philadelphia, the pair soon enlisted Alexi, the brother of Yanni, on upright electric bass. Together the trio have created, conjured, spawn, call it what you will such the uniqueness of their sound, a mesmeric and provocative blend of rock, fusing everything from classic, stoner and punk rock to jazz, progressive rock, heavy metal, and so much more. The years have seen them sharing stages with bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch, Rollins Band, Fugazi, Zeni Geva, Today Is The Day, Weedeater, Hidden Hand, Don Vito, Antikaroshi, End of Level Boss, and Beehoover with each undoubtedly being given a run for their money.

7th Direction is an album which takes infectiousness into addiction status and plays thoughts and emotions like a harp, gently provoking and stroking but at times twanging them for near orgasmic responses. The band writes music which is so fluid it feels like it is simply on the spur of the moment composing, the tracks organic and instinctive as they tease and ignite total captivation. They are also perfectly formed, compact or expansive when the time is right without any unnecessary flamboyance or indulgence at any point. Each song has a facet which is sirenesque whether the flaming guitar invention of Yanni, the heart firing bass strokes of Alexi, or the minimal yet expressive and relentless rhythms of Cheshire, though generally it is all three at the same time, their union a delicious and stirring feast to devour greedily.

    Stinking Lizaveta open the release with the title track and immediately has the passions swelling with its thumping build to an opening crescendo…which is basically the whole song though they repeat the climb a few times to get the juices flowing first. In to its stride or rather emotive sci-fi/noir stroll, the track pulsates with a melodic shimmering which blisters the air on touch alongside the watching basslines and cagey rhythms. It is stunning, a thing of beauty speared with burning flashes of impassioned guitar and tension raising climbs once again.

From the opener alone one would be shouting from the rooftops about the release but this is just the beginning and things just sizzle and brand new memories into the mind track by track. The likes of the following View From The Moon, a heated journey through celestial atmospheres, and the evolving Moral Hazard leave one gasping in pleasure and hunger for more. The first transports one to the theme of the title and easily would make the perfect soundtrack to seventies TV shows like Space 1999 or UFO, without diminishing the quality and stature of the piece. The second is a crumbling upon the senses its flight twisting into a schizophrenic squeal through sonic fires.

Every track deserves a mention but the greatest personal highlights come with the kinetic fury of Dark Matter, a song where shadows and incendiary energies crash and burn whilst a dark snarl prowls as overlord, the hypnotic aural puppeteer that is Z which has limbs and feelings dancing a satanic tune, and One To The Head, another track to fire up every one of the senses with its moody bass tones, tingling beats, and electrifying sonics. Oh there is also the unbelievably magnetic Ten Thousand Hours, a piece which beckons and seduces with a kaleidoscope of persuasive melodic caresses, sonic kisses, and rhythmic wonder.

To say 7th Direction is brilliant seems an understatement, the songs mentioned and every one of the six not covered simply ingenuity from the deepest well, it is that good. Stinking Lizaveta show they are still the true heart and leaders of rock n roll and if after this album there are still those unknowing or disbelieving there is no justice in music for sure.

Ringmaster 17/09/2012

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The9thCell: Galga de Zebra Ilesa


 Galga de Zebra Ilesa the new album from Portuguese band The9thCell, is a bit of a hard one to get a real handle on but very easy to enjoy, its eclectic sounds and intent not always as persuasive as it might be but thoroughly engaging and rippling with quality and impressive heavy weight sounds. As is evident on previous releases of the band, Galga de Zebra Ilesa offers a diverse and expansive array of sounds and invention which though at times one is left wondering if it really fits together there is only enjoyment and favourable inspired thoughts left behind.

    The9thCell is the solo project of David Pais, and the new album his seventh full length release. His earlier years saw him join forces with bassist Ricardo Mestre to form electronic/industrial band Wishful Thinking whilst composing his own individual ideas and pieces which would go on to be part of his solo project. 2004 saw him join up with other musicians in alternative metal band Ashes before the beginnings of his solo project came about the following year, the project initially being called Mig before changing to The9thCell. Alongside his project across its time to date Pais has also collaborated and played with a few bands such as NoTribe and written music and soundtracks for cinematic short movies

      Galga de Zebra Ilesa released through Infektion Records follows the well received Point Blank Range which came in three individual Acts throughout 2010. The new album is a collection of songs and music which as mentioned do not necessarily have a common bond apart from their author but are evidence of the wide creative base and musical imagination of Pais.

First track Adão e Erva immediately has the ear hooked with its opening mesmeric beginning, the atmospheric and slowly brewing mellow start a weave of shimmering melodies and emotive ambience. There is a firm prodding though through firm riffs which line the native tongue vocal delivery before it explodes into a storm of excellent metallic rock n roll. With an electronic whisper in the background the track is a rampaging mix of Bloodsimple and Tool which lights the passions at every turn. Arguably its ten minutes is over stretching things slightly in hindsight but in its company the journey is impactful and invigorating.

The following Cavaleão is true to its opening vocal declaration and unleashes a feast of metal and classic rock excellence. It thumps with unbridled eagerness and high octane energy. Featuring Cláudio Brandão, the song punctures the ear with ferocious riffs and hungry basslines whilst vocally it is an anthemic riot of aggression and continues the impressive start to the release.

At this point the album suddenly throws one off balanced with songs which are unexpected sound wise and fully diverse. Morning Glory is a hard rock track with keen funk tendencies reminding of bands like Extreme whilst the challenging Liberdagem (Este Meu Poço de Romantismo Furioso) spans from melodic metal through to blackened symphonic breath. Both tracks are impressively crafted and presented and engage the senses more deeply with each passage through their invention. Gentlemania has a blues vein to its steely raw presence again furthering the variation. The track does not find any real connection to be honest especially with its spoken vocals, in English as many of the tracks, but to be fair it is one of the few occasions that happens.

Along with the second track the highlights of the album comes with Wounded Pt 2, a track which enters with a crystalline electronic wash before evolving into a muscle rippling tower of inciteful surges and scorched sonic manipulation, and the excellent Jacktiv(h)ate, a tempest of death and classic metal violence which sounds like a mix of Sepultura, and Soundgarden with flashes of Judas Priest.

Closing with the sunset of instrumental Keep Your Heart At Bay, an impressive cinematic soundscape, Galga de Zebra Ilesa is a strong and captivating release which will please most rock and melodic metal hearts, and at times even those with more extreme preferences.

RingMaster 17/09/2012

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Streetfight Silence: We Must All Learn

Leading into the release of their debut album Cutting Strings on September 24th UK power pop band Streetfight Silence first unleash the single We Must All Learn. Their first release for Angry Badger Records, the song is a vibrant and enterprising slice of pop rock to play as a tease for their imminent album.

The Bracknell based trio of Russ Merry (guitar/vocals), Chris Penfold (bass/vocals), and Chrissy Cooley (drums/vocals) has garnered a strong and passionate following, conquering locally before working on the country as a whole. Their live performances have drawn acclaim as the band shared stages with the likes of Don Broco, Tesseract, Burn The Fleet, Francesqa, Canterbury, Flood Of Red, and We Caught The Castle, each show adding to the buzz around them. The new single and album to come, follows their well received debut EP and look to have all the weaponry to thrust the band into wider recognition.

    We Must All Learn initially sidles up to the ear with bright melodic strokes and attention grabbing grooved strikes underpinned by a great heavy bass tone and firm rhythms. Once into its stride the vocals spread their warm and accomplished tones amongst the reasonably reserved sounds, every element then coming together in a chorus of natural harmonies and creative sounds. The song is not overly infectious but does secure a permanent focus and leave lingering strains of melodic craft in its wake. There is also a strong acoustic essence to the song within the energetic rush of tight guitar play and expressive vocals which suggests more of the album.

With a video to accompany it, We Must All Learn is a good appetiser for Cutting Strings and a good continuation of the creative maturity of Streetfight Silence, which the album should endorse and extend.

RingMaster 17/09/2012

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