Category Archives: Progressive Rock

Deep Purple – Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic

“The banjo player took a hike”

Purple frontman Ian Gillan was always fond of calling guitarists “banjo players”. So anyone hearing the above lyric in Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic would have understood it was a sly poke at the band’s ex-guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Ted The Mechanic opened 1996’s Purpendicular, Deep Purple’s first album since Blackmore’s departure, and it introduced fans to their new guitarist Steve Morse. It’s instantly clear from the opening riff that this lineup of Purple means business. There’s a palpable musical chemistry with Morse and Gillan is in classic dirty form on a playful rocker that will have you wiggling in your chair. And best of all, the tricky opening riff where Morse makes electric use of a picking technique called… the banjo roll. See what he did there? Top man.

HMO Digest – 25th September 2022

It’s been two whole months since the last digest so let’s not waste time with idle banter! Here’s what’s been happening on the blog.

Recent Posts

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Album Review)

Lynott and chums scatter their beans over different scenes on their eclectic, but sleepy, debut.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)
Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

Two power metal classics in a row. Why? Why the hell not.

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

Cause 80s KISS is the best! And you wanted the best.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge (Song Review)

This song rhymes seagull with eagle which is just one of the many reasons for its awesomeness.

Cream – Badge (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering as long as they sound the part.

Tankard – Mercenary (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering at all.

HMO Salutes

R.I.P Michael James Jackson, producer of my favourite two KISS albums (Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up… 80s KISS again!)

Steve Grimmett, best known as lead throat of NWOBHMers Grim Reaper, who has died aged 62.

The exalted Piledriver (aka Gord Kirchin) who has died from cancer aged 60. I wrote about a great Piledriver tune here if you want to familiarise yourself. And their albums Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly both got stellar reissues lately so get involved.

New Stuff

A good year for new releases continues with Megadeth’s The Sick, The Dead… And The Dying! and Behemoth’s Opvs Contra Natvram which are both enjoyable efforts. Not up with either band’s best work but better than I was expecting. Other notable purchases include Marillion’s Holidays In Eden box set (love!), KISS’s Des Moines set (wow!), a Steeleye Span box set (fol-de-rol!), Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years (ermagerd! Thresh meddle)

Darkthrone

I also had a big blow out and bought all the Darkthrone albums I’m missing. Basically all the studio albums between Panzerfaust and F.O.A.D. I should really have bought all these long ago because Darkthrone, but the news of their upcoming Astral Fortress inspired me to finally bite the bullet. I can listen to the whole discography now before the new one comes out on the 28th October.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Cathedral’s The Carnival Bizarre from 1995. Monstrously heavy stuff with classic tracks like Vampire Sun and Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) as well as wonderful deep cuts like Inertia’s Cave and guest guitar from one Frank “Tony” Iommi on Utopian Blaster. Let’s get it on!

Coming Up

We’re getting in to the heavy release schedule months now. There are new releases and reissues galore on the horizon. Coming up in Oct there’s new albums from The Antichrist Imperium, Avatarium and Queensryche and on the reissue front there’s Diamond Head (expanded Lightning To The Nations), Danzig (the long out-of-print 666: Satan’s Child) and album boxes from Deicide and Blitzkrieg.

On the review front I have some Deep Purple, Brian May and Whitesnake posts in the works. And probably some Darkthrone cause that’s all I’m going to be listening to for the next month or so, let’s face it. Until next time… eternal hails!

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge

“Loaded down with your talents”

If there was a Venn diagram of classical music, progressive rock and metal, you’d find Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Knife-Edge bang in the centre. Taken from the band’s 1970 debut this is dark, heavy stuff with a huge, ominous riff. The formidable British trio rearrange pieces from Janáček and Bach into a stonking Hammond organ bludgeon that is surely what the composers had in mind all along. As a young metal fan this was one of the key gateway tracks that introduced me to the rich, crazy world of prog and it’s still one of my favourite songs of the genre.

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Review)

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (1971)

They’d go on to be one of the most definitive, life-affirming rock acts of the 70s but on their 1971 debut, Thin Lizzy seemed more nostalgic for the 60s. Lizzy mainstays Phil Lynott and Brian Downey together with original guitarist Eric Bell formed a power trio in the mould of Hendrix, Cream and The Jeff Beck Group and played an eclectic mix of folky, funky and soulful hippy rock. Honesty Is No Excuse is a sophisticated string-laden ballad, Look What The Wind Blew In has a carefree chorus and wonderful stuttering riff, Eire is a beautiful Celtic ode and Return Of The Farmer’s Son has hints of future glories in its jousting guitar and rolling drums. But many of the songs here, like the endless Diddy Levine, prove forgettable and even the album’s rockiest moments have a maudlin, nostalgic mood. All this makes Thin Lizzy a decent choice for hungover Sunday afternoons. But you know what Lizzy albums you were listening to on the Saturday and this wasn’t one of them.

HMO Digest – 10th July 2022

I closed out the previous digest with a question: were KISS genuinely boring when they played Donington in 1996 or was I just too sunburned to enjoy them properly? Well, I’ve listened to the Off The Soundboard recording of the show now. It’s a bit sluggish and takes a few songs to get going but, in the comfort of my own darkened living room, it’s way more fun than I remember! I’m getting the classic KISS vibes. Verdict: too sunburned.

Recent Posts

Hell – Darkhangel (Song Review)

One of the best songs of the ’10s but sadly Hell haven’t released anything since. Last I saw of them was supporting Saxon at what can only be described as a very farty Glasgow gig. At least I got some fresh air at Donington.

Running Wild – Final Gates (Song Review)

Don’t walk the plank, spank it! It’s all about the bass on this insanely catchy instrumental.

Fist – Throwing In The Towel (Song Review)

Apollo Creed’s least favourite NWOBHM song.

Shrines – Ghost Notes (EP Review)

I never got a press release for this so I’m not sure what the pitch is. A wee music theory joke for you there.

HMO Salutes

Original Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton has died aged 80. Brilliant musician, songwriter and producer on some of my favourite albums. Listen here for a great interview with the man himself, where he discusses his classic Nazareth albums and his involvement with Guns N’ Roses. Warning: Fife accent.

Artist Ken Kelly, the creator of some of my favourite album covers, has passed away aged 76. A framed poster of Love Gun graced my living room wall for many years. And where would Manowar be without his muscular and boobular artwork?

My long-running campaign to “BRING BACK ALEC” has come to a sad end with the death of ex-Bon Jovi bassist Alec John Such, aged 70. The campaign did at least achieve some closure when he reunited with the band at their 2018 Hall Of Fame induction.

New Stuff

My most exciting purchases from the last month were the new Kreator album Hate Über Alles which is really good (definitely better than advance reviews led me to believe) and Porcupine Tree’s Closure/Continuation (album of the year so far). On the reissue front, I got the Thin Lizzy package that pairs up the expanded Sydney show with the doc Songs For While I’m Away, which is essential viewing for Lynott fans. And I finally got the anniversary box set of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas which I’ve been looking forward to since pre-ordering it back in November 2021. It was worth the wait.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Enuff Z’Nuff’s 1985. It’s a strange one… a 1994 release that was technically their fourth album but is actually their 1985 demo recordings. I don’t really know the full story here. It’s sounds way too good to be a demo and sounds incredible for 1985 even. Re-recorded or touched up old material? Whatever it is, it’s brill and infectious glam rock.

Coming Up

I’m looking forward to the reissue of UFO’s High Stakes & Dangerous Men paired with Lights Out In Tokyo. Supposedly not the best era for the band but I’ve not heard either album before so I’ll judge for myself. Also Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years set is an exciting prospect, I’ve wanted that stuff for ages but it’s always been too pricey.

On the review side I’ve got quite a mix coming up soon on the blog: thrash, power metal, black metal and classic prog. Stay tuned and expect no mercy!

Shrines – Ghost Notes (Review)

Shrines – Ghost Notes (2021)

Given that their frontman Sam Loynes also keeps busy with Akercocke, The Antichrist Imperium, and Voices I can’t blame Shrines for taking six years to follow up their 2015 debut album with a four-song EP. But it helps that the EP, 2021’s Ghost Notes, is good: angular, dissonant progressive metal with pristine guitar tones, killer riffs and Loynes’ unique, melancholic voice and harmonies. While I miss the eclectic creativity and plaintive atmosphere of the debut, its good to have Shrines back and they sound like they have found a strong direction and purpose with Ghost Notes. Hopefully they won’t take so long to make their next move this time. Of all the bands in Loynes’ impressive CV this is the one I’d most like to hear more of.

Porcupine Tree – A Smart Kid

“There was a war but I must’ve won”

The news that Porcupine Tree are back together and lining up a new album for 2022 has me heading back to their old albums. Today I’ve been listening to the first album of theirs that I heard, 1999’s Stupid Dream. As always, A Smart Kid stands out as one of the superior tracks: a spaced-out, Floydian prog tune with a wonderful, lush sound and an enchanting mix of acoustic instruments and electronic textures. It has charming lyrics too, relating the travails of the last guy on Earth as he muses on the low cost of living and lack of crowds before attempting to hitch a ride on a visiting spaceship. I was never totally sold on the parent album as there are a few too many piano Brit-poppish tunes for my liking but Porcupine Tree excel here. Clever lads.

Magnum – Les Morts Dansant

“Gather round reluctant marksmen”

Magnum. The minute the weather starts getting cooler I reach for this veritable comfort-blanket of a band. Here’s Les Morts Dansant, the centrepiece from their excellent 1985 album On A Storyteller’s Night. Set in WWI, the song describes the execution of a British soldier who has refused to leave the trenches and go over the top. The song title translates as “the dancing dead” as it illustrates the pirouette of the dying soldier as he’s riddled with bullets from the firing squad. It’s a horrific topic but Magnum’s keen moral sense ensures the song is written and performed eloquently and compassionately. Bob Catley sings movingly with his heart on his sleeve as warm keyboards and celestial guitars gradually build to a climax of Baba O’Riley-style power chords. The album cover depicts a wizard relating a fireside tale to a bunch of captivated dwarfs and Les Morts Dansant is basically the musical equivalent. Spellbinding storytelling from a magical band.

Voices – Frightened (Review)

Voices – Frightened (2018)

Following their 2014 masterpiece London was bound to be a daunting prospect but, despite what the title might suggest, with 2018’s Frightened Voices responded fearlessly. The UK devils cannily rising to the challenge by simultaneously taking their music in a brave new direction while retaining their core character. The viciousness of their debut and the neurotic extremity of London toned down to a dark and gothic mix of post-metal, prog and pop. Songs like Unknown, IWSYA and the wonderful closing track Footsteps have a dreamy Anathema-like quality and their music breathes like never before with a diverse range of tones and instruments. But the band’s patented blasting urbanity remains. The primal Dead Feelings and marauding Manipulator have all the nightmarish obsession, paranioa and eroticism of previous releases. The album’s experimentation brings some inevitable mis-steps: there are some hollow lyrics, occasional forays into shouty metalcore and the off-kilter Rabbit’s Curse places a hurdle in the album’s early stages. But the restless hustle and bustle of the band’s arrangements mean even the tracks that misfire have moments of wonder. Take Funeral Day‘s shift from grimy groove to shimmering mellotron beauty. Frightened is a bold and captivating new chapter in the band’s story but also feels like it’s leading somewhere… Voices investigating new and dark back-alleys that will very likely lead to another masterpiece.

Enslaved – Return To Yggdrasill

“A new sound heard throughout the land”

Like Yggdrasill, the world tree at the centre of Norse mythology, black metal has branched out in all sorts of directions. Enslaved have always been a fine example of the genre’s progressive possibilities. Throughout their career the Norwegians have consistently pushed their creative longboat out into new waters. On this classic track from 2004’s Isa there are long passages of dreamy prog that bring to mind Rush, Porcupine Tree and the like. But these cosmic adventurers remain black at heart with frosty, pagan lyrics and a recurring, but captivatingly brief, riff of violent, tempestuous power.