Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Imperium Dekadenz - Into Sorrow Evermore (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Jan 2023
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I like this album, the seventh from Germany's Imperium Dekadenz, who play black metal from the Black Forest. I've had it on repeat for much of a day and a half and it hasn't got old yet. However, it refuses to stick, like charges on a corrupt politician who's still in favour with his party. I've come to the conclusion that this is dark mood music, very capably done but with little intention to do anything beyond setting the particular scene that the band wants this album to evoke.

For the most part, that's all it does. It's bleak, as black metal tends to be, but also somehow warm, as if this particular frozen forest happens to be our safe space. It's often fast, as black metal tends to be, but it's just as often slow, the guitars buzzing their wall of sound but the drums happy to be almost in slow motion. Even in the fastest sections, they seem to be dawdling, because the drummer is so comfortable that he could surely do this all day without taking a breath. It's bleak but it isn't at all threatening. Is friendly harsh a thing?

Initially it feels like atmospheric black metal, because that's exactly what it is, but it continues to be content with being atmospheric black metal. It doesn't do anything with the format that we've not heard before. Sure, it's done incredibly well, but it's never adventurous and it rarely wants to have us focus on any particular element. We do in the end, because we find we have to penetrate its secrets, but such moments are still rare.

Aurora is the track where that happens most obviously, because it features a delicate piano that continues under the wall of sound, leaving it more of a veil of sound. Beyond that undercurrent of piano, there's also a neat keyboard that mimics a violin. It's all seamless dynamic play, even if it's so effortless that it floats past us a few times before we realise what it's doing.

Elysian Fields finds both a solid riff and a clean narrative voice, but it bleeds away into the general mood of the album, which starts to feel more and more like a fifty-one minute slab of black metal than a set of eight individual tracks as we listen and re-listen. November Monument has a magical section that's all bass, whispers and a cacophony of cymbals. It's a fascinating section and we can't help but wonder what other magical moments there have been that we were too hypnotised by a mood to notice. Maybe that's why I kept on listening and listening.

At the end of the day, though, it remained elusive. It sounds great, don't get me wrong, but I can't give you a favourite track or a second favourite. I can't even give you a least favourite. Anything I'd bring up to elevate one over another would be followed by the realisation that everything else did the same thing and balance would be restored. My problem is trying to determine if that counts as a positive or a negative.

Part of me thinks that I've listened to the entire album about a dozen times and never had to skip anything, never wanted to skip anything and can happily keep on listening another couple of times through. That has to be a positive, right? However, part of me thinks that I really ought to be able to say something individual about something after those dozen listens and I can't, beyond the few minor points I've made thus far.

I guess that, if you want a warm black metal mood, this might be precisely what the doctor will be ordering for you today. If you don't, then this is a fifty minute placebo that won't do anything for you in the slightest but you may somehow want to take it again tomorrow.

What surprises me most, given this curious avoidance of individuality, is that Into Sorrow Evermore is the seventh album from a long established band with a consistent line-up—it's been Vespasian and Horaz divvying up instruments since their founding in 2004, except for when they bulk up to a five piece for live shows—and what appears to be a dedicated fanbase. They must be reaching the parts that other black metal bands aren't reaching but perhaps I don't have.

Massive Wagons - Triggered! (2023)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 28 Oct 2022
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Massive Wagons are one of the more prolific New Wave of Classic Rock bands, with this the third of their albums I've reviewed here at Apocalypse Later. They're knocking out a new one every two years nowadays and they just snuck this one in at the end of 2022. It continues their growth too, in a few ways that I expected and a few that I didn't. It's the most immediate of the three, which to a fan of the band is rather like saying that this water is the most wet, and it's the most to the point, only two songs out of a baker's dozen making it past four minutes. There are no sprawling bluesy numbers this time out. It's just in your face pop/punk/rock that won't quit.

As I said last time out, with House of Noise, they're also one of the more recognisable NWoCR acts with this never mistakable for anyone else. Part of that is because their influences are a bit newer than the norm. Instead of nods back to Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, they're more interested in TerrorVision and Wolfsbane. Sure, there's some obvious AC/DC on A.S.S.H.O.L.E. and some Iron Maiden in the title track's guitars, but most of this comes out of the nineties. The Status Quo influence is a little less obvious here, but it's still there in the catchy three minute template.

I'm hearing a lot of pop punk on this one too. They're still a rock band at heart and they're always going to have a a strong following of ground level fans at rock bars up and down the UK who know everyone, have heard everything and just want to sit down at the bar for a pint, but have to get up when the Wagons hit the stage because they diffuse energy to every corner of a room and that's a rare and precious thing. However, their bouncy rock style crosses over into pop punk often here, to hopefully trawl in another set of fans. Fuck the Haters, the subtle manifesto of an opener, is a rock take on pop punk and it's not the last.

The other crowd I'd love to see at a Massive Wagons gig are pop fans, because I'd love to know how they'd feel about the band. Unlike Battle Beast, whose 2022 album I reviewed yesterday, you can't just swap filters on songs here to turn them from metal to pop, but it would seem like fans of a bouncy sort of pop music, say Taylor Swift, might just be blown away by this bouncy sort of rock music. The fact that they're very culturally aware in their lyrics probably helps. And, quite frankly, while this is rock not rap, Baz Mills is so precise in his delivery of those lyrics that he's goddamn spitting bars in a whole slew of tracks. Check out the closer, No Friends of Mine, to see what I mean.

If everything I've just set gives you the impression that they're selling out with this record, I would like to dissuade you of that notion right now. This is fundamentally a guitar album, from moment one to moment last, even if Please Stay Calm kicks off with such an eighties guitar that sounds like a keyboard that I'm still trying to figure out which Def Leppard song they snatched it from. It's the guitar sound on the title track from Hysteria but heavier and faster. Whichever doesn't matter, it's the poppiest part of the album and it's still guitar. This is guitar music. Don't forget that.

But, at their heaviest, on a song like Generation Prime, which explodes into action and only ramps up from there, they transition seamlessly into some sassy reggae just for fun and then back again. It's priceless and it's done incredibly well. It also plays into the primary driving force that keeps a band like Massive Wagons doing what they do and that's fun. Sure, they need to pay the bills and I have no doubt they have to play music because it's who they are and all that jazz, all the reasons to be in a band, but there are few bands who seem more like every member is simply having the time of their lives when the're playing music. This isn't five musicians. It's five individual limbs who plug into each other to become complete. They're a giant robot that's formed from a superhero squad.

I have a feeling that this is better than the 7/10 I'm going to give it but it's less varied than House of Noise and Full Nelson and it's a little too slick for my tastes. I think, at this point, I want to hear a live Massive Wagons album, because they're not touring in Arizona and that's going to how I get to experience what they sound like live, which I expect to be utterly involving. Even with that 7/10, nobody does this better.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Riverside - ID.Entity (2023)

Country: Poland
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Jan 2023
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Poland is fast becoming one of my favourite countries for progressive rock. Sure, there are other genres being plumbed well by bands like Vader, Velesar and Monasterium, but it's the land of Fren and Amarok and Collage and they all play prog, albeit in very different styles. Riverside are Polish and they've been playing prog rock since 2001 with this being their eighth studio album. The prior four all went gold in Poland so they're building a buzz, and it's time I caught up on that.

The first note to make is that they aren't like any of those three other Polish prog rock bands, but they're closest to Amarok because they have a very fresh contemporary sound for a band with two decades behind them, even though there's often a lot of neoprog in their sound. I see them listed in various places as progressive metal, but there's precious little metal here, perhaps only hints in I'm Done with You, but even there it's hard rock in its heaviest moments.

The keyboards of Michał Łapaj are the first obvious element, followed by a crystal clear bass from Mariusz Duda to kick off the opener, Friend or Foe? Over time, his vocals will take over frequently, but it starts with keyboards, as if Riverside plan to play in an Alan Parsons Project ballpark or even Queen from The Works era of commercial prog pop. The vocals, when they do arrive, are clean and smooth and, with a subtle shift in keyboards, anchor this in new wave as much as prog.

But whatever I pull out of any individual song, it all comes back to prog, because this is never just simple new wave or hard rock or even reggae, once we get to Self-Aware. It's progressive reggae, hard rock or new wave, and that's why this album is so fascinating. Friend or Foe? is reminiscent of Steven Wilson once it's over and we can look back at its seven and a half minutes from outside. Landmine Blast goes in different directions, most obviously funk because of how bass-driven it is, but there's still a Steven Wilson flavour to it. These are good songs but they're not my favourites.

I prefer the songs that dive more into neoprog, even if Big Tech Brother features heavy keyboards and more presence from Maciej Meller's lead guitar to take it away from that. Post-Truth is a prowling beast, again built on that confident bass, even if it's content to end with delicate solo piano. I'm Done with You frames its neoprog as hard rock, with a swagger (and some fuzz) to the heavy guitar but with the delicate keyboards dancing around it. It seems as if it wants to be simple but it doesn't dare, so settles for some elements either way. I like it a lot. However, these aren't my favourites.

Self-Aware is the closer, that combines elements I never expected to hear together. Initially, it has little intention of playing in the same vein as anything else here. The neoprog is dialled down and the Steven Wilson elements ditto. If anything, it starts out like Thin Lizzy, built from power chords and recognisable changes. However, just as we're getting used to a Riverside song that just rocks, it segues seamlessly into reggae. It's the first genre shift within an individual song that feels like an attention grabber, but it works very well indeed. And yes, the song eventually raises the white flag and goes full on prog for its last few minutes.

And that leaves The Place Where I Belong as the epic of the piece to kick off the second side with a sense of real style. By epic, I mean thirteen minutes and change with a patient build. It's acoustic guitar chords behind a storytelling vocal when it starts and that vocal dominates, even with some gorgeous sounds emerging from the mix and long instrumental sections that never feel too long. It's surely the most patient this album gets and likely the most neoprog. It's definitely my pick for standout track because this band seems to get better the more space they have to breathe.

Oddly, that means that, while the album doesn't consistently get better track on track, the second half is where the material that connected with me the most can be found. That rarely happens and I'm eager to see how this band got to this sound, given that it certainly isn't what I expected going in.

Battle Beast - Circus of Doom (2022)

Country: Finland
Style: Melodic/Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 21 Jan 2022
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This sixth album from Finland's Battle Beast didn't top any best of 2022 lists, though it did make it onto one of them, Metal Kingdom's Best Metal Albums of 2022, at a not unrespectable 11th, but I missed it a year ago and didn't want to let it slip by me entirely before I draw a line on 2022 and go full on dedicated to 2023. I liked the fifth album they put out in 2019, No More Hollywood Endings, or, more accurately, I liked a lot of it a lot. It started out well and it wrapped up well, with a bunch of outstanding songs at each end, but there was also lots of filler in between them and the vision of the band seemed to be all over the map. I wanted to find out if that was an anomaly or a norm.

And, based on this, I'm happy to suggest that it was an anomaly. This one is far more consistent in approach and I was especially happy to hear Noora Louhimo's voice dropped a little in the mix. It's not that I don't want to hear, because she's an outstanding vocalist. It's that she's so outstanding that she doesn't need to be out there in front as if this is a solo project, as it was last time out. On this album, she has to fight more for dominance and she's more than up to that task. Fortunately, so are the musicians behind her, starting with Pyry Vikki's drums, because the beat on the opener is just as emphatic as Louhimo's voice and it stays there throughout.

And it's not just him, because that opener is a very theatrical title track, appropriately given the subject matter. There are plenty of flourishes in the musical backdrop to keep us paying attention to everyone. Circuses are theatres in their way and this song is just as bombastic as the circus that it brings to life. It's a glorious opener, from its musical box intro through an initial vicious chug to the Flight of the Bumblebee style buzz and onward through the curtain into the ring, where we're treated to quite the show.

Wings of Light begins with a killer scream from Louihimo but also a guitar flourish. It isn't close to the opener in theatricality but it's just as emphatic. Master of Illusion kicks off with another huge vocal moment, so there's a clear trend in play. Those drums are in our face too and the guitars on Where Angels Fear to Fly refuse to leave us alone, even when they drop away during the verses. As the song moves towards its close, guitars and voice almost duet, like a game of tag with one doing its thing and handing to the other and so on.

I like all these little touches, Russian Roulette as full of them as Circus of Doom, with an intricate intro and outrageous late section on top of the flourishes during the song, but I honestly believe that Eye of the Storm is my favourite song here and that one plays it straight. It really doesn't do anything fancy until a brief and subtle outro but it's quintessentially urgent. Whatever defences we have left after the assault of the first four songs, it barrels right through them and bludgeons us into submission. It's content to just do the business for four minutes and twenty-six seconds.

Back to Russian Roulette though, I get the feeling that, as powerful as this song is, this could be a pop or even a dance number, something that might be at home at the Eurovision Song Contest in an utterly different presentation. I'd love to hear a pop cover of this to see how it works. Here, it's a heavy/power metal song and not a wimpy one in the slightest, but I bet it would play really well with completely different filters: keyboards instead of guitars, a soft voice instead of an emphatic one, pulses instead of rock drums. Someone cover this as a disco song, please!

If there's a downside, it's that the album doesn't end as strongly as it started but the second side isn't filler. These are good songs, just not quite as good as the ones before them. If they'd moved one of the killers, say Where Angels Fear to Fly, to the end, maybe I wouldn't have been seen it at all. And that means that either this is a big step up for them, which I doubt given the acclaim they have garnered throughout their career, or that last album was a step down they've addressed.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Obituary - Dying of Everything (2023)

Country: USA
Style: Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 Jan 2023
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While Barely Alive rips out of the gate and it's not the only song with a fast section here, this new Obituary album joins the Autopsy album from late last year as a firm reminder that I've forgotten what the original death metal bands sounded like. I saw both of them live back in 1990 but I moved on from the genre pretty quickly and apparently three whole decades went by while I blinked. I'd forgotten just how much doom metal there was in Autopsy's sound and I'd also forgotten just how much Celtic Frost there was in Obituary's.

John Tardy's vocals aren't even a growl, which is practically mandatory nowadays in death metal. Instead he sings clean but with a tortured voice that often reminds of Tom G. Warrior and others who sang in what felt like a demonic voice in the eighties. That's only underlined during what I'm going to have to call a spoken word section in Dying of Everything, because it seems to be spoken by a demon. The point is that it was an extreme voice when Obituary started out. It seems almost tame in 2023.

I've read comments by younger fans who don't understand how bands like these can even be seen as death metal, simply because they don't conform to their expectations of the genre. I don't buy into that at all, because I remember how extreme Autopsy and Obituary were in 1990 and they're still true to their core sound. This was death metal and it's still death metal to me. These are some of the bands who created the genre and heritage is important.

Also, this is heavy stuff, even if the second half of Without a Conscience and the beginning of My Will to Live, to cite just two sections from ten songs, are as solid for slow headbanging as anything that Status Quo ever conjured up with their famous three chords. Of course, this is downtuned and far heavier than Quo, but the comparison isn't unfair in those section. The clearer nod is to Celtic Frost, because it's not only in Tardy's vocals but in the tone of the guitars and the churn of many of these songs.

Talking of heavy, another band that came to mind here is Metal Church, especially late in My Will to Live after Tardy has finished singing and the band keep the piece going as an instrumental, the remaining vocalisations almost serving as sound effects. There's Metal Church there in the power chords, in the mosh chug and in the guitar solo. It's slow stuff but it's somehow melodic and heavy at the same time. I kept waiting for David Wayne to start singing.

This is only Obituary's eleventh studio album but, with this one, they've now released more since reforming in 2003 than in their original run from 1988 to 1997. The line-up has remained steadier than most metal bands, with three founder members staying the course throughout from a brief spell as Xecutioner in 1984 to the beginnings of Obituary and all the way to the present day. Tardy is one and his brother Donald on drums is another. The third is Trevor Peres on rhythm guitar.

That leaves two newer members but Terry Butler, who joined in 2010, is only the band's third bass player, and Kenny Andrews, is the fourth lead guitarist. He joined in 2012, so has a decade behind him, and both these later acquisitions are playing on their third Obituary album. They both seem highly comfortable and they both do the business, even if I'd have liked some more solo work from Andrews here. These songs tend to go for that old school bludgeoning rather than adding much in the way of decoration.

That's not to say that there isn't anything unusual here. War has an intro that's, well, war. It's not groundbreaking in the slightest but it adds a different texture, especially as it isn't just confined to the intro. There's also a surprising drop into an acoustic guitar, even if only for a heartbeat or three. it works well. The most unusual song is The Wrong Time, which sounds fascinating from the very beginning. There's a simple and memorable drumbeat, in the vein of Reign in Blood, but it's accompanied by what sounds like maracas and hints at a Satanic orchestra, before it launches into high gear thirty seconds in.

In short, I like this a lot more than I expected to, albeit not as much as the Autopsy album from the end of last year. These new releases in an old style remind me of how much I've forgotten and how much I really ought to go back and ground myself afresh in where death metal came from. I'm too used to what it's become in all its various directions. I moved on from it in the early nineties when it seemed like it was stagnating. Hindsight tells me that it moved on too and it's a lot more varied than I've given it credit for.

Visions of Atlantis - Pirates (2022)

Country: Austria
Style: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 May 2022
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I don't know Visions of Atlantis but it looks like I should, especially as this was FolkNRock's choice for Best Symphonic Album of 2022. It's their eighth album, because they've been around for a long while, even though their line-up has changed considerably across the years since they began back in 2000, the only founder member for well over half their career being Thomas Caser on drums. It's a long album too, running almost an hour but it never outstays its welcome. It remains vibrant and upbeat throughout and it's easy to buy into that energy and keep listening.

The most symphonic track is probably Master the Hurricane, which kicks off with nautical sounding flute and the sort of brass you would hear in an actual symphony, to provide texture rather than to replace a rock instrument. Then it ramps up into metal territory with a choral backdrop and all the elements remain in place throughout the song. It's almost an action movie soundtrack with vocals and we can see the pirate ship hurling through the titular storm until it reaches the eye four and a half minutes and everything drops away for a period of beautiful calm.

If structuring a song around its subject matter like a concrete poem suggests a playfulness in the songwriting, then check out Freedom, which turns down the tempo that was maintained through the first four tracks and leaps into musical theatre. There are two vocalists in Visions of Atlantis, one male and one female, and they both sing clean. The relish that the former, Michele Guaitoli, invests in his opening lines makes it seem like he's auditioning on stage for a Broadway show. The latter, Clémentine Delauney, promptly joins him, with a little less relish but not by much, and this turns into a musical theatre duet.

With the exception of Heal the Scars, which is a straight ballad, the rest play in a more traditional vein, but without ever really losing either of those aspects. Standouts for me include the opener, Pirates Will Return, and Legion of the Seas. Both contain grandiose operatic sections like Master the Hurricane and theatrical musical theatre sections like Freedom, but feel more satisfied with a straightforward approach built on riffs and swells. During these songs, Delauney is more obvious than Guaitoli, but they're both clearly there.

Because Caser is the only founder member, they're both relatively recent additions to the band, a surprising detail because they seem utterly comfortable with each other and the musicians on the stage behind them. Delauney joined in 2013, the fifth in a line of female singers but her decade in the band is twice as long as any of the others. Guaitoli is only the fourth male singer but he joined in 2018, so is the new fish in the band. I think my favourite song for them is Darkness Inside, which sees them singing mostly together, to great effect, but with occasional diversions for both.

Everything's solid, even over almost an hour, and I should call out the band members I know about. Beyond Caser on drums, who does his job throughout whatever the tempo a particular song needs, there's Christian Douscha and Herbert Glos. I was surprised to find that there was only one guitar here, because the sound is rich enough that it feels like two. That's Douscha's work, meaning that Glos provides the bass, which is reliable and often notable, because the mix is excellent so we can follow any instrument we like.

There's certainly someone playing keyboards, though I have no idea who delivered that backdrop of texture. However, the flute and bagpipes that show up on a trio of tracks, including Master the Hurricane, come corutesy of Ben Metzner, better known as Prinz R. Hodenherz III in Feuerschwanz. I dig those folkier elements, which work well on an album themed around piracy, and wish they had been used more often. Pirates Will Return in particular seems to ache for them.

Is this the best symphonic album of the year? It's certainly a good one in a year that boasted a few such, but I'd give the edge to SheWolf, I think.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Katatonia - Sky Void of Stars (2023)

Country: Sweden
Style: Progressive Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Jan 2023
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I liked Katatonia's eleventh album, City Burials, and I like this twelfth that's so similar in approach that I could almost replace this entire review with one word: ditto. Wherever they've been in their musical journey over the years, they're a very comfortable prog band nowadays, sitting happily on the border between rock and metal, heavy for the former but light for the latter. And they have an uncannily consistent tone that means that, while the songs are all clearly different, they end up as a blend in our brains, which automatically aggregate them all together.

Maybe it's a little more immediate than City Burials, but it's still such elegant stuff that every one of these ten songs (eleven if you count the bonus track, Absconder) needs to to be fed and watered frequently for it to bloom in our hearts. Jonas Renkse maintains such a consistent vocal tone that it sometimes seems like he's being sponsored by a couple of specific pitches and he can only move away from them maybe three times per song. The guitars are more versatile but only if we focus a lot more than feels natural. And how you take that last sentence may be the key to whether this is truly for you or not.

The entire album sounds so comfortable that the easiest course of action is to to leave it as it is, to let it simply wash over us like a sweet smelling cleansing action. We feel embraced by its presence and so comfortable that we have to set it on repeat or lose an acute belonging. It's feelgood music that's almost addictive. Life seems better when it's playing and we don't want to return to the big bad world with its demands and expectations. Can't we just curl up in the arms of our beloved and close our eyes and let this album roll through our headphones for the next year?

It's so comfortable that it almost feels wrong to listen deeper. This is carefully crafted music, and it benefits from us actually paying attention to see what the musicians are actually doing, because a lot is going on here, regardless of which track is playing, and it's fascinating to focus in and follow the bass or the keyboards or the guitars. However, unlike what must be every other band, it seems like we're cheating when we do that and we have to look over our shoulders to make sure nobody's watching. In fact, it almost feels dangerous, like this was supposedly placed here by God and we're suddenly heretics to stone if we acknowledge that it was created by mere human beings.

If you're happy with the positive feeling, this is a peach of an album. It's seamless and immersive. It's kind of like Paradise Lost at their most commercial, on albums like One Second when they were a new wave band, all Depeche Mode with emphatic almost gothic hooks, only smoothed out with a serious algorithm so that the hooks are constant but exquisitely subtle. Everything's melody in an ever-extending set of layers. It'll be your favourite album of the year. It'll be home.

However, if you feel that sinister underbelly, like it's conning you into believing that everything's a paradise and you've put on the prohibited glasses that let you see past its facade, it's going to be uncomfortable. You're still going to feel that constant insistence of welcome, but you're going to know better and it becomes a beautiful nightmare. It's not home. It's the Matrix and you want to wake up.

With all that said, can I call out anything for special mention or is it just a consistent fifty minutes of being surrounded by amniotic fluid? Maybe. There's some sassiness to Colossal Shade's central riff. The intros to Opaline and Atrium are beautifully intricate, the former being a real grower. In the end, though, perhaps only No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall steps out of the conformity to be a creature of its own. It finds some nice grooves and works through some complex prog changes, but it also loosens up to drop into something more exploratory.

Bottom line: it's impeccable stuff but it makes me increasingly uncomfortable.

Solar Corona - Pace (2022)

Country: Portugal
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 11 Nov 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Prog Archives

It's good to be listening to another Solar Corona album. I thoroughly enjoyed Lightning One back in 2019, though it isn't amongst their others on their Bandcamp page, and was eager to listen to a follow-up. Apparently I missed the follow-up because there was a second in 2019 called Saint-Jean-de-Luz. There's so much good stuff coming out nowadays that I can't even see it all. Solar Corona are Portuguese, they've expanded to a four piece this time around, and they play psychedelic rock with a serious side of space rock, enough so that a couple of pieces clearly nod towards Hawkwind.

One is the opener, Heavy Metal Salts, though it's a sassy drum piece when it begins. It's not long before it settles into a Hawkwind vibe, surrounded by an atmosphere of keyboards. It continues to build throughout, which means a heck of a lot of build over six minutes. The other obviously Hawkwind-influenced piece is Alpendurada, at the other end of the album, which is so Hawkwind that it becomes Motörhead. That frantic rumble sounds like the chorus to Emergency to me. However, it evolves later on into a pulsing Pink Floyd sound, shifts seamlessly into Tangerine Dream and pounds us with a finalé. It's quite the closer.

The best pieces of music here to my mind—and yes, everything remains instrumental—come after the opener, with the title track and then Thrust. These highlight what Solar Corona are so good at, which is to immerse us in music that reminds us of places we've never been.

Pace kicks off like Pink Floyd's Time, but these clocks aren't clocks at all. They're some imaginative percussion from Peter Carvalho and they continually build through the eight and half minutes the song runs. It's a much slower build than Heavy Metal Salts could boast but it's consistent and the effect changes as those faux clocks speed up and get more immediate. There's a point where they start to feel sinister, especially after a low guitar joins in, as if they're hissing at us. It's thoroughly effective at taking us to a very specific place.

Thrust is even better at that, because we're at ground zero for a spaceship launch and it's almost impossible to imagine anything else happening. It's urgent from the outset, with jagged guitar an evocative ignition sound but then garage rock drums kick in and they're furious. This spaceship is going up and it's going up in a goddamn hurry. This is wild and glorious space rock that keeps up a frantic pace and takes us way way out there. Imagine if the last minute of Space Truckin' had the urgency of Speed King and double the speed and you'll be on the right lines.

A.U. is so slow in comparison, it's almost a stop and it had to be very deliberate placement to put a slow piece right after a frantic one. We feel like we're still blasting off into the cosmos only for the engines to stop and suddenly we're floating. Parker S.P. is funkier stuff, a fresh drum atmosphere penetrated by a cool bass line. These aren't bad at all but, in comparison to the immediacy of the highlights and the vitality of the bookends, they're kind of just there.

I like the added density that comes with having a fourth member, but I'm not sure exactly what he contributed. The three primary musicians from Lightning One are back, which presumably means that Rodrigo Carvalho is still the guitarist, José Roberto Gomes is still on bass and Peter Carvalho is still sat behind the drumkit. There's no saxophone this time out, but Nuno Loureiro is credited as a fourth member. I'm presuming he's the second guitarist, given there's a Nuno Loureiro with a string of credits playing guitars in other Portuguese bands, but someone's handling keyboards on this album and I have no idea who that is.

Whoever's doing what is immaterial, though, because they combine their energies wonderfully to create a memorable team effort. Few bands are so well integrated that I can't really call out one over the rest for a special mention. They all do the business and they do it apparently effortlessly.