FORCE OF DANGER Kryptos (AFM) ** ½
Billed as ‘the ultimate sound of denim and leather’, this is Kryptos’s 6th album and it lives up to that label- more or less. Hailing from Bangalore, India, Kryptos have fashioned Force Of Danger into a blunt instrument capable of groovy damage.
Since forming in 1998 these guys have supported some of the biggest acts in metal like Iron Maiden, Testament, Kreator, Exodus and more. To give you a handle on what they sound like, maybe a cross between Maiden and Judas Priest with a dash of Accept’s relentlessness comes closest. Many of the riffs are memorable and stick with you on the first pass, while the guitar solos tend to be speedy and acrobatic. With song titles like Raging Steel and Thunderhawk you’ll never, ever mistake them for a pop band.
Produced by Varun Taneja and recorded in Bangalore, there is something delightfully old school and meaty about the sound of Force Of Danger. The album’s weak point is the vocals of rhythm guitarist Nolan Lewis. There’s a resemblance to original Iron Maiden singer Paul D’Ianno, a gruffness that really works with the material, but Nolan doesn’t seem to bother with melody lines for his vocals, which makes every song virtually indistinguishable from one another, but at least he doesn’t have to worry about staying in key. Other members of the band include Rohit Chaturvedi on lead guitar, Ganesh K on bass, and Vijit Singh on drums, and they acquit themselves very well.
Force Of Danger is actually a pretty good album, full of the tension, dynamics and lyrics that put this on the same dramatic level as a Wagnerian opera. BUT… with more attention to the vocals instead of just tacking them on top of these 8 numbers, it could have been a really good one- maybe even great. Kryptos has potential and, despite my quibbles, seem bent on world domination but hey; that’s the Force Of Danger, baby! www.kryptosmetal.com
BEST CUTS: Force Of Danger, Raging Steel, Thunderchild
OPEN ROAD Colin James (Stony Plain Records) *****
One of the cool things about the blues is how artists get better with age, often maturing like a good wine, and that’s the case with Colin James. Open Road is the Saskatchewan bluesman’s 20th album, a worthy follow-up to 2018’s impressive Miles To Go and Blue Highways before that in 2016. This is a great helping of blues.
James has had quite a career; his self titled debut album in 1988 had 2 massive hits in Voodoo Thing and Five Long Years. Over the course of his multi-decade career he’s worked with Bonnie Raitt, Albert Collins, Pops Staples, Robert Cray, Albert King, Jeff Healey and Buddy Guy, to name but a few. He’s also a prolific songwriter with his tunes being recorded by the likes of Maria Muldaur, Johnny Halliday and Lucinda Williams. You may also recall his Little Big Band, credited with helping launch the swing revival. So let there be no doubt in your mind that Colin James is the real deal.
Open Road shows James continuing to challenge himself creatively and artistically. It’s only right that, at this stage of his life and career, he’s turning more from the rock and Little Big Band stuff and diving even deeper into the blues. Colin’s band on this disc is superb, find the right grooves and staying in the pocket with an elastic fierceness that’s exciting to witness. I don’t have any production notes here- I’m listening to an advance download- but the spacing of the instruments as well as the interplay between acoustic and electric guitar have me thinking maybe Colin Linden produced this? Could be wrong on that, and ultimately it doesn’t matter as the album sounds terrific.
As for Colin James himself, he’s at the very top of his game. His guitar playing is gorgeous and passionate, but not over the top- maybe like a chill SRV as he wrings the emotion from each note. There’s a maturity in his singing, the sound of a man that has earned the right to sing these blues. If you liked his vocals before this, you’re going to love what he does on Open Road.
The music on this record is as evocative as the album title itself. Open Road is the sound of a man entering the second half of his life… he still has some things to figure out but he’s got a good handle on where he’s going. Follow Colin James down this Open Road; you won’t be sorry. Preceded by the singles Down On The Bottom and Open Road, the album comes out November 5th. www.colinjames.com
BEST CUTS: There’s A Fire, Open Road, Down On The Bottom
READY FOR YOU Luca Kiella (Cypress Road Productions) ****
This is the follow-up to Luca’s 2019 debut EP Figure It Out. Ready For You is a soulful, bluesy trip, a dozen stories about life, love, heartache, hardships, and today’s society.
Ready For You is where funk, soul and the blues intersect and show you a good time. Kiella is a piano and Hammond organ virtuoso, and his talents are on full display throughout the record. With a great band including a sweet horn section behind him, Midwest Records gets it right when they comment “A rollicking good time in high octane fashion, (Luca) knows how to let the good times roll.” Indeed, the album has a vivacious, celebratory feel to it for the most part, even when he slows down for the mid-tempo ballad A True Connection. He has a solid if unremarkable singing voice, but in combination with the cumulative musicianship, he gets his point across.
Ready For You was recorded by Packy Lundholm in Chicago, with the horns (led by Bonerama trombonist Mark Mullins) recorded in New Orleans. The album was produced by Kiella ((Luca “Keilla” Chiellini) and Lundholm, and the songs cover a wide range of emotions. Here No More addresses immigration while Till Tomorrow, which opens the album, deals with the stress of modern day life. Want to slow down and get close? Desperate Train To Nowhere is a slow soul/pop number that tells the story of two people in love who can’t stop moving forward despite having different destinations. Check out A True Connection and Is There Any Love Left For Me while you’re at it, especially if you’re in the mood to have your heart beautifully broken.
The real star of Ready For You is Luca’s considerable skill at tickling the ivories, whether he’s at the piano or generating some classic Hammond swells to make the hair on your arm stand up- of course having a batch of very well written songs to work with doesn’t hurt either. This isn’t strictly blues, funk or soul but an intoxicating and shifting blend of all three. Some good-timey stuff and some real reach in and squeeze your heart numbers too, a nice balance to keep the listener engaged. This disc is real good company. www.lucakiella.com
BEST CUTS: Desperate Train To Nowhere, Till Tomorrow, Is There Any Love Left For Me?
WIRED Eclipse (Frontiers) **** ½
These Swedish riff rockers have just followed their most successful album, 2019’s Paradigm, with another dense and melodic bunch of crunchy deliciousness that seems guaranteed to push them further up the ladder. Wired is energetic and uplifting, something we could all use a little more of for sure.
The singer here is Eric Martensson, who you might remember just collaborated with Jeff Scott Soto on a track on Jeff’s new Duets album. He has a sturdy voice, strong and well suited for this kind of rock & roll; hard but with a pop-like sensibility for memorable hooks and melodies. Eclipse are a talented lot, especially guitarist Magnus Henriksson as he cranks out joyous riffs and tops them with adventurous and fleet fingered solos. The rhythm section of Philip Crusner on drums and Victor Crusner on bass keeps it simple as they provide the depth and pulse of the songs.
Over the last few years Eclipse have performed to audiences the world over, opening for bands like Aerosmith and Scorpions. Wired is their 8th studio album including their 2001 debut, so they’ve got a pretty good handle on what they’re trying to accomplish. Comparisons to classic Bon Jovi are understandable but don’t really hit the mark. This is good bush party rock & roll, but there’s more to the band than that with songs like Carved In Stone showing how a ‘power ballad’ should be properly executed.
I suppose for many this type of rock & roll, typically referred to as “80’s style” is passé, a relic from another time, but I beg to differ. The production is dense and powerful with a gratifying heft to it, and melodies that stay with you. Wired was preceded by the single Saturday Night (Hallelujah), surely an anthem for the ages as we hopefully wrestle this stupid pandemic into submission and crawl back into the light once and for all. I for one am ready to raise my fist and yell again.
Eclipse is a rock solid piece work, tight and well put together for maximum impact and sure to capitalize on the momentum of the aforementioned Paradigm. It’s also one of the best albums this label has issued this year. www.eclipsemerch.com
BEST CUTS: Bite The Bullet, Saturday Night, Things We Love
SILVER CUP David Gogo (Cordova Bay Records) *****
A new record here from the Nanaimo bluesman, conceived and written during Covid times. There’s something different from his other albums about the mainly acoustic Silver Cup, a haunting soulfulness, that makes this otherwise good record a great one.
I’ve been following Gogo’s music for a decade or so and this is the 8th of his 17 albums to join my collection. Talking on his website about how he approached Silver Cup David
says “At first I was just writing without any blinders on. Eventually I realized that it was time for a rootsy, down home recording that I could tour solo, as a duo, or with a band, whatever the situation called for.” Even before he started writing for this record Gogo listened to his vinyl albums, went down some rabbit holes on the internet and read some musicians’ biographies looking for inspiration- and boy did he find it.
To fully realize what he had in mind for Silver Cup David reached out to his friend Steve Marriner of Ottawa’s Monkeyjunk. His bonafides as a musician are well known, but during the lockdown Steve had been working on his engineering and producing skills and that was equally important for this record. Marriner came out to Nanaimo and the album was done quite quickly. “We got to work right away and had a wonderful time creating this album” Gogo says, and that’s not just a snappy PR line from his website bio; you can literally feel it as you listen to the album.
As with most great songs, the ones we find on Silver Cup each come with a story. David says the title track was “inspired by an antique silver cup that was handed down to me after my 95 year old grandmother passed away.” Top Shelf is about “a fellow musician who I crossed paths with many times over the decades. His final wish was that we celebrate his life by only drinking the best stuff from the top shelf.”
I think it’s a combination of the personal nature of the songs plus the intimate nature of acoustically performed blues along with the frankly joyous performances of Gogo and Marriner (and whomever else ay have been involved) that make Silver Cup an unforgettable album. As soon as you stop reading this review, call up your I Tunes and buy this- I’m not kidding. www.davidgogo.com
BEST CUTS: Silver Cup, Top Shelf, 64 ½, Blues For Dollface