I’ve been doing the Album of the Month written reviews since 2016. I don’t review everything and I never copy and paste the press releases. I don’t write bad or critical reviews – who am I to judge? and who cares what I think when the only thing that really matters is how you, the music fan, engages with the music you like or feel a connection to. Everyone will usually like something different as they should and that, in simplest terms, is the joy of music discovery.
All that said, what I have set out to do each month is to write a review on just one album – partly because I don’t have time to do more and partly because I want to focus on one thoughtful piece on an album that I think is worth positively celebrating. I try to stand outside the bands I like and know well – and to focus on how I react to a review copy of an album. If often write reviews as I’m listening to a CD or vinyl and I shut out the noise on social media to ensure I’m just reacting to music on its own terms.
For April, I have found it extremely difficult to choose Album of the Month – and this is often the real challenge with just picking one album a month to review.
So what I’ve decided to do for April is I will be inviting Friday rockshow listeners to give their views during Friday’s show (more details on Friday). This Friday I have hour specials rolling in with each of the four acts below, which are the four albums I’m thinking of for April. I have half-written reviews for each, but this month I feel I also want to listen to and trust the views of regular Friday listeners in helping me make a call for April’s Album of the Month – and all the things next month that go with that.
For now, I share my brief impression of the four albums I am thinking about. Each is very different and each offers something very different to the other three. And as you’ll find on Friday, the stories behind each album are also very different. For now, and whatever we go with for April, here are four albums that are worth having a look at and store links below also for those that fancy a bit of shopping. Get one of each if you fancy – they all have merits.
Empyre – ‘Relentless’
A band we have followed since the very start and proudly premiered many of their early singles, a few of which had sustained runs on the Friday show. Their debut album was Album of the Month with us, and their new studio release (their third, if you count the wonderful acoustic album) arguably offers their best collection of material to date. Hit and Run worked well on the Friday show, the new single Parasites will hit the mark, whilst Forget Me and Quiet Commotion are powerful surprises yet to be enjoyed by many. I’ve often cited Empyre as a Modern Rock band yet they also firmly have a foot in the Classic Rock camp, offering something older rockers will relate to and enjoy. They don’t run around on stage or throw out tub-thumping singalong tunes, there’s more depth to what they are about. Music perhaps more for a glass or red wine than a pint of lager, this is an intelligent, thoughtful band that focuses on well-crafted music – delivered with profound intensity. Pre-order link and social media links at https://www.empyre.co.uk
Twisted Illusion: ‘Upstairs To Optimism’
If music had an aura around it, this album would be brimming with bright colours – well, in fact, they’re already on the album cover! From the hardest working and most prolific studio band in rock today, Twisted Illusion land a confident album that is powerfully uplifting.
Some may have wondered how the band would top their recent album trilogy, but Upstairs To Optimism has done it with aplomb – and delivers something a bit different to what went before. An album that gives a clear nod to influences such us Yes and Toto, and the essence of Rush (in terms of confident individuality), one is left scratching one’s head in wonder why Twisted Illusion isn’t already the huge flag carrier for Britain’s big classic rock media. They tick every box.
Throughout the album, great virtuoso playing, clever arrangements, inventiveness and big walls of harmonies – some familiar references in terms of inspiration, but the art here is the band’s sound is very much and unmistakably its own. You won’t be able to listen to this album and sit still, the music is fully alive and demands a reaction.
New album pre-order and back catalogue bundles via https://twistedillusion.bigcartel.com
To some, Copperworm delivers marmite music. Some absolutely adore the band’s own signature sound – some struggle a bit with it. And you know what, that’s absolutely fine: some would argue that’s the point of music – and to the band’s eternal credit, no one doesn’t react. This is not beige rock n roll – familiar, easy to digest and undemanding. The band members are doing and creating their own thing.
Copperworm is a band we have supported for six years and with the CovAid2020 collective they bagged Single of the Year with one of the songs of the lockdown era. Pete’s band are never the cool kids in the circuit, they live outside the management and big label thing, but that doesn’t mean what they do is any less valid than the bands that have a week zipping in and out the rock charts. There are no big rock stars in the new scene today – flying around in private jets with anything close to million selling albums – what really matters today is bands following their creative path, being encouraged to experiment, to be brave and – most important – to be true to themselves. Copperworm deserve the right to experience the journey as much as anyone else, and with PiLOT we experience re-workings of earlier songs (and some new ones) that capture the sound of the new line up today. Stripped back, raw and authentic – almost the anti-hype or anti-manufactured band – there is with the very essence of Copperworm the spirit of the punk movement, or the rawness with which grunge put hair metal to rest. A debut album for this band is a big moment, it is the result of a long and hard journey. They’ve not had it easy, are over-looked by many but they enjoy making music, they enjoy being part of a community and they don’t want to be something else in order to be more popular. On the long-awaited debut album, you get up close and personal to who they are and how they want to present themselves. And after Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, what matters in the rising scene today is not so much about who gets in the rock charts or the big playlists – but a mindfulness that we don’t leave anyone behind.
Album pre-order at https://copperworm.bandcamp.com
Carbellion: Weapons Of Choice
Maybe a wildcard for April, but worth a look. A well-established US band, we are relatively new to them on the Friday show – but it’s never too late to start a journey with a band. The main thing is just to get on the train, as it were.
In the last few months, the huge popularity of the track Barfight was a significant moment – and largely powered by the Friday red button listeners. A seven-week run on the Friday show and you can’t argue with the band coming number 6 in the most requested tracks for the month of February.
If you liked Barfight, this album – out on 17th March – is worth a look. It will very likely appeal to rockshow listeners that have taken the likes of Baleful Creed into their hearts. Recorded during the various Covid lockdowns, here’s an album that is one of those defiant responses from the rock community – music that won’t go quietly into the night, but a rock band that will stand tall, find ways to create and share ideas remotely – and to come back with an in your-face album, full of forward-moving momentum. If rocks bands won’t stand tall in tough times, then who will?
Album pre-order and US store: https://carbellion.bandcamp.com
I will be airing interview hour specials with all these wonderful four bands on this Friday’s rock show. Join us and enjoy the stories behind the music on these new album releases.