Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Lighthouse in Darkness “Oceanbliss ”

Photo credit: Janine Buss

A while back, when I was first starting this blog and trying to think of things to write about, I made a list of bands and artists I liked who had not made any new music for quite some time, and hoped to hear from again. One of the bands on this list was the German gothic metal band Flowing Tears, who seemed to suddenly just disappear from the scene.

At the time I wrote the piece in early 2014, the band's website was up and running, but had not been updated since 2009. They had not made an album in nearly 6 years by that point; the last anyone had heard from them was with what many considered their finest work, the 2008 concept album Thy Kingdom Gone. Sadly, about a month or so after my article was written, the band announced that Flowing Tears was disbanding. So that was the end of the hope that one of the bands on my list would return. Or so I thought.

While 2016 had been a huge blow to the music world with so many legendary artists passing away, 2017 has appeared to be a year of growth and rebirth for many bands. One example is Lighthouse in Darkness, a project headed by Flowing Tears vocalist Helen Vogt and songwriter/producer Sascha Blach; a musical collaboration that has been building over the course of 5 years. While it is a far cry from the gothic rock sound of Flowing Tears, Helen's warm, velvety voice is instantly recognizable and pulls you in with that same dreamy charm.

Sound-wise, Lighthouse in Darkness is a blend of soundtrack music coupled with electronica, a touch of jazz, and a little bit of rock. It has this dark, theatric sensibility to it, but at the same time it is calming and relaxing. The duo describes their music as “cinema for the ears”, and it is right on the mark: when listening to their first single, “Oceanbliss”, you can almost envision the smoky clubs, white jackets and ties, and piano playing in the corner just like out of a 1940s movie.

The lyric video also plays into this theme with a record playing, filmed in black-and-white. There is something so old-school and yet so modern, with the hip-hop influences subtly threaded into the many different layers of this tune. If you are into bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode, but also love the old torch songs of the past, Lighthouse in Darkness is definitely worth a listen.

For more information on Lighthouse in Darkness, or more information on their upcoming album The Melancholy Movies, visit their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Grim Reaper “Wings of Angels”

Band photo

Over the past several months since I last wrote about Grim Reaper, a lot has been going on with them. Shortly after my blog entry reviewing their last video (“Walking in the Shadows”), frontman Steve Grimmett was performing for fans in South America when he was besieged by pain in his leg so bad that he had to finish the show sitting down. Rushed to the hospital immediately thereafter, a terrible infection ultimately resulted in the loss of his leg, and an extended stay in Ecuador.

However, through all of this, Steve still presses on, and has stated more than once that this will not end his musical career. To prove his point, within weeks of first learning to get around on his prosthetic, Grim Reaper was playing festivals!

Forget these icons of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll, who gain praise for getting shit-faced and banging groupies—all those guys can do that—but those aren't my rock heroes. When it comes to metal bad-assery, as far as I'm concerned, Steve Grimmett leaves them all in the dust. I think it's pretty fuckin' metal to endure that kind of pain to finish a show, lose a limb, go through months of strenuous therapy, and get on a plane to rock out before thousands of fans almost as soon as you are able to bear weight on a prosthetic. If that doesn't win you the lifelong title of a bad-ass, I don't know what does.

To show that they have no signs of slowing down, Grim Reaper has a new lyric video: “Wings of Angels”. The video is very cinematic; with black-and-white animation reminiscent of a 1940s war movie, a fighter plane swoops into view. As the aircraft zooms through the air, we see patchwork fields and ominously dark cloudy skies, as the lyrics scroll across the screen. The plane spins and nose-dives towards the ground as Steve sings the lyric, “out of control in a death roll, until you're slamming into earth”. The flashes of the plane's machine guns blink on the screen as the unseen pilot chases his enemy through the air. The guitar solo starts in, and the pursuit becomes more intense. I probably shouldn't give away the ending, but let's just say a fiery conclusion is involved.

I should also note the little Easter egg: the plane—the hero of the video—is named “Amelia”, which is the name of Steve's wife, his real-life hero! Because behind every kick-ass metal dude is an equally tough metal chick, and Steve makes no secret that Amelia is his inspiration.

For more information on Grim Reaper, visit their official website.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Gary McGrath “Never Let me Go”

Photo credit: Deborah Buffington

If you were to look up the term “prolific” in the dictionary, don't be surprised if you find a picture of Gary McGrath next to the definition. A Grammy award-winning musician, Gary is constantly busy with one of his many musical endeavors: whether he is producing albums, touring with his own bands or seasoned musicians, or directing the Texas State Men & Boys' Choir, Gary knows how to multi-task, and is always focused on the next project.

With huge names like B.B. King, Bon Jovi, and Devo on his professional résumé; touring with rock veterans such as Peter Frampton and Peter Tork; and collaborating with members of Foreigner, WASP, and the Doobie Brothers (to name only a few), it is no wonder Gary's prolificacy is so high. Working with the best in your given profession is bound to raise your own personal standards, and Gary sets the bar pretty high.

Because of this, his music is quite diverse, and cannot really be lumped into one category; such as can be heard in his latest video, “Never Let me Go”. Musically, it is an acoustic blend of country, folk, and just a bit of pop to make it catchy. It is a sweet, simple love song; but aren't those always the best songs? Sometimes a no-frills approach can be the most striking.

Conceptually, the video is straightforward as well: a beautiful woman rises from sleep as Gary sings about hitting the snooze button. She holds a mug in her hands during the line where she drinks her morning coffee. A breeze blows through her hair as we hear the lyric, “listen to the wind whisper”. Interspersed between these scenes are shots of Gary playing his guitar. Sadly, the only lyric that isn't matched with a corresponding scene is the lyric, “hold me in your arms, and never let me go”. The woman and Gary are both filmed separately and we never see them get together in the entire video! I don't know if that was intentional, but it gives the video a sort of bittersweet feel; such a beautiful song and a lovely sentiment, but the characters aren't seen with each other. The video ends with a recap of the woman's day: always seen looking out the window or gazing outward, as if waiting for that special someone.

For more information on Gary McGrath (or any of his numerous musical projects), visit his official website.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Clark's Secret Identity “Opacity”

Band photo

In the past 6 months since I last wrote about Pennsylvanian prog-rockers Clark's Secret Identity, the band has had many positive changes: their debut full-length album has been released and is getting rave reviews. Also, with the addition of keyboardist Thomas Cichon, the power trio has become a mighty quartet (but you will have to either catch a live show or wait until CSI's next album to hear him!). The band has made their album title a self-fulfilling prophecy, and are on their way to many incredible things.

Already on their second music video, CSI wastes no time getting down to business and making artistic statements with their music videos. Like myself, a couple of the bandmembers come from the era of MTV and remember when the music video was a huge medium to send powerful messages; whether artistic, social, or political. So I like that they make an attempt to tell stories with their music videos.

In the case of the video for “Opacity”, the artistic statement is literal! Directed once again by Theresa Gaffney, the video begins with guitarist/vocalist Shane Anthony and artist Virginia Clawges are standing side-by-side before a bare wall. The view is blurry at first, but as they begin to each draw on the blank canvas, the picture becomes clearer as the painting unfolds. The two work together, each adding their own touches to the other's work, combining vivid colors and subdued shades until it is a cohesive whole, a lovely image of light and dark, created by camaraderie and teamwork. When the work is done, it is a rendition of the CSI album cover, which is praised with a round of applause. Considering that Shane has said on the band's Facebook page that this song speaks of “the fragility of trust”, I think it's cool that the video's concept showed what good things can happen when we put our trust in one another, working together, and seeing it through.

For more information on CSI, or to purchase their new album The Promise of a Wonderful Future, visit their Bandcamp page.

Special thanks to Matthew Bankes, Keith Horning, and Shane Anthony.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Geezër “Geezër Nation”

Photo by Kevin Roberts

I know it hasn't been very long since the last time I reviewed a Geezër video here; but keep in mind that these guys are close to hitting the century mark, so they work a lot faster than those of us with time to spare. The Geezër guys live quite a busy lifestyle: in-between upgrading their pacemakers, getting fitted for dentures, and early-bird specials at the Golden Corral, it's a wonder that Geezër can find the time to play music—let alone film a music video—but they manage.

Always keeping up with what is cool, Geezër has found a loyal fanbase among the youth of today. Adored by hipsters and idolized by tweens, Geezër's band photos are quickly replacing Justin Bieber posters on adolescent bedroom walls across America. Tapping in to this rise in popularity, Geezër has released two lyric videos, and has now put together their very first live-action video for fans to see.

A most fitting choice for their first music video, the aptly-titled “Geezër Nation” has the band gathering their fans of all ages to join in the fun! Frontman Harvey Geezër shows off his dance moves while grooving with a couple of pint-sized Geezër fanatics; proving he can cut a rug with the best of them. Leonard Geezër and Calvin Sizemore show off their awesome guitars (one of them a very bright neon green), along with a female fan singing the chorus word for word.

For more information on Geezër, visit their official blog.