CD Reviews – February 2019

IMAGES OF EDEN – SOULRISE (Pavement Entertainment) York-based musician Gordon Tittsworth founded Images Of Eden two decades ago, and has steadily raised the bar on his musical vision through four full-length albums. The latest, Soulrise, presents a riveting blend of power and progressive metal elements, carrying fast-moving, detailed melodies and lyrical messages of spirituality, hope and survival. The current Images Of Eden cast – Gordon on vocals and rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Carlos Urquidi Perez, keyboardist L. Dean Harris, bassist Eric Mulvaine and drummer Steve Dorssom – generate leviathan metal thunder and dynamic arrangements through the disc’s dozen tracks. Rigid, pulsating rhythms, snarling guitars and rapid fire percussion bursts juxtapose alongside ethereal keyboard and acoustic passages; with Gordon’s soaring, commanding voice, layered vocal choruses and dialogues riding atop it all. The overall sound again recalls the aggressive edges of Queensryche and Fates Warning, but the design and direction of the songwriting is clearly Images Of Eden’s own. Gordon’s lyrics weave a theme of conversations between the mind, soul and a guiding force, building toward an eventual release from the mortal coil. Setting the album’s tone, the explosive “Harvest Day” assures a tortured soul that each day plants the seeds of hope, while “Let Me Die Young” offers encouragement against life’s burdens; and inspired by addiction, “Shield Me” pleads for hope while battling personal demons. The angry and aggressive “Godless” addresses religious hypocrisy, while the gentler key and acoustic-geared “Moonrise” offers rays of hope. Later in the album, the anguished protagonist gets his spiritual house in order with reassurances from the guiding force on such numbers as “All Is Now Forgiven,” ”Waiting for the Sky to Fall” and “And Then There Was One,” before the title track finale “Soulrise” reunites the healed soul with others that have risen before it. The performances are tight, forceful and busy, as all five players execute with machine-like accuracy. Gordon sings his parts with passion and tenacity, investing full soul into his performance. Mixed and mastered by Bill Metoyer and produced by Gordon and Steve, Soulrise sounds rock solid, sharp and balanced, with all elements sounding clear and prominent. Images Of Eden elevates their game to a new level with Soulrise, delivering detailed, hopeful and intelligent metal music. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website,

BRYAN FAZIO – LIKE A GORILLA (no label) Beaver County’s Bryan Fazio is an established percussionist, drumming instructor and published poet, and plays congas and other percussion with Jim Donovan & the Sun King Warriors. His solo album, Like a Gorilla, introduces listeners to a wide and unpredictable variety of sounds through its ten tracks. Bryan blends rock, jazz, funk, progressive, beat poetry and worldbeat flavors into an intriguing, fun set. Singing, speaking, playing percussion, keys and Native American flute; Bryan is assisted along the way by a number of guests, including most of his Sun King Warriors colleagues including Jim Donovan on guitar and vocals, bassist Kent Tonkin, guitarists Kevin McDonald and Dan Murphy, and percussionist Harry Pepper. Also participating are backing singers Melissa Matrazzo and Marcia Liggett, guitarist and singer Jason Dohanich, drummer PJ Roduta, guitarists J. Vega and Mike Moidel, and bassist Bob Megill. With keys and percussion leading the way, the album starts off with the progressive jazz-rock fusion piece “Mellow My Soul,” with Bryan poetically musing about inspiration, anticipation and creativity. The catchy title song “Like a Gorilla” follows a percussive, playful vibe, while “Boogie Woogie Saturday Night’ gearshifts from a nightclub lounge vibe into a rollicking, swinging jam. The punchy “40th Street” captures a Tin Pan Alley-inspired jazz-blues flavor, while the disc-finishing “Your Rhapsody” rides a spiritual-like melody and arrangement. A late 1960s psychedelic rock flavor underscores Bryan’s cosmic-themed spoken word passages on “Can You Feel,” while “Spirit Inside” taps into a dreamy, John Lennon-informed mood. Instrumental numbers punctuate the disc, including “For Pj” with its cyclical piano progression and odd time signature, the bold and energetic “33,” and the tranquil and atmospheric “Opus Song.” The diverse array of musical flavors and angles keeps this album sounding fresh throughout, as Bryan and his cast of collaborators explore musical nooks and crannies along their musical frontier. The performances shine, and the album’s overall sound is crisp, balanced and full. Like A Gorilla provides an invigorating listening adventure, as Bryan Fazio indulges his creative free spirit and follows his muse. (The CD can be obtained through Bryan’s website,

DARKNESS ON THE RADIO – NEW MURDERS, OLD CROWS EP (no label) Rising from the ashes of The Embalmed and 10 Million Devils, Johnstown-based foursome Darkness On The Radio began making their mark on western PA stages in 2014 with their fierce brand of extreme, punk-tinged power metal. Their debut EP, New Murders, Old Crows, demonstrates their ferocity and intensity over five tracks, mixing elements of thrash, power, black metal and punk. Frontman and guitarist Jason Straw, guitarist Jay Snyder, bassist Greg Hatch and drummer Jason “Kirch” Kirchner construct walls of brutal metal sound, with roaring riffs, searing solos, hammering rhythms and in-your-face vocal savagery. Consistent with the group’s name, Darkness On The Radio explores the dark side of the human psyche, especially how evil manifests itself through hatred, corruption and power run amok. As he did with his lyrics in The Embalmed, Jason Straw utilizes wordplays and metaphor to push the brink between good and evil, often establishing crows and snakes as symbols. The opening onslaught and title track, “New Murders, Old Crows” describes evil’s constant presence through mankind’s history, as Jason Straw hisses a warning of the presence of “snakes” among us, and evil raising its head. The rampaging “Judas Take the Wheel” explores how evil gets the upper hand through temptation and greed. The thrash-fest “Sons ov Devilry” establishes malicious strength in numbers, while the agitated “Shallow or Six Feet” warns listeners to be careful where they step. The disc-closer “The Snakes That Walk Like Men (Familia Satanas)” returns to the theme of evil walking among and pushing mankind toward the brink, following a deeper, more-involved arrangement. Darkness On The Radio delivers their material with appropriate firepower and savagery, and their intensity remains constant from start to end. Jason Straw delivers the convincingly sinister, feral and punk-edged snarl to convey his words. The overall production and mix sound thunderous, balanced and jagged, capturing the essence of this band’s energy and allowing their jagged metal edge to rip and tear clearly. New Murders, Old Crows packs a sonic punch to the jaw and provides a forceful introduction to Darkness On The Radio’s evolving brand of metal brutality. (The CD can be obtained through CD Baby and other online digital music retailers.)

BILL FERRELL – VARIOUS NOTES AT VARIOUS INTERVALS (no label) Longtime central PA musician Bill Ferrell has played guitar in several bands over the years, including Kyx and One Less Tear, and released an initial 2006 solo CD, A Biker’s Prayer. Bill now performs acoustically and has honed his fingerstyle guitar-playing talents, which he demonstrates on his latest all-instrumental album, Various Notes at Various Intervals. Through 11 tracks, Bill uses his guitar talents to weave acoustic tapestries that evoke various moods and themes. The songs are all authentic, single stereo track recordings with no layering, which further showcases Bill’s talents and attention to detail. Bill displays quite a variety here; showing a Mexican/Latin flair on “Un Baile Con El Diablo,” evoking steam engine furvor on “Fast Train to Hell,” and dabbling in Native American tribal tones on the catchy “Tomahawk.” Other compositions have local and personal ties; “Smoke Run Blues” is a folksy ode to Bill’s home turf, and the tranquil tones of “Oak Spring Serenade” suggest pleasant wine-tasting music at a local winery where you can see Bill perform. The disc’s final track, “Wendel’s Blues,” is a respectful homage to an area musical contemporary, the late Wendel Hullihen. Bill explores European folk tones with “Velada Romantica,” and fuses together distinctive takes on two gospel canons with “Amazing Grace/Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Bill’s performances are masterful, inspired and smoothly executed. The album sounds clear and full, allowing the depth and artistry of Bill’s guitar tones, skills and eloquent artistry shine through. For fans of skillful acoustic music, Bill Ferrell’s Various Notes at Various Intervals offers a pleasant, relaxing listen. (The album is available digitally on Spotify, iTunes and streaming services.)