HardReviews 6
by Martin Popoff

The Freddy Mitchell Euphoria - Animator
(Celestial Rock)

Everything about this guy and his situation reminds me of Frank Marino. First off, Freddy's a committed space-rockin' hippie, creating an exotic amalgam of Trower-esque blues rock mixed with soupy prog, the perfect vehicle for his warbly, close to out of tune vocals. Legendary do-it-yourselfers Poobah also comes to mind, Freddy's appealing jam band ethic helping set a meandering tone, one that counters, or at least makes one surrender to, the somewhat stodgy belaboured rhythms enclosed. Add to that old school keys and synths and a Richie Kotzen funkiness and you have a weird, idealistic indie that is not so greatly produced, but at the heart, defiantly fresh - I mean Sister Ecstasy is almost outsider rock! See www.freddymitchelleuphoria.com for more.
Rating 6.5

Morgana Lefay - Grand Materia
(Black Mark)

Back in fully large dramatic glory, after the debacle of having to shorten their name to Lefay for legal reasons, Evergrey's brothers in progressive stutter-stop slamming also find themselves back on Black Mark. Five years have passed and this band has only gotten grander, here adding to the lyrics a bunch of prose Savatage-style, tackling the story of a 14th century alchemist who discovers the secret of immortality, the main aim of the alchemists (besides scamming for cash) - it's a killer read; pair it up with Bruce's The Chemical Wedding. Sonically, the band have opened up, almost too far, with gutty, gutted bass sounds, lots of loose, half-open high hats, cold, clacky bass drum... check out Hollow for this strange, noisy production plan. It works on the faster numbers, but is a bit fatiguing on the moodier bits, exacerbated by the low, growly guitars reminiscent of mod-tilted Nevermore. Still, you get used to all this, and the separation of such diverse and cerebral parts is a bonus that falls out of it. However, the damn album would be worth the price of admission alone for Charles Rytkonen's Oliva-on-steroids (or stairmaster) vocals, which offer rich, actorly dimension come Only Endless Time Remains, an upscale ballad about the unexpected anguish of living forever.
Rating 8.5