MR2 Kickstarter Project (And no, it’s not a Toyota!)

Some of you may be aware that before this colonial life I sang in a band.

Since my departure in 2011 Morpheus Rising have released an album, Let The Sleeper Awake, performed at the Cambridge Rock Festival, undertaken a second UK headline tour and, more recently, supported Panic Room on their 2013 SKIN tour and signed with an American Independent Label. Oh, and they’ve snagged Nigel Durham (ex Saxon/Oliver Dawson Saxon) as their new drummer.

You can hear (and buy) the debut album here:

The lads are now working on the, as yet untitled, follow up to Let The Sleeper Awake. They’ve written some of the material and are now beginning the process of recording, mixing and producing the album with a forecast release of December this year. They’re also planning the tour to support the album.

For those of you involved in the music industry in any way, shape or form I need go no further by way of explanation.

For those of you who aren’t, the process of recording an album and preparing for its release is inordinately expensive (even considering what is achievable in a home/project studio these days). Certain aspects need to be recorded in a ‘proper’ studio, costing 10s to 100s of pounds per hour, then it needs to be mixed and mastered, the CDs have to be manufactured, also costing hundreds, promotion has to be arranged, you don’t want to know how much that costs, and then there’s the touring… Think fuel, food, accommodation, venues, equipment, drinks, and then double your estimate.

Gone are the days of bulging record label wallets opening up for advances and so bands now need to fund this process themselves. This is where sites like Kickstarter come in.

Kickstarter allows artists, designers, developers etc to let people know what they’re planning and to ask them to stump up some cash in advance of receiving the final product. Yes, it requires a little faith, but it also offers special incentives.

This is where Morpheus Rising are just now. They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to allow them to complete their new album.

After just seven days of the project’s 30 day target they have raised over 75% of their goal! This is where it gets tougher… All the friends, family and current fans have seen the adverts about the project, now it’s time to spread the word. I really hope the band reach their goal and release a great follow up to their debut.

You can help make that happen.

Visit their Kickstarter page and pledge your support.

Waking the Giant!

This is not a review. I was involved heavily in the process which led to this album and am therefore likely to be particularly biased, although I like to think I’ve managed to be honest. Think of it as an unofficial press release…

Oh, and I make no excuse for the number of Iron Maiden references and comparisons. I can’t think of anyone else even close!

Let The Sleeper Awake!

On December 9th 2011 a new album will be released. The band is Morpheus Rising (MR) and the album is called Let The Sleeper Awake.

Said album will be the culmination of many years planning, playing, writing and recording for Pete Harwood, lead guitarist and principal writer, whose brainchild the band is. It will also be the achievement of over just over 3 years work for the other members of the band; Damien James Sweeting (lead guitars), Andy Smith (bass guitar) and Paul ‘Gibbo’ Gibbons (drums) and a triumph for the new vocalist Si Wright.

Despite having left the band in May of this year I am still involved behind the scenes and have been lucky enough to be able to listen to the masters for the last few weeks. Here are my thoughts…

The Band

Morpheus Rising were formed in mid 2008. Concentrating on songwriting and building a performance, rather than getting ‘out there’, the first gig was in mid 2009. Since then the band have supported the likes of GUN, Gwyn Ashton, The Reasoning (on their Adverse Camber UK in 2010) and Also Eden. They’ve also played at festivals including a performance at this year’s Cambridge Rock Festival. There are further gigs planned this year, including a support with Panic Room in December, and more to come in 2012.

Throughout this period the band have continued to write new material and build on their reputation for powerful live performances and strong material.

The Moving Parts

Si Wright, Morpheus Rising

First off I need to mention Si. Brought in to replace me as lead vocalist, after I announced my departure, Gibbo found him (on Youtube?) with his other band Burnwylde. Pete, Gibbo and I went to see them play and were in no doubt that he was ideal to fill the slot of lead vocalist/frontman for Morpheus Rising. And this album proves that decision was more than justified.

Si Wright reminds you of a pre-’87 David Coverdale on some tracks and then a Powerslave era Bruce Dickinson on others, there’s also more than a hint of Ozzy in songs such as Fear of Nothing and Quench Your Thirst. That said, this is no mimic, he draws from the varied subject matter on the songs and develops a character for each which pulls the listener in and makes you feel the song.

I can’t explain to you, unless you have been in a similar situation, how relieved I am to be able to write so positively about the vocals on this album. You see, 7 of the songs were penned by myself with Pete writing the music, 1 is a collaboration between Si, myself and Pete and the remaining two are Wright/Harwood compositions. All I can say is, he’s done me proud. In fact, I’ll go one better than that, on two tracks in particular, Si has lifted the songs to what I had envisioned but was never able to achieve myself.

And then there’s the music. MR have always described their music as NWoBHM-TNG, the next generation of British twin guitar rock/metal. This is no idle threat, the driving rhythm section of Andy Smith and Gibbo provide a bedrock for some of the most powerful rock songs I’ve heard from a ‘new’ band in quite some time. And then there’s the guitars…

The best guitar duo since Messrs Smith and Murray. Fact.

Pete Harwood and Daymo Sweeting have produced here a piece of work which Messrs Smith and Murray would be immensely proud. The twin guitar riffs, the harmony parts, the diverse style of solos have not been heard on any album since Maiden’s heyday in the 80s. I kid you not. There’s a quote from a review on the band’s website which reads

I could swear I’m listening to a long lost Powerslave era demo track!

And you can hear why, tracks like Fighting Man, Shades of Grey and the title track Let The Sleeper Awake would be quite at home on any number of iconic NWoBHM albums. Harwood’s knack at producing a riff which sounds at once unique and yet familiar allied with Sweeting’s harmonic solo style (you can easily identify who plays what solo) have resulted in some of the most memorable rock songs I’ve heard.

The Songs

Daylight – The first lyric written by Si Wright for a Morpheus Rising track this song is a statement of intent. Lulling the listener into a false sense of security before, at about a minute in, you get that first snippet of riffage which lets you know what to expect. By the time you reach the first chorus you’re already breathless, this song drives forward with various sections showcasing both Wright’s vocal ability and the Harwood/Sweeting magic. Lift out that middle 8 and put it against any Piece of Mind/Powerslave track and I dare you to find a weakness. And then there’s the solo. Daymo joined MR as his first ‘real’ gigging band, at the time he was technically excellent. This solo shows a melodic ear and technical flair which you will be hard pushed to find anywhere else.

Lord of the North – A firm live favourite, Lord of the North is just HUGE! The song has always been more about size than flair and this version continues that ethos. It’s a behemoth, theres no other word to describe it. Despite the additional backing vocals and harmonies the band have managed to capture some of the life from live performances of this track. It will remain a firm favourite.

Let The Sleeper Awake – Title tracks on rock albums are known for being particularly broad and anthemic in their scope and this is no exception. Building from a layered guitar part over a driving (dare I say Kashmir-esque?) chord progression before dropping back for the verse the song builds again to the chorus and then all hell breaks loose. It’s grandiose in scope, and all the better for it. The second of the tracks written by Harwood/Wright this song bodes well for the future (yes, I’m looking to album 2 already!). It’s full of layered vocals, twin guitar harmonies and perhaps the best Pete Harwood solo on the album.

Fear of Nothing – This song has it all. Soaring vocals, twin guitars, huge riffs, pounding drums, driving bass. And yet, despite all this, I find it hard to ‘like’ the song? I don’t know why, Si’s at his most ‘Ozzy’, drawing the dementia of the lyric out well, the riff is huge (once it gets going), but there is something… missing? Perhaps it’s because it’s between ‘Sleeper’ and…

Shades of Grey – This was one of the last lyrics I wrote in MR. We performed it live once or twice and yet I never considered it finished. No matter how I tried I couldn’t fulfil the potential the song had in my head. What you have here is my vision for this song. This is how it was meant to sound. This, for me, is the highlight of the album. Everything is just… right. The vocals, the guitars (My God! The guitars!) and the rhythm section blend together to provide you with a true rock anthem. This is what Morpheus Rising are all about.

Those Who Watch – This song appeared on the original demo EP, the first single and the live album and yet, certainly in my opinion, the recordings never did the song justice. Lacking a guitar solo this track relies on atmospherics, a driving riff and a twin guitar hook to pull you in. This recording has managed what none before have done and brought the vastness of the alien world to bear on the listener. The additional vocals and harmonies put a finishing touch to what will be the definitive version of this song.

Fighting Man – A #2 single in 2009, this track is how most people will have come to know Morpheus Rising. It’s the epitome of everything Pete hoped to do with the band. It could be considered an homage to Iron Maiden with its twin guitars, harmonies and, let’s not forget, it’s in 12/8! It was the centrepiece of what Pete wanted to achieve. And he did, in 2009. Perhaps I’m still suffering from over exposure to the song, or perhaps it’s just too different from the original version for me, but I struggle to like this song here.

Gypsy King – The live version of this song outsold everything we ever released by about 100 to 1 on streaming sites like Spotify and Napster. I could never understand why. Until I heard it here. Si Wright oozes 1987 era David Coverdale as the song starts over the looping guitar part, in fact the pomp of this version would be well placed on any 1987 onwards Whitesnake album. It’s the most radio friendly song on the album, with one caveat; What pop rock song do you know of that has over 20% of it taken up with a guitar solo? I do not jest! Weighing in at dead on 1 minute, this is one of the top 3 solos on the album and, while perhaps tarnishing that radio friendly sheen, it would be a travesty to change one note.

In The End – I remember reading in the first review of the Original Demos EP that this song appeared to be ‘unfinished’. How dare she! It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s got a stonking twin guitar riff, it’s got soaring vocals… What could be wrong with it? Or at least that’s how I felt at the time. Live this song stands proud and holds its own in any MR set. Unfortunately, here at least, it falls foul of the standard of the other songs it’s stacked up against. As with Fear of Nothing earlier in the album this could be considered, by some at least, as ‘filler’.

Quench Your Thirst – I’ve always liked this song. The riff is immense, the 7/8 chorus is fantastic (and great to watch the moshers at the front trying to head bang to!) and it just… rocks. I never recorded this with MR, although I did perform it live regularly, and I always felt that, despite my loving it, it needed something more. Thanks to Si it now has that something. Adding some additional lyrics, some backing vocals and a menace to the lead part this song has grown beyond all my expectations. One of the strongest songs on the album this is definitely one of those ‘leave them wanting more’ album closers. And boy do I want more!

The Album

Let The Sleeper Awake CD Cover

So, there we have it. 7 great rock tracks, 1 off the boil and 2 which I think are perhaps misplaced. Not bad, eh? So what else?

Fans of Morpheus Rising will notice some glaring omissions in this track listing. Established set openers Save The Day* and Brave New World don’t appear, and neither do Hold On* or the encore These Four Walls. On any normal day I’d question this decision but, at just over 50 minutes, the album is not short and would perhaps suffer from being much longer. Even building a set list is a difficult challenge when you have more songs than time permits, I’d imagine there was more than a little soul searching involved with deciding what would, and would not, make the final cut for the album.

As a debut full length studio album I’d be hard pushed to think of another which has either the scope, the confidence, or the passion of this by any other artist. It’s not perfect, although you might think so from my writing above, but it’s as close as you’re going to get.

I haven’t received a physical copy of the CD yet but I do have a copy of all the artwork, CD, inlay, booklet etc and I can assure you that Dylan Thompson has done the band proud. It looks stunning.

* Buy the album direct from the band and you will receive both Save The Day and Hold On as bonus tracks, free!! So, support the guys and buy it from their site, you can get the CD or the download direct from them, now!

09/12/11 –  As I mentioned, I’ve been able to listen to this album for a few weeks now and, over that time, my opinion of Fear of Nothing has changed… it really does live up to all the sum of its parts!

Sold Down The River… (Don’t buy our single!)

Before this post begins let’s make it very clear that these are the rantings of an extremely disgruntled individual (Me!) and nothing you read below is endorsed by the band, the organisation, the label or any part thereof ;o) [I was going to post this on the band’s blog, but it wouldn’t have been right, or fair, to do so. ]

This story begins way back in the dim, distant and dark past of Morpheus Rising. Back in the days before even the demos had been released and the thoughts of a commercial release were something of schoolboy fantasy and mirrored posturing in the bedroom.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin:

Picture the scene, if you will, of two friends both of whom have suffered loss and, due to their artistic bent, had written music and lyrics to express that loss in the best way they knew how. At the urgings of another friend the decision was made to release the resultant song on an unsuspecting public. The cost of all this was negligible, in fact it cost nothing but the time needed for the vocals to be recorded over the already recorded guitar part and the use of a hand-held video recorder to record the accompanying ‘video‘. There was no pomp or circumstance about the release, just a small ripple caused by word of mouth. There was no physical product, just the option to purchase the download of the track from the Morpheus Rising website.

Within a very short period of time the single had gone viral (well, viral for an unknown band, with an unadvertised single, without a budget) and the video views and website hits were in their thousands… We didn’t sell many copies of the single, but that wasn’t the original point, it was a cathartic process to alleviate the feelings of loss and to allow individuals to feel as if they were contributing in some way.

Fast forward 12 months and a second single was being released. This was a much different affair, there was much to-do about the release, the newspapers, radio and TV became involved and expectations grew…

The band spent time in the recording studio, there were meetings with PR agents, there were TV, radio and newspaper interviews, there was a video shoot. Everyone involved was really positive and those who would normally charge ‘industry standard’ fees for their services either waived them or reduced them significantly.

In theory both of these singles were cut from the same cloth. There was, however, a fundamental difference between the two releases other than the production values. One was done from an altruistic point of view and the other, no matter how noble the intention, had far more expectation attached.

This expectation, no matter how understated, was to be the downfall of the project and it was to fall before it really got to any height at all.

Where did we go wrong? Simple, we looked for commercial success as opposed to financial success. In other words we were hoping for recognition rather than profit. It’s a classic tale of running before you can crawl, let alone walk.

The singles were both released with the hope of raising funds for Armed Forces charities and, in hindsight, that was the only reason for the media interest. None of the interviews focussed on the band or our music, they focussed on the cause, the underlying reason for our getting involved and the personal story behind the release. And so it should be. But without an audience (which you won’t get if the band aren’t known/promoted) the whole endeavour was doomed to failure.

Please understand that I am not belittling any of our achievements, I am a firm believer that we, that is Morpheus Rising, have achieved far more in our two-year existence than we dared hope. I am saying, with a painful honesty, that I believe we (or at least I) got ahead of ourselves. Despite reaching #2 in the Amazon UK CD Single Charts (which, to be honest, is an astounding feat for an unsigned, independent artist with no PR budget or marketing campaign!) the single can only be regarded financially as a failure.

And, after all the above meandering, this brings me to the reason for this post:

Don’t buy the single!

That is to say, don’t buy it from the low down, money grabbing, back stabbing, corporate cnuts called Amazon. Why?

I’ll tell you why. The song cost us thousands of pounds to record, produce and promote, not to mention the money spent on the manufacture and distribution and the production of the supporting video.

And then what happens? We see an opportunity to sell the CD from a reputable online retailer under the auspices of our own label… surely that’s a better option than only selling it from our own site? You would have thought so, wouldn’t you?

We established an account with Amazon UK, set up the single with a price of £1.79 (yes, that’s right, half of the original Amazon price) which meant that we would cover only the manufacturing costs and be able to donate the amount we wanted to the charities involved. So, what did they do? They put it up for £3.79 (or something similar) which, if we’d received an increased share would have been great but, as we didn’t seems a little steep for a charity single, even one which is for a good cause. The result? I’m sure that price had an impact on the number of sales, and what’s happened since has all but killed them!

Earlier this year, with no warning, and no discussion with us, the supplier, Amazon increased the price of the CD single to £4.99! £5 for a bloddy 2 track CD single? Are they mad? Needless to say we haven’t sold one on that site since the price increase, and they were still selling albeit in small numbers.

Do we see any more of that money? No, we still receive only 70% of the original £1.79 we agreed… what can we do? According to the T&Cs, very little. In reality we can withdraw the single from Amazon, point everyone to our own store and sell it from there. Other than that, we can live and learn.

Commercial success is not the same as financial success. To be commercially successful we would need to be functional, and profitable, as an ongoing business, a position which we are some distance from as a band. To be financially successful all we need to do is cover our costs and, if possible, make a profit. If we’d concentrated on the latter (and providing people would have been happy to purchase from our own site) we’d be in the position to donate thousands to the charities and have the funds to tour/record our album.

Or, if Amazon weren’t such greedy b’stards,we’d be in the same position.

As it stands we still haven’t even started to cover our costs.

Ah well, at least we haven’t signed a contract, received an advance and spent it on wine, women and song and still not produced a record ;o)

Slainté,

Grae