album list
Mellow Candle
Melon Diesel
Sara Melson
Maria Mena
Natalie Merchant
Tift Merritt
Neil Merryweather
Metal Church
Thomas Metcalf

Mellow  (France)

Mellow, 'Another Mellow Summer'

Another Mellow Summer  (2000,  42.12)  ***½/TTT½

Shinda Shima
Paris Sous la Neige (single version)
Another Mellow Winter
Sun Dance
Instant Love
Mellow (part 1)

Mellow (part 2)
Lovely Light
Mellow (organic version)
Paris Sous la Neige

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

After some 'Net research, I believe I've finally straightened out the confusion over French electronic duo (who said Air?) Mellow's three albums, '99's Another Mellow Winter, 2000's Another Mellow Summer and 2001's Another Mellow Spring. It seems that Winter was the original French release, Summer was the slightly amended UK one, and Spring was the barely-altered US version, with a further Japanese version with more tracks. Confused? You should be. Unsurprisingly, Another Mellow Summer is the version I've tracked down, making me rather unwilling to shell out for another two or three very similar albums. The general consensus is that they're a low-budget Air, with one member (the rather un-French sounding Patrick Woodcock) actually being ex- of that band.

I'm actually of the opinion that they're more like Air crossed with King Crimson in places; Shinda Shima actually sounds like a rewrite of Epitaph, to be honest. Woodcock's Mellotron use isn't always easy to spot, and it's a moot point as to how real it is, too; 'Tron flutes are the first sound you hear on the album, and they're the overriding sound on Mellow (Part 2), but they're also the easiest to sample. I'm assuming the female choirs on Paris Sous La Neige (Single Version) and Another Mellow Winter are 'Tron, but I could be mistaken, but all the other highlighted tracks have flutes, at greater or lesser volume.

Anyway, a decent enough album, loaded with Fender Rhodes (should that be your thing), actually preferable to Air in some ways (in my humble opinion, of course). Plenty of 'Tron flutes, though I'm not so sure about those choirs. Worth a listen.

See: Samples

Mellow Candle  (Ireland)

Mellow Candle, 'Swaddling Songs'

Swaddling Songs  (1972,  43.13)  ****½/T

Heaven Heath
Sheep Season
Silver Song
The Poet and the Witch
Messenger Birds
Dan the Wing
Reverend Sisters
Break Your Token
Buy or Beware
Vile Excesses
Lonely Man
Boulders on My Grave

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Mellow Candle's sole album is, in its original vinyl form, one of the rarest LPs reviewed on this site; released to apparently zero acclaim in 1972 on Decca (actually Deram), it unbelievably sank without trace, only to become a collector's item in the '90s. Despite hailing from Ireland, the band had a classic female-fronted English folk rock sound, comparable to the harder end of Fairport Convention, or, more aptly, Trees, only slightly better-known than themselves. The material on Swaddling Songs is absolutely fantastic; more electric than acoustic, it compares well with the best the genre has to offer, making its relative obscurity all the more puzzling. I doubt if the album's bizarre sleeve, not to mention sleevenotes to match endeared it to the general public; the extraordinarily fey descriptions of the band members would have read badly in 1967, never mind by the early '70s. However, the music is utterly superb; Silver Song is a truly beautiful ballad, both Heaven Heath and The Poet And The Witch display the band's rockier side to good effect, and Buy Or Beware is particularly recommended.

Vocalist Clodagh Simonds played Mellotron on the title track of labelmates Thin Lizzy's Shades of a Blue Orphanage, and despite only being credited with vocals and piano here, there's a lovely 'Tron flute part on Sheep Season, although I wouldn't buy the album for that alone. However, you shouldn't need to; any folk rock or early '70s progressive fan should own a copy of Swaddling Songs. Absolutely superb. Incidentally, I originally thought the cellos on Silver Song were played via 'Tron, but despite a lack of any suitable credit, I now suspect it's real cello.

Melochrome  (US)

Melochrome, 'The Music We Make'

The Music We Make  (1999,  48.53)  **/T½

See the Sounds
Kissing Spree
A Day After Christmas
All the Jens in the World
Radio Star
Becoming Brighter

Wishing and Waiting
This is Our Year
Bonus Track

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I've seen Melochrome described as 'shoegazer'; is this what 'shoegazer' sounds like? Remind me not to listen to any more (sorry, My Bloody Valentine - I'm sure you're better than this). I've also seen the term 'dream-pop' used, but if that's an efficient way of describing this wishy-washy mélange of poorly harmonised male and female vocals, limp instrumental work and repetitive material, then please, please allow me a deep, dreamless sleep. Honestly, post-punk never sounded so dreary.

Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Pramod Tummala is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, with background Chamby strings (maybe) towards the end of All The Jens In The World and on Becoming Brighter and a nicely upfront (Mellotron?) flute line in Lift, none of which make this dreadful album worth the effort. Please don't buy this. It'll upset me.

Melon Diesel  (Gibraltar)

Melon Diesel, 'Real'

Real  (2002,  64.24)  *½/½

It's Only You
Live, Live, Live
Can I Follow?
You're Chocolate
How Do You Feel?
What's it Gonna Be?
All That You Want
Daddy's Love
Love the Great
The Thought I Feared the Most
Niña del Sur
Al Otro Lado
Tal Vez
Naúfrago en el Peñón
Dime por Qué

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Melon Diesel (named for a cocktail, I believe) have to be almost unique in coming from the minuscule Gibraltar, surely one of the weirdest places on God's good Earth. Unsurprisingly, they're often quoted as being Spanish, although their third (and last) album, 2003's Real, is clearly sung by a native English-speaker, although I'm sure, like everyone else on that tiny strip of land, they're fully bilingual. Sad to say, it's absolute crap; that kind of mainstream guitar pop that clogs up our airwaves and finds its way onto bad TV programmes. There are no best tracks, the handful of Spanish-language remakes added to the end, resulting in the album's ridiculously extended length, only add to the misery.

Danilo Ballo plays Mellotron, with background strings on All That You Want and its Spanish version, Naúfrago En El Peñón, assuming it's actually real. This is the kind of fluff that's tailor-made for vapid teenagers to play out their lives to, rather than for anyone who actually likes music. Absolutely awful, with one half-arsed 'Tron track. Just say no.

Official site

Sara Melson  (US)

Sara Melson, 'Dirty Mind'

Dirty Mind  (2008,  40.57)  **½/T

Feel it Coming
Anywhere Anytime
Never Been Hurt
Hard Pressed
Dirty Mind
Turquoise Sky
Rise Up
Fall Down
Don't You Wanna Know
Happy Endings
Nuclear Sun
Birthday Prayer
Turquoise Sky (acoustic)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Sara Melson is another modern singer-songwriter with a country edge, tailor-made for Starbucks; her debut album, 2008's Dirty Mind, is a pleasant enough effort, though rather unengaging, better tracks including Hard Pressed and Rise Up, although we're hardly talking 'classic' here. A bit harsh? Maybe, but there's so much of this stuff around that reviewer objectivity goes out of the window.

Mellotron from Joe Cassidy and Scott Seiver, with a strong string part on Turquoise Sky, a lesser one on Nuclear Sun and what appears to be a reiteration of the earlier part on closer Turquoise Sky (Acoustic). Overall, harmless but boring, sounding like a million others, with minor 'Tron use. Next...

Official site

Memo  (Germany)

Memo, 'Captain Thunder'

Captain Thunder  (1978,  42.11)  ***/TTTT

Cosmic Lady

Window Games
Gone to Another
Wake Up My Son
Captain Thunder
Tell Me You Love Me

Happy Song
Blind Man
The Latest Thunder
Memo, 'You're the Music (in My Life)' 7"  (1980)  *½/TT½

You're the Music (in My Life)
Piano Bar

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Birotron (?) used:

I can't tell you much about (Kurt) Memo; the only album I can trace is 1978's Captain Thunder, whose title and sleeve make it look like it might be slightly more interesting than it actually is. What we get is a truly solo album of English-language German soft rock with a progressive edge, not unlike contemporaneous BJH, diversions including Window Games, Happy Song and closer The Latest Thunder, all cheesy pieces of Clavinet-and-Moog funk. Although much of this album is ridiculous and despite Memo's thin, wispy vocals, I can't help smiling at some of it, its musical conceits way ahead of Memo's actual writing ability. Memo plays 'Mellotrome' (there's a new one) himself, with strings on all highlighted tracks above, plus flutes on the title track and Tell Me You Love Me, background choirs on opener Cosmic Lady and flutes and well-arranged choirs on Gone To Another and The Latest Thunder.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't heard Memo's 1980 single, You're The Music (In My Life), but its flip, Piano Bar, is a fantastically cheesy effort, not entirely unlike 10cc's I'm Not In Love, although not even remotely as good. The effect is exacerbated by the track's tape-replay work, with a Mellotron flute line and what are rumoured to be Birotron choirs, sounding a lot like 10cc's multitrack flummery from a few years earlier. Is it any good? No, it's awful, but interesting to hear the rare-as-rocking-horse-shit Birotron, assuming we actually are.

Captain Thunder is easily available on download blogs, although I can't imagine whom, exactly, might reissue this in the near future (or at all), as it falls between too many stools. The Garden of Delights will surely turn their collective noses up at its cheesy, soft-progness and Musea certainly won't be interested. So; a German Barclay James clone with loads of Mellotron. Yes, I have actually heard much, much worse. Unbelievably, in its own way, worth hearing.

Memorials  (US)  see: Samples

Maria Mena  (Norway)

Maria Mena, 'Mellow'

Mellow  (2004,  39.59)  **/½

What's Another Day
Just a Little Bit
You're the Only One
Come in Over Me
Take You With Me
Lose Control
So Sweet
Your Glasses
A Few Small Bruises

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

What kind of person names their children after characters from West Side Story, especially when they're Norwegian? Maria (and Tony) Mena's parents, that's who. In fairness, their Nicaraguan musician dad paid for Maria' first demos in her early teens, although, to counteract that, they were probably awful. Going by her third album, 2004's Mellow, they would've been slushy, mainstream pop/rock of the kind used in crummy TV shows. Hey, guess what? She's had two songs used on something called So You Think You Can Dance. What a surprise. Anyway, this album is complete slop, avoid at all costs.

Arvid Solvang plays Mellotron with an uncredited flute part on Just A Little Bit and credited flutes on Come In Over Me (though only just), although whatever's used on So Sweet is effectively inaudible. Maybe it's a mis-credit? Anyway, a cheesy, mainstream piece of guff that you really don't need to hear, in case you hadn't already got the message.

Official site

Mendelson  (France)

Mendelson, 'Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous'

Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous  (2007,  89.57)  **½/T½

Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous #2
Une Chambre d'Hôtel
Le Sens Commun
J'Aime Pas les Gens
Sans Moi
1983 (Barbara)
Dans Tes Rêves
Joyeux Noël Jackie
La Honte
Plusieurs Jours et Plusieurs Nuits
Le Monde Disparaît

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

How the hell do I describe Mendelson's Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous? Talking blues electronica? Idiot savant post-metal? I believe the ninety-minute, two disc set is their fourth album, a sprawling, eclectic collection that shifts genre track-by-track, the whole held together by Pascal Bouaziz' essentially spoken vocals, despite the stylistic incongruities. Despite the range of styles the duo attack, it's difficult to pick out any one track for praise, although the longer material (three tracks hover around the ten-minute mark) tends to stand out slightly.

Nicolas Becker and Charlie O play Mellotron, with distant choirs on the final track on disc one, the lengthy 1983 (Barbara), echoed flutes on Micro-Coupures and a major string part towards the end of equally lengthy closer Le Monde Disparaît, sounding wobbly enough to be genuine. This might get another half star were it more cohesive; long albums are fine when they sidestep boredom, but too much of this is inessential. Three reasonable Mellotron tracks, assuming it's real.

Official site

Natalie Merchant  (US)

Natalie Merchant, 'Motherland'

Motherland  (2001,  57.38)  **/T½

This House is on Fire
Saint Judas
Put the Law on You
Build a Levee
Golden Boy

Henry Darger
The Worst Thing
Tell Yourself
Just Can't Last
Not in This Life
I'm Not Gonna Beg

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Since Natalie Merchant left 10,000 Maniacs, in 1993, she's released four solo albums, 2001's Motherland being the third. I can't comment on the others, but Motherland is a rather faceless effort, to be honest; a typical professional couple's dinner party album, if you like (which I don't). It's harmless enough, I suppose, but isn't going to appeal to anyone who likes a bit of grit in their music, and the material isn't good enough to grab lovers of great songs, although I believe the album did well enough upon its release. If you're after a best track, opener This House Is On Fire's Middle Eastern strings life it above the rest of the album. Always open with your best track, they say... Incidentally, don't blame the sleeve on Merchant; she wanted something slightly controversial involving children and gasmasks, then September 11th happened, giving her record company carte blanche to change it to something boring, none of which excuses that awful orange.

Elizabeth Steen plays Mellotron, amongst other keyboards, while Patrick Warren does his usual Chamberlin thing. It's hard to say for sure, but I suspect it's Warren's Chamby string surges on Build A Levee and Not In This Life, with Steen's Mellotron flutes on Golden Boy, and while it's all welcome, none of it really lifts the material in any meaningful way. So; bland, slightly rootsy singer-songwriter fare. Whoopee. This album's only real strong points are its opening track and tape-replay use, neither of which makes it worth a purchase to my regular readers (I believe I have some). Tedious.

Mercury Rev  (US)  see: Samples

Tift Merritt  (US)

Tift Merritt, 'Bramble Rose'

Bramble Rose  (2002,  52.37)  ***/½

Trouble Over Me
Virginia, No One Can Warn You
Bird of Freedom
Bramble Rose
I Know Him Too
Supposed to Make You Happy
Diamond Shoes
Are You Still in Love With Me?
When I Cross Over
Tift Merritt, 'Tambourine'

Tambourine  (2004,  46.00)  ***/T½

Stray Paper
Wait it Out
Good Hearted Man
Ain't Looking Closely
Still Pretending
Write My Ticket

Your Love Made a U Turn
Plainest Thing
Late Night Pilgrim
I Am Your Tambourine
Laid a Highway
Shadow in the Way
Tift Merritt, 'Another Country'

Another Country  (2008,  41.57)  **½/T

Something to Me
Another Country
Hopes Too High
Morning is My Destination
Keep You Happy
I Know What I'm Looking for Now
Tell Me Something True
My Heart is Free
Tender Branch
Mille Tendresses

Current availability:

Chamberlins used:

Tift Merritt's career began in the late '90s, her first album, Bramble Rose, appearing in 2002. It's at the 'country' end of 'alt.country', with a little too much pedal steel for comfort, although the songwriting's good, steering clear of many of the genre's clichés. Opener Trouble Over Me and closer When I Cross Over might just be the album's best tracks, especially the occasional Neil Youngisms on the latter, although Supposed To Make You Happy probably beats them on the lyrical front. Unfortunately, fifty minutes of this is more than the non-country fan is likely to be able to bear; it's a shame there isn't a little more stylistic variety on the record, but most of its tracks, taken in isolation, are fine. Credited Chamberlin from Ethan Johns on two songs, with low strings on Neighborhood, but nothing especially audible on the title track, despite its sparse arrangement.

Two years later, Merritt followed-up with Tambourine, an album on the other side of the rock/country balance, making it rather more listenable for those allergic to pedal steels, with a somewhat Stones-ish vibe about some of the rockier tracks. Again, album opener Stray Paper is one of its best songs (always a good sequencing move, that), although nothing else particularly stand out, to be honest. Chamberlin from good old Patrick Warren, with background strings on Stray Paper and more upfront ones on Ain't Looking Closely, Still Pretending and Write My Ticket, assuming none of the strings are real.

There was a four-year gap before Merritt's next record, 2008's Another Country (presumably not a pun); unfortunately, her schtick has become a little tired, most of its material falling into the 'generic country' trap, although better tracks include opener Something To Me and the '60s soul-esque Tell Me Something True. Warren on Chamby again, with flutes and strings on the title track and Keep You Happy, so despite the instrument's legendary ability to hide in a mix, that would appear to be it.

Merritt's a modern country-rock artist who shifts between the two opposing sides of her musical personality, making her material more or less palatable for her listeners, depending on their taste. The first two of these albums are perfectly good (I'm not quite so sure about the third), which isn't to say you're necessarily going to like them. Next to no Chamberlin on the former and a bit on the latter two makes none of them really worth getting on those grounds alone.

Official site

Neil Merryweather  (Canada)

Neil Merryweather, 'Space Rangers'

Space Rangers  (1974,  43.04)  ***/TTTTT

Hollywood Blvd.
Step in the Right Direction

Eight Miles High
King of Mars
Neon Man
Sunshine Superman
Road to Hades
High Altitude Hide'n'Seek
Sole Survivor
Neil Merryweather, 'Kryptonite'

Kryptonite  (1975,  37.11/67.34)  ***/TTT½

Star Rider
Always Be You
Give it Everything We Got
The Groove

Real Life Love
You Know Where I'd Rather Be
Let Us Be the Dawn
[CD adds:
Aren't You Glad That You Know
City Boy
Dust My Blues
Flat Black
You Must Live it
Your Real Good Thing
Local 149/Are You Ready]

Current availability:

Chamberlins used:

I believe Neil Merryweather was a Canadian who migrated to Chicago fairly early on, hanging around for a decade or more, releasing several albums in the process, but never really breaking through. After a two-album detour into Mama Lion in the early '70s (Mellotron/Chamberlin use unknown), Merryweather went back to his solo career with Space Rangers in 1974. Now this is what I call a Mellotron album! Except that it's a Chamberlin. For those not in the know, the Chamberlin was the Mellotron's direct precursor, and was still in production in one form or another up to around 1980. Merryweather got a guy known enigmatically as 'Edgemont' (which I've seen written as 'Ed Gemont'...) to play one on every track on it bar their cover of the Byrds' drug anthem Eight Miles High, mostly to great effect. For some strange reason, Chamberlins tend to 'disappear in the mix' far more than Mellotrons, and are often hard to discern. Not this one; for most of the album it's really 'in your face', to the point where I'd recommend this as a Chamberlin demonstration record. Not just the expected strings (apparently identical to the Mellotron's), but choirs, sound effects etc. Sole Survivor even ends with a lonely trumpet melody (which I should probably recognise, but don't), complete with pitch-bend.

So, er, what about the music, anyway? Well, it's sort of mid-'70s transatlantic hard rock with bits of prog, funk and other stuff thrown in. Bit of a mish-mash, to be honest, but not a bad listen, more for the Chamberlin overkill than anything else, really. On the cover version front, there's also their take on Donovan's seminal (it says here) Sunshine Superman, although it's almost unrecognisable. Overall, the vocals are a bit rough, but there's some decent enough guitar playing; er, bit of a three-star effort, basically. Saying that, if you want full-on Chamberlin, buy now.

A year or two back, I stated: "Interestingly, the music for Road To Hades appears to have been ripped off hook, line and sinker by Canadian band Symphonic Slam on their sole self-titled album from two years later, retitled Universe, unless there's an untold story here? There doesn't appear to be any connection between the two outfits, unless you know better (thanks to the estimable Joe Ellis for spotting that one - hi, Joe)." There certainly is an untold story... I've just been written to by Symphonic Slam's Timo Laine himself, who tells me that he didn't rip off Merryweather - Merryweather ripped him off, and the rest of his band. Laine wrote nearly all the material on the album, but had his writing credits stolen, making him feel more than justified in re-recording his own work! Apologies to all concerned for my inadvertent faux pas, but the story's hardly common currency... Let's hope this mention (and the one I've added to the Symphonic Slam review) help to set the record straight. Oh, and all the names on the album were changed: 'Michael "Jeep" Willis' is Laine, and the mysterious 'Edgemont' is actually keyboard player Bob Silvert.

Merryweather followed-up with Kryptonite, with a similar comic-art sleeve, and a more straightforward hard rock agenda, losing most of Space Rangers' disparate influences. More Chamberlin, from James Herndon this time; Star Rider has one of the most upfront parts on the album, along with the proggiest track, closer Let Us Be The Dawn, which is swamped in Chamby strings. I've highlighted the opening title track, although it sounds more like synth strings to me; very hard to tell, to be honest. The album's probably less appealing than its predecessor, but still worth hearing for its string-replay work. The CD adds the entire contents of Merryweather's Neil Merryweather, John Richardson & Boers album from around '69, although I'm not sure they should've bothered. It's a pretty tedious blues/rock workout, although, paradoxically, the best track on this otherwise dull set is the near-eleven minute jammed-out closer Local 149/Are You Ready, which at least has some energy about it, despite the lengthy and unnecessary drum solo.

So; two so-so albums, but loads of Chamberlin all round. Your choice.

Official site

See: Symphonic Slam

Message  (Germany)

Message, 'The Dawn Anew is Comin''

The Dawn Anew is Comin'  (1972,  34.00)  ***½/T½

The Dawn Anew is Coming
Evil Faith and Charity
Heaven Knows
When I'm Home
Message, 'From Books & Dreams'

From Books & Dreams  (1973,  41.11)  ***½/½

Dreams and Nightmares (Dreams)
Turn Over!
Dreams and Nightmares (Nightmares) Introducing the Myth (including) The Unpleasant Spell

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Despite the broken English of Message's first album title, the band were actually three-fifths British, with only the rhythm section being German. They've been compared with Nektar in some quarters, although the latter group were all English ex-pats, never having a German member pass through their ranks. Message were less 'prog' than Nektar, never having a keyboard player, although both bands had similar psychedelic/hard rock roots.

Apart from the vocals, The Dawn Anew is Comin' sounds pretty Germanic to my ears, like a Teutonic Uriah Heep, maybe; the material's reasonably good, but you can see why they never broke out of their adopted country, lacking the originality that the international scene demanded. By 1972, British and American hard rock had completely moved on from its psych roots, leaving many bands in both countries adrift without a rudder, although it seems that bands in other territories survived by being the best the local scenes had to offer. This sounds like I'm slating the album and/or the German rock scene; I'm not. It's just rather apparent that this would have sold very few copies indeed in the more aggressive UK/US markets. Anyway, Nektar's "Taff" Freeman played Mellotron strings on the two longer numbers on side two, Heaven Knows and When I'm Home, although his use is somewhat less than overt.

The following year's From Books and Dreams appears to be some sort of concept album on the subject of sleep, with the tracks running into each other (excepting the 'side gap', of course, with the amusing Turn Over being an exhortation to do precisely that). After the brief Sleep!, we're off and running with the lengthy Dreams And Nightmares (Dreams) and it's immediately obvious that Message had tightened their act up considerably since recording their debut. The jamming is more focussed, even if the songs are no more memorable, making for a slightly better album than its predecessor. Mellotron from vocalist/saxophonist Tommy McGuigan this time round, although all I can hear is a couple of chords (literally) in the first part of the Dreams And Nightmares (Nightmares) sequence that ends the album.

The band took two years to come up with their eponymous third album (***), having switched to a more straightforward sound in the interim, although '76's Synapse (***½) was more interesting, as they took a sideways step into jazzier territory. From '77's Using the Head (**½) (toilet humour - who needs it?) on, though, they sunk into a form of tedious mainstream pop/rock, of little interest to all but the most obsessive collector. So; both the above albums are worth hearing if you're into that German jamming thing, but neither is exactly a Mellotron Classic, to be honest. File under 'reasonable'.

Messenger  (UK)

Messenger, 'Illusory Blues'

Illusory Blues  (2014,  45.30)  ***½/T½

The Return
Piscean Tide
Dear Departure
Perpetual Glow of a Setting Sun
Let the Light in

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Messenger are the London-based trio of Barnaby Maddick, Khaled Lowe and my old pal Jaime Gomez Arellano, owner of Orgone Studios, current keepers of the Planet Mellotron Hammond. Their debut, 2014's Illusory Blues, has been lazily labelled 'prog', although a better description might be along the lines of 'psychedelic indie folk rock', not least due to the dreamy atmosphere conjured up on several tracks. Highlights? The lengthy Midnight moulds their disparate influences into a more cohesive whole than most of the album's contents, not to mention the interesting production tricks used on the track, while Somniloquist (the single) rocks out, at least lightly, although Dear Departure (for example) veers too close to that post-rock/indie crossover thing for its own good.

The band hired my M400 (my Hammond is, unsurprisingly, all over the record), using the Mellotron on a definite pair of tracks, with mournful flute swells on opener The Return and a strident string part and chordal flutes in the second half of Midnight, although the strings on Somniloquist sound real. So; a confident debut, of the kind that will most likely grow on the discerning listener given enough plays, although probably not quite enough Mellotron to be worth it for that alone.


Metal Church  (US)

Metal Church, 'Masterpeace'

Masterpeace  (1999,  53.59)  ***/TTT

Sleeps With Thunder
Into Dust
Kiss for the Dead

Lb. of Cure
Faster Than Life
All Your Sorrows
They Signed in Blood
Toys in the Attic
Sand Kings
Metal Church, 'This Present Wasteland'

This Present Wasteland  (2008,  57.11)  ***/T

The Company of Sorrow
The Perfect Crime
Deeds of a Dead Soul
Meet Your Maker
Crawling to Extinction
A War Never Won
Mass Hysteria
Breathe Again

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Metal Church are usually labelled as a thrash band, despite pre-dating the genre by a couple of years; aficionados would probably stick them in the 'power/speed metal' category, meaning they sound a bit like '80s Judas Priest crossed with Metallica, assuming you can tell the difference (and yes, I can. Just). 1999's Masterpeace is their sixth album; while it has its moments (They Signed In Blood's relative complexity, the short, inventive acoustic duet of the title track, a passable cover of Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic), much of the album cuts the thud'n'blunder mob far too close for comfort. Guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof (Vanderhoof, Presto Ballet) plays real-sounding Mellotron, with a cranky-sounding string part on Falldown and a more straightforward one on Into Dust, until it goes off-piste at the end of the song. Kiss For The Dead is the standard acoustic-into-heavy number, with a melodic string part, while They Signed In Blood gets the choirs out, along with the strings, all rather surprisingly.

Nearly a decade later, 2008's This Present Wasteland isn't markedly different to its predecessor, better tracks including the slower Deeds Of A Dead Soul and A War Never Won, but it's mostly pretty generic, Priest-like stuff, frankly. Vanderhoof plays definite Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with choirs opening and throughout Deeds Of A Dead Soul and strings in closer Congregation's quiet middle section, although a couple of other possible sightings will have to remain just that.

So; a pair of somewhat so-so 'epic metal' efforts, but nice Mellotron use, particularly on Masterpeace.

Official site

See: Vanderhoof | Presto Ballet

Metaphor  (US)  see: Samples

Thomas Metcalf  (US)

Thomas Metcalf, 'One'

One  (1989,  43.08)  ***½/½


Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I can tell you very little about Thomas Metcalf, other than that he is (or was) an American electronic musician and released what may have been his lone solo album, One, in 1989. I have to say, it's refreshing to hear someone using synths and samplers without trying to ape Tangerine Dream, just for once; Metcalf takes a far more contemporary (for the late '80s) stance, far nearer the avant-garde than any Berlin School artist you might care to name. Unsurprisingly, The Art of Noise are quoted as an influence, to which I'd add pretty much all of Trevor Horn's iconic production work for ZTT earlier in the decade. How to describe this... Metallic percussion samples vie with atonal drones, while the synths veer between gloomy bass notes, slippery portamento and tinkly chimes, synthetic choirs providing a backdrop for the occasional more 'standard' synth melody line. Metcalf is as inventive with his sampler as most modern practitioners are lazy; spot the tiny snippet of Psycho strings in C. Incidentally, for those of you (like me) who might think that his track naming refers to key signatures, every track seems, quite deliberately, to be in any key but.

It seems that Metcalf had access to a real, functioning Mellotron in those dark days for the instrument, although some of his use on the album sounds more like early Mellotron sample manipulation than an actual instrument. Either way, we get an outrageously choppy choir part on D and choir swells and pitchbends on A, although all other choir parts sound like the era's synth+sampler factory patches. I don't know if this is even available any more, but for those of you into the more electronic side of things who may go mad if they hear ONE MORE burbling sequencer line, this may just be your new favourite record.

Method  (UK)

Method, 'Method'

Method  (1976,  29.56)  **/½

So Excited
Yorkshire Lad
Someone to Love
Don't Leave Me Baby
Run Run Run
Passing Strangers
Lonely Eyes
Sometimes You Win
Ask No Questions

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

After 'discovering' 10cc, who were quite capable of 'discovering' themselves, to be honest, the oily Jonathan King and his third-rate UK label were unstoppable, releasing a stream of tedium in the hope of breaking through with the 'next big thing'. As soon as you see a sleevenote on the back of an album written by some third-party exec, you know you're in for a rough ride, with the glaring exception of the first Boston album (no, really). Method is no exception to the rule, with King's hyperbolic rant including such phrases as 'a remarkable bunch of musicians', 'incredible professionalism', 'rekindling the tang of jaded taste buds' (?!) and worst of all, 'combination of heavy sounds and sweet melody'. HEAVY SOUNDS?? For fuck's sake, King, is that the best you could come up with? To be fair to the band, I'm sure they were a decent enough bunch of blokes, but their music was anodyne, faceless '70s pop/rock with little genuine hit potential, although they weren't quite as bad (or commercial) as, say, Liverpool Express.

Guitarist John Hughes doubled on piano and Mellotron, with one credited track, Don't Leave Me Baby (which, to be fair, features a nice little guitar hook). To be honest, it doesn't sound an awful lot like a Mellotron, though it's so far down in the mix, it's rather hard to tell. Is it a Mellotron? Is it a string synth? Dunno, but it's a pretty dull part, whatever it is. So; pretty awful album, no Mellotron. Avoid.

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