Purson – The Circle and the Blue Door

70′s psychedelic revival music is a thing that exists and most of it is awesome (some of it is recorded on a my first tape recorder from the 80′s it sounds like garbage, yuck) the production value of this album is top notch. I like 70′s rock, I listened to a lot of my parents records growing up and still have most of them. So this very familiar but also kind of fresh in a way. The band I look at here is Purson, hailing from London, England fronted and founded by Rosalie Cunningham who is much younger than you might guess listening to her voice and what comes from her soul. I love ladies with sultry voices and she hits all the right buttons. This is one hell of a good band and their debut album really gives me hope for any future work they do there is so much potential for very memorable music and maybe concert tours.

The album feels like it is telling me a story but I have yet to really decipher it. (I was never good at looking for deeper meaning) I tend to only write about albums that I can listen to the entire thing in one sitting and this is not different. It actually feels like you are missing something if you just listen to one song and nothing else.

It is obvious they were influenced by many 70′s bands but pretending I could pick out and name more than a few isn’t gonna happen but there is one track “Tempest and the Tide” that reminds me of Steel Eye Span and something I can’t put my finger on but will edit in later as if I knew when I wrote this. I even hear a bit of the really proggy era Genesis which is always welcome. It is fun to sit and try to remember what song of yesteryear you are being constantly reminded of also annoying that you brain doesn’t work so well anymore. That doesn’t mean this is not unique in its own right make no mistake about that.

I don’t have much to say about this album other than go check it out usually i will break down my favorite songs but this time I implore you to listen if anything I said resonates with you. Purson made this album feel like a story and it takes you to another time and place. It deserves a chance and I don’t regret giving it one.

After looking at their soundcloud which I will link below there is a song called Let Bloom and yes please. It isn’t on the LP reviewed but it is certainly now in my heart I love this kind of music.

Colin

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Coroner – Mental Vortex

Now I’ve already done a review for Overkill’s Horrorscope that came out roughly the same time as this one.
However Coroner is a totally different brand of thrash than what most people are accommodated to.
They blend a lot of progressive elements into their music which in itself is not alien to thrash metal given the level of musicianship sometimes present in bands of the 1980’s thrash movement, but they most certainly manage to convey it in an original way that stands them apart from just about everyone else.
Coroner are probably the least recognized as far as pure, raw talent is concerned in the genre which continues to disgust me to no end, and giving this album a listen might clue at least some of you into just why that is.

A three-piece from Zurich, Switzerland and former roadies of Celtic Frost, Coroner first emerged with their album R.I.P which is a pretty straight forward thrash album with a heavy neo-classical influence which was directly expanded upon in their following album Punishment for Decadence that also happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
The guitar work of Tommy T. Baron (Thomas Vetterli), and bass lines of Ron Royer (Ron Broder) had already been showcased in both albums, putting them in terms of musicianship up, in my opinion, with the all the guys commonly referred to as being the best in their respective craft, their third album No More Colour saw them step away from the near constant 4/4 time signatures that dominated their first two albums, but for the most part continued with the thrash style of the first two albums but in the case of No More Colour with a more blues influenced style of songwriting.
These more abstract time signatures and tonal progressions were more heavily explored in Mental Vortex (minus the blues influence of No More Colour) at a time when bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament were gravitating towards a more radio friendly and stripped down approach to their music, bands like Coroner and Kreator (in which Vetterli was later a member of in both the Outcast and Endorama albums) were not particularly concerned with being commercially viable, but more with following their own musical exploration.

Coroner in particular followed a natural progression of the band’s sound, and unlike the aforementioned thrash contemporaries never encountered a want or a need to change their lineup.
The trio’s formula remained very much intact but progressed naturally with the influences and stylism of each respective member at the time the albums were written.
With Mental Vortex there was all of the elements of thrash metal which they were known for by their fans, but at the same time they had slowed down their breakneck pace even more so than on the previous No More Colour, and recovered a greater sense of melodicism, and the aggression of their first two releases.
The final product was a varied and distinctive blend of musicianship and abrasive tonal and atonal riffs ranging from a steady 4/4 to more uncommon time signatures formulated into almost hypnotic grooves.
Vetterli shows in my mind beyond a shadow of a doubt in his performance on the album that he is the single most underrated guitarist in thrash metal, and Broder with his ever-present and evident solidifying bass playing that he too should be right up in the metal pantheon of the era.

How this band is consistently ignored is absolutely beyond me and Mental Vortex in particular epitomizes why that fact is an absolute crime.
While I’m not one of their fans who are put off by the more industrial sounding follow up Grin, to me they had managed showcase why the band is so absolutely fantastic both musically and lyrically with the release of Mental Vortex.

Some songs to check out from the album include the album’s first track (And a favorite of the band) Divine Step, a seven minute ass kicker ranging from a choppy tonal/atonal groove to fast paced triplet driven shreddery.
My own personal favorite is the third track Semtex Revolution that to me personally bridges the gap between their early albums R.I.P. and Punishment for Decadence, and the experimentation’s of No More Colour that they at this point had absolutely nailed.
Tommy Vetterli’s leads in both tracks are certainly nothing any self-respecting guitarists could turn their nose up at.

Again, check it out, and get down with some criminally over looked badassery.

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Sting – The Soul Cages

Like I said before I lost my password and went AWOL for a while, a curve ball.

Say what you’d like about the man himself, but in my mind Sting is brilliant, and I can honestly say without hesitation is my favorite song writer due to his diversity not only musically but thematically.
From medieval poetry put to music to a transvestite prostitute saying “don’t judge me, you could be me.” From Jazz to Country, and Dance music.

This particular review is about likely my favorite album from Sting, written about a boy named Billy from Newcastle, largely drawing parallels to himself and his own strained relationship with his father.
The Soul Cages like it’s predecessor …Nothing Like The Sun was written in a kind of self reflection following the death of a parent.
…Nothing Like the Sun was largely written about Sting’s relationships with the women in his life following the death of his mother, and was a largely moving and overall well written album.
The Soul Cages in my opinion was not only written during a period of reflection, but self realization and understanding as well as being a period of finding peace with his recently departed father whom he had struggled to communicate with throughout his life, and even into his fame with The Police, and his early solo albums.
After a somewhat alien bout with writers block, Sting wrote “Why Should I Cry For You” which is arguably one of my favorite songs.
It deals directly with the closed, distant and often hidden mutual affection, as well as a kind of resentment that was borne from that difficult relationship.
I also feel that he is more or less acknowledging the similarity between his father and himself, and perhaps reflecting on his own relationship with his children.
Following his triumph over the slump he wrote a series of songs ultimately to a theme of a young man from Newcastle, the son of a shipbuilder who had injured and died as a result of an accident on the job.
He outlines early on the kind of hopelessness he saw in the community and the dreams of both father and son that seemed and were likely ultimately doomed.
Billy eventually ends up on something of a supernatural odyssey to save and redeem his fathers soul, and in the process comes to understand himself, and gain a kind of peace with his father.

Musically while there is a large array of musical variance it is not quite as diverse as his following releases Ten Summoners Tales or Brand New Day, but is consistently good, and quite honestly does not have a weak track in the slightest.
It ranges from slow and somber storytelling, to soft but energetic rock, to somewhat jazzy but not quite to the same extent of some of his earlier work where he had a full ensemble of seasoned jazz musicians playing alongside of him.
Another thing to note is some of the hidden complexity of the music itself, particularly in the rhythm section which became a more reoccurring and more apparent feature in his music in the aforementioned following albums.
Lyrically if you can’t appreciate the quality of the storytelling or the cleaver wordage and presentation I’ve got to say I pity you a little.
There is plenty of humor, metaphorical play, and emotionality, but always presented tastefully, and almost awe-inspiring in terms of quality.

To anybody who appreciates a bit of diversity beyond metal and appreciates a bit of progressiveness without veering into virtuosity and likes a good bit of songwriting, check it out.
You might like it a lot more than you think.

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Dream Theater – Dream Theater

Well I have been a DT fan since 2000 when I first heard their music in the US release of The History of Trunks which featured most of Metropolis 2 : Scenes from a Memory. It is still one of my favorite prog rock albums of all time but my love affair with Dream Theater has slid into a less happy place since the years after they released Octavarium, which I think was their best album. After that the sound got heavier and you could almost feel the bands synergy breaking apart. It felt like Mike Portnoy was pushing the band in a direction they didn’t want to go and when the opportunity came they went on without him. I appreciate Portnoy for his talents as a drummer and the music he and the other members of DT created for 20+ years but as they say “all good things must come to an end.”

Now DT has Mike Mangini drumming and while I enjoyed the previous album with Mangini drumming but I found I didn’t really go back to it, much like the last two releases with Portnoy. There are some good tracks here and there but it feels like something is missing from each of the last 4 albums and this newest release is no different. I will say the songs I like are really good but the rest of the album feels like a bunch of boring b-sides. I need a more complete experience. Maybe I am being picky, but I don’t feel I could get anyone to listen to this album if they weren’t already a DT fan even then I doubt the reception would be any warmer.
Now I mentioned there are some songs I like. Well this part is what made listening to this album hardest for me. Tracks one and two are among the best stuff I have heard from DT in many years.

The First “False Awakening Suite” is an instrumental that could rank with the best boss music in video game history. Can’t say much else but go listen it is pretty awesome.

#2 “The Enemy Inside” another great song. I get to this point and neither realize it is no longer Portnoy playing, Mangini is a boss for sure. I am also thinking holy shit this is the DT I once loved. Jordan Rudess fucking murders everyone’s mom with his fingers on this track too god them keys are legit.

#3 “The Looking Glass” ugg fucking shoot me now or give me uppers. I am bored thinking about that song. How did you go from those first two songs to this? Sad face. :(

#4 “Enigma Machine” whoo hoo another awesome instrumental track. The guitar in this is quite awesome John Petrucci is damn good. As are the drums and keys and the no James LaBrie.

#5 “The Bigger Picture” It wouldn’t be bad except Labrie’s vocals are putting me to sleep through half the song. Ballady and meh.

#6 “Behind The Veil” Oh here we go this is not bad……….fuck he is serenading me again I need a Cliffsnotes version of this album where it cuts all that out and replaces it with a guy saying boring lets move on and going to the next good part.

#7 “Surrender to Reason” Ok this is not a bad song, kind of reminds me slightly of 80′s Rush in parts. So it gets a pass.

#8 “Along For The Ride” another bore fest.

#9 “Illumination Theory” one of their 20 minute closing tracks that has some great parts but not anything I’d go out of my way to hear.

Thoughts overall? The tracks I mentioned as good I’d say give em a listen and even buy them on Itunes or Amazon but I wouldn’t really recommend the whole album to anyone who doesn’t love DT already.

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Unleash the Archers – Demons of the AstroWaste

Let me tell you right off I am picky when it comes to women singing in metal or rock of any kind. However I do like good range and this girl has got that and uses it when necessary but manages to not over do it like some other female vocalists. A few other bands I like with female leads are Madder Mortem (Thanks Corsair) and To-Mera as examples.

Unleash the Archers is a fantasy/sword and board themed power metal band from Vancouver, Canada. As mentioned above the lead singer is a woman and backing “growls” are done by two male band members they aren’t too bad one of them has a certain In Flames sound to him. I can’t say enough about her voice though. Powerful and not piercing, she can hit some notes that make me shiver and she is quite pleasant to look at too. The drumming is good but nothing to write home about same goes for the guitar and bass but what they lack in uniqueness in those areas they make up for in fluidity. This band has a very smooth feel to their music. It takes you along for a ride and you don’t find yourself hitting speed bumps or stop signs that kill your focus.

I have to say I haven’t heard any power metal in a few years that excites me like this, last time was when I first discovered Rhapsody and Sonata Artica I was heavy into it then. Honestly this isn’t really even the same Power Metal, those examples are more flashy and designed to really showcase individual musician’s skills. Unleash the Archers is closer to a metalcore band but without the annoying girlyboy singing in the same way every other band you’ve heard like that (thats another gripe for another time).

Their second full length album “Demons of the AstroWaste” while not quite a theme or single story album (Which are my favoritest. Look out for the Ayreon review I am going to do soon.), is solid. There isn’t a track I don’t enjoy. The song that introduced me was “General of the Dark Army” . Damn good song, cool video. At first listen it was enough for me to post the video on my facebook wall but I walked away at the time and only came back a month later. What the hell was I thinking I could have wrote this review much sooner. That scream at 5:11, holy shit it gives me chills.

Can’t say I have a favorite song yet but notable entries to look for are the above mentioned song, then “Daughters of Winterstone” which contrary to what I said earlier has some pretty good guitar work that I suppose I will write home about, my mom won’t read it though.

“Despair” is a good track with well done tempo changes throughout. The drumming transitions pretty well….shit I really should rewrite that earlier paragraph but I have come to far to turn back. (I feel kinda bad for bassists you guys get no credit. I mean listen to music without bass and you will know something is missing but to the laymans ear it seems to blend in the music with no distinguishable sound. Thank you bass player!)

“The Realm of Tomorrow” I FUCKING LOVE when songs just drop tempo like they saw a cop ahead and speed back up when he is out of sight. Ok it’s not as abrubt in the song as I described but it is still wonderfully executed by this band.

I give this album a big \m/ in the air!

I don’t even know if these guys/girl are signed to any label. Maybe they want to stay independent to which I say more power to them if that’s the case. I wish them all the good fortune in the world and I just hope me spending a bit of my time writing this up gets them some new fans. Also they are working on their third album and that makes me happy!

Colin

http://unleashthearchers.com/

https://www.facebook.com/UnleashTheArchers

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Severed Savior – Servile Insurrection

What can I say? I love me some death metal.
But this is not a typical death metal album in the slightest as in my mind it’s one of the best examples of the California technical death metal scene, and my personal favorite.

Severed Savior’s 2008 release Servile Insurrection is start to finish brutal, but tastefully done in the sense that is well written, musically challenging and aggressive.
All of these things in my mind are often pretty lacking in one department or another in this particular subgenre. You either have pure wank, or you have something that is musically pleasing but lacking in the overall balls that in mind are absolutely necessary in putting out a solid tech death album.

Severed Savior is not lacking in any of the above departments, in fact they more than deliver given a relatively small production that could have been provided by Willowtip pounding out ten impressively punishing songs, and a jazzy, and entirely instrumental track to boot entertaining the listener from start to finish, that is if this music is your cup of tea.

For one just getting into death metal you might want start with something more easily digestible, but for one who is looking to expand their more extreme cd/digital collection this will make a solid addition.

In particular for me personally Question, Acts of Sedition, and the title track absolutely deliver, and if you get the chance to see them live. Do it.
The show I attended was one of the more enjoyable I have attended in the last few years.

Check back here in the near future, and I think I might have one of those curveballs I mentioned before that might be a rewarding (non-metal) listening experience for those of you who might be interested.

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Manilla Road – The Circus Maximus (1992)

Manilla road is one of those bands that has been at it for decades and has manged to avoid any modicum of fame. There are a number of totally valid reasons for this – bad timing, bad labels, bad management, and bad recording quality. However, I think it’s fair to say that few bands quite have the same level of Metal Cred(tm) as they.

I’ve listened to most of their material. I’m not saying this to brag or anything – oh no, listening to too much Manilla Road actively prolongs your virginity (or in my case, makes it grow back.) and makes people not want to be around you (I love the band, but I understand that their music is definitely not for everybody. Or anybody, really.). But a guy that calls himself “The Shark” isn’t exactly what I’d call a pussy magnet.

The reason I bring that up, is because it demonstrates that I’m not just typing out of my ass when I say that The Circus Maximus is a fucking phenomenal album – Nevermind that it is a seriously black sheep in MR’s discography. It sounds nothing like Manilla Road, and in fact, isn’t even technically a Manilla Road album. This might be a good thing for some listeners.

It’s a lot less underground-for-a-reason-but-metal-as-fuck than most of their releases, a lot more experimental, and also takes a lot of influence from bands that are not very popular among their fanbase.

So, the album itself:

Before anything else, the clarity and production are leaps and bounds better than anything else in MR’s catalog – Which isn’t saying much, but the recording quality is *crystal clear*, if somewhat dated.

What makes this such an interesting listen, is that there are two very distinct directions of the songs on the album.

They can be organized thusly:
Type 1:
Throne of Blood
Spider
Murder by Degrees
In Gein We Trust
Flesh and Fury
Hack it Off

Type 2:
Lux Aeterna
No Touch

No Sign from Above
Forbidden Zone
She’s Fading

 

You can even look at the sing titles and tell which they belong to.

I’m making the distinction, because the quality of these songs is entirely dependent on their category.

Type 1 is very much informed by Skin Yard and other “pre-grunge” bands that influenced groups much more popular than they. This isn’t to say that they *rip the style off* or even sound particularly grungy, but th einfluence is obvious and apparent. (Listen to “In Gein We Trust” next to “Skins in my Closet by Skin Yard.”) This represents a small majority of the album, and what makes it worth listening to. Some of the lyrics are a little hammy, but still manage to be pretty clever overall.

Hack it Off is more or less the high point of the album, in terms of displaying what is good about it: Lyrical absurdities, varied song-structure, technical ability on full display…Oh yeah, and by most standards, it’s pretty fucking odd.

The other is a much more poppy and…i’m not sure what the right word is…Glistening, maybe? Much more influenced by Bryan Adams. Well, the early stuff he did. (Check ‘Lux Aeterna’. I’ll call this Type 2)
There really isn’t much to say about it, the Type 2 tracks are mostly plodding, meandering numbers that don’t really go anywhere. I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish with them to be perfectly honest. The exception to this is “The Forbidden Zone” which I will admit to being conflicted about. It *almost* sounds a modern Iron Maiden, except more upbeat and more prone to progressive interludes.

The more I listen to it, the more I like it. Yeah, I changed my mind a little bit; The Forbidden Zone is pretty damn cool.

And I also Changed my mind about She’s Fading. It starts off pretty weak, but builds up into something really special. I mean that in a good way; not “you’re special because there’s something wrong with you, that isn’t wrong with anyone else”. The buildup and lead climax is actually mountainous. And the production really shines here.

So to sum it up:

“If I made a point it’s just a fly in the ointment
Anoint me, holy Mother of Maggots
For I have sinned against love
What’s love ? I think I love it, but I want to…
Hack, hack”

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Billy Talent

I am just going to cover all of their music as I don’t find one of their albums to stand out above the rest. In Fact I don’t really think they have what I’d consider a great album, but they have a lot of great songs.

Billy Talent is a punk band from Ontario, Canada, formed in 1993 under the name Pezz changing to Billy Talent in ’99 they have released four albums under the latter name. Those four are what I will go over.

I’m not trying to sound clever but Billy Talent is a band with a lot of talent. Like most punk bands their music is often anti-establishment in spirit, informing the listener they are just a cog in the machine and they should rebel instead of conform etc… Unlike most punk bands these guys sound fluid, well produced and powerful, the first two things are ultra rare in punk. I don’t know how I would describe their sound except that I haven’t really enjoyed a punk band this much since I first listened to Bad Religion.

Throughout all four albums you do hear a slight evolution in their sound and after listening to it a few times, I feel as if they actually got better. Many bands suffer after a good freshman release but not these guys. I do maintain that none of their releases are great and that is due to songs I feel are kind of ballady and I hate ballads.

If I had to make a list of the songs I like most from each album it will go like this.

Off the Billy Talent album
“Nothing to Lose” This song is not typical of their music but I really like the lyrics. About a depressed teenager who seems to get picked on and is having trouble figuring out how to deal with it. I don’t think he figured it out.

Billy Talent II
“Worker Bees” Holy shit I love this song. Not much else to say about it other than listen to it and thank me later. “PROTECT THE HIVE FROM ENEMIES!”

Billy Talent III
“The Dead Can’t Testify” Do I hear a harpsichord? That’s all I need.

Dead Silence
“Viking Death March” This is just a fantastic song. What I look for in punk music.

I wanted to be more descriptive about these songs but there aren’t any nuances I can pick out and want to show you it is just a case of you should hear them for yourself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Colin

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Overkill – Horrorscope

Being my first album review ever, I wanted to start off with something that wouldn’t be a typical review in 2013.
(Which I doubt you’re going to find from the other authors on this particular page anyhow.)
The odds are I’ll be sticking to mostly metal albums, but who knows I might throw in a few curve balls along the way.

I took a little while going over albums on my iPod, and half way through one particular work day I slap on some Overkill and one of my favorite thrash albums ever, and decided this was it.

New Jersey Thrash Metal Legends Overkill’s 1991 faceraper ‘Horrorscope’ is arguably the darkest, and at the very least one of the heaviest albums in Overkill’s extensive sixteen album catalog and that really is saying something. The album also came at a very critical time for both the band and metal in general.

Coming off of the significant success of their previous album ‘The Years of Decay’ which is considered by many their very best in terms of both songwriting and production having worked with the iconic Terry Date. The album featured fan favorites E.vil N.ever D.ies (Overkill IV), Elimination, and my personal favorite, I Hate.

The band however was not content with following the same formula, as ‘The Years of Decay’ had offered several significant experimentations in of itself.
Firstly Bobby Gustafson, long time guitarist, and primary songwriter was asked to leave by founders and band leaders D.D. Verni, and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth prior to and was quickly replaced by Faith or Fear guitarist Merritt Gant, and Gustafson’s own guitar tech Rob Cannavino.

Though the songwriting itself remains familiar largely due to the album being credited entirely to the writing team of Blitz and Verni, the new guitar duo swap solos that work well with the famed ever present attitude and aggression Overkill is known for, and Sid Falck offers his best drum work during his tenure with the band (though he would leave shortly thereafter), easily solidifying ‘Horrorscope’ as one of Overkill’s absolute best efforts.

Unlike ‘The Years of Decay’ there were no songs in particular that came anywhere near to flirting with ten minutes. What it does offer is a more refined, and heavier evolution of the Overkill style of the late 80’s, early 90’s, often replacing break neck speeds for crushing riffs that the band would continue to experiment with throughout the rest of the decade though maintaining a respectable thrash standard pace through much of the album.

The singles Coma, and Infectious, and the delightfully crushing title track along with the bands cover of Edgar Winter’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ have made ‘Horrorscope’ the bands most popular and bestselling album to date.

Bottom line, pick this shit up.

Phill

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Trace – Birds

Some days I find myself falling into a youtube suggested videos rabbit hole. Some days it goes well and I find a few new bands I enjoy and other days I end up in the dark corners of the site that should not exist. One of the good days led to the discovery of Trace, a Dutch prog rock band from the 1970′s. Their music is primarily instrumental and completely fantastic. Rick van der Linden plays the keyboards and holy hell what talent he had. He was inspired by by Keith Emerson and started the band Ekseption who played modern interpretations of classical music by Beethoven, Back and Tchaikovsky. He later moved on and formed Trace which is closer in style to much of the Prog Rock of the 70′s.

Their second LP Birds was released in 1975. I have listened to this album a few dozen times and it never gets old. I will admit it has parts that I am not too keen on mostly because it feels boring and nothing more than filler. Most of the boring happens in the song “Opus 1065″. It is listenable if only for a nice violin and piano duo about 5 minutes in otherwise I can leave it. Most of the rest of the album consists of short 1-3 minute tracks with classical and jazz influences throughout. “Bourree” is the opening track and if you want to hear what I meant by “what talent he had” check that out first.

Birds is anchored by an imposing 22 minute track titled “King bird” (which on the vinyl was listed as 7 tracks on side one). This is another song that showcases van der Linden’s ability which I would say is on par with that of Wakeman and Emerson from the period. It is also the sole song on the album with lyrics, nothing special about them nor anything bad. It’s is a great example of what I love about prog rock, a hand full of songs in one track stitched together in a way that makes audible sense but I fear is wizardry and I will never possess the skill to do myself.

Maybe I should come up with a rating system but for now I will just say if you enjoyed ELP or Yes check out Trace, you can listen on youtube and buy cd’s on Amazon.

Colin

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