You can find older reviews and everything else in the Reviews Archive. Currently we have the last few weeks of reviews of 2003 waiting to be archived in Temporary Archive. We also have this year's reviews linked at the bottom of this page for an easy access to them.

EVIL MASQUERADE: "Welcome To The Show" 9

Frontiers 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 5 April 2004

Mighty kick is the arse ! Yeah, that’s exactly how Evil Masquerade sinks in. They’re a theatrical, symphonic and light-hearted metal band in the vein of Blind Guardian, with a little twist of Yngwie Malmsteen of course. I never was a Blind Guardian fan, but this band somehow does it for me with the same style. That amazing, evil line-up features members from bands such as Royal Hunt, Moahni Moahna, Sinphonia, Yngwie Malmsteen, Wuthering Heights, Majestic and Time Requiem. And the expectations are high of course. But Evil Masquerade fills them easily.

It’s evident how influenced the guys are by classical music, check out their version of Bach’s ”Badinerie” for instance. Familiar notes keep flowing throughout the album with baroque-keys and even Queen-like massive rock-opera style has a strong hold in each song, taled with a dreadful mood at times. Henrik Brockmann’s vocal work amazes, he really shines in each song, perfecting his style even more so from the Royal Hunt days. His vocals are just perfect for this material, flowing with a great mood and the backing vocals join in on all the right places. The overall sound is very clear, without losing any power from it. From the first notes the massive, operatic neo-classical atmosphere takes a hold of you. ”Welcome To The Show” also takes influence from the classic hard rock with the simple, catchy choruses and guitar riffs, then again kicking to the difficult scales, the sky’s the limit. Eventhough it’s very fast material, there’s enough space also to make everything click together well making sense to the songs, not making it just another technical band.

Take any song from here, and it’s a perfect pick. But most of all the title track, ”Oh Harlequin” and ”But You Were Smiling...” had that sticky, powerful label on them. Somewhere I swear I could even hear Iron Maiden and At Vance influences. Well, anything’s possible, you suck influences from anything you cross paths with. In todays music business and having the neo-classical mark on you it’s hard to come out with anything new. And eventhough Evil Masquerade at times plays notes that have a ring from the past, they are still standing on their own and it’s always a pleasure to hear a debut album as great as this. Be it a bunch of professional musicians, but still. Welcome to the show, you’re in for a thundering ride and there’s not much time to chill out in this show.

Tony HERNANDO: "The Shades of Truth" 9

Lion Music 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
2 April 2004

It's always nice to see an unsigned artist "making it". This time out of the many unsigned artists we have supported along the way it is Spanish guitar virtuoso Tony Hernando who has finally "arrived". Two years are gone since we have reviewed his independent effort "High" [see our archives for the review] and the "real" debut is out on Lion Music. Many things have changed since then and all of them for the better. Gone are the underproduced, badly programmed drum tracks; they were replaced by none other than Mr. "Instrumental-Guitar-Album-Number-One- Session-Drummer" Mike Terrana. The result is as stunning as you'd expect. The rhythm section is completed with Pepe Bao, a lesser-known local bassist but as soon as you hear his slap solos on "Uncommon Vision" you have no doubt whether ranks up to the other two or not. He surely does.

Some of the songs featured on "High" were re- recorded for "The Shades of Truth". So those who appeared as guests there can be heard here again, namely Andy Timmons on "The Edge" and "Eleven 30" two classic rock guitar anthems; while Vitalij "I'm on every album" Kuprij adds his signature keyboard parts to the "Outsiders", turning the track that is rather MacAlpine / Vinnie Moore flavored into progressive rock keyboard orgy for little less than a minute before the catchy refrain comes back again. Since "High" Tony's songwriting has matured and the material on this album is a lot more diverse. He managed to get out of every neoclassic instrumental guitarist's dead-end street, incorporating several influences into his playing/songwriting he proved there is life beyond shredding pentatonic scales. As a result of this, the new songs are a lot more entertaining and aren't just "that's how the big boys do it" attempts. Right in the beginning "Behind the Catwalk" (one of my personal faves) and the already mentioned "Uncommon Vision" give room to the other musicians to prove their extraordinary abilities and both are real "songs" not just cheap excuses of finger exercising.

"Slow Blues" is just what its title suggests, a welcome addition here that gets contrasted by the modern sounding "The Silence of Loss" right away. Admittedly the very well-thought track-listing contributes a lot to strengthening the diversity feeling you get when playing the album. My other two personal favorites were the two balladesque tracks, the anthem- sounding "Broken Hero" and the closing "Still Believe" that has a simple but beautiful acoustic intro and haunting melodies, one couldn't imagine a better track to close an instrumental album. The 9 out of 10 rating is no exaggeration, Tony Hernando has grown up and stepped out of the shadow of the guitarists he learnt from. Pay attention to him!

RICK WAKEMAN: "Out Of The Blue" 9

Mascot records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
7 April 2004

This album is already three years old; it was recorded live in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Coliseo on 21st April 2001. Rick plays here with the English Rock Ensemble, which consists out of: Adam Wakeman (keyboards), Tony Fernandez (drums), Damian Wilson (vocals), Ant Glynne (guitars) and Lee Pomeroy (bass guitar).

This is truly a superb album, it really features Rick and the band at its best. Especially the guitar and the magnificent vocals of Damian Wilson make this album a must for all lovers of progressive rock music. According to me Rick made his best albums in the beginning of his career (Six Wives, King Arthur and Journey To The Centre.)just listen to the updated “medley” of “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” and you know what I mean. “Buried Alive” is a song from “Return to the Centre of the Earth”(sung there by Ozzy Osbourne) and it really rocks heavy on this live album.

The two instrumental tracks “Jane Seymour” and “Catherine Parr” from “The Six Wives Of Henry 8” sound better than ever before and here Rick is at his best. The surprise track on this album is the Yes classic “Starship Trooper”(The Yes Album, 1971). The song actually begins as “Heart Of The Sunrise” and then evolves into a magisterial version with great keyboards and amazing guitar playing; a superb ending of an amazing album. A must for Wakeman lovers and keyboard lovers. Get it now!!!

SICK TRIGGER: "The Stand" 9

Front Row Seat Media 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 6 April 2004

Hailing from California, the spawning place of great hard rock and metal acts, Sick Trigger sounds exactly like many of those promising bands that have had their roots there and succeeded. Eighties were the glory times for those bands and it could be that the ears are turning over there again in this eighties flashback. Sick Trigger have gotten great feedback from the magazines and fans, such as they stole the show from other bands, and they’ve even shared stage with acts such as Ratt, George Lynch (Dokken/Lynch Mob), Pretty Boy Floyd, and Pat Travers band and performed in such famous clubs such as Whiskey A Go Go and The Viper Room.

These guys are the grand blender of influences: Ministry on a few songs, then suddenly sounding like an underground glam band with FNM-twist or Rage Against The Machine with Ugly Kid Joe-like vocals with the same, spitting words out-attitude, giving it some funky kick along the way and really nasty, pompous backing vocals, then offering smooth and fragile vocals again with a nice haunting echo and aggressive guitars. Sick Trigger has a good drive and wibe in their music, a very good mood to the songs, getting you tap your feet, especially ”The Stand” has that effect. Sick Trigger takes influence from many things and Alice In Chains and Ugly Kid Joe-like harmonies certainly are the carrying thing with their music. Even in scooping influences so vividly, the music gets an incredible hold of you with its catchy groove. That is if you like the bands I’ve mentioned here.

Along with the main six tracks the cd has five bonus demo tracks, which sound exactly like demos, the mixing is ok, though a bit distorted and drums coming on top. ”The Stand” is also featured in this section as an industrial mix, and amazingly this version also works. Eventhough the demos don’t have a perfect sound, they’re still a nice addition to this cd. In a case like Sick Trigger it’s quite hard to say what kind of success they will get. The band is very inventive and has working songs, but this kind of music might not work for the bigger masses, even their name doesn’t have that bigger ringing to it. Of course you can never really tell what the masses want and it’s all up to the record label how they support their bands. If bigger success never happens, the guys still have a crowd for their music. As a reminder, even FNM made it big with their amazing cacophony of experiences and Red Hot Chili Peppers made it with their strange funk. Never say never.

KANE: "What If" 8

BMG 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 5 April 2004

Holland surprises us this time with an act called Kane, who sound very commercial and ready to hit it big time. The band was formed back in 1998 and has already supported bigger bands such as Bon Jovi and Simple Minds and have gained live experience in festivals outside their own country too, along with winning loads of awards also. These guys are on their way and there’s no denying success is evident, having a good record label behind their back and the band sounding so huge with working tunes. Just don’t mix them with their brother in US though, also formed on the same year.

The singer Dinand Woesthoff has a soaring vocal sound very common to bands such as Creed, Nickelback, Live and the likes in the alternative ground, cracking his voice and singing with a rage at times, then taking it very softly. His style has so much influence to the bands sounds that it’s easy to label them alternative, but there’s more to them than just that. But most of all they’re very commercial rock, INXS and U2 coming through in their music, the guitars following to the same lines. Most of all the music has that easy-going, nicely flowing, relaxed effect, being a positive band and spilling hope for the listeners, as heard in one of the best tracks ”Hold On To The World”, along with the mellow, bit on the techno side ”Our Hearts Will Beat As One” and the album beginner, catchy rocker ”Rain Down On Me”, which disco/techno remix version found its way to the EA game FIFA Soccer 2004, but that beat ain’t for me. The album ends to a song starting out with spaceous ambient mood, which suits just fine after the disco beat, then Woesthoff and the band turns it into a soft pop song. ”What If” is a sentimental album, bursting with feelings and giving good vibes and energy. Kane deserves their success, they bring sunshine to your day and I’m happy to have heard of them.

FRAMESHIFT: "Unweaving The Rainbow" 9

Frontiers 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 5 April 2004

This year surely treats the Dream Theater and prog fans well, it hasn’t even been long since the last release of DT album, when Chain mastermind Henning Pauly comes with an album written for DT vocalist James LaBrie and me just reviewing another album also featuring LaBrie. Another important guest in Frameshift is Nik Guadagnoli, who plays the Chapman Stick, Pauly himself Warr guitar. ”Unweaving” deals with different evolutionary concepts and the work perfectly follows the theme. The mood is very massive, reaching that film music pompousness, leaving you in awe. This is certainly one of LaBrie’s best works, as he proves in ”La Mer”. Eventhough the album is very entertaining, pop and very light sounding, you can’t go wrong with it if you’re open to almost any genre of music and want sense in the lyrics. One of Pauly’s goals for this album was to combine the elements of progressive rock, film scoring and very modern production and he can be proud of himself, he’s reached them all.

Frameshift goes further than average progressive rock. The music mixes different styles and some of those styles aren’t usually heard in prog. Frameshift’s disco, techno, funky, poppy, ambient, even ethnic experience definately raises a lot of emotion and when digging deeper to the theme, even questions. The orchestrations are great, they’re quite massive and the vocal harmonies also, having even as many tracks as 35 and moving to the steps of Gentle Giant, Queen, Spock’s Beard, Marillion, even Yes. If these bands ever touched you, Frameshift will do it too. It sounds like a massive rock opera and succeeds well where many have failed lately. Even in being an entertaining album, it doesn’t fall in the boring radio play category. It’s still relaxing, but requires your full attention to keep in track.

The album is inspired by the books of Richard Dawkins, one of today's most influential neo-Darwinist writers. ”La Mer” gives goosebumbs with its mixture of classical and rock atmosphere and chillingly warm vocals and the happily rocking, light and funky ”Off The Ground” was another tune which stood out the best from here. Songlist: ”Above The Grass - Part I”, ”The Gene Machine”, ”Spiders”, ”River Out Of Eden”, ”Message From The Mountain”, ”Your Eyes”, ”La Mer”, ”Nice Guys Finish First”, ”Arms Races”, ”Origins And Miracles”, ”Off The Ground”, ”Walking Through Genetic Space”, ”Cultural Genetics”, ”Bats”, ”Above The Grass - Part II”.

This album will leave a mark on you. And even put a smile on your face, one of those moments being the album concluding thought: ”If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat”.

Read more about the songs from

PANIK: "A Page Torn" 7

Escape Music 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
5 April 2004

Escape Music have usually stayed true to the classic AOR style with their acts, but Panik is a bit of a departure from the label's usual releases. While I couldn't imagine many of the releases of Escape (or the other indie hard rock labels) being released by a major label, I wouldn't have been surprised if "A Page Torn" would have been a BMG or SONY album. This is contemporary melodic rock, there's nothing decidedly "retro" or "80'ies like" about it, and more importantly, it's quite good. The band does have a good timing too - now with The Darkness-phenomenon taking over the world, this kind of a band with a fresh, big rock sound might be just what the big label A&R guys are looking for...

The album kicks off with a straight-forward, AC/DC-like rocker "Crush", which gets your feet tapping, if nothing else. "Find A Way" seems to follow a similar path, maybe a bit poppier though, but then comes the chorus, which hits one right between the eyes..."Amazing" is a balladic track tailormade for rock radio, somewhere between Vertical Horizon, The Calling and Lifehouse, instantly likeable. "Gear Girl" is another big modern rock radio anthem, not a million miles from someone like Creed or U2, only better.

Next track that made a big impression on me was "Die For You", an uptempo, melodic track with a good hook. Then it's time for a surprise, a cover of a Judas Priest classic "You've Got Another Thing Coming". This version is perhaps a little less intense than the original, but it does rock nicely! "Fly" is perhaps the most U2-influenced track on the album, and you might compare it to some nineties' Bon Jovi stuff too. If a video was made for this, I'm sure the band would be on a mountain top, with arms wide open, wind in their know the type of a video. From the remaining tracks I want to mention "Friends" , another good catchy rocker, and "Middle", which is probably the heaviest track here, almost Metallica-like in fact, but more melodic.

While "A Page Torn" might not be among my favourite albums of this year, it's very good at its' best, and the fact that it could very well pass for a major label release is clearly a sign of better times. Could it be that our beloved melodic rock is slowly creeping back into the mainstream? If it indeed is doing just that, it will be new bands like Panik who will help the cause.

One more thing...there was a local band who was considering "Panik" as their new name, as it would have had an interesting double meaning in the Turku region, where I live. The english word we're all aware of, but in the local dialect it roughly translates as "Did you hump her/him" didn't know that, did you? :)

TIM DONAHUE: "Madmen & Sinners" 8

Frontiers 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 5 April 2004

Confess. You’re a Dream Theater addict and you’ve got your closet bursting from DT dis and dat. Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And one of this years long awaited cd’s for your kind is just this, Tim Donahue’s latest featuring the vocal God James LaBrie in vocals. Tim, who’s graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1982, has designed and built guitars himself and after six releases from which ”Fifth Season”-album was nominated in the top 5 jazz albums of 1986 and so forth, started writing this album with LaBrie’s voice in mind and a progressive metal album in the vein of Dream Theater before even meeting with the man. Some phone calls were made and here’s the result. The drummer was found from Mike Mangini (Extreme/Steve Vai), who’s been playing in Mullmuzzler projects.

Of course you can never be sure what to expect when there’s a DT guy involved. And that’s the case with Madmen & Sinners too. But some DT influences can be found, LaBrie after all had his say while recording the songs. Most of it comes from the vocals of course and the good old ”Beam me up, Scotty” knocked me off the chair (hello Ytsejammers). So, this and some of the proggy material was quite near DT. But most of all the cd is quite spaceous, maybe even more experimental and wider prog than DT. The mood keeps changing, as the opener ”Million Miles” really gives the cd a kicking start with DT-like raging force and keeps bashing for seven minutes. Then comes a slower track, then followed by ”My Heart Bleeds”, an even song with keys tuned in space sound and the chorus jamming in a sad feeling and guitars making their own cacophony with the solo and in the background. ”Feel My Pain” jumps in your face and keeps jamming like the song before, continuing the quite lean and flat approach in somewhat Joe Satriani mood.

”Morte Et Dabo” is the gregorian chant of the album, which brings a melancholic, religious and cathedral-like ambience to the album at times along with church organs. ”Children Of The Flame” is a prog tune having an approach to the older prog, but combining both periods. The older prog influences can be found somewhere from the camp of mellow Pink Floyd-like stuff. ”The End” is a guitar-driven simple, evenly jamming song, and sounded quite useless among this material. ”Master Of The Mind” is one of those powerful progtunes in DT vein, James joining the jamming with gloomy vocals after two minutes have passed. The middle passages have a ”Scenes From A Memory” atmosphere, going somewhere but taking a torchuring moment somewhere in hollow space full of memories.

The slower and peaceful songs are ”Let Go”, ”Wildest Dreams” and ”Madmen & Sinners”. ”Wildest Dreams” is the most beautiful from these, with acoustic guitar and emotional, dreamy vocals. But the title track wins the prog prize, it’s 15 minutes in acoustic guitar/delicate vocal/rock land, moving from a feeling to another. It’s a good prog album, though somehow it leaves you empty. The slowest tracks were the ones that moved the most. It’s one tough peanut we’ve got here, I’m still thinking could this be even worth of nine points, and I’ve been spinning this for two weeks now. But nevertheless, DT-fans will surely find something sweet from here, it’s got it’s moments worth at least eight points.

MILBAJAC: "Shade Of Grey" 7

Bongiovi Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
29 March 2004

Bongiovi Records?! Recorded at the Power Station studio?! Talk about sacred ground for any Bon Jovi nut and his/her nuttier die hard friend. I believe that Milbajac is the first band ever from Gibraltar, that I've the pleasure of reviewing. You could say in other words, that it's rock from the "English" rock at the south of the Spanish coast. The band, today consisting of Lawrence Imossi (vocals), Jourdan Alman (guitars), Corey Alman (bass) and Mark Brooks (drums), were previously known as the "Glow". There were however forced to a name change, since three other acts in the states used the very same name. [Reviews Ed: Finnish band Glitz also went by that name and suffered a similar fate.]

They are indeed signed to Bongiovi Records in the states, the label of famed producer Tony Bongiovi, also known as the cousin of Jon Bon Jovi. The label is unfortunately mostly into dance/techno and Milbajac is probably their only act of interest for RockUnited readers.

Milbajac play a nice version of Bon Jovi rock, mixed with Counting Crows and U2 influences. Do however not expect to find any "Slippery When Wet" material on their 11 track debut album. I can definitly say that it's modern rock with a fresh approach to music in general. Everything is very professional done and the name Bongiovi stands for quality and top class production. The opening and title track "Shade Of Grey", comes out like The Calling meets Bon Jovi with a touch of Counting Crow. "Radio" is nu-breed rock with a marvelous hook and sing-a-long refrain. "The Only One" is excellent Bon Jovi rock and "Face Down", reminded me of U2, only with more balls and attitude. Not to forget the touching ballad "We Shall Meet Again", which is about their previous guitarist Michael Danino, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. An overall nice CD if you're into all the above mentioned bands. I could definitely see a couple of their power rock songs at the top of the charts. Keep in mind that you'll also get a couple of fillers along with that.

DRAGONFORCE: "Sonic Firestorm" 7

Noise/Sanctuary 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 April 2004

Whiplash warning! How about some furious neck breaking metal executed in tempo furioso? Indeed, Dragonforce is back with their long awaited (only a year though) sophomore release and it's all about s-p-e-e-d really. If you're not into fast (faster! faster!) rocking music in the teutonic metal tradition, tough luck.

I'm also afraid that everything on this disc has been composed and recorded in a hurry. The lads in Dragonforce had a terrible touch of the runs and needed to use the crapper constantly. Seriously though, that's what you'll be thinking about while listening to "Sonic Firestorm". The drummer must have been affected the most as you can't possible play any faster, without losing it completely (technically).

I must admit getting worried by opener "My Spirit Will Go On" as it sounded more Blind Guardian-ish than ever. We all know that The Guardian's lost their plot somewhere during the mid-90's and basically started recording crap albums after each other. No need for worry though as only the poor opener sounds exactly like the Germans. However, there's a warning flag for a couple of the other tracks included here. It's never easy to record a follow up to such a succesful debut album as "Valley Of The Damned" (at least in this genre). Nonetheless, ZP (vocals) and the gang have done good... without being able to reach the exactly same high level once again. It's speedy, happy, sing-a-long metal, recorded in high intensity and low orginality. Indeed, you can surely recognize most of these melodies somewhere down the road. Then again, you try and come up with something completely original in 2004!!! Mission impossible as everything has already been done. Tracks like "Fury Of The Storm", "Fields of Despear", "Dawn Over A New World", "Above The Winter Moonlight" and "Prepear For War", are still miles above the average pack. The guitarwork is amazing throughout the album and Malmsteen may not be the fastest gun in town anymore. Dragonforce are without a doubt the new kings of speed and they've managed to come up with a nice follow up release. I can still picture the drummer going at it in the studio: "Get the f**k outta my way, I need to use the crapper again". [Reviews Ed: not that anyone wanted to picture that...]

KATAKLYSM: "Serenity In Fire" 6

Nuclear Blast 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
7 April 2004

This is the seventh studio album of Kataklysm. These Canadian hyper blasters formed their band in 1991 and their first demo obtained worldwide recognition. This success leads to a record deal with Nuclear Blast in 1993. In 1995 they released their first full album “Sorcery”, which was an album filled with fast and brutal metal. “The Prophecy (2000) was named one of the most devastating releases in extreme music in years. But Kataklysm topped that one with “Shadows & Dust”(2002), which was described by Canadian magazine BW&BK as a pure holocaust of events as all the planets appear to have lined up for this scar on humanity....

So you know what you can expect, brutal death metal or extreme guitar music in high quality without fillers. Real pain killer tracks with lots of aggression, comparable to Morbid Angel or Nile. The tracks speak for themselves; “Serenity In Fire”, “Blood On The Swans”, The Tragedy I Preach” or “Under The Bleeding Sun”…… A true death metal classic, Bolt Thrower eat your heart out!!! But for me this album is a bit too brutal, too much aggression… but hey, maybe I am a wimp???

WAR & PEACE: "The Walls Have Eyes" 6

Z Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
3 April 2004

Jeff Pilson is at it again. Last year he teamed up with his former Dokken-colleague George Lynch and released the "Wicked Underground" under the Lynch/Pilson monicker, this time he has regrouped his old band War & Peace. I don't have any information about the personell here, but I suppose it's a similar affair to the previous W&P album a few years ago, with Jeff taking care of most instruments and vocals.

After the well-documented break-up of Dokken back in the late eighties, quite a few albums have been released by the members, and apart from the first Lynch Mob album and Don's solo, I don't have any of them in my collection anymore. The albums by the reformed band haven't exactly "rocked my world", with way too much filler and flirtations with the grunge sounds or whatever, and the solo projects have been even more disappointing or confusing. I mean...what the hell was that "Underground Moon" all about?

"The Walls Have Eyes" rates among the better post-eighties Dokken-related albums, but it's still a long way from being a classic. It might be more tolerable to the fans of the old band that the last actual Dokken album, which was a bit ballad-heavy. Had Pilson stayed in terms with Don & Co, some of these songs could've given that album the much-deserved kick. "Stranger In My Own Land" and "Desperate Hearts" are among the best Pilson-penned songs during the last fifteen years, and I can't help but toy with the idea of having all the best tracks of the last few Pilson/Dokken/Lynch albums on one album - that would be something else!

Back in the real world, we have this release to deal with...Jeff might be a better vocalist than ol' DD these days, and there's nothing to complain about the musicianship either. The two songs mentioned above and a couple of others aside, the songs could have used more hooks, now they merely pass one by. I mean, I just took off my headphones, and I can't remember a single thing about "No One Is Listening"...and I WAS listening to it not too long ago!

The European version includes a bonus track, a stylish version of "Walk Away", the Dokken ballad. It's only strings and Jeff's voice...quite dramatic and impressive.

TYGERS OF PAN TANG: "Noises From The Cathouse" 5

Communique 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
4 April 2004

Tygers Of Pan Tang used to be the NWOBHM act where guitarist John Sykes (Whitesnake, Blue Murder) first came to fame in the early 80's. They were however formed in the Whitley Bay area in northern England already back in 1978. Nowadays they are mostly into modern metal I guess, since their "Noises From The Cathouse" (meow?) is obviously more inspired by the US scene of today than 80's metal.

Guitarist Rob Weir is the only remaining member since the good old days. The lead vocalist is none other than Richie Wicks, which some of you might remember from Angelwitch (yet another NWOBHM act). With an album title like that and tracks like "Bad Bad Kitty", you already know what to expect somehow. Lots of hardrock clichés and reused melodies.

It's not that "Noises From The Cathouse" is a complete failure. It's just plain average without any real highlights or future classics. It's almost like they have no idea on which foot to stand upon either. They're flirting with Nu-Metal on 50% of the songs, while the other 50% is NWOBHM stuff and even older hardrock. In fact, "Three In A Bed" could have been a Van Halen tune from their very early days. Wicks is "singing" with his best DL Roth impression here and the song works nicely after a beer or two. The booklet is a complete disaster though without any info whatsoever. Only a band picture and it certainly feels and looks, like one of those russian bootlegs that are so popular nowadays. Only essential for the die hard fan or if you'll find it in the bargain bin.


SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
27 March 2004

110% Rock??? Try 30% rock, 30% skateboard punk, and the remaining 50%(?) is mostly annoying stuff and fillers anyway. Alternative Allstars is the German act, where famous skateboarder Claus Grabke, hangs out when not doing a 380* or flipping someone the birdie. The band is also said to be influenced by "fun" acts like The Strokes and White Stripes nowadays (omg).

When they're great they're really great though. Tracks like "Rubberball", "Take Me Higher", and "Totally Wrong", are excellent rock in the Good Charlotte meets Johnny Thunders approach. Most of these tracks are however more about attitude than music. Not so much that Grabke (vocals/guitars), Mark Wiechert (bass), and Sven Pollkötter (drums) would come out as lousy musicians. It's rather the somewhat childish approach towards their music in general. The fact that Grabke is way over his 40-ies, is kind of confusing too, since this is MTV music for the average 13 year old skater. Too old to rock? Act like your age? I wouldn't go that far... but name any kid who'd think it's cool to watch a geezer in baggy pants.

In the end it's all about material though. There's simply not enough with goodies here and The Strokes similarities doesn't help much either. One thing's for sure... Grabke is definitely more successful as skateboarder (he started out already back in 1976). 19 German championships titles, 25 Euro Cup titles, 2 Euro championships, and 4 Monster Masterships. Not to mention that he's the founder of Europe's biggest skateboard magazine "Monster Skateboard Magazine", and worked as correspondant and photographer for "Thrasher" and "Transworld Skateboarding".

WOLF: "Evil Star" 4

No Fashion 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
28 March 2004

The most successful "NWOBHM" act from Sweden (at least since the heydays and Torch), is back with their latest effort, "Evil Star". It's kind of weird that Sweden's Wolf should be one of the most British sounding acts right now. This could as easily have been released 20+ years ago and nobody would have noticed the difference.

It's raw and dirty metal, where early Maiden, Saxon, Anvil, Accept, Mercyful Fate provide the influences and inspiration. It's hardly groundbreaking or even remotely new music. Any old school rocker will recall most of these riffs and melodies from the past. Indeed, if their previous album was a nice flirt with 80's metal, they've completely overkilled it by now.

I don't find Wolf's music as "charming" anymore and vocalist Niklas Olsson, is more annoying than good actually. You can't help to wonder how much better it all could have been... with a stronger and more suitable heavy metal vocalist. Tracks like "American Storm", "The Avenger", "Wolf's Blood", adds nothing new to their already reproduced repertoire. The instrumental "Transylvanian Twilight" is very simular to Maiden's own "Transylvania", from the debut album in 1980. If all this wasn't already enough, you can also find a butchered version of Blue Öyster Cult's old classic "Don't Fear The Reaper". Bottomline, any old NWOBHM record between the years of 1979-1984 rock harder than this.

RICK WAKEMAN: "The Wizard and the Forest of all Dreams" 4

Mascot Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
6 April 2004

This album was originally released in 2002. On this album it is just Rick Wakeman on piano and The English Chamber Choir singing.

Six modern classical pieces for piano and choir are on this album and it is definitely not MY cup of tea. Although the songs show the unique compositional gift of Rick Wakeman, after one track I have had enough.... Rick's influences on this album are Bach, Haydn and Gershwin, so it is no pop or rock album but rather a classical relax cd.

Only for Rick Wakeman freaks, who would like to have all his albums. By the way, I hate choir songs, they remind me too much of church and religion...

RICK SPRINGFIELD: "Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance" 9

Gomer Records 2004
Review by Vesa Nuorala,
31 March 2004

Rick is back! What a record he made. This surely is one of his best ever. Hard to top the recebt live CD on which all the old songs were given a modern sound to them, but this comes pretty close. Some old timers might not like this as mush as his previous work but this is what Rick Springfield sounds like in 2004 and he rocks!

The record starts out with a shock, then there is denial, then anger and finally acceptance. No wonder the record is named the way it is because it surely is a perfect title to this record. The best songs are “Perfect", “I’ll Make You Happy" “Will I", “Idontwantanythingfromyou". They’re all of part of the shock treatment what Rick gives to his fans because there is no “Alyson" here. Plenty of good rockers and ballads on this one. All together the CD has 17 songs on it so not bad at all. Well balanced too and like I said earlier the title is perfect for this CD. No one ever thought that Rick would sing about “White Trash", well he does on this record in a song called “Jesus Saves".

I can’t seem to find anything bad about this record and it will be in my top 10 for this year for sure. I know some really don’t think that this is the way the latest from Rick should sound but I couldn’t care less because I like this CD and it is one of his best to date. The guy has been around for so many years that there is going to be some changes in his sound. You write what comes out of you and this is what came out of Rick this time. So don’t be fooled by the ones that say that this is not the way Rick should sound, judge yourself and we’re living in 2004 and not 1984 (Which actually was a pretty good year). And if you listen to this CD carefully you will hear that sound that we have got used to when listening to Rick. It is Rick Springfield 2004 nothing else.

TESLA: "Into The Now" 9

Sanctuary Records 2004
Review by Vesa Nuorala,
31 March 2004

After ten years of vacation, the TESLA guys are back in business and what a comeback. None of the bands from the same era can come close with their comeback CDs. It seems like the guys never went away and they didn’t but as Tesla they were on vacation. The guys are already „Into The Now" with this cd.

The sound is typical Tesla but this does not mean that they’re stuck in the past, just the opposite. Jeff sounds as good as ever and so does everybody in the band. The songs are great and from the start the cd takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go until it is over, but then you want to play it again. Some songs like "Into The Now","Caught In A Dream" and „Mighty Mouse" are really to my liking and I could mention every song on this cd because there are no fillers on this CD. If this CD doesn’t do well I’ll be very suprised because it has the sound that muight please to the ones who have never heard of Tesla before but like this type of music and the old fans should all get this CD.

The guys are touring now with this and we hopefully get lucky and get them to play here in Europe too and not just to American fans because it is a well known fact that the people in Europe enjoy their hard rock as much as the our american friends. Just see all the bands touring in Europe this year and some of them don’t even do shows in the states as much as they do over here. So come on Tesla get your asses over rock the shit out of us. The new songs need to be heard all over the world and like many I’m also „Caught In A Dream" and maybe even living it too. Thanks for a great CD again and it was worth the wait.

BUNNY BRUNEL: "L.A.Zoo Revisited" 8" target=blank> Mascot Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen, 29 March 2004

Originally released in the USA only in the late "90's", this album is now available in Europe, but with extra track, re-recorded drums(by Virgil Donati), re-recorded bass and completely re-mixed. This CD features super guitar player Vivian Campbell(Dio, Whitesnake and Def Lepard), Hammond organ player Brian Auger, bass guitarist Bunney Brunel and the amazing Vigil Donati on drums. Furthermore as guest players, Mike Stern, Jeff Grossberg, Ray Gomez and Mike Palmer.

This whole album was composed as a tribute to all the rock bands that Bunny listened to for inspiration. Of course it is a complete instrumental album and the electric guitar dominates the sound of this CD. My personal favs are: "Led Boots"(inspired by Jeff Beck, Bunny's favourite guitar player); especially meant for guitar freaks with amazing guitar picking by Vivian Campbell. "Maybe Tuesday" is a Led Zeppelin tribute and contains a superb bass solo and some wah-wah guitar solos. "Tropicana" is inspired by Leslie West and Mountain; a slow blues song with howling guitars and harmonica.

"Blue Touch" is a slow blues track, which is clearly influenced by Blood, Sweat and Tears, while "Vlad" is a perfect rock fusion track, that features the extraordinary guitar player Ray Gomez. In fact there is only one track which I do not like, and that is "Michael", a song for Michael Palmer with some "old-fashioned" organ solos. The rest is sheer guitar entertainment, a true album for lovers of guitar music, nothing more or less.

HIM: "And Love Said No" 9

BMG 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
22 March 2004

I am not a HIM fan as such, but damn it, if you take the best tracks off their four albums and add a couple of good new ones, you can't really go wrong! The die-hards might disagree, but I believe that for the "common man" the singles are indeed the best tracks of the band, more accessible than some of the album tracks, which can be at times a bit eccentric. Anyway, "And Love Said No" is a "Greatest Hits" compilation, not a "Best Of"...

During the band's 7 year long career Ville Valo & co have managed to take their gothic, romantic "Love Metal" close to perfection a few times. "Heartache Every Moment", "The Funeral Of Hearts", "Pretending" and "In Joy And Sorrow" are among the finest new rock songs that have actually gotten airplay during the last few years, and most of the others are very good as well. The new single "Solitary Man" (a Neil Diamond cover) is being played to death on Finnish radio at the moment, and if the radio doesn't kill it, it'll become a HIM classic without a doubt. The other new song is the title track, and it quite decent as well. Funnily enough, it reminds me a lot of Negative, one of the new HIM-influenced bands in Finland...

Low points? Not many...well, Valo's falsetto is a bit irritating sometimes...he certainly isn't the greatest singer in the world, but I won't deny that he is a charismatic frontman and a talented songwriter. There's one thing I would like to know though: does anyone else hear echoes of "My Heart Will Go On" in "The Funeral Of Hearts"? Replies to the address above...

The limited edition of the album comes with a DVD, "Live At Semifinal". Value for your money!

FEINSTEIN: "Third Wish" 9

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 March 2004

Ask any real metal fan about David "Rock" Feinstein and they'll immeditely think about The Rods and the legendery "Let Them Eat Metal" tune. The even older fans will probably remember him as lead guitarist with early 70's rock act ELF, which also included his cousin as lead vocalist and frontman by the way, a certain Ronnie James Dio.

It's been a while since I've heard anything of the man though (not since A'la Rock), and I really didn't expect much to come out of "Third Wish" either. But damn, this is a very positive suprise and fans of old school metal, will have an feast upon these bones for weeks and weeks.

This is actually "Heavier Than Thou" and will most certainly attract both old and new fans. They're signed to Magic Circle Music in the states, which of course is Manowar's own production company and Joey Demaio is the executive producer of "Third Wish". Something that only contributes to the high standard and overall classy performance by all parts included. Lead vocalist is the excellent John West of Artension, Royal Hunt, and he actually sounds better than ever here. This is my kind of metal and probably yours too, if you've enjoyed The Rods in the past, along with mid 80's Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio, Malmsteen, and classic metal albums with classic metal riffs. This is sooo much 80's and old school that you'll almost have to pinch yourself every once in a while. You can't help to think about Artension every now and then too, mostly, if not only, due to the voice of West, since the music is definitely what I described above. The main riff to "Far Beyond" is quite similar to Dio's "Holy Diver", even if it's not a question of stealing or blue print copying. "Live To Ride, Ride To Live" is a title that Manowar would have been proud of and it's heavy metal to the core. Highly recommended and one of my fave albums of the year (so far). Yet another fine example of the fact that simplicity rules.

Uli Jon ROTH: "Metamorphosis" 9

SPV Steamhammer 2003
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner,
22 March 2004

Is there a self-respecting rock-guitarist who has never tried his wings upon Vivaldi pieces? I doubt… And how many of those guitarists have dreamt about standing in front of a 100-member orchestra while playing their own transcriptions of Vivaldi violin concertos and such? [And all that in a dirty rehearsal room that used to be a garage one day and that stinks like a petrol station…] Well, Uli Jon Roth went ahead and did what many of us only dreamt about: he released an album playing Vivaldi pieces as well as his own songs inspired by the Maestro.

Uli took the "safe-way" though and went for the best-known and most popular Vivaldi piece, The Four Seasons, transcribing the principal violin part for the electric guitar and titled it "Metamorphosis of Vivaldi's Four Seasons". The arrangement wasn't altered that much, the majority of the changes were to give the guitar a little more room and making the most important guitar melodies more audible and more obvious. Though the guitar was mixed pretty much upfront compared to the orchestra the result is rather enjoyable, even if I'm quite sure some will cry blasphemy. As for me the only annoying parts were the rather plastic sounding [programmed?] power drums during the Summer part (what for?? – even if I understand that the least interesting part of the piece is the Summer and Uli obviously wanted to spice it up somehow…) and *some* narration and noises (like horse-shoes, wind, and such) between the tracks. I used the word "some" on purpose because the narration got lost in the mix and it is almost impossible to hear anything out of it, not to mention that these interludes break the natural flow of the piece. If I were to fool around with words I would say that the Four Seasons wound up a little "amorphous" after this "Metamorphosis"…

Anyway, Uli was wise enough to add another 11 tracks to please all those who had any doubts about the album. These are his own songs that were inspired by either Vivaldi or other classical composers. Now this is the rather interesting part for me with great songs that featured melodies popping up from the Four Seasons or tracks that are in the mood of other composers. The comparison to Yngwie's concerto is quite obvious here. If you liked his effort [or Alex Masi's Bach and Mozart albums, or Tony MacAlpine's classical flavored tracks] you'll surely enjoy this one. Yet I'd say if you weren't a big fan of those you may even want to give this one a try because this album is firmly routed in *popular* classical music making it digestible and enjoyable for anyone who wasn't into instrumental guitar albums or classical music before.


Sanctuary/Showtime 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 March 2004

The first, best, and biggest southern rock band? I'm sure that Lynyrd Skynyrd would like to have a word or two in there too. Nevertheless, at least these chaps never "stole" their sports teachers' name and turned it into a touring band. The late Duane Allman is the not-so-living proof to that and another fallen hero is bassist Berry Oakley (R.I.P.).

"One Way Out" is a marvelous double live CD recorded at The Beacon Theatre - New York in 2003. Not as legendery (yet) as their previous live album "At Fillmore East" perhaps, but it surely proves that southern rock is still alive and well. I was actually quite suprised to find out that as many as six (6), tracks are all from their lastest studio album, "Hittin' The Notes - 2003". These "old farts" bands are usually only including one or two new songs and rely mostly upon old material and hits.

"Instrumental Illness" has actually been Grammy nominated for best instrumental song and they disappoints no-one with the live version. They also include "Desdemona" and "Rockin' Horse" from the same album, even if I find the latter a bit dull. There's no real Allman show without "Midnight Rider" though and they still manage to pull it off some 30+ years later. The songs are overall long in their original version and almost twice as long live. Nine tracks on each CD and no bullshit or talk in between either. It's just seven old geezer's playing the blues like only real musicians do. They end the show with the legendery "Whippin' Post", and it simply goes on forever and they would probably still be at it... if they hadn't run out of tape. Respect! Play it loud mutha!

RICK WAKEMAN: "Out There" 8

Mascot Records 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 March 2004

Of course Rick Wakeman does not need any further introduction. Overall Rick performed on over 2000 sessions and played on more than 100 hits around the world, which established him with producers world wide as the most sought after keyboard player to have work with them. Of course he also played with the Strawbs and super progressive band Yes.

"Out There" has taken almost five years to complete. In 1998, the New English Rock Ensemble was reformed and for this album the following musicians were "asked". Tony Fernandez (drums), Ant Glynne (guitars), Lee Pomeroy (bass guitar) and last but not least on vocals Damian Wilson. The English Chamber Choir also participated in this project and so the line-up was complete. The understanding of all musicians and engineers in the making of this album has been crucial in the production of this recording. I can truly say that the production of this album is outstanding; "Out There" has a powerful sound, as I have not often heard before on Wakeman albums.

This really is a rock album again and that can almost mainly be credited to that powerful production, but most of all because of the amazing vocals of Damian Wilson. Just listen to that amazing opener, which clocks over 13 minutes, and you only want more. This is progressive rock music as it should be; great instrumental parts, classical themes, catchy and dramatic melodies and on top of that; outstanding vocals. I can truly recommend this album to Ayreon and Threshold fans; Wakeman finally sounds inspiring and exciting again. I am looking forward to the "Out There" DVD, which will be released soon.

TAKARA: "Eternity - The Best 1993-98"

Lion Music 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 March 2004

Takara rocks!!! That's actually their official website too and you can check 'em out later at takararocks dot com. This compilation was previously only available in Japan and LionMusic decided it was time to re-release it in Europe too. Good choice indeed as 1993-98 was their best period in time (so far) and they released three great albums ("Eternal Faith", "Taste Of Heaven" "Blind In Paradise"), with extra out of ordinary vocalist, Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, Eyes, etc.).

Soto was however never an official member of the band (!?), something which guitarist/songwriter and only "real" member, Neal Gursky, makes sure to point out. I guess that Soto's first priority then and still today? was/is the "Swedish" act Talisman. There are eighteen tracks on this CD and both "Restless Heart" and "Your Love", are included twice. At first in their original version and then the-ever-so popular "acoustic" thingy, for all the girlies and wimps out there. Excellent stuff that could melt any harden heart I'm sure. This CD is simply the perfect introduction to Takara and their US rock. They've even managed to included most of my faves... I miss "Walk Away" however, but I guess you can't please everyone? Always make sure to check out the review archive for previous reviews and info.

NORTHER: "Death Unlimited" 8

Spinefarm 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen 22 March 2004

It’s a deathmetal week here in RockUnited and Finns keep on spitting that material out. Norther is the case now, going on their third album that isn’t so Children Of Bodom-like anymore as they used to be. This time they’ve gone even further, the songs are more brutal and raw if you can imagine. The song structures are much wider now though, having some warmer and slower elements in the music now, which gives the album more base to attach to. All this just proves that years and experiences also bring improvement, if you’re not living under the rock and being ignorant that is.

Even after the band has gone more brutal, the melodies are standing out very strongly here, which makes this their finest album to date. And the keymelodies aren’t just typical Bodom-notes anymore, sometimes they can be dreamy and beautiful, having some sense in them instead of just getting the notes out. But this doesn’t mean they’ve gone and spoiled the fun from deathmetal fans. The keyword is still brutality, but it’s clear that "Mirror Of Madness" already showed which way the band was going next. The recordings were done at Astia-studios again, so the sounds stayed the same.

Since the first album the band has shown their abilities and founded a solid fanbase and "Death Unlimited" only makes those chains stronger, the band is very much here and now, their energy is something amazing and their attitude is no one’s gonna stand on their way ! Songs such as "Nightfall", "Deep Inside", "Death Unlimited" with a striking chorus, "Chasm", "Vain" and actually the whole album carries bad omens on its forehead, you better be aware when they blast these songs out. The guitars are impressive too and all I can say here is if the material had tad more elements in it and imagination (where the band has improved I must say), this would’ve been the perfect deathmetal album for this year.

APOSTASY: "Cell 666" 7

Black Mark 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 March 2004

I do enjoy this kind of athmospheric, melodic, Black Metal and Sweden's Apostasy remind me a lot of other great Scandinavian acts like Dimmu Borgir and Norther. "Cell 666" is their debut album and it tells the awful story about insanity at the asylum and such. Ehem... in other words the typical horror theme, that all these acts are dealing with really. Well, I guess it's all about being as evil as possible in the end.

The very atmospheric and almost symphonic keyboards in the background, gives the listener a feeling of watching an Italian horror movie. The spleded work by keyboardist Dennis Bobzien, along with the awesome performance by "vocalist" Fredric Edin, are without a doubt the key ingrediences here.

I was also rather suprised to find out that Apostasty started out under the 'Marchosias' moniker. I remember hearing that demo a couple of years back and thought they had very little to contribute with. Let's just say they've improved a lot over the years and their keyboard driven black metal now works in every (dark) situation. The production is a nice piece of craftmanship and Black Mark may have one of their best acts lately here. Everything is very professional done and not a single bit as "messy" as some of the other releses in this genre. Clearly this six-piece act is shooting for the moon and they're not far from making it either. Only a couple of minor mistakes and fillers wont stop this from being one of the most impressive acts in its genre. Could indeed be worthy of your attention if you're into Dimmu Borgir, Norther, and overall classy, melodic, Black Metal, with matching growls.

KINGCROW: "Insider" 8

Consytech Limited 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
19 March 2004

Kingcrow was founded in 1996 by Diego Cafolla (lead guitar) and his brother Manuel Cafolla(drums). The band published and commercialized their first demo "Eyes Of Memories", and it received good reviews, which led to a sale of over 700 records. In 1999 Kingcrow modified its style towards progressive metal and a year later they released their second demo "Hurricane Eyes". In 2001 they record their first real album "Something Unknown". Ivan Nastasi(ex-Sanitarium) joined the band later and singer Stefano Tissi is replaced by Mauro Gelsomini (ex-Windseeker). The new line-up was complete now and they started to work on new material, and so the project "Insider" became reality.

"Insider" is a concept album about the story of two friends(Jason and Alan), both involved in a series of dramatic events..... The music is a complex mixture of heavy metal and progressive rock and sometimes reminds me of Savatage or Queensryche("Operation Mindcrime"). A song called "The Project" definitely has that sort of influences; great guitar passages, "gloomy atmosphere"; in fact this song reminds me of Winter Bane, the first band of singer Ripper Owens.

In most of the songs the guitars play the most important part, just listen to the "Finale" and you will be hooked. "Eyes Of A Betrayer" takes me back to the fantastic Judas Priest album "Sin After Sin"; just listen to those riffs and the typical vocals. My personal favorite is the longest track "The Killing Hand", which starts with a fantastic twin guitar intro and then evolves into a classic progressive rock track with Fates Warning spheres. Although I have never heard of Kingcrow before, this is without any doubt a real surprise in progressive rock country. A great album for lovers of bands like I mentioned before, or bands like Wolverine and Empty Tremor. Check these guys out!!!
Kingcrow Website

WITHERING: "Gospel Of Madness" 8

Warhorse 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen 22 March 2004

And Finnish metal reigned the’s another winner we’ve got here and they’re Withering from Lahti, formed late 1999. The band started playing covers from Amorphis, Paradise Lost and Sentenced at first and later released two demos with their own material, some of the songs ended up on this album too. The band found its final form only in spring of 2003 and the album was recorded later that year, with astonishing results.

This melodic blackmetal band stays true to its early idols, following the pros of this genre, the whole material is quite alike to early Amorphis, with little twists of Sentenced and Paradise Lost in there. And it’s a stylish package. The growling sounds how it’s supposed to sound and the melodies are all in the right places. The band roams through each song with a murdering midtempo, death rattles in all dimensions torturing your ears. So yeah, Withering has a professional touch to their genre and though everything sounds so perfect, that midtempo and the fact that the guys play it safe makes the album as a whole somewhat empty. Sure it’s one helluva band to bang your head to and probably does a lot for fans live, but the songs are a bit too alike.

After ten listens it’s still hard to find the best songs. The beginner "Northern Breeze" was quite easy though, as it moves along to Amorphis’ "Tales" material. The guitars flow like spring streams, giving that certain soothing feeling even among this brutal climate. And would you believe there’s even acoustic guitars, "On Death’s Colour" has a beautiful beginning with those and "Penance" is the second one, another well working tune. A really tormenting song which also struck me was "Anguish Of Frustration". On a bad day you have to blast this out and your depression is gone. Or double trouble...The screams and the mood in the end are like Cradle Of Filth spitting their darkest demons out among the "holy" living for eternal suffering. And when you’re talking about deathmetal, you can hardly avoid the comparison with Children Of Bodom. And with Withering you can find some of those alike twists and growls, but don’t put any hopes on that norm. Eventhough death metal isn’t on my top lists anymore, I have to give credit to the band from the whole album. This is definately an album deathsters will enjoy and falls nowhere behind from the best of the genre.

Jorn: "Out To Every Nation" 9

AFM Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
14 March 2004

In 2001 this excellent singer surprised me with the “Ark"-album. Two years later he blew me away with his superb “Masterplan" CD and now he releases another killer album called “Out To Every Nation". Musicians on this marvelous CD are: bass player Magnus Rosen of Hammerfall, Pagan’s Mind Jorn Viggo Lofstad (guitar) and Stian Kristoffersen (drums), as well as keyboard player Ronny Tegner.

There are ten songs on this album and I can assure you that none of them is not worth listening to. From the opener “Young Forever" until the last track “When Angel Wings Were White", it is all pure enjoyment. Of course you can hear whom Jorn sees as his “idols"; Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale are all over the record. “Something Real" is a track which you could have “heard" on Whitesnake’s successful album “1987". It is a real bluesy rock track with outstanding vocals and steamy guitar solos. “One Day We Will Put Out The Sun" is also one of my favorite songs, again very bluesy, with howling guitars alongside Jorn’s vocals. “Rock Spirit" sounds like Whitesnake would have sounded in 2004; rather heavy, still very melodic and an excellent catchy chorus. “When Angel Wings Were White" is the most experimental song of this album. It has lots of rhythm changes and musical diversity and is packed with super vocal parts, which prove that Jorn Lande is one of the best rock singers of this time. To slow things down a bit Jorn has recorded a beautiful ballad called “Behind The Clown"; check out the furious guitar solo there.

The first single will be “Living With Wolves", a song with a heavy guitar riff (sounds like Black Sabbath) and superbly powerful singing. From this track you can also enjoy a video clip, which was recorded in historical surroundings at Vermork, an early 19th century electrochemical plant that produced heavy water during World War 2 and was the scene of sabotage plots to prevent the German Nazis from using the heavy water for nuclear bombs; today the plant is a museum. This a wonderful rock album which should be in your record collection as soon as possible. Release date: 26 April

ENTWINE: "DiEversity" 8

Spikefarm 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen,
14 March 2004

Get ready for a plunge into bitter sweet romanticism. These finnish gothic metal masters Entwine first started out as a death metal band in 1995, but the band as it is today, five guys and a female keyboardist, have taken the right move when choosing gothic metal instead. The band gets better and better each year, as their latest and their fourth album shows. This time the band hasn’t gone too soft though, all the songs rock without any soft female vocals filling the space from the ever stronger vocalist Mika Tauriainen.

The whole album is one of Entwine’s heaviest since "The Treasures Within Hearts" and the songs work even better when they’ve been kept as short as in average of three minutes, which is pretty short though. Still the dominating idea is a dreamy, atmospheric and euphoric soundworld and even when the album only consists of rock songs (a few mid-tempos here you could call "Entwine-ballads"), in general the album ends up being quite euphoric. "DiEversity" isn’t a bad album to say the least, but "Gone" and "Time Of Despair" are still the most softest and bitter sweet stuff you ever tasted from Entwine.

The band has certainly gone further on their career, having progressed a lot as songwriters and musicians, comparing this one to their first album. The songs are even catchier than before and directed to bigger crowds now. "Bitter Sweet", "Someone To Blame", "Frozen By The Sun", "Everything For You" and the last two "Nothing’s Forever" and "Lost Within" are the most inspirational songs heard here, great tributes to melancholic metal, with beautiful orchestrations in the background. But all of the songs work on their own, dispite the dreamy feeling the album gives you while listening to it. It’s still good emotional rollercoaster after all and oddly enough leaves you feeling good and singing to the songs.

ECLIPSE: "Second To None" 8

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
14 March 2004

The first Eclipse album was a big favourite among our staff, and I believe that this one will be just as well. The band hasn't drastically changed their sound, although one could argue that this album is even more contemporary sounding.

There's been a few albums that have been hailed as the "bridge" between 80'ies hard rock and modern rock, and I would say that "Second To None" is another good attempt to do just that. Take opener "Always Standing" for example: hard hitting riffs that remind me of a more hard rocking Metallica mixed with a strong AOR chorus. "All I Do" and "Second To None" are more traditional melodic rock, both excellent songs with big hooks. "Streets Of Gold" is again a bit heavier, European styled hard rock in the vein of the most melodic songs of Pink Cream 69.

I can't really get a grip of the ballad "I'll Ask Of You", but "Nothing Between Us" does leave a more lasting impression, with its' crunchy guitars, a cool bridge and a very Kelly Hansen-like performance from Erik Mårtensson. "Road To Forever" is basic AOR, nice enough but somewhat bland perhaps. "Body And Soul" follows the formula of the opening track, combining heavy rocking verses with an AOR styled chorus, although the song doesn't work quite as well. The highlight of the second half of the album is "Light Of Day", blessed with a killer chorus. That's something which "Season Of Life" could've used, as it now doesn't quite make the grade. The closing track "Better World" takes us all the way to the seventies, ending the album with a "classic rock" vibe. This ballad reminds me of such rock radio staples as "Stairway to Heaven" and "Dust In The Wind"...

I may still rate the debut a bit higher, but this is by no means a disappointment. The production is very good, and if the whole album had been as good as the four first songs, we'd have "the album of the year" title spoken for! A safe purchase for the fans of the debut album, and worth checking out for everyone else into melodic hard rock.


Spinefarm 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 14 March 2004

Feel like taking a trip down the memory lane ? Well, this trip ain’t gonna be a softie dream, but a hardkicking rocker. As I’ve said it earlier, LoweMotor Corporation’s retro, groovy rock’n’roll or machine-driven rock, however you like it, definately rocks and will gets anyone’s attention. Their lead vocalist is a blonde ex-stripper Claudia Carnal, singing and enticing male fans with her squeeky voice, the way she sings with suggesting, sometimes wicked lyrics, and pronounces the words. Who said metal can’t be sold with sex ?! This oozes sex all the way and it’s about time we get more female vocalists who are as characteristic as Claudia and kick some male butt in this male-driven business.

On this full-length the band offers songs on a wide range. It’s not just simple rock’n’roll all the way. Sometimes it goes into a darker mood, having a lean and mean approach with even oriental mystique to it, defiance lurking right around the next corner and an instrumental song in the end. Sometimes you can get annoyed by a ringing sound, the title track really makes you go crazy with it, almost reaching your phone. The album starts with a good rocker "The Flyin’ G" and the other rockers are the slower, heavier "Tonight", rockabilly-banger (hmm..) "The Gibson Girl", "Soul Of A Pagan", "Child Of Lies", "Love Me", "The Fool", "Scared". There’s no ballads, but on the slower tracks LoweMotor have captured enough melancholia to fill that space.

Claudia’s style, her singing and pronounciation might get on some people’s nerves. She sings with determination and a strong attitude, the professional band, with a wide and long history behind them, being just perfect for her. The album has some numb points, though only short moments inside the songs, but the band certainly has written great songs. Standing out as single songs, they all have their hooks and own atmospheres and even that I’ve never been into rockabilly bands such as Matchbox or Stray Cats and the likes with greasy hair, the songs, especially "The Gibson Girl", which leans towards those times, works alright, though the clapping is still too much for me. Get your skirt swinging...actually you can start headbanging, it’s more about that and an attitude.
Band website

Danny DANZI: "Danziland" 7

MTM Music 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
8 March 2004

In the grand tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien (rings, things, and hobbits that sings), the little man with the big guitar sound is back with his own "Danziland". It's already been five long years since his first solo effort "Somewhere Lost In Space", and never before has any title been more suitable. I guess he's actually been lost out there again... ehem... or homeless in Jersey perhaps? :-)

It's however quite understandable if you're asking yourself: who the heck is Danny Danzi anyway??? To be honest, he's always been kind of an underground musician from New Jersey, that never quite made it with any of his bands in the early 90's. The info sheet actually describe him as "one of the most famous guitarists in New Jersey", yeah right, only because acts such as Sentinel and Passion were so damn successful. The truth is Danzi played in a lot of acts that opened up for famous acts such as Britny Fox, Cinderella, Tangier, etc. Credit where credit's due! He's much more successful solo and his guitar playing is up there among the "almost best", shred fans will get their fair share of licks, tricks, and funny kicks. He's obviously inspired by Van Halen and do throw in some Bettencourt (Extreme) and Bratta (White Lion), while you're at it. I'm not saying he's exactly as good... but not 'that' far behind either.

I'm also happy to report that "Only Strong Will Survive" is one of the weakest links here. Some of you may remember (at least that angry, female, DD fan will, do email me again with some pix this time), that I trashed this song completely, when it was included on a MTM sampler earlier. I still think it stinks and you could add the rather cheesy (hold the mayonnaise please) "Time Passes By", to the same pile. The latter is a semi-ballad that never really hits the right nerves, even if I've surely heard worse attemps. The rest is on the other hand quite fun, guitar oriented (lots of guitars), melodic hardrock. "All Or Nothing" is blessed with smashing guitar work, dut-dut keys' ala Journey/Toto, and one helluva catchy refrain. Easily my favorite along with the Van Halen inspired title track and the mega rocker "Eternity". Pay some extra attention to the lovely vocal harmonies here as the whole song is done in a uplifting, party, mood. I almost get the same feeling as when playing "Summertime Girls" with Y&T. "Wild And Dangerous" reminded me somehow of the first Talisman album (when they still wrote songs you could actually remember) and "Destiny" is almost Malmsteen-ish, during his Trilogy & Odyssey era (w/o the tempo furioso guitar work). The production is somewhere between okay and so-so without bringing down any applaudes or boo's for that matter. There you go... I even managed to write the Danzi(g) review without naming goats or Johnny Lima at all.

U.D.O.: "Thunderball" 7

AFM Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
13 March 2004

They're banging on the big drum with UDO's new release and it's proclaimed to be his best effort in years. Fair enough as it's been a while since the German bulldog recorded anything really great. However, to compare this with classic Accept albums such as "Balls To The Wall" and the likes is really taken out of propotion. It's never that good I'm afraid... don't believe the hype.

"Thunderball" was again recorded with ex-Accept drummer Stefan Kaufmann, at the helm as both producer and guitarist. Igor Gianoli (ex-Gotthard) and Fitty Weinhold (ex-Bullet) are also experienced musicians that contributes with solid performances once again. You can definitly call this a legitimate successor of "Animal House" or "Faceless World", which are still UDO's best solo work up to date.

The melodies from the past are actually back and it's nice to hear some power riffs again. Something like "Tough Luck II", "The Magic Mirror", or "Blind Eyes", are without a doubt a huge step back to the heydays and 80's Heavy Metal. This is the old UDO and the style which made him an icon and yes, legend of metal. The razor sharp guitar attack featured on the title track, brings a smile all over my face, even if we've heard this kind of throw-away rocker before. The pure energy and share determination has always been UDO's best ability and he disappoints no-one with his performance on "Thunderball". The barbwire voice isn't every man's poison perhaps, but you surely can't take blame him for any sloppy work either. "Trainride To Russia" is a special piece of work as the Russian folklore influences are very present here. You could almost expect something like this from Gorky Park back in their days. Otherwise a very tradtional UDO album, with a couple of real highlights and a great production. I'm afraid that he will mostly be remembered as that Accept singer though and the fans will always love those songs the most. It's never easy to compete with the greatness of the past.

JADED HEART: "Trust" 6

Ulftone 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 March 2004

"It feels like home so raise your glasses" - Indeed, make yourself at home, turn up the stereo, and put your "Trust" on Jaded Heart to come up with some familiar rock. You surely can't blame Michael Bormann (vocals/guitar) and the rest of the gang, to even remontely drift away from their chosen path.

They are still doing their Bon Jovi meets Bonfire kind of music and it works nicely every now and then. The marvelous "Feels Like Home" with its 'Raise Your Glasses' line, will have any old fart up and dancing on the tables. The keyboard work here is simply irresistible catchy and you'll be singing along with the refrain at once. It's one of those choruses that you simply can't get out of your head, once you've heard it. "Healer" could almost have been a leftover from the Bon Jovi debut back in 1983. These both tracks are opening up the album, along with the solid "Anymore", and I honestly thought this to be a great CD.

It's unfortunately mostly downhill from now on, even if "Burning Heart" (not the Survivor hit), the Bon Jovi sounding "Love Is Magic", and "Masquerade", are all fine rock anthems. The rest of the material is however a bit too much on the safe side. Nothing to really stick or poke you in the eye with and it's simply too familiar somehow. I'll have to admit that Bormann do actually sound better than ever and his singing style is clearly getting better with each release. I guess he know his limits by now and kudos to him. You will probably still find things to enjoy if you're a Jaded (no pun intended) fan of the past. And I'm leaving this disc with that "Feels Like Home" tune, still in the back on my mind... too bad that not all of the tracks could have been this good.

FRONTIERS: "A Tribute To Journey" 5

Indie 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
11 March 2004

My oh my... I guess you shouldn't really record tribute albums to the ultimate AOR band in the first place. And especially not LIVE one's as everybody will notice by then how poorly some of your tribute band members actually play. It's a difficult situation where no-one will end up as winners... because, how can you match Steve Perry's voice (wimp master supreme) or Neal Schon's flashy guitar work? It's really a completely different issue if you'd record a live tribute to KISS, AC/DC, or Metallica for that matter, since "everybody" can copy those licks or sing those tunes, without too much talent. Just crank up your amp, then crank it up some more, and make some noise. Journey was all about perfection however and creating a clean, almost sterile sound, which came out like sophisticated crap... or whatever.

I'm all for tribute bands at the local bar though as everything do sound so much better after a beer or ten. It's also the perfect place for this kind of acts really. Vocalist Jeremey Hunsicker is without a doubt the best musician of the bunch along with the keyboardist. Hunsicker is normally frontperson for 'Elemental' and he actually do sound a lot like Perry. Not as powerful perhaps, but you can't get everything I suppose. They've chosen to cover some songs which Journey hardly ever play anymore (Good Morning Girl, When You Love A Woman, etc). Not to mention the rather fun version of Perry's solo hit "Oh Sherrie". I don't believe there is any overdubs or re-recording in the studio afterwards on this CD. The mixing is very raw and does mostly sound like an average, bootleg. This could however still be fun for the mad Journey collector and their likes. Why not surf to their official website below, and you could most definitly support them by joining their next liveshow.

MAGNITUDE NINE: "Decoding The Soul" 9

Inside Out 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2004

This is the third release of Magnitude Nine, an American progressive metal band that combines powerful vocals with intense musicianship. Rob Johnson (guitar) and Corey Brown (vocals) formed the group in 1997 and recorded their debut album “Chaos To Control" in 1998. That is an album that I still regard as one of the best debut prog metal albums ever. Three years later Magnitude Nine presented their follow-up “Reality In Focus" and again almost three years later “Decoding The Soul" is released.

This album is a huge step forward for the band; the songs are more mature and the guys really focus on melodic hooks and progression; “New Dimension" is a perfect example of the “new" sound of Magnitude Nine; a killer guitar riff, super power vocals and lots of melody. However I must warn you that you should at least listen to this album more than four times to really appreciate its value. In other words: it gets better every time you listen to it and after a certain period of time you will get hooked to great songs like: “To Find A Reason" or “Walk Through The Fire".

If you like your music heavy then you should check out “Thirty Days Of Night"(very fast with high-pitched vocals) or “Dead In Their Tracks"(speedy beginning and a Malmsteen-like guitar part). And if you prefer your music more “quiet" then listen to “Sands Of Time"(an AOR power ballad with melodic guitar hooks) or “Changes"(a semi-ballad that turns into a pomp rock song with Eldritch influences). So there is something for everyone to enjoy, if you like progressive metal, that is. An excellent album that probably will end very high in my year list of best albums in 2004.

VALENSIA: "The Blue Album" 9

Escape Music 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom, Urban "Wally" Wallström,

4 March 2004

Valensia is bombastic, fantastic, theatrical, symphonic, over-the-top music, that you'll either love or hate from the word go. There's no way to stop him once he's entered the studio though as he'll try and add as much music as possible into each and every single track. Born as Aldous Byron Valensia Clarkson in The Hague (The Netherlands) and like fellow country man Robby Valentine (ex-Zinatra), very much inspired by Queen and the whole "Bohemian Rhapsody" sound, I'd say. Add smaller doses of The Sparks, Duran Duran, Kate Bush (the theatrical part), good old 80's melodic hardrock, and you're pretty close to the core.

Valensia is and has always been big in Japan. Not that strange perhaps as the Japs seems to adore all kinds of music really. "The Blue Album" was originally released there back in 2002 and Escape Music had the very good taste in re-releasing it with one bonus track for Europe. It's Pomp music the complex, yet very catchy way, with tons of lovely melodies and harmonies.

You simply can't getaway from the Queen comparness no matter how you look at things. It's very much present all of the time and if you've been looking for something like "A Night At The Opera", well, there's no need to search for it anymore really. Opener "Mayte" is simply breathe taking Queen rock, "Hello Pianist" is some weird mixture of ska, dub, and rock, without losing a single bit of credibility. "Inshallah" is 75% Queen and 25% Sparks and the result is again breathe taking. "Life Is A Killer" has Nik Kershaw written all over it, while "The Line" could easily have been a Duran Duran song from the mid 80's. The rest is a pretty much a must have for any Queen or Robby Valentine fan for that matter. Valensia is sadly underrated in Europe (not to mention in the states), and it's about bloody time that we'll open up our eyes for this muti-talanted musician. There's no doubt about it though... the man is either a pure genius or borderline crazy [:-)]. I'll let you be the judge of the latter as I'm still quite stunned and amazed by his work on "The Blue Album".

THRESHOLD: "Critical Energy" 9

Inside Out 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2004

After six highly acclaimed studio albums, Threshold finally release their first live album. Eighteen songs on two CDS, recorded in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands, prove that Threshold has become Great Britain’s premiere progressive rock/metal band.

Their last studio album “Critical Mass"(2002) was one of my favorite progressive albums of that year and on this live recording you can enjoy four tracks from their most successful album to date: “Phenomenon"(great opener), “Choices", “Falling Away" and “Fragmentation"( a real live killer). This live album spans all six studio albums so from the debut “Wounded Land"(1993): “Sanity’s End" and “Paradox", “Psychedelicatessen (1994) is featured with: “Sunseeker" and “Innocent", from Extinct Instinct (1997): “Virtual Isolation", “Clear" and “Life Flow"(the acoustic version). Mac (Sargant Fury) became the new, permanent lead singer, since “Clone", which is featured with “Angels", “The Latent Gene" and “Sunrise On Mars". The last four tracks are from their first Inside Out release “Hypothetical", “Oceanbound", “Long Way Home", “Narcissus"(hybrid version) and “Light And Space".

This album really captures the passion and the progressive power of one of England’s most exciting and ,even more important, original rock bands. Buy or be doomed.

ZINATRA: "Zinatra" 6 & "The Great Escape" 9

Snakebite Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
10 March 2004

Snakebite Records have done a wonderful job re-packaging the two sought-after eighties' albums from Dutch melodic hard rockers Zinatra. Both albums come with several bonustracks and liner notes from vocalist Joss Mennen, and they are available in a nice box set.

Zinatra was originally formed to be a vehicle for songwriter Kelly (aka Arnie Treffers). Indeed his songs dominate the first album ("Zinatra", 1988). Producer Erwin Musper gets a decent share of the credits too. The first album is clearly the weaker one of the two. Stylewise we're talking about commercial hard rock of the era, think Europe, Bon Jovi, Fate and countless others. Zinatra's (or Kelly's) songs range from very good to embarassingly bad. The good ones include the opening duo of "Looking For Love" and "Love Or Loneliness" (both sizeable hits for the band) and a few others, while the bad ones include the dodgy cover of a musical number "Somewhere", the boogie rockin' "Rock And Roll Hangover" and the over-the-top ballad "Hero" which is just too corny to be taken seriously...

As the band started working on their second album, their management brought in keyboard player Robby Valentine, as guitarist Sebastian Floris had left the band earlier. Another change was in the songwriting department, Kelly's songs weren't the foundation of "The Great Escape", he only wrote two songs for it. Instead producer Musper found four songs written by Paul Laine, Valentine wrote three and the rest came from the founding member Ron Lieberton and Musper. The band's sound evolved into a more pompous and keyboard-dominated one, and all in all the album number two sounded more mature.

The songs on "The Great Escape" are quite excellent indeed: "Two Sides Of Love", "Only Your Heart", "Too Blind To See", "There She Goes" and "Jekyll And Hyde" are all top-notch AOR tracks, just to name a few. There's even one gem among the three bonustracks, "You Only Live Once" is very good too.
Rock Inc. Entertainment

R.A.W.: "First" 8

MTM Classix 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 March 2004

Bo Lindmark (vocals), Anders Lindmark (bass), and Adam Kårsnäs (drums), are all ex-Dalton, the excellent Swedish band that recorded the two legendary (?) albums "The Race Is On" and "Injection", in the 80's. Drummer Adam only played a brief moment with Dalton though (in 1991) as Mats "Dalton" Dahlberg (ex-Treat), took care of business and skin bashing in their heydays. OK! Enough with name dropping for a while...

R.A.W. (Ready And Willing) recorded two CD's in the mid-90's and MTM-Classix is now re-releasing the "First" of the two with the bonus tracks "I Just Came Down" and "I Believe", both previously released as b-sides on a couple of singles here in Sweden. Besides the three ex-Dalton lads the band also consisted of guitarist Mikael Larsson.

There are no keyboards to be found here really and the sound is therefore more guitar oriented (well, duh!). Not by much though as we're still talking about slick, melodic hardrock, with well arranged vocal harmonies. Just a little bit more mature than the happy-go-easy music in the 80's. Special guests include the marvelous female singer and Swedish rock champion Zia Lindberg, Tommy Nilsson (Easy Action), and drummer Ian Haugland (Europe). Opener "Run Out Of Love" is well crafted FM rock with a hook that kills. "Turn Back Time" is quite similar to Thomas Vikström's (Talk Of The Town) solo album in the 90's. "Don't Tell Me Lies" is another winner that comes out like a mature Dalton rocker. "T.G.I.F." or Thank God It's Friday is fun uptempo rocker and "Golddiggers", flat out rocks. "Touch Of Love" is a nice duet with Zia Lindberg (where are you now?), "Too Hot To Handle" is very much like Easy Action/Tommy Nilsson and the latter helps out with backing vocals. "Since You've Been Gone" is actaully not a cover of the famous Russ Ballard/Rainbow song, since it's yet another fine, slick, original. Bottomline, this may not quite reach the same high standard as Dalton in the 80's, but it's still very enjoyable and fun music. A couple of absolutely horrible fillers (50/50, Michelle etc.) are only to be expected I guess.

GRIP INC: "Incorporated" 8

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 March 2004

"Incorporated" is the 4th release by Grip Inc. and what started as Dave Lombardo's new fulltime band is nowadays only a sideproject? to Slayer. Indeed, the powerful drummer is once again back with the US thrash icons and I'm not quite sure where Gus Chambers (vocals) and Waldemar Sorychta (guitars/keys) stands here.

The music doesn't display that much differece really... even if I most definitly prefer this to what Slayer are playing (or whatever you wanna call it) nowadays. You could say that Slayer (let's see how often I can mention them in this review), used to sound 'something' like this in the early 90's.

"Incorporated" is technically a masterpiece and the production is heavy as s**t. Not to mention that Lombardo's performance is not of this world as the man is obviously an octopus. 8th arms to hold, 8th arms to fold, 8th arms to beat the living crap outta his drums with. Guitarist (and keyboardist) Waldemar Sorychta is also doing some very impressive work here. Lots of cleverly done parts with complex chords and power riffs that goes hand in hand with the aggressive beat. The disc is without a doubt a grower and you need to spin this several times to really appreciate the material. Some tracks never really clicks though, but "Prophecy" with its enchating refrain, is one of the best songs of the year (hey! hey! sinner & saints). Simply put, this easily beats anything Slayer (here we go again) has done for the last 10 years or so. Grip Inc. actually have both melodies and hooks where Slayer (one more time), only try to sound as "evil" as possible... something which they've failed completely with lately. Mosh! Mosh!

AXIA: "Axia" 7

MTM Classix 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 March 2004

Axia came out of Sweden in the mid 80's and their out of ordinary singer Peo Pettersson, was later found (and still today actually since last years comeback) upfront with Christian Rockers Leviticus. Their one and only selftitled album was previously only avilable on vinyl and it's always nice to find Swedish hardrock re-released on CD. This time with four bonus tracks I may add.

You can actually find quite a lot of similarities to Leviticus "Knights Of Heaven" release here... even if I find the latter to be superior. In fact, it seems like Peo re-used some of his Axia lyrics for "Knights Of Heaven" as the track "On My Way" opens up with the same words and phrase as Leviticus "Messiah" ("It took some time to find my way back home again..."). You may also remember "Isn't It Love" from above mentioned Leviticus album and here you'll have "It Ain't Love" instead. The groove and foundation is based/built upon the same kind of rock though (heh,heh, rock... getit?), and it certainly rocks most of the time.

You can almost also compare this with Europe's debut album back in 1983. They were both influenced by Rainbow and the whole UK scene at the time, which obviously also came out through their music along with those Swedish melodies. However, you'll notice why Axia never really broke through to a wider audience too. The songwriting quality simply isn't there every now and then and a couple of tracks are very dull indeed. A little bit rough around the edges perhaps, but the bonus track "Never Ending Love" is alone worth the price you have to pay for this. Did I mention that Peo is a superb vocalist? No need to I guess. PS. Tony Niva became later the new vocalist and the band simply changed their name to Niva.

SHYLOCK: "Welcome To Illusion" 7

MTM 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom, 2 March 2004

Bonfire, Fair Warning, Pink Cream 69, Victory, and now you can surely add Shylock to the same category and style. In other words, quality rock from Germany with that typical sound and matching lederhosen outfit. They may not quite match the best efforts from above mentioned acts, but this is a safe pick up, if you're into that German style of rock... and life in general?

"Welcome To Illusion" is their second release at MTM Music and third over all I believe. The music is quite similar to previous attempts and vocalist Mattias Schenk does actually (still) sound a lot like Tommy Heart (Fair Warning). I really do enjoy that accent in his singing voice as it gives the music a special feeling of something familiar, yet foreign.

The songmaterial is a notch better than on "Pyronized" and you won't find anything as shocking bad as "Bad'N'Sad", from that very album. Instead you'll get 15 tracks of solid hardrock where highlights include the Fair Warning style opener and title track. "Closer" and especially "But I Like It" are both blessed with catchy hooks and flashy guitar work. The production is also very nice, even if it's perhaps a tad too sterile in certain places. It's however very similar to Bonfire and Fair Warning productions in the past and no major complaints here at all really. I miss however a couple of real uptempo rockers like "Blood Sister" or "That Kills Me", from their previous record. Many of the tracks here are moulded around the mid-tempo formula and you'll get a feeling of deja vu, at the end of the disc. Nice, solid, rock though, without any hickups or sudden changes.

AUTOGRAPH: "More Missing Pieces" 4 or 7

Point Music 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
10 March 2004

The first "Missing Pieces" of Autograph was released a few years ago, and it contained demos that were mostly intended to be the core of their fourth album, which never happened (last year's "Buzz" release is a different story). The songs varied from very good to average, with the sound quality varying similary. It was a reasonably interesting release...

"More Missing Pieces" isn't a follow-up, it's actually the same album with a few extra tracks. I don't know whether it should be considered a re-issue or what, but I can't help but smell a cash-in. First of all, if the booklet I have is the final version, it's a disaster: you can not find a correct track order anywhere, part of the Autograph history in it is printed twice, not to mention that it's basically the same layout as in the first version of "Missing Pieces".

The tracklisting includes a total of 7 songs that weren't on "Missing Pieces": two rare tracks "Nothing To Lose" and "Reason To Rock", decent enough but nothing special, and 5 demos that lead to the bands' signing with RCA back in the early eighties. All of them were later re-recorded for the album "Sign In Please".

As you see I gave this two ratings: the first one is for those who have the original "Missing Pieces" release and "Sign In Please" - buy this album if you really need to have everything, a couple of half-decent "new" tracks and those early demos. The second one is for those who missed out on the first version - sure enough, you get more tracks for your money, and most of the later demos are really good. "I've Got You", "When I'm Gone" and "Love Comes Easy" are better than many of the tracks that made it to the band's three eighties studio albums.

TOWER: "Turn the page" 5

hy 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2004

Again another disappointing album from a so-called rock band. Tower is the name and the group has two lead guitar players among its ranks, but I never hear them; where are the f…. guitar solos, guys???

Most of the ten songs are just boring, commercial(?), middle of the road rock songs, which you will forget immediately after you heard them. The only two “reasonably" good songs are “I’d Give You My Life"(a hard melodic rock song with AOR influences) and “Say A Prayer"(an AOR track with Def Leppard influences). The rest is almost redundant material; “Doesn’t Really Matter"(ordinary rock), “Ain’t It Sacred"(rock and roll) or “I Wanna Know Why"; just too much singing.

The yuk-factor reaches an unbearable level during songs like the obligatory bitter sweet ballad “Rain" or the acoustic ballad “My Heartache Ways". No, just forget about this album and buy a really good rock album, like Frameshift or Magnitude 9!!!

LIFE: "White Flowers" 4

Z Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2004

There is no information to be found about this band...No biography, no nothing, where do these guys come from and is this their first album, I really would not know. But maybe that is not always that interesting, let’s talk about the music on this CD, what can you expect?

Unfortunately this album is packed with 12 middle of the road tracks, which tend to get on your nerves after a while. The title track, and also the opener of this album, is the best one that Life can offer: it starts as a ballad, but then we are treated to some nice AOR/rock guitar riffs and even some a capella singing. The remaining eleven songs are much too poppy, – “For You", “One" or “The Key" -, too funky – “Hogtied", “Devil Wears White" or “Barefoot" or even worse: just too boring, like “You’ll See".

Where is the power, where are the guitar solos, where are the magical musical moments?? After listening to “Ray Of Light" (ballad), “Til Daylight" (ballad), “Without Your Love" (again a ballad) and “This Dream"(another, this time even acoustic ballad) I definitely fall asleep and ending up having terrible nightmares. Gentlemen of Life please keep your “White Flowers" to yourself.


You can find older reviews and everything else in the Reviews Archive. Currently we have the last few weeks of reviews of 2003 waiting to be archived in Temporary Archive. We also have this year's reviews linked above for an easy access to them. If you're looking for a specific title, use the search engine on frontpage or on the Reviews Archive page!

If you came to this page from a search engine, click the logo to view the entire site!