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707: "Megaforce" 8

MTM Classix 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
8 May 2004

Finally a MTM Classix release almost worthy of its name. 707 recorded three melodic rock albums in the very early 80's. It was also the first time rock fans really noticed vocalist Kevin Chalfant (The Storm, Two Fires, VU, The View). Other famous musicians included guitarist/keyboardist Tod Howarth (Frehley's Comet) as well as guitarist Kevin Russell (Rick Derringer).

"Megaforce" was their third and last effort, which originally saw its light of day back in 1982. Produced by famed producer Keith Olsen, it had a slightly edgier sound, than their previous albums. It's still the 'classic' AOR sound of its time and Chalfant's Perry-like vocals adds a certain Journey-ism to everything. The title track is a real classic if anything, it was actually re-recorded as "Calling To You" by Frehley's Comet in 1987. Ace Frehley asked to hear some of Howarth's previous work, before signing him up to the band. Apparently he liked what he heard and thought it to be a funny coincident, as they were signed to the "Megaforce" label.

"Can't Hold Back" and "Get To You", are both steeped in the rockier tradition of Journey. "Out Of The Dark", builds up a certain mood of pomp rock, with the always present grand piano. "Hell Or High Water" is a throw-away rocker with some southern rock influences. Hardly worth mentioning as it's really pales in comparison with the keyboard-driven rocker, "We Will Last". This is the classic AOR sound if anything. The six bonus tracks are a real disappointment and not that much to talk about really. What you get is three (?) different versions of "Megaforce", two versions of "Eagle One" (not a bad song though), and the boring instrumental "The Float". The ten original tracks are still enough reason to pick this up, if you're into that fluffy AOR stuff.

POWDER: "Powder" 8

Continental 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 May 2004

Powder's new self titled album is a mixture of girl power, catchy beats, and modern power rock. They exploded onto the LA music scene in early 2001 and were awarded as "Best Rock/Pop Artist", and "Best Live Show", only six months later at the LA Music Awards. They were also the first unsigned act ever to be included on the A&M Record compilation. Not to mention that the video of the single "Up There" is starting to make waves on MTV. The ultimate schmuck Jay Mewes (Jay & Silent Bob), and one of Frank Zappa's kids (Ahmet - Song Search) do cameo roles in it by the way.

Ninette Terhart (vocals) is a real femme fatale and probably the cause of a fender bender or two in her life. Oh yeah, she could easily stop any meeting traffic with those dangerous curves. Not just a pretty face though as she's responsible for co-writing all twelve tracks included. Her whole attitude reminded me of Wendy O'Williams (R.I.P.), while her voice is closer to Shakira, Debbie Harry (Blonde), with a touch of Dale Bozio (Missing Persons).

The track "I" is amazingly alike Shakira and her peculiar vocal abilities. In fact, many of these songs comes out like a slightly more aggressive Shakira. Throw in some Garbage, a little Pink ("Just Like A Pill" - style, not her average last album), and Lambretta, and you're even closer to home. Powder is indeed a Pop/Rock/Metal hybrid with loud guitars and such. In fact, guitarist Phil X', first major break was Tommy Lee's (Mötley Crue) Methods of Mayhem. He has since been working with Alice Cooper, Andrew W.K. and Rob Zombie. This CD will perhaps not attract that many "classic rock" fans, you definitely need to be open minded about different styles. It's metal guitars and pop melodies with tons of hooks all over the place. Highlights include above mentioned "I", the marvelous ballads "Bite My Tongue", and "Monger", the radio single "Up Here", and best of the bunch, "Fly On The Wall", with its sugar sweet refrain. There's a couple of songs with too much dance beats, and loops, to please this rocker though. I wish they could have gone total rock. It still beats the crap outta' Pink's latest CD.

FAHRENHEIT: "Chain reaction" 7

Perris Records 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner,
7 May 2004

Being prejudiced is a bad thing. Had I been asked what I knew about music in Chile before I heard this album I would have said some bullshit about Chicanos playing the pan flute on the cliffs of mountains. Fahrenheit proved there was life beyond the pan flute in Chile and delivered an album of rough melodic rock ala early Skid Row.

The album opens with "Prom Night", a simple but rocking track with amusingly stupid refrain that goes like "gotta get laid on the prom night". Hilarious. Unfortunately it is obvious right away that there wasn't a million dollar recording budget available for the guys and it left its mark on the final product here and there. The main victim was vocalist Chaz Thomson whose vocals are too much in the front of the mix, leaving them exposed to critical ears (like mine), and his insecurities (not always being able to hit the necessary notes) are too easy to spot. Other than that there's not much to complain, the band is tight, the two guitarists are really entertaining, especially Javier Bassino's lead work, they sing surprisingly good vocals here and there (especially when compared to the lead singer - are we talking about a Jon Bon Jovi - Richie Sambora similarity here?). Highlights of the album would be the catchy "Hot Leather", the guitar work (both acoustic and electric) of the ballad "Be Mine" [the two guitarists must have studied Skid Row songs *very closely* if you know what I mean], and "Roadkill" a strange hybrid of a hard rocking refrain and a rap-funk rock like verse with a cool slap bass groove; despite its strange mixture a real winner in my book.

Fahrenheit may not be the most original band [e.g. right off the top of my head I know a French, a German, a Hungarian, and two US bands with the same name] and their production needs to be improved if they wanna compete with the European or American bands of the genre but they deserve a chance cuz they rock. Speaking of rocking: Before I played the album I asked Urban who had heard it earlier what it was like. He said: "it rocks in a dumb way" and knowing him I guess he meant it in a rather positive way. I played it a dozen times since then and I couldn't come up with a better or more appropriate way of wording it. So ladies and gentlemen, Fahrenheit rocks in a dumb way. Rock with them and get laid on your prom night! Or on your business reception if you have already graduated.

The CREEK: "The Creek & Storm The Gate" 7

Escape 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
8 May 2004

Pimp rockers... ehem... Pomp rockers The Sugarcreek decided to get rid of their sweetness and therefore adopted 'The Creek' name. This is yet another fine digipack 2-CD box release from Escape Music. However, the music sort of ends up as the lite' version of their past. Yup! don't you just hate all those light/lite drinks anyways??? [Calory-conscious reviews' Ed: "No!"]

Don't get me wrong, I find their self titled CD from 1986 to be really good... even without the sugar ingredience. It received all praise and 5 K's in Kerrang by the gobsmacked reviewer, back in the days. Nontheless, I always found their sophomore release "Storm The Gate" (1989), to be rather poor and average performed melodic rock. Tracks like "Foxy", the unbelievable cheesy ballad "I Love", the awful cover of "Hanky Panky", the below average "Fountain Of Youth", and the uninspired instrumental "The Climb", are enough reasons to call this a average release. It really doesn't help much that "Storm The Gate", "Rock Me Tonight", and "On My Way", are all superb. However, you'll also get four bonus tracks from the "Loaded And Lethal" era. This was originally a cassette release, recorded sometime after "Storm The Gate", with new vocalist Jay Willard (ex-Illusion). Especially "Keri Anne" is a real goodie, with its similar sound to Icon's "A More Perfect Union" material.

The 1986 release is actually a couple of years behind its time. The music is stuck in the early 80's sound and if I didn't know the answer already, I would have guessed 1983 or so here. It still has that "Pomp-ish" vibe and more in common with acts like Balance, Franke And The Knockouts, (and of course Sugarcreek), than say Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" or Europe's "The Final Countdown" (big melodic releases during 1986). Bottomline, two thumbs up for the first disc, while the second disc doesn't hold as many good tracks.


Ruf Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 May 2004

Imperial Crowns, with a name like that you almost expect it to be black metal, right? Dead wrong as these geezers play some marvelous old time blues (every once in a while). This is swamp music recorded in the spirit of Blind Willie Johnson or even Otis Redding. With a slightly more updated sound quality of course [:-)].

It's raw, down'n'dirty music, with a touch of soul and the pyschedelic groove of Captain Beefheart. You wont find any musical influences beyond the late 60's on this disc. In fact, "(Simply) Just A Dream", with its Rolling Stones similarities a'la 1966, is the most 'up-to-date' music to be found here. The Stones similarities isn't that strange really as they 'stole' all their music from the old blues masters. The three gringos Jimmie Wood (vocals/harmonica), J.J. Holiday (guitars), and Billy Sullivan (drums), has jam packed their "Hymn Book", with slide guitar, smokey vocals, harmonica, and overall nice groove. "Mr. Jinx" could actually have been a ZZ Top tune in the early 70's. The rest of the tracks have more in common with old timers from the 30's, 40's, and indeed some of the 50's blues.

While I do enjoy the blues, I must admit that "Hymn Book", gets a bit boring in the long run. Not enough uptempo songs in my opinion as they tend to play that sloooooow blues. I guess you're not supposed to take a catnap while listening to tracks like "The River". But believe me, it's hard to stay awake during 4 minutes (though it feels like 30 minutes) of slow-motion music. They're good at what they do and could be worth checking out, if you don't mind the slow blues.


Mascot Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 May 2004

This is NOT a new album by Masters of Reality, but actually this is a solo album by frontman Chriss Goss. "Give us Barabbas" is a collection of material spanning the best part of 20 years. Recorded both as Chriss Goss and Masters Of Reality, this new album focuses more on the acoustic (yawn, yawn!!!) and psychedelic side of Chris's output. Most of the songs have never been released and in a way stand as unpolished gems waiting to be discovered.

For me the only gems are the John Lennon cover "It's so Hard" and the rather heavy rocker "The Desert Song". The rest of the songs are rather boring un-plugged tracks which remind me of the Alice In Chains album "Jar of Flies". It is really back to basis here and although I liked the Masters Of Reality albums, I really do not like this one.

"Off to Tiki Ti" sounds like a country and western song, while "Don't get caught by the Huntameno Bow" is a pure kindergarten song. This is not a rock album, but I can imagine that there are people out there who actually love this kind of music; but hey, there is no account for taste, right??

CROSSFADE: "Crossfade" 5

Sony/Columbia 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
11 May 2004

Not to be confused with that Weastcoast act at MTM Music with singer Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Madison, John Norum, Kharma, Street Talk, etc). This Crossfade has recently been signed to Sony/Columbia in the states. Which sort of makes sense as they combine P.O.D. and Nickelback influences on their debut CD.

They were previously known as Sugardaddy Superstars, under which moniker they also released a rather successful independent CD. Their first big budget release is however co-produced by Randy Staub (Nickelback, P.O.D. The Cult, Metallica, etc.), and it certainly shows in the bottom heavy, yet crystal clear production.

The selling points with this band are definitly their power riffing and the soaring vocals by Ed Sloan (vocals/guitar). He actually comes out sounding like a better version of James Hetfield (Metallica), every now and then. The remaining members of the band are Tony Byroads (guitar/vocals), Mitch James (bass), and Brian Geiger (drums). I could add that Byroads also handles the turntable and samples. There's only occasional sampling and such on this CD though. There's only ten tracks included and it's a bit on the short side. Especially since you can find a couple too many fillers here. "Starless" is a shameful flirt with P.O.D. even though it works, much thanks to its aggressive attitude. "So Far Away", with its mega catchy chorus, is definitly a 50/50 mixture of Nickelback and Mars Electric. "Death Trend Setta" reminded me of something Clawfinger did in the mid-90's. Let's just say the angry lyrics, rap, and metal music, doesn't always work out well together. The real winner is however "No Giving Up", as it's a perfect display of US "hardrock" of today. It's everything that P.O.D. and Nickelback stands for, and it's hardly anything new or original. MTV will probably promote the crap outta this. The bottomline is that it's very safe and half of the material is darn right boring.

Gene SIMMONS: "A**hole" 4

Simmons Records/Sanctuary 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
11 May 2004

The man, the myth, the a**hole??? Let's just say that Gene $immons is indeed the man of thousand faces. Single handlely responsible for laying down 1000's of women, and not to forget, composing 1000's of average rock songs. And don't even get me started with those "you must hate KISS" emails, I've been a fan of the band ever since I was six (6) years old. But let's be frank here, Gene hasn't exactly been spitting out great rock songs, since the very early 80's. Exception noted by a couple of killer tracks here and there, and most of his stuff from "Revenge". The rest has been anything from utterly disgusting to plain average and so-so.

This will hardly come as a surprise in other words. "A**hole" is an awful mish-mash of average rock songs, with a couple of absolutely killer tracks. Business as usuall and I'm not talking about those over 2000!!! different Kiss toys and games either. Gene brings out a bunch of old KISS rejects and demos and expect us to go wild and crazy about it. Well, I always find it interesting when artists experiment with different styles and such. However, Gene's cover of The Prodigy's hit "Firestarter", is nothing less than musical suicide. Hardrock fans will hate this version and same goes with the techno fans. Tracks like "Whatever Turns You On" or "Dog", shouldn't have been included in the first place either. While "Weapons Of Mass Destruction", sounds like any of those average Gene Simmons tunes. I'm not sure Gene's capable of writing a decent rock refrain anymore??? The best/worst example, "You Wanted The Best" from Psycho Circus, which is a freakin' marvelous rock song, until that horrible chorus kicks in. Perhaps he should leave those to Paul Stanley in the future, huh?

Ok, enough with bad mouthing and let's give the demon (my first favorite KISS character) some credit as far from everything is crap. "Waiting For The Morning Light" is a marvelous little ballad written by Gene and Bob Dylan. Stripped down to include only keyboards, bass, and sampled drums. The title track is a great, catchy, modern rock song 'ala Tal Bachman, or Kurt "The Hobbit" Nilsen. It was written by Frank Tostrup from the Norwegian band Shirleys Temple and it's a major hit if anything. The semi ballad "If I Had A Gun" continues in the same style, only this time written by Gene and new Simmons Records signing 'Bag'. "Sweet & Dirty Love" dates all the way back to 1977, when it was originally named "Jelly Roll". Some great guitar work (including slide) by Bruce Kulick and massive drums by Eric Singer. "Black Tongue" is built around an unreleased guitar riff by the late Frank Zappa, and his whole family is involved here. Dweezil plays the guitar like only he can and the rest (Ahmet, Gail, Moon) sing backup vocals. I guess I'm mostly disappointed as I always expect him to come up with better stuff, than he actually does. Gene would probably hate me for saying this. However, Paul Stanley and his song material is what kept KISS going for the last 20 years. Here's hoping that Stanley will record that "Revenge" sounding record he spoke about earlier. There, It's just like the song I guess "maybe I'm an asshole too... just like you".

SCORPIONS: "Unbreakable" 9

BMG 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 May 2004

Achtung baby!!! Scorpions are finally back with a stinger again!!! Or in the words of riff master Rudolf Schenker "after side projects like Moment Of Glory and Acoustica, we owed our fans a kick-ass, bad-to-the-bone CD". No question about it, this rocks harder and better than anything they've done, for the last 15 years or so. However, don't believe drummer James Kottak (Kingdom Come, Wild Horses), when he tells you that "Unbreakable" is their best record ever. Then again, he wasn't around in the heydays, when Scorpions wrote hit singles and classic albums one after the other.

It's not another "Love At First Sting" or "Lovedrive", but it's definitly their best effort since the 80's. Nevertheless, opening track "New Generation" had me worried as it isn't exactly the perfect opener. I would have pushed it down the pecking order of the running tracklist. I must admit that it's a grower and you need to spin it several times. No major worries though as catchy rock anthems like "Love'Em Or Leave'Em", "Deep And Dark", "This Time", and "Someday Is Now", will convince you that Scorpions are now back with its lethal sting. It seems like Schenker/Jabs are enjoying to come up with those massive riffs again. But again, don't expect to find anything as "massive" like "Rock You Like An Hurricane" here. "Through My Eyes" opens up with similar chords and structure to "Still Loving You", until the chorus hits you between the eyes a'la "No One Like You". The big ballad of the album is however "She Said", with its winning concept, traditional Scorpion-style. Keep in mind that Klaus Meine's lively accent isn't every man's poison.

Kottak's own work "Can You Feel It" isn't bad at all... for a drummer. The flirt with the 60's also works out great as the Scorps "Remember The Good Times". I even enjoy the corny "Blood Too Hot", with its cheesy refrain and mind-blowing guitar work. The bridge part with its enchating "rock, rock, rock", isn't that far off the centre of Twisted Sister's little world. Speaking of cheese, "Maybe I Maybe You" is a ballad which could end up as being 'too wimpy'. The music is written by our old friend???!!! Anoushirvan Rohani (gesundheit - bless you), while Klaus Meine provides the matching lyrics. Hardly "Unbreakable" though as my copy ended up with a completely smashed jewel case, bits and pieces all over the place I'm afraid. Yeah right... get your act together!!! Like any of that would really matter. Recommended!!!

Daniele Liverani: "Genius Episode 2 In Search Of The Little Prince" 9

Frontiers Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
4 május 2004

After two years of waiting Daniele Liverani brings us his second part of the Genius trilogy called “In Search of the Little Prince”. The first part, released in 2002, was one of the best power metal albums of that year, so I was really eager to listen to this second part.

We left the two main characters Genius(Mark Boals) and Twinspirit 32(Daniel Gildenlow) in the European twinspirit land, trying to find a way to escape from the Maindream soldiers. In this they succeed and during the entire second episode Genius and Twinspirit meet several other characters that will help them solve the various problems caused by Genius presence on the forbidden dream world and ultimately to save King Mc Chaos, wrongly considered responsible for allowing a human being into dream world.

The music on this album is just as great as on the first episode and the vocals are maybe even better. Entering the scene as new singers on this album are: Russel Allen(Symphony-X), Edu Falaschi (Angra), Jeff Martin(Racer-X), Eric Martin(ex-Mr Big) and Liv Kristine(ex-Theatre Of Tragedy). The highlights on this episode are the brilliant opener “He Will Die”, which sounds like a real rock opera song, just like Aina. “Playing In Their Dreams”, a ballad with magical vocals and amazing guitar solo by Daniele. “My Dear Son” begins with a beautiful instrumental part and is superbly sung by Eric Martin and last but not least. The longest track on the album: “All My Fault”, which starts with some Dream Theater riffs and ends with rather dramatic vocals. Daniele did it again, this is a true metal opera masterpiece, and I can hardly wait for the last episode.

LOUD N' NASTY: "Teaser, Teaser" 9

Perris Records 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
1 May 2004

If there is something like glam rock for the new millennium it's definitely not what Marilyn Manson is doing (even if some wise-ass journalists tried to make us believe that crap) but it should be a lot like the sound of Loud N' Nasty. Remember the fury of the first two Motley Crue albums but performed with a much better musicianship and with a sound of Shotgun Messiah's classic "Second Coming". The similarities of the sound are not just coincidences, Loud N' Nasty are also from Sweden and "Teaser, Teaser" is their second effort.

It opens with the bombastic title track that clearly sets the path for the rest of the album: the sound is thick, especially if we take into account we are talking about a power-trio, but they are so damn tight that you won't miss any other instruments. "Play Dirty" lightens up with a catchy opening riff that turns into a heavy thumping rocker with a middle part a lot like the first Skid Row album. "Hungry" also has some Skid Row aftertouch spiced up with the aggression of early WASP albums, a winning combination welded together forever with the bombastic, rough, almost totally live sound they managed to capture on the album. The info sheet coming with the album does not credit the engineer of the album but whoever he was, he deserves a standing applause.

The rest of the album continues in the same fashion. The only problem with the release is that one can't help hearing the obvious similarities to 12-15 years old albums that still get a spin every now and then in our players. Does it bother me? Not at all, hence the 9 points; but I'd like to point out that at least 2 points out of the 9 are there because of the damn good sound of the album. If you are tired of refreshing your CD collection with the sixth remastered version of the entire Motley Crue backing catalogue, you'd better give Loud N' Nasty a try. You won't regret it.


AOR Heaven 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
30 April 2004

Geeez... I'm a sucker for catchy hooks and awful wimpy melodies like these. And believe me... it doesn't get much wimpier than Alyson Avenue and their female fronted AOR. I kid you not, tracks like "Echoes Of My Heart", could melt any harden heart out there. The verse actually borrows a lot from Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is", while the refrain is deadly catchy.

It's once again totally unashamed soft rock in the tradition and style of Tone Norum. People not aware of this Swedish AOR Goddess of the 80's, could perhaps settle with the Heart, or even better, Robin Beck comparison instead. Just think even more 'poppy' and with those Swedish melodies all over the place. You could also say that "Omega" is this years 'Crystal Blue' CD. Both acts stay true to the 80's influences and you surely can't blame them for being all that original either. It doesn't matter as long as the songs are mostly top class material.

"Perfect Love" is a leftover from their debut album and it sounds better than my demo version. Not by much though and the main complaint and only real downer, is the average production. Again a question of money I know, but keep this in mind, and don't go thinking about those major releases. There's simply not enough beef or power for that. Tracks like "When Dreams Fall Apart", "Do You Ever Miss My Passion", or the absolutely marvelous "Tonight Is All You Get", are all on the other hand too good to be true. The latter will have any wimp rocker in tears and the voice of Anette Blyckert is simply magical. She (still) reminds me of a mixture of Tone Norum and Izabella (the 007 girlie). Only ten tracks though and a couple of "fillers" brings down the rating. Nonetheless a very safe pick up if you're into this kind of music. This is the stuff which the "ABBA" generation in Sweden are brought up with somehow. However, I'm not sure Niclas Olsson (keyboards/songwriter), would admit, or is even aware of, that his music is full with ABBA "influences"??? Knowing Me, Knowing You??? A-ha???

DANIELE LIVERANI: "Daily Trauma" 7

Frontiers records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
4 május 2004

The original name of the storybook that Italian multi-instrumentalist Daniele Liverani developed into the Genius rock opera trilogy was this album called “Daily Trauma”. As a first natural step Daniele composed some instrumental songs that followed the events of the story and that was later used in the Genius trilogy. The result of this creation on the Daily Trauma story was an instrumental album that contained 17 songs. All the songs were connected to the story and Daniele plays all guitars, bass and keyboards, while Dario Ciccioni played the drums.

“Daily Trauma” is an instrumental soundtrack album and the music is heavy and up-to-date and ranges from influences like The Liquid Tension Experiment till real classical opera sounds. The opener “Kingdom Gate” is extremely heavy and fast with furious guitar solos like David Chastain or Vinnie Moore. “Wild Tribe” sounds like Michael Lee Firkins and “Dream League Raid” features a fantastic neo-classical guitar theme a la Yngwie Malmsteen.

The complete album is filled with guitar licks, grooves and solos in the best way of many of Daniele’s guitar “heroes”, like Tony Macalpine, Steve Vai and Joey Tafolla. So for guitar lovers this album is a must. And although I am also a real guitar aficionado I get tired listening to this album after 45 minutes. Maybe Daniele exaggerated a little bit with this album that goes on for almost 75 minutes!!!In some tracks I really would have appreciated some singing, so I am more interested in his second album of the Genius trilogy. This one is absolutely not bad, but maybe a bit too much of the same??

KING KARMA: "King Karma" 7

Z Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
30 April 2004

Where do they come from? What do they sound like? What the heck is King Karma all about really? Well, completely out of the blue and without any real intention of being hip or trendy, this Canadian act will surely please some folks in the hardrock scene. Their indie release has already been the cause of quite some attention in the past and Z Records decided to pick 'em up for the future.

King Karma is mostly something for all you lovers of "Classic" 70's rock. This could as easily have been recorded 30 years ago, and not many would have noticed the difference in the first place. Famed producer/sessionplayer Jimmy Johnson (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, Franklin, etc) is the man behind the sound, and the CD simply ouzes of music from long-gone days. Shaun Williamson (vocals), Markus Wolfe (guitars), Todd Ronning (bass) and Rick Fedyk (drums) are hardly into nu-metal, rap, or any other crap music out there. This is everything that Free,(early) Whitesnake, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Led Zeppelin, were all about in their heydays. "Blue Monday" is probably the best 'Free' substitute, since they recorded new stuff in the 70's. "Into The Everlast" is lovely, gritty rock ala (early) Aerosmith, while "Revolution Man" is both Molly Hatchet and Deep Purple into one. A very impressive vocalist, a really fine production, and indeed solid material. It still lacks abit in the hooks and choruses department. However, I'm sure that you'll absolutely love this if you're a child of the early 70's. Still not sure? Check out soundclips at the site below.


Frontiers 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen,
4 May 2004

White Skull from Italy returns after “The Dark Age” from 2002. Their brutal and raw sound and their Manowar/Rage/Virgin Steele-like simple metal still make an underground impression though. When the overall sound is quite unfinished, thin and hollow as here, which is very common to Italian bands, it often leaves an insignificant mark on good bands and it’s a shame really. White Skull went through another line-up change after “The Dark Age” release and found a new bassist in Fabio Manfroi and a new lead guitarist in Danilo Bar, though Manfroi was announced in March having left only after 6 months with the band. But he’s still present on this album.

Having kept a break of two years and changing members, it still seems like the band hasn’t developed really during that time or gotten new blood to the music from the new members. The songs are basic, straight metal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the band lacks that certain essence here that would bring the final touch to the songs. Comparing to their earlier album, “The XIII Skull” seems to be a setback really, there aren’t much songs that stand out. Even the Rage-like choirs aren’t bombastic enough, which should’ve been an easy task to fill. Sure the battle-attitude works at times, but it doesn’t carry far. The only faster song having some idea to it is “Perfect Design”, a complex song which keeps it together quite well, with a chorus that has potential to be even bigger. In most songs the chorus promises quite a lot.

Among the fast songs there’s only one slow song, “I Wanna Fly Away” and again it has been proven that White Skull are better off writing ballads, at least this has some idea and feeling to it. Or maybe they’d be better off writing another kind of metal. Well, at least I couldn’t get much out from this album. It has its moments and might work at least for the Rage/Blind Guardian fans, but I wouldn’t bet on Manowar fans, it’s not dark enough vocalwise and the sound is too lightweighed in comparison. White Skull sounded more heavy and complete with their “The Dark Age” album, where Gustavo Gabarró had more heart to his vocals and the hooks were present in each song. The band sounded promising back then, so you gotta wonder how much the line-up change influenced in the big picture…

LEAF: "Circle Of Ways" 6

Locomotive Music 2004
Review by Martien Koolem,
4 May 2004

The story of Leaf began almost four years ago. Songwriter Jaime Scholz and Timo Brauwers were asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack for the movie called “The Amulett”. Doing this, these two musicians decided to form a band and they asked Martin Rollin and Marcel Romer to join Leaf.

In 2003 they released their first demo and lots of people liked it and it was played on radio stations as well. In the same year Leaf signed a record deal with Locomotive Records. The music of Leaf can be categorized as a mix between grunge and nu-metal, as their music is filled with heavy riffs and melodic catchy choruses. “Breakable” even reminds me of Linkin Park sometimes. While “Circle Of Ways” features some typical Staind or Nickelback guitar riffs. It is real live music to which you can jump along, but Leaf also plays songs like “Swimming”, which starts really heavy with Fear Factory riffs and contains some angry “shouting”.

After seven songs you get the idea that you have heard some of these songs before. The riffs, the hooks and the vocals all sound a like after a while. So after a while you get bored listening to this album, furthermore there are almost no instrumental solos on this album. But for music lovers that can relate to bands like Clawfinger and some other bands that I mentioned in this review, you can buy this album without listening to it. I think that Leaf is a real live band, there they can bring their musical energy onto the stage and out to the audience. In the studio they are a good band, but nothing special.

RAGING SPEEDHORN: "Live And Demos" 5

Grand Recordings 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 May 2004

Grand Recordings are doing their best with trying to sell us a double CD collection, that give us a retrospective look at U.K. misfits: Raging Speedhorn. They are now signing to SPV and this will most ceterianly also mean the closure of chapter one. Not as "independent" anymore and perhaps more people outside of U.K. will discover these stoner/death lads by now.

The title "Live And Demos" isn't all that misleading actually. Disc #1 - "Live Side" are twelve tracks of "Random Acts Of Violence", recorded live between the years of 2000-2002. It's material from their self titled album and their stoner platter "We Will Be Dead Tomorrow". The live version of "The Gush", is a real a** kicker and you'll surely end up in the mosh pit, quicker than you can say... ehhh... mosh. This track as well as others, were recorded live during Ozzfest 2001, and it's an armageddon of stoner/death metal with growls and howls. Fact is that I don't really see any point with this live disc. Average sound quality and remarkable little difference between the original cuts, makes this only essential for the real nut-case fan. Disc# 2 - "Demo Sides" takes a closer look at leftover demos and rejected versions of golden oldies. Hardly anything new or exciting stuff and again only essential for the die-hard collector. Not the perfect introduction if you're a first time listener perhaps. The typical 'let's squeeze the fans for more money' release.

SYANIDE KICK: "Syanide Kick" 4

Perris Records 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
1 May 2004

All that glitters isn't gold. Perris Records managed to dig a few great glam bands up again (from Pretty Boy Floyd to Roxx Gang, etc.) and let us know about a few previously unheard yet great (from Roxx to Loud N' Nasty, etc.) but in the meantime a few less interesting efforts sneaked in. Syanide Kick is one of those. [From the bio of the band:] "Featuring Big Bang Babies drummer and Tuff bass player Syanide Kick was another Sunset Strip band overlooked by major labels." Well, I guess not all by accident. The music is just below average glam rock with a guitar sound that is worse than of a garage band's, with a vocalist who is at best unconfident at worst bordering being off-key, and songs with about as much originality or entertaining factor as "Naked Gun part 38".

The majority of the songs are chewed and spit out ideas by Poison or "Girls Girls Girls" era Motley Crue. The label compares the band to Bulletboys. I guess it's just perfect. Bulletboys were a band who were at least as unoriginal and as bad as Syanide Kick. But at least Bulletboys managed to come up with "Smooth Up", their one and only good song while Syanide Kick fails to impress with any of their tunes. Don't get me wrong, they try very hard. We have acoustic intros to some of the songs that remind me of the ballads of the first Skid Row album, then there are quite a few typical, blandola glam rock anthems with titles like "Hollywood Angel", "Young & Wild" and all the rest of the gimmicks you knew by heart (and got tired of) by 1991. Hell, we even get a weird Led Zep wannabe blues rocker with whining vocals ("I'm Lost") that sounded tired even from Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come) who by the way was a better vocalist by light-years than Joey Martell.

There are a few fun things on the album though, for example "Let Me Down Easy" sounds like a leftover from the first Poison album (you can always trick your smart-ass catalogist friends by making them believe it was an unreleased Poison tune) or the closing track "Leg's Up High" has charmingly stupid lyrics. Other than that I can't really think of a good reason to shell out the price of a full CD for ten weak tracks and a total running time less than 39 minutes.


SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
30 April 2004

Germany's Messiah's Kiss specialise in traditional heavy metal in a very contemporary sonic outfit??? All this according to their info sheet of course, were you can also read that they grew up listening to bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Accept. Throw in a lot of Dio and Manowar influences and you're definitly closer to home.

One thing's for sure though, if you look up the word "average" in your metal encyclopaedia, you'll probably find a picture and description of this very CD. Everything is steeped into this cheesy metal formula with reused melodies and really corny lyrics. On top of that, "Metal'Til We Die", is nothing less than a blue print copy of Manowar's "Warriors Of The World United".

You can however still find a couple of gems here and the five musicians are all good at what they do. "Uncaging Rebellion" is an excellent track with massive double-bass drumming by Eckhard Ostra. And the following track "Believer" is another winner with its enchating refrain. The overall material leaves much to ask for though and it's not supposed to be laughable, every once in a while I guess? The ballad "Tears In The Rain" is unbareable boring and it actually reminded me more of Spinal Tap, than 'real' metal. "Blackhawk" is something out of the ordinary as it begins like a Manowar tune, and ends up sounding like Whitesnake??? This could still be a very interesting album, if you've never heard a single metal song in your life before (or any of the above mentioned artists). Otherwise it's too darn predictible and you know exactly what their next move will be... long before they've actually done it. With the average "Metal" music comes the average rating.

ANNIHILATOR: "All For You" 9

AFM Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 April 2004

The first two Annihilator albums are still classic heavy metal trash albums; "Alice In Hell" (1989) and "Never, Neverland" (1990) are a must for lovers of heavy guitar metal CDs. To be honest I never would have thought that Jeff Waters could make another fantastic album like those two anymore. But much to my surprise "All For You" is just a superb metal killer album with lots of diversity, extreme fast guitar work and most of all superbly composed songs.

The opener "All For You", " Dr.Psycho" and "Bled" are examples of melodic powerful metal tracks like I have not heard in a long time from Annihilator. "Demon Dance"(can Jeff play any faster than this??) and "Both Of Me" are true metal up your ass songs, which are ideal to torture your neighbors with. "Holding On" and "The One" consist of heavy, trashy parts combined with acoustic melodic parts, and really show the emotional side of Jeff now and then. The whole album is raw, aggressive and very heavy, just like Annihilator should sound like. This album is without a doubt another milestone in the history of Annihilator and heavy music.

Naturally the line-up has changed again; so this is the first studio album with new singer Dave Padden. I hope that this guy will stay with Jeff for a longer period because Dave has it all. His great voice can be hard, tough and aggressive but he also has lots of warmth and melody in his voice. Drummer Mike Mangini( ex-Steve Vai and ex-Extreme), who already played on "Set The World On Fire", hurts the drums on "All For You" again and he really brings some magic to this album. Jeff wrote all the songs and I can truly say that there is no filler on this album; all ten tracks are excellent metal songs, even the instrumental track is a killer. Annihilator is back with a vengeance and for people who truly enjoyed the first two Annihilator albums this is a MUST!! I am really looking forward to hearing some songs of this album played alive somewhere in Europe. By the way, rumor has it that Annihilator will be playing on the Dynamo Festival in Nijmege! n(The Netherlands), together with Slayer.

LORDI: "The Monsterican Dream" 8

BMG 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
23 April 2004

The first Lordi album ("Get Heavy", 2002) was a big hit in Finland and contained some of the biggest choruses since the heyday of Desmond Child. The band's outrageous monster costumes got them a lot of attention too, not to mention their bigger-than-life stage show. Many were wondering how the band would follow up that album, and here's the answer...with more of the same! The characters are still outrageous, the choruses are still big, even the packaging is something out of the ordinary. A limited edition of the album comes of with a 30-minute movie "The Kin", which is actually quite different to what one might expect, not that much a cartoonish splatter thing, and the band members appear only quite briefly in it.

Back to the music: not a lot has changed, but that's not such a bad thing. Lordi (the band) is still stealing a lot of musical ideas from the late eighties/early nineties Alice Cooper albums, more than on the first album really, and Lordi (the main monster) sounds like the bastard son of Udo and Alice, with Rob Zombie as godfather. His vocals aren't the strongest point of the band, but somehow the killer choruses make them more tolerable!

If you liked the first Lordi album, you'll find quite a lot to enjoy on this one too. This time around the number of deadly sharp hooks isn't quite as big, but there a few that you won't be able to escape from... "My Heaven Is Your Hell" is the first single at least in Finland, and it's an instant hit - you'll only have to hear it once and you'll be singing along. "Blood Red Sandman", "Forsaken Fashion Dolls", "Kalmageddon" , the first Lordi-ballad (imagine that!) "Children Of The Night" and a couple of others come close behind. However, if "Get Heavy" had only one song that I didn't like, there are a few more on this album..."Pet The Destroyer", "Wake The Snake", "Haunted Town" and "Fire In The Hole" are rather sub-standard Lordi-numbers in my books, with somehow unmelodic choruses. Still, when the band gets it right, they do get it REALLY right!

DAKOTA: "Deep 6" 8

DAK Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
24 April 2004

I'm still not sure if it's a good or bad thing, you know, that father/son connection within the same band. Can you picture this situation happening to gangsta' rappers or satanic black metal folks in the biz? Ehem... not likely. Then again... the music in the "old days" had at least one thing in common, no matter what. Melodies that you could actually remember and harmonies which definitely needed to be sung in tune.

Dakota started out already back in 1980 with their self titled debut and co-founder Jerry G. Hludzik (vocals/bass) is "The Father" here. "The Son" (Eli Hludzik) is Dakota's skin basher nowadays, and has been ever since the comeback in the late 90's. I'm not sure what happened to "The Holy Ghost" though. Could that have been co-founder Billy Kelly perhaps? He actually helps out with backing vocals on a couple of tracks. The always professional Bill Champlin (Chicago) also guest appears. You'll surely recognize his voice on the killer track "Back To Me". This is smooth rock music in the best Toto, Chicago, Dakota, tradition, which include some excellent vocal harmonies. The opening track "Brothers In Arms" really sets the pace and standard of the whole album. Some really classy work by Rick Manwiller (guitar/keys) and Jon Lorance (guitar), and that melody which you can instantly hum along to.

I haven't been all that impressed with their material lately. Nontheless, "Deep 6" is probably their best effort since that "Runaway" album. It's one step back to the classic 80's sound, and they've even managed to progress with their "outdated" material. It's "pure" AOR that will most certainly please any old fan of the genre. I do miss a few rockers more and there's a couple of dull moments here. However, extra credit for the nice closing section, the acapella mix of all songs included on this CD.

ROXX: "Outlaws, Fools & Thieves" 8

Perris 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
23 April 2004

Get your glitter out of the gutter as it's time for some glamour rock again. Roxx (not to be confused with Roxx Gang, even if they play similar music), came out of the New York scene in the later part of the 80's. They never made it back then and that's actually quite remarkable, since acts like BulletBoys, Tora Tora, Roxy Blue, and indeed Roxx Gang, etc, all managed to lure the majors to sign'em up for the big bucks.

They may not have been MTV favorites of the month, but fact is that some of the members were darn close to. Lead vocalist Joey D'Angeli worked with Skid Row for two months, before a certain Sebastian "Bottle Thrower" Bach, came into the picture. D'Angeli is overall a fine hardrock singer in the Stevie Rachelle (Tuff), Bret Michaels (Poison), tradition and style.

You already know within a couple of seconds of "What's A Boy To Do", that this is going to rock harder than your average cheese act. The guitars are raw, the attitude is checky, and the melodies are definitely present. "Tell Me" comes out rocking like Danger Danger in their early years and it's party music to the core. "Rockin' Horse" is something we've heard thousand times before, but you can't help smiling along to the wicked groove anyhow. I feel sorry for the band actually as they should have been as big as any semi-famous Glam/Sleaze act in the late 80's. "In The Groove" is very much in the spirit of Poison with a mean harmonica and everything. "Mr. Mean" could as easily have been a leftover from Skid Row's debut album. The big MTV hit would surely have been the semi ballad "Give Up Your Heart", as this sucker is deadly melodic with its catchy hook. There's even a short saxophone solo included here, even if that particular part is a bit too much in my opinion. I prefer the slide guitar and honky-tonk piano on the uptempo rocker "Pint Of Blues". To keep it sweet and simply, if you're looking for a good rocking time, make sure to check out ROXX, since their "Outlaws, Fools & Thieves" is well worth checking out, if you're into that 80's party glam/sleaze of course.

The RISE: "Bluezone" 8

Talking Music 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
26 April 2004

The Rise is the new Sweden project with out-of-ordinary vocalist Sonny Larsson (XT, Motherlode, Leviticus), bassist Peter Carlsohn (Jerusalem), drummer Micke Ulvsgärd (Jerusalem, XT), and guitarist Ulf Jenevall (Bahnhof Zoo, Time Machine, Refug). Not to mention that ex-Jerusalem keyboardist Reidar I Paulsen, helps out with additional keys. Their "Bluezone" CD is a fresh mixture of Rock/Pop and borderline hardrock... with the help of some imagination and super glue perhaps. One thing's for sure though, this is mostly quality music with a great production and the whole she-bang.

The main person and songwriter of the band, Peter Carlsohn, is a major U2 addict by the way. This was already noticed by fans on the Jerusalem album "Prophet" in 1994. You can also tell the guitar work on this CD, to be very similar to U2 every now and then. Ulf Jenevall has obviously been told to "shred like The Edge" on certain tracks and places. Just check out the marvelous "Lucky To Live", with its instant hit potential and upbeat tempo. One of the best songs of the year so far. The overall material is Rock/Pop, which include both real and programmed drums and even dance-able beats sometimes. Opener "New Beginning" is the first single and it's a catchy tune for sure. A bit too "dance-able" perhaps (you're only allowed to dance when your team wins the title), but it will surely work out nicely on the radio. "Will You Be Mine" reminded me of Jet Circus with Terry H/Ez Gomer (Leviticus), only slightly poppier. Fact is that Ulvsgård next project will be another Jet Circus album, with the above mentioned musicians. "City Of Hope" is a great ballad with a hand-in-hand, sing-a-long, refrain, and possitive message. "Sweeter Than Wine" could as easily have been a Jerusalem ballad in the past. The verses on "Rise" has a similar sound to Roxette's "The Look", while "Hold On", certainly must be inspired by David Bowie's "Heroes". Not everything that glitters is gold though and you can find a couple of fillers too.

Bottomline, don't expect to find any heavy metal songs and simply just enjoy the quality of thier rock/pop music instead. You need to be open minded about different music styles in general. Last but no least... Larsson is sporting a rather "flashy" hairdo nowadays with his mohawk approach. And we're not talking about the 70's punk version either. It's the real deal, native american style, with long hair in the back. Ehem... yeah whatever... pass.

DEATH ANGEL: "The Art Of Dying" 8

Nuclear Blast 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
26 April 2004

Another Bay Area legend returns, following the mind blowing come back of Exodus it is now time for Death Angel to steal the spotlight again. They made their name between 1987 and 1990 with three excellent albums, of which “Act 3” was their masterpiece.

This new CD is Death Angel’s first album in 14 years and the good thing is that the line-up of the band is largely unchanged; only Gus Pepa left the band and he was replaced by Ted Aguilar. “Act 3”, released in 1990, is still seen as one of the most unique and essential thrash albums ever. In 2001 Death Angel reunited on the occasion of the Thrash of the Titans Festival and it was such a success that they were asked to do more shows. They played at the famous Dynamo Festival in 2002 and now two years later they finally release a new album.

On the promo of the record company are only five songs, but if the other 7 songs are as good as these then “The Art Of Dying” will become another milestone for Death Angel. “Thrown To The Wolves” is rather fast and really thrashy, as if time has stood still... “5 Steps Of Freedom” is an up-tempo hard rock song with an excellent guitar solo and the best song here is “The Devil Incarnate”, not a thrash song but rather melodic and diverse. This song has some doom riffs a la Black Sabbath and some amazing guitar stuff. “Famine” is a real speedy metal track that kicks off with a bass guitar riff and reminds me of Overkill now and then. Last but not least Death Angel treats us to the magnificent “Word To The Wise”, which starts as an acoustic track, but after 1,5 minutes it becomes really heavy; the song ends with a very nice acoustic guitar solo. I want more of this stuff; Death Angel is back and with a vengeance!!

VIKING SKULL: "Chapter One" 6

Grand Recordings 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
22 April 2004

Viking Skull is the latest thing from UK, at least according to all the major rock magazines over there. Formed in a haze of booze during mid 2003 in order to bring back "real metal" back to the people or something. Roddy Stone (vocals), recruited Darren (guitar), Frank (guitar) and Gordan (drums) from Raging Speedhorn, and Roddy dragged his housemate Waldie in to play bass.They had their first rehersal within days and recorded this 6-track EP a couple of weeks later.

What we get on their "Fist Chapter" release is a rather polite mixture of old Black Sabbath riffs, a singer that sometimes sounds a lot like Ian Astbury (The Cult), thrown in some Monster Magnet of course, and end it all up with the aggressive side of The Almighty.

Even Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden has been raving about these chaps on his BBC Radio show. And fair enough, they do rock out with loud guitars and some really stoopid metal songs. The lyrics of "Beers, Drugs And Bitches", "Wizard's Sleeve", "Frostbite", "Rape, Pillage And Burn", "Crazy Trucker", and "Skull Heaven", won't end up as winners at this years Grammys or anything (or maybe they will?). I honestly believed that Viking Skull would bring something fresh to the table and metal scene of today. I thought this was supposed to shock the world, but Monster Magnet is already out there doing this kind of music (just check their new, excellent CD). This is far from crap music... I do enjoy some of these songs very much. But that sure was a lot of fuzz for some Monster Magnet wannabees. Here's hoping their full debut CD will end up sounding a bit differently.

MEMORIZED DREAMS: "Theater Of Life" 5

Sound Riot 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
27 April 2004

Kee Jason founded the band under the name Symphonica Divine in 1999 and they started playing power metal. After the singer left, the band changed musical directions and changed their name into Dreamscape. But this did not work out so they decided to play power metal again and change their name for the third time, now they called themselves Memorized Dreams. In 2002 they recorded a demo and later on in that year record company Riot Records showed interest in their music. The result in the end was a three full length album deal, which was signed in 2003. A new singer Terje Haroy joined the band and they started to record their debut album at the Skansen studios.

The album contains ten songs and could be best described as Helloween meets Stratovarius meets Hammerfall, although I must admit that those bands are far better than Memorized Dreams. I have heard it all before, those typical power metal clichés, fast guitar riffs, high-pitched vocals, choir arrangements, orchestral elements and boring double bass drums. Just listen to songs like “Cardinal Sin”, “Gates Of Heaven” or “Neverland” and you will catch my drift. Heard it all before, but then much better and more important, more originality!!

Of course there is also the obligatory power ballad “Sea Of Oblivion” which sounds like a boring lullaby to me. I really have problems listening to this album in one take. Right from the start you are aching for it to end already, although the album “only” lasts forty minutes…. This is not my cup of tea, boring, unoriginal and badly performed.

Vick LECAR: "Bad Influence" 5

Aaries 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
25 April 2004

Rock'N'Roll always had an "Bad Influence" upon people in the past. The devil's music as some liked to name it, and the music sure did possess the mind of the young Vick LeCar in the 70's. This is his tribute to all those great bands, whom forever changed rock'n'roll history. LeCar has always worked with excellent singers in the past. Even the legendery Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Malmsteen, HTP, Solo, etc), did some vocals on a not-so-official release... there were some problems between them two. However, this time the guitarist decided to do all vocals by himself and it didn't exactly work out for the best.

It mostly sounds like if he was singing with a really bad cold. You know... thick in the head and trouble with breathing through your nose. Never really out of tune or anything, but it's obvious that LeCar isn't that natural born singer. The guitar work is excellent as always and you can tell by the tracklist, that Blackmore is a huge influence and inspiration. Four of the ten tracks included are composed by 'The Man In Black' (or hat?), and you'll get two covers each by Rainbow and Deep Purple. "Stormbringer" and "Holy Man", from the days with David Coverdale & Glenn Hughes in the band (mark: whatever?!). "Long Live Rock'N'Roll" is early Rainbow with Dio upfront, while "Stone Cold" is the US radio version of the band with JL Turner. Not a bad collection of songs, but they all have one important thing in common. Freakin' great singers!!! And sadly I'll have to say that LeCar's voice doesn't exactly do them justice. It works the best with Bachman Turner Overdrive's old hit "Let It Ride" or Jimi Hendrix's "Fire".

The other songs covered on this CD are: "Out On The Tiles" (Led Zeppelin), "Tie Your Mother Down" (Queen), and the two Santana tracks "Hope Your Feeling Better" and "Open Invitation". While I can understand LeCar's decision to sing these tunes himself (since it's his memories and influences), I also believe it would've worked out better with a more solid vocalist.

WICKED SENSATION: "Exceptional" 8

MTM 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 April 2004

"I'm burning, burning, burning, for your love - She's the best I ever had, get me back to my bed". You'll have to admit that it's not exactly words of a genius or rocket science that we're talking about here. Nonetheless, it was obviously a stroke of genius to hire the experienced Fernando Garcia (ex-Victory) as new frontman and vocalist. Garcia has managed to take Wicked Generation a notch higher on the 'not-so-official' world ranking of hardrock.

Their previous shouter wasn't bad or anything. In fact, Soeterboek did an excellent job with his 'Coverdale' alike approach and sometimes even similar voice. Which also meant that 'WS' sounded like Whitesnake, every now and then in the past. Not anymore as they're now closer to home with the traditional "German" sound, which especially include the two acts: Pink Cream 69 and Victory (of course!!!).

The opening track "Shining Light" really grabs you by the throat and never lets go. With its catchy refrain and massive riffing á la George Lynch (Dokken) meets Randy Rhoads (Ozzy), you know this to be a winner. They're off to a great start and if the following "Back To My Bed", wont get your attention... I'm afraid that nothing will. You'll find yourself addictive to the song instantly and it's probably as hard to kick back as that "last" cigarette. You gotta' love that super catchy phrase "It's banging in my head, Get me back to my bed". I surely can't get it out of my head. The lyrics are all fun and giggles by the way and not to be taken too seriously. The first two tracks on "Exceptional" are simply magical and you wont find any better songs on this years' PC 69 (for example). "We Arise" is uptempo arena rock, while the fantastic "Your Beat Inside My Heart", comes out like a mixture of PC 69 & Talisman. "The One You Love Ain't Me" is once again blessed with massive riffing and the chorus is simply breathtaking. I don't believe Garcia has ever been this impressive in the past. Extra credit to the lead guitarists (Klein/Sang), for coming up with some really catchy riffs all over this disc. I'm told that Andi Deris (PC 69, Helloween), helps out in certain places with this and that. Easily as good, if not better, than PC 69's Thunderdome. Recommended even though you can find a couple of fillers here.

ANUBIS GATES: "Purification" 8

Locomotive Music 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 április 2004

Anubis Gate was formed in 2001 by Jesper M.Jensen(guitars/bass/keyboards) and Morten Sorensen(drums) in Denmark. Later on they found a suitable vocalist called Torben Askholm, who sang in other metal bands like Prophets of Doom and Northern Empire. Jacob Hansen was ready and willing to produce this record and right from the opener "Hall Of Two Truths" you hear it is a real heavy metal production.

The style of Anubis Gates could be best described as a mix of classical eighties heavy metal("In The Comfort Of Darkness"), power metal of the nineties("Purification") and dark progressive musical elements("Hypernosis"). It is therefore obvious that you will notice influences from bands like Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Crimson Glory and Fates Warning.

Just listen to "I Demon"(Maiden, Crimson Glory), "Downward Spiral" (Queensryche, Winters Bane) or "Discrowned"(Fates Warning). I really like the guitar hooks and vocal performance, although one of my favorites is the rather short instrumental "Before Anubis". A song with a great melody and amazing guitar solos. The highlight however is the longest track "Discrowned", a mix of power metal and heavy metal, built up around brutal guitar riffs and a howling keyboard solo. Lyrically the album is a concept album about fighting inner demons and cleansing on a psychological level. Not so far fetched for this band called Anubis Gates, as Anubis was the jackal god in ancient Egyptian mythology, that led the misguided dead souls through the underworld into the kingdom of Osiris. A great metal album with lots of diversity, check it out for yourself.


Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
17 April 2004

Lionsheart, the band lead by Steve Grimmett, returns after being dead and buried for a few years, and whaddaya know, the band's alive and kickin'! I quite enjoyed their first album a decade ago (or thereabouts), especially the killer tracks "Can't Believe" and "Portrait", but then the band seemed to lose the plot and released two more albums which were gradually weaker than the debut. The break has done them a lot of good though, and I'd say that they're now as good as they ever were.

The tracks of "Abyss" are solid, classic melodic heavy metal along the likes of Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen, without any gimmicks or modern influences. Maybe the "Abyss" doesn't have a song that can match the magic of "Can't Believe" (one of my favourite songs of the nineties), but the overall quality is quite good. My favourite tracks include "Nightmare", "All I Got" and the two ballads; "I Need Love" and "If You Cut Me", all four representing the melodic side of the band. Out of the harder rocking tracks I'd raise "Witchcraft" and "I'm Alive" above the others. Some of the remaining ones do lack that something special, maybe a hook or two, which takes my rating down a bit...

PYRAMAZE: "Melancholy Beast" 7

Nothing To Say 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
19 April 2004

Pyramaze is a young band. It was formed in the winter of 2001/2002 by the 24-year young guitar player Michael Kammeyer (ex-Damion). He started to compose songs for his new band and six months later he had enough material and he started searching for other band members. So he found Morten Gade (drums), Niels Krist (bass guitar) and Jonah Weingarten (keyboards). Jacob Hansen was asked to be the producer and in January 2003 Pyramaze actually started to record their debut album. Michael was supposed to be the lead singer, but they decided that it would be better to find a pro-singer. Lance King, former vocalist of Balance Of Power and Gemini was found as the perfect man for the job.

The debut album "Melancholy Beast" is a true and pure power metal album, with influences from Kamelot, Iced Earth and also Iron Maiden. Those typical Maiden riffs and rhythms can be heard in the excellent opener "Sleepy Hollow". Iced Earth trademarks are obviously used in a song called "The Journey", while "Mighty Abyss" is faster and features some typical Helloween characteristics.

Lance King's high pitched vocals can be "enjoyed" in the heavy up-tempo metal hymns "Legend" and "Melancholy Beast". Of course there is also the obligatory power ballad "Until We Fade Away", but overall this is a heavy and fast power metal album. But, I doubt if Pyramaze can really stand up from the already existing numerous power metal bands. This mainly due to the fact that I cannot call Pyramaze a very original band. There are so many rock bands out there that make this kind of music, so the competition for Pyramaze will be very tough and keen. So I wish them good luck.

MADISON PAIGE: "Famous Last Words" 7

Without The World Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
19 April 2004

The name "Madison Paige" may sound like a character from a soap opera, but fear not, this one's a rock band from the LA area, and these are certainly not their "famous last words"...I think it's safe to say that their story isn't over, it's only starting!

The band's been actively promoting their stuff over the internet, and even got me a bit curious. So, it was a nice suprise to find their promokit in the mail the other day, although it had been sent to my old address and to "AOR-Europe" - check your address books, guys!

"Famous Last Words" is the band's first album, recorded without the support of a record company. To be honest, while everything looks professional, the press kit, the album artwork etc, the actual album does give away that we're talking about a young band working without a producer. The production is definitely the weakest link here, it doesn't do justice to the bands' talent...let's put it this way: if I was an A&R person, I wouldn't hesitate signing this band, but I'd refuse to release these recordings.

It's the songs that count in this case though, and the boys have a plenty of good ones! Strangely enough, they kick off the show with "Blind", an aggressive track with nu-metal influences (no rapping though, thank god!). It is one of their weakest songs, and the least representative of the band's sound. The next track "Hold Me Over" is quite modern-styled as well, but it's much better with a more melodic chorus.

When the track three kicks in, I had to check whether I was still listening to the same CD, as the band suddenly seems to ditch all modern influences! The next three tracks "The One That Got Away", "Nothing Denied" and "Heaven In Hand" are closer to Trixter or Firehouse than anything, with vocalist Paul Caroul sounding a lot like the vocalist of Trixter, and all songs bursting with melodies and hooks.

"Any Day Now" is something a bit different again, a furious track with an almost Judas Priest-like vibe, but with more melody. Great stuff again. I'm not so sure about "Fear And Storm" though, which seems to mix grunge-influenced verses with a typical 80'ies power ballad chorus.

Instrumental passage "Ella Sabe Solamante" leads one to the catchy "Breakin' My Heart", which sounds like Firehouse gone nu-breed. "Stay This Way" is another modern/melodic mix, and one of the most successful ones here, while "Next To You" is a good acoustic ballad and one of the songs that the muddy production doesn't affect. The show is closed with the excellent and catchy "When I'm Gone" and "Restrained", a dark, balladic track.

The songs on the album are easily worth much than a "7", but the weak production does affect my rating. I'll save the higher rating for the band's next album...


BLAZE: "Blood And Belief" 7

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 April 2004

The former Iron Maiden, Wolfsbane, vocalist has once again returned to the scene of the crime with his third album "Blood And Belief". It's yet another solo album in the Blaze Bailey tradition, which basically means uncompromised metal in your face. Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Stuck Mojo), is still the man behind the production and it's all very cozy and familiar somehow.

It lays a rather gloomy story behind the making of this record. The experience of suffering from severe alcohol problems has gone straight into the lyrics. Not to mention that a serious depression made it all worse and even darker than before. Blaze pretty much hit rock bottom and "Blood And Belief", is all about his self-destructive streak and the long way back.

The song titles actually speaks for themselves and "Alive", "Ten Seconds", "Blood And Belief", "Life And Death", "Tearing Myself Apart", "Hollow Head", "Will To Win", "Regret", "The Path & The Way", and "Soundtrack Of My Life", tells the story about his last couple of years. You could say it's musical self-therapy that we're talking about here. The lyrics are indeed autobiographical and sometimes even too? upfront and honest. I'm not sure if we're supposed to feel sorry about the bloke? It's after all his own doing and desicions in life. Nevermind, it's all about the music and "Blood And Belief" is a solid metal album indeed. That includes crunching guitar work by his old team mates Slater & Wray. Fast paced numbers and indeed slower ones like "Life And Death" or "Tearing Myself To Pieces", gives the drunken story meaning and life. The latter reminded me of "Ordinary World" in some twisted way. I especially enjoyed the catchy power metal of "Will To Win" and "Soundtrack Of My Life". One words sums it all up somehow: Solid!

Edgar WINTER: "Jazzin' The Blues" 5

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 April 2004

Some people say that Edgar Winter is a pale shadow of his past and that's a rather aggressive statement too. Keeping in mind that Edgar, like his older brother Johnny, is an albino at birth. Edgar is probably still today, mostly known for that "Frankenstein" tune, which saw its light of day already back in 1973. You can actually find a completely new "Frankenstein" here, only this time in some weird Jazz-swing version, which at least I couldn't recognize as "that" song.

This is a 'back to the roots' album with lots of Jazz, bebop, fusion, and indeed blues. Edgar himself decribes it like this: "Jazz has always been my first love, and yet, I've still never done an all out Jazz project. Why? I don't know. So I decided to do one and here it is". Strickly for Jazz/Fusion fans with other words, even if this includes guest musicians such as Steve Lukather (Toto) and Gregg Bissonette (DL Roth, etc). It's not all bad however and the first three tracks are excellent jazz/blues tunes. The title and opening track "Jazzin' The Blues", is smoothy performed, with a wicked groove and nice trumpet work by Lee Thornburg. Edgar provides a mean saxophone and he can still 'swing that thing' alright. "Free Ride (Smooth)" is a good instrumental and "God Did It" is a funny blues (check out those lyrics).

STATE OF MIND: "Memory Lane" 5

MTM 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
18 April 2004

We're strolling down the "Memory Lane" again with Sweden's State Of Mind. They were originally formed in the late 80's and semi famous vocalist Conny Lind (Alex Masi, Amaze Me, Talk Of The Town, Vision, etc.), joined them after his US trip and collaboration with Masi. Their first record didn't happen until the mid 90's though and MTM is now re-releasing the Japan only album "Mother" in Europe. It also features a couple of bonus tracks from their first EP "Dream Those Dreams" by the way.

It's Melodic Hardrock that unfortunately lacks stamina and hooks in the chorus department. Some more original thoughts and ideas would have been nice too. I'm not sure why MTM decided to hire Janne Stark as responsible for their classix sublabel, since he's mostly been digging up average mid-90's acts from Sweden anyway, which aren't all that hard to find on CD in the first place. You only have to look as far as Stark's own (and excellent) books "The Encyclopedia Of Swedish Hardrock & Heavy Metal", to realize that he's been leaving out most of the goodies. This is not the standard of Swedish hardrock and it surely ain't no killer release.

I must however say that the opening two tracks "My Kind Of Life" and "Up On The Top", are truly excellent hardrock. The latter is being performed in the spirit of Van Halen (Van Hagar) and guitarist Jörgen Svensson, shreds in the best 'Ed' tradition. Very catchy indeed. It's not so much this being a lousy CD... rather than plain average. Hardly what I would name a classic. The again, I guess it's all a matter of opinion.

MIDNITE SKY: "Rock The Planet" 4

TTS Media 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 April 2004

I thought they recorded a superb 5-track CD (independently) under the 'Zardoz' moniker (see review in our archive). They were however forced to a name change... due to 20th Century Fox' demand and invoice. I believe they released a rather crappy flick with (please read the following out loud with a heavy scottish accent), Sean "Shaken Not Stirred" Connery, in the 70's.

I must admit being very disappointed with Midnite Sky's "Rock The Planet" release. Where are all the excellent melodies from the Zardoz days? Whatever happened to all that excellent groove and melodies??? I miss tracks like "Fire In The Sky", "Going Crazy", and the superb "Roses From The Heart". Only "Running Through The Nite" is still with us and they've even managed to destroy this excellent song. Indeed, this version simply sucks in comparness to the Zardoz original. I'm not sure what they've done, however Bickle sings differently (read: worse), and the whole cocky attitude and approach has completely vanished throughout the backdoor. I wouldn't be surprised if their producer decided to re-arrange it somehow and it all turned out for the worse.

Now they're merely an average version of Jaded Heart, Gotthard, or Shakra. Rock the planet? Rock the neighbours' backyard, would be more appropriate somehow. Geeez... you've managed to leave out all your best songs, lads. I'd blame this solely and entirely upon poor judgement and bad management?

KOTIPELTO: "Coldness" 9

High And Loud/Century Media 2004
Review by Satu Reunanen, 14 April 2004

Timo Kotipelto returns with his second album and the historical pages of the warm Egypt have changed into the Scandinavian coldness. Or more like cold feelings, as the lyrics attest, embracing you to this dark and lonely trip with only sadness showing the way. So forget those Stratovarius’ "like birds in the sky"-lines, this ain’t a happy album at all and the warm sound in "Waiting For The Dawn" is far from the chilling feelings of "Coldness". The band behind the lead vocalist has stayed somewhat the same, a pack of professional musicians who also make the whole album an enjoyable listen; Mirka Rantanen-drums, Jari Kainulainen-bass, Janne Wirman-keys, Antti Wirman-guest guitars, Mike Romeo and Juhani Malmberg-guitars.

The tracks are: "Seeds Of Sorrow", "Reasons", "Around", "Can You Hear The Sound", "Snowbound", "Journey Back", "Evening´s Fall", "Coldness Of My Mind", "Take Me Away" and "Here We Are". All the songs sound familiar already at first listen. Occasionally the songs draw near the calmer mood from Stratovarius. But of course the vocals effect a lot in the end and that’s it really, don’t expect this to be another Stratovarius album. The old, classical eighties metal influences ring through here most of all. But the black wings of melancholia have spread throughout, even the guitars are weeping. The melodies are strong and Kotipelto has once again proven his abilities in this territory.

"Reasons", the chosen single track, is one of the most catchiest tunes here. It’s really dynamic, yet carrying a melancholic, heavy load on its shoulders. The heavy guitars back it up really well and also the backing vocals, which sound good on each track, sung by Kotipelto himself. The following song "Around" is also very good and very sad, Wirman kicking it off with his keys, this time being more gentle towards them than usual, not stabbing his way through the song but having a delicate, haunting feeling to them, and the crying guitars taking from there. This is how the album goes, giving you goosebumps and staying true to the "Coldness"-theme, moving in midtempo most of the time. The basic song structures are pretty much the same as in "Waiting For The Dawn" and both albums aren’t the least bit easy to open, though at first you’re being fooled by the easy-sounding vocal lines, making you wonder you ain’t getting any deeper than this. So bearing that in mind, take a bunch of spins to really sink yourself into these emotions, it ain’t an easy trip.

My faves in this hard pick turned out to be "Reasons", "Journey Back", "Snowbound" and especially "Take Me Away", continuing with the great choruses and the latter one catching some of that eighties classic evergreen atmosphere. Although the whole album is midtempo material and more leaner than the first one and left me longing for the classic ballad, even a sad one, each song shines behind the melancholy, and the chorus is the spark each time. The album has an even heavier side too. And those who’ve kept whining about Kotipelto’s faults in pronounciation, though rear, are happy to notice there aren’t any mishaps anymore. Bands should also take this side into consideration, after all it’s one peace of the puzzle. "Coldness" comes with the videos "Reasons" and a "Making Of Coldness and Reasons". Oh, and prepare your ears for the grand finalé in "Here We Are". Poor speakers and ears might blow up with this one.

OVER THE EDGE: "Over The Edge" 9

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
13 April 2004

Ladies and gentlemen, the first strong "Album Of The Year" candidate has arrived! Mickey Thomas, the vocalist of Starship returns after a lengthy break, fronting this project called Over The Edge. The primus motor behind it is producer Fabrizio V. Zee Grossi, who has previously worked on somewhat similar projects Perfect World (with Kelly Hansen) and Vertigo (with Joseph Williams) for the same label.

The songs for this album have been gathered from some of the biggest AOR songwriters, including Journey's Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain and Jack Blades of Damn Yankees/Nightranger fame. Most of the songs are new to me, only "Thief" is a cover of a Martin Stenmarck song from his "One" album (2002). There's not much one can say about this collection of songs, except that there's not a single weak song here, and that some of them are among the finest AOR tracks I've heard lately! The absolute highlights include the hard-edged modern day AOR of "Forest From The Trees", the more classic sounding "Turn Away" and the Jonathan Cain-penned ballad "Eyes Wide Open", but you can safely pick any of these songs and not end up being disappointed. Lots of fine melodies to be found!

So why only a "9"? Well, as good as the songs are, I feel that the album could have still used one or two killer uptempo rock tracks, now the overall feel of the album is a bit laid back and mellow. And to be honest, I can't deny the fact that the years have taken a toll on Thomas' voice...but anyway, I'm just nitpicking here, and you can quite safely spend your hard-earned cash for a copy, if classic AOR á la Journey is what you're after. Hey, did I mention that the musicians on this album include Neal Schon, Steve Lukather and Ritchie Kotzen, to name a few? I guess I did now...

SAGA: "All Areas - Live In Bonn" 9

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 April 2004

I can't imagine anyone buying the Saga DVD and not being a fan of the past? And that goes for any music DVD somehow as they're all intented to display your favorite act(s) in action. You're already preaching infront of the parish hall, so to speak, and it's not about saving any lost souls out either.

"All Areas - Live In Bonn" was recorded live during Saga's only live performance in Germany and Europe during 2002. It's their 25th anniversary show and they're bringing us packages of goodies to watch. This is a 2 disc set where disc #1 (approx 100 min) is 16 tracks live in Bonn, with bonus features as discography, making of, gear, etc. They're going through classics such as "Careful Where You Step", "Compromise", "The One", and the magical "Wind Him Up". It's mostly material from their first four sci-fi album and the late 90's stuff. Not a single track from the 1987-1995 era though. Mike Sadler (vocals) runs like a madman between the keys and front stage and does an excellent performance as always. However, I've never seen such a uninspired guitarist as Ian Crichton live. The man hardly moves and the complete lack of rock'n'roll personality really shines through on stage. I'm not even sure if he enjoys playing live? It surely doesn't look that way or perhaps they managed to catch him on a bad day? I guess he let's the guitar do the talkin' as you can't complain a single bit on his excellent guitar work.

Disc #2 "Marathon World Tour 2003 - The Official Bootleg" is approx 90 min with 12 live songs and bonus features. I can't believe they've managed to leave out the title track "Marathon". It surely is one of their better songs lately and luckly you'll get it as a bonus feature. Recorded live at the Berns in Stockholm, Sweden, with full throttle and decent sound. A must have for any Saga fan? Absolutely! Recommended indeed!

MARILLION: "Marbles" 9

Intact Recordings 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
13 April 2004

In the eighties I was a real Marillion addict; albums like "Fugazi"(1984), "Misplaced Childhood"(1985) – still one of the best symphonic rock albums ever – and "Clutching At Straws"(1987) are very dear to me and I still listen to them a lot!! Then in 1988 singer Fish left the band and I was devastated, what would become of one of my favorite British prog bands?? When I heard that the new singer would be Steve Hogarth I was very eager to hear a new album by Marillion. And, yes, I really liked the first new style Marillion album "Season’s End". In 1994 they released their superb concept album "Brave" and again I was hooked on Marillion and the future for the English progressive number one band looked bright.

However, three years later I listened to "This Strange Engine" and I was truly disappointed. In comparison to "Brave", this was a rather mediocre progressive rock album with nothing new under the sun. That was also the last Marillion album I actually bought. The last three albums "Radiation", "" and "Anoraknophobia" were definitely not my cup of tea. True disappointments, and I thought that they never would be able to "bounce" back and maybe make an album like "Brave".

It has been three years since their last release and now it finally will hit the stores: "Marbles". It is a concept album that deals with childhood memories of Hogarth playing with marbles…. When I heard the album for the first time I immediately noticed the "lack" of solos and the wonderful soundscapes and amazing melodies. The opener "The Invisible Man", an epic song of approximately 13 minutes, is one of the highlights of the album. Really experimental, mind-boggling musical passages and the amazing vocal performance of Steve are the keywords for this song. "You’re Gone" will be the first single, a catchy song with beautiful guitar work by Rothery. The next track "Angelina" is a sort of jazzy ballad, while "Don’t Hurt Yourself" opens with a Dave Gilmour-ish guitar part and evolves further on into a rather "radio-friendly" song. In "Drilling Holes" the spotlights are on Trewavas and Kelly, while "Fantastic Place" features beautiful piano, almost ambient like, passages. The last track "Neverland"(also an epic one) is probably one of the best Marillion tracks I have heard in a long time. It reminds me of the "good old" Brave days, like this album reminds me of that amazing Marillion CD, which they recorded in 1994. Well, there is nothing more to tell really, Marillion is back and hopefully they will record more albums like this one. "Marbles" really grows on you, till you are hooked and you need one song from the album a day to listen to; so be warned!!!

W.A.S.P.: "The Neon God Part:1 - The Rise" 8

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

Twenty years down the road and Blackie Lawless is still trying to shock the world with his outrageous image and loud music. Old Blackie won't scare that many parents anymore though as many of them are nowadays his most loyal fans I guess? "The Neon God" is once again a concept project ala "The Crimson Idol", where good vs evil now becomes the main focus and attention. It's a really awful story about this abused kid, that later turns into a cult leader and dark messiah of the 21st century. This is a 2-CD project where "Part:1 - The Rise" is released late April and "Part:2 - The Fall", is supposed to see the light of day during June - 2004.

I honestly believe that most of WASP's releases have been very average or worse lately. It's been difficult to live up to their reputation from the debut album and indeed, even "The Headless Children" or "Crimson Idol". This is one huge step in the right direction again as it surely couldn't get much worse than the previous 3 or 4 albums. Don't expect to find anything remarkable new or any major surprises as Blackie continues to write songs in his "typical" forumla, which he's been using for the last 15 years or so.

You can however compare "The Neon God" to "Crimson Idol" in many aspects. The trademark and whole atmosphere of that very album is indeed present. The same emotional aspects can be found here and the story really goes up and down like a rollercoaster ride. "Sister Sadie" (And The Black Habits) is a twisted little story about this nun, who's supposed to help our main character, but of course it only turns out for the worse. It's basicially a more than 7 minutes long epic song in the already mentioned "Idol" tradition. "Why Am I Nothing" is a heartfelt intro to "Asylum #9", which on the other hand is a rather average uptempo rocker. "The Red Room Of The Rising Sun" sounds like something taken out of the flower power era. And that's exactly what it is as the story here takes place in Frisco during the hippie days. WASP goes late 60's somehow? Nice though. "What I'll Ever Find" is the ballad of the album and it's a marvelous little tune really. The lyrics goes straight to the heart and it's one of Blackie's finest ballad moments ever. The closing chapter of part: 1, "The Raging Storm", is another fine epic tune. Much better than I expected and the whole concept works nicely too. Keep in mind that you need to spin this several times before it kicks in though. Sadly? You won't find any new "I Wanna Be Somebody" or "Wild Child" here, but I'm overall quite pleased.

IN FLAMES: "Soundtrack To Your Escape" 7

Nuclear Blast 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
13 April 2004

In Flames do it again, without denying their roots they create thrilling metal in the right balance of classical death origins and modernity. This album is immense, extreme and mind blowing; this is how metal supposed to sound in 2004.

„Friend"is a very heavy opener with screaming vocals and devastating guitar riffs, followed by the first single "The Quiet Place", a song with keyboard samples and rather "melodic" singing. "Evil In A Closet" sounds mysterious and dark; it could almost be a gothic track. In fact it is a semi-ballad that could do well on a Marilyn Manson album. "In Search For I" is a good old school speedster song, fast and furious, a real neck breaker. "Touch Of Red" is filled with guitar walls and "Superhero Of The Computer Rage" is again very speedy and brutal; mind that duo singing in there.

All in all, not a very easy album to listen to, but it grows on you the more you hear it. The production is superb, all the tracks groove like hell, but where are the instrumental passages, where are the solos and where’s the diversity?? But, this is an essential album in this genre; this is In Flames, this is the future.

CROSSFADE: "White On Blue" 7

MTM Music 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
13 April 2004

Crossfade is a project put together by guitarist Lars Hallbäck and keyboardist Richard Stenström, who started writing songs together in 1999. A while later they were joined by one of the leading melodic rock voices, Göran Edman, and the rhythm section of drummer Per Lindvall and his bassplaying brother Sven. The one missing piece of the puzzle was one Eva Olsson, who wrote all the lyrics, customized especially for Göran's voice.

Edman might be best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen, Kharma and John Norum, all a bit heavier acts, but he's no stranger to smooth AOR either, take Street Talk as an example. It might be the closest thing to Crossfade from Edman's other projects, but I'd still say that this is something even smoother. We're talking about pure westcoast styled soft rock, which borders on jazz at times.

The whole album is immaculately produced, arranged and performed, with Edman shining on vocals. Having said that, some of the songs are just too smooth and polished for my taste, that's why my rating won't go any higher. "Vanity Fair", "Flying" and "Don't Really Matter" are just way too jazzy/r'n'b-like for me. I may be narrow-minded, but there's something about these tracks that makes me reach for the remote control...if you can tolerate jazz in your rock, give 'em a try...

There's still quite a lot for a common melodic rock fan (even with a jazz allergy) to enjoy. Majority of the album is fine soft rock in the vein of Toto, Chicago and the likes, mostly classy balladic material like "A Deeper Shade Of Love", "The Day That Music Died" and "Loving Eyes". Interestingly enough, the most rock-oriented track - and my favourite - "You" has been chosen as the closing number...

MAR DE GRISES: "The Tatterdemalion Express" 6

Firebox 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 April 2004

Mar De Grises delivers some hot'n'spicey chili from Chile with their debut album "The Tatterdemalion Express". Well, it's rather doomy and gloomy metal than anything else really. The Chilean band, consisting of Marcelo Rodrigues (vocals/keys), Rodrigo Morris (guitar), Sergio Alvarez (guitar), Rodrigo Galvez (bass) and Alejandro Arce (drums), are very much into atmospheric rock.

Their main focus is perhaps doom, but you can surely find both prog, electronic, and death metal into their material. You can actually compare this with My Dying Bride (MDB from now on) in many ways. They are trying to build up an similar atmosphere of music and I'm sure they've been listening to MDB a lot in the past. Throw in some Samael influences while you're at it too and you'll be closer to the core.

I'm not too fond of Rodriguez voice or rather the lack of it. He's mostly "lost" somewhere in the background and it's hard to tell what the lyrics are all about. Not that growls usually means understandable lyrics (heh, heh), but the vocals aren't exactly my favorite part of the mixing here. The production by Raphael France (Poema Arcanus, Iconoclast) is otherwise quite nice though. The constantly aggressive guitar work, shred their pain throughout your loudspeakers, while the drums are simply doomy and fat as a cat. Mar De Grises may not have created the perfect debut album here. It could however well be worth checking out, if you're a major fan of MDB and doomy, atmospheric metal.

CANS: "Beyond The Gates" 7

Noise/Showtime 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 April 2004

"Beyond The Gates" is Joacim Cans' first solo album and it's quite a pleasant surprise actually. I prefer this to any of Hammerfall's releases lately, since the music is not as much 'over-the-top' or ehem... silly as their 'happy' power metal. Sure, you'll find a couple of pure "true metal" tunes here, but the overall material is darker, heavier, and more basic metal oriented.

Cans has been co-writing the material with Mat Sinner (Sinner, Primal Fear), Metal Mike Chlasciak (Halford), Ronny Milianowicz (Dionysus, Sinergy), Stefan Elmgren (Hammerfall), and even David T Chastain. Jeff Waters (Annihilator) contributes with the song "Forever Ends" and some of the special guest are: Gus G (Dream Evil), Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord), Joacim Lundberg (Infinity), Mats Rendlert (Infinity), and Oscar Dronjak (yet another Hammerfall buddy).

The vibe is definitly closer to classic 'heavy metal' than anything else. The songs co-written by Metal Mike (Soul Collector, Back To Hell), could as easily have been included on any of Rob Halford's solo albums. Especially "Back To Hell" is very much 'Priest' metal with crunching guitars and enchating refrain. The title track is an interesting epos, old school metal, co-written by Chastain and it's also one of the highlights here. I do enjoy the rather confusing "The Key", which include some really special vocal harmonies (angelic?). The melodic "Dreams" with its catchy refrain is another favorite and "Signs", takes us once again back to the 'Priest' metal. Bottomline, not as much leather clothing and plastic sword fighting as the Hammerfall albums. This is definitly more matured metal, that will go hand in hand with music in the tradition of Priest, Halford, Primal Fear, and indeed Dream Evil. Final verdict? Good but hardly great.

JETTISON EDDY: "Trippin On Time" 6

Nuerra Records 2003
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
13 April 2004

What is AOR, Adult Oriented Rock in 2004? The answer could be Jettison Eddy. I'd imagine that many of you readers would associate AOR with Journey, Survivor, Bad English and the likes, but if you think about the term Adult Oriented Rock...Jettison Eddy are clearly making rock music that's aimed for the adult audience, as opposed to the rock bands catering for the younger audience - nu-metal, emo-rock and other "hip" styles of today. Surely this is more likely to please any fan of the melodic rock genre than the the latest CD by Linkin Bizkit or whatsitcalled.

Somehow the band has roped in the legendary Keith Olsen to produce their album. Indeed the production is top notch, and you can't find anything wrong with the musicianship either. When it comes to the songs, the AOR'04 style is a bit more understated than the classic 80'ies AOR style which I do prefer, but at it's best it's not bad at all.

The best songs here are the brilliant opener "Long Break", the catchy "Trippin' On Time" and the moody "Tonight We Run". You can hear that the band is influenced by the likes of Matchbox 20, Pearl Jam and Three Doors Down, but it might just be that the band has also listened to some more "classic AOR" acts such as Journey. Interestingly enough, more than once I was reminded of early nineties cult AOR band Tall Stories, a band that was ahead of their time back then...

It's a bit disappointing that almost half of the album is filled with tracks which are totally forgettable, as the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Jon Manitta proves on the other tracks that he can come up with fine melodies and hooks. Therefore my rating won't go any higher, but still, this album is worth of investigating if you're after new flavours to your AOR diet.

Eric BURDON: "My Secret Life" 5

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 April 2004

There's no secret that Eric Burdon used to be 'The Animals' frontman in the 60's. I'm sure that any guitarist out there are blaming them for the agony of learning how to play "The House Of The Rising Sun", when all you really wanted was to shred like Eddie Van Halen (damn teacher). The Animals started out some 40+ years ago and recorded among other things, classics such as "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (which Gary Moore covers), "See See Rider", and "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place".

Burdon fronted War during the 70's (the biggest funk band of its era?), and has since released several solo albums with everything from Jazz to R&B music. He won't disappoint his die hard fans with "My Secret Life" as there are no secrets here really. It's blues, 60's rock, and Jazz influences, that are very representative of his roots as a Georgie (that's a Newcastle native in plain English). It's hardly my favorite kind of music though and I'm not sure if it's all that representative of this site either. Our parents may actually get a kick outta this and that's truly lame if anything [:-)]. This is however the stuff which hardrock originally came from. Rough and dirty UK acts (Rolling Stones, Animals, etc), are the backbone of "our" music and this CD is indeed back to basic. Tracks like "Motorcycle Man", "Devil Man", and "Can't Kill The Boogie man" do rock like any 40 year old younger rock act. Many of the tracks do sound like any of Rolling Stones (crap) releases in the previous 15-20 years or so.

DREAM EVIL: "The First Chapter" 3-Track Single

Century Media 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 April 2004

"In life I have no religion, besides the Heavy Metal Gods - Dream Evil (2004)". This is only a taster of great things to come... at least according to this excellent 3-track single. Sweden's Dream Evil will release their new CD "The Book Of Heavy Metal" in Europe on the 31st of May. And if the rest of the tracks are anything like this, well, then we're talking about a metal sensation.

"The Book Of Heavy Metal" could possible be the best real 'Heavy Metal' tune in ages from Sweden. It's not nu-metal, no weird influences whatsoever, and blessed with a chorus that gives you chills to the bone. I have the sucker on constant repeat and I can't resist shouting along to the chorus everygoddamntime. Heavy as s**t and still very much old school metal... a future classic in my books. Full credit to Snowy Shaw and it proves once and for all that not all drummers are completely insane or talentless. "Tierd" is the second track from the upcoming album and it's a very solid tune in the Dream Evil tradition. I prefer however the non album track "Point Of No Return" and it alone is a very good reason to pick up this single. Niklas Isfeldt sings better than ever and Gus G is a master at the fret work. With a single like this I can't help thinking that I will probably be disappointed by the full album? I honestly hope not as this is freaking good metal... the Swedish way. Two thumbs up!!!


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/04 * * * * *

Frameshift, Tim Donahue's Madmen And Sinners, Kane, Panik, Evil Masquerade, two albums from Rick Wakeman, Kataklysm, Jeff Pilson's War & Peace, Tony Hernando, Milbajac, Dragonforce, Tygers Of Pan-Tang, Alternative All Stars, Wolf, Rick Springfield, Tesla, Bunny Brunel, HIM, The Allman Bros, Uli Jon Roth, Rick Wakeman, Norther, Apostasy, The Withering, Takara, Feinstein, Kingcrow, Jorn, Entwine, Eclipse, Lowemotor Corporation, Danny Danzi, Jaded Heart, UDO, Frontiers, Magnitude 9, Valensia, Threshold, Zinatra, RAW, Axia, Grip Inc, Shylock, Autograph, Tower and Life.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/04 * * * * *

Alex Masi, Mister Kite, Axel Rudi Pell, Powerquest, International Pop Overthrow, Sinn, Sequel, Secret Heroes, Flame, TNT, Mennen, Spin Gallery, Mother Mercy, Reckless, Charlie Souza, Bowes & Morley, Pretty Boy Floyd, Jack Foster, After Forever, Kristy Krash Majors, Runner, Empty Tremor, Edguy, Monster Magnet, Grandma Moses, Shadowman, Kurt Nilsen, Exodus, Double Cross, Final Frontier, Force Of Evil, Metalium, The Gathering, Orion Riders, Mr. Big Tribute, House Of Lords, Ufo, Metallica Tribute, Manigance, Omar And The Howlers, Malediction.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/04 * * * * *

George Bellas, Seventh Key, Anand, 7th Heaven, Baltimoore, Jack Blades, Universe, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Street Talk, Heavenly, Pink Cream 69, Requiem, Hess, Shiva, VII Gates, Pilot To Gunner, Eric Martin, Rox Diamond, Axenstar, Iced Earth, Erika, Infinite Dreams, Last Autumn's Dream, Faithfull, 220 Volt, Primal Fear, Chris Catena, Bottle Rockets, Alan Whittaker, Velvet Dreams.


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