This page includes the reviews of weeks 1-5 of 2004. You can find older reviews and everything else in the Reviews Archive.


George BELLAS: "Venomous Fingers" 9

Lion Music 2003

Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,
25 January 2004

The world of instrumental (guitar) music is a small one. Last week I reviewed Tom Hess' Opus 2 and this week it's his ex- teacher George Bellas here. Though George's name may also be known for his teaching or for his music educational softwares, I think it's best known for his work with keyboard virtuoso Vitalij Kuprij in Ring of Fire or for his participation in another progressive rock project Magellan. UFO fans may also remember him playing in the UFO side-project Moggway. This time it's a solo record and the music is exactly what's you'd expect from Bellas: progressive instrumental rock music with classical touches.

George handled all the instruments and I'm stunned by his performance on the guitars and the keyboards and also the production. The Bellas' guitar sound (and approach) is probably closest to the early Malmsteen and MacAlpine sound and brilliance of the keyboard tracks and the diversity of the sounds used makes me compare his music to Dream Theater's. I knew he was a great musician but what stroke me the most were the drums. I have never heard drums programmed so well before. When it comes to progressive rock, it's extremely hard to record programmed drums because of the many tempo changes and the complexity of the drum tracks. Most of the times programmed drums fail to live up to the complexity of the music. Well, definitely not here! Though the kick and snare sounds are a little too plastic sometimes, the drum tracks are simply stunning, I can't help enjoying them and I'm scared to imagine how much time and fuss it took to work on them till they ended up being as precise, complex, and diverse as they got.

My personal favorites were the more than 11- minute-long "Journey To The Stars" that along with the opening "Discovery" serving as an intro to "Journey..." sums pretty much up what George's music and the Bellas-sound are all about. I also loved "Lightspeed" that - as its title suggests - is pretty much like early, very fast Malmsteen, not to mention the widely-used harpsichord keyboard sound that is almost compulsory when it comes to neoclassical instrumental rock. Out of the shorter tracks the classical- flavored, guitar-only "Symphonia I and II" impressed me the most, serving a little as intros to "One Last Wish", a slow, memorable ballad. One can't help recognizing how much planning and thinking were put into the album with songs leading into each other, not only by simple fade-through between tracks but by musical ideas, themes, sounds, and moods flowing through the album leaving no gaps between tracks. Though the album is not promoted as a concept album one could easily listen to it as one. Anybody listening to this album must be deaf or a complete dilettante not to recognize the amount and quality of work put into it. Making perfect use of his own studio, experience, and creativity to show his own world of music, George Bellas proved he is among the best progressive musicians of our times.

SEVENTH KEY: "The Raging Fire" 8

Frontiers 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
25 January 2004

Believe it or not, but I was never *that* impressed by the debut album which Seventh Key released back in 2001. In fact, I didn't even have it in my possession anymore and had to track down a copy, just to refresh my memory. I can definitely say that vocalist/bassist Billy Greer (Kansas, Streets, The Sign), steps up to the plate and hits a homerun again. Not every time though as there are still a couple of poor strikes and misses to be found on "The Raging Fire".

Mike Slamer (City Boy, Streets, Steelhouse Lane, etc.), Greer's old band mate from the Streets days, is still very much a part of this project. Besides taking care of all guitar and keyboard work, Slammer also handle engineering, mixing, and production of the album. Not to mention co-writing all the songs with Greer. Needless to say, the guitarwork is simply stunning throughout the whole album and the same goes with the vocal harmonies (much thanks to Terry Brock). I wish I could say the same thing about the actual material.

Perhaps I ask for too much? I want this to be a perfect ten I guess? Especially after hearing "Always From The Heart", included on a Frontiers sampler last year. That's one truly scary monster song, with a hook that would send Tyson on a orbit around the sun. We're talking potential 'song of the year' contender here. You can't help to sing a long at full strenght with the marvelous chorus. The rest of the material doesn't really have that "instant" hit feeling as much as this track. Well, the power ballad "It Should Have Been You", should have been a massive hit back in the 80's. Lovely dut-dut keyboards with that special Foreigner sound and sing-a-long chorus. On the other hand, you can't really find any 'pure crap' songs either. Well, "Winds Of War", and the title track "This Raging Fire", are both pretty boring though and I tend to skip them every time. And with only ten tracks included, two 'fillers' is actually quite a lot. The uptempo rocker "The Sun Will Rise", the moody "You Cross The Line", the guitar rocker "Sun City", the Def Lep inspired "Run", and "Pyramid Princess", are all winners in my book. Fat guitars, fat production, and really fat harmonies, adds extra life and stamina to these songs. Not always blessed with catchy choruses perhaps as Greer/Slammer gives the full treatment to the material, where the verses becomes as important as the actual refrain. By the way, the bonus material includes the video of "Always From The Heart" and interview with the band. You can't go wrong with this release even if I prefer Streets & Steelhouse Lane in the end. Still very good though...


ANAND: "Joy 4 Ever" 9

Lion Music 2003

Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,
25 January 2004

Whatever happened to Lion Music? Two monster instrumental albums in a week! After George Bellas, it's Anand here and the Finnish label carries a rather multinational instrumental guitar project, Anand having Indian ancestors, being born in Surinam, living in the Netherlands, back by Mike Terrana on drums, and two lesser-known Dutch musicians, Nick de Vos on bass and Rob Fahnrich in keyboards [told you in the Bellas review it was a small world...].

Though the bio lists Satriani as Anand's musical influence, I hear a lot more Tony MacAlpine or Jason Becker in his playing. The music is progressive instrumental rock, on the digestible side with memorable melodies and compositions with enough attention paid to listeners' entertainment, not only to technical brilliance. Read: you won't find 38 tempo and key changes in songs but you'll get tunes that you can remember after a few listening. The opening "A Dirty Mind Is A..." being one of those that stuck in your ear, along with the closing "...Joy 4 Ever" both of them being, uptempo stomp-rockers with simple and catchy melodies, the latter one showing some of the mentioned Satriani influence. Some Satch is also audible in my personal favorite of the album "Intimate Dance" a midtempo track with beautiful melodies and a great keyboard sound to complement the guitar sound. The overall sound of the album is very thick and alive anyway, it has a human feel to it that only musicians playing live can provide and no studio wizardry or computer tricks can recreate.

Tracks like "Blind Date", "Disillusioned" and "Next" or "Get Laid" featuring Derek Sherinian [told you it was a small world] as guest on keyboards would please fans of the rather progressive approach while the above mentioned Satch-flavored tunes along with "The One" with its touches of Indian ethnic sound in the beginning then turning to a moody track in the vein of Marty Friedman's "Scenes" album are more for fans of laid-back, melodious instrumental guitar music. I prefer the latter, so by the end of the album, the progressive tracks get a little overwhelming for me, hence the 9 only(?) and not a perfect 10 but anybody into this kind of music should check Anand out!

7TH HEAVEN: "Silver" 8

NTD 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
24 January 2003

Why??? I simply can't understand why these guys are still unsigned? 7th Heaven are without a doubt one of the most talented acts, that I've come across lately. They are not exactly new kids at the block though as they've been around for quite a while already (since 1985 actually).

I can however understand why they've been Voted "Best Band In Chicago" on BarStar and toured extensively all over the midwest region (150+ shows each of the past three years). Since their new 2-CD "Silver" is absolutely jam packed with catchy Nu-Breed Rock/AOR. This beats the s**t out of most, if not all, of Atenzia Records' releases during 2003 (the hip 'Nu-Breed/Rock' label in Europe). Indeed, they've recorded a double CD with 30 tracks!!?? and most of them are simply breathe taking and Def Leppard's X album gets a real challenger here. The superb vocalist/guitarist Andrew Blake, is obviously inspired by Bono (U2) as you can find much of his phrases and work here. The rest of the band with Richard Hofherr (guitars/keys), Mark Kennetz (bass), and Dan Miller (drums), are all very experienced and good musicians.

It's like listening to a AOR/Nu-Breed version of Bono with Def Leppard harmonies most of the time. They've appeared several times on the "Jenny Jones" show and MTV has recently picked up "Silver" to use on the shows "Making the Video" & "Punk'd". Check 'em out at MTV now and running thru the next two years. Believe me, it's just a matter of days/weeks', before they're at least signed to a European label (I'll eat my hat otherwise). Depending on if they wish to sign with one, that is. With 30! tracks to go through, you simply can't just name a song or two. There are perhaps a couple of tracks with too much dance/heavy beat (Broken, War Machine, Face Of Terror), for the average 'wimp' rocker. Disc #1 opens up with "Gravity" and it only takes a couple of seconds to recognize this as A+ rock. With "Cellophane", you'll be down for the count as the refrain hits you right between the eyes. "Kill The Cycle" simply rocks (check out those Bono vocals), and "Ghost Of Me" is pure AOR a'la Def Lep, and the list goes on and on. "Silver" was release late Oct. 2003, but I believe that 2004 will be the year of 7th Heaven. These disc's are simply pouring with talent and excellent material. You can buy it for 10$!!! at their site and check out soundclips for all the songs. Something which I pretty much demand you to do. Highly Recommended if you're into the latest Def Lep and catchy, modern, AOR/NU-Breed rock!
MP3 Samples

BALTIMOORE: "Ultimate Tribute" 6

LionMusic 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
24 January 2004

It seems that Baltimoore has been feeling rather nostalgic lately? Perhaps Björn Lodin decided to go through his old vinyl collection one frosty afternoon? And inspired by the happy-go-easy mood of the 70's music, he came up with the great idea of recording the "Ultimate Tribute" CD. Twelve fast rocking tracks with their own interpretation of classic rock from the 70's (except Jimi Hendrix's 60's groove of 'Freedom').

The band, with Europe's Ian Haugland on drums and returning guitarist Thomas Larsson, goes through classic's such as: "Kill The King" (Rainbow), "Rock Candy" (Montrose), "Never Say Die" (Black Sabbath), "Samurai" (MSG), "She" (KISS), "Love Child" (Deep Purple), "Solid Gold Brass" (Sweet), "Riff Raff" (AC/DC), and "The Rocker" (Thin Lizzy). A pretty impressive selection of songs as they all have their place and time in rock history.

The voice of Björn Lodin is a chapter of its own however, and his very 'raspy' approach, doesn't always work that well with the material. Instead of Ozzy's 'whining' vocals, you'll get a barbwire 'n' whiskey attack on "Never Say Die". Something which isn't such a bad thing after all. "Riff Raff" and "The Rocker" also fits Lodin's voice and overall approach to the music. It cleary doesn't work with tracks like "Kill The King", "Rock Candy", or even "She", as you're used to hearing them in a higher pitch and range really. The production is very much done in the 70's spirit and Haugland kicks the crap outta' his drums. I can say I agree with the CD title, but it's still a rather enjoyable tribute, ever now and then. I must however admit that I find Lodin's voice more annoying today, than back in the 80's/early 90's.

Jack BLADES: "Jack Blades" 7

Frontiers 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
25 January 2004

Jack is back! And it was only a matter of time really as we all expected him to record a solo album one of these days. Not to mention that Frontiers Records had already released solo albums with almost all of the other 'Night Ranger' members anyways.

You may also remember Jack Blades from such great movies... ehem... bands as 'Damn Yankees', with Ted 'Gonzo' Nugent and Tommy Shaw (Styx). The latter helps out with lead vocals on "Shine On", which originally was supposed to be included on the third Damn Yankees CD. Other guests include Neal Schon (Journey), Warren DeMartini (Ratt), Michael Lardie (Great White), and his Night Ranger buddies, Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy, and Jeff Watson.

You could say that many of these tracks are leftover from major projects as Journey, Shaw/Blades, and Damn Yankees. Blades (and Shaw) co-wrote songs with Schon for the latest Journey album (Arrival), and I know for a fact that at least "To Touch The Sky", was originally written for that purpose and album. A really fine uptempo rocker with that special flow that goes hand in hand with Journey rock. I'm guessing that opener "Sea Of Emotions", and "Alone Tonight", were also written for Arrival? as both are the co-work of Neal Schon. Quality material however where the latter is a fine ballad. The slow rocker "Someday" has Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers written all over it with a touch of Cheap Trick. "Breaking It Down" was co-written with Jack's son Colin, and it's atucally more in the George Harrison (R.I.P.) territory, with a so-so chorus and a modern approach. There's actually a lot of different styles on this CD as Blades tend to mix everything from laidback pop-ish tunes, to modern rock influences, and back to classic, melodic hardrock again. You really need to spin this several times as far from everything is an instant hit. Not bad at all in the end, even though it helps if you're open minded about rock music and different styles.

UNIVERSE: "Is there something?" 6

Point Music/Rock Inc. 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
27 January 2004

Universe is a German rock band that first draw attention with their debut single “I Want You”, which was released in 1988. They also made a mini-album called “Waiting For” and in 1998 and 1999 they started working on the production of their first full-length album. When the album was finished, singer Frank DiSanto died of cancer and Universe decided to wait with the release of their album.

In 2003 however Point Music released this album and the ten songs are just plain pure hard rock tracks; nothing spectacular really...All the songs are build up in the same way: it starts with a guitar solo/melody, then a refrain/chorus or vice versa, then a guitar solo, then again a chorus/refrain, or vice versa; so pretty predictable! Their musical influences range from bands like Victory, Crystal Ball, sometimes a bit of Def Leppard and Pride. Typical for their sound are the rather nasal vocals and the standard guitar riffs and hooks, one can expect from German hard rock bands.

“Don’t Wanna Lose” is such a standard pure rock song, which is of course not bad, but ever so familiar and well-known. I think that the word originality does not ring a bell among these guys. However if you like your German and Swiss hard rock, then you can buy this album without any doubt. You will not be disappointed; best songs: “One Love”(a semi-power ballad), “Seventh Day”(with a melodic, touchy guitar solo) and “Is There Something”, which is probably the heaviest track; rock on.


Nitrus Records 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
22 January 2004

Wroom Wroom! Wroooom Wroooom!! Wrooooooooom Wrooooooooom!!! Aaarrrggghhh!!! Splatter Splatter!!! Aaarrrggghhh!!! The Horror, The Horror!!! Hmmm... I always thought that Jackyl (and their Lumberjack song), would be the first band up on a CD such as this. Too obvious choice I guess and not even the old band 'Leatherface' is included, bummer. Instead you'll get a collection of s**t heavy acts with lots of previous unreleased material.

I remember seeing 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' on VCR as a small kid in the 80's. The Swedish Video censur had pratically turned it into a 15 minute long/short flick and you couldn't understand a thing really. The eight year old kiddies of today don't know how "lucky" they are [:-)]. The new recording of this cult movie will perhaps not cause as much attention, but the soundtrack is at least better this time.

Pantera's "Immortally Insane", Soil "Pride", Static-X "Deliver Me", Motograter "Suffocate", Meshuggah "Rational Gaze", Fear Factory "Archetype (Remix)", Morbid Angel "Enshrined By Grace", Finger Eleven "Stay In Shadow", are only some of the 18 tracks included. Where especially the latter is very impressive as Finger Eleven manage to come up with a 'killer' song here. Core-Tez and their "Five Months" song, mixes latin and heavy stuff into a great stew of rock. Otherwise a nice pick up if you're into the above mentioned names, since you can find a lot of new and unreleased material here. Play it loud mutha!


STREET TALK: "Destination" 10

MTM 2004

Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,
18 January 2004

Would it be possible that a band with brilliant, top quality albums only releases a best of album that is bad? Well, who knows but it's definitely not the case here. For whatever reason MTM decided to come out with a best of from the band after three records only [two of them not even MTM releases]; let's not try to guess the reasons of this move, let's be happy instead that the album is here. And there is a reason to be happy for sure!

The selection of the songs would please almost every Street Talk fan because there are songs from Collaboration, Transition, Restoration all and the selection is quite balanced as far as the number of songs go. I said almost because personally it was hard for me to forgive that neither "Energizer Bunny" (the catchiest, funniest Street Talk song ever) nor "Let Me Be The One" (my personal fave ballad of the band) were included. We got "Ye Gods and Little Fishes" the cool uptempo rocker with one of the best lyrics, the midtempo "Need Someone" with its haunting vocal melodies, of course "Someday I'll Get Over You" and "If Anybody Breaks Your Heart" from Transition instead. All of the tracks are a welcome addition to a best of and let me make it clear once and for all: you can't really go wrong when putting a Street Talk best of together because the songs to choose from are all great, it comes to personal taste which ones to include because their quality does not make any difference, they are all great. So I guess there are promotional reasons behind the decision to include six tracks (more than half of the album) from the newest Restoration (2002) that was an MTM release anyway, four from Transition (2000) and only three from Collaboration (1997). Though Göran Edman is one of my favorite vocalists (since his albums with Yngwie I buy everything he puts his golden pipes on), the newer tracks with Hugo and also the earlier tracks are equally good. Those who only know the recent albums will be happy with the songs from the difficult-to-purchase Collaboration. I'd recommend the track "Standing in the Rain" to all as it's probably the best from that era.

And what about those who own all the three Street Talk albums like me? Well, they weren't forgotten about either. There is a new song "Astray" opening the album and it could easily be on Restoration, the sound is even better maybe because of Tony Franklin's aggressive bass grooves underneath the usual "Bergh-sound" and Göran's fantastic vocals. And there are a couple of unreleased and bonus-tracks added. "Made For Paradise" and "I'll Always Remember" are what we are used to from the band yet I have to say my personal favorite was "After the Tears", an instrumental track that is as good as an instrumental song can only get. Its haunting melodies stick in your ear, it is a very emotional ballad that would touch even those who do not care for instrumental songs. I was wondering whether to give a perfect 10 for the album. The only reason I could have found not doing so would have been the fact that my favorite tracks were not included. But since I know it would be a really petty and unfair excuse, I decided to go for 10. A good way to start a new year.

HEAVENLY: "Dust To Dust" 9

Noise/Sanctuary 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
10 January 2004

Holy Crap! The French speed-metal act Heavenly, returns with their third and best album up to date? Yep! I guess the new line-up, with two fast-shredding guitarists this time, gave them the extra-boost they needed so badly, to create their most powerful, yet very melodic (concept) album, "Dust To Dust".

You could say that concept albums is the "forgotten" hertigate of experimental acts from the early 70's (at least when it comes to hardrock). Pure mumbo-jumbo to some, while others truly appreciate the meaning with a storyline behind the music. Here you'll follow a man, who, after being bitten by a vampire, wanders through the centuries, desperately fighting the urge of becoming a bloodsucking creature himself. Pretty much like the book (and later movie) "Interview With A Vampire".

The story itself is of course n-o-t, the most important aspect here. Let's face it... it all depends upon if the songs rocks or not in the end. I'd have to say that a majority of them do rock! The flashy twin guitar assault, adds an extra dimension to the double-bass-drum, thumping material. Heavenly do (still) play the "typical" Euro-metal which Helloween, sort of invented, or at least brought to perfection in the 80's. It's actually a mish-mash of Edguy/Avantasia, Gamma Ray, Helloween, with perhaps a touch of Rhapsody, inspired music, and fans of above mentioned acts, will probably enjoy this quite a lot. Not to mention that vocalist Benjamin Sotto, will remind you of both Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen, from time to time (not kidding). Their music has envolved into something catchier, more aggressive, and simply put, better than in the past. "Lust For Life" is euro metal at its best, "Victory (Creature Of The Night)", will have old fans of Helloween up and dancing on the tables, and "Illusion Part 2 (Call Of The Wild)", reminded me of Avantasia II. Recommended indeed!

PINK CREAM 69: "Thunderdome" 8

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
19 January 2004

It took them over two years to complete "Thunderdome" and even Mad Max started to look 'beyond' PC 69, for something else. Not to put the finger on somebody, however, the delay was mainly due to guitarist Alfred Koffler's, presistent hand condition. Koffler was diagnosed with 'Focal Dystonia' a couple of years ago and they'll continue to add an extra guitarist for their live shows.

The music holds no major hickups or suprises, even if they're perhaps not as "edgy" as on their two previous releases. It's rather one step back to the formula of "Electrified", without reaching the exact same (high) level again, I'm afraid (their best overall album ever?). The result is however still pretty impressive with three experianced songwriters at helm (Koffer, Readman, Ward).

The opening and title track "Thunderdome", is exactly as powerful as the title may suggest. "Gods Come Together" is very similar to the Electrified material and the guitarwork by Koffler is very impressive. You surely wouldn't imagine him having any hand problems for sure. "That Was Yesterday" is a nice ballad and "Shelter" is blessed with a killer hook. It seems like they're always including a cover song nowadays. This time they're having a go at The Knack's smash hit "My Sharona", and the result is darn fun to listen at. I'm not sure if old Knack fans will appreciate it as much though. Nevermind, you can always trust these Germans to come up with a soild and fine album, and they haven't failed this time either. The lyrics on "Thunderdome", takes a critical look at the music business today, where looks and image are more important than talent. Something which PC 69 doens't have to bother about really as they're obviously very talented. Not their best album perhaps, but still very enjoyable.

REQUIEM: "Mask Of Damnation" 6

Sound Riot Records/Rock Inc. 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
17 January 2004

Requiem was founded in Finland in 1999 and they first started as a melodic death power metal band. In 2001 they signed a record deal with Sound Riot and their style gradually changed to neo-classical power metal. A year later they released their debut album called ‘The Arrival” and actually they got some really good reviews.

Their second album “Mask Of Damnation” shows the progress that this young band has made and now I would describe their music as fast power metal. Their influences are obvious; Stratovarius, Helloween, Edguy and Blind Guardian definitely belong to their musical “examples”. However these guys lack the variation that the bands I mentioned do have. All the eight songs on this album are fast, faster, fastest. Maybe with the exception of the title track, where you can finally hear some keyboard parts and some diversity as rhythm is concerned.

These very fast songs tend to get on my nerves, the double bass drums, the staccato riffs, the “horseback riding” tempo, the high-pitched singing; I’ve heard it all before. Requiem should try to develop their own style, rather then being “copycats” of other power metal bands; there should only be one Helloween, guys...


HESS: "Opus 2" 7

Queen of Krakow 2004

Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,
19 January 2004

Opus 2 is surprisingly :) the second effort from Tom Hess and Co. Three years are gone since I reviewed Opus 1 [see our archives for the review] and many things changed and many more did not. Hess is still playing progressive instrumental rock with very strong classical roots, Tom is still assisted by his ex-student Mike Walsh as a second guitarist and the artwork is still as tasteless as it was with Opus 1. But Mike Walsh has "grown up" over the last couple of years and Opus 2 features two equal guitarists (Tom and Mike) with shared lead guitar duties and melodies that make this effort a lot more diverse than the previous one. [BTW stay tuned for next week's issue for a review of George Bellas' "Venomous Fingers" album who was Tom's teacher for five years it's a small world, isn't it?] This time the two guitarists are backed by Scott Hess on drums and Mark Carozza on bass and the production is much better than it was on Opus 1.

Musically Opus 2 is probably even more complex than opus 1 was, dare I say the Dream Theater influence is even stronger, and the sound got definitely heavier at times, reminding me of early Megadeth here and there. Three uptempo tracks open the album and they clearly show which way Hess' music evolved. The dual guitar work makes songs come to life, yet there are so many melodies and ideas squeezed into one track that they really need a few dozen listens till you can remember anything from them. "Nexuses" and Kingdoms" are what you'd expect from an instrumental progressive rock band, so the first track to really raise my eye-brows was "Into the Pinnacle", not only because of its title but because of its unusually heavy approach. Though I do enjoy the guitar work, especially the dual parts, I would like to draw your attention to Scott Hess' performance on the drums on this track. The rhythm section is tight as it should be and Scott is at his best on this number. "The Cynic, the Sad, and the Fallen" starts equally heavy but if you pay attention to the title and the music you'll hear that it's not because of some "let's be heavy just to be heavy" approach but because the song has its own message and the music delivers it as best as only instrumental music can. The Sad and the Fallen parts of the track are probably my favorite moments of the album, there are really catchy melodies here, something that is memorable at the first time you listen to it. "What Could Have Been... and What Is Not" gives us some more beautiful melodies, it is the most soulful track of the album, yet I find the Marty Friedman similarity a little too obvious (I'm talking about his "Scenes" album that is one of my personal favorites that may be the reason that I like this track so much).

"Through the Trials" and "Behold" are typically those kind of tracks that fail to impress me though I know that they feature extraordinary musicianship and countless great ideas, yet they fit into the "just another" progressive rock tune that you simply can't remember no matter how many times you have listened to it. Plus "Behold" has some very Malmsteen- like parts which is never a good thing when you are looking for the originality in a new artist's music. "Stained" brings some early Megadeth taste back with its intro but after that it turns into a cool rock anthem with some really good parts yet again despite being relatively short the track features too many ideas squeezed into four minutes to make any of them really memorable. When I was on the edge of my tolerance "Beyond the Brink" finally slowed things down and brought melodies and harmony back. Tom Hess has an extraordinary sense for melodies, it's really beyond me why he fails to make a better use of his God- given gift. A few more catchy, harmonious tunes like "Beyond the Brink" could have easily lifted this album up to the best instrumental albums since the turn of the millennium. All in all Hess matured a lot since their first effort, they proved once again they are extraordinary good musicians, yet they still cannot move further than that to become as good entertainers as they could easily be. For all you instrumental freaks out there we are running a Hess giveaway next week, stay tuned! Copies of Opus 2 are to be won if you answer a simple question. [hint:] For all those unfamiliar with the band their website might be helpful:

SHIVA: "Desert Dreams" 9

MTM Music 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
12 January 2004

Faster! Harder! Louder! Errr... get your mind out of the gutter as these words sums it all up pretty darn good. The Swedish duo Shiva, consisting of female vocalist Anette Johansson & Mats Edström [guitars/songwriter], returns with a marvelous follow up album and 2004 is off to a fine start indeed. However, keep in mind that "Desert Dreams", is a rather big step from their debut album in 2002, as they've gone for 'total metal' this time.

The first three tracks are very powerful with a sound similar to Judas Priest [Painkiller era], mixed with some Skew Siskin. And those vocals... wow! You know... I can't recall any better female metal vocalist to ever come out of Sweden, or any other part of Europe for that matter. Anette Johansson chews 'em all up and spits 'em out as she sings like a possessed one. I'll gladly take my hat off [among other things], for this marvelous metal-goddess. You really can't compare her with someone else right now as she is truly 'one of a kind', with a voice both stronger than steel and louder than hell [I need to stop playing those Manowar albums]. Doro is remarkably pale in comparison and you really shouldn't go there in the first place either. "Unjustify The Truth" hits ya' right between the eyes with its enchanting chorus and heavy approach. This is Priest with female vocals and throw in some riffs a'la Malmsteen, while you're at it.

Almost every track are still blessed with catchy melodies and big choruses though. Especially track 4-10 are very 'hit friendly' with their roots firmly grounded, into 80's melodic metal/rock. "Completely Strangers" is a superb rocker, while "Losing My Child", is a semi ballad that goes straight to the heart. The lyrics are really touching and you can't hardly imagine the pain of someone who's losing a child. "Passanger Of Life" is another winner, while "Porno Star" is almost like part 2 of "Shame On You", from their first CD. Heavier than their debut in certain parts, but still very impressive.

VII Gates: "Fire, walk with me" 7

Sound Riot Records/Rock Inc. 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
17 January 2004

After making three demos it was about time for the Swedish band Seven (or VII, as they want to write it) Gates to release their first real album. Now, here you have it: “Fire, Walk With Me” is an ambitious album, filled with lots of beautiful melodies and classic heavy metal elements. There are three guitar players in this band and they really dominate the sound of Seven Gates; just listen to the opener “Bounded By Hate” and enjoy some amazing guitar melodies.

Sad to say that this first song is already the highlight of the album, for me at least. The other 8 songs remind me too much of bands like Hammerfall (“The Saviour”), Helloween (“Seconds Left To Live”) or Edguy (“Like A Rock”). These tracks are loaded with very familiar, typical power metal guitar riffs and they tend to become a bit boring. This is simply because there is not enough musical variation and the singer does not have what it takes to keep me awake during the complete album. The power ballad “So Far Away” proves his shortcomings as a hard rock vocalist. Still the fact remains that these guys have it in them to become a really exciting heavy rock band.

The last song, also the longest one, “The Madman Inside”, shows what these guys are capable of. The song kicks off as a dark, mysterious rock piece, but then evolves into a bombastic metal song, with lots of diversity and some really awesome guitar passages. This is how the complete album should have sounded like...Maybe next time????

PILOT TO GUNNER: "Get Saved" 6

Rykodisc/Arena Rock 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
14 January 2004

Don't let the label name mislead you as 'Pilot To Gunner', can hardly be described as Arena Rock. Well, at least not the kind of arena rock which normally goes hand in hand with big hair and dodgy spandex. "Get Saved" is the second CD by the New York City (Brooklyn actually) fourpiece, which still consist of Scott Padden (vocals/guitar), Patrick Hegarty (guitar), Martin McLoughlin (bass), and Kurt Herrmann (drums).

Blimey! Could it be that I'm the only one who can hear 'The Jam' influences all over this disc??? Can it be that Padden is nothing more than a major Paul Weller wannabee? Beats me... I guess you can just call it punk-rock for the new nu-rock generation too. Or compare them with a bunch of minor acts, unknown to the masses, from the New York scene.

It's a different listening experience for sure as there's even some 'The Stooges' and early Iggy Pop, similarities to be found here. Throw in some Wire, Mission Of Burma, and according to the info-sheet, Nation Of Ulysses, even if I can honestly say that I've never even heard about the latter act. There's up's and down's throughout the whole album and you need to spin this several times and finally let it all sink in. Tracks like "Get Saved", "Metropolitans", "Hey Carrier", "Hot Circuitry", are all fine, modern punk/nu-wave tunes with lots of attitude and spunk. Not every man's poison in the end, but pretty aggressive, and slightly below average too. They should give Weller a call though and maybe he could tell 'em how it's properly done.
arena rock

Eric Martin: "Destroy All Monsters" 5

Frontiers Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
17 January 2004

“Destroy All Monsters” is the sixth solo album of former Mr.Big singer Eric Martin, and I am afraid that it is not his best one. Eric describes the music on this album as “distorted pop”, whatever that may be; but it sure is “poppy” for most of the time. Just listen to “Living In Black And White”, “I Can Die Now” or “Burnin’ My Mind”; they are nothing more than mediocre, boring pop songs. In other words, unworthy for a great rock singer like Eric.

Things get worse during the acoustic ballad “You’re Too Good For Him”, which I would describe as Top Of The Pops material!! Eric also surprises me with a genuine rock and roll track called “What If”, and last but not least he covers the Bread song “If”; a track that was made “famous” by Koyak, the New York television police cop. What’s wrong with Eric; I really love his voice and his previous album “I’m Goin’ Sane” was much, much better; at least it rocked!!!

Are there no good songs on this album then, one might wonder. Yes, of course there are, otherwise my rating would have been far worse. The first five tracks on this cd are actually good rock songs; especially the opener “What’s The Worst That Can Happen” is one of the better Eric Martin songs I have heard in a long time. The album was recorded in his home studio called “Pepperland”. He had musical help from Jeff Watson, Chris Wilson, Pat Gilles, Denise Martin, Billy Payne and Harry Hess, so the team was all right; the songs are simply not good enough. Please, Eric try to get Mr.Big together again; so that we can forget solo albums like this one, you can so much better than this!!!!

ROX DIAMOND: "Rox Diamond" 7

Z Records 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
19 January 2004

Err... I always thought that Rox Diamond came out sounding like White Sister's "Fashion By Passion" album... on steroids, somehow. A statement from the past that I can still related to, even though it's hardly the entire truth.

Nonetheless, we're talking about a rather underrated act in my opinion and thanks to Z Records in UK, here's the re-issue with one bonus track added. Originally released by Active Records back in 1992, this was Rox Diamond's only shot at the fame and fortune. There are already talks about a second album though and I guess we'll have to wait and see about that.

There's even some Prophet, Tyketto, and Winger (first album) similarities every now and then on this CD. All songs were written by vocalist/mainman Paul Daniels, well, all except "Get The Lead Out", which famed drummer Ken Mary wrote for the band. Ron Keel actually helps out with background vocals and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing really? Opener "Heart Of Mine" sets the pace and standard for the whole CD. A fine uptempo rocker with smashing guitarwork by Kevin Bach, and some fluffy keyboards on top of it all. Very much like the bastard sons of White Sister and Tyketto (first album). There's a couple of fillers and the bonus track "Rock Bottom" (not the KISS song), adds absolutely nothing to the overall picture. Still a rather interesting re-issue and definitly worthy some credit.

AXENSTAR: "Far From Heaven" 4

Arise Records 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
11 January 2004

Bummer! It turned out that Axenstar's new vocalist (Magnus Winterwild) is none other than their old vocalist. A change of lastname (from Eriksson to Winterwild), and a pair of new shoes, doesn't add that much excitement to the overall picture though.

It's the same trottle metal as before and there's at least 100 bands out there, with a similar sound, only better performed. I'm really impressed with the two lead guitarists Peter Johansson and Thomas Eriksson though. They are pretty much all over the place with flashy solos and power riffing.

The material is neither total crap or excellent work, and it leaves you rather with a feeling of emptiness and with a big question mark, written all over your face. It's power metal in the vein of Sonata Arctica and Rhapsody, without too many ideas or personality of their own. However, songs like "Blind Leading The Blind", or "Don't Hide Your Eyes", shows the potential of the band. I believe it's just a question of finding their own place and time in this metal genre. Excellent musicians without the knowledge of writing their "own" material and creating their "own" sound (yet), would have to be the final verdict here.

Iced Earth: "The Glorious Burden" 9

Steamhammer/SPV 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
13 January 2004

Jon Schaffer wrote these songs as a result of the 11 September attacks in New York. All the eleven songs that are on this ambitious epic deal with the world history in a nutshell. The songs were first recorded with Matt Barlow on vocals, but because of personal reasons he left Iced Earth, and Jon had a bit of a problem; namely to find a new singer. Fortunately Tim “Ripper” Owens just got the sack from Judas Priest, so he was available and willing. If I listen to the fantastic vocals on this album I think that Judas Priest is going to be very sorry to let Tim walk away...

The cd starts with the American national anthem “The Star –Spangled Banner” played on electric guitar(maybe a bit too patriotic to start with??), followed by the great power metal track “Declaration Day”. That song is loaded with superb vocals by Tim, so hear the only suitable comment would be: Matt Barlow and Rob Halford eat your heart out!!! “When The Eagle Cries”, is about the actual attack on the twin towers and it is a power ballad hymn like I have never heard from Iced Earth before. However “The Reckoning” sounds like an “old” Iced Earth track, fast, heavy, brutal guitar riffs and great “shouting” by Tim. If you like high-pitched screaming, like Rob H., in his best days, check out “Greenface”. “Atilla” shows a very bombastic beginning and has some outstanding refrains and choruses, whereas the semi-ballad proves that Tim can do more than just scream and shout. You can also enjoy a very crisp and melodic guitar solo from Jon in the latter.

However, the best is still to come. On the second cd you can listen to the absolute highlight of this album: “GettysBurg”. A heavy metal epos second to none; words cannot describe this musical experience...which lasts for almost 32 minutes!! This is without any doubt the best Jon has ever come up with, inspiring, intriguing, musically amazing and the story is heart breaking. One piece of advice: check out and read the comments from Jon about this power metal high light of 2004. Because I know for sure that this album will be in my top five of this year. Buy or die!!!

ERIKA: "Cold Winter Night" 9

MTM Classix 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
9 January 2004

Now this is what one could call a classic! Swedish AOR queen Erika's first album from 1990 gets a re-issue on the new MTM sub-label, which means that you won't have to pay those silly prices people are asking for it in Ebay and the likes.

"Cold Winter Night" is a curious album. Erika is not the best female vocalist you'll ever hear and the production sounds a bit cold and artificial, but still, this is one of the finest albums of its' kind. Once again it all comes down to the songs, and there's no shortage of good ones here!

The opener "Together We're Lost" was major hit in Sweden and I recall it getting some airplay here in Finland too. No wonder, as it is a huge AOR/Pop Rock anthem. It's not the only one of its' kind, "Hurting So Bad", "Cold Winter Night", "Living Like A Hurricane" and "Last Call For Love" are similary infectious hook-laden AOR gems. Great wall-of-sound backing vocals and more choruses than you could ask for. The remaining four songs aren't too bad, with "Love In Vain" and "Heavenly" being decent ballads, and "Line Of Fire" and "Emergency" hard rockers...although it has to be said that both "Heavenly" and "Line Of Fire" have choruses that aren't quite as strong as the others...there's something a bit corny in them. The horn-fueled "Emergency" doesn't get the full points either, despite Erika's then-husband Y. Malmsteen providing the guitar solo to it.

To sum it up, I've always thought that the songs on this album were really pop tracks with a hard rock coating, and indeed songwriters Almqvist/Ljunggren are profilic pop songsmiths these days. Still, this combination of ultra-catchy pop melodies with hard rock sounds did work and it still does work...

This version contains three bonus tracks, a decent, if a bit throwaway rocker "Super Sonic City" and two special versions of "Together We're Lost". The first one is frankly a hideous "club mix" (less guitars and more drum machines), and the second an extended version of the original. Not necessarily strong reasons to update one's orginal copy to this version, but a bit of added value to those who haven't been able to locate a copy of the 1990 release.

INFINITE DREAMS: "Touch My Skin" 6

TTS Media Musik/Al!ve, 2003
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
9 January 2004

"This is okay, I guess". This was the first thing that I could come up with after listening to this album. There's nothing particulary wrong with it, but that "something special" is missing, which prevents me from raving about the band...but they're okay, take my word for it.

The band's been compared to Bon Jovi, which isn't hard to believe since any band playing melodic rock is going to get that comparison, but I don't really hear much Jovi in their music. In fact I'd be so bold that I'd compare them to a more hard rock-flavoured HIM with a female vocalist. Take tracks like "Touch My Skin" and "Lost In Your Arms" for instance, if one added a bit of Goth seasoning to it, we'd be talking about a feminine version of HIM (would it be HER then?).

Other things worth mentioning? Well, vocalist Miriam reminds me a lot of the girl in Alyson Avenue...the songs that were more to my liking seemed to be on the second half of the album, with "Is It A Sin?" (track number 7) being the first one that really made me stop and listen..."Call Of The Road" sounds a bit like Poison's "Fallen Angel" (similar riff)...there's something about the lyrics that bothers me, not the content but the fact that some of the songs just seem to have too many words, and therefore are a bit of a mouthful to sing...the word "Passionately" (track "Touch My Skin") just doesn't work in a song, at least not in this one, it's doesn't roll out comfortably...that's enough random thoughts.

All in all, as I said before, an okay album from an okay band. Let's hope that in a few years we can look back on this and say "the first album was okay, but they really got things together with the second album!". Just a little bit of fine-tuning and Infinite Dreams will be more than "okay".

LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM: "Last Autumn's Dream" 9

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
27 December 2003

The first "supergroup" of the year 2004 will release its' first album in January. Last Autumn's Dream is the union of swedish vocalist Michael Erlandsson and ex-Fair Warning guitarist Andy Malecek, added with the remarkable trio of John Leven (bass), Mic Michaeli (keys) and Ian Haugland (drums), all members of Europe. Their first collaboration might be a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but mostly this and that isn't too bad at all.

The album kicks off with the band's finest moment, the infectious "Again And Again". It's simply a terrific melodic hard rock track with an instant hook, and for some funny reason it reminds me of "Abba gone hard rock". Echoes of Fair Warning there too. The European bonustrack "Doin' Time" has been oddly placed as track number two, and it marks a change of direction, one of many. To me it sounds a bit like Toto with heavier guitars (West Coast-styled metal?) and I don't consider among my favourites..."Guardian Angel" is the first of the ballads, and it's a very traditional power ballad in the finest European hard rock fashion. It might exlain the placement of "Doin' Time", as a ballad as the second track might have been a bit early in the tracklisting.

"Break The Chains" is one of the heavier tracks of the album, very much in the vein of Talisman with slight neo-classical touches. Then it's an U-turn with "Blink Of The Eye", which is a nice, poppy sing-a-long track, somewhere between Fair Warning and Erlandsson's solo material - quite a logical inclusion really.

The LAD's crank it up with "Talk To Me" again, which is clearly a showcase for Malecek, with lots and lots of guitars. Still, it's one of the finest tracks here, with another killer chorus. Then it's something completely different with "The One", a fine ballad that sounds like a number one pop hit - all it needs is a high profile singer and major label, or a truckload of luck.

"I Never Let You Go" sees the band going to a more AOR direction. This bouncy and easy-going track wouldn't sound out of place on a Journey or Steve Perry album! "High Up" starts promisingly with Malecek delivering stylish soloing and crunchy rhythm guitars, but the song falls flat on its' face thanks to a plodding chorus that sounds like it has been lifted from Autograph's "Turn Up The Radio". "Movin' On" isn't really convincing either, a song that might have suited an Erlandsson solo album better. Interestingly it reminds me of the solo work of fellow Europe member Joey Tempest...the plot thickens?! The album is closed in grand fashion with "Going Home", a ballad with some classical melodies and dramatic arrangement.

I've been wondering whether this mixed bag of songs deserves an eight or a nine for days now, and settled for the better finally. The lack of direction would have been harder to swallow if the songs had been weaker. As it is now, even the ones that I didn't like that much have still a lot going for them, and the best ones are just irrestistable!

FAITHFULL: "Light This City" 8

Vinny Records 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
2 January 2004

OK! First things first! Don't expect to find anything remarkable fresh or new about Faithfull and their debut CD, "Light This City". Any old rocker with an appetite for party tunes will probably recall a lot of this from the past. Especially if you found yourself glued infront of the TV and MTV during the later parts of the 80's and early 90's.

Faithfull is a new band from Portugal with vocalist Sergio Sabino (ex-Evidence), Rui Martin (guitars), Nuno Ledesma (bass), and Sergio Ramon (drums). Sabino is a great vocalist and Portugal's version of both Jon Bon Jovi and Johnny Gioeli (Hardline) somehow. There's absolutely no need to worry about any weird accent either as he could (almost) pass for an American. The music is very guitar oriented and bands like Hardline (of course) and Trixter, comes to mind as well as early Firehouse, with the addition of some ballads a'la Bon Jovi.

And I'm asking you... how can you not enjoy a refrain that goes: "Light This City We're Dancin' This Saturday Night - Another Dancin' Smashin' Sleepless Night". Yeah, I thought so... it's all very 'cheesy' and predicable somehow. However, let's not forget about words like: catchy, uplifting, and darn right funny, either. On the other hand you'll also have a couple of boring parts as far from everything is positive about this CD. The production by Luis Barros (Tarantula) is however very professionally done. Highlights includes the Bon Jovi-ish "I've Been Missing You", the Firehouse meets Bonfire rocker "You Won't Get Me Now", the epic ballad "Ending Song", the uptempo rocker "Melting Your Ice", and of course the smashing title track. Not to forget the mega catchy "Learned My Lesson", with lovely harmonies. Lots of kick-ass guitars and superb performance by Sabino makes this an interesting CD for all fans of fun, MTV rock, a'la 1990. Bottomline: Don't expect rocket science and simply just enjoy Faithfull for what they are. Approx. 1 hour of uplifting hairmetal with goofy lyrics and catchy, kick-ass, music (minus a couple of fillers).

220 VOLT: "Eye To Eye" 9

PowerPlay Records 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
2 January 2004

PowerPlay Records is a new and interesting (independent) label, based in New York/USA. They'll work with world wide sales and distribution for new metal bands as well as re-issues of classic albums. First up is this marvelous re-issue of 220 Volt and their "Eye To Eye" album from 1987, regarded as one of the best melodic hardrock albums to ever come out of Sweden.

Digitally remastered and officially licensed from Sony/Sweden (not like those bootlegs of Power Games & Mind Over Muscle), with two bonus tracks and all new artwork. The glossy 12 page booklet with all lyrics, some photos, and a special written introduction by guitarist Mats Karlsson is rather impressive stuff too. I'm not sure about your opinion, but I find it rather interesting to have a completely new artwork to go along with the CD. Perhaps they could have included the original artcover on the back of the booklet??? I'm otherwise quite happy with this actually.

"Eye To Eye" was their 4th studio album (not including the compilations), and also their biggest flirt with the US market. Recorded 'over there' by Max Norman, the outcome became slightly more melodic than previous attempts. "Beat Of The Heart", "Love Is All You Need", and "Still In Love", are all amazing songs in the wimp territory. While opener "The Harder They Come", "I'm On Fire", "Dog Eat Dog", and "Money Talks", do all rock harder than your average meat balls band. If you're not familiar with 220 Volt before, you could compare them with acts like TNT, Dokken, and fellow Swedes, Europe. They actually reformed in 2002 and released the compilation CD "Volume 1", the follwing year (mostly early 80's and live stuff), sadly without singer Jocke Lundholm though. Recommended!!! No need to pay mega bucks for the long out-of-print original CD at ebay anymore. Pick up a copy at PowerPlay and visit the official 220 Volt site at links below.

PRIMAL FEAR: "Devil’s Ground" 8

Nuclear Blast 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
5 January 2004

In 2002 German heavy metal band Primal Fear made their best album(“Black Sun”) so far. Then in 2003 drummer Klaus Sperling left the band and he was replaced by Randy Black(Annihilator), and with him Primal Fear made their first US tour. With this new album called “Devil’s Ground” I think that this band will become even more popular among the heavy metal scene.

This is without any doubt the heaviest record Primal Fear has made so far and I think that this is how the new Judas Priest album could(should?) sound…. Singer Ralf Scheepers sounds more and more like Rob Halford in his good “old” days; in “Metal Is Forever” his high-pitched vocals are all over the place; just listen to the initial scream!!! This track will be the new metal hymn for Primal Fear for years to come; this is heavy, this is good, this is like Judas Priest in their “Painkiller-days”. Just listen to those drilling guitar riffs in “Visions Of Fate”, “Sea Of Flames” or the fast as hell song “Heart Of A Brave”.

“In Metal” is one of the best headbanging songs(Judas Priest eat your heart out!) I have heard in a long time and the powerballad “The Healer” is also worth mentioning, especially for the great vocal parts of Ralf. But my favorite track is without any doubt the powerful, melodic “Wings Of Desire”, just experience that blasting guitar opening….. The only song I did not like is the rather “simple” “Colony 13”, but the rest is metal how it should be: heavy, dynamic and lots of killer tracks. The limited European edition will feature two 5.1 mixes of the two hymns “Metal Is Forever” and “The Healer”, as well as a surprise cover version of a classic metal song. The release date is 23 February!!

Chris Catena: "Freak Out" 7

Frontiers Records 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
2 January 2004

Italian rock singer Chris Catena embarked in a solo project called “Hidalgo”in 1994 and he even played in a grunge band for almost two years. In 2002 he decided it was time to record his own stuff and almost a year later he released his first solo album called “Freak Out”. The guest list of musicians that helped him is rather impressive; take e.g.: Glenn Hughes, Bruce Kulick(Kiss), Tommy Aldridge(Whitesnake), Doug Wimbish(Living Colour), Eric Singer(Alice Cooper) or Dave Meniketti(Y & T). The music on this album is a mix of hard rock of the seventies with funk, metal and blues; so Trapeze meets Whitesnake, or Kiss meets Deep Purple...

Chris’s voice sounds rather like Glenn Hughes or David Coverdale; just enjoy the fantastic opener “Crazy Man” and you catch my drift; a Purple/Whitesnake-ish up-tempo track with a dazzling guitar solo and lots of excellent high screaming from Chris at the end. “Freak Out Tonight” could as well be on the last Hughes solo album; just listen to that remarkable high-pitched vocals. “Lady Starlight”, is a rather bluesy Deep Purple-like song(even the title) with a rather catchy refrain. As you continue to listen to the songs you get a deja-vu feeling every time a new song starts. Take for instance the organ intro in “Take Me Away”...need I say more.

So, Chris does not “cover up” his great influences and role models, but his voice is that good, that in the end you forgive him for being so unoriginal. Just listen to the guitar driven rockers “Getting Tighter” or “Sweet Talker” and you will be screaming for more. Maybe there is a great future ahead for Chris Catena, if he tries to create his “own” musical rock style.


Sanctuary 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
3 January 2004

Twangy guitars and honky-tonk music for the middle aged, [white] American, doesn't always work well in Europe. This is red, white & blue, right down to the core and not even a "Blue Sky" will save this from being pretty average.

You almost feel like screaming: Pace! God Damnit... Pace!!! Does it get any worse than a bunch of country-rock troubadours without the knowledge of writing a decent uptempo rocker. Probably not as Bottle Rockets mostly like to twang their guitars in slow motion, throughout the whole freakin' album. Not even producers like Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule) and Michael Barbiero (James Brown, John Lennon, Metallica), help much to the overall picture, when the band is driving with safety belts and handbreak on.

There's however a couple of marvelous rock songs included on this record too. Both of them with bassist Robert Kearns on lead vocals, where especially "I Don't Wanna Go Back", hits ya' right between the eyes with a left hook. This song actually comes out sounding like if Cheap Trick would go country-lite. Kearns should really take over the lead vocals position from Henneman all of the time, by the way. Sure enough the opening track "Lucky Break", do rock in certain places and "Baby's Not My Baby Tonight", will take you close to the Allman Brothers sound (with a bit of imagination). Strictly for fans and Americans?? only.

Alan Whittaker: "Top Of The World"

? 2003
Review by Martien Koolen,
2 january 2004

This is the third solo album of singer/songwriter and guitar player Alan Whittaker and I hope that it will be his last. Fourteen songs influenced by Crowded House, Neil Finn, Genesis and Yes??? Well, I certainly cannot hear any “relations” with the last two mentioned… But there are definitely poppy influences from Crowded House, like in “White Noise” or “Set Me Free”.

Most of the fourteen tracks are however more boring, mediocre pop tracks, where musically nothing interesting happens, just listen to “Powder And Champagne”, a song with a capital B for boring, or the lullaby “Fading Embers”; yawn, yawn, I almost fell asleep there...This really is the kind of music that my grandmother would love; is this guy maybe related to the “notorious” Roger Whittaker?? That would explain a lot; I hereby rest my case.

[ Reviews Editors' note: the CD is available free of charge from Alan Whittaker. Martien's review was a bit on the harsh side, but do check out the CD yourself!]

VELVET DREAMS: "Velvet Dreams" 2

Vinny Records 2003
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallström,
3 January 2004

What if The Cult actually came from Spain, decided to hire an Italian vocalist with poor accent, and wrote laughable lyrics to go along with the matching music. High and low fives all around people as you're certainly in for a treat... if you happen to find the above statement interesting and/or irresistible.

Velvet Dreams was formed in Tenerife/Spain (a couple of years ago), by Italian singer Max Mucelli and half? Scotish guitarist Ricardo Walls. I guess Walls never bothered to pick up anything from his Scotish roots, huh? Mucelli on the other hand, was one of those DJ's/musicians, in any of those Spanish bars down the coast. The two of them met while touring the Canarian circuit and lovely music accrued.

The result is a rather depressive album with an melancholic vibe and really strange music. Offbeat and off-the-wall, without any hooks or rememberable refrains, I'm afraid. I've been playing the disc constantly for two weeks time now and I still can't find the correct words to describe it. There's no need to entirely spill one's guts about it either and I'm sure you've noticed that I find this to be very poor material anyhow. The singer works in the David Coverdale, Ville Valo (HIM) tradition, according to the info-sheet, and should really work on his accent instead. He's no Coverdale for sure... and to even mention him in the same sentence is an insult to the potential buyer.



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