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GLENN HUGHES: "Soulfully live in the city of Angels" 9

Frontiers records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August 2004

In 1994, so ten years ago, the voice of rock, Glenn Hughes released a fantastic live album called "Burning Japan live". A decade later he surprises me with an even better live album called: "Soulfully live in the city of Angels". It is a double album with 11 live tracks and two bonus studio tracks.

Among the 11 live songs are 7 "oldies", featuring "Seafull", "Coast to Coast" and "Medusa", from Trapeze times, "First Step of Love" from the Hughes/Thrall period and three Deep Purple "classics", namely: "Mistreated", "Getting' Tighter" and "You Keep on Moving". Especially the latter one and "Mistreated" form the absolute highlights of the second CD.

On the first CD Glenn shines in songs like "Higher Places" or "Wherever You Go" from his latest album "Songs in the key of rock"(2003). However his best performance is in the amazing "Written all over your face", what a voice, absolutely heavenly, even his screams are beautiful. Also check out the fantastic guitar solos all over the album by JJ Marsh and George Mastos and on the drum kit you can enjoy Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith. An amazing live document which proves that Glenn is still THE voice of rock!! At the same time Frontiers Records releases a DVD with the same songs on it and some bonus material (interviews). I definitely prefer the CDs, but if you have never seen Glenn alive then the DVD will also be a good purchase.

JORDAN RUDESS: "Rhythm of Time" 9

Mascot records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen
25 August 2004

The first time I heard Jordan's keyboards howling was on the debut album of the famous "Liquid Tension Experiment", with John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Tony Levin as other musicians. Then in 1999 Jordan joined my favorite prog metal band Dream Theater and I got more and more familiar with his amazing keys playing. In 2001 Jordan released his first solo album called "Feeding the Wheel", a CD that I reviewed for the Dutch metal magazine Aardschok, and which I "awarded" 9 points.

His second solo album "4NYC" was released in 2002 and it was dedicated to New York city. Now his third solo CD will hit the stores and it is again a beauty. The album features great musicians like: Rod Morgenstein (drums), Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe and Daniel J. on guitar, Dave Larue (bass) and guest singer Kip Winger.

The music is a mix of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension, filled with metal, prog, jazz, classical, rock and sometimes even pop influences. "Time Crunch" opens this amazing album and what a great opener it is; sometimes heavy, but always melodic; great key solos and nice guitar solos by Vinnie Moore make this track one of the best of "Rhythm in Time". "Screaming Head" starts rather heavy and features a smashing solo by one of my guitar heroes: Joe Satriani. One of the most experimental songs is probably a song called "Ra". A track filled with Oriental sounds, sometimes heavy riffs and a swinging and funky bass makes this one very special. The two vocal tracks on this CD "Beyond Tomorrow" and "Tear Before The Rain" are without any doubt the less interesting tracks on this album. Maybe that has to do with the fact that Kip Winger is not my favorite vocalist or maybe because especially the ballad "Tear Before The Rain" is rather boring, only vocals and piano. The rest of the album is truly outstanding prog metal music with Jordan playing one of his best keys solos ever and of course the great guitar players on this album also give this CD an extra dimension. You can always press the stop button after track 7 and then you will not be disappointed, but only amazed about Jordan's virtuosity. A must for Dream Theater fans!

DIO: "Master of the Moon" 7

SPV/Steamhammer 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August2004

Dio's previous album "Killing the Dragon"(2002)was not my favorite Dio CD; in fact I found it a rather average hard rock/metal album, which only caught my attention because of Ronnie's incredible voice. Then Dio released his first DVD and hit me in the face with all time Dio classics like "Holy Diver", "Stand Up and Shout" or "The Last in Line". This DVD made clear that 'Holy Diver"(already 21 years old) is still his absolute best album.

His new album "Master of the Moon" can be best compared to "Killing the Dragon", so in my opinion this CD misses "freshness", new ideas and most of all energy. Do net get me wrong, this is not a bad album, but it is however a little bit Dio-unworthy. The song writing on this album is definitely not as good as on classic Dio albums like "Holy Diver", "The Last in Line" or "Dream Evil". Nine of the ten songs are just mid tempo hard rockers which "drag along" and where nothing really exciting happens ..

I mean, three or four songs of that "caliber" are allowed on a Dio album, but not nine. Again this does not mean that "The End of the World" or "Death By Love" are really bad songs, but if another vocalist would sing these songs, instead of the divine Ronnie James, then these tracks would not even be recorded, perhaps….. The opening track "One More for the Road" is without any doubt the best song on this album. A really heavy, soon to be Dio classic, which makes me wonder why there is only one super song like that one on this album. The band, which consists of Graig Goldy (guitar), Rudy Sarzo (bass guitar, ex-Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake), Simon Wright (drums, ex-AC/DC, UFO) and Scott Warren (keyboards, ex-Keel) is not to blame; the problem really is the weak song writing. But Ronnie James Dio is still one of the greatest heavy metal singers ever!

SCAVENGER: "Madness To Our Method" 6

Sentinel 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 August 2004

Scavanger are Ireland's premier Heavy/Power Metal outfit. At least according to their label and they must be telling us the truth I guess... or??? I'm not even sure I'd classify them as they did, since I can mostly hear old Thrash Metal influences and parts here. The very early Megadeth, Xentrix, and indeed some Metal Church and Maiden, comes to mind while listening to their new CD.

The production is quiet raw and the varied vocals by Peter Dunne certainly fit the music. Appearing almost out of nowhere in late 2002, they took the Irish Metal scene (at the local pub?) by storm. Indeed do songs like "Prisoner Of Time" remind you a lot of early Megadeth, and you expect to hear the whining vocals of Mustaine by any second now. Something which obviously never happens. Guitarist Noel Maher is a real riff master and his work on this track is something out of the ordinary. Hello to 1985 somehow and a flashback to all the Thrash guitarists of the past (Scott Not, Mustaine, Hammett, Skolnick, Arnett, etc).

I'm not sure if you'd call this a full CD?, since there's only six tracks to be found here. They are however delivering lengthy workouts complete with numerous tempo changes and typical metal anthems (or at least typical back when). Hardly the crem of the crop, but "Madness To Our Method" is interesting for the simple fact of being very dated and quite good (thrash) metal, and you won't hear many albums like this anymore. The vocals of Dunne isn't quite as "brutal" as you wish it'd be. Otherwise nice and not too annoying to the ear(s).

CHEAP TRICK: "From Tokyo to You" 6

Big3 records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August2004

On the 9th of July I saw Cheap Trick for the very first time live on stage during Bospop in Weert. As you have probably already read my Bospop review you know I was rather unsatisfied with their performance; the sound was bad and the guys on stage looked like they did not have any fun at all.

Two weeks after Bospop I received this DVD of Cheap Trick, which was recorded in Japan. I remember that I bought my first (and only) Cheap Trick album "Live At Budokan" in 1979 when I was 19 years young. At that time I quite liked the poppy rock of Cheap Trick and the strange escapades of guitar player Rick Nielsen. Now 25 years after their Budokan album Cheap Trick return to Japan to relive the memory of long forgotten days.

On the DVD you find 16 songs, with of course their hits like "If You Want My Love", "I Want You To Want Me" and "Surrender", but again I am amazed how little happens on stage….. Furthermore I must establish that Robin Zander's voice has definitely lost its power and that the songs are nothing more or less than poppy sing-along rockers. Nielsen still changes his guitar after every song and Bun E, is not the chain smoker he used to be. Every track is followed by a short interview, which makes it more of a pop/rock documentary than a live concert; in other words; there is too much talking and too less music! Furthermore the guys decided to treat us to a couple of acoustic tracks and you know how I love unplugged shit!!! Only suitable for ultimate Cheap Trick fans!

LANA LANE: "Return to Japan" 6

Frontiers Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August2004

On this double live album you find recordings from 1998 till 2002, recorded in Lana's favorite country Japan. CD 1 contains 13 tracks and features the full Lana Lane band, this means with two guitar players and of course Erik Norlander on keyboards. The sound on this CD is great and the songs are "heavy" symphonic, melodic and sometimes dramatic examples of typical Lana Lane's music. Highlights are: "The Introductory Medley", "Escher's Staircase" and "Evolution Revolution".

The second CD however is only filled with acoustic songs(I hate unplugged shit!!) and even worse, acoustic covers (I loathe covers!!). How can you "rape" a classic rock song like "Dream On"(Aerosmith) or a fantastic, symphonic highlight like "Season's End" by Marillion. Do not go that way; sing your own bloody material, please. But it gets worse, because there are two more remastered bonus tracks (with full band) and they are also covers!!! First Lana Lane and Band try their luck on a King Crimson classic called: "In the court of the Crimson King" and then finally they cover "Long live rock and roll" a Rainbow classic. Well, it cannot get any worse than that, because a female voice on that track (and I am not a sexist pig here and never) is really the pitch, it sounds like pure shite. This whole second CD bores me to death by the way, so this album is only food for Lana Lane addicts.

At the same time Lana Lane will release a DVD called: "Storybook: Tales from Europe and Japan". This DVD is filled with 3 hours of music and it features 20 live tracks with the complete band. The pictures are a bit out of date and sometimes the quality leaves much to be desired. The bonus section has some interesting interviews and some lively back stage pictures and on the road snap shots. Again a must for Lana fans!

KINGDOM COME: "Perpetual" 5

Frontiers 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 August 2004

The led clones of the 80's are back with a new album and not-so-fresh sound. I'm sure you all remember the fuzz back when as both Page & Plant (and everybody else?) wanted them for dead. How dared they play music with such obvious resemblance to the inventors of hardrock? Not much has changed for the last 15 years as Lenny Wolf (vocals, all instruments except guitar solos, production), continues to perform classic rock in the vein of classic Led Zeppelin. In fact, this is probably the most "Zeppelin" sounding album since the selftitled debut in 1988. Only darker and not even close to being as good.

I'm actually a major fan of the first two albums and I've always enjoyed the vocals of Wolf. I can also recommend his pre-Kingdom Come act (Stone Fury), with Bruce Gowdy (World Trade, Unruly Child) as guitarist and sidekick. "Perpetual" is however mostly recycled melodies and guitar riffs of above mentioned super group and past work of Lenny. You can't help to get a feeling of deja vu as you already know the next move/line, even before Wolf has manage to sing it.

With the above in mind, I'm still quite sure the die-hards will appreciate this as much as everything else (I believe it's called blind faith or something?). Essential if you're addictive to your old Led Zep albums and badly need a poor man's substitute drug. Hey, anything is better than shooting it straight up your arm I guess. The acoustic "Inhaling The Silence" is a life saver though and one of few tracks actually worthy the mark of a genius. The rest are hardly awful rather than truly average.


Frontiers 2004
Review by Petri Kautto 17 August 2004

I first heard of Richie Kotzen when he replaced CC Deville in Poison for "Native Tongue". Since the split with Poison he’s been busy doing everything from fusion bands to filling the shoes of Paul Gilbert in Mr. Big. He’s also done solo material in the past so he’s made his mark in the rock music scene.

Kotzen is a great musician no doubt. He even plays all the instruments on the album. The material, however, leaves room for improvement. The melodies are mediocre and at the times it feels like he’s trying to do too much in one song. The title track "Get Up" is a prime example of this. The song is somehow messy and it’s hard to get a good grip on it. The strength in this album is in slow, bluesy rockers. "Remember" is the high point of the album. Kotzen keeps it simple and performs the songs smoothly. "Made for Tonight" follows along the same lines and does not disappoint.

Generally speaking the album is a small disappointment. Most of the songs lack a decent melody on which to build on. "So Cold" has a catchy refrain but the rest of the song does not live up to it. Fortunately the slow ones were enjoyable and had a nice vibe to them. But there were no songs that would really stick to your mind so I think that I will split this one right in the middle, 5/10.


LionMusic 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 August 2004

Book Of Reflections is a brand new all-star metal project in the neo-classical, melodic metal genre. The material was all written by guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson and you can expect a lot of high-speed riffing and flashy duels with out-of-ordinary keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij. Perhaps I'm a bit too negative in my overview of this project. However, with nothing too spectacular to jolt you out of your ordinary happy reverie, BOR feels more like an dodgy pocket story than the mother of all metal books.

It's high energy songs with nice performances by the four lead vocalists - Andy Engberg (Section A, Lion's Share), Mikael Holm (Winterlong), Hubi Meisel (Dreamscape), and Torgny Stjärnfelt (Condition Red), and it's all powered by good musicianship. The main problem is the approache to music or rather the lack of it, since it hardly differs from any other neo-classical project out there. The massive wall of fast shreding licks and complex chords at large makes it all rather boring in the end. It's the same old story with guitar w***ing and look-at-me, I-can-play-faster-than-you attitude.

Most of the songs are uptempo and based upon the same structure. Which basically make tracks like "You're Not Alone", even more important as they offer something different from the rest. This happens to be a great ballad with vocalist Hubi Meisel at the mike and a real winner in my book. You can't really complain about tracks like "Going Through The Motions" or "Tearing Down" either, since they are all excellent display of neo-classical metal. If you've never heard about "Neo" before, think Yngwie Malmsteen as he's the inventor (more or less) of the genre (even if Blackmore did his thing too). Bottomline: I'm afraid it's only average at its best.

METAL CHURCH: "Weight Of The World" 5

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

I'll have to say that "Weight Of The World", reminded me a lot more of Iron Maiden than Metal Church. It's unfortunately the poor version with Blaze Bailey upfront and dodgy material in the vein of 'Virtual XI.' or whatever they named that album. New vocalist Ronny Monroe (ex-Rottweiller - who let the dogs out?) comes actually through like a mixture of Blaze and the singer of White Cross (Scott Wenzel).

Since original vocalist David Wayne has once again moved on (he briefly returned for the 1999 comeback album, his departure can hardly be a surprise as he was frequentely leaving and returning in the past), the only two original members left are guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington. I'm not sure what you call "original" anymore as Vanderhoof started up the band in San Francisco, before moving to Seattle in 1982. I guess you'll have to go with the first line-up on record to make any sense of it all (and that goes for any band out there really).

You will of course find some basic Metal Church material along the way. However, I'd still say that something like "Hero's Soul", would have been perfectly suited on Maiden albums with Blaze. Ex-Malice and Megadeth guitarist Jay Reynolds, helps out with power riffs and funny tricks, while new bassist Steve Unger, is a Northwest music scene and studio veteran. Nontheless, something is obviously missing as the material simply isn't as impressive as in their heydays. It's more or less metal by numbers by now with matching outfit and leather jackets to complete the entire picture. With the weight of the world upon your shoulder, you expect it be much heavier, darker, catchier, and simply better than this.

Greg CHERONE: "A Humarock Song"

GC 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 August 2004

"A Humarock Song" is the title of the new single by Greg Cherone and it's most certainly a very laidback story. All profit of the CD will actually be donated to the Humarock Beach improvement association. It seems to be a special place with fond memories for the entire Cherone family as they used to go there as kids. Clocking the tide and the childish adventure(?) of finding sand dollars and starfish, etc.

Reading the lyrics it now seems to be a place for Greg's own family to hang out, every once in a while. The song itself may not exactly spark like a radioactive cat in the dark. Don't expect to find any "hardrock" or even much of electric "rock", since Cherone has gone with the 'back to basics' approach here. Guitarist Markus throws in a single acoustic guitar upfront, while Steve Catizone lays down some laidback percussion in the background. Catzone also produced, engineered, and mixed the whole she-bang at Sanctum Sound Studio in Boston, Massachusetts.

The vocals are very honest and upfront with the assistance of brother Gary (Extreme, Van Halen) on the harmonies. I've been playing it at least 20 times by now (well, it's only one song folks), and I must say that I really enjoy it for what it is. A soulful acoustic guitar ballad which reminded me both of Billy "Drink'N Drive" Joel, and with a bit of imagination, even a minor (and I do mean minor) touch of the ballads Queen did. Don't go thinking too much about the latter though as it's mostly in the vein of soul/pop artists. I can't get that chorus outta my mind after awhile "Summertime just look what we got, in a place, a place called Humarock". Final verdict: Nice tune infront of the bonfire, but on the other hand, dangerously close to being cheesy to the extreme (and the last word wasn't actually meant to be a cheap shot at the cherone act). Check out the site below for more info as the single is already into its 3rd pressing.

MAGNUM: "Brand New Morning" 9

SPV 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 August 2004

First Scorpions and now Magnum, it's not every year these old geezers manage to record something this good. Forget about the rather disappointing comeback album a couple of years ago (Breath Of Life) as "Brand New Morning" is better in every aspect. Bob "The Cat" Catley and Tony "The Hat" Clarkin have also managed to find that special chemistery again, which made them one of my favorite acts during the late 80's. I can still recall discovering "On A Storytellers Night" as a kid and introduced them to all my friends. Little I knew about their long background then and that they had already released the new album "Vigilante". In fact, they released "Wings Of Heaven" shortly after, which reached the amazing No: 2 position here In Sweden. It's always been their home away from home somehow.

"Brand New Morning" is their finest moment in years and definitely a worthy chapter to the neverending saga of pompous rock. I kid you not as Catley (Jerry Williams' long lost brother?)sound better than ever? and Clarkin has obviously found his magical touch when it comes to songwriting again. The production is perhaps not up to the standard of the over-the-top anthem "Wings Of Heaven", (quite raw actually) but you can't complain really. Clarkin handles everything as always and comes through with shining colours I must add.

What makes this album really great are however the song material as it's simply top quality stuff. Everything from the blissful opener/title track, to the closing epic "The Scarecrow" (10 minutes, give or take), will have any old fan in a constant rush. Most of us sported a perm/mullet and matching spandex the last time Magnum sounded this good ;-). Ex-Thunder drummer Harry James adds another dimension to their sound too, since I can't recall such powerful work in the past. The grand piano tainted "It's Time To Come Together", couldn't have been done by anyone other than Mark Stanway, and it's classic Magnum at it's best. "We All Run" is a marvelous little tune really, those keys by Stanway again and a refrain out of the ordinary. Listen closely to Catley here as his voice goes beyond great and every boundary. "The Blue And The Grey" is a moody ballad in the Magnum tradition and style. This will probably end up at the very top of my album list of the year (or close to). Recommended indeed!

John YOUNG: "Live at the Classic Rock Society" 9

Heritage Records 2003
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
12 August 2004

You'd expect quality stuff from seasoned session musicians (almost the complete backing band of Fish), don't you? Well, you get that here for sure! John Young (Uli Jon Roth, Bonnie Tyler, Fish, Asia, Scorpions, etc.) put together a great band to tour his own music and was wise enough to record one of the shows. These guys (Robin Boult on guitar, John Jowitt on bass, and Dave Stweart on drums) are so tight and the sound quality is so good that it's sometimes hard to believe we are talking about a live recording here.

After all the touring with countless artists it was high time to showcase John's songwriting skills. He delivers an album full of quality progressive rock, performed just as tights as if it were a studio album. He confidently handles the vocals and does not overplay the keyboard parts. The songs are laid-back, complex yet melodic and catchy rock numbers with thick arrangements. The keyboard and guitar sounds are simply breathtaking, tasty but thick enough to give a feeling as if there were dozens of layers recorded even if it's just the four musicians. It's hard to name personal favorites from the album as the song quality is so consistent that none of the tracks really sticks out. I enjoyed the slow and mellow tracks like the opening "Significance" with great keyboard sounds and very melodic vocal lines or "Underside" with an equally stunning vocal performance but the straightforward keyboard intro and pumping midtempo groove of "Childhood's End" made the track one of my faves.

With this release the John Young Band proves the ever-so-true statement again: you don't need a million dollar production to deliver an album of quality stuff, it's enough to put four great musicians together to play a bunch of well-written songs. And that's exactly what you get form this album. Recommended!

CHRIS CAFFERY: "Faces/God Damn War" 9

Black Lotus Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 augusztus 2004

The last Savatage album dates already from 2000 and Chris told me in the interview I had with him during Bospop that they have not even started to record a new album…. But, fortunately Chris Caffery releases two solo albums now and I can tell you that they are probably even better than the new Savatage material… The 25 tracks on the two CDs are true melodic heavy metal songs, powerful, progressive and Chris plays his guitar like never before. And that is without any doubt the most distinctive difference between Savatage and this material, almost all the songs are really guitar driven and the guitar solos are speedy, melodic and heavenly; like for example in a song called "The Mold".

The band that plays along with Chris on the two albums consists of: Paul Morris(ex-Rainbow), keyboards and piano, Jeff Plate, drummer of Savatage since 1994 and Dave Z(bassguitar). Maybe the greatest surprise on this album is the fact that Chris sings like a young metal god, a mix of Jon Oliva, Alice Cooper and David Lee Roth, need I say more?? The music on both albums could best be described as Doctor Butcher meets Savatage, or Alice Cooper meets the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As there are 25 songs divided over the two CDs I will not go into detail about every song, but I will write something about the highlights of Chris's fabulous music. "Fade Into The X" is a fantastic heavy rocker, which could be best described as a modern version of material from the Savatage album "Hall of the Mountain King". Another song that I have to mention is "Never", which starts with an electrifying guitar solo and then evolves into a super power ballad with lots of guitar solos and melodies. On the diverse guitar dominated track "Jealousy" Chris sings like Alice Cooper, which makes this one also one of the best songs on "Faces". The almost instrumental "Preludio" is a must for guitar freaks (like me), I did not know that Chris could play like this; bloody hell!! "God Damn War" is ofcourse a concept album about the Iraq war and is more dramatic and lyrically critical than "Faces". The title track kicks off with a chopper sound, a siren and some explosions, before the guitars come crashing in; it has a great chorus, a fantastic guitar melody and some really aggressive vocals. "Saddamize" is probably the most experimental song on the album and is filled with Arabic influences, narrations (critical) and Chris's shouting and guitar picking. I could go on like this, but it is better if you just buy these albums and listen to them yourself. If you like Savatage with balls and lots of guitar solos, then you got to have "Faces/God Damn War", believe me, you will not be disappointed!!! Best track to listen to, if you still have doubts, "Abandoned".

Zero Nine: "N.E. Files" 8

Poko Rekords 2004
Review by Petri Kautto 12 August 2004

Zero Nine has an album out after 8 years of silence. They had some success in the mid 80’s and even had Ian Gillan producing one of their albums. Not much has changed (maybe a bit of AOR in one or two songs) but they still can deliver the goods and they have not slowed down. This is one of those albums that gets bigger every time you listen to it and I’ve grown to like this quite a bit.

I probably would have chosen some other song as an opener but "You Drive Me Crazy" is still a nice song with excellent nuances and small details. "Quiet Men (Shouting!!!)" is a big, intriguing track and it has a special feeling to it. I can’t sing but I was shouting a lot along this one. The first single of the album, "Key to the Paradise" opens with an intro that they could have left out. Fortunately the jingle soon stops and they let the guitars do the talking. Zero Nine seems to specialize in weird openings because the beginning of fourth song "Everytime" has a middle aged men jamming kinda feel to it. Then when you thought all hope is lost the song gets going and does so in a big way. "Everytime" is one monster of a song with big chorus and extremely catchy melody. "Wish You Were Here" is a Pink Floyd cover and they just give it a bit of polishing by gearing things up a notch. Up next is "Wounded Heart Still Bleeding" which is a well written sing-along song. There was only one song that made me reach for the remote and it was "Madre Mia". It is a bit different from the others and it might be good for some but didn’t do it for me. "Here I Am" is a calm, mid-tempo song that opens up to a clinging chorus that is supported nicely by a little guitar lick. "Someone Like You" is a basic melodic rocker and slow "Northbound" calms the mood before the last song of the album. I might have had my complaints about the opener but they sure know how to wrap things up! "Your Eyes Could Kill" is a positively charged party rocker. Singer Kepa sounds like he’s 18 all over again and he’s just tearing things apart with his voice. A perfect ending for the album.

I think that Zero Nine comes back in style. They’ve put a lot of thought into their songs and the voice of the singer Kepa’s rugged voice is the icing on the cake. These rock veterans can crank, turn, twist and deliver and I was fortunate enough to witness them do the same live a few weeks back. They’ve matured but they still know what good music is made of.

ANNICA: "Badly Dreaming" 8

MTM Classix 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
15 August 2004

Hey-Hey Annica, Hey-Hey Annica, - Sorry, I'm stuck with this absolutely horrible Swedish tune inside of my head (Hej Monica). Originally released in 1988 at the Lighthouse label (Finland), this is one of the most sought of items in female rock. Without a doubt *THE* album everybody talks about when mentioning melodic hardrock out of Finland. You actually had to pay an average price of approx $200 at Ebay, if you were lucky enough to find the original CD release. Obviously overpriced and overhyped at times and that goes for pretty much anything with the "rare" stigma at large.

Not to be confused with the average or poor release of some artists though, since this is a really fine album after all. Especially if you're into female rock of course and strong vocals in the tradition of Sandi Saraya or Alannah "Black Velvet" Myles. Throw in the mandatory accent of Scandinavian singers and there you have it.

The music is out and out AOR with a similar sound to Erika's "Cold Winter Night" (once married to Yngwie Malmsteen), If Only, and above mentioned singers. It was the first and only album release by Annica Wiklund and it's definitely the sound of glitter 80's. There's however a lot of R&B in the expressive vocals of Annica and she's a notch above the average female shouter. Something which also proves to be correct by the soulful piano ballad "Into Dark". The catchy opener "So Divine" and the following "Dreaming" are female fronted AOR at its best. A massive pattern of keys and guitars and always that great'n slightly raspy voice of Annica. The Lita Ford inspired "Loose Me" and the bluesy "To Another Shore" are other favorites. There's a couple of lousy filler's included and I guess you can't name it a "classic", but not far off the target either. The five bonus tracks are all taken off the Pink Flamingo album, which were originally released in the early/mid 90's. The R&B influences are more out there by now and it's not exactly AOR anymore. It's more in the vein of Sass Jordan and the likes (or the album "Zaniness" by Sweden's Zia Lindberg), still good, and you'll notice how her vocals has improved and seem to fit the music even better. "I'm Ready" kicks like a mule while "Be My Angel" flat out rawks!!! Distributed through MusicBuyMail where you also can buy the CD.

MACHINEGUN KELLY: "White Line Offside" 9

Perris 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
15 August 2004

"I'm a Hellraiser In The Heat Of The Night, I Do Not Sleep I Race With The Light" - A leathal weapon in the hands of any sleaze rocker as the Nasty Idols takes it to the next level. Finally a U.S. release of this close-to-classic (or even classic) release by vocalist Andy Pierce (Nasty Idols), with Cliff (guitars), Lefty (bass) and Stanley (drums). The Sweden release from 1995 were one of the last good albums of the MegaRock label. Machinegun Kelly were probably mostly known for being banned on MTV as the video "Whiteline Offside", shows scenes of the band snorting "coke". Not the most intelligent move in rock history and looking back at it all, Pierce admit to being out of control from times (check our massive interview archive).

The entire album kikks like a mule to the head and there's only way one to describe the whole she-bang and it spells F-U-N. It's heads down in tinseltown times two and that's only to try and describe the vibe and attitude of it all. Tracks like "Crackhouse", "Sister Sin", "Bullshit City", and "Kikk That Habit" are among the best sleaze rockers out there. "Rosalie" is something as rare as the perfect sleaze ballad, freakin' great stuff. I even find it hard to come up with the correct words here. You wanna know what Sweden could offer post Shotgun Messiah and pre Backyard Babies, then Machinegun Kelly is the perfect substitute.

The only downer would be "Wild Sodom" which is rather cheesy rock in the (worst) tradition of Guns'N Roses. You'll get it fully remastered with new artwork done by Pierce. With any justice in the world, Machinegun Kelly should have been at the top of the charts. Now they're merley hanging around in "Loosers Garden".

Robin GEORGE: "Bluesongs" 7

Majestic Rock 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
12 August 2004

After testing(?) the market with releasing an old live recording Robin George returns to the scene with a semi-acoustic studio album of quality bluesy rock. Gone are the long hair, the cranked up guitars, and the big harmonies; say hello to laid back, atmospheric tracks with unusual lyrics and interesting arrangements. However be careful if you expect the polished AOR sound of the 80s because this album has quite a few psychedelic touches making it hard to compare anything Robin has done in the 80s.

Robin played almost everything on the album, his vocals are not as rough as they used to be (actually he sings in a somewhat higher range than before) and the female backing vocals add a "world music" feel to some of the songs. He also took the producing and the weak drum sound withstanding he has done quite a stunning job. Highlights would be the opening "Bluesong", the groovy "Pride" with its melodic backing vocals, and "American Way", another groovy, semi-acoustic track with rather provocative lyrics. A few songs tend to get too "alternative" or "thinking" for my taste though; the relatively withdrawn, acoustic arrangement and the weak drum sound do not help in the long run either and by the time you get towards the album you'd welcome a little change. "Lovepower & Peace" brings some with its catchy vocal melodies and well-written chorus parts but a few good songs are not enough to make a decent record.

Probably some collaboration with other songwriters would have helped to make the album a little more diverse with different musical ideas surfacing here and there. You get 100 percent Robin George instead and if that's what you like, you can't go wrong with it.

Robin GEORGE: "Dangerous Music Live" 5

Majestic Rock 2004
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
12 August 2004

What's the point in digging a 1985 live recording of an artist up who hasn't been in the spotlight for years anyway? The only reason I can think of is paving the road for the new release [Bluesongs - also reviewed here] and having legal problems to re-release the old studio albums. Whatever the reason is, the live album is here and even though the performance is really good the recording suffers serious quality problems. Obviously the whole thing was mastered from an old tape recording (at best a 4- track one if any). There are serious EQ problems all through the record: highs simply don't exist and there are too much deeps as if you have blown your speakers out. If the idea was to capture the original atmosphere of the concert (and release it "as is") then I really can't understand why the tracks were messed up, announcements left off, breaking the natural flow of the concert.

Musically there are a few great parts though like the bass-drum groove on the intro of "History" or Huey Lucas' great guitar work on "Heartline". Robin's vocals are okay all through the album, his range is more than limited but he's confident within it and does not try to go for things he cannot pull. The majority of the songs are tight and played well though it's kinda fun to hear that the keyboard player does not know "Dangerous Music" and starts the refrain twice (during the verse) before it actually is coming.

Regardless of the fun parts (mostly for musicians' ears), the awful sound quality destroys most of the fun and the album gets overwhelming after a while. It is like listening to a bad, audience recorded bootleg which some people tend to do if it's from their favorite band. Well, if Robin George is yours, then go for the album; otherwise you shouldn't bother, look for the new stuff instead.

UNLEASHED: "Sworn Alligance" 7

Century 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 August 2004

Ice cold wiiiinterlaaand!!! The masters of Swedish Death Metal returns with their best album in ages. Sadly it also include some of the most awful lyrics in the history of metal. Whatever makes grown up's to write complete and utter b.s. like "I Only Fuck The Dead", goes way over my head. What the heck where they thinking about? I'm absolutely disguisted by their poor attempt of making history as the worst lyric writers on planet earth. This can hardly be the work of any intelligent lifeform and let's hope they all crawl back to where they came from.

I could actually end the review right here as "Helljoy", "Insane For Blood", or "I Bring You Death", are hardly worth mentioning either. I guess that Johnny Hedlund? (ex-Entombed, Nihilist) must have spent several minutes on the lyrics as they remind you of any nine year old with a bad and tacky sense of humour. I do enjoy the following info sheet where they actually write "Unleashed are also showing a good sense of black humour in "Only (Fuck) The Dead". Please, some of us doesn't need diapers anymore and let's leave it to that.

Nevertheless, "Sworn Allegiance" do hold some excellent music in the speed vs. death metal genre. The viking inspired tracks like "Winterland", "The Longships Are Coming", "One Night In Nazareth", and "To Miklagård", are all an excellent display of (melodic) death metal at its best. Massive riffing, hard-hitting drums, catchy choruses (yep!), and Fredrik Folkare's sound engineering, make this a solid release. However, the tacky lyrics leaves a bitter after taste in the end. One thing's for sure, I'll never play that "Only The Dead" song again, too bad really.

PURE INC.: "Pure Inc." 7

AFM Records 2004
Review Martien Koolen,
17 augusztus 2004

When I think of Switzerland and rock I think of bands like Krokus, Gotthard and Crystal Ball. But now a new band Swiss rock band tries to get a piece of the rock pie. Pure Inc. is a four piece band, consisting of members from Germany and Switzerland, and the name stands for the personal friendship of the musicians; Gianni Pontillio (vocals), Sandro Pellegrini (guitar), Genti Gentner (bass guitar) and Dave Preissel (drums).

Pure Inc. has already been on stage with bands like Gotthard and the Michael Schenker Group. The roots of the band go back to 1994 when they began under the name Pure Yeast. The self-produced CD "Genius"(2001) brought the band their first national success, as the title track became a radio hit.

The new album is filled with pure mainstream rock, blended with lots of modern ferocity. Right from the opening song "Fear in my Eyes" these guys lay their cards on the table; powerful guitar riffs, great vocals and a raw and modern sound. Unfortunately after a couple of the "same" songs the music tends to get on my nerves, especially the raspy voice of Pontillio tends to become a nuisance. "Piece of Mind" and especially "Next to you" are horrible acoustic shit tracks, but luckily the band ends this album with a rather good song. "Falling season" is a diverse, experimental rock song with great melodies, although the last 2,5 minutes are filled with a rather boring guitar melody. I really expected more from these guys, but at least they did not record a cover……

EYES OF SHIVA: "Eyes of Soul" 6

Locomotive Music 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
17 augusztus 2004

Eyes of Shiva is a rather new Brazilian melodic heavy metal band. The band came into being in the year 2001, when guitar players Renato Mendes and Ricardo Gil began writing their own songs. Bass player Gustavo Boni, singer Andre Ferrari and drummer Ricardo Longhi completed the band.

As producer for their debut album they asked nobody less than Fabio Laguna, keyboard player of the famous Brzalian metal band Angra. He was assisted by Dennis Ward, from the German melodic hard rock band Pink Cream, who took care of the mix. The musical direction of Eyes of Shiva can be best described as a mix of bands like Shaman, Angra, Pink Cream and Stratovarius; which means a huge sound, sometimes even pompous, filled with nice melodies and some orchestral parts. Take for example a song like "Eagle Of The Sun", which has all the ingredients I mentioned before.

What makes Eyes of Shiva unique is the fact that they combine their fast metal with local folkloristic elements, like e.g. in a song like "Eyes of Soul". The biggest mistake that these guys have made is to cover a song from Heart, namely "Alone", an amazing ballad, at least in the original version; I hate covers!!!! All in all, a reasonable debut, especially for fans of Angra, but it will not be a million seller of course……

CIRCUS: "Circus" 6

Locomotive Music 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
17 augusztus 2004

Circus is a Spanish rock band from Madrid, founded in 1998, under the name Contradiction. The band recorded two demos and kept playing in different clubs all over Spain. It was not until the year 2002 that they decided to change the name of the band into Circus. The highlight of the band's career so far is without any doubt supporting Metallica in their hometown Madrid in 2003.

The band traveled to Los Angeles to record some demos and after recording these they signed a record deal with Locomotive Records, recorded their debut album at the Sonora studios and it will be released 27th September.

The music of Circus is plain mainstream rock with a rather melodic touch, and of course the lyrics are in Spanish, which makes it difficult for me to understand what they are singing about…. The CD also contains two power ballads, "Mientras me armo de valor" and "Reflejos", which are not very original or spectacular. As I might observe that all the songs are rather simple and mediocre, in fact almost all the songs sound a like and there are too little interesting instrumental passages to make the music more diverse. Circus also tries to cover a world hit from David Bowie, "Heroes", but it sounds like shite; I hate covers!!! Check out the last song "No soy yo", a "weird" track, which could be used as film music for some kind of dramatic Spanish movie; it really does not fit in with the rest of the material.

HEAVEN & EARTH: "A Taste Of Heaven"

Black Star Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
16 August 2004

American guitarist Stuart Smith and Heaven & Earth will release a follow-up to the good "Windows To The World" later this year, but before that you're able to have a taste of what's to come with this EP. It's an eight-track affair with four new songs and four from Smith's first album, "Heaven And Earth". The tracks from it are the instrumental "Dreams Of Desire", the Purple-cover "When A Blind Man Cries" with Richie Sambora on vocals, "Heaven & Earth" with Joe Lynn Turner singing and "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" with Glenn Hughes. You can find my review of "Heaven And Earth" in the archives.

The new songs feature the new Heaven & Earth vocalist, Paul Shortino. He's a veteran of the scene, having sung in Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot, not to mention other projects. He does a good job here too, and his raspy voice suits the material really well.

The songs are stylewise similar to those on "Windows Of The World", melodic hard rock with a strong blues flavour. As for the quality, I can only say that if the new album contains more tracks of this calibre, it might be Smith's best one so far! Out of the four, only the most hard rockin' number "Nasty Piece Of Work" left me a bit cold, the others were very good. I'm not totally sold on the production though, which seems to be a bit rough and stripped down, but I guess that's what the band was aiming for.

EMPIRE: "Leeches" 5

Perris Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
17 August 2004

I can imagine that early eighties rock radio programming sounded a bit like this album. "Leeches" is a mixture of various influences and styles, mostly from the 70'ies or even 60'ies, with some eighties sounds added to spice it up. The album kicks off with the straight-forward title track that reminds me of Hanoi Rocks and the likes, although the keyboards are very much in the eighties vein and add a nice twist to the song. The next song "American Wet Dream" is somewhat in the same style, as is the ballad "Are You There For Love".

After the rather decent opening trio of songs the band heads further into the seventies' world, with the virtually all of the remaining songs sounding like "classic rock" - one song sounds like The Beatles, the next sounds like The Sweet, the next like The Doobie Brothers...clearly not my cup of tea, since I'm not a big fan of that kind of very "classic rock". I did like "The Pressure", which sounded like a curious mixture of the 60'ies and the 80'ies.

ALPHA SAFARI: "Commercial Suicide" 5

Threeman 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 August 2004

Yawn! Patrik Wiren is jumping on the bandwagon again... now there's a surprise... not. What else to expect from a man that started out with Thrash during its heydays (Midas Touch), continued with Industrial Rock during its hype, with the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails (Misery Loves Co.), and now finally this. I believe he's actually a couple of years late with Alpha Safari though as you can't find a lot of Radiohead into this.

The biggest surprise is however Ulf Cederlund as you hardly expect the ex-Entombed guitarist, to be involved into something this corny. Misery Loves Co + Entombed = s**t heavy metal??? Ehem... that's actually as far from the truth as you can possible get. Alpha Safari is independent at its core and alternative to its grave. "Commercial Suicide" is a rather confusing title though, since their mixing everything that's "popular" among the melancolic youth of today (or some three/four years ago perhaps?). Take equal doses of Radiohead, Dinosaur JR, Foo Fighters, and mix it together into the blender with a dose of The Hives (zzzzz!), and you're pretty close to the truth. It's all been done before and better I may add, not a complete failure than rather average in its genre. I'm sure that Wiren will jump on the next trend any minute now. Final word: "As The City Falls On My Head" is a marvelous rock tune and if only the rest of the tracks could hold the same quality and intensity.

DORO: "Classic Diamonds" 4

AFM Records 2004
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 augusztus 2004

A compilation album of all Doro hitsongs and ballads, as well as a few new songs, newly recorded with a 40 piece orchestra, is that such a good idea??? I always admired Doro for her enthusiasm and her hard work she has been doing over many years, but I was never really a fan of her music; not with Warlock and also not with her own band Doro.

I could and can never understand why people in Germany or Spain voted her as the best female singer, as I find her voice rather mediocre. Now she releases an album with orchestral variations of all time Doro classics like "Fur Immer", "All We Are", "Love Me In Black" or "Rare Diamonds" and I almost fell asleep during those tracks, they sound like f*** lullabies!! However it can get worse, and it gets worse...Namely with the acoustic cover version of the all time Priest "classic" "Breaking The Law". Doro sings this together with Udo and this version is really devastating. Why, because first of all I hate covers and secondly I hate unplugged songs; and last but not least I find "Breaking the Law" one of the worst Priest songs ever...

I know that Doro has a big heart, as I spoke to her on Bospop, and I hope that she will not be upset by my review, as it is just my humble opinion, but I really cannot listen to this CD one more time, I wonder if any true metal or hard rock lover can?

KITTIE: "Until The End" 4

Ryko 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 August 2004

Errrr... the opening track "Looks So Pretty" litterely scared the crap outta me. Whatever happened to the sweet, innocent, little kittens of yesterday? These women can surely not be the same outfit that released albums such as "Spit" and "Oracle" in the past. Sure, they always had something savage and untamed about them, however, these wild cats will probably scratch and bite all nite.

They've moved closer to pure Death Metal and further away from their melodic Nu-Metal tendencies. "Until The End" is certainly different from previous albums and I believe it to be rather monotonous instead. A bit of a disappointment as I expected great things to come outta Morgan Lander (vocals/guitars) and her sister Mercedes (drums). New guitarist Lisa Marx do rip and shred like any death/nu/metal bender out there, but where's all the guitar solos??? It's almost like listening to the latest Metallica alster... solos??? who needs'em??? Well, we bloody do as most of us are into real music and if Kittie wanna play "real" metal, they better include some asap.

I prefer the clean vocal remix of "Into The Darkness" and stuff like "Career Suicide", "Until The End" (freakin great song), or "Pussy Sugar" (heh?), are more pleasant to the ear than "Looks So Pretty". I have no problem with mixed vocals (clean and growls) or Death Metal in general, however, Kittie mostly delivers a second rate performance of the genre here. Bottomline, they have the attitude, the looks, the youth, but sadly not the material of an entire album.

SWITCHBLADE: "Switchblade Serenade" 2

Perris 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 August 2004

Where the hell do I know the name Ken Anthony from??? A quick check and a search later, I noticed that Switchblade's vocalist used to run around in the offices of Metal Forces in the past. Perhaps he should have continued with his daytime work as he's hardly among the best shouters out there. Quite possible the most likely singer to be mistaken for a chainsaw in heat!!!! Vrooooom, vrooooom, meow! - vroooom, vroooom, meow!

"Switchblade Serande" is apart from being an old "Spread Eagle" tune, filled with down'n dirty rock 'ala Little Ceasar, Circus Of Power, or Junkyard (only ten times worse). It's the usuall connection and get togethering of beers, bikers, and broads. The songs are however painfully simple and downright boring as crap. After spending several hours listening to this, I can honestly say that I can't remember a single note or refrain. Not one of the best Perris releases of lately. I'm not into writing short "next please" reviews (since that's not fair to anyone - band or readers). This time I'm outta air though and since I can't find anything decent to write...

FROM THE INSIDE: "From The Inside" 9

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
8 August 2004

Fabrizio V. Zee Grossi is at it again...yes, after working with Joseph Williams, Kelly Hansen and Mickey Thomas, the oddly-named producer has hooked up with another high-profile melodic rock singer, namely Danny Vaughn of Tyketto/Waysted fame. The formula's similar to that of the Perfect World album, well-known pop songs have been turned into hard rock tracks, although it has to be said that this album contains more songs written especially for it.

I've liked all of the previous FVZG-products, but this might just be the best one of them yet. The production is excellent, Danny Vaughn sings like the Rock God he is and the song selection is very good. In fact the first half of the album is pretty breathtaking, one killer song after another. There's the very Tyketto-like opener "Nothing At All", followed by an excellent remake of the Desmond Child-penned LeAnn Rimes-track "Suddenly". Next up are the killer moody melodic rock track "Fight For Love" and a cover of Martin Kesici's similary dark and moody "Losing Game", with another LeAnn Rimes-number "Damn" offering some balladic relief before the uptempo Martin Stenmarck-track "Stop".

The second half of the album is a bit less explosive, but not bad by any means. All the five remaining tracks are good, with uptempo pop rocker "Always" being my favourite out of them, followed by "Blessing In Disguise", which reminds me of Tyketto's "End Of The Summer Days".

All in all a very strong album that will be among this year's highlights.

GRAND ILLUSION: "Ordinary Just Won't Do" 9

Escape 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
4 August 2004

Grand Illusion is definitely one of my favorite "new" acts in the last couple of years. They've pretty much nailed everything from hooks and melodies, to lushy keyboards and multi-layered harmonies in the melodic, and very pompous rock genre. They're hardly "new" kids on the block though as we're talking about middle-aged men with a soft spot for long gone days. "Ordinary Just Won't Do" being their third release, you can find more info and previous reviews in our massive archive, which include some other 1800 CD reviews by the way [we really need to promote that every once in a while].

I haven't really been disappointed by any of their albums so far and this is yet another winner in my book [and they wrote "The Book Of How To Make It" after all]. It's slightly different from previous attempts as they're moving closer to "AOR" and further away from "Pomp" this time. It's actually quite "heavy" in certain places [at least on a "wimp" scale], and they've even included a heavy metal riff or two by now.

I must however admit that pomp stuff like "Pull Me Down" is the Grand Illusion I love the most. They're so many great metal and melodic hardrock bands out there already, but nobody writes songs like these anymore. My God, it sends a shiver right down to the spine and goosebumps all over your arms. It's a magical mixture of ABBA-ism, Swedish melodies, and the late 70's pomp rock of Styx. Except that 70's Styx were never this good at writing choruses and melodies in the first place. Throw in the towel already as "Back To Yesterday" will probably knock you down for good with its killer hook. Simplicity at its best and it works fine along with the ABBA meets Styx ballad "And This Is Way". You all know it's over-the-top stuff and not every man's poison, but damn, it really should be [I can picture the Death Metal fans going banana over this]. Not as much of their "trademark" as before, but they're still masters of the over the top rock.
Grand Illusion site

Jean BEAUVOIR: "Chameleon" 8

Frontiers 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 August 2004

With the above cover pose [see picture] and all that bling-bling, you could almost mistake him for a gangsta rapper. Jean Beauvoir [ex-Plasmatics, Little Steven] isn't exactly the last mohawk anymore as he returns with a brand new solo album. The first since he moved out of Sweden back in the 80's actually and he's appearently a Chameleon nowadays. It's only fair to point out that the music doesn't really have *that* much in common with the Crown Of Thorns project.

Don't expect to find that much of "hardrock" here as you'll only end up disappointed. It's flashy, modern, pop, with a hint of rock every now and then. The first single is co-written by Lionel Richie and was remixed by the Jiggy-Joint team, who most recentely worked with "metal acts" like P-Diddy, Britney Spears, and Arrested Development.

I've always enjoyed that voice however and he's certainly capable of writing some catchy stuff. Good music is always good music, no matter which genre we're talking about really. Unfortunately, much like his previous solo albums, there's also a couple of fillers and downright crappy tunes included. You could also say that Beauvoir has recorded another "Drums Along The Mohawk" album, with a very up-to-date production and sound of course. It's a variety of several different styles, which the multi-talanted musician has managed to squeeze into a nice total package. You need to spin this several times before some of the tracks finally kick in (while others never will). Definitely a grower and the groovy approach of "I Don't Need Ya'", comes out like a mixture of Dan Reed Network (their laidback material), and Beauvoir's 80's stuff. "Where The River Runs Deep" reminded me of "Missing The Young Days" (verses) with a calypso inspired refrain. "Even More" is just good pop/rock music and "Addicted To Us" is danceable rock at its best. Pretty much like his old "Feel The Heat" hit with a updated sound, you gotta love those "na-na-na-na's" and bass driven beat. I was amazed to find the best six songs at the end of the disc and it's not exactely the best running order lately. Bottomline: It's fresh, exciting, pop/rock, with a very talanted musician. However, don't expect it to be similar to Crown Of Thorns at all. Think about his previous solo albums, only with the vibe of todays mainstream rock. P.S. you need to be open minded about music in general to truly enjoy this record at its fullest.

Jeff Scott SOTO: "Lost In The Translation" 8

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
8 August 2004

The king of all travelling man vocalists is back with another solo album. If his previous album "Prism" was a bit heavy on the ballads, "Lost..." is more of a heavy rocking affair, with only two ballads among its' eleven tracks. AOR fans shouldn't worry though, there's still plenty of big backing vocals and good melodies.

The album opens with "Believe In Me", a track co-written by Jeff's current bandmate in Soul SirkUS, Mr. Neal Schon of Journey. The track is quite similar to the melodic rockers on Journey's latest album "Arrival", a good track but not necessarily worth all the praise it has gotten from the melodic rock media. Next up there's the hard rocking but a bit bland "Soul Divine", which is followed by "Drowning", a strong straight-forward hard rock track. "If This Is The End" is the first ballad, a very good one like we've learned to expect from Mr. Soto. The title track and "Doin' Time" represent the more "groovier" side of Soto's songwriting, reminding me of the last Talisman album, while "High Time" is the uptempo melodic anthem of the album, and one of my favourite tracks. "Beginning 2 End" is another good Soto-ballad, paving the way to another duo of hard rockers, the groovy "On My Own" and the more melodic "Find My Way". The last track is a bit of a throwaway acoustic number called "Sacred Eyes", easily the weakest song on the album. Apparently the retail version contains an additional bonustrack "Dulce Lady" but it's not included on the promo version I've got.

There you have it, the new JSS platter in a nutshell...melodic rockers "High Time" and "Find My Way" raise above as the highlights, with the two ballads and "Drowning" and "Believe In Me" following close behind. Out of the groovy, slightly funky tracks my vote would go for the title track. Compared to "Prism" this album works better as a whole, even though the best tracks of that album may have been just a little bit better than the highlights of this one. We call it a tie then?

RENEGADE: "On The Edge" 8

RP Inc 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
4 August 2004

I heard a lot of great things about this Canadian act (not to be confused with the Swedish band), and was really looking forward to receiving "On The Edge". Indeed, Renegade is a true and blue 80's AOR act and most of their material was recorded back in the days (1985-87). They were just one of many great bands from Canada, that never quite made it outside of their own home turf.

"On The Edge" is the second CD release in a couple of years time and it's a showcase of everything that Canadian AOR stood for. It's Boulevard (BLVD), Haywire, Honeymoon Suite, and Loverboy, all over again, and it's not exactly "original" music. The quality of the songwriting is however way above average and it'll certainly bring a smile all over your face. It's wimpy, corny, even childish at times, but darn infectious and catchy, in that special 80's tradition. Perfect stuff to listen to while playing "Grand Theft Auto - Vice City", in other words.

Vocalist Steve Foster is "almost" a deadringer to Johnny Dee (Honeymoon Suite), and Jim Buckshon (keys/songwriter), truly enjoys that dut-dut sound and his neon gloves (if anyone can recall them? and it's a twist of words, folks). Everything from opener "Angel Of Love" to closing track "Kids Runnin' Wild", will have you boppin' all through the night. The only downer, with only 9 tracks and a total playing time of 36 minutes, you can help to feeling a bit disappointed. You simply want more of the wimpy, catchy, music of Renegade. Pretty much essential for any fan of Canadian AOR in the above mentioned style. Distributed through AOR Heaven.

HEAVY PETTIN': "Lettin Loose" (re-issue) 8

Majestic Rock 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 August 2004

Glasgow and entire Scotland's answer to the five lads from Sheffield??? The tartan version of Def Leppard with other words??? Perhaps as at least "Lettin' Loose", with the Heavy Pettin' clan members, showcased a lot of similarities to Def's music at the time (High'N Dry). The unmistakeable singer (Hamie) had more in common with another "Britt" rocker though. He actually came out sounding like Biff Byford (Saxon) toxicated on laughing gas. The combination worked rather well and the album was a small success all over U.K. It was originally released in 1983 and produced by Queen guitarist Brian May.

Many reviewers at the time thought they sounded too much like Def Leppard, but I don't see anything wrong with that. Tracks like "In And Out Of Love", "Victims Of The Night", "Rock Me", "Devil In Her Eyes", proves they were capable of writing catchy songs. Guitarist Punky Mendoza had more looks than brain according to some, but I find him and co-guitarist Gordon Bonnar, to be solid even though not spectacular at their work. A couple of fillers are only to expected I guess and you'll also get two bonus tracks on this re-issue. To keep it simple: imagine Biff Byford as Def Leppard's singer on the High'N Dry album, and you're close to it's sound. However, with that outfit and banner you can't help to wonder... did they ever get past second base???

BONRUD: "Bonrud" 7

Frontiers 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
8 August 2004

Unlike many of the other Frontiers releases this year, Bonrud are a new act with no "familiar" names involved. Okay, the album was mixed by Keith Olsen, but the names of band members Paul Higgins (drums), Dave Hendricks (vocals) and Paul Bonrud (everything else!) don't ring any bells. That's about to change though, because they're all highly talented. Vocalist Hendricks sounds like the lost cousin of both Lou Gramm and Skagarack's Torben Schmidt, while mainman Paul Bonrud throws in some magnificent AOR axemanship.

Bonrud's first album could be described as very well performed textbook AOR and melodic hard rock, reminding me of such acts as The Storm, Ten, Lost Weekend and Burns Blue. Still there's something missing, when it comes to the songs. They're all decent enough, but only occasionally reaching the next level. As good as "Date With Destiny", "Once In A Lifetime" or the ballad "Desperate Heart" are, even they are unlikely to make it to the list of my favourite tracks this year...and no, none of them are covers! Indeed, this album won't win any awards when it comes to original songtitles, as there's also "Take Me Home" and "Leap Of Faith" on it...

In conclusion, a rather likeable AOR album from a promising new band. I just hope that they find an extra portion of "that little something" for the next album.

IQ: "Dark Matter" 7

GEP 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 August 2004

I truly enjoyed IQ's previous record [The Seventh House] and believed it to be one of their best ever. I even said that it was way better than any of Marillion's efforts lately. Well... "Dark Matter" may not reach the same excellent standard of "Marbles", but classic Prog-Rock fans will probably find this quite essential anyhow?

The curse of the band has always been to walk in the shadow of Marillion. The music of IQ is however still pretty loyal to the "classic" prog-rock genre and sound of the past. This record is by far no exception to the golden rule of progressive stuff. Only five tracks to be found and they are each 10 minutes [give or take], and simply jam packed with atmospheric keyboards and otherwise complicated structures. The lyrics by vocalist Peter Nicholls are always thought worthy and yet direct to the point somehow. It's the thinking man's music after all and you won't find anything as blunt as the pure rocket science of "Unskinny Bop" or "Let's Get Rocked".

Opener "Sacred Sound" sets the pace and standard of the entire album, and the whole she-bang is definitely as good as "The Seventh House" album. "Red Dust Shadow" will have any fan of the genre in tears of joy and "Harvest Of Souls", had me thinking about the fantasy genre with Hobbit(s), early Magnum, and everything. Solid as a rock and IQ are still U.K.'s #2 prog-rock band.

SURGIN': "Electric Nights - The Final Chapter" 6

Majestic Rock 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
8 August 2004

The die-hard AOR fans are most probably familiar with "When Midnight Comes", the only official Surgin' album. from mid-eighties. The band featured vocalist Russ Arcara (later in Prophet and Arcara) and guitarist/songwriter Jack Ponti, who went on to become one of the biggest songsmiths of the late eighties hard rock boom. This album is a sequel to a similar collection of Surgin' demos which was released a couple of years ago, under the title of "Tokyo Rose", if I remember correctly. Apparently everything worth releasing from Ponti's Surgin' archives has now been released, as this album has been named "The Final Chapter".

"Electric Nights" contains 13 tracks of good mid-eighties melodic hard rock, comparable to the first two Bon Jovi albums for instance. You might even recognize some of these songs, as they've been later recorded by other artists: there are two songs that made it to KEEL's self-titled album ("Don't Say You Love Me" and "Waiting In The Shadows", re-titled "Somebody's Waiting" on the Keel album), "Somebody's Falling" made it to SHARK ISLAND's "Law Of The Order" and "Crossfire" was remade on the first Babylon AD album.

As these tracks are only demos from the archives, the sound quality varies from bearable to bad. For that reason - and Arcara's sometimes over-the-top vocals - this album won't probably get that many spins in the future, but as an archival release it's quite interesting. Ponti is among my all-time favourite songwriters, and these songs aren't among his weakest tracks by any means. If these songs were polished, updated and re-recorded, we'd be talking about a melodic rock sensation.

BIG BERTHA: "Live In Hamburg 1970" 3

Majestic Rock 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 August 2004

This is more or less Bedlam without a proper vocalist and material. David McTavish (vocals) decided to leave prior to "Live In Hamburg" was recorded, at a small club near Hamburg on the 3rd of December 1970. It's the only official release by the band as they never recorded a studio album, due to crappy management and an ego-maniac (Tedder?) as A&R. The Ball brothers (Dave - vocals/guitar, Denny - vocals/bass), would later form Bedlam with the legendary drummer Cozy Powell (RIP). This was one of his first recordings and for that reason only, this could be very interesting to many drummers out there. Cozy sure could bash the skins better than most, even though he wasn't the best 'technical' drummer out there.

Big Bertha was all about late 60's rock with psychedelic influences and everything. An awful mish-mash of poor Jimi Hendrix alike material, The Doors, and The Zombies stuff. They actually cover the latter act's "She's Not There" (which I believe Santana did too). It's overall a nice 2-CD set for the mad collector of everything that were "groovy" or "far out", in the flower-power generation and era. The sound quality can only be described as average or rather dodgy at its best. Then again, what else to expect from a small club in Germany 1970. Tune in, tune out, swallow a bee, or whatever they did back then... darn hippies. Everything became much better under the "Bedlam" banner though, more reviews to come later.

STARQUEEN: "Your True Self" 3

LionMusic 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 August 2004

Ehhh... I'm not sure what to think or believe of Stella "Starqueen" Tormanoff from Bulgaria. Her singing style is v-e-r-y much in the tradition of old, eastern Europe. It actually reminds you alot of the most horrible contenders of the Eurovision Song Contest. "Your True Self" is all about progressive, symphonic, and gothic metal, which obviously has already been done to death, and much better I must add, by the likes of Finland's Nightwish.

Thorbjörn Englund of the power metal act Winterlong has taken her under his wings and contributes with this and that. Tormanoff has appearantely moved to Sweden too and will probably beat the crap outta me if we should ever meet. I simply can't understand the charm with this CD at all I'm afraid, since it lacks of quality in both songwriting and vocal attributes. All tracks are steeped into the mid-tempo formula and you hardly can't tell them apart in the end.

The Starqueen herself writes in the info sheet - "I don't listen to any other female singers but Tarja Turunen, and a little Doro, and Cher very long ago. Other singers I have been "studying" from are Fabio Lione, Michael Kiske, Bruce Dickinson, David Coverdale, R. J. Dio, J.L. Turner, Eric Adams, Kim Peterssen, David Byron. To compare me with other singers that I didn`t mention here would be inappropriate". I guess this is very inappropriate then, since I can't hear anything even remotely close to any of the above mentioned singers. Like a second or third rate, eastern version, of that Nightwish chick and band.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 26-31/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 26-31/04 * * * * *
Joe Satriani, House Of Shakira, Vitalij Kuprij, Fate re-issue, Avril Lavigne, Turisas, Black'n Blue's "In Heat", "Nasty Nasty" and "Without Love" re-issues, Clearland, a live album from Pete Way, Liberty'n Justice, The Calling, Lordi's single, Fraise, Zillion, House Of Mirrors, Millenium, Token, George Lynch, Ministry, Lars Eric Mattson's Vision and a RUF Records sampler.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-25/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-25/04 * * * * *
Ayreon, Metal Majesty project, Dokken, Jing Chi, Hanna Pakarinen, Tears Of Anger, Cea Serin, Statetrooper, Cooper, Q¨eensrÿe, Hall and Oates, Voodoo, Voodoo Hill, Human Temple, Hendrix Tribute, Magna-Fi, Dare, Bloodstained, Under-Radio, Pro-Pain, Stan Bush, Perzonal War, Glen Burtnik, Tommy Denander's Deacon Street, Iron Savior, Heart, Toxic Virgin, Snakeryder, OHM featuring ex-Megadeth Chris Poland , Patrick Linman, Zero Nine, Nightwish , Evergray, Patrick Rondat, London Calling, AOR, Hira, Altaria, Freedom Call live, Frontline, Smeer, Hardreams.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/04 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/04 * * * * *
707, Powder, Fahrenheit, The Creek, Imperial Crowns, Masters of Reality/Chris Goss, Crossfade (U.S.), Gene Simmons, Scorpions, Daniel Liverani's Genius rock opera and his solo album, Loud'n Nasty, Syanide Kick, Alyson Avenue, Messiah's Kiss, King's Karma, White Skull, Leaf, Raging Speedhorn, LORDI, DEATH ANGEL, Dakota, ROXX, Vick Le Car, The Rise, Memorized Dreams, Viking Skull, Wicked Sensation, Lionsheart, Madison Paige, Pyramaze, Edgar Winter, State Of Mind, Midnite Sky, Anubis Gate, Blaze, Kotipelto, Saga, Marillion, Over The Edge, WASP, In Flames, Crossfade featuring Göran Edman, Mar De Grises, Cans, Jettison Eddy, Eric Burdon, Dream Evil EP.


* * * * * 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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