You can find older reviews and everything else in the Reviews Archive.


Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
19 május 2005

Back in 1998 (while I was still working for Aardschok magazine) Shadow Gallery released their third album called "Tyranny", and I rewarded that album with a perfect 10! Now 7 years later "Room V" sees the light of day and thematically this CD continues on from "Tyranny", which dealt with a story of two human beings in search of a new identity. The story of "Room V" begins eight hours on from the end of the album "Tyranny".

Musically Shadow Gallery explores the complete spectrum of progressive metal and again show musical similarities to bands like Symphony-X, Savatage and even Ayreon. The album opens with an outstanding prog rock musical overture, filled with keys, speedy guitar solos, classical influences and unequalled melodies. "Comfort Me" is a duet between Mike Baker and Laura Jaeger, who also contributed to the "Tyranny"album, and it is a rather sweet musical-like rock song, however the mind-boggling guitar solo saves this sometimes even "tacky" song. "The Andromeda Strain" follows with a ferocious begin and features those typical Shadow Gallery vocal parts, howling keys and brilliant guitar parts. "Vow", one of the highlights kicks of with acoustic guitars and Mike Baker's emotional vocals, before it evolves into a dramatic semi-ballad with again mind-blowing guitar solos. The second part of this album starting with "Torn" is even better than the first part, as the last 5 tracks are all first-rate. Just listen to the complex prog metal "Torn", the ballad-like "The Archer Of Ben Salem" (with super long melodic guitar solo), the title track with heavy and catchy melodies and lots of complex rhythm changes or the absolute highlight "Rain". That last song has it all, melodies that make your hair stand up straight, guitar solos that give you goosebums all over, astonishing vocals and last but not least a dramatic, orchestral end. Shadow Gallery has done it again and proves with this album that they are still one of the most important and innovative progressive rock/metal bands of the last decade.

The album will be released on May 30 as both a standard single CD and a special edition double CD with slipcase, extended booklet, bonus tracks and video segment. Buy, prog head, or die!


Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 May 2005

Now we're into business, the legendery two of the 80's supergroup Asia has once again teamed up together in a rather interesting project. It's definitely a step in the right direction since their collaboration on Wetton's solo album "Rock Of Faith" recently. Don't hold your breath for a massive overkill of guitar riffing and bombastic keyboards from hell though. It's still a quite laidback affair in a similar approach of smooth AOR and soft prog, the song structure however is a bit better and simply put stronger than of lately.

The few uptempo songs are catchy and the soft midpaced one's are also quite enjoyable throughout the album. However, it's a bit boring (zzzzz!) around track eight to ten, when you're served yet another package of s-l-o-w songs on a rather dodgey plate. Heck, "Spread Your Wings" sounds more like something Jimmy Nail (Crocodile Shoes, Still Crazy - The Movie) could have done, even though I'm fond of the vocals of guest musician Annie Haslam (Ranaissance). Oh yeah, I believe I feel asleep while listening to "Sleep Angel" as well as it's more of a lullaby actually.

"Hey Josephine" is a freakin' marvelous tune that easily could have been included on any of the first three Asia albums. Top class performance by Wetton and some truly inspiring keyboards by Downes makes this a favourite along with opener "Let Me Go". I'm not sure why "Meet Me At Midnight" reminds me of Lionel Richie's "Hello" song... but they are actually quite similar at times. "God Walks With Us" is a clever little tune with a progressive vibe, while "I Stand Alone" is a solid midpaced Asia number. Yep, it's a step in the right direction, but "Icon" surely could have benifited from yet another uptempo track or three.

BRAZEN ABBOT: "My Recurrection" 7

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 May 2005

The work of Nikolo Kotzev and Brazen Abbot is always kind of interesting due to his multiple choice of lead vocalists. How can you not feel something extra towards a CD that include outstanding frontmen such as Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen), Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Madison, John Norum, Kharma) and Tony Harnell (TNT, Starbreaker). Oh yeah, I nearly forgot to add that Eric Mårtensson (Eclipse) sing lead on "The Shadows", it's not like he's a poor vocalist or anything, but c'mon... he most certainly end up on fourth place among these gentlemen... as most people would. It's neither to his advantage that "The Shadows" is a rather week ballad with a slightly blues/jazz feeling.

What's new since last time? well... for the first time a full-blown string orchestra of 31 people (The Sofia String Orchestra), recorded in Nikolo's home country Bulgaria, is used almost entirely throughout the record. This adds a new dimension to the Rainbow/Deep Purple inspired material and the production oozes of class and fresh yet old, classic rock, ideas. How about the actual songmaterial? well... if you compare it to the new Joe Lynn Turner or Glenn Hughes for that matter, I'm afraid that "My Resurrection" doesn't quite match up in size. It's really not *that* far behind though and I'm sure the fine opener/title track with JLT behind the mik, will find its way to the classic rock fan's heart. It's a real screamer in the old uptempo tradition of Brazen Abbot or perhaps I should say Rainbow as well?

"Bad Madman" is a darker, moodier, song with an exalted Edman at full volume. Tony Harnell gets into the picture with "Godforsaken" and it's yet another screamer with a fun uptempo attitude and some really impressive guitar & piano work by Kotzev. "Dreams" with JLT again and it's that "Street Of Dreams" feeling all over again, the refrain is perhaps a tad weaker, but it's still a fine semi-ballad. "Flyin Blind" with Edman is a typical "Glenn Hughes" song in my opinon, especially the refrain with its hi-pitched segment towards the end. Then follows a couple of throw-away rockers and we'll have to wait untill "Beggar's Lane" for some good stuff to happen again. It's a real keyboard anthem with a pure 80's sound that you'll either love or hate. One thing's for sure though, Edman really provides his best stuff here!! full marks!!! My pick of the bunch is however "Rage Of Angels" with JLT, a great uptempo rocker with a chorus that really opens up the entire song. You need to spin this a couple of times as it's certainly not one of those "instantly" catchy CD's. It grows on ya' for every spin though (up to a certain point of course) and it's a keeper in the end. However, the closing track "Shades of Grey" is a corny ballad that feels more like a rejected Gary Moore song.

ETERNAL REIGN: "Forbidden Path" 5

LimbMusic 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 May 2005

I've never even heard of 80's acts like Sweet Cheater... and Eternal Reign are apparently all veterans and former members as well??? Nevermind as the second release of these hardrocking Germans surely don't have that much in common with their predecessor... or? Now there's nothing 'remotely' wrong with "Forbidden Path" as it include all the ingredients of typical 'lederhosen' metal with a hi-pitched vocalist (Dirk Stuhmer) and furious guitar shredding.

The main problem is that everything is so darn predictible and you'll end up humming the lyrics before its even been sung. Not necerssarily a bad thing to some people... and they actually do borrow quite a lot of melodies from Iron Maiden and Vicious Rumours. In fact, old Dirk doesn't have a shred of accent in his singing voice and the music could as easily have been the work of a U.S. act. The song material leaves much to ask for, it's all very 'average' and there's nothing to grab hold to when it's all been said and done. "Losing Ground" had me thinking of Sacred Warrior for a minute or two and "Nightstalker" seriously had me thinking about going out in the sun instead.

Nah, there's nothing worse than a CD that leaves you completely blank and wondering about other things... I actually prefer a real stinker... then at least you have something to r-e-a-l-l-y complain about. Average be thy name, average be thy game.

HEARTLAND: "Move On" 9

Escape 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
8 May 2005

Despite the title of the album I'm happy to report the band didn't move on anywhere, they still stick to the quality melodic rock they do in grand fashion. "Move On" sounds up-to-date as far as the production goes but musically it's rooted firmly in the melodic rock of the 80s containing all the necessary ingredients: huge, catchy choirs, memorable refrains, thick guitar sound and some stunning musicianship.

"Hard Hearted Man" and "City of Lights" set the pace right away, an uptempo and a midtempo rocker both blessed with a tricky riff and a big, shout-out refrain with a thick chorus as if there were about 40 backing vocalists. Faultless stuff, puts the smile on any melodic rock fan's face. "Take Me Alive" brings a change of different colors, it's carved more of a funk-rock stone and features a cool jazzy break with stunning bass work. If you find it too much of a side-path "How Was I to Know" will most definitely restore your faith as it is the epitome of the classic power-ballad of the 80s with all you can wish for: acoustic intro, piano arrangement, thick chorus and a refrain that sticks as glue; being a sucker for that kinda stuff it is one of the highlights of the album for me.

"I'm Getting Ready" keeps the smile on your face for sure, another faultless number, and so will the rest of the album do. There's a healthy balance between rockers and ballads, the ballads being soulful and tasty ("Hell or High Water" is the other favorite of mine), and the instrumental "Redemption" won't make your girlfriend beg for mercy either as it is more about beautiful melodies than flashy ripping. The closing "Rotate" adds a nice frame to the album as it brings the energetic approach of the openers back, making you want to go back and play the album again, and again, and again What more could you want?

MOLLY HATCHET: "Warriors Of The Rainbow Bridge" 8

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 May 2005

"Warriors Of The Rainbow Bridge" is in all honesty a rather lame title at first impression but it's certainly not your average title with merely a meaningful ring. It's a moniker that Molly Hatchet chose in memory of guitarist Bobby Ingram's late wife, Stephanie. I guess you could say that it's also a final salute to original vocalist Danny Joe Brown that unfortunately lost his battle against diabetes quite recently (not that it's mentioned in the info-sheet at all really, what's up with that?).

What strikes me the most with this CD is the really loud guitars and overall fun, uptempo beat. There's no need to worry about them going soft either as it's a real high-intensity kick-ass Southern rock boogie album. Returning guitarist Dave Hlubek adds a real "Lynyrd Skynyrd" feeling to the classy material and if that wasn't enough already, bassist Tim Lindsey, formerly with those Southern rock colleagues has now joined Hatchet as a new addition. It's real "hard rock" with a Southern flavour and tracks like "Get In The Game" and opener "Son Of The South"(click to hear Real-Audio stream clip), do rock harder than usual.

A personal favourite is the classic sounding "Flames Are Burning", that simply explodes into a epic southern anthem filled with twin guitar work and husky vocals by Phil McCormack. "Hell Has No Fury" is a real boogie-woogie with a great refrain and "Gone In Sixty Seconds" will have you up and dancing on the tables. I can't remember the last time Hatchet recorded such a fun, uptempo album and it's something that will please any fan of the genre. Closing track "Rainbow Bridge" is a chapter of its own really as it's sentimental last goodbye to Ingram's wife. A real tearjerker in other words but also something that build up into a long furious jam session in the end. Bottomline: close to a 9 rating and truly enjoyable from start to finish. I Only miss a couple of really memorable choruses in certain places, but still highly recommended to the fans of southern rock.

SENTENCED: "The Funeral Album" 8

CenturyMedia 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 May 2005

This is supposed to be the last Sentenced album ever! There will be no reunion, comeback, or any other pathetic, soap-opera like circus. Yeah right, like anyone would like them to ever come back again??? Seriously I'm getting dead tierd of all these "made at Finnvox Studios by the acclaimed Mika Jussila" productions anyhow. How many more of them do we actually need? And how come that most of them turn out to be so freakin' good, huh? I miss the 80's when all Finland could produce was crappy tango music and koskenkorva [sarcastic mode off].

All jokes aside though, "The Funeral Album" is definitely a worthy ending to a band that's managed to envolve throughout their career. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since a young metal act started out in the town of Oulu in the cold north of Finland. They've gone from traditional Death Metal to straight rock and Goth inspired metal with their music and the melancholy is still very much present during this last CD (well, it wouldn't be a "funeral album" otherwise). However, they've managed to find that close-to perfect mixture of melodies, wicked guitar riffing, and melancholy this time. The first three tracks are simply magical as "they" (May Today Become The Day, Ever-frost, We Are But Falling Leaves) all seem to have a very important and interesting story to tell. They are unfortunately followed by a couple of real fillers and simply put dull numbers shortly afterwards. Sentenced quickly find their path to glory again though with the excellent rock of "Lower The Flag", "Drain Me", and the marvelous "End Of The Road".

The later also happens to be the closing track and it's a simple yet beautiful ending to a sentenced that didn't turn out to be for "life" after all. Ville Laihiala sings with a tender voice and there's even some children's choir (don't you just hate 'em?) and a grave-bell that tolls until it all fades to black... and complete and utter dead silence. One down and 100's of other Finnvox studio acts to go... damn...

GOTTHARD: "Lipservice" 7

Nuclear Blast 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 May 2005

Last year they played at the Bospop festival and I spoke to Leo Leoni and Marc Lynn (see the interview archives) about their new album then… They also told me that they were looking for another record company and to my big surprise they signed a deal with Nuclear Blast…. I really think that Gotthard is not heavy enough for NB as they normally sign metal, death metal and power metal bands….. But maybe the music of Gotthard has become heavier? For all the fans I can truly say that, that is not the case, although nine years after their fantastic album "G", they return to their roots.

So, now it is rocking time again, but if you listen to the first three songs, then you rather think that Gotthard has turned more mainstream and commercial. Especially "Lift 'U' Up"(which is the first single), is an extremely almost simplistic rock and roll song, which could do well on the radio of course. The first songs that made me move my feet and bang my head were "Cupid Arrow", "I Wonder", "I'm Alive" and "Anytime, Anywhere". Solid rock songs with great, recognizable guitar licks and first-rate singing by Steve Lee. Of course you can also enjoy the typical Gotthard power ballads like "Everything I Want" and "I've Seen An Angel Cry".

So far, so good, but then at the end of the album Gotthard almost ruins this album by playing two bloody unplugged ballads, which are too sweet for words actually. "And Then Goodbye" is not even a ballad, it is just plain Boring!! These two songs mean that this album only gets a 7 instead of an 8.5 without those horrible acoustic tracks. So in the end, I must conclude that I rather prefer "G" and even "Human Zoo" to this new album, sorry guys! Streetdate: 6 June

HAREM SCAREM: "Overload" 7

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
15 May 2005

The ever-evolving Harem Scarem are back with their third effort for Frontiers. With the previous two albums they managed to mix the "classic" HS sound with modern influences real well, but I'm afraid that on "Overload" the combination doesn't work quite as nicely.

Before you dismiss as being just another fan hoping for "Mood Swings II", I'd like to say that I have no problems with the modern sounds. I just don't feel that the band's songwriting is as catchy as it has been. I've asked it before and I'm asking it again - why is it that "modern rock" songwriting is so repetetive and monotonous? Sometimes it seems that the choruses are based more on volume that melodies - "how loud can we yell these three words"? Not that Harem Scarem are the worst example, but still, some of these songs bear a strong resemblance to a more melodic, dj-free Linkin Park...and I'm not that excited about it.

While the Hess/Lesperance songwriting team might not be at the peak of their melodic genius-ness at the moment, they're still not capable of producing a completely useless album. None of these tracks might not make it to a "Best Of Harem Scarem" compilation if I were to make one, but on their own they are quite enjoyable. "Afterglow" and "Don't Come Easy" are the highlights, both fine melodic modern rock tracks that would at least have to be considered for inclusion for the aforementioned compilation. The opening riff of "Forgive & Forget" is something quite surprising - it reminds be of Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law"! The song itself is also among the better ones on the album, a cool uptempo rocker. The other tracks - well, there's nothing particulary wrong with any of them, they just don't move me the way this band's best material usually does.

THUNDERSTONE: "Tools Of Destruction" 7

Nuclear Blast 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
14 May 2005

Last year's Thunderstone album "The Burning" was quite successful and just one year later this Finnish power metal band already has a new album in store. The sound of the band has not really changed of course and this means that "Tools Of Destruction" is again filled with true melodic, dynamic powerful tracks that make you want to bang your head for at least 50 minutes.

The classic power metal opening song "Tool Of The Devil" kicks off with a bass and drumintro, after which the guitars take over and the forceful voice of Pasi Rantanen takes control of the song. This track certainly has influences of super bands like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Metalium and even Masterplan. Especially Masterplan potencies can be heard in songs like "Liquid Of The Kings" and "Welcome To The Real". True power metal songs with almost familiar guitar licks and melodies, catchy choruses and amazing vocals that sometimes remind me of Jorn Lande.

Rather fast songs like "Without Wings", "The Last Song" and "Feed The Fire" bring back memories of the good old Helloween days. The songtitle "Another Time" suggests a ballad, and that is what you get, rather predictable therefore. Thunderstone saves the best for last, as the 8 minutes' "Land Of Innocence" is truly the best song on this CD. A very diverse neo-classical power metal song is what you get at the end, filled with great keyboard passages, beautiful guitar lines and solos and most of all great singing again. Yes, I think that Thunderstone will have a nice future ahead of them, if they only could get rid of those stereotyped song titles and lyrics the next time.

SECRET SPHERE: "Heart & Anger" 7

Nuclear Blast 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
14 May 2005

Secret Sphere, another Italian power metal band, was formed in the year 1997. The current line-up recorded their debut CD "Mistress Of The Shadowlight" two years later. After their second album "A Time Nevercome"(2001) they signed with Nuclear Blast and released their first album for that new record company in 2003. "Scent Of Human Desire", produced by Achim Kohler (Primal Fear), was praised by the press and gave Secret Sphere the chance to play at various festivals in Europe.

"Heart & Anger" is the second release for Nuclear Blast and this album includes even more epic and orchestral components than its previous album. Secret Sphere's music is a blend of speed power metal with epic, symphonic passages, recorded with a full orchestra. As their main influences the band credit groups like Savatage, Helloween, Blind Guardian, Virgin Steel or even Symphony-X. Although I must say that Secret Sphere needs to be aware of the fact that speed is not everything, as most (8) of the songs are very fast. Furthermore these fast songs are mostly "filled" with pounding drums, high-pitched vocals, speedy guitar riffs and extremely high-speed guitar solos. That means that there is not enough variety in those songs and that really is a pity because in the other songs these guys prove that they can play and also compose good tracks.

"I Won't Say A Word", "No Reason Why" and "Faster Than The Storm" are great power metal songs that show more variety and a lot more melodic and instrumental segments than the rapid songs. "You Still Remain" is the power ballad on this album and it features a duet, making this song rather dramatic. Also worth mentioning is the remarkable opener "Endless", a bombastic, almost classical song with female opera vocals. So you could say that Secret Sphere has something in stock for everybody, I rather prefer them playing melodic power metal music (like "I Won't Say A Word") instead of those super fast metal tracks (like "First Snake"). I would also advise these guys to leave out the metal hymn singalong song like "Dance with The Devil" the next time, please. For the rest, keep up the good work. Streetdate:30 May

SOUL SIRKUS: "World Play" 7

Frontiers 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
8 May 2005

Soul SirkUS was supposed to be the new flagship of melodic rock or at least of the label as the band grew out of the ashes of the all-star project featuring Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony (who went back to support another attempt of the Van Halen brothers ruining the legend once and for all) along with Neal Schon and Dean Castronovo. Well an equally good (if not better) line-up was put together for this one with RockUnited favorite Jeff Scott Soto handling vocal duties, Marco Mendoza taking the bass, and Virgil Donati replacing Castronovo on drums. Schon being the only permanent member of the project one would expect it to be his one-man-show which turned out to be a wrong expectation as it is clearly not.

Actually it is more Soto than anything else, as Jeff's signature melodies take over on almost all the songs. If we discard the title-track (a 47 seconds instrumental intro) the album starts out as if it was the new Talisman or Soto solo record, both "New Position" and "Higher Ground" are straightforward rockers with firm riffing and classic Soto melodies. The following "Another World" ruins the feel soon enough before any obvious comparison could take over as it is a kind of doomy progressive wanna-be track dragging a foot all along, something you wouldn't expect from these guys, and personally I have no idea how it got here at all. "Soul Goes On" saves the day as it is probably more Journey than anything the band has done lately, a perfect, moody ballad with beautiful melodies and very tasty guitar work. My ears may be playing tricks on me but I'd say in the beginning Jeff even managed to smuggle some Perry into his voice. Clearly the highlight of the album.
"Alive" is another rocker dominated by Jeff's energetic approach but "Periled Divide" drags us back to doomy-land only to be followed by "Peephole" which is a weak attempt to be modern or new metal or what?! Arrrgh, leave that to Ozzfest, for Heaven's sake! "Abailar To Mundo" totally ruins the day as it is nothing more than a bass-line with jazz-chanting vocals on top, the kinda thing that you keep to your rehearsal room or only play to a very drunk audience at a college party after you have played your entire set-list twice and you have nothing left to come up with. Or if you haven't got enough quality material to fill your album with

The rest of the album brings the right approach back with another highlight "Friends to Lovers". It is a typical Soto melodic rocker, "Praise" and "My Sanctuary" also being very okay rockers while "Coming Home" is another brilliant, laid-back ballad with a tasty, clean guitar-work reminding me of Neal's instrumental solo "Beyond the Thunder" topped with signature Soto melodies. A winning combination. Why couldn't we get more than that? The solo is a real gem, makes the album worth buying alone. So does the usual Soto a'capella "My Love, My Friend". Brilliant. The hidden bonus "James Brown" is another fun track but altogether I'd say I expected more than this. It's Jeff's enormous talent that saves the album which is fine with me as he's by far the best the scene can offer at the moment but that's not enough from such a line-up. The 73 minutes total running time (with lots of extras and such) makes the album a valet-friendly release, however a 45 minutes version with only the strong-enough tracks would have made it the Big Bang it was planned to be. This way it is just one of the many out on the streets nowadays and a 7 out of 10 rating is about 3 points lower than the potential in the line-up.

KAIPA: "Mindrevolutions" 7

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 May 2005

The Swedish progressive rock band Kaipa was formed by Hans Lundin and Roine Stolt back in 1975! They recorded 5 albums and ceased to exist in 1982. But 20 years later they staged brilliant come back with the album "Notes From The Past". Since their musical "rebirth" they now release their third album and Kaipa now consists of Roine Stolt (guitar, vocals), Hans Lundin (keyboards, vocals), Morgan Agren (ex-Zappa, drums), Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings, The Tangent, bass guitar) and on vocals Patrik Lundstrom and Aleena, both from Ritual.

The music on this album is a mix of Karmakanic, Flower Kings and The Tangent and musically this CD is sometimes absolutely brilliant, especially Roine's guitar solos are sheer magic. However, it is the singing that I have problems with. First of all, there is too much singing and second of all I actually do not like the voice/timbre of Lundstrom and Aleena. Her voice tends to get on my nerves, as it almost sounds childish or screechy. Especially in songs like "Electric Leaves", "Shadows Of Time" and "Last Free Indian" her vocals almost make me want to skip those songs….

In fact, I would like to say that without Roine's staggering guitarplaying this album would rather be a mediocre progressive rock album. Just check out his dazzling guitar solos in tracks like "Remains Of The Day"(the absolute highlight of this CD), "The Dodger" and "Shadows Of Time". Progressively speaking the highlight would be the epic (25 minutes!) titletrack, with its jazz, funk, rock, folk and Latin influences, but that song is at least 10 minutes too long to really focus your attention on. Absolute misses on this album are "Our Deepest Inner Shore" (just vocals, keys and piano) and "Timebomb", with Feargal Sharkey vocals! Kaipa remain a strange band, sometimes brilliant, but most of the time too dull and too much singing; I really prefer the Flower Kings and of course Roine saves this album!!

ROYAL HUNT: "Paper Blood" 6

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
15 May 2005

Royal Hunt, the Danish melodic metal band led by the keyboard wizard Andre Andersen is a reliable band that keeps on producing quality music year after year. Any one of their albums is a worthwhile addition to any melodic metal collection, but I have to say that while I have quite a few of them in mine, I don't really listen to them too often. They are good albums, that's true, but somehow the lack real killer songs doesn't make me want to pull the out of the shelf. This album is no different to the last few albums of theirs - solid work from start to finish, but that's it.

"Break Your Chains" opens the album in typical melodic metal style - the song is okay but just as unimaginative as the song title suggests. "Not My Kind" is much better, a good example of progressive metal "hit". The song has a rather complex structure, yet the hook quite catchy and accessible. Next up we're offered an instrumental track "Memory Lane" which doesn't exactly benefit the flow of the album. "Never Give Up" is another standard uptempo Royal Hunt track, not bad but not too memorable either.

"Seven Days" is a curious, slower track. It reminds me a lot of Seal's "Crazy", just listen to that keyboard intro and the vocal melody in the first verse..."SK 983" is another instrumental, a furious rocker with Andersen punishing his keyboard with rage! Not my cup of tea though. "Kiss Of Faith" sees excellent vocalist John West back in action again, but the song itself is again only "OK". The next two tracks end up among the better tracks - the fast-paced title track and the beautiful, balladic "Season's Change". However, then we're subjected to "Twice Around The World", yet ANOTHER instrumental! That means that roughly one third of the albums' tracks are instrumentals, which is just too much. The band has a great vocalist but for some reason they don't want to use him! It's not like these instrumentals offer anything really spectacular to the common listener either...I bet that 90 % of the band's fans would rather hear some good songs instead of these virtuosity showcases. Why didn't Andersen save these instrumental tracks to his solo albums?

STYX: "Big Bang Theory" 5

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 May 2005

Damn the A&R person who first came up with the bright idea with cover albums. I never really understood the fun with them and especially not if the songs follow the originals right down to the shoe laces. Pop songs done in metal versions or why not the opposite? all fine by me!!! but a classic rock act that simply copy another classic act??? really... what's the point??? I'm sure that Styx is paying the dues and merely see this as a tribute to their heroes and that's somewhat cool I guess. However, why can't they re-arrange the songs a bit more or at least try and make something new and exciting about these versions. OK, some of the songs are darn nice but it's mainly for the die-hard, most-own-everything, with Styx fan. I'd also like to say here that "Cyclorama" ended up on my top-10 of 2003 album list and it's not a question of me hating the band.

"I Am The Walrus" should have been titled "I Am The Pothead" in reality since it's music created by potheads mainly for the pothead people. Yes, it's the Beatles, but you surely need to be on dope to appreciate the refrain to its fullest. CSI favourites The WHO [well, at least up until where Townsend was caught peeping at kiddie porn online. I believe he said something about research? I'm sure Michael Jackson is cursing himself at this very moment - "why didn't I think of that?"] has been covered with "I Can See For Miles" and it's a rather pointless version, since it only made me want to hear the original instead. "Can't Find My Way Home" (Blind Faith) is done with Tommy Shaw behind the mike and in a rather stripped down version. The first song that truly works actually and even though I perfer House Of Lords' version, this will surely do. The husky vocals of James Young go through a rather poor "It Don't Make Sense" (Willie Dixon) but it's a poor song to begin with in his defense. "I Don't Need No Doctor" originally performed by Humble Pie is a fun little number and Lawrence Gowan sings his little heart out. I don't believe I've heard him this "angry" and upset in the past, great! "One Way Out" by The Allman Brothers is ok but I'll stick with the southern rockers anyday. I love Gowan's unique sounding voice and the Procol Harum song "A Salty Dog" fits him like a glove. This is a great music and Gowan has managed to add his soul and imprint here. The same goes with Tommy Shaw's performance on "Summer In The City" actually and it's a fun number that the Lovin' Spoonful would be proud of. "Manic Depression" with James Young again and it's yet another 'forget-about-it' version I'm afraid. "Talkin' About The Good Times" (The Pretty Things) is the only track I had not heard before and it's a completely new experience in other words. A pretty average track in my opinion with a slight Beatlesque vibe and hardly worth the trouble in the end.

James Young finally get things right with Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" and "Wishing Well" (Free) is such a great song that you simply can't destroy it... no matter what, even though I must say that Gary Moore's version is better. "Blue Collar Man @ 2120" is a altered 6 minute long version that I find to be ehh... interesting. Hey! it's at least something different and credit to the people for trying and it's a great song anyhow. Hits and misses and you'll have to take the good with the bad. Now get back into the studio a.s.a.p. and give us a brand new STYX album instead, thanks.

EVIL MASQUERADE: "Theatrical Madness" 4

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 May 2005

"When Satan Calls" - you better let the machine take the call as it could easily get ugly otherwise!!! Evil Masquerade is back with a opener worse than any Blind Guardian filler during their most pathetic era (post the mid-90's). I enjoyed the Germans up until their "Imaginations From The Other Side" album, but let's face it, it was r-e-a-l-l-y down hill from that point on. With tracks like "Theatrical Madness" and "Bozo The Clown" (I'm not making up these titles as I write), Evil Masquerade certainly picks up where Blind Guardian left the torch (probably at some well hidden dungeon) ten years earlier. You'd think the flame would have long died and in reality it probably would have been for the best.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the production as old geezer Tommy Hansen (Helloween, TNT, Pretty Maids) has done an outstanding job as usual. Former Royal Hunt shouter Henrik Brockmann goes through all the stages of any Blind Guardian inspired vocalist and guitarist Henrik Flyman (ex-Moani Moana, Zool) is eager to display all his skill and technique. Impressive musicianship indeed but the materal leaves much to ask for this time I'm afraid.

Last years debut album surely was a masterpiece in comparsion to "Theathrical Madness" and I wasn't too keen in the first place really. The most interesting bit of fact is "Witches Chant" which is the work of William Shakespeare set to music by Henrik Flyman. Good people may recognize it as scene:1 act:4 in the MacBeth story. Nah, check out "Lady MacBeth" by Lana Lane instead and leave the madness behind you.

RAY WILSON: "Live" 3

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 May 2005

Ray Wilson's previous album "The Next Best Thing" was a rather boring pop/rock album and after numerous acoustic shows he now releases a double live CD. On the cover you can see Ray with an electric guitar, so I had hoped that this album would not contain too many acoustic songs… But I was wrong, as this album contains 17 bloody acoustic tracks, which I would describe as lullabies and Boring with a capital B. Especially a country and western song like "Swing Your Bag" almost makes me want to puke….

To make things worse however, Ray Wilson decided to treat me to some covers (which I bloody hate) as well. Namely: "Biko", which is even duller as its original by Peter Gabriel, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", probably one of the most covered songs ever, and "In The Air Tonight", originally sung by Phil Collins. Next, Ray plays five Genesis tracks of which "Carpet Crawlers" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" are the only two worth listening to. Because "I Can't Dance", "Follow You, Follow Me" and "Ripples" belong to the commercial, boring and most non-innovative Genesis period ever.

Last but not least, Ray plays two Stiltskin tracks, "Inside" and "Footsteps", which are the only two songs of that band that everybody knows…. Conclusion: this is probably one of the most boring live albums ever, although Ray Wilson tells a rather funny story on the first CD, which at least shows that this guy has a typical Scottish humorous side.

EDGE OF FOREVER: "Let The Demon Rock'N'Roll" 8

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 May 2005

Holy Cow!!! The first six (6) tracks of "Let The Demon Rock'N' Roll" is close to perfect and everything you can ever ask for when it comes to melodic hardrock with a touch of neo-classical influences. I'm actually shell shocked as well as stunned by the high standard of the material and I find myself shouting along at highest volume. It's a shameless flirt with the music of Yngwie Malmsteen during his prime (80's/very early 90's), the Joe Lynn Turner fronted Rainbow and European AOR.

Let's do this track by track: (1)"The Machine" is a great opener and would have been a perfect match for the Malmsteen album "Odyssey", complete with virtuoso guitar work by Matteo Carnio and keys by Alessandro Del Vecchio. (2)"Shade Of November" continues with more of the same and Bob Harris (Axe) really sings his heart out with passion and emotion that I haven't heard him do before. (3)"One Last Surrender" is magical stuff and I would definitely call this "goosebumps" material as it sends a shiver down your spine. The keyboard intro, the catchy refrain, the works, everything is perfect right down to the shoe laces actually. (4)"Crime Of Passion" truly is Rainbow during their "Difficult To Cure" or "Bent Out Of Shape" era. Carnio does his very best Ritchie Blackmore impression here and you simply need to check out the intense ivory/ebony work as well. (5)The excellent title track follows next and it's slightly darker and heavier than previous stuff, still catchy though and mighty impressive I may add. (6)"A Deep Emotion" is a nice stripped down ballad with a excellent performance by Harris.

(7)"Feel Like Burning" is kind of a boring, throw-away rocker, performed in a similar style to Rainbow's "Drinking With The Devil". Sure, it works as a change of pace, but it's hardly among the better tracks and thus why (8)"Mouth Of Madness" comes as a major disappointment as it's yet another "Feel Like Burning" song, only worse and without any real meaning or charm. (9)"In My Eyes" is a seriously fine ballad and closing track (10)"Edge Of Forever" is yet another uptempo Yngwie Malmsteen inspired tune. Bottomline: Still a very pleasant surprise as they've really managed to take the band to another dimension since the debut album. I didn't expect much to be honest and ended up with a smile all over my face. Recommended to fans of 80's Yngwie, JOLT Rainbow, Cornerstone, and probably Axe fans as well.

SAIDIAN: "For Those Who Walk The Path Forlorn" 7

Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
5 May 2005

Saidian is a new melodic metal band from Germany. Before you run to the hills screaming "NO! Not another second rate Helloween", I'll ask you to read on, as this band might be of interest to you. Granted, they are not offering anything new as they stick to the tried and tested melodic metal format, but they have come up with a few really good songs.

Keyboard player Markus Bohr formed the band, and indeed it seems that he's the driving force. The keyboards parp majestically on most of the songs, adding extra melody to them. Vocalist Markus Engelfried is all over the place as well, but not quite as positively...this is strictly my personal opionion, but I really don't like his vocal style. He tends to show off his ability to hit the high notes by screaming his head off ever so often, and when he sings in the lower range, there's something about his somewhat gritty tone that just doesn't agree with me. Maybe majestic and pompous songs such as these would require a vocalist with a more commanding vocal style, along the lines of Roy Khan or Geoff Tate. I'm not saying that Engelfried is a bad singer, but he might be more suitable to more aggressive type of metal.

The songs then... one can hear traces of Malmsteen, Stratovarius or Royal Hunt in many of the songs. Some tracks remind me strongly of the early Balance Of Power material - being there on the borderline of Power Metal and AOR. The overall quality of songwriting is good, every song has some good elements. Even the weaker ones - the rather typical metal number "Raging Fire" stands out as such - have some good melodies. The strongest track has to be "The Only One" with its' tasty keyboard work and strong hook. "Heart Of Stone" has another big chorus which should appear to the more melodically-oriented metal fans. Never mind that it's very familiar sounding...

"For Those Who Walk The Path Forlorn" is a decent debut for this promising new band. Even though they are playing rather traditional melodic metal, they do have a keyboard-driven style that's at least somewhat original these days.

ICED EARTH: "Gettysburg 1863 [DVD]" 6

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 May 2005

Ehem... You almost need to be more into American Civil War history than Iced Earth to appreciate this double DVD release. It could as easily have been a Discovery Channel production as Jon Schaffer talks and walks through the holy grounds of "Gettysburg" together with some old geezer (an offical historian and guide at Gettysburg). They spend what seems as hours talking about the entire battle and even though it's kind of interesting to hear the old geezer, I personally would have expected more music and perhaps a Iced Earth live show as well.

Don't get me wrong, I'm more than fairly interested in the whole "blue & grey" concept as I spent a lot of my childhood with this very battle going through books, movies, computer and board games. Not to mention that I was glued infront of Discovery when it was at first introduced at my home. The music you get is the whole "Gettysburg" trilogy from "The Glorious Burden" CD, however, the whole concept is done without the images of Iced Earth and the visuals are merely semi-animation, old civil war pictures that fade in and out, people marching, etc. Again, it's like watching any Discovery Channel Civil War program only with the music of Iced Earth on top of it all (kind of bizzare actually).

Then you have a 50 minute long interview with Jon Schaffer about his store "Spirit Of 76", which of course is all about the old western days of America. A Gettysburg photo gallery and yet another 50 minute long interview with Schaffer, this time about the band and the album "The Glorious Burden" though. The only "real" music (in my opinion) are the two videos of "When The Eagles Cries" and "The Reckoning". I really enjoyed last years Iced Earth CD (it ended up on my top-10 favourite CD's of the year list), however, I'm not sure about this project. Sure, it's nicely done in places, but don't expect to find much music here.

CANNON: "Back In Business" 5

Point Music 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 May 2005

Achtung! "Back In Business" contains of real teutonic metal in the style of Bullet, Charon, Fargo or V2. All acts that most of us have long forgotten (or desperately trying to forget?) or never heard of in the first place. Cannon from Hannover/Germany were founded in 1986 and their one and only album "Thunder And Lightning" was released two years later. The original vinyl LP receive high bids at eBay and is sold at high prices at mailorder shops. The reunion took place in September 2003 and a double CD release containing the 1988 debut album and older, previously unreleased material, was released under the name "The History" in 2004.

"Back In Business" is however the first "new" release since the 80's and it's definitely back to basics, which includes vocals in the style of Marc Storace (Krokus) and 80's heavy metal guitars. They do have a couple of odd tracks as well, "Lights Out Action" is blessed with a overall sound 'ala Krokus and a refrain 'ala WASP's "Blind In Texas", while "Another Hero" on the other hand is quite similar to the stuff RATT recorded in the late 80's. In fact, I was only waiting to hear Stephen Pearcy's unmistakable voice somewhere behind the mike by now.

There's nothing remotely wrong with the musical performance of Cannon, however, the material struggles to hold your interest and there seems to be a lack of really catchy songs.

ZENO: "Zenology II" 9

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
27 April 2005

I'm really fond of the bombastic, over-the-top, attitude of Zeno. The music display a wonderous passion and feel for the pompous and extravaganza that only a 80's fan could truly love and appreciate. It's layers and layers of vocal harmonies, massive keyboard patterns, explosive guitars, and a lead singer that could easily crack the sky with his voice.

"Zenology II" is obviously the follow-up to the Zenology album that caused a small sensation and rushed the charts in Japan back in 1995. It's a new compilation with previously unreleased material which all were recorded between the years of 1983-1989. The elven tracks included here works as a musical documentary of long gone days and merely a taster of things to come. Zeno Roth (the brother of Uli Jon of Scorpions fame) is actually back in the studio recording a brand new album to be released later this year?

Bombastic rock doesn't get much better than opener "Call Of The Heart", and you can totally understand why acts like 'Fair Warning' came out sounding like they did. Ule Ritgen simply continued with the Zeno sound when Roth decided to take a break from everything. "Tonight" is a blistering attempt of supreme pomp metal, while "Hard Beat" is blessed with dut-dut keys and a hook that hits you where it hurts. "Dreaming The Night Away" is a big slice of AOR heaven and a song that most bands will be able to produce. "Good Game Bad Game" is however something of a throw-away rocker and all that glitter ain't gold. It's still miles above most new AOR/Melodic releases of today and must have for any Zeno fan.

Bruce DICKINSON: "Tyranny Of Souls" 8

Mayan/Sanctuary 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
27 April 2005

I haven't been too impressed with the solo albums of Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden, Samson) to be honest. In fact, "Tattooed Millionaire" is still my favourite one and the only CD I still listen to frequently. Dickinson has once again teamed up with guitarist/producer and songwriter Roy Z to create the heavy metal riffing of "Tyranny Of Souls".

The music is actually back to basics and more Iron Maiden-ish than the modern approach of the rather poor "The Chemical Wedding". This is easily the second best effort of Bruce-Bruce as a solo artist so far and overall a pleasant surprise.

Opener "Abduction" sets the pace with some power riffing bringing to mind all those early 90's metal acts. The main melody could easily have been included on a Maiden album back then and the same goes with "Soul Intruders" actually. The verse and refrain are very similar to the style of Maiden, only with slightly heavier (almost thrash) riffing and minus the clever bass-lines of Steve Harris of course. "Navigate The Seas Of The Sun" is a big epic ballad complete with acoustic guitars and strong vocal harmonies. At the end of the day I prefer this to any of Iron Maiden album since the comeback. It's a darn fine, solid, release by the second best air siren in metal (no#1 - Ian Gillan).
Release date: 26th of May.

DARE: "Power of Nature" 7

MTM 2005
Review by Petri Kautto, 29 March 2005

Every now and then the live atmosphere of a concert is caught on an album and this is a fine example of just that. "Power of Nature" was recorded on a rainy day in Munich Deep Impact open air festival and though I only have the CD, I would believe that the DVD that will be released the same time will have capture the same relaxed mood that can be felt on the CD.

The songs that have been selected will not please those who appreciate Dare’s early recordings more than their recent releases. Still the entity is relaxed and the performance of the band is pretty good. "Sea Of Roses" is a nice start for the album and the connection with the crowd seems pretty intensive from the very first song. For me that was not quite enough because I would have liked to hear one or two more uptempo songs, now I felt that the melancholy in the songs was a bit too overwhelming.

This is an album that you need to pick up if you’re a Dare fan. Even though there are only 11 songs on the album it is a nice addition to your collection. Personally I’m not their biggest fan but I enjoyed this. It didn’t blow me away or anything but a good production, good musicianship and decent songs usually do the trick for me.

DUNGEON: "One Step Beyond" 7

Limb Music 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
22 April 2005

Considering that any definition of the word "Dungeon" is likely to awake the roleplaying nerd within us all, "One Step Beyond" surely isn't quite as boring at first impression. Their intrusive music ends up somewhere between the neo-classical Yngwie Malmsteen and the old school metal of Iron Maiden and it's once again filled with intense and rather impressive guitar work.

There's not much here in terms of style that we haven't heard before. Nevertheless, "Against The Wind" is a arther spiffing driving hard rocker with a highly infectious chorus, while others tracks such as "The Art Of War" and "Under The Cross", merely rely upon share power and strenght.

They do have a enthusiastic approach towards their music and I'm sure that "One Step Beyond" will receive a positive response and feedback from the metal fans. It's not always original or groundbreaking material, but it sure beats listening to any of Yngwie's albums of lately. Mark my words, that "Against The Wind" tune will end up at the top of many "metal songs of "2005" lists. Perhaps they need to think about adding something completely new and fresh to their music next time.

REFUGEE: "Affairs In Babylon" 7

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
25 April 2005

It's always nice to see that someone actually bothers to re-issue the oldies of the golden 80's. Here's Refugee's debut album from 1985 for the first time on CD with four previously unreleased bonus tracks. OK, they are hardly worth the trouble as you'll get live versions of semi dodgy numbers such as the 60's music of "The Mighty Queen", "Mississippi Side Road" and a piano/drum feature.

Refugee was a melodic rock band from Ottawa/Canada started and directed by vocalist/producer/songwriter Myles Hunter. Originally known as "Michael Fury" this very album was reworked into "Affairs In Babylon" with the addition of some new tunes and a change of line-up. Their managment had earlier success with the 70's act "Zon" and they decided to bring inex-Zon keyboardist Howard Helm along with former Helix drummer Brian Doerner.

The first single of the album "Exiles In The Dark" can easily be described as a Bruce Springsteen/Red Rider inspired track with those typical power chords and phrases of "The Boss". The neat keyboard work by Helm adds a strong AOR feeling on top of it all of course. The verses and overall mood of "Body To Body"is funnily enough similar to Springsteen as well and especially his "Because The Night" song. Another highlight is "These Are The Good Times" which was later covered by Jim Jidhed (Alien), he recorded a splendid version on his first solo album "Jim" in 1990. Refugee only got better with time in my opinion and their second release (Burning From The Inside Out) is still my favourite. Perhaps we could get that re-issued as well in a near future?

EL CACO: "The Search" 7

BlackBalloon 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 April 2005

"The Search" is the third album release by El Caco and I must confess that I haven't been paying much attention to them in the past. Shame on me as the Norwegians mix ofmodern pop/rock melodies and heavy metal riffs works nicely throughout the CD. I must also confess that we Swedes are in generally lousy at catching up with the Norway scene, while they on the other hand are hardly afraid to check out our artists.

The quality of this release is apparently quite right from the opening power chords of the catchy "Someone New". The power boast of wicked riffing and delicate fills will have you only wanting for more. El Caco's new album will most definitely intrest those who enjoy their music modern and stylishly crafted whilst touching on a variety of musical bases. You'll find everything from Norwegian pop of today to sleazy action-rock and ultra heavy hardcore. It's new - yet old, modern yet retro.

You really need to be open minded about music in general to truly appreciate "The Search" to its fullest. However, the lack of some catchy hooks becomes quite obvious afterwards as the material never reach beyond "nice" or "hey! not bad" expression. Bottomline, with a couple of more songs in the style of "Someone New", this could have been a real sensation, now it's "merely" nice and still very enjoyable.

BETOKEN: "The Gate Of Nothing" 4

Steelheart 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 April 2005

Betoken is a symphonic power metal act from Italy in the vein of Rhapsody, Labyrinth and their likes. It's rather the poor man's version of the above mentioned acts as their epic metal arrangements don't quite match up with their intentions.

Sure enough, "The Gate Of Nothing" is jam-packed with double-bass drumming and mighty epic choirs.The title track is indeed a fine example of symphonic stuff where the two lead vocalists (one male - one female) share the responsibility of creating full harmony and lovely music. Marco Silva & Eva Rondinelli's vocal performance although rich and powerful seems strained on occasions and the very-heavy Italian accent is a bit too much for my liking. The songs themselves are a little too one dimensional and pretty much follow the standard formula for the metal genre.

The only real surprise is the bonus track "In My Darkest Hour" which of course is a cover of the old Megadeth hit. Still below average I'm afraid.

RAGING SPEEDHORN: "How The Great Has Fallen" 3

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 April 2005

The U.K. metal lads of Raging Speedhorn are now signed to SPV in Germany and can finally become a full-force to reckon with. "How The Great Has Fallen" is filled with all that anger and frustration that's been building up within the band during the hungry years. It's a brutal uppercut to all the cynics who said that no Brit can ever deliver any decent aggro metal.

Well, I guess they proved them wrong as tracks like "Dead Man Walking" and "Master Of Disaster" can only be described as freakin great extreme noise terrorism (not a description that will please everybody I'm sure). It's the sound of angry (white) men making violent music that only a die-hard Ozzfest visitor will appreciate.

"How The Great Has Fallen" would surely been a perfect ten if music had only been about aggresive tendencies and a vulgar display of power. However, there's so much more to music and their endless stream of hate and aggro metal tend to get on my nerves. Listening to this CD is like free diving into muddy waters without a chance of ever getting back up to the suface for some air. How about a breather? Or at least a change of pace and rhythm from time to time? The aggro stoner metal of Raging Speedhorn is way too monotonous and it's all a blur in the long run.

INSENSE: "Soothing Torture" 4

Black Balloon Records 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 April 2005

Insense and intense death/hardcore from Norway and said to be a powerful manifesto for the new wave of Norwegian metal. Fair enough I guess as their hardhitting, heads down music, can most certainly be described as a reign of terror and male aggression.

The CD features ten ruthless tracks soaked in virgin blood and hazardous sonic soundscapes. It's a lively hoedown in other words and hardly anything for the seeker of catchy melodies. Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Hjelm is responsible for earlier Norwegian Grammy and Alarm award nominated and winning productions such as JR Ewing, Amulet and Black Debbeth!!!??? Ehhh... Who???? "Soothing Torture" is reminiscent of the riffs of Red Harvest, Neurosis' aggression and Slipknot's determination (how about the silly outfits and masks?).

Lana LANE: "Lady MacBeth" 9

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 April 2005

The symphonic metal queen returns with yet another bombastic concept album. Lana Lane surely is one of the better female vocalists around and an artist I find way better than the average riff-raff. "Lady MacBeth" marks the 10th anniversary of her first CD release and it's a "true" concept story based on the famous "MacBeth" written by some ancient British dude, which plays are normally filled with murder, incest, and other absolutely horrible things. Who said that TV and Video Games are the most harmful stuff for the kids, huh?

Lana has a similar approach to her singing style as to what Ann Wilson often did in her early Heart days. A very powerful vocalist in other words and something you won't get tired of as easily as the over-the-top, opera-like, screamer (read Nightwish and the rest of all those wannabees). The album open up with the chilling description of "The Dream That Never Ends", where the dark and sinister Lady Macbeth goes through all the stages of pure and evil insanity. Lovely harmonies and atmospheric keyboards makes it a fine opener and merely a taste of greater things to come.

"Someone To Believe" lifts the album another notch or two with its intense message and awesome performance by Lana. It's a great semi-ballad and overall a nice mix of melodic hardrock 'ala Heart and her usual prog-tastic stuff. Lana once again grabs the chance to impresse us all with her vocals on the lovely ballad "Our Time Now". "Summon The Devil" with its enchating chorus is another winner in the symphonic prog field, however, it also reminds me of a Cher song of long gone days (her "Gypsy" tune I believe it is?). Some truly impressive keyboard work by her long time partner Eric Norlander as well here and check out "No Tomorrow", for yet another magical semi-ballad. Credit to Kelly Keeling as well for helping out with background vocals and choirs. The real heart of the album comes with a string of fine compositions and of course the solid work by "Lady Macbeth" herself. In fact, everything from production to performance by all the musicians involved oozes of class and success. And when they rock out with "Keeper Of The Flame", you know this will most certainly please even the most picky listener of melodic/symphonic prog-ish rock. Highly recommended!

Hartmann: "Out In The Cold" 8

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
22 April 2005

Oliver Hartmann used to be the singer in At Vance, a rather successful metal group. He left the band a couple of years, and except for taking part in projects such as Avantasia and Genius Rock Operas, he's been concentrating on his solo material. This dedication has paid off, as this album is something to be proud of!

I liked Hartmann's vocals in At Vance, but it's here where he really starts to shine. He does an outstanding job, changing styles and moods effortlessly, with no trace of a foreign accent to be heard. What's more, he plays all the guitars on the album as well, and it appears that he's one hell of a guitarist too. Is there any limit to this guys' talent?! The excellent production by Hartmann and Sascha Path has to be mentioned as well.

The musical style of Hartmann's solo material might come as a shock to the At Vance fans, expecting something similar. "Out In The Cold" is mature, melodic hard rock in which I could hear traces of Whitesnake, Thunder and even Joey Tempest's or Mike Tramp's solo material. The heavier, darker tracks remind me a bit of Masterplan or Starbreaker.

The album opens with two of the strongest tracks of the album; the hard rocking "Alive Again" and the moody title track. Great tracks, both of them! The balladic "Brazen" is a rather impressive track too, but I can't get over my dislike of the chorus...that high-pitched "Weep" sounds a bit out of place. "The Same Again" is one of the tracks that reminds me of Masterplan, similary heavy yet deliciously melodic. Even Hartmann's vocals remind me of Jorn Lande's work, but that doesn't bother me at all.

"I Will Carry On" and "What If I" are the two tracks that made me draw comparisons to the singer-songwriter stuff of Tempest, Tramp and others. The first one is a nice ballad, while the second one is a bouncy pop rock track with a bit of a "nubreed" feel.

I believe that "How Long" is one of the most over-used songtitles, and once someone dares to use it once again, they'd better have at least a great song to go with it. Hartmann does, even though the chorus melody is almost as familiar sounding as the name of the track. Still, it works well here - good heavy, melodic rock track.

Somehow the last few tracks leave me a bit cold, as good as they are..."The Journey" is another nice ballad, although not my favourite among them. The "nubreed" term raises its' head with "Who Do You Think That You Are", an OK modern rocker. "Listen To Your Heart" (tried n' tested title again) is an OK track as well, but somehow it pales in comparison to the stronger tracks on the first half of the album. "Can You Tell Me Where Love Has Gone" is a good power ballad, reminding me a bit of Winger's "Miles Away". This is my favourite track among the last five ones, and it's raised to another level by Hartmann's great vocal performance. It would have been a suitable closing number, but unfortunately there's one more track to deal with, "Into The Light" which is probably my least favourite track of the album. It does feature a great vocal from Hartmann, but otherwise it just seems to last for ages, and doesn't really move me at all.

Despite the somewhat weaker second half, this is still a great surprise and one of the better releases this year. Hartmann takes a big leap into the elite of European rock singers with this one!

SHAAMAN: "Reason" 8

AFM Records 2005
Review by Martien "Suruman" Koolen,
18 april 2005

Ex-Angra Andre Matos, Luis Mariutti and Ricardo Confessori formed with Hugo Mariutti a new band called Shaman and with that band they now release their second CD called “Reason”. The second album is supposed to be critical for a band’s career, because this album proves if you are able as a band to improve, grow and most of all, if you can incorporate new creative musical elements.

I certainly feel that Shaaman has achieved this, as their new album is extremely passionate, full of progressive power and atmospheric feelings and musical passages. The album kicks off with the heaviest Shaaman song ever; “Turn Away”, even has some trashy touches, although most of the song is rather melodic. The title track has a great melody and it is dominated by a sensitive twin guitar solo, which takes you back to the good old Iron Maiden time. The first and luckily only bad song is “More”, a cover (I hate covers!!) of the notorious Sisters Of Mercy.

“ Innocence” is a piano ballad, with great singing from Andre, a dreamy guitar solo and some rather dramatic musical parts that really bring back memories from good old Angra. However the highlight of this album is “In The Night”, a progressive rock song with amazing guitar and orchestral parts and you should really check out the guitar solo there. In every song on this CD, except for “More”, Shaaman proves that the band has grown and that it is now a real band with lots of personality and musical talent to survive the musical jungle of our time. The Shaaman musical spirit is truly alive and kickin’ !!

Note: Due to name problems in Latin America, the band name is spelled SHAAMAN from now on!

SONIC X: "Sonic X" 7

Z Records 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 April 2005

Sonic X's debut album saw the light of day during 2004 actually but I never received a copy for review (from the record label) and I still haven't, this comes directly from the hands of Joseph @ Sonic X (cheers!). Nevertheless, the band have a long background history under the "L.A." moniker during the late 80's/early 90's. They ran into some major trouble back then (three-piece-suites and dodgy labels, etc) and the music has been in the vault ever since. It's been a long time coming for this rather decent hairmetal outfit and I believe this CD will still find its way to the 80's fan.

It's surely not the most original sounding hardrock CD of lately. They borrow bits and pieces of every hairmetal genre during that era and the lyrics are borderline dull at times (like any good, old, 80's act, huh?). I was told by others that Sonic X would sound like Skid Row?! Well... there's a certain amount of "sleaze" into this, but I sure as hell wouldn't put them in the exact same category as the New Jersey rockers. At least I find this to be more in the vein of the first Lynch Mob album, Firehouse, Slaughter (minus the over-the top vocals by Mark Slaughter), and perhaps only with a minor and I do mean minor touch of the Skid Row debut. Nevermind the category though, the songs are actually of fine quality most of the time and I especially enjoy the wicked guitar work during songs like "Broken Wings" or "City Of Sin". "Lonely Heart" comes out sounding like early Dokken with a big dose of cult rockers: Icon (Night Of The Crime). There's actually a lot of the latter act's guitar sound into this and the chorus is quite similar to Icon as well. "Feed The Flame" could as easily have been included on Lynch Mob's debut album and the ballad "Seasons Change", is a nice mix of all those ballads of Skid Row & Slaughter.

Downers? Well, apart from the complete lack of a original sound, there's only nine tracks to be found. I still think it's quite an interesting CD for a rainy day though and it's share, dumb, fun, entertainment for the moment. Simply crack up the volume and enjoy Sonic X for what they are - hairmetal in full bloom.

FORCE OF EVIL: "Black Empire" 6

Escapi Music 2005
Review by Martien „exorcist” Koolen,
23 April 2005

One year ago Force Of Evil, the band around guitar heroes Michael Denner and Hank Shermann (Mercyful Fate), released their debut album; a true classic horror metal album reminding me very much of the notorious Mercyful Fate, ofcourse… The title of their second album is “Black Empire” and the question is, is this one better then their debut album? With pain in my heart I must say that, that is not the case, however “Black Empire” is also not worse than its predecessor is. It is again an excellent heavy metal album without surprises whatsoever.

On the album you can enjoy 12 heavy metal songs all around the theme of horror and horror movies (sounds just like Iced Earth’s Horror Show album??). Right from the opener “Black Empire”, Force Of Evil kicks you in the ass with fast, heavy guitar riffs and those typical twin guitar solos. Astonishing on this album are the grunts of singer Martin Sheene, for instance in songs like “Death Comes Crawling”, or the title track.

Highlights are “Days Of Damien”, which is a spooky and doomy track that reminds me of bands like Candlemass or Krux. “The Sinister Show”, a short but rather catchy headbanging song with an almost well known Black Sabbath riff, and the heavy metal hymn “Beyond The Gates” with staccato guitar riffs and Judas Priest trademarks. All in all, nothing new under the sun, but quality pays off, so, if you like your heavy metal loud, fast and wild, with great guitar melodies and riffs, then you will probably love this album. As I mentioned before every song on this CD deals with a horror story, and or movie, do you know which one?? If you have got all the answers right you win a trip to Transsylvania for two persons!

METALIUM: "Demons Of Insanity, chapter 5" 6

Armageddon Music 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
19 April 2005

If you already liked or disliked chapter 4 then the same will account for chapter 5, better known as “Demons Of Insanity”. It is again a power metal explosion and you could say that the new song material is even stronger than before and the band around Lars Ratz find themselves at the top of the German metal scene. However you could also say that it is almost the same music as on chapter 1, 2, 3 and 4, and therefore rather predictable and absolutely not innovative. It is your call and your taste….

But at least as a fan of the band, you know exactly what you can expect. Fast, typical classic German-like metal with speedy and heavy guitar riffs, screaming and high-pitched vocals, double bass drums all over the CD and last but not least catchy choruses that give every song a true metal hymn feeling.

So, if you listen to songs like „Earth in Pain”, „Cyber Horizon”, „Ride On” or „Sky Is Falling”, you know exactly what you get. One of the most typical, cliche-like metal tracks is without any doubt „Endless Believer”, even the title is a cliche. That one is filled with those guitar riffs that you have already heard a thousand times before, and after listening to it once you can sing along till your throat hurts like hell. Of course if you like real „old-fashioned” metal then you will probably love this album as most of the songs really kick ass, and are extremely powerful and heavy. However, if you like your metal music to be a bit less predictable and more diverse, then you will probably think otherwise. In a certain review I read that this album is comparable to real classic metal albums like „Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” or „Powerslave”; but that comparision is really not appropriate here! Can’t wait to hear chapter 6...

FALCONER: "Grime Vs. Grandeur" 5

MetalBlade 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 April 2005

Falconer - I enjoyed the selftitled debut album from 2001 where the Swedes came out sounding like a true medieval metal act. They continued with more of the same on "Chapters From A Vale Forlorn" only now with a strong touch of Swedish folklore and music as well. I haven't heard the 2003 release though and I was kind of disappointed to find out that lead vocalist Mathias Blad is no longer with the band (yeah, I know, but better late than never). He had this great, powerful voice, that obviously borrowed a lot of influences from his background as a musical singer. He has returned to his main occupation: the theatre and musical scene.

They now have Kristoffer Göbel behind the mike, also known as vocalist in the band Destiny (not the original shouter though). The new album "Grime Vs. Granduer" is mostly the work of guitarist and mastermind Stefan Weinerhall (ex-Mithotyn) as usual. However, he's now sharing some of his songwriting duties with Kristoffer, who was responsible for about 25% of the music. Stefan also left the lyrics to Kristoffer in order to focus on what he liked most - creating epic power metal stories. I'm no major fan of Göbel's Blaze Bailey (ex-Iron Maiden) alike vocals however and I believe that Falconer has now turned into "just another" power metal band.

Gone are the somewhat original and perhaps even unique ideas of the early albums. There's hardly anything "medieval" or folky about them anymore and it's a pity as they've lost most of their charm. Injecting a bittersweet (Blaze Bailey) Maiden darkness to their material only makes them less interesting to my ears. They have still managed to write a couple of real winners like "Humanity Overdose", where some of the old charm kicks in. It's still a disappointment and what used to be something out of the ordinary has now become average and uninspiring.

BRUNOROCK: "Interaction" 5

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 April 2005

Looking through the credit list/guest musicians for the new Brunorock album and you can find a couple of real surprises. The Italian rocker (Bruno Kraler) has managed to get together a nice bunch of rockers with guitarist Alex De Rosso (ex-Dokken), bassist Rachel Bolan (Skid Row), and keyboardist Fredrik Bergh (Street Talk) upfront. "Interaction" was recorded in 3 different studios where Sky Studio Munich and Wireworld in Nashville are two of them. The final mix however was done by the legendary Michael Wagener (Accept, Dokken, Ozzy, etc). I prefer a bit more beefy sound to my drums & bass in all honesty, but it's overall a solid production.

What Bruno created in the past was a groove attitude towards music in general with an almost danceable beat floating above it all. Some of his stuff bare resemblance to Rick Springfield's "Rock Of Life" era, if Rick would have been Italian in the first place that is."Interaction" display nontheless a wide variety of music, Bruno certainly isn't afraid to mix everything from metal to pop influences and I must say that my favourite track here is the only one with Italian lyrics. "La Fonte Dei Sogni" isn't *that* far off a certain Eros Ramazzotti, only slightly heavier of course and not quite as cheesy either. Could/should actually be a minor radio hit in Italy with the right type of promotion and backup. I still enjoy the flow of "Pray Of Rain" that does sound a lot like Duran Duran goes 80's metal in my humble opinion. "Castaway" is very much the Italian way of life, while "Let Me Be The One" is a classy ballad with a hooky refrain.

"Interaction" could turn out to be something to pick up, if you like to experience melodic hardrock out of the ordinary twang out there. However, don't expect it to be all that mindblowing stuff .... it's safe, catchy at times, but it definitely needs a couple of memorable tracks and a more solid foundation to stand upon to become really interesting.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/05 * * * * *
Symphony X's Russell Allen, Jay Miles, Biss, Magellan, Pete Lacey, Sha-Boom, Fate (re-issue), Hanoi Rocks, Cowboy Prostitutes, Steve Thorne, Robert Valdes, Rhapsody, Rob Rock, At Vance, Running Wild, Talisman live DVD & CD, Novak, Headrush, reissued Legs Diamond, Hellfire, Switchblade, Overlord, Steve Hackett, Manigance, Starbreaker, Angra's guitarist Kiko Loureiro, Final Frontier, 220 Volt, Liesegang & White project, Unchain.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/05 * * * * *
James LaBrie, Evergrey, Shirleys Temple, Dynamic Lights, Darren Smith Band, Steve Vai, Artension, Freedom Call, Dio, Honeymoon Suite, Mike Terrana, Strikelight, Inner Visions, The Sweet, Judas Priest, Circle2Circle, Kelly Keeling, Miles Above, Dark Sky, John Norum, Domain, Nerved, Silence, Hearbreak Radio, Sanity, Kurt Nielsen, Kamelot, Joe Lynn Turner, Umphrey's McGee, Nightrage, Thunder, Mirador, Calvin Russell Band, Masquerade, Resurrection Band, My Sixth Shadow, Cloudscape, King's X, Apocalyptica, Ivanhoe, Spock's Beard, Kaminari, The 69 Eyes, Walter Trout, Impaled.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/05 * * * * *
Kino, Extol, Divine Fire, Sandalinas, Seven Wishes, Impellitteri, Audiovision, Crossbow, Fozzy, Glenn Hughes, RPWL, Arena, Erika, Joop Wolters, Veni Domine, Gun Shy, Peo, Soilwork, Infinity's Call, Heartcry, Ritchie Kotzen, Tishamingo, Crash Diet, Feiled, Communic, Unhained, Martin Barre, Astral Doors, Rhapsody Sweden, Tristania, Wisdom, Terry Bozzio, Shy, Blind Date, Kreator, Firewind, Enuff Z'Nuff, Stuart Smith, Broken Teeth, Adrian Legg, Chariot, Waysted, Last Autumn's Dream, Cherry St., Greenhouze, Ironhorse, Tommy Funderburk, Martie Peters Group, Shiva, Novecento, Smeer, M.ill.ion.


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