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ALLEN/LANDE: "The Battle" 9

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
5 September 2005

"Clash Of Titans, Clash Of Titans" - excuse me while I'll try and calm down for a second or two. Russel Allen (Symphony X) and Jorn Lande (Masterplan, Millenium, The Snakes, Yngwie Malmsten, solo albums, etc), head to head - with the aid of some of the most excellent Melodic Metal songs of the year. Indeed, this CD also belong to that special category that hold no real filler whatsoever. Sure, I could have wished for a couple of more killer tracks or instant hits... but on the other hand... it's throughly f-i-n-e material from start to finish.

"The Battle" is a top placed album-of-the-year with all songs written by ace guitarist Magnus Karlsson (Last Tribe, Starbreaker), and a fine production by Anders 'Theo' Theander (Pain Of Salvation, Last Tribe, Urban Tale, etc). The overall vibe of the album is somewhat similar to 'Starbreaker' as well as the Jorn Lande fronted 'Masterplan'. However, it's filled with slightly more melodic melodies, harmonies, and choruses, closer to home to 'Fair Warning' and their music at times. Karlsson is all over the place with licks, tricks, and massive power chicks... ehh... power riffs. Very impressive I'd say and he's even managed to find a warm, yet aggressive, tone, in all his guitarwork (Yngwie? who?). "Another Battle" is a bombastic opener with some truly impressive guitar and keyboard work and a symphonic metal chorus that kicks like a mule. Allen & Lande sings incrediable well together, 6 out of the 12 tracks are duets, while they handle lead vocals on 3 each (they always back up for eachother with some really impressive harmony vocals though). "Hunter's Night" with Allen as the main vocalist is pure metal bliss, "Reach A Little Longer" is THE ballad of the year (so far) with Lande behind the mike, "Come Alive" is close to perfect melodic metal with Allen & Lande at their top of their lungs, and Lande's David Coverdale influences really shines through on the closing track "The Forgotten Ones".

Again, I can't find a single filler here, sure, there's a couple of merely "ok/nice" tracks included, but no real stinker. I'm only afraid that Karlsson's ability to continue to write some fine melodic metal toons, could quickly turn sour and fade like a flower during this autumn. Keeping in mind that he wrote the entire 'Starbreaker' material with Tony "TNT" Harnell as lead vocalist earlier. It's never a good idea to flood the market with material written by the one and same songwriter in my books. It's not a problem whatsoever yet... I'm merely looking ahead into the future (remember Gary Hughes and all those 'Ten' sounding albums... or why not Tommy Denander?). For now... make sure to check this out if you're into this "new wave" of melodic metal and projects like Masterplan. And yes, the albums artcover is the work of Rodney Matthews (who created Magnum's artcover in the early to mid 80's).

SEETHER: "Karma And Effect" 7

Wind-Up/Sony 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 September 2005

DUDE!!! Major flashback attack and a return to 1993... the grunge people ruled the world and Kurt Cobain was still alive and high. Kurt is apperantly still with us, or could it simply be that Seether's frontperson (Shaun Morgan), basically decided to live his life through his old hero's ideas and music. I ask you, how else could you describe or explain something like "Remedy" (the first single - I'm sure you've seen the video already?), "Truth", "Burrito", "Tongue", or a bunch of other tracks??? Perhaps they never had the grunge thing in South-Africa in the first place and this is merely all a weird coincident??? Nah... little Shaun is a Kurt-wannabee for sure.

But... (and that's a rather big but actually), "Karma And Effect" is a quite ok record in my opinion and the production by Bob Marlette is nothing but excellent. Most surprising is that the band's dark, depressive lyrics and riffs are counterbalanced by an increased melodicism and rather intelligent rock approach. The blend of heaviness and Nickelback/Creed hookiness has given Seether a greater depth than before. Heck, they were mostly known for that "Broken" song from the "Punisher" soundtrack, a duet between Shaun and Amy Lee of Evanescene (a top-10 hit in the states). They have a even better ballad included this time as "The Gift" simply kills and surely a future world-wide hit.

However, you really should go elsewhere if you're looking for a original or groundbreaking album. I'm sure you're already aware of this if you've seen/heard the first video/single. This comes out like a mix of Nirvana (mostly), Pearl Jam (Creed), and Nickelback. I'm not sure why they label this as "nu-metal" though, since it's basically "old" stuff that as easily could have been released 12-13 years ago (and nobody would have noticed the difference in the first place). There's even some old guitar riffs in the school of early Soundgarden included on "Karma And Effect".

FLAGSHIP: "Maiden Voyage" 7

Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
7 September 2005

Christian Rivel, the vocalist of Narnia seems to be the most productive man in rock business this year. Not only is he running his label Rivel Records, but he has also put out albums with Audiovision, Divinefire and now this project, Flagship. I believe that there's a Narnia album in the works as well?

Flagship is Christian's project with keyboardist Linus Kåse (also from Narnia), and it's a bit different to his other, more metal-oriented projects. We're talking about symphonic, progressive and melodic rock - some might call this "POMP ROCK". The band's sound orginates from the seventies, taking influences from the likes of Kansas and Styx. There aren't too many artists releasing this kind of music these days, with emphasis on melodies, complex song structures and over-the-top arrangements. The only recent releases that could be compared to this album would be Brian McDonald's "Voyage" album, Karma's "Wonderland" and Robby Valentine's material.

For a common melodic rock fan like me, the whole album is a bit too much to handle. My attention starts to drift away during the many instrumental parts and solos of these songs, but I can still find a lot to enjoy. There are a lot of really nice melodies here, with the song "You Are" being the ultimate highlight in that department. All the other songs have their moments too, but more or less surrounded by endless passages and solos...of course they are "the thing" in progressive rock and unlike me, the true prog fans probably find them more essential than choruses and hooks.

All in all, an interesting release and rather good too. Worthy of checking out for melodic rock fans in general, and for those "true prog fans", this is very much an essential purchase I believe. Espcially knowing that one Kerry Livgren guests on the album, playing a solo to his own composition "Ground Zero"...Pomp-tastic!

ALIEN: "Dark Eyes" 7

Frontiers 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 September 2005

Jim Jidhed (vocals) and Tony Borg (guitars) - united again as Alien(s) for the first time in ages. The two of them recorded a smashing platter, the selftitled debut (1988), one of the best AOR albums ever from my homeland. Not to mention that the album resulted in several hit-singles and "Only One Woman" spent six weeks at the number one spot.

Jidhed/Borg mention the joy of working together again and that they've gone back to their roots and - what inspired us to become musicians when we wrote songs for "Dark Eyes". I'm sure you can figure out that their roots are the early/mid 70's music and that you can pretty much forget about the smooth U.S. AOR of the debut. "Dark Eyes" has been heavily inspired by Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple/Rainbow with some AOR still left in for good measure. Borg isn't just another Ritchie Blackmore look-a-like, you'll also notice that he's a sound-a-like at times. Add that Jim Jidhed has left the worst Steve Perry (Journey) impression behind and now takes a shot at being Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) as well. It merely takes a couple of seconds of opener and title track "Dark Eyes", to notice the Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, influences, with a slice of Swedish AOR on top of that. "Oh Sarah" is funnily enough one of few tracks similar to the Journey U.S. AOR of the past, and not Thin Lizzy as the title may suggest. "Fallen Angel" borrows quite a lot from "Out In The Fields" (Gary Moore/Phil Lynott) during the verse... and what about "Riding With The Wind", this surely must be a Thin Lizzy cover... heh, heh... yep.

"Are You Ready" sounds more like a David Coverdale fronted Deep Purple or very early Whitesnake. "Fire (The Game)" is more in the style of "old" AOR, and "Dont Go Away" is a perfect mix of classic hardrock and AOR (check out the David Coverdale ending by Jidhed... classy stuff). I must also mention the superb ballad "Sherylee", classic Jidhed/Borg material with soaring vocals and a beautiful melody. OK, their roots are definitely not the MTV hardrock or AOR of the 80's and early 90's, but at least I do enjoy my Thin Lizzy & Deep Purple/Rainbow as well, that's not the issue at all with this CD. I would however like to point this out to some readers as you perhaps expected a "pure" late 80's AOR album. I must admit being a bit disappointed at first spin, but "Dark Eyes" got better and better for each spin (up to a certain point of course). There's a couple of dodgy numbers mid-through the CD (Lethal Woman, Wild One), but I definitely enjoy the warm and old fashioned approach of Borg's guitar playing and production. There is a honest and warm feeling engraved into the music of "Dark Eyes", and you'll find out that Jidhed is familiar with both Lynott & Coverdale as well as Perry. Berndt Ek of Grace, Bedlam, Wizz, etc. fame on the bassguitar, Mats Sandborgh (keyboards), and drummer Jan Lundberg (also ex-Grace, I believe?), are the other members of Alien - 2005.

MAJESTIC VANGUARD: "Beyond The Moon" 6

Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
6 September 2005

One look at the fantasy-styled artwork and the band's logo, and I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Yep, it's gotta be melodic metal...and yes it is. Further inspection proves that this band has studied the classics of the genre quite well, taking musical cues from the likes of Stratovarious, Iron Maiden and Helloween. They offer nothing new, but I'm sure that the hardcore fans of power/melodic metal will enjoy this.

Majestic Vanguard can be described as slightly heavier relative of Stratovarius, with an odd traditional folk music element thrown in for some variety. Vocalist Peter Sigfridsson isn't quite as highpitched as Kotipelto and that's indeed one of the band's strengths - the fact that he is not a standard metal shouter could probably widen the bands' appeal.

The production (by Daniel Eskilsson, the band's drummer) is very good, and the arrangements are obviously carefully constructed. The band uses background vocals quite effectively, and some of the keyboard things are quite interesting, like the "X-Files"-sounding parp in "Tears In Neverland" - a surprise element! Similar "space-age" sounds spice up "Don't Want To Be An Actor", which is my favourite track here and possibly the least "traditional power metal track". Other favourites are "The Great Eternity" (very Strato-like), "Take Me Home" and the aforementioned "Tears In Neverland". However, the remaining tracks are a bit too typical and faceless power metal songs, lacking those all-important memorable hooks. Still, this is only their first album, and I'm sure that the band's next effort will be a bit more focused and the band will find its' own identity.

PAUL GILBERT: "Space Ship LIVE " 7

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
6 szeptember 2005

Only 3 months ago super guitar player Paul Gilbert released his last solo album and now we can enjoy Gilbert's first DVD. The title suggest that this is a live DVD, but unfortunately it is not!! The songs on this DVD are played "live" in the studio, so that was a real bummer to me, as I really expected a live album with an audience and real live gig athmosphere.

There are 12 tracks from Paul's last studio album on this DVD and 4 older tracks, and to me those 4 are the most interesting. "Scarified" is an old Racer-X classic and "Down To Mexico" from the "Flying Dog" album and "I Like Rock" from "Burning Organ" really show that Gilbert is one of the best shred guitar players in the world. The band consists of Linus of Hollywood (bass guitar) and Marco Minneman (drums) and they are all three dressed in real space ship suits. Before every song Paul tells something about that song and he also gives a speedy guitar solo intro to kick off all the 16 songs!

The extras are 12 songs (again mostly taken from Paul's latest release), either played acoustically (4 songs, super boring stuff!!) or as alternate version. The reason for doing this is really a big mystery to me; why not play other songs?? The only song worth listening to in the bonus section is "Prelude in D by J.S.Bach"; a real fast, melodic guitar track like only Gilbert can play. This DVD is just food for Gilbert die-hard fans!

AINA: "Living In A Boy's World" [re-issue] 8

MTM Classix 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 September 2005

I thought I already had most CD's with "essential" female fronted AOR/Melodic Hardrock in my private collection. Nope, here's one of few(?) that got away the first time around. Aina from Norway may have slipped through my fingers in the past... but I'll make sure to keep a firm grip around this little beauty from now on (geez... what a cheesy remark... let's continue, shall we?). Well, you can't keep track of them all and credit to MTM for digging up another lost treasure. Aina was discovered by Polygram Records in Norway as a teenager and recorded her first album when she was only seventeen years old (damn... I'm about to write another cheesy remark now... ehem... better not).

"Living In A Boy's World" was originally released back in the late 80's before Aina moved to L.A. in 1989 (where she's still at today by the way - working as a photographer). The album open up with a charming little intro in Norwegian (Aina at v-e-r-y young age, singing a nursery-rhyme), before it all kicks off with "Rocks Off". I first noticed this fun uptempo rocker when the Swedish 007 James Bond actress/singer Izabella, recorded it for her Ole Evenrude produced album "Iza" in the early 90's. Anyhow, while listening to killers tracks like "Shot Down In Flames", "You Babe You", "A Love Forever Story", "Pleasure & Pain", you'll notice how Scandinavian AOR is quite irresistable at times. It's always borderline pop/rock/AOR blessed with catchy hooks... but also darn close to being too corny as well. In fact, some of these tracks are simply too corny and especially a couple of the five (5) bonus tracks.

Aina ends up somewhere between Tone Norum, Izabella, Erika, Laos, and it's a very safe pick-up if you're into female fronted Rock/AOR. Now if only I could find a big Aina poster to hang above my bed... ehhh...

NEVERMORE: "This Godless Endeavor" 8

CenturyMedia 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 September 2005

Dark, heavy, melodic, technical, metal of highest quality!!! Indeed, Nevermore has returned with "This Godless Endeavor" - a grand overture where musical tapestries are fascinatingly complex while entirely accessible. I've always enjoyed the hi-pitched vocals of Warrel Dane (ex-Sanctuary), he's definitely "old-school" singer, with a clean, strong, "doomy" voice. I'd say that he's been inspired by another Seattle musician (Geoff Tate - Queensryche) during the years. The brutal opening track "Born" do have some growls at first, however, Dane quickly returns to the soaring work of the past during the melodic chorus (there's absolutely no need to "worry" about growls from this point on).

New guitarist Steve Smyth (ex-Testament, Dragonlord) issue some excellent riffs, and together with Jeff Loomis, they are retaining a jolting electicity whatever the tempo. Their crunchy guitarwork really is outstanding and especially the blend of traditional prog-metal with only a slight touch of modern influences. The result is techincally a perfect display of heavy/thrash/prog metal at its best and you can firmly sit back in yer chair with a large grin on yer face. I love the Queensryche (back in their early days) inspired metal of "Sell My Heart For Stones", and cuts like the titletrack, "Sentient 6", or "Medicated Nation" are pure metal bliss. The latter is a closer and negative look at the increasing use of designer drugs all over this planet.

You need to spin this several times and it's hardly anything for the pop, easy access, minded listener. "This Godless Endeavor" will demand your entire attention throughout the record as they switch back and forward from prog to doom to thrash. I find this to be a small masterpiece and essential stuff for the Nevermore, Thrash/Doom/Prog fan (like a mix of Candlemass, Queensryche, Megadeth). Excellent stuff!

MACHINE MEN: "Elegies" 7

CenturyMedia 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
30 August 2005

They are Machine Men from Finland and they are all youngsters in their early twenty's!!! So far so good... the traditional heavy metal genre sure could need some fresh blood and a couple of new acts. The only downer... they more or less sound like Iron Maiden/Bruce Dickinson nowadays with merely a hint of that gothic stuff Finnish acts usually play. What's wrong with Iron Maiden you ask??? absolutely nothing as long as we're talking about the heydays during the 80's early 90's. I haven't been too impressed with the material post the reunion with Bruce Dickinson (nor the albums with... yuk... Blaze).

"Elegies" is far from a crappy album though and I must say the material really grows on ya'. It's definitely better than spending a evening infront of MTV and it's darn fun to hear Antony (singer), doing his Dickinson impression. He's desperately been trying to steal Bruce's vocal genes and the twin guitars of J.V. & Jani, instinctively know how to make Antony a happy camper with all that Maiden inspired guitarwork.

OK, it's not fair to continue with all this b.s. since they obviously also mix Queensryche & HIM influences with a modern, up-to-date feel and delivery. Then again, they only have themselves to blame really, perhaps they shouldn't have included a cover version of Bruce Dickinson's "Freak" after all??? Fuel to the fire... pants on fire... or whatever. Nontheless, Machine Men have unleashed a set of rather imaginative, nicely put and arranged songs in all honesty. You know this to be a good production as well as it's been mastered at Finnvox Studios (like every freakin' hardrock album from Finland). Simply put, you can't go wrong here if you enjoy the "new" sound of Maiden/Dickinson with some gothic influences. Nothing too excitable perhaps... but darn solid anyhow.

CORAM LETHE: "The Gates Of Oblivion" 5

RisingRealm 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 September 2005

"The Gates Of Oblivion" is one violent release, characterized by insane, breath-stelling, arrangements in the vein of At The Gates & In Flames. They are without a question a product of the Swedish death metal scene, however, only when it comes to sound and inspiration, since this is meatballs & spaghetti metal from Italy. Early demos of Coram Lethe (where do they come up with these names?) has been hailed by Metal Hammer in the past, this is however their first full-lenght CD.

The music is jam-packed with complex segements and impressive riffing by Leonardo Fusi (guitars). Mirco Borghini is the usual growler that pretty much stays within the mid-pitched area of things. Ehem, quite one dimensional "vocals" that hardly add or substract anything to the overall picture, I'm afraid. That's also the biggest problem with "The Gates Of Oblivion" in my books. You could easily fast forward five, six, minutes, and Borghini would still be stomping at the same old ground.

This act is talented for sure, but you barely remember a damn thing, even after listening to the CD five times or more. So many different riffs changes tend to get lost after a few minutes, even the most brutal act needs a hook or two to keep the listener awake and alert. "Hands Of Lies" is their masterpiece however and Fusi goes through some really wicked licks on this killer track. Borgini is more alive than ever and the rhythm section of Giacomo Occhipinti (bass) & Fransesco Miatto (drums) is hard at work with the master groove. "Pain Therapy For A Praying Mantis" is a original title with again some impressive guitarwork and a nice intersection. Bottomline: killer musicians, but close-to dead boring material every now and then, makes one average album.


MetalBlade 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 September 2005

ROOOOAAARRRRRR!!!!! Oh dear, this is a quite an awful return to the simple minded black/death metal of the early 90's. There's not a shred of evidence on this record that Detroit's The Black Dahlia Murder (TBDM), has been listening to any new music whatsoever, post all that Norwegian nonsense back in the days. Welcome back you church-burning-maniacs, this is one big blur and every song basically sounds the same. It's bland, boring, dull, and based on a bunch of weird growls and riffs that you're heard a million times before. Melody is out through the backdoor and I'll gladly throw this out the frontdoor myself. Do yourself a favour and check out the excellent new album of "Extol" instead...

ZAN CLAN: "We Are Zan Clan, Who The F**k Are You" 9

Perris Records 2005
Review by Petri Kautto 22 August 2005

Former Shotgun Messiah vocalist Zinny Zan’s new project is called Zan Clan. Zinny’s clan of raw guitars, great vocals and good, rocking fun is one that I wouldn’t mind joining. Overall quality of the songs on this CD is great, but there are some amazing rockers here that deserve a special mention.

After two promising songs the bridge and chorus of "High Speed Junkie" really get things going. The solo on this one tears the place apart but manages to be really melodic at the same time. Next up is "So Damn Good" which is a bit slower and enticing again with a catchy refrain. "Mess Ya Up" is a song that grows on you gradually and is one of the finest pieces on the album. "Silver Bullet Toy" is the party anthem of the album and Zinny really forces you to sing along with him. Sinister bass and high-pitched vocals of "Heart Died Young" lay a basis for another brilliant rocker and after gripping riff and the magnificent guitars on a Def Lep-like "Déjà vu" it is pretty safe to say that Zan Clan is without a doubt one of the main attractions of this genre this fall.

The thing that I really appreciate about this album is the integrity of it. These guys know what they’re good at and damn that’s what they’re here to do. They’re not trying to be contemporary, and after listening to this album for several hours I’m pretty sure that they don’t even know what the word means. Highly recommended to the fans of Shotgun Messiah and 80’s sleaze rock!

SPOCK"S BEARD: "Live In 2005 - Gluttons For Punishment" 9

Inside Out 2005
Review by ,
26 August 2005

I have seen this band so many times and every time it was a true pleasure to watch and hear this fantastic band doing their stuff on stage. Spock's Beard can best be regarded as one of the best live bands in the progressive rock scene of today and now they finally release their first real live album. It even is a double CD, recorded in Germany during their tour of this year.

On this fantastic album you can enjoy old and new Beard songs, so hold your breath with fantastic extended versions of "Harm's Way"(brilliant, from "The Kindness Of Strangers"), "At The End Of The Day" (from "V") and the super epic "The Light" (1995). Nick's voice is super and you never have the feeling that Neal has left the band…….

The new material from the albums "Octane" and "Feel Euphoria" prove that the band has evolved since Neal has left, the music is "heavier" and Nick's vocals are a treat to my ears. Highlights of this amazing live album are the epic "A Flash Before My Eyes" and the instrumental "NWC", which turns into an extensive jam session with remarkable musical passages and Ryo Okumoto taking the lead and dueling with Nick and Jimmy Keagon on drums. If you have not seen these guys on stage, you still have the chance as they will be in Europe for the second leg of the Octane Tour, starting in Germany on 2 October!! One of the best live albums I have heard in a long time!

SAGA: "Chapters Live" 9

SPV records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
26 augusztus 2005

This is the Saga album that fans have been waiting for; the 16 Chapters played live from Chapter 1 (Images) till Chapter 16 (Worlds Apart). Every true Saga fan (like me) knows the Chapters and loves the Chapters. There is a long, interconnected story behind these songs that are linked in a mysterious way. These Chapters have been spread over the band's fantastic career, ending with Chapter 16 which can be found on their album "Marathon", which was released in 2003.

Once during Saga's "Misbehaviour Tour in 1986 the band performed all existing chapters in their correct sequence, unfortunately at that time there were only 8 chapters finished. Since then the band have added another 8 chapters and now we can finally enjoy them in one take. I think that it is a remarkable album, although some of the songs may seem to sound a bit out of time, but to me this is really addictive stuff.

The beautiful ballad "Images" opens this double CD in a brilliant way; especially the guitar solo in that song is out of this world. Further highlights: of course one of the most well known chapters called "Don't Be Late" (even better than on their first live album "In Transit"), "Will It Be You?" (Amazing guitar melodies and solos), "Tired World", "Streets Of Gold" and the final chapter "Worlds Apart". This is over 80 minutes of superb rock music, which should have a place in every decent rock collection. A must have, and not only for Saga fans!! Release date: 30 September.

STRYPER: "Reborn" 8

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
24 August 2005

The return of the yellow & black attack!!!! Don't spend another minute hoping for a blue print copy of "To Hell With The Devil" or "In God We Trust" as they have moved on with a more updated and contemporary sound. Yes, they have gone "modern" and "darker" at times, however, the songs are very much still alive and pleasing to these ears. I'd go as far as saying that "Reborn" is quite a excellent album in 2005 and a worthy return of the biggest christian hardrock act ever (ehem, Petra, would probably like to have a word or two about that 'biggest ever' statement).

The production is heavier than before with Robert Sweet slamming away on the drums like a angry John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) or like Ian Haugland on Europe's comeback album "Start In The Dark". Many of the tracks comes also with a slightly more aggressive verse and guitar work than in the past. The choruses are however still blessed (no pun intended) with layers of vocal harmonies and most of the time a nice hook. Indeed, "Reborn" has actually more in common with the 1984 debut "The Yellow And Black Attack" than any of their other releases. It's almost like they've first gone back-to-basic and then simply added the "modern" sound of today to the material. Opener "Open Your Eyes" could easily scare away potential buyers with its modern approach and it takes a while to getting used to. You definitely need to spin this 4-5 times before the CD suddenely opens up and becomes really interesting... I believe this has/had something to do with me expecting Stryper to still sound like "Stryper" did in the late 80's/early 90's.

The titletrack "Reborn" features some really heavy riffing by Oz Fox, an almost enchanting verse, and a strong (modern) refrain with Michael Sweet at the top of his lungs. "When Did I See You Cry" is dark but catchy rock 'ala 2005, "Make You Mine" is a marvelous semi-ballad, mid-tempo number, with a catchy hook and everything. "Passion" is a sentimental ballad and "Live Again" borrows the main guitar riff from Ace Frehley and his "Snow Blind" included on the 1978 KISS solo album. "Wait For You" is another classy ballad and "Rain" simply kills with everlasting love from above. God, Jesus, and all the Angels must be shaking their heads in disbelief up there though: "whatever happened to Stryper and all that lovely hairmetal of the past? they still praise us with their lyrics, but the music is heavier and we are not amused". Ehem, ok my imagination is running wild and it's all very excessive and tounge-in-cheek. Bottomline: Not all old fans will enjoy the updated Stryper sound and not all of songs are great either. It's however a 8 rating in my books... but you need to be open minded and most importantly... not afraid to embrace a mix of retro and modern hardrock.

BLACK MAJESTY: "Silent Company" 7

Limb Music 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
24 August 2005

"But I'am a simple man, a poor common farmer, so take my six ribbons to tie back your hair". I'm sure many of you will recall the old Jon English hit and dream yourself back to your very early childhood. I know I did as I found "Against The Wind" (from down under) to be quite a interesting tv show as a little toddler. That "English" fellow fought the evil (British) empire as a prisoner in Australia and "Six Ribbons" became a hit single in Europe and elsewhere. The power metal version performed by the aussies of Black Majesty is a nice and rather interesting cover... even if I still prefer the original 'wimp' version. Come to think of it... didn't Jon English have some black metal 'make-up' around the eyes???

The second attempt ("Silent Company") picks up the metal thread where the debut left all us freaks hanging in limbo. It's heavy/power metal in the same style and pattern as the rather successful "Sands Of Time" from 2003. I'm unfortunately not too keen about the opening track "Dragon Reborn", there's no real plan or meaning behind the song, the drummer trys to keep up with the tempo, while the two guitarists goes through the six-strings like a hungry pack of wolves. There's some excellent dual guitar work in the style of Iron Maiden and Murray/Smith throughout the record though. The title track is next up for review and things are looking much brighter already. They've now added both melody and refrain that works very well in the tradition of Maiden meets fellow ozzies of Vanishing Point. Cavaliere is a really powerful vocalist that doesn't need to be ashamed if he should ever get a shot at being the next frontperson with Maiden.

"Firestorm" is a marvelous metal tune that goes straight to the heart. It's the usual fist-in-the-air and headbanging material that any old Maiden/Helloween fan will truly enjoy. Again, with some excellent twin guitar work by Hanny Mohamed and Steve Janevski and hardly anyone will anylonger recall that Janevski once used to be the string-bender in... ehem... Cyclone Tracy. "New Horizons" continues with more of the same, and "Darkened Room" isn't a Skid Row cover, but a fine Queensryche inspired mid-tempo number. The last three tracks sure beats listening to any Hammerfall song of lately and it all ends in a very positive way. Check out closing track "A Better Way To Die" for some fine epic metal in the style of Maiden (once again). Solid, darn solid metal from down under.

John TAGLIERI: "Now" 7

Leap Dog Music 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
22 August 2005

The long-awaited second full studio album from our old friend John Taglieri has finally seen the light. His first album "Leap Of Faith" was a big success in the melodic rock genre, definitely one of the biggest independent releases of the genre in 2000. A while ago Taglieri released a half-live, half-acoustic album called "Half & Half", but this is the real thing, a full-on electric band album.

For once, the term "Adult Oriented Rock" suits this album to a tee. These songs might sound a bit too lame and unrebellious to 90 per cent of the teenagers, but us 30-somethings will find a lot to enjoy. Taglieri's melodic, semi-acoustic pop rockers have decent hooks and some of his lyrics have that nostalgic vibe and traces of years gone by. One of the highlights of the album is "The Fall", which is Taglieri's answer to Bon Jovi's "Blood On Blood", a heartfelt story of a childhood friend who has passed away. The Bon Jovi connection raises its' head on a couple of other occasions too, most notably on "One Little Thing" which sounds like a stripped down "In These Arms". I guess it's only understandable, as Taglieri hails from New Jersey as well. And yes, there are similarities to that other NJ hero, the one they call "The Boss"...

As likeable as this album is, it is also a bit too "nice" for its' own good. Most of the tracks are good, but the real standouts are nowhere to be found, and the overall mood of the album is just too laid-back. On the first album Taglieri had a couple of uptempo tracks with more urgency, and this album could've used a few songs like that as well. Still, "Now" is a safe bet for anyone into the likes of latter-day Bon Jovi, The Rembrandts and singer-songwriters in general.


Perris 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
23 August 2005

Midnight Circus with "Money Shot" is yet another obscure U.S. sleaze/glam release at the Perris Records label. It's unfortunately not one of their better releases, I'm not overly struck on the band once they get cooking with their gooey rabbit stew. However, they do have a couple of killer tracks in between the fillers and "The Only One In The World" is a fantastic hair-metal tune that MTV surely would have picked up back in the days. It's a catchy number in the Trixter vs. Poison territory and you simply can't help to shout along with the refrain. Add that the following track is yet another winner in the old 'power ballad' category, everybody from Tuff to Mötley Crue had a similar song during the 80's.

And fair enough, there's nothing remotely wrong with "Money Shot", it's simply not very original or neither catchy enough in my opinion. The strutting allure of cock rock is however fun for a laugh or two and along with 10-12 beers, Midnight Circus suddenly becomes cheap and simple minded entertainment for a saturday night. There's definitely evidence of some (sleazy) thought(s) going into the arrangments. I wouldn't completely ignore this if I was r-e-a-l, die-hard, fan of the early Poison (the "original") and the copy-cats of Tuff. In fact, check out some soundclips... you might enjoy this more than I did.

PENDRAGON: "Believe" 6

InsideOut 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
23 August 2005

Pendragon is one of many acts from England that got signed during the hype of the so called progressive revival in the early/mid 80's. Twenty years down the road and they're still trying to convince us that classic prog-rock is the main thing in life. They have certainly progressed during the years and many would probably say they've improved as well?

The voice of Nick Barret is however still as British as kidney pie, fish & chips, lady di, or false teeth's for that matter. Barret is actually more of a narrator than singer at times as it's difficult to find any high or lasting notes on "Believe". There's as always a lot of heart and soul into his ragged voice though and he pulls through like a real trooper in the end. The main theme and concept behind the album are some book conspiracy theories which Barret has read and set to music: "I've been reading books by a guy who claims that history as we learnt it at school is rubbish, that we've been told lies all of the time, and the more you think about it, the more it seems to be a possible truth". I'm not sure if we're supposed to "Believe" in this conspiracy theory??? But sure.. history and especially when royalties and "important" people are involved, has always been forged, improved, and told through their 'not-so-truthful' point of view...

The intro and title track "Believe" has a celtic feel with a woman singing in gaelic with atmospheric keyboards in the background and a ending with a male voice saying "and now everybody to the dance floor". I don't believe that anyone will be dancing to the music of "No Place For The Innocent", when Barret sings the opening words of "do you believe in darwin's theory of evolution", like an old stable horse. However, the song has a good rocking groove to it and comes out as one of the better tracks on the album. "The Wisdom Of Solomon" has an eastern flavour to it, some really proggy passages, and the mix of acoustic and electric guitars. "The Wishing Well" is made up of several sections or chapters if you so like, lots of emotional guitar work and dreamy segments are only to be expected and I find this to be a throughout solid (Pendragon) epic. "The Edge Of The World" closes the album with an sentimental touch written for classical guitar and strings. "Believe" is characterized by a experimental, mature and 'grown-up' vibe that Marillion has been using over the years. Nice/so-so... but no cigar.
Pendragon site

BIOHAZARD: "Means To An End" 5

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
22 August 2005

"Means To An End" is the usual mix of contriversial, political, heavy metal, and some rather childish tendencies in the style of classic punk. Yup, it's the same kind of formula and the similar kind of hardcore as in the heydays and a strange feeling of dejá vu came to mind while listening to the new Biohazard CD. I could have sworn that many of these melodies were at first included on the "Urban Discipline" (no pun intended) album.

So what if orginallity is out throught the frontdoor? it's not necerssarily a bad thing... if you happen to enjoy the "old-school" Biohazard and the corny gang vocals of long gone days. It sure beats listening to any of the previous two/three? albums with all that experimental nonsense and ga ga.

"My Life, My Way" is basically the story of Biohazard as it's always been their way or the highway. "The Fire Burns Inside" is classic mosh-pit material with chugga-chugga guitars and a rancid Danny Schuler behind the drums. He's close-to spot-on and precise most of the time, well, he hits the mark that a lot of other drummers miss, making this album somewhat more interesting (he's no Neil Peart though...). "Killing To Be Free" opens up with ultra heavy and slow guitar work 'ala Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) before it explodes into yet another rap/metal/hardcore anthem. Nontheless, the song material is unfortunately too monotonous and I had problem telling them apart in the long run. In fact, without the silence in between tracks, "Means To An End" could have been one long and rather average hardcore song. Final verdict: energy = good, chorus = bad???

CRASHDIET: "Rest In Sleaze" 9

Universal 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 August 2005

They've conquered my homeland Sweden with their "updated" version of 80's sleaze and cans and cans of hairspray. Crashdiet are pretty much the talk of the country due to a couple of hit-singles and now also TV commercial for "3", Sony Ericsson. You'll catch that freakin' phone commercial several times each hour with "Breakin' The Chains", screaming in the background. Wicked!!! Not to mention, they're signed to a major (Universal) and "Rest In Sleaze" is probably the best "real" sleaze release with a new act since the Shotgun Messiah & Nasty Idols days here in Sweden.

In fact, forget that I ever wrote "updated", this is pure 80's sleaze (not sure the label would agree though?), with not even a shred of nu-metal or grunge influences. This is actually quite remarkable when you consider that all band members are in their early twenty's. Indeed, Crashdiet isn't about the usual, over-the-hill, old geezer, with a sentimental eager to take another stroll down memory lane. In the famous words of Twisted Sister... the kidz are back!!! The above mentioned "Breakin' The Chains", "Riot In Everyone", "Knokk Em' Down", "Tikket", "It's A Miracle", "Back On Trakk", are all sleaze of highest quality. It's a lovely mix of Shotgun Messiah, Skid Row, Faster Pussycat, Poison, complete with really catchy sing-a-long choruses and everything. The opening first seconds of "Out Of Line" draws similarities to Mötley Crue and "Ten Seconds To Love", before it quickly transforms into Crashdiet and typical Swedish Sleaze.

Downers? You betcha'... 10 tracks and merely 35 minutes of sleaze!!!??? what the heck is up with that?? perhaps they'll be selling this in the stores to the price of a EP? (fat chance). Another thing while I'm at it... not all of the tracks comes with guitar solo??? Still, a great production and a nasty attitude can do wonders, this comes highly recommended if you're into the classic L.A. sound of the 80's with a Swedish approach. Swedish release date: 24th of August, "Rest In Sleaze" will also be released during the autumn in: Japan, England, Germany, with more to come...

TOTALISTI: "Slave To None" 8

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August 2005

Totalisti is a new hard rock band from Enumclaw, Washington, USA and guess who is the producer of this great new band? No one less than one of the best drummers in the world, namely Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche! And his influence is clearly noticeable as he provides this album with a swirling, exotic and percussive feel and sound. The band has influences from great rock icons like Tool, Rush, Dream Theater, Korn and Incubus and I really must say that all the 12 tracks sound massive, heavy and most of all provocative! Just listen to the opener "Sick Of It All" and you hear what these four guys are made of; a real heavy basis, fast riffs, aggressive vocals and a "catchy" melody.

The sound of Totalisti could be best described as a mix of progressive metal and aggressive modern metal, also using bands like Alice In Chains ("Whispering"), Deftones ("Refined") and even Pantera ("Blind") to create their own "new" sound. Sometimes singer/guitar player Mark Stockwell even grunts, making the sound of the band even more heavy and aggressive going into the direction of bands like Sepultura or Soulfly. Solos are however hard to find in the first 7 tracks, making this album very difficult to listen to for the first time. But this CD really grows on you and then you hear its depth and its emotion, especially in great songs like "Slave To None" and "Fallen".

All in all I can say that this is a great album, with super head banging stuff and other nu metal song material that really gets you going. It is also a great album to get rid off your neighbours, turn up the volume on "Slave To None" and success is guaranteed!

MOTÖRHEAD: "Stage Fright"[DVD] 9

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 August 2005

"We are Motörhead we play rock'n'roll" - What else to expect than full throttle from the word go and no stoping for red lights??? Nope, "Stage Fright" is a pure and simple display of Motörhead at their best (live on stage) as well as a fine 30th anniversary present to the fans. Not to forget that Lemmy (Ian Fraiser Kilminster) will hit the big sixty on the 24th of December (60 years old... what a geezer, heh?).

"Stage Fright" is a 2-disc DVD with approx: 260 minutes (4-hours) filled to the last drop with goodies and... ehem... ringtones??? Yep, disc # 2 include a lot of bonus material such as the usual interviews with band and crew members, ringtones, wallpapers, backgrounds, and some obscure stuff that I'm still not sure about really. Disc # 1 is however a full concert recorded in Düsseldorf/Germany in December 2004. No less than twentythree (23) cameras in action that day and lots of ugly close-up's and waysted angles of the three gringos are only to be expected. No "Ace Of Spades" though... only kidding... they're all pretty much included even if I personally miss a couple of favourite tunes. "Killed By Death" is my all-time-fave and they even pull out the new-ish acoustic blues number (Whorehouse Blues from the Inferno album), probably named after a red light district visit in Düsseldorf the year before. It's loud, noisy, and most of all ugly rock'n'roll that only a real metal head can enjoy.

Bottomline: a blast to watch from beginning to end... music DVD's are mainly intended for long-time fans and followers anyhow. I don't believe that "anyone" will pick up a DVD as their first impulsive purchase of a band. Essential stuff for the Motörhead fan...

Richard ANDERSSON: "The Ultimate Andersson Collection" 8

Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
15 August 2005

Keyboard player Richard Andersson is the man behind such bands as Majestic, Time Requiem and Space Odyssey. I am not familiar with his previous work really, but I might have to investigate, as this compilation isn't half bad. It actually sounds like a normal album, as all the songs have been re-recorded with Goran Edman taking charge of the vocals.

Despite the fact that these tracks were originally recorded by three different bands, they're all carved from the same wood. We're talking about neo-classical melodic metal, with obvious Malmsteen influnces. Having former Malmsteen vocalist on board doesn't exactly help to hide them...Still, the songs are really strong, nothing like the rather average material that Malmsteen keeps releasing these days. Interestingly, Andersson wanted Malmsteen to guest on this album, but that didn't happen...former keyboardist of his and current member of Stratovarius, Jens Johansson, does play a solo on the album though.

The album is very solid from start to finish, but I want to name a few highlights: "Confusiscus", "Black Moon Rising" and "The Rapture Of Canaan" can easily be compared to Malmsteen's finest moments back in the late eighties. Power, melody, hooks, classical touches, virtuosity...what more could any fan of "Heroic Metal" ask for? No, ridiculous lyrics about swords and dragons are NOT obligatory!

Mr. Andersson might not the full points for originality, but then again, how many bands in this genre are introducing anything new to the audience? Not too many. What counts in the end is the fact that these are good songs, performed perfectly. A couple of real stadouts might have pushed the rating a bit higher, but for now, a solid "8" will have to do.

DICTATORS: "Viva Dictators" 7

Escapi 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 August 2005

I surely must have been the only one that first discovered the music of 'Manitoba's Wild Kingdom' and only later, The Dictators (well, I was hardly even born back then). I can however still recall listening to the rock of "New York New York" and "Haircut and Attitude" for the very first time on the "Manitoba" album. The same two songs that opens up this very live album for that matter and they still kick like a mule to the head...

You can't help to grin along with the punky attitude and overall fun music of The Dictators. You can definitely file this under the same category as The Ramones and their "Loco Live". Not quite as entertaining perhaps and not quite with as much fun music either, however, they both came from a similar kind of background with The Stooges and MC5 as their housegods and heroes. "Viva Dictators" was recorded live at Maxwell's/NJ and the Ballroom in NY with the ever-so-loud Handsome Dick Manitoba and Ross The Boss (ex-Manowar) as frontfigures.

The 15 tracks featured are as always a nice punk/metal hybrid with gritty guitar work and strong vocals. I must however admit that I still enjoy those "Manitoba" songs the most as they are more "metal" than punk. I'm not normally a big fan of live albums (especially not nowadays), but, Escapi Music has managed to deliver two decent live albums at the same time. I have also come to the conclusion that only a complete bastard could dislike the "childish" punk/metal of The Dictators anyhow.

TRAVERS & APPICE: "Live At The House Of Blues" 7

Escapi 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 August 2005

You will not find a better groove at the moment (or musicians for that matter) than featured on this live album. The power trio of Pat Travers (vocals/guitars), ex-Mother's Finest bassist T.M. Stevens, and legendary drummer/vocalist Carmine Appice (Ozzy, Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra, etc), goes through the funk and blues numbers with great skill and finess. Indeed they have truly managed to capture the real essence of a live album with this release and it could have been close-to perfect experience... if not only for one major problem...

The constant fade out(s) between songs takes away a lot of fun with a "live" album. What's up with that anyhow? The songs are either not recorded at the same night? or they have simply decided to change the running order??? I really don't see any other point or meaning with not including the audience all-of-the-time... it's really annoying actually.

The production is raw, in-your-face, almost 70's-ish, and quite excellent I must add. They cover most of the goodies from last years "It Takes A Lot Of Balls" release, songs like "Taken", "I Don't Care", "Gotta Have You", and "Better From A Distance", are all fun numbers. Especially the latter with lyrics such as "I look better from a distance, I look better from a far" is spot on and also excellent blues rock. They even include a couple of oldies such as "Evil", "Boom Boom", and Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" now done in a fun, blues/funk version (Appice co-wrote the song after all). Shame about the disturbing 'dead silence' in between tracks though...

L.A.Guns: "Tales From The Strip" 6

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 August 2005

I never really liked the L.A.Guns, as they had too much in common with rather annoying bands like The Rolling Stones and the obnoxious New York Dolls. I also always had my problems with appreciating the sound of singer Phil Lewis, as he reminds me too much of one of the worst rock singers in the world Vince Neil from Motley Crue. Especially songs like "It Don't Mean Nothing", "6.9 Earthshaker" and "Skin" are almost Crue ripp offs!

Most of the 14 new songs are up tempo rock and roll songs with typical guitar riffs and singalong choruses; reminding me of Motley Crue and sometimes Guns N' Roses. Originality is not a trade mark of L.A. Guns so all the songs sound rather faniliar in some kind of way. Steamy, dirty rock and roll is probably L.A. Guns trade mark? Of course there is also a ballad on this album called "Vampire" and even a drum solo (!!!) during "6.9 Earthshaker".

"Amaneger" is a non typical L.A Guns song featuring a Spanish/Latin acoustic instrumental guitar intro, followed by keys and strings, making it almost sound like a movie sound track. Best song is the opener "It Don't Mean Nothing", a real rock and roll party song, the rest of the material is same old, same old!
L.A. Guns website

VARIOUS ARTISTS: "Metal Mania Stripped"

Albert/Viacom 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 August 2005

"Metal Mania Stripped ships over 100,000 copies in just over two weeks in the USA". This is a more than decent compilation put together by VH1 Classic featuring some of the biggest hardrock ballads during the 80's/early 90's. Is it of any interest for all of those who were there in the first place??? Do we not already have all these artists and songs, you ask??? Yes, probably... however, this compilation includes rare or exclusive, previously unreleased, acoustic versions from our favourite "hairbands". Gathered from imports, live recordings, rare performances, hard-to-find albums, and six (6) brand new recordings of acoustic tracks, I still find this to be a quite interesting release.

You get completely new recordings with the following artists: Night Ranger -"Sister Christian", Cinderella -"Don't Know What You Get (Till It's Gone), L.A.Guns -"Ballad Of Jane", White Lion -"When The Children Cry", Alias -"More Than Words Can Say", and Great White -"Save Your Love". I personally can't stand that "When The Children Cry" anymore... or at least not the original cut... I used to luv it... but simply had to kill it. This new version is slightly better in my opinion as Tramp doesn't try to sound like a frog anymore. He has toned down everything a notch or two and the result is definitely more pleasing to these ears. Not too shabby at all actually. Don't get me wrong... I still enjoy White Lion a lot... it's just *that* song... yuk. It's difficult to match the original cuts of "Sister Christian" and "More than Words Can Say", Freddy Curci (Alias) is no doubt still a top-class singer and it's nice to have this acoustic version in the Alias collection, the same goes with Night Ranger for that matter. It's also nice to re-discover "Save Your Love" with Great White, even if it still reminds me of a mix of KISS' old "I Still Love You" and Scorpions' even older "Holiday".

There's acoustic live versions with the following artists: Poison -"Every Rose Has It's Thorn" (without a question their best song ever), Scorpions -"Wind Of Change" (they had at least 5 more ballads of the same high quality), Queensryche -"Silent Lucidity", and Tesla -"The Way It Is". Ehem... I'm still not sure about that guitar solo during the Poison performance, it's all good, but wimpy stuff though. Then you have acoustic studio versions of: Warrant -"I Saw Red", (Kip) Winger -"Miles Away", Firehouse -"When I Look Into Your Eyes" and Slaughter -"Fly To The Angels". Add to this the acapella version of "More Than Words" with Extreme and you're pretty much done. Will this attract any attention whatsoever from the average 14-year old nu-metal fan in the states??? heh... are you kidding??? European release: 5th of September.

WALTHAM: "Waltham" 9

RYKO/Showtime 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 August 2005

F-F-Finally!!! We've been raving about this act for a couple of years at RockUnited. They released a marvelous indie album (Permission To Build) in 2003 and caused a major attention and upset due to their updated Rick Springfield sound. They're now signed to Ryko Disc for an American and European release and things are slowly starting to happen with TV commercials, MTV approval and various airplay (they're also included on the "America's Heart and Soul" soundtrack, etc).

The music of Waltham is the close-to perfect mix of modern rock (SR-71, Good Charlotte, Bowling For Soup, M3) and the retro 80's sound of Rick Springfield (approx: during the years of 1980-1983), with just a slight hint of The Cars & The Outfield. But honestly... the best way to describe them is like if Springfield would appear into the music scene for the very first time today. It's the "Working Class Dog" and "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet" all over again, only in a updated version... and hell, vocalist Frank Pino is a deadringer for Rick as well. Waltham are building a bridge between two different worlds (80's & Now) and it works out perfectly I'd say. Trust me, this CD will leave you utterly gobsmacked and completely floored by all the catchy little numbers and fun guitar driving rock.

Eight of the twelve songs were at first included on the independent release and tracks like "Cheryl", "So Lonely", "Nicole", "All I Want Is You", etc. are still freakin' marvelous. They've removed a couple of the not-so-great songs of the past (Say It Again) and added 4 new killer tracks. "Joanne" is yet another magical song about a girl, "Call Me Back" truly is Springfield at his best, "You Gotta Let Me In" rawks and "Be With Me" is yet another winner. It's power-pop of the highest quality that will most certainly attract any real music lover between the ages of 6 to 60. Highly recommended and also a strong "album-of-the-year" candidate. European release date: 14th of September.


EMERALD RAIN: "Sleepwalk" 7

Escape 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
9 August 2005

"I Can't Stop The Bleeding" - Murray Daigle sings with a lot of pain and passion!!! The opening track from the 5th Emerald Rain album is indeed a sad story about lost love and yuk... open wounds. I hope that someone in the band knows a thing or two about first aid though... it's always difficult to wash yer blood stained clothes. I'm sure you've all heard the Harem Scarem comparidon way too many times already... but... they still sound a awful alike at times. The title track is on the other hand a semi-ballad that even Jon Bon Jovi would have been proud of during his "Crush" period.

The overall sound of "Sleepwalk" is however way more up-to-date and modern than some of their previous attempts. The aggressive and slightly down-tuned guitar sound add a more edgy attitude and you definitely need to be open minded about the whole old vs. modern rock discussion. It's neither something you'll instantly embrace at first spin... you need to play this several times and then let it all sink in for a while.

It really hits you over the head during the third or fourth spin though!!! "Sleepwalk" is a well balanced album with a modern hardrock sound and without any real downers, but you need to have patience with the material. Some of the tracks do kind of melt together and seem to have no real beginning or ending. It's not that I'm especially jaded or anything, it's just that this "Harem Scarem" sounding genre has strangled itself at times with its massive supply of copy-cats (you could say that 'Harem' are such as well actually). But I guess the later goes for "any" rock genre of today really. And this is a well executed mid-paced nu-rock album with considerable emphasis on melody and harmony vocals. Check out the massive rock of "Face In The Mirror" or the excellent semi-ballad "I Never Knew", and you'll suddenly realize that "Sleepwalk" is easily as good, if not better, than Harem Scarem and their "Overload" release.

CARPTREE: "Man Made Machine" 5

SPV 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
11 august 2005

Carptree is a Swedish duo (Niclas Flinck and Carl Westholm) that release their third album called "Man Made Machine". It is a beguiling, somewhat dark and strange sounding combination of diverse styles that are deeply roted in progressive rock. Together with the so-called No Future Orchestra, which consists of 7 musicians, Flinck (vocals) and Westholm (keyboards) reached their definite sound on "Man Made Machine"?

It is not an easy album to listen to, especially because most of the songs are rather "strange" and the keyboards of Westholm truly dominate the sound of Carptree. Their greatest musical influence is without any doubt Genesis. Songs like "Tilting The Scales", "The Man You Just Became" and "Burn To Something New" have those typical Genesis trade marks, the melody and especially the vocals of Flinck bring back memories from the Gabriel-Genesis period. The song with the weirdest title ("Titans Clash Aggressively To Keep An Even Score") is probably my favourite, as it is very bombastic, orchestral, even rocky and it sounds like The Flower Kings or Kaipa.

However, most of the songs have no musical diversity and tend to get very boring after a couple of minutes. This is mainly due to the nasal and irritating vocals, but also because all songs almost sound the same, the same tempo(slow) and the same melody. The most awful song is without any doubt "The Recipe", which only features singing and accordeon. The album ends with a rather psychedelic song called "This Is Home", a song with lots of piano parts, a catchy chorus, but again too much singing, which is really a shame, because here the duo actually shows some real progressive musical potential. All in all, it is still a disappointment, too much of the same and not enough progressive elements to make this album really interesting. Last but not least...I have to say that I also miss the electric guitars, where is the power, where is the spirit? The album is so quiet and slow that even my grand mother would like some of the songs on it, and I am not sure if that is a good recommendation for a "rock" band.

NUCLEAR ASSAULT: "Third World Genecide" 6

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 August 2005

Talk about a blast from the past!!! Some of Nuclear Assault's albums during the 80's were easily as good as Anthrax, the very band that Dan Lilker (bass/vocals) first named and then decided to leave after the 1984 debut "Fistful Of Metal". In fact, vocalist/guitarist John Connelly were also (briefly) a member of Anthrax in its formative years. The nuclear boys are back (they even got ex-T.T. Quick member Gleen Evans behind the drums again) after twelve years of silence with the old sound of N.Y. thrash still ringing in our ears.

"Thrid World Genecide" are 13 meat-metal cuts served with old world thrash "courtesy" and a great deal of souce to hide the dodgy best-before date. I wouldn't go as far as saying: something stinks here... I will however say that old days were great days and not so much nowadays. "Third World Genecide" feels a bit sloppy, messy, noisy, and not quite up to the standard of the long gone days. Nuclear Assault has always been about not taking any b.s. and a weird sense of humour. Something which "Long Haired Asshole" is living proof of with its corny approach like a hillbilly strutt with banjo and everything. Definitely worthy of a grin or two... but it's hardly the metal armageddon you'd expect from these New Yorkers.

The basic song structure of the rest of the songs are basically the same as always and Connelly still sound like a distant cousin of Blackie Lawless. I'm really fond of the old-school attitude of "Price Of Freedom" and "Living Hell", add that "Defiled Innocence" is excellent mosh-pit material and the same goes with "Human Wreckage". "Whine and Cheese" is a cheesy, but funny, punk/thrash number in the old school of Ramones. Bottomline: it's nice to have them back with a new album again, even though it's a quite average effort in the end.

S.I.N.: " Equilibrium " 6

Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
10 August 2005

I got my first taste of S.I.N. (ehh...) on their previous label's ballad compilation, and quite liked their track on it. A few weeks ago I purchased their first album, and barely had time to play it once or twice, when this one arrived. Well, I guess one can't get too much S.I.N... Yes, I could go on with these puns but won't!.

Although I haven't really listened to the first one too much, it seems to be a keeper - a solid effort, although the jury's still undecided. However, with this second album, I feel that the band has changed their style to a more metal direction, and lost some of their melodic sensibility. What's more apparent is that I don't really like the vocalist Jason Marks' style. He has a considerable range and skills, I won't deny that, but the delivery isn't to my liking. Obviously the good folks of AOR/Metal Heaven do enjoy this kind of vocals, as their recent signing Saidian has a vocalist with a somewhat similar voice.

When it comes to the songs, the band doesn't do too badly. Their "metal" has more in common with early Dokken than typical German metal of Helloween and the likes, but you'll get your share of double bass drums too...the Dokken comparison raises its' head on more than one occasion: opener "Nailed To The Wall" and "Nightwinds" both boast riffs which remind me of "Under Lock And Key". Not that I'm complaining really, as especially "Nightwinds" is one of the stronger tracks here.

The three biggest highlights for me come in a row in the middle of the album: starting with the two most AOR-like tracks of the album, "It's Forever" (feat. Michael Voss as co-lead vocalist) and "Walk Away" as tracks number 3 & 4, and followed by the catchy "Fight For My Life", which reminds me of Victory for some reason. The other songs aren't bad, but somehow I don't find them too exciting either.

As always, don't take my word for it...if a more high-pitched Graham Bonnet fronting a German Dokken-styled band sounds interesting, then check these guys out immediately!

JET CIRCUS: "Look At Death Now" 6

Rivel Records 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 August 2005

Can you still recall Jet Circus??? The Swedish hardrocking duo of Terry H (vocals/guitar) and Ez Gomér (bass/the works) recorded the rather decent "Step On It" way back in 1990. The album contained fun guitar-work, wicked bass-lines, high-class vocals, and melodies in the style of Van Halen. In fact, the whole album had a similar approach to things as the one-and-only CD release by the U.S. rockers: T-Ride (please comeback, the world still needs you!). It also contained a hideous cover of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and the Christian rockers were even sponsored by Harley Davidson!!!??? Before they formed Jet Circus, Terry & Ez recorded the album "Setting Fire To The Earth" with Leviticus.

Back to present date and Terry H is nowhere to be found!!! Ez Gomér handles all lead vocals himself this time as well as production and the whole songwriting process. I guess you can say it's more or less a solo-album by now with a bunch of interesting guest musicians. The main drummer is Michael Ulfsgärd (Jerusalem) with Mickey Dee (Motörhead, Don Dokken, King Diamond) as special guest on the title track, "Look At Death Now". Add that Sayit, Atomic-Tommy Denander (Radioactive) and Stefan Elmgren (Hammerfall) all contributes with lead guitars.

The sound is somewhat similar to the debut, however, the bass-guitar isn't quite as much upfront, in-your-face, anylonger. It's a shame really as I particulary enjoyed the ultra heavy bass sound they created on "Step On It". The song material doesn't really reach the high standard of older songs like "Victory Dance", "Jet Blue", "Ghost Town", or "Step On It", for that matter. They are somehow stuck in second gear and I miss that extra kick or energy rush during refrain and pre-chorus parts. There's nothing remotely wrong with the vocal work by Gomér, while listening you'll realize that Ez's voice had a great deal and input during the first album as well. Sayit & Denander deliver some of their heaviest and most metal sounding licks & tricks ever during the recording of "Look At Death Now".

EDEN LOST: "Road Of Desire" 4

AOR Heaven 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 August 2005

Eden Lost, innocent lost, hope lost, plot lost, pants lost... you get the picture, it's one helluva ride down the "Road Of Desire". Eden Lost is a Spanish melodic hardrock band from Madrid, formed in March 1999, the current line-up include singer Ignacio Prieto (ex-Niagara). The first full-lenght album is now ready for a release and recordings took place in Madrid with the helping hands of engineer José del Pozo (previously at recording sessions with Foo Fighters & Blink 182).

The music of Eden Lost ends up somewhere between the ragged XYZ debut and Bonfire in the 90's with only a hint of Bon Jovi. However, don't go thinking it's probably as good as well, it's the Spanish version after all, and merely 4-5 of the tracks included are keepers in my books. But when they're good, they're really good, especially "Saturday Night" (uptempo rocker 'ala Bon Jovi in the mid-80's), "You (Make Me Feel So Alive)", "Burn" and "Only Girls", are all excellent songs filled with classy guitar work by Javier Nieto & Jesús Laso. The rest of the material? It's the average 'in-your-eyes, hold-on, under-the-gun' kind of stuff that doesn't even pretend to say or add anything of quality to the listener.

JIZZY PEARL: "Vegas Must Die!" 8

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 august 2005

Jizzy Pearl is a rock and roll legend, as he was the lead singer of notorious L.A. rock bands like Love/Hate, L.A.Guns and Ratt. His last few years he spent as a vocalist by Adler's Appetite, a band he formed together with ex- Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler. Now he has made an album like he wanted to do and on this CD you can hear clear influences from bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Alice Cooper and Guns N' Roses, making this album a true classic hard rock masterpiece.

"True Love" is the first highlight of this album, which kicks off with a nice guitar intro, before the rather bluesy Led Zeppelin like melody catches you by the throat. Pete Reveen's guitar solos and riffs are rather heavy and extremely well played on that track. "Long Time", again has Zeppelin, but also Kingdom Come trademarks, and features a great riff, super vocals and some howling and screaming guitar solos. In "Only Wait So Long" Jizzy's voice sounds like Bon Scott, while the melody is again rather heavy and blues rock like. "Lies" is a sleazy rock and roll song with fast vocals and the melody definitely reminds me of "Freight Train" by Guns N' Roses.

The two absolute worst songs are "You Don't Own Me" (acoustic guitar with irritating handclapping in the background) and "How'd I Get So Lonely?" (An acoustic ballad, which is boring and dull from beginning, till the end). Still I would recommend this album to people who are into real classic hard rock and who like bands like L.A.Guns and Ratt, although I must say that this album is musically much better than any Ratt album whatsoever.

MARC RIZZO: "Colossal Myopia" 7

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 august 2005

In the metal scene Marc Rizzo is a well-known name, as he was a founding member of the very successful metal band Il Nino, with whom he recorded and toured a lot. After leaving that band he joined another legendary metal group called Soulfly, where he played guitar on their 4th and 5th album. "Colossal Myopia" is his first solo record and of course it is filled with guitars and more guitars. His musical roots are metal, classical and even flamenco guitar music.

The album opens with "Kilocycle Interval" which is a very fast track with ferocious guitar riffs, speedy, but melodic guitar solos and pounding double bass drums all over the place. The song brings back memories of Marty Friedman's super album "Dragon's Kiss". As the second song is even faster and filled with staccato riffs that one reminds me of an album by Tony Fredianelli; breakneck speed guitar solos make your head spin! On "Remember The Future", Marco shows his flamenco and Spanish influences, as this one is an acoustic track of more than 5 minutes, making it rather boring for me…. Unfortunately Marco plays more acoustic songs on this album, to be precisely: 5 more. Especially a song like "Chupacabra" bores me to death with only acoustic pickings and castanets in the background.

Best songs on the album are without any doubt: "S.P.Q.R." (a mid-tempo song with heavy guitar walls, speedy solos and emotional guitar parts as well) and "Isosceles" (a song that could have been on the fantastic Cacophony album "Speed Metal Symphony"). As I said before, it really is a shame that Marc has decided to play so much acoustic stuff, as he proves in the electric songs that he has a phenomenal command of the guitar and that he has an immense arsenal of staggering guitar chops in his fingers. Still this is food for guitar freaks only.

BOGART'S TOUCH: " Theodora " 7

indie/to be announced 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
8 August 2005

Here's something could be forgiven for thinking that the debut album from Bogart's Touch is a compilation album with several acts, as they change their style in every song - sometimes even during A song! I believe that a track-by-track review is required here...

"It Brings U Down" is the first real track, and it's a good start for the album. It's a modern melodic rock track with progressive overtones, with vocalist Jean Luc stealing the limelight with his deep, dark voice. The next song "69 Reasons" is an authentic sounding throwback to the late eighties L.A. glam scene, sounding like a track from Bang Tango or L.A. Guns!

"Love U Inside" is again a bit different, a piano-driven melodic rocker that reminds me a bit of HIM mixed with a touch of Dream Theater and the L.A. Glam vibe of the previous track. A curious, but very tasty mixture! "A bit different" would be an understatement for "From The Cradle To The Grave", which is one of the most "left-field" tracks here - a sort of a new age/ambient ballad! A rather interesting experience to listen with your headphones on, but not a track for me I'm afraid. However, "Poisoned Love" is indeed one of my favourites, another track with the aforementioned L.A. vibe and a killer chorus.

"Junkie Queen" is a funky rocker with a bit of a Chili Pepper groove and a rather unconventional solo/jam section. "Inside" reminds me strongly of the british band GUN and in my books that's not bad at all..."Trademark Daughter" sees the band moving into a new direction again, that being somewhere between alternative rock and prog - a bit like Presto-era "Rush". I quite like it, more than anything on "Presto" really! "Woman Child" is another ambient piano ballad, soothing and relaxing if still a bit too vague for me. Then we're off to L.A. again, as "Beauf" must be a close relative to the second track (a cousin at least!), a sleazy hard rock song.

Confused? As mixed as this album may be, somehow there's still an underlying thin red line there to follow. The arrangements and the lyrics are something out of the ordinary, and vocalist Jean Luc isn't your average rock singer either. Admittedly a few of the tracks don't appeal to me at all, but when they're good, they are really good...


SPV/Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 august 2005

I really love progressive rock music, but when I listen to this so-called prog rock album I really cannot recommend "One Step Closer" to proggies. String Cheese Incident is an American jam rock band which mix blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, folk and rock and roll, and as their main influences the band's trademarks are from notorious groups like Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule, Phish, Umphrey's McGee and most of all The Grateful Dead.

"One Step Closer" is their 7th album and for the first time, everybody in the band provided vocals and contributed to at least two songs on the album. Even Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter contributed to this new CD, but that does not help at all, because this album is actually really boring. Just check out the opener "Give Me The Love" and you will know what to expect from the rest of the remaining fifty minutes. Mediocre, boring, tiresome vocals, acoustic guitars, no spirit and no musical interesting passages whatsoever. A song that almost bored me to death is called "Big Compromise", slow country blues, really soporific stuff, which probably works even better than counting sheep. "Farther" is another fine example of Hillbilly music that could be used for a series like the Waltons...

Nearly all of the 13 songs have that slow tempo with acoustic guitars, monotous singing and no diversity whatsoever. There are only two songs that show a bit of musical potential, "Sometimes A River" (which is kind of Allman Brothers like) and "Rainbow Serpent" (featuring at least some electric guitar and even a few prog elements). The rest is just sheer country crap and I would never label this band progressive. I really had a hard time listening to this album three times...Hopefully never again!


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 27-30/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 27-30/05 * * * * *
Matrex, BaiBang, Artica, Blackmore's Night DVD, Steve Walsh, Live DVD from Carl Verheyen Band, Yngwie Malmsteen, Prayer, Dug Pinnick of King's X, re-issued Kick Axe, Gypsy Carns, Nightvision, Richie Kotzen's new band 40 Deuce, Kim Mitchell, Amplifier, Doctor Dunbar's Medicine Band, Terra Nova, Blanc Faces, Journey, Robin Beck, Diving For Pearls, Chris Caffery, F5, Paul Gilbert, Cryonic Temple, Iommi (with Glenn Hughes), Vicious Rumours DVD, Loud'n Nasty and Gismatchi.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-26/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-26/05 * * * * *
Circus Maximus, Kelly Clarkson, Slagmark, Evenrude, Broke-n-Blue, Boysvoice, Perris Records' "Hollywood Hairspray vol. IV, Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Dope Stars Inc, Backstreet Boys, Frameshift (feat. Sebastian Bach), Stefan Moren, Demon, Spiritual Beggars, Northern Light and Madsin, Dream Theater, Presto Ballet (feat. Kurdt Vanderhoof of Metal Church), Steve Howe, XSavior, "Flower King" Tomas Bodin, Pagan's Mind, Spiders & Snakes, Return, Silvertide, Demons & Wizards, Alice Cooper, "Hollywood Rocks" CD box and a band called Hollywood.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/05 * * * * *
Shadow Gallery, Brazen Abbot, Wetton/Downes, Eternal Reign, Heartland, Molly Hatchet, The Sentenced, Harem Scarem, Gotthard, Secret Sphere, Thunderstone, Soul SirkUS, Royal Hunt, Styx, Kaipa, Evil Masquerade, Genesis/Stiltskin frontman Ray Wilson, Zeno, Dare's new live album, Bruce Dickinson, Canadian cult AOR band Refugee, Dungeon, Betoken, Raging Speedhorn, El Caco, Insense, Lana Lane, ex-At Vance shouter Hartmann, Shaaman, Sonic X, Force Of Evil, Metalium, Falconer and Brunorock.


* * * * * 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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