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

TNT: "All The Way To The Sun" 8

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 October 2005

TNT - last years album (My Religion) ended up as number seven (7) on my personal "album of the year" list. What about this time? well, the superb guitar playing of Ronnie LeTekro and the voice of Tony Harnell floats above the whole soundscape like soaring eagles in the sky. TNT definitely spread their wings "All The Way To The Sun" with this release, even though it's darn close to the "flight of icarus" at times, yet they've somehow managed to stay away from the worst fire and getting burned by the sun. I guess a proper album title would have been "All The Way To The Sun... And Back Again"

However, there's a couple of dull moments and real disappointments as well on "All The Way To The Sun". For example, some of the choruses are very monotonus and filled with boring one-liners. I'm especially thinking about "Too Late" with its constant repeating of the two words "too" and "late". You're really fed up with Tony's hi-pitched voice as the chorus kicks in for the 32nd time. The guitarwork on this track is simply out-of-this-earth though and LeTekro has really managed to create his own sound and style of playing. It's a catchy beat overall... but the refrain... my oh my... it's one of those that you both hate and love at the same time... "Toooo Laaaate - Is It Toooo Laaate". Arrrrgghhh!!! the song is catchy though. There's a warning flag on the sixties inspired toon "Me And I" as well and "The Letter" is way too complex and confusing somehow.

It's neither a instant hit album and you need to spin this sucker several times, before it even begins to kick like a mule. It's a modern, fresh, melodic hardrock album, with some lovely melodies such as "Sometimes", "Driving", "Save Your Love", or the quirky opener "A Fix". The uptempo rocker of "Black Butterfly" is almost like part:2 of "Downhill Racer", mixed with some old Led Zeppelin influences in the background. The cover of "What A Wondeful World" is a ehem, interesting version of a classic toon, even though Harnell doens't exactly have that raspy, gritty, afro-american voice, to really pull it off???!!! One thing's for sure, they're not taking the easy way out with "All The Way To The Sun". Not as good as "My Religion" in my humble opinion, however, still entertaining and interesting enough to end up somewhere further down the top-30 albums of the year list.

SWEDISH EROTICA: "Too Daze Gone" 8

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

[Impotent Message!] "Too Daze Gone" with Swedish Erotica isn't just another sleazy review of the skin-flick of the week!!!! Let's be honest... I'm sure a whole bunch of you viagra-doped, old geezers, came here looking for Swedish porn via google or altavista [I guess the Nashville Pussy review didn't help as well]. Leave the pills alone for a moment though and stick around for some sleazy, Swedish, hardrock [I'm sure there's yet another viagra joke or ten here] of highest quality.

OK... this is a darn fine 16-track compilation with previously (officially) unreleased material and demos with Swedish Erotica. I'm really fond of the selftitled debut from 1989 with Mats Levén on vocals (Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen, At Vance, etc.), and "Too Daze Gone" is therefore a real treat (heh!) for the fan of melodic sleaze. Not only do you get the 7-tracks with above mentioned Mats Levén, recorded back in 1990/91 and originally meant as their second album, you also get all the earlier demos recorded between 1986-1988.The band was actually formed in the mid-80's under the 'Swedish Beauty' monicker and with ex-TNT singer, Dag Ingebrektsen. Then followed a name and singer change, a record deal through a demo with Göran Edman, Edman decided to join John Norum's band instead, enter Tony Niva, only to be replaced by Levén during the recording of the debut album (Niva still sings lead on 'Break The Walls' on the debut though).

Some of the earlier demos features therefore Göran Edman (Madison, John Norum, Yngwie Malmsteen, Glory, etc) on vocals and others Tony Niva (Lion's Share, Zanity, Niva). Tracks like "Terri", "Goodbye To Romance", and "Can You Stand The Heat", are all fun, you also get original versions of "Break The Walls", "Love On The Line" and "Loaded Gun". Needless to say this is a part of Swedish Hardrock history and quite essential stuff for the Scandi collector. You may already recognize the song "Muscle In Motion" as Levén brought it along when he later joined 'Treat', they recorded it for their unreleased "Muscle In Motion" album (yes, I know about the CD, but that's a bootleg). Other highlights with Levén are "Skin On Skin", the smashing ballad "Fire With Fire", and how about the Poison strutting rock of "Show A Little Lace". Not all that glitter is gold though and you can find a couple of really dodgy numbers as well. Still, my hat off to the lads at MTM Music, how about a re-issue of the rare 1989 debut album next???

RPWL: "Live – Start The Fire" 8

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
3 October 2005

After four great studio albums and their successful European tour behind them the German prog rock band RPWL now release their first live album. The band combined their first double live album with two sections complementing themselves. CD 1 (61:26) is based on a recording of the classic TV show Rockpalast and on CD 2 (67:03) you can hear the band experiment and explore another aspect of their music.

I prefer the first CD as this one features great songs like “Sleep”, “Day On My Pillow”, “The Gentle Art Of Swimming” and “Wasted Land”. All great prog rock songs with amazing melodies, heavenly guitar solos and superb vocals. On “Roses” you can hear Ray Wilson on vocals and this live version is actually better than the studio version; not due to Wilson, but because of the improvised, longer guitar solo! The only real miss on this first CD is the Genesis cover and semi-acoustic ballad “Not About Us”. This song is taken from “Calling All Stations” (1997) and features Wilson on vocals of course….

The second CD contains 3 covers (I hate covers!!) and that is the main reason I prefer the first disc. “Opel” is a rather unknown and obscure Syd Barret track from 1988, while “Cymbaline” (from “More” (1969)) and “Welcome To The Machine” (from “Wish You Were Here” (1975)) are of course Floyd covers. And although the latter is rather well done I still prefer the original version!! Highlights on the second disc are the title track of the last amazing RPWL album, “Hole In The Sky” (with outstanding guitar parts) and “New Stars Are Born”. The first seven minutes of this bonus track could already be enjoyed on the SACD version of “The World Through My Eyes”, and now the other six minutes are delivered on this album. A great prog rock song like only RPWL could make. “Start The Fire” is a truly great live album proving that RPWL belongs to the trendsetters of modern prog rock!

MILAN POLAK: "Dreamscapes" 8

Lion Music 2005
Review by the Bailey Brothers
3 October 2005

Coming well after the influx of 80’s guitar gods may be a blessing in disguise because Milan Polak has managed to put some really cool guitar phrases and melodies over typical 90’s metal riffs. Opening up with "Panic Room" he moves from metal to blues in a typical Joe Perry (Aerosmith) style. He continues to add typical 80’s string skipping techniques which are executed smoothly and there’s clever use of the wha pedal, good arrangement and tight playing. Guess that’s it then, not much you can say about an instrumental album but hold on, what’s next? A very sexy ladies voice leaving a message on his answer machine, now that adds some interest, not unique but sets the tone for a really melodic intro into track 2 which is called "Girlfriends". Not for the first time a tasty reminder of some Steve Via influence. Once again Milan uses the wah pedal to good effect but by keeping the song uncomplicated the interest remains.

"Dreamscapes" is just exquisite, lovely use of the whammy bar and vibrato. Almost talking to you direct played with feel and passion and repetitive enough for you to remember the melodies. There’s clever use of a cleaner guitar sound before using pivoting techniques to great effect. This really is a great display of how to combine speed with melodic tone and all those early years of practicing Gilbert, Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen licks have paid off. It’s hard to have an individual style but Milan has produced good discipline and many guitar players could learn from him. Playing fast all the time looks great for a minute but then what? Don’t pull the rabbit out of the hat too early. Save some of your tricks for later.

"Spanish Romance" is exactly what you would expect to hear, this time proving he can adapt to different styles and play fast and precise on the acoustic guitar. Milan Polak has lived all over the world and this reflects in his vision, style and technique. His CV is very impressive receiving a professional diploma in February 1991, also playing with the likes of Billy Sheehan (MR Big) jazz bassist Steve Bailey and Marty Friedman (Megadeth). If you think it’s going to be another Malmsteen clone affair then you will miss the opportunity to hear an instrumental album of the very highest calibre. I got to the fantastic "Shadow Dance" which has metal, Zeppelin, melody, harmony guitars and of cause the arpeggios but they are just pebbles skimming across the surface of a lake full of guitar bliss. My girlfriend came in at this point and said “he’s really good”. You can’t get better than that, even a non-player can enjoy this release but real players who know what it takes will appreciate this truly brilliant album. Now I want to hear his back catalogue and look forward to his project with another great player Mario Parga. A cool touch would have been to include a vocal track. "Dreamscapes" will be a hard act to follow.


Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
3 October 2005

After leaving Spock’s Beard Neal Morse has made two reli-rock albums, namely “Testimony”(2003) and “One”(2004) his first one being musically great, lyrically too preachy, and the second “One” was musically a copy of the first album, but then a bit weaker… On his third reli-prog rock CD Neal had help from his musical friends Jordan Rudess, Steve Hackett, Alan Morse, Roine Stolt and Mike Portnoy, but the music is still very predictable and far too melodramatic. Especially if you listen to “The Outsider”, “Inside His Presence” or “The Glory Of The Lord”. All of these songs have too much grandiloquence and the lyrics and titles of these songs do the rest.

Musically speaking Morse repeats himself again, but songs like “The Temple Of The Living God”, “In The Fire” and “12” are still great prog rock songs with lots of screaming and howling guitar solos, interesting keyboard passages, plenty of rhythm changes, typical Morse melodies and lots of emotional singing.

The rest of this album however could also be on Morse’s previous albums and lyrically speaking I tend to get enough of his religious “I saw the light” meaning of life… I still consider “Testimony” to be a great album, but now I believe that if he carries on like this, he will only loose more prog rock followers. I certainly prefer Spock’s Beard nowadays!


MTM 2005
Review by the Bailey Brothers
3 October 2005

They say it’s better late than never so the Baileys would like to wish GARY BARDEN a belated happy birthday for the mile stone he reached on 27/08/05 when he celebrated 50 years on planet earth. If you lost track of the ex MSG lead vocalist then don’t expect any “Cry For The Nations” on this album. The band Silver have enjoyed huge success in Europe and were number one in the import charts in Japan back in 2001. GOLD is the new MTM release and the real plus side of this album is it ain’t what you would expect. If you just want to hear balls to the wall rock’n’roll this ain’t for you but if you wanna be a bit more open to music this is more a parametric view. At first the vocals took a bit of getting used to especially when you are used to hearing Gary belting it out with both barrels smoking. It took about three listens before we forgot about MSG and accepted to this release for what it is, a good listen.

A couple of songs stand out, namely "Golden Days", a laid back ballad that starts with a sweeping sting intro and haunting female vocal before Gary Barden opens the pages of a sweet love song. No prizes for unique lyrics but I like the way they keep building from the original foundations of the opening verse. The inter play with the female vocalist works really well and the guitar solo is kept simple, nice use of vibrato and slow bends and nothing that distracts away from the winning formula. A very catchy hook, a well constructed and well executed song.

Another standout is "Setting it up". Once again a fantastic hook that starts off the song instrumentally and then follows another strange vocal bed but some how the two work together well. It reminds you of Simple Minds and U2 how they constantly keep the big hook prominent and sooner or later you will be dangling from it.

"China Girl" Is a good David Bowie cover but we can’t see the need for it as “Save Me” starts off in a typical Bowie vocal style. The interplay with the female vocalist is once again a great bit of production adding interest. One thing about Silver is they have got more hooks than a fisherman’s boat. There is some nice guitar work on this track and although the song is repetitive in a way it’s the reason it works.

The last time we saw GARY BARDEN his band were helping us Gaffa tape our coffin consul back together after it had flown off the roof rack on a Motorway at 90 miles an hour. We got through our gig with STATETROOPER that day and lived to tell the tale. It’s pleasing to know GARY BARDEN and guitarist MICHAEL VOSS have another credible release under their belts. I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it but at times you have to try something different on the menu. GOLD by SILVER is very tasty alternative to the norm!

SHAKRA: "Fall" 7

AFM Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
3 October 2005

Two years ago I reviewed their previous album called "Rising", and I could almost write the same review for their new album "Fall". This Swiss rock band is the perfect mix of bands like Gotthard, Krokus and Bonfire and their music is so recognizable and so unoriginal that you think that you have heard this album already a zillion times before……

The songs have great hooks and nice melodies, but as soon as the record is over (48 minutes), you tend to forget the songs. It is rock and roll from the beginning till the end and there are too many choruses, which are repeated far too often, too many of the same refrains, too much singing and too many sound a-like solos.

Speaking about the vocals, Mark Fox's hoarse voice tends to get on my bloody nerves after approximately 30 minutes, so a bit of variation there could do some wonders for the band. Again, just like their previous CD, not bad, but you listen to this album two times and then it ends up in the attic or cellar….. Sad but true?

GYPSY ROSE: "Gypsy Rose" 6

Escape 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 October 2005

Nope, I know what you're thinking, however, this is NOT the U.S. act signed to $immons Records back in the heydays. This Gypsy Rose was originally formed in Göteborg/Sweden already back in 1981!!! This is actually their selftitled debut release... merely 24 years later... I guess we can all expect a follow-up album around 2029 or sumthin.

You may however recall some of the band members as guitarist Martin Kronlund has recorded two albums with Dogface and worked as a producer with bands such as Hammerfall & Lotus. Imre Daun is yet another experienced musician (well, drummer anyhow), that's been bashing the skins with both Alien and Don Patrol in the past. The music of Sweden's Gypsy Rose is very much a mixture of 80's Scorpions, Bonfire, and some Swedish melodies in the style of early Dogface. Singer Håkan Gustafsson comes out sounding like a more gritty and raspy version of Claus Lessman (Bonfire) as well. Well, substract the German accent of course and simply add a Swedish vibe instead.

This CD is however hard to judge fairly as what's on it is well performed and executed hardrock, yet it's not something you'll put on that often if you're an average CD buyer I'm afraid. I do miss a couple of really memorable melodies and it's also difficult to quite see what they're aiming at here. Is this merely a poor-man's version of Bonfire/Scorpions??? or do they have something special and/or extra to add to this endless flow of hardrock albums??? Well, it rather made me wanna play some old Bonfire/Scorpions albums instead.


Review by the Bailey Brothers
3 October 2005

Here comes the sequel to the 2003 release Blackmore’s Castle. This album is meant to pay tribute to one of the most influential rock guitar players of all time Ritchie Blackmore. Deep Purple and Black Sabbath are regarded as major players in the birth of rock although neither was more influential than Led Zeppelin. Yngwie Malmsteen openly admits he took everything he could from Blackmore and how many Malmsteen wannabe guitar players can you hear today? Not only did Blackmore inspire guitar players he helped introduce us to the likes of David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. On top of that you have many fantastic bands, songs and live performances. The only way to really do Ritchie justice would have been to put out a compilation with him and the above mentioned artists on it. This would cost money and so this release is supposed to help bring attention to some of the artists performing some of the great classic Blackmore songs.

"Stormbringer" by Domain is a good choice for the opener as vocalist Carsten "Lizard" Schulz: delivery is much more reliable than our local curry house. The band injects a lot of power and excitement and we are off to a decent start.

On Michael Harris' version of "Lady of the Lake" it’s the vocals from Steve Snyder that take all the applause, more Tony Martin (ex Black Sabbath) style than Dio but great range and solid through out. For some reason Michael Harris thought there was a need to end this song with a load of unnecessary guitar widdling which killed the outro (song ending).

Burn by the Orion Riders had some potential as vocalist Joe Lombardo bore signs of early Glen Hughes (ex Deep Purple) but for reason I will never understand whilst I have a hole in my arse they killed the chorus. I can only describe the strange noise going off over the vocals as a copy of the famous Paul Gilbert/Billy Sheehan (MR BIG) guitar drill solo. It was bloody horrendous and at first I swapped machines to make sure it wasn’t skipping. Unfortunately it’s pretty much down hill faster than a novice on a ski slope from here on...

"I Surrender" performed by Daniel Flores and Friends was well put together and well played. It had a lot of energy. Andreas Novak on lead vocals was on the verge of matching if not topping the original sung by JLT (He certainly gave him a run for his money). Once again band members saw the outro as a means to show off their individual skills. Benny Jansson played well through out but then goes over the top and just got repetitive and then in comes Andreas Lindahl for a pointless keyboard solo. Poor old Navak had to try and rescue the song ending but the essence of the song had lost its momentum.

If this album is meant to show off the talent out there then its succeeded because there’s some great vocalists and performances on this album, It may have been better to put two new songs on an album from each band and break them that way. It’s far easier to exploit a name like Blackmore as he has still got a large fan base. Some of them will dig this album and some will hate it. The big question still remains is this a tribute or an insult to Ritchie Blackmore? We will let you be the judge of that .Having had the pleasure of seeing him live with all the above we feel there’s nothing on this release that justifies using his name to sell albums.

STEVE HOWE: "Homebrew 3" 2

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
3 October 2005

As a true die-hard Yes fan since the release of “Close To The Edge” I can only say that I always considered Steve Howe to be the “weakest” link of Yes. That is the main reason why I have never bought solo albums of Howe. This release is in my humble opinion truly redundant, as it take listeners on a journey through his solo albums from the nineties, so from “Turbulence” (1991) till “Quantum Guitar” (1998).

So, it is all old demo stuff, nothing new under the sun, in other words, who needs this???? Die hard Steve Howe fans, perhaps?? “Homebrew 3” invites the listener to revisit the original Yes, GTR and Howe albums and compare them with these demo versions, which proves to be a boring and complete waste of time!!!


SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 October 2005

Nashville Pussy are obviously a bunch of highly inteel, intal, intee, wait a minute... intelligent musicians, well, they sure have created a album that goes w-a-y over my head. In fact, I simply can't comprehend or understand for that matter, why? middle-age folks would enjoy crappy lyrics and toons like these in the first place??? I must however admit that I wrote the same kind of lyrics once... at the age of 12 or 13!!! And that's basically it really... if you find any four letter word or hillbilly lingo to be essential ingredience for a good album... well, then you're in for a redneck meeting in the sky. Rock 'N' Roll doesn't get any dumber than this.... it's white-trash music at its best/worst (bloody'ell, do I sound "posh" or what?).

Anyhow, you know you're in trouble when the cover of Ace Frehley's "Snowblind" is clearly the best piece of the album, with the best song structure, riff, and lyrics. The cover of "Nutbush City Limits" (Ike & Tina Turner) is the 2nd best song included. Ok, some of these songs are actually "catchy" and could have been fun, if not only for the utter crap, kid rock lyrics. Simply leave your brain at home if you should ever attend a concert, you're obviously also excused if you're below the age of 13 (or simply stoned beyond belief). I don't know about you, but I never found "white-trash" rock to be that attractive or interesting in the first place. It's almost like a music version of "Dumb And Dumber"... I believe the dudes from "The Deliverance" are involved too.

"You're missing the whole point with Nashville Pussy, you say? It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek and with a sense of humor". I know... they're meant to be wiseguys... but they're not. I rest my case and my keyboard. Now excuse me while I drive my posh car to my posh house, and I'll gladly leave the white-trash music in the gutter (posh car? posh house? in my dreams).

Lelio PADOVANI: "The Big Picture" 6

Indie 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
23 September 2005

Lelio Padovani is from Parma (go figure! … Padovani from Parma… must be because of the good cup performances of Ac Parma… ). Anyway a full-time music teacher guitarist decided to go for it on his own and recorded a full-length album at home with the support of a drum machine. The result is just what you'd expect: the album is more of a "teacher's pet" than a real entertaining instrumental album.

The majority of the songs lack memorable melodies and are more like good excuses to showcase Lelio's enormous technical skills. Guitar students can learn a lot from the album as every ten seconds feature a new scale or trick but "the big picture" is missing if you know what I mean. The album is not really for those who are into digestible instrumental music, more for tech and skill freaks. The first four tracks will pass you by without any real impact and though I played the album about a dozen times if someone stood with gun pointed to my head and asked me to sing a single melody from the album I would be shot dead I'm afraid.

The second part is a little different though. Picking up my guitar I could jam along with "Serena's Diary" pretty well, so did I with "The Big Picture" and the beautiful "22 Novembre" as musically they are more airy, leaving some more room for melodies. If you ever decide to buy this album I'd recommend you to use it for study purposes, either to scan the songs for musical ideas or to jam along with them like I did (provided you can figure out the chord progressions of the songs, as some of them are really unusual). For everybody else not into studying guitar I'd say keep an eye on this guy and wait till he manages to forget about teaching and learns about entertainment.
Lelio's homepage (recommended to musicians as it features some lessons and a few helpful goodies like empty score-sheet templates and such)

AIRLESS: "2nd Round" 5

Lion Music 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
29 September 2005

The second album from Spanish hard rockers Airless hints that there might be potential in the band, yet ultimately fails to make a lasting impression. I've given this quite a few spins, but none of the songs really stand out. What's even worse is the fact that I'm constantly annoyed by the over-the-top vocals of ñaki Lazkano, who seems to be a bit out of control here, not staying within the boundaries of the songs. His voice is good, reminding me a lot of that guy in Trixter, but the over-exited style doesn't do any good to the material.

Musically the band reminds me of guitar-oriented hard rock/AOR groups, most notably Harem Scarem. Their best song is "Handful Of Lies", which is very much in the vein of those Canadians. Guitarist Robert Rodrigo throws in a bunch of very Lesperance-like guitar tricks on that one...His real showcase is the instrumental "The Storm", which reminds me of Neal Schon's solo material.

Although I'm not too fond of this album, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Airless releasing a killer album one day. The just need stronger songs and a producer who can get the best out of them!

NOCTURNAL RITES: "Grand Illusion" 9

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

Ten years down the line and Nocturnal Rites deliver their best and strongest effort so far. Yeah I know, "Grand Illusion" is a rather simple and straight-forward heavy/power metal album without any groundbreaking ideas. However, the material with sing-a-long numbers like "Fools Never Die", "Never Trust", "Still Alive", "Our Waysted Days", etc, are simply put the best and most accessiable Rites have ever penned. It's bruising, pounding, melodic heavy metal from Sweden with exciting structures AND catchy hooks.

I simply can't understand the greatness of Hammerfall as this is several times better than any of their releases. It also wipes the floor with the new Stratovarius and that's really an understatement as well. It could simply be that Jonny Lindquist (ex-Mogg, Jonny's Bomb) is a real singer in my books with a AOR and classic hardrock history as he combines the best from Dio to Jon Bongiovi with a strong and convincing voice. They also have a knack of writing songs with great choruses, massive riffs and excellent guitar solo parts.

Extra kudos to guest musician Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen) for adding layers of impressive keyboards in the background. To keep it sweet and simple, this is a top-10 album of 2005, and the limited CD release comes with a bonus DVD enclosing the videos from "New World Messiah", the brand new "Fools Never Die" video, a "Making of Grand Illusion" and extra footage from the "Demons At The Opera" show. I know many classic hardrock fans never bothered to check out this band (simply because they think it's death/brutal metal - due to the name), but "Grand Illusion" is like an avalanche of melodic metal totalitarian in its content and approach. Highly recommended.

COHEED AND CAMBRIA: "Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV" 9

Sony/Columbia 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 September 2005

I must confess that I never expected to find Coheed And Cambria at a major such as Sony/Columbia. I thought C&C were way too complex, weird, anti-social, and sci-fi, to fit the description of mass-producive and mass-selling music. Then again, why not??? they have this great underground and cult appealing going on in the states and let's merely hope the rest of the world will shortly follow. I absolutely love this kind of highly "intelligent" (yeah, right, whatever...) music, and yet it's so freakin' pompous and over-the-top, that it's almost too silly and darn right laughable at times.

What to expect if you're never heard about these guys in the past??? It's a epic, concept, saga, written by the helium packed singer Claudio Sanchez (sort of lite Geddy Lee - Rush), in the style of 70's Prog-Rock, meets 80's Metal, meets 90's emo-rock. The record continues in what will end up being a 5-album saga based around a doomed married couple who are convinced they must sacrifice their children in order to save the world from being infected by a virus this is embedded in their genes. I told ya' - it's all very complex and dark sci-fi with enough of catchy and progressive melodies to kill off a dragon or twelve. Indeed, you'll find lots of those Rush-like (the band, not a actual "rush", even though you'll get that as well), melodies and hooks along the way.

I can definitely see these guys starting out as a bunch of nerds in the basement with their instruments, a bunch of wacky sci-fi and fantasy books, and some old Rush & Pink Floyd records (caugh, caugh, smoke) as their only friends. They have merely added a fresh approach to old ideas and the result is a 15-track album packed with undeniable hooks and contemporary textures, with the sonic reminiscent of great progressive and atmospheric bands of the 70's. Check out the fantastic Pink Floyd ending of "The Final Cut" or why not the Rush rock of "Ten Speed". The cynical pop/rock of "Once Upon Your Dead Body", with lyrics such as "I hope you die right now, will you drink my chemical", is something out-of-the ordinary love twist.

It's impossible to describe all the aspects of C&C and I'm not even going to try with a track-by-track review. It's fantasy-rock 'ala 2005 and like a modern "2112", "Moving Pictures" (Rush), with some "Wish You Were Here" (Pink Floyd), and tons and tons of those catchy emo (emotional) pop/rock melodies on top of that. But... you need to be open minded and do NOT expect this to be a pure "70's" influenced or sounding CD. C&C are simply too wacky to try and narrow down to one genre, and I guess that's what "progressive" music is all about really??? You like concept albums, a mix of old'n'new, and not afraid to explore new territory??? try this for size and don't come crying to me later with emails such as "this is too complex and weird music for my taste", you've been offically warned... goddamnit... you've been warned... it's one major emotional roller-coaster ride. Excellent!

MORNING: "Hour Of Joy" 7

Black Lotus 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 September 2005

The Dutch heavy fantasy metal group Morning was founded in 2000 by Saskia van Heugten (vocals) and Mauro Pi (drums). Later on in that year the brothers Pol (bass guitar) and Stijn Bannier (keyboards) joined the band. After working with one guitar player for two years the band decided to go on with two guitarists, namely Martijn Brauwers and Bas Rensen. The musical influences of Morning range from The Gathering, Ayreon and Rhapsody till Lacuna Coil.

Their debut album “Hour Of Joy” features 12 self composed and written songs and one cover. As you listen to this album for the first time you cannot “ignore” the domination of the keyboards, sometimes it is even too much keys, so that the rest of the instruments are barely audible. The voice of Saskia is a delight to the ears and it is in fact a blend of the voices of Anneke (The Gathering), Floor (After Forever) and Simone (Epica), although Saskia tends to sing a couple of keys lower than the ladies mentioned.

The title track features an up tempo rhythm with clear prog metal elements and a nice twin guitar solo. “Inside” has some real metal guitar riffs which make you want to bang your head till it hurts…. The first highlight is “Kill The Silence”; a song that opens with an acoustic guitar intro before it turns into a power metal track with really high vocals and nice guitar work. “You’re Setting Fire” also starts as a ballad before it turns into a rather heavy song with dark and doomy elements. Longest track is “Stop Drawing”(over 9 minutes) which actually features Black Sabbath-like guitar riffs, narrative passages and lots of great other musical surprises. However, Morning should really do something about the production, because the production of this album is very poor, the entire CD sounds weak and hollow, which is a true shame, as the music is rather good. Furthermore I would advise this promising young band not to cover songs by rock icons like Queen. “The Show Must Go On” is an absolute horror… Looking forward to their next album I can only say that the Dutch rock scene welcomes another great band!

AFTER FOREVER: "Remagine" 7

Transmission Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 September 2005

Their last album “Invisible Circles” was probably their most progressive album so far. Their new CD “Remagine” is without any doubt their most “mainstream”, accessible album so far as a couple of songs really have “catchy” choruses and rather “commercial” melodies and musical ideas. Songs like “Boundaries Are Open” or “Face Your Demons” could well be radio material, which could of course open doors for this band, which normally would have been closed forever...

The keyboard melodies of new band member Joost van den Broek dominate throughout the entire album, making “Remagine” more symphonic and orchestral than the other albums. Floor’s vocals are the ultimate trademark on this CD, especially in “Come”, “Free Of Doubt” and the goose bum ballad “Strong” her amazing opera-like singing set the tone for these outstanding tracks. However I still cannot appreciate the grunts of Sander and therefore I tend to skip songs like “Living Shields”, “Attendance”, “Only Everything” and “No Control”.

In “Forever”, which is a great song with Oriental musical influences and amazing singing by Floor, the vocals of guitar player Bas Maas are however mediocre, therefore making this song a little bit less interesting...So in the end, I can only conclude(but this is only my humble opinion) that After Forever has not released their best album so far. Three outstanding songs, four rather good songs (Boundaries are open, Being everyone, Face your demons and Forever), four songs with grunting and one opera like overture (Enter) is not enough to make this album better than their previous one “Invisible Circles”.

STRATOVARIUS: "Stratovarius" 5

Sanctuary 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 September 2005

OK - you all know the story - Stratovarius recieved a $$$$$$$ new recording contract - Tolkki suddenely became possessed by Gene Simmons & Yngwie Malmsteen -got rid of all the members, hired a female singer and proclaimed "this is it", received death threats by fans, got stabbed, suicidal tendencies, nervous breakdowns, got rid of the sheila, and somehow convinced all the former members to comeback (can you say m-o-n-e-y?). Phew, here we are again, "back to normal" and a new Strato' CD.

It's exactly as you would expect, only worse, some really distinctly banal lyrics (The Land Of Ice And Snow - oh dear), tons of widdly guitar breaks by Tolkki, and admittedly pretty powerful vocals by Kotipelto. All this formularised into fast-fist galloping metal hymns with speedy double kick drumming and power as usual??? Except that drummer Jürg Michael doesn't once get into the high-speed groove and the whole album is more of a straight-forward hardrock release. Something which I personally have nothing against since it's a nice change. It's actually difficult to pin down quite why the new Stratovarius don't move me, it just seems to lack all that important energy and most importantly, quality songs, that at least I thrive on. I also find myself spending way too much time thinking about Kotipelto's accent and the way he pronounces the words.

And don't give me that crap that "you're obviously not into this kind of music", I'am very much into Strato' and especially the excellent work of "Visions". I simply can't find that many highlights or positive things to say about this CD. Yet another average "comeback", but I'm sure many old fans will still find this to be a fantastic and groundbreaking record? And yes, there's a couple of real killer tracks among the fillers. Funnily enough, I prefer the new The Rasmus CD, when it comes to finnish music this year... how weird is that?

SCHOOLBOY CRUSH: "Good Time, Bad Boys" 3

Suncity 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 September 2005

Schoolboy Crush? how come I've never heard about these geezers in the past??? Could it be that I'm totally not -with it' and pretty much clueless in seattle??? Or... could it be that it's all far too unimaginative and heartless music out of sleazeville???? Nevertheless, this is the never before released on CD (gee, I wonder why?) album by the melodic/sleaze rockers. Originally selftitled when released on cassette and now with the new title "Good Time, Bad Boys", their much anticipated second album recorded in 1990-91 is finally reality for the millions of eager and awaiting fans. "Such A Waste" and "Bad Bitch" are some of the titles here, and I believe it's also the definition of the entire album somehow. Heck, if you found Tuff Luck or Wrathchild America, to be some of your favourite acts, well, then you're definitely in for a treat.

The cover says cheese and so does the music, until then suddenely start to play Thrash-Metal??? during "Reap The Whirlwind" and "At The Alter". The first mentioned track is nice toon in the style of Anthrax, Xentrix, and it's all pretty decent for a while. I'd say it's overall a bleak attempt at being their old heroes of Skid Row & Shotgun Messiah though. Sure, I can handle the image, but I think I'll pass on the music this time.

THE TEA PARTY: "Seven Circles" 9

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 September 2005

It has been four years since their last album and now these Canadian rockers come back with a great new album. It is their 6th and it is called “Seven Circles” and it is in fact a return to their fist two albums. The Tea Party goes back to their rock basics, so you could call this a full circle album…..

The opening song “Writing’s On The Wall” has a prominent bass line and it rocks like hell with the vocals very similar to Ian Ashbury of the Cult. “Stargazer” has a kind of British sound and features a catchy chorus, raw and screaming vocals and a rather addictive rhythm. As “The Edge of Twilight” (1995) is my favorite Tea Party album I rather fancy songs like “Seven Circles” (filled with Oriental sounds and amazing guitar solos) and “Coming Back Again” (a song with an infectious groove and great slide guitar melodies).

Also remarkable is the power ballad “The Watcher”, an outstanding track with emotional singing and lots of musical highlights. The guitar driven, but somehow “commercial” “Wishing You Would Stay” could probably become a radio hit, resulting in the final breakthrough of this great, but still underestimated band. Check this album out and play it LOUD, but be warned as it might become an addictive album!!

Hanna PAKARINEN: "Stronger" 7

Sony BMG 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
19 September 2005

The first Finnish "Idol" Hanna Pakarinen had a huge hit album with her debut, and now she's back with her second effort. It has already proved to be quite popular, having shipped gold a week after its' release. This time Hanna & her producers went for a more rock-oriented sound, and indeed they succeeded in that - this album rocks decidedly more than the debut. Even the album artwork reflects that, with Hanna looking fashionably "gothic" in the front cover.

The album kicks off with two of the strongest (heh...) tracks, "Out Of Tears" and "Stronger Without You". They are both rather fine modern melodic rock tracks penned by swedish songwriters (as are most of the tracks of the album). Great hooks and suitably emotional vocals from Miss Pakarinen. Awesome stuff, but...

It all goes downhill after the excellent start. Not that much, but in this case a little is enough. Apart from the catchy pop rocker "Kiss Of Life", none of the remaining songs possess as much charm as the first two. We've got a few ballads (the Aerosmith-like "Damn You" being the most memorable), uptempo rockers (the surprisingly heavy "One Way Or Another" sounds like Britney Spears gone metal!) and stuff in between, mostly likeable but somehow a bit pale in comparison to the highlights. They form a solid backbone to the album though, and there's only one track on the CD that is really below par - the annoyingly monotonous "We Don't Speak". It reminds me of Gwen Stephani, and that ain't no good thing...

All in all, I like the new rockier direction on "Stronger", and Hanna sounds like she's rather comfortable with it. If only there had been a couple of more really great tracks, I would have happily given this a higher rating. Still, considering that I was a bit too generous with the first album (I guess "6" would have been enough for it), we're talking about an improvement.

BOYSTOWN: "Angels With Dirty Faces" 7

IronHorse 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 September 2005

This is definitely a product of the mid-80's New Jeresy sound with Bon Jovi and "Slippey When Wet" as their main inspiration. Boystown were local heroes and house band at the Orchard Groove bar in North Bergen, during that flashy and colourful period of time/era. They sure had some success as well as songs like "I Need Shelter" and "Get Up" (both included on this disc), were featured on "21 Jump Street" (Johnny Depp). Other songs appeared on HBQ and Showtime in films like 'A Brilliant Disguise" and 'In The Kingdom Of The Blind'. They also did a small U.K. tour back in the days, even if they never "really" got past the N.J. bar-band status.

But hey, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being local heroes and they sure had a bunch of classy songs such as "Oil And Water", "House Of Glass", "Something In The Way You Touch", etc, etc. It's also quite difficult to see past the Bon Jovi influences... and hey, that's not much to complain about either as they sure could have picked a much worse source for their inspiration. So what if the closing track "Throw Your Hands Up", is basically a mix of Bon Jovi's "I'd Die For You" and "Lay Your Hands On Me".

David Polemeni is a strong, classy, melodic hardrock vocalist, and the entire band contributes with fat layered harmonies and dut-dut keys. Again, if you enjoy the basic "80's" structure of other releases during 2005 (Blanc Faces, Matrix), you pretty much need to check this out as well. Find out more at their offical site or listen and buy the CD at:

ENEMIES: "Behind Enemy Lines" 7

Locomotive Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 September 2005

This Swedish band was founded in 2001 and this is their debut album. If you like/love bands like Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and Rose Tattoo then you will probably like this CD as well. It is dirty rock and roll all over the place with up tempo rhythms, greasy grooves, dirty riffs and sometimes screaming vocals.

The opener “Power train” therefore rocks like a friggin' freight train which makes it difficult to just sit and listen to this music. It really is that kind of music that will do well on festivals, as most of the 11 songs swing like bloody hell. There are even musical resemblances with a band like Velvet Revolver although I rather think that Enemies has the possibility to grow musically and become better in the near future.

A really nice musical surprise, from Sweden again, and I am really looking forward to hear these alive and kicking. For lovers of dirty rock and roll almost a must!

KARO: "Heavy Birthday" 6

MTM-Music 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
19 September 2005

Karo's "Heavy Birthday" was originally released back in the late eighties, and it has since earned the status of a "cult classic". For years, it's been one of the more sought-after CDs of the genre, and the fact that it's been so hard to find has probably made it just a bit more "classic" than it actually deserves to be. Anyway, now the good folks at MTM-Music have reissued it with two bonustracks, so it shouldn't be that hard to find anymore.

Karo's style is very close to other German AOR acts of the late eighties - Dominoe, Karo and Craaft, to name a few. Bouncy, upbeat melodic rock tracks with quite high-pitched vocals from Lutz Salzwedel (also known as Dan Lucas, a solo artist whose "Canada" album is highly recommended!). The best tracks are on the first half of the album, with opening track "Wanna Be Loved" probably being the best one of the bunch. In fact, it's so good that the label has chosen to include two additional versions of it as bonus tracks...

The second half of the album is clearly a lot less appealing, in fact the last five tracks (the bonuses notwithstanding) are all rather mediocre. Especially "Out On The Line" sounds like a leftover from a Quiet Riot CD or something, with Salzwedel screaming his head off. Many of the original copies of this album were probably sold as vinyl records, and I have a funny feeling that people who bought it didn't play the B-side that often...

As mentioned earlier, the bonustracks are two alternative versions of "Wanna Be Loved". The 2005 version is a slowed down one, and the acoustic version is pretty much the 2005 version with acoustic instruments. Not too much added value really.

PERSUADER: "The Hunter" 6

Dockyard 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 September 2005

This album was already released in 2000! This edition features two bonus tracks “Escape” and “Cursed”, both are demo versions from Persuader’s “Visions And Dreams” demo. Their music can be best described as old-fashioned metal like Helloween and especially Iron Maiden. The riffs, the melodies and the rhythms definitely bring back memories of Maiden in their early days.

“Heart And Steel” has a déjà vu feeling and is almost a Maiden ripp off song as the twin guitars dominate this song from beginning till the end. It is not a bad album, but ever so predictable and I have heard it all before and then so much better...

The best song is the instrumental track called “Secrets”, a song with excellent guitar solos and melodies, the rest is just sheer metal, hard rock like so many bands played and still play; nothing special, so it will be forgotten very quickly...

DYECREST: "This Is My World" 5

Dockyard 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 September 2005

Again a rather redundant album filled with mid tempo heavy metal/power metal songs. The drums are pounding all over the place, the typical “high” vocals get on my nerves and the guitar riffs and solos are so well-known and typical of this sort of music. The clichés are all over this album, even the obligatory ballad “Took My Will To Feel” is present.

So, I have heard it all before, just listen to songs like “Man Who Was Me” and “Dream Of Crown” and you get that Spinal Tap deja-vu feeling all over again… These guys know how to play their music, but it so unoriginal and cliché like that I can hardly listen to this album more than once...

If I take a look at the strange song titles, like “Dream Of Crown”, “Credulous Soul” or “Took My Will To Feel” I wonder were these guys have learned English...

SHE'S CHINA: "Odyssey To Mars" 2

Point Music 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
20 September 2005

This German rock band calls itself progressive, but after listening to this album a few times I was really amazed how boring and redundant certain albums can be. From the beginning till the end the album is filled with soundscapes, acoustic guitar parts and rather strange vocals. Every song sounds the same and there is nothing progressive about She’s China’s music whatsoever.

I had really problems staying awake during the entire album, as the music does not seem to come alive….Most horrible track was “When A Blind Man Cries” during which a female voice howls and cries in an awful way for at least three minutes!!!

I had never heard of this band before I got this CD to review and I certainly hope that they will never make a new album again. A waste of time and space...

KING'S X: "Ogre Tones" 9

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 September 2005

Their last two albums “”Manic Moonlight”(2001) and “Black Like Sunday”(2003) were not really my favorite King’s X records, so I was rather skeptical when I was listening to their 11th studio album called “Ogre Tones”. But I am glad that the Texan groove trio has returned to their musical roots with this new CD. “Ogre Tones” is probably one of the best albums of their career, as it is an example of intelligent, varied and imaginative rock, on which Gaskill, Pinnick and Tabor combine superb skills, great compositions and excellent production. Sound maestro Michael Wagener, who has worked for instance with Alice Cooper, Dokken and Extreme, had a very positive impact on this CD. The band could concentrate on the music only and that is something that really paid off.

The album kicks off with a scream before the smashing guitar riff sets the tone for the fantastic rocking opener called „Alone”. Follow up „Stay” is a mid tempo song with a heavy chorus and it is a very recognisable King’s X track on which these guys seem to have a patent. „Fly” features a classic heavy dirty rock and roll guitar riff with great vocals and lots of typical King’s X community singing. The most unlikely track on this album is without any doubt „Bepop” on which Pinnick is almost rapping and the guitar walls almost blow you away. The chorus however is rather catchy and poppy, but check out the end of the weirdest King’s X song so far....

“Open My Eyes” proves that these guys are the riff masters, as this one is really groovy, dark and heavy. “Sooner Or Later” is the longest track and that one is filled with cool grooves and riffs, magical vocals and a heavenly dirty wah-wah guitar solo of more than 4 minutes. This one is really my favorite of the album. Sadly there is also one great disappointment, namely the dreadful acoustic song “Honesty”. The rest however is sheer magic, so I can truly say that the groove masters are back with a vengeance! As an added bonus, “Ogre Tones” includes a multi media section with videos for two of the album tracks, “Alone” and “If”. Initial pressings of the album will also come in a stylish slipcase.

IMAGINERY: "Long Lost Pride"

Lion Music 2005
Review by The Bailey Brothers,
15 September 2005

"Hypnotized" kicks off with a cool Asian feel, then a Kiss “Love Gun” style snare bashing intro from drummer Mark Adrian. Following the same rhythm feel as the intro the band power their way towards the first verse with Kick drum a snarling and guitar plectrums on fire this ain’t going to be no wishy washy melodic rock album that’s for sure. Just when you expect the death, doom, scare the shit out of you all demonic bogie man vocals up pops Bjorn Jansson (Swedish dandruff shakers will know of him from the band Tears Of Anger). It’s a very melodic start to the vocal proceedings which sit nicely on top of a mix of big chords and chunky intricate guitar riffs. Follow this by an Ozzy, Zak Wilde style bridge and you’re all set for the big chorus, well should be, but they opt for a typical Malmsteen tried and tested party piece. There’s no party hat for me just yet. Twice round the block boys but hey then it gets really interesting, a Rainbow style pre solo and then it's guitar city. There’s a mix of unbelievably fast and beautifully melodic guitar solos, they even throw in a keyboard solo just to show off then back in with the chorus and the Kiss “Love Gun” style outro and hey, crack out the Jack Daniels it’s showtime. There are a few guest guitar players doing solos on this album - Gus G, Marcel Coenen and Michael Harris. We only have the promo copy and no sleeve notes to see who’s doing what? Let’s just say that Hypnotized kicks serious guitar playing ass.

Once again the track "The Sign Of Today" is very much guitar orientated but a bit too ad hoc of an arrangement for me at times. The pre solo or to none players, that bit before the guitar solo starts is really happening, very Freak Kitchen and then it’s a race to be the fastest guitar shredder in town trip. You can’t knock the musicianship. Man, they are as tight as a ducks arse, so as our local Policeman would say “Move on Bailey”. "When All is Gone" opens up with a bucket full of melodic vocal harmonies and the words “When All Is Gone”. Then nothing like you would expect musically just a simple guitar melody but once again they dip into the well of groove. Vocalist Bjorn Jansson more or less out on his own with the drums and an unusual sort of synth bass sound, lyrically he has much to say and vocally projects his story with conviction. Don’t you just love it when the guitars come crashing in? Jansson responds with a more Graham Bonnet Style vocal over the guitar and keyboard stabs, then the ace card, a corking chorus. Really sing a long typical 80’s and very effective. The guitar solo starts off melodic but once again we are destined for Arpeggio city, definitely no need as the last part of the guitar solo combined with the start would have been sufficient. Minor detail as the song out weighs any negative vibe and already this album has you reaching for the volume button.

The Nightmare Of Kain is a very up tempo, loads of kick drum a good use of stop start pieces, great melodic harmony guitar parts, Excellent Graham Bonnet style chorus. Sounds easy on paper but as Batman may say “Don’t try this at home kids”! (Not unless you are willing to go through the pain barrier). "Roughly Scratched But Alive" opens up with a melodic lead guitar intro and into a cool verse section...Imagine Muhammad Ali (boxing legend) flicking out that jab and then think big in your face guitars every time it hits the opponents chin. Ok now put a bed of keyboards underneath and you have the point of entry for the vocals. Very catchy. I dig the bridge section which is typical John Sykes, a very rhythmic picking action skipping over the strings faster than a refugee over the English Channel. The 80’s rock freaks should be belting out the chorus “Roughly Scratched But Alive”. It is a bizarre song title but actually turned out to be one of the most melodic choruses and songs on the album. Some really cool guitar work not the best solo on the album but works ok. Some good introduction of strings etc A well put together song goes on a bit but so does this review.

Korozom (The Lord of Evil) is a James Bond movie style theme, it cuts through the speaker cone like a knife through butter, then a rat a tat tat machine gun guitar riff. Expecting to dive for cover but surprisingly the chords open out and Bjorn Jansson unveils an impressive array of top notch vocals Once again this song hinges on cool rhythm licks, powerful vocals and interesting production input such as voice effects and choice of instruments like the string section. Good change of tempos and a well balanced song. "Peace Of Mind" - Nice harmony guitar intro followed by a distorted sound on the vocals. Sung over a clean backing sound (that’s a nice touch). The song picks up tempo as Jansson has a bit of a Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) moment, only briefly but hey this album ain’t just about the vocals. The guitars are fast but thankfully they have melody. Doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the album but a great ending.

Blind Eyes starts with a typical early Metallica style intro but then a more up tempo stabbing approach (not in the back) a fast train zipping over the tracks with Bjorn Jansson at the wheel. The view is very similar to what’s been before with Malmsteen springing to mind. "Dark Angel" is added as a bonus track but it's not in the same league as the rest of the album, in terms of production and content. “Long Lost Pride” bows out with an epic, a haunting drone followed by a tasty guitar lick then a cool guitar solo which sounds like it’s pushed through a wha wha pedal. It came to an abrupt ending for some reason as Bjorn Jansson once again takes to the microphone and he’s definitely got his David Coverdale head on. A low rich vocal works well on this track. During the chorus you get a good over view into his vocal range which not for the first time is impressive. There’s a cool section stripped down to a clean guitar that should have been left with out the big guitar sound. It would have made the cool pre solo riff even more impressive. (think way back to early Rush) The guitar solo is just what’s required, not an arpeggio (Malmsteen trademark) in sight and blends straight back into the chorus. This sucker rocks.

Summary: This album has more balls than a field full of Buffalo! We don’t like to pigeon hole bands especially when Imaginery should appeal to quite an array of rock and power metal fans. Production wise, there’s the odd vocal drop in to a trained ear and maybe some songs could have been trimmed down for a better arrangement but none of that concerns your average pussy cat. Lasse Mattsson (head of Lion Music) got Bob Katsionis hooked up with Vocalist Bjorn Jansson who was excellent through out this CD. The playing is tight; the guitars are melodic, great riffs and the right choice of instrumentation adding colour and feel.

If I were you kids I would stop making tents and squeezing spots, hire a bouncy castle and put it on the back lawn. Get your mates round, crack open the beer and stick Long Lost Pride on full blast. A bit irresponsible maybe but we used to think it was cool to stick your head in Lemmy’s bass bin at a Motorhead gig so we are far too old to die young. I’m not a born again Christian but definitely a Bjorn again Jansson fan after hearing this refreshing release from Imaginery and at last I got my party hat on. Cheers metal heads!

The RASMUS: "Hide From The Sun" 8

Playground 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 September 2005

How to record a follow-up album to such a remarkable success story as "Dead Letters"??? Well, you either take a completely different road and/or new direction... or you simply stick to your guns and sweat it out. "Hide From The Sun" does feature the old Rasmus signature infectious rock sound (phew, I need a fresh breath of air), topped off with Lauri's smoldering vocal and everything.

The arrangements, however, display more contrast between the "poppy" melodies and the intense, heavy (or heavier), guitarwork and gothic influences. Nontheless, just when you thought it was safe to groove into the seriously depressed Goth-Pop of opener "Shot", Rasmus throw a spanner into the works with the hugely catchy "No Fear", that also happens to be the first single. "There's a injection of Muse-like drama and soundwise, we were more confident in what we wanted, this time more than ever" says guitarist Pauli. Well, they only should by now considering that "Hide From The Sun" is their 6th album release (not the 2nd, even though most of Europe will probably think so).

They've been experimenting with light and shade to produce attention-grabbing soundscapes with cutting and drak lyrical themes of hiding and escaping. "Dead Promises" features string arrangements by Apocalyptica (the string-act that first came to fame covering Metallica songs), and "Lucifer's Angel" is Finnish Goth-Pop at its finest. The lyrics are really haunting and morbid at times and there's at least some thought behind lines like "behind those eyes lies the truth and grief, behind those beautiful smiles, I've seen tragedy". I'm not sure about all that written stuff about "drinking blood" and such though. Bottomline: a little bit darker, a little bit heavier, but still jam-packed with enough of pop melodies to lure the average 13-year-old lassie, to run like the wind to the nearest CD store with tears running down her cheeks. I must say that I definitely prefer this to "Dead Letters", and tracks like "Immortal" or "Heart Of Misery", should be able to attract attention from any goth-rocker really. Nice work.

SIEGES EVEN: "The Art Of Navigating By The Stars" 8

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 September 2005

“Sophisticated”(1995) is still the best album of the German progressive rock band called Sieges Even. Now, eight years after retiring from the music scene they make a comeback with their 6th studio album “The Art Of Navigating By The Stars”. In 2005 the band still consists of Alex Holzwarth (drums), Oliver Holzwarth (bass guitar) and Markus Steffen (guitars). New is vocalist Arno Menses, a Dutch guy from Rotterdam, who really sets the tone for the “new” musical style of Sieges Even. Menses is a vocalist that simply commands your attention. Like for instance in the complex epic “The Weight”, where his vocals burst forth in a rich chorus leaving the listener awestruck at his vocal possibilities.

“The Lonely Views Of Condors” is a real progressive rock song with lots of melodic guitar melodies, stunning vocals and especially the rhythm section is at its peak here. “Unbreakable” has some slight oriental influences and sometimes reminds me of The Tea Party. Steffen’s sophisticated guitar solo dominates this song. “Stigmata” has a first-rate proggy melody and now Sieges Even shows musical resemblances with the Dutch band called Ricocher, especially the vocals and the guitar lines sound almost alike. “Blue Wide Open” is a dreary track with only vocals and acoustic guitar; a song that almost bored me to death...

The last three tracks on this album are all harmonious ballad like symphonic rock songs with enjoyable guitar solos and lots of remarkable melodies. However they tend to sound alike too much, making it hard to listen to these songs without skipping one….. The highlight of this entertaining comeback album is without any doubt “The Weight”, however it is a shame that, that one is the opening track and the rest of the material cannot really match that one!

SAVAGE CIRCUS : "Dreamland Manor" 7

Dockyard/Soulfood 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
15 September 2005

Actually I only liked one album of Blind Guardian and the rest is just sheer very fast power metal. This debut CD of Savage Circus is also filled with very fast power metal tracks, but at certain times the tempo changes, which makes this album more diverse than the last Guardian albums.

Founder and musical leader of this new band is drummer Thomen Stauch (ex-Guardian). „Dreamland Manor” is a step back to the basics of power metal; as Blind Guardian tends to become more and more orchestral and epic, this band goes back to the basics. This means: very loud, pounding double bass drums, razor sharp guitar riffs and power metal melodies in the best possible ways.

Highlights of this album are the semi ballad „Beyond Reality”, „It – The Gathering” and „Evil Eyes”; both very fast songs with great grooves, majestic choirs and amazing melodies. It truly is a great power metal album and the fans of Blind Guardian probably will love this one. I think that this debut is okay, but musically speaking it is rather predictable and too much of the same; fast, faster, fastest. It certainly is not good for your neck to listen to this album too much!

XCARNATION: "Grounded" 6

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

Xcarnation is a project by the multi-talanted Cenk Eroglu - born in Istanbul/Turkey as the son of an accomplished conductor, arranger, and jazz pianist. Cenk released his first solo album in 1991 and has since produced many albums in Turkey and worked as a composer/producer/musician. Xcarnation is the outcome of a long-coming progressive rock process with several guest musicians: Kip Winger (Winger), Rod Morgenstein (Winger, Dixie Dregs), Rob Beach (Winger, Fiona, Dokken, Whitesnake), and Pat Mastellotto (King Crimson).

"Grounded" is very much the work of Eroglu and his special blend of "traditional" prog-rock, eastern influences, turkey's folk music, and a healthy dose of modern (hi-tech) music. Expect a lot of complex segments with several interludes and overall changes in tempo. You need to be really open minded and not afraid to explore new ground here as Eroglu quickly swifts from prog, to industrial soft rock, to hi-tech pop, and back to prog again.

"Reason To Believe" is a duet with Kip Winger and the song is actually like a more progressive version of "Seal", if you still can remember the tall, scared, musican of the 90's. Add to this traditional Turkish instruments such as Kawala and Ney Flute, and you know you're in for something rather different and out of the ordinary release at Frontiers. Closing track "Pictures" is like a out-of-earth mix of prog-rock 'ala RPWL and a wimpier version of Marilyn Manson. Try the Xcarnation if you're into dark, and really experimental prog-rock with programming and synth patterns. I find this to be nice "background" music, however, I do miss a couple of more memorable melodies and choruses in the end.

PLACE VENDOME: "Place Vendome" 6

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

The Place Vendome is a fine and interesting project on paper, that unfortunately didn't quite live up to its name and reputation in the flesh. I was really looking forward to this release as it holds the mighty Michael Kiske (Helloween) as lead vocalist. I'm a major fan of the two "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums and I sure hoped for something similar, well, when it comes to quality songwriting and such. The CD includes songs set to follow a straight melodic rock sound, "comparable to bands like Foreigner and Journey" according to Kiske. I can't say that I agree about his description... this has absolutely nothing to do with Foreigner... and Journey??? Well... a couple of tracks are quite similar to SHY and their two latest albums (Unfinished Business/ Sunset & Vine).

Tracks like "I Will Be Gone" and "The Setting Sun", reminded me more of SILVER (the project with Gary Barden - MSG), and then you have the strong connection to Pink Cream 69. Production duties are handled by Pink Cream 69's Dennis Ward, with songs written on purpose for the record by Ward and his bandmates David Readman and Alfred Koffler, with contributions from Günther Werno of Vandenplas. Indeed, in a ironic twist of fate Kiske found himself working with members of PC 69, while their original singer (Andy Deris) became his replacement in Helloween.

You can't ignore the smashing and intense rock of opener "Cross The Line" or the following "I Will Be Waiting", since they're both catchy and fun melodic hardrock numbers. "Heavens Door" is on the other hand a really poor and cheesy ballad to be honest, "Right Here" is another return to the Silver sound, while the titletrack is guitardriving uptempo song in the style of Hardline/PC 69. Final verdict: Place Vendome end up somewhere between "ok" and "not too shabby" with a couple of real killer tracks.

Philip BARDOWELL: "In The Cut" 9

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
13 September 2005

Philip Bardowell, the lead vocalist of Unruly Child and Magdalen recently teamed up with Swedish producer Tommy Denander. The result of that is "In The Cut", his first solo album. With the assistance of Mr. Frontiers, Serafino Perugino, the guys have put together a rather fine selection of AOR songs. Denander's production is top-notch, and I'm glad to say that the album has more identity of its own that some of his previous projects.

Although the songs come from various writers, the album doesn't sound like a mixed bag of goodies. That's not to say that there isn't variety, but somehow there seems to be a thread to follow...what's also worth mentioning is that apart from Mark Spiro's excellent "Through My Eyes", none of these songs have been previously recorded by other artists (as far as I know).

Among the ten tracks featured, you can find a few seriously brilliant ones: "Never Too Late For Love" might just be THE AOR track of the year, and Jim Peterik's fine ballad "Voices Of The Heart" is one of the best I've heard this year as well. Speaking of Peterik, he also provides "Dreamin' With My Eyes Wide Open", which can be described as an uplifting, feel-good AOR song.

Another well-known AOR writer Stan Bush has donated a couple of songs too. "Heart Of A Hero" isn't one of his greatest ones (and he already has a song called "Hero Of The Heart"!), but the ballad "I Gotta Believe" is very good. Bardowell's own songs "She Will Never Know" and "In The Cut" (co-written by Denander) have nothing to be ashamed next to the songs from these name songwriters, both are good tracks. I must also mention the fine AOR track "It's A Long Road" from Bobby Barth and Bruce Nazarian, and Neil Ives' "One Day In January" which is more in the vein of contemporary melodic pop rock...and there we go, I've gone through all of them!

As far as traditional AOR goes, this album will be hard to top when I start looking back at 2005. Had there been just one or two more real killers, I may have given this the full points!

JADED HEART: "Helluva Time" 8

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
13 September 2005

"Helluva Time"? I'm sure it has been just that for Jaded Heart during the last year or so. The band's lead singer and main songwriter Michael Bormann was fired last year, and that probably made many people rather sceptical about their future. But whaddaya know, it appears that there's still life in this ol' Heart, and with a new excellent vocalist Johan Fahlberg in tow, they are back in a big way!

I have to assume that the songwriting dominance of Bormann on the previous albums wasn't necessarily what the band wanted. The other members have stepped up to the plate and come up with some rather fine hard rock songs, including a couple of real gems that are among the best JH songs ever. Opener "Tomorrow Comes" is one of them, a mighty fine melodic anthem that instantly proves that the band is still in top form. The other gem is "Dreams You'll Never See", a deliciously melodic rocker with a strong "scandi-AOR" vibe. In fact, the first 7 songs of the album are all fine material. If it wasn't for the last few tracks (the rather fine "No One" not withstanding) which leave me a little cold, I wouldn't have hesitated in rating this album even higher.

The album has been produced by the band themselves with Chris Lausmann, and I have to hand it to the guys - it sounds really great. And I mean GREAT, not "great for a small label release" - this album can compete with the big releases too. If you want proof, just listen to the band's version of Anastacia's "Paid My Dues", which blows the original completely out of the water...


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 31-36/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 31-36/05 * * * * *
Allen - Lande, Flagship, Alien, Majestic Vanguard, Seether, Paul Gilbert's DVD, Aina , Nevermore , Machine Men, Coram Lethe, The Black Dahlia Murder, Spock's Beard, Saga, Stryper, Black Majesty, John Taglieri, Pendragon, Midnight Circus, Biohazard, Crash Diet, Totalisti, Motorhead DVD, Dictators, Travers Appice, L.A. Guns, Metal Mania Stripped, Richard Andersson, Waltham, Carptree, S.I.N., Nuclear Assault, Jet Circus, Emerald Rain, Eden Lost, Jizzy Pearl, Marc Rizzo, Bogart's Touch and a "String Cheese Incident".


* * * * * 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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