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A TRAITOR LIKE JUDAS: "Nightmare Inc." 7

Dockyard 1 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
23 December 2005

Cradle Of Filth, In Flames and Children Of Bodom blended makes A Traitor Like Judas, the furious and powerful act from Germany, who’ve been around for years. Not a bad release from a band, who’s got other releases out and aren’t just about brutality, but about melody as well, though their music isn’t focused around beautiful subjects and musical parts. It’s fastness and rage that drives this band.

As tight and intensive as they are with all the thrash elements and brutally screaming vocals and modern sounds, which all put together make one fine offering, the band still lacks outstanding, personal material which would make them more listener friendly. The band also plays the album through in same speed, without adding much of those important tricky and sticky parts where one gets the kicks out of. The vocals, though sounding convincing enough with rage, don’t have enough range to give the songs that needed variety which would make this much more interesting.

”Nightmare Inc.” is a very angst-driven release, which when played live will definately make movement in the crowd with its energyspills. The monotonic material on the album just doesn’t do justice for the skilled band, which otherwise has a good and inspiring attitude. Still, they have a good start here to continue from, so they’re a band to keep an eye and an ear out for.
A Traitor Like Judas

UFO: "Showtime" 6

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

UFO's "Showtime" is a 2-CD release, recorded live in concert at Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on the 13th of May, 2005. It's actually a live recording that does capture the band in fine form and stamina (considering their age and all those waysted years and blackouts). Seriously, it's a rather powerful performance which contains pretty much all of their hits. The new boys Vinnie Moore (guitars) and Jason Bonham (drums) fits the bill with style and comes through with full marks. Phil Mogg still sings like in the "heydays" and you'll even notice how David Coverdale borrowed some stuff from the man, simply check out "Love To Love", from the 1977 album "Lights Out", and you''ll know what I'm talking about.

UFO has never been a band who allowed the machinations of those around them to take away anything from their own musical standards and ideas. On the other hand... it hasn't always been about brainstorming and "great" ideas when it comes down to these rock personalities and their massive drug and booze consumption in the past. It's actually quite difficult to understand how they managed to record that many fine albums between the years of 1974 to 1982. Yep, those were the days my friend, and oldies such as "Only You Can Rock Me", "Too Hot Too Handle", "Lights Out", "Rock Bottom", "Doctor Doctor", and "Shoot Shoot", are still their best work.

Bottomline: I'd rather recommend you all to go and see them live and buy the studio albums of the past. However, if you're into live albums, you surely can't go all wrong with UFO and "Showtime".


Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 December 2005

"Hero" is the second Divinefire CD of the year and it's unfortunately a small disappointment and let down really. I thought very highly of the first one (Glory Thy Name - see review elsewhere) as it was overall a bombastic metal album with choirs and vocal harmonies not of this earth. There's some really fine Rhapsody meets Stryper kind of tracks included here as well (Secret Weapon, Divinefire, Hero, United As One, New Beginning), but it doesn't quite reach the same standard and quality of their previous release.

It's far from a lousy or lacklustre production though and the double-bass drumming and vocal performance(s) by Christian Rivel (Narnia, Modest Attraction, Borderline) is nothin' but excellent. However, to include a short intro track, a rather dodgy cover ("The Show Must Go On" - Queen), and a instrumental track (Cryptic Passages), among their new original numbers, leaves us with merely seven (7) Divinefire songs. Keep also in mind that a couple of them are fillers and hardly worth the trouble in the first place.

Let's give Divinefire the benifit of the doubt with this album and let's hope "Hero" was a learning experience. I rather have one great, new, CD, every second or even third year, than something that has been recorded quickly and in a haste. Think of "Hero" as a EP instead of a CD release and you'll end up with five fine songs after all.

GODIVA: "CAll Me Under 666" 6

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

Godiva's "Call Me Under 666" should have been reviewed months ago here at RockUnited. Well, to keep a long story short, it didn't, mostly and mainly due to some major misunderstanding (lot's of "M" words there). However, the Swiss' metal act appearantly decided to hire former Victory vocalist Fernando Garcia, when he decided to leave MTM's Wicked Sensation after merely a year and last years "Exceptional" CD.

What Godiva have recorded is a not too shabby, "old fashioned", heavy metal album in the mid-80's style and formula. Yep, with lyrics and killer lines such as "My Fist In Your Face", "The Flight Of The Dragon", and "Proud To Be A Beast", you already know what to expect somehow. They have managed to keep it rather "catchy" at times though and some of these tracks are v-e-r-y similar to Wicked Sensation, especially "When Lightning Strikes", that as easily could have been a "Exceptional" number. The rest of the material follows the basic song structure of any The Rods, Racer X, or Judas Priest album, "Soulkiller" is basically Godiva's version of Judas Priest's "Night Crawler" and "Maneater" is a really dodgy number in the worst tradition of Manowar.

To be blunt, there are moments on this CD that are just plain boring. Having said that, one of the better songs of the album is the titletrack, and the biggest surprise surely must be the excellent power ballad "Free My Soul".

Phil VINCENT: "Unknown Origin"

PV Music BMI 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 December 2005

"Thanks For Nothin" kicks off the new Phil Vincent CD and it's a slightly more aggressive and angry Phil than in the past. The guitar driven uptempo rocker will have you thinking about Velocity and their debut album at MTM music (Impact - 1998). There's no need to worry though, "Unknown Origin", continues in the "Vincent" formula of the past... only with more guitars upfront and the keys will simply have to take a step back in the mix this time. OK, to be frank, the keyboards had to take twelve steps back and is now living in the guest house along with uncle fester and cousin it. It's guitars, guitars, more guitars.... and then... perhaps... some keys in the background.

Well, that's at least what I first noticed and thought while listening to "Unknown Origin", heck... there's even a track named "Shotgun Messiah" here... even if it's hardly about the Swedes. I'll have to say that Vincent has kept himself relevent to the scene here by adding some melodic METAL aggression to his already palatable style. "Goin' Through The Motions" could not have been further from the truth as he's demonstrating a total lack of fear of real metal and proves once and for all that he can rock out with the big boys. "Fight From The Inside" comes out sounding like... and I kid you not... Paul Stanley during "Carnival Of Souls"...

"Dear Friend" is the most AOR friendly tune of the album and it's a catchy little number with keys and everything. "Never Gonna Let You Go" had me thinking about later days DOKKEN during the verses, the refrain is however more in the AOR tradition and sing-a-long friendly. "Make No Mistakes" continues on a similar path as it opens up with a riff 'ala Dokken during the 90's and during this very century. OK, far from everything that glitters is gold, the production and especially the drums, could have been way bigger and better, but... it's a pleasant surprise, and definitely more in the style of Velocity and Dokken than his true and blue AOR of the past. Final verdict: keep on spanking the plank as you can't go wrong with loud guitars after all.

LOCOMOTIVE BREATH: "Change Of Track" 5

LionMusic 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
17 December 2005

The absolutely best thing about Locomotive Breath is the excellent guitarwork of Janne Stark. The former Overdrive member goes through all the scales and various moster riffs like a possessed demon with its tail on fire. Indeed, there's some truly inspiring licks in the old school of Randy Rhoades and Michael Schenker to be found here. The two ex-Fate guitarists Hermann Sherman (also ex-Mercyful Fate) and Mattias La Eklundh (Freak Kitchen) guest appears on the album's instrumental tune (Gargleblaster), which also turns out to be a bombastic guitar armageddon. Opener "H.M.M." certainley remains all the Loco' hallmarks of the past, being a excellent driving hardrocker with a infectious guitar riff.

You can also add that new lead vocalist Mattias Osbäck is a solid frontman with a strong set of pipes. Nonetheless, "Change Of Track" is overall a patchy affair, which sort of lurches drunkenly along from left to right and from highs to lows. Bottomline: It's quite obvious that other Swede' acts such as Talisman and Freak Kitchen are doing this kind of music much better and with more stamina and grace. Stark is a bonafide string bender with a warm and classy tone and technical approach, however, I'm still not convinced about his songwriting skill.

Henning PAULY: "Mother's Ruin" 3

ProgRockRec. 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 December 2005

Well, excuse me, however, when you name your record label "Prog Rock Records", you kind of expect the music content to be somewhat... "progressive"... right??? Sure, Henning Pauly is the mastermind behind both Frameshift and Chain, and there you have yet another rather important point with the whole she-bang of expectation(s) and disappointment(s). "Credit Where Credit Is Due" has absolutely nothing in common with Prog-Rock whatsoever... it's dark, modern metal, with industrial influences rather in the vein of Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson (not kidding).

Don't get me wrong... it's a great idea to record something that doesn't sound like Frameshift, since there's really no point in recording a solo effort that merely comes out sounding like your ordinary band thing. However, I'm not entirely sure you should release your CD at the "Prog Rock Records" label... it kind of leaves a bitter aftertaste, especially since your old fans expect it to be "Prog".... or???

It's a major showcase of heavy, industrial, drums sounds, and songs heavily inspired by videogames!!!??? Yep, there's even a tune with the suitable title of "I Like My Video Games", and not to mention "Halo", which is based around the music of the X-Box game. To be honest, it's a CD that leaves you rather puzzled and confused in the end. Sure, there's a couple of really fine tunes in between all that noise pollution, there's even "some" good, old, prog as well. Nevertheless, this is definitely a must-hear-before-you-buy kind of CD, you could end up really disappointed otherwise.

VANISHING POINT: "Embrace The Silence" 8

Dockyard1 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
11 December 2005

Going on their third album, Aussie band Vanishing Point have gone through some difficulties along the way after their ”Tangled In Dream” was released five years ago. It’s been a long wait, but I’m glad to say that ”Embrace The Silence” is worth the wait, making one rollercoaster ride of emotions, with sounds as great as on ”Tangled”. And the progressive, Dream Theater-like influences are still there, giving more kick to the songs. Eventhough being inspiring as a melancholic prog group, the band still makes very uplifting music, with a kinda twisted and longing feeling to it.

The mood stays true to the Vanishing Point sound, which this time around is much more relaxed and vast, yet still flowing with Chris Porcianko’s fine guitar work, backed up with as beautiful keyboard parts and those progressive elements. The band slows down a bit in ”Embraced”, which is a beautiful, atmosphearic song in the vein of Pink Floyd, and ends the album as beautifully with the keyboard driven, melancholic ”As I Reflect”, Silvio Massaro singing with a whole lot of emotion, added with a lot of other little things that all put together makes it a deeply moving experience. The rest of the album then rocks away with more or less drive and tempo.

At first the album sounds a little bit stereotypical to give away those special tracks immediately, but then again, ”Embrace The Silence” is much leaner than their previous one. The album grows bit by bit on you and each time it gets better too. The melodies and vocalwork from the whole band sound brilliant again. Vanishing Point has always had their own sound, which gives them away and from day one to this day their dreamy, atmosphearic sound is something I can only keep on listening with amazement. Hopefully they never change what makes them so unique and keep those emotions storming.
Vanishing Point

DREAMLAND: "Future’s Calling" 8

Dockyard 1 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
11 December 2005

From all the bands seeking after their idols sound or a certain sound, Dreamland sums up the essence of Hammerfall, their singer Joacim (also) having the Cans-like lungs as well. A band earlier named as Infinity, it’s ironic that Hammerfall singer Joacim Cans himself took this band under his wings already in 2002, but no wonder if there’s relation behind these two namesakes. Cans even did the background vocals for this album and shared the recording duties with Andy La Rocque. What came as a result is a fine power metal album, with more spacious sounds than Hammerfall and a little bit more of that eighties feeling to it.

Dreamland isn’t creating something new, but they still sound great. The whole album is filled with powerful songs, where melody and vocal arrangements make all a perfect match. They cover Stryper’s ”All For One” and their version is as lively and good as the original. Other catchy one is ”Fade Away”, a ballad with Elise Rydh as second vocalist and she sounds beautiful and makes the song sparkle. ”Future’s Calling” is a tricky rocker, but that’s what makes it interesting. Apart from the eighties influences, Dreamland has something similar to the Andi Deris fronted Helloween.

Dreamland is bombastic, they have sing-along songs where backing vocals are testosterone filled, typical for this genre, Joacim singing high and another Joacim doing the same, striking melodies and choruses making ”Future’s Calling” a fiery debut. Doesn’t necessarily raise huge emotions with the used sound and all, except the ballad maybe, but it’s still a good, bang your head to it-album.

MEDEA: "Room XVII" 7

Snakebite Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
12 December 2005

Two years ago Medea (solo project of brainchild and keyboard player Henry Meeuws) released its debut album called “Individual Unique”. As that CD really appealed to me I was looking forward to this second Medea album entitled “Room XVII”. It is a concept album, where past, present, fiction and non-fiction are closely interwoven and which deals with themes like schizophrenia and the Dutch history of the V.O.C.

Henry Meeuws (keys player of Dutch prog rock band Casual Silence) signed a record deal with Snakebite and he engaged a rather impressive cast of musicians, like for example Rob Laarhoven (Casual Silence), Joss Mennen (Zinatra, Mennen), Edwin Balogh (Ayreon), Rob van Stiphout (Say Six), Fon Janssen (Mennen) and Sandra Peeters (V-Male). “Room XVII” is a true rock opera with lots of bombastic musical elements, too many duets, amazing guitar solos/melodies and lots of other typical rock opera elements.

The best song on this rather disappointing album is the magnificent instrumental “Endless Knot”; a song filled with amazing guitar picking, very dreamy and very melodic indeed. The longest track “Chaos Solution” also features some mind-boggling guitar pieces, but also various string parts, emotional vocals and ballad-like melodies. What bothers me most about this album are the musical-like duets in songs like “Room XVII”, “Maiden Journey” or “My Dual Mind”. Those passages irritate me and are much too sweet for my prog rock ears; especially the voices of Jurian (Rob Laarhoven), Lavinia (Sandra Peeters) and the choirs tend to get on my nerves……. The best vocal performances are without any doubt those of Joss Mennen and Edwin Balogh, who lift some of the songs to a higher musical level. I truly like the first Medea release, but I have difficulties listening to this album in one take, especially a song like “Farewell?” is a hard musical nut for me, which I cannot crack…..Furthermore one could wonder if the prog rock world is ready for another rock opera, after all the Ayreon, Aina, Nostradamus and Leonardo projects?

AXXIS: "Paradise In Flames" 6

AFM Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
12 December 2005

“Paradise in Flames” is Axxis’ ninth album and in my humble opinion it is not their best release. Their previous CD called “Time Machine” (see our archives) was a great album that I rewarded with a splendid 8. On this new album the band is joined by female singer Lakonia and it is especially her input in songs like “Take My Hand” or “Dance With The Dead” that I truly dislike. However the absolute horror song on this album is the ballad “Don’t Leave Me”, a duet between Bernard Weiss and Lakonia reminding me of Andrew Lloyd f….. Webber.

The rest of the songs have those typical and well-known German rock clichés like: pounding double bass drums, bombastic orchestral arrangements, up tempo rhythms, who- ho- ho- choirs and far too many hymnal choruses and sing-along passages. Furthermore the voice of vocalist Bernard Weiss is still a love/hate thing and really nothing in between. And on this album I tend to “hate” his singing, especially in songs like “Will God Remember Me?” or “Gods Of Rain”.

The songs that I actually like – yes, there are a few – are “Dance With The Dead”(despite the female vocals), “Tales Of Glory Island” and “Ice Wind”. These are true up tempo metal tracks with interesting guitar solos, op tempo riffs and great choruses, although they sound a bit too much like Helloween, Edguy, or those other typical Kraut metal bands. Last but not least I would like to say that the song titles are very cliché and the cover is rather simplistic and maybe even pathetic….. I think, and I know, that these guys can do better and I think that they should get rid of the input of Lakonia as soon as possible! The limited edition digipack contains 2 additional audio bonus tracks, a screen saver and a studio making of a video clip.

Release date: 20-01-2006

ELVENKING: "The Winter Wake" 5

AFM Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
12 December 2005

“The Winter Wake” is the third album of Italian folk metal rockers Elvenking and I am not sure if I am the right person to review this album, but what the heck….. After listening to this album for a couple of times I really can say that this CD is not to my liking. It is folk metal with lots of violin parts – and I hate violin in rock music – too much singing, too many of the same riffs and melodies and far too many “happy” sing-along choruses. Damnagoras’s pronunciation is also something that bothers and irritates me a throughout the entire album and now and then he is joined by a female singer, who also sounds like a turned down Italian opera vocalist. This cooperation results in the absolute worst song of this CD called “On The Morning Dew”. A song with a folky intro, followed by flute, violin and horrible vocals, bringing back nightmares of bands like Steeleye Span or Fungus……

Another “highlight” is the short song “Disillusions Reel”, which only feature acoustic guitar and some nerve racking singing. However, you can also enjoy some power metal songs in the best tradition of Hammerfall, like for instance “Rats Are Following”, “Never ending Nights” or “The Wanderer”. Best song is “Trow’s Kind”, an up tempo power metal song with musical elements from Rhapsody, but unfortunately Elvenking does not live up to that high musical level during any of the other songs…..

Release date: 27-01-2006

REVIEWS OF WEEK 48-49/05 * REVIEWS OF WEEK 48-49/05 * REVIEWS OF WEEK 48-49/05
SYSTEM OF A DOWN: "Hypnotize" 8

Sony/Columbia 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 December 2005

"Banana banana banana terracotta, banana terracotta terracotta pie, banana banana banana terracotta, banana terracotta terracotta pie". Ehem, ok, the lyrics are obviously the work of a true "genius" with a slightly weird obssession for banana terracotta pie??? too much smoke that day??? or did they simply run out of ideas??? One thing's for sure though, "Vicinity Of Obscenity" is a fun, twisted, little tune, that Red Hot Chilipeppers as easily could have done in the past. I must also say that I enjoy the second System Of A Down release of the year more than the previous one (Mesmerize).

Indeed, "Hypnotize" is jam-packed with goofy ideas, crunching guitarwork, and overall fun melodies. Most of the material sticks like glue under your feet (unless you're rubber), once you've heard the opening minutes of "Attack", it'll stay with you forever. There's some very interesting song structures and patterns here and the production by Rick Rubin is crisp yet perfectly metal. I guess you either love ot hate the silly music of "Kill Rock'N Roll" and "She's Like Heroin", where the latter is like a wacky Frank Zappa tune in a dress. The lyrics goes in the way of "She wants nothing more than to be a little whore, he wants nothing less but to wear a little dress".

I've always enjoyed the fact that Malakian, Tankian, Odadjian & Dolmayan (Armenia rules?), don't take themselves too seriously. It's wacky, fun, music, with the crazyness of the loonie toons. They tend to get too screamy and darn right annoying during tracks like "U-Fig" and "Holy Mountains" though. They are almost like a bunch of hyperactive kids with too much "Coca Cola" and sweets in their hands. Nah, supply them with straightjackets and a really harsh, control-freak producer, next time, and maybe we'll finally get that "perfect" album from the boys. It's s till a really fine album though and this will definitely end up on my top list of 2005.

DOGPOUND: "A Night In The Gutter" 8

LionMusic 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 December 2005

"Captain Hook & Jesus" is a marvelous opener with a obvious wink and a special nod to the mighty Canucks of Rush. The Swede's of Dogpound do however have a identity and sound of their own as they mix Rush & King's X influences with fresh and modern rock of today. The sound they conjure up on "A Night In The Gutter" is far better and more concise than on their debut. I actually prefered some of their earlier demos than the final versions in the end (the actual CD production sounded way better of course).

I've been reading some weird and darn right funny reviews about this new CD though. Sure... most of the reviewers liked what they heard, but they've been comparing it with the likes of RATT and Lillian Axe???? and much worse. Well, take a quite listen at something like "Still My Heart" or "Sail On", and you will instantly hear their influences and source of inspiration. Add to this a rhythm section that simply pours out wicked bass lines and fills in the groovy, yet complex, world of King's X... and even Rush at times.

Above this you have the soaring vocals of Hea and the very melodic, yet, crunchy guitar work of Micke. "In Another Lifetime" has one of the catchiest hooks you'll ever witness during 2005. The easy way out to describe Dogpound would be one third each of the following ingredients: King's X, Freak Kitchen, Rush. Add a dose each of typical, Swedish, melodic hairmetal of the 80's & groovy modern hardrock of today and you're very close to the core... in my humble opinion of course. Special tip: if you like this, check also out the Canadian act: "24 Unity". Now how about signing them to your label, LionMusic!!!???

SALEM HILL: "Mimi's Magic Moment" 8

ProgRockRec. 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 December 2005

This is obviously "Mimmi's Magic Moment" and at the same time Salem Hill's best musical moment so far. It's Prog-Rock for giant size and a major tribute to everything that made this genre so successful in the first place. You can as always find everything from Genesis to Marillion influences and back to the utter complex of early YES and IQ. There's only four, long, epic, tracks included here and you surely know this to be the true sign of a somewhat classic Prog album.

Opener "The Joy Gem" features special guest Neal Morse (Spock's Beard) on vocals and the chorus part with its enchanting "la la la's" is really something out of ordinary. Very dreamy and catchy at the same time with some truly impressive interplay by the entire band, which by the way consists of: Kevin Thomas (vocals, drums), Patrick Henry (vocals, bass), Carl Groves (vocals, keys, guitars) and Michael Dearing (vocals, guitars). Extra kudos to Groves for coming up with some excellent ebony & ivory parts and not to mention lead vocals together with Morse. "All Fall Down" has a strong Beatles vibe all over the vocal harmonies and a touch of Yes & Kansas on the melodies. There's actually a flute involved here as well and I guess I'll have to mention Jethro Tull here???

"Stolen By Ghosts" is laidback prog in the style of Genesis/Marillion and ticks in at way over 20 minutes. The closing track "The Future Me" starts with a uptempo guitar intro before it mellows down into something that RPWL could have recorded on their latest, and excellent, CD (World Through My Eyes). Highly recommended if you're into the whole "classic" prog-rock sound and you're not afraid to kick back, relax, and listen to really l-o-n-g prog songs.

XYZ: "Forbidden Demos 1985/1991" 7

FYCO 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 December 2005

The release of "Forbidden Demos" is something that Terry Ilous pretty much was forced into as XYZ's first and original guitarplayer released an unauthorized CD the other year. Something which eventually turned out to be a great thing to the XYZ fan as you can now finally hear what "Inside Out" and all those other songs, sounded like, before Don Dokken decided to produce and remove all the energy out of them (all this according to Ilous himself of course?). Some of these tracks dates all the way back to 1985, Ilous hardly spoke a word of English back then, but he sure knew how to sing the blues... ehh... the melodic hardrock.

There's 18 tracks included and the overall quality isn't too shabby at all really (keep in mind that we're talking about 15-20 year old demos here). Sure, XYZ got branded with the black mark in the late 80's and everybody thought of them of as just another Dokken wannabee act. But honestly... nothing could be further from the truth and you will discover their true identity and strenght throughout the songs. In a retrospective look, their biggest mistake ever was the hire of Don Dokken as producer and almighty whatever... this only caused into major confusion and the "obvious" comparison.

I forgot about their excellent powerballads and listening to the original versions of "After The Rain", "Souvenirs", and not to mention, "Just A Friend", is just a blast and major goosebumps warning. Check out the intense vocal performance by Ilous during "Just A Friend" and you'll notice what singing is all about. Heck, I still enjoy the rather corny refrain of "Made For Love", with its ultimate hairmetal lyrics and cheesy approach. Not all the glitters is gold though as some of the tracks now turns out to be merely plastic padding and 80's stuffing. However, it's music meant to be taken with a big grin on yer face and not the depressive, suicidal, grunge period that shortly followed and killed off everything good and fun about rock'n'roll.

Oliver WAKEMAN: "Mother's Ruin" 6

ProgRockRec. 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 December 2005

Wakeman? Oliver Wakeman??? Yep, he's the eldest son of Rick "Yes" Wakeman and I must say that he recorded a really boring, instrumental album a couple of years back. It also happened to be my only past experience with this musician and I kind of expected the worst here and yet another instrumental album filled with zzzzz... piano and keyboards. This is thankfully not another progressive keyboard wanking story though, even if Oliver is still the main attraction, you will also notice how the rest of the band has managed to put their inprint and impression on "Mother's Ruin". Especially vocalist Moon Kinnaird comes through with full colours and high marks as his singing voice leaves a lasting impression due to his emotional, yet gritty, performance.

The uptempo rock of opener "Don't Come Running" is a nice surprise as well as I kind of expected this to be laidback prog-rock. Instead you get the full shark attack in the style of Marillion's "Incommunicado", only on steroids. The following "The Agent" continues in a positive mood and with a special nod to Pendragon. "In The Movies" is a excellent soft-prog ballad that ends up somewhere between the music of Lawrence Gowan (Styx) and Sting (The Police). This will definitely end up on my ballads-of-the-year list. "Walk Away" is bombastic AOR/Prog, the titletrack is yet another winner, and "Calling For You" is more in the style of classic rock than prog, it's unfortunately not a favorite though and I would definitely name this a filler along with a couple of other tracks.

All in all though, "Mother's Ruin" is well worth the trouble and perhaps even the cash to those of you who's into the whole prog scene. Except no miracles... but a rather "nice" little album without any major up's or down's.


WePutOut 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 December 2005

Ehem... ok... I first noticed one of the blokes from Story Of The Year in a Stretch Armstrong t-shirt. Yep, I'm that far behind and away from the actual music source that it's laughable. Well... at least I'm not preteding to know exactly everything about every freakin' band out there... like some of the posh and simply desperate reviewers out there. I'm still trying to keep up with all the nu-punk acts and I find myself enjoying some of the music quite a lot [even though I receive hate mails from AOR Freaky and the rest of the hardcore ;-)].

Ehem, no real punk rocker would associate this kind of music with r-e-a-l punk though. Indeed, Stretch Armstrong plays it nice enough with a obvious MTV flirt and close to complete sell-out tendencies. The opening track, "The Hardest Part", is however a fine mix of what's left of their hardcore past and the sweet'n'sour MTV approach. Johnny Rotten must be cursing them from his grave... no wait, he's actually still alive, ok, Sid Vicious must be spinning around like crazy then, MTV friendly punk, talk about sell-out???

They do have a couple of real goodies in songs such as: "The Sound Of Name Dropping" and "Landslide". However, even if Stretch Armstrong has been around as a band for quite a while, these acts are starting to sound awful alike by now, every label wants to have their own version of Green day or Good Charlotte. Final verdict: pretty standard nu-punk with a couple of hits and a handful of misses. I rather spin the more than decent Story Of The Year once CD again.

MANNING: "One Small Step..." 2

ProgRockRec. 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 December 2005

Guy Manning is a modern day trobadour and storyteller with a devoted passion for laidback melodies and spacey arrangements. His new album is a folk/prog affair with as much pace as your average post delivery man/woman. Music that should probably make you want to relax, sit back in front of the fire, sip on a glass of wine, and let yourself slowly drift away...zzzzzz. Yep, it's pretty much as exciting as it seems and it's actually quite difficult to stay awake at times.

You surely need patience... a whole lotta' patience with the man and his darn right lazy song arrangements. I wouldn't complain as much about the pace if the material had some actual meaning and quality songwriting, unfortunately, you're not going to get hooked by melodies such as "No Hiding Place", "The Mexico Line", or "One Small Step" (7 parts of space ga-ga and nonsence). There's flute, keyboards, strings, saxophones, and acoustic guitars, put together into one horrible mix of flower-power, Bob Dylan, REM, and British folk music. Only "Night Voices" is a keeper in my opinion as it's a nice mix of Mike Oldfield and the most laidback material of Tony Carey (ex-Rainbow).

WET ANIMAL: "Wet Animal" 1

Escapi 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 December 2005

Wet Animal is a new band project with Trouble guitarist Rick Wartell and even more Trouble of Jeff Olsen (drums). First question, do they sound like 80's Trouble??? well, kinda... but they have unfortunately decided to turn this into an awful stew of Seattle and Alice In Chains influences. This is without a question... the most despressive CD that I've been listening to lately. Vocalist Shane Pasqualla has such a dull and boring vocal approach... that I rather spend an entire evening watching a Wet Animal dry, then to actually have to listen to the music of Wet Animal ever again.

Milan POLAK: "Guitar Odyssey" 9

Lion Music 2005
Review by The Bailey Brothers,
28 November 2005

The ink hadn’t even had time to dry on our review of the Dreamscapes album by Milan Polak when Guitar Odyssey landed on the door step. This album is a new version of his 1995 Guitar 2001 release. For a none player it will be a bit hard to digest but if you have ever tried to master those bloody pieces of wire wrapped around a lump of wood then you will be pretty blown away with GO.

Let’s not wait for the joke to be told. Let’s get straight to the punch line! Milan Polak was 17 when he started writing this album. Shit man, I was still wondering if Mick had a caterpillar or a slug under his nose at that age (moustache). Milan Polak must have started learning guitar in the pram. This dude can’t have had any toys as a kid. It’s ridiculous how good the playing is on Guitar Odyssey. From the opening track Lights Camera Action there’s a sense of humour with a voice effect but it gets serious as a frantic kick drum rides into the arena like a wild stallion. Before the dust can settle Polak has it saddled up and doing the dressage. Ok a bit flash, a bit fast but still waving that magic melody wand just in case you think he’s just a speed merchant with only one rabbit in the magician’s hat. You could sum this album up with track two, Where Were You Tomorrow. The backing track is like the film soundtrack to Mission Impossible and the guitar playing is just that for many students trying to emulate Polak. It may not be totally original in the sense that you also know the Steve Via song (on Passion And Warfare) that may have inspired him to come up with the middle section but by changing the tempo he brings the lights down to a atmospheric glow, Like a lonesome piper entering from the shadows Polak re-emerges with a blend of beautifully executed tones and subtle bends that would lighten any dimly lit room. This is the type of playing that Schenker made his own (check out the Live UFO Strangers album). That was decades ago but so cool to hear a young player at a similar age to when Michael burst onto the scene leaving his pyjamas behind and being exposed in his underpants. The naked truth is Milan Polak has got talent in abundance, Great use of the whammy bar, pentatonic licks, arpeggios, string hopping, Jazz, Blues, tapping, etc .

The other talking point worth mentioning is Polak won’t stick to what’s expected he throws in Jazz Fusion in songs like Vinka or better still some awesome metal riffs in songs such as Tendonitis. There’s always melody no matter what style and to round it all off he invites you to the Salsa bar with an exquisite acoustic Latin style moment in Could’ve Been Love. Nowhere to hide the nacho’s but then, when you are this good who wants to hide? Milan Polak throws everything into the melting pot but the final cast is what counts. The up shot of this 14 track disc is it’s a very impressive display by a very young but maturing Milan Polak.

Lion Music got it right. This album needed to be made available but we said to move on he needed to be doing a vocal album! Well not content with being a guitar hero he’s been doing all the vocals on a new album in New York. Who told this dude he could sing? That was a question we put to Milan Polak in a no frills interview that turned out to be an enthralling encounter. If he thinks he’s having an easy ride cause we dig his guitar playing he’s sat on the wrong motorcycle, He even reverted to playing us his new songs down the phone trying to convince us he could warble. We refused to even tell him if he was any good unless we got some exclusive tracks to hear in our studio. To his credit the songs are here in Sheffield so the big question is can Milan Polak the guitar god go the full distance and sing like a bird? Or will we have to knock him right off his perch? You are going to have to tune into rockunited because the gloves are on and its one hell of a battle!

Gary SCHUTT: "Sentimental (Remastered)" 6

Arise Records 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
28 November 2005

Originally released in 1994 (and 1995 In Europe), this album from Jeff Scott Soto's long-time collaborator Gary Schutt has been dusted off and given another chance by Spanish record label Arise. And why not, it's a decent album with solid performance from Schutt on all (!) instruments. The vocalist is Mr. Soto, and as all melodic rock fans know, you can't ask for much more when it comes to vocalists...

Schutt's compositions range from slightly Extreme-like uptempo rockers with virtuoso playing to pure AOR tracks, with a few quirky instrumentals in between. The keyboard work of his reminds me constantly of 5150-era Van Halen, while the guitar work and some of the arrangements are the reason for the Extreme comparison.

My favourite tracks are un-surprisingly the more melodic tracks: "In Some Other Time" (Van Hagar meets Journey in the lobby of Dream Theater), "I Guess I'm Still In Love" (pure AOR), "Stranded" (Melodic Hard Rock with prog touches) and "She's Letting Go" (very much in the vein of Journey). The instrumental stuff on this album isn't for me, and I'm not that fond of the heavier tracks either, although they have their moments.

There are three bonus tracks on this release, but I don't think that they are among the better songs here. Still, they offer more value for JSS fans as they are all vocal tracks. All in all, I bet that there's at least a couple of tracks for most hard rock fans here to enjoy, but one will need a rather wide taste in music to enjoy them all.

TERRA NOVA: "Best Of + 5" 9

Frontiers 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
23 November 2005

Terra Nova was gone from the melodic hard rock scene for a while and brothers Fred and Ron Hendrix were busy with Aquila, but a band which started in 1992 and split up in 1999 is now back and released ”Escape” this year with great response. This ”Best Of” now gathers songs from the bands career from nineties and is a good start for those who aren’t yet familiar with the Dutch band. And for those who’ve been fans all along, Terra Nova has five unreleased tracks recorded during the ”Break Away” sessions in 1997. The opener ”I Wanna Know” is one of them and it’s a nice trip down where the band started from.

When going through the Best Of-material, the band hasn’t changed that much stylewise during the years, they’ve just grown some, gotten stronger and better. But the earlier material works just as fine as the newer ones. The band has had the drive all along and the melodies are really catchy and beautiful. And when the band rocks, they rock with passion and such joy and depth, that the listener immediately sinks in to their world. The spirit of Terra Nova is something reminiscent to Danger Danger. Even with all the hard rock and aor groups in the world I find it these two bands have something alike and very special to them, which really inspires the listener. Each song is a treasure, seeking higher spirits and combining different influences in harmony. This talent makes Terra Nova’s music very soothing, even when they’re rocking.

As mentioned, the album features songs from each of their albums, except ”Escape” and the collection is perfect. With 17 songs there’s enough covered ground for a new listener and for an old fan it’s a collection ready to go. The other ”new” songs come in the end of the album; ”Against The Wind”, ”Reminiscing”, ”I’m The One” and ”Holy Water”, and they still carry the Terra Nova spirit you’ve come to know with big harmonies and hooks. Catching the band live too would be a dream come true ! They’ll light up any concert place with this spirit and make anyone’s day perfect.
Terra Nova

RISTINOLLA: "Ei Kauniimpaa" 8

Edel 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
23 November 2005

Ristinolla is a powerful act hailing from Finland, who approach their listeners on their debut with Finnish lyrics. Being that their music is directed to their fellow countrymen, those who can deal with foreign lyrics will be gladly surprised of what is on offer. The quality isn’t really a surprise, if you’re aware of the long careers behind each members.

You might know these four guys (vocalist Mikko Tuliniemi, drummer Timo Peltokangas, guitarist Timo Kuusjärvi and Timo Mäki-Marttunen, bass) at least from Random Eyes. But forget what you’ve heard them play before. With Ristinolla they create harsh and straight popmetal music in the vein of Niskalaukaus, Kotiteollisuus, CMX, even Don Huonot, with a melancholic and more melodic touch towards Negative and HIM. The title track ”Ei Kauniimpaa”, ”Ääni” and ”Varjoista Varjoihin” are very sensual and melodic songs, but while doing songs like these, Ristinolla has managed to balance their backing heavy metal spirit well together with pop influences and give even the softest song kind of a torn and magical touch, which makes this concept fascinating.

So Ristinolla is really capturing. The songs are tight and well arranged, and their music is easy-going. Not usually a fan of Finnish lyrics, I still give credit for those who deserve it. And Ristinolla is one of the bands well worth gaining their place among Finnish greats. Their melancholic lyrics and music are profound, something which will attract both normal metal fans and those who are into Finnish rock. And for sure even gothic rock fans. Even when lacking a bit originality, the band sounds fresh and catchy enough on their debut to easily get airplay and the desired success through that. Shining with emotion and spirit, it’s a brilliant debut.

LAMBS: "With Every Bullet So Far" 8

Edel 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
23 November 2005

Having finally released their album through their homeland label, Lambs’ fourth release ”With Every Bullet So Far” shows that rock’n’roll still exists, in a way this threesome band plays it, straight and raw with raging attitude and powerful melodies. The producer used for this album was Hiili Hiilesmaa, who’s done fine job with many Finnish bands and again has come up with a sound that perfectly matches Lambs attitude.

It’s a package of ten, approx three minute songs, which ram full speed ahead. Lambs is a mixture of styles, like The Almighty, Motörhead, Peer Günt, Ozzy, Entombed, but they’re not restricted to one thing, eventhough all their songs are rockers with alike feeling. Stoner rock also strongly comes out and all these elements mixed together make one well rocking band and one that might as well take the crown carried long by the Finns Peer Günt.

The bands shouter, A. Lindholm, has a very similar sound to many, like the singers from the earlier mentioned bands and you could add Danzig to his credits too. He’s got a very convincing, raw and deep sound, which fits well for Lambs music. And even as a threesome (Tommy, bass, Hautsi, drums), they make it work and sound like a bigger band. It’s pure party music and does not come with ballads, but sounds crunchy, rude (in good sense) and loud. Guys will love it, but this chick proves these bad Lambs aren’t for guys only.

SOUL DOCTOR: "For A Fistful Of Dollars" 8

Frontiers 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
23 November 2005

Releasing their third album, German Soul Doctor are still rocking like they used to. It’s basic hard rock spiced up with blues, southern rock and aor, eventhough on each album the band has managed to sound a bit different. Their last one ”Systems Go Wild !” was more melodic and here they present even more southern rock, which actually sounds a lot like Tesla and Bad Company. Tommy Heart (ex-Fair Warning) once again shows his talent as a vocalist and since he’s got that classic hard rock sound it’s always a pleasure to listen to him.

Chris Lyne on guitar also throws some great solos and the rhythm section (Jogy Rautenberg, bass, Mario B, drums) make the songs roll as they should. While being so southern rock filled, the beautiful harmonies have still found a place and ”Remember” is one of the finest and slowest songs, which could as well have been written by Bad Company. ”Ten Seconds Of Love” introduces a brass section (trumpet, trombone and tenor sax, also on two other tracks), so it was a fun track for the band to make, working with the musicians and instruments for the first time, but as with the closing ”Cheap Down ’n’ Nasty”, they’re quite flat to get sparks flying. And more so, the latter one is just a fun track and goes as a filler. A good one as it is, making you smile, but is no rocker or a ballad.

Since the nature of this album, being filled with strong grooves, blues harp, brass section and slide guitar filling the background, melodic rock fans aren’t getting what they hoped for, but then again whatever Soul Doctor does, they do it with style. With that in mind, ”For A Fistful Of Dollars” is a classy album, but only when you crave after grooves.
Soul Doctor

Tommy LEE: "Tommyland - The Ride" 8

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
18 November 2005

I desperately wanted to be Tommy Lee as a kid... for sure... he was the coolest drummer in the coolest hardrock band on the planet, Mötley "F**kin" Crüe. Not to mention that he got married to the most beautiful girl in the world (at least in my opinion as a kid), Heather "Dynasty" Locklear.

"Tommyland - The Ride" is basically a mish-mash of all the MTV friendly rock/nu-breed/punk of today. Indeed, the music featured on this CD has absolutely nothing in common with Mötley Crüe or "ordinary" 80's hardrock. It's however a major progress and step forward since his Methods Of Mayhem project. It's also very much a varied styled album and a collaboration between Lee and several "hip" ("hip" people of today doesn't use the word "hip" I guess?) musicians of today. What follows is the guestlist: Butch Walker, Andrew McMahon (Something Corporate), Chad Kroeger (Nickelback), Carl Bell (Fuel), Joel Madden (Good Charlotte), and Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys).

"Good Times" features Butch Walker and it's also the theme for his new TV show: "Tommy Lee Goes To College". This is a superb slice of modern rock with a hook to die for, way better than his "reality" show (I've seen two episodes so far and I guess they've been running out of ideas in the states, hey, let's throw this dummy-drummer back to school... zzzz!). "Hello Again" is a darn fine semi-ballad in the vein of Beatles/Enuff Z'Nuff with McMahon of Something Corporate as guest. "Trying To Be Me" features Kroeger of Nickelback and it's yet another winner in the modern school of rock. "Sister Mary" has that Beatles/Enuff Z'Nuff vibe again and it works just fine with a cool hook and everything. "Tired" features Madden of Good Charlotte (he sings the chorus part) and holy cow, it's yet another winner actually. It's very much the sound of Good Charlotte though and the chorus is kind of snappy with lyrics that goes: "Tommy got tired of Pamela, Ed got tired of Salma, Puffy got tired of JLo and Ben did too". It's all pretty catchy stuff though and I find myself shouting along to the lyrics. "I Need You" is a creepy ballad that Finland's The Rasmus just as easily could have done. "Watch You Lose" is of course (?) Nirvana right down to the core, while "Say Goodbye" features Nick Carter (BSB) and turns out to be a great ballad.

Not too shabby, in fact, not shabby at all in the end, however, I find this statement by Lee to be weird to say the least, especially since he bemoans the lack of orginality (yes, ORGINALITY) in rock music today: "Everyone kind of sounds the same and looks the same, I mean, where are the Mick Jaggers, the David Bowies?" laments Lee. Nice one Tommy... I guess that's explains why YOU recorded a CD that sounds exactly like any nu-breed/rock/soft-punk act of today???? With the only exception that all of those acts are +20 years younger than you... geezer.

STORY OF THE YEAR: "In The Wake Of Determination" 8

Warner/Maverick 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 November 2005

They return to the scene of the crime with a heavier and less "commercial" approach in my opinion. Ok, they still belt out poppy tunes in the style of Sum 41, Simple Plan, and various U.S. wimp rockers. However, they (Story Of The Year) have definitely changed musically since their first attempt, "In The Wake Of Determination" is overall a much more fun album to explore and listen to.

It's definitely pop-punk vs. old metal with tons of crunchy guitar riffs and electic songwriting. Story Of The Year are actually darn good at this high-energy music and they can certainly cause adrenalin rush and dare I say, even if you're not particulary fond of this type of rock, you'll still find yourself swinging and shouting from the roof top(s). Opener "We Don't Care Anymore" is a good, old, kick to the head, with its enchating chorus part and f-you mentallity. It's basically a song about doing things for yourself and not for the approval of others. "Our Time Is Now" is ultra heavy and filled with twisted guitar riffs in the Pantera, Metallica, school of things, add to this some serious metal screams by Dan Marsala. "Stereo" is power-pop at its best with a sound (very) similar to Simple Plan. In fact, the entire disc is like the inside of a schizo person (yep, you'll find tons of weird stuff here), and a mish-mash of power-pop and thrash/hardcore.

My favorite moment will have to be the excellent "Sleep", it's their softest moment, but also one of their most powerful ones, mostly due to the excellent build up and mysterious, spacey, guitar sound. It's one of those songs that you could almost imagine John Waite recording today, if he was new to this business. I'm however not too fond of the constant screaming during tracks like "March Of The Dead" or "Pay Your Enemy". It's plain and simple, dull, boring hardcore, The Deftones, kind of music, with none or very little imagination. Bottomline: You'll have to take the good with the bad I'm afraid, but it's still a really nice crossover of different genres.

THE SYN: "Syndestructible" 7

Umbrello Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
22 November 2005

The Syn was one of the most well-respected bands of the sixties and was formed by Stephen Nardelli (vocals) and Yes bass player Chris Squire. Now, in 2005, 40 years later!!, Squire and Nardelli have re-teamed and release their first album with 7 brand new songs. This new CD was recorded at London’s Strangeways Studios, with all the songs co-written by the team of Squire and Nardelli. This band was the prototype for many of the progressive rock bands that emerged from that fertile scene, including Asia, GTR, Genesis, The Flaming Lips and Porcupine Tree.

The Syn in 2005 further consists of Gerard Johnson (keyboards) and twin brothers Paul Stacey (Oasis) and Jeremy Stacey (The Finn Brothers), on guitar and drums. The music on this CD however sounds rather dated and reminds me of the music of Yes on their first two albums “Yes” and “Time and a Word”. Especially the song called “Reach Outro” with orchestral parts, soft vocals and rather psychedelic elements could come from that period.

“Some Time, Some Way” features those “typical” Yes rhythms and melodies that made that band so recognizable and loved, although I prefer the vocals of Jon Anderson instead of those of Steve Nardelli. The longest songs like “City Of Dreams” (9:38), “Cathedral of Love” (8:58) and “The Promise” (13:28) are all filled with too many vocals and too little musical extravaganzas. Best track in my opinion is “Cathedral of Love”, which has a ballad-like melody, warm vocals and a great shredded Steve Howe-like guitar solo. On the bio it says that this is the album that Yes fans have been waiting for, for over 20 years, but I as a true and absolute Yes fan of the first hour, beg to differ. Do not get me wrong, it is a “nice” album, but not that spectacular and I would rather have written a review about the new Yes album, if there ever will be another one????

Ozzy OSBOURNE: "Under Cover" 6

EPIC/Sony 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 November 2005

The man, the myth, the prince of f**kin darkness. "Under Cover" is indeed a cover album and at the same time a compilation of Ozzy's personal favorite songs of the past. It's basically 'golden oldies' from the late 60's/very early 70's, where 9 out of the 13 tracks at first appeared on Ozzy's "Prince Of Darkness" box set (released earlier this year). No need to splash out all your money on the rather expensive 4-CD box set anymore, well, at least not if you were only interested in the covers.

The four new songs covered here are: "Rocky Mountain Way" (Joe Walsh) - I believe it's still every truckers favorite song (road rage, road rage!) and it's been nicely Ozzified due to his nasal voice. "Go Now", originally recorded by The Moody Blues is a marvelous tune in its original and quite difficult to do it justice. He nails down John Lennon's "Woman" right to the ground though, excellent version and you can't help to grin along to the lyrics as Ozzy thanks his woman "for showing me the meaning of success" (Sharon & Yoko Ono, huh? wow!!!). Last but not least, "Sunshine Of Your Life" (Cream), which they have pretty much managed to Ozzify into something evil and twisted

From the other cover songs I'll have to mention class acts such as: "21st Century Schizoid Man" (King Crimson), "Fire" (Arthur Brown - also known as the first rocker to have make-up 'ala KISS), "Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones), and the magical "Working Class Hero" (John Lennon). I'm not too fond of cover songs in general to be honest, but it's at least better to record an entire album with covers, than to include one on your regular CD release(s). They really could/should have left out the horrible duet version of "Changes" though (with Kelly).

BLOODPIT: "Mental Circus" 3

Playground 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 November 2005

"Hello, I'd like the new Bloodpit CD, thanks". Geeez... what were they thinking??? Bloodpit!!! Bloodpit??? It's probably the worst moniker in Finland since Hanoi Rocks' notorious guitar slinger: Nasty Suicide. They've already had great success in their homeland though, the first single "Out To Find You", went straight to number one of the Finnish single and radio charts. The second single "Platitude", goes to number two in the charts and the video with its sinister "The Shining" parody is a major success as well. I simply can't understand the success with their first single release though, however, "Platitude" is a excellent Goth-rocker in the style of HIM only a tad sleazier.

The music of Bloodpit and "Mental Circus" is a hybrid of Goth, Nu-Metal, & Sleaze, and it's actually quite difficult to categorize. It's almost like they first had a good, long, hard, look, at the Scandinavian charts of today, and only later decided what kind of music to play. The same goes with their image, the singer is some kind of Ville Valo wannabee, the guitarist is obviously into Nu-Metal, while the drummer is darn right sleazy. It sadly didn't work out that great in the end, "Mental Circus" is simply too fabricated and you'll end up really disappointed if you bought this mainly due to their excellent "Platitude" song.

Bottomline: they should have gone for the "Platitude" vibe throughout the CD. Now it's merely one excellent track, a couple of "not too shabby" ones, and a truck-load of fillers.

PAGANINI: "Resurrection" 2

Pazouzou 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 November 2005

Marc Paganini, a distant relative of the classical violinist, recorded a couple of albums with the german act VIVA in the 80's. They were mostly known to the average hardrock fan, because of their female keyboardist, Barbara Schenker, the kid sister of Michael (MSG, UFO) and Rudolf (Scorpions). Together with Viva guitarist Ralph Murphy, Marc started his own band "Paganini", who were to release a couple of albums during the 80's up until 1990.

"Resurrection" is basically a collection of Viva and Paganini songs from the past. However, they've been re-arranged and re-recorded in 2005 in Relief Studios - Switzerland, in collaboration with Alain Monod (keyboardist of Swiss rockers "The Young Gods"). I can tell you right away that you're better off with your old Viva and Paganini records!!! All the songs has been re-recorded with a "modern" approach and a darn annoying sound. The production is raw, noisy, and blessed with an awful heavy-bass styling from hell. Marco's voice is shot and nowhere near his capacity of the past and it sounds almost like he's been eating barbwire and pissing razors for the last 15 years.

Why release dodgy versions of oldies instead of throwing out something new to the people??? I have no idea, but it clearly didn't work this time.

CANNATA: "Watching The World" 8

Arise Records 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
18 November 2005

Jeff Cannata is one of those cult AOR figures that many fans of the genre may have heard of, but not necessarily heard his music. His early eighties' album with the band Arc Angel is considered to be an AOR classic by many, and his latter solo albums are almost as highly rated. This album is his second solo album, originally released by Now & Then records back in 1993, and now re-issued by Spanish Arise label. This edition contains two bonus tracks, both taken from the hard-to-find first Cannata album, "Images Of Forever".

Cannata's music could be described as progressive AOR. The arrangements and compositions are varied and imaginative, yet most of the songs have great melodies and accessible, catchy choruses. Imagine a mix of Rush, Zeno, Asia and GTR and you might have some kind of an idea of Cannata's sound.

The songs range from fantastic pomp rockers such as "The Hunter" and "What About The Children" to more introspective and progressive material. I'm not totally won over by the latter kind of material, but the uptempo pomp stuff is indeed really impressive, and thankfully there's more of that on the album.

The two bonus tracks from "Images Of Forever" may not add value to long-time fans of Cannata, but for most potential buyers of this CD they are a worthy addition. I wonder when do we see a re-issue of that album?


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

Holy Crap!!! There's more people involved on the new Radioactive album, than there's musicans on the entire back catalogue of both Yngwie J. Malmsteen (not to be confused with Yngwie K. Malmsteen???) and Ritchie Blackmore. Not that you should compare two of the biggest ego's in business with Tommy "Where Is The Fire" Denander, but it should give you an idea of the vast amount of folks we're talking about.

Yep, Yngwie is one of all the guest musicians featured here, it's actually easier to name the one's not involved, but to name-drop a few: The TOTO gang: "Jeff & Steve Porcaro, Kimball, Fergie & Lukather", other Westcoast-ers: "Michael Landau, 'dito' Thompson, Bruce Gaitsch, Abe Laboriel, Tom Keane", the yellow & blue Swedes: "Thomas Vikström, Mikael Erlandsson, Jim Jidhed", U.S. hotshots: "Robin Beck, James Christian, Bruce Kulick, Neal Schon, Kelly Keagy, Jim Peterik", and even producer/songwriter: Anders Carlsson (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Britney Spears). Add to this a second bunch of musical vagabonds and drifters and you're all set to go. The titletrack "Taken" is a nice display of Denander's guitar shredding at its best, the pre, and chorus part(s) leaves much to ask for though, pretty boring work actually, even if Bobby "toto" Kimball, tries his best to get into the mood. The biggest surprise of the album will have to be the vocal ability of producer/songwriter Anders Carlsson as he sings lead on "Stronger Than Yesterday". "Easy's Gettin Harder" is a laidback duet between the married couple: James "House Of Lords" Christian and Robin "Coca Cola" Beck. Hardly earth shattering material, but a nice little toon with nice arrangenments. "This I Promise You" is on the other hand a marvelous piano ballad with the "fragile" voice of Mikael Erlandsson at the centre of attention. This is definitely one of my favourite ballads of 2005. "Shattered" is a freakin great, feel-good, mid-80's kind of tune, with a uptempo beat 'ala Toto (with Fergie). However, Philip Bardowell (Unruly Child, Magdalen, Peter Criss) is the vocalist here and do pay attention to the excellent guitar solo by Yngwie "Smokin" Malmsteen. "Premonition" is a pompous anthem that comes out sounding like a rather strange, but yet fun, mix of all the weird projects by Alexander Bard (Army Of Lovers, etc), and good, old, AOR. Fergie Frederiksen behind the mic this time and Bruce Kulick (Kiss) on the solo guitar. The talk-box by Neal "Journey" Schon during the opening notes of "Carry On" is probably some lame attempt of steering away all the focus from the actual toon. Erlandsson at the mic again (it sounds almost like Jim Jidhed though? especially during the verses), and there's nothing wrong with his performance, the song however misses out on quality in the hook apartment. Everything is just dandy and fine, except there's no real kick-ass refrain to talk about... so, let's not. There's a couple of more up's and down's during "Taken" and the CD could have needed a song like "Baby You're Mine" (a major hit in Sweden with Jill Johnson - written by Denander - sounds like something Shania Twain could/should have recorded). Nice/good... but it could have been great.

LINE OF FIRE: "s/t" 6

Tribunal Records 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
18 November 2005

US band Line Of Fire are devoted to "bringing melodic rock into the 21st century". this case that does not mean updating the sound or having some sort of a new approach, as the band is one of the most "eighties-sounding" new bands of the last few years!

It's pretty obvious that Journey has been a huge influence for LOF. The guitars are a bit crunchier, but the songwriting and especially Shawn Pelata's vocals are very much in the vein of those AOR giants. Move over Final Frontier, Loud & Clear, Frontline...this year's "wanna-be Journey" is Line Of Fire!

The band has placed their most AOR-type of numbers to the first half of the album, and my favourite songs are among them. "Live & Let Go" and "Paradise" are the standout tracks, both boasting big, shiny hooks...opener "Faith In Fire" is a good track as well, an energetic uptempo AOR track with swirling keyboards and some frantic drumming. The laid-back "Remind Me" has to be mentioned too, even though the first notes had me thinking that the band had decided to cover Stryper's "Lady".

The second half of the album features the band's more experimental, dare I say even slightly progressive tracks. "Morning Light" is a nod towards the late seventies' Journey, while "Falling Down (Hear My Prayer)" represents the heavier side of the band. They're all decent songs, but not the kind of songs that would leave a lasting impression.

A decent debut, but let's just wait for the album number two before we start proclaiming Line Of Fire as the saviours of AOR, all right?

THE AURORA PROJECT: "Unspoken Words" 6

DVS Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 november 2005

After years of rehearsal the Dutch progressive rock band The Aurora Project decided to record their first demo and after that they got a chance to record a full-length album. Four years later the band succeeded in finding a suitable record company and signed with DVS Records.

"Unspoken Words" is a concept album which describes a spiritual journey, based on an essay by guitar player Marc Vooys. The music is mystical, psychedelic and sometimes even theatrical, but on the whole I would call this album rather dull and very unoriginal. Especially the narrative "songs" tend to get on my nerves and that is not only because of the rather poor pronunciation…. The first two songs "Unspoken Words 1" and "The Betrayal" are in fact the best songs on the entire album. Very well played progressive rock with lots of different rhythms, solos and cool riffs. Actually these two songs are typical examples of Dutch prog rock music, comparable to bands like Casual Silence, Ricochet or Mindscape.

The rest of the song material sounds very much alike and there are hardly any musical surprises. After a couple of songs vocalist Dennis Binnekade tends to get on my nerves with his rather nasal singing and I was really waiting for something musically interesting to happen… "The Resurrection" is the longest track (8:39) and finally I hear a few nice guitar solos, but this is spoilt in the end by the really nerve-racking choir, which is absolutely not very well "integrated" into the rest of the music. This rather disappointing album ends with almost 6 minutes of sounds and weird words, bringing back memories of Pain Of Salvation's awful latest album "Be". But, hey, it is their first real effort and practice makes perfect, so let's wait what these guys will produce in the future.

Jeff URSO: "Straight Ahead" 9

Rhytmic Wave 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
10 November 2005

Attention Satch or Neil Zaza fans! Here's a guy to watch out for. Jeff Urso came up with a very tasty album in the vein of the above-mentioned guitarists; he recorded and produced the entire album and the 10-track disc topped any of my expectations. The album is all about melodies, memorable musical patterns, and SONGWRITING as opposed to fluffy speeding or indigestibly complex tunes (the majority of them are shorter than 4 minutes). Even your girlfriend will tolerate this one in your player at home! :)

The title track opens the album and it sets the direction straight away… ehh… "Straight Ahead". The mix is well-balanced and though neither the liner notes nor the bio mentions a drummer, the programmed drums sound so very alive that I was almost fooled by them. [Gotta put my hands on the soundfonts Jeff was using for the drums!] The following two tunes carry on in the same fashion, reminding me very much of the melodic side of Neil Zaza's playing. "Rhythmic Wave" features cleverly used panorama effects to spice the backing guitar track up a bit and the melody on top is really beautiful. "Low Down" is a cool tune for fans of a rather aggressive 7-string sound and "Down & Dirty" is another one on the heavier side where Jeff flashes some speed up as well. "Warm Day" reminded me a bit of the "Crystal Planet" era spacey Satriani while "Cyber Me" features some techno effects to spice the low 7-string sound up. An interesting experiment but stays on the digestible side and the ping-pong delay-like effects add some extra twist to it [provided you play the album a quality hi-fi gear].

The remaining two "full" songs ended up as my faves, "Perfect" being another perfectly melodic Satch/Zaza mid-tempo stomper while "Thinking of You" has a beautiful, almost acoustic sounding backing track topped by some melodies to eat your heart out. The closing "I Alive" is just an arpeggio and trill driven piano melody, really beautiful at that even if some of the guitar freaks won't appreciate it as much as I did. All in all the album is VERY good for a first independent release. I found the less than 35 minutes total running time (10 tracks) a little too short but this is more of a praise I guess; I could have taken 2 or 3 tracks more. Yet these 10 tracks are all of quality stuff, no fillers in here. Recommended if you are a fan of easy-to- digest instrumental stuff, a must if you are a Satriani or Zaza fan.

EROL SORA: "Demented Honour" 9

Duration Records 2005
Review by Satu Reunanen
14 November 2005

Erol Sora is known from playing in John Lawton Band (ex-Uriah Heep singer), so those few who don’t yet know this brilliant Canadian guitarist/singer/songwriter, this album will be a top surprise of the year. Erol plays guitar and sings on the album and wrote the songs himself. He expects this to work for fans of Bad Company, Deep Purple, Kiss and Thin Lizzy and there’s definately elements in his work which will attract these fans. But his music has so much more.

The basic sound comes from hard rock and blues with a relaxed touch, yet each song has a vivid vibe, which makes the music work so well. Drummer Lance Chalmers (ex-Trooper), bassist Kevin Dahl, keyboardists Gregory Macdonald (ex-Peppersands) and Louise Porter (The Rumours) joined Erol on ”Demented Honour” and the collaboration was so fruitful, that it gave the album the classic sound, which deserves airplay among the greats already mentioned earlier. When the music is guitar oriented hard rock, the pop elements are in right amounts to make the songs easily accessible to the average music fan, yet having personality and being uplifting.

The vocals are as colourful as the songs. Erol’s sound mixes Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Gary Moore, even something like Rick Hughes (from brilliant early 90’ies hardrock group Saints & Sinners) and loads of rock legends like Ian Gillan, not forgetting blues singers. Being so multi-levelled, he can still sing perfectly and give spark to each song. If you ever heard the solo albums from Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Erol Sora is as inspiring and rich with talent. And he doesn’t go showing off with guitar solos, the melodies are what attract the listener. There’s no need pinpointing good moments from his album, ”Demented Honour” is one harmonious, good moment in its entirety, from beginner ”Guilty” all the way to ”Rain”.
Erol Sora

Jukka TOLONEN Band: "JTB" 8

Lion Music 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
10 November 2005

Being no Finn, I wasn't familiar with Jukka Tolonen; according to the label's info he was the most important guitar player in Finland in the 70s. This one is a re-release of his band's best record from 1977 and contains really quality instrumental progressive rock stuff. A bit too much on the jazzy side for my taste but credit where it's due: it's very good at that.

A thick horn section spices most of the songs up, and the song complexion is rather tolerable, very jazzy sometimes but staying on the jazz-rock side of things keeping the album digestible even for ears trained mostly to rock music. So don't fear to give the album a chance even if you might shy away reading that four-letter J-word…

The original 9 tracks are all quality stuff with "Space Cookie" being my favorite, a song to sum the entire album up pretty well. If you don't like that one, you won't like the album. I enjoyed the funky- flavored tunes as well, especially the horns, they complement the guitar-playing really well. Some of the more melodic tunes are so very 70s that when listening to them the first time I was half expecting Donna Summer to start singing… Fear not though, the album is purely instrumental and the unnecessary live bonus track withstanding (that sounds more of a Balkan-jazz tune to these ears) it stays on the progressive jazz-rock side of things. Feel free to experiment with it even if you are not a fan of the genre.


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 41-45/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 41-45/05 * * * * *
FM re-issue package, Malice In Wonderland, Bad Habit, Bullet For My Valentine, Demonlord, Far Beyond, Mitch Perryarchival , Testament, Breed77, Roine Stolt, Johnny Lima, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister's Eddie Ojeda, Change Of Heart, Dead Soul Tribe, Daniele Liverani's Khymera, Threshold vocalist Mac Macdermott's project Yargos, James Byrd's Atlantis Rising, Francesco Fareri, Magnum DVD, Deep Purple, The Mob, Hybrid Children, Tony Martin, Aerosmith, Hatesphere, Riverside, Seventh Key, Pallas, Tramp's White Lion, Annihilator, Perzonal War, Helloween, Bruce Turgon, PC69, Violence, Dragonlord, Myon, Tokyo Dragons, Project Hate, Legs Diamond, MTM Ballads 6.

* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 37-40/05 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 37-40/05 * * * * *
TNT, RPWL, Swedish Erotica, Milan Polak, Neal Morse, Shakra, Silver, Gypsy Rose (Sweden), "Blackmore's Castle"-tribute to Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Howe, Nashville Pussy, Leilo Padovani, Airless, Nocturnal Rites, Coheed And Cambria, After Forever, Morning fare, Stratovarius, Schoolboy Crush, The Tea Party, Boystown, Hanna Pakarinen, Enemies, Persuader, Dyecrest, She's China, King's X, Imaginery, The Rasmus, Sieges Even, Savage Circus, Xcarnation (feat. Winger members), Place Vendome (feat. Michael Kiske), Philip Bardowell and Jaded Heart.

* * * * * 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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