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JAMES LABRIE: "Elements Of Persuasion" 9

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

After releasing 2 Mullmuzzler’s albums, the Frameshift CD and his cooperation on the last Ayreon album, lead singer of the best prog metal band James LaBrie releases his third real solo album called “Elements Of Persuasion”. Although I rather liked his Mullmuzzler CDs, I definitely prefer this one, as it is more in the line of Dream Theater’s last masterpiece “Train Of Thought”. So, overall this is a heavy album and if you did not like TOT, then you probably will also not like “Elements Of Persuasion”.

The album opens with a song called “Crucify”, which is really heavy, fast, with James screaming at the top of his lungs sometimes. This track also features a fantastic, melodic, speedy guitar solo by a new guitar shooting star Marco Sfogli. “Alone” kicks of with scratching sounds and electronic loops, where later on the song features some headbanging riffs and a rather “catchy” chorus. “Freak” could have earned a spot on the last DT album, heavy metal riffs with some really aggressive singing by James. “Invisible” opens with keys and then the drums and the guitar come crashing in, followed by magnificent vocals and a great melody; probably one of the highlights.

“Lost”, is the first resting point where you can take a breather from the first 4 heavy tracks. This one has a kind of funky/jazzy rhythm and James’s voice really does the trick here, mysterious and sometimes whispering…. The guitar intro of “Undecided” reminds me of DT again, those typical riffs and LaBrie vocals making this song again very heavy but melodic. The keys and guitar solos on this track are again out of this world. The second quieter track, almost a ballad, is “Smashed”, where James sings like on the Ayreon project, warm and dramatic. But the absolute musical highlight on this CD is “Slightly Out Of Reach”, a kind of ballad with a great melody, top notch, second to none vocals and extremely gripping musical parts. The last three tracks are again heavy and fast and at some time also very experimental. For me this is already of the highlights of 2005, but maybe I am a bit prejudiced because DT is my favorite band (alongside RUSH) and James one of my fav singers...Check it out and be amazed!!

EVERGREY: "A Night To Remember" 9

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

I last saw/heard Evergrey in the Bosuil in Weert(The Netherlands)in December 2004 and that gig was so disappointing; the sound was much too loud and the band were not in really good shape; at least according to me... Now the Swedish metal forge release a live double CD, which was recorded at the famous Storan Theatre in Gothenburg.

On this double package you can enjoy 19 songs, a musical cross-section of six years band’s history. The band is in top condition, the audience is great and the sound of the entire album is awesome. Just check out Evergrey classics like “The Masterplan”, “As I Lie Here Bleeding”, “Blinded” and “Recreation Day”. There are also a few surprises here, namely the string section on the instrumental super song from “The Inner Circle” “When The Walls Go Down”. Two more tracks from that fantastic album have their live premiere here, “Harmless Wishes” and “Essence Of Conviction”. The ballad (the only quiet song on the entire album) features Tom Englund’s wife on additional vocals, making this version very special, although maybe a bit lame, among the other 18 power/progressive metal tracks.

An absolute must for Evergrey fans therefore and this CD is also released in a jewel case and embossed slip case, including a booklet with many photos and extensive liner notes by mr. Englund himself. And some more good news; a live DVD of this Gothenburg concert will also be released soon.

SHIRLEYS TEMPLE: "Guinea Pigs" 8

Voices Of Wonder 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
3 March 2005

[*Advanced Copy - The lads are still in the studio working on a new song with Bruce Kulick as guest guitarist /KISS]. Where do I know Shirleys Temple from, you may ask? Well... apart from the kiddie actor of long gone days, you may also recognize them as the original writers of that "Asshole" tune, which Gene $immons (KISS) bought for his solo album last year (one of few highlights from Gene's CD actually). Vocalist/guitarist Frank A. Tostrup has many more tricks up his sleeve however as "Guinea Pigs" is jam-packed with clever and catchy rock. You may also recall Tostrup as the drummmer on the "Greenhouze" album at MTM Music.

The Norwegians will soon strike back with their first CD since the indie release in 1999, and the setback of being dropped by EMI in 2003 after merely one EP release. Ain't that just like the majors of today, huh??? (my oh my). Shirleys Temple surely deserve a major break as they mix the loud 70's guitar rock of KISS with some of the modern rock of today (Good Charlotte, Foo Fighters). You could also say they're like a better, catchier, and slightly poppier version of The Hellacopters. Where the Swedes are mostly (or only) into groove and loud guitars, these chaps include a catchy hook and sing-a-long refrain as well (yeah, baby! -that's the way we like it!). Opening track "Rubber Queen" (well, at least on this advanced copy) kicks off with a guitarmageddon 'ala "I Stole Your Love" (KISS) before it explodes into this nu-breed monster. "Brand New Hate" continues with some crunchy 70's KISS riffs mixed with The Hellcopters. "This Could Be A Lovesong" is a nu-breed rocker in the style of Good Charlotte goes 70's rock. Awesome!!

"Stupid" surely must be a upcoming hit single with its subtile message and darn catchy refrain. It's like "Asshole" part #2 only upgraded and better -"I Like Rolling Stones, sunday papers and conversations". The fast power rock of "Ma-Ma-Ma Manipulate Me" will knock you down to the floor. "Hallelujah" will remind you of KISS' old "She" song at first with it's opening guitarwork and beat. I'm not so sure about the refrain though? A bit too slow/boring in my opinion. "Glorious" will have you thinking about Rolling Stones until the chorus hits you right between the eyes. Action rock if ever! "Favourite Mistake" with its enchanting wooo-hooo's in the background, simply kills everything at the charts at the moment. The song as well as "All I Can Be" and "Heroin" were all included on their EMI/Capitol EP. Another smash hit and favourite will have to be the catchy "She's So Fine" with some not-too-serious lyrics -"My baby's gonna be the one - cause she's so fine, takes me high and makes me come". Highly recommended and I can't wait for the real CD release. Shirleys Temple - like a catchier and better version of The Hellacopters (with a nu-breed twist at times), or the way KISS could sound like if they started playing rock today. "God Gave Me Rock'n Roll - HIT!!!"


DVS Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

Dynamic Lights is an Italian prog metal band, founded in Pesaro in 1997, from the union of two previously existing bands. This progressive band has already recorded a 10 track demo titled “Night Lights”(1999) and a self-produced EP called “Resurrection”(2002). Last year the band worked on their first full-length album “Shape” and they played with bands like Pain Of Salvation, Lacuna Coil, Shaman and many others. Furthermore the band is confirmed for the famous Prog Power Festival, which is held in Baarlo (The Netherlands) every year in October.

The music on “Shape” can be best described as prog metal with clear influences from bands like Fates Warning, Wolverine, Pain Of Salvation, Eldritch, Mindkey and Kingcrow. The piano passages and melodies play a very important role on this album and it is also an album that you have to listen to a lot to really appreciate it. Every song has its own atmosphere, details and soundscapes and therefore the songs need to grow on you. The musical potential of these five Italian rockers is certainly there. However, singer Matteo Infante needs to work on his pronunciation and the band needs to improve their compositional skills to become an outstanding prog metal band.

The album opens with “In The Hands Of A Siren”, a great diverse melodic prog metal song with lots of piano and guitar passages; extraordinary are the female guest vocals of Swedish Jamina Jansson, who also did some vocal parts on the last Wolverine album. “Remembrances” reminds me of Fates Warning and Chrome Shift and features some very sophisticated guitar solos. The best song on this remarkable CD is “One Thousand Nothing”, a long epic with a nice piano opening, rather abrupt rhythm changes, interesting musical passages and lots of classical melodies and heavy guitar riffs. All in all a very interesting debut of another promising Italian prog metal band. Check it out and enjoy yourself!

Darren SMITH Band: "Keep The Spirit Alive" 8

MTM 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
5 Mars 2005

Darren Smith is the ex-Harem Scarem drummer and "Keep The Spirit Alive" is his first attempt as solo artist vocalist/guitarist. Smith did however sing lead on a couple of Harem Scarem songs in the past (I believe that 'Sentimental Blvd' was one of them?) and his responsible for a lot of their harmony vocals as well. You'll instantly recognize his voice from those albums as he comes through like the raspier version of Harry Hess. The latter is also the producer and overall sidekick on this project.

With the help from guitarist Mike Hall (ex-Killer Dwarfs, Helix), bassist Stan Miczek (ex-Honeymoon Suite, Sass Jordan), and drummer Pat Carrano, Smith has managed to create a fine "modern" melodic hard/rock album. Extra credit to Hall for belting out some seriously crunchy guitarwork in between the "modern" rock approach.

Smith ceartinly didn't leave Harem Scarem because of their musical direction as this will take you to the same rock block as their last couple of albums as well as the Rubber material. Remove the awful industrial rock of "So Low", the rather unique and not-that-great version of Nazareth's "Love Hurts" (more uptempo rock than ballad), and the kind of dodgy semi-ballad of "Taking On Water", and you'll still end up with some catchy rock. There's even a couple of tracks here that reminded me of the first Martin Stenmarck CD, and that's always a good thing in my book. The title track "Keep The Spirit Alive" is a fun uptempo rocker with a big hook in the Harem Scarem/Stenmarck tradition. "There You Go" is a marvelous ballad, "King For A Day" rocks big time in a modern rock kind of way, and the same goes with "Still On My Radio". "Everybody Knows" is very similar to Stenmarck's first solo album and "Tragedy" sound like something off harem Scarem's Weight Of The World album. "Why Do I" is however the real rocker of the album with some really crunchy guitars and a nice beat. Simply put: you can't go wrong here if you enjoy the last couple of Harem Scarem albums and the whole "modern" melodic rock formula.

Steve VAI: "Real Illusions: Reflections" 8

Sony / BMG 2005
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
6 March 2005

Is it only me projecting musical similarities out onto personal characteristics or does the aging Vai really get cosmetically more and more similar to his one-time master Frank Zappa? This dilemma kept ringing in my head while playing his new album and the reason is quite obvious: Vai has never been as close to Zappa musically as this album and if you add the weird philosophical liner notes and the extremely tasteless art(?)work, you can't help noticing the similarities. Do I mind them? Quite frankly I do. I grew up on David Lee Roth's Skyscraper and Vai's Passion and Warfare was one of my most significant influences when it comes to instrumental stuff and though I admire the genius behind this new album the amount of weird experimental tracks takes much of the fun away.

Having seen Steve and his Breed live in Budapest this Summer and noticing the obviously extraordinary chemistry within the band I was hoping for a straightforward rocking album to follow. Well some hints and bits are there but they got diluted by well a dozen of musical experiments. Only drummer Jeremy Colson and legendary bassist Billy Sheehan were "used" from the live line-up as Steve decided not to make use of Tony MacAlpine and Dave Weiner's talent and he recorded all the guitar and keyboard tracks. Can't blame him for doing so though personally I would have loved to hear what they could come up with MacAlpine. Vai undertook production as well and he did a stellar job on that, the mix is very balanced, the bass- sound is extraordinary thick, and quite a few unusual guitar, keyboard, and effect sounds would make your head turn with amazement.

Though the album starts out in rocking fashion with "Building The Church"; just the type of thick, hard-rock instrumental I expected after the Summer-tour, I got turned down with "Dying For Your Love" a slow vocal track dragging a foot all along. "Glorious" restores some of the faith and so does the weird titled "K'M-Pee-Du-Wee". I didn't expect much from a track with such a title but it turned out to be a beautiful melodic number with stunning guitar work. "Firewall" stars out scary with some vocal experimenting but turns into a groovy vocal track with tight drum-bass groove and a great horn section arrangement. Though the track is really good, it isn't really what one buys a Vai album for. Leave that to Chicago or what?! "Freak Show Excess" is really promising with some Eastern melodies with a sitar-sound then it speeds up and Vai rips through the song leaving some room for a great Sheehan solo in the middle. The highlight of the album is obviously the classical-arranged "Lotus Feet" recorded live with the Metropole Orkest conducted by Dick Bakker. It is as beautiful as instrumental music can only get with a monumental feel of movie soundtracks (Elton John eat your heart out or what?!). [Dare I say the engineer responsible for the recording has done a great job with the strings, the piano and the guitar but f*ed the horn section seriously up as they either sound more like a background noise or as metallic as if they would play from a coke can.] Anyway if I have to choose between Yngwie's Convert (which I dig a lot) and Lotus Feet, I'd go for this one any day.

However the rest of the album wiped my smile pretty much off. "Yai Yai" is more like a fooling-around with effect-sampling and though "Midway Creatures" rocks with an intense drum-bass sound and signature Vai melodies the remaining "I'm Your Secrets" is another slow vocal track (with great acoustic intro but annoying vocal performance) and the closing "Under It All" is rather a cheap- excuse to record the monologues Vai wrote for the nonsense story to be read in the liner-notes. If I want to understand the message the story and the artwork and the general concept of the album are to deliver, I can. However I don't really want to. I prefer not to be exposed to weird philosophical messages (or straightforward political ones for that matter) when I buy an instrumental guitarist's album but I would like to hear MUSIC. Cuz that's what Steve Vai has the biggest TALENT for. Leave the rest to those who lack it.

ARTENSION: "Future World" 8

Lion Music 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

I still think that the debut album of Artension “Into The Eye Of The Storm” is their finest piece of music so far. And although my colleague Urban liked “Sacred Pathways” very much, I still prefer their previous album “New Discovery”. That album was a step in the right musical direction again and now Artension surprises me with a pure neo-classical prog metal album.

The influences of Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Ring Of Fire and Time Requiem are so obvious on this album that it almost sounds like a “rip-off”... Just check out songs like “Dark Before The Dawn”, “The Day Of Judgment” and “Federation” and you think that you are listening to an Yngwie Malmsteen album. Especially the rhythms, the melodies and the speedy guitar solos have Yngwie written all over the songs. Furthermore it is obvious that keyboard player Vitalij Kuprij is the leader of the band, his keys are so dominant and he also needs to show his musical skills in two classical piano songs, namely: “Prelude (theme by J.S.Bach) and “The Moonlight Sonata”. Songs that probably not may appeal to all rock listeners?

Highlight of the album is the epic up-tempo title track; a song filled with long piano and keys solos, a catchy, or should I say familiar chorus, a melodic guitar solo and probably very cliché lyrics. The real misser on this album, for me at least, is the bittersweet ballad “Take Me In Your Arms”, talking about cliché titles and lyrics... So, final conclusion: their debut album is still their number 1, but “Future World” is better than “New Discovery”. But Artension should be careful not to become a real neo-classical prog metal clone, keep your own musical identity, guys!!

FREEDOM CALL: "The Circle Of Life" 7

SPV 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
5 March 2005

"We've expanded the range of our melodic speed metal on The Circle Of Life, increasingly relying on quiet phases and strong groove to add to the album's dynamics - vocalist/guitarist Chris Bay explains". Well... one thing's for sure... the music is certainly melodic on the borderline 'wimpy to the extreme' at times. The first six tracks will probably cause a major hickup and discussion among the old fans. It sure as hell ain't "speed metal" anymore as the music have more in common with Pink Cream 69, Bonfire, and even Robby Valentine (???), than their "normal" influences of Helloween or Blind Guardian.

Not necessarily a bad thing either... as long as you're aware of the new and rather "wimpy" attitude of Germany's Freedom Call. I do not have a problem with it personally as I enjoy my "AOR" collection as much as the Speed/Heavy/Power Metal section. I luv the poppy approach of "Starlight" with some straight from the 80's keys in the background and a darn catchy refrain. Damn... this is much closer to 80's pop than speed metal actually. Check also out "The Rhythm Of Life" for some darn catchy melodic rock with lots of keyboards. And they wont get back to their normal lederhosen metal until track #7 - "Kings & Queens", which opens up with a similar riff to Ozzy's "Bark At The Moon" by the way.

I can totally understand if someone who's only into "Power" and "Speed" could turn away in anger from "The Circle Of Life". However, if you don't mind catchy melodies and a flirt with 80's melodic hardrock, you really need to check this out as well. You could however complain about the lyrics at times and the absolutely silly amount of reused song titles!!! How come they can't come up with any original titles anymore??? Looking through the tracklist you'll discover old 'hit songs' such as "Carry On", Hunting High And Low", "Starlight", "Kings & Queens", "Hero Nation", "High Enough", "The Eternal Flame", and of course "The Circle Of Life". I believe that Elton John, The Bangles, Damn Yankees, Metallium, Axel Rudi Pell, Helloween, A-HA, and Manowar would all like to have them back, thank you very much. Poppy power metal??? why not?

DIO: "Evil Or Devine" 7

Spitfire 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2 March 2005

Merely two years has past since the DVD release of this very show and they finally decided go ahead with the CD release as well. Why the long delay? Beats me, since this is actually a fine live performance by the entire Dio band. And that included ex-Lion guitarist Doug Aldrich (nowadays in Whitesnake) and Ronnie James Dio's long time partner in crime, Jimmy Bain (Wild Horses, Black Sabbath). The latter decided to leave the band (again) shortly afterwards, but I'm not quite sure he's gone for good though.

The concert was recorded on December 13 2002 in New York's Roseland Ballroom. The first thing you'll notice about this recording is the stunningly good vocals by Ronnie James. He must be like, 80 years old by now, and he can still sing like the best of them.

The music is loud, in-your-face, with thunder alike drums by Simon Wright (AC/DC, Rhino Bucket, Lion, AIIZ), and a decent tracklisting for a change. You'll get the DIO classics like "Holy Diver" (of course), "We Rock", "Don't Talk To Strangers", "Rainbow In The Dark" and "The Last In Line". The Rainbow days with "Man On The Silver Mountain" and "Long Live Rock'N Roll", the Black Sabbath of "Heaven And Hell" with some of the "Children Of The Sea". Sadly you'll also notice how the "new" Dio doesn't really match up the classic days of the 80's. "Killing The Dragon" was a rather crappy album in my opinion and the title track can only be described as average at its best. Bottomline: The old material still works the best and I tend to skip the new ones. "Evil Or Divine" is nontheless a fine recording of the band -live- in action.


Frontiers 2005
Review by Petri Kautto 7 March 2005

Canadian melodic rockers Honeymoon Suite are aiming to please the aor-fans with a live album though I’m not sure weather they really succeed in it. The album was recorded at Gods Festival in June 2002 and features most of their hits especially from the early part of their career.

Johnnie Dee, no doubt a talented singer, has some serious problems in getting the crowd going. In the early parts of the album I even felt a little sorry for the guy. Maybe because of the quiet crowd, the chatting between the songs was a bit akward throuhgout the album. But they play well and musically this album is ok. I didn’t get too much into it but didn’t detest it either.

HMS is no rock and roll fury and I don’t think they’ll every claim to be. Nevertheless I was missing some passion and attitude on the album. I’m sure they’ve had better gigs and this is probably not their best effort. If you like the band I can imagine that you would like this album but don’t come running to me if you’re disappointed. At least I didn’t set your expectations too high.

MIKE TERRANA: "Man Of The World" 4

Lion Music 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

In 1999 workaholic and drummer Mike Terrana released a solo album called “Shadows Of The Past”, and it was not really – this is an understatement – a good album. That album was only interesting for jazz/fusion fans or drummers who were into jazz. I am afraid however that this new CD is also only suitable for that particular type of listeners..

Again Mike Terrana (Kuni, Macalpine, Malmsteen,Gamma Ray,Helloween, Rage) shows/proves that he can drum, but why those boring drum solos and those nerve racking jazz/fusion passages and even horns!!

Technically it is all perfect, but I get so bored after a few minutes…… On this album Mike is assisted by guitar player Cyril Achard, bass player Kevin Chown and Victor Smolski and Rob Gatzen. The weirdest song is probably “Sonata #9 Pathetique”, originally by Ludwig van Beethoven. For drummers the best track to listen to is probably the drum solo at the end, which was recorded in Tokyo in 2002. Let’s rather listen to the latest Rage album!

STRIKELIGHT: "Strikelight" 4

Eat Metal 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 March 2005

Strikelight certainly starts encouragingly enough with the opening three tracks of "Fake Beliefs", "Angel In Exile" and "Inner Voice". They are the Greek version of the sort of semi dodgey rock/punk numbers that Paul Di'Anno touted around with on the first Iron Maiden album. Not quite as impressive perhaps, but close your eyes and it's 1980 and the NWOBHM era once again. Unfortunately, it's also pretty much down hill and worse from this point on.

You can actually compare this with the latest release of Sweden's Wolf (they are also into the whole NWOBHM era). The material lacks in orginality and it quickly becomes clear that Strikelight is a potential band without really consistent songs. They have however this great twin guitar approach with a bunch of solos and riffs in the style of very early Maiden. It's difficult to keep up with the U.K. legends though and the CD merley works as a poor man's substitute in case of urgent emergancy. It made me want to play some early Iron Maiden though and that's something to be proud of I guess. Try it - if you found the latest Wolf album exciting and/or groundbreaking... which I doubt that anyone did... or???

INNER VISIONS: "Control The Past" 3

Replica Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
10 March 2005

Inner Visions is a French rock band and their debut album is called “Control the past”. Lead guitar player Dominique Leurquin played as second guitar player with Rhapsody during their Symphony Of Enchanted lands tour and then probably decided to create a rock band on his own.

Well, when I listened to the intro, a kind of lullaby, I already feared the worst….Then the second song called “Big Brother” began and I knew that I would not like this album. That song, just as the rst of the tracks on this CD, is filled with cliché guitar riffs and mediocre vocal parts, that remind me of bands like Gamma Ray and Helloween, when they were having a bad day…. The double bass drum, the sometimes high-pitched vocals and the rather simplistic lyrics make this album a real drag.

Every song sounds the same, has the same rhythm patterns, there is hardly any diversity, no surprises, nothing.. The complete album is dull and predictable and furthermore the entire CD has a horrible, hollow sound. The only song I would recommend is the instrumental track and the absolute worst song is the obligatory ballad with the beautiful title “Wake Up With A Smile”. The best advise for these guys would be: practice before you bring out another album and first try to write a good song before you record one. Cheers!

SWEET: "The Very Best Of" ?

Sony/BMG 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 March 2005

Now here's something we haven't noticed for a week or two. It's yet another Sweet compilation with the same old tracklisting as usual. You'll get your "Blockbuster", your "Hell Raiser", the "Ballroom Blitz", your "Action", and the "Fox On The Run". The corny (still sound like) 60's pop of "Funny Funny", "Poppa Joe", "Little Willy, "Wig Wam Bam", etc, etc. It's Sweet's greatest singles - and they're all here, all 15 of their tailblazing Top 40 hits, together with a couple of should-have-beens and a few 'sort of' out-of-ordinary album tracks.

You know what to expect in other words and there's no point in telling you what's it's all about really. Let's face it, if you haven't heard about The Sweet in the past, I suggest that you simply crawl back under the rock that you came out from. All the early Sweet albums has been reissued and remastered as well, and that would obviously have been more interesting to write home about. Now all you need to ask yourself is - do I really need yet another CD collection with the same old Sweet's as last year? and the year before that, and the year before that, and the y... etc, etc.

JUDAS PRIEST: "Angel Of Retribution" 8.5

Sony Music 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
27 February 2005

Gone are the downtuned guitars and all that nonsense metal of "Jugulator" or "Demolition". Gone are all attempts of writing crappy toons that hardly anyone can remember or recall anymore. Welcome back the classic Judas Priest sound of yesterday's past with those sometimes unbelievable silly metal lyrics by Rob Halford. Don't get me wrong, I adore my 80's Priest albums as much as any die-hard fan... but they've really outdone themselves this time with the ultimate cheese of "Lochness".

I actually laughed out loud when I first heard the over ten minute long closing track - "Lochness, confess, your terror of the deep - Lochness, protects, monstrosity". It's actually more in the vein of Spinal Tap or Bad News, and it remind me of the lyrics you used to write at the age of 13 or something! Not exactly what you'd expect from a serious metal act. OK, enough with the bad mouthing and let's talk about the fact that "Angel Of Retribution" is a darn good, classic, JP album instead. I was surprised over how much this sounded like the old days. I really expected "AOR" (hep!) to be more "modern" in its approach and definiteley "brutal". It's not even their most "metal" sounding album up-to-date as "Painkiller" is more speedy than "AOR". The tracks "Judas Rising" and "Hellraider" could however be described as "Painkiller - Part 2", with its intense message and similar approach. There's some serious double-bass drumming going on here by Scott Travis and I'm also glad to report the classic twin guitarwork by Downing/Tipton has returned as well.

The first single "Revolution" has grown for each spin and the two ballads "Angel" and "Eulogy" is something they haven't really done since the very early 80's. Perhaps I excepted something even more of Judas Priest then the ten tracks included? I certainly wished for a "Perfect 10", but I miss a couple of real metal anthems and sing-a-long tunes. It's a strong comeback album nontheless and a return to traditional Priest material, but... they've done better albums than this in the past. I couldn't really decide upon the rating and therefore the 8.5 result. Bottomline: Welcome back you metal kings.... even though I can't get those horrible "Lochness" lyrics outta my head though... what were they thinking about?????

CIRCLE2CIRCLE: "The Middle Of Nowhere" 7

AFM Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
1 March 2005

“Watching In Silence” the excellent debut of Zak Stevens’ Circle2Circle, was released two years ago and the album got glorious reviews (see the rockunited archives for one). This year (21 February) Circle2Circle already brought out an EP called “Remains” and now you can enjoy the second full album of the former lead singer of Savatage.

Let me say right from the start that I am a bit disappointed, after a few spins of “The Middle Of Nowhere” I must come to the conclusion that I prefer the debut. There are no real surprises on this album, I have heard it all before, the riffs, the melodies, the guitar solos, it all sounds so familiar...Of course the Savatage influences are there again; like for example in “In This Life”, breathtaking vocals with that typical Savatage intro and guitar riffs that remind me of albums like “Streets” and “The Wake Of Magellan”. “All That Remains” is almost a Savatage song, with those recognizable staccato guitar riffs and the bombastic and dramatic melodies and vocal parts. Do not get me wrong, these are great songs but they almost sound like a Savatage ripp-off...

The highlights of this CD are “Cynical Ride” (filled with a heavenly and rather catchy chorus), “Holding On”(Savatage-like powerballad) and “The Middle Of Nowhere”(again a powerballad with amazing singing and superb guitar parts). Of course Zak’s voice is still one of the best in the rock scene of today that makes this album still worth listening to, but the song material is rather predictable and un-original, which again is sad but true...The last song is something that Zak better would have “left in the bag”, an acoustic track, which is boring as hell. I would advise Zak, Cris Caffery and Jon Oliva to release another Savatage album!

KELLY KEELING: "Giving Sight To The Eye" 9

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
26 February 2005

Finally vocalist and guitar player Kelly Keeling releases his first solo album. Who the hell is Kelly Keeling, some of you readers might wonder?? Well, here’s some information on this rock/AOR workaholic. K.K., born and raised in Louisiana, was involved in four professional bands in his hometown, namely: Warlock, Tyrant, Trilogy and Castle. In 1986 he became the singer of Baton Rouge and in 1991 he became the singer for John Sykes’ Blue Murder… Four years later he joined The John Norum Band and after doing two albums with Norum he sang on the Carmine Appice’s “Guitar Zeus” CD. In 1998 Kelly became the Michael Schenker Group vocalist, and together hey made the “Unforgiven” album. In 2000 KK moved to this current band called Heaven And Earth and he also did some work with Carmine Appice and Don Dokken. This guy has seen and done it all… and now he finally releases his debut album as a solo artist, on which he was assisted by Don Dokken, John Norum, Kerry Livgren, Carmine Appice and Roger Daltrey.

On this album KK not only proves how well he can sing (which we already knew), but also what a great guitar player he is. “Giving Sight To The Eyes” has become a real guitar album, mainly due to the fantastic riffs and solos of KK. Right from the opener “Rising Of The Snake” you know that this is a “heavy” album. The song is followed by a rather bluesy rock track where Kelly screams like I have never heard before, and where he plays his guitar like I have never heard before; love it! The third highlight is “Ground Zero”, a Kerry Livgren composition, which clocks over 8 minutes and which could be on any Kansas album or maybe even on the new Proto-Kaw CD. It is a dramatic epic, very diverse, with piano and keys passages and most of all, great melodic guitar solos and superb vocals.

John Norum features in a song called “Nothing”, and his guitar riff makes this one the heaviest song on this album. The speedy solos and the raspy voice on “Nothing” create an extra dimension, making this one my personal favorite. “Hell Is On The Way” is a sleazy, dirty rock and roll kind of song, which is again filled with rather fast guitar solos, and I could go on like this, but I will not….. “Giving Sight To The Eye” is a fantastic album, it is progressive, eccentric, and soulful and it rocks like hell. Keep on rockin’ in the free world. Dude!!

MILES ABOVE: "Move Or Be Moved" 8

Escape 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 February 2005

MilesAbove do not sound or act like your average Escape release. You could say they're closer to the sound of "The Calling" (with balls) and other various rock acts of today than your usual 80's stuff. It's definitely borderline Pop/Rock with tons of lushy melodies and lovely vocal harmonies. I really enjoyed the debut album "Further" in 2003 and while "Move Or Be Moved" is a darn fine CD, it doesn't quite reach the same quality in the long run. My favourite description of the band would still have to be - "what Nelson (the timotei twins) would sound like if they started playing rock today".

The attitude is slightly rougher than previous attempt and they do rock out with loud(er) guitars than before. Check out "Watching The Picture Fade" for some uptempo modern rock. It's however still very much a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars and there is certainly a variety on the album. They deliver a fresh and invigorating bunch of songs, coloured with modern rock and the occasional splash of orginality. For example, "God Help Us" is a marvelous epic/pop ballad with some really impressive vocals and keyboards by Tim Hicks. The lyrics are really great with its subtile message and approach "God help us all, cause there's no one left to save us from ourselves and what we've become". Think about it for a while and let it slowly sink in... "intolerance grows all around" - "So much devestation - we reap more than we have sewn". Freakin great song actually and those bagpipes at the end, wow.

I must however say that Tim Hicks (vocals, guitars, keys) and the band deserve a break and some more attention here in Europe. MilesAbove should really be signed to Sony/BMG or any other of the majors out there. Check out the archive for a review of "Further" (you'll get a better overall picture of the band, and that goes for any band really - check the archive first).

DARK SKY: "Living & Dying" 8

AOR Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
21 February 2005

There's something so obviously German in Dark seems like these guys were raised on a strict diet of Scorpions and (especially) Bonfire albums, expect that once a while they got some scandinavian AOR albums as dessert! I bet that doesn't sound too bad for many of our readers...scorp-styled riffs mixed with Bonfire-styled big choruses, with some extra-melodic touches á la Treat as a side order!

Virtually every song is blessed with a strong chorus, the only exception being the opener "Twisted", which I rate as probably the least impressive song here. "Save Our Souls", "Living & Dying" and "The Feeling Is Over" are all quite suberb examples of melodic euro hard rock, and that's just to name a few. The band handles the obligatory ballads quite well too, especially "You Are My Life" is a good one. The production by Markus Teske (of Vanden Plas fame) is very good as well.

Despite all the praise above, there's something about this album which prevents it from rising into the category of classics. Maybe it's the fact that some of the lyrics and vocal melodies sound a bit clumsy, or maybe it's the fact that I'm not a big fan of the vocalist Frank Breuninger's singing style or his strong german accent. Still, I believe that this album is a safe buy for anyone into the likes of Bonfire, Europe, Jaded Heart or Scorpions!

JOHN NORUM: "Optimus" 8

Mascot Records 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
26 February 2005

Last year we were surprised with a new Europe album called “Start From The Dark”, a great come back record of a fantastic rock band from Scandinavia. On that CD the guitar solos and riffs of John Norum were very dominant, dark and heavy and you can almost hear that same guitar sound on his new solo album.

After leaving Europe in 1986, John released his first solo album “Total Control” a year later; however commercially speaking that was not a success. His best solo album till this date is still “Slipped Into Tomorrow”(2000); a great rock CD with lots of magnificent melodies, songs and John playing his guitar like never before. As I stated earlier this new CD is heavy and dark, with almost threatening guitar riffs. The sound on “Optimus” is also rather dark, shallow and mysterious, making this an album that you really have to get used to.

“Chase Down The Moon” is a heavy, but melodic opener and features a splendid dark rock guitar solo by John. “Nailed To The Cross” (one of my favs) has a rather dark riff and is dominated by a speedy guitar solo. The semi-ballad “One More Time” slows the tempo of this CD down a bit and it is special because of the slide guitar picking in the middle. The title track is the first instrumental song, rather fast and reminds me of Paul Gilbert, awesome guitar playing again. “Change Will Come” is the real ballad on this album; a nice song that opens with a guitar solo and evolves into a mainstream rock ballad; so nothing fancy really. The best song is the second instrumental “Solitude”, it is also the longest track: 4:23! This song is filled with great guitar melodies, smashing solos and further astonishing guitar picking. That song reminds me of Thin Lizzy and Dokken, but then better. I would love to hear more of those songs on this album, but unfortunately that is not the case. However, John has come up with a great guitar album again, but why does it only last 37 minutes??? You have got to be kiddin’ me there, John!!!!

DOMAIN: "Last Days Of Utopia" 7

Limb Music 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 February 2005

"Last Days Of Utopia" is a musical journey in which Domain bring life into the world of Utopia with a mixture of progressive, melodic, and symphonic sounds. They've never been quite as "symphonic" in the past to my knowledge however, and it's safe to say that it's a new chapter in the book of Germany's Domain. It also holds a brand new band member (again), the ex-Boysvoice, Casanova, and Demon Drive bassist, Jochen Mayer.

It's basically a concept album based on a story written by singer Carsten Schulz. What's it all about then? Well... check out this fun little story from the following info-sheet which also include all the song titles. - "A New Beginning" takes the hero of the story on a voyage "On Storm Seas" to discover a new existance, during which he is stranded on "The Shores Of Utopia". In this "Ocean Paradise" he at last discover "The Beauty Of Love", causes "The Great Rebellion" through his thoughts, before the Gods destroy the paradise with "Endless Rain". As the only survivor our hero finds himself "Underneath The Blue", floating on the sea, "Left Alone".

I truly enjoyed most of the speedy guitar solos by original member Axel Ritt and the high-pitched vocals of Schulz. They've managed to create a interesting enough album for fans of both melodic and symphonic power metal here. You could say that "Last Days Of Utopia" ends up somehwere between the Avantasia projects and the old "Our Kingdom" days. The closing track "Left Alone" isn't just sentimental and goopy as you'll get your fair share of nitty-gritty and stamina as well. The production by Ritt has perfectly developed into a wall-of-sound as all the choirs and vocal harmonies are exactly where they should be. Let's face it, this kind of music relies upon a massive production, vocal backup's, and a overall pompous approach. Bottomline: this is yet another 'fine' Domain release without being all *that* great or ground breaking for that matter.

SILENCE: "Nostalgia" 7

Vinny Records 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
21 February 2005

Let's start with the good things: the second effort from Silence is very well produced smooth melodic rock. You're not likely to hear many better sounding albums this year, not from the indie AOR labels anyway. The packaging is really stylish as well, and it is actually in line with the content of the album - the music is as bright, positive and athmospheric as the cover art.

All the songs are awashed with layers of keyboards and beautiful melodies, with Jerome Cazard's soft and smooth vocals on top. Faustine Bosson adds her lead vocals to the track "Where No One Lives" and backing vocals to most of the other tracks. The rest of the orchestration has been put together by the producer/songwriter Bruno Levesque.

We started with the good things, so what about the bad things then? I wouldn't say "bad", but the album does have its' weaknesses...while it's very relaxing and enjoyable to listen to, the real highlights and hits are missing. There are several good songs on the album, but nothing really stands other words, you might not find yourself whistling any of these songs later on. Cazard's rather strong accent doesn't win the album any extra points either. Still, I have to consider this album "a keeper" anyways, if only for those lazy sunday afternoons...

Official website

NERVED: "Off Line" 7

MMS/Sony 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
22 February 2005

Nerved is a new band from Sweden that I'm sure will attract both classic and modern rock fans with their debut album. "Off Line" is a mixture of the two rock genres and it's most certainly a hybrid version at large. They're playing a modern dirt rock version of British acts like Thunder, Gun, Bad Company, and even Nazareth.

Especially the singer Emil Gammeltoft will have you thinking about all the above mentioned bands lead vocalists. They've already been supporting Nazareth on tour and you can also find a cover of "Expect No Mercy" on this very CD. They even got Nazareth's old guitarist Manny Charlton as guest musician here. I'm really fond of the overall guitarwork as Marcus Haners has really managed to belt out some ultra heavy riffs. Don't go thinking it's all "old school" rock however as you really need to be open minded about modern influences as well.

Opener "Stroke It Up" is a strong start to what lies ahead (the refrain with it's enchanting "come on, come on" had at least me thinking about Deep Purple's Space Truckin'). "Believe In Me" has a hook as big as a certain 'Captain' and sinks into your brain on first listen. Swedish readers may already be familiar with the toon as "Hyresgästföreningen" (don't ask) has been using it for their TV commercials of recently. The refrain goes something like: "Don't stand alone, on your own, can I make you believe in me", and sound exactly like GUN on their "Swagger" album or Thunder for that matter. And yes again, Gammeltoft is more or less a deadringer for both Thunder and Gun vocalists. "Crystal Balls" is a marvelous little number in the Thunder goes modern metal territorium, while "Can't Bring Me Down" is 70's UK rock up-to-date. Bottomline: Throw away a couple of fillers and you'll still end up with a rock solid debut album. Nerved comes out sounding like a 2005 version of Thunder/Gun and that includes all the modern rock ingredients of today.

HEARTBREAK RADIO: "Hearbreak Radio" 7

AOR Heaven 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
21 February 2005

Swedish production team Sunday Music consists of Törbjorn Wassenius, Claes Andreasson and Mikael Erlandsson, and they've been active in the Swedish music scene for almost 20 years. Some of the biggest rock-related success stories have been the solo albums of Mikael Erlandsson and hard rock group Last Autumn's Dream. Heartbreak Radio is their latest rock project, which was put together with the idea of creating something similar to Journey, Whitesnake and Airplay. Erlandsson was chosen as the singer on three of the tracks, but the other songs feature ex-Prisoner vocalist Pierre Weinsberg.

Let's go through the songs one by one this time: opener "Hard Rock City" is a hard rock track (what a surprise!) and probably the heaviest one here. You'd expect the "hey-hey-hey" in the chorus to be followed by "Hey Stoopid", but it doesn't...not necessarily on of the most inspired tracks on offer, but decent enough. "Now You're Gone" is a good uptempo AOR track, while "Rockin' The Night" borrows its' vibe from Dokken's "It's Not Love" somewhat. The dull chorus single-handedly kills the song for me though. "Let Me Have My Heart Again" is the first of the ballads and I must say that it doesn't really work for me. One can tell though that the guys have attempted to write something in the vein of David Coverdale.

"Don't Look In Her Eyes" elevates the album to altogether different level - this track is a killer! A hard-edged AOR gem with a fantastic hook! The next track sees the guys showing their Journey influence - "Only You" is a homage to "Raised On Radio"-era Journey, a bouncy track along the lines of "Girl Can't Help It" or "Positive Touch". Weinsberg does his best Perry-imitation too...

"Knockin' On Hells Door" is a step (or quite a few actually) to another direction. Sung by Erlandsson, this track is a rough modern pop rocker. It may sound a bit of place here, but it's still quite good. Somehow it reminds me of Per Gessle's songwriting style. "Love Don't Live Here No More" is traditional AOR ballad with a strong chorus, while "Dreamworld" is a catchy and enjoyable uptempo AOR track. The last two tracks "Just 4 Love" and "The Way Of The World" are rather throwaway westcoast pop tracks in my books, but fans of the westcoast style and sugar sweet harmonies might get a kick out of them.

There you have it, a collection of songs in various styles of melodic rock. A bit of "something for everyone" type of a deal...but is it completely satifying for anyone? One does need a wide musical taste for that.

SANITY: "Live At 22" 6

SixPack 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 February 2005

First I'd like to say that I find it incrediable brave for a independent prog-band today to release a 2-disc DVD/CD package. My hat off to Sanity as they've decided to take matters into their own hands with "Live At 22". Recorded live in The Netherlands on November 20th, 2004, this double package features 59 minutes of music on both CD and DVD. You'll get the exact same show as it was recorded without any overdubs or silly effects. To enchance the live experience only an additional Dolby Surround 5.1 spatial effect has been added during mastering.

And while I find this to be a great package and idea, I must also say that Sanity aren't exactly ready to dance among the big dino's of prog as of yet. There are still things to work at and certain areas to improve. The arrangements works nicely at times and especially when they're close to the material of IQ and Marillion. They are said to be influenced by prog metal acts like Queensryche, Dream Theater and Savatage. Something which I find particular strange as they're most definitely playing classic prog-rock and not really metal at all???? One thing's for sure, it's more of that IQ and Geoff Mann type of prog than Dream Theater and Queensryche???

The production and recording of the show is pretty good actually and it's quite enjoyable to watch the DVD. It has a certain charm of prog innocence and it makes you feel humble towards their attitude to music in general. Bonus material features biography and photo gallery, you can buy the double disc package at their homesite below.

Kurt NIELSEN: "A Part Of Me" 4

BMG 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
21 February 2005

I quite liked the first album by Norwegian "Pop Idol" and the "World Idol" winner Kurt Nielsen, but on his second album he seems to have concentrated on all the aspects of his music I didn't much care for - the rather irritating trademark vocal acrobatics á la Bono and introspective semi-acoustic ballads. He has written all the songs on his own and this time there are no covers included. It's quite nice that his label has such strong faith in him, but we'll see how their faith will be rewarded. Personally I don't hear anything here that could storm the charts. On the first album there were a few really good pop rock tracks (and they were written by Nielsen!), but on this one there's only the title song and "Never Easy" which had at least decent hooks - otherwise it's mostly rather boring balladry.

I sincerely hope that this album doesn't totally bomb, as I would like to hear another album from him one day...possibly co-written with some others and hopefully a bit more rock-oriented. How about calling fellow Norwegian Torstein Flakne (of Stage Dolls) and ask whether he has any spare killer tunes laying around?

All in all this album has to be one of the disappointments of 2005. I wonder what Simon Cowell would say now?

KAMELOT: "The Black Halo" 9

SPV/Steamhammer 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 February 2005

Two years ago melodic power metal band Kamelot released their finest album so far called “Epica”. And after a year of songwriting, pre-production, recording, mixing and mastering Kamelot’s new master work is finally ready. “The Black Halo” is again a concept album, continuing their Faustus adaptation about the battle between good and evil that began on “Epica”. The story is as multi-layered as it is deep, and it works on several levels.

The music on Kamelot’s seventh studio album is again characterized by typical melodies, speed, amazing guitar parts, excellent vocals and classical orchestrations with new ideas and fresh influences. Kamelot were supported on this rather ambitious CD by guest musicians like Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir), keyboard wizard Jens Johannson (Stratovarius), Simone Simons (Epica) and a choir.

The opener of this album “March Of Mephisto” really says it all; a song with a classical overture, bombastic, mysterious, diverse, emotional vocals, great guitar melodies and last but not least a great, howling keys solo by Jens. The second impressive song is “Memento Mori”, with around nine minutes playing time Kamelot’s longest number not only on this CD, but also in the band’s entire history. A true epic power metal track with a beautiful piano intro, a mysterious classical theme with strings and guitar and the dark voice of Shagrath adding the extra dimension. The other songs are also worth listening to, especially “The Haunting”, “This Pain” and the title track. Special songs, but rather strange are the three interludes, with Latin and Italian vocals. However “The Black Halo” is Kamelot’s finest so far, a really great album which will be to the liking of every melodic power metal lover. I am really looking forward to their live gigs in April.

Joe Lynn TURNER: "The Usual Suspects" 8

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
11 February 2005

As much as I like Joe Lynn Turner as a vocalist, I have to say that nothing he has released since Malmsteen's "Odyssey" has really struck me as being an essential purchase. I think I've heard most of the albums he's been involved in (solos, HTP, Mother's Army...) but I'll be damned if I can remember more than 5 songs from all of them together! Although the press releases regarding this album promised a return to a more melodic style, I was quite sceptical - we've heard all this pre-release hype before, haven't we? However, I'm glad to say that Mr. Turner has delivered what was promised - an album that has more hooks and more melodies than anything he has recorded during the last 15 years. Still, there's enough of gritty, raw and bluesy rockin' which will keep the fans of HTP and his recent solo albums quite happy too.

Melodic hard rock doesn't get much better than the opener "Power Of Love". A very hard rockin' riff, verses awashed with melody and a killer chorus - what more can one ask? "Devil's Door" is very good too, reminding me a bit of Turner-fronted Deep Purple. "Jack Knife" is a track for the fans of HTP, while "Really Loved" is a bluesy, melodic semi-ballad that sounds like it escaped from the Stuart Smith album "Heaven And Earth", on which Turner was one of the vocalists.

"Rest Of My Life" is another album highlight, a balladic track with some similarities to Rainbow's classic "Can't Let You Go". One can tell that Turner and his co-writers really worked on the choruses! "Into The Fire" is somewhere between the gritty hard rock style and the AOR'ish one - a straight-forward rocker but with some melodic touches here'n there.

"Blood Money" and "Ball And Chain" are both among the less impressive tracks, a bit unmemorable hard rockers. "All Alone" has been placed between them, and it's a more melodic mid-tempo track. The big ballad of the album is the excellent "Live And Love Again". It's the kind of song that would be a big hit in the hands of Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. Okay, given that it's 2005, maybe just a moderate hit...

"Unfinished Business" is apparently an european bonus track, another straight-forward rocker that doesn't necessarily add anything to the overall picture, but it's surely a track that will find its' friends among the HTP fans.

There you have it, probably the second best Joe Lynn Turner solo album ("Rescue You" is still my favourite though) and most definitely the strongest album of his since the eighties.

UMPHREY'S MCGEE: "Anchor Drops" 8

Inside Out 2005
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 february 2005

Umphrey's McGee was founded in Chicago back in 1997 and in its home country this band is already a well-known act for some time now. Within the so-called jam band scene they are regarded as a dreaded force and biggest competitor of the uncrowned jam rock kings Phish. The band consists out of six people and the music is a mix of Steely Dan, John Coltrane, Frank Zappa, Dixie Dregs, The Police and Pearl Jam.

"Anchor Drops", their fifth studio album, is their first album which will also be released in Europe. Their music is not easy to listen to; you really have to get used to the complex rhythms, the crazy guitar riffs, the harmony vocals and the rather psychedelic and jazz-rock elements. "Plunger", the opener is rather speedy with lots of variation and staccato guitar riffs, which kind of remind me of a band, like Tiles. "JaJunk Pt.1 and 2 are superb progressive rock songs with rather heavy and complex guitar melodies and solos, songs which make it almost impossible to label this music.

The title track is also one of the highlights; a funky/jazzy track with amazing guitar picking and a true old-fashioned organ solo. The three instrumental songs on this album are also worth checking out, mostly because of their fine melodies and guitar solos. The complete misser on this album however is a song called "Bullhead City". A country and western song with a female singer (Dolly Parton perhaps??) which is completely out of line on this CD, a true disaster, or maybe better said; a complete shit song! [Ed: hmmm...I think "true disaster" was better...] The rest of the album however catches the vitality, the spontaneity and the extraordinary power of this truly amazing and daring band. A superb album for lovers of experimental, progressive rock music.

NIGHTRAGE: "Descent Into Chaos" 7

Century Media 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
13 February 2005

"Descent Into Chaos" - Well, the CD certainly comes out sounding like the chaos theory at full large. Nightrage returns with their sophomore release and it's furious neck-breaking metal from the word go and no stoping for red lights. It doesn't have that much in common with guitarist Gus G's other projects really (Firewind, Dream Evil), as we're talking about speedy (melodic) death metal at full bloom. Vocalist Tomas "Tompa" Lindberg, a survivor from the Swedish Death Metal wave in the early/mid 90's (ex-At The Gates, The Crown, Disfear, Hate, Lock Up etc), and his characteristic gruff vocals are indeed the centre of attention.

Check out "Silent Solitude" for some serious brutal work by Tompa with the ever-so-present riffing by Gus G. The only clean vocals featuring on this CD are courtesy of Dark Tranquillity's Mikael Stanne. You'll hear him shouting during the refrain of "Frozen", which also happens to be the most "commercial" song included and a future single release? I much rather listen to the powerful metal anthem of "Release" though, and the following instrumental (Solus) is very tasty performed guitar twiddling.

However, don't buy this thinking you'll get another Dream Evil or Firewind album, it's definiteley closer to home to the music of At The Gates, with merely a touch of the above mentioned acts. It's nontheless a very solid melodic speed/death metal album, even if I prefer a tad more hooks and harmonies myself.

THUNDER: "The Magnificent Seventh" 7

Frontiers 2005
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
16 February 2005

While many considered the previous Thunder effort to be one of their finest albums, I never really got into it. So, I was ready to pass this album on for someone else to review, but decided to give it a spin - and I'm glad I did, since some of these tracks are among the best ones I've heard from this band.

I must admit that I'm not particulary fond of the opening track "I Love You More Than Rock'n Roll". It may be UK Top 40 hit, which is something to applaud, but I feel that it's Thunder by numbers, a very simple rock track without a real hook. "The Gods Of Love" is a stronger track with a more powerful chorus, even though the riff sounds disturbingly much like "Enter Sandman"!

The somehow orientally flavoured (rice 'n curry?) "Monkey See, Monkey Do" doesn't rate among my faves, but "I'm Dreaming Again" does. Thunder have always been good at ballads, and this one isn't an exception. Still, even stronger is "Amy's On The Run", an awesome melodic rocker with plenty of hooks. My wife said that it reminds her of Europe's "Start From The Dark" track, and I think she has a point, even though the overall mood of this track is much lighter.

The next highlight is "Fade Into The Sun". It's driven by a cool staccato guitar riff and blessed with a great hook. "Together Or Apart" could be described as a hard rocking semi-ballad, and it's another winner. Vocalist Danny Bowes really shines on these more emotionally charged tracks.

After a couple of rather standard rockers, we've reached the last track, a Russ Ballard/Luke Morley collaboration called "One Fatal Kiss". This song grabs one right from the start with a great guitar hook, and doesn't really let go...the "whoa whoa" chorus might be a distant cousin of another Ballard co-written track, Magnum's "Rocking Chair", but that doesn't make it any worse, does it?

It's quite difficult to rate this album, since half of it deserves the full points really, but on the other hand, the rest of the tracks didn't much anything for me. Oh well, I guess it has to be the "compromise" rating of does suit the title though, does it?

MIRADOR: "The Azrael Tales" 7

Rivel Records 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
11 February 2005

Mirador is a brand new act from Sweden that play epic metal with Scandinavian roots. It's actually quite difficult to describe them as they're not really close relatives to anyone. The grand singer Jakob Forsberg's voice is indeed powerful and mighty in the vein of Mike Lee from Barren Cross fame. The music on the other hand is more epic, progresive, and almost doomy at times. You can hear musical elements from bands like Candlemass, Queensryche, and Black Sabbath, according to the info sheet. And while I do agree up to a certain point, I'd also have to throw in some Evergrey and even early Leviticus at times.

Mirador are somehow the lite version of the above acts as they're not quite as progressive as Queensryche, not quite as heavy as Sabbath, not as doomy as Candlemass, etc, well, you get the picture. They have actually managed to create their own sound with "The Azrael Tales" and that's something to be proud of. The basic concept is dark and heavy guitars mixed with great choir arrangements, progressive elements, complex interludes, and melodic melodies. One thing's for sure, the song "The Trial" could as easily have been included on the latest release by Evergrey. The epic sounding "Thief" and the following "New Day" are both close to masterpieces in their own genre.

The whole package is indeed a nice piece of craftsmanship and you can't help feeling that both musically and visually, a great deal of love and care has gone into the making of "The Azrael Tales". They're off to a good start and let's merely hope that Mirador will continue to envolve into something really great in the future to come. You can't go wrong with this release if you enjoy the above genres and acts. However, it's not quite as impressive as their musical influences.

RESURRECTION BAND: "Colours" 6 [reissue]

RR 2004
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
16 February 2004

Please stand up for the Resurrection Band!!! Formed in Chicago in 1971 by vocalist/guitarist Glenn Kaiser, his wife Wendy (vocals) and her brother John Herrin (drums), you could say that "Colours" was a real family matter. Originally released in 1980 the album has now been digitally remastered and reissued through Retroactive Records in the states. Resurrection Band is one of Christian music's few dino rock groups that cheated extinction to survive against all odds from the early days when Christian rock first oozed out of the whole Jesus movement. You may have heard of them as "Rez Band" as with the departure of original bassist Jim Dention in the mid-80's, they also decided to continue as "Rez".

"Colours" is gritty hardrock in the style of AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Mother's Finest, and even Heart. The latter is mostly due to the marvelous vocals by Wendy Kaiser, a v-e-r-y underrated female singer in my opinion. Her husband Glenn is more of a barbwire singer and together they make quite a couple. The fact that both share lead vocal position makes it all more interesting than your average rock album. There's something for everyone out there, even if the CD swiftly goes through two completely different rock styles. On one hand you have Glenn's AC/DC and Ted Nugent numbers and on the other you get Wendy's Heart/Mother's Finest rock. Not a bad thing really and the ten tracks with a playing time of merely 36 minutes will rush you by. My favorite song "The Struggle" will probably remind you a lot of Billy Squier as there's a lot his melodic guitar playing into this. Nice but hardly essential rock!

Calvin RUSSELL: "In Spite Of All" 5

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

I never really got into the music of Calvin Russell and probably never will for that matter. His slow-motion blues with the icky attributes of singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Jimmy Dale Gilmour, tend to get on my nerves.

He's a great storyteller though and his lyrics are always intersting to listen at. Russell is a real fighter and some would even say outlaw from Texas, USA. Born in Austin in 1948 Calvin's been taking a walk on the wildside for most of his life. Landing in prison in Nuevo Laredo Old Mexico in the winter of 85 (after living the life of a vagabond in this smuggling ground), he found himself sleeping on a concrete mattress in the coldest winter that desolate has ever seen. Following his return to Austin Calvin upgraded his sleeping quarters to the dirt space under a house (!) on Pettersson Avenue in Old Clarkesville as he tried to convince the Austin music industry to listen to his material.

I told you he was a fighter!!! I love his music when he rocks out in that gritty, dirty, rock'n roll of "Just Like L.A." or "Cans", where you'll also get a bit of "Rawhide" (the all-time classic wild-west tune). This is marvelous stuff that will have you thinking about Lemmy doing the dirt blues/rock. "Too Much Room" is another winner that goes straight to the heart. A really fine blues/country/rock ballad with lyrics that really fits the mood. Tom Petty would have been proud of the fellow. I hate his music when he gets to homely to the sound of Willie Nelson and all that Dylan crap though. He's a way better vocalist than the latter bozo however (Thank God!) and his guitar playing is top-notch stuff. Bottomline: You need to be fan of both the blues and the US singer/songwriter tradition of above mentioned artists, to truly enjoy this CD to its fullest. I only wish there could have been another 5-6 tracks in the style of "Just Like L.A."

MASQUERADE: "In Disguise" 5

SorceryStudios 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
13 February 2005

I know there are many fans of the self titled debut album with Masquerade out there. The Swedes recorded a fine AOR platter back in 1992 and has since decided to jump bandwagon for each new trend. OK... that's a bit harsh I guess, but it's not like they've been leaders rather than followers of stuff. Then again, their AOR album from 1992 wasn't the most original sounding album in the first place. This is however a slight return to their most melodic days.

Sadly "In Disguise" does not deliver any surprises whatsoever. It's mostly leftover demos from the debut album and the sound quality is therefore not really up to standard. It's all very neat and tidy, but the music rarely makes you wanna sit up and rave about the stunning melodies or hooks. It's simply not together and you'll totally understand why these songs were left behind in the first place. You'll also notice that guitarist/songwriter Thomas G:son only contributed with his trademark stuff on two of the twelve tracks included. Hmmm... if you're able to write stuff for the Eurovision Song Contest each and every year, you should at least have a couple of great songs left in the vault, you'd think?

It's mostly a CD for the die-hard fan that simply needs everything ever record with the Masquerade boys. I couldn't pick any highlights to be honest and the songs are simply not interesting enough for me to rave about them. It's hardly all yesterday's garbage, it's just remarkably average, and it's difficult to get any reaction from the listener with material like this.

King’s X: "Live All Over The Place" 10

Inside Out 2004
Review by Jorge Antonaya,
8 February 2005

Although not exactly a new release, I just recently came across this double live album and couldn’t resist the temptation both to buy it with no hesitation and to review it here. Believe it or not this is the first live recording ever to see the light from the Houston trio. And there are not many chances that you get wrong with three musicians who have been playing together for almost 23 years now.

“Live All Over The Place” is a self explanatory title, as this is a collection of recordings from many places and years, despite of it all, it maintains the tightness a if it were a unique performance. The final tracklist features a general overview of the band’s career, although, as any other fan out there, I miss some hits like “It’s Love” or “Mr. Wilson” from “Faith Hope Love” album (which, other than that is well represented with 4 tracks). For those of you already fans of the band there’s no need to say how awesome the performances are, but what needs to be pointed out is that virtuoso’s here doesn’t equal endless shredding and countless solos, quite different, it is more of an improvised moody feeling on it, it’s all about knowing each other strengths and abilities and let the vibes flow. Take “Over My Head” as an example of that. In fact, most of the original ideas that ended up being King’s X songs started out as jam sessions during soundchecks throughout the years (or so they stated in an interview ages ago). The songs go on fluently, effortlessly with Jerry Gaskill fabulous drums, Doug Pinnick endless groove on bass and soulful vocals and Ty Tabor’s heavenly harmonies and mindblowing guitar work. Their talent and creativity seems far from being over and one can only guess what’s gonna be next in this three merry men career. Disc one is fully electric whilst disc two kicks off with an acoustic set opening with the delicious “The Difference”, which truly makes the difference with other bands out there. Other nice surprises on that set are “Goldilox” or “Everybody Knows A Little Bit” from their two first albums “Out Of The Silent Planet” and “Gretchen Goes To Nebraska”. After that we go to an electric set with “Talk To You”, “Visions” or “Summerland”, one of my all time King’s X fave tunes. An acoustic rendition of “Over My Head” comes as a bonus track, being it the only song repeated on the double album. There’s even room on disc one for a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression featuring Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam on bass.

Damn it, seems like yesterday when they released “Out Of The Silent Planet” in 1987. Many years passed, 10 studio albums, a best of, and now this live recording, (not to mention the flow of solo and side projects) and you can still recognize and enjoy with the trademark sound of what is to yours truly one of the most underrated, and influential band of all times. Van Halen himself pointed out Ty Tabor’s as one of the guitarists to watch out in one of the bands to watch out for in the 90’s. I always said King’s X is not a band for everyone, but once you get into their unique musical embrace, there’s no way out.
King’s X Online

MY SIXTH SHADOW: "Love Fading Innocence" 8

Watch Me Fall Records 2005
Review by Petri Kautto,
5 February 2005

My Sixth Shadow is an Italian band that plays gothic rock/metal and their new CD "Love Fading Innocence" is an album that borrows a lot from bands like HIM and Paradise Lost. Yet this is fairly entertaining album and I’ve played it quite a lot recently. After many listening sessions the album still feels fresh.

As obvious as their influences may be My Sixth Shadow manages to create their own sound. The main reason for that is the lead singer Dave who has a clear and high voice instead of the dark and low voice that most gothic lead singers have. The album kicks of with “Useless” that begins with a strange disco mix but then the guitars come in and you’re immediately stamping your feet. Many other songs have the same effect and I think that there really are not any weak songs here. Musically their songs are closest to HIM and in songs like “So Far” or “Shadows in My Love” I had to check the credits just to see if Ville Valo had been credited. There is also a cover of U2’s With or Without You and again, if HIM would cover the same song it would probably sound like this (just compare HIM’s version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” with this and you’ll see what I mean).

I don’t want to make too big of an issue out of the comparison with HIM because that doesn’t change the fact that "Love Fading Innocence" is a good, solid album. There are several songs that catch your interest from the first second and you are forced to listen to them over and over again. So if you like this genre and are not bothered that there are some bands that sound similar you will very probably enjoy My Sixth Shadow.


Metal Heaven 2005
Review by Petri Kautto,
5 February 2005

Cloudscape is setting their standards pretty high as their first-born is a well produced melodic metal album with a touch of prog metal in it. The band categorises their music as melodic, semi-progressive symphonic heavy metal (or at least that’s what it says in their press info) and I would say that it is quite accurate.

The first song song of the album didn’t really do anything for me but the second song "Under Fire" kicks of with a riff that is hard to ignore. There are elements on some of their songs that will also please a hard rock fan and this song is one example of that. Third song "Aqua 275" has also a very intrigueing beginning and it’s a good piece. I could also mention a few other examples of fine song writing, but to put it short, these guys know what they’re doing and they’ve put together a good album. Micael Andersson (vocals), Björn Eliasson (guitars), Patrik Svärd (guitars), Hans Persson (bass) and Roger Landin (drums) have a pretty good thing going on here and I’m guessing will be hearing more from these Swedes in the future.

The musicianship is impeccable and the production is also top notch. You get your money’s worth of ripping riffs and guitar-solos, double-bass drums, keyboards and melodic metal in general. If you’re into this genre this album will make a nice addition to your CD collection.

APOCALYPTICA: "Apocalyptica" 7

Universal 2005
Review by Jorge Antonaya,
7 February 2005

Let put it straight, after their last album, Reflections, I had high expectations on this new album by the Finnish cello trio. I followed the news in their website with growing interest and was eager to check the album out, more so since they announced there would be vocal tracks from the initial version of the album, instead of releasing them as single like they did in the past. Well, the result was a bit disappointing, not because of the lack of quality on the tracks, but I rather like the musical direction in Reflection more than the one they have followed in this new album.

They state on an interview, included on the multimedia part of the limited edition of the album, that this time they wanted to seize all the possibilities of expression the cello has. Thus, they chose to go for a slow approach on the songs. The overall tempo on this album is rather slow, compared to Reflections. The tracks tend to sound very thick, dense and obscure. The stuff becomes a bit depressing at times, which aint got to be a bad thing per se, if handled carefully enough, but I got the feeling after several spins on the album that it went a bit out of hand. The album kicks off with the good uptempo “Life Burns!” with Lauri Ylonen (The Rasmus) behind the mike, but this track has little to do with the rest of the material of the album, so it make sense not to choose it as the first single, although I’m rather sure they’ll use it later on. The rest of the songs can be classified in two different categories, the slower, moody songs and the more uptempo (not too much though), denser ones. In the former we can find songs like the single “Bittersweet” with a male duo on vox, which is very unusual, featuring Lauri Ylonen and Vile Valo (H.I.M.). The duo works out great as their voices being totally different fit perfectly. Other songs in the slower side are “Farewell”, a nice moody ballad, or “Ruska”. The dense side is represented by songs like “Quutamo” (probably the most related to Reflections song in the whole album), “Distraction”, a good uptempo with nice melody, or “Misconstruction”, just to name a few.

The sound of the album has little to do with previous efforts, I found it closer to let’s say Slayer, than to Metallica. I guess they could have included more vocal tracks on the regular version of the album, (there are 3 more on the limited edition). I’m not quite sure how to explain my feelings on this album, the result is a bit of a mixed bag, it is a good album and it has been really well done as far as performances are concerned, but I found the sound too loud at places, like in the more in crescendo parts of the denser songs. It’s one of those albums you say “It’s good, but…” you know what I mean, right?

IVANHOE: "Walk In Mindfields" 7

Massacre 2005
Review by Jorge Antonaya,
8 February 2005

German progsters make their comeback with this elaborated piece of music titled “Walk In Mindfields”, being this their fourth album since 1992. Present day line up comprises Mischa Mang on vocals, Achim Welsch on guitars, Giovanni Soulas on bass, Richard Seibel on keyboards and Sebastian Brauchle behind the drum set. Apparently they have spent three years making this album, which can be listened to in the final product.

“Walk In Mindfields” is a solid pack of songs in a progressive metal ala Dream Theater with a twist towards power metal. Unlike DT, Ivanhoe tend to keep tracks less than 6 min long, which makes the album much more listenable for a general metal audience. Whilst not the most original album you’re going to listen to this year, “Walk In Mindfields” has been done cleverly enough to keep the standard of the material quite high with no major standouts, but also with no minor tracks. Highlights are difficult to point out, but I like specially “History…”, the title track, and “Scared”. The performances here are also of a quite good level with outstanding guitar work, excellent drums and more than suitable keyboards. The vocals may fall too much on the average side for this kind of releases, which doesn’t mean they are poor at all, just not spectacular.

All in all, this is one of those records than sneaks into your collection slowly, with no big noise, but being confident in its quality and good material. Probably it won’t be among your all time fave albums, but sure as hell it will give you more than a good time listening to it. Prog-heads out there should check it out.

SPOCK'S BEARD: "Octane" 6

InsideOut 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 February 2005

"Octane" - will this keep your motor running for the next couple of months??? I'm not entirely convinced about it as the farewell of Neal Morse has made them slightly less impressive in my ears. However, the songs are rather 5 than 10 minutes long now and not quite as "progressive" as in the past. Don't get me wrong, they are still very much a prog-band, but you could say that they're going through the same changes as "Marillion" once did before them (and I'm really more into Fish' material than Hog's).

It's one step further away from classic prog and one step closer to classic and even alternative rock at times. What's up with those Audioslave influences of "Surfing Down The Avalanche" for example? Or the corny old rock of "Climbing Up That Hill"? I find the material to be rather weak if you'd compare it to the other great prog albums that InsideOut has been releasing of recently (RPWL, Kino, Arena). The soft songs are all great though and Nick D'Virgilio has even managed to improve his singing voice since last time. Check out "Watching The Tide" for some excellent soft prog (ballad). I guess the two discs special edition of the album with eight (8!) bonus tracks, could add quite a lot to the big picture. I'm however stuck with this 12 track promo and can't really judge the "entire" album so to speak.

It could be that InsideOut are having their best? couple of months as a label right now, and therefore I find this even less impressive somehow. But nah, I still find the new Spock's Beard CD to be rather average actually.

KAMINARI: "Faraday's Daydream" 7

Prevision Music 2004
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
9 February 2005

In October 2002 I reviewed Kaminari's demo, and said something to the effect of them possibly getting a deal on the strength of it. Well, here they are now with a new album, released by a new label Prevision Music, who are distributed by Twilight. This means that they're playing with the big boys now, here in the Reviews page, instead of the A&R dept.

Many things I wrote about the demo are still the same: the production (by Achim Köhler and the band) is excellent, and stylewise the band hasn't done any drastic changes. It's still Iron Maiden-like trad metal but the band does have a style of their own. Occasionally you might find yourself reminded of some other Euro-metal favourites like Running Wild or Pink Cream 69.

The band opens the album with possibly their strongest track to date, the catchy "Vampire Vanity". Great opener with an instant sing-along chorus! "Eye-Borg" continues strongly, but for somehow I can't really remember the next couple of songs, although I've been listening to this album a few times already! "Halfway To Heaven" is the band's most radio-friendly number, a good ballad. "Guardian Angel" is another quite strong track, as is my fave track from the demo, "My Black Colours". It's so strong that they've actually included it twice (there's a radio edit on the album as well)!

Next up there's "Fire And Dice" and "Babylon", both tracks which left me a bit cold. "Stairway To The Galaxy" is better, the opening riff might sound familiar but it's still quite cool! I'm not sure about the chorus though.

A few somewhat weaker numbers lower my grading a bit, but otherwise this is an album that I can recommend to all the Iron Maiden fans and fans of NWOBHM-styled metal.

The 69 Eyes.: "Motor City Resurrection" 6

Poko Rekords 2005
Review by Petri Kautto, 5 February 2005

The 69 Eyes have not always been as gothic as they are today. From early- to mid nineties these guys were more Iggy Pop and Hanoi Rocks (Andy McCoy is even playing on the album) than HIM or Type O Negative that they are today. "Motor City Resurrection" is a compilation album from their garage punk rock era, and might I add, an average one.

Hindsight, the mother of all wisdom. But if you compare the 69 Eyes of the early days and 69 Eyes of today it is safe to say that they’re better off with the musical style they have now. This album is all about "Helsinki sleaze" and they are true to that greasy sound of the era. In fact, I think that they could have had more success with this style of music but on this album the band lacks that one final touch that separates the best from the rest. One notable difference between then and now is the singer Jyrki69. He sounds like a school boy and there’s not a trace of the dark, mystic voice he has today. If not for anything else, this album is good for before/after comparison.

This compilation was previously released in Japan, but now it’s available also elsewhere with eight bonus tracks, you’ll find more info on their web page. They’ve added some covers, b-sides etc. to this release and this is a good overview of the band’s early years. For true glam/sleaze/garage punk enthusiasts and die hard 69 Eyes fans only.

Walter TROUT: "Deep Trout" 5

Provogue 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
8 February 2005

Gone fishing - Walter Trout's CV boasts artists such as Percy Mayfield, Big Mama Thornton, Jesse Ed Davis, Pee Wee Crayton, and no to mention, learning his craft on the road with the legendery John Lee Hooker. He also spent five road battered years with Canned Heat as Trout took over from the indisposed Henry Vestine on guitar. He's an old geezer in other words and I must admit not being *all that* familiar with his work. Ehem... this is the first time that I've been listening to a entire album with the blues/rock guitarist.

"Deep Trout" is a compilation of songs mostly from the 1990-1995 era with 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks. The "funny" album name "Deep Trout" takes its title from a parody of the infamous "Deep Throat" film of the seventies. I'm sure you all know what that film is all about. Trout however plays in the same virtuoso league as Hendrix and Gary Moore. If you rank those blues albums with Gary Moore highly (I don't), you will most certainly enjoy Trout too. There's a lot of influences from old blues heroes such as Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson, into Trout's music. In fact, you can find a cover of the latters "Love In Vein", and a tribute to Muddy Waters, simply title "Muddy Waters". The bonus tracks are a acoustic version of "Life In The Jungle", a 1972 live version of "So Sad To Be Lonely" and a lost track from the Freebo album, named "Big Chain".

IMPALED: "Death After Life" 2

Century Media 2005
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
8 February 2005

"Grrrrr, Grrrrr, Gluuurrrg, Gloooog, Grrrrrrr, Grrrrrr" - now everybody join in and sing a long. Do you remember the Norwegian death/black metal scene in the very early 90's??? Impaled are obviously big fans of the genre as they're still stuck in that horrible outdated killer mode. OK, credit where credit's due, they are better musicians than most of those hacks and you can actually compare this with Carcass at times. Nevertheless, there's not a shred of melody or harmony to be found on this CD, nor any sympathy for even trying to keep up with the modern death metal acts of today. Recommended to: Fans of 90's old school black/death metal without any keyboards or melodies whatsoever. It's mostly disturbing, hardly grotesque, and plain right boring music in the end. Try the new Extol CD instead - now there's a freaking great modern album of today at Century Media.


* * * * * 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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