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SARACEN: "Vox In Excelso" 8

Escape 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
22 July 2006

I believe I gave Saracen a rather harsh treatment and review last time around (and I still stand by my words). Thus why I never saw this coming and hardly thought this to be anything special or out of their ordinary gaga. You don't really expect a U.K. Pomp/Symphonic act out of the early 80's to all of a sudden record their best album ever in the year of 2006. Really? what are the odds??? Nontheless, "Vox In Excelso" is a concept album that will surprise many and most fans of late 70's early 80's symphonic rock.

The concept story is based on the mysterious and controversial history of the Knights Templar. The medevial body of warrior monks who grew to become one of the most powerful military & financial organisations in Europe. Well, at least until the church thought it to be too powerful and decided to ban and close down the organisation. You get the whole she-bang with crusades to Jerusalem (the holy city) with all its power and glory. It's also the same story that underpins Dan Brown's best seller The Da Vinci Code and we all know by now that they had a secret to keep. Jesus + Mary = true?

The band is still a classic five-piece line-up of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals. From the original five, the two most important members are still present at the heart of Saracen (namely vocalist Steve Bettney and guitarist/songwriter Rob Bendelow). The concept story flows throughout the CD and I don't even mind the female narrator at the beginning of each track (Meg Fairlie Maunder). There's no real highlight nor downer to be found, the band keep a rather high concept standard overall. I'm not entirelly sure that all of you out there have heard about Saracen in the past. However, this comes highly recommended to anyone who's into the early 80's work of Magnum (mostly), Demon (secondly), with a slight hint of both 70's Styx and Kansas. Very symphonic, very classy!!!


CenturyMedia 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
23 July 2006

Could this be the end of the line? It's been said that Strapping Young Lad will at least take a break or/and stop recording for CenturyMedia. Only time will tell, I guess. You know, the guitar work by Townsend & Jed Simon are absolutely stunning as always. They twist, bend and turn their strings, but it's all done with such fluidity that they never once fracture or lose the thread. "The New Black" is filled with lyrics and sounds delivered by schizophrenic voices with a ever changing montage of madness. It's technicaly a perfect ten rated album as you can't really complain about anything from production by Mike Fraser (Aerosmith, Metallica, etc), to performance by all musicians included. I'm truly impressed by Gene Hoglan (ex-Death, Dark Angel) as he pulls off some technical stuff here that most drummers can merely dream about.

The songs are shorter and less complex (really?) than last years "Alien" project. Not that "simplicity" is a word that you can connect to Devin Townsend. Actually, the riffs are as complexed as ever, but "The New Black" is more easy-listening and not quite as dark as previous attempts. Ok, tracks like "You Suck" and "Fucker" are suppossed to be backed up with humorous yet intelligent lyrics. I must confess that I still don't get it though, it's obviously too "intelligent" stuff for me. But at least the music is top class and the sheer energy of "Anti-product", "Monument", "Almost Again", the title track, etc, will get you going like a engernizer bunny on speed.

Synths and samples are not to everyone's liking, but the effects merely enchance rather than clutter the outcoming of "The New Black". Bottomline: quite melodic and catchy stuff with guitar riffing not of this world. When I think about, the most melodic tracks bare resemblance to 24Unity (believe it or not).

SHOOTING STAR: "Circles" 7

Frontiers 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
27 July 2006

I first came across Shooting Star back in the eighties, when I bought their "Silent Scream" album from a bargain bin. I didn't know anything about them, but they sort of looked like a hard rock band and the LP was practically free... well, they weren't really hard rock, but I liked some of the tracks. Fast forward a few years to 1989 or thereabouts... I was watching a Dolph Lundgren sci-fi movie, when a song in the movie caught my attention. It turned out to be "Touch Me Tonight", a Shooting Star song. It was so good that I kept the movie in my VHS collection for quite a while, just because it was the only way for me to listen to the song back then! Again, fast forward a couple of years - "It's Not Over" is released, and although it doesn't feature "Touch Me Tonight", it's a very good album with a few minor AOR classics. Since then, not much has been heard of Shooting Star. They did release "Leap Of Faith" in 2000 (and again in 2002 with one additional track), and their older albums were reissued as CDs recently. However, in 2006 there's been a lot of activity in the Shooting Star camp: first they announced that the excellent vocalist Kevin Chalfant (The Storm, The VU, Two Fires) would join the band, and then the news of their new album came out.

The new album "Circles" doesn't stray too far from the path the band has travelled throughout their 20+ years of history. Admittedly, for someone who got into the band during their most AOR-friendly era, there's only a handful of songs which do have that same vibe, the others go further back, all the way to the seventies. Opener "Runaway" is one of those 70'ies styled songs, a classic rock track with organ solos and a simple chorus. Kevin Chalfant sounds great, but even he can't save the song from being a bit ordinary. The Journey-like midtempo AOR track "Without Love" is much better, and so is the hard-edged "Trouble In Paradise", which sounds like it could've been taken from "It's Not Over" - strong guitar riff and an excellent chorus.

"George's Song" is the band leader Van McLain's tribute to George Harrison. I was expecting a very Beatles-sounding song, but to my surprise the song doesn't sound like them at all. It's a solid ballad with Chalfant in top form. Good! "Borrowed Time" and "Everybody's Crazy" showcase the hard rockin' side of the band, and while they rock hard, especially the latter is in need of a good hook. "Temptation" is more mellow, but a bit repetitive.

"I'm A Survivor" was released as a free download prior to the album's release, and indeed it was a good appetizer. It's also one of the best songs here, a good hard rocker with a strong chorus. It's followed by "We're Not Alone", another very good track which should appeal to all SS fans - it has those 70'ies pomp elements, but it also has plenty of hooks and what's more, it is definitely a rocking track. Last but not least, there's one for AOR fans, a strong ballad called "What Love Is".

So what's the outcome of all this? A decent comeback album with some good, if not classic songs. If anything, Kevin Chalfant proves once again that he is one of the finest melodic rock singers out there. Also, a few extra points for the use of a violin player - Shane Michaels' playing adds a lot of character to the songs.

LUNATICA: "The Edge Of Infinity" 6

Frontiers 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
25 July 2006

It would be rather obvious to claim that Lunatica sound like the offspring of Edenbridge, Within Temptation, and even Evanescence but, ironically, that wouldn't be a bad comparsion. There are simply too many slices of all things popular at the moment with female fronted hardrock to be found here. Indeed, you can find a twist of this and a slice of that on "The Edge Of Infinity", but not much that sounds like their own thing.

No doubt, it's all very well played, excellent vocal harmonies, fine guitar work, top class production, and occasional tunes suggest that Lunatica is the leading Swiss' version of above mentioned acts. "Out" is such a obvious attempt at writing a Evanescence hit that you can't help to smile along to the melody. The power ballad "The Power Of Love" (oh great, yet another song with the same title), will strongly remind you of Blackmore's Night and all of their goblins and elfs. The John Payne (Asia) duet "Song For You" is close to magical and a nice change to the soft, angelic, voice of Andrea Dätwyler. You can also find two versions of "Emocean", were the latter is a yet another duet with Oliver Hartmann of At Vance and solo fame. I can't say that I enjoy any of them as they tend to be too pompious and out there.

Super-Swedes Carl Falk & Sebastian Thatt, who wrote songs and worked with Westlife, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, contributes with the song "Who You Are". The outcome is quite obvious and both catchy and poppy in that special tradition of Swedish Pop/Rock melodies. "The Edge Of Infinity" is the third and perhaps even the best studio album of Lunatica in my opinion. Bottomline: Lunatica is a copy-cat to each and every female-fronted act of today and you can't go wrong here... if you'd like another slice of the same old cherry pie (or pizza?).

Mikey JONES: "The Light Of Day" 6

E-Z Sounds 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
25 July 2006

Mikey Jones is known from Kick, a British band who were signed to Steve Harris' Beast Records a few years ago. They were tipped to be the next big thing by several critics, yours truly included... however, they didn't become the next Def Leppard, but released two fairly successful follow-up albums. Now they're apparently on a "hiatus" or something like that, and Jones, who is the band's bass player and one of the songwriters, found time to put together a solo album.

"The Light Of Day" kicks off (doh!) with the catchy and keyboard driven modern rock track "Suffocating". The somewhat techno-styled keyboard riff is really cool. Jones' "whispered" vocals are something to get used to, but in small doses they work just fine. Nick Workman of Kick does help out with the choruses of the first two tracks, of which "Who...?" is the second one, a decent if a bit unmemorable uptempo rocker.

"Drunk On Emotion" is like Hysteria-era Def Leppard with a low budget, a good melodic midtempo track. "No Tomorrow" and "As One" are both mellow tracks which fail to move me in anyway. The latter one reminds me of Oasis mixed with Manic Street Preachers... which isn't necessarily a winning combination in my books. The title track is much better, a very modern and up-to-date melodic pop rocker with a strong chorus and athmospheric keys.

"Swear Blind" is one of the albums highlight, a fine radio-friendly track with definite hit potential. "Lament" however... it's a heavily orchestrated track with heartfelt lyrics, but somehow it doesn't work for me at all. It just feels a little overblown and over-pompous... It reminds me oddly of Alice Cooper's "Gail", a weird ballad from his "Raise Your Fist And Yell" album. "Summer Daze" is a feelgood pop rocker which owes a lot to "Breakfast At Tiffany's", the 90'ies hit by Deep Blue Something. The album is closed with "The End Of Time", another dramatic ballad, but this one I do like. I could've done without the acoustic hidden tracks though... they don't offer much added value to the album. In fact, they just highlight the rather one-dimensional vocals of Jones, which are definitely not the strongest point of the album.

There's no doubt that Jones is a very talented songwriter and musician, but I'm not sure whether a solo career will be his way to the stardom. I couldn't help but wonder what these songs would sound like if they were sung by a better vocalist... still, a good album with some really cool songs, but maybe better enjoyed in small doses.


EscapiMusic 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
23 July 2006

Cactus was started in 1970 by Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogart (bass) and Carmine Appice (drums). Assisted by former Amboy Dukes (the band in which Ted Nugent started out his career) singer Rusty Day they released their debut album that same year. In 1972 it was curtains for Cactus and they have now decided to return like a ghost from the past, merely 34 years later.

I must admit that all this took place way before my time and I've only heard about them through the work of Carmine. They were however billed as the American version of Led Zeppelin, hardly as successful, huh? Nope, but original members Appice (drums), Bogart (bass) and Jim McCarty (guitar) join forces with singer Jimmy Kunes (ex-Savoy Brown) to record a decent boogie-woogie album in 2006.

The major and only problem with "V" would be the absolute overkill of basic blues numbers. I'm really into the opening seven of a total of fourteen tracks. They all sound great and especially "The Groover" and "Hi In The City" will get yer old ticker going faster. The problems starts during the second part of the CD and you'll suddenly get a strange feeling of deja vú. It's tiresome old blues by now with a repeative sound of the past that we really could do without. I believe they've done the simple mistake of including too many songs on "V".

DIRTY RIG: "Rock Did It" 2

EscapiMusic 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 July 2006

Silly, juvenile, and utter nonsense!!! I could never have guessed that Kory Clarke of the mighty Warrior Soul would paticipate in such b.s. as Dirty Rig??? This is probably the worst kind of redneck music since Nashville Pussy and it'll certainly give rock a bad name. It's unfortunately the wrong kind of "bad" name, seriously, no fun, and I'd like to call myself a tosser, no... wait... ehem, I meant someone with a good sense of humour. I'll never understand the charm with shouting out as many four letter words as possible during your three minutes of music.

Dirty Rig will at their best remind you of the lyrics either you or your local rock band wrote at age 12. I tell you... it's the stuff that will finally make your early Danger Danger albums sound like rocket science. The music is basically the same old material as above mentioned act with a touch of Andrew WK. Bottomline: a dream come true to every white trash, redneck, wannabee. Not suitable to people over and above the age of 12.

FOREIGNER: "Live in '05" 9

Replica Records 2006
Review by Martien Koolen,
11 July 2006

I always loved Foreigner and I still got all their albums on vinyl. Last year I saw Lou Gramm at Arrow Rock and I was a bit disappointed, but now Foreigner released a live album that is sheer magic. The CD has been in my car CD player for more than 3 weeks now; and still I am not bored...

The album was recorded in Las Vegas on November 26th, last year and the sound is second to none. The crowd is going wild and the band plays like I have never heard them before. But if your group consists of such brilliant musicians like Jeff Pilson (bass guitar), Tom Gimbel (saxophone, guitar and flute), Mick Jones (lead guitar), Kelly Hansen (vocals) and Jason Bonham (drums) then you know that you are in for a treat as a listener.

Almost all Foreigner hits can be heard, so check out "Cold As Ice", Waiting For A Girl Like You", I Want To Know What Love Is", Feels Like The First Time", "Dirty White Boy" and "That Was Yesterday". The songs that I like most on this amazing CD are "Head Games"(rather heavy), "Starrider" (with a fantastic extended guitar solo by mr. Foreigner himself, Mick Jones), "Urgent" (with a brilliant guitar intro of almost 2 minutes) and of course one of the best rock ballads ever, "I Want To Know What Love Is". As a true Foreigner fan I rather cherish this album and if you like fantastic AOR/melodic rock music then you need to have this album.

Also worthwhile is the bonus DVD with live concert footage of "Head Games", "Feels Like The First Time", "Urgent" and "Juke Box Hero", recorded in Paris. Also on the DVD: an interview with Mick Jones, a new biography and the complete discography. Buy or die, you AOR rockers out there!!

TEN: "The Twilight Chronicles" 7

Frontiers 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
19 July 2006

I've been a fan of TEN ever since the band released their first album, but the last couple of years haven't been that good for them. Their previous album "Return To Evermore" went by without making too much of an impact, and their two recent compilations got a mixed reception. The idea of re-recording their best songs didn't turn out to be the a success... especially the production of the albums got a lot of slack, and frankly, not without a reason. So, with "The Twilight Chronicles" Gary Hughes & Co. have a lot to prove...

"The Prologue" can not be nothing else than a pompous intro, and that it is... Orchestrated, dramatic and everything else that's required for an intro, but frankly it's a bit too long to hold my attention. The second part of the track one is "Rome", a "real" song and actually a very solid trademark TEN song. Unofortunately it reverts back into "The Prologue", which means that the last two or three minutes of the track are rather boring. "The Chronicles" is a more straightforward guitar-driven hard rock track, with a very good chorus, again very distinctly TEN. Again it's a long track, almost seven minutes, and again I think it's a bit too long for its' own good. The beutiful ballad "The Elysian Fields" reminds me strongly of the material that Hughes wrote for Bob Catley, but I can't deny that it's quite relaxing and soothing.

With "Hallowed Ground" I start to think that there's a theme to this album - "Long! The songs have to be long!". I mean c'mon, this track is 10:18! And it's not that special track to start with, the chorus just goes on and on in a monotonic way... why this had to be extended into this 10-minute opus I do not understand.

"This Heart Goes On" is one of the two tracks under 5 minutes... possible single/video material? It does represent the more "commercial" songwriting of Hughes, as it's a nice rock ballad. Not among his best ballads, but still a very likeable track. "Oblivion" is another "easy" track, a upbeat AOR track with lots of melody. It might a bit on the longer side (7:03), but this time it doesn't get boring at any point.

"The Twilight Masquerade" and "Tourniquet" are OK tracks, but they are both victims of the aforementioned "Long! The songs have to be long!" -syndrome. I don't think that they would have sounded incomplete if a couple minutes worth of solos and repeated themes had been edited out. Well, I guess some of the Ten fans get an extra kick out of these tracks because they are so "epic"... "Born To The Grave" is in the OK-category as well, but at least it's only 5 minutes long. "When The Night Is Done" might just be the best song of the album, a highly melodic power ballad. I didn't quite get it when people compared Hughes to Ville Valo of HIM, but now listening to this song and how he goes into falsetto, I have to admit that they have a lot in common.

Soundwise this album is a lot better than the two compilations, but as far as the songwriting goes, it doesn't rank among the best Ten CDs. It's not necessarily the fact that the songs are too long, I can take 7 minute songs if there are enough ideas to keep them interesting. Some of the songs here sound like they've been extended just for the hell of it.


Spinefarm 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
12 July 2006

Brother Firetribe is a band put together by Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. It is definitely not what you might expect from a guitarist going "solo"... Nope, this isn't an endless widdlefest but a real band project with emphasis more on the songs. I'd actually say that the keyboards are the dominating instrument on "False Metal". The other members of BF are vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino (of up'n coming hard rock band Leverage), keyboard wizard Tomppa Nikulainen and bass player Jason Flinck.

This band has been lumped into the same genre as Wig Wam and The Poodles, which is accurate in a way. There's an element of humour in all three bands, but kind of like The Poodles, the "joke" is limited to the band's name, which is a direct translation of the name of a Finnish tennis player Veli Paloheimo. The band's music is far from a joke - some of the lyrics may be a bit "tongue in cheek" and delibrately clicheed, but that's about it!

The BF sound originates clearly from the care-free years of the late eighties. There's a bit of Bon Jovi in there, a touch of Van Halen, maybe a bit of Journey too... not to mention several cult bands such as Fate, Treat or Blue Tears. Pompous and bombastic opener "Break Out" serves as a fine introduction, with layers of keyboards and majestic guitars. Heino's commanding voice carries the song strongly. The verses remind me of Europe's "Final Countdown", while the chorus has a bit of a resemblance to the Bon Jovi song by the same name. Oddly enough, the keyboard powerchords of the next song "Valerie" sound a bit like Bon Jovi's "Breakout" too! Overall, the song is more in the vein of Journey, with a touch of Kansas in the verses. And as we all know, every great AOR album needs a song with a girl's name in the title! :)

As good as the first two songs are, the first real highlight for me is "I'm On Fire". This song has "summer" written all over it, and a very strong Bon Jovi vibe. Mix Jovi's "Born To Be My Baby" and Aldo Nova's "Young Love" (co-written and produced by Jon Bon Jovi) and throw in some Blue Tears material, and you might get an idea what this song sounds like.

"Love Goes Down" is the first of the two ballads on this album. It represents the more epic style of songwriting, as it's a song that gets bigger and bigger. A very good song that might be a highlight on a lesser album, but here it has plenty of competition. "Devil's Daughter" is one of the slightly more hard rockin' songs, but still with lots of swirling keyboards and a killer hook. Heino's vocal on this song do sound a bit uncomfortable at times, as if he's singing on the edge of his range.

The second half of the album starts with an unbelievebly strong trio of songs: the catchy and chorus-driven "Midnight Queen", the Fate meets Van Hagar -like first single "One Single Breath" and the cleverly constructed, multilayered "Lover Tonite" will ALL be among my favourite songs of the year! The second ballad "Spanish Eyes" offers a bit of a change of pace after the breathtaking previous songs. I wasn't that fond of the song at first, but it has slowly climbed on my chart to be one of the highlights. There's no denying the majestic beauty of the chorus. The last song "Kill City Kid" is clearly the weakest song of the album, yet it's not without its' merits. The pre-chorus might be borrowed from a Kane Roberts song, but it works quite well, and the heavier approach of the song gives Emppu some room to shred a little.

I don't hand out full points too easily these days, but what's there to do with an album with no fillers, quite a few killers and a brilliant production on top of everything? Yes, folks, this is the soundtrack for the summer of 2006, and possibly the album of the year!
Brother Firetribe at Myspace.Com

THE POODLES: "Metal Will Stand Tall" 8

Lionheart 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
12 July 2006

The Poodles got a kickstart for their career by taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden. They didn't end up representing Sweden in Athens, but got plenty of publicity for themselves, and have enjoyed tremendous success in their home country. Like last year's Eurovision hard rock success story Wig Wam, the members of The Poodles are seasoned hard rock veterans. Maybe not quite as seasoned as Wig Wam, but still, they've been around for some time. Vocalist Jacob Samuel is a former Talisman drummer and has been singing in Jekyll & Hyde, Midnight Sun and The Ring, to name a few of his previous groups. Guitarist Pontus Norgren has made a name for himself in bands like Great King Rat and Talisman, while the bass player Pontus Egberg has been in Lion's Share and Zan Clan. Drummer Christian Lundqvist has played in RAW amongst others.

"Metal Will Stand Tall" kicks off with "Echoes From The Past", a dark and moody hard rock track that reminds me of The Rasmus doing Scandi-AOR. Very impressive. Next up we have the title track, which is something quite different. It's a bouncy track featuring Tess from euro-dance band Alcazar sharing vocals with Samuel, and despite its' title, it's not that "metal"... the chorus is quite catchy and it reminds me of bands like Hammerfall and Manowar gone pop.

"Night Of Passion" is the bands' Eurovision Song Contest track, and while it sounded just okay when I heard it in the competition, it has become one of my favourite tracks since then. There's something irrestable in it! The same cannot be said of "Song For You", which I can hardly tolerate. It's a Beatles-flavoured ballad with Samuel's brother adding opera-styled vocals to it... Run to the hills, it's "El Divo"!

"Shadows" is similar in style to the opening track, a very dark and dramatic hard rock track with a strong chorus. Then we get a few somewhat average tracks: Despite the hype surrounding it, the Holly Knight/Tommy Denander composition "Lie To Me" fails to impress me. An okay track that reminds me of the last Europe album, nothing more. The semi-ballad "Rockstar" and the Ultravox cover "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" aren't among my favourites either, but "Don't Give Up On Love" might just be my favourite track of the album - it's a highly infectious melodic hard rocker with a very strong and anthemic chorus.

"Number One" isn't really the number one among the songs of "MWST", a dull throwaway rocker. "Kingdom Of Heaven" is somehow similar to it, but it's rescued by a rather good chorus. Last but certainly not least, there's the ballad "Crying". This rather excellent ballad is among my top three songs of the album, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was released as the next single.

A few fillers and one rather dodgy song cannot overshadow the fact that when The Poodles are good, they are very good. All that's need is a bit of trimming, and the next time around they may be "The Best In Show"...
The Poodles at Myspace.Com

SHARK ISLAND: "Gathering Of The Faithful" 7

Frontiers 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 July 2006

I didn't know sharks could live on a island? Ehem, anyhow, it's a reunion of a band that include most of their original members for once. Indeed, power vocalist Richard Black (Contraband), guitarist Spencer Sercombe, bassist Chris Heilmann and new drummer Glenn Sobel (Beautiful Creatures, Ken Tamplin) are all the "Gathering Of The Faithful". You may recall the Sharks during the heydays of the L.A. live scene and the Sunset Strip era of the 80's. Axl Rose of Guns N Roses sure did as he basically copied (stole) the entire stage performance of Black and turned it into "his" own thing. In fact, if you should ever met Mr. Black, don't start your conversation with stoopid lines such as "how about that Axl Rose, huh?". Well, at least not if you'd like to be able to eat something more than soup for the following week or two.

The band do their bit by trying to come up with a throughly enjoyable CD that consist of material never released back in the days. It's not a question of simply releasing some polished up demos though. The band reformed in L.A. and recorded every note from scratch, in many places giving the unreleased material a new twist. Opener "Blue Skies" is a very laidback affair that reminded me more of the solo work by Ritchie Sambora than raunchy rock'n'roll. It's certainly not the sound of the past that I could recall and it had me seriously worried. It's not a good choice to use such a mellow tune as your CD opener and the same goes with the following "Tomorrow's Child". When the devil gets old, etc. Have they lost all their ability to rock and what about that great voice of Mr.Black?

"The Stranger" rocks harder than above mentioned tracks and the voice is still very much present. Still not enough of pace though and "Go West" finally gets the CD into second gear. Only for a couple of minutes though as "Welcome Goodbye" is a ballad. A very good one however and the soaring voice of Black spreads its wings like an eagle in the sky. "Heaven" and "Temptation" are finally the kind of numbers that has everyone headbanging in the front rows. And to be honest, there's simply not enough of these fun uptempo rockers on this release. Sure, the band do their best to lay down the right sort of incendiaries to set off some serious explosions, but simply fail to ignite into anything truly dangerous. There's not enough of fireworks included and way too many laidback and slow songs for a real headbanger. Bottomline, it's still a pretty nice CD with a bunch of mid-paced numbers and merely a couple of real uptempo tracks. Shame on such a great voice though, why not belt out a couple of real rockers in the vein of "Paris Calling"?

ZEBRAHEAD: "Broadcast To The World" 7

SPV 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 July 2006

"Broadcast To The World" is the successor to Zebrahead's critically acclaimed third release, MFZB. They are for some strange reason not as famous as say Blink 182, Green Day, Offspring or Good Charlotte. However, they definitely have the same kind of attitude with atom smashing guitars and pop-savvy melodies. I believe they are simply too alike in the end and not really different from any of the above mentioned acts. Some of these melodies like "Anthem", "Back To Normal", "Postcard From Hell", etc, are so darn similar to Green Day that it's not even funny anymore.

Nevertheless, Zebrahead do write catchy sing-a-long numbers that you will actually remember. It's dumb and easy-minded entertainment for the moment and easy to digest for the clueless airhead of today. Ehem, no wonder I can't stop singing along to the words of "Here's To You", "Wake Me Up", and "Lobotomy For Dummies". It's not really supposed to be rocket science you know and the lyrics are hardly educational. New lead singer/guitarist Matty Lewis fits nicely in with the moody rapper, Ali Tabatabaee, and how can you resist a band that writes wacky titles such as: "Your New Boyfriend Wears Girl Pants".

There's absolutely nothing new under the sun to be found here. It's however darn catchy and modern rock music of today that fits nicely in with the MTV overkill of power/punk/whatever. What would it take to burst the bubble? a massive wave of killer dwarfes and midgets with machineguns?

CLOVEN HOOF: "Eye Of The Sun" 7

Escape 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
10 July 2006

You know, this could just as easily have been the new Metal Church CD. Produced by Tom Galley of Phenomena fame and mastered by Mika Jussila (the mastermind behind close to every metal release from Finland lately), "Eye Of The Storm" turns out to be a pleasant surprise indeed. You may recall Cloven Hoof from West Midlands, U.K. as one of those dodgey lookin', masked hardrock acts of the 80's. I believe it all came down to a smelly stage costume and wearing make-up in the concept of Air, Earth, Fire and Water. To quote the Kerrang crew of its time: "Although this would have have looked spectacular on a stage in Detroit given a Kiss-style budget, in Digbet on a wet Wednesday evening it was a bit crap". Oh well... we're not all born to be American rock heroes... I guess.

Bassist/bandleader and songwriter Lee Payne is unfortunately the only remaining member since the 80's. Not that it matters all that much in the end. I doubt that anyone could name all four original members anymore. New guitarist Andy Shortland is a master at playing crunchy guitar riffs in the metal genre. He works somewhere between the lines of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth, Metallica) and Kurdt Vanderhoof (Metal Church) and it's all very pleasant to the ears. Thus way the easiest way to describe the sound of the CD would be like a mixture of Metal Church and Megadeth (the melodic sound of early to mid 90's).

"Eye Of The Storm" is filled with crunchy yet melodic riffs and you can even throw in some WASP (their blackest and most complex material) for good measure. "King For A Day" especially will have you thinking about Blackie and WASP gone Thrash lite. It's not really NWOBHM anymore but I guess you can always pick up some melodies along the way of melodic thrashing. Everything from opener "Inquisitor" to closing track "Angels In Hell" speaks of high quality and great craftmanship. You should perhaps not compare this to the work of "Dominator" or "A Sultan's Ransom". They've actually managed to mature and progress into something better and more exciting.

SURVEILLANCE: "Angel Station" 4

Escape 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
7 July 2006

Lee Small (Phenomena) has been taking a public beating for appearantly sounding a lot like Glenn Hughes. I never understood why some people would get all worked up and upset by a bloke that's been influenced by some other singer? So what? Have not all of them been influenced by some geezer along the way? You know... it all comes down to if they're any good at it or not ;-)

Small is indeed a Hughes wannabee but clearly with the right intention and attitude. I don't mind listening to his singing voice at all and he's neither as much 'over-the-top' as you-know-who. At first I thought I might get into this record in a big way considering that the info-sheet promised me melodic hardrock with great melodies with a singer that shows resemblance to Glenn Hughes. However, the song material and especially production still leaves some things to ask about though. They do have a couple of fantastic rock tunes such as "In Motion", "Reflections" (very much the melodic side of Mr.Hughes right down to his shoelaces), "Middleman" (the best Glenn Hughes song of the year?), and "Messiah" (Hughes, again... with a touch of Bonham perhaps?).

I wouldn't completely shy away from Surveillance and you could try a couple of soundclips if you're a Glenn Hughes fan. It's not all bad, in parts it's even quite good, I merely wish that more songs could elicit some kind of emotional response though.

John WAITE: "Downtown Journey of A Heart" 3

Frontiers 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
6 July 2006

John Waite is a personal favourite singer of mine and not to forget his period of really great and Bad English. However, I ended up slighly (understatement) disappointed with his previous effort (The Hard Way - 2004), since it was basically a collection of older tunes, a couple of new ones, and a sappy Bob Dylan cover. Now... I was r-e-a-l-l-y looking forward to hearing his new CD... and you can all imagine my surprise when this turned out to be the same old sap story all over again.

"Downtown Journey Of A Heart" is yet another pointless compilation of older tunes (In Dreams, Missing You, When I See You Smile, Isn't It Time, Downtown, etc), another Bob "Boring" Dylan cover (Highway 61), and merely one new John Waite song. Fine, we all get the message by now!!! Waite is obviously hoping to join the KISS circus next time they're in town. The job is yours mate, simply start working on the grease, we'll never know who's behind all that make-up anyhow. Sure, the classics have all been re-recorded with a basic sound structure based on guitar, hammond and piano. It's all been stripped down in other words and a good song is always a good song... I guess? But c'mon... seriously... Waite should simply ask his fans at his website next time. - "Do you guys want some rockin' new material or another friggin' compilation". I believe we all know the answer to that question, John.

SAXON: "The Eagle Has Landed III"

SPV 2006
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
1 Juli 2006

The Eagle Has Landed is considered to be an all time classic live album by many old time rockers. Thus why Saxon decided to return with part: 3 in the series and a 2-CD set with a total of 32 tracks. It's unfortunately a mish-mash of live recordings from several different sources and places all over Europe. One minute you're in Stockholm/Sweden, the next Hamburg/Germany [where President Bush did his famous "Ich Bin Ein Hamburger" speech ;-)], Paris, Keil, London, etc, etc.

The songs are all recorded during the years of 2004/2005 and they've luckily decided to keep the audience noise throughout the discs. Thank God, since there's nothing worse than a live album with 'fade to black' and dead silence inbetween tracks. The cuts from 2004 (CD2) feature Jörg Michael and the 2005 material (CD1) presents once again the returning drummer, Nigel Glocker. CD 1 contains also most and many of the classics from the band's early years up to 1984 and closing track, "Crusader". Biff Byford at the top of his lungs and tracks like "Frozen Rainbow", "Suzy Hold On", "Warrior", etc, will probably defrost any old NWOBHM fan's heart. Three's no place for oldies such as "747 (Strangers In The Night), "Denim & Leather", "Strong Arm Of The Law", etc, this time.

CD2 features the most important? songs from recent years, starting with tracks from the 1991 release (Solid Ball Of Rock), and ending with material from Lionheart (2004). It's almost like two completely different acts at times with aggressive music and drumming by Michael. You can definitely tell that Glocker is a more 'back to basics' drummer while Michael has been pissing razors for the last ten years or so. A track like "English Man O War" is a tad too corny to be taken seriously and I can't help to think that the cover song, "Solid Ball Of Rock", is quite outstanding. By the way, no "Ride Like The Wind" this time, and there's another fine cover song by the Saxons. Good sound, even though it's all "fake", and yes, the Bush reference was meant to be served as a lame joke. JFK, you know? Ich Bin Ein Berliner? Ehh nevermind...

SISTER MANIK: "Read My Lips" 7

BraMusa Productions 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
6 July 2006

It's been four years since I reviewed the demo of Sister Manik. Back in 2002 the band was flirting with gothic and industrial sounds, but those have been ditched in favour of classic eighties hard rock sound. The band is still fronted by the talented vocalist Pinja, who's voice is in the same league as 80'ies metal queens like Janet Gardner (Vixen), Lita Ford and Chrissy Steele. She may have a bit of an accent, but then again, most european vocalists have. More disturbing are the "Finglish" phrases in the lyrics... as for the other members of the band, there seems to have been some changes. Can't say for sure, but at least the names don't match, and these current band members look different, some of them now sporting rather spectacular moustaches!

The album opens with the title track, an okay straightforward rocker of which they have also made a video. "Am I" is a melodic mid-tempo track with plenty of athmospheric keyboards, while the first single "Calling My Name" is one of the few songs with some traces of the old gothic influences. This slightly HIM-flavoured track might just do well in the radio.

The big ballad "Sherrie" has grown to be my favourite track. It kicks off (or creeps in, to be exact) with an intro that's very similar to that of Valentine's "Tears In The Night", and grows into a multilayered AOR gem.

The next few songs fall into the category of "okay tracks". "A Bit Too Restless" has a rather upbeat chorus, but it doesn't win me over completely. The slow'n'heavy cover of Roxette's "The Look" is quite interesting and better than the original. I've never liked the song though, and even though this version is better, I won't be converted. "Parody" is again quite ok, but I don't know why the band has chosen to resurrect "Hold On" from their demo. The title aside, it's just not that good a track, a bit plodding actually. It does get better after the dramatic keyboard midsection, and the uptempo last chorus works quite well. Still, why this track instead of "Like Your Tears"?

"The Eye Of The Raven" is one of the standout tracks of the album, thanks to its' catchy chorus. There's a bit of a HIM vibe in this track as well. The last track "Speedy" rolls along nicely, but since it doesn't really have hook to speak of, it's quite unremarkable.

As a debut album, this is a rather solid start. Extra mention has to go to the producers - the album sounds very good.
Sister Manik at Myspace.Com

JONES BROS: "Oldschool" 6

All Star Music 2006
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
28 June 2006

This is the third full album from Finnish rock band Jones Bros, at it's been a long time in the making. The first recordings were done in 2003, and little by little the band has finished the tracks. Unlike most albums these days, this album was done the "old-fashioned way", without reverting to looping and cut-and-paste editing. That's where the title of the album comes from, and yes, the album does sound organic.

Some of our readers might remember my review of the band's first album in our ancient "Dig 'Em Up" section (the review's now in the archives. I compared the band to Tom Petty and Bon Jovi, and that comparison still holds with this album. It may be that their sound has evolved more towards Petty than Bon Jovi, meaning that it's more down-to-earth and laidback.

The overall vibe of the album is set with the opener "When You Say Your Prayers", a slow-paced number. It's an okay track with a decent chorus and it does offer a good taste of what's to come, but I would have chosen something a bit more energetic to kick off the album. The next song "I Got Everything" is just that, a good uptempo melodic rock track with a strong Bon Jovi -feel. It wouldn't sound out of place on Jovi's "These Days" album!

The ambient, jazzy keyboard sounds of "Wrong In Their Hearts" sound a bit strange to me, and I can't really get into it. The dark and moody "Blinding Light" is much more impressive, and rates as one of the finest tracks of the album. It's followed by the third slow song in a row, another laidback ballad called "The Flame". It's nice, but frankly it doesn't do anything for me. The cover of Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner" offers at least a welcome change of pace, if nothing else. This kind of 70'ies basic boogie rock has never been my cup of tea, but I'm sure it goes down very well live.

The nice AOR-type of a track "Don't Say Goodbye" keeps up the pace, although it's a little less uptempo than "Airliner". Then we're back in the Ballad City with "A Wonderful Girl", a heartfelt little number. I prefer the next "girl" though, that being "Jessie's Girl", a cover of the Rick Springfield classic. The Jones Bros version is faithful to the original, and while it doesn't quite match up, it's still a pretty good one.

The last three songs aren't among my favourites. Two of them are ballads, with "Have You Heard The News" sounding almost like country music. In fact, the one remaining uptempo track "Don't Cry The Musicman" is very country as well... I just hope that these last two tracks of the album are NOT reflective of the direction where the band is heading. For the next album, may I request less ballads, more rock and more hooks, please?
Jones Bros at Myspace.Com


* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-25/06 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 21-25/06 * * * * *
Hotwire, Pride Of Lions, Gary Moore DVD, Firewind, Mannhai, The Order, Cheap Trick, Glenn Hughes, Def Leppard, Dio's "Angry Machines" and "Last In Live" and Rainbow's "Live In Munich 1977" 2-CD, Sweet Cheater, Street Talk, Deacon Street 2, Vertigo 2, Vengeance, John West, Saga, Cloudscape, The Prowlers, Relapsed Winter's Bane, PAX, George Thorogood, Shining Star (feat. Lance King) and Lana Lane's DVD.

* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/06 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 16-20/06 * * * * *
Say Anything, Mother's Finest, Assailant, Heed, Tim Neu and Jeff Scott Soto's Ballads, re-issued first Da Vinci CD, Appendix, Luca Turilli's Dreamquest, Dezperadoz, Gary Barden, Tool, Taking Back Sunday, House Of Mirrors, Newman, Swingin' Thing, Michael Kiske, Bonfire, House Of Lords, Backyard Babies, comeback compilation from Treat, German rockers Oomph, Pink, Finnish rockers Kara, Veni Domine, Beyond Fear, Slave To The System, Celtic Frost and a couple of live albums from Deep Purple and Mötley Crüe. Wig Wam album, a DVD from Joe Bonamassa, re-issued Rocky IV soundtrack, new classic rock from Glyder, instrumental rock from Jill, Yan, acoustic live material from Wetton/Downes, Empire and Giuntini Project III - both albums feat. Tony Martin on vocals, Fatal Force, Akira Kajiyama with Joe Lynn Turner and Luca Turilli's latest opus, Schenker Group's 25th anniversary album. AOR supergroup Last Autumn's Dream and the much-debated comeback album of Survivor.

* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/06 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 11-15/06 * * * * *
Sodom, Blue Tears, The Quill, Fate, Fatal Smile, Moonspell, Perishing Mankind., Ignite, Silver Dirt, Brüssel Kaupallinen, Scott Stapp, Joe Bonamassa, Beautiful Creatures, Loud Crowd, One Eye Shut, Anti-flag, Cronian, Petrus, Train, Liberty'n Justice, Andersen/Laine/Readman, Alexa, Ian Parry's Visions, Lovex, Living Things, Medusa, X-Prophets, Shaka Ponk, Jim Peterik, Lordi, Astral Doors, Pure Inc., Annihilator DVD, Frontline, (Robby) Valentine, Warrant, Kinrick, Death Before Disco, Blackmore's Night, Witchery, Samel, Von Groove debut, Black Rose, Saracen and Paul Raymond (UFO).

* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/06 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 6-10/06 * * * * *
Shadowman, Vandenplas, Blue Tears, Troels Skovgaard, Evergrey, The Flower Kings, Curt Shaw, Main Attraction, Umphrey's McGee, Marcel Coenen, Lacuna Coil single, Jorn, Kilpi, Sabu, Phenomena, Dragonforce, Legs Diamond (x2), Bloodbound, Toto, Speedy Gonzales, Sodom, Danny Peyronel, Sabre, Eric Burdon, Platitude and Eric Mantel.

* * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/06 * * * * REVIEWS OF WEEKS 1-5/06 * * * * *
Devin Townsend, Age Of Nemesis, Ten, Rush, Jadis, Altaria, Diablo, Pump, Fireball Ministry, Zero Nine, Proto-Kaw, Tony O'Hara, Inxs, Mad Max, Sepultura, Ankara, Kilpi, Whitesnake, Rhapsody, Anastacia, Bob Catley, Square One, Ambition.

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