The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
|REVIEWS ADDED 13 April, 2007 (WEEK 15)
SAGA: "Worlds Apart Revisited" 9
Inside Out 2007
Being a Saga fan for a very long time already I really love this double live album which was recorded in Switzerland. Saga’s 4th studio album „Worlds Apart" (released in 1981!!) was their breakthrough album in Europe and the USA. So, now the band framed all nine songs from that famous album with long-time live classic songs like „Ice Nice", „Humble Stance", „Don’t Be Late" and some newer songs.
If you like the music of Saga then this is their „ultimate" live album as all their best songs are featured here. Highlights for me are „The Pitchman", „On The Loose", „Time’s Up", „Don’t Be Late", „You’re Not Alone" and „How Long".
„Worlds Apart revisited" will be available in 3 formats, double CD, double DVD and limited edition housed in a slipcase with CDs and DVds in a lavish cover pack. The latter format is of course the most interesting one for the true fans. Check out the bonus material, the beatiful designed booklet and the lavish packaging.
Saga fans, buy it now! Release date is 23 April.
Al ATKINS: "Demon Deceiver" 7
Diesel n Glory 2007
Al who? Al Atkins was the original vocalist of Judas Priest back in the early 70's (approx: 1970-1974). The average Priest/metal fan may have noticed that several tracks on the early Priest albums were actually co-written by Atkins. "Demon Deceiver" is his overall 5th solo album and you may also recall a "Dreamer Deceiver" from the past? Yup, this and, "Victim Of Changes", are two Judas Priest tunes that Atkins co-wrote and decided to re-record for his latest solo album.
The rest of the material is all brand "new" though and the entire album simply oozes of denim, leather, and classic Heavy Metal. Indeed, Atkins goes for the jugular, staking his claim for a pole position in the metal race with a pretty solid release that delivers classic heavy metal for the classic heavy metal fans. There's absolutely nothing "new" about the music and you won't find a single metal riff post-1985 on this CD. It's old school and old school only with the *hell's bells* sound of Raven, Grim Reaper, and of course Judas Priest, constantly ringing in your ears.
I find it to be a waste of time and space to open up the CD with a long instrumental piece (especially since there's merely a total of ten tracks to be found). Not poorly performed whatsoever by Atkins (guitars) and the band, there's even a short poem at the beginning of the track. I believe that most people are mainly interested in hearing Atkins sing though. He's still got a powerful set of lungs and he certainly won't disappoint the metal maniacs. "Money Talks" sets a tone and vibe of the album that is carried on by the likes of "Blood, Demons & Whiskey", and the moody "Drown". The latter would be metal ála 1978, and even though most songs are written by Atkins, it also seems like outside writers has managed to capture the true spirit of the late 70's/early 80's. Final verdict: Solid stuff - solid indeed and definitely worthy of a testrun on your stereo. Do however not expect to find anything "groundbreaking" or "earthshaking" as it's music mainly intended for old school fans. In fact, Atkins would be the perfect opening act for a certain band...
NIGHT RANGER: "Hole In The Sun" 6
PANTS!!! ... ehem, knickers, boxers, socks, and strange looking hats. You may draw your own conclusion of previous sentence... but I'd like to make a couple of things perfectly clear. One - I'm not an old fan of the band that basically hates all changes of their "original" sound or whatever (I didn't listen to a Night Ranger album up until ten years ago). Two - there's absolutely nothing wrong with down-tuned guitars (it's the quality of the melodies that counts). Three - it's always interesting to hear a bunch of +50 musicians as they try to copy the modern rock sound (the kids will hate 'em for being old - the old will hate 'em for sounding too young).
It's just that for each great song (Tell Your Vision, You're Gonna Hear It From Me, Whatever Happened, Hole In The Sun), there's a really daft one (Drama Queen, There Is Life, Rockstar, White Knuckle Ride). Sure, "Hole In The Sun" may lack the invention and innocence of say, "Dawn Patrol", but nontheless produce pleasant, upbeat tunes every now and then. It's basically guitars, guitars, and more guitars. Not even sure why keyboardist Michael Lardie (ex-Great White) is a member of Night Ranger ála 2007? He's probably just there to play "Sister Christian" and other oldies live on stage.
"Tell Your Vision" is indeed a great opener and a superb mix of guitar oriented rock ála Damn Yankees and the modern rock sound of today. The song basically kicks like a mule to the head and it's all very impressive to say the least. The follow up, "Drama Queen", starts out like a decent guitar rocker but suffers from a really plain and boring refrain. "You're Gonna Hear It From Me" kicks once again like a mule and it's one of the better and most uptempo Night Ranger songs ever!!!! Seriously, this baby kicks like the bastard sons of Gene Simmons (KISS) and Ted Nugent!!! Ehem, well, or the two of them together in a new rock band. "Whatever Happened" is the modern rock of today and it's a fun new-punk song with a really catchy refrain. "There Is Life" is a piano ballad that reminded me a lot of Gowan and Night Ranger ballads of the past. Not nearly as good though and you never get a firm grip around its message or inner strenght.
"Rockstar" is frankly just annoying to the point of me skipping the track each and every time I play the CD. The titletrack is once again very upbeat, modern, and catchy. And the moodswings goes on throughout the entire album. The bottomline: there's no real consistency within the CD and the twelve tracks of "Hole In The Sun". It's very much river deep and mountain high and thus why the "6" rating in the end.
STATIC X: "Cannibal" 6
"Blunt-force trauma, furious-sounding, in-your-face, throat-punching grooves", shouts the press release when describing the new Static X album. Friggin' right too, it's all here!!! They're letting you know exactly what's on their minds from the word go and opening track, "Cannibal", could possibly even scare the crap outta' your ol' Grandma. Let's face it... there's no such thing as "horror" metal anymore and you could frankly not shock anyone in the year of 2007 (unless you get arrested for sexual relations with a minor: ex-Static X guitarist, Tripp Elsen).
But ok, reading through the rather confusing lyrics of "Cannibal", you'll find out that Wayne Static is afraid of being eaten alive by some giant reptile??? And there's the usual stuff about him being a long-time vegetarian of course (that's sooo not metal - just ask Blackie Lawless). "No Submission" was however included on the Saw II soundtrack and gave fans an early taste of the album. Guitarist Koichi Fukuda has also returned to the band since the Elsen episode, and you can finally find some real guitar solos on the songs.
It's definitely more "metal" than previous album and gone are some of their worst moments of "disco-metal". The guitars are more direct, in-your-face, and there's definitely more segments of Slayer than say, Backstreet Boys this time. I've noticed that some has the nerve of saying: there's simply too many guitar solos??? Dude, that's just weird!!! There's like, one short solo piece for each track and if can't deal with this, well, then you were probably never into metal in the first place. For instance, play "Forty Ways" on highest volume and you could actually mistake this for a Slayer album. There's unfortunately too many mid-tempo tracks included on "Cannibal", and you'll even get a feeling of deja vú towards the end of the disc. Static spits out the aggressive lyrics at rapid speed and it's certainly an intense album... but sadly also a bit too monotonous. The bottomline: an ok effort - but hardly anything that will bring you and your metal ego over the moon [unless you put on a diaper and drive non-stop across America to kill you rival - God bless the mad astronaut - no wait, first you become an astronaut and THEN you put on the diaper - my bad].
RAZORBACK: "Deadringer" 6
AOR Heaven 2007
At one time (after their impressive debut album), Razorback were rather promising Melodic Metal hopefuls and they've unfortunately blossomed into At Vance wannabes. Even more now ever since Swede, Stefan Berggren (Snakes In Paradise, Company Of Snakes, Snakes Everywhere Really) has joined the band. Well, At Vance hired fellow Swede, Mats Leven (ex-Treat, Swedish Erotica, Yngwie Malmsteen ,etc), to shout along to the teutonic melodies and I guess it felt quite natural for Munke to look at Sweden for vocalists.
"Deadringer" is probably meant to be as an alternative or compliment to words such as "copy-cats" and "been-there, done-that". Yeah, perhaps I'm being too harsh as it's a quite uptempo and rocking album and occasionally Razorback do stumble across a great song and melody. The band perform some passable metal, but in the end, it all sounds a bit too formulaic and stereotyped to be considered as truly essential stuff. Final verdict: give it a go if you'd like another slice of the same ol' cherry pie - give it a rest if you crave for some new flavours such as apple, strawberry or rhubarb (?).
Ian GILLAN: "Gillan's Inn" [CD + DVD]
Ian Gillan is the original siren and this is the CD + DVD, "Deluxe Tour Edition" of his Inn. I guess you'll either hate or love the re-recorded versions of classic Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, - "Speed King", "Smoke On The Water", "Trashed", etc. I must however disappoint you all with saying that I quite like the idea... even though I'm not totally sold. It's sooo re-freshing to listen to newly recorded studio versions of the classics as they were frankly not always blessed with a top-notch production (especially in the early 70's). And how can you not enjoy "Speed King", with a ravishing Joe Satriani at the top of his game? On the other hand, it's mainly intended for the die-hards as the CD doesn't feature many or any new tracks really. Well, if you don't include "Unchain Your Brain" and "Bluesy Blue Sea" as new stuff of course.
The guest list is quite remarkable though as it features musicians such as: Joe Satriani, Janick Gers (ex-Gillan, Iron Maiden), Uli John Roth (Scorpions), Ronnie James Dio, Jeff Healey, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) and Ian's fellow Purple People, Steve Morse, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice [what? no Blackmore ;-)]. There's tons of wicked collaborations and old Gillan material such as, "No Laughing In Heaven", truly shines again with a frantic Michael Lee Jackson and Don Airey at guitars and keyboards.
The real treat however is the DVD as it features lots of goodies and bonus material. How about the complete album in 5:1 surround sound, choose your own mix of "Smoke On The Water" and the choice of Joe Satrianai, Steve Morse, Jeff Healey, etc. The making of "Gillan's Inn" studio footage with all the musicians. The Bootleg Basement - amatuer, audience shot footage - including 8 live tracks by Gillan and Deep Purple. You'll also find a Gillan discography, lyrics, track by track commentary by Ian, backstage moments, and a hilarious "Tales From The Tour Bus" section, etc. The bottomline: tour editions of previously released CD's are hardly ever considered as value for your money. Nontheless, this could very well be a rare exception to the rule.
BONFIRE: "Double Vision" DVD
LZ Records/NL Distribution 2007
Bonfire is one of my all-time favourite bands, but I've yet to see them live. That'll happen one day I hope, but until then, this DVD will be the closest thing to a real Bonfire gig. Of course it isn't really comparable, but good fun all the same.
The DVD was filmed at Firefest III in Nottingham last year, where Bonfire played an excellent set of classic tracks and a couple of new ones from their latest studio album "Double X". I don't think that anyone was disappointed by the fact that the band concentrated on the "Fire Works" and "Point Blank" album tracks, those two albums are the band's milestones anyway.
Vocalist Claus Lessmann still has a strong voice, and he's a good frontman. Hans Ziller seems to be band's "musical director", and his guitar work is very good. The rest of the band, the "new guys", are worthy additions to the band as well.
While watching the DVD, I was interested to hear how they had changed the arrangements to the classic tracks, as many of them featured keyboards and huge choirs. Well, the choir parts sounded okay for most of the songs, with all the band members singing backing vocals. The lack of keyboards did make the more keyboard-heavy songs like "Sweet Obsession" sound a bit flat. But all in all, a good show. The Firefest audience seemed to be enjoying themselves too.
The bonus tracks include 5 music videos, standard eighties stuff with lots of hair and serious posing. "Starin' Eyes" must have cost a small fortune to make, with a big set and a lot of actors and explosions. If there's a storyline in the video, I didn't get it! There are also 3 live songs from a Rockpalast TV concert, but they are pretty much ruined by a lousy sound. The "behind the scenes" footage contains the usual entertaining nonsense and a cameo appearance by the notorious Bailey Brothers, who are seen harassing the band to take a couple of dozen photos with them. Oh well...
JAGUAR: "Live In Holland 82"
The whole point of calling your band something like Jaguar is to project an powerful and nature-wild image of a beast in motion. Indeed, it really doesn't matter if you're projecting a wild-cat or a rapid-fast car, since we're talking about NWOBHM in its purest and wildest form. This is a live recording from December 1982 and the U.K. cult band was apperently on tour in Holland. I don't quite understand why the Dutch thought so highly of Jaguar at this particular occation??? Considering they had not yet released their 1983 debut album "Power Games" at the time (Neat Records).
Anyhow, there's instantly a "Dutch Connection" and you're "Out Of Luck" if you're looking for the "Master Game", as this is very much the "Raw Deal". If the truth be told, the recording quality is far from ideal. However, the Dutch crowd of -82 party hard, and if you throw a band who scratch and bite as much as Jaguar do into the equation, then the result has to be electric. Keep also in mind that there's no overdubs to be found and it's all very much an official "bootleg" really. Apart from their raw and wicked performance, there's no denying that tunes like "Stormbringer" and the magnificent "Backstreet Woman", were ahead of their time and worthy of all your attention. Strickly for the NWOBHM freaks though - limited 1000 copies edition and only to be found and bought online at majesticrock.com.
Chris A.: "A Vulgar Display Of Power" BOOK
MJS Publications 2007
Four people were murdered at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio on 8 December, 2004. A deeply disturbed young man attacked the band on stage, killing the band's guitarist, their security guy, one member of the venue's security staff and a fan of the band. The guitarist was former Pantera member Dimebag Darrell.
"A Vulgar Display Of Power - Courage And Carnage at The Alrosa Villa" is a very detailed book about the unfortunate incident. Author Chris A. has taken months and months to make sure that all details are covered. In the first part of the book, ge goes briefly through the history of Pantera and Dimebag Darrell, but really concentrates on the three other victims, Jeffery Thompson, Nathan Bray and Erin Halk. Another significant character is the killer Nathan Gale. Chris A. has done a lot of interviews with the family, friends and associates of the victims and the killer, and thanks to those, he can bring the reader really close to the subjects. They truly deserve the recognition they are now finally given in this book.
The second part of the book is a second-by-second raport of the actual shooting and the events leading to it. To say that's it's detailed would be an understatement. It's a gruesome story, but it is interesting and relies only on facts. A lot has has been written about the event, and Chris A. goes his way to dismiss all hearsay and rumours.
In the last part of the book, there are touching memorials written by the family members of the victims, and Chris A.'s "Final Notes" section. While throughout the actual story his writing has been very objective, in the final notes he offers some well-informed, thoughtful opinions.
Inbetween the chapters of the book, short "Dime Time" segments offer a little relief from the otherwise heavy and sometimes disturbing story. They are little stories about Dimebag, as told by his fans and friends. He seemed to be a really cool and positive guy who always had time for his fans, and his death was definitely a great loss for the metal community.
While there are no Pantera or Damageplan CDs in my record collection, this book will get a place in my book shelf. It's not your ordinary rock book, it's a compelling story about four men who died too early. May the rest in peace.
|REVIEWS ADDED 9 April, 2007 (WEEK 15)
Stan BUSH: "In This Life" 9
"In This Life" - a nostalgic 80's trip or a fantastic soft-rock album? Well, it's definitely like I'am ten years old all over again and hanging out with my friends "mullet" and "large shoulder pads" [spandex was never a friend of mine]. It's the same feeling you can get as you drive a Lamborghini in the game "GTA Vice City", and the loud-speakers are blasting out all these smooth rock songs of the past. Nostalgia... sure, but nostalgia alone does not make for great albums.
However, there's nothing even remotely under achieving about Stan Bush's new CD, in fact, it would be fairer to say that "In This Life" is closer to perfection than any another Bush album before it. Straight to the point, Stan The Man has managed to record his best solo effort ever and it's not just a stroll down memory lane. The songs are more complete and full of emotion and even though some of them are borderline cheesy (especially the ballads: The First Time and Southern Rain), I'd still have to say that it's difficult to find any real fillers. However, keep in mind that you need to be a fan of the utterly slick U.S. Power Pop/Rock of the 80's to truly enjoy this album (huh? you don't say?). It's not like Stan invented a completely new genre or style here - it's just more of the goodies. In fact, the whole CD would have been perfect as a movie soundtrack of highest quality back in the days.
From the moment you'll hear the opening notes of "I'll Never Fall", to the closing dito of "Southern Rain", you're in for a rockin good time. For instance, "I Can't Cry", tugs along the road with a drivin guitar upfront and a similar approach to music as John Waite and "Missing You". Except for the refrain that really takes the song to another level with its catchy hook. The overall vibe is very much "Waite" though. Call it AOR, soft-rock, cruising music, power-pop - it really doesn't matter in the end as there's only two kinds of music - good and bad. "In This life" is probably as good as it gets for *this* kind of music in the year of 2007. Stan has recorded some fine albums before, but they've always featured a lot of hits AND misses. Not much of the latter this time and this will prove once and for all that U.S. rockers are the best at the soft-rock game (all you Swedes, Finns, Germans, etc - give it a rest this year or simply prove me wrong). Vote Bush for AOR president in 2007?
John MELLENCAMP: "Freedom's Road" 8
Ume/Universal Republic 2007
It's been too long since John Mellencamp graced us with an album of original songs, so "Freedom's Road" has been greeted with a lot of interest by his deeply passionate fans worldwide. There has been some criticism that he allowed the track "Our Country" to be used in a Chevy commercial, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet to get your music heard these days.
Even though Mellencamp is responsible for some genuine hard rockin' songs in the past, these days he has moved firmly into the arena known as Country Rock, where steel guitars abound and finger shredding solos are thrown out and replaced by slow burning, catchy numbers that follow you around like a celebrity stalker.
"Freedom's Road" follows on nicely from 2001's "Cuttin' Heads" with a strong selection of songs filled to the brim with intelligent, thoughtful lyrics and some well constructed melodies. Sometimes you wonder what country he thinks he's living in, with "The Americans" telling us how tolerant and respectful our Yank cousins are, but generally the lyrics evoke images of a worn out country with a proud heritage. In a brave step he even includes a song, "Rural Route" that seems innocent until you realise it's about a little girl who was abducted and raped, based around a harrowing true story. "Cherry Pie" this ain't, but it's powerful stuff.
The beauty of a good Mellencamp track is the hummability, and "Freedom's Road" doesn't disappoint. Songs like the title track, "My Aeroplane" and the first single "Our Country" will get in your skull like head lice with a pneumatic drill. Gentler songs, like the Joan Baez duet "Jim Crow", still impress, but may not survive on your iPod for the same length of time.
If you're already a fan, then this will not disappoint, and lapsed fans from way back will find a man still clinging on to his ideals, unfashionable as they may be. If you've never heard the man, I suggest you pick up "The Best That I Could Do", his excellent Greatest Hits compilation. Otherwise, "Freedom's Road" is a solid slice of countrified rock that will please all fans of the music type, and get them thinking a little too, which is never a bad thing.
MARTIE PETERS GROUP: "Road To Salvation" 8
Martie Peters Group/NL Distribution 2007
Martie Peters is known to some for his work as the lead singer of Push, a melodic hard rock band that recorded a few albums during the late nineties. The band's "poor man's White Lion" sound appealed to some, but I wasn't a big fan of theirs. Therefore, I wasn't exactly biting my nails waiting for this album to arrive to my mailbox. However, the other day the mailman did indeed bring me a copy, and I have to say I was positively surprised. Yes, Peters still sounds like Mike Tramp, but his new band doesn't just emulate the sound of White Lion, they've found a sound of their own.
The album doesn't get a good start with "Fallen", which is one of the weaker tracks. It does showcase the modern vibe, but somehow Martie's vocals sound a bit annoying on this track. And I just don't like the song, simple as that. Things get better with the next few songs: "Chosen One" and "Shallow" are both fine melodic rock songs, while "The Clown" is probably the closest thing to White Lion on this album, reminding me of the WL song "It's Over". "Wish" is very catchy, modern pop rock and I quite like the balladic "For What It's Worth" too. Even better are the next two songs, the highly melodic duo of "Swimming In Your Blue Eyes" and "Silence Sits At My Throne". Fine, fine songs and better than anything that Push ever released.
"Kill The Pain" is a heavier, darker number and not one of my favourites, but still a decent one. Next Peters revisits his past with "Waitin' In Line", which is an old Push song. I remember liking it, but I believe I like this version even better. Excellent song with a strong chorus. "All I Have" is a contemporary sounding pop-rocker, yet curiously enough it borrows an idea or two from Don Henley's eighties' hit "Boys Of Summer". Another decent track, but again not one of my favourites. The title track of the album has been saved to close the album, and as far as I'm concerned, it could've been left to the "drawing board". It's the weakest song of the album, very bland musically. And that falsetto... can't stand it. Obviously it's an important song to Peters as he chose it as the title of the album, but... well, to each their own.
The fact that the opening and closing tracks are two of the weakest ones has a bit negative influence on the whole album. I was actually set on a lower rating, but a look at my notes revealed that those two tracks were the only ones that I disliked... in between them there are 10 more or less good songs, so an "8" it is then.
SHOWSTRIPSILENCE: "Monsters And Humans, Horrorific And All New!" 2
Graves Records 2006
I’ve heard it sounds pretty awful when a pig gets slaughtered. Should any human ever try to imitate that sound Lollo from Showstripsilence would be the closest match, no contest there whatsoever. But I have to give the band some credit because at least they know his fortes; he handles guitar and screams in the band.
Here’s a band that has decent punk/rock songs and a rough sound that would probably attract some people. But they are trying to stand out from the rest of the bands with a guy who sounds like death metal singer on acid. It is intolerable to listen to some of the songs just because this one guy ruins almost every one of them. And the funny thing is that they actually have a singer, Gento, who is also the other guitarist in the band. It’s because of him you can actually imagine how they could sound like if they hadn’t decided to include a screamer to the band.
The album title "Monsters And Humans, Horrorific And All New!" is truthful, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Most of the songs are horr(or)ific because of the screamer and their sound is all new because no one with decent hearing would ever want to try anything similar. I’m really sad that I have to dedicate the whole review for Lollo’s screams. But after two spins that’s all I can remember. And I refuse to give this album another listen because I’m not that much into self-torture.
LINKIN PARK: "What I've Done" (single)
Warner Bros 2007
Dude, what ever happened to the aggressive rap-metal of the past? Not that I'am complaining - I always found Linkin Park as a second rate version of Clawfinger anyhow (they are Swedish - they've probably never even heard of 'em in the states). The first single release from the upcoming CD "Minutes To Midnight" album (release date May 14th), is a very melodic song and dance number in the vein of Good Charlotte and Story Of The Year. Seriously, this is slick and melodic stuff that doesn't sound at all like traditional "Linkin Park" or rap-metal anymore. Vocalist Mike Shionda sees this as a breakthrough in the development of the band's sound. Indeed, "What I've Done" is catchy soft-rock that will probably cause a hefty debate within their fanbase. Me? I like it a lot, however, there's not a guitar solo to be found and there's even a na-na-na choir in the background. Uhm, well, great news for the melodic fans though. I'm looking forward to the CD release.
Finnish melodic hard rockers MoonMadness have released another single after their great "Thunder", and their second release features "Torn" from their upcoming album and a live video of "Ain't No Angel". Since their last release they've switched their singer, and the new addition was found in Heidi Bergbacka, who's been with the band for some time now, and handles her duties as well as Satu Jaronen. Heidi is a good singer with a sound of her own, of course, but fits the bands sound perfectly. "Torn" is another good song from the band and good continuation to "Thunder", but the sound could be better. Hopefully the final product sounds better, because this has a demo feel to it. Otherwise "Torn" continues where "Thunder" left with, the band carries their rock legend influences deep (Rainbow, Deep Purple) and while "Thunder" was a faster and tighter rocker, "Torn" offers soft rock played with ease and backed with relaxed jamming.
What was so characteristic to the band on "Thunder", is still here in every measure, and the bands warm touch to composing shows once again. "Torn" carries another catchy chorus, and the very simple song has a lightly flowing guitar solo with a summer feel to it, played by Otto Hallamaa. Although the sound on the cd isn't the best and the song could've gone higher emotionally, the band has done nice work with "Torn", and the video is also good addition. "Ain't No Angel" looks and sounds good and rocks like any other MoonMadness song. Their debut will continue with the same classic rock spirit, a sound much welcomed since it pretty much died years ago. The old rock dinosaurs are still doing it with their comebacks, but I'm glad the youngsters have the guts to go for it too and that these Finns play their classic rock with style, just like it's supposed to be played.
The USED: "The Bird And The Worm" (single)
The first single from the forthcoming album "Lies For The Liars" (release date May 23) is a dramatic, bombastic, over-the-top, tune, that completely took me off guard. You could say it's quite similar to the approach and music of the latest: My Chemical Romance album "The Black Parade" (my personal # 1 album of 2006). I seriously doubt that The Used will pull off a dozen of songs in a similar style, but let's merely hope so as this is seriously fun stuff. They've also manage to mix their EMOtionally disturbed music with the occasional approach of Queen and Coheed And Cambria, and it works out just fine in the end. Play it once and the whole vibe of the song will take root, burrowing deep inside of your brain. A massive choir, a string section, and tons of keys adds a spooky and haunting theme. It's a darn fine start, but let's wait and see what the full CD will bring. There's hopefully more tunes in the style of "The Bird And The Worm" - thank you very much.
|REVIEWS ADDED 4 April, 2007 (WEEK 14)
The MISSION: "God Is A Bullet" 9
Praise the lord and pass the ammunition - here's the latest CD by The Mission. Ehem, anyhow, "God Is A Bullet" is a swaggin rock album that spits out classy melodies like bullets from a machinegun in the hands of a raving mad terrorist. I don't believe I've ever been this excited about an album by the U.K. rockers as they've clearly managed to hit a nerve this time. For instance, "To Love & To Kill With The Very Same Hand", is such a remarkable catchy and dramatic tune that it will forever change your view of how you ever used to look at The Mission.
I can honestly say that I didn't believe Wayne Hussey to be capable of writing top-notch material such as the songs featuring on "God Is A Bullet". Well, I'm sure most of us had written off the old Goth rockers of the 80's as merely something from the past. But this is like one hit after another and there's hardly any time to come up for air in between the tracks. Hold yer horses, there's a couple of duff moments as well, but I'd say it's still their overall strongest album up to date. It's a lovely mixture of their old Goth and a more "mature" sound that will bring to mind the classy music of U2 and even the latest album by Marillion. And no, I'm not talking about the Fishy version that wrote "Keyleigh" as the album "Marbles" is a completely different sound and band really.
The dark and gothic opening of, "Still Deep Waters", will soon explode into a couple of massive rock hits titled "Keep It In The Family" and "Belladonna". They will easily provide all your needs of Goth/Mission/U2/Marillion feel-good songs as they are probably the best songs ever penned by the band. Well, at least until the following and utterly remarkable "To Love & To Kill With The Very Same Hand" comes along with a hook that hits ya' like a sledgehammer over the head. This my fellow music lovers is a song that will instantly rip yer heart out and leave you bleedin' for more. The Gothic display of "Aquarius & Gemini" is blessed with angelic female vocals by Julianne Regan of All About Eve, who was the voice on early recordings such as "Severina" and "Beyond The Pale". The song and album also features cellist Caroline Dale (Page/Plant, Peter Gabriel, Oasis, etc). The CD continues with the sheer modern rock attack of "Blush", which can only be described as marvelously catchy. "Chinese Burn" won't rub ya' the wrong way as it's very much the sound of the 80's. "Father" is a nice breather and ballad that will most certainly please all the twisted little Goth rockers around the world.
"Hdshrinkerea" is the tune that will remind you the most of The Sisters Of Mercy
and "Draped In Red" is once again blessed with a wonderful refrain. I must also
congratulate Hussey for coming up with some truly interesting and enjoyable lyrics
throughout the album. Not your average top 40 material though. "You're so dumb I bet
you'll never know this song is about you" - Hussey sings during "Dumb", and he's
probably correct in his observation too. One question though, if God is a bullet and
religion is a loaded gun... would that make Jesus a son of a gun??? Highly
Recommended for the open minded listener!!!
ALAN MORSE: "4 O’clock & Hysteria" 9
Inside Out 2007
I never knew that Alan Morse was such an excellent guitar player. Of course he played the "occasional" solos on the Spock’s Beard albums, but Alan’s guitar playing on his first solo album, with the sparkling title "4 O’clock & Hysteria" is really out of this world and therefore a must for guitar lovers all around the globe. Alan wrote all the material by himself and I must say that I never miss vocal parts on any of the 11 songs.
The CD kicks off with a track called "Cold fusion", featuring melodic, speedy, funky,sparkling and proggy guitar melodies and solos. The second extremely wonderful piece is called "R Bluz", which is dominated by amazing solos and bluesy, sometimes jazzy passages. One of my absolute favourites is "The rite of left", featuring an up tempo Satriani-like melody, great hooks and a smashing howling solo. However, the best song is called "Track3" in which Alan reminds me of guitar hero Neal Schon (ex-Santana, Journey). This song has a super gooseflesh ballad melody and a couple of truly heavenly solos.
This extremely well guitar album is balanced out with variety of styles like buoyant funk ("First funk"), country shuffle ("Drive in shuffle"), a siesta with mandolin ("Spanish steppes"), a fine acoustic based AOR song ("Major Buzz") and the piano/guitar ballad "Home".
I truly hope that Alan is allowed to play a couple of these songs during the upcoming Spock’s Beard tour. An absolute must for guitar afficianados!!!
BLOODBOUND: "Book Of The Dead" 8
Metal Heaven 2007
Oh, it's those masked men again! Swedish Bloodbound released their debut album "Nosferatu" early last year, and it was a bit of a shocker. Their melodic metal style and outrageous image was a strange combination, but it worked. To the AOR fans the shock factor was to see Fredrik Bergh from the politely rocking Street Talk turn into a metal monster! With face-paint influenced by Norwegian church burning black metal bands!
The line-up of the band didn't last too long, and for a while, there was a lot of turmoil within the band. Finally, Bergh (keys, bass) and co-founder Tomas Olsson (guitar) added Tomas' brother Henrik as the second guitarist to the line-up, alongside drummer Pell Åkerlind. The last thing to do was to replace original vocalist Urban Breed, and the guys provided another shocker with their choice... German vocalist Michael Bormann! The former Jaded Heart singer and current vocalist of Rain, Zeno and Redrum, not to mention a solo artist, apparently wasn't busy enough with his projects, so he joined the band. This combination was again a strange one, but after hearing the album, I have to say that it works too. Bormann has never sounded as sinister as he does on this album. He is truly showing a different side of him, belting out metal anthems like there's no tomorrow!
The material on "Book..." doesn't stray too far from the sounds of "Nosferatu", but I'm glad to say that there's a bit more variety. "Nosferatu" sounded good, but unorginal, and while there's no escaping the obvious Maiden- and Helloween-influences, the actual Bloodbound-sound is slowly starting raise its' monstrous head. It's indeed Bormann's vocals that bring something unique to these songs, as he's not your average high-pitched power metal vocalist.
For my money, two of the 11 songs clearly stand out as something really special. First of them is the title track, an Accept-like metal track with razor-sharp riffs and a killer chorus that actually reminds me a bit of Lordi. The other standout is the ballad "Black Heart", which could very well be a hit single for the band, their "Always Will Be" or "Still Loving You". Naturally, Bormann shines on this one...
Other key tracks of the album are the two openers "Sign Of The Devil" and "The Tempter" which will surely go down a storm live, the very Helloween-like "Lord Of Battle" and "Black Shadows". The tracks that I like the least are probably the two fastest songs, "Into Eternity" and "Turn To Stone", which are frankly the kind of songs that every second rate power metal band churns out endlessly. You've all heard it before - super fast drumming and silly "Happy Metal" choruses. "Eagle Fly Free" but not quite. I must also say that "Seven Angels" is perhaps a bit too close for comfort to a few Iron Maiden songs...
LIGHTSPEED: "Waves" 8
Are Lightspeed the new Saga? Well, probably not, but they are definitely not a bunch of bozo's. "Waves" is actually their third album and a pretty accomplished platter it is too. I must confess that I had not heard a single note of their music in the past. They are however from Canada and Rod Chappell was the original bassist of ZON. The history of Lightspeed dates all the way back to the year of 1977, when Rod left Zon and formed a new band with his brother Gary (keyboards).
Well, what can I say? occasionally something appears out of nowhere just to hit ya' like a ton of bricks over the head. Something that defies all kind of trends and fashions as they are indeed stuck in a time-warp and the Pomp/Prog/Symphonic sound of the very early 80's. It really doesn't matter though as what we have here is a beast that dwells in a number of lovely soundscapes, it's a mysterious and poppy mix of Saga, Sugarcreek, and Zon. I also love the fact that a couple of the tunes are quite similar in style to the underground cult band, Hobbit.
Jim Gilmour of Saga helps actually out with the additional keyboard programming.
They are very capable at their own though and in John Persichini that have an
excellent frontman. It's a shame really that I've never heard about Lightspeed in
the past. Still, they've finally made its way onto CD and a Euro release at
MajesticRock. This should be snapped up immediately as "Waves" builds impressively
on real musicianship and great things in the songwriting department. The bottomline:
although they fall a touch short in the "breaking new ground" department, Lightspeed
fits very nicely in with the rest of the late 70's/early 80's pomp acts. Not to be
missed out if you're into that special era and sound of past and long gone days.
Kiko LOUREIRO: "Universo Inverso" 8
Boosweet Records 2007
Don’t be fooled by the rockstar look on the cover of this album, Kiko Loureiro plays pure jazz fusion but he does that with style. One can only trace hints of rock in his music but the Latin-American influence is more evident than the rock musician background. Anyway it is a great album for the open minded but not something the "average" rock fan would enjoy.
Besides Kiko’s playing Yaniel Matos’ piano virtuoso is an important part of almost all the compositions but the rest of the musicians also deliver a stunning performance. The sound is great and the mix is very balanced leaving enough room for all the instruments.
My personal favorites were the virtuoso (not a good word to describe it as all the tracks are virtuoso) "Havana", the moody "Anastacia" and the closing, laid-back "Recuerdos". As usual, you get quality instrumental stuff from Boosweet Records with this disc as well but make sure to play the soundbytes of the album on their website as it is as far from rock as Brazil from L.A.
FREEDOM CALL: "Dimensions" 6
Freedom Call and the wild bunch will answer? "Dimensions" is their 5th studio album in eight years time and old fans will be quite familiar with their bombastic and poppy Power Metal sound. At best, the album sound very homely with the notable exceptions of the first opening tracks, "Innocent World" (even though I hate the children's choir!!!) and "United Alliance". However, I'm not quite sure where to look as track four opens up with the utterly corny line of "Hello Mr.Evil". It's not as bad as it sounds though, the song takes off like a rocket to the sky and will certainly cause people to launch their fists skyward in a rock united approach.
The following, "Queen Of My World" is simply too much of Rhapsody Of Fire though (zzz!) and "Light Up The Sky" borrow quite a lot from Robby Valentine and other strange objects that are simply too much and over the top (read: Rhapsody). Don't get me wrong, it's not crap, far from it actually, it's like a part of me both enjoy it and hate it at the very same time (if that makes any sense?). The titletrack is pure class and "My Dying Paradise" is even more pumpkin oriented rock than Helloween could ever present nowadays.
"Magic Moments" is very poppy in the vein of Hall & Oates and "Maneater" - meet
german power metal act and lovely music occurs. "Far Away" is even more strange as
it's The Pogues and Irish drinking music meet greman power metal act and lovely...
ehh, well, some kind of music occurs. The bottomline: I still prefer Freedom Call
over Rhapsody Of Fire any day of the week. Nontheless, they are still a tad too
"lively" and cartoon-ish at times. Time for a change, perhaps? Close but no cigar.
DANTE FOX: "Under The Seven Skies" 5
Sue Willetts is a nice vocalist and the return of Dante Fox should be a nice welcoming for the melodic fans. Uhm, please pay attention that I wrote "should" and not "is", since there's unfortunately a huge difference between the two words. Sue is indeed at the top of her game with some impressive lead and harmony vocals. I noticed that someone even compared her with Ann Wilson (Heart), but that's clearly just a case of poor judgement and not enough of knowledge. She's ok... but not *that* friggin' good. Ann is a vocal Goddess for christ's sake.
...And don't you just hate this "female" vs. "male" b.s. A great vocalist is a great vocalist - no matter what, it really doesn't matter what's between the legs... or ears [well, there's a lot of airheads out there ;-)]. Anyhow, guitarist Tim Monford has managed to come up with a truck-load of lixx and trixx in the fine tradition of 80's rock. Opening track, "The Last Goodbye", is a gutsy power rocker in the vien of Romeo's Daughter's most uptempo material. However, the true essence and elements of top-notch quality music are sadly missing here. Where are the oh-so important hooks and memorable choruses that makes you want to play this over and over again. To be honest, the sappy ballad of "Hold Out Your Hand", sounds more like some poor outtake from the Eurovision Song Contest of long gone days.
They bring out the big guitars for "Breaking Me Down" and "Walking The Line", and
especially the latter will please the fans of Heart music. "Love Tried To Find You"
is yet another ballad, but clearly a winner of its own field and genre. They do have
some tasty melodies, but you'll still hunger for more and also vastly improved
The PLOT (Schenker/Way): s/t (Re-issue)
Oh dear, what ever happened to all the great melodies and choruses of the past? It's like they've all been watered down to a degree were not even the best of jokers could hold the mask anymore. Nope, I don't mind the raw and almost punky guitars, the slightly "modern" approach, or the lesser sound of The Plot. I do not, I repeat, I do NOT believe that all artists should stay the same from birth to death and never progress or change. However, I did expect to find some kick-azz music and not just plain old dull collaborations with such great musicians as Michael Schenker (UFO, Scorpions) and Pete Way (UFO, Waysted).
This is actually a re-issue of the one time album of Schenker/Way and it comes
with a bonus 2nd live disc from 2002. The content of this "Plot" is a rather lumpy
hotchpotch of tiresome music in a similar style as Pete Way's solo album,
"Amphetamine". Avoid at all cost and keep your fond memories intact of UFO, MSG &
POWERQUEST: "Wings Of Forever" & "Neverland"(Re-Issues)
This is a couple of 2-CD re-issues of the Powerquest albums "Wings Of Forever" (2002) and "Neverworld" from the year of 2004. Not quite sure why they've already been re-issued though since it can hardly be a case of forgotten gems or out of prints. Well, ok, the first album was originally released at the Underground Symphony record label (huh, who?), the latter however is a Now & Then/Frontiers release and still very much at market (find it at your online CD stores bargain bin). You can also find a review of "Neverworld" in our archives and I'am not going to upset anyone with any silly remarks here. This special edition comes with a bonus DVD with videos, gallery, and a making of the album ducumentary.
The U.K. Power Metal act Powerquest includes three ex-Dragonforce members and their 2002 debut is traditional Euro Metal in the vein of Freedom Call and Rhapsody. Very bombastic at times and with plenty of double-bass drumming at the centre of your attention. This special edition comes with two original demo versions of "Glory Tonight" and "Follow Your Heart", plus a bonus DVD disc. Yep, disc two is all DVD with live footage from The Underworld at Camden - 2004, the video of "Glory Tonight" and other bonus features such as a gallery and background material. Although the production is sometimes rather tinny (much due to the programmed drums) and treble-heavy, "Wings Of Forever" boats Power Metal attitude in spades and full colours.
Garavello is a more "basic" and down to earth vocalist in comparison with say,
the quite hysterical approach of Fabio (Rhapsody Of Fire). The keyboards are very
much at front of things and thus as important as the guitars. If you don't own the
first two Powerquest's, then you can safely hand over your money for the 2-CD
re-issues as they sure beat the originals.
TIFFANY NICOLE: "Just A Girl" (3-track single)
Tiffany Nicole is young, fresh, and sparkling fun like a newly opened can of Coca Cola. Her lead vocals are unfortunately sometimes flat like the same can of beverage after a day out in the sun. A bit harsh perhaps... she's only seventeen (kip - are you paying attention?), and has still a lot of time on her hands to learn all the tricks of the trade. I should probably blame the producer here, there's things you can do in the studio afterwards to fix the correct pitch of the vocals (well, duh!).
It's actually mostly the titletrack, "Just A Girl", that is in need of some
serious fixing and re-tuning. Well, they could all need a dose or two, however,
"Don't Be Such A Baby" is a nice display of Tiff's vocals at her best. What about
the songs then? Good stuff, seriously, it's catchy, modern rock with its roots in
the 80's music. Not that strange perhaps, considering that Swede, Patrik Tibell
(T'Bell) wrote all three songs with different co-writers. Let's merely hope that
Tiff will grow into her vocals one of these days. There's appearantly a conflict of
interest here as she's a relative to a infamous promotor and record label owner in
the states (surprise, surprise). Ehem, I better just stop writing here as I'm gonna
be in serious trouble (hate-mail, death threats, and lots of cursing, sounds
|REVIEWS ADDED 29 March, 2007 (WEEK 13)
PINK CREAM 69: "In10sity" 8
Blessed with one of the weirdest names in rock, Pink Cream 69 have been around since the late eighties. Apart from a few dark years during the nineties, their albums have been of high quality, and "In10sity", their 10th album, continues that trend. While the first PC69 album with Andi Deris on vocals and those strange lyrics will forever have a special place in my CD collection, the "new" band with vocalist David Readman has proved to be longer-lasting and more reliable formation. Once they ditched the grunge crap, they have released one solid album after another. It also helps that bassist Dennis Ward is an excellent producer, making sure that the PC69 albums sound like a million bucks.
The band start their 10th album with the anthemic "Children Of The Dawn". A solid opener with a big chorus, which is played in a slower tempo than the verses. I generally don't like that, but it works okay in this song. There's no slowing down in "No Way Out", a fast and intense track. The first verse of the song reminds me of My Chemical Romance actually, but once we get to the chorus, it's familiar PC69 territory.
I'm not sure about "Crossfire". It's slowish and a bit repetitive, but I've kind of grown to like it... at least more than I first did. Some vocal melodies sounded familiar and it took me a while to realize that they reminded me of something by Anastacia! With "I'm Not Afraid" I don't have the wonder whether I like it or not - I do. Lots of energy and a highly melodic chorus. The same goes for "The New Religion", although it doesn't reach the same heights.
"The Hour Of Freedom" is a slow'n heavy number but with another decent chorus, while "Stop This Madness" is a typical PC 69 track with again a strong chorus. Good album tracks, but not necessarily highlights of the album. "Desert Land" is a short 90 second interlude, which leads us into "Out Of This World", possibly my favourite track of the album. The vibe of the song reminds me a lot of Queensrÿ:che's classic "Operation: Mindcrime" album.
"It's Just A State Of Mind" is another good album track, while "Wanna Hear You Rock" borrows heavily (and intentionally, I believe) from Skid Row's "Monkey Business". The lyrics and the Skid Row vibe do compliment each other, even though I don't rate the song as one of the album's better ones.
The "European bonus track" "My Darkest Hour" is once again a solid album track, a hard rocker with a good chorus. The album is closed with a ballad, the excellent "Last Train To Nowhere", which leaves a good aftertaste of this album.
Mark SWEENEY: "Slow Food" 6
Pie Music/NL Distribution 2007
Mark Sweeney is the vocalist of Swiss melodic metal band Crystal Ball, and this is his first solo album. Together with another vocalist Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Zeno, Bloodbound etc) he has put together a set of songs which are quite far from the euro-metal sounds of Crystal Ball, more in a laidback AOR style. If comparisons are what you need, the style reminds me of latter-day Bon Jovi, Stan Bush, Bryan Adams or Bormann's recent project Rain.
Bormann's influence is quite obvious on the album, as he has solely written 4 of the tracks and co-written the rest with Sweeney. He has also produced, arranged and pretty much played all the instruments, so this album is at least as much Bormann's creation as it is Sweeney's.
While Bormann scored well in our last year's poll, not everything he touches turns gold. First of all, I'll say it straight: I don't like Sweeney's voice. It's a matter of taste, he's not a bad singer but I just don't like his sound, simple as that. He sounds like a cross between young Mike Tramp and Robby Valentine, kind of a boyish voice that just doesn't work for me. Secondly, the song material isn't particulary interesting.
The album starts with two rather dull balladic tracks, the first of them is actually the first single "Singing For You". Strange choice. The album really kicks into gear with "Superman", a catchy pop rocker, followed by a couple of rather decent songs. "I'm Back" is a Bormann-penned track and one might think that the lyrics have something to do with his break-up with Jaded Heart... maybe, maybe not. "Don't Hold Back The Tears" is a good melodic rocker, but I'm not that fond the next two ballads, the very Bon Joviesque "Might Be Love" and "The Reason", which sounds like a contemporary rock radio ballad.
The world might not need yet another song called "Heaven", but that's what we get. it's actually one of the better songs of the album, an uptempo track with a Scandi-AOR sound reminding me of Return or Talk Of The Town. "Must Be Paradise" is an uptempo AOR track too, but perhaps a little bit too "AOR by numbers". The last four songs are all generic and rather dull ballads, except for "Now Or Never", which is a faster track and probably my pick of the bunch, with a very good chorus.
Bormann has succeeded in this project as a producer, as it sounds very good, but as a songwriter, I have a feeling that he's keeping his best songs for himself. Most of these songs are the kind of stuff that he can probably write in his sleep. Disappointing.
CHEOPE: "Downloadideas" 5
Cheope is an Italian prog metal band formed in 1999 and in their biography is written that all five band members are fans of Dream Theater and Metallica. Well, if you listen to "Risen" you think that this is the latest Metallica clone as the singer Erik Scutti really tries to imitate mister Hetfield. But let me be clear about this, there is only ONE James Hetfield, dudes!! The singer is also the most irritating component of Cheope’s progressive metal music as most of the time the vocals are forced and rather "unnatural", like for example in "Colors" or "Again".
The music on this debut album is rather chaotic, boring and not very inventive as I heard it all before, but then a lot better of course. Why do these guys not try to compose a good song first before they record a rather complex concept album? Go back to the basics and write a good rock song first, especially if you want to play prog metal, a good and original compostion is THE key to a good album. Most of the songs on this album are too much of the same, there is no diversity and the band does not really have a sound of their own, yet...
Furthermore the sound quality of this CD is rather weak, as it sounds hollow and rather like a demo then like a debut album. So, lots of work to do for this young Itlian band...
CONVERGENCE: "Points of view" 5
This Italian metal band was formed in 2001 and in the beginning the group played melodic death metal. After the release of their first demo the band broke up, but Giacomo Mambriani (guitar player) decided to restart the band, however playing a different kind of music now. Their music on the official first album "Points of view" is a mix of nu metal, rock and electronics. What bothers me most however are the horrible grunt parts, I really hate that stuff as it has nothing to do with singing whatsoever...
The electronic beats and loops on this album also are a bit strange as the mix with the grunts and the headbanging and trashy riffs do not really fit in with the music. It all sounds a bit chaotic and weird, just listen to songs like "Listen", "Bleed" or "Silent" and you will catch my drift. There is almost no originality in most of the songs and the compositions are rather weak and predictable.
The best song is the power ballad "Nothing else", a true nu metal song reminding me of Staind as it is rather catchy, featuring a great guitar solo and at least some diversity.
But this band is young and maybe their next album will be a lot better, let’s wait and see...
FENRIS: "Fill The Void" 4
Sounds Of Deluge 2007
"Fill The Void" is a reissue of the first (and last) album of FENRIS, an early nineties progressive power metal band. The band was formed from the ashes of THE INTRÜDERS, apparently a popular 80'ies metal band in the Northern Germany. I haven't heard of them (or Fenris), so guess they didn't make too many waves outside their home turf. If the umlauts are anything to go by, they must've been real METAL!
The bio states that The Intrüders were pretty traditional metal, but with Fenris the band members decided to go prog. And sure enough... they've packed the songs with tempo changes and complicated patterns, and only one of the songs is less than 5 minutes long. Technical and demanding stuff indeed... but at the same time, I don't find it too enjoyable when all the songs are full of annoying stop-and-go riffs and rhythms. The songs never really take off, they just speed up on the runway, only to hit the brakes and then speed off again... and again.
Positive points would be the singer's rather likeable voice (a bit Manowar'ish, mixed with some Virgin Steele), and the production is quite good too. Can't blame the musicianship either. If only they hadn't tried so hard to be complicated and too clever for their own good...
KOTIPELTO: "Serenity" CD-single
High & Loud 2007
"Serenity" is the second single taken from Kotipelto's album by the same name, to be released on 11 April. The first single "Sleep Well" did pretty well on the Finnish charts and got a lot of airplay as well. This song doesn't have the novelty value of being a soundtrack song, so we'll have to see how it fares. It's a good, melodic hard rock track, if nothing out of this world. The distinctive vocals of the Stratovarius frontman will draw comparisons to his main band, but the music does have a slightly different vibe. While Stratovarius is more metal, Kotipelto steers more towards melancholic hard rock.
STANLEY: "HALO" CD-single
Mastermind Recordings 2007
"Stanley plays dark and melodic alternative rock", states the press release. They take their influences from Radiohead, Mew, Placebo and Foo Fighters, and this song is from their debut album, to be released later this spring.
"Halo" is jangly brit-pop flavoured song that offers nothing for me. I don't hate it, but now that I have played it a few times, I have no urge to listen to it again. The sound of the band reminds me a bit of their fellow Turku-based band The Crash, the same attempted British accent and the same overall vibe. Stanley does sound a bit more "manly" than The Crash though.
I wouldn't be surprised if this song ended up in a TV ad some day soon. It's the kind of stuff that ad producers seem to favour these days as the background music of some cute little love story - slightly alternative, but not too obtrusive.
|REVIEWS ADDED 24 March, 2007 (WEEK 12)
GOOD CHARLOTTE: "Good Morning Revival" 8
If it ain't broke, break it!!! The tattooed twins have skinny girlfriends and a massive amount of money and fans all over the world. Yet (or perhaps just because of it?) they have decided to get rid of their old sound and replace it with a lot of new and fancy stuff. "We threw out 50 or 60 songs and pretty much started over", Benji says. They've also decided to replace producer Eric Valentine (old favourite since his T-Ride days), and returned to work with Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Avril Lavigne, Linkin Park). Gilmore wanted to reinvent the band and make people ask themselves, is that really Good Charlotte?
Excellent plan and especially the part about Gilmore. The press-release is full of remarks such as "Don wanted a fresh, new us", and Joel says, "we'd keep bringing songs to Don and he'd be like, nah, it's not what I'm looking for". Ehem, well, they now have an easy way out if this revival thing should fail... simply blame it on the prodcurer. I don't believe we're listening to a failure CD though, not at all. Sure, "Good Morning Revival" will disappoint some and many others will find it as a necessary and a natural progress and part of their evolution revolution. It's interesting to see exactly how far away they've moved from the early punk-rock elements. The dead members of The Ramones would be spinning in their graves if someone should ever proclaim this to be a "punk" album.
This is basically a mish-mash of 80's Pop, dito Arena Rock, and the odd weirdo track. In fact, The Gorillaz-like, "Keep Your Hands Off My Girl", turns out to be a rather misleading tune and not really representative of the overall sound. OK, I honestly believed "Dance Floor Filler" to be a new song with Sweden's Melody Club. Not to mention that the opening verse of "Victims Of Love", sounds an awful lot like a song and dance number by the Russian duo of Tatu. However, the rest of the material takes its stylistic cues from the basic concept of U.S. Power Pop. Power Pop indeed, but they are also sporting heavier influences, the model being updated 80's music with an indelible sharp pop edge though. For instance, "Something Else" is a basic Cheap Trick number with just a hint of Enuff Z'Nuff for god's sake. Very catchy, close-to, or darn-right corny, with a refrain that hits ya' right between the eyes. "Broken Hearts Parade" is another homerun in the more familiar sound of Good Charlotte. "The River" is a blistering, unforgettable rocker about sin and redemption that traverses the dark side of L.A.
The bottomline: "Good Morning Revival" might be easy on the ears, but it's not throwaway easy listening. It's challaging music for the old Charlotte fan and hey, some people believe music is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude, I can assure you it's much more important than that [;-)]. Just one more thing though, the Madden's sports a hardcore metal image (tons of evil tattoo's and shaved heads), yet they play modern soft-rock??? 80's Arena Pop/Rock in 2007?
Slavior: "Slavior" 8
Inside Out 2007
This new band called Slavior in the classic trio format is one of the first rock surprises of this year. This CD is filled with heavy, fresh and modern hard rock, designed for the "masses". The band consists of Gregg Analia ( Tribe of Gypsies, vocals), Wayne Findlay (MSG, guitar, keyboards and bass) and former Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder.
All the 10 songs are heavy rock with certain progressive aspects and the sound of Slavior is a mix of bands like King’s X, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jelly Jam and the Deftones. "Swepty away" is the first killer song on the album, featuring a headbanging intro followed by RHCP vocals and some Deftones and King’s X characteristics. "Another Planet" has a killer groove, a great chorus, excellent vocal parts and a howling,screaming short guitar solo. However the definite musical highlight is the last track called "Red Road". This one really reaches out to progressive territory with strings, amazing twists and turns, a very melodic chorus and a long mind boggling guitar solo.
The three rather "simple" disappointing songs are "Altar" (semi-ballad with lots of vocals), "Shatter" (rock with distorted vocals) and "Dove" (a radio-friendly reggae rock track).
The album has a very natural sound and if you like your rock steamy and groovy then this is an album you will really enjoy. Great live music as well, I should think! Check it out!
MOONLIGHT AGONY: "Silent Waters" 7
This is the second album of the Swedish metal band Moonlight Agony. The group was founded in 1999 and their first album called "Echoes of a nightmare" was released in 2004. The music on that CD was a blend of Sonata Arctica and Thunderstone, meaning dark symphonic power metal pure.
"Leaving solitude" is the opening song of the new album and it is an up tempo Stratovarius like power metal track with typical high-pitched vocals and speedy guitar and keyboard solos. "You betrayed me" reminds me of Rhapsody mainly due to the extreme bombastic sound, the strings and the classical parts. "Through the desert storm" is again a pure power metal song with staccatto riffs and Kotipelto vocals. And so the album goes on and one wonders where the originalty and the diversity is...
However, there is still one great track in the end, namely the title track, which features an orchestral bombastic intro, followed by lots of guitar work and a female gothic-like voice in the spirit of Within Temptation. All in all not a bad album although it certainly lacks originality.
For fans of Stratovarius and Helloween however this could be an amazing album.
MARYSCREEK: "Some Kind Of Hate" 6
The Swedish band, MarysCreek, was founded by power vocalist Mats Nilsson in early 2004. Their demo songs were quickly starting to create a buzz in the music community with positive reactions from fans, reviewers, publishers and radio, who often compared them to Soundgarden and King's X.
Well, to be frank, they do play a fun mixture of guitar based melodic hardrock and heavy groove with a modern production and crunchy riffs. But... I can't really hear that much King's X or Soundgarden for the matter. Sure, there's a hint of grunge into their music. However, do you guys remember the Swedish band, Mental Hippie Blood, from the mid-90's??? They were all ex-Glorious Bankrobbers, Treat's Anders Wikström was a band member for a couple of months, and they had a minor MTV Headbanger's Ball hit in Europe with: "Law Breaks The Law". Well, this could just as easily have been a brand new CD with Mental Hippie Blood!!! The sound of Maryscreek is in fact as close to identical to MHB as you can possible get without actually being identical (uhm, yeah).
Thus why it's quite easy to point out the strenghts and highlights of the CD. Powerful vocals, crunchy riffs, and an excellent mixing by Fredrik "Fredman" Nordström (In Flames, The Haunted, Dream Evil), makes this a nice, but hardly original sounding debut. They could even try to track down Michael Oran next time as he could surely help out with some background vocals.
DECOY: "Call of the Wild" 4
AOR Heaven 2007
Well, well, how to put it? Do you like whipped cream? Yeah? Do you like marinated paprika? Like that too? Now do you like the two together in one dish? I loved Peter Sundell’s work with Grand Illusion and I really appreciated Torben Enevoldsen’s songwriting but under the moniker Decoy they came up with a very average effort that is too metal to be melodic rock, too progressive to be AOR and too simple to be progressive. Obviously the idea was to have best of both(? - best of all) worlds, yet in the end it turned out to be none. Some power riffs topped with awful lyrics and though the vocals, the musical performance and the production are bombastic the final product just doesn’t do the trick.
The album kicks of with two heavy metal tracks “Divided" and the title track; both are okay, nothing more, nothing less. Then the weirdest track of the album comes titled “Brothers in Arms"; it starts as the cheesiest Journey or even worse REO Speedwagon ballads then turns into the midtempo rocker that lyrically is basically an anthem of the Association of Ukrainian Assassins for Hire. You have to hear it to believe! Then “Heavy Metal Thunder" kills all the hopes I ever had about the album. The title says it all… “Make A Stand" starts like a bad Metallica imitation, then slows down and drags its leg till the end and though “Break Through" and “Forever and Ever" show some promise, the uptempo “My Religion" is the road back to average-land.
“How Long" recalls Grand Illusion both musically and vocally, it is probably the best track of the entire album, Peter really shines on this one; the lyrics are horrible though. Another okay track comes then “Peace of Mind’ finishes the album, another better than average number but it’s not enough to save the album or restore my faith. I don’t know what happened to these guys (first of all they look like the left defender and the goalkeeper of some weird German football team; Eintracht Braunschweig anyone?), I can’t even blame the label for pushing them to deliver too fast as it is obvious that a considerable amount of time and efforts were invested into the production. It’s all about the songs after all and they are definitely lacking, cliché heavy metal riffs and lyrics that would embarrass even a 15 year old poet-wannabe. Well, maybe the next time.
SCELERATA: "Darkness And Light" 4
Scelerata is a young and talanted power metal band from Brasil, formed in 2002 and are now stepping into the spotlight with a v-e-r-y technical debut album. There is one problem though. Superlative musicianship alone does not make for great albums. They have obviously been listening to the entire back catalogue of Helloween and Angra, and there's absolutely nothing wrong about their influences. Heck, they have even managed to get one of their heroes and also biggest supporters? Edu Falaschi (Angra) to sing the song "The Spell Of Time", which also turns out to be one of the highlights of the album.
Nontheless, Scelerata are glorified Power Metal by numbers, and thus as interesting as all the other Power by numbers bands are. You've heard it done so many times before that you instantly can tell what the next, beat, riff, or lyric, will provide. In vocalist Carl Casagrande, they have a singer of high intensity, but their second hand Angra blast fails to ignite any of his real powers. Ambitious guitar work, fast and aggressive double bass parts are only to be expected really. It's difficult to single out any killer tracks though as they're all pretty... well... average.
The moody metal of, "Endless", is a positive surprise and would that be a real accordion in the background??? Nice, very scarce and obscure for a power metal album. The following power ballad and titletrack: "Darkness And Light" is indeed a nice change of tempo, but their problem is more fundamential than this. Despite the occasional brilliant melody, I'm afraid that this will quickly end up in the bargain bin.
ILID: "The Shadow Over Arkham" 3
UK Division Records 2007
I normally do not do this but I let the promo material of this album speak for itself now. Read carefully as I quote it word by word: “The Ilid project is simply the union of two personalities extremely sensible and particular. As soon as Ronnie and Natascia met, no doubts rised up concerning the meaning of their musical affinities. Immediately, just after a few seconds, their eyes met into a deep expression that made me understand they just did not want to get closed. I saw reflected in their eyes the Will and the Desire keeping their eyelids opened as for them to see in the heart and soul of each other…" etc. etc.
Horrible, ain’t it? And the music is at least as twisted as these sentences are here. Although Ronny’s guitar work and the rhythm section are all okay (nothing as special as the bio suggest, just good, old hard rock with some progressive touches, Natascia’s vocals and lyrics are horrible. It adds a non-welcome psychedelic touch to all the songs (they are well-written songs, good vocal melodies would turn them into enjoyable rock tunes but instead) we get some suicide music like the worst moments of The Cure. The vocals are bordering being off-key, are mixed too much in the front, leaving Natascia’s mistakes exposed to the light.
There are four tracks on the album, all of them blessed with cool drum-bass patterns, some really good guitar-work here and there, “Sacred" even has a great piano-base but the vocal melodies (or the lack of them) pretty much ruins all of them. Normally when you are 16 you learn NOT TO include your girlfriend in your band. It’s never too late to learn, dudes. Get a singer and try again the next time!
VIOLENT WORK OF ART: "Automated Species" 2
There's apparently a golden rule in the hardcore scene that goes along the lines of: as long as you're aggressive and angry as hell, then you're good. Well, you could actually pen down a similar agenda about most rock genres, however, it's all utter nonsense of course. The latest Violent Work Of Art is a sonic display of 100% industrial noises and zero melodies. Get depressed to the over abused screaming, weird rhythms and overall annoying sound, marvel at the imaginative titles of "A Sad Creation", "Silence is The Enemy", "Scars", "Lord Of Flies" and "Misery Loves You", and get freakin' mental by the lack of good material.
I prefer the pre-VWOA days when they were known as Thrashhole and played a more Thrash/Speed oriented metal. Well, they had at least real "songs" back in those days. Now erase this from your memory and check out "Mythmaker" with Skinny Puppy for some real quality.
WINGER: "Demo Anthology"
Yeah, a "Demo Anthology" with 37 tracks on a double disc do sound great on paper (or PC screen), but it's perhaps a bit of a let down in reality. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy my Winger albums and it's not like I'am too posh to headbang along to the beat of "Seventeen" (well... ok). However, this 2-CD set is strickly intended for the raving mad stalker fan as merely 10 out of 37 tracks are previously "unreleased" stuff from the past.
Seriously, who's really all that interested in demo sound quality, muddy recordings, and basically... ehh... "demos" of 27 songs that all ended up on the first three Winger albums? Uhm... yes, stalker, you may put down your hand now. The rest of us will continue to play the regular CD's, thank you very much. It's not like these versions are all that different from the final production.
On the other hand you have 10 tracks that will most certainly please most if not ALL Winger fans. Yes, the previously unreleased tracks includes some real goodies from the past. "Written In The Wind" and "Until There Was You" are some of the best 80's hairmetal left-over that I've heard lately. I simply can't stop shouting along to the lines of: "I'm on the outside looking in - everyday I'm drifting away - losing you is Written In The Wind". How they could ever leave out such top-notch material in the first place goes way over my head. The bottomline: I would rather just have a single CD with the 10 previously unreleased tracks. Now you basically have to buy this double disc and fast skip one helluva bunch of tracks (27 to be exact) or burn your own compliation with merely the goodies. Ouch, my fingers are numb of all the fast skipping...
DOKKEN: "From Conception Live 1981"
Fist fighting Dokken!!! If, like me, you have a soft spot for the most troubled of L.A. outfits, then this live recording should be savioured. It's raw, dirty, in-your-face, live music from Conception 1981 and it's still the early days of the band. It's prior to receiving a recording contract in the states and also prior to the infamous fist-fights within the band (even though trouble was merely waiting around the next bend).
Don Dokken was asked to remix the original tapes of, "Breaking The Chains", when he found some long lost and forgotten 2-inch tapes of this very live recording. It's 10 tracks of pure energy from a U.S. independent hardrock band at the time and it includes 3 unreleased tracks that never made it to the studio recording of above mentioned album. "Goin' Down", "Hit And Run" and "You're A Liar", fits nicely in with the rest of the Dokken material from the early 80's.
I'm positively surprised by the quality of this live recording. Don't expect any miracles, however, you certainly wouldn't believe that Don's been baking the tapes in an owen, transfering them straight to a hard drive, and only then began the work of a month's mixing. "Paris Is Burning" and "Breakin' The Chains" has never sounded so perky and uplifting before or ever since. They were still young, hungry, and not completely f***ed up by the whole music business. Essential stuff for the mad Dokken fan.
|REVIEWS ADDED 14 March, 2007 (WEEK 11)
REDEMPTION: "The Origins Of Ruin" 9
Inside Out 2007
Ray Alder is probably one of the best rock singers in the business and I have always been a huge fan of Fates Warning. However as the band does not exist anymore – at least not to my knowledge – I can give my complete attention to Alder’s "new band" called Redemption. That American prog metal band based around group leader Nicolas van Dyk – guitar player, keyboarder and sole songwriter – has produced its best album so far. Van Dyk proves with "The Origins of ruin" that he has a special musical gift, by composing intelligent prog metal songs in a style that transcends genre boundaries. The music combines complexity, heaviness and addictive melodies drawing on influences as Kansas, Rush, Zero Hour, Dream Theater and especially Fates Warning of course.....
The CD starts with "The surrounding silence", an up tempo prog metal song of the highest quality followed by "Bleed me dry", that opens with a very melodic guitar solo, followed by heavy riffs, piano parts and amazing vocal passages. Most of the songs are really infectious, like for instance the epic "Memory", also filled with sparkling guitar solos. Absolute highlights are: "Man of glass" (a real Fates Warning song), "Blind my eyes" (filled with very emotional vocals and amazing guitar arpeggios) and "Fall on you" (a very diverse, melodic prog metal track).
This CD is a collection of brilliant songs based upon human weaknesses, missing communication, deceit and accepting bribes, fanaticism and intolerance, self-doubt,anxiety, hope and love.... So lyrically and musically there is a lot to enjoy on this spectacular album and I am sure that with this album Redemption will establish themselves among the champions league of prog metal groups.
THOUGHT CHAMBER: "Angular Perceptions" 9
Inside Out 2007
Thought Chamber is a new prog metal band based around Michael Harris (Arch Rival) and Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard. Their progressive metal is extremely complex and it shows great diversity. So you can also hear musical elements like funk and groove. Harris wrote all the songs for this debut album over a period of time between 2001 and 2004, only the instrumentals "Accidently on purpose" and "Mr.Qwinkle’s therapy" were composed together with Rob Stankiewicz (drums) and Derek Blakley (bass guitar).
"Premonition", the third instrumental kicks off the album and it is a great opener with outstanding solos and swinging rhythms. "Sacred treasure" is the first track with vocals and Leonard sings even better than with Enchant. "A legend’s Avalon" features a great guitar intro, followed by Dream Theater riffs and Enchant melodies. The second instrumental song "Mr.Qwinkle’s therapy" is one of the highlights as it is very guitar dominated and it features a great keyboard – guitar battle.
Thought Chamber’s masterpiece is without any doubt the last song "A mind beyond", which is a spectacular prog metal song, combining classical touches with amazing melodies and a progressive instrumental middle passage, ending in an extraordinary piano outro.
If you like prog metal and Enchant then you should buy this album asap. It looks to me that 2007 will become an excellent and expensive year for prog rock fans...
The VIEW: "Hats Off To The Buskers" 8
The View are a bunch of Dundee-lads who are apparently full of suprises and tricks. You need to give up your preconcieved ideas about Scotland, their highlander theme, and yuk, all that deep fried pizza, candy bars, well, you name it - they'll frie it!!! (please remind me again, why are there so many fat kids?). The fantastic four: Kyle Falcone (vox,gtr), Keiren Webster (vox,bass), Peter Reilly (gtr) and Steven Morrison (drums), doesn't actually play a certain kind of music, rather they create a wicked collection of sounds of ramshackle pop and baggy U.K. rock with just a hint of punk.
"Hats Off To The Buskers" is like an emotional and fun rollercoaster ride on the guitar friendly side of things. Yes, even Pete Doherty of the Babyshambles thinks they're great and that's not even the best of promotion, huh? You know, considering that Pete's mental and high on smack all of the time (well, at least according to British media and they wouldn't lie, would they?). Anyhow, The View were formed out of the ashes of old covers band at school, playing everything from Squeeze to Sex Pistols. After deciding just over a year ago that their ambition stretched further than hanging at pubs and clubs, they began writing material for a proper album release.
It seems like old Oasis producer Owen Morris influenced them to use a similar production and approach to studio noises. Indeed, "Superstar Tradesman" features a riff, verse, and bridge, straight out of the old school of the Gallagher's (that would be Oasis, huh?). They've also managed to include a couple of songs in the tradition of The Jam, The Smiths, The Clash & Arctic Monkeys. Hell, you can even find small segments of Cornorshop and The Proclaimers into hit tracks such as "Same Jeans" and "Wasted Little DJ's". The latter act and twin brothers had a huge hit back in the days with: "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)". "Don't Tell Me" is more Liverpool than Robbie Fowler and the song will creep up on you and slowly work its way inside of your head. "Face For The Radio" is sheer poetry in motion and how can you resist a ballad with a killer line such as: "you have a face for the radio, but I know you'd like to see it in a show". Sure, there are a couple of not so bright ideas on here as well and a couple of the tracks should probably never have been included in the first place. Nontheless, mission accomplished, they've managed to top the charts in Scotland and now they're taking on the world.
NEVERLAND: "Schizophrenia" 6
Neverland is a Progressive Metal band, not to be confused with the Interscope/Atlantic act of the early 90's, from Switzerland, not to be confused with Sweden - the land of vikings. They were formed in 1999 by guitarist Daniel Hubner and drummer Boris Stoll who first met while studying music in Zurich. The search for an singer turned out to be difficult task, but when Mike Zotter joined in 2003 the group was finally ready to take on the world... not!!! Zotter left shortly before the recording of "Schizophrenia" and Jean Marc Viller, a power vocalist from Bern, joined the band just in time to record the album.
My first reaction to this was to yawn and get ready for a second rate Dream Theater, Symphony X, Royal Hunt, slab of an album. Yep, I was right too, but bugger me if this isn't a pretty darn decent effort after all. You see, Neverland aren't a bunch of wannabes trying to scab a lift on the prog-metal bandwagon. Well, it can't hardly be described as a bandwagon if all the acts sound exactly alike for more than 15 years???
Nevermind, Neverland do bring some straight-ahead material to the table and this platter can merely be described as a prog dinner consisting of basic meat and potato. Yeah, I know, there's nothing more annoying than someone who's claiming that every band they hear sounds like someone else. However, to name these geezers as the original of originals, would clearly be a case of a vivid imagination. Final verdict: they're all good musicians, but we've all heard it before. Try it if you'd like another slice of the same ol' Prog.
BEFORE THE FALL: "From Mutism To Riddance" 2
Noise head Records 2007
"Thrash Metal mixed with Hardcore" was the kind of description that didn't make the RockUnited staff fight over this album, so I was stuck with the task of reviewing this. I don't know why in the first place it was sent to us, since this kind of music isn't really favoured by us. We do cover a wide variety of styles, but this kind of aggressive, unmelodic stuff is very unlikely to find any friends over here...
What's good about this album? Well, it's well-produced. The riffs are skull-crushing and hard as nails. The packaging is stylish. The band can play for sure.
So why only a "2", you ask? Well... the songs sound very alike, they are very unmelodic and on top of everything, the vocals sound more like vomiting and screaming at the same time than actual singing. If the "cookie monster" effect was used from time to time, I might be able to tolerate it, but no, frontman Michael Kronstorfer screams all the way through the album... Wait! There was a second or two of somewhat clean singing in the first track - that was probably the best song of the album.
Ia a way it's a pity that labels send us these gargle metal albums... dozens of metal sites could have given this a better review, and found some qualities in it. I just don't get this kind of stuff.
SIRENIA: "My Mind's Eye" CD-single
Nuclear Blast 2007
"My Mind's Eye" is a the latest single from Norwegian Goth/Metal/Rock band Sirenia. According to the band's website, it's getting "massive airplay" accross the Europe, so you may have heard it on your favourite station. It's surely a very radio-friendly, melodic rock track with touches of Nightwish, Within Temptation and the likes, Vocalist Monika Pedersen has a nice, not too operatic voice, and the chorus is very catchy. To summarize, this is a good pop-rock song dressed in metallic, gothic fashion. Nothing new under the sun, but very good.
The band has released their latest album a while ago, and if this song is anything to go by, it's worth checking out. You can check out the song on the band's MySpace page.
|REVIEWS ADDED 11 March, 2007 (WEEK 10)
WITHIN TEMPTATION: "The Heart Of Everything" 9
...And they're off to conquer the world and especially the states. It's a make or break album over there and they've certainly decided to bring out the big guns. Seriously, "The Heart Of Everything" is their first, last, and final chance to make it big on the other side on the pond. They're not taking any chances here as they're really surfing on the wave of Evanescence and it's perhaps a bit too obvious at times. For example, the lead single off the album, "What Have You Done", features guest vocals by Life of Agony frontman Keith Caputo, and it's all very, "Bring Me To Life" (lead single off the first Evanescence album).
Don't get me wrong, I like it, I like it a lot!!! I merely hope average America won't think of them as a bunch of wannabes and copycats. Bloody 'ell, Within Temptation has been releasing CD's since 1997 and Amy Lee & Co. found a lot of inspiration from the music of the dutch rockers, and not the other way around. One thing's for sure, Sharon den Adel shows now how versatile she is as a singer more than on any other WT album. Powerful and high-pitched at times, yet on other songs she is so emotional and fragile. Not to forget that she's now armed with an impressive stockpile of Goth Rock anthems about despair, sorrow, regrets and surprise, surprise, even more despair.
Honestly, this is in my humble opinion, the strongest album of the year (so far). "The Heart Of Everything" is in many ways a more thoughtful album, introducing some new and ideas (nu-metal and modern rock) , together with an even more radio friendly approach, and arguably less 'full throttle' metal. Some folks would probably name it a "sell-out", US billboard friendly, and utterly commercial to the extreme. Me? well... I just find this to be a friggin' great music CD. Everything from the bombastic opener, "The Howling", to the closing piano ballad of "Forgiven", is a gloriously blend of modern Goth and catchy rock music. Even better than last years "The Open Door" by you-know-who. Highly recommended.
UNION MAC: "Lost In Attraction" 8
Union Mac is a fine new project by ex-Spin Gallery (Atenzia Records) vocalist/keyboardist, Kristoffer Lagerström and newbie, Mikael Klevengård (guitars, keys). The two of them (plus drummer: Imre Daue) have recorded a album that explores the cavernous delight of a consistently melodic and impressively modern, yet retro, kind of songwriting.
Indeed, "Lost In Attraction", do smack of 80's melodic hardrock from the word go and there's not a single trace of nu-metal to be found. However, it's still a very fresh CD, you will certainly not end up with a feeling of deja vu' or 'been there, done that'. And that's what's so refreshing about this CD. Sure, they've been influenced by the likes of Saga, Europe, Whitesnake, etc, but they've really managed to create their own style of melodic rock.
You can certainly trace elements of Europe and Joey Tempest into a song such as "Make Pretend". However, the overall material is a lovely mish-mash of hi-tech AOR, soft-lite melodic prog, and just a hint of the modern stuff. It's like you're listening to a more modern and up to date release by World Trade and/or Saga. There's an excellent use of keyboards with a retro sound of the 80's and killer hooks from planet catchy throughout the entire CD. Hopefully the emergence of bands like Union Mac, who are playing the melodic rock their own way, will signal a resurgence in new music from the record labels. It's not always a good idea to sign up a dino-act from the past, especially not if their new album sounds like a crappy demo, or if they've changed around their sound and/or members too much. Good stuff!
GAIA EPICUS: "Victory" 7
Epicus Records 2007
The Norwegian Gaia Epicus promotes their new and third cd with praising words, mentioning "Victory" being their best release and having great faith in this album. These four musicians seem to have a lot of energy and their music is powerful. These are the best features of the band not yet ready to conquer the world though.
Gaia Epicus relies mostly on their powerful attitude, and while bashing the songs away in true power metal spirit and intensity, they don't pay enough attention on the importance of vocal work. So while their unoriginal power metal sounds alright with great energy levels, the vocals of Thomas Hansen (sounding a lot like Dave Mustaine of Megadeth), and Joakim Kjelstad (choir) are at times way off where they should be. They should've spent more time in the studio to find the perfect notes and pitches, the lower registers don't sound good at all.
The band has a nice sound otherwise though, being similar to the other Norwegians Highland Glory, mixed with sounds from Evil Masquerade, Megadeth and all those 80's metal influences, even thrash. There's a lot of potential in the band and their powerful, cheerful, yet strongheaded atmosphere are their strongest features, besides their instrumental composition talents heard in "In Memory".
Seing Mika Jussila's (Finnvox Studios) name in the credits let me to believe in perfect sounds, but the result is something a bit different usually heard through his hands, but surely Thomas Hansen and Borge Finstad had a lot to do with mixing the album and I'm not all too sure if I got the final product here. I'm not too pleased about power metal produced this lightly, though the band sounds tight. Gaia Epicus is an entertaining and a promising band on the right tracks though. Maybe next album will be their best ever?
PEER GÜNT: "Guts and Glory" 7
100 % Record Company 2007
The starting point for this album was intriguing. Singer / songwriter T. Nikki parted ways with long-term drummer Twist Twist Erkinharju and bassist Tsöötz Kettula some time ago and they were replaced by Sakke Koivula (d) and Pete Pohjanniemi (b). For many of the fans the “original" line up is the only line up, but then again T. Nikki has been in the band the longest and writes most of the songs anyway so I guess he can do as he pleases.
The fans are happy to know that their style has not changed. From the first notes of the opening track “No Guts No Glory" it is clear that their R&B / boogie flavoured rock and roll sounds massive and strong, maybe stronger than they have sounded in a long while. I was pleased to notice some melodic nuances in some of the otherwise plainly aggressive and energetic songs.
T. Nikki is probably one of the most undervalued guitarists around. He may not be the best songwriter there is but his guitar solos are phenomenal. For example “Demolition Child" and “Crazy Wild One" rise on a totally new level the second he starts the solos. There are glimpses of excellence and great ideas in other songs too, but unfortunately none of the songs here are classic material. Towards the end they start to sound a bit dull as the song are all very similar. I think there would have been room for one catchy mid-tempo (such as PG classic “Years on the Road") on the album as it would have given the album some variability. The last song “Don’t Cry" could have been something like that, but the song lacks the sing-along feeling that would make you wanna scream your lungs out.
All in all Peer Günt still sounds like burning rubber, smoke and gasoline. The backbone of the band is T. Nikki and as long as he is in the band you can count on them to deliver surging riffs, untamed solos and uncompromising attitude.
Hanna PAKARINEN: "Lovers" 6
After winning the first Finnish Idols-competition in 2004, Hanna Pakarinen has found her place in the Finnish music scene. Her first album was a big hit, her second a gold selling album as well, and now she's released her third one, which might surpass the sales of the previous two. Why? Well, she was recently qualified to represent Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest, which should help her to get an international career. Nothing's that simple though, but we'll see.
While I quite like Hanna as a vocalist, her albums haven't really won me over yet, and "Lovers" is no different. It all comes down to the songs, and I think she needs better songs than most of the ones she's been given to sing. There's the occasional gem here'n there, but mostly her songs are a bit on the bland side.
So what do we have on "Lovers"? Let's take a closer look... The dark and moody rocker "It Ain't Me" is up first, sounding like a cross between Pink and Lacuna Coil. It ain't bad, but the hook could be sharper. Still, this is one of the better songs of the album. Then we've got "Go Go"... it's a catchy little girly pop-rock number, but there's something truly irritating in it. The first verse is corny, and the bridge reminds me of Spice Girls.
The two Eurovision Song Contest entries, the winning song "Leave Me Alone" and "Tell Me What To Do" follow. "Leave Me Alone" reminds me of a watered down version of Lacuna Coil, I disliked it at first but somehow I've grown... not to like, but to tolerate it. "Tell Me..." is a ballad which owes a lot to the Aerosmith ballads of the last fifteen years...it ain't bad either.
"You Don't Even Know My Name" is a bouncy pop track with a very 70'ies like vibe. Everyone probably knows the Danny & Armi video that's all over internet, "the worst video ever made"? I'm afraid this song reminds me of that song. Next please... and it's "Heart Beating Steady", an okay rock song but nothing more. "Tears You Cry" is an okay ballad with a good chorus, while "Free" is another okay song... again.
"It Ain't Gonna Happen" is probably my favourite song of the album. It's a rather nice soft rock track that reminds me a bit of latter-day Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. A very good chorus that gets better as the song progresses. It's nice to notice that Hanna herself has been involved in writing the music. The two last songs can't compete with "It Ain't Gonna Happen", as they're both rather average. The chorus of "Lovers" reminds me of Enuff Z'Nuff, although I'm pretty sure the songwriter hasn't even heard of them... I guess it all can be traced to the Beatles. "Hard Luck Woman" does feature a good vocal from Hanna (like all of the tracks do, actually), but again, the song itself isn't particulary interesting.
It's good to see that Hanna has tried her hand at songwriting, with most of the lyrics being co-written by her. If the songs are autobiographical, she has really poured out her sorrows into the songs. If "It Ain't Gonna Happen" is anything to go by, she really should try to get more involved in the music as well.
|REVIEWS ADDED 7 March, 2007 (WEEK 10)
THE SHOWDOWN: "Temptation Come My Way" 8
Century Media 2007
Oh yeah! I truly believe that The Showdown are onto something. What these guys have figured out is that there's always demand for kick-ass heavy metal with cool riffs and killer hooks, and that's what they have delivered. Yep, we're talking about "old-school" metal. It sounds to me like Metallica is the band's biggest influence, but they've picked up a thing or two from other bands as well. I keep finding similarities to Skid Row ("Slave To The Grind"-era) and there's a touch of Judas Priest in the dual axe work. All this is somehow wrapped up in a package that doesn't sound dated at all.
The opening track "Fanatics And Whores" doesn't really warn about what's ahead. It's a decent song that borrows heavily from Metallica, but it's blown away by the next three songs. "Heads Down" starts the avalanhce, a midtempo track with an excellent chorus, only to be followed with two of the finest Metal songs I've heard lately. "Six Feet Under" is blessed with an awesome riff, fantastic pre-chorus and equally brilliant chorus, while the slightly Iron Maiden-like "We Die Young" mixes the modern vibe with the classic metal sound perfectly. Not to mention that it has an exceptional chorus. Great!
The next few tracks can't compete with the previous few. "Breath Of The Swamp" is an okay Metallica-like track, but the grunge-infested "It Drinks From Me" reminds me again why I never got into grunge - it was dull, and it still is. "Temptation Come My Way" is somewhere between the previous two, Metallica-like, but with a bland chorus.
"Forget My Way" steers the band into right direction, as it's a quite decent, energetic track. The same applies to "Spitting In The Wind". It's the next song that steals the show though. The song in question is "I, Victim (Here's To The Year)" which sounds like another perfect mix of contemporary metal influences mixed with vintage metal style. Superb hooks and riffs. Another winner comes in the form of a covers version: "Carry On Wayward Son" is indeed the Kansas track, now done in more of a metal style, and it works brilliantly. This version is one of the album's highlights for me! The remaining two tracks aren't among the best songs of the album, but they are both solid enough. If Metallica were able to write songs as good as them these days, I might actually care about them.
I don't know whether The Showdown will be the saviors of Metal with this album, but I'm pretty sure that they'll be noticed. I wouldn't be surprised if The Showdown ended up being one of 2007's breakthrough artists. One more thing: a round of applause for the band for dropping the cookie monster vocals!
TIGERTAILZ: "Bezerk 2.0." 8
WTO Records 2007
Legends of Glam? Ehem, well, if you could look up the phrase, "Glam Metal from Wales", in any ordinary dictionary, you'd definitely end up with a picture of Tigertailz. They've been around since the era of the druids and I believe their stage debut took place at the very first celebration of the summer solstice at Stonehenge? Anyhow, their previous attempt at complete and total world domination (back in the late 80's/early 90's), resulted in a couple of more than decent platters. Their uptempo bublegum fun music will most certainly live on forever in the hearts of the 80's Glam fanatics (Hello Cardiff Kate!).
But lo and behold, "Bezerk 2.0.", is yet another step on the ladder of excellence as they have unleashed a truck-load of punchy Glam metal tracks. The four of Kim Hooker (vocals), Jay Pepper (guitars), Pepsi Tate (bass) and Matt Blakout (drums), are definitely back for the attack. This is something you'll quicky notice by the opening chords of "Do It Up", the song is a high point of the album, as the mood changes from soft melodic passages to a really catchy refrain. There's no need to worry about any weird influences either as the album oozes of 80's Glam and overall sleazy melodies. "One Beat Of Your Heart" is a remarkable fast rocker and perhaps even a close relative to Poison? The following track, "I Believe", is a great piano ballad with an opening verse that reminded me of Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home".
"Make Me Bleed" are one of those excellent mid-tempo, tunes, I believe it to be highly praised among long-time fans as it's very retro. "Get Real" is a raw, fun, simple, uptempo rocker, that could have been the work of anybody from Backyard Babies to The Wildhearts. "Annie'z Gone" is another winner in the old school of things and it fits nicely in with the classics. Kim sings remarkably well and there's a strong commercial approach to the chorus part. "For Hatez Sake" is a tad too simple though and the closing track, "Dirty Needles", will demand, as well as acquire, several spins to really click (Kim does his best Blackie Lawless impression here). The bottomline: The production is modern and the Welsh lads continue on their Glam approach of long gone days. "Bezerk 2.0." is far from original sounding or always easy accessible, however, you simply can't go wrong here if you're into 80's Glam. The U.S. bonus track is a 12 minutes long interview with the band and I would recommend this version of the CD (click label link above to find a copy).
DAUGHTRY: "Daughtry" 8
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
6 March 2007
Chris Daughtry stood out in the American Idol season 5 as the one true rocker among the country/r'n'b/pop singer wannabes. He stuck to his guns throughout the competition, and did his own thing, while the others were desperately trying to please the judges and the TV viewers. Their strategy appeared to be better as Chris was voted off, but now that his first album has been a million-seller, it seems that sticking to his guns paid off after all!
Daughtry's album can not be hailed as groundbreaking or original, as his modern rock style owes a lot to many contemporary mainstream rock and metal bands. The likes of Nickelback, hoobastank, Fuel and Lifehouse have enjoyed success with similar material during the last few years. That aside, tha album can be hailed as very good, there's a handful of excellent songs on it and Daughtry proves to be as a superb vocalist. Not every song on the album is a winner, but some of them are exceptionally good.
The album starts with a few very strong numbers, like the first single "It's Not Over", the catchy "Used To" and the intense "Over You", which could very well be a single too. The Max Martin-penned "Feels Like Tonight" is another solid track from the Swedish hitmaker. Interestingly, RCA and the powers that be seemed to have had faith in Daughtry's songwriting, as there are only two songs without his name in the credits, "Feels Like Tonight" and the excellent power ballad "What About Now", which was written by Ben Moody and David Hodges.
There are a few less exciting tracks in the mid-part of the tracklisting, namely the somewhat whiny "Breakdown" which reminds me of Coldplay or something, the bland "Gone" and "There And Back Again", which is the heaviest track of the album, but I just can't get a grip of it. However, the album ends with a high note, as the last two tracks are among the best songs of it. First there's the Mitch Allan (SR-71)/Chris Daughtry co-written "All These Lives", which is a highly melodic and intense midtempo track, and then there's the aforementioned "What About Now".
All in all, this album is most definitely the best thing to come out of "American Idol" so far...and I have a feeling that it won't be topped anytime soon.
MOONLIGHT COMEDY: "Dorothy" 7
Moonlight Comedy were formed in 1998 in Italy and started to compose music together to present an innovative sound and individual image. The influences of nineties progressive, power metal and hard rock music are specific characteristics of the band. Their brand new album "Dorothy" is basically a fusion between melodic harmonies and innovative instrumental sequences. In other words, tons of complicated chords, guitar wanking, free and limitless instro segments, are only to be expected really.
I was a little disappointed at first, expecting something a lot lighter and not quite as much "fusion". What I ended up with were elven complex-ish tracks covering some very obscure topics. "Solar Eclipse" and "Lunar Eclipse" tells of a sun and moon obssession gone horrible wrong. "The Sea And Time Of Mars" is... ehh... very spacey and out there, and "Metamorforsi"? I haven't got a clue really. Well, it's at least an entertaining and out of ordinary album, certainly, and if all you want out of guitar technique is to escape from the average Heavy Metal hack, and go for some more 'free flowing' arrangements, this could be right up your alley.
The rather confusing lyrics of Moonlight Comedy does nothing for me at times (all they need now is a song about "Mother Earth And Father Time", for God's sake), but they are all top notch musicians with a bunch of great melodies. The impressive guitarmageddon of "Solar Eclipse", complete with a hysterical "la, la, la" melody in the far distant, is nuthin' but a great mixture of melody and complicity. The constant duals of guitars and keyboards are also really interesting and, "Dorothy", just got better for each spin. You need to live with her for a couple of weeks, embrace the body, and let it all sink in for awhile. They've managed to create a sound beyond rhythm and beat and what you get is a precense of "constant". Whether it's a constant beat or sound differs on each track, but it's still constant. They are unfortunately a bit too spaced out at times and you need to appreciate a fusion of everything between heaven and earth. I'd still recommend you to check out a couple of soundclips as when they're great, they are REALLY great!
BREAK POINT: "First Serving" 6
Anyone up for a game of tennis? Let's travel back in time to the year of 1980 and to a classic era of Bjorn Borg and soft-rock music. German/Anglo/American quintet Break Point were based in Frankfurt/Germany and quickly became the most popular attraction on the lucrative US military club circut (really?), where they played to sold out audiences up to six nights a week. Well, ok, you'll also have to consider that all this took place during the height of the "cold war", the berlin wall, atomic war, and basically: commies vs. the rest of the world. Bloody 'ell, a day without an atomic bomb up yer arse was probably a good day back then ;-)
But seriously, back to the story, the band borrowed whatever money they could and entered Frankfurt's Cream Studios in 1980 to record "First Serving". This album was originally released by the band in 1981 and has now been re-issued for the first time on CD by Regenration Records in the states. In 1985 Break Point (now without original vocalist Dave Hallcom) was offered a deal from Rocshire/RCA, going as far as to record demos with famed German producer, manager, Peter Hauke (Tony Carey, Craaft, White Lion, Treat, etc). This CD included all the nine original tracks from "First Serving", plus the four songs recorded by Hauke as bonus tracks.
It's rather typical music of its time and era and influenced by the likes of Toto, Kansas, Styx, etc. However, I can definitely hear a lot of 38 Special and Harlequin into the music of Break Point. Dave Hallcom (the lone American of the band) is a powerful vocalist that every now and then will remind you of Donnie Van Zant and the 38-ers. Quite a few of the tracks, such as, "The Wurst Song" and "Rockin' Rollin", would also fit nicely in with the albums, "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys" and "Special Forces", you know, when 38 Special played a mixture of AOR and boogie music. I can hardly believe the bonus tracks were recorded in 1985??? Well, I completely understand why they never received a recording contract, since the songs were really dated and out of fashion already back in those days. They've continued with their "1979" boogie music and style here, and c'mon, no-one would sign up a band with this kind of material in the hip and modern era of -85. The bottomline: a nice, but hardly groundbreaking album and mostly suited for the ones into the late 70's sound.
LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM: "Saturn Skyline" 6
It's been river deep and mountain high ever since the start of Last Autumn's Dream. "Saturn Skyline" is unfortunately a slippy slide back down towards the river again, I'm afraid that it will never quite match up to their glorious debut and the following release. The CD takes however off in rather good spirit, old fans will warm immediately to songs like: "For The Young And The Wild", "After Tomorrow's Gone", and "Pages". Indeed, the opening songs do all bare the instinctive mark of real craftsmanship and rock solid songwriting.
Mikael Erlandsson is once again the main provider of all material and/or goods and these arrangements will also be quite familiar to his followers. Mark my words, you will hardly ever find a real stinker among his work, however, this time, it all feels a bit too safe, too predictive, and too much of the same old. As you proceed to listen to the CD, you will also notice that most songs are steeped in the same kind of liquor and formula. Gems such as the moody "Supersonic" or the power ballad "I Know A Lot About Love", could just as easily disappear right infront of you, ehem, you know, if you should happen to turn away for a moment, or if you just weren't paying enough of attention.
By the way, they surely must have been listening to FM's 1986 debut, "Indiscreet", lately? I mean, how else could you explain track eight, "Frozen Heart", followed up by track nine, "American Girl(s)"??? And no, they're not cover tunes. Erlandsson is just as brilliant as always when it comes down to lead vocals and musicians such as Marcel Jacob (bass) & Jamie Borger (drums), will always provide a certain amount of quality and skill. However, since there's not real shocker or moment of surprise during 11 tracks of music, this reviewer could merely come up with the conclusion of: ok... but just a little bit too safe.
MANOWAR: "Gods Of War" 6
Death to false metal and to opening tracks such as "Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors". It's hardly the best way to introduce your brand new album as the song itself could easily put an entire village of vikings to sleep. Blimey, did someone find a pompous sound effect at the studio keyboard for the very first time? Kindly remove that person from the recording set next time as he obviously decided to write a dodgy PC game theme. The song goes on and on, for what seems to be forever, and you basically have to skip the track every time you play the CD.
"Gods Of War" is a first entry in a cycle of concept albums, each a tribute to a different war god. This album honours Odin and all the Norse Gods from my homeland of Sweden and Scandinavia. Wimps and posers better leave this CD alone as merely the sons of real bezerks, could ever handle all the metal clichés. I love the "Kings Of Metal" album as it features great ideas, great songs, and the ultimate narrative track: "The Warriors Prayer" [Grandfather? yes? who were those four men? who were they? they were the metal kings!!!]. Gods Of War, on the other hand, holds way too many narratives and the same old lyrics from the past to become a truly essential album. It's almost like you're listening to a book instead of a music CD at times. And honestly, how many titles and lyrics can you feature about: "kings", "metal", "warriors", "army of dead", "odin", etc, before it all turns into a metal abomination?
Nontheless, there are some truly great tunes and ideas on this record, most notably the impressive "Sleipner", and "Loki God Of Fire", which holds the special kind of elements that lead you to believe that Manowar truly are the kings of metal. "Blood Brothers" is a mighty fine ballad and the bonus track, "Die For Metal", works alright on a late friday night. The bottomline: This CD is full of weird unpredictabilities and spoken tracks that will most certainly divide metal fans into two camps. I'll be watching from ringside on this one, since it's clearly not Manowar's best effort up to date. Hail and kill!
MACHINE MEN: "Circus Of Fools" 3
Century Media 2007
Machine Men are a band most people seem to have heard of, yet not actually heard any of their music. Well, judging by their latest release, "Circus Of Fools", there's no real hurry to keep up with the joneses. Honestly, if you were to play this on first thing in the morning, it would just be some insignificant background noise. Their 2005 release, "Elegies", had at least a couple of bright moments and fun ideas in the style of Bruce Dickinson. However, this is totally faceless and pretty pointless to the very point of being harmless (get my point, huh, no?).
|REVIEWS ADDED 3 March, 2007 (WEEK 09)
THE 69 EYES: "Angels" 8
EMI Finland 2007
The new album from Finland's favourite gothic glamsters is quite possibly their best album, with their concept fine-tuned to the extreme. While the band's previous albums had their moments, I usually found their gothic vibe a bit too gloomy to keep me interested throughout the whole album. Now the Helsinki Vampires have concentrated on rockin', which can only be applauded. Who knows, this might just be the album that'll finally push the band to worldwide mainstream success. I wouldn't be surprised.
The title track opens the album, sounding like a sister song to the last album's title track "Devils". It's a good opener, building a bridge between the two albums. The band might not agree, but there's a bit of a "Hard Rock Hallelujah" vibe in the song, starting with the church organs and the lyrics ("angels" here and "apocalypse" there...).
"Never Say Die" is another track that bridges the past and the present. Especially the chorus melody has similarities to the last album's hit single "The Lost Boys". On "Rocker" vocalist Jyrki69 spells out what he's all about: "I'm a rocker! A Goddamn Rocker! That's Right!". Indeed! The song itself isn't one of the best ones of the album, but it works well enough.
The moodier "Ghost" sees Jyrki69 altering his vocal style a bit, going for some higher notes, which is quite refreshing. The same goes for the first single, the excellent "Perfect Skin". In the past, I usually found Jyrki's vocals a bit one-dimensional and to be honest, somewhat pretentious, but it seems that these days he is expanding the use of his voice. The keyboard work by producer Johnny Lee Michaels adds a lot to this song particulary, making it one the album's highlights.
"Wings & Hearts" is another strong track with a good chorus hook. The biggest departure from the normal sound of the band has to be the dramatic "Star Of Fate", which sounds like a gothic rock version of a Johnny Cash track. As odd that might sound, it's actually quite good. "Los Angeles", a good, but rather standard 69 Eyes song, takes us back to more familiar waters.
The last three songs could be called the band's "Whoa Whoa" trilogy, all three featuring more or less of these Desmond Child-approved elements. As individual songs, the three aren't too similar though. "In My Name" is a moody and dramatic track, "Shadow Of Your Love" a cool and rather melodic rocker, and last but not least, there's the hard rocking, Alice Cooper-like "Frankenhooker" which is bound to be a live favourite. I can already imagine the crowd pumping their fists in the air and shouting "You Suck" - not to the band, but with the band!
CHRIS CAFFERY: "Pins And Needles" 8
Chris Caffery’s first two solo albums – "Faces" and "W.A.R.P.E.D." – were amazing good metal stuff (see our Archives). However, after listening to "Pins And Needles" a couple of times I must come to the conclusion that it is not as good as the other two. The new songs are more trashy, more aggressive and definitely less melodic, and in my opinion that is a plain shame, because it is really hard to listen to this album in one take. Right from the opener "Pins and needles" till the last song "Once upon a time" it is heavy metal all over.
Do not get me wrong, I like some serious heavy stuff at certain times, but the tracks on Chris’s new album sound a bit too much the same. The title track features all the metal ingredients you expect, raw vocals, trashy riffs, pounding drums, headbanging riffs and fast, screaming guitar solos. Most of the songs remind me of Doctor Butcher and some even of really old Savatage stuff, like e.g. "Once upon a time" or the title track.
Musical highlights are "YGBFKM"(You Got Be Fucking Killing Me), a very aggressive metal song with headbanging riffs and a really heavy solo and "Crossed", a song with a neckbreaking hook and a very speedy solo.
Disappointing are "Qualdio" and "The Temple", both being acoustic musical nonsense.
I really think/know that Chris can do better than this!
CASUAL SILENCE: "Lost In Life" 7
Casual Silence 2007
Their previous album "Once in a blue moon" was rather successful and got very positive reviews all over Europe. I rewarded it with 8 points out of 10, but I am not really that enthusiastic about this new CD. That is due to the fact that this album reminds me too much of a musical actually... The vocals are too dominating, too dramatic and too emotional, making most of the tracks sound a bit tacky and over the top, like e.g. "Memories".
Musically speaking this is again a great symphonic rock album with great guitar lines, hooks, melodies and very melodic solos. Therefore my personal highlight of this CD is the instrumental "Pieces of loss". "Lost in life" is a concept album and the music can be best described as a blend of Ayreon, Ricochet, Medea and Genius. The official presentation will take place in Helmond on 3 March.
FEILED: "Testify" 6
Poko Records 2007
Feiled first appeared in my radar a couple of years with their first single "The Great Escape", which was pretty good. They followed it with an album ("Midnight Poems"), but I didn't got to hear that until a few months ago, when I picked it up for a couple of euros. The album didn't quite live up to the promise of the single. Their very HIM-flavoured rock didn't set the charts alight, and the CDs ended up where I found my copy - in the bargain bin.
While many labels would have thrown in the towel and dropped the band, Poko Records decided to do it the old fashioned way and actually let the band evolve. "Testify" is the result of their faith in Feiled, and I hope that the label's faith is rewarded with decent sales. The instant-hit-instant-profit strategies of most labels won't help the music scene at all.
"Testify" showcases a different band in many ways. Most traits of gothic-romantic style are gone, replaced with an alternative rock edge, that owes more to the likes of The Cure and Muse than to HIM. Interestingly enough, vocalist/songwriter Anton Laurila has kept himself busy reinventing the band, as after the pressing of this album, the whole line-up of the band has been replaced!
I've never really cared for the likes of The Cure or most alternative rock in general, but to my surprise, the new Feiled material is far more enjoyable than their first album. Under the quirky alternative elements there are some perfectly good rock songs with strong melodies!
The album gets a solid start with "Requiem", although I do hate the twitchy intro riff, which sounds like a delibrate attempt to make the song more eccentric than it actually is. "Again" is free of such attempts, it's simply a very catchy modern rock track. I'd say it's a potential single. "Delirium Clouds" leaves me indifferent, but the slower "Invincible" impresses with its' majestic chorus. Again, a radio-friendly song with hit potential.
While I'm talking about singles, "Lycantrophy" has actually been released as the second one, and while it's not a bad track, I don't find it to be that memorable. "Last Hope Motel" is probably one of the few tracks that reminds me of HIM here, but not their material. It's closer to the stripped arrangemensts on HIM's "Uneasy Listening vol. 1" album.
The album's first single was the band's energetic cover of "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure. It's an okay pop rock track, and for what it's worth, the band make it sound like "one of their own". "Purgatory" is a nice balladic track with Anton sounding a lot like certain Mr. Valo, no matter how much he'd like to deny it... The album's title track doesn't win me over with its' rather annoying, bouncy chorus, but the harder-edged "Breaking Point" does sound good. The album is closed with an airy, delicate ballad "Beautiful True" - I don't care for it, but I'm sure that it'll find its' fans, among the female listeners especially.
Dave MARTONE: "When The Aliens Come" 5
Dave Martone's "When The Aliens Come" album is a prime example of how to waste an incredible amount of talent and awfully lot of work and time on an album that will not grab its listener. The man is an extremely talented guitarist, no doubt about that, and he teamed up with a bunch of musician matching his talent, yet in the end they failed to deliver an album you would enjoy from the beginning till the end. The problem is with the concept. The "spacey" thing didn't work out for Joe Satriani either and Dave steps into the very same trap. There's way too much innovative talent, experimenting with sound samples, and generally too many musical patterns squeezed into the majority of the songs, things that make them too long and too difficult to remember any melodies or anything by the time they are over.
The opening "Starz Scarz" is filled with lots of annoying techno sound samples, the following "Flatulation Farm" uses scratching sounds as an intro but at least it turns into a cool groovy tune with a great, melodic refrain. As soon as you'd start to believe everything's gonna be alright and you'll get the fine musicianship these guys are supposed to deliver, Dave breaks the natural flow of the composition just to give room for some techno sounding experimenting with weird soundbytes. All I can say about that is: leave this crap to DJ Juergen Fritz for the rave night in Niederbruckenwaldsachsen and give room to MUSIC instead. A few 6 and 8 minutes long tracks keep stretching the tolerance of the average guitar fan. "The Four Horsemen" resembles a lot to Satriani's spacey stuff, while the meat & potato, straightforward "Really Now!" is what I really want to listen to now. It reminds me of Dave Sharman's classic "1990" album both as far as its overall sound and general songwriting approach goes. It was one of the highlights of the album for me. There's some sitar-sounding experimenting with Eastern melodies, some more weird techno stuff, and generally lots of great riffs and licks wasted in an "alien" (uh, lack of better words?) musical environment that kill the spirit out of them.
But there's always hope! The second part of the album is pretty much what I
expected it to be. "Pung Yao" is an interesting acoustic number while "Angel" is
a brilliant ballad with really memorable melodies (finally!). It reminds me of
the rather melodic side of Vinnie Moore and it is by far my favorite track of
the album. There's some 24th century bluesgrass in "O My God I'm Swelling!" it
is interesting and well within the boundaries of tolerable experimenting.
"Double FF's" is a 6+ minutes track of lots of ideas squeezed together in one
again, not much you can remember of it by the end, then "Maneemanaw" a nine and
a half minutes long one pushes the boundaries but at least this one features
extremely cool drum-bass patterns, a really stunning drum solo, I only wish I
could forget about the narration popping up here and there.
BROTHER FIRETRIBE: "I Am Rock" CD-single
I can't remember the last time I actually bought a CD-single, might've been Bon Jovi's "Always" back in 1995, because it had a couple of those elusive rare tracks on it. So what made me do it again, hand out my hard-earned Euros for a CD with merely two songs and a video on it? It was this damn catchy hard rockin' song, that I heard live a few months ago...
Brother Firetribe, last years' Finnish AOR sensation, released their first album last summer. Rather than release another single from the album, they decided to give their fans a new song, written to be the theme song of a new Finnish TV-series. The series will be about a heavy metal group or something like that, and fair enough, this song is heavier than anything on the band's album. I believe the band was asked to write a hard rock anthem, and "I Am Rock" is just that, a chest-beating monster of a song. Vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino roars through it with plenty of self-confidence, and the guitar work of Emppu Vuorinen takes charge a bit more than on the album. Tomppa Nikulainen does add some very cool keyboard layers to the track, making sure that the essence of BFT is still intact. The chorus is a cool tribute to the 80's hard rock classics, bringing back memories of several songs from the era. There's a lot of Kiss in it, maybe a bit of WASP, Bon Jovi, Finnish rockers Zero Nine too. Catchy? Contagious!
The additional material is quite okay. The acoustic version of "Love Goes Down" isn't too bad, but I can't say that I'll be listening to it too often. The "One Single Breath" video is a nice addition, with superior quality compared to the version on the band's website. It's a basic performance clip that doesn't really project the band's live energy, but serves as some kind of a subsitute for those who aren't able to attend one of the band's gigs.
Had this been a normal single with just another song from the album as the title track, the extras wouldn't have made me rush out and buy it. However, coupled with the brilliance of "I Am Rock", they make this a disc worth purchasing.
|REVIEWS ADDED 22 February, 2007 (WEEK 08)
Neil ZAZA: "When Gravity Fails" 9
Let me get straight to the point: the new album from Neil Zaza is as good as any of his previous ones. In case you are not familiar with Neil (then go and dig back right away), he is the Joe "Satch" Satriani of the 21st century; the difference is that while Satch got pretty much lost in space, Neil kept his signature guitar sound and general songwriting approach on the ground. Other than that the comparison to Satch is more than appropriate.
There is an impressive line-up on the album almost all the songs feature different players, yet the promotion is centered on Michael Anthony's inclusion (who contributes to one song only, the weakest one of the entire album, I may add). The disc kicks off with "Something Anything", a cool uptempo number with the signature Zaza sound, if you don't like this one, forget about the rest cuz you won't get into the album. Besides Neil's playing I would like to draw your attention to Bill Cioce's drum work on this one as it is pure stunning. "Purple Plush" goes on in the same fashion while "Cinematic" is the first balladesque number with beautiful melodies. The album is relatively heavy on slow or midtempo melodic tunes, so you may as well try to force-feed it to your girlfriend. Jordan Rudess' piano solo is a great one in here, kinda like what Chopin would sound if he listened to lots of jazz and blues.
The highly melodic "In My Dreams" would be for fans of Satch's "Cryin" while "Bleed" can be compared to "Friends" from the master if you non-Zaza people want references of any kind. "Celestine" brings more slow and beautiful melodies, the stuff I enjoy the most when listening to Neil. Gary Moore would give two of his fingers for such lovely bluesy ballads. Some songwriting difference with "Danza Della Notte", then the aforementioned "Heavyocity" featuring Michael Anthony which is definitely the heaviest track of the album but can't say all that much more about it. "My Only Son" is another typical Zaza number, great intro lick and carefully placed melodies on top of it. Pure and brilliant. Some more of those great melodies in "My Dearest" (again: play it to your girlfriend to get her into instrumental guitar music), "Ultra" will bring her back down to Earth anyway as it is another one with a rather aggressive sound and straightforward hard rock nature. "The Awakening" almost put me to sleep but it's just a short intro to "Before The Throne" that delivers the real wakening effect, a great tune that builds perfectly to a climax, the best option to close the album with. The disc is a must for fans and guitar freaks and a good start for all those not really into instrumental guitar music. Check the website as it play some of the tunes for you: www.neilzaza.com
TYPE O NEGATIVE: "Dead Again" 8
After four years of silence New York based Type O Negative finally release their seventh studio album. After listening to the album several times I can truly say that "Dead Again" was worth the long wait. The new album is filled with 77 minutes of dark bombastic doom metal and the sound of darkness is prophetic, the rock is hard and the emotional screams are real.
Clear musical influences are of course Black Sabbath and Paradise Lost, but Type O’s musical style is still so unique that you overhear those obvious musical "takeovers". The opening song, also the title track, hits you right in the face with those BS like creepy riffs and the very recognisable mysterious voice of Peter Steele. Highlights of this CD are "Halloween In Heaven", "These Three Things" and "Hail And Farewell To England". "These three things" is the longest song (almost 15 minutes) and it is filled with spooky and doomy riffs, lots of rhythm changes, screaming vocals and a couple of great guitar solos. "Halloween in heaven", my personal favourite, is an up tempo song with an addictive chorus and some beautiful female vocals. It is the voice of a band called Lycia and her name is Tara Vanflower. The last track is again a soon to be Type O classic song, featuring great melodies and lots of musical surprises.
All the lyrics are from Peter Steele and they form a journey through the darkest depths of the human condition. Love, loss, insanity, morality, mayhem, your secret dreams and worst nightmares are all included in Type O’s formula created by the self-taught professor of emotional chemistry. "There are some things worse than death"...
HARTMANN: "Home" 8
The second solo album from the ex-At Vance singer offers some meet & potato melodic hard rock at its best. There's a half Italian, half Germany band to back Oliver Hartmann up and they do it in grand fashion. The opening duo of "Coming Home to You" and "The Sun's Still Rising" would convince every fan of the genre you don't need to be Scandinavian or American to play it with style and ease.
The ballad "My Everything Is You" will make your girlfriend happy with the album while "Somewhere Someday" will please those who are into tasty guitar- work. Some fillers sneaked in towards the middle of the album, "I Don't Want to Know", the second ballad dragging its foot around but the fresh sounding "Higher Than Me" will wash the bad taste away with its highly unusual, really interesting lyrics. My personal favorites were the ultra-melodic "Why Do I" and the catchy "Millionaire" with an almost ABBA-like sing-along refrain. No, these guys are not Swedes. :)
The third ballad "Crying" is a rather good one, some bluesy feel always helps a ballad. The closing acoustic "Lay All Your Love on Me" is another okay number, however I believe a different running order would have benefited these tracks as the two closing ballads lay the spirit of the album down a bit by the end. All in all this is a very well produced (by Sascha Paeth) album with some rather decent songwriting and skilled musicianship. What more could you expect? Maybe some thoughts put into tracklisting the next time around…
SAXON: "The Inner Sanctum" 8
Saxon probably made their best albums in the beginning of the eighties with classic got to have metal albums like "Wheels of steel", "Strong arm of the law" and "Denim and leather". Their live reputation is known all over the metal world and their music is British through and through. Being among the founders of the NWOBHM, Saxon is still around, and they have always upheld the theme of their native country in their lyrics as well as in their music for some 25 years now.
Their new album is called "Inner sanctum" and it is again a typical Saxon album as the band unequivocally stand by their origins, resulting in great songs, powerful sounds and typical Saxon lyrics about kings, queens and warriors. The opening song "State of grace" has all these recognisable Saxon ingedients and this will become another classic Saxon song in a few months. The second metal highlight is "Red star falling" which is a typical Saxon metal hymn of the highest musical quality and in the middle of the song you can enjoy a brilliant guitar solo. The last song, also the longest one, is again Saxon all over. The title "Atila the hun" says it all as this track is filled with great riffs, melodies, solos and Biff’s always remarkable vocals.
The rest of the album consists of metal tracks and classic rock and roll numbers, however I must say that "Ashes to ashes" is a rather simple song with Spinal Tap characteristics, especially the lyrics are so cliche.... The rest of the album is typical classic Saxon music and the already mentioned 3 extremely great songs, so a must for Saxon and metal fans actually...
The album will be available in a digipack with bonus DVD, or in a jewel case, including bonus track.
NICOLE: "Sivu Syyttömistä" 8
Biotech Records 2007
Nicole doesn't exactly have the greatest name for the music they play. There's nothing girly in them, nor poppish melodies, but manly attitude with raging spirit. This Finnish band has been together for ten years already and is a hard working band that has released many albums, DVD's and ep's. Nicole forms a strong group from its five members, playing very heavy metal with growling vocals by Ilkka Laitala. The biggest surprise comes through him, the vocals are in Finnish this time.
First I wasn't too keen on the thought of Finnish lyrics, but in a genre like death metal you don't really note the lyrics as much as in hard rock. After all, if you go with growls, there aren't many who understand your message anyways. Nicole shows songwriting talent, they're sincere, straight, yet also technical, very powerful, raw and aggressive. Those who are into growling vocals will dig this band, who carries melodies similar to Lamb Of God and Chimaira, and why not Slayer, and the more technical approach makes them sound more mature and interesting. The heavy riffs sink in easily and the intensive attitude bursts heavily into the listeners ears, like being in a live show, where this kind of metal works best. Nothing original on display, but these guys deserve eight points with their power act, pouring their souls into the album, and it shows.
MAGNUM: "Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow" 8
"Princess Alice and the broken arrow" is Magnum’s thirteenth studio album and it is also their third CD after their come back album "Breath of life". This one is even better than "Brand new morning" and it is probably on a par with "On a story teller’s night", Magnum’s classic album from 1985! The 11 new songs are all written by Tony Clarkin and the listener can dream away with beatiful melodies, solos and the always magical voice of Bob Catley.
"When we were younger" is the perfect opener for this album, featuring amazing vocal parts, bombastic passages, heavenly guitar parts and even an acoustic guitar solo. "Out of the shadows" is Magnum at its best as this song is really orchstral rock music of the highest quality as the voice of Catley and the guitar melodies of Clarkin still make me shiver every time I hear this track.
"Thank you for the day" is also a typical soon to be Magnum classic as it has a rather addictive chorus and a great dominant guitar line. "Desperate times" is a ballad like Magnum opus with brilliant singing by Catley. In fact there are no fillers on this album; it is one great Magnum experience, orchestral British rock music at its peak!
Also check out the exclusive new cover by the famous fantasy artist Rodney Matthews. The first edition of this CD will include a bonus DVD featuring making of footage of the production, interviews with all the band members, a studio video of the new Magnum track "Dragons are real" and a slide show with exclusive pictures.
ROBERT JACKSON: "Twilight Theatre" 2
AIF Records 2006
Oh my god. This has to be one of the weirdest CDs I've ever heard..."Twilight Theatre" is a two-cd concept album masterminded by Robert Jackson. He is without a doubt a man of many talents, as he's responsible for most of the instrumentation, vocals, production and songwriting on the album. Whether this album will make people realize his talents is another thing, because quite frankly, "Twilight Theatre" is like a rock version of X-Files...by the Spinal Tap.
The concept of the album is "tales of paranormal, horror and sci-fi". The subjects range from UFO's to genocide, with gypsies, zombies and evil twins in between. Yep, it's like a couple of seasons of the X-files! Each song is preceded by a narrated introduction, which are actually more entertaining than the actual songs.
The songs then... most of them are simple, monotonous 70'ies-sounding heavy rock tracks, reminding me a lot of Spinal Tap, and I'm not kidding. Jackson even sounds vocally quite similar to David St. Hubbins, although he's quite a bit more sedated. One could also compare these songs to a lighter version of Black Sabbath (would that be Grey Sabbath then?). Usually I try to listen to the albums I review at least a few times, but with this album, I gave up after the second listening. There's absolutely nothing in these tunes that would want me to listen to them again. I guess it says something when the "best" tracks are the ones I can't remember anymore...the ones I can remember were the ones that made me shake my head in disbelief..."this guy can NOT be serious!".
I'd recommend this album to those of you who are craving for the heavy/acid rock sounds of the seventies and have a liking for all things supernatural...
|REVIEWS ADDED 18 February, 2007 (WEEK 07)
PRIDE OF LIONS: "The Roaring Of Dreams" 8
I didn't expect much to emerge from the latest recording session by Pride Of Lions. Well... at least not on a positive note. Nope, I was already bored by their sound as they released their second CD, "The Destiny Of Stone". In fact, I didn't even bother to play this CD for quite a while (there's always tons of stuff to review first). Ooops, my mistake, and a major one, I hardly believed my ears as I finally decided to dig in on the platter.
The Roaring Of Dreams" is and isn't everything I expected it to be. It's not as sterile and plastic as previous mentioned album (which merely contained a couple of great tunes and a bunch of fillers). And it is much more alive and kicking with an instant connection between material and the listener. I kept waiting and waiting for the first "filler" to appear and honestly, I had to wait until track eight (8) to find something to really complain about. Some people would cut both their legs off to be able to come up with songs like the first seven tracks. They are all winners in my book. Let's do a quick track by track.
Opener "Heaven On Earth" is indeed very 'down to earth' and settled in a classic rock approach. There is a driving force of guitars upfront, a big chorus, big harmonies, and a choir with hand clap and everything. "Book Of Life" opens up a brand new chapter and style that could be described as a 50/50 take of Jim Peterik & Jim Steinman. I love the opening vocal harmonies by the impressive Toby Hitchcock and Peterik. Pompous, bombastic, and very catchy at the same time. "Love's Eternal Flame" and "The Laguage Of The Heart" are the best "Survivor" songs since "Vital Signs", unbelievable catchy, uptempo, AOR. The latter will send shivers down your spine! I just love the "speak to me" harmonies. "Let Me Let You Go" features a sound that pays tribute to Chicago, City Boy, and Toto. I could definitely imagine this with a huge brass section in the background, but alas, there's no such thing to be found. Peterik have always been sweet for the big power ballads, however, "Faithful Heart" is possibly on his top-three of all-time. The word tearjerker is simply not enough to describe this excellent piano ballad. Hell, introduce this to Celine Dion, Jessica Simpson or Mariah Carey and you'll have a #1 world-wide hit. "Defying Gravity" is just a fun uptempo rocker.
Track eight: the title track and also the first real downer in my opinion. Well, actually, it's the refrain that will let you down as it's just "too" dreamy and pompous (zzz... wake me up when it's over). "Secret Of The Way" is yet another dreamy tune, but it also features a nice hook and harmonies by Hitchcock & Peterik. "Astonish You" kind of goes with the flow, due to a smooth and constantly pumping beat. A really smooth and fine semi-ballad, I may add. "Tall Ships" is definitely something out of the ordinary. It takes off with a guitar in the tradition of BTO (no real dist, merely chorus effect), continues with dut-dut keys, and will knock you down to the ground with its astonishing refrain. I even enjoy the corny keyboard siren effect that they've included here.
The closing track is a bit too pompous (read boring) as well and not even close to a
homerun. Have we not all heard the phrase "Turn Around" somewhere? Well, yes, Bonnie
Tyler, Jim Steinman and "Total Eclipse Of The Heart". Ehem, they've even included a
line that goes: "Now And Then We've All Gone Crazy" (close to the original), and
it's a epic piano ballad featuring a cameo vocal by Tori Hitchcock (the sister of
Toby). It's sort of the mirror version of "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" (not quite as
good though), and with the typical sound of Peterik's ballads at the very frontline
of course. The bottomline: My hat off to Jim Peterik and all apologies to POL for
not believing in their ability to come up with a truly fine soft-rock album.
MESSIAH'S KISS: "Dragonheart" 7
I never paid much attention to Germany's Messiah's Kiss in the past. Their previous two albums were "ok", but hardly anything you'd consider playing over and over again. Thus why "Dragonheart" came down as a rather nice surprise at my office floor (instead of the not-so-nice surprise of the dog). That's a pretty crappy title though, "Dragonheart", whatever happened to imagination and the pure thrill of coming up with something new and refreshing?
Well, ok, to be frank... everything from title, to artcover, songs, and attitude, bare the instinctive mark of traditional Heavy Metal of the 80's. Speaking of "frank", Hermann of Accept and Victory fame is responsible for the solid production. Messiah's Kiss are not really all "German" either. Mike Tirelli is an American and there izz no ztrange axxent of 'ze vocalz.
Opening track "The Ancient Cries" is a toned down Annihilator, blast-through, heads-down kind of rocker, while the follow up "Babylon" starts out as a pure metal song, only to be pushed back to the fine sound of Masterplan. "Where The Falcons Cry" is THE track of the album and a real champion in the genre of Dio meet Masterplan. Next up are a couple of real metal tracks. "Dragonheart" will actually remind you of Iron Maiden's "Ace's High", since they're using a similar kind of verse and vocal effect. The chorus parts are completely different though. "Thunders Of The Night" is a slow and heavy tune where Tirelli really gets a chance to shine. "Steelrider" is a typical "Jawbreaker" rocker, and Judas Priest fans will also be quite familiar with the sound of "City Of Angels". As it is, there are also some tunes on here that aren't really worth a listen. Nontheless, you simply can't go wrong here if you'd like a mixture of Judas Priest, Dio, and Masterplan.
Jessica SIMPSON: "A Public Affair" 7
Jessica, Jessica, Jessica!!! She has taken the music, fashion, beauty and entertainment industries by storm according to the info-sheet. Ehem, whatever, you know, I've heard all these weird comments about her latest CD (now released in Scandinavia, five months after the U.S. date). However, "A Public Affair", sure took me off guard as it's not even half as bad as expected. I believe it's mainly been popular to bash her music, ehem, ever since that not-so-bright idea of "Newlyweds". C'mon, that reality show was a pure tragedy to watch (which we did once and never again).
The opening title track, "A Public Affair", takes quite a lot of inspiration from Madonna's "Holiday". Well, it sure beats listening to her music as of present and/or up to date. Going through the credits, I noticed it took eight musicians to write the bugger??? "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" is a cover of the 1985 hit with Dead Or Alive. Their singer had a fishnet over his head? It didn't work though, very fishy indeed. Pete Burns was however in the press recently, something about a dodgy plastic operation, I dunno? Jessica's version isn't quite as "loopy" and over-the-top though. "B.O.Y." is co-written by Ric Ocasek from The Cars. Well, not really, the song feature samples from their 1978 hit: "Just What I Needed". They borrowed the main guitar riff actually. Nice tune, crappy title.
"If You Were Mine" could as easily have been a Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul number in the 80's (nice!). "Walkin' Round In A Circle" is a great track that sees Simpson developing a liking for melody, textures and subtlety. This is a typical summer song that could work out nicely, especially if you're cruising downtown with your top down (the roof of your car, but hey, don't let me stop ya'). It's appearantly about the break-up, but who gives a damn? The song have that smooth soft-rock vibe of Belinda Carlisle (Circles In The Sand, etc). "The Lover In Me" is yet another smooth "westcoast" tune, complete with some wicked percussion in the background. "Let Him Fly" is a great Patty Griffin cover and "I Belong To Me" is the typical Diane Warren ballad.
I did grow quite fond of the CD the more I listened to it, with its strange diversity and overall perky song and dance numbers. This won't stop me from finding track such as "Swing With Me", "Push Your Tush", "Back To You", "Fired Up", and the cover of "These Boots Are Made For Walking", to be utter garbage. Final verdict: Jessica Simpson latest CD? way better than its reputation.
|REVIEWS ADDED 13 February, 2007 (WEEK 07)
HELLOWEEN: "The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006" CD/DVD 7
The German metal band Helloween came together in the early eighties and since then the group went through a lot of line-up changes and recorded lots of classic metal albums. The two "Keeper of the seven keys" albums were always my favourite Helloween albums. After the best Helloween singer Michael Kiske left I kind of lost interest in the band, although they released rather good CDs like "Better Than Raw" or "Rabbit Don’t Come Easy". Now the band release a double live DVD and live double CD, filmed during their shows in Sofia, Tokyo and Sao Paulo.
The albums are filled with lots of great old Helloween songs, like e.g. "Eagle Fly Free", Keeper Of The Seven Keys", "Future World", "I Want Out" or "Dr.Stein". But I have to say that the vocals of Andy cannot be compared to those of mr. Kiske, especially in those "old" songs I miss Kiske’s magical voice. Newer tracks like "Mr.Torture", "Power", "Hell Was Made In Heaven" or "The Invisible Man" do not really convince me, although Andy’s voice is more suitable for those tracks.
The second DVD offers many extras, like a roadmovie from all the three continents, interviews and the legacy bonus, which consists of two video clips and two live tracks. The clips are: "Mrs. God" and "Light The Universe" and the live songs are "Halloween" and "Occasion Avenue". All in all a nice package and a must for all true Helloween fans.
KASABIAN: "Empire" 6
Go ahead and try and build an "Empire" on a solid foundation and not using the basic concept of 70's rock!!! It's not easy, you know, it's all been done before and we're all sort of doomed to repeat the beat of past rock'n'roll. Kasabian will perhaps never be rewarded as the most original geezers on the planet. Nontheless, there's something safe and familiar about their material and attitude that works out ok in the end (it's perhaps just too safe and familiar at times). Take a dose of 70's Glam, throw in the psychedlic groove of Oasis, Primal Scream (nah, not "really" The Beatles, but still), and finish it all off with some loopy drum beats.
The title track is just a touch of Franz Ferdinand as well and I'm not entirelly sure it's meant to be that way? Wham Glam Thank Ya' Mam, the excellent "Shoot The Runner" will have you thinking about T-Rex (Bolan) and the overall vibe of the groovy "Spirit In The Sky" (Doctor & The Medics did a cover in the late 80's). "Sun Rise Light Flies" oozes of psychedelica and mushrooms (cough, cough!) and "Apnoea" features a really annoying electro rock beat. "Seek & Destroy" is Kasabian and Meighan/Pizzorno at their very best, there's something Bob Geldolf-ish over the ballad "British Legion" and "The Doberman" stumbles down the road like a Englishman abroad (humming on a intoxicated version of Children Of The Revolution).
I recall reading this article in Rolling Stones and decided to dig it up to refresh my memory. Dude, who ever did that piece must have been smoking some serious s**t at the time as he wrote, and I quote, "By My Side" goes so far as to steal its tune from Lita Ford's "Kiss My Deadly" (end quote). Honestly, that's probably the worst song description that I've ever witnessed in my sad and pathetic life. There's absolutely nothing, and I do mean nothing here, that could even pass as remotely close to Lita Ford? It's definitely lame to complain about others work... and I would never question Rolling Stones' or any other mag's rating of an album. But c'mon... Lita Ford??? This would be as correct as a serious discussion and/or comparsion between Avril Lavigne and Iron Maiden for God's sake!!! And for the record, By My Side" could almost be leftover material from the dance-friendly, cross-over, music by Depeche Mode in the late 80's/early 90's. The bottomline: you definitely need to be open-minded when it comes to "Empire". It's different for sure, but unfortunately, it features also a couple too many fillers to become really essential. Nice but no cigar.
Legenda Aurea: "Sedna" 5
Mindstorm Productions 2007
Legenda Aurea is a symphonic metal band lead by a keyboard player who writes most of the material. The band's frontperson is a beautiful female singer with a trained opera voice. Sounds familiar? Yep, it's Nightwish all over again! I seriously doubt whether this band would exist if it wasn't for those Finnish metal heroes, as the similarities do not end with those things I mentioned. The musical style is quite identical to that of Nightwish, with plenty of keyboards and soaring vocals.
"Sedna" is a well produced album (by Christian Graf and the band) with bombastic sound and indeed "symphonic" arrangements. It's just that the whole concept is so derivative of the work of Nightwish, yet the band doesn't possess the most important ingredient - memorable songs. Renato Trinkler's songs aren't bad but they don't have what it takes to compete with those of Tuomas Holopainen, the hooks are sorely missing. In vocalist Claudia Hofer the band does have a secret weapon, she has the kind of looks that could sell a few extra copies of Metal Hammer if she was on the cover. Her voice is sometimes frighteningly similar to that of Tarja Turunen though.
Now that Nightwish is still looking for the new singer and not about to release new material anytime soon, Legenda Aurea could work as "something to tide them over" for the diehard fans. As for the rest of you... well, visit the band's website for some samples and decide it yourself.
CRYONIC: "Evil Mind" 4
Yes, it's darn easy to either bash or praise an album but when your CD completely fails to provoke any reaction... well, then you're basically f***ed. On a slightly more serious note, "Evil Mind" is the first opus from this Swedish six-piece and... well, as far as I can tell, they still haven't exactly got the hang of songwriting. Here are bits and pieces of something that could only be described as incidential music, fillers, and the occasional decent power metal tune.
Cryonic does play Melodic Power Metal and could easily be described as a second or even third rate version of Nocturnal Rites. They try to blend in with their music and the rest of the bands of the genre. But sadly the arrangements doesn't quite match up with the horrific image and name of all the band members. You have BigSwede on vocals, Henke & Freddy on guitars, Digger is the obvious keyboardist, Sico would be the bassplayer and Mike the drummer. They all look the part of a vicious heavy metal band and... hang on a minute... I believe that Freddy need to work on his 'bad boy' image (the lost member of Backstreet Boys? ehem, that's just too much of a "Evil Mind").
As a metal band, they are all talanted musicians, even if "BigSwede" does have a rather heavy Swedish accent. However, the subtile use of keyboards and guitar effects would definitely be the sign of players who knew what they wanted out of their music. It's a shame the arrangements are just too basic and cheesy. The CD starts out pretty good with "Kings Of The Hill" and the moody metal of "Coldblood". It's all downhill from this point on though and it's difficult to recall any segments or passages whatsoever.
GENIUS: "Episode 3 The Final Surprise" 2
The third and final episode of the Genius Rock Opera is finally here. Now if we merely could just forget all about them as well. Let's see, we apparently left the main characters in a dark and evil underworld and infront of an Asian fantasy toy warehouse. Ehem, yes, excellent... they were aware that the little prince (purple rain, purple rain) was there and they also realized that they were standing infront of a huge maze full of warehouses.
Bugger me... Genius "Episode 3: The Final Surprise"... I'm still not quite sure if you're supposed to laugh, cry, or feel embarrased afterwards? The lyrics are daft, the storyteller (Mr.Bassman: the narrator) kills me every time, and the "rock opera" will remind you more of Tenacious D and Jack Black than any serious metal concept. It's not supposed to be a comedy, huh? How they could ever convince these high profile singers to participate goes way over my head. Eric Martin (Mr.Big), Jorn Lande (Masterplan), DC Cooper (Royal Hunt), Daniel Gildenlöv (Pain Of Salvation), Toby Hitchcock (Pride Of Lions), etc.
Then again... perhaps it's just me? I could just be a schmuck, you know, a bitter and cynical attention seeker with one bright idea? (how to receive tons of hate mail). No, well... I guess that's entirelly up to you. One thing's for sure though, the word "Genius" has never been so misplaced or out of place before. Let's not try and compare Genius with Styx, however, it's probably the only concept album that could turn "Kilroy Was Here" into a masterpiece.
TESTAMENT: "The Spitfire Collection" (Comp)
I'am not a fan of compilation CD's that features both live and studio tracks. I'am however fond of Testament and their 80's Thrash. The lightning fast guitar riffs, the powerful voice of Chuck, the tight rhythm section, the classic 'Bay Area' sound. Yep, it's all the necessary and ingredients which you need for a jolly good time (blimey, are we upper class U.K. all of a sudden? ehem, I'm not too posh to mosh!!!). All good, well, if not for the dodgy mixture of tracks. Six of them are all taken of the recently released "Live In London" and the rest (eight) are all studio versions. I guess it has something to do with Spitfire not having excess and the right to release them all. It's not really "Chuck" on all the lead vocals either and you'll notice which songs that are considered as real classics and which aren't.
C'mon, there's no real competition between oldies such as "The New Order", "Practice What You Preach" and the stuff of "The Burning Times" or "John Doe". The latter material doen't merit albums of their own, but get bundled on here anyway. The title says it all: "The Spitfire Collection".
|REVIEWS ADDED 11 February, 2007 (WEEK 06)
NORWAY: "Rising Up From The Ashes" 8
There’s a confession I have to make right away; despite their critical success the first two Norway albums didn’t really grab me, I find them rather average with only a few decent tracks and quite a few fillers. Now with their third effort it’s exactly the other way around. “Rising Up From The Ashes" contains lots of decent tracks and only a few weaker ones, hence the rather good rating.
The band managed to step away from the obvious Bon Jovi – Foreigner plug and they seem to find their own sound. Prime examples of that are the opening duo of “Save Me" and “Anything At All", both really catchy numbers with great refrains and great arrangements. The acoustic ballad “Only One I Need" is also okay while “American Girl" brings back sweet memories of the first two Danger Danger albums both lyrically and musically. The epic “The Power Of Gold" is another new path the band seems to discover, its unusual lyrics and catchy melodies make it the second highlight (besides the openers) in my book.
“Since You’ve Been Gone" reminds me more of the first two albums of the band yet its melodies are really catchy, new vocalist Dave Baldwin shines on this one, a real dead-ringer for Steve Perry. Towards the end of the album a few weaker tracks sneaked in like the obviously early Bon Jovi like “Tell Me" (hell, a song with that title should be thrown away at the moment it is written), the second acoustic ballad “Won’t Let You Down" is okay in my book, nothing more, nothing less; while the closing almost 8 minutes long “Haunted" seems to drag a leg for me far too long. 9 tracks altogether, I could have done with a few more and maybe with some rather up-tempo ending as the closing tracks put the album down a little bit. Yet the effort shows considerable amount of improvement since its predecessors; those who liked the first two will love this one, those who didn’t really get crazy about them should give this one a try. It convinced me.
Massimo IZZIZZARI: "Unstable Balance" 8
Lion Music 2007
When I receive an instrumental album from an Italian guitarist with unpronounceable name (and Lion Music seems to carry some of those…) I always get covered with cold sweat. These guys usually play some weird jazzy stuff with no melodies, unbearable drum chaos and tracks that have weird tonality and generally seem to drag 8+ minutes long. The first twenty seconds of the opening title track of this one scared the hell out of me as Azeglio Izzizzari (I assume Massimo’s bro) hit whatever drums he could reach but then the chaotic intro turned into a great tune full of melodies. Wow, something I didn’t expect.
By the end of the third track all my fears were washed away, this is a great instrumental album with memorable melodies, cool grooves, great musicianship, and only with the ‘necessary’ amount of shredding with more emphasis on songs and melodies. There are obvious funk and jazzy influences but this is altogether rock music with great guitar-work that fans of Neil Zaza, Satch or Vinnie Moore could enjoy as much as those who are more into complex stuff like Vital Tech Tones or recent Greg Howe.
My personal favorites were the ultra-catchy “Wordgame" with a cool groove and some serious shredding, the diverse “Freeze Frame" (Pink Floyd like intro turning into a funky groove, some jazzy slow breaks, rock shredding refrain everything you desire) and most of all “The Enchanted Forest" with a cool choir intro and great melodies reminding me of our local guitar hero Tamas’ works. Fans of melodies, don’t be scared by the name and the looks; this is good stuff for all of us to enjoy! If you are hesitant, check Massimo’s website that plays some soundbytes:
ROSE TATTOO: "Blood Brothers" 6
I still cherish the "Rock ’n Roll Outlaw" album from the down under rockers Rose Tattoo, which is ofcourse already almost 30 years old!! The best song from that album is "The Butcher And Fast Eddy" and on the new album you cannot find a track that even comes close to that musical level. On "Blood Brothers" the 11 songs are just hard rock tracks that sound like eighties rock. From the first line up only singer/shouter Angry Anderson and guitar player Mick Cocks are still in the band.
Most of the songs are just AC/DC-like hard rock songs with hardly any guitar solos and too much vocal parts. Best track is the fastest and shortest track called "Lubricated"; a dirty, punky rock and roll song with a nice slide guitar solo. The rest is just same old, same old, not bad, but I have heard it all before.
However, it would be nice to hear/see these guys in the flesh as their music is definitely highly suitable for festivals and gigs.
VITALIJ KUPRIJ: "Glacial Inferno & Revenge"
(ltd edition)" 7
lion Music 2007
VITALIJ KUPRIJ must have 12 fingers and 6 trained mice all running up and down the keyboards to the Ukrainian’s command. Lightning speed, accuracy and an extensive classical knowledge are evident throughout this album. I was convinced it would bore my pants off when it kicked off with Symphonic Force, its got Malmsteen’s Fury written all over it but Liquid Rain followed by Fire In The Sun got my arse riveted to my comfy studio chair. Once again Yngwie came to mind as pivoting notes dance around your earlobes as a teaser for what’s to come. You may need some sun cream protection for Fire In The Sun because it is blisteringly hot. When ever you hear this style of music there’s usually a reference to Yngwie Malmsteen who almost single handedly started a Neo-classical avalanche with his sweep picked arpeggios, harmonic guitar minor runs and fast alternate picking. VITALIJ KUPRIJ is to the ivory’s what Malmsteen is to the world of shred. Lion Music introduced us to Milan Polak and that was like a breath of fresh air and now we come across VITALIJ KUPRIJ so who says you can’t teach an old dog a new trick? I have to mention Michael Harris on guitar because his contribution is immense. With the former Yngwie Malmsteen/Ark rhythm section of John Macaluso on drums and Randy Coven on bass worthy of a mention.
If we had to pick a particular favorite song it would be the title track "Glacial Inferno". A lovely use of instruments, in particular the bass makes a melodic statement, left naked with out a kick drum to double up with but unashamedly takes centerfold position. The intro sends instruments swirling around my headphones like seagulls surrounding my fish'n chips. Expect the unexpected as Michael Harris swoops way down low to unleash a metal riff that has my ears truly battered. What would Ronnie Dio do with this bed of mystical illusion? It’s crying out for a Holy Diver-esque vocal but Kuprij has other ideas, a simple melodic phrase that is catchy and an alternative colour to the dark metal bed we now find ourselves laying on. The best was yet to come as Harris and Vitalij take it in turns to show off their individual talents. There’s also a great outro guitar solo from Harris, as the music fades the admiration grows. Don’t be fooled my friends by the Malmsteen comparisons, there are many interesting styles fused together to spark the imagination. I'm not really a lover of instrumental albums but this little baby was crying out to be picked up and cuddled.
Mike Varney brought us Shrapnel Records in the 1980’s to gather his troups of neo classical artiste and unleash them on the world to great effect. Lion Music continue to enlighten us with the stars of the future, some of them may not be as unique as Malmsteen when he burst on to the scene but if you are looking for quality musicianship you will find it in a abundance right here on "Glacial Inferno".
Glacial Inferno’ is being released as a limited edition double pack of just 2000 units with Vitalij’s latest band project release "Revenge", which until now has been unavailable outside Asia.
Revenge is an all star line up including vocalists Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, solo), Dougie White (Rainbow / Yngwie Malmsteen), Goran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen / John Norum), Apollo Papathanasio (Time Requiem / Firewind), Chris Catena and Shaun Leahy. The solid rhythm foundations are again laid down by John Macaluso and Randy Coven (both ex Yngwie)
I quite like the use of several vocalists on the Revenge album, each with their own individual style. "I Don’t Believe In Love" and "Into the Void" are two powerful songs that stick out like the zits on a teenagers freshly shaved face. "Just Another Day" sounds like just another song; the vocals seemed to struggle to make it to the forefront with power and assertion. "Let the Future" has some memorable moments in particular the soulful guitar playing of Michael Harris. At times the vocals get just a bit too ambitious but the chorus is catchy if not a bit cliché. We were expecting a full vocal album but there are a few instrumentals that once again show case the individual musicianship which is of the highest order.
Call it Power Metal, Progressive, neo classical, call it what you want but just don’t call me late for dinner. "Glacial Inferno" & "Revenge" go together like cheese on toast and VITALIJ KUPRIJ is definitely a name to remember!
|REVIEWS ADDED 5 February, 2007 (WEEK 06)
STORMZONE: "Caught In The Act" 8
Stormzone are from Northern Ireland (Belfast) and vocalist John "Harv" Harbinson has previously been a member of acts such as Den Of Thieves, Emerald, No Sweat and Sweet Savage. You may also remember that we reviewed his excellent independent solo album the other year ("Harv - Back" see review in the A&R archives). This time Harv is back with a vengeance, a complete line-up (Keith Harris: guitars, Peter Macken: bass, Stevie Prosser: keys, Julian Watson: drums), and a recording contract at Escape Music. The latter isn't that strange at all really as we expected him to receive one.
It's been a while since you last could witness a Rodney Matthew artwork (oh crap, there goes the budget) and it's all v-e-r-y professional performed melodic hardrock. Stormzone play (according to the info-sheet) a nice mixture of rock in the vein of Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. Well, I guess it's partly true, since they do borrow stuff from them all. However, it's (well, at least in my simple-minded approach) more towards the rock of Lion (Trouble In Angel City), Praying Mantis (in the 80's/very early 90's) with the attitude from all the previous mentioned acts.
"Caught In The Act" is very much an uptempo album with screaming guitars, wailing keyboards (synth and hammond), pounding bass-lines, and slamming drums. The production oozes of "1984", prior to all those over-produced and sterile rock albums (Def Lep - Hysteria) and it's all very cozy and familiar. "Harv" is also a top-notch vocalist in the classic school of Kal Swann (Lion, Tytan) and he can sing everything from the lowest low to pure falsetto (sheer and pure hardrock class). You could already find approx: 50% of these tracks on Harv's solo album. I'm pleased to report they did follow my advice to skip ballads such as "Calling Your Name" and "Paradise" (they were frankly just too sappy). They've kept rockers like "Hold On To Her Love", "Crying In The Rain", "Stranger Things Have Happened", "Tuggin At My Heartstrings" and "Rock On Through The Night". All excellent melodic hardrock.
Opener "Spellbound" set the pace and standard of the entire CD with its full frontal attack. What if you're you're having a "Nervous Breakdown" and are "Eighteen And Nervous" instead of "Nineteen And Non-stop". The actually do sing that "18" line from the song "Nervous Breakdown", exactly like Autograph did with their "19" hit from 1984. "New World" is fun uptempo rock (like a mix of Deep Purple & Dio) with a roaring hammond in the background. The Bottomline: this is truly something for the ones into fun and uptempo rock of the mid-80's sound. The only downer would be the "too" familiar" sound of the past at times (deja vú?), but there's nothing major to really complain about here. Nice!
SHAW/BLADES: "Influence" 3
Ehhh... what the heck is up with Tommy??? First we had to put up with Styx and their covers (Big Bang Theory) and now it's Tommy Shaw & Jack Blades (Night Ranger) with yet another cover album. Damn Yankees, these tracks are older than hell and not even your parents would enjoy listening to utterly boring numbers such as "Your Move", "Lucky Man", "On A Carousel", "Dance With Me". Well, it's not really about "age" or "too old", but damn it... I had absolutely no previous knowledge to any of the above mentioned tracks. And that kinda says it all! Great songs will stand the test of time and these obviously didn't. You wanna find out about who recorded them in the first place? Well, simple "google" them and take a wild guess (it's old people's music for crying out loud).
Another thing while we're at it... never, ever, record a cover song by Simon & Garfunkel. Why? well, you simply can't re-create anything even remotely close to their magical sound. Seriously, Art & Paul was a vocal match made in heaven and "The Sound Of Silence" is probably the best thing ever recorded by a duo (yes, even though it's old people's music). OK, they've recorded nicely versions of "Summer Breeze", "Time Of The Season", "California Dreamin" (Mamas And The Papas) and Steely Dan's "Dirty Work", especially the latter is way better than the original [then again, Steely Dan always sounded drunk ;-)]. Nontheless, I can't really see any point with this release (unless you're at least twice my age of course). "Influence" - strickly intended for the senior citizens of the world.
GLORIOUS BANKROBBERS: "The Glorious Sound Of Rock'N Roll" (Comp)
Glorious Bankrobbers, the members of one of Sweden's first real "sleaze" bands are once again reunited and re-recorded??? You know, I really expected "The Glorious Sound Of Rock'n'Roll" to be a brand new studio album. Nope, it's instead one of those compilation packages with five tracks taken off their 1989 album "Dynamite Sex Dose", plus a couple of old(er) ones and a couple of new ones (a total of twelve tracks).
By the way, the excellent title track from their 1989 release (Dynamite Sex Dose) is sort of the pre-recorded version of both Warrant's "Cherry Pie" (1990) and "Cow Girl" with Sons Of Angels (1990). You'll notice how both acts have clearly been influenced by this song and especially Sons Of Angels should bow their heads in shame. Well, it's not the first time other rock musicians has been stealin' music from Swedish Sleaze acts. Do remember that Poison had to pay royalties to Easy Action for stealin' their "We Go Rocking" song and recording it as "I Want Action" on their debut album "Look What The Cat Dragged In".
The entire planet (huh?) has been waiting with bated breath for the re-emergence of The Robbers. Therefore, it's not quite as interesting to hear the same old material as back in the days. It's however the perfect starting point for new fans and those not previously familiar with the band. Not to mention that it's been rather difficult to get hold of their stuff on CD lately. Glorious Bankrobbers does after all play excellent 80's sleaze rock and are long time heroes of the genre (long before the birth of Backyard Babies). Kikk-azz rock'n'roll.
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