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 29 July, 2007 (WEEK 30)
WARFARE: "Metal Anarchy" 8
This is Warfare, this is "Metal Anarchy". Originally released in 1986 and recorded almost live over only a three day period, this could not be more primitive and brutal. Now if Poison is the Glam version of U.S. comedy act Spinal Tap, Warfare is definitely the blue print version of the U.K. comedy act, Bad News. You betcha', it's a listening experience of ten different version of "Warriors Of Ghengis Khan", and they're all full blast rocking and fun.
The band was started in Newcastle, 1984 by Evo, formerly drummer with U.K. Punk acts, Major Accident, The Blood, and The Angelic Upstarts. The bombastic line-up was completed by the furious Falken (bass), and Gunner the guitarist. Their first record, "Pure Filth - 1984", was produced by Algy Ward (Tank) and caused a lot of headaches in Geordie-land.
The follow-up, this very CD, was produced by non other than Lemmy (Motörhead) and featured Würzel as guest guitarist. This expanded version includes seven previously unreleased tracks such as covers of "You Really Got Me" (Kinks) and the 1960's protest song "Eve Of Destruction" (Barry McGuire). The latter is a kind of weird choice and it's quite hilarious to hear Evo sing the old anti-war song. Anti-Warfare? The other bonus tracks are a live demo version of "I'm On Fire" (go punk go!!!) and alternative mixes of "Warfare", "Military School", "Metal Anarchy" and "Electric Mayhem".
The bottomline: Neat records ruled back in the days. This is kikk-azz fun 80's metal/punk/thrash and a mix of Motörhead, Tank, Venom, Raven, and Bad News. Just play it loud mutha.
MOTORHEAD: "Better Motorhead Than Dead"
I've been living with this album for a few weeks now, and have been putting off reviewing it. It's not that I don't like Motorhead, or even that it's a bad live album. To be honest, it's because there's nothing I can say here that really matters. It's a live Motorhead album, and that basically sums it up better than any pretty prose or witty one liners could. If you like Motorhead you might want to buy this to add to your other live albums, or then again you may not. Doesn't matter really.
It was recorded at the 30th Anniversary SHow at Hammersmith last June,
and features 23 headbanging classics, even "We Are The Road Crew" and
"R.A.M.O.N.E.S". Lemmy growls, Phil bangs and Mikkey strums. That's it, I'm
ASHENT: "Flaws Of Elation" 6
Lucretia Records 2007
Here's a new band for all the prog metal fans to check out. Ashent hail from Italy, with the exception of their vocalist Steve Braun, who is from the US. The record label says that "Ashent offer a unique blend of technical and melodic prog metal, with an aggressive death/thrash attitude, fresh melodies and catchy refrains." Now, that's an "All Bases Covered" description if any, but in fact it's not too far from the truth. At least they don't sound like yet another Dream Theater wannabe.
I can hear that "death/thrash attitude", as the tempos are at times very frantic. A few of the tracks also feature a growling "ghost vocalist" on the background. Not too loud, just loud enough that you'll notice that there's something sinister in the songs... the real vocals of Steve Braun are highly melodic, and damn it if the guy isn't a vocal deadringer for Mike Vescara (Malmsteen, Loudness, Obsession)!
Musically, the band reminds me a bit of Fates Warning (early 90'ies era). I was also reminded of obscure AOR/prog band Mara. For me, the album highlights are "Illusory" and "Silent Remedy", both among the "easier" numbers of the album. Most of the other tracks have their moments, but I must say that the "progressiveness" of it all is a bit overbearing. It's tempo changes and complicated rhythm patterns one after another, and for me the ultra-techical approach doesn't really do any good to the "flow" of the songs. Still, I can imagine that these very elements will make the fans of the genre hail this as one of the remarkable releases of the year. If you're a prog fan, you might as well ignore my rating!
BLEED IN VAIN: "Say Everything Will Be Fine" 6
Unicorn Records 2007
I was almost ready to throw in the towel after the first 30 seconds. Not yet another modern metal with monotonous screaming and extreme aggression... Thankfully I didn't give up, as whaddaya know, the band's screamer proved that he can also sing and the band's melodies started to raise their heads!
Having said that, the album is maybe a few "full-on" screamy songs too long to win me over completely. When the band gets it right, like with "H-Filter", a song with a catchy riff and a strong chorus, they are really into something. Another clear winner is "Your White Deserves Some Red", which proves that vocalist Enrico "Ukka" Longhin is selling himself short by the mindless screaming - he actually has a really good, raspy singing voice. The Billy Idol cover "Shock To The System" is pretty good too.
We'll see what kind of a path this band will follow, but I hope they choose to fully exploit the talent of their singer and emphasize the melodic aspects of their songwriting. An old fan or two will probably scream "Sellout", but their music might become more accessible to a guite a lot of new fans.
BON JOVI: "Lost Highway" 4
All old farts bands in the states goes country when they can't rock'n'roll anymore. It's pretty much the same deal over here in Sweden and Scandinavia. Only with the exception that rockers on this side of the pond goes, "dansbands" music, when they're too old to strike the rock pose. We can now all look back at the past ten years statements by the band: "next album will definitely rock", with sheer irony and dispear. Much like Bruce Springsteen, these geezers will never rock out with loud guitars ever again.
And nope, I don't wish them to play the same kind of hairmetal s**t like in the late 80's. I just wish they would rock... you know... fun uptempo numbers and a bit of excitement. Sure, they said that "Lost Highway" would also remind us about "These Days". Great... even more bad news since that's the worst record in the entire BJ back catalogue.
"Who Said You Can't Go Home", the very reason to why they've gone Nashville, was at least a fine tune with a catchy hook, the vast majority of these tracks are utterly dull and in the style of zzzzz... "These Days". "Summertime" and "Everybody's Broken", are however two great examples of the rock Jovi should be doing in my opinion. Not as much fun as say, "One Wild Night", or "It's My Life", but still very pleasing to the ears. Twang, Nashville, and Country - words you never expected to hear in the same sentence as Bon Jovi. Excuse me while I fall asleep...
ERA VULGARIS: "What Stirs Within" 4
What looks like a grand concept on paper (progressive metal/thrash) tuned out to be a great concern in reality. I'm not sure which foot to stand upon as you have some great riffing versus some really uninspiring singing and melodies here.
Era Vulgaris was formed in Ireland back in 2004 and consist of Chris Rob (vocals/gtr), Jim Kent (guitars), Dave Buttner (bass) and Chris Con (drums). They've already been playing support slots to Destruction, Armon Amarth, Naildown, etc, etc. They've also managed to get their debut CD produced by Chris Robertson and mastered by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Obituary, Nile, etc), it sounds bloody marvelous to be honest (well, at least for a debut album by an "unknown" Irish band on a rather tiny record label).
Kent and Rob are very capable of coming up with some killer riffs and when they put their feets down, as on "Mark It Zero" or "Limb From Limb", Era's metalcore prog is slightly more entertaining than watching wet paint dry. But on the whole, "VItal Signs Within" is full of overwrought songs and uninspired vocal performances. Best track: "Limb From Limb", which features a classic Thrash outro that even the mighty Metallica would have been proud of back in the days.
Kelly ROWLAND: "Ms.Kelly" 3
Hang on a minute... Kelly... Clarkson??? Nope, it's Destiny Childs' Rowland with her sophomore release, "Ms.Kelly". Yep, it's smooth and plastic R&B with as much feeling and soul as a ton of bricks. You want to know about why R&B is nowadays filled with more cliches´ than all the Cracker Country CD's, and considered as human waste, simply have a listen to Ms.Kelly. The last 10 years of mass produced MTV friendly music has really killed off a genre that was once great.
Sure enough, the first single "Like This", is a quite catchy little number with an irresistible beat. But it's oh-so-familiar and indeed similar to all the other "R&B" songs as of lately. They all have the "Beyonce" sound, and they're all steeped in the same mid-tempo formula. Kelly should just do herself a favour a listen closely to all the albums of Chaka Khan, the last of the real greats??? Let's face it... R&B is dead, it's been six feet under for a period of 10-15 years by now.
SOWN: "Downside" 3
The Italians of Sown try to sound like a cross between the nu-metal tinged rock of Static X, the hardcore of Biohazard, and the MTV-friendly approach of Bullet For My Valentine, but without ever really managing to match the musical achivements of any of the above. Lyrically, the Italians are spotlighting the human attitude and behaviour of the depressive, suicidal, primal, and overall morbid ones.
Lyrically, nothing new under the sun in other words, it's the same old story as all the other bands in this particular genre of rock. In fact, Sown merely provides more of the same and "Downside" only serve to reinforce the stereotypes. You simply have to write about suicide and gaping wounds to convince teenagers into thinking: hey, that's what being 14 is all about. C'mon... it's just too easy, too misleading, and too friggin' boring.
POISON: "Poison'd" 2
Bret Michaels (vocals), CC DeVille (guitars), Bobby Dahl (bass), and Rikki Rocket (drums) - together they are... POISON!!! Yep, they sure are, Spinal Tap goes Glam kind of band, equipt with merely one great song (Every Rose Has Its Thorn), and a drummer that dies every night behind his kit.
So what if the fab four can't come up with a decent tune among themselves? Why not jump on last decade's bandwagon and do a cover album full of classy toons instead??? Yeah, it's not like the almighty one has seen that many cover CD's lately anyhow. Actually, I spoke to the almighty one just briefly this morning (using all my wisdom and the sheer power of prayers), and he/she/it said, and I quote, "deliver me one more of these and I'll Sodom and Gomorrah you all", end quote.
There you have it, the almighty has spoken and it's not that much to add really. "Little Willy" (Sweet) was a Little Silly number to begin with and it doesn't get any better after it's been Poison'd. The lazy buggers have also decided to re-use songs they've already covered in the past. "You Mama Don't Dance", "American Band", "Rock N Roll All Nite", etc. OK, OK, Bowie's "Suffragette City" and The Cars' "Just What I Needed" are decent and won't hurt to play out loud every now and then. But... the rest... sheer POISON.
Not to be confused with the Swedish band of the same name (that's gonna get legal at some point), or the horror film of the same name (!), Darkwater are a UK based bunch of rockers fronted by fetish model Lora and produced by Scott Ian. Interesting...
"1920" is their second single, introduced by fuzzed up drums then
straight into a track that is edgy and energetic. I don't know why it's
called "1920", except that there was a book published in 1920 called
"Darkwater". Regardless, this is a chunky three track single (one live that
is a bit disappointing) that will introduce you to a band that I feel will
make a few ripples once they really get going. Original, interesting and
nothing like Garbage, thank fuck.
|REVIEWS ADDED 24 July, 2007 (WEEK 30)
AWAKE: "Illumination" 8
Behold the future (?) of dark and atmospheric (prog) metal. Awake are certainly off to a good start with their debut album, "Illumination". The U.K. rockers are not exactly new kids on the block either as they've previously released an album under the monicker of Humanity (When Silence Calls - 2003). They are still however a young and hungry act with a lot of ideas and tricks up their sleeves.
They've also been taken under the wings and protection of Tom S Englund and Evergrey, "Illumination" has actually been produced by Englund at the "Evergrey" studio in Gothenburg, Sweden. All this became quite obvious after merely a couple of minutes as you can find a lot of similarities between the two acts. Not always on a good note, since it's very much the sound of "The Inner Circle", and it sometimes hard to find their own identity within these tracks. Not to mention that lead vocalist Simon Shedwell is close to a deadringer for Englund.
By the way, I find it to be slightly misleading to label Awake as pure "progressive" metal though. Much like Evergrey, these Englishmen do rely upon a dark and moody structure and not as much instrumental nonsense as say Dream Theater. Nope, the songs are shorter and their basic concept is straight and more direct. Thus why I'd imagine "Illumination" to be more appealing for the ones into "normal" metal too. Final verdict: perhaps a bit too similar to you-know-who at times, but still quite impressive.
MANOWAR: "Gods Of War - Live"
Manowar, Manowar, living on the road - when they're in town speakers explode!!! They don't attract wimps, cause they're too loud. Just true metal people that's Manowar's crowd. They like it hard, they like it fast. They got the biggest amps, man they blast. Cause you know... true metal people wanna rock not pose. Wearin' jeans and leather, not cracker jack clothes.
Yet posh rock journalists wanna keep 'em down, but they can't last. When they get up, they're gonna kick your ass. Gonna keep on burnin', they always will... cause when other bands play Manowar kill. Yep, other bands play... Manowar KiLL!!!
Ahhh... I could just go on and continue to quote Manowar lyrics for another hour or two. They are just so... ehhh... pompous and fantastic? majestic? bombastic? gymnastic? They'll make ya' wanna rush out and buy another plastic set of sword & shield and head for the closest battlefield. Seriously though, this is a friggin' marvelous 2-CD live set with over 2 hours of true metal by the kings of metal.
I found their latest studio album a bit too theatrical and featuring too many talky parts and narration. However, the actual songs fit nicely in with the classics and I simply can't stop headbanging along to the likes of, "The Sons Of Odin", and oldies such as "Gloves Of Metal", "Each Dawn I Die", "Holy War", "Black Wind Fire And Steel", "Army Of The Dead", etc. They've even included the old battle ballad, "Mountains", which we haven't heard in ages really. I still find the 80's stuff to be way superior to their later days material though. There are simply too many similar tracks which all feature the word "metal" in their titles.
"Gods Of War - Live" is released as a digi-pack with a slipcase and a glossy 24 pages booklet. It's actually quite alike to the old layout of Iron Maiden's "Live After Death". Hail and kill (song not included and I actually miss the old sing-a-long warcry). Recommended.
ELTON JUNK: "Because Of Terrible Tiger"
I'll admit that I asked to review this purely because they have a totally mad band name, but Elton Junk surprised me, and they may surprise you as well. Okay, so the surprises are not always of the “happy birthday” kind, often more of the “killer with a knife in your cupboard” kind, but hey – a surprise is a surprise.
The band, comprising of three (I assume) Italian gentlemen, are clearly not on the same musical planet as most other people. They've been involved with some alternative soundtracks over the last seven years and have a dedicated following in their native Italy, but this is a band who I fell will forever be underground, as getting into their music can be as hard as getting into fort Knox armed with only a marshmallow hammer.
To give you some idea of what's going on, imagine a mix of Primus, old Chili Peppers and The White Stripes at their oddest. Apparently, Elton Junk use a lot of “energy and pathos” in their music, and to be honest that's nota bad description. The music flows all over the place, with bits designed to make you cry merging into big guitar moments and acoustic melodies. There's not a lot of real singing, with Andrea Tabacco mainly talking or shouting (though not in a death metal way, thank god). This is music for people who think they are on a higher plane than the rest, and I imagine is perfect for anyone high on weed.
“Because Of Terrible Tiger” is an oddity that will challenge some and
repulse others with it's musical daring. Some will marvel at the genius of
it all, whilst most will just think it's shit. Me? I'm firmly between the
camps, as I can see what they're trying to do but really don't give that
much of a toss. With that said, if you are of the adventurous type give them
a listen online and make your own mind up.
NEURASTHENIA: "Possessed" 4
After a selection of more or less hopeless metal releases provided by Alkemist Fanatix, this one comes as a bit of a shocker. It really isn't that bad! I won't claim that I really enjoy this kind of old-school thrash/speed metal (think early Metallica), but at least these guys can play, they have a decent vocalist (for the genre anyway) and the production is pretty good. Compared to the death metal/HC crap I've had to listen to recently, this album has bucketloads of melodies and hooks... but only compared to those albums, it's not like I'm going to catch myself humming any of these songs.
I feel that Neurasthenia might evolve into a decent metal band, if they work on their craft. My advice would be to work on the hooks and the memorability factor, to the drop the "Satan's Spawn" image AND to get someone help out with the lyrics. It's been a while since I've been subjected to lyrics as bad as these: "everybody are sweet friend of happynes - of your ass"... I rest my case.
DISOWNED: "Emotionally Involved" 4
LadyMusic Records 2007
I guess this is what them youngsters call "Emo Metal"... musically somewhere between Bullet For My Valentine and Linkin Park, Disowned have found themselves a potentially viable sound. However, the teen metal market is fickle, and this kind of music might be yesterday's news tomorrow.
Even though the whole Disowned package looks professional, the music itself is just a bit too average to compete with the likes of the two acts mentioned above. The musicianship is first class, and the vocalist Elia Mannucci has the right kind of "suffering poet/screaming lunatic" syndrome, but in the end, it all comes down to the material at hand, and these songs just don't cut it. Both BFMV and Linkin Park have made it because they've got songs with sharp hooks - I can't remember a single melody line from this album even though the last note faded away seconds ago. Still, extra points for actual singing and the overall quality.
AIRWAY: "Faded Lights" 3
Nidus Productions 2007
Okay, so I'm really not getting this new Italian music. So far today I've had my ears assaulted by tuneless Satanists (maybe), nutters and a band with songs so forgettable I can't even remember who they were. Finally, I come around to Airway, who from the cover look like they might be an AOR band. No such luck.
Airway are a young Italian band, and according to MySpace “This album includes agonizing melodies that are accompanied at powerful guitar riffs which supports screaming parts that make explosive, the distinctive anger of a generation which is hovering between old values and an uncertain future.” Spunds cool, but in reality Airway write some pretty good songs that they then proceed to ruin by shouting like lunatics. It's such a shame, because on music alone, “Faded Lights” has some good moments,at times reminding me of The Unknown when the good singer joins in. Unfortunately, the shouty singer appears on every track and proceeds to fuck them up.
Truly a waste of a talented band, I hope that in the future they realize
that a good record doesn't need incomprehensible shouting to be angry.
Dammit, I nearly liked this one...
OVEROCK: "Warp It" 3
Incipit Recordings 2007
More Italian rock, this time a four piece alternative outfit headed by guitarist and singer Fabio, who also wrote all the songs. Their debut ep “Acid Sounds In A Groove Box” sold out, and a series of high profile supports has led to this full length effort.
On the surface, Overock seem to be doing everything right. The music is
well produced, and there's guitars everywhere. Fabio has a decent set of
pipes and a competent band behind him, but 'Warp It” just doesn't work. I
sat and listened to it a few times, trying my hardest to feel anything more
than “meh”, but it didn't come. It's just one of those albums where, despite
obvious talent, the songs themselves are completely unremarkable. It's all
one big yawn, and to be honest I'm glad I can put the disc to a better use
as one of the mirrors on my new Noddy Holder hat.
TWINSPIRITS: "The Music That Will Heal The World" 2
Bloody'ell... the music that will heal the world??? Honestly, this will probably just cause more open wounds on poor ol' mother earth (she'll be bleeding and crying for months now - thanks a lot mister). It's frankly just pompous drivel and overall boring symphonic rock arrangements that will leave you stunned and amazed for weeks.
Yeah, you'll be amazed to find out that someone actually bothered to record music that will dismay the world. You may also add the following sentiments to your listening experience: anger, boredom, disgust, fear, and finally, joy sweet joy (when you remove the CD from your stereo).
Twinspirits is a new project by guitarist/keyboardist Daniele Liverani (Genius, Empty Tremor) and the rest of the line-up reads: Soren Adamsen (vocals), Tommy Ermolli (guitar), Alberto Rigoni (bass) and Dario Ciccioni (drums). It's some kind of symphonic (progressive) metal with an hyper active keyboardist and widdly-woddly guitarist from hell. It's not like they're crap at their instruments, not at all, however, the melodies are dull and not especially pleasing at all really (no s**t?).
illogo: "When Liquids Stay Dry" 1
UK Division Records 2007
"When Liquids Stay Dry" is an album from a band that chooses not to use a name. That'd be too conventional I guess. They use a hand-drawn logo instead (they refer to it and themselves as "illogo"). Very artistic, uncompromising and non-commercial, just like the band's music. It's actually so non-commercial that I'd say their target audience must be that small group of people, who are always looking for music that actually bears as little resemblance to conventional music as we know it. However, the no-name band does fail in it, as there are some clearly musical ideas here n' there... the cookie monster they've got as a singer tries hard to eliminate that dreaded "musicality" though, and does a pretty good at that. No, I'll never want to listen to this again.
HELL 'N' HEAVEN: "s/t" 1
UK Division Records 2007
Well this wasn't a Black Sabbath tribute band as I was half-expecting. Hell 'n Heaven is basically one Emanuele Tartaglia, and this is his mini-album or something of that nature. The good thing is that it's pretty short, as musically it's pretty damn boring, and I'm not sure whether I could've take an additional song or two. It's some kind of depressive, dull post-grunge rock and the songs just don't go anywhere.
Emanuele may be a talented individual, but this kind of introspective and meandering material doesn't really showcase that. I believe that the one person who gets a kick out of these tunes is Emanuele himself, not necessarily anybody else.
ANARCOTICI: "Iride" 0
Soooooo... this is gonna be a short review! Anarcotici are an Italian band under the impression that what they are producing is music. What it actually is, is some demented woman shouting in Italian over some badly played and abysmally produced instruments. Sometimes a man will join the shouting so that it sounds twice as bad, which really is some acievement.
I rather gargle with hot iron filings whilst pissing acid than listen to
this cacophony of shit. It really is the absolute zenith of bad metal music,
and if anyone goes to Italy this year please track them down and burn all
their instruments. Oh, and give that woman some bloody singing lessons.
|REVIEWS ADDED 18 July, 2007 (WEEK 29)
BAD RELIGION: "New Maps Of Hell" 8
Nidus Productions 2007
Punk bands having a bit of a stab at politics may seem nothing new, with Green Day selling out arenas around the World for singing about what we all thought anyway, but the real godfathers of the movement are Bad Religion, who have been infusing punk sensibilities with melody since 1982 and doing a damned good job.
“New Maps Of Hell” is the bands 14th album, and fans will be glad to know that they show no signs of slowing down or taking a step back from their beliefs. There's 16 songs here, but only 3 of them break the three minute mark, the rest content to come in, bang about your head and fuck off. Opener “52” is aptly titled, for example, as it's just 52 seconds long. Not that this is a shouty, stupid old punk album, mind. Bad Religion, for the uninitiated, play quality punk rock with crystal clear production, intelligent lyrics and loads of melody. They're a different breed to Green Day, although fans of one should definitely get a kick out of the other.
If you've never heard of the band, and are into the likes of Bowling For
Soup, Good Charlotte or The Alkaline Trio, then you really need to get some
Bad Religion in your collection. As good as, if not better than, “American
Idiot”, “New Maps Of Hell” is one of the better albums of the year so far.
Milan POLAK: "Straight" 8
Lion Music 2007
Having heard some of these songs whilst they were still in the womb it’s great to finally see them spring to life in Milan Polak’s debut vocal album “STRAIGHT”. The first thing you hear as the album starts is Polak on his own with no instruments singing a cool vocal harmony. The opener DIFFERENCE is a well structured ditty with a cool repetitive groove, open spaces for the vocals on the verses and a catchy chorus.
Polak decided not to record everything in Germany and self financed a trip to New York to team up with Randy Coven (Bass) and John Macaluso (drums). They have added to the energy and band vibe that is evident throughout the album (Fabio Trentini played bass on 6 songs and those bass tracks were recorded in Germany). It nearly all back fired when some of the recordings wouldn’t work in Milan’s studio and he had to re-record 2 guitar tracks again as some files disappeared forever.
In terms of production, musicianship and songs STRAIGHT ticks all he right boxes. It’s a very dry raw sounding album with Polak’s sleeve introduction claiming no effects as though they were the Devil.
CROSSES is a Sleazy funky groove going down with a big hook for the chorus. The brilliant grungy SOME KIND OF JESUS is one of our favorite numbers. All I WANT is a bluesy ballad that produces a controlled mellow vocal that Polak delivers on par with many already established great vocalists. SUPER STAR MANIA has a funky 70’s type hippie style floating in on the scene. It’s happening man, like I dig the Wah pedal solo dude. The title track STAIGHT is a balls to the wall rocker.
This release is definitely a step in the right direction for the artist and label. You could argue that lyrically it could be better in places, mainly the nursery rhyme syndrome where every last word at the end of a sentence has to rhyme with the previous one, making some of it a bit ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star how I wonder what you are?’ in places. Apart from a couple of fillers this is a damn fine debut vocal release and with the added bonus of some killer guitar work constructed to fit with in the song structure.
Polak saved the best to last with THE GLOWING OF A CIGARETTE. Think old black and white movie and an old black blues player (BB King Style). The playing and vocal performance is faultless and real old school as it should be for this song. This is the guy who said in our first interview (here on rockunited) that if playing the blues means bending one note and puling a silly face then it’s not for me (well something like that). Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear more of this style from Polak because he’s got the feel, vocal style and playing standards to enter a pretty lucrative and sometimes exclusive market. We were sure this track was played through an old Fender amp with a Telecaster? But you know what, why guess? We know how much you guitar players love to search for the classic tone so let’s make the review a bit more exclusive here’s POLAK with the facts not fiction.
Milan: On "Cigarette" I was using Strats & Teles, for the solo a Standard American Tele, for the outro solo my Custom Fender setneck Tele ltd. edition. Steve Blucher designed the PU's for it and it has sound chambers - priceless. Amp-wise I was going through a Peavey Classic 30 (Vox rip-off) and a Delta Blues (mainly used on that CD) with a 15" (!) speaker.
Thanks for that info Milan. So there you have it, just like the album MILAN POLAK gives it to you STRAIGHT, We are not sure what you will reckon to him stood naked in the inner sleeve but obviously his female Myspace fans will be delighted. The naked truth is as we keep telling you, this kid has got talent, he put his own money where his guitar is and took all the risks, that’s a self belief in your talent that’s sadly lacking from many who want it on a plate. One day some dude from a small label is going to get snapped up by a major label. That would be great for the label, the artist and the rock scene. We hope it’s MILAN POLAK but until then Lion Music will keep making little ripples in that big ocean and keep it going guys - a quality release.
ASH: "Twilight Of The Innocents" 7
Ash are a bit of a quandary, with the Irish band having been around and successful for fifteen years or so, but with a Bostonesque production schedule of only five albums in that time. This, it seems, is their last such album, as in future they will be concentrating only on downloadable singles. It's a brave move by the band, now a 3 piece after parting with Charlotte Hatherly, but is their swansong a fitting memorial? Yeah, course it is.
For me, the best songs by Ash have always been their singles. Whilst I own their albums, I invariably go back to their greatest hits collection when I want a good fix of melody and guitar tunes. Though far from prefect, “Twilight Of The Innocents” is a much more complete album that anything they have done before. It's a bit of bad timing to release your best album and announce it's your last, but such is the way of the world.
Mind you, it shows how much Ash have failed in many people's eyes to reach their full recording potential when an album considered their best has an average review score of 7/10 (Source: Metacritic). There's just something about Ash that makes them write such absolutely perfect songs, such as “You Can't Have It All”, which then make the rest of the album pale by comparison. TOTI doesn't suffer as much as previous records, but it's still a problem. Then again, there isn't a duff song here, so that at least is something to be thankful for.
As an album, TOTI will make you happy. That's a good thing in my book,
because it means there's plenty of upbeat, bouncy songs with good hooks,
good solos and bits to sing along with in the bath. There are a few slower
tracks, but these aren't traditional ballady things, more like slowed down
versions of the other songs (or something). Ash have traditionally had the
knack of writing good guitar pop music, and that tradition is carried on
here to good effect. They're not Punk Pop, as some have labeled them,
they're just a good three piece guitar band with moments of greatness. Those
moments of greatness alone make this worth listening to, with the rest
trying to keep up in an affable, listenable way.
Terry ILOUS: "Here And Gone" 6
Fyco Records 2007
Terry Ilous is the singer from XYZ, a hard rock band that enjoyed some success during the late eighties and early nineties. XYZ's first album was produced by Don Dokken, and while it was a good album, the shadow of Dokken was all over it. They virtually sounded like a carbon copy of the real thing. On the second album "Hungry", they removed the "Baby Dokken" tag and tried to find a sound of their own. They didn't quite succeed, as the album sounded like all the other hard rock albums of the time... but still, it was a good album, and contained the minor MTV hit "Face Down In The Gutter" and my personal favourite "When I Find Love", one of the biggest melodic rock hits that never was.
"Here And Gone" is a compilation of rare tracks, some dating back to the XYZ years, some are more recent recordings. As these songs are from different sessions, there are dozens of musicians featured on them. Not just any faceless studio musicians though, we're talking about some of the finest hard rockers around: Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson, Matt Bissonette, JK Northtrup, Paul Mirkovich, Tony Franklin, James Kottak... the list goes on. The original XYZ line-up of Ilous, Paul Monroe, Pat Fontaine and Marc Diglio appears on two songs.
The album is kicked off with "Walk On Water", a bit Zeppelinesque rock track, and closed with the famous Christmas song "Silent Night". The songs inbetween range from XYZ-styled hard rock to the softer sounds, such as the subtle cover of Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You". A couple well-known XYZ songs ("Face Down..." and "Inside Out") get the acoustic treatment, while "Maggy" from the first XYZ album is presented as a live performance by the original band members.
XYZ fans will get a kick out of the songs "Ticket To Hell" and "Out In The Cold", which sound like outtakes from the band's albums. They're cool songs, but for some reason, I find the softer moments even more interesting. "The Road" is the album's standout track, a fine ballad, but some of the other slower tracks are quite good too: "Got To Believe", "Unconditional" and even the oddly-titled "The Day I Spoke To Dog" don't sound half bad.
Unfortunately, with 18 tracks on offer, there's plenty of room for less exciting songs. For example, the title track does nothing but irritate me, and I've always disliked "American Woman" - not even Terry's fine vocals can make me enjoy it.
Despite its flaws, what this album does prove is that Terry Ilous is no one-trick pony and definitely not "Don Dokken Jr". He has to be rated among the top singers in the hard rock genre. Now, if only he'd come up with a stronger selection of songs for his next album.
CIVILIZATION ONE: "Revolution Rising" 6
Metal Heaven 2007
Presumably, the point of naming your album something like "Revolution Rising" is to set the tone and vibe from the first chord. However, the artwork will clearly have you thinking about the awful tsunami of December 2004 and perhaps even more now, considering that vocalist Chitral "Chity" Somapala (Firewind, Faro, Avalon) is a Sri-Lanka native.
Ehem, we're off to a rather sad and depressive note in other words. The music is far from sad though as the musicians have taken the opportunity to fine tune their previous act's sound. Civilization One is a very international project with Chity, the two Italians and ex-Secret Sphere members Aldo Lanobile (guitars), Luca Cartasegna (drums), Brazilian Jesper Stotz (keyboards) and ex-Heavenly bassist Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson (France).
It's an album of timeless (melodic) Heavy Metal with neo-classical as well as symphonic influences. Sometimes quite similar to the sound of Faro/Firewind and other times closer to the Secret Sphere and Heavenly approach. Chity has even managed to include a couple of grunts and growling on a couple of tunes. It's very suitable and fitting to the music though and it's not more than a couple of seconds here and there (16). The bottomline: a nice album that can only do badly if melodic metal no longer excites you.
Sonic X: "Thirteen" 6
Chavis Records 2007
Sonic X are a Canadian band and "Thirteen" isn't their 13th, but their second album. The band is built around the core members Joseph Cumbo (bass), Michael Marquez (drums) and guitarist Lawrence Falcomer, who is the most well-known member of the band, having played on albums by Triumph, Final Frontier and Frozen Ghost, to name a few. The latest addition to the group is vocalist Adam Troy, a highly talented singer with a very versatile voice.
The bio of the band describes Sonic X as "Classic Rock with modern influences intertwined". I'd rather say that they're essentially an eighties' styled hard rock/metal band hidden underneath a lot of modern rock camouflage. Yeah, they've got the down-tuned guitars, the "Seattle-ish" vocals and the one-word song titles which were all the rage during the nineties, but strip that all away and you can hear influences from a plethora of hard rock bands. Skid Row, Sven Gali, Tesla, Dokken... hell, there's even a full-blown power ballad "Breathe" which could have been a major hit back in the day. The songwriting on that track reminds me a lot of CITA/Guild Of Ages/Relapsed (or whatever they're called nowadays), and those early nineties' Teen Metal wonders Trixter. Another highlight of the album is the highly melodic "Evident", which sounds uncannily like another Canadian band, Von Groove. Weird.
Out of the other tracks, most of them had their moments but I'd raise "Carried Away" and "Signs" above the others. A few of the songs were a bit too drowned in contemporary depression for me to enjoy, hence the somewhat average rating. Hopefully the band has chased their demons away with the heavy rifforama of this album, and can concentrate on writing some hook-filled and melodic hard rockers for their next album.
HELIX: "The Power Of Rock And Roll" 6
Gimmie an R? Helix were close to super heroes in Sweden during the summer of 84/85. I believe they did a special tour of Sweden and played all these weird places up north that no metal band had ever done before or since for that matter. Nevermind the past, what about the present, will they still be able to "Rock You" in 2007?
Well, I tell you one thing though, Sanctuary Records believe the Canadians to be solid gold as they've signed them for an eight (yes, 8!!!) record deal. Ehem, blimey, and you all thought rock'n'roll was dead? However, I'm guessing these eight records also includes re-issues, no? Nontheless, "The Power Of Rock And Roll" is their 11th full lenght studio album with mostly brand new and some re-recorded material.
It features six tracks that originally appeared on the recently released EP, "Get Up" and includes a re-recorded version of "Heavy Metal Love", which first appeared in the 1983 release, "No Rest For The Wicked", and also in the Trailer Park Boy's movie, The Big Dirty. The title track of the album is foot stomping tune that instantly had me thinking about Slade. Brian Vollmer threw a tantrum in the studio and it all came out sounding like Noddy? It's otherwise a return to the 80's sound of Helix and tracks like, "Fill Your Head With Rock", "Get Up", "Nickles & Dimes", and "The Past Is Back", could just as easily have been taken from their vast back catalogue. It's perhaps a bit too familiar at times and dodgey numbers such as "Baby Like To Ride" and "Boomerang Love", won't do the trick I'm afraid. To be honest, "Heavy Metal Love" is still the highlight of the album and that's never really a good sign, huh?
LUCIFER WAS: "The Divine Tree" 4
The lads in Norwegian Art/Prog act, Lucifer Was, are apparently stuck in a time-warp, constantly surrounded by a misty daze of confusion. Indeed, they have never quite managed to escape the 70's and all its acid. The story of the band began as early as 1969 and they split up in 1974, only to reappear some 22 years later.
It's almost impossible to accurately quantify what makes these geezers do what they actually do, but a couple of things are for sure. One: they are obviously 70's mad and into acts such as Jethro Tull and early Black Sabbath. Two: they don't give a s**t about music trends and other fashionable things.
"The Divine Tree" is unfortunately not quite as an impressive record as "In Anadi's Bower" (2000 - see review in our archive). They seem to have been recording another CD in between these years, but I guess they forgot [or rather didn't bother :-)] to send us a copy for review. Anyhow, with "The Divine Tree", they certainly present everything you could possible expect for a band of this ilk.
Its strangely arrangements and massive use of mellotron will having you thinking about your parents old record collection, and I do find it to be truly weird that flute is (still?) considered to be a rock and/or metal instrument??? Bloody'ell, first a double live CD with Jethro and here's the Norwegian reply. Okay, I give up, Lucifer Was... what???
Paul SABU: "Strange Messiah" 4
AOR Heaven 2007
I've never quite understood why Paul Sabu is an AOR hero. Sure, he has released a couple of decent albums ("Heartbreak" and the first Only Child album spring to mind), but his post-eighties material has done nothing to confirm his status. I'm afraid that "Strange Messiah" won't do it either, as it's a rather disappointing affair.
The list of musicians on the album contains some of the finest hard rockers in Germany, Angel G. Schleifer and Michael Voss for instance, and the production (by Michael Voss) is very good. Sabu himself is perhaps a bit "over-the-top" when it comes to the constant throaty screaming, but there's no denying that beneath all that he has a very good voice. All the talent involved can not help with the one basic problem of "Strange Messiah" - the songs just aren't very good.
Almost all of the songs are tired "hard rock by numbers" with dull hooks and boring riffs. Big-sounding, but completely shallow and you've heard it all before. The couple of attempts at more melodic AOR style, "Dangerous Behaviour" and "Fighting To Die", don't fare much better either. The first one tries hard to be the melodic rock anthem and "Fighting" is a bluesy semi-ballad with a big "hands-in-the-air" chorus, but somehow they both sound really forced and the choruses just don't work.
All in all, a hugely disappointing album. It's been proved that Sabu CAN write great songs ("Angeline", "I Remember You", "Dream Burning Down"...), but unfortunately, on this album there aren't any of those.
THE MARCH OF SEASONS: "My Winter" 2
Graves Records 2007
I believe that The March Of Seasons are quite competent musicians, and sure enough, they can dish out some pretty cool riffs. The riffs don't mean a thing as soon as the vocalist - no, make that screamer - Emo makes his grand entrance. It doesn't take more than a few seconds for these tracks to become quite unlistenable... I just don't see what makes this sort of tuneless, over-the-top screaming entertaining to anyone. I can take the screams in very short doses, used as a shock element, but when it's constant WHAARGHOHIHATEYOUWHAAAAAAAARGH... hello headache, we meet again.
The best song of the album is track number nine (I don't have a track listing) - it takes over three and a half minutes until the "vocals" come in... my two points are for the riffs and the general musicianship. The artwork's pretty stylish too. The next time around, how about some real vocals?
FULMINI SCARLATTJ: "Absolom" 1
Nelly Records 2005
I truly hope that these guys aren't serious... "Absolom" has to be one of the worst basic heavy metal albums I've ever had to listen to. The playing is really sloppy, the vocalist is totally hopeless and the songs... they sound like something that a garage band with 12-year old players might come up - horribly cliche-filled attempts at heavy metal. I can't say anything about the lyrics as they are in italian, hopefully they have a lot of depth and wisdom - that would somehow justify this release. Oh yeah, the artwork is pretty cool - I'm not sure but it looks like something I used to draw when I was 6 years old. Dragons... they rule!
The one sole point goes for the guitarist Fabio "Anarchybrain" Varrone for his relentless effort. He has composed, produced and released these songs on his own label. A true self-made man then! Even as a player, he's no Malmsteen, but does have reasonable guitar playing skills.
JETHRO TULL: "Live At Montreux"
Blimey, it's Jethro Tull with a "new" live recording. I desperately tried to get someone else to review this, but no such luck I'm afraid. Jethro, Ian Anderson, and that darn flute of his, have been around in one form or the other since the birth of man really. To be exact, ever since the summer of love and the flower-power, make love - not war, hippie era of 1968. Thus why the folk acid rock approach and that darn flute.
... And as the title may suggest this double live CD was recorded at the Montreux festival in 2003. Let's face it, some of the late 60's/early 70's rock acts are just too "far out" and "groovy" to be "hip" in the modern day era of today. Sure, you may notice the occasional youngster sporting a t-shirt with Sabbath, Purple, Heep, Floyd, and Zeppelin. But honestly, when's the last time you ever witnessed anyone below the age of close to 50 in a Jethro Tull t-shirt??? I rest my case (and keyboard for that matter), it's probably the perfect live album for the hippie generation, just not my generation though.
|REVIEWS ADDED 11 July, 2007 (WEEK 28)
WHITE WOLF: "Victim Of The Spotlight" 8
"America (Hello Again)" is merely just one of all the twelve tracks from the reunion album by Canada's White Wolf. Yes sir indeed, the song is a loud and proud shout-out to the people in America: they are finally back again. Yeah? who gives a toss? certainly not the yanks, a more appropiate song and dance number would have been titled: "Europe (Hello Again)" or "Japan (Hello Again"), or possible even better, "Die-Hard-Fans-Of-The-Web (Hello Again)".
The above intro may sound harsh and like it's been written in pure despise of their music. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. "Victim Of The Spotlight" is a darn fine comeback album, "America" is possible the best track of the album, featuring some excellent Blackmore inspired guitarwork by Cam MacLeod, soaring vocals by Don Wolf, and a really catchy hook. White Wolf is merely a duo nowadays as the rest of the members are hired guns from the land of Sweden (Imre Daun: drums, Rikard Qvist: bass/keys). Martin Kronlund is once again responsible for the production at Escape records and he does a good job with a very limited budget.
The history of the band dates all the way back to 1975 and under the name of Slamm and later Warrior. They became the White Wolf in 1980 and recorded the two albums: "Standing Alone" (RCA/1984) and "Endangered Species" (RCA/1986), before they eventually split up in 1987. Fast forward to 2007, twenty years down the line and they haven't changed a bit really. This could of course be a problem if you were expecting a modern Pop/Punk CD, while it's otherwise good news for the fans of the classic 80's era.
They may come from the land of Icehockey (Canada), but they still sound "British" with obvious similarities to the likes of Magnum, Saxon, (Rainbow), and not to forget, Demon. Seriously, some of these tracks are very much like an Canadian version of "Demon" and their albums from the early 80's. Others are close to the mid-80's sound of Magnum and I guess you can call it "Symphonic" heavy metal/hardrock with a good sense for melodies and harmonies. Opener, "Victim Of The Spotlight", will have you thinking about Saxon and their most melodic side during the mid-80's. "The Wolf" combines the sound with a big and healthy dose of Magnum.
You may also recall that they covered Magnum and, "Just Like An Arrow", on Endangered Species, and they clearly seem to be into the band. "The Eyes Of The World" opens up with some neo-classical guitar notes in the vein of Blackmore and continues with the classic White Wolf sound of the past. Final verdict: "Victim Of The Spotlight" is a really fine comeback album and definitely worthy of your attention. Old fans will find themselves right at home again. New fans that fancy a mix of British rock (Magnum, Demon, Saxon) should really check this out too. Very close to a nine rating actually.
Kelly CLARKSON: "My December" 6
The first ever American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson has changed her style quite a lot since her debut album. That album contained mostly pop songs, with even a little bit of R'n'B, while her second album "Breakaway" had a stronger direction and it leaned more towards rock. With songs from top songsmiths like Max Martin and Ben Moody, it was a decent album. "My December" continues in the rock-oriented style of "Breakaway", but this time Clarkson has taken a more active role as a songwriter. There are no name writers to be found in the credits, as most of the songs have been written by Clarkson and the members of her band (I believe?). While it's kind of admirable to stick to one's own guns, it becomes quite obvious that Clarkson isn't yet quite as good a songwriter as she is a singer. She's managed to come up with a few decent tracks, but most of the songs fail to impress.
The standout tracks of the album are "Haunted" and "Maybe". The first one is a catchy pop-rock track with a good hook, something that majority of the other tracks are desperately missing, while "Maybe" is a stylish ballad that grows with each listen. The lead-off single "Never Again", uptempo rocker "Judas" and the easygoing pop-rock of "How I Feel" are among the better tracks as well. I'm also strangely attracted to the ethreal, acoustic "Irvine", which features a beautiful, fragile performance from Clarkson.
When it comes to songs like "Yeah", "Hole" and "Don't Waste Your Time", the title of the latter says it all... they're pretty forgettable and uninteresting.
We'll see what happens with the next KC album - will she be allowed to continue in this direction or will the "powers that be" take over the reins? Time will tell, but I have a feeling that someone like Max Martin might be called in to help out.
Marco MENDOZA: "Live For Tomorrow" 5
Marco Mendoza is the bass guitarist (not to be confused with Twisted Sisters "The Animal") that used to hang out with Blue Murder, Ted Nugent, David Coverdale, and a bunch of other acts in the past. I believe he's currenty touring around the world as one of the members of "Thin Lizzy". Oh, when will the madness stop? Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott? It's some kind of joke, right? Next up, Motörhead w/o Lemmy and later, Whitesnake w/o Coverdale.
Mr.Mendoza has unfortunately a nasal singing voice that irritates the crap outta me. I'd imagine it's like listening to Lenny Kravitz on a really bad nose and throat day (a cold in other words). The music featuring on "Live For Tomorrow" is the work of Mendoza and former Mr.Big and Poison guitarist, Richie Kotzen. The latter is also responsible for the production as well as performing all the instruments along side Marco.
You obviously have a bunch of guest musicians doing their bit as usual and here goes the name drop segment. Steve Lukather (Toto), Ted Nugent, Doug Aldrich (Lion, Whitesnake), Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Nugent, etc). The music is basically the same kind of bluesy rock as of Kotzen and Kravitz. It's a very "shy" album though, hardly the kind of material that walks right up to you to say hello. Nope, it mostly stays put and hides out in the bushes to avoid any close contact with people as well as rock musicians (a different kind of breed really).
GORO: "s/t" 1
Hurricane Shiva Records 2007
Compared to Demonian reviewed below, Goro's self-titled 6-track is much better, and it surely deserves its' "1" grading, if nothing more. What's so good about it? Well, it's much shorter! The "vocals" are similary horrible and you can't tell what the hell the "vocalist" Alex is "singing", but credit where credit's due, the band uses at least two "voices" - the deep gargle and the higher-pitched demonic screech. And I must say, some of the rhythms remind me of the Finnish oddball comedy band "Eläkeläiset" (="the pensioners"), who play rock classics with "Humppa" beats (kind of a "schlager music" style)... somehow I think that Goro doesn't take themselves too seriously either. I hope.
DEMONIAN: "Catechism For Genuflected" 0
Nelly Records 2007
I can not understand why we're sent this kind of music. "Brutal Death Metal" isn't something that any one of us would enjoy, and by taking a quick look at our reviews and content it should be pretty damn obvious. So, I must assume that a negative review from a "wimp-rock" site like ours is actually a recommendation to some... if that's the case, here's just what the doctor ordered:
If this album is a joke, it's about 7 songs too long (there are 8 songs on it altogether). Out of the 8 "songs", 6 are basically the same one: superfast drunmming, chainsaw guitars and someone gargling on top of it. It can not be called singing, because there's nothing that even remotedly resembles a melody anywhere to be found, and you can not possibly understand the lyrics. So gargling it is... So what about the other two songs, you ask? Well, one of them ("Domes Of The Schism", if you must know) starts a bit slower, only to turn into the same ol' thing. The other one ("Genuflected") is a bit more interesting, as it has a very spooky "wind in the dungeons"-type of an intro. Of course, after 19 seconds it turns into the same old thing too. After trying to play this album TWICE, I had to stop because I felt that Satan might crawl out of my speakers. Maybe I should call an excorcist?
|REVIEWS ADDED 7 July, 2007 (WEEK 27)
THE LADDER: "Sacred" 9
Escape Music 2007
Cannot believe that the Ladder's debut album managed to sneak past me, as I have been a fan of FM since the good old days when I saw them supporting Gary Moore before they had even released an album. I know I'm not alone in singling out vocalist Steve Overland as a major factor in the bands appeal, as he had (and has) one of the best melodic rock voices around.
The Ladder's last album featured old FM songs, such as my personal fave “Say It like It Is”, with Vinny Burns supplying the big licks, whilst this one is all new songs, with Burns being replaced by Gerhard Pichler. Despite the pedigree of Overland and drummer Pete Jupp, “Sacred” is not a honey sweet album full of love ballads. There's no “Frozen Heart Part 2” here. There's a few slower songs, sure, but they tend to have more balls than most ballads, giving Overland's sublime vocals something to bounce off of. That said, the vast majority of the 11 songs here are full on melodic rock, with some meaty riffs straight from the hidden freezer at the back of the butchers.
For me, the best AOR mixes pure melody with a backing of power, and “Sacred” does a very good job at this. Of course, good vocals are essential, and Overland doesn't put a foot wrong, which is no surprise really. If I had to make the obvious comparisons, I would rate this album alongside “Aphrodisiac” by FM, as it's a lot ballsier than the early releases, but still has the melody to pull off the trick of getting better and better the more you gear it. The only complain to be had is that there are really no outstanding moments of guitar playing, with Pichler supplying the melodies but not a lot else. His solos are short and to the point, but there's no real imagination or passion in them for the most part.
FM fans are going to absolutely love “Sacred”, because it's a truly great melodic rock album with vocals by one of the truly great melodic rock singers. Now where can I get hold of that debut...
MANIC STREET PREACHERS: "Send Away The Tigers" 9
... And here's the slightly disturbed review department with a quick section of Q&A. Question: Will they ever be able to pen down yet another perfect tune such as Motorcycle Emptiness. Answer: Nope, they probably wont... since it's perfect... but they still have to try, you know (and yeah, we found this to be a pretty lame introduction too).
"Send Away The Tigers" is (thank God!) a return to the rock music side of Manic Street Preachers, their previous attempt at world domination through electro pop didn't work out after all. This also shows that the most miserable band in the world is back with a vengeance and a disaster. What you end up with here are ten beautifully crafted tracks with tons of mood-swings and mood changes (it sounded so nice that I wrote it twice?) that fit the Welsh eyeliners perfectly.
The lyrics are sheer gloom poetry to read for both youngsters and old farts, and a tune like, "The Second Great Depression", left me cold and withered. These ten power packed tracks (plus the hidden bonustrack, "A Working Class Hero" by John Lennon) are stacked full of modern art depression and indeed desperation. The only track that doesn't really conform to this greatness was oddly enough the first single release from the CD. Yeah, sure, "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough", does feature Nina Persson from The Cardigans, but I do miss the Manics somewhat morbid sense of songwriting.
Let's face it, "Your Love..." is simply too perky, uplifting, and U.S. Pop friendly to fit their image of endless doom and gloom. It's still a smashing record though and songs like "Underdogs", "Autumnsong", "I'm Just A Patsy", etc, will still do just fine at your local doom & gloom meeting. Recommended.
POWERWOLF: "Lupus Dei" 8
Metal Blade Records 2007
First things first: Powerwolf will make you chuckle before you've even thought about listening to the music. They seem to be under the impression that they are vampiric werewolves or something, with their album cover and band picture practically begging you to make fun of them. With song titles like “Saturday Satan” and “In Blood We Trust”, you would also be forgiven for expecting a shouty mess of an album – but you would be wrong.
In fact, this German band have a very good sense of melody and drama, demonstrated ably during the 11 tracks on “Lupus Dei”, their second album. The only thing that holds them back from being a truly great power metal band (in my eyes, anyway), is that it's all so dreadfully tacky. It's not like I'm a Christian, or even easily offended, but Powerwolf seem to delight in writing the sort of lyrics you might find at the back of a fifteen year old goth's maths textbook. It just all seems a bit sad and outdated, y'know?
Despite the visual and lyrical errors, Powerwolf still manage to impress musically. At times they shamelessly rip off Iron Maiden, sure, but only in small doses. The music has pace, power and bollockloads of melody hidden behind the evil overtones. They're not afraid to go “Whoah whoah whoah” when they need to, as in the excellent but silly “Vampires Don't Die”, or even use a full choir for “In Blood We Trust”. It seems that someone has recognized that Powerwolf have such great songs that they're worth spending a bit of money on to bring out the best in them. A bit of a mystery to me, mind you, that this album hasn't been released in the States, where there are surely a shitload of Lestat wannabes looking for something epic and metallic to chant along to.
To sum up, “Lupus Dei” is a very, very good album, let down only by the
bad horror movie cliches and the “We are eeeeeeevil” attitude the band are
playing around with. If you like your metal to be a little overblown and
symphonic in style, but with plenty of galloping guitars and classic metal
stylings then this really is worth checking out. Mind you, that band picture
almost makes me feel sympathy for the Devil...
Robin BECK: "Livin' On A Dream" 7
Robin Beck, the singing bird from the famous Coca Cola commercial of the 80's (first time - coca cola is it) with a new CD in 2007. The question on everybody's lips, any carbon dioxide still left in the ol' bottle? Sure enough, "Livin' On A Dream", sparks and pops like a small firework at times and it's very much the "original" sound of Robin Beck. Ehem, not *that* original actually as she started out as a disco chick (the horror, the horror!).
However, I'm truly disappointed as the opening title track is blasting through my loudspeakers. It goes kind of flat just as the soon as the chorus part kicks in and there's no major, nor minor, boost effect whatsoever. The following, "Show Me The Way" is much better and Robin is putting on a great display of her excellent vocals. "Love Me Like A Man", not only the weirdest title of the year, it also happens to be a great semi-rocker in the 80's tradition.
"Always" is a f-i-n-e ballad that blends the sound of "First Time" with a hint of The Wilson sisters and Heart. "Nothing's Gonna Change Your World" borrows quite a lot from the verses of "Save Up All Your Tears", the chorus part is completely different though. "Seventeen Again" will remind you of the mid-80's Michael Bolton sound and the songs later recorded by the likes of Cher and Bonnie Tyler. Then again, Robin, Cher and Bonnie, recorded pretty much the same ol' material back in the days.
"Runaway" is however one of her worst performances ever as it features an really annoying refrain and a lame production. Fast skip to "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and it's yet another so-so attempt at recreating the sound of "Trouble Or Nothing". They've even included a line that goes: "I got used to your touch", perhaps taken straight from above mentioned "Save Up All Your Tears"??? Not as poor as "Runaway", but still not quite as pleasing as expected. "Magic" is a happy-poppy little number with a nice refrain, "I Can't Walk The Line" will surely please the die-hards, and the ultra soft duet "Till The Last Tear Drop Falls" (featuring husband and House Of Lords vocalist, James Christain) is basically a Chicago number in disguise.
Closing track, "Love Lies" is top notch rocker that will please any melodic hardrock fan. Final verdict: Hausfrau music. But seriously, not quite up to the standard of the heydays, still rather catchy and stangely intriguing though. Shake the can.
LOS ANGELES: "Los Angeles" 6
Los Angels - the capitol of Mexico? (born in east L.A.) and now also a fine, new, AOR, project featuring vocalist Michele Luppi (Vision Divine). But honestly... what's up with the production??? The drums sounds merely like a couple of empty tin-cans and the bass guitar is non-excisting. It's difficult to get into the mood for some serious "headbanging", and it's a shame, since the music isn't shabby at all really.
I could go on for ages about the rather horrific production by Fabrizio Grossi. The lack of strenght and stamina in the bass & drum department, but won't, since it's clearly not the first time he's managed to create a fine mess out of good music. It's perhaps time for the die-hards to stand up as one and demand a better choice as the person in charge of all of these AOR releases.
The music? To be fair a quick stab at authenticity takes place when Gregg Giuffria does a cameo role for 30 seconds or less. He's merely responsible for a very short keyboard intro. Thus why you can just as easily remove the "Giuffria" credit and sticker. Songs are supplied by the likes of Richard "Westcoast" Marx, Jeff Paris, Mark Williamson, and Dennis Matkovsley. It's basically covers and you may have heard some of them in the past. Opener, "I Will Carry You", has previously been performed by Clay Aitken (my oh my), "Last Chance" is an old Night Ranger, and "Measure Of A Man" is a dead ringer for any cut off the Signal album.
Final verdict: Yes, the overall songmaterial is pretty catchy and radio friendly to the extreme. They've got a good thing going here, all they need now is a producer and a remix.
AMERICAN ANGEL: "Vanity" 5
This would appear to be yet another reunion by one of those underground acts of the 80's. Sure enough, American Angel did release their debut album on Grudge/BMG back in 1989 and the song "How Can I Miss You", was featured on MTV for a spin or two. But honestly, it's not like they ever made any real waves or major input on the overall scale of hard rock in the 80's.
Merely lead vocalist Rocco Fury is still with us since the 80's and he's actually still blessed with that great voice of his. However, The Angels' seems to be caught up in a conflict of interest between trying to be themselves and sounding like a dozen of other hairmetal acts with a bluesy side. The likes of Wild Horses, Cinderella, Spread Eagle, Lion, springing to mind and it's very much hardrock by numbers. Not all bad and neither impressive enough to stand out from the rest of the pack. I'm afraid that I won't be playing this much in the future to come as it's too much of the old feeling, 'been there, done that'.
Jutta WEINHOLD: "Best" ?
The best of Jutta Weinhold? Ouch, I'd hate to think what the worst would sound like. Sister Jutta has an interesting vocal technique and that's at least one thing to her credit. You may remember her from several bollocks records with Zed Yago and Velvet Viper in the past. I tell ya', they'll make your early Warlock albums sound like masterpieces in a quick comparsion.
The songs themselves are pretty basic 80's Metal with the sporadic attempt of something greater and more in the vein of the neo-classical. The track, "The Lost Children In The Dark", probably stands out as the winner of the bunch as it's certainly a notch or two above the rest of them. The atmospheric intro as the comprising of a wicked riff and Jutta's ghostly like vocals, does work wonder for the worried mind.
Other than that, you've got a truck load of tracks that would probably work well in a darkened bar, and after you're too pissed to really care what you listen to. Nontheless, you can still find a couple of real nuggets (ehem, and to make things perfectly clear, nope, this wasn't a sexist remark, the songs, merely talking about the songs) and if you'd like another dose of Warlock & Doro, be my guest.
ARCANUM: "What If You Die Tomorrow" 4
You know, there are only so many times one can write the same thing without being caught in the act. However, Arcanium is yet another act that you can file under "old skool Death Metal", which clearly belongs to the boring early to mid 90's scene. They are at times playing the so called "atmospheric death" as of present, but are unfortunately stuck with a tone deaf shouter from the old skool of things.
So what if they have a rather nice song structure with double-bass drumming, rhythmical metal riffs, and yes, melodic parts. It's all to waste as soon as 'Peda' opens up the seven gates to hell with monotonous growls and screams. Blimey, did no-one ever tell him that singing in tune with the rest of the gang sounds much nicer in the long run.
|REVIEWS ADDED 2 July, 2007 (WEEK 27)
ASIA: "Fantasia - Live In Tokyo"
Recorded in March of 2007, "Fantasia - Live In Tokyo" captures the reunited Asia line-up of John Wetton (vocals/bass), Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Carl Palmer (drums) playing to a sold out crowd in Asia, Japan. It's been 25 years since the release of their self-titled debut album which transformed them into one of the most successful bands and debuts of its era and racking up sales of over 15 million albums world wide. Thus why they've decided to release this 2-CD live set and later in September the DVD concert of this very gig and 25th anniversary.
Asia were indeed considered as the first real "super group" with their past as members of acts such as: Yes, Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, Emerson Lake Palmer, King Crimson, and of course, The Buggles (ehem, yes, jolly good!). "Time Again" opens proceedings and we're treated to a rich dinner of pompy overtures and excellent vocals by the impressive Wetton. His voice does still deliver the goods as well as provide plenty of bite and emotion. There is little to disrupt the smouldering AOR momentum as the likes of "Wildest Dreams", "One Step Closer", "Without You", and Cutting It Fine", are frankly milestones in the history of pompous rock.
Not always as 'catchy' as their most famous moment (heat of the - actually), but you'll also have to consider their background with Yes, ELP, King Crimson, etc. They certainly haven't forgotten all about it as they still include the old ELP stomper, "Fanfare For The Common Man". Disc:2 starts up with the touching words of "Don't Cry", continues on a more serious note with "In The Court Of The Crimson King", before they get all poppy with "Video Killed The Radio Star". I can't say that I enjoyed the annoying sampling as they've managed to mess up the entire chorus part. If Downes, Howe, Palmer, can't sing the harmonies (which they obviously can't), at least have the decentcy to come up with a better sample and choir that this crap.
The big finale is of course, "The Heat Of The Moment", and it's been a total of 18 tracks of music from the past. I'm sure the DVD will be an even more pleasing moment for the fans... even if they're all like... 90 years old by now.
Rob HALFORD: "Metal God Essentials Vol: 1"
There's hardly anything "essential" about Rob Halford when it comes to his mad "Fight"-ing days. Ehhh... nope, nothing, nada, zip, nicht. In fact, I'am still trying to erase the third rate Pantera music from the very back of my mind. "Nailed To The Gun" is however one of few highlights from the early to mid 90's, and I guess I won't mind listening to, "Into The Pit", every once in a year. But to go as far as to naming them essentials??? nah.
Disc: 1 is otherwise a mix of stuff from the two solo albums, "Resurrection" and "Crucible", where at least the latter is questionable when it comes to quality check of the actual song material. All four songs taken from this very album are nice, but do lack that special ingredient that would turn them into real classics. The first Halford solo album is without a question the better choice out of the two.
"Forgotten Generation" and "Drop Out", are two completely new tracks and they're both quite good actually. The first one could just as easily have been a Bruce Dickinson number, and the latter mixes the old Halford sound with just a hint of (modern era) Ozzy. Disc: 2 is a bonus DVD with behind the scenes footage of "Resurrection" and "Live Insurrection", live clips from Rock In Rio (five tracks), and the brand new video of "Forgotten Generation". Overall a neat little package for the die-hards... an essential pick up??? don't think so.
Fast Eddie CLARKE: "Anthology"
Who the heck is Eddie Clarke? Well, simply put the nick "Fast" infront of his real name and people will instantly know of him as the former guitarist of Motörhead. This "Anthology" is a 2-CD (a total of 30 tracks) collection with material from the very early days as guitarist/writer with Curtis Knight's band. Zeus, and obviously the best of Motörhead, Fastway, and solo projects. Remastered by Fast Eddie himself, the booklet comes complete with unseen photos and a nice background history, write-up, by the geezer from the official Motörhead fanclub in the U.K.
Let's kick off things with Eddie's stint as lead guitarist with Curtis Knight and Zeus, a job previously done by non-other than Jimi Hendrix in the 60's. Opening track, "Cloud", from the year of 1974 clocks in at around 8 minutes, and includes a short solo from each member of the band. It's pretty far out and groovy rock and the following track, "The Confession", hold killer lines such as 'that night I got stoned in the land of Georgia'. It's basically kingdom come for the 70's nutter, while the rest of us will merely find it to be slightly amusing and not too shabby. Continious Performance was a project by Fast Eddie vocals/guitars recorded in 1975 after leaving Zeus. It's previously unreleased material and both "Takin' It Easy" and "In The Morning" is a great display of Eddie's bluesier guitarwork. The latter tune has a long solo piece that will most certainly send a shiver down your spine.
Next up, Fast Eddie's personal favourites from the 1975-82 era with Lemmy and Animal. It's "White Line Fever, "Overkill", "Bomber", Emergency", "Ace Of Spades", "Iron Fist", plus five other Motörhead classics of the past. Fastway started out in late-82 by Fast Eddie and UFO bassist, Pete Way. They used an amalgamation of both of thier names (FastWay) and quickly layed down some demos at Ramport studios in London, Sep, 23rd, 1982. Vocalist Dave King and ex-Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley completed the line-up and you can find those very first demos featuring Pete Way on disc 2 (All I Need, Feel Me Touch Me, Give It Some Action). Listening to these great recordings surely makes you wonder how much of this was actually copied later by Tesla???
Pete Way decided to leave shortly after to play with first Ozzy and then his own act, Waysted. You'll find five more Fastway tunes, four Fast Eddie numbers, one Black Electric, and a great finale with Fast Eddie taking up another rare vocal spot on a "Bomber" outtake with "Stone Death Forever". Keep in mind that he also did vocals on "Emergency", etc. The bottomline: a nice compilation of tunes that will find its place in your hardrock collection. Perhaps not enough of old demos and previously unreleased material though.
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