This page includes the most recent reviews. You can find older reviews and everything else in the Reviews Archive.

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 17 December, 2007 (WEEK 51)
THUNDER: "The Devil Went Down To Huttwil" 9

Dirty Penny Music 2007
Review by Alan Holloway,
10th December 2007

It's Thunder time again, and time for yet another live DVD (their 7th), this time filmed in Huttwil, Switzerland in June of this year at the Rock Sound festival. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because another Thunder DVD is another chance to view one of our best live bands in action.

This particular disc features two gigs rather than one, with the second being another Swiss show from 2003. This one is a bit of an oddity, as the crowd were all togged up and sitting at tables – not your typical rock audience, more like playing at a posh awards ceremony. Between the two shows only three tracks are duplicated, leaving 16 live songs for you to savour, although it's a brave man who will sit through 2 extended live versions of “Dirty Love” in one sitting!

The newer gig is a cracker, featuring 3 somgs from the brilliant “Robert Johnson's Tombstone” album, as well as classics such as “Low Life In High Places” and “River Of Pain”. The audience are there to have a good time, and as usual Danny Bowes jollies them up by instigating clapping and bouncing marathons at every opportunity. Only nine tracks, but a show to be proud of. The 2003 gig (filmed in Basel) is a bit weirder as you don't have the crowd pressing against the stage. It's quite fascinating to watch Bowes gradually winning them over (Deep Purple were on next) with his mad personality, eventually getting them all standing up, bouncing and clapping.

Overall, there's two hours of Thunder here, not a bad offering in my book. You get “Love Walked In” and “Don't Wait For Me”, which can't be a bad thing, all wrapped up in two faultless performances. Makes yer proud to be a Brit...

COHEED AND CAMBRIA: "No World For Tomorrow" 9

Columbia 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 December 2007

Coheed And Cambria have since long been hailed as being among the leading acts of NU-Prog and overall groundbreaking music. I found their "Good Apollo..." album to be among the best (rock/metal) releases of 2005 and "No World For Tomorrow" will most certainly end up at the very top of 2007. Their sound relies heavily on emotion and using traditional (prog) rock sweeps as embellishments. Personally, I think this is close to how 'Rush' would have sounded like if they started out as a band in the late 90's/early 2000. Highly recommended. [This lazy reviewer is on holiday 4 the rest of the year. Thus why the brief and short reviews].

CRAZY LIXX: "Loud Minority" 8

Swedmetal Records 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 December 2007

At last, a band that walks and talks like they actually mean it. Crazy Lixx are keeping the flame of 80's Sleaze and "Loud Minority" goes a long way building a platform for their continued success. We've been playing the disc for quite a while now and it's pretty much essential stuff to any old fan of early Crue, D2, Skid Row, KISS, and Shotgun Messiah. The sound is way more "traditional" than the new Crashdiet and I would definitely put my money on this CD. [This lazy reviewer is on holiday 4 the rest of the year. Thus why the brief and short reviews].

INDIGO DYING: "Indigo Dying" 7

Frontiers 2007
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
17 Dedember 2007

Indigo Dying is yet another project album from Frontiers, and again produced by Fabrizio Grossi. I don't know why the label keeps pushing these weird "band" titles, as this could have just as well been released under the name of Gisa Vatcky. She's the vocalist AND the star of the show, a hugely talented vocalist. I'd imagine it'd be easier to market a new female artist with a rather long resume than an obscure project...

Fabrizio Grossi's recent productions haven't been huge favourites of mine, and I was ready to throw in the towel with this album too after the first track. "All I Never Wanted" is a good song actually, but the buzzing guitar sounds and the overwhelming percussions make it hard to enjoy the songwriting. Thankfully the sound improves a bit along the way.

The first highlight of the album is "Breathe In Water", a superb duet between Gisa and ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske. This athmospheric track has a bit of a Within Temptation/Evanescence vibe to it, and could very well do nicely in the charts if given a push. The Evanescence vibe continues with the next track "Better", a dark and moody rock track and one of the better tracks of the album.

"Taken" sounds like a thinly disguised New Country track, and while it's a nice breather between the more intense tracks, it's a bit out of place here. "Superman" is another duet, featuring the new Royal Hunt singer Mark Boals, but despite the two talented vocalists, it really doesn't work for me. It's funny how the dull buzzing guitar sound tends to become more irritating with these lesser tracks.

The Morrisette'sque "Island" or the unmemorable "Remember" (go figure!) don't do much for me, but I guite like the melodic "Real Life Fairytale". The second duet with Boals is called "Far Enough", and it's pretty good too. Even better is the metallic "Shattered Life", which showcases another side of Gisa's voice - "the metal shouter". In contrast, the last track "Go" showcases a different kind of a vocalist - a vulnerable, fragile vocalist with a lot of emotion in her voice.

Although this album isn't a triumphant victory, I'll surely be looking forward to the next chapter in Gisa Vatcky's recording career. I hope it's along the lines of this album, but possibly with better songs and better production.

SEVEN TEARS: "In Every Frozen Tear" 6

Frontiers 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 December 2007

I did read a review by melodicrock and the following words sums it all up "This isn't the catchiest, nor the most progressive, nor the most rocking or melodic album of the year - yet it is very consistent in its quality of songs and performances". Thank you McNiece, you wrote down everything that needed to be written about Seven Tears [:-)]. This sure isn't all too catchy, they do play a soft mix of Prog Metal & AOR, and it's all been steeped into a mid-tempo formula. They're basically standing with one feet in Journey-land and the other somewhere deep down in the hoopla. Vocalist Zoran Djorem and the rest of the lads have obviously been inspired by Evergrey and the melodic side of Queensryche. I think if Seven Tears could make up their minds (were to go on their musical adventure) then we may really have something here. [This lazy reviewer is on holiday 4 the rest of the year. Thus why the brief and short reviews].
Myspace site

ALEPH: "In Tenebra" 6

Eagle 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 December 2007

What this Italian five-piece may lack in finesse, they more than make up for with sheer energy and utter metal devotion. Voted as last years, 'best national act', in the Italy version of Metal Hammer (really?), they now set out to vipe out the entire competition of metal acts and hang-around's in the land of pizza and pasta. Coming over like a cross between the fury of Annihilator, the forceful chords of Megadeth and the mystical edge of bands like Nevermore, you might actually get a kick out of these Italians. Some of the arrangements are sadly just too messed up and they may still need to work on their hook factor. Not too shabby at all though. [This lazy reviewer is on holiday 4 the rest of the year. Thus why the brief and short reviews].

TOTO: "Falling In Between Live" 4

Eagle 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 December 2007

You're in the mood for something rather safe and predictable? Well, try looking up the word 'Toto' in any dictionary and you'll most certainly end up with above description. "Falling In Between Live" is the work of old studio musicians and there's hardly any room for vitality here. It's simply put an flawless performance and it's been perfectly executed from opening to closing note. It's unfortunately also a rather sterile performance and yes, we all know they're top class musicians. But... what about the fire, the energy, and the pure joy of playing your own music? It's just another day at work with Bobby & Steve. [This lazy reviewer is on holiday 4 the rest of the year. Thus why the brief and short reviews].
Eagle site

REVIEWS ADDED 05 December, 2007 (WEEK 49)
MANOWAR: "Magic Circle Festival" DVD

Magic Circle Music/Universal 2007
Review by Martien Koolen,
5 December 2007

On this double DVD you can "enjoy" Manowar and a legion of "weird" metal bands at the Magic Circle Festival in Germany. Bands like Imperia, Mob Rules, Heavenly or Holyhell are really not my cup of tea, so I skipped them right after one song. The Manowar performance however is great, as can be expected of these metal warriors. The sound is excellent and Joey and Co. really play their asses off. There are 15 songs from the Magic Circle Festival and especially classic Manowar tracks like: "Kill With Power", "Black Wind, Fire And Steel" and Brothers Of Metal" are really awesome to hear and see... From the newer songs my favourites are: "Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors" and "The Crown Of The Ring", which ends with an amazing fireworks display.

On the second DVD are 13 songs form the Manowar performance at the Kaliakra Rock Fest in Bulgaria 2007. The sound is again excellent and best songs here are: "Metal Warriors", "Die For Metal" and Manowar's version of the Bulgarian national anthem "Mila Rodino".

Extra material consists of a documentary on the Kaliakra Rock Fest, interviews, impassioned speeches from Joey DeMaio to the fans and the exciting presentation of two Manowar custom chopper motorcycles to a couple of lucky prize winners. The two Manowar performances are really amazing, however the performances of the other metal bands is something that you can skip without hesitating. In fact it really is a shame that you "have" to watch that kind of false metal......

THE GIANT LEAP: "Another Day Rising" 7

EMI Finland 2007
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
28 November 2007

Finnish newcomers The Giant Leap have already scored two big radio hits with their singles "All In My Head" and "Somebody Else", and if they are lucky, they might just do the same in other markets as well. Their music sounds like tailormade for mainstream radio, highly commercial pop-rock. They seem to be free of the dark mentality of most Finnish rock bands, although most of their songs are quite melancholic. It's more like "background music for a sad scene in a teen drama TV opera" than "join me in death".

The band will probably be mentioned often in the same sentence as Sunrise Avenue, another successful Finnish pop-rock group. They do have similarities, and will certainly appear to the same audience. Fans of Swedish artists such as Stefan Andersson, Jan Johanssen and Martin Stenmarck might also enjoy this Leap, not to mention the fans of the latest few albums of Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. In fact, the band's hit single "Somebody Else" could very well pass for an unreleased Bryan Adams track!

Although the album is full of nice songs, like the aforementioned singles, "I Can't Wait For Tomorrow" and "Story Of My Life", there's something missing. Maybe it's the overall "niceness"... a little bit of edge wouldn't have gone amiss here. The album's highlight is the almost hard-rocking "Messing With My Mind", which has a bit of Bon Jovisque quality to it and the kind of an urgency that appeals to me. A fine song, and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

All in all, a promising debut. I just hope that the band won't end up in the same "one-hit wonder" bargain bin as too many pop-rock bands of yesteryear...

FRAISE: "A New Beginning" 7

Indie 2007
Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner
3 December 2007

Well, the album title is more than fitting as this Swedish band is back with their second release, and 3 out of the 5 members are new. Musically there's not all that much of a change compared to the first release, it is still melodic European metal, luckily without dragons and swords and with a bombastic sound and really decent musicianship.

At best the songs are complex melodic heavy metal, at worst simple fitness metal. I can't really name any highlights as all the 12 tracks are okay, not any more, not any less. There's a really tight rhythm section and Christiasn Doyle's straightforward guitar work is really good, however I lack memorable memories both vocal and solo wise. The reason may be that all but one of the songs was written by Patrick Fransson, a multi- talented drummer/songwriter, he must have been busy with all the instruments and there was not enough attention left for vocal melodies. I do not know if Ole Hedman's vocal range is limited to what we hear on the album or he had no chance to adopt the songs to his abilities; anyway there's not much you can remember after the band rushes through the 12 tracks. I played the album about a dozen times, it spent almost a month in my car stereo and still I can't sing along with any of the songs.

I think the band can build its future upon their musical abilities but they have to learn to function as a band and let new musical ideas in as this songwriting one-man-show can not bring the best out of them. Maybe next time.

LILLIAN AXE: "Waters Rising" 7

Metro City Records 2007
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
28 November 2007

As a longtime fan of Lillian Axe, I was suspicious about this album. Never mind that the band's previous release was a rather poor (soundwise anyway) compilation of demos called "Fields Of Yesterday", the most worrying thing was the totally revamped line-up of the band. Only the songwriter/guitarist Steve Blaze remains of the original line-up, even the excellent and recognizable vocalist Ron Taylor has left the band.

The good news is that while Lillian Aze of 2007 might be an almost completely different band to the one that recorded all those classic albums, Steve Blaze's songwriting is still easily identifiable as "Lillian Axe". New vocalist Derrick LeFevre sounds uncannily like Taylor on most of the material, and that's something I can't complain about.

The bad or at least less good news is that while these songs do sound like Lillian Axe, they sound like a darker, heavier and less melodic version of the band. I've always admired Blaze's unique way to write melodies, but I'm afraid his most memorable ones aren't on this album. Don't get me wrong, there are some good melodies here, but they take quite a few spins before they sink in.

My favourite songs of the album are the title track, "Fear Of Time" and the dark and moody "Deep In The Black". Most of the other songs do have their moments, but overall they lack the familiar "Lillian Axe" magic. And I'll never understand why they chose to re-record the dull, Metallica-like "Become A Monster" from "Fields Of Yesterday"... This album could've used a catchy song like "Do It" or a majestic ballad like "When It Rains". Here's hoping that they rescue at least one of those tracks for the next album, and while I'm at it, I also hope that the new material proves that Mr. Blaze is still a master of melody.

REVIEWS ADDED 25 November, 2007 (WEEK 47)
AIRTIME: "Liberty Manifesto" 9

Escape 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
19 November 2007

Wow! The voice, the guitar, the sheer quality of a real rock musician. Airtime is the excellent return of long lost Canadian hero, Rik Emmett (Triumph). Well, it's not like he's been hiding inside a cave for centuries, but he's been lost to all of us rock fans for far too long.

It's been mostly jazz and laidback CD releases lately and thus why Airtime came down like a ton of bricks over my head. "Liberty Manifesto" is easily Emmett's best release since the Triumph hey-days in the 80's. He's teamed up with fellow Canadian Michael Shotton (Von Groove) and the two of them have created a album that speak of great tradition and grade A quality.

You will find a lot of the same kind of atomsphere that made Triumph successful, the melodies being used to great effect, the singing guitar tone and the vocal harmonies are essential parts as usual. Indeed, there's simply a lot of stuff here to find inviting and fun. Take the track "Code 9" as an example. A Doobie Brothers, Bachman Turner Overdrive intro leads into lovely mix of power-packed guitar rock in the best Triumph tradition. There's bit and pieces of 'Rush' all over this album too. Not that strange perhaps as they've always been a great source of inspiration in the past.

The bottomline: I can't find anything remotely bad to write about this CD. This will end up somewhere at the very top of my album of 2007 list. It's simply put top notch stuff from the opening track of "Edge Of Your Mind" to closing track, "Crying Shame". An essential pick-up if you're into Classic Rock with tons of tricky guitar work and catchy melodies. All hail to the return of Rik "ROCK" Emmett - what a Triumph!!!

LANA LANE: "Red Planet Boulevard" 9

Frontiers Records 2007
Review by Martien Koolen,
12 November 2007

Every time I listen to a Lana Lane album I think of Heart, the amazing US rock band with Ann Wilson as lead vocalist, because Lana's voice sounds just like Anns. Lane's new album, recorded in The Netherlands and the USA, is a melodic rock album filled with soaring melodies, legendary vocal parts and a sort of Led Zeppelin'instrumentation, where we have guitar, drums and a bass playing keyboardist. "Red Planet Boulevard" features a massive symphonic rock sound with walls of guitars and lots of keyboard carpets... This is truly her best album so far, featuring heavy rockers, power ballads, and amazing symphonic rock tracks.

"Into The Fire" is a Heart-like rocker with brilliant guitar work by Peer Verschuren and fascinating keys by Erik Norlander. "The Frozen Sea" is rather "heavy" with also lots of Ayreon-like riffs, melodies and an outstanding guitar solo. "Jessica" is a real power ballad with splendid vocal parts and in the middle a heavenly guitar solo. "Stepford, USA" is an up tempo symphonic rock song, retelling the story of the quiet rural town with a dark secret, remember the movie... "Save The World" is one of my personal Lana Lane's favs as it is a brilliant mid tempo powerful symphonic rocksong with heavenly melodies and in the middle a simply astonishing guitar solo!

However, Lana saves the absolute best for last as the almost 8 minute instrumental title track is filled with musical themes from each of the album's songs in an almost perfect way. As I already said before, this is Lana's best album ever and therfore a must for all fans of melodic rock with lots of symphonic influences, brilliant guitarwork and an amazing female rock voice.

WINGER: "Live"

Frontiers Records 2007
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 November 2007

Recorded during their 2007 US reunion tour, Winger offers their first live album ever. This always underrated band had a remarkable comeback with their new studio album "IV" and now you can enjoy Kip, Reb,Rod and John playing their asses off in Winger hits, great progressive jams and new material taken from their last album. The two CDs contain 19 songs and in almost every track the guitars of Reb Beach (ex-Dokken) and John Roth are truly dominating, as the numerous explosive guitar solos are a real treat for guitar freaks. Especially songs like: "Down Incognito", "Generica"(with a 4 minutes guitar orgasm), "You Are The Saint,I Am The Sinner" and "Headed For A Heartbreak", are brilliant rock guitar tracks with sheer outstanding guitarsolos.

Unfortunately, not everything is gold on this double live album as Rod's drum solo is really redundant and I also tend to skip the two acoustic tracks "Who's The One" and "Miles Away" on CD two. However, the old Winger songs stand the test of time without any doubt and I can really recommend this album, altough I like CD1 better than CD2. This is also due to the fact that CD2 contains an extremely boring bonus studio track called "Blue Suede Shoes". It is namely a 100% acoustic song with additional violin solo....... Listening tip: "Generica", an extravagant hard rock track with smashing guitar solos and speedy arpeggios!!

Winger website

KILPI: "Kuningas-DVD"

Killbee 2007
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
21 November 2007

I'll admit it, this one almost got away during all the hassle that has been going on in our household. Earlier this year Kilpi released their first live album, which was a decent piece of music indeed, and some weeks later they followed it with a visualized version, this DVD. What I wrote about the CD can be applied to the DVD, so I'll just repeat some of it:

"Vocalist Taage Laiho (also known from Altaria) is an excellent vocalist, and his performance on this album is superb. He reaches the high notes easily, yet there's just the right amount of "grit" in his vocals which would suggest that they haven't been tweaked afterwards. Furthermore, the other guys in the band do a tremendous job in filling the choruses with fine backing vocals. All in all, the whole band is on fire, with great guitar work from Pete and Alba and solid backbeat from Janne & new drummer Jussi. The keyboard work of Kukkis Kukkola takes the backseat on most of the songs, but it's still an important part of the band's sound. A well-known jazz musician Severi Pyysalo makes an appearance on a couple of tracks, playing vibraphone. It's an interesting concept, but not really a working one, in my opinion.

If you're interested in checking out this fine melodic metal band, this album is a great introduction to Kilpi. The Finnish lyrics may sound a bit odd to our readers abroad, but I'm sure that most of them would enjoy the music, which combines elements of 80'ies euro-metal á la Accept, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with their US counterparts such as Dokken and Van Halen."

The packaging of the DVD is very cool, glossy cardboard cover and the normal DVD case inside it, noyt to mention a booklet with stylish photos from Kari "Carda" Helenius, one of RockUnited.Com's photographers. The DVD was filmed last year at Down By The Laituri-festival in Turku, where the band played in a big tent. The athmosphere seemed to be very good, lots of people and most of them very much into the band. The actual concert footage is well-edited with no annoying MTV-styled ultra-fast cuts, the lights are good and we get some pyros too, so all in all this is a very enojyable live DVD.

The additional material contains a "Savuna Ilmaan 2007"-musicvideo which doesn't offer anything new to the concert material, and a documentary film which features nudity, bad language and stoopid behaviour. Whether that is a recommendation or a warning is up to you!

TWISTED SISTER: "A Twisted Christmas - Live"

Metal Heaven 2007
Review by Alan Holloway,
21st November 2007

Here’s a perfect present for your heavy metal loving grandmother – A Twisted Sister live show that contains all her seasonal favourites as well as liberal use of the word ‘fuck’. Filmed last December in new Jersey, "A Twisted Christmas" gives the viewer a glimpse of what life would be like if Bing Crosby had been a metal fan.

It’s not all snow and sleigh bells, mind. Of the fourteen songs in the show, half are Twisted Sister originals, with the likes of "I Wanna Rock", "We’re Not Gonna Take It" and "Burn In Hell" showing that TS are as good now as they have ever been in front of a live audience. On the other side of this twisted coin are rocked up versions of traditional tunes like "White Christmas" and "Silver Bells", as well as the single "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". Okay, so it may sound like a dodgy idea on paper, and I admit I didn’t like the "Twisted Christmas" studio album, but what we have here is a damned good live show. As it was actually filmed at Christmas time, the crowd and band are in a festive mood, with the carols mixing nicely with the metal. It helps that the bands performance is pretty faultless, further enlivened by some funny rants from Mister Sister himself.

Against all the odds, "A Twisted Christmas" is a cool DVD. I can’t see Saxon or Priest ever going this way, but there’s something about Twisted Sister that lets them get away with stuff like this. Well worth a look.

The SCREAMIN' LORDS: "Long Live Me" 7

Brannick 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
18 November 2007

The Screamin' Lords is a brand new project by former Agentz bassist/songwriter, Jose Ferro. "The simple concept for the band was to have a core group of high quality musicians, along with my personal favorite guest musicians to appear on a CD," says Jose. Guest solo guitarist are well known names such as: George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob), Gus G (Firewind, Dream Evil), Chris Poland (Megadeth), plus rhythm guitarist: Loren Molinare (Little Caesar).

He actually started out working with Robin McAuley (MSG, Grand Prix) as lead vocalist for the project. Not for long though as Robin got the 'Survivor' gig around the same time and went out on road with the 'Eye Of The Tiger' dudes. They managed to record one song before he left, "Gladrags & Limozenes", which is a fun and basic rock tune in the style of Quiet Riot vs. Autograph (think 'Slick Black Cadillac' vs. 'Blondes In Black Cars').

The "replacement" vocalist was/is none other than Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, MSG, Blue Murder, John Norum, Lynch Mob, etc). Ferro/Kelling co-wrote six of the tracks and the music took a slightly new direction towards a more "serious" approach. Well, not as 'perky' and 'party' as the McAuley tune. For instance, "Fire In The Blue Sky" is scary close to later days material by Glenn Hughes. "Halo" and "Evil" could just as easily have been the work of Dokken in the 90's and "Out Of Control" is Sammy Hager right down to the shoelaces.

Final verdict: solid stuff with a great production. May need several spins though and the actual refrains could be better. Check out samples at the site below.
Myspace site

SHADE: "One Way Line" 7

Rockcliffe Records 2007
Review by Alan Holloway,
22nd November 2007

Shade are named for, and feature, vocalist Emma Shade. She handily provides the band with a name and a visual hook, being the sort of sultry blonde thing that should guarantee a picture whenever the band is mentioned. At least on the cover her bandmates Simon Gardner and Andrew Moore get a look in, but as a focus Emma certainly hits the spot, and not only visually.

I tracked down this album after seeing some glowing words in a UK magazine, and was expecting some brilliant AOR masterpiece from the way the bloke was going on. What he neglected to mention was the fact that Shade are a Country Rock band, not a melodic rock band. Instead of Alexa, Saraya or Lana Lane, Shade lean more towards Jamie Kyle and Shania Twain. Then again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

“One Way Line” is so heavily comparable to Shania Twain that at times I found myself double checking what I was listening to. This is country music, people, with rock sensibilities laid over the top, meaning you get that lovely country twang but without all the mawkish shite about people's dogs dying and the like. If you want the recipe for Shade, you need the aforementioned Ms Twain and Ms Kyle, with a dash of Romeo's Daughter (remember them?) thrown in for good measure. The songs are unlikely to really get you going, as although they are certainly very likable the album lacks a killer song that would propel Shade to the big time. They come close a few times, with the title track, opener “It's All Right” and the catchy, upbeat “Waiting For You”, but I have a feeling that Shade will make their true mark with their next album.

The music on offer here is pretty harmless, and in many cases very good. Emma Shade has a great voice that should see her clawing some measure of success out of the industry one way or another, and I hope that she does it with this band, as they seem to function well as a unit, sharing writing duties with the boys doing a fine production job on top. “One Way Line” could have been run of the mill country rock without the talent involved, and as it is it's not a masterpiece but instead is a well crafted slice of the genre that should please anyone who likes this sort of thing.

AGENTZ: "Stick To Your Guns" [re-issue]

Brannick 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
20 November 2007

I had previously only heard a short segment of "Stick To Your Guns" and didn't recall or notice their lead vocalist. However, playing the disc a couple of times and came up with this conclusion: his work should only be recommended to the open minded people. Don't get me wrong, he's never 'much' out of tune or anything, but he may sound out of place on the occasional track (the screams during "Take A Chance Of Love" are truly awful).

Agentz were formed in 1984 by bassist Jose Ferro in the autumn of 1984. He recruited ex-Savatage member Pat Dubs as lead vocalist for the project and released their one and only album in 1987 (record label in France actually). This is the first time, "Stick To The Guns", has been available on CD (other re-releases are bootlegs) and it's frankly put, super-catchy, Melodic Hardrock, with a vocalist that doesn't always match up to the excellent material.

Dubs sings at the very top of his lungs throughout the album and the rest of the band play a more "laidback" rock in the vein of: Icon, Fifth Angel, Teeze, and Q5. The overall vocals are raw and raunchy and while I don't mind the mix, I know many people will. However, the opening tracks are some of the catchiest 'underground' 80's Metal/Pop that you'll ever get to hear. In fact, no real collection is complete without "Stick To Your Guns", "Don't Tread On Me", "Time Will Tell", "Bite The Bullet", "Fire In The Heart" and "When The Axe Falls".

I'am madly in love with the titletrack and can't stop shouting along to the refrain. It's one of those songs that anyone from Dokken to Mötley Crue could have recorded back in the days (and yeah, I know the Crue song). Overall, not the best vocals, merely eight tracks (two of them are fillers), and not too original sound. Nontheless, I'd say you definitely need to check some of the songs at cdbaby or myspace (link below). It's catchy, corny, charmy (check out the marvelous keyboards during the refrain of 'Bite The Bullet'), 80's hairmetal at its best/worst.
Agentz Myspace site

VIXEN: "Live & Learn" 6

Demolition 2006
Review by Alan Holloway,
21st December 2007

I remember Vixen, all those years ago, and I genuinely liked them as a rock band with some great songs. That was seventeen years ago, with only one album between “Rev It Up” and “Live & Learn”, it's safe to say that many will have consigned Vixen to the 'I used to like' section of their memories.

The current line up only has founder member Jan Kuehnemund in common with the original, and as such shouldn't really be compared with them, but if you're gonna use the name you have to expect these comparisons, so it's tough, really.

With that said, “Live & Learn” isn't an album about to set the world on fire. The production is pretty weak, thrusting the vocals of Jenna Sanz-Agero into your face at the expense of the instruments. She's got a good enough voice, sure, but to be honest a little tweaking on it would have improved the album. It's cruel to compare, I know, but listening to this it's easy to miss Janet Gardner, who had a truly great, soaring voice. Sanz-Agero can sing, but in a lower register that doesn't give her the passion and power that Gardner could dredge up. The songs are better than I would have expected, with some real growers like “Anyway”, “Love Song” and the title track, and only a few duffers that should have been consigned to the bin. Then again, there's a great version of Suffragette City here. I get the feeling that a good production would have lifted this album above the average impression it carries on it's shoulders, but what we're stuck with is a disc that needs some more killer songs and much more TLC in the studio.

Vixen are back, and I know that they can cut it live (try out the new live CD for yourselves), but if they want to be a band that surpasses past glories they need to knuckle down and write some songs that will show people that 2007 Vixen is just as good as 1990 Vixen ever were. That, and sack producer Dennis MacKay.

ACTION: "Action" 5

Frontiers 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
21 November 2007

Straight to the point: simply remove the Mickey Mouse vocals out of Final Frontier and you'll basically end up with a second rate Action. Hardly any action at all really. It's one of those sugar-sweet AOR albums that reeks of vanity and disillusion. I can deal with the fact that some die-hard, blind-faith fans of the genre will enjoy some of the tunes. But it's simply too stereotyped and full of clichés to become interesting to the rest of us.

I've personally heard this a thousand times before and with better result I may add. It's not as much the 'been there, done that' factor, since it's difficult to come up with completely original tunes in the year of 2007. It's more like 'been there, done that, and they had way better songs to sing along to'. Yeah, the overall material is so stale, mate, (getit? stalemate, ehhh, nevermind.)

The best part about opener "Without Your Love" is the closing outro. "Someday" is a nice tune that will take you on a trip around the block and back home again (nothing fancy in other words). I can't even get past the titles as they all have important messages such as: "Destiny", "Forever", "Loveless", "Don't Leave Me Lonely", "Heaven Tonight", "Feel The Fire" and "Is It Love". Jesus Christ, do they have a special AOR dictionary where they all pull out the same titles over and over again?

Final verdict: inexcusable. However, "Cinderella" is a fun Scandi-sounding tune ('Dalton' or 'Fate' feeling here), and "Feel The Fire" will do just fine at high volume. Stale, mate... just plain stale.
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The CODEX: "The Codex" 5

Frontiers 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
18 November 2007

Ho hum... kind of predictable, huh? I saw this coming a million miles away (see our massive review archive). Give merely one songwriter a chance to record a bunch of albums and everything will eventually sound the same. Especially if they're all steeped in the exact same type of rock genre and formula.

I'm not even sure why Magnus Karlsson would try and record this kind of music over and over again? You need to smart and try a different kind of approach and angle to your songwriting. Now it's all a blur and almost impossible to seperate: Allen/Lande from The Codex to Last Tribe and Starbreaker and Tony O'Hora. Who did what and to whom? Beats me, I'm just trying to get out of this alive (Karlsson will probably go at me with a chainsaw and a dozen of more demo songs).

Then again, Thomas G:son (Masquerade) probably thinks the world of his Eurovision Song Contest material, even though everybody knows it's same old song every year (merely different lyrics). Then what about the actual Codex? Oh yeah... almost forgot to mention that it features Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire) on lead vocals. You will probably enjoy this if you fancy yet another slab of the 'exact(ly)' same kind of melodic metal as mentioned above. The new Allen/Lande will do just fine (better lead vocalists and material).

My advice to Mr.Songwriter: (not that he would ever care or bother) do try and write material for a different kind of music genre next time (nu-punk, pop, rock, sleaze, aor, thrash, speed, whatever) and strickly keep this kind of stuff to your Allen/Lande project. File under: deja vú.
Frontiers Myspace site

REVIEWS ADDED 21 November, 2007 (WEEK 47)

Lion Music 2007
Review by Martien Koolen,
12 November 2007

The new album of Swedish melodic rockers House Of Shakira is called "Retoxed" and it again features those typical HOS characteristics like: contagious musical hooks, lush vocals, lots of harmony singing and many singalong choruses. Some of the songs actually remind me of bands like Lillian Axe ("High Above"), Harem Scarem ("Angel Dancer"), Loverboy ("Turkish Nights") or even good old Soul Asylum ("Crazy But No Fool").

They even "copy" a Black Sabbath guitar riff - from the song "Sweet Leaf"- in the furthermore rather boring song "Gabon Viper". The second half of the album, starting with "High Above" is better anyway, as at least from there on you can enjoy some diversity and some musical expertise. "Bloodline", "High Above" and "Turkish Nights" are the best songs on the entire album. They are real pump rock tracks, featuring some sparkling guitar work and a few very addictive melodic passages and choruses.

If you already liked their 4 previous CDs then you can buy "Retoxed" without hesitating, if not then you should listen to the album very careffully before you decide to spend your money on House Of Shakira. Who came up with that horrible name anyway?

VENI DOMINE: "Tongues" 5

MCM 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 November 2007

I really do enjoy early Veni Domine. I thought they had a close to perfect blend of Sacred Warrior rock (that's sort of 'Queensryche' to you heathens) and Candlemass doom. High-pitch vocals by Fredrik Sjöholm, long multi-tempo songs and truly interesting arrangements, made them essential pieces in any doom/prog fan's CD collection.

They still have the magic touch to come up with truly inspiring tracks such as "The Bell Of A Thousand Years" and "The Rider Of The White Horse". The magical moments are sadly much further apart than in the past and it's almost like they're trying to hard to be too clever at times. Simplicity works just as well, you know, and therefore, "Tree Of Life", could merely be described as one long and painful experience at the dentist.

Torbjörn Weinesjö (guitars) is a showcase of more and more complex work for each new album. It sometimes sounds like he's trapped inside a web and desperately trying to get out of there before the spider return. Final verdict: not a poor album whatsoever, but clearly not always intended for the ones of us who enjoy a strong chorus part as well as complex structure.

WATERCLIME: "Imaginative" 4

Lion Music 2007
Review by Martien Koolen,
18 November 2007

Vintersorg's main man called Mr.V returns with his second album under the name Waterclime and again I must say that it is not my musical cup of tea. The keyboards dominate the sound on this CD and furthermore Mr.V tries to spice up Waterclime's music with jazz and folk influences. Organ, flute and mellotron are also very much 'present" on this rather difficult accessible album.

The 9 compositions are rather chaotic and the vocals are not really very impressive as they tend to be rather nasal and forced, especially in songs like "Vision Or Void" and "Body Migrated", the vocal parts even get on my bloody nerves. Sometimes songs like "Moonstream Portrait", "Sunset Morning" or "Vision Or Void" "try" to sound like Asia, Conspiracy, The Syn or Ricochet, but Waterclime never reaches that sort of musical level..

There is actually only one track that I could recommend and that is: "Starshine Theater", featuring a lot of keys, of course, a funky guitar riff, some rock passages and even a short distorded guitar solo. The other 8 songs are filled with keys, too much mediocre vocal parts, strange tempos and lots of other rather dull musical stuff. I think that Waterclime is anything but a progressive rock band and therefore this album will end up in the "give away" department very fast, sad but true for Mr.V.

Gary HUGHES: "Veritas" 4

Frontiers 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
13 November 2007

My first impression regarding to "Veritas": soft and gentle vocals by Gary Hughes as usual. Let's face it, it probably took one spin of "Out Of The Silence" in 1988 to decide upon which style to play and perform. He's been trying to record the perfect 'Dare' album ever since and never quite made it, I'm afraid. The early TEN albums were pretty darn close and overall fine though.

Second impression: muddy and poor sound quality. I'm still not sure what's going on at times as the production varies from pretty decent to unlistenable. Sure, the early Ten albums were never top notch for that matter. However, they certainly never came out sounding like 4-track demos of the mid-80's. It's hallow and sterile to the point of being pointless.

I've been saying for years that Gary desperately needs a producer (No, for god's sake... not a certain italian) and a co-writer. The first more than ever, however, I quite like the idea that he's going through a Billy Idol vs. Nik Kershaw phase on a couple of the tracks. "Synchronicity" is utterly horrible with annoying children vocals in the background. "All I Want Is You" is poor Whitesnake rock and "Strange" is frankly just... ehhh... strange. Highlight of the CD: "Wide Awake In Dreamland", this is simply put a perfect AOR ballad - goosebumps warning.

Final impression: can you getaway with murder (poor sound quality) and expect your fans to accept it??? Now that's the million dollar question of the day - it's really up to you to decide.

QUEENSRYCHE: "Take Cover" 4

Warner/Rhino 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
12 November 2007

Take Cover... run for cover... hell... run to the hills!!! Yep, it's Queensryche's turn to jump on last decades most popular bandwagon, cover albums. Yep again, I most certainly did enjoy the Northern Kings CD, however, there's like 100.007 crappy albums for each good one. "Take For Cover" is sadly not going to end up on anyone's best-of-year list

Geoff Tate says the album (Take Cover) gave the band a chance to releax and have some fun. During sound checks, Stone and Michael like to play 'name that riff' and sometimes the whole band joins in. That's really the way this album came together too. We got together and started playing songs to each other, and then we picked our favorites, end quote.

The album features Queensryche's distinctive arrangements of Pink Floyd's "Welcome To The Machine" (the opening track), and I honestly thought (for a minute or four) this is going to be a pretty cool listening experience. The feel-good moment didn't last long as the following five tracks are some of the worst covers as of lately. Poor re-takes of: "Heaven On Their Minds" (Jesus Christ Superstar), "Almost Cut My Hair" (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), "For What It's Worth" (Buffalo Springfield)", "For The Love Of Money" (The O'Jays) and "Innuendo" (Queen), are enough to destroy the rest of your day. They were all pretty crappy tunes to begin with and they've even managed to mess-up the excellent mood of "Innuendo".

"Neon Knights" (Black Sabbath) is too close to its original... I don't see the point with Queensryche version??? I do enjoy their versions of: "Synchronicity II" (The Police) and "Red Rain" (Peter Gabriel), especially the latter is a superb approach in a unexpected direction. It's sadly all too little, too late. Not exactly the best selection of covers for that matter.

FUORIUSO: "Black Signs" 3

SPP 2007
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
14 November 2007

Tempo Fuoriuso? Reading quickly through the info-sheet and you'll noticed their music to have been described as street metal. However, listening to their debut CD, "Black Signs", you'll quickly understand that it's just another dodgy glam/sleaze act.

The major problem with this Italian quartet (apart from their average songmaterial) is their constant abuse and overdose of the F-word. Now, I don't see anything remotely wrong in using the "F-word" on the occasional place to really push the story forward and to the edge. But to include it on every goddamn line is frankly just a sign of poor craftmanship and really poor lyrics.

They're opening up the CD with "Sexy Teens (The Ecstasy)" and yes, the lyrics are exactly as bad as the title may suggest. They've also managed to rip off The Sweet and "Ballroom Blitz" on the main guitar riff and intro. "Danger In The City" have a refrain the goes: 'danger in the city, you mother f**kers'. Oh dear, not to mention the following track, "F.T.W.", where the clever boys sings: 'f**k the world, i'm gonna f**k the world'. That's it, I'm done with the Fuoriuso. Be my guest if you fancy a poor man's version of Tigertailz with lyrics that any 11 year old rebel would have been proud of.


previous reviews of 2007

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