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.
Note to labels, promoters etc: Please do not bother sending us CD's with voiceovers. We will not review them. If you want us to review your product, please send us the product, not some inferior version of it!
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.
Note to labels, promoters etc: Please do not bother sending us CD's with voiceovers. We will not review them. If you want us to review your product, please send us the product, not some inferior version of it!
|REVIEWS ADDED 27 June, 2009
THE MORNING AFTER: "You Can't Hurt Steel" 7
Rising Records 2009
I was so prepared to dislike this, you know. The Morning After are a bunch of Essex kids that pose in Stryper, Maiden and Queen t-shirts to show us just how much they like all that old stuff. They sing songs about Science Fiction and their publicity describes their music as being ‘Foot on the wedge’ hair metal, which made me want to go out and punch a kitten.
So I was quite smug when I realised that ‘You Can’t Hurt Steel’ seemed to be exactly what I expected - old school copycat guff with a vocalist who can’t decide whether he’s a singer or a shouter. I assume it’s the same guy, as there’s not a lot of info, but there’s some good old school metal high pitched singing, almost always ruined by a grunting counterbalance that just doesn’t work. The thing is, I listened to the album again and found myself having a good time. Except when the death grunts came on, of course, but apart from that I found myself really getting into it. I even went to MySpace and realised that the offending grunter is probably bassist Jay Bude, and if so he should have a fat hamster wedged in his mouth in future and stick to the bass.
With the singing and the grunting, not to mention some melodic guitar and catchy choruses, it’s all a bit Bullet For My Valentine, but I’d really rather listen to The Morning After, purely because when they stick to melodic metal they do an incredibly good job. Sam Ryder is a very good vocalist, the rest of the band are extremely tight, and they have some killer songs that bring to mind classic Maiden and (for me) Sum 41’s spoof band Pain For Pleasure. All I can do is implore them, if they read this, to cut out the grunting, as it seems forced and doesn’t fit in with what they are doing. Once that is sorted I could even become a proper fan of the band, so here’s hoping.
STEEL PANTHER: "Feel The Steel" 6
Jesus, where do you start? About a month ago someone pointed out Steel Panther to me and I chortled along to their “Death To All But Metal” video along with everyone else. Mind you, I didn’t go back and watch it over and over again, which sort of tells you why I haven’t slobbered all over the album like some others have.
For those who have been sharing a was basin with Bin Laden for the first half of 2009, Steel Panther are a spoof hair metal band, the Motley Crue version of Tenacious D, if you will. This is Cock Rock with it’s cock proudly waving in the breeze and winking at your girlfriend. Musically, it’s scarily good at times, with some very well written hair metal tunes and catchy choruses that you will be embarrassed to sing along to most of the time. Half the songs here could easily have come from established, successful bands, such as the “Is This Love” influenced “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)”, which has some pant wettingly funny lyrics, as do most of the songs. So I can’t deny the quality of the songs, or the quality of the lyrics, so why has this album not got a great score? Let’s find out…
When it all comes down to it, Steel Panther are a spoof band. They are the Weird Al Yankokics of heavy metal, the best at what they do by a country mile. Whilst you sing along to the choruses you have a strange feeling that everyone is laughing at you, including the band. When Ralph Saenz (LA Guns) throws his superb voice at lyrics such as “I didn’t screw her, that’s the truth, but I ate that vagina through and through” (“Eatin ain’t Cheatin“) he sounds like man having fun and earning a few bucks, but if you sing it you just sound like a twat. There’s also the problem of having thirteen tracks, all of which try to shock and amuse, and after half of them you’ll just want to put on an old Y & T album or something, as there’s only so much smug, aren’t we hilarious cock rocking you can stand in one sitting. Mind you, the Bon Jovi spoof “Party All Day” must be fun to sing along with live, if only for the chorus that must have Kiss wishing they’d had the balls to do it.
So, Steel Panther are good, funny and talented, but like any spoof band out to be filthy and stooped, it’s not an album that will be wrenched out of your collection over and over again, and can’t really hold it’s head erect alongside the real deal in a fair fight. Hehehe…I said ‘erect’…
HEARTLYNE: "No Retreat No Surrender" 5
a href="http://www.yesterrock.com" target=blank">Yesterrock 2009
During the late eighties, Heartlyne were creating a buzz in their hometown of Berlin. They won a big band competition and attracted a lot of fans to their shows, but their story ended prematurely before they managed to release anything. Vocalist Tommy Heart went on to V2 and later to Zeno and Fair Warning, while the other members scattered all over the country to bands like She's China and Skew Siskin. A few years ago the paths of Heart and guitarist Chris Lyne (get the name?) crossed again and they formed Soul Doctor. Before all Soul Doctor fans get all worked up, I must tell you that despite the same personnel, Heartlyne played more AOR-styled music with plenty of parping keyboards and sugarsweet melodies. They don't sound that much like Fair Warning either.
I'm afraid that the songs haven't really aged too well either. The opening track "Starlight" is probably the best of the bunch, an airy summertime AOR track. It's actually featured twice on the album, in two slightly different versions. The title track is pretty good too, as is "Broken Promises", but the others aren't much to shout about. Take "Don't Walk Away" for instance - despite the tried'n trusted AOR cliches like an accapella intro and "dut-dut" keyboards the song just can not hold my interest too long.
A lost classic from the 80'ies this is not, but I guess die-hard fans of Tommy Heart's work will enjoy this. I did, even if for a song or three.
RENEGADE RIDE: "Dream Machine" 5
A band's name tends to build up an idea of the band's sound. In this case, I was almost sure that Renegade Ride would be playing Southern Rock and singing about Harley Davidsons on Route 66, wild cowgirls and whiskey. I was quite suprised when it turned out that they play grunge'ish, metallic rock and sing about soulless people and troubled lives. Oh well, an element of surprise isn't a bad thing.
Renegade Ride are a highly competent band and I have absolutely no complaints about the production or performances. Vocalist Jaska Latva-Pukkila has a good voice that reminds me of Ian Astbury of The Cult, and the guys backing him up are no slouches either. However, I'm not won over by their songs, which tend to be a bit repetitive and lacking in memorable melodies. Most of the songs have monotonous verses and even though the choruses are a little better, they can not save the songs from being ultimately a bit dull. I guess it's my own problem that I can't get into this 90'ies styled rock - I'm well aware that the pearljams and the likes sold truckloads of CDs with songs that aren't far from RR's material. So... recommended for those of you who find a mixture of grunge, The Cult and some Metallic riffs interesting. Surely a tight band, but not for me.
|REVIEWS ADDED 16 June, 2009
CHICKENFOOT: "Chickenfoot" 9
Ear Music 2009
Supergroup. There, I’ve said it now, so we’ve got it right out of the way. Chickenfoot is a supergroup, in as much as the four members have each been hugely successful previously, but it’s also four friends getting together to make some music. This band hasn’t been welded together by record company execs out for a quick buck, it’s more a group of guys who got together at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo and realised that they could form a band. Sure, that kind of thing is more suited perhaps to guys in their twenties, but take one listen to this and you will realise that the phrase “Age shall not wither them” could have been written purely because whoever wrote them knew that one day a band with a silly name would prove them to be true.
There may be some of you out there, hiding in caves, perhaps, who don’t know who Chickenfoot actually are. Well, you’ve got the aforementioned Sammy Hagar, and he’s joined by fellow Van Halen alumni Michael Anthony on bass (he also provides his unique backing vocals that add a VH flavouring all over the place). So far, so good, but add into the mix the pounding drums of Red Hot Chili Peppers man Chad Smith and things look even better. The real icing on this rock cake is the addition of one Joe Satriani on guitar, a man known for his solo work who at heart just wants to be part of a cool band. Well, Joe, they really don’t get much cooler than this.
But enough about all the dudes involved, there’s also some music here somewhere. If you’re after a shred filled guitar love in that has Satriani’s size nines stamped all over it then you’re in the wrong place, my friend. If you want the next Van Halen or Chili’s album then keep on walkin’ because this ain’t it. This, incredibly, is a Chickenfoot album. It’s a marvellous mixture of elements of Hagar, Halen, Chili’s and Satriani, that culminate in a sound as unique as you’re gonna get with Hagar’s trademark vocals on top. This is, above all, a rock album, and this is evident all the way through, with Satriani being allowed to fly free when he needs to, but held back if a good rhythm guitar suit’s the songs needs. Chickenfoot isn’t all about the solos, but by God there’s still several gut bustingly cool ones evident. Check out “Turnin’ Left” if you don’t believe me, a song that also sees Hagar screaming like he was back in Montrose.
With Hagar, Anthony and a guitar God in the group, there are Van Halen comparisons, sure. Musically, Chickenfoot is like a heavy mix of “5150” and “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, for me Hagar’s best VH efforts. As I’ve said, though, it’s more than that, but if those two albums float your boat you will get a hell of a launch from Chickenfoot. What this band adds to the VH base is a heavy layer of funk on several tracks plus the bonus of not having a record company on their back demanding something that drive time radio will play. I really have to mention the production here as well, because Andy Johns has done an absolutely perfect job here. The album should be a blueprint (along with Thunder’s “Backstreet Symphony”) for new producers, because this is how a rock album is supposed to sound, with each of the instruments (and I’m counting Hagar as an instrument here) in harmony with the others. Put simply, Chickenfoot is one of the best albums so far this year, rocking like there’s no tomorrow and doing it in pure style. Just don’t ask them about the silly name…
VINNIE MOORE: "To The Core" 9
Mascot Records 2009
Vinnie Moore's debut album "Mind's Eyes"(1987) is still his best guitar album ever, but with this thrilling new album called:"To The Core" Vinnie created another guitar gem. On this album Vinnie even used musical influences like R&B, Hip Hop, funk and some blues, but most of the songs are classic instrumental metal/rock guitar gems.
"Panic Attack" is filled with shredding passages and lots of dazzling, fast guitar solos, while "Transcendence" features Eastern-like melodies, lots of percussion and howling, high solos. "Soul Caravan" opens with a cool relaxed piano and bass guitar part and shines with breathtaking, highly mwelodic guitar solos. Unfortunately the saxophone solo spills this great song a tiny bit....
Second highlight is "Remorse", featuring a ballad-like melody and again some awesome solos from
Vinnie. "Into The Open Highway" opens with an acoustic part followed by a heavenly solo which reminds me of
another great guitar picker, namely: Joe Satriani.
What can I say, this is a brilliant album. Vinnie is "back" with a vengeance and this cd is a MUST
for guitar freaks!!
JORN: "Spirit Black" 9
Frontiers Records 2009
Super throat Jorn Lande is back with another fantastic album and he "proves" again that he belongs to the great super rock vocalists of all time. This album is filled with solid, heavy metal songs, featuring rather familiar riffs, hooks and melodies, but the songs are really brilliant so that you forget all about those heard it all before cliches....
His magical voice is of course an ode to super singers like David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio, but who the f.... cares about that when you hear great metal anthems like:"Rock And Roll Angel" or "World Gone Mad". "Road Of The Cross" is another classic metal gem with super vocals from Jorn. The Tarja Turunen cover of "I Walk Alone" is acceptable, altough it is the "weakest" song of the album.If you buy the limited edition you will be treated to the Thin Lizzy cover: "The Sun Goes Down".
If you like good old-fashioned metal with magical singing then "Spirit Black" would be the
obvious choice, and play at MAXIMUM volume!!
FIRENOTE: "s/t" 8
IVK Music 2009
It's kinda funny that back in the eighties, when the kind of melodic hard rock that Firenote play was big, there were hardly any worthwhile Finnish acts. Now, twenty years later, new bands pop up more or less frequently. Some of them can even crack the charts, like Brother Firetribe. BFT is one band that Firenote are bound to be compared to, thanks to their similar name and style, not to mention the similar'ish artwork. They are no copycats though: whereas BFT's music is rooted in AOR, Firenote has a more metallic vibe. Espcially vocalist Ricky's style is slightly teutonic, not a million miles from that of Axxis' Bernhard Weiss actually.
Firenote's debut has been produced by Erkka Korhonen, former guitarist of Urban Tale and nowadays a renowed producer. With his help, the band has created a very 80'ies like hard rock platter, which manages to sound contemporary as well. A special mention for the background vocals, they are top-notch.
Out of the 11 songs on the album, not everyone is a winner but when they get it right, they get it RIGHT. The first single "Danger" has some cool Yngwie-like touches and a deadly effective chorus. The band's tribute to a foxy celebrity cook Sara La Fountain is another gem. I just wonder what she'll think of this tune, Ricky proudly singing that he had a "chance to get between her thighs"... Well, it's just rock'n roll poetry, nothing that serious. Another pair of very good tracks can be found later in the tracklisting, namely the AOR stormer "Suddenly" and hard-rocking, catchy "Heartbreaker", which reminds me a bit of H.E.A.T.
On a few occasions, Ricky's vocal delivery is over the top. Take the chorus of "Don't Ever Fall In Love" for instance... a bit squeeky for my taste. What's more, some of the lyrics he has to sing are quite wordy, thus the vocal melodies do not flow naturally. Several Finnish bands have the same problem, possibly because our own language is so consonant-heavy and angular. Okay, now this review's getting a bit wordy too...
To sum it up, Firenote's first album is a good, well produced melodic hard rock album that should appeal to those who have enjoyed the likes of Brother Firetribe, H.E.A.T. and The Poodles recently, not to mention the ancestors like Europe, TNT and Axxis.
Paul GILBERT & Freddie NELSON: "United States" 8
Mascot Records 2009
Lovers of good guitar music are of course already familiar with Paul Gilbert since his Racer X and Mr.Big days. Later on he made a couple of great instrumental guitar albums that are all worth checking out if you are not familiar with them. "United States" is his newest album and it is a co-production with singer Freddie Nelson. Paul and Freddie both grew up around Pittsburgh and they share the same musical and cultural roots.
Nelson's voice sometimes reminds me of Freddy Mercury, especially in the lush vocal pop song "Paris Hilton Look-Alike". The first two songs on this album are also the heaviest ones, especially "Hideaway" features some stunning metal guitar work from Paul. The rest of the album however is a bit mediocre and I have heard better albums from Gilbert. Especially "Waste Of Time" and "Bad Times Good" - with a "My Woman From Tokyo"-riff - are rather sweet and poppy. "Pulsar" is another soaring rock/metal song with a great howling guitar solo.
This album is a collection of songs with lots of influences from the seventies. If you listen
very carefully you will hear passages of The Free, Queen, Pat Travers and Cheap Trick.
So, in short, "United States" is a melodic, grooving, easy accessible cd for all rock fans.
PRAYING MANTIS: "Sanctuary" 8
Well here’s a surprise - when I saw Praying mantis last year I wasn’t really that impressed, so when I was asked to review “Sanctuary” I expected a NWOBHM flavoured slice of average pie. What Praying Mantis have delivered is a very nice AOR album that could just see them reinvented as a growing concern in the melodic rock scene. I know - who would have thought it?
The main reason for this change in direction seems to be vocalist Mike Freeland, who has a great, pitch perfect voice in the higher register, almost reaching Steve Perry territory during the chorus during the appropriately named “So High”. Let’s not forget the rest of the band here, as the playing on “Sanctuary” is exemplary, including some really nice guitar work from Andy Burgess and founder member Tino Troy. Troy’s brother Chris, who plays bass, has written some great songs here, and as a result, “Sanctuary” can hold it’s head up amongst many of the better melodic rock albums out there today.
If you like a good dose of Journey or Boston then this is an album that should really appeal to you, although Praying Mantis still manage to keep a good dose of their own identity. When “Sanctuary” works, it works very well indeed, and I have to recommend it to any and all fans of quality melodic rock out there.
VIP: "Maasta Olet Tullut" 7
Maanalainen Levykauppa 2009
Finnish Christian Metal band have been around for a few years, but this is my first encounter with them. Their metal reminds me a lot of Sonata Arctica - somewhat technical and complex, yet armed with decent hooks. They use "cookie monster vocals" every now and then, but only as a special effect, and that actually works sometimes.
The album kicks off with "Tämä Malja", one of the band's less impressive moments. The ultra-fast chorus sounds almost like a parody of Christian Metal - "let's take the lyrics from the bible and then play like Dragonforce!". But thankfully the next three songs are much better, all boasting good melodies and down-to-earth lyrics about painful subjects. I like the band's lyrical approach - they seem to deal with real-life situations and don't have the wide-eyed, naive ideology of some other Christian acts.
The remaining tracks contain a couple of rather thrashy songs which don't really appeal to me, but otherwise it's solid melodic metal, well performed and produced.
SACTION-X: "The Last Day" 6
Metal Heaven 2009
Recently, I went all loopy for the new album by Lion’s Share, mainly because it took me back to the days when Dio was king and he made music that actually had some serious bite to it. Sanction-X have now come along by way of Germany and are having a good stab at the same sort of thing, and it’s always nice to listen to good, traditional metal, as even when it’s not great there’s usually something to enjoy.
According to their blurb, Sanction-X stand for “Melodic Metal with a dramatical and classical touch”, and I suppose that’s fair enough, although they’re not exactly Queensryche or S.I.N when it comes to drama. Their songs are pretty strong, and there’s certainly a good dose of melody in their metal, meaning you can have a good old headbang if that’s your thing, or just sit back and enjoy the tunes. Ebby Paduch sings with a certain passion, and has a voice similar to Mr Dio, if not quite in the same league. He certainly does himself proud, anyway, and is well backed up by a good production that reminds you that this sort of thing is supposed to be enjoyed at loud volumes.
Sanction-X have only been around for a year or so, and should be congratulated for coming up with a good, if sometimes ploddy, album of traditional style metal. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot, but is still a good listen, so you could do worse than check them out for yourself.
UFO: "The Visitor" 6
It’s a case of forty years and twenty albums for UFO, who amazingly have three of the original members still kicking about with the band (although bassist Pete Way was unable to play on this album due to illness). This is the third (I think) with guitarist Vinnie Moore, a man who came to my attention twenty years ago with his widdle-tastic “Time Odyssey” album. Add to this keyboard player Paul Raymond, himself a member for over thirty years, and you have a band that, guitarists aside, have stuck together pretty well in one way or another.
Musically, UFO have never really pushed any metaphorical boats out, with most of their albums showcasing competent, if unspectacular bluesy rock. “The Visitor” is no exception, with plenty of tunes to keep the long term fan happy, although nothing that’s going to make non fans change their mind anytime soon. There’s a bit of blues experimentation this time round, with the laid back “Forsaken” which works pretty well, plus a good number of traditional UFO rockers like “Can’t Buy A Thrill”, and even a bit of honky tonk on “Villains & Theives”, a track that would suit The Rolling Stones but works equally well with Phil Mogg’s distinctive vocals.
I suppose the main problem I have with “The Visitor” is that it never quite manages to move me. Sure, it’s all well played, and the songs are pretty good, but there’s nothing that leaps out and grabs the listener. Maybe it’s a bit UFO by numbers, but that can still be an improvement over many other bands these days. Suffice to say if you are a UFO fan then this should be right up your street, but for the non enthusiast like myself it’s just another good album.
BITCHFIRE: "Bitchfire" 4
Surely life’s too short for this? Bitchfire are from Florida and like to describe themselves as “Whitesnake meets Lita Ford”. Now, as descriptions go that’s certainly enough to get me interested, but the cover (one of the worst since The Great Kat) made me think that this wasn’t gonna be an album that I’d want to hear too many times. You shouldn’t judge a CD by it’s cover, I know, but Bitchfire’s cover made me think that the album would be average classic rock that thinks it’s way better than it really is. Okay, so maybe you can judge a CD by it’s cover after all.
Bitchfire’s big selling point is vocalist Sharyn Peach, whose talents seem to include dressing sexily and possession of an average singing voice. She’s okay, but nothing special, you know? The rest of the band seem to know what they’re doing as well, but the music is just painfully average and not once did it make me sit up and take notice. I’m sure it’s all a lot of saucy fun seeing them in a Florida bar, but it’s unlikely that Bitchfire will ever be good enough to do any better than that. File under M for “Meh”.
|REVIEWS ADDED 31 May, 2009
CRASH STREET KIDS: "Transatlantic Suicide" 9
Bombastic, pompous, theathrical, catchy, slightly corny, perfect, glam/sleaze rock is the order of the day. To be completely honest... I sort of expected the worst to come out of this platter. You know, a monicker such as Crash Street Kids and the shocking title of "Transatlantic Suicide", doesn't exactly give you any good vibes whatsoever. Like, Crash Street Kids, that's the best name you came up with??? Geeez... bands should never be allowed to use any of those words in the first place.
So, after a few harsh words and years for that matter, the Kids have gone for the theathrical and recorded the third and final installment of 'the kids trilogy' were we learn more about the main character. Geez... it's just yet another thing to complain about really. It's supposed to be some kind of glam/concept album, but the story is kinda 'out there' and there's no real need to pay any further attention to the plot (there's a plot?). One thing's for sure, it's a monster album with one hit after the other!!!
The music is really something else and especially if you're into acts such as: Enuff Z'Nuff, Big Bang Babies, David Bowie (early 70's), Cheap Trick, Moot The Hoople, Queen, etc. You know, you could actually compare this to My Chemical Romance and their "The Black Parade". Now, hold your horses, it's not quite the same, however, it's definitely the same kind of influences, it's just that MCR are more up-to-date and modern. It's the other side of the same coin if you get my drift? The orchestral arrangements are just perfect throughout the CD and you'll end up with goosebumps on more than one occasion. Vocalist Ryan McKay have THE perfect emotional attitude and approach for this kind of music and why these guys are not huge rockstars goes way over my head.
Track by track, opener, "The Engeneers" is so fragile and mindblowing at first that you'll keep searching for mistakes that are simply not there to be found. It starts off slow and upbuilding with a psychedelic The Beatles approach before it explodes into Glam-Rock heaven with a hook that goes along the lines of 'rock and roller, mind controller, bend me into 1975'. Unbelievable. I'am stunned and amazed by the opener and track two, "Do You Still Believe In Rock And Roll", knocked me down to the ground for good. "Cigarettes & Starf*ckers" dates all the way back to the sound of The Faces and Rod Stewart, Ziggy Stardust, or if you prefer, early Quireboys. "I Disappear" is the best mix of Big Bang Babies and David Bowie, you'll ever get to hear. "Destroyer" is The Stooges on a night out with Pretty Boy Floyd. "The Zero" is the only song which I could not get into - average Enuff Z'nuff stuff. "We Kill Tomorrows" is great Enuff Z'nuff stuff though. "Berlin" is slightly corny and dramatic rock which will have you thinking about MCR's 'The Black Parade'. It's obviously The Beatles in the very back of the soundpicture. "Dressed In White" is a four-part, +9 minute song, "Saturn's Child" is psychedlic Beatles mixed with Dear Mr President (the song: Who Killed Santa Claus) and with the closing track, "The Kid Is Dead", Crash Street Kids goes out with a bang. The bottomline: check out this CD or end up bitter for missing out on perfect glitter. Highly recommended!
OOH LA LA: "Free AT Last" 9
Bad Reputation 2009
Now this was an unexpected treat, mostly because I didn’t think I’d enjoy anything a band called Ooh La La would put out. I had visions of poor mans glam metal played by a bunch of Aussies in stilettos, but what came out was some of the best blues rock I’ve heard in a long while.
Although the band is only two years old, I’m not sure how long this debut album has been around, although it is just getting a European release about now, hence the review. Now I can take or leave blues for the most part. I’m the sort of guy who enjoyed Gary Moore’s inaugural blooze workouts, but soon got bored. I like The Black Crowes, but haven’t bought an album by them for a decade now. You get the idea here - for me to sit up and enjoy a blues album it has to have a real good kick to it, and “Free At Last” kicks like a steroid pumped mule.
It’s not that Ooh La La do anything particularly revolutionary here, but what they do they do extremely well. This is blues that mixes the laid back southern attitude of The Black Crowes with the pace and excitement of The Answer. The songs are fast paced, each one challenging you not to jig along. I just love it when an album makes me move my feet and my head (even making me stand up and boogie) on the first listen, and this one had me twitching like an epileptic with added tourettes. If you want to know where all the good high energy blues disappeared to, it seems it all went to Australia to enjoy a bit of sun and surf. An absolute cracker of an album, so pull on your dancing trousers and enjoy a bit of Ooh La La today.
FAITHFULL: "Light This City" 8
Perris Records 2009
Those of you with a long memory may remember Wally giving Faithfull the ultimate accolade of “1 hour of uplifting hairmetal with goofy lyrics and catchy, kick-ass, music” back in early 2004. Well, it’s five years later and this pleasant slice of Portugese melodic rock has got a re-release, thanks to Perris records.
“Light This City” is aimed squarely at fans of Bon Jovi, Johnny Lima and the rest, containing melodic pop rock that your Mum would like, sung and played cleanly and inoffensively. Even though it’s nothing remotely new, Faithfull make a purchase worth anyone’s while by delivering some very good quality stuff, with only a couple of tracks raising a mark on the snooze meter. Sergio Sabino is a talented vocalist in the Bon Jovi-Lite vein, and the rest of the band don’t put a foot wrong. The whole thing is very professional and polished, and it’s just one of those albums that it’s very hard to criticize.
If you, like me, enjoy quality melodic rock, then “Light this City” is well worth a visit. It contains two bonus tracks over the original, but I’m doubting this will cause many to re buy the album. Basically, if you don’t have it and you love a good bit of hair rock then you could do a lot worse than pick up this album.
KORITNI: "Game Of Fools" 8
Bad Reputation 2009
Koritni are a new one on me, but by all accounts their debut album “Lady Luck” caused some sizable ripples in 2007. Whilst fellow Aussies Airbourne have taken the rock world by the scruff of the neck, Koritni seem to have been skipped over by the general public, an oversight that “Game Of Fools” may go some way to correcting.
Although some songs share traits with Airbourne or in some cases AC/DC (“155“), it’s a loose and lazy comparison at best. Koritni take elements of these bands, sure, but to that you can add the likes of The Answer, Aerosmith (“Stab In The Back”) and lesser known brit stompers The Black Velvets. As recipes go, this one unsurprisingly cooks up a tasty treat of thirteen healthily paced blues and boogie tinged rockers, each with a nice hook and some catchy guitars to boot. The whole thing is expertly produced, in part thanks to Simon Fraser, with each instrument perfectly balanced. Lex Koritni himself (which explains the odd band name) is possessed with a superb set of pipes, a smooth mix of Steven Tyler and Airbourne’s Joel O’Keeffe, and he keeps the whole thing together with ease.
It’s always a nice surprise to find an album like this, stuffed full of cool songs, well played, well produced and even with a well drawn cover (Mark Wilkinson for that art fans out there). There’s no major label backing behind Koritni, but all it would take is some word of mouth about what a cool band this is to get them to visit our fair shores, because I have a feeling they would be a fantastic live band. Koritni don’t reinvent the wheel here, but they certainly stick some groovy hubcaps on it.
BLACK WATER RISING: "Black Water Rising" 8
Unsigned, independent, really??? Surely this must be some kind of mistake? The Brooklyn/USA quartet consisting of Rob Traynor (vocals/guitar), Johhny Fattoruso (guitar), Oddie McLaughlin (bass) and Mike Meselsohn (drums), are according to this CD truly professionals like any metal outfit with a major record contract. Nah, they're probably better than most of them.
The music? call it hardrock/metal/stoner, whatever you label them, the fact remains that Black Water Rising have all the important ingredients to become one of your new favorite bands. They have a huge, friggin' sound that ploughs through the loud speakers creating some lovely sonic overtures. Their only downside? not the most original sounding record of lately, however, power vocals, utter heaviness and melody are the key elements here.
They could probably be best described as a mix of Soundgarden, Trouble, Corrosion Of Conformity, and merely a hint of King's X during their 'Dogman' period. Opening track, "The Mirror", sets the pace and standard of the entrie CD. Ultra-heavy bass-lines and drums in the tradition of Soundgarden, you'll quickly notice how every track goes for the jugular as they're pulling out some marvelous riffs. "Brother Go On" is as pretty as a cut-throat killer, splatter-splatter all over the place and you'll soon end up dead on the floor. "Hate-Machine" is the best song Trouble never recorded and, "Black Bleeds Through", will seriously have you thinking about some kind of doom/stoner armageddon. Yes, every now and then, you'll get a strange feeling of deja vú as this will most certainly remind you of previous acts and songs. But it's just so professionally done and executed that none of us will give a damn in the end. Recommended!.
XXX: "Heaven, Hell Or Hollywood" 7
Perris Records 2009
The first thing that struck me about XXX’s debut album was the cool comic book style cover from renowned Marvel artist Al Rio (give him a Google). Second was the warning on the back that reads “This album contains no glorified suicide messages to slit your wrists to - just pure happiness - enjoy!”. It would have been such a shame if the music had been shit, but thankfully XXX are a welcome addition to the glam rock scene.
“Heaven, Hell Or Hollywood” is a pretty happy album all around, with the Swedish threesome doling out some very catchy riffs and choruses that grab straight from the first spin. Some of the vocals are a bit off for my taste, to be honest, but generally everything works like it should, with the songs a mix of classic punk (“It’s Suicide”) LA Glam (“We‘re Gonna Rock”) and genuine cock rock (“So Fuxxxing You”). There’s also a fantastic version of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” that works very well.
This isn’t a perfect album, and could do with a few more kick ass tunes than it has, but what it does have is a lot of heart and a great sense of fun about it. When XXX get it right you can see them gaining a big following amongst the hairspray and make up crowd. If you like Wig Wam and all that sort of thing, give XXX a try.
FURY UK: "V.R" 7
Rocksector Records 2009
It’s always a tricky thing, looking forward to an album. I saw Fury UK support Blaze Bayley recently, and their electrifying performance made me want to hear their upcoming album. Little did I realise that it was already nestling in my “To Do” pile (which at times touches the frakkin’ ceiling), so I got a nice sneak preview of a band that may one day become a part of the British metal map.
I say “One day” because Fury UK aren’t quite ready to take on the world just yet. “V.R” certainly does a good job of showing what they’re made of, throwing big, fuck off riffs all over the place and backing them up with some top class guitar solos. Their influences are worn pretty much on their ragged sleeves, with hints of Iron Maiden, Megadeth and old school Metallica creeping in all over the place. Despite this, they manage to retain their own personality, with the songs changing tempo and mood enough to stop any lethargy setting in.
There’s some great tracks here, mostly with a decent, fast pace that carries the listener interested. Band leader Chris Appleton provides some very nifty guitar, both rhythm and solos, but his vocals don’t really come across as anything special on the CD. As he is such a talented guitarist, it would be nice to see him freed up to fully play the six string whilst a dedicated frontman beefs up the songs a little. Evidence of his guitar playing prowess is most evident on the 8 minute Metallicaesque closer “Death By Lightning”, for me the best track on the album (I played it 6 times in a row the first time round) and a guaranteed live audience pleaser.
I can’t help but like Fury UK’s obvious talent and passion for their music, and it doesn’t hurt that there are some very nice tracks on display here. The production could certainly be heavier, but for an independent release it does the job well enough. When it shines, it really soars, but I have a feeling that there's better to come from Fury Uk, and I for one look forward to hearing it.
BAD MOUTH: "Bad Mouth" 6
Hmmm... it clearly reads 'produced by Paul Sabu' on the backcover. Naturally, this must be some kind of sappy AOR platter from the states. Nope, it's sleaze rock from Sweden (the capitol of this kind of music nowadays) and we're all supposed to like them. After all, they're Swedes just like Backyard Babies, meatballs, smorgasbord, volvo, ikea, and ABBA, it's all very cozy and ...ehhh... safe. Too safe in my opinion and especially considering their more than ordinary 'sleaze' sound.
Bad Mouth may indeed have rhythm in their stride, gasoline in their blood, and vinegar, ehh, nevermind. Yeah? So do a thousand of other bands including the ones at your local bar. It's pretty straight-forward, four chords, Backstreet Babies vs. AC/DC, kind of music. Nothing new under the sun and seriously, how many songs featuring the words "Dance Little Sister" does a hardrock fan need before it's enough?
Songs like, "Pedal To The Metal" and "Kick It Up" are undoubtedly fun and easy-going in the vein of above mentioned acts. Loud gang-vocals and crashing guitars are just solid but not spectacular sound effects, but it's all very familiar and ehh... safe. It's merely a shame that vocalist Tom Pearson is blessed with one of those voices which you'll either love or... ehh.. not. Try imagine a cat-in-heat mixed with Axl Rose and you're pretty close to the core. Final verdict: too lieghweight in the long run, but you can't go entirely wrong here if you fancy another slice of pie á la acca dacca vs. backstreet babies.
MAGNUM: "In The Valley Of The Moonking" 6
I can’t help but get a little chill whenever a new Magnum album comes out. Studio album number 14 was no different, and it’s nice to see another Rodney Matthews cover following on from his excellent “Princess Alice & the Broken Arrow” work. The album is going to be available with a bonus DVD, but unfortunately all I have to work with here is the basic music with no inlay or anything else, and with a band like Magnum that’s a shame, as much like Iron Maiden it’s the whole package that counts.
So, the music. Well, it’s a Magnum album, and despite claims that Tony Clarkin has got out his blues guitar and done “New and exciting” things, that’s not what I’d have said, and I’ve probably listened to it at least a dozen times now. “Into The Valley Of The Moonking” is very much an album of two personalities, with some great, mid to fast paced songs and some tiresome slow ones. I hate to say it, but there seems to be a real lack of atmosphere at times, like on opening track “Cry To Yourself”, a track that ambles along like “When We Were Younger”s poor relative. This is emphasized by the following track “All My Bridges”, which feels like a classic Magnum rocker through and through. Following that, “Take Me To The Edge” turns up the rocking dial a notch or two and is a track that should do very well live. On the flip side, tracks like “The Moon King” and “In My Minds Eye” just don’t stick in my head at all, no matter how many times I listen to them. They’re well played, sure, with some nice touches, but ultimately don’t have that spark.
So it’s really a mixed bag here, with some great Magnum moments offset by some average songs that just don’t cut the mustard. Understand that I am writing this as a massive Magnum fan, so it pains me to say that “Into The Valley Of The Moonking” pales in comparison to “Princess Alice…”, whilst those looking for something to rival the bands glory years, or even Catley’s solo efforts, will be disappointed.
LUMINA POLARIS: "Vastaisku" 6
Maanalainen Levykauppa 2009
Armed with three guitarists, Lumina Polaris are trying to break into the big league of Finnish Christian Metal (if such a thing exists...). Apart from the triple-axe attack, they also have a good vocalist and a strong rhythm section, not to mention a handful of decent songs. Their sound lies somewhere close to that of KILPI, maybe with a bit more modern vibe. Vocalist Oula Siipola is certainly a deadringer to Taage Laiho of Kilpi vocally.
"Vastaisku" (that's "counterstrike" in english) contains 11 songs, out of which I have trouble choosing any highlights. Each one of them has their moments, but at the same time, they sound pretty much alike and blend into each other. I've played this album a few times, yet the choruses and the melodies haven't made much of an impression. So, I have no other choice than to grant the album a rather unmemorable rating - not bad at all, but not the kind of music I'll end up playing on my "free time". Still, I'd advice you to check this out if you're a big fan of the heavier side of Kilpi or Trio Niskalaukaus and a little bit of message doesn't bother you. You might be positively surprised.
CIRKUS: "Let The Madness Begin" 5
You know it's summertime when the cirkus comes to town. Let's see if we can find all the animals, the trapeze artistes, the.... what? merely bozos??? sigh, ok, send in the clowns, I repeat, send in the clowns!!! That's probably too harsh and too excessive use of negative thinking, especially since these lads are hardly a bunch of Ronald McDonalds'.
They do however come from that strange breed of folks who, if image and artists names and are anything to go by, spend most of their leasure time going through old rock mags from the eighties. Cirkus is yet another glam/sleaze from Sweden and they just keep coming ever since the success of the first Crashdiet CD in 2005. Cirkus have the attitude and energy of a young-ish act, reading through the booklet, you'll find the usual 'special thanks', but also a 'fuck you very much' list. Ha, ha, now that's frankly just cool, GMR music gets a f-u, excellent, they are a bunch of tw*ts, you know.
They have some good things going for them. Roux'd is a clear, hi-pitched kind of vocalist, although he's never too annoying or over-the-top. Also, guitarist Snetan (huh?) knows how to deliver a fair amount of wicked riffs. Soundwise, they are more Faster Pussycat vs. Hanoi Rocks than say, Mötley Crue and Poison. They've even managed to get Chris Tsangarides (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc) as their mixing engineer but the result is still kind of tin-can-ish. They've already toured US and Hollywood, playing at famous venues as The Cat Club, Whiskey A Go Go, etc. Kudos to the band and all the best. I still find this to be second-rate sleaze though. It's all about the songs and I don't find them all too interesting really. The cover of T-Rex's "Get It On" is rather pointless too.
SHORTINO: "Chasing My Dream" 5
Metal Heaven 2009
I've always thought that Paul Shortino is a fine singer, but the material he's been involved with hasn't always struck a chord with me. Rough Cutt had its' moments, the one Quiet Riot album he sang on contained a few real gems and who can forget his contribution to the Hear'n Aid song "Stars"? His latter output hasn't really made any kind of impact on me, and I'm afraid that this album doesn't do it either.
On "Chasing My Dream", Shortino has teamed up with German producer/songwriter Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova, Bonfire). Thanks to Voss' expertise, the album sounds good; powerful and up-to-date. The musicians on the album are from the German hard rock scene, including members of Mad Max, Jaded Heart, K2 and Biss. Despite all this, I can only describe this album as a disappoinment, because the songs just aren't there.
I don't know what happened, but apparently Voss and Shortino forgot to write any choruses worth mentioning. A few of the songs start with a lot of promise ("Remember You", "Great Dreamer"), yet fail to deliver the hooks. The most memorable song is the old Voss-penned Bonfire track "Take My Heart And Run", even though this laid-back version of it lacks the athmosphere of the original. Shortino's soulful vocals save most songs of being totally forgettable, but still... I don't think that this album will get many spins in my household, now that I'm done with the review.
BY BLOOD ALONE: "Seas Of Blood" 5
Jericho Rec 2009
By Blood Alone - the posh version of female fronted goth rock? Well, posh is clearly not the entire issue rather than experimental and slightly more towards the sounds of celtic (and) folk-music. And seriously, how can you not end up fascinated by a stunning female vocalist that goes under the name of Cruella. Wicked!!!
Unfortunately, the vocals are not quite up to pair with the rest of her persona. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing 'wrong' about them, the material would however have come more alive if the singer had more range and attitude. The most important thing is that By Blood Alone have something else to offer than your average, After Forever, Nightwish, Epica, etc, wannabees. What they bring to the table is something else besides bangers and mash. Think Maggie Reilly on a date with Skyclad and you get this five-piece progressive band from Portland Maine.
You'll also get a rather complex songwriting and some gothic grandeur. Sadly, the overall material never quite grabs you by the throat and it doesn't reach the emotional depth so badly needed when it comes to this kind of music (or any music for that matter). The titletrack is however a small masterpiece with lushy keyboards and grand piano work by Jenny Williamson.
|REVIEWS ADDED 21 May, 2009
BLIND EGO: "Numb" 9
Inside Out Records 2009
Blind Ego is of course the band/project of Karl-Heinz (Kalle) Wallner, the super guitar player of RPWL. If you - just as yours truly - like that band, then you can buy this album without listening to it.... Guest musicians on this very melodic prog rock album are: John Jowitt, Paul Wrightson, Sebastian Harnack, Michael Schwager, Yogi Lang and surprise, surprise: Iggor Cavalera... I like "Numb" even better than Kalle's previous album "Mirror", mainly because his guitar solos on "Numb" are truly amazing and stunning.
The opening track "Lost" is rather rocky and has a really dark beginning and also some great guitar riffs and hooks. "Guilt" and especially the title track are also rather heavy, with strong riffs and pompous and melodic choruses. "Leave" is the first super song, followed by the equally amazing track "Death". The guitar solos in the latter one, especially the last one, are truly out of this world; gooseflesh all over, Kalle!! "Seek" features a super catchy chorus and is very melodic, "Risk" however on the other hand is the only disappointing song. It is an acoustic track, rather tiresome with vocals of Paul Wrightson. The only instrumental is called: "Torn" and this one is a true guitar rollercoaster ride;great melodies, great solos, remarkable. The album ends with "Vow", a song which could also fit on a RPWL album. In other words, great prog rock at the highest musical level.
"Numb" is a fantastic album which will end very high in my top ten of 2009; buy or die if you like extremely well played prog rock.
ALLIED NATION: "Touch And Go" 8
The first thing that becomes apparent is a very distinct sound. Indeed, San Fran's Allied Nation could not have sounded more like the eighties even if they were trying to disquise their music with... ehh, nevermind, they came from the eighties, thus why they sound like the friggin' eighties. Their past fame and glory would however merely be the song, "Find Yourself Another Fool" (obviously included on this CD) from the FM Records compilation 'Hot Night In The City' in 1988.
Jump into the future or rather present date as the U.K. label AOR-FM (not to be confused with above FM Records) decided to dig up the band's treasure of long-gone days (and daze for that matter). 'Touch And Go' is a 16-track compilation with *all* of their demos and tunes between the years of 1984 to 1991. They started out as pure Pomp/AOR and became slightly more sleazy melodic hardrock as they years went by. In fact, much like cult band White Sister and their transformation into Tattoo Rodeo (sign of the times, sign of the times).
The band is immense, the melodic chemistry between the members is just right on target. Unfortunately, the CD has a couple of small moments where the magic of the Allied Nations just won't click, probably due to some of these tracks being glorified demos, and others being not too impressive after all, but even on an hit/miss they're still a melodic little wonder of the past and more impressive than 95% of all the other AOR releases of today. This is also a great packaging by AOR-FM including line-notes, bonus video, and pictures. Grab it while it last - Allied Nation - catchy and slightly corny music from the golden eighties.
ARNION: "Fall Like Rain" 8
Sweet, yet another bone-crushing Thrash/Speed Metal release from the good people at Retroactive Records, generic as heck but pretty darn good none the less. "Fall Like Rain" starts in the traditional thrash/speed way with a slow, upbuilding, intro, before the real horror kicks in with the second track, "Visions From Hell". Quite a vivid discription too and especially since we're talking about christians doing metal music [I refuse to use the term "Christian Music", music will always be 'music' and merely the musicians are christians].
Anyhow, "Visions From Hell" speak lyrically about pain, destruction, hate, mutilated bodies, death, massacre, etc. Obviously with a happy ending (no pun intended) as a 'supreme radiant light' appears infront of the poor soul and thus being saved from hell. It's clearly the home of Slayer and Sepultura (musicwise) and other acts such as Believer and Mortification comes to mind, it's definitely something for the fan of the late 80's sound of the genre.
Nontheless, there's yet another twist to be found as you can pick up some Pro-Pain influences and reading the names of the band members, you'll notice an south american flavor. Whatdoya'know, Arnion hail from the land of Brazil and the Sepultura influences make sense somehow. A positive message at the lower end of scale with speedy, evil, swooping guitars, would be the order of the day. Aggressive vocals and tempo changes are plenty and Pedro Neto's vocals are occasionally clean, but still never far from the throaty bellow of the constantly hungry, cookie monster. It's vocals more in the vein of early Tom Araya though and not the awful screamy stuff of later days Slayer era. Not the most original sounding CD, but I like this a lot actually. Check 'em out at MySpace. Mosh! Mosh!
METAMORPHOSIS: "Dark" 8
Dark, gloomy, bitter, and darn right... progressive? Having missed Metamorphosis' previous releases, I wasn't too sure about what to expect from this Swiss band. The perfect instructional manual to what use a really tiny Swiss-Army-Knife would be at war time, perhaps? Nope, no such luck, I'll have to depend on dodgy re-runs of MacGyver for the latter.
Their previous efforts are more or less known as 'lost' Pink Floyd albums all over the net. 'Dark' is supposed to mark a divergence form the heavily Pinky stuff according to the info-sheet and sets a more powerful, psychedelic, obessing, tone and order. Sure, but it's still very much music inspired by the U.K. masters in my book. However, it's also modern progressive and more in the vein of Xcarnation and Cenk Eroglu's thinking and fomula.
This is pleasantly surprising and deffinitely entertaining with its heavily moog base and Pink Floyd-ish guitarwork. The label folks goes out of it's way to distance the multi-talanted Jean-Pierre Schenk (vocals, keys, drums, bass) from an Roger Waters or David Gilmour tag. But surely we all know what lies behind the fine music of Schenk after all. The utterly wacky song orientation is very much along the lines of you-know-who and Jean-Pierre isn't afraid to use the most out of guitar and keyboard interludes. By the way, he's a very strong and determinate vocalist and there's hardly any accent whatsoever to worry about (otherwise a major problem with many french/italian speaking vocalists). Recommended!.
CREDO: "This Is What We Do" DVD 7
Metal Mind Records 2009
Credo is an English neo prog band formed in the seventies and this is their first DVD release. This show was recorded in Poland and the setlist consists of 12 rather lengthy tracks from their 2 official albums. Their musical influences are rather obvious, so you can hear Arena, Marillion, Galahad and Genesis trade marks.
Best songs are: "Too Late....To Say Goodbye" and "From The Cradle.... To The Grave", featuring rather interesting guitar solos and great vocal performances. The rest of the material is good typical neo prog music but no more than that.... Their music is definitely NOT innovative, but all the songs are played well and the band is rather passionate and enthusiastic.
The bonuses are the usual stuff, so bootleg recordings, interviews, a documentary and some behind the scenes footage.
This same recording is also available as a double CD, so make your choice....
AXMINSTER: "About Face" 7
Kicking Records 2009
Axminster started back in 1984 and this notorious Boston based band did gigs with a.o. Metallica, Extreme and Foghat. In 2003 the band re-started under the name of Kick The Dog but the fans preferred the old name, so it is Axminter again and they release a brand new album called: "About Face". The 10 new songs are extreme guitar driven rock and roll tracks with obvious AOR characteristics. Musical highlight is the instrumental song "Ursa Minor's Major Misdemanor"; an up tempo guitar track filled with great melodic solos. Another great track is the last one: "Six", featuring a nice guitar intro and a bluesy, ballad like melody with good vocals.
The rest of the material is straight forward melodic rock, which is good but nothing special. Most strange song is "Highway To Run", a rather boring semi-acoustic ballad which reminds me of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive"... If you liked the old Axminster stuff, then you will probably like this new album as well.
HARMONY: "Chapter 11: Aftermath" 7
Ulterium Records 2008
The Swedish prog metal band release their second album called: "Chapter 11: Aftermath". I really liked their debut and this new one is again a melodic metal gem. The vocals are rather good and the heavy, progressive power metal of the band really hits you in the groin and face. "Kingdom" stands out because of the extreme Malmsteen-like guitar solos while the title track has obvious Nightwish influences. Sometimes Harmony even reminds me of the old Norwegian band Conception with singer Khan.
This album is highly recommended for fans of melodic power prog metal. Listening tips: "Kingdom" and "Prevail"
TRAGIK: "Outlaw" 7
Phil Vincent, the driving force behind this band, is surely an absolutely creative individual as far as guitar playing, singing and songwriting go. Credit where it is due. But his visual taste is horrible, his website and the art(?)work of this album are prime examples of that. (The girl is beautiful though. Credit where it is due.) However the cheapo cover hides an album of considerable value.
It opens with a ballad for the obvious reason to shock the audience and to emphasize the strength of the following hard rocking tune. It worked out quite well as both "In the name of" and the stomping "Two timer" are decent numbers in their respective breeds. Dare I say they are the best two tracks of the album, the rest of the songs do not live up to them. There are some real gems though like the haunting "You Are Everything To Me" or the modern crunchy sounding "Everything Changes".
For a low-cost independent effort, the sound is
tolerable, just don't expect Mutt Lange all over the place. The album sounds a
lot like a poor man's Dokken. It won't bring any break through for Phil and the
band (and I doubt he'd expect that after so many years) yet it will please those
who have been buying his albums so far. In case you are not familiar with their
stuff, check their site for more info:
ADAMANTRA: "Revival" 6
Sound Of Finland 2009
Prog-metal debutants Adamantra were quite impressive when I saw them on stage a few weeks ago, so I was quite interested in hearing their album. Their label kindly sent it to me, so without further ado, let's take a look. Or listen.
Unlike the zillions of Dream Theather wannabes out there, Adamantra's music owes more to the likes of Malmsteen, Queensrÿche and Rainbow. As technically challenging as their material might be, they still have a kind of an organic, down-to-earth sound. The songs range from heavy, complex stuff to the more melodic and accessible tracks like "In Triumph", a keyboard-driven song with a good chorus. Unfortunately, the album leans on the heavier, less memorable songs. They are immacutely excecuted and probably pure bliss for die-hard progfans, but they don't make me want to play this album over and over again.
While "Revival" didn't shake my world, I have a feeling that Adamantra could very well create a prog-metal masterpiece if they put their heads into it. They have a great sound, they're all great musicians and the best moments of this album prove that they can write music that can touch people outside the prog community. I don't mind complexity, as long as it is combined with accessibility - my favourite prog albums like Threshold's "Dead Reckoning", Seventh Wonder's "Mercy Falls" and Dream Theater's "Images And Words" have all succeeded in that. On the other hand, there's a relatively big audience for more "hardcore prog", so the band could just as well dive into the abyss and go even more complex and technical, and still make a career out of it. I know what I'm hoping for, but naturally they'll have to choose their own path.
By the way... is there a Dokken fan in the band? I mean "Kiss Of Death", "Into The Fire", "Shattered"... "For Ever" ain't that far either!? I hope they don't have "Dream Warriors" or "In My Dreams" in store for the next album! :)
One thing that still needs to be mentioned is the artwork. The cover painting is great, and the booklet looks very cool as well.
JOHNFISH SPARKLE: "Johnfish Sparkle" 6
Johnfish Sparkle was apparently born from the ashes of Italy's Jacky Jail (who?) at the end of March 2008. Formed by the two Jacky Jail (huh?) respectively, Dave Perilli (bass), Rob Gasoline (drums), they quickly recruited Al Serra on vocals/guitars to complete the ultimate rock powertrio?
The sound of John' apparently (what do I know? it's not like they're 'The Who' or anything. Who?) starts where Jacky' abandonned ship at the end of you-know-what (see above date). They're playing a genuine mix of blues based rock inspired by the greats of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Humble Pie, Captain Beyond, and the rest of the gang from the late sixties /early seventies. They've got that groove for sure, that thing that makes this CD worth more than one listen before returning to the really good music of above mentioned acts.
"Down In Mexico" has a totally addictive, heavy stabbing seventies riff that does wonder for your body and soul. This one actually reminded me of early ZZ Top as well as Cream and Humble Pie. Final verdict: interesting, but unfortunately, it has a tendency towards blandness and deja vú in places, but on the whole, not too shabby at all really.
GREG GEORGESON: "100% By Volume" 6
Greg Georgeson is the multi-talanted bloke from Sequel and the touring band of Tommy Tutone [867-5309 Jenny - the song which Bruce Springsteen copied on 'Radio Nowhere'], etc. '100% By Volume' is his first solo album and Greg handles everything himself with the exception of drumming. As you would expect from this bloke, it all has a U.S. rock friendly feel, no matter which style and era he happens to be concentraiting on. This time however it seems to be late seventies radio rock as you can pick-up a lot of early Eddie Money, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Blue Öyster Cult, with a hint of southern rock.
Dated? having said that, the rock of Georgeson has a cool smooth edge and a neat line in radioness and not too loud guitars, but it never really breaks out into the catchy power rock you'd wish it to be. "This Town" is simply too much country to be rock'n'roll and something like, "Make You Mine", surely would not have been all that interesting even back in the days? On the other hand, "I'll Never Let You Down" is a nice Eddie Money vs. Tom Petty (or if you prefer, Elvis Costello) kind of tune with a real hook and sinker.
The instrumental piece, "Skaghetti" is inspired by all the instrumental guitar acts of the sixties and yeah, there's a little bit of SKA to be found here. Try this if you're into that special era and time of rock, just don't expect it to be snappy and uplifting like a jack-in-the-box to a toddler.
PRIMAL FEAR: "16:6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead)" 5
Primal Fear swapped their metal label deal for a contract with the AOR Italians of Frontiers on their previous release. Why? beats me, however, it sort of worked and "New Religion" turned out to be a great first record on their new label and actually a personal favourite of 2007. They flirted with female Goth-Rock on a couple of tracks and the overall orchestration and sheer power of the band did wonders for a metal heart.
This CD however, not as impressive and certainly not as bombastic as their previous attempt(s) to rule the world with german metal. It's actually rather goofy and juvenile at places with lyrics about the unholy numbers of 666 or rather 16:6 (sigh), etc. For the most part, this is utterly polite and sterile metal from a band with a m-u-c-h better trackrecord and back catalogue. Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray) is very shy and regular on this record too and there's hardly any air-raid pitched screams to be found. The latter could obviously either be a good or bad thing (considering personal taste), it's still not the worst thing about this platter.
Nope, let's face it, it's all about songwriting and you won't find many or any highlights to write home about here. Mat Sinner and the Swede Karlsson have a certain knack for writing decent riffs, but you really need to question their songwriting capability this time. In fact, all this record needs is some structuring, a couple of decent new ideas, and why not a couple of half decent choruses? Final verdict: a spark in the dark, but sadly not the flame you were looking for to once again light the fire inside your metal heart (gee, sheer poetry... not!!!).
STORMHAMMER: "Signs Of Revolution" 5
Silverwolf Productions 2009
Stormhammer is again one of those typical German power metal bands. You already know what sort of music you can expect without having heard a single song..... So, it is hyper melodic, power metal with a couple of NWOBHM influences. Twelve up tempo Helloween like tracks with the same intros, the same tempos, the same guitar solos and the same rather nasal vocals of "new" singer Mike Zotter (ex-Dreamscape and ex-Neverland).
"Bridges To Eternity" is the obligatory ballad which is of course rather predictable and mediocre like hell. This album is boasted with metal cliches and therefore I cannot grant it with more than 5 points. To end with a cliche; sad but true...
MENCHEN: "Red Rock" 4
Retroactive Records 2009
When reading the line-up of this new outfit I had very high expectations as the rhythm section consists of Stryper's Robert Sweet on drums and Tony Franklin (Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, etc.) on bass. Add the lesser known Bill Menchen on guitars and the even lesser known Ken Redding on vocals and you still may expect something better than average. Well, you won't get that.
The songs all sound as results of an endless jam session. Players showcase their instrumental abilities, yet they do not care about writing songs or making them any memorable. Ken's vocal lines lack ALL memorability; even after a dozen spins I was unable to even hum any of the tunes with him. There are no hooks, no refrains to sing along. A depressive overtone and a very deep and dark overall sound darken your mood, so if you ever wanna commit suicide, here's your background music for that. Ken's excessive use of vibrato makes the whole thing sound as if Spinal Tap was playing Dio covers high (11 high…) on some weird weed.
It's an incredible waste of talent and quite
frankly I do not see its point. These dudes were doing their jobs successfully
in their original bands, they should stick to what they do best and forget about
getting "modern" (or whatever their intention with this album was). When reading
the display I thought the less than 38 minutes total running time was a little
too short but in the end it turned out to be a lot longer than tolerable. A
definite skipper; buy only for completist purposes.
S.E.X. DEPARTMENT: "S/T" 4
Let me merely quote some of the lyrics from the opening track: 'Call me, call me, call me, call me, call me baby - Love me, love me, love me, love me, love me tonight. Call me, call me, call me, call me, call me baby - Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, sugar tonight', end quote. Too much sugar for ya' - tough luck - cuz' we've only just begun. The name of the toon, "Call Me Baby Call Me", the name of the band, S.E.X. Department (oy vey!!!).
S.E.X. Department has toured Europe (where, when, why?) with Pretty Boy Floyd, Adam Bomb, Bang Tango, and Faster Pussycat. The juvenile and darn right annoying songs and lead vocals on this particular disc makes you seriously wonder, is it supposed to be some kind of Glam/Sleaze CD for kids. You've all seen those 'Hits For Kids' compilation CD's, I'm sure.
"Revenge Of The Vampires" is slightly embarrassing to both listener and musician and "Rock N Roll Never Dies", scary alike the stuff you wrote and sang in broken english at the age of thirteen. "Glitter Bitter" is on the other hand the correct path this particular outfit should be walking down. Some scorching Poison riffs and a distinctive hook in the very back of your mind. Overall, the material has the balance, energy, and naiveté of a v-e-r-y young person (read: early teenager), let's merely hope he will grow into his shoes one of these days. Final verdict: Ok, hardly the best of debuts, but give him a second chance and maybe he'll surprise us all with the second coming of eighties Glam-Rock.
SHADOW'S MIGNON: "Midnight Sky Masquerade" 4
Hey, wicked artwork!!! Yet another ProgRock Records release filled with progressive rock, I'm sure. Ehh... nope, please delete the latter as you couldn't be further from the truth really. Sure enough... Shadow's Mignon (mignon? me hungry) is a brand new project by Henning Pauly and even though he's known as one serious Prog-head, every new CD by the man lately has been an exploration of a different aspect of music.
Thus why you can expect to find classic eighties Heavy Metal on this platter and not just another prog experience. Blimey, corny song titles such as: "A Dragon Shall Come", "A Slave To Metal", "A Beast Abandoned", "All Hail The Warrior", "Kingdom Of The Battle Gods", "No Metal Son Of Mine", etc. should give you a pretty decent idea of what you're looking at here. Indeed, what you have here is a twelve-track, eighties metal album very much in the style of Fates Warning, Manowar, Rhapsody, Hammerfall, complete with soaring vocals by Juan Roos and screaming guitars and pounding drums by Pauly (nope, Henning doesn't actually sing on this record).
'We were able to do so many things and use so many sounds we are told we can't use anymore because they're out of date, so we went back to our roots and made music that cannot live without them', says Henning. Fair enough, it's just that you have 1000's and 1000's of European acts doing the exact same kind of music already. Decent metal, but hardly something to brag about in the terms of 'true' metal. Juan Roos is an impressive metal shouter though. Hail!
TIM RIPPER OWENS: "Play My Game" 3
Tim 'Ripper' Owens - a real legend of rock, well, the very least a very prominent figure in and around the inner circles of heavy metal. Think about it... Ripper started out singing Judas Priest covers and ended up as their new frontman. Wicked!!! Not to mention that Hollywood decided to shoot a movie picture based upon his very story (Rockstar - it's not Rippers fault that Mark Wahlberg is a piss-poor actor).
It's a shame though. Ehh... why does this sound like some seriously dodgy metal spoof record? Probably because Ripper is as good as songwriting as Marky-Mark at acting (ouch!). Naturally, you'd expect this to really kick some serious you-know-what, but as the opening chord strikes, you already know this is going to be pretty ugly indeed.
To be honest (really? wow!), what completely ruins this CD is the cheesy songwriting, Ripper's vocals are excellent as always, and the production is actually kind of neo-modern, yet retro. Still... this is a huge disappointment or then again... maybe not. Final verdict: best of all - the rather impressive guestlist with musicians from bands such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Megadeth, Whitesnake, etc, etc.
ÖRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE: "Good Planets Are Hard To Find" 1
... And 'Good Hippies Are Hard To Find' - this time they've included an opener (9:43 minutes) featuring citar and yeah, sigh, even more citar. Well... I guess we had it coming. Bloody'ell... precious minutes of my life which I'd rather be spending on ego-massage or watching wet paint dry. Sheer and utter gaga!!!
The Öresundspacecollective must be fed-up with all my verbal abuse, but seriously, it's not like we have any hardcore hippies at RockUnited. One thing's for sure, you need to smoke some serious amount of mellow-yellow, electrical bananas, pot, kippers, and pork, to even get the idea of enjoying this all improvised, all instrumental, space rock band from hippie heaven (that would be 'hell' to the rest of us). Gather around, gather around, good people, remove your brain, replace it with pot, smoke the s**t outta eachother!!! What do I care?
|REVIEWS ADDED 12 May, 2009
GREEN DAY: "21st Century Breakdown" 9
Warner Bros 2009
Five years can be a long time in music. Five years ago, Green Day went from being one of the better punk pop bands to being a global brand, a symbol that tried to tell the rest of the world that not all Americans were idiots. It helped that the album that gave them this monumental boost was pretty darned good, much like all their other albums, in fact. But that was five years ago, and the question now is what the fuck are Green Day going to do to top “American Idiot”?
Well, the honest answer is “Nothing”. What Green Day have done is sat down and made another Green Day album. It’s not a big, political monster or a rallying call to do, well, stuff. “21st Century Breakdown” is a Green Day album, and as such can sit alongside every other Green day album in your collection, as it’s as good as anything else they’ve done.
The first thing you notice is the size of it - there’s no monster tracks here, but there are seventeen punk pop masterpieces, each one of which comes stamped with the Green Day trademark that no one else has yet managed to imitate with any real degree of success. There’s plenty of bright, upbeat punky shenanigans going on, plus a really good ballad “Last Night On Earth”, and some typically Green Day Jewish “Oy Vey” type of stuff for good measure. Stuff like “Eat Jesus Nowhere” will have crowds punching the air with it’s militaristic drumbeat, whilst “Restless Heart Syndrome” has a solo in that is almost Muse-like in it’s twiddliness.
If you’re a Green Day fan, this album will be like a dream come true, as it delivers exactly what you want. The songs are incredibly catchy, yet contain the element of raw, snarling power that epitomizes everything that’s good about the band. Okay, so maybe it’s a little overlong, but there’s no fillers here and there’s nothing wrong with giving folks more bang for their buck. There’s an unavoidable familiarity that creeps in, with your mind telling you that it actually sounds more like a greatest hits sometimes because of the similarity with older songs, but that’s forgivable as well. Global megastars or not, I have the feeling that this is exactly the album that would have followed “American Idiot” if the former had only sold seventeen copies, and that’s just what I wanted.
STRATOVARIUS: "Polaris" 8
Ear Music 2009
Well, this one has been anticipated quite hotly in some quarters, as Stratovarius attempt to carry on despite the departure of main songwriter and guitarist Timo Tolkki. From what I have gathered from interviews he wasn’t the most pleasant person to work with anyway, so I was hoping that “Polaris”, the band’s 12th studio album in 20 years, would be a smooth affair.
As yet another quality band staggering out of the frozen wastes of Finland, Stratovarius have a lot of fans with a lot of expectations, and I think it’s safe to say that there won’t be many disappointed with the quality of “Polaris”. There’s nothing particularly mind blowing going on here, and it seems that Jens Johansson and Timo Kotipelto have sensibly kept to the style that has served the band so well in the past, avoiding the potential career death trap of trying to reinvent Stratovarius.
So what we have here is a pretty decent album, stuffed full or melodic metal and atmospheric prog, tied together by the soaring vocal chords of Kotipento and the inspired keyboards of Johansson. This isn’t to say the rest of the band get left behind, and there’s some powerhouse drumming and widdly solos aplenty for those that like that sort of thing (and who doesn’t!). Stratovarious are happy to deliver pounding power metal one moment and proggy meandering the next, and if I’m honest I’d have preferred more of the former. When they slow it down a notch it’s almost like Queensryche, but when they get going it gives me the same warm glow that the last Avantasia album did, especially on my favourite track, “Blind”.
“Polaris” isn’t the perfect Stratovarius album, but it can hold it’s head high against any of the others, safe in the knowledge that it will be the one to allow the band to carry on making great metal music for a few more years at least. Mind you, a far better album title would have been “Timo Who?”…
The LOU GRAMM Band: "s/t" 6
To be honest, I was expecting the worst from this album. Lou Gramm has been through a lot since his last Foreigner album "Mr. Moonlight", and the gig reviews I've read during the last years have said that he's merely a shadow of himself. I was also worried that without the songwriting assistance from Mick Jones or his long-time collaborator Bruce Turgon, his new material might not be too interesting. I'm glad to say that while this album isn't exactly a classic in the making, my worst fears didn't come true either. Obviously time has taken its' toll on Gramm, but that's what it does to all of us. Gramm's voice is still as recognizable as ever, even though he might have lost a bit of that "edge". Whatever, he's one of my all time favourite vocalists, and I'm just glad to hear new material from him!
And speaking of the new material... some of it works just fine, and some of it doesn't really work at all. Let's go through the ones that do work: the opener "Baptized By Fire" is the kind of dark, edgy AOR track that I didn't dare to expect, so it came as a really nice suprise. "Made To Be Broken" isn't too bad either, a hard rocking tune with a nice AOR styled chorus. Foreigner fans will appreciate the big-sounding, balladic "So Great" while "That's The Way God Planned It" is a good, slightly gospel-tinged ballad. "You Saved Me" is also a ballad but it doesn't quite take off like the other two. Still, it's a decent song with a touch of "Just Between You And Me" in the chorus. The pop-rocker "Single Vision" gets to the "A-list" as well, a nice, melodic track with a subtle hook.
The weaker tracks are just what I expected - average 70'ies-like classic rock by numbers. "(I Wanna) Testify" has a bit of a R'n'B vibe, reminding me of something like "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", and thanks to a solid vocal from Gramm, it's probably the best one of the remaining tracks. "Redeemer", is another classic rock track with a chorus so dull that even the backing vocalists sound as if they're about to fall asleep, while "Rattle Your Bones" does feature an intensive performance from Gramm, but it cannot disguise the fact that the song isn't much to write home about. One track left to mention and that's "Willing To Forgive", a lightweight and somewhat ordinary track that doesn't do much for me.
In conclusion... at best, Gramm & Co can still live up to the legacy, but unfortunately that doesn't happen nearly as often as I would have hoped. Still... Lou Gramm is back, and that's a cool thing.
LACUNA COIL: "Shallow Life" 5
Century Media 2009
I find it hard to get into this. Italy's pride Lacuna Coil have sold a lot of records and scored some hits, and I have no doubt that they'll do the same with this album, but I'm kind of indifferent to it. I won't complain about their commerciality because that doesn't bother me in the slightest, in fact I wouldn't have minded if they had actually written some really strong pop hooks. Now the band's songs do have big choruses, but I wouldn't say that they're too melodic - especially Andrea Ferro's shouty lines tend to rely on repetition rather than melodies. Cristina Scabbia has a voice that could carry a glorious melody, but the ones she gets to sing here are nothing of the sort.
The standout tracks are the first single "Spellbound", another potential single "Not Enough" and the bouncy "I Like It". The ballad "Wide Awake" sounds good too. The other songs just cannot hold my interest, they're somewhat monotonous and a couple of times I got the "deja-vu" reaction - "Didn't I just hear this song?". The influences from Nightwish and Within Temptation shine thru every now and then, but it's as if Lacuna Coil have filtered them to suit their cold and industrialized soundscape, and sucked the life out of them.
Having had the same lukewarm reaction to the band's previous album, I was hoping that this one would have made a better impression, but no... they still need to inject some warmth into their songs.
|REVIEWS ADDED 05 May, 2009
THUNDER: "The EP Sessions 2007-2008" 9
Metal Heaven 2009
This European only release collects (just about) Thunder's three EPs “The Joy Of Six”, “Six Of One” and “Half A Dozen Of The Other”. Space means that two live tracks have been left out (“A Million Faces” and “Chain Reaction”), but it's not that big a deal, as there's still a full discs worth of music left behind.
What you get are ten studio tracks not available on any albums, plus a couple of remixes (such as a Thunder-Lite version of “Yesterdays's News”) and four live tracks. Every one of the studio tracks stand up well, and between them make up an album that would fit very nicely into the Thunder canon (so why didn't they? Dunno – ask the band). “Survivor”, “Midlife Crisis” and “Bette Davis Meltdown” for example, are all as good as anything of the band's last two excellent albums. The live tracks showcase Thunder as the top class live band they have always been, with the two remixes acting as a serviceable closer to the album.
“The EP Sessions...” is an album that really should be owned by every Thunder fan, but many of those fans will already have all or most of the tracks, so it's target market is a little confusing. If the three EPs passed you by then I suggest you scuttle out and get this as soon as possible, but the only others who really need it are avid collectors.
REINXEED: "Higher" 8
Rivel records 2009
A second dose of Swedish Power metal for me this month, with ReinXeed (pronunciation anyone?) following up their debut “The Light”, which as I recall I quite liked but wasn’t blown away by. Once again, it’s the Tommy Johansson show, as he writes, sings and plays plenty of instruments whilst the other band members sit around and wonder why they bothered turning up. Except the drummer, who probably looked very smug as Tommy admitted he can’t actually play drums. Then again, this could all be in my mind.
More important is the music, and ReinXeed (does it actually mean anything?) deliver in spades. Ostensibly, they’ve been branded as a Christian group, but this second album doesn’t preach and is all the better for it. The music is almost uniformly uptempo, like a lighter version of Dragonforce of Sonata Artica. Johansson is a good singer without being exceptional, and could do with a bit more emotion in his voice, but it’s hard to fault him as a guitarist or songwriter here. Although described as “Symphonic” power metal, this is in reality more straightforward than that. For me, symphonic conjures up much more orchestral arrangements, and although there’s a few attempts here it’s a bit of a misnomer really.
“Higher” is a very pleasant surprise, as it’s chock full of high class melodic power metal, with even the ballad “Light Of The World” coming equipped with a killer guitar solo. The album is unsurprisingly produced by Johansson, and it could have done with some bigger balls where this is concerned, as it seems a little light on the bass aspects, with the impressive drumming coming over as more tinny than it should. Nonetheless, this isn’t a major distraction from a very impressive album that will delight lovers of melodic metal. Definitely one to watch, ReinXeed are just a good name away from stardom.
BAI BANG: "Are You Ready" 8
There's nothing really special about the new Bai Bang album, typical hard rock album with a typical hard rock sound and a typical hard rock album cover but it's simply damn good. These seasoned Swedish veterans put together a really good album with very good production, decent songs, and a sound that meets the requirements of the 21st century. Chris Lyne did a good job mastering-wise, the band sounds as thick as the Soul Doctor album he was working on.
There are some shout-out refrains, lots of catchy melodies, an okay ballad and good fun hard rock stuff all over the place. I can't say that any of the tunes are featuring any novelty but quite frankly I don't mind it. It's a good party album, you know that when you read song titles like "Born to Rock", "Party Queen" "Bad Boys" or "Bigtime Party". You won't expect Dream Theater complexity now, do you?
The only downside of this effort is that I'd
expect slightly more from a band with such a long history. An album that
features 10 okay tracks with less than 34 minutes of total running time, an
album cover that is so very cheap that it would have been embarrassing even in
1986 are not necessarily the features that increase the overall value of the
album, much rather the opposite. "Are You Ready" is a safe bet if you are
looking for some sense of 80s nostalgia but nothing more beyond that. Fits well
in the line of Wig Wam, The Poodles, Steel Panther, etc.
LIVID: "One" 8
Plastic Head Records 2009
As influences go, a list that includes Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and Motley Crue is a pretty good one. UK newcomers Livid happily include these and more when naming their musical heroes, and when you hear Psy Ward screech you can happily add Guns n Roses to the list as well. Justin Hawkins has called them “The next Tyler & Perry”, but then again, Justin Hawkins sings songs about chickens.
In reality, Livid certainly have some real talent behind the hype and the namedropping. They can throw out some hook laden blues tinged boogie with the best of them, such as on the Answer-esque Lost Lady Saloon”, possibly the most intense, instant song on the album. As mentioned, vocalist Psy Ward hits notes that would have Axl Rose hiring someone to overdub, and at times it can get a bit too strained, but to give him credit he certainly can wail (as Wayne would say). Guitarist Steven Paris pulls out some impressive solos throughout, with bassist Ency (don’t ask) never content with just providing a plodding rhythm. Psy’s brother Phil Ward smashes fuck out of his drum kit quite satisfactorily and the band as a whole seem to be very tight, something live reviews seem to back up.
“One” is absolutely stuffed with big riffs and cool songs, and is quite remarkable for a debut. It’s always going to suffer a bit through lack of originality, but still comes out as an album that should get Livid some much deserved attention. If you like your rock music to sound like Axl Rose being gang raped by Aerosmith and Led Zep, then this really is worth a listen. I can’t believe I just typed that…
IMPELLITTERI: "Wicked Maiden" 6
When listening to anything Chris Impellitteri or Rob Rock have ever done it is safe to declare these guys can play / sing anything with ease. Yet it's really beyond me why they stick to this neoclassical metal stuff they keep coming up with every now and again. This is slowly getting embarrassing. Songs like "Wicked Maiden" or "Last of the Dying Breed" have lyrics that even Manowar would be ashamed of (if they were ever ashamed of anything utterly stupid they'd ever written). The band pulls it off flawlessly with absolutely professional musicianship, confident and astonishingly wide-ranged vocal performance, good backing vocals and a bombastic sound, yet I can't stop feeling twisted by the waste of so much talent.
The band must have felt there was something to do about it cuz after the first five tracks of typical, faceless neoclassical metal they threw in an 80s melodic hard rock tune "Eyes of an Angel". Then a blandola rock n' roll track "High School Revolution" (with lyrics that mix Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and Motley Crue's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" at least as far as the depth of their messages go…). They top that with two progressive metal tracks that are complex/twisted enough even for the Dream Theater audience. They must have felt they needed to finish the whole thing with some more metal so the last track is titled "The Battle Rages On" (what else?! – Shouldn't songs with that title be banned anyway??).
The artwork (?) says a lot about the album
anyway. It was okay in 1986 when we were in out early teens but I personally
need more these days. If you liked their stuff so far, you might also get your
fair share with this one though only as far as sound- and instrumental quality
go; just don't expect it to be as good or fresh as their early stuff or anything
new under the sun cuz this album is really not.
HEEL: "Chaos & Greed" 6
Rivel records 2009
Swedish power quintet Heel haven’t wasted too much time in following their well received debut from 2007, and have produced a good package in “Chaos & Greed”, albeit one that is unlikely to catapult them to the heights saled by the likes of Stratovarius or Dragonforce.
The overwhelming feeling I get from this album is that it’s competent. There’s some cool monster riffage, some nice solos and in david Henriksson they have a wailer who straddles the talents of the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate. All this is just what you need from a modern metal album, but Heel constantly take their talents to the edge without ever jumping over without giving a fuck about what’s at the bottom. My tortured metaphors aside, this is one of those albums that you want to like more than you do, mainly due to the undeniable talent that’s on show. When they get going it’s pretty good, but overall this album just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, although I suspect that one day it will all come together for Heel in a big way.
|REVIEWS ADDED 22 April, 2009
QUEENSRYCHE: "American Soldier" 9
Rhino Records 2009
"American Soldier" is Queensryche's 10th studio album and it is an ode to the American soldier who fought wars in Europe, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan. It is an epic minded album, with lots of atmosphere, dark passages and it kind of reminds me of the amazing album "Promised Land". The album was made with the help of producer Jason Slater and good old Kelly Gray. Michael Wilson plays all the guitar parts and especially in songs like "Sliver" or "Hundred Mile Stare" he plays like a young guitargod.
"At 30,000 FT" is a marvellous powerballad, very melodic and the voice of Tate is just sheer magic. Most of the 12 songs are mid tempo tracks and are also very accessible to listen to, altough the theme of most songs is rather "depressive" and melancholic.. Highlights are the: "The Killer" and "Middle Of Hell". In "Home Again" there is a guest performance of Tate's daughter Emily, making it a rather "sweet" track. I considered "Tribe" (2003) a great album but I prefer this new release altough many fans will say that it is not as good as "Operation Mindcrime"... Well, I have to say to them: wake up, dudes, it is 2009 and Queensryche has moved on, their music has changed and that is a good thing for this still amazing rock band!! One of the highlights of 2009 so far!!
RICKY WARWICK: "Belfast Confetti" 9
Okay, so this is a bit of an odd one. You may know Ricky Warwick from his work with The Almighty, a British heavy metal band who were not known fro their subtlety but nonetheless made some very good, if aggressive, albums. Frontman Ricky was always a commanding presence, growling away and making sure everything was turned up to 11, so an acoustic album from the man himself was a bit of a surprise. Even more surprising is how good it is.
“Belfast Confetti” is as acoustic as you get, with no sneaky guitar solos sneaked in, and only minimal percussion. Lyrically, it ticks both the “Deep” and “Meaningful” boxes, with verses loaded with passion and despair, not to mention frequent references to praying and God. Not in a preachy way, mind, more a case of just wanting God to make things a little better. There’s a weariness to the album that can be at odds with the fact that I found myself singing along with every damned track, no matter how serious the subject matter. It takes a rare talent to accomplish this mix of instant catchiness and total seriousness, and it seems that Warwick and his co writers (all but one track has a second writer) have that talent in spades.
Musically, ths album is all over the place, wearing possible influences on it’s sleeve without stealing. Warwick’s only solo writing credit goes to “The Arms Of Belfast Town”, a lively jig reminiscent of The Pogues in a party mood, whilst “Born Fightin”, an American Civil war tale, reminded me of Paul Westerberg in a melancholy mood, or even Don Henley’s “Month Of Sundays”, one of his best. The album’s final track, “If Your Gonna Bleed”, could be Springsteen, right down to Warwick’s soulful vocal delivery, and would have fitted in well alongside the likes of “Thunder Road”. Regardless, the album has plenty of original moments and some raw, catchy choruses, with the title track being a prime example.
If you like acoustic rock, then “Belfast Confetti” will stay on your playlist for many months to come. It’s a lyrical kick in the teeth, and coupled with some superb musical writing really leaves an impression that is normally left to the likes of Francis Dunnery or John Mellencamp, two luminaries that Warwick can hold his head up against. Surprise of the year, yes, but it’s a great surprise.
Metal Mind Productions 2009
"Labyrinth Of Dreams" 8
Looking back on the long career of the band, who have sold more than 250.000 albums in more than 30 countries worldwide, the name Elegy still brings back great prog rock memories. Now, in 2009, Metal Mind Productions is proud to present a set of 7 albums covering the band's entire musical history to date. The debut album of Elegy "Labyrinth Of Dreams" was one of my favourite albums of the year 1992. It was a very melodic and solid debut and the tracks proved that this was a real technical band. The guitars and the high pitched vocals dominated the album and sometimes reminds the listeners of bands like helloween and Eldritch. The absolute highlight was a song called: The Guiding Light". This new digipak includes 2 bonus demo tracks, namely "The Guiding Light", Henk's 1st instrumental demo and a video clip of the song "I'm No Fool".
This is Elegy's second full length album released in 1993. Drummer Dirk Bruinenberg made his debut on this album and guitar player Gilbert Pot was also new in the band. "Supremacy" is a real action packed release with great tracks like "Windows Of The World", "Darkest Night" and the absolute master piece, the title track. The album was amazingly received in Japan and the band was on the verge of a breakthrough in the land of the rising sun. This new album offers two bonus tracks: "All Systems Go"(instrumental) and "The Grand Change", both demos.
"Lost" was the last album featuring singer Ed Hovinga and the music on this album is amixture of pop, prog and metal music. It was rather complex music with lots of technical skills, sublime guitar work and strong melodies. The instrumental "1998(The Prophecy) is a rather busy up tempo prog song and the two ballads are very melodic and powerful. Lost also features one of Elegy's best tracks ever: "Under Gods Naked Eye"; a true masterpiece. Extra on this album are the two demos "I'm No Fool" and "Labyrinth Of Dreams" recorded in 1990.
"Primal Instinct" 6
The most disappointing Elegy album ever featuring 5 acoustic tracks from Elegy's earlier albums. It was the first release with Ian Parry on vocals. This new edition features 4 bonus tracks recorded in Japan.
"State Of Mind" 8
Elegy's fourth album was really heavier than "Supremacy" and "Lost"; this was/is a pure power progressive album, filled with chops and great melodies and guitar riffs. This album sold more than 45,000 copies and was extremely successful in Japan."Suppression" is one of Elegy's heaviest and most driving tracks ever. But the absolute musical highlight is the title track; this is Euro power prog at its best. From this album Elegy released their debut video clip "Visual Vortex" and they also toured in the land of the rising sun. This new release contains 3 bonus tracks: "Trust"(demo), "Shadow Dancer"(demo) and Suppression (demo).
"Manifestation Of Fear" 9
This is probably one of the best conceptalbums of a Dutch rock band ever, especially tracks like "Master Of Deception", "The Forgotten" and "Metamorphosis" are absolute progressive rockmasterpieces. After the release of this album Ian Parry and Henk van der Laars flew to Japan to do a week of acoustic performances before heading back to Europe to tour with Kamelot. This new edition contains 3 bonus tracks, namely: "Solitary Day"(extended version Japan), "Master Of Deception"(demo) and "Metamorphosis"(demo).
"Principles Of Pain" 9
This is as many say the band's masterpiece. It was fully produced by Ian Parry and it of course features guitar god Patrick Rondat. It is a technical album in a progressive power metal style in the likes of Symphony X and Threshold. The guitar solos of Rondat are sometimes out of this world and the raw powerful voice if Parry does the rest. As a surprise you can hear former Elegy singer Ed Hovinga doing a duet with Parry in "Missing Persons". "Principles Of Pain" is likely one of the most underrated metal albums of the last decade; so but it and enjoy it!! Bonus tracks: "Sacred"(Japanese bonus btrack), "Under My skin"(demo), No Code, No Honour (demo), "Programmes Parade"(demo) and "Principles of Pain"(demo).
PENDRAGON: "Concerto Maximo" 9
Metal Mind Productions 2009
The last Pendragon album "Pure" was a sheer gem and now we are being treated to an amazing DVD, recorded live in Poland, in honour of Pendragon's 30th anniversary. A what a DVD it is, the concert lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, featuring 17 songs among which also three songs of their latest record "Pure": "Eraserhead", "The Freak Show" and "It's Only Me". The latter has one of the best guitarsolos of mister Pendragon Nick Barret ever!! As a matter of fact the entire DVD is packed with those divine, heavenly guitarsolos of Barret. His spacy, extremely melodic solos in "A Man Of Nomadic Traits", "Masters Of Illusion" and "Breaking The Spell" give me gooseflesh every time I hear them...
The new drummer Scott Higham is a great musician for the band and Clive Nolan and Peter Gee also play as this is their last gig ever.... "Concerto Maximo" gives a marvellous insight in the great discography of this majestic band and proves that Pendragon can go on for a least 30 years more.
21 EYES OF RUBY: "Conquer The World Part 4" 9
Summer Kimono Records 2009
As you could already read in my previous cdreview of this Dutch band I really love the music of 21 Eyes Of Ruby. This album is called: "Conquer the World Part 4" and it is again a beauty, filled with alternative rock like you have almost never heard before, altough you hear shreds of the Pumpkins, The Mars Volta and Tool. However 21 Eyes definitely have their own style which is dominated by the superb guitar riffs, hooks and melodies of Antoine Putz, which reach the musical heaven in the epic track "Yessyana". This is 21 Eyes at their best; complex, experimental, dark, doomy and most of all filled with heavy guitar riffs and constant tempo changes. This one is really a roller coaster ride of alternative rock at its best; already one of my favourite rock tracks of 2009!!
Other musical highlights are the amazing Foo Fighter like "Couldronemo"; really heavy and also featuring a short but very good guitar solo. The Tool-like "9Friends" is really energetic featuring a classic headbanging riff and "Days Of November" is a sort of power ballad with powerful vocals.
However - sad but true - I do not like ALL the songs on this album. Especially "Aganetha" is a true disappointment as
it is maybe too alternative and a bit too bizarre??? But the last epic song is again a true 21 Eyes GEM, check it out yourself and be amazed.
If these guys will not break through and become a major rock band then my name is Pinochio from this moment on!!
Johnny LIMA: "Livin' Out Loud" 8
Shock Pop Records 2009
It's album number four for Mr. Lima, and he's still keeping his track record clean. I've liked his previous three albums (four, if you count the "1.2" version of his debut), and I must say that this new one ain't half bad either! Still, it's probably my least favourite of them all, and I'll tell you why in a moment... but let the record show that it's still a good one! Got that? Right...
During the last few years, Johnny has been honing his skills as a producer, and sure enough, it shows. "Livin' Out Loud" sounds excellent, and for that Johnny deserves to be applauded. I have no complaints about the performances of the musicians either, but we'll have to take a closer look at the meat'n'bones of the album - the songs.
"All I Want" opens the album with the suitable bravado, a straightforward rocker with a simple, but effective shout-along chorus. This is the kind of track that probably works best in a live setting. "Wildflower" is somewhat similar, pretty straightforward, even AC/DC'ish with a very familiar sounding riff. The chorus isn't very interesting melodically, but it might work live. Johnny's sense of melody is more evident on the next song, the excellent "Hate To Love You", which has one of the best hooks of the album. "I'm On Fire" has another melodic chorus for the AOR fans, and a little something borrowed from a Danger Danger song...
"Somebody To Love" is an interesting one, with a bit of a Beatles-vibe and a good chorus, while "Caught In A Middle" is a true "hair metal" anthem with lyrics to match. A cool song... unlike "Give Me Some Rock So I Can Roll", which is the one song I could've done without. I do agree with the "pro-rock message", but somehow the lyrics sound a bit corny and the fact that the song is rather generic "boogie-rock" doesn't help.
The title track is somewhat similar to the first two songs - a bit like Bon Jovi covering AC/DC really. Okay, but would work better live. "Still Waiting For You" is a good semi-ballad, reminding me of the best moments of Bon Jovi's recent output. "Long Way Down" is another just okay track, not one of my favourites but decent enough. The chorus is a bit of a letdown.
Two real gems can be found as the last two tracks of the album: "Hard To Say Goodbye" is very much in the vein of the first three Bon Jovi albums, and a fine song it is too, without being a copycat of any particular track. The closing number "Til' Love Is Gone" is a moody, dark and edgy balladic song with cool keyboards and a passionate vocal from Johnny.
In conclusion, a good album for sure, but maybe there's one too many simple party metal tracks here. They don't really showcase Johnny's knack for melodies and end up being a bit too predictable. But when he nails it on the more melodic tracks, he's a force to be reckoned with. And damn it, he managed to leave the rather cool "Nowhere Left To Go" off the album, but it's available on his site. Worth getting.
NIGHTWISH: "Made In Hong Kong (& Various Other Places)" 8
Nuclear Blast 2009
Now this one's a curious little thing. Take one of the best live bands around at the moment, touring on the back of a madly successful album with their new singer, then only allow tracks from said album on the live release! It's all a bit batty, but it seems that due to legal fuckery only tracks from “Dark Passion Play” are permitted on any current live release. Hopefully all that will change in the future and we can get a proper live release, backed up with a DVD if there is any justice.
So until the lawyers have sorted things out for a no doubt extortionate fee, this is all you get officially from Nightwish with the lovely Anette Olzon on live vocal duties. “Made In Hong King...” is a bit of a mixed bag, but the main attraction, the live songs, do not disappoint. There's over 50 minutes of live music, with an absolutely perfect sound mix that really brings the atmosphere of the concerts into your room. There's no “Eva”, “For The Heart I Once Had”, “Master Passion Greed” or “Cadence of Her Last Breath” (the latter is included in demo form without Anette for completists), but the other 8 tracks are present and correct, including the awesome “Poet & The Pendulum”. Also included is the excellent previously hard to find bonus track “Escapist” and the non Anette soundtrack song “While Your Lips Are Still Red”. These songs have been available elsewhere, but it's nice to get them here along with a lengthy live section. Maybe this a “fans only” type release, but as a fan I love it.
Bundled with the CD is a shiny new DVD, featuring a 37 minute documentary from the first half of the tour. It has a some candid interviews with Tuomas and Anette, both of whom come across very well. There's a smattering of live footage and several rounds of Drunken Uno, the aim of which seems to be to lose badly and drink lots of spirits. It's a good doc that doesn't outstay it's welcome, and fans should get a lot from it. Also on the disc are the promo vids for “Amaranth”, “Bye Bye Beautiful” and “The Islander”, all of which are very good indeed.
So it's not a perfect package, due to the lack of “old” material on the CD, but if you are a Nightwish fan I would certainly recommend a purchase, mainly because what is here is so damned good. A better booklet would have been nice, but - as the CD tracklist shows – you can't have everything.
HIGHEST DREAM: "Far Away From Here" 8
Escape Music 2009
Highest Dream has been dreamed up by one Leo Mendes, a keyboard player from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He enlisted vocalist Riq Ferris (formely of Snow) to his project and recorded an albums' worth of material. It didn't take long for Escape to sign them - in fact, the band went from unsigned to signed during the time this CD was making its' way to me from Brazil. I guess that says something....
Highest Dream has been compared to AOR giants such as Survivor and Journey, and sure enough, they don't drift too far from that melodic path. Mendes plays all the instruments except for a few guitar solos, and he does a fine job. The vocals of Riq Ferris take some time to get used to, and to be frank, I didn't find them that good at first. After repeated listenings, I've grown to like them more. I actually realized that Ferris sounds uncannily like the Finnish one-time AOR hero Kirka, with the same kind of a slightly strained vibrato!
The album kicks off with "Restless Dreamer", which sounds like cross between early Royal Hunt and Survivor, and represents the heavier side of the band. "Can't Fight Hearts" is solid AOR in the vein of Shy or Aviator, while "Helpin' Hand" takes a big helping of influence from Jim Peterik's (Survivor, Pride Of Lions) songbook. The album's title track has a strong Journey vibe, and I hear echoes of Kirka's "The Spell" album too...
"All I Want" doesn't really appeal to me, as it doesn't seem to have the "flow" of the other songs. "Reach Higher" is blessed with an Asia-like keyboard parp and Riq Ferris does indeed reach higher during this track... next up, we have a traditional ballad with sparse instrumentation, followed by a catchy AOR track "I Will Find You" which has a decidedly Scandinavian sound to these ears - Return, Brother Firetribe kinda vibe. The album's true highlight is the next song though - a gritty AOR track á la early Bon Jovi called "Not An Angel". Now this is superb stuff, a killer hook and a slightly harder edge than most of the other songs on the album. The album closer is the grandiose ballad "Never Be Apart". Ferris and Mendes share the lead vocals on this track, and Mendes proves to be a good vocalist too - his vocal on the first verse is excellent.
HARDLINE: "Leaving The End Open" 8
Here's the brief history of Hardline: during the early 90'ies the Gioeli brothers Joey and John were working with producer Neal Schon (Journey/Bad English guitarist). He liked them a lot apparently, as he joined the band, which was soon completed with bassist Todd Jansen and drummer Deen Castronovo. They released the magnificent "Double Eclipse" album in 1992, toured and made some videos, but a breakthrough wasn't in the cards. Although the band vanished, the album became a cult favourite, and in 2002 the Gioelis put together a Hardline Mk. II, with Josh Ramos (The Storm, Two Fires) stepping into Schon's shoes. Now it's 2009, and Hardline Mk. III has a new album out. Vocalist John Gioeli is the only member from the original band, with Ramos and keyboardist Michael T. Ross remaining from Mark II band. Jamie Brown on bass and Atma Anur on drums are the new guys.
Obviusly Hardline ´09 is a different beast compared to the original band. You won't find furious rockers like "Takin' Me Down" or "Rhythm From A Red Car" from this album, but what you WILL find is a selection of nice, melodic rock songs with a contemporary vibe. Some of these songs could very well become hits, if they were performed by someone with a marketable image and a major label backing. Somehow I don't think that Hardline, a band with a "80'ies Hair Metal" tag on an indie label, is able to storm the charts. I'd be happily proven wrong though.
The overall mood of the album is quite mellow, with most of the songs being laidback midtempo numbers. Normally, that would sound a bit boring, but I'm glad to say that the quality of the songs raises this album to a higher level. The songs may be laidback and midtempo, but there's still variety and some great melodic moments. Take "Start Again" and "Before This" for example - both are superb melodic tracks with the kind of subtle hooks that Jon Bon Jovi wishes he could still write... Another special song is the ballad "In This Moment". This isn't a "lighters-in-the-air" ballad with a big chorus, but a heartfelt one with just a great vocal from John and Michael T.Ross' delicate piano parts.
A couple of the songs seem to have a taken their cues from the bleak nineties, namely "She Sleeps In Madness" and "Hole In My Head", although the latter is saved by a rather melodic chorus. Another song I want to mention is "Give In To This Love", which sounds a lot like Winger - slighty progressive hard rock with the kind of melodies and hooks that Kip Winger tends to write.
A good effort, even though I would've like to hear a couple of more intense and uptempo songs, preferably with killer choruses... maybe next time?
THEOCRACY: "Mirror Of Souls" 7
Ulterium Records 2008
Theocracy was originally a one-man project with Matt Smith playing all instruments and singing. "Mirror Of Souls" is the band's second effort, and now we can safely talk about them as a band, as Smith has teamed up with guitarist Jonathan Hinds and drummer Shawn Benson for this album. Since the release of this album, a new lead guitarist Val Allen Wood has joined the band too.
Theocracy's music is Christian melodic metal, with influences ranging from Anthrax to Sonata Arctica, with all the usual suspects in between. They are certainly not offering anything I or you haven't heard before, but they do have something that leads me to believe that they're a band worth keeping an eye on.
The album opens with a majestic intro (of course!), that leads to a rather promising midtempo part. Unfortunately, just as I'm looking forward to the first verse, the tempo is raised to a Dragonforce-like level, and the songs turns into a decent, but slightly dull "we're-in-a-hurry-metal" track. "On Eagle's Wings" is much better, strongly Edguy'ish track with a cool chorus. The nine minutes of "Laying The Demon To Rest" contain a lot of very thrash-y guitar parts, almost Alice Cooperian horror elements and almost growled background barks - not one of my favourite tracks. The chorus does have its' moments though. I notice that vocalist Matt Smith sounds a bit like Mike Vescera (Loudness, Malmsteen), with a bit of Tobias Sammet and Joey Belladonna thrown in...
The ballad "Bethlehem" is a good one, and gives my ears a chance to rest after the thrashy rifforama of the previous tracks. No such luck with "Absolution Day", which is another speedy metal track with traces of Helloween, Maiden and Tobias Sammet's songwriting style. There's no escaping the influence of Sammet on the next track either, as "The Writing On The Sand" could've been on any of the last few Edguy albums. Still, it's a good song with a catchy chorus. "Martyr" isn't too bad either, strangely reminding me a bit of Bullet From My Valentine's less thrashy moments.
The title track is a monster of a song, over 22 minutes. I'm not a huge fan of songs of epic propotions, but I must say that this one works okay. Maybe it could've been condensed into a slightly shorter space, but overall it has some really cool parts and enjoyable melodies.
GAUNTLET: "What Doesn't Kill Us" 6
Molusco Records 2009
Gauntlet is a Spanish heavy metal band and "What Does Not Kill Us" is their second album.
Luckily the band sings in English and the vocalist sometimes sounds a bit like the famous mister Soundgarden Chris Cornell...
The opening duo song "What Does...." and "...Makes Us Stronger" sound a bit like Annihilator, due to the staccatto riffs
and the double bass drums; not a bad song indeed.
The rest however is just sheer solid metal; not bad, not really good, but most of all, nothing special.
TIMOR: "Aeons Of Despite" 5
Timor is a death-trash metal band from Switzerland, founded in 2003 and "Aeons Of Despite"
is their first full length album. The 11 songs are all heavy, agggressive, fast and the vocals are raw
and most of the time rather grunty; meaning that you cannot hear what Lukas Villiger is "singing"....
There are however no real musical highlights on this album, the vocals are one-dimensional, the guitar riffs are too
familiar and there is not enough variation to really enjoy this album
Maybe next time???
GAIA EPICUS: "Damnation" 5
Epicus Records 2009
The Norwegian duo Gaia Epicus return with their fourth album and again it is NOT a great album. The band has no real own indentity and the music is nothing more than just average melodic power metal. Furthermore the album has a rather weak sound which makes it even more "unpleasant" to listen to!
Most of the 9 tracks are mediocre Helloween-like metal stuff with sometimes even rather childish ho-ho-ho choruses, like
for instance in "Cyborgs From Hell". All the songs sound too much a-like and therefore I think that this album will
NOT be noticed by many hard rock lovers; there are so many better albums than this one....
|REVIEWS ADDED 05 April, 2009
IN THIS MOMENT: "The Dream" 9
Century Media 2009
This one’s been knocking around since late last year, but has been thrust upon us in the UK as the band are coming over for some shows. In This Moment are a US five piece fronted by Maria Brink, a woman not afraid to pout prettily for magazines, although fortunately she has a pretty pout so it’s all right. “The Dream” is their second album, with the first apparently being pretty hardcore metal with shouty singing. As you should know, I loathe shouty singing so was very pleasantly surprised when I put the new album on, as the band seem to have had a complete change of direction in the best possible way.
For the most, the album runs along the same lines as the likes of Paramore, with punky tunes that rattle along at a decent pace, good guitarwork and some very impressive vocals from Brink. Why a woman with this talent would waste her time doing grunty metal is beyond me. It’s most apparent on the piano ballad “Into The Light”, a beautiful song that will haunt you in your sleep. Aside from this, there really is a plethora of energetic, great tunes on offer, such as hit single in the making “Forever” and a great cover of Blondie’s “Call Me”.
“The Dream” is an absolute cracker of an album, and I can’t help play it over and over again. The only rain on this parade is “The Great Divide”, on which the grunting vocals are aired throughout. It’s pretty crappy, and has been deleted from my hard drive with extreme prejudice. Aside from that one blip, this is as good an album as I’ve heard this year, and if you like Paramore then this is a must buy.
LION'S SHARE: "DARK HOURS" 9
Blistering Records 2009
I have to admit, I didn’t really think I was going to like this when I heard the first track “Judas Must Die”. It seemed to me like a throwback to Eighties metal, but not in a great way. I couldn’t help but think of someone doing a parody of heavy metal, snickering behind their beard at the silliness of the music we love. It has to be said, though, that about twenty minutes later I couldn’t believe I ever thought this way, as ‘Dark Hours’ turns out to be one of the best heavy metal albums I’ve heard for a long time.
The main drawing point for me is the superb vocals of Patrik Johansson, who could almost be accused of being a Dio clone, his voice is that good. He’s been with Astral Doors and Wuthering Heights in the past, but Lions Share is my first encounter, but hopefully not my last. He could strip paint off a wall at a hundred paces, this bloke. Second on the bill, but in reality the man behind the band, is guitar maestro Lars Chriss, a man who can write and play the sort of power metal that makes you glad to be a fan, as well as popping up a few years back on the excellent melodic rock release from Road II Ruin. These two guys together make Lions Share a force to be reckoned with.
In ‘Dark Hours’ you get, in a nutshell, the best Dio album never made. ‘Demon In Your Mind’ is a slow burner that would sit right at home with ‘Heaven & Hell’, whilst the likes of ‘Space Scam’ rattles along at a good pace akin to ‘I Speed At Night’, or any other classic era belter. Maybe it seems a little unfair to make such comparisons, as Lions Share have written some excellent original music here, but it’s just so damned hard to keep Dio out of your head when listening to this. Let me just say that I mean it all in a good way, and with that in mind I can heartily recommend ‘Dark Hours’ to each and every person who has ever enjoyed classic metal music.
THE TROPHY: "The Gift Of Life" 8
The Trophy is an outlet for Human Fortress guitarist Todd Wolf's more commercial songwriting. He got in touch with the great travellin' man vocalist Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Redrum, Bloodbound, Bonfire etc), who agreed to be the voice of The Trophy, and together with keyboardist Marco Grasshoff they've created a very solid modern melodic rock album.
"The Gift Of Life" is a safe bet for anyone into Bormann's previous bands and solo material, even though it does have a slightly more modern vibe with downtuned guitars and some other production tricks. That shouldn't put anyone except the most hardcore 80'ies diehards off - the modern elements add variety and colour into the songs, and keep them up-to-date. It's not like we're talking about Marilyn Manson-like sounds here!
As always, it all comes down to the songwriting, and most of these songs are first class stuff. There's a lot of melodic hooks and memorable refrains here. The first few numbers appear to be the strongest ones, with the title track, "When The Nightmares Wake Me Up" and "Get The Cup" giving a hard time for the remaining tracks to match up. Some of them do match up ("Liar" and "The Way" most certainly do), but I'm not so sure about the two tracks in the middle of the tracklisting: "Can't Get Out Of My Head" and "The Shades Of Grey" tend to drag a little. The last few tracks are more to my liking, including the two aforementioned ones.
I hope that Mr. Wolf doesn't settle on having these songs released, but continues to write these melodic songs. A second Throphy wouldn't be a bad idea.
LIZHARD: "Lizhard" 8
Finally an Italian band that can actually entertain me!! I always thought that country was absolutely hopeless when it came to rock music. Their instrumental guitarists play some over-complicated acid-fusion-jazz-rock, their rock musicians look like accountants and play like that, too; and they are all totally un-cool… and no, Joe Satriani and Freddy Curci do not count here. Neither does Madonna. :)
And out of the total nihility comes a band from Milan (at least they have Beckham now, ya see? Italy is not totally hopeless) and they blow me away. If anybody remembers the band Skin, well Lizhard sounds a lot like them. If I were to stretch it even further I'd mention Tattoo Rodeo, too but that's a bit too flattery as they were one of my all time favorites. Anyway Lizhard plays catchy hard rock with cool melodies, rough riffs, and stomping rhythm section grooves. It's simple meat and potato hard rock but very good at that (sorry I should have said margherita pizza hard rock or something authentic like that…).
And unlike most of the Perris bands there is
absolutely no problem with the sound here. Probably that is due to Alessandro
Del Vecchio's influence as co-producer, mixer and masterer. [See my review of
the other Perris band this week for the sake of comparison.] The band sounds
tight, the guitars, the vocals all sound thick, the mix is balanced and the
whole thing simply got balls if you know what I mean. Highly unusual from a
country of posing football players with as much grease in their hair as Travolta
in his glory days. All in all this is a damn good album for all you good ole
hard rock fans out there.
DARK MOOR: "Autumnal" 8
Scarlet Records 2009
Okay, so this is Dark Moor’s seventh album, but I only tripped over it by accident, never having heard of them before. To be honest I was rather taken aback when I was played the opening track “Swan Lake”, as it really determines whether you will like Dark Moor. It is literally an eight minute metal version of the famous opera tune, complete with the band’s own lyrics and pounding drums. There’s both male and female singing, melody all over the place and a sense of grandeur that is hard to achieve amongst all the other symphonic type metal acts out there.
“Autumnal” really is what you would call Opera Rock, as although it’s an original composition there are hints (and bare faced swipes) from opera and symphony music all over the shop. If you’re gonna do this sort of thing, boyz and grrrlz, you’d better do it very well, and Dark Moor come up to scratch very nicely indeed.
If, after fifty minutes of dramatic interpretation (with some seriously widdly guitar at times) you need a rest, the band have the cheek to finish up with “Fallen Leaves Waltz”, which is just what it says - a waltz. It’s not rock, and it’s not metal, but it serves as the perfect closer to an album that has just blown your eras away with it’s passion and creativity. I can go either way on symphonic metal and all it’s little sub genres, but Dark Moor have to sit near the top of the tree, especially after producing this gem of an album.
KILLER KLOWN: "Gain" 7
These Italian guys released an album that sounds surprisingly good for an independent effort. Musically it is on the harder side of sleaze rock but forget the weak sound and the boring riffs that bands of that genre tend to put out these years. There's a really fresh approach here with modern and thick guitar sounds like Nickelback or any other contemporary mainstream rock act. The guys obviously paid attention to the details.
I have to admit that most of the times I can't be grabbed by this kind of stuff but this one sounds so energetic and fresh that it made me raise an eyebrow. It's hard to compare the band to anything yet I'd say imagine the first Tigertailz album, add the sound and aggressive approach of Nickelback's "Here Comes the Next Contestant", and the musical approach of the heaviest Skid Row tracks and you get close. Though the elements are nothing new under the sun the final product somehow sounds fresh and there's a welcome novelty factor to it.
My personal favorites included the uptempo "Big
Town", the moody "Broken Silence" that brought back distant Bang Tango memories,
and "Joker" that somehow reminds me of Skid Row's "Get the Fuck Out" at least in
its approach. If you do the maths (36 minutes total running time with 11 tracks)
you might get to the conclusion that these tracks are small adrenaline pills.
Take them at your own risk only.
PLEASURE MAKER: "Twisted Desire" 7
Pleasure Maker is a Brazilian band that grew out of a Bon Jovi tribute band. Obviously you'd expect them to sound like Bon Jovi yet they sound a lot more like a mixture of early Def Leppard and melodic sleaze/glam bands like Tigertailz and the likes.
They can talk the talk, they can walk the walk yet something is missing from the picture. And that is that special spark that could lift them off the rest of the average Perris bands. The songs are promising, the instrumental security is there but the bad production and the weak sound takes much of the fun away. With hooks not memorable enough to get stuck in my ear even after quite a few spins, my greatest pleasure of the album was paying attention to the guitar solos. Alex Meister, the guitarist is probably the strongest link in the band.
My personal favorites included "What we left
behind" that is probably the catchiest tune of the album; "Remember" a ballad
turning into a mid-tempo song with really good keyboard lines [I wish I could
forget about C. Marshall stretching the vocal melodies into territories where
his voice is a lot less confident than I can tolerate]; and "Hurt Me, Hurts You"
with its thick guitar work that sounds like the first two XYZ albums. All in all
the album is promising but the guys desperately need a good producer (like ALL
the Perris bands do) and some serious studio time with an engineer who's got
ears. Amateurs in the engineering / mastering business ruin even the most
promising materials available. [Don't worry I checked it: despite the name, it's
not a dildo webshop, it's the band's site:]
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