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 22 September, 2010
BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION: "S/T" 9
Mascot Records 2010
Well this one seems to have been a long time coming, with a slavering public desperate to get their grubby mitts on what is being touted as an album of the year contender. Put together by producer Kevin Shirley, BCC sees Glenn Hughes getting stuck in with guitar legend Joe Bonamassa, sticksman Jason Bonham and Dream Theatre’s keyboard king Derek Sherinian. Once together, the band wrote all the songs themselves (mostly Hughes and Bonamassa) and have managed to come up with an album which rivals that of the other notable “super group”, Chickenfoot.
Straight away, you will love this album. This is due to opening track “Black Country”, which gallops along like something Iron Maiden used to do, and reminds you that Glenn Hughes used to be a rock and roller. Like a cross between Dio and Chris Cornell, he really lets rip on a track that is short, sweet and sweaty. Despite the presence of Bonamassa, it’s abundantly clear that this is not going to be a strict blues album, which is a Good Thing in my book. That’s not to say, however, that Bonamassa doesn’t get to play with his six stringed toys, as he’s all over the place with some unsurprisingly brilliant solos that fit nicely into the song structures. It all goes a bit wanky on the eleven minute closer “Too Late For The Sun”, which is rather boring to be honest, but by then you’ve already had over 50 minutes of music, so if the musicians want to play around for a bit that’s fine by me (apparently it was a one take jam session). One of the best tracks on the album is the Hughes penned “Beggerman”, a rollicking romp that does nothing more than kick ass from start to finish. Like the album as a whole, it’s a serious reminder that Glenn Hughes had to earn that “Voice of Rock” tag, he didn’t get it free in a box of cornflakes. For the historians out there you also get “Medusa”, an old Trapeze song from 1970, with Bonamassa playing Mel Galley’s Les Paul, of all things, and the song sits very well amongst all the new stuff, benefiting from a plush production that makes it heavy as fuck. Bonamassa gets to sing on a couple of tracks, which is only fair, but although he’s got a good enough throat on him, he’s no Glenn Hughes.
“Black Country Communion” is an album that conjures up memories of all the shit you used to love about hard rock and heavy metal. There’s echoes of Purple, Sabbath, Maiden and Dio, all wrapped up in one cuddly package, and presented by four guys who are simply brilliant at what they do. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I do, and the only problem now is how to stop playing it and review something else!
ARCADIA: "Roy Philip Nohl" 8
Two Side Moon 2009
Nope, we certainly haven't been too impressed by the outcome of the Italian rock/metal acts as of lately. Thus why I didn't expect much from these guys (cheerful bastard), well, at least not on a positive note. Lo and behold, Arcadia is a v-e-r-y interesting 'Progressive, Hardcore, Melodic Metal' band that performs highly technical music with plenty of use of electronica, industrial sounds, and overall complexity when it comes to song structure and formula. It's a cross-over effort really as the melodies are connected to different genres and styles. Be warned though, you probably need to be really open-minded to fully appreciate the context of the excellent "Roy Philip Nohl" (yep, that's the weird title of their CD).
It's actually a pretty intense and close to "unique" experience as it's difficult to pin-point their sound. You can pick up several bits and pieces of everything from basic Hardcore to complex Progressive Metal, Math Metal, Melodic Death Metal, and the odd composition in the vein of Strapping Young Lad, Marilyn Manson, and Linkin Park. It's basically one of those 'need to be heard to believe' kind of records. They have a good knack and sense for melody though and the chugging riffs will quicky find its way to your brain. Indeed, Arcadia are not your average italo outfit and more imortantly, they've created a decidedly above average offering this time around. It's well structured, complicated material, exhibiting a slight industrial taint and overall very quirky songwriting. Clean vocals are sometimes mixed with the odd 'death metal' growl and industrial vocoder. I like it, I like it a lot! Not every man/woman's poison, but Arcadia are definitely too impressive to ignore. I
always tend to skip the track, "Nice Pics From the End of The World", since it's just too screamy/noisy. The rest are all recommended though.
FURYON: "Gravitas" 8
Furyon Music 2010
Please excuse us for being a little behind with this one, as it got lost in the maze of terror that is the British Postal System. Finally making it’s way to my desk, Furyon’s debut album is very welcome indeed, although finding out they are without a record label is quite insane. The Brighton quintet have been making a name for themselves for a little while now, and reviews for “Gravitas” have been overwhelmingly positive, including this one…
Furyon are a band of three halves, throwing in a fair smattering of southern type rock, along with some rather grungey riffs and topping it off with a heaviness that would sit nicely at home with a number of NWOBHM bands. They can handle melody, most notably in the brilliant “Disappear Again”, and often manage to mix it up with some serious heavy riffage as well. Vocalist Matt Mitchell has an impressive range, and you get the impression he could have a good wail at anything between Sabbath and AC/DC, stopping off for a bit of Alice In Chains half way. The production, by Rick Beato, is as good as anything the likes of Kevin Shirley does, and that’s most definitely a compliment. You can really feel the low end rumbling through the speakers, with the instruments and vocals perfectly balanced. It’s not too much to ask these days, and it’s annoying when anyone messes it up.
“Gravitas” is a very solid, very heavy, very melodic slice of rock pie. This is most definitely music to shake your dandruff to, but that’s not to say it can only be enjoyed by hairy old headbangers. A band at the bottom but most definitely on their way up, you need to check out Furyon or face being left behind when the revolution starts.
DROIDS ATTACK: "Must Destroy" 8
Two Side Moon 2009
Ultra thick guitar riffs and close to pure stoner rock make up the foundation of this power trio outfit from Madison, WI, U.S.of A. The Droids Attack monicker may also suggest they are fans of arcade games? Indeed, vocalist/guitarist Brad Van is the proud owner of a video arcade hall featuring classic games from the 70's and 80's and have a strange obsessions with everything slightly connected to video games and robots (well, duh!). Formed in 2003 they have independently released three (counting this one) full length albums and landed notable opening slots for acts such as Torche, Nashville Pussy, Priestess, Poster Children, etc. They were also featured in the Xbox 360 game 'Prey' and were selected to perform at some of the industry's most coveted showcases.
Droids Attack effectively blur the line between 70's Sabbath, Stoner rock and Grunge even more here than on their first two albums. Sure, it may take an opening of minds to appreciate the utter gritty metal of "The Great Wall Of Gina" or "The Arcade Bully". Especially as the latter is bringing back some awful childhood memories, lyric-wise. However, it's all very professional done and executed. Produced with a painfully gritty sound 'ala the first platter by the Queens Of Stone Age, "Must Destroy" manages to transcend this approach by being loud, groovy and straightforward with some witty lyrics to match. To be frank, this CD is better than most if not all releases by MeteorCity Records (the home of Black Pyramids, Flood, Snail, etc.) and I don't quite understand why they're independent? They have injected the old sound of Monster Magnet, Soundgarden, Queens Of Stone Age, and managed to turn this into something positive and slightly original. Recommended!
HELIX: "Vagabond Bones" 7
Whoever thought that Helix would be true to their words and they would be "running wild in the 21st century"? And the emphasis is on "wild" here. They delivered an album full of energy, true to their classic albums from the 80s.
It kicks off with "The Animal Inside" and if you don't like that track, you won't like the rest of the album (or anything Helix has ever done actually). It's a cool midtempo stomper, much like the rest of the album. The whole thing sounds good yet not outdated, it's not dusty but energetic. It's a bit weird to listen to 50some dudes singing drinking and womanizing anthems, yet I understand that singing about changing diapers or becoming grandfathers for that matter won't go too well as topics for rock anthems.
Helix are a bit like AC/DC, you like one song
and you like the rest of the band. The problem is the same as with ACDC, it gets
boring really quickly. The album is short enough to prevent that with songs not
longer on average than three and a half minutes, so if you were a fan so far,
you'll enjoy this one, too. But if you were not convinced so far, you will never
be, no matter what they do. For fans: compulsory, for everybody else:
UNSUN: "Clinic For Dolls" 7
Mystic Production 2010
"Female-fronted gothic metal sensation" is how the the band's label describes UNSUN. "Clinic For Dolls" is their second album, and while I'd argue about its' sensationality, it's an interesting disc for those who enjoy the likes of Fireflight, Within Temptation or Evanescence. Thanks to some rather untypical melodies and the interesting voice of Aya, the band aren't quite as faceless as many of their contemporaries.
Aya is definitely the star of the show, with a sensual, melancholic and beautiful voice. She's not a typical metal vocalist, more like an eighties' pop princess fronting a metal band. I'm thinking of someone like Kim Wilde or Nena here - sounds weird, but it works. There's a certain fragile element in her voice that I like. The way she pronounces words goes with the fragility, she's a "soft-spoken" vocalist if a term like that can be used. Her vowels twist and turn in a funny way and I'm not so sure what she's singing, but there's something charming about that.
Some of the band's melodies are rather charming as well, they don't always go to the expected direction yet they don't sound forced. However, the lack of really strong hooks is evident, the chorus sections could've used some additional catchiness to them. The closest to a killer chorus they get with the opening track "The Lost Way" and I'm strangely attracted to the title track too. The delicate piano ballad "The Last Tear" has definite hit potential, reminding me a bit of "My Immortal" by Evanescence.
ROSWELL SIX: "Terra Incognita A Line In The Sand" 6
Part two of the acclaimed crossover project of fantasy and prog on a grand scale. It's the follow-up album to last years' success story where bestselling author Kevin J Anderson and ProgRock Records came together for an epic novel and companion CD. Famed soft-prog keyboardist/composer: Erik Norlander (Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists, etc) wrote all the music for Part: 1 and executive producer Shawn Gordon from ProgRock brought together a fine line-up of musicians. This is however Part: 2 and Norlander has been replaced by Henning Pauly (Frameshift, Shadow's Mignon, solo, etc) and it's overall a grittier CD required a harder sound and a different mood according to author Anderson.
While the first CD was about exploration and discovery, brave adventures, sailing off to unexplored lands, this CD tell a different part of the Terra Incognita story with a new cast of characters - a darker tale about the never ceasing war between the two lands of Tierra and Uraba. Pauly's music is supposed to convey the distinctive cultures and personalities of the two lands of war. The lead vocalists this time are: Steve Walsh (Kansas) Sass Jordan, Michael Sadler (Saga) and Charlie Dominici (Dream Theater) and some geezer from The Third Ending (who?). I can't say that enjoy this as much as Part: 1 - mostly due to the rather average songwriting by Pauly. Part: 1 had a symphonic, pompous, approach with plenty of good tracks, fanfare keyboards and massive choirs. Part: 2, completely different and merely great performances by Michael Sadler (the songs: Loyalty, Victory) is sadly not enough to please this stubborn reviewer. Steve Walsh sound tired and old and Sass Jordan (normally a great vocalist) is never really in the picture so to speak. Out of focus - out of place. However, their biggest mistake - to replace the main songwriter from part one. It'd be the same as replacing Kevin J Anderson with Stephen King. I handed out a glowing review and rating (9 out of 10) to Part:1 - sadly not quite as stunning for part:2.
EMPIRES OF EDEN: "Reborn in Fire" 6
7 Hard 2010
Empires of Eden is the brainchild of Aussie guitarist Stu Marshall who gathered a big bunch of vocalists around himself for his second effort. "Gathered" might be a little exaggerative here as due to the studio technology of our times, they obviously did no fly down to Oz but sent their respective wav files to Stu for mixing who recorded the rest of the instruments. The effort deserves some kudos even if the final product leaves some (a lot) to be desired.
Though some relatively household names (Mike Vescara, Zak Stevens, Steve Grimmet, etc.) and some lesser-known dudes contributed their vocals to the track, due to the schematic songwriting approach they all sound the same. The songs don't give too much freedom to the vocalists, they are all uptempo neoclassical metal tunes, so the vocals are mostly about long suspended notes with an unhealthy amount of vibrato everywhere regardless who the vocalist of the respective track is. That makes the album ultimately boring by the end and the constant change of the vocalists cannot help it. They all sound the same by the end of the album and you won't be able to remember who sang which tune.
It feels a bit like the Allen/Lande album where
none of the vocalists benefited from the duet approach as due to the schematic
songwriting they both sounded the same. Yet those songs were better than these
ones, hence the better ratings for that album. Fans of the first Empires of Eden
album or collectors of the participants' works shall give this one a try, they
probably won't be too disappointed but if you are not a diehard fan, this one is
just another skipper.
SKY ARCHITECT: "Excavations Of The Mind" 6
Holy crap!!! The first four tracks are all entitled "Deep Chasm"??? Obviously I'm either quite barmy or it's some kind of four-part concept where subtitles such as 'Charter', 'Chime', Changeling' and 'Chasm' (huh, you again?) may or may not interfere with the main saga? Correct on both accounts actually since I'm typing this from the inside of the asylum. "Excavations Of The Mind" on the other hand is a very complex and versatile Prog-Rock album. Sky Architect is a young, up and coming, five-piece act from the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Formed in 2008 at the 'Codarts' (I'm sure there's a Harry Potter connection here somewhere?) university for music students where they also recorded their debut album.
The album dives into the dark and disturbing psyche of a mentally troubled man, while the music has a very complex structure with a lot of instrumental freedom. Blimey, in other words, you may expect a lot of experimental sounds and instrumental passages of the seventies on this platter. They've obviously been inspired by the likes of King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant, and the more "modern retro" sound of The Flower Kings and The Porcupine Tree. I find their arrangements a bit too "hippie" oriented on the occasional track, especially since their instrumental passages are just too "spacey" and even without any real structure nor plot. They sometimes get bewildered and lost in their own compositions and it's not all that easy to find the exit sign. It's a shame really since it's otherwise a nice platter and they're obviously all great musicians. Keep also in mind that you'll probably enjoy their arrangements more if you're a true fan of the seventies era.
BROKEN TEETH: "Viva La Rock, Fantastico!"
Broken Teeth is the typical Perris band: hard sleaze rock, a bit underproduced but performed with good-enough musicianship as the members have quite some experience under their belt, they would never break through but a small circle of devoted fans still follow them. For some it's enough, for me it's not enough to please.
Musically they are a mixture of Ac/DC with a heavy (and rough) version of L.A. Guns or any other L.A. sleaze band you remember from the glory days when this music could move fans in ten thousands. The patterns are the same both musically and lyrically; the energy is almost at the same level, yet something is still missing (and will probably always will). There are some really heavy rock n' roll tunes here ala early Ac/Dc, they might sound good live in a small pub but 12 songs on a full length album can get a bit too overwhelming.
Fans of simple, rough riffs, hoarse vocals and
simple drum patterns will like it even though it won't add anything new to their
collection. It's ideal for cruising or drunken headbanging parties. Not many
other use I can think of...
WOLFSPRING: "Wolfspring" 5
Sacrebleu!!! Wolfspring is a brand new prog-rock project formed by JP Louveton, also known as the guitarist and lead vocalist of the French Neo Progressive act Nemo. Motivated by the creation of new musicial surroundings, this project sees JP working with new musicians of various influences. Nontheless, also aboard this journey, ex-Nemo keyboardist Guillaume Fontaine and it's really not that far off their previous ship and crew. The skipper is (still) trying to convince us the earth is flat, 'it's dangerous to stray off the traditional prog-route' (apparently you could fall off the edge of the world or something) and it's more or less like a cozy and routed ferry across the pond. There's hardly any narrow passages or difficulties to be found on this platter and it's alll a bit too safe. Ship wreck? Hardly so, but don't expect anyone to suddenly proclaim 'land o'hoy' and you're all set as the new prog explorer. The bottomline: Slightly off-shore and off-beat this nemo of f-spring spend most of its days off-side. Oh, off-feck!
CONSTANTINE: "Shredcore" 5
7 Hard 2010
It would be hard to come up with a more appropriate description for this album than its title. It's no more, no less, pure braindead shredding, at best a bit like Jason Becker, at worst like the Great Kat. Mostly the latter.
Being a serious instrumental album collector and devoted fan of guitar music it's hard to flame an album that involves tremendous effort but I have to say this is not much of an entertainment here, mostly gimmicks with no memorable melodies. Can't see the point, really.
Fans of the above-mentioned two artists might be
interested, if you prefer the Satriani-way, stay far away from this one. Neo-
classical metal fans might give it a try; every now and then it's like their
kind of stuff without singing about dragons and battles. For everybody else it's
|REVIEWS ADDED 09 September, 2010
KISKE - SOMERVILLE: "S/T" 8
Amanda Somerville may be a new name to a lot of you, but she’s popped up on albums by the likes of Avantasia, Kamelot, After Forever and Epica. She may not be a household name, but she has a voice that people go to when they want, well, a voice. Michael Kiske you should well know, as he was the straight man in the well known 70s comedy duo, Nurburger & Kiske. No, he was of course the singer in the rather good band Helloween at the time they recorded their best album “Keeper Of The Seven Keys”. Yes, THAT Michael Kiske.
The unimaginatively titled “Kiske-Somerville” features 12 duets by the aforementioned vocalists, all set to melodic rock backing and a super smooth production. Kiske doesn’t belt out his parts like he did back in the 80s, and I was a little disappointed by this, although Somerville has an excellent voice, the sort you that wraps you up like a really plush duvet. When they sing together it’s a pretty good match, if not made in Heaven then surely in a suburb nearby. The duet factor serves to make the songs feel very mature, and there’s some very good tunes here, wedged firmly in the rock sector but occasionally feeling like something out of the conventional charts. It can get a bit stodgy in a couple of places, but generally has a good rhythm and flow and is absolutely stuffed with melody. Whilst not a symphonic type of album, it is nonetheless very dramatic, another side effect of the duet style, which may add appeal if you are into that sort of thing.
Never less than entertaining, “Somerville-Kiske” is a solid, original album that works on several levels. Fans of melodic and dramatic rock should get a good buzz from it, and I can see a plethora of European festival appearances being waved at them next summer. Hopefully they’ll take the show on the road, as this isn’t an album that should be confined to the studio alone.
TWO FIRES: "Burning Bright" 9
From the understandably Journey-esque ‘super group’ The Storm, rose Two Fires, featuring singer Kevin Chalfant and guitarist Josh Ramos. They chucked out an album ten years ago, and are back for another go with “Burning Bright”, which unsurprisingly sounds rather like Journey.
From the off, “Burning Bright” is a real pleasure to listen to. Yes, it will remind you of Journey, but if that’s a bad thing then there’s something wrong with this world. Half way through the album the title track really rams this home, as the does the Neil Schon co-penned ballad “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid”. This is a melodic rock album for people who want stuff to play whilst imagining themselves in an open top sportscar with a busty blonde by their side and a pet cougar in the back seat. Two Fires can bring out the California sunshine even during a wet weekend in Nottingham. Much like Italians Myland, they have taken the Journey formula and given it a good kick up the arse, favouring well paced rockers over wet ballads, allowing Ramos to play some excellent yet understated solos throughout. Chalfant is, of course, sublime behind the microphone, not quite up there with Steve Perry or Arnel Pineda but very close indeed.
There really is nothing to dislike about “Burning Bright”. The song writing is such that it makes you feel a bit happier with each new track, and the musicianship just backs this up. Even the ballads are well executed, with the rockier tracks really giving the album that killer edge. Excellent stuff.
VOLBEAT: "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven" 8
Danish destroyers Volbeat are back for their fourth album, throwing in metal, rock and roll, rockabilly, punk, country and the kitchen sink once again to make an album that will surprise, enthuse and confuse people in equal measure.
The best way to describe Volbeat for newbies is to imagine Creed and The Misfits making an album together. There’s the frenetic but melodic punk overtones tamed by a pop sensibility and all wrapped up by Michael Poulsens excellent low slung vocals. Ultimately, Volbeat manage to mix up various styles into an incredibly comprehensive style that sets them apart from many of today’s bands without sacrificing the fact that they are still a heavy rock band at the core. If you’re a fan of The Misfits you will really dig this album, but for everyone else I would still say check them out, as there’s enough pure melody and fun songs to keep anyone happy.
ISSA: "Sign Of Angels" 8
Come on then… how many smoking hot Norwegian babes can you name who can also sing like an angel and have released a kick as melodic rock album. Okay, so there’s not many, but in future you can at least answer Issabel Oversveen, also known as Issa. The smoking hot part is obvious from the album cover (Yowza!), but for the rest you’ll actually have to buy the thing, something I can’t see any reader of this site regretting.
“Sign Of Angels” is one of those albums that makes it all seem so easy. You would be forgiven for thinking it came together one pleasant afternoon over tea, crumpets and lamb in cabbage (it’s a Norwegian thing), although I’m sure it didn’t. It’s an album that will take you back to the 80’s, when melody was king and Sandi Saraya kicked ass. There’s no power metal, grunge or punk pop here, it’s just pure melodic rock with catchy hooks and the occasional cool guitar solo. Issa herself has a really good voice, suiting the material perfectly, and she’s lucky enough to be backed by some good musicians, including the brilliantly named Nobby Noberg (it’s a British thing) on bass.
Whilst Issa hasn’t broken any moulds here, “Sign Of Angels” gets a stamp of approval because it takes a formula and gets the experiment just right. Just as Danger Danger didn’t do anything new on their excellent “Revolve”, this album is another argument for the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of music. One song even begins with a motorbike revving up, for fraks sake! The bottom line is that this isn’t the best melodic rock album in the World, but it’s solid, with no weak spots. A few more songs that really rock out would have been nice, and maybe some more attitude, but overall this is a great start for Issa.
LA FAMIGLIA SUPERSTAR: "s/t" 7
This curiously named group is a bit of a "supergroup" indeed. On vocals there's Terry Ilous of XYZ fame, bass duties are handled by Marco Mendoza (ex-Whitesnake etc), while Atma Anur sits behind the drum kit. He's played on dozens of albums and tours, with artists like Journey and David Bowie, to name a couple. Steve Saluto is the guitarist, and he's gotten his fair share of praise both in the jazz world as well as the rock circles. With this kind of a line-up, it's no surprise that the music on this album is quite versatile. They are being marketed as "melodic hard rock" in the press release, but a more general term would be more suitable... like "classic rock" maybe? Whitesnake or XYZ this sure isn't.
The band's style and sound changes somewhat from track to track, so maybe it's better to take the track by track approach to this review... "Never Enough" starts the show with a 70'ies vibe all over it. Terry's vocals are very impressive, it seems like the guy only gets better with age! An okay chorus and a scorchin' solo from Saluto, so the overall score for this one would be "GOOD", although this sort of retro-rockin' isn't normally my kind of thing. The retro-rockin' continues with "Rain", but this time the guys have come up with a rather ace melodic chorus, which makes this song one of my favourites of the album. So far so good!
"I Miss You" is a nice acoustic ballad, but then it's again back to the seventies with the funky "What We Gonna Do". A soulful vocal from Terry, but... no, this doesn't appeal to me at all. The bluesy ballad "I Come Around" is probably good in its' own genre, but despite being perfectly performed, it's also one of the weaker songs for me. The sheer brilliance of the playing and the singing does shine through though. "Closer" is more to my liking, an acoustic laid-back track with a good chorus.
What's needed right now is something more rocking, and "Can U Tell Me" is just that. A slightly funky rock track with an excellent hook get a thumbs up from me! "Here I Go Again" is indeed "that" song, the Whitesnake classic. This time it's been given a special treatment, with LFS re-arranged it to fit the overall style of the album. This laid-back, soulful version works quite well and might be the band's ticket to some additional airplay.
Terry Ilous gets to use his native language in "The Wind". This French "chanson" doesn't offer much for me, because it isn't musically very interesting. The instrumental "Visions" is clearly a showcase for guitarist Saluto, a hard rocking track with a lot of fine guitarplaying, if nothing else.
The production by Alex De Rosso is excellent, and with the risk of repeating myself, the performance by the band is outstanding. It's just that I'm always after those killer songs, hence only a 7. It's down to personal taste (or the lack of it?) of course, so do check out the band's MySpace for tasters.
FURY U.K: "A Way Of Life" 7
Rocksector Records 2010
Another band hampered by the fact they have had to stick “U.K” after their name because they were beaten to it by someone else, Fury U.K impressed me quite a bit with their “V.R” album, mainly as it managed to bring the spirit of NWOBHM kicking and screaming into the present day. Fury U.K make metal for muthas, and are back to deliver some more, which can’t be a bad thing.
“A Way Of Life” follows a similar path to the last album, mixing atmosphere with balls out metal, and trading between sensitive mood setters and cock on the rail track guitar widdling at will. The undoubted star is, again, Chris Appleton, who continues to impress as one of the best guitarists the U.K has to offer. There are many times when the listener will cast doubts that this is a 3 piece band, but take it from someone who has seen them live - they don’t fuck about and what you hear is what you get. Chris also sings, and again I have to place him firmly in the ‘average’ category, and can’t help thinking that several of the songs here would have been awesome If Dave Mustaine had sung them. Mind you, Bruce Dickinson would certainly fit “Saviour”, as it’s quite the Maiden homage with it’s opening chords almost copying “Wasted Years” before it gallops off into a spirited romp.
There’s not a bad track here, and the whole album will keep anyone who ever liked metal very happy. If I had a choice between this and the latest Maiden album, or any Metallica from the last ten years or so, then Fury U.K would get my vote every time.
Jon MULLANE: "Shift" 6
Canadian singer Jon Mullane manages to sound both totally retro and totally contemporary on his latest album "Shift". Retro in a very eighties vein, taking influences from the likes of INXS, Billy Idol and Duran Duran, and contemporary thanks to the modern and radio-friendly production by Creighton Doane. For a rather traditional AOR/Hard Rock label like Escape this album is a bit of a surprise, but I guess they thought that the presence of two former Harem Scarem members (Doane and guitarist Pete Lesperance) would make this appealing to their core audience. Those expecting something similar to Harem Scarem won't get what they ordered, but those of you who enjoy the eighties' synth-rock might find this to their liking. Personally I kinda like the style, but I wish the songs were a bit more memorable. "Go The Distance" and "Make Your Move" are two pretty decent pop-rockers as are most of the others, but... it's as if the guys were trying a bit too hard to re-create the non-chalant, ultra-cool eighties' video vibe on the expense of really strong melodies. Still, there's something strangely appealing in these songs, and in the eighties they could've graced the soundtracks of all those teen dramas and comedies.
D'ERCOLE: "The Art Of Self Destruction" 5
Z Records 2010
This Rhode Island-based band proudly state on their MySpace page that they're "THE NEXT WAVE OF HEAVY ROCK MUSIC". I don't know about that, because "The Art Of Self Destruction" is pretty faithful to the eighties melodic metal sounds of Dokken and the likes. There's an underlying melancholic mood in the music, which reminds strongly of Dokken's "Under Lock And Key" album and Don Dokken's solo album "Up For The Ashes". Not to mention the fact that vocalist Phil Vincent sounds a bit like Don. Still... as effortless it is to listen to the album, the hooks that would make me want to listen to this album more often are missing. Kinda like Dokken's latter day albums actually.
The better songs include the opener "Desperate", "Destiny" with its' lovely "dut-dut" keyboards and the closing track "The Deluge" which also benefits of the colourful use keyboards. However, there's just way too many dull songs like "Don't Wanna Be Like You" and "Gone But Not Forgotten" which don't seem to go anywhere. Maybe next time they should only write songs with short titles beginning with the letter "D"?
|REVIEWS ADDED 31 August, 2010
DORIS BRENDEL: "The Last Adventure" 9
Eclectic... definitely eclectic, diverse, and darn superb!!! Doris 'Doz' Brendel (ex-The Violet Hour) has managed to blend several different styles and influences into a sparkling cocktail of music without losing focus nor cred. I've been playing this non-stop for the past six days now and there's always something new and interesting to discover just around the corner. Hey, what about those h-u-g-e vocal harmonies 'ala Queen and ELO on "Work In Progress" or the utter f-a-t Prog keys on "Why Are You Still Here"?. Yeah, it's basically a perfect display of diversity as you can find everything from classic Prog-Rock to Classic Rock, Opera/Pomp, Beatle-esque pop, Art-Rock, Skunk Anansie, Funk, and mere hints of more modern influences and bits of the old celtic too. Geez... it's a full platter in other words and the arrangements will constantly keep you up on your toes.
'The Last Adventure' was recorded in the old-fashioned way — no sequencers or click tracks — giving the album a great retro feel in today's digital age. It's been produced by Dave Beeson (mastered at Abbey Road studios), who also did Brendel's previous CD, and you'll get a full and rich sound with Doris' excellent and strong bluesy vocals at the centre of attention. Doz is also responisble for all the songwriting as well as fiddle and flageolet. Born to an famed opera singing mother and ARTist (Iris) and famed classical pianist father (Alfred Brendel), Doris has somehow always been connected to 'class' and real craftsmanship. However, 'The Last Adventure' is clearly Doz' best solo work (so far) and her vocals are simply outstanding throughout the record.
Opening track, "What Are You Saying" - to be honest, it's basically Prog-Rock goes 'Zombie' and The Cranberries. Huge sounding lead and backup vocals, the "Jethro Tull" fiddle, Blackmore-ish guitar work, and the song 'Zombie' somewhere in the back of your mind. Great! The title track, "The Last Adventure", experimental rock with lyrics (inspired by the death of her mother) that goes straight to the heart and beyond. It's a hybrid of rock opera type melodies and those overall grand arrangements of seventies rock. "I'm Not Old I'm Experienced", beside a great title and tongue-in-cheek lyrics also a great tune in the funky rock style of Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple). By the way the same goes for "Be My Guitar", the latter not quite as impressive - a tad more 'hippie', but still ok, I guess. "Latest Fantasy" is another favourite track - catchy, emotional, atmospheric, celtic 'Art Rock', including a flageolet and such a lovely flow, you know? "What Have I Done" and "Work In Progre ss" are two superb compositions with just as much classic Prog and Pomp. Supertramp - eat my shorts or whatever! More variety? Doz almost break out into some kind of Green Day-ish rock/punk on "Get A Life" - a throw-away rocker that works out fine actually. "You're Almost Perfect" start out slow before the chorus kicks in and there's a Pink Floyd-ish bridge. "Why Are You Still Here" - a 50/50 mix of 70's Prog and Skunk Anansie and comes complete with the standard long interaction between guitar and keys.
The bottomline: Doris Brendel and "The Last Adventure" - It's the thinking woman/man's music and not the latest 'hits for kids' compilation if you somehow misapprehended the words? Though keeping within a rock framework, the genres are oh-so varied, which has become one of Doris Brendel's trademarks. Vocally, she's at the top of her game and sadly underrated by way too many journos. Marvelous vocalist! There's a lot of 'outside the box' material to be found here and it's all - Highly Recommended! (check out below links for samples - release date: Oct)
CONDITIONS: "Fluorescent Youth" 9
Good Fight Music 2010
I do like a good bit of pop punk and all that sort of thing, despite not being a Young Person or an Emo or any of that sort of thing. When this sort of thing is done well it can really shine, and the likes of All Time Low, Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance or Lostprophets have produced some truly memorable tunes. Canadian quintet Conditions have every chance of worming their way into that elite club with the release of their second album “Fluorescent Youth”
Taking the best bits from All Time Low and My Chemical Romance, Conditions have mastered the art of catchy song writing with a good, hard edge to it. This isn’t all fluffy stuff, it’s at times gritty and full of power, with the awesomely awesome “Miss America” sounding like one of the best tracks MCR never did. Elsewhere there’s potential singles aplenty, especially the horrendously catchy “Better Life”, which will get them plenty of fans if combined with a cool video. Brandon Roundtree has a perfect vocal range for the music the band plays, although he’s unlikely to ever stand out from the many other singers in the genre that also have the right sound.
“Fluorescent Youth” is a real benchmark in aggressive melodic modern punk music, absolutely stuffed to bursting with melody and attitude. If you’ve ever flirted with this kind of music, then this is a good ttime to get in on the ground floor with a band that completely deserve that tag “Next Big Thing”. A wonderful album.
BLACK ROSE: "Cure For Your Disease" 8
So what if you can't really come up with any decent CD artwork of your own? Why not re-use an old Rainbow cover? (Difficult To Cure) - simply add a guitar at the centre of the pic and voilá - sure beats working for living!!! Now, now, hold your horses, let's not stomp this particular U.K. flower down to the ground as this is the long awaited comeback album of NWOBHM geordie cult act, Black Rose. Indeed, it's been 24 fookin' years since their last studio album (Walk It How You Talk It 1986 - check out the 'Just For The Record' interview at our 'interviews' section - duh) and four of the original members (Steve Bardsley - vocals, Chris Watson - guitar, Ian Iredale - guitar, Mal Smith - drums, with the addition of Kiko 'Kid' Rivers - bass) are still with us on this platter. How about that for one serious flashback attack, huh?
"Cure For Your Disease" has been released independently by the band and is now available for download from all the major music stores like: Amazon, itunes, emusic, etc. Surely just a matter of time before there's a "proper" CD release, since this is frankly just too good to pass by and any of the labels should give these guys a call. The music, dude, what about the music? Suprisingly good and definitely true to their original sound!!! There's absolutely no need to worry about any detuned guitars or destorted vocals. It's basically U.K. Party hard rock based on their full monty attitude (and no, it's not 'nude'- it's 'everything' or 'all in'), fish and chips, black pudding, deep fried mars bars, and the likes of Heavy Pettin and Thunder. In fact, that's probably as close as you ever get to the core of "Cure For Your Disease" - add mere hint of acts like Y&T and Quiet Riot and you're almost there. Yeah, it's basically the old Black Rose sound only slightly blusier than befor e.
Steve Bardsley is an unsung hero when it comes to the U.K. hard rock vocalists. His performances - always top drawer stuff with just enough grit and attitude. "Curse For Your Disease" not only sees the band consolidating their eighties roots with the likes of "Sign Of The Times", "Rock Renegades" and the bitchin' rock of "Doghouse", but also tips towards a genuine bluesy feel with the rockin' title track and the evil strut of "Twice Bitten Once Shy" and "Killing Yourself To Live". They've also done a lovely remake of the great semi-ballad, "Baby Believe Me", originally from the 1984 album 'Boys Will Boys'. I'm not overly positive to these sort of re-takes, however, this one feels genuine and classy in the vein of the Whitesnake re-recordings (but hey, not everyone enjoyed the Snakes' re-takes for that matter). Final verdict: Recommended if you're lookin' for a jolly good time of eighties rock! It's not rocket science, you know, it's only rock 'n roll... but I like it...
TARJA: "What Lies Beneath" 8
I’ve never been much of a fan of Tarja Turunen, and could only get into Nightwish properly after she left and a more conventional singer was brought in. The diva image, the costume changes, the problems with rights over songs after she left - all this didn’t do her any favours in my book, with her dull solo album the icing on the cake. Let’s be honest, I’m not her idea of an ideal reviewer for her second solo effort, but on the plus side, if she can win me over then it’s quite a step forward.
With “What Lies Beneath”, Tarja seems to have tried to balance her music between her traditional operatic drama and more straightforward chunky rock anthems, hoping to appeal to a wider audience without alienating anyone too much. Opening track “Anteroom Of Death” gets off to a bit of a wobbly start, the harpsichord making me wonder if this is going to be the tone of the album, but it ends up being nicely balanced with some nice, crunchy guitar and is a cool start to the album, setting the tone very well. There are some really good rock tracks here, always musically balanced with other instrumentation to keep them interesting and original. There are a few guest starts, like Joe Satriani and Van Canto, but in reality they don’t add anything to their songs except a name in brackets on the credits.
A standout track has to be “Underneath”, which starts out as a very traditional Tarja type emotion fuelled slowie and throws in some fantastic melody and a subtle guitar track to emerge as a contender for ballad of the year. Throughout the album Tarja gets to stretch her vocal muscles, but for some reason her high pitched wailing doesn’t seem as intrusive as it has on other albums. There’s a sense that she has finally found her place in the music world, no longer shackled by Nightwish and free to do her own thing and bollocks to anyone who doesn’t like it.
As you can see, I’m actually rather impressed by ”What Lies Beneath”, an album that offers plenty for fans of operatic goth rock and more traditional melodic metal alike. It’s not Nightwish, but then again it’s not supposed to be. I am now officially a fan of Tarja, and let me tell you I didn’t think that the day would ever come. Make of that what you will, but check the album out as it’s a belter.
Jimi JAMISON & Jim PETERIK: "Extra Moments" 7
MelodicRock Records 2010
So... what to expect from two rock veterans and all-time Survivors' on their brand new CD project together? Hip-hop? Emo? Aggressive folk-rock music? Lo and behold, it's once again melodic rock and also the debut release at the brand new Melodic Rock Records by that Andrew fellow at melodicrock.com. Come to think of it, that's enough of times we've mentioned 'melodic rock' already, lol. Straight to the point, "Extra Moments", basically leftover, rejected material from the Jimi Jamison album "Crossroads Moment", plus the odd song of the eighties past. In the old days this would have been called an 'official bootleg' as you get some rough mixes, some finals, some raw demos which Peterik did/sang to show Jimi or the record label.
Any good? Yeah, there's a couple of real gems among these tracks. Just because a certain label rejected them, doesn't mean they're all bad, you know? The biggest mistakes in music business - always the work of an delusive A&R person. The Beatles, anyone? However, there's merely seven (7) 'new' tracks, plus three songs repeated/sung by Peterik on the original demos. Tracks like "Chiseled In Stone" and "Cry Of The Wild Heart", "She's Nothing To Me", are at times very theatrical and not knowing Peterik's influences, I'd say there's quite a lot of Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf) going on there somewhere in the background. I like it though. The above mentioned 'Cry' song actually date back as far as 1984 and was one of Jamison's Survivor audition songs now finally on CD in 2010. Then again, Survivor melodies of the past were always about drama and pomp, yeah? Not to mention that Peterik's been in the biz since the early stone-age, ehem, the seventies.
As a totally solid unpretentious stab at theatrical AOR, this CD is one of those albums which most die-hard fans will pick up and feel totally satisfied. "I Wanna Touch You There" is a real gem and "Heart Of A Woman" is a nice little ballad. "Lifeforce" is like a 50/50 mix of Survivor and Magnum. Unfortunately, you've heard numbers such as "Lifeforce" and "Life#9", all before and now they're sounding a little too safe. It doesn't exactly get any better if we're forced to hear them in two different versions for that matter. Final verdict: 'Extra Moments' will no doubt delight the die-hard following of the Survivors'. For the rest of us, the concept may at times feel a bit too familiar - but it's still too darn professional executed to ignore. Neat!
THE UNION: "S/T" 7
Payola Records 2010
From the ashes of Thunder, one of the best UK rock bands of the last quarter century, comes The Union, which sees Thunder guitarist and songwriter Luke Morley teamed up with Winterborn vocalist Peter Shoulder for an album that will both please and annoy Thunder fans, but mostly please.
Firstly, people are going to wonder if this is just another Thunder album with different vocals, and I have to say that it isn’t, but then again it sort of is, if you see what I mean. It’s confusing, I know. Peter Shoulder is a Big Name in the world of blues, being one of only three Brits to win a WC Handy Blues Foundation award, and as such The Union lean more towards pure blues than Thunder ever did. The first hurdle for Shoulder is the fact that he will be compared to Danny Bowes, something that’s really quite unavoidable, no matter how unfair you think it is. Whilst he has a pretty decent, soulful voice, I can’t help imagining the songs being sung by Bowes, and as a result the vocals on display aren’t as good as the ones in my head.
When The Union bring out the big guitars they certainly have some great songs, like ”Watch The River Flow” or “Step Up To the Plate” among others. There’s some full on blues boogie going on, nudging hard rock territory when needed. Some of the slower songs drag a bit, notably “Saviour”, although the standout of these is the acoustic “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, a nice little ditty that gets better the more I hear it. It’s quite an uneven album in that it seems to be trying to keep Thunder and Peter Shoulder fans happy at the same time, which isn’t always an easy task.
There’s certainly a lot to like about this album, and I know I’ll be coming back to it in the future, but there’s a magic ingredient missing that would make it an essential purchase. I’ll certainly look forward to the next album, and in the meantime use selective listening to get the most out of this one. Not a perfect union, but certainly one that has a lot of promise.
SLECHTVALK: "A Forlorn Throne" 6
Believe it or not, "A Forlorn Throne" is the fourth full length release of the Dutch 'Dark Viking Metal' band Slechtvalk. But, but... wouldn't it have been more suitable with a nordic viking name on the band then? Anyhow, Slechtvalk's target here is the numbing effect of a modern culture which somehow forget about the greatness of pagan warriors, the Vikings and their adventure lust. They "discovered" America, you know, and not that Italian fellow you've been reading about in some of the old history books (Columbo? Columbus?). Ehem, on the other hand, the Native Americans were obviously there all the time though!!!
The opening track, "Tamers Of The Sea", tell the tale of Swedes and Norwegians of long gone days. The sound here is intense with guitars and more guitars layered on top of each other. The vocalist growls and howls his disgust at the world and especially at the ones not capable of feeling the love to bearded men with swords and strange looking helmets. It's all a very intense experience and sounding like a sludgy Bathory (during their viking era) using the chugging riffs and atmospheric keyboard approach of Amon Amarth, Enslaved, Samael, might just do the trick for many melodic 'black metal' fans. "Desolate" and "Divided By Malice" are weird and wonderful tracks, updating the old formula and structure of already mentioned acts. The song "Enthroned", shows where Slechtvalk are really coming from, lyrically it's about a warrior that on his way to a battle comes across a ruin during his journey. When he sits down on the throne an enchanting spectacle starts to unfold in the mi
sts before him and the longer he watches it, the more he finds himself trapped in its spell. At a certain point he is too far gone to be able to break free from it and turns into a statue. It's a metaphor about the dangers of addictions, like drugs, alcohol and other things. It's solid bludgeoning riffs, growling vocals and absolutely no flirt with the commercial rock. The average melodic rock fans are quite likely never going to find anything even remotely interesting about Slechtvalk though. Nice...
MAC BLAGICK: "Ramadawn" 5
Clever chaps, huh? It's 'Black Magic' not 'Mac Blagick' or whatever? Anyhow... ladies and gentlemen - kindly close your weary eyes and prepear yourself to step back in time as we travel all the way back to approx: 1971!!! And what if we're not even born yet? Well, I don't know anything about the era myself - use your bloody imagination for christ's sake!!! It's hippie, groovy, psychedelic, far-out, rad, acid, turn in, out, upside down, smelly underwear, huge sideburns, afros, etc, etc. This particular Swedish quartet rehearsed for the first time in May 2006, two weeks later the first gig was played and in June the same year their debut self-titled album was recorded. Just like in the hippie days, huh?
I'm pretty sure the Mac Blagick band members themselves weren't even born in '71??? So what makes them record a CD that just as easily could have been recorded 40 years ago? No idea really, but hey, whatever makes them happy. Everything about the band screams "dated" and "vintage" as they're using the old fashioned way of recording, the experimental structure, instrumental arrangements, and probably amps too (any 'orange' over there? - buy yourself a 'marshall' pronto!). "Ramadawn" is their second album release and it's full of strange and sometimes even nice melodies in the vein of Iron Butterfly, Captain Beyond, Gong, Jefferson Airplane, Mountain, and Hawkwind. Their psychedelic riffs echo the groovy era of rock, but with slightly more simplistic melodies and not quite as impressive for that matter. Nontheless, "Queen Of The Night" is an uplifting tune and the title track is a fun mixture of Butterflies and Gongs. It's merely a shame that singer Martin Wiberg sounds more like Thomas DiLeva than Erik Braunn.
GODSIZED: "The Phoney Tough & The Crazy Brave EP"
Self Produced 2010
Well this a nice surprise, and very unexpected after I looked at the cover and was ready to hurl it at the cat in terror without even playing it. But a music journalist’s life is one of sacrifice and sorrow, so I stuck this one on the gramaphone and waited for the extreme noise terror hinted at by the cover and band logo. It never came.
Godsized are a UK combo yet to release a full album, although they made some good impressions with their debut EP “Brothers In Arms”. From listening to the three tracks here you’d never thing they were English, as their music is practically dripping in Suvvern Rock mucus, with a heavy dose of Black Label Socirty and that sort of thing, a bit like The Answer with their guitars turned up to eleven. To be honest, I’d rather listen to Godsized than BLS any day, as they can belt out some great music. I’d praise the band members by name, but the press release doesn’t list them and nor does their MySpace site. Either way, this is a good mix of metal for metalheads with a low slung bluesy vibe that gives it a melodic kick. Certainly a band to sit up and take notice of, I look forward to hearing more of Godsized in the future.
|REVIEWS ADDED 17 August, 2010
BANGALORE CHOIR: "Cadence" 8
AOR Heaven 2010
Even though Bangalore Choir’s only album “On Target” (1991) never set the world alight, it is held in high regard by melodic hard rock fans, and rightly so. I suppose you know that you once made a classic album when Firefest want to you play it in it’s entirety, which is what the band will be doing later this year. Nineteen years is certainly a long gap between albums (even Boston might balk at such a gap), but the three remaining members of the band have delivered an album of melodic goodies that equals, if not surpasses, the debut. First up, I really should apologise to vocalist David Reece, whose solo album “Universal Language” was on the end of a right slagging on this very site. Whilst I still dislike the album, I really shouldn’t have been so vitriolic, and am glad that this album has allowed me to give him some praise! Reece is joined by original guitarist and bassist Curt Mitchell and Danny Greenebrg respectively, with the line up completed by guitarist Andy Susemihl and drummer Hans I’nt Zandt. So it’s not the full original line up, but three out of five ain’t bad.
“Cadence” follows the odd trend of starting off with a short intro that adds nothing to anything and should just have been added to the first track rather than being separated. Sorry, but this bugs me (although not half as much as on the new Maiden album). It’s a small niggle, though, as from there onwards this is a mightily competent melodic rock album. Reece’s vocals are clear throughout, and he manages to hit some pretty impressive notes when required. The backbone of the album, however, is the songs themselves. There’s a couple of misfires, but they’re not in any way awful, with the rest of the tracks uniformly delivering the sort of melodic hard rock that has power as well as harmony, along with some great choruses. Just listening to the opening salvo of “Power Trippin” and “Martyr” will give you an idea of where the rest of the album is going, filled as they are with real energy and toe tapping melody. There’s a bit of an oddity in “Still Have A Song To Sing”, because every time I listen to it I can’t help but be reminded of Meat Loaf’s “Read Em & Weep”, and “Spirits Too They Bleed” is a bit of an excitement vacuum, but the other eleven songs really deliver.
I was looking forward to hearing Bangalore Choir performing their debut at Firefest, but after hearing “Cadence” I wish they were doing more of a half and half set, because these are songs that deserve to be heard live. Powerful, melodic and passionate, this is one that you can listen to over and over again, so don’t light the pyre for Bangalore Choir just yet.
MOJO POJO: "Mojo Pojo" 8
Mojo Pojo, the name fits the music and it's darn impressive stuff!!! From Caracas, Venezuela, the band began when vocalist/bassist Enrique Perez Vivas started jamming with fellow college student Luis Daniel Gonzalez (keyboards) and his brother Jorge at their dungeon/studio/bar? Having similar musical tastes (raging from Miles Davis to Morbid Angel) they inevitable got together often and started making the extremely vivid kind of music they liked. After extensive searching they found guitarist Antonio Narciso and they began playing numerous live shows throughout Venezuela. Some of you may recall that I recently wrote about the band Echoes (also from Venezuela), Mojo Pojo are definitely the more impressive act of the two and should be signed to a certain label.
What kind of music to expect from their very fine debut CD? Well... it's a fusion between Progressive Rock and Metal, Jazzy arrangements, and more likely, ehh... fusion. It's a wild and lovely mixture of everything from Steely Dan to Rush, Dream Theater and complex Fusion rock. Sure, it's been released independently by the band, but with a little bit of help from several national and international personalities. James Murphy (Testament, Death, Obituary) contributes with a guitar solo and Julio Andrade (Franco Devita) a sax solo. The package's design and artcover is actually the work of Hugh Syme (Rush, Iron Maiden, Megadeth). It's all v-e-r-y professionally done and the musicians of Mojo Pojo are all top class performers. This is frankly just as good if not better than most releases by any established rock/prog label.
There's a couple of tracks in the language of Spanish as well as a couple of instrumental pieces. Please don't let any of this scare you away from checking out this 11 track CD though. Enrique is a solid vocalist and also very capable of the English language. There's a sense of space in the compositions and the constant interlude and interactions between bass/drums vs. keys/guitars, a joy to listen to really. And this is me being especially picky when it comes to Jazzy/Prog/Fusion, since it's not really my favourite genre of the past (but as of lately, yes). Nontheless, good music is always good music and Mojo Pojo - as good as it gets independently. Recommended!
KEN'S DOJO: "Reincarnation" 7
Although not exactly a household name (in my household, anyway), Ken Ingwerson is a bit of a veteran of the melodic scene, a multi instrumentalist and producer who has been around for the past 20 years or so. Nowadays he’s more of a producer and occasional touring guitarist, and “Ken’s Dojo” is an attempt to get back into the recording side of things on his own terms and with more than a little help from his friends.
“Reincarnation” is a pretty eclectic mix of songs and styles, with Ingwerson playing some excellent guitar throughout. His guest vocalists do a fine job, notably Nils K. Rue from Pagan’s Mind, with the pair taking on Queensryche in the album’s standout track “Keeping The Flame Alive”. Seriously, this song would not have been out of place on the ‘Ryche’s “American Soldier” album, and is better than half of it. Elsewhere there’s a surprise appearance from Chesney “Who?” Hawkes and a nice turn from Glenn Hughes as well. Rockers, ballads and downright odd shit are all thrown in the pot, which includes some nice instrumentals, like the Satriani-esque “Momentas A Solas”, and the Steve Vai oddness of “Soundcheck Bonanza”. I’ll give him this - Ingwerson can certainly make a guitar sit up and beg when he wants.
There’s plenty to like about “Reincarnation”, but it’s not without it’s duff moments. The title track (the one with Chesney “Seriously… Who?” Hawkes singing), is a bit of a snooze fest, and the album can feel unbalanced sometimes when the slower stuff comes out. More lively songs like “Come Alive” would, I think, have benefited Ingwerson, but having said that he’s still managed to put out a pretty cool album anyway.
GYNGER LYNN: "Baby's Gone Bad" 7
Eonian Records 2010
Bubblegum Glam? Actually, "Baby's Gone Bad" was/is an edgier release for the Gynger Lynn boys on their second album, originally recorded in 1993, as there's slightly less 'Glam' but still as much fun. What you 'Need To Know' is that these guys rose from the depths of basement rehearsales in 1989 at the very 'heart' of America. Ehhh... they're actually from the old gangsta' capital of U.S. namely Chicago and they do pay tribute to the "typical" music style of the city. Indeed, you can find equally much of Cheap Trick and Enuff Z'Nuff influences on this fine record and that's hardly anything to be ashamed of.
You may get the pervasive impression that the songs and production have difficulty in deceiding which rock direction to take at times. I love the opening track, "Take Me Away", since it oozes of Cheap Trick(s) and their most catchiest radio friendly material. Fans of cult act Big Bang Babies (Keri Kelly) will also love this. Hate the children choir on the outro of "Need To Know", but it's otherwise a nice Beatles/oriental influenced tune that smells a lot like a 50/50 mix of the two bands previously mentioned above. "Baby's All Talk" is a really catchy tune that just as easily could have been lifted off the 1990 album 'Busted' by a certain Chicago band (ehem, guess who?).
I can't say that I enjoy the sixties influenced tracks (Along The Way, Yes It's True, Summertime) as they all sound like sappy numbers of a long gone era. It doesn't help that vocalist Dean Pressley is blessed with a rather fragile set of pipes - no doubt perfect for Glam, but oh-so out of place on the sixties groove. "Never Find A Better Girl" is a nice little ballad, while "The Chance" is something completely different from the rest of the tracks. Now we're talking uptempo Melodic Hardrock/AOR 'ala 1983 completed with dut-dut keyboards and everything. Think Preview, Prophet or Aviator. Not a great track whatsoever but with just enough catch in the throat vocals, backed by rich harmonies and some aggressive guitarwork. There's a total of 16 tracks and sadly not enough of good melodies for such a high number. Scale it down to 9, 10 tracks, and you'll find some fine Glam Rock in the style of Cheap, Enuff, and Big Bang Babies. I'm afraid you'll have to take the good with the bad... and when they're good... they are really good!!!
IRON MAIDEN: "The Final Frontier" 6
I remember waiting for the review of Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” album with baited breath, marvelling at the full page Kerrang! Had dedicated to it, with the reviewer wibbling on for the a few paragraphs about the bleedin’ cover before even getting to the music. To be fair, it was a brilliant cover, and a brilliant album, but these days I find it a little harder to get excited over a Maiden album. Okay, they are still a good band, but gone are the days when we’d find a four minute anthem like “Aces High” or “The Trooper”, as since Blaze Bayley left Maiden are more of a progressive metal band than anything else.
Okay, so on to the cover. It’s okay, I suppose, more like another band trying to do a Maiden rip off than an actual Maiden cover, but it’s okay in a really tacky Sci Fi sort of way. Melvyn Grant is no Derek Riggs, that’s for sure. Once the hurdle of the cover is cleared, it’s on to the music, and I swear I was gob smacked by the abysmal start. Seriously, the first track is a two parter, with the title track (and single) tacked onto a four minute piece of utter bollocks called ”Satellite 15”. Mostly instrumental, it’s only purpose seems to be making sure that if you actually want the single you’re gonna have to download it separately, which smacks of Maiden picking the pockets of fans, something they’ve been pretty good at avoiding in the past.
On a positive note, once the intro is dealt with the album becomes much more exciting and fun. The majority of the tracks clock in at eight minutes or more, although there’s nothing to touch “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” or “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. Instead, we get a rather good album closer in the shape of “When The Wind Blows”, based on the classic tale by Raymond Briggs. It’s all very Iron Maiden, clocking in at over eleven minutes and one of the standout tracks. There’s a few glimpses of the Maiden we used to love with “El Dorado” or the galloping beat of shortest track “The Alchemist”, but “The Final Frontier” is mainly made up of plodding songs that are technically impressive but in reality don’t deliver much in the way of excitement.
At times dull, “The Final Frontier” treads a similar path to the bands previous album, with similar guitar solos and pacing, all wrapped up with Bruce Dickinson’s voice, which by the way is not what it was. He can still bang out a tune, but there’s definitely more sense that he’s straining. There’s no “wow” moment, and in the end it’s a band I used to absolutely adore veering away from their roots. Fair play to them, they’re trying to be bolder and more creative than previously, but in the end there’s a lot better out there, and despite plenty of great moments, “The Final Frontier” isn’t up to scratch.
RAVENRYDE: "In The Spirit Of Darkness" 6
8ton Music 2010
Founded by ex-Blue Cheer guitarist Didi Saller in 2007, Ravenryde play Heavy Metal, pure and simple. Well, not that simple actually, as they have a rather majestic and orchestrated sound far from the meat-and-potato metal style. Pomp and grandeur!
"Unholy Ground" has been chosen as the opener track, a fairly straight-forward rocker with a touch of Dio and an easy singalong chorus. Ok, but let's see what comes next... and it's the title track of the album, with a sneaky intro that might make you think that they're about to introduce a ballad so early in the tracklisting. No, it's not a ballad, but a heavy, slow track with a Black Sabbath-vibe (Tony Martin-era). The chorus is suitably big for this epic track. "Skull & Bones" kicks off with a Zeppelinesque riff, yet while the song progresses it starts to remind me a bit of House Of Lords at their heaviest. The build-up towards the chorus is nice, but the actual chorus doesn't live up to the expectations.
The fast "Ride With The Pack" is a fairly average belter without a good hook, while "Eyes In The Sky" features a lot of cool keyboards and melody, but I'm not sure of its' chorus either. Pomp and Gradeur is evident in "Demon" again, a stomping mid-tempo track with vocalist Matt Joseph showcasing that he can belt out an over-the-top vocal á la Graham Bonnet. "If I Were King" is a ballad and a duet with Joseph and an excellent female vocalist, whose name isn't mentioned in the promo CD. A good song, and nice melodies.
"Foolish Dreams" reminds me a bit of Pink Cream 69, which is not a bad thing at all, and this song might just have the best chorus of the album. The next two tracks offer no competition, as they're both somewhat standard heavy rock songs. "Love Will Find Its Way" is a delicate, acoustic ballad again featuring a mystery female vocalist. Nice and relaxing song and one that balances the otherwise rather heavy and bombastic album.
While I'm not totally awestruck by this album, I think that Ravenryde would surely appeal to the fans of Black Sabbath, Dio and Rainbow. The album is well-produced and played, and vocalist Matt Joseph has an impressive voice. His no-holds-barred approach isn't for everyone, but it does suit the pompous nature of these songs. I could've used a few killer hooks, but all in all, not a bad start for this band.
SWEET SYBIL: "Sweet Sybil" 6
Eonian Records 2010
Sweet Sybil!!! The singer of the band (Sami Carava) has a true barbwire/whiskey/dusty voice and it takes a couple of tracks to get the real hang of the twang. Imagine a mix of Axl Rose and Taime Downe (Faster Pussycat) if the latter had chalks for breakfast every morning instead of his cornflakes, and you're sort of halfway there. Once the chalk dust has settled, so to speak, you're in for a pretty sleaze ride though. Well, you should known by now that 'Eonian Records' are digging up all these 'old' sleaze acts of the eighties from their graves and some of these corpses are of damn good quality (icky!!!).
The history of the band goes back to 1988 when the new project 'Fontalis' entered a Battle of The Bands contest in Chicago. The annoucer was given a set list and mistakenly announced the band as 'Sweet Sybil', the first song on the list. The band won and the erroneous name change stuck. They used their prize, 12 hours of studio time at DKP studios, to record their first demo that hit the airwaves of local Chicago radio and was met with call-in support from a growing fan base. They opened up gigs for acts such as Extreme, Alice In Chains, King's X, and recorded a six-track EP 'Beyond The Limit' in 1991. According to the booklet the recording received international success when it was released as an album in Europe, reaching #1 on the rock/metal charts in The Netherlands??? Ok... if you say so...
Sweet Sybil disbanded in late 1992 and in oct. 93, in a tragic mishap, the band lost its brother and drummer Randy Matthiesen. This very CD is a compilation dedicated to Matthiesen which contains the full EP, two tracks from 92', plus a recently recorded song. The latter song (You & I) done without any drums and it's a nice guitar semi-ballad. It takes a lot of listening to get used to the husky vocals and it's certainly not every man/woman's poison. Nontheless, they're right on the money and gives Sweet Sybil a sort of sound of their own. They steer a steady hardrock road on the highway between Jane's Addiction's quirky riffs and structure, and the bumpy tunesmith territory by L.A.Guns and Faster Pussycat. It's raw, gritty, sleazy rock with hardly any finess and complexity. It's straight to the point material featuring song titles such as "Remember When", "#69", "Downtown Suicide", "Walkin' Talkin', "Someone In Your Eyes", etc. Decent.
LAUTSTURMER: "Depopulator" 6
Lautsturmer? what the feck is das Lautsturmer??? Oh, right, it's a brand new project by vocalist/guitarist Adam previously of Driller Killer. Also onboard the magic carpet ride are bassist Christ (still a member of Driller Killer) and the utterly mad drummer Selle (ex-Final Holocaust, Driller Killer). What to expect from their debut CD, "Depopulator"? Ten ton of attitude and one helluva party. It's noisy, extreme, and overall disturbing rock with just as much Punk influences as Metal. The perfect ingredient for you and your nuttier neighbour to form your very own two-person mosh-pit.
Yep! this will surely put the kibosh on any wimp rocker as Lautsturmer's Venom-punk rock blast through your loudspeakers like yesterdays chili and beer at one of your daily visits to the loo. Strangely enough, Selle, after being assured that there will be no 'oldman-rock' involved in the music, accepts to join the band??? WTF??? There's absolutely nothing "new" about the music of Lautsturmer. Venom made a record just like this already back in 1981 with their only exception of featuring dodgy "satanic" verses and lyrics. Thus the birth of "Black Metal" even though it was basically just a mixture of Punk and Motorhead.
Under any normal circumstances one song's worth of these mad rockers in action would be enough for any one to form an opinion. I guess it's music you either love or hate? The manic Adam on vocals is particularly rough and ready and the idea of sitting through 12 songs of fast-blasting Venom-Punk, could frankly be enough for any fan of soft melodies and Michael Bolton ballads. It's actually quite charming to listen to tracks like "The Biggest Failure" and "Hold The Hellevator", since I have absolutely no clue to what they're screaming about. It's loud, noisy, straight in your face, and sometimes even good. Not too shabby oldmans-rock...
Michael PAIGE: "It Is What It Was" 6
Michael Paige Music 2010
The stand out songs here for me are “Its All In Vain”; the inclusion of Bart Ryan brought a nice bluesy feel to this simple catchy tune and “Teacher” which features Matt Mayes who has a kind of Doug Pinnick (Kings X) style of vocal. The songs groove is not a million miles away from Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” sung by Buddy Miles (Hendrix drummer). It has a Lenny Kravitz feel too in parts. “With Out My Heart” is a nice ballad but you also get some balls to the wall songs like the AC/DC inspired “Pushit” (cool title lol).
Michael Paige wanted an organic feel to the album and he achieved it, the simplicity of the songs for me especially the acoustically laden ones would have benefited from a drum sequencer with more options and control over dynamics. Having said that, to actually bring to life the drum kit of one of your close and sadly departed friends Tony Thompson has more meaning and soul than punching out drum patterns mechanically. He calls this release “It Is What It Was” and what you have is a renowned bass player stepping out of the shadow and into the forefront. I was quite surprised especially with his singing voice and the more I spin the disc the more it grows on me. He’s played for decades round the world with a smile on his face. Here’s someone who’s encouraged open mic nights in LA, done benefit concerts and has proved on this release that he can wear many hats from the musical closet. When you can turn your kitchen into a drum room that’s either foolish or dedication?! (His ex wife may go for the foolish?)
DAVE EVANS: "Judgement Day" 6
STF Records 2010
Not the most original way to start up a Dave Evans' CD review, and I'm sure he's fed up with hearing/reading these words over and over again. However, Mr. Evans is indeed the first and original vocalist of this little known band from Australia, AC/DC? Yep, a founding member of the band as he debuted on December 31, 1973 at the Chequers Club in Sydney with a line-up also featuring the Young Brothers of course (Angus & Malcolm), Larry Van Knedt (bass) and Colin Burgess (drums). Evans sang on the original Australia single release of "Can I Sit Next To You Girl" before refusing to play a gig at short notice in September 1974 and AC/DC gave the job to their manic van driver, none other than Bon Scott (R.I.P.). Damn... what if, huh? what if...
Nevermind the past, it's "Judgement Day" and the ruff 'n tuff singer is now based in Dallas, Texas and performs with his backing band 'The Badasses'. Evans (also ex-Rabbit) recorded his first solo album in 2006 (Sinner) and it's now time for another dose of dynamic rock in the tradition of acca dacca. I was going to type 'not the most original sounding platter', but then again, he's an original member of AC/DC for feck's sake!!! Why shouldn't he be allowed to sound like any of the 100's and 1000's of bar boogie acca dacca tribute bands??? Especially since he's singing is still pretty much at the top of his game at least for his age category, firing off a string of oooh's and ahhh's inspired by a certain Robert Plant, no doubt? The bottomline: powered by a steady back-beat, a heavy rolling bass, fat chunky guitar riffs and strickly four chords, Evans steams in with husky vocals that border on the possessed. Hardly anything too fancy, nothing new under the sun, but it sure beats listening to the latest Airbourne CD.
TERZOLIVELLO: "The Silent City" 5
Copro Records 2010
There’s not really a lot of info on Italy’s Terzolivello, even to the point where I’m still not sure if their name should be split into two words or not. The accompanying press release seems to have been translated by Google, so excuse me if I use guesswork, intuition and bare faced fantasy in this review.
At first I was finding Denis Cappelletti’s vocals quite hard going, as he does at times sound accented in a bit of a silly way. The thing is, most of the time he actually does a fine job, halfway between grunge and stadium rock, and after a few spins I had no problems except for the very first verse of the opening track, which still grates for some reason. Musically, it’s a shame that Terzolivello don’t quite make the grade, as there’s plenty of nice touches throughout. There’s a bit of a 30 Seconds To Mars vibe at times, and some of the songs, such as “Heartbreak Hotel”, have a really cool energy about them. It’s all about rhythm and melody, rather than explosive guitar solos, aimed more at the modern emo crowd than big hair addicts.
Terzolivello are certainly not a bad band, and when they get going they display some serious rock chops. The drawback is that the songs can be quite samey, and when they’re not on fire they struggle to raise a smile, let alone a hall full of rock hands. Still, there’s something here that could be worth keeping an eye on.
ADRENALINE 101: "Twelve Step Program" 4
STF Records 2010
Adrenaline 101, formed in the year of 2005 in Zurich, Switzerland. In early 2007 a 5-track EP was recorded followed by a large amount of gigs of the Swiss club scene (I'm thinking two clubs?). They won 'The Alpenrock Band Contest 2007' (I'm thinking two bands?) and the band toured Spain supporting Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Phenomena, John Norum, etc.) and the recording of this very CD started already back in late 2008. "Twelve Step Program" was mixed in Sweden (yes, different country altogether from the Swiss' alp) by Fredrik Kjellin, who is known for his work with Mother Finest and Glenn Hughes.
The do sound a lot like any average Swedish rock band though. Gemini Five, quite possible also a bit similar to the r-e-a-l-l-y poor Backyard Babies release "People Like People... whatever", and not as much fun as in their heydays (just for the record - Backyard Babies and "Stockholm Syndrome" was a personal fave in 03'). Like 'that' very record, Adrenaline 101 sound a little too pleased with themselves and their sound. Fair enough, you say? Absolutely!! and all credit to the boys for believing in themselves. It's just that the "Twelve Step Program" (yes, twelve tracks on this CD) doesn't stand out from any of the other acts of the genre. No wait, that's not completely true, since the track, "Push Comes To Show", feature a "stunning" rap part 'ala Clawfinger or Strapping Young Lad.
BASTARD: "Aftermath" 4
STF Records 2010
BASTARD!!! I like it, it's catchy, aggressive, provocative, useful in every single situation of life, and most importantly a perfect discription of the band's music style. Hard riffing guitars, pumping bass, thundering drums and an fathomless voice charakterize the sound of BASTARD! There's a mixture of Death, Thrash, and traditional Heavy Metal on "Aftermath" and Martin Offenwanger is quite a growler. BASTARD! What's the lyrics all about? Hell, I don't know, your guess is frankly just as good as mine and I'm not even sure it's English all of the time? BASTARD! They're from Germany though and the typically Wagner and teutonic schlock so beloved by all gun freaks haunts the melodies throughout the CD.
It starts off promisingly enough with aggressive, yet skillful dynamics between light and shadow and the extreme metal of BASTARD does have its moments with sinister sounding guitars and growling vocals. Unfortunately, things rather quickly start to go tits up as the melodies slides into an abyss of decay. Have I not heard the exact same riff on one of the previous tracks? Deja Vu? BASTARD! And what about those vocals? How can I tell the difference between 'arrghffghh' and "arrrghhffgh' from one track to the other? BASTARD! You can do a lot worse than the "Aftermath" (well, actually, not according to the artcover...), but it's not likely to stay on your playlist for too long... BASTARD!
WILD CHAMPAGNE: "Fire And Water" 3
STF Records 2010
Wild Champagne? Ohh, this better be sparkling stuff or else the monicker is lost on most people!!! I do enjoy reading the vivid press-release and killer lines such as "one drop of Wild Champagne is enough to make you flip out". Right they are, it's actually enough to make me want to tear down the loudspeakers, throw the fookers out through the window... and never ever again listen to "Fire And Water". Listening to this CD one becomes very aware of three obvious facts, one: they're no good at writing songs, two: it's monotonous stuff, and three: it doesn't sparkle at all really. The Wild Champs' actually sound like a third rate heavy metal band from Bulgaria in the year of 1983. I know, I know, one really shouldn't bully a country like that especially since they lived behind the iron curtain at the time. But seriously, it's dodgy equipment, dodgier arrangements, and darn right nasty tunes. "United Heavy Metal", "I Want You", etc, are songs inspired by great acts
such as Scorpions and Accept, it's merely a shame they sound like Spinal Tap all doped up on horse. Wild Champagne? It's more likely Wild Chimpanzee... but let's not moneky around... hey, someone get this off my back... no, seriously... damn ape...
ROSS BYRON: "EP" EP
Ross Byron from the U.S. of A has been playing guitar and writing music for 30 years and according to Ross Byron and the Ross Byron press-release '"I have the very special gift of being a top shelf rock guitarist and also having a broad focus to be able to write great vocal melodies and songs". Yeah, how about that??? Surely he must be unique? Ehem, however, Ross Byron is in fact the original founder of the band Shadow Gallery but he left the band because of musical direction differences with Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records. Now don't go thinking this must be a sweet little EP filled with progressive rock and long drawn out songs, since that's probably the very reason to why he took to the highroad and highway in the first place.
The songs on the 6-track EP are according to Ross Byron and the Ross Byron press-release "This CD is designed to sell in the USA and other countires. Their are numerous songs on this cd with commercial potential but no sellouts to the same old industry standard which is getting pretty boring for everyone". Say it ain't so? But then again... it's always entertaining to read such a cocky statement and press-release. Opener "White Trash" (now there's a perfect match) and the following, "Medicine Show", are one part The Dictators (old cult NY act) one part The Almighty, Ricky Warwick, and a mere hint of todays modern 'laidback' rock thing. Byron takes care of all the fine lead vocals himself with the lovely Pam Dixon on back-up and additional vox. It's all been nicely produced by Tom Stiegler and the songs on this EP are not too bad at all really. Fans of the weird, wired and willing sound of above mentioned bands could definitely do worse than checking out the Ross Byron music. Just don't get him started on the press-release.
SOLITY: "Species 2.0" EP
Wow... I didn't see it coming at all to be honest. Opening and title track of this 3-track single CD, "Species 2.0.", start off like great Slayer Thrash/Speed of the eighties before the refrain kicks in and completely turn things around and upside down. Solity is a totally solid, but at the same time unreliable and unpredictable act from Sweden. Steeped in the strange formula and flavours of Thrashy Metal and Radio friendly U.S. Rock, this could either go all the way or straight to the bin. I do like it, it's slightly different from the rest of the pack. It's some kind of quirky hybrid act and we've got everything from cool and mellow Emo U.S. Rock (the other track on this very single: Rawmance) to crunchy guitar riffs that underlie some love for In Flames and classic Thrash. Trule vivid and a nice surprise if you like your music unpredictiable and difficult to define. The "Rawmance" song is actually repeated twice since there's a radio edit mix as well on this single release. Slayer and Linkin Park influences??? Good musicians, nice production, definitely something to look for in the future.
|REVIEWS ADDED 08 August, 2010
TERRY BROCK: "Diamond Blue" 8
Frontiers Records 2009
Terry Brock has been a bit busy lately, from credibly replacing Dan Huff in Giant, getting Strangeways back together and now this new solo album. Since I first saw him supporting Europe 25 years ago, I’ve always had a soft spot for Terry Brock, not least because he has one of those voices that seems like it was purpose built for AOR. Given the right songs, anyway, and recruiting Mike Slamer on this album is as big a step in the right direction as Brock could have taken, as Slamer is another I have good feelings towards, mostly through the excellent Steelhouse Lane albums.
“Diamond Blue” starts off very well, with the title track instantly throwing a catchy hook at you that’s like a softer version of Steelhouse Lane’s “Metallic Blue”. It’s a great start, and thankfully things aren’t allowed to slow down too quickly, as it’s followed by the also excellent “It’s You” and “Jessie’s Gone”. If I’m honest, the whole album follows the classic cookie cutter approach to AOR, with tracks separated into Rockers, Ballads and Inbetweenies, but this type of thing can be a pleasure to listen to when done right. Much like the Giant album, “Diamond Blue” is inoffensive and inspired, featuring plenty of melody, some tight guitar and the usual excellent vocals from Brock. It’s all produced to perfection as well, another shining example of how this sort of album should sound.
If you’ve ever enjoyed such bands as Steelhouse Lane, Strangeways, Giant, Hardline and the like, then you’ll love this album. It lacks the killer instinct of recent releases by Danger Danger or House Of Lords, but can still sit beside them and hold it’s own for the most part. Pure AOR that will put a smile on your face and have you singing along within minutes, “Diamond Blue” is an album Brock and Slamer can be proud of.
WILD SIDE: "Speed Devil" 5
No, this is not WILDSIDE, the band that released a rather decent hair metal album on Capitol in 1992. This Norwegian band haven't only borrowed their name from a band of the past, they've borrowed just about everything else too. Not just one band though, they're more like a mixture of most of those hard rock bands that sold a lot of albums back in the late eighties/early nineties. Sure, that could be said of most bands playing this kind of hard rock today... some of them just happen to have better songs than Wild Side.
The opening track "Live Forever" is a bit different to the others, a fast-paced power metal track á la Primal Fear, while the others are more hard rock than metal. There's "Mine Tonight", a Steelheart/Sven Gali-hybrid with vocalist Joachim Berntsen hitting some very high notes. Indeed his vocals are an acquired taste, reminding me of Steelheart's Miljenko Matjevic and Slaughter's Mark Slaughter. "Play With Me" has a Scorpions-vibe, while on "Wild One" the band rocks very much in the Whitesnake-vein. "Won't Let You Go" and Lynch Mob-like "Devil In Disguise " are probably my favourite songs, and "Always Be Me" was almost the third good one in a row, but the horrible chorus ruined it.
No "hair metal" album is complete without a ballad, and "Love For You" is Wild Side's answer to this. It's a gentle, acoustic ballad and arguably one of the albums better moments. The album could've ended after its' soothing melodies, but no, the album's title track has been left to close the album. Unfortunately it's another song blessed with a chorus that makes me think of a hair metal parody act for some reason.
Productionwise the album sounds good, the guitarwork isn't too shabby either and the band even looks like a rock band, but it doesn't help if the best songs of the album are just "OK".
BLACK MAJESTY: "In Your Honour" 5
Limb Music 2010
Black Majesty serves up a large meat and potato platter of melodic metal with heavy and power metal tendencies on "In Your Honour". There's a decent degree of diversity in their compositions as they deliver a nicely written assortment of metal and power revoloving around various lyrical topics and themes, a boiling pot of ideas ranging from reality to pure fiction. Business as usual in other words to the power metal fan. In their defence, they haven't exactly gone for the easy options like ripping off any and everyone else, at least they have some sort of sound of their own. Now don't expect this to be groundbreaking stuff... since nothing could be further from the truth. But it's nice to witness them trying.
Sadly their compositions are too one dimensional and it's actually difficult to tell them apart in the end. The songs are structured around the fantasy, war, concept, it's a hybrid of metal music with heavy detuned guitars, speedy bass-drums and power hardrock sealed together by an array of power vocals by their experienced singer. I don't know why I find the vocals to be more annoying than usual when it comes to Black Majesty??? It's like he's constantly soaring slightly above his normal range and thus really pushing it to the max? Very 'metal' and definitely interesting to follow on a couple of tracks or three. Sadly it's too much of a cheap bargain in the long run.
The lead guitarist does his best to beat the crap of his six-string. Chunky, extra thick-pile riffs, distorted to the max. It's overall a v-e-r-y noisy soundpicture and not at all the kind of production you'd expect from a 'pure' heavy metal act. Joey DeMaio (Manowar) would-should-could not have been amaused? Death to false metal? More like 'yawn' to cliched metal...
BRET MICHAELS: "Custom Built" 3
Poor Boy Rec. 2010
Brain Hemorrhage!!! Celebrity apprentice!! Reality TV!!! Custom built!!! Utter krap!!! Whatever happened to the good old days when TV stood for at least 'B' quality entertainment? You know... approximately at the same time when the band Poison last managed to come up with a great tune or three. Yes, we're probably talking about the early nineties - when a bozo on stage was a bozo on stage and not seen goofin' around on every fookin' TV reality crap show. So what if Michaels ended up winning celebrity apprentice? He's got no business making CD's such as these featuring a dodgy collaboration with Miley Cyrus? Seriously, Miley Cyrus??? Her fans will certainly not appreciate that old hair-metal geezer and not to mention what the Poison fans will think??? Yet, strangely enough, the Cyrus duet,"Nothing To Lose" - one of two 'not to shabby' tracks on the CD. Pretty catchy actually.
Opening track, "Riding Against The Wind", easily the best rock tune of the album with its uplifting message. It's otherwise mostly new versions of old songs from his previous solo albums (Rock My World, Freedom Of Sound, A Letter From Death Row), plus a dodgy 'country' version of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Let's face it, Bret Michaels' is such a easy target nowadays and it's so darn easy to spit out negativity and harsh words about "Custom Built". But seriously, I can't just make up words for the sake of it? Where's C.C.Deville? Sure, not the best of guitarist, but at least he managed to come up with decent material. Final verdict: check out Miley Cyrus' punky fun version of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" on youtube and let Bret continue doing his reality TV show. On a positive note: it's great to see that he's recovered from his Brain Hemorrhage!!! Brain Hemorrhage!!!
PSYCHO CHOKE: "Unraveling Chaos" 3
Psycho Choke? Hey, whatever makes ya' happy!!! Actually, 'happy' would be the completely wrong description for these guys. "Unraveling Chaos" is like a tense dance of razorwire and overall a brutally wikked experience, dude!!! They're probably from Greece (can't bother to google since it really doesn't matter) according to their last-names (Baxevanis, Thanos, Papadopoulos, etc) and the music is some kind of hardcore metal. Blimey, the entire CD is like a very late express train coming in to the station and yet these guys never sound like they're capable of stopping at time? Hello to the mid/late-90's Machine Head?
I'm guessing they've been brought up to a mad Greece/Greek riot of colourful chaos (hint the title of the cd) and underground culture of sub-human structure. Vocalists Al Roy (not his real name) is like the big bad wolf as the poor chap huffs and puffs endlessly in vain to blow the house down (poof). Psycho Choke are not so much treading water as being swept away with the tide. Tiresome cliched metal riffs combined with pseudo psycho shouts by a frontman with no concept of a tune nor melody. And seriously... why should I bother listening over and over again to a CD featuring lyrics where every third word is either 'fuck' or 'fucking'??? So what if Gus G (Ozzy, Firewind) guest appears on one of the tracks? Nice production by Jacob Hansen though...
FUTURE IS TOMORROW: "Fit To Die (Part 1)" 2
FIT Rec 2010
I love Italy as a country - great culture, great architecture, art, food, history, calcio (football - that's 'soccer' for you americans) women, wine, etc, etc. Quality hard rock and metal is a completely different kind of ballgame and story altogether though. Seriously, you go ahead and name five (5) classic bands of the past from the land of pizza and pasta? I don't think so. There's plenty of Italo Disco and otherwise poppy bands to be found though.
Future Is Tomorrow is a Progressive Power Metal band and "Fit to Die (Part 1)" is their debut album and it could very well be their last one too. Yeah? Perhaps I'm being too harsh and grumpy? This quintet possesses some of the qualities that you look for in a band in the prog genre. The long and in this case utterly boring tunes. "Fit To Die" (I agree) is quite vivid and occasionally Future Is Tomorrow do stumble across a decent melody such as the mildly fun "Awakening The Ghosts" and the almost enjoyable "All for You (Dies Irae)", but the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X have pretty much written the book when it comes to this genre. The at times slightly off-key vocals don't help, nor the accent, and it's simply just not good enough to ever make me want to hit 'repeat'.
SOULHUNTER: "Beyond The Twilight" 2
From the off it’s obvious that Germany’s Soulhunter are going to have a problem living up to their own publicity. It promises that you will be “Amazed at the sound three musicians can create”, and goes on to compare the vocals to Chad Kroeger and the guitars to Malmsteen. The poor bassist and drummer don’t get compared to anyone, and they should be grateful that this puts them out of the firing line. This is because Soulhunter are rubbish.
When I hear Rush, I am duly amazed at the sound three musicians can create, but when I hear Soulhunter I am amazed that anyone would think I should be amazed. What Soulhunter do is produce pretty standard rock music, with some good guitar licks and some of the most average songs ever written. Boring doesn’t cover it, and I dare anyone to listen to “Love’s Like AProstitute” (I swear I am not making this up) and not want to murder guitarist and singer Markus Glas. For the record, he doesn’t remind me of Chad Kroeger, more Freddy Kruger if anything. Quite simply, he has an awful voice, unable to carry a tune and making the album about twice as bad as it was in the first place, which is quite a feat. The only good thing on “Beyond The Twilight” is the opening one and a half minute instrumental, after which everything turns to shit. There’s plenty of good music coming out of Germany these days, and this isn’t any of it.
MINUETUM: "Haunted Spirit" 2
Don't know about you, but "Minuetum" just doesn't roll off the tongue. Not a good name, but it really doesn't matter because I won't be talking about this band too much. I'm sure they had all the best of intentions to become a top band in the melodic metal genre, but with this kind of material it's not going to happen. I'm especially surprised about the sonic quality of the album, it's produced by Bob Katsionis and mastered by Timo Tolkki after all... the instrumentation is ok, but the vocals are shockingly bad. To these ears, Dimitris Zacharopoulos is quite often off-key and at times totally buried in the mix. Female vocalist Iro Kalligeri adds her vocals to many of the tracks, but they're more distracting than enhancing.
The songs are pretty standard melodic metal fare of the speedy kind, with some attempts at Nightwish-like pomp and grandeur. Towards the end the songs seem to become more and more ridiculous, or maybe it's just the fact that the vocals are really intolerable. The closing number "Eternal Twilight" in all its' 10 minutes of glory might be funny, if I hadn't listened to the 9 tracks before it.
|REVIEWS ADDED 28 July, 2010
FIRST SIGNAL feat. Harry HESS: "First Signal" 9
FIRST SIGNAL marks the return of former HAREM SCAREM vocalist HARRY HESS. Okay, he hasn't been away for that long, HS called it quits last year and he's been involved in production and songwriting for other artists after that, but First Signal sees him back behind the microphone. What's more, First Signal is probably the most AOR'ish album of his since the Scarem debut.
The songs for this album have been collected mostly from the current top writers of the genre, like the Martin brothers (writers for Khymera, Sunstorm, House of Lords), Erik Martensson (W.E.T., Eclipse), Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon, Place Vendome) and Robert Sall (W.E.T., Work of Art). Some of the songs have been previously recorded by other artists, including two Richard Marx songs from his "Emotional Remains" album.
Though the production has been handled by none other than Dennis Ward, the album's opening track took me by a surprise. "This City" is a fine track, but somehow it sounds a bit cluttered, not as clear as most Dennis Ward productions. Some of the other songs suffer of the same thing too. Not a major problem though, and the quality of the songs helps to overcome that.
I don't have the credits here, but I'd guess that the first two songs come from the hit factory of the Martin Bros. Good quality songs as one would expect, as is "Part Of Me", one of the two Richard Marx songs. It has a bit of a modern, radio-friendly pop-rock vibe. One of my favourite songs of the album is the ballad "Crazy", a great melancholic track with an explosive chorus. It features a great vocal performance from Hess too.
"Goodbye To The Good Times" was previously recorded by IGNITION, and it's apparently an old Mark Free demo. First Signal's version adds a funky feel to the verses, but wisely doesn't mess with the anthemic nature of the chorus. The project's "title song" might be another Martin Bros. track, and while I wasn't so fond of it at first, it's grown on me and I'd rate it among the highlights now. Cool, catchy AOR. "Feels Like Love This Time" is a ballad with a bit of a Bon Jovi vibe, yet it's better than most Jovi ballads released during the last 15 years. I suspect that the Martin brothers are at it again with "Into The Night", a good summertime AOR track perfect for the warm August nights.
Marx' "When November Falls" is a midtempo track with the trademark melodic touches of his, and another good song. The summertime AOR theme that seems to run through the album continues with "Yesterday's Rain", an uptempo melodic rocker and one of the album's highlights. The album is closed with one of the previously recorded songs, namely "Naked Desire". It's first incarnation was recorded by Mark Free in the early nineties I believe, but never released. Jesse's Powertrip covered it for their "Not So Innocent" album a few years later. Now in 2010 it's been dusted off again, and I must say that this version leaves the previous one to dust, it's simply a monster melodic anthem.
"First Signal" is easily one of this year's highlights, even though I'm not 100% sure about the production. The performances and the songs are top-notch though, so this is a safe bet for all fans of early Harem Scarem, Khymera, Sunstorm and hard-edged AOR in general.
Sven LARSSON: "Sunlight and Shadow" 8
Avenue of Allies 2010
Not many shadows here, mostly sunlight. 99 in the shade? no, it's not like (Bon Jovi's) New Jersey, much rather like the best Scandinavia, think of tall blond girls with big boobs. As you can guess it's really decent Scandi AOR, no wonder as Sven Larsson has been around quite some time adding his talent to bands like Street Talk and his solo album is not much different either.
Sven was joined by most of his colleagues in Street Talk (Fredrik Bergh and Christian Johansson) yet Göran Edman stayed away. What else was Sven to do than taking the vocal duties himself and he has done a good job. It's obvious he is not Göran but his vocals are confident and precise; so all in all you get a good Street Talk album with the usual catchy harmonies, memorable guitar melodies, cool solos yet with a different singer.
Two cool instrumental numbers (more in the vein
of Toto) complete the picture. There's not one single weak song on the album, my
personal favorites included the catchy "Eagle", the moody "Fly On By" and the
first instrumental "Tube". It's okay to go by the name this time, it ensures
quality, you can't go wrong with this one. Recommended indeed.
AREA51: "Daemonicus" and "Goddess" 8
I have this weird fascination for Japan and their "underground" culture. Anything goes and it's almost like dream and reality are the same over there somehow? Where else could/can you find hordes of youth and folks dressed up in costumes as their favourite manga or playstation hero(in), like, 7 days a week? Ehh, I better not go any further with this matter since I tend to ramble... but let's not to forget about all the high-tech gadgets... and Japan's old traditional culture. Wow! Great country equals great music? Sadly not always, but here's something to look for in the CD department...
Area51 was born in 2003 by the superb guitarist Yoichiro Ishino in persuit of his ideal heavy metal music. He serves as an instructor in the Guitar Department of Japan's Musicians Institute (MI), where he teaches his students about Neo-Classical hardrock? Indeed, this is one fine shredder in the old skool of Yngwie Malmsteen and the highly regarded work of Impellitteri. Female vocalist Kate is a real 'Goddess' and her angelic vocals is the icing on the cake so to speak. Their debut release "Ankh" was introduced in Nippon's famous 'Burrn Magazine' as one of six of Japan's best Neo-Classical metal albums of all time?
This is a combo review of both their 2008 release "Daemonicus" and the 2010 effort simply titled "Goddess". They're both packed with lovely neo-classical compositions inspired by flashy video games soundtracks and classic metal. "Daemonicus", having the mastering done at the world famous Finnvox Studios in Finland was ranked at 66 on Yahoo Japan Music Ranking, a domestic site including all existing artists with a Japan release. The closing track on this fine sounding platter, "Lord Knows" is a grand and fantastic sixteen and a half minute epic, featuring special guest vocals by Rob Rock of Impellitteri fame. Their third album "Goddess" was released in Japan earlier this year and feature a stunning mixing and mastering done by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Paradise Lost, Symphony X) the CD has a close to world class sounding quality and flawless performances by Ishino and Kate. Japanese media has been calling it a masterpiece and even though I wouldn't go that far, it's definitely and simply just better than 99% of all the other neo-classical releases as of lately.
The tone and technique of Ishino's guitar playing is of highest quality and it's
easy to fall in love with the looks and vocal performances by Kate. The poppy metal
of "Marionnette" and the enchanting metal of "U Ta Ka Ta" will have you thinking
about Nightwish and Impellitteri. Sadly (?) both CD's are mostly in their native
tongue (obviously with the exception of the Rob Rock tune and some titles) and it's
difficult to get the real hang of the situation (lyrical-wise). However, you can't
let these beauties slip you by and especially not if you're into lovely
neo-classical arrangements!!! Highly recommended! Check out links below for more
BLAZE BAYLEY: Promise & Terror" 8
Blaze Bayley Records 2010
I must admit that we’re a bit behind with this album, by a few months at least, but now it’s here it would be rude not to revie wit, especially as it’s so bloody good. Blaze Bayley, metal’s Man Who Would Not Die, is still not dead. In fact, on the evidence here he’s very much alive and rocking, but then he’s always like that. When you meet Blaze you imagine he wakes up in the morning, shouts “METAAAALL!” at his alarm clock then gives devil horns to the postman before eating a hearty breakfast of nuts and bolts. Yeah… Blaze is metal all right.
The thing is, this is pure old school metal in spirit. There’s no tortured screaming or grunting, and the music is well thought out, galloping along like a racehorse with a thistle up it’s arse. There are, unsurprisingly, no soppy ballads here (okay, there‘s one, but it does rock out at the end), but there are plenty of full pelt metal anthems. Technically, “Promise & Terror” isn’t going to blow anyone away, and Blaze’s voice is neither brilliant nor awful, straddling the middle ground as he always has. What he does bring is conviction, something that seeps out of every syllable. You can really feel the passion in every song, and you just know this isn’t a man going through the motions. Each and every track here has a quality that is rare in traditional metal these days. So many bands sound like they’re trying too hard to be a NWOBHM throwback, whereas Blaze Bayley (the band) take their inspiration from the past but their attitude from the present.
The bottom line is that if you liked the previous album, “The Man Who Would Not Die”, then this is a no brainer. It’s fast and intense but controlled enough to appeal to mainstream rock fans as well as die hard metalheads. Proper metal, like we used to have when I was a lad…
STIMULATOR: "Lovelier In Black" 7
Lovelier In Black? Well... one's things's for sure, Stimulator's Susan Hyatt (ex-Pillbox) is lovelier in her black hairdo, that's really not relative to the music, I guess? (sorry - my bad!). Their 'comeback' CD and gothic title refer to a dark time in Hyatt's life when she went through a lot of betrayals and disappointments. Stimulator fell apart as they lost the record deal when the label went defunct. To quote Susan from my interview with the band: "The concept of the record and the song was about me. I was a broken girl, I lost tons of weight and I was heartbroken and devastated. And people kept saying to me "You never looked better." I thought are you serious?? To me it was like being at a funeral and telling someone 'You Never Looked Lovelier In Black", end quote. Read the Interview and find out much more about Stimulator and Susan 'here'.
I do like Stimulator, their at times damn near perfect goth/electronica sensibilities, their poppy experimental lust and their alternative fuelled angst. It's sort of a twisted and slightly disturbed CD with a lot of heartbroken honesty and matching lyrics. Geoff Tyson (ex. T-Ride, Snake River Conspirancy) once again back as the guitarist, producer, co-songwriter, and they're once again the Stimulator team which scored big tours with Duran Duran and The Go's Go's on their first CD. Chad Stewart of Faster Pussycat is the drummer. However, don't expect too much of any of the two gentlemen's previous acts into the music of Stimulator. There's obviously hints and pieces of T-Ride and Snake River Conspiracy as Tyson lays down a carpet of heavy blows to the body (ehh, that's 'Mike' Tyson). It's goth adrenaline and infectious beats and the surprise inclusion of a cover of Sonny & Cher's 1967 hit "The Beat Goes On". I can't say that I enjoy the sixties tune even if it was sung at Sonny Bono's funeral, and the phrase also appears on his tombstone. Pretty sappy actually and not the best of cover really.
Susan is the real heroin of the story and she's good at blending electronic grooves with 80's nu-wave pop and goth rock. From the opening James Bond-ish electric chords of "Untouchable" to the closing original "Chasing The High" this duo lets us know we are in for a shock treatment. I also hear elements of Pink and Fergie by way of Pillbox with some nice chordal surprises and some way cool guitar rock. It's not really pop, not quite punk overpowering, Hyatt and the two geezers have found a skewed mix of musical elements to draw from for these songs. Every song seems like a new story, and comes out something twisted. No two songs sound alike. However, there's a James Bond sort of theme going on as the mentioned opening, "Just Be A Man", and "My Science", are all movie soundtracks somehow. "Blow My Mind" is a mix of Garbage and Fergie. "Saints Or Strangers" is a nice semi-ballad that just as easily could have been the work of Kim Wilde. By the way, Hyatt's vocals are sort of like a cross between Wilde and Sharleen Spiteri of Texas. "I Won't Let You Down" is punky and dangerous while "Chasing The High" is very much in the style of The Prentenders (Chasing The Hyde, huh?).
The Bottomline: Lovelier In Black? Definitely!!! The title track is actually the
real winner here with its dark and gloomy agenda. Hardly the perfect Stimulation
though as there's a couple of really weird tunes on this CD. Solid work though -
VK LYNNE: "Whiskey Or Water" 7
"Whiskey Or Water" - surely this must be some kind of trick question??? Nevertheless, female singer/songwriter VK Lynne hails from Pennsylvania Dutch country, where she learned enough about the blues to sing them before she even owned a guitar. However, she's now based in L.A. (like all the rest of the mad hatters) and the strangely titled "Whiskey Or Water" is her third full-length album. It's a heavily blues-based effort, but grounded in sweet old rock and melodic melodies.
I'm going through all these quotes about the CD and tend to pick up words such as 'power-pop', 'someone who defies category', 'has almost created a new genre'. Well, that's just a little bit too much really. In fact, we have these two great female vocalists here in Sweden that sounds pretty much actually like VK Lynne and has for the past 20 years or so. I'm talking about Jill Johnsson and Louise Hoffsten, and if you don't believe me, simply google, youtube them and make your own mind up. It's a little bit of country, a little bit of rock 'n roll, and a whole lotta' blues - it's certainly NOT power-pop (not at least in the way this reviewer look at different music genres and rock).
'VK' is obviously hughely talanted though virtually unknown, unrecognized to many
like many other great artists/bands out there. She deserve whatever credit and
plaudits come her way since she's blessed with something that a lot of today's
artists are lacking. I'm talking about 'heart and soul' as there's plenty of both on
this record. Vocally, she definitely bare resemblance to the above two Swedish women
and there's no shame in that at all really. In fact, this is a pretty classy record
from start to finish. Sadly lacking a couple of really 'catchy' tunes and 'hit'
singles, but I guess it's the wrong kind of musical platform anyhow?
SEASONS LOST: "After The Storm" 7
Usually I've got mixed feelings when an album showcases too many different influences and tries to be a little bit of everything. It is not the case with Seasons Lost though these guys squeezed everything in here: from catchy melodic rock guitar playing to simple heavy metal riffs, complex moody tunes in the vein of classic Queensryche and even death metal growls at times. Yet musically it's very well put together; it's quite obvious that the band has put enormous effort into the songwriting, the production and the recording. The result is a very decent independent album that never fails to entertain.
I'm stunned by the production, for an independent effort it is absolutely stunning, the balance of the instruments is perfect, with a headphone each and every note is audible and the vocals are thick and precise. Personal favorites included the midtempo "The Big Empty", "Borrowed Time" with its tricky riff and general straightforward melodic rock approach, yet songs like "Skeletal Remedy" with their growling death metal vocals don't do much to me.
A different track order could have helped some
of the songs that get lost towards the end of the album in a slow to midtempo
set (like the epic "Taken Away" which is a really good song). "Graveshifter" was
a bit too chaotic for me as a song to close the album with, maybe the guys felt
something like that too as they hid a beautiful acoustic tune after it. Other
than adding unexpected death metal influences into the mix I have not much to
complain. These dudes are definitely worth your attention; once they figure out
which way they wanna go, they might be a factor in the scene of the upcoming
years. Make sure to check their site out as they offer lots of videos for
viewing so you might get the big picture before buying the album.
WISER TIME: "Beggars and Thieves" 7
The thinking behind this Millington/NJ combo is probably to bring back the traditional roots rock of the very late sixties and early seventies. Indeed, this is definitely a case of music of long gone days. You can pick up the occasional melody from the likes of Free, Allman Brothers, Humble Pie, Cream, plus a hint of folk-rock and roadhouse material. They're actually darn good at paying dues to their old heroes. It's really not just a case of simple 'copy-cats' as Wiser Time are simply too professional to be drawn into a cat fight.
This, their 3rd CD, "Beggars & Thieves", will obviously also remind you of The Black Crowes and their most laidback rootsy material. However, some of these tracks are just a little too one-paced for the CD to explode into a real firecracker though. For instance, the groovy and laidback, "Revolution 09", a rather tiresome slow blues with no real meaning nor charm. To be honest, the same goes for "Working Man's Blues" as it's just too much of the folk-rock and not enough of pace and blues in my opinion. Misleading title or what?
Vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter Carmen Sclafani is a star in the making
though and you completely trust his words as the future and gospel of the rootsy
rock movement. Put this CD next to any old geezer's performances and you wouldn't
know this to be from the year of twenty ten (2010). These guys are genuine rock
musicians, you know? The opening two tracks "Love And Devotion" and "On Our Way" are
clearly the work of talanted songwriters, the first one comes across like hook-laden
Black Crowes material, while the latter is a lovely mix of Free and Allman Brothers.
"Take Me Back Home" is a fine ballad in the vein of Free/Bad Company. Speaking of
Paul Rodgers, they've also included a cover of Bad Company's "Seagull". Bottomline:
Remove a couple of boring slow tunes and you're in for a real and rare treat.
GLYDER: "Yesterday Today and Tomorrow" 7
Glyder, one of all those acts we've been keeping track of since day one really. They've been sending us demos @ RockUnited.com and now they're already at their third album release at SPV/Steamhammer. They certainly are an enigmatic bunch. Not a particular scary old group visually, but they nontheless deal out the sort of old geezer cards which at times make you think about rock aces and kings such as Thin Lizzy and UFO. Not that strange considering they began their musical career in 2004 at the annual Phil Lynott tribute gig 'Vibe For Philo' in Dublin.
Now, don't go thinking, "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow", old skool to the bone,
since nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, they do sound a lot like old
Lizzy at times, but they're blending their classic rock influences with a fresh and
modern sound. And since they're from Ireland, you can also find some of the modern
'U2' sound within these tracks. Throw in mere hints of Keane and Kings Of Leon and
you're even closer to home. It's just enough to keep the listener off balance and
accentuate the next body blow. The title track is definitely a chapter of its own as
it feature a guest solo by guitarist (and lead vocalist) Dave Meniketti from Y&T.
Dave is obviously 'Yesterday & Today', and Glyder 'Tomorrow'? "The Bitter End" is a
nice mix of 'Wonderwall' and 'All The Young Dudes' and the guitar playing is
top-drawer. However, overall the thing is that everything is a little too clean, too
polished, and even too safe at times.
MARC FERREIRA: "Working Overtime" 6
It's been a while since we reviewed the first solo album by Brazilian/American, Marc Ferreira (see our archives). In fact, I believe it was way back in our AOR-Europe days (pre-RockUnited) and we also featured a sneak-peak of his 'Monkey Bite' project at the same time. You could also find him as a guest vocalist at ProgRock Records releases and fronting the bands Goodbye Thrill and Venturia. The more guitar oriented material improved things immeasurably back then, but altogether they seemed a bit too nice and poppy to be dangerous. Sure, Ferreira will probably never win any prizes in orginality stakes with "Working Overtime" either as it features Rock/Pop melodies in the style of (modern) Bon Jovi, Harem Scarem, Mars Electric, 40ft Ringo.
Praised in the past by yours truly for his songwriting skills and performances
levels in the studio. He's still got a express way to come up with rather hooky
melodies and power riffs, however, it's not quite as impressive as the "Falling
Heroes" album. The production has actually improved and his music is still very much
enjoyable even though not as "eighties" sounding anylonger. Nontheless, the lively
mix of harmonies and 'not too loud' guitars are right up there with some of the big
ones. The... ehem, "somewhat" commercial approach and a rather tasty, multi-layered
affair of soft mid-tempo rock will certainly impress the drunken fan of late
90's/early 2000 schlock. Final Verdict: This CD certainly demonstated that Ferreira
tended to lack a little in terms of orginality. Nice... but no cigar.
EYE FOR AN EYE: "Downfall" 5
Rising Records 2010
When I read the bio of the band stating "Eye For An Eye were formed in late 2007 and quickly set out to resurrect the hard rock sound of the 90s" I knew I was in trouble and so was the band. If there's anything we hate at RockUnited.com that is the sound of the 90s. Yet credit where it is due, the band reached their goal, their sound is as depressive and boring as any of the bands that arose in the 90s.
Beside the depressive sound and the horrible production, add a singer with no voice to sing with and four-piece band weighing about a ton altogether and you get the picture. "Downfall" is a title to hit the nail. Heavy metal from 2010 to imitate the darkest hours of heavy metal. There are a few hopeful signs though like "Until I'm Done" that starts out acoustic with actually some attempts to sing and turns into a stoner biker rock tune later, yet these signs are far from being enough to convince me.
As the songs are obviously well-rehearsed and
the attitude of the band is one of no-compromise, they might as well be
entertaining live for a certain audience. So make sure to check them out
somewhere live and don't bother with an underproduced album of 10 mediocre
WEAPON HEAD: "Surgical Smile" 3
Weapon Head from 'down under' Australia are one of those hard working indie bands with actually some results on the table... ehh, board. The Locobazooka Festival in the states picked up the lads from their website (huh?) and asked them directly if they were interested (careful now) to come over and play. It's a no-brainer reply of course and they supported Alice Cooper, Heaven & Hell, etc, back in 2007. It's now 2010 and I guess it's been 2 steps forward and 3 steps back in comparison to playing the one-off gig (?) at a major festival.
"Surgical Smile" is a nicely crafted CD with several nice tunes and grunt. It's
been nicely produced by Steve James from Rocking Horse Studios at Byron Bay (? if
you say so?). James' got 35 years industry experience in the UK, Europe and
Australia and has worked with the likes of Sex Pistols, Airbourne, Cold Chisel, The
Screaming Jets, etc. Flying the flag of quirky rock 'n roll the album tackles modern
day issues and problems such as "Bullshit Has No Sound", "Got No Money", and "The
March Of Misery". The latter sounding a lot like left-over material of the mid-90's
and bands such as Prong. It's otherwise a rather punky affair and straight-ahead
rock 'n roll strut. They've also included a cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" and
honestly... this was never really a good tune in the first place. It's so-so, okay,
I guess, but where's the fire? The lack of energy is unfortunately very present
throughout the CD...
MAGICA: "Dark Diary" 2
Magica? They certainly needed to work their magic to reach this far. Ever since
their debut "The Scroll Of Stone", this Romanian quintet has continued to annoy
melodic power/prog metal fans all over the world. Mostly due to some truly
over-the-top performances by otherwise stunning vocalist Ana Mladinovici (and I'am
being kind here since she's got a singing voice you'd either luv or hate... mostly
the latter). While the whole CD is crisply and expertly executed by producers Ronny
Milianowicz (Wolf, Dionysus, Saint Deamon) and Jens Bogren (Opeth, Symphony X,
Paradise Lost) - the material leave a lot to wish for. To be honest, I'm having
difficulties recalling any melodies whatsoever on "Dark Diary". It's just a blur of
annoying high-pitch voices and strange noises from somewhere deep below the surface.
Avoid at all cost...
CATEGORY 5: "Off The Ivory Coast" EP
Off The Ivory Coast??? Well, if you like your classic melodic rock with a little bit of progressive rock fervor and sweet country flavor and jazz, Category 5 might be something you?d like to check out, yeah? To be frank, it's probably your parents rock or at least folks and fans of mid-70's schtuff. Formed in Detroit, MI at the end of 2006, the band came to be what former Twist Of Fate guitarist Joe Czentnar put an ad in a local paper looking for a singer. This 5-track EP is their debut release and the songs are certainly inspired by many differnt influences and styles and are motivated by the bands ever changing experiences in life. Kind of stodgy and boring to be frank and way too many 'influences' to become really interesting. It's just a mish-mash of soft melodies.
The opening, "Lost In Legacy" is clearly the best track of them all with its 70's
classic rock approach and semi catchy refrain. Nice! Vocal harmonies by the band are
also good, probably because the five-piece band are all experienced musicians and
all blessed with a decent set of pipes (they all share back-up vocals). Take for
example the songs ?Home Again? and "I Wonder", nicely sung seventies pop/rock
harmonies like 10CC, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, mixed with Boston made rock. The songs
are unfortunately too sappy and filled with bland seventies pop for my personal
taste. It's not "quite" the quality of the above mentioned acts either for that
matter even if the harmonies are nice. "Party If You Want To" is a weird mix of
country, skat, ska, rock and jazz. Too unbelieveable to work and it's a real mess to
be honest. The closing track, "7 Daze Warning" is more proggy and towards the style
of Twist Of Fate. Final verdict: Great musicians and sadly not so great songwriters?
Let's hope the next CD will impress Drogba and co.
DIVA SIUCIDE: "Scars" EP
WTF? Reading in the info-sheet that Diva Suicide's song "She Cries To Lullabies" became Classic Rock Magazine's 'track of the day' on its website??? But, but... they're all a bunch of old farts at Classic Rock with no talent or interest whatsoever when it comes to 'new' music??? Hell, they're basically re-using old articles and the same old stories about all the dino rock bands of the seventies??? Surely this must be a work of some of the visitors at Classic Rock and not the actual writers???
Ehem, anyhow, nevermind the rambling fool. Diva Suicide started out back in 2008
and played 'dark soulfurious meat-hooking nu-rock' with a concept idea akain NIN,
The Curve, and KMFDM. It's basically a wicked outfit and music influenced by
industrial rock, punk, and catchy melodic goth in the style of HIM. One thing's for
sure, their Spanish female vocalist 'XS' is a little starlet with tons of attitude
and charisma. Very influenced style-wise by the U.K. underground scene and the
overall 'misfits' tradition. It's the old formula of Siouxsie (Banshee) and Nina
Hagen - only sexier! "Scars" is their debut mini CD and it's been nicely mastered
by Geoff Pesche (Gun, Gorillaz) at Abbey Road studios. The overall material is
pretty darn uplifting and catchy and especially the first three tracks (She Cries To
Lullabies, Redemption, Blessed By The Sun) are all winners in my book. The music
doesn't fit the 'classic rock' tag, but hey, perhaps they're not quite as
ter all at the old mag. Watch out for Diva Suicide in the future as they're onto
something good here. Check out soundclips at myspace.
|REVIEWS ADDED 16 July, 2010
STAN BUSH: "Dream The Dream" 8
After a few hit-and-miss albums, it seems that Stan Bush has somehow found his "groove" and his last two albums rank high on my list of their respective release years. "Dream The Dream" is another good album, but not quite as strong as the previous two. There's a fine line between "reliable" and "predictable", and this album crosses it from time to time. Okay, AOR as a genre isn't that unpredictable anyway, but a couple of these songs are just too generic even for my simple taste. That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy most of it.
For the uninitiated, Stan Bush's music is as AOR as AOR can be, comparable to the likes of Journey, Bryan Adams and Survivor. He's got the uptempo chorus-heavy melodic rock songs, the tearjerker ballads and the midtempo tracks in between. When it comes to lyrics, his most used themes are various aspects of love and sporty "Go For It" songs about not holding back, never giving up etc. Tried'n trusted themes, but universal ones that everyone can relate to. It would be interesting to hear something lyrically completely different from him, but we'll have to settle for these subjects.
The album runs pretty smoothly all the way to the tenth track, with "Don't Give Up On Love", "Two Hearts" and "Love Is The Road" a bit above the others and the ballad "In My Life" a bit below. That wasn't expected, because Stan is known for his ability to write superb slow ones. This one just isn't one of them.
The three last songs won't get my vote either, with "Your Time" and "All That I Am" being clearly fillers in my books and the remake of "The Touch" being something totally unnecessary. I'm not the biggest fan of the song, but I was curious to hear this version. I like the heavier verses, but the falsetto chorus just kills this song for me. Why not keep the hard edge of the verses and make it a real rocker instead of this "coldplaying" or whatever?
John WAITE: "In Real Time" 7
After 5 albums and moderate success with the band The Babys, John Waite went from fairly well known to a major star after the band split. He embarked on a solo career and released the “Ignition” album. The massive hit “Missing You” put John on top of the US Billboard charts knocking off Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To do With It” in 1984. He’s gone on to prove he’s more than a one hit wonder and what you have here is a back to basics live performance. You also have a reminder of how many great songs John has contributed to in his long career. There are songs he did with the band Bad English (with Neil Schon etc) - ”When I See You Smile” and “Best Of What I Got”. Also included on In Real Time are “Change” and “Missing You“. How could we forget “Every Time I Think Of You”?....and even a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll". He was brave enough to strip it right down to drums, guitar, bass and vocals; it’s raw, honest and it’s John Wait
e still playing all over the world in his 4th decade. Some of the backing vocals could have done with a polish but this album is a fair representation of the 2009 tour. The more you play it the more you just sing along. It’s a real good album for the car.
YOSO: "Elements" 6
As you might NOT have figured out, YOSO is a new supergroup with members of Toto and Yes. Yes and Toto put together apparently equals YOSO... Shouldn't that be YETO or something? Well, I guess YOSO is just as good a name. What we've got here is a band with Bobby Kimball from Toto on vocals and two YES-members, Tony Kaye (keys) and Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals). Sherwood, also known from World Trade, is actually the leading songwriter of YOSO, providing all music with Kimball writing the lyrics. Sherwood has done a good job combining the progressive styles of Yes and World Trade to the more mainstream sound of Toto. There's no question that this group deserves the "supergroup" status because the amount of talent is considerable, but whether their music works for you is another thing. I can only speak for myself, and while I recognize the quality of the music, these songs just don't grab me at all. Mind you, my interest in Yes has always been very marginal, and although I h ave several Toto albums in my collection, I wouldn't call myself a big fan of the band. If you're more of a Toto/Yes-fan this might be just your thing.
"Elements" is a double album with one disc containing the new songs and the other a live concert recording. Out of the YOSO originals, I'd rate the hypnotic title track "Yoso", the athmospheric "To Seek The Truth" and "Won't End Tonight" slightly above the others. The live album is actually more entertaining with several old Toto and Yes hits in the setlist. The musicianship is so flawless that one starts to wonder how much of it was really recorded live... then again, the band's made up of consummate professionals... and there are some "human touches" here and there, like Billy Sherwood's struggle with singing "Owner Of A Lonely Heart". I assume it's him singing it, since it doesn't sound like Kimball. Anyway, matching Jon Anderson's vocals on that track would be impossible for most of the singers our there, so considering that, Sherwood doesn't do a bad job. Highlights: "Hold The Line" and the last two songs of the set, rocking versions of Toto's "Gift With A Golden Gun"
and "White Sister". Yep, Toto have recorded some pretty cool hard rock songs in their time too!
TERRA NOVA: "Come Alive" 6
Terra Nova released their previous album in 2005, and while I know I reviewed it and gave it a decent rating, I can't remember anything about it. "Come Alive" could suffer a similar fate, as there's nothing really wrong with it, but the memorable songs are few and far between. It's a shame since I quite like their energetic style and vibe.
The first few tracks of the album are what I'd call "AOR by numbers", four very Journeyesque melodic rock with nice and mellow choruses plus a ballad. Harmless, pleasant enough but ultimately uninteresting. The ballad "Those Eyes" tries to break the mold a little, as it could be described as mix of Journey and Queen.
Somwthing strange happens when the second half of the album starts with "Under Pressure". It's as if the band decide ditch the Journey'isms and start being themselves, not to mention they find a bit of edge and even pomp to their music. "Under Pressure", "Who Can You Count On" and especially the Song Of The Album "My Own Way" are the kind of songs I remembered the band being capable of writing. "Do Or Die" isn't too bad either, at least it rocks a bit harder than the songs on the first half. Same can not be said of the closing ballad "The Final Curtain", which sees the band drifting into the Journeyesque waters again, and not with much success.There are some admirably clean high notes from vocalist Fred Hendrix on that one though.
So, it's a case of "got its' moments" CD again. Recommended to Terra Nova die-hards and Journey fans willing to settle for "something similar". Check out the band's site for samples.
|REVIEWS ADDED 01 July, 2010
ANATHEMA: "We're Here Because we're Here" 10
Kscope Records 2010
Finally after seven years of silence there is a new album of Anathema. Their previous album: A Natural Disaster was already a beauty, but this new album is one of the best prog rock albums I have heard in a long time. We're Here Because We're Here is a very emtional album and certain songs like e.g. Summernight Horizon or Hindsight get better and better every time you hear them. Most of the songs start with quiet piano or keyboardpassages before they evolve into serious atmospheric, heavenly songs, dominated by the extremely beautiful vocals of the Cavanagh brothers.
The female voice of Lee Douglas gives that extra dimension to most of the songs and the production of Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) does the rest. All the songs are musical highlights, especially Dreaming Light, Angels Walk Among Us and and the instrumental Hindsight belong to my personal favourites. This new album is a must for lovers of emotional, melodic prog rock music and I consider it to be one of the best albums I have heard in a long time.
Anathema is a band that surprises me every time they release a new album, but his time they created a true masterpiece.
We're Here Because We're Here is an addictive album and I listen to it at least once a day. So, if you buy this record you are warned...
This album will end up in my top 10 of 2010 for sure; I even think that it will be almost impossible for another band to make such an amazing album.
So, a perfect score for a perfect album, listen for yourself and play at maximum volume if possible!
ANGELINE: "Confessions" 9
Avenue Of Allies 2010
Angeline have been knocking about, on and off, for over fifteen years, but “Confessions” is their first full length release of original material. They had a couple of EPs in the mid Nineties, but there was more commercial viability in performing as a covers band. They reformed after six years apart in 2007, spurred on by the reception to record “Confessions” and see if they can cut it in the new, better than the Nineties melodic rock scene.
Sweden has always been a hotbed of rock talent, and Angeline have managed to slip quite comfortably into the ranks, although they are not one of the silky smooth fluffy bunny brigade. To be honest, “Confessions” isn’t a million miles away from being a lost album by British stalwarts Gun, with vocalist Jocke Nilsson sitting comfortably inbetween Mark Rankin and Toby Jepson whilst his band plays music that has a rock crunch layered with pop sensibilities. Opening track “Pray” is perhaps the prime example of this, starting out with a wonderful distorted guitar riff and melting into a hook to die for and ending up with a song that could happily keep rock, pop or indie boys happy at the same time. It’s no fluke, either, and Angeline follow it up with a very competent, vibrant album, deep on bass and high on melody, with plenty of choruses that will become etched in your mind after a couple of spins. They manage to mix old school with modern teen rock sounds quite effectively, and
I dare anyone to listen to the rumbling riff to “Part Of Evolution” without thinking of Queens Of The Stone Age. The only slow track is “Miracles”, but it’s no soppy ballad, instead ending up as a mid paced love song that is actually very good, after which the band hit another high note with the pacey “Someday, Somehow”.
It’s been a long trek for Angeline, and it’s a persistent band who takes 2 decades to make a debut album. The good news is that it’s been well worth the wait, as “Confessions” is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar as well as being just as, well, rocky. Aggressive riff based rock tunes with a cool pop undertone are everywhere, making Angeline my surprise of the year so far. Let’s hope the follow up comes a little quicker than this one, as Angeline are certainly a band to watch.
MASTERPLAN: "Time To Be King" 9
AFM Records 2010
Jorn is back with Masterplan and that is splendid news, because his voice gives that extra touch to the already smashing music of Masterplan. His voice - which is a mixture of Coverdale and Dio - dominates this album and especially during the very bombastic song The Dark Road you can hear what this guy is capable of. Most of the songs on this great album are up tempo, melodic power metal songs, filled with heavy guitar riffs, excellent fast solos and great vocal passages.
Songs like Fiddle Of Time, Far From The End Of The World or The Sun In Your Hands are well played headbanging stuff with lots of anthem like choruses and melodic parts. But there are also some darker and more mysterious songs on this album , like for example: Lonely Winds Of War or the real almost doomy The Black One. The album ends with the amazing power ballad Under The Moon which can be seen as a new Masterplan classic song. Jorn is back and Masterplan is back and Time To Be King is probably their best album so far. Now it is time that fans and press make sure that Masterplan finally breaks through to the higher divison of power metal bands! Buy this album now and make sure you tell all your metal friends how good this album really is. A must for fans of true melodic power metal. Roland and Jorn rule!!
EXTREME: "Take Us Alive" 8
The jewel in the crown for me on this release is Nunno Bettencourt, he is one cool mutha f...in’ guitar player. Extreme are an acquired taste to most old school rock fans but there’s no doubting their world wide appeal as albums sales are in their millions. The Bailey’s have seen them live in their heyday, if my memory serves me well we were invited as guest to see Bryan Adams at the old Manchester City ground MAIN ROAD and Extreme supported with an English band called Little Angels. If I’m wrong well blame the beer and a few decades on my friends.
The band returned after a 13 year hiatus with a new release “Saudades de rock” and they funked their way through 75 cities and multiple continents to promote their return. They ended the tour in their home town of Boston and recorded the concert for DVD and CD release titled “Take Us Alive”. So we are right up to date 2010 and cool reminder that Extreme still have a unique style and a very loyal fan base. The disc is crammed like a tin of sardines with the classics such as Decadence Dance , It's a Monster, More Than Words and the outstanding live version of Get The Funk Out. There are songs from all their albums including their latest so if you have never seen them in the past then grab some live kick ass Extreme action whilst you can.
Gary Charone is a great front man and still packs a decent voice box; Pat Badger slaps the bass in your face, Kevin Figueiredo’s is your skin bashing time keeper with Nunno Bettencourt the cornerstone and the glue. The ferocious but melodic phrases, funky rhythms, articulation and groove interspaced with some awesome rhythm playing and ball smacking solos. Yes sorry but for me it’s always the Nunno show but collectively Extreme sound just like? EXTREME “Take Us Alive” is well worth adding to your music collection. A real ball kicking experience so funk off and grab it right now!
WHEELS OF FIRE: "Hollywood Rocks" 8
Avenue Of Allies 2010
If you close your eyes and try to imagine what a song called “Hollywood Rock” by a band called Wheels Of Fire would sound like, you’re probably very close. Take big hair, add big choruses and twiddly guitar solos and top off with some sweet melodies and a big pile of melodic rock clichés and Italy’s Wheels Of Fire will be the result.
The whole thing is the brainchild of Davide Barbieri, also known as Dave Rox (snigger), who has written and arranged the album with Italian rock stallion Michele Luppi. From the cover through the track names and to the music this is a celebration of old school melodic party rock, with Rox backed up by a very competent bunch of cover band musicians, whilst he himself plays keyboards and provides the vocals. I have to say I like his voice, and it suits the music well. The music itself is nothing at all new, but there are some very catchy tracks of offer, notably the title track and follow up “You’re So Cool”. It’s all quite similar to the debut album from Kick, all high end melodies, catchy choruses and some very nice guitar licks thrown in for good measure. Whilst not as accomplished as Kick, or the Danger Dangers of this world, “Hollywood Rocks” is nonetheless one of the better poodle rock albums of the year.
If you’re going to do pure retro party rock, you have to stick your balls on the line and go all out for it. On the evidence of this album, Dave Rox (stop laughing at the back) has done just this. I think I can comfortably say that if you want some high energy party rock (with a couple of nice ballads thrown in) you can do a lot worse that checking out Wheels Of Fire. It makes me smile, and that’s always a good start.
4BACKWOODS: "Be Different Or Die" 7
Limited Access Records 2010
So this is what’s going on in Germany. I’ve been inundated with rock from all over Europe lately, so it’s nice to finally get something from the land of beer and bratwurst. 4Backwoods have been knocking around for years, although only recorded their debut album in 2004, following up with this one six years later.
“Be Different Or Die” is a pretty modern sounding disc, with plenty of aggression and melody that is a bit like a collision between Papa Roach and Nickelback, whilst the Foo Fighters take notes for when the police arrive. That’s some pretty cool influences, but like so many bands 4Backwards have a bit of trouble matching up to the bands you can hear within their sound. Mind you, that’s not to say they’re a poor band. Far from it, 4Backwoods have produced an extremely solid hard rock album here, with some spot on melodies and killer riffs. There’s even a really nice ballad in “Butterfly”, and a cover of Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died In Your Eyes Tonight”, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. At thirteen tracks, the album outstays it’s welcome, and pruning 12 of the 52 minutes might have made the whole thing a bit sharper and tighter. The songs aren’t bad, but listening to them all in one go made me drift off a few times. The whole thing is held together by the vocals and crisp pr oduction of Daniel Wagner, who sings without trace of an accent, giving the album a real commercial feel that won’t do them any harm. There’s not much in the way of blistering guitar solos, with the whole thing based around catchy riffs rather than high speed widdling. The riffs, however, are very good, with the band showing a knowledge of crafting a good mainstream rock song that could rival Nickelback, with the likes of “Supernova Day” crying out for a cool video and music channel rotation.
So “Be Different Or Die” is certainly an album that has plenty of catchy, hard edged rock tunes, but is in need of pruning. Today, of course, the listener can do the pruning themselves on a computer, so it’s not as serious an issue as it used to be. However, I have to review it as an album, and as an album it takes it’s hands from the listener’s throat more often than it should. When the band are in full flow it shines pretty brightly, though. 4Backwoods are another band in a tough market, but they certainly show the talent and passion to win some fans from the more established acts. Not perfect, but perfectly good nonetheless.
SISTER SIN: "True Sound Of The Underground" 7
Metal Heaven 2010
If Crashdïet's latest album could have a sister, it would be this album. It wouldn't be a nice baby sister though, but tough-as-nails, meaner sister you wouldn't want to mess with. Seriously, there's something really similar in the sound and the style of these two albums, wit the expection that Sister Sin is grittier and less melodic.
Sister Sin take no prisoners with the first few songs of this album, all riff-driven hard rock songs with vocalist Liv's aggressive delivery and some cool, sharp hooks. "Outrage" is probably the catchiest one, and not surprisingly, it's been chosen as the first video track/single. However, since the band stick stricktly to their chosen formula, 11 songs of the same gets slightly boring towards the end of the album. The overall sound doesn't seem to change much at all, Liv's vocals are always "turned up to eleven" and every now and then the other guys help her out with Accept-like gang vocals. It's not that the songs on the second half are really any weaker than the others, in fact "Times Aren't A-Changing" is one of my favourites, but they lose their impact when you've already heard five or six almost similar songs.
I may be nitpicking here, because in the end this album is a rather kick-ass hard rock platter, but maybe just a little bit of light and shade would have made it even stronger. But what do I know, AC/DC have stuck to their formula for 30+ years and are selling millions of albums...
HUNGRYHEART: "One Ticket To Paradise" 7
Tanzan Music 2010
Italians Hungryheart did pretty well with their self titled debut album in 2008, with the strong melodic rock tunes helping them earn the title of “Best Italian Band” for that year in Slamrocks magazine. After having several years to perfect their sound before they released the debut, there’s no small amount of pressure on them to come up with a worthy successor within a much shorter timeframe. “One Ticket To Paradise” will no doubt be on many rock fans potential shopping list, but does it deserve to be there?
A quick scan down the track listing sees the unlikely title “Man In the Mirror”. Surely not a Michael Jackson cover? Further inspection shows that yes, it is a cover version. Something to look forward to, then. Or not. First, though, there’s plenty of other tracks to sample. From the start, with “Stand Up”, it’s obvious that the band are happy to wear their (Hungry)hearts on their sleeves, as the track is an unashamed feel good rock party anthem with a catchy, oft repeated chorus that camps out in the brain for quite a while. Josh Zighetti has a pretty good voice, able to sing straightforward melodic rock staples as well as bar room crooners like “Let Somebody Love You”, in which he seems to be channelling Spike from The Quireboys to great effect. There’s a rather lame mid tempo song, “A Million Miles Away” that just doesn’t convince, but apart from this it’s a pretty good album all round. The aforementioned Michael Jackson cover is handled really well, with the band trea ting it with respect and turning it into an 80s rock classic!
Hungryheart are not going to change the face of melodic rock, but they’re certainly doing it no harm with some catchy songs, great melodies and infectious riffs. Let’s hope they can continue to produce quality music for some years to come.
ON-OFF: "Ribcrasher" 7
On Off records 2010
More rocking from Italy (must be something in the water), this time in the form of On-Off, originally an AC/DC tribute act, only now releasing an album of original material which has an unsurprising whiff of AC/DC about it. Sort of inevitable, I suppose, but in fairness they do a pretty good job.
Rather than take the Airbourne route of taking AC/DC and turning all the knobs up to 11, On-Off (not a great name) are content to slip into a blues boogie groove without really gaining any serious momentum. So we’re talking more “Dirty Deeds…” than “Whole Lotta Rosie”, with basic riffs, wandering basslines and solos that come in exactly where the book says they should, and last for exactly the right amount of bars. There are precisely zero surprises on this album in that respect, but this doesn’t mean the music isn’t worth giving it a shot for. On-Off know what they’re doing, and although they bring nothing new to the table there’s still a nice feast of tunes to be had. The band themselves are tight, the vocals are crisp and in tune, if nothing too special, and there’s some very sweet guitar touches that strive to give the songs their own identity. You may not be humming these tracks all day, but they are certainly better than a few other AC/DC influenced bands that I’ve c ome across.
So On-Off are breaking no fresh ground with “Ribcrasher”, but I can see then having some appeal to fans of the genre. Solid, dependable riff based rock and roll, On-Off don’t attempt to fix what isn’t broken.
TESLA: "Alive In Europe" 7
Tesla burst onto the scene with a corking debut album called Mechanical Resonance back around 1986 on the Geffen Record label. The Bailey’s rotated many a cool Tesla video on our MTV show in particular Modern Day Cowboy and Little Suzie. Well Europe and the rest of the world really took Tesla to their hearts selling millions of albums throughout their career. This live release captures the band as fresh as the day they first kicked ass. Opening with “Forever More” followed by “I Wanna Live” and the classic “Modern Day Cowboy” Jeff Keith on vocals has a good report with the crowd and the guitar playing by Frank Hannon and Dave Rude is pretty impressive very reminiscent of the studio songs.
If I had to pick a favourite it would be Little Suzie but with such a cool array of songs there’s something for all Tesla fans here. It’s just a bit mid tempo but there’s some nice clean guitar segments so plenty of interesting talking points.
RESTRUCT: "Built Back Up From Self Destruction" 7
With the likes of Puddle Of Mudd, Nickelback and a few others, it seems the grunge scene is still trying to keep itself afloat, with the cream rising to the surface as stadium rock acts that take the heavy attitude laden template of the Nineties and add to it a modern sense of melody and polish. Washington based band Restruct have thrown themselves straight into the mix with this, their debut album.
Cards are placed firmly on the table with the opening track “Change”, which is a hard as nails, no nonsense heavy rock song with plenty of melody and aggression. It reminds me of Candlebox and I bet it goes down a storm live, a good example of a band knowing exactly which track to open an album with to get your attention. From thereon in it’s all guitars and angst filled vocals, with some good, solid song writing in evidence. It only really falls down when the band try a couple of ballads, both of which are terribly dull. Fortunately, one of them is at the end of the album so you can leave it off, and the other is followed by the brilliant “Peeling Skin”, which adds some very widdly guitar to the grungy backbone of the band.
Inevitably, I can take or leave Restruct, mainly because they haven’t really added anything to their chosen genre. With that said, they do have some cracking tunes which may just see them sticking their heads above the crowd. “Built Back Up From Self Destruction” contains plenty of riff fuelled headbanging tracks, well produced and well played. If modern grunge is your bag I would certainly recommend that you check them out, and go see them before you have to pay stadium prices.
JOEY SUMMER: "Written On the Horizon" 6
Avenue Of Allies 2010
After the pleasant Brazillian surprise that was Auras, I was interested when I saw that the wonderfully named Joey Summer was from the same country. Until now, I haven’t even thought of Brazil as being a melodic rock hotspot, and it’s nice to see some talent coming through. With a name like Joey Summer, he was hardly likely to play thrash metal, and “Written On The Horizon”, his first English language album, he has delivered a nice slice of melodic, guitar driven rock that I think will earn him a few fans around the world.
To give you some idea of the direction Joey Summer will take you, the album features a track each from the pens of Michael Bormann and Kee Marcello. The Bormann track, “Anymore” is a stompingly heavy, anthemic track filled with widdly guitar, whilst Marcello’s track “Rough Ride To Paradise” closes the album in a more soppy mood, albeit a soppy mood with some great guitar. And yes, you could imagine Europe doing it, which is good. Summer has a good voice, although quite accented, but he’s not going to go to the top of anyone’s “Best vocalist” list. He does the job, but seems to lack some of the passion of his betters. The songs are pretty standard melodic hard rock, and he also plays plenty of cool guitar solos throughout, but there’s not that much that jumps up and pokes you in the face. After many, many plays, I still find it hard to sing along, although it’s always an enjoyable album all the same.
In the end, “Written On the Horizon” is a well made, well written album, but it fails to grab the attention, meaning that I am unlikely to come back to it very often. There’s a few songs that would have been improved if the likes of Arnel Pineda has sung them, and the fact that the vocals are not brilliant (and also in the back of the mix at times) doesn’t do the album any favours. There’s still plenty to admire about the album, but just not enough to push it to ‘must buy’ status.
CRYSTAL TEARS: "Generation X" 6
7 Hard 2010
Thought this name sounded familiar... way back in 2006 I reviewed the band's first album "Choirs Of Immortal", which wasn't much to shout about. They used to be a female-fronted band then, but nowadays the vocalist position is held by one Ian Parry. You might know him from Elegy, The Consortium Project, Vengeance and various other projects. However, that's not the only thing that has changed, Crystal Tears have taken long steps towards the premier league of European Metal. They're not necessarily there yet, but they're on their way.
"Generation X" is a well-produced, professional-sounding melodic metal album with high-class performances from everyone involved. The guitars of Dimitris Gouziamanis buzz like a herd of angry bees, and Parry sounds rough and smooth at the same time, kind of like a combination of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and Rob Halford, maybe even Udo Dirkschneider! Unfortunately some of the songs are just way too average for me to really dig this album. The stronger songs are solid melodic metal, like the catchy "Heroes" with its' "Breaking The Law"-like riff or the band's namesake song "Crystal Tears". Some of the others have their moments too. In the end, as competent this band is these days, I'll have to give them a slightly lukewarm rating. If you're into Iron Maiden, Primal Fear, Stratovarius and the likes, you might want to ignore it and check out this album, since it might be just what makes you tick.
Ravenscry are an Italian 5 piece dramatic metal band, with this being their first release. Firstly, it’s a very accomplished EP, as it’s well produced and the band show a definite flair for drama. It’s all rather like Evanescence, and though it starts off well the final three tracks (“Redemption” Parts 1, 2 and 3) just don’t do it for me, as they‘re more like film soundtrack music (and not an exciting film). It has to be said that Giulia Stefani has a very accomplished voice, again more dramatic than operatic, but the music of the band just doesn’t offer anything that a dozen better bands are doing. With that said, there is real promise in this EP, and it’s obvious that a lot of care has been put into it. There’s talk of 8 stringed guitars and suchlike (even a 6 string bass), but I can’t hear anything that I haven’t heard from normal guitars. It’s all riff based and there’s not even a decent solo, so the revelations come across as a wee bit smug. I can see fans of Withi
n Temptation, Evanescence and (naturally) Nightwish getting something out of Ravenscry, but not yet.
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